Author: Dan La Botz

Open Letter to the People of the United States – from Puerto Rico, a Month after Hurricane María

ImageDear Friends:

By now you have surely heard about the catastrophic impact of Hurricane María in Puerto Rico, as well as the slow and still inadequate response by U.S. federal agencies, such as FEMA.

A month after María, dozens of communities are still inaccessible by car or truck. Close to 90 percent of all homes lack electricity. Half lack running water. Many of Puerto Rico’s 3.2 million residents have difficulties obtaining drinking water. The death toll continues to rise due to lack of medical attention or materials (oxygen, dialysis) or from poisoning caused by unsafe water.

The Misrule of Global Capitalism: Book Review

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Dale L. Johnson. Social Inequality, Economic Decline, and Plutocracy: An American Crisis. Palgrave Macmillan, 2017. 240 pp. Index, Appendix. $159

Social Inequality is not for the faint-hearted. It covers the major political-economic issues of our time, from the structural changes in the economics of capitalism, to class structure, the imperialist state, and the distortions of capitalist culture. The author, a veteran scholar-activist of the New Left generation who now lives in Costa Rica[1], ends with a plea for resistance to our oligarchic “hegemon” and suggests a series of tactics to help us on the road.

Some Lessons of the Hurricane

Image(Normally my writing, especially when facing new situations,is the result of discussions with my comrades. But these days we are practically incommunicado. That’s why even more than in other cases, this article is entirely my responsibility. And, at the same time, I write with incomplete informatioin, the result of the same lack of communication, and therefore everything that I write is, even more than usual, subject to future correction. – RB)

Crises raise new, sharp problems that unveil and accentuate both the admirable and the negative aspects of the societies they affect. They also pose new tasks and offer new perspectives on already established plans. The case of Puerto Rico and the effect and response to the strike by Hurricane María is no exception.

Zapatistas Put Forward Indigenous Woman for President

ImageThe Zapatista Army of National Liberation (EZLN), which led an armed uprising in Mexico’s southern-most state of Chiapas in 1994, and which has since then spent its time organizing autonomous communities in that state, is now putting forward an indigenous woman candidate for president in the 2018 elections. The Zapatistas hold the Mexican government and the country’s political parties in utter disdain, both for their corruption and for their disregard for the people they supposedly represent. The Zapatistas also reject elections and voting on principle. So, while they are putting forward health worker María de Jesús Partricio for president, they are not actually trying to elect her. 

Puerto Rico: Belonging To, But Not Part Of

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“We’re American citizens. How can Trump turn his back on us?” This is one of the pleas I’m hearing over and over again about the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico caused by Hurricane Maria. While it is a distasteful display of colonialist racism that the Trump administration takes its time to decide how much help Puerto Rico deserves, after pulling out the stops for Miami and Houston, ostensibly because there’s not “a really big ocean” separating them from Washington, it’s kind of par for the course. Our citizenship has always been second-class.

No Trump, No War, No Way!

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From the Steering Committee of Solidarity

If it weren’t frightening, it would be funny: “Big Twit Calls Out Rocket Man,” as Donald Trump ramps up his insults and threats of war against North Korea. Let’s look at some of the issues behind the antics and escalating rhetoric.

It’s really impossible to assess the chances of an actual war on the Korean peninsula, but while it may be a low-probability event its consequences would be utterly catastrophic. All the establishment media, of course, breathlessly consider whether the North Korean regime and its “beloved leader” Kim Jong-un are a direct threat to the United States — as if U.S. imperialism didn’t threaten North Korea and a whole bunch of other countries. It’s simply taken as given that rich and powerful states have an inherent right to self-defense and security, and others don’t.

Social Democracy Is Good. But Not Good Enough.

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We need a socialism that goes beyond capitalism. And not just for moral reasons.

John Judis has all the right intentions. He’s looking at the resurgence of openly democratic socialist currents in the United States with a mix of excitement and trepidation. Excitement, because he knows how desperately the country’s workers need social reforms. Trepidation, because he worries that the new left might fall into the familiar traps of insularity and sectarianism.

Book Review

A Tale Of Many Cities: Potholes in the Road To Municipal Reform

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Juan Gonzalez. Reclaiming Gotham: Bill de Blasio and The Movement to End America’s Tale of Two Cities.  New York: New Press, 2017.

There is no better role model for aspiring radical scribes than Juan Gonzalez. The country’s leading Latino journalist is cohost of Democracy Now!, a former columnist for the New York Daily News, and twice winner of the Polk Award for his investigative reporting. Not many veterans of campus and community struggles in the Sixties and workplace organizing in the 1970s later moved into mainstream journalism with such distinction, Gonzalez has managed to combine daily newspapering with continued dedication to the cause of labor and minority communities.

Why Socialists Shouldn’t Believe In Human Nature

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Let’s set the scene.

You just had dinner with your family and argued about the viability of the creation of socialism in the United States while fighting off their tired and false rebuttals of human nature as your uncle Steve got broccoli stuck in his teeth. Exhausted from the argument in a way that only your family can cause, you head to your home and get ready for bed. A notification appears on your phone that a new article from Jacobin.

On the Conditions of Ignorance

ImageIn a recent article from Politico, a new poll was discussed that suggests that nearly half, 49 percent, of Trump supporters believe that he won the popular vote in the 2016 election. (He didn’t; he lost by nearly three million votes.) Spurred on by Trump’s claims that millions (!) of people voted illegally in the election, this portion of Trump’s base have been lied to and misled by a politician they think they can trust. What are we to make of this?

On the 98th Anniversary of His Birth

Theodore W. Allen’s Work on the Centrality of the Struggle Against White Supremacy

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Theodore W. “Ted” Allen (1919-2005) was an anti-white supremacist, working class intellectual and activist. He developed his pioneering class struggle-based analysis of “white skin privilege” beginning in the mid-1960s; authored the seminal two-volume The Invention of the White Race in the 1990s; and consistently maintained that the struggle against white supremacy was central to efforts at radical social change in the United States.  Born on August 23, 1919, in Indianapolis, Indiana, he grew up in Paintsville, Kentucky and Huntington, West Virginia and, after moving to New York City, lived his last fifty-plus years in the Crown Heights section of Brooklyn.

Racism — North and South

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A well-researched article by John Eligan in the Aug. 18  N.Y. Times goes beyond denouncing the symbolic racism of Charlotteville’s Confederate statues to expose the more pernicious structural racism embedded in the separate-but-unequal physical segregation of the city. (See “In Charlottesville, Some Say Statue Debate Obscures a Deep Racial Split.”) [1]

Ironically, this segregation was imposed, not during the rise of the KKK in the 1920s, but during the 1960s under the progressive guise of ‘urban renewal.” It was then that the vibrant, relatively prosperous, historical black neighborhoods like Charlotteville’s Vinegar Hill were deliberately razed, left long vacant, and ultimately replaced by soulless public housing and institutional projects.

Book Review

The End of Islamic Liberalism?

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Cihan Tuğal, The Fall of the Turkish Model: How the Arab Uprisings Brought Down Islamic Liberalism (Verso, 2016).

In the short time since the 2016 publication of Cihan Tuğal’s The Fall of the Turkish Model: How the Arab Uprisings Brought Down Islamic Liberalism, Turkey has endured an attempted coup, nearly a year of rule under a state of emergency, the widespread repression of dissent through imprisonment and mass firings of teachers and civil servants, and a (likely fraudulent) referendum that has institutionalized the autocratic rule of President Tayyip Recep Erdoǧan. Yet, unbelievable as it may seem, these developments are part of a continuum rather than a rupture, and Tuğal’s book is essential—if not unproblematic—reading for understanding contemporary politics in Turkey, the Middle East and North Africa.

A Split at the Top: The Bourgeoisie Begins to Abandon Trump

President for a Year?

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President Donald Trump’s failure for two days to condemn the violent Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, and "alt-right" white supremacists, one of whom murdered a woman in Charlottesville, has led to a major development as sections of the capitalist class have begun to abandon him. While some top Republican leaders have taken a stronger stand against Trump in recent days, several major corporate leaders have deserted him. They have done in part because of his flirtation with fascism, but also because Trump and his administration—his embarrassing tweets, the constant circus, the Korea war scare, the Russian imbroglio—makes it impossible for the Republicans to advance their pro-business agenda. If the relationship between Trump and corporate leaders continues to unravel, this could lead to a more rapid collapse of the Trump presidency than had previously seemed possible.

Reports on the Resistance: Demonstrations Across the Country in Solidarity with Charlottesville

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Thousands demonstrated in dozens of cities and universities across the United States to protest the “Unite the Right” racist march and rally in Charlottesville Virginia and the automobile terrorist attack on anti-fascists that took the life of Heather Heyer on Aug. 12.

The demonstrations took the form of vigils, rallies, and marches that took place on Aug. 13 and 14. In New York City, thousands demonstrated at Trump Tower as he returned from the golf links to New York. In Durham, North Carolina, anti-fascists pulled down a statue of a Confederate soldier. In some cities there were multiple events called by a variety of progressive and leftist organizations.

We Will Replace You

 

ImageThe “Unite the Right” rally held in Charlottesville, Virginia this past weekend attracted several hundred white men from the "alt-right," the neo-Nazis, and the Ku Klux Klan who marched with torches through the University of Virginia chanting, “You will not replace us.” Nothing better explains the fear at the root of their racist movement than that chant. They fear, as their political ancestors feared, that they will be replaced by blacks. They have now come to fear also that they will be replaced by Latinos and by Asians. They fear too that they will be replaced by women, by gay men or lesbians or bisexuals. Or by trans people or the disabled. Above all, they fear.

DSA Convention: Mapping a Strategy, Avoiding Dead-Ends

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After reaching 25,000 members, DSA held its largest bi-annual National Convention with the hopes of creating the political clout necessary to shift the country toward a socialist vision that exceeds that of social-democratic capitalism. The four days reenergized old chapters and allowed new chapters to recognize the potential of a national organization. Overall, DSA has effectively begun resurrecting the socialist movement in the United States. All DSA members should be proud of this achievement. We should, however, be cautious in overestimating the outcomes of the convention. For behind the great rejuvenation that occurred in Chicago there were also ideological and structural currents that may limit DSA in the long run.

So, about this Googler’s manifesto

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On August 5 a Google employee named James Damore published a 3,500 word manifesto entitled “Google’s Ideological Echo Chamber,” in which he agued the biological inferiority of women, making them incapable of being equally talented computer engineers. First circulated internally among Google’s thousands of employees, the manifesto was posted in its entirety on the web by Gizmodo on August 5. Google fired Damore, the manifesto’s author, on August 7.

On August 5, Yonatan Zunger, a former Google employee who had only recently left the company, wrote a response to Damore, published by Medium, which we republish here. – DL

The Founding Fathers: “Neoliberals” Avant le Mot

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“Who is to blame for the election of Donald Trump?” It’s a question that was asked more than a few times after November. We’re all familiar with the answers that were given: James Comey, the electoral college, the DNC’s leaked—not hacked—emails, the characteristically shameful performance of the mainstream media in its focus on personalities rather than substance, the stupefying incompetence of Hillary Clinton’s campaign, the elitist insularity and corruption of the Democratic Party, etc.

The 1997 Teamster Victory at UPS Twenty Years Later

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Twenty years ago this month the reform leadership of the Teamsters union, led by President Ron Carey, with the assistance of Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), a reform caucus within the union, led a successful strike against United Parcel Service (UPS) that paralyzed the company, inspired labor unionists, and seemed to open up new opportunities for the workers movement. The UPS strike remains a model of strike strategy, organization, and tactics.

Successful Convention Moves DSA to Left

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The socialist movement in the United States took a big step forward this past weekend as almost 700 delegates representing over 25,000 members of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) met at the organization’s biennial national convention in Chicago. This convention, the first since DSA more than tripled in size following last year’s election, brought together delegates from all of the country’s major cities and many towns large and small.

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