Weekend Links

Irving Kristol, Godfather of Modern Conservatism, Dies at 89
From Trotskyist fellow-traveler to godfather of neo-conservatism.

House votes to deny all federal funds for ACORN
Democratic-majority House and Senate votes to cut off all federal funds to ACORN after right-wing hit.

South Carolina and the other race battle behind Rep. Joe Wilson’s outburst
The changing political and social landscape of the South and the white supremacist populism that is trying to hold onto power.

Exclusive: Hamas leader interview
Ken Livingstone interviews Khaled Mashal and the British government whines.

Resisting Degradations and Divisions
Richard Pithouse interviews S’bu Zikode, president of South Africa’s Abahlali baseMjondolo

It’s Only a Game
Review of the new post-apocalypse animation movie, 9.

Obama and Health Care “Reform”

imagesTwo days ago senator Max Baucus revealed the Senate Finance committee’s health care bill. Baucus had delayed this bill for months in an attempt to get what he had promised as moderate Republican support. Baucus, who is heavily funded by the health care industry, has strong links with industry lobbyists, many of whom are former staffers in his office. His attempt to get Republican support for a centrist bill have collapsed in his face. In the end, Baucus’ plan has failed to build consensus among the political elites.

This is significant because Obama embraced a strategy that hoped to avoid the mistakes of the Clinton administration’s health care disaster by hitching his ride to Baucus and the finance committee to come up with a centrist plan. This contradicted his earlier positions as both a Senator, when he backed a universal single-payer system, and as a presidential candidate, when he retreated to a commitment to a public option. As support for Obama fades quickly there is no better contrast between the hopes of millions of people who were key to his election victory and the realities his actual politics expose about bourgeois democracy.

But Obama also has a problem with the House Democrats who, along with liberal talking heads, columnists and the “netroots”, pushed back against him at the end of August after he said he was willing to drop support for a public option. House Democrats and the liberal section of the Senate have staked out their own position around the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee’s bill that emerged in July. This bill is similar to one in the House.

The main difference between the two Senate bills is the public option. Where the HELP committee’s bill contains it, Baucus has purged it from the Finance committee’s plan. If the public option is apparently a source of tension between centrists and liberal wing of the Democratic Party, then what is the public option composed of?
Continue reading Obama and Health Care “Reform”

Not a Recession, but a Depression for Black workers

Despite some important examples of struggles in this country in response to the effects of the economic crisis, it is the capitalist who have carried out a consistent offensive.

The devastation from unemployment is the worst since the 1930s, and the real percentage of which is above 16%, with over 20% in some areas. But the recession isn’t effecting all people the same way. Black and Latino unemployment is nearly double that of whites. One of the reasons is that the recession isn’t just attacking skilled labor, which is more white, but it’s blitzing unskilled labor. As more skilled labor takes up unskilled jobs to pay the bills this adds to the effect.

After the mini-recession of 2000-2001 there was a jobless recovery. But Black people saw faster rates of unemployment after the relative “boom” time of the 1990s at the same time the class divide in Black communities has expanded. But even considering that, in historical perspective black male unemployment has officially shifted between 15 and 10 percent from the 1980s and 1990s.

Dedrick Muhammad spoke recently on Democracy Now about this, touching on Black unemployment and Latino unemployment as well as the role of predatory lending by the banks that has lead to a loss of 70-90 billion dollars in home-value wealth for Black and Latino people.

Although we should realize they are talking about the working class and not the middle class, in the following article, taken from the Institute for Policy Studies, Barbara Ehrenreich and Dedrick Muhammad address some of the details.

————-

The Destruction of the Black Middle Class

By Barbara Ehrenreich and Dedrick Muhammad

To judge from most of the commentary on the Gates-Crowley affair, you would think that a “black elite” has gotten dangerously out of hand. First Gates (Cambridge, Yale, Harvard) showed insufficient deference to Crowley, then Obama (Occidental, Harvard) piled on to accuse the police of having acted “stupidly.” Was this “the end of white America” which the Atlantic had warned of in its January/February cover story? Or had the injuries of class — working class in Crowley’s case — finally trumped the grievances of race?

Left out of the ensuing tangle of commentary on race and class has been the increasing impoverishment — or, we should say, re-impoverishment — of African Americans as a group. In fact, the most salient and lasting effect of the current recession may turn out to be the decimation of the black middle class. According to a study by Demos and the Institute for Assets and Social Policy, 33% of the black middle class was already in danger of falling out of the middle class at the start of the recession. Gates and Obama, along with Oprah and Cosby, will no doubt remain in place, but millions of the black equivalents of Officer Crowley — from factory workers to bank tellers and white collar managers — are sliding down toward destitution.
Continue reading Not a Recession, but a Depression for Black workers

Queer Liberation and the Pakistani State

by fatima

This summer, Pakistan’s supreme court ruled that hijras, a name for South Asia’s historic transgender community, will be registered by the state, ostensibly to provide social services and prevent police brutality.

This article from The Guardian written by Basim Usmani indicates that, though the ruling has been lauded by official media and Pakistan’s middle classes, both the motivations and the effects of the ruling are less than liberating for queer people in Pakistan. Continue reading Queer Liberation and the Pakistani State

A Queer Imperialism?

You only have to go back to the justification of the occupation of Afghanistan as a “war for women” to know that one way imperialism justifies itself is through its supposedly progressive credentials. But this could also be said for white supremacy. The new racism, whether by the ruling class or its populist variants, presents itself as anti-racist, anti-patriarchal. Even queer politics is not escaping this dynamic and it’s no accident that the Israeli apartheid regime recently kicked off a “gay friendly” public relations campaign.

Diamond Walid’s critique over at MRzine is timely.

—–

Beirut: City of Projected Fantasies

by Diamond Walid

Beirut has been labelled the Paris, sometimes the Switzerland, of the Middle East. According to one recent New York Times article, it is now the region’s Provincetown (the Cape Cod resort favoured by gay visitors). This ever-changing city seems to have become a mirror where people project their own fantasies.

Comparing Beirut with another city, whether Paris, Rome or Provincetown is a denial of its uniqueness. Beirut’s gay culture is also unique and specific. As a gay man who has lived in the city for more than 30 years, I know that notions such as “gay”, “straight”, “public displays of affection” and “homophobia” can take on completely different forms and meanings in this part of the world. Yet there was no mention of these nuances in the New York Times article, obviously built on a series of denials.
Continue reading A Queer Imperialism?

Struggles from Detroit

Detroit workers on the march.
Detroit workers on the march.

 

by Will

It is tough watching Detroit go through this. But anyone familiar with the state of the Midwest, the rustbelt, with majority Black cities, knows that the recent budget and social crisis has been in the making since the early 1970s. Some historical accounts like Thomas Surgue’s The Origins of the Urban Crisis and the famous Detroit I Do Mind Dying by Dan Georgakas and Marvin Surkin place this transition to the 1950s. Yet these two books paint a very different picture of what Black working class life and city looked like before deindustrialization officially attacked the Black working class.

The articles below, from the World Socialist Website and The Michigan Citizen bring us to Detroit amidst a national and international recession. The last decade or so saw the Detroit bourgeoisie try to revive the economy through the casino economy. They also hoped that they could ride the coat tails of the real-estate boom, but Detroit has been cursed—always too late, always too little. The official unemployment rate of Detroit is 17.7% and I have talked to friends who have told me it is probably closer to 30%.  Considering 80% of the city is Black, it is not hard to figure out who is getting hit the hardest. The new mayor of Detroit is using this crisis as a pretext to attack almost all layers of the class in the city. Now working class anger is beginning to erupt across the city.  Public sector workers are on the move.  I will try to interview a friend next week so we can get a picture of some of the movement dynamics happening.  As this crisis unfolds, we all have come to a realization that movement alone will not push the racists and capitalists back.  Our people need to step up their game cuz the enemy is on the march.
Continue reading Struggles from Detroit

Students as Positive Proletarian Actors from Advance the Struggle

Custodians and students protesting speedups, wage cuts, and more at the University of Washington.
Custodians and students protesting speedups, wage cuts, and more at the University of Washington.

Here is an article originally from the blog, Advance the Struggle. The author, Esteban, raises important questions considering the size of the student population in the United States, the role students have played in radicalizing movements, and how they can think about themselves in terms of their own emancipatory capabilities. This is especially pertinent when student struggles break out of narrow university demands and into realms which directly impact the working class. Considering the U.S. has hundreds of public universities where working class students are struggling to get by, it is a matter of time, organization, and self-activity before these questions are bumped into.

There are many more points raised in this piece and I will not go into all of them, leaving it to others to raise insights, agreements, and critiques.

-Will

Continue reading Students as Positive Proletarian Actors from Advance the Struggle

Balance Sheet on Obama and the Left

election-nightIt’s 8 months into the Obama administration and approaching two years since the national debate began about Obama and the left. The images and feeling of election night, being on the street when thousands of young people spontaneously came out, are now only a powerful memory of the deep desires and frustrations of a new generation growing up in America where social conditions and oppression are only getting worse.

In many ways that night was a confirmation of the essential character of the Obama phenomenon. While Obama was New Democratic-Clintonian politics, he was so in new language and form that made visible for a moment something new in the U.S. Tens of millions expressed a desire for a break with the slogans and programs of ruling class politicians that have overseen a broadening and deepening of social polarization the last 30 years. What seemed like a break for many, Obama’s election and the Democratic Party victories since 2006 only raised expectations that couldn’t be met. Obama has overseen and implemented the capitalist offensive, taking advantage of the crisis, and has proven to be no protective umbrella from the return of white supremacist populism of the Right.

Discussions about Obama and the Left take on a new urgency given these realities. No longer are discussions about what might happen–we are now living perhaps at the end of a long list of Obama’s “betrayals” with his abandonment of the so-called “public option” in health care. Where are all those millions of people who are learning from this experience? How are we to understand Obama and the progressive Left? How are revolutionaries to move forward in linking reform and revolution? What are the forms of struggle and new types of organization that are emerging and are needed? These aren’t new questions on the blogosphere, and the past and contemporary break-outs of struggle are a guide.

With this in mind, here is an article by Charlie Post that appeared a couple months back via Solidarity

Post writes:

“Historically, attempts to simultaneously build an alliance with Democratic Party centrists and build social movements have led the disorganization and decline of the movements and a shift to the right in politics. Time and time again—from the CIO upsurge of the 1930s, through the Civil Rights and Black Power movements of the 1960s and 1970s, to the movements against the Vietnam War — the decision of the leaders of powerful and potentially radical social movements to pursue an alliance with the Democrats have derailed these struggles.”

and

“The same pattern is and will be repeated by the leaderships of the labor and social movements in the age of Obama. Not wanting to alienate Obama and the Congressional Democrats, the leaderships of both the AFL-CIO and CTW have done little to publicly oppose the Democrats back-pedaling on the EFCA—with Andy Stern of the SEIU, as always, leading the retreat. The labor officials and many mainstream immigrant rights groups are abandoning the struggle for universal amnesty and a direct route to citizenship for undocumented immigrants in favor of the Obama-McCain plan. Proposals for a single-payer insurance system appear dead in the water, leaving the Democrats and Obama free to implement their “universal health care” program based on massive subsidies for private insurance companies. The list can, depressingly, be multiplied across a wide variety of popular reform issues.”

——

How should the left relate to Obama? A response to Linda Burnham

by Charlie Post

There is a broad consensus on left—from those who actively campaigned on his behalf, through those who sat out the election, to those of us who supported the independent candidacies of Cynthia McKinney and Ralph Nader—that the election of Barack Obama represents an important opening for anti-capitalists and radicals in the US. The election of an African-American to the highest elected office in a republic founded on white supremacy was, in itself, an important symbolic blow against white supremacy. Even more importantly, Obama’s victory was a political and ideological defeat of the right. The 2008 election has raised popular expectations of the possibility of gains for working and oppressed people—national health insurance, the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), a renegotiation of NAFTA, the expansion of civil rights for queers, women and people of color, and an end to the imperial adventures in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Continue reading Balance Sheet on Obama and the Left

On Direct Democracy

Democracy has two contradictory meanings today: the justification of existing and aspiring states and ruling classes versus a tradition of revolutionary popular liberation. The extension of this second tradition is the future of the world in which we live. This vision of self-governance has always been held in contempt by elites everywhere who mask themselves in the language of freedom while simultaneously attempting to crush its expression and manifestation.

We believe in direct democracy. We believe everyday people can and must govern themselves. This means popular self-management through a federation of popular councils and committees where decisions are made and executed on matters of economic planning, judicial, military and cultural affairs. This is not only the best way we can imagine a more free society but also a historic necessity.

We recognize there will never be one utopian moment in history. However, direct democracy is the most ideal and pragmatic vision at this juncture where working and oppressed peoples can truly take their destiny into their own hands.  The historic necessity of everyday people truly governing themselves is by no means new. We have a long and proud tradition. From ancient Athens to the Hungarian people resisting Soviet totalitarianism; from the Nuer people of Sudan and the Igbo people of Nigeria to the popular committees of the Spanish Civil War; from the Diggers and Levellers in the English Revolution to the Shanghai Commune in the Chinese Revolution; from workers self-management in Algeria to the many French Revolutions; from the liberated zones of the Zapatistas in Mexico to the historic general strikes of Argentina, Brazil, Jamaica and Trinidad; from the popular committees in the Palestinian Intifada to the Anabaptists of medieval Europe, and the historic Maroon communities of these Americas; from the rebellions of the American Revolution and Native Americans against colonialism to the dual power of Reconstruction; from the copwatchs of the Black Panther movement to the CIO labor strikes and organizing drives. We see that people have always been trying to extend their freedom in the face of those who would try and reduce them from equals to appendages of profit and property; from those who would govern themselves in fraternity to those who would be governed.  Even when hurricanes and tornadoes hit and rivers overflow, or political disasters of terror in Oklahoma and New York strike, whether state sponsored or by authoritarians from below, we see that everyday people can manage their economy and provide for each others welfare and security.
Continue reading On Direct Democracy

On the Origins of Anti-Asian Racism and How We Have Fought Back

by Jomo, Mamos, and Will

In the United States, racist views of Asian-Americans are promiscuous and self-contradictory. On the one hand, we are told that we are model minorities, hard working citizens living out the classic American story of immigration and upward mobility. On the other hand, we are painted as perpetual foreigners, never quite American even after multiple generations of citizenship. On the one hand, we are supposed to be passive, docile, and submissive, while on the other hand they fear we are the yellow peril, a rising, ruthless, and aggressive empire that will someday destroy the white race.

The fact that these stereotypes are so contradictory show their ludicrousness. Racists project their own fears, anxieties, desires, and aspirations onto us in order to suppress our self-government and make us into who they want us to be, even if what they want us to be makes no sense. But racist fears, anxieties, desires and aspirations are not simply the product of individual ill will – they are shaped by powerful institutions. For example the U.S. military reproduces stereotypes of Asians as an aggressive, brainwashed Mongolian horde in order to raise support for their base expansion projects aimed at containing Chinese military power. Without U.S. military interests in Asia, this stereotype could have died out but instead it is growing.

That’s why liberal strategies of “anti-racism” will not liberate us. Liberals encourage white people to question their stereotypes as part of confronting their “privilege.” They do not attempt to abolish the institutions like military bases that produce and reproduce these stereotypes to keep us subordinated. This editorial will examine the historic political, economic, and social origins of anti-Asian racism. Our goal is not to enlighten anyone’s consciousness but rather to expose the institutions that oppress us so we know who our enemies are and what we need to smash.
Continue reading On the Origins of Anti-Asian Racism and How We Have Fought Back