Paul Krugman: Trump Can Ruin American Workers Without Passing a Single Piece of Legislation

NEWS & POLITICS
As long as he’s in office, he’s a threat to the underclasses.

Photo Credit: YouTube Screengrab

It’s tempting to believe that, because Trump hasn’t repealed Obamacare, locked up Hillary Clinton, or built a border wall along the Mexican border, his agenda is stalled. That fantasy got a boost this week with the departure of Chief Strategist Steve Bannon. And while Bannon’s firing was a necessary move, Paul Krugman warns we shouldn’t break out the champagne just yet.

Yes, the Trump administration’s efforts to kick 20 million people of their health insurance while lining the pockets of the 1 percent have been thwarted for now. Krugman can’t even get too worked up about the prsopect of tax reform. “Straight-out tax cuts”, he writes,  “which benefit corporations and the wealthy while blowing up the deficit, might still go through, but even that looks doubtful.”

But now is not the time to get complacent. “Don’t just watch Congress,” Krugman writes, “keep your eyes on what federal agencies are doing.” Whether Trump passes a single act of legislation or not, the Department of Labor can still do immeasurable harm to workers and their unions.

The most blatant example, according to Krugman, is “the decline in the fortunes of truck drivers, whose pay used to make them members of the middle class.” That’s over now, as “their real wages have fallen about a third since the 1970s, with most of the decline taking place during the Reagan years.” That collapse wasn’t because of tax policy. It was a slow and steady erosion of the the power of the National Labor Relations Board, “that encouraged private employers to fight unionization, and in part to deregulation that undercut the position of unionized firms.”

The same can be said for the deregulation of financial companies, whose CEOs were responsible for the housing bubble, the mortgage crisis, and ultimately the 2008 recession. It wasn’t legislation that enabled them to act so recklessly but a loosening of rules across all of the agencies that cover our financial systems. When it comes to Congress, Krugman explains, “Right now it looks as if [Trump] may have much less impact on taxing and spending than most people expected. But other policies, often made administratively by federal agencies rather than via legislation, can matter a lot.”

Krugman ends his column on an especially grim note: “As long as he’s in office, he retains a lot of power to betray the working people who supported him. And in case you haven’t noticed, betraying those who trust him is a Trump specialty.”

Read the entire column at the New York Times.

http://www.alternet.org/news-amp-politics/paul-krugman-trump-can-ruin-american-workers-without-passing-single-piece?akid=16003.265072.RxHsun&rd=1&src=newsletter1081405&t=4

Golden State sets the standard for resistance to Trump agenda

California’s big pushback:

Attorney General Xavier Becerra and progressive legislators are fighting back against the Trump agenda

California's big pushback: Golden State sets the standard for resistance to Trump agenda
Donald Trump; Xavier Becerra (Credit: AP/Alex Brandon/Marcio Jose Sanchez)

After Donald Trump’s shocking meltdown on Tuesday afternoon, it’s even clearer that progressives need effective strategies to blunt the effect of having a conspiracy-theory-driven, racist authoritarian in the Oval Office, backed by a congressional majority that is still too afraid to offer meaningful checks on his worst behavior. The good news is that some of the nation’s biggest cities and states remain controlled by Democrats. Activists and politicians in those states are looking for meaningful ways to throw wrenches in the Trump agenda.

At the top of that list is California, which not only has the largest population of any state but is controlled by progressive Democrats (relatively speaking) who seem ready and eager to fight Trump, especially on the issues of climate change and immigration. (New York is the next biggest state controlled by Democrats, but intra-party warfare has crippled the ability of progressives to get much done.)

California fired a significant shot across the bow at Trump on Monday, when state Attorney General Xavier Becerra declared that the state would sue the Trump administration over threats to withdraw law enforcement grants if the local and state police refuse to cooperate with federal efforts to deport immigrants. The lawsuit will be joined with an earlier one filed by the city of San Francisco.

“It’s a low blow to our men and women who wear the badge, for the federal government to threaten their crime-fighting resources in order to force them to do the work of the federal government when it comes to immigration enforcement,” Becerra said during a press conference announcing the suit. California received $28 million in law enforcement grants from the federal government this year, money it could lose if the police prioritize actual crime-fighting over federal demands that they focus their resources on deporting people.

“The government’s plan for deporting millions of people in this country is to coerce local law enforcement to be their force-multipliers,” explained Jennie Pasquarella, director of immigrants’ rights for the ACLU of California.

Pasquarella noted that most deportations currently occur because of an encounter with local law enforcement. By resisting pressure to step up efforts to persecute undocumented immigrants, she said, California can make it safe for people to “access basic services that are vital to our state and communities without fear of deportation, like schools and hospitals and libraries and health clinics.”

Some Democrats in the state are trying to take this idea even further, backing SB 54, titled the California Values Act. According to The Los Angeles Times, the bill would prohibit “state and local law enforcement agencies, including school police and security departments, from using resources to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect or arrest people for immigration enforcement purposes.”

While SB 54 is still being worked over in the legislature, California has already made progress in resisting the Trump administration’s efforts to repeal Obama-era actions to fight climate change. In July, Gov. Jerry Brown signed a bill extending a cap-and-trade program to reduce carbon emissions until 2030. The bill passed by a two-thirds majority in both the State Assembly and Senate.

Many environmentalist groups have come out against the bill, arguing that it doesn’t go far enough. Still, compared to the federal government’s evident retreat, it’s progress in the right direction. California has the largest state economy in the country, and demonstrating that climate action does not have to undermine economic growth could go a long way towards convincing other states to take similar action. This, in turn, could help the country meet the goals set by the Paris Accords, defying Trump’s efforts to pull the United States out of the historic climate change agreement.

This strategy to resist right-wing policies and protect California residents predates Trump, to be clear. While much of the country was experiencing an unprecedented rollback of reproductive rights — with numerous red states passing alarming new abortion restrictions while anti-choice activists fought insurance coverage of contraception in the courts — California moved to make birth control and abortion easier and safer to get.

In 2013, responding to research showing that abortions provided by nurse practitioners and midwives are safe, Brown signed a law giving those groups authority to offer abortion services. Brown has also signed off on three provisions to make it easier for women to get birth control: Letting pharmacists dispense it without a doctor’s prescription, requiring that health care plans cover contraception without a co-pay, and allowing women to get a full year’s worth of birth-control pills at a time.

These policies were already in place before Trump’s election, but they are all the more necessary now that the president is backing conservative efforts to make contraception more expensive and harder to get. It has also helped create a model for progressive cities and states to resist reactionary policies pushed by the federal government, which is already inspiring Democrats in other states. Chicago, for instance, is also suing the federal government over the threat to sanctuary cities.

There’s a deep philosophical irony here, because for decades now conservatives have claimed they wanted to reduce the power of the federal government and hand more decision-making authority to the states. That was always a disingenuous pose, of course. This conservative “principle” was largely invented to justify state resistance to Supreme Court decisions and federal legislation legalizing abortion, desegregating schools and protecting voting rights.

Still, it’s nice to see states like California calling the Republican bluff and showing that their supposed devotion to “small government” dries up the second states and cities move to protect human rights, instead of to attack them. Trump’s attorney general, Jeff Sessions, has always held himself out to be a small-government conservative, for instance. But his reaction to state and local officials who claim the power to set law enforcement priorities for themselves has been to accuse those officials of being law-breakers. This hypocrisy is already obvious, and it may soon be exposed in court.

Amanda Marcotte is a politics writer for Salon. She’s on Twitter @AmandaMarcotte

Frustrated young white men are facing class divisions more than racial divides

Why can’t white supremacists confront the fact that the source of their economic problems are white economic elites?

Why can't white supremacists confront the fact that the source of their economic problems are white economic elites?
(Credit: AP Photo/Bruce Smith)
This article originally appeared on AlterNet.

AlterNet

There’s no disputing the white anger and rage seen in Charlottesville, even if conservative publications like the National Review say these “angry white boys do not have a political agenda.”

Their anger is real and grievances differ, even if they took the old path of joining mobs spewing racist filth. Yet these white supremacists are blaming the wrong slices of society for their angst.

Racial divides are not what’s plaguing vast stretches of white America — deepening class divides are. If you think about who is to blame, it is mostly powerful white capitalists and their government servants that decimated regional economies in recent decades.

Many Democrats keep saying inequality is the top economic issue, as Eduardo Porter wrote for the New York Times in a piece that recaps the party’s national political agenda. However, the conventional wisdom that Democrats need to “recover the support of the middle-class — people in families earning $50,000 to $150,000, whose vote went to Mr. Trump,” especially in swing states “where three-quarters of voters are white” — is not acknowledging the roots of America’s latest outburst of white supremacy.

“Our economy is in very serious trouble. Ten or fifteen years from now, the standard of living of our average citizen may actually be lower than it is today,” writes Steve Slavin, author of the new book, “The Great American Economy: How Inefficiency Broke It and What We Can Do To Fix It.” “Large swaths of the suburbs will be slums, and tens of millions of Americans will have joined the permanent underclass. There will be three separate Americas — the rich and near rich, an economically downscaled middle and working class, and a very large poor population.”

Slavin cites eight major economic trends, pointing out that almost everyone who is not living in wealthy enclaves — usually coastal cities or inland hubs — is facing a downward spiral that’s been decades in the making. These are the same stretches of suburban and rural America that elected Trump, elected the right-wing House Freedom Caucus, where hate groups are concentrated, and where many of those arrested in Charlottesville come from. They hail from the losing end of the trends Slavin cites and forecasts for the country.

It may very well be that the external circumstances of the whites protesting are “pretty good,” as the National Review’s Kevin Williamson writes, compared to non-white America. That’s even more reason to condemn their visceral rage and hate speech. But as Slavin notes, the national economy and sense of well-being is on a downward slide that accelerated in recent decades.

Those responsible are largely white politicians, white business executives and more recently the graduates of elite business schools — where the curriculum involved outsourcing domestic industries that once allowed people without degrees to prosper.

The culprit here is primarily class — even though race and class are often synonymous. If anything, the downwardly spiraling sections of white America today eerily resemble inner cities in the 1960s, where non-whites called for economic justice. Those urban cores were abandoned after two decades of white flight to the suburbs and manufacturers also leaving.

Here are eight overarching economic trends that Slavin notes have clobbered the middle class, working class and poor.

1. Manufacturing has mostly vanished. Notwithstanding Trump’s announcements that a few companies based overseas are returning, factory jobs have largely disappeared from the interior of America, where from World War II through the 1980s they anchored cities and counties.

2. Many cities have fallen into decline. Starting after WWII, the government and industry promoted suburbia, abandoning scores of cities to the mostly non-white poor. Detroit’s carmakers bought and dismantled public transit. That led to today’s costly transportation needs with a nation of commuters paying a lot for private vehicles, gas and insurance and spending hours away from home.

3. Health care costs have left wages frozen. Average wages have not seen increases, after being adjusted for inflation, for decades. A big part of the reason is businesses that provide health insurance have to keep paying more to insurers rather than employees. Meanwhile, insurers keep finding ways to draw on what’s left in people’s pockets.

4. Public education is vastly underfunded. Suburban schools in wealthy enclaves might be fine, but nationally half of high school graduates are not at the same level as graduates of other countries and their better achieving peers. That forecloses opportunity.

5. The government is not reinvesting in America. This is not simply about neglected roads and bridges. The U.S. government supports a beyond bloated military industrial complex that accounts for 40 percent of global spending on weapons. This may be domestic spending, but it is not spending on domestic needs.

6. The criminal justice system is bloated. Here too, the U.S. has the highest incarceration rate of any industrialized nation; a predatory system that targets lower-income people and creates taxpayer-funded private police forces.

7. The make-work private sector’s useless jobs. This isn’t just the growth of service industries, but “more than 15 million Americans hold jobs that do not produce any useful goods or services,” such as bill collectors, telemarketers, sales reps paid on commission, etc., Slavin writes.

8. The bloated financial sector. This is Wall Street’s diversion of savings from productive investments to speculative ventures, where money is made from tracking the movement of other assets or the public is sold repackaged securities that generate fees.

In every one of these eight areas, wealthy whites in positions of power and privilege have made decisions that collectively have set the country on the path to today’s downward economic spiral. Right after World War II, the federal government would not lend money to black veterans to buy homes in newly expanding suburbs. They gave real estate investors like Fred Trump, the president’s father, money to build what became urban housing projects where many occupants were non-white renters.

There were not many non-white executives in Detroit when the auto industry acted to destroy public transit systems. There were not many non-whites on corporate boards in the 1980s, when the first wave of moving manufacturing abroad hit. The business schools minting sought-after MBAs were teaching predominantly white students to take operations to countries where labor was cheaper, or extolling the virtues of businesses like Walmart that decimated entire Main Streets across small-town America.

The list goes on and a pattern emerges — a class division, more so than race — which has deepened and afflicts America today. As Slavin writes, “Perhaps the most persuasive indicator of our nation’s economic decline is that millennials are on track to be the first generation in our nation’s history to be poorer than its parents’ generation. In January 2017, CNBC reported, ‘With a median household income of $40,581, millennials earn 20 percent less than boomers did at the same stage of life, despite being better educated, according to a new analysis of Federal Reserve data by the advocacy group Young Invincibles.’”

The Young Invincibles are a progressive group concerned about health care, higher education, workforce and finance, and civic engagement. But their name could also be used to describe the belligerent attitude of the white marchers in Charlottesville.

As Williamson writes derisively in the conservative National Review, “What does an angry white boy want? The fact that they get together to play dress-up — to engage in a large and sometimes murderous game of cowboys and Indians—may give us our answer. They want to be someone other than who they are. That’s the great irony of identity politics: They seek identity in the tribe because they are failed individuals. They are a chain composed exclusively of weak links. What they are engaged in isn’t politics, but theater: play-acting in the hopes of achieving catharsis.”

But Williamson only hints at what they seem to want — and it’s exactly what Slavin nails. These angry whites are being bypassed by structural changes in the economy that are narrowing their options. Needless to say, most people in dire straits do not embrace violence and racism. But it seems the heart of their grievances appear to be based on class frustrations, not race. If the white marchers want to blame someone, they ought to point their fingers at the wealthy whites on Wall Street and in Washington.

 

Salon

Trump’s defense of Nazi violence: The mask comes off

17 August 2017

Donald Trump’s remarks on Tuesday defending violent Nazi and white supremacist demonstrators have torn the already threadbare mask from the face of American capitalism. The president of the United States stood before the media to give his support to the “very fine people” involved in the rally in Charlottesville this past weekend, while attacking supposedly “violent” left-wing protesters.

The response of the president to the violence in Charlottesville cannot but have the most far-reaching consequences internationally and within the United States. World War II, which established US hegemony over the world capitalist system, was presented as a war against fascism. Every war over the past quarter-century, justified with the rhetoric of “democracy” and “human rights,” was supposedly waged to overthrow one or another head of state described as the modern incarnation of Hitler. Now, the supposed leader of the “free world” has revealed his fascist sympathies.

Within the United States, Trump’s comments will fuel growing social and political anger. Millions of people already view the state and its institutions with hostility and contempt. While Trump and pro-Nazi advisers such as Stephen Bannon seek to exploit political confusion and alienation to develop an extra-parliamentary far-right movement, there is not yet a mass constituency for fascism. The mobilization of neo-Nazis from across the country to Charlottesville drew only a few hundred people, compared to the hundreds of thousands who turned out to protest Trump’s inauguration.

Nevertheless, the events in Charlottesville and the response of the White House must be taken by the working class both in the United States and internationally as a sharp warning. In the absence of a mass independent movement of the working class against both parties and the entire political establishment, there is a real danger of a growth of fascism in America.

The exposure of the authoritarian outlook not only of Trump, but of the financial oligarchy he personifies, is at the center of the political crisis within the ruling class. A growing list of CEOs announced their resignation from Trump’s Strategic and Policy Forum and his Manufacturing Council, prompting the president to disband both panels yesterday afternoon. Leading congressmen, Democratic and Republican, have condemned the president and his remarks. Former presidents George W. Bush and George H.W. Bush, as well as four members of the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, issued statements opposing racism.

Former CIA Director John Brennan, who helped implement torture programs and NSA spying, called Trump’s comments a “national disgrace” that will put “our national security and our collective futures at grave risk.”

The actions and statements of these representatives of the ruling class constitute an exercise in hypocrisy and cover-up. As if the fascistic proclivities of Trump were not clearly established! According to many reports, Trump vented his pro-fascist views to his top aides on many occasions. This means they were known throughout Washington and in the media, which sought to conceal them from the public.

An article by Mark Landler posted on the New York Times website on Wednesday (“Trump Refuses to Set a Moral Standard, Abandoning a Tradition”) lays out the real concerns motivating the ruling class. Landler complains that Trump has “abdicated what presidents from Roosevelt to Reagan have regarded as a cardinal duty of their job: to set a moral course for the nation.”

As examples of the “moral standard” set by previous presidents, Landler cites Reagan’s farewell address in 1989, George W. Bush’s address to Congress following the attacks of September 11, 2001, and Barack Obama’s appeal “to the best in Americans through a heartbreaking succession of police shootings and racially motivated killings.” Other presidents had “moral shortcomings,” Landler concludes, “but until now no president has rejected the very concept of moral leadership.”

According to this conception, all the problems of American society and politics stem from the individual failings of Trump. As the New York Times put it succinctly and crudely in its editorial on Wednesday: “The root of the problem is not the personnel; it is the man at the top.”

But Trump, for all his disgusting personal traits, is the outcome of a long political evolution. The past half-century has seen a staggering process of political decay and degeneration, overseen by the “moral guardians” cited by the Times.

Nixon was brought down by the Watergate scandal, amid revelations of the criminal activities of American imperialism all over the world. Carter launched the US proxy war in Afghanistan that led to the creation of Al Qaeda. Reagan initiated a social counterrevolution while presiding over an illegal and secret war of subversion in Nicaragua run from the basement of the White House. George H. W. Bush invaded Panama and carried out the first invasion of Iraq. Clinton repeatedly bombed Iraq and imposed brutal sanctions that killed thousands of Iraqis. He followed this up with the air war against Serbia. George W. Bush, who came to power through the theft of an election, initiated wars that killed more than a million people and sanctioned torture as an instrument of policy. Obama, the candidate of “hope” and “change,” institutionalized drone assassinations and domestic spying, while handing out hundreds of billions of dollars to Wall Street.

The Times and the political and media establishment prefer that the criminal policies of the ruling elite be clothed in democratic phrases about human rights and brotherly love.

The election of Trump was a turning point. He is attempting to incite and legitimize the development of a fascist movement that appeals to the growing desperation and alienation of broad sections of the population. But his defense of Nazi violence reflects not simply the backward and reactionary outlook of one individual. With Trump, all the crimes of the financial aristocracy that runs the United States have erupted onto the surface of political life for all the world to see.

The media presents the statements of CEOs and military and intelligence officials such as Brennan as if they are the political antidote to the virus of Trump. In fact, the ever-greater political influence of the military and intelligence agencies—to which the Democrats have directed their entire appeal since the election of Trump—is another form of the breakup of American democracy. It is one more symptom of the same disease.

The fight against Trump must be developed from below—through a movement of the working class—not through the methods of palace coup.

The working class must intervene with its own socialist and revolutionary program. It cannot allow the fight against the Trump administration to be subordinated to any faction of the ruling class. Opposition to authoritarianism and fascism must be connected to opposition to war, social inequality, unemployment, poverty and the attack on health care and public education. The vast wealth of the financial oligarchy must be seized and the giant banks and corporations that exercise a dictatorship over social and economic life turned into public utilities.

The diseased government of oligarchs and generals, the cockpit of conspiracies to wage war and impose dictatorship, must be replaced by a genuinely democratic workers’ government.

Joseph Kishore

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/08/17/pers-a17.html

The political and social roots of fascist violence in the US

15 August 2017

The eruption of Nazi violence in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend has come as a shock to millions of people in the United States and around the world. The images of pro-Nazi white supremacists assaulting counter-protesters and the brutal murder of 32-year-old Heather Heyer have exposed the socially and politically rancid state of American society. Nazi thugs rampaged through a university town and terrorized students and other residents while smirking policemen stood by and winked their encouragement to the attackers. The country that presumes to preach morality to the world and holds itself up as the beacon of law and democratic stability is breaking apart at the seams.

There is a vast difference between the deep-felt anger of millions of ordinary people over the events in Charlottesville and the formal hand-wringing and hypocritical condemnations of violence by politicians from the Democratic and Republican parties and the corporate media. Their statements reek of insincerity. Their pro forma denunciations of the violence in Charlottesville are devoid of any serious examination of the underlying social and political conditions out of which it arose.

Typical was Monday’s editorial (“The Hate He Dares Not Speak Of”) in the New York Times, which speaks for the Democratic Party. The editors criticized Trump for not condemning the white supremacist groups responsible for the violence. They declared that Trump “is alone in modern presidential history in his willingness to summon demons of bigotry and intolerance in service to himself.” The president is clinging to white supremacists, the editors added, “in his desperation to rescue his failing presidency.”

Were it not for Trump, the Times implies, the streets of America would resound with hymns of brotherly love. But the “Evil Trump” interpretation of history explains nothing. The swaggering thug in the White House is, like the violence in Charlottesville, a symptom of a deep and intractable crisis.

As a political and social phenomenon, fascism is a product of capitalism in extreme crisis. Analyzing the rise of the Nazi movement in Germany in 1932, Trotsky explained that the ruling class turns to fascism “at the moment when the ‘normal’ police and military resources of the bourgeois dictatorship, together with their parliamentary screens, no longer suffice to hold society in a state of equilibrium… Through the fascist agency, capitalism sets in motion the masses of the crazed petty bourgeoisie and the bands of declassed and demoralized lumpenproletariat—all the countless human beings whom finance capital itself has brought to desperation and frenzy.” (“What Next? Vital Question for the German Proletariat”)

Fascism is not yet a mass movement in the United States. The national mobilization of far-right organizations to oppose the removal of a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee drew only several hundred people.

Notwithstanding their limited support among the broad mass of the population, however, these reactionary elements enjoy the backing of powerful sections of the state, including the White House itself. They have the financial support of billionaire backers (Stephen Bannon, Trump’s fascistic chief strategist, has developed close ties to hedge fund executive Robert Mercer). And they have the active sympathy of significant sections of the police and military apparatus.

Throughout his campaign and his first seven months in office, Trump and his fascistic advisors have pursued a definite political strategy, based on the belief that they can exploit widespread social anger and political disorientation to develop an extra-parliamentary movement to violently suppress any popular opposition to a policy of extreme militarism and social reaction.

However, Trump is less the creator than the outcome of protracted economic, social and political processes. His administration, composed of oligarchs and generals, arises out of a quarter-century of unending war, four decades of social counterrevolution and the increasingly authoritarian character of American politics. Torture, drone assassinations, wars of aggression, police murder—overseen by both Democrats and Republicans—form the backdrop to the events in Charlottesville.

Trump’s greatest asset has been the character and orientation of his political opponents within the ruling class. He defeated Hillary Clinton in the 2016 election because the Democrats ran as the party of the status quo, the embodiment of complacency and self-satisfaction. Since the election, their opposition to Trump has been oriented entirely to the intelligence agencies and the military, where fascist elements flourish, on the basis of demands for a more aggressive policy against Russia. They are unable and unwilling to advance a program that can command any significant popular support since they represent an alliance of Wall Street and privileged layers of the upper-middle class.

Trump has been able to win a certain base in regions of the country that have been devastated by deindustrialization, profiting from the reactionary role of the trade unions, which long ago abandoned any opposition to the demands of the corporations, promoting instead the poisonous ideology of economic nationalism. The “American first” agenda of the Trump administration has found fertile ground among the privileged and thoroughly corrupt trade union executives.

An additional ideological factor has served to fuel the rise of white nationalist organizations: the legitimization of explicitly racialist politics by the Democratic Party. While the Democrats and their media affiliates have denounced the openly racist actions of the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, the fact remains that the white nationalists have been aided and abetted by the relentless promotion by the Democratic Party and its allies of race as the primary category of social and political analysis.

Endless columns and articles have appeared in the pages of the New YorkTimes and other publications promoting the concept of “whiteness” and “white privilege.” It was Times columnist Charles Blow who, in a June 2016 column denouncing the film Free State of Jones, attacked “the white liberal insistence that race is merely a subordinate construction of class.” As the World Socialist Web Site commented at the time, Blow “is not a fascist, but he thinks very much like one.”

The obsessive fixation on racial politics, from the Democratic Party and the fraternity of pseudo-left organizations that operate in its orbit, reached a peak in the election campaign of Hillary Clinton, which was organized on the principal that all social problems are reducible to race and racism, and that the grievances of workers who are white are the product not of unemployment and poverty, but of racism and privilege.

The racialist interpretation of politics, culture and society by the Democrats was politically convenient in that it served to divert attention from the issues of social inequality and war, while blaming white workers—not the capitalist system and the ruling class—for the election of Trump.

As the Trump administration was intensifying its cultivation of fascistic forces over the past several months, Google—in alliance with those sections of the state particularly associated with the Democratic Party—was implementing a program of censorship targeting left-wing and progressive websites, above all, the World Socialist Web Site. The response of all factions of the ruling class to the social and political crisis that has produced Trump is to seek to block and suppress any challenge to the capitalist system.

Long historical experience has demonstrated that fascism can be fought only through the mobilization of the working class on a socialist and revolutionary program. The fight against the extreme right must be developed through the unification of all sections of the working class, of all races, genders and nationalities. Opposition to fascism must be connected to the fight against war, social inequality, unemployment, low wages, police violence and all the social ills produced by capitalism.

So long as the interests of the working class are not articulated and advanced by taking on an independent political form, it is the forces of the extreme right that will benefit. The urgent task is to build a revolutionary leadership in the working class.

Joseph Kishore

http://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/08/15/pers-a15.html

Fascism Here We Come: the Rise of the Reactionary Right and the Collapse of “The Left”

Photo by Alec Perkins | CC BY 2.0

The white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia over this last weekend is an important moment in American politics, symbolizing the ascendance of the reactionary right and showcasing the dangers of its toxic assault on democracy, equality, and the rule of law.  News outlets on early Sunday reported that one person was killed on August 12th after a car accelerated into a crowd of counter-protestors, while dozens more were injured.  That intimidation, terror, and murder are tools of the reactionary right in their war on people of color and non-Christians is nothing new in history.  Still, the most recent wave of right-wing hate is instructive, offering numerous lessons regarding the state of American politics.

First, the incident reveals that right-wing fascism has officially “arrived” on the American political scene, as seen in Trump’s refusalto condemn the murders.  Trump knows he can’t afford to alienate racist elements on the right to get re-elected, and he doesn’t want to alienate them, since he himself is a racist and a bigot.  Hence the refusal to use clear lanaguage to condemn the murders.  His political reasoning here is completely transparent, as he’s spent his entire political career cultivating hate on the reactionary right.  Although Trump eventually condemned the attack after receiving a large amount of negative press, his reversal is part of a broader trend Trump is known for, in which he initially signals to racists in his support base that he approves of their actions, thereby devaluing any later reversal as merely the product of political pressure, rather than principled opposition.  The damage, of course, has alredy been done.  Far-right fascists and racists know that the president supports their behavior when he goes out of his way to provide them cover.

The second lesson from this tragedy relates to the futility of claims that Trump and his far-right supporters are the sort of people with which “the left” should be working.  First, there’s the claim among numerous “left” pundits that Trump’s campaign represented the rise of working class populism, the implication being that Trump himself was a working class hero set on restoring America’s past economic greatness.  Other nonsense abounded about Trump the principled anti-imperialist, but that rhetoric is contradicted by his administration’s beliggerent rhetoric and nuclear threats toward North Korea, his militarism in Syria, and his embrace of increased sanctions against Russia.  The rhetoric about Trump the economic populist is contradicted by his record since taking office of embracing typical corporatist Republican policies, incuding deep cuts in social welfare spending, deregulation of big business, and efforts to ram through tax cuts for the wealthy.

It would be silly and wrong to say that all Trump supporters are right-wing fascists or extremists.  Many are simply conservatives who do not embrace racism or bigotry. According to data from the Pew Research Center and elsewhere, while two-thirds to three quarters of Trump supporters embrace reactionary and bigoted social views, the quarter to third do not.  Still, the recent push among numerous “leftists” to seek an alliance between the left and the far right (a “Brown-Red” alliance) is worrisome considering the growing data suggesting the right-wing elements of Trump’s support base are out-and-out fascists.

Three recent surveys raise alarm bells on the Trump-fascist front.  First, there was a poll reported in the Washington Post which found that a plurality of Trump voters believed that white Americans face “a lot of discrimination” in the United States.  Comparatively, just 19 percent said “Latino people” face “a lot of discrimination,” while just 22 percent felt the same about “black people.”  These results suggest mass delusion on the part of much of Trump’s base, considering the mountain of social science data demonstrating that people of color are systematically discriminated against in the mass media, on the job market, in the criminal justice system, and in other social settings.  This paranoia is no doubt feeding the reactionary right’s escalation of the “culture war” against people of color.

A second recent poll suggests that much of Trump’s support base has fallen into a cultish relationship with the president, expressing a blind trust for “The Donald” and authoritarian contempt for the press.  As the Economist reports, nearly half of Republican Americans now believe that the government should “shut down” news media outlets for “broadcasting stories that are biased or inaccurate,” while over half think these outlets should be fined for allegedly pushing falsehoods – the First Amendment be damned.  If these reactionaries get their way, government will be empowered to decide what constitutes responsible or accurate journalism.  Cultish support for Trump is most evident in the Economist’s polling of trust for Trump, in comparison to trust of various media outlets.  Three-quarters of Republicans state they trust Trump more than each of the following news outlets: CNN, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.  While conservatives have long lambasted these outlets for their alleged liberal bias, the same cannot be said for other outlets, including the neoconservative Weekly Standard and the National Review.  But three-quarters of Republicans say they have more trust in Trump than these outlets.  More than half of Republicans express greater trust in Trump than Fox News.

Mass blind trust in a political leader – especially a con-man as narcissitic, duplicitious, and shamelessly deceptive as Trump – raises dire concerns about the ability of critical literacy skills to survive moving forward.  When citizens favor blatant propaganda as their primary source of information about the world, there is little hope that they will be able to separate themselves from reactionary, officially-endorsed fascism.  The cult of Trump will provide cover for an administration that has long expressed contempt for freedom of the press, and is now indicating its support for fascist policies aimed at criminalizing journalists for reporting on classified intelligence the Trump administration would prefer be kept secret.

A final red flag is raised regarding a new poll reported on by the Washington Post, which finds that 52 percent of Republicans would support postponing the 2020 presidential election if Trump says it is necessary to root out voter-fraud before allowing a vote, while 56 percent say that shutting down elections is acceptable so long as Republicans in Congress agree.  No matter that Trump has presented no evidence of rampant voter fraud in the last election, or that the political experts who actually study the issue conclude that voter fraud amounts to a miniscule and trivial amount of all votes cast.  In a political world in which Lord Trump’s word is gospel, and media outlets challenging his propaganda are heretics, the truth no longer matters.

The organized left has been in serious trouble for years, which is evident in the decline of labor unions, the disappearance of leftist public intellectuals in academia, the rightward drift of the Democratic Party, and the complete failure of the Green Party to make inroads with the mass public.  There are of course some positive signs, as seen in the rise of Black Lives Matter and protests against the Trump administration – particularly those protests that provide a constructive agenda by supporting greater government funding for education and the introduction of universal health care.

Despite these positive developments, much of “the left” – if one could call them that, have turned to increasingly desperate statements and actions in an effort to become relevant again to American politics.  This desperation manifests itself in numerous forms.  First, there is the trend toward dealing with the Trump administration and reactionary supporters with kid’s gloves, downplaying the importance of the right’s bigotry and prejudice, as seen not only in racist and xenophobic rhetoric, but policies that discriminate against Muslims, people of color, and immigrants.  Some have claimed that Trump should be supported by leftists because of his election rhetoric about returning jobs to America, in opposition to free trade, and in support of normalizing relations with Russia.  None of this rhetoric has manifested itself in tangible policy proposals or actual policies, now more than half a year into this administration, which is a sign of how little commitment Trump had to these positions.  As it’s become harder and harder to maintain the myth that Trump’s electoral victory was a product of mounting anger among a working class left behind in the era of outsourcing and free trade, some on “the left” have tried to promote a “Brown-Red” alliance agenda by claiming that the far right can join with the far left to fight oppression and defeat the liberal media and the “deep state.”

Now some Green Party personalities and some of their “public intellectual” supporters who are nominally on the left seek to make common cause with openly white nationalist reactionaries.  This development demonstrates a serious intellectual decline in what counts for “the left.”  By downplaying the severity of the racist, sexist, classist, and xenophobic tendencies of the far-right and the reactionary elements of Trump’s base, individuals who claim to support the left betray the long history of resistance to bigotry, prejudice, and oppression that has historically defined progressive social movements.  Any sane person should want to have nothing to do with right-wing bigots or fascists, although this point has been obscured in talk of a “Brown-Red” alliance.

The decision by Cobb and McKinney to ally with fascists is a serious betrayal of progressive values.  It harms the credibility of anyone on the left who still claims the mantle of the democratic, anti-racist politics.  The Green’s alliance will not be forgotten by people of color, immigrant rights groups, and those opposing America’s Islamophobic turn. One can’t realistically “work with” right-wing nationalists one minute, then claim common cause with minority groups that are the targets of reactionary fascists.

Much of what remains of “the left” today is comprised of anxious, angry individuals who are rightly angry at a dysfunctional political-economic system that fails to represent the needs of the bottom 99 percent.  These individuals often feel deeply isolated from American mainstream society, and unfortunately, have been willing to gravitate toward all types of kooky ideas due to the decline of left-public intellectualism in the neoliberal era.  As public educational institutions have been dismantled and privatized, professors have been pressured and bullied by administrators and state officials to abandon advocacy work. And with the decline of American labor unions, productive venues for progressive activism have also begun to dry up.

Conspiratorial and extremist personalities have stepped forward to fill the left vacuum.  “Left” thinkers embrace authoritarian false prophets such as Assad in Syria and Putin in Russia, and portray these faux revolutionaries as on the vanguard of “anti-imperialism,” despite their repressive domestic human rights records, simply because they are against American militarism.  Others on the left fall into conspiracism, embracing 9/11 trutherism, and various “deep state” conspiracies such as claims that a secret intelligence apparatus was responsible for the JFK assassination and for framing Nixon for Watergate.  Never mind that there is a federal recording (made by Nixon himself) in which the former president openly speaks about paying off the Watergate burglars with hush money; we wouldn’t want to let evidence get in the way of a good conspiracy.

With the rise of “Brown-Red” alliance propaganda, some “leftists” have thrown their lot in with truly despicable individuals.  For example, McKinney and Cobb have recently sought to make common cause with noted Alex Jones groupies such as Mike Cernovich and Robert Steele, both with deeply troubled histories of embracing white nationalism.  Cernovich shamelessly embraces the rhetoric of “alt-right” sexists, referring to men he deems insufficiently masculine as “cucks,” while embracing conspiracy theories such as Pizzagate, and advocating IQ testing for immigrants.  He has claimed that date rapeis not real, and has encouraged men to “slut shame” black women to avoid AIDS.  Steele is a David Duke sympathizer who publishes commentary along with Duke about the dangers of the “Zionist deep state,” as tied to conspiracies about how Jews control American politics, media, and banking institutions.  Steele gained infamy after an appearance on Alex Jones’ Info Wars claiming that NASA was running a child slavery ring on Mars.  And Steele explicitly compares Jews to animals, although I will not do him or Duke the favor of linking to any of his repulsive commentaries.  Echoing Steele’s anti-semitism, McKinney also has a long, sordid history of collaborating with blatant anti-semites, despite the presence of many anti-Zionist activists and intellectuals throughout the U.S. and the world who reject anti-semitism.

I’ve recently heard from numerous self-described leftists who defend the supporters of the “Brown-Red” alliance agenda, but the moral bankruptcy of these apologists’ claims have been stripped bare considering the wretched politics of individuals like Steele and Cernovich.  Steele has reached out to me in the past, seeking to recruit me in his battle against “the deep state.”  It was immediately clear that there was something very wrong with this man, which was apparent when he started spouting “deep state” conspiracies about Watergate, 9/11, and JFK.  Not yet knowing about his anti-semitism, I politely told him I had no interest in anything he was selling.  That Green Party leaders could be supportive of such a figure speaks poorly of their judgment.

Marginalized from access to mainstream political, economic, or media institutions, some claiming to speak for “the left” have concluded that the path forward is in allying with fascist forces on the right.  This act of desperation reveals the utter failure of the Green Party to make serious inroads with the public or in gaining political power.  But this Hail Mary is destined to fail. No progressive social movement is ever going to be built by propping up reactionary bigots and conspiracy theorists, who have zero interest in the fight against economic inquality, racism, and capitalism more broadly.  Progressively minded people would be far better served opposing the relatively small number of Americans who openly advocate reactionary white nationalism, and instead focusing on the millions of people of color, in addition to working class, middle class, and poor Americans who are all increasingly left behind in an era of growing corporate, plutocratic power over politics.  There is still time to return respectability to the progressive community in America, but this can’t happen so long as fascist enablers speak for the left.

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Anthony DiMaggio is an Assistant Professor of Political Science at Lehigh University. He holds a PhD in political communication, and is the author of the newly released: Selling War, Selling Hope: Presidential Rhetoric, the News Media, and U.S. Foreign Policy After 9/11 (Paperback: 2015). He can be reached at: anthonydimaggio612@gmail.com

https://www.counterpunch.org/2017/08/15/fascism-here-we-come-the-rise-of-the-reactionary-right-and-the-collapse-of-the-left/

Bernie Sanders, and the Unexpected Socialist Revival

CULTURE
Bernie Sanders proved socialism isn’t dead—and some young people are even open to the banished ideas of Karl Marx.

Photo Credit: Gage Skidmore / Flickr

Since his grassroots presidential campaign took the world by storm last year, Sen. Bernie Sanders has been widely credited with bringing socialism back into the mainstream of American politics and introducing an entire generation to left-wing politics. As a major presidential candidate who unabashedly identified as a democratic socialist, Sanders essentially resurrected an idea that has been considered off limits in our political discourse for many decades: that there is an alternative to capitalism and the status quo.

This radical idea has become less taboo in recent years, and today an increasing number of millennials say they reject capitalism, while a majority of Americans support “socialistic” policies like universal health care (for the first time in a long time, single-payer is gaining mainstream momentum). Clearly, Sanders deserves the credit he has received for shifting the Overton window and reintroducing a form of left-wing class politics to America. It is safe to say that no single person has done more to revive the American left than the Vermont senator.

But Sanders’ political rise did not happen in a vacuum, and it’s unlikely he would have achieved much success had the social and economic conditions not been ripe. Though the 75-year old senator played an essential role in demystifying socialism to the public and instilling a radical spirit in the progressive movement, the current resurgence of class politics on the left has been in the works for many years, going back to the 2007-08 financial crisis.

It hasn’t been white-haired socialists who have provided the foundation for this resurgence, but young people who grew up in the era of neoliberalism. This was evident last week, when progressive millennials flocked to Chicago for the biannual Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) convention, where delegates came together to vote on various resolutions for the party. In the past year, the DSA has tripled its membership, and what is particularly telling about this growth is that the average age of DSA members has dropped by half virtually overnight, from 64 in 2015 to just 30 today.

This trend has led to a cottage industry of think pieces speculating about why millennials have embraced old school leftists like Sanders and British Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, but it is hardly a great mystery. Millennials came of age during the worst capitalist crisis in 80 years and live in a time when income and wealth inequality have reached historic levels — as evidenced by the fact that the eight richest men in the world (seven of whom are white American men) own as much wealth as the bottom 3.6 billion people.

Millennials inhabit a planet that faces ecological collapse, and most grasp the threat of climate change on a visceral level. Young people are also crippled by record levels of debt and despite being better educated than their parents earn 20 percent less than baby boomers did at this point in their lives. Finally, millennials have grown up in a time when moneyed interests have completely infiltrated the political process, creating an oligarchic form of government that serves the economic elite rather than the majority.

In other words, millennials are increasingly ambivalent about capitalism because it is a system that has failed their generation. Not surprisingly, this has led to a significant number of young intellectuals who have also rediscovered the works of Karl Marx, the great diagnostician of capitalism’s ills. Around the same time that the Occupy Wall Street protests erupted around the country in 2011, Bhaskar Sunkara founded Jacobin, the left-wing quarterly that has grown rapidly over the past five years, publishing the work of many millennial Marxists.

Of course, it is one thing to call yourself a socialist (or a “democratic socialist”) in America, and another thing entirely to identify as a Marxist. For the past century Karl Marx has been the ultimate intellectual bogeyman in the United States. For the majority of Americans who have no first-hand familiarity with the 19th-century thinker and his work, the term “Marxism” is synonymous with Stalinism and totalitarianism.

As with the millennial embrace of an elderly democratic socialist, this Marxist revival has predictably confounded many liberal and conservative critics, who assume that youngsters simply don’t know their 20th-century history. “That Marxism is not viewed with a similar horror as Nazism is one of the greatest failings of contemporary education,” tweeted Claire Lehmann, editor of the libertarian-leaning publication Quillette magazine, last month.

One of the greatest failings of contemporary education, one might counter, is that critics of Marxism know next to nothing about Marx or Marxism, other than the fact that some unsavory historical figures identified themselves with the term. This is obviously not a new phenomenon, and more than 50 years ago the American sociologist C. Wright Mills attempted to provide an objective account of Marx’s ideas in his 1962 book, “The Marxists,” meant to counteract the propaganda efforts of Cold Warriors. Mills’ book is just as useful today when it comes to explaining why Marx remains relevant in the 21st century. (Some might argue he is even more relevant today than in the mid-20th century, as capitalism has conquered the globe). In order to uncover what makes Marx’s work so valuable, Mills makes an important analytical distinction between the philosopher’s methodology/model and his theories:

model is a more or less systematic inventory of the elements to which we must pay attention if we are to understand something. It is not true or false; it is useful and adequate to varying degrees. A theory, in contrast, is a statement which can be proved true or false, about the casual weight and the relations of the elements of a model. Only in terms of this distinction can we understand why Marx’s work is truly great.

Marx’s model, argues Mills, “is what is great; that is what is alive in marxism. [Marx] provides a classic machinery for thinking about man, society, and history. That is the reason there have been so many quite different revivals of marxism. Marx is often wrong, in part because he died in 1883, in part because he did not use his own machinery as carefully as we now can, and in part because some of the machinery itself needs to be refined and even redesigned. . . . Neither the truth nor the falsity of Marx’s theories confirm the adequacy of his model.”

Marx’s model looked at the structure of society as a whole, as well as that “structure in historical motion,” and the German philosopher and economist employed this model to examine and reveal the dynamics of capitalism. This largely explains why there has been a renewed interest in Marx’s work in recent years, especially among millennials who have lived their entire lives under a global capitalist order. Marx’s model of looking at the world, along with his exhaustive analysis of capitalism, helps us to understand our own contemporary reality and where we are headed.

While Marx’s model is essential to understanding modern society, another fundamental aspect of Marxism is, of course, the merging of theory and practice. As Marx famously declared, “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it.”

This remains the ultimate goal for millennial Marxists and socialists. Although capitalism has never been more globally dominant than it is today, this has also engendered social and economic conditions that are ripe for left-wing political movements. As the Marxist economist Richard Wolff recently said during an interview on Fox Business:

Socialism is in a way the shadow of capitalism. Nothing guarantees the future of socialism so much as capitalism, because socialism is capitalism’s self-criticism.