Yet again on lesser-evilism

November 8, 2012 at 8:43 pm (capitalist crisis, Democratic Party, James P. Cannon, Jim D, mccarthyism, Republican Party, trotskyism, unions, United States, workers)

I spent most of yesterday in a room full of British trade unionists, all of whom would regard themselves as (to varying degrees) on the political left. To a person, every one of them that I spoke to, or overheard, expressed pleasure and relief at the US election result.

In fact, I find it inconceivable that any socialist or, indeed, liberal, wouldn’t feel that way. I do not include deranged anti-Americans of the Pilger/Counterpunch variety.

Of course, a general sense of pleasure and/or relief at the outcome need not, necessarily, be predicated  upon having advocated a vote for Obama. And there is, of course, a long-standing leftist (specifically Trotskyist) argument against advocating a vote for the US Democrats, which I’ll come on to in a moment.

But even those of us who have never had any great illusions in Obama, need to recognise what his presidency represents for Afro-Americans and other minorities (notably Hispanics), and just what a blow to their morale and self-confidence a Romney victory would have been. It is also a fact that, rightly or wrongly, the majority of unions in the US backed Obama. All reports suggest, as well,  that the mass of ordinary people outside the US, feared that a Romney victory would make the world as a whole a more dangerous place.

Now, of course, the orthodox (and not-so-orthodox) Trotskyist position has always been that the Democrats are simply a bosses’ party (in a way, for instance, that the  UK Labour Party, being a “bourgeois workers’ party”, isn’t) and so a vote for them is impermissible. Instead, we should advocate the creation of a US ‘labor party’. The great American Trotskyist leader James P. Cannon (of whom I am a considerable, though not uncritical, admirer), wrote extensively on this subject, and his articles repay study. Unfortunately, they are not readily available these days.

James P Cannon

James P. Cannon

Here’s an excerpt from a 1954 article entitled “A New Declaration of Independence”.  I had better explain that Cannon regarded McCarthyism as “American fascism in incipient form.” Whether or not he was correct about that (and, indeed, whether such an analysis of the Tea Party movement would be appropriate today), is not the central issue here.

Cannon argued that:

“[T]he myopic policy of the liberals and the labor leaders is concentrated on the congessional elections next fall, and the presidential election to follow in 1956. A Democratic victory is counted on to deal a death blow to the McCarthy aberration. ‘McCarthyism is becoming a danger all right, and it begins to look like a fascist movement; but all we need is a general mobilisation at the polls to put the Democrats back in power.’ Such are the arguments we already hear from the Democratic high command, the literary liberals, the labor leaders and — skulking in the rear of the caravan, with their tails between their legs — the Stalinists.

“This would really be laughable if humor were in place where deadly serious matters are concerned. The Roosevelt New Deal, under far more favourable conditions, couldn’t find a way to hold back the economic crisis without a war. A Stevensonian version of the same policy, under worse conditions, could only be expected to fail more miserably. A Democratic victory might arrest the hitherto unobstructed march of McCarthyism while it re-forms its ranks. It might even bring a temporary moderation of the fury of the witch-hunt. But that’s all.

“The fascist movement would probably begin to grow again with the growth of the crisis. It would probably take on an even more militant character, if it is pushed out of the administration and compelled to develop as an unofficial movement. Under conditions of a serious crisis, an unofficial  fascist movement would grow all the more stormily, to the extent that the labor movement would support the Democratic administration, and depend on it to restrain the fascists by police measures.

“Such a policy, as the experience of Italy and Germany has already shown, would only paralyze the active resitance of the workers themselves, while giving the fascist gangs a virtually free reign. Moreover, by remaining tied to the Democratic administration, the labor movement would take upon itself a large part of the responsibility for the economic crisis and feed the flames of fascist demagogy around the question.

“That would be something to see: The fascists howling about the crisis, and stirring up the hungry and desperate people with the most extravagent promises, while the labor leaders defend the administration. The official labor leaders are fully capable of such idiocy, as they demonstrated in the last presidential election. But with the best will in the world to help the democratic administration, they couldn’t maintain such a position very long.

“The workers will most probably accept the recommendation of the labor leaders to seek escape from the crisis by replacing Republican rascals by Democratic scoundrels in the next election. But when the latter become officially responsible for the administration, and prove powerless to cope with the crisis, the workers will certainly draw some conclusions from their unfortunate experiences. The deeper the crisis and the more brutal the fascist aggression fed by the crisis, the more insistent will be the demand for a radical change of policy and a more adequate leadership.

From all indications, the workers’ discontent will be concentrated, at first, in the demand for a labor party of their own. This will most probably be realized. It will not yet signify the victory over fascism — not by a long shot — but it will represent the beginning of a counter-movement which will have every chance to end in victory.”

I have to say that I find most of Cannon’s case unconvincing and (ironically for an outspoken anti-Stalinist) verging upon Third Period Stalinism. Just at a factual level, I don’t think it’s accurate to dismiss the New Deal as something that could not have succeeded without a war, or to suggest such a policy in the 1950’s was doomed to “fail miserably”. Certainly, Cannon produces no evidence to back up that claim. His argument against illusions in the Democrats and the dangers of being seen to defend a Democratic administration are fair enough, but do not amount to a coherent case against even voting for the Democratic Party – any more than the danger of sewing illusions in the UK Labour Party and giving uncritical support to a Labour government, are arguments against a Labour vote.

In fact Cannon, it seems to me, fundamentally undermines his own argument by concluding that workers’ discontent with a Democratic administration at that time would result in the demand for a labor party, which “will most probably be realised.” That would seem to be an argument in favour of getting the Democrats elected, not against it.

I have quoted Cannon’s argument at some length so as not to risk the charge of having taken him out of context. And I decided to quote Cannon in the first place because his writings on the US labor movement are generally of a high standard, and because his arguments are still, essentially, the arguments put forward by serious people who oppose a Democrat vote.

(NB: “A New Declaration of Independence” was published in The Militant of April 12 1954, republished in Notebook of an Agitator, pub: Pathfinder Press 1958 & 1973)

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Obama, Romney, and the almost irresistable pull of lesser-evilism

November 4, 2012 at 5:35 pm (Champagne Charlie, Democratic Party, Obama, Pilger, Republican Party, strange situations, United States)

I’m bloody glad I don’t live in the USofA.

Because the more I see of, and hear from, this asshole…

…the more I just know that were I a US citizen right now, I’d be chucking overboard the traditional Trotskyist position and voting for Obama.

Especially as most of his critics on the so-called left” are such a shower, and this persuasive case has recently been made:

“It is noteworthy that four of the best decisions that Obama made during his presidency ran against the advice of much of his own administration. Numerous Democrats in Congress and the White House urged him to throw in the towel on health-care reform, but he was one of very few voices in his administration determined to see it through. Many of his own advisers, both economists steeped in free-market models and advisers anxious about a bailout-weary public, argued against his decision to extend credit to, and restructure, the auto industry. On Libya, Obama’s staff presented him with options either to posture ineffectually or do nothing; he alone forced them to draw up an option that would prevent a massacre. And Obama overruled some cautious advisers and decided to kill Osama bin Laden.”

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Samuel L. Jackson says “Wake The Fuck Up!”

September 28, 2012 at 6:51 pm (celebrity, Champagne Charlie, Democratic Party, elections, good honest filth, Republican Party, United States)

I am still far from convinced that US socialists should vote for Obama, but I have to admit that the more we see and hear that ignorant, dangerous jerk Romney, the more difficult it becomes to resist the lure of lesser-evilism.

However, I offer the film below not to in order to endorse Obama, but because it’s such an extraordinary production. It certainly puts the typical Brit “party election broadcast” to shame. Enjoy…

And on the subject of Obama-cool, here are a few pseudo-Blue Note album covers that I just stumbled across:

196724 276549335787194 128498206 n Jazz For Obama 2012: The benefit concert and the mock album covers542353 276907849084676 545146993 n Jazz For Obama 2012: The benefit concert and the mock album covers

262388 280732225368905 50012304 n Jazz For Obama 2012: The benefit concert and the mock album coverstumblr m9zy0he2401qmvhifo1 r2 500 Jazz For Obama 2012: The benefit concert and the mock album covers

H/t (album covers): Bruce R

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July 28, 2012 at 8:22 am (Champagne Charlie, comedy, Democratic Party, London, Republican Party, twat, United States)

The US Democrats have wasted no time in making capital out of Romney’s Olympian ineptitude in London. And who can blame them?

The RomneyShambles saw the US presidential contender lurch from one fax pas to another, speaking of “looking out of the backside of 10 Downing Street”, disclosing what was meant to be a secret meeting with MI6 and appearing to criticise London 2012 on the eve of the Games. The ineptitude is especially memorable because visiting England should have been the easy bit of a Romney foreign tour.

Meanwhile US comedian Stephen Colbert urged Romney to “stay strong.”

“Remember, your next stop is Israel. Keep up the charm offensive. I say you open your speech to the Knesset with, ‘America will always stand behind you and so will Jesus Christ. Now where can a boy get some baby-back ribs in Palestine?’”

NB: we publish the above purely for the information and amusement of readers, not because we feel terribly strongly about what Romney said. Mind, you, as Jonathan Freedland writes in today’s Graun:

“This remember, is the party that slammed John Kerry for the crime of speaking French. Its antics, like those of the man it has chosen for the presidency, would be funny were the Republican party not aspiring to hold an office that is still mighty and, for the rest of the world, deadly serious.”

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Yankee Doodle Cagney

July 4, 2012 at 5:21 pm (anti-fascism, cinema, Democratic Party, good people, Jim D, United States)

Today is the day when we’re allowed to wallow in nostalgia, sentimentality and (for us Brits) just a bit of faux US patriotism. And what better way of celebrating the 4th of July than remembering Jimmy Cagney, the “tough-guy” actor with a heart of pure Jell-O who brought George M. Cohan’s Yankee Doodle Boy to glorious singing, dancing, life on the big screen? Watch him in action here.

For all its patriotism – verging upon jingoism – the film ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’ contains nothing that’s mean-spirited, bigoted or nationalistic in the worst sense. This is almost entirely due to Cagney’s warm, generous personality that somehow comes through the screen straight at you even after all those years. And, remember, it was released in 1942, just after America joined WWII. There is no doubt that Cagney (a member of the Hollywood Anti-Nazi League) saw the war as a great anti-fascist struggle.

It has long been wrongly believed, by both left and right, that Cagney was a member of the US Communist Party or at least a fellow-traveller. He wasn’t. What he was  (until old age, anyway) was a consistent liberal, a friend of the working class and organised labor and an actor whose image and roles gave heart and legitimacy not just to Irish immigrants in the US but to all the ethnic groups that comprise that great, though flawed, nation.

The Yankee Doodle Boy’s patriotism was big-hearted and inclusive. Today’s the day to celebrate it.

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Support Wisconsin’s public employees…and democrat senators!

March 1, 2011 at 6:59 pm (Champagne Charlie, Democratic Party, Republican Party, unions, United States)

 From Credo Action

Thank the Wisconsin 14

Democratic state senators in Wisconsin have been forced to flee the state to stop Gov. Walker’s radical attack on nurses, teachers and public employees. Now, Gov. Walker has ordered state police to hunt them down. Show solidarity with the 14 Wisconsin state senators by giving them your support.
> Take Action!

More on Wisconsin here and here

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Hurrah for Socialised Medicine!

March 23, 2010 at 6:50 pm (Anti-Racism, Democratic Party, Max Dunbar, Obama, United States)

So, it has happened. Obama has got his healthcare bill through against heavy odds.

This isn’t as good as our NHS. It is flawed. But it is a start.

The subsidies and mandates take effect in 2014, but insurance regulations and some other provisions kick in right away. Immediately, insurance companies will no longer be able to deny coverage to people on the basis of pre-existing conditions. They’ll no longer be able to drop sick people from their policies. They’ll no longer be able to set lifetime caps on payouts. Young adults will be allowed to remain on their parents’ plans until they’re 26. Small businesses will receive tax incentives to provide healthcare to their employees.

It is projected to bring healthcare to 31 million people, covering a total of 95% of Americans, while reducing the deficit by over $100bn over a decade. At its core, the 2,400-page package comprises tough insurance regulations to protect consumers, subsidies to extend coverage to low-income individuals, and mandates to broaden the risk pool and contain the rise of costs.

This legislation was enacted despite the presence of a noisy Palinite rabble on Capitol Hill, waving their placards and shouting bigoted epithets at congressmen as they walked into the building.

Preceding the president’s speech to a gathering of House Democrats, thousands of protesters descended around the Capitol to protest the passage of health care reform. The gathering quickly turned into abusive heckling, as members of Congress passing through Longworth House office building were subjected to epithets and even mild physical abuse.

A staffer for Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told reporters that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) had been spat on by a protestor. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a hero of the civil rights movement, was called a ‘ni–er.’ And Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was called a ‘faggot,’ as protestors shouted at him with deliberately lisp-y screams. Frank, approached in the halls after the president’s speech, shrugged off the incident.

But Clyburn was downright incredulous, saying he had not witnessed such treatment since he was leading civil rights protests in South Carolina in the 1960s.

‘It was absolutely shocking to me,’ Clyburn said, in response to a question from the Huffington Post. ‘Last Monday, this past Monday, I stayed home to meet on the campus of Claflin University where fifty years ago as of last Monday… I led the first demonstrations in South Carolina, the sit ins… And quite frankly I heard some things today I have not heard since that day. I heard people saying things that I have not heard since March 15, 1960 when I was marching to try and get off the back of the bus.’

‘It doesn’t make me nervous as all,’ the congressman said, when asked how the mob-like atmosphere made him feel. ‘In fact, as I said to one heckler, I am the hardest person in the world to intimidate, so they better go somewhere else.’

It’s not that hard to work out whose side you’re on, is it?

Some racist losers yesterday

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The racism of the anti-Obama campaign: Carter gets it right!

September 20, 2009 at 5:55 pm (Congress, Democratic Party, Human rights, Jim D, mccarthyism, Racism, Republican Party, United States)

Jimmy Carter is often an idiot. He talked irresponsible nonsense when he compared Israel with apartheid South Africa, for instance.

But he’s surely correct when he says:

“Those kind of things are not just casual outcomes of a sincere debate on whether we should have a national programme on healthcare. It’s deeper than that. I think an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man … That racism inclination still exists. And I think it’s bubbled up to the surface because of the belief among many white people, not just in the South but around the country, that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country.”

And, of course, Obama – a master bourgeois politician and natural-born statesman – was very wise (from his own point of view)  to disavow Carter’s analysis.

Watch the extraordinary piece of film at the bottom of this post. It generally confirms Carter’s contention, but also contains some wonderful, unexpected moments – like when the black guy defends Mississippi and denounces the “New York liberal” who’s making the film!

Also: it’s clear that McCain was embarrassed by Sarah Palin’s thinly-disguised racism. He’s a conservative, but not a racist.

Nonetheless: there can be little doubt that the hysteria surrounding Obama’s health care plans, and the heckling he received from the Confererate  Good Ol’ Boy Joe Wilson in Congress last week, was classic Deep South racism  [Youtube=

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Ted Kennedy: the last Tammany Hall politician?

August 26, 2009 at 10:51 pm (Democratic Party, history, Jim D, United States)

Most of them were simply crooks:

Ted Kennedy was also – at the very least – guilty of manslaughter, and got off because of his influence and connections.

Senator Edward Kennedy's name will be forever blighted by the incident at Chappaquiddick Island where an aide to his brother died in his car.

Never mind his supposed “liberalism”: let’s hope his passing marks the end of  the Tammany Hall politics that the Kennedy clan (with one exception) was so much a part of.

No socialist should waste a tear.

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Pilger’s Polemical Pish

February 8, 2009 at 11:47 am (Democratic Party, left, Obama, Uncategorized, United States, voltairespriest)

Having read Jim’s short piece below,I thought it was worth looking a little more closely at John Pilger’s article “The Politics of Bollocks” in this week’s New Statesman. One of the things which I’ve never understood is the way that Pilger seems to be heralded as some sort of 19th-Century style Great Authority on whatever happens to be his chosen subject of the moment. Whether it’s Obama, Palestine, capitalism, or doubtless the beaches of Bognor or the price of fish that is the topic, you can guarantee that someone on the left will be swooning over Pilger’s Brilliantly Insightful Article Which Shows What’s Really Going On about that subject. So, let us take a look at what he actually writes here.

The article is essentially a vinegary dig at people who have been bowled over by Barack Obama’s victory in the US Presidential Elections, who now seem to think that the President is a cross between Jesus, Gandhi and Che Guevara, preparing to perform impeccably progressive miracles the world over. Now, doubtless such people exist, but they are not quite so thick on the ground as Pilger appears to think. Many of us, including myself, advocated critical support for Obama last November, and were absolutely delighted to see him win the White House, at the same time as seeing a Democratic surge flatten the Republican Party in Congress. How anyone could fail to see that on balance as a good thing does not make sense to me, unless that person is merely parroting a party line about the Democrats not being a “bourgeois workers’ party” like… err… New Labour apparently is. Of course though, the Left will always need its Big Yankee Imperialist Baddie and in the absence of anyone more obvious, it seems that mantle now falls to Barack Obama. 

After opening with a rambling anecdote about how he first came to hear the term “bollocks” (gosh, how Brilliantly Insightful), Pilger’s article reads like one long stream of “yeah buts” on a variety of policy areas, ranging from Obama’s executive order to close Guantanamo Bay (“yeah but he hasn’t dismantled the entire US secret state apparatus”) to his stance on Israel-Palestine (“yeah but Zionist advisors, yeah but he’ll be talking to the Israeli right” etc). If anyone can show me a single statement, anywhere, at any time in the last election, either by the Democratic campaign or by Obama himself, where he said he would institute a socialist foreign policy, then please let me know because I haven’t seen it. However, to claim that his actions in the weeks since he was elected don’t mark a symbolic break with the Bush years is just asinine, as is the claim that his administration’s stance towards the international community is not qualitatively better than Bush’s. Indeed, even on the one overseas issue where Obama is arguably more hawkish than Bush (Afghanistan), the new president is doing exactly what he said he would do when people elected him. I don’t agree with his position, but the idea that this is a question of a hidden truth beneath obfuscatory “bollocks” is a nonsense.

One very interesting sentence in the course of the passage about Israel-Palestine is this:

What the childish fawning over Obama obscures is the dark power assembled under cover of America’s first “post-racial president”.

What “dark power”? And what relevance does Obama’s positioning as a “post-racial president” have to do with it? Pilger doesn’t elaborate on this statement, but instead launches straight into lambasting the new administration for being too pro-Israeli. What are we to deduce from this? Well I suppose either that Pilger has discovered that the Obama administration is secretly run by Cylons, or else that the “dark power” concerned is that favourite of wingnuts from Infowars to Maoist loony toons, “The Zionists Who Secretly Run Things”. I don’t propose to go into depth here with a very obvious and well-rehearsed debunking of claims that Israel lobbyists run the US government as though by remote control, but suffice to say that such statements on Pilger’s part don’t look Brilliantly Insightful to me, so much as paranoid. He also makes a point of saying, as though it reinforces his argument, that Richard Falk (the UN special rapporteur who described Israel’s policies a genocidal), is Jewish. This is unnecessary at best: the question is presumably whether Falk’s statement is correct or not. Whether he is a Jew, a Muslim or a Hare Krishna is entirely irrelevant.

A final highlight for me was Pilger’s de-contextualised claim about Hillary Clinton:

Under Obama, the “sense of a new era abroad”, declared the Observer, “was reinforced by the confirmation of Hillary Clinton as secretary of state”. Clinton has threatened to “entirely obliterate Iran” on behalf of Israel.


Is Clinton then champing at the bit to launch Shock and Awe against Tehran, or perhaps to nuke a few Iranian cities? Perhaps she secretly hopes to slip a mickey into Obama’s coffee and give the order herself?

Pilger’s use of this quote is in fact shockingly misleading. Clinton made the statement about “obliterating Iran” in April last year, during the heat of the Democratic primary campaign. It was one of a string of stupid things to say, which candidates are wont to do in US elections when bashing each other around in the scrabble for electors. Whatever I may think of Clinton – which isn’t very much – I simply don’t believe that she is plotting an apocalyptic war on Iran, and I very much doubt that the Tehran government disagrees with me. Furthermore, Pilger has cut her statement short, to make it look more bonkers even than it was. What Clinton actually said during the course of a TV interview, was this:

“I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran (if it attacks Israel).
“In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them,
“That’s a terrible thing to say but those people who run Iran need to understand that because that perhaps will deter them from doing something that would be reckless, foolish and tragic,”

Still an utterly stupid thing to say? Yes. One of the many reasons why I was delighted she didn’t get the Democratic nomination? Most certainly. Evidence that she’s planning a unilateral strike on Iran? Is it bollocks.

Overall, Pilger’s article has the air of a desperate, quixotic search for an evil enemy to rail against, when actually what he finds himself faced with is a liberal Democratic administration. Such administrations are warts-and-all things, and they do things that are downright offensive to most people on the left. Obama’s Afghanistan strategy for example is something which (as I have said) I completely disagree with, and which I’ll be first on the protests against as and when they inevitably happen.  But how one is supposed to perceive the hidden hand of a “dark power” underlying an administration which has taken bigger progressive steps in many ways (capping executive pay on Wall Street, the closure of Guantanamo, backing the use of unionised labour for federal construction prjects) in the course on the past few weeks than the free-market lackeys of our so-called “Labour Party” have managed in nearly twelve years, is simply beyond me. Obama’s administration, with all its flaws, represents a clear and obvious step away from a Bush era where CEOs simply called the shots on economic policy, and where foreign policy was governed by a coalition of empire-building neocons and religious-right fruitcakes who believed in the divine fate of Israel at the Apocaypse. Obama’s people aren’t socialists, but then they don’t pretend to be. And they’re not the boogeyman who comes to get you in the night either.

At worst, for me, the piece suggests a really feeble and paranoid view of politics which I am assured did not characterise his writing in his earlier days. At best, it’s just pish.

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