Posts Tagged ‘Eugene Debs’

Political Dynamite! American Unions Vote to Form Labor Party

November 2, 2017

This is an absolute bombshell! In this piece from the Jimmy Dore Show, Dore and his co-host, Ron Placone, discuss the sensational news that a meeting of union leaders that convened on October 24 have passed a resolution condemning the two-party system and pledging them to consider setting up a separate, independent labour party.

The resolution was introduced by the chair of the political committee of AFL-CIO, Lee Saunders, and Randi Weingarten, the head of the teacher’s union. This is particularly remarkable, as Weingarten was responsible for throwing the union’s weight behind Hillary Clinton regardless of the views of its members. Dore states that when they asked American teachers how they felt about their union supporting Killary, they said they weren’t consulted. Those are America’s two largest unions.

Weingarten said that the system had failed working people for decades, and that it had taken away the pillars supporting working people’s rights to good jobs and benefits on behalf of the rich and corporations. The resolution was passed at a meeting of about 50 delegates in an upstairs room where the convention was being held. The delegates contended that both the Republicans and the Democrats were under corporate domination.

Mark Dimondstein, who was the foremost promoter of the idea of a labour party, is the president of the postal workers’ union. He has been calling for it ever since NAFTA – the North American Free Trade Agreement – was set up in 1993, which he said showed that both the Republicans and Democrats were in the pockets of the capitalists. Dore and Placone chuckle over the fact that Dimondstein must be having the biggest ‘I told you so’ moment, and encourage him to gloat all he wants, as he’s earned it.

The meeting was split over whether they should first start up an organisation and start discussing issues, or get into political races and risk becoming the ‘spoilers’ in the current two-party system. Dore states in response to this that it’s the two-party system that’s rigged. That’s how Americans now have Trump: it was due to a rigged Democratic primary and electoral college. One delegate, Velasquez, stated that the new party should compete in politics, but start at the local and state levels. Dore asks rhetorically why they should, and argues instead that they should compete at all levels. All the delegates agreed, however, that the Democrats have not done them any favours. They never have, and they never will. Dore believes that the reason why Velasquez wanted them to limit themselves to local and state level politics, was so that they don’t get called ‘Ralph Nader’, after the left-wing American politician, who attempted to run as a third party candidate.

Saunders and Weingarten are also members of the Democratic National Committee. The main resolution, however, said that they would set a pro-worker agenda, that would stand regardless of party. Dore states that this is similar to what they had in mind when they went to Canada for Peter Alard. That all the progressives would get together and produce a litmus test. They will thus endorse any political candidate in any party, provided that they support their pro-worker objectives.

Dimondstein said that they couldn’t take half a loaf, a quart of a loaf, an eighth of a loaf, or even crumbs any more. Dore states that they weren’t even being offered that under the present system. And he was applauded when he said that even when the Democrats got control of both the presidency and Congress in the 2008 election, they did not follow through with reform of labour legislation and other priorities for working people, but instead passed the Transpacific Partnership – TPP – the free trade deal. Dore and Placone states this was done by Barack Obama. They also make the point that it wasn’t done by Russian secret agents amongst the DAPL and Black Lives Matter activists. Dore states that it wasn’t the Russians, who threw the election but Barack Obama, Goldman Sachs, Pfizer, Haliburton, Exxon, the Koch brothers, the people in New York, who had 200,000 people thrown of the voting rolls, and the Electoral College. He stated that the Democratic Party hadn’t done anything for them despite having the presidency, the Congress and the Senate. Dore states that this is what he and other progressives had been saying, but they were told they were stupid, petulant, children. Now the labour unions agree with them, and its those who called them stupid and so on, who now have no political sense. The people in the Democratic Party, who called them that and gave America Hillary Clinton are the people that are ultimately responsible for Trump. They are everything that’s broken in the Democrat Party.

Dimondstein stated that the Republicans entrenched union-busting, Bill Clinton deregulated Wall Street, and Jimmy Carter deregulated trucking. Dore reminds his viewers that, thanks to Carter, we now have truckers working 18 hours or so and taking methamphetamines to get to their destinations on time. Dimondstein made it clear that constructing a labour party would be a long-term plan and require both community and labour support, but it would be wrong to confine the movement for a labour party to the current two-party system. Dore goes on to say that if everyone, who felt this way had actually voted for the Green Party at the last election, it would have radically changed the political landscape. They might still have had Trump, but the Democrats would have been wiped out and the opposition instead would have been the Green Party with a genuinely radical agenda. Instead, half or eighty per cent of all progressives are trying to reform the Democrats, which he thinks is a fool’s errand.

Dore and Placone are amazed that this story has received so little press attention. It should receive more, as the 2016 election showed how little footing the Democrat Party now has with the working class. Placone states that it’s now time for progressives and working class organisations to stop endorsing the lesser of two evils, because that can result in the more evil getting into power, and the lesser evil becoming worse. He states that we have now reached the crisis point with that, and if we haven’t, he doesn’t know what will wake people up. But whatever it is, it’ll be too little, too late. Dore suggests that it might be when the ice caps finally melt so that the coastline is now in Minnesota. Obama would probably come back to open the arctic for drilling just one more time. He has been responsible for opening it up to drilling twice. Dore also points out that there are a lot of people interested in forming a third party – progressives, Greens and others – and it’ll eventually happen.

This is absolutely stunning. If it goes ahead – and I sincerely hope it does – then America will be transformed into a country, whose political system is far more like that of Europe. Especially if Bernie and the progressives manage to get single-payer healthcare passed.

What the American unions are discussing is precisely what the British Labour party went through a century and more ago. The Labour party has its roots in the Lib-Labs, the trade unionists elected to parliament as working class members of the Liberal Party. Then after the passage of the Taft Vale judgement, which ruled that trade unions could be sued for damages and losses caused by strikes, they then decided to form an independent party to press for working class policies. This was the Independent Labour Party. The Labour Party as it is now was founded in 1901 as a party formed from the unions and various socialist organisations and societies.

As for pressing for all political parties to put forward pro-worker policies, that was the goal of the Fabian Society when it was founded. There’s a lot of sheer rubbish spouted by the American right-wing conspiracy nuts about how it was some kind of secret society. It wasn’t. And it’s still around. It became part of the Labour party. I should know. I was a member briefly in the 1980s. I’ve blogged about some of their pamphlets I bought and read, even citing them. Unfortunately, they’ve now been heavily infiltrated by the Blairites, and are one of the chief sites of anti-Corbyn activism in the party.

And something similar appears to have happened in Canada in the 1960s and ’70s, when hippy radicals formed the New Democrat Party up there.

If this does go through, it should encourage similar left-wing movements around the world, and strengthen the genuine socialists in the British Labour party and the European socialist parties.

And I’ve no doubt that the capitalists and big corporations will now try and throw everything they can at it to stifle this vital new change. I’m not surprised that very few newspapers carried the story, because the newspapers generally represent the interests of big business. And big business and the capitalist class is absolutely terrified of the unions and genuinely working class organisations. That’s why the British press, including the pro-Labour Mirror, has been so consistently against Jeremy Corbyn.

However, it has also been pointed out that before the First World War, America did indeed have a very strong left-wing movement. There were the Communists, the Wobblies and Eugene Debs and his attempt to form a labour party for America. What set this back was the Cold War, which allowed the forces of the right to smear and vilify them as part of the global Communist threat. Now that Communism has fallen, fewer Americans are being taken in by this ruse, and the spirit of Eugene Debs lives on.

I hope this all goes through, and that it’s successful. If that happens, then the world will be a fair bit better for working people.

God bless it, and American working women and men!

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Two Pieces by American Socialist and Union Leader, Eugene V. Debs

September 10, 2016

Eugene V. Debs was one of the great leaders of the working class movement in America, a radical trade unionist and socialist. I found these two pieces, Why You should Vote for Socialism, and Industrial and Social Democracy, on YouTube. In them, Debs argues that only socialism can save American workers from the grinding poverty, brutality and exploitation of modern capitalist production, and attacking progressives, Democrats and Republicans as providing no solutions for working Americans. The tracts were written in the first years of 20th century, before FDR’s New Deal gave Americans some limited welfare benefits, and his make work policies boosted employment during the Depression. The Democrat party also did much to introduce some welfare provision in America in the late 1960s, with the establishment of Medicare and Medicaid by Lyndon Johnson. His comments nevertheless have renewed significance with Hillary Clinton’s rejection of anything even remotely progressive or ‘left-wing’ in order to pursue the Corporatist Republican vote.

And the speeches also apply over this side of the Atlantic, where the working and lower middle classes are being forced into poverty through zero-hours contracts, benefit cuts and attacks on workers’ rights. Quite apart from a highly unfair tax structure that seeks to reward the very rich and shift the tax burden to the poor.

Why You Should Vote for Socialism

Industrial and Social Democracy

Chris Hedges on Erosion of Civil Liberties, Journalism, the Military-Industrial Complex and the American Empire

January 18, 2016

On Saturday I posted up a piece from The Empire Files about the long history of oppression, exploitation and brutality in Saudi Arabia. This is another video from the Files. Here the presenter, Abby Martin, talks to the veteran journalist Chris Hedges about the Empire and its machine of domination, including his experiences as a reporter in Iraq and El Salvador. Hedges is a Socialist, a Pulitzer-prize winning journalist and the host of Days of Revolt on TeleSur English.

The programme begins with a discussion of how the American state cracked down on anti-War agitators, such as the Socialists Eugene Debs, Emma Goldman, Berkman and others for their opposition to World War I. This conflict saw the beginnings of the military-corporatist machine and the rise of modern state propaganda, pioneered by the Creel Committee and the use of the Sedition Act to crush dissent and peace protests.

After the War, the object of hatred turned from ‘the Hun’ to Communism and what has been described as ‘the psychosis of war’. This psychosis became institutionalised as total war after World War II. After World War I, the factories, that had turned to munitions production, changed back to their peace-time produces. This did not occur after the Second World War. The factories simply carried on producing arms, supported by a government financial network. This created the modern fusion of military and corporatist power.

Hedges and Martin also explore the way the American Empire differs from other, previous imperia. Hedges states that America, unlike other empires, colonised itself. The US army, for example, acted on behalf of the mining corporations, the loggers and so on during the expansion of the American West and the genocide of the Native Americans. After the colonisation of America was complete, America expanded overseas with the annexation of the Philippines and gun boat diplomacy in the Caribbean. Previous empires, like the British, occupied the countries they conquered. American doesn’t. Instead, America trains willing indigenous elites to act on its behalf. These included dictators like Mobutu in Zaire, Samosa in El Salvador and the Shah of Iran. They also overthrow foreign rulers, who threaten American corporate interests. Allende in Chile was overthrown because he threatened to nationalise the copper industry. Arbenz was ousted in Guatemala, because he was going to nationalise the property of United Fruit. America does not directly occupy these countries, but trains their indigenous rulers troops and supplies them with arms to govern for them.

The 1979 victory of Sandinistas in Nicaragua provoked a strong response from America, as they showed that they were not going to protect American corporate interests. And so Reagan pumped massive resources into the resistance movement and in supporting the dictator in El Salvador. The Salvadorean regime were given a fleet of 70 Huey helicopter gunships. They also recruited ‘black’ armies, that did not officially existed, using troops from outside the country. And CIA operatives were also brought in to aid the operations against the Salvadorean rebels. Half the population of El Salvador were landless peasants, while the land was owned by only ten families. The mass of the population were kept in dire poverty Hedges describes as worse than serfdom. When they tried to protest, or resist by forming labour unions and other organisations, they were gunned down in the street. At one point the death squads were killing a thousand people a month.

When America invaded Iraq, the same people, who organised the death squads in Latin America were brought in and used in the same strategy there. One of the officers, who was part of the American forces in the Iraq, had organised and led the death squads in El Salvador. In Iraq he created the Shi’a death squads to murder and terrorise the Sunni Muslims. The result of this was the creation of ISIS.

Hedges also describes the difficulties journalists faced reporting these facts from Iraq. Those reporters, who did cover these abuses were under constant attack from the American government, and particularly the state department. They were vilified as ‘fifth columnists’ and collaborators with America’s enemies. They also faced opposition from their own Washington bureaux. They could also be targeted for execution. In El Salvador, 22 journalists were killed during the war. He also states that the press themselves were quite willing to be used to support the American state’s propaganda in El Salvador. In the First Gulf War, the press was subject to very harsh restrictions. Dick Cheney wanted to deport Hedges, but was unable to find him. Very few war reporters – only 10 – 15% – actually go anywhere near the war. Instead, they stayed away from the front to listen to Cheney and the generals give lectures. The pool system of trustworthy reporters used to control the press in Iraq was actually administered by the journalists themselves. Hedges refers to these journalists as ‘Judenraten’, the Nazi term for the councils the Nazis set up in Jewish communities to administer them, and which chose the members of the population, who were to be sent to the gas chambers. And those journalists, who did join the troops, received great rewards for producing stories about how heroic the soldiers were. For his efforts in covering the dark side of the Iraq War, Hedges was booed off the stage when he gave a speech at Rockford College. The New York Times, for which he was writing, even accused him of damaging their reputation for impartiality. Its columnists were selected by the establishment to report the war as they wanted it. He states that it destroyed his career, but he would not have been able to live with himself if he had not spoken out. He stated he knew people, who had been killed, and describes the destruction of the country. 1 million people have been killed, 4 million displaced; and it has been irreparably destroyed as a unified nation state. It had some of the most modern infrastructure in the Middle East. This has also been destroyed.

Hedges makes it clear that the war is about natural resources, despite the verbiage about bringing democracy. He also states that you can’t be a Socialist without being an anti-imperialist and anti-militarist. It’s important to break the back of the Empire, because the methods it uses to control the subject peoples are then brought back into the heartland to use against the American people. The result of this is that Americans are under greater surveillance, the police has been militarised, civil liberties eroded and removed and so on. All of which could be seen from where they talking in Baltimore. It was the classic disease of empire, which the Greek historian Thucydides had documented when he examined the way ancient Athens similarly destroyed its democracy when it began its imperialist expansion.

Hedges and Martin criticise Bernie Sanders, the left-wing Democratic candidate for the American presidency. Sanders, they state, has not tried to tackle the military-industrial complex. Part of this is that the defence industry and its contractors are able to provide jobs to workers. Hedges quotes one writer as describing the emergence of the military-industrial complex during the Second World War as ‘a coup d’├ętat in slow motion’. At the moment defence officially accounts for 52% of American state expenditure, but this is almost certainly far too low. It doesn’t count veteran affairs, the nuclear arsenal or research and development. The real figure is probably around $1.6 trillion. He states that you can’t really talk about reform when so much is spent on the military. Martin Luther King mentioned this, and that was the moment when, as far as the news was concerned, he was obsolete. It was also the moment Lyndon B. Johnson removed FBI protection, leaving him exposed to assassination. Hedges quotes Engels to the point that it really is a case of ‘barbarism or Socialism’. The world is facing the crisis of climate change, while America is facing the severe problems all empires ultimately face of expanding beyond their ability to maintain themselves. This was the cause of the collapse of the Roman Empire.

Martin and Hedges also discuss the potential for revolution in America. Hedges states that when the system becomes so corrupt, that the elites only rule for themselves, there is always blowback. This can take malign forms, such as the Nazis in Germany. In America, blowback came in the form of FDR. He told the elites that either they gave up some of their power, there would be a revolution. This was when America still had the Communist and Progressive Parties. He states that America is now faced with the problem of challenging the dominant ideology, which has become so deeply ingrained. He describes going through the cemeteries in the American South with a civil rights lawyer. And in all of them there were row upon row of Confederate flags. The lawyer informed him that these had all gone up in the past ten years. Hedges states that what is happening in America is the same that happened in Yugoslavia just before it broke up. When people are made so desperate, they retreat into myth. Hedges finds the current rhetoric against Muslims particularly frightening, as it follows the pattern of violence he found in the wars he covered. Minority groups are first subject to verbal attack, followed by real, physical violence. He describes the American state as hostage to corporate and military power. This has become sacralised in the Christian religion, and part of the American gun cult. It will ignite into Fascism. It’s a symptom of a declining civilisation, the only solution for which is to re-integrate people into the economic system.

It’s a deep discussion, offering profound insights into the emergence of America as the modern imperial power, and the role played in this expansion by the corporate and military interests for whom the American state acts. This military-industrial complex dominates an empire abroad, and is stripping liberties and rights from its own people. The result is violent extremism abroad and at home, as alienated right-wing Americans become even more radicalised.