Campaigning for Democracy And Socialism
The more facts that come to the surface,
the clearer the GOP's fascist project becomes.
More facts and dimensions about the Jan. 6 Trump Coup attempt keep surfacing. It's worse than we thought.

Moreover, we can see the connection with the GOP's state-level project of suppressing votes along with instituting measures to discard them if they don't like the outcome. We have less than a year to throw a spanner into the works.
WE ARE INVITING FEEDBACK! Please send us your letters, comments, queries, complaints, new ideas. Just keep them short and civil. Longer commentaries and be submitted as articles.

Click Here to send a letter

DIFFICULTY READING US?

Sorry for the delay this week. The Editor was under the weather, but now back in the game



Subscribe here!

Harry Targ, Indiana: Online University of the Left discussion of the new working class: The Role of the Precariat

The first link is to an interesting discussion of the “precariat” and the changing character of the working class.

http://ouleft.sp-mesolite.tilted.net/?page_id=737

I added my two-cents.

https://heartlandradical.blogspot.com/2018/11/the-material-reasons-for-current.html








From Nancy Maclean
Dear friends,
 
Below is invitation to a book club run by Olivia Zink, one of the many unsung democracy heroes working so hard at the state level to defend and deepen democracy, in her case in New Hampshire, as Executive Director of Open Democracy.

Olivia also runs a Democracy book club (what an inspired idea!) and since it’s now virtual, she said I could share this invitation with any of you who would like to take part—and anyone you’d like to invite. Below is her invitation. We’d love to have folks from other organizations and states in the conversation—and if you’re on this list, you’ve already done the homework!
 
Here is the link to register: https://www.opendemocracynh.org/odbookclubdemocracyinchains
 
And below is Olivia’s note to me outlining the group and the format. Perhaps authors here might want to reach out to suggest their books for later sessions!
 
I hope this email finds you well. I am writing to invite you to join the Open Democracy Book for a discussion of Democracy in Chains. 
 
We started the book club in January 2021 and have chosen a new title approximately every 6 weeks. It now boasts 259 members! Not everyone comes to every book. 
Here is a link to a power we did at the OUL on MacLean'a book. HERE. Take a look and pass it around.










Photo: Tony Curtis, Sidney Poitier, 1958 - ''The Defiant Ones'', by Movie-Fan is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

Sidney Poitier. Presente!
Hollywood’s First Black Leading Man Reflected the Civil Rights Movement on Screen

Sidney Poitier broke the mold of what a Black actor could be in Hollywood. The most fascinating aspect of Poitier’s career was his political and racial symbolism, intertwined with the civil rights movement.

Bu Aram Goudsouzian
THE CONVERSATION via Portside

In the summer of 1967, Martin Luther King Jr. introduced the keynote speaker for the 10th-anniversary convention banquet of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference. Their guest, he said, was his “soul brother.”

“He has carved for himself an imperishable niche in the annals of our nation’s history,” King told the audience of 2,000 delegates. “I consider him a friend. I consider him a great friend of humanity.”

That man was Sidney Poitier.

Poitier, who died at 94 on Jan. 7, 2022, broke the mold of what a Black actor could be in Hollywood. Before the 1950s, Black movie characters generally reflected racist stereotypes such as lazy servants and beefy mammies. Then came Poitier, the only Black man to consistently win leading roles in major films from the late 1950s through the late 1960s. Like King, Poitier projected ideals of respectability and integrity. He attracted not only the loyalty of African Americans, but also the goodwill of white liberals.

In my biography of him, titled “Sidney Poitier: Man, Actor, Icon,” I sought to capture his whole life, including his incredible rags-to-riches arc, his sizzling vitality on screen, his personal triumphs and foibles and his quest to live up to the values set forth by his Bahamian parents. But the most fascinating aspect of Poitier’s career, to me, was his political and racial symbolism.

In many ways, his screen life intertwined with that of the civil rights movement – and King himself. ...Read More

BE SURE TO SHARE THIS NEWSLETTER with friends on Facebook and elsewhere, with everyone interested in the views of the left and wider circles of progressives.

WHERE WE STAND: We see the immediate problem of defeating the GOP Trumpists. This task is framed by the centrality of a path forward focused on taking down white supremacy, along with all other forms of oppression and exploitation. Naturally, this will include important battles within the Democratic party as well. This is the path to class unity and popular solidarity.

We are partisans of the working class and the oppressed--here and in all countries. We explore all the new challenges of shaping and fighting for a democracy and socialism for the 21st Century.

We want to build organizations to win elections, strikes and other campaigns, and put our people in the seats of power as well.

As such we seek unity on the left and an effort to shape and unite a progressive majority. Lend a hand by contributing articles and sharing us widely. 

We also work closely with another Left Unity project, the Online University of the Left. It has a list of some 10,000 Facebook 'Friends' who get a weekly notification and posting of LeftLinks. `Check it out.
Latest News
Donald Trump Has Normalized Fascism

By giving a growing fascist social and political movement in the United States a classically authoritarian leader, Trump shaped and exacerbated it, and his time in politics has normalized it.

By Jason Stanley 
GUARDIAN

Dec 24, 2021 - "Let us be reminded that before there is a final solution, there must be a first solution, a second one, even a third. The move toward a final solution is not a jump. It takes one step, then another, then another.”

So began Toni Morrison’s 1995 address to Howard University, entitled Racism and Fascism, which delineated 10 step-by-step procedures to carry a society from first to last.

Morrison’s interest was not in fascist demagogues or fascist regimes. It was rather in “forces interested in fascist solutions to national problems”. The procedures she described were methods to normalize such solutions, to “construct an internal enemy”, isolate, demonize and criminalize it and sympathizers to its ideology and their allies, and, using the media, provide the illusion of power and influence to one’s supporters.

Morrison saw, in the history of US racism, fascist practices – ones that could enable a fascist social and political movement in the United States.

Writing in the era of the “super-predator” myth (a Newsweek headline the next year read, “Superpredators: Should we cage the new breed of vicious kids?”), Morrison unflinchingly read fascism into the practices of US racism. Twenty-five years later, those “forces interested in fascist solutions to national problems” are closer than ever to winning a multi-decade national fight.

The contemporary American fascist movement is led by oligarchical interests for whom the public good is an impediment, such as those in the hydrocarbon business, as well as a social, political, and religious movement with roots in the Confederacy. As in all fascist movements, these forces have found a popular leader unconstrained by the rules of democracy, this time in the figure of Donald Trump.

My father, raised in Berlin under the Nazis, saw in European fascism a course that any country could take. He knew that US democracy was not exceptional in its capacity to resist the forces that shattered his family and devastated his youth. My mother, a court stenographer in US criminal courts for 44 years, saw in the anti-Black racism of the American legal system parallels to the vicious antisemitism she experienced in her youth in Poland, attitudes which enabled eastern European complicity with fascism. And my grandmother, Ilse Stanley, wrote a memoir, published in 1957, of her experiences in 1930s Berlin, later appearing on the US television show This is Your Life to discuss it. It is a memoir of the normalization years of German fascism, well before world war and genocide. In it, she recounts experiences with Nazi officers who assured her that in nazism’s vilification of Jews, they certainly did not mean her.

Philosophers have always been at the forefront in the analysis of fascist ideology and movements. In keeping with a tradition that includes the philosophers Hannah Arendt and Theodor Adorno, I have been writing for a decade on the way politicians and movement leaders employ propaganda, centrally including fascist propaganda, to win elections and gain power.

Often, those who employ fascist tactics do so cynically – they do not really believe the enemies they target are so malign, or so powerful, as their rhetoric suggests. Nevertheless, there comes a tipping point, where rhetoric becomes policy. Donald Trump and the party that is now in thrall to him have long been exploiting fascist propaganda. They are now inscribing it into fascist policy.

Fascist propaganda takes place in the US in already fertile ground – decades of racial strife have led to the United States having by far the highest incarceration rate in the world. A police militarized to address the wounds of racial inequities by violence, and a recent history of unsuccessful imperial wars have made us susceptible to a narrative of national humiliation by enemies both internal and external. As WEB Du Bois showed in his 1935 masterwork Black Reconstruction, there is a long history of business elites backing racism and fascism out of self-interest, to divide the working class and thereby destroy the labor movement.

The novel development is that a ruthless would-be autocrat has marshaled these fascist forces and shaped them into a cult, with him as its leader. We are now well into the repercussions of this latter process – where fascist lies, for example, the “big lie” that the 2020 election was stolen, have begun to restructure institutions, notably electoral infrastructure and law. As this process unfolds, slowly and deliberately, the media’s normalization of these processes evokes Morrison’s tenth and final step: “Maintain, at all costs, silence.”

Constructing an enemy

To understand contemporary US fascism, it is useful to consider parallels to 20th century history, both where they succeed and where they fail.

Hitler was a genocidal antisemite. Though fascism involves disregard for human life, not all fascists are genocidal. Even Nazi Germany turned to genocide only relatively late in the regime’s rule. And not all fascists are antisemitic. There were Italian Jewish fascists. Referring to the successful assimilation of Jews into all phases of Weimar era German life, my father warned me, “if they had chosen someone else, some of us would have been among the very best Nazis.” We American Jews feel firmly at home. Now, where the fascist movement’s internal enemies are leftists and movements for Black racial equality, there certainly could be fascist American Jews.

Germany’s National Socialist party did not take over a mainstream party. It started as a small, radical, far-right anti-democratic party, which faced different pressures as it strove to achieve greater electoral success.

Despite its radical start, the Nazi party dramatically increased its popularity over many years in part by strategically masking its explicit antisemitic agenda to attract moderate voters, who could convince themselves that the racism at the core of Nazi ideology was something the party had outgrown. It represented itself as the antidote to communism, using a history of political violence in the Weimar Republic, including street clashes between communists and the far right, to warn of a threat of violent communist revolution. It attracted support from business elites by promising to smash labor unions. The Nazis portrayed socialists, Marxists, liberals, labor unions, the cultural world and the media as representatives of, or sympathizers with, this revolution. Once in power, they bore down on this message.

In his 1935 speech, Communism with its Mask Off, Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels described Bolshevism carrying “on a campaign, directed by the Jews, with the international underworld, against culture as such”. By contrast, “National Socialism sees in all these things – in [private] property, in personal values and in nation and race and the principles of idealism – these forces which carry on every human civilization and fundamentally determine its worth.”

The Nazis recognized that the language of family, faith, morality and homeland could be used to justify especially brutal violence against an enemy represented as being opposed to all these things. The central message of Nazi politics was to demonize a set of constructed enemies, an unholy alliance of communists and Jews, and ultimately to justify their criminalization.

Contrary to popular belief, the Nazi government of the 1930s was not genocidal, nor were its notorious concentration camps packed with Jewish prisoners, at least until the November pogrom of 1938. The main targets of the regime’s concentration camps were, initially, communists and socialists. The Nazi regime urged vigilante violence against its other targets, such as Jews, separating themselves from this violence by obscuring the role of agents of the state. During this time, it was possible for many non-Jewish Germans to deceive themselves about the brutal nature of the regime, to tell themselves that its harsh means were necessary to protect the German nation from the insidious threat of communism.

Violent militias occupied an ambiguous role between state and non-state actors. The SS began as violent Nazi supporters, before becoming an independent arm of the government. The message of violent law and order created a culture that influenced all the Nazi state’s institutions. As Yale historian Timothy Snyder writes in On Tyranny, “for violence to transform not just the atmosphere but also the system, the emotions of rallies and the ideology of exclusion have to be incorporated into the training of armed guards.”

In the US, the training of police as “warriors”, together with the unofficial replacement of the American flag by the thin blue line flag, augur poorly about the democratic commitments of this institution. ...Read More
The Capitol Riot: A Chronology
National Security Archive Timeline Pieces Together Events of January 6, 2021

Highlights Ongoing, Unresolved Discrepancies Between Official Testimony,
Media Reporting, and Pentagon's Sparse Timeline

Published: Jan 6, 2022


Edited by Claire Harvey and Lauren Harper
National Security Archive

For more information, contact:
202-994-7000 or nsarchiv@gwu.edu

Subjects
Political Crimes and Abuse of Power
Secrecy and FOIA
Terrorism and Counterterrorism
Regions
United States and Canada
Project
FOIA
 
Washington, D.C., January 6, 2022 - The National Security Archive marks the one-year anniversary of the assault on the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, with a meticulously researched timeline of the day's events. The chronology, which will serve as an important tool for investigators, researchers, and the public, is divided into three main parts:

Events that took place at the Capitol that we know about thanks to stellar reporting from organizations like ProPublica, The New York Times, the AP, The Washington Post, NPR, Politico, and Newsweek, as well as information provided by a host of both local and federal officials in Congressional testimony;

Activity at the White House, drawn primarily from former President Trump's official statements on Twitter; The Department of Defense's official timeline that was published on January 8, 2021.

The chronology below, taken together with our three previous sourcebooks, provides a high level of detail about the attempted coup while at the same time underscoring just how much about federal or local government decisions and actions remains unknown to the public. Each entry includes a source, with hyperlink, and a Who's Who of key figures is also provided. The Archive will update the timeline as important new information surfaces. There's lots here. Read More
Digging Deeper into the Current Conjuncture:
Vaccine Mandates Have a Bad Day at the Supreme Court

The tenor of the conservative Justices’ questions suggested that the OSHA mandate, which would apply to about eighty million people, has little chance of going into effect in its present form.

By Amy Davidson Sorkin
The New Yorker

Jan 8, 2022 - Chief Justice John Roberts seemed to imply that there was something illegitimate about trying to rally a government, let alone a society, to address a problem

“I’m not saying the vaccines are unsafe,” Justice Samuel Alito said, on Friday, during oral arguments at the Supreme Court in the case of National Federation of Independent Businesses v. the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which involves OSHA's test-or-vaccine mandate for firms with a hundred or more employees, other than those who work at home or outdoors.

He knew that the F.D.A. had approved the vaccines, he said. “I’m not contesting that in any way. I don’t want to be misunderstood. I’m sure I will be misunderstood.”

Alito uttered those lines in a sour, singsong tone, as if he were speaking to a recalcitrant child and not, as he was, to Elizabeth Prelogar, the United States Solicitor General, who was defending OSHA in the case, which was brought by the N.F.I.B., an industry group, and twenty-seven states, all with Republican governors or attorneys general. What was hard to miss, if not to misunderstand, was Alito’s hostility to the mandate. The tenor of the questions asked by other Justices—notably Chief Justice John Roberts—similarly suggested that the mandate, which would apply to about eighty million people, has little chance of going into effect in its present form.

The prospects look better for a second mandate, which applies only to workers in health-care facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid funds, and would affect about ten million people. The oral arguments in that case, Biden v. Missouri, which combines cases initiated by the attorneys general of multiple states, immediately followed the first. But that outcome is hardly a sure thing, and that is remarkable on a couple of levels. First, while the supposed problem with the osha mandate is that it is federal overreach, the federal interest in the context of Medicare and Medicaid is fairly clear. As Justice Sonia Sotomayor put it, speaking from the government’s perspective, “If you want my money, your facility has to do this.”

Justice Elena Kagan summed up the message to providers, in the context of controlling covid-19, even more bluntly: “The one thing you can’t do is kill your patients.” Second, even though, like Alito, the lawyers challenging the mandates protested that they had nothing against covid-19 vaccines, the thrust of their arguments was that getting vaccinated is a terrible imposition that reasonable people might be compelled to quit their jobs rather than endure. These are not fringe-group lawyers but the representatives of multiple states. Elizabeth Murrill, the Louisiana Solicitor General, described what was being asked of workers at Medicare and Medicaid providers as “an invasive, irrevocable, forced medical procedure” being imposed in an unprecedented “bureaucratic power move.” That is a lot to lay on a simple shot that protects against a disease that has taken more than eight hundred thousand American lives.

Alito, after his self-pitying prelude, asked Prelogar to confirm that the vaccines have some risks, unlike, he said, “wearing a hard hat,” which has no “adverse health consequences.” When she noted that what risks there might be were smaller than those associated with covid-19 “by an order of magnitude,” and that, in any event, the osha mandate offers a testing-and-masking alternative, Alito hardly seemed to listen—not even when Kagan jumped in to help Prelogar by noting that “regulators think of risk/risk trade-offs constantly.” When Prelogar mentioned unvaccinated workers who might be older or have comorbidities, Alito interrupted to say, “All of whom have balanced the risk differently, maybe very foolishly, but they want to balance the risks presented to their health in a different way. And osha says, no, you can’t do that.”

“Well, one small factual correction, if I could, and then a broader legal point,” Prelogar replied. “I think it’s wrong to say that everyone who’s unvaccinated is just assuming the risk. Some people can’t get vaccinations for medical reasons. Some people have deeply held religious beliefs and are entitled to religious exemptions”—circumstances for which the mandate offers accommodations. “And osha is entitled to try to protect those unvaccinated workers, no matter the reason they’re unvaccinated.” That line was the broader legal point, and got at why the going has been so tough for a fairly simple, sensible set of mandates: vaccine skepticism has been joined not only with covid-19 denialism and Trumpism but with regulatory skepticism, and indeed with hostility to the idea that the federal government has any place regulating businesses at all.

OSHA has, in fact, required vaccines in certain settings in the past; people working in facilities that handle blood and blood products are supposed to be vaccinated against hepatitis B. But the politicized antagonism that has been entangled with the fight against covid-19 is not confined to commercial matters. A brief filed by Ohio and other states argued that, in attempting to protect workers against covid-19 infection, OSHA was dealing not with a workplace threat but with a “common risk of life,” and asked what the “limiting principle” might be: “Could it issue ‘workplace’ regulations preempting state laws (and overriding company policies) that forbid or permit carrying a gun at work?” (First, they came for Omicron; then they came for your AR-15.) In oral arguments, Benjamin Flowers, Ohio’s solicitor general, who called the mandate a “blunderbuss rule,” argued that because covid-19 was common outside the workplace—he compared it to the way “there’s some risk of terrorism when we wake up in the morning”—osha couldn’t regulate it within the workplace. “Well, why not?” Kagan asked. Workplace risk could be a person’s “greatest, least controllable risk with respect to covid,” she said. “You can go to the baseball game or not go to the baseball game. You can decide who to go to the baseball game with. But you can’t do any of that in workplaces. . . . You have to be there in the exact environment that the workplace is set up with.” ...Read More
'American Insurrection': How Far-Right Extremists Moved from Fringe to Mainstream After Jan. 6 Attack

Democracy New Story: JAN 05, 2022

Thursday marks one year since a violent mob of thousands of far-right and white supremacist Trump supporters descended on the U.S. Capitol, disrupting Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 presidential election and resulting in five deaths and hundreds of injuries.

We look at where these movements are one year later, with the updated investigative documentary “American Insurrection” by Frontline in collaboration with ProPublica and Berkeley Journalism’s Investigative Reporting Program. Director Rick Rowley explains how the far-right social movements have grown since the insurrection and says “the locus of the organizing has shifted really from a national platform to a local one, which makes it more difficult to track and increases the potential for local or regional violence.” Rowley and Frontline correspondent A.C. Thompson interviewed January 6 select committee chair Rep. Bennie Thompson about what makes this a moment for “far-right mobilization” and discussed the significance of the widespread contradictory beliefs by many on the far right that Antifa and Black Lives Matter dressed up as Trump supporters and carried out the January 6 riot, but that those who tried to overturn the election are patriots.

Transcript

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Thursday marks the first anniversary of the deadly January 6th insurrection, when thousands of people attacked the U.S. Capitol with the goal of overthrowing the 2020 election. Many were part of far-right extremist and white supremacist groups.

Today we look at where these movements are now with an investigation by Frontline, ProPublica and Berkeley Journalism’s Investigative Reporting Program that began in the wake of the deadly 2017 Charlottesville “Unite the Right” rally. In their reporting, they found many white supremacist groups started to splinter amidst the backlash following Charlottesville, but President Trump gave them new life.

This is an excerpt from American Insurrection with correspondent A.C. Thompson that actually begins before January 6, 2020, when, on November 14th, one week after the presidential election was called for Joe Biden, Trump supporters took to the streets of Washington, D.C., stirred up by Trump’s refusal to concede. They demanded the results be overturned.

A.C. THOMPSON: As night falls, Proud Boys merge with MAGA marchers and roam the city looking for fights. Trump supporters confront journalists, vandalize Black Lives Matter signs and fight with activists who try to stop them.

POLICE OFFICER: Get out of here!

A.C. THOMPSON: A month later, Trump supporters take to the streets of Washington again. And once again, the protests turn violent. And then, he calls his supporters to the Capitol on January 6th.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We’re going to walk down, and I’ll be there with you. We’re going to walk down to the Capitol! … You’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong. We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing. … And we fight. We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.

A.C. THOMPSON: As the clock runs out on his presidency, he urges them towards the Capitol building.

TRUMP SUPPORTERS: Whose house? Our house!

PROUD BOY: Ready?

A.C. THOMPSON: The Proud Boys are here, but they aren’t wearing their trademark yellow and black. The boogaloo bois are here, too, also out of uniform. They both blend into the pro-Trump crowd. Inside, Congress is trying to certify the election. Outside, the crowd is bearing down on them.

TRUMP SUPPORTERS: U.S.A.! U.S.A.! Whose house? Our house!

A.C. THOMPSON: But the police on the steps are outnumbered and unprepared.

TRUMP SUPPORTERS: U.S.A.! U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

A.C. THOMPSON: Around 140 police officers are injured. One officer, Brian Sicknick, will later die. A Proud Boy from New York state smashes through a window. The Capitol has been breached. A Proud Boy broke the window, but what about the crowd behind him? A mob, urged on by the president, willing to embrace insurrectionary violence that was once confined only to the most extreme elements of the far right.

TRUMP SUPPORTER: It’s amazing!

A.C. THOMPSON: Bewildered, some wander through the halls. Others move towards the Senate chamber. Police struggle to hold them off while Congress members flee through back exits. The mob surges through the hallways searching for them, coming within feet of their targets.

TRUMP SUPPORTERS: Break it down! Break it down! Break it down!

A.C. THOMPSON: Rioters try to break into a hallway that lawmakers are escaping through.

TRUMP SUPPORTER: Shots fired!

A.C. THOMPSON: A protester is shot and killed. Three other rioters die in the mayhem. It would be hours before the Capitol was cleared.

AMY GOODMAN: Now in an update to the documentary American Insurrection that came out this week, Frontline correspondent A.C. Thompson examines how far-right extremist groups have evolved since January 6th and the threat they pose today.

A.C. THOMPSON: In Washington, D.C., the fences are gone. So are the National Guard patrols. The city no longer feels like a war zone. But when I come back to the Capitol almost a year later, there are many questions that remain unanswered. ...Read More
The Women Leading Today’s Historic Labor Movement
With issues like pay, benefits, paid sick time, paid family leave, minimum staffing levels, schedule flexibility, mental health, and workplace safety becoming increasingly urgent in the pandemic, women have emerged as union leaders as never before.

Photo: Sara Nelson, International President, Association of Flight Attendants, Association of Flight Attendants

January 4, 2022 

By Aura Heinrichs 
Harper's Bazaar via Portside

The labor movement saw an unprecedented, uproarious resurgence in 2021, as workplace strikes became commonplace throughout the country in what’s being referred to as a historic employee uprising. As the pandemic continues to evolve, leaving in its wake the worst U.S. recession in history with millions of people still out of jobs, employers across industries are facing acute labor shortages.

Why? In short, because swaths of people have left their pre-COVID positions in pursuit of more money, more flexibility, and generally better quality of life in an especially fraught time. According to the Labor Department, four million people quit their jobs in April of 2021 alone, while those who’ve remained are shown to be joining unions and organizing in ways they perhaps previously hadn’t. 

Despite decades of declining membership, labor unions are currently seeing their highest approval ratings in the United States since 1965, according to a recent Gallup poll. Given that issues like pay, benefits, paid sick time, paid family leave, minimum staffing levels, schedule flexibility, mental health, and workplace safety have become increasingly urgent in the midst of the pandemic, women and femmes have emerged as union leaders across industries like never before, playing pivotal roles in some of the 45+ labor strikes since August tracked by Bloomberg Law. This should come as little surprise, as the Economic Policy Institute found that women in unions are paid more than their non-union counterparts, and that collective bargaining has also aided in lessening pay gaps for workers of color. Of course, women and femmes have also historically been leaders of, and active participants in, the country’s labor movement.

Among this decade’s most visible leaders are Liz Shuler, recently named the first female president of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO), the largest U.S. union federation; Sara Nelson, the international president of the Association of Flight Attendants (AFA); Crystal Dunn, vice president and secretary of the U.S. Women’s National Team Players’ Association, who has been charged with spearheading negotiations for a new labor contract; and Mary Kay Henry, the leader of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU).

Below, BAZAAR.com speaks with two of these trailblazing leaders about the latest surge in the labor movement, the importance of unions, and why women and femmes make some of the most effective organizers.

Liz Shuler, President of the AFL-CIO

In the late 2000s, Liz Shuler joined AFL–CIO, the largest federation of unions in the United States, which works with more than 12.5 million members at 57 unions, including those representing strikers at Kellogg’s and John Deere. When Richard Trumka, the secretary-treasurer of the AFL-CIO, tapped Shuler as his running mate in the election for the labor federation’s presidency in 2009, the team emerged triumphant. Trumka then named Shuler head of the AFL-CIO’s youth outreach efforts, where she spent more than 10 years heading up outreach to workers under the age of 35, using digital engagement methods to connect with workers and supporters alike. 

After the unexpected death of longtime leader Trumka this year, Shuler made history as the first woman to helm the federation after being elected in August. She plans to serve the remainder of Trumka’s term until June 2022. Since “Striketober,” Shuler has penned op-eds for The Washington Post, NBC, and others in support of the workers across industries on the picket lines during the pandemic. 

“The coronavirus pandemic, coupled with our country’s prolonged shortage of jobs that provide living wages, good benefits, and adequate working conditions, has created momentum for our movement on a scale we’ve never seen before,” Shuler tells BAZAAR. 

With an electrical lineman and union member father and a secretary mother, both of whom were employed by Portland General Electric (PGE), Shuler, a Gladstone, Oregon, native, was destined to be a formidable advocate in the labor movement. After attending the University of Oregon, where she worked summers at PGE, Shuler first became active in union work as an organizer for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 1245, ironically contributing to a campaign to organize clerical workers at PGE. By 1997, she was working as a lobbyist for the IBEW, where she was able to overcome a bill to deregulate Oregon’s electricity market.

Shuler rose through the ranks at IBEW, quickly going on to teach in the union's education and training programs, serve on the State of Oregon Management-Labor Advisory Committee on Workers’ Compensation, and be appointed an IBEW international representative. Her work took her to Washington, D.C., where she worked in the IBEW's Political and Legislative Affairs Department. In 2004, Shuler became the executive assistant to IBEW President Edwin Hill, effectively making her the highest-ranking woman in the union’s history. The role would allow Shuler to oversee many of the IBEW’s most crucial departments, including education, policy, public relations, and workplace safety divisions.

Now, one of her main focuses is advocating for the advancement of President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Act, which purports to invest billions of dollars into improvements in childcare, including raising child and home care workers’ pay to a minimum of $15 an hour and providing money to upgrade childcare centers.

“For too long, women have been underpaid, undervalued, and expected to take on most of the unpaid care work,” Shuler says. “That’s why on the national level, we’re working to pass the Build Back Better Act, which will put gender equity at the center of our economic recovery where it belongs.”

Sara Nelson, International President of the Association of Flight Attendants

At one time in her life, Sara Nelson intended on becoming an actress. Instead, thanks to a heap of incurred debt from earning a bachelor’s degree in English and education, she was forced to work four jobs, including as a substitute teacher and linen salesperson. In 1996, a friend suggested she support herself by becoming a flight attendant, so that year, she secured a position with United Airlines, where she has worked since.

Early on in the new role, a dispute over wages prompted Nelson to get involved in labor organizing. In 2002, when United declared bankruptcy, a process that would last until 2006, the union representing the airline’s flight attendants turned to then 29-year-old Nelson, who was already active in the local Boston Association of Flight Attendants union, to assume the role of chief of communications. In the years that followed, Nelson proved shrewd in the public relations department in both the face of the SARS outbreak, which greatly impacted international air travel, and after United attempted to cut workers’ pensions. It was Nelson who threatened a strike and stepped up to serve as the union's CHAOS strike chair during two rounds of labor negotiations, simultaneously providing communications support to other groups of AFA flight attendants. Her impressive record in the role would catapult her all the way to international vice president, the union’s number two leadership position, by 2011. Just three years later, she assumed the position of international president. 

As the top officer of AFA, Nelson is now charged with complete leadership of the union, serving as chair of the union's annual convention, on the AFA Board of Directors, as well as on the Executive Board. She is also the chief spokesperson for the union, which means she is in regular contact with other unions and labor organizations in the aviation industry and others.

“I’m a representation of the people,” Nelson says. “This is definitely not just about me. This is about whether or not our economy actually works.” ...Read More
DSA Report Back: Chile Delegation, 2021
Photo: Chileans celebrating Boric’s victory on Santiago’s Alameda

By DAVID DUHALDE
Democratic Left

When the Democratic Socialists of America was invited along with new left-wing parties and movement organizations to observe the recent presidential election in Chile, I wasn’t hopeful that we’d be witnessing a victory. I was still excited to go as DSA’s representative because I partly came to socialism because of my Chilean-born father’s support of (and subsequent punishment for his participation in) the leftist Popular Unity in the early 1970s. 

DSA’s delegation to Chile gave me a front row seat to see how the Left was able to win the election. By little over a ten-point margin, socialist Gabriel Boric of the alliance Apruebo Dignidad (Approve Dignity) defeated the far-right Republican Party’s José Antonio Kast. Boric is set to become the youngest Chilean president ever, and the most left-wing since Salvador Allende. But this trip also provided insights into how the Right is standardizing its political strategy across the globe. Potential collaboration to bring back to the states also arose out of the conversations between the Chileans and international guests.

Two parties of a coalition called Frente Amplio – Boric’s own Convergencia Social and its ally Revolución Democrática – hosted international delegates for three days before the historic election. Both parties are no older than a decade and their international guests reflected this as well. Participants such as Spain’s Podemos, Argentina’s Frente Patria Grande and Brazil’s PSOL were all formed less than twenty years ago. DSA was the only U.S. political organization to be among the global delegation. Less than a week before the election, DSA’s international committee released a statement in support of Boric’s candidacy and warned against backtracking on democratic gains to replace the constitution written under the dictator General Augusto Pinochet, whose 1973 coup against Allende and reign of terror lasted until 1990.

DSA and other guests met with Chilean coalition party leaders, Boric campaign staff, and social movement activists to observe and learn how they were prepared to defeat the right. Boric had underperformed in the first-round election in November by falling second to Kast, and leaked polls (nothing can be published two weeks before the election) showed a dead heat for the second round. On December 17, Revolución Democrática’s Giorgro Jackson, a congressman and close ally of Boric since their days as student leaders of Chile Winter, told us that the Left was concerned that Kast could attempt to undermine the election credibility as Donald Trump and Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro have done. 

Chilean far-right militants were pushing for Kast supporters to discredit ballots of Boric voters. In the end, Kast declined to seek this option possibly because the margin was too wide, general faith in Chile’s election system was too strong (and was being administered by a right-wing government), and perhaps he lacked the shamelessness of his U.S. and Brazilian equivalents.

On December 18, the delegation traveled to Valparaiso, the major port city about two hours from the capital of Santiago, to meet with the eponymous region’s governor Rodrigo Mundaca and five regional mayors. Mundaca, a former engineer and member of the water-rights-defending social movement MODATIMA, hosted us at Parque Cultural, a culture center that had once been a prison and torture site. The governor was one of only three of Chile’s 16 regional heads elected in the first round. He talked to us about David Harvey and Chilean resistance to neoliberalism. After learning I was with DSA, Mundaca exclaimed “we need more democratic socialists in the US.”

Later that day, the foreign guests listened to a panel of five constitutional convention members. In October 2020, Chileans voted by nearly a four-to-one margin to pass a referendum to replace the current constitution; in 2021, they elected 155 delegates to draft a new constitution. The country’s current constitution is a symbol of the neoliberalism imposed by the Pinochet military regime. A new national legal framework was a central demand of the uprising of 2019 that expressed the frustration with inequality caused by decades of unregulated capitalism backed by the armed forces. 

Bea Sanchez, a convention member and the 2017 Frente Amplio presidential candidate, spoke first and expressed fear that should Kast win, he could work to kill the constitutional process. The Left and independents dominate the 155-person body, so for now, there is hope that their proposed constitution will be a progressive alternative to the contemporary document. Had Kast won, he would have been unable to stop the drafting but could have used the bully pulpit of the presidency to push for a no vote in the national referendum to accept or reject the replacement. 

While Kast didn’t win, panel member Barbara Sepúlveda, a Communist Party activist, reflected the long-term concern about the growing influence of the Right, including the ability to find wedge issues, such as immigration, in Chile. While traditional conservative parties have collapsed, Kast’s Republican Party represents an embrace of the authoritarianism of the Pinochet era tied with trends of right-wing populism across the world. She noted how Trump’s solution to immigration was a wall and Kast proposed digging a ditch in the Chilean desert. Sepúlveda lamented that the right wing – not the Left despite our internationalism – seems to have a global playbook.

Outside of the formal delegation, I had the opportunity to represent DSA with both the Socialist Party and trade unionists. While not in Boric’s coalition, the Socialist Party is still the largest left-wing party in Congress and supported his candidacy in the final round. In a meeting with their International and Sub-Secretaries, we discussed parallels between our countries on issues such as immigration, police reform, and changing political systems. A dinner with labor organizers included Andres Giordano, a newly elected congressman with Apruebo Dignidad. Giordano is a co-founder of the Chilean Starbucks union and expressed interest in connecting with U.S. workers organizing the global coffee chain. Coincidentally, Revolución Democrática’s new president, Margarita Portuguez , comes out of the telecommunications union, which is an important step to bring the new left closer to organized labor. 

The week leading up to the election, I was very pessimistic about Boric’s chances, given his underperformance in the first round and generally rising cynicism among Chilean voters. And the 2016 U.S. presidential election had shown me how an inevitable candidate and modern polling methods could fail. But Boric won big. The reasons I was wrong come down to at least two factors: Chileans’ commitment to the constitutional process and age demographic voting trends. 

Turnout dramatically increased, from 47% in the first round to about 56% in the second round. A major reason for the uptick was Kast’s unequivocal opposition to the new constitution. He was the only first-round presidential candidate, including conservative and moderate ones, to oppose the constitutional process. As Chileans got to know him better, the threat of losing years of work to curtail neoliberalism became more real. Research showed that the more voters were reminded about Pinochet, the less likely they were to support Kast. The death of Pinochet’s widow shortly before Election Day probably hurt Kast, too, as she evoked her husband’s regime in which she was an active participant in the minds of voters.
Kast’s social conservatism also may have driven votes against him. His alliance is the Christian Social Front, whereas Chile has recently moved to legalize gay marriage and has loosened up abortion restrictions over time. Also, youth turnout increased by nearly 10 percent between rounds. while senior turnout increased by only a few points. Exit polls showed 64 percent of young women voted, compared to about 30 percent for all genders over 70 years old. Of those women under 30, two-thirds voted for Boric. In many ways, voters were preventing reactionary politics and regression that could have reversed decades of struggle as much as for Boric’s campaign of hope.

Overall, voters prioritized preserving the path toward a new constitution over the hate-filled campaign of Kast, which focused on immigration and crime. But those two issues remain and continue to be exaggerated by the right wing to undermine progressive policies. (Without concern for consistency, Kast has now turned on the same Venezuelan migrants he once welcomed to attack Bolivarian socialism.) The first round also was when Chileans voted for the federal legislature. This lower turnout gave Chile an equally divided senate between the Left and Right, plus a congress that is majority Left but with many representatives that could be swing voters.

Therefore, Boric’s government will be a test for how new left formations can handle state power. His administration likely will bring in center-left parties and officials who have previously governed Chile. Absent a clear majority in the legislature, he may have to focus on policies he can achieve through executive order while maintaining the constitutional process. There is even a chance his term could be cut short if a constitution passes that calls for new elections. Although  his tenure may likely not be as radical as his campaign rhetoric, his time in power can be a success if it helps foster a framework that Chileans can collectively use to bury neoliberalism and build a more egalitarian society. 

Overall, voters prioritized preserving the path toward a new constitution over the hate-filled campaign of Kast, which focused on immigration and crime. But those two issues remain and continue to be exaggerated by the right wing to undermine progressive policies. (Without concern for consistency, Kast has now turned on the same Venezuelan migrants he once welcomed to attack Bolivarian socialism.) The first round also was when Chileans voted for the federal legislature. This lower turnout gave Chile an equally divided senate between the Left and Right, plus a congress that is majority Left but with many representatives that could be swing voters.

Therefore, Boric’s government will be a test for how new left formations can handle state power. His administration likely will bring in center-left parties and officials who have previously governed Chile. Absent a clear majority in the legislature, he may have to focus on policies he can achieve through executive order while maintaining the constitutional process. There is even a chance his term could be cut short if a constitution passes that calls for new elections. Although  his tenure may likely not be as radical as his campaign rhetoric, his time in power can be a success if it helps foster a framework that Chileans can collectively use to bury neoliberalism and build a more egalitarian society. ...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 carld717@gmail.com), 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.

Click here for the Table of Contents
Taking Down
White Supremacy

Edited by the CCDS
Socialist Education Project


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

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


  Click here for the Table of contents

NOT TO BE MISSED: Short Links To Longer Reads...
More than 1,000 US public figures aided Trump’s effort to overturn election


A handy tool, the Insurrection Index identifies those who acted as accomplices by participating in 6 January attack or spreading Trump’s ‘big lie’

By Ed Pilkington
The Guardian


Jan 5, 2022 = More than 1,000 Americans in positions of public trust acted as accomplices in Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election result, participating in the violent insurrection at the US Capitol on 6 January or spreading the “big lie” that the vote count had been rigged.

One-party rule is now the credo of Trump and his followers

The startling figure underlines the extent to which Trump’s attempt to undermine the foundations of presidential legitimacy has metastasized across the US. Individuals who engaged in arguably the most serious attempt to subvert democracy since the civil war are now inveigling themselves into all levels of government, from Congress and state legislatures down to school boards and other local public bodies.

The finding that 1,011 individuals in the public realm played a role in election subversion around the 2020 presidential race comes from a new pro-democracy initiative that launched on Wednesday.

The Insurrection Index seeks to identify all those who supported Trump in his bid to hold on to power despite losing the election, in the hope that they can be held accountable and prevented from inflicting further damage to the democratic infrastructure of the country.

All of the more than 1,000 people recorded on the index have been invested with the public’s trust, having been entrusted with official positions and funded with taxpayer dollars. Many are current or former government employees at federal, state or local levels.

Among them are 213 incumbents in elected office and 29 who are running as candidates for positions of power in upcoming elections. There are also 59 military veterans, 31 current or former law enforcement officials, and seven who sit on local school boards.

When the index goes live on Thursday, it will contain a total of 1,404 records of those who played a role in trying to overturn the 2020 election. In addition to the 1,011 individuals, it lists 393 organizations deemed to have played a part in subverting democracy.

The index is the brainchild of Public Wise, a voting rights group whose mission is to fight for government that reflects the will and the rights of voters. Christina Baal-Owens, the group’s executive director, said that the index was conceived as an ongoing campaign designed to keep insurrectionists out of office. ...Read More
Photo: Fox News Channel and radio talk show host Sean Hannity (L) interviews U.S. President Donald Trump before a campaign rally at the Las Vegas Convention Center on September 20, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
LAS VEGAS, NV - SEPTEMBER 20: Fox News Channel and radio talk show host Sean Hannity (L) interviews U.S. President Donald Trump before a campaign rally at the Las Vegas Convention Center on September 20, 2018 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)


Fox News has a Jan. 6 problem: Sean Hannity's text messages make clear his complicity

Why has Hannity never reported any of this?

By HEATHER DIGBY PARTON
Slate

JAN 5, 2022 - Tomorrow is the first anniversary of the Capitol insurrection and attempted coup of the U.S. government by former president Donald Trump. There was a time not long ago when everything about that sentence would have made us laugh at the sheer absurdity of it. Nobody's laughing now.

Trump was apparently persuaded by his advisers to cancel his scheduled press conference for Jan. 6 after seeing that he would not get live coverage on all the networks to spread the Big Lie and excuse the violent mob that stormed the capitol a year ago vowing to hang Vice President Mike Pence. He promised to deliver that message to his loyal followers at a rally next weekend instead, drawing a huge sigh of relief from most Republican officials in Washington who just want to keep a low profile and put the unpleasantness behind them.

Unfortunately for them, however, it's not going away.

Trump will be talking about this for the rest of his life and the January 6th committee is revving up for several months of public hearings. Even some MAGA Republicans on Capitol Hill are determined to try to muddy the waters by dusting off their Benghazi playbook and holding their own "investigation" into why House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., was derelict in her duties by allowing hundreds of rabid Trump-voting fanatics to breach the Capitol that day.

On Tuesday, committee chairs, Reps. Bennie Thompson, D-Miss., and Liz Cheney R-Wy., released a letter they sent to Fox News host Sean Hannity in which they revealed that they had many text messages from him to high-level members of the White House staff in the run-up to January 6th. They ostensibly want Hannity to cooperate with the committee, but I doubt that there is any expectation that he will. This seemed more likely to be a notice to anyone who ever texted people in the White House during this period that the committee probably has them and intends to make them public. And it will almost certainly cause more dissension in Trumpworld. ...Read More
Photo: Proponents and opponents to teaching Critical Race Theory demonstrate as the Placentia Yorba Linda School Board in Yorba Linda, California, discusses a proposed resolution to ban it from being taught in schools, on November 16, 2021.
Proponents and opponents of critical race theory demonstrate as the Placentia Yorba Linda School Board in Yorba Linda, California, discusses a proposed resolution to ban it from being taught in schools, on November 16, 2021.
ROBERT GAUTHIER/LOS ANGELES TIMES VIA GETTY IMAGES

A Key Founder
of Critical Race Theory Discusses the Right-Wing Panic Over It

BY C.J. Polychroniou
Truthout

Dec 11, 2021 - Critical race theory (CRT) has become a new bogeyman in conservative circles in the United States. Right-wing groups are applying the term indiscriminately, using it inaccurately as a catch-all buzzword to stand in for everything they oppose, including any discussion of systemic racism in the classroom.

But as critical race theorist Gary Pellar recently pointed out, CRT, an academic discipline that has been around for more than 40 years, “in the real world, describes the diverse work of a small group of scholars who write about the shortcomings of conventional civil rights approaches to understanding and transforming racial power in American society. It’s a complex critique that wouldn’t fit easily into a K-12 curriculum.”

The current right-wing panic surrounding the idea of CRT speaks volumes of the impact of former President Donald Trump and of Trumpism in early 21st-century U.S. The frenzy occurring over the idea that schoolteachers would dare to discuss racism — or be in any way inspired by an academic discipline that seeks to reveal how “colorblindness” is an inadequate goal because of the many ways in which racial power continues to be exercised in supposedly “colorblind” institutions — reveals the unmistakable hold that overt racism continues to have among large segments of the white U.S.

For a better understanding of what CRT is and what it is not, Truthout reached out to one of the key founders of CRT, Richard Delgado, the John J. Sparkman Chair of Law at the University of Alabama. Professor Delgado — the author of 30 books and one of the most-cited legal scholars on race and the law in the country — has become a target of numerous threats by racist and neo-fascist elements since the recent right-wing campaign against CRT began.

C.J. Polychroniou: Professor Delgado, I would like to ask you to describe to us where CRT comes from, and then to discuss in some detail what CRT is and what it is not.

Richard Delgado: CRT stems from critical legal studies and, a little before that, the Frankfurt School of Critical Theory, which is most closely associated with the work of Max Horkheimer, Theodor W. Adorno, Erich Fromm and Herbert Marcuse. My book with Jean Stefancic, Critical Race Theory: An Introduction, describes these intellectual origins. ...Read More
Photo: State Sen. Rob Standridge 

WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
DSA, North Star, and the Crisis

Statement adopted by vote of the North Star membership. Jan.1, 2022.
The Political Moment
 
Successful coups d’état can follow failed ones. On the one-year anniversary of the January 6th assault on the Congress, we in the U.S. face the threat of an authoritarian movement seizing state power, dismantling our democratic institutions, and launching repressive attacks on progressive organizations. Republican-controlled state governments are expanding voter suppression, gerrymandering, and administrative control of elections. Over 60 percent of Republican voters believe President Biden’s election to be fraudulent. Among them is a hard core of heavily-armed fanatics who believe violence is necessary to purify the nation.
 
The authoritarian threat is global. Donald Trump’s collaborators include Narendra Modi in India, Victor Orban in Hungary, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Vladimir Putin in Russia, and Rodrigo Duterte in the Philippines. Describing such demagogues as populist obscures their neo-fascist nature and their support from corporate interests. Theirs is a budding alliance that strengthens corporate interests’ ability to perpetuate climate-destroying fossil fuel consumption and accumulate wealth from wage theft, tax evasion, and financial deregulation. Their drive for profit runs roughshod over workers’ rights and concentrates growing economic power in fewer hands. Their neglect of the common good precluded effective responses to Covid-19 and enabled an anti-vax movement, leading to catastrophic loss of life. 
 
We in North Star would like to emphasize the gravity of this threat, but we also recognize the historical precedents for an effective movement against it. People of color are already playing a leading role in resistance to neo-fascism in the United States. Growing voices across the political spectrum support the fight for universal, fundamental human needs and human rights. White people are increasingly aware of the importance of white supremacy in corroding U.S. democracy. 
 
The 2020 Senate and 2021 local election results in Georgia were an excellent example of how multi-racial unity with active participation from left and progressive forces can increase grassroots activism and produce victories. 
 
The labor movement has fortified its power through advocacy for the $15 minimum wage. Upsurges have come from gig workers, teachers, and fast food workers. Challenges mount against such exploitative mass employers as Amazon, Walmart, and Starbucks. Workers are voting with their feet against low wages and unacceptable working conditions, refusing unrewarding jobs. Undocumented young people brought to the U.S. as children – the “Dreamers” – have become symbols of the contributions immigrants make to this country. Abuses visited upon new immigrants and asylum seekers have revolted public opinion.
 
Working Together in Defense of Democracy
 
DSA and the broader Left must join forces to confront the international rise of authoritarianism. Together we should work to build a center-left coalition in defense of democracy. DSA must jettison a growing tendency towards a “go it alone” approach that devalues coalition work and glosses over the importance – indeed, the necessity – of a center-left coalition to defend democracy from neo-fascism.
 
The immediate task is mobilizing to prevent the Republican Party from retaking Congress in this year’s midterm elections and strengthening its hold on state and local governments. We cannot accept the conventional wisdom predicting inevitable Democratic Party defeat. A Republican takeover would shut down investigations of the January 6th attack on the Capitol and set the stage for the House of Representatives choosing the next president. To prevent a Republican takeover, efforts should focus on winnable races.
 
With over 90,000 dues-paying members and significant organizing staff, DSA should help to build a "Mississippi Summer"-style mobilization, actively seeking joint leadership with organizations focused on racism, labor, climate change, immigration, reproductive rights and other leading priorities. Not incidentally, a Left that takes a leading role in defending democracy against authoritarianism will win supporters from a variety of political communities.
 
Our focus on democracy and anti-fascism should include the full range of issues important to the working class. Our support for basic needs such as health care, the Fight for 15, free college, and the like answers the question, “Democracy, for what?” In this way, the campaign simultaneously meets the political moment and sets a progressive agenda for the future.
 
The best messages to employ in the current crisis are elaborated in the "race/class alliance" approach proposed by Ian Haney Lopez in the book Merge Left:Fusing Race and Class, Winning Elections, and Saving America, and by Heather McGhee in The Sum of Us: What Racism Costs Everyone and How We Can Prosper Together. Lopez and McGhee show that undecided and even right-leaning voters will respond to appeals framed around the concept that we are each better off when we are all better off. The objectives are to overcome color-blind economism and condescending, do-gooder attitudes toward people of color, and to expose the economic roots of the ruling class’s divide and conquer strategy of pitting white workers against people of color. 
 
One method for delivering these messages is called "deep canvassing." It emphasizes shared humanity, where canvassers express genuine curiosity about the lives of others and the reasoning behind their political views. Thousands of activists are being trained in this method. It has been used successfully in community issues, labor, and electoral campaigns.
 
DSA’s Contribution
 
DSA’s initial task is to forge working relationships with like-minded organizations on the Left. Such an alliance will then be well-situated to reach out to broader political strata.
 
DSA has both strengths and weaknesses in meeting this political moment. Given its growth over the past five years, it has the most potential of all groups on the Left. It has more active members and has realized political victories, especially in electoral politics. The youth, energy, technical, and organizing capabilities of our members are impressive. Most who have joined in the past five years are confident and optimistic.
 
At the same time, DSA suffers from self-imposed constraints. In particular, unity against authoritarianism requires working with those who hold some views that we do not accept. Unity on the Left in the first instance means rejection of sectarianism, especially identification of centrist forces as a political enemy equivalent to Trump’s movement. 
 
A failure to recognize the authoritarian threat was reflected in our unwillingness to acknowledge the need to vote for Biden-Harris in 2020. It has resurfaced in hostility towards Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez and Jamaal Bowman with regard to Israel and Palestine, or worse, in calls to expel Bowman from DSA. To limit DSA support to avowed democratic socialist candidates forces impossible choices on DSA members working in community coalitions on behalf of progressive candidates for elective office. It is particularly inimical to the development of the broad coalition that we need.
 
Many members seem to endorse a “go-it-alone” strategy that envisions DSA at the center of a working-class, socialist upsurge in the foreseeable future. The reality is that only a minority of working people is ready to identify as socialist. By its support for a broad array of progressive issues, DSA can show that socialism is relevant to people’s lives. Recitation of dogma will not bring working people to socialism. 
 
Political breakthroughs, such as the election of five avowed democratic socialists to the U.S. Congress, are viewed by some members with suspicion, if not hostility. Attacks from our ranks on members of Congress who are the public face of democratic socialism are utterly counter-productive.
 
DSA has attracted radicals who are so disgusted by both political parties that they fail to understand that our growth and current strength are due primarily to our coalition efforts in electoral politics, especially our role in the Bernie Sanders campaigns, AOC’s victory, and the expansion of ‘the Squad’ and the Progressive Caucus in Congress. DSA’s membership grew in large part out of broad opposition to President Trump’s egregious behavior and policies. A “go it alone” approach devalues coalition work and glosses over the importance – indeed, the necessity – of a center-left coalition to defend democracy from neo-fascism.
 
Another factor holding DSA back from coping with the crisis is an unawareness of the key role white supremacy is playing now in the U.S. Despite the unprecedented barrage of attacks being launched against people of color, DSA itself is still a mostly white organization. Our shortcomings are two-fold. 
 
First, there is a failure to appreciate the internalized bias prevalent among white intellectuals. We may think our politics purges us of everyday prejudices. It does not.
 
Second, DSA is plagued by economist reductionism that downplays the devastating impact of racist ideology on the working class. This is a basic reason why DSA is not viewed as a home by thousands of activists in BIPOC organizations who are otherwise supporters of democratic socialism. DSA alienates by its arrogant adherence to a race-neutral, purportedly class focus, not granting the centrality of white supremacy.
 
In addition, DSA purports to be a socialist feminist organization, but in this respect its practice is wanting. Our internal culture and organizing abound with such patriarchal attitudes as arrogance, competitiveness, and interpersonal venom. Toxic behavior is socially condoned, as are white supremacy and classism. All interfere with our ability to organize. To embody our values and be true to our “big tent” identity, DSA must foster the “soft” qualities of tolerance and dialogue, qualities essential to the project of building a broad, anti-authoritarian coalition.
 
In summary, we argue that DSA lacks a viable strategic perspective on how to build power: a Gramscian understanding of the political terrain on which we struggle, with an analysis and long-term strategy for how to best situate ourselves on that terrain, choosing battles that we have the best chance of winning and avoiding those that lead to almost certain political defeat. We also need to see our internal political and democratic cultures as works in progress, with much room for improvement.
 
North Star’s Role
 
North Star has assets it can bring to bear on the challenges DSA and the Left face. Among us are veteran organizers located throughout the country with contacts in the progressive, civil rights, labor, feminist, and environmental movements.
 
Given the above, North Star understands its role in DSA as:

  • Developing organizational clarity on the imminent danger of a neo-fascist seizure of political power, and the concomitant loss of American democracy, as the defining feature of the political moment;
  • Urging DSA to play a constructive role, as the primary focus of its work, in organizing a broad progressive coalition that can expand towards the political center to oppose that neo-fascist danger;
  • Rejecting attacks on elected officials who are the public face of DSA.
 
Conclusion 
 
North Star’s next steps include:

  • Canvass our email list to determine interest in promoting a unified center-left alliance to defend democracy;
  • Urge our members to collaborate outside of the discussions on our listserve; 
  • Participate more actively in DSA chapters, publications, and other bodies such as
  • commissions and working groups;
  • Reach out to supporters of other organizations to determine interest in this effort; 
  • Study race/class alliance messaging; 
  • Be trained in the Deep Canvassing method.

We must not fail to take this opportunity to act in defense of democracy. It is a pivotal point in the struggle for human needs, human rights, and global sustainability, without which there can be no democratic socialism.

Approved by the North Star Caucus Steering Committee 12/26/2021 ...Read More
Photo: MR Online Tariq Ali speaking on Subversive Festival 2013 in Zagreb. Credit: Robert Crc, FAL, Link.

Tariq Ali
on The Left, the Right
and the Vacuums Created by Defeat and Failure


Jan 06, 2022 MR Online

We are grateful to Frontline (India) for allowing our readers access to the following interview, which is the cover story of the January 14, 2022 issue. We encourage our readers in India and elsewhere to support Frontline by purchasing a subscription.

Jipson John and Jitheesh P.M. interview Tariq Ali—public intellectual, writer and political activist Tariq Ali is an internationally known public intellectual, columnist and political activist. Born in pre-Partition India in 1943, Tariq Ali studied at Oxford University and was elected as students’ union president there. He has been involved in political activism since then. He was one of the most prominent figures of the civil society coalition against the United States’ war in Vietnam. He was also there at the forefront of agitations against the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere

A well-known columnist contributing to leading dailies such as The Guardian, Tariq Ali has been associated with the New Left Review magazine for over 50 years. Among his important non-fiction writings are The Forty-Year War in Afghanistan: A Chronicle Foretold, The Extreme Centre: A Second Warning, Street Fighting Years: An Autobiography of the Sixties, Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope, The Clash of Fundamentalisms: Crusades, Jihads and Modernity, The Leopard and the Fox: A Pakistani Tragedy and An Indian Dynasty: The Story of the Nehru-Gandhi Family. He has also written fiction: the Islam Quintet comprising Shadows of the Pomegranate Tree, The Book of the Saladin, The Stone Woman, A Sultan in Palermo and Night of the Golden Butterfly.

In this interview, Tariq Ali, the anti-war “hero” of the 1960s, reflects on some of the most important issues of our time: the situation in Afghanistan, the Western powers and the “war on terror”, political developments in Latin America, causes of the worldwide right-wing upsurge, the changing media landscape, the potential of new media, digital surveillance and democracy, the challenges before the Left movements, contemporary capitalism and the poor, lessons from the COVID-19 pandemic, and so on.

The Afghan mess

The U.S.’ longest fought war has just ended in Afghanistan. Twenty years ago, the U.S. entered Afghanistan with promises such as removing the Taliban from power and establishing democracy. By 2021, lakhs of people, mostly innocents, had lost their lives and the U.S. had spent more than $2 trillion on the war. But the Taliban is again in power. How do you look at these developments?

The first point is that what we are witnessing in Afghanistan is the defeat of the world’s largest and only imperial power. It is not just a military defeat. We have to stress that point. In the case of Afghanistan, it is certainly a political and an ideological defeat for the U.S. It is also a defeat of the U.S.’ imperial projects shared with the Europeans through NATO [the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation]. This fact is a shock, especially to liberals, who have never been able to accept that imperialism did collapse.

The second point is that the Taliban was the only force, whether you accept it or not, in Afghanistan that decided to fight [against]… the occupation. It would be extremely sectarian of anyone on the Left or the liberal Left to say that we don’t like it because this is the victory by the Taliban. To this argument, these questions have to be asked, Were you there? Why did you not fight? Why did you not march on the streets against the occupation of Afghanistan? Did you really believe that NGOs [non-governmental organisations] handing out money for the training and education of some women in a few cities was going to [bring about] a structural transformation of that country? If you believed it, then you have been proved completely wrong. Nobody thought that the Taliban could win, but the hard fact now is that they have won.

NATO and the U.S. could not deliver their “professed” goals in Afghanistan. They ran an outfit in that country for 20 years which was characterised by some of the worst examples of neoliberal capitalism. It ultimately created a small elite backing the occupation and making money. This was no secret. The Afghanistan papers published by The Washington Post made this aspect clear. American diplomats, generals and ideologues spoke openly about how this war was becoming disastrous. Some of them said [what] many of us were already saying, that the Hamid Karzai government, which has been praised throughout the Western press, was nothing but a bunch of corrupt politicians making money. Now you read in the Washington papers and an official federal report by the U.S. government that Karzai was never anything else. All he created was a kleptocracy. Many of the criticisms we were making were correct.

What about the issues faced by women? When the Taliban first came to power, it was harsh and cruel in its approach to women. Many people have similar fears now. Women’s emancipation also was one of the proclaimed objectives of the U.S.-led “war”. What is your take on this?

One of the most important questions on Afghanistan, which has been highlighted not only today but during the U.S. invasion also, is what about women? To which I ask, you were there for 20 years and what did you [Western powers] do about the condition of an overwhelming majority of Afghan women? Of course, I fully defend the rights of women. I’m not talking about the small groups of women in Kabul or in a few other cities. I’m talking about the whole of Afghanistan. Half of the women are under the age of 25. What did you do about them? Now you are complaining when the Taliban is back in power. But, did you change their condition when you were in power? The answer is No. Initially, they [the Western powers] projected the war as one against terrorism and as the struggle for women’s liberation. This is what Mr [Tony] Blair and Mr [George W.] Bush told the world. But what is the balance sheet after years? How many [women] have you educated? How many schools have been built? How many teacher training colleges have been created for women? The answer is either none or very few.

I would add another point to this. The condition of women, according to some of the women activists I’ve spoken with, actually became worse under the Western powers. More and more women were dragged into becoming sex workers secretly. Because they were scared of their families. Sex workers were imported from other parts of the world too. Brothels were created as they were during the Yugoslavia war. What did this say about the condition of women in Afghanistan? In my opinion, the major change was the encouragement of sex work and the building of brothels, either private or public. The Taliban was extremely backward in their approach to women. But under them rapes were decreased because they used strong measures against rapists. Their punishment for rapists was either kill them in some cases or castrate them. I do not approve of that way of dealing with the problem. But in any case, the figures were relatively low. What are the figures now after 20 years?

Is the condition of women in Afghanistan worse than the condition of women in other countries of the region? I would say that it is roughly the same. Structurally, it may be different. Even in countries where you have laws that proclaim gender equality, what are the figures? What is the education of poor women in Pakistan and India, the two neighbouring states? Not that much different, I would say. Who gets educated [in Afghanistan]? It is in the cities of Afghanistan, basically urban women who constitute most of the educated women. That is fine. But it does not answer the problem.

It is to be noted that on the question of gender, not Afghanistan alone but the entire region has to be considered. The Western powers don’t want to do that because gender is now becoming a prime weapon, an ideological weapon, to be utilised against the group that defeated the U.S. This is the situation in Afghanistan.

What helped the Taliban capture power when the other side was the world’s largest military power on the offensive?

It is the result of a complete failure of the U.S. to create any alternative political, military or state structure. And the puppet army of 300,000 people collapsed easily. Some of them went on to become refugees. Some refused to fight against the Taliban. Some joined the Taliban and handed over their weapons to it. The police force also collapsed. A quarter of the police force was busy making money from the sale of drugs. A quarter of them, if not more, were Taliban infiltrators. When the American occupation began, the Taliban decided to not resist it militarily. They shaved their hair and rushed to hide in Pakistan or within the mountains of Afghanistan. And they started becoming active again as the Afghan people began to see the real nature of the occupation.

There was virtually no resistance against invasion from any progressive forces inside Afghanistan. One has to be ashamed to say that most of the progressive forces in Afghanistan, including the former PDPA [People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan] members, backed the U.S. intervention. So they had no credibility whatsoever. Had there been one progressive organisation in whatever part of the country resisting [the occupation], the situation would have been a bit more balanced. But there was none. The Northern Alliance completely worked with the U.S. As occupation was totally dependent on the Northern Alliance, how can it be presented now as an administration that tries to help women? There is an Afghan feminist in exile who said in private that we had three enemies: occupation, the Northern Alliance and the Taliban. And she says now we have only one enemy.

One has to resist the flow of imperialist propaganda which tries to cover up the total and abject failure [of the West] by saying now, “Oh, look what the Taliban are doing to the women.” These people are never interested in the question of women’s emancipation when their own interests are not involved in any manner. If they were genuinely interested, then they would see the women’s question not just as an Afghan issue but as an issue affecting the entire region. They are not doing that.

What will be the future of Afghanistan under the Taliban?

I would say that when the U.S. is defeated, whether it’s in Vietnam or in Afghanistan, they punish that country. Vietnam received no reparations. Their entire ecology was destroyed by the use of chemical weapons. Napalm was used against the civilian population. When I was in Vietnam, I saw children’s backs burned, faces made into the faces of monsters by the use of napalm. What will they do in Afghanistan now? We have to see the hard reality underneath the 20 year’s occupation mask. The reality is that nothing much changed in the country except for the elites and for the collaborators of the West. The Western powers are imposing sanctions on Afghanistan and threatening to roll back all aid. It’s a monstrous crime taking place against that country. First the Russians invaded that country, which was wrong and led to this mess. For 40 years, this country and its people have known nothing but war. We have to think of the impact this has on children. Kids have grown up knowing nothing but war. It is not just about the psychological impact, but every family lost members all over the country. That’s the situation in Afghanistan.

For the sake of the people of Afghanistan, what we could say to the West is that do not go for sanctions. Sanctions and blocking aid never had any impact on any leadership. Instead, they are punishments for the people. Sometimes, the Americans do it deliberately as they did against Iraq where half a million children died during the sanctions. This was even before they invaded that country. The rationale behind the sanctions is that if we [impose] sanctions on the country, then people will suffer, and there will be an uprising to topple the government.

But the reality is that suffering people blame not their own regime but those people who are inflicting the suffering. People know who is doing all these things. This tactic did not work in the Arab world. It has not worked in Venezuela where all these things are going on at the moment. It will not work in Afghanistan. But it will make people’s life more miserable.

Whether the Taliban changed or not over 20 years is another discussion. It should be understood that the generation that has grown up over the last 20 years in Afghanistan is a generation which consumed different news bulletins on their cell phones or on their computers. This means that people, in general, are better informed than they used to be. Given that the bulk of the population of Afghanistan is under 25, we will see how they will react. But one thing is sure: very few Afghan people want the civil war back.

What are the geopolitical implications in the region with the Taliban assuming power?

First, on the question of the geopolitical nature of what is happening in Afghanistan, what we could say is that we are now living in slightly different times. Today, the second major power on the globe is not Europe or the European Union [E.U.]. It’s China. China is in Asia. The Chinese market economy has grown phenomenally. The fact that China has borders with India, Pakistan and Afghanistan means this state will play a big role in the next few years in the geopolitical developments in the region. And the Taliban leaders are well aware of this. That is why the first foreign delegation from the Taliban did not go to Saudi Arabia but flew to China for a meeting with the Chinese Foreign Minister and other senior officials. They gave a firm assurance that they were not interested in any interference in Xinjiang. It seems that the Chinese are pleased with the talk.

The second thing is the Taliban’s changed relation with Iran. Its relation with Iran was very bad. This was largely because Sunni fundamentalism was used against the Shia community in Afghanistan. But over the last six or seven years, there have been numerous talks with Iranian leaders, and some element of reconciliation has taken place. The Iranians are not interested in destabilizing the new regime. There will be no encouragement of a civil war by the Iranians also.

Third, it’s not impossible that the Taliban will even learn some lessons from the Iranians on how to run a country. To have a likely Iranian model to permit elections in which real candidates, not bogus candidates, contest [against] each other reflecting different opinions will be a step forward. I think there is some indication that the Iranian model is being considered as a possible constitutional model for Afghanistan. It’s very early now to speak with any confidence about what might happen over the next year. With Pakistan, the Taliban’s relations are very close. Very close but also not as fully friendly as people might imagine. Even during the last year of the previous Taliban government, there were tensions opening up. But there is no doubt that the Pakistani military has helped the Taliban over the last 20 years. That itself is interesting. Pakistan is the country which has been a long-time ally of the U.S. But on the other hand, the same country has been providing aid and strategic help to the Taliban.

Do you think that Afghanistan will become a hotbed of terrorism now that the U.S.-led forces have withdrawn? What about the operations of the Islamic State (or ISIS) and other terrorist groups?

The Islamic State has already gone into Afghanistan and built their base there. They are not in favour of the Taliban. In fact, they are fighting the Taliban, saying that the Taliban should have no negotiations with the U.S. The history of ISIS, both in the Arab world and in Afghanistan, is that they never ever targeted imperialism or its alliance. They target other Muslim sects or minorities like Christians. This is what they have been doing. Inside Afghanistan, they have been attacking the Taliban by and large. I am told that the Taliban captured ISIS leader Omar Khorasani … and killed him quite brutally. It was to avenge the capture and execution of Khorasani that the Islamic State [carried out an attack at] the airport and for the first time killed any American there. I think that the Taliban will have to deal with them. It would be a big tragedy if these Islamic State people become an opposition force in any form. Their strength is largely in the Pashtun area of Afghanistan. They might spread and they might make the opportunistic link-up. This would be a tragedy for Afghanistan. So ISIS is there but certainly not near to power.

A history of defeating occupiers

Many people forget that Afghanistan gave women voting rights in 1919, much before many Western countries, including even Britain. What led to Afghanistan’s contemporary fate?

To understand Afghanistan’s structure, we need to see how it was self-created as a tribal confederation. Different tribes were united to create a country known as Afghanistan. And they fought any attempt to curb their independence. There was a huge war fought by Afghan tribes against Aurangzeb’s attempts to subdue them. Aurangzeb sent his army led by Hindu, Muslim and Sikhs generals. Sikhs and Hindu generals always formed a key part of Mughal armies, and the resistance came from Afghans and they defeated one of Aurangzeb’s armies. Subsequently, when the Mughal emperor collapsed, Afghans themselves became very dominant.

During the British period, this trend continued, and the British fought three wars in Afghanistan. They were defeated in the first war. It was a crushing defeat for the British Empire. Afghans suffered blows from the British in the second war. But they managed to defeat the British in the third war. As revenge for the defeats, General Pollock ordered the destruction of the old medieval bazaar in Kabul. It was an artistic work of great beauty. To punish people, you destroy what they love, like and respect. The way the British dealt with the Afghans was based on a theory of vicious racial imperialism. If you look at the dispatches that were sent, including those by [Winston] Churchill, that is very clear. And also look at some of [Rudyard] Kipling’s verses.

I was just doing some additional research for my new book on Afghanistan. And I discovered a dispatch written by a senior British Raj civil servant to the Governor of Punjab in which he refers to Afghans as savages, and they say that some of them may be noble savages but the fact is that they are savages. Afghanistan is a country which produced some of the most amazing works of poetry. Khushal Khattak was writing in the 17th century. Poems attacking the Mughal emperor and defending Afghans, lyrical poetry, love poetry, political poetry, etc., were produced from this region. Calling the people of the region “noble savages” shows the incapacity of the Western empire to understand real history.

The October Revolution of 1917 in Russia had a huge global impact. The first decrees of the Bolshevik government were astonishing, saying freedom to all the colonised countries which are brutalised by imperialism, freedom in particular to all the Muslim world forced to live under the imperial yoke of the tsar, etc. One of the early decrees proclaimed by the Bolshevik government reached Amanullah Khan, the ruler of Afghanistan, and he was impressed with it. At that time, the Turkish nationalists had not replaced the caliphate yet. The nationalists had gone for the modernisation of Turkey and gave women equal rights. The combination of Lenin and Mustafa Kemal Atatürk had a huge impact on Afghan elites. Amanullah sent messages of support. Afghanistan prepared its own constitution in 1919 in which women were granted full equal rights. This was seen by them as an anti-imperialist act.

The British then intervened in Afghanistan and basically destroyed the Amanullah government. A campaign was waged against Amanullah and Queen Soraya. This was led by tribal reactionaries but backed, armed and funded by the British Empire. This was similar in some ways to the jehad waged by [U.S. President] Jimmy Carter against the USSR [Union of Socialist Soviet Republics] in the late 1970s and 1980s. So Afghanistan has a long history of imperialist intervention. Every single time, it has succeeded in defeating the occupiers, from the Mughals to the British, the Russians and, now, the Americans. This is quite deeply embedded in the historical memory of the people in a country where literacy is still not universal.

The Xinjiang option

Will the Western powers or the U.S., in particular, learn any lesson from all this?

No. They never learned any lessons from all the setbacks and defeats they suffered in the past. The only time they learn is when another empire begins to challenge them. The U.S. embarks on a crazy mission to try and destabilize China from within. The Taiwan option is not so favourable for them. The Hong Kong option is also more or less finished. The only option the U.S. has is to arm and unleash the Uyghurs in Xinjiang. I am told that there are thousands of men in Turkey being trained and armed by the Turkish government on behalf of the U.S. [Turkish President] Recep Tayyip Erdogan is using some of them in the wars against his enemies in the region, especially in Syria. Turkey is an important player now as the U.S. relies on it, but it also sometimes opposes the U.S. to defend its own limited interests.

If the U.S. uses this against the Chinese in Xinjiang, not because it knows it will win but just to get the Chinese occupied with other things, it could lead to a situation that the Americans do not predict and can’t predict. It’s a risky adventure. That is why I’m perfectly aware that the Chinese policies towards their national minorities are not something that anyone on the Left can learn from. It’s a very hard and centralized state that the Chinese have created. No doubt that the Chinese do things that one cannot support. However, when people start characterizing what is happening in Xinjiang as genocide, that makes me nervous. I think it’s wrong to characterize it like that. These days, any country which does something the West doesn’t like is characterized as genocide and often linked for possible military intervention and occupation. There have been genocides in various parts of the world, of Jews, of Armenians, of Rwandans, etc. But again in all these three actual genocides, the West did nothing to protect people.

Small massacres are indefensible in any sense but to characterize them as genocide has only one real function. That is why the U.S. is unlikely to learn any lessons from Afghanistan.

After 1975, the shock to the U.S. system was great because its own army people were dissenting against the occupation in Vietnam. Thousands of soldiers and veterans demonstrated outside the Pentagon and declared that they hoped Ho Chi Minh and the National Liberation would win. When that happens inside your own imperial army, it gives you a shock and you have to sit back and take notice of it. But they did not delay for too long before another intervention. The Contra was started by Ronald Reagan to destabilise the regime in Nicaragua in the late 1970s. Just four or five years afterwards, it was business as usual in South America and some other parts of the world. The defeat in 1975 was huge. They accept that the defeat in Afghanistan is a setback, but they write it off as one of the things that can happen when you are a big empire.

Even if one opposes the U.S.’ attempts to bring about regime change in another country, one has to accept that authoritarianism is a reality in many parts of the world. How would democratic transition come about in these places? What is your reading of the current world landscape?

My take is that only people in the country concerned can bring about real changes. If it’s done by outside powers, it never works. That is just plain common sense. Do we have freedom and democracy in Iraq after the war? No. We have nearly a million and a half people killed. Did the U.S. intervention bring freedom and democracy to Syria? No, and never will do. Did the overthrow of [Muammar] Gaddafi in Libya create a flourishing democracy? No. They imported a Libyan businessman who has been in Alabama for decades making money. They made him Prime Minister. He didn’t last too long. In fact, he lasted such a short time that few Libyans even can remember his name. Instead, what they provided the Libyans with were three jehadi factions fighting and killing each other. The policy of the U.S. seems to break up the Arab states. So the destruction they have inflicted on the Arab world is the biggest change brought about to the world since the First World War. Since the Arab world was taken away from the Ottomans, it has been transformed into tiny little states created mainly by the British and later by the U.S. They are now destroying that world.

The only real way to remove corrupt and capitalist regimes led by elites who have no respect for their own people is through movements from below. That is what is happening in South America. But they are constantly under a challenge from the U.S. The imperialist attempts to crush the Left progressive forces have not fully worked. The recent victory in Peru of the teacher President is a sign of that. The defeat of the pro-American forces who toppled Evo Morales in a coup earlier, in the 2020 election in Bolivia, is a good example. What the Bolivians said is that even though our leader was got rid of and exiled, we can win without him because we have created a strong institution.

In Asia, there is China, and I have already discussed it. In South Asia, you have India which is technically and constitutionally a democracy. The present government in India is utilising its own ideology to bring about a transformation and completely break with the Gandhi-Nehru consensus that ruled the country earlier. So, [Prime Minister Narendra] Modi has created a consensus such that even those opposed to his party are basically falling into its lap. These parties may maintain their own political structures, but there is increasing similarity in their language, the way they speak, the way they promote similar ideas, etc. In my view, among the two main opposition parties in India, the Congress party has become a joke now. To expect any vaguely radical thing from it is a joke. It is fighting a war for power. On the other hand, the Left in India is the weakest [it has] ever [been] in its history. When the Soviet Union collapsed, the mass communist parties of Italy and France collapsed. In India, this was not the case with the CPI(M) [Communist Party of India (Marxist)]. It managed to keep its hold in Kerala, West Bengal, Tripura, and bases in other parts of the country. And many intellectuals were still linked in some capacity to the CPI(M). But the total wipeout in Bengal is an indication that this party is on the decline. One can’t get away from this fact. The question is, can something be produced to move a large number of people who really need a movement forward? It remains to be seen.

Within the Korean Peninsula, nothing is going to change very much. Japan is still dominated and controlled by the U.S. It’s not even committed to a foreign policy of its own, and internally its politics are dominated by the elites who hang up in different parties. Socialists and communists hardly exist in Japan.

In South America, the combination of mass movements and left social democracy has emerged. They posed no big challenge to capital except regulation of capital. Domination of capital remains complete. As a result of this domination, the whole opposition in these countries is in the cocoon that has been created by capitalism. The real needs of the people are not dealt with. Then you had two huge events. First, there was the 2008 crash, the Wall Street crash. That was an opportunity for capitalists to actually transform it a little bit as they did after the Second World War, including some reforms. But they didn’t do it. The second big event was the pandemic. Ironically, the pandemic has forced a slight shift from neoliberalism to state intervention. But the status quo did not create hope among people. They do not want to create that because people will get overexcited, and they might want more which they cannot give them and cannot be delivered.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, many people believed that a better world would emerge out of the crisis. During the crisis, millions suffered job losses, salary cuts, and so on. But even then certain billionaires made astonishing wealth. How do you look at the political, economic and social developments that happened around the pandemic?

“Another world is possible” is always true. It is the Right that attempts to create another world. The Left is by and large very weak but the Right is far more successful. [U.S. President Donald] Trump was a huge victory for the Right in terms of his actions to create another America, a white supremacist America. So for the Left, it is a more difficult slogan.

“We are the 99%” is a slogan put up by an advertising agency packed with left-wing sympathisers. The argument that 1 per cent of people control the wealth created by the 99 per cent was never too convincing for me. Because within that 99 percentage, there were hundreds and thousands of people whose real wages are different from the poor and starved. It is not a convincing slogan. Also, there is a social gulf within the 99 percentage. As far as I am concerned, yes you are against multibillionaires. That doesn’t exhaust the number of people who are earning salaries which were way far off the earnings of the 50 percentage of the population. That is why I am maintaining the position, in large part of my life, that however effective the sloganeering, it is never sufficient. How the world operates through the premises of politics and economics is important to understand. The question is about the transformation of social structures. It is about transforming the social structure of a country with mass support and with the creation of democratic institutions like new constitutions and parliaments based on new constitutions. That model given by the South Americans was not a bad one. The mass movement in Chile is working now on a new constitution. So the combination of these tactics will move the Left forward again. It is not a question of mimicking for existence. You have to think creatively and in new ways if you want to get rid of the present debacle. The question is, how many people want that?

The social and economic structure of capitalism today, like in the past, has a number of institutions to depend on. In this age of finance capitalism, which dominates the world, the political classes are in total alliance with these people. After the 2008 crash, a decent social democracy would have [said] that we will not allow this to happen in future. But they didn’t do that. But the pandemic has made them think. Some of the policies of [U.K. Prime Minister] Boris Johnson has shown how the state can be used for the benefit of the majority if it wanted to. The fact that it needs a virus disease to push it in this direction is distressing about world we are live in.

The Left, the Right and the vacuum

You have earlier said that the 2008 financial crisis created a vacuum that provided the way for the growth of the extreme right wing. Why did liberal or left politics fail to fill the vacuum?

First, there was a very interesting television appearance after the 2008 financial crisis in the U.S. I think it was Robert Reich, a democrat who served in [President] Bill Clinton’s government. An issue was put before him: after the Great Depression the U.S. government under Franklin D. Roosevelt pushed through heavy state intervention to create employment and look after its citizens, whereas nothing similar was done in the 2008 crash. To this point, Reich replied that at the time of the Depression you had the Soviet Union. We have to think about that. If we don’t do something, our workers would turn Left.

My thinking is that these words raise the real element of truth. Second, most of the bankers who got away in 2008 with cheating were not [put on] trial or punished at all. They were corporate criminals. President Barak Obama made a firm decision to stay with Wall Street and not to do anything. Movements from below, like the Occupy movements, were limited in their agenda and approach. Look at the huge occupation movements in the Middle East [West Asia] where the demand was effectively pro-democratic but nothing else. There was no demand for Arab solidarity, there was no mention of the Palestinian cause in most cases. Tahrir Square protesters underestimated that ultimately politics will come out. I remember talking to Egyptian friends at that time, and I said to them that the only big and organised opposition party in Egypt is the Muslim Brotherhood. If you people create nothing and think that things will happen spontaneously, then you are going to get a shock. Later, the Brotherhood came into the movement and won the next election, defeating the old regime but did not have alternatives to that regime. So the lack of political alternatives, even left-democratic alternatives, at that particular time created a great vacuum. An attempt to create a New Deal or recreate a New Deal came from [Senator] Bernie Sanders in the U.S. and Jeremy Corbyn in Britain recently. Jeremy Corbyn did win over the Labour party but is now suspended from the party. Anyway, these people did try, but they still need to reach too far.

Third, state powers didn’t particularly want to make so many concessions to people from below. They also felt that they do not need to do that as there was no huge pressure on them. So they didn’t give many concessions to the people from below. But I always feel that one country where something could have been organised by political forces was in India where the CPI(M) has hundreds and thousands of members and supporters. Instead of sticking rigidly to parliamentarism, it should have begun to organise people from below. Maybe it was difficult. The main reason that Mamata Banerjee could come to power in West Bengal was not through repression or anything like that. It was because of the traditional supporters of the CPI(M) abandoned that party. One reason for this debacle is that the CPI(M) in West Bengal started operating like any other traditional party. It had its own base, its own supporters. There was no excitement at all. They were like the others. That is why they lost. Refusing to admit this is not honest at all. I have many friends in the CPI(M) whom I like a lot. But I hope that they will at least try to analyse the defeat properly. Unless you do that, it is difficult for anyone, even the new people, to move forward. A good and honest dissection of what went wrong is very necessary. But it may be too late for that. Overall speaking, because of these reasons, there didn’t happen too many upsets for the system in 2008.

It is curious that it is not only the left-wing politicians who use that “rhetoric” against neoliberalism and globalisation but the right-wing also does that. Trump’s protectionism is a good example of this. We also see that in many countries ordinary people go behind right-wing leaders, taking their “anti-neoliberal economic vision” and “anti-globalisation” rhetoric on trust. But after occupying the office of power, the same right-wing leaders also go in for harsh neoliberal economic policies. How do you explain this?

As I explained earlier, the Left has suffered heavy blows. People felt that the Left has no alternative to offer. People on the Left can argue with one another on why and how the collapse of Soviet Union happened. …Millions of people who live on the globe perceived the collapse of the Soviet Union as the big defeat of socialism. One may not like that analysis. But the general view was that a particular system has failed and it will take a long time to come back from such a heavy defeat. At that time, people came up with theories of the end of history, etc.

The number of people who used to vote for the Left parties or progressive parties or social democratic parties also changed their mind, and they shifted either to being apolitical or in some cases they shifted to the opinion let’s give right-wing parties a chance. And they did it in many parts of the world. India has the largest political victories for the Right. The right-leaning parties in India and in the Arab world, which grew popular, were associated in some shape or form with religion. The explanation is obvious. Yes, there was a vacuum. The Left failed to fill the vacuum, and the Right parties filed the vacuum.

Basically, it was parties of the Right which, as you rightly said, made use of the neoliberal crisis and offered some form of state intervention in many parts of the world. But this came hand in glove with chauvinism, attacks on minorities, targeting minorities and making them the scapegoat for the crisis. The Right did something on the economic front which was a slight shift from neoliberalism. Italy has now got a technocratic, undemocratic government. But prior to that it had a right-wing coalition which included fascists who talked openly against Muslims, refugees, etc. In the U.S., during Trump, it was a big shift to the Right in terms of organisation and then people come to occupy parliament, etc. So it is a global shift. Of course, we have to criticise it. But before doing that, we have to recognise that it is these forces who are in government in many big countries.

In France, we see the Far Right party led by Marine Le Pen mobilizing a lot of people who traditionally used to vote for the French Communist party. This is because they find the Right parties convincing. She does talk about the needs of the poor. Also, it is an outcome of refusing to accept the extreme Centre governments which have existed in different parts of the world. It is a break with that. I am saying these things not to demoralize people, but we should have this point of understanding. If you don’t understand that there is big shift towards the Right, then you can’t develop any coherent and feasible Left politics.

Dictionaries characterize “populism” as the “political effort of ordinary people to resist elites”. Many people talk about left-wing and right-wing populism. How do you read populism?

The word populism has been grotesquely misused and made into an abusive word by the neoliberal extreme Centre in many parts of the world. Historically, populism was a word used to define huge movements which were not exclusively or particularly linked to the working class. So when you say there is big popular movement in Argentina during the years of the Perons, it means it was a mass movement including the working class. Petty bourgeoisies were also mobilised for national aims. The neoliberals have effectively used populism as a mark against the intervention of ordinary people in politics. Why were all the South American regimes defined as populist? It is because, in addition to winning electorally, they mobilised a lot of people to do it. In the 20th century, this was a normal thing. Large numbers of people did participate in politics. Now this is not encouraged. So this word has been reinvented to say it is extra parliamentary. In South America, they use it against the Left, and in Europe they use it against Far-Right parties. In my view it is a barren debate. It is a debate being created to make people on the Left confused about what they should do. If by populism you mean mass participation in politics, we support that. That is much healthier than restricting politics to bankers and politicians on their payrolls in parliaments. ...Read More
CHANGEMAKER PUBLICATIONS: Recent works on new paths to socialism and the solidarity economy

Remember Us for Gift Giving and Study Groups

We are a small publisher of books with big ideas. We specialize in works that show us how a better world is possible and needed. Click Gramsci below for our list.
This Week's History Lesson:
Bison in Canada Discover Ancient Petroglyphs,
Fulfilling an Indigenous Prophecy
Photo: Bison herd with petroglyph overlaid atop the sky

Reintroduced to Wanuskewin Heritage Park in 2019, the animals’ hooves uncovered four 1,000-year-old rock carvings

By Diane Selkirk
Smithsonian

Nov 24, 2021 - This composite photograph shows the bison herd with one of the newly discovered petroglyphs overlaid on the sky. Wanuskewin Heritage Park
The elders of the Wahpeton Dakota Nation had long prophesized that the return of the plains bison to their ancestral lands would portend a welcome turn of events for Canada’s First Nation peoples. They may not have known, however, that it would take just eight months for this prediction to come true.

In December 2019, officials at Wanuskewin Heritage Park in the province of Saskatchewan reintroduced bison to the region more than a century after the animals were hunted to near extinction. The following August, the herd’s hooves uncovered four petroglyphs, or rock carvings, and an accompanying tool used to create the ancient artworks.

“The elders used to tell us when the bison come back, that’s when there’ll be a good change in our history,” says Wahpeton Dakota Elder Cy Standing. “We’ve been down a long time. But it feels like we are starting the way up.”

Archaeologist Ernie Walker and bison manager Craig Thoms made the find last summer while visiting the park. They were standing near a wallow, or a vegetation-free spot where the bison give themselves dust baths, when Walker noticed a grooved rock protruding from the ground. Assuming the cut was from tool damage, he brushed away the dirt, only to expose another groove and then another. “They were all parallel, all symmetrical,” he says. “It was at that point I realized this [was] actually what is known as a petroglyph. This was intentionally carved.”

The 550-pound boulder turned out to be a ribstone, so called because it’s engraved with motifs that represent bison’s ribs. Researchers found three more carvings over the ensuing weeks: a larger stone with a grid pattern, a small specimen with pits and grooves, and a 1,200-pound boulder covered in lines. Then, most surprisingly of all, the stone knife used to carve the petroglyphs resurfaced.

Wanuskewin—a National Historic Site that stands on land once occupied by Indigenous peoples—announced the find last week. Dated to between 300 and 1,800 years ago, with a probable age of around 1,000 years old, the carvings represent the first petroglyphs discovered at the 600-acre site.
From the spot where the petroglyphs were found, it’s a straight, 380-yard shot across the Saskatchewan grassland to the edge of some of the steepest cliffs that line the park’s Opimihaw Creek valley. Formed about 7,000 years ago, after the recession of the Wisconsin glacier, the 130- to 160-foot drop from the lip of the surrounding prairie to the valley bottom was identified by nomadic Indigenous peoples as an ideal buffalo jump, or precipice used in hunting. The site would go on to attract almost every pre–European contact group in the region.

For thousands of years, Blackfoot, Cree, Ojibwa, Assiniboine, Nakota and Dakota people on the trail of migrating bison found sustenance and shelter at the fertile confluence of the South Saskatchewan River and Opimihaw Creek. They left behind ample evidence of habitation: projectile points, bone and stone tools, gaming pieces, personal adornments, and—after Europeans and Métis arrived in the region as part of the fur trade in the 1860s—metal implements including gun cartridges and a strike light.

“Everybody was here at some point,” says Walker of the site’s almost continuous, 6,000-year occupation. Then came Treaty Six, an 1876 agreement between the English crown and Indigenous representatives that opened up the land for white settlement by promising every Indigenous family of five one square mile of land. After its passage, First Nations people were, “of course, ... moved off to reserves” away from their traditional nomadic migration routes, Walker adds. Around that same time, hunting decimated the local bison population, leaving no bison in the Canadian wild by 1888, according to the Wildlife Conservation Society.

With the bison and people gone, the land that now forms the park became a small, privately owned ranch and homestead inhabited by white settlers. ...Read More
These titles will be released in 2022, but you can order them from Hard Ball Press just in time for the holidays!

Powerful stories, wonderful gifts.
As they stand up, slow down, form unions, leave an abusive relationship or just stir up good trouble, the characters in this multi-generation novel entertain and enlighten, make us laugh and rage, and encourage us to love deeply, that we may continue the fight for justice.

"So much fiction is about escape and fantasy, but these powerful Tales of Struggle will enrich our real and daily lives."  ─ Gloria Steinem 

“What a wonderful story of class, class struggle and regular people. The story is about struggle and change, but also about joy and humor. Great work! ─ Bill Fletcher, Jr., author of Solidarity Divided 

Price: $15.00






Amazing Worldwide
Internet Radio:

Put your speakers on, rotate, zoom in, pick a station, anywhere in the world, any time, live, native languages and many English stations as well, thousands of them

Copy this link: http://radio.garden/visit/santa-cruz-da-graciosa/MDu6eLeE

The Best Welcome for a New Year: Solidarity, Forever!
WEEKLY BULLETIN OF THE MEXICO SOLIDARITY PROJECT
This week's issue/ Meizhu Lui, for the editorial team
It is we who plowed the prairies, built the cities where they trade,
Dug the mines and built the workshops, endless miles of railroad laid.
Now we stand outcast and starving midst the wonders we have made,
But the union makes us strong!
 
Written in the US just over a century ago, Solidarity Forever has become a timeless anthem, sung in many languages and in many countries. In the 1960s, to give just one example, Cesar Chavez and Mexicano field laborers joined in solidarity song to express their solemn determination to build a union of their own.
 
Singing together brings a lump to our throats and a gleam to our eyes. Yes, we realize, nothing will ever be “feebler than the puny force of one.” And, yes, unity — in our workplaces, our industries, our communities large and small — has the power to “birth a new world.” With our voices reverberating, we can feel solidarity’s visceral sensations: the power rising in our guts, the warmth of a fellow worker’s hand in ours.
 
In the new year ahead, our México Solidarity Project will be doing as much as we can to strengthen the bonds between peoples on both sides of the US/México border. We’re now organizing our first-ever support campaign for an independent union, this one organized by auto workers at the huge GM plant in the central Mexican city of Silao. We’ll be inviting you, in the weeks to come, to join with us on this effort.
 
And we’ll be bringing you every week, in this México Solidarity Bulletin, interviews that can help build bonds between all our readers and the extraordinary “ordinary people” in both México and the US daring to be doulas — birth coaches — to the new world waiting to be born.
 
Our Bulletin’s Reflections section, in the meantime, is going to sport a new look here in 2022. We’ll be featuring several regular rotating activist pundits with sharp — and often pungent — takes on the events swirling all about us. 
 
Let’s all envision ourselves together this year, relishing our mutual company, raising our voices, our fists, our spirits in solidarity forever. Si, se puede!
Our Amazing Resource for Radical Education
There are hundreds of video courses here, along with study guides, downloadable books and links to hundreds of other resources for study groups or individuals.

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

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

CURRENT FEATURE: A 4-PART STUDY OF THE SHAPING OF THE RUST BELT WORKING CLASS. From the settlers to the present, and how its consciousness is conflicted. Prepared by Carl Davidson, with some help from the DSA Rust Belt group.

Talkin' Socialism
Every Saturday, 10 am Eastern

Off for the Holidays

Robert Putnam's book, the Upswing, opens the discussion, which I expect to be robust in our usual fashion, for any who have read or scanned the book, 

However -- I accept the challenge. And will prepare an alternate historical and economic argument for humanity's escape from the tyranny of commodity relations.

Putting Plague Year II behind us -- what could be worse than putting that behind us????


On Panel: John Case, Carl Davidson, Lou Martin, JB Christensen, James Boyd, Randy Shannon, Tina Shannon, Scott Marshall, Mike Diesel, Doc Aldis. Get a live link from John Case on Facebook. YouTube appears a few hours later.

Also: Carl Davidson discussed Manufacturing and the Green New Deal on KPFA
Video: The Battle at Lake Changjin(English subtitle)
Nearly 3 hours, a film on the Korean war very popular in China and prize-wing worldwide.
Harry Targ's 'Diary of a Heartland Radical'
This week's topic:






Click the picture to access the blog.
Tune of the Week: Bruce Springsteen / Steve Earle / Roseanne Cash / Teach Your Children Well

Also check out Gordy Schiff's and Mardge Cohen's annual holiday playlist
Film Review: ‘Munich: The Edge of War’: George MacKay Strives to Prevent WWII in a Handsome But Muted Thriller
The British star sturdily anchors this speculative take on the Munich Agreement, but Jannis Niewöhner's fearless German spy steals it out from under him.


By Guy Lodge
Variety


There’s much talk of the proverbial British stiff upper lip in “Munich: The Edge of War,” as that dignified reserve mutates into damaging caution in matters of politics, days away from the start of the Second World War. In the film’s opening scene, a German Oxford student criticizes his host country as being “distant from feeling,” but if there’s some truth to his observation, this British-German co-production largely takes the same aloof tack. Immersively crafted but never emotionally involving, director Christian Schwochow’s handsome imagining of underground attempts to prevent war during the 1938 Munich conference flip-flops between the perspectives of George MacKay’s English political aide and Jannis Niewöhner’s German turncoat, spreading its sympathies between them.

Jon Stewart Clarifies ‘Harry Potter’ Comments: ‘I Do Not Think J.K. Rowling Is Antisemitic’
The resulting historical drama is unavoidably sapped of tension by our knowledge of precisely what happened next, though it’s gripping enough on an in-the-moment basis. Based on a novel by wartime fiction specialist Robert Harris, the film’s stern, businesslike demeanor and rich period detail lend it a ring of truth, though its ticking-clock timeline is only a notch less outlandish than the wildly ahistorical remix of First World War lore in Matthew Vaughan’s “The King’s Man.” Still, war history buffs willing to suspend disbelief should be the prime target for this polished Netflix production.

For MacKay, meanwhile, “Munich” may outwardly seem a logical follow-up to his breakout turn in the war-themed “1917,” though it’s a surprisingly muted showcase for the star. As Hugh Legat, a dour, by-the-book Whitehall secretary plunged over his head into an urgent espionage mission, he’s ultimately stuck playing the less expressive and less adventurous of the film’s two principal roles. Playing Paul von Hartman, a German nationalist turned undercover resistance agent, the excellent Niewöhner (fresh from Schwochow’s other 2021 premiere, “Je Suis Karl”) has both the livelier character and the more gung-ho narrative arc. But it’s the Englishman’s perspective — not just that of Hugh, but Jeremy Irons’ dry, decent but fatally unheroic Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain — that this predominantly English-language affair ultimately favors.

An Oxford-set 1932 prologue briefly introduces Hugh and Paul as carousing college buddies, living it up with Paul’s Jewish German girlfriend Lena (Liv Lisa Fries), before cutting to the sourer times of 1938. A workaholic seemingly long estranged from his Oxford pals, Hugh appears to have aged about 20 years in six. Ben Power’s script lingers rather too long on his strained marriage to Pamela (Jessica Brown Findlay, thanklessly cast) and is slow to get to the mission at hand, as Western leaders are summoned to Munich for negotiations with Adolf Hitler (a gaunt, unnerving Ulrich Matthes), to prevent what even the most barely-informed viewer knows is inevitable.

Chamberlain is peace-minded but wary of new ideas, determined to see his own stubborn strategy though. Ministerial advisors draft in Hugh to join the British contingent in Munich, and to covertly investigate intelligence offered by German allies in Hitler’s employ — which is where Paul, rather too long absent from proceedings, comes back into play. The old friends’ awkward, unexpected reunion exposes intriguing character tensions that Power and Schwochow have scant time to explore, given the urgent, ominously looming WWII-ness of it all.

Though it unfolds over a generous two hours, “Munich” can feel dramatically cramped, restless for the miniseries form that might fit this material more naturally. It would certainly benefit from teasing out the backstory of Paul’s political about-face from Nazi to radical, which would be markedly more interesting than Hugh’s career-versus-marriage angst. Perhaps it could even help justify the casting of the always-welcome Sandra Hüller in a strangely abbreviated role as Paul’s lover-conspirator in the civil service.

As it is, the meat here lies principally in Hugh’s quiet debates of principle and political honor with Chamberlain, to whom Irons brings a melancholic, poignantly exhausted air of grace. It’s easy to appreciate the restraint and intelligence with which these exchanges are written, just as there are subtle formal rewards in the film’s gilded, autumnal lensing and magisterial score. But there’s a more impassioned, full-blooded human drama here, slipping through the filmmakers’ fingers — a minor missed opportunity, in a story of major ones. ...Read More

Book Review: Know Thy Enemy: New Book Celebrates Chip Berlet’s 40 Years of Tracking Rightwing Movements
Chip Berlet recognized the importance of studying both the religious and secular right when others on the left thought it unnecessary or even silly.

The Inydepent

Jan 4. 2021 - Whenever a noted luminary dies, tributes quickly pour in to laud their contributions to society and pay homage to their character. It’s touching and meaningful, of course, but I always have mixed feelings about these testimonials, hoping the person being feted knew how valued they were and wishing they’d been able to read or hear the appreciative comments.

A newly-released anthology about the 40-plus year career of right-wing watcher, writer, activist and researcher Chip Berlet sidesteps this issue since it was released in honor of his retirement and I can only hope that reading Exposing the Right and Fighting for Democracy gives him reason to smile. Forty-seven contributors — personal friends as well as colleagues from Political Research Associates (PRA), the Massachusetts-based thinktank where he spent the bulk of his career, join a host of appreciative fellow travelers to recognize his insights and thank him for his kind and patient instruction. 

In sum, what emerges is a portrait of a true mensch, a man who recognized the importance of studying both the religious and secular right when others on the left thought it unnecessary or even silly. To his credit. Berlet sought to understand — rather than lampoon — those whose positions are anathema to progressive values, folks whose organizing props up racism, heteropatriarchy, antisemitism and homophobia.

Here’s an example. When Guardian reporter Jason Wilson consulted Berlet about the Ammon Bundy-led occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in 2016, Berlet helped him see that, despite being misled by far-right ideology, the protesters were responding to something real: Increasing disparities in wealth, a collapsing rural economy and the implosion of the American Dream. But Berlet did not stop at deconstructing the occupation. Instead, he schooled Wilson about the extent of the right’s reach, noting that a pervasive fear of change — terror that people of color, Jews, queers and members of the trans community would soon outnumber white Christians — form the crux of contemporary political backlash. 
 
Berlet sought to understand, rather than lampoon, rightwing movements whose values are anathema to progressives.

Today’s conservative attempts to take over local library and school boards and keep public school pupils from learning the true extent of American racial bigotry prove the prescience of Berlet’s analysis.

Likewise for understanding the evangelical and Pentecostal communities. These groups, former PRA staffer Abby Scher writes, believe in a literal Satan who is working to lure the unsuspecting into sin and debauchery. Most secular people, like mainstream Protestants, Roman Catholics and Jews, have been blindsided by this proliferating worldview. To wit: We are now seeing “QAnonish conspiracies about Joseph Biden and other Democrats as abducting child abusers,” while Christian Republicans label middle-of-the-road Dems as so “godless” that they must be fought at every turn. 

Berlet was one of the first to sound the alarm about these movements and his output — hundreds of reports, articles, presentations and books, including Right-Wing Populism in America: Too Close for Comfort with Matthew N. Lyons and the edited volumes Eyes Right! Challenging the Right-Wing Backlash and Trumping Democracy: From Reagan to the Alt-Right,  have made him a go-to source about any-and-all things conservative. 

Exposing the Right and Fighting for Democracy offers an inspiring overview of Berlet’s prodigious career. At the same time, contributors to the book don’t shy away from reflecting more personally, offering keen descriptions of his gourmet cooking skill, generosity, sense of humor and generally upbeat personality. 

A self-described Christian — and a Marxist — Chip Berlet has earned the right to rest on his laurels. Yet that seems unlikely. Even in the face of many retirement well-wishes, it’s hard to imagine him sitting back and watching as events unfold.

Exposing the Right and Fighting for Democracy:
Celebrating Chip Berlet as Journalist and Scholar
Edited by Pam Chamberlain, Matthew N. Lyons, Abby Scher & Spencer Sunshine
Routledge; 2021; 229 pages
522 Valencia St.
San Francisco, CA 94110
415 863-6637