icon-cookie
The website uses cookies to optimize your user experience. Using this website grants us the permission to collect certain information essential to the provision of our services to you, but you may change the cookie settings within your browser any time you wish. Learn more
I agree
Sean Case
42 articles
My Web Markups - Sean Case
  • It is impossible to understand corruption in Puerto Rico without looking into its long-standing colonial relationship with the United States
  • A prime example of this “pay to play” system can be seen in the slow, corrosive influence of corruption in the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA) — now bankrupt and physically devastated but once considered a crowning achievement of effective public management, bringing electrification to remote parts of the island that private companies had neglected to serve.
  • Over time, politicians of both parties have secured their own political appointees to PREPA, often without regard to qualification. Such appointees — now numbering in the hundreds — are there to fundraise (in part through favorable contracting) and to implement the pet energy projects of whatever party is in power.
  • . Corruption dates back to US military rule and the first governors, unelected officials appointed by the US president, often in response to political favors or campaign contributions and with no corresponding knowledge of Spanish, let alone of the people under US governance.
  • Public ownership — if not democratically accountable — turns out to be just another structure from which to steal from ordinary citizens.
  • It is not just the chats. It is not just the recent arrests. It is not even the poorly managed response to Hurricane Maria. Rosselló has offered Puerto Rico no way out, no road map — just failure cloaked in rhetoric and self-dealing and influence peddling in broad daylight. The governor has presided over the decimation of public education (the former education secretary had closed down nearly four-hundred schools and aggressively introduced charter schools), cuts to the University of Puerto Rico, cuts to pensions, and the privatization of major public services, including ongoing efforts to privatize the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA).
  • In the early days of American rule, Puerto Rico’s domestic coffee industry was destroyed and supplanted by sugar plantations imposed by Washington
  • PREPA is allegedly one of the largest sources of political fundraising on the island
  • the real winners have been off-island, American interests. In the early days, it was industrial interests, first in the sugar industry. Then came the oil companies who remain a powerful presence. Now it is financial interests — in particular the law firms, financial advisers, auditors, and other consultants who profited from deals that helped get Puerto Rico into its enormous debt crisis and now profit from ushering in the next phase.
  • An investigative report from the fiscal oversight board noted that PREPA is allegedly one of the largest sources of political fundraising on the island
  • These lawyers and financial consultants are particularly pernicious because they have no real incentive to fix problems — if Puerto Rico goes bankrupt again, the whole cycle of fees starts all over.
  • The challenges ahead are for the Puerto Rican people to force a new government to bring in independent monitors who can root out corruption on a daily basis, demand the democratization of compromised institutions, maintain institutions under public ownership that is actually accountable, and ultimately, to change the fundamentally colonial relationship with the United States.
12 annotations
 law, govt and politics 666
  • A capitalist of the liberal or progressive variety is seduced by means-testing, which is why Warren needlessly introduced eligibility requirements and caps into her student-debt forgiveness program.
  • This scares the devil out of the Democratic Party elite, whose entire operation is bankrolled and sustained by massive corporations. And it should.
  • he’s trying to engineer a situation in which ordinary working-class people take over the government from powerful corporations and their allies, what he calls a “political revolution.”
  • Sanders calls himself a democratic socialist and Warren calls herself a “capitalist to my bones.” These aren’t just labels. They’re distinct approaches to the fundamental problems facing our society.
  • One more place to look for evidence of this distinction is in their relationship to the Democratic Party
  • A capitalist respects the superior wisdom of capitalist markets and tries to restore them to optimal functionality, which can help explain why Warren is so frustratingly noncommittal on Medicare for All.
  • Sanders is trying to build a mass working-class movement that can challenge the power of the capitalist class itself and Warren isn’t
  • What she’s telling them is that they have nothing to fear. Sure, her ideas are to the left of standard Democratic Party fare, but she wants establishment Democrats to know that she intends to cause no major upset. She’s “seeking to lead the party — not stage a hostile takeover of it.”
  • As is evident, Sanders embraces his villainization by the Democratic Party establishment. He takes it as an opportunity to polarize the Democratic Party, drawing a bright line between its working-class and mostly progressive base and its capitalist-aligned leadership. He’s trying to agitate working-class people against all capitalists and their friends, including those in the Democratic Party. This is because Sanders views the power to make transformative change as something that emanates from the working class itself, not from politicians claiming to act on their behalf — including him. That’s the essence of his competing slogan, “Not Me, Us.”
  • Warren “stretches across a broad spectrum of Democrats,” in large part because “she does not include in her presentation the implication of being against things, except the current president.”
  • And, yes, he’s against the stratum of the Democratic Party officialdom that carries water for capitalists at the expense of working people, whom it induces to vote for them solely on the basis that they aren’t as bad as Republicans, without offering a positive and engaging political vision of their own.
11 annotations
  • Medicare-for-all might not be socialism, but at its core, it’s a demand to take something out of the market.
  • As long as a handful of elite capitalists get to call the shots in the economy and society, the playing field will be tilted in their favor. They’ll always be the ones who come out on top.
  • This is why some democratic socialists refer to Medicare-for-all as a “strike fund”: It’s a huge transfer of money and power from the capitalist class to the working class, and will expand the opportunities for the latter to put up fights against corporate power down the line.
  • democratic socialists want to build into the popular consciousness an awareness that the market is not capable of meeting society’s needs
  • To win something as massive as an American NHS or even Medicare-for-all, it isn’t enough to just win a policy argument. Democratic socialists believe we need to build a mass movement that can pry health insurance provision out of the hands of health insurance companies and put it into the hands of the public. To marshal the kinds of forces that can achieve such policy victories, we need to get working Americans comfortable thinking about class in a broader sense.
  • “There’s no question that we have to expand and comprehensively fund the social safety net, but if we do that without altering the more basic structures that disempower people and keep them in wage slavery, we’re never going to see long-term social change.”
  • Social democratic reforms like Medicare-for-all are, in the eyes of DSA, part of the long, uneven process of building that support, and eventually overthrowing capitalism.
  • A robust welfare state in an economy that’s still organized around capitalists’ profits can mitigate the worst inequalities for a while, but it’s at best a temporary truce between bosses and workers — and one that the former will look to scrap as soon as they can.
  • Fighting for Medicare-for-all can teach Americans the value of uniting over the working-class majority’s interests. Winning Medicare-for-all would free up the labor movement to make more demands on employers, like greater democratic control on the job.
9 annotations
 politics 689
  • American President Nixon’s orders were “to make the economy scream”. A trade embargo against Chile was established. These forces of reaction financed armed terrorist attacks by the fascistic ‘Patria y Liberdad’, and a bosses’ lock-out was led by truck owners
  • the working class consciously saw itself as the leading force in the revolution in Chile. While Allende enjoyed enormous popularity, the personality cult and top-down administrative methods, present today in Venezuela, were not predominant under the Popular Unity (UP)
  • The leaders were challenged and, on occasions, opposed by workers. Where the old organisations proved inadequate, the workers built new ones that were more responsive to their demands and needs in the work places and the local communities to lead and defend the revolution.
  • Supporters of Militant (the forerunner of the Socialist Party) moved resolutions for the Labour Party congress, drawing on the lessons of Chile and, amongst other things, demanded trade union rights for the Chilean armed forces.
  • The bosses’ strike in 1972 led to the rapid growth of organisations in the industrial districts and the formation of the ‘cordones industriales’ (‘industrial belts’). These were elected committees in the work places, which began to link up on a district and even a city-wide basis. Delegates were elected and subject to recall. In the industrial city of Concepcion, in the south of Chile, they formed a city-wide Popular Assembly.
  • Yet the forces of reaction laid out very detailed and precise plans. Henry Kissinger, US Secretary of State in the Nixon administration, cabled the CIA chief in Santiago: “It is the firm and continuing policy that Allende be overthrown by a coup.” The preparations were laid. Reaction bided its time, waiting for the appropriate moment to strike. It was known throughout Chile that a coup was not only being discussed but planned for. At the time, it was joked that Allende spent 23 hours out of every 24 hours worrying about the army. In June, sections of the military, from the tank regiments, moved prematurely and organised a rebellion against the government – the so-called ‘Tancazo’. It was too early and was put down by the military, under orders from Allende. General Pratts, a supporter of Allende, who quelled the attempted uprising, was later murdered after the successful coup in September 1973.
  • The coup was accompanied by the arrival of the ‘Chicago boys’ – a team of right wing economists – and the unleashing of neo-liberal policies which have had a devastating effect of the Chilean working class. The military regime lasted until 1990.
  • the leaders of the PCCh (Communist Party) and sections of the PSCh (Socialist Party) acted as a brake and tried to hold back the revolutionary process, arguing that the “democratic” bourgeoisie must not be alienated and defended the “constitutonality” of the armed forces. The left of the PSCh, including figures like Carlos Altamirano, the party’s General Secretary, argued for the creation of “Peoples Power” and the strengthening of the revolution. However, despite using very left-wing revolutionary and Marxist rhetoric, the left of the Socialist Party failed to propose specific demands or initiatives to take the revolution forward and to overthrow capitalism, while plans were being laid for a reactionary military coup.
  • From the beginning, Allende laid the ground for his own defeat when agreeing not to touch the army in the fatal ‘constitution pact’. The state machine was left in the hands of the generals and reaction, without any challenge
  • Moreover, when sections of the rank and file tried to come to the aid of the revolution and oppose a coup, the policy of “constitutionality” meant Allende scandalously supported the pro-coup reactionary hierarchy. In August, in the naval port of Valpariso, 100 sailors were arrested for “dereliction of military duty”. In fact, they had discovered plans for the coup and declared they would oppose it. In what was referred to as his darkest hour, Allende, supported the hierarchy in the navy as it arrested and tortured this group of naval ratings!
  • The Pinera election victory acted as a whip of counter revolution and unleashed all of the frustration and alienation which has been accumulating for the last twenty years. A new generation has exploded into struggle, marking the end of the so-called “stability” boasted of by the Chilean ruling class since the end of the military dictatorship.
  • In Chile in September 1973, a mass armed protest and clear appeal for the soldiers to join the revolution was the only prospect at this late stage to save the revolution and defeat the coup. Instead, as the coup unfolded, workers were left isolated in their factories, waiting to be picked off by armed detachments of the army. Once in power, the military unleashed a bloody era of repression and slaughter.
  • The electoral system, set in train by Pinochet, is designed to maintain the two main political blocks, in almost a deadlocked parliamentary system. The so-called ‘binominal’ system – designed by Jarulselski in Poland- makes it impossible for any party to get elected, if it is outside the two main blocks – the “centre-left” of the Concertacion or the far right
  • Food shortages and speculation caused by the embargo and sabotage of the bosses resulted in the formation of the JAP’s – ‘peoples supply committees’ – which organised food distribution and tried to prevent speculation. The cordones increasingly assumed a political role to advance and defend the revolution.
  • One of the most radical of the cordones was in the industrial district of Cerillos. It adopted a political programme that, amongst others things, declared “support for president Allende’s government, in so far, as it interprets the struggles and demands of the workers; expropriation of all monopoly firms with more than 14 million escudos in capital or are of strategic importance to the economy; workers’ control of all industries, farms, mines, through delegate councils, delegates being recallable by the base; a minimum and maximum wage; peasants’ and farmers’ control of agriculture and credit and to set up a Popular Assembly to replace the bourgeois parliament”.
  • In practice, this ‘stages theory’ allowed the ruling class time to prepare its forces to strike, when the moment was most opportune. It resulted not in the avoidance of a civil war but in the drowning of the revolutionary movement in blood.
  • An organised force, a new political party, which can channel the determination of the new generation to fight for a change and which has learnt the lessons of the previous struggles, is posed objectively in the struggle and in the crisis which is developing.
  • The reasons for the defeat 40 years ago are relevant for the workers and youth of Chile and all countries.
  • The capitalist parties in the Congress allowed him to take the presidency, on a minority vote, because he fatally agreed to a constitutional pact that meant he was not to touch or interfere with the armed forces. This was to prove disastrous, as events unfolded.
  • The revolution spread to the countryside, where farm workers and peasants occupied land and carried out a programme of agricultural reform. Over 10 million acres of land were re-distributed.
  • The conditions existed to split the armed forces but decisive action was necessary. Yet the leaders of the UP were imprisoned by the idea, especially emphasized by the Communist Party, that a “progressive wing” existed amongst a section of the ruling class
  • The consequences of neo-liberal policies mean that the preparation of a strike is even more important. In the private sector, many workers do not even have a contract and work on a daily or hourly basis, fearing they could easily loose their jobs. Even in the public sector, an estimated 50% of workers have no contract. This makes the job of building effective trade unions even more difficult. Teachers, for example, are dubbed “professores taxistas” – ‘taxi teachers’. They teach for a few hours in one school and then rush off to another for a few hours and have no contract, at all. As a result of these weaknesses, and a union leadership that is not prepared to fight, the strike had a limited impact despite enjoying massive sympathy from the mass of the population.
  • Under the iron heel of Chile’s military dictatorship, a laboratory economic experiment was conducted. The neo-liberal policies of privatisation, open markets, de-regulation and private pension schemes were all first tested out in Chile following the coup. They were then applied in the 1980/90’s and continued in this new century, by the ruling classes internationally. The ‘Chicago Boys’, economic students of Milton Freidman, arrived in Chile in the aftermath of Pinochet’s coup. The military regime gave them a free hand to test out their theories. These were the policies later to be pursued by Thatcher, Reagan and other capitalist leaders
  • The PSCh in that period was a completely different animal to that which exists today. Formed in the early 1930’s, it was born in opposition to the Stalinised Communist Party, and was a larger party. It was far to the left of the PCCh.
  • Yet despite the ‘Tancazo’, neither Allende nor the other leaders took steps to strike against the military or to mobilise and arm the workers. Trade union rights were not given to the ranks of the army, no attempt was made to try and organise or to build support amongst the ranks of the armed forces, many of whom supported the revolutionary process.
  • For months, the university and secondary school students have occupied universities and schools, held massive demonstrations of hundreds of thousands, ‘kiss-ins’ and other forms of protest to demand a free and decent education system. They have confronted vicious state repression not seen since the days of the dictatorship, resulting in the killing on one 16 year old youth. This youth movement enjoyed massive support amongst the population – according to one opinion poll, 85% supported the students.
  • By the time of the 1973 coup, over 40% of the economy was in state hands.
  • The undemocratic nature of the parliamentary system meant that the UP did not have a majority in either Congress or Senate. However, this policy rapidly began to unravel as electoral support for the UP not only consolidated but increased. Every attempt to undermine the government radicalised the working class, pushed the revolutionary process forward and increased electoral support for the government.
  • This was far greater than the sympathy shown by layers of young people towards Chavez in Venezuela. The election of a “Marxist” President and government in Chile, and the leading role in the process of the working class, enthused the working class globally. It also opened a discussion on how to achieve socialism and the role of the state.
  • More discriminate in its execution than the coup in Argentina and other Latin American countries, it was a ruthless clinical operation which targeted the most politically conscious and active workers and youth
  • However, despite the growth, Chile has also become one of the most unequal societies in Latin America – one of the three most unequal throughout the continent. This has resulted in an increasingly explosive social situation, reflected in the tremendous struggle of the hundreds of thousands of youth in recent months. At the same time, the victory of successive Concertacion governments during the last twenty years, which have only acted to defend the interests of the rich, has resulted in growing political alienation from all the political institutions bequeathed by the dictatorship.
  • Around 75% of youth voters do not even register to vote.
  • The building of committees of struggle in the work places and assemblies in the local communities is a crucial task and part of the rebuilding of the workers’ movement, which is now urgently posed in Chile, as in other countries.
33 annotations
  • the benefits of a dirty break approach for the labor movement, socialists and revolutionaries outweigh the costs.
  • The main argument raised by advocates of a clean break is that trying to use its ballot line is a mistake for socialists because you end up being used by the Democratic Party rather than vice versa. Thus any short-term gains in term of visibility and influence will be outweighed by the immediate and/or long-term tendencies of such campaigns to subordinate our class to a capitalist party.
  • The case for a dirty break approach needs to be judged on its own terms — i.e., whether it’s the most viable perspective in the profoundly anti-democratic U.S. electoral context for building the socialist movement and advancing the working class toward a rupture with the Democratic Party.
  • But the very same organizational weaknesses that Todd points to mean that a clean break tactic also cannot immediately create a viable national independent workers’ party.
  • The tragic subordination of the militant workers’ movement to the Democratic Party in the 1930s did not come about because socialists mistakenly attempted to use the Democratic Party ballot line. Rather the CIO trade union bureaucracy was directly tied to the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration, and it consciously fought to channel the mass movement into supporting President Roosevelt and the Democrats
  • the main impact of the socialist insurgencies has so far been to heighten the contradictions between the working-class voters of the Democratic Party and its corporate leadership.
  • Using the Democratic Party ballot line certainly presents dangers for socialists. The key question, however, is: Are these stronger than the dangers and pressures of abstaining from these campaigns?
  • So the question for Marxists at present is: If we agree that using the Democratic Party ballot line is not a question of principle, then can this tactic be used by us today to build up class consciousness, labor militancy and the independent forces of the left (including its revolutionary wing)?
  • the main impact of the socialist insurgencies has so far been to heighten the contradictions between the working-class voters of the Democratic Party and its co
  • While Bernie’s influence within the DSA is clearly very significant, this formulation on its own is one-sided and obscures the relatively independent thrust of the new socialist movement.
  • But in terms of advancing working-class independence, I’m not convinced that Ocasio-Cortez’s problematic stance on the Democratic Party and her personal trajectory outweighs the enormous impact that her campaign, like Bernie’s before it, has had on advancing class politics, spreading socialist ideas and building independent left organization.
  • there’s no need to counterpose building these campaigns and supporting candidates like Bernie, AOC, or Julia Salazar — in fact, a viable dirty break strategy requires seeking every opportunity possible to build up completely independent electoral campaigns and formations.
  • a “dirty break” strategy — which okays the use of the Democratic Party ballot line to build up forces toward the creation of an independent workers’ party
  • And while the average paper DSA member might be a “Berniecrat,” a large percent of its local and national cadre (maybe even a majority) are openly opposed to the realignment strategy of “taking back” the Democratic Party
  • Crucially, supporting candidacies like Ocasio-Cortez, Bernie or Julia Salazar does not mean that revolutionary socialists have to take responsibility for, or agree with, all of their stances. If candidates support a bad policy, we should criticize this stance.
  • Supporting the dirty break strategy, furthermore, in no way prevents socialists today from implementing the urgent task of running and supporting winnable independent socialist (or labor) candidacies on a local level.
  • the criteria that we should use when judging whether or not to support an electoral campaign: 1) Does it advance the working class? and; 2) Does it advance socialism?
  • If we look only at the individual stances of Bernie or Ocasio-Cortez, it could be easy to conclude that the general trajectory of these recent socialist campaigns is absorption into the Democratic Party. But if we look at the totality of these processes, it becomes obvious that there are crucial countervailing tendencies at work.
  • But the ballot line is not necessarily the determining criteria for whether revolutionary socialists should support a candidate. Class independence isn’t just a question of relating to the Democratic Party. It’s also everything else: popularizing class politics, building independent socialist organizations, and rebuilding a militant labor movemen
  • “Even with more socialists in office, the nature of the capitalist state drastically limits what is possible without massive upheavals of working-class militancy from below.”
  • I would argue that the question of rebuilding a militant labor movement and a strong left are the most important priorities at this moment, because without these, you’re not going to be able to get to a point where a real break, dirty or otherwise, is going to happen from the Democrats on a mass scale.
21 annotations
  • for Beijing, saving face is always paramoun
  • This trade war is no regular trade war. It is merely the first battle of a prolonged US–China rivalry, and one that would bring disaster to the world.
  • Xi’s project of modernizing China, carried out in the name of his people, has no common ground with working people’s interests. He is defending interests in the South China Sea while giving away the future of China — its natural resources, its ecological balance, and its people’s health. He is defending the mandarins’ assets and position while destroying people’s livelihood.
  • Moreover, the China extradition bill involves Taiwan and therefore goes beyond the Hong Kong government’s usual jurisdiction. How would it be possible for the bill to be brought forward solely by Carrie Lam?
  • The Chinese term “localism,” when first adopted by social movements, was used by people who were broadly leftist. However, it is the right wing that has grown bigger and bigger. These localists are more like nativists — very xenophobic.
  • The repression in Mainland China is surely the most direct factor in isolating and exterminating solidarity efforts with the Hong Kong resistance. But the Chinese regime is also very good at manipulating public opinion. Selective reporting or outright fake news about Hong Kong are the crudest tricks of this game.
  • the general trend of an intensifying US–China rivalry may persist, because now both the Democrats and the Republicans have consensus over China policy.
  • for Beijing, saving face is always paramount
  • There is strong anxiety and bitterness among them — and fear that, if they cannot win this time, they will lose forever.
  • China’s capitalism is a kind of “bureaucratic capitalism,” where the ruling class combines the coercive power of the state and the power of capital. This kind of capitalism is highly exploitative, monopolistic, and, importantly, expansionist. Hence the US–China rivalry. Yet we must understand that China is still far from being on par with the United States in many fields.
  • Since the 1980s, the Japanese case has always been the subject of debate among Chinese economists, strategists, and nationalists, and the nationalists’ argument has always been the strongest: China, as a developing country, cannot afford a Japanese-style defeat at the hands of the United States, and China must resist the United States if Washington begins to show its teeth. This is precisely what Xi has done so far.
  • The CCP has a long record of provoking a premature uprising among people just to legitimize the later bloody crackdown. We should watch closely whether this is the case. The more worrying side of the story is that if Beijing’s regime remains stable, a Hong Kong people’s uprising probably will not end well.
  • Unlike Japan, the CCP under Xi is not going to accept, indefinitely, a second-rate position. Unlike Japan, Xi wants to replace the “Western” version of globalization with his “Chinese” version, right here and now.
  • Workers have nothing to win in this rivalry.
  • We must not fall into the nationalist trap of supporting either US aggression or Chinese aggression. That will be the first step toward opposing the US–China rivalry and preventing it from turning into a war. End Mark
15 annotations
  • s
  • White supremacists fear and hate Omar because they see her as a threat to their vision of a permanent racial hierarchy. But for the Right more generally, she’s a deeper threat. With her politics, her personal appeal, and her knack for building working-class coalitions, Omar threatens their ability to keep on legislating for the rich while trampling the poor and pointing the finger at the Other. That’s why they hate her.
  • Meanwhile, a recently released House report determined that “with regard to Saudi Arabia, the Trump administration has virtually obliterated the lines normally separating government policymaking from corporate and foreign interests.”
  • Trump is, on one level, trying to use racist fearmongering to distract from his own wilful failure to improve the lives of working Americans, a strategy that’s already failed spectacularly during the 2018 midterms. On another level, he’s trying to undermine the working-class solidarity Americans of all backgrounds ought by rights to feel.
  • In the state legislature, she put her political vision in action. She used her newfound clout to back Twin Cities workers campaigning for a minimum wage and trying to unionize, saying it was “part of our country’s history for people to come together and collectively fight for their rights.” She helped write the Working Parents Act, a package of measures that mandated paid family leave, sick leave, stronger wage theft protection, and more, and co-authored bills repealing the prohibition of rent control, requiring the expunging of evictions more than three years old, prohibiting drug manufacturers and distributors from price gouging, and much more.
  • One of Omar’s bills, in particular, has been overlooked: the Frank Adelmann Manufactured Housing Community Sustainability Act, which seeks to incentivize mobile home park owners to sell their land to residents, named after a Minnesota man who killed himself after the park he’d lived in for ten years was sold and closed, leaving him stranded.
  • Counter to the Right’s narrative, Omar is keenly aware of the plight of the working class, white or otherwise.
  • Omar, whose legislation strengthening oversight of foreign lobbying passed the House earlier this year, is accused of being some sort of alien, terroristic influence by the supporters and members of an administration that is embarrassingly servile to Saudi Arabia — a state that quite literally collaborates with international terrorists and turns a blind eye to their funding
8 annotations
 law, govt and politics 615
  • But notice what is missing from this list: there is no mention of a separate ballot line.
  • Waged by a candidate who had never run as a Democrat before and has declined to do so in the future, the Sanders campaign has revived hope that a serious electoral politics to the left of the Democratic Party might be possible. The question is what such a politics would mean in practice.
  • ass constituency around themselves. The Democratic Party — created in the 1830s by a network of powerful incumbents led by New York senator and power broker Martin Van Buren — is the classic case.
  • “Although these statutes have been assailed on all sides,” a 1937 Columbia Law Review article reported, “their severity is constantly being increased, probably because the interests oppressed seldom have representation in the legislatures.” Indeed, when the Florida legislature found socialists and communists advancing at the polls, it responded in 1931 by banning any party from the ballot unless it had won 30 percent of the vote in two consecutive elections; naturally, when the Republican Party failed to meet that test, the state immediately lowered the threshold.
  • Today, in almost every established democracy, getting on the ballot is at most a secondary concern for small or new parties; in many countries it involves little more than filling out some forms
  • This political moment offers a chance to fill in some of these blanks — to advance new electoral strategies for an independent left-wing party rooted in the working class.
  • once the job of printing the ballot was handed over to governments, some mechanism was needed to determine who was “officially” a candidate, and under which party label.
  • Over the three decades following US entry into World War I, as working-class and socialist parties burgeoned throughout the industrialized world, American elites chose to deal with the problem by radically restricting access to the ballot. In state after state, petition requirements and filing deadlines were tightened and various forms of routine legal harassment, unknown in the rest of the democratic world, became the norm.
  • The new restrictions came in waves, usually following the entry of left-wing parties into the electoral process
  • In the lore of American politics, these direct-primary and “Australian ballot” laws (i.e., laws mandating government-printed ballots cast inside a private booth) were the work of idealistic progressive reformers aiming to depose the party bosses and enshrine popular sovereignty. In reality, they were adopted by the party leaders themselves when such measures were deemed to suit their interests.
  • Instead, the problem arose from the oldest dilemma of America’s two-party system: running candidates against Democrats risked electing anti-labor Republicans. For unions whose members had a lot to lose, that risk was considered too high.
  • The Labor Party always assumed that a genuinely independent labor party must have a separate party ballot line. That assumption was a mistake. The assumption gave rise to an intractable dilemma: if the party took a separate line and ran candidates against incumbent Democrats, it would destroy relationships with Democratic officeholders who might otherwise be sympathetic to unions, and thus lose the support of the unions that depended on those officeholders. On the other hand, if it didn’t run candidates — which is ultimately the path it chose — the nagging question would arise: what’s the point of having this so-called “party” in the first place? That question ended up spurring endless internal debates over whether and when to run candidates. And in the end, by not contesting elections, the party failed to give workers a reason to pay attention to the organization in the first place.
  • This political moment offers a chance to fill in some of these blanks — to advance new electoral strategies for an independent left-wing party rooted in the working class.
  • Instead, the problem arose from the oldest dilemma of America’s two-party system: running candidates against Democrats risked electing anti-labor Republicans. For unions whose members had a lot to lose, that risk was considered too high.
  • The Labor Party always assumed that a genuinely independent labor party must have a separate party ballot line. That assumption was a mistake. The assumption gave rise to an intractable dilemma: if the party took a separate line and ran candidates against incumbent Democrats, it would destroy relationships with Democratic officeholders who might otherwise be sympathetic to unions, and thus lose the support of the unions that depended on those officeholders. On the other hand, if it didn’t run candidates — which is ultimately the path it chose — the nagging question would arise: what’s the point of having this so-called “party” in the first place? That question ended up spurring endless internal debates over whether and when to run candidates. And in the end, by not contesting elections, the party failed to give workers a reason to pay attention to the organization in the first place.
  • But the United States is different. Beneath our winner-take-all electoral rules, we also have a unique — and uniquely repressive — legal system governing political parties and the mechanics of elections. This system has nothing to do with the Constitution or the Founding Fathers. Rather, it was established by the major-party leaders, state by state, over a period stretching roughly from 1890 to 1920.
  • The Council of Europe, the pan-European intergovernmental body, maintains a “Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters,” which catalogs electoral practices that contravene international standards. Such violations often read like a manual of US election procedure. In 2006, the council condemned the Republic of Belarus for violating the provision of the code proscribing signature requirements larger than 1 percent of a district’s voters, a level the council regards as extremely high; in 2014, Illinois required more than triple that number for House candidacies. In 2004, the council rebuked Azerbaijan for its rule forbidding voters from signing nomination petitions for candidates from more than one party; California and many other states do essentially the same thing.
  • “Perhaps the clearest case of overt partisan manipulation of the rules is the United States, where Democrats and Republicans appear automatically on the ballot, but third parties and independents have to overcome a maze of cumbersome legal requirements,
  • Another unique aspect of American party law raises similar issues: in their internal affairs, ballot-qualified parties in the United States are “some of the most comprehensively regulated parties in the world.”
  • Such groups generally maintain no formal standards for judging a candidate’s worthiness. Even if they did, in drawing up such standards they would be accountable to no one, and would have no power to change those candidates’ policy objectives.
  • As a nationwide organization, it would have a national educational apparatus, recognized leaders and spokespeople at the national level, and its candidates and other activities would come under a single, nationally recognized label. And, of course, all candidates would be required to adhere to the national platform.
  • At a deeper level, the “party-less” model that dominates progressive politics today is an outgrowth of America’s lamentable history of “internally mobilized” parties: that is, parties organized by already-established politicians for the sole purpose of creating a mass constituency around themselves. The Democratic Party — created in the 1830s by a network of powerful incumbents led by New York senator and power broker Martin Van Buren — is the classic case.
  • But it would avoid the ballot-line trap. Decisions about how individual candidates appear on the ballot would be made on a case-by-case basis and on pragmatic grounds, depending on the election laws and partisan coloration of the state or district in question. In any given race, the organization could choose to run in major- or minor-party primaries, as nonpartisan independents, or even, theoretically, on the organization’s own ballot line.
  • “externally mobilized” parties: organized by ordinary people, standing outside the system, who come together around a cause and then go about recruiting their own representatives to contest elections, for the purpose of gaining power they don’t already have.
  • The ballot line would thus be regarded as a secondary issue. The organization would base its legal right to exist not on the repressive ballot laws, but on the fundamental rights of freedom of association.
  • Start with the most fundamental fact about the Democratic Party: it has no members.
  • party membership in the United States has been described as ‘a fiction created by primary registration laws.’”
  • Just as the Democratic Party has no real membership, it offers only the most derisory semblance of a “program”: a quadrennial platform usually dictated by an individual nominee (or occasionally negotiated with a defeated rival) at the height of the election-season frenzy, a document that in most years no one reads and in all years no one takes seriously as a binding document. (At the state level, party platforms often reach hallucinatory levels of detachment from real politics.)
  • To whom, then, is the senator accountable? An electorate, in theory, come reelection time. But no party.
  • Today, a national political organization could adopt the “Carey” model of campaign finance
  • In addition, it would be allowed to establish a PAC that maintains two separate accounts: one permitted to donate to, and directly coordinate with, individual candidates (though subject to FECA contribution limits and allowed to actively solicit contributions only from the organization’s own members); and the other allowed to accept unlimited contributions and make unlimited independent expenditures on behalf of its candidates (though not donations to candidates themselves). A separate online “conduit” PAC, on the ActBlue model, could aggregate small-donor hard-money fundraising on a mass scale to finance the individual campaigns.
  • In this “party-less” model of politics, it’s the Democratic politician who goes about trying to recruit a base, rather than the other way around. The politician’s platform and message are devised by her and her alone. They can be changed on a whim. And there is no mechanism by which the politician can be held accountable to the (fairly nebulous) progressive constituency she has recruited to her cause.
  • A true working-class party must be democratic and member-controlled. It must be independent — determining its own platform and educating around it. It should actually contest elections. And its candidates for public office should be members of the party, accountable to the membership, and pledged to respect the platform.
  • This is where the American system began to diverge wildly from democratic norms elsewhere.
  • “It’s not easy for Americans to understand a party that’s not electoral. I think that that was just a difficult sell.”
  • proportional representation
  • Normally, democracies regard political parties as voluntary associations entitled to the usual rights of freedom of association. But US state laws dictate not only a ballot-qualified party’s nominating process, but also its leadership structure, leadership selection process, and many of its internal rules (although it’s true that these mandates are often waived for third parties deemed too marginal to care about).
  • This is one fundamental problem with the third-party strategy: the need to continually maintain ballot status — an onerous process in most states — places the party’s viability at the mercy of the legislature.
  • The following is a proposal for such a model: a national political organization that would have chapters at the state and local levels, a binding program, a leadership accountable to its members, and electoral candidates nominated at all levels throughout the country.
  • , not a single externally mobilized party has ever attained national electoral significance in the United States.
  • We have to stop approaching our task as if the problems we face were akin to those faced by the organizers of, say, the British Labour Party in 1900 or Canada’s New Democratic Party in 1961. Instead, we need to realize that our situation is more like that facing opposition parties in soft-authoritarian systems, like those of Russia or Singapore. Rather than yet another suicidal frontal assault, we need to mount the electoral equivalent of guerrilla insurgency. In short, we need to think about electoral strategy more creatively.
  • In this model, the national organization would incorporate as a 501(c)4 social welfare organization, permitting it to endorse candidates and engage in explicit campaigning, while accepting unlimited donations and spending unlimited amounts on political education. (It would also, of course, be free to adopt rigorous self-imposed disclosure rules, as it should.)
  • These parties are frequently forced to devote the bulk of their resources not to educating voters, or knocking on doors on election day, but to waging petition drives and ballot-access lawsuits. The constant legal harassment, in turn, ends up exerting a subtle but powerful effect on the kinds of people attracted to independent politics. Through a process of natural selection, such obstacles tend to repel serious and experienced local politicians and organizers, while disproportionately attracting activists with a certain mentality: disdainful of practical politics or concrete results; less interested in organizing, or even winning elections, than in bearing witness to the injustice of the two-party system through the symbolic ritual of inscribing a third-party’s name on the ballot.
  • But electing individual progressives does little to change the broad dynamics of American politics or American capitalism. In fact, it can create a kind of placebo effect: sustaining the illusion of forward motion while obscuring the fact that neither party is structurally built to reflect working-class interests.
  • “One of the best-kept secrets in American politics,” the eminent political scientist Theodore Lowi has written, “is that the two-party system has long been brain dead — kept alive by support systems like state electoral laws that protect the established parties from rivals and by federal subsidies and so-called campaign reform. The two-party system would collapse in an instant if the tubes were pulled and the IVs were cut.”
  • In other words, when third-party activists seek ballot status, they are often seeking to grant far-reaching control over their own internal affairs to a hostile two-party-dominated legislature. That is a peculiar way to go about smashing the two-party system.
  • Typically, advocates of the third-party route depict their strategy as a revolt against a rigged two-party system; sometimes they even castigate doubters as timid accommodationists. Yet, in the context of American law, when such advocates speak of creating an independent “party,” what they mean, ironically, is choosing to subject their organization to an elaborate regulatory regime maintained by, and continually manipulated by, the two parties themselves.
  • Orbiting around these ambitious office-seekers are the progressive “grassroots” organizations exemplified by MoveOn.org, Democracy for America, or Progressive Democrats of America. (In an earlier, direct-mail era, it was Common Cause, People for the American Way, or even the Americans for Democratic Action.)
  • At a deeper level, the “party-less” model that dominates progressive politics today is an outgrowth of America’s lamentable history of “internally mobilized” parties: that is, parties organized by already-established politicians for the sole purpose of creating a m
49 annotations
 law, govt and politics 609
  • the biggest obstacle to this development has precisely been the concentration of agricultural land in the hands of a few landlords.
  • An important element in this fusion was the constant wars against Peru and Bolivia for possession of the mineral wealth in the northern zone
  • The development of capitalist elements provoked a confrontation between Liberals and Conservatives in the second half of the 19th century. But at the end of the same century they fused together and distributed the booty among themselves thanks to their control of the government and the state
  • Instead of a thoroughgoing fight against the power of the big landlords they submitted to a servile alliance, handing over to the landowners the biggest part of state power and sharing with them the wealth extracted from the super-exploitation of the workers and peasants, as well as the booty from the frontier wars. The bourgeois had lands and the landlords had shares in industry, mining and commerce: both classes were closely linked by the banking and financial interests.
  • From the very beginning the Chilean “liberals” have been the left boot of the oligarchy.
  • The feudal mentality of the Chilean landlords didn’t present any serious obstacle when it came to participating in the most shamefaced speculation. The landlords sold a part of their land and invested their profits in business in the towns. They controlled their banks and other financial institutions.
  • The tragedy of the Chilean working class was that the consolidation of the Communist Party coincided with the Stalinist degeneration of the USSR. We saw the same process reflected in all the parties of the Communist International, which continued to blindly follow the political line determined by the interests of the Russian bureaucracy.
  • In Chile too the Stalinist policy produced disastrous results. We saw the CP reduced to a sectarian grouplet isolated from the masses at a decisive moment, and totally incapable of giving serious leadership to the revolutionary movement.
  • The workers learnt through bitter experience to completely distrust the ‘liberal’ politicians of the bourgeoisie. Economic power remained in the hands of the monopolies and the landowners. The economic crisis went from bad to worse. With the growing control of imperialism over the economy it became increasingly evident to everyone that the Chilean bourgeoisie was nothing more than the local agency of foreign capitalism.
  • But in the greatest part of the country there did not exist a numerous class of prosperous peasants, but rather a clear division between the big landlords and their “tenants” living in semi-feudal conditions, with a large class of rural semi-proletarians, the “broken ones” (rotos), subjected to the most brutal exploitation and living in sub-human conditions.
  • the national bourgeoisie surrendered itself in a most servile manner to foreign imperialism. Already in the years of the First World War some 50% of the investments in the mines were of foreign origin. Very soon imperialism, above all that of the USA, came to own the copper industry
  • The peasantry, the most heterogenous social class has been the social class that is least capable of playing an independent political role. It either acted under the leadership of the proletariat or the bourgeoisie. In fact the struggle for political hegemony in the peasantry is a key question for the socialist revolution in Chile. In this sense the first step is the recognition that it is impossible for this social class to play an independent role.
  • Behind their “civilized” and “enlightened” skin there is hidden the mentality of the conqueror and feudal master, with the exception that nowadays the Chilean “nobles” and their bourgeois allies are nothing more than the sub-agents of imperialism, depending shamefully but voluntarily on foreign capita
  • In the valley of the river Aconcagua, near Valparaiso, 98% of all the land is in the hands of 3% of landowners. Some of these estates cover more than 5,000 hectares. Only a very small part of the land is in the hands of small peasants who are hardly able to live.
  • The key event in the process of the awakening consciousness of the Chilean workers was the Russian Revolution. In an atmosphere of general radicalization the Socialist Workers Party of Chile (POS) came out in favor of the Russian Revolution and in 1922 accepted the 21 conditions by which it could enter the Communist International, changing its name to the Communist Party of Chile.
  • The fusion of banking, landlordism and big business was completed. There were no fundamental differences between the political parties represented in parliament.
  • But in the same way that the Chilean bourgeoisie was incapable of carrying out a land reform, even in the field of industry and mining, in this “golden age” of Chilean capitalism, the national bourgeoisie surrendered itself in a most servile manner to foreign imperialism.
  • leadership that is able
  • The long period of the economic boom which lasted from 1891 to 1918 gave the Chilean oligarchy a wide margin for manoeuvre to buy the loyalty of the middle class, offering it bureaucratic careers in the State and in government. In this way there arose a new caste of professional politicians. The ‘liberal’ politicians of the middle class sold themselves to the oligarchy for a small amount of money. From that moment the middle class in Chile thought of politics as a very profitable business: this has been even more true for the so-called ‘progressive’ politicians of the bourgeoisie. The ‘liberals’, ‘radicals’ and ‘Christian democrats’ fully participated in this repugnant spectacle of corruption and prostitution, whilst the masses of the peasantry and the working class were mere passive spectators of the parliamentary game.
  • The Chilean workers had learnt to distrust completely the ‘liberal’ politicians of the bourgeoisie. The creation of the SP was an expression of the instinctive desire of the working class for the necessity of an independent class policy.
  • “The evolutionary transformation by means of the democratic system is not possible because the ruling class has organized itself into official armed bodies and has erected its own dictatorship to maintain the workers in poverty and ignorance and prevent their emancipation.”
  • “When we get power there won’t be enough lampposts from which to hang the oligarchy.”
  • Lenin and the Bolsheviks understood that the building of socialism was not possible in a single country, and even less in a backward country like Russia at that time. They therefore raised the urgent need of extending the revolution to other countries, above all to the developed capitalist countries of Europe. They therefore created the Communist International, which proclaimed the need for a world revolution, the united socialist states of Europe, and finally a world socialist federation.
  • The leaders of the SP, unfortunately, were completely incapable of offering any alternative. The Stalinists took the initiative and strongly pressured the leadership of the SP to accept the idea of a Popular Front with the Radical Party.
  • The experience of these events convinced the best fighters of the Chilean working class of the urgent need for a new party, a party which would really defend the interests of the working class, which would not base itself on the social-democratic reformism of the Second International, nor the Stalinist perversion of the Comintern, but which had to return to the authentic ideas of Marxism-Leninism, the ideas of Bolshevism and the October Revolution. Many cadres of the old POS, discontent with the Stalinist line of the CP, joined in with this initiative to found the Socialist Party in April 1933.
  • In the meanwhile the reunification of the trade union movement was achieved, after being broken in 1946. The CUT, formed in 1953m affirmed as its principle aim the organization of all workers of town and countryside “to fight against the exploitation of man by man until the achievements of complete socialism.”
  • the starvation wages of the Chilean peasantry are also the cause of the low level of productivity in Chilean agriculture.
  • In other words – trust exclusively on the forces of the organized working class in the soviets, or workers’ councils, as the only power capable of destroying reaction, carrying out the tasks of the bourgeois democratic revolution in alliance with the masses of the poor peasants through the seizure of power, and consequently, going over in an uninterrupted manner to the expropriation of the bourgeoisie and beginning the process of socialist revolution.
  • The radicalization of the masses and the crisis of capitalism forced the oligarchy to look for the ‘final solution’, just like in Germany and Italy, by organizing armed fascist bands. Under the Bonapartist government none of the problems of Chilean society had been solved. But the fascist movement met with the heroic resistance of the working class. The workers’ militias of the Socialist Party and the Young Socialists, ‘The Steel Shirts’, fought against the fascists all over Chile. Frightened by this the same government of Alessandri was forced to act against the fascists when they attempted a coup d’etat.
  • Under the pressure of the masses, the Popular Front carried out certain reforms, but later on opted for a policy of counter-reforms, which provoked open confrontations with the workers’ movement.
  • Furthermore, the stranglehold on agriculture by the latifundists led to a situation in which Chile had to import agricultural produce to feed its people, although it has more cultivable land per head of population than many European countries
  • Unfortunately the lack of experience on the part of the young cadres and the vacillations of the leadership of the party, which did not know how to resist the persistent pressures of the Stalinists, led to the fatal error of entering the Popular Front, despite the opposition of the rank and file and in complete contradiction to the principles and policy of the Party.
  • we have become hopelessly implicated in the common path undertaken, in which every alliance has led to a softening-up and making us give way and for the third time again we decide, wrongly, to agree to a pact forgetting the working class, the class struggle, forgetting that the bourgeoisie is not revolutionary and although it is written in our principles, in our reports to the congresses, in the inter-party polemics, once again we establish a holy alliance which contradicts the basic postulates of our party and of the Workers’ Front. In this way is born a new coalition, the possibility of the popular unity.”
  • But what is necessary is a revolutionary leadership, a Bolshevik leadership, which is not going to lose sight of the principal aim of the revolution, giving way on basic questions, under the guise of ‘tactical agreements’ or ‘unity’.
  • The party was only saved thanks to the Young Socialists and the Marxists, who fought against the class collaborationist policy of the leadership, in favor of a revolutionary policy of class independence.
  • The tragedy of Chilean socialism throughout its history has been that, after drawing a series of correct conclusions from the experience of struggle, its leaders always gave way on fundamental questions in the face of the demands of the Stalinists who on each occasion managed to dominate the united front in which both of the parties were united, imposing their ideas, their programs and their views. And this recipe has always led to the most resounding defeats for the working class.
  • The profits from the nitrate workings were a launching pad for Chilean capitalism, which saw no reason for creating a confrontation with the feudalists and the military caste, which for its part, didn’t hesitate in participating in the business of the bourgeoisie.
  • In the 1958 Presidential elections, Salvador Allende, common candidate for the reunited SP and CP under the banner of the FRAP (Popular Action Front) got 356,000 votes, only 30,000 less than the candidate of the right, Alessandri. The right-wing government carried out an austerity program, which weighed heavily on the shoulders of the working class. The reply was a wave of strikes, met with bloody repression by the government.
  • Lenin explained many times that the objective conditions for carrying out a socialist revolution were (and are) four in number: in the first place that the ruling class looses confidence in itself and cannot continue exercising its rule with the same methods as before. Secondly, that the social reserves of reaction, the middle class, are vacillating or at least neutral. Thirdly, that the working class is ready to fight for a radical and decisive change in socially. And fourthly that there exists a revolutionary party with a revolutionary leadership that is able to lead the masses towards the taking of power
  • How could a serious fight against imperialist control of the country be posed when the vital interests of the Chilean bourgeoisie were dependent upon foreign investment and foreign trade? How could a real agrarian reform be posed when an important part of its capital came from the same landlords with whom the bourgeoisie were connected by thousands of ties of family, education, etc.?
  • the first fundamental lesson of which is that the bourgeoisie in our countries is not a revolutionary class. On the other hand, the industrial and mining workers, the peasants, the intellectual petty bourgeoisie, the artisans and independent operatives, all sections of the population whose interests clash with the established order are [revolutionary classes – JM]. And within this whole the working class plays an increasingly decisive role. By its organization, its trade union and political experiences, its class sense, it is the most resolute nucleus of the social struggle.
  • Once more it is difficult to identify the principles of socialism implemented in the line of the FRAP, which includes a nebulous mass of principles in which it is impossible to recognize those of the party
  • The oligarchy needed a political alternative capable of stopping the advance of the workers’ parties. This alternative was the Christian Democrat Party, formed in 1957.
43 annotations
  • Workers — everyone who makes their way in the world by working rather than skimming off the profits generated by other people, from factory and construction workers to teachers and nurses and white-collar office workers — have the strongest material interests in fighting capitalism, the power to stop production in workplaces and bring the capitalist system to a halt, and (as the vast majority of society) the potential power in numbers to overturn the political system.
  • If capitalists don’t like our democratic demands to, say, stop polluting the planet or pay workers a living wage, they can simply pull their investments and move their jobs to another state or country — and we have little recourse to stop them.
  • In the short term, then, the task of democratic socialists in elections is to support campaigns that fight to improve the lives of working people and build working-class power.
  • Over the course of the twentieth century, workers in these countries won full employment, a strong welfare state, and high levels of unionization.
  • But they never successfully challenged the source of capitalist class power: their ownership rights over the major national corporations.
  • Alongside this movement work, we have to start contesting elections as insurgents who challenge the political leadership of both major parties. This work will lay the foundation for building a political party of our own, one with a mass social base that eventually can fight to elect a socialist government.
  • Our most important, immediate task as democratic socialists is to build the power of social movements.
  • We also support building the broadest alliances possible, without sacrificing our principles, to elect candidates who support our immediate demands.
  • And even if we could elect a well-meaning government that could withstand the pressure of lobbyists, chances are they would eventually cave under the capitalists’ trump card: a capital strike. To oppose new social programs and redistribution, the capitalist class can, as a last resort, withhold their investments and provoke a recession, undermining the social support of a progressive government.
  • It’s precisely because it’s not so easy to change the world under capitalism that we are socialists.
  • we definitely support
  • Instead, power is determined by what political scientist Thomas Ferguson calls the “golden rule”: those with the gold rule. Capitalists use their wealth to buy politicians from both parties and their lobbying power to kill progressive legislation that threatens their profits.
  • A socialist government would have to see its primary task as taking away the power of the capitalist class.
  • the United States today is defined not by freedom and abundance, but exploitation and oppression.
  • This capitalist class turns workplaces into mini-authoritarian regimes, where bosses have the power to harass and abuse workers. And they protect their power in all corners of society by fanning the flames of racial, national, and gender conflict and prejudice in order to divide working people and stop us from organizing.
  • That will mean nationalizing the financial sector so that major investment decisions are made by democratically elected governments and removing hostile elements in the military and police. It will mean introducing democratic planning and social ownership over corporations (though the correct mix of state-led planning and “market socialism,” a mix of publicly-owned firms, small privately-owned businesses, and worker cooperatives, is a matter of some debate in our movement). And it will mean rebuilding our democracy by instituting public financing of elections, a ban on corporate lobbying and private campaign donations, and even more radical demands like writing a new constitution.
  • Unlike many progressives however, we’ve come to the conclusion that to build this better world it’s going to take a lot more work than winning an election and passing incremental reforms.
  • Only by combining a committed socialist government and a powerful, self-organized working class can we take on the capitalist class from above and below.
  • For now, democratic socialists’ tasks are clear. Link up with movements in the United States and around the world fighting against exploitation, domination, and war. Build our forces. Win elections. Achieve all that we can under capitalism. And build a consensus that we need a real political revolution to go beyond it.
  • And it’s why we believe in a democratic road to socialism — one that builds movements and contests elections.
  • Through building bottom-up, democratic social movements, we can not only build the power we need to defeat the wealthy, but build the kind of democratic institutions that would be central to the future socialist society we want to live in.
  • But what all of our candidates have in common is support for Medicare for All, labor rights, a higher minimum wage, environmental protections, stopping deportations, and ending mass incarceration. In fighting for these reforms, our goal is to get millions of people who have given up on politics to join the struggle, test the limits of what concessions can be won in the here and now, and to persuade our co-fighters on the progressive left that a more ambitious, socialist strategy is needed to build the kind of world we all want to live in.
  • Socialist organizations like DSA are essential for doing the day-to-day work of developing and popularizing a long-term political strategy, winning and then educating new activists, and helping turn members into leaders.
23 annotations
  • Rather, this restructuring was rooted in the increasing global mobility of capital, which intensified competitive pressures between firms as well as countries and the workers living within them for investment and jobs.
  • Rather than executives looting their companies, stock buybacks are more likely the result of historically high profits and low interest rates than supposed corporate irrationality. With corporations sitting piles of cash, and borrowing extremely cheap, why not distribute wealth to shareholders? This also means buybacks have not necessarily come at the expense of investment, which remains at historically normal levels relative to GDP. The problems with this argument are particularly clear in the case of the tech companies, which forego short-term profits to develop the technologies to secure market dominance well into the future
  • But throughout the neoliberal period, managers have engaged in futile efforts to defend themselves from financial pressure by setting up anti-takeover defenses in the form of golden parachutes, poison pills, and state regulations. Warren’s plan (were it implemented) might actually succeed in giving them the protection they have sought.
  • the rising living standards and robust economic growth of the “Golden Age” of capitalism rested on more than merely a specific model of corporate governance.
  • Whereas the idea of shareholder value posits a fundamental opposition between the interests of shareholders and others, stakeholder capitalism would supposedly allow a diversity of interests to jointly benefit from, and help shape, corporate success.
  • It also depended upon relatively high union density.
  • With corporate investment free to circulate anywhere on earth and establish corporations in whatever context in most attractive, why would capitalists willingly take on unnecessary costs? Barring controls that could limit the movement of capital, the only alternative would be increased subsidies and tax breaks for investing at home — which would only further increase pressure for public sector austerity and cutbacks to what’s left of the social safety net.
  • In the end, were it to be enacted, the Accountable Capitalism Act could actually be a barrier to working-class consciousness, embedding workers even more deeply within the logic of capitalism and identifying their interests more closely with corporate profitability.
  • Indeed one of the dangers of Warren’s proposal is that it leads workers to identify their interests with those of the firm —thereby strengthening the logic of profitability, rather than undermining it.
  • As new technologies are adapted for the relatively low-skill and low-cost workforces of the global periphery, there is less and less reason for capital to produce even high value-added exports in high-tax and high-wage contexts.
  • But where shall the employee-appointed director come down on the question of whether to replace “overpaid” workers in the United States or Canada with those in a low-wage zone, or to “flexibilize” labor markets by using precarious subcontract labor? Would they invest in practices that resulted in lower returns and higher prices — and thus the risk of being outcompeted by others?
  • Devising a socialist program for economic democracy requires that we confront the hard questions about what democratic planning might mean.
  • Indeed, given that it is modeled partly on the German social democratic model, the experience of workers in that country — who have increasingly been forced to accept wage restraint in one of the harshest neoliberal regimes in the world — should itself serve as a warning
  • Indeed, the bill appears rooted in the familiar false dichotomy between “finance” and the “real economy.” The rise of finance is not a cancerous growth on the otherwise healthy body of capitalism, but rather a component of the capitalist globalization of recent decades.
  • . Similarly, the proposition that corporations act in the “public benefit” sounds good, but in reality this “stakeholder capitalism” leads to the same single-minded focus on profit that it claims to challenge.
  • So, too, do these non-financial corporate managers depend upon financial firms to finance mergers and acquisitions, and to maintain consumption in the context of the stagnant wages that have been a primary feature of neoliberalism. All this shows just how deeply entwined the financial sector is with the “productive” economy — and how essential it is to global capitalism.
  • An estimated 75 per cent of the value of Amazon, for example, is “justified by profits that are expected to be made a decade or more from now,” which makes for “the biggest bet in history on a company’s long-term prospects.”
  • Warren’s act aims not at empowering workers but restoring managerial predominance
  • Yet in the neoliberal period, stockholdings have again been concentrated in the financial sector, increasing the power of outside investors to discipline management. Warren’s prescriptions are predicated on the idea that investors have used this power to impose a “short-term” perspective on the managers of non-financial firms, who are now forced to look for a quick buck at the expense of long-term prosperity. Unlike in the earlier managerial period, Warren writes, “the obsession with maximizing shareholder returns effectively means America’s biggest companies have dedicated themselves to making the rich even richer.” This, she argues has been primarily responsible for the increasing social inequality, economic stagnation, and declining wages of the neoliberal period.
  • By increasing the autonomy of managers from investor discipline, corporations will supposedly again engage in the kind of investment that generated the “good jobs” and rising standards of living that characterized the managerial period. She also proposes granting employees the right to elect 40 percent of corporate boards of directors in order to “give workers a stronger voice in corporate decision-making at large companies.”
  • Firms seeking to raise capital need to be able to promise a return. This, in the end, is the primary objective of all corporate management strategies. Though individual managers may have different visions for how to achieve it, that it is the ultimate goal is beyond question.
  • corporations are not neutral arbiters among different “stakeholders,” but rather crystallizations of capitalist power; institutional embodiments of the role of “capitalist.”
  • While presenting itself as the antithesis to “shareholder value” doctrines, in fact “stakeholder capitalism” reproduces the identical logic: all concerns must be subordinated to the need to produce value for shareholders. Indeed, the Accountable Capitalism Act could potentially tie workers’ interests to the success of the firm to an even greater degree than before, with all the negative effects on class solidarity that would come with this.
  • We need to fight for “non-reformist reforms”: that is, reforms intended not merely to fix capitalism, but to build toward socialism, developing the confidence, organizations, and democratic capacities of the working class through struggle. This must go much further than just regulating markets so as to reduce volatility and protect the power of the largest financial institutions. So too must it go further than the Berniecrat call to “break up the banks.” Rather, socialists should look to build the capacity to nationalize finance, and democratize investment by converting the banking system into a public utility. Though we can — and must — work to help the “democratic socialist” insurgency within the Democratic Party, we must also maintain our own, independent socialist organizations capable of building workers’ power at the base and coordinating political strategy.
  • Like cooperatives, the democratization of corporate governance can indeed play a part in a wider socialist strategy. But unless this is coordinated by a strategy to transform the state, and supported by a socialist party embedded within a class-based workers’ movement, the effect of such reforms could be negligible — if not worse. Even as “socialism” has become more politically relevant in the United States than it has been for generations, its meaning has never been so thoroughly contested.
25 annotations
  • But it’s also fair to ask: where has all this ideology-free, Red Scare-proof “work” gotten us?
  • According to Warren, the woes we face as a society are not the fault of capitalism, but of some bad apples within it, who’ve rigged the system for their benefit. We don’t need to end capitalism, she offers, but simply to fix it.
  • We can build this world, no question. But to do it, “progressivism” will not be enough. We cannot wait for our intellectual betters to come with “plans” to save us. Ordinary people must become empowered to come up with their own solutions regarding their economic and political circumstances. We need class struggle — guided by the principles of democratic socialism — at work, on the streets, and on the campaign trail. The many must rise up like lions against the few to demand a better world.
  • The climate crisis, quite simply, is a crisis of capitalism, and no “market solution” exists to address it. To paraphrase the famous line, we must either replace capitalism with a more sustainable economic system — or face barbarism and extinction.
  • Maybe, instead of finding ways to save capitalism from itself, we should start figuring out how to save ourselves from capitalism.
  • It’s a system in which the fundamentals of human survival and freedom (like healthcare, education, housing, jobs, retirement benefits, the environment) are not bought and sold on the market, but treated as human rights guaranteed to all people. It’s a system in which we work not to make profit for profits’ sake, but to ensure that everyone in our society has what they need to live happy, fulfilled, and healthy lives.
  • segments of the left have been isolated from each other as they work on distinct struggles
  • We cannot rely on nonprofit organizations that are funded and controlled by corporate sponsors and the wealthy donors who sit on their boards. These organizations do not challenge capitalism because they are fueled by capitalists. The same is true of most politicians, in both major political parties. To win power, we must rally around grassroots funded, people-powered politicians like Bernie Sanders, AOC, and Rashida Tlaib.
  • And here is the truth: The climate crisis, the crisis of income inequality, the housing crisis (and so many more) have all been caused by the same very powerful, very pernicious “ism.” It’s called capitalism — an economic system designed to endlessly exploit human labor and to endlessly extract natural resources from the planet. A system that delivers profits to a wealthy few while the many suffer, which treats people and their communities as mere investment opportunities, to be abandoned when no longer profitable.
  • The climate crisis has been caused not by our individual consumption habits, but by obscene wealth inequality, by perpetual wars for oil, by the constant need for growth and new markets, by billionaires who use their excess wealth to purchase governments.
  • We must develop a coherent economic analysis that enables us to see the relationship between all of these issues under capitalism, and join forces when it counts.
11 annotations
 politics 604
  • He would be the most progressive president the United States has ever seen.
  • What the next president chooses to pursue in the face of political reality is heavily dependent on their core worldview and values. And if you roll back the clock a few years before Warren was considering running for president, you can clearly see that she prioritizes her pre-distribution, regulatory approach over Sanders’s social-democratic one.
  • The two senators also have distinct theories of change. Sanders has long believed in bottom-up, movement-based politics. Since his days as mayor of Burlington, Vermont, he has tried to energize citizens to take part in government. He generally distrusts elites and decision-making that does not include the public. Warren, on the other hand, generally accepts political reality and works to push elite decision-makers towards her point of view.
  • Her ideals, while not out of step with those of a mid-century liberal Republican, would represent a marked shift away from the economic status quo if implemented. In an interview for this article, Noam Chomsky called Warren a “credible candidate” who is “pretty good on domestic policy.”
  • While Warren wants to be at the table with elites, arguing for progressive policies, Sanders wants to open the doors and let the public make the policy.
  • All of his signal legislation is based around increasing taxes and directly paying for Americans’ medical and education costs. To him, the problem is not so much that the rules are rigged so people can’t become entrepreneurs, or that regulators need to be empowered to act on behalf of the public. The problem is that the government is not doing enough to bypass the private sector to directly deliver funds and services to the poor and working class.
  • The choice between Warren and Sanders may very well determine if that president confronts those interests with careful reasoning and principled advocacy or the force of a mass movement.
  • “I was with the GOP for a while because I really thought that it was a party that was principled in its conservative approach to economics and to markets,” Warren told George Stephanopoulos in 2014. “And I feel like the GOP just left that.”
  • The host followed up by asking if Warren personally supports single-payer. “No,” she replied.
  • Her life’s work has been to make markets more competitive and equitable, not to redistribute money from the rich to the poor and remove big chunks of economic life from the private sector. (That’s one reason she was once a big proponent of charter schools, believing that they introduced much-needed competition.)
  • While Sanders was authoring a bill to make health care basically free, she was authoring one to tighten regulation of the private health insurance industry. While Sanders was proposing making every public college in America tuition-free, Warren was promoting a third way approach: increasing public aid to colleges (allowing them to offer a “debt-free option”) and increasing accountability over federal dollars.
  • That is a very different approach than that of Bernie Sanders, who defied the conventional wisdom in 2016 to run for president and became one of America’s most influential politicians thanks to thousands of volunteers and small donors. In a span of just a few short years, he has made his social-democratic policies mainstream. More Democrats now say they prefer socialism than say they prefer capitalism.
12 annotations
  • Ms. Warren “the most aggressive” of the Democratic contenders in pursuing him
  • Many of the officials she is courting are so-called superdelegates, who are able to cast a binding vote should the primary go beyond a first ballot.
  • Ms. Warren’s campaign events often begin out of public view, when she meets with a small groups of Democratic officials in gatherings, called “clutches,” for pictures and a few minutes of conversation
  • chiefs
  • The same pledge, which was shared by a Democratic official, also includes a promise “to share all of my data collected during the presidential campaign with the D.N.C. and with state parties.”
  • More broadly, they also wanted to ensure that the nominee’s political organization is housed within the architecture of the party.
  • She was one of the first Democratic candidates to sign a pledge circulated last month by the Association of State Democratic Committees vowing not to create any parallel political or organizing infrastructure that would compete with the national or state Democratic parties.
  • far from wanting to stage a “political revolution” in the fashion of Mr. Sanders, she wants to revive the beleaguered Democratic National Committee and help recapture the Senate while retaining the House in 2020.
  • Ms. Warren is also trying to allay concerns among Democrats that, as a progressive candidate proposing sweeping change, she may not have enough mainstream appeal to compete with President Trump in the general election.
  • While her liberal agenda may be further left than some in the Democratic establishment would prefer, she is a team player who is seeking to lead the party — not stage a hostile takeover of it.
  • Ms. Warren is simultaneously courting and assuring Democratic town leaders, statewide officials and the chiefs of the country’s largest unions.
11 annotations
  • the Sanders campaign signaled the possibility of a break with the politics of lesser-evilism and “harm reduction” that dominated progressive electoral activity since the Popular Front
  • a self-isolating focus on “social movements” on one side, and subordination to the forces of official liberalism on the other
  • Despite its largely disorganized state, the working class is still the key to fundamental social transformation because of its size and strategic location in the social order.
  • But localities, even the biggest and most economically self-sufficient ones, are extremely vulnerable to whipsawing by capitalist interests. They often lack the level of resources necessary to effectively address their most intractable problems, and
  • he brought the question of socialism versus capitalism into the heart of U.S. politics
  • Whether we like it or not, election campaigns – and presidential elections above all – are the form of political activity that ordinary Americans engage with the most
  • To begin with, congressional elections occur every two years, a timetable that offers the opportunity to carry out a permanent campaign in support of democratic socialism in the district. Furthermore, the value of having even a handful of self-identified socialists in Congress has been decisively proven first by Sanders, then the rapid ascent of AOC, Omar, and Tlaib
  • This process of self-selection, combined with the academic and professional milieus we often draw upon, also goes a long way toward explaining the current racial composition of the organization
  • Effective electoral action, through both Democratic Party primaries and independent campaigns where feasible, can help us build the forces we need to challenge the power of capital and create a truly independent political movement. 
  • The social underpinnings of unionism have also been significantly eroded. Unionism in the basic manufacturing industries tended to be tightly integrated with working-class community life in the neighborhoods and towns surrounding the factory
  • To a significant extent it was parties that organized classes, not the other way around.
  • Bernie’s campaign primed huge swathes of the country for an unabashed class politics, and made the only organization with “democratic socialism” in its name the place to go for those who wanted to keep the political revolution going beyond 2016.
  • our growth, particularly of the activist layers, has been driven mainly by what the political sociologist Paolo Gerbaudo calls connected outsiders: people (often with high levels of formal education) who are unorganized by churches, unions, or other social organizations, and are therefore reliant on digital communications and social media platforms to overcome their atomization. 
  • The 2016 Sanders campaign showed us what might be possible if we manage to avoid two pitfalls that have long bedeviled the left:
  • in many places the largest employers can effectively blackmail local government with the threat of lost jobs and tax revenue
  • Today, however, there is a growing tendency for voters to base their electoral decisions, including those at the state and local levels, on their views of the national parties in general and the sitting president in particular
  • Bernie’s 2016 campaign played a key role in creating the political conditions for the teacher strike wave, and now educators (and nurses) are the leading source of working-class support for Bernie 2020.
  • “the class structure is taken to generate class consciousness, which in turn induces workers to build class organizations,” but in reality “class consciousness is the consequence of class organization” and conflicts between collective historical actors
  • ts name the place to go for those who wanted to keep the political revolution going beyond 2016.  None of this is to say that DSA should give up on everything but election campaigns. Consistent electoral action is a major aspect of building a hegemonic political project, but so is building disruptive strikes and mass actions; promoting economic power through unions and cooperative enterprises; developing our own network of media outlets; and implementing political education programs for our own members and broader audiences. The ongoing strike wave in public education provides a particularly good example of how class politics waged inside and outside the electoral arena can create a mutually beneficial feedback loop. Bernie’s 2016 campaign played a key role in creating the political conditions for the teacher strike wave, and now educators (and nurses) are the leading source of working-class support for Bernie 2020. Whether their unions will follow them this time around is a question to which DSA labor activists around the country can help provide the right answer.  Nor should DSA chapters or the left in general abandon local level politics. Sanders got his start, after all, as the independent socialist mayor of Burlington, Vermont. Local level politics gives our members valuable opportunities to gain skills and experiences at a manageable scale, develop themselves as leaders and candidates, use local offices as organizing centers, and address important issues and problems directly through community-based organizing. District attorney offices, despite their inherent contradictions, have become a useful tool in the fight against mass incarceration where reformers have won election. The recent election of six self-described democratic socialists to Chicago’s city council made international headlines, and should serve as an ongoing source of strength for DSA and the broader left in that city. The local level is an important terrain that should not be neglected. But localities, even the biggest and most economically self-sufficient ones, are extremely vulnerable to whipsawing by capitalist interests. They often lack the level of resources necessary to effectively address their most intractable problems, and in many places the largest employers can effectively blackmail local government with the threat of lost jobs and tax revenue. In many cases they lack home rule over the most important sources of funding and policymaking authority. Under U.S. constitutional law, municipal governments have long been treated as creatures of their respective state governments, and as such they occupy a decidedly subordinate position in the system of intergovernmental relations. The Constitution doesn’t discuss local government at all, and all powers not granted to the federal government are expressly reserved for the states. In recent years, a number of state governments have moved to repeal or preempt local laws concerning minimum wages, paid leave, sanctuary city status, and other important issues. These structural weaknesses of local government present advocates of municipalist politics with a number of constraints and limitations. The local level often raises the lowest barriers to success, but it also provides the least amount of room to make the kinds of systemic and structural changes democratic socialists need to prioritize – which includes not just social policies like single-payer health insurance but also fundamental changes in the constitutional order. Moreover, local political projects often depend on a favorable political environment at higher scales of government, and can be derailed by broader conflicts that may have little to do with local issues and concerns.  While it would be a mistake to dismiss local politics as unimportant or irrelevant, our strategic thinking must be closely attuned to the most salient developments of the moment. Among the most important of these is the increasing nationalization of U.S. politics. The old adage “all politics is local” may have been accurate in a time when ticket-splitting was common, and voters tended to make judgments on individual candidates and officeholders regardless of their party affiliation. Today, however, there is a growing tendency for voters to base their electoral decisions, including those at the state and local levels, on their views of the national parties in general and the sitting president in particular. These dynamics account, to a significant extent, for the increasing frequency of midterm “wave elections” with big swings in party control of Congress, as well as the trend toward near-universal single-party control of state legislatures. Whatever we think of these developments, we have to reckon with them. As such, DSA chapters across the country should make a strong commitment to Bernie 2020, which the National Political Committee recently voted to support through an independent expenditure campaign.  Of course, presidential elections happen only once every four years, and there doesn’t yet seem to be any likely candidate to replace Bernie as the national tribune of democratic socialism after he retires from the scene. So any effective strategic approach to electoral activity must find a way to balance the need to consistently address national issues and problems with local organizing. As James Weinstein argues in his book The Long Detour, “the place to start seems clearly to be in the smallest constituencies concerned with national policy, which is congressional districts.” To begin with, congressional elections occur every two years, a timetable that offers the opportunity to carry out a permanent campaign in support of democratic socialism in the district. Furthermore, the value of having even a handful of self-identified socialists in Congress has been decisively proven first by Sanders, then the rapid ascent of AOC, Omar, and Tlaib. They have had an enormous impact on U.S. politics in a very short period of time, and have played an important role in articulating local fights with national issues (e.g. the successful fight against Amazon’s second headquarters in Queens).  These campaigns have been waged so far in Democratic Party primaries, and the use of this tactic should definitely continue. It has helped DSA and the broader left build our forces and reduce our debilitating isolation. In certain circumstances, however, DSA chapters should also consider running or supporting socialists in independent general election campaigns. This would help our movement retain its independent political identity and help lay groundwork for the organizational infrastructure that will be needed if, as many of us hope, the socialist insurgency inside the Democrats helps to generate a crisis and restructuring of the national party system.  Beyond the Campaign Trail As DSA continues to grow and develop, we will eventually confront the need to consolidate ourselves on the basis of a national political program that embodies our common project; ties together local chapters scattered throughout a country the size of a continent; attracts potential allies; and mediates the immediate reform fights which constitute our day-to-day work with the ultimate goal of democratic socialism. Such a process would constitute a key milestone in our ongoing transition from an inchoate expression of the oppositional mood into a durable political organization.  Commitment to a common national program will ultimately amount to little, however, if we fail to root ourselves in a solid social base. Like our counterparts in other countries (e.g. Podemos, the Corbyn-led Labour Party, France Insoumise, etc.) our growth, particularly of the activist layers, has been driven mainly by what the political sociologist Paolo Gerbaudo calls connected outsiders: people (often with high levels of formal education) who are unorganized by churches, unions, or other social organizations, and are therefore reliant on digital communications and social media platforms to overcome their atomization.  This is, to a significant extent, an unavoidable consequence of the fact that the neoliberal project has disorganized the working class and its collective institutions. And it is a good thing that digital platforms help to lower barriers to participation in an era when many political institutions are discredited and distrusted. At the same time, however, it means that unlike the mass organizations of the old left, DSA tends to draw support from self-selecting individuals with weak or non-existent links to a broader working-class or popular constituency. This process of self-selection, combined with the academic and professional milieus we often draw upon, also goes a long way toward explaining the current racial composition of the organization. Our main organizational task for the foreseeable future is to reestablish the severed link between socialist politics and a mass working-class constituency.  Here, we come full circle to the particular importance of electoral politics today. With the level of social organization at historic lows, electoral insurgencies will continue to play a key role in rebuilding the base we will need to sustain our project beyond the present political moment. Fortunately for us, Bernie Sanders will spend at least the next year telling an audience of millions that if they want fundamental change in this country, they can’t just campaign and vote for him — they need to get organized and take action at work, in the neighborhood, and in every other area of their lives. This isn’t just cheap campaign talk. Bernie’s campaign is demonstrating its commitment to mass organizing and popular mobilization by using his lists to turn supporters out to picket lines, and to encourage the development of organizing skills among his base. By engaging the millions who will participate in Bernie’s campaign, we can transform DSA into a mass organization that is capable of putting that message into practice — something that will be absolutely indispensable to winning the demands Bernie is raising if he actually wins the election. The chance to build a mass movement for democratic socialism is right in front of us. Will we take it?  Share This Email Responses to This Article There are no published responses to this article yet. Want to submit a response to this article? Send an email to socialistforum@dsausa.org About Chris Maisano Chris Maisano is a member of New York City DSA and the DSA National Political Committee. More from This Issue Spring/Summer 2019Editorial Note: Electoral Politics and Democratic Socialist Strategyby Socialist Forum Editorial CommitteeIt's Party Time: DSA and Post-Realignment Electoral Strategyby David DuhaldeDSA electoral activists should begin to build an organized democratic socialist faction within party structures across the country.Groundwork Toward a Socialist Partyby Alexander Kolokotronis and Sam NakayamaA democratized caucus within the Democratic Party could serve as a vehicle for building popular power from below.What Would Bernie Do? A Possible Road for Independent Political Actionby Jason SchulmanIs it possible to pursue independent political action while avoiding the dead end of third-partyism? The practice of Bernie Sanders in Vermont suggests it might be. Chicago's Red Waveby Lillian Osborne and Marianela D'AprileA conversation with Chicago DSA organizer Lillian Osborne on how socialist campaigns can build lasting power.Measuring Bernie's Coattailsby Marilyn ArwoodHow to Use Data and Open-Source Software to Figure Out Where to Focus Our Energy in 2020.
  • As manufacturing moved out of the central cities and factory towns lost their plants, workers chased after work or got stuck in increasingly distressed communities. The leading edge of the working class was disorganized, the class solidarities that were built in an earlier period were eroded, and a generation of working people lost out on the opportunity to gain the knowledge and experiences that result from running one’s own organization.
  • Class identities do not necessary flow from the objective structures of the class system – they must be created.
  • The absence of such parties in U.S. history is both cause and consequence of the relative weakness of class politics in this country
  • Local level politics gives our members valuable opportunities to gain skills and experiences at a manageable scale, develop themselves as leaders and candidates, use local offices as organizing centers, and address important issues and problems directly through community-based organizing.
  • Today, U.S. elites show little interest in absorbing or encouraging working class organization. Even with the labor movement in a position of historic weakness, employers and their political functionaries continue to pursue their assault on the right to organize. This is occurring in tandem with a wide-ranging campaign to suppress voting rights, the ultimate goal of which is to further reduce popular control of government, which already is virtually non-existent.
  • It exposed the utter bankruptcy of the Democratic Party establishment, which proved itself more effective in combating a left-wing challenger than Donald Trump and the odious political project he represents. 
  • The Constitution doesn’t discuss local government at all, and all powers not granted to the federal government are expressly reserved for the states
  • Commitment to a common national program will ultimately amount to little, however, if we fail to root ourselves in a solid social base
  • any left political project aspiring to mass support needs an ongoing electoral expression if it wants to be successful
  • It should be a program that links the democratization of political institutions with encouragement of working-class organizational capacity in politics, the economy, and in every arena of social life. In short, an American Chartism for the twenty-first century.
  • At the same time, however, it means that unlike the mass organizations of the old left, DSA tends to draw support from self-selecting individuals with weak or non-existent links to a broader working-class or popular constituency.
  • By the end of the Obama administration, a broadly oppositional — yet politically undefined — mood took hold of a substantial section of younger adults, their status undercut by persistent economic insecurity and a general sense of alienation from established politics and institutions. Instead of becoming organic intellectuals for the ruling class, they’ve flooded the ranks of DSA, essentially refounding an organization built for a different political period. 
  • fits that helped workers meet the costs of important services like healthcare and basic education. As the labor movement grew in size and strength, it was able to successfully shift the cost of benefit provision, at least in part, to the state and the employers. This was a victory, but one that had the contradictory effect of making union members and the broader working class reliant on the state and employers for crucial benefits and services, namely health insurance and unemployment benefits. Industrial unions declined along with manufacturing employment, and since collective bargaining had become their main reason for being they didn’t leave much of a community-based infrastructure behind them. As manufacturing moved out of the central cities and factory towns lost their plants, workers chased after work or got stuck in increasingly distressed communities. The leading edge of the working class was disorganized, the class solidarities that were built in an earlier period were eroded, and a generation of working people lost out on the opportunity to gain the knowledge and experiences that result from running one’s own organization. The decline of organized labor, coupled with the widespread disintegration of urban working-class community life, means that only a relatively small minority of the working class is currently situated to engage in effective forms of collective action at work or in their communities. There are consequently few available channels outside of election campaigns to engage and politicize a mass audience on a regular basis, and the ones that are potentially available are typically defensive in nature and limited to radical expressions of interest-group pressure politics. In this context, electoral activity must play an important role in reconstituting the working class as a political subject, and in creating a more favorable environment for workers to organize and engage in class struggle outside the electoral arena.  Chantal Mouffe and other advocates of “left populism” are wrong to sever political subjects from any grounding in objective social structures and material interests, and to reduce the working-class movement to just one link in a “chain of equivalence” in which no particular actor or set of demands carries any particular strategic importance. Despite its largely disorganized state, the working class is still the key to fundamental social transformation because of its size and strategic location in the social order. But the left populist emphasis on the need to actively construct political subjects through conflict, and to not simply reflect pre-existing economic or sociological categories, is basically sound. There is no automatic correspondence between one’s location in the class structure, or in social relations generally, and one’s political orientation. Class identities do not necessary flow from the objective structures of the class system – they must be created. As Vivek Chibber has argued, in the classic Marxist account of class formation “the class structure is taken to generate class consciousness, which in turn induces workers to build class organizations,” but in reality “class consciousness is the consequence of class organization” and conflicts between collective historical actors. Class formation, then, is an effect of struggles which are not structured or determined solely by the relations of economic production, but ideological practices and political regimes as well.  Labor unions play an indispensable role in this regard, but so do parties and political organizations. As Leo Panitch has argued, the mass socialist and working class parties of the twentieth century were “the essential condition…for the reinforcement, recomposition, and extension of class identity and community itself in the face of a capitalism which continually deconstructed and reconstructed industry, occupation, and locale.” At their best, they served to at least partially overcome the narrow sectionalism that often limits workplace-based organization, “not only through the national identity given to the class through its association with the party’s project of winning state office, but through their potential role in socialist education and mobilization.” To a significant extent it was parties that organized classes, not the other way around. The absence of such parties in U.S. history is both cause and consequence of the relative weakness of class politics in this country. Early extension of the franchise to propertyless white men allowed for the development of political machines that organized workers on the basis of ethnicity, race, religion, and locale instead of class, and put U.S. workers in a different relationship with the state than their counterparts in other countries. Struggles against governments which sought to deny equal suffrage and political rights to the working class gave German, French, British, and other workers an opportunity to organize themselves politically on a class basis, and encouraged the development of an independent working-class culture. The vibrant social and cultural institutions of German social democracy, for example, resulted from the extensive legal and political repression of workers in Imperial Germany. They had no choice but to use their parties and related organizations to build a “world within a world,” separate and apart from the official bourgeois society. Similarly, the Canadian state’s repressive response to the labor upsurge of the 1930s was a major factor in the development of an independent working class party in Canada, while the relatively accommodating response of the Democratic Party led to the U.S. labor movement’s effective absorption into the cross-class New Deal coalition. Today, U.S. elites show little interest in absorbing or encouraging working class organization. Even with the labor movement in a position of historic weakness, employers and their political functionaries continue to pursue their assault on the right to organize. This is occurring in tandem with a wide-ranging campaign to suppress voting rights, the ultimate goal of which is to further reduce popular control of government, which already is virtually non-existent. Under these conditions, DSA and the broader left should use the electoral arena to turn Bernie Sanders’s call for political revolution into a project of class (re)formation. This should not be premised on an abstract call for more “democracy” drained of social content, or centered on welcome but insufficient measures like campaign finance reform. It should be a program that links the democratization of political institutions with encouragement of working-class organizational capacity in politics, the economy, and in every arena of social life. In short, an American Chartism for the twenty-first century. All Politics is National  The 2016 Sanders campaign underscored the central strategic importance of national level politics in the contemporary political landscape. For well over a year, Bernie used the platform of the presidential contest to speak to the entire country about class politics, his program, and his criticisms of current government policies. This led to a modest increase in DSA’s membership during the course of the campaign, particularly among those who already identified with the left in some fashion but refrained from joining any of the existing socialist organizations. The real membership explosion, of course, began in the immediate aftermath of Trump’s election, as the horror of the situation made the need for organized political action crystal clear. But the main reason that so many turned to DSA instead of one of the various expressions of the #Resistance was undoubtedly the Sanders campaign. It didn’t just spread the idea of political revolution to a mass audience. It exposed the utter bankruptcy of the Democratic Party establishment, which proved itself more effective in combating a left-wing challenger than Donald Trump and the odious political project he represents.  It is simply impossible to make sense of the organization’s sudden growth otherwise. If the primary contest was between Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley (remember him?) it’s very unlikely that DSA’s membership would be at the level it is at today. And it’s far from clear that the new crop of national electoral tribunes — Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Rashida Tlaib, etc. — would have emerged as the vocal, leftist figures they are now if not for the Sanders campaign’s demonstration effect. Bernie’s campaign primed huge swathes of the country for an unabashed class politics, and made the only organization with “democratic socialism” in its name the place to go for those who wanted to keep the political revolution going beyond 2016.  None of this is to say that DSA should give up on everything but election campaigns. Consistent electoral action is a major aspect of building a hegemonic political project, but so is building disruptive strikes and mass actions; promoting economic power through unions and cooperative enterprises; developing our own network of media outlets; and implementing political education programs for our own members and broader audiences. The ongoing strike wave in public education provides a particularly good example of how class politics waged inside and outside the electoral arena can create a mutually beneficial feedback loop. Bernie’s 2016 campaign played a key role in creating the political conditions for the teacher strike wave, and now educators (and nurses) are the leading source of working-class support for Bernie 2020. Whether their unions will follow them this time around is a question to which DSA labor activists around the country can help provide the right answer.  Nor should DSA chapters or the left in general abandon local level politics. Sanders got his start, after all, as the independent socialist mayor of Burlington, Vermont. Local level politics gives our members valuable opportunities to gain skills and experiences at a manageable scale, develop themselves as leaders and candidates, use local offices as organizing centers, and address important issues and problems directly through community-based organizing. District attorney offices, despite their inherent contradictions, have become a useful tool in the fight against mass incarceration where reformers have won election. The recent election of six self-described democratic socialists to Chicago’s city council made international headlines, and should serve as an ongoing source of strength for DSA and the broader left in that city. The local level is an important terrain that should not be neglected. But localities, even the biggest and most economically self-sufficient ones, are extremely vulnerable to whipsawing by capitalist interests. They often lack the level of resources necessary to effectively address their most intractable problems, and in many places the largest employers can effectively blackmail local government with the threat of lost jobs and tax revenue. In many cases they lack home rule over the most important sources of funding and policymaking authority. Under U.S. constitutional law, municipal governments have long been treated as creatures of their respective state governments, and as such they occupy a decidedly subordinate position in the system of intergovernmental relations. The Constitution doesn’t discuss local government at all, and all powers not granted to the federal government are expressly reserved for the states. In recent years, a number of state governments have moved to repeal or preempt local laws concerning minimum wages, paid leave, sanctuary city status, and other important issues. These structural weaknesses of local government present advocates of municipalist politics with a number of constraints and limitations. The local level often raises the lowest barriers to success, but it also provides the least amount of room to make the kinds of systemic and structural changes democratic socialists need to prioritize – which includes not just social policies like single-payer health insurance but also fundamental changes in the constitutional order. Moreover, local political projects often depend on a favorable political environment at higher scales of government, and can be derailed by broader conflicts that may have little to do with local issues and concerns.  While it would be a mistake to dismiss local politics as unimportant or irrelevant, our strategic thinking must be closely attuned to the most salient developments of the moment. Among the most important of these is the increasing nationalization of U.S. politics. The old adage “all politics is local” may have been accurate in a time when ticket-splitting was common, and voters tended to make judgments on individual candidates and officeholders regardless of their party affiliation. Today, however, there is a growing tendency for voters to base their electoral decisions, including those at the state and local levels, on their views of the national parties in general and the sitting president in particular. These dynamics account, to a significant extent, for the increasing frequency of midterm “wave elections” with big swings in party control of Congress, as well as the trend toward near-universal single-party control of state legislatures. Whatever we think of these developments, we have to reckon with them. As such, DSA chapters across the country should make a strong commitment to Bernie 2020, which the National Political Committee recently voted to support through an independent expenditure campaign.  Of course, presidential elections happen only once every four years, and there doesn’t yet seem to be any likely candidate to replace Bernie as the national tribune of democratic socialism after he retires from the scene. So any effective strategic approach to electoral activity must find a way to balance the need to consistently address national issues and problems with local organizing. As James Weinstein argues in his book The Long Detour, “the place to start seems clearly to be in the smallest constituencies concerned with national policy, which is congressional districts.” To begin with, congressional elections occur every two years, a timetable that offers the opportunity to carry out a permanent campaign in support of democratic socialism in the district. Furthermore, the value of having even a handful of self-identified socialists in Congress has been decisively proven first by Sanders, then the rapid ascent of AOC, Omar, and Tlaib. They have had an enormous impact on U.S. politics in a very short period of time, and have played an important role in articulating local fights with national issues (e.g. the successful fight against Amazon’s second headquarters in Queens).  These campaigns have been waged so far in Democratic Party primaries, and the use of this tactic should definitely continue. It has helped DSA and the broader left build our forces and reduce our debilitating isolation. In certain circumstances, however, DSA chapters should also consider running or supporting socialists in independent general election campaigns. This would help our movement retain its independent political identity and help lay groundwork for the organizational infrastructure that will be needed if, as many of us hope, the socialist insurgency inside the Democrats helps to generate a crisis and restructuring of the national party system.  Beyond the Campaign Trail As DSA continues to grow and develop, we will eventually confront the need to consolidate ourselves on the basis of a national political program that embodies our common project; ties together local chapters scattered throughout a country the size of a continent; attracts potential allies; and mediates the immediate reform fights which constitute our day-to-day work with the ultimate goal of democratic socialism. Such a process would constitute a key milestone in our ongoing transition from an inchoate expression of the oppositional mood into a durable political organization.  Commitment to a common national program will ultimately amount to little, however, if we fail to root ourselves in a solid social base. Like our counterparts in other countries (e.g. Podemos, the Corbyn-led Labour Party, France Insoumise, etc.) our growth, particularly of the activist layers, has been driven mainly by what the political sociologist Paolo Gerbaudo calls connected outsiders: people (often with high levels of formal education) who are unorganized by churches, unions, or other social organizations, and are therefore reliant on digital communications and social media platforms to overcome their atomization.  This is, to a significant extent, an unavoidable consequence of the fact that the neoliberal project has disorganized the working class and its collective institutions. And it is a good thing that digital platforms help to lower barriers to participation in an era when many political institutions are discredited and distrusted. At the same time, however, it means that unlike the mass organizations of the old left, DSA tends to draw support from self-selecting individuals with weak or non-existent links to a broader working-class or popular constituency. This process of self-selection, combined with the academic and professional milieus we often draw upon, also goes a long way toward explaining the current racial composition of the organization. Our main organizational task for the foreseeable future is to reestablish the severed link between socialist politics and a mass working-class constituency.  Here, we come full circle to the particular importance of electoral politics today. With the level of social organization at historic lows, electoral insurgencies will continue to play a key role in rebuilding the base we will need to sustain our project beyond the present political moment. Fortunately for us, Bernie Sanders will spend at least the next year telling an audience of millions that if they want fundamental change in this country, they can’t just campaign and vote for him — they need to get organized and take action at work, in the neighborhood, and in every other area of their lives. This isn’t just cheap campaign talk. Bernie’s campaign is demonstrating its commitment to mass organizing and popular mobilization by using his lists to turn supporters out to picket lines, and to encourage the development of organizing skills among his base. By engaging the millions who will participate in Bernie’s campaign, we can transform DSA into a mass organization that is capable of putting that message into practice — something that will be absolutely indispensable to winning the demands Bernie is raising if he actually wins the election. The chance to build a mass movement for democratic socialism is right in front of us. Will we take it?  Share This Email Responses to This Article There are no published responses to this article yet. Want to submit a response to this article? Send an email to socialistforum@dsausa.org About Chris Maisano Chris Maisano is a member of New York City DSA and the DSA National Political Committee. More from This Issue Spring/Summer 2019Editorial Note: Electoral Politics and Democratic Socialist Strategyby Socialist Forum Editorial CommitteeIt's Party Time: DSA and Post-Realignment Electoral Strategyby David DuhaldeDSA electoral activists should begin to build an organized democratic socialist faction within party structures across the country.Groundwork Toward a Socialist Partyby Alexander Kolokotronis and Sam NakayamaA democratized caucus within the Democratic Party could serve as a vehicle for building popular power from below.What Would Bernie Do? A Possible Road for Independent Political Actionby Jason SchulmanIs it possible to pursue independent political action while avoiding the dead end of third-partyism? The practice of Bernie Sanders in Vermont suggests it might be. Chicago's Red Waveby Lillian Osborne and Marianela D'AprileA conversation with Chicago DSA organizer Lillian Osborne on how socialist campaigns can build lasting power.Measuring Bernie's Coattailsby Marilyn ArwoodHow to Use Data and Open-Source Software to Figure Out Where to Focus Our Energy in 2020.Beating Trump and Building Working Class Power in 2020by Rand Wilson and Peter OlneyIn 2020, the task for labor activists is going all-out for Bernie while building the unity necessary to defeat Trump. Shifting Alliances: Socialists, Social Democrats, and the New U.S. Leftby Kam WIf the rising socialist left wants to consolidate itself as a mass political force, it must build a strong and effective coalition with social democrats.Corbyn's Labour: Socialism Through Parliament or Parliamentary Socialism?by Lion SummerbellFour years into Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, the Labour Party is at a crossroads.
32 annotations
  • “You can’t just have these private sector incentive programs. That’s just not going to get it.”
  • Economists’ and policymakers’ fixation on unlimited economic growth as the metric for measuring economic prosperity is a really recent invention, developed in large part by the exponential returns that were being brought in by a ballooning financial sector–and not to that point factored into economic accounts.
  • . For the green movement to talk about growth at all, she says, “is to adapt that OECD framing of what the economy should be about” and “to adopt the framing of a neoliberal idea of the economy. I would prefer to us to talk about full employment.”
  • While they pride themselves as green for buying organic and taking the train, luxury high-rise inhabitants — with their taste for carbon-intensive imports, summer homes, and first-class business trips — have the largest footprints in their cities, which account for around three-quarters of carbon emissions worldwide. “When it comes to the carbon emissions of New York’s individual residents, as calculated in terms of consumption, Manhattan is the worst borough. Because it’s the richest,”
  • Ocas
  • “Dealing with climate change in the way that we need to is not just about passing a suite of policies that will transform our society to both end the causes of climate change and prepare society for the climate change that is already baked in,” he said. “It’s also changing our conception of what government is and who its for.”
  • Pollin calls it “equitable green growth,” coupled with “degrowth down to zer
  • A Green New Deal, moreover, “will actually help the economy by stimulating productivity, job growth and consumer spending, as government spending has often done,” Kelton, Bernal, and Carlock add. “In fact, a Green New Deal can create good-paying jobs while redressing economic and environmental inequities.”
  • “Crowded but well-to-do West Villagers’ carbon footprints are comparable to sprawling suburbanites’ all over the country.”
  • According to a 2018 analysis by Oil Change International, the U.S. government annually spends about $20 billion on direct and indirect subsidies to the fossil fuel industry; the richest “G7” nations overall spend about $100 billion
  • A federal job guarantee, which is cited in the draft resolution and a hot topic among 2020 presidential hopefuls, might put people to work remediating wetlands and tending community gardens while providing an alternative to low-paid work bound up in hugely carbon-intensive supply chains
  • the funding question is less about how to reconcile line items than about reconfiguring what goals the economy is working toward — that is, to make it do something other than simply grow GDP by some fixed percentage each year.
  • That shift toward measuring growth above all else started to displace an earlier focus on full employment in the 1960s, making multiplying profits and consumption the goal rather than ensuring people’s basic needs were met. As a result, carbon emissions spiked.
  • “When Congress authorizes spending, it sets off a sequence of actions. Federal agencies … enter into contracts and begin spending. As the checks go out, the government’s bank — the Federal Reserve — clears the payments by crediting the seller’s bank account with digital dollars. In other words, Congress can pass any budget it chooses, and our government already pays for everything by creating new money.”
  • Public housing, well-stocked libraries, accessible transit, gorgeous parks: these are democratic low-carbon amenities. And they’re the political achievements of working-class New York.”
  • But extending the Green New Deal beyond the narrow confines of U.S. borders would also involve upending the traditionally obstructive role the U.S. has played in international climate talks, stymying ambition and binding pledges. As Naomi Klein noted last week, the U.S. taking the climate crisis seriously — adopting what could be the world’s most ambitious decarbonization plan, in its most dominant economy — would have a tremendous ripple effect throughout the rest of the world, and more narrowly in the talks themselves as countries figure out how to ratchet up their commitments to the Paris agreement in the coming years.
  • A federal jobs guarantee that paying that much, as outlined by several proposals, would effectively create a national wage floor, compelling retail and fast food chains to either raise their wages or risk having their employees enticed into better-paid jobs that improve their communities and make them more resilient against climate impacts.
  • while a concerted transition to renewable energy could cost as many as 6 million jobs around the world in carbon-intensive sectors, it could create 24 million jobs, or a net gain of 18 million, and far more than the profound job loss that would stem from unchecked climate change.
  • The US represents about 15 percent of global emissions, so acting alone won’t get us too far. Coal is on a steady decline here, but Asia accounts for around three-quarters of global coal consumption, which has actually risen overall in the last 2 years. And while China has backed what might be the world’s most ambitious green spending package, it’s also continuing to finance coal plants domestically and throughout the global south, encouraging other countries to pursue a path to economic development based on a fuel source that climate science is increasingly clear should be zeroed out
  • For extractive industry workers, whose wages are traditionally high thanks to decades of labor militancy, $15 an hour may not be too big of a draw, meaning other programs could be needed to finance what’s widely referred to as a just transition, making sure that workers in sectors that need to be phased out — like coal, oil, and gas — are well taken care of and that communities which have historically revolved around those industries can diversify their economies. Spain’s social democratic government recently sponsored a small-scale version of this, investing the relatively tiny sum of $282 million, with the support of trade unions, to help coal workers transition into other work while shuttering the last of the country’s coal mines.
  • By 2100, heat-related deaths could cost the U.S. $141 billion. Sea-level rise could rack up a $118 billion bill, and infrastructure damages could cost up to $32 billion. Along the same timeline, the report’s authors found, the financial damages of climate change to the U.S. could double those caused by the Great Recession.
  • o of the fossil fuel industry.” Incumbent fuel sources, and coal in particular, aren’t exactly saving anyone money. A recent analysis from the group Carbon Tracker has found that 42 percent of coal capacity worldwide is already unprofitable, and that figure could spiked to 72 percent by 2030.
  • Dense, transit-connected cities are on the whole more sustainable than the car-centric suburban sprawl encouraged by a mix of mid-century development schemes, segregationist policies and white flight. Yet the home solar market is oriented largely around rooftop installations, which creates obvious barriers to entry for renters in multi-unit buildings, where landlords have little incentive to upgrade.
  • the Internal Displacement Monitoring Center estimates that as many as 21.5 million people have been displaced thanks to climate-related impacts, and the civil war in Syria that has led many refugees to flee that country is owed at least partially to climate-induced drought and agricultural crisis. Largely, governments in the global north have treated these flows as a problem. But the Green New Deal could adopt a different approach.
  • “We’re going to need tens or hundreds of millions of jobs,” Chakrabarti said, projecting that there could even be a labor shortage. “What that’s going to result in is that, yes, we’re going to have to retrain and invest in the current American workforce. But we’re probably going to be begging for more immigration.”
  • The US represents about 15 percent of global emissions, so acting alone won’t get us too far. Coal is on a steady decline here, but Asia accounts for around three-quarters of global coal consumption, which has actually risen overall in the last 2 years. And while China has backed what might be the world’s most ambitious green spending package, it’s also continuing to finance coal plants domestically and throughout the global south, encouraging other countries to pursue a path to economic development based on a fuel source that climate science is increasingly clear should be zeroed out. Ocas
26 annotations
  • It’s very dangerous for the ruling class to encourage any kind of mass mobilizations of workers, because when they see how they can exert their power through demonstrations they will begin demonstrating in their own interests.
  • The American ruling class — from McGovern and Kennedy right on down to Nixon — would love to have a free hand, a situation where it would be acceptable to send however many soldiers would be necessary to take control of Cambodia and “secure” Vietnam. The warmakers haven’t had any change of heart.
  • But what the liberals and the ultralefts don’t understand is that what the majority thinks can be decisive. Such things as where the troops can be sent and whether bullets can be fired or not, can be determined by what the mass of the people think. Because their ability to resist, and the potential, the danger of their resistance, is dependent on what they think.
  • What was the response of the ruling class to this upsurge? The number one point which they understood perfectly was that decisive power does not lie within the student movement, but that the student movement is a direct danger because it can act as a catalyst, spreading ideas and setting other forces into motion.
  • If you were to look at the students in isolation, you would say they don’t have any real power. But put the students into the actual network of society — the interrelationship with their parents, the interrelationship with society as a whole, the interrelationship between each university and other universities and schools and the community around it — and the ruling class can see an immediate threat.
  • People don’t suddenly understand everything at once. Think about your own political development. There’s always one issue or another, depending on the objective conditions, which tends to wake a person up. As we’ve said over and over again, at the present stage the most effective weapon to stop the ruling class from moving to the right is to get masses of people in motion. The most effective way to do this, at this stage especially, is mass, peaceful, legal demonstrations in the streets.
  • events by relating to any differences within the ruling class.
  • This is the concept of getting people into motion, into action. Not talking down to them, but organizing actions which are able to give expression to the mass opposition to the policies of the ruling class, at the level of understanding that people have reached about what’s happening in this society. It’s the concept of bringing masses into motion, but at all times keeping the movement independent of the ruling class.
  • You’ve got to deal with people where they’re at. When a woman comes along and says, “I’m against the abortion laws. I want to see them abolished,” and she wants to join a demonstration for free abortions on demand, but she still has illusions about the war in Vietnam, still supports Nixon, what is our attitude? Do we say, “You’re an imperialist pig! Don’t you know what’s happening in Vietnam? You can’t go on this demonstration. Keep away from us. We understand these things — we’re the elite. We don’t want to taint ourselves by letting someone who’s for the war in Vietnam join this demonstration”.
  • We advocate many things, but we try to put into practice those things the masses are prepared for. We advocate general strikes, but we don’t call them, because we’re not fools. We know there cannot be a general strike, on any issue right now, given the present level of consciousness. And you won’t get to the point where there can be general strikes unless you put people in motion, precisely because when they start to move on any one issue, whether women’s liberation, the war or racial oppression, people begin to question the whole society, and to see the interrelationship between the different issues. In fact, it is the way people radicalize.
  • The US had an army of 15 million in the Second World War, with a population then of some 140 million. With the present population of 220 million, the US could put an army of 22 million to 24 million in the field now if it wanted to mobilize on the scale it did for World War II. Which means it could put 10 million into Vietnam. And it would be economically possible too, if the government was willing to pay the price, in terms of the standard of living of the American people, that it paid in the Second World War. That is, there is nothing militarily stopping them from escalating. The national liberation forces of Indochina couldn’t physically stop them from landing two, three, or five million soldiers.
  • The postmen, for instance — all they had to do to tie up the economy was to go home. That’s all. Just go home. That’s power.
  • This is the key thing to understand about the ultraleftists. The actions they propose are not aimed at the American people; they’re aimed at those who have already radicalized. They know beforehand that masses of people won’t respond to the tactics they propose.
  • That is the big difference between the perspective of the ultralefts and our perspective, because we do want a general strike. We do want a real strike. We do believe you can win the workers, so therefore we don’t just raise our hands in games, we raise our hands for what really can be done, for what can begin to move masses of people.
  • These liberal-ultraleftists think that’s what moves the ruling class. Actually they come close to a correct theory when they say that if people start leaving the system the ruling class will respond. But they don’t believe that the masses can be won. They think it is enough for them to leave the system themselves, small groups of people carrying out direct confrontations.
  • The real explanation is that the masses of people in this country have become a force that enters into the balance on a world scale. There is a change taking place in the consciousness of the people of the United States, and this change is altering the relationship of forces. An understanding of this fact is crucial for deciding our strategy and tactics. You can’t work out tactics for how to affect the course of the war unless you understand what is affecting it at this very moment
  • You see, you can take 200 or 300, or even a few thousand people and fight in the streets, throwing rocks at windows, and putting on a big show. You can play revolution, not make revolution. But when you’re talking about 15 million workers who control basic industry in this country, you don’t play games. Because they don’t run around throwing things at windows. They do things like stop production, period.
  • This is another thing that these ultraleft-upside-down-liberals have: the panic button. Since they don’t see any countervailing force, they think at any moment the whole country could just go BANG! At any moment the ruling class can make a move to the right, and they don’t see any way to stop it, so they throw in the towel, they just panic. The ad says: “If you’re reading this — don’t kid yourself any longer. Big Brother is making his list. And you’re on it. Can we stop 1984? It’s 11:59 p.m. now. The clock is ticking loudly. What in hell are we going to do about it?”
  • You get the issues around which people are moving against the government and create a unified movement around them, in order to maximize the numbers that will come into motion.
  • So the liberals don’t look to the masses. They look directly to the ruling class and try to affect the course of events by relating to any differences within the ruling class.
  • Now basically an ultraleft is a liberal that has gone through an evolution. What happens is this. They start out as liberals, and suddenly the war in Vietnam comes along. Now, what does a liberal believe? He believes that the ruling class is basically responsive to his needs. So he demonstrates.
  • We’re not interested in moving 20 or 200 or several hundred community organizers to engage in some sort of civil disobedience, window trashing, or whatever. We say that is a dead end, because it doesn’t relate to the power that can stop the war — the masses. You can’t ask the 15 million trade unionists to sit in at a congressman’s office. There just isn’t enough room. Of course, the ultralefts know that 15 million workers aren’t going to do that, so that call is clearly not aimed at involving workers.
  • What we want is to call for concrete demands and mobilize people to win them. Demands like Get Out of Vietnam, or Black Control of the Black Schools, or concrete campaigns around specific cases of repression. But that’s not what the liberal-ultralefts do. What they call a multi-issue program is a list of abstract reforms.
  • So then you ask the liberal who is protecting his civil liberties? He will say, “Well, it’s because our system allows it. Our system works to a certain degree.” Since they have confidence that the system basically works, the only problem is to find members of the ruling class who are responsive and will help protect civil liberties, and get them in power. They continuously look for a more liberal wing within the ruling class to support.
  • haven’t had any
  • the masses of people have different interests than the ruling class and they have independent power.
  • The working class and the oppressed nationalities are mass social layers, and they can only realize their potential power when they organize as a massive social force. The ruling class can deal with any one individual or any small group; it’s only masses that can stand in their way. So the potential power of the working class to stop the war is a big threat.
  • cause they couldn’t see any force around that was protecting their civil liberties. Then what they began to develop was the thesis that civil liberties, elections, courts, all bourgeois democratic forms, are a gigantic put-on, a fantastic manipulation. That it is all a ruling class trick. So, these people concluded that the elections and civil liberties are unreal, and the people who run the country could call them off tomorrow. Elections and civil liberties, they said, “have nothing to do with reality”.
  • est of society.
29 annotations
  • the “Stop Wall Street Looting Act”
  • a radical proposal that would effectively destroy the leveraged buyback model.
  • The unabashed greed displayed by corporate America is not just a result of easy money. It’s also nurtured by a broader ideological climate that privileges the prerogatives of business — that sees the private sector as a site of efficient, rational investment, of innovation and progress.
  • In addition to the colossal waste of share buybacks and the wanton destructiveness of PE firms, the last ten years of expansion have seen the privileging of firms that fail even on capitalism’s own terms.
  • The new normal of low interest rates is designed to sooth the palpitations of capitalists, not to improve the lives of working people.
  • Uber lost $3 billion last year. Lyft lost a billion. Yet these companies, along with dozens of other loss-making “unicorns,” are Wall Street darlings. Their sky-high valuations rest on the promise they hold, the stories they tell about a future where AI, platforms, and self-driving cars solve everything.
  • Bernie Sanders, meanwhile, is tackling the issue of share buybacks
  • Characterizing the last decade as an “expansion” is a peculiar sort of euphemism. What, precisely, is being sustained through central bank–engineered, low interest rates?
  • share buybacks
  • Shareholders received a record-breaking $1.25 trillion in share buybacks and dividends in 2018, bringing the post-crisis decade total to nearly $8 trillion in handouts to shareholders and corporate executives.
  • America’s two-century-old limited liability model ensures that PE firms are never on the hook for more than their equity contribution. Whether the company survives or dies, PE executives get paid.
  • the average PE-owned company today has debt levels that are eleven to twelve times earnings before interest, tax, depreciation, and amortization
  • Warren calls for an end to the limited liability rights of private equity firms. Her bill’s provisions would make PE firms responsible for the debt they pile onto their portfolio companies. If they drive a company into bankruptcy, the PE firm would be responsible for the acquired company’s debt, and by extension, for paying its creditors — including workers and retirees — what they’re owed.
  • he recently proposed legislation to prohibit companies from repurchasing their own shares until they’ve demonstrated that they are looking out for other stakeholders first.
  • Buybacks — when companies repurchase their own stocks to take them out of the market, thus increasing their value — are a key feature of neoliberal capitalism
  • 85 percent of all stocks are in the hands of the top 10 percent.
  • Low interest rates have become the new normal of global capitalism — necessary to, as Morgan Stanley chief economist Ellen Zentner recently observed, “sustain the expansion.”
  • wages for factory workers and non-manager service workers (82 percent of the workforce) have been stagnant for three decades. In ten years of expansion, only the top decile has seen substantially improved wages.
  • Corporations who want to buy back shares would have to demonstrate that they pay a living wage to all their employees (including paid sick leave) and that they provide health and pension benefits.
  • wages have barely budged, despite low official unemployment.
  • Instead of investing in modern, sustainable public transportation — something both rural and urban areas desperately need — capital is allocated to retrograde projects that increase fossil-fuel use and foster consumption behaviors antithetical to the needs of society. We don’t need self-driving cars — we need green subways, buses, and trains.
  • Nearly 40 percent of Americans would be unable to cover an unexpected $400 expense. One in four children relies on food stamps to meet their dietary needs. More than half of US households don’t have enough in savings to cover more than one month of expenses, and according to the New York Fed, household debt reached a new high in the fourth quarter of 2018.
  • A decade of easy credit (on top of a multi-trillion-dollar quantitative easing program), combined with a corporate sector emboldened by a generation of business-friendly reforms, has exacerbated a number of trends that exemplify the worst tendencies of capitalism.
  • Consider the ride-sharing sector. U
  • Students can’t borrow loans for school at the federal funds rate. A low benchmark rate doesn’t help the people who are desperate enough to take out payday loans, or the families who rely on credit cards to buy groceries and gas.
  • Today more than 90 percent of corporate profits go to share buybacks and dividends. More and more companies are using cash to buy shares rather than invest in jobs or research and development. Alphabet, for example, just announced its first-ever share buyback program; the tech giant will purchase $25 billion of its own shares.
  • A lower benchmark rate also invigorates the vultures. Private equity firms thrive in a low interest rate environment like the one we have now, and it seems, will have for a long time to come. PE firms like KKR and Blackstone operate using a leveraged buyout model, forcing the companies they take over to borrow a boatload of cash to pay for their own acquisition.
27 annotations
 investing 595
  • But the Chinese system lacks the flexibility of bourgeois democracy, with its many political ‘safety valves’ for releasing mass pressure. In a crisis, the capitalists in the West can often use an election to defuse or divert mass pressure, introduce a ‘new face’ who can buy time with a honeymoon period (although these breathing spaces become shorter and shorter as capitalism’s woes pile up).
  • Xi Jinping’s concentration of personal power, viewed as a sign of strength and resolve by most commentators, is equally an admission of the depth of centrifugal pressures that Xi’s leading group are fighting to control.
  • This also underlines the difference between China’s dictatorial capitalism and the bourgeois democracies in Western countries. For more than a decade the Chinese regime has felt vindicated in refusing to relax its repressive grip – on the contrary its grip has tightened significantly – because most ‘democracies’ are in disarray, with precarious or zombie governments like in Britain, the rise of destabilising populists such as Trump, and other serious problems. In contrast, China’s technocratic authoritarianism has won many admirers among capitalists in the West who say it “gets results”.
  • Lam’s government is doubling down over the extradition law, fearing that to abandon this project now would damage the government beyond repair but also – more significantly – powerfully undermine the fear factor wielded by the Chinese dictatorship (CCP, so-called Communist Party). Fear and an aura of invincibility are crucial political ingredients for the CCP’s continued rule in China, let alone Hong Kong.
  • The democracy struggle which has been waged with ebbs and flows for more than 30 years in Hong Kong is a classic example of a ‘cross class’ movement in which the mass protests are made up of ordinary workers, pensioners, students and middle-class professionals, but the leadership is dominated by bourgeois and petit bourgeois liberals, the pan-democratic opposition parties, and a multitude of likeminded NGOs. These organisations are small, closed, lacking any real membership structures and advocate a non-political approach. The fact that the democracy struggle has stalled in Hong Kong is largely due to the inability of these groups to offer real leadership.
  • Chief Executive Carrie Lam’s amendments to the extradition law, which serve to legalise the Chinese dictatorship’s abductions of political dissidents, even those just transiting through Hong Kong’s international airport, are seen as the most serious attack yet on Hong Kong’s fragile and badly damaged democratic rights, won through decades of mass pressure and activity. In China’s judicial system there is no such thing as a fair trial and 99 percent of convictions are based on confessions rather than evidence.
  • With his hardline stance on Hong Kong, Xi has become pure ‘Taiwan repellent’ to the majority of Taiwanese. Instead of undermining Tsai’s DPP and coaxing Taiwan closer economically and politically to China, the CCP has further revealed itself as a monster in the eyes of the Taiwanese people during these events. The only strategy then available to Beijing is more bellicose speeches and threats to use military force, which again further alienates the Taiwanese masses.
7 annotations
  • That “perhaps” is doing a lot of work here, considering the outpouring of money, volunteer energy, and enthusiasm from Sanders supporters for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib, Tiffany Cabán, Rossana Rodríguez-Sanchez, Julia Salazar, and other socialist women who have newly run for office within the past two years. Neoliberal identity politics is a kind of Etch A Sketch into which socialism instantly disappears.
  • While it’s true that Warren supports Medicare for All on paper, she has recently waffled on the matter. Relatedly, Sanders’s view that abortion should be part of a full reproductive health-care plan offered under single-payer is stronger and more specific than Warren’s pro-choice position. She talks a lot about a “strong military” and “military readiness,” while Sanders has been doggedly leading the fight to end the devastating war in Yemen. Warren is a committed fan of American global power, one of the most destructive forces on earth; Sanders has been an enemy of imperialism all his life, growing even more outspoken over the past year, hardly the typical trajectory for a presidential candidate.
  • Politico reported this week that for establishment centrists, Warren was emerging as an acceptable alternative to Sanders. Third Way, a proudly centrist think tank that has drawn donations from some of the same hedge funders who backed Mitt Romney — its board is made up of bankers and other Wall Street executives — once vilified Warren’s economic populism as “disastrous.”
  • If Bernie Sanders weren’t running, an Elizabeth Warren presidency would probably be the best-case scenario. Warren is a “good liberal,” a species that nearly went extinct after Jesse Jackson’s 1988 campaign and has only recently been spotted again roaming the savannahs of Washington, DC. Left and socialist organizing has been at least partly responsible for the resurgence of this highly vulnerable political animal; we should claim credit for such creatures, not misclassify them
  • the term “neoliberal identity politics” refers to the way the politics of identity can be — and often are — abused by those in power, to undermine the very politics of collectivity upon which the liberation of all oppressed groups depends.
  • Yet at a time when health-care and pharma profiteering are killing people and capitalist greed threatens the existence of the human species, the idea that there is no other reason to choose a lifelong socialist over an agreeably indignant liberal is simply not serious.
  • For people who prefer to discuss issues — most voters are not especially ideological — Sanders is better on those policy areas where he and Warren differ. That’s because rejecting capitalism affects the way a person thinks about everything.
  • Sanders is more popular among black voters than any candidate except Biden, who benefits from his association with President Obama.
8 annotations
  • Thorpe and Urban’s projections of a surge in care are based on micro-level studies which found that when a few families in a community got better coverage, they increased their utilization of services. Doctors and hospitals can easily accommodate that tiny increase. But in macro-level studies, the supply of doctors and hospitals, not patients’ insurance coverage, is the main driver of the large regional differences in utilization. More surgeons mean more surgery and fewer mean less, regardless of whether uninsurance rates are high or low, a phenomena health economists label “provider-induced demand.”
  • Single-payer systems like Canada’s pay hospitals a lump sum through global budgets (like fire departments), obviating the need for hospitals to bill for each patient. That has held the administration’s share of hospital budgets to 12 percent, half the US level and far lower than nations with universal, multi-payer systems.
  • Moreover, co-payments and deductibles boost administrative costs. Providers have to collect them, and insurers have to track them to ensure that they’re collected (and that providers stop charging them when enrollees reach their deductible). Schemes that vary user fees according to income or medical condition add even more bureaucratic complexity and cost.
  • When we reward entrepreneurs based on data they record, the data will be as close to the truth as a tax return.
  • If the wealthy can pay extra for better care — through private insurance or higher fees — there’s little incentive for them to ante up the taxes needed to fund excellent services for everyone (as is painfully evident in education). Moreover, if private insurers can sell plans that duplicate public coverage, they’ll lobby to make the latter second rate. No one will buy a private plan unless it gives you something unavailable in the public one.
  • The two nations with the highest health care spending — the United States and Switzerland — have the highest out-of-pocket costs
  • when many people in a region get better coverage, doctors and hospitals increase care for the newly covered while trimming back discretionary (often unnecessary) care, much of which now goes to the affluent.
  • Research indicates that every $1 invested in new hospital capital projects drives up future operating costs by 30 cents each year.
  • At present, four strategies tend to determine financial success, and hence the allocation of capital: (1) preferentially serving well-insured patients; (2) filling beds and exam rooms; (3) focusing on lucrative services like elective surgery while avoiding money-losers like mental health; and (4) inflating revenues by gaming payment rules. All these entrepreneurial actions raise costs — none of them improve care.
  • These per-case fees are supposed to give hospitals incentives to improve efficiency. But increasing efficiency is hard; gaming the system by exaggerating how sick your patients are (“upcoding”), and cherry-picking lucrative services, are far easier routes to profit/surplus. That’s why Billing and Accounting is the fastest growing department at most hospitals, expensive consultants are brought in to buff up diagnostic coding, and attendance at diagnosis-coding lessons is mandatory for doctors.
  • Additionally, they’ve geared physician training to produce more primary-care doctors and fewer specialists than in the United States, a mix that saves both lives and money.
  • In both cases, coverage expansions didn’t cause any overall increase in doctor visits or hospitalizations, nor did they cause patient pileups or a backlash from the previously well insured. Under single payer, increased care for the currently underserved would be largely offset by decreases in useless care, which the National Academy of Medicine estimated at $210 billion in 2009.
  • Four additional design features are critical to health care equality, affordability, and excellence: Don’t let rich people buy their way to better care. All effective treatments must be free. Care must be organized as a public service, not a business. Allocate resources and capital investments based on need, not market forces.
  • Some single-payer proposals would allow co-payments and deductibles, often with a sliding scale that varies with income. Such user charges selectively penalize the sick, and even minimal co-payments discourage poor people from seeing doctors or filling prescriptions.
  • Payments for patient care should be used only for care, not diverted to profits or investments
  • A single-payer system should ban payments to for-profit providers — a ban that’s unfortunately missing from Sanders’s bill.
  • Today our health care financing system allocates new investments based on institutions’ financial success, regardless of community needs. The cash-rich Hospital for Special Surgery can build medical palaces like its David Koch Pavilion in Manhattan’s over-doctored Upper East Side, while Harlem Hospital’s deficit precludes upgrades or expansion. Although donors like Koch sometimes provide down payments for new buildings, hospitals’ profits (or nonprofits’ “operating surpluses”) fund the overwhelming majority of capital investments.
  • That’s why adopting Medicare’s payment strategies for a single payer — as Sanders’s bill would do — would leave a mess. Both Medicare’s long-standing diagnosis-related group (DRG) system, and its new “value-based” payment programs (e.g., “accountable care organization” initiatives), pay hospitals fixed per-case fees based on diagnoses that hospitals and doctors report to Medicare. Hospitals get to keep whatever they don’t spend on patients — generating the profit/surplus to fund new capital.
  • single payer would achieve universal coverage with little or no cost increases in the short term, and substantial savings over the longer term.
  • But it’s much more likely that Medicare would become a de facto high-risk pool, as private insurers cherry-pick healthier, profitable enrollees, and shunt the expensively ill onto the public plan. That’s not a theoretical concern. It’s what’s happened already in Medicare, where private Medicare Advantage plans outcompete traditional Medicare by cherry picking and other subterfuges, reaping tens of billions in unwarranted profits and raising costs to taxpayers.
  • nvestor-owned providers deliver inferior care at inflated prices. For-profit hospitals have 2 percent higher death rates and cost 18 percent more than their nonprofit counterparts. For-profit dialysis clinics, which have captured 93 percent of the US market, have death rates 9 percent higher than nonprofits. For-profit hmos have lower quality and higher overhead than nonprofits. For-profit nursing homes and home-care agencies’ quality of care are likewise lower.
  • Medicare-for-more is far more expensive than Medicare-for-all.
  • The persistence of multiple payers under a public option precludes global budgeting, requiring hospitals to maintain the elaborate cost-tracking and billing systems that waste about $150 billion annually
  • . In practice, that means paying health care institutions’ operating budgets, and not letting them keep what’s left over to use as they please. A single payer should, like Canada and Scotland, fund capital investments through separate grants, guided, as a Blue Cross executive once opined, by the questions: “What can we afford, and how can we make certain that the truly needy institutions are the ones that build, modernize, or renovate?”
  • As long as care remains a commodity and profiting from sickness is accepted as natural and appropriate, the goal of just, affordable, and sustainable health care will evade us. To make the system work for patients, it must stop working for profit. Any reform that doesn’t go far enough in this pursuit will be undermined.
25 annotations
  • The problem is the economics: If the tax is too light, it fails to suppress fossil fuels enough to help the climate. But if it’s heavy enough to really suppress them, then companies and consumers balk and resist the tax -- because without any safety net for businesses and consumers, the entire burden falls on them, so they rationally resist to save profits and jobs.
  • No government will set a price high enough to spur truly deep reductions in carbon emissions because they all understand that this would force companies out of business, throw workers out of work, and possibly precipitate recession or worse. What government wants that?
  • Instead, we propose a strategy of rationally planned, democratically managed, wind-down and phase-out of fossil fuels and a coordinated transition to renewable energy that avoids economic collapse and guarantees reemployment for the affected workers. Our strategy is based on a three-point
  • Everyone affected by the outcome has a right to make their case openly…In public forums, open to all citizens, the principles of social dialogue and transparency come to life. It is an extraordinary exercise in democracy–and it works.
  • But if society is to pay a fair price for those companies, their nominal retail value would have to be discounted by the harm their production has already done to people and planet. On any fair assessment, that would leave these companies owing the government, not the other way around. Yet even at their current retail value, just under a trillion dollars, by the standards of wasted U.S. expenditures, this is affordable. President Trump just gave away $2.3 trillion in tax cuts to the rich this year alone.
  • Thus, we categorically reject, in advance, any argument that the government cannot afford to buy out the fossil fuel producers and dependent industries to save the humans. On the contrary, we maintain that even at a retail value of $2.25 trillion, this buyout of fossil fuel producers and burners is a bargain – barely more than a third of what the U.S. has squandered (so far) on its oil wars in the Middle East since 2011.[36] Plus, since the U.S. military is the largest institutional GHG emitter, cutting the military budget would also slash emissions from this sector.     
  • It’s not the workers’ fault if the industries they work in need to be closed or cut back to save our children and theirs. They deserve jobs, different jobs, better jobs. If society is going to abolish their present jobs then it owes them new jobs with comparable pay and benefits. This is not only morally right but it’s also the only way we can win the support of those workers in the struggle for the common good.
  • Any and all citizens and groups are invited to take part:
  • FDR’s construction programs built the bulk of this country’s national infrastructure that we still rely on today. If in the midst of depression, the government could afford to provide full-time government-funded jobs for tens of millions of workers from 1933 through the 1940s, becoming the nation’s largest employer by far, our immensely wealthier society and government can easily afford to re-employ the millions of workers from the fossil fuel-based industries to construct a permanently sustainable economy.
  • it’s difficult to imagine how this could be done within the framework of any capitalism
  • We don’t need to nationalize the entire economy. Small producers, worker co-ops, family farmers, mom & pop shops, restaurants and so on, aren’t killing the planet.
  • We face the opposite problem: We face a booming capitalist economy at the top of its form with a powerful entrenched ruling class in full command of their economy and their state.
  • We need to establish democratic institutions to plan and manage our social economy -- planning boards at local, regional, national and international levels.
  • The first step is to stop doing what we’re doing: immediately begin shutting down fossil fuel production, stop new drilling, stop producing and registering fossil fuel-powered vehicles, drastically curb air travel, ration fossil fuels, curtail manufacturing and construction. The second step is to force through an immediate transition to renewable energy across the economy (and do what we can to enable this transition around the world).
  • Large corporations are killing the planet. They can’t help themselves. To preserve a habitable world we need to take them under public ownership so we can rationalize, reprioritize and restructure production to create a permanently sustainable, if somewhat less industrialized, economy.
  • The problems we face with respect to the environment and the climate, can’t be solved by private corporations competing in an anarchic market.[41] Saving the world requires the sort of large-scale economic planning that only governments can do. We need to replace market anarchy with rational planning and management of a mostly, though not necessarily entirely, publicly-owned economy.[42]
  • The reason why no government dares take the obvious steps to save the humans is because no one has come up with a magic fix to suppress emissions without suppressing economic growth and profits
  • FDR’s virtual takeover of the commanding heights of American industry during WWII was tantamount to a temporary nationalization but his “command and control” was accepted by labor and capital and it succeeded – brilliantly -- providing the industrial base to win the war.
  • This is the ultimate contradiction of capitalism: We have to destroy our children’s tomorrows to hang onto our jobs today.
  • Environmental groups have focused too narrowly on fossil fuel producers, their pipelines and such, while ignoring the downstream industrial and personal consumers
  • The IPCC plan, they said is “a blueprint for destroying the world economy.”[21] Given capitalism, they’re right, of course. In a world of abstract models, the carbon tax strategy works perfectly. But in the real world, with real investors and real employees -- and without a rationally planned, carefully managed wind-down and phase-out combined with guaranteed state support for the investors and guaranteed “just transitions” for the affected workers, the imposition of draconian carbon taxes would bankrupt some of the largest companies in the world, precipitate a stock market crash, throw millions out of work, and most likely “destroy the world economy.”
  • We say to Democrats, Republicans, capitalists, and pro-fossil fuel trade unions too, “If you have a better strategy to save the planet, where is it?
  • We can save the fossil fuel industrial complex for few more decades till we collapse, or we can reverse these priorities and save the planet. That’s the choice before humanity today.
  • We burn the oil producing, processing, transporting and refrigerating food, driving our cars, building our homes, heating and cooling our homes, manufacturing this and that, jetting off on vacations, and so on
  • . Fossil fuels are pervasive.
  • The carbon tax idea was straightforward: tax fossil fuels and consumers and companies will seek non-fossil fuel alternatives. As taxed coal-fired power plants and fossil-fuel powered motor vehicles became more costly to operate relative to untaxed (and even subsidized) renewable energy and electric cars, over time coal and gas-fired power plants and petrol-powered motor vehicles would fade from the scene. The theory seemed compelling, even obvious, in the abstract.[16] In the real world, carbon taxes don’t work. The whole idea was doomed from the start.[17]
  • The government could buy all these companies, even without discounts for their social and environmental crimes, for a paltry $727 billion. Add in the bulk of private and shareholder-owned gas and electric utility sector, 20 companies with a combined market value of $557 billion, and the government could buy up all of America’s fossil fuel producers and the bulk of its fossil fuel-burners for $2.26 trillion and still have some pocket money left after rescinding Trump’s tax giveaway to the rich
  • Perhaps the biggest weakness of the GND Plan is that it's not based on a the fundamental understanding that an infinitely growing economy is no longer possible on a finite planet
  • If we’re serious about suppressing fossil fuel emissions, then we have to drastically retrench and in some cases completely shut down thousands of downstream fossil fuel-dependent companies in transportation, petrochemicals and plastics, manufacturing, construction,[13] agribusiness, tourism and more in the U.S. alone. In cases like plastics, disposable products and others, we would have to virtually abolish entire industries because there’s just no other way to suppress their emissions and make them sustainable. 
29 annotations
  • As in the classical accounts, the state becomes a kind of a tool wielded by capitalists to further their singular interest of capital accumulation.
  • For many working within the problematic of dependency theory, imperialism, if the term is even used at all, has simply come to mean the transfer of wealth from the periphery to the core, or even more broadly, the capitalist world system itself. From this perspective, it becomes very hard to differentiate imperialism from capitalism, and the two risk becoming synonymous. Despite refining the classical theories, many dependency theories have preserved this core weakness.
  • As a result, they could only think of the state as that which realizes the interests of capital. In so doing, they completely erased the specificity of the state, and with it, that of imperialism.
  • historically speaking, the non-correspondence between imperialism and capitalism is the norm, not the exception
  • Of course, the frequency and intensity of contradictions can change. There are historical moments when one fraction of the ruling bloc succeeds in asserting its hegemony over all the others, winning the consent of the other dominant social forces. In these cases, a given state’s imperialist policies may appear more coherent for a time. At the same time, there are moments, as in the United States today, where the level of tension among the dominant social forces is extremely high. Not only is there outright disagreement between different factions of the ruling class, there are open contradictions within the administration itself, as different institutions propose wildly different solutions to the same crisis, producing a highly incoherent, even unpredictable, imperialism.
  • But in all cases, there was debate, often fierce disagreement, within ruling classes over exactly how they should proceed. The resultant form of imperialism was often a confusing, tenuous compromise.
  • there is a tendency among some on the left today to defend whatever régime opposes the United States
  • . Instead of trying to “cram all of this into a universal concept of imperialism,” we “need a new way of looking” at the world. For Harvey, that means we have to start by ditching the word “imperialism.”
  • In addition to its scientific function of attempting to explain historical reality, imperialism also served a number of incredibly important political functions. 1 It named an enemy, united different struggles, and signaled a collective project to change the world.
  • we should develop imperialist theory out of a theory of the state
  • “Imperialism,” he summarized, “is capitalism at that stage of development at which the dominance of monopolies and finance capital is established; in which the export of capital has acquired pronounced importance; in which the division of the world among the international trusts has begun, in which the division of all territories of the globe among the biggest capitalist powers has been completed.”
  • Despite very significant differences between these accounts, all the classical Marxist theories effectively treated imperialism as an extension of crisis theory
  • Imperialism, in other words, became a mere reflection of capitalist contradictions
  • The majority of capital exports in the late 19th and early 20th centuries traveled not from European countries to their colonies, but within the capitalist countries themselves
  • we have to see the state as an ensemble of contradictory institutions themselves traversed, and produced, by fierce struggles between and within classes
  • Approaching the state as a social relation, rather than as a thing, and seeing states as themselves embedded in contradictory, even antagonistic relations with each other, helps us refine the concept of imperialism. Imperialism, to anticipate the argument, has to be broadly understood as a relationship of domination between states, rather than as a synonym for capitalist expansion.
  • It deprives accumulation by dispossession of its substance to treat as the same sort of thing workers’ loss of employment through their firm’s bankruptcy, which is a standard result of a well-established process of capital accumulation, and the expropriation of peasants from their land – in the English enclosures of the eighteenth century of through the destruction of the ejidos in contemporary Mexico – which is about creating the conditions for capital accumulation
  • In other words, imperialism is the process through which “imperial capital” uses the nation-state to force open subordinate economies to the capitalist market as a way of transferring wealth from the weaker nations to the stronger nations. Capitalist imperialism is the point at which imperialism relies predominantly on economic coercion, though still drawing on extra-economic coercion, like war, to realize this goal.
  • The Specificity of Imperialism Salar Mohandesi February 1, 2018 PDFGilles Aillaud, La bataille du riz, 1968 “Imperialism,” David Harvey announced at a roundtable last year, should be seen as a “sort of metaphor, rather than anything real.” This came as quite a shock, not least because it was none other than Harvey himself who wrote one of the most acclaimed accounts of contemporary imperialism, The New Imperialism. Harvey went on to explain that recent developments in capitalism – such as multinational corporations, technological networks, or shifts in the global division of labor – have raised enormous questions about how we understand imperialism today. What, for example, are we to make of the fact that Latin America is being turned into a massive soybean plantation, with most of the exports headed for China? Or, to take a similar, though even more drastic example that Harvey does not mention, how can we explain the fact that the single greatest U.S. export to China is soybeans, while China’s biggest export to the United States is computers? Does that make China an imperialist power? Is it extracting wealth from the periphery? Is the United States slipping into the periphery? Reality, Harvey suggested, has become far too complicated for conventional models of imperialism. In fact, the concept of imperialism has become a kind of “straightjacket,” preventing us from really understanding new historical developments. Instead of trying to “cram all of this into a universal concept of imperialism,” we “need a new way of looking” at the world. For Harvey, that means we have to start by ditching the word “imperialism.” Harvey is certainly right that most Marxist theories of imperialism have run into stumbling blocks trying to explain the richness of contemporary reality. I would go further to suggest that these limits are not actually new. In fact, from the start, most Marxist theories of imperialism had a difficult time offering an accurate account of historical developments. Even when their predictions seemed to be true, for example V. I. Lenin’s claim that capitalist rivalries were leading to world war, these theories were sometimes right for the wrong reasons. For a time, these limitations were overlooked, not only because these theories did seem to explain some very important features of the late 19th and 20th centuries, but because “imperialism” doubled as both a scientific concept and as a popular rallying cry. In addition to its scientific function of attempting to explain historical reality, imperialism also served a number of incredibly important political functions. 1 It named an enemy, united different struggles, and signaled a collective project to change the world. By the 1970s, imperialism was perhaps the most commonly used word in the radical vocabulary, but it was also one whose specific meaning was becoming increasingly unstable. But by the late 1970s and into the 1980s, the defeats of so many anti-imperialist struggles, alongside new and strange historical developments, forced many thorny questions – some old, others new – onto the table. Why was it that for many countries, colonialism preceded capitalism? How do we explain the fact that for many states, colonial expansion in the late 19th century was in many cases not primarily motivated by the search for greater profits? How come many empires fought to retain their colonies even though the extreme violence they imposed on subjugated peoples did not really generate anticipated profits for the metropole? How was it that some peripheral countries supposedly doomed to perpetual “backwardness” came to develop highly advanced capitalist sectors? Why did newly independent countries themselves start to exhibit imperialist behaviors? Indeed, how do we make sense of the fact that in the 1970s three socialist countries in Southeast Asia threw themselves into what looked very much like an imperialist war? These are only some of the questions that have challenged conventional theories of Marxism. The fact that these theories have often failed to offer convincing answers has led some to doubt the usefulness of the term. But the solution to the impasse is not, as Harvey suggests, to jettison the word “imperialism.” On the contrary, the concept of imperialism can still provide answers to these questions, make sense of recent developments, and help inform internationalist struggles today. But before that can happen, the concept of imperialism has to be modified. That means, first and foremost, rethinking some of the key assumptions of older Marxist theories. The most fundamental of these assumptions, and what has become the primary w
  • A parallel current, called “world systems theory,” shared many of the same positions
  • Trump’s imperialist policies towards Cuba stem not from economic motives, but from a desire to secure the loyalty of older, conservative, Cuban-American voters, and more importantly, to solidify the support of important political allies like Marco Rubio and Mario Díaz-Balart, especially now that Trump is finding himself increasingly isolated.
  • postwar relations between the dominant capitalist states should also be seen as imperialist
  • Instead of following Marx, who argued that the capitalist mode of production generates surplus-value by paying workers less in wages than the value they generate when their labor-power is exploited at the point of production, some of these theorists, like Frank or Wallerstein, argued that capitalism is basically the transfer of income from one part of the world to another. It is a static, zero-sum game, based primarily in unequal exchange.
  • The primary weakness of most Marxist theories of imperialism, then, is precisely their tendency to overplay the causal relationship between capitalism and imperialism
  • The Specificity of Imperialism Salar Mohandesi February 1, 2018 PDFGilles Aillaud, La bataille du riz, 1968 “Imperialism,” David Harvey announced at a roundtable last year, should be seen as a “sort of metaphor, rather than anything real.” This came as quite a shock, not least because it was none other than Harvey himself who wrote one of the most acclaimed accounts of contemporary imperialism, The New Imperialism. Harvey went on to explain that recent developments in capitalism – such as multinational corporations, technological networks, or shifts in the global division of labor – have raised enormous questions about how we understand imperialism today
  • Their efforts would culminate in what came to be known as “dependency theory,”
  • In all this, the state is once again left undertheorized, and the concept of imperialism collapses into capitalism.
  • why is it that imperialism so often undermines the interests of capital?
  • The same can be said about the theory of imperialism. There is no single, general theory that could simultaneously explain every historical example of imperialism, from the Roman Imperium to the Mongol Empire to the United States today. Instead, each theory of imperialism is a theory of a specific conjuncture, potentially valid only for its moment, but always limited and subject to revision
  • But the solution to the impasse is not, as Harvey suggests, to jettison the word “imperialism.” On the contrary, the concept of imperialism can still provide answers to these questions, make sense of recent developments, and help inform internationalist struggles today. But before that can happen, the concept of imperialism has to be modified. That means, first and foremost, rethinking some of the key assumptions of older Marxist theories.
  • n fact, this was the specific meaning of the term “imperialism” for Hobson, as it would be for Lenin: the tendency for rivalries between capitalist countries, expressed most dramatically in colonial competition, to lead to war. 5
  • eakness of most Marxist theories of imperialism, is the tendency to see imperialism as a symptom of the inevitable contradictions of capitalist developmen
  • While imperialism may have economic motivations, it is always conditioned and propelled by a plurality of other, often contradictory, forces. This is why imperialist policies often seem so incoherent. This is why so often in history imperialism has actually worked against capital accumulation. And this is why many nation-states trying to free themselves from imperialism often found themselves exhibiting behavior that came dangerously close to the very imperialism they sought to abolish.
  • Already in the 1970s, several countries in the Global South, such as Taiwan, Singapore, South Korea, Iran, or Brazil, were developing quite spectacularly. Now, in the 21st century, we see a whole host of developed capitalist countries outside the conventional metropolitan core: India, China, Turkey, or Thailand, to name only a few.
  • Lenin tended to see imperialism as the attribute of an entire period of history beginning in the 1880s. In so doing, he ended up drawing too sharp a line between different conjunctures, making it very difficult to explain forms of imperialism before that decade, such as the British colonization of India, the French occupation of Algeria in the 1830s, or Great Britain and the United States’ informal influence over Latin America
  • But the most significant theoretical problem with Lenin’s account was his inability to adequately theorize the state
  • Nevertheless, he, along with all the other classical theorists, treated states as the transparent instruments of capitalist monopolies. In explaining the actions of states, and imperialism as such, by more or less exclusively looking to the purported needs of capitalism, these theorists ended up in a kind of economic reductionism that made it impossible to theorize the overdetermination of the state.
  • Most countries in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East, and East Asia had clearly taken a path very different from those in North America and Western Europe. Even formal political independence, which most Latin American countries had won in the 19th century, had not ushered in the kind of economic development most had expected
  • In short, “accumulation by dispossession” refers to everything from dispossessing peasants in Nigeria to foreclosing on the homes of lower-middle class Americans who could not meet their mortgage payments. What, one may reasonably ask, is not “accumulation by dispossession?”
  • The state is not only composed of overlapping, and often competing, institutions, but it is also a primary site of class struggle
  • Imperialism, in other words, is a constant possibility even in those states that emerged from socialist movements dedicated to anti-imperialism. Socialist revolution, the Third Indochina War suggests, will not automatically abolish imperialism. It can be overcome only through the systematic, long-term work of thoroughly dismantling states and inventing new kinds of social organization.
  • In social formations dominated by the capitalist mode of production, most states tend to develop institutions designed to manage the expanded reproduction of capitalist relations. A whole set of apparatuses work to protect private property, maintain infrastructures, control the money supply, mediate labor conflicts, and regulate social reproduction.
  • Here, I wish to put forward just one of these general theoretical propositions on imperialism: imperialism is not a thing, but a relationship. Indeed, if the state is a relationship between social forces, then imperialism could be broadly understood as a relationship between states, though of course the causes, meanings, and specific forms of these relationships vary historically.
  • Vietnamese resistance to American imperialism, for example, caused substantial turmoil in the United States, supercharging domestic social movements, forcing President Lyndon Johnson not to seek re-election, and ultimately realigning political forces in the country.
  • To begin with, the state has always been bound up with modes of production, each present in the other’s reproduction. In this sense, the state apparatuses, and the social forces within them, have always engaged in a whole range of activities one might call “economic.” In the capitalist mode of production, states sponsor technological development, manage the flow of money, restructure industry, provide training, assist in the reproduction of labor-power, shape the composition of the working class, set the terms of employment, and can even nationalize industries. The same can be said with regard to imperialism: states control monetary policy, tariffs, copyright law, sovereign debt, assistance to corporations abroad, regulation of commodities crossing borders, and so forth
  • Gilles Aillaud, La bataille du riz, 196
  • Capital, in other words, always tries to move wherever it can find a higher rate of profit. For the same reason that a firm might move some of its operations from a city to another region of the same country to turn a higher profit, businesses might move to other countries. Calling normal processes of capitalism “imperialist” is not only redundant, it effaces the specificity of imperialism.
  • It is precisely the economic reductionism at the heart of so many Marxist theories of imperialism that prevents us from grasping the overdetermined nature of imperialism
  • State policy is frequently the product of a compromise between rival, or outright antagonistic, social forces
  • And, most importantly, it meant preventing newly independent countries from gravitating away from capitalism, which often involved resorting to extreme violence. Exactly how the U.S. did this depended on the specific conjuncture. In some cases, keeping newly independent countries within the capitalist sphere mean pouring millions of dollars of aid into “development” programs. In other cases, it meant punishing them with coups, invasions, or unmanageable debt. Yet in still other cases, contradictions within the state led U.S. imperialism to deviate from this objective altogether.
  • The history of U.S. imperialism after 1945, in short, has also been the history of the U.S. ruling classes’ attempts to reinvent their hegemony over other capitalist states.
  • ind of anti-imperialism runs the risk of substituting antagonistic relations between the classes comprising a state with the antagonistic relations between nation-states
  • We have to ask how these imperialisms differ from one another, why their objectives may be distinct, why they change over time, and why some have been, and continue to be, so much more destructive than others
  • Gilles Aillaud, La bataille du riz, 196
  • In fact, historically speaking, the non-correspondence between imperialism and capitalism is the norm, not the exception. While some states certainly pursued imperialist actions because of foreign investment, raw materials, or markets, they also did so because they sought national glory, desired military outposts, hoped to divert internal social discontent by turning abroad, believed in spreading their allegedly enlightened civilization, or simply did not want potential colonies to fall into the hands of rival imperial powers
  • By contrast, the state can be better understood as a relationship. Or to be more precise, the state, in the words of Nicos Poulantzas, is the “material condensation of a relationship of forces.” 33 This is to say, the state is not only an ensemble of apparatuses, but that ensemble is entirely traversed by struggles between different social forces. Class struggle should not be seen as external to the state, but as something inscribed in its heart.
  • . With classes homogenized, and class struggle downplayed, or even erased, the subject of liberation becomes the nation-state itself, not the working classes. At its extreme, this kind of thinking can lead to supporting authoritarian states founded on the destruction of the left and the repression of workers’ self-activity because they are said to be embarking on an autonomous, anti-imperialist path of development in the face of “Western” imperialist depredations.
  • But this imperialist arrangement was not unilateral. Faced with catastrophic destruction, the threat of communism, and the need to rebuild their polities, dominant classes in many Western European states welcomed U.S. support, despite the risks. For a time, most factions of the ruling bloc in the United States believed it was in their country’s best interests to rebuild Western Europe, while most factions of ruling blocs in Western European states felt that their interests could in part be realized by allowing the United States pursuing its own. In this way, the United States came to secure hegemony over the imperialist chain in the capitalist world.
  • Although U.S. imperialism is rarely absent, conflicts in the Global South cannot be explained solely in terms of Yankee machinations. Inter-imperialist conflicts in the Global South have their own dynamic, even if they often unfold within a wider set of imperialist relations. These conflicts show that contrary to most assumptions, imperialism is not only an attribute of dominant states, but potentially, of all states.
  • The state as such is inseparable from specific configurations of social forces in struggle
  • It is precisely because the state is so thoroughly riddled with contradictions that imperialism often takes such contradictory forms. Since the state is traversed by struggles, different social forces within each of these distinct institutions will fight over different ideas about imperialism.
  • Limiting imperialism only to the “West,” or even just the United States, tends to obscure the imperialism of those states often combatting that imperialism. Of course, there are enormous differences between, for example, U.S. and Russian imperialism, which become especially important when considering the struggles on the ground today, but the fact remains that for those who call themselves socialists, the ultimate objective must remain the abolition of both, not the defense of one against the other.
  • Events like the Third Indochina War have unsurprisingly posed an enormous challenge to Marxists. 51 The states that called themselves socialist, preached international unity, and defined themselves against capitalist imperialism went to war with one another, behaving in ways that one would expect from capitalist countries
  • Communism in much of Asia was heavily articulated with nationalism. This was especially the case in Cambodia, where the Khmer Rouge developed a form of nationalism that was particularly xenophobic, especially against the Vietnamese
  • the very separation between the state and society should not be understood as as an absolute and transhistorical dividing line between two distinct substances, but rather as a constructed division within a single social formation
  • Denying the existence of the state would be as foolish as fetishizing it into singular substance. If the state is ultimately a material condensation of struggles, even if it is not separable from particular configurations of social relations, it nevertheless still designates a specific terrain of struggle. For that reason, it is strategically imperative that we pinpoint what at a given moment counts as the state, where its boundaries lie, how it relates to social relations said to stand outside its borders, and how the separation between the state and society is being reproduced at that specific conjuncture
  • The Specificity of Imperialism Salar Mohandesi February 1, 2018 PDFGilles Aillaud, La bataille du riz, 1968
  • The Specificity of Imperialism Salar Mohandesi February 1, 2018 PDFGilles Aillaud, La bataille du riz, 1968
68 annotations
  • depends on openness to trade and finance, as well as income deflation in the periphery countries to suppress local demand
  • He himself sees imperialism as a relationship that underlies capitalism. He argues that the Northern demand for primary commodities from the South has perpetuated and solidified an imperialist relationship. In his view, the capitalist system itself requires commodities that cannot be produced at adequate quantities in the core and that are subject to increasing supply price. The key here is that capitalism relies on commodities that are outside of its frontiers.
  • A critique Fraser has for the Patnaiks is their description of ‘capitalism’s spontaneous behavior’. She considers the only truly spontaneous element in capitalism to be the endless drive for accumulation and therefore that imperialism itself cannot be understood by only focusing on this economic aspect. Rather, political control must also be taken into account. She argues that expropriation may be necessary for profitable exploitation in capitalism. This begs the question: is imperialism necessary for capitalism?
  • He considers the Patnaiks’ book to be too crude and argues that it is not asking specific enough questions about where things are produced. E.g. one of the biggest producers of food grain is the USA and part of the USA is in the tropics. Latin American countries are producing soybeans – not for the US (who is a net exporter of soy beans) – but to China.
  • He cautions that globalization has been like a ‘weapon of mass destruction’ for many developing countries, and that ‘we as Marxists must take this into account’.
  • However, she also points out that it is important to keep in mind that there are different phases of imperialism, as well as different dimensions. Furthermore, the various dimensions play different roles in the different phases. The dimensions she identifies are the economic (the concentration of wealth is related to impoverishment elsewhere), the political (freedom in one region is related to subjection in another), the ecological, and social reproduction (efforts to supply care in one region is related to care deficits and ‘care drains’ elsewhere). Neither of these processes can be understood fully without understanding all of them and how they relate to each other
  • expropriative versus exploitative transfers, which illustrates a mix of political and economic mechanisms
  • Harvey argues that circumstances have changed so much that although imperialism once was a relevant concept, it is simply not useful anymore
  • s
  • His primary concern with the Patnaiks’ analysis is with the identification of the mechanisms
  • Duncan Foley observes that the imperialist wars have been necessary for the political stability of the metropolitan countrie
  • She stresses the entwinement of the political and economic dimensions of imperialism, and contends that the distinction is often blurry, although on the surface it might appear to be straightforward.
12 annotations
  • The anti-imperialist sentiment implicit in the statues, whatever its source, did not curtail empire. It denied its existence.
  • Many may recall that W. E. B. Du Bois argued in 1903 that “the problem of the twentieth century” was “the problem of the color-line,” but fewer may recall that he followed this klaxon of a phrase with a definition that extends beyond Jim Crow: “the relation of the darker to the lighter races of men in Asia and Africa, in America and in the islands of the sea.”
  • But the 1964 Gulf of Tonkin Resolution also indicates how the goals of U.S. empire were shifting in this moment. Instead of territory, influence mattered, and the Cold War set the terms of the struggle for influence
  • The international order that the United States constructed after 1945 had two purposes: to contain communism and to benefit capitalism
  • Even U.S. “competitors” purchase dollars at face value that the United States prints nearly for free. This is called seigniorage, and it is another facet of exorbitant privilege
  • empire is a way of life
  • At the end of World War II, for example, before Alaska and Hawaii became states, before the Philippines gained independence, and while U.S. troops occupied much of Germany, other parts of Europe, Japan, and Korea, there were more people “under U.S. jurisdiction” outside the mainland United States than within it.
  • Today, while the ravages of Hurricane Maria still afflict Puerto Rico, this conclusion is not shocking.
  • The United States, as one theorization phrases it, superintends capital. It acts on behalf of capital as a whole, unifying its unruly constituents and disorganizing or destroying its even more unruly opponents.
  • The Spanish-American War, for instance, may have been anti-imperialist in initiation, but was certainly not anti-imperialist in resolution
  • both types of statue celebrated a fight against empire
  • Indeed, the peace treaty, effective in April of 1899, did not actually result in peace or freedom for the effected territories.
  • The United States developed three commitments: to republicanism, to white supremacy, and to overseas expansion. But as the bait-and-switch in the Philippines showed, it could only ever maintain the latter two
  • What if these non-white populations were granted full admission into the U.S. polity? What if these “outsiders” gained power in the United States? The statues served as a powerful reminder—that white supremacy was an integral part of U.S. order.
  • barren guano islands were now U.S. territories, unloved and ignored until some began serving other purposes: bases at which naval ships could dock and, later, airfields on which airplanes could land. This was the practical step forward for U.S. empire that distant shit stools allowed
  • “Forgetting . . . is a crucial factor in the creation of a nation, which is why progress in historical studies often constitutes a danger for [the principle of] nationality.”
  • The empire of bases exists to protect the dollar’s exorbitant privilege, including by sheer intimidation.
  • Hikers searched for guerrillas; guerrillas attacked and quickly fled; hikers searched some more. They usually found only unarmed civilians, whom they occasionally massacred. This pattern of combat marked U.S. efforts in Southeast Asia in decades to come. Long after economic imperatives of territorial occupation receded, it remained a core attribute of U.S. imperialism
  • It is mediated by money, and it transcends but also hierarchizes territory. You cannot hide empire because you cannot touch it or see it.
  • Their anti-imperialist sentiment resonated with a different kind of monument that emerged in the same period—those to the Confederacy
  • Guano was mined under ghastly conditions: mostly black or native men held in virtual bondage were left stranded on these islands for months at a time—in order to “pay” for their passage back, they had to scrape and collect large quantities of malodorous guano.
  • About 4 million people live in U.S. colonial possessions today, with almost no voice in Washington, D.C
  • Dozens of these unpopulated islands saved U.S. farms: they held mountains of guano, the hardened feces of millions of sea birds, which could be used to reanimate U.S. soil. Farmers’ demand for guano led to annexation, as well as uncomfortable questions that the United States has never adequately answered.
  • How do you really hide an empire? You seat it in the U.S. Treasury Department and the Federal Reserve.
  • Empire is not a thing or a territory. Empire is a social relation
  • By insisting on holding fast to the master category of territory, Immerwahr’s case is undermined by the fact that the imperial logic of capitalism thrives even as holding territory is no longer essential
  • Expansionists wanted territorial control because it provided economic access to Asia, but white supremacists at home would never stand for full inclusion of Filipinos as U.S. citizens
  • Moreover, global economic dynamics have also shifted enough that U.S. yearly expenditures on the military-industrial complex help keep the global economy afloat. Predicted to reach $1 trillion soon, the U.S. military budget will be equivalent to around one-seventeenth of annual global merchandise exports. (Homeland Security and all types of law enforcement are separate.) Further, the United States sells military implements to clients such as Saudi Arabia, and in the process Saudi Arabia spends dollars.
  • Rather than asserting a distinction between territory and mainland, this response highlights how racism was the glue holding them together
  • the United States decolonized its territorial empire by extending its nonterritorial empire; it sacrificed much of its territory so that its monetary empire would live on.
  • Capital today belongs to no nation. “Japanese” auto corporations, like “American” auto corporations, are transnational entities with supply chains and financial linkages functionally integrated across borders. In contrast to Donald Trump’s rhetoric, corporate competition is global, not national.
  • The dollar is not only what Americans carry in their wallets every day; it is also the deterritorialized medium of exchange for most global trade. This flexibility confers its power, its necessity, and its “exorbitant privilege,” as Valéry Giscard d’Estaing quipped, as the global reserve currency
32 annotations
 unrest and war 646