Comrades Converge on Chicago for Annual Socialism Conference

Socialism Conference Pic

CHICAGO- At least 2,000 activists converged at the Hyatt Regency McCormick Place in Chicago for the International Socialist Organization’s (ISO) annual Socialism Conference from July 6-9. The four-day conference consists of talks, debates, discussions, and entertainment for dedicated socialists, people interested in socialism or those just hoping to learn more about revolutionary theory.

This year’s conference featured talks ranging from “privilege” theory, the politics of food sovereignty, why we need a revolutionary left, the history of the Combahee River Collective, and the lessons from the Russian Revolution.

(The Russian Revolution featured prominently in this year’s conference, as 2017 marks the centennial anniversary of the 1917 workers’ uprising.)

Notable speakers included actor, John Cusack; comedian, Hari Kondabolu; actor/playwright, Wallace Shawn; and “Socialism” regular, Amy Goodman, host of Democracy Now! Additionally, Jacobin magazine sponsored a series of talks, including a debate on the efficacy of the left “using” the Democratic Party to get socialists elected to office.

“Socialism 2017” also boasted the largest attendance in the conference’s history. Attendees were no doubt motivated by Donald Trump’s nightmarish presidency as so many Americans have been since his election last fall.

Feminist activist, Angela Davis, perhaps best summed up the urgent need to resist Trump and the racist, sexist, capitalist system that spawned him at the history-making Women’s March on Washington, back in January.

“The next fourteen hundred and fifty-nine days of the Trump administration,” said Davis, “will be fourteen hundred and fifty-nine days of resistance. Resistance on the ground. Resistance in the classrooms. Resistance on the job. Resistance in our art and in our music. This is just the beginning.”

And, judging from the record turnout at this year’s Socialism Conference, Americans—particularly young ones—are heeding Davis’s words.

Indeed, a fierce atmosphere of urgency permeated the conference compared to last year’s. Last year at this time, speakers and attendees had more or less resigned themselves to four more years of neoliberal Clintonism. How wrong we all were…

Trump’s election has emboldened far-right white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and Islamophobes. Incidents of hate crimes against immigrants, Muslims, and people of color rose precipitously since 2016, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Much of this spike in violence occurred in the ten days following Trump’s election.

Thus, this year’s conference theme: “Fight the Right. Build the Left.”

This was my second year attending Socialism Conference. I joined 15 other comrades from the Portland, Maine branch of the ISO.

Author and Princeton University professor of African American Studies, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, gave the opening address—a speech the right prevented her from delivering earlier this year. Taylor was forced to cut short the book tour for her best-selling, From Black Lives Matter, to Black Liberation back in May, after a Fox News hit-piece inspired an onslaught of vicious, racist, and downright frightening death-threats from right-wing bigots.

“Hey nigger,” one such punctuation-less email opened, “keep talking down the President of the United States we will try you in federal court for hate crimes and have you lynched” [sic]. Another was more direct: “If Trump is what you say, you are a dirty ass coon dyke cunt. Just saying … Cunt.”

(Yet “liberal” media outlets, including the New York Times, insist it is the left in general–and Sen. Bernie Sanders, in particular–that is responsible for spreading the hateful, violent rhetoric that pervades contemporary political discourse. The Times flat out blamed Sanders for Republican Rep. Steve Scalise’s shooting, last month.)

Taylor’s talk drew on the inherent, though often overlooked, interrelation of racism and capitalism—how one form of oppression necessitates the other.

“Racism is the central divide between ordinary people in this country,” she said, “and without a struggle against it, it will be impossible to organize any coherent movement for anything.

… It is no mystery why socialism is no longer a dirty word in the United States. It is no mystery why thirteen million people voted for an open socialist—Bernie Sanders—in this country. Not only is this an indictment of capitalism’s failures, but it is also an expressed desire for a better way. We want real democracy, where the people who create the wealth in this society are entitled to have a say in how it is distributed. We want real freedom—freedom from racism, imprisonment, borders, detention, and second-class personhood.

Taylor later joined fellow ISO-er, Sharon Smith and Professor Barbara Ransby for a panel discussion with Barbara Smith and Demita Frazier—founding members of the Combahee River Collective. The panel reflected on the 40-year anniversary of the Collective’s founding, which presented a radical understanding of the intersectional relationship between the struggles against sexism, racism, and homophobia.

The Combahee River Collective’s 1977 statement reads:

We are actively committed to struggling against racial, sexual, heterosexual, and class oppression and see as our particular task the development of integrated analysis and practice based upon the fact that the major systems of oppression are interlocking. The synthesis of these oppressions creates the conditions of our lives.

The authors went on:

“As Black women, we see Black feminism as the logical political movement to combat the manifold and simultaneous oppressions that all women of color face.”

Other talks examined the best strategies for fighting the resurgent white-supremacist, “alt-right,” which has brazenly mounted marches and rallies in even in the “bluest” of states in recent weeks.

College campuses, likewise, have seen an influx of high-profile right-wing figures invited to speak since Trump’s election. College presidents and administrators bend over backwards to allow provocative right-wing celebrities like Ann Coulter and Milo Yiannopoulos to spew their hate-filled diatribes on campus because of “free speech” … or something… (But remember: Conservative college students are a persecuted minority at “liberal” universities, with no outlet whatsoever for their right-wing views.)

When confronted with protesting these campus speakers or right-wing rallies, those on the left are typically presented with two disparate options:

The liberal-left and Democratic Party’s position is to do nothing at all, claiming counter-protests only grant these conservative groups the attention they seek. They urge progressives, instead, to simply ignore the KKK marches in hopes, presumably, that they will just go away.

The approach of far-left groups like the anarchist, Black Bloc and “Antifa” (short for “Anti-fascist”) meanwhile, is the complete opposite. They seek to fight the right by literally beating the crap out of them in physical confrontations.

But both of these strategies have proven ineffective at counteracting the far-right.

Ignoring these groups does not cause them to go away. Quite the reverse, the lack of a visible opposition to their racist, xenophobic views tends to leave the right further emboldened, convincing them their views are more widely accepted than they actually are.

And, while I am all for punching fascists in the face, Captain America-style, this is often precisely what these right-wing demonstrators want. It inadvertently feeds into their public image as “persecuted” by the mean, free-speech-hating liberals. Additionally, these far-right groups traditionally have the backing–whether tacit, or explicit–of the police, the National Guard, and ex-military contractor thugs (like the kind deployed in Standing Rock, last winter).

In other words, these people–many of whom have recently returned from military deployment in Iraq or Afghanistan–are trained fighters. They can crush scrawny, unarmed leftists like you and me with little effort.

Thus, leftists need to devise an effective middle-ground strategy that peacefully (yet forcefully) confronts the far-right by drowning out their repugnant message with our own–one that is delivered in far greater numbers. Our goal should be to hold up socialism as a viable alternative for dispossessed workers who may find the right’s convenient immigrant and minority scapegoating an attractive narrative for why their own living standards have gone down.

“The left must seek … to educate a new generation about the need to challenge the far right through mass mobilization,” writes Socialist Worker‘s Eric Ruder. “This has to include education about struggles of the past, such as fighting fascism in Germany, as well as debates and discussions about strategy and tactics in the here and now.”

“And of course,” Ruder adds, “it means attempting to mobilize the largest possible response anywhere and everywhere” the right rears its ugly head.

Our branch members left conference feeling rejuvenated after a particularly difficult six months. We returned to Maine recommitted to the fight for building a broad, all-inclusive working-class left to overthrow capitalism and build a more just, egalitarian, and sustainable society.

As Karl Marx famously wrote:

“The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways; the point is to change it.”

Editor’s note: Red Flag does not support or endorse any WordPress-sponsored advertisements that may appear on readers’ screens. This is another reason why workers, including writers, need to own the means of production–or in this case, the Internet.

If you like this essay feel free to share it widely (Facebook, Twitter, all that stuff…). Adam Marletta can be reached at adamd.marletta@gmail.com.

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The Greatest Obstacle to Single-Payer Health Care: The Democratic Party

California Single Payer Activists
Single-payer advocates march in downtown Los Angeles, March 26, 2017, in support of a bill that would create a national health care system in the state of California.

Regardless of the fate of the Senate’s barbaric health care bill — which, according to the Congressional Budget Office would throw 22 million Americans off of their insurance —the left should seize on the renewed health care debate to push for a universal, single-payer program.

The United States stands alone among wealthy democracies in not treating health care as a basic human right, guaranteed to all citizens. Instead, we have a for-profit, pay-or-die system.

Can’t afford health insurance…? Well, as Democratic Rep. Alan Grayson sardonically put it: “Die quickly.”

But, then, that is capitalism for you. It is a perverse economic system that treats everything — including human lives and the ecosystem that supports all life on the planet — as a commodity.

As famed consumer-advocate and three-time independent presidential candidate, Ralph Nader wrote in an open letter to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, earlier this year:

“Obamacare, without a public option, has been a complex patchwork in so many ways —including forcing individuals to purchase inadequate insurance from private insurance companies — insurance that carries with it high premiums, deductibles, co-pays and forces narrow networks.”

“For many,” Nader adds, “Obamacare is quasi-catastrophic insurance with limited choice of doctor and hospital.”

Nader goes on to urge Pelosi and the Democrats to push for “single payer Medicare for All — everyone in, nobody out, free choice of doctor and hospital, no medical bankruptcies, no coercive co-pays or deductibles … and no more deaths due to lack of health insurance.”

Sadly, I fear Nader’s exhortation will fall on deaf ears — assuming, that is, Pelosi even reads his letter in the first place.

For one thing, the Democratic Party has regarded Nader as a pariah ever since he “spoiled” the 2000 presidential election for Al Gore — a baseless accusation completely undermined by the fact that Gore won the popular vote and would have won the Electoral College if the Florida re-count had been allowed to take place. It was the right-wing Supreme Court that stole the election from Gore — not Nader.

But, beyond the Democrats’ abject hatred for Nader (as well as more recent Green Party standard-bearer, Jill Stein), the biggest reason the Democrats are unlikely to push for a single-payer bill, now or anytime in the near future, is because they are adamantly opposed to it.

Sure, the prospect of a universal health care program has long been a staple of the Democrats’ campaign rhetoric dating back to President Johnson’s administration. But when push comes to shove, and the Dems are actually in a position to implement single-payer, party leaders suddenly come up with all sorts of excuses why such a national health care program could “never work” here in America, or is “politically impossible” because they simply “don’t have the votes.”

During the Democratic Congress’s crafting of the Affordable Care Act, single-payer was “off the table” from the get-go. In fact, when single-payer activists peacefully interrupted an early White House public hearing on health care, Democratic Sen. Max Baucus (MT) promptly called security and had them arrested. Baucus and his colleagues glibly laughed as the protesters were, one by one, removed from the room.

And the Democrats have only become more forthright in their opposition to single-payer in recent years.

Last year, Pelosi publicly rebuked Sen. Bernie Sanders’ single-payer campaign platform — specifically, his intent to raise taxes on the wealthy in order to fund the program. “We’re not running on any platform of raising taxes,” Pelosi said during a Jan 27, 2016 press conference.

Regarding single-payer, Pelosi added, “It’s no use having a conversation about something that is not going to happen.”

Speaking of Sanders, now would be a prime moment for him to submit his long-promised Medicare-for-all bill in the U.S. Senate. Yet, according to an article by single-payer activist, Dr. Margaret Flowers, Sanders has instead opted to join his Democratic colleagues in fighting to save — and later improve upon — the ACA. Flowers criticizes Sanders for having his “priorities backwards,” accusing him of having “greater allegiance to the Democratic Party than he has to the supporters of Medicare for All, his base.”

But then, the nominally “independent” Vermont senator has always been a de facto member of the Democratic Party, as evidenced by his role as “sheepdog” for Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential campaign.

And Democratic legislators in California recently killed a bill that would have implemented a single-payer system in the state. California Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon announced June 23 he was putting the bill, SB 562, on “hold,” effectively leaving it stranded in legislative limbo. The bill passed the State Senate, 23-14, earlier this month.

All of this is further evidence that the Democratic Party is perhaps the greatest obstacle to achieving universal health care, nationally or even at the state level. As the Bay Area chapter of Socialist Alternative writes of the Dems’ betrayal on SB 562, on their website:

California Senator Diane Feinstein, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Governor Jerry Brown are united. They want to kill off the whole idea of single-payer. … Once again they [the Democrats] aim for a corporate-friendly “centrist” policy when the left is the popular place to be. Despite the progress that Obamacare represents, it and Trumpcare are both market-based plans that do not challenge the big health insurance companies’ parasitic role in health care.

Little wonder then, that Kevin Phillips, a former strategist for Richard Nixon, once referred to the Democrats as “history’s second most enthusiastic capitalist party.”

Pelosi seemed to concede as much during a CNN town hall-style debate, earlier this year. When a young man in the audience asked Pelosi about the Democrats’ failure to move further to the left on economic issues in accordance with a growing majority of young people, Pelosi responded, “Well, I thank you for your question. But I have to say, we’re capitalist and that’s just the way it is.”

Well, there you have it. Straight from the donkey’s mouth.

But despite the Democrats’ professed anxieties about the “difficulty” of funding a single-payer system (*cough* Tax the rich! *cough*), it is really not complicated at all. Currently, our pay-or-die health care system wastes $375 billion a year on health insurance paperwork alone — most of which is billing-related. This accounts for roughly 15 percent of overall national health care spending.

And while single-payer has always had broad popular support among Americans, that support is currently at its highest level in decades. A recent Pew Research Center survey finds 60 percent of Americans support “a single-payer approach to health insurance.” Likewise, a majority of respondents believe it is the “federal government’s responsibility to make sure all Americans have health care coverage.”

The Republicans’ stalled efforts to “repeal and replace” Obamacare have, understandably, put leftists in a difficult position. They are scrambling to defend a health care reform that, while certainly better than any barbaric, “free-market” alternative the GOP has in mind, is still significantly flawed.

Thus, there has never been a better time to push for single-payer. The left’s job should not be to defend the “lesser evil” of an untenable status quo. Rather, we should be unafraid to offer bold, radical alternatives to our racist, sexist, xenophobic capitalist society. This includes an unapologetic recognition that abortion is a form of health care which all women should have free and unhindered access to without shame or stigma.

Sadly, Planned Parenthood and the Democratic Party will not make these demands for us. Only the working class can bring about its own emancipation. This is yet another reason why the working class needs its own revolutionary political party.

As Democracy Now! host, Amy Goodman, and Dennis Moynihan observe in a recent column titled, “Medicare for All: A Prescription for What Ails Us”:

“Single-payer is already in practice in the U.S. and is immensely popular. It’s called Medicare, the tax-payer funded program that guarantees health care for seniors and people with permanent disabilities.”

They continue:

… Currently, 57 million seniors and people with disabilities are on Medicare, out of a U.S. population of 320 million. There is no rational reason why Medicare couldn’t be expanded to cover all Americans, regardless of age, from birth to death. … The savings [from a Medicare for All system] would be extraordinary, and the system would most likely be as popular as Medicare is today.

Editor’s note: Red Flag does not support or endorse any WordPress-sponsored advertisements that may appear on readers’ screens. This is another reason why workers, including writers, need to own the means of production–or in this case, the Internet.

If you like this essay feel free to share it widely (Facebook, Twitter, all that stuff…). Adam Marletta can be reached at adamd.marletta@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading!

Trump to Planet Earth: Drop Dead

Smokestacks

In a recent conversation with Democracy Now!’s Amy Goodman, Professor Noam Chomsky outlined the two gravest threats to the survival of the human species: Nuclear war and climate change.

“Has there ever been an organization in human history that is dedicated, with such commitment, to the destruction of organized human life on Earth?” Chomsky asked of the Republican Party, which he called the most “dangerous organization in world history.”

“Not that I’m aware of. Is the Republican organization—I hesitate to call it a party—committed to that? Overwhelmingly. There isn’t even any question about it.”

Case in point, President Donald Trump has followed through on his campaign promise to pull the United States out of the 2015 Paris climate change treaty. The unilateral decision, which Trump announced on June 1, was met with strong condemnation from world leaders, and 400 protesters marching in New York City.

The Paris accord is, admittedly, far from perfect. The emissions reductions nations committed to are mostly voluntary. Still, the deal was the best one to come out of the annual, largely fruitless, climate change conferences, since the Kyoto Protocol in 1997. And Trump’s decision to withdraw from the deal makes the U.S., in the words of the Bangor Daily News editorial board, “a climate change pariah.”

The U.S. is the world’s leading contributor of CO2 emissions.

In his speech announcing America’s departure from the Paris agreement, Trump rehashed the standard conservative argument that protecting the environment is at odds with accelerating economic growth, “creating jobs,” and maintaining a strong economy.

Trump—an ignoramus who, by his own admission, does not read books, newspapers, scientific reports or his own White House intelligence briefings—joins most of his peers in the Republican organization in blatantly denying the science of anthropogenic, or human-induced, climate change, in the first place. While the GOP has long harbored sentiments of anti-intellectualism, its wholehearted embrace of the trend in recent years is perhaps its most disturbing quality.

Yet, there is a sort of perverse logic to the right’s insistence that we can either have a clean, healthy environment and a habitable planet, or a “robust” economy, but we cannot have both. It is the logic of capitalism.

The bourgeois capitalists—particularly those in the oil and gas industry—understand that any environmental regulations or mandated emissions reductions will hurt their bottom line. And they simply cannot allow that to happen. The logic of capitalism demands capitalists maximize short-term profits above all else—regardless of any unfortunate consequences or catastrophes that may occur down the road as a result.

As author, Paul D’Amato explains in his socialism-primer, The Meaning of Marxism, trying to get corporations—or their state-appendages in the government and the military—to “act as stewards of our environment,” is like “trying to get wolves not to hunt.”

Thus, where scientists and environmentalists view the rapidly melting Arctic as an ominous sign of a planet literally in its death throes, the corporate elite see another business opportunity. Indeed, the system of capitalism, and its tendency to turn everything, including the very ecosystem that supports life on the planet, into a commodity may well be the living manifestation of Freud’s theory of man’s subconscious “death drive.”

And despite whatever emerging markets there may be for solar, wind, and tidal power and other forms of renewable energy resources, capital’s reliance on cheap, dirty fossil fuels is unlikely to be abated any time soon–at least, not soon enough to save the planet. ExxonMobil, BP, and Royal Dutch Shell intend to forcefully extract every last drop of oil from the planet before their CEOs ever begin to consider a new business model.

As Alyssa Battistoni writes in a Dec. 11, 2015 piece for Jacobin:

Capital came into the world dripping from every pore not only with dirt and blood but also coal dust and oil; it very well may be inextricably bound to fossil fuels to power the contemporary pace and scale of global production. It’s certainly never existed without them.

In other words, we cannot sit back and wait for the innovations of The Market to intervene and save us.

Nor, can we place our faith in individual consumer habits or lifestyle choices to make a significant difference in reducing carbon emissions. For decades liberals and environmental groups have advocated we drive less, bike or walk more, become vegetarians or vegans, and shop exclusively at local businesses.

These are all noble endeavors, no doubt, which nobody should be discouraged from undertaking. But climate change is a global problem of such vast proportions individual lifestyle changes alone will, sadly, prove insufficient in remedying it.

Furthermore, the individualist solutions so long proffered by the “Big Green” groups like the Sierra Club or the Natural Resources Defense Council incorrectly place the blame for climate change on the entire populations of industrialized nations—not taking into account the vast disparity in class within those countries.

For instance, a working-class person who owns one car and rents a home has a considerably smaller “carbon footprint” compared to a wealthy investment banker who owns multiple vehicles, two “McMansion”-sized homes, a boat, a plane, and spends his time crisscrossing the globe. In fact, just 90 corporations are responsible for generating two-thirds of greenhouse gas emissions since the Industrial Revolution, according to a Nov. 20, 2013 story in The Guardian.

Thus, climate change really is a crisis created by the bourgeoisie and dumped, like so much garbage, onto the doorsteps of the working class.

Fortunately, many of the “Big Green” groups have slowly moved away from individualist solutions in recent years as the environmental movement has become more radicalized. Groups like 350.org and Greenpeace have adopted more activist-oriented campaigns aimed squarely at ExxonMobil or the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines.

The sub-title of Naomi Klein’s landmark 2014 book, This Changes Everything, speaks to this emerging radicalization in the environmental movement: Capitalism vs. The Climate.

It is clear by now that we cannot rely on presidents, Congress or market-driven solutions to halt the worst impacts of climate change. Only the working class, by seizing the means of production and developing a rationally-planned, sustainable society based not on profit but on human need, can hope to avert climate catastrophe.

“[O]ur economic system and our planetary system are now at war,” Klein writes. “Or, more accurately, our economy is at war with many forms of life on earth, including human life. What the climate needs to avoid collapse is a contraction in humanity’s use of resources; what our economic model demands to avoid collapse is unfettered expansion. Only one of these sets of rules can be changed, and it’s not the laws of nature.”

Editor’s note: Red Flag does not support or endorse any WordPress-sponsored advertisements that may appear on readers’ screens. This is another reason why workers, including writers, need to own the means of production–or in this case, the Internet.

If you like this essay feel free to share it widely (Facebook, Twitter, all that stuff…). Adam Marletta can be reached at adamd.marletta@gmail.com.

Thanks for reading!

 

 

Manufacturing Consent

propaganda

The Trump White House ratcheted up its escalating war on journalists on Wednesday, when the president’s chief strategist, Stephen Bannon, in a rare moment of actually speaking to the press, repeatedly called the news media the “opposition party.”

“The media should be embarrassed and humiliated and keep its mouth shut and just listen for a while,” Bannon, the former owner of the white supremacist trash news-site, Breitbart News, told the New York Times.

Bannon added,

“I want you to quote this: The media here is the opposition party. They don’t understand this country. They still do not understand why Donald Trump is the president of the United States.”

“You’re the opposition party,” Bannon repeated to the Times’ reporter. “Not the Democratic Party. You’re the opposition party. The media’s the opposition party.”

Well, he is correct on one count, at least: The Democratic Party is not the opposition party. Not at all.

Trump’s self-declared “running war” with the U.S. news media was a hallmark of his presidential campaign. In the recent squabble over the size of his pitifully under-attended inauguration ceremony, Trump called journalists, “among the most dishonest human beings on earth.”

During a Jan. 11 press conference at Trump Tower in New York, Trump refused to take a question from CNN’s senior White House correspondent, Jim Acosta, flippantly telling him, “Not you. Your organization is terrible.”

The then-president-elect proceeded to blast CNN as “fake news,” and called BuzzFeed a “failing pile of garbage.”

Now, as president, Trump and his administration are continuing to push an authoritarian, anti-fact agenda by not only remaining openly hostile toward the media and reporters, but by constantly insisting the news they disseminate is not factual, but is rather, “fake news.”

The irony of a millionaire celebrity like Trump (who received hundreds of hours of free media coverage on the campaign trail, which arguably contributed to his winning the election) biting the veritable hand that feeds him aside, distrust of the “elite” news media is a major common trait among Trump’s supporters.

And, frankly, I can’t say that I blame them for distrusting the media.

While the notion that the corporate media maintain an overwhelmingly “liberal” bias is patently absurd (and has been widely debunked by numerous analyses), there is, nonetheless, good reason to be skeptical of the major media outlets, including the New York Times, the Washington Post, and the Wall Street Journal.

These are the same institutions that uncritically accepted the Bush administration’s lies justifying the Iraq war. They failed to foresee the 2008 housing crisis and the subsequent Great Recession, despite warnings from prominent economists. They unanimously championed the $700 billion taxpayer bailout of the “too big to fail” Wall Street banks that gambled with customers’ money and sent the global economy into a tailspin.

And now they are passively echoing the CIA’s completely unverified claims that Russia covertly influenced the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, thus raising the specter of a new Cold War between the world’s two largest nuclear powers.

With a track record like this, who wouldn’t distrust the media?

“What is typically presented as news analysis,” Amy Goodman writes in the introduction to her 2009 essay compilation, Breaking the Sound Barrier, “is, for the most part, a small circle of pundits who know so little about so much, explaining the world to us and getting it so wrong. While they may appear to differ, they are quibbling over how quickly the bombs should be dropped, not asking whether they should be dropped at all.”

And the problem is not limited to Fox News —though they are a big part of it. “Liberal” outlets like MSNBC, the New York Times, and NPR do just as much lying, spinning, and obfuscating as the unapologetically corporate networks. (Right-wing billionaire, David Koch, even sits on the board of NPR.)

In an actual democracy, the media act as a vital check on corporate and governmental abuses of power. The press serves as a vigilant “watchdog,” entrusted to alert readers to government malfeasance, and to speak truth to power. The role of the press, in the words of Edward R. Murrow, is to “comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”

But we do not live in a true democracy. We live under capitalism. Though widely viewed as synonymous, the two systems are, in fact, highly incompatible.

News under capitalism is little more than a commodity. Nike sells sneakers. Starbucks sells coffee. The Wall Street Journal sells “news.”

Six corporations own and control 90 percent of the print and television media Americans get their news from. As such, the major media outlets do more to obsequiously kowtow to the ruling power elites and parrot their lies, than to challenge them. They are more lap-dogs than watchdogs.

(Still think the media are “liberal”? Try comparing the size of the “Business” section in your local daily newspaper, to the size of the “Labor” section. Oh wait … There is no “Labor” section!)

And the rise of celebrity journalists like Anderson Cooper (average earnings: $11 million), Rachel Maddow ($7 million), Bill O’ Reilly ($17 million), Megyn Kelly ($6 million), and Katie Couric ($10 million) has only further removed the news-reporting profession from the concerns of working class people.

These pseudo-journalists place a premium on maintaining their access to officials in power. But that access only comes to reporters who are obedient, non-confrontational, and generally tow the corporate-party line.

“US establishment journalism is anything but an outsider force,” writes Glenn Greenwald in his book, No Place to Hide: Edward Snowden, the NSA, and the U.S. Surveillance State.

It is wholly integrated into the nation’s dominant political power. Culturally, emotionally, and socioeconomically, they are one and the same. Rich, famous, insider journalists do not want to subvert the status quo that so lavishly rewards them. Like all courtiers, they are eager to defend the system that vests them with their privileges and contemptuous of anyone who challenges that system.

This cozy relationship between the press and the state was perfectly encapsulated during the 2007 Radio-Television Correspondents’ Association Dinner, when then-White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove launched into a seemingly impromptu rap (dubbing himself, “MC Rove”), while Meet the Press host, David Gregory, danced awkwardly behind him.

It is a painful, eye-rolling sight, to be certain. But it is one that proves it is not merely Hollywood–the right’s second-favorite political punching-bag–that is “out of touch” with working class Americans.

Indeed, it is for good reason that investigative reporters like Goodman and Seymour Hersh are not invited to the annual White House Correspondents’ Dinner. True journalists are hated and despised by the bourgeois power elite.

While Bannon likely intended his “opposition party” label as an insult, it is actually an accurate description of what, ideally, journalism should be.

All of this is to acknowledge that just as the working class in this country has no real political party, it also has no media that accurately speaks to working people’s daily lived experience. The corporate owned and controlled media serve to reinforce society’s ruling ideas–which, as Marx and Engels understood, are the “ideas of the ruling class.”

For this reason, socialists have a long tradition of writing, printing, and circulating their own newspapers, produced by and for the working class. These papers–like the International Socialist Organization’s monthly publication, Socialist Worker–aim to both spread socialist ideas, and empower readers with local and national news of the latest strikes, protests, walk-outs, and anti-war rallies.

These explicitly left-wing newspapers are in keeping with Jello Biafra’s mantra, “Don’t hate the media. Become the media.”

Finally, it is important to note that Trump’s “running war” with the media is, in fact, nothing new. It started under Barack Obama.

While Obama never explicitly targeted the entire media industry as Trump has, he did wage a vicious war on investigative journalists and whistleblowers. Obama prosecuted more whistleblowers under the Espionage Act (the same law socialist leader, Eugene Debs, was imprisoned under, in 1918) than all previous administrations combined.

I realize liberals do not like to hear these inconvenient truths about their Nobel Peace Prize-winning president’s legacy. But it is crucial we understand that the policies Trump is already pursuing have not materialized in a vacuum. The neoliberal policies presented by the “lesser evil” Democrats inevitably pave the way for the “greater evil” of President Trump and the radical right.

“Journalism is printing what someone else does not want printed,” George Orwell wrote. “Everything else is public relations.”

 

Editor’s note: Red Flag does not support or endorse any WordPress-sponsored advertisements that may appear on readers’ screens. This is another reason why workers, including writers, need to own the means of production–or in this case, the Internet.