Counterpunch Articles

Dr. Martin Luther King’s Challenge to the Movement, as the Fascists Storm the Capital

MLK, Jr., March on Washington speech.

“Dr. DuBois was a radical all of his life. Some people would like to mute the fact that he was a genius who became a Communist in his later years.”

– Martin Luther King Jr.

Today, even Dr. King, who fought the fascists in Montgomery and Cicero would be shocked to see armed white fascists march in plain and the “Civil Rights Movement” cannot be found because it no longer exists.  As CNN, MSNBC, and the Democrats keep repeating “Trump, Trump, Trump—and yes, he and his fascist movement are the greatest danger, we need the Democrats to stop attacking Black militants, free Black political prisoners, and encourage the long history of armed self-defense that the Black community has practiced since Reconstruction. To be clear, it has been the Democrats who have sent Black militants to prison or their deaths, destroyed the safety net, and rounded up Black Panthers and any other Black folks who believed in and practiced “armed self-defense.” The Democrats and president Obama say, “John Lewis, non-violence, Dr. King, non-violence” without acknowledging that the essence of Dr. King’s legacy was a pro-communist, Black Nationalist, anti-imperialism in which it was “non-violent Direct Action!!! That was the centerpiece of his philosophy.

Right now, the central challenge to standing up to the armed right, in the midst of COVID and police occupation of Black communities is a sober re-assessment of the present period and reconstruction of a revolutionary alternative. Contrary to the reactionary and ridiculous counter-position of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X, it was their mutual leadership of the Black united front and the larger anti-imperialist united front that made them so dangerous to the system, a political perspective that is painfully missing today.

I have no immediate proposal as to what “we” should do in the hours and days before the Inauguration, except to pray for the safety of President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and to call for a massive round-up of all fascists and white racist groups immediately. While there is little chance that will happen, as our government practices “civil liberties” for the whites and mass round ups of the Blacks I urge readers from veterans of the civil rights movement to the young, gifted, and Black, Latinx, Indigenous leaders, to drill deep into Black revolutionary history to shape our present choices. As you engage the lives of Toussaint L’Ouverture, Nat Turner, Denmark Vesey, Frederick Douglass, Claudia Jones, W.E.B. DuBois, Paul Robeson, Fannie Lou Hamer, Kwame Nkrumah, Huey P. Newton, and other great Black revolutionaries, study Dr. King carefully for he was among the greatest Black revolutionaries of them all.

Today I work in South Central Los Angeles with the Labor/Community Strategy Center with Black and Latinx community members and high school students fighting for “the social welfare state not the police state/the climate justice state not the warfare state.” We are training a new, multi-generational group of organizers at our National Leadership School for Strategic Organizing to read, read, and read as we operate the Strategy and Soul Movement Center including our Strategy and Soul Bookstore.

This year as with every year, we work to protect and expand Dr. King’s legacy from those who would bury it in a grave. We celebrate Dr. King as one of the great revolutionaries in U.S. and world history whose challenge to all of us shapes our work and should shape yours. Every year I reframe and publish this essay with the goal of expanding the discussion and debate about a Black and Third World led anti-racist, anti-imperialist, climate justice united front.

The annual King Day celebrations provide a great opportunity to defend Dr. King’s revolutionary legacy against The System’s efforts to white wash and degrade his frontal challenge to its crimes. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was a leader of the Civil Rights and Black Liberation Movement, a fierce internationalist, anti-imperialist, and Pan Africanist, a Black militant, pro-communist socialist, and part of The Movement that was far to the left of and in opposition to the Democratic Party.  And for some militant young people who have imbibed the slanders of  the system, using phrases like, “This is not your grandfather’s civil rights movement” I urge you to study Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. because it will take a miracle to reconstruct The Movement that he and millions of us built. But that is the challenge today!

In that there is no such thing as History but only the struggle over historical interpretation, I, along with many others, want to reinforce the historical view of Dr. King as a great leader in the Black Revolutionary Tradition whose work should help shape our organizing today.

* Dr. King rejected the myths of U.S. society. He rejected its Mad Men packaging itself as “the leader of the free world” to tell it like it is; that the United States is “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world.”

* Dr. King saw “the Negro revolution” as part of a Third World and world revolution. “I am convinced that if we are to get on the right side of the world revolution, we as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values…For years, I labored with the idea of reforming the existing institutions of the South, a little change here, a little change there. Now I feel quite differently. I think you’ve got to have a radical reconstruction of the entire society, a revolution of values.”

Dr. Clayborne Carson, Director of the Martin Luther King, Jr., Research and Education Institute at Stanford University, in his King Papers, related the following story.

Before leaving Ghana, King welcomed a visit from English clergyman and anti-colonial activist Michael Scott, during which the two men compared the freedom struggles in Africa and the United States. King reportedly expressed admiration for the bus boycott then taking place in Johannesburg, South Africa, and remarked that there was “no basic difference between colonialism and racial segregation … at bottom both segregation in American and colonialism in Africa were based on the same thing — white supremacy and contempt for life.”

Dr King supported the Black Power movement and saw himself as a tendency within it. He marched with Stokley Carmichael and Willie Ricks on the March against Fear in Mississippi June 1966. While initially taken aback by their cries of Black Power, he soon elaborated his own views as part of the Black Power continuum. “Now there is a kind of concrete, real Black power that I believe in … certainly if Black power means the amassing of political and economic power in order to gain our just and legitimate goals, then we all believe in that.”

Dr. King sided with the people of Vietnam including the Vietnamese Communists against the U.S. invasion.  In his Beyond Vietnam speech, written by and with his close comrade, Vincent Harding, his anti-colonial support for the legitimacy of the Vietnamese Communist cause was clear.

The Vietnamese people proclaimed their own independence in 1945 after a combined French and Japanese occupation, and before the Communist revolution in China. They were led by Ho Chi Minh. Even though they quoted the American Declaration of Independence in their own document of freedom, we refused to recognize them. Instead, we decided to support France in its reconquest of her former colony.

Our government felt then that the Vietnamese people were not “ready” for independence, and we again fell victim to the deadly Western arrogance that has poisoned the international atmosphere for so long. With that tragic decision we rejected a revolutionary government seeking self-determination, and a government that had been established not by China (for whom the Vietnamese have no great love) but by clearly indigenous forces that included some Communists. For the peasants this new government meant real land reform, one of the most important needs in their lives. For nine years following 1945 we denied the people of Vietnam the right of independence. For nine years we vigorously supported the French in their abortive effort to recolonize Vietnam.

Dr. King was deeply appreciative of the Black communist traditions of W.E.B. DuBois and Paul Robeson. He was well aware of the irony and significance that Dr. DuBois died, in Ghana, an exile from the United States and a Communist, on the very day of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, August 28, 1963.

Dr. King observed,

We cannot talk of Dr. DuBois without recognizing that he was a radical all of his life. Some people would like to mute the fact that he was a genius who became a Communist in his later years. It is worth noting that Abraham Lincoln warmly recognized the support of Karl Marx during the Civil War and corresponded with him freely. In contemporary life the English speaking world has no difficulty with the fact that Sean O’Casey was a literary giant of the twentieth century and a Communist or that Pablo Neruda is generally considered the greatest living poet though he also served in the Chilean Senate as a Communist…Our irrational, obsessive, anti-communism has led us into too many quagmires to be retained as if it was a model of scientific thinking

King did not merely mention the great contributions of Communists from Du Bois, Casey, Neruda and  Ho Chi Minh; he situated himself in that tradition not as a member but clearly as a friend and admirer.

Dr. King’s non-violence was aggressive and militant reflected in non-violent direct action.

Of course Dr. King had his own unique views inside the civil rights movement and Black united front. His views on non-violence were real and deeply held. He also saw non-violence as a tactic to prevent a massive violent backlash from racist whites. King tried to position his demonstrations in ways to get the largest amount of white liberal and international support and to pressure the national Democratic Party that was tied at the hip to the racist Dixiecrats.  His belief in non-violence deeply held, but was also tied to the theory and practice of militant, aggressive, Non-Violent Direct Action.

When I worked with CORE and allied with SNCC In 1964-1965 they were known as the Black militants, and yet both organizations saw themselves, at the time, as non-violent. But that did not prevent and in fact encouraged Black people to march into the registrar of elections in Southern cities and refuse to leave, Black students to occupy lunch counters and refusing to leave, Black and white people marching at the Edmund Pettis Bridge in Selma confronting an army of armed police and white racists, or Black people in the north marching into elected officials’ offices and occupying them, yelling, chanting, singing, and confronting.  Everyone we challenged in “the white power structure” saw militant, non-violent direct action as a big threat and retaliated accordingly. No one at the time praised Dr. King for his “moderation.” They saw angry Black people and saw Dr. King as a threat, which he certainly was. and saw his non-violence and “urgency of now” as a political force to be crushed not co-opted.

Dr. King fought the Democratic Party of Lyndon Johnson and the Black Democratic Establishment.  When Dr. King brought his movement to Chicago the Democratic Party Black establishment refused to support him, sided with the racist Mayor Daley, and told him to “go down south where you belong.”  Many of them refused to join his mass and militant marches for open housing and an end to police brutality.  In response, Dr. King called out the Black political establishment.

“The majority of Black political leaders do not ascend to prominence on the shoulders of mass support … most are still selected by white leadership, elevated to position, supplied with resources and inevitably subjected to white control. The mass of [Blacks] nurtures a healthy suspicion toward this manufactured leader.”

On this day honoring his birthday, let’s take a deeper look at his political thought and revolutionary legacy.

Dr. King understood that the Civil Rights and Black Liberation Movement was from the outset a battle against the system itself.

King understood the intersection of radical reforms and social revolution and was always working to understand the time, place, conditions and balance of forces that would shape his rhetoric and tactical plan. King was one of the greatest and most effective reformers of all and yet, in confronting the system’s intransigence his own revolutionary outlook kept evolving. King’s prominence began in 1955, in his leadership of the Montgomery Bus Boycott, the same year as the murder of Emmett Till and the Bandung Conference of Non-Aligned Nations–to begin what turned out to be “the Two Decades of the Sixties” that did not end until the defeat of the United States in Vietnam in 1975. Despite the U.S. Supreme Court decision to overturn school segregation in the case of Brown vs. Board of Education in 1954, Montgomery in 1955, the great Greensboro sit-ins of 1960, the exciting work of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee and Congress of Racial Equality Freedom Rides of 1961 the conditions of Black people in the United States remained at criminal levels. By 1963 white Democratic Party terror in the South and Democratic Party racism and brutality in the ghettos of the North had generated a great deal of militancy, organizing, and consciousness but little change in the system. At the great March on Washington in August 1963 King’s Southern Christian Leadership Conference, SNCC, CORE, NAACP, Urban League, and A. Phillip Randolph’s Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters took place amid air of hope–but also great impatience and militancy. King’s “I Have a Dream” speech (a phrase that was not in its initial draft) was in fact a revolutionary indictment of U.S. society.

“One hundred years later [after the formal abolition of slavery] the Negro still is not free. One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. One hundred years later, the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land. So we have come here today to dramatize a shameful condition

In a sense we’ve come to our nation’s Capital to cash a check. When the architects of our republic wrote the magnificent words of the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence, they were signing a promissory note to which every American was to fall heir. This note was a promise that all men, yes, black men as well as white men, would be guaranteed the unalienable rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. It is obvious today that America has defaulted on this promissory note insofar as her citizens of color are concerned. Instead of honoring this sacred obligation, America has given the Negro people a bad check; a check which has come back marked “insufficient funds.

“But we refuse to believe that the bank of justice is bankrupt. We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity of this nation. So we have come to cash this check–a check that will give us upon demand the riches of freedom and the security of justice. We have also come to this hallowed spot to remind America of the fierce urgency of now. This is no time to engage in the luxury of cooling off or to take the tranquilizing drug of gradualism.”

King is imploring, cajoling, but what his words make clear, threatening U.S. society and trying to mobilize Black rebellion. When he says “crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of segregation” he is making it clear that slavery is in fact still in place. He describes the United States as a society that offers the Negro bad checks and broken promises, When he says, “We refuse to believe the bank of justice is bankrupt” this is code for “we know you are morally bankrupt but Black people are here to demand, as the Staple Singers demanded, “When will we be paid for the work we’ve done.”

King’s formulation of “the fierce urgency of now and the tranquilizing drug of gradualism” was a frontal assault on the President Kennedy and the Democrats cry for “patience” in face of injustice. King countered with the spirit of Freedom Now–the cry of Black militants in South Africa, South Carolina and the South Bronx–and supported by a growing number of white supporters of the civil rights movement. In fact, “Now” was one of the revolutionary slogans of its time. And President Kennedy and the whole world were listening.

One of King’s revolutionary observations– that is still painfully relevant today–was, “the Negro is still languishing in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land.”

In 1964 I was recruited by organizers of the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee to join “the civil rights revolution.” By the time I got to CORE in Harlem and the Northeast my mentors were staying up all night debating what exactly that revolution would look like. While the struggle focused on democratic rights and full equality many SNCC and CORE leaders were talking about some form of Black nation, Black Power, Black militancy, Black separatism–not as a way of “getting away” from the system but as part of a plan to challenge it–and for some, overthrow it. Clearly influenced by Malcolm X but also the African liberation movements people were talking about a challenge to U.S. capitalism and at least talking about some type of pro-socialist system. It was not all that clear or delineated but the concepts of full equality, full democratic rights, Black rights, self-determination, radical reform and revolution were far more interrelated than counterposed–and all of them involved Black people in the leadership of a multi-racial movement–either through integration or separation. In that context, I am arguing that Dr. King was a Black revolutionary nationalist, perhaps of a more moderate nature, but he was a student of world history and was impacted by the revolutionary ideas of the times. For Dr. King, as early as 1963, to tell the president of the United States that Black people in the U.S. are “exiles in their own land” was clearly a call for some form of both full equality and Black self-determination and far away from the “more perfect union” myth that the system was selling–with few buyers.

King was a victim of capitalist state violence, surveillance, psychological, character, and actual assassination.

The story of J. Edgar Hoover’s campaign to destroy ML King and force him into a nervous breakdown and suicide is not tangential but central to King’s revolutionary history–and the surveillance and police state we live under today. And yet, another element of the revolutionary history of Dr. King that is being whitewashed is his actual assassination was by the system itself. Part of this cover-up is to destroy the memory of the work of Coretta Scott King in exposing the actual assassination of Dr. King.

In his “I’ve Been to the Mountain Top” speech the very night before he was murdered Dr. King was very aware of what he felt was his possible and imminent assassination.

“Like anybody, I would like to live – a long life; longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And He’s allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over. And I’ve seen the Promised Land. I may not get there with you. But I want you to know tonight, that we, as a people, will get to the Promised Land. So I’m happy, tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man. Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord. “

And while his words are brave, every time I hear that talk I hear a mortal man not fully at peace, nor should he have been, with his mortality–but trying to comfort and reassure Black people that “we as a people” will find liberation–rather than asking them to protect him–which he knew they could not.

On December 8, 1999, (21 years after his death) after the King family and allies presented 70 witnesses in a civil trial, twelve jurors in Memphis, Tennessee reached a unanimous verdict after about an hour of deliberations that Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated as a result of a conspiracy.

In a press statement held the following day in Atlanta, Mrs. Coretta Scott King welcomed the verdict.

“There is abundant evidence of a major high level conspiracy in the assassination of my husband, Martin Luther King, Jr. And the civil court’s unanimous verdict has validated our belief. I wholeheartedly applaud the verdict of the jury and I feel that justice has been well served in their deliberations. This verdict is not only a great victory for my family, but also a great victory for America. It is a great victory for truth itself. It is important to know that this was a SWIFT verdict, delivered after about an hour of jury deliberation. The jury was clearly convinced by the extensive evidence that was presented during the trial that, in addition to Mr. Jowers, the conspiracy of the Mafia, local, state and federal government agencies, were deeply involved in the assassination of my husband. The jury also affirmed overwhelming evidence that identified someone else, not James Earl Ray, as the shooter, and that Mr. Ray was set up to take the blame. I want to make it clear that my family has no interest in retribution. Instead, our sole concern has been that the full truth of the assassination has been revealed and adjudicated in a court of law… My husband once said, “The moral arc of the universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” To-day, almost 32 years after my husband and the father of my four children was assassinated, I feel that the jury’s verdict clearly affirms this principle. With this faith, we can begin the 21st century and the new millennium with a new spirit of hope and healing.”

Sadly, the police/surveillance/counter-insurgency state is stronger than ever–but at least there is growing public challenge to its hegemony. Understanding the revolutionary story of Dr. King and the system’s decision to bring him down is essential if we want to understand and make history in the present. 

King was from the outset a Black militant and revolutionary who advocated non-violent direct action but saw “the Negro revolution” as the overriding objective.

While Dr. King strongly argued for non-violence as both a tactical and ethical perspective he also supported the right of Black people to armed self-defense and allied with the advocates of armed self-defense and even armed struggle in the Black movement.

At a time of the most rampant and systematic police violence the system’s armed requirement that Black people are “non-violent” is intellectually and morally lethal. It flies in the face of the long-standing tradition of armed self-defense in the Black community and the urgency to defend that tradition today. Worse, to use Dr. King against that basic right is the height of cynicism and historical distortion.

Clay Carson’s In Struggle: SNCC and the Black Awakening of the 1960s, helps shed light on this complex relationship. While many young organizers were critical of Dr. King SNCC’s Stokley Carmichael explained best their appreciation of his profound impact on the Black masses.

People loved King. ’ve seen people in the South climb over each other just to say, “I touched him, I touched him.” I’m even talking about the young…These were the people we were working with and I had to follow in his footsteps when I went in there. The people didn’t know what was SNCC. They just said, “You one of Dr. King’s men?” “Yes, Ma’am I am.”

Carson explains the pivotal role of “militant and self-reliant local black residents who owned weapons and were willing to defend themselves when attacked. Black rallies in the county were often protected by armed guards sometimes affiliated with the Louisiana-based Deacons for Defense and Justice”

Many SNCC organizers, disagreeing with King’s focus on non-violence, explained, “We are not King or SCLC. They don’t do the work the kind of work that we do nor do they live in the areas we live in. They don’t drive the highways at night”…Carmichael recalled that the discussion ended when he asked those carrying weapons to place them on the table. Nearly all the black organizers working in the Deep South were armed.

But again the system wants to act like the battle between King and SNCC and the Black militants was a morality play or an ideological war. But it wasn’t. It was an intellectual, strategic, and yes, ethical struggle among equals and King was both open minded and introspective about the limits of his non-violent advocacy–and as such, people had respect for his own principles and rationale.

In 1965, James Farmer, the director of CORE, a truly dedicated pacifist, told a group of us at a mass meeting, “I am completely non-violent but I want to thank our brothers from the Deacons for Defense (who were both standing guard and yes, getting a standing ovation from the organizers) whose arms allow me to be non-violent.” My read of history is King felt similarly.

And even more importantly, King well understood that his “non-violence” could be used by the system as a justification for state violence and of course the system’s need to destroy the Black united front. In his speech, “Beyond Vietnam” on April 4, 1967 King addressed frontally his most principled conversations with the angry youth of the urban ghettos. He stated,

As I have walked among the desperate, rejected, and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problem. I have tried to offer my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through non-violent action. But they asked, and rightfully so, “What about Vietnam?”..Their questions hit home and I knew I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.

Note that King does not try to raise a moral critique of those who would use Molotov cocktails and rifles in response to the economic and armed violence of the state. And by making clear he considered its advocates “the oppressed” he supported the morality, if not the tactics, of their cause. Instead, he simply argued that he did not feel it would “solve their problem” and even then qualified his own advocacy of non-violence to make the case that “social change comes most meaningfully” but not exclusively from non-violence. He admitted it was a legitimate debate.

Martin Luther King Jr., SNCC, CORE, and Malcolm X represented at the time the “left” of the Black united front and worked to find strategic and tactical unity with the NAACP and Urban League–which made the March on Washington, the Civil Rights Bill, and the Voting Rights Bill possible. While King had many contradictions with the young Black militants he understood them and they him as strategic allies against a system of white supremacist capitalism.

SNCC, Malcolm X, Muhammad Ali, and M.L. King were on the frontlines of the movement against the U.S. war of aggression in Vietnam.

While SNCC and Malcolm were among the first to speak out frontally against the war as early as 1965, by April 1967 both King and Muhammad Ali took enormous risks to frontally challenge the war on moral grounds and to argue that Black people in particular had no interest in supporting the war.

In his monumental Beyond Vietnam speech. Dr. King argued in support of Vietnamese self-determination and rejected the view that the U.S. had any legitimate interests in Vietnam.

Reading primary documents is essential for the revolutionary historian/strategist/tactician and organizer. In reading and re-reading Beyond Vietnam I still hang on its every word.

* King called out U.S. war crimes against the Vietnamese people making the analogy that the United States feared the most–comparisons with Nazi Germany. He asked, what do the Vietnamese people “think when we test our latest weapons on them just as the Germans tested out new medicine and new tortures in the concentration camps of Europe.”

* King praised the integrity and legitimacy of the National Liberation Front of Vietnam including the communists who he argued were the legitimate political leaders of the Vietnamese people’s struggle.

“They were led by Ho Chi Minh” and were creating “a revolutionary government seeking self-determination.” He describes Ho as saved only by “his sense of humor and irony… when he hears the most powerful nation in the world speaking of aggression as it drops thousands bombs on a nation eight thousand miles from its shores.” (Communists with a sense of humor and irony–perhaps the most revolutionary insight of all.)

*King focused on demand development. In the end movements are unified by ideas, people, organizations and demands.  He called on the U.S. government to

* End all bombing in North and South Vietnam

* Declare a unilateral cease fire

* Curtail the U.S. build up in Thailand and Laos

* Recognize the role of The National Liberation Front in any future Vietnam government

* Remove all foreign–that is, U.S. troops from Vietnam

* Make reparations for the damage

This was tantamount to calling for immediate U.S. withdrawal from Vietnam. It recognized the victory of the National Liberation Front and argued for what would later become a critical component of Black people’s demands against the U.S. government — “reparations.”

The story of the system’s attacks on Dr. King once he spoke out against the war in Vietnam and his courage in the face of this assault is another chapter of Dr. King’s revolutionary contribution to U.S. and world history. One important version of that story is Tavis Smiley’s documentary, Death of a King: Dr. Martin Luther King’s Final Year.

Dr. King brought a powerful and frontal indictment of the system of white supremacist, racist, capitalism. He appreciated the ideas of others and worked to build a Black and multi-racial united front against what he called “racism, poverty, and militarism.” He was willing to confront “the cowardice” inside his own bosom and modeled how all of us have to put our bodies, souls and lives on the line. He rejected gradualism and demanded “Freedom Now.” He advocated non-violence but defended the right of those who disagreed with him to armed self-defense.   He rejected U.S. chauvinism, called for a militant internationalism, and challenged the U.S. Empire at home and abroad. He was independent of and yes, willing to challenge and confront the Democratic Party. He was and is a great contributor to the endless struggle for human and planetary liberation.

It is time to celebrate the Revolutionary King on the anniversary of his birthday. We thank Stevie Wonder, who spoke for all of us, when he wrote,

I just never understood
How a man who died for good
Could not have a day that would
Be set aside for his recognition Because it should never be
Just because some cannot see
The dream as clear as he
that they should make it become an illusion
And we all know everything
That he stood for time will bring
For in peace our hearts will sing
Thanks to Martin Luther King
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday to you
Happy birthday. Happy birthday to you!

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The Impeachment Trial of Donald Trump: Can He be Convicted?

Texas Congressman Joaquin Castro, a graduate of Harvard Law School, asked his colleagues: “If inciting a deadly insurrection is not enough to get a president impeached, then what is?” Ten Republicans voted for Impeachment, but 197 House Republicans disagreed. Trump incited the crowd in person on the Mall. He lied to his supporters saying, “I’ll be with you” on the march to the Capitol. Trump then refused to call the crowd back when it turned into a mob that violently stormed into the Capitol. Trump scurried back to the White House to gleefully watch on TV his “special people” rampage through the Congress with destructive intent.

Why should the GOP obeisance to Trump, the Mobster in Chief, this recidivist criminal, a violator of many provisions of the Constitution, obstructor of justice “as a daily way of life” according to his former national security advisor John Bolton, and hourly lying sociopath, surprise anyone?

Congressional Republicans have aided and abetted, for four years, Trump’s assertion that “With Article II, I can do whatever I want as president.” Dangerous Donald did just that. He finally incited a massive, homicidal street crime against the very Congress that let him get away with everything, day after day, as if there were no laws and no Constitution to be observed whatsoever.

The GOP speakers who defended Trump in the House Impeachment debate will go down in history as unsurpassed political cowards and lying bloviators, led by Trump clone, belligerent Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio. Trump’s Congressional protectors, however, failed. The House of Representatives voted for Articles of Impeachment that are on their way to the Senate for a certain trial. The Senate should convict treacherous unrepentant Trump and ban him from ever seeking federal office again.

In the days before the trial, more incriminating evidence will emerge.

Already, a GAO investigation is underway into Republican lawmakers suspected of being complicit in aiding the mob’s objective of physically overturning the results of the presidential election. Evidence of early facilitation both before and during the armed invasion is reaching investigators, including the involvement by some Capitol Police and other police officers in plain clothes.

Trump’s business allies and supporters are not waiting for any verdicts. Major corporations such as Disney, Coca-Cola, and J.P. Morgan Chase have suspended campaign contributions to the GOP. Last week, the powerful National Association of Manufacturers demanded that Trump be removed from office under the 25th Amendment. Trump’s banks, to whom he owes hundreds of millions of dollars, are distancing themselves from their insatiable borrower. New York City has canceled its contract with the Trump corporation. More cancellations of deals with TRUMP, Inc. will come.

Though verbally defiant, admitting no mistakes, and as usual taking no responsibility, Trump is a broken man, assailing his most loyal subjects including total toady Vice President Mike Pence. Deprived of his Twitter machine and other Internet platforms, Trump will soon be a besieged debtor, a manyfold investigated and sued defendant abandoned by the likes of Mitch McConnell.

The calculus of political survival for the just re-elected McConnell’s Congressional Republicans has changed. In the minority, no longer will Republicans be able to confirm corporatist judges or pass Trump-like corporate tax cuts for the super-rich, or dismantle health and safety regulations.

But out on the MAGA hustings, Trump may be a huge tormentor, raising money and wanting to run again. Such a prospect is intolerable to McConnell. That is why he is turning against Trump by declining to oppose Impeachment and signaling that he may unleash his Republican Senators to convict Trump, if only for their own political survival. The GOP polls are slipping and will slip more as the toxic stench of what occurred before and during the January 6th attack increases.

McConnell does not want Trump either to run or threaten to run again in 2024. The only way that yoke can be lifted is to free 17 or more Republican Senators to vote for conviction followed by a simple majority vote banning Trump from future federal office.

Out of office and prohibited from regaining office, Trump will be increasingly defined by his more violent, hardcore Trumpsters. Trump being Trump, will not oppose their street actions. He will want to continue to address and exhort his followers to remain a political force.

This entanglement is already underway. While Washington, D.C. is brimming with thousands of soldiers, police, and surveillance technology, the Trump militants are unfazed. They are planning more protests.

According to Pentagon officials, reported in the New York Times, “Some 16 groups – some of them saying they will be armed and most of them made up of hardline supporters of Mr. Trump – have registered to stage protests.” This cannot be good political news for the Congressional Republicans left behind after the Trump family departs the White House.

What are the probabilities that a conviction in the Senate will be achieved? Better than 50/50, given the survival instincts of the politicians wanting the felonious Trump off their backs.

As for Trump, what he has left until noon on January 20th, barring some last-gasp grotesque eruption, is the pardon power for his closest allies like Rudy Giuliani, his family, and himself. He could enlarge the range of pardons by declaring a Day of Forgiveness on January 19th with general pardons of deserving, elderly prisoners, political prisoners, and nonviolent drug offenders in the federal prisons.

However, such a vision is inconsistent with narcissism. We’ll see.


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Lessons From the 6 January Insurrection

Photograph Source: Tyler Merbler – CC BY 2.0

While the majority of Americans deplored the events at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, it was troubling to see a YouGov poll indicating that 1 in 5 voters approved of the assault. Their attitudes were buttressed by a significant number of House and Senate Republicans who have egged on the matter by continuing to call into question the legitimacy of last November’s election result. This is a sign that the rot in the American political system goes deep.

Upgrading the physical security around the country’s political institutions is of little long-term value, especially if the activities that occur within them continue to manifest ongoing dysfunction worthy of a banana republic.

Let this be our wake-up call, America’s “Beirut blast.” The bomb explosion that devastated large parts of Beirut last summer was not an isolated, unfortunate occurrence, but the profound manifestation of decades of incompetence, complacency, and corruption in the Lebanese government—an outcome of the ruling classes’ criminal neglect of essential public needs.

By the same token, the events of January 6th should be viewed as the point U.S. political dysfunction reached its breaking point. While the country still appears to remain economically powerful, it has become politically weak and socially fragile in ways characteristic of a society in decline.  The focus on the relatively small group that broke into the Capitol as a result of lax security is akin to focusing on the Beirut blast wreckage to the exclusion of all else. Far more significant are the surveys of representative samples of Americans that reveal deepening mistrust of the core institutions and a growing commitment to sectarian interests which have, in many parts of the nation, superseded commitment to the republic itself.

This sheds a different light on the events. While the spark that ignited the violent pro-Trump upheaval was the incumbent’s allegations that the November Presidential election was fraudulent, for many the assault on the Capitol was also an insurgency against the entire political class. “All these politicians work for us. We pay their salaries, we pay our taxes. And what do we get? Nothing. All of them inside are traitors”—as a member of the mob stated.

On this particular point, the grievances of the violent mob and the findings of scholars align: America is an oligarchy, not a functioning democracy, as the detailed study by Martin Gilens and Benjamin Page argued in 2014. Thus, much as this was an assault on American democracy, the storming of the Capitol was also a sign that American democracy had already failed. Surely, these clumsy “revolutionaries” did not storm the Capitol because they are living the American Dream—and they are blaming, unsurprisingly, the whole political class for their malaise.

Whenever economic explanations of this radicalization are attempted, inequality is singled out as the root of working-class discontent. Commentators from Joseph Stiglitz to Thomas Piketty or Emmaunuel Saez relentlessly hammer on one theme above all others: an economic inequality that has deep roots in the political system. A cross-party consensus is now emerging on fighting inequality through redistribution—from raising the minimum wage to increasing unemployment benefits.

One reason why inequality has attracted so much attention is that it is easily measurable. Indeed, reports of the top 1% of Americans taking $50 trillion from the bottom 90% easily appeal to our sense of injustice. However, there are studies of the white working class which reveal that despite the outrage about inequality, many in this demographic still admire the rich. Additionally, the singular focus on economic inequality obscures another phenomenon—the massive economic insecurity which is affecting broader swathes of the population beyond the ‘precariat’ (those in poorly paid and insecure jobs). While insecurity is not easy to measure and report, it is in fact at the root of the social malaise of Western societies.

Seeing economic precarity as a root cause also helps to better explain why so much of the working-class radicalization has taken a turn to the right. Right-wing populists specifically evoke language that triggers conservative instincts—the evocation of family, a desire for stability, for clinging strongly to what is familiar (“Make America Great Again”), as opposed to plunging into political experimentation with something new—with the “foreign”, to the American mind, European-style social democracy (especially when combined with “woke” issues that tend to alienate). On the other hand, many on the libertarian right champion free market fundamentalism, which fosters competitive, rather than solidaristic attitudes—especially when public goods are converted into private rents via privatization, which in turn limits access to resources that mitigate the effects of that intense competition instead of enhancing social solidarity.

Even under recent Democratic Administrations, economic recovery from the 2008 financial meltdown happened through a growth in insecure employment. The services jobs that fueled U.S. economic growth for the past 40 years—until the pandemic began to destroy them—were numerous, but of low quality. The rise of neoliberalism at the expense of the conservative-liberal divide that preceded it has enabled employers to tilt the terms of our capitalist economies heavily toward capital and away from labor, via the evisceration of unions, the deconstruction of the welfare state, and the privatization of public services. Most importantly, funding for public services and social programs has been persistently slashed. It is this impoverishment of the public commons that has increased the importance of personal wealth in securing essential goods such as healthcare and education. Thus, economic inequality matters enormously, but as a grave symptom of a broader problem—that of massive, and growing, fragility of society as a whole. The erosion of the public sector precludes access to many of the social supports that have historically buttressed economic security.

As a result, the American economy has begun to resemble a new, modern feudalism with a small technocracy dominated by Silicon Valley tech overlords and Wall Street billionaires at the top, and a large, uneducated, rapidly growing serf class at the bottom with no social safety net to protect it. . Even if the wealth gap were to be considerably reduced by transfer from rich to poor, precarity would persist because it is rooted not in inequality, but in a depleted public sector, in a public authority that has abandoned the public and increasingly become a vehicle for predatory capitalism.

The pandemic exacerbated both the inequality and the precarity. Wall Street and the stock market have boomed over the past several months, generating affluence imbued with unprecedented levels of risk. At the same time, job growth has collapsed, and unemployment remains stubbornly high. Millions of Americans have withdrawn from the labor force, their jobs likely destroyed for good as the long-term impact of the economic shutdown wreaks havoc in many industries.

That has become a literal life consequence for working people in a system that continues to introduce restrictions to curb the pandemic. It is a particularly acute paradox in the United States, where healthcare remains largely predicated to employment via employer-funded healthcare systems. So we have the makings of a vicious cycle: restrictions are introduced to slow the pandemic, which in turn creates further job losses, which in turn can mean loss of employment and, hence, loss of access to healthcare provision. The very policies designed to safeguard health, then, ultimately exacerbate the problem. Add all of these factors together, align it with a demagogue working to undermine an election result, and you get the ingredients for a very poisonous outbreak of the kind we witnessed on January 6th.

The forces that led to the evisceration of working-class security is now extending to those ensconced in historically well-paid jobs, from lawyers to IT engineers. Even in the midst of a severe recession and a rapidly accelerating pandemic, policy makers remain remarkably indifferent to these trends and the ongoing precarity. They persist in believing that what has happened is merely a disruption to a solid structure, a deviation from normality, all of which can be rectified by the right mix of policy stimulus. A growing political consensus in the United States to tackle inequality appears to be emerging (especially in the wake of the recent Georgia run-off election, which put the Senate back under the control of the Democratic Party). But no matter how equal society becomes in terms of wealth distribution, without a dramatic government investment in public services, notably education, healthcare provision, and job security, distrust and disillusionment in American institutions will persist, and with that also the rise of militancy by a radicalized underclass.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

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Time to Trash the Terrorist Watch List, a Police-State Frankenstein Gone Off the Rails

Photograph Source: Dave Newman – CC BY 2.0

I have something in common with some of the brownshirt thugs who assaulted the Capitol, some reportedly intent on kidnapping and/or killing congressional leaders and members like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Senate Minority Leader and  presumptive Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Vice President Mike Pence. 

No, I’m not a brownshirt fascist. I’m a politically leftist professional journalist, a former Business Week correspondent, winner of a 2019 “Izzy” award for Outstanding Independent Journalism, a Graduate of the Columbia Grad School of Journalism and a two-time Fulbright Scholar in Shanghai and Taiwan. 

What I have in common with some of the thugs who engaged in an act of insurrection or sedition in a violent assault on Congress on Jan. 6 that led to the deaths of five people and brought Congress to a halt and had its members holed up in safe rooms in the Capitol basement is that like reportedly dozens of these white nationalist fascists, I am and have since at least March 2019, been on the FBI’s Terrorist Watch List.

We Americans (unless we’re Muslim or have Arabic names) don’t hear much about that Watch List normally unless there’s a plane hijacking or a terror bombing, but the FBI, during a federal court case last year disclosed in the course of discovery that the list (three lists, actually including a “No Fly List” of people who are banned for boarding aircraft), established in the wake of the 9-11 attack in September 2001, currently contains over a million names. Most of these are not rightist terrorists or journalists. They are people with Muslim or Arab-sounding names, often very common names like Muhammad or Jamil, who have the misfortune of owning the same name as someone who may have committed or knows someone who, or someone who knows someone who might hang around someone who is even remotely linked to a terrorist. 

We’re learning now that according to the FBI, a number of the people who participated and perhaps led or helped organize the invasion and assault on Congress were on its Terrorist Watch List.  Some apparently were contacted at their homes by federal agents and advised not to attend the June 6 White House rally and the subsequent protest at and planned assault on the halls of Congress. Some, we’re told, took the warning and stayed away. Others ignored the visits and went anyway. Others on the list weren’t contacted and showed up to engage in insurrection and mayhem. 

That should raise some flags. If the list is supposed to be composed of people who “pose a threat of terrorism” as claimed by the FBI, then why were such people on it allowed to get even close to the Capitol building?  As for those who were visited by agents, what were they actually told?  Was it a threat that if they went they would be arrested? Was it not to bother going to the airport because they’d not be allowed to board a plane? Were they told that if they, as many did, intended to check weapons, including semi-automatic weapons, on the flights they were planning to take to DC, they would be barred from doing so?  Apparently not. 

So what is the point of this vast invasive and darkly secret (the government will not confirm if you are on the list or how your name would have been put there) program of labeling people potential or suspected terrorists? 

Let me make this clear:  I am not a terrorist. I don’t know any terrorists or anyone who knows or is in any way linked by one, two, three or more degrees of separation to some terrorist or even suspected terrorist. I have a pretty clean record. The only time I was ever arrested was in Washington DC in 1967, when I was 18 and joined the October 27 March on the Pentagon to protest the Vietnam War and ended up busted on the mall of the Pentagon, got beaten and bussed with 700 other protesters to Occoquan Federal Prison in Virginia, and after eventually getting arraigned and pleading “no contest” to the charge of misdemeanor trespass, was set free with a fine of $25 and a five-day suspended sentence.   That’s my complete rap sheet.  (Okay, five years earlier at 13, with two junior high friends I did competitively steal an item from Phil’s 5 and 10 across from the school, but I confessed when the resident state cop called my dad and he confronted me, and later tearfully returned the sable paintbrush I had hoisted to Phil, with no charges pressed.)

Yet in the spring of 2019, just three months after the Nation magazine published a cover story I wrote exposing the Pentagon for having a 20-year history of over $21 trillion dollars in accounting fraud and of stonewalling repeated Congressional mandates to develop an auditable budget, I found myself suddenly on the Terrorist Watch List.  I learned that all it takes to“qualify” for inclusion on the list is for a federal agency — any federal agency — to report one to the FBI as a terror suspect. The FBI under its own guidelines is supposed to vet what it terms those “nominations” to the list .But in the Virginia federal court case brought by the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) on behalf of Muslim victims of the list, which concluded on Sept. 5 2019 with the judge finding the Watch List unconstitutional,  the Bureau admitted that it rarely vets any of those accusations and just adds the person to the endlessly expanding list (with no notice given). 

Like most on that list, I was not put on the most “elite” No-Fly List. I know this because I was allowed to fly. I was however harassed on both flights — a March one to Vienna accompanying my early-keyboard musician wife who was performing on Austrian State Radio a concert of music by Jewish and communist composer victims of the Nazis who had been killed or fled Vienna before WWII, and one a trip with a film crew to Cambridge, UK on a documentary project about a young Manhattan Project scientist who in ’44-’45 volunteered plans for the plutonium bomb to the USSR to prevent a feared US monopoly on the bomb after the war. On both trips, I was curiously unable to get boarding passes online for either the outbound or return flights in the 24 hours before flight-time. My wife could, on the first flight, and my videographer son could on the second, but not me. I instead got a message saying I had to pick up my passes at the check-in counter at the airport. 

On the return journey from Vienna, while changing planes at London Heathrow, my boarding pass, printed at check-in at the Vienna airport, was rejected at a checkpoint between terminals, and I was instructed to get a new one printed for the transatlantic leg home. After it was printed, it was hand stamped in red ink with the words:  “ICE Security.”  Asked why, the agent told me “Your country’s Homeland Security Department has you on a watch list.”  Later, as we ate lunch in the terminal’s main lobby while waiting for our gate to be listed, my name was called out on the  terminal intercom, ordering me to go to the gate for a “special security check.”  We headed off with our carry-on bags and on reaching the gate and giving my name, I was directed down a flight of stairs to a lower deck with two daunting-looking metal surgical desks behind which stood two British security officials. I was instructed to put my bag and my computer bag with the computer and cell phone out one of the tables. These were all passed over by an electronic device, which I was told was to detect explosives. I asked why I, a 71-year-old journalist and US citizen with no criminal record, was being checked for a bomb. I was told, “We do not think you are a terrorist sir. Your government is ordering us to do this.”  He checked my hands for explosives and then told me I and my wife were free to board the plane early. 

At that point my wife, who understandably fearing I might be spirited away, had insisted on accompanying me as I was dispatched downstairs for the check, asked, “How come you’re not checking my luggage? It looks the same as my husband’s.”   

The reply was, “We weren’t asked to check you or your luggage ma’am. Just your husband’s.” 

I said, “Oh, I get it. I’m a journalist, and my government doesn’t like journalists.”  To that, the security officer responded, “I know your country has some problems, sir. Please board the plane.” 

The second flight was a similar experience. After getting to Heathrow early, forewarned by the same requirement to get my boarding pass at the check-in counter with its typically long line, I got my boarding passes printed to DC and thence onward via a local flight to Newark, and noted that the transatlantic flight pass had “SSSS” in bold letters printed on it. Asking the clerk what that meant, I was informed, “You are on a security risk list sir.”

This time it was when my son and I reached our gate that we were paged by the boarding counter airline clerk before the plane began loading.  We were told to come with our bags around behind the desk and to go through a door there, where we encountered the same scene: two steel tables and two security officials. They told me and my adopted Chinese son to put our bags on the table and to remove our electronics equipment. I said, “Hold on. I know I have to have my bags inspected because I have the four SSSS’s stamped on my pass, but my son’s pass isn’t stamped. He doesn’t need to be checked.”  To my amazement, the security official said, “Oh, your son can sit over here (he motioned to a row of chairs) and can wait for you to be checked.”  Jed walked over with his identical carry-on bag and his bag of film equipment and watched. 

On this second trip my bags simply got a perfunctory cloth wipe of their zippers, as did my computer and cell phone as well as my hands. Again I learned they were checking for explosives. I was cleared to go, but, following my wife’s example,  I couldn’t resist asking again, “How do you know my son’s suitcase doesn’t have the bomb? Why aren’t you checking his bags?”   The security official, in a worldweary voice, said, “Sir, we were only instructed to check you and your bags. We don’t think you are a terrorist. Please just board the plane.”

Clearly this Watch List thing is a bad joke, but it’s not a funny one. One of the other things revealed by the FBI at the Virginia trial  is that the entire contents of the Watch List — those unvetted million names of people — are instantly accessible to all police agencies in the US, federal, state and local. This means that if I get stopped by a cop for speeding or some minor driving issue like a missing tail light or a failure to signal a lane turn, and if that cop were to run a make on me, my name would pop of as being on the Terrorist Watch List. Suddenly a simple traffic stop could escalate dramatically into something much more frightening and perhaps fatal, even with me being white (I do have a beard!). 

The district court’s ruling is being appealed by the Trump administration to the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals, with arguments coming up later this month and a ruling expected later this year.  Meanwhile, with the help of the Ruthersford Institute, I have obtained pro bono counsel for a lawsuit of my own against my inclusion on the list. My intention is not just of getting taken off it, but to seek discovery of the reason I was placed on it, and the identity of the person and agency that “nominated” me for inclusion…which I suspect will turn out to be the Pentagon. 

My attorney, Baruch Weiss, white collar partner in the Arnold & Porter law firm in Washington, was from 2003-2006 acting general counsel and later associate general counsel of the new Department of Homeland Security, so he has a good understanding for the motivation in creating the list, and a good understanding of how it has metastasized into something quite different. We are waiting for a decision by the Fourth Circuit Court on the government’s appeal. If the district court ruling finding the list to be unconstitutional on the grounds of its having no constitutionally acceptable basis for inclusion and no constitutionally acceptable process for appealing and getting one’s name removed, we will file in federal court in Richmond. If the government is upheld, we will file my case in a federal district court in Philadelphia in the Third Circuit, hoping to get a good ruling and to have it upheld on appeal, which would tee  up a likely hearing at the US Supreme Court, which typically likes to resolve conflicting Appellate precedents. 

The lead attorney who will serve as the House’s impeachment manager in prosecuting the case of soon-to-be ex-President Trump in his Senate Trial is Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA). Coincidentally she is my congressional representative.  When I contacted her office while writing an article for the Nation magazine about my travel experience in 2019 and my discovery that I am on the Terrorist Watch List, she would not agree to be interviewed, and offered no help from her office in getting my name off that list.  When Rep. Dean is done prosecuting the case, and returns to her seat on the House Judiciary Committee, where significantly she also serves on the subcommittee on crime, terrorism and homeland security and the subcommittee on the Constitution, civil rights and civil liberties, I hope she exhibits more interest and will call for and hold hearings into this crazy, invasive, dangerous, Constitutionally fraught and apparently also useless Watch List.

Recent events on June 6 prove that the Watch List was ineffective when it came to preventing near terrorist disaster — the reportedly intended kidnapping and/or murder of top elected officials and the astonishing assault and shutdown of the US Congress along with five fatalities including a Capitol Police officer by a mob of white nationalist fascists, all invited and incited by our terrorist-in-chief (who is not on the list but should be!).  Any list that has a million names of “suspected terrorists” is a caricature of a police state run amok. Any suspect list that includes a nonviolent professional journalist with no criminal record like me on it, along with the names of hundreds of thousands of other wrongly and anonymously accused foreigners and Americans, is clearly a case of an incipient police state already gone off the rails. 

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Trump’s Failed Coup

Photograph Source: Amaury Laporte – CC BY 2.0

The attack on the Capitol on January 6, 2021 was a planned effort to overturn the legitimate results of the November 2020 presidential election – an election that saw Joe Biden receive more than 7 million popular votes and 74 electoral votes than Donald Trump. Even before the overwhelming defeat suffered by the incumbent president (exceeded only by the even greater rout by Franklin Roosevelt of President Herbert Hoover in 1932), Trump was braying about a “rigged” election. In effect, he was just reiterating the same line of argument during the run-up to the 2016 election that he lost by 3 million popular votes. For Trump and his followers not winning was a reflection of some conspiracy to rob him of a victory.

Trump and his Republican enablers refused to accept the verdict of the American people and lied constantly about the outcome, reinforced by right-wing media and social media. Attacking cities (Detroit and Philadelphia) and states (Georgia) with large Black electorates, Trump drilled the dog-whistle message that he had been denied the presidency because of “illegal” voting. This message resonated with the resentful white base that made up the vast majority of his supporters. So began the concerted legal and extra-legal appeals to challenge the votes and electors from the so-called battleground states of Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Georgia, and Arizona. (Ironically, had there been a switch of around 100,000 votes in the last four states Trump would have been re-elected even in the face of a 7 million-vote difference. Another damning indictment of the undemocratic Electoral College that actually is biased towards Republicans.)

When state and federal courts turned back these baseless allegations of “illegality,” Trump and his Republican allies sought to enact a variety of extra-legal attacks on electors. Pushing alternative elector slates in numerous states before and up to the December 14th state certification of electors, this effort also failed. This left the January 6 certification of the vote by Congress. Trying still to lobby secretaries-of-state in various battleground states, Trump wheedled and threatened even those Republican secretaries-of-state in places like Georgia before the January 6th Congressional vote to change the state outcomes.

Several things are clear from these repeated coup attempts by Trump and his supporters. First of all, they occupy a significant constituency within the Republican Party, a party that went along with Trump’s legislative initiatives, ideological rants, and even lies about the outcome of the 2020 presidential election. However, the riot at the Capitol on January 6 clearly indicted a growing split in the party between the traditionalists, like McConnell, Romney, Chaney, et. al., and the Trumpists. These traditionalists had important corporate backing, including at the level of the National Association of Manufacturers who called for Trump to resign in the aftermath of January 6. Of course, the traditionalists were not at all averse to using voter suppression in the form of booting people of color off the voting roles, requiring ID’s, etc. While using the legal and institutional levers embedded in the electoral system, such as gerrymandering, dark money, etc., they were not prepared to use naked force to overturn elections.

The Trumpist wing, following the lead of the bullying rhetoric and tactics of Trump, embraced what could only be called a vigilante network, composed of white supremacists, white nationalists, and neo-Nazis and organized by the Proud Boys, the Oath Keepers, and QAnon. It was this vigilante network, cultivated by Trump and his henchman, Eric Jr., Roger Stone, Michael Flynn, and Rudy Giuliani, that incited the insurrection that swept through the Capitol Building. There were, of course, Republican congressional representatives who aided this attack from those speaking at the rally like Mo Brooks of Alabama to those who helped put into motion the events of the day from planners of the event like Andy Biggs and Paul Gosar of Arizona to Lauren Boebert of Colorado who texted the hordes as the roamed the halls of the Capitol Building. Other political opportunists, like Senators Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley, were looking to ride the Trump train to a 2024 Republican Presidential nomination. At this point, it looks like those efforts have been de-railed.

Nevertheless, many of the rank-and-file Trumpists, especially the large contingent of evangelicals who believed all his lies about the election, were willing to mobilize to defend Trump. However, they were not among the much smaller number of several thousand who swarmed into the Capitol Building. The violence exhibited then and threatened for the days before and at the Inauguration and beyond can only be described as fascistic. The murderous intent, the glorification of violence, and the disdain for any commitment to the formal mechanisms of democracy are the hallmarks of fascism. Their primary modus operandi is rule by terror.

Of course, this vigilante violence has deep roots in the history of the United States, expressed in campaigns against Native Americans, African-Americans, immigrants, and labor radicals. For almost a hundred years from the end of the Civil War into the 1960s this vigilante violence was aligned with the Democratic Party, especially in the South where institutionalized state terror was used against Blacks who challenged the white supremacist dominant order.

The persistence of white supremacy, expressed now through the Trumpist wing of the Republican Party, is also evident in the ways in which the policing power at the federal, state, and local level is still more viciously deployed against challenges to white supremacy, most recently through the Black Lives Matter movement. The use of militarized police, wide-scale arrests, and harassment of BLM demonstrators stood in stark contrast to the treatment of the marauding mob of insurrectionists on January 6. Trump and his Administration had downplayed the terror exhibited by these white supremacists and white nationalists throughout his presidency. Instead, they identified the BLM as “thugs,’ while calling these white terrorists “good people” and gave them endorsements, such as Trump’s debate nod to the Proud Boys to “stand by.”

Trump has further encouraged this vigilante violence and intimidation at other moments in his presidency. Recall that after he tweeted to “Liberate Michigan,” on April 17, there was an armed takeover of the Michigan Capitol on April 30. A band of these proto-fascists even plotted to kidnap and execute the Governor of Michigan – Gretchen Whitmer – over a masking mandate and a limited lockdown. Refusing to apologize for his incitement then and on January 6 at the rally in front of the Capitol, Trump certainly took on the mantle of a Fuhrer whose followers were prepared to use terror to intimidate and even murder their political “enemies.”

Although the coup may have failed and this vigilante wing may have to go underground, there are still active terror networks that must be rooted out and destroyed. Driven from many of the social media platforms, there are still platforms like Parlar and Gab that circulate the poisonous rhetoric and plans of these proto-fascists. (Parlar was established in 2018 with the financial backing of Rebekah Mercer, whose father, Bob Mercer, a wealthy hedge fund manager and Trump supporter, bankrolled Cambridge Analytica, the shady consulting firm that aided Trump’s 2016 electoral victory.) Allowing such networks and their apologists in the Republican Party to operate with impunity or with limited slaps on the wrist invites further domestic terrorism and, perhaps, even more violent coup attempts.

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Why Trumpism Will Live On

Photograph Source: Fibonacci Blue – CC BY 2.0

Just a week after the U.S. Capitol was attacked by his supporters, Donald Trump has become the first president of the United States to be impeached twice. But regardless of how Trump leaves the White House — the Senate won’t act on the impeachment before Joe Biden’s inauguration on Jan. 20 — the domestic terrorism he has inspired will not end there.

Democrats in the House of Representatives — as did 10 brave Republicans, none of whom voted in favour of Trump’s first impeachment a year ago — made a compelling case for removing the president in the final days of his administration.

During Trump’s four years in office, lies, ignorance and a thirst for violence have desensitized America to the point where a right-wing mob could attack police in broad daylight, break into the U.S. Capitol and occupy the Senate chamber.

America no longer lives in the shadow of authoritarianism. It has tipped into the abyss.

The domestic terrorism of Jan. 6 will not end there. This was Trumpism in full bloom, in all its ignorance and lawlessness, proving again that fascism begins with language and ends with violence.

Trumpism is a new political formation, blending white supremacy, voter suppression, market fundamentalism and authoritarianism, and it will survive long after Trump leaves the White House.

The travesty in Washington had been building for years in the dark recesses of conspiracy theories, lies, the dark web, white rage and hatred of those its adherents consider “enemies of the people.”

The mob on Capitol Hill was reminiscent of thugs roaming the streets of Germany in the 1930s brutalizing dissenters and “others” in the deranged Nazi notion of racial and political cleansing.

Fanning the flames

Trump has fanned fascist impulses consistently through the language of violence and division, aided by right-wing media outlets such as Fox News and Breitbart.

The storming of the Capitol reaches far beyond Trump’s toxic personal politics, incompetency and corruption. Such violence —rooted in ultra-nationalism, xenophobia, white supremacy, systemic police violence and anti-immigration bigotry — has a long history in the U.S. It has lately been normalized as a right-wing populist movement, which Trump brought to the surface of American politics and has worn like a badge.

He came to power by seizing upon the fears of whites and white supremacists who imagined themselves under siege. Since then, he has deliberately energized those followers.

Trumpism refers less to a person than to a dangerous movement and social base.

As a new cultural and political construct, it merges a ruthless capitalist rationality, growing inequality and commitment to white nationalism. These forces have deep historical roots.

They have congealed under Trump into an emotionally charged, spectacularized and updated form of authoritarianism. He has merged it with the apparatus and regressive values of a cruel capitalism to undermine democratic institutions and values.

Political chasm

As an anti-democratic ethos, it has opened a political chasm in which any attempt to unify the nation appears almost impossible, creating a toxic breeding ground for violence, cruelty, exclusion and racial cleansing.

In plain view, Trump flouted, ignored and destroyed institutions of accountability. He degraded political speech. He openly used his office to enrich himself. He publicly courted dictators.

His extremist supporters, like the Proud Boys, seethe with racism. They value violence as the only remedy that can provide relief and gratification.

Trumpism is intent not only on capturing institutions of the state for personal and political gain, but also controlling language, media and popular culture as a way of emptying politics of substance and reducing it to spectacle.

Criticism has become “fake news” unworthy of serious reflection or analysis. Trumpism shreds shared values and national unity into distrust and fear. It disdainfully views the common good and democratic values as registers of weakness and resentment.

Molded in the crucible of populist, racist, and authoritarian nationalism, Trumpism produced a tsunami of repressive political, economic, and social policies.

Children caged

Children of undocumented immigrants were caged. Military forces were deployed to attack peaceful demonstrators in cities like Portland.

Trumpism pollinated politics, culture and everyday life with authoritarian impulses. Self-appointed militiamen patrolled the southern border and state governments waged wars on people of colour through voter suppression laws.

Near the end of Trump’s term, many Republicans boldly attempted to use fabricated allegations of fraud to overthrow the election.

Trumpism emerged from the wider crisis of neoliberalism, which could no longer lay claim to democratic values while accelerating wars and fostering an unprecedented degree of inequality of wealth and power.

Trumpism is more of a cult than an ideology. Trump’s egregious bungling of the COVID-19 pandemic had profoundly lethal consequences, yet his actions did little to undermine his support, especially under the moral and political blackout legitimated by a Vichy-like Republican Party.

Trumpism is a giant disinformation machine that aims to colonize culture and public consciousness by emptying them of democratic values and destroying institutions that nurture critical thought and civic courage.

Lessons of history vanish

Making use of modern cultural constructs such as Twitter and Facebook and friendly media outlets such as Fox News, Newsmax and Breitbart, his efforts married power and civic illiteracy. The public sphere has become a barrage of bomb-like daily events that obliterate the space and time for contemplating the past, while freezing the present into a fragmented display of shock. Under such circumstances, the lessons of history disappear.

The logical outcome is a rush to the comfort of strongmen who offer the swindle of fulfilment.

Trumpism defines power as immunity from the law. How else to explain the pardoning of grifters, political cronies and war criminals?

Until it is understood as a broad cultural crisis rather than simply as an economic and political crisis, Trumpism will continue to undermine the ability of individuals and institutions to think critically.

There is no democracy without an educated citizenry and no democracy can survive this glut of ignorance, fear, precarity, commercialization, concentration of power and illusion of freedom.

If Trumpism is to be resisted, America needs a new language, politics and sense of purpose.

In the aftermath of Trump’s second impeachment, Joe Biden’s administration must establish a national effort — criminal investigations, hearings, trials and public assemblies — to hold accountable those who committed crimes under the Trump regime and to educate the public.

The time has come for America to reclaim its utopian ideals of justice, compassion, freedom and equality.

This essay first appeared in The Conversation.

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Coup, Coup, Kachoo

Photograph Source: Tyler Merbler – CC BY 2.0

Contrary to the bleatings of rabid Never Trumpers, Democrat drum majors, and neurasthenic pundits, the Butthead Circus of camo wanks, Halloweening morons, and feeble-minded Q Anon dead-enders, the bumbling vandalism and imbecile thuggery at the Capitol had no resemblance whatever to an actual coup.

See Websters, Coup d’Etat: “A sudden, decisive action in politics effecting a change of government illegally or by force”.

The precise definition, likely unfamiliar to most Americans, is not a subject of confusion to our government.  Coups, it can be said, are us.  Our government runs them all the time.  They are, with unilateral and undeclared war, its favorite ‘diplomatic’ endeavor.  It was late to adopt the tactic but strove to perfect subversion and destruction of regimes beyond what was thought possible.

In our early days, invasions and occupations were all America required in its own hemisphere, long before we had deemed it necessary to manage the entire world for our Capitalists’ profit. Inspired by British and French examples, it was clear to the U.S. that killing inferior races was fine where profit justified it.  As the world then was up for rape and domination, we joined the fest in Central America, the Caribbean and Pacific Islands, while finally completing the casual extermination of our own native peoples.

After WWI, invasion of nations to steal resources fell somewhat out of favor in the world, which was awkward.  If war and murder were out, then Capitalism—a euphemism for our government—had to find an alternative.  It gambled that the next best thing to conquest was corruption, which proved to be cost effective besides, always a critical factor to us.  You just pull the Marines out of Nicaragua, Haiti, Cuba, and the Philippines, and install a dirty elite to hand you the country for a tiny cut of the gross.  It was much cheaper than murdering thousands of people.

This new kind of soft coup worked well in most places, most of the time.  You had to have a slush budget to control press and education but that was peanuts compared to garrisoning combat outfits.  Where the program hit the skids was in countries where, against all odds, a small dedicated cadre of courageous idealists somehow defied propaganda and moral pollution and resolved to die rather than whore themselves to the Gringo and his lackeys.

In Nicaragua, Sandino’s guerrillas fought their pimp United Fruit Co. government and U.S. troops to a standstill.  When we couldn’t kill or capture him, we paid to get him betrayed and murdered by the brute, Somoza, of whom Roosevelt famously said, “I know he’s a son of a bitch, but he’s our son of a bitch”.

After WWII, hopes for world peace through self-determination of nations ended the era when America could openly rape and loot weak states with no repercussions, even when hidden behind our hired slut elites.  They began being seriously menaced by their own people which interfered annoyingly with corporate cash flow.

England had ripped Iran’s oil off for decades when a proud old aristocrat pol nationalized it and ran the coward Shah out with the dithering Brits, who came whining to the flexing CIA.  Ike said go, and in a bollixed farce—the first by those hugely over-rated, ham-handed bunglers—it doled out wheelbarrows of cash, brought Mossadegh down, and set the preening, brutal Shah up as chief whore for the new majority owners, American Oil.

With ever fiercer demands for national autonomy and an end to U.S. Capitalist piracy, it was felt that, we had to put teeth in the program.  The way to get “plausible deniability”, was to train native murderers as “security forces”.  This was clear when we nearly botched a coup against popular Guatemalan Socialist, Jacobo Arbenz, for lack of a killer unit.  Threats of invasion and bribes won the army and he was ousted for our chosen dictator.  United Fruit won, and America lost face forever in Guatemala.

By the 60s it was clear that you didn’t always need a new, dirty government, you could just destabilize some states to create chaos.  In independent Congo, we bought the assassination of people’s hero, Patrice Lumumba, left power up for grabs, and hired the sick winner of the bloodbath that followed as our guy.

It got yet tougher to subvert countries in the 70s but our tactics were improving.  When Socialist Salvador Allende won election in Chile and began running it for the people, Kissinger’s CIA buckled down.  We cut off essential exports, jammed the banking system, bribed union leaders, jawboned crooked generals, and armed traitors inside.  In the end the coup went off well and our “partners” killed him.  We made our deal with General Augusto Pinochet, America’s fave dictator with the Shah for a time, as vicious a psychopath as Heinrich Himmler ever aspired to be.

That brings us to 50 years ago and rather than belabor the point by listing dozens more of our coups, some bloodier, clumsier, stupider than others, the prosecution rests.  What happened at the Capitol was a tantrum of the rabble not remotely resembling an effort to take over the country, QED.  Americans are self-absorbed, and much given to exaggeration.  And very fearful…

Well, we have much to be fearful about.  But it isn’t a Trumpian coup.  And it isn’t Russia or China.  Or Iran…  Or Communists, or Socialists, or Antifa, or Proud Boys, or BLM, or Q Anon…

What should fill you with terror, shake your soul, give you night sweats and hurt your heart, is the appalling truth that we are all  trapped in a system that cares nothing for its people or the world they inhabit, and that that people, facing looming manmade and natural catastrophe, hasn’t the courage and wisdom to save itself.


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Encircling China and Praising India: The US Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific

Photograph Source: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Christopher Farrington – Public Domain

The feeling from Rory Medcalf of the Australian National University was one of breathless wonder. “The US government,” he wrote in The Strategist, “has just classified one of its most secretive national security documents – its 2018 strategic framework for the Indo-Pacific, which was formally classified SECRET and not for release to foreign nationals.”

Washington’s errand boys and girls in Canberra tend to get excited by this sort of thing.  Rather than seeing it as a blueprint for imminent conflict with China, a more benign reading is given: how to handle “strategic rivalry with China.”  Looming in the text of the National Security Council’s US Strategic Framework for the Indo-Pacific (SFIP) is a generous doffing of the cap to Australia’s reckless, self-harming approach towards China.  As an unnamed senior US official (of course) told Axios, the Australians “were pioneers and we have to give a lot of credit to Australia.”  Australian senior intelligence advisor John Garnaut is given high praise for his guiding hand.  When war breaks out between Beijing and Washington, we know a few people to thank.

The SFIP, declassified on January 5, is very much a case of business as usual and unlikely to shift views in the forthcoming Biden presidency.  The timing of the release suggests that the Trump administration would like to box its predecessor on certain matters, notably on China.

In a statement from National Security Advisor Robert C. O’Brien, the SFIP “provided overarching strategic guidance for implementing the 2017 National Security Strategy within the world’s most populous and economically dynamic region”.  The National Security Strategy, in turn, recognised “that the most consequential challenge to the interests of the United States, and those of our allies and partners, is the growing rivalry between free and repressive visions of the future.”  Beijing is cast in the role of repressive force in “pressuring Indo-Pacific nations to subordinate their freedom and sovereignty to a ‘common destiny’ envisioned by the Chinese Communist Party.”

The imperium’s interests, according to the SFIP, must be guarded (“strategic primacy in the Indo-Pacific region”); a “liberal economic order” must be promoted while China is to be prevented “from establishing new, illiberal spheres of influence”.  North Korea is deemed of high importance in terms of whether it threatens the US and its allies, “accounting for both the acute present danger and the potential for future changes in the level and type of threat posed” by Pyongyang.  The US is also to retain “global economic leadership while promoting fair and reciprocal trade.”

One of the “top interests” of the US in the Indo-Pacific is identified in pure power terms: retaining “economic, diplomatic, and military access to the most populous region in the world and more than one-third of the global economy”.  Washington is keen to preserve “primacy in the region while protecting American core values and liberties at home.”  But there is the spoiling presence of China, aspirational superpower, and keen for its bit of geopolitical pie.  “Strategic competition between the United States and China will persist, owing to the divergent nature and goals of our political and economic systems.”

China is ever the cheeky opportunist, seeking to “circumvent international rules norms to gain an advantage.”  Beijing “aims to dissolve US alliances and partnerships in the region” exploiting “vacuums and opportunities created by these diminished bonds.”  With this in mind, US defence strategy should be “capable of, but not limited to: (1) denying China sustained air and sea dominance inside the ‘first island chain’ in conflict; (2) defending the first-island-chain nations, including Taiwan; and (3) dominating all domains outside the first island-chain.”

The document also acknowledges an untidy region of shifting power balances and increased defence spending, which will “continue to drive security competition across the Indo-Pacific”.  Japan and India are singled out for special mention in that regard.  A measure of angst is registered: “Loss of US pre-eminence in the Indo-Pacific would weaken our ability to achieve US interests globally.”

The authors of the SFIP are unashamed about the fistful of principles that will maintain US power, the sort that masquerades in popular language as the “liberal rules-based order”.  Desirable objectives include the US being the “preferred partner” of “most nations” in the region; and that these powers “uphold the principles that have enabled US and regional prosperity and stability, including sovereignty, freedom of navigation and overflight, standards of trade and investment, respect for individual rights and rule of law, and transparency in military activities.”  No wobbling will be permitted; allies will have to get in line.

India, “in cooperation with like-minded countries,” figures as a shining hope.  Its rise is deemed essential, serving as “a net provider of security and Major Defense Partner”.  What is envisaged is a strategic partnership “underpinned by a strong Indian military able to effectively collaborate with the United States and our partners in the region to address shared interests.”

For its spiky anti-China message, the nature of the economic relationship with Beijing is hard to ignore, provided it is conducted on US terms.  The strategy is, to that end, most Trumpian in character, emphasising the need to “prevent China’s industrial policies and unfair trading practices from distorting global markets and harming US competitiveness.”

In what has become a tradition of the Trump administration, the Framework document does not tally with messages from other equivalent national security assessments.  The officials of empire are not speaking with a coherent voice.  The 2019 Indo-Pacific Strategy Report by the Department of Defense, for instance, makes good mention of Russia as a “revitalized malign actor”.  (Pentagon pundits can never seem to give the bear, or their paranoia, a rest.)  Despite tardy economic growth occasioned by Western sanctions and a fall in oil prices, Moscow “continues to modernize its military and prioritize strategic capabilities – including its nuclear forces, A2/AD systems, and expanded training for long-range aviation – in an attempt to re-establish its presence in the Indo-Pacific region.”

The authors of the Framework document are, in sharp contrast, barely troubled by Moscow and, surprisingly, sober on the issue.  “Russia will remain a marginal player in the Indo-Pacific region relative to the United States, China and India.”  Abhijnan Rej of The Diplomat could not help but find this inconsistency odd.  “So Russia is a threat in a public document but not one in a classified one?”

As for India, the 2019 IPSR does much to avoid exaggeration and elevation.  “Within South Asia, we are working to operationalize our Major Defense Partnership with India, while pursuing emerging partnerships with Sri Lanka, the Maldives, Bangladesh and Nepal.”  The Pentagon notes an increase in the “scope, complexity and frequency of our military exercises” with India.  But for all that, New Delhi hardly remains a jewel of defence strategy relative to such traditional allies as South Korea and Japan.

The SFIP, in contrast, makes a bold stab at linking the goals of maintaining US regional supremacy with New Delhi’s own objectives.  This is bound to cause discomfort in the planning rooms, given Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s rhetoric on regional multipolarity.  An article of faith in Indian policy on the matter is ensuring that no single power dominates the region.  Another potential concern is the prospect that India is being thrown into the US-China scrap.

Medcalf concludes his assessment of the framework document with his own call for what promises to be future conflict.  “America,” he insists, “cannot effectively compete with China if it allows Beijing hegemony over this vast region, the economic and strategic centre of gravity in a connected world.”  The conflict mongers will be eagerly rubbing their hands.

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Dear Republicans, Was Your Deal With Trump Worth It?

When Donald Trump ran for the Republican Party’s presidential nomination in 2016, many top Republicans shunned him. Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) confidently explained how Trump was “not going to change the platform of the Republican Party, the views of the Republican Party… we’re much more likely to change him.” He even admitted, “it’s pretty obvious he doesn’t know a lot about the issues.” McConnell alluded to Trump’s racism in vague terms, saying, “I object to a whole series of things that he’s said—vehemently object to them. I think all of that needs to stop… these attacks on various ethnic groups in the country.”

But as soon as Trump won the Electoral College and was declared the winner of the 2016 race, McConnell set to work to ensure he could make full use of the newly elected president regardless of Trump’s continued spouting off of dangerous lies and hateful claims. The Senate majority leader was happy to see the seating of ultra-conservative Supreme Court justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and most recently Amy Coney Barrett. He went on an unprecedented spree to remake the federal judiciary into one that is dominated by white conservative men, young enough to reshape legal decisions for a generation. He pushed through a massive tax reform bill that disproportionately benefits the wealthy, allowing almost no room for debate over it. He ensured the Senate turned into a “legislative graveyard,” refusing to even consider hundreds of bills passed by the House of Representatives, thereby ensuring that most policy changes during the past four years were shaped by the president’s executive action.

Three years into Trump’s term, McConnell still had not had enough, relishing the power that his position in the Senate gave him to enact his conservative agenda. When the House impeached Trump in late 2019 over a clear case of corruption and abuse of power, McConnell led the 2020 Senate acquittal of Donald Trump. It matters little whether McConnell admits Trump is unfit for office a mere handful of days before the president’s term ends. He used Trump for four years, subjecting the nation to a mad, would-be-dictator, unhinged and unrepentant in his relentless abuses. Senator McConnell owes the nation an explanation. Was it worth it?

Although he is the highest-ranking elected official to enable Trump, McConnell is hardly alone among his Republican colleagues to have engaged in a deal with the devil. The transformation of Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) from Trump critic to sycophant is even more dramatic.

In 2016 Cruz criticized Trump more than any of his fellow lawmakers, calling Trump “a narcissist at a level I don’t think this country’s ever seen” and accurately saying Trump is “a pathological liar.” He adeptly explained, “he doesn’t know the difference between truth and lies… in a pattern that is straight out of a psychology textbook, he accuses everyone of lying.” It was a stunning piece of foresight into the next four years of Trumpism. Cruz went further, saying, “Whatever lie he’s telling, at that minute he believes it… the man is utterly amoral… Donald is a bully… bullies don’t come from strength; they come from weakness.”

Similar words were uttered often during the past four years—by Democrats, liberals, progressives, and the tiny handful of Trump’s Republican critics. But once Trump held office, like McConnell, Senator Cruz saw fit to make use of the “amoral” president to suit his agenda, transforming himself into one of Trump’s most ardent Senate loyalists. Seemingly forgetting his scathing and accurate critiques of Trump, Cruz became a MAGA-cheerleader, saying, “President Trump is doing what he was elected to do: disrupt the status quo… That scares the heck out of those who have controlled Washington for decades, but for millions of Americans, their confusion is great fun to watch.” In return for his allegiance, Trump campaigned for Cruz in Texas during a tenuous Senate reelection battle, and Cruz returned the favor by defending him vehemently during Trump’s first Senate impeachment trial.

Most recently, Cruz led the push to object to the 2020 election results. He repeatedly echoed Trump’s demand to “stop the steal,” a slogan that became a rallying cry at the Capitol riot in Washington, D.C., on January 6 that left at least five people dead. Now Cruz faces accusations alongside Trump of fomenting an attempted coup and encouraging the violent rioters. His aides are abandoning him, and the chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security has recommended that he be placed on the FBI’s “no-fly” list. Like McConnell, Cruz owes the nation an explanation for his backing of a destructive demagogue who has left the nation and its democratic institutions battered and reeling. Has it all been worth it for the Texas senator?

Over the past two decades, Republicans have developed a well-deserved reputation for fighting by any means necessary in order to advance their agenda. They have abandoned norms, traditions and ethical standards. They have successfully retained power by rigging the rules governing elections and laid the groundwork of baseless assertions of “voter fraud” that Trump then built upon to claim he won the 2020 race. They have led a cultural shift convincing many Americans that popular progressive policies are the dangerous ideas of the “radical left,” and spawned media outlets that deliver lies and propaganda to an unsuspecting base of voters.

After the Capitol riot, an unnamed senior Trump official appeared shell-shocked, saying to a reporter, “This is confirmation of so much that everyone has said for years now—things that a lot of us thought were hyperbolic. We’d say, ‘Trump’s not a fascist,’ or ‘He’s not a wannabe dictator.’ Now, it’s like, ‘Well, what do you even say in response to that now?’”

But this late-breaking realization that many Republicans are expressing publicly or feeling privately is not enough to absolve the dirty deal that they made with Trump to further their agenda. The GOP and Trump deserve one another and have maintained a symbiotic relationship that has devastated the nation. Whether leading GOP figures like McConnell try to distance themselves from Trump at this late-breaking hour, or like Cruz, remain loyal to him until the very end, is irrelevant. The party has lost credibility and is lying in a bed of its own making. They have edged us far too close to the abyss of Hitlerism, and like political parties in other nations that have flirted with or enabled fascism, Republicans need to answer for what they have done.

This article was produced by Economy for All, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

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An Ordinary German Neo-Nazi

In 2017, a new German political party semi Neo-Nazi called AfD – Alternative for Germany – swept into Germany’s federal parliament winning 12.6% of the popular vote. By the end of 2020, the AfD entered all sixteen state parliaments, even though its support declined to 9% in recent months. Among the state legislatures in which the AfD has made its presence felt is Berlin’s parliament.

Beating the candidate of the progressive left by just 1%, the AfD candidate – Kay Nerstheimer – Kay Nerstheimer (b. 1964) became a parliamentarian in Berlin. Nerstheimer departed from Germany’s semi Neo-Nazi party to join the real Neo-Nazi part, the NPD or National Democratic Party. Over the last few years, many commentators have seen the Alternativ fur Deutschland soft-image AfD as the natural successor to the hard core Neo-Nazis of the NPD.

Since the electoral successes of the AfD, the NPD had sunk further into insignificance, and there has been a marked movement of party apparatchiks, supporters and voters from the NPD to the AfD. As a result, the NPD rarely attracts attention. It did so when it had to face the prospect of disappearing altogether in 2016. Twice the NPD managed to avoid this largely because of the incompetency of Germany’s secret police.

Until the arrival of the AfD, right-wing extremists played an insignificant role in Berlin’s parliament. Over the past few years, however, the rise of the far right AfD left even less room for more openly Neo-Nazi parties, like the NPD, to operate. With Nerstheimer’s move from the AfD (Nazism by stealth) to the NPD (open Nazism), the NPD proudly broadcasts its success on all available social media– Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc. It claims, The NPD is in the state parliament.

This happened only because one current member of Berlin’s state parliament and former AfD politician, Kay Nerstheimer, switched his allegiance. By November 2020, the NPD was already introducing Nerstheimer as a new member of their party, and releasing a video that showed Nerstheimer and NPD-Führer Udo Voigt cosying up to one another– the face of fascism. On his own part, though, Nerstheimer claims that he had been a member of the AfD from the beginning. Perhaps a reminder of Hitler’s alte Kämpfer, the so-called old fighters who had joined Hitler’s Nazi party before Hitler was made Reichs-chancellor in 1933.

Indeed, Nerstheimer’s AfD membership card shows his joining date as March 2013. In the good old early days of the AfD, Nerstheimer had been a co-founder of a local platoon in the Berlin electorate of Lichtenberg. Yet in August 2013, Nerstheimer had briefly left the AfD after attempts had been made to exclude him from the party.

Since the opening days of Adolf Hitler, Germany’s right-wing extremists have always rejected the hated “system” – a Nazi code word for democracy. Notwithstanding, Nerstheimer’s hallucination that the AfD had become part of the democratic system might be the real reason for his departure from the AfD. In fact, Nerstheimer said in a recent talk; AfD is slowly becoming a system party like any other party. Thus he himself has not changed politically, but the AfD has. The marriage of convenience made in Hell between the two would-be Nazi parties may therefore be more a shambles than a love-match.

The Center for Political Beauty is one of the many German progressive organisations watching the activitiesd of the right-wing and, not least, the AfD. Perhaps the Center’s most famous act has been to place a small version of Germany’s Holocaust memorial in front of the AfD’s leader’s home after Björn Höcke suggested that Berlin’s Holocaust memorial is shameful. As intended, the symbolic act annoyed Mr Höcke immensely.

The Centre is arguing that Nerstheimer could be the next far right state leader Andreas Kalbitz. Andreas Kalbitz, a local AfD Führer with a very strong and rather long far-right and Neo-Nazi career until his all too obvious Neo-Nazi past caught up with him, was forced out of his own party. This was done largely to improve the PR image of the AfD. Kalbitz. By 2020, Kalbitz was no longer able to deny his own record. After much internal quarrelling and a sustained campaign by Germany’s liberal media, this petty would-be Fuhrer was kicked out of the AfD by the party’s executive committee. The pressure to pretend not to be a crypto Neo-Nazi party has grown ever since the Germany media secret service began taking an interest in the machinations of AfD.

At the beginning of last year, there were early signs of a rapprochement between local AfD-strongman Nerstheimer and the Neo-Nazi NPD. In January 2020, Nerstheimer attended a beer-hall-like meeting of right-wing extremists at Berlin’s Gendarmenmarkt. The gathering was touted as an innocent Tuesday Talk. Along with the head of Berlin’s NPD squad came Baden-Württemberg state parliament member Wolfgang Gedeon. For a long time, Gedeon has been the most outspoken anti-Semitic leader of the AfD. Eventually, in March 2020. he too was expelled from the AfD. It came as part of a pretend cleaning up of a handful of big names so as to present the AfD as Nazi-rein (clean) and respectable to bourgeois party.

Because of his history of affiliation with Neo-Nazism, his NPD connections, and his blatant antisemitism, Nerstheimer’s departure is a loss for the AfD. Men like him can capture Germany’s still existing Nazi underbelly ambiguous right-of-centre middle during upcoming elections. More importantly, Nerstheimer had already won a mandate for the AfD in the local district of Lichtenberg with 26% of the popular vote. Despite that, he soon fell into disgrace. Slowly his unsavoury past has come to light. Nerstheimer had belonged to the xenophobic and far-right German Defence League. And he planned to set up a right-wing militia. Unable to play normal politics by holding his tongue, he abused homosexuals, migrants and refugees, thus preventing him and his party from occupying any centre grounds.

As the AfD is facing a marked decline in public support, it has taken an increasing interested in presenting itself as a democratic party. As a consequence, Nerstheimer and his ilk became a bit of a PR problem. The party chiefs simply did not want to spoil its carefully choreographed public relations image of being seen as a normal party that participates in the democratic process. An obvious AfD-NPD link was not something the AfD wanted. Being put under enormous party-internal pressure, Nerstheimer finally made his move; yet it was not the one that would win him or his fellow right-wing popular support. When he renounced his AfD membership he seemed to the outside world as having done so on his own initiative.

Unlike Nerstheimer, the ideological off-sider and Neo-Nazi bully-boy Kalbitz, one of the AfD’s key representatives of its now “officially” purged outspoken Neo-Nazi grouping inside the AfD, Since his break with his old warrior friends, Nerstheimer has not played much of an official role in the AfD. Without a powerful internal group to back him, Nerstheimer is dead wood. Yet Neo-Nazi Nerstheimer, when he announced his switch to the extreme right, was welcomed to his true home: the ultra-nationalistic NPD.

Another celebrated the defector even before Nerstheimer’s shift to the right was officially announced, NPD-Führer Udo Voigt is now hoping that the much publicized move will send a signal implying that the real home of German Neo-Nazism is the NPD – not the AfD. Voigt announced, The people in the AfD must have a future. This can mean two things: firstly, when Voigt uses the word Volk, he refers to the Volksgemeinschaft, that is, Hitler’s l’idée fixe of an antisemitic and race-based nation. Secondly, NPD boss Voigt wanted to attract the most extreme right inside the AfD to switch to the true home of German Neo-Nazism, his NPD.

Protecting the AfD from such ideological incursions, Berlin’s AfD treasurer Frank-Christian Hansel was eager to rejected the NPD’s foray by saying, There is no signal. Visibly rattled by Nerstheimer’s defection and the NPD’s self-backslapping attitude, Hansel might be correct. There has been no clear signal for a mass defection from the AfD (12.6% in 2017) to the miniscule NPD (0.4%). In this game size matters. The NPD has never had the drawing power.

The NPD was and remains a fringe party. With a nice sounding name “alternative” and plenty of backing from Germany’s right-wing tabloid media, the AfD has become Germany’s apparently legitimate party on the right, third third largest party behind Merkel’s conservative CDU and the social-democratic SPD. For most party apparatchiks inside the AfD – some of whom indeed had moved from the NPD to the AfD – a return to the minuscule NPD simply does not make sense politically, even though it make sense in terms of ideology.

The defection of a 56-year old bricklayer, cook and security guard who was convicted of hate crimes does not present a serious challenge for the AfD. Nonetheless, in November 2020 Nerstheimer made headlines in the German press when one of Germany’s best newspapers – Die Tageszeitung – proclaimed, Officially Nerstheimer is a Nazi.

Other than that, Nerstheimer, over the past four years while sitting in Berlin’s parliament, has not attracted much attention in the media. Neo-Nazi Nerstheimer attended parliamentary sessions in a nice business suit and made only a few crude speeches. Nerstheimer sat rather quietly in the far corner of parliament starring into his laptop, while collecting a state salary. Nobody knows what was he was actually doing, if anything at all.

Some suspect Nerstheimer was just doing online shopping. He apparently spends a lot of time doing just that. With next to no interest in democracy or parliamentarian affairs, Nerstheimer clicked on bargain hunting websites, ordered numerous articles and wrote dozens of opinion-strong product reviews on Amazon. Nerstheimer is using democracy. Perhaps it is a bit like Hitler’s propaganda minister Josef Goebbels who once said,

[It] will always remain one of the best jokes of democracy, that it gave its deadly enemies the means by which it was destroyed.

All of that wouldn’t really matter much if Nerstheimer hadn’t been convicted of hate speech. Nerstheimer may look like a bumbling fool, but he is also a right-wing extremist who likes weapons and everything that has to do with violence and brutality. In one incident, Nerstheimer ordered a holster with magazine bag for right-handers for €23.99. Nerstheimer’s purchase was verified by Amazon. On Amazon, Nerstheimer wrote, It fits my needs exactly and the second magazine will be used with my nice and handy pistol CZ 75 B, the second magazine will also be used with my nice and handy pistol. Like their predecessors, Germany’s Neo-Nazi are armed—and mad!

On the very same day, Nerstheimer also rated an US Army bag for €33.90 saying It is large enough for my MP 40. The MP 40 was the submachine gun of Hitler’s Wehrmacht. If Nerstheimer should actually own one, it is likely to fall under Germany’s weapons control act making his possession illegal. Meanwhile, Nerstheimer still dreams of the Wehrmacht. He finds no German guilt for the Second World War and he fetishizes model-making warships. Nerstheimer also poses on a Facebook with a remote-controlled tank.

Finally, Neo-Nazi Nerstheimer finds war movies in which Nazis aren’t heroes particularly bad. On Quentin Tarantino’s masterpiece Inglourious Basterds Inglourious Basterds featuring several German stars Daniel Brühl and Til Scheiger as well as US superstar Brad Pitt, Nerstheimer commented, Every German should throw the movie into the trash can! Perhaps it is time to toss him and his kind into the rubbish bin of history. Watch it again.


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Peace in Nagorno-Karabakh Remains Fragile, With Key Issues Unresolved

As Armenia ends its annual two-week holiday period, the mood in the country is sombre. The former Soviet state is continuing to reckon with its losses from the six-week war it waged last year with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Nagorno-Karabakh region, or Artsakh to Armenians, lies within Azerbaijan’s international border. However, up until last year, when Azerbaijan took control of most of the region by force, Nagorno-Karabakh had been ruled by an ethnic Armenian government.

Last year’s fighting was the most recent outbreak of violence in a conflict that has simmered for decades between Armenia and neighbouring Azerbaijan. The six weeks of fighting between the two countries largely ended in November 2020 with a peace deal brokered by Moscow that resulted in 2,000 Russian troops being deployed to the region as peacekeepers.

Azerbaijan, equipped with sophisticated arms and drones from Turkey, succeeded in taking control of the majority of Nagorno-Karabakh. In total, almost 6,000 people died in the conflict, with thousands of ethnic Armenians displaced from their homes.

The Aftermath

On the road from the Armenian border to Stepanakert, the de facto capital of Karabakh, signs of the war that had been waged only two months before remain. There are bombed-out cars, a bridge with a crater where a bomb fell and several road checks manned by young Russian troops quizzing drivers on their plans.

As you drive into Stepanakert a sign for the historic town of Shusha has been conspicuously installed on a hill on the Azeri side of the border. The letters of Shusha are displayed in the bright blue, green and red of Azerbaijan’s national flag. The sign seems designed to taunt the Armenians who previously controlled the town before it was seized by Azerbaijan during the fighting.

The military cemetery on the outskirts of the city has a new section for the mostly young soldiers who died in the conflict. The youngest who died in the fighting were eighteen, with 2002-2020 engraved on their tombstones.

By the main government building in Stepanakert is a mural for of the Armenian soldiers who are still being held by Azerbaijan as prisoners of war. On top of faces of the soldiers, the mural says: “Russia help us bring back our soldiers”.

The city’s hospital, police station and food market, as well as many homes, were damaged in airstrikes from Azerbaijan.

Sarskin Samrel (60) recounts how on the 6th October at 10 pm, his house on Martuni Street, one of the oldest streets in Stepanakert, was destroyed by heavy shelling from Azeri forces.

The house had been built in 1889 by Sarskin’s great grandfather. Nine generations had lived in the house and a new extension had just been built for Sarskin’s son before the war broke out in September.

When I spoke with the family, they were clearing out what remained of the contents of their home. The badly damaged house is to be demolished and a new one erected in its place.

On the other side of Stepanakert, Yura Verdyan (63) was cutting plywood to cover up the broken windows in the apartment building his family lives in. This is Yura’s second time repairing the building which was also badly damaged during the first Nagorno-Karabakh war.

Russia’s diplomatic coup

Among locals, there are varying views of Russia and its involvement in the region.

Some are happy and speak of Armenia as “Russia’s little brother”; they have even suggested that Nagorno-Karabakh might become part of Russia in the future. Others are indifferent: whether the peacekeepers came from Russia, Europe or America, it didn’t matter, so long as the fighting stopped.

Sevana (30), a musician who ran workshops for children during the fighting, fears that Nagorno-Karabakh will lose its Armenian heritage and become a colony of Russia, if the Russian troops remain long term.

Samrel, whose house was destroyed by Azeri shelling is pragmatic: “it’s neither good nor bad that Russia is here, but Russia is here for Russia, not for us.”

Russian success

And Russia is widely seen as a winner in the conflict. The former Soviet power has established a military presence in Azerbaijan, increased its control of the Southern Caucasus and prevented Turkey, who backed Azerbaijan in the conflict, from gaining a foothold in the area.

Edmon Marukian, the leader of the Bright Armenian opposition party in Armenia’s parliament, has even suggested that Russia should establish a second military base in Armenia. Such a move would represent a shift in foreign policy for Armenia, which had been seen as more closely aligned with the West than Russia in recent years.

Last Monday in Moscow, President Putin continued in his new role as peacemaker by hosting peace talks between Armenian Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, and President of Azerbaijan, Ilham Aliyev.

The talks were frosty and highlighted the many unresolved issues that remain between the two former Soviet states including the return of refugees and prisoners of war, humanitarian issues, the preservation of cultural sites, and the final border of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Anna Ohanyan, a scholar at the Carnegie Centre has highlighted concerns that President Aliyev lacks a strong incentive to agree to a lasting peace deal with Armenia. The conflict has allowed Aliyev to further consolidate his power within Azerbaijan, while the country’s military success provided a convenient distraction to other domestic problems.

Human rights NGO, Amnesty International, has also documented war crimes committed by both Armenian and Azeri forces during the conflict. Amnesty International’s Research Director for Eastern Europe and Central Asia, Denis Krivosheev has said that “during the recent Nagorno-Karabakh fighting, members of the military on both sides have behaved horrendously, displaying a complete disregard for the rules of war.”

So far, these abuses remain largely unaddressed, although Azerbaijan has charged some of its soldiers with desecration of dead bodies and vandalism.

Until these issues are resolved and a genuine agreement is negotiated in good faith between Azerbaijan and Armenia, the peace between the two neighbouring countries will remain fragile for the foreseeable future.

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Lynching Political Correctness

I still see the noose in front of the capitol building, dangling oh so metaphorically.

“No matter how all this plays out, it’s only the beginning,” wrote a user on The Donald message board, according to the Associated Press.

Actually, it’s anything but the beginning — though I get what the writer means, that there’s more to come. All 50 state capitals are now in the crosshairs of the armed protest movement, apparently, not to mention, once again, the national capitol, where Joe Biden is scheduled to be inaugurated on Jan. 20.

Indeed, Huffington Post reports that Capitol Police briefed congressional Democrats this week on three “potentially gruesome demonstrations planned in the coming days,” which could include assassination attempts, and among other things suggested that on inauguration day all representatives and senators be put through metal detectors before they’re allowed to enter the halls of Congress, just to make sure they aren’t armed. Some of them are . . . uh . . . “in league with the insurrectionists.”

As one lawmaker explained to Huffington Post: “You can’t just let them bypass security and walk right up to Biden and Harris at inauguration.”

Thanks to Donald Trump, a national return to some sort of centrist “normal” is now impossible. Lots of people believe a civil war is already underway and they’re excited as hell about it. Political Correctness meets Jim Crow — finally!

The “rigged election” craziness Trump and his minions have pushed to justify their armed insurrection is reality-based to the true believers, at least in one sense. You wanna know how the election was rigged? People of color — lots of them — voted! They swayed the damn election. If Jim Crow (code name: MAGA) were still the law, the orange-haired guy would have his second term and then some.

The noose, the Confederate flag, the poisoned American flag, the guy in the Camp Auschwitz sweatshirt, T-shirts proclaiming 6MWNE (6 million were not enough) . . . stir these obscenities in with the Second Amendment and what you have is Hell, also known as the good old days. American racism is anything but superficial.

Its language and manifestation may change, but make no mistake: It never goes away. “Whites only” restrooms morph into the prison-industrial complex. And we always have our wars to wage, our enemies to dehumanize. White supremacy will never be defeated, but I’m certain it can be transcended, both personally and collectively, and the time to do so is now. But this can only happen if we stare unblinkingly at our national history.

As a starting place I recommend browsing through Without Sanctuary, a.k.a., the coffee table book from hell, a collection of lynch mob photographs and postcards from the first four decades of the 20th century, compiled by James Allen, which came out in 2000. It’s truly unbelievable and well beyond horrifying, but indispensable in helping one understand the depth of collective rage in the human soul, making the United States of America the equivalent of an active volcano. One of these days it will erupt — again.

I wrote about the book at the time:

July 19, 1935. Rubin Stacy, lynched in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Stacy, a homeless black tenant farmer, had asked a white woman for food, frightening her. Mob justice converted this to the capital offense of rape.

In the photo, the dead man’s pain is palpable. He hangs from a scrub pine in ghastly, almost prayerful repose. The noose around his neck cuts a deep gouge, pulling the flesh taut to the jaw line. The onlookers are mostly women and little girls. The other central figure in the picture is one of the latter, maybe 9, sweet-faced, in a sleeveless, wide-collared dress you could imagine her wearing to Sunday School. She stares almost beatifically at the dangling corpse.

Raw, racist violence, for much of the country’s history — and well beyond the Civil War (that earlier one, which started in 1861) — existed front and center, without shame. It was as American as apple pie.

And sometimes, when necessary, elected governments were overthrown. Consider the Wilmington. N.C., massacre of 1898, when a white mob torched much of the city and overthrew a racially integrated government that had been made possible in the brief era of Reconstruction, when black people could vote. By some accounts, as many as 300 of them were killed in the insurrection, led by former congressman Alfred Waddell, who had produced a “White Declaration of Independence” that declared: “We will no longer be ruled, and will never again be ruled by men of African origin.”

Waddell led a mob of 2,000 armed white men, who burned the building housing the black-owned newspaper, the Daily Record, to the ground, stormed into black neighborhoods with rifles and a Gatling gun, and eventually took over the city government.

“As bullets were still flying,” according to the Zinn Education Project, “Waddell threw out the democratically-elected aldermen and installed his own,” who quickly named him mayor. “This was nothing less than a coup d’état.”

A century-plus later, is another coup in the making? How many secret, and not-so-secret, adherents does a possible coup have within the nation’s political and defense infrastructure? Are we in a state of national emergency?

And how do we become a different country?

This question hasn’t had such urgency in a long time.

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Misusing King’s Message

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was profoundly moved by injustice and inequality ubiquitous throughout the US. The question he asked about injustice in 1967, “Where do we go from here?” was answered with two options: community or chaos. The question is profoundly important in 2021.

On the holiday to celebrate King’s birth the whitewashing of his message has become an annual tradition. While Donald Trump will no longer be able to tweet a favorite quote (since his account has been permanently banned due to inciting violence, insurrection, and his constant disinformation) many of his enablers will. Leading Republicans who have not condemned the racist rhetoric need to leave MLK out of their platitudes and pronouncements. Any politician supporting caging children cannot quote King with any shred of integrity.

House minority leader Kevin McCarthy has stood by Trump’s side, and defended remarks dehumanizing refugees from Latin American violence as “animals.” He was silent when Trump called the entire continent of Africa “sh_thole countries.” He was complicit in the big lie that the election was stolen, and he voted to disenfranchise millions of people from their lawful votes. But when the violence actually came to him, on January 6, it was not those people of color. And it was not from the dreaded left.

Indeed, when Trump predictably lied and told McCarthy that the insurrection was “antifa,” that was a whopper too far, and McCarthy fired back, “It’s MAGA. I know. I was there.”

We are waiting, however, for most Republicans to exhibit enough conscience and remorse for their failure to remove Trump at his first impeachment, which would have disabled his abilities to commit further high crimes and misdemeanors as president. These Republicans need to speak out forcefully against the MAGA hate before they can quote King. For them, this holiday should be akin to Yom Kippur for Jews, when they are supposed to forgive others, reflect on their faults and misdeeds, vow to be better people, repent, atone, and seek forgiveness.

King’s message left no room for the violence of white-nationalists and their genocidal messages. If you want to honor King, you condemn messages like “six-million-wasn’t-enough.” This is the ideological hatred that accompanied the Trump-inspired attempted self-coup of 1/6.

In 2021 figuring out where we go requires honesty, which has been in short supply during Trump’s term—he’s given us more than 30,000 proven lies in his time in the White House.

Why did anyone vote for a border wall that everyone knew Mexico would never pay for? Trump’s lie was nothing more than a racist symbol, like a burning cross in King’s yard.

Republicans are not the only ones to speak out of both sides of their mouths, but they could not be more hypocritical in their statements on inequality and injustice. The cowardly support of the last four years of racist legislating (and lack of it) is antithetical to the love King preached.

Elected officials are at the line of scrimmage and in honor of Dr. King it is time. Will it be difficult? Of course, deep change always is, and Dr. King said it best, “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

It is simply disgraceful when politicians who have done nothing in their entire careers to advance Black rights or equality provide such empty lip service. But it is truly deplorable—yes deplorable—when those who’ve maintained policies promoting racial disparities cynically draw on the greatness that Dr. King gave us.

King defended the people—the poor—they cause to suffer. King defended equal pay; McCarthy attacks it. King defended equal access; McConnell obstructs it. King pursued freedom for all; Trump championed symbols of slavery.

King said: “True compassion is more than flinging a coin to the beggar. It comes to see that an edifice which produces beggars needs restructuring.” The gap between rich and poor grew significantly under Trump. Millions of Americans became food-insecure during the Republican mismanagement of the coronavirus. The stock market has hit all time highs on days with record deaths of coronavirus.

If we choose community over chaos, King observed that, “Our only hope today lies in our ability to recapture the revolutionary spirit and go out into a sometimes hostile world declaring eternal hostility to poverty, racism, and militarism.”

Quite frankly, I don’t want to see another King quote until these politicians promise to work for “a promised land” like Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned, and start working for the Poor People’s Campaign, uniting poor Whites, Blacks, Natives, Latinx and many others in desperate need.

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The New No Fly List: More Dangerous than the Capitol Rioters

As I write this, the Capitol Hill riot of January 6 is enjoying its extended 15 minutes of fame, complete with straight-faced comparisons to December 7, 1941 and September 11, 2001.

In hindsight, it will hopefully (and hopefully quickly) shrink to its real-life proportions: A few thousand hysterical Donald Trump supporters, and likely at most a few dozen truly dangerous thugs, protested against what they claimed was a stolen election. Then they stormed and vandalized a building, scared some politicians, and killed a cop (who turned out to be a Trump supporter himself).

No, it wasn’t pretty. Neither was the March 1, 1954 attack on the Capitol in which Puerto Rican nationalists shot and wounded five members of Congress, or Frank Eugene Corder’s September 12, 1994 suicide by plane on the White House’s south lawn. Last time I checked, those dates were no more occasions of somber remembrance than January 6 is likely to become. In the grand scheme of things, they were all teapot tempests.

The real and lasting damage of the Capitol riot will come not from the riot itself but from its exploitation by authoritarians of all stripes. The Rahm Emanuel strategy — “never allow a good crisis to go to waste when it’s an opportunity to do things that you had never considered, or that you didn’t think were possible” — is in full play, in the form of “let’s stack new evil ideas on top of existing evil ideas.”

One such new evil idea, advocated by politicians on both sides of the partisan aisle, is adding those accused of participating in the Capitol riot to the Terrorist Screening Center’s “No Fly List.”

The No Fly List was sold as a way of protecting US air traffic from terrorist attack by barring suspected terrorists from flying. In reality, it’s just a secret government enemies list that’s grown from 16 names to tens of thousands since the 9/11 attacks.

You have no way of knowing if you’re on the list until and unless you’re prevented from boarding a plane. You have no way of finding out WHY you’re on the list even then. You can politely ask the US Department of Homeland Security to remove you from the list, and they can politely tell you no. If you have the means, you can go to court, maybe win, maybe lose. The US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia ruled the list unconstitutional in 2019, but the list is still there.

One previous item from the Bag of Stupid No Fly List Tricks was barring those on the No Fly List from purchasing firearms.  Fortunately that scheme has repeatedly failed (despite support from, among others, Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, and pseudo-Libertarian 2016 vice-presidential candidate William Weld). It was a bad idea. So is this one.

The power to prevent a person from traveling without even charging, let alone convicting, that person of a crime (or even notifying the victim!) isn’t a power we should have even considered letting government have at all.  Rather than allow its expansion, it’s time to demand its abolition.

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After MLK, Unlearning Hate

Based upon events over the last couple of weeks, it is clear we need a “federal re-education program” of “anti-hate”, especially for those many arrested after the Capitol riot.

Why should the country be held hostage to white supremacy? Moreover, the behavior of President Donald J. Trump after the 2020 presidential election has been appalling and has played into the narrative of white hegemony.

Every year around this time, the third Monday in January, many try to reflect upon the example of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and what he meant to the nation. This year is different though. In a presidential election year, and a year when one party is taking power from another, in this case, Democrats from Republicans, the transition has not been peaceful, and far from it.

We all watched Trumpites and Trump-apparatchiks overrun the Capitol in their moronic mob stupidity—breaking windows, damaging property, and taking selfie-photos in the Hall of Statues, placing MAGA hats on statues of dead statesmen, and generally showing every disregard possible. Later, we learned a police officer was beaten to death. Later, we learned some Capitol policemen were also taking selfie-photos with the rioters. Later, we learned the mob chanted: “Hang Mike Pence, hang Mike Pence, hang Mike Pence!”—about the Vice President. Later, we learned the mob wanted to kidnap the House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Later, we learned the mob wanted to assassinate and hurt members of Congress. All of this violent nonsense was at the urging of President Donald J. Trump, who only a short time before gave a volatile speech to this riotous mob.

In his own words, President Trump bellowed the following at a crowd of his devoted cultists at his “Save America Rally” near the Whitehouse—to the very same lunatics who would try to destroy the Capitol and attempt to murder Congressmen.

President Trump’s words are important because he was pushing a false narrative with unsubstantiated claims about the 2020 presidential election being rigged. His words whipped up his supporters into an angry frenzy and likewise emboldened them to take over the Capitol when the electoral votes were to be certified on January 6th by a joint session of the U.S. Congress. As President Trump averred: “…They rigged an election. They rigged it like they’ve never rigged an election before… All of us here today do not want to see our election victory stolen by emboldened radical left Democrats, which is what they’re doing and stolen by the fake news media…We will never give up. We will never concede…You don’t concede when there’s theft involved. Our country has had enough…”

Here Trump iterated why he thought an insurrection was necessary to overturn the election results in calling on the Senate President, Vice-President, Mike Pence to send the election results back to the states: “We won this election, and we won it by a landslide. This was not a close election…I hope Mike [Pence, Vice-President] is going to do the right thing. I hope so. I hope so because if Mike Pence does the right thing, we win the election…All Vice-President Pence has to do is send it back to the States to recertify, and we become president…We’re gathered together in the heart of our nation’s Capitol for one very, very basic and simple reason, to save our democracy… But this year using the pretext of the China virus [COVID-19] and the scam of mail-in ballots, Democrats attempted the most brazen and outrageous election theft. There’s never been anything like this…After this, we’re going to walk down and I’ll be there with you…We’re going to walk down to the Capitol, and we’re going to cheer on our brave senators, and congressmen and women. We’re probably not going to be cheering so much for some of them because you’ll never take back our country with weakness. You have to show strength, and you have to be strong.” It is obvious from these words, President Trump absolutely called for an insurrection and a coup d’état.

President Trump continued his unlawful rhetoric, which was treasonous for inciting the mob to act: “We have come to demand that Congress do the right thing and only count the electors who have been lawfully slated, lawfully slated. I know that everyone here will soon be marching over to the Capitol building to peacefully and patriotically make your voices heard…We will not be intimidated into accepting the hoaxes and the lies that we’ve been forced to believe over the past several weeks. We’ve amassed overwhelming evidence about a fake election. This is the presidential election… In every single swing state, local officials, state officials, almost all Democrats made illegal and unconstitutional changes to election procedures without the mandated approvals by the state legislatures, that these changes paved the way for fraud on a scale never seen before… And we fight. We fight like Hell and if you don’t fight like Hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore…We’re going to try and give them the kind of pride and boldness that they need to take back our country.”

Because of these words, a Capitol policeman lost his life. Because of these words, four other rioters lost their lives, and other Capitol policemen were left badly injured. What is more, following these events ,Mr. Trump has now earned the distinction of the only U.S. President to be impeached twice, the second time for “incitement of insurrection”.

Hence, those arrested should go through a federal re-education program as part of their sentencing. After all, if hate can be learned it also can be unlearned as well. It is particularly alarming to everyone following what happened during the riot that individuals who overran the Capitol wore such awful hate messages. One man, allegedly identified as Robert Keith Packer, wore an anti-Semitic hate t-shirt reading: “Camp Auschwitz: Work Brings Freedom”, referring to the Nazi Concentration Camp of Auschwitz, where millions were put to their deaths, and who was recently arrested by the FBI.

Packer, like others at the insurrection and riot, are domestic terrorists and like all terrorists they need to be re-educated not to hate or use violence. There are experimental programs for re-educating terrorists from the study of violent extremism as such leading centers like Georgetown University’s International Center for the Study of Violent Extremism (ICSVE). We need to do the same for domestic terrorists like Mr. Packer and others.

Let us now turn to the great words of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. and honor his legacy by unlearning hatred and re-imagining our United States of America.

Remember, Dr. King in his “I have a Dream” (1963) speech, when he declared: “And if America is to be a great nation, this must become true… And when this happens, and when we allow freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual: “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!” Let King’s words ring out again for everyone in our great nation!

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Moving Forward with Accountability and Justice

The deep and multifaceted social/biological/political crises that characterize the 21st century are primed to intensify in the coming days, weeks, months and years. Deadly social catastrophes and explosions in train of the frankly incompetent public health response to the coronavirus pandemic in 2020, and the right wing mob’s deadly storming of the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, are virtually assured. It’s going to be a really rough ride.

The complexity of these confrontations, and the intensity of the underlying global/local emergencies, defy short term, simplistic solutions. They also demand urgently implemented answers from the grassroots. In a sequence conceived to address big and emergent crisis dangers first, hopefully working to long term systemic solutions and effectively using more People power options, including those opened up before us by leaderful accomplishments of Stacey Abrams and the Movement for Black Lives, here are some offered suggestions:

Dealing with Systemic Racism in the Law & in Crisis

The explosive growth in violent, racist right wing cultural civil war activities, after the debacles of January 6, 2021’s mob attack on Congress, become urgent survival and safety risks, and will probably intensify or manifest violently in some ways even after the January 20 presidential inauguration. There is a haunting new Amerikan ‘split screen’ jarring image: phalanxes of heavily armed riot-clad storm troopers facing entirely lawful BLM human rights demonstrations, compared to horrifying, structurally racist police-facilitated incompetent (or worse, designed to fail) policy and implementation responses to white nationalist insurrection on January 6. Today’s ongoing militarized manhunt and preparations for the Biden/Harris administration’s beginnings in 3 days are not merely the latest incoherent chapter in the post-Jim Crow life of the slave patrol implemented via modern police methods, they are harbingers of an inescapable reality around race, what we think of as “security”, violence and fundamental human rights, which we simply & urgently must face, completely re-think and deal with. Even more will die until we do.

In the coming times worst case scenarios encompass new domestic terror ‘civil war’. Our best futures call forth well-resourced independent government commissions and indictments all the way up the chain of accountability to disgraced ex-president Rump, with aggressive, principled special prosecutor actions to lock ‘em up!

Capitalism & the Future

In a broader and more fundamental sense, we are in real trouble with our basic economic and biological contract with each other and the planet. The obscene racial, ethnic and class disparities of death and suffering in the pandemic’s associated global economic collapse – itself a major aspect of the above structural crisis of racism, law and violence – also demands the most urgent actions for relief, reform, restructuring and revolutionary grassroots organizing initiatives, as to which one must simply ask “If not now, when?”

The lessons of the last 4 years include the need for revolutionary restructuring of a failed state society. Reinventing education. Making equity and human rights the basis of corporate and government action. The crisis and the future are here now. Speak now, and if some authority figure says its extremist or socialist or whatever, defend your position. This basic democratic habit of listening to each other and responding is no longer really optional, if it ever was.

“Free Speech” for Internet Billionaires, Vetted Lies for the Masses

The long-overdue muzzling of Rump’s twitter and other facebook-related opportunities to lie have been critiqued by many first amendment scholars, and rather than re-chew that sawdust I will simply note that the “rights” of everybody involved in the “global conversation” need to be respected. The failure of the industry’s biggest players to effectively manage the externalities and mass psychotic episodes generated by their algorithms has been duly noted. In blood. The debate about how to regulate or break up big tech will continue. Hopefully in the future the tech billionaires’ constitutional rights to curate their platforms will be matched by appropriate and adequate ethical and moral norms and safeguards, one way or another regulation.

In addition, the issue of the role of lies in first amendment jurisprudence should be reconceived, both as a legacy of Rump’s failed term, and in order to figure out what it even means to go forward. Lies have no first amendment or other positive social value. None. They may have private value, like the way Rump used lying to break America, or more legitimately the way a president lies about specific troop movements or national security secrets if it’s a matter of life and death (as it generally is argued to be). Other than such very few, narrow private value exceptions, straight up lies like the ones that got 5 or 6 People killed at the Capital on January 6 are vile, in addition to being useless. It’s not yelling “fire” in a theater that’s prohibited speech if it’s true, then it would be protected! (Think about it.)

Let’s make sure our civic approach to this long national nightmare since November 2016, whatever other aspects our hoped-for independent inquiry commission addresses, includes the question of cleansing our media platforms and educational and political discourse from its current domination by lies.

Liberals & Democrats

Tragically, the ultimate potential of all the good things that could come out of this catastrophe, and the 21st century’s human rights organizing he- and she-roes, will have to deal with Biden. Nothing in his record suggests any capacity for anything beyond serving racial capitalism’s corporate titans, aka “the market”. Corporate media op eds proliferate assessing his alleged potential to out-New Deal FDR, while the Green New Deal comes from the party’s progressive wing that he’s vanquished and frozen out of power, but it represents the only remotely realistic economic and ecological framework for dealing with the real questions posed by capitalism and the future. My lifetime has taught me never to expect much from liberals or Democrats.

Environmental Justice & the Commons

This is a time to develop, advocate and act on our most powerful visions for social justice. The old paradigms have failed and today is its own demand for our answers. I’ve tried to suggest ways to think about, discuss, organize and overcome racial capitalism, creating new anti-racist structures of ecological justice and sharing the necessities for life in common, with the preferential option for the poor encompassing universal human rights to water, shelter, food, education, clothing, political citizenship and all the necessities of life. I intend to fight for these things until I die. Fuck Covid-19!

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Honoring Dr. King

Today our American family dysfunction is on display for all the world to see. As a keeper of secrets, my work as a psychiatrist and healer told me that our culture was sick long ago.

The stories I have heard of grandfathers, brothers, fathers, lovers, priests who rape and abuse and then manage to coerce into keeping it secret have long ago ceased to shock me. I help my patients, both women and men, come to terms with the families that were not able to protect them, who actually harmed them, and then in some cases even told them that they were the “crazy ones.” The same thing is happening to us now.

But we are not crazy, our eyes do not deceive us. What the white supremacists now threatening the national security of our nation have in common with the ghosts in my office is toxic masculinity. This hyper-aggressive, violent version of manhood will be countered in the coming days with an even more aggressive show of force. There is likely to be armed conflict in our streets. We must stand by and watch, fearful and afraid. Or is there another alternative?

If we are to teach our children, and their children and the children of the 7th generation to love, we must teach them how to stop the cycle of secrets.

This past week I had the honor of being a mental health advocate for the girlfriend of a young man shot in our community by police while in mental health crisis. She was able to do something remarkable. At his vigil, she was able to forgive the officer who shot him, to have empathy for him, to see that he too was hurting. It was a feat of incredible humanity; one we do not often glimpse.

As we face the flood of darkness coming our way, I am reminded that sometimes the ways of our world are inexplicable. Take this small miracle, a true story.

Our friend, the late Rabbi Harold White, esteemed Professor of Judaic studies at Georgetown University, had come to visit my husband and me while we were on the East Coast at a family reunion. As we were introducing him to our extended family, my daughter was tugging at me, poking, insistent that she be introduced first. I was annoyed. Nevertheless, she persisted.

“Rabbi”, I said, “I am so sorry, but she has something to ask you”, as I pointed to a very impatient little girl.

To my horror, my then 7 year-old daughter said, “Rabbi, are you a wise man?” There was nervous laughter.

“Yes, I believe that I am”, he replied.

“Then how do you know that God exists?” she asked.

Harold was delighted at the question. His eyes crinkled with joy as he held forth about the story of Noah, the ark, the storm that destroyed the earth, the saving of the animals, and finally of the rainbow telling Noah that the danger had passed.

Precisely as he finished saying, “And that is how you know that God exists. Whenever you see a rainbow, it is God’s promise to you that He will never destroy the earth again,” someone yelled “Rainbow!”

A rainbow had appeared–not just one rainbow, but two. As we all piled outside, shrieking and howling with awe, I stood back with the Rabbi.

I said, “Does this happen to you often?”

He smiled and said knowingly, “Oh, yes.”

I tell you this story today because the rainbow may or may not be a sign from God, depending on your belief, but on this dark day for us as a society it is also aspirational, a symbol of the society we have yet to build. A society in which all have a place, a society in which hate does not win over love.

As we honor the late Dr. King this year, I urge you to do so in your actions. Together, we must finish the work that Dr. King started to rebuild our society more equitably, so that all can flourish and so that the hate that has rooted within our American family can find some peace.

As we face the flood of darkness together in the coming days, hold out your light. Hurry–our time on Earth is short–but the blink of an eye. This truth cannot come fast enough for those suffering with COVID, for the Native elders being lost. I am so sorry aunties that we have failed you so.

It is as the great Gandhi observed, “Man often becomes what he believes himself to be. If I keep on saying to myself that I cannot do a certain thing, it is possible that I may end by really becoming incapable of doing it. On the contrary, if I have the belief that I can do it, I shall surely acquire the capacity to do it, even if I may not have at the beginning.”

I know we can finish the work of Dr. King, together. We must if we are to survive this terrible hate. The choice lies within each of our hearts.

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How the Left Got Where It Is in Venezuela

By the end of Hugo Chávez’s presidency, a vague social contract had come to exist in Venezuela. It was not unlike the social contract which sustained real socialism for many decades, as described by Michael Lebowitz in his book Contradictions of Real Socialism. Both situations involved a vanguard that guaranteed a certain level of welfare to the masses in exchange for their passive support. Importantly, what the masses offered in exchange for receiving material well-being and dignity was support for the government, but not participation. Although participation had been a central principle of the Bolivarian Process embodied in Venezuela’s 1999 constitution, it was gradually sidelined as the first decade of the twenty-first century was coming to a close.

The story of the shelving of participation in Venezuela’s revolutionary process is a little examined and little understood process. Yet it is crucially important. It was for the most part the work of middle cadres, in as much as they systematically undid the grassroots and organic structures in the Bolivarian movement and the PSUV party to protect their own power. This battle against organic structures was a gradual, iterative process. In effect, during the various election campaigns, organic structures of popular power took shape, including the Bolivarian circles formed before Chávez’s election, the 10-member groups that operated in the leadup to the referendum in 2004, and the party “battalions” formed in 2007. Unfortunately, after each of these organizational structures had achieved its short-term goals, the party cadres dissolved them, thereby blocking the formation of grassroots expressions of popular power, only to invent new ones when different tasks emerged.

The overall effect of this iterative process was to erode and eventually rout popular power, which came back weaker after every wave of demobilization. As a result, the above-mentioned tacit social contract was eventually consolidated, involving passive support for the government in elections in return for material well-being. The project underpinned by this arrangement was called “socialist” but in fact it had little to do with real socialist objectives. This is because a socialist project, to be meaningful and lasting, must turn on popular protagonism and the promotion of full human development.

A clear case demonstrating the character of this falsely “socialist” quid pro quo consolidated at the end of the Bolivarian Process’s first decade was the much-celebrated Gran Misión Vivienda Venezuela. This was Chávez’s last major undertaking that achieved concrete results. It was a giant housing project which provided more than 2.5 million houses to needy Venezuelans. Yet it did so without any participation or empowerment of the masses. Beneficiaries got their house keys handed out to them in public events, but neither participated in the conceptualization and planning, nor the realization of the project.

This, then, was the situation and basis of power that Maduro inherited when elected president in 2013. However, it quickly proved impossible to sustain. The falling oil prices in 2014, the ratcheting up of financial attacks on the country, and the US and European sanctions that began in 2015 made the government’s provisions in favor of popular welfare – its half of the contract – impossible to hold up. Paradoxically, however, the US’s attacks on the country, which were most explicit in the cruel oil sanctions, also gave Maduro and his government a way out. The “socialist” welfare train may have been running out of fuel, with people becoming increasingly dissatisfied, but the cover offered by outside attacks allowed Maduro and his team to look for support in another sector. That was the sector made up of the members of the movement, party, and allies who wanted to set up businesses, to initiate and expand capitalist development.

This is exactly what Maduro and his government proceeded to do. Unable to fulfill the existing social contract and at risk of losing popular support, they could now shift most of the blame to outside forces for the economic situation, thereby neutralizing most popular dissent, while seeking additional, new support from an emerging capitalist class.

Was there any other option? The other option would have been to turn to the masses, reinstate popular participation, in this way forging a new, authentically socialist contract with the masses based not on rising material welfare but on revolutionary participation and protagonism. The government and party, of course, perceived this as risky. Such a move would have threatened the consolidated power of middle and upper cadres, but it also shocked against the common sense that tends to pervade the Venezuelan bureaucracy, a common sense that both derives from the past and trickles in from the global capitalist context, making government officials distrust the capacities and rationality of the masses.

In fact, even Chávez, in the latter part of his presidency, came to have the same aversion for risks that Maduro exhibits today. This was nowhere more evident than in Chávez’s policies toward neighboring Colombia. In relation to Colombia, Chávez chose, beginning in 2007-2008, to promote a peace process that would result in the elimination of the 50-year-old FARC guerrilla. Rather than thinking about radicalizing the guerrilla, which could have been done by translating the Bolivarian process’s key early principles of popular participation and protagonism into a different context than the one to which Chávez was accustomed – a context defined by armed conflict – the Venezuelan president wanted the guerrilla to make a soft landing into legal politics. Armed struggle against US imperialism is of course a highly risky business, but in his desire to eliminate it, Chávez seemed to be proposing that a rubber stamp of Pink Tide legal politics might function in the neighboring country. It was preposterous. That model, which was already in danger in Venezuela at the time, could never have even gotten off the ground in the polarized conditions existing in Colombia.

Risk-free politics is virtually a contradiction in terms for the left and it is at best short-lived. This is because the security that one acquires is always a security that involves increased dependence on the dynamic and the forces of capitalism. In the crisis that he faced soon after entering the presidency, Maduro took the path of least resistance and sought to eliminate risks by leaning toward capitalist development. The government’s decision to replace the extant social contract by embracing emergent capitalist sectors – a shift that was done under the cover offered by a brutal imperialist attack – is nowhere more evident than in the ironically-named Anti-blockade law, approved in October of 2020. One would imagine that an anti-blockade law would be about closing ranks with the Venezuelan people to face down the external enemy. The law approved in the National Constituent Assembly, however, is nothing of the sort. It betrays its real purpose in key clauses guaranteeing the possibility of privatizing public enterprises without any accountability to the people.

It is important to point out that the option of pursuing risk-free politics – even if it is a chimera – was not even available to Chávez in the first half decade of his presidency. That has to do with the overall geopolitical context of that time and the lack of powerful allies. When Chávez and the Bolivarian revolution got going in 1999, it was almost alone in the world. For that reason, the only possible support for the movement was the Venezuelan masses themselves. It was this popular bloc, mobilized under Chávez’s charismatic leadership, that faced down a US-dominated world. Its moment of glory was when it successfully defeated the US-backed coup d’état in 2002 and the oil sabotage that followed it. Yet, with the rise of Russia and China as significant counterweights to US power, another option came onto the table. That was the possibility of relying on an emergent capitalist class locally and seeking international support from these counterpowers, while shuffling the Venezuelan masses out of the mix.

Analyzing a historical development with a bad outcome is pointless if one does not examine the paths not chosen, but possibly still available. In Venezuela, the social contract that defined Chávez’s last years – passive masses supporting a government that guaranteed material welfare – is no longer possible. Yet the current government’s turn to seeking support from an emergent capitalist class is not the only option. There is still life and effervescence in the Venezuelan masses. Practices of social solidarity, egalitarian ideals, and a questioning attitude towards leadership have all been part of Venezuelan popular culture over the long run. These traits were fostered, albeit in contradictory ways, during the first decade of Chavismo. Even in the petty trade and barter that have now become means of survival for urban Venezuelans one finds – along with the individualism that private trading necessarily involves – practices of solidarity.  Solidarious attitudes are even more evident in the masses’ survival strategies in relation to health, food, and housing.

Another key focus of social solidarity in Venezuela is the subset of functioning communes, which continue trying to produce under new social relations. These working communes may be relatively few in number, but they are part of a broad-based campesino movement that embodies many of the same values. The trick would be to find ways to enhance all these practices of social solidarity, which represent the true logic of socialism, along with developing the means to translate popular solidarity and cooperation into active political participation. Reviving participation – the road not taken by the Bolivarian process during the last decade – would mark an important, game-changing shift toward authentic socialism, having more to do with human freedom and development and less to do with mere material well-being doled out to passive masses. The latter is not even a possibility under any imaginable regime in Venezuela in the near future.

Conclusion: If the weight of these solidarious practices and organizational forms could grow in the society and they could push toward political expression, it would pressure the leadership to rectify by abandoning its turn towards emergent capitalist sectors. All of this would involve grave risks. However, the path to socialism and human liberation is inconceivable without risky efforts like the armed struggle that once took place in Cuba’s Sierra Maestra and Venezuela’s February 4th uprising, neither of which had especially good odds of succeeding.

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Flint Activists Remember How Gina McCarthy, Biden Pick for Climate Policy, Failed Their City

Former EPA chief Gina McCarthy has reportedly been picked as Biden’s domestic climate policy chief. That concerns activists in Flint, Michigan, who say that she failed to address the Flint water crisis. 

Karen Weaver, the former mayor of Flint, said that she was disappointed with the choice.

“I hope she does better with climate control than she did with Flint,” she told MLive-The Flint Journal. 

On Thursday, nine people, including former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, were charged over the crisis. Nick Lyon, Snyder’s health director, and Dr. Eden Wells, Snyder’s chief medical executive, were charged with involuntary manslaughter. Snyder was charged with two misdemeanor counts of willful neglect of duty. But the failure to help the people of Flint reached from the city level all the way to the top of the federal government. In 2014, the city switched water sources to the Flint River to save costs. The water was not treated to reduce corrosion, causing the water to be contaminated with lead. At the same time, bacteria in the water was blamed for an outbreak of Legionnaires’ disease. 

McCarthy is preparing to lead a new office of domestic climate policy at the White House, a position that does not require approval from Congress. She wrote in a blog post that she thinks the U.S. should aim for 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2035 and a carbon-neutral economy by 2050.

“I will help President-elect Biden turn the promises of his historic climate plan, the strongest we’ve ever seen from any president before him, into progress,” she wrote.

McCarthy became the president and chief executive officer of the nonprofit advocacy group the Natural Resources Defense Council in January 2020. She is a member of the boards of the Energy Foundation, a nonprofit supporting energy efficiency and renewable energy, and Ceres, a sustainability nonprofit that works with investors and companies. She is also a former operating advisor at Pegasus Capital, an asset management firm focusing on sustainability and wellness.

In Flint, activists remember that the EPA was slow to act on warnings about water safety.

“It’s appalling, absolutely appalling. It is a huge injustice to everyone in Flint and everything that we’ve suffered,” activist LeeAnne Walters told NBC25 News.

In 2018, the Environmental Protection Agency’s Office of the Inspector General found that “management weaknesses” in the local, state and federal government’s responses slowed the response to the crisis. 

According to the report: “While Flint residents were being exposed to lead in drinking water, the federal response was delayed, in part, because the EPA did not establish clear roles and responsibilities, risk assessment procedures, effective communication and proactive oversight tools.”

Emails and internal memos show EPA staffers were aware of high levels of lead in Flint as early as February 2015. According to the Detroit Free Press, the EPA took emergency action on water testing 11 months after Miguel Del Toral, a regional groundwater regulations manager for the EPA, raised concerns internally about lead in the water.

McCarthy said in 2017 in congressional testimony that she had regrets about the process: “In hindsight, we should not have been so trusting of the state for so long,” she said. “We missed the opportunity to quickly get EPA’s concerns on the radar screen. That, I regret.”

In 2016, she told the House Oversight Committee that she herself did not cause the water crisis: “I will take responsibility for not pushing hard enough, but I will not take responsibility for causing this problem. It was not EPA at the helm when this happened,” McCarthy said.

“Say whatever you want about being in the dark about the warning signs,” Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., told McCarthy at the time. “Even when you did know, you did nothing.”

McCarthy also played a role at Obama’s EPA in minimizing the risks of fracking. In 2015, the agency published a misleading study that concealed the effects of fracking on water. 

Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter said last month: “Years later, there is a staggering amount of evidence about the risks that fracking and drilling waste pose to human health, our air and water, and to the climate. The science is clear. Gina McCarthy owes it to the communities being harmed by fracking to redeem herself in this new role, and to push for policies that move the country off fossil fuels.”

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