And so the finalised list of Stoke Central by-election candidates is out, and 10 folks fancy their chances. And it’s a circus, albeit one not likely to produce much merriment. Who then are the lions and acrobats? Which of them is the clown?
Naturally, Gareth Snell has roared into action. Labour were all over the constituency from the very moment Tristram Hunt declared Trexit and, as I’ve observed before, the party has a formidable machine and a real weight in the constituency that will be tough for its opponents to crack. That hasn’t stopped people from outside the constituency who can’t find Stoke without the aid of Google Earth have tried explaining to me that the local party couldn’t have selected a less suitable candidate. Au contraire. Gareth has lived locally for 13 years, worked in a series of part-time, insecure jobs while a student, worked in a local MP’s office where he dealt with the full gamut of constituent concerns, has sat and currently is a borough councillor, organised low paid workers as an employee of a local Unison branch and, most topically, defeated UKIP in a council by-election this summer in a ward that voted 80/20 to leave the European Union. His politics, while not Corbynist, are by any measure on the left. And during his too brief tenure as leader of Newcastle-under-Lyme Borough Council, he pushed through a no redundancies, no cuts to front line services budget despite government cuts to the local government grant while introducing the living wage (not the fake Tory rebranding of the minimum wage) to its lowest paid workers. It’s worth noting that subsequent Labour administrations have carried on in this vein. No cuts, no diminution of service, no redundancies. In the context of Tory austerity, that sounds like a record any Labour member would be proud of.
It seems the objections all centre around Gareth’s remain-ism and that he said rude things about Jeremy Corbyn on Twitter. Last thing first, while we all say daft things on social media in the heat of the moment there won’t be too many Stokies bringing up Guido’s “exposé” on the doorstep. Rather these have been all over his muckraking site and, surprise surprise, the Daily Express to generate social media interest in an attempt to suppress Labour support. This isn’t meant to offend their readership, but to ensure the bulk of the new membership have an entirely passive relationship with their party. Why, some would reason, should anyone from Momentum turn out to help in Stoke when the candidate is evidently not a Jeremy supporter? Guido and the Express aren’t interested in the truth, but they are interested in using anything to destroy the Labour Party as a going concern. It’s sad that this has to be explained to folks who should, by now, know better.
The second point is on remain vs leave. The bookies are offering slightly more favourable odds to UKIP based on the assumption that Stoke Central heavily voted for leave and we have a remainer candidate. And that’s where the analysis ends. But as noted previously, the record of all of last year indicates that if Brexit is a new political cleavage, an issue around which electoral fortunes turn, then it is a lopsided one. Leave voters have got their way. We’re leaving the EU. Some might moan about the pace of the departure, but it’s very much a minority pursuit. For most of them when it comes to politics, it’s back to the same old same old. If Brexit was blocked it would then be a different matter. Remain voters, however, are more motivated by this issue. For a variety of reasons, they – rightly – believe Leave conned, lied, and stirred up hate on its way to victory. And so when elections come round they are moved to make a point about it at the ballot box. That explains how the LibDems have come surging back in local council by-elections, won in Richmond, and confounded expectations in Witney. It’s how you can have bizarre results where the LibDems take a safe Labour seat in Brexit-supporting Sunderland. Had remain won, I have no doubt the terms would now be reversed. It would be UKIP enjoying another wind as the gust of defeat drives at its sails. And because of the song and dance UKIP are making about remain-supporting Gareth, they might be unwittingly helping Labour’s chances.
Yes, I am aware there are other candidates in this election, so let’s take a look. Jack Brereton won the Tory nomination to fight Stoke Central in a contest as foregone as any organised by the Zanu-PF. CCHQ are apparently pleading poverty and sinking all their resources into Copeland, but that doesn’t mean the Tories won’t wage a proper campaign. The Conservative group on the council are an ambitious bunch who fancy taking berths up in the Commons. For all sorts of reasons, a win is impossible but if they can take back second place and are seen to put UKIP back in their box, 2020 could make for an interesting time for them. The LibDems in Stoke are in a difficult place. I will give their man, Dr Zulfiqar Ali some credit. Rain or shine, he’s stood and he’s stood and he’s stood, be it as a no hope parliamentary candidate, or a no hope council candidate. However, with local students not terribly well disposed toward his party for their tuition fee betrayal, and past LibDem support bound up with local “personalities” who’ve either retired from politics or now sit as City Independents, where can their vote come from? The same can be said for Adam Colclough of the Greens. Formerly of Labour, he absented himself from the party after the 2010 factional farrago left us with Tristram. But where is their support? Some students, yes. Scraps of votes around the slightly more better off parts of the constituency, yes, but enough to win back their deposit?
Moving from the parties to the living dead, this by-election sees the unwelcome return of the BNP. David Furness (who?) was their London mayoral election candidate in 2015, and describes himself as a “practising member of the Church of England”. Because nothing advertises Christian values like the membership of a fascist organisation. While another opportunist carpetbagger, Furness’s candidacy underlines the weakness of the local BNP. In fact, they have almost no discernible existence. Since we last took a look at Stoke BNP a few years ago, we found them a sad bunch sat in awkward silence over identical McDonald’s Happy Meals. I am pleased to report the necrosis has continued apace. Their remaining activists have either dropped out of politics, or followed their local “brains”, Mike Coleman, into the Albion First groupuscule/Facebook page. Yet for Stokies who did vote BNP up until 2010, the eclipse and tumultuous disintegration of the party since won’t have registered. There will be some who rock up at the polling booth, spot the BNP on the ballot, and place their cross there as opposed to UKIP.
In the independent corner, we have two to choose from. Neither of which are associated with our friends the City Independents, of course. Mohammed Akram is a solicitor who has a history in local Muslim welfare organisations. And Barbara Fielding hails from Blythe Bridge on the city’s outskirts. Quite why they’re standing and what they hope to achieve is a complete mystery – something I often wonder about when independents contest parliamentary by-elections.
I’ll pass over the Monster Raving Loonies (I await the inevitable “gags” in the comments box, below) and Christian People’s Alliance, and head straight to Paul Nuttall. We’ve talked about him before, and he’s given me more reasons to speak ill of him again. Consider this. If you are clever, if you claim “to have a PhD”, if you are the leader of a political party and the media spotlight is on you, would you commit a violation of electoral law by declaring a house you’ve never been to in the constituency as your home, and then admit to it on national telly afterwards? He’s been caught telling porkies, just like his time wearing the Tranmere Rovers’ jersey and “being there” at Hillsborough. Here we have an incredibly brittle man whose national profile is entirely thanks to Nigel Farage. He knows he has no discernible qualities, which is why he has to make them up. And, I have to say, lying so much about his own biography easily lends himself to telling lies about immigration, about the NHS, about Brexit. And there’s the small matter of being under investigation for office expenses fraud as well. Nuttall is a spiv, a fake, a lazy arsed mediocrity whose sole concern is to use politics to feather his bed. He doesn’t care about Stoke, its problems, its people. The prize is another £75,000/annum and a few more years as Someone Who Matters, and he’s quite prepared to wade in the sewer to get it.
And so the choice is pretty obvious. It’s between stopping UKIP and their poisonous politics here, in Stoke, and throwing them into a reverse from which they may never recover. Or having them emerge victorious with all the terrible consequences for our politics that entails. It’s between a union man who champions working people, and a lying wastrel who can’t wait to sponge off the taxes of those selfsame workers. Are you in to stop this shit in its tracks?
Hope Not Hates‘s report 2017 State of Hate is essential – and disturbing – reading for anyone concerned about the present resurgence of the far-right in Britain and Europe.
The report notes the rise of a new generation of far-right activists as part of the white nationalist “alt-right” scene, especially active on social media.
I am grateful to the Morning Star for drawing my attention to this important report. Today’s M Star paraphrases an opening section of the report thus:
It also said that the flames of fascism had been fanned by international events, including the election of Donald Trump, growing racist parties in western Europe and authoritarian states in central and eastern Europe.
The actual report states:
Now, with the uncertainty of the Brexit negotiations, the fall out from Trump’s presidency, increased influence of far right parties in Western Europe and the authoritarianism seen in parts of Eastern Europe, the problems emanating from Britain’s far right will be more numerous and multifaceted.
Spot the difference.
First off, let’s be fair to Jeremy: Brexit has split the Labour party’s voters 60/40 (the majority pro-Remain), and even a latter-day Harold Wilson would struggle to bridge the divide.
But Corbyn’s decision to back Theresa May’s Brexit Bill, regardless of whether any amendments were passed (none were) was simply craven, and ended up pleasing no-one. Imposing a three-line whip that was ignored even by Labour whips, made matters worse. His tweet that “the fight starts now” – after having supported May’s Brexit plan – was little more than risible.
Let us be clear, as Coatesy explains in a brilliant piece here: Brexit is, by its very nature reactionary, backward, isolationist, nativist and – ultimately – racist. Any leftist who thinks any good can possibly come of it (or that there is a “People’s Brexit”/”Lexit” or some such nonsense) is a delusional idiot.
Corbyn’s weakness, lack of passion and general incoherence during the referendum campaign and in parliament since, merely serves to confirm the suspicion that, as an unsophisticated non-Marxist Bennite surrounded by Stalinist anti-EU advisers like Milne, his heart was never really in the pro-Remain cause. Even the Economist picked up on this:
“Mr Corbyn did not make his first pro-EU intervention until mid-April, fully two months after Mr Cameron called the referendum. Since then he has been a bit player at best. When researchers at Loughborough University ranked the ten most reported-on politicians in the second half of May, he did not even make the list (partly by his own design: he had spent part of the period on holiday). By refusing to campaign alongside Tories—doing so would “discredit” the party, sniffs John McDonnell, his shadow chancellor—he has ruled himself out of every important Remain event and televised debate.
“When Mr Corbyn does bother to intervene, he is a study in reluctance. His ‘pro-EU’ speeches are litanies of complaints about the union. Voters should back Remain, he says, because the Conservatives would not negotiate the right sort of Brexit. On June 2nd he declared Treasury warnings about the consequences of leaving as ‘hysterical hype’ and ‘mythmaking’.”
The Corbyn leadership is evidently terrified of May’s and the Brexiteers’ charge that anyone who even questions a hard Brexit is defying the “will of the people” (if not an outright “enemy of the people”); in fact, of course, had the 52/48% referendum result been reflected in parliament last week, the government’s majority would have been 26, not the 372 that May achieved with Corbyn’s backing.
The idea that “the people have spoken” and the referendum result cannot, therefore, be opposed, needs to be nipped in the bud once and for all; by that logic Labour would simply give up whenever it lost an election.
The 23 June vote represents no fixed-forever “decision of the British public” which obliges Labour to give away the rights of migrant workers (and British workers and young people who want to work, study, or live in Europe) by abandoning freedom of movement. In fact, since some Leave voters wanted something like EEA status, even on 23 June there was probably a majority for keeping freedom of movement. Plebiscitary democracy — democracy via referendum snap votes, on questions shaped and timed by the established powers — is the thinnest form of democracy. Usually it just serves those already in office. This time a strong sub-section of those in office (Johnson, Gove, etc.) were able to surprise Cameron, in a public debate which was essentially Johnson-Tory plus UKIP versus Cameron-Tory, with Labour voices weak and incoherent (Corbyn) or ignored by the media (Alan Johnson, the Labour right-winger leading Labour’s Remain campaign).
That does not make it more democratic. The referendum excluded 16-17 year olds, excluded EU citizens living in the UK (though they can vote in local authority elections), was run on poor registers missing out seven million people; and such a narrow snap vote is no democratic authority to deprive millions of freedom of movement and probably impose new borders between England and Scotland and between Northern Ireland and the South.
All but the thinnest democracy includes a process of the formation, refinement, revision, and re-formation of a collective majority opinion. Without such a process, and without organised democratic political parties which collectively distill ideas and fight for them, democracy means only rule by whatever faction of the rich and well-placed can sustain itself through judiciously-chosen successive snap popular votes. It has almost no element of collective self-rule.
Labour should fight for freedom of movement, for substantive democracy and against Article 50.
The internationalist, anti-racist left may now have lost that argument, in part because of the weakness and political ignorance of Corbyn and his advisers. But there is a further battle worth having: instead of issuing a ludicrous and ineffectual “final warning” to those front-benchers who voted against May last week, Corbyn should do something about Frank Field, Kate Hoey, Kelvin Hopkins, Graham Stringer and Gisela Stuart, Labour MPs who voted against basic rights for EU citizens. And if Corbyn won’t act, Labour members should start organising to deselect these scumbags.
By Camila Bassi (at Anaemic On A Bike)
“In late modernity, authoritarian movements have arisen again that seek to ideologically combine an organic and holistic natural-social order, a purified nationality, a primeval mysticism, and a belief in a superlative civilisation that was created by an ancestral community of blood.” (Bhatt, 2000: 589)
Post-9/11 sections of the British Left have championed the term ‘Islamophobia’ (fear of Islam) to describe and challenge the surge of racism against people signified as Muslim. This term, however, has limited power to explain the vilification and discrimination of Muslims in the contemporary era both since 9/11 and with Brexit and the rise of Donald Trump. This prejudice and harm should be understood as anti-Muslim racism. What’s more, Islamophobia’s implied antithesis, ‘Islamophilia’ (love of Islam), is an inadequate basis for a politically progressive anti-racist politics. Much of the British Left – posed as champions against Islamophobia – through its anti-war campaigning at the height of the imperialist War on Terror, identified as allies Islamist movements to the disregard of solidarity with secular, feminist, and democratic forces who opposed both imperialism and Islamism (see Bassi, 2009). This Left not only failed to critique religious fundamentalism, but went further in silencing its critique of religion in general. Through the Stop the War Coalition, at rallies and on demonstrations, women-only areas were organised alongside propaganda stating, for example, “We are all Hezbollah”. Racism as a common sense ideology fixes and orders the world through a hierarchy of assumed and desired homogenised groups of people, whereas a socialist anti-racist politics should understand the reality, and our own desired future, of the world as driven by dynamic exchange and hybridisation of peoples. At a moment when reactionary nationalism is on the ascendancy, it is worth reasserting that we are in favour of globalisation – a globalisation by and for our class. Read the rest of this entry »
Report from our person in Stoke Central, Phil Burton-Cartledge (first published on his blog, All That Is Solid):
And so the finalised list of Stoke Central by-election candidates is out, and 10 folks fancy their chances. And it’s a circus, albeit one not likely to produce much merriment. Who then are the lions and acrobats? Which of them is the clown?
30 January action against Trump and his anti-migrant and anti-Muslim “executive order”
Leicester: meet at the Clock Tower, 5.30 20:41 https://www.facebook.com/events/163409027485279/
4 February, London: Assemble 11am Saturday 4th February at the US Embassy 24 Grosvenor Square, London W1A 2LQ followed by a march to Downing St. https://www.facebook.com/events/1761835547477556/
Academics in the USA have launched an online protest which, as of Sunday evening UK time, had nearly 5000 signatures including 35 Nobel Laureates and 34 winners of Fields/Dirac/Clark/Turing/Poincare Medals, Breakthrough Prize, Pulitzer Prize, MacArthur Fellowship.
From the US website Socialist Worker.org (nothing to do with the UK SWP):
rounds up reports of massive demonstrations from around the country.
WE KNEW they’d be big. But they ended up being “YOOGE,” as a certain incoming commander in chief might say.
Across the U.S. and around the globe, masses of people disgusted with the bigot who officially moved into 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue took to the streets to say “Not my president” and to oppose the right-wing attacks that the Trump administration has planned.
People marched against Trump on all seven continents–a first for presidential inaugural protests. (Yes, even in Antarctica, where a group of tourists and environmental activists protested in defense of penguins and the planet.)
While Trump’s team began his presidency with bald-faced lies about the size of the crowds that (didn’t) turn out for his swearing-in on January 20, the best estimates for the January 21 women’s marches were between 3.3 million and 4.5 million people.
That sent a resounding “no” to Trump: No, we will not stand by as women’s rights are attacked; No, we will not stay silent as racist hate is unleashed; No, we will not be complacent as the rich get richer, and working people face further assaults.
Everywhere, the massive numbers of protesters–in several cities, there were counted the largest protest gatherings ever in their histories–provided a sense of excitement and hope to those who understand the only way to stop Trump is by building uncompromising resistance to his agenda.
As one sign carried by a protester in Seattle summed up, Trump-style: “We know marches. We do the best marches. (They’re terrific.) Everyone agrees.”
— In New York City, site of the largest protest outside of Washington, some 500,000 people gathered at Dag Hammarskjold Plaza in Midtown Manhattan for a march that traveled close to Trump’s own doorstep–Trump Tower.
According to one report, the march was so massive that it took well over three hours for the last of the crowd to set off on the march route along 42nd Street and up 5th Avenue. The route was packed as far as the eye could see, and crowds of protesters trying waited on side streets to make it onto 5th Avenue for the opportunity to raise their voices at Trump Tower.
Protesters were awash in the ubiquitous pink “pussy” hats and handmade signs. Many declared the women holding them to be “nasty” (a favorite Trump slur), while men held signs that appropriated Hillary Clinton’s campaign slogan “I’m with her” and added arrows pointing to the women next to them.
Other signs and banners focused on issues of racism, immigrant rights, LGBT oppression and more. Among them were: “You can’t comb over sexism,” “Black lives matter” and “Build a bridge, not a wall.”
“A lot is at stake,” marcher Jennifer Tavis told the New York Daily News. “There are so many issues to support, but I think we are for fighting [for] reproductive rights, health care and equality.”
Others echoed the need for solidarity. “It’s obvious to us that he’s bringing back–and has brought about–division,”retiree Mildred Taylor explained to Vox.com. “We know what division can lead to–divide and conquer. This is what he’s all about.”
— In Chicago, a crowd of several thousand rallied at Daley Plaza on January 20 and then marched to the city’s Trump Hotel and Tower. Speakers focused on immigrant rights and other issues, and protesters chanted “Donald, escucha! Estamos en la lucha!” (“Donald, listen! We are fighting!).
Earlier in the day, Students Together Against Trump (STAT), a new student coalition at DePaul University, organized a “Day of Defiance” that drew approximately 40 students for a speakout and march on campus preceding the Daley Plaza event. The protesters were cheered on by campus workers as they led chants and marched.
Then came the incredible display on January 21. The Chicago Women’s March packed Grant Park to overflowing with some 250,000 people–the largest protest in the city since the mass immigrant rights marches of 2006. Read the rest of this entry »
From the (US) Socialist Worker.org website (nothing to do with the UK paper and organisation of a similar name):
The challenge for all those who feel dread and anger on Inauguration Day is to organize direct resistance to every attack and lasting organization that can provide an alternative.
LET THE resistance begin.
The churning fear and revulsion swirling inside us as we watch Donald J. Trump take the oath to become the 45th president of the United States will be at least somewhat balanced by the satisfaction of watching inspiring and unprecedented levels of protest rising up to greet an incoming president.
Trump’s approval ratings have dropped to around 40 percent before he’s even taken office, undermining his claim to have a “mandate” to enact his racist and reactionary agenda.
The widespread disgust has led to a virtual cultural boycott of the White House. Professional athletes have spoken out against Trump and hinted at ending the tradition of visiting the Oval Office after winning a championship, while musicians seem to be jostling each other for the honor of refusing to play the inauguration.
If you’re in Washington, D.C., to protest Trump on Inauguration Day weekend, Socialist Worker and the International Socialist Organization endorse and urge you to participate in the following:
January 20 at 7 a.m.
Inaugurate the Resistance: Mass Protest at Trump’s Inauguration
Navy Memorial, Eighth Street and Pennsylvania Avenue
Find out more at the ANSWER website
January 20 at 4 p.m.
Meet the ISO gathering
Potter’s House, 1658 Columbia Rd. NW
January 20 at 8 p.m.
Featuring Naomi Klein, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, Jeremy Scahill and others, a forum sponsored by Jacobin Magazine, Haymarket Books and Verso Books
Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U St. NW.
Tickets are free, but required for entry, doors open at 7 p.m.
Find out more at the Lincoln Theatre website
January 21 at 10 a.m.
Women’s March on Washington
Gathering point at Independence Avenue and Third Street SW
Find out more at the Women’s March website
Not surprisingly, Trump is tweeting that the polls are “rigged” and “so wrong”–and his supporters will no doubt dismiss critics in the entertainment world as out-of-touch elitists.
But the truth will be plain to see–for all those willing to look, anyway–on the streets over the next two days, as the number of Trump supporters at the inauguration will almost certainly be dwarfed by those coming out to protest him, both in Washington, D.C., and across the country.
Thousands of people are taking off work today to directly confront the inauguration, and hundreds of thousands will rally tomorrow at the National Women’s March, as well as hundreds of “Sister Marches” across the country and internationally.
Dozens of Congressional Democrats have said they will boycott the inauguration after Trump belittled Georgia Rep. and civil rights movement hero John Lewis for calling Trump an “illegitimate president” because of allegations of Russian interference in the election.
It’s nice to see our country’s official opposition party actually engaging in some opposition after most Democrats spent the first weeks after the election pledging to find ways to collaborate with Trump. But let’s be clear that whatever the Russians did or didn’t do is a drop in the ocean compared to the many more important reasons why we need to oppose Trump.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
IF WE want to talk about what makes Trump an illegitimate president, let’s start with the criminally underreported fact that Trump’s margin of victory in key states that gave him the White House is lower than the number of voters–most of them people of color–whose ballots were never counted or who were improperly purged from voter rolls.
Let’s talk about the fact that despite voter suppression, Trump got almost 3 million fewer total votes than Hillary Clinton–which is actually close to what was predicted by national polls on the eve of the election–but won because of a ridiculous Electoral College system that was created centuries ago to preserve the dominance of slave owners, and that no other country would dream of using to decide its government.
Let’s talk about an entire political system that has become so corrupted and undemocratic that we somehow ended up having to choose between the most unpopular pair of presidential candidates in the history opinion polling for popularity.
It’s revealing, after all, that the main way Russia allegedly meddled with the election was not with “fake news,” but by hacking and leaking genuine e-mails that offered a rare glimpse of the truth: The cynical disdain of Clinton campaign for its supporters.
Now, thanks to this thoroughly undemocratic election, we have an incoming administration led by a blustering bigot and filled with a motley crew of greedy bankers, “alt-right” racists and free-market ideologues intent on destroying the very departments they’re supposed to be leading.
It’s a right-wing cabal that wants to implement massive tax cuts for the wealthy, starve Medicaid, and privatize public education, Medicare and Social Security. And they plan to get away with it by scapegoating immigrants, whipping up fear of Muslims and repressing protest movements like Black Lives Matter.
Their goal is another wave of reaction like the one ushered in by Ronald Reagan in 1980. But unlike Reagan, Trump isn’t going with the stream of a widespread rightward shift in society. In the aftermath of the Great Recession, we live in a polarized moment in which many people have radicalized to the left, but for the moment, the right wing is more powerful and organized.
Trump has already proven that he doesn’t need to be popular to win elections, and he doesn’t need his policies like mass deportations and repealing Obamacare to be popular–they’re not–in order to carry them out. He just needs us to not be able to stop him.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
THE PROTESTS against Trump’s inauguration are a necessary start to what needs to be a strong and lasting resistance on multiple fronts. Let’s carry today’s sentiment that we are up against an illegitimate government into all of our work.
That means creating bases of teachers, students and parents who will fight for our schools and refuse to accept the reactionary agenda of incoming Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, whose policies are designed not to help public education but destroy it.
It means growing immigrants rights organizations that can challenge every deportation and detention on the orders of an administration staffed by racists with ties to white supremacist groups and led by a president who infamously launched his campaign by calling Mexican migrants “rapists.”
And it means confronting every other aspect of the Trump agenda–from busting unions to closing abortion clinics–rather than searching for “common ground” with an enemy who is promising an unrelenting assault on everything we care about.
This type of determined resistance is well beyond the tame opposition of mainstream politics–in fact, it already is.
In the days after the election, Democrats who had been calling Trump a fascist in an effort to scare up votes for Clinton instantly began to “normalize” the grossly abnormal, pledging to find issues where they could work together with the incoming president.
It was only the surging momentum for the Women’s March over the past month, which pressured a number of unions and liberal organizations to mount a mobilization for Inauguration Weekend, that has pushed the Democrats into a more confrontational stance.
Yet even this feeble sign of oppositional life has been framed in the most conservative possible terms: as a patriotic response to those darned Russkies fixing our election, rather than the homegrown injustice and racism of voter disenfranchisement.
The Democrats don’t want to raise the real issues of Trump’s illegitimacy, because they could lead to further questions about the legitimacy of the corrupt political system that they help maintain. The “party of the people” is hoping that the inauguration protests will be a one-off event so its leaders can quickly get back to serving the corporate elite, while safely channeling popular discontent into campaign donations.
We can’t let that happen. Our task is in the months ahead is to build both direct resistance to Trump’s policies and durable movements and socialist organization that can chart an alternative way forward, combining the fights against economic inequality and oppression.
We pledge to do everything in our power to make sure that the inauguration protests mark not the high point but the starting point of the anti-Trump resistance.
From the website of Socialist Worker (US), the publication of the International Socialist Organisation, and nothing to do (any more) with the UK Socialist Worker / SWP:
How to sum up 2016–a year of important struggles and a reawakening to the meaning of socialism in the U.S., but also a year of emboldened bigotry and hate and the triumph of a reactionary creep? SocialistWorker.org’stakes a shot, in an article based on a speech to an International Socialist Organization event in Burlington, Vermont.
REMEMBER BACK to this time last year? It looked like the coming 2016 would be a drearily predictable election year, pitting yet another Clinton against yet another Bush.
Instead, 2016 turned out to be a stunning turning point–the year when growing dissatisfaction on both the right and the left broke through a corrupt and broken U.S. political system.
The year began with a sense of hope among millions of people that Bernie Sanders, with his campaign for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, could open a left-wing path out of decades of neoliberalism. But it ended with the crushing fears and disappointment brought on by the victory of a right-wing nationalist and billionaire bigot, Donald Trump.
The success of both the Sanders and Trump candidacies may have shocked the political establishment–and almost everyone else–but both clearly resulted from the fact that the system is failing the vast majority of people.
We have endured four decades of attacks on the working class, four decades of the scapegoating of oppressed people, and four decades of counter-reforms that robbed us of nearly all the victories won by the social movements and mass struggles of the 1960s and even the 1930s.
All these elements of the neoliberal era only intensified after the Great Recession of 2008-09. America’s political leaders–first under a Republican president, then a Democrat–dragged the system out of economic free fall by bailing out the banks and corporations, but there was nothing for working people who suffered the brunt of the crisis. On the contrary, they made us pay for the bailouts with austerity measures and even worse scapegoating.
To enforce the savage inequalities of American society, police increased their reign of racist terror against Black people, and the immigration authorities deported well over 2 million of the undocumented. And this escalation in racist state violence was overseen by America’s first Black president.
– – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
THE SAME dynamics have been playing out across the world. Establishment politics is provoking both struggle from below and right-wing populist reaction. The great Irish poet William Butler Yeats wrote about a world of such polarization amid World War One: “Things fall apart; the center cannot hold.”
Thus, 2011 marked the high tide of left-wing struggles following the Great Recession, from the Arab Spring uprisings to the occupations of public squares in Greece and Spain; from the massive students movements in Chile and Quebec to Occupy Wall Street and later #BlackLivesMatter in the U.S.
These struggles crystallized the bitter discontent with a status quo of deteriorating living standards and worse to come. But in most, if not all, cases, they didn’t achieve lasting victories, and their setbacks came at a terrible cost. For example, the Middle East and North Africa have suffered through a savage counterrevolution as local and global ruling classes reasserted their dominion.
As popular resistance receded, right-wing populism has taken advantage in many societies, rushing in to play on people’s despair to win them to their reactionary solutions.
Trump is the latest example, but there are many more around the world: Narendhra Modi’s Hindu communalist regime in India; Rodrigo Duterte’s brutal “war on drugs” in the Philippines and Michel Temer’s electoral coup in Brazil, as well as rising far-right European leaders such as Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and Marine Le Pen in France.
In the U.S. and around the world, the right wing is finding coherence around a program that combines immigrant-bashing and Islamophobia with nationalist opposition to rotten free trade deals.
On the other side of this political polarization are many threads of resistance that have yet to cohere into a clear left-wing alternative to both the new right and the rotten old establishment forces of the ever-rightward-moving center. That is the clear task of socialists in 2017 and beyond.
Thus, 2016, like the whole preceding period before it since the Great Recession, was a year of contrasts–a year of hope and a year of despair. The moment was encapsulated more than a century and a half ago by the great British novelist Charles Dickens, in the famous opening lines of his book A Tale of Two Cities, written about Paris and London on the eve of the French Revolution of 1789:
It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair…
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IN THE U.S., Election 2016 was the media’s obsession throughout the year, even though it seemed, after the circus of the Republican primaries, that the Democratic establishment’s choice would be a shoo-in on November 8.
Socialists regularly pointed out how bad a candidate Hillary Clinton was. Yet her loss to Trump is still shocking more than a month later.
But we must restate some facts amid all the confusion. Trump didn’t win the election. Clinton won the popular vote by a margin that could be as big as 3 million votes, but lost the While House because of the slaveholder’s Electoral College. Factoring in those who didn’t cast a ballot at all, Trump barely got the vote of a quarter of the eligible population.
He will come into office with the lowest approval ratings for any president-elect in recent history. In other words, in the immortal words of the great Gil Scott-Heron: “Mandate, my ass!”
But Trump has never been concerned with facts. He’ll act like he did win with a mandate and push to impose his reactionary agenda. We can see that clearly in the cabinet of horrors he is appointing.
Far from “draining the swamp” in Washington as he promised, he is filling his team with swamp creatures–from Wall Street magnates to establishment Republicans, along with far-right crackpots like former Breitbart News boss Steve Bannon.
And he’s planning to attack all of us–workers and oppressed people alike. He wants to cripple unions, privatize whole sections of the U.S. state, and further shred what’s left of the social safety net with attacks on Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. The people he’s appointing to run departments like Education and the Environmental Protection Agency despise the very institutions they will rule over.
Trump hopes to get away with this generalized attack through his program of scapegoating oppressed groups. The scariest immediate effect of Trump’s victory has been the emboldening of racist street violence. Already last year, the Southern Poverty Law Center documented a 67 percent increase in hate crimes against Muslims, and it reports a further intensification since Trump’s election.
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OUR HOPES have to lie in the wave of protest triggered by Trump’s (un)election.
Spontaneous marches of hundreds, thousands and tens of thousands swept through cities and towns around the country each day after the election. Student walkouts took place from middle schools through universities. Immigrant rights activists initiated calls for sanctuary cities and campuses.
This instinctive resistance stood in stark contrast to the calls to give the new president a chance from Democratic Party leaders who had spent the previous months calling Trump a fascist menace in an effort to scare up Clinton votes.
Hopefully, the protests and actions being called against Trump’s inauguration–both national mobilizations for Washington, D.C., and local events shaping up in every city–will be the starting point for building the truly mass movements that will be necessary to oppose his agenda of mass deportations, Muslim registries, union busting and attacks on reproductive rights.
But Inauguration Day must be just the beginning. It will be a chance to show how many people want to send a message of defiance against the illegitimate president-to-be. But the work of resistance will take place in the struggles to come, whether on a local scale or a national one, around any number of issues.
Unfortunately, the potential for building large-scale resistance has been hindered by the invisibility of large institutional forces on the left. To this point, unions and mainstream civil rights organizations have been largely absent or inconspicuous from the anti-Trump protests, which were largely organized on short notice via social media. Even the Washington Inauguration Day protests have yet to get substantial backing from bigger organizations.
Amid the first protests of the coming Trump era, the struggle at Standing Rock against the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) stands out as a beacon pointing a way forward.
This struggle is built on hundreds of years of Native American resistance to colonization and dispossession–and, more recently, the heroic struggle of the Lakota Sioux to draw a line and refuse to move until the pipeline pushers stop the project that threatens their sacred land and water.
Their call for solidarity was heard by Indigenous people throughout the world, from Palestine to the Sami people of Norway, and thousands of non-Indigenous from all backgrounds flocked to North Dakota to stand against the pipeline.
Most dramatically, more than 2,000 military veterans mobilized for the first weekend in December to confront the police and private security hired by the pipeline builders. After word spread that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, under pressure for months to take a side, had denied a necessary permit, blocking construction for now, representatives of these veterans of an institution that committed genocide against Native Americans organized a ceremonial apology for the crimes committed against Native peoples.
The fight against DAPL and other pipelines isn’t over, but our side has won an important battle. Standing Rock can be our North Star in the dark winter of Trump’s rise to power. It shows our potential and power when we unite in common struggle against our common enemies.
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THE ELECTION proved again that the U.S. is a profoundly polarized country, but now with an emboldened right wing that can cohere around Trump’s reactionary agenda and right-wing populism, while a new and stronger left is still struggling to be born.
Trump’s presidency will present it with huge challenges. But make no mistake: that new left is being born. We know that people are flocking to socialist meetings, reading socialist publications and joining with socialist organization in much greater numbers–something that started before the election, but has accelerated since.
One Internet meme captured this aspect of 2016 better than I ever could. “Sophie’s Merry Mom” sent a tweet with two pictures. The first picture, of Bernie Sanders, was labeled “Me at the beginning of 2016. The second picture, labeled “Me at the end of 2016,” was of Karl Marx.
We need to raise the left in the politics of solidarity and democracy to defeat Trump’s politics of divide and conquer. The old labor movement slogan needs to be pressed into service for a new generation: “An injury to one is an injury to all.” The opposite is also true: Each victory for our side is a victory for the whole left and the whole working-class movement.
There are initial lessons we can draw from the month since the election about the patterns of emerging resistance: There is widespread anger, not just at Trump but the entire two-party system–but organizing has been hobbled by the weakness of the left that came before, and especially the subservience of unions and liberal organizations to the Democratic Party and the interests of Corporate America that the Democrats serve.
We can’t kid ourselves about these weaknesses. But Trump’s aggressive attacks will provoke eruptions of protest–at unpredictable times and over unpredictable issues–and radicals need to try to help these protests develop from spontaneous reactions into lasting organizations of opposition.
These arenas of grassroots struggle and resistance–more than the local election and certainly more than doomed efforts to take over the Democratic Party–will be the primary place where the socialist left can begin to develop itself into a viable alternative.
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I WANT to close these reflections on the last year of hope and horror with the words of the great poet of the Harlem Renaissance, Langston Hughes.
In 1935, amid the labor and socialist radicalization of the Great Depression, Hughes wrote a vision of solidarity and resistance that is probably the best single response to Donald Trump and his sickening slogan of “Make American great again.” It puts forward a vision of humanity and struggle that would make this country and the whole world actually great for the first time.
May it be read at many meetings and protests in 2017:
Let America be America Again
Let America be America again.
Let it be the dream it used to be.
Let it be the pioneer on the plain
Seeking a home where he himself is free.
(America never was America to me.)
Let America be the dream the dreamers dreamed–
Let it be that great strong land of love
Where never kings connive nor tyrants scheme
That any man be crushed by one above.
(It never was America to me.)
O, let my land be a land where Liberty
Is crowned with no false patriotic wreath,
But opportunity is real, and life is free,
Equality is in the air we breathe.
(There’s never been equality for me,
Nor freedom in this “homeland of the free.”)
Say, who are you that mumbles in the dark?
And who are you that draws your veil across the stars?
I am the poor white, fooled and pushed apart,
I am the black man bearing slavery’s scars.
I am the red man driven from the land,
I am the immigrant clutching the hope I seek–
And finding only the same old stupid plan
Of dog eat dog, of mighty crush the weak.
I am the young man, full of strength and hope,
Tangled in that ancient endless chain
Of profit, power, gain, of grab the land!
Of grab the gold! Of grab the ways of satisfying need!
Of work the men! Of take the pay!
Of owning everything for one’s own greed!
I am the farmer, bondsman to the soil.
I am the worker sold to the machine.
I am the black man, servant to you all.
I am the people, humble, hungry, mean–
Hungry yet today despite the dream.
Beaten yet today–O, Pioneers!
I am the man who never got ahead,
The poorest worker bartered through the years.
Yet I’m the one who dreamt our basic dream
In the Old World while still a serf of kings,
Who dreamt a dream so strong, so brave, so true,
That even yet its mighty daring sings
In every brick and stone, in every furrow turned
That’s made America the land it has become.
O, I’m the man who sailed those early seas
In search of what I meant to be my home–
For I’m the one who left dark Ireland’s shore,
And Poland’s plain, and England’s grassy lea,
And torn from Black Africa’s strand I came
To build a “homeland of the free.”
Who said the free? Not me?
Surely not me? The millions on relief today?
The millions shot down when we strike?
The millions who have nothing for our pay?
For all the dreams we’ve dreamed
And all the songs we’ve sung
And all the hopes we’ve held
And all the flags we’ve hung,
The millions who have nothing for our pay–
Except the dream that’s almost dead today.
O, let America be America again–
The land that never has been yet–
And yet must be–the land where every man is free.
The land that’s mine–the poor man’s, Indian’s, Negro’s, ME–
Who made America,
Whose sweat and blood, whose faith and pain,
Whose hand at the foundry, whose plow in the rain,
Must bring back our mighty dream again.
Sure, call me any ugly name you choose–
The steel of freedom does not stain.
From those who live like leeches on the people’s lives,
We must take back our land again,
I say it plain,
America never was America to me,
And yet I swear this oath–
America will be!
Out of the rack and ruin of our gangster death,
The abuse and rot of graft, and stealth, and lies,
We, the people, must redeem
The land, the mines, the plants, the rivers.
The mountains and the endless plain–
All, all the stretch of these great green states–
And make America again
Above: Farage spreading lies and hatred on the morning Jo Cox was murdered
The filthy racist liar and Trump groupie Farage has sunk to new depths by first joining German fascists in blaming Merkel for the Berlin truck attack, then linking Jo Cox’s widower to “extremists” and, finally, accusing Hope Not Hate of being “violent and undemocratic.”
Speaking on LBC, Farage argued that Merkel was to blame for what happened because she supported the border control-free Schengen zone.
“These leaders of Europe support Schengen,” he said. “They support the total free movement of people without borders. And the free movement of people doesn’t just mean the free movement of good people. It means the free movement of bad people, as well.”
Farage said: “Well, of course, he would know more about extremists than me, Mr Cox. He backs organisations like Hope Not Hate, who masquerade as being lovely and peaceful, but actually pursue violent and undemocratic means.”
Farage added: “And I’m sorry, Mr Cox, but it is time people started to take responsibility for what’s happened.”
When the LBC host, Nick Ferrari, pointed out that Cox surely knew the consequences of extremism, Farage replied: “Yes, it’s a terrible thing what happened, with the murder of his wife.
“But he continues to be active in the political arena and, as I say, given some of the organisations that he supports, I can’t just stand here and say, well, I’m not going to respond.”
In a statement Hope Not Hate said: “That Nigel Farage made his remarks in the context of a discussion about Jo Cox, who was so brutally murdered earlier this year, makes them all the more poisonous and hateful.”
The organisation posted an appeal on its website for help pay for any legal case. “Help us take Nigel Farage to court,” it said, with a link to a donation button.
We can all help Hope Not Hate sue the arse off the scumbag Farage, by donating here: https://donate.hopenothate.org.uk/page/contribute/farage-to-court
Any leftists foolish enough to have advocated a “Leave” vote in the referendum may feel this is a particularly appropriate way to make amends for their dreadful error.