Maximum Punishment for Nina Turner!

According to a tweet from journalist David Schuster, key Sanders delegate Nina Turner’s failure to endorse Clinton resulted in her being “blocked from introducing Sanders, prevented from appearing on stage and humiliated” by the DNC.

For Sanders’s supporters, the first reaction, an understandable one, is to get mad.

But a more sensible reaction, as it always is, is to get even. Not right away, but when the opportunity presents itself.

With that in mind, it is worth imagining that the shoe were on the other foot in 2016.

Suppose it was Clinton delegates who, as they almost certainly would, refused to endorse Sanders.

We would want to have the harshest possible sanctions available to us to deploy against their inevitable sabotage.

And I trust that we would be thrilled to use them.

***

Of course, many will say this is a fantasy: Sanders forces didn’t have a chance in 2016 and they won’t anytime in the foreseeable future.

But that’s a mistake, and it’s a particularly serious one since it prevents us from learning what is the major lesson of 2016. And that is that that by lining up on the wrong side, a relatively small number of key organizations and their leadership were, individually and collectively, responsible for Sanders defeat.

As I’ve noted before, the most important of these was organized labor who, according to Gawker’s Hamilton Nolan, “fucked up” in not supporting Sanders.

Had they endorsed early and put their institutional muscle behind Sanders rather than Clinton, it is almost certain that a seven to eight percentage shift at the polls would have resulted in Sanders victories in all of the key battleground states.

And had that occurred, we would now have outraged Clinton supporters protesting and booing. And we, with Nina Turner herself as the Convention Chair, would be using the full weight of our institutional power to have them forcefully ejected, sending them packing back to their corporate lobbying shops, white shoe law firms, think tanks and, ultimately back to the Republican Party where they belong.

***
Imagining that that was not so far from reality in 2016-and indeed could be the reality in 2020 should be an inspiration.

That this is not out of the question is also apparent from what is now the reality in Great Britain.

With Corbyn having taken over the Labor Party, the vile Blairites who have run Labor into the ground are being weeded out and disposed of by folks like us.

Their opposite number, the neoliberal Clintonites could be eradicated over here in more or less the same way.

That delicious prospect is a reason to keep on keeping on, as the saying goes.

I am and I hope you are too.

Michael Hudson: Trump is “Hilarious”

In conversation with him a few weeks ago, Noam Chomsky predicted 1) that it was quite likely that we would have a Trump presidency and 2) “the left” would play a small but significant role in making it happen.

If it does materialize, these remarks from economist Michael Hudson will be seen as indicative of the kinds of attitudes which were decisive in bringing it about.

“So this is really the class war. And it’s the class war of Wall Street and the corporate sector of the Democratic side against Trump on the populist side. And who knows whether he really means what he says when he says he’s for the workers and he wants to rebuild the cities, put labor back to work. And when he says he’s for the blacks and Hispanics have to get jobs just like white people, maybe he’s telling the truth, because that certainly is the way that the country can be rebuilt in a positive way.”

Hudson forgot to mention that Trump will make the trains run on time. Also his commitment to “safeguard(ing) the existence and reproduction of our race and our people, the sustenance of our children and the purity of our blood, the freedom and independence of the fatherland, so that our people may mature for the fulfillment of the mission allotted it by the creator of the universe.” (Irony impaired individuals are requested to please click here.)

Given this likelihood, it’s reasonable to start thinking about the kinds of challenges we will face under a Trump administration in continuing to build the left insurgency which the Sanders campaign provided the foundation for.

But I won’t have anything to say about these except to note that they will almost certainly be extreme.

Rather, the point I want to make is that many of those who take Hudson’s line won’t care.  That’s because they were hostile to the Sanders campaign from the beginning  loudly demanding that the left refuse to support it in any way.

So it stands to reason that they would welcome a Trump administration as it would constitute an obstacle to the post Sanders mobilization getting its footing.  The most deluded of them see its failure as clearing the field for the eventual triumph of their own preferred sect, whether it is the Greens, the ISO or some other equally obscure post-Marxist formation.

It hardly needs to be mentioned that if hell does freeze over, and some ultra left forces manage to become even marginally effective, Trump will very quickly crush them with as much force as he will apply to remnants of the Sanders’s campaign.

But given that their contact with reality is at best sporadic and at worst non-existent, the ultra-left can blissfully inhabit a fantasy world where Sanders’s loss is their gain.

And they can join Hudson in reveling in a Trump victory along with  “a reversal of the traditional Republican fiscal responsibility austerity policy. . . (a) policy to employ American labor and put it back to work on infrastructure. . . .  to reinstate Glass-Steagall, whereas the Clintons were the people that got rid of it. And he can now fight for the population fighting against Wall Street, just as he’s been able to stiff the banks.”

For Hudson and his lunatic followers (which now includes McKinsey alumna Yves Smith of the Naked Capitalism blog), it will be “almost hilarious to see what happens.”

Hilarious indeed.

An Endorsement

An Endorsement

There is only one candidate
In the 2016 Presidential Election

Who can be trusted.

And that is the Green Party’s Jill Stein.

Her statements are without exception
Free from grandstanding,

Political calculation or tainted by self-interest.

Her campaign staff as well
Can be assumed without question

To be acting entirely based on moral principle
And deep spiritual conviction to achieve
The greatest good for the greatest numbers.

Indeed, the same can be said
of every Green Party candidate

Past, present and future.

To suggest otherwise
Would be an outrage.

Adolph Reed on Why Sanders Matters

(From Reed’s appearance on Doug Henwood’s Behind the News, 9/7/16)

“One of the things that appealed to some of us in the Sanders campaign was that it seemed to have the potential of being a boost for a political movement undertaking. And it has been and it is. But the problem is that the reason why there would be a need for a boost like that is that progressive forces are-I wouldn’t say they are in disarray-but they don’t count for very much and they don’t have very clear critiques and they keep doing the same things over and over again. And those tendencies-the tendency to pronounce the existence of a coalition of all of the other feckless and empty entities of the other progressive coalitions that have been called together over the last 20 years and have foundered on, is an emphasis that has got to be challenged and criticized and, maybe organized around and underneath as we go forward.”

Not Meriting a Response

Vincent Kelley’s attempt to “unveil the unstated premises and class perspective of (Chomsky’s and my) argument” does nothing of the kind.  Rather, it mainly succeeds in revealing Kelley’s inability to understand basic English and to apply elementary logic.  The following are four indications.

1) Kelley attributes to us “an implicit claim to have a clear picture of life under a Trump presidency” and that it “will drastically increase human suffering as a result of Trump’s reactionary policies.”

Nowhere do we claim to have “a clear picture”.  What we suggest is that there is a reasonable basis for concluding that a Trump presidency will inflict significantly more harm on the most vulnerable constituencies than will a Clinton presidency.  We base this tentative conclusion on Trump’s numerous statements many of which are either explicitly racist or contain coded racist appeals, his commitment to violently reactionary policies such as banning Muslims, and his promotion of vigilante mob violence as he has repeatedly done, egging his supporters on to commit racist hate crimes.  These do not point to a “clear picture” but to a serious danger to those groups most likely to be effected, a conclusion which 94% of African Americans who strongly disapprove of Trump appear to agree with but which certain “benighted elements” of the ultra left insist on ignoring.

They also ignore apocalyptic conditions resulting from climate change denialism endorsed by Trump and the Republican caucus, these existing not in some speculative future but in the present, with hundreds of millions in Bangladesh now beginning to flee the coastal plains due to sea level rise as well as 300 million Indians lacking water from an historically unprecedented drought. It is a scandal that it is left to the corporate media, most notably the New York Times to describe and explain these conditions while performative leftists like Kelley, besotted with the supposed “anti-capitalist” rhetoric of Trump, avert their eyes to the suffering.

2) Furthermore, it is not us but Kelley who claims to have “a clear picture” of the future.  Specifically, he claims that in answering the question “is capitalism worth keeping alive? For Chomsky and Halle, the answer will always be an implicit ‘yes’ because the moment will never be quite right for revolution.”

Unlike our perspective on the Trump presidency, Kelley expresses not the likelihood, but the certainty that we “will” be joining the forces of reaction in opposition to “the revolution”.  More significantly, he fails to provide the slightest basis for his conclusion:  He cites no statements either of us has made which provide any indication of counter-revolutionary sympathies or any degree of confidence or tolerance of the capitalist system.  The reason he does not do so is that he can’t.  Indeed, a key rationale for our proposal is the recognition that a Clinton presidency will make principled, as opposed to opportunistic, opposition to neoliberalism the focus of protest.  In contrast, as we specifically note in the piece, protests of Trump will take for granted a solution inhering in electing the next in a succession of centrist, corporate Democrats. Those like Kelley welcoming a Trump presidency make it more likely that neoliberal capital will continue its lock on institutional power thereby effectively answering “yes” to the question of “is capitalism worth keeping alive”.

3) A third misreading is contained in Kelley’s suggestion that we “obscure the fact that (our) fundamental moral adherence to lesser evil voting is premised on a comparison between two evils.”  Not only do we not “obscure the fact” that LEV involves the choice between two evils, we insist on it, as lesser evil voting, by definition, unambiguously asserts that both choices are evil.  Furthermore, rather than endorse a “moral adherence” to voting, we specifically repudiate it noting that “voting should not be viewed as a form of personal self-expression or moral judgement.”  Kelley may have been confused by our response to advocates of the “politics of moral witness”  that even if one accepts the premise that one should attach a moral judgement to electoral choices, their argument fails on its own terms.  But as should be apparent, and as we note in point 1), our endorsement of LEV is in no way on moralistic grounds.  Indeed, we regard the high dudgeon but ultimately empty moral posturing of those opposing LEV as both an obstacle to clear thinking and to progressive change.

4) Finally, Kelley describes me as “a trenchant critic of race-first identity politics,” but complains that I “revert to identitarian banalities about ‘white skin privilege.’”

While I have indeed criticized some of those deploying the term, only a fool or a racist would suggest that “white skin privilege” has ceased to exist or that exposing it among “benighted sectors of the ultra left” constitutes “identitarian banality”. That’s particularly so when the shoe fits so naturally those who insist on minimizing the dangers of racist violence which the Trump campaign has at the core of its identity.  To blithely ignore the alarm communicated by 94 percent of the African American population speaks to a form of narcissistic self aggrandizement unseen since the days of the Weathermen. In what is a typical display of performative ultra leftism, Kelley mounts his high horse to assault academics who, he claims (without evidence), fail to “talk to and learn from workers”.  What is again revealing is his failure to include the word “listen”, something that he and others appears to be incapable of when it comes to the likely victims of Trump’s policies.

*****

These are only four of the more tendentious and trivial misreadings in Kelley’s piece.  Others making similar and generally equally bankrupt claims have been  routinely posted to me via social media or to Professor Chomsky via email,  typically with headers hyping the contents as  “a devastating takedown of Chomsky” or “brutally laying waste to the LEV argument.”  Often laced with obscenities and infantile name calling, the schoolyard epithets “Killary” or “Shillary” repeatedly invoked, in the pre-internet period when minimal editorial standards were in force, they would not have found their way into print. Had they somehow appeared, they would not have merited a response.

Nor do they merit a response now.  My purpose in drawing attention to them here is that they are indicative of broader tendencies which both Chomsky and myself have discussed in the past, specifically, the willful blindness to facts and logic among sectors of the left, whether these are academic post modernists questioning the validity of established science, anti-vaxxers, 9/11 “truthers” or Kennedy assassination conspiracy theorists.  Anyone who has attempted to advance electoral or non-electoral activist campaigns is well aware that these elements exist and pose a significant obstacle to our capacity to organize a viable alternative to elite hegemony.

Those blithely minimizing the dangers of a Trump presidency while at the same time narcissistically inflating the significance of a tactical vote to head off the worst offered by a corrupt system should be included within the same category.

Insofar as they continue to exert influence, they will consign the left to deserved irrelevancy.

Adolph Reed on LEV

Exchange from Adolph Reed’s 7/7/16 appearance on Doug Henwood’s Behind the News

DH: The movement that has catalyzed with the Sanders campaign, how can we keep it from dissipating as November approaches. “Trump is so horrible, you know, hold your nose and vote for Hillary. etc.” There’s a great possibility for induced amnesia to set in. How do we fight that?

AR: What one does in November lies in a different dimension from the movement building concerns. From a pragmatic point of view there really is nothing else to do except to vote for Hillary. But that only becomes a big to-do if you have an exaggerated sense of the significance of your own vote anyway.

DH: People get so obsessed with something that takes five minutes to do in early November. It’s really remarkable.

AR: Absolutely. On some level it only comes down to a matter of taste and existential choice. I could vote for Gore in 2000. I lived in Connecticut and it was easy not to vote for Gore in 2000 and to vote for Ralph. I’d argue that this is a different moment and especially with Republican control of Congress-even if they lose the Senate which is a long shot . . . we’re going to be in the same position on the Wednesday after the election than we were on the Monday before the election. The real challenge is to try to disconnect the organizing from it being driven by the election cycle.

Final Thoughts on Elie Wiesel

It won’t come as a surprise that Noam Chomsky was not among those donning sackcloth and ashes in response to the demise of Elie Wiesel.  He did, however, provide a reminder of a passage in his 1999 book The New Military Humanism which gives a pretty revealing indication of why few of us were willing to accept the dominant media characterization of Wiesel as a secular saint.

As some of us will remember, during much of the 1980s, the Guatemalan government was engaged in what has been widely acknowledged to be a genocidal assault against its rural, Mayan population.

While the U.S. government backed the Rios Montt regime, it could not directly support the campaign since, as Chomsky notes, “direct U.S. engagement was hampered by congressional oversight and public opinion.”

A workaround was arranged whereby a proxy role was outsourced to the Israeli miliitary which provided the necessary equipment and training of the troops.

As deaths began to mount into the hundreds of thousands, reports of the displacement of over a million campesinos and other widespread atrocities began to receive attention, activists sounded the alarm on the role of Israel. According to Chomsky, one of those attempting to pressure it to withdraw its support was MIT professor Salvatore Luria.  A Nobel prize winner in biology, Luria decided to communicate his concerns to his fellow Nobelist Wiesel, providing substantial documentation of the Guatemalan military’s abuse along with the “suggestion that he might use his prestige and contacts to keep ‘evil from gaining strength’” (the latter Wiesel’s own words in support of the 1999 NATO bombing campaign in Kosovo.)

Knowing that Wiesel would not take a public position, Luria specifically requested that these overtures be made in private.

Some weeks passed without a response.

Then an interview in the Israeli press appeared in which Wiesel, without mentioning names, disclosed that he had received Luria’s request. Chomsky continues, “Wiesel ‘sighed,’ the journalist reported, saying that ‘I usually answer at once, but what can I answer to him?’ Not that the documentation is flawed, because he recognized that it was not, but because even private communication exceeds the limits of subordination to state power and violence to which ‘The Prophet from New York’ is committed.”

Selective vision when it comes to genocide, as Chomsky has noted, is one of the defining characteristics the world’s elite political class.

Even so, Wiesel’s vulgar exploitation of his victim status and the stench of hypocrisy emanating from it were particularly hard to endure.

Personal Anecdote: Graeber and Me

It must have been in the fall of 2001 when strolling down Orange Street with David Graeber, we ran into the Mayor of New Haven’s chief of staff, a fairly typical Ivy League technocrat named Henry Gonzalez. Of course, he detested me (as I recall, I had just voted against the mayor’s budget in the Board of Aldermen based on his doling out for himself a pay raise while demanding salary concessions from the municipal workers’ unions), but we maintained at least cordial relations so I introduced him to David. I remember at the time trying to explain to David what the Greens in New Haven were trying to accomplish, and insofar as there was a core vision, it revolved around challenging the assumption of machine Democrats like Gonzalez “that the role of a representative is not to represent, not to listen, but to tell people what to do.”

Our view was to try “to move from a politics of accountability to one of participation: to create forms of popular education and decision-making that allow community groups and local assemblies made up of citizens of all political stripes to make key decisions affecting their lives.”

These two quotations are from David’s superb piece from today’s  Guardian. I should say that at the time, David was unconvinced, and, as the New Haven Greens would implode not long after, we were never able to make the case to him for electoral politics as a viable means to implement this vision. David was working, as he describes them in the piece, “in movements aimed at creating new forms of bottom-up democracy” and, so while he was supportive of our work, he regarded our attempts as excessively verticalist, remaining as “outsider” while investing himself in horizontalist movements, first the Global Justice Movement then later and most famously, Occupy Wall Street where he would become, well, David Graeber.

Now, almost 15 years later, Corbyn and the remarkable inside/outside formation Momentum, are showing that electoral politics can, in fact, serve in the capacity which we were arguing for 15 years ago. On some level, I feel a small sense of validation, but more importantly, I think the main lesson is from Graeber himself: he recognizes that, at least at the moment, the direction the movement is taking is not the one that’s in the playbook which he has spent years thinking about, developing and implementing. But he recognizes that the goal is much more important than the route by which we reach it. So he weighs in supportively, usefully, and as always, very perceptively in this piece.

A Response to Jeffrey St. Clair

The following is in response to Jeffrey St. Clair’s criticisms of our Eight Point Brief for Lesser Evil Voting.

1) St. Clair accuses us of “paternalistic guilt-tripping that seeks to blame people who choose to vote for Jill Stein” and other third party candidates. In our text we specifically endorse the principle of voting for Stein in safe states. Since the great majority, possibly even all of the states are likely to be safe in the 2016 election, St. Clair is simply inventing the evidence for the charge he levels.

2) Conversely, St. Clair construes our position as “an endorsement of Clinton”. Given that we specifically recommend a vote against her in what will likely be almost all states, it is very hard to see how the word endorsement reasonably applies.

3) Contrary to St. Clair’s claim, the right wing drift of the two parties is not a consequence of lesser evil voting. Indeed, the Democrats easily adapt to the victory of a right wing Republican like Trump resulting from a failure to implement lesser evil voting. His subsequent predations on the most vulnerable segments of the population are then easily exploited by Democratic operatives who will blame the left for a far right victory. The charge will, as we note, be based on fact and will set the stage for another triangulatory corporate Democrat to prevail. Should Trump win, this logic is certain to play out in 2020 just as the ultra reactionary policies of the Bush administration set the stage for Obama in 2008. The scorched earth non-strategy of St. Clair is, in fact, a guarantee of the continuing triumph of neoliberalism while at the same time a recipe for possibly irreparable harm in the form of Trump.

4) While we oppose losing national third party efforts when they help elect the more dangerous candidate, St. Clair fails to note that we specifically endorse potentially winning local races. Unfortunately, contrary to St. Clair’s glowing description, the Greens, for whom I served as a two term Alderman from New Haven, have been undermined by their focus on national races. While once promising, Greens in office are now reduced to minuscule numbers. Furthermore, in their 35 years of existence they have, with one or two brief exceptions, failed to achieve any state level office.

In contrast to the Greens, a viable path to national influence was shown by Sanders, whose candidacy was, incidentally, vehemently opposed by St. Clair at every turn. Starting as a small city mayor, he consolidated power step by step, eventually leading to a competitive run for the highest national office. Rather than fixating on the quadrennial national electoral extravaganzas which do little to build the foundations of power, St. Clair should be devoting his attention to potential winning third party local races, including those of Greens as well as Socialist Alternative’s Kshama Sawant and the Vermont Progressive Party (virtually never mentioned on St. Clair’s website Counterpunch).

5) St. Clair characterizes a Trump presidency as “extremely unlikely” misconstruing the analytics guru Nate Silver who in fact puts Trump’s chances not at 1%, as St. Clair claims he does, but at 22%. Furthermore, according to a recent Quinnipiac poll the candidates are deadlocked. Given the notorious Bradley effect, this may well imply that Trump, were the election held today, would be a clear winner. And given that the Republican smear machine has yet to kick into full gear, there is still less reason to accept St. Clair’s rosy scenario of a certain Trump defeat.

That said, if it turns out that Trump’s poll numbers collapse, a vote for Stein is fully endorsed by us in every state, hence, none of St. Clair’s fulminations apply.

6) Those who will be certain victims of Trumpism including inner city populations of African Americans and Muslims, will find little amusement in St. Clair’s jocose description of “the fearsome Trump and his rampaging band of post-industrial Visigoths.” Nor will Mexicans who Trump has described as “criminals and rapists”. Nor will the hundreds of millions of people in Bangladesh who will be forced to flee their homes as Trump’s climate denialism undermines efforts to deal with the worst crisis in human history – or the 300 million Indians already facing death from a huge drought, and many others around the world.

Trump poses a clear and present danger to the most vulnerable members of society, a fact well known to the 89% of Hispanic Americans and 94% of African Americans who have expressed disapproval of his candidacy. Trumpism is not a laughing matter; to trivialize it is a troubling indication that white skin privilege remains an issue in certain benighted quarters of the radical left.

Those engaging in it will be reasonably perceived as marginal and justifiably shunned.

Moving on from SSLEV

Of the various responses to the Halle/Chomsky Eight Point Brief for Lesser Evil Voting , I have chosen only to respond to a few criticisms from a self-identified “left” perspective as most of the major points have been dealt with adequately by others.  (See, for example, here , here and here as well as the comments sections here).

What is worth discussing now are criticisms from a far more politically consequential constituency, namely those opposing SSLEV from the right, or, as they would describe themselves, the “pragmatic” center.  For them, a vote for Clinton in a swing state is insufficient.  Rather, ALL Sanders voters should regard themselves as either morally or practically obligated to vote for Clinton, even in safe states where the result is certain.

There is, admittedly, a rational,  good faith, albeit weak argument to be made for an unconditional Clinton vote along the following lines: since most voters focus on the presidential race, rejecting Clinton will mean higher rates of abstention of those who would otherwise support down ticket Democrats with the result that they are unable to obtain a congressional majority.

The latter we should also be working to achieve but not because we should have high hopes for it: the 2008-2010 Democratic control of the House and Senate, after all, accomplished little in the way of progressive change.  Rather a Democratic majority is preferable, first of all, because it would prevent the catastrophe of a Republican Congress, with Speaker Paul Ryan certain to block any minimally decent legislation which Clinton might advance (likely in response to the pressure from left protest movements).  At the same time, a Democratic majority would remove a smokescreen Clinton will have available for her inevitable failure to deliver on most of her campaign promises. installed in governance, these will evaporate, and, if she lacks a Democratic majority, it will be chalked up to “Republican obstructionism.”

If she can be denied this excuse, her refusal to deliver even with a congressional majority could become one of the grounds for a serious primary or, if viable, third party challenge in 2020.

That said, congressional Democrats will not be able to take advantage of Clinton’s coattails since she is an uninspiring candidate with record high disapproval ratings.  Rather they will need to provide a sound, rational basis for why their policies deserve our support. if they do so, the overwhelming majority of Sanders supporters in safe states will split their ticket, rejecting Clinton’s politics of triangulation, concession and compromise, voting in Democrats who have committed to opposing it. The Democratic caucus emerging under these conditions would constitute a meaningful progressive majority, unlike the Potemkin Village erected by Democrats in 2008, one which would, in fact, be better able to combat the Republican far right.

A second reason offered for an unconditional Clinton vote is that SSLEV is “too cute”, “too clever by half” or even “dangerous” in that voters will not be able to reconcile their awareness of the reactionary character of Clintonite policies with the decision to vote for her in the states where it counts.  Being excessively forthright with respect to Clinton’s obvious shortcomings brings with it the potential that swing state voters will be unable to hold their noses to the requisite degree to head off a Trump presidency.

While this danger may exist, the subtext which the rejection of SSLEV communicates is problematic. Just as governing elites and their enablers in the media shielded the public from information on the effects of corporate trade deals, the Wall Street bailouts and the Iraq war, now they are attempting to efface Clinton’s role in the bipartisan policies which brought the domestic and world economy and society to the brink of ruin.  Even within the impoverished mechanisms of the electoral system, a vote for Clinton where it is not required signals at best ignorance or at worst consent to the governance of the one percent. Voting against Clinton where one can communicates to others an awareness of a corrupted process and a protest however small against elites having routinely deployed it to serve their ends.

The optimal outcome of the 2016 election will be a strong repudiation of Trump and his toxic mixture of nativist resentment, pseudo-populist demogoguery and commitment to destroying the planet through removing all limits on fossil fuel consumption and production. At the same time, it should indicate that the opposition to three decades of neoliberal ascendency which coalesced behind Sanders is now a permanent fixture of our politics, as Thomas Ferguson recently suggested. It will be prepared to oppose either the terrifying specter of Donald Trump or the less aggressively toxic brand represented by Clinton by all necessary means.  At the same time, it should clearly articulate its own positive program and prepare itself to strongly compete for positions to advance it in governance when the opportunity arises.