A Win for Labor in “Trump Country”

WV Victory

The successful teachers strike in West Virginia that resulted in a five percent pay increase for all of the state’s public workers is a major victory for the labor movement — the first such victory in a long time. Strikes like this one can give confidence to workers in other states and in other industries.

After years of inactivity and workers feeling demoralized, could we be witnessing the rebirth of the U.S. labor movement?

The strike was a decade in the making. For years teachers in West Virginia public schools have been grappling with overcrowded classrooms and underfunded budgets — largely the result of then-Gov. Joe Manchin’s 2008 corporate tax giveaways, which left little money for education.

The nine-day wildcat strike was the longest strike in West Virginia history. (A “wildcat” strike is one undertaken without the official support or approval of the union leadership. West Virginia is one of 28 “right-to-work” states throughout the country.)

Teachers in West Virginia are among the lowest paid in the country.

One of the most notable aspects of the strike is the teachers’ ironclad discipline. Numerous times throughout the strike, Republican-turned-Democrat-turned-back-to-Republican Gov. Jim Justice offered the teachers minor concessions or halfhearted promises. Yet each time the teachers rejected nothing less than their initial demand of a five percent raise — which benefits all state workers.

“We were not ready to return to the classroom just on a promise,” said Katie Endicott, a high school English teacher in Central Mingo High School, during a recent interview on Democracy Now!

Endicott spoke about the importance of the strike:

We saw democracy in action. We saw the power of unity. People from all across the state were coming together, unified with one goal, with one mindset. And we achieved it against all odds. There were so many people who said that we would never get what we wanted. There were so many people who said they would laugh us out of the Capitol. They did not laugh us out of the Capitol, because we did not leave the Capitol.

The significance of the teacher strike cannot be underestimated. Though West Virginia has long been the site of major labor struggles, as Eric Blanc writes in a story published in both Socialist Worker and Jacobin magazine, there is something different about this most recent strike.

“This strike was statewide, it was illegal, it went wildcat, and it seems to be spreading,” Blanc writes.

West Virginia’s upsurge shares many similarities with the rank-and-file militancy of the late 1960s and early 1970s. But there are some critical differences. Whereas labor struggles four decades ago came in the wake of a postwar economic boom and the inspiring successes of the civil rights movement, this labor upheaval erupted in a period of virtually uninterrupted working-class defeats and economic austerity.

Readers would be excused for knowing little about the strike. The corporate media — including “liberal” outlets like the New York Times, NPR, and MSNBC — all but ignored the massive strike. This is, perhaps, further proof that it is not the media’s lies of commission (or “fake news”) that has left working-class citizens ignorant and disempowered. Rather, it is their lies of omission.

Indeed, the victorious teachers strike and the strict discipline with which it was carried out seem quite at odds with the picture the capitalist media frequently paints of “red state” West Virginia. During the 2016 presidential campaign reporters seemed to hold up West Virginia as the poster child for the so-called “white working class”: Ignorant, reactionary, racist, and full of rage at Washington elites like Hillary Clinton that had thrown them under the bus. Donald Trump received more support from West Virginia voters than from any other state.

While that working-class rage is certainly real (and, I would argue, justified), striking teachers like Endicott are about as far from your average Trump supporter as you can get.

Furthermore, the media’s one-sided portrayal of West Virginia (“Coal Country”) as the heart of backward, white working class despair ignores the state’s volatile history as the focal point of decisive — and often violent — labor clashes. Those clashes include the Battle of Blair Mountain in Logan County, in 1921, which was the largest, most violent labor uprising in United States history.

The Battle of Blair Mountain was the culmination of a years-long struggle between the coal companies and miners — most of whom lived in company towns and were paid in company scrip rather than actual U.S. currency. The coal companies had carried out a series of assassinations of union activists, hiring the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency and other citizen-led militias to do their dirty work. When 13,000 armed miners seized Blair Mountain, the coal company called in the National Guard to crush the uprising. Over 100 miners were killed, while nearly 1,000 were later indicted for murder and treason.

Like so much of this country’s bloody labor history — easily the most violent in the industrial world — the Battle of Blair Mountain has been conveniently scrubbed from high school history textbooks and popular culture.

Could the teachers’ strike be the beginning of a return to West Virginia’s radical labor roots? Already, teachers are poised to go on strike in Oklahoma, Arizona, and New Jersey. And they are no doubt taking cues and gaining confidence from West Virginia.

Yet, just as labor seems on the verge of a long overdue comeback, the state is prepared to deliver what could be the final blow to union organizing. The right-wing Supreme Court is currently debating the constitutionality of mandatory union dues in the case, Janus v. AFSCME Council 13. Should the court declare such dues unconstitutional, unions will be virtually destroyed. The entire United States would effectively become a “right-to-work” country. Such a ruling would constitute the culmination of the capitalist state’s decades-long assault on labor and the working class.

So what lessons can the left draw from West Virginia’s victory? Blanc outlines a few in his article. Chief among them is that “class struggle gets the goods.”

In stark contrast to labor management’s decades of cooperation with employers, which has only led to concession after concession for workers, Blanc writes, “… the bottom-up militancy and strike action of West Virginia’s teachers and school employees has reinvigorated working-class organization…”

From day one, the active participation of rank-and-filers — and their remarkable ability at critical junctures to overcome the inertia or compromises of the top union leadership — has been the central motor driving West Virginia’s strike forward. Through the empowering dynamics of mass struggle, many individuals who only two weeks ago were politically inexperienced and unorganized have become respected leaders among their co-workers.

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!

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Should the Left Care About “Russiagate”?

Trump-Russia-Cast-Characters

If the left is serious about resisting not just Donald Trump, but the entire racist, misogynist, nativist, capitalist system that spawned him in the first place, then we must move beyond the narrow, unsubstantiated, and increasingly hysterical confines of “Russiagate.”

I am referring here, of course, to the corporate media’s ceaseless (and highly dubious) allegations that the Russian government covertly meddled in the 2016 presidential election in a coordinated effort to sway the election to Trump.

The “Russiagate” drama continued to unfold over the weekend, when special prosecutor and former FBI director, Robert Mueller indicted 13 Russian officials on charges of “interfering” with the presidential election — with, like, Facebook ads, or something …

Meanwhile, the U.S. intelligence agencies primarily responsible for perpetuating the “Russiagate” claims — the CIA, FBI, and NSA — are warning that Russia is already targeting state races in November’s midterm elections.

What should socialists make of “Russiagate”? Could the scandal be the key to removing Trump from office? Or is it merely the left’s version of “Benghazi”?

For the record, there is still no substantive, compelling evidence that Russia “stole” the election for Trump. Nor, for that matter, has it been determined that the Russian government or an agent acting within Russia is responsible for hacking the Democratic National Committee’s (DNC) private email account (the so-called “Podesta emails”), and passing the contents on to WikiLeaks, which made the emails public.

Those emails contained incriminating accounts of the behind-the-scenes dealings between the DNC and Hillary Clinton’s campaign. They outlined plans to undermine Clinton’s primary opponent, Sen. Bernie Sanders, by painting him as sexist (“Bernie Bros”), unrealistic, and even proposed using anti-Semitic attacks against him. The DNC emails provide further evidence that the Democratic primary campaign was rigged against Sanders.

The U.S. intelligence community’s Russia allegations consist entirely of speculation, suspicion, and classified information from anonymous sources — a practice journalist, Glenn Greenwald, considers “shoddy” and “unreliable.”

It is worth taking a closer look at the “deep state” sources behind these accusations.

The CIA, in particular, is the same institution that used lies and fabricated intelligence about Saddam Hussein’s non-existent stockpile of “weapons of mass destruction” to sell us the Iraq war, in 2003. The National Security Agency (NSA), likewise, continues its widespread, “Big Brother”-style surveillance of American citizens. Readers may recall then-NSA director, James Clapper, blatantly lied to a Senate intelligence committee about the program’s existence, shortly after Edward Snowden exposed the warrantless surveillance program, in 2013.

And the FBI has a long, sordid history of spying on, infiltrating, harassing, beating, and blackmailing anti-war protesters, socialists, anti-racists, and other left-wing activists. The organization kept extensive files on leaders of the Black Panther Party, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Malcolm X, and Howard Zinn. The FBI even went so far as to attempt to blackmail King into committing suicide.

Indeed, given the FBI’s history of antagonism toward the left, liberals’ newfound support for the organization according to recent polls, is not only bizarre, but unnerving. Liberals and conservatives have basically swapped places in their views on the FBI, CIA, and other intelligence agencies, with a majority of liberals, for the first time in decades, viewing them more favorably than conservatives.

These state institutions are comprised of “professional, systematic liars,” as Greenwald wrote in The Intercept, shortly after the CIA released its initial claims of Russian hacking. “[T]hey lie constantly, by design, and with great skill, and have for many decades …”

But the lack of evidence aside, the CIA’s claims of Russian hacking are also deeply hypocritical. The United States, which has done more to undermine, subvert, sabotage, ignore or violently overturn the election results of democratic nations throughout the world when their citizens voted the “wrong way,” is shocked — shocked! — at the remote possibility that another country may have undermined the “sanctity” of our own vaunted “democracy.”

Noam Chomsky calls this double-standard approach to international law the reigning “single standard,” which views international law and treatises as “private contractual rules,” which the U.S. is “free to apply or disregard as it sees fit.”

Karma, as my brother likes to say, is a bitch.

Perhaps most importantly, “Russiagate” obscures the fact that the presidential election was stolen — not by the Russians, but by the slave-owning Founding Fathers’ archaic Electoral College.

Hillary Clinton received three million more votes than Trump. Yet, for the second time in the last 16 years, the democracy-blunting Electoral College allowed the loser to serve as president. This tangible, objective fact of Trump’s illegitimacy — not some farfetched notion of Trump as a real-life “Manchurian Candidate” — should be our starting point when debating with leftists who fully buy into the Russia narrative.

In the absence of convincing evidence, “Russiagate” comes off as yet another desperate, pathetic attempt by the Democratic Party to blame anyone and everyone for its electoral loss. Anyone that is except for, you know … themselves.

To wit, the Democrats’ rogue’s gallery of “People Responsible for Hillary Clinton’s Loss” includes Jill Stein, James Comey, Susan Sarandon, Facebook, WikiLeaks, “fake news,” Bernie Sanders, “Bernie Bros,” Julian Assange, sexism, the media, and the racist, ignorant, “deplorable” voters themselves. Now we can add Russian hackers to the list.

The truth is the Democratic Party will never be a vehicle for working-class struggle. Leftists’ attempts to “take over” or “take back” the Democratic Party are, as history has demonstrated time and again, a doomed endeavor. Workers need their own party independent of the Wall Street-captured Democrats.

Don’t get me wrong: I want to see the Cheetos-skinned, Tweeter-in-Chief defenestrated from office just as much as anyone. (Though I am frankly unsure how the appointment of Mike Pence to the presidency would necessarily constitute an improvement…)

It is quite likely Trump and his son-in-law, Jared Kushner, have shady business deals with the Russians which they simply do not want to come to light. And it is clear Trump’s sons attempted to meet with Russian officials during the campaign in an effort to dig up dirt on Clinton.

But it seems unlikely the “scandal” extends much beyond that. Even Fire and Fury author, Michael Wolff, calls the notion of the tragically inept Trump campaign colluding with Russia (or really, anybody, for that matter) “implausible if not farcical.”

In sum, “Russiagate” is not a viable path to defeating both Trump and Trumpism. Indeed, the longer the left remains myopically mired in this 21st century Red Scare, the greater the danger that it further emboldens Trump’s elite minority of supporters, thus ensuring he is re-elected in 2020.

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!

 

The Perils of Ultra-Leftism

Women's March 2018

Last weekend’s Women’s Marches, while nowhere near the size and magnitude of last year’s historic Women’s March on Washington which drew four million people, were nonetheless inspirational.

Indeed, the various women-themed marches that took place Jan. 20 throughout the country were far larger than many anticipated. To be honest, I expected the one-year anniversary of the Women’s March — the single largest day of protest in U.S. history — to pass mostly without incident given the general fatigue and demoralization among the left after a year of Donald Trump’s train wreck of a presidency.

Fortunately, I was wrong.

The latest women’s marches brought out over 120,000 protesters in New York City. Over 300,000 people demonstrated in Chicago and Los Angeles, according to official accounts. (And LA Mayor Eric Garcetti estimates double that number.) The number of protesters in Washington, D.C., “swelled to the thousands,” according to the New York Times.

And, here in Maine, a rally in Augusta drew about 2,500 people.

Much of this momentum and renewed commitment to feminism is, no doubt, due to the #MeToo movement, which has brought down powerful and seemingly unassailable sexual predators in Hollywood, Congress, and corporate newsrooms. (However, one particularly vile serial sexual abuser continues to occupy the halls of government…)

All of these displays of resistance are extremely encouraging as we head into “Year 2” of the Trump presidency.

Yet there remain many on the left who do not seem to share my enthusiasm for the women’s protests. Quite the reverse in fact, these dismissive “ultra-leftists” would much rather ridicule, disparage, and denounce the Women’s Marches from afar, than participate in them.

The women’s marches, these detractors claim, are “too white,” “too middle-class,” “too liberal,” and “too ‘cisgender,’” a word nobody outside of academia or activist circles actually uses in everyday conversation.

Members of the left made these same criticisms of the original Women’s March a year ago. Some of them, like Black Girl in Maine blogger, Shay Stewart-Bouley, made them without even attending the march. Her entire assessment of the Women’s March (“too white”) is based on a handful of online videos she watched from the comfort of her home.

These holier-than-thou dismissals are just as juvenile today as they were then. Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor called such ultra-leftism of the original Women’s March, “a sign of political immaturity that continues to stunt the growth of the American left.”

“This isn’t leadership, it’s infantile,” Taylor wrote in a Jan. 24, 2017 article for The Guardian. “It’s also a recipe for how to keep a movement tiny and irrelevant. If you want a movement of the politically pure and already committed, then you and your select friends should go right ahead and be the resistance to Trump.”

The fact is most activists start out as liberals. (I know I did.) It is only through class struggle and constant debate that liberal-leaning activists begin to become more radical. Our job as socialists is to show up to these protests (regardless of how politically tepid or even confused they may be) with our own signs, banners, and messages, and engage with others there. We must try to meet liberal activists where they are at, while still patiently and confidently arguing our own politics. And we must do this with the clear understanding that we will not win over everyone at once — or at all.

This is, no doubt, often slow and frustrating work. But sitting on the sidelines and arrogantly condemning protesters for not being as “woke” as you are does absolutely nothing to build a movement.

“Ultra-leftism,” a term coined by Vladimir Lenin in his classic Marxist essay, “Left-Wing” Communism, an Infantile Disorder published in 1920, refers to an elite tendency among certain hardened sections of the left to reject strategies aimed at involving the largest, broadest number of the working class.

Lenin, for instance, criticizes the Communist Workers’ Party of Germany (KAPD) for its staunch refusal to work with trade unions or run candidates for Parliament, believing those institutions to be insufficiently radical. While Lenin agreed that the rank and file in the German trade unions were mostly liberal-leaning, he argued the way to change that was to work with the unions and run openly communist candidates for Parliament. Only by engaging with these admittedly weak political organs, Lenin argued, could the left spread its politics to a broader mass of the working class.

“It is far more difficult — and far more useful — to be a revolutionary,” Lenin writes, “when the conditions for direct, open, really mass and really revolutionary struggle do not yet exist.” [Emphasis his.]

This is not to suggest the women’s marches (or the nascent #MeToo campaign, for that matter) are perfect. They are far from it. Nor does it mean we cannot offer legitimate, thoughtful criticism of the march organizers’ aims, tactics or overall goals.

Could the marches be more diverse? Absolutely. Are the protesters’ goals radical? Not really (though here it is worth noting that the women’s marches represent a broad swath of liberal, left, and radical groups, organizations, and politics).

And I think we can all agree the silly pink pussy hats need to be retired, ASAP.

The biggest problem with this second round of women’s marches is how they have been co-opted by the Democratic Party. The Democrats are hoping to funnel all of the genuine anger and outrage at Trump’s swamp monster administration into the “proper channels” of the November 2018 midterm elections. Thus, the slogans, “March to the Polls,” and “#Power to the Polls” were ubiquitous during the recent women’s marches.

And this is, historically, the role the Democratic Party — history’s second most enthusiastic capitalist party — has always played. Little wonder the Democrats are known as the “graveyard of social movements.”

The Democrats will not save us. Leftists’ illusions of “taking over” or “taking back” the Democratic Party (and the latter phrase suggests it was ever really our party to begin with) are just that. Electing more Democrats to Congress or the White House is simply not a viable route to working class revolution.

But we cannot make these arguments with progressive activists if we take a holier-than-thou position and refuse to participate in these demonstrations.

As Elizabeth Schulte writes in a recent piece for Socialist Worker, titled “In Defense of the Women’s Marches,”

When leftists insist that only protests and action organized around a radical, working-class agenda are worth taking seriously, they risk missing the audience for socialist politics among attendees of a protest that actually happened. They also miss out on the impact that large demonstrations, even ones dominated by liberal politics from the front, can have.

“… Creating a space, during and after the march, to have discussions about what it will take to build the resistance requires that socialists have patience, but also a clear set of arguments to make,” writes Schulte. “Whether we passed those tests this time around is an open question, but those whose cynicism kept them from even engaging with the Women’s Marches definitely didn’t.”

 

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!

 

Notes From a Shithole Country

Airport Uprising
Thousands protest Donald Trump’s Muslim travel ban at JFK airport in New York City, on Jan. 27, 2017.

One year into Donald Trump’s nightmarish presidency the United States government has shut down. It is, indeed, an ironic — and highly fitting —symbol to mark the one year anniversary of Trump’s inauguration.

Trump, rather than “draining the swamp,” as he childishly promised on the campaign trail, has merely flooded it with even more raw sewage and swamp monsters. For all his disparaging remarks about “shithole countries” (by which he referred to El Salvador, Haiti, and the “country” of Africa), the U.S. is rapidly devolving into such a shithole. Or perhaps it always was one. Take your pick.

At the heart of this latest government shutdown is the fate of Barack Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, which offers a “path to citizenship” for young adult immigrants who were brought to the U.S. as children.

I put the phrase, “path to citizenship” in quotes because there is no such thing as an “illegal” human being. Additionally, the entire concept of “legal citizenship” is a relatively recent concept. Up until the 19th century, immigration laws were virtually nonexistent. Though many assume their ancestors came to the country “legally” or utilized the “proper channels,” according to the American Immigration Council, “unauthorized immigration has been a reality for generations.”

DACA currently shields some 800,000 immigrants who live and work in the country from deportation. For many of these young immigrants, America is the only home they have ever known. Trump’s elimination of the program would tear families apart and inflict unnecessary suffering upon thousands of working-class people.

“It’s not just affecting one person in the family,” said Patricia Jaramillo, a 23-year-old DACA recipient from Van Nuys, California of Trump’s efforts to phase out the program. “It’s a ripple effect that affects entire communities, entire families…”

Furthermore, local manufacturing businesses like Cozy Harbor Seafood and Barber Foods rely heavily on these immigrants’ labor power — which is cheaper and easier to exploit than that of “native” U.S. citizens. These processing plant jobs — which take place in cold, pungent conditions — are mundane, repulsive, and often involve long hours of standing and repetitive motions.

Workers in these degrading jobs are routinely denied bathroom breaks — to the point where many poultry workers have resorted to wearing diapers to work, according to a 2016 report by Oxfam America. While denying adult employees basic necessities like bathroom breaks may seem patently illegal, the fact is worker protection laws in this country are weak and rarely enforced. The near disappearance of unions has only further eroded workplace protections.

And, as if to add insult to injury, workers at these processing plants are often carefully monitored by numerous surveillance cameras while they work. (This is the case at Cozy Harbor Seafood, where I once worked as an office temp.)

Trump railed on immigration and America’s supposedly “weak” boarder control laws to stoke working-class fear and resentment of “the Other.” During his now-infamous campaign announcement speech, the xenophobic Trump singled out immigrants from Mexico. “They are bringing drugs,” Trump said of Mexican immigrants. “They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.”

Republicans howl that DACA is an illegal program — that we are a “nation of laws,” and we must “respect the rule of law.” Yet where was this reverence for the “rule of law” last summer when Trump pardoned corrupt, racist Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio? The right was suspiciously silent about the vaunted “rule of law,” then.

Indeed, capitalists engage in illegal behavior every day and justify it as merely the “cost of doing business.” Perhaps we should deport all of them?

While the Democrats should be applauded (for once) for holding the line on preserving DACA in the latest government shutdown squabble, I fear their stance has more to do with electoral maneuvering than any genuine concern for DACA recipients. It is worth recalling that Barack Obama deported more immigrants than any other president in U.S. history — including Trump.

As of this writing, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer has already offered Trump funding for his coveted border wall in exchange for maintaining DACA.

(Just to review, we have money for border walls to keep “illegal” immigrants out of the country, but our elected elites insist single-payer health care is “too expensive.”)

This is further evidence that the left cannot rely on the capitalist Democratic Party to save us. Only mass mobilizations — similar to the Muslim ban protests that shut down major airports last year — can protect immigrant families.

But our efforts cannot stop at merely preserving DACA — though that is an important immediate goal. The left must also put forward a real socialist alternative to the failed immigration policies of both capitalist parties.

Socialists ultimately believe in a world without walls and borders. We believe in a world where people are free to live and roam as they please — or, perhaps more accurately for a warming planet increasingly characterized by droughts, floods, famine, and forest fires, wherever is most habitable. Indeed, climate change is already playing a role in mass migration throughout the globe.

Likewise, many of the Sudanese, Syrian, and Iraqi refugees fleeing to America are victims of our imperialist wars and occupations. To bomb these people’s nations and destabilize them through military force, and then cruelly deny them entry to our shores as they attempt to flee the violence we have inflicted is a particularly sinister form of hypocrisy.

The point is that few immigrants truly have a “choice” in migrating to the U.S. or to any other country. And the ruling class’ concept of a “path to citizenship” for immigrants is, as Socialist Worker’s Danny Katch explains, equally misleading.

As Katch writes in a March 15, 2016 article:

The “path to citizenship” is more like a road to nowhere, a long march that forces undocumented immigrants to go “to the back of the line” of a system in which many have to wait up to 24 years to get green cards. Along the way are many roadblocks, from fines that may be unaffordable, to proving they have been steadily employed — in a country where layoffs and temporary work are becoming the norm for all workers …

The fight to preserve DACA and protect immigrant families is a crucial one. And it is a fight that has the potential to mobilize a new generation of radicals to struggle for a world without walls and borders — a world where no human being is illegal.

Beyond “Toxic Masculinity”

#MeToo Pic

Women’s oppression is inextricably linked to capitalism. 

The widespread allegations of sexual assault leveled at Hollywood producer, Harvey Weinstein, from an ever growing list of celebrity women and actresses, has pushed the issue of sexism into the forefront of the media like nothing before it. And unlike previous sexual assault cases, the unfolding Weinstein story shows no sign of fading from the headlines, anytime soon.

Yet the discourse surrounding Weinstein and the rampant sexism and misogyny that characterize not just Hollywood, but numerous sectors of life has, unfortunately, lent itself to shallow—and, frankly, predictable—liberal analyses of why sexism continues to pervade society.

I have a liberal friend, for instance, who, commenting on the scandal concludes merely, “Men suck.” Others have similarly chalked it up to “toxic masculinity,” or “male privilege.”

But these pithy buzz-phrases do little to elaborate on the social and economic conditions that create women’s oppression. If we are serious about ridding the world of sexism (as well as homophobia, racism, ableism, etc.), then we need to understand where oppression comes from. Only then will leftists have a political framework for how to dismantle such oppression.

First, let’s be clear: Weinstein’s decades-long history of abusing, humiliating, sexually harassing, and allegedly raping women is nothing less than abhorrent. The only thing more alarming than how long Weinstein was able to get away with his chauvinistic behavior, is how many seemingly progressive male Hollywood actors (including liberal stalwarts like, George Clooney and Matt Damon) turned a blind-eye to Weinstein’s womanizing.

The Weinstein scandal is augmented by the fact that the sitting president has his own long, sordid history of abusing, denigrating, and sexually assaulting women.

A year ago around this time, Trump’s now infamous Access Hollywood, “hot mic” video was leaked to the press, in which Trump bragged to actor, Billy Bush, about his penchant for grabbing women “by the pussy.”

By every conceivable rationale, the tape should have sunk Trump’s presidential campaign. Instead, he won. And while it would be a gross oversimplification to blame sexism (or, for that matter, racism), alone for Trump’s victory, it is undeniable that both forms of discrimination played some role.

“Many of Trump’s voters were not primarily driven by ‘whitelash’ or ‘malelash’ sentiments,” writes Naomi Klein in her latest book, No Is Not Enough: Resisting Trump’s Shock Politics and Winning the World We Need. “Plenty of them said they voted for Trump because they liked what he said about trade and jobs …”

But there’s a problem with these stories. You cannot cast a ballot for a person who is openly riling up hatred based on race, gender or physical ability unless, on some level, you think those issues aren’t important. That the lives of people being put in tangible danger by this rhetoric (and the policies that flow from it) matter less than your life and the lives of people who look more like you. You can’t do it unless you are willing to sacrifice those other categories of people for your (hoped-for) gain.

“To put it bluntly,” Klein adds, “a vote for Trump might not reflect active hatred, but there is still, at best, a troubling indifference behind the act.”

Trump, in typically hypocritical fashion, has condemned Weinstein’s actions, telling the press he is “not at all surprised,” about the revelations. When asked by a reporter how Weinstein’s mistreatment of women differs from his own, Trump just brushed off his Access Hollywood comments as “That’s locker room [talk].”

With repugnant misogynists like Trump and Weinstein (not to mention Bill Cosby, Bill O’ Reilly and Ben Affleck) in power is it any wonder Margaret Atwood’s classic dystopian novel, The Handmaid’s Tale has spent 35 weeks on the New York Times’ bestseller list?

Marxism locates female oppression in women’s historically subordinate role within the family. Marx and Engels referred to the excess amount of housework women have traditionally been responsible for (cooking, cleaning, child-rearing, caretaking, etc.) as “unpaid domestic labor.”

And, while many families have made an effort to more evenly divide the household work in recent years (consider, for instance, one of the most lasting effects of the Great Recession: The rise of the “stay-at-home-dad”), surveys continue to indicate that the majority of domestic chores fall disproportionately on the shoulders of women. This has remained the case even as women entered the workforce after the Second World War.

Capitalism also charges working-class women with the crucial, yet largely unacknowledged role of creating more workers. As author Sharon Smith writes of this role in her book, Women and Socialism: Class, Race, and Capital, “In capitalist societies, women in property-holding families reproduce heirs; women in working-class families reproduce workers for the system.”

Smith continues:

The capitalist class has become dependent on this method of “privatized reproduction” within the working-class family because it lessens capitalists’ own financial responsibility for the reproduction of labor power, which is instead largely supplied by unpaid domestic labor performed primarily by women. The precondition for women’s liberation thus requires an end to their unpaid labor inside the family. This, in turn, necessitates a socialist transformation of society, which cannot be achieved gradually but only through a process of social revolution, in a decisive battle between classes.

In other words, no serious discussion of ending women’s oppression can ignore the system (i.e. capitalism) that creates—and, indeed, relies on–that oppression in the first place.

There is no biological or psychological evidence to suggest that men are naturally sexist. Nor, for that matter, is there anything inherently “toxic” about masculinity—though capitalism and the military certainly have a way of conditioning men to behave in aggressive, combative ways.

While the women’s rights movements of the 1960s and 1970s won significant victories in advancing female equality, the feminist movement has stalled in recent decades, largely due to its co-option with what Socialist Worker‘s Elizabeth Schulte calls “trickle-down feminism.”

This brand of pseudo-feminism suggests that if we simply had more female CEOs, corporate managers, and executive directors, then the work of feminism will be complete. Trickle-down feminism holds up billionaire celebrity figures like Oprah Winfrey (net worth: $3.1 billion), Sheryl Sandberg ($1.57 billion), and Walmart heir, Alice Walton ($33.8 billion) as models working-class women should attempt to emulate.

But there is nothing truly radical about this form of corporate feminism. It is little more than identity-politics. While we absolutely should strive to level the playing-field between men and women, trickle-down feminism is aimed squarely at middle-class women–not the poor, or the struggling single-parents.

The media drumbeat over our supposed “post-feminist” era, Schulte writes, “rarely address[es] the concerns of the vast majority of women who are part of the working class.”

The media, Schulte writes,

measure the success of women at large by the success stories of a few corporate executives or political officials at the top–and argue that these examples of “having it all” will eventually trickle down to all women. The inevitable focus of these [post-feminist] articles and books is what women can do personally to succeed. (Italics hers.)

Should men do more, individually, to combat sexism in the workplace, among friends and in public, as liberal commentator, Alex Steed, suggests? Absolutely.

But we cannot limit our opposition to sexism to these interpersonal exchanges. All of us–women and men–must also “call out” the capitalist system that relies on sexist stereotypes and ideas to function. We must rediscover the language of radical feminists like Helen Keller, Emma Goldman, and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn.

Flynn, a labor activist in the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) and founding member of the American Civil Liberties Union, wrote in her autobiography, Rebel Girl:

A domestic life and possibly a large family had no attraction for me. … I wanted to speak and write, to travel, to meet people, to see places, to organize for the I.W.W. I saw no reason why I, as a woman, should give up my work for this…

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 Crisis is Capitalism

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Life under the Trump regime is, at times, almost surreal. Every day seems to bring a new Twitter tirade, White House squabble, or scandal. Never in my life can I recall reading in the newspaper that the secretary of state openly referred to the president as a “fucking moron.”

It is almost like something straight out of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Consider this characteristically irrational exchange between Alice and the Cheshire Cat:

“But I don’t want to go among mad people,” Alice remarked.

“Oh, you can’t help that,” said the Cat. “We’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad.”

“How do you know I’m mad?” said Alice.

“You must be,” said the Cat, “or you wouldn’t have come here.”

Many people have remarked that just keeping up with the daily news is both exhausting and depressing. The headline of the lead editorial in the October issue of Socialist Worker seems to sum up Trump’s brand of “shock and awe” politics, best: “Our resistance in the era of political whiplash.”

The SW editors write:

Think about it: In less than a month’s time, we witnessed the far-right carnival of hate in Charlottesville and a murderous attack on anti-racist demonstrators; the unnatural disasters of [hurricanes] Harvey and Irma confirming the destruction that capitalism has caused through climate change and greed; more nuclear saber-rattling by the world’s main super-bully in Washington; and the Trump administration ending DACA protections for undocumented youth now threatened with deportations to places most don’t remember.

This seemingly non-stop “political barrage,” they add, “is a central part of the right’s strategy: to stun opponents into inaction.”

We are, needless to say, living in radical times. And radical times call for radical politics.

Capitalism is currently in deep crisis. The elites no longer have any credibility. Where once the meritocratic Horatio Alger model of improving one’s living standards through hard work and educational achievement at least held some modicum of truth for working-class Americans, this ruling-class principle no longer holds any currency.

For the first time in decades, an entire generation of young adults will be worse off financially than their parents. And this is despite the fact that millennials are the most educated generation in history. (They are also the most debt-burdened from the ever-increasing costs of college education.)

These diminished economic prospects are compounded by a menacing plague of opioid addiction that, in 2016 alone, claimed an estimated 64,000 lives.

As a result, nearly half of millennials believe the so-called “American Dream,” is dead, according to a 2015 Harvard Institute of Politics survey. Where once the bourgeois elite could at least hold out the promise that if you work hard you too can join the middle-class—if not the rich—now the prospects for working-class people have been reduced to merely hoping a climate-change augmented hurricane or forest fire does not destroy your home and all your belongings.

Now, if that ain’t a reason to stand in patriotic reverence for our national anthem during commercialized spectator sports, well, you must just hate The Troops, you son of a bitch!

Wealth inequality is, in fact, far worse than most Americans realize. Of the $30 trillion in wealth the U.S. has gained since the end of the Great Recession of 2008, the 400 richest individuals received an average of $2,500,000,000 each. Those in the bottom 80 percent, meanwhile, got roughly $13,000 each.

And working-class wages remain stagnant. “Income for the working-age bottom 50%,” writes economist, Paul Buchheit, “has not improved since the late 1970s. The share of all income going to the poorest 50% has dropped from 20 to 12 percent. The share going to the richest 1% has risen from 12 to 20 percent.”

While it is not unusual for capitalism to periodically go into crisis (indeed, Karl Marx and Frederick Engels understood that the unplanned, unmanaged nature of capitalism makes it inherently prone to crisis), the scale of this particular economic crisis has not been seen since the Gilded Age of the 1920s.

Marxist economist, Richard Wolff suggests labeling this “new period” of capitalism “post-neoliberal,” “post-globalized,” or “neo-nationalist.” Whichever term one prefers, Wolff describes this era as one in which,

[T]he major corporations, the top 1% they enrich, and the top 10% of managers and professionals they employ will no longer provide the rest of us anywhere near the number of well-paid jobs and generous government policies of the post-1945 period. Given this reality for them, they could hypothetically reduce, more or less equally across the board, the jobs, incomes, and public services available to the bottom 90% of the US population. But at least in the short run, this is politically too dangerous.

Wolff continues:

The only other option they see is to divide the bottom 90% into two groups. For the favored one, jobs, incomes, and standards of living will be only marginally reduced or perhaps, if possible, marginally improved. For the other group, their economic situation will be savaged, reduced to conditions formerly associated with seriously underdeveloped parts of the planet. The time has thus arrived in the US for a major struggle—economically, politically, and ideologically—over just who will be in those two groups. The violence lurking in this struggle has surfaced so far most starkly and provocatively in the murder of [Heather Heyer] at Charlottesville. It reflects the stakes in the proliferating struggles.

And the crisis of capitalism is not relegated to the United States. Britain’s unexpected vote to leave the European Union (EU) last year (“Brexit”), along with the recent uprising in Catalonia for independence from Spain represent, for the power elite, dramatic threats to the neoliberal status quo. That neoliberal order is crumbling—and the bourgeois ruling class is scared to death.

Their fear is compounded here at home with the expectation-shattering election of Donald Trump.

Hillary Clinton was the ruling class’ preferred candidate. Her political experience and proven loyalty to corporate capitalism made her the logical successor to Barack Obama’s Wall Street-friendly policies. For the ruling class, Clinton represented not so much the “lesser evil” as liberals frequently describe the Democratic candidate, but, to use Black Agenda Report executive editor, Glen Ford’s phrase, the “more effective evil.”

But Trump is a wild card.

His erratic and unpredictable behavior makes him difficult for the bourgeois—as well as the elements of the so-called “Deep State” (the FBI, CIA, military-industrial complex, etc.)—to control. And much of Trump’s agenda concerning immigration and nationalism flies in the face of a global capitalist order that, for decades, has relied on cheap, under-paid and easily exploited immigrant labor.

Yet, Trump is merely a symptom of the larger disease of capitalism. While I am all for removing Trump from office (with the understanding that the homophobic, Christian evangelical, Mike Pence would take his place), the fact is life in pre-Trump America was hardly a paradise for working-class people.

Thus, the left’s goal cannot be to merely vote for Democrats in 2018, and Kamala Harris or Cory Booker in 2020–though this is precisely what many liberals advocate. The inconvenient truth is that the corporatist, neoliberal policies of Bill Clinton and Obama paved the way for President Trump. We cannot simply return to business as usual.

Instead, we must build on the renewed interest in socialism, particularly among young people, that Bernie Sanders helped spark. The International Socialist Organization (ISO), which I am a dues-paying member of, has seen record turnout at its weekly public meetings in branches throughout the country. And interest has only increased since the start of the fall 2017 college semester.

People are clearly hungry for a radical politics that both speaks to their lived conditions, and can help them fight back against the proto-fascist far-right. Now is the time to tap into that hunger, and build a viable working-class movement that can agitate for tangible reforms in the here in now, as well as point the way forward to a more just, egalitarian, and sustainable socialist future.

“[H]ere it becomes evident that the bourgeoisie is unfit any longer to be the ruling class in society, and to impose its conditions of existence upon society as an overriding law,” Marx and Engels wrote in The Communist Manifesto in 1848.

… The advance of industry, whose involuntary promoter is the bourgeoisie, replaces the isolation of the laborers, due to competition, by their revolutionary combination, due to association. The development of modern industry, therefore, cuts from under its feet the very foundation on which the bourgeoisie produces and appropriates products. What the bourgeoisie therefore produces, above all, are its own grave-diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable.

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!

 

 

Confessions of a Bourgeois Drama Queen

*** BESTPIX *** Hillary Clinton Makes A Statement After Loss In Presidential Election

Inside Hillary Clinton’s new book, “What Happened”.

As the title suggests, Hillary Clinton’s new memoir/post-election autopsy purports to tell, What Happened, i.e. how she lost the 2016 presidential election to a sexist, racist, xenophobic, thoroughly unqualified ignoramus, despite having outspent him two-to-one.

But, as Counterpunch’s Jeffrey St. Clair observes, one need not read any more than the book cover to “answer the question posed by the title: What Happened: Hillary Clinton.”

“Glutton for punishment,” St. Clair writes, “I took a masochistic dive into its dark pages, anyway.”

Indeed, throughout Clinton’s recent spate of interviews and promotional appearances, a frustrating contradiction has emerged. On the one hand, Clinton accepts “full responsibility” for her stunning, highly improbable loss last November. Yet, at the same time, Clinton continues to point to other figures—Bernie Sanders, James Comey, and the Russians, among them—that truly tipped the election to the Cheetos-skinned groper.

In other words, anybody looking for a genuine mea culpa or any sort of serious critical reflection from What Happened will be sorely disappointed. Clinton’s book is basically a 500 page version of the narrative the Democratic Party has been peddling since November. This narrative basically blames anyone and everyone for their loss–everyone, that is, except for, you know … the party itself.

The Democrats’ ever expanding rogue’s gallery of electoral “spoilers” includes the aforementioned Sanders and Comey, along with Jill Stein, Susan Sarandon, Vladimir Putin, WikiLeaks, Julian Assange, Sanders’ recalcitrant supporters (a.k.a. “Bernie Bros”), Facebook, “fake news,” Russian hackers, the media, and something called the “white working-class.”

(Suspiciously absent from this list is, arguably, the real culprit: The slave-owning Founding Fathers’ Electoral College. Only in the self-appointed, “world’s greatest democracy,” can a presidential candidate win the popular vote–in Clinton’s case, by some 3 million votes–and still lose the election.)

As I have previously pointed out in this blog, there is to date zero concrete evidence that Russian meddling influenced the 2016 election in Donald Trump’s favor.

Additionally, Clinton’s bogus smears of Sanders for “staying in the race too long,” are equally hypocritical. During the 2008 Democratic primary—the first time Clinton sought the presidency—she remained in the race long after Barack Obama had all but sewn-up the nomination.

Sanders, on the other hand, proved a far more dutiful soldier for the Democratic Party—a party which he is, ostensibly, not even a member of. Not only did he promptly endorse Clinton prior to the 2016 Democratic National Convention, and went on to participate in 37 campaign events for her–Sanders even dismissively shut down his more committed supporters, who booed him during his DNC endorsement of Clinton.

Of course, Sanders’ supporters should not have been surprised by his apparent about-face. He made clear, from the beginning of his campaign, his commitment to supporting his “friend” Clinton, should she emerge as the nominee. Some “political revolution.” Indeed, Sanders’ should serve as Exhibit A for why the left cannot “take over” the Democratic Party.

Yet, it seems the joke may be on Clinton, given that Sen. Sanders is currently the most popular politician in the country. Clinton, on the other hand, is viewed less favorably than Trump. Indeed, to garner lower approval ratings than arguably the least qualified, least professional, most outwardly misogynistic, racist, xenophobic president in modern history is really an accomplishment!

Throughout the book, Clinton proves herself to be utterly clueless as to why, precisely, she lost what should have been an imminently winnable election. She remains completely out-of-touch not just with working-class Americans and their daily lived struggles, but with the general political zeitgeist in the country.

It would probably be naïve to hope Clinton might—just might—engage in any sort of critical reflection on the policies Bill Clinton pursued while in the White House—policies which she has continued to champion in her own political career.

Hillary Clinton offers no accounting for the much discussed North American Free-Trade Agreement (NAFTA), which became a key rallying point for Trump on the campaign trail.

Nor does she offer any regrets over her husband’s 1996 welfare reform bill which fulfilled his promise to “end welfare as we know it.” There was also the 1994 Violent Crime and Law Enforcement Act—the largest crime bill in history. During the bill’s promotion, Hillary Clinton infamously referred to black youth as “super predators.” And she has little to say about the repeal of Glass-Steagall which directly paved the way for the 2008 economic crash.

All of these corporatist concessions undoubtedly played a role in the working-class backlash that contributed (at least in part; the true significance of the so-called “Rust Belt Revolution” has been largely overstated) to Clinton’s loss.

As Thomas Frank observes in his 2016 book, Listen, Liberal, Bill Clinton’s true presidential legacy may be that he—a Democrat—was more successful in passing some of the most egregious conservative legislation in decades, and rolling back the working-class gains of the New Deal, than any Republican president since Ronald Reagan.

“That a Democrat might be the one to pick apart the safety net is a violation of [the Democrats’] basic brand identity,” writes Frank, “but by the very structure of the [two-party] system it is extremely difficult to hold the party accountable for such a deed.

This, in turn, is why only a Democrat was able to do that job and get away with it. Only a Democrat was capable of getting bank deregulation passed; only a Democrat could have rammed NAFTA through Congress; and only a Democrat would be capable of privatizing Social Security, as George W. Bush found out in 2005. (Emphasis his.)

Frank continues:

… To judge by what he actually accomplished, Bill Clinton was not the lesser of two evils, as people on the left always say about Democrats at election time; he was the greater of the two. What he did as president was beyond the reach of even the most diabolical Republican. Only smiling Bill Clinton, well-known friend of working families, could commit such betrayals.

And this is to say nothing of Clinton’s hawkish approach to foreign policy, which she honed as secretary of state. This tenure included Clinton’s overseeing of the 2009 coup in Honduras, which deposed democratically-elected President Manuel Zelaya. Clinton also helped orchestrate the violent overthrow and assassination of Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, in 2011. She later boasted of Gaddafi’s death, “We came. We saw. He died.”

Again, Clinton offers no accounting for these acts or the fact that she and Obama expanded George W. Bush’s bogus “war on terror” tenfold.

But Clinton’s faults run deeper than her and husband’s legislative track-record. Her entire approach to politics—with her emphasis on policy specifics, bipartisan compromise, technocratic expertise and “triangulation”—are thoroughly out of sync with the current political moment. This is a moment in which voters are beginning to radicalize. They are demanding bold, radical changes to the very structures of American society–the sort of radical changes Sanders campaigned on. The fact that Sanders, a self-described socialist, received 13 million votes last year, speaks volumes to the growing opening for left politics.

The fact that Clinton’s brand of cautious, “centrist” governing is precisely what brought us to this point of extreme wealth inequality and social unrest seems entirely lost on her.

Clinton has always positioned herself as the adult in the room—the one with a “real plan” to Get Stuff Done. She has always been far more interested in the minutia of process, policy and the nitty-gritty details than the big picture, everyday concerns that ultimately drive voters to the polls. And this myopia, combined with Clinton’s own bourgeois lifestyle, prevented her from understanding the economic concerns that Sanders so successfully tapped into. Clinton frequently complained to staffers during the campaign that she did not understand “why voters are so angry.”

Throughout What Happened that populist anger continues to perplex her. She makes her outright disdain for Sanders and his socialist platform clear in her claim the Vermont senator was promising supporters free college, health care, “and a pony.”

“Bernie routinely portrayed me as a corrupt corporatist who couldn’t be trusted,” writes Clinton. “His clear implication was that because I accepted campaign donations from people on Wall Street—just as President Obama had done—I was ‘bought and paid for.’”

Clinton goes on to attack Sanders’ progressive proposals as “unrealistic” and lacking “political viability.”

She writes:

Bernie and I had a spirited contest of ideas, which was invigorating, but I nonetheless found campaigning against him to be profoundly frustrating. He didn’t seem to mind if his math didn’t add up or if his plans had no prayer of passing Congress and becoming law… No matter how bold and progressive my policy proposals were [sic] … Bernie would come out with something even bigger, loftier, and leftier, regardless of whether it was realistic or not. That left me to play the unenviable role of spoilsport schoolmarm, pointing out that there was no way Bernie could keep his promises or deliver real results.

“Was I doomed from the start?” Clinton wonders toward the end of her book.

Washington beltway reporters, Jonathan Allen and Amie Parnes seem to think so. Their behind-the-scenes expose, Shattered: Inside Hillary Clinton’s Doomed Campaign reveals a campaign team rife with constant in-fighting and staffers jockeying for positions.

The authors reveal how even in the early days of Clinton’s 2016 campaign, aides lamented that she could not articulate a compelling reason for launching a second bid for the White House. The team even toyed with openly admitting–and running on–what many Democratic Party officials accepted as obvious: It was “her turn” to be president.

But, during a real “change” election, in which voters were desperately looking for tangible improvements to their increasingly precarious living conditions, the rationale that it was simply Clinton’s “turn” hung hollow.

The real tragedy of the Democratic Party is not, as Frank contends, that it ceased being the “party of the people,” and shifted its focus to courting Wall Street donors and Silicon Valley. It is debatable whether the Democrats have ever truly been a party of the working class. No, the real tragedy is that the neoliberal policies of the Clintons and Obama paved the way for Trump and his noxious brand of pseudo-populism, in the first place.

Sadly, this lesson is nowhere to be found in Clinton’s book. She would rather blame the Russians.

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!