The Ghost Ship artist collective is not to blame for the fire. Oakland’s housing crisis is

oakland-fire-wear-your-voice-article-1

Faces of the missing from the Oakland warehouse fire (L-R) Nex Iuguolo, Chelsea Faith, Ara Jo, Micah Danemayer

Everyone has been anxiously searching for answers about the cause of the horrifying fire that broke out on Friday, December 2, in an artist warehouse set to host the “Golden Donna 2016 Silk West Coast Tour.” As confirmed so far, the fire has claimed the lives of 30 people.

The death toll expected to reach as high as 40, according to authorities.

In between the need for locals to alert loved ones about their safety, health and well-being in light of what’s happened, there is a growing mainstream narrative that looks to pin the blame for this tragedy on the culture of the artists who inhabit the building.

Outlets such as CNN and DailyNews are making it a point to emphasize that residents were living in this warehouse illegally and making commercial use of it without a permit.

While mainstream media is intent on painting a portrait of irresponsible artists/ravers who should’ve never opted to reside inside the warehouse in the first place, no one is asking the larger question of why these artists are forced to work and make a living in these specific circumstances.

Related: 14 Ways Not To Act Like A Gentrifier (As Told By One)

Even some critics on social media have managed to find fault with the culture of tenants of this artist collective — which, in so many, they describe as pathological — blaming them for the incident:

oakland_fire_housing_crisis_wyv

oakland_crisis_housing_crisis_wyv2

Nowhere in their narrow-minded criticisms is a consideration of the shrinking opportunities to legally secure residential and commercial property in the city of Oakland. Breaching this issue of the ongoing property crisis in Oakland would point the finger toward systemic forces that exceed the so-called excesses and personal flaws of individual behavior.

Oakland has been ravaged by this property crisis — including gentrification — for years now. Artist collectives have been among the hardest hit by this issue. For example, the tenants of the artist collective known as the LoBot, which set up shop in industrial buildings within the lower income community of the Lower Bottoms, had its lights cut off in July, after thirteen years in operation.

As East Bay Express documents it, “The underground artist studio and venue’s landlord had discontinued its lease, and the newly doubled monthly rent was too high.”

In a curious fashion, mainstream reporters have queried aloud in their coverage about why the tenants of these warehouses do not seek permits that would allow them to legally stay in these buildings and hire the necessary services that would get the interior structures up to code. Looking closely at the problem, the answer is pretty simple: they can’t afford it. And while the responsibility of staying up to code rested upon Ghost Ship’s owner  Derick Ion, the artists living and working in the space had little to no choice but to choose between stable housing and their own safety.

According to the SFGate, the LoBot is symptomatic of a bigger concern: Oakland rests among the 4 cities with the highest rental market in the entire country:

“One bedrooms increased 19 percent in the past year to $2,190,” writes SFGate “while two bedrooms increased 13.3 percent to reach $2,550.”

In its lamentation of the Oakland housing crisis, The Guardian portrays a similar dismal predicament that is citywide in scope, writing, “For many, the only way they can stay in Oakland is to sleep in their cars or on the streets.”

But, you won’t find economic considerations of this caliber in mainstream reports, for capitalism is far more comfortable and content with catering to the lie of atomistic individualism over deadly malfunctions in the infrastructure of the system and blaming the human disasters that are consequential to these systemic calamities on the psychological shortcomings of people viewed as willingly isolated from one another to their own detriment.

For anyone interested in helping with this tragedy, you can donate to this YouCare campaign.

http://wearyourvoicemag.com/more/social-justice/housing-crisis-not-ravers-blame-oakland-fire

Stephen Hawking: Automation and AI is going to decimate middle class jobs

stephen hawking scientist science physics

British scientist Prof. Stephen Hawking gives his ‘The Origin of the Universe’ lecture to a packed hall December 14, 2006 at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. Hawking suffers from ALS (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis or Lou Gehrigs disease), which has rendered him quadriplegic, and is able to speak only via a computerized voice synthesizer which is operated by batting his eyelids. David Silverman/Getty Images

Artificial intelligence and increasing automation is going to decimate middle class jobs, worsening inequality and risking significant political upheaval, Stephen Hawking has warned.

In a column in The Guardian, the world-famous physicist wrote that“the automation of factories has already decimated jobs in traditional manufacturing, and the rise of artificial intelligence is likely to extend this job destruction deep into the middle classes, with only the most caring, creative or supervisory roles remaining.”

He adds his voice to a growing chorus of experts concerned about the effects that technology will have on workforce in the coming years and decades. The fear is that while artificial intelligence will bring radical increases in efficiency in industry, for ordinary people this will translate into unemployment and uncertainty, as their human jobs are replaced by machines.

Technology has already gutted many traditional manufacturing and working class jobs — but now it may be poised to wreak similar havoc with the middle classes.

A report put out in February 2016 by Citibank in partnership with the University of Oxford predicted that 47% of US jobs are at risk of automation. In the UK, 35% are. In China, it’s a whopping 77% — while across the OECD it’s an average of 57%.

And three of the world’s 10 largest employers are now replacing their workers with robots.

Automation will, “in turn will accelerate the already widening economic inequality around the world,” Hawking wrote. “The internet and the platforms that it makes possible allow very small groups of individuals to make enormous profits while employing very few people. This is inevitable, it is progress, but it is also socially destructive.”

He frames this economic anxiety as a reason for the rise in right-wing, populist politics in the West: “We are living in a world of widening, not diminishing, financial inequality, in which many people can see not just their standard of living, but their ability to earn a living at all, disappearing. It is no wonder then that they are searching for a new deal, which Trump and Brexit might have appeared to represent.”

Combined with other issues — overpopulation, climate change, disease — we are, Hawking warns ominously, at “the most dangerous moment in the development of humanity.” Humanity must come together if we are to overcome these challenges, he says.

Stephen Hawking has previously expressed concerns about artificial intelligence for a different reason — that it might overtake and replace humans. “The development of artificial intelligence could spell the end of the human race,” he said in late 2014. “It would take off on its own, and redesign itself at an ever increasing rate. Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”

 

 

http://www.businessinsider.com/stephen-hawking-ai-automation-middle-class-jobs-most-dangerous-moment-humanity-2016-12?r=UK&IR=T

Trump outlines right-wing program of extreme nationalism at Cincinnati rally

usa-election_trump-51

By Joseph Kishore and Jerry White
2 December 2016

In a rally in Cincinnati, Ohio on Thursday night, US President-elect Donald Trump outlined the right-wing program of extreme “America First” nationalism of the incoming administration.

The Cincinnati speech was unlike any delivered by a president or president-elect in US history. It was a combination of blatant contradictions, exaggerations, wild hyperbole, empty demagogy and praise for himself as the man who would fix all the problems facing the country. It combined threats against political enemies with pledges to work with anyone and everyone to overcome gridlock and restore American jobs.

While couched in rhetoric about protecting the “American worker,” Trump’s policy proposals centered on massive tax cuts to corporations and deregulation, combined with increasing the size of the military, expanding police powers and sharply curtailing immigration. During the rally Trump also announced that his choice for secretary of defense is retired general James “Mad Dog” Mattis.

Trump’s remarks were clearly shaped and likely written by Trump’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News who has ties to fascistic organizations. Bannon has called for the formation of a new “movement”—a term Trump repeated throughout his remarks—based on economic nationalism and opposition to “globalists.”

A major theme was the need to “unify” the nation in opposition to Washington politicians who have subordinated “American interests” to foreign powers. “There is a lot of talk about how we are becoming a globalized world,” Trump said, “but the relationships people value in this country are local… There is no global anthem, no global currency, no certificate of global citizenship. We pledge allegiance to one flag, and that is the American flag.”

“From now on it is going to be America First,” Trump added. “We are going to put ourselves first… Our goal is to strengthen the bonds between citizens, to restore our sense of membership in a shared national community.”

As was the case during his campaign for president, Trump made a demagogic appeal to social anger over declining wages and social inequality. “Our government has failed to protect the interests of the American worker,” he said. “A shrinking workforce and flat wages are not going to be the new normal.”

There is a vast chasm between this empty populist rhetoric and the personnel that Trump has selected to populate his government. The speech followed a series of cabinet picks, including billionaire asset strippers, Wall Street bankers, and dedicated opponents of financial and corporate regulations, public education and Medicare and Medicaid, to lead the Treasury, Commerce, Education and Health and Human Services departments.

For all his talk of national “unity,” a Trump administration will be one of brutal class war. Trump’s “action plan” is centered on freeing corporations from any restraints on profit-making and exploitation. “Right now we punish companies for doing business in America,” he said. To bring back jobs, the new administration would “massively lower taxes, and make America the best place in the world to hire, to invest, to grow, to create and to expand.”

He added that he would “eliminate every single wasteful regulation that undermines the ability of our workers and our companies to compete with companies from foreign lands.”

Trump touted the deal with Carrier to continue production at its Indianapolis factory, which Carrier’s parent company, United Technologies Corp. (UTC), planned to shut by 2019 and shift production to Mexico. Carrier will retain only 800 of the 1,400 production workers at the plant, and the deal also sanctions the closure of the UTC factory in Huntington, Indiana, which will wipe out the jobs of another 700 workers.

In discussions late last month, Trump told UTC CEO Gregory Hayes that his plans to slash corporate taxes and gut labor, health and safety and environmental regulations would prove far more profitable for the company than the $65 million in annual savings it would gain from shifting production overseas. In exchange for the deal, Carrier was given another $7 million in state tax cuts and other subsidies. It is also likely that UTC, a major defense contractor, was promised even larger contracts under a Trump presidency.

Trump reiterated his proposal for major infrastructure projects, a plan that would be a boondoggle for corporations and essentially hand over public infrastructure to private companies. These measures, combined with greater restrictions on trade, would “usher in a new industrial revolution.”

Trump combined his program of tax cuts and deregulation with a call for sharp restrictions on immigration. “We will restore the sovereignty of the United States,” he said. “We will construct a great wall at the border” and “liberate our communities from the epidemic of gang violence and drugs pouring into our nation.”

Trump said little on foreign policy, except to criticize the $6 trillion spent on wars in the Middle East. He also said the US should “stop looking to topple regimes and overthrow governments” and instead focus on “rebuilding our country.” Under a Trump administration, he asserted, the US “will seek shared interests wherever possible and pursue a new era of peace, understanding and good will.”

In fact, Trump’s “America First” nationalism will be accompanied by a massive escalation of military violence. In his speech, Trump pledged a “national effort to build our badly depleted military” and called for a major campaign to “destroy ISIS.”

More significant is the selection of Mattis as secretary of defense. Mattis is a fanatic anti-Islamic militarist who played a significant role in the US invasion of Afghanistan and led the brutal 2004 assault on Falluja, Iraq. Speaking of his experiences in Afghanistan, Mattis said in 2005 that “it’s a hell of a lot of fun to shoot them.”

While leading US Central Command under Obama from 2010 to 2013, Mattis was critical of the White House for not waging war aggressively enough in the Middle East and for being too conciliatory toward Iran.

In an indication of the dominance of the military in a Trump administration, Mattis would be the first ranking general to be defense secretary since George Marshall in 1950–51. Federal law stipulates that generals must be retired for seven years before leading the Pentagon, but Mattis is expected to get a waiver from Congress. He has the support of Senate Republicans, including Senator John McCain, the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee.

Mattis will work closely with Trump’s national security advisor, another retired general, Michael Flynn.

The unions and the Democratic Party have praised Trump, echoing his economic nationalism and echoing the lie that the billionaire real estate mogul, who will head up the most right-wing government in history, is a champion of the working class.

US Senator Joe Donnelly (Democrat-Indiana) said he hoped to work with Trump to “build on momentum created by your agreement with United Technologies” and adopt a federal “outsourcing” proposal that would “deny and claw back certain tax benefits to companies that move jobs offshore.” Directing his comment at Trump, he added, “I strongly encourage you to make it clear that efforts to ship jobs offshore to chase cheap wages will be addressed head on by the Trump Administration. I stand ready to assist in any way possible.”

WSWS

Deal to “save” Indiana Carrier plant will cut 1,100 jobs

By Jerry White
1 December 2016

President-elect Donald Trump and Vice President-elect Mike Pence will appear Thursday at the Carrier heating furnace factory in Indianapolis, Indiana to announce a deal to retain jobs at the facility, which was scheduled to begin downsizing next year and completely close by 2019.

Last February, workers erupted in anger when managers informed them at a plant meeting that the factory would be closed and production moved to Monterrey, Mexico, threatening 1,300 jobs at the plant and another 700 at a facility in Huntington, near Fort Wayne, Indiana. The action was being taken “strictly for business reasons,” the company spokesman said.

Carrier plant in Indianapolis

Posturing as a defender of workers and seeking to divert anger over job losses in an anti-Mexican direction, then-presidential candidate Trump told the company that, if elected, he would impose a 35 percent tariff on any products Carrier shipped back to the US.

In a Twitter post Tuesday night, Carrier officials wrote, “We are pleased to have reached a deal with President-elect Trump & VP-elect Pence to keep close to 1,000 jobs in Indy.” According to a report in Fortune magazine, up to 1,300 jobs will still be transferred to Mexico, including those of at least 300 workers in the fan coil division in Indianapolis. All 700 workers in Huntington will lose their jobs when the plant closes.

Jeff, a Carrier worker, told the WSWS, “I hope it is only 300 jobs they are taking, but I’m thinking it will be 400 lost in Indy.”

Workers expressed concerns about additional pay cuts, but hoped that the company would have difficulty reopening the four-year labor agreement it signed with the United Steelworkers union in April. “The last two contracts we’ve given up plenty of concessions—even creating a three-tier wage scale. They weren’t moving because they were losing money, they were leaving for pure greed,” Jeff added.

While Trump supporters and local Democrats, including US Senator Joe Donnelly, have hailed the deal as proof that the president-elect will stand up to companies to defend “American jobs,” the deal is a boondoggle for Carrier and its parent company, United Technologies Corporation (UTC).

On Thanksgiving, Trump met with UTC’s chief executive Gregory Hayes and told him the federal tax changes and deregulation the incoming administration was committed to enacting would save UTC more than the $65 million per year it would get by shifting production to Mexico, where workers are paid $6 an hour in wages and benefits.

It is also likely that Trump promised that UTC—a major defense contractor—would receive more lucrative military contracts during his presidency. UTC’s Pratt & Whitney division makes engines for the F-35 jet fighter and received a $1.03 billion government order last April.

In this, Trump would be following the advice of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders, who penned an open letter to the president-elect last week calling on Trump “to make it clear to the CEO of United Technologies that if his firm wants to receive another defense contract from the taxpayers of this country, it must not move these plants to Mexico.”

The combination of federal and state tax cuts, increased military contracts and corporate deregulation evidently convinced the UTC boss that keeping some operations in Indiana was the “patriotic” thing to do.

In a statement released Wednesday, Carrier said, “Today’s announcement is possible because the incoming Trump-Pence administration has emphasized to us its commitment to support the business community and create an improved, more competitive US business climate.” The statement went on to say that the deal “in no way diminishes our belief that the forces of globalization will continue to require solutions for the long-term competitiveness of the US and of American workers moving forward.”

In other words, more wage and benefit cuts, layoffs and speedup are coming.

The extent of any wage and benefit concessions included in the deal is not yet known. A spokesman for United Steelworkers (USW) Local 1999-07, which had already signed a plant-closing and employee severance agreement, told the WSWS that the union was not involved in the negotiations with the president-elect. Union officials will reportedly meet with Trump and Pence Thursday morning before the two men visit the plant.

The USW, however, has already agreed to a series of wage and benefit concessions. Under the current four-year contract signed last April, new-hires under “Appendix B” receive $14.50 to $19.47 per hour, depending on their job classifications, compared to $19.50 to $26.75 for workers hired before 2011. It is likely that Carrier will give severance packages to more senior, higher-paid workers so they can replace them with Appendix B workers.

While several Carrier workers posting on their Facebook page expressed relief over the announcement, many were suspicious of the deal.

One worker said, “Folks are praising him for keeping their jobs. To me, no one is safe until they explain what jobs are secure! I don’t trust Carrier. When the contract is up, will they just lock the gates on the employees?”

She added, “The middle class gets stuck paying higher taxes, the employees will pay a price for these jobs to stay. Don’t get me wrong. I am very happy for those that keep their jobs. But I have trust issues thinking this is going to run smooth and not have wage cuts.”

The deal reportedly includes nearly a million dollars a year in state tax cuts for Carrier. As governor of Indiana, Pence showered hundreds of millions of dollars in corporate tax cuts and other subsidies on General Motors, Carrier and other firms. These giveaways have been paid for through savage budget cuts in public education and other services, and attacks on teachers and other public sector workers.

Pence has also used the lowering of manufacturing wages and benefits, facilitated by the USW, the United Auto Workers and other unions, to lure companies to the state, where the average factory worker makes $24,000 a year, four percent lower than the national average.

Indianapolis has been devastated by wave after wave of factory closings, including the 2010 shuttering of a General Motors stamping plant as a result of Obama’s restructuring of GM, and the closing of truck manufacturer Navistar’s foundry last year. Bearing manufacturer Rexnord recently announced it would close its plant in the city next year, wiping out another 300 jobs.

Navistar foundry that closed in 2015

Trump exploited the deep discontent in so-called “Rust Belt” states like Indiana, Wisconsin, Ohio and Pennsylvania to win the presidential election. Many workers, including those who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012, backed Trump because Clinton and the Democrats expressed nothing but contempt for workers whose lives have been ravaged by deindustrialization, wage cuts and increased health care and pension costs.

The decades-long promotion of economic nationalism by the unions, echoed by Bernie Sanders during the election campaign, left workers susceptible to Trump’s anti-Mexican and anti-Chinese propaganda.

Workers will soon come to realize that the billionaire real estate mogul has no answer to the social crisis. On the contrary, he is assembling a cabinet of billionaires, including his designated commerce secretary Wilbur Ross, who oversaw the destruction of the jobs, wages and pensions of hundreds of thousands coal miners, steel workers and auto parts workers.

“Trump’s bringing in opponents of Medicare and there are a lot of workers here who rely on that,” a General Motors worker at a nearby Indiana plant said. Referring to the Carrier deal, he added, “Corporations never bestowed anything out of the goodness of their hearts. A lot of workers who voted for Trump are going to get hurt. The key thing that got Trump elected was the economy. Workers were angry about the foreclosed houses, the factories bulldozed down.

“Years ago I would come out of an election and think, ‘Now it’s time to unify and work for the good of the country no matter what your party.’ Now, I look at this whole election process as the two parties of the ruling class working for the same thing—like Obama said, an ‘intramural scrimmage’ on the same team. I think we peons are going to wake up to this.”

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/12/01/carr-d01.html

Cornel West: Unlike Bernie Sanders, I’m Not Convinced the Democratic Party Can Be Reformed

download

DECEMBER 01, 2016

Watch iconWATCH FULL SHOW


GUESTS
Cornel West

Professor Emeritus at Princeton University. He’s written numerous books, most recently “The Radical King: Martin Luther King, Jr.” His other books include “Black Prophetic Fire.”

In the wake of Donald Trump’s election victory over Hillary Clinton, some progressives are now pushing a shake up of the Democratic Party’s leadership in efforts to reform the party. But Dr. Cornel West says he doubts the Democratic Party can be reformed. During the Democratic primary, West endorsed Bernie Sanders. Sanders later picked him to serve on the Democratic platform committee. After Hillary Clinton won the nomination, West made headlines when he endorsed Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein. For more we speak with West about the Democratic Party and what organizing looks like in the wake of the election.


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

AMY GOODMAN: So, a lot of questions, and I encourage people to watch the full hour at democracynow.org. You were a big supporter of Bernie Sanders. You served on the Democratic Platform Committee on behalf of Bernie Sanders. Do you think he’s right to re— work on reforming the Democrats rather than focus on building a new party? He is leading a movement called our revolution. He has said we have to work with Donald in different ways. He says to the people who supported him. Elizabeth Warren, in the last day, has said she is not so clear she’s going to be working with Donald Trump. I mean, very interesting when Barack Obama came in, Mitch McConnell made it clear they won’t work with Obama at all. But, what are your thoughts on all of this, the inside/outside strategy?

CORNEL WEST: Well, I think there’s going to be a lot of different responses. I have a deep love and respect for brother Bernie Sanders. I always will. I don’t always agree with him. I’m not convinced that the Democratic Party can be reformed. I think it still has a kind of allegiance to a neoliberal orientation. It still has allegiance to Wall Street, the very victory of Nancy Pelosi is a sign that neoliberalism is still hegemonic in the party. I hope that Keith Ellison is able to present a challenge to it. But, my hunch is —

AMY GOODMAN: — as head of — if he makes it is head of the Democratic National Committee.

CORNEL WEST: If he’s head of the DNC. But my hunch is the Democratic Party has simply run out of gas. I mean, this is a party that couldn’t even publicly oppose TPPwhen we debated that in the Platform Committee. And that’s just one small example. Couldn’t stop — couldn’t vote to stop Fracking, and so on. So, it’s still so tied to big money.

AMY GOODMAN: Even though Hillary Clinton had changed her position, because of the pressure of Bernie Sanders on TPP?

CORNEL WEST: Exactly, and tight there in the debates, they got the word from the White House, we didn’t want to embarrass the president. Embarrass the president? What about the poor and working people who are dealing with the suffering? Is that less important than embarrassing the president? And they were very clear about that. And I pushed and pushed and pushed. Here’s somebody — they can’t even talk about the Israeli occupation honestly. The president uses a language in 2009, they can’t use it in the platform. Why? Because they tied to the lobby, they tied to APEC. So that, when you have those kinds of restraints on you, these albatrosses around your neck, how are you going to be a party for the people? How you going to be a party for working people, poor people. How you going to be a party for those brothers and sisters in Yemen who are dealing with U.S.-supported troops and bombs killing them, mediated with Saudi Arabian government? How you going to deal with the Palestinians, deal with the Israeli occupation? How you going to deal with Africans, the expansion of afrikom, and so forth? There has to be some integrity and moral consistency. And unfortunately, the Democratic Party just strikes me as not being able to meet that challenge. But, I’ll work with brother Bernie Sanders and others both out of love and because I know in his heart he’s got a certain deep commitment to working people. But now, even as an independent socialist, he’s behaving as a New Deal liberal.

AMY GOODMAN: What does that mean?

CORNEL WEST: That means that he is a — well, a Democratic Socialist is a radical who’s critical of the system. A New Deal liberal works within the system and doesn’t want to bring massive critique for structural change. And I can understand it because he’s inside. But those of us who are outside and free, we’re going to tell the truth. We’re going to be honest. We will have certain kind of moral and spiritual integrity. And no matter how marginal that makes us, we’re not, in any way, going to become well-adjusted to this injustice out here.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re going to break and come back to what’s happened in North Carolina, and then you’re headed to North Dakota. So, we’ll talk about that. Dr. Cornel West, Professor Emeritus at Princeton University. He endorsed Bernie Sanders, and was served on the Democratic Platform Committee. This is Democracy Now! We’ll be back in a minute.

The original content of this program is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License. Please attribute legal copies of this work to democracynow.org. Some of the work(s) that this program incorporates, however, may be separately licensed. For further information or additional permissions, contact us.

Historians on comparing fascism to Trumpism

Should we even go there? 

Recent events around the world have prompted debate about the historical parallels between our times and the period preceding the second world war

Trumpism: ‘The parallel universe of lies which are habitual, massive, cumulative’.
Trumpism: ‘The parallel universe of lies which are habitual, massive, cumulative.’ Illustration: Rob Dobi

Last Thursday, an 89-year-old Auschwitz survivor recorded a video which promptly went viral. She compared “the humiliation, the demonization of others” and “the attempt to bring out the worst traits in people” in contemporary Austrian politics to her own experience of fascism. Gertrude – her last name has been withheld – lost her entire family in the Holocaust. Her testimony has now been watched more than three million times.

On Sunday, Gertrude’s compatriots will vote for their next president. Norbert Hofer, the far-right candidate whose anti-immigration party was set up by a former SS officer, looks set to win.

Across Europe, a wave of hyper-nationalist politicians is threatening to splinter the European Union, with Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and Marine Le Pen in France waiting in the wings. In the US, many Americans are still figuring out how they’re going to face the next four years of a president elected after a campaign built on racism, anti-intellectualism, misogyny and truth distortion; his suggestion of a register for Muslims horrified many. It also prompted comparisons – some of them lazy, some of them astute – between the 1930s and now.

Against this backdrop, Volker Ullrich’s timely recent account of Hitler’s rise to power, Hitler: Ascent 1889-1939, has received critical acclaimand prompted considerable debate about the historical parallels between our times and that of the pre-war period. It also raises questions about whether history can teach us how to rewrite our own script.

Ullrich, a German historian and journalist for the Hamburg broadsheet Die Zeit, based his book on decades of research. He tells me it was written between 2009 and 2013 to a background noise of extreme right movements on the rise. As a result, he says, one question became fixed in his brain: “What are the necessary social and psychological conditions that allow populists of Hitler’s ilk to gain a mass following and attain power?”

Making Germany great again

“There are certain traits you can recognize that Hitler and Trump have in common,” Ullrich says. “I would say the egomania, the total egocentricity of both men, and the inclination to mix lies and truth – that was very characteristic of Hitler.”

Like Trump, “Hitler exploited peoples’ feelings of resentment towards the ruling elite.” He also said he would make Germany great again. Ullrich also notes both men’s talent at playing the media, making use of new technology and their propensity for stage effects.

Ullrich, however, is keen to highlight how they differ. “I think the differences are still greater than the similarities,” he says. “Hitler was not only more intelligent, but craftier. He was not just a powerful orator, but a talented actor who succeeded in winning over various social milieus. So not just the economically threatened lower middle classes which Trump targeted, but also the upper middle classes. Hitler had many supporters in the German aristocracy.”

Trump was also democratically elected, while Hitler never had a majority vote. “He was appointed by the president of the German Reich.” Then there’s the fact that Trump does not lead a party “which is unconditionally committed to him”.

“A further obvious difference is that Trump doesn’t have a private militia, as Hitler did with the SA, which he used in his first months after coming to power to settle scores with his opponents, like the Communists and Social Democrats. You can’t possibly imagine something similar with Trump – that he’ll be locking Democrats up into concentration camps. Even Hillary Clinton, who he threatened to send to prison – that was just an empty threat, he’s not going to do that.”

“Finally, the American constitution is based on a system of checks and balances. It remains to be seen how far Congress will really limit Trump or if, as is feared, he can override it. It was different with Hitler, who, as we know, managed to eliminate all resistance in the shortest space of time and effectively establish himself as an all-powerful dictator. Within a few months, there was effectively no longer any opposition.”

According to Ullrich, Hitler’s rise was neither an accident nor inevitable, and could have been prevented very early on.

“Hitler profited from the fact that his opponents always underestimated him,” Ullrich explains. “His conservative allies in government assumed they could tame or ‘civilise’ him – that once he became chancellor he’d become vernünftig(meaning sensible, reasonable). Very quickly it became clear that was an illusion.”

“There were many situations where he could have been stopped. For example in 1923 after the failed Munich putsch – if he’d served his full prison sentence of several years, he wouldn’t have made a political comeback. Instead, he only spent a few months behind bars, [having been released after political pressure] and could rebuild his movement.”

The western powers made the same mistake with their appeasement politics, indecision and indulgence. “In the 1930s Hitler strengthened, rather than weakened, his aggressive intentions,” Ullrich says. “So you could learn from this that you have to react faster and much more vigorously than was the case at the time.”

Ullrich also contends that if Hindenburg, the president of the Reich, had allowed Chancellor Brüning, of the Centre party, to remain chancellor to the end of 1934, rather than responding to pressure from conservatives to dismiss him in 1932, “then the peak of the economic crisis would have passed and it would have been very questionable whether Hitler could still have come to power”.

At the same time, Hitler’s ascent was no mere fluke. “There were powerful forces in the big industries, but also in the landowning class and the armed forces, which approved of a fascist solution to the crisis.”

The ‘boo’ word

Ullrich is not the only historian leery of comparing like for like.

“The problem with fascism is that it’s a sort of ‘boo’ word,” says Richard Bosworth, a professor of history at Oxford and award-winning biographer of Mussolini. “If you tag somebody with it, then on the one hand you’re saying that person is going to murder six million Jews and invade Russia, and on the other hand you feel rather good about using the term and so you don’t engage in proper analysis.”

The result, Bosworth argues, is that you become distracted from “trying to work out more clearly what Trump stands for, and what the contemporary United States stands for”.

If fascism “now just means aggressive nationalism, racism, patriarchy and authoritarianism, then maybe it is back on the agenda,” Bosworth continues. But today’s context is fundamentally different. Today’s “alt-right” agitators “live in a neoliberal global order where the slogan, ‘all for the market, nothing outside the market, no one against the market’ is far more unquestionably accepted than the old fascist slogan of ‘all for the state, nothing outside the state, no one against the state’”.

“Whatever history’s instruction is, it’s not literal,” agrees Simon Schama, a professor of history at Columbia University who has written histories of the French, American and Dutch revolutions. “You don’t match present predicaments to some sort of template of what fascism is or isn’t.”

Schama is clear: Trump is obviously not Hitler. “But, you know, if you like, he’s an entertainment fascist, which may be less sinister but is actually in the end more dangerous. If you’re not looking for jackboots and swastikas – although swastikas are indeed appearing – there’s a kind of laundry list of things which are truly sinister and authoritarian and not business as usual.”

Schama points a finger to Breitbart, the website of Steve Bannon, Trump’s senior adviser. “There’s no question that, for all Bannon wants to say, Breitbart has run a kind of dog-whistle antisemitic show because the crucial headlines were: Bill Kristol: Renegade Jew, or [Washington Post columnist] Anne Applebaum singled out as ‘Polish, Jewish, American Elitist’. You don’t use a word like that unless you’re operating from a set of dog-whistle assumptions about an antisemitic constituency.”

Schama also points to deeply worrying messaging, such as “the parallel universe of lies which are habitual, massive, cumulative”; the criminalization of political opponents; the threat to change the libel laws against the press and the demonization of different racial and ethnic groups, going as far as proposing a Muslim registry.

“What is that if it’s not racially authoritarian?” asks Schama. “If you want to call it fascist, fine. I don’t really care if it’s called that or not. It’s authoritarian, you know, ferociously authoritarian.”

Six history lessons to keep in mind

On 2 May 1935, Winston Churchill addressed the House of Commons after the Stresa Conference, in which Britain, France and Italy agreed – futilely – to maintain the independence of Austria:

When the situation was manageable it was neglected, and now that it is thoroughly out of hand we apply too late the remedies which then might have effected a cure. There is nothing new in the story. It is as old as the sibylline books. It falls into that long, dismal catalogue of the fruitlessness of experience and the confirmed unteachability of mankind.

Now that the world has lived through the brutal years that followed Churchill’s grimly prescient oratory, what can we do to prove him wrong? If historians are best placed to distinguish between illuminating and misleading historical analogies, how do they think history can help us and what is distinctive about the present?

Don’t ignore what people vote for

If you’re of German heritage, it’s hard to understand how so many people could have bought Mein Kampf and gone on to vote for Hitler. Maybe no one really read it, or got beyond the first few pages of bluster, or took antisemitism seriously, you tell yourself.

“Or they liked what he said,” Mark Mazower says bluntly. Mazower is professor of history at Columbia and author of Dark Continent, the acclaimed study of the forces that shaped 20th-century Europe.

“I think one of the mistakes this time around would be not to think that the people who voted for Trump were serious. They may have been serious for different reasons, but it would be a big mistake not to try and figure out what their reasons were.”

Politicians need to rethink their modus operandi

Hitler presented himself as a “messiah” offering the public “salvation”, Ullrich points out. With austerity and hostility to the EU and to immigrants riding high, there is fertile ground for European populists next year to seduce with equally simplistic, sweeping “solutions”.

The problem, in Mazower’s view, is that establishment politicians currently have no response. “The political class has very impoverished historical memory and as a result it has a very limited imagination,” Mazower contends. “It is by and large made up of people who do not see themselves in politics in order to effect sweeping change and so they tend to operate very incrementally and very technocratically. They’re very suspicious of vision and as a result what fills their brains is party calculation – which of course always occupies politicians but in the past coexisted with bigger things. The current crop of leading political figures in Europe in particular is just not up to the task.”

Mazower goes on to argue that the development of an alternative narrative able to inspire is, “going to be a long-term project”, which will be, “in the hands of people under 30, 35, not the current political class”.

Beware the rise of the surveillance state

“The Gestapo was piddling compared with the size and reach of surveillance equipment and operations today,” says Mazower.

“Very belatedly, everyone is waking up to the fact that there was a general assumption that no government in the west would fall into the wrong hands, that it was safe to acquiesce in this huge expansion of surveillance capabilities, and the debate wasn’t as vigorous as it could have been.”

“Now, there is a lot of discussion about allowing this kind of surveillance apparatus in the wrong hands,” he adds. “And we’ve woken up to this a bit late in the day.”

Deal with the inequalities caused by neoliberalism

Ullrich calls crises, “the elixir of rightwing populists”, and urges that politicians “do everything they can to correct the inequalities and social injustice which have arisen in the course of extreme financial capitalism in western countries”.

Jane Caplan, a history professor at Oxford University who has written about Trump and fascism, highlights the want of “dissenting voices against marketisation and neoliberalism. The failure to resist the incursion of the market as the only criterion for political utility, or economic utility, has been pretty comprehensive. That’s pretty problematic I think.”

Build alliances

Narrow sectarianism plays into the hands of populists. Bosworth points out that the Italian fascists “only had 35 seats out of 500-odd in the Italian parliament after the 1921 elections” when Mussolini became prime minister. The establishment was so desperate to sideline socialists and trade unions that it preferred to “give him a chance”.

The fasces – or bound bundle of wooden rods, from which the word fascism derives – symbolises strength through unity, and if opposition to fascism is to be successful it is essential to combat like with like.

“I think all of us will say that you must have alliances,” Caplan says. “You can’t do this on your own. In a crisis situation like America it’s got to be a broad-based alliance. There’s not room to say, ‘Well, we’ll wait for things to get worse and then we’ll have a communist revolution’ or something. That’s not going to happen. The objective is so much more important and so much more urgent.”

But as Caplan points out, there is cause for hope too: local institutions like the churches and the NAACP, “are very, very rooted organizations and it would take a huge effort to crush them”.

Don’t normalize fear, intimidation and self-censorship

Paranoia, bullying and intimidation are a hallmark of authoritarian regimes. They are also alive and well in our culture today, where online trolls, violent thugs at rallies, threats of expensive libel action and of course terrorist acts are equally effective in getting individuals and the press to self-censor.

“You just have to call this out,” says Schama. “It requires government. Trump should have repudiated the Ku Klux Klan. Not just left it out there. It requires responsible, moral, aggressive repudiation. The Daily Mail ‘Enemies of the People’ front page was disgraceful and the government should have made that clear. It’s the kind of thing Stalin would have said, or Robespierre.”

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2016/dec/01/comparing-fascism-donald-trump-historians-trumpism

Bernie Sanders: Where We Go From Here

The onetime insurgent candidate is now in a position to reshape the Democratic Party and take on Donald Trump.
 bernie-sanders-revolution-wordpress-750x445

It feels like a bomb went off in Washington. In less than a year, the leaders of both major parties have been crushed, fundamentally reshaping a political culture that for generations had seemed unalterable. The new order has belligerent outsider Donald Trump heading to the White House, ostensibly backed in Congress by a tamed and repentant majority of establishment Republicans. Hillary Clinton’s devastating loss, meanwhile, has left the minority Democrats in disarray. A pitched battle for the soul of the opposition party has already been enjoined behind the scenes.

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, who won overwhelming youth support and 13 million votes during primary season, now sits on one side of that battle, in a position of enormous influence. The party has named him “outreach chair,” and Minnesota congressman and Sanders political ally Keith Ellison is the favorite to be named head of the Democratic National Committee. This is a huge change from earlier this year, when the Sanders campaign was completely on the outs with the DNC, but many see Sanders’ brand of politics as the Democrats’ best shot at returning to prominence.

Sanders’ rise is a remarkable story, obscured by the catastrophe of Trump’s win. When I first visited with Sanders for Rolling Stone, 11 years ago, for a tour of the ins and outs of congressional procedure, he was a little-known Independent in the House from a tiny agrarian state, an eccentric toiler pushing arcane and unsexy amendments through Congress, usually on behalf of the working poor: expanded access to heating oil in the winter, more regional community health centers, prohibitions against regressive “cash-balance pension plans,” etc.

His colleagues gently described Sanders as a hardworking quack, the root of his quackery apparently being that he was too earnest and never off-message, even in private. He had fans among Republicans (some called him an “honest liberal”) and many detractors among Democrats, who often grew weary of his lectures about the perils of over-reliance on donations from big business and Wall Street.

In other words, Sanders was a political loner, making his recent journey to the top of the Democratic Party even more remarkable. He has been put in this position not by internal patronage but by voters who are using him to demand that Democrats change their priorities.

At his Washington office a week after the election, I sat down with Sanders and his wife, Jane, just after the release of his new book, Our Revolution: A Future to Believe In. When he offered to get me a copy, I told him I’d already read the e-book, at which he frowned. “Does that have the pictures?” he asked. He was relieved when I told him it did, including black-and-whites from his youth in Brooklyn.

Sanders’ experiences growing up in the hardscrabble Flatbush neighborhood still seem central to the way he looks at the world. All the adults in his neighborhood voted Democratic. The loss of the support of those kinds of people still eats at Sanders, like a childhood wrong not yet corrected. Thus the opportunity he has now to push the Democrats back in that direction is something he doesn’t take lightly. He’s spent his whole life getting to this point.

The senator and his staffers were obviously sorting through a variety of emotions, and it was hard not to wonder what might have been. But Sanders admonished himself once or twice not to look back. “It’s not worth speculating about,” he said.

Instead, Sanders laid out the dilemma facing the Democratic Party. The Democrats must find their way back to a connection with ordinary people, and this will require a complete change in the way they do business. He’s convinced that the huge expenditure of time and mental effort the Democrats put in to raise more than $1 billion for the Clinton campaign in the past year ended up having enormous invisible costs. “Our future is not raising money from wealthy people, but mobilizing millions of working people and young people and people of color,” he says.

On other issues, he was more careful. The senator’s sweet spot as a politician has always been talking about the problems of the working poor: the economic struggles, the anomalous-across-the-industrialized-world story of a decline in life expectancy among rural Americans. But those same voters just lost any sympathy many Democrats might have had by electing the race-baiting lunatic Trump. Exactly how much courting of such a population is permissible? Is trying to recapture voters who’ve made a racist choice in itself racist?

Sanders believes it is a mistake to dismiss the Trump movement as a monolithic expression of racism and xenophobia. Trump’s populist appeals, sincere or not, carried the day, and Democrats need to answer them. Trump pledged not to cut Medicare or Social Security, promised to support re-importation of prescription drugs from other countries, and said he’d reinstate the Glass-Steagall Act. Sanders insists he and his staff are going to try to hold him to all of these promises. How they’ll manage that is only a guess, but as ranking member of the Senate Budget Committee, Sanders could easily force the Republicans into votes on all of these issues by introducing amendments during the budget resolution process, which begins in January. “Were those 100 percent lies that [Trump] was telling people in order to gain support?” he asks. “We’ll find out soon enough.”

Sanders seems anxious to communicate a sense of urgency to young people. No more being content with think-tank-generated 14-point plans that become 87-point plans in bipartisan negotiation, and end up scheduled to take effect in 2040. People want change right now. To survive Trump and turn the tide, Sanders says, he needs help. “You don’t have to run for president,” he says. “Just get people involved.”

After the election, you called the anger Trump connected with “justified.” When did you first recognize that sense of discontent and alienation was big enough to have the impact it did this past year?
I’ve seen it for years. I’ve seen a media, which has basically ignored the declining middle class, that doesn’t talk about poverty at all, and has no sense of what is going on in the minds of millions of ordinary Americans. They live in a bubble, talk about their world, worry about who’s going to be running 18 years from now for office. Meanwhile, people can’t feed their kids. That’s something I knew.

Talking about those issues, seeing that they resonated, that did not surprise me. How quickly they resonated did surprise me. How weak the Democratic establishment was, and how removed they were from the needs of ordinary people, that also surprised me.

President Obama talked after the election about winning Iowa by going into counties even if the demographics didn’t “dictate” success there. This seemed to be a criticism that the party had decided to ignore big parts of the country.
I talked about that in the book. That’s exactly what we did. We had 101 rallies in that small state. That’s grassroots democracy. You speak to three-quarters of the people who end up voting for you. In New Hampshire, we had just a zillion meetings – far more people came out to our meetings. If you had the time to do that around the country, the world becomes different. The assessment has got to be that not only did we lose the White House to the least-popular candidate in perhaps the history of America, certainly in modern history, but we’ve lost the Senate, we’ve lost the House, we’ve lost two-thirds of the governors’ chairs in this country. We’ve lost 900 seats in state legislatures throughout the country in the last eight years. Maybe it might be time to reassess?

Is there any way to read that except as a massive repudiation of Democrats?
No. I can’t see how any objective person can. It speaks to what I just mentioned; we cannot spend our entire life – I didn’t, but others do – raising money from wealthy people, listening to their needs. We’ve got to be out in union halls, we’ve got to be out in veterans’ halls, and we’ve got to be talking to working people, and we’ve got to stand up and fight for them.

This is how screwed up we are now. When you have a Republican Party that wants to give huge tax breaks to billionaires, when many of their members want to cut Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, when they don’t believe in climate change, when they’ve been fierce advocates of unfettered free trade – I’m talking about pre-Trump – why would any working person, when they want to cut programs for working people, support them?

I think we know the answer. We know what the Karl Roves of the world have been successful in doing. They’re playing off working-class people against the gay community, or African-Americans, or Latinos. But that only works when you have not laid the foundation by making it clear to those workers that you are on their side on economic issues.

Look, you may not be pro-choice. But if you know that your congressman is fighting for you and delivering the goods in terms of education, health care and jobs, what you’ll say is, “I disagree with him on that, but I’m going to vote for him.” We’ve seen this in Vermont. We have seen the conservative parts of the state where there are many people who have disagreed with me. But they vote for me, because they know I’m fighting for their rights.

In your book, there are a lot of moments where you say things like, “Look at products like the iPhone. These are American inventions, but they’re not made in America anymore.” Some people will say, “This is nationalism. Why shouldn’t liberal-minded people care about raising the standard of living for poor people in China, in India?”
I heard them. We ran into that big-time from corporate liberals. Two things here. I would say there are very few people in the United States Congress who have a more progressive outlook than I do in terms of global politics and international politics. I am deeply concerned about poverty in countries around the world, and I believe that the United States and other major countries have got to work to address those issues. But you do not have to sacrifice the American middle class in order to do that. I find it ironic that the billionaire class says, “We’re worried about the poor people in Vietnam, and that’s why we’re sending your job to Vietnam.” That’s the billionaire class talking.

Clearly we know what that is about. And you have some “liberals” who echo that point of view. I would like to see the United States government and the rest of the industrialized world work harder, with sensible policy to improve the standard of living, to help people create jobs, and sustainable jobs, not wipe out agricultural sectors. In Mexico, for example, NAFTA devastated, as you know, family farms when people could not grow corn to compete with American corn manufacturers.

How you create a sustainable global economy that protects the poorest people in the world is a very important issue for me. But you surely do not have to do that by wiping out the middle class of this country. I think we have a right in this country to hold corporate America accountable for gaining the benefits of being an American corporation, while at the same time turning their backs on the American working class and the consumers who helped create their profits and their wealth.

What about the criticism you got a lot last year, including from former President Clinton, that this idea that we can do anything about these globalist trends is unrealistic, that all we can do is “harness the energy” of the change?
Donald Trump has rewritten the rules of politics. Let’s give the guy credit where credit is due. No one thought . . . he started off as a joke, right?

CONTINUED:

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/features/bernie-sanders-where-we-go-from-here-w452786