Saturday, October 29, 2016

"There is no lesser evil" - Election 2016


....Whatever the outcome of the 2016 presidential and congressional elections, an unprecedented blow has been dealt to the stability of the capitalist party system in the United States. Since the consolidation more than a century ago of the Democratic and Republican parties’ domination of bourgeois politics in the new rising imperialist power, there has been nothing comparable.

In order for the two-party system to function effectively for the rulers, there needs to be a “lesser evil.” And the lesser evils need to alternate — a Democrat for a few terms, then a Republican, to and fro. That’s how it has worked for decades as an effective pressure valve to let off anger among “the electorate.”

But that’s not what happened in 2016.

Never before have the presidential candidates of both major capitalist parties evoked such political distrust, disgust, and aversion among working people, youth, and broad layers of the lower middle class. A recent cartoon says it all. It shows neighboring front yards, one with a sign saying “She’s worse,” the other with a sign saying “He’s worse.” Both are dead right! There is no lesser evil.

And the crisis conditions that have produced this shakeup in the bourgeois two-party setup aren’t going away. They are worsening.

What has been unprecedented in 2016 is the exposure of something the US ruling class has largely succeeded in obscuring for decades. It has shown in life that the bourgeois electoral system in the United States is rigged — yes, rigged on behalf of the propertied owners and their large rent-collecting meritocracy. The big majority of the ruling families — often mistakenly labeled the “establishment,” or “political elite,” by those hoping to obscure their class character — made clear a few months before the November elections that they intended to use television, newspapers, and any stick they could get their hands on to ensure Trump’s defeat.

The squashing of Bernie Sanders’s strong primary challenge to Hillary Clinton had already given new generations of workers and youth a display of what powerful bourgeois forces can and will do when they’ve decided the result of a nomination or election beforehand.

The ruling layers and top rungs of those who do their bidding live by different rules and moral standards. “Lyin’ Hillary” is wrong only in the many, many others that description lets off the hook, in both capitalist parties. Sanders and Trump alike decried the “rigged” system, whose game they themselves have contentedly played and profited from for years, and will continue to do so. But the eyes of millions of working people have been opened not to shadowy conspiracies, but to the everyday functioning of bourgeois politics in the United States and, in one form or another, the world over.

The former stability of the two-party shell game will not be restored....

Full article:

Frame-Up of the Hammonds

Oregon trial exposes gov’t frame-up of land protesters



PORTLAND, Ore. — After five weeks of testimony, the trial of brothers Ammon and Ryan Bundy and five others who joined the protest occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge last January drew to a close. The jury began its deliberations Oct. 20. Ammon Bundy organized the civil disobedience action to draw attention to the jailing for the second time of Dwight and Steven Hammond, father and son cattle ranchers in Harney County, on the same frame-up arson charges and to protest government policies that drive ranchers off the land.

Despite no evidence that the protesters carried out a single violent act, the prosecution painted the occupation as a violent conspiracy. The government’s case centered around the charge that protesters conspired to “impede” federal employees in the discharge of their duties. “These defendants took over a wildlife refuge and it wasn’t theirs,” prosecutor Ethan Knight said in his closing statement.

The most serious charge, “Use and Carry of a Firearm in Relation to a Crime of Violence,” was dismissed in June. But numerous other rulings by U.S. District Judge Anna Brown hampered the defense. She prohibited the showing of videos of conversations the Bundys had with Oregon ranchers that confirmed the character and demands of the protest.

Brown, with few exceptions, barred defense lawyers and witnesses from mentioning the Jan. 26 police killing of protest leader Robert “LaVoy” Finicum. The Bundys, Finicum and others had been on the way to a community meeting to discuss the protest when they were ambushed by the FBI and Oregon state police.

The judge also refused to allow the defendants to explain why they thought the doctrine of “adverse possession” gave them the legal right to occupy the refuge as a way of demonstrating that the land should not be under federal control.

Despite the deck being stacked against them, the defendants showed that FBI informants and agent provocateurs had infiltrated the occupation and that those involved in the protest never told federal employees to stop working. It was officials from various government agencies who instructed employees not to go to the refuge.

Frame-up of the Oregon ranchers

The occupation began Jan. 2, just two days before the Hammonds were to return to federal prison after already serving time for the same alleged offense. A federal appeals court had ruled that the judge in their case did not have the authority to sentence them to less than the mandatory five-year sentences in the 1996 Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act.

The Hammonds — who for decades had been fighting U.S. government restrictions on their ability to ranch and attempts to force them to sell their land — had been convicted on frame-up charges of arson. They had set controlled burns, a common practice by both ranchers and government agencies to protect land from wildfires and to clear out invasive plants.

The Bundys and their supporters also saw the occupation as a way to protest what many ranchers call “federal overreach” — rules, regulations, fees and other bureaucratic obstacles to their use of federal land for grazing and watering livestock.

A thousand ranchers and others visited the refuge during the occupation. Even ranchers who did not agree with the action frequently told the press that it brought needed attention to the frame-up of the Hammonds and the U.S. government’s anti-rancher policies.

Much of the prosecution’s case centered on the weapons that some protesters carried during the occupation. Knight played a video of up to 10 men at the refuge boat launch firing assault rifles. “This is not a firing range,” he said. “This is inherently intimidating.”

But it was FBI informant Fabio Minoggio — alias John Killman — who organized the target practice, noted Marcus Mumford, Ammon Bundy’s lawyer. “There were more FBI confidential informants at the refuge than there are defendants in this room,” Mumford said. The government admits to having at least nine informants at the refuge.

FBI agents even infiltrated a Mormon Church service that Ryan Bundy was attending. And FBI informant Mark McConnell was the driver for Ammon Bundy the day he was arrested and Finicum was gunned down.

Indian artifacts not disturbed

The defense was also able to answer a slander that the refuge occupation was an attack on Native Americans and that the protesters had damaged Indian artifacts stored there. Sheila Warren, an elder with the Siletz tribe in Oregon, testified that she went to the refuge to find out if accusations were true. She said she was welcomed and saw the artifacts were not disturbed.

A handful of supporters of the defendants held a daily vigil near the courthouse during the trial. “We are trying to educate people that the Bundys did not steal land and the Hammonds did not intentionally burn federal land,” said John Lamb, a chicken farmer from Bozeman, Montana. “I don’t know how to run the subway in New York City and the federal government has no business telling me how to run a farm.”

Talking to workers on their doorsteps in northeast Portland, Socialist Workers Party members who attended part of the trial found a range of views about the occupation and charges. “That whole thing was a little too radical for me,” said Ken Anderson, 49, a printing press operator. “But no one should get shot for protesting like happened there.”

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Workers power

‘Instead of capitalists, a workers and farmers government’

The French-language edition of Socialism on Trial is one of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month for October. It contains James P. Cannon’s testimony in a Minneapolis federal court in November 1941. Cannon, the national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party, was one of 18 communist and Teamster leaders framed up and convicted on federal “conspiracy” charges under the Smith Act — a law that made it illegal “to teach, advocate and encourage” revolutionary ideas. President Franklin Roosevelt, preparing for Washington’s entry into World War II, wanted to isolate and silence proponents of socialism and their opposition to the imperialist slaughter. The defendants used the courtroom as a forum to clearly present their working-class program. This excerpt is from the section “Private property in the workers state.” Copyright © 1942, 2014 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission. 


Q: When you say “capitalist government,” what do you mean?

A: We mean a government that arises from a society that is based on the private ownership of the wealth of the country and the means of production by the capitalists, and which in general represents the interests of that class.

Q: And in contradistinction to this government you propose to establish a workers and farmers government?

A: Yes, we propose in place of the capitalists a workers and farmers government, which will frankly represent the economic and social interests of the workers and the producing farmers.

Q: Well, what would happen to the capitalists?

A: Under the workers and farmers government, the main task of the government will be to carry out the transfer of the most important means of production from private ownership to the common ownership of the people.

Q: Well, what would happen to the individual capitalists who would lose their wealth?

A: What do you mean, “happen to them,” in what way?

Q: Would you kill them or put them to work or what?

A: Well, under our theory, citizenship participation in the benefits of society would be open to everybody on a basis of equality. This would apply to former capitalists as well as to workers and farmers.

Q: When you use the term “productive wealth,” do you mean any property that an individual owns?

A: No — when we speak of the means of production, the wealth of the country, we mean that wealth which is necessary for the production of the necessities of the people. The industries, the railroads, mines, and so on. We don’t propose — at least, Marxist socialists have never proposed anywhere that I know — the elimination of private property in personal effects. We speak of those things which are necessary for the production of the people’s needs. They shall be owned in common by all the people.

Q: What would happen to small businesses, the owners of which do not have labor to hire?

A: Well, the best Marxist authority since [Frederick] Engels is that small proprietors, who are not exploiters, should be in no way interfered with by the workers and farmers government. They should be allowed to have their farms, their small possessions, their small handicraft shops, and only insofar as they become convinced, by the example of socialized collective farming and voluntarily would agree to pool their land and their resources in a collective effort, only to that extent can collectivization of small farming enterprises take place.

In the meantime, it is a part of our program that the workers and farmers government should assist such enterprise by assuring them reasonable prices for their implements, for fertilizers, arrange credits for them, and in general conduct the government as a government which is concerned for them and wants to represent their interests.

I am speaking now of small producing farmers, not of big landowners and bankers, who exploit a lot of people, or who rent land out to sharecroppers. We certainly intend to socialize their land in the very first stages of the workers and farmers government, turn it over to the administration of the people who actually till the soil. That also, I may say, is the standard Marxist doctrine since the earliest days, and the doctrine of [V.I.] Lenin and [Leon] Trotsky in the Russian Revolution.

Q: How will this socialist society be controlled and directed?

A: Well, socialism naturally would have to grow out of the new situation. After the social revolution has been effected in the political arena, and the capitalist government has been replaced by a workers and farmers government, which proceeds to the socialization of the industries, the abolition of inequalities, the raising of the level of the income of the masses of the people, and the suppression of any attempts at counterrevolution by the dispossessed exploiters, the importance and weight of the government as a repressive force would gradually diminish.

Then as classes are abolished, as exploitation is eliminated, as the conflict of class against class is eliminated, the very reason for the existence of a government in the strict sense of the term begins to diminish. Governments are primarily instruments of repression of one class against another. According to the doctrine of Marx and Engels and all of the great Marxists who followed them, and based themselves on their doctrine, we visualize, as Engels expressed it, a gradual withering away of the government as a repressive force, as an armed force, and its replacement by purely administrative councils, whose duties will be to plan production, to supervise public works, and education, and things of this sort. As you merge into socialist society, the government, as Engels expressed it, tends to wither away and the government of men will be replaced by the administration of things.

The government of a socialist society in reality will be an administrative body, because we don’t anticipate the need for armies and navies, jails, repressions, and consequently that aspect of government dies out for want of function.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

The notorious RBG: a Marxist view

From 2012

Supreme Court justice: U.S. Constitution passé

Workers should defend protections won in struggle



The U.S. Constitution and Bill of Rights is passé, so says U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, considered the most senior member of the court’s liberal wing. According to this view, a constitution that gives the capitalists’ government more power and “flexibility” to bestow numerous promises of rights and entitlements is better than the current Constitution and Bill of Rights, which are built around protections against the capitalist state.

“I would not look to the U.S. Constitution if I were drafting a constitution in the year 2012,” Ginsburg told a local television station when she was in Egypt at the end of January. “I might look at the constitution of South Africa. That was a deliberate attempt to have a fundamental instrument of government that embraced basic human rights.”

The liberal justice, also pointed to Canada’s Charter of Rights and Freedom and the European Convention on Human Rights as better models than the U.S. Bill of Rights.

Amendments won in struggle

The Bill of Rights of 1791 along with the 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments to the U.S. Constitution—which abolished slavery, recognized “equal protection of the laws,” and voting rights—were won as a result of massive, bloody struggles by and in the interests of workers and farmers, including the revolutionary war for independence, Shay’s rebellion in 1786, the 1861-65 Civil War and related struggles that followed it.

South Africa’s Bill of Rights, which is four times longer than the U.S. Bill of Rights, begins by saying it “affirms the democratic values of human dignity, equality and freedom” and guarantees the “full and equal enjoyment of all rights and freedoms.”

Among the more than 35 categories containing scores of highly detailed rights, so highly lauded by Justice Ginsburg, are the rights to “life,” “freedom of artistic creativity,” “fair labour practices,” “sufficient food and water” and “access to adequate housing.”

These rights, the South African law says, may be limited “to the extent that the limitation is reasonable and justifiable in an open and democratic society” or if a state of emergency is declared.

The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms guarantees rights subject “to such reasonable limits prescribed by law as can be demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society.”

Compare those descriptions to the preamble to the Bill of Rights, which notes that the amendments to the Constitution were made “in order to prevent misconstruction or abuse of its powers.”

Succinct, clear and to the point. No worthless promises from the capitalist rulers to ensure “human dignity,” much less caveats about “reasonable limits.”

The last thing working people need is to depend on the capitalist state to “give us rights.” We need it to leave us alone so we can organize independently and with as little interference as possible, until the working class and our allies are strong enough to wrest power and establish a new social order based on solidarity and the needs of the great majority of toiling humanity.

There are useful examples from the early history of the United States. The words “equal rights to life, liberty and property” were popular among bourgeois opponents of monarchial tyranny and feudal reaction in the late 18th century and were included in the constitution of the antislavery New York Manumission Society. In drafting the Declaration of Independence, however, these words were altered by slaveholder Thomas Jefferson to “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The exploitation of wage and slave labor is predicated on dispossession and denial of property for the toiling majority.

We don’t need any government involved in our “pursuit of happiness.” We have as much use for that as so-called rights to “artistic freedom” or “adequate food and water” championed in Ginsburg’s model constitution, while in the real world people go hungry. No, we’ll work to take care of those things ourselves despite their rule—and we find “happiness” in fighting to replace it.

The fact is, the U.S. capitalist rulers are constantly working to undermine the Bill of Rights. The right to a “speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury” has become the right to plea bargain and go to jail—unless you want to risk a 10-fold harsher sentence. The right “against unreasonable searches and seizures” has become “stop and frisk” anywhere, anytime. “Equal protection of the laws” is today further from reality than at any time in nearly half a century. And President Barack Obama now asserts the Constitution does not protect citizens accused of being “terrorists” from being assassinated on his orders.

New York Times Supreme Court correspondent Adam Liptak put forward views similar to Ginsburg in a Jan. 6 article that reports on a study soon to be published in the New York University Law Review.

Liptak says the U.S. Constitution is “out of step with the rest of the world” is “terse and old” and “guarantees relatively few rights.” He calls the “right to bear arms” an idiosyncrasy and favorably quotes University of Texas law professor Sanford Levinson bemoaning that “the U.S. Constitution is the most difficult to amend of any constitution currently existing in the world today.”

That difficulty, including the separation of powers and restrictive rules for approving amendments, was built into the Constitution as a result of the heterogeneous alliance of merchants and slave owners that made up the first U.S. governments, their suspicions of each other and their fears of the laboring classes.

“Our Founders designed a system that makes it more difficult to bring about change than I would like sometimes,” Obama complained in a Feb. 6 interview with NBC’s Today Show.

As long as we’re under capitalist rule, we’ll stick with the current Constitution—especially the Bill of Rights and 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments. Anything that helps to provide some protection from the state and slows down the ability of the rulers to impose their will is better than any dependency on the repressive state and false promises of the enemy class.

The Militant - April 16, 2012 -- Supreme Court justice: U.S. Constitution passé

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

On The Allies We’re Not Proud Of: A Palestinian Response to Troubling Discourse on Syria

"....We are concerned by some of the discourse that has emerged from progressive circles with regards to the ongoing crisis in Syria. In particular, we are embarrassed by the ways in which some individuals known for their work on Palestine have failed to account for some crucial context in their analysis of Syria."

Read full piece here:

Saturday, October 1, 2016

World Socialist Web Site marshalls Jew-hating vocabulary in Peres article

A new footnote to the current climate of antisemitism on the middle class left.

Classic Jew-hating motifs in the World Socialist Web Site article on Shimon Peres.

Full article here: (dot) html

....the rapacious, land-grabbing, militaristic state....

....the carving out....

....most rapacious actions....

....arch-schemer and back-stabber ....

....poisoned by assassins working for the state of Israel.

....a dispossessor, a pariah....


Readings on this anti-worker pseudo-left group: