Pentagon wants Clinton, racists want Trump — either way Wall St. wins

trump_clinton (1)In May 2015, weeks before Donald Trump declared his candidacy, he took a friendly phone call from his long-time golf buddy Bill Clinton. On the call, Clinton, according to the Washington Post, “encouraged Trump’s efforts to play a larger role in the Republican Party and offered his own views of the political landscape.” (Both sides admit to the call). Hillary Clinton had declared her own candidacy days earlier.

The Washington Post article continued, “People with knowledge of the call in both camps said it was one of many that Clinton and Trump have had over the years, whether about golf or donations to the Clinton Foundation.”

Indeed, federal records show the Trump family donated to Hillary Clinton in 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2007. He gave at least $100,000 to the Clinton Foundation. In Trump’s star-studded 2005 wedding, it was none other than Sen. Hillary Clinton who got the seat in the front row—ahead of Billy Joel, Katie Couric, Tony Bennett and all the rest of the celebrities.

They’re all friends. This is the truth that neither the Clinton or Trump teams will admit now that they are trading insults on a daily basis on the campaign trail. Trump brags about his assets that surpass $1 billion, while Clinton plays down her wealth to appear “relatable.” But they are of the same social class and they travel in the same elite circles. Bill and Hillary Clinton themselves have a net worth of $111 million—from a “career in public service.” The Trumps and Clintons call each other for advice. They party, socialize and golf together. They even use the exact same tax havens—Trump and Clinton have registered their private corporations at the same Delaware address, alongside  285,000 other corporate entities.

The candidates are not identical, of course. Trump’s brazen racism and sexism has given confidence to like-minded people nationwide to follow his example. His campaign has had the effect of throwing open the window to the smell of the country’s rotting bigotry—a stink that will not be easily removed even if he loses. If he were to turn his unconstitutional campaign promises into actual policies, they would amount to a virtual declaration of war against immigrant and Muslim communities.

On the other side, Clinton offers Black and Latino communities sweet phrases while ejecting and talking down to Black Lives Matter activists who dare bring up her real record as a politician. She was a champion of the militarization of the police, of mass incarceration policies, the gutting of welfare, and record-setting deportations.

Trump bears responsibility for dozens of racist assaults and hate crimes while mainstreaming a culture of bigotry that will undoubtedly lead to more. Clinton bears responsibility for a decades-long political assault on Black and Latino communities.

Many rightfully wonder if Trump’s reckless language and unchecked machismo would lead to new wars, including nuclear ones. But Clinton’s declared foreign policies are perhaps more dangerous. Her saber-rattling against Russia and for NATO expansion plans and aggressive interventionism in Syria, Ukraine and Libya follow the neoconservative playbook and constitute the most plausible real-life scenarios for World War III.

Before, during and after the Iraq war, Clinton marched in lockstep with the Bush administration. No wonder the whole Republican foreign policy establishment is backing her over Trump!

Domestically, Hillary Clinton has built a career around doing the bidding of Wall Street and even served “proudly” as a director for the low-wage corporate giant Walmart. A champion of the bank bailout, she and Bill Clinton received $153 million in speaking fees since 2000 for 51 speeches to banks. To this day, she has refused to release the transcripts from those speeches. She recently accepted the endorsement of Henry Paulson, onetime CEO of Goldman Sachs and secretary of the treasury during the Bush and Obama administrations. Before engineering the bank bailout, Paulson made hundreds of millions off of the toxic home loans that left millions of people in the U.S. without livelihoods or homes.

Trump embodies a whole class of sleazy landlords and developers, who buy favors and regulatory changes from politicians to make super-profits at the expense of poor and working-class tenants. So the choice is between Trump, a billionaire who buys out politicians, and Clinton, a politician in the employ of billionaires.

That’s the current state of American “democracy” in a nutshell: a pure sham, a rigged process dripping with corporate money to ensure the selection of an ultra-rich racist imperialist. Trump and Clinton each have higher unfavorable ratings than any presidential candidate in U.S. history. A recent tweet captured the sentiment of millions: “there must be a cheaper way to find the worst people in society.”

How to defeat Trump and the far-right

Since 1978, the cost of tuition has gone up 1,100 percent. Health care has gone up 600 percent. Food has gone up 240 percent and shelter has gone up 380 percent. Meanwhile, typical wages have just risen 10 percent and minimum wage workers have seen their wages plummet 5 percent. The wealth of average CEOs has gone up 937 percent.

The Democratic and Republican establishments have together engineered the country’s vast inequality with anti-worker trade deals, de-unionization, the deregulation of Wall Street and the elimination of social services. They have fed hatred of immigrants, attacked the Black community, and pitted workers against each other in election after election. This status quo, which Clinton represents, is what gave birth to the Trump phenomenon in the first place, and her presidency would also provide fertile ground for continued far-right organizing. Quite simply, supporting Clinton is not the way to beat back Trump.

To really defeat the far-right and Trump, it will take a movement against Wall Street—demanding health care, jobs, housing and education as guaranteed rights and standing up militantly against racism and xenophobia.

Into the elections—and beyond

Third-party candidates are growing in popularity. The Libertarian and Green party candidates polling higher than ever and the Party for Socialism and Liberation is seeing more national interest in socialist politics than in previous campaigns. But the corporate media is giving these candidates pitifully little media coverage and is expected to exclude them from the presidential debates. So the country is being told to pick between Donald Trump and the guest of honor at his most recent wedding.

Millions, we hope, will disobey these orders and reject the false choice between the widespread misery of the status quo and far-right chauvinism. In either case, regardless if Trump or Clinton wins, there is no question that the future will be one of even more intense struggle. It will be struggle for the working class in general, for all oppressed communities, as well as for the movements for peace and environmental justice.

Why Donald Trump Could Be the Next President of the United States

Posted on Jul 22, 2016

By Alan Minsky

  Donald Trump called the GOP convention in Cleveland “a tremendous success.” (Dennis Van Tine / STAR MAX / IPx)

This is madness. Fully predictable madness. One archetype of the American experience is now realized. We’ve always had our carnival hucksters and itinerant preachers and snake oil thieves. P.T. Barnum put on a good show. All sought wealth and power.

But never before has one risen so high as Donald J. Trump, with so vast an audience of willing dupes and sleepwalking accomplices—the balance of the liberal establishment included.

The 2016 Republican National Convention in Cleveland was ground zero to witness this disaster. But before introducing you to its parade of zombies and daemons—lest I be accused of malignant nihilism—here are three things we can’t lose sight of about Trump’s winning the Republican nomination:

1. This is all happening because of rampant disgust with the members of the American political establishment. While their clients (aka donors) grow richer, the middle class is sinking. Simply put, the contemporary “neoliberal” American economy does not allow for the majority of the population to lead comfortable lives. In fact, the opposite is true: More people are falling out of the middle class and into seemingly inescapable debt traps. Trump acknowledges this reality more than the establishment Republicans and promises a different economic path, albeit without providing details. America will remain in a political crisis until this reality changes.

2. No one should have any illusions: The election of Donald Trump would generate a real sense of empowerment for the most reactionary white supremacist forces in our society. Stating this fact does not amount to an endorsement of Hillary Clinton, who has much to answer for herself as a neoliberal at the center of power for decades; but Trump’s ascendancy has revealed how vibrant these terrifying forces remain in American society. No decent people should have any illusions about the real danger a Trump presidency would represent.

3. Donald Trump would be an unmitigated disaster for “Brand America.” This is not a concern of mine politically, but it is certainly important to an American political and economic establishment that operates in, and to a great extent oversees, a globalized world. Trump is the personification of the “ugly American,” and that’s not helpful for the maintenance of the United States’ military empire, or for U.S.-based global corporations. If for no other reason, the political establishment would be expected to rally to Trump’s opponent over these concerns. But in 2016, support from the political establishment can be a kiss of death.

On this point, let’s return to this week’s vertiginous convention. We’ve all been told that Mr. Trump is the candidate of the anti-establishment, and yet if you came to Cleveland expecting to find the Quicken Loans Center overrun with the Duck Dynasty/NASCAR set, you’d be disappointed. In contrast, the delegates on the floor look almost like the same crowd who nominated Mitt Romney in 2012: a preponderance of blue blazers, Laura Ashley summer dresses and a notable lack of Army fatigues. In fact, the most conspicuous alt-culture present was the 10-gallon-hat-wearing, pro-Ted Cruz Texas tribe.

I asked Michael Steele, former Republican National Committee chairman, about this anomaly. Was King Donald’s coronation occurring at a court not of his choosing? Could it be that the makeup of the delegates was a result of Trump’s lack of organization at the state level, and thus those committed to voting for him were the standard longtime Republican Party set?

Steele explained: “Yes, partly. But most of the delegates voting for Trump were hand-selected by the campaign. Still, it’s true that the pool of Trump delegates are diluted because of his lack of organization at the state level. So what you have are a mix of people on the floor, all bound to vote for Trump—some very enthusiastically, some less so.”

On the one hand, the mass media representation of Trump supporters as overwhelmingly semiliterate, white poor and working-class lynch-mob racists is either: a) exaggerated, or b) this group has changed its attire to include Sperry Top-Siders. While one can never overstate the mindlessness of this well-bathed, suburban caste, it is striking to see them endorse a candidate who so frequently expresses contempt for an establishment they so clearly have been born into.

That they would so willingly embrace a candidate whose victory would so badly tarnish the American brand around the world (undoubtedly a bedrock of their own prosperity) is proof of two things about our GOP brethren: 1) America’s prosperous suburban country-club set loves a winner, and 2) as John Nichols, political correspondent for The Nation, pointed out as we stared out together onto the convention floor, “This is an authoritarian party. Its rank and file is expected to fall into line.”

Indeed, Trump’s bluster and erratic (yet always authoritarian) manner perfectly fits linguist George Lakoff’s conception of the Republican brand as hyperpatriarchal, a worldview grounded in “strict father morality.” Not only does Trump parade his well-rehearsed and terrifyingly attractive family at every opportunity, we cannot forget that Trump’s business empire is not publicly traded. It’s a top-down, family-owned fiefdom with The Donald as king. And like any pre-fallen Macbeth or Tennessee Williams’ patriarchal phantasm, the lord of these garish manors is erratic, contradictory and teetering toward a destructive madness—even as the ghosts of his earlier exploits remain well hidden (though expect some to slip into view with the publication of David Cay Johnston’s excellent “The Making of Donald Trump” on Aug. 2).

So as the crowds who attended Trump’s rallies watch their hero call out the betrayal of the white working class from their Velveeta-stained couches, the suburban set populating the convention floor in Cleveland falls in lockstep behind its newer, more patriarchal patriarch because it’s the only thing they know how to do.

Joining them in their sleepwalk are the mainstream media. Upon arrival at the convention, nothing was more striking than the contempt in store for the Fourth Estate. Housed in a parking lot across from the Q Center, media row was janky and claustrophobic. The hospitality resembled that afforded to movie extras. The floor of their parking lot home was uneven, and the makeshift booths of particleboard and Styrofoam all strangely askew. Author Thomas Frank quipped, “This is as phantasmagoric as any German expressionist set.”

While it’s true that the mainstream media burps up undigested objections to the Trump phenomenon, their utter lack of depth provides The Donald sanctuary in their preferred infotainment narrative: Trump as The Star on another reality show. And herein may lie one source of Trump’s success. On balance, reality shows reveal a tawdry world of desperate Americans willing always to walk over each other, stabbing any semblance of solidarity in the back. In this, Trump’s world is much closer to the lives led by the masses of contemporary Americans, whose middle-class aspirations are in free fall, than is the celebrated upward mobility of Hillary’s professional class.

Bernie Sanders, in contrast, not only exposed America’s class imbalances, he also presented policy proposals to rectify them. Unfortunately but predictably (as it’s too early in this era of newly engaged class struggle for the economic powers-that-be to sign onto Sanders’ radical reforms), it was only the nonsense-spewing narcissist tycoon who was able to eviscerate his party’s establishment. After all, Trump has yet to outline his policy proposals in any detail (including in 75 minutes of Mussolini-esque preening on Thursday night). I’m sure the folks at the American Legislative Exchange Council are confident Donald will rely on them when and if the time comes. And they certainly understand that they will continue to control Congress if Trump wins and, thus, be able to stanch any program of economic populism Trump might entertain.

So as we move on to the Democratic convention in Philadelphia, let’s be clear: The great tragedy of the moment is not rooted in the Republican Party’s self-cannibalization. It’s with a Democratic Party that “successfully” suffocated responsible answers to the crises consuming our world. Indeed, as Hillary Clinton’s selection of the milquetoast Tim Kaine as her vice president shows, the Dems have put forward a candidate who embodies an establishment widely recognized as having betrayed the majority of the American public.

All of which leaves us with the very real possibility of President Donald Trump being inaugurated on Jan. 20.

Leading US historians issue warning on the rise of Trump


By Gabriel Black
20 July 2016

Nearly 800 historians, academics and professionals across the United States have signed an “Open Letter to the American People” warning of the danger, seen from a historical perspective, of Trump and “Trumpism.”

The recently formed group, Historians Against Trump, explains in its letter that “The lessons of history compel us to speak out against Trump.” The letter lists as members of the Historians Against Trump Organizing Committee Brian Dolber, Amy Harth, Caroline Luce and David Schlitt.

The letter, posted on the Internet on July 11, states, in part:

“Historians of different specialties, eras and regions understand the enduring appeal of demagogues, the promise and peril of populism, and the political uses of bigotry and scapegoating. Historians understand the impact these phenomena have upon society’s most vulnerable and upon a nation’s conscience. The lessons of history compel us to speak out against a movement rooted in fear and authoritarianism.”

Alluding to the fascistic and right-wing populist movements that sprang up during the first half of the 20th Century, the letter includes a photograph of Charles Lindbergh addressing an America First rally in October of 1941. Lindbergh, the famous aviator, was a fascist sympathizer and anti-Semite whose demagogic America First speeches downplayed the crimes of the Nazis and promoted neutrality in World War II.

The letter’s authors claim not to support any particular party or politician, but to be united by the belief that Trump “poses a threat to American democracy.” They denounce Trump’s attacks on the press and highlight the Republican presidential candidate’s misogyny, racism and bigoted attacks on immigrants. They describe Trump’s spoken and written words as an “archive of know-nothingism and blinding self-regard.” They characterize Trump’s campaign as one of violence “against individuals and groups; against memory and accountability; against historical analysis and fact.”

The most significant aspect of the letter is the writers’ insistence that history has something to say about the present, and that Trump, far from an accident or aberration—as he is often characterized by Democrats and Republicans alike—is the outcome of a historical process of political degeneration of American society.

The authors write:

“Donald Trump’s candidacy is the latest chapter in a troubled narrative many decades in the making. In another era, civil society institutions such as the academy, the free press and the judiciary were counted on to safeguard constitutional democracy. That this is no longer the case cannot be blamed solely on Trump. Donald Trump’s candidacy has profited from the fears of people living precariously and a political culture of spectacle and cynicism, both of which long predate his emergence as a candidate. The impulses and ideologies that animate the Trump campaign will not disappear once he is defeated in November.”

This statement is correct, as far as it goes. But it avoids an examination of the relation of the process it describes to the class and economic interests that largely determine the course of American politics. Nevertheless, the recognition that the Trump phenomenon reflects a broader social crisis represents a certain advance beyond the platitudes offered up by the Democratic Party and its apologists.

In a pointed criticism of the complacency that prevails among American academics, the letter encourages historians to undertake the task of “equipping the public with historical skills and narratives that are ‘factual, accurate, comprehensive, meaningful, useful, and resistant to cynical manipulators who sell snake oil as historical truth.’”

Not surprisingly, this statement has come under sharp attack by a leading postmodern academic.

In a column published in the New York Times on July 15, Stanley Fish, a literary theorist and legal scholar, denounced the Historians Against Trump letter for its “hubris” in claiming that “historians, because of their training, are uniquely objective observers.”

Fish headed Duke University’s English Department from 1986 to 1992 and now has a visiting professorship at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law in New York City. He is a frequent contributor to both the Wall Street Journal and theNew York Times .

In this op-ed response to the professors’ letter, he writes:

“By dressing up their obviously partisan views as ‘the lessons of history,’ the signatories to the letter present themselves as the impersonal transmitters of a truth that just happens to flow through them. In fact they are merely people with history degrees, which means that they have read certain books, taken and taught certain courses and written scholarly essays, often on topics of interest only to other practitioners in the field.”

Fish continues:

“While this disciplinary experience qualifies them to ask and answer discipline-specific questions, it does not qualify them to be our leaders and guides as we prepare to exercise our franchise in a general election. Academic expertise is not a qualification for delivering political wisdom.”

Fish, in short, asks the professors to stick to their “discipline,” telling them that their place is in the classroom where they teach students to ask the right questions and discern good evidence from bad.

It must be asked, if historical knowledge is a purely academic affair—which Fish makes it out to be—what is the use of studying history? If history has nobearing on politics, then what is the point of it?

As a literary scholar, Fish is known for his 1982 book Is There a Text in This Class? published by Harvard University Press. Harvard’s blurb for the book explains that “in arguing for the right of the reader to interpret and in effect create the literary work, he [Fish] skillfully avoids the trap of subjectivity.”

It is entirely unsurprising that Fish would be repulsed by a section of historians who feel compelled by the “lessons of history” to counter Trump’s “violence” against “historical analysis and fact.” The truth is that Fish and his postmodern cohorts are, in their own way, an expression of the same “culture of spectacle and cynicism” that produced Trump.

The Historians Against Trump document has been signed by at least 786 people. Leading historians such as Ellen Carol DuBois (University of California, Los Angeles), Geoff Eley (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor), Glenda Gilmore (Yale University), Mary Hancock (University of California, Santa Barbara), Mary Nolan (New York University), Thomas McAfee (University of Nevada, Las Vegas), Deborah Dash Moore (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor), Claire Potter (The New School), Vicki Ruiz (University of California, Irvine), Maurice Isserman (Hamilton), Valerie Johnson (Bennett College) and Kevin Mattson (Ohio University) have added their names.

The letter can be accessed here.

The promotion of racial politics and the US elections


By Barry Grey
18 July 2016

In the run-up to the conventions of the two major capitalist parties, beginning with the Republicans on Monday, there is a relentless effort led by the Democratic Party and much of the media to portray race as the overriding social and political issue in America.

This campaign, a continuation of the Democrats’ decades-long promotion of politics based on various forms of identity (race, gender, sexual orientation), has reached a fever pitch since the police murders of two black men, Alton Sterling and Philando Castile, in Louisiana and Minnesota, respectively, and the gunning down of five police officers in Dallas.

It will only be intensified in the aftermath of the fatal shooting Sunday of three officers in Baton Rouge.

Last Wednesday, President Barack Obama held a White House meeting with police officials, politicians, leaders of the civil rights establishment such as Al Sharpton and prominent figures in the Black Lives Matter organization, including DeRay McKesson, where he defined the issue of police violence entirely as a matter concerning the police and “communities of color.” The following evening he presided over an hour-long town hall event along the same lines, televised by ABC News.

The picture that is presented is of a country sharply polarized along racial lines, with a white population seething with racial hatred for blacks. This presentation is a lie.

What has actually happened? The murderous operations of militarized police who assault and kill virtually at will have once again been captured on video, provoking mass anger and revulsion, expressed in nationwide demonstrations involving thousands of people of all races and ethnicities. America is facing not racist lynch mobs, as in the Jim Crow South of the previous century, but rather the violence of the capitalist state and its front-line enforcers directed against the growth of opposition and resistance in the working class.

While the victims in the horrific killings in Louisiana and Minnesota were black, the previous week a video emerged of the June 25 execution, no less savage, of an unarmed white youth by two cops in Fresno, California, and a separate police cam video of the killing was released on Wednesday. It showed two cops pulling over 19-year-old Dylan Noble on a traffic stop and proceeding to shoot him four times, including twice as he lay on the ground writhing in agony. That killing has been largely ignored by the media and not mentioned by Obama because it does not fit into their racialist narrative.

What virtually all of the victims of police killings—more than 1,500 over the past 18 months—have in common is their class position. They are working class or poor. The police are not invading wealthy neighborhoods, black or white, and shooting down the residents.

The mass struggles of the American working class have historically evinced a powerful drive to overcome racial and national divisions and unite all sections of workers against the common enemy. For its part, the American capitalist class has throughout its history reacted aggressively and violently to any sign of a unified struggle of the working class. Racism and racial politics, going back to the 19th century, have been used as instruments of class warfare to divide the working class.

Such was the case from the emergence of modern industrial capitalism in the US and the first mass struggle of the working class—the great railway strike of 1877. A study of the strike in the city where it first broke out, St. Louis, states:

“At an early strike meeting an eloquent address by the Black speaker asked whether whites were ready to support demands made by Black workers and received a resounding “We will!” in return. One of the five early Executive Committee members was Black.” (“Class, Skill and Community in the St. Louis General Strike of 1877,” David Roediger,Journal of Social History, Winter, 1985, page 225)

The response of the authorities was to dispatch black troops to attack the strikers.

Henry Ford employed the same tactics in an unsuccessful attempt to break the 1941 United Auto Workers strike for union recognition at his massive Rouge complex in Detroit. Ford imported African-American workers from the South to serve as strikebreakers. Socialist militants within the union had, however, championed the rights of black autoworkers and insisted on the need to unite across racial and ethnic lines. This was a major factor in the victory of the strike.

In the 1950s, the Northern McCarthyite red-baiters joined forces with the Southern segregationists to witch-hunt as “communists” all those fighting to end racial apartheid and unite white and black workers in the South.

The assassination of Malcolm X in 1965 came at the very point that he was challenging the racial nationalism and separatism of the Black Muslims and Elijah Muhammad. Three years later, Martin Luther King, Jr. was murdered following his intervention in support of sanitation workers in Memphis, his call for a Poor People’s March and his talk of forming a new party of working people.

What dominated this year’s primary elections in both parties, expressed in different ways, was mass anger and disgust with the entire political establishment. The ruling elite was shocked and frightened by the powerful support among workers and particularly youth for the primary challenge to Hillary Clinton by Bernie Sanders, who called himself a socialist and focused his campaign on social inequality and Wall Street domination of the political system. The 13 million votes for Sanders showed that the issues that really concern working people and youth are class issues that go to the existing economic system, not questions of race or gender.

This coincided with mounting signs of a resurgence of class struggle, including the 54-day-long strike by Verizon workers, teacher protests and wildcat actions in Detroit and other cities, and protests by workers in Flint against the lead poisoning of their water supply.

The growth of class consciousness and anticapitalist sentiment expressed in the mass support for Sanders (despite Sanders’ own effort to channel opposition back behind the Democrats) has been met with a frenzied drive by the Democratic Party and the Clinton campaign to “change the subject” by inundating the population with the politics of gender, sexual orientation and, above all, race.

If one reviews the major social and political issues promoted over the past several months by the White House, the Democrats and the media, the highly conscious character of this campaign becomes clear, as well as its close coordination with the Clinton campaign.

Just over the past three months, the Obama administration has intervened in controversies over transgender people’s access to public bathrooms and the outcome of a sexual abuse trial at Stanford University, promoting these as the decisive political issues of the day.

Now that Sanders has officially ended his campaign and endorsed Clinton, the Democrats appear to have settled on race as the main identity issue to flog in order to bury the basic class issues of economic inequality and Wall Street criminality. Gender, of course, remains a staple, with Clinton promoting herself as the first ever female major-party presidential candidate.

Such politics are associated with the interests of definite privileged middle-class social layers, who are seeking not equality, but a more favorable distribution of wealth within the top 10 percent. They are exemplified by people like Black Lives Matter leader DeRay McKesson, who emerged from Obama’s White House meeting Wednesday night to praise the president and stress the need to cooperate with the police. McKesson was recently appointed to be the chief human capital officer for the Baltimore City Schools, a post that comes with an income of $165,000 a year.

Today, the objective conditions exist as never before, within the United States and on a world scale, to unite the working class in a common struggle in defense of democratic and social rights. All sections of the working class, and workers in every country, are facing a brutal decline in living standards and social conditions.

What are the central issues in the 2016 elections? Just last week a new report was released showing that in 25 of the world’s advanced economies, including the US, two-thirds of the population are in income brackets that earn the same or less than their counterparts did a decade ago.

Conditions for the broad mass of black and Hispanic workers are worse than they were fifty years ago. Meanwhile, the devastating impact of the failure of American capitalism, especially since the financial crash of 2008, is having its most drastic impact on white workers. A raft of reports show rising death rates and infant mortality, falling life expectancy, and an epidemic of suicides, drug overdoses and early deaths from alcoholism, with white workers suffering the most severe collapse in living standards.

Meanwhile, the concentration of wealth and income within the top 1 percent, and, even more sharply, within the top 0.01 percent has accelerated under Obama.

The fight against police brutality and the violence of the capitalist state, as well as the struggle to end all forms of racism and discrimination, is completely bound up with the struggle against class exploitation, social inequality and the capitalist system that is their source. It requires the unification of the working class on the basis of a revolutionary anticapitalist and socialist program.


Race, class and police murder in America


11 July 2016

In the aftermath of the mass shooting of police officers in Dallas, Texas Thursday night, the American media and political establishment has sought to portray the police killings of unarmed people and widespread protests against police violence as proof of deepening and unbridgeable racial divisions in the United States.

According to the media presentation, the homicidal actions of police across the country are somehow a manifestation of “white people” expressing their elemental, collective racial hatred of African-Americans.

The New York Post, for example, ran a banner headline proclaiming “Civil War,” while the New York Times led its Sunday opinions section with a column titled “Divided by Race, United by Pain.”

This presentation is grotesquely at odds with reality. What is taking place in America is not a race war, but rather public protest against police violence in a country where more than a thousand people a year are executed without trial by police forces run amok.

Racism, of course, exists and it may be a factor in many police killings. Blacks are targeted for police attack in numbers disproportionate to their share of the population. But the facts themselves demonstrate that the scourge of police violence and murder is not limited to blacks or minorities, but extends to working people and youth of all races and ethnicities, especially the poorest and most vulnerable sections of the working class.

According to a database compiled by the Guardian, through July 9, 571 people had been killed so far this year by police in the US. The dead included 88 Hispanics and 138 African-Americans, but nearly half—281 people—were white. Last year 1,146 people were killed by the police, of which the majority, 586, were white.

Many of the cops who carry out these murders are themselves members of minority groups. Three of the six officers charged in the April 2015 killing of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, an outrage that sparked nationwide demonstrations, were African-American. In that city, as in many others where police brutality is rampant, both the mayor and the police chief were black.

Even the government seems unable to rein in the police. When New York Mayor Bill de Blasio made comments deemed sympathetic to protests against police violence, following the police killing of Eric Garner in Staten Island, he faced a virtual insurrection by New York City police.

The claim, made without either factual substantiation or historical explanation, that the United States is suddenly convulsed by sectarian hatred, is a falsehood that does not withstand any serious analysis. It is being promoted as part of a narrative that serves definite political interests.

This presentation conceals the nature of the state and distracts attention from the fundamental questions of social class that are at the root of the relentless exercise of police brutality and murder. The wave of state violence takes place under specific conditions: a deepening economic and social crisis, an immense growth of social inequality, mounting signs of a resurgence of class struggle and a broad process of political radicalization within the American working class.

The number of days lost to major strikes in the US in 2015 was nearly four times that of 2014, and this year, with the month-long strike by Verizon workers, the figure will be far higher still. Even more disturbing to the ruling class, there are mounting signs, including the near-rebellion last year by autoworkers, that the trade union bureaucracy is losing its grip on the working class. And the mass support among workers and especially among youth for the campaign of Bernie Sanders, who describes himself as a socialist and talks of a “political revolution” against the “billionaire class,” has revealed the widespread growth of anti-capitalist sentiment, to the horror of the ruling elite.

The aim of the campaign to inundate the public with a racialist narrative concerning police violence and all other aspects of American society is to divert attention from the capitalist system itself and head off the development of what the ruling class fears most—a broad, popular movement uniting the working class in the struggle against this economic system.

This requires grossly distorting popular attitudes toward race. There have, in fact, been vast changes—generally of a healthy character—since the heyday of Jim Crow segregation in the South and widespread racial discrimination in the North. In the America of the 1930s and 1940s, lynchings of blacks were virtually a daily occurrence. The great mass of African-Americans in the South did not have access to the ballot, and there were virtually no black political representatives.

Fifty years ago, in 1966, Edward Brooke was elected senator from Massachusetts, becoming the first African-American popularly elected to the United States Senate. Police forces throughout the country were almost exclusively white, and intermarriage between blacks and whites was virtually unknown.

These circumstances were radically altered by a 30-year upsurge of the working class between 1934 and 1964, which broke the back of segregation in the South and led to the racial integration of state institutions, including the police and all levels of government. The United States, after all, elected an African-American president in 2008 and reelected him in 2012.

Today, 87 percent of Americans, including 84 percent of whites, say they support interracial marriage, up from 4 percent in 1958. Fifteen percent of all new marriages in 2010 were interracial, more than double the share in 1980.

What really happened last week? The killings of two black men, Alton B. Sterling and Philando Castile, both caught on video, sparked outrage and opposition throughout the United States and internationally. With less publicity but no less chillingly, local media published a video showing police executing Dylan Noble, a 19-year-old white man in Fresno, California, as he lay motionless on the ground. Mass protests by people of all ethnicities throughout the country were met by the arrest of hundreds of demonstrators, carried out by highly militarized police who look and act like occupation forces.

As for the actions of Micah Johnson, the Dallas shooter, the fact that he himself was killed by means of a bomb-wielding robot—the first incidence of drone-type warfare within the borders of the United States—makes it difficult to determine what his precise motives were.

While it seems that his actions were to some extent motivated by police killings of African-Americans, it is also the case that he was a military veteran who spent nearly a year in Afghanistan. His actions follow the pattern of the dozens of mass shootings, many by military veterans, that take place in the United States every year.

The promotion of a sectarian outlook is embraced by politicians and academics who have a deep and vested interest in racial politics. They generally have nothing but praise for President Obama, who has presided over eight years of unending war, growing social inequality and poverty, and the arming of police departments with military-grade weapons throughout the country. These purveyors of racial politics are indifferent to the social distress of broad sections of the working class and have no proposals to improve their plight.

We urge all workers and youth to reject the reactionary, racialist narrative being peddled by the media and political establishment. The struggle against police violence, like all great social questions, requires uniting all sections of the working class in a common struggle against the capitalist system.

The World Socialist Web Site Editorial Board

The Alternative to Fervent Nationalism Isn’t Corporate Liberalism—It’s Social Democracy

Published on


Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton. (Photo: Jim Bourg/Reuters)

In his 1946 essay reviewing former Trotskyist-turned-reactionary James Burnham’s book The Managerial Revolution, George Orwell made several observations that resonate just as powerfully today as they did when they were first published.

“The real question,” he wrote, “is not whether the people who wipe their boots on us during the next fifty years are to be called managers, bureaucrats, or politicians: the question is whether capitalism, now obviously doomed, is to give way to oligarchy or to true democracy.”

Orwell recognized what many today fail to perceive: That free market capitalism is, in the words of Karl Polanyi, a “stark Utopia,” a system that does not exist, and one that would not survive for long if it ever came into existence.

But for Orwell, the question was not how (or whether) the crises of capitalism that rocked both Europe and the United States in the 20th century would be solved — the question was: what would take the place of an economic order that was clearly on its way out?

Read today, his prediction of the world to come emanates prescience.

“For quite fifty years past the general drift has almost certainly been towards oligarchy,” Orwell argued. “The ever-increasing concentration of industrial and financial power; the diminishing importance of the individual capitalist or shareholder, and the growth of the new ‘managerial’ class of scientists, technicians, and bureaucrats; the weakness of the proletariat against the centralised state; the increasing helplessness of small countries against big ones; the decay of representative institutions and the appearance of one-party regimes based on police terrorism, faked plebiscites, etc.: all these things seem to point in the same direction.”

This year has in some ways marked the peak of these trends — trends that are currently being exploited (as they always have been) by both genuine nationalists and political opportunists looking to capitalize on the destabilizing effects of the international economic order.

Globally, the concentration of income at the very top is obscene: As a widely cited Oxfam report notes, 62 people own the same amount of wealth as half of the world’s population. The report also found that as the wealth of the global elite continues to soar, “the wealth of the poorest half of the world’s population has fallen by a trillion dollars since 2010, a drop of 38 percent.”

And such trends have not just inflicted the poorest. The middle class in the United States, for instance, has been steadily eroding over the past several decades in the face of slow growth and stagnant wages. Meanwhile, top CEOs have seen their incomes rise by over 900 percent.

People are reacting. From the rise of Donald Trump and right-wing nationalists throughout Europe to the United Kingdom’s vote to leave the European Union, people are using the influence they still have to express their contempt for a system that has failed them and their families.

Some of the discontent is undoubtedly motivated by racial animus and anti-immigrant sentiment, both of which have been preyed upon by charlatans across the globe. But it has also been motivated by class antagonism, by a general feeling that economic and political elites are making out like bandits while the public is forced to scramble for an ever-dwindling piece of the pie.

Responses to these developments by apologists for elites and by elites themselves have been varied, but all have had a common core: The United States and Europe are, contrary to popular perception, suffering from too much democracy.

The leash restraining the people, the argument goes, has been excessively loosened, and, consequently, the “ignorant masses” have wreaked havoc. More or less, the proposed solution has been to tighten the leash.

In a recent piece for Foreign Policy, James Traub calls on “elites to rise up against the ignorant masses.” They must put the people in their place with facts and reason, with the decent sense that “the mob” lacks by definition.

Traub’s was perhaps the most explicit and aggressive call to action, and, as he notes in his latest work for the same outlet, he has reaped a storm of criticism.

With a hint of regret, Traub insists that his point was misunderstood. The notion, Traub explains, that “people who take issue with the forces of globalization, whether from the left or the right, should defer to elites” is “repellent.”

This latest piece was, when it was first published, provocatively titled “Liberalism Isn’t Working.” The title has since been altered, but the core point remains: Europe and the United States, Traub argues, are experiencing “the breakdown of the liberal order.”

In Traub’s view, irrationality is prevailing over reason — noticeable in, for instance, popular disdain for “experts” — and illiberal democracy is taking the place of what was previously liberal democracy. Intolerance is replacing tolerance. Those who “can’t stand the way the world is going and want to return to a mythical golden age where women and Mexicans and refugees and gays and atheists didn’t disturb the public with their demands” are defeating those who favor diversity and free thought.

It is heartening to see Traub walk back his elitist war cry, and he is correct that liberalism in its current form — that is to say, corporate liberalism, or neoliberalism — has failed to muster an adequate response to the various crises facing global society.

But this is not because liberals have no desire to do so; it is because their ideological system is utterly bankrupt, divorced from the needs of the masses and subservient to the needs of organized wealth.

Traub notes, perhaps correctly, that President Obama’s “remote, cerebral manner has…whetted the public’s appetite for a snake-oil salesman like Trump.”

More than his “manner,” though, Obama’s ideological bent — largely shared by Hillary Clinton and other corporate Democrats — has left a vacuum into which phony populists like Trump have emerged.

And this is what Traub fails to consider: The alternative to Trumpism is not more smug, corporate liberalism that manages the decline and tempers the expectations of the masses; it is, rather, an ambitious social agenda that utilizes mass politics to create an economic and political order that is responsive to the material needs of the population.

Contrary to the urgent warnings that we are suffering from an excess of democracy, the United States and Europe have for too long been gripped by a democratic deficit.

“If we want to avert the sense of powerlessness among voters that fuels demagogy,” writes Michael Lind, “the answer is not less democracy in America, but more.”

Traub and others like him have succeeded in putting forward critiques of the movements responding to the discontent of the masses, but they have failed to criticize the economic order whose failures have sparked this discontent. As a result, they have failed to offer a compelling alternative to the surging nationalism they profess to fear.

And as Luke Savage notes in a recent piece for Jacobin, the self-styled experts have often done much worse than that.

He points to the fact that “beyond a few largely anecdotal comments about globalization, Traub offers no real analysis of the causes driving the polarization he so detests. In familiar tones, he conflates the populist right and the populist left, and characterizes anti-establishment sentiment as the product of sheer, mindless democratic stupidity.”

In effect, the expert class has — predictably — erased from view the agendas of figures like Bernie Sanders, figures who represent an alternative to both fervent nationalism and neoliberalism.

And far from putting forward radical and unworkable proposals, the ideas on which the Sanders campaign has been based have far-reaching appeal.

Ultimately, Savage concludes, “the real political schism of our time” is “not one between ‘the sane and the mindlessly angry,’ but between democrats and technocratic elites.”

It is, for instance, elite opinion, not public opinion, that stands in the way of the implementation of single-payer healthcare.

Most of the public, furthermore, believes that “major donors sway Congress more than constituents,” but it is elites — including self-styled progressives — who stand in the way of campaign finance reform.

The so-called “ignorant masses” understand that “there is too much power concentrated in the hands of a few big companies,” and that “the government doesn’t do enough for older people, poor people or children.” But it is elites whose entrenched interests undercut any attempt to remedy these trends.

There is, in short, an appetite for social democracy in the United States, but it is elites — economic and political — who stand in the way and insist that such an appetite is the result of excessive imagination.

Conservatives — including Trump — continue to fight unabashedly for the needs of corporate America, while neoliberals like President Obama and Hillary Clinton insist that progressive initiatives must be curbed in the interest of “getting things done.”

But such a commitment to “pragmatism” is, in reality, a lack of commitment to the systemic change necessary in the midst of unprecedented inequality, horrific levels of child poverty, an intolerably high rate of infant mortality, neglected communities, and other crises that require radical action.

Interestingly, in his essay James Traub cites George Orwell as one of the “great exponents” of liberalism and anti-totalitarianism.

But he fails to mention what Orwell, himself, wrote about his own political motivations, which he expressed in his 1946 essay “Why I Write.”

“Every line of serious work that I have written since 1936,” Orwell notes, “has been written, directly or indirectly, against totalitarianism and for democratic Socialism, as I understand it.”

Needless to say, Orwell’s vision was not a hierarchical one that placed technocratic elites and self-proclaimed experts at the helm; it was one that warned of totalitarianism of all forms and proposed a more egalitarian alternative.

By ignoring this — deliberately or otherwise — and by establishing a status quo of austerity, intolerable inequality, environmental degradation, and endless war, elites have fostered the reaction they are now attempting to beat back.

But their proposed alternative is, effectively, more of the same. That, as much of the world’s population recognizes, is not enough.

“It’s not about the EU,” notes Mark Blyth in an assessment of the European economy that applies just as well to the United States. “It’s about the elites. It’s about the 1%. It’s about the fact that your parties that were meant to serve your interests have sold you down the river.”


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 1,743 other followers