March for Science on Earth Day to Resist Trump’s War on Facts

Drastic cuts to science-based agencies like the EPA are galvanizing scientists worldwide.

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) workers and supporters protest job cuts during rally in Chicago, Illinois, March 2, 2017.
Photo Credit: John Gress Media Inc/Shutterstock

Science isn’t everything. But it is crucial to governing, decision-making, protecting human health and the environment and resolving questions and challenges around our existence.

Those determined to advance industrial interests over all else often attack science. We’ve seen it in Canada, with a decade of cuts to research funding and scientific programs, muzzling of government scientists and rejection of evidence regarding issues such as climate change.

We’re seeing worse in the United States. The new administration is proposing drastic cuts to the Environmental Protection Agency, National Institutes of Health, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NASA and others. Information about climate change and environmental protection is being scrubbed from government websites, and scientists are being muzzled. Meanwhile, the government is increasing spending on military and nuclear weapons programs.

There’s nothing wrong with challenging research, developing competing hypotheses and looking for flaws in studies. That’s how science works. But rejecting, eliminating, covering up or attacking evidence that might call into question government or industry priorities — evidence that might show how those priorities could lead to widespread harm — is unconscionable. It’s galling to me because I traded a scientific career for full-time communication work because good scientific information helps people make the best decisions to take us into the future.

Many scientists prefer to work quietly, letting their research speak for itself. But recent attacks are galvanizing scientists and supporters throughout the U.S. and elsewhere. The March for Science on Earth Day, April 22, has been building steam for months. The main march will take place in Washington, D.C., but more than 425 marches are planned around the world. That kicks off a week of action, culminating in the People’s Climate March on April 29, also focused on Washington but with satellite marches throughout the world.

The March for Science website says organizers are “advocating for evidence-based policymaking, science education, research funding, and inclusive and accessible science.”

The group’s 850,000-member Facebook page is inspiring, with “advocates, science educators, scientists, and concerned citizens” sharing personal testimonials about their reasons for marching and why science is important to them, along with ideas for posters and slogans, questions about the march, articles about science and exposés of climate disinformation sent to schools and science teachers by the anti-science Heartland Institute.

March participants are a wide-ranging group, from a neuroscientist who is marching “for the thousands of people suffering from spinal cord injury” to sci-fi fans who are marching “Because you can’t have science fiction without science!” to a scientist marching to honour “the many, many women and young girls interested or involved in science” to those marching “because we know climate change is real.”

Celebrating and advocating for science is a good way to mark Earth Day. I’ll be in Ottawa, where a march is also taking place. David Suzuki Foundation senior editor Ian Hanington and I will launch our new book, Just Cool It!, at an Ottawa Writers Festival event that also features Nishnaabeg musician, scholar and writer Leanne Betasamosake Simpson.

Climate change is one area where anti-science rhetoric and actions at the highest levels of society are endangering human health and survival. Our book is a comprehensive look at the history and implications of climate science, the barriers to confronting the crisis and the many solutions required to resolve it.

It’s discouraging to witness the current attacks on science, and the ever-increasing consequences of climate change, diminishing ocean health and other human-caused problems, but seeing so many people standing up for science and humanity is reason for optimism. Of all the many solutions to global warming and other environmental problems, none is as powerful as people getting together to demand change.

Every day should be Earth Day, but it’s good to have a special day to remind us of the importance of protecting the air, water, soil and biodiversity that we all depend on for health and survival. Politicians are supposed to work for the long-term well-being of people who elect them, not to advance the often short-sighted agendas of those who pay large sums of money to get their way regardless of the consequences. Standing together to make ourselves heard is one of the best ways to ensure they fulfill their responsibilities.

This article was originally published by the David Suzuki Foundation.

Science and Socialism

The issues posed by the worldwide March for Science

20 April 2017

Hundreds of thousands of scientists and other professionals, together with students and working people who support them, will take part this Saturday in the worldwide March for Science. The demonstration has evoked a significant response, in large measure because it is seen as a way to protest the Trump administration’s attacks on scientific knowledge and investigation.

The Socialist Equality Party welcomes this demonstration. We call for the mobilization of working people throughout the world against the destruction of the environment by giant chemical and energy corporations; attacks on public education that threaten access to all aspects of human culture for an entire generation of young people; the subordination of science to the profit requirements of the ruling class and the military; and all censorship and restrictions on research and teaching.

The call for the March for Science refers to these issues, but it has definite limitations, summed up in its declaration that the attacks on science “are not a partisan issue.” This question must be understood correctly. The defense of science is only “nonpartisan” in the sense that both Democrats and Republicans are responsible for the attack on public education, the deteriorating environment, the growth of militarism and the effort to censor and suppress scientific research.

The defense of science is, however, profoundly political, as it has been throughout history, as far back as Galileo Galilei’s trial by the Roman Catholic Inquisition. Every reactionary government and class persecutes scientists and seeks to suppress and subordinate science to its own ends. The progress of science and reason has always depended upon the progress of society and social relations—and this is a political question.

The challenge today is to recognize the source of the attack on science, which did not suddenly arise from the limited brain of Donald Trump. He is only the crudest and most backward representative of a social system in which all human activity, including science, is subordinated to private profit. While science and technology have immensely developed the power of social production, this production remains trapped within the increasingly irrational forms of private capitalist ownership.

The defense of science is therefore inseparable from the revolutionary struggle of the main progressive force in modern society, the working class, against the corporate ruling elite.

Science and technology have made it possible to abolish hunger, cure disease, banish ignorance and secure a decent standard of living for every person on this planet. But under the profit system, vast wealth is monopolized by a tiny handful of the super-rich. Just eight mega-billionaires possess greater wealth than the poorest half of humanity, while hundreds of millions go hungry; millions die of preventable diseases; and schools, roads, water systems and other public infrastructure are crumbling.

Modern technology, from revolutionary developments in transportation to the creation of the Internet, has shattered the barriers to human interaction and made possible the integration of all humanity. Science itself is the most international of human enterprises, developing through global collaboration.

However, because of the division of the world into rival nation-states, technology is made the instrument of repression and persecution: the hounding of refugees and immigrants throughout the world; the building of walls against immigrants on the US-Mexico border; China’s “great firewall,” separating one billion people from the rest of the world; and the development of the NSA’s vast apparatus of global spying directed against the population of the entire world.

Most ominously, in the hands of the rival nation-states, with US imperialism taking the lead, science and technology have been perverted into means of mass destruction. The April 22 demonstration takes place under conditions of a growing threat of world war, with the Trump administration, backed by the US media and Democratic Party, firing missiles at Syria, dropping the largest bomb since Hiroshima and Nagasaki on Afghanistan, and threatening a preemptive military strike against North Korea.

The danger of a direct military conflict involving nuclear-armed powers is very real. More than anyone else, scientists know that this would mean the extinction of civilization, if not life on planet Earth.

What is the way forward? Those who wish to defend and advance the work of science must confront a contradiction in their own ways of thinking. They are accustomed to applying scientific methods to the processes of nature, but not to the workings of society, still less to politics.

In part, this derives from the greater complexity of social life, where the number of variables—including human beings—makes scientific analysis more complicated. More importantly, it reflects the ideological domination of the corporate ruling elite, which opposes efforts to apply rational standards to the operations of a social system that affords them unparalleled wealth and privilege. Within academia, the attack on objective truth and reason spearheaded by postmodernism and other forms of irrationalism is directed at all forms of scientific knowledge, above all at the science of society and history.

Scientists must find their way back to insights of their greatest predecessors like Albert Einstein, who were drawn to socialism as the application of reason to the development of modern society—and as the only means of ending war and dictatorship. This means taking up a study of Marxism, which bases its revolutionary politics on an analysis of objective reality and class interests.

The working class is the revolutionary force that has the capability to put an end to capitalism and establish a socialist society based on equality, democracy and social ownership of the wealth created by collective labor. In the Russian Revolution, whose centenary we mark this year, this scientific understanding was vindicated in practice, with the working class coming to power under the leadership of a Marxist party.

The working class cannot advance without the aid of science. But science itself requires the advance of the working class, which will provide science with the necessary mass base in society. In the final analysis, the progress of science—and the progress of humanity as a whole—depends on the resurgence of a new revolutionary movement of the working class. The socialist movement unites under its banner both the pursuit of scientific truth in all its forms and the struggle for human equality.

Statement of the Socialist Equality Party

A Call for a Populist Left


This Country Is Up for Grabs:

The only thing that will beat Trump is a genuinely left populist movement.

Waterkeeper Alliance and the Catawba, Cape Fear, Yadkin, French Broad, and Waccamaw Riverkeepers banded together to expose coal ash pollution and file citizen suits against Duke
Photo Credit: Waterkeeper Alliance


It’s November 10, 2016, two days after Election Day. On Fulton Street in Bed-Stuy, it feels like someone or something has died, and the silence is so heavy that even the thick, solid brownstones seem to be sagging under its weight. The eyes I meet on the street are haggard, as if they’ve been up all night fighting some new and violent truth, and I feel just as bowled over by this truth as anyone else. It surprises me that my lack of faith in this country, its systems and its flag have not insulated me more — that my cynicism has not done a better job of protecting me from this heartbreak.

I wonder how this day is being experienced by those on whom this nation’s brutalities have always laid more heavily — those who, perhaps, have always known America better than I do. It’s not that I thought this place was what it claimed to be, but I did think we were at a different stage in its history. It feels like waking up late at night on the subway home, realizing you’ve been on the wrong train all along. I wonder whether the trajectory of America has been abruptly altered, or merely revealed. And today it occurs to me that King’s arc of the moral universe is indeed long, but perhaps it doesn’t bend toward justice at all, but just bends. I feel a sharp pang of helplessness, and my body calls up a recollection of another time I felt this way, some years ago, when I first began to retreat.


It’s 2004, and I’m a senior in high school. Bush is president. The U.S. has recently paid for a coup to overthrow a democratically elected government in Haiti. Before that, Afghanistan and Iraq, the Patriot Act and Extraordinary Rendition. On and on it goes, like some horrifying roller coaster you can’t get off. And the flags. The flags are everywhere now, laying claim to every crack and crevice of public life: Street corners and cranes and front doors and windows. They have even made their way inside my own home, screaming out through the television screen.

All of this transforms me. I find a pair of quirky, radical high school history teachers who take me under their wings, read Noam Chomsky and Malcolm X and Emma Goldman, and ultimately, I join the movement — specifically the anti-war movement. We march in the streets, shout at the top of our lungs, piss off our parents, and curse out our leaders. We are fierce, courageous and earnest, but honestly, most of the time it feels like the war is a gigantic, lumbering elephant and we are mosquitoes, barely even cracking skin. We have some of the biggest demonstrations in world history, and hundreds of thousands of people die anyway. It’s hard to describe the collective shame and helplessness that this kind of failure elicits in us, but I feel it in my body every day ,  in hardened eyes, slumped shoulders, an armored chest.

This country is doomed, we think. These people are too far-gone, we say. They call us anti-American, and in our defiance, we agree; we say that they can have their f**king America. Even the word itself erases an entire continent to our south. We don’t need it. If America is Bush, the war machine, austerity, the prison system, bombs at abortion clinics and mosques, Guantanamo, and Halliburton, then we don’t want anything to do with it anyway. If America is genocide and slavery and empire, then it was never ours to begin with. Besides, we have visions of freedom that span beyond these borders.

This sort of rejection seems like the only reasonable thing to do, the only way to make sense of history and the present; perhaps, even, it is the only way to survive this kind of loss. But for me, it is also the beginning of a long retreat.

I stop paying attention to electoral politics, stop thinking of the state as an avenue for any sort of change, stop even wanting to intervene in it, much less reform it. I stop thinking about scale as a relevant factor in our organizing, stop talking politics with people who aren’t in the movement, stop even reading the news. I join a left that seems, every day, to drift further and further away from trying to build political power, away from attempting to win over the public, away from working class people, and deeper into a bubble of its own. We have our own organizations, our own publications, our own trainings, our own spaces, and no need for anyone else. We find belonging in lack of belonging, and it protects us.

We do good work, learn important lessons, and have big dreams. But in the end, so many of those dreams remain our little secret, tucked safely away, out of sight to the rest of the world; and really, the rest of the world is out of sight to us too.


It’s the morning of February 3, 2017. I’m at my desk at home in Brooklyn, sunlight creeping through the blinds on the window to my left. I’m hovering between work emails and Facebook, following the rabbit hole of the Bodega Strike, in which thousands of bodega owners and workers from across New York City, — most of them Yemeni and Muslim ,  have gone on strike and gathered at Brooklyn’s Borough Hall to protest the immigration ban. The images show a jarring sea of brown people waving American flags. I watch the videos, and the deafening chants of “USA! USA!” vibrate through my speakers.

The flags blind me. An old reflex jumps from my body, transporting me back to 2004, when this country suffocated me with its flags, and I snap my laptop shut. I am struck by the competing emotions surging through me — admiration, humility, inspiration, repulsion, confusion, shame.

How can these people, of all people, find ownership, belonging, and even love in a place like this? Maybe they don’t get it, I think. Maybe they wave the flag for safety from those who speak most loudly in its name, act most violently on its behalf; perhaps this is what they think they have to do survive. Or maybe they really do love this place, even through the heartbreak. Or maybe they want to love it, and their flag-waving is not a celebration of the vision of the founding fathers but a calling into existence of a dream not yet born. Maybe it’s just better than the homes they left behind.

Or maybe they are being strategic. Maybe they know, better even than most of the organized left, that this titanic crisis in which we find ourselves today is also perhaps the grandest opportunity we will see in generations. Maybe they can see that this country is up for grabs.


The system is unstable. A self-proclaimed socialist almost won the Democratic Party nomination, and a right wing populist insurgency has entered into government, effectively displacing the Republican establishment and delivering a devastating blow to the status quo of the Democratic Party as well. Some 40% of the voting population wants this president impeached, and Bernie Sanders is literally the most popular politician in the country. There is an opposition to Trump organically rising up beyond both the Democrats and the organized left alike — in the streets, the courts, even the White House itself. What’s more, the right wing offensive underway will likely create even further instability — more deportations, more black and brown people locked up, more debt, more unemployment, more pipelines on indigenous land, more policies that hurt women and queer and trans folks, more impacts of climate change, more surveillance, more war.

We can expect more crisis. But where there is crisis, there is also opportunity, and our opponents know this. As Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine teaches us, crisis is part of their playbook.

For Trump, a deepening crisis is an opportunity to continue barreling forward as planned; after all, crisis has always been part of his narrative. He will blame it on his political enemies and those communities already under attack, and use it to expand his agenda. The rest of the Republican Party, the defense industry, and much of the business class, will likely go along with it, unless and until they think the ship is actually sinking. The white nationalists and other far right wingers coming out of the woodwork in droves will use it as an opportunity to keep pulling the whole political map in their direction; they now have a man in the White House to help them do it.

For establishment Democrats — as well as for Republicans who defect if and when the instability deepens enough to effectively incapacitate the administration — the crisis will provide the opportunity to name Trump as the problem, while preserving business-as-usual. If we get rid of him, they’ll tell us, everything can go back to normal. Normal will be ushered in by corporate Democrats and “moderate” Republicans, protecting many of the same interests, featuring a reversal of only the most egregious elements of Trump’s policies, and keeping in tact the rest — much of which was already enshrined by the administrations that came before this one.

But as Alicia GarzaJonathan Matthew SmuckerGeorge LakeyKeeanga-Yahmatta Taylor, and many other leaders and mentors are telling us, this crisis is an opportunity for the left too. It’s an opportunity to grow and become popular, an opportunity to build visionary organizations and multi-issue movements that go on the offensive. It is an opportunity both to take the streets, and also take over real levers of power. It is our chance to reject both Trump’s white economic nationalism and the corporate Democrats’ multicultural neoliberalism — to bring to life a new kind of politic that combines racial, gender, and economic justice to unite the majority of the population against the elite. It is a chance to build a mass movement that has equity and solidarity at its core, that takes leadership from those impacted by the systems we’re fighting, that works for all of us. It is a golden opportunity to finally translate our proven ability to shift the national discourse into a concrete capacity to actually achieve our own purpose — to move from having influence to having real power.

This crisis is, in the end, a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the left to lead. The big question, then, is whether we will be willing to do so.


All of this possibility flies through my mind as I think about the bodega strikers. I open my laptop again, take a deep breath and stare my ambivalence straight in the face.

I think back on that grand rejection I was part of as a younger activist — remember how honest it felt, remember the history lessons that informed it. I wonder how I can possibly hope to belong to a place like this, how I can identify with a dream that has caused so much pain to so many people. I know, also, that to be a popular movement, we will have to make a bold claim that this place belongs to us instead of them, and I wonder if it’s really possible for me claim this place belongs to me, when everything I know here stands on land stolen from people who were murdered for its theft, where everything I touch was built with labor extracted from people brought there in chains, where so much of it is made of wealth taken from around the world at gunpoint.

It occurs to me that it is a huge risk to identify with this place and its mythology, to be popular, to enter into struggle over the whole of this country, knowing that so many of the examples of populism before us watered down their politics to accommodate the ruling class, sold out their grand visions of tomorrow for partial gains of today, abandoned those most oppressed at the finish line. It feels dangerous to grow — to welcome into our movements the many people who are becoming politicized in these times — knowing that the greater pains and burdens of entering into the delicate and never-ending experiment of solidarity will fall on those already most impacted by the system. It strikes me, too, that it’s frightening to have the kind of hope a struggle like this demands. After all, where there is hope, there is also often heartbreak.

But I know, just as well, that our past failures are not inevitable. We can embrace the malleability of this place called America, contest our enemy’s hegemony over its dreams, care about this country and this land and these people, while telling the truth about its brutal history and present, honoring the people who lived here before us, and seeing nationhood not as a barrier to internationalism, but a stepping stone towards it. We can join with the growing majority of people standing in opposition to Trump, while still going on the offensive against all of his enablers — the Republican Party whose agenda he is carrying forth, the huge corporate interests he has since installed into government, and also the Democratic Party establishment whose marriage to Wall Street helped create the conditions for this upheaval in the first place.

We can be popular, and big, and speak in a language that the public understands, while bringing a critique of capitalism, white supremacy, and patriarchy into the mainstream, while holding up a vision for the world we can have if we fight for it, while saying words like single payer healthcare and universal basic income, even reparations and socialism. We can grow our movements dramatically, invest deeply in the transformation of the millions of people looking for a political home in this moment, and build deeply across race, class, gender, and sexuality, while still demanding more from each other, while practicing solidarity and accountability with the wisdom to know that we will fail and try again and fail better if we keep trying.

We can enter powerfully into electoral politics, build grassroots political power, take over every potential vehicle for change available to us, while still insisting that movements are what really drive social change, that nothing can replace the hard organizing it takes to bring people together to liberate themselves, that meaningful change demands powerful and uncompromising civil disobedience that removes our consent from the institutions that cause harm. And as Rebecca Solnit often often reminds us, we can be courageous enough to have hope, and we can do it while still leaving room for the inevitable heartbreaks we will experience on the way.

I still don’t know exactly what it will mean to reclaim AmericaI’m not going to hang an American flag from my window or praise our so-called founding fathers; I’m not convinced that we need to ground every thing we say in the constitution, and have no intention of standing up for the national anthem until Colin Kaepernick does. But maybe it’s simpler than all that. Maybe the important thing to recognize is that, at the heart of it all, we are being called into a massive struggle over belonging — of who gets to have it and who doesn’t.

Arundhati Roy writes, “To call someone anti-American, indeed, to be anti-American, is not just racist, it’s a failure of the imagination.” And as I think back now on my past retreat from America, I know that no matter how justified, no matter how grounded it was in principle and history, there was also a secret, scared underbelly there — the very fear of imagination Roy highlights. I can still find traces today of what I felt then: A helpless anger, an arrogance covering up shame, a lack of confidence to step outside the comfort of my leftist bubble, a deep and paralyzing fear produced by my smallness in the shadow of a towering enemy. Now, years later, I know to call this tendency the politics of powerlessness, and it suddenly hits me that instead of fighting over this place and its future, I let my enemy have it.

In the end, only a genuinely liberatory popular movement can defeat Trump and the right-wing populist tidal wave he rode in on. Only a truly left populist movement can ensure that this regime not only falls, but also takes the entire Republican Party and the establishment Democrats along with it. Only a movement like that will be powerful enough to actually reorganize this society, so that it meets both the very real material needs and the soaring potentials of the people in it. In order for the left to provide the leadership that is required in this moment, we will have to learn to say this country’s name out loud — say that it belongs to us, in all the complicated ways that the many giants before us have said it, from Langston Hughes and James Baldwin, to Fannie Lou Hamer and Howard Zinn, from Ann Braden and Dr. King, to James and Grace Lee Boggs. Ultimately, we will have to do a better job imagining; we will have to tell a story about America that gives meaning and home and a sense of belonging to the millions of people who are ready to fight for the bigger, better, bolder dreams that are waiting for us at the tips of our fingers.


America — both its past and its future — is a story that can be written a thousand different ways, and our opponent knows this. That is why the fascists and would-be dictators, the wealthy oligarchs and Wall Street politicians alike, always claim to speak for the whole — for that great, big AmericaThey wrap themselves up in the flag, project a vision for the future of this entire country, and call up people’s greatest fears and deepest dreams. The country they describe is not for most of us. But they say they will make it great — or great again — and that promise floats up into the air and captures imaginations, encapsulates real pains and longings, speaks into existence that grand possibility for which people are willing to do the most beautiful and heinous things alike.

To cede the simple truth of this nation’s possibility to our enemy is a massive shirking of responsibility. It relegates us to the margins of political life, which, in turn, dooms the people we love, the planet we live on, and the values we cherish. It is a failure to show up to the field of battle, which doesn’t mean the war doesn’t take place, only that we’ve surrendered before it has even begun.

Yes, America is the Trail of Tears and chattel slavery, the Ludlow Massacre and Jim Crow, Hiroshima and bloody interventions around the world. But it is also slave rebellions and the Women’s Suffrage Movement, the Flint sit-down strike and the occupation at Wounded Knee, the Stonewall Riot and the uprising at Attica. It is Occupy and the Movement for Black Lives, the immigrant justice movement and the uprising at Standing Rock, the Bernie wave and the climate movement. America is working class, and indigenous, and Muslim, and queer. It is undocumented, and black, and Sikh, and trans. It is the 99%, and women and immigrants. It is all of us.

Perhaps we are not the America they planned for, but we are, as much as anything else, the America that could be. And in the end, that is the choice before us: We will either build a fierce, honest, vibrant, populist left, take responsibility for this country, call our America into existence, and lead, or we will lose — not just this America and our loved ones in it, but all the Americas that might have been, and the people we might have become.

Yotam Marom is an organizer, writer, facilitator, director of the Wildfire Project, and a founding member of IfNotNow.


Hello, Jim. Let’s start with the famed Stonewall rebellion of 1969, which came to define the modern gay movement. You have said that the presence of people of color at the rebellion is actually overstated.

Yes, I have said that, and there is a reason for me saying it. The way the Mafia, quote unquote, meaning organized crime, operated gay bars in the ’60s and ’70s was they had gay bars for people of color, mostly black gay people, but they were on 42nd Street and up in Harlem. In the Village–except for Keller’s, which was specifically aimed at black gay people and rough trade—most of all the other gay bars in the ’60s had very little mix of races. Of course, if you were a great beauty, no matter what color you were, you got in, but people of color weren’t catered to. It’s called racism. There was systematic racism. The problem I have is people trying to claim to be a part of something which they weren’t. The whole question of both drag queens and people of color at Stonewall…

The Stonewall Inn was pretty well known as a place where closeted gay men, usually married men, went to make arrangements with younger gay men, and the younger men, for the most part, were certainly not drag queens. There was drug dealing and prostitution, so all these romantic ideas of what happened did not happen. It was not a bar I liked particularly. It did not have a good dance floor. The jukebox was like every jukebox in every Mafia bar in the city. It was not a specialty jukebox. I know this goes against myth, but putting a straight ’60s template on what happened that night robs us of who we are and what actually did happen, which changed how lesbians and gays saw themselves. By no definition can what happened that night be called a riot. I’ve been in riots. They’re very scary events—people out of control, looting and robbing, the breaking of windows and turning over of cars. That did not happen the first night of Stonewall. The Stonewall rebellion actually started out quite small. I happened to be coming home from my job at Columbia Records. I saw a sole police car outside of the Stonewall Inn. I was out in the New Left movement and the anti-war movement and there was an incredible amount of homophobia—in the old and new left. Like a good ’60s radical, I went to see why that car was there. There might have been 20 people around—this was 10:30 at night. The door opens and out comes one police officer and a “passing woman”—a biological female dressed in men’s clothing. I’m using the language of that day. “Bulldyke” was said if you wanted to put somebody down, while “passing” was a nice term. She had been handcuffed. By now, about 40 or 50 people had gathered. It was a Saturday night, warm, June, summer. Her bulky body started rocking the police car. To the cheers of the crowd gathering, one of the doors had not been locked. She got out, and as bulky as she was and acted, she had small female wrists and was able to get out of her handcuffs. Given the cheering, she stepped up to play her passing woman masculine butch dyke role. She started throwing herself against the police car and it started to tilt almost to turning over, and that was a flashpoint. Something happened in that crowd that I cannot describe verbally. That’s why I call it a rebellion–they finally rebelled against their internal and external homophobia and repression and started to cheer. A police officer came out, to look at the crowd and went back inside. From what I understand, he called for reinforcement. Within 10 minutes, a number of police cars arrived. Contrary to what David Carter’s Stonewall book describes, there were very few arrests. The only arrest I actually saw was a folk singer, Dave van Ronk. He was drunk and saying “What’s going on here?” The cops said, “Get away,” but he was persistent.

Thanks for the insight. Let’s move on to your achievements in nightlife. You were instrumental in the legendary club Danceteria, which started in 1979, along with your then-business partner Rudolf Pieper. That club is where new music was broken, along with art and videos. It was a veritable culture emporium. Did you realize how magical it was?

You’ve known me a long time and our paths have crossed many times. My political work I’ve always seen as cultural work. I’ve been an actor and appeared in plays and at Caffe Cino. It was around that period of time that was very fertile in terms of alternative culture. I took over the dead disco Hurrah and made it very successful and that became the template I was working on as to how to maximize culture–high art, low art, and politics. When I had the opportunity to take over the space on 37th Street (the first Danceteria), which had been an after-hours gay black bar, where there had been many killings, I wanted to make a club similar to what had happened at Hurrah. I hired people who had worked for me, including security people who looked like the people I wanted to come. People who were incredible but unemployable, I gave them jobs. Keith Haring was a busboy, and so was [artist] David Wojnarowicz. Keith did art on the walls the first three months. It all predates MTV, AIDS, and crack cocaine because what happened to nightlife was MTV changed how people went about seeing live music–they wanted to see the bands they just saw on TV, usually a British band which was incapable of recreating the sound live because they hadn’t played that much.

Photo by Rhonda CorteWhen you opened the second Danceteria (on 21st Street), video became more prevalent.

Yes, video art began to come out of Downtown. I hired Kit Fitzgerald and John Sanborn, who were part of that scene, and I asked them to curate. It became the people who are now at the museum level of collection. The thing about New York that was different from L.A. and San Francisco is we all live for the most part in small apartments, and we all go out for social interaction, hoping to get laid essentially, straight or gay. I wanted to create an environment that was safe—no fights—and that was the purpose of the door policy. I also wanted a mixed club, and anyone was welcome who could behave in that mode. We started branching out in different kinds of programs—Word-Beat (spoken word) with Patti Smith and John Giorno, and Serious Fun (with people like Philip Glass and Diamanda Galas). The first club was three floors, and the second club was three floors and a roof. Once you were in, you had the option to do what you wanted to do. We did a whole lot of benefits–this is where the political stuff came in. With my door people—Haoui Montaug and Aleph Ashline—gay boys and women got in without any hassle. With straight guys, the test was they’d have to wait a few minutes and see if they didn’t get hostile. We never had a rape or a fight, or any of those kinds of things that happened in those kinds of clubs. It took a long time for John Argento to destroy that template. Many people went to Danceteria 3 after I’d been locked out by Rudolf and Argento. Those people didn’t know about the backroom drama going on, they just wanted to have a good time. I never criticized anyone if they had a good time under those circumstances.

The music at Danceteria was thrillingly good.

The DJs were the heart and soul of the club. The dance music that Mark Kamins and Sean Cassette did at the first Danceteria! I discovered Sean at the Mudd Club; he’s the one who introduced me to Rudolf. And Mark was recommended to me by Nancy Jeffries, who did A&R at RCA. Mark played every club I ever had. Sean stopped playing after the first Danceteria. Chi Chi Valenti was a bartender. These people needed jobs, and the bottom line is I was able to give people jobs. I had an open call like a Broadway show, and I was very proud of the staff.

Tell me something really offbeat that happened at the club.

At Danceteria 1, the boys in the backroom found a loophole where people would buy a ticket for liquor, and we’d stay open very late.

The mob guys?

Yes. You couldn’t do a club at that time that didn’t have organized crime involved. They’d apply for these one-day permits over and over again. It was quasi legal, but it was an abuse of the law. The headliner would play two shows and the opening act would play the middle show and the last show would go on around four in the morning, so people could come from the other clubs and see that artist. If I was the owner of the Underground [a rival club], I’d be pissed that I couldn’t do that. At the second Danceteria, the late show would be at three in the morning.

What’s your take on then and now?

It’s a different time. We don’t have those kinds of clubs I’m aware of anymore. It wasn’t as hard to survive in New York in the late ’70s and ’80s as now, though you still had to pay the rents.

Splash image: Photo by Ebet Roberts/Redferns


Sen. Bernie Sanders is continuing to spread the word of his “political revolution.” He’s scheduled for a series of sold-out speaking appearances in the Boston area Friday. It was also confirmed this week that Sanders, who was beaten to the Democratic presidential nomination by Hillary Clinton in 2016, will headline the second annual “People’s Summit,” a meeting of progressive activists and organizations in Chicago in June, which this year will seek to launch candidates for political posts.

His Friday schedule includes a book signing and two speeches starting off with the Edward M. Kennedy Institute for the United States Senate. Sanders will then move to the Orpheum Theatre in the downtown Boston area, where he will appear alongside Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren for a rally hosted by political nonprofit Our Revolution.

Even at this early stage, Sanders and Warren have long been considered two of the leading candidates for the Democratic Party nomination for president in 2020. He will turn 79 before the next election but has not ruled out running again.

In any case, Sanders has worked to ensure that the ideas he brought to the national stage during last year’s election campaign have remained a leading topic of conversation in the Donald Trump era.

Following the failure of the Republicans’ Obamacare replacement last week, Sanders said he would introduce a single-payer healthcare bill—one of his core campaign promises.

“Ideally, where we should be going is to join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee health care to all people as a right,” Sanders told CNN Sunday. “That’s why I’m going to introduce a Medicare-for-all, single-payer program.”

“Today is a great victory but we have a lot more work to do. We are going to go forward and guarantee health care to all people as a right.”

Sanders has been a frequent and impassioned critic of Trump’s actions rolling back the environmental protections put in place under former President Barack Obama, calling them an “embarrassment to the world.”

“Trump’s position on climate change is pathetic and an embarrassment to the world.”

The impact of Sanders, both directly and indirectly, is likely to continue to be felt, including at the voting booth. The theme of this year’s “People’s Summit” will be to transform the progressive cause from simple resistance to mounting campaigns to gain political power.

“Many of those in Chicago last June have played leading roles in public actions and protests this year, but the supporting organizations are unified in calling for defining a progressive vision that moves beyond resistance and protests,” read a statement announcing Sanders’ headlining appearance.

Many of his former aides are already taking up the battle, banding together to prepare to fund candidates to run up against establishment Democrats in the 2018 midterm primaries.



The Deep State, Explained

Posted on Apr 1, 2017

By John Light / Moyers & Company

The U.S. Capitol. (John Sonderman / CC 2.0)

As the daily drip of information about possible links between Trump’s campaign and Russia trickles on, Democrats, commentators and at least some officials in the US intelligence community, it seems, smell a rat. CNN reported last week that according to sources, “The FBI has information that indicates associates of President Donald Trump communicated with suspected Russian operatives to possibly coordinate the release of information damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.”

Meanwhile, White House sources continue insisting to reporters that there’s no fire behind all the smoke. The true story, they say, is a conspiracy by the so-called “Deep State” to undermine a democratically elected president.

Trump and his team are good at taking terms and twisting their meaning to suit their own ends. “Fake news,” for example. Once Trump started using it, the mainstream media, which had been using “fake news” to describe online lies packaged in the guise of honest reporting, largely backed away. “Let’s put this tainted term out of its misery,” Washington Post media columnist Margaret Sullivan wrote.

“Deep State” may meet a similar fate, with some anti-Trump commentators arguing that the term, while appropriate for less democratic governments abroad, has no meaning in the United States, and refers to one of many conspiracy theories that found a home at InfoWars, Breitbart, and, ultimately, in the president’s brain.Yet despite that, the idea of a Deep State is useful when talking about the forces that drive US policy. Here’s a look at its history and use today.

How Trump allies talk about the “Deep State”

In Trump’s world, the “Deep State” is a sub rosa part of the liberal establishment, that crowd resistant to the reality TV star’s insurgent candidacy all along, and which ultimately was rebuffed by voters on Election Day. Although Trump has taken the helm of the executive branch, this theory goes, his opponents lurk just below the surface. “We are talking about the emergence of a deep state led by Barack Obama, and that is something that we should prevent,” Steve King, the right-wing member of Congress from Iowa and a Trump ally, told The New York Times.

Implicit is the idea that the intelligence agencies’ investigation into Trump and his campaign’s Russia ties are baseless, and that leaks about the investigation to the press are part of an effort to undermine him. “Of course, the deep state exists,” Trump ally Newt Gingrich recently told the Associated Press. “There’s a permanent state of massive bureaucracies that do whatever they want and set up deliberate leaks to attack the president. This is what the deep state does: They create a lie, spread a lie, fail to check the lie and then deny that they were behind the lie.”

The claim that the campaign was surveilled by Obama is also part of this supposed Deep State conspiracy; House Intelligence Committee Chair Devin Nunes fanned the flames last Wednesday when he suggested, based on information shared with him by the administration, that Trump advisers’ communications were likely collected during the transition, perhaps by accident. Breitbart has even started calling the wiretapping story DeepStateGate.

The Deep State abroad

Historically, the idea of a Deep State is an import; it has been used for decades abroad to describe any network of entrenched government officials who function independently from elected politicians and work toward their own ends.

One such network cropped up decades ago in Turkey, devoted to opposing communism and protecting by any means necessary the new Turkish Republic that Mustafa Ataturk founded after World War I. In the 1950s, the derin devlet — literally, “deep state” — began bumping off its enemies and seeking to confuse and scare the public through “false flag” attacks and engineered riots. The network ultimately was responsible for thousands of deaths.

Another shadowy entity exists in present day Pakistan, where the country’s main intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), and the military exert considerable control over government, often operating independently of the country’s elected leaders and sometimes overthrowing them in military coups. “The vast majority of Pakistanis are effectively disenfranchised by this system,” wrote Daniel Markey, senior research professor at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies. “As far as it is possible to know their views through public opinion polling and interviews, it appears that they perceive the state as generally ineffective, often even predatory, in their daily lives.”

America’s Deep State

Here in the United States, we have another kind of Deep State, one that Mike Lofgren, a former congressional staffer specializing in intelligence, described in an original essay for our site in 2014.

The Deep State, Lofgren wrote, was not “a secret, conspiratorial cabal; the state within a state is hiding mostly in plain sight, and its operators mainly act in the light of day.” It is not a tight-knit group, and has no clear objective. Rather, it is a sprawling network, stretching across the government and into the private sector. “It is a hybrid of national security and law enforcement agencies,” Lofgren wrote. “… I also include the Department of the Treasury because of its jurisdiction over financial flows, its enforcement of international sanctions and its organic symbiosis with Wall Street.” In Lofgren’s definition are echoes of President Dwight Eisenhower’s famous farewell address in 1961, in which he implored future presidents to “guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex.”

But in his Obama-era definition of the Deep State, Lofgren also included “the White House advisers who urged Obama not to impose compensation limits on Wall Street CEOs, the contractor-connected think tank experts who besought us to ‘stay the course’ in Iraq, the economic gurus who perpetually demonstrate that globalization and deregulation are a blessing that makes us all better off in the long run.” These individuals pretend they have no ideology — “their preferred pose is that of the politically neutral technocrat offering well considered advice based on profound expertise.”

In short, by Lofgren’s conception, the Deep State is maintained by the mid-level number crunchers, analysts, congressional staffers and lawyers — technocrats who build and perpetuate the Washington consensus, leading the country in and out of wars, in and out of trade agreements, into and, if we’re lucky, out of recessions, without questioning their own judgment. The 2016 election saw voters rebel against that system, and Donald Trump was the surprising result.

A Deep State divided and debated

The 2016 election shook up the Deep State. It’s without question that elements within it are concerned about Donald Trump and pushing back against him. The FBI, which may have helped Trump win the election with its last-minute announcement about Clinton’s emails, is now investigating him. But some elements of the intelligence agencies may also be the source of stories fanning the flames of Trump’s wiretapping theory.

On one hand, public servants at the State Department are chafing at Trump’s defunding of diplomacy and object to his repeated attempts to put in place a Muslim travel ban. On the other, elements of Lofgren’s Deep State, including Wall Street lawyers and alumni of Silicon Valley companies that help the government surveil citizens, have become part of Trump’s administration.

We are in a moment where the intelligence community has tremendous power. Leakers continue to give to the press part, but not all of the story; declassified documents and testimony by agency heads before Congress yield few definitive takeaways.

Some on both the left and right hope the Deep State will take Trump down. But civil libertarians and such journalists as Glenn Greenwald have been imploring the media, Democratic politicians and Washington insiders to make sure that in their enthusiasm to get rid of Trump, they do not give intelligence agencies too long a leash or too much ability to shape the narrative. Once they have it, Greenwald argues, the agencies won’t want to let it go.

The Deep State to come

While the Russia story continues to trickle out, Trump and his minions have gotten to work trying to build their own network of loyal informants across the government, a web that resembles the deep states seen abroad more than anything America has known.

Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner, reportedly has taken the reins of foreign policy from the State Department and is running it out of the White House. He’s also been tasked with overhauling, and potentially privatizing, elements of the federal bureaucracy from his perch at Donald Trump’s side. Meanwhile, Trump has installed hundreds of officials across government to serve as his eyes and ears, rooting out those opposed to his administration and pushing his agenda throughout official agencies.

If Obama’s Deep State is perceived by Trump as the enemy, his solution is to build his own Deep State to counter it.

John Light is a reporter and digital producer for the Moyers team. His work has appeared at The Atlantic, Grist, Mother Jones, Salon, Slate, Vox and Al Jazeera, and has been broadcast on Public Radio International. He’s a graduate of Columbia Graduate School of Journalism. You can follow him on Twitter at@LightTweeting.

Is Brexit the beginning of the end for international cooperation?

We may be witnessing the twilight of the multilateral era

Is Brexit the beginning of the end for international cooperation?
(Credit: AP Photo/Michael Probst)

This article was originally published on The Conversation.


It’s official: Britain is done with Europe. The Conversation

Prime Minister Theresa May has formally triggered the process for withdrawing from the European Union, ensuring that the United Kingdom, one of the largest and most prosperous countries in the EU, will soon leave the 28-member bloc.

While the process could drag on for two years or more, the Brexit decision serves as a historic and stinging rebuke to proponents of a unified Europe. Perhaps more importantly, it calls into question the very future of the EU.

Pro-Europe commentators, on both sides of the Atlantic, have argued that Brexit is a historical blip, a rash decision made by an uninformed electorate after a vicious and one-sided campaign. But to dismiss Britain’s decision as an anomaly is to ignore the facts. We may be witnessing the twilight of the multilateral era.

A not-so-perpetual peace

The history of civilization has been one of peoples coming together in larger and larger collectives — from villages to city-states, from city-states to nations and from nations to international organizations. Today, we live in an era typified by the proliferation of global bodies like the United Nations, the World Trade Organization and the European Union.

People have created these greater communities for a number of reasons, but the overriding one has always been the most basic: security. As German philosopher Immanuel Kant wrote in 1795 in his essay “Perpetual Peace,” the only means for nations to emerge from a state of constant war was to “give up their savage, lawless freedom… and, by accommodating themselves to the constraints of common law, establish a nation of peoples that (continually growing) will finally include all the people of the earth.”

The European Union is arguably the greatest example of this ideal. An organization forged from the desolation of two world wars, the EU brought the states of Europe together in a continent-wide commitment to cooperation and integration. Its ultimate aim was to draw nations together so closely that war would become unimaginable.

An impeccable aspiration, to be sure. But Britain’s vote last year to leave the EU illustrates the costs associated with that aspiration, and with multilateralism more generally. Governments have become increasingly detached from the people they govern. Local communities have surrendered control over an ever-growing array of matters to distant bureaucrats. And people increasingly perceive that their own groups and beliefs are under siege by outsiders.

This sentiment is not isolated to the United Kingdom. Disillusionment with multilateral agreements is widespread today. Just look at President Donald Trump.

During and after the presidential campaign, Trump has repeatedly denounced America’s international agreements. The targets of his ire have ranged from free trade deals (think NAFTA and the Trans-Pacific Partnership) to defense pacts (e.g., NATO) to environmental accords (see the Paris climate deal). In January, The New York Times even reported that the Trump administration was preparing an executive order entitled “Auditing and Reducing U.S. Funding of International Organizations.” This rhetoric has struck a chord with many Americans who fear that international agreements have destroyed American industry and cost Americans jobs.

But to say that we are disillusioned with multilateralism does not provide an answer to the more difficult question: If not multilateralism, then what?

Going it alone

The answer, it appears, is aggressive unilateralism. Instead of working through multilateral institutions to solve their problems, countries are increasingly going it alone.

The United States, for example, has responded to the failure of international negotiations on a range of topics by imposing its domestic laws abroad. The U.S. forces foreign banks to abide by its financial regulations, foreign businesses to comply with its corruption laws and foreign producers to adopt its climate change-related emissions standards. All of these laws were made and enforced without international agreement.

In many ways, the rise of unilateralism may be a great boon for societies. The outpouring of activism and political engagement in the U.K. both before and after the Brexit vote signals a certain optimism about the ability of Britons to govern themselves. With any luck, this optimism will lead to a rejuvenation of democracy in the country, a welcome contrast to the deep cynicism more typical of politics today. Similarly, U.S. action to regulate foreign companies may help provide solutions to problems that have been stubbornly resistant to global agreement and treaty-making.

But the disillusionment with multilateralism also comes with a dark side. It is one thing when countries like the U.S. and Britain decide to start taking action in the face of stalled negotiations over climate change and corruption. It is another when countries with very different concepts of the rule of law and democratic processes start imposing their own rules, unilaterally, on American companies.

Just look at Russia’s recent prosecution of Google for anti-trust violations or China’s injunction against the sale of iPhones as examples.

Multilateralism has been a great engine of peace over the course of human civilization, and we should tread carefully in rejecting it. As Kant warned, the alternative is for us to “find perpetual peace in the vast grave that swallows both atrocities and their perpetrators.”

William Magnuson, Associate Professor of Law, Texas A&M University