Sanders’ Revolution

Bernie has been saying that he wants to start a grass roots political revolution. Most of his followers aren’t listening.

Our cult of celebrity culture makes it appear that there is only one election in America— the presidency. Thousands came out to see Bernie at rallies all over the country; like a rock star. And now that he’s lost the Democratic primary, they are disgruntled and angry. Bernie, however, wants to keep the movement going. Having been in politics for most of his life, he knows that a movement is not just one election. He says that we need to harness that energy and put it to work in local and state politics. I am not optimistic that this will happen. Ask most Bernie supporters if they are willing to run for office, or even for a seat on their local Democratic Committee. It’s a 4 year commitment. Most people today cannot imagine agreeing to do something for 4 years, let alone 6 or 8. Most political activity today consists of FB clicking. Bernie will be very disappointed if he thinks he can channel that into a movement.

Regarding voting for Hillary and the concept of least worst candidate. As we live in a democracy, by definition we will always be picking the least worst candidate. There is no perfect candidate, there is only the candidate who best aligns with my policies and is most competent. The term “least worst” is just a sarcastic way of saying “none of the candidates is my ideal candidate”. Welcome to democracy. You will recall that many social democrats and progressives were turned off by Bernie’s position on guns. There is no perfect candidate. If Bernie had won we would be elated, but there would be millions of other voters who feel that they would be forced to pick the least worst between Bernie and Donald in November. That’s the way elections work. I will vote for Hillary, and I won’t hold my nose while doing so. I have listened to Jill Stein and in no way, shape, or form, is she ready to represent America on the world stage as diplomat and be commander of our military. The only political office she has ever held was Town Meeting Seat in the town of Lexington, Mass. Her only qualification for president is that she is not Hillary Clinton. I respect your right to disagree and that’s what elections are for.

And that brings us back to the fact that the presidency is not the only election. Congress makes the laws and appropriates money, and Congress is run by Republicans. They do a piss poor job and we the voters have allowed that to happen. We got to this point by thinking that only the president is important and ignoring Congressional elections. We must break that mentality! The majority of voters in my state are registered as Democrats. In 2008 there was a massive turnout to elect Barack Obama. But was weak turnout for the 2010 Congressional and State elections. As a result the Republicans took control of our state government and gerrymandered the Congressional districts in their favor. Consequently, we now have 13 Republican House Representatives in Congress and 5 Democratic Reps (in a majority Democratic state!). This is how people like Paul Ryan get to be Speaker of the House. All of that because democrats in my state didn’t show up to vote for their state legislator. I know that many social democrats believe the Democratic Party is unfixable and they want to leave. But if they are leaving just because Bernie failed to gain the top spot, they’re making a mistake. Creating a party large enough to elect a president is a huge undertaking. You have to become the majority party in a majority of states. Growing the Green Party to that size will take decades and I don’t believe there is political willpower amongst that masses to make that happen. However, a Sanders’ revolution in the Democratic Party at the local and state level could result in Social Democrats becoming a majority of the party in 5-10 years. And that is an achievable goal.

Posted in Uncategorized by Rick DLoss. 6 Comments

Cornel West endorses the Green Party’s Dr. Jill Stein for President

This is good news. Prof. West won’t be disrupting the Democratic Party Convention from inside and trying to turn it into a hate fest against Zionism. Probably, he’ll try to become Dr. Nader Redux’s vice presidential candidate. Maybe his cult-leader friend Bob Avakian (aka God) will send the zombies of the so-called Revolutionary Communist Party to join the fun.

I didn’t realize how “out there” Jill Stein is until I saw her being interviewed Friday night about how the Greens are the “revolutionaries” fighting against the “counterrevolutionaries” (Hillary and now presumably Bernie). After she used the word “counterrevolutionaries” she gave a little smile that reminded me of Gilda Radner’s character who’d always follow her odd statements with a “neVERRR mind.”

In the not completely impossible event that Stein draws enough votes from the Foolish wing of the Left to give Trump the White House, one thing will be sure: she’ll never admit any regrets or acknowledge the suffering she will have helped to cause for hundreds of millions of Americans. Just as Nader will never come down off his own pedestal of self-righteousness to accept any responsibility for the eight years of Bush and Cheney.

As for me, I firmly believe there is a time and place for Lesser Evil Politics. If that makes me a “counterrevolutionary,” so what?

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: American Heroine

Note, July 15:  Scratch out the word “heroine” above. Ginsburg has now apologized for daring to speak out against Trump — a candidate whose racism, authoritarianism, and support for torture and mass box-car deportations should motivate EVERY PERSON OF GOOD WILL IN THIS ENTIRE COUNTRY to stand up and denounce him publicly. It looks like Ginsburg is no Eartha Kitt, much less a new Ida Wells or Emma Goldman. Did her co-liberals on the Court tell her, please, we beg you, back down, you’re embarrassing us? But sometimes people who back down have already raised issues that won’t go away. The Justices of the Supreme Court in this age of polarization are neither objective nor neutral (if indeed they EVER were: John Jay, while serving as our first Chief Justice ran for Governor of New York as a Federalist). To pretend they are neutral is a lie! There was nothing neutral about Justices Scalia, Thomas and Alito boycotting President Obama’s 2015 State of the Union address. And there was nothing neutral about the actions of these and the other Republican-appointed Justices who voted for Citizens United and for the gutting of the Voting Rights Act — cases which had been brought before the Court for the clear purpose of gaining for the Republicans a grotesquely unfair advantage in electoral politics. Certainly these two decisions show a far greater spirit of partisanship than is embodied in Ginsburg’s denunciation of Trump. Ginsburg was talking about the soul of the Republic; these conservative justices were crafting (essentially) an excuse for ignominious cheating at the ballot box. Do we want Justices who lie and deceive us, or rather do we want Justices who tell us forthrightly where they stand? I still honor Ginsburg for the issue she raised and the example she set prior to her tactical retreat.  

The front page of Rupert Murdoch’s New York Post has a headline today (July 14) accusing Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg of “‘Supreme’ bias” for blasting Trump. And the Post includes a moronic photo of her in a Darth Vader helmet with the words, “Darth Bader.”

A number of cowardly liberals in the media have also said she went too far, and that the Supremes should always remain neutral and above the fray.

Bull****! Justice Ginsburg should be regarded as an American heroine for thrusting aside the objectivity myth. She did what Muhammad Ali and Eartha Kitt did during the Vietnam War–speak truth to power AND to the people. She should keep it up and the other liberal justices should join her. Maybe they could even get a majority of the eight to speak out against Trump–now THAT would be a blow to his sinister campaign.

The liberal Supremes could even invite Rep. John Lewis to amble down the street and show them how to launch an anti-Trump sit-in. In other words, they could do now what the Court’s liberal minority SHOULD have done in 2000 when they sat back and let the Republicans fix the election by way of Scalia, Thomas & Co. (I know there won’t be any sit-ins at the Court, but it feels good to suggest it.)

As to Rupert Murdoch, the man behind Fox News, he has no basis for accusing ANYONE of “bias,” he who has been whipping up racist hate for years and now is on the verge of helping usher a proto-fascist into the White House–a proto-fascist who has the support of every closet Neo-nazi and white supremacist in America, as well as the open ones such as David Duke.

The Republicans have caved into Trump; they are ready to do anything he says. To them, the relatively trivial matter of Hillary’s emails has become the biggest issue in the world–to divert attention from the disastrous consequences of a Trump presidency.

Trump’s entire career reeks of lies, fraud and corruption. The Post concentrates on Hillary and ignores the vast mass of evil deeds and statements that prove Trump is unfit to be President under any circumstances. Now THAT’s real bias.

Editor’s note: Socialist Currents has a new blogger. Dennis King was born and raised in North Carolina, but has lived most of his life in NYC. King is an investigative journalist and author of Lyndon LaRouche and the New American Fascism (1989) and of Get the Facts on Anyone (1991, 1995, 1999). His articles have been widely published in local and national newspapers and magazines.  As with all bloggers, the writer’s opinions are his own.

Denial and self-deception: how Trump’s fans defend his anti-Semitic use of the Star of David

AAtrumpjewishstar2

I’ve been monitoring the efforts of Trump supporters (including some who are, or hint at being, Jewish) to dampen the controversy triggered by his July 2 tweeting of an image of the Jewish star (Star of David) and Hillary Clinton, with a pile of cash in the background. Although Trump aides have replaced the Jewish star with a circle, Trump himself continues to make arcane excuses (as, on July 4, that the star was just a sheriff’s badge or that it was just a “plain star”–see the Huffington Post). On July 6, he said in a Cincinnati speech that his aides should not have deleted the star. (“In Defiant, Angry Speech, Trump Defends a Post Seen as Anti-Semitic,” New York Times, July 7.)

Trump’s followers are repeating and elaborating on his excuses, either cynically or as part of their psychology of denial. You can see a sampling of their responses at the Facebook page of historian Ron Radosh, who incurred their wrath (July 3) by linking to a piece in the Forward blasting Trump on this issue.

First, Trump’s supporters try to narrow down the range of what needs to be explained away. They address only his one-time use of a single image, while (a) not mentioning the neo-Nazi/white supremacist source of the image as reported by Esquire and (b) not mentioning the many other tweets that Trump has lifted from neo-Nazi/white supremacist sites, as reported by Jason Easley in Politicus USA. In addition, Trump supporters mechanically separate out anti-Semitism (which they blame on the Left alone) and white supremacy (which they simply ignore), although, in fact, you cannot separate the two forms of bigotry either in the contents of the sites that Trump is borrowing from or in the character of the crowds attracted to his rallies. (David Duke, who hates both Jews and racial minorities, has endorsed Trump–and has also opined that the star in Trump’s tweet is definitely the Star of David.)

Finally, even when Trump’s supporters address the sole issue they deign to recognize–the six-pointed star used in a single Trump tweet–they only compare the star to a sheriff’s badge while ignoring the pile of hundred dollar bills in which the star is embedded and the political corruption allegation that links the two together. The implication of their evasions is that the image is merely urging law enforcement (the “sheriffs”) to arrest Hillary Clinton. But the Star of David in the image refers not to Clinton but to the pile of money (representing Jewish influence, as anti-Semites see it) that supposedly has corrupted her. The image’s attack on Clinton resides in the suggestion that she has allowed herself to be corrupted by the Jews; thus, THE JEWS ARE THE MAIN TARGET.

One Trump supporter tried to invert this message by depicting the Jews as the victims. Hillary, he said, “uses liberal Jews for a voting block.” This statement may or may not be true to some extent (as with other voting blocs), but it is certainly NOT the statement embedded in the image that was being discussed.

As to Trump’s claim that the star in the image was just a sheriff’s badge, let’s put this excuse to rest once and for all. A sheriff’s badge is just that, a badge. It is not a Jewish star, which is depicted with sharp points (as in the image Trump tweeted). Sheriff’s badges, as portrayed in many Google images, have a round thingamajig (often a quite large one) at the end of each point as well as other identifying features. Furthermore, a sheriff’s badge may have five points (as in a star pentagon) or seven points (a heptagram, also known as a septagram), rather than the six points of the hexagram, or Jewish star; in other words, the sheriff’s badge is not universally identified with six points the way the Jewish star is. And if the star tweeted by Trump truly had been intended as a sheriff’s badge it would have been shown on a sheriff’s breast or in another clearly identifiable manner, not as a generic hexagram on top of a pile of cash. Note that in all the examples below, unlike in Trump’s tweet, the badge has information identifying itself as a sheriff’s badge.

Little balls on the edges are not included in Trump's tweet.

Little balls on the edges are not included in Trump’s tweet.

Some badges have only five stars.

Some badges have only five stars.

Some badges have seven stars, not six.

Some badges have seven stars, not six.

Trump also claimed that the star was just a “plain star.” I went to Google images and typed in “star images.”  The overwhelming majority of the stars displayed were five-pointed star pentagons, not the six-pointed Jewish star. Even most of the blue-colored stars (blue of course is the color of the outline of the Jewish star on the Israeli flag) were five-pointed. I typed in “plain star images” and got similar results. Thus another Trump excuse goes kaput.

Supporters of Trump are so hysterical over this issue that they are dredging up the crankiest of arguments. One supporter posted that everything is okay because a six-pointed star is used not only in sheriffs’ badges but also in the Great Seal of the United States. Now there is, at the top of the seal (above the eagle), a collection of small stars (five-pointed star pentagons, not hexagrams) that represent the 13 original states. The necessity of aligning 13 stars to fit into a circle that would express the unity of the 13 states meant there would be one at the top, one at the bottom and rows of four, three, four in between, which produces the appearance of six small bumps. 

To make these into a hexagram with characteristics comparable to the Jewish star is a stretch. There is a legend that the alignment of the 13 stars within the circle was ordered by George Washington out of gratitude to Haym Salomon, a Jewish businessmen who helped the Revolutionary Army. According to the Wikipedia article on Salomon (who in fact was a notable figure in the American Revolution), there is no evidence for this legend. Indeed, “legend” is too polite a word for what is really an anti-Semitic meme. The conspiracy-drenched website of James Japan, for instance, has suggested (a) that the arrangement of the Great Seal stars is evidence “that Zionists have secret control of the currency [of the United States]” and (b) that the Jewish star is linked to the “occult.”

Japan refers his readers to a Texe Marrs video for further information. Marrs is an anti-Semite and Flat Earther who runs the Power of Prophecy Ministries–and is a strong supporter of Trump, urging him to continue to challenge the Jews. Marrs has not only speculated about the Great Seal but he’s also written a book about a gigantic worldwide conspiracy symbolized by the Jewish star; he sells this tract on his website in tandem with the Protocols of the Learned Elders of Zion. The Southern Poverty Law Center’s Hatewatch quotes him as saying, on the radio talk show of Jeff Rense (a promoter also of the ideas of Lyndon LaRouche, David Duke and Holocaust denier Ernst Zundel): “The Jews cannot administer a country, they don’t know how to run a country, all they are, well they’re just plain, well, you know, they’re parasites. They can get into a country and take over its financial system, and use the propaganda organs of a country, but they really don’t know how to administer for the good of the people. They cannot even administer the economy in the nation of Israel today.”

Flat-earther Marrs claims to give “Eye Opening Revelations…about Israel, the Jews, Zionism and the Rothschilds.”

Regardless of what the cranks and haters claim, the aesthetically pleasing arrangement of the stars in the Great Seal (rooted in the historical accident that the number of original states was 13) is not a plausible excuse for Trump’s trafficking in anti-Semitic hexagram images. If he had wanted to use the Great Seal for this purpose, he could just have taken a dollar bill out of his wallet and run the back side of it through a scanner. But then, his message of hate would have been diluted to the point of absurdity and would have lost its usefulness in whipping up his base.

Realignment— The Sequel

“I’m back, like an old pair of shoes you thought you threw away”. Johnny Cash

Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders

Last year when Bernie Sanders decided to run as a Democrat, he resurrected the question of third party or independent candidates for president. When he ran for mayor and member of Congress he ran as a socialist or independent, but for president he is running as a Democrat. One year ago this month I met Bernie at the Keystone Progress Summit in Harrisburg, PA. At that time he was unannounced and was traveling around the country examining the climate for his potential campaign. I had an opportunity to briefly talk with him about how he would run. I told him that Social Democrats USA would welcome his entry into the race, although we were still months away from endorsing anyone. I also commented that in a “Democratic machine” state like Pennsylvania he would have a lot of trouble winning as a third party candidate, and I suggested that running as a Democrat would be best. He joked that his staff had discussed this topic once or twice, implying that HOW to run was as big a question as SHOULD he run.

Shachtman

Shachtman

Many sisters and brothers on the left feel that we should have a party of our own— a party of labor and progressives that would field candidates against corporatist Democrats. And they further argue that every time a candidate like Bernie Sanders decides to run as a Democrat, he or she thwarts the effort to create such a party. Well, the truth is that we did have an independent left party for decades. And it didn’t work. We were never able to get Labor and Socialists on the same page long enough to field a candidate who would beat both Democrats and Republicans. Members of the working class are often conservative in their social attitudes, contrary to the positions of socialists. And even though attempts were made to pull socialists and labor together in a unified party, by 1960 most leaders of the Party had abandoned the idea of fielding candidates. At the national convention that year they adopted a policy of “realignment”. The center piece of that policy would be exerting Labor and Socialist influence within the Democratic Party to pull the party to the left and to force out any right wing tendencies, i.e., Dixiecrats. There is a great article this month in Jacobin magazine on the topic of realignment. Paul Heideman describes the history of realignment in wonderful detail invoking all our favorite players including Shachtman, Harrington, Rustin, Reuther, and Meany. He writes that in the 1950s, “The way might then be clear, Shachtman reasoned, for labor and its liberal allies to take over the party, transforming it into something like a European social-democratic party”. Not everyone bought into the idea. Proponents and opponents pitched back and forth through the 60s, until Harrington was elected SP Chair in 1968. He was a realigner, but unfortunately the Vietnam War created a new division between socialists and labor. Former allies Shachtman and Harrington were now on opposite sides. The realignment plan never really came to fruition. In a last gasp effort the AFL-CIO did endorse Mondale in advance of the 1984 primaries as a show of unified labor influence in the DP. In the decades since then, labor has become weaker. The social democratic faction in the DP has struggled to keep its head above water while the DP leadership agreed to cuts in social programs, a negative growth minimum wage, investment bankers ruining our economy, and a foreign policy that includes perpetual war. We have a Democratic Party that is driven from the top, ever reminding us that the DP is not a membership based party. The Democratic National Committee drives the bus and the voters are told to get on the bus. No one at the DNC asks the passengers where they would like to go.

Harrington

Harrington

Because realignment didn’t produce the desired results, there have been recurring calls for the creation of a new left party. Are conditions better now than they were 50 years ago? Was our failure to unite labor and political action the only reason realignment didn’t work before? Michael Goodhart, a local poli-sci professor here in Pittsburgh, once told me that it was because of some guy named Maurice Duverger. His contribution to our story was his theory that winner-take-all voting systems lead to two parties, whereas proportional voting systems tend to create multiple parties. In other words, third party candidates are viewed as spoilers and that causes voters to gravitate towards the least-worst candidate of the two major parties. We have seen this “spoiler” candidate in a number of elections and most leftists are not prepared to split the left vote and hand a victory to the Republicans. Last month I had a short on-line discussion about realignment with Jason Schulman and David Duhalde of DSA and Bhaskar Sundara, editor of Jacobin. At one point I commented that Harrington had recognized the validity of Duverger and supported realignment; Jason responded that Harrington and Duverger were both wrong. To that I can only respond that I don’t see any evidence that a new left party would be successful, especially one that is membership based. If we can’t muster enough support to become a majority of the DP, then we don’t have enough support to build a new party in a winner-take-all voting system. And if I may throw salt into the wound, the Tea Party has already demonstrated that realignment works. Rather than run as third party candidates, Tea Partiers were smart enough to form a “party within the party” and became a major influence in the GOP.

When charting a path forward, it always helps to take a look at where you’ve been. In 1972, the Socialist Party changed its name to Social Democrats USA. It is not insignificant that we dropped the word “party” from our name. As discouraging as it is, we are not going to field candidates except in some rare cases of a local or regional election where the general population is already leftist and the contest is only between corporate democrats and social democrats. (Actually, now that I think about it, that describes Hawaii and an independent Social Democratic Party could probably have success there). Although realignment did not work in the past, there is no viable alternative at this time. Our National Committee remains committed to the realignment policy of the Shachtmanites. Roger Heller, a UAW political activist in Michigan and a SDUSA NC member, believes the Sanders campaign has created the momentum needed to establish a permanent Social Democratic Caucus within the DP. We need to harness the energy being created by the Sanders movement and not let it evaporate after November. However, be assured that if Bernie doesn’t win the DP nomination, there will be more cries for the creation of a new progressive/labor party and the abandonment of realignment.