Sanders’ Social Democracy vs. Trump’s Authoritarian Doctrine

What Trump’s semi-success at the Carrier plant means for the future.

adult experienced industrial worker during heavy industry machinery assembling on production line manufacturing workshop
Photo Credit: Dmitry Kalinovsky

President-elect Trump scored a remarkable victory by saving 1,000 of the 2,100 jobs that Carrier and its parent company, United Technologies, were outsourcing to Mexico. During the campaign, Trump pledged to stop those jobs from leaving the country and he has come through (much credit should be given to the United Steelworkers for keeping this issue alive).

Trump used the plight of those workers, represented by the United Steelworkers, as a battering ram to pummel Hillary Clinton on trade and the loss of decent paying U.S. manufacturing jobs. Now, his partial success could lead to a mass exodus of working people from Democratic party.

The Myth of the White Working Class

Post-election pundits are propagating the false equation that “industrial workers” equals “white working class,” and that Clinton’s crushing defeat in the Rust Belt was the result of a white worker revolt against political correctness — i.e., they’re racists!

But America’s industrial workforce reflects the future, not the past. The 1,400-person Carrier workforce in Indianapolis, for example, is 50 percent African American. Women make up half of the workers on its assembly lines, and 10 percent of the employees are Burmese immigrants.

This means Donald Trump, bigot in chief, has just saved the decent-paying, unionized jobs of women, African Americans, immigrants and white workers. Look out Democrats.

Benign Neglect at the Democratic Party

Trump’s effort to save these jobs contrasts starkly with the failure of the established Democratic Party to do anything at all about such devastating plant closures. President Obama has never used his bully pulpit to mention even one of the thousands of facilities that shifted abroad under his watch. Similarly, Hillary Clinton remained silent about Carrier during her entire campaign, thereby allowing Trump to morph into the champion of the working class.

But none of that is particularly surprising given how deeply Wall Street/corporate elites are embedded within the Democratic Party. More troubling still is that party elites believe these relocations are economically justifiable.

Neoliberal ideology (the holiness of tax cuts, privatization, deregulation, and the free movement of capital) has become the conventional wisdom of the entire political establishment of both parties. The media in particular echoes the inaccurate notion that these facilities must move so that the parent company can keep up with competition. (Carrier, in fact, is leaving in order to secure more funds for stock-buybacks to enrich hedge funds and top corporate officers.) All of this capital mobility is pictured as result of globalization—a force akin to an act of God.

Virtually every article on Carrier opines that Trump’s quick fix cannot alter the technological march that surely will displace these blue collar workers. What they are really saying is the corporations have the right and obligation to move wherever and whenever they wish in order to boost profits and “shareholder value.” Mainstream economists then assure us that, overall, society is better off due lower-cost imported goods and higher value-added domestic jobs, even if a few workers are sacrificed along the way.

But a “few workers” have turned into millions of family members and members of devastated communities who have seen their lives deteriorate. They are heading Trump’s way.

Sanders to the Rescue?

Bernie Sanders saw all this coming. That’s why he challenged Clinton in the first place, and that’s why he’s now trying to capture the Democratic Party and turn it into the champion of working people against Wall Street and “the billionaire class.”

In the case of Carrier, Sanders is calling on Trump not to accept a compromise that will still allow half of the jobs to be moved to Mexico. Staying true to his radical politics, Sanders also is calling for new “Outsourcing Prevention Act” that would:

  1. Bar companies from receiving future contracts, tax breaks, grants or loans from the federal government if they have announced plans to outsource more than 50 jobs to other countries;

  2. Require all companies to pay back all federal tax breaks, grants and loans they have received from the federal government over the last decade if they outsource more than 50 jobs in a given year;

  3. Impose a tax on all companies that outsource jobs. The tax would be equal to the amount of savings achieved by outsourcing jobs or 35 percent of its profits, whichever is higher.

  4. Prohibit companies that offshore jobs from enriching executives through golden parachutes, stock options, bonuses, or other forms of compensation by imposing stiff tax penalties on this compensation.

Reactionary versus Progressive Populism

The stage is set for an epic struggle between Trump’s right wing populism and Sanders-style social democracy. The corporate-driven Democrats may soon be irrelevant. Either they go along with Sanders and compete for the allegiance with working people, or they get pummeled by more working class defections to Trump’s brand of populism.

Sanders believes that neoliberalism is heart of our problem — that it leads to runaway inequality, a rigged political system, an exploitative Wall Street, and the full-scale assault on the living and working conditions of working people — black, brown, white, gay and straight. That system, he believes, also leads to the dramatic rise of incarceration, urban and rural poverty, and the stalling of real wages for the vast majority of the population.

Sanders understands we only can win significant social democratic reforms if we link together the full set of victims (most of the 99%). He’s talking about the kind of programs that will appreciably improve our lives — free higher education, single-payer health care, a major attack on climate change, massive public job creation, real criminal justice and immigration reform, a Wall Street speculation tax and now the Outsourcing Prevention Act.

Getting it Right

It’s too late to take the Carrier victory away form Trump. It won’t work to belittle Trump by claiming it only covers 1,000 jobs, or that too many public tax breaks were tossed to the corporation, or that globalization will eventually make those jobs go away. One thousand jobs means 1,000 families who will not see their incomes slashed in half, or worse. More importantly it means hope, that maybe outsourcing to low-wage countries can be ameliorated.

As a result, Sanders is making a difficult request both of the Democratic Party, and of progressive activists in general. He is asking us to place working people at the center of our work: “The working class of this country is being decimated — that’s why Donald Trump won,” Sanders said. “And what we need now are candidates who stand with those working people, who understand that real median family income has gone down.”

To get there, Sanders is fanning a contentious debate: He argues that the current practice of identity politics is not a complete political program. As he bluntly stated, “It is not good enough for somebody to say, ‘I’m a woman, vote for me.’ That is not good enough. What we need is a woman who has the guts to stand up to Wall Street, to the insurance companies, to the drug companies, to the fossil fuel industries.”

So what does this mean for the efforts of tens of thousands of progressive activists who are deeply engaged in halting climate change, preventing police violence, securing equal rights the LGBTQ community, protecting immigrants, and working on a myriad of other significant causes?

Sanders implies that for any of us to succeed, we all must join the fight to enhance the lives of working people. No matter what our priority issue, we will need to devote time and resources to fight for universal programs that lift us all up. In short, we have to expand our issue silos so that fighting Wall Street and the billionaire class can link us together.Sanders could not be clearer: Either we become a broad-based class movement or we lose. The choice is ours, not Trump’s.

 

Les Leopold is the executive director of the Labor Institute in New York, and author of How to Make a Million Dollars an Hour: Why Hedge Funds Get Away with Siphoning Off America’s Wealth (J. Wiley and Sons, 2013).

 

 

http://www.alternet.org/election-2016/carrier-plant-jobs?akid=14975.265072.Got96S&rd=1&src=newsletter1068440&t=4

One Sociologist’s Compelling Theory for How the U.S. Empire Could Devolve Into Fascism and Then Collapse

ELECTION 2016
Based on a model comparing the rise and fall of 10 historical empires.

Photo Credit: oneinchpunch / Shutterstock

A sociologist who predicted the collapse of the Soviet Union and 9/11 attacks warns that American global power will collapse under Donald Trump.

Johan Galtung, a Norwegian professor at the University of Hawaii and Transcend Peace University, first predicted in 2000 that the “U.S. empire” would wither away within 25 years, but he moved up that forecast by five years with the election of President George W. Bush, reported Motherboard.

Now, nearly 17 years later, Galtung predicts that decline could come even quicker under a Trump administration.

“He blunts contradictions with Russia, possibly with China, and seems to do also with North Korea,” Galtung said. “But he sharpens contradictions inside the USA.”

Galtung’s biographer credits the sociologist and mathematician with correctly predicting the 1978 Iranian revolution; China’s Tiananmen Square uprising in 1989; the collapse of the Soviet empire in 1989; the economic crises of 1987, 2008 and 2011; and the 9/11 attacks.

His predictions are based on a model comparing the rise and fall of 10 historical empires, and decades ago Galtung developed a theory of decline based on “synchronizing and mutually reinforcing contradictions.”

For example, Galtung’s model identified five key structural contradictions in Soviet society that he predicted would lead to its fragmentation unless the U.S.S.R. completely transformed itself.

Galtung predicted the tensions between the repressed Soviet working class and the wealthier “bourgeoisie” with nothing to buy would lead to economic stagnation, and those economic forces combined with the push for more freedom of expression, autonomy and freedom of movement would — eventually did — pull down the Soviet Union.

He predicted in his 2009 book, “The Fall of the American Empire — and then What?” that the U.S. was plagued by 15 internal contradictions that would end its global power by 2020, and Galtung warned that phase of the decline would usher in a period of reactionary fascism.

American fascism would spring from its capacity for global violence, a vision of exceptionalism, a belief in an inevitable and final war between good and evil, the cult of a strong state leading that battle, and a cult of the “strong leader.”

Galtung said all of those elements presented themselves during the Bush era, but he fears fascist tendencies could sharpen under Trump as those cultists lash out in disbelief at the loss of American power.

The sociologist identified unsustainable economic, social, military and political contradictions that would eventually topple the U.S. as a world power.

Overproduction relative to demand, unemployment and the increasing costs of climate change would weaken the U.S. economy, according to his model.

Galtung also predicted that rising tensions between the U.S., NATO and its military allies, coupled with the increasing economic costs of war and the political conflicts between the U.S., United Nations and the European Union, would also diminish American power.

“The collapse has two faces,” Galtung said. “Other countries refuse to be ‘good allies: and the USA has to do the killing themselves, by bombing from high altitudes, drones steered by computer from an office, Special Forces killing all over the place. Both are happening today, except for Northern Europe, which supports these wars, for now. That will probably not continue beyond 2020, so I stand by that deadline.”

Rising tensions between America’s Judeo-Christian majority and Islam and other religious minorities created cultural contradictions, which are further sharpened by social contradictions between the so-called American dream and the reality that fewer Americans can achieve prosperity through hard work.

The decline of the U.S. as a global power would probably rip apart its domestic cohesion, Galtung said, which could potentially reshape American borders.

“As a trans-border structure the collapse I am thinking of is global, not domestic,” Galtung said. “But it may have domestic repercussion, like white supremacists or even minorities like Hawaiians, Inuits, indigenous Americans and black Americans doing the same, maybe arguing for the United States as community, confederation rather than a ‘union.’”

That breakup could potentially bring a revitalization of the American republic, Galtung said — if Trump makes a surprising shift in his persona and policies.

“If he manages to apologize deeply to all the groups he has insulted and turn foreign policy from U.S. interventions — soon 250 after Jefferson in Libya 1801 — and not use wars (killing more than 20 million in 37 countries after 1945): A major revitalization!” Galtung said. “Certainly making ‘America Great Again.’ We’ll see.”

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

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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:

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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

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.
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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

Trump’s America Is Party Time for the Corporate Elite

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What Populism?

Trump’s corporate takeover of federal agencies

Take a look at the current list of landing team members and their prior affiliations, and you’ll see exactly where things are heading under a Trump administration.

“Trump has converted the GOP into a populist working-class party,” Trump advisor and far-right economist Stephen Moore told Republican members of Congress at a caucus meeting.

Well, advisor Moore, meet the Trump transition team.

“We are witnessing not a populist, working class revolution, but the wholesale takeover of government by an extremist faction of the corporate class.”

The leader of the would-be populist working-class party has invited rogues’ gallery of insiders—corporate lawyers, investment fund managers, corporate executives and wonks hailing from corporate-backed think tanks—to populate the “landing teams” that are doing the nitty-gritty work of transitioning government agencies from control by the outgoing Obama administration to the incoming Trump regime.

It turns out that nearly three-quarters of the landing teams come from the corporate world or corporate-affiliated think tanks, according to a Public Citizen review.

And, although the Trump team has kicked registered lobbyists off the transition, at least 13 of the 71 landing team members have been registered lobbyists in the past, some as recent as last year.

What does the purportedly “populist working-class” transition team look like? Take a look:

  • Paul Atkins is in charge of financial regulation for the Trump transition and on the landing teams for the Elizabeth Warren-created Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) . He is the CEO of Patomak Global Partners, a consulting firm that advises financial services companies on compliance issues. Atkins formerly served as a Republican commissioner of the Securities and Exchange Commission, where he was viewed as being largely opposed to regulation.
  • Joel Leftwich is the staff director for the U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, & Forestry. He was a lobbyist for PepsiCo from 2013 to 2015, and in 2010 was a lobbyist for DuPont.
  • There are 10 people on the landing team for the Department of Defense. More than half work now or previously for defense contractors, including Mira Ricardel, a former vice president for Boeing known for advocacy of space laser weapons.
  • Michael Dougherty is on the landing team for the Department of Homeland Security. He is the CEO of Secure Identity & Biometrics Association, a trade group that represents the interests of member corporations whose business is security screening technology for airports and border crossings. Previously he worked for Raytheon, a security contractor and, before that, as a Homeland Security official under President George W. Bush.
  • Doug Domenech is on the landing team for the Department of Interior. He is directorof the Fueling Freedom Project at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, whose self-proclaimed purpose is to “explain the forgotten moral case for fossil fuels.” He also worked for 12 years for the Forest Resources Association, a national trade association representing the forest products industry.
  • There are 9 people on the landing team for the Department of Justice, predictably drawn heavily from the ranks of corporate law firms. Two thirds of them are involved in corporate criminal defense work!

There are policies that could be put in place to address the revolving door problem—individuals leaving government and going to work for the industries they formerly regulated, and from regulated industry into government positions. President Obama took important steps in this direction with an executive order at the outset of his administration but only addressed registered lobbyists. The solution is to change the focus from registered lobbyists to those with financial conflicts of interest—people from or who work for regulated industry should not be able to move seamlessly into jobs as the regulators.

But what’s going on with the Trump administration is beyond fixing with clear policies. We are witnessing not a populist, working class revolution, but the wholesale takeover of government by an extremist faction of the corporate class.

It has become conventional wisdom in Washington that “personnel is policy”—that the people appointed to key positions will make the policy decisions, and are therefore even more important than any particular policy choice. At no time is this more true than now, with a president-elect with minimal interest in policy details.

So, take a look at the current list of landing team members and their prior affiliations, and you’ll see exactly where things are heading under a Trump administration. Trump voters hoping for anti-establishment, anti-insider politics are in for a rude awakening. It’s party time for Corporate America.

Robert Weissman is the president of Public Citizen. Weissman was formerly director of Essential Action, editor of Multinational Monitor, a magazine that tracks corporate actions worldwide, and a public interest attorney at the Center for Study of Responsive Law. He was a leader in organizing the 2000 IMF and World Bank protests in D.C. and helped make HIV drugs available to the developing world.

http://www.commondreams.org/views/2016/11/29/what-populism-trumps-america-party-time-corporate-elite

The political legacy of Fidel Castro

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28 November 2016

The announcement Friday night of the death of Fidel Castro, one of the major figures of the 20th century, has provoked a broad range of public reactions reflecting the bitter controversies over his contradictory historical legacy.

His death at 90 came nearly a decade after he surrendered the reins of unchallenged power he exercised over Cuba’s political life. For nearly half a century he was “president for life,” first secretary of the ruling Communist Party and commander-in-chief of the Cuban military, with much of this authority passing dynastically into the hands of his younger brother, Raul, who is now 85.

His rule outlasted that of ten US presidents, from Eisenhower to George W. Bush, all of whom were committed to the overthrow of his regime, including by means of the abortive CIA-organized Bay of Pigs invasion of 1961, literally hundreds of assassination attempts, and the longest economic blockade in world history.

The longevity of his political career is in many ways astonishing. No doubt, there were elements of the Latin American caudillo in his rule and he could be ruthless in relation to those seen as political rivals and opponents. At the same time, he possessed an undeniable personal charisma and a degree of humanism that attracted support from both the oppressed masses of Cuba and wider layers of intellectuals and radicalized youth internationally.

The reaction of the US media to Castro’s death has been predictable. Editorial denunciations of the “brutal dictator” have been accompanied by revolting coverage giving greater air time to a few hundred right-wing Cuban exiles dancing in the streets of Miami’s Little Havana than to the somber and very real mourning among broad layers of the population in Cuba itself.

On the island, ten years after relinquishing power, Castro has maintained a significant, albeit diminished, popular base, reflecting support for the undeniable improvements in social conditions for the country’s most impoverished layers that were wrought by the revolution he led in 1959.

The indices of these changes come into clear focus when one compares conditions in Cuba to those prevailing in the neighboring Dominican Republic, which has roughly the same size population and gross domestic product. The murder rate in Cuba is less than one quarter that in the Dominican Republic; life expectancy is six years higher (79 vs. 73), and the Cuban infant mortality rate is roughly one-sixth the Dominican. Cuba’s literacy levels and infant mortality rates, it should be added, are also superior to those in the United States.

The commentary in the US media centering on denunciations of Castro for political repression deserves to be placed in historical context. After all, the United States has over the course of a century supported countless dictatorships responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people in Latin America alone. Castro and Castroism were ultimately the product of this bitter and bloody history.

Castro’s own political evolution was shaped by US imperialism’s decades-long plunder and oppression following the island’s transformation as a result of the 1898 Spanish-American war from a colony of Spain into a semi-colony of Washington. Under the so-called Platt Amendment, the United States guaranteed itself the “right” to intervene in Cuban affairs as it saw fit, and seized Guantanamo Bay to serve as its military base.

The US-backed Batista dictatorship

Before the revolution, Washington’s man in Havana was Fulgencio Batista, who headed a ferocious dictatorship that ruled in the interests of foreign corporations, the country’s native oligarchy and the mafia, which turned the country into a center of gambling and prostitution. Torture was routine and John F. Kennedy himself commented that the regime was responsible for the political murders of at least 20,000 Cubans.

As vicious as this regime was, it was by no means unique in the region. During the same period, Washington supported similar mass crimes carried out by Trujillo in the Dominican Republic, Duvalier in Haiti and Somoza in Nicaragua.

Those who attempted to alter the existing order by democratic means were disposed of with violence, as seen in the CIA-organized overthrow of the Arbenz government in Guatemala in 1954. The result was a growth of seething popular hatred for the United States throughout the hemisphere.

Born into a Spanish landowning family, Castro developed politically within the hothouse environment of student nationalist politics at Havana University. Reportedly, as a youth he was an admirer of Spanish fascist Jose Antonio Primo de Rivera and the Italian duce Benito Mussolini.

Among his politically formative experiences was a 1948 trip as a student to Bogota, Colombia, where the US had convened an inter-American congress that was to found the Organization of American States to assert US hegemony over the region. During the visit, the assassination of Liberal Party candidate Jorge Gaitan led to the mass uprising known as the Bogotazo, in which much of the Colombian capital was destroyed and up to 3,000 were killed.

Castro himself acknowledged that he was also significantly influenced by the politics of Juan Peron, the military officer who came to power in Argentina, admiring him for his populism, anti-Americanism and social assistance programs for the poor.

Still in his twenties, Castro began his struggle against the US-backed dictatorship of Batista as a member of the Ortodoxo Party, a nationalist and anti-communist political tendency rooted in the Cuban petty-bourgeoisie. After running as an Ortodoxo candidate for the Cuban legislature in 1952, Castro turned to armed action a year later, leading an ill-fated assault on the Moncada army barracks in which all 200 insurgents were either killed or captured.

Following a brief jail sentence and exile, he returned to Cuba at the end of 1956 with a relative handful of armed supporters who suffered overwhelming losses in initial engagements with government troops. Yet within barely two years, power fell into the hands of his guerrilla July 26 Movement, under conditions where both the Cuban bourgeoisie and Washington had lost confidence in Batista’s ability to rule the country.

There existed broad international sympathy for Castro, whose uprising was seen as a struggle for democracy. Among those expressing support for the new regime was American author Ernest Hemingway, who described himself as “delighted” with the overthrow of Batista.

Initially, Castro denied he had any sympathy for communism, insisted that his government would protect foreign capital and welcome new private investment, and sought to reach an accommodation with US imperialism.

However, as the masses of Cuban workers and peasants were demanding results from the Castro revolution, Washington made it clear that it would tolerate not even the most modest social reforms in the territory 90 miles from US shores. The expectations within US ruling circles was that after brief celebrations of the fall of Batista, the new government would get back to business as usual. They were horrified that Castro was actually serious about changing social conditions on the island and raising the living standard of its impoverished masses. They met any attempt at altering the existing order with intransigence.

In response to limited land reform, Washington sought to strangle the Cuban economy, cutting Cuba’s sugar export quota and then denying the island nation oil.

Castro responded with nationalizations, first of US property, then of Cuban-owned enterprises, and turned to the Soviet bureaucracy for assistance. He simultaneously turned to the discredited Cuban Stalinist Popular Socialist Party, which had supported Batista and opposed Castro’s guerrilla movement. The Stalinists provided him with the political apparatus that he lacked.

Castro was representative of a broader bourgeois-nationalist and anti-imperialist movement that swept the colonial and oppressed countries in the post-World War II period, giving rise to figures like Ben Bella in Algeria, Nasser in Egypt, Nkrumah in Ghana and Lumumba in the Congo, among others. Like Castro, many of them attempted to exploit the Cold War conflict between Washington and Moscow to secure their own interests.

No doubt, there was an opportunistic element in Castro’s self-proclamation as a “Marxist-Leninist” and his turn to the Soviet Union. However, it is also the case that in 1960, the October Revolution that had transformed Russia 43 years earlier exerted a massive influence internationally, even though the Soviet bureaucracy had long since exterminated the revolution’s leaders and severed all ties to genuine Marxism.

While the rising expectations of the Cuban masses and the obstinate reaction of US imperialism served to push Castro to the left, he was in no sense a Marxist. While sincere in his original intentions to implement significant reforms of Cuban society, his political orientation was always of a pragmatic character.

Ultimately, Castro went the furthest in striking a Faustian bargain with Soviet Stalinism, which provided massive aid and subsidized trade in return for exploiting Cuba as a bargaining chip in its quest for “peaceful coexistence” with US imperialism.

With the Stalinist bureaucracy’s final betrayal, the dissolution of the USSR in 1991, Cuba was thrown into a desperate economic and social crisis which the Castro government was able to offset only through an ever-widening opening to foreign capitalist investment, as well as major subsidies from Venezuela, whose own economic crisis is now closing off that source of aid as well.

Rapprochement with Washington

These are the conditions that laid the groundwork for a rapprochement between Washington and Cuba, with the reopening of the US embassy in Havana and Obama’s visit to the country last March. For its part, US capitalism is determined to exploit Cuban cheap labor and potentially lucrative markets and ward off the growing influence in the country of its Chinese and European rivals.

The ruling strata in Cuba see the influx of US capital as a means of salvaging their rule while pursuing a course similar to that of China. The Cuban elite hopes to secure its own privileges and power at the expense of the Cuban working class under conditions where social inequality on the island is rapidly deepening.

No doubt all of this troubled Castro in the last decade of his life. During this period, he continued to comment regularly in the Cuban media through a column known as “Reflections.” These writings provided little in the way of theoretical insight and reflected the thinking of a sincere petty-bourgeois radical.

To his credit, until his death he continued to despise everything that US imperialism stood for. He vigorously attacked the hypocrisy of Barack Obama and his combination of “human rights” rhetoric and imperialist wars and drone assassination programs.

In the aftermath of Obama’s visit to Cuba, Castro wrote one of his last columns, bitterly denouncing the US president’s speech in Havana. He declared: “… we are capable of producing the food and material riches we need with the efforts and intelligence of our people. We do not need the empire to give us anything.”

The reality, however, is that the Obama visit and the move to “normalize” relations with US imperialism signaled that Castro’s revolution, like every other bourgeois nationalist movement and national liberation struggle led by middle-class forces, had reached its ultimate dead end, having failed to resolve the historic problems stemming from imperialist oppression of Cuba and moving toward a restoration of the neocolonialist relations that it had previously opposed.

Only a cynic could deny the elements of heroism and tragedy in the life of Castro and, above all, the protracted struggle of the Cuban people.

However, Castro’s legacy cannot be evaluated solely through the prism of Cuba, but must take into account the impact of his politics internationally and, above all, in Latin America.

Here, the most catastrophic role was played by left nationalists in Latin America as well as petty-bourgeois radicals in Europe and North America in promoting Castro’s coming to power at the head of a small guerrilla army as the opening of a new path to socialism, requiring neither the conscious and independent political intervention of the working class nor the building of revolutionary Marxist parties. The myths surrounding Castro’s revolution, and, in particular, the retrograde theories of guerrillaism propagated by his erstwhile political ally Che Guevara, were promoted as the model for revolutions throughout the hemisphere.

The role of Pabloite revisionism

Among the most prominent proponents of this false perspective was the Pabloite revisionist tendency that emerged within the Fourth International under the leadership of Ernest Mandel in Europe and Joseph Hansen in the US, subsequently joined by Nahuel Moreno in Argentina. They insisted that Castro’s coming to power had proven that armed guerrillas led by the petty-bourgeoisie and based on the peasantry could become “natural Marxists,” compelled by objective events to carry out the socialist revolution, with the working class reduced to the role of a passive bystander.

They further concluded that Castro’s nationalizations created a “workers state” in Cuba, despite the absence of any organs of workers’ power.

Long before the Cuban Revolution, Leon Trotsky had explicitly rejected the facile identification of nationalizations undertaken by petty-bourgeois forces with the socialist revolution. The Transitional Program, the founding document of the Fourth International, written in 1938, declared that “one cannot categorically deny in advance the theoretical possibility that, under the influence of completely exceptional circumstances (war, defeat, financial crash, mass revolutionary pressure, etc.) the petty-bourgeois parties including the Stalinists may go further than they themselves wish along the road to a break with the bourgeoisie.” It distinguished such an episode, however, from a genuine dictatorship of the proletariat.

In response to the expropriations carried out by the Kremlin regime in the course of its invasion of Poland (in alliance with Hitler) in 1939, Trotsky wrote: “The primary political criterion for us is not the transformation of property in this or another area, however important these may be in themselves, but rather the change in the consciousness and organization of the world proletariat, the raising of their capacity for defending former conquests and accomplishing new ones.”

The International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) fought intransigently against the Pabloite perspective, insisting that Castroism represented not some new road to socialism, but rather only one of the more radical variants of the bourgeois nationalist movements that had come to power through much of the former colonial world. It warned that the Pabloite glorification of Castroism represented a repudiation of the entire historical and theoretical conception of the socialist revolution going back to Marx, and laid the basis for the liquidation of the revolutionary cadre assembled by the Trotskyist movement internationally into the camp of bourgeois nationalism and Stalinism.

While waging a principled defense of Cuba against imperialist aggression, the ICFI rooted its analysis of Castroism within a broader assessment on the role of bourgeois nationalism in the epoch of imperialism.

Defending Trotsky’s theory of permanent revolution, it wrote in 1961: “It is not the job of Trotskyists to boost the role of such nationalist leaders. They can command the support of the masses only because of the betrayal of leadership by Social-Democracy and particularly Stalinism, and in this way they become buffers between imperialism and the mass of workers and peasants. The possibility of economic aid from the Soviet Union often enables them to strike a harder bargain with the imperialists, even enables more radical elements among the bourgeois and petty-bourgeois leaders to attack imperialist holdings and gain further support from the masses. But, for us, in every case the vital question is one of the working class in these countries gaining political independence through a Marxist party, leading the poor peasantry to the building of Soviets, and recognizing the necessary connections with the international socialist revolution. In no case, in our opinion, should Trotskyists substitute for that the hope that the nationalist leadership should become socialists. The emancipation of the working class is the task of the workers themselves.”

These warnings were tragically vindicated in Latin America where the theories promoted by the Pabloites helped divert a whole layer of radicalized youth and young workers away from the struggle to mobilize the working class against capitalism and into suicidal armed struggles that claimed thousands of lives, served to disorient the workers’ movement and helped pave the way to fascist-military dictatorships.

In the first instance, these theories claimed the life of Guevara himself in Bolivia. Ignoring the militant struggles of the miners and the rest of the Bolivian working class, he vainly sought to recruit a guerrilla army from among the most backward and oppressed sections of the peasantry, ending up isolated and starving before being hunted down and executed by the CIA and the Bolivian military in October 1967.

Guevara’s fate was a tragic anticipation of the disastrous consequences Castroism and Pabloite revisionism would have throughout the hemisphere. Similarly, in Argentina, the cult of guerrillaism served to blunt and disorient the revolutionary working class movement that had erupted with the mass strikes of the Cordobazo of 1969.

Castro himself, acting both as a client of the Soviet bloc and a practitioner of realpolitik in the attempt to secure the stability of his own regime, sought to forge ties to the same Latin American bourgeois governments that those who emulated him were attempting to overthrow. Thus, in 1971 he toured Chile, extolling the “parliamentary road to socialism” in that country, even as the fascists and the military were preparing to crush the working class. He hailed military regimes in Peru and Ecuador as anti-imperialist and even embraced the corrupt apparatus of the ruling PRI in Mexico after it had overseen the massacre of students in 1968.

The overall impact of Castro’s policies as well as those of the political tendencies who glorified him was to hold back the socialist revolution throughout the hemisphere.

Now, the imperialist powers in general, and the US in particular, are evaluating to what extent the death of Castro can be used to advance their interests in Cuba and beyond.

President Barack Obama issued a hypocritical statement declaring, “History will record and judge the enormous impact of this singular figure on the people and world around him,” and assuring that ”the Cuban people must know that they have a friend and partner in the United States of America.”

For his part, President-elect Trump issued a statement celebrating “the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades.” There is growing speculation over whether Trump will carry through on his threats to rescind measures enacted by Obama meant to facilitate the penetration of Cuba by US banks and corporations.

While the representatives of imperialism seek to exploit Castro’s death to advance the cause of reaction, for a new generation of workers and youth the study of the historical experience of Castroism and the far-sighted critique developed by the International Committee of the Fourth International remains a vital task in preparing the working class for coming mass revolutionary struggles and building the parties that will lead them.

Bill Van Auken

Black America and the Passing of Fidel Castro

HUMAN RIGHTS
Fidel Castro immediately had a special significance for countless Black Americans.

Photo Credit: U.S. News & World Report collection at the Library of Congress.

It is impossible to discuss Fidel Castro outside of an examination of the Cuban Revolution. And, while I hear that there are many Cuban Americans dancing with glee upon news of the death of President Castro, I know that the emotions within Black America are and will continue to be quite different.

For any Black American who knows anything about the history of the Western Hemisphere, both Cuba and Haiti have a special significance. Haiti, of course, for successfully ousting the French in 1803 and forming the second republic in the Americas; a Black republic. Cuba, in 1959, kicked out the USA, the Mafia, and a corrupt ruling class that had enforced racist oppression against most of the Cuban population.  In the cases of Haiti and Cuba, their audacity in the face of a racist imperialism brought forth the wrath of their opponents. How dare the Cubans stand up to the USA? How could a country of all of these ‘brown’ and ‘black’ people insist that they should determine their own destinies?

Thus, Fidel Castro immediately had a special significance for countless Black Americans.  When I was quite young I remember my father telling me how his brother-in-law, a professor at Johnson C. Smith University, had sat watching the television as pictures were shown of Cuban exiles entering the USA after the 1959 Revolution. His comment to my father was that all that he saw were white-looking Cubans stepping off the planes or boats. No brown and black Cubans. This told him something about the nature of the Cuban Revolution and its leader, Fidel Castro.

Castro further endeared himself to much of Black America when he visited the USA and took up residence in the Hotel Theresa in New York’s Harlem. It was there that he met another icon, Malcolm X. It was situating himself in the Black community that shook much of the US establishment and told Black America that something very unusual was unfolding 90 miles off the coast of Florida.

In the weeks, months and years to come there will be exhaustive examinations of the work and life of Fidel Castro and his impact not only on Cuba but the world.  If you have not read Castro’s “spoken autobiography”, Fidel Castro:  My Life  I strong recommend it. I will not try to offer anything approaching an analysis of the man and his times.  What I can say, however, is that there are certainly criticisms to be offered, and differences of opinion of the dynamics of the Cuban Revolution. That is all fair game. At the same time, it has been a rare moment when a leader, particularly of a small country, has been willing to thumb his or her nose at the capitalist juggernaut and seek a different path. Added to this has been, particularly in a Western Hemispheric context, the challenge of taking on racist oppression and approaching it as the cancer that it is, a disease to be removed.

The one and only time that I met Fidel Castro was in January 1999 when I was on a TransAfrica delegation led by the organization’s first president, Randall Robinson. At the last minute, the night before we were to leave Cuba, we were informed that we would have an opportunity to meet with President Castro.

It was close to midnight when we were informed that we needed to board the bus and head to his office.  When we arrived we walked into a waiting room in anticipation of the meeting. Suddenly a door opened and out came an old man in an olive green uniform. Yes, it was Castro. I think, quite irrationally, I was expecting the young Castro of the 1960s. But here was someone about the same age as my father. He circulated around the room and was introduced to our delegation. We then retired to another room to begin our meeting.

It is hard to describe what happened next, and probably equally hard for anyone to believe it. We sat in the room with Castro until about 3:30am.  He never lost a beat.  He never seemed tired.  In fact, as the minutes and hours went forward, he seemed to gain energy! Castro spoke with us about the Cuban Revolution, race, and many other issues.  Yes, he spoke a lot, but we were transfixed. And, when we asked him questions, he would consider the matter and always offer a thoughtful response, rather than retreating into rhetoric.  It was particularly illuminating when he informed us that the Cuban Revolution had underestimated the power of racism. As he said at the time, when the 26th of July Movement (the revolutionary organization that led the anti-Batista struggle) took power they thought that it was enough to render racist discrimination illegal and that should settle the matter. The entrenched power of racism, even in a society that was attempting to root it out, was more substantial than they had anticipated.

Hearing this from Castro represented a special moment. There has frequently been a defensiveness among Cuban officials about matters of race in Cuba, despite the tremendous advances that they have made, advances probably of greater significance than any other country in the Western Hemisphere.  Yet, manifestations of racism remain and, to our surprise, Castro was prepared to address them.

Fidel Castro’s demise comes as no surprise. He had been facing health challenges for some time. Nevertheless, given the number of attempts on his life and the other challenges that he had faced, there has been a bit of magical thinking for many people, believing that he would, somehow, always be there.

For many of us in Black America, Castro represented the audacity that we have desired and sought in the face of imperial and racial arrogance. While it is unfortunate that some of us have withheld concerns and criticisms out of respect for Castro and the Cuban Revolution, it is completely understandable. After all, this was the country that deployed troops to Angola that helped to smash the South African apartheid army and their Angolan allies. This was the country that has deployed doctors in the face of countless emergencies, to countries that could never afford such assistance. This is the country that has studied and come to understand hurricanes in a way unlike most in the hurricane region, so much so that it offered assistance to the USA in the aftermath of the 2005 Hurricane Katrina, assistance that the then Bush administration turned down.

Let his soul rest easy. And, let the Cuban people continue on their way free of outside interference. Theirs path has been one upon which they have insisted.  Fidel Castro was one important component in making that happen. And, if that was not enough, he and the Cuban Revolution shook the world of the 20th century.