Making America Great Again, Step by Step

November 23, 2016

Making America Great Again, Step by Step:

Step 6: Pressed about recent meetings with Japanese, Indian, and British officials in which business affairs were apparently discussed, Donald Trump opined that “The president can’t have a conflict of interest,” and “The law’s totally on my side.”

Step 7: Donald Trump told the British government who he would prefer to be their next ambassador to the US, and the British response was very British: “There is no vacancy.”

Step 8: Donald Trump thought Alec Baldwin’s portrayal of him on Saturday Night Live was one-sided and not funny, and so he asked NBC for “equal time.”

Step 9: Donald Trump felt that the cast of “Hamilton” was way out of line in urging from the stage that the vice president-elect, who was in attendance, adopt a more enlightened immigration policy than the campaign had advocated, saying the theater must be a “safe space” and issuing a demand: “Apologize!”

Step 10: Donald Trump appointed Michigan billionaire, hard-right wing public school opponent and voucher advocate Betsy DeVos, 58, to the post of Secretary of Education. The former chairwoman of the Michigan Republican Party, she was a driving force behind a failed 2000 ballot proposal to amend the state Constitution to create a voucher system allowing taxpayer funds to support students attending nonpublic schools. Her brother, Erik Prince, is the founder and former CEO of the security firm Blackwater Worldwide that was banned from Iraq after the fatal shootings of 17 Iraqi civilians in 2007.

More to come.


Another Excerpt from Demand the Impossible! A Radical Manifesto

November 20, 2016

[DEMAND the IMPOSSIBLE! is available from Haymarket Books or any local bookstore. I thought I was finished a month ago posting excerpts from the book, but when I read to students and comrades this week in Roma, Bologna, Napoli, and Milano, Italy, and when the talked turned inevitably to the rise of a fascist movement, I felt compelled to share the following. Thank you.]

Here, then, is a partial diagram of the known world, a rough sketch of what is, but certainly not a picture of what could be or should be:

*  An empire unapologetically resurrected in a cauldron of deliberately constructed fear, and in the name of renewed patriotic nationalism.

*  Unprecedented military expansion, a state of permanent war and the creation of a war culture, a gulag that stretches the length and breadth of the country, where mass incarceration is a defining characteristic in the “land of the free,” and white supremacy reigns triumphant in the “home of the brave.”

*  Militarized police forces acting as aggressive occupying armies in poor communities, and the never-ending serial shootings of Black citizens.

*  The identification of opaque and ill-defined enemies—“illegal” immigrants, border violators, Muslims, Arabs, foreigners, queers, Black people, independent women, terrorists—as a unifying cause.

*  A panopticon-like existence in which we are all aware of being under constant surveillance—cameras everywhere, mountains of data from our purchase and travel patterns to reading and information preferences accumulating in some dark basement or shiny supercomputer—but have been forbidden from watching them watching us. We’re assured by the state and the media (as well as by our families and friends and neighbors on occasion) that if we aren’t doing anything wrong, we have nothing to hide, and should, then, have no objection to standing naked under the bright lights and ceaseless scrutiny of the state.

*  Ritual searches, ID checks, and pat downs (“Assume the position!”) at airports, train stations, and athletic events, which do little or nothing to enhance safety or security but serve a serious purpose nonetheless, functioning as metaphor and theater, a reminder that we are always at war, always at risk, and always observed—the threat level for many years a never-changing if ill-defined and meaningless “orange”—and as dress rehearsal for police and military actions that can override liberties and rights without constraint or objection.

*  The eclipse of the public, the frantic pace of privatization and the fire sale of the public square—the public schools and public housing, prisons and the military, and in Chicago, the bridges and parking meters—all of which represent the triumph of corporate power and a kind of fatal entangling of corporations with the state, leading to a thieves’ paradise in government with the arid ideology of capital and the “market” promoted as the truest expression of authentic participatory democracy.

*  Galloping disparities between the haves and the have- nots—the metaphoric 1 percent and everyone else— both at home and on a global scale.

*  A steady drumbeat of “public secrets”—obvious lies issued by the powerful like, “We don’t torture” or “We don’t spy on Americans” or “We shot him because he was a clear threat to the officer” or “We don’t bomb civilians,” whose purpose is both future deniability and evidence of power’s arrogant ability to have its way regardless of truth or evidence, law or popular will.

*  Disdain for the arts, for intellectual life, for reason and evidence, for historical insight, and deep contempt for the necessary back and forth of serious argument or discussion in favor of a nasty dialogue of the deaf.

*  Formation of “popular” movements in the streets, apparently spontaneous but in reality well funded and highly organized, based on bigotry, intolerance, and the threat of violence, all of it fueled by the demonization of targeted, distinct racial, religious, or gendered vulnerable populations and the creation of convenient sacrificial scapegoats.

*  Cataclysmic man-made climate change—hurricanes, melting ice caps, raging wildfires and deforestation, rising oceans, the shredding of the earth’s protective shield, and more—driven by unchecked extraction, reckless acquisitiveness, and the everyday operations of predatory capitalism.

Countless contradictions abound: appalling poverty and unprecedented wealth, acts of war and words of peace, liveliness and chronic social depression, hope and despair. Reality TV and then reality itself. It’s a land of wild diversity, extremes and opposites, conflict and contestation, moments of personal joy, happiness, and ecstasy against times of collective rage and anguish.

Still, the bullet points above—and I use the term deliberately— are pistol shots that represent a bright thread that is recognizable and knowable. The US juggernaut is headed for catastrophe, either a new and sophisticated—dare we say it?—form of friendly-looking and familiar fascism, or some other form of extreme social disintegration. Another world is surely coming—greater equality, socialism, participatory democracy, and peace are all within our reach, but nuclear war, work camps, and slavery are also possibilities. There are still choices and options, and nothing is guaranteed. Where do we go from here? A season of light or a season of darkness? Chaos or community? Barbarism or socialism?

Making America Great Again! Step by Step

November 20, 2016

Step 1: Donald Trump appointed Steve Bannon to be his chief strategist and Senior Counselor. Bannon was formerly the head of Beitbart News, the premier platform for the alt-right movement, a white nationalist, nativist, anti-“political correctness,” xenophobic, antisemitic, homophobic, antifeminist, Islamaphobic, anti-multiculturalist, and anti-immigrant formation that includes the KKK and other crypto- or wanna-be fascists.

Step 2: For Attorney General Donald Trump appointed Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III who had failed to win Senate Judiciary Committee approval for a federal judgeship due to his well-known habit of making racist comments and other slurs against the NAACP and the ACLU, among many others.

Step 3: For his chief of staff, Donald Trump tapped Reinhold “Reince” Priebus, long-time Chairman of the Republican National Committee, a right-wing functionary who enjoys the benefit of seeming moderate in the company of fascists.

Step 4: Donald Trump appointed Michael Flynn to the position of National Security Advisor. General Flynn was former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency (appointed by Barack Obama), and then forced into early retirement because of his extreme militaristic attitudes and practices, as well as his loose relationship with the truth, a steady stream of dubious assertions that his associates referred to as “Flynn Facts.” Keep your eye out for Flynn Facts, Bannon Cannons and Trump Dumps in the weeks and months ahead.

Step 5: Donald Trump settled the zillion law suits against him and his fraudulent Trump University for $25 million, presumably enabling some of the plaintiffs to vacation at one of Trump’s resorts—well, not likely, but it’s all part of Making America Great Again.

More to come!

Where do we go from here?

November 19, 2016

Where do we go from here? Barbarism or socialism? Chaos or community? If you’re in need of thoughtful reflection—and who isn’t?— take a moment here with Robin Kelley and Naomi Klein. It will help, I promise.

If we are to keep the enormity of the forces aligned against us from establishing a false hierarchy of oppression, we must school ourselves to recognize that any attack against Blacks, any attack against women, is an attack against all of us who recognize that our interests are not being served by the systems we support. Each one of us here is a link in the connection between antipoor legislation, gay shootings, the burning of synagogues, street harassment, attacks against women, and resurgent violence against Black people.

—Audre Lorde, “Learning from the 60s”

Trump Says Go Back, We Say Fight Back

Robin D.G. Kelley
November 15, 2016
Boston Review

Donald J. Trump’s election was a national trauma, an epic catastrophe that has left millions in the United States and around the world in a state of utter shock, uncertainty, deep depression, and genuine fear. The fear is palpable and justified, especially for those Trump and his acolytes targeted—the undocumented, Muslims, anyone who “looks” undocumented or Muslim, people of color, Jews, the LGBTQ community, the disabled, women, activists of all kinds (especially Black Lives Matter and allied movements resisting state-sanctioned violence), trade unions. . . . the list is long. And the attacks have begun; as I write these words, reports of hate crimes and racist violence are flooding my inbox.

The common refrain is that no one expected this. (Of course, the truth is that many people did expect this, just not in the elite media.) At no point, this refrain goes, could “we” imagine Trump in the Oval office surrounded by a cabinet made up of some of the most idiotic, corrupt, and authoritarian characters in modern day politics—Rudolph Giuliani, Chris Christie, Newt Gingrich, Sarah Palin, John Bolton, Ben Carson, Jeff Sessions, David “Blue Lives Matter” Clarke, Joe Arpaio, to name a few. Meanwhile, paid professional pundits are scrambling to peddle their analyses and to normalize the results—on the same broadcast media that helped deliver Trump’s victory by making him their ratings-boosting spectacle rather than attending to issues, ideas, and other candidates (e.g., Bernie Sanders or Jill Stein). They deliver the same old platitudes: disaffected voters, angry white men who have suffered economically and feel forgotten, Trump’s populist message represented the nation’s deep-seated distrust of Washington, ad infinitum. Some liberal pundits have begun to speak of President-Elect Trump as thoughtful and conciliatory, and some even suggest that his unpredictability may prove to be an asset. The protests are premature or misplaced. All of this from the same folks who predicted a Clinton victory.

But the outcome should not have surprised us. This election was, among other things, a referendum on whether the United States will be a straight, white nation reminiscent of the mythic “old days” when armed white men ruled, owned their castle, boasted of unvanquished military power, and everyone else knew their place. Henry Giroux’s new book America at War With Itself made this point with clarity and foresight two months before the election. The easy claim that Trump appeals to legitimate working-class populism driven by class anger, Giroux argues, ignores both the historical link between whiteness, citizenship, and humanity, and the American dream of wealth accumulation built on private property. Trump’s followers are not trying to redistribute the wealth, nor are they all “working class”—their annual median income is about $72,000. On the contrary, they are attracted to Trump’s wealth as metonym of an American dream that they, too, can enjoy once America is “great” again—which is to say, once the country returns to being “a white MAN’s country.” What Giroux identifies as “civic illiteracy” keeps them convinced that the descendants of unfree labor or the colonized, or those who are currently unfree, are to blame for America’s decline and for blocking their path to Trump-style success.

For the white people who voted overwhelmingly for Trump, their candidate embodied the anti-Obama backlash. Pundits who say race was not a factor point to rural, predominantly white counties that went for Obama in 2008 and 2012, but now went for Trump, and to the low black and Latinx voter turnout. However, turnout was down overall, not just among African Americans. Post-election analysis shows that as a percentage of total votes the black vote dropped only 1 percent compared with the 2012 election, even while the number of black ballots counted decreased by nearly 11 percent. (Why this happened is beyond the scope of this essay, but one might begin with Greg Palast’s findings about voter suppression and the use of “crosscheck” to invalidate ballots.) Moreover, claims that nearly a third of Latinxs went for Trump have been disputed by the website Latino Decision, whose careful research puts the figure at 18 percent. The turnout does not contradict the fact that Trump drew the clear majority of white votes. This is not startling news.

If history is our guide, “whitelash” usually follows periods of expanded racial justice and democratic rights. In the aftermath of Reconstruction, there were many instances in which southern white men switched from the biracial, abolitionist Republicans to the “redeemers,” whether it be the Democrats or, in states like Texas, the “White Man’s Party.” (No ambiguity there.) Or in the 1880s and ’90s, when white Populists betrayed their Black Populist allies in a united struggle to redistribute railroad land grants to farmers, reduce debt by inflating currency, abolish private national banks, nationalize railroads and telegraphs, and impose a graduated income tax to shift the burden onto the wealthy, among other things. Many of these one-time white “allies” joined the Ku Klux Klan, defeated the Lodge Force Bill of 1890 which would have authorized federal supervision of elections to protect black voting rights, and led the efforts to disfranchise black voters. Or the late 1960s, when vibrant struggles for black, brown, American Indian, Asian American, gay and lesbian, and women’s liberation, the anti-war movement, and student demands for a democratic revolution were followed by white backlash and the election of Richard Nixon—whose rhetoric of “law and order” and the “silent majority” Trump shamelessly plagiarized.

Of course, Hilary Clinton did win the popular vote, and some are restoring to the easy lament that, were it not for the arcane Electoral College (itself a relic of slave power), we would not be here. One might add, too, that had it not been for the gutting of the Voting Rights Act opening the door for expanded strategies of voter suppression, or the permanent disfranchisement of some or all convicted felons in ten states, or the fact that virtually all people currently in cages cannot vote at all, or the persistence of misogyny in our culture, we may have had a different outcome. This is all true. But we cannot ignore the fact that the vast majority of white men and a majority of white women, across class lines, voted for a platform and a message of white supremacy, Islamophobia, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, anti-Semitism, anti-science, anti-Earth, militarism, torture, and policies that blatantly maintain income inequality. The vast majority of people of color voted against Trump, with black women registering the highest voting percentage for Clinton of any other demographic (93 percent). It is an astounding number when we consider that her husband’s administration oversaw the virtual destruction of the social safety net by turning welfare into workfare, cutting food stamps, preventing undocumented workers from receiving benefits, and denying former drug felons and users access to public housing; a dramatic expansion of the border patrol, immigrant detention centers, and the fence on Mexico’s border; a crime bill that escalated the war on drugs and accelerated mass incarceration; as well as NAFTA and legislation deregulating financial institutions.

Still, had Trump received only a third of the votes he did and been defeated, we still would have had ample reason to worry about our future.

I am not suggesting that white racism alone explains Trump’s victory. Nor am I dismissing the white working class’s very real economic grievances. It is not a matter of disaffection versus racism or sexism versus fear. Rather, racism, class anxieties, and prevailing gender ideologies operate together, inseparably, or as Kimberlé Crenshaw would say, intersectionally. White working-class men understand their plight through a racial and gendered lens. For women and people of color to hold positions of privilege or power over them is simply unnatural and can only be explained by an act of unfairness—for example, affirmative action. White privilege is taken for granted to the point where it need not be named and can’t be named. So, as activist/scholar Bill Fletcher recently observed, even though Trump’s call to deport immigrants, close the borders, and reject free trade policies appealed to working-class whites’ discontent with the effects of globalization, Trump’s plans do not amount to a rejection of neoliberalism. Fletcher writes, “Trump focused on the symptoms inherent in neoliberal globalization, such as job loss, but his was not a critique of neoliberalism. He continues to advance deregulation, tax cuts, anti-unionism, etc. He was making no systemic critique at all, but the examples that he pointed to from wreckage resulting from economic and social dislocation, resonated for many whites who felt, for various reasons, that their world was collapsing.” Yet Fletcher is quick not to reduce white working-class support for Trump to class fears alone, adding, “This segment of the white population was looking in terror at the erosion of the American Dream, but they were looking at it through the prism of race.”

A New York Times poll shows that Trump supporters identified immigration and terrorism, not the economy, as the two most important issues in the campaign. Immigration and terrorism are both about race—Mexicans and Muslims. That there are “illegal” immigrants from around the globe, including Canada, Israel, and all over Europe doesn’t matter: anti-immigrant movements target those who can be racially profiled. And while Trump’s America fears “terrorism,” it does not disavow homegrown terrorist organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan, despite the fact that white nationalist movements are responsible for the majority of violent terrorist attacks on U.S. soil. On the contrary, Trump was not only endorsed by white nationalists and U.S.-based fascists, but during the campaign he refused to renounce their support, and Trump’s leading candidate for attorney general, Rudy Giuliani, has openly called Black Lives Matter “terrorists.”

So where do we go from here? If we really care about the world, our country, and our future, we have no choice but to resist. We need to reject a thoroughly bankrupt Democratic Party leadership that is calling for conciliation and, in Obama’s words, “rooting for [Trump’s] success.” Pay attention: Trump’s success means mass deportation; massive military spending; the continuation and escalation of global war; a conservative Supreme Court poised to roll back Roe v. Wade, marriage equality, and too many rights to name here; a justice department and FBI dedicated to growing the Bush/Obama-era surveillance state and waging COINTELPRO-style war on activists; fiscal policies that will accelerate income inequality; massive cuts in social spending; the weakening or elimination of the Affordable Care Act; and the partial dismantling and corporatization of government.

What must resistance look like? There are at least five things we have to do right now:

1. Build up the sanctuary movement.

In the 1980s, when nearly one million refugees fled U.S.-backed dictatorships in Guatemala and El Salvador, churches offered shelter, sanctuary, and assistance to those seeking political asylum, and over thirty cities were subsequently designated “sanctuary cities” by their local governments. The Obama administration’s deportations of undocumented workers rebooted the sanctuary movement, along with a vibrant immigrant rights movement that pushed the president to use executive authority to launch the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program and the Deferred Action for Parents of Americans and Lawful Permanent Residents (DAPA). Trump has vowed to end both programs, leaving some five million immigrants vulnerable to deportation and identifiable through their applications, and he has promised to immediately cut all federal funding for sanctuary cities. To those who argue that millions of undocumented people are not “political refugees,” I counter that Trump’s war on immigrants is driven entirely by his quest to take power—they will become casualties of his political machinations. Some states have already outlawed the longstanding principle of sanctuary status, but this should not deter us from strengthening and expanding the sanctuary movement to other institutions. For example, many of us who work in the University of California system are working to turn our campuses into sanctuaries—preferably with legal and administrative backing. But even without the law behind us, we must act on moral principle.

2. Defend all of our targeted communities.

We must defend against hate crimes, Islamophobia, anti-black racism, attacks on queer and trans people, and the erosion of reproductive rights. There is no need to reinvent the wheel since there are already hundreds of organizations across the country dedicated to the fight, including INCITE: Women of Color Against Violence, Radical Women, the Immigrant Solidarity Network, the Praxis Project, the Praxis Center, CAAAV: Organizing Asian Communities, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights of Los Angeles (CHIRLA), the African American Policy Forum, the Network Against Islamophobia, and Causa Justa, to name only a few. One of the main targets of attack, of course, is the Movement for Black Lives, along with the dozens of organizations upon which it was built—Black Lives Matter, the Dream Defenders, Million Hoodies, Black Youth Project 100, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, We Charge Genocide, and Black Organizing for Leadership and Dignity (BOLD), among others. We need to support these movements and institutions, financially and by doing the work. And we must defend the political and cultural spaces that enable us to plot, plan, build community and sustain social movements. Here in Los Angeles this means spaces such as the L.A. Black Workers Center, the Labor/Community Strategy Center and its new community space, Strategy and Soul, the L.A. Community Action Network, the Southern California Library for Social Studies and Research, the Community Coalition, and Revolutionary Autonomous Communities, among many others. In New York we can point to Decolonize This Place; in Detroit, the Boggs Center; in St. Louis, Organization for Black Struggle, and so on. There are literally hundreds of centers around the country building for local power, and while none were immune to state surveillance in the past, we can expect heightened monitoring and outright attacks under this extreme right-wing regime. Now is not the time to retreat to our identity silos. We need solidarity more than ever, recognizing that all solidarities are imperfect, often fragile, temporary, and always forged in struggle and sustained through hard work. In our state of emergency, political disagreements, slights, misunderstandings, and microaggressions should not prohibit us from fighting for peoples rights, privileges, and lives.

3. Stop referring to the South as a political backwater, a distinctive site of racist right-wing reaction.

First, white supremacy, homophobia, and anti-union attitudes are national, not regional, problems. Second, black and multiracial groups in the South are at the forefront of resisting Trump’s authoritarian agenda and building power outside the mainstream Democratic Party. Among them are Project South, Southerners on New Ground (SONG), the Moral Mondays Movement, Kindred: Southern Healing Justice Collective, Jackson Rising in Mississippi, Showing Up for Racial Justice (SURJ) in Louisville, Asian Americans Advancing Justice in Atlanta, and the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights.

The frontline battles that preceded Trump’s election must not be abandoned. On the contrary, they need to be strengthened. We must redouble our fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline and support the Standing Rock Sioux Nation’s historic resistance. There is no question that Trump’s election has further empowered the corporation behind the pipeline—the Texas-based Fortune 500 company Energy Transfer Partners—to continue the build no matter what the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers or the Obama Justice Department says. We need to recognize Standing Rock as not only a struggle for environmental justice but an episode in Native people’s five-hundred-year resistance to colonialism. And speaking of colonialism, the crisis in Puerto Rico has not abated—not in the least. As I write, Puerto Ricans on the island and in the U.S. mainland are using every means at their disposal to resist PROMESA, the U.S. plan that empowers a seven-member, unelected board to impose austerity measures as a way of restructuring its debt—measures that include wage reductions, selling off public assets, altering retirement plans for public employees, and fast-tracking changes even if they violate existing laws.

4. Support and deepen the anti-Klan and anti-fascist movement.

We must especially support groups such as Southern Poverty Law Center, which has been on the frontlines of this movement for decades. Although the fight against white supremacist organizations has been continual since the 1860s, the federal government has never successfully outlawed the Klan and similar vigilante groups (although in the 1950s the state of Alabama succeeded in outlawing the NAACP). With Trump’s election we are likely to see a surge in white nationalist and other right-wing terrorism, including attacks on black churches, synagogues, mosques, abortion clinics; and against non-white, queer, and trans people and immigrants. Some on the left will argue that resisting the so-called “alt-right” is a secondary issue since these are fringe movements and building class unity across racial lines ought to be our priority. But with the memory of Colorado Springs and Charleston seared into our memory, this argument rings hollow. And while President Obama’s poignant rendition of “Amazing Grace” at Reverend Clementa Pinckney’s funeral moved much of the nation, the truth is that it is easier to pass laws criminalizing organizations that support the boycott of businesses and institutions complicit in Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine than it is to outlaw the Ku Klux Klan.

5. Rebuild the labor movement.

As obvious as this may seem, the entire labor movement is under attack on a global scale. Today labor unions are portrayed as corrupt, bloated, a drain on the economy, and modern-day cartels that threaten workers’ “liberty.” Corporations and the CEOs who run them are portrayed as the most efficient and effective mode of organization. In our neoliberal age, emergency financial managers are sent in to replace elected government during real or imagined economic crises; charter schools organized along corporate lines are replacing public schools; universities are being restructured along corporate lines with presidents increasingly functioning like CEOs; and a businessman with a checkered record, a history of improprieties and legal violations and allegations of sexual assault, and no experience whatsoever in government is elected president.

Today’s economic debates focus not on alternatives to capitalism but on what kind of capitalism—capitalism with a safety net for the poor or one driven by extreme free-market liberalization? A capitalism in which the state’s role is to bail out big banks and financial institutions, or one where the state imposes (or rather restores) greater regulation in order to avoid economic crises? In both of these scenarios, a weakened labor movement is a given. The once-powerful unions are doing little more than fighting to restore basic collective bargaining rights and deciding how much they are going to give back. Union leaders are struggling just to participate in crafting austerity measures. In the New Deal era, the state’s efforts to save capitalism centered on Keynesian strategies of massive state expenditures in infrastructure, job creation, a social safety net in the form of direct aid and social security, and certain protections for the right of unions to organize. All these measures were made possible by a strong labor movement. There was a level of militant organization that we did not see in our post-2008 collapse, in spite of Occupy Wall Street. While Occupy was massive, international, and built on preexisting social justice movements, it lacked the kind of institutional power base and political clout that organized labor had in the 1930s. Of course, labor unions have also been powerful engines of racial and gender exclusion, working with capital to impose glass ceilings and racially segmented wages, but the twenty-first-century labor movement has largely embraced principles of social justice, antiracism, immigrant rights, and cross-border strategies.

Obviously there is much missing here, like abolishing the Electoral College and continuing to wage a fight for local power in the legislative and electoral arenas as well as in the streets. Local campaigns to raise the minimum wage, for example, have not only produced key victories but served to mobilize people around issues of injustice and inequality. The sites of resistance will become clearer as the political situation becomes more concrete, especially after January 20.

But I want to return to the white working class and how we might break the cycle of “whitelash.” First, we cannot change this country without winning over some portion of white working people, and I am not talking about gaining votes for the Democratic Party. I am talking about opening a path to freeing white people from the prison house of whiteness. True, with whiteness comes privilege, but many of the perceived privileges are inaccessible to most, which then generates resentment. Exposing whiteness for what it is—a foundational myth for the birth and consolidation of capitalism—is fundamental if we are to build a genuine social movement dedicated to dismantling the oppressive regimes of racism, heteropatriarchy, empire, and class exploitation that is at the root of inequality, precarity, materialism, and violence in many forms. I am not suggesting we ignore their grievances, but that we help white working people understand the source of their discontent—real and imagined.

Is this possible? The struggle to recruit the white working class is an old story. Black movement leaders have been trying to free white working people from the paltry wages of whiteness since Reconstruction, at least, and it seems to always end badly. This history is not necessarily legible because we tend to conflate populism and fascism with what Henry Giroux astutely identifies as authoritarianism. Populism is the idea that ordinary people ought to have the power to control their government and their communities, especially along lines that benefit the collective. In the 1880s and ’90s, the black populist movement adopted a vision of a new society based on cooperative economics. The great writer and activist Timothy Thomas Fortune gave their unique vision eloquent voice and plans for action in his book Black and White: Land, Labor and Politics in the South (1884), which offered a path for the emancipation of the nation as a whole, not just black people. He attacked America’s betrayal of Reconstruction, identified monopoly and private ownership of land as the central source of inequality, and articulated a vision of a democratic, caring political economy based on equity and fairness. The National Colored Alliance members had advanced beyond printing more money or demanding free silver, adopting instead a more radical redistribution of wealth and power. They wanted more than a short-term alliance just to raise wages for picking cotton or reducing debt. But Fortune understood that a genuine cooperative commonwealth is not possible unless white workers and farmers join the movement. “The hour is approaching,” he wrote, “when the laboring classes of our country, North, East, West and South, will recognize that they have a common cause, a common humanity and a common enemy; and that, therefore, if they would triumph over wrong and place the laurel wreath upon triumphant justice, without distinction of race or of previous condition they must unite!” Whatever unity they managed to create proved ephemeral. As in so many other scenarios, most whites chose white supremacy over liberation.

The lessons here are crucial. We cannot build a sustainable movement without a paradigm shift. Stopgap, utilitarian alliances to stop Trump aren’t enough. I concur with Giroux, who calls on all of us to wage “an anti-fascist struggle that is not simply about remaking economic structures, but also about refashioning identities, values, and social relations as part of a democratic project that reconfigures what it means to desire a better and more democratic future.”

An excerpt rom Naomi Klein:

Trump’s message was: “All is hell.” Clinton answered: “All is well.” But it’s not well – far from it.

Neo-fascist responses to rampant insecurity and inequality are not going to go away. But what we know from the 1930s is that what it takes to do battle with fascism is a real left. A good chunk of Trump’s support could be peeled away if there were a genuine redistributive agenda on the table. An agenda to take on the billionaire class with more than rhetoric, and use the money for a green new deal. Such a plan could create a tidal wave of well-paying unionised jobs, bring badly needed resources and opportunities to communities of colour, and insist that polluters should pay for workers to be retrained and fully included in this future.

It could fashion policies that fight institutionalised racism, economic inequality and climate change at the same time. It could take on bad trade deals and police violence, and honour indigenous people as the original protectors of the land, water and air.

People have a right to be angry, and a powerful, intersectional left agenda can direct that anger where it belongs, while fighting for holistic solutions that will bring a frayed society together.

Such a coalition is possible. In Canada, we have begun to cobble it together under the banner of a people’s agenda called The Leap Manifesto, endorsed by more than 220 organisations from Greenpeace Canada to Black Lives Matter Toronto, and some of our largest trade unions.

Bernie Sanders’ amazing campaign went a long way towards building this sort of coalition, and demonstrated that the appetite for democratic socialism is out there. But early on, there was a failure in the campaign to connect with older black and Latino voters who are the demographic most abused by our current economic model. That failure prevented the campaign from reaching its full potential. Those mistakes can be corrected and a bold, transformative coalition is there to be built on…

So let’s get out of shock as fast as we can and build the kind of radical movement that has a genuine answer to the hate and fear represented by the Trumps of this world. Let’s set aside whatever is keeping us apart and start right now.

Get Woke!

November 16, 2016

Before anyone goes completely nuts, consider:

~~75% of eligible voters abstained in 2016.

~~Ineligible voters include over 13 million permanent residents, over 6 million current or formerly incarcerated persons, over 11 million undocumented workers, over 4 million residents of “unincorporated” US imperial territories, at least half a million homeless people, and many many more who were disqualified through aggressive voter suppression and the gutting of the Voting Rights Act.

~~With all that, the 25% of eligible voters who actually voted, rejected Donald Trump by millions of votes. Among other things, the Electoral College, a hold-over from slavery, rigged it for him.

Get woke!

Organize, organize, organize!

The Pathetic Establishment, and the Myth of the White Working Class

November 16, 2016

I can’t predict what will come next, or how or when people will rise up—no one can—but the Democrat Party leadership’s post-mortem is already (only one week later) anemic, narcissistic, myopic, and wrong. They’re focusing on “clarity of message”—just like the warden in “Cool Hand Luke” they worry that “what we have here is a failure to communicate” as opposed to a real confrontation between power and oppression. They want to “refocus on the white working class,” missing the fact that “the white working class” is itself a fiction built with white supremacy, and that over three decades of bipartisan economic and foreign policy have brought us here: permanent war; a hollowed out economy; masses of people trapped in meaninglessness and dead-ends, many hurting badly, some of them wrapped in the delusion of American Exceptionalism as well as the ultimately destructive blanket of white privilege. My advice: Don’t listen to the Democratic Party, take a deep breath, turn off the commentary, think deeply, read differently, join hands, link up, notice that vibrant gatherings are springing up in a wide range of forms everywhere, and that the resistance is already available to you. Join in. We need to focus our attention on building a mighty mass movement opposed to white supremacy, American nationalism, war and empire, bigotry and scapegoating, xenophobia, hatred of women—a force  fighting to overthrow capitalism and build a society fit for all, a place of peace and freedom, joy and justice.

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November 7, 2016