Campaigning for Democracy And Socialism
May 19, 2023: The Week in Review
What Is Happening to Us?
Why Are We Starving the Poor and Banning Books?
What makes the cartoon to the right timely is how it reveals the big picture of our current crises. At the same time, it doesn't make its message more complicated than it has to be.
First, it's clear about the current main danger, the Republican Party. It's no longer the party of Nelson Rockefeller and Barry Goldwater. It has devolved into a fascist instrument wrapped up in white 'Christian' nationalism and rightwing populism.
Second, it shows the range of our political institutions it's determined to destroy: truth, decency, law, and the procedures of democracy and voting rights, however restricted they might already be.
The core message is implied. We have to stop this, and the first step is to remove Republicans from office. There may be a handful of rare exceptions, and likewise a handful of reactionary Democrats not worthy of our support. Duly noted, but no matter. Organize a clean sweep in 2024. And within that effort, build up the bloc of Justice Democrats, led by AOC and Bernie.
It's important to work at the base, at city, county and state government. This is where our GOP fascists are building their poisonous nests and undermining our rights. Several articles below show how we can score important gains in our blue metro base areas. And with that clout, we can win in surrounding 'purple' counties and even make gains in the 'red' terrain. We will need them all to bloc the right a the state level, a necessary element to national victories. It can be done. But it requires organization and clarity. Don't waste any time.
WE ARE INVITING FEEDBACK!
Please send us your letters, comments, queries, complaints, new ideas. Just keep them short and civil. Longer commentaries and be submitted as articles.
DIFFICULTY READING US?
We're going to try something new, and you are all invited.
Saturday Morning Coffee!
of 'Blue' Victories
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, email@example.com
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!
Join us for an educational series for Left and progressive changemakers seeking to understand the threat of resurgent fascism in the U.S. and internationally.
Over 8 sessions, we’ll examine how authoritarian and fascist political actors shape the current political moment, explore the many faces of fascism and fronts of anti-fascistic resistance, and lay the foundation for a roadmap to broad and effective anti-fascist resistance.
For our first session on May 25, we will examine the contours and characteristics of modern fascism with moderator Malkia Devich-Cyril and panelists Ejeris Dixon (Vision, Change, Win Consulting), Ash-Lee Henderson (Highlander Center) and Tarso Ramos (Political Research Associates).
Spanish and American Sign Language interpretation will be available.
In solidarity, Linda Burnham
Malkia Devich Cyril, Media Justice, Ejeris Dixon, Vision Change Win, Ash-Lee Henderson, Highlander Center
Dawn Phillips, Right to the City
Right To The City Alliance
388 Atlantic Avenue
New York, NY 11217
A Celebration of Kathy Pearson's Life
June 9, 2023, 1:30 PM
Oak Park Conservatory, located at 615 Garfield Street, Oak Park, Il
A Socialist Education Project
4th Monday Webinar
May 22, 2023
A Conversation About the Transformation of Higher Education: Shifting from a Wholistic Education to STEM, Branding, and Privatizing Educational Services, and Militarization.
The authors of this new book, Dan Morris and Harry Targ,
two Purdue University professors use their institution as a case study to examine 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 1926, which exposed the capitalist corruption of the ivory tower back then, and bring it up to date with descriptions of far-reaching changes in higher education today.
From ReImagine Appalachia
The agenda of this two-day, five-hour event will move participants from Community Benefits Agreement 101 towards having concrete knowledge of how to guide communities through a successful benefits process:
We’ll learn from national experts and local case studies while discussing methods of conflict resolution and fruitful relationship-building. We'll have sessions for those with legal expertise and other breakouts like:
- Opening Up Communities That Are Resistant to New Ideas
- Research and Education to Empower Community Participation
- Building a Broad Coalition Role of Visioning in Creating Authentic Relationships
- Collaborative problem-solving to ensure communities benefit from new projects
- How do we build a bright future for Appalachia while acknowledging our past?
Now is the time to put our ingenuity to use and imagine a 21st-century economy that works for the people in the Ohio River Valley of Appalachia; together, we can build an economy that is good for our working people, our communities, our health, and the health of our neighbors.
Last Week's Saturday Morning Coffee
News of the Week, Plus More
Bernie and Brandon Endorse Biden: What’s the Takeaway?
Endorsements by hard-nosed progressives who are positioned to make a difference speak to the kind of national governing coalition needed to beat back MAGA and deliver tangible gains
This is the second installment of a new column by Convergence Editorial Board member Max Elbaum. “It Is Happening Here” will track the MAGA drive toward one-party rule based on a white Christian Nationalist agenda, and discuss strategies to block it while building independent progressive power along the way.
By Max Elbaum
May 18, 2023 - Within days of Joe Biden announcing he will run for re-election, Senator Bernie Sanders and newly elected Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson endorsed his candidacy.
“The last thing this country needs is a Donald Trump or some other right-wing demagogue who is going to try to undermine American democracy or take away a woman’s right to choose, or not address the crisis of gun violence, or racism, sexism, or homophobia. So I’m in to do what I can to make sure the President is re-elected.”
“Chicago has your back Mr. President. #BidenHarris2024”
What’s the takeaway for the broad left from Sanders’s and Johnson’s statements?
On the frontlines fighting for political power
It’s not that every organization or individual activist needs to rush out an endorsement of the President. November 2024 is 18 months away. That’s more than enough time for unexpected developments which could upend everyone’s political calculations. And the wide range of groups fighting for social justice and radical change don’t occupy the same position in relation to electoral engagement as these two elected officials. Many who agree with every word in Bernie’s message will withhold their endorsement at this time, calculating that will better allow them to pressure Biden on their priority issues.
Still, these endorsements are a big deal. They come from individuals who have been on the frontlines of the day-to-day fight for progressive political power. They deserve to be taken seriously by every part of the Left that aspires to lead a majority coalition that can govern the country.
Bernie Sanders went toe-to-toe with the Democratic Party establishment in two presidential campaigns—in the process inspiring millions to take democratic socialism seriously. The support he garnered was the battering ram that got several progressive items into the Biden administration’s legislative agenda. From his vantage point as chair of the Senate Budget Committee, Sanders has an acute sense of the balance of forces on Capitol Hill. For the last eight years especially, he has proved adept at juggling the interrelated tasks of expanding the base of the social justice movement and working to deliver tangible results to working people.
For his part, Brandon Johnson outfought a reactionary backed by big money, MAGA Republicans, and most of the “Obama Machine” to become Mayor of Chicago. He and his new transition team of battle-hardened fighters now go into the lion’s den. They know what it will take to shift the priorities of a city owned since the Harold Washington years by a business class that winked at some of the most racist “policing” in the country. Johnson defeated the favorite of establishment Democrats in the election, but still sees Biden holding office in Washington as crucial to accomplishing his goal of radical change in the country’s third-largest city.
It’s because Sanders’s and Johnson’s endorsements of Biden flow directly from these experiences that the Left has a lot to learn from them. They tell us what hard-nosed progressives who are positioned to make a difference believe is the kind of national governing coalition needed to deliver tangible gains to their current and potential supporters. They are powerful reminders of how great a danger the MAGA-controlled GOP poses to the constituencies the Left cares most about and needs to get much more rooted in. They underscore the importance of the 2024 election (as do the Biden endorsements by Squad members Ilhan Omar and Greg Cesar).
Win elections, deliver to your constituents, win more elections
Neither Sanders nor Johnson is putting other battles on hold to simply campaign for Biden. Bernie’s recent priorities include the Pay Teachers Act (mandating a minimum salary of $60,000 per year for all teachers) and taking on Big Pharma in an effort to lower drug prices. Brandon Johnson is laser-focused on getting his team and base ready for the tough local fights ahead.
Similarly, different progressive organizations and individual activists will (and should) prioritize different issues and types of work in the period ahead. But we can best maximize our effectiveness and grow our base among workers and all oppressed constituencies if each specific effort is fit into an overall power-building strategy.
Pressuring those who currently hold power is an essential part of any such strategy, but it is not enough. We also need leaders who come out of and represent the interests of social justice movements to win seats in the legislative and executive bodies where policy decisions get made. This is the route to starting the kind of political cycle that the MAGA bloc has used to gain the level of strength it now has in state legislatures, governorships, state and federal judicial bodies, and Congress:
Win some elections and begin to hold a share of political power. Use that power to deliver something to your constituents, strengthening your bond with them and attracting new supporters. Use that new strength to win more and higher political offices. Run and repeat, run and repeat again, until you are governing a locality, a state, the country.
Gearing up for 2024
Accomplishing that cannot be done via electoral work alone. Fighting on key issues; crafting a compelling narrative and hammering it home; establishing a pipeline that trains one generation after another of new leaders—all these are essential. Especially important is finding ways to root progressive politics in organizations that encompass, provide community for, and shape the lives of millions. Today white evangelical churches serve that function for MAGA; there is growing—and very welcome—sentiment on the Left that our best shot at a counterpoint to that is to dramatically expand and re-energize the labor movement.
Still, in a country where the electoral arena (even with all the ways it is structurally rigged against us) decides what forces occupy the seats where governing decisions are made, elections are where the coalitions contending for power clash. And to the winner go the spoils.
Donald Trump’s election win in 2016 drove that truth home to everyone across the political spectrum. The intensity and record turnouts of 2018, 2020 and 2022 underscored the point. The 2024 campaign is already well underway. Hundreds of millions of dollars are already flowing into campaign coffers, and Republican front-runner Donald Trump has made the program he is running on crystal clear: “I am your justice, I am your retribution.”
There are a host of battles to be fought between now and November 2024. A good number of them will pit partisans of social justice against others who are opposed to MAGA and the Republican Party. On some—especially those regarding militarism and foreign policy—we will clash directly with Biden. Living in a country filled with conspiracy theorists and awash in guns, with airwaves and social media platforms dominated by right-wing disinformation and mainstream media “both-sidesism,” it is not going to be easy to keep our bearings, our morale, and even something as basic as our mental health.
Keeping Bernie Sanders’s and Brandon Johnson’s endorsements in mind can help us stay in touch with the underlying reality of US politics: The GOP must be beaten, or It Will Happen Again Here.
Convergence is pleased to be co-publishing this piece with In These Times. ...Read More
How Can We Resist Book Bans? This Banned Author Has Ideas.
We must foster critical thinking and direct action to combat book bans, sociologist Joe Feagin says.
By George Yancy
May 18, 2023 - Book bans are spreading like wildfire through the U.S., with right-wing forces aggressively targeting fiction books that have protagonists of color or LGBTQ characters, as well as nonfiction analyses of racism and other forms of oppression.
Just this week, Penguin Random House — the largest publisher in the U.S. — filed a federal lawsuit to block book bans being imposed in Florida public schools located in Escambia County.
These bans are an attack on the type of critical questioning that is a crucial form of resistance against oppressive state power. They are an example of elite power’s ongoing attempt to silence dissent and erase forms of knowledge production that call into question the status quo.
What we are witnessing in the form of book banning by conservative politicians and parent groups is a pedagogy of fear, which is fueled by a form of right-wing populism/nationalism that resists change, that rejects the unfinished and the yet to be. The banning of books is consistent with a world that is seen as fixed, where Socratic questioning is marked as a form of danger to those who fetishize ignorance and praise anti-intellectualism. It is not just the soul of the U.S. that is at stake, as President Biden said, but also its mind.
To tackle the deep anti-democratic and white racist nostalgic implications of book banning in the U.S., I spoke with Joe Feagin, the Ella C. McFadden Distinguished Professor in sociology at Texas A&M University, whose books Racist America and The White Racial Frame have been banned in some U.S. schools. Feagin is a leading sociologist regarding issues of systemic white racism in the U.S. He is the author of 80 books, including his most recent book, White Minority Nation: Past, Present and Future. In this exclusive interview with Truthout, Feagin discusses the history of book bans and book burnings, new threats to critical thinking and how we might begin to tackle this information censorship.
George Yancy: In his informative Truthout article on book banning, Chris Walker shares that, “PEN America, a nonprofit organization that promotes free expression and human rights, found that 1,648 titles have been banned by schools across the entire country. A lot of these books had LGBTQ themes, featured Black or Brown characters, or explored themes of feminism.” I am reminded of the warning issued by the Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana back in 1905: “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” I like Santayana’s use of “condemned,” as it implies the sense of being doomed, which implies destruction.
Education is not about exposing children to pornographic material or teaching them to hate white people. However, I would argue that education is fundamentally linked to teaching students to think critically, to respect “difference,” to help construct a world in which people are not subjected to wanton violence predicated upon xenophobia and profound ignorance. Yet by banning books, various Republican lawmakers and draconian conservative parent groups are nurturing a U.S. that is already turning in the direction of a destructive, proto-fascist dystopia. Many will accuse me of hysteria. Yet, we know what the Nazi Party did in 1933. They engaged in public burning of books, especially those books that “threatened” their sense of themselves as “normative.” Joe, am I being hyperbolic?
Joe Feagin: No, anything but hyperbolic! Historically, banning books has always been about suppressing accurate public memories and the critical probing of oppressive U.S. pasts and presents — always in the pursuit of creating greater ignorance and subservience in elite-ruled populations. A central aspect of advanced human rights civilizations is the ability to remember correctly those oppressive societal realities and to react energetically to their deep and continuing legacies in the present and future.
Unmistakably, book banning is an aggressive form of political censorship and a threat to constitutional free speech. It has been used historically and today by many authoritarian regimes to control and manipulate not only public opinion but also public political action.
This pattern of recent U.S. book banning calls up the brutal historical record of Nazi Germany, where Nazi officials early engineered public burning of books in many towns and cities. Why? Both because of increasing German nationalism (e.g. against threats of “un-German” books) and because of rising German racism (e.g. against threats of “Jewish” books).
In his book, The Coming of the Third Reich, historian Richard Evans underscores how these dramatic, very public book burnings were a part of Joseph Goebbels’s and other Nazi leaders’ aggressive propaganda efforts to suppress an array of dissenting political authors and movements — including those of Jewish, Communist, Socialist and liberal Germans.
Fear of critical ideas about society has always been central to the book bans and burnings, not books themselves. Ironically, Goebbels, head of the Nazi propaganda ministry parroting Nazi racist and fascist framing, was a University of Heidelberg Ph.D. and author of more than a dozen literary books. This white fear of and hostility to racialized others knows no educational limits.
As the PEN America data you noted shows, U.S. book banning has been widespread and routinely targeted books with diverse ideas and perspectives for centuries now, especially those challenging white conservative sociopolitical ideas, norms and values.
A more recent April 2023 American Library Association (ALA) Office for Intellectual Freedom report shows matters are getting worse. No less than a record 1,269 attempts last year sought to remove books from an array of U.S. schools and libraries. These involved some 2,571 book titles, and again like the PEN report, most were written by or about members of Black, Indigenous, LGBTQ, and other marginalized communities. This ALA report indicates that most of these vigorous censorship efforts are well-organized and have typically targeted lists of books all at the same time.
Even more troubling for a democratic America is the fact that a majority of U.S. states now, as the ALA report underscores, “have seen the introduction or passage of legislation that would severely restrict access to library materials, including withholding funding for libraries or criminalizing the professional activities of library workers who fail to comply with the likely unconstitutional demands.” Being a librarian in many of our towns and cities is, sadly and amazingly, becoming a more dangerous job. Additionally, threatening, usually white, far right partisans often turn up at many local, once-routine meetings of political officials deciding issues like funding local libraries and schools.
When I think about the Trumpian slogan “Make America Great Again,” I see connections between the process of banning books and a certain white racist nostalgia for a world of sameness, a world where “difference” can only mean something that is “vile,” “contaminated.” In short, when I think about book banning, I think about modalities of “cleansing.” After all, book banning is a form of expulsion, an eradication of that which is unwanted. I realize that banning books isn’t the same as ethnic cleansing. Yet, to ban books is also to ban their authors, which is a form of expelling the integrity of their lived experiences and the legitimacy of their identities. Indeed, it is also to ban the truth of history.
While this brings us back to Santayana, my point here is less about being condemned to repeat the past. Rather, I’m placing emphasis upon the banning (I almost wrote burning) of books as a form of violence that attempts to erase the history of people who look like me. As a person whose ancestors suffered (and whose people continue to suffer) the vicious legacy of anti-Blackness, banning those books that tell the truth about who I am racially is a way of censoring the story of Black people, which means censoring the racist catastrophe that is the U.S. I’m not saying that children of any racialized group should be exposed to the gruesome details and horrors of the lynching of Black bodies, but I don’t want my history revised and whitewashed. For example, recall when a group of Texas educators suggested to the Texas State Board of Education that slavery be taught to second-graders as “involuntary relocation.” That is like a slap in the face; that is a form of violence. Does this make sense?
Societal oppression depends on information censorship and especially limiting access to dissenting information.
Indeed, again it certainly does. White Texas right-wingers have long provided the “ground zero” for such explosive and aggressive anti-democratic, information-banning efforts, even recently. You are accurately accenting the connection between this book banning and white racist nostalgia for a world of white control and racial sameness, where much racial difference is often viewed as contaminated and dangerous.
Today, banning books is indeed a form of anti-information violence that erases the history of people of color, especially African Americans, while also censoring discussions of the white racist oppression that has long been the foundation of the U.S.
Certainly, too, these actions are aimed at whitewashing history, including your example of far right Texas educators pressing for books and teachers to provide a phony and disguised history of slavery for elementary school children as some banal “involuntary relocation.” This is clearly white epistemic violence attempting to erase actual truths about the bloody U.S. history of African American enslavement.
Racist myths are central to many U.S. ideological battles over racial information. A recent Houston Chronicle article by Maggie Galehouse explained how fierce white attachments are to such racist colonizing stories. She notes the view of Mexican American scholars like Rudy Acuña that the Alamo shrine in San Antonio has long been one sustaining source of the contemporary white racist framing of Mexicans and Mexican Americans. The Texas General Land Office that manages the Alamo has begun an expensive revitalization project for the site, including a museum for Alamo memorabilia. Advocates for the site have emphasized the historic white Anglo narrative of Alamo events, but several investigative journalists, in their book Forget the Alamo, have argued against spending the $450 million of government and private funds on a monument celebrating white Anglo heroes, many of them at that time tied to illegal Texas slavery, and the villainization of the Mexicans seeking to preserve what was then their country of Mexico. This Texas controversy does pit an honest history of the invasive white enslavers and other white colonizers against racist mythologies that young Texans (like me) have long been taught in public schools — such as that the Alamo battle was between racially superior white Texans and inferior “brown” Mexicans over white Texas “freedom.”
As conservative groups (along with help from wealthy right-wing donors) continue in the direction of banning books, they are creating not just layers and layers of ignorance, but also layers of denial. It is denial (“what happened to your people is not true”) which will breed deeper forms of divisiveness. Communication across important differences will continue to collapse. Those who ban books, and the Herrenvolk implications of this process, will encourage epistemological silos and insular echo chambers that will continue to breed an “us-against-them” mentality. The proliferation of lies will follow, and we will find ourselves in a situation where “truth” is tethered to those who exercise greater power, where might makes right. To paraphrase Spanish artist Francisco Goya, the sleep of compassionate and critical collective deliberation breeds monsters. Is this where the U.S. is headed? Are we in the business of breeding monsters? Are we already there?
Yes, that book banning and censorship link to societal ignorance and class division has been widely discussed and documented in numerous media sites and academic literatures, past and present. Censorship can lead to a situation where “truth” is determined by those in power and can result in division and oppression. Most famously, in his book 1984, George Orwell sums up the dangers of this elite and state censorship and manipulation of societal truths with, “War is peace. Freedom is slavery. Ignorance is strength.” Indeed, it is — for whites with power. More recently, Margaret Atwood made a similar point in The Handmaid’s Tale, where an oppressive regime censors books and limits information for mass population control. Like numerous nonfiction books, these classic fictional accounts accent that societal oppression depends on information censorship and especially limiting access to dissenting information.
In my books Racist America and The White Racial Frame — both now banned in some U.S. schools — I have argued that this country’s long dominant white racial frame operates in part through the suppression of critical thought and the promotion of ignorance on many U.S. racial matters. Certainly, it helps whites to isolate themselves in white racial thought and action silos. It helps as well to maintain white racial privilege by shaping the way most whites and some other Americans, including generations of children, come to understand racism-related issues and in that way, to constantly reinforce systemic racism.
The ongoing racist and anti-democratic information process does create horrific societal monsters, individually and collectively. As noted previously, in the 1930s, the monstrously fascist Nazi party rose to great political power in Germany with the help of massive information control and the regulation censorship of books. By this means, they successfully created a constant atmosphere of extreme fear and thought control, thereby buttressing their strong hold on power in what soon became a fully totalitarian state controlling all aspects of German citizens’ lives.
Ultimately, the fight against information suppression, including book banning, requires a multifaceted approach utilizing educational, legislative and grassroots organizational efforts.
It is clear today that some states in the United States are moving aggressively in this direction, but it is unclear whether they have passed the point of no return. Additionally, unlike the famous European authoritarian countries like Nazi Germany, the U.S. still has numerous “blue” states controlled, as of now, by the Democratic Party, including the very powerful states of California and New York. This reality might well result in a very divided states of America at some point in the near future — indeed what some have called “a new Civil War.”
I understand your emphasis on the importance of those numerous “blue” states, but I’m not confident that those who are hell-bent on banning books are necessarily open to critical dialogue, especially when the very act of banning books is indicative of deep forms of fear. What do you see as a necessary means for combatting the banning of books? Will it consist of counter-legislation? Rethinking the meaning of education? Protecting the curriculum against those who want to exercise draconian control over knowledge production and exposure? How does one fight back? After all, this is not simply about what is read, but about what and who gets recognized.
How does one fight back against U.S. racialized fascism? That is clearly the bottom-line question for this country’s future. As I show in several of my books on U.S. racism and anti-racism, including my new book, White Minority Nation, there are many Americans working hard to project and protect critical and dissenting information on a range of oppression and anti-oppression issues, and to put that information into much pro-democracy actions at all government levels.
Let me think out loud about some possible progressive action efforts. To effectively combat book banning, to take one major example, I think anti-racists and other progressives should more aggressively foster critical thinking and dialogue by students at all levels of our educational system. Students should be empowered there to regularly question the social, political and economic status quo, especially regarding societal oppressions. They should learn how to personally and collectively challenge attempts to suppress critical knowledge in these educational areas, and yes, most other societal areas. For instance, integrating anti-racist and anti-oppression pedagogies into most schools’ regular curricula can help create educational environments that value the contributions of diverse Americans of all ages, regardless of their racial, class or gender statuses and backgrounds.
In addition, we need more aggressive and regular public campaigns raising individual and community awareness about the dangers of book banning and broader tactics of information suppression. These can make use of the older mainstream media and information tools, such as newspaper op-eds and community forums, as well as the many types of new social media. Such efforts also mesh well with accelerating grassroots organizing and activism. Contemporary African American activists like Stacey Abrams and Steve Phillips have recently shown just how important multiracial grassroots movements and coalitions can be in creating major social and political change. By organizing new multiracial protests and direct action efforts together with an array of other local and national political actions, they have not only raised the democracy awareness of many thousands of voters but also have helped create more democratic political bodies at the local and national levels. In this process, they have put great pressure on new and old political decisionmakers at all government levels to support the much needed democratic policy changes.
Clearly, too, reinvigorated progressive legal and legislative action are essential to liberate the country’s many long-suppressed voices of people of color, women of all backgrounds and LGBTQ folks. Progressive political activists must work together across these societal lines to draft and promote new policy legislation safeguarding intellectual freedom and extending democratic action in all forms, including in regard to educational curricula and both mainstream media and new social media. Additionally, where book banning occurs and thus violates individual and community rights, as it usually does, progressive political activists should engage in much more targeted legal actions to counter such information censorship. Working with civil liberties organizations can also help in using the existing laws and courts to protect intellectual freedom, such as under the First Amendment and other major U.S. laws.
Ultimately, the fight against information suppression, including book banning, requires a multifaceted approach utilizing educational, legislative and grassroots organizational efforts.
Unmistakably, to effectively combat the many forms of information censorship and anti-democratic control we need to collectively organize, constantly and widely, in many community and national efforts to defend the long-celebrated U.S. principles of democratic expression, free speech, intellectual diversity and critical thinking. This necessarily multi-lifetimes effort can take many forms, including counter-legislation, multiracial grassroots activism, new social and old media literacy education, and constant community outreach. We have examples of this already. For example, the courageous and influential American Library Association’s Office for Intellectual Freedom provides extensive resources and much general support for librarians and teachers who face these many right-wing book challenges and anti-democratic censorship attempts. Additionally, the National Coalition Against Censorship currently offers much support, resources and advocacy for authors, artists, librarians and educators who face white right-wing threats to their freedom of expression. All anti-racist and other democratic progressive groups should, in my view, work assertively and aggressively to promote a broader understanding of human education, for all age groups, as a lifetime process of learning and critical inquiry accenting multiple human perspectives, experiences and voices — and most especially those of long oppressed racial, class and gender groups. Undoubtedly, this requires much critical rethinking of educational curricula and associated pedagogy to include a more diverse and inclusive set of texts, authors and viewpoints. Certainly, too, people in these democratic progressive groups must cultivate a strong commitment to dialogue and empathy encouraging respectful communication across society’s many differences, even in the face of much disagreement. Eternal democratic organization — and dialogues for change — seem to be the price of authentic liberty. ...Read More
Photo: Rep. Sara Innamorato on Tuesday night victory in Bloomfield.
The Progressive Takeover Of Democratic Politics In Allegheny County Shows No Signs Of Slowing
After Innamorato's victory and an electoral clean sweep, many party insiders expect the progressive wing to keep notching wins.
BY HALLIE LAUER, FORD TURNER AND ADAM SMELTZ
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via Beaver County Blue
MAY 18, 2023 – It’s not new — and it’s far from over.
Progressive victories in Allegheny County’s primary elections Tuesday punctuated the leftward momentum in local Democratic politics that accelerated during Donald Trump’s presidency. And with no signs of slowing, many party insiders expect the progressive wing to keep notching wins for at least a few more years. Whether the trend persists longer could hinge on whether voters like what they see from progressives in elected office.
“The part that becomes challenging is now governing,” one senior Democratic leader said Wednesday, speaking on condition of anonymity because of a pressure campaign not to engage with the Post-Gazette during an ongoing strike by some PG employees.
“Campaigning against something is always easier — it’s easier to point out what hasn’t been done,” this top Democrat said. But “it will be a challenging time as they’re in charge, and now in charge of everything.”
Progressive primary winners Tuesday included state Rep. Sara Innamorato for county executive, Matt Dugan for district attorney, incumbent County Councilwoman Bethany Hallam and Erica Rocchi Brusselars for county treasurer
Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, one of Ms. Innamorato’s highest-profile supporters, who upended Democratic politics in the city with his own 2021 progressive upset, called her win historic. No woman has held the county executive’s office since its creation about a quarter-century ago.
“It’s because of you that we just changed county government for the better,” Mr. Gainey told Ms. Innamorato’s supporters Tuesday night in Bloomfield. “It’s because of you that we can create a county for all.”
Over the past several years, Democratic voters have increasingly supported candidates who speak “on the issues they care about,” and have been less guided by traditional party thinking, said state Sen. Jay Costa, D-Forest Hills. Those issues, Mr. Costa said, include housing, transportation, criminal justice reform, access to health care and environmental concerns.
“Voters and candidates. The relationship between the two has been evolving,” said Mr. Costa, the top Democrat in the Senate. “In Democratic primaries, that is exactly what is taking place.”
Christopher Nicholas, a Harrisburg-based Republican strategist, said the roots of this moment in Democratic politics go back farther than the backlash to Mr. Trump’s 2016 election.
Matt Dugan tops Allegheny County DA Stephen Zappala — but a November rematch could be looming.
“Over the last 10 years, we’ve seen the old guard, more conservative Democrats… losing [races] and retiring,” Mr. Nicholas said. “It’s just a turnover from one generation to the next.”
The evolution isn’t limited to Western Pennsylvania. But the changes have been particularly dizzying here.
Just five years ago, two members of the politically influential Costa family represented Allegheny County in the state House. County Executive Rich Fitzgerald and DA Stephen A. Zappala Jr. were cruising toward re-election. Bill Peduto sat in the Pittsburgh mayor’s office. And Mike Doyle represented the city in Congress.
But in 2018, Ms. Innamorato and Summer Lee won tickets to Harrisburg by knocking off the two Costas — distant cousins Dom and Paul — something that had been all but unthinkable just a few years earlier. In the same primary, then-Braddock Mayor John Fetterman ousted Lt. Gov. Mike Stack, the first time that office’s incumbent had ever been deposed in a primary.
In 2019, Bethany Hallam won the county’s at-large council seat, giving the movement its first beachhead in a countywide office. In 2021, fueled by a generational reckoning over systemic racism in America, Mr. Gainey — then a state representative mounting a longshot campaign — ended Mr. Peduto’s bid for a third mayoral term in the Democratic primary.
And in 2022, in another sign that the wave had yet to break, both Ms. Lee and Mr. Fetterman ascended to even higher office just four years after their initial improbable wins — Ms. Lee to the open congressional seat that had long been held by Mr. Doyle, and Mr. Fetterman to the U.S. Senate.
While the progressive shift can be seen across the state, it’s starting to look strongest in Western Pennsylvania, Mr. Nicholas said.
Philadelphia has delivered the movement some of its biggest victories in the state, including the election of Larry Krasner as district attorney. But the limits of progressive power there were on stark display Tuesday: Helen Gym, a liberal stalwart endorsed by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders, lost the mayoral primary to Cherelle Parker, a leader of the city’s Democratic establishment.
“It’s clear now that the most left-of-center progressive part of the state is no longer Philadelphia, it’s Allegheny County,” Mr. Nicholas said. “[We’ve] seen that… with the election of Rep. Innamorato as the county executive nominee for the Democrats and Mr. Dugan for district attorney, that change over now seems complete.”
Demographic shifts over the past 10 to 15 years have contributed to that, the senior Democratic leader said. Politically progressive and often young newcomers working in fields such as robotics, life sciences and artificial intelligence have become more active.
And when it comes to electing their favored candidates to a wide range of offices, the top Democrat said, “they’ve been successful across the board.”
Ms. Innamorato’s activist base, mobilized by a now-seasoned get-out-the-vote operation, showed up in numbers that proved insurmountable by any other candidate in the crowded six-way field. Her closest competitor, the entrenched County Treasurer John Weinstein, actually eked out a narrow lead in mail ballots. But his election-day tally was swamped by Ms. Innamorato’s: More than 41,000 people voted for her at the polls, compared to 27,000 for Mr. Weinstein.
For Mr. Dugan, the final result was even starker. While Ms. Innamorato topped the second-place finisher in her race by 8 percentage points — about 37% to 29% — Mr. Dugan trounced Mr. Zappala by 11 points in their head-to-head matchup, about 55% to 44%.
In all, Democratic voters cast aside three prominent politicians who had been in office for years: Mr. Weinstein, Mr. Zappala and City Controller Michael Lamb, who finished third in the county executive race, with 20% of the vote.
Looking ahead to the 2024 presidential contest, when Pennsylvania will again play a pivotal role, Mr. Costa said progressives’ growing sway can only benefit President Joe Biden. The shift forces Democratic candidates to make their case to younger audiences, Mr. Costa said.
Republicans crafting messages for this November’s election are likely to “try and convince folks as a whole that Allegheny County is more in the middle,” and not ready for the progressive platforms of Ms. Innamorato and Mr. Dugan.
“Not everyone is in the middle,” Mr. Costa said. Referring to Tuesday’s results, he added: “This demonstrates there’s more support for the ideas from Sara and other people.”
State House Minority Leader Bryan Cutler, R-Lancaster, said the results in Allegheny County are more evidence that progressives are “taking over” the Democratic Party in Pennsylvania — and creating a contrast with “kitchen table issues” prioritized by Republicans in Harrisburg. Mr. Cutler said those included “everyday life” financial concerns such as the price of gas and electricity.
A focus on such issues, Mr. Cutler said, “is not what we see coming out of” the Democratic Party.
Mr. Cutler portrayed the progressive shift as a problem for Democratic leadership. Rather than focus on policymaking for families, children, education and jobs, Mr. Cutler predicted the shift would generate “more extremist ideas.”
Democrats could also face a “numbers” problem, Mr. Cutler said.
Earlier this year, Democrats won control of the state House for the first time in more than a decade, but with only a one-seat margin. They retained control of the chamber on Tuesday with a special election win in a suburban Philadelphia district. But Mr. Cutler noted that Ms. Innamorato’s victory — coupled with a primary win by Democratic state Rep. John Galloway in his bid for a district judgeship — means two more Democrats may leave the House before the end of its current two-year session.
“They have certainly boxed themselves into a corner,” he said. ...Read More
UKRAINE PEACE APPEAL:
TOWARDS A MORE INFORMED SOLIDARITY
FROM UKRAINIAN CIVIL SOCIETY ORGANISATIONS
TO PACIFIST AND PEACEBUILDING MOVEMENTS WORLDWIDE
1. We, Ukrainian civil society activists, feminists, peacebuilders, mediators, dialogue facilitators, human rights defenders, and academics, recognize that a growing strategic divergence worldwide has led to certain voices, on the left and right and amongst pacifists to argue for an end to the provision of military support to Ukraine. They also call for an immediate cease-fire between Ukraine and Russia as the strategy for “ending the war”. These calls for negotiation with Putin without resistance are in reality calls to surrender our sovereignty and territorial integrity.
2. We ask for nothing less than the full respect for internationally agreed humanitarian and human rights law and the UN Charter and the practical means to defend ourselves, our popular sovereignty and our territorial integrity, to resist the Kremlin’s expansionist and imperialistic attempts to re-colonize its neighbors. Yes, we need diplomacy, and yes, we need humanitarian aid, but make no mistake, Ukraine needs to continue to be supported with modern weaponry and other military assistance and strict economic and legal sanctions on the Kremlin.
3. Stopping weapon deliveries to Ukraine now would not lead to “peace by peaceful means” but offer a pause for Putin’s authoritarian regime to renew its aggression against Ukraine. It is a dangerous call for appeasement. We have documented how the Kremlin treats prisoners of war and civilians in the occupied areas. We have seen how it treats its own legal political opposition. This is not peace. We believe that a strong defence and sustained resistance with steady and informed global solidarity for the Ukrainian people is the best incentive in such a radically asymmetric conflict for a cessation of violence and a negotiated withdrawal of Russian forces.
4. Acceptance of Russia’s occupation of Ukrainian territories and resulting impunity would set a dangerous precedent for other authoritarian regimes wishing to revise international borders. It would also lead to an increase in the proliferation of nuclear weapons globally, as it would signal to others a destructive idea that possession of nuclear weapons is the only guarantee of one’s security.
5. We ask that international organisations and movements respect the right of Ukrainians to be at the front and centre of determining how to make their peace and how to defend themselves and their rights. We ask for respect for our calls for inclusion and that when it comes to determining our future there should be “nothing about us without us”. We object to conferences and marches for “peace in Ukraine” where Ukrainians are neither meaningfully involved nor fairly represented.
6. We find the language on the right and left that Ukrainian soldiers are somehow fighting as proxy’s for the West deeply offensive. This argument denies us our humanity and diminishes Ukraine’s history of hardwon independence and the legitimacy of the peoples’ choice of their democratically elected government. This is deceptive and harmful political rhetoric. Russia’s invasion and illegal annexation of parts of Ukraine in 2014 was a result of Russian aggression and expansionism and was not a response to any credible threat.
7. We appreciate continued international mediation and mediation support for humanitarian negotiations calling for Russian withdrawal and on the exchange of prisoners of war, return of deported Ukrainian children, eliminating the nuclear threat and for the free transport of grain. These are hugely important, should be sustained and developed further.
8. We ask for your continued international understanding and informed solidarity. This needs to be done with a new imagination and a new approach to working internationally for peace with mutual respect, understanding our complexities, sustaining, and not breaking social connections and networks of the global constituency for justice, peace and democracy.
9. We believe in the face of this resistance, and with your support, over time, we will overturn Russia’s unsustainable occupation, and they will lose this brutal and illegal war of attrition. We hold them to account for what they have done. We know that solidarity comes at a price, and this price is shared across many shoulders. We choose to live in a world where human lives matter, where democracy matters, where international law matters, and we have not given up on fighting for the world we want to see for our children and their children.
10. We thank the international community for standing
beside us and for sharing this painful price for peace.
Photo: Groundbreaking ceremony in Aliquippa, May 16, 2023
Chinese-American Company, '72 Steel,' To Build $218 Million Steel Plant On Former J&L Land In Aliquippa
By Chrissy Suttles
Beaver County Times via Beaver County Blue
MAY 17, 2023 - ALIQUIPPA – A New York-based company plans to revive Aliquippa steel production with a $218 million advanced manufacturing facility on land once occupied by J&L Steel’s tin mill.
72 Steel, founded in 2016 by Chinese-American entrepreneurs, committed Tuesday to purchase the land owned by developer Chuck Betters to build a steel fabrication plant on 44 acres of the historic Aliquippa Works site along the Ohio River.
The operation will include an electric-arc furnace — a steelmaking technology with lower carbon intensity than traditional methods — to melt scrap steel and produce 500,000 tons of rebar, or reinforcement steel, annually for a variety of industries. Its production capacity and output value are expected to reach $400 million.
Once complete, the company expects to hire 300 to 400 permanent employees, but hundreds of construction workers will be needed to build the facility, roadways, parking space, product storage areas and ancillary buildings. Regional union leadership could not immediately comment on whether they’re in talks with 72 Steel to hire union builders and/or operators. The plant’s anticipated completion is 2025; it will be 72 Steel’s first manufacturing site.
72 Steel plans to use “energy-saving and environmental protection technologies” during production, including air and water pollution control equipment and an electric-arc furnace from Italian technology supplier Tenova.
Xiaoyan Zhang, senior business adviser at 72 Steel, said the company’s decision to build was prompted by the 2021 federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law that included $110 billion in new funds for roads, bridges and other major projects. The company toured sites in West Virginia, Ohio and North Carolina before settling on Beaver County due to its river and rail access and the Pittsburgh region’s enduring history of steelmaking.
The company’s $218 million investment is “an initial investment,” Zhang said. “Maybe, down the road, there would be some additional (investment).” Company leadership, he said, “feels proud as Chinese Americans about making America great and supporting the infrastructure bill.”
The move has been in the works for months; 72 Steel leadership toured the proposed facility late last year alongside landowner Chuck Betters, state and local officials and members of the Allegheny Conference on Community Development. State business filings show 72 Steel registered with Pennsylvania in June 2022.
“Pittsburgh has a celebrated history as the manufacturing powerhouse that built the modern world,” said Matt Smith, chief growth officer at the Allegheny Conference. “Today, we are positioned as the region where the next-generation of manufacturing is happening now – spanning advanced, additive, green manufacturing and more.”
J&L Steel’s mill at 611 Woodlawn Road opened in 1910 and expanded in 1947 for tin plate production. It operated until the 1980s when Aliquippa Works, by that time owned by LTV Corp., closed amid the region’s steel collapse.
Aliquippa Works at one time employed more than 10,000 workers; nearly 8,000 people were out of jobs when the site closed, leaving former company town Aliquippa financially ruined with a disintegrated tax base. The site was later demolished and, in recent years, served as a staging area for Shell’s ethane cracker plant in Potter Township.
“My dad put 18 years in at this very site,” said Aliquippa Mayor Dwan Walker during a Tuesday groundbreaking ceremony. “My father walked out of this mill in ‘86 thinking steel was never going to come back. I was so emotional this morning thinking about the possibility of what will be … I can’t wait to see cars come through that tunnel with stickers: ‘My kid goes to Hopewell,’ ‘My kid goes to Beaver Falls,’ or ‘My kid goes to New Brighton.’ I can’t wait to see those stickers come through that tunnel like when my dad was working here.”
72 Steel has not yet closed on the deal, but Betters said they’re on their way. The Beaver County developer pledged to invest $1.5 million of his own money into the project within seven days of closing.
“I’m comfortable you’re very honorable people,” he told 72 Steel leadership. Once the deal closes, planning and environmental permitting will begin.
Most of the remaining Aliquippa Works land is now owned by cellular PVC manufacturer Versatex and U.S. Minerals, which makes roofing and abrasive products like coal slag abrasives, iron silicate roofing granules and mineral fillers.
Tuesday’s groundbreaking featured speakers from 72 Steel and state, county and local lawmakers and figureheads.
“It’s always about jobs, jobs and more jobs,” said state Rep. Rob Matzie, D-16, Harmony Township. “There were some close calls on this property, suitors have come and gone, and we are hopeful … we will see construction. I live across the river, growing up in the ‘70s and ‘80s, I was able to see the J&L smokestack on this property. I still live up on that hill, and I’ll be able to see this new construction when it’s complete, hopefully, sooner rather than later.”
Stephanie Sun, executive director of former Gov. Tom Wolf’s Advisory Commission on Asian/Pacific American Affairs, called Tuesday’s event a milestone for Chinese Americans living in Pennsylvania, noting that May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month and Asian Americans are the fastest-growing racial or ethnic group in the United States.
“The Asian/Pacific American community is also the fastest-growing population in the United States with a strong international network of investment and business opportunities,” she said, adding it’s been just 80 years since the repeal of the federal Chinese Exclusion Act.
Beaver County Commissioners’ Chairman Dan Camp said the groundbreaking marked a new era of Beaver County steel, adding Beaver County is “always open for business.”
“We want to bring more work to the area, and assist communities where they can raise a family,” Camp said. “To make Beaver County what it was when the steel mills were running 24 hours a day, seven days a week with a strong focus on economic growth and creation of good-paying jobs. Just like (Walker’s) father, my relatives and many other Beaver Countians who worked tirelessly on this very ground to help create the rich history that Beaver County has today.” ...Read More
Photo: SIMI VALLEY, CA - MAY 1: Gov. Glenn Youngkin of Virginia speaks at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library on May 1, 2023 in Simi Valley, California. Youngkin was speaking as part of the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Institute's A Time for Choosing speaker series, a forum for leading conservative movement voices to address the future of the Republican Party. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)
Why GOP Govs Are Rushing to Quit Project for Clean Voter Data
Spreading conspiracy theories, Republicans
undermine the bipartisan ERIC database.
By Jim Swift
MAY 15, 2023 - In 2012, the Electronic Information Registration Center, or ERIC, was created with backing from the Pew Charitable Trust. Seven states were original members: Colorado, Delaware, Maryland, Nevada, Utah, Virginia, and Washington. It eventually grew to count thirty states and Washington, D.C. as members.
The small D.C.-based organization has an annual budget of around a million dollars. But its relatively modest size belies the fact that ERIC does important work to help member states keep their voter rolls up to date.
The antecedents to ERIC were things like “Voter Vault” and “Demzilla,” national voter databases built and maintained by the Republicans and Democrats, respectively. Their main purpose was to aid get-out-the-vote efforts. Each was cobbled together from a variety of sources, and each was maintained with the assumption that combating voter fraud was, if anything at all, a secondary or tertiary purpose of the compiled data.
Since those days, voter databases have gotten far more powerful. And maintaining them has become far less partisan, thanks to ERIC. Under the ERIC system, every two months member states submit their voter registration and DMV and state ID data. From this information and other sources, ERIC creates four products:
- Cross-State Movers Report: Identifies voters who appear to have moved from one ERIC state to another using voter registration data and Motor Vehicle Department (MVD) data.
- In-State Movers Report: Identifies voters who appear to have moved within the state using voter registration and MVD data.
- Duplicate Report: Identifies voters with duplicate registrations in the same state using voter registration data.
- Deceased Report: Identifies voters who have died using voter registration data and Social Security death data known as the Limited Access Death Master File.
To the GOP of yore—of, say, the Tea Party era—this all sounded like a dream: a privately funded nonprofit getting states to cooperate in an effective way for a de minimis amount of money to cut down on voter fraud before it even happens.
But tempus sure does fugit, and Republicans of a more recent vintage have decided that there’s something shadowy and concerning about this type of arrangement.
And yes, it has to do with the batshit crazy Republican war on voting computers, the war that has recently caused Fox News a $787 million headache.
Since the 2020 election, eight states have informed ERIC that they’re leaving the group—all of them red-led states: Missouri, Louisiana, Alabama, Ohio, West Virginia, Iowa, Florida, and now Virginia all have pulled out. Texas, which only just joined in 2020, is rumbling about leaving but has not yet withdrawn.
Since Trump lost, right-wing groups have latched on to conspiracy theories about ERIC being a left-wing effort—a George Soros project, some (falsely) claim. In reality, the ERIC board is made up of elections officials from member states.
The justifications offered by those who are leaving range from “benefits to Missouri are limited as only three of the eight states that border Missouri are members” (as if departing Missourians don’t move to any non-contiguous states) to states being denied the ability to “select ERIC services in à la carte fashion” without mandates stipulated by the organization.
One such mandate that reportedly irks conservatives is the requirement that states participating in the ERIC database “must use the Eligible but Unregistered Report to provide basic voter registration information to unregistered individuals, including the legal requirements to register.” Can’t have more people voting, no siree!
Former President Trump, naturally, has played a role in smearing ERIC. Here’s a Truth Social post that went up the day in early March that Florida and two other Republican-led states announced they were leaving:
ERIC may indeed have been too good at getting unregistered voters to get on the rolls—and for Republicans, that’s a problem. Ohio and Missouri wanted to opt out of the mandatory eligible voter outreach, for example. In 2018, the New York Times reported: “Follow-up research in some states concluded that 10 to 20 percent of those contacted had later registered to vote, a high response rate for direct mailings.” That’s potentially millions of new voters.
The Brennan Center for Justice observes:
States that are going along with these fringe attacks have given conflicting and inaccurate reasons for pulling out of ERIC. While Missouri objected to ERIC’s restrictions on states’ use of data as excessive, Florida and Alabama stated they were leaving because the group does not protect data privacy enough.
There is no other national election clearinghouse. ERIC is it. In leaving, these states have damaged it—and that’s the point. The more states leave, the less useful and effective it becomes, and the likelier that still other states will exit it.
The latest state to formally withdraw is Virginia, led by supposed moderate Gov. Glenn Youngkin.
Previewing things to come last year was incendiary Virginia talk-radio host John Fredericks, an election denier (who falsely claimed Youngkin was also one) who had a live audience say the Pledge of Allegiance before an insurrectionist flag in 2021, something Youngkin rightly observed was “weird and wrong.” For whatever reason, Gov. Youngkin still goes on his show, and last year, Fredericks asked this:
The Department of Elections, we know there’s a number, Gov. Youngkin, of partisan, left-wing nonprofits that have deeply infiltrated the Department of Elections in Virginia. . . . Do you have any plans to clean house in there?
Gov. Youngkin’s presence on the show and answer fits the pattern of cowardice that got him into the governor’s mansion: When presented with unfounded insanity, don’t confront it. A normal pol with a spine might ask: “Oh, which nonprofits? How? What are they doing?” Not Glenn Youngkin. He said the short answer was “Yes.”
Shortly thereafter, Gov. Youngkin appointed Susan Beals to run Virginia’s elections. Beals previously served on the election board in Chesterfield, a Richmond suburb, and on the staff of Amanda Chase, the state senator who was Youngkin’s kooky primary opponent in 2021. (Weirdly, Chase at first opposed her former staffer’s appointment to the new job because Beals didn’t buy into all of the 2020 election nonsense.)
“ERIC’s mandate has expanded beyond that of its initial intent—to improve the accuracy of voter rolls,” Beals wrote last week in a letter announcing that Virginia would be withdrawing from ERIC—of which, again, Virginia was one of the founding members, under a previous Republican governor. “We will pursue other information arrangements with our neighboring states and look to other opportunities to partner with states in an apolitical fashion.”
Not everyone in Virginia’s executive branch buys into the worst characterizations of ERIC. Josh Lief, a lawyer in Attorney General Jason Miyares’s office, last year defended ERIC in response to conspiratorial claims. Now that Virginia has withdrawn, though, Miyares is being a good soldier and agreeing with the decision.
When Beals took office, she told Virginians that she would “strive to meet the goals of the department’s strategic plan which seek to increase voter confidence in the election process and strengthen the security of the Commonwealth’s elections.”
Leaving ERIC is plainly at odds with this goal. Voter confidence is a fickle thing, but leaving the ERIC consortium clearly weakens the security of the Commonwealth’s elections.
The 2022 Virginia Elections Handbook observes: “In 2016, 37,803 voters were identified as potentially having registered in one of the other states after their last date of activity in Virginia.” That’s thanks to ERIC. No more.
Going into the 2024 election, Virginia and the seven other Republican-led states that have quit ERIC are going to have to stand up their own solutions to voter fraud. Unless, you know, Republicans might like to talk about being tough on voter fraud and blame it on Democrats when the actual facts look very different. Care to guess why? ...Read More
‘Putin's Regime Is Not Subject To Evolution’:
An Interview With Russian Socialist Ilya Budraitskis
Via LINKS, Republished from LeftEast.
May 12, 2023
Historian and political commentator Ilya Budraitskis has been part of Russia’s leftist political scene since the 1990s, engaging in labor union activism and other civic initiatives. Meduza spoke with him about Russia’s wartime left-wing politics, the role of CPRF (Russia’s establishment Communist Party) in the large picture of the Russian left, the latter’s survival in what Budraitskis calls “the conditions of dictatorship,” and the goals its activists can embrace now to bring about a decentralized, democratic future Russia, where the state will genuinely serve the interests of the majority.
What are the elements that comprise Russia’s political left today?
Starting on February 24, 2022, the present regime in Russia entered the stage of flagrant dictatorship, which puts in question all legal political activity in the country. Accordingly, political groups and movements that existed until that date split into two major camps: one supporting the so-called “special military operation” in Ukraine, and the other condemning and protesting it. The same kind of division occurred with the political left at large. This was a foreseeable development, since it extended the tendencies that can be traced all the way back to 2014. Today’s Russia has two different kinds of leftists, and we need to be clear as to which of these two antagonistic movements we’re talking about.
Let’s begin with the pro-war bloc. When talking about the establishment parliamentary left represented by the Communist Party (CPRF), can we consider it a genuine leftist force?
The pro-war left is represented first and foremost by CPRF’s leadership and by those who support its position. For instance, Sergey Udaltsov’s Left Front has adopted a pro-war position and is effectively allied with the CPRF. They think of the war and the conflict with the West as a radical challenge to Russia’s former socio-political model, a challenge that will inevitably push the country in the direction of what they like to call “socialism.”
The main problem with their position (bracketing its morality and practicability) is that it provides no account of who is to be the subject of the political shift towards this “socialism” of theirs. They cannot be talking about the masses, the organized hired labor, because that possibility has been eradicated in Russia. All public political life, including the freedom of assembly, has been destroyed. Strikes have ceased to be a phenomenon. Russia’s society is in a maximally depressed and humiliated state. Putin’s Russia has no room for any kind of progress towards social justice.
From the point of view of the pro-war left, the subject of the “socialist” shift is to be today’s ruling elite. Its strategy, then, is the persuade the elite to go down the path of socio-economic reforms. The motive of these changes, meanwhile (we’re talking about things like nationalization of major industrial concerns, or a more “equitable” redistribution of the country’s resources) are the objective needs of a country confronted with acute external conflict. Hence the orientation towards militarized socialism, including top-down planning to meet the needs of ongoing warfare.
In the actual conditions of dictatorship, Putin has become the sole addressee of all CPRF propaganda. It’s him that this party must persuade to effect the reforms it is promoting. So, at the president’s July 2022 meeting with the parliamentary factions, the CPRF’s chairman Gennady Zyuganov declared that his party fully supports Putin’s political course, but it would like to see movement towards socialism. Putin replied, somewhat facetiously, that it’s an interesting idea, but it would be good to first come up with some estimates of what socialism would look like in practice.
There are very good reasons to doubt that the CPRF and its allies can be described as a bona fide leftist political force, since the socialist position is based on the idea that disenfranchised masses must take back political and economic power through grassroots self-organization. Socialism in this classic leftist sense is something that’s initiated by the people, who establish a new social order to benefit the many instead of the few.
Today’s CPRF and its allies have rejected this idea, since they don’t view the masses with their interest in bottom-up change as a subject, or an engine, of change. Zyuganov’s idea of socialism does not require any participation from the masses; in his view, grassroots activity is actually undesirable, since everyday people’s behavior is unpredictable and can therefore be exploited by Russia’s enemies, who might seduce them with their false values. It’s far safer to conduct reforms with a view to the interests of the state.
Does the CPRF have real political power? Even if it’s abandoned the root ideas of left-wing politics, does this party have real influence over reforms in the country?
The CPRF has just celebrated its 30th anniversary, and with great pomp. This makes the party, headed by its changeless leader Gennady Zyuganov practically coeval with the post-Soviet political system itself. It’s worth noting that its place in that system is fairly ambiguous. As a party of “managed democracy,” it never made any claims to real political power, coordinating its every step with the Kremlin, and lately following its explicit directives.
This party has never tried to get anyone to take to the streets. Its orientation is not about what happens outside the parliament; instead, it’s all about redistributing the seats in the State Duma and in regional governance. In other words, this party has no great political ambitions. It simply maintains itself and its own apparatus, providing a career ladder for politicians.
There are scores of people who became governors or representatives solely because they spent their early years climbing the hierarchic ladder of the Communist Party. Take the Oryol Governor Andrey Klychkov or Moscow City Duma deputies like Gennady Zyuganov’s grandson Leonid Zyuganov, or the governor of Khakassia, Valentin Konovalov. All of them made their careers in the CPRF, getting their modest share of political power. Within the current political system, the CPRF is unlikely to take you beyond the post of a deputy or a place in local government.
The CPRF’s niche in the system of Russian politics is a product of its function, which is to absorb protest-minded dissident voters during elections. People who vote for the CPRF don’t do it because they want Zyuganov’s grandson to make a career for himself, or because they want their party to support Putin’s every new undertaking. They vote for the CPRF because they are disgruntled with Russian life in various aspects, the social aspect being foremost. They’re unhappy about inequality and poverty.
For 30 years, the CPRF has consistently betrayed the interests of the people who have voted for it. At every stage of Russia’s contemporary political history, we saw this chasm between the voters and those who ended up representing them in the government. Take 2011, when, following the State Duma election falsified in favor of United Russia, the Fair Vote movement first began, alongside the Bolotnaya protest movement. In that election, votes had been stolen specifically from the communists. The liberal opposition either took no part in that election, or else its results were far more modest than the communists’. The Fair Vote protests were largely an expression of indignation by those who had voted for the CPRF. But the party itself didn’t join the protests; instead, it joined in persecuting the protesters.
Another case in point is the September 2021 State Duma election. Thanks in large part to the “smart vote” strategy championed by the Navalny team, most opposition voters gave their votes to CPRF candidates. A significant share of those candidates won their districts but still couldn’t get a seat in the parliament because of the sweeping falsifications, including the manipulation of online votes. The party leadership’s position was, meanwhile: sure, there have been some violations, but not so great as to question the election results or to go to bat against the regime.
This ambivalence on the part of the CPRF, an establishment party that attracted voters prone to protest, was also reflected in its composition. The CPRF has been a magnet for people looking to get serious about leftist opposition politics without pandering to the Kremlin, to defend their constituents’ interests, and to develop grassroots movements. Over its entire lifespan, the CPRF included these two conflicting groups with completely different motives. Its leadership, though, was always comprised of Kremlin collaborators, content to see the CPRF as an establishment party. Meanwhile, the party’s local branches often attracted people with completely different expectations.
In 2021, we saw this contradiction at play when the “smart vote” strategy garnered support for CPRF candidates like Mikhail Lobanov in Moscow, not least thanks to the fact that they held genuine, consistent anti-establishment views. When the war broke out, just a few State Duma deputies declared their antiwar position, but all of those who spoke up were CPRF members.
Did CPRF activists manage to achieve results despite these internal antagonisms?
When you become a municipal or a regional deputy, this opens up certain opportunities. They are, of course, severely circumscribed, given that any establishment opposition party, the CPRF included, is going to be a minority presence. Still, a deputy is someone who can significantly amplify the voices of local communities, as in the case of the Moscow City Duma Deputy Evgeny Stupin, who happens to be a CPRF member.
Let’s talk about the other leftist camp, which didn’t support the invasion. If a person doesn’t see oneself affiliated with the CPRF, what other leftist options are there?
Among the leftist organizations that condemned the invasion, there’s a number of small groups operating essentially as mass media. In the situation where practically any pacifist or antiwar activity is outlawed, these groups are just barely legal. Political organizations that adopted a clear-cut antiwar position have been forced underground and must be extremely careful now. This presents a serious strategic problem for all leftist groups that existed in Russia prior to the invasion, be they socialist or anarchist. There are several basic strategies they can use to adapt in today’s severe conditions.
The first approach is illicit direct action, which is difficult to embrace if you’re already a public figure. The second is to limit one’s activity to propaganda in small communities like closed reading groups. Finally, there is the strategy of labor advocacy, which remains legal for now. We’re talking about the messengers’ union Courier, the medical workers’ union Deistvie, and a number of other smaller unions where antiwar activists participate. ...Read More
The Plastic Crisis Finally Gets Emergency Status
Plastic pollution costs the world up to $600 billion a year. A new UN report provides a road map for drastic action.
By Matt Simon
May issue - HUMANITY’S RELATIONSHIP WITH plastic isn’t just broken—it’s absurd. We’re now churning out a trillion pounds of it a year—an altogether more stunning figure when you consider that the material is ultra-lightweight by design. Less than 10 percent of that is recycled, while the rest ends up in landfills, leaks into the environment, or is burned. And that dysfunctional relationship is getting exponentially worse, as plastic production could triple by 2060.
The problem is massive, demoralizing, and ostensibly impossible to fix. But today the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is dropping an urgent report on the extraordinary environmental and human costs of plastic pollution, along with a road map for the world to take action.
With several strategies working in concert—like production cuts and more reuse of plastic products—the report finds that humanity might reduce that pollution 80 percent by 2040. The road map lands just weeks ahead of the second round of negotiations for an international treaty on plastics, which scientists and antipollution groups are hoping results in a significant cap on production.
The report emphasizes the devastating price of our civilization’s addiction to plastic, “particularly when it comes to human health costs of plastics—so endocrine disruption, cognitive impairments, cancers,” says Steven Stone, deputy director of the Industry and Economy Division at the UNEP and a lead author of the report. “When you take those along with the cleanup costs of plastic pollution, you get in the range of $300 billion to $600 billion a year. This report is a message of hope—we are not doomed to incurring all of these costs.” In fact, the report notes, with action on plastic pollution, we might avoid $4.5 trillion in costs by 2040.
This road map builds on another alarming report the UNEP released earlier this month, which found that of the 13,000 known chemicals associated with plastics and their production, at least 3,200 have one or more hazardous properties of concern. Ten groups of these chemicals are of major concern, such as PFAS and phthalates.
Of particular toxicity are a wide range of chemicals in plastics with endocrine-disrupting properties, which short-circuit the hormone system even in very low doses, leading to obesity, cancer, and other diseases. “There are these costs that are going to manifest in human health, in environmental destruction, in marine litter pollution,” Stone says. “Those are costs that fall on everyone. But the consumer of plastic doesn’t take pay for it, neither does the producer. So that’s a massive market failure.”
Plastic is, at the end of the day, a highly toxic material that’s infiltrated every aspect of our daily lives. The goal above all others should be to stop manufacturing so much of the stuff, so the new road map calls for eliminating unnecessary plastics, like the single-use variety. But the challenge is that plastic remains absurdly cheap to produce—its many external costs be damned.
“This road map is headed in the right direction but must go much further to curb new plastics production,” says Dianna Cohen, CEO and cofounder of Plastic Pollution Coalition. “We are glad to see an emphasis on reduction and reuse, which are key elements of solutions to plastic pollution, as these actions can most rapidly help us diminish plastic production. Missing in the report is requiring industrial/corporate entities that produce material items to stop making more toxic fossil-fuel plastic, full stop.”
In addition to reducing production, the report argues, the world must improve recycling systems, which alone could reduce plastic pollution 20 percent by 2040. But recycling in its current form is problematic for a number of reasons. For one, the recycling rate in the United States is now just 5 percent of plastic waste. The US and other developed nations have long shipped millions upon millions of pounds of the plastic waste they can’t profitably recycle to developing countries, where bottles and bags and wrappers are often burned in open pits or escape into the environment.
A core issue is that over the years, plastic products have gotten much more complicated and therefore much less recyclable: Nowadays, food pouches might have layers of different polymers, or a product might be half plastic, half paper.
“By agreeing and then imposing design rules that allow, for instance, a limited number of polymers or a limited number of chemical additives that play well within the system, that already improves heavily the economics of recycling,” says Llorenç Milà i Canals, head of secretariat of the Life Cycle Initiative at the UNEP and lead coordinator of the report. “That makes recycling much more profitable because it will take much less to bring those materials back into the economy.”
However, even recycling that’s done properly comes at a huge environmental cost: A study published earlier this month found that a single facility might emit 3 million pounds of microplastic a year in its wastewater, which flows into the environment. The upside, at least, is that the facility would have released 6.5 million pounds of microplastic had it not installed filters, so there’s at least a way to mitigate that pollution. But these tiny particles have now corrupted the entirety of the planet, including a broad range of organisms. And generally speaking, as plastics production is increasing exponentially, microplastic pollution is increasing in lockstep.
In that sense, then, recycling is making the plastic pollution problem worse. “Plastic was not designed to be recycled, and recycling it only reintroduces toxic chemicals and microplastics into the environment and our bodies,” says Cohen. “The [UNEP] report’s authors even go so far to acknowledge that even if it is achievable, a circular economy of plastics would be decades in the making, and even under the best scenario, following the road map as outlined would lead to approximately 136 million metric tons of plastic flowing into landfills, incinerators, and the environment to cause pollution in the year 2040. That is an enormous—and unacceptable—amount of plastic.”
Really, recycling allows the plastics industry to keep making all the plastic it wants, under the guise of sustainability. “If you had an overflowing bathtub, you wouldn’t just run for the mop first—you turn off the tap,” says Jacqueline Savitz, chief policy officer for the conservation nonprofit Oceana, who wasn’t involved in the report. “Recycling is the mop.”
Another strategy highlighted in the new report is “extended producer responsibility,” in which manufacturers don’t just make the stuff and wipe their hands of it. The plastics industry has long promoted recycling (even though it has known that the current system doesn’t work) because it makes you, the “careless” consumer, responsible for pollution. Extended producer responsibility puts the burden back on the industry, forcing producers to, say, implement systems to take bottles back and reuse them. ...Read More
Digging Deeper into the Current Conjuncture:
Disney Rocks Desantis Ahead Of Expected White House Bid Announcement
By Stephen Collinson
May 19, 2023 - “DeSantisland” was likely not the happiest place on Earth on Thursday.
As Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis gears up for an expected jump into the 2024 presidential race next week, his powerful adversary, Disney, trampled his pre-launch buzz by scratching a $1 billion plan for an office campus that could have brought 2,000 jobs to the state.
The move was the latest twist in a bitter feud between DeSantis and one of the most important corporations operating in the Sunshine State, rooted in a political collision over the Republican governor’s hardline conservative ideology that will become his pitch to GOP primary voters. And it raises the question of whether Floridians are paying a big price for his political ambitions.
Disney’s power play showed that CEO Bob Iger wasn’t bluffing when he asked whether Florida wanted the firm to “invest more, employ more people, and pay more taxes” last week. The timing of the Thursday announcement seemed calculated to damage the governor ahead of the most important week of his political career to date, when he is expected to soft launch his White House bid and make the all-important sell to fundraising bundlers. Disney did not specifically blame DeSantis for the move, partly citing “changing business conditions.” But the message was clear.
Disney is scrapping plans for a new $1 billion Florida campus
“When you are involved in a situation like this, it doesn’t happen very often that events like this are random or coincidental,” said Mark Johnston, a professor of marketing and ethics at the Crummer School of Business at Rollins College in Winter Park, Florida.
Disney’s latest swipe at DeSantis set off multiple political reverberations. It offered a huge opening for ex-President Donald Trump and other Republican primary candidates to argue DeSantis is blundering through an ill-conceived battle with the corporate giant and to accuse him of squandering jobs and business in pursuit of higher office.
Trump’s campaign gleefully declared that DeSantis got “caught in the Mouse Trap,” after predicting weeks ago that the governor would lose his face-off with Mickey Mouse. (In that same statement, the campaign claimed the GOP front-runner, while in office, was known as the “job’s President.”)
The fact that some of the new jobs in the Disney project were expected to be transferred from California also undercut a narrative central to the DeSantis platform that businesses and citizens are fleeing liberal areas for a dynamic state dubbed “DeSantisland” by his supporters and which he calls “the free state of Florida.” ...Read More
'Shame': Protests and Outrage as Former Democrat Paves the Way for North Carolina Abortion Ban
Rep. Tricia Cotham, R-N.C., switched from being a Dem last month but sponsored a bill codifying Roe four months ago
By Tatyana Tandanpolie
House Republicans in North Carolina overrode Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper's Saturday veto of a 12-week abortion limit — with the critical help of a former Democrat — sparking outcry from progressive North Carolina legislators and abortion rights advocates.
The Republican-controlled General Assembly completed the final part of the override vote after a three-fifths majority voted in its favor in the Senate earlier Tuesday. The decision makes the 12-week ban on abortion access law in the state, a major victory for Republican legislators who needed every GOP lawmaker's support in order to enact the law, the Associated Press reports.
Cooper reportedly convened with several Republicans last week in an effort to persuade at least one to side with him on the override, which would be enough to maintain his veto. However, four of the Republicans he targeted — including Rep. Tricia Cotham, R-N.C., who switched from being a Democrat last month — voted against him.
The new abortion limit is set to take effect July 1, additionally instituting exceptions for rape or incest through 20 weeks of pregnancy, "life-limiting" fetal anomalies in the first 24 weeks, and maintaining an existing exception for circumstances that endanger the life of the pregnant person.
"Betrayal": Outrage as N.C. Dem switches parties to give GOP veto-proof majority
The General Assembly's decision was immediately met with outcry from pro-choice protesters. A video from Anderson Clayton, the North Carolina Democratic Party chair, showed advocates chanting, "Shame," in the legislative building's gallery.
"After the vote was taken tonight, folks in the gallery were loud," she tweeted alongside the video. "Our right to our own bodies was just voted on. and tonight, the people just yelled. we're tired, that's for sure, but more than that, we're angry. we're motivated. and there's a movement behind us."
Following Tuesday's vote, Gov. Cooper released a statement on the override, assuring constituents that he will do "everything I can to protect abortion access in North Carolina because women's lives depend on it."
"Strong majorities of North Carolinians don't want right-wing politicians in the exam room with women and their doctors, which is even more understandable today after several Republican lawmakers broke their promises to protect women's reproductive freedom," the statement began. ...Read More
The War on Poverty
Is Over. Rich People Won.
The sociologist Matthew Desmond believes that being poor is different in the U.S. than in other rich countries.
By Annie Lowrey
MAY 14, 2023- Why do so many Americans live in poverty? Because so many rich people benefit from it.
This is the thesis of the lauded sociologist Matthew Desmond’s new book, Poverty, by America. The best seller is at once a careful exploration of poverty statistics; a deeply reported depiction of the lived experiences of the poor; an examination of the ways America’s wealthy exploit the masses; and a case for ending poverty. Desmond shows how the country’s employers, financial institutions, and landlords extract money from low-income families while rich families hoard opportunity for themselves. He also demonstrates how America’s safety-net programs are not just too stingy but poorly designed.
Desmond is a professor at Princeton. His previous book—Evicted, about the low-income rental market in Milwaukee—won a Pulitzer Prize. We discussed how the rich came to win the War on Poverty and what’s necessary to end poverty.
This conversation has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Annie Lowrey: How is poverty different in America than in its peer countries?
Matthew Desmond: We have more of it. We have double the child-poverty rate of Germany and South Korea. We have a lot less to go around with, in terms of fighting poverty. We collect a much smaller share of our GDP in taxes every year.
It’s different because it’s so unnecessary. We have so many resources. Our tolerance for poverty is very high, much higher than it is in other parts of the developed world. I don’t know if it’s a belief, a cliché, or a myth. You see a homeless person in Los Angeles; an American says, What did that person do? You see a homeless person in France; a French person says, What did the state do? How did the state fail them?
Government programs obviously work. I’ve been with people when they receive a housing voucher. They praise Jesus. They fall on their knees. They pray and weep and cry. We have massive amounts of evidence about the benefits of government spending on anti-poverty programs. But poverty is also about exploitation. We have all these anti-poverty programs that accommodate poverty without disrupting it. They’re not eliminating poverty at the root.
Lowrey: Who benefits from that exploitation? Who benefits from a person being homeless?
Desmond: A lot of us benefit from it. I don’t just mean the guy that’s a little richer than you or a lot richer than you. I mean a lot of us, those who have found security and comfort in America consuming the cheap goods and services that the working class produces for us.
Half of us are invested in the stock market. Many times, we see our savings going up and up and up when someone’s pay is going down and down and down. Those two things are related. Or think about the housing crisis: Many times, it’s not just corporate landowners who are benefiting from high rents. It’s homeowners whose housing values are propped up and kept high by a scarcity of housing that they contribute to.
Lowrey: Let’s drill down on housing. Talk me through how something wealth-generating for some families is wealth-sapping for others.
Desmond: This is a unique feature of American life. If you go to Germany, a lot of professionals live in social housing. It’s not stigmatized. They’re living shoulder to shoulder with folks that might be in a very different place than they are economically.
Here, the housing market is bifurcated. For two-thirds of the country—people who own homes—the housing market is almost miraculous. Homeownership is not a winning proposition for everyone—that was a resounding lesson of 2008. But for a lot of folks, it is their biggest source of wealth creation. It’s one of the biggest carve-outs in the tax code, with the mortgage deduction and other housing subsidies. And there are no rent hikes when you’re a homeowner. Then you have this other one-third. The rental market is just utterly brutal, especially for the poorest among them.
Those two experiences aren’t just different; they’re connected. If you think of zoning laws—that is how we build walls around our communities, how so many affluent communities keep out not just affordable housing, but any multifamily housing. That doesn’t just create these pockets of affluence; it also creates pockets of concentrated poverty.
Lowrey: How do wealthy neighborhoods fight against poorer families coming in?
Desmond: I don’t know if you’ve ever been to a zoning-board meeting where folks are debating affordable housing. It shows you just how much work and effort and force goes into defending segregation. The folks who show up for those meetings are really not representative of the broader community. They tend to be whiter, more affluent, more likely to be homeowners. It’s this interesting thing wherein a democratic process has an undemocratic outcome, because representation in this case is a defense of the status quo.
Lowrey: How do these dynamics affect lower-income families?
Desmond: It boils down to choice. You have no choice, you get screwed. Are poor renters being overcharged for housing? There’s really strong evidence that the answer is yes, because they have no other choice. They’re shut out of homeownership. They’re shut out of public housing, because the waiting lists are stretching into the years, even into the decades. They’re shut out of other kinds of housing assistance, because only one in four families that qualify for them receive any kind of help. So they have to take the best of bad options. They rent at the bottom of the market and still fork over enormous chunks of their income.
Lowrey: How much can you reduce this to a white desire to not have Black folks in their neighborhoods, to not have Black kids in their schools?
Desmond: It is impossible to write a book called Poverty, by America without writing a book about racism. It is crucial. It is huge. One of the big things that makes Black poverty and white poverty different is segregation. In white America, there’s no equivalent of the incredibly segregated and poor neighborhoods so many Black families find themselves in.
It’s interesting to read the histories of segregation in the 1950s or 1930s. The segregationists used the same exact arguments that we do today. They talk about property values, schools, and crime.
Lowrey: As you point out, this segregation benefits higher-income homeowners.
Desmond: I did a study with Nate Wilmers at MIT showing that landlords in poor neighborhoods don’t just make more than landlords in affluent neighborhoods. They make double. That blew me away. When I started my research for Evicted, I was like, Why would you want to buy a trailer park? The landlord of the mobile-home park I lived in let me see his rent rolls, his books. He was bringing home over $400,000 a year after expenses, running the poorest trailer park in the fourth-poorest city in America.
I checked to see if it was anomalous or a national pattern. And it was a national pattern. The reason I think this isn’t a bigger news story is that it isn’t the case in San Francisco, D.C., or Seattle, places where we all live. It is better to be a landlord in SoHo than the South Bronx. But in Milwaukee, Cleveland, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, the opposite is true.
Lowrey: What’s the policy solution for housing exploitation?
Desmond: We need to stem the bleeding. Then we need policies that treat the disease. Evicted concluded with this call for a massive expansion of housing vouchers. Housing organizers are calling for rent control and rent-stabilization measures. I totally think that should be on the table. Even eviction-diversion programs—they have high success rates, and keeping families housed really, really matters.
Then let’s think about how to end housing exploitation among poor families. What works in New York or San Francisco is probably not the solution for rural Alabama or Cleveland. I’m for extending our investment in permanent affordable housing. That could be through a land bank and building out more co-op and tenant-run buildings. We could be building more of this amazing public housing that we started building over the last 10, 15 years, stuff that blends into the community and is just full of pride and color and life. I am totally for expanding homeownership opportunities to low-income families. There’s a strong case that there are huge returns on investment when you do that.
Lowrey: What about federal spending on housing?
Desmond: We’re giving a patient with Stage 4 cancer an Advil and wondering why it doesn’t work. In 2020, we spent $53 billion on direct housing assistance to the needy, through public housing, Section 8 vouchers. We spent $193 billion on homeowner tax subsidies. Most of the benefit goes to families with six-figure incomes. Most white Americans are homeowners. Most Black and Latinx Americans aren’t, because of our systematic dispossession of people of color from the land. It is really hard to think of a social policy that does a better job of amplifying our economic and racial inequalities than our current housing policy does....Read More
New Journals and Books for Radical Education...
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
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.
NOT TO BE MISSED: Short Links To Longer Reads...
What Is Christian Nationalism, Anyway?
The rise of Donald Trump on the backs of conservative Christian voters has led to a national debate over Christian nationalism and the role of religion in American culture. But few people agree on what Christian nationalism is.
Christian News Service
May 17, 2023 - (RNS) — Julie Green had good news when she stood up to speak during the ReAwaken America Tour’s latest stop last week at the Trump National Hotel Doral near Miami.
God had told her that Joe Biden was on his way out, she said, according to videos of the event. And God’s people were going to win.
“We’re in the greatest battle for the soul of the nation this nation has ever been in since the founding of this nation,” said Green, an Iowa pastor known as a charismatic prophet and fervent supporter of former President Donald Trump.
God’s people, as Green’s theology makes clear, are her fellow Christians. And they would win, she added, because they would not give up: “You’re not quitting on what is rightfully yours,” she told the audience.
Green’s comments captured an essential element of Christian nationalism: The idea that America belongs to and exists for the benefit of Christians. Green’s fellow ReAwaken America Tour speakers — disgraced former Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, Roger Stone, Eric Trump and MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell, alongside pastors and prophets — are some of the loudest and best-known proponents of the ideology, which helped fuel Trump’s rise to the White House and has made national headlines since the Jan. 6 riot.
But its ubiquity, and the charge it carries in the current political debate, has made Christian nationalism a seemingly infinitely malleable term, one directed at times at anyone who supports Trump or any part of his agenda, and adopted by some who call themselves Christian and take patriotic pride in their country.
As a result, few people actually understand what Christian nationalism is, said University of Oklahoma sociology professor Sam Perry, co-author with Andrew Whitehead of “Taking America Back for God: Christian Nationalism in the United States.”
That doesn’t stop anyone from having an opinion about Christian nationalism, Perry said. “Either they’re very much for it or they’re very much against it.”
Perry argues that Christian nationalism is not a synonym for evangelical Christians. And not everyone who “votes their values” — a term often used by politically active conservative Christians — qualifies as a Christian nationalist. Nor do people who want religion to play a part in public life, he said.
Perry and Whitehead have defined Christian nationalism this way: “a cultural framework that blurs distinctions between Christian identity and American identity, viewing the two as closely related and seeking to enhance and preserve their union.” ...Read More
America’s Cold Civil War
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 extreme white minority has unchecked control over everyone else.
By David A. Love
May 17, 2023 - 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 response to the Democratic Party’s victory in the 2020 presidential and congressional elections, Republican-controlled state legislatures have proposed 253 bills in 43 states that aim to prevent millions of Americans, and especially Americans of colour, from voting in federal and state elections.
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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.
Fox News Calls Biden Speech ‘Evil.’
Declares America the ‘Least Racist Country in the World’
The president addressed a historically Black university, sparking the ire of the network's conservative anchors
By Peter Wade
MAY 14, 2023
FOX NEWS WAS not happy with President Joe Biden’s commencement address to Howard University, which one Fox host called “pandering” and led another to declare America the “least racist country in the world.”
“Racism has long torn us apart,” Biden told the crowd during his speech to the historically Black university in Washington, D.C. on Saturday.
“It’s a battle that’s never really over.” The president then called white supremacy “the most dangerous terrorist threat to our homeland,” and added, “I’m not saying this because I’m at a Black HBCU. I say it wherever I go.”
Biden has made efforts to combat white supremacy during his administration, including a national strategy to counter domestic terrorism including racially or ethnically-motivated violent extremism.
But his statements at Howard clearly ruffled some feathers at Fox.
“Everyone — because it was so naked — could see what an obvious pander,” one host commented.
“This is clearly a battle that helps him politically,” host Rachel Campos-Duffy said.
“I think it’s so cynical. I think it’s actually evil to lie about America. That is not America.
"America is not racist. America is the least racist country in the whole world, which is why we have right now people clamoring to get into our country. That’s just a fact.”
Campos-Duffy’s claim is patently ridiculous and completely ignores factors such as climate change, food insecurity, violence and lack of economic opportunities that are driving immigration.
“What the left wants to do to restart race challenges in our country,” host Pete Hegseth chimed in.
“D.E.I. is divide, exclude and indoctrinate. They want us to not get along, when our default right now as Americans is to want to love each other, want to work together, want to be together.”
Moments later, the network turned to report on the legal defense fundraising efforts of Daniel Perry, the former marine who put Jordan Neely, a Black man in distress, into a headlock and killed him on the New York City subway,.
This immediately exposed Hegseth’s earlier statement that Americans just “want to love each other” for the blatant lie it is.
From the CCDS Socialist Education Project...
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 firstname.lastname@example.org), 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.
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 :
and the War in Ukraine
After the Russian invasion in Ukraine, life in both countries will never be the same. But to be able to live and act further we need to find answers to some crucial questions. Why did this war begin? Why is it so hard to stop? What will the future look like after the war?
Posle (‘after’ in Russian) is an attempt to answer these questions. As a community of like-minded authors, we condemn the war, which has unleashed a humanitarian disaster, wrought colossal destruction, and resulted in the massacre of civilians in Ukraine. This same war has provoked a wave of repression and censorship in Russia. As part of the left, we cannot view this war separately from the immense social inequality and powerlessness of the working majority. Naturally, we also cannot look past an imperialist ideology that strives to keep the status quo intact and feeds on the militarist discourse, xenophobia, and bigotry.
Our platform sets out to examine the structure of these problems and imagine the way out. Posle welcomes and is open to scholars, journalists, activists, and eyewitnesses – everyone, who seeks to understand the present and to think through the future.
Here is the first piece in the “Unordinary Fascism” series: a conversation between Ilya Budraitskis and historian Enzo Traverso about the global rise of post-fascism, Putin’s Russia, and the war in Ukraine
Ilya Budraitskis: A few years ago, you wrote The New Faces of Fascism, where you defined post-fascism as a new threat that is simultaneously similar to and different from classical fascism of the 20th century. Post-fascism, as you describe, grows out of the fundamentally new soil of neoliberal capitalism, in which labor movements and forms of social solidarity have been attacked. You emphasize that post-fascism grew out of post-politics as a reaction to technocratic governments that ignore democratic legitimacy. At the same time, your analysis is limited mainly to the European Union and the United States, where fascism results from liberal democracy. Can this approach be expanded to the transformation of authoritarian regimes like the one in Russia, especially after the beginning of the invasion of Ukraine? In Russia, the regime in the first decade of its existence in the early 2000s also presented itself as a technocratic post-political government. It was based on mass depoliticization and lack of political participation in Russian society.
Enzo Traverso: Well, it’s important to emphasize that “post-fascism” is an unconventional analytical category. It’s not a canonical concept like liberalism, communism, or fascism. It’s rather a transitional phenomenon that has not yet crystallized or clearly defined its nature. It can evolve in different directions. Nevertheless, the starting point of this definition is that fascism is trans-historical, transcending the historically framed experience of the 1930s. Fascism is a category that can be useful to define political experiences, systems of power, and regimes that take place after the period between the two world wars. It’s common to speak about Latin American fascism during the military dictatorships of the 1960s and the 1970s.
“Global post-fascism is a heterogeneous constellation in which we can find shared tendencies: nationalism, authoritarianism, and a specific idea of ‘national regeneration’”
That said, when we speak of democracy, it is worth noticing that although Germany, Italy, the United States, and Argentina share this label of liberal democracy, this does not mean that their institutional systems are the same. Nor does it mean that they correspond with Pericles’ democracy in Ancient Athens. So, fascism is a generic term that takes a trans-historical dimension. You are right to say that my book on post-fascism primarily focuses on the European Union, the United States, and some Latin American countries. When I wrote it, Bolsonaro had not yet come to power in Brazil.
However, I also wrote that post-fascism could be considered a global category, which tendentially includes authoritarian political regimes such as Putin’s Russia or Bolsonaro’s Brazil. I am not sure that this category can be used to define Xi Jinping’s China, simply because this regime was created by the communist revolution of 1949 (I similarly do not think we could describe Stalin’s Russia as “fascist”). Maybe this category can be used to depict some tendencies that shape Modi’s India or Erdogan’s Turkey and raise legitimate worries. But I do not suggest extending or transposing my analysis of Western Europe to other continents and political systems; I would rather say that Western European post-fascism can be located into a global post-fascist tendency, including regimes with entirely different historical trajectories and pasts. Otherwise, it would be a very problematic way of creating for the umpteenth time a Eurocentric paradigm of fascism, which is not my approach.
The problem of how to define post-fascism, however, still remains after these considerations. Global post-fascism is a heterogeneous constellation in which we can find shared features and tendencies. They are nationalism, authoritarianism, and a specific idea of “national regeneration.” Within this constellation, these tendencies might appear differently combined and in varying degrees.
For instance, Putin’s Russia is much more authoritarian than Meloni’s Italy. In Italy, we have a chief of government who proudly claims the fascist past (her own and that of her country), but Italy’s dissident voices are not censured, persecuted, or put to jail like in Russia. There are no Italians who are exiled because their lives are threatened in Italy. This is a significant qualitative difference. Another relevant difference is the relationship to violence. We are speaking about Russia, which is a country involved in a war. The violence displayed by this variety of post-fascist regimes cannot be compared.
There are a lot of relevant discrepancies distinguishing all these forms of post-fascism from classical fascism. Their ideologies and their ways of mobilizing the masses are not the same… The utopian dimension, for instance, which characterizes classical fascism, is utterly absent from current fascism, which is very conservative. We could mention other cleavages.
“Italian post-fascists do not wish to install a dictatorship or to dissolve the parliament, but emotionally and culturally they remain fascist”
Ilya: I would like to go through these features of post-fascism. If I understand you correctly, after reading the book and some of your interviews, you stress that post-fascism came from the crisis of democracy. Democracy not as a normative term, but electoral politics, to be more precise. The difference between classical fascism and post-fascism is that the latter does not challenge democracy.
Classical fascism had the task of overthrowing democracy. Post-fascism still tries to use electoral mechanisms. The transformation towards an openly fascist dictatorship should take place through legal institutions. I am interested, in particular, in this moment of transition. You also write in your book that post-fascism can be understood as a stage for the new quality of political regimes with authoritarian or dictatorial features. How do you think this transition differs in different regions? I believe that in Russia fascist tendencies developed from the top. Twenty years ago, elements of the authoritarian regime were already installed, and since then Russia has been transformed into some kind of fascist dictatorship.
Enzo: A straightforward historical overview shows that many authoritarian regimes with fascist features have appeared without mass movements, but were introduced through a military coup, for instance Franco’s regime in Spain or Latin American regimes in the 1960s and the 1970s. They were not supported by a mass movement unlike the canonical examples of fascist Italy and Nazi Germany. Both Mussolini and Hitler were appointed to power by the King (of the Italian monarchy) and by the President (of the Weimar Republic) respectively, according to their constitutional prerogatives. I don’t think that we can create a compelling or normative fascist paradigm. It is a large category including different ideologies and forms of power.
“Post-fascists win elections because they oppose neoliberalism, but when they come to power, they apply neoliberal policies”
An enormous difference that separates post-fascism from classical fascism is the huge transformation that has taken place in the public sphere. At the time of classical fascism, charismatic leaders had an almost physical contact with their community of followers. Fascist rallies were liturgical moments that celebrated this emotional communion between the leader and its disciples. Today this connection has been replaced by the media, which create a completely different kind of charismatic leadership, at the same time more extended and pervasive, but also more fragile. Nonetheless, we cannot avoid the fundamental question: What does fascism mean in the twenty-first century? All observers constantly face this question: Is Trump/Putin/Bolsonaro/Le Pen/Meloni/Orban fascist?
The simple fact of putting this question means that for us it is impossible to analyze all these leaders or regimes without comparing them to classical fascism. On the one hand, they are not fascist tout court; on the other hand, they cannot be defined without being compared with fascism. They are something between fascism and democracy, oscillating between these two poles according to the changing circumstances.
There are also contradictory dynamics. Russian nationalism is going through a process of radicalization, reinforcing these post-fascist tendencies. In Western Europe, the Italian case is emblematic of the opposite tendency. Until very recent times, Georgia Meloni was the only political leader who shamelessly claimed her fascist identity in the Italian parliament. In this she differed from other far-rights in Europe, for example Marine Le Pen, who had explicitly abandoned the ideological and political models of her father by changing the name of her movement (Rassemblement National replacing Front National). Marine Le Pen claimed her belief in democracy, affirming her support to the institutions of the French Republic, and so on, when Meloni celebrated the accomplishments of Mussolini’s Italy. The latter won the elections — thanks to a favorable electoral system and the division of the center-left — not because of her ideological references but rather because she appeared as the only and most coherent adversary of Mario Draghi, the chief of a governmental coalition supported by the European Union.
However, since she came to power, Meloni is conducting the same policies of her predecessor and no longer criticizes the EU institutions. As chief of government, she celebrated the anniversary of the Liberation, the anniversary of the triumph of democracy over fascism that took place on April 25, 1945.
Meloni reminds me of those paradoxical figures that, in the 1920s, were called in Germany Vernunftrepublikaner (“republicans by reason”). After the collapse of Wilhelm’s Empire at the end of 1918, they had accepted — by reason — the democratic institutions of the Weimar Republic, but their heart still beat for the empire. Italian post-fascists are a similar case, one century later. They do not wish to install a dictatorship or to dissolve the parliament, but emotionally and culturally speaking they remain fascist. Their fascism requires many adjustments to a changed historical context.
There is also the case of Trump. In 2016, he was a worrying and enigmatic political innovation. During his presidency, and particularly on January 6, 2021, we experienced a significant political turn that revealed a clear fascistic dynamic. Today I am not sure that the Republican Party, that was one of the pillars of the US establishment, can be defined any more as one of components of the American democracy. It is a political party in which very strong post-fascist or even neofascist tendencies have become hegemonic, a political party that puts into question the state of law and the most elementary principle of democracy: the alternation of power through elections.
Ilya: I hypothesize that in countries with a limitation of political power because of oppositional political movements or various state institutions which reduce the power of the president or prime minister, the transformation towards an authoritarian state is more complicated. Whereas in Russia, all the political institutions have lost any source of independence (no parliament, no court, no serious political opposition), and there are no limitations to the actions of the president, the only sovereign. In countries like the US, the president has many obstacles to his independent decision-making and setting of policies, and the president’s decisions are not totally decisive.
Enzo: I agree with you. I am far from idealizing liberal democracy and market society, but there is undoubtedly a difference between the United States, where democracy has existed for two and a half centuries, and Russia, where it has almost never existed. We do not need to mobilize Tocqueville to explain this. In Russia, democracy is the legacy of a few years of Glasnost and Perestroika, at the end of the USSR, as well as a byproduct of the resistance of civil society against an oligarchic power that managed the transition to capitalism three decades ago.
“Post-fascism is reactionary, and as such it is a reaction to neoliberalism”
However, there remains a cleavage between the new radical right and classical fascism that should also be considered: the relationship of post-fascism with neoliberalism, as you said at the beginning of our conversation. My book suggests that one of the keys to understanding the post-fascist wave in Western Europe is its opposition to neoliberalism. Of course, as the case of Meloni proves, it is a very contradictory opposition. They win elections because they oppose neoliberalism, but when they come to power, they apply neoliberal policies.
Italy is a great example. Neoliberalism is embodied in Western Europe by the European Union, the European Commission, the Central European Bank, etc. Those institutions are trusted interlocutors for the financial elites, who can (also?) find a compromise with Marine Le Pen, Giorgia Meloni or Victor Orban, without trusting them completely. Emmanuel Macron, Mario Draghi, and Mark Rutte are much more reliable and trusted leaders.
In the US, one key to understanding the Trump election in 2016 was his opposition to the establishment. Hilary Clinton embodied the establishment much more than Trump did, despite the obvious fact that a powerful section of American capitalism supports the Republican Party. Nonetheless, there is an evident tension between Trump — sometimes an opposition — and the most significant elements of neoliberalism. Think of the very bad relationship between Trump and California’s multinational companies, new technologies, and so on. There is also an almost “ontological” or constitutive discrepancy between neoliberalism, which works through the global market, and post-fascism, which is deeply nationalist. Post-fascists demand state interventions and protectionist tendencies that contradict the logic of financial capitalism.
Ilya: My next question is related to what you just said about current capitalism’s neoliberal transformation. You mention in your book that one of the differences between post-fascism and classical fascism is the lack of a project for the future. While classical fascism was a modernist project with a vision of another society (opposite to any emancipatory socialist perspective), post-fascism has no consistent project, only a no-horizon view. There’s an idea that we have to go back to some beautiful past without any vision of the future. This reminds me of one of the main features of neoliberalism. There’s no future, no alternative. Capitalist realism is dominant, as Mark Fischer once pointed out. Another feature is the temporal experience of the post-fascist leaders. People like Putin and Trump are older people. Classical fascism was mostly the movement of the young. Do you think this lack of the future and retrospective, nostalgic element of post-fascism somehow relates to the neoliberal lack of view on the future?
Enzo: You point out some relevant issues. Classical fascism possessed a powerful utopian dimension. It wanted to be an alternative to both liberalism and communism, but it even strived to be a new civilization, something related to a different conception of existence itself. They launched very ambitious projections of society: the myth of the new man, the myth of the “thousand-year Reich,” and so on.
This utopian dimension was rooted in the depth of the European and international crisis of capitalism. It does not exist today because capitalism in its neoliberal form appears as an insuperable and indestructible framework. Between the two world wars, there was an alternative to capitalism, created by the Russian Revolution, and communism as a utopian project was able to mobilize millions of human beings. This is a huge difference. Contemporary post-fascist currents are extremely conservative. They wish to save traditional values. They want to return to the traditional idea of a nation, conceived as a cultural, religious, and ethnically homogeneous community. They wish to restore the Christian values on which the history of Europe was built. They want to defend national communities against the invasion of Islam, immigration, etc. They wish to protect national sovereignty against globalism. This does not remind us of the fascist utopianism or Nazi Germany, much more of the German “cultural despair” (Kulturpessimismus) of the end of the nineteenth century.
“While post-fascism opposes neoliberalism, it is simultaneously rooted in its social structure”
Post-fascism is reactionary, and as such it is a reaction to neoliberalism, which does not wish to come back to national borders and sovereignties. Neoliberal historical temporality is “presentist,” not reactionary. It posits an eternal present that absorbs both past and future: our lives and society must run and can be destroyed if they don’t fit the compelling rules of capital development, according to a temporality rhythmed by the stock exchange, but the general framework of capitalism is immutable. Capitalism was “naturalized,” and this is probably the major achievement of neoliberalism. Post-fascism is an illusory alternative to neoliberalism, just as fascism often depicted itself as “anti-capitalist”; but the difference is that today the ruling classes do not choose this fake alternative. Their institutions are not so deeply unsettled to accept such an option.
The same can be said about its expansionism. Italian fascism wished to conquer new colonies; Nazi Germany wanted to conquer the entire continental Europe. Today’s post-fascism is very xenophobic and racist, but its xenophobia and racism are defensive. They say: we must protect ourselves against the threat embodied by the “invasion” of non-white and non-European immigrants. We are not going to conquer Ethiopia; we are going to protect ourselves from Ethiopian immigration. The comparison between Putin’s aggression of Ukraine and the fascist or Nazi conquests in Europe does not work because Putin’s expansionism wishes to recreate the Russian Empire in Central Europe by reintegrating a country that Russian nationalism has always considered its own vital space, culturally belonging to Russian history. But the Ukrainian war, if we can make a counterfactual comparison, is as if the German invasion of Poland in September 1939 had been stopped in two weeks and the Wehrmacht had to give up occupying Warsaw.
Ilya: I agree that Hitler was much more successful than Putin.
Enzo:The nature of expansion is not the same. The Nazi aggression against Poland was imperialistic and expansionist; the Russian aggression of Ukraine is revanchist and “defensive,” especially considering Kiev’s goal of joining NATO. There are also some relevant demographic differences. In the 1930s, Nazi Germany had, like Russia today, suffered a significant loss of territories and population, but its population was dramatically growing. As for Italy, its population grew despite a structural emigration that weakened its economy. If today Putin embodies an illusory nationalist response to the collapse of 1990, it is also because his defensive expansionism is not supported by a powerful demographic dynamic. Russia is declining and struggling to preserve its status as a superpower. Of course, it has some advantages: nuclear weapons and so on. But economically and demographically speaking, its radicalized nationalism is defensive.
But let me add a last consideration on neoliberalism. Neoliberalism is not only a set of economic policies: free market, deregulation, global economy. It is also an anthropological model, a conduct of life. It is a philosophy and a lifestyle based on competition, individualism, and a particular way of conceiving human relations. In the twenty-first century, this anthropological paradigm has been imposed on a global scale. This means that all post-fascist movements are rooted in this anthropological background. This explains why there are so many significant changes compared with classical fascism. First, we have powerful post-fascist movements led by women. This would have been inconceivable in the 1930s. Second, the movements must accept certain forms of individualism, individual rights, and freedoms. Their Islamophobia, for instance, is sometimes formulated as a defense of Western values against Islamic obscurantism. This way, while post-fascism opposes neoliberalism, it is simultaneously rooted in its social structure.
“The Ukrainian Resistance is conducting a national liberation war that is forcefully plural and heterogeneous”
Ilya: You have mentioned that one of the primary emotions of post-fascism is the defensive line.
In fact, the whole war in Russia was presented by the official propaganda as a defense not just against NATO but also fake values, especially the infiltration of LGBT and gender politics. In this sense, one can say that in this kind of regime, the borders between international politics and domestic politics are blurring. However, we can also see that the neoliberal mindset you have just talked about dominates all explanations of the international situation. Of course, Putin is very much preoccupied in his political imagination with the role of Russia in the global arena. Still, Putin and other Russian officials explain that international relations are a kind of market where you have competition, where the same self-interest paradigm is defining the position of states, where the multipolar world that they advertise instead of American hegemony is the true free market against monopoly. They see the world as the US’s monopoly, which should be challenged by true, honest, fair competition of multiple strong players. How do you see these relations?
Enzo: I am not well equipped to answer this question satisfactorily. Of course, the tenacious and admirable resistance of Ukraine against Russian invasion deserves to be supported, both politically and militarily. I don’t agree with the currents of Western left that denounce Russian aggression and simultaneously refuse to send weapons to Kiev. This seems to me a hypocritical stance. The Ukrainian Resistance is conducting a national liberation war that is forcefully plural and heterogeneous. Like all Resistance movements in Europe during the Second World War, it includes right- and left-wing currents, nationalist and cosmopolitan sensitivities, authoritarian and democratic tendencies.
Between 1943 and 1945, the Italian Resistance gathered a large spectrum of forces, going from the communists (the hegemonic tendency) to the monarchists (a small minority), and passing through social-democrats, liberals, and Catholics. In France, Resistance had two souls — De Gaulle and the communists — beside which there were also fighting Catholics, Trotskyists, and a constellation of small (but very effective) organizations of anti-fascist immigrants from Central Europe, Italy, Spain, Turkish Armenia, etc. This diversity is inevitable in a national resistance movement. ...Read More
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History Lesson of the Week:
Mark Twain Fought For The South In The Civil War.
He Lasted Two Weeks Before He Quit.
In 1861, the 25-year-old Missourian, alongside 14 other idealistic young men, answered Gov. Claiborne Fox Jackson’s call to defend their home state.
By CLAIRE BARRETT
April 14, 2023 - “You have heard from a great many people who did something in the war; is it not fair and right that you listen a little moment to one who started out to do something in it but didn’t?” wrote Mark Twain in his semi-fictionalized wartime account, titled “The Private History of a Campaign That Failed.”
“Thousands entered the war, got just a taste of it, and then stepped out again, permanently,” he continued. “These, by their very numbers, are respectable and therefore entitled to a sort of voice, — not a loud one, but a modest one; not a boastful one but an apologetic one. …”
In the summer of 1861, the former riverboat pilot went to war, according to the St. Louis Magazine, on a small yellow mule carrying a valise, a carpetbag, two gray blankets, a homemade quilt, a squirrel rifle, 20 yards of rope, a frying pan and, perhaps most importantly of all, an umbrella.
The 25-year-old Missourian, alongside 14 other idealistic young men, answered Gov. Claiborne Fox Jackson’s call of 50,000 militia to defend their home state.
The few, the band of brothers, called themselves the Marion Rangers, with Twain entering their ranks as a second lieutenant.
Twain, whose real name was Samuel Clemens, had grown up amid slavery in the South. His father had owned slaves. So had his neighbors. In 1860 Twain had voted for John Bell in the presidential election, who, although a Tennessee slaveholder, had opposed secession.
Twain’s vote was seemingly a vote for the status quo he had grown up around.
But as the war approached Missouri, Twain decided to take a stand — albeit a brief one.
In all, the famed author’s two-week stint as a soldier in the Civil War largely amounted to him larping as a Confederate.
“The first hour was all fun, all idle nonsense and laughter. But that could not be kept up,” Twain wrote in “The Private History of a Campaign That Failed.”
“The steady trudging came to be like work; the play had somehow oozed out of it; the stillness of the woods and the somberness of the night began to throw a depressing influence over the spirits of the boys…”
As the men slogged farther into the woods around Hannibal, Marion County — seemingly with no real plan of action or direction — the men began to quibble over whose job it was to cook. No one seriously took orders from their “chain of command,” as most didn’t even know what the ranking structure consisted of.
After Twain ordered a subordinate to feed his mule the man retorted that he didn’t reckon “he went to war to be a dry-nurse to a mule.” Twain himself mused that he “believed that this was insubordination, but [he] was full of uncertainties about everything military, and so [he] let the thing pass.”
To make matters worse, it rained continuously, according to accounts, adding to the malaise of the already downtrodden men.
Cosplaying at war, the Marion Rangers would retreat at the merest mention or sign of Union troops in the area.
“I knew more about retreating than the man that invented retreating,” Twain quipped of his experience.
The men tried to retreat, “only to realize that they had no idea how to retreat,” according to a report by The Great Falls Tribune. “Their paper command structure collapsed, and for two weeks they stumbled and bumbled their way around the area, until at last they were threatened by a real Yankee military force commanded, as they later learned, by colonel and soon to be general Ulysses S. Grant.”
By then, the 25-year-old had had it with his little war and slipped away to his sister Pam’s home in St. Louis. Soon after, Twain’s brother, Orion Clemens, offered him an opportunity to go west that summer to Nevada. Twain readily accepted, summarily ending his war.
Ironically, 20 years after Twain’s brush with the Confederacy, it was he who suggested to the ailing Grant that the former Union general-turned-president write his memoirs.
Grant, who was slowly dying of throat cancer, had watched as his entire nest egg disappeared after the collapse of Grant & Ward, the investment firm into which Grant had put his entire life’s savings.
Motivated to provide for his beloved wife, Julia, as his inevitable death loomed, Grant got to writing.
Twain had been instrumental in the formation of Charles L. Webster & Company in 1884. Though it bore the name of his nephew through marriage, Twain was its de facto head, and in February 1885 the company made Grant an offer — Grant should get as much as a 20 percent royalty, or alternatively, 70 percent of the net profits, according to historian John Vacha.
Julia was to be well taken care of and, thanks to one former Marion Ranger, the “Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant” became, next to the Bible and “Uncle Tom’s Cabin,” the most visible volumes in 19th-century American homes — at least, writes Vacha, those outside the South ...Read More
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The Tren Maya: For Better or For Worse?
WEEKLY BULLETIN OF THE MEXICO SOLIDARITY PROJECT
from the May 17, 2023 Bulletin
No railroad will ever be just a railroad. Railroads transform communities, regions, and nations. In the United States, the transcontinental railroad’s completion took a fragmented society and connected it “from sea to shining sea.”
This connection, with the transcontinental railroad in private hands, made life far sweeter for fabulously wealthy railroad barons than for the Native Americans who lost their lands to the railroad and the Chinese and Irish workers who lost their lives laying the rails.
In contemporary México, AMLO’s Tren Maya project will also be transformational — for an entire region’s social and economic fabric. But this ambitious project, as a public project, isn’t enriching just a few. Under the Tren Maya’s public umbrella, government planners from many areas of expertise — from environmental and social services to economic development and recreation — can work in tandem with the explicit intention of bettering the lives of the region’s people and avoiding enriching the few at the expense of the many.
But “the road to hell,” as they say, “is paved with good intentions.” Does that hold true for railroads to hell as well? In any large-scale project, process looms as important — for better or worse — as product. For this week’s issue, we had the good fortune to talk with Etienne von Bertrab, a person exquisitely situated to help us understand the Tren Maya’s impact.
This ace researcher has spent three years leading a research team that’s been surveying attitudes in the Tren Maya region and analyzing the project’s environmental and cultural impact. We found his perspective fascinating. We think you will, too. ...Read More
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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.
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Book Review: Great Migration and the Black Literary Legends It Inspired
Chi Boy is part memoir, part social history, part eulogy for his ancestors, and part tribute to men whose literary output continues to inspire him.
By Eleanor J. Bader
The Indypendent via Portside
May 10, 2023 - Keenan Norris’ Chi Boy is part memoir, part social history, part eulogy for his ancestors and part tribute to men whose literary output continues to inspire him. The Windy City is the linchpin of this poetic but searing story.
Jim Crow racism drove Norris’ people from the South, eventually landing them in segregated Chicago where opportunities were few and poverty was extensive. Still, arriving after World War II ended, they took whatever menial jobs were available to men and women of color and made do, raising four kids in a cramped, rodent-infested apartment. Domestic violence, alcoholism, and infidelity were part of the social fabric. So were books.
Chi Boy: Native Sons and Chicago Reckonings
Mad Creek Books/The Ohio State University Press
Writers such as James Baldwin, Frank Marshall Davis, Ralph Ellison and Richard Wright sustained Norris’ dad and he passed his love of literature to his son. Later, Barack Obama, another transplanted Chicagoan, gave the Norris’ new perspectives to consider, and fueled debate about the limitations of the promise of equal opportunity.
These ongoing discussions fired the younger Norris’ imagination; Chi Boy not only parses Obama’s words but also interrogates the most significant works of the aforementioned writers, all of whom made their home in Chicago. Now a professor at San Jose State University in California, Norris deconstructs their work with an eye toward time, place and social conditions, zeroing in on the political milieu that influenced each author’s work. In addition, personal foibles and missteps are highlighted.
Richard Wright’s misogyny, for example, is detailed. And while Norris does not condone it, he offers an explanation: “Violence begets trauma,” he writes, “and trauma remains and is inherited in one form or another.” At the same time, his conclusion is stark: “Chicago’s most famous Black writer is among its most misogynistic…That misogyny in the writing is often directed at Black women particularly, which is even more disturbing, given the deep and unique harms that Black women are subjected to in this society.”
Other critiques are equally perceptive, and Norris’ prose is brilliantly pointed.
The result is fascinating, if nonlinear, and includes numerous seemingly unrelated forays into seemingly unrelated themes. Among them is the story of the Norris family itself, a tale that is woven throughout the narrative and illustrated with emotional anecdotes about grandfather Bill’s decision to leave the South and father Butch’s coming-of-age in the 1950s and 60s. The result could have been jarring since it pairs incongruous histories, juxtaposing acclaimed writers with regular guys who lacked national or international fame. That it works is a testament to Norris’ skill as a writer — this is one of the most beautifully written books I’ve ever read — and his ability to thread racial and class prejudice into each rendering.
Another tangent involves the media. Norris lambastes journalists that continue to present stereotypes about Black communities in Chicago and elsewhere, depicting them as places overflowing with thuggery, gang violence and grinding poverty. This, he explains, ignores the manifold ways that Black and Brown people provide mutual aid to one another, organize to improve community conditions, and create joy through art, music and activism. The media creation of the term Chi-Raq, as if Chicago was and is a war zone analogous to Iraq, comes in for particular critique for its damaging misrepresentation. ...Read More
Film Review: Timekeeping and Swiss Anarchists.
By Julia HertÄg
New Left Review's 'Sidecar'
MAY 19, 2023 - Unrueh – ‘unrest’ – the title of Swiss director Cyril Schäublin’s latest film, set in 1877 among anarchist watchmakers in Saint-Imier, a remote village in Switzerland’s Jura mountains, is the term for the wheel in the centre of a mechanical watch that ensures its continuous and even ticking.
The unrest wheel inside a pocket watch is so tiny and the act of adjusting it so meticulous that, despite the film’s extended close-ups on the mechanism, its workings remain mysterious. Even the detailed explanations given by a young factory worker, Josephine Gräbli (Clara Gostynski), to her fellow anarchist, Pyotr Kropotkin (Alexei Evstratov), who happens to be visiting the village, don’t entirely clarify it. When Josephine asks if he understands her, Kropotkin replies: ‘I think so’. If the functioning of the unrest wheel is largely impenetrable, Unrueh suggests, so are the forces revolutionizing production in Kropotkin’s time (as well as those that keep our own economic system running).
Schäublin’s film, which picked up a prize at last year’s Berlin International Film Festival, is, at a basic level, about the establishment and maintenance of clock time. Yet as the more familiar meaning of its title suggests, it is also about the disruptive effects of this technology on work and everyday life. That includes the lives of the watchmakers themselves, who are dissatisfied with the conditions in their factory, and inspired to resist them by the radical experiments unfolding elsewhere (the Paris Commune was established just six years earlier).
The anarchist movement acquired a particular momentum in St Imier – which Kropotkin, in his Memoirs of a Revolutionist (1899), ascribes to the fact that the small workshops where clocks were produced allowed for easy communication and organization among workers. The film portrays the interplay of these two counter-movements, technological advance and political resistance, at this crucial juncture in the industrial revolution. On one level, the watchmakers spend their days crafting devices that facilitate their own oppression: factory managers could measure the time required for each of the workers’ tasks and use these measurements to ramp up productivity. Yet their close-quartered working conditions also form the basis of their resistance.
The differences in tone and style between Unrueh and canonical cinematic representations of the industrial revolution are striking. In Chaplin’s Modern Times (1936), the mechanized urban factory is the site of numerous slapstick incidents. In Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927), we witness a highly technologized capitalism that has grown spectacular and monstrous in its brutality. Paul Strand’s Manhatta (1921), Walter Ruttmann’s Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927) and Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera (1929) also focus on the city as the center of modernity. Unrueh, however, transports us to an entirely different setting. Although St Imier is a centre of production, exporting watches all over the world, here the industrial revolution – and with it, the regime of linear time – has triumphed by stealth, its soundtrack the subtle yet insistent ticking of the clock. But the effects of the change are no less profound and all-encompassing.
The watchmakers resist the increasing domination of the factory over their lives in every way they can: by working slowly, forming international alliances (we see them exchange photographs of famous anarchists), registering their discontent at the ballot box and refusing to participate in a patriotic re-enactment of a Swiss Confederation battle from the Burgundian Wars in the 1470s.
Kropotkin, a trained cartographer, is working on an anarchist map that reverses the factory managers’ efforts to rationalize space by assigning each place in the area a letter and a number; he instead draws on the traditional names used by people in the valley in an attempt to recapture the meanings these places had for them. ‘Science must reflect the ideas of the people’, he explains. Later in the film, we learn that the municipality is working on a map of its own. Different territorial logics compete, as do four different definitions of time: municipal, local, factory and church – none of them synchronized. Unrueh depicts the anarchists’ struggle against capital’s growing power over space and time, but also, significantly, over narrative itself.
The film reflects on the power of another emerging technology, photography. As Josephine is guiding Kropotkin across the factory grounds, they encounter a set: someone is shooting a photograph – which requires a flash produced by a blazing of magnesium and potassium chlorate, as well as twenty minutes of stillness – for an advert whose caption reads: ‘Nowadays one cannot imagine a man without a watch in his hand.’ We never see the image; instead we see only Kropotkin, who has been literally pushed out of the frame by the photographer.
Similarly, the film treats the fledgling love story between Kropotkin and Josephine as peripheral, hinting at it but never depicting it directly. The two first meet in the distance behind two buildings that take up most of the frame. Later, when asked whether they are willing to take part in a play telling the story of the Paris Commune, they respond with the same phrase: ‘Je ne suis pas le protagoniste.’ By eschewing the convention of relaying historical events through the emotional arc of a love story, Schäublin’s film coyly undermines its own commercial potential. History, in Unrueh, is not merely a backdrop against which a personal drama unfolds; and the film’s steady, flat rhythm – its distance from the pacing of a traditional romance – seems to stage its own resistance to the rationalization of time.
Instead of building towards dramatic peaks, much of the action happens in long tableau shots, often featuring large groups. The narrative unfurls in casual, almost muted conversations, primarily about conditions of work and how to thwart the factory managers’ designs, which always seem to take place either before or after the fact: the time just prior to the shift, during the cigarette break, the end of the workday, and so on. The film’s roving focus is mirrored by its decentred compositions: the protagonists are regularly placed in the margins of the frame, with their extremities sometimes partially cropped. Despite its frequent wide angles, Unrueh stubbornly denies us an overview. We see neither the horizon, nor the streets or paths that connect the village’s squares and buildings. Schäublin’s tableaus are often stage-like units of space that we are unable to connect to a logical whole.
The connections between the present and the late nineteenth century are similarly obscure. Clock time, which in the film appears as a new mechanism of control, now seems to us as normal and natural as the rising and setting of the sun. Yet our relationship to it has also changed profoundly in the post-industrial age. Under the guise of flexibility and autonomy, the customary distinctions between different temporal and spatial dimensions are dissolving: free time is engulfed by productive time, and surveillance, once externally imposed by the factory, is now internalized. It is Unrueh’s subtly elusive form, which seems to resist the demands of rationalized space and time – instead drawing our attention to the peripheral, the before and after, the events usually left off-stage – that makes Schäublin’s film feel at once timely and timeless.
Read on: Marcus Verhagen, ‘Making Time’, NLR 129. ...Read More
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