Democrats debate identity politics

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By Niles Niemuth
15 December 2016

In the aftermath of the victory of Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton, a heated debate has been raging in Democratic Party circles over the efficacy of identity politics and its role in the party’s electoral debacle.

Some figures within the party and its periphery have raised concerns that the overriding focus on racial and gender politics has prevented the Democrats from making an effective appeal to broader segments of society beyond those in better-off and more privileged layers of the middle class.

In a November 18 New York Times op-ed column titled “The End of Identity Liberalism,” Columbia University humanities professor Mark Lilla, seeking to draw the lessons of Clinton’s loss to Trump, writes: “In recent years American liberalism has slipped into a kind of moral panic about racial, gender and sexual identity that has distorted liberalism’s message and prevented it from becoming a unifying force capable of governing.”

While Clinton was “at her best and most uplifting when she spoke about American interests in world affairs and how they related to our understanding of democracy,” he asserts, “when it came to life at home, she tended on the campaign trail to lose that large vision and slip into the rhetoric of diversity, calling out explicitly to African-American, Latino, LGBT and women voters at every stop.”

This focus on identity was a “strategic mistake,” Lilla writes. He calls instead for a “post-identity” liberalism that places a greater emphasis on civic duty and a new nationalism, drawing inspiration, in part, from Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.

Lilla’s column corresponds to remarks made by Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders following the election. Sanders campaigned for Clinton after failing in his bid to win the Democratic nomination, but now he is implicitly criticizing her focus on racial and gender politics. “It is not good enough for somebody to say, ‘I’m a woman, vote for me!’” he said in a recent speech. “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 industry.”

The actual content of Sanders’ proposals is reactionary. In the name of “taking on the corporations” he advocates an aggressive economic nationalism that echoes the “America-first” trade war program of Trump. Nor does Lilla propose any serious program to challenge the interests of the corporate elite. In his commentary he makes a vague reference to the Democrats’ long-abandoned policies of social reform, but he does so to advocate not a struggle against the corporate elite, but rather a new, “left” form of American nationalism. His “post-identity liberalism” would “speak to the nation as a nation of citizens who are in this together and must help one another.”

What is most striking, however, is the hysterical response such muted criticisms have evoked. The most vociferous attack on Lilla’s article has come from Columbia University law professor Katherine M. Franke, who equates Lilla with the former head of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke, in a blog post published by the Los Angeles Review of Books on November 21.

“In the new political climate we now inhabit, Duke and Lilla were contributing to the same ideological project, the former cloaked in a KKK hood, the latter in an academic gown,” Franke writes. “Both men are underwriting the whitening of American nationalism, and the re-centering of white lives as lives that matter most in the US. Duke is happy to own the white supremacy of his statements, while Lilla’s op-ed does the more nefarious background work of making white supremacy respectable. Again.”

For Franke, any move away from a politics based on racial and gender identity is equivalent to the promotion of racism and misogyny. “Let me be blunt: this kind of liberalism is a liberalism of white supremacy,” she declares. “It is a liberalism that regards the efforts of people of color and women to call out forms of power that sustain white supremacy and patriarchy as a distraction. It is a liberalism that figures the lives and interests of white men as the neutral, unmarked terrain around which a politics of ‘common interest’ can and should be built.”

These remarks are echoed by Guardian columnist Hadley Freeman, who denounces criticism of identity politics as the “primal scream of the straight white male.” She argues that those who want to “emphasise what we have in common instead of focusing on the differences” have a “delightfully kumbaya view of the world.”

Journalist Tasneem Raja, in a commentary published on National Public Radio’s Code Switch blog, which is dedicated to racial and identity politics, rejects Lilla’s criticisms as support for white supremacy. She accuses Lilla of being “keen on pulling the plug on conversations about multiculturalism and diversity” and thereby unconsciously playing “right into the hands of the newly emboldened neo-Nazis who helped put Trump in office…”

The unhinged response to Lilla’s column reflects entrenched social interests. Franke speaks on behalf of a layer of American academics for whom the politics of identity is a central mechanism for accessing positions of affluence and privilege.

Identity politics has become an entrenched industry. Many of its professional proponents have high-paying academic positions in black and gender studies. Such institutions are funded to the tune of billions of dollars and politically tied to the Democratic Party and corporate America.

According to her university biography, Franke’s research is focused on feminist, queer and critical race theory. She is the director of Columbia University’s Center for Gender and Sexuality Law, a member of the Executive Committee for the Institute for Research on Women, Gender and Sexuality, and a member of the Steering Committee for the Center for the Study of Social Difference.

The relationship of the Democratic Party–and bourgeois politics as a whole–to identity politics is not accidental or secondary. The fixation on the politics of race and gender is inextricably bound up with the protracted shift of the Democratic Party to the right, in line with the drive by the ruling class to claw back all of the gains that workers won through bitter struggle, particularly in the 1930s and the decades following the Second World War.

For the past half century, as it abandoned any commitment to social reform, the Democratic Party adopted identity politics and programs such as Affirmative Action as its modus operandi, building up around it a privileged layer of the upper-middle class on this basis. This period has at the same time seen a historic growth in social inequality, including, and especially, within minority groups and among women.

Between 2005 and 2013, black households earning more than $75,000 were the fastest growing income group in the country, while the top one percent possessed more than 200 percent the wealth of the average black family. Despite the enrichment of this small but substantial and influential layer, the vast majority of African Americans remain deeply impoverished. Half of black households, nearly 7 million people, have little to no household worth.

At the same time, large parts of the country populated by supposedly privileged white workers, particularly in the so called Rust Belt states where Trump defeated Clinton, have been devastated economically by deindustrialization.

Identity politics found its consummate expression in the Clinton campaign, which was based on an alliance of Wall Street, the military-intelligence apparatus and the right-wing purveyors of racial and gender politics.

The proponents of identity politics such as Franke are opposed to economic and social equality. They regard any orientation to working people on a class basis as a threat to their own racial- or gender-based privileges. They are deeply hostile to the working class—black and Latino as well as white.

The anger that these forces direct toward Lilla will be turned with even greater intensity against a politically independent movement of the working class

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/12/15/iden-d15.html

Donald Trump’s unexpected election win was a revolt against Democrats

Movement of movements:

People will only take so much before they rise up and fight back — this voter revolt has been brewing for a while

Movement of movements: Donald Trump’s unexpected election win was a revolt against Democrats

Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton at the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 27, 2016. REUTERS/Scott Audette – RTSK0AM(Credit: Reuters)

This piece originally appeared on BillMoyers.com.

There is a critical lesson to learn from this election: People will only take so much before they rise up and fight back. This voter revolt has been brewing for a while. If the Democrats had possessed the capacity to be self-critical, they would have seen it coming, but I suspect that despite the growing unrest they thought they had everything under control. The party has been getting away with manipulation of the debates and primaries, control of the commercial media, empty promises of a better future and blaming everyone but themselves for decades. That era of hubris is over.

The election of Donald Trump was not because people like him; it was a revolt against the Democratic Party, represented this year by Hillary Clinton. It had little to do with her being a woman and everything to do with her representing the political elites who serve Wall Street interests instead of the people. The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) played a major role. Workers in states where manufacturing jobs were moved out of the country felt betrayed by President Obama and didn’t trust Clinton’s new, weak opposition to the TPP, especially after the Democratic National Committee defeated Sanders’ anti-TPP amendment and his campaign. Bernie Sanders and WikiLeaks further exposed the Democrat’s fake populism and corruption.

Unfortunately, the election of Trump, who was perceived as “the outsider,” will unleash even worse policies than Clinton would have enacted, with the exception perhaps of foreign policy. Clinton’s support for a no-fly zone over Syria would have heightened tension with Russia and increased the risk of a major war. Trump says he’ll work things out with Russia. Members of the international peace community are relieved.

Early indications of the Trump agenda, however, signal lower taxes for the wealthy and corporations and greater military spending, which will likely trigger greater austerity measures for the rest of us. He intends to weaken the less-than-adequate current measures in place to mitigate the climate crisis. Trump’s plans for health care are disastrous. Opening the sale of health insurance across state lines may lower prices but at the expense of coverage. Block grants for Medicaid mean states will sacrifice coverage in times of economic stress.

Trump’s unexpected election has created political space for a new agenda. This is a critical moment when the people must continue their revolt by defining the agenda to create an economy that works for everyone, achieve universal health care, end systemic racism, protect the planet, stop wars and more. Now more than ever, we must be clear about the solutions we want such as taxing wealth, improved Medicare for all, jobs with living wages and a clean energy economy by 2030.

The largest movement of movements against rigged corporate trade deals just stopped the TPP. This is a victory of the people over transnational corporations. Let’s build on that victory by continuing to rise up and put an end to plutocracy. In the words of the recently deceased Leonard Cohen, “Democracy is coming to the U.S.A.”

http://www.salon.com/2016/11/20/trumps-unexpected-election-was-a-revolt-against-the-democrats-and-a-call-for-a-new-agenda_partner/?source=newsletter

The socialist history they hide from us

Socialism was put at the center of U.S. politics by the campaign of Bernie Sanders, which confirmed again what people who protest for a living wage or stand up against police racism have been saying for years: The capitalist system isn’t working, and we need an alternative.

At this summer’s Socialism 2016 conference in Chicago, Sharon Smith and Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor were the main speakers at an evening plenary session on “The Fight for a Socialist Future.” Here, we publish the speech by Sharon Smith, author of Subterranean Fire: A History of Working-Class Radicalism in the United States and Women and Socialism: Class, Race and Capital, edited for publication, in which she talks about the hidden history of socialist organizing in the U.S. and the lessons that history holds for today. SW also featured Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor’s speech here.

Members of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers on the picket line in 1915

Members of the Amalgamated Clothing Workers on the picket line in 1915

I HAVE a message for all those naysayers who are absolutely certain that the U.S. could never go socialist because the working class is too–fill in the blank here–a) bought off; b) materialistic; c) apathetic; d) self-absorbed; e) pro-capitalist; f) consumeristic; g) reactionary; h) ignorant; or i) stupid to ever join a socialist movement.

To all those naysayers, I feel compelled to say, “We told you so.” And the supporting evidence for this statement can be summed up in two words: Sanders supporters.

Yes, the millions of youth who have flocked to Bernie Sanders and declared themselves to be socialists–that is, committed to confronting the colossal degree of inequality that capitalism produces–have proven that America could indeed go socialist if today’s younger generation has anything to say about it.

This generation–which is saddled with debt and faces living standards lower than their parents, with a future of a series of low-paying jobs–has demonstrated to all that this country, just like all others in the world, is divided into classes, in which the vast majority of people suffer because of capitalism: A system that is driven only by the insatiable quest for profits on the part of a tiny capitalist class, without the slightest regard for human need or for the workers who produce their profits.

But the young socialists of today want to fight all forms of inequality and oppression. Large majorities are against the continued oppression of women and LGBTQ people and against racism. They mobilized in large numbers in support of Black Lives Matter and against the oppression of LGBTQ people, including after the horrific murder at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando just a couple of weeks ago.

It’s no exaggeration to say that the youth of today are giving us exactly the kind of hope for the future that has been missing for quite a long time in the socialist movement. This last year is the first time in many decades that a self-described socialist presidential candidate has won mass support in this country–and that is an enormous tipping point for our side.

Having said that, I want to emphasize that we older folks also have an indispensable role to play in the fight for socialism because a socialist organization acts as the collective memory of the working class. Knowing our history allows us to gain from the experience of those who have fought before us–so we can learn from the victories as well as the defeats of the past.

Without that knowledge of history, we will find ourselves reinventing the wheel every time we begin a new struggle, repeating past mistakes and having to learn old lessons all over again, suffering unnecessary defeats instead of advancing the fight for socialism.

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KARL MARX and Frederick Engels wrote in the Communist Manifesto, “The history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle”–meaning that class struggle on a massive scale ultimately creates the conditions for socialist revolution.

But the truth is that a ruling class offensive against the working class has been going on for 40 years now–and make no mistake, it’s a bipartisan project, with the aim of lowering working-class living standards and destroying working-class organizations. While the mainstream media tells us that it’s great progress when the Democrats and Republicans work together, exactly the opposite is true: Bipartisanship means that their side is completely united against our side, which is never good news for us.

The one-sided class war of the last 40 years means that today’s generation of young radicals knows only a lifetime of declining living standards, defeat and setback, with very few victories in between.

There has never been such an extended period of working-class retreat and defeat in the history of U.S. capitalism as what we have experienced these last 40 years–this is true. But we need to understand that, as terrible as it has been to go through it, the last 40 years is the exception rather than the rule.

Capitalism created two objectively antagonistic classes in society, the exploiters and the exploited, the capitalists and the working class. Unfortunately, many people even on the left have written off the potential of the working class to fight for socialism because it hasn’t happened in so long. This makes our history even more important to learn and understand.

The working class in this country actually has a long-standing tradition of radicalism. Anarchists, socialists and other radicals played a leading role in nearly every major strike in our history until the radical movement was destroyed by McCarthyism. During the anti-communist witch hunt in the 1950s, Communist Party members Ethel and Julius Rosenberg were executed just to make an example out of them, and literally thousands of radicals and union militants, from Hollywood actors to the United Auto Workers, were persecuted, prosecuted, fired from their jobs, blacklisted and sent to prison for their beliefs.

This was a conscious assault on the part of the U.S. ruling class that succeeded at physically removing the radical tradition from inside the working class. Since that time, through no fault of its own, the socialist movement has been exiled to the margins of the class that it champions. Until now, that is.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE HISTORY of the socialist movement and the class struggle in the U.S. is barely mentioned in history classes at school–not because the teachers refuse to teach it, but because their lesson plans are scripted from on high by those who have an interest in maintaining the capitalist system. They don’t want us to know about it in case it gives us any ideas about doing something similar.

In reality, the U.S. working class possesses a tradition that has, at certain key points, led the world working class in its heroism and combativity. The U.S. working class movement launched the struggle for the eight-hour workday back in the 1880s, and Chicago was the site of the very first May Day. That holiday is named after the Haymarket Martyrs and celebrated in countries all over the world every May 1. The U.S. is one of the few places where May Day is not celebrated.

The U.S. is also the home of the New York City garment workers’ struggle of 1909 involving 20,000 women workers, all of them immigrants who spoke a dozen different languages and yet managed to unite and strike against sweatshop conditions. That struggle launched the first International Women’s Day, celebrated as a socialist holiday the world over–again, seemingly, everywhere but here.

Most people don’t know it, but hundreds of thousands of working-class people built a grassroots antiwar movement against the First World War in this country–in spite of the fact that the government passed a law called the Espionage Act making it a crime to speak out against the war.

Groups of workers and poor farmers organized and passed declarations like this one by the Oklahoma Socialists society in December 1914: “If war is declared, the Socialists of Oklahoma shall refuse to enlist; but if forced to enter military service to murder fellow workers, we shall choose to die fighting the enemies of humanity in our ranks rather than to perish fighting our fellow workers.”

The U.S. is also the home of the sit-down strikes of the 1930s that built the industrial unions. This was not only the highest point of working-class struggle in U.S. history with the strike wave that built the CIO unions, but it also brought together thousands and thousands of Black and white workers, who stood shoulder to shoulder against a common enemy, on picket lines and in sit-down strikes, on demonstrations to free the Scottsboro Boys–nine young Black men put on death row in Alabama on trumped-up rape charges.

In other words, in the 1930s, thousands of white workers consciously came over to the fight against racism for the first time in U.S. history.

And far from taking a backseat to men in the class struggle during the 1930s, women workers built unions in their own right, and played a leading role in some of the most important strikes that took place.

During the Flint sit-down strike of 1937, when the mostly male workforce occupied the plant to demand a union, socialist women organized the Flint Women’s Emergency Brigade, which was far from a typical women’s auxiliary that limited itself to cooking food for the strikers. On the contrary, the women armed themselves with objects that looked remarkably like baseball bats to fight–and beat–the police and National Guard. That is the power of the class struggle when it reaches massive proportions.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

THE 1930s was also an era of political radicalization inside the working class. And workers who were in the forefront of the class struggle began to break with the Democratic Party–seeing through Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s posturing as the spokesman for the downtrodden, when in reality he stood solidly on the side of saving capitalism during the Great Depression.

Instead, those workers leading key industrial struggles called for a working-class party of their own. The United Auto Workers (UAW) convention of 1935 actually voted down a resolution supporting Roosevelt for president, and instead voted overwhelmingly to launch a national farm-labor party as a left-wing alternative. They only backed down after the CIO leadership threatened to take away their strike funds if they didn’t support Roosevelt.

In fact, at any given time prior to the McCarthy witch hunts, thousands and sometimes hundreds of thousands of working-class people belonged to a radical political party.

The Socialist Party in the early 1900s reached a membership of 120,000, and their candidate for president, the revolutionary socialist Eugene Debs, got almost a million votes when he ran for president on the Socialist Party ticket in 1912.

It has also been estimated that roughly 1 million workers passed in and out of the Communist Party in the 1930s and ’40s. The party reached 80,000 members at its height, with a membership that was 9 percent Black. And remember that this was still a time when Jim Crow segregation and lynching were the order of the day, showing the possibility for building a multiracial movement in the U.S. today.

In the late 1960s and early ’70s, the U.S. was the home of a wildcat strike wave that built rank-and-file workers movements like the Miners for Democracy, the Teamsters for a Decent Contract and the Dodge Revolutionary Union Movement, known as DRUM.

DRUM and other movements like it were significant because they were organizations of Black workers that took on not only the racism of the auto companies, but racism inside the UAW. And they drew in a sizeable number of white workers who walked out of their factories in solidarity with Black workers, in a fight explicitly against racism.

In the 1960s, not only was the U.S. the home of the women’s liberation movement and the Black Power movement that inspired people all over the world to fight against oppression, but the U.S. also gave birth to the gay liberation movement, after the Stonewall Rebellion that also touched off gay liberation movements around the world.

In more recent history, on May 1, 2006, May Day or International Workers’ Day, was celebrated on U.S. soil with mass working-class demonstrations appropriately led by immigrants, who have always played a key role in the U.S. radical working-class tradition. The movement’s most powerful slogan, “a day without immigrants,” showed that its strategy of social struggle was tied explicitly to the power of workers to withhold their labor.

– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –

WHETHER OR not you plan to hold your nose and vote for Hillary Clinton, or plan to vote for Jill Stein of the Green Party, or just abstain from the whole voting process this year, we all actually have a more important choice to make at this point.

The German revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg put the choice that we face as that between “socialism or barbarism,” because we’ll either end up with one or the other.

And I’d say we’re getting pretty close to barbarism when refugees are drowning by the hundreds at a time to escape civil war, and then getting stopped and detained once they reach Europe; when UNICEF just predicted that 69 million children will die of starvation and disease by 2030, and half of these children who will die are from Sub-Saharan Africa; when prisons are teeming with poor people and people of color, and yet General Motors executives knowingly killed at least 125 people with faulty airbags then tried to cover it up–yet no one has yet suggested that any of them spend even a minute in jail.

And if you think things can’t get any worse, I guarantee you that it can. History tells us that.

But the same conditions that fuel the potential for the growth of the right also create the potential for the growth of the left. This is the only way to understand the massive support for both Donald Trump and also for Bernie Sanders.

The question is not now and never has been if but when workers in the U.S. will begin to fight back once again–and not if but when it will become possible to build a political party based on the principles of socialism.

We also need to recognize that the working class today is composed of many races, sexualities and gender identities, and is capable of propelling issues of racism and other forms of oppression to the center of the class struggle in ways that would have been unimaginable in the past.

I want to end by saying to those of us here who have survived all or part of the last 40 years: Thank you for not wavering from your belief in the power of the working class to change society. And to those of you who are new to the socialist movement, who are unjaded and full of optimism, and will undoubtedly carry on the struggle: Thank you for giving us hope for the future of all humanity.

https://socialistworker.org/2016/08/15/the-socialist-history-they-hide-from-us

From monster to Mr. President-Elect: Democrats grovel before Trump

image

11 November 2016

Within a day of the election of Donald Trump, leading Democrats have moved with extraordinary speed to declare their support for the president-elect.

President Barack Obama invited Trump to the White House for a friendly 90-minute meeting on Thursday. He declared afterwards that his “number-one priority in the coming two months is to try to facilitate a transition that ensures our president-elect is successful.” He added, speaking to Trump, “I want to emphasize to you, Mr. President-Elect, that we now are going to want to do everything we can to help you succeed—because if you succeed, then the country succeeds.”

Obama’s declaration stands in stark contrast to his own statements just a few days ago. Then he asserted that Trump “appears to only care about himself” and “doesn’t know basic facts that you’d need to know” to be president. He added that Trump “spent 70 years on this earth showing no regard for working people.”

That was before the Democratic debacle on Election Day. Now he declares his highest priority to be ensuring that Trump is “successful.”

Obama’s comments followed the statement by Hillary Clinton on Wednesday that she hoped “[Trump] will be a successful president for all Americans.” Senator Bernie Sanders, the supposed socialist, issued his own groveling statement, declaring, “To the degree that Mr. Trump is serious about pursuing policies that improve the lives of working families in this country, I and other progressives are prepared to work with him.”

With such declarations, the Democrats are in effect abandoning any pretense of acting as an opposition party to a President Trump and a Republican-controlled Congress.

The proclamations of support from top Democrats are made in relation to an individual whose election clearly marks a watershed in American politics. What is coming to power is a government of the extreme right, with fascistic characteristics. There are reports that Trump wants to appoint as his chief of staff Stephen Bannon, the head of Breitbart News, an ultra-right and fascistic media outlet. His top advisors and likely cabinet appointees include reactionary figures such as former New York Mayor Rudolf Giuliani and New Jersey Governor Chris Christie.

In their rush to lend the transition of power an aura of normalcy, the Democrats and the media have maintained a studious silence about certain quite striking elements of the election.

No one is noting that a principal factor in the election of Trump was a significant decline in voter turnout. For all of the media talk of a “surge” of white working class voters behind Trump, the Republican candidate actually received one million fewer votes than Mitt Romney received in losing the 2012 election to Obama. Clinton won 6 million fewer votes than Obama won in his reelection, when the outgoing president obtained significantly fewer votes than he had received in 2008. Also virtually ignored is the extraordinary fact that Trump failed even to win the popular vote. Clinton had a higher percentage of the national vote, but she lost in the Electoral College, which involves a complex and antidemocratic apportionment based on victories in individual states. Trump will take office having failed to secure a plurality, let alone a majority, of the overall vote.

In the entire 240-year history of the United States, there have been only five elections in which the incoming president did not win the popular vote. When this happened in 1876, the Republican, Rutherford B. Hayes, became president, though he had fewer votes than the Democrat, Samuel J. Tilden. The political conflict over the outcome was so intense that the Republicans were able to hold the White House only after agreeing to the effective end of post-Civil War Reconstruction, through the withdrawal of federal troops from the South.

After a split vote in 1888, when Grover Cleveland lost to Benjamin Harrison, the winner of the Electoral Vote was also the winner of the popular vote for the next 112 years. In the 21st century, this anomaly has now happened twice—in 2000 and again in 2016. In the former case, the selection of George W. Bush as president required the intervention of the Supreme Court to halt the recount of ballots in Florida.

Had Trump found himself in the position of Clinton, he would have taken his time before conceding. His concession speech, when and if it came, would have stressed that he had won the popular vote and that “Crooked Hillary” could not claim a mandate.

The media message would have stressed the need for Clinton to be conciliatory and acknowledge that the majority of the voters had chosen Trump. One can easily imagine CNN announcing the “breaking news” that Clinton had withdrawn the nomination of Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court and invited the Republicans to name the replacement for the deceased Antonin Scalia.

But the Democrats have done just the opposite.

What is behind this universal about-face? President Obama said perhaps more than he intended when he declared Wednesday that “we have to remember that we’re actually all on one team. This is an intramural scrimmage”—that is, a test competition involving players from the same school.

The United States does not really have an oppositional political system. The divisions between the Democrats and Republicans, and between Clinton and Trump, are of an entirely tactical character. They all defend the same basic interests—those of the corporate and financial aristocracy that controls the political system.

Within this framework, the Democrats are always the more accommodating and conciliatory party, since their rhetorical references to defending the interests of working people—including by the likes of Bernie Sanders—are thoroughly vacuous and insincere. In relation to Trump and the dangers he poses, there is an element of complete complacency, which arises from the fact that the danger is not to the Democrats or the privileged social forces for which they speak, but to the working class.

The chief concern of the Democrats is to contain popular anger. Their moves to circle the wagons around Trump are above all a response to the danger they see of the emergence of popular opposition that threatens not only the incoming government, but the capitalist system itself.

Even as Obama, Clinton, Sanders and company prostrate themselves and pledge their loyalty to Trump, thousands of youth and workers are demonstrating around the country against the president-elect. These protests are only a pale and politically disparate foretaste of mass struggles of the working class that are to come.

What is critical is that the lessons of the 2016 election be drawn and all attempts to keep opposition to war and austerity chained to the political corpse of the Democratic Party be rejected. The task is not to “take back” the Democratic Party or push it to the left—the inevitable result of that false perspective has already been demonstrated in the reactionary outcome of the Sanders campaign—but to break with both parties of big business and all forms of capitalist politics and build an independent socialist and internationalist movement of the working class.

Andre Damon

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/11/11/pers-n11.html

On the eve of the 2016 US election

donald-trump-hillary-clinton-debate

7 November 2016

As the 2016 US election campaign draws to a close, an atmosphere of crisis and dysfunction pervades the entire political system.

On Sunday, two days before the election, FBI Director James Comey announced that his agency had found no new evidence in recently discovered emails to justify changing its earlier decision not to charge Hillary Clinton in connection with her use of a private email server. This followed by just nine days the extraordinary intervention of the country’s top law enforcement agency, when Comey announced, without providing any details, that the FBI had discovered tens of thousands of emails that might be relevant to the investigation.

Comey’s latest announcement comes amidst a bitter conflict within the ruling class and the state that has seen the use of scandals to fight out internal divisions and seek to influence the results of the elections. However, the population has grown so inured to the media barrage on one or another scandal that this latest chapter in the email saga will likely have little impact on the outcome of the vote.

The entire election campaign has plumbed new depths of filth and reaction, and there are mounting expressions of concern from politicians and the media that it has done lasting damage to the credibility of the United States, both internationally and at home.

Both the New York Times and the Washington Post ran front-page stories Sunday describing the worldwide revulsion at the US presidential campaign. The campaign has given America “a black eye,” the Post wrote, adding that “political analysts worldwide said that never before have they seen a presidential campaign do so much to directly undermine America’s core credibility.” The Times wrote, “America’s image stands tarnished in the eyes of its own people and the world.”

The global impact of the campaign was summed up by the cover of the German weekly magazine Der Spiegel, which portrayed the two candidates side by side, equally covered in mud and slime . A mood of foreboding prevails among many bourgeois analysts and pundits, who see November 8 heralding not a peaceful transition to the next administration, but a prolonged period of political and societal breakdown.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, appearing for the Trump campaign on the Sunday interview program “Meet the Press,” said that if Clinton won the election there would be endless investigations spearheaded by her Republican opponents in Congress. If Trump won, he predicted “Madison, Wisconsin on a national scale,” referring to the rebellion by Wisconsin workers in 2011 against Republican Governor Scott Walker’s assault on public employees. It might take ten years or more to restore political stability, he warned.

Former NBC News anchor Tom Brokaw said, “I have never seen the country so fractured as it is now… We’re in tribal warfare here… Newt Gingrich is right. We’re in for a very difficult time whoever wins.”

Polls continue to show that the contest between the two remains close. Clinton is mobilizing a coterie of celebrities to campaign for her in the final days, warning that a Trump victory would be a calamity for the entire world and everything therefore had to done to elect Clinton.

The arguments of the Democrats and those promoting Clinton ignore two facts. First, a Clinton administration would be committed to catastrophic policies, and, second, the very fact that Trump could win the election, and, win or lose, will receive tens of millions of votes, is an extraordinary indictment of the Democratic Party.

Incapable of presenting a program that is attractive to broader sections of the population, the Democrats have conducted their campaign on the lowest level, focused on scandalmongering and accusations that Trump is an agent of Russian President Vladimir Putin—that is, a resurrection in modern form of McCarthyite red-baiting. This has been combined with increasingly hysterical slanders against the working class and all forms of opposition to the status quo.

Typical of the pro-Clinton campaign is the editorial published Sunday in the New York Times under the headline, “Imagining America on Nov. 9,” which portrays a potential Trump presidency as a “catastrophe” that is only “three days from landfall.” The editorial’s language in describing Trump is apocalyptic—an “ignorant and reckless tyrant … A sexual predator, a business fraud, a liar who runs on a promise to destroy millions of immigrant families and to jail his political opponent.”

The editorial acknowledges a connection between the mass support for Trump and “anger in the populace,” but provides no explanation for the broad and deep social discontent.

The previous day, the Times published an editorial lashing “Donald Trump’s Denial of Economic Reality,” because the Republican candidate describes “a horrifying alternate reality in which the recession that started at the end of 2007 is still with us.” Trump’s crime, in the eyes of the well-heeled editors of the Times, is “to insist that the economy is in terrible shape,” a view that is shared by tens of millions of American workers, which accounts for the persistence of Trump’s electoral support.

Supplementing the editorials, the Times continues to publish a barrage of reactionary commentaries libeling the American population—or more precisely, white working-class Americans—as incorrigibly racist. Sunday’s Times carries the latest installment of this filth, a commentary by Jill Filipovic that begins with gender and proceeds to race.

“For all of American history,” she writes, “white men have been…the dominant group,” thus managing to lump together Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, Eugene Debs and J. P. Morgan, Donald Trump and Edward Snowden, all in the same meaningless category.

After eight years of the first African-American president, the prospect of the first female president is insupportable to the white males, she claims. According to Ms. Filipovic, “This, perhaps more than anything else, explains the rise of Donald J. Trump: He promised struggling white men that they could have their identities back.”

While conceding that the working class has seen jobs destroyed, strikes smashed and wages gutted, she concludes, “That many white men are struggling surely contributes to Mr. Trump’s popularity, but the driving force of this election is not money—the median household income of Trump primary voters was about $72,000 a year, $16,000 more than the national median household income. It’s power, and fury at watching it wane…”

Actually, a comprehensive survey by the Gallup organization suggests that downward economic mobility, not the level of income, is a key driver of support for Trump. His voters are disproportionately those who have lost ground economically since the 2008 Wall Street crash, in both the working class and sections of the middle class.

There is little doubt that the median household income of Trump primary voters is far lower than median household income of Clinton apologists in the liberal media. The Times editors and their collaborators decry talk of a continuing recession because their stock portfolios have recovered and their six- and seven-figure incomes make them immune to such mundane concerns as feeding a family and keeping a roof over your head.

The hatred of white workers by this self-satisfied layer of the upper-middle class is itself a reflection of the deepening class tensions in America. It is the expression, distorted through the prism of racial politics, of the viciousness of the American capitalist class.

Patrick Martin

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2016/11/07/pers-n07.html

DEMOCRATS, YOU’VE BECOME EVERYTHING YOU HATE

Vice President Dick Cheney, speaks at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Thursday, April 10, 2008, in Washington.  Bush administration officials from Vice President Dick Cheney on down signed off on using harsh interrogation techniques against suspected terrorists after asking the Justice Department to endorse their legality, The Associated Press has learned.   (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

 (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

By Caitlan Johnstone

Remember when your parents used to do stuff to you that you swore you’d never do to your own kids? If you’re a parent, you already know where I’m going with this. You have your first kid, you’re all bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, looking forward to helping create a better generation than your own, then you catch yourself doing that weird spit-clean thing to your son’s face you remember hating when you were little.

We all grow up to become our parents in some ways, but hopefully, we get more of their positive traits than their negative ones. Sometimes it doesn’t go that way, though, and it’s always heartbreaking to realize you’re now the embodiment of your mother’s temper or your father’s emotional incompetence. I wonder if that’s how Democrats are feeling now that they’re becoming the new Republican party?

Falling in Line

Bill Clinton once famously said that in every presidential election, Democrats want to fall in love, while Republicans just fall in line.

That’s because liberals are educated free-thinkers with critical minds who are cynical of abuses of power. Democrats needed to earn their vote. They are hard to herd. They are attracted to their candidate, not forced by shame, guilt or fear. Traditionally, anyway.

But the man people fell in love with this election cycle, Bernie Sanders, saw his campaign fatally sabotaged by the power-base of the DNC elites and their media puppets, and Democrats have fallen in line like good little soldiers behind a candidate nobody even likes.

The DNC/Media/Clinton achieved something remarkable this election cycle. They’ve created bullet-proof loyalty out of Democrats. There’s no sin that Hillary could commit that will sway Dem voters now. No leak will be shocking enough to lose their vote. Dems were appalled when Trump said he could shoot someone and his peeps would still vote for him, but we all know Hillary could too, now.

But they did it with good old traditional Republican fear and shaming tactics. Turns out you don’t have to be religious for those to work on you. Replace “the devil” with “Trump” and it works just fine. It works so well, Democrats have taken to disseminating an authoritarian-style propaganda, which takes us to our next point.

Media Brainwashing

One of the most annoying things about Republicans used to be how they would all regurgitate whatever party lines Rush Limbaugh and the talking heads on Fox News told them to say. Now Republicans are communicating almost exclusively in cartoon frog memes, so it’s fallen to the Democrats to spout vapid lines like “voting third party is a mark of white privilege” or “a vote for anyone but Hillary is a vote for Trump.” I swear the dialogues I have with Hillary supporters get less original every single day, because as I’ve mentioned once or twice, the corporate media is being used to misinform the public about what’s happening in this country, and during this election cycle that’s been entirely to the benefit of the Clinton campaign.

So now you’ve got unthinking automatons passing along bumper-sticker-sized sound bytes manufactured by the neoliberal think tank, just like you used to have Republican droids doing for the neocons. The simpler and more vacuous the idea, the faster the mind virus spreads.

Election Fraud

Democrats have been very vocal opponents of gerrymandering, the largely Republican-favoring process whereby voting districts are redrawn in a way that marginalizes the impact that poor and disadvantaged populations can have on elections. Dems have also been voicing outrage over the 2013 repeal of parts of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which has given states the right to demand more stringent requirements from would-be voters before they can access the polls, a practice which again tends to work disproportionately against minorities and the poor.

And yet when the ruling elites of their own party actively conspired to thwart the nomination of a candidate with an unblemished record of powerful support for minorities, the poor and the oppressed, forcefully installing in his place a Wall Street crony whose family has a consistent record of catering to the one percent and pushing for expansion of the prison industrial complex while subverting welfare, Democrats have shrugged and gone along with it. Democracy was assaulted in America this year, but the party which takes its very name from democracy shuffled on in dissociated indifference.

It’s all fine as long as it’s your people doing it, right guys?

Institutional Ecocide

If you haven’t checked out WikiLeaks’ Podesta email number 4081, take a look. If you want to know where the real movers and shakers of the Democratic party stand on environmental issues, this is a perfect glimpse of what happens behind the curtain. In it, you see Clinton staff scoffing at Bernie Sanders’ opposition to fracking, calling him “irresponsible” and “whack,” while also discussing possible ways of appearing less pro-fracking than they are to the public.

You really could not ask for a clearer picture of where the Democratic party sits as a whole with the urgent matter of averting climate catastrophe. As Clinton assured her Wall Street bosses, there is most certainly a public position running alongside a very different private position. The public position is to convert to green energy as quickly as possible, the private position is to “watch our tone and not sound too pro-fracking” while continuing to use it as long as they like like as a “transitional energy.” The very idea of fracking as something dangerous which needs to stop is laughable to them.

Combine that cute little glimpse of their inner workings with the fact that Hillary Clinton is actively pushing for a war with a nuclear superpower, and you’ve got something that is far more dangerous to the earth than Dick Cheney’s wettest of dreams.

Warmongering

Democrats have become warmongers. The same people who protested in the streets over Bush’s war are now rallying behind Bush 2.0, Hillary Clinton, who actively supported all of Bush’s very worst decisions, including the Iraq invasion. Obama dropped 23,144 bombs on Muslim-majority countries in 2015 alone and has bombed twice the number of sovereign nations that Bush did. The Democrats, who assure progressives that they’re going to “hold Hillary’s feet to the fire” to ensure she honors a progressive agenda, are dead silent about Obama’s drone wars, which Noam Chomsky has called the worst terrorist campaign on the planet.

“Oh, we’re always at war, what’s one more?” a Clinton supporter recently asked me when I was on a tirade about Hillary’s blatant push toward a war with Russia. That sort of rhetoric is becoming more and more common in my interactions with these people, and it spooks me out every single time; it’s like talking to a serial killer or a vampire or something.

This is the same party that saw massive riots at the Democratic Convention in 1968 when they announced a hawkish nominee. The entire party nearly collapsed because of it, which is why they completely revised the process by which those nominations occur. The process which they completely violated this year, to the absence of any riots whatsoever.

Democrats used to be agents of change, all about demanding progress and taking the country forward for everyone, not conserving the status quo for the elites. In one year, that has been reversed and the Democratic voters have been co-opted by the forces of evil as a firewall against change.

Take a good, hard look at yourselves in the mirror, Democrats. Take a look at what you’re becoming. Do you see Cheney’s soulless mug leering back at you?
Read more at http://www.inquisitr.com/3598577/news-flash-democrats-youve-become-everything-you-hate/#TcyFhxmxBtl2rU4h.99

The Revenge of the Lower Classes and the Rise of American Fascism

Posted on Aug 8, 2016

By Chris Hedges

  Republican presidential front-runner Donald Trump, seen in reflection. (Andrew Harnik / AP)

College-educated elites, on behalf of corporations, carried out the savage neoliberal assault on the working poor. Now they are being made to pay. Their duplicity—embodied in politicians such as Bill and Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama—succeeded for decades. These elites, many from East Coast Ivy League schools, spoke the language of values—civility, inclusivity, a condemnation of overt racism and bigotry, a concern for the middle class—while thrusting a knife into the back of the underclass for their corporate masters. This game has ended.

There are tens of millions of Americans, especially lower-class whites, rightfully enraged at what has been done to them, their families and their communities. They have risen up to reject the neoliberal policies and political correctness imposed on them by college-educated elites from both political parties: Lower-class whites are embracing an American fascism.

These Americans want a kind of freedom—a freedom to hate. They want the freedom to use words like “nigger,” “kike,” “spic,” “chink,” “raghead” and “fag.” They want the freedom to idealize violence and the gun culture. They want the freedom to have enemies, to physically assault Muslims, undocumented workers, African-Americans, homosexuals and anyone who dares criticize their cryptofascism. They want the freedom to celebrate historical movements and figures that the college-educated elites condemn, including the Ku Klux Klan and the Confederacy. They want the freedom to ridicule and dismiss intellectuals, ideas, science and culture. They want the freedom to silence those who have been telling them how to behave. And they want the freedom to revel in hypermasculinity, racism, sexism and white patriarchy. These are the core sentiments of fascism. These sentiments are engendered by the collapse of the liberal state.

The Democrats are playing a very dangerous game by anointing Hillary Clinton as their presidential candidate. She epitomizes the double-dealing of the college-educated elites, those who speak the feel-your-pain language of ordinary men and women, who hold up the bible of political correctness, while selling out the poor and the working class to corporate power.

The Republicans, energized by America’s reality-star version of Il Duce, Donald Trump, have been pulling in voters, especially new voters, while the Democrats are well below the voter turnouts for 2008. In the voting Tuesday, 5.6 million votes were cast for the Democrats while 8.3 million went to the Republicans. Those numbers were virtually reversed in 2008—8.2 million for the Democrats and about 5 million for the Republicans.

Richard Rorty in his last book, “Achieving Our Country,” written in 1998, presciently saw where our postindustrial nation was headed.

Many writers on socioeconomic policy have warned that the old industrialized democracies are heading into a Weimar-like period, one in which populist movements are likely to overturn constitutional governments. Edward Luttwak, for example, has suggested that fascism may be the American future. The point of his book The Endangered American Dream is that members of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers—themselves desperately afraid of being downsized—are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else.

At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for—someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. A scenario like that of Sinclair Lewis’ novel It Can’t Happen Here may then be played out. For once a strongman takes office, nobody can predict what will happen. In 1932, most of the predictions made about what would happen if Hindenburg named Hitler chancellor were wildly overoptimistic.

One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out. Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. The words “nigger” and “kike” will once again be heard in the workplace. All the sadism which the academic Left has tried to make unacceptable to its students will come flooding back. All the resentment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet.

Fascist movements build their base not from the politically active but the politically inactive, the “losers” who feel, often correctly, they have no voice or role to play in the political establishment. The sociologist Émile Durkheim warned that the disenfranchisement of a class of people from the structures of society produced a state of “anomie”—a “condition in which society provides little moral guidance to individuals.” Those trapped in this “anomie,” he wrote, are easy prey to propaganda and emotionally driven mass movements. Hannah Arendt, echoing Durkheim, noted that “the chief characteristic of the mass man is not brutality and backwardness, but his isolation and lack of normal social relationships.”

In fascism the politically disempowered and disengaged, ignored and reviled by the establishment, discover a voice and a sense of empowerment.

As Arendt noted, the fascist and communist movements in Europe in the 1930s “… recruited their members from this mass of apparently indifferent people whom all other parties had given up as too apathetic or too stupid for their attention. The result was that the majority of their membership consisted of people who had never before appeared on the political scene. This permitted the introduction of entirely new methods into political propaganda, and indifference to the arguments of political opponents; these movements not only placed themselves outside and against the party system as a whole, they found a membership that had never been reached, never been ‘spoiled’ by the party system. Therefore they did not need to refute opposing arguments and consistently preferred methods which ended in death rather than persuasion, which spelled terror rather than conviction. They presented disagreements as invariably originating in deep natural, social, or psychological sources beyond the control of the individual and therefore beyond the control of reason. This would have been a shortcoming only if they had sincerely entered into competition with either parties; it was not if they were sure of dealing with people who had reason to be equally hostile to all parties.”

Fascism is aided and advanced by the apathy of those who are tired of being conned and lied to by a bankrupt liberal establishment, whose only reason to vote for a politician or support a political party is to elect the least worst. This, for many voters, is the best Clinton can offer.

Fascism expresses itself in familiar and comforting national and religious symbols, which is why it comes in various varieties and forms. Italian fascism, which looked back to the glory of the Roman Empire, for example, never shared the Nazis’ love of Teutonic and Nordic myths. American fascism too will reach back to traditional patriotic symbols, narratives and beliefs.

Robert Paxton wrote in “The Anatomy of Fascism”:

The language and symbols of an authentic American fascism would, of course, have little to do with the original European models. They would have to be as familiar and reassuring to loyal Americans as the language and symbols of the original fascisms were familiar and reassuring to many Italians and Germans, as [George] Orwell suggested. Hitler and Mussolini, after all, had not tried to seem exotic to their fellow citizens. No swastikas in an American fascism, but Stars and Stripes (or Stars and Bars) and Christian crosses. No fascist salute, but mass recitations of the pledge of allegiance. These symbols contain no whiff of fascism in themselves, of course, but an American fascism would transform them into obligatory litmus tests for detecting the internal enemy.

Fascism is about an inspired and seemingly strong leader who promises moral renewal, new glory and revenge. It is about the replacement of rational debate with sensual experience. This is why the lies, half-truths and fabrications by Trump have no impact on his followers. Fascists transform politics, as philosopher and cultural critic Walter Benjamin pointed out, into aesthetics. And the ultimate aesthetic for the fascist, Benjamin said, is war.

Paxton singles out the amorphous ideology characteristic of all fascist movements.

Fascism rested not upon the truth of its doctrine but upon the leader’s mystical union with the historic destiny of his people, a notion related to romanticist ideas of national historic flowering and of individual artistic or spiritual genius, though fascism otherwise denied romanticism’s exaltation of unfettered personal creativity. The fascist leader wanted to bring his people into a higher realm of politics that they would experience sensually: the warmth of belonging to a race now fully aware of its identity, historic destiny, and power; the excitement of participating in a wave of shared feelings, and of sacrificing one’s petty concerns for the group’s good; and the thrill of domination.

There is only one way left to blunt the yearning for fascism coalescing around Trump. It is to build, as fast as possible, movements or parties that declare war on corporate power, engage in sustained acts of civil disobedience and seek to reintegrate the disenfranchised—the “losers”—back into the economy and political life of the country. This movement will never come out of the Democratic Party. If Clinton prevails in the general election Trump may disappear, but the fascist sentiments will expand. Another Trump, perhaps more vile, will be vomited up from the bowels of the decayed political system. We are fighting for our political life. Tremendous damage has been done by corporate power and the college-educated elites to our capitalist democracy. The longer the elites, who oversaw this disemboweling of the country on behalf of corporations—who believe, as does CBS Chief Executive Officer Leslie Moonves, that however bad Trump would be for America he would at least be good for corporate profit—remain in charge, the worse it is going to get.

http://www.truthdig.com/report/item/the_revenge_of_the_lower_classes_and_the_rise_of_american_fascism_20160302