Campaigning for Democracy And Socialism
Feb 2, 2024: The Week in Review
The Time of Monsters Is Both
Grotesque and Ridiculous
Our Weekly Editorial
“The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot be born; in this time of interregnum, a great variety of monsters appear."

Antonio Gramsci, the Italian Communist who pushed forward the boundaries of Marxism, is frequently quoted in our time on many things of political and cultural interest.

This one, by far, is the most frequent.

Gramsci wrote it in 1929, as he first entered prison, and it was prescient in more ways than one. Most obvious is its forecast of fascism and world war. Japan would soon invade China, Italy would try to expand in Africa, and Germany would try to swallow all of Europe.

But lesser known is that it was also a critique of the 6th Comintern, which, in 1928 and 1930, had declared revolution as inevitable in the short term, and social democracy was fascism's twin and thus also the main enemy of the day. We might say Gramsci was a 'premature anti-fascist' of the 7th Comintern variety, which changed course for the better in the Summer of 1935.

What makes it so timely and powerful now? Mainly because it captures the current balance of forces, where rightwing populism and fascism are growing strong in the capitalist world, while the progressive left, especially the socialists, are weaker and still lag behind. The far right, moreover, is making considerable use of irrationality and fear, the two key ingredients for making monsters.

Our cartoon above reminds us that monsters can be ridiculous as well as grotesque and dangerous. This week, the ridiculous prevails. The current conspiracy claim is that the Deep State, the 'Biden Crime Family,' and the CIA are all in cahoots in making Taylor Swift (no identification needed) their instrument in turning football fans against Trump's effort to regain the White House, and thus be able to pardon himself from any or all of the 90 felony charges against him. At the same time, Trump as 'dictator on day one' (his assertion) will subject all of us, Democrats and socialists, to Gramsci's fate, mass imprisonment or worse.

Where did this bizarre story come from? To make sense of it, we have to start with Trump's deranged and overblown ego. Taylor Swift was recently featured as 'Person of the Year' on the cover of Time magazine. Most of us would think Time made a wise choice if we noticed at all. Swift has a huge fan base rivaling Elvis and The Beatles. She also became a billionaire due to her good business sense in gaining control of her music. Her status as 'girl friend' of an NFL champ is relatively minor, as is the fact that she's a feminist who voted for Biden in 2020.

But not if you think like Trump. One piece of Trump trivia known to us who follow such things is that Trump's office in his Manhattan tower features several Time covers featuring him as 'Man of the Year' framed and hanging on the wall. You can be forgiven for not remembering his getting the award. He never has. He created the covers himself. Think of it as the starter kit for fake news. Why? Because to Trump, it's obvious that he deserved to be on the cover, and only nefarious plots kept him off. His 'covers' weren't fake at all, but corrections to the 'real fakes.' We kid you not.

But Time's choice of Swift was a deeper insult. Not only was he kept off, he was replaced by an unbowed anti-Trump 'girl' and a billionaire when his own status as a billionaire was under serious scrutiny. Add to that her supposed undermining of the only U.S. official state religion revealed in our cartoon, professional football, especially the Superbowl. And finally, add the top NFL champ's dewy-eyed gaze at a woman he treats as an equal or better. The horrors! Only the nefarious work of the CIA and the Deep State could create such a challenge to reality, according to Trump, Fox, and all the rest of them. So, put the Q-Anon conspiracy generator into high gear.

There is a silver lining in this cloud for us. Biden's contradictions--growing war dangers, genocide in Gaza, immigrants at the border, violence between immigrants and police in the cities--have been undermining his support among both young people, Arab Americans, and others. If Taylor Swift does encourage large numbers of her young female fans to register to vote and to vote Democrat in November, it might help all of us subdue the actual clear and present danger, the monster of fascism, American-style.

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


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

Saturday Morning Coffee!

Started in August 2022, then going forward every week.

It will be more of a hangout than a formal setting. We can review the news in the previous days' LeftLinks or add a new topic. We can invite guests or carry on with those who show up. We'll try to have a progressive stack keeper should we need one.

Most of all, we will try to be interesting and a good sounding board. If you have a point you would like to make or a guest to invite, send an email to Carl Davidson,

Continuing weekly, 10:30 to Noon, EDT.

The Zoom link will also be available on our Facebook Page.

Meeting ID: 868 9706 5843

Let's see what happens!
DSA chapters help with Mexican Solidarity events

José Luis Granados Ceja

By John Marienthal

The DSA International Committee’s Mexico Working Group has been collaborating with the Mexico Solidarity Project on a speaking tour for Mexican journalist José Luis Granados Ceja.

On an international level, the events cite right-wing United States politicians’ threats to invade Mexico by forcibly sending in US troops across the border and the lack of pushback by the Democratic Party. They also mention Mexican President Obrador (also known as AMLO). The Morena Party’s prioritization of Mexico’s domestic needs has conflicted with US financial interests and elicited these open calls for US intervention.

These events are meant to build up interest for the final installments of the series.

José Luis Granados Ceja will address a wide range of topics, including immigration, the US/Mexico border, labor, US/Mexican trade, Mexico’s national sovereignty, and recent leftward political developments and successes in Mexico.

Mexico Solidarity Project is also currently working with DSA San Francisco to set up a possible San Francisco stop for the tour to occur on February 5, 2024. Details for that event will be finalized soon. Following these stops, Jose Luis will continue on his tour with additional stops in San Diego and Los Angeles.

John Marienthal is a member of Silicon Valley DSA. See the full schedule at the Mexico Solidarity Page below.
Feb 4, 2024
Sunday. 4pm ET/1pm PT

A great PDA Town Hall with four progressives running for the U.S. House. Featured guest: Angelica Duenas, PDA-endorsed candidate in CA-29. Squad members Cori Bush and Jamaal Bowman will make a cameo, and Ahmed Mostafa, running for open seat in CA-16, will introduce himself.

Speakers include:

Karina Ayala-Bermejo, JD, President and CEO of the Instituto del Progreso Latino

Dr. Ernesto Castaneda, Director of the Center for Latin American and Latino Studies at American University; Founding Director of the Immigration Lab; and Graduate Program Director of the MA in Sociology, Research, and Practice at American University

Celina Moreno, JD, President and CEO, IDRA

Moderator: Dr. Eric Macias, Professorial Lecturer at American University’s School of Education

Requests for Zoom link should be sent to 
If We Burn: Mass Protest
and Political Strategy
for the 21st Century

Tue, Feb 20
@ 7:00 PM - 8:30 PM

What can the last fifteen years of worldwide mass protests teach us about strategy and organization for socialism? Street protests and organizing from Seattle WTO to Occupy and on to George Floyd Black Lives Matter demonstrated new tactics, new generations of activists, and new lessons about the future. Likewise, worldwide protests from the Arab Spring to Latin America, Europe, and Hong Kong also struck hard and have brought many important lessons. Join us for reading and discussion probing three connected themes:

I. Mass street protest since Occupy.

We will analyze the rich legacy of largely leaderless mass mobilizations as well as new labor struggles, locally and globally, over the last fifteen years.

II. Crowdsourcing the Revolution: Digital possibilities, real-world limitations in networked movements.

How has digital communications media changed the organizing landscape since the Arab Spring? A critical assessment of the politics and practicalities of digital networking and communication for effective political strategies.

III. From mass mobilization to accumulating power against capitalism: new long-term strategy for socialism.

What remains important, and what has changed in connecting strategy and organization?

Free Ocalan Rally
in Washington DC

Thursday, Feb 15, 2024
2:00 PM 4:00 PM

With Kurdish leader Abdullah Öcalan entering his 25th year of imprisonment and Turkey escalating its war of aggression against North-East Syria, we call on people and organizations in the United States to join us in support of the International Freedom for Öcalan Campaign.

Öcalan’s imprisonment, enabled by the US government’s ongoing political and military support for Turkey, is a major obstacle to peace in the Middle East. The time has come to #FreeOcalan and to end Turkey’s ongoing war against Kurds and the peoples of North-East Syria.

 Sunday, February 4, 2024

11:00 a.m. CST (Chicago, US)
12:00 noon EST (New York)

Confirmed speakers
  • Ajamu Baraka (Coordinating Committee Chairperson, Black Alliance for Peace)
  • Bahman Azad (President, US Peace Council)
  • Sara Flounders (Co-director, the International Action Center)
  • Danny Haiphong (Youtuber; Author, 'American Exceptionalism and American Innocence')
  • Dee Knight (DSA International Committee's Anti-War Subcommittee)
  • Lee Siu Hin (Founder, China-US Activist Solidarity Project)
  • Charles Xu (Writer and researcher, Qiao Collective)
  • Radhika Desai (Convenor, International Manifesto Group)
  • Chinese People’s Association for Peace and Disarmament
  • Communist Party USA International Department

A review of Michael Zweig's 'Class, Race, and Gender: Challenging the Injuries and Divisions of Capitalism'

By Jeff Crosby

JAN 17, 2024 - This is a stunningly ambitious book. In just over 200 pages Michael Zweig takes on economic concepts like class formation, commodity production, surplus, and the labor theory of value, and also dialectical and historical materialism, religion in social movements, individualism, reform and revolution, and more.

He identifies the “tension between class and ‘identity politics’” as “perhaps the most important and most difficult dynamic that progressive politics has to navigate.” (p. 52) Understanding how capitalism works “gives activists and organizers a better grounding for cooperation across what are now too often isolated issue-based campaigns.” (p. 133) As someone who has spent a lifetime in the labor movement during the period that bridges the Black Power and the Black Lives Matter uprisings, I agree with him on both counts......Read More

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Last Week's Saturday Morning Coffee
News of the Week, Plus More
'A Man In Mental Decline':
Trump’s Ex-Spokeswoman Says
'Something Has Changed' In Him

By David McAfee
The Raw Story via Alternet

Jan 28, 2024 - Donald Trump's former spokesperson said Saturday that "something has changed" with the former president since her time in his administration, adding that he seems like "a man in mental decline."

Former White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham, who earlier in the day told MSNBC's Alex Witt that the ex-president is "known for throwing things" when upset, was asked her opinion of Trump's mental state in a late evening appearance on CNN Newsroom with Jim Acosta.

When the host asked Grisham about Trump's recent "gaffes" and "flubs," including the multiple slip-ups that prompted questions at the ex-president's rally in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Saturday, she responded that she had noticed a stark difference.

"I do think something has changed," she admitted. "He seems like a man in mental decline, honestly."

She then drew attention to Trump's tendency to "cover up" his verbal failings.

"The only thing I noticed, you know, is the way he tries to cover it up when he does speak publicly. He has a very specific way that he does that."

She further added that there are a lot of factors that could be contributing to his noted issues.

"The man is running for president. He's got how many indictments -- how many trials, he's got how many things happening to him, how much money he's having to pay," she explained. "He may lose his business license in New York. I can't imagine that you wouldn't be in decline."

She also noted the fact that Trump has been successful at projecting his competency issues onto President Joe Biden.

"So I hope that others are noticing this, too," she said of Trump and his behavior. "He doesn't seem well, not at all." ...Read More
Illustration by João Fazenda

The Trump Veepstakes Has Begun

An unseemly crowd of would-be V.P.s has been campaigning in Trump’s wake, generating a phantasmagoria of maga abasement—rich in ambition, short on shame.

By Amy Davidson Sorkin
The New Yorker

Jan 28, 2024 - The Trump Veepstakes Has Begun

“We need a President who will restore law and order!,” Senator Tim Scott, of South Carolina, bellowed from a stage in Concord, New Hampshire, ahead of that state’s primary last week. “We neeeed Donald Trump!”

And Donald Trump, barring a major plot twist, will soon need a running mate. Scott, the only Black Republican in the Senate, and until recently a candidate for the Republican nomination himself, appears to be well aware of that prospect. He’s not the only one. An unseemly crowd of would-be Veeps has been campaigning in Trump’s wake, generating a phantasmagoria of maga abasement—rich in ambition, short on shame.

There was a brief time when it seemed possible that prominent Republicans would recoil from the idea of being Trump’s sidekick. The last person to hold the job, Mike Pence, was threatened with lynching after he refused to go along with his boss’s plan for a coup. But the proliferating lists of serious aspirants include governors, senators, and members of the House, in addition to various maga hangers-on. (Donald Trump, Jr., told Newsmax that Tucker Carlson would “certainly be a contender.”)

Elise Stefanik, the chair of the House Republican Conference, “would be honored,” she said, “to serve in a future Trump Administration in any capacity,” which is just a fancy paraphrase of the declaration by Kari Lake, an Arizona Senate candidate, that she would “crawl over broken glass” for the former President. By the A.P.’s count, thirty current senators have endorsed Trump. The very fact that there is a competition confirms how Trumpist the G.O.P. has become.

In other words, while the veepstakes is a regular feature of the American Presidential process, this round has some decidedly irregular features. For one thing, it is coming quite early; Super Tuesday is still a month away. In late January, Trump stoked the Veep talk by informing Fox News’s Bret Baier that there was someone “that I think I like” and that there was “a twenty-five-per-cent chance” he’d choose that person. He seems to relish both the spectacle and the indirect acknowledgment that he has the nomination tied up.

For related reasons, the unwillingness of Nikki Haley, the former South Carolina governor, to drop out of the race after coming in second in New Hampshire seems to enrage him. Last week, he announced on Truth Social that anyone who gave “Birdbrain” Haley money would be “permanently barred from the MAGA camp.” And veepstakes is one of the games they play at that camp.

There is another, even stranger, aspect of this campaign. Trump is under criminal indictment in four jurisdictions; separately, the Supreme Court is hearing oral arguments on February 8th about his eligibility to be on the ballot. These cases raise profound questions about the role of the potential Vice-President. (Will Trump’s V.P. pick be the presumptive alternative nominee? If convicted but still elected, could Trump call a Vice-President Marjorie Taylor Greene from prison to order an air strike on a foreign country?) The paradox is that, while the level of Republican unity seems, at this stage, unusually high, so is the chance that the ticket will fall apart.

Adding to the uncertainty, for both parties: Trump is seventy-seven and Joe Biden is eighty-one. When Haley was asked last week why she, too—despite it all—still planned to endorse Trump if he gets the nomination, she said, “Because I don’t ever want to see a President Kamala Harris.”

Haley also said, days before the primary, “I don’t want to be anybody’s Vice-President. That is off the table.” There is, no doubt, a mix of pragmatism and principle in her position. She’s unlikely to be chosen, anyway. (In New Hampshire, when Trump said that Scott “must really hate” Haley, Scott said, “I just love you!”) Similarly, Ron DeSantis would not be a practical running mate, because both he and Trump are Florida residents; owing to a quirk of the Constitution, Florida’s electors could not vote for both of them. DeSantis, like Haley, might have his eye on 2028, instead. Representative Byron Donalds also has a Florida problem, but when asked if he would take the spot he said, “I mean, who wouldn’t?”

For the remaining contenders, Politico observed that the challenge is demonstrating “their fealty to Trump” without “overdoing it.” It’s not clear where Trump places the overdoing-it bar. Pence questioned the outcome of the 2020 election, and that wasn’t good enough. Is it necessary to suggest, as Senator J. D. Vance, of Ohio—another name mooted by Don, Jr.—did in New Hampshire, that the truth about January 6th has been hidden from the American people?

Vance has also referred to Trump’s legal issues as “sham indictments to protect a failed President.” The veepstakes may devolve into a scramble to impugn both the legal and the electoral systems. Stefanik, making her bid, called people criminally charged for their actions on January 6th “hostages.” She is regarded as a top prospect: at a joint appearance in New Hampshire, Trump praised her both for having attacked Harvard in a recent congressional hearing and for having gone to Harvard herself.

The election, judging from polls, will be close, and it’s possible that a V.P. pick could make a difference with, say, suburban women or Black men. And it’s easy to get caught up in questions of style. What plays best: the relative subtlety of Arkansas’s governor, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who has responded to her inclusion on many lists by saying, “I absolutely love the job I have”; the posturing coyness of Representative Nancy Mace, telling Charlamagne tha God that she finds the idea “intriguing”; or the raw enthusiasm of Governor Kristi Noem, of South Dakota, who said that she’d be Trump’s Veep “in a heartbeat”? (North Dakota’s governor, Doug Burgum, is in the mix, too.) Where the choice almost certainly won’t make a difference is in restraining Trump’s worst impulses.

Even the more absurd moments in Trump’s veepstakes are imbued with disquieting undertones. During his New Hampshire victory speech, for example, Trump asked Vivek Ramaswamy, the conspiracy-prattling businessman and former Presidential candidate, to step forward, in a tone that suggested he saw him less as a campaign surrogate than as a windup toy: “One minute or less! Go do it, Vivek!”

Ramaswamy obliged with some rapid-fire words about Ukrainian kleptocrats and Haley putting “America last” and added, of her supporters, “The only thing they’re rooting for is an ugly thing that we don’t want to see happen.” Which ugly thing? It wasn’t clear. Trump, though, looked pleased. Minutes later, he told Scott, who was also onstage, to come up and take his shot. ♦ ...Read More
Photo: For some immigrants, the prospect of a better life — not their children’s potential citizenship status — was the driving force in leaving their home countries for the United States. Credit: Bob Daemmrich for The Texas Tribune

First They Came For the Immigrants

Today’s hatemongering reflects a deeply rooted problem: a global “crisis of the right to stay home” due largely to Washington’s role in structuring the world’s economics and politics.

By Max Elbaum

Jan 30, 2024 - Demonizing immigrants and attacking their rights is at the forefront of today’s MAGA assault on the international, multiracial working class, democracy, and basic human decency.

Top Republican strategists have decided once again that fearmongering about immigrant “invaders” pouring over US borders is the best formula for winning the 2024 election and implementing their white Christian Nationalist agenda.

This is why Republican governors have been dramatizing the movement of people by busing them to “blue” cities; why Texas Republicans are attempting to nullify federal authority and take control of immigration enforcement at “their” borders; why Trump doubles down on saying that immigrants are “poisoning the blood of our country.” This is why Republicans demand that harsh “border security” measures be the price of approving the already terrible legislation funding military aid to Ukraine and Israel.

And the Democratic leadership? Having long embraced the framework that “undocumented immigrants are a problem,” they are incapable of offering more than a token defense against MAGA demagogy. Rather, in hopes of taking the issue of immigration off the 2024 electoral table Dems have agreed to numerous Republican demands in the negotiations over the combined immigration/military aid funding bill. Apparently only complete acceptance of what Trump plans to do if he wins in 2024 is good enough for the MAGA faithful, so according to House Speaker Mike Johnson the deal is “dead on arrival” in the House.

The progressive movement has its heart in the right place and a host of groups are fighting back. But even if the most draconian of MAGA’s current proposals are blocked —and even if MAGA is kept out of power in 2024—it will take a leap in the priority we give this battlefront and unity around an action strategy to begin turning things around.

Crisis of 'the right to stay home'

The first step in charting an effective course is gaining an accurate understanding of the problem we face—the root causes for the movement of people.

Yes, a large number of migrants are trying to reach the US via crossing the US-Mexico border. But this is not at root a “border crisis.” The underlying problem is that tens of millions of people across the globe face a crisis of their right to stay at home. Migration has been a basic part of the human experience throughout history, and the right to migrate should be defended. But what the world faces today is forced migration, where millions who would prefer to stay in their homelands safely cannot do so:

“The movement of people from country to country, displaced by war, insecurity, and neoliberal economic policies, is enormous and growing… Nothing can stop this global movement, short of a radical reordering of the world’s economy and politics.” —David Bacon, Dignity or Exploit-ation: What Future for Farmworker Families in the United States, The Oakland Institute, 2021

As of 2020, the number of international migrants—people living outside their home country—was 281 million. This is 3.5% of the global population, compared to 2.8% in 2000 and 2.3% in 1980. And US policies are a big part of the reason for this steady increase: “Neoliberal strictures, [US] support for oligarchs, and the War on Drugs have impoverished millions and destabilized Latin America.” Additionally, US militarism and failure to deal decisively with climate change are major contributors to forced migration globally.

Immigration policy in whose interests?

The mainstream debate over US immigration policy does not include much discussion of the root causes of global migration, much less the role of US policies in creating those conditions. Rather, the focus is how to manage the resulting displacement of human beings.

That management—according to the MAGA-controlled GOP and the pro-corporate elements in the Democratic Party—is to be done in the interest of those who want to earn a profit off human labor.

Their favored policies include “guest worker” programs, which create a pool of workers who can be brutally exploited because they lack political, labor or union organizing rights. And these guest worker programs simultaneously undermine the economic and political power of the workers’ movement as a whole.

So does the persistent denial of a path to protected legal status and citizenship for migrants who are undocumented but have lived and worked in the US for many years. That denial also undermines democracy, as it legitimizes a two-tier system of political rights, even though both tiers are made up of people who work and contribute to society.

And for the bigots of MAGA, maintaining a constant “threat” of darker-skinned people “invading” the country is an ideal fit for their scapegoat —the “other.” It’s a perfect way of harnessing mass discontent and aiming it at a target other than the corporate class and their political representatives. It gins up their core base around the racist “great replacement” conspiracy theory, in which globalist elites and/or Jews are plotting to replace whites with people of color.

And legitimizing the demonization of immigrants and the use of force against them without due process paves the way for extending dehumanization and repression to all peoples of color, all workers, and all political opponents of white Christian nationalism.

A progressive approach, by contrast, takes the side of those who work and those who are vulnerable. Our task is to build a global movement powerful enough to give every human being on the planet the option of living and thriving in their homeland, or having their rights protected should they decide to or be forced to migrate. On the way to that long-range goal, we must fight to protect the human rights of migrants specified in international law and win immigration policies that maximize the power and rights of the exploited and the vulnerable.

A basic set of demands flows from this perspective: legal status for all residents, an end to contract labor and guest worker programs, human rights for all including equal social, labor, and political rights. Simply put, we must demand full enfranchisement for all migrants.

Tough fights ahead

In the immediate period ahead, this translates mostly into waging a host of tough defensive fights while doing everything we can to introduce positive reforms into the national conversation.

An immediate priority is mobilizing opposition to the harsh anti-immigrant measures in the legislation under discussion in Washington in case that seemingly dead “compromise” comes back around. The proposed legislation includes restricting humanitarian parole programs that give asylum seekers temporary protection; expanding “expedited removals” that allow deportation with very little due process; capping asylum grants; mass mandatory detention, increased enforcement and other repressive measures. Every provision in this bill should remain a focus of battle whether or not this measure becomes law.

Other important defensive fights include:

  • Ending mass detention and deportation altogether and closing detention centers completely
  • Allotting funding to end the backlog in processing asylum requests instead of repressive “security” enforcement, and allocating the resources to end the backlog in the processing of millions of family reunification applications
  • Opposing the expansion of H-2A and other contract labor programs
  • Maintaining Temporary Protected Status (TPS) mandates for immigrants from all 16 countries on the current list

And key to all of these demands is to prevent the ascent to the presidency of a man who has promised to make immigrants first on his hit list of “vermin” to be expelled from the body politic. Trump has pledged to round up, put in detention camps, and then deport all undocumented immigrants on his first day in office.

To accept the framing of immigration as mainly a border security issue, as the Biden administration and top congressional Democrats currently do, is not just bad policy and bad politics in an important election. It cedes the ideological initiative to MAGA, makes it more difficult to turn out pro-immigrant voters, and weakens the capacity to persuade those open to persuasion that MAGA’s anti-immigrant crusade will not address the real sources of their hardships and discontent.

And even if Trump loses in 2024, the fight for immigrant rights will be far from easy. Progressives and the Democratic leadership have their sharpest differences on immigration policy and on the Biden administration’s support for Israeli genocide (and foreign policy in general). Those differences may change form, but they aren’t going to disappear on January 21, 2025, no matter who controls the White House and Congress.

On the positive reform side, a key task is to build support for the legislation introduced by Alex Padilla in the Senate and Zoe Lofgren in the House that would expand the number of long-term residents in the US who could apply for permanent resident legal status. This “Registry Bill” updates previous legislation to state that people of good moral character who have lived continuously in the US for seven years could apply to legalize their status. As things stand now, people would have had to live in the US continuously since 1972. Passage of this bill could lead to a pathway to citizenship for up to eight million people.

A task for all progressives

Every one of these fights will be difficult. For decades now, the mainstream opposition to anti-immigrant fearmongering has been limited to arguing for “trade-offs”—tough enforcement measures are traded for limited numbers of immigrants eligible for temporary residency or legalization. (The last fully progressive immigration legislation was passed in 1965, ending racist immigration quotas and making family reunification a top priority.)... ...Read More
Photo: Marwan Barghouti in 2003 TAL COHEN/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Who Is Marwan Barghouti, and Why
Is He Israel’s Most Important Prisoner?

Many Palestinians and Israelis consider him the only person who can lead the way to a two-state solution. Maybe that’s why Netanyahu won’t release him.

By Jo-Ann Mort
The New Republic

Jan 30, 2024 - Marwan Barghouti is Israel’s most celebrated prisoner and, by all accounts, the person most likely to succeed Palestinian Authority president and PLO leader Mahmoud Abbas whenever the Palestinian Authority—and the PLO—holds elections. Since 2002, he has been serving five life sentences plus an add-on of 40 years for his role in the Second Intifada.

Barghouti was convicted of the direct murder of five Israeli citizens and for planning additional murders as the head of the Tanzim, the military wing of the nationalist Fatah party (also Abbas’s party), during the 1990s Second Intifada. Since then, he has renounced violence. In 2012, for example, in his court hearing, he spoke in Arabic, telling the Palestinian people to fight for “peaceful popular resistance of the occupation.”

There is faint hope that he could be released soon, as part of a deal with Hamas for the Israeli hostages. More likely, he will be released by a post-Netanyahu government if there is any hope for a two-state solution to the Israel-Palestinian crisis. There is simply no other leader who can deliver this scenario. Indeed, his prisoner status gives him extraordinary gravitas among the Palestinian people. He is also seen as not corrupt, unlike the current leadership of Abbas and those around him.

Once he is released, it will be difficult for an Israeli government to defy momentum toward a two-state option. In a recent Haaretz interview, Ami Ayalon, a former head of Israel’s Shin Bet security services, stressed not only that it was in Israel’s security interest to agree to a Palestinian state but that Barghouti must be released to negotiate and lead this state. “Marwan is the only Palestinian leader who can be elected and lead a united and legitimate Palestinian leadership toward a path of mutually agreed separation from Israel,” he told the Israeli newspaper.

Every poll since his imprisonment shows Barghouti to be the favorite to lead the Palestinian people in a free election. The most recent survey by Ramallah-based pollster Khalil Shikaki shows the same. When I met with Shikaki in January, in his Ramallah office, he told me: “Barghouti remains the most popular by far. We have never seen Barghouti losing, even during wartime, when Hamas gains ground.” No other Fatah leader can claim the same.

Journalists are not permitted to interview Barghouti in prison. His wife, Fadwa Barghouti, herself a noted Fatah leader, women’s activist, and lawyer, hasn’t seen him in 18 months. Once heading a thriving legal practice, since her husband’s imprisonment, she is active full-time, keeping him in the public eye and advocating globally for his release.

Barghouti’s closest political ally is Qadora Fares, who spent 13 years in Israeli prisons for his activities during the Intifada. The current commissioner of the Palestinian Commission of Detainees and Ex-Detainees Affairs for the Palestinian Authority, he oversees family needs and rehabilitation of prisoners kept in Israeli jails and is himself a popular political leader with the grassroots. Once called “the Fatah Young Guard,” he and Barghouti are now in their late fifties. Fares is a veteran of earlier peace initiatives, and today he still stands by all of them. So does Barghouti, Fares told me when I visited him at his office in Ramallah.

One of the most important documents never to be implemented was a 2006 “Prisoners’ Letter” co-authored by Barghouti on behalf of Fatah, Hamas, and other Palestinian factions inside the Israeli prisons, which offered an outline for a two-state solution. At the time, it made headlines precisely because Barghouti was able to negotiate it with the Hamas and more radical factions in prison. While it clearly articulates two states, it is likely more sweeping in other details than anything the Israeli government could accept, but the two-state declaration in it is clear. When I asked Fares if it is still relevant, he said, emphatically, “Yes, yes, yes.”

An earlier document, the Geneva Initiative of 2003, negotiated by former Israeli Justice Minister Yossi Beilin and former Palestinian Authority Minister Yassar Abed Rabo, also outlines a two-state solution roughly along the 1967 lines, with a refugee-return formula that is more likely to be accepted by an Israeli government than the prisoners’ document. It has been used by Israel’s shrunken peace camp as an aspirational model for years.

Fares, who signed Geneva at the time, told me that if Barghouti had objected to his signing, he would not have done so. Fares thinks that “Geneva, if you have a serious partner in Israel, will be accepted by the Palestinian majority, including Hamas.”

This initiative makes the parameters of an agreement clear, according to Fares, with “solutions—Jerusalem, refugees, borders, economic cooperation, everything. Some people criticize us because of the exchange of border swaps.” The compromise is to split Palestine. “All this land is Palestine,” he told me. “But when we signed the agreement, it became Palestine and Israel, OK? If you accept the principle of splitting it, OK ... if we want to check which kind of solution I find there, if tomorrow I became the representative of Palestinians, I will sign this.”

Today, there is a completely different opportunity than existed 20 or so years ago: to include all of the Arab states, most importantly Saudi Arabia, in an agreement sponsored by the kingdom and called the Arab Peace Initiative, which offers Israel full peace from regional governments with a Palestinian state. Though it was originally promoted by the Saudis in 2002, Benjamin Netanyahu’s government ignored it, and until recently Netanyahu (lured into a sort of unreality regarding the Palestinians thanks to the Trump strategy regarding the Abraham Accords, which gave Israel agreements with several Gulf States minus Palestinian recognition) thought that Israel could amend the agreement for peace with Saudi minus a Palestinian state. (As recently as at the 2023 U.N. General Assembly plenum, Netanyahu held up a map that included all of Israel’s neighbors minus a future Palestine.) That was highly unlikely, to say the least, but October 7 shattered it completely.

According to Fares, who also agrees with this Saudi initiative, “it’s been accepted by Marwan.” But for Israel to engage, there will have to be a new government. He adds: “First of all, the Israelis have to say that they decide to end the occupation, and they want to cooperate with the Arab world, with the Palestinian people. If there is an international effort, a real serious effort to react to a serious political process that will lead to end the occupation and to build our own state, I think that the behavior of Hamas, the policies of Hamas, the decision will be different.” That’s because “the Hamas political leadership understands that the Palestinian-Israeli conflict has to find a solution one day.”

One hopes that Fares’s optimism could be warranted, though it’s difficult to imagine a shaken and frightened Israeli public buying it. Regardless, a political resolution promoting two viable states, with a strong Palestinian leader—with the overt support of the leading Arab states—could someday be a positive outcome of the Hamas attacks on October 7.

That’s also why Fares’s comments about a demilitarized Palestine were of vital importance. This is something that all Israeli political factions (and the United States) demand—and, though it’s unstated, the Arab states will also probably demand it. “If I am at peace with Israel, with Jordan, with Egypt, with the international community, and I need the support of the international community to rebuild our state … to act according to the Palestinian people’s interest, I have to think about an army?” he quips. “I have to create in Palestine what is most necessary … we have to build hospitals, schools, universities—to rehabilitate everything. We have around us here in the region a lot of strong armies. What have they done? Nothing. So it should be invested in education.… Let me imagine that I am a dominant person in the Palestinian leadership. And we are an independent state. Let us prepare the plan for the first five years.… For what do I need the army?”

So, returning to the awful moment in which we still find ourselves, why, I ask, did Hamas attack on October 7? Fares surmises that “it was because Netanyahu was telling Israel and the world that there is no Palestinian issue. That there could be a ‘new Middle East’ without finding a solution.” He continued: “The Palestinian Authority in Ramallah is a weak one … Netanyahu wants to bring it in as part of his administration indirectly.” As has been widely documented, Netanyahu thought he could stave off an independent Palestinian state by, as Fares characterized it, “taming Hamas.” It’s common knowledge now that Netanyahu had been allowing funding from Qatar to Hamas’s military and governing arm in Gaza for years—as a means of defanging Fatah.

Meanwhile, at the war’s start, Barghouti was moved to Ayalon Prison and placed in solitary confinement for five days. The Israeli authorities claimed that Barghouti wrote a letter supporting October 7. He and his wife deny this vehemently, as does Fares.

This was used as an excuse to isolate him, where “his cell was dark 24 hours daily,” Fares said. Barghouti has been given minimal food, his mattress taken away during the day, and sleep deprived by blasting music. “They tried to humiliate him when they tied his hands to his back. They want his head to be close to the ground,” Fares explained. Partly due to the family hiring one of Israel’s leading human and civil rights attorneys, he is now back in Rimonim Prison in the center of Israel.

According to Fares and others quite close to Barghouti with whom I met, Marwan’s resolve remains. “He’s a true, true believer in the two-state solution,” someone very close to the family stressed to me during my recent Ramallah visit. Barghouti has become a bit of a legend among both the Palestinian people and, increasingly, the Israeli security establishment. The only way to test the promise of his leadership will be for a visionary Israeli leader to take the bold but necessary step to release him.

Jo-Ann Mort often writes about Israel-Palestine and progressive issues. She is co-author of Our Hearts Invented a Place: Can Kibbutzim Survive in Today’s Israel? ...Read More
Photo: A confrontation with a Proud Boy on August 21, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. (Photo by Jon Cherry/Getty Images.)

Why Men Are Drifting to the Far Right

Many men are falling behind. They need meaning and belonging.

By Rachel Kleinfeld

JAN 29, 2024 - Last week, a widely-circulated analysis in the Financial Times confirmed what many researchers had long suspected: The ideological gap between men and women is growing.

Over the past fifteen years, men across the globe have voted for radical right-wing parties at much higher rates. Spain’s far-right, populist, and conspiracy-minded Vox party polls roughly twice as well among men compared with women. While men and women voted for Poland’s anti-democratic Law and Justice Party at similar rates last year, men voted for the even more extreme Konfederacja nearly three times as much as women. Data from a 2009 study of European parties that leaned authoritarian or populist found that men were generally around twice as likely as women to vote for them—and up to five times more likely in the case of the nationalist-populist Swedish Democrats.

It’s not just Europe: Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro performed 10 points better among men than women in the 2018 election which brought him to power. Roughly the same gender difference pushed Argentina’s new populist libertarian leader, Javier Milei, over the top last November.

In some countries, gender aligns very closely with other social or demographic variables like class, education, and employment—but in a number of places, being male makes a big difference, independent of other factors.

The United States is no exception. As women moved strongly to the left, men have moved to the right, creating a gap between male and female voting that was greater for Trump in 2016 than in a half-century of exit polling. While much has been written on the role of race in recent elections, gender is playing a crucial and different role. White men formed Trump’s core support in 2016, but by 2020, Trump polled 12 points better with black men than black women, winning 18% of the black male vote.

People who care about democracy could read these numbers and conclude that they should simply double down on getting women to vote. But giving up on half of one’s country is not good civics—nor is it smart electoral math.

The problem is not that men are natural crusaders for authoritarian populists. In fact, American men are much more likely to be politically apathetic, and most young men are better characterized as confused and drifting. The problem is that anti-democratic and violent forces are trying to weaponize that aimlessness. Politics is coming into most men’s lives subtly. They look for belonging, purpose, and advice, and find a mix of grifters, political hacks, and violent extremists who lead them down an ugly road. And few people are fighting back.

Popular culture focuses on Elon Musk, Davos CEOs, and the other men flourishing at the top of society’s heap. But that’s not where the majority of men exist. Men with only a high school diploma typically earned $1,017 a week in today’s dollars in 1979; now they earn $881. More than one in ten men in their prime aren’t working at all.

It’s not just about money, but about status and life satisfaction. Women are out-graduating men from high school and vastly out-competing them in college. These women aren’t so interested in men who are less educated and earn poorly, so men without college degrees are marrying less. Over 1.5 million men aged 20 to 24 aren’t in school, training, or work, and these men are having a lot less sex than past generations and their more productive peers.

Unsurprisingly, young men without college degrees report that they have the least optimism and purpose in life among all the groups of men surveyed by Equimundo. Many have lost a reliable way to earn a living. They also claim to have the least social support and are uncertain how to have basic relationships—with friends, let alone romantic partners. They feel their low status acutely, but because popular culture aggregates their lives with the men at the nosebleed top, they are told by much of the left that they are privileged and should take a back seat.

Many men turn these feelings inward, with the result that nearly three in every four deaths of despair—largely from opioids and suicide—are male. These deaths became so common that they were causing a decline in life expectancy for American men even prior to COVID-19. That is a tragedy for these individuals, their families, and their communities.

But some men seek someone else to blame. That has become a tragedy for our democracy.

For the two-thirds of young men who were willing to admit to researchers that “no one really knows me well,” a sense of community might mean a lot. It might mean even more to men who report having no social activities at all—as one in six of all men with a high school education or less claim. That leaves a lot of time for websurfing and gaming.

And that’s where Steve Bannon found them. Bannon told journalist Joshua Green that he first noticed the “monster power” of “these rootless white males” when he bought a gaming company long before he entered politics. In 2012, when he took over the Breitbart News Network, he hired the provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos to “activate that army.” Yiannopoulos declared that feminist bullies were tearing the video game industry apart and poured fuel on what became the Gamergate controversy, which catalyzed a harassment campaign against women game developers. As Bannon explained, “They come in through Gamergate or whatever and then get turned onto politics and Trump.”

Bannon was hardly alone in noticing a pool of possible recruits. Gavin McInnes, the founder of the violent Proud Boys movement of male Western chauvinists, focused more than half the videos that launched his movement on male victimhood. “Feminism,” he claimed, “isn’t about equality anymore. It’s about taking masculinity away from men.” He offered violence as a way for men who felt their manhood had been threatened to demonstrate their strength and virility.

Like martial artists, men can move through four degrees to gain status in the Proud Boys hierarchy—first by submitting to violence from other members of the group (for example, getting punched in the stomach until you can name five breakfast cereals, ostensibly to demonstrate “adrenaline control”), and in the end, carrying out political violence against others in American society.

McInnes follows a long tradition. Globally, violent extremists often look to give men who feel disenfranchised or emasculated in other parts of their lives a way to feel powerful. White supremacists have been recruiting young men on gaming platforms for years, and they are getting more prevalent—the frequency of exposure more than doubled after 2021, with nearly one in five people on gaming platforms reporting that they had seen white supremacist content in 2022.

But more and more often, men are being recruited into extremist politics and violence not via far-right ideology or racism, but simply by trying to figure out how to be a man in a world where gender roles have changed precipitously. Go online and start looking for typical questions that a man might ask in the absence of any friends or role models—like how to find a date, or how to build muscle. Before long, the algorithms pull these unsuspecting guys into the “manosphere”—a world of online men’s support communities that begins with many appealing on-ramps for someone trying to figure out how to live, but ends in a swamp of men endorsing misogyny, hate, and violence.

Nearly half of young men aged 18 to 25 told Equimundo that they trust one or more of the “men’s rights,” anti-feminist, or pro-violence manosphere influencers such as Andrew Tate, a self-described misogynist and MAGA supporter. The manosphere takes the very real problems that men face and blames them on women, cultivating a zero-sum world where men lose if women gain.

Americans spent decades building a path for empowered women and girls, without any accompanying effort to craft a broader and more secure sense of masculinity for the men who needed to stand alongside them. Now we are reaping the backlash.

Some of the answer undoubtedly lies in concrete policies that will help men feel more secure—such as higher wages for blue-collar, traditionally male jobs, and paths to success that hinge on skilled manual labor rather than college degrees.

But it takes a political storyteller to turn material vulnerability into political anger. In addition to improving men’s situations materially, we need to consider how men can have a sense of purpose and status alongside empowered women. Years of cultural tropes have depicted strong, able women and bumbling men who “fail to launch.” We need to depict both men and women as competent adults. Women have been leaning in to mentoring young women for decades—men need to do the same to build real relationships that counteract online manosphere influencers taking over the roles of dads and big brothers.

Authoritarian forces have always supported patriarchal gender roles. Pro-democracy efforts to help men need to understand the power of that siren song. 

Psychologists have a saying: “Hurt people hurt people.” Many men in our society are feeling lost, hopeless, and helpless at being unable to articulate their problems in the face of a society focused elsewhere. It’s hurting them, hurting women, and hurting our democracy, too. We must advance, whole, together.

Dr. Rachel Kleinfeld is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. ...Read More
Photo: Worker on the line at Hyundai Motor Manufacturing

Montgomery Hyundai Workers Announce
Union Drive, 2nd At Alabama Auto Plant

By Brian Lyman
Alabama Reflector

FEB 1, 2024 - Workers at a Hyundai plant in Montgomery have launched a union drive, the second announced organization effort at a major Alabama automotive manufacturer in the last month.

The United Auto Workers (UAW) said in a statement Thursday morning that 30% of workers at Hyundai Motor Manufacturing Alabama (HMMA) had signed union cards. Workers quoted in a release cited concerns about pay and the toll the work had on their health.

Peggy Howard, a Hyundai worker quoted in the release, said “management pushes you back on the line too soon” after an injury.

“I had surgery on my rotator cuff in September and I had to go back to work the last of December,” Howard said in the statement. I didn’t get the two weeks ramp up and now I’m having pains all over again. I had a cortisone injection three weeks ago and I’m about to go back for another injection. If that doesn’t work, the doctor told me he’ll have to do the surgery over again. We need to make our jobs safer, we need the union.”

Scott Posey, a spokesman for HMMA, wrote in an email that Hyundai was “among the safest automotive assembly plants in the United States” and that the company had recently approved a wage package that he said would increase hourly wages 25% by 2028, and that “HMMA production team members” had received a raise in January of 14% over the previous year.

“As we would with any important issue that could affect HMMA’s team members’ careers and how we work together, HMMA is providing factual and balanced information as part of an ongoing, respectful dialogue about union representation,” he wrote. “It’s important that team members hear all perspectives on this issue so that they can make an informed decision about what is right for them and their families.”

Under federal law, workers can request a union election when 30% of employees at a workplace sign authorization cards. UAW has said it requests elections when it gets 70% of employees to signal their preference for a union.

The announcement comes after workers at the Mercedes-Benz plant in Vance announced a union drive on Jan. 10. Organizers there cited concerns over stalled pay and benefits at the plant.

Both manufacturers were lured to Alabama by major state incentive packages. Hyundai received a $252.8 million package from Alabama in 2002 that included local tax abatements, corporate income tax credits and road improvements.

Hyundai began manufacturing vehicles at the plant in 2005. The company currently makes its Tuscon; Santa Fe; Santa Cruz; and gas and electric-powered Genesis GV570 models at the plant. Posey wrote in an email that HMMA employs over 4,000 people.

The UAW won a major strike against Detroit’s Big Three automakers late last year, securing pay raises, improved retirement security and commitments to bring electric vehicle and battery plant jobs under union contracts. The union said on Monday that they were “nearing a majority” of workers indicating their preference for a union at Mercedes and a Volkswagen plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The Mercedes drive drew swift criticism from Republican Gov. Kay Ivey, who accused “out-of-state special interest groups” of leading the drive. The Business Council of Alabama has launched “Alabama Strong,” which BCA President and CEO Helena Duncan in a widely circulated opinion piece called a campaign to discuss “the economic dangers that unionization presents.”

While the state’s unionization rate lags the national average, Alabama is the most organized state in the South. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 156,000 Alabamians (7.5% of the workforce) belonged to a union in 2023, up from 149,000 the previous year. Another 180,000 workers (8.6% of the workforce) were represented by a union. Union membership in Alabama grew by about 7,000 workers last year, according to BLS.

An Alabama Arise report published last November found that state auto workers make an average of $64,682 a year, higher than the state’s median household income ($59,674). But the report also found that Alabama autoworkers’ real wages had declined 11% between 2002 and 2019; that they lagged national autoworkers’ pay and that Black and Hispanic workers and women are paid substantially less. ...Read More
James Madison Warned Us The Morbidly Rich
Are The Greatest Threat To Our Republic

Madison wasn’t talking about an abstraction or some highfalutin concept. He was talking about how some rich people will inevitably try to seize political power to screw everybody else.

By Thom Hartmann
The Hartmann Report

FEB 2, 2024 - Republicans don’t even try to hide it anymore.

Amazingly, the House managed to pass a piece of legislation Wednesday that both helps hungry kids and gives a boost to businesses that want to invest in future products. It was a compromise and neither side is ecstatic, but both Democrats and Republicans got something for their constituents.

Democrats got to lift 400,000 children and their families out of poverty, and the legislation will immediately carry an additional 3 million kids from “deep poverty” to mere poverty with an expanded child tax credit. Over the next year, reports the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the legislation will help over 16 million children growing up in low-income households.

That means those kids are more likely to grow up as healthy, well-adjusted, and productive members of society. Science tells us that reducing child poverty this way means there will be less child abuse, fewer divorces, and a healthier economy.

It could, in fact, save America as much as a trillion dollars a year or around 5.4 percent of GDP, which a groundbreaking 2018 study found was the cost to America of childhood poverty. Researchers at Washington University in St. Louise found that adults who experienced poverty during their childhood earned a total of $294 billion less in 2015 than their otherwise identical peers who did not experience poverty as kids.

Add that to the poverty-related costs associated with crime, child maltreatment, and homelessness and the researchers concluded that child poverty is costing the US an estimated $1.0298 trillion every year.

From the GOP’s viewpoint, the legislation’s corporate tax breaks would be a boon to American business. They encourage companies to invent new products with expanded research and development tax breaks, interest deductions, and tax credits for investing in new equipment.

Win-win, right? Sadly, no, according to some of the most powerful Republicans in the country.

The legislation is now heading to the US Senate, where Senator Mitt Romney, one of the richest legislators in the world, opposes it because, he suggests, helping out hungry kids will make them dependent on the government. The last thing Romney wants the government to do is take money from morbidly rich people like himself to lift poor kids out of misery.

The legislation’s help for the very poorest children in our country is, Romney says, “excessive,” and, he whines, creates “another entitlement program which is massively expensive.”

Romney, of course, should know all about entitlement programs: he’s worth hundreds of millions because, in no small part, of massive entitlement programs for morbidly rich people who run private equity operations.

They include “pass through” provisions that let them pay about half the normal income tax rate most Americans are hit with, zero-taxes on profits through Section 1202 of the tax code, and massive tax breaks through the QSBS provisions of the tax laws that billionaires’ lobbyists helped write.

“Massively expensive” doesn’t begin to quantify the largesse, the trillions of dollars, that regular taxpayers like you and me (and low-income workers) shower on the morbidly rich like Romney. As the Peterson Foundation notes:

“In 2023, those breaks totaled about $1.8 trillion. To put that in perspective, that’s more than the government spends on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, or defense.”

But, still, Romney can’t stomach the idea that poor kids may make off with any of that government largess.

Neither, apparently, can the billionaires who fund Senator Chuck Grassley. As Democracy Labs pointed out yesterday, three of the wealthiest men in America fund the senator’s PAC and all benefited hugely from Trump’s tax cut for billionaires. And, as Democracy Labs noted:

“If only poor families could make big donations to Chuck Grassley, maybe he'd support the Child Tax Credit bill?”

Which perfectly captures the crisis of American capitalism and democracy we’re living through right now. After five corrupt Republicans on the Supreme Court took millions in gifts from billionaires and then legalized political bribery with Citizens United in 2010, most rational lawmaking has ground to a halt as special interest groups and rightwing billionaires pull the strings of Congress.

James Madison, the “Father of the Constitution,” warned us about this. Repeatedly.

When Alexander Hamilton finally talked him into co-writing the Federalist Papers with him (after 4 others turned Hamilton down or were ill), Madison focused his first contribution, what’s today known as Federalist 10, on how a group of rich people capturing government was the greatest threat to our republic.

“Among the numerous advantages promised by a well-constructed Union,” he wrote in his first sentence, “none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction. The friend of popular governments never finds himself so much alarmed for their character and fate, as when he contemplates their propensity to this dangerous vice. …

“The instability, injustice, and confusion introduced into the public councils, have, in truth, been the mortal diseases under which popular governments have everywhere perished; as they continue to be the favorite and fruitful topics from which the adversaries to liberty derive their most specious declamations.”

So, what is a faction?

“By a faction,” Madison wrote, “I understand a number of citizens…who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, adversed to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community.” (emphasis mine)

“Adversed” being the word used back at that time to describe what we would mean today if we use the word “opposed.”

Factions, in other words, were groups of people who were openly and nakedly opposed to what was best for the nation because it might interfere with them getting richer and richer. And he saw them as the greatest danger this country faced.

Madison wasn’t talking about an abstraction or some highfalutin concept. He was talking about how some rich people will inevitably try to seize political power to screw everybody else. How, as he wrote, their own personal, selfish “interests” are opposed to the “permanent and aggregate interests of the community.”

“Property” today generally means land, but in 1788 it meant “wealth.” Madison came right out and said, in Federalist 10, that the interests of those with great wealth are typically very different from the interests of average Americans:

“But the most common and durable source of factions has been the various and unequal distribution of property. Those who hold and those who are without property have ever formed distinct interests in society.”

In fact, he said, one of the most important jobs of government is to prevent its own corruption by the very wealthy and powerful factions that today control the GOP:

“A landed interest, a manufacturing interest, a mercantile interest, a moneyed interest, with many lesser interests, grow up of necessity in civilized nations, and divide them into different classes, actuated by different sentiments and views. The regulation of these various and interfering interests forms the principal task of modern legislation....”

Madison said in a 1788 speech that there were “two cardinal objects of Government, the rights of persons, and the rights of property.” He added that if only the rights of property were written into the Constitution, the rich would ravage the few assets of the poor.

“Give all power to property,” Madison said, “and the indigent will be oppressed.”

In fact, Madison noted, all the former republics that he had studied in his five years of preparation for writing our Constitution had ended up corrupted by the political power of concentrated wealth.

“In all the Governments which were considered as beacons to republican patriots and lawgivers,” he added, “the rights of persons were subjected to those of property. The poor were sacrificed to the rich.”

Thus, wanting to establish a country where the rich didn’t end up running it as their own private kingdom or oligarchy, he proposed that the House of Representatives — the only branch elected directly by the people, and every two years at that — should solely have the power to raise taxes and spend federal funds.

And he didn’t want the ability to vote for members of Congress to be limited to those who owned property. When that had happened, in previous governments, as Madison pointed out, “the poor were sacrificed to the rich.” ... ...Read More
Digging Deeper into the Current Conjuncture:
Getting Comfortable With Illegal Strikes

Laws are made up. "Nobody doing work" is real.

By Hamilton Nolan

Feb 2, 2024 - One knotty dynamic of labor power is its tendency to limit itself the more it becomes institutionalized.

Consider: In the first part of the 20th Century, before the passage of the laws that established and regulated and protected unions in America, working people faced far harsher conditions than they do today. Lower pay, worse health care, fewer legal protections, more unchecked control by employers, more outright violence.

So how were the early industrial unions established in these conditions? Workers went on strike. In the barren coal fields, and inside the horrific mills and factories, the workers struck to demand a union.

They struck, and struck, and struck. The government threatened them, and the police arrested them, and their bosses employed private armies of thugs who came and beat them and often killed them. That’s how it was. And still, they struck, and struck, and struck. What else could they do? That was their sole weapon. And after the employers had evicted them from their homes and beaten them with clubs and thrown them in jail and bombarded them with condemnation from friendly politicians and newspapers, the strikes continued.

Eventually, the employers gave in. They had to give them their unions, because otherwise there would be no business. This process is the origin story of many unions that are still around today.

Were these strikes legal? [Now imagine me speaking in the tone of voice Jim Mora used in that famous “Playoffs? Playoffs???” clip] Legal? “Legal???” What the fuck was legal? They hadn’t even written the laws yet that might render them legal in a meaningful way. They were out fighting in the street and being shot at with tommy guns and sleeping in tents and watching their children starve.

They won those unions with blood. What they knew—and what their victories demonstrated—was that strikes are exercises of power that exist outside of the boundaries of law. By that I mean that whether you call a strike legal or not, the fact is that when workers don’t work, businesses don’t run. It is an unassailable reality that employers must reckon with if they want to make money. Declaring a strike illegal, just like bashing strikers in the head with sticks or cutting off their healthcare benefits or having redneck local newspaper editors call them communists, is just one more tool that companies use to inflict pain on strikers in hopes that their will breaks before the company’s does.

What matters when you get right down to it, though, is not how strikes are formally classified, but which side of the strike can hold out longer. As the famous piece of labor wisdom goes, “There is no such thing as an illegal strike, just an unsuccessful one.”

That is the incredibly difficult but otherwise very straightforward process by which workers who had nothing except their own solidarity broke the will of America’s most powerful companies. Now, consider what happens after the unions are won: They become legal entities. They collect dues. They have a budget and a treasury full of money. They have a full time staff. They play in the sandbox of electoral politics. They are, in short, institutions. Their focus shifts to bending the law in a favorable direction. A consequence of this is that they become much more averse to defying the law. Naturally! A group of ten thousand impoverished and hungry workers has very little to lose; a union with ten thousand dues-paying members and a bank account and an office and a staff does. ...Read More
The Real Border Crisis: Texas Vs. The Constitution

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (NBC, 1/14/24): “The only thing we are not doing is we’re not shooting people who come across the border, because, of course, the Biden admini-stration would charge us with murder.”

By Ari Paul

The United States is on the verge of a constitutional crisis, one that enlivens the nationalist fervor of Trump America and that centers on a violent, racist closed-border policy.

In January, the Supreme Court, with a five-vote majority that included both Republican and Democratic appointees, ruled that federal agents can “remove the razor wire that Texas state officials have set up along some sections of the US/Mexico border” to make immigration more dangerous (CBS, 1/23/24).

The state’s extreme border policy is not merely immoral as an idea, but has proven to be deadly and torturous in practice (USA Today, 8/3/23; NBC, 1/14/24; Texas Observer, 1/17/24).

In a statement (1/22/24), Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton decried the decision, saying that it “allows Biden to continue his illegal effort to aid the foreign invasion of America.” Paxton, a Republican, vowed that the “fight is not over, and I look forward to defending our state’s sovereignty.”

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, also a Republican, “is doubling down, blocking the agents from entering the area,” the PBS NewsHour (1/25/24) reported. PBS quoted Abbott declaring that the state’s constitutional authority is “the supreme law of the land and supersedes any federal statutes to the contrary.”

University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck (Houston Chronicle, 1/26/24) observed that Abbott’s position “has eerie parallels to arguments advanced by Southerners during the Antebellum era.”

‘Dangerous misreading’

For a great many people, a Southern state invoking its “sovereignty” over the federal government in defense of violent and inhumane policing of non-white people sounds eerily familiar to the foundation of the nation’s first civil war. And 25 other states are supporting Texas in defying the Supreme Court (USA Today, 1/26/24), although none of them are states that border Mexico.

Texas media are sounding the alarm about this conflict. The Texas Tribune (1/25/24):

From the Texas House to former President Donald Trump, Republicans across the country are rallying behind Gov. Greg Abbott’s legal standoff with the federal government at the southern border, intensifying concerns about a constitutional crisis amid an ongoing dispute with the Biden administration.

Houston public media KUHF (1/24/24) said this “could be the beginning of a consti-tutional crisis.” University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck said in an op-ed in the Houston Chronicle (1/26/24) that Abbott’s position is a “dangerous misreading” of the Constitution.

The “legal expert” quoted in Fox News‘ headline (1/25/24) works for America First Legal, a group founded by white nationalist Stephen Miller to “oppose the radical left’s anti-jobs, anti-freedom, anti-faith, anti-borders, anti-police, and anti-American crusade.”

Other legal scholars are watching with concern. Erwin Chemerinsky, dean of the law school of the University of California at Berkeley, told FAIR, “I think that this is reminiscent of Southern governors disobeying the Supreme Court’s desegregation decisions.” He added,

I agree that it is a constitutional crisis in the sense that this is a challenge to a basic element of the Constitution: the supremacy of federal law over state law. ...Read More
Photo: As Finns elect a new president in the shadow of Putin’s hostility and a possible Trump return, all eyes are on national security

In Finland, The ‘Existential Threat’ Of Russia Looms – And U.S. Rescue Is Far From Certain

By John Kampfner
The Guardian

Feb 2, 2024 - In 1905, in the Finnish city of Tampere, Vladimir Lenin met Joseph Stalin for the first time. They and two dozen or so revolutionaries began to map out plans to overthrow the tsar and bring down the Russian empire. The story is vividly chronicled in Tampere’s Lenin Museum, a venue that thousands of Soviet citizens used to descend on each year, in official groups; in these different times, it is seen as something of an embarrassment by the city authorities.

Since the collapse of Soviet communism in 1991, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in 2022, and Finland’s accession to NATO in 2023, the museum has successively changed its exhibits. It still tells the remarkable story of that secret meeting a century ago, when Finland was part of the tsarist Russian Empire, but enjoyed a certain autonomy until it gained independence immediately after the Bolshevik revolution of 1917.

More urgently for now, the museum charts the course of Finland’s relations with Russia. At the end of the second world war, Finland was one of the few European countries neighboring the USSR that was not forcibly taken over. It was required to cede a tenth of its territory and to pay heavy reparations, but it retained its independence. This came at a price: neutrality tinged with heavy subservience to the Kremlin. In 1970, on the 100th anniversary of Lenin’s birth, events were organized across Finland. The now-derogatory word for all of this is Finlandisation.

NATO’s newest member (Sweden is still waiting), Finland has temporarily closed its border with Russia as tensions have risen sharply. The neighbor is an adversary; it is quite the 180-degree turn.

It was against this backdrop that Finns went to the polls last Sunday in the first round of the presidential elections. Although the country has a parliamentary system, the position of head of state is not honorific: the president sets the parameters of foreign policy and is commander-in-chief of the armed forces.

Perhaps it is not surprising, therefore, that the runoff, on 11 February, will take place between two foreign-policy veterans. Alexander Stubb, a former prime minister, emerged very slightly ahead (with 27% of the vote versus 26%) of Pekka Haavisto, a recent foreign minister. The former may be centre- right, the latter has sat in parliament for the Greens. They may have argued over the economy, the climate crisis and social issues, but on Russia they – and pretty much all politicians in Finland – are of a similar voice.

Indeed, during the election campaign all nine candidates sought to outdo each in their hawkishness towards the Kremlin. That even included Jussi Halla-aho, the present parliamentary speaker from the populist far-right Finns party, who came third with 19% and narrowly missed out.

On 1 March, either Stubb or Haavisto will succeed Sauli Niinistö, who steps down after serving two six-year terms, his poll ratings sky-high. Niinistö is credited with driving forward Finland’s application for Nato membership. In the early period of his tenure, he prided himself on his close ties with Vladimir Putin, regarding their regular meetings as important in trying to persuade the Russian president to moderate his position.

That is all off the agenda. During recent trips to Estonia and Finland I was struck by the clarity of the message of Russia as an existential threat. Amid open talk among politicians and the media about preparing for war, Finland prides itself on having long had a strong system of military service, as do the other Nordics and the Baltics. Indeed, the idea of reinstating it is increasingly mooted in countries that abolished it in recent times, including Germany.

Yet, as Finland, Estonia and other Nordic and Baltic states acknowledge, the election that really matters will not be held in the region, but in the United States. There is barely concealed trepidation about the encouragement that Putin will take if Donald Trump returns to the White House.

Defense and security officials across Europe are increasingly concerned about Trump’s commitment to Article 5 of the Nato treaty, the requirement on all members of the alliance to assist any member state if attacked. There is much speculation about the manner and venue for a provokatsiya, a provocation instigated by Putin to test Trump’s mettle, with attention focused on those parts of the three Baltic states with large ethnic Russian populations.

Once the winter snows melt, Finland is preparing for another bout of troublemaking along the 1,340-kilometre (830-mile) border it shares with Russia. From last summer onwards, large numbers of asylum seekers sought to cross Finland’s eastern border. In November, Finland closed its border with Russia – but so porous is the landmass that more tension is expected this spring and summer. Officials recall the violent scenes on Poland’s border that began in 2021 when the Kremlin-loyal dictatorship in Belarus bussed asylum-seekers to the frontier.

“We are in a situation now where Russia, and especially Vladimir Putin, is using humans as a weapon,” Stubb said during the final televised debate of the presidential campaign. “It’s a migrant issue, it’s a ruthless, cynical measure. And in that case, we must put Finland’s security first.”

The pressing issue for Finns, Estonians, and their neighbors will be whether, in a year’s time, the partner on whom they have relied for the past three decades to keep them safe – the United States – will still be there for them. For as long as the specter of Trump looms and Ukraine remains imperiled, security concerns will dominate the minds of voters.

John Kampfner is a commentator and broadcaster. He is the author of In Search of Berlin and Why the Germans Do It Better ...Read More
Photo by Ken Bank/PW

Public Banking Movement Gains Momentum In California

By Ken Bank
People's World

Jan 25, 2024 - The last few years have seen significant momentum toward the goal of making public, people-owned banks a reality in many parts of the country. This is especially true in California. In 2019, the governor of California signed a bill allowing counties and municipalities to establish public banks.

Two years later, Gov. Newsom signed another bill that appropriates funds for a state commission to analyze the prospects and feasibility to establish a state bank that would also function as a commercial bank to provide personal financial services for residents of California.

Recently the Los Angeles City Council voted to allocate funding for a feasibility study to establish a city-managed public bank. This was a huge step forward to the creation of a public bank for Los Angeles. Though other cities and states have moved forward on proposals for a public bank, so far Los Angeles is the only public community to appropriate funds for that purpose.

The idea of a public bank for Los Angeles was under consideration for some time. In 2018 voters in Los Angeles rejected an amendment to the city charter enabling the creation of a public bank, which was heavily opposed by monopoly capitalists and predatory financiers who spent large sums of money to defeat the amendment. Despite this defeat, supporters of public banking would not give up.

This meant that Los Angeles would not have to rely on a referendum vote to establish a city-managed public bank. With support from grassroots community organizations, the Los Angeles City Council passed a law in 2021 to study the feasibility of setting up a public bank. To continue that effort, the City Council voted recently to appropriate $460,000 for funding additional means toward officially establishing a public bank. In doing so Los Angeles became the first city to actually appropriate funds to enable that effort for public finance to succeed.

The initiative to establish a public bank for Los Angeles was inspired by a report issued last May by the Jain Family Institute, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization dedicated to applied research for providing funds to public and community improvements. The report emphasizes how a public bank would facilitate providing funds for development and acquisition of affordable housing and public infrastructure.

Operate with municipal deposits

The bank would operate primarily by utilizing municipal deposits, public pension funds, and ESG (Environment, Social and Governance) investment funds to provide ready capital to acquire and support developing residential homes as affordable housing. This process would stimulate the availability of affordable housing in low-income neighborhoods, as well as prevent the commercial corporate banks, predatory developers and vulture capitalists, from buying property to build more expensive homes and community gentrification.

Los Angeles is not the only city in California moving forward to establish a public, municipal bank. The San Francisco City Council also voted unanimously for a law to create a process for setting up a city-owned bank that would be similar to Los Angeles.

The long-term plan would be to pass an ordinance that would facilitate the process for a city-managed corporation to receive public deposits and then invest that money for low-income borrowers and disadvantaged groups, small businesses and community organizations which otherwise would not have access to credit from for-profit commercial banks. Eventually, it is hoped that a municipal bank would be able to offer personal financial services to depositors whose funds would be insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.

The last few decades have seen an explosion of commercial investment banks which have become so big that only a few banks now control America’s investment capital. They became dominant by taking over smaller community and regional banks which historically were the main source of capital for middle and low income borrowers.

By “redlining” low-income neighborhoods and minority communities, these large banks put their investment capital into high-income projects that were much more profitable than lending to middle and low-income borrowers. Thanks to these large, dominant financial institutions, the rich became even more rich, predatory and vulture capitalist investors became much more wealthy, while poor neighborhoods and communities were left to fend for themselves.

In response to the destructive forces unleashed by predatory, investment capitalism, enabled by the concentration of financial resources among a few large, multinational banks and international financial institutions, activists and progressive political leaders around the world have begun the movement to establish public financial institutions. They are a form of democratic finance, accountable to people and not to vulture investment capitalists seeking to maximize profits at the expense of the poor.

California is not the only state where public banking advocates have been successful. In New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy has introduced legislation to establish a state banking option that would be available to local, municipal, county and other government entities to deposit their surplus cash. The funds would then be reinvested in their local communities to stimulate economic activity which would largely benefit the public as well as disadvantaged groups and individuals who were previously unable to access credit for their financial needs. So far, largely due to the effects of the COVID pandemic, progress has been limited mostly to public hearings on the subject.

Across the Delaware River from New Jersey, the City of Philadelphia is also moving forward to establish a public bank. Last year the Philadelphia City Council by a near-unanimous vote established the Philadelphia Public Financial Authority, which would receive deposits from the city’s treasury and reinvest those funds in disadvantaged neighborhoods which had little or no access to credit from private commercial banks.

The likely winner of the November election for Mayor of Philadelphia is Cherelle Parker, who is African-American and the first female to become Mayor. As a member of City Council, Parker voted to establish the PPFA, but so far as the presumed Mayor-elect she has not fully committed herself to provide appropriations which would fund the PPFA’s operation.

Though California leads the way forward to establish public banks, other local and state governments like Philadelphia, New Jersey and elsewhere are pursuing the process for providing public banking services that hopefully will lead to personal financial services to individual, small business, groups and non-profit depositors, and which would be eligible for FDIC deposit insurance.

Ironically, the State of North Dakota already has a public bank, the Bank of North Dakota, that has been in existence for more than a century providing loans and financial credit to farmers, small businesses and community organizations. There is already a successful model for public banking available there that other states and local governments could follow. All that is needed is the political will to do so. ...Read More
New Journals and Books for Radical Education...

Use Changemaker for Your Holiday Gifts,
Thus Lending Us a Hand, Too!
From Upton
Sinclair's 'Goose Step' to the Neoliberal University

Essays on the Ongoing Transformation of Higher Education

Paperback USD 17.00
This is a unique collection of 15 essays by two Purdue University professors who use their institution as a case-in-point study of the changing nature of the American 'multiversity.' They take a book from an earlier time, Upton Sinclair's 'The Goose-Step A Study of American Education' from 1923, which exposed the capitalist corruption of the ivory tower back then and brought it up to date with more far-reaching changes today. time. They also include, as an appendix, a 1967 essay by SDS leader Carl Davidson, who broke some of the original ground on the subject.

The Man Who Changed Colors

By Bill Fletcher, Jr.

When a dockworker falls to his death under strange circumstances, investigative journalist David Gomes is on the case. His dogged pursuit of the truth puts his life in danger and upends the scrappy Cape Cod newspaper he works for.

Spend a season on the Cape with this gripping, provocative tale that delves into the
complicated relationships between Cape Verdean Americans and African Americans, Portuguese fascist gangs, and abusive shipyard working conditions. From the author of The Man Who Fell From The Sky.

“Bill Fletcher is a truth seeker and a truth teller – even when he’s writing fiction. Not unlike Bill, his character David Gomes is willing to put his life and career in peril to expose the truth. A thrilling read!” − Tavis Smiley, Broadcaster & NY TIMES Bestselling Author 

VVAW: 50 Years
of Struggle

By Alynne Romo

While most books about VVAW focus on the 1960s and 1970s, this photo-with-text book provides a look at many of actions of VVAW over five decades. Some of VVAW’s events and its stands on issues are highlighted here in stories. Others show up in the running timelines which also include relevant events around the nation or the world. Examples of events are the riots in America’s urban centers, the murders of civil rights leaders or the largely failed missions in Vietnam.

Paul Tabone: This is a must read for anyone who was in the war, who had a loved one in the war, who is interested in history in general or probably more importantly for anyone who wants to see how we repeat history over and over again given the incredible idiot and his minions that currently occupy the White House. To my fellow Viet Nam veterans I say "Welcome Home Brothers". A must read for everyone who considers them self an American. Bravo.

A China Reader

Edited by Duncan McFarland

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

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

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

We Were So Hated
From Left Parties to Rightwing Populism

Il Manifesto: This interview with Achille Occhetto, the last secretary of the Italian Communist Party, was aired on Wednesday, January 31 on our website, “We were so hated” is the title of the program dedicated to the 30th anniversary of Berlusconi’s “descent into the field” and his legacy in today’s Italy, ruled by the far right.


Secretary, everyone remembers that historic one-on-one clash in the Canale5 TV studio. At one point, Berlusconi came out with his promise of one million jobs. It was the first fake news, the first swindle of Berlusconism.

As I said back then, after that encounter – and no one believed me – we were at the start of a new phase of politics: not so much the transition from the First to the Second Republic, as some have called it, but rather the transition from a republic of parties to a republic of populism. That was the first example of populist communication. Think about it: on that show, I was working hard to explain that we (including we on the left) needed to move from an old statist view to a new relationship between the public and the private, in which, of course, there would be a pre-eminence of the public sphere, but it would also transform the private sphere.

And then I hear this guy say: “I’ll give Italian citizens a million more jobs.” What was I supposed to say to that? Fight populism with populism: “I’ll give them 1.5 million!”? This is clearly the point where the difficulty in communication arises between political thought and populist fake news.

After 30 years, instead of Berlusconi, we’ve got the government of Giorgia Meloni. Is the current right-wing stronger than the one back then? And if so, why?

I don’t know whether it’s stronger, because Berlusconi lasted for a long time, although in a framework that wasn’t yet hard-right at that point. Today we’ve got something very new, for which Berlusconi was only the sorcerer’s apprentice: the element of deception — that is, his supposed liberal revolution, which fooled many people back then — is now gone. Instead of that, we’ve got the hard-right, which has greater strength if we measure that by the degree of violence in communication, but probably has feet of clay. I don’t think it can last as long as Berlusconism lasted in Italy.

Was the political class of those times more politically qualified than the one we have today?

It certainly was, everywhere; and, we must admit, even in the Berlusconian sphere. Precisely because Berlusconi showed many different personas over time: the law-and-order one, the nationalist one represented by the alliance with the MSI, and the one who tears down the state, in his alliance with the Lega. And especially that of the social paladin of a supposed liberal revolution, which fooled even highly respectable people, such as Antonio Martino. I kept my appreciation for him and would later become his friend; not coincidentally, he was one of those who ended up abandoning Berlusconi.

Among the thinking people who were fooled, I remember there was even an intellectual of the stature of Lucio Colletti…

Even the radicals fell for it.

Thirty years later, instead of Occhetto and Berlusconi, we have Elly Schlein and Giorgia Meloni as protagonists. Two women: a profound and radical anthropological change, a sign of our times. But is it all as positive as it seems? Is this a change destined to last?

It’s an important historical fact that there are now two women at the top of Italian politics. Of course, it’s not all rosy; we have to evaluate it according to the behavior it is engendering. Because the very fact that we’re talking most of all about a clash between two women is something anti-feminist: it resembles a ghettoization of women, who are deemed to be able to speak from a position that is not part of the general spectrum of politics.

The decisive indicator will be whether these women will be able to bring feminism to the government of the country, which would mean not accepting to enter the male power system built on their exclusion. And I’d like to stress right away that this should start from one essential point: fighting the trend of personalization and leaderism.

Let’s look at our camp. Compared to 30 years ago, in the days of the Ulivo alliance, when there was a broad and complex field, is it a weaker one now that we have the PD, M5S and smaller forces?

To start with, theoretically at least, I’d say the current field is stronger compared to the voting potential of ’94. We have a broader area available for an alternative, which, however, manifests itself concretely in the political ability to federate this area, as people say nowadays. Not so much in terms of certain programmatic differences, although these are clearly not irrelevant, but more in terms of the fact that for the upcoming elections, there is more of an attempt to put up a fight within coalitions rather than fulfill the need for a unified perspective.

But why is it that the right always manages to march together, even when divided (as in the clash over the regional elections), while the left seems doomed to perennial division?

The right-right is more realistic and more cynical. When it’s time to bring the fight to their opponent, they are more willing to put aside internal divisions and unite. You wouldn’t hear on the right the nonsense I keep hearing on the left that you should never “fight against,” but “for” something. The right is willing to fight “against,” because the battle “against” also contains the battle “for,” and that’s something the left doesn’t understand: you should certainly respect different perspectives, but there are historical moments when the “against” contains positive potential within itself. So, in that case, you have to be willing to put aside what divides and privilege what unites.

Among the things that are dividing the PD from the M5S is the position on the war in Ukraine, and there is turmoil about that within the PD as well...

It is a division that we can hope is only tied to a particular period, because on the other dramatic issue, that of Israel and Palestine, we don’t see the division showing up. On Ukraine, a way out needs to be found, which is not the same as scrupulously restoring the status quo before. The left could come together around this perspective, because it has a lot to say about a new international order. All it would take is for people to understand that no one in Europe has any influence at this point on the issue of the war, but Europe can have influence by offering another vision of the world. Just change the subject, which so far has been used to generate division.

We are quickly approaching the crucial European elections. It’s a time of high drama, with ongoing wars as well as elections halfway around the world, from the United States to Russia. Have we reached a turning point?

Unfortunately, we’re not grasping the fact that these are decisive elections. If Europe shifts its political axis to the right, against the backdrop of the U.S. elections bringing Trump to power, we can say goodbye to Western democracy: liberal democracy will shrink more and more, surrounded by authoritarian powers both to the east and west.

Europe must understand that there is a crisis of liberal democracy right now. Clearly, we need to make a serious change in the democracy we have, but going in the opposite direction from that of personalization, of direct election of the prime minister.

We should move in the direction of active citizenship, of popular participation, of a more intense democratic relationship with the people, with the general population. That’s why I’ve got this to say to them: you are being irresponsible if you think that this election campaign should be used to give a measure of the power relations within the various parties and between them. You don’t understand the historical danger that we are facing. You are all being irresponsible before history.

Speaking of petty issues: should Secretary Schlein run for office?

I quite agree with Prodi’s advice. However, I want to say that I am not willing to go along with the mainstream hypocrisy that pretends not to see that those who are attacking Schlein today are not motivated by principle, but by their own interests. As someone put it, if she runs, she loses, and if she doesn’t run, she still loses, because they will say she didn’t have the courage.

Instead, I’m saying that there is a simple way out for her: ask your own party. Maybe not to such a grassroots level, as there’s no time. Put a very practical question before them: would it be worth it? I can’t say whether it would be or not; I’m not in the game. But one has to understand to what extent one could violate a principle that says (as is only right) that one cannot run for office and then not take up that office. On the other hand, to put it bluntly, if this was the trump card to defeat Meloni, I would have no hesitation. You have to calculate the costs and benefits. ...Read More
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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 

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Photo: A woman unable to find a vacant seat at a F.W. Woolworth's lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina chastises demonstrators participating in a sit-down protest at the counter on April 2, 1960. (Photo: Bettmann / Contributor / via Getty Images)

History Lesson of the Week: 64 Years Ago Today - How Four College Students Started a Revolution

Those who decided to take action in 1960 changed the course of history. That's how change is made.

By Peter Dreier
Common Dreams

Feb 1, 2024 - Late in the afternoon of February 1, 1960, four young black men—Ezell Blair Jr., David Richmond, Franklin McCain, and Joseph McNeil, all students at North Carolina Agricultural and Technical College in Greensboro — visited the local Woolworth’s five-and-dime store. They purchased school supplies and toothpaste, and then they sat down at the store’s lunch counter and ordered coffee.

“I’m sorry,” said the waitress. “We don’t serve Negroes here.”

The four students refused to give up their seats until the store closed. The local media soon arrived and reported the sit-in on television and in the newspapers.

The four students returned the next day with more students, and by February 5 about 300 students had joined the protest, generating more media attention. Their action inspired students at other colleges across the South to follow their example. By the end of March, sit-ins had spread to 55 cities in 13 states.

Across the South, local white thugs tried to intimidate the sit-in protesters. They pelted them with food or ketchup and tried to provoke fights. But the students remained nonviolent and didn’t fight back.

Most conservatives and even some liberals—black and white—thought that the student activists were too radical. But their actions galvanized a new wave of civil rights protest.

Rather than arrest the thugs, local police arrested the protesters because what they were doing—resisting Jim Crow laws—was illegal. Over 1,500 students, mostly black but also white, were arrested for trespassing, disorderly conduct, or disturbing the peace.

In hundreds of cities across the country, Americans of conscience—led by churches and synagogues, unions, and college students—demonstrated their support for the sit-ins by picketing in front of Woolworths stores, urging people to boycott the national chain until it desegregated its Southern lunch counters. ...Read More
We’re excited to announce MSP member José Luis Granados Ceja’s in-person US speaking tour!
Mexico Solidarity Project News
from Jan 15, 2024
The México Solidarity Project, Liberation Road/Camino para la Libertad, and Democratic Socialists of America are proud to host this accomplished investigative journalist from México City. He will speak, among other things, on issues of immigration and the border, national sovereignty, and labor, and what this means for México and US progressives. Here are the West Coast cities José Luis will visit and the dates:

Feb. 2: Portland, OR

Feb. 3: Salem, OR

Feb. 4 - 6: Oakland and San Francisco, CA

Feb. 6 - 7: San Diego, CA

Feb. 8 - 10: Los Angeles CA

Bring friends and feel free to share this notice. Donations gratefully accepted.

Any questions? Go HERE
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From the settlers to the present, and how its consciousness is conflicted. Prepared by Carl Davidson and Rebecca Tarlau,
with some help from the DSA Rust Belt group.
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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.

Video for Learning: 1977: E.P. Thompson on Models of Social Change ...11 min
Harry Targ's 'Diary of a Heartland Radical'
This week's topic:

Dr. King Speaks: Economic Consequences of the Capitalist/War System

Black History Month: Some Remembrances

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Tune of the Week: 'Deportee' by the Highwaymen...4 min
TV Review: Sean Bean And Anna Friel Excel In This Bruising Drama Of Poverty And Religion

This article, and the TV series, is more than 6 years old. No matter. Watch it anyway. You don't have to be 'raised Catholic' to feel its impact, but it helps. Now on Prime Video. --CarlD

By Sam Wollaston
The Guardian

Forgive me Father, for I have sinned. My last confession was … Sean Bean! Through the lattice, playing a Catholic priest – Father Michael Kerrigan – in Jimmy McGovern’s Broken (BBC1). You don’t think of Sean Bean – Richard Sharpe, Ned Stark, -Boromir – as being cut from that kind of cloth.

But he makes an excellent priest: a good listener, principled, pious, compassionate. Not without his own -issues – flashbacks to a troubled past, an abusive childhood, a complex relationship with his mother and more than a little creeping doubt.

But I’d want that – questioning, rather than blind faith – from my priest. I’d be happy to confess my sins to Father Michael.

His parish is an impoverished, forgotten urban community in northern England where every shop – apart from the betting shop – is shuttered up. Among his depleted congregation is Christina Fitzsimmons (Anna Friel, also excellent) whose little girl, Lisa, is preparing for her first communion. Christina works in that betting shop … make that worked. She’s late for work, area manager Jean isn’t happy, even less so to find Christina has been borrowing from the till. Jean sacks her, Christina whacks Jean, Jean whacks her back. A man continues to push money into a fixed-odds terminal.

Now Christina has a black eye, a bleeding nose, no job. We’ve reached peak McGovern – make that trough McGovern – as low as he can go. No? He can go lower still? There is no money for Lisa’s communion dress or any benefits for 13 weeks, says the woman at the job center. Christina burns the toast, then her hand, with boiling water. She’s too proud for the food bank, pawns her ring, not that she’s ever getting it back.

Bleak enough yet? No?! You want more? Her mum dies. Suddenly and unexpectedly. Which leads Christina to do something desperate and wrong. She pretends her mother hasn’t died, so that she can get her hands on the pension. “You heartless, scheming bitch!” her sister yells.

Father Michael’s mother is also dying. The one we see shouting at boy Michael in a flashback: “You dirty, filthy beast, have you got no bloody shame?” But now she’s frail and needs him. He lies next to her on an airbed, holding her hand. Add Nina Simone, Gerard Manley Hopkins, a toddler’s tricycle abandoned on the pavement. I know, it’s what JMcG does, it’s Broken, what did you expect? This is a portrait of poverty in forgotten Britain, minimum pay and zero hours, crisis, debt and desperation. Which is timely, and important. Looking after elderly family members, too. Are you watching, Mrs May? Plus, it’s an exploration of faith, and the unique relationship between priest and parishioner. Artfully put together, beautifully performed.

But God (sorry, forgive me), it’s bruising. Jimmy’s got his misery cannon out, turned it up to 11, and he’s blasting me with it, at point-blank range. Is it my faith that is being tested here? It does feel a bit like penance. I’m not asking for much – not a rollover lottery win for Christina, nothing like that. Just a chink of light somewhere, some hope. “It’s easy to forget Christ’s here, giving us strength, easing our pain,” says Father Michael. Come on now, Father, hang in there, Christina needs you, maybe you need each other, I think I need you. Give thanks to the Lord for he is good. For his mercy endures forever. ...Read More
Book Review: Antonio Gramsci's Subaltern Social Groups: A Critical Edition of Prison Notebooks 25

Joseph A. Buttigieg,
and Marcus E. Green (eds & trans.)
Columbia University Press,
New York, 2021. 288pp. $35 pb.
ISBN 9780231190398

Reviewed by Sevgi Dogan

Sevgi Dogan has a doctorate degree from Scuola Normale Superiore in philosophy.

“To a social elite, the components of subaltern groups always have something barbaric and pathological about them”

“Siamo tutti Gramsciani! We are all Gramscians!” The emphatic answer of a middle-aged woman working in a bar in the charming Sardinian town of Ales, Italy, to the question whether or not Antonio Gramsci continued to be remembered and appreciated in his place of birth, left me first and foremost very elated.

I was genuinely happy and relieved to hear that, given the current Italian political climate, increasingly dominated by the unashamedly fascist far-right, Gramsci’s legacy was still proudly and openly – how much longer? – affirmed. Continuing my walk through town in search of the nearby Gramsci mural depicting the famous hedgehog story from his 1932 letter to his son Delio and then on to the adjacent Gramsci monument created by avant-garde sculptor Giò Pomodoro to commemorate the 40th anniversary of Gramsci’s death at the hands of his forever foe Mussolini, I was wondering whether Gramsci’s ongoing, deeply affective appeal among Italy’s popular classes can be said to apply to the more disembodied universe – or shall we dare to say industry? – of the seemingly ever-expanding field of Gramsci studies with its incessant, often wonderfully argued but at times rather overintellectualized engagement vis-a-vis Gramsci’s life, concepts and theories.

In other words, did we all become Gramscian and if yes, is to be Gramscian the same independent of whether one belongs to the so-called “simple” (62) or “humble” (68-69) people or whether one is a member of an intellectual and social elite, whose relations are so often marked by “sentimental detachment” (116) and a “feeling of [the latter’s] undisputed superiority” (69)?

Granted, the answer to the question whether we are all Gramscian may not be of any larger practical relevance. The same cannot be said, however, about the relationship between what Gramsci called the ‘subaltern social groups and classes’ and the intellectuals, which, 85 years after Gramsci’s death/murder by the fascists, continues to be one of the most pressing contradictions informing and all too often hampering left struggles across the planet.

Gramsci’s 1934 (Special) Notebook 25 “On the Margins of History: The History of Subaltern Groups” (Ai margini della storia. Storia dei gruppi sociali subalterni), translated and edited by the late Joseph A. Buttigieg and Marcus E. Green, offers an in-depth opportunity to further the investigation of this relationship through the lens of Gramsci’s practical and theoretical solidarity with the subaltern and their relation to history, education, ideology, folklore, popular science (or common sense), spontaneity, religion, the national-popular, the state and yes, intellectuals.

Gramsci’s reflections begin with the historical analysis of subaltern groups who are “subject to the initiative of the dominant class[es]” (20) because of their religion, race, sex (what Gramsci calls ‘masculinism’) class position, etc. This is analysed, first, in the classical and medieval period (e.g., the Spartacus Revolt, the Ciompi uprising) and eventually arrive at early 19th century (e.g., Jurisdavidic Christians, the bands of Benevento) and finally modern subaltern groups (the up and coming Italian bourgeoisie of the Risorgimento, the industrial proletariat): a journey from autonomy in the form of a “separate life, [and] their own institutions” to the “subordination to the active hegemony of the ruling and dominant groups”, albeit with the birth of new types of relative autonomy such as “parties, trade unions and cultural associations”, to the total subjugation to an authoritarian and totalitarian state that abolishes all forms of autonomy and legally centralizes the entire life of the nation in the hands of the dominant class (9-10).

The proof of what Gramsci is trying to say in 1934 about the abolishment of autonomies under the legal processes of a state in an authoritarian or totalitarian form can easily be found in contemporary authoritarian countries such as, for example, Turkey. After the thwarted coup d’état in 2016, many civil society organizations were closed and individuals and groups from nearly all social strata, including members of political opposition parties, workers, students, lawyers, women rights defenders and LGBTIQ+ people, have been systematically prevented from exercising their freedom to assemble and demonstrate following bans and effective interventions by the police. The same is true of other countries across the globe.

Increasing repression notwithstanding, in recent years, subaltern protests and uprisings have taken place in different parts of the world against these authoritarian regimes. In this regard, applying a Gramscian lens to our analysis of these mass uprisings may be useful, for instance his reflections on spontaneity. Gramsci defines “spontaneity” as a “multifaceted phenomenon”, “characteristic of the ‘history of subaltern classes’ and, especially, of the most marginal and peripheral elements of these classes who have not attained a consciousness of the class per se and who, consequently, do not even suspect that their history might possibly have any importance […] to leave documentary evidence of it”.

It's mportant to mention that Gramsci affirms that “‘pure’ spontaneity does not exist in history”, and that “every spontaneous movement” has at least a “rudimentary element of conscious leadership” (32-33). Furthermore, Gramsci states that in these movements there is a “multiplicity of elements of conscious leadership but none of them predominates” (33).

Returning to the case of Turkey, the 2013 Gezi Park Protest in Istanbul may be considered one such spontaneous subaltern movement. Analysing Gezi in terms of Gramsci’s understanding of subaltern groups, one could find in this particular scenario a number of different such groups – feminist collectives, members of the Kurdish resistance, Kemalist supporters, gay activists, homeless youth, among others – all of whom had their own “elements of conscious leadership” that help them “suspect that their history might possibly have importance” (32).

Then again, one may argue that the beautiful diversity in the park was unable to transform itself into a united and organic bloc of different subaltern people and demands capable of “real political action”, eventually resembling a “mere adventure by groups that appeal to the masses” (34).

Following Marx, Gramsci emphasizes the historical capacity of subaltern social classes and groups to change and transform society into a just one. In this regard, Gramsci indicates how subaltern groups who are “historically most passive” can over time become the most active and decisive force: “History is a continuous struggle by individuals or groups to change society, but in order to succeed, such individual and groups must consider themselves superior to society, educators of society, etc” (60). In other words, when subaltern groups consider themselves as subjects of their own destiny they can begin to transform an unjust society into a just one, and in the process transform themselves from being passive objects of other groups’ initiatives to becoming active protagonists of their lives, politics and history. This is what Gramsci calls the ‘philosophy of praxis’.

Differentiating philosophy of praxis from vulgar materialism, “the philosophy of praxis is itself a superstructure, the terrain on which certain social groups become conscious of their own social being, their own strength, their own tasks, their own becoming” (70).

What differentiates philosophy of praxis from other, including liberal and fascist, ideologies is that the latter are “nonorganic creations” because they are ultimately created to merely “reconcile opposed and contradictory interests” (70) instead of overcoming them.

What Gramsci wants to say here, I think, is that in “nonorganic creations” there is a deliberate gap between lofty theory and inhumane praxis since there is not a real desire or will to change existing precarious situations, that is, these ideologies are deceptive and illusionary – and when exposed and challenged – repressive in nature. Erdogan’s ‘new Turkey’ is a case in point. ...Read More
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