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Latest News
Floyd Trial Unfolding As A Civics Lesson
The Tougher question is what moral lesson will be drawn at the end? So far, we've seen the decent humanity of bystanders and emergency workers. They have highlighted the cruel indifference of power and privilege. Two Americas are on trial, the New Confederates and the America of multiracial and popular democracy.
A Cold Civil War Is Being Waged in America
Republicans who failed to overturn the 2020 presidential election are now trying to prevent future electoral defeats through voter suppression.
Photo: Protesters gather outside of the Georgia State Capitol to protest new legislations that would place tougher restrictions on voting in Georgia, in Atlanta, March 4, 2021 [Dustin Chambers/Reuters]

By David A Love
Al-Jazeera via Black Commentator

March 29, 2021 - In the US, the right-wing voter suppression efforts reached a level not seen since the era of segregation, when white supremacists in the South had passed laws to deny Black Americans the right to vote and threatened everyone who dared to resist with violence.

The nation is now divided between people who want a multiracial democracy in which every American is allowed and encouraged to vote and those who yearn for an anti-democratic system in which an extremist white minority has unchecked control over everyone else. The latter group is represented by the Republican Party, which is brazenly waging a cold civil war by pushing for unprecedented voter suppression measures targeting minority and marginalized communities.

In Georgia, Governor Brian Kemp signed a law on March 25 that will, among other things, curtail early voting, shorten the length of runoff elections – such as the two Georgia Senate runoff elections in the past election cycle that allowed the Democrats to control the Senate – and make it a crime to provide food or water to people waiting in line to vote. In predominantly Black and Brown Georgia communities, voters waited in line for up to eight hours in the 2020 elections, so these new measures could leave thousands of them unable or unwilling to vote in future elections.

The law also makes producing a photo ID mandatory for absentee voting and gives the Republican-controlled state legislature more control over the administration of elections. According to critics, by expanding the state legislature’s influence over the election process, and making it easier for them to remove state and local election officials refusing to collaborate with them, the law makes it easier for the Republicans to overturn legitimate election results that are not favorable to their party and agenda.

Similarly, Florida Republicans are pushing for perplexing voting restrictions, which are trying to fix “problems” that do not exist. Senate Bill 90, the main vehicle for Republican-led voter suppression in the state, for example, proposes to ban the use of ballot drop boxes, to prohibit anyone other than an immediate family member from helping a voter return a mail-in ballot, and to make a request for a mail-in ballot valid for only one election cycle instead of two. Republicans claim all these measures are necessary to prevent election fraud, even though they themselves admit that none of these has ever caused any significant irregularities in voting in past elections. If this bill becomes law, however, it is clear that it would disfranchise many Black and other minority voters, and give the Republicans an advantage.

In Wisconsin, whose prior voter suppression measures have impacted Black and student voters in urban areas, the Republicans are floating a bill that would change requirements for indefinitely confined voters, institute stricter voter ID laws, and bar election funding from private organisations, among a variety of other things.

In Texas, once again under the guise of protecting “election integrity”, bills have been proposed to increase the use of “poll watchers” – something that raises the spectre of state-sanctioned voter intimidation. These bills also aim to limit mail-in and curbside voting, restrict officials from offering unsolicited ballots and require people with disabilities to produce a note from a doctor or a government agency to vote absentee – measures that would disproportionately affect voters who are more likely to vote against the Republicans.

In Arizona, a Republican lawmaker, Shawnna Bolick, introduced a bill that grants the legislature the ability to revoke the secretary of state’s certification of the presidential election results at any time before the inauguration of a new president. Democratic lawmakers said if the Republican legislature passes the bill, they will work to defeat it by public referendum. The state already has laws in place that restrict minority communities’ ability to vote. The Democrats already took two voting provisions – a policy that requires an entire ballot to be thrown out if the ballot was cast at the wrong precinct, and a state law that bans the collection of ballots by third parties, sometimes called “ballot harvesting” – to the Supreme Court claiming that they discriminate against racial minorities in the state.

Iowa, too, enacted a law to preserve “election integrity” and combat election fraud, despite no widespread election fraud being witnessed in the state in recent history. The law reduces the early voting period from 29 days to 20 days, closes polling sites at 8pm rather than 9pm, and requires that mail-in ballots are received by Election Day, rather than postmarked by that day. And voters who do not vote in a single election are purged from the voter roll if they fail to reregister or report a change of address.

Only federal intervention can stem this tide of voter suppression and thwart the efforts of numerous states to undermine the electoral process and democracy.

The Democrats in Congress are already pushing for a federal voting rights bill that would expand federal control of local election rules.

The For the People Act aims to introduce universal same-day and automatic voter registration, ease voter ID requirements and expand voting by mail and early voting. The act would also end the gerrymandering of congressional districts, and reform campaign finance and government ethics laws. Another bill, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act – named after the late civil rights leader and member of Congress – will restore the Voting Rights Act and combat voter suppression and racially discriminatory election laws. “We are witnessing right now a massive and unabashed assault on voting rights unlike anything we’ve seen since the Jim Crow era. This is Jim Crow in new clothes,” said the recently elected Senator Raphael Warnock of Georgia, while urging his colleagues to pass this legislation.

Endangering the passage of this crucial bill are the antiquated, undemocratic rules and structures of the US Senate, which amplify the power of rural, less populous and former slaveholding states. ...Read More

Perspectives from Havana:
First Session: Economist Estéban Morales

Week 1, April 13 @ 6 pm - 7 pm Eastern

Like the rest of the world, Havana and Cuba have just completed
the first full year of Covid 19.  It has done so with the full force of the U.S. embargo on its neck, including additional measures enacted by the Trump administration and so far not modified or removed by the Biden administration.  What has Havana been like the past year?  What is it like now? What have been the major challenges and achievements?

(only one registration is needed for the series)

Please join us to explore these and other questions with 5
leading voices from Cuba.  All events start at 6 pm EDT.

April 13:  From the Perspective of an Economist – Estéban Morales

April 20: From the Perspective of Science & Healthcare – Luis Montero Cabrera

April 27:  From the Perspective of a Sociologist and Feminist – Marta Nuñez

May 04:  From the Perspective of a Poet and Writer – Nancy Morejón

May 11:  From the Perspective of the Next Generation  —  David Faya

Each week will start with a short presentation, followed by plenty of time for questions and dialogue.  The discussion will be moderated by Cole Harrison (Massachusetts Peace Action), Sandra Levinson (Center for Cuban Studies), and Gloria Caballero (Latin American Solidarity Coalition of W. Mass)

At the close of each session, you will be given information and options for action to lift the Sanctions and end the Embargo, as well as ways in which you can get involved with the organizations sponsoring and co-sponsoring the series or hold
events and forums in your own community, institution, or organization.

Introductions:  Merri Ansara in Havana

Main Sponsors: Massachusetts Peace Action (, Center for Cuban Studies (, Latin American Solidarity Coalition of Western Massachusetts (

Other organizations are invited to co-sponsor the event, be asked to disseminate the event and provide information on follow-up actions and activities for the audience participants.

Biden Has Only One Path To Overseeing An American Economic Renaissance: Focus on High-Tech Manufacturing

By Tom Conway 
Independent Media Institute via Alternet 

March 26, 2021 = Brad Greve knew it was just a matter of time before the computer chip shortage disrupting the auto industry had a ripple effect on aluminum manufacturing in Iowa.

Greve and his colleagues at Arconic Davenport Works—members of United Steelworkers (USW) Local 105—supply the Ford F150 pickup and other vehicles.
Automakers forced to cut production because of the semiconductor crunch scaled back the amount of aluminum they take from the facility, just as Greve expected, posing another potential setback to a plant already fighting to rebound from the COVID19 recession.

America cannot afford to jeopardize major industries for want of parts.

The nation's prosperity depends on ensuring the ready availability of all of the raw materials and components that go into the products essential for crises and daily life.

That will mean ramping up domestic production of the semiconductors—now made largely overseas—that serve as the "brains" of automobiles, computers, cell phones, communications networks, appliances and lifesaving medical equipment.

But it will also require building out supply chains in other industries. For example, America needs to produce titanium sponge for warplanes and satellites, pharmaceutical ingredients for medicines and the bearings that keep elevators and other machinery running.

The failure of just one link in a supply chain—as the semiconductor shortage shows—has the potential to paralyze huge swaths of the economy. That's why it's crucial not only to source components on U.S. soil but also to incorporate redundancy into supply lines so that the industry can survive the loss of a single supplier.

"It's that ripple effect," said Greve, president of Local 105, recalling the time when a fire at a diecast parts supplier disrupted production of the F150. "If you shut down a car manufacturer—or they can't get one part—you can affect a whole lot of jobs around the country."

COVID19 interrupted computer chip production even as demand for televisions, home computers and other goods soared among consumers locked down in their homes. Now, neither U.S. automakers nor manufacturers of other goods can obtain adequate amounts of the semiconductors they need.
Because of the shortage, carmakers cut shifts and laid-off workers. The production cuts come when the nation needs the boost from auto sales—and other items containing semiconductors—to climb out of the recession.

Although the decreased aluminum shipments haven't resulted in layoffs at Davenport, the automotive supply chain meltdown couldn't have come at a worse time. When the pandemic curbed air travel last year, airplane manufacturers cut back on the aluminum they get from Arconic.

"Automotive is what kept us going," Greve said.

America was once a leader in computer chip manufacturing. But as with many other industries in recent decades, the U.S. frittered away the upper hand while other countries boosted production.

The nation's share of chip manufacturing capacity fell from 37 percent to 12 percent over the past 30 years. And although demand for chips continues to grow, the U.S. stands to gain only a fraction of the additional capacity currently in the pipeline.

That leaves the country overly reliant on foreign suppliers who can encounter their own production shortfalls, as happened during the pandemic, or who can cut off shipments for political or economic reasons at any time.

"If you're going to war with somebody, they're not going to sell you anything," Greve said, noting dependence on overseas supplies threatens the nation's ability not only to make cars and other consumer goods but also to obtain the chips needed for defense and intelligence purposes.
Although the current crisis centers on semiconductors, neglect of the nation's manufacturing base decimated America's capacity to produce parts and components for many other industries.

"It affects everybody," Libbi Urban, vice president of USW Local 9231, said of hollowed-out supply chains that threaten jobs and access to goods. Because of the semiconductor shortage, automakers now take less of the galvanized steel she and her coworkers make at ClevelandCliffs' New Carlisle, Indiana, Works.

Shortages of medical and safety equipment during the pandemic revealed how much manufacturing power the nation let slip away.

But it wasn't only the finished products, like face masks, America found itself illequipped to produce. Makers of hand sanitizer and cleaning products struggled to obtain adequate supplies of the hand pumps and spray triggers made overseas.

"How much time and money are being lost waiting on overseas companies to get products and supplies to the U.S.?" Urban asked.

President Joe Biden took the first step toward rebuilding manufacturing power with an executive order in February requiring immediate reviews of supply chains for the semiconductor, pharmaceutical, electric battery, and rare earth minerals industries as well as longer-term reviews of other sectors.

But after identifying weaknesses, America needs to implement a strategy for restoring supply lines and ensuring long-term resiliency.

That will include direct investment in U.S. manufacturing facilities, such as the $37 billion Biden proposed to ramp up chip production. ...Read More
Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. - April 4, 1967 - Beyond Vietnam: A Time To Break Silence

The Left’s Challenge Today: 
The Radical Martin Luther King, Jr.

By Peter Laarman
LA Progressive

A dream shared by many will finally come to fruition Sunday night when the April 4 anniversary of Dr. King’s murder serves as a springboard for reflection on King’s radical vision for a transformed America. For purposes of the launch, it helps that Sunday also happens to be Easter and the last night of Passover: sacred days that still signify revolutionary hope. Over thirty national faith leaders have signed a statement of support for the project; some of these leaders, like Rev. James M. Lawson, Jr., were close collaborators with King during his lifetime.

What’s called the April 4 Project represents a “beloved community” collaboration among the National Council of Elders, the National Black Justice Coalition, and a host of other justice-oriented organizations. Due to ongoing Covid concerns, the event will take place in the form of a webinar, during which a celebrity cast of readers (among them Jane Fonda, Viet Thanh Nguyen, Ibram X. Kendi, Andrew Bacevich, and Bill T. Jones) will present King’s 1967 speech at The Riverside Church—” Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence.” Afterward, a panel featuring Bill McKibben, Medea Benjamin, Ash-Lee Henderson, and Corrine Sanchez will discuss the significance of King’s vision for the current moment.

King’s speech, given to a packed Riverside Church exactly one year before he was killed in Memphis, is notorious for the way it provoked fury, condemnation, and distress at the time. Fury from the Johnson Administration and its pro-war supporters; blistering condemnation in the mainstream media; and acute distress among many of King’s allies who felt that he was sacrificing domestic civil rights goals on the altar of the antiwar cause.

Given how the practice of radical nonviolence implies a willingness to sacrifice, how much are you personally willing to sacrifice for the achievement of the long-awaited radical revolution of values?

Written in large part by the late Vincent Harding, Jr.—a legendary figure in his own right—the speech builds quietly until it rises to a mighty coda. King begins by describing his calling to speak out as a “vocation of agony,” signaling that he knows this speech will be inflammatory and does not take lightly what he considers to be his prophetic duty. He says that he approaches his task with humility and acknowledges how all of us operate with limited vision. He makes it clear that he is addressing “my beloved nation” as a patriot and not as a mouthpiece for either North Vietnam or the National Liberation Front (“Viet Cong”)—entities which he does not regard as “paragons of virtue.”

Then King proceeds to make the antiwar case with unparalleled clarity, citing the reasons he’s calling for the slaughter in Southeast Asia to end:

The war has eviscerated domestic anti-poverty efforts; war is always “the enemy of the poor.”
War punishes the poor in a second way by sending the poorest to do the fighting and dying; King is scandalized that the United States finds it possible to make poor whites and poor Blacks fight and kill Asians together but won’t allow them to be schooled together here at home.
War’s organized lethal violence represents a defeat for the wider cause of nonviolence—and here is where King enraged liberals and conservatives alike by calling the U.S. “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.”

King must and will remain true to his faith in Jesus Christ as a peacemaker and reconciler.
People of genuine faith have loyalties that transcend nationalism: the idea that all are brothers and sisters, created equal under one God, cannot just be some empty slogan that has no application in the real world.

The true meaning and value of nonviolence is how it “helps us to see the enemy’s point of view.”

The last point opens to the part of the speech I’d forgotten but that came back with tremendous force upon re-reading: a very long section detailing the utter corruption of the U.S. “cause” in Southeast Asia: this country’s nine years of covert support for French recolonization efforts, its failure to recognize the Vietnamese determination to be independent from China, it's abhorrent marching of Vietnamese women and children into concentration camps (the U.S. military called these “strategic hamlets”), and its indiscriminate use of napalm and Agent Orange to lay waste to the land and its people, killing millions of noncombatants in three countries (Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia).

King broadens his critique of this war into a sobering look at how a country—ours—that once claimed to stand for revolutionary ideals became the ally of dictators and tyrants and counterrevolutionary forces everywhere. He cites examples of U.S.-sponsored counterinsurgency: Venezuela, Guatemala, Peru, South Africa, Mozambique.

Once he has placed the United States squarely “on the wrong side of the world revolution,” King delivers the gut punch—the part of the speech everyone remembers if they remember it at all:

I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values. We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights, are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, extreme materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered…

America, the richest and most powerful nation in the world, can well lead the way in this revolution of values. There is nothing except a tragic death wish to prevent us from reordering our priorities so that the pursuit of peace will take precedence over the pursuit of war. There is nothing to keep us from molding a recalcitrant status quo with bruised hands until we have fashioned it into a brotherhood.

And these haunting words—haunted by our knowledge that the Second Indochina War would grind on for eight more excruciating years:

We are now faced with the fact, my friends, that tomorrow is today. We are confronted with the fierce urgency of now. In this unfolding conundrum of life and history, there is such a thing as being too late.

Hard questions for today

Reading “Beyond Vietnam” today stirs up deep memories and raises difficult questions for me. I was just cutting my activist teeth in 1967, and I wondered then—as I do now—about my vocation and our vocation as seekers of justice and peace.

Today, as then, the Left is divided between so-called “centrists” (ignoring how far to the right the center has moved) and those who claim a radical perspective. Both camps want to be considered “progressive,” but the centrists deride the radicals as delusionary and naive about how politics work, whereas the radicals dismiss the centrists as sellouts to the corporate agenda and as uncritical champions of American exceptionalism. The presidency of Joe Biden—a centrist politician par excellence—brings these fissures to the fore and creates irresistible catnip for the chattering classes.

I will always identify proudly with the radical camp. I don’t think there can be any compromise with white supremacy or entrenched corporate power. But I do still wonder whether my side is really as radical as it claims to be. I worry about performative wokeness and virtue signaling and the kind of celebrity activism that these days is often fueled by Hollywood and hedge fund money (in some ways reenacting the much-derided radical chic of the 1960s).

It’s painful to have to say it, and in no way do I intend to give aid and comfort to the howling hyenas of the Right who now focus their attacks on Critical Race Theory, but representation by itself can never substitute for reparation, let alone revolution. All of the elite institutions that are striving for diversity and inclusion will not disturb the peace of the Corporate State in the slightest degree. A more diverse elite is still an elite. There’s even a name for what we see emerging now (and an illuminating new book about it): identity capitalism. King long ago recognized this trap; he said he feared “integrating my people into a burning house.” 

To be clear, I have no doubt that if he were here today, Dr. King would celebrate the way in which race and the toxic legacy of white supremacy have been moved front and center in the national conversation. But I also think he might have hard questions for us oldsters who are still trying to fight the good fight as well as for the young woke ones. ...Read More

'It's Not a Border Crisis,' Says Ocasio-Cortez. 'It's an
Imperialism Crisis... a Climate Crisis... a Trade Crisis.'
South American immigrants arriving illegally from Mexico disembark from an inflatable boat on the U.S. bank of the Rio Grande river at the border city of Roma on March 28, 2021., (Photo by Ed Jones/AFP via Getty Image)

The New York Democrat also explained how the U.S. carceral system and foreign policy relate to the nation's immigration system.

By Jessica Corbett  
Common Dreams via Portside

March 31, 2021 - Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took to social media Tuesday night with a detailed reminder of the root causes of Central Americans and other migrants seeking asylum at the United States' southern border.

The New York Democrat is known for engaging with constituents and critics alike on social media. One Instagram user asked the congresswoman: "Why are you not addressing the border crisis and the kids in cages like you used to?" She responded in a series of what are called "stories," which disappear from the platform after 24 hours—though recordings of her comments are now circulating elsewhere online.

"Are you for real?" Ocasio-Cortez said, visibly frustrated by the claim. "So let's talk about this because so much of our national conversation, which is not a conversation, about immigration is driven by people who could not care less about immigrants."

"So often, people wanna say, 'Why aren't you talking about the border crisis?' or 'Why aren't you talking about it in this way?' Well, we're talking about it, they just don't like how we're talking about it," she continued. "Because it's not a border crisis. It's an imperialism crisis. It's a climate crisis. It's a trade crisis."

"And also, it's a carceral crisis," Ocasio-Cortez added, "because as I have already said, even during this term and this president, our immigration system is based and designed on our carceral system."

The congresswoman, an outspoken opponent of former President Donald Trump's immigration policies, put out the videos as the Biden administration is struggling to process asylum-seekers at the southern border—particularly children, who are generally not being deported under a public health law invoked by both administrations to limit access to the United States during the coronavirus pandemic. 

President Joe Biden has been criticized this month for restricting journalists from entering facilities for the children. As the Associated Press reports:

The Biden administration for the first time Tuesday allowed journalists inside its main border detention facility for migrant children, revealing a severely overcrowded tent structure where more than 4,000 people, including children and families, were crammed into a space intended for 250 and the youngest were kept in a large play pen with mats on the floor for sleeping.

...The children were being housed by the hundreds in eight "pods" formed by plastic dividers, each about 3,200 square feet (297 square meters) in size. Many of the pods had more than 500 children in them.

Ocasio-Cortez is not alone in pushing for a more comprehensive conversation about immigration. In a Sunday appearance on CNN, fellow "Squad" member Rep. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y. ) not only called for providing better resources, safety, and housing to those currently seeking asylum but also advocated for the U.S. government helping to "rebuild Central America in the same ways that we have destroyed it."

On Instagram Tuesday, Ocasio-Cortez similarly said that "number one, our solutions need to be rooted in foreign policy, because our interventionist history in foreign policy and history over decades of destabilizing regions drive people to migrate—but people don't wanna have that conversation."

"Secondly, let's talk about the climate crisis because the U.S. has disproportionately contributed to the total amount of emissions that is causing a planetary climate crisis right now," she said, while emphasizing that the Global South is disproportionately bearing the brunt of the consequences, including droughts, floods, and wildfires.

"Then we have the issues of trade, which economically contribute to... some of these conditions that add fuel to the fire," Ocasio-Cortez explained, before challenging the way that some political figures, reporters, and others are discussing the rising number of people—including children—seeking to enter the country.

She asserted that "anyone who's using the term 'surge' around you, consciously, is trying to invoke a militaristic frame and that's a problem, because... this is not a surge. These are children, and they are not insurgents, and we are not being invaded—which, by the way, is a white supremacist idea." ...Read More
Activists rally in support of 'Green New Deal' legislation outside of Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer's (D-NY) New York City office, April 30, 2019 in New York City. , Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Can Social Movements Realign America’s
Political Parties to Win Big Change?

Groups such as Sunrise and Justice Democrats are reviving the old idea of realignment, with hopes of provoking new political transformations.

By Mark Engler and Paul Engler
Waging Nonviolence via Portside  

March 30, 2021 - In the second week of November 2018, the Sunrise Movement made a sharp transition. Throughout the prior year, the youth-based climate organization had clocked long hours working in support of Democratic candidates in an array of selected districts — walking miles to knock on doors, identifying sympathetic voters and getting people to polls.

Now, dozens of Sunrise members sat on the floor in the Washington, D.C. office of Rep. Nancy Pelosi. Scores of others spilled out into the hallway, lining the walls of the office corridor and carrying signs in the group’s signature yellow and black that read “Green Jobs for All” and asked “What Is Your Plan?”

The demand of the sit-in was that the Speaker of the House endorse the Green New Deal, an ambitious legislative program to decarbonize the economy — something Pelosi was hesitant to embrace. In short, Sunrise had abruptly gone from campaigning hard for the Democratic Party’s members to fiercely protesting its leaders.

Casual observers could be forgiven for being confused or thinking there had been a sudden change of strategy. There hadn’t.

The action reached a climax when one of the newly elected congresspeople that Sunrise had supported, New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, decided to join them. It created a striking image: a member of Congress who had not even been sworn in, standing in the center of a circle of nonviolent dissenters, confronting her own party’s leadership. Civil disobedience became a media sensation, propelling the Green New Deal into the spotlight of national politics and markedly changing the terms of the debate over climate policy.

One might ask what the thinking behind Sunrise’s unusual two-step might be: What big idea would lead the group to doggedly support Democratic candidates one week, then stage a protest in the office of the party’s most senior official the next? And could such a maneuver lead down a coherent path toward political progress?

In a word, the idea in question is “realignment.”

The concept of realignment is not new. It has a history that runs through the works of some of the country’s most renowned mid-century political scientists, as well as through the careers of figures such as legendary organizer Bayard Rustin, eminent socialist Michael Harrington and conservative culture warrior Newt Gingrich. It runs today through Ocasio-Cortez and other social movement-oriented Congressional Democrats who announce the intention, in AOC’s words, of “bringing the party home” — and who in fact may take it places it has never gone before.

“Realignments happen when a long-term social transformation, a crisis, and the right leader converge to change the landscape,” writes political journalist George Packer in The Atlantic. The word often resurfaces with the inauguration of new presidents. Particularly with his 2008 election, which brought a super-majority for his party in the Senate, Barack Obama was seen by some commentators as ushering in a permanent Democratic majority. That is, until Donald Trump broke through the Democrat’s “Blue Wall” in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin and flipped at least some voters in the white working class, giving rise to speculation that his win was the realignment of lasting consequence.

Biden’s election has been seen as less historically weighty than those of his predecessors. Nevertheless, his success in passing the landmark $1.9 trillion recovery bill led New York Times columnist David Brooks to dub him a “transformational president” and prompted New York magazine’s Eric Levitz to contend that “the law could plausibly mark a leftward realignment in American policymaking.”

Such claims are not unique. Left scholar Mike Davis notes that, while it is mostly old-timers who remember when the idea of realignment was at the peak of its popularity, the notion that certain moments represent fundamental ruptures, reshaping what ideas parties stand for and what constituencies they represent, has a stubbornly persistent appeal. Even as academics debate the theory’s validity, he writes, “the thesis of the ‘critical election’ that durably realigns interest blocs and partisan loyalties remains the holy grail of every actual presidential campaign.”

Outside of presidential elections, realignment has another meaning for social movements promoting far-reaching change. For groups like Sunrise and Justice Democrats — known for its critical role in recruiting Ocasio-Cortez and propelling her insurgent primary campaign in 2018, as well as for helping to support other members of “the Squad” — it is a way of thinking big. Rather than being content to remain in the role of always pushing from the outside or supporting a few handpicked politicians, the concept encourages them to aspire to a more fundamental shift in power relations. It is part of a strategy to form and advance a bloc that can become a dominant force in the U.S. political system. It means, effectively, building a bold new party within the shell of the old.

Could such a feat be possible? What lessons can we learn from realigners of the past? And what is the practical consequence of movements naming this as a key strategic goal today?

A once and future dream

The academic theory of electoral realignment has been called “one of the most creative, engaging and influential intellectual enterprises undertaken by American political scientists during the last half-century.” It was first advanced by Harvard professor V. O. Key, Jr. in his 1955 article “A Theory of Critical Elections.” Later, it was developed by scholars including Walter Dean Burnham, a student of Key’s, and James Sundquist, a former speechwriter for Harry Truman. The theory proposed that America’s political party system has evolved in punctuated bursts — often 30 to 40 years apart — and that certain vital elections end up defining their eras by mobilizing fresh groups of voters and putting new issues at the fore of the public agenda.

For the likes of Burnham and Key, “critical realignment” involves intense, disruptive moments in which partisan allegiances are reshuffled, majority coalitions fall, and previously uncompetitive minority parties gain new acceptance of their politics.

Think of contests such as the election of 1860, which marked the ascendance of Abraham Lincoln’s Republican Party and presaged a civil war over slavery; or 1896, when business-funded Republican William McKinley defeated populist-aligned William Jennings Bryan; or 1932, which gave rise to the New Deal order. These elections had generational consequences. They set the mold for the type of governance that followed in subsequent decades: After New Deal liberalism became dominant, even its critics were forced to govern within its core assumptions about the role of government. Likewise, after the Reagan Revolution of the 1980s, even Democrats acquiesced to the idea that “the era of big government is over.”

Each of the major claims of academic realignment theorists has been disputed, with a variety of other scholars arguing that American party development is in fact more gradual and that punctuated 30-year cycles cannot be reliably predicted. But even as this academic debate unfolded over the decades — and indeed even before many of its key entries were written — the concept of realignment took on a life of its own both in popular commentary and in the world of political organizing.

In the early 1960s, a number of leaders on the democratic socialist left, including Michael Harrington — whose 1962 book, “The Other America,” helped to animate the Kennedy administration’s War on Poverty — set out to intentionally fracture the Democratic Party in order to build it into something better. Southern Dixiecrats had been an important part of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal coalition, but their inclusion had proven to be a devil’s bargain. Today, it is well known that powerful racist senators maintained Jim Crow by obstructing civil rights legislation for decades; less well-remembered is the critical role the “Southern Vote” played in pushing anti-union legislation such as the Taft-Hartley Act. As historian Paul Heideman explains, “Figures from Walter Reuther to Martin Luther King, Jr. noticed that the Democratic Party contained within it both the most liberal forces in official American politics, like Hubert Humphrey, and the most reactionary, like Strom Thurmond … [T]he Dixiecrats had prevented the Democrats from assuming a coherent political identity as the party of American liberalism.”

Harrington and others believed that, if “Southern racists and certain other corruptive elements” could be pushed out, the Democratic Party could resemble something like a mainstream European social democratic party. Harrington argued in 1962 that a union of welfare state liberals, organized labor, Black voters empowered by the civil rights movement, peace movement constituencies, and other progressive “conscience” voters could “forge a dynamic new coalition which will force a basic realignment in American politics.” From that time until his death in 1989, Harrington and the organizations he would help form — first the Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee and later the Democratic Socialists of America, or DSA — would be associated with this realignment strategy.

In the mid-1960s, things seemed to be on track. With Lyndon Baines Johnson’s landslide victory in 1964, decisive Democratic majorities in both houses of Congress, and organized labor at the peak of its postwar power, it seemed realistic to think that a strong social-democratic majority could be assembled without the reactionary Dixiecrats.

Bayard Rustin, another important backer of the strategy made this point in his famous 1965 essay, “From Protest to Politics.” A prodigiously talented organizer who was kept out of the spotlight due to homophobia but nevertheless served as an advisor to King and a lead planner for the March on Washington, Rustin wrote: “It may be premature to predict a Southern Democratic party of Negroes and white moderates and a Republican Party of refugee racists and economic conservatives, but there certainly is a strong tendency toward such a realignment” — a tendency, he believed, that would only grow stronger as millions more African Americans in Southern states were registered to vote.

Elsewhere, Heideman notes, Rustin further explained his thought: “If we only protest for concessions from without,” the strategist reasoned, “then [the] party treats us in the same way as any of the other conflicting pressure groups. This means it offers us the most minimum concessions for votes.” However, he concluded, “if the same amount of pressure is exerted from inside the party using highly sophisticated political tactics, we can change the structure of that party.”

The right realigns

The logic was sound. But in hindsight, it is clear that things didn’t quite go as planned. While the Dixiecrats did flee the party after the Civil Rights Act of 1964, social democrats struggled in the wake of the Southerners’ departure. The Vietnam War was one big reason for this. Many establishment liberals proved themselves all too willing to follow LBJ into the morass of the conflict, permanently alienating themselves from the rising New Left.

Secondly, on the labor front, realigners had envisioned backing from unionists in the mold of Walther Reuther of the United Auto Workers — a stalwart progressive who lent active support to civil rights struggles. They instead ran up against an AFL-CIO under the direction of George Meany, a bureaucratically-minded labor leader who prided himself on never leading a strike and never walking a picket line. The labor federation backed the hawkish foreign policy, and in 1972 the AFL-CIO declined to officially endorse the presidential campaign of Democratic nominee George McGovern. For his part, Meany was seen golfing with Nixon and members of his cabinet. Tragically, by the end of his life, Bayard Rustin had become ensconced in defending such labor officialdom; once a prominent pacifist, he took on the role of scolding radical critics of the Vietnam War.

Through the following two decades, Harrington and other leftists continued their push to empower progressives within the Democratic Party. But, in the end, it was conservatives who were able to capitalize on changing social conditions.

“Like us, the New Right believes in realignment,” wrote historian and future Democratic Socialist Organizing Committee national director Jim Chapin in 1975. Although slowed somewhat by the crisis of Watergate and then by the Democrats’ move to nominate a Southern evangelical, Jimmy Carter, in 1976, the Republicans were able by the 1980s to realize a version of the “southern strategy” famously articulated by Nixon aide Kevin Phillips. A newly aggressive assault on organized labor helped. With profit margins declining in the 1970s, segments of capital that had previously tolerated New Deal policy revolted. They joined with other corporate interests to break the unions — an attack fully backed by the White House once Ronald Reagan took office. Meanwhile, operatives such as Paul Weyrich, founder of the Heritage Foundation, deftly brought apolitical religious conservatives into the Republican fold under the banner of the “moral majority.” ...Read More

'He's a Real One': The Squad's Middle-Aged,
Mustachioed Ally in Congress

How Chicago’s Jesús 'Chuy' García went from challenging the city’s machine to taking on D.C.’s Democratic establishment.

By Maya Dukmasova
In These Times

MARCH 8, 2021 - They’re four people and that’s how many votes they got,” Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi jabbed at Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) and her progressive ?“squad” of allies— Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.), Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.), and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) — in 2019. 

In an October 2020 Vanity Fair profile, Ocasio-Cortez vowed, ?“You keep telling me I’m just four votes, so I’mma go get more.”

Sure enough, in January, newly elected Reps. Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.) and Cori Bush (D-Mo.) — progressives who successfully primaried centrist incumbents, much like Ocasio-Cortez— were inducted into the Squad. 

But back in October, Ocasio-Cortez had a few others in mind. Tallying potential allies to Vanity Fair, Ocasio-Cortez listed prospective Congress member Kara Eastman of Nebraska (who lost a second close attempt to unseat a Republican) and one seated Democrat: Rep. Jesús ?“Chuy” García (D-Ill.).

García might seem an unlikely Squad ally. The mild-mannered, middle-aged, mustachioed legislator joined the freshman class of 2019 with decidedly less fanfare and has shared none of their national media spotlights. Unlike the four younger, more vibrant, and magnetic upstarts, all of whom fall a decade or more beneath Congress’ average age of 58, Chuy is 64 with 30-plus years of political experience. He won his seat without a fight.

While García is little-known nationally, in Chicago he is known simply by his nickname, Chuy, and for a political career that has bucked the city’s political establishment. His soft-spoken, sometimes equivocal manner can often seem at odds with his fiery resume. In 1983, García was a core part of the multiracial coalition of Blacks, Latinos and ?“lakefront liberals” who upended Chicago’s notorious Democratic machine to elect Mayor Harold Washington, Chicago’s first Black mayor.

In 2015, with the backing of the Chicago Teachers Union and a progressive coalition furious at sitting Mayor Rahm Emanuel, García forced a runoff election. Emanuel won, but suddenly, García was synonymous with a progressive agenda, winning an endorsement from Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.). During the 2020 presidential contest, García became a surrogate for Sanders, helping raise Sanders’ profile in Latino communities nationwide.

Given this history, it’s not surprising that García has taken up with Congress’s left rebels. Ocasio-Cortez was at odds with the Democratic leadership from the beginning, joining 150 youth climate activists with the Sunrise Movement in a sit-in at Pelosi’s office even before she was sworn in. When Ocasio-Cortez introduced her first piece of legislation, the Green New Deal, on Feb. 7, 2019, García signed on that day. In turn, the entire Squad co-sponsored García’s “Reward Work Act,” co-introduced with Ro Khanna (D-Calif.), a bill that would curb corporate stock buybacks and require publicly traded companies to allow workers to elect a third of their boards

When Tlaib and Omar vocally fought a House resolution condemning the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement to end the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, García was one of only 16 Democrats to vote against it. (He stopped short of endorsing the movement, citing as the reason for his vote: “the resolution does not advance the goal of a negotiated peace process.”)

García also co-founded the Future of Transportation Caucus with Pressley and Mark Takano (D-Calif.), served as one of four co-sponsors on all six bills and resolutions in Ocasio-Cortez’s Just Society package, and co-signed a bill by Omar for student loan relief and Rashida Tlaib’s proposal to study racism in the auto insurance industry.

Eighty-six percent of García’s bills were co-sponsored by at least one member of the Squad, according to an In These Times analysis of bills in the 116th Congress that had co-sponsors or a vote. And García in turn co-sponsored or voted for 64% of Ocasio-Cortez’s proposed legislation and 50% of the Squad’s as a whole.

In a statement to In These Times, Pressley, a Chicago native, called García “a trusted partner in good trouble” and praised his legislative record. ?“I often say that the Squad is big, because it includes anyone committed to the work of building a more equitable and just world. I can think of no one who fits that description better than Chuy García. He’s a real one.”

García returns the compliment: “They are my allies. They are my soulmates. I love them.” He believes progressives can’t do without a young, fiery front line to help grow the movement with a new generation. “I’m going to turn 65 in April; I’m an older guy and I don’t have some of their attributes,” he says. For example, he doesn’t share the Squad’s charisma and social media savvy (though his Twitter feed does include cute videos of him shoveling snow, making tamales and sewing shut a Thanksgiving turkey to “lock up the flavor”).

But where García does align with Squad members and the Democratic Party’s larger crop of left challengers is in the conviction that politicians must be accountable, specifically, to working-class communities and grassroots movements.

“You have to maintain face-to-face contact, you’ve got to communicate in Spanish, and you must stay rooted in working-class experiences and values in order to be successful and make your movement sustainable,” García says.

As García’s national profile grows, it’s these working-class communities (and experiences) at home in Chicago he will have to remember to stay in the good faith of the Left.


García has deep roots in Chicago’s predominantly Mexican neighborhoods of Pilsen and Little Village. As a boy, García moved to Pilsen from Mexico in 1965. He grew up in Little Village, where he still lives today. The anecdotes about his community work are many and varied. In 1997, he fought the University of Illinois at Chicago’s expansion into Pilsen, advocating for affordable housing instead. In 2001, García led a 19-day hunger strike to force Chicago to build a new high school in Little Village, which opened in 2005.

“If there was any fight anywhere that a union asked him to be there, he’d be there,” says Carl Rosen, president of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE) and a long-time friend of García. García says Rosen keeps him honest.

García was first elected to the U.S. House in 2018, stepping into a seat held for 26 years by another member of Mayor Harold Washington’s coalition: Luis Gutiérrez. 

Gutiérrez, who has been called the ?“Martin Luther King Jr. for Latinos” because of his crusading support for immigration reform and anti-colonial policies in Puerto Rico, had become more and more of an establishment figure in Chicago. In the 2015 mayoral election, for example, Gutiérrez endorsed Rahm Emanuel over García. Progressives who remembered Gutiérrez’s socialist roots and principled 1993 vote against the North American Free Trade Agreement (which García pushed Gutiérrez to make, according to both García and Rosen) were disappointed in Gutiérrez’s allegiance to ?“Mayor 1%.” 

After 13 terms, Gutiérrez announced he would not seek reelection — just a week before the 2017 deadline to file. Instead, he anointed García as his successor, a move that veteran politicos saw as a way to neutralize Emanuel’s likeliest adversary in the 2019 Chicago mayoral race. (Emanuel later decided not to run.) 

By 2018, then, García was squarely mixed up with Chicago’s Democratic establishment, especially in the eyes of the city’s young, very left, and very energized coalition of Black and Brown activists and organizers. They had been galvanized by the city’s police shooting (and subsequent cover-up) of Laquan McDonald, as well as Emanuel’s spree of public school and mental health clinic closings. When García endorsed Lori Lightfoot for mayor—a favorite of lakefront liberals opposed by the Chicago Teachers Union and various racial justice activists — they felt betrayed. 

Outside a congressional campaign fundraiser in the summer of 2018, García was confronted by protesters from a neighborhood organization he had helped found: the Pilsen Alliance, a 21-year-old anti-gentrification group. They wanted García to include Medicare for All in his congressional platform. 

“At that moment, he was kind of wishy-washy,” recalls Pilsen Alliance director Moises Moreno. “We were just there to make sure.” (García did become a co-sponsor of the Medicare for All Act of 2019.) 

The way Moreno sees it, García can be counted on to take a progressive stance — when pushed. Pilsen Alliance is part of a statewide coalition to repeal Illinois’ ban on rent control, for example, and Moreno gripes it took too long for García to voice his support. Moreno chalks it up to Chuy’s lifetime in politics, begetting pragmatism and an attachment to long-standing relationships that can read as complacency.  ...Read More
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Walt the Quasi-Nazi: The Fascist History
of Disney is Still Influencing American Life
[Ed Note: Written in 2017, but it holds up well]

By Ryan Beitler
Paste Magazine

Since the inception of the Walt Disney Company, it’s not just the iconic images, stories, and characters that have left an indelible mark on the American psyche. The multimedia conglomerate has shaped American life in other ways, many of them derived and informed by the decidedly fascist, anti-Semitic, anti-labor union, conservative, and religious perspective of Walt Disney himself.

The rumors that Walt Disney was a Nazi abound in the age of the internet, and though labeling him a National Socialist without physical proof is a bit of a stretch, there were certainly characteristics of Nazism in Disney’s politics, professional behavior, and views of social conservatism.

At best, Disney could be seen as a Nazi-sympathizer. Famed Disney animator Art Babbitt, who worked closely with Disney, once claimed—as quoted in Peter Fotis Kapnistos’ book Hitler’s Doubles—that “[i]n the immediate years before we entered the War [World War II] there was a small, but fiercely loyal, I suppose legal, following of the Nazi party…There were open meetings, anybody could attend and I wanted to see what was going on myself. On more than one I occasion I observed Walt Disney and Gunther Lessing [Disney’s lawyer] there, along with a lot of prominent Nazi-afflicted Hollywood personalities. Disney was going to these meetings all the time.” They were none other than the meetings of the German American Bund, or the American Nazi Party.

Disney also personally hosted Nazi filmmaker Leni Riefenstahl when she came to promote her film Olympia in 1938, a month after the infamous assault on Jews known as Kristallnacht. Disney gave the propagandist a grand tour of his studio, and Riefenstahl even commented that it was “gratifying to learn how thoroughly proper Americans distance themselves from the smear campaigns of the Jews.” This is documented in the Steve Bach biography about the filmmaker titled Leni.

Though difficult to defend, the meeting with a prominent Nazi figure could be explained through their shared craft and business interests: both were filmmakers enlisted at different times with the task of crafting propaganda as media limbs of the American and German governments respectively. A possible explanation for this meeting is that Disney wanted to get his films back into Germany after Hitler banned all American movies because Hollywood was “controlled by the Jews.” However, Disney was even criticized back then for receiving Riefenstahl shortly after the brutal Night of Broken Glass, which is, in any way you look at it, inexcusable.

In contrast to his reception of Riefenstahl and his meetings with the American Nazis, Disney was tasked with making anti-German propaganda films when the war started. In Education for Death: The Making of a Nazi (1943), Disney animators describe the birth of an Aryan German before cataloging the indoctrination process of the Hitler Youth in a ten-minute quasi-documentary propaganda piece. Unlike the depiction of the wolf in Disney classic Three Little Pigs posing as an ostensibly Jewish swindler—another possible example of Disney anti-Semitism—Der Fuehrer’s Face (Donald Duck in Naziland, 1943) fails to describe the systemic anti-Semitism of Nazi propaganda beyond mentioning the concept of a master race.

The anti-German propaganda films Disney made for the American government don’t go far enough in criticizing the Nazis, but that isn’t the point. Disney the man didn’t need to be a full-fledged Nazi to lean to the far-right in the Age of Fascism. Not only was Walt Disney a committed social conservative and God-fearing American patriot, he was a staunch capitalist whose political philosophy paradoxically embodied many of the criticisms found in the fascist worker ideology satirized in Education for Death.

The fact that Disney was enlisted to make these anti-German propaganda films is not surprising, and neither was his willingness to do so. However, it does not negate the allegations of anti-Semitism or of other fascist behavior. In fact, when Disney began working on the Disney World tourists flock to today in Florida, he was engaged in a utopian concept of fascism he called the Experimental Prototype Community of Tomorrow (EPCOT).

The pet project EPCOT was not the theme park we know today, but an unfinished city of the future not unlike the fascist model of government employed by Nazi Germany. A place where slums wouldn’t be allowed to develop, it would include a prototype municipality, an airport, an industrial park. But the plan didn’t stop there. It went on and on. Disney’s vision was to cultivate a “community of the future designed to stimulate American corporations to come up with new ideas for urban living.”

It was to be a place where unions would be prohibited, democracy non-existent, and social security merely a laughable notion. The concept is now gaining tangible influence in privately gated communities guarded by their own security forces.

Walt Disney himself said about the project, “There will be no landowners and therefore no voting control. People will rent houses instead of buying them, and at modest rentals. There will be no retirees; everyone must be employed.”

This demand for loyal labor is disturbingly similar to the governments of Mussolini’s Italy and Nazi Germany. Fascist states of the 1930s and 40s utilized this communal approach to nationalizing land, resources, and labor to benefit the nation-state as well as the despots who controlled them rather than the citizens. Or they would benefit certain citizens over others. These practices created anti-democratic police states and societies in which the people were expected to labor diligently and give back to the state institution. Instead of using National Socialism, Disney wanted to utilize his prominent and unregulated role in bloated American capitalism to gain more power over land and people.

Disney wouldn’t usurp power in a state, he would create his own private entity using the labor of the workers—writing his own laws and enforcing them with his proto-police security force, making EPCOT a microcosmic society in America with sovereignty unchallenged by the local or federal governments.

As Benito Mussolini himself once said: “Fascism should be more appropriately called Corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.”

Even today this legacy lives on. To make it all possible, the Disney Corporation lobbied for the creation of the Reedy Creek Improvement District in the 1960s, which gave the company broad authority over what we know as the area surrounding Disney World. Since then, the corporation has maintained near-total control of the land and does with it what it sees fit. Namely, building new attractions and making superfluous amounts of cash.

The result of Disney lobbying was the city known as Lake Buena Vista, Florida with a population of around 40 citizens who are all employed by the Disney parks that serve 30,000,000 visitors a year. The employees live there, are un-unionized, face strict standards and requirements, are paid low wages, and face eviction if they were to leave their job.
Meanwhile, corporate sponsors are littered throughout the theme parks, which surely make Disney enough money to treat and compensate these customer-beaten and underpaid workers better. The attraction hosts, who bear the brunt of the emotional abuse from customers, get paid a modest $9.22 an hour. But paying lower level employees higher wages would obstruct the profits made by the Nation of Disney from its loyal legion of obsessive admirers.

And these tactics have been fruitful for Disney, with urban developments and commercial centers using the model as a blueprint that truly and unequivocally affects the lives of workers and consumers alike.

Like the fascist states of the 1930s, Disney dictates how their employees look—jewelry, long fingernails, and long hair for men are prohibited—and establishes the emotions that must be worn on their faces at all times. Emotional labor, as it has come to be known, has proliferated across American culture when we began demanding interminable smiles and cheer from service employees. If you’re wondering where this idea that creating a facade of happiness boosts profits, look no further than Disney. If going through unfair circumstances solely for the benefit of a corporate entity that has broad authority like a state and freedom like a corporation isn’t fascism, I don’t know what is.

The fascist tendencies in the questionable treatment of workers seeps out of the parks themselves. Both Disneyland and Disney World are infamous for their secrecy, making it difficult for the outsider to know how staff is treated outside of the reportedly strict rules and requirements. The former mayor was also the computer-operations supervisor in the corporate offices of the company, which suggests that the lines between public and private personnel in Lake Buena Vista are commonly blurred. Though the company denies any conflicts of interest, the evidence of possible corruption doesn’t lend itself very well to oversight of the company or their workforce that is not protected yet communally driven by an affinity for the company, a phenomenon similar to nationalism.

In addition to the problems with the parks’ employment, Disney portrays a pervasive willingness in its content, and therefore its parks, to promote the status-quo of elite dominance and subtle affinity for centralized power. It is found, among other things, in the promotion of monarchy. Some examples of class disparities are the princesses Snow White and Sleeping Beauty, the animal kingdom of The Lion King, and the pursuit of elitism in Cinderella just to name a few. In addition to elitism and monarchy, the first Jungle Book movie has been criticized as racist for stereotyping black and indigenous people while promoting racial segregation, and Pinocchio can be interpreted as a quest for racial purity. While many might say this is far-reaching, inequality in both class and race are more tangible consequences of the success of exploitative tendencies influenced by Walt Disney and are directly at odds with human rights and fair labor treatment. ...Read More
'Wipe Out China!' US-Funded Uyghur Activists
Train as Gun-toting Foot Soldiers for Empire
Photo: Uyghur separatist Faruk Altay flaunts his dedication to the US military

By Ajit Singh
The Greyzone

MARCH 31, 2021 - Cultivated by the US government as human rights activists, Uyghur American Association leaders partner with far-right lawmakers and operate a militia-style gun club that trains with ex-US special forces.

On March 21, US-government-funded Uyghur activists were caught on video disrupting a gathering against anti-Asian racism in Washington DC, barking insults at demonstrators including, “Wipe out China!” and “Fuck China!” The Uyghur caravan flew American and “East Turkestan” flags and drove vehicles adorned signs bearing slogans such as, “We Love USA,” “Boycott China,” and “CCP killed 80 million Chinese people.” 

Organized by the Uyghur American Association (UAA), the drive-by heckling of anti-racist demonstrators drew widespread condemnation on social media, including from other sections of the Uyghur separatist movement. Salih Hudayar, the self-proclaimed “Prime Minister of the East Turkistan Government-in-Exile,” slammed “the UAA’s reckless drive-by” for causing “severe backlash against Uyghurs,” and insisted that Uyghur Americans were “not racist.”

The UAA has attempted to distance itself from accusations of extremism and racism, stating that its members’ actions were misrepresented. Despite refusing to rescind their call for China to be “wiped out,” the UAA declared that it “condemns any form of bigotry and stands with all victims of racism.”

However, an investigation by The Grayzone into the Uyghur separatist movement in the Washington DC area has uncovered a jingoistic, gun-obsessed subculture driven by the kind of right-wing ideology that was on display during the March 21 car caravan through downtown.

Leading figures of the UAA operate a right-wing gun club known as Altay Defense. Proudly dressed in US military fatigues, Altay Defense drill in advanced combat techniques with former members of US special forces who also train private mercenaries and active-duty US service members. Members of the militia-style gun club espouse pro-Trump politics and anti-immigrant resentment.

The UAA is the US-affiliate of the World Uyghur Congress (WUC), an international network whose first president outlined an objective to precipitate the “fall of China” and establish an ethno-state in Xinjiang. The recipient of millions of dollars of funding the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), a US government-sponsored entity, this network works closely with Washington and other Western governments to escalate hostilities with China.

Despite claiming to represent the interests of China’s Uyghur and Muslim minority populations, many of the UAA’s closest allies represent some of the anti-Muslim, far-right forces in Washington, from Republican Rep. Ted Yoho to the Family Research Council, as well as the FBI.

During the pandemic, the UAA and members of its affiliate organizations helped inflame anti-Asian resentment by spreading far-right propaganda referring to Covid-19 as the “Chinese virus,” and claimed that China was waging a “virus war” against the world, “[p]urposefully, intentionally export[ing] the virus to cause the pandemic.”

Behind its carefully constructed image as a peaceful human rights movement, the UAA and its offshoots in the DC-based Uyghur separatist lobby are driven by far-right ideology and envision themselves as militant foot soldiers for empire.

“I belong to America!” Uyghur human rights leader teams up with far-right, Islamophobes in anti-China crusade.

The UAA’s ultra-patriotic reverence of the US and fanatical anti-China politics have been on full display under the organization’s current president, Kuzzat Altay.

A demonstration organized by the UAA in Washington DC on June 21st, 2020, to “thank the Congress and the White House for passing the [Uyghur Human Rights and Policy Act] into the law.”

Altay frequently takes to social media to make his allegiance to Washington known. 
“May GOD bless you American Veterans! May GOD bless America!” declared Altay on Veterans Day in 2019.

Shortly following the illegal US assassination of Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani, Altay left no doubt as to where he stands: “Looks like the war just started […] I belong to America!”

Amid the US uprisings against police brutality and systemic racism sparked by the murder of George Floyd, Altay chided Black Lives Matter protesters, saying that he “support[ed] peaceful protestors […] but do[es] not support looters, rubbers [sic] and criminals”

“Your LOVE for #America should be greater than your HATE for #Trump,” Altay pronounced.

The degree of Altay’s infatuation with the US is only matched by the ferocity of his enmity towards China. “The most normal thing that I could ever imagine is anti-China activities every freaking day,” Altay stated on July 25, 2020. “You should help us to stop China. China is ALREADY the common enemy of humanity.”

 Altay is a staunch supporter of Washington’s new Cold War agenda. Applauding the Trump administration’s trade and technology war, Altay declared “[a]ll counties [sic] should treat #Huawei as war criminals.” 

Despite claiming to be the international representatives of Xinjiang’s predominantly Muslim, Uyghur ethnic group, and struggling against religious persecution, Altay and his comrades have routinely teamed up with far-right, Islamophobic forces in the US to advance their separatist campaign. 

The UAA has worked closely with Republican Rep. Ted Yoho, a homophobic, anti-abortion ultra-conservative who once told a Black constituent that he was not sure if the Civil Rights Act was constitutional. Yoho was one of only four lawmakers to vote against legislation making lynching a federal hate crime. In a high-profile dust-up on Capitol Hill, he reportedly called Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a “fucking bitch.” In 2019, Yoho was one of 24 members of Congress to vote against a resolution condemning bigotry because it included anti-Muslim discrimination.

Yoho has also ardently supported regime change in Venezuela, defended US missile strikes against Syria, and proclaimed that the “US army must defend Taiwan” against China. ...Read More

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At the US-México Border, Much More Than a Wall

By Todd Miller

March 28, 3031 - Donald Trump’s constant “Build the Wall!” mantra always had more than a wall in mind. The slogan amounted to a short-hand for “we can’t let those immigrant Mexican rapists and murderers and terrorists come at us over our borders.” Chanting the slogan at Trump rallies fired up and consolidated his base of home-grown terrorists, both those in the public at large and those who had joined the Border Patrol or become agents for ICE.

Trump’s mantra actually had a deeper impact than all that. Its constant repetition left the US public thinking only about the physical wall. But building a wall involves more than construction workers putting up fences. Trump’s wall stereotypes migrants as criminal undesirables. Criminalization requires policing and policing requires not just specialized agents, but a vast array of armaments, surveillance tech, and detention centers.

These enforcement mechanisms don’t just impact those trying to cross a line in the sand. Our “border” stretches 100 miles wide all around the United States, and border-enforcement tentacles reach deep into the communities, homes, and workplaces of two-thirds of the US population. Don’t just think Tucson or El Paso. You probably live in a “border” town too. More to the point, unless you’re a migrant, you may not realize you’re living in a police state as well.

Who benefits from the criminalization of migrants as an excuse for militarizing the border? Todd Miller, in our Voices interview this week, looks beyond the wall and unmasks those who profit from wreaking fear, misery, and death on migrant families. “Border Security” has become a form of human trafficking, a big business.

And big politics. Trump’s harping on the wall made him the target of our anger and disgust. But that fury aimed at Trump obscured the years of campaign contributions from border security companies that have both Republicans and Democrats complicit in inhumane border policies and glaringly gross outlays of our tax dollars on private security contracts.

To win migrant and immigrant rights, we’ll have to sever the ties between the profiteers and the politicians. We’ll have to win rights not just for those already here, but for those who need to enter. We need more than a hammer to take down more than a wall. ...Read More

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Qiao Collective curated a short reading list that provides an alternative perspective on the 1989 protests in Tiananmen Square in Beijing.

Qiao Collective has written a short reflection on the protests that is not meant to provide a comprehensive review of the event but instead provide a reframing of how Westerners approach the event. Read it linked here.

Below is an excerpt:

“The complexities of Tiananmen and its contradictory elements—anti-corruption protesters, bourgeois neoliberals, student reformers, disillusioned workers—all get erased by the simplistic, chauvinistic Western fairy tale of the Chinese masses calling out for regime change.

The West always hoped to transform Tiananmen protests into a call for regime change, despite many protesters being deeply patriotic and wanting mild reforms within the Party. Thirty years on, Mike Pompeo and Trump inherit the task of exploiting Chinese bloodshed for an imperialist agenda. China at 1989 faced a crossroads. The Party always understood that market reforms would introduce neoliberal elements into the political spectrum. As a consequence, bourgeois intelligentsia flourished, as did Party corruption.

The protests included competing agendas: a bourgeois faction demanding the neoliberal path, students protesting corruption, workers frustrated with market reforms. Working-class consciousness was subsumed to elite factions, some of whom sought alliances with Western operatives. But the West clings to a savior narrative of Chinese people longing to be freed by Western intervention. The version of Tiananmen Westerners mourn is nothing more than a fairy tale. It makes a mockery of the Chinese people and the political debates that have forged China's path.” ...Read More
Tune of the Week: Platters - 'Smoke Gets In Your Eyes'

Book Review: 'Union Made', a Novel
of Labor Struggle and Romance
By Hard Ball Press

Essential workers, unite!

In Union Made, a fast-paced romance with a political edge, Pac-Shoppe department store employees are fighting for union representation.

The novel reveals the tactics, strains, and risks of mobilizing a multiracial group of workers to stand together against a merciless management holding them down.

With a strong female lead and a gripping labor campaign that explores union organizing from the inside, Eric Lotke puts the reader in the shoes of Catherine Campbell, a labor organizer, and Nate Hawley, an accountant whose company is planning a hostile takeover of Pac-Shoppe, the company she’s trying to organize. There are sparks between the union activists and the company’s dirty tricksters, and sparks between Catherine and Nate.

As Catherine’s campaign falters in the face of Pac-Shoppe’s illegal hardball tactics, Nate’s sympathy for the workers and his fascination with Catherine grow. Can the lonely accountant interest the determined labor organizer by sharing evidence of Pac-Shoppe’s dirty tricks? How much trouble will he be in if he reveals corporate secrets to the union? Find out in this touching love story wrapped in a contemporary labor battle.
“ An awesome read with fascinating twists and turns featuring the unlikeliest of romantic interests, further demonstrating that love and relationships can develop under any conditions…Highly Recommended! - -- Labor Press
“…captures the blood, sweat, tears, courage, love, and solidarity that animates a union organizing drive. - OSM! MAGAZINE

“The dilemmas of union organizing, class struggle and romance are described compellingly and in clear and entertaining prose in Union Made.” - Portside

“[The book is} addictive. Kind of like M&Ms.” Phineas Baxandall, author of Current Economic Issues: Progressive Perspectives from Dollars & Sense
About the author
Eric Lotke is an author, activist and scholar. He has fought against mass incarceration and for other ways to keep communities safe. His lawsuit over the exploitative price of phone calls from prison led to new rules by the FCC. His latest novel, Union Made, explores what union organizing means for the workplace, the economy and maybe even the organizer’s love life. Lotke believes that a unionized workforce is key to combating rampant income inequalities in today’s society. He is a happily married father of two and a resident of Arlington, Virginia.

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Film Review: 'Je Suis Karl' Explores Germany's Rightwing
German director Christian Schwochow ('The Crown') returns home for this take on the rise of the far right in contemporary Europe.

By Boyd van Hoei
Hollywood Reporter

Young Europeans' swerve toward the right and far right gets another movie thrown at it with the premiere of Je Suis Karl, from German director Christian Schwochow (November Child, Cracks in the Shell). The film tries to follow in the footsteps of previous German-language films such as The Edukators, The Wave and last year’s And Tomorrow the Entire World, all works that attempt to figure out what it is about political extremes that seduces young people — and how their idealism and hormone-powered gumption can eventually come head-to-head with the much uglier realities of politics and life.

Though spirited performances bring the material to life to an extent, the screenplay never quite manages to make the extreme conversion of its main character, who lost her mother and siblings in a terrorist attack in Berlin, credible. This, in turn, makes the project’s prospects beyond home turf something of a question mark, though streamers looking for topical fare will want to take a look. The Berlinale stamp of approval — where it screened as a Special Gala — certainly can't hurt.

Maxi (Luna Wedler) is the peroxide-blonde daughter of Berliner Alex (Milan Peschel). They live in the German capital with Alex’s partner, the French Ines (Melanie Fouche), and Maxi’s younger twin siblings. We don’t get to see a lot of their family life, however, as early on a package is delivered that contains a terrorist bomb that destroys much of the building in which the family — and quite a few others — live. The destructive explosion is staged without major special effects, with Schwochow instead concentrating on a hit bird falling down amid the dust and debris. It is an interesting metaphor even if the entire scene strains too hard to find a kind of poetry in the clearly rather staged and written moment.

Alex himself miraculously survives because he’s just left the building to pick up some stuff from his car. Maxi had also left home before the explosion. But Ines and the kids, as well as seven others, die. It is then that Maxi drifts away from her father and into the orbit of the handsome titular Karl (Jannis Niewoehner), who knows how to exploit her rage and confusion for his own ends. Karl is involved in the fictional Re/Generation Europe movement, which peddles a “polished” and marketable version of extreme right ideas. (It is clearly inspired by the Identitarian Movement, which in turn regroups factions such as Generation Identitaire in France and Identitaere Bewegung Oesterreichs in Austria.) At first, Maxi's only attending their gatherings as an onlooker, but the movie is predictable enough for viewers to be certain that she’ll climb onto a rally stage and into the spotlight herself before long.

Schwochow has recently been more active in high-profile TV, directing, among others, the “Prince of Wales learns Welsh” episode of The Crown and the first season of the successful German series Bad Banks. From those ventures, he seems to have picked up a knack for staging scenes for maximum impact on a tight budget. (The frequent shallow focus and densely saturated hues also feel music-video ready.) But on the flip side, there’s a sense that he’s frequently content to let his characters drift a little in their scenes. That's not an issue when character arcs are planned over several seasons. But too often throughout the two jam-packed hours here, there’s a nagging sense that Schwochow and his screenwriter, Thomas Wendrich, make the characters simply perform their actions rather than feel or live them, eager to move on to the next plot point without waiting for the emotional beats that follow the actions.

This is highlighted by the handful of moments when we are reminded that the protagonists actually do have feelings, such as a wonderful scene in which Maxi explains to Karl why she misses her mother. But here, too, something’s missing, as the short-lived focus on Maxi’s emotional state seems to eclipse a very necessary sense of how Karl feels about this (or might be calculating how or when to use this new knowledge to his advantage).

The extent to which Karl and his political pals are willing to go to obtain their goals is a radical and perhaps narratively even brave choice that Je Suis Karl doesn’t quite know how to milk for drama because it hasn’t dramatized Karl as a character beyond his function as an avatar for real-life European leaders. Ditto the treatment (or lack thereof) of the refugee Maxi’s parents help cross the border in a prologue. Its placement is so obvious and his characterization so perfunctory that you just know he will be used as a deux ex machina during the film’s flying-bullets final act.

What remains are quite a few charismatic performances. Niewoehner is asked to be magnetic, and that he is, even if his character often seems more in love with the spotlight that his political ideas afford him rather than with the ideas themselves. Wedler and Peschel, as the rebellious daughter and the distraught, grieving father who don’t understand each other anymore, are also credible in their odd-couple configuration. It’s just a shame we don’t get to know them better, because the world could use another film or two about the dangerous allure of the extreme right and how it preys on people who are eager to finally have an outlet for all their anger and frustration. ...Read More

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