Saturday, February 25, 2017

Capitalist carnage

Below are the remarks by Mary-Alice Waters at a Feb. 10 presentation of three new books on the U.S. class struggle at the Havana International Book Fair (see accompanying article). Waters is a member of the National Committee of the Socialist Workers Party and president of Pathfinder Press. Copyright © 2017 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.

....In his inaugural address three weeks ago, President Trump used the phrase “this American carnage” to describe the conditions of life faced by broad layers of US working people today, both rural and urban. That word — carnage — was singled out by the hysterical anti-Trump media as an example of the president’s twisted refusal to acknowledge what those who’ve benefited so greatly from the “Obama years” portray as an economic recovery.

It was a “dark” speech, these commentators said. It failed to recognize that “America Is Already Great,” echoing the imperialist sloganeering of Hillary Clinton’s liberal Democratic Party campaign.

But carnage it is.

That’s exactly the right word. It’s the word you’ll find in the pages of The Clintons’ Anti-Working-Class Record, published months before the changing of the guard in Washington.

Its accuracy is backed up by massive documentation in the pages of these three books. Each of them recounts the consequences for US working people of the social policies put in place, with bipartisan support, over the quarter century ago since the inauguration of Bill Clinton, policies supported and continued by Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

You’ll find here the machinations used to conceal the true level of joblessness, as well as workers’ declining real wages.

You’ll find the consequences of slashing social welfare programs for women and children.

You’ll find facts on the soaring prison population, the record numbers of deportations and prosecutions of immigrants, and the large increase in federal crimes for which a judge can impose the death penalty.

You’ll find the growing suicide rate among young adults, and the epidemic of narcotics addiction in small cities, towns, and devastated farming and mining areas.

You’ll find the toll on the working class of Washington’s endless wars and its repeated deployments of workers and farmers to Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. And much more.

More important than charts and statistics, however, is the visual evidence available to anyone willing to look as they drive across vast areas of the United States. I hope Fernando will speak about what he saw, with his own eyes, when the US Bureau of Prisons gave him the “opportunity” to drive through the rural Southwest in a prison bus transporting him to Safford, Arizona.

Growing class inequalities

It’s not only the social inequities that have accelerated in the last quarter century. It’s the class inequalities.

It’s not just the wealth of the multibillionaires, including Trump and family, or multi-multimillionaires like their rival Democratic Party family, the Clintons. It’s also the steady expansion of high-earning professional and upper middle-class layers who dominate the media and populate the universities, administrative and “intelligence” agencies of the federal government, “Silicon Valley,” and tens of thousands of “charitable” foundations and other “nonprofit” institutions that promote worldwide the capitalist and imperialist interests of their financial backers.

Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? — one of two books by Jack Barnes, National Secretary of the Socialist Workers Party — that we’re presenting here today, deals with the growing significance of this social layer.

In these privileged circles, it’s common to hear someone remark that they can’t understand how Trump won the election — “I don’t know a single person who intended to vote for him.”

This class isolation was captured by a Washington Post columnist a few months ago who was voicing his fear of the rising anger of millions of working people in the US. “Never have so many people with so little knowledge made so many consequential decisions for the rest of us,” he wrote. “We must weed out ignorant Americans from the electorate.”

For him, this “ignorant electorate” clearly includes the overwhelming majority of the working class in the United States.

It is not Trump’s crude insults, his vulgar misogyny, or anti-immigrant demagogy that this well-remunerated social layer finds most unsettling. What they fear is something different. They fear the millions of men and women — Black and white, immigrant and native born, religious and nonreligious — who recognize their own lives, and the lives of their neighbors, in that word carnage.

When Hillary Clinton announced during the election campaign that those who weren’t going to vote for her — those who weren’t going to vote to continue the carnage — were nothing but a basket of irredeemable “deplorables,” at that moment she was finished.

Opportunities and responsibilities

The election was a protest vote in the framework of bourgeois politics, the only framework that exists today for the millions.

It registered the blows dealt since the 2008 world financial crisis to the stability of the two-party system through which the US capitalist class has long governed. Neither party will emerge intact.

Trump’s inauguration boast — “This American carnage stops now” — will not come to be, of course. There are no capitalist policies that can achieve that, and there is no imperialist politician who can change what is going to happen. The law of value is stronger than any of them, or all of them together.

Until we, the working class and our allies, are strong enough to put an end to their system, their crises will continue to be paid for by working people the world over in our flesh and blood, in the misery of hundreds of millions.

As a result of these conditions — and the disrespectful response by the rulers and their political servants to the victims among working people — there is today greater openness in the US working class than at any moment in our lifetimes to discuss the broadest social questions and political issues. For communists that means growing opportunities along with enormous responsibilities.

Contrary to the picture painted by the liberal media and across “the left,” there is less racism and less anti-immigrant chauvinism today among working people than ever before in US history. Ultraright fringe groups are more marginalized than ever following Trump’s victory.

There is more space, not less, to fight to organize the unorganized, demand amnesty for foreign-born workers, mobilize against police brutality, advance the struggle for women’s rights, and oppose Washington’s imperialist wars. There is more space to rebuild our unions as instruments of solidarity and struggle.

Most important, there are more opportunities than we’ve known in decades to win young workers and other youth to the need to build a party, a communist party, within the vanguard of the working class.

It is along that road that the men and women capable of making a socialist revolution in the US will be forged, as they were here in Cuba.

That is what the books we are presenting here today are about.

In the name of my party, the Socialist Workers Party, I want to say to you, however, that until that battle is won, we will continue to act on Fidel’s words to the Federation of University Students two years ago:

“I do not trust the policy of the United States” — here in Cuba, in the US, or anywhere else in the world.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Building a party of seasoned fighters, not summer soldiers

Dobbs: ‘Our task is to chart a revolutionary course’

One of Pathfinder’s Books of the Month for February is Teamster Rebellion by Farrell Dobbs. Excerpted below is the concluding portion of a 1966 speech given by Dobbs, which is quoted by Socialist Workers Party National Secretary Jack Barnes in his introduction. Dobbs, a long-time leader of the SWP and central leader of the victorious battles in the 1930s that built the Teamsters union in the Midwest, was speaking to an audience substantially composed of Young Socialists. “Dobbs summed up the world historical view that best describes his lifetime political course; the class characteristics indispensable for any proletarian revolutionist; and what the working class demands of its leaders, above all,” Barnes says. Copyright © 1972 by Pathfinder Press. Reprinted by permission.  


We must be constantly aware of the key role of the United States in the world. United States imperialism is today the powerhouse of world reaction, as the war in Vietnam is abundantly demonstrating.

It is an iron fact that until capitalism is overturned here in the United States of America, the gang of imperialist mad dogs that rule this country are going to remain a mortal threat to all humanity. We must never forget that.

That means the showdown battle for world socialism is going to be fought right here in the United States of America. And when the revolutionary victory is won, outlived, decadent capitalism is going to disappear literally overnight from the face of our planet. Humanity is going to march forward to the building of an enlightened socialist society where people for the first time can really live together on this planet in peace and in security and with freedom. Humanity will finally realize the type of rewarding life that human intelligence is so abundantly capable of making, even at the present level of technological development. Once humanity learns how to conduct itself politically, organizationally, and socially, it can take advantage of these wonders.

That’s what we dedicate our lives to. We of the party, we revolutionaries in the United States — acting as best we can in solidarity with revolutionary fighters across the world — must always keep in mind that in the last analysis the fate of humanity rests on the socialist revolution in the United States. Our task is to build a party capable of leading that revolution, going up against the most heinous of the reactionary, monstrous ruling class regimes that exist on the face of this planet: the imperialist ruling class of the United States.

The road ahead in that struggle is going to be strewn with obstacles, and there are going to be many pitfalls. There’s no roadmap, no way you can find some kind of a detailed handbook that’s going to tell you what to do at each juncture. Our task is to chart a revolutionary course, based on a fundamental understanding of our program — a basic feel of our revolutionary strategy—and to hammer out the tactics in that direction as we go along.

There’s no timetable. Nobody can say how long it’s going to take or when it’s going to happen. I personally feel that those of you sitting in this room today, who have got all your youth going for you, have got at least Damon Runyon’s six-to-five chance of seeing that explosion.

But in saying so I want to add immediately: don’t make that a condition. Don’t adopt the criterion that the revolutionary change must happen in your time. Don’t take as a guide to your active life that narrow, provincial, self-centered notion that if it doesn’t happen during the time of your own subjective existence on this planet, it’s not important.

Always remember that history is magnificently indifferent to the problems of the individual. History doesn’t care whether you die at six or live to be seven hundred, if that were possible, or what happens during your particular lifetime. As the German poet Goethe once said, “History marches like a drunken beggar on horseback.”

A lot can happen during your limited lifespan, or you can live a dull existence. Some people have had the good fortune to live more in a year than others at a different historical juncture could live in their whole lifetime. Or, as Plekhanov once put it, “If it hadn’t been for the French Revolution, Napoleon would probably have ended up as a corporal in the French artillery.”

Don’t make it a condition that the socialist revolution must come in your lifetime. Be not only a citizen of the planet; be a citizen of time. Recognize that what’s fundamental is to be in rapport with the human race from the dawn of history, on to heights we can only vaguely begin to dream of.

And what’s the alternative? The alternative is to make a compromise with this rotten capitalist system. Do you know what people who do that are like? You remember the movie, The Devil and Daniel Webster? Jabez Stone, you know, sold his soul to Scratch, the devil. He did so on the promise that his personal ambitions would thus be served. Later he regretted the action and asked to have his soul returned. Scratch, who was played by Walter Huston, that magnificent actor, finally said all right, he’d give it back.

So Scratch took a small matchbox from his pocket. He opened the box and began poking around in it with his stubby finger trying, and trying, to find the mean little soul of Jabez Stone so he could give it back.

That’s symbolic of what you do to your own soul if you make a compromise with this rotten system.

Our job is to build a movement of men and women who emulate the seasoned fighters of the Continental line in the first American Revolution. Learn to be professional revolutionary fighters. Don’t be summer soldiers. Don’t dabble; don’t vacillate. Put nothing above the considerations of the movement. Maintain your place in the front ranks of the revolutionary fighters, and stand in that place for the duration.

There is no other way in which you can find so rich, so rewarding, so fruitful, and so purposeful a life.

The Militant: focus on clarity in today's struggles

Calling Trump a ‘fascist’ disorients the working class

Anarchist ‘black bloc’ politics pose threat to working class

Join the protests! Demand amnesty!

Friday, February 10, 2017

Workers World Party attacks free speech and promotes violence against suspected Trump supporters


....“The vibe in the crowd was a unified front against fascism. It was good to see young communists and anarchists working together. For example, we commandeered a ‘Make America Great Again’ hat from a hubristic white male who decided to walk through our crowd. We worked together to take his hat and start that f*cker on fire, using communist flyers and an anarchist’s lighter.”

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Free speech and censorship

From a friend on Facebook

"I'm for free speech, but that doesn't mean that bigots and fascists are entitled to a platform at our university. The vast majority of the students here reject hate speech and bigotry, and we won't tolerate it in our lecture halls. We have no tolerance for the incendiary rhetoric of racists who incite violence towards the students of marginalized communities. We're under no obligation to give a lectern to hate speech, and they've got plenty of airtime elsewhere to espouse their views."

-Said the censors one and all

Don't let a racist troll with a book deal goad you from your democratic rights. We need that space that he's baiting you to choke and shout away, and we need it more than he does. We need to organize our own meetings, and bigger meetings.

We need those lecterns for prison leaders, revolutionists, traitors, "enemies of the state" etc... If the bigots can't rely on the cops to defend their meetings than it should be clear as all hell that we can't either.

We defend our meetings with disciplined organization, and by appealing to the broad democratic inclinations of the vast majority, who rightly detest anyone who tells them what they can and can't listen to. Don't deride that instinct, it's a good one. It's the instinct that gives those of us who hold a minority viewpoint the hope for a real hearing.

When you tell people that some ideas are too repugnant for them to hear, you're saying that they're:

A. Too stupid not to be hypnotized
B. Dormant bigots who just needs to hear what they believe already said through a microphone

If you believe either A or B there's not much for us to discuss. But I suspect that most of you don't. I suspect that most of you would-be censors are rightfully repulsed by racism, and that you're earnest in your desire to eradicate it from the earth. Good. We agree.

I think you do that the Cuban way, by organizing working people to make a revolution and reorganize society on the basis of human solidarity. Maybe you disagree, no problem. We can debate that. We could even hold a large public meeting debating revolutionary politics, and I bet we'd find a curious audience among the millions of working people searching for a way forward. A lot of people wouldn't like that though, especially as the social crisis in the United States deepens. A lot of them would say that we shouldn't get to organize that meeting, they may even try to shut us down. But fear not, I'm sure the cops would defend our right to speak, just like they defended that bigot troll with the bleached hair.

Monday, February 6, 2017

Marxolalia and Marxophasia

Having finished Volume 1 last week, today i began reading. Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution, Vol. II: The Politics of Social Classes by Hal Draper.  It was initially published in 1978.
In the Foreword, Draper reviews his own strict procedures for the use of quotation in his exegesis.
He also spends some time on the question of unintentionally relaxed standards used in the quotation of Marx and Engels.
I get the feeling that the more Draper worked on this series of books, the more he felt compelled to settle accounts with 150 years of pseudo-scholarship.
Except from pages 14-17:

Saturday, February 4, 2017

No DAPL Cleveland Rally. Feb 4 2017. Market Square.

No DAPL Cleveland Rally. Feb 4 2017.

Market Square.

Video from Facebook Live here and here.

More photos:

Cold day. 60 to 70 showed up. Some old hands, many young men and women.

Vocal anti-Trump element. "No Trump, No Pence, no KKK, no fascist USA."

One young guy pointed out, commenting on such slogans, that since Trump got so many votes, we had to find a way to his voters, too.

Older folks with bull horn had slogans against the U.S. Bank branch across the street. Apparently U.S. Bank is part of the pipeline octopus.

Lots of "Leave it in the ground" and "You can't drink oil" signs and statements.

No signs or demands around Native American rights.

See also:

Draper sums-up Marx's approach to the state

The end of chapter 23 marks the end of Draper's book. (Except that there are still several hundred pages of appendices, notes, and indexes to go.)
The final section of chapter 23 serves as a kind of summation of themes Draper has explicated in rich detail in the preceding 520 pages.
Hal Draper. Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution. Volume 1: State and Bureacracy. 1977.
From Chapter 23, Section
....Engels presented the basic formularization of the socioeconomic foundation of the state structure. It is expressed in terms broad enough to include the normal class interpretation of the normal state; that is, it underlies the class formula. Like the latter, it is put in terms of executors. Writing specifically of the complex role of the Russian state absolutism, Engels stated:
All governments, be they ever so absolute, are en dernier lieu [in the last analysis] but the executors of the economic necessities of the national situation. They may do this in various ways, good, bad and indifferent; they may accelerate or retard the economic development and its political and juridical consequences, but in the long run they must follow it.35 
This, Engels continued, was why the industrial revolution in Russia was unavoidable.
This was no new thought for Engels, even in this aphoristic form. He had met the same problem in a similar way, if from another direction, in 1875. In the essay against Tkachov, as mentioned, Engels showed how the interests of the various classes are the material bases on which the state stands, instead of hanging inthe air. But he does not turn the Tkachov fantasy over on its other side by trying to prove that this Russian state is simply the instrument of a particular class. The conclusion he comes to is put as follows: 
Not only the Russian state in general but even its specific form, the czarist despotism, instead of hanging in the air, is the necessary and logical product of the Russian social conditions with which, according to Mr. Tkachov, it has “nothing in common”!36 
This is a formula for the nature of the state which cuts behind—or deeper than—the normal class formula.* 
The relation between these two formulas can now be understood to state the full content of Marx’s theory of the state:
Under normal conditions—conditions of relative stability in society—the necessary product of the social conditions is the accession of a particular class to the unshared domination of the state power. But this can hardly be the product in a period when a societal transition is still unresolved. It cannot be the product when classes are still struggling for dominion in an undecided contest; in such a flux the state’s class content will reflect the state of the war. Nor can it be the necessary product in a situation such as Russia’s, driven into the maelstrom of social revolution from above, where no class of civil society was capable of acting as “executors of the economic necessities of the national situation.” 
In this Russian case, what was needed was a class whose own interests impelled it to act as the instrument to save the real interests of all the social strata that had a stake in the ongoing society, to save them by saving the society itself from the collapse which was the only alternative to the social transformation . This is what defines “the economic necessities of the national situation,” not in terms of the interests of any single class, but in terms of the class constellation as a whole.
The only social power that could perform this function was the state apparatus. In this way the state acts as the Gesamteinheit—the overall Unity—not simply of “society” in the abstract, but of all class elements whose real interests rest on the maintenance of social exploitation in one form or another. 
And the maintenance of social exploitation in one form or another, in the midst of the Russian transmogrification, had a very concrete meaning, capable of being figured in rubles. In general, we here meet a phenomenon that was also important in Western Europe in the eventual bourgeoisification of the feudalaristocracy itself, insofar as the latter reconciled itself to the inevitability of change instead of inviting a 1789 type of revolutionary convulsion. Both the old and the new ruling class—the landowning nobles and the bourgeois—were equally property-owning, exploitive classes. The revolution from above was a shift from one mode of extracting surplus labor to another. This was also the reason why a revolution from above was possible . The old ruling class in crisis learns that, at any rate, this sort of revolution offers them some very comforting mitigations of the indignity forced upon them: namely, continued economic privileges to one degree or another. (We had occasion to make this point in Chapter 14 regarding the Bismarckian development.)38
But this consolation prize depends on channeling the inescapable revolution into a form that maintains social exploitation in one form or another. It is not usually just one of the contending classes themselves that can undertake the organization of this redistribution of power; as we have pointed out elsewhere, it is difficult for one sector of the capitalist class, for example, to referee the internecine struggles of competing capitalists to make sure that the system is not shaken apart by the melee. In the Russian case, it is the state that acted as the executor for the interests of class society as a whole.
Autonomous from any particular class of civil society, it could embody what the contenders had in common: the need to ensure the conditions under which to continue the extraction of surplus labor from the mass of people.
This spells out the class content of Engels’ formulation of the theory of the state: the state, “necessary and logical product of the [given] social conditions,” is always in the last analysis “the executor of the economic necessities of the national situation.” Thus it is always the organizer of society in the interests of the class (exploitive) structure taken as a whole. This is the general theory of the state in Marx and Engels.
Within its framework lies the special theory of the state which applies to normal times and conditions in roughly the same way as Euclidean geometry applies to normal space. It is the view of the state as the managing committee of a ruling class with which we started in Chapter 11.
Normality here is a function of the process of change. The more rapid the change—the more revolutionary the times, the more history is caught in the flux of becoming—the more does the special theory begin to warp away from a close match with reality, and the more does the general theory of the state become applicable in order to explain the pattern of political power in the process of social transformation.
Karl Marx’s Theory of Revolution I, Hal Draper.

Friday, February 3, 2017


Facebook post From a comrade of mine:

And so the self-chosen "avengers" of the oppressed contribute to the restriction - instead of the broadening - of much-needed space to discuss and debate a road forward for working people, today. What matters most is not WHO you are against or what "ideology" you oppose, but what you are for!

"Eleven people have been arrested outside New York University during a heated protest against a conservative comedian who gave a speech at the school, police said on Friday.

"A group that organized the protest against Vice Media co-founder Gavin McInnes said he was known for using incendiary language, according to local media.

"McInnes said on Twitter he had been sprayed with pepper spray, but 'being called a Nazi burned way more.'

"The protesters face charges of disorderly conduct, resisting arrest and criminal mischief after they were taken into custody during a demonstration against McInnes, who made an appearance at the university late on Thursday, a New York City Police Department spokesman said..."

Live video: Hundreds protest Trump’s immigration order in Cleveland

View it here:

Trump and Bonapartism: Reply to a reader

The Socialist Workers Party does not have one policy during Republican administrations and another for Democratic administrations. 

 John B. writes:

You may remember that a few months ago I asked why the SWP did not characterize Trump as a Bonapartist, since he would seem to fit the definition to a "T." Back in the '90s they were very quick to describe Ross Perot, Patrick Buchanan and even Jesse Ventura this way.

I know you're not a member of the SWP, or even an "organized supporter," but since all of a sudden you're posting articles on the subject, I suspect a line change is imminent, and it will now officially define Trump as a Bonapartist. The problem this poses for them is if they admit it now, the whole edifice of their orientation toward the "Trump Movement" for the last year and a half comes crashing down in a heap. What to do?

My reply:

This blog has posted several articles in the last few days on the Marxist concept of Bonapartism.  I am currently reading Hal Draper's 1977 book Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution Volume 1: State and Bureaucracy.  Chapters 15-18 of that book cover the development of Bonapartism as a scientific classification by Marx and Engels.  They did this while studying living events in France and Germany, focusing on the rule of Napoleon III and Otto Von Bismarck. 

The value of Draper's discussion of Bonapartism is that he grounds the formulation in its historical context, and does not deal with it as an academic abstraction.  Marx and Engels identified Bonapartist elements in the rule not just of Napoleon III and Bismarck, but also Simon Bolivar and several absolutist monarchies in Europe.

The Bonapartist leader, they concluded, was primarily a semi-autonomous arbiter, pretending to be "above" all contending classes, but in fact defending the dictatorship of capital in periods of crisis and polarization.  The Bonapartist leader defended bourgeois rule against the threat of working class organization and political action, and also against threats from capitalists or layers within the ruling class.  [Hence Bismarck's harsh treatment, "for their own good," of Junkerdom.]

Is Trump a Bonapartist?

I disagree with John B.'s statement that Trump is a definitive Bonpartist.  Draper makes clear that under bourgeois rule, with its autonomously functioning capitalist state machinery, there are always elements of an arbitrator function, and of arbitrary executive rule. The U.S. government since 1930s has certainly seen this Bonapartist tendency, as have state and city governments.

The 1990s saw the emergence of figures in bourgeois politics who rejected Republican and Democratic political parties. I would call Perot and Ventura premature wannabe Bonapartes. They presented themselves as "decisive men" and nominated themselves for the role. The appearance of such figures, and the increased use of exclusively executive powers, are complimentary phenomenon. 

Donald Trump has presented himself as an arbitrator, but exclusively within the context of salvaging the fortunes of the Republican Party, not rejecting it.

The Republicans are being remade by Donald Trump, a multibillionaire pretending to speak in the interests of working people while seeking to find policies that further enrich the capitalist class, in a futile attempt to end the inevitable crisis of their system. This has nothing to do with hysteria about “fascism” among liberal and middle-class radicals, Barnes said. In fact, the Trump electoral victory is weakening already marginal ultra-rightist currents, who are unable to gain any traction in U.S. politics. [Source]

Likewise, Trump's use of executive orders is in continuity with the practice of previous U.S. presidents in the modern era.

One executive order issued by Trump on Jan. 25, titled “Border Security and Immigration Enforcement Improvements,” states that it is government policy to extend the wall on the Mexican border, speed up deportations, expand immigration detention facilities and add 5,000 Border Patrol agents.

The order traces its continuity to the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, signed by then President Bill Clinton. The average daily population of men, women and children held in immigration detention centers soared from 8,000 before the law to 34,000 in 2014.

Does the SWP orient to a Trump Movement?

I do not speak for the U.S. Socialist Workers Party.  I support its program and activity, as do hundreds of others.  My knowledge of the party's politics and approach is based exclusively on my reading of the party press.  Based on this understanding, I reject the statement that the party has had an "orientation toward the 'Trump Movement' for the last year and a half”.

The Socialist Workers Party has an orientation to the working class.  This is carried out where party members happen to work, as well as in cities where party branches take their literature and program door-to-door in an undifferentiated way in working class districts.

In 2015-2016, this orientation included joining fellow workers at Democratic and Republican campaign rallies.  What party members found in discussions at these events was that workers rejected the Clinton campaign's "Things are great" message.  Trump's demagogy, within the two-party straight-jacket, looked to many like a chance to effect the intolerable status quo. But the SWP has never given an inch to the idea that Trump’s campaign could be a political vehicle; it rejects any suggestion Trump is a tribune for workers.

This is in stark contrast to the approach of a galaxy of bourgeois Democratic Party pundits and promoters, and petty bourgeois left and radical movementarians and activists.  They flattered themselves that supporters of Democratic Party demagogue Bernie Sanders were pay dirt for a new socialist movement in the United States.  These same characters, who eight years ago said they would "make Obama keep his promises" by their mass street actions, spent most of 2016 conducting street actions to disrupt and attack workers interested in checking out Trump events.

The Socialist Workers Party does not have one policy during Republican administrations and another for Democratic administrations. 

This alone makes the party unique in U.S. politics.  No other party in this country can say the same. Quite the contrary! Today liberal-left organizations, media, and sundry outfits attempt to whip-up hysteria among former Clinton and Sanders supporters around issues [abortion, immigrant rights, "imperial presidency"] they have accepted with stunning complacency for the last eight years.

What does the Socialist Workers Party counterpose to  this lesser-evil Groundhog Day?

I'll close with lines from this statement, released today:

The propertied rulers’ capitalist system is in deep crisis today, facing declining profit rates, contraction in production and trade, and growing conflicts over resources and markets. The deepening competition between capitalist rulers worldwide has produced growing carnage, devastating economic crises and dispossession of millions of human beings around the world. Washington and other imperialist powers have engaged in nonstop wars since the turn of the millennium in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Yemen, Syria and elsewhere.

Workers need our own party to organize independent of the bosses and their political parties, to defend our interests on the road toward taking power out of the hands of the capitalist rulers. The Socialist Workers Party is your party.

Let’s fight together: Unionize all workers! No deportations! Speak out against attacks on Muslims and mosques! All U.S. troops out of the Middle East!

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Defining fascism and Bonapartism: Leon Trotsky in 1934

Some pertinent excerpts from Leon Trotsky's "Bonapartism and Fascism," from July 1934.

The vast practical importance of a correct theoretical orientation is most strikingly manifestos in a period of acute social conflict of rapid political shifts, of abrupt changes in the situation. In such periods, political conceptions and generalizations are rapidly used up and require either a complete replacement (which is easier) or their concretization, precision or partial rectification (which is harder). It is in just such periods that all sorts of transitional, intermediate situations and combinations arise, as a matter of necessity, which upset the customary patterns and doubly require a sustained theoretical attention. In a word, if in the pacific and “organic” period (before the war) one could still live on the revenue from a few readymade abstractions, in our time each new event forcefully brings home the most important law of the dialectic: The truth is always concrete....

....A government which raises itself above the nation is not, however, suspended in air. The true axis of the present government passes through the police, the bureaucracy, the military clique. It is a military-police dictatorship with which we are confronted, barely concealed with the decorations of parliamentarism. But a government of the saber as the judge arbiter of the nation – that’s just what Bonapartism is.

The saber by itself has no independent program. It is the instrument of “order.” It is summoned to safeguard what exists. Raising itself politically above the classes, Bonapartism, like its predecessor Caesarism, for that matter, represents in the social sense, always and at all epochs, the government of the strongest and firmest part of the exploiters; consequently, present-day Bonapartism can be nothing else than the government of finance capital which directs, inspires, and corrupts the summits of the bureaucracy, the police, the officers’ caste, and the press.

....The strength of finance capital does not reside in its ability to establish a government of any kind and at any time, according to its wish; it does not possess this faculty. Its strength resides in the fact that every non-proletarian government is forced to serve finance capital; or better yet, that finance capital possesses the possibility of substituting for each one of its systems of domination that decays, another system corresponding better to the changed conditions. However, the passage from one system to another signifies the political crisis which, with the concourse of the activity of the revolutionary proletariat may be transformed into a social danger to the bourgeoisie. The passage of parliamentary democracy to Bonapartism itself was accompanied in France by an effervescence of civil war. The perspective of the passage from Bonapartism to fascism is pregnant with infinitely more formidable disturbances and consequently also revolutionary possibilities.

....Fascism is a specific means of mobilizing and organizing the petty bourgeoisie in the social interests of finance capital. During the democratic regime capital inevitably attempted to inoculate the workers with confidence in the reformist and pacifist petty bourgeoisie. The passage to fascism, on the contrary, is inconceivable without the preceding permeation of the petty bourgeoisie with hatred of the proletariat. The domination of one and the same superclass, finance capital, rests in these two systems upon directly opposite relations of oppressed classes.

....political mobilization of the petty bourgeoisie against the proletariat, however, is inconceivable without that social demagogy which means playing with fire for the big bourgeoisie. The danger to “order” of the unleashed petty-bourgeois reaction, has just been confirmed by the recent events in Germany. That is why, while supporting and actively financing reactionary banditry, in the form of one of its wings, the French bourgeoisie seeks not to push matters to the point of the political victory of fascism, aiming only at the establishment of a “strong” power which, in the last analysis, is to discipline the two extreme camps

....Bonapartism begins by combining the parliamentary regime with fascism, so triumphant fascism finds itself forced not only to enter into a bloc with the Bonapartists, but what is more, to draw closer internally to the Bonapartist system. The prolonged domination of finance capital by means of reactionary social demagogy and petty-bourgeois terror is impossible.

....while losing its social mass base, by resting upon the bureaucratic apparatus and oscillating between the classes, fascism is regenerated into Bonapartism. Here, too, the gradual evolution is cut into by violent and sanguinary episodes. Differing from pre-fascist or preventive Bonapartism (Giolitti, Brüning-Schleicher, Doumergue, etc.) which reflects the extremely unstable and short-lived equilibrium between the belligerent camps, Bonapartism of fascist origin (Mussolini, Hitler, etc.), which grew out of the destruction, the disillusionment and the demoralization of the two camps of the masses, distinguishes itself by its much greater stability.

....All history shows that it is impossible to keep the proletariat enchained with the aid merely of the police apparatus. It is true that the experience of Italy shows that the psychological heritage of the enormous catastrophe experienced maintains itself among the working class much longer than the relationship between the forces which engendered the catastrophe. But the psychological inertia of the defeat is but a precarious prop. It can crumble at a single blow under the impact of a powerful convulsion

Leon Trotsky on presidential government

Some excerpts from Leon Trotsky's October 1932 article "German Bonapartism."

....Bonapartism, raising the military-police apparatus over the bourgeoisie in order to defend its class domination against its own political parties

....Such terms as liberalism, Bonapartism, fascism have the character of generalizations. Historical phenomena never repeat themselves completely. It would not have been difficult to prove that even the government of Napoleon III, compared with the regime of Napoleon I, was not “Bonapartist” – not only because Napoleon himself was a doubtful Bonaparte by blood, but also because his relations to the classes, especially to the peasantry and to the lumpenproletariat were not at all the same as those of Napoleon I. Moreover, classical Bonapartism grew out of the epoch of gigantic war victories, which the Second Empire [2] did not know at all. But if we should look for the repetition of all the traits of Bonapartism, we will find that Bonapartism is a one-time, unique occurrence, i.e., that Bonapartism in general does not exist but that there once was a general named Bonaparte born in Corsica. The case is no different with liberalism and with all other generalized terms of history. When one speaks by analogy of Bonapartism, it is necessary to state precisely which of its traits found their fullest expression under present historical conditions.

Present-day German Bonapartism has a very complex and, so to speak, combined character. The government of Papen would have been impossible without fascism. But fascism is not in power. And the government of Papen is not fascism. On the other hand, the government of Papen, at any rate in its present form, would have been impossible without Hindenburg who, in spite of the final prostration of Germany in the war, stands for the great victories of Germany and symbolizes the army in the memory of the popular masses. The second election of Hindenburg had all the characteristics of a plebiscite. Many millions of workers, petty bourgeois, and peasants (Social Democracy and Center) voted for Hindenburg. They did not see in him any one political program. They wanted first of all to avoid civil war, and raised Hindenburg on their shoulders as a superarbiter, as an arbitration judge of the nation. But precisely this is the most important function of Bonapartism: raising itself over the two struggling camps in order to preserve property and order. It suppresses civil war, or precedes it or does not allow it to rekindle. Speaking of Papen, we cannot forget Hindenburg, on whom rests the sanction of the Social Democracy. The combined character of German Bonapartism expressed itself in the fact that the demagogic work of catching the masses for Hindenburg was performed by two big, independent parties: the Social Democracy and National Socialism. If they are both astonished at the results of their work, that does not change the matter one whit.

....Yes, fascism is a reaction of bourgeois society to the threat of proletarian revolution. But precisely because this threat is not an imminent one today, the ruling classes make an attempt to get along without a civil war through the medium of a Bonapartist dictatorship.

....The fact is that Marx and Engels wrote not only of the Bonapartism of the two Bonapartes, but also of other species. Beginning, it seems, with the year 1864, they more than once likened the “national” regime of Bismarck to French Bonapartism. And this in spite of the fact that Bismarck was not a pseudoradical demagogue and, so far as we know, was not supported by the peasantry. The Iron Chancellor was not raised to power as the result of a plebiscite, but was duly appointed by his legitimate and hereditary king. And nevertheless Marx and Engels are right. Bismarck made use in a Bonapartist fashion of the antagonism between the propertied classes and the rising proletariat overcoming in this way the antagonism within the two propertied classes, between the Junkerdom and the bourgeoisie, and raised a military-police apparatus over the nation.

....Marx characterized the regime of Napoleon in the most acid terms as the regime of adventurists, crooks, and pimps.

....The Bonapartism of the era of the decline of capitalism differs utterly from the Bonapartism of the era of the ascension of bourgeois society. German Bonapartism is not supported directly by the petty bourgeoisie of the country and village, and this is not accidental. Precisely therefore, we wrote at one time of the weakness of the government of Papen, which holds on only by the neutralization of two camps: the proletariat and the fascists.

But behind Papen stand the great landowners, finance capitalists, generals – so rejoin other “Marxists.” Do not the propertied classes in themselves represent a great force? This argument proves once more that it is much easier to understand class relations in their general sociological outline than in a concrete historical form. Yes, immediately behind Papen stand the propertied heights and they only: precisely therein is contained the cause of his weakness.

Under the conditions of present-day capitalism, a government which would not be the agency of finance capital is in general impossible. But of all possible agencies, the government of Papen is the least stable one. If the ruling classes could rule directly, they would have no need either of parliamentarism, or of Social Democracy, or of fascism. The government of Papen exposes finance capital too clearly, leaving it without even the sacred figleaf ordered by the Prussian Commissioner Bracht. Just because the extra-party “national” government is in fact able to speak only in the name of the social heights, capital is ever more careful not to identify itself with the government of Papen. The DAZ wants to find support for the presidential government in the National Socialist masses, and in the language of ultimatums demands of Papen a bloc with Hitler, which means capitulation to him.

In evaluating the “strength” of the presidential government we must not forget the fact that if finance capital stands behind Papen, this does not at all mean that it falls together with him. Finance capital has innumerably more possibilities than Hindenburg-Papen-Schleicher. In case of the sharpening of contradictions there remains the reserve of pure fascism. In case of the softening of contradictions, they will maneuver until the time when the proletariat puts its knee on their chests. For how long Papen will maneuver, the near future will show.

These lines will appear in the press when the new elections to the Reichstag shall already have gone by. The Bonapartist nature of the “anti-French” government of Papen will inevitably reveal itself with a new force, but also its weakness....

Defend the freedom to speak and debate

Berkeley was the birthplace of the Free Speech Movement, and many of that movement's veterans have signed an open letter that's very worth a read. This was written before last night's events:

To the Editor:

As veterans and historians of the Free Speech Movement, we are writing to comment on the forthcoming visit to Berkeley of Milo Yiannopoulos.

Yiannopoulos is a bigot who comes to campus spouting vitriol so as to attract attention to himself. His modus operandi is to bait students of color, transgender students and anyone to the left of Donald Trump in the hopes of sparking a speaking ban or physical altercation so he can pose as a free speech martyr. His campus events are one long publicity stunt designed to present himself as a kind of hip, far right, youth folk hero — sort of Hitler Youth with cool sunglasses. “Look at me, I’m so rad, the PC police won’t let me speak on campus.” That’s his whole shtick in a nutshell, along with bigotry.

Banning him just plays into his hands politically, which is one reason why we were glad to see the UC administration refuse to adopt such a ban. True to form, however, Yiannopoulos and his Berkeley College Republican sponsors nonetheless put on their phony free speech martyrdom routine when the administration asked them to pay for security needed to ensure that the incendiary bigotry of their event does not end in bloodshed.

Berkeley’s free speech tradition, won through struggle — suspension, arrest, fines, jail time — by Free Speech Movement activists is far more important than Yiannopoulos, and it is that tradition’s endurance that concerns us. “The content of speech or advocacy should not be restricted by the university”: That’s what the pivotal Dec. 8 resolution says, as adopted by the Berkeley faculty’s Academic Senate when it finally backed the FSM’s free speech demand in 1964. Under the terms of that resolution, even the worst kind of bigot, including Yiannopoulos, must be allowed to speak on campus. So the UC administration was acting in accord with those principles when it refused to ban Yiannopoulos.

We were thus disappointed that so many Berkeley faculty signed an open letter supporting such a ban and criticizing the UC administration for refusing to ban Yiannopoulos. The best way to battle his bigoted discourse is to critique and refute it. And really, that is not hard to do. Just have a look at his speeches, which are devoid of logic and humanity. For example, one of his speeches we read online finds him arguing against criticism of racial slavery in the U.S. since many societies had slavery, which is basically a kind of moral relativism for dummies. If even a 10th of the 100 or so faculty who signed those pro-ban open letters showed up to ask this bigot tough questions or held a teach-in about what’s wrong and unethical in his vitriol (and in the rest of the so called “alt right”), they could puncture his PR bubble instantly, avoid casting him in the role of free speech martyr and prove that the best cure for ignorant and hateful speech is speech that unmasks its illogic, cruelty and stupidity. At a time when we have a bigoted president taking office in the White House it seems especially important for universities to expose and refute bigoted speakers — banning them evades that responsibility.

We urge students to express their opposition to the bigotry of Yiannopoulos and all speakers on campus whose views are hateful, and to do so non-violently, in ways that do not prevent such speakers from making or completing their remarks. Those tempted to block access to or disrupt speeches by such reactionaries should resist that temptation and reflect on FSM leader Mario Savio’s criticism of the disruption of UN Ambassador Jeane Kirkpatrick’s speech at Berkeley in the Reagan era. Savio said that, for the sake of Berkeley’s “very precious” tradition of free speech, Kirkpatrick had to be accorded the right to speak. While conceding that her militaristic views might seem intolerable, Mario argued that “for our own good we need to find ways of tolerating what is almost intolerable.” Making a distinction between heckling (raising tough questions in a robust manner) and disruption (drowning out or in some other way preventing the speaker from completing her remarks), Savio urged protesters “to stay on this side of the line that separates heckling from disruption.” This would “prevent what she represents from crushing our liberties—which we can use … to oppose and I hope eliminate what she represents.”

Finally, this whole controversy leads us to call on the Berkeley College Republicans to reflect on their own approach to organizing. While you do have the right to sponsor hateful speakers, how does it serve the campus community, your classmates, or the party of Lincoln to do so?

Board of Directors,
Free Speech Movement Archives
Robert Cohen, Bettina Aptheker, Susan Druding, Lee Felsenstein, Barbara Garson, Jackie Goldberg, Lynne Hollander Savio, Steve Lustig, Anita Medal, Jack Radey, Gar Smith, Barbara Stack

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Bolivar and Bonapartism

Chapters 15, 16, 17, and 18 of Hal Draper's Karl Marx's Theory of Revolution Vol. 1 contain an incredibly rich and detailed discussion of the development of thinking on Bonapartism by the founders of scientific socialism.
Draper traces the evolution of the concept through the 1840s and 1850s in relation to France and Germany.
He mentions Simon Bolivar, which caught my eye. Our latter-day Bolivar, Hugo Chavez (here and here) saw himself as an inheritor of Simon B.

Growing executive powers, big government bad for workers

Growth of ‘administrative state’  feature of modern US capitalism 


The propertied ruling families in the U.S. and other imperialist countries exercise their state power — the dictatorship of capital — not only through a centralized military and police apparatus but also a large and growing state bureaucracy, with a myriad of agencies, institutions, departments, regulatory boards and enforcement corps, propped up by a second tier of so-called Non-Governmental Organizations and non-profit foundations.

The seeds of what is often termed the modern “administrative state” were planted in Europe and America with the rise of imperialism in the early 1900s and grew at an accelerated pace following the end of World War II.

One measure of this is the growth of federal outlays in the U.S., which were relatively tiny until the early part of the 20th century. They rose during World War I, increased moderately to cover concessions like Social Security won through working-class struggles in the 1930s and soared to cover the costs of World War II. Ever since the late 1940s, they’ve been rapidly rising.

For the first half century or more U.S. government annual expenditures, adjusted for inflation, remained at roughly $30 per person. In 1910 it was about $129 per person. By 2004 it was $7,100. Once state and local expenditures are included this figure comes to more than $12,000.

Another measure is the number of U.S. government employees, which has increased from about 4 million in 1939 to nearly 22 million today, a more than five-fold rise, during a period when the population increased less than two and a half times. While this includes postal, transportation, hospital and other workers who produce goods and services of some value to working people, most are employed by government administrative, regulatory, police and military departments, whose function is to maintain and defend social relations of exploitation and oppression.

According to the official website, there are 510 federal departments and agencies, 50 of which were created over the past 15 years. Among those with the largest number of civilian employees: 718,000 at the Department of Defense; 302,000 at the Department of Veteran Affairs; 240,000 at the Department of Homeland Security; 114,000 at the Department of Justice; 100,000 at the Department of Treasury; and 98,000 Internal Revenue Service agents.

Another aspect of the capitalists’ administrative state is the increasing numbers of federal regulations and bigger staffs to enforce them. From 1949 to 2005 the listings of federal regulations grew by 600 percent to 134,000 pages, six years later it was nearly 170,000. While expanding under the George W. Bush administration, they’ve shot up further under the Obama administration. The 144 new major regulations pending in the second half of 2011 is double the figure from the same period in 2006.

The growth in government agencies has been accompanied by a rapid growth in Non-Governmental Organizations, “think tanks” and foundations. Approximately 1.5 million U.S. and foreign-based NGOs operate in the U.S., according to the State Department, most formed in the past 30 years. Of the more than 75,000 foundations in the U.S., about two-thirds of the largest were established after 1989.

NGOs tied to gov’t bureaucracy

Non-Governmental Organizations, despite their name, are anything but. The overwhelming majority are linked in one way or another to government policy or the maintenance of social relations of capitalist exploitation, often under the rubric of charity. Many operate as government contractors and are used to advance U.S. rulers’ foreign policy goals that are more effectively carried out in an indirect manner. As tax-exempt organizations, they’re financed by individual capitalists, ruling families, corporations and their government.

Since World War II, the function of NGOs and the U.S. government have grown closer. In 1961 the U.S. Agency for International Development, which now operates in more than 150 countries, was created within the State Department. In 2000, “USAID directed about $4 billion of its $7.2 billion assistance funding to nongovernmental organizations,” according to the Government Accounting Office.

Hand in hand with the growth of the administrative state bureaucracy and particularly its various appendages has been a social layer of self-styled “meritocrats” to run them.

“This expanding layer of the comfortable middle classes,” writes Jack Barnes, national secretary of the Socialist Workers Party, in Malcolm X, Black Liberation, and the Road to Workers Power, “is composed of the handsomely remunerated staffs of so-called nonprofit foundations, charities, ‘community organizations,’ and ‘nongovernmental organizations’ (NGOs) — in the United States and worldwide; of well-placed professors and top university administrative personnel; of attorneys, lobbyists, and others. The lives and livelihoods of these growing foundation- and university-centered strata in capitalist society — who, along with bankers and businessmen, cycle back and forth into and out of government positions — are themselves largely unconnected to the production, reproduction, or circulation of social wealth. Their existence is more and more alien to the conditions of life of working people of any racial or national background. …

“Its members truly believe that their ‘brightness,’ their ‘quickness,’ their ‘contributions to public life,’ … give them the right to make decisions, to administer society on behalf of the bourgeoisie — what they claim to be on behalf of the interests of ‘the people.’”

Growing executive powers

One political trend connected to the growth of the administrative state is a shift of power from the legislative branch of government toward the executive office of the president, an erosion in the “checks and balances” of bourgeois “democracy.” One apparent contradiction is that the very administrative agencies Congress itself has created and delegated powers to have in effect undermined its power relative to the executive branch.
The growing use of executive power — by both Democratic and Republican administrations alike — can be seen in the increase in presidential decrees and decisions made and implemented by nonelected regulatory agencies that answer to the executive office alone.

During his first four years in office President Barack Obama issued 170 executive orders. They include putting into effect a wide variety of policies, from prohibiting certain imports of Burmese Jadeite and Rubies to authorizing implementation of stiffening sanctions against Iran to establishing the White House Homeland Security Partnership Council. During his eight years, from 2001 to 2009, George W. Bush issued 287 executive orders. William Clinton issued 308 in his two terms from 1993 and 2001.

To pay for its expanding state apparatus the U.S. rulers have imposed steeper and steeper taxation on the population. Federal income tax was first set up by constitutional amendment in 1913. But it was not until World War II that workers had to pay them. The number of those paying into government coffers jumped from 4 million in 1939 to 43 million by 1945 — more than 10-fold in six years. And it has been rising ever since, together with regressive Social Security payroll taxes and other add-ons.

Big government bad for workers

Contrary to popular misconception, the revolutionary communist movement is not for “big government,” whether it’s a government representing the state power of the capitalist exploiters or a revolutionary government of workers and farmers.
The false view has developed as a result of the massive, repressive state that was put in place in the Soviet Union following the counterrevolutionary usurpation of power by a privileged bureaucratic layer led by Josef Stalin in the 1920s.

Writing on the lessons of the 72-day Paris Commune where the working-class in 1871 held political power for the first time, communist leader Karl Marx said, “The Commune made that catchword of bourgeois revolutions, cheap government, a reality by destroying the two greatest sources of expenditure — the standing army and the state functionarism.”

The goal of the revolutionary workers movement is to overthrow and dismantle the rulers’ repressive apparatus and administrative bureaucracy. The political power of the working class and its allies that will replace this state will have no need for some big central government to administer society.

Through the revolutionary struggle for power and without the fetters and stifling conditions of capitalist rule, working people will transform themselves into self-confident men and women capable of organizing to meet the material and cultural needs of humanity and solve what had been insurmountable social problems. And they will do this starting at the most basic local level, not through top-down administration.

In this sense the communist view is also the opposite of that put forward by the liberal meritocracy, which seeks to promote greater dependency among working people on a supposed benevolent government and its administrative agencies.  

January 20, 2014

Executive Orders - The Marxist view

The dangers of presidential orders


In a letter printed on this page, August Nimtz questions the Militant’s position that the growing use of executive orders poses a threat to working people and democratic rights, even when ostensibly issued to advance progressive causes. “Isn’t it really about which decrees actually advance the class struggle?” he asks.

In the introduction to Are They Rich Because They’re Smart? Socialist Workers Party leader Steve Clark explains, “The expanding concentration of power in the hands of the presidency — including the de facto power to declare wars, and to bypass legislation and debate by issuing Executive Orders — is dangerous (ultimately a bonapartist threat) to the interests of workers, working farmers, and the labor movement. [My emphasis]”

Under the U.S. Constitution the president’s role is to “preserve, protect and defend” the Constitution, including the Bill of Rights, won as a result of the First American Revolution for protection of workers and working farmers from the state, not to be a new king and concentrate all power into his hands.

The Emancipation Proclamation, issued by President Abraham Lincoln on Jan. 1, 1863, signaled a political and military shift from a defensive war waged by Union forces to a revolutionary war. The proclamation declared slaves within the 11 rebellious states free, but not nationwide. It took adoption of the 13th Amendment nearly three years later to make abolition of slavery the rule of the land.

The executive orders issued by President Franklin Roosevelt June 25, 1941, banning discriminatory practices in the defense industries and by Harry Truman “for equality of treatment and opportunity” in the armed forces seven years later were based on enforcing the law, especially the 14th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. That amendment, ratified in 1868, says that no state will “deprive any person of life, liberty, or property without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.” They were not the beginning of an experiment in social engineering promoted by “smart” people.

Roosevelt issued his order one week before a mass march on Washington for Black rights was to take place, which union leader A. Philip Randolph and Walter White of the NAACP then abruptly called off.

It was the struggles by Black workers and farmers against racist discrimination and lynch-mob terror leading up to and through World War II that laid the basis for the proletarian-led street protests in the 1950s and ’60s that eradicated the Jim Crow segregation system once and for all — not executive orders. Details of this wartime resistance are presented in the Pathfinder book Fighting Racism in World War II.

Truman’s order was strongly opposed by Gen. Omar Bradley, Army Chief of Staff. It took many more years before the military was fully desegregated, impacted by the rise of the civil rights movement.

On issues like immigration, we’re for no deportations, but an executive order by the president is not the way to achieve this. Real advances on uniting working people regardless of where they happen to be born can only be won through debate, discussion and mobilization of working people.

Likewise the Obama administration’s May 13 directive mandating that anyone can use whatever bathroom or locker facilities they want based on how they “self-identify” is no step forward. It’s an attempt by the “smart” people to bypass debate by simply ordering those they consider “uneducated” and “uncosmopolitan” to comply.

While tremendous gains have been made as more women have entered the workforce and proven they can do the same work that men do, women are still an oppressed sex. As the Militant pointed out in the article Nimtz cites, directives of this type undermine the right of women to have privacy in bathroom facilities, and do nothing to aid the fight against discrimination in job, housing and education against those who consider themselves transgender. 

July 18, 2016


Obama: less rights, more drones–don’t worry, it’s legit 
(front page)


When President Barack Obama was campaigning for president in 2008 he condemned the assaults on constitutional rights and military operations that marked the George W. Bush administration’s “war on terror.” On his second day in office, Obama issued several executive orders as a symbol of the new administration’s break with the past and pledged to “restore the standards of due process and … core constitutional values.”

But over the last three and a half years Obama has in fact deepened the assault, 
strengthening the executive powers of his office and establishing new legal precedents to legitimatize major aspects of it—from indefinite detentions and military tribunals to presidential-ordered assassinations of U.S. citizens. Unlike his predecessor, Obama has intimately involved himself in directing hunter-killer operations carried out by aerial drone pilots and commando hit squads from Pakistan to Yemen to Somalia—which have mushroomed under his watch.

Among Obama’s inaugural executive decrees was a pledge to close the Pentagon’s notorious military prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, within a year. Today it’s still open with 169 prisoners. The administration’s policy has been to send no new prisoners there, but instead to expand its prison at the U.S. airbase in Bagram, Afghanistan, where some 2,000 languish further from public attention and without a pretense of any rights.

The order’s fine print made clear the president was not challenging the indefinite detention of detainees without charges. Inmates “not approved for release or transfer,” the order said, “shall be evaluated to determine … whether it is feasible to prosecute” them.

Two months later the administration was filing its first court brief defending indefinite military detention for Guantánamo detainees under executive wartime powers. In May of that year Obama defended his prerogative to indefinitely hold those “who cannot be prosecuted yet who pose a clear danger.” His administration has designated 46 prisoners for detention without trial.

Another executive order signed on Obama’s second day announced the closure of secret CIA “detention facilities,” commonly referred to as “black sites.” The order included a clause stating that “detention facilities … do not refer to facilities used only to hold people on a short term, transitory basis.”

The undefined “short term” and “transitory basis” allowed the CIA to continue its practice of “extraordinary renditions” to other countries for “enhanced interrogation,” with a new air of legitimacy. In September 2010, a U.S. appeals court ruled in favor of the Obama administration, dismissing a suit by five victims of torture under the CIA’s renditions program based on the government’s “state secrets” privilege.

In his first week in office President Obama suspended military commissions at Guantánamo. In March 2011 Obama issued an executive order resuming them with some minor tweaks. Some three dozen have been designated by the current administration to face military “justice” in which the Pentagon assigns military officers to serve as judge and jury and the use of secret evidence and hearsay is permitted.

Another presidential order in March 2011 further validated indefinite detention by establishing a periodic government review of Guantánamo prisoners slated for military prosecution or considered neither fit for trial nor release.

Since assuming office the Obama administration has conducted nearly 300 drone strikes—255 of which have taken place in Pakistan, according to the Long War Journal website. This is roughly six times more than were carried out during the entire Bush administration.

The current president has taken a peculiar interest in the remote assassination campaign. “Obama has placed himself at the helm of a top secret ‘nominations’ process to designate terrorists for kill or capture, of which the capture part has become largely theoretical,” said a May 29 article in the New York Times titled “Secret ‘Kill List’ Proves a Test of Obama’s Principles and Will.”

The president approves every name on the kill list and every strike in Yemen and Somalia, as well as many of the “more complex and risky strikes in Pakistan,” the Times said. “Every week or so, more than 100 members of the government’s sprawling national security apparatus gather, by secure video teleconference, to pore over terrorist suspects’ biographies and recommend to the president who should be the next to die,” reported the paper. The president’s strikes have included some that were certain to result in what the administration counts as civilian casualties. The official civilian body count is kept low by recording all men in a strike zone as combatants, unnamed officials told the Times.

Obama’s first strike in Yemen in December 2009 killed more than 40 civilians, including women and children, and left behind a number of deadly cluster bombs to kill more. More recently a May 6 airstrike reportedly killed Fahd al-Quso, an alleged al-Qaeda leader, and 19-year-old Nasser Salim, who was tending to his farm when al-Quso drove into the area.

The latest U.S. drone assault June 4 in Pakistan’s tribal agency of North Waziristan killed 15 “suspected militants,” according to the Long War Journal. It was the eighth strike in Pakistan in 12 days. Since April, Washington has conducted 14 airstrikes in Yemen.

The Obama administration has established a protocol in Pakistan and Yemen that targets unidentified people based on “patterns of behavior” and “gathering places,” according to numerous press reports.

Last September a U.S. drone strike killed U.S.-born citizen Anwar al-Awlaki in Yemen after Obama publicly announced he put him on the hit list. That decision was “an easy one” Obama told associates, according to the Times.

Following the killing, the administration declared the president’s authority to assassinate citizens who pose an “imminent threat” if “capture is not feasible,” as Attorney General Eric Holder put it in a speech March 5 at Northwestern University School of Law. Referring to the Fifth Constitutional Amendment’s prohibition on taking life without due process, Holder said “‘due process’ and ‘judicial process’ are not one and the same.” In other words, as long as the administration has really mulled it over and Congress is not complaining, don’t worry, it’s all good.  

June 18, 2012