Louis Proyect: The Unrepentant Marxist

October 12, 2013

Bill de Blasio and William Mulrow

Filed under: New York,Occupy Wall Street,parliamentary cretinism — louisproyect @ 2:00 pm

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/10/12/nyregion/wooing-hometown-industry-de-blasio-meets-wary-wall-st.html

Mr. de Blasio is not a complete stranger to the financial world. His wife, Chirlane McCray, briefly worked under Mr. Schlein at Citigroup, and after the financial crisis Mr. de Blasio opposed limits on bank bonuses.

He seeks counsel from Orin S. Kramer, a hedge fund manager and a top donor to President Obama, who introduced him at the Viacom lunch. Another ally is William Mulrow, who is a senior managing director at Blackstone and a former candidate for state comptroller (and who once donned dingy clothes to impersonate an Occupy Wall Street protester at a private bankers’ dinner).

* * * *

NY Times January 20, 2012, 9:52 pm

A Raucous Hazing at a Wall St. Fraternity

By KEVIN ROOSE

The chandelier-filled ballroom was teeming with 200 men in tuxedos — and a smattering of women — whose daily decisions can collectively make or break the global financial markets. Most were picking over a lavish dinner that included rack of lamb and crème brûlée. Others were preparing to sing bawdy show tunes.

Kappa Beta Phi, an exclusive Wall Street fraternity whose members include big-name bankers, hedge fund billionaires and private equity titans, met at the St. Regis Hotel in Manhattan on Thursday night for its 80th annual black-tie dinner and induction ceremony.

As always, the event was held in strict secrecy, with members being told that “what happens at the St. Regis stays at the St. Regis.”

A reporter, however, was able to walk in unquestioned and observe the proceedings.

Neither a rough year in the financial markets nor the animus of the Occupy Wall Street movement was enough to dampen spirits at this year’s dinner, which was attended by members like Alan C. Greenberg, known as Ace, the former chairman of Bear Stearns; Robert H. Benmosche, the chairman of the American International Group; Meredith Whitney of the Whitney Advisory Group; and Martin Lipton, founding partner of the law firm Wachtell, Lipton, Rosen & Katz.

The Occupy movement was fodder for several after-dinner skits. In one, a documentary filmed during the protests, James Lebenthal, a bond specialist, joked with a protester whose face was appeared to be tattooed.

“Go home, wash that off your face, and get back to work,” Mr. Lebenthal told the protester.

Reached through his daughter on Friday, Mr. Lebenthal declined to comment.

In another skit, William Mulrow , a senior managing director at the Blackstone Group, put on raggedy clothes to play the part of an Occupy protester. Emil W. Henry Jr., a managing partner at Tiger Infrastructure Partners and a fellow new Kappa, joined him dressed as a wealthy baron.

“Bill, look at you! You’re pathetic, you liberal! You need a bath!” Mr. Henry said, voice full of mock indignation.

“You callow, insensitive Republican!” Mr. Mulrow said. “Don’t you know we need to create jobs?”

A Blackstone spokesman declined to comment on Mr. Mulrow’s behalf. Mr. Henry was not immediately available for comment.

September 25, 2013

Bill de Blasio and the left

Filed under: Counterpunch,New York,parliamentary cretinism,real estate,zionism — louisproyect @ 3:56 pm
Bill de Blasio: talks left, walks right
Counterpunch September 25, 2013
The Big Apple’s Obama?

De Blasio and the Left

by LOUIS PROYECT

On August 16th I wrote an article for my blog titled “A Dossier on Bill de Blasio”  that mentioned in passing his occasional appearance at NY Nicaragua Solidarity steering committee meetings nearly 25 years ago, something I likened to Obama’s overtures to antiwar activists on Chicago’s South Side—an investment that could pay future dividends. As de Blasio escalated up the electoral ramps in New York, he was careful to retain his liberal coloration even though he became an ally of Dov Hikind, a Brooklyn pol who once belonged to Meir Kahane’s terrorist Jewish Defense League.

When Hikind spearheaded a drive to force Brooklyn College to add a speaker reflecting Zionist policies to a meeting on BDS, de Blasio issued the following statement: “The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is inflammatory, dangerous and utterly out of step with the values of New Yorkers. An economic boycott represents a direct threat to the State of Israel–that’s something we need to oppose in all its forms. No one seriously interested in bringing peace, security and tolerance to the Middle East should be taken in by this event.”

Despite his anti-landlord rhetoric, he also endorsed Bruce Ratner’s downtown Brooklyn megaproject that ran roughshod over the local community’s needs. Originally based on a design by superstar architect Frank Gehry, the project so appalled novelist and Brooklynite Jonathan Lethem that he was inspired to write an open letter to Gehry calling the project “a nightmare for Brooklyn, one that, if built, would cause irreparable damage to the quality of our lives.”

There’s lots of excitement among liberals about the prospects of a de Blasio mayoralty. As might have been expected, the Nation Magazine endorsed him in the primary election as “reimagining the city in boldly progressive, egalitarian terms.” Peter Beinart, a New Republic editor who has gained some attention lately for veering slightly from the Zionist consensus, wrote an article for The Daily Beast titled “The Rise of the New New Left” that was even more breathless than the Nation editorial. Alluding to German sociologist Karl Mannheim’s theory of “political generations”, Beinart sees the de Blasio campaign as “an Occupy-inspired challenge to Clintonism.”

Most of Beinart’s article takes up the question of whether de Blasio’s momentum could unleash broader forces that would derail Hillary Clinton’s bid for the Democratic Party presidential nomination in 2016. Perhaps that analysis can only be supported if you ignore the fact that de Blasio was Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager when she ran for senator from New York in 2000. The NY Times reported on October 7, 2000: “At the White House, the president, Mrs. Clinton and her campaign team can often be found in the Map Room or the Family Theater, drilling for her debates, or fine-tuning lines in some speech.” One surmises that Bill de Blasio was there.

read full

August 16, 2013

A dossier on Bill de Blasio

Filed under: New York,parliamentary cretinism — louisproyect @ 7:02 pm

Bill de Blasio

On August 8th the Nation Magazine endorsed Bill De Blasio as their choice for Mayor in the New York City Democratic Party primaries:

Among this year’s Democratic contenders, several have made thoughtful attempts to address this question. But only one candidate has offered a consistently compelling answer. That candidate is Bill de Blasio, the city’s current public advocate, and his commitment to reimagining the city in boldly progressive, egalitarian terms is the reason we are endorsing him for mayor.

So “boldly progressive” is Bill de Blasio that DP centrist Matt Yglesias urges him to ratchet down his politics:

It’s a nice hope, and de Blasio indeed has some good ideas. But everyone should take a deep breath or two. Economic inequality is a serious issue and municipal governance is a serious matter, but the fact is that the two have relatively little to do with each other.

My guess is that de Blasio’s business about economic inequality is nothing less than the vapor that came out of Obama’s mouth in 2007 when he began campaigning for President. If de Blasio does somehow beat Quinn in the DP primary and then go on to become Mayor, his inspiration will be much more David Dinkins—the man who gave him his start as a professional politician—than Ralph Nader.

I first ran into de Blasio back in 1989 when he started showing up at NY Nicaragua Solidarity meetings about once a month when he was an aide to Dinkins. I always found him amiable and helpful even though it was doubtful that the Mayor’s office could do much about contra funding, our chief concern. Thinking now about how Obama got his start in Chicago politics as a peace candidate, I wonder if de Blasio was plotting out future career moves by solidifying his reputation as a kind of Park Slope poster child.

Like Obama hanging out with CP poet Frank Marshall Davis in Hawaii, de Blasio had plenty of exposure to the organized left growing up as the NY Observer reported in April 2001 in a profile on de Blasio’s campaign for City Council in the 39th District in Brooklyn:

Mr. De Blasio’s interest in politics can be traced back to his childhood in Cambridge, Mass. His mother, a labor organizer, and his father, a war hero turned federal bureaucrat, were investigated by the forces of Senator Joseph McCarthy for ties to the Communist Party, turning them into lifelong civil libertarians. When he was a child, his older brothers regularly attended Vietnam War protests and staged sit-ins at nuclear power plants. Mr. De Blasio’s own activist streak emerged after he moved to New York–he went to New York University as an undergraduate and then got an M.B.A. from Columbia–when he worked with nonprofit organizations opposed to American policy in Central America.

Unfortunately, no amount of cozying up to Frank Marshall Davis or having a dad in the CP will matter much once you train your sights on being a bourgeois politician.

The first sign that de Blasio was traveling down a familiar road was his appearances on State Assemblyman Dov Hikind’s radio show on WMCA on Saturday night when he ran for City Council from the 39th District in 2001, that includes Borough Park, an area that contains many orthodox Jews who vote as a bloc and take their cues from Hikind. Hikind is one of the biggest scumbags in the Democratic Party in N.Y. who leaves a trail of slime going back to his days as a follower of Meir Kahane, an openly fascist leader of the Jewish Defense League.

Hikind went on to endorse de Blasio for Public Advocate in 2009 and now endorses him along with William Thomson in the DP mayor primary. In return, de Blasio has endorsed Hikind’s favorites, including Joe Lazar who ran unsuccessfully for City Council in the 39th District in 2010.

You can tell how important Borough Park votes are for de Blasio based on the stance he took on the BDS controversy at Brooklyn College early this year. In a McCarthyite campaign orchestrated by Dov Hikind, the school came under pressure to include a pro-Israel speaker. This was de Blasio’s statement:

The Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement is inflammatory, dangerous and utterly out of step with the values of New Yorkers. An economic boycott represents a direct threat to the State of Israel–that’s something we need to oppose in all its forms. No one seriously interested in bringing peace, security and tolerance to the Middle East should be taken in by this event.

This is not the first time that de Blasio has positioned himself as a “friend of Israel”. Raillan Brooks, a blogger at the Village Voice, revealed that de Blasio was opposed to Saudi airplanes landing at local airports:

Here’s a little morsel of insanity for your Tuesday morning: New York City Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio is trying to yank Saudi Arabian Airlines’ right to land at U.S. airports over its policy of not allowing Israeli citizens to board, starting with JFK. The director general of Saudi Arabian Airlines, Khalid Al-Melhem, shot back at de Blasio, insisting that it is merely the lack of diplomatic relations between the two countries that is behind the policy. Al-Melhem’s claim that discrimination isn’t behind the ban is bullshit, but so is de Blasio’s outrage.

Brooks then posed the question: “Why is coverage of de Blasio so light on skepticism? Because the man has spent a career building a name for himself as a Defender of the Downtrodden, a bonny shroud for cold political calculus.”

As a touchstone for Brooklyn progressives, nothing tops the Atlantic Yards development foisted on its residents by Bruce Ratner and backed by de Blasio. Largely through bribing local officials with big campaign contributions, Ratner defeated the struggle to preserve the neighborhood’s unique character. Atlantic Yards Report, one of many websites devoted to exposing Ratner’s crooked deals, delivers the goods on de Blasio’s nose in the trough:

In June 2011, Bruce Ratner hosted a birthday party/fund-raiser for de Blasio. In February 2012, the New York Post reported that there were two snags in FCR-related contributions to de Blasio. First, $4,500 of $8,500 total were not listed as coming through an FCR intermediary.

Second, the intermediary was listed as FCR construction chief Bob Sanna, though, as the Post’s David Seifman wrote, “There’s no way Sanna would do any of this without direction from Ratner, who has made no secret of his support for de Blasio.” (That doesn’t prevent Sanna from being the formal conduit, however.)

Sanna as intermediary has now raised a total of $13,600 for de Blasio, or $5,100 since last year’s filing. Most of the individuals have some piece of the Atlantic Yards project as subcontractors.

In my view, the Nation Magazine should not endorse any politician who makes common cause with Bruce Ratner. One supposes that the liberal standard bearer was far more impressed with his maintenance of a New York’s worst landlord list when he was public advocate.

Finally, despite his posturing as a fearless defender of the poor and the oppressed, a man named Alan Lapes had no problem ponying up $15,000 for his mayoral campaign. Who is Alan Lapes, you ask? This article from New York magazine in February should give you some idea:

There is nothing illegal about the fund-raising tactic the New York Times reports has become a favorite of Public Advocate Bill de Blasio’s mayoral campaign: You can donate the maximum to a candidate and then donate more to his or her past campaigns to defray debts. It’s a little unusual to do it so much, but the interesting thing is who’s taking advantage of the opportunity to shell out more than the $4,950 maximum for the candidate the Times previously described as “a passionate voice on the homeless and housing issues,” and “a strong supporter of government transparency and changes in campaign finance rules.”

One big donor is Alan Lapes, a landlord who has invested heavily in buildings he rents out as private homeless shelters, one of which the Daily News once described as a “hell hotel.” More recently, Lapes sparked a controversy in Carol Gardens when he wanted to open a shelter in one of his buildings there. As Capital New York’s Andrew Rice wrote in a less-than-flattering profile of Lapes last October, advocates for the poor see him as “part of a wave of profiteers who rousted long-term, low-paying tenants from the kind of SRO buildings that dotted city during the Ed Koch era,” though Lapes sees himself as a businessman who helps the needy.

After the article appeared, de Blasio returned Lapes’s money—a smart move for an ambitious politician anxious to maintain his liberal credentials.

All I can say is that is too fucking bad that the Greens have no plans to run someone for Mayor—or maybe they do. If they are, it is typical that I haven’t heard about it. Back in 1981, Peter Camejo urged the SWP to run a joint campaign for Mayor with other left groups against Koch, who was on both the Democratic and Republic ballots. For his efforts, he was eventually expelled.

With New York’s role as the seedbed for the Occupy movement, it is a damned shame that the left can’t get its act together to run someone against Quinn or de Blasio. With Quinn an open tool of the landlords, and de Blasio their concealed weapon, isn’t an alternative urgently needed? What good is the left if it can’t rise to such occasions?

August 3, 2013

A critique of Bob Wing’s “Rightwing Neo-Secession or a Third Reconstruction?”

Filed under: parliamentary cretinism,racism,third parties — louisproyect @ 6:58 pm

Bob Wing

Enjoying what deejays call heavy rotation, Bob Wing’s article on “Rightwing Neo-Secession or a Third Reconstruction?” has not only popped up on ZNet and Counterpunch, but even unsolicited in my mailbox at Columbia University, a receptacle generally for notifications on overdue books from the library and the usual spam with “My Beloved” in the subject heading. If I had to rate my mail by interest, I am not sure where Wing’s article would end up. I have been getting arguments from my Marxist brethren about the need to elect Democrats since 1967 and doubt that anything new could come along. After reading Wing’s article, I am glad that I stubbed my big toe on it since it raises some interesting questions about what the original Reconstruction meant and why Wing’s call for a “Third Reconstruction” is so, so wrong.

Before dealing with the substance of Wing’s article, some historical background might be useful for young people coming around Marxism that would help explain a seeming paradox—why someone like Wing, who can quote Marx like the devil quotes scripture—would make the case for electing candidates from a party that was totally committed to slavery in the 19th century. If anything, the open-and-shut case against the Democrats was made in the 1840s.

Wing was a leader of something called Line of March (LofM), a Marxist-Leninist sect that was part of the “New Communist” movement in the 70s and 80s. Unlike most of the groups that identified as Maoist, LofM was fixated on the early CP as a model. In a somewhat vain hope of spawning a party after this fashion, LofM focused on the shortcomings of the CP in its newspaper reminiscent of the CPGB’s fixation on the SWP in Britain.

The main leader of LofM was Irwin Silber who died in 2010. He used to review films for the Guardian, an American radical newsweekly. His approach was to “expose” Hollywood movies for racism, sexism, imperialism and the like. My approach is somewhat different. I generally avoid Hollywood and am mainly interested in drawing my readers’ attention to documentaries and independent films that get short shrift in the bourgeois press. By the 1990s Silber had become pessimistic about socialist revolution. He wrote a book titled “Socialism—What Went Wrong” that concluded Lenin was wrong. Capitalism continued to be a dynamic system and socialists had to learn to live with that fact. I recommend Reihana Mohideen’s article “Has capitalism won? A reply to Irwin Silber” that appeared in the April 12, 1995 Greenleft Weekly. (http://www.greenleft.org.au/node/9497)

I first ran into LofM when I was a member of Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) in the early 80s. They and the Communist Workers Party were the only left groups who worked in CISPES. The CWP, a Maoist sect, was best known for its disastrous confrontation with the KKK in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1979 that left five of their members dead. They had made the mistake of choosing to utilize armed self-defense as a tactic rather than building a mass movement against Klan terror.

In 1984 the CWP, LofM and the CISPES leadership decided to support the Jesse Jackson presidential campaign. For Marxists coming out of the CWP and LofM tradition, voting for Democrats is a tactical question. If there was ever any tactical motivation for voting for a Democrat, Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition might meet all qualifications. Many people, including me, hoped that the Rainbow Coalition could develop into a third party but Jackson was too much of a careerist to make the kinds of tough choices Ralph Nader made. One year after the end of the Jackson campaign, the CWP dissolved itself with a number of its members finding a home in the Democratic Party, including Ron Ashford, a very capable African-American who represented the CWP in CISPES. Today Ashford is a HUD bureaucrat.

The Line of March dissolved in 1989 with some of their former members deciding to work with Peter Camejo on a magazine called Crossroads. When it finally stopped publishing in 1996, the magazine reflected on its experience:

On the ISES Board [that published Crossroads], members of the Communist Party, Democratic Socialists of America, and smaller groups from the Maoist and Trotskyist traditions worked alongside ‘independents’ and former members of Line of March and North Star–not in a tactical, single-issue coalition or in organizing a one-shot conference, but on a common, ongoing socialist project. This was almost unprecedented on the U.S. left, and was decisive in institutionalizing CrossRoads non- sectarian character. Even further, the interaction between once-warring activists proved to be substantive, democratic and exciting. People found it politically and intellectually stimulating to get to know one another and tear down previously insurmountable barriers.

Bob Wing was a member of the ISES board and probably had a major role in the editorial policy of Crossroads. In keeping with the erstwhile attraction LofM members had to the CPUSA, Wing was solidly behind the formation of the Committees of Correspondence in 1992, a Eurocommunist split from the CP. Peter Camejo, who was probably adapting somewhat to the views of the ex-LofM’ers he worked with on Crossroads, joined the CofC and, if I remember correctly, backed the Jackson campaign. I was still not ready to vote for Jackson but did join the CofC. After going to one of their meetings, I resigned. It was filled with people, mostly in their sixties, getting up and talking about the work they were doing in their Democratic Party club. Camejo quit not long afterwards, writing a sharp rebuke of their orientation to the DP. I will try to find that article one of these days.

At the time of Crossroad magazine’s demise, I wrote an appraisal that I think holds up pretty well:

A closely related question is why the 1996 convention of the Committees of Correspondence drew only 300 people. The two events are symptomatic of the same process, and that process is the exhaustion of “regroupment”. While regroupment was necessary, it could not by itself fuel a new revivified left. In CrossRoads’ view, the warning signs had been apparent for some time:

Less tangible but more important were the limits that soon became evident in the broader left dialogue process. The interaction between activists from different traditions produced a certain energy by its very novelty, and many harmful stereotypes were laid to rest. But soon the excitement of getting-to-know-each-other sessions passed. Beyond consensus on a few generalities–democracy, non-sectarianism, etc.– little was produced in the way of strategic unity or theoretical insight into a new model of socialism. Better ties between activists were built, but the ‘socialist regroupment’ current was unable to generate sufficient momentum to conduct large-scale campaigns or undertake any major cross-tendency realignment. A noticeable ‘generation gap’– few under-30 activists were attracted to socialist renewal efforts– began to registered as a serious problem.

I concur with these observations and want to amplify on them, as well as draw out some other ideas on what the problem may be and what solutions are possible.

To begin with, it is a mistake to think that any single organization can be the vehicle for a new resurgence of the left. Not only does C. of C. suffer from this illusion, so does Solidarity. While neither, to their credit, sees themselves as a “nucleus of a vanguard”, both have trouble seeing a new Marxist left emerging outside of their own framework.

In the case of the C. of C., there are obvious reasons for this. To a very large extent, the C. of C. exists as spin-off from the CPUSA. Much of the functioning and attitudes of key leaders is identical to what they picked up in decades of experience in the CPUSA. I attended one C. of C. meeting over a year ago and was struck by how “routine” things seemed. All of the behavior and discussion suggested to me that most of these people had known and worked with each other for decades. Alas, this was probably true. When one old-timer got up during a discussion period and suggested that the C. of C. follow the example of the CP of Japan, which had cleaned the streets of working-class neighborhoods, I knew we were in troubled waters.

The plain fact of the matter is that newly radicalizing youth are likely to be put off by a meeting with such a character. Why would you want to join an organization whose culture and internal life seem so rigid and one-dimensional?

Turning now to Wing’s article, it likens the differences between the Republicans and Democrats to those that existed in the time of Lincoln but with a complete role reversal. In 1860 the Democrats were the pro-slavery party and the Republicans would eventually become the abolitionist party under the pressures of the battlefield. He writes:

The main precedent in U.S. history for this kind of unbridled reactionary behavior was the states rights, pro-slavery position of the white South leading up to the Civil War. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. called out the attempts at nullification in his famous “I Have a Dream Speech,” and the movement of the sixties defeated it. As shown in the ultra-conservative playground that is the North Carolina legislature, the new laws and structures of today´s rightwing program are so extreme and in such stark contrast to the rest of the country that I believe both their strategy and their program should be called “Neo-Secession.”

Does anybody believe that the white South is a secessionist threat today? Frankly, this sounds like a variation on the “fascist threat” rhetoric that has been deployed since the Goldwater campaign in 1964 to stampede voters into backing Democrats. The danger of secession is less than zero. There is a simple reason for this, one that does not enter Wing’s calculations. There are no class differences between the ruling class in North Carolina and New York. As Malcolm X once said, everything south of Canada is the South. In 1860 the South seceded because it wanted to preserve chattel slavery. What mode of production exists today in the South that needs to be preserved against Northern designs? Wal-Mart? The oil companies in Louisiana whose toxic dumping has been protected against regulations by Democrats and Republicans alike for most of the last century? The big three auto plants located in the South that cut deals with the UAW to create a two-tier labor system? And what about the crackdown on undocumented workers, a form of racial oppression just one step above peonage? What hope should we pin on electing Democrats when the President of the United States deported 409,849 immigrants in 2012, breaking all records under the evil Republican administration of George W. Bush.

As a sign of an utter lack of political discretion, Wing cites Melissa Harris-Perry’s call for “a Third Reconstruction that builds on the post-Civil War first Reconstruction and the Civil Rights/Second Reconstruction.” (In Harris-Perry’s schema, the second Reconstruction was the civil rights movement of the 60s that ended Jim Crow.)

If you have access to Nexis, as I do, you can find the source of Harris-Perry’s quote above, an MSNBC show from July 7, 2013 that encapsulates everything that is wrong with her way of thinking. The show originated from the Essence Festival in her native New Orleans. She spoke about some of the sponsors:

On this show, we spent a lot of time scrubbing with big corporation over their treatment of their workers and their consumers.

Coca-cola has tried to escape blame in its roll for the obesity epidemic. Workers for McDonald`s and in other fast-food chains have gone on strike in multiple cities this year to demand better pay. And then there is Walmart with its everyday low wages.

But credit where credit is due. All three of those companies, no matter how evil their policies maybe are here at the essence festival, putting in their time and making the effort to connect with the African-American community.

What Harris-Perry left out was that all three of these corporations were in favor of the Voter ID laws that Wing singled out as a prime neo-secessionist danger. They only backed off after consumer boycotts were threatened. But more to the point, how can anybody deny the reality that the Democrats, the ostensible salvation of the South, have had an incestuous relationship to these corporations for many years now? Deval Patrick is a Coca-Cola board member. Bill Clinton relied heavily on the Waltons for campaign contributions. Meanwhile, McDonald’s has gone one step further and named an African-American as its CEO in July 2012. Walmart and Coca-Cola have corporate headquarters in the South. Does anybody in their right mind think that the Northern bourgeoisie has class interests opposed to those in the South? Frankly, does it really matter to Bob Wing who sees politics as some kind of battle between “reactionaries” and “progressives”, as if what people think is the main cause of racial oppression in the U.S.

I also find Wing’s take on the New Deal outrageous, with its ostensible distinction between FDR and racists. Is he kidding? He describes Southern racists as having “survived” the New Deal, as if they were trees confronting a forest fire. He also says “Since the Nixon and especially the Reagan administrations, the rightwing has sought to rout both the New Deal and the Civil Rights reconstruction, and replace it with an updated version of racism and reaction.”

Maybe I have my facts wrong but the Southern Democrats were a solid base of the New Deal. Racism did not have to “survive” the New Deal. Indeed, it flourished under Roosevelt.

Back in September 2008, I dealt with FDR and racism and invite you to read the article that includes these facts:

To begin with, the political reality of the Democratic Party is that it catered to the racist wing of the party based in Dixie. Roosevelt felt it imperative to retain the support of politicians like Senator Theodore Bilbo of Mississippi, an open white supremacist who proposed an amendment to the federal work-relief bill on June 6, 1938 that would deport 12 million black Americans to Liberia at federal expense to relieve unemployment.

While most people are familiar with Roosevelt naming Hugo Black, a former Klan member, to the Supreme Court, there was just as much insensitivity involved with naming James F. Byrnes, a South Carolina politician, to the same post. Byrnes once said “This is a white man’s country, and will always remain a white man’s country” and most assuredly meant it.

If you are worried about neo-secessionism, you’d better stop kidding yourself that FDR was a “friend of the Negro”.

I do think it is useful to analogize from secessionist the Civil War, and Reconstruction but not in the manner found in Wing’s article. Today the question that confronts the left is not chattel slavery but wage slavery. In Lincoln’s day, there was a Democratic Party and a Whig Party that both supported slavery. There were some Whigs who opposed slavery but not so much so as to bolt from the party. In some ways the far left of the Democratic Party were like the anti-slavery Whigs. But it took independent political action in the form of the Free Soil Party to begin to set in motion the forces that would eventually become the Republican Party, a revolutionary party in terms of its challenge to the backward agrarian wing of the capitalist class in the South.

Our goal today is to create equivalents of the Free Soil Party but along the lines of the Nader campaign, the Greens or any other initiative that refuses to compromise with the two-party system. In 1959 Carlos Fonseca joined a guerrilla group in Nicaragua because the two-party system there had excluded the possibility of reforming the system. In taking such a chance, he risked death.

In the U.S., opposing the two-party system will not get you killed but it will earn you the scorn of people who are committed to piecemeal reform, especially those who enjoy a good living working for a nonprofit funded by some liberal hedge fund manager or real estate magnate. With hundreds of millions of dollars devoted each year to magazines and newspapers that routinely include articles dismissing socialists as hopelessly Quixotic, it is a miracle that any of us keep tilting at windmills. I guess the fact that we are dealing with real horrors rather than imaginary ones is what keeps us going.

June 19, 2013

From my archives on Ray Markey

Filed under: Islamophobia,parliamentary cretinism — louisproyect @ 1:44 am

This guy is a former member of the SWP who just wrote a stupid baiting comment on my long piece on Syria. Ordinarily I don’t pay much attention to Islamophobes but a word or two might be useful. Markey was on the NYC Central Labor Council for years as the President of the Librarian’s Union. At some point he joined the Committees of Correspondence and turned into a typical Ed Schultz Democratic Party pwogwessive labor leader fulminating about how the evil Republicans were destroying the country. Ten years ago, long before I began blogging, I sent him an open letter about his crappy reformist politics. What’s interesting, now that I’ve had a look at it for the first time in years, is how his buddy Carl Davidson had the hots for Colin Powell who was taking the fight to al-Qaeda. Disgusting.

Letter to Ray Markey on stopping Bush

 posted to www.marxmail.org on September 25, 2003

 (Ray Markey is President of the New York Public Library Guild, Local 1930, in New York City)

Dear Ray,

I can’t say that I am totally surprised by your signature on “Bush Can Be Stopped: A Letter to the Left”.

(www.petitiononline.com/LttrLeft/petition.html)

The letter seems to be a project of the Committees of Correspondence, which I joined on your recommendation over a decade ago. I dropped out after attending my one and only convention, where much time and energy was wasted–in my opinion–on how to boost the fortunes of Democratic Party candidates.

Camejo was in the C of C at the time and although I stopped communicating with him after he screwed up my portfolio, I suspect that he switched to the Greens after drawing conclusions similar to my own. I remember when the three of us would discuss the problem of the Democratic Party back in 1981 when we were all involved with the North Star Network and before the C of C had been formed. Memory can play tricks on you, but I think that we said that we could belong to a radical group that endorsed Democrats on a local level and that we did not want to make that a split question. I am much less sanguine about that nowadays after seeing the steady degradation of the Democratic Party. When an NPR interviewer asked Camejo how he felt about the Nader campaign helping Bush to win (www.votecamejo.org/debate_links.php), he replied that the Democrats had ensured their own defeat by failing to challenge the Republican Party. What kind of opposition party stands up to cheer George W. Bush’s State of the Union speeches, he asked quite pointedly.

I think to an extent the furor over George W. Bush reflects a kind of failure to fully appreciate how awful the Clinton administration was. In the latest Village Voice, there’s an article by Richard Goldstein on how progressives like Leslie Cagan (your co-signer) and NOW leader Rita Haley are all “are willing to break bread with the Democratic mainstream”, even going so far as to stop “focusing on Clinton’s perfidy these days”.

C of C leader Carl Davidson, who initiated “Bush Can Be Stopped: A Letter to the Left”, might understandably be in a position to look more fondly on Clinton than on Bush, despite the war on Yugoslavia serving as a model for the current war on Iraq since–after all–Davidson was an outspoken supporter of US goals in the Balkans.

More recently, he has found himself seduced by the war on terror. He called for “all necessary forces–police, civil authority, national guard, intelligence and military, here and abroad” to defeat al-Qaeda and projected a tactical alliance with Secretary of State Colin Powell, who has “maintained a ‘narrow the target’ focus on al-Quaida and has worked to build a broad coalition of support.” (www.isreview.org/issues/21/anti_imperialism.shtml)

I must say that the older I get the more adamantly I am opposed to supporting the Democratic Party even in a backhanded “Part of the Way with LBJ” fashion. Perhaps it is my Trotskyist indoctrination. Or perhaps it is an identification with Eugene V. Debs who said that “I’d rather vote for what I want and not get it than vote for what I don’t want and get it.” Or Malcolm X who said about the supposed differences between the two major parties: “One is the wolf, the other is a fox. No matter what, they’ll both eat you.”

My hostility to the two-party system was only deepened by research I have done recently on slavery, the civil war and reconstruction–aided in no small part by Camejo’s book on the topic. What I discovered is that the modern two party system really grows out of agreements made in the 1870s to basically run the country as a kind of joint stock company run by the two capitalist parties. Whatever principled differences they had up to and including the Civil War were papered over in the Gilded Age.

In Goldstein’s Voice article, he quotes the Nation Magazine’s Katrina vanden Heuvel who says the left is less obsessed with the Democratic Leadership Council these days because “it has lost its sway on the party.” This is a remarkable statement in light of the Democratic Party’s willingness to vote for war in Iraq, Bush’s tax cuts, prison spending, etc. If, as blackcommentator.com’s Glen Ford put it, the issue is “Anybody but Lieberman”, then I suppose we deserve what we get. Just as Ronald Reagan’s rightwing revolution permanently changed the character of the Republican Party, so had the DLC’s policies changed their opponents. Both, of course, were driven by the same class forces: the need to maximize corporate profits and expand US imperialist hegemony.

December 25, 2012

Was the 2012 election really a referendum? A response to Bill Fletcher Jr. and Carl Davidson

Filed under: Obama,parliamentary cretinism — louisproyect @ 5:07 pm

Bill Fletcher Jr.

Carl Davidson

I am sure that most of you are aware that General Petraeus, Obama’s CIA Director, got caught with his pants down when it was revealed in November that he was having an affair with Paula Broadwell, his fawning biographer.

But for my money the real scandal was his incestuous relationship with Fred and Kimberly Kagan, a couple of neoconservative warhawks, who served as his unpaid advisers when he was running the counterinsurgency program in Afghanistan before assuming the CIA post.

The Washington Post’s ace reporter Rajiv Chandrasekaran delivered the goods in a December 19 article:

Frederick and Kimberly Kagan, a husband-and-wife team of hawkish military analysts, put their jobs at influential Washington think tanks on hold for almost a year to work for Gen. David H. Petraeus when he was the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan. Provided desks, e-mail accounts and top-level security clearances in Kabul, they pored through classified intelligence reports, participated in senior-level strategy sessions and probed the assessments of field officers in order to advise Petraeus about how to fight the war differently.

The Defense Department permits independent analysts to observe combat operations, but the practice became far more common when Petraeus became the top commander in Iraq. He has said that conversations with outside specialists helped to shape his strategic thinking.

The take-home benefit was equally significant: When the opinion makers returned home, they inevitably wrote op-eds, gave speeches and testified before Congress, generally imparting a favorable message about progress under Petraeus, all of which helped him sell the war effort and expand his popularity.

Other commanders soon caught on. By the time the Kagans arrived in Kabul in June 2010, it was commonplace for think-tankers and big-name columnists to make seven-to-10-day visits once or twice a year. Two analysts from the Council on Foreign Relations, Max Boot and Stephen Biddle, were in Afghanistan at the same time at the invitation of Petraeus.

If you are at all familiar with the foreign policy bogeymen feared most by Democratic Party liberals, the name Max Boot should leap off the page. With a name like Boot, how could it be otherwise? He was one of the loudest boosters of Bush’s occupation of Iraq and openly defends America’s right to rule the old through old-fashioned imperialist gunboat policies.

In 2010 General Petraeus received the Irving Kristol Prize from the American Enterprise Institute, the neocon think-tank that provided a roost for the Kagans. In his acceptance speech, he tipped his hat to them:

One recent AEI effort, of course, stands out in particular. In the fall of 2006, AEI scholars helped develop the concept for what came to be known as “the surge.” Fred and Kim Kagan and their team, which included retired General Jack Keane, prepared a report that made the case for additional troops in Iraq. As all here know, it became one of those rare think tank products that had a truly strategic impact.

Petraeus also made sure to pay homage to the ultrarightist in whose name the award is given:

But while Irving Kristol may be gone, his influence will be felt for generations to come. He was, of course, one of our Nation’s foremost thinkers on a host of topics, from economics and religion to social welfare and foreign policy. He was a man of staggering intellect who possessed a view of human nature and American politics that has, in many respects, stood the test of time.

Kristol, of course, was one of the prime architects of the Reagan revolution that all our good liberals keep urging us to root out, primarily through the mechanism of pulling the lever for Barack Obama, the same guy who has uttered these memorable words:

I don’t want to present myself as some sort of singular figure. I think part of what’s different are the times…I think Ronald Reagan changed the trajectory of America in a way that Richard Nixon did not and in a way that Bill Clinton did not. He put us on a fundamentally different path because the country was ready for it. I think they felt like with all the excesses of the 1960s and 1970s and government had grown and grown but there wasn’t much sense of accountability in terms of how it was operating. I think people, he just tapped into what people were already feeling, which was we want clarity we want optimism, we want a return to that sense of dynamism and entrepreneurship that had been missing.

Yeah, who wants those “excesses” of the 1960s? All that stuff about peace, love and understanding. Least of all someone like Barack Obama who hires a guy like David Petraeus for the same reason that George W. Bush did, namely to keep the restless natives at bay.

If Petraeus has a soft spot in his heart for Fred and Kimberly Kagan, it is only natural that the president would connect with Robert Kagan, Fred’s brother. As I reported last February, Obama was carrying around Robert Kagan’s new book “The World America Made” like a security blanket. Unlike the frothing at the mouth Tea Party types, Fred Kagan, Robert Kagan, and like-minded rightists are more than willing to work with a Democratic Party president who madman Dinesh D’Souza accused of plotting to transform America into a socialist republic by 2016. Robert Kagan reminded Foreign Policy readers back in March 2010 that shrewder neocons saw a consistency with the Bush administration:

Unnoticed amid the sniping in Washington over health care and the wailing about “broken government,” a broad and durable bipartisan consensus has begun falling into place in one unlikely area: foreign policy. Consider the fact that on Afghanistan, Iraq, and Iran — the most difficult, expensive, and potentially dangerous foreign challenges facing the United States — precious little now separates Barack Obama from most Republican leaders in and out of Congress.

That “broad and durable bipartisan consensus” amounts to bombing the shit out of anybody who is unlucky enough to get included in the President’s latest hit list.

Obama’s clear ambition is to cement a relationship with “reasonable” people like the Kagans. It must be deeply frustrating to him that despite the amicable bipartisan relationship between Alan Simpson, a Republican, and the Democrat Erskine Bowles there has been so little progress on the domestic front. Can’t the Republicans understand that it is worth some rich bastard getting by on $35 million per year rather than $40 million in exchange for the people at the bottom getting an equivalent cut in Social Security and Medicare?

Last January Obama said the following in his State of the Union Address:

To put us on solid ground, we should also find a bipartisan solution to strengthen Social Security for future generations. We must do it without putting at risk current retirees, the most vulnerable, or people with disabilities; without slashing benefits for future generations; and without subjecting Americans’ guaranteed retirement income to the whims of the stock market.

The latest news, of course, is that SS payments will be slashed if Obama can get enough Republicans to vote for a package that uses a “chained” Consumer Price Index to calculate benefits. One of the first to sniff out the con game that would be put forward by the White House was Dean Baker who explained to Counterpunch readers what was at stake last July:

The justification for the change in the benefit formula is that the CCPI takes account of the substitutions that consumers make in response to changing prices. The classic story is that if the price of beef rises and the price of chicken doesn’t, people will buy more chicken and less beef. The CCPI takes this switching from beef to chicken into account in calculating inflation. The current CPI does not.

While there is an argument for taking account of this sort of substitution in the index, there are two important issues that arise when evaluating the cost of living of seniors. First, their consumption patterns differ substantially from the rest of the population. They consume more health care and fewer computers.

Some economists project expenditures to be reduced by $250 billion over a ten-year period if a chained CPI is adopted. In his latest budget Obama proposed spending about $5.8 trillion for the military over the next decade. That would account for roughly 11% of total federal spending in 2022. That’s just the ticket for a realigned Democratic Party that combines DLC types like Obama and the “reasonable” Republicans who would vote for guns rather than butter as long as they understood that the larger interests of the one percent were being served.

If you want to see where the country is going, all you need to do is look at Europe. France’s Socialist president is considering an all out attack on the social safety net according to a plan worked out by a member of the big bourgeoisie:

New York Times December 19, 2012
Challenging France to Do Business Differently
By LIZ ALDERMAN

PARIS — Louis Gallois, one of France’s most influential industrialists, knew he was about to make waves for the country’s Socialist president.

It was late October, and President François Hollande, faced with an alarming deterioration in the economy, had turned to Mr. Gallois for advice on how to put corporate France on a more competitive footing with the rest of Europe.

Mr. Gallois didn’t sugar-coat the message. His report called for a “competitiveness shock” that would require politicians to curb the “cult of regulation” he said was choking business in France.

The report said that unless France relaxed its notoriously rigid labor market, the country would continue on an industrial decline that had destroyed more than 750,000 jobs in a decade and helped shrink France’s share of exports to the European Union to 9.3 percent, from 12.7 percent, during that period. The report also called for cuts to a broad range of business taxes used to pay for big government and France’s expensive social safety net.

When people like Bill O’Reilly and Dinesh D’Souza warn about Obama taking the U.S. down the road to European style socialism, they obviously are on to something.

So how is it that people keep expressing a preference for not touching “entitlements” and we end up with a chained CPI despite Obama’s promises that benefits will not be cut? I guess I wised up after my one and only vote for a Democrat back in 1964 when I was assured that if Goldwater were elected we’d end up in a ground war in Vietnam. From that point on, I was open to the idea that Debs was right when he said that it was better to vote for what you want and not get it then to vote for what you don’t want and get it.

Apparently for two well-known “Marxist” supporters of Obama, the question of what you want is not that important. On August 9th, they argued that the elections were going to be a referendum:

To assume that the November elections are a moment to display our antipathy toward empire, moreover, misses entirely what is unfolding.  This is not a referendum on the “America of Empire”:  it is a referendum pitting the “America of Popular Democracy”—the progressive majority representing the changing demographics of the US and the increasing demands for broad equality and economic relief, especially the unemployed and the elderly—against the forces of unfettered neoliberalism and far right irrationalism.

In a sense this is right. The 1964 election was a referendum of sorts on the war in Vietnam. People voted for LBJ and got escalation. In the 2012 election people voted against “unfettered neoliberalism and far right irrationalism” and got a CIA Director who is honored with the Irving Kristol Prize from the American Enterprise Institute, and a chained CPI.

The problem with the “referendum” strategy is that it fails to recognize its non-binding character. Does anybody seriously think that because Obama said he was opposed to cuts in Social Security that he would be bound to keep his promise? Those speeches are not worth the paper they are written on.

On August 30, 1999, the people of East Timor had a referendum on whether to become a Special Autonomous Region within Indonesia, or for independence. Around 79% of voters opted for independence. In that very same year President Chavez of Venezuela put forward a referendum allowing for a new constitution as well as providing for recall referendums of elected officials as long as a minimum percentage of voters signed a petition. In the Venezuelan recall referendum of 2004 voters determined whether or not Chávez should be recalled from office. The result of the referendum was to not recall Chávez.

Those are real referendums. What Fletcher and Davidson are talking about has more to do with opinion polls. Like going to a polling station, going behind a curtain, and pulling a lever for whether you believe in capitalism or not. Let’s put it this way. Capitalism will not be eliminated through such atomized and nonbinding behavior. In fact, one of the main purposes of such exercises is to help stabilize the system by giving people the illusion that their vote makes a difference.

All in all, pulling the lever on election day in the U.S. for Obama in the hopes that he will not adopt “neoliberal excesses” is as vain as pushing the close button in many elevators. The elevator doors are actually timed to close according to a preset interval, such as 15 seconds. We are invited to press the close button anyhow since this gives the anxious passenger the feeling that things are moving forward.

November 12, 2012

Who says the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson wasted their money?

Filed under: capitalist pig,financial crisis,parliamentary cretinism — louisproyect @ 8:54 pm

David and Charles Koch

Sheldon Adelson

One of the things heard incessantly since Election Day is that the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson did not get their money’s worth. Alternet’s R.J. Eskow spoke for many of his co-religionists:

I should be a better person than this, but I take no small amount of satisfaction in knowing that Sheldon Adelson and the Koch Brothers wasted lots and lots and lots of money this year.

It is necessary to put this into perspective. The Koch brothers spent $400 million. That represents just .008 of their combined personal fortune of fifty billion dollars. Forbes Magazine shared my perspective when it came to Adelson:

Yes, Sheldon Adelson crapped out on Election Day. But Adelson has plenty of more chips to place on the table–billions more.

True, the casino billionaire spent at least $53 million on this election cycle with little to show for the investment. And while it’s a massive amount of money for most people, and most companies, it’s pocket change for Adelson. The Las Vegas Sands boss is worth $20.5 billion. My colleague Clare O’Connor drew this great comparison yesterday: “Imagine an average person with a $100,000 net worth buying a pair of Tory Burch shoes ($250). You’d care if you lost them, but you wouldn’t be ruined.” Adelson’s $53 million is gone. The billionaire isn’t going anywhere.

Although I am not privy to the innermost calculations of such characters, I think that they share one thing with me, namely a belief that there is no room for compromises when it comes to electoral politics.

Historically this was not always the case with the Republicans. The most notable example in recent times was the presidency of Dwight D. Eisenhower who Robert Welch, the founder of the John Birch Society, described in these terms: “Could Eisenhower really be simply a smart politician, entirely without principles and hungry for glory, who is only the tool of the Communists? The answer is yes.” He also stated: “With regard to … Eisenhower, it is difficult to avoid raising the question of deliberate treason.”

It should also be noted that Fred Koch, the paterfamilias of the reactionary gang, was a founding member of the John Birch Society and that his sons’ funding of the nativist and racist Tea Party movement reflects a continuity with the past.

It is important to understand that at one time “Eisenhower Republicans” enjoyed hegemony in the party. Despite the tendency of the Communist Party and many 60s radicals to dub Richard Nixon as a looming fascist, he had plenty in common with Eisenhower, for whom he served as Vice President for two terms. In an interview with Howard K. Smith in January 1971, he said “I am now a Keynesian”. Can anybody imagine that empty suit President Obama saying something like that? This, in fact, is where he stands:

Reagan spoke to America’s longing for order, our need to believe that we are not simply subject to blind, impersonal forces, but that we can shape our individual and collective destinies, so long as we rediscover the traditional virtues of hard work, patriotism, person responsibility, optimism, and faith.

That Reagan’s message found such a receptive audience spoke not only to his skills as a communicator; it also spoke to the failures of liberal government, during a period of economic stagnation, to give middle-class voters any sense that it was fighting for them. For the fact was that government at every level had become too cavalier about spending taxpayer money. Too often, bureaucracies were oblivious to the cost of their mandates. A lot of liberal rhetoric did seem to value rights and entitlements over duties and responsibilities.

Barack Obama, Audacity of Hope, p. 31-32

Some people, especially younger people who have no memory of liberal Republicanism, believe that Ronald Reagan transformed the Republican Party. In reality, the seeds were planted in 1964 when Barry Goldwater said in his acceptance speech as Presidential candidate for the Republican Party: “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!” Come to think of it, he was right.

Goldwater’s aim back then was to transform the Republican Party into a conservative party. In doing so, he found a counterpart among many liberals who yearned that the Democratic Party become more purely liberal. In practice this meant purging the party of the Southern racists, something that turned out to be unnecessary after Nixon adopted his “Southern Strategy”.

Today there are no important liberal Republicans. Arguably, the last one standing was Pennsylvania Senator Arlen Specter, who defected to the Democratic Party in 2009 three years before his death. (It is not so well-known that Specter was a Democrat to start with, from 1951 to 1965.)

Unlike the Republicans, the Democrats never could be mistaken for a liberal party after George McGovern’s candidacy in 1972, at least when it came to presidential nominations. Starting with Carter, there has been a steady drift toward the ideology of the Democratic Leadership Council, a nasty collection of rightwing politicians who began defining themselves as “New Democrats” in the same spirit of Tony Blair’s “New Labour”.

In March 2009, Obama told the New Democratic Coalition, a group described by politico.com as “comprised of centrist Democratic members of the House, who support free trade and a muscular foreign policy”, that he indeed was a New Democrat.

Before Bruce A. Dixon split with Black Commentator, a website that eventually became typified by Bill Fletcher Jr.’s pro-Obama think-pieces, he wrote an article titled “In Search of the Real Barack Obama: Can a Black Senate candidate resist the DLC?”. For some reason, this must have nettled candidate Obama who took the trouble to write the ‘zine prior to his election:

Dear Black Commentator:

I read with interest, and some amusement, Bruce Dixon’s recent article regarding my campaign, and his suggestion that perhaps my positions on critical issues facing this country are somehow being corrupted by the influence of the Democratic Leadership Council (DLC).  Given that Bruce [and I] worked together back in 1992 to empower communities through organizing and the ballot box, I wish he’d taken the time to give me a call and check out his facts.

To begin with, neither my staff nor I have had any direct contact with anybody at DLC since I began this campaign a year ago.  I don’t know who nominated me for the DLC list of 100 rising stars, nor did I expend any effort to be included on the list beyond filling out a three line questionnaire asking me to describe my current political office, my proudest accomplishment, and my cardinal rules of politics.  Since my mother taught me not to reject a compliment when it’s offered, I didn’t object to the DLC’s inclusion of my name on their list.  I certainly did not view such inclusion as an endorsement on my part of the DLC platform.

This, of course, was still at the time when Obama was trying to fool some people into thinking that he had liberal credentials. After his election, he dropped any such pretenses. In his re-election bid, he made no effort to reestablish such credentials since so few people would take him seriously. Instead, his super-PAC spent hundreds of millions of dollars making the case that Romney was a greedy, out-of-touch bastard. The ads reminded me of Pee Wee Herman’s rejoinder to his tormentor Francis in “Pee Wee Herman’s Big Adventure”: “I know you are, but what am I?”

Well, I know what Obama is. He is a liberal Republican, maybe even a centrist Republican. In fact, if anybody can tell the difference between a Gerald Ford and a Barack Obama, except for their pigmentation, they have a talent for splitting hairs second to none.

Yes, Virginia, there has been a realignment in American politics, at least on the Presidential level. We have conservative Republican presidents going back to Reagan, but with the Democrats we get nominees who are indistinguishable from Gerald Ford or Howard Baker. But when one of these slobs gets elected, as happened last Tuesday, we get the liberal pundits greeting it once again as the second coming of the New Deal.

Returning to the Republican Party, the question of Koch and Adelson’s money being “wasted” deserves further interrogation. I strongly recommend a look at Chris Kromm’s very fine Southern Voice, where you can find an article by Chris titled “Did Big Money really lose this election? Hardly.” Chris writes:

The fact that TV ads are most effective with less-engaged voters might explain money’s continuing influence in state and local races, which receive far less media exposure and voters may know even less about the candidates and issues.

As Facing South and The New Yorker showed, in 2010 an onslaught of outside spending in North Carolina by outside money groups led by Republican donor Art Pope was a key factor in fueling a historic GOP takeover of the state legislature.

That put N.C. Republicans in charge of the once-a-decade redistricting process, producing new maps which the John Locke Foundation — which is largely funded by Pope’s foundation — readily admits were crucial to enabling the GOP to expand its power in the General Assembly in 2012.

Money’s state-level influence in North Carolina continued this year, too. According to FollowNCMoney.org, a money-tracking website run by the Institute for Southern Studies, more than $14 million from super PACs and other outside groups poured into N.C. state races.

Of the top 10 spending groups in North Carolina — which made up more than 90 percent of the $14 million total — seven were Republican-leaning groups, who outspent their Democratic-leaning counterparts by more than a two-to-one margin.

And unlike the national super PACs, conservative spending groups in North Carolina enjoyed a much higher winning percentage: Of the 10 races that attracted the most outside money, nine ended in Republican victories. (As for Pope, he and his operatives are well-represented in the newly-elected GOP governor’s transition team.)

But even if Koch and Adelson type funding had less of an effect in the South and elsewhere, that would not prompt such donors to wash their hands of their project, which is not limited to immediate and measurable goals. They are building a reactionary movement that is seeking to turn back the clock to 1890 or so. By spending hundreds of millions of dollars, they push the political agenda to the right. In doing so, the “centrist” politics of a self-avowed New Democrat like Obama shifts to the right along with them.

More to the point, the reactionary agenda of the Koch Brothers is ultimately shared by many corporate bosses who never would be caught dead at a Tea Party rally. Nothing symbolizes this better than The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) that gained some notoriety after its heavy paws were detected in the struggle against Scott Walker in Wisconsin and, even worse, their support for “Stand Your Ground” laws that resulted in Trayvon Martin’s murder.

In the outcry over their Koch-funded skullduggery, some major corporate members were forced to drop their affiliation, including Walmart, Coca-Cola, Wendy’s, Kraft Foods, McDonald’s, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Blue Cross/Blue Shield.

The people who run these corporations are not that interested in ideology. What they are interested in, however, is protecting their class interests. The ultimate explanation for the rightwing assault on our standard of living, our safety on the job, our right to a job, our health, and our right to express our opinion, is a declining rate of profit. While it is not within the purview of this article, and more importantly my limited expertise, to explain why there is such a tendency, suffice it to say that the good old days are gone forever. Despite the rhetoric of a Ronald Reagan on one side and a Barack Obama on the other (all proportions being guarded), well-paying jobs is a thing of the past.

I do recommend an article by Marxist economist Michael Roberts who blogs at http://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/ titled “Does it matter who wins?”, written the day before the election. It is a close look at the economic prognosis of the U.S. and concludes on this note:

For me, the bellwether for the health of US capitalism is the rate of profit.  That shows little sign of returning to levels seen in the late 1990s, let alone back to the golden age of the 1960s.  A low and probably falling rate of profit implies a low rate of new investment ahead, with unemployment staying well above ‘normal’ levels.  And it implies the likelihood of another slump in production before the next four years are over along with the continuance of the Long Depression, now in its fifth year.  And remember the Long Depression that started in 1873 lasted 20 years.

Given these prospects, the bourgeoisie will be forced to rely on the carrot and the stick—or perhaps more accurately, the soft cop and the hard cop. With declining profits, the ruling class will be forced to cut expenses both privately and publicly. Wages will be pushed down, mostly as a result of the threat of runaway shops our outright closings. Expenditures on education, health and the environment will be cut as well.

In the long run, the U.S. will look more and more like Detroit with the wealthy living in gated complexes and the poor forced to make do with less and less. Furthermore, as Hurricane Sandy demonstrates, “natural” disasters will weigh more heavily on the less privileged.

Under such circumstances, there will be mounting anger of the sort on display throughout Southern Europe. The more far-sighted members of the ruling class are planning ahead, to see what powerful and ultimately lawless measures will be necessary to suppress any revolt that threatens their hegemonic rule. And, as well, the more far-sighted members of the working class, including the intelligentsia that has thrown in its lot with this class, will be required to put together an audacious and intelligent plan of action that can meet such scum head-on and defeat it.

November 5, 2012

Does it matter who wins?

Filed under: economics,financial crisis,parliamentary cretinism — louisproyect @ 4:35 pm

Michael Roberts Blog

blogging from a marxist economist

Does it matter who wins?

Does it matter who wins the US presidential election tomorrow?  Is it Tweedledum and Tweedledee?

It is often claimed by non-Marxists that the Marxist materialist conception of history leaves no room for the role of the individual.  Individuals are just swept along by historical forces, both economic and social.  So whoever is a leader of a major hegemonic state like the US will make no difference.  And it’s true that the materialist conception of history does explain why stone age hunter gatherers of Australia or the Americas could not resist the invasion and destruction of their modes of production and civilisations by small groups of European plunderers and settlers relying on the military power and technology of capitalism.  In the end, it did not matter who the ruler of the Inca or Aztecs was or how clever the hunters in the middle of Australia  were in surviving the desert.  Even the most able and clever of them was eventually defeated by even the most inept of European invaders.

But that does not mean individuals cannot make a difference.  History makes man, but man makes history (Marx).  The role of the individual in history is very much part of Marxism, as any reading of Marx’s 18th Brumaire masterpiece on the rise of Louis Bonaparte shows.  But the actions of individuals have to be placed in context.  And the context of this election suggests that whoever wins will not alter the US economy much or the livelihoods of American citizens.

full: http://thenextrecession.wordpress.com/2012/11/05/does-it-matter-who-wins/

November 3, 2012

25 reasons not to vote for Obama

Filed under: Green Party,Obama,parliamentary cretinism — louisproyect @ 11:03 pm

1. His key appointments indicated a tilt toward Wall Street. Tim Geithner, his Secretary of the Treasury, was the brains behind TARP–in other words “too big to fail”. As head of the United States National Economic Council, Larry Summers pushed for tax cuts rather than New Deal type spending on roads, bridges, etc. Before becoming Attorney General, Eric Holder was at a Washington law firm that represented a Who’s Who of big banks and other companies at the center of alleged foreclosure fraud. That, no doubt, is why a Justice Department panel investigating mortgage security fraud is being starved for funds.

2. Working-class homeowners have suffered under the Obama administration. On taking office, Obama promised that up to 9 million of them would be protected from foreclosure but only 2.3 million have gotten assistance. Moreover, the White House never addressed the problem of plunging house prices that left owners being both unable to stay and to leave.

3. Despite their slavish support for Obama, trade unions have been treated poorly. Obama promised that he would fight for EFCA (Employee Free Choice Act), an act that would expedite union certification. Once in office, it was relegated to the back burner.  When Wisconsin governor Scott Walker went on a union-busting rampage, Obama did nothing to back the protests and limited his support for a Democrat in a recall election to a tweet. When Chicago teachers went on strike against Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s Scott Walker-like attack, Obama stood aloof. This was to be expected, of course, since his Secretary of Education is a proponent of charter schools.

4. Despite foolish expectations that Obama would be a new FDR, Obama has functioned more like Hoover on the jobs creation front. There has been nothing like the WPA or the CCC, despite an aging infrastructure. And despite all the hoopla over the auto bailout, the net result has been a downsizing of the big three auto companies, as well as a sharp cut in benefits.

5. Both Obama and Romney love free trade. As liberal wonk Matt Iglesias put it, “And what’s more, all indications are that Barack Obama also doesn’t think Bain was doing anything wrong. As president he’s made no moves to make it illegal for companies to shift production work abroad and has publicly associated himself with a wide range of American firms—from GE to Apple and beyond—who’ve done just that to varying extents. And we all remember what happened to Obama’s promise to renegotiate NAFTA after taking office, right?”

6. Obama done nothing to solve the problem of greenhouse-gas related climate change, a point made by Al Gore in a Rolling Stone article. Despite the EPA’s requirement that new (but not existing) coal-fueled plants cut their emissions by half, there are signs that this will have little to do with reducing greenhouse gases since coal is being replaced across the board by the far cheaper natural gas.

7. Natural gas extraction is being facilitated through the use of hydrofracking, an environmentally devastating practice that the Obama administration has accepted without qualms. In his latest State of the Union speech, Obama’s pro-natural gas stance earned the praise of the pro-hydrofracking Independent Oil & Gas Association. His EPA chief Lisa Jackson told a Senate Committee that she knew of no instances where fracking affected water, a stance that endeared her to the ultra-reactionary NY Post. Finally, he gave TransCanada the OK to build the southern portion of its Keystone XL tar sands pipeline in June of this year. By contrast, Jill Stein was arrested when she was resupplying activists blockading the pipeline.

8. In the same month that he gave TransCanada the green light, Obama permitted oil drilling in the Arctic. This follows a decision in January to re-open 38 Million Acres in Gulf of Mexico to offshore drilling. The fact that BP has given the largest chunk of its $3.5 million campaign contributions to Obama might well have something to do with this.

9. Obama has supported the building of nuclear power plants, even after Fukushima.

10. In 2009 Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack gave his personal approval for a 381-acre clear-cut in Tongass National Forest, America’s largest stand of temperate rain forest.

11. Last and far from least, Obama lifted the ban on hunting gray wolves in eight northern states in 2011. Maybe he and Sarah Palin can go shoot the beasts from a helicopter some time next year in the spirit of collaboration between the two parties. They can bring Chris Christie along, after making sure that the helicopter can carry all that weight.

12. Obama promised to close down Guantanamo but the prison remained open even after he said in the ill-conceived Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech: ” I believe the United States of America must remain a standard bearer in the conduct of war…That is why I ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed.”

13. When men imprisoned in Guantanamo demanded that they be tried in a U.S. court, the case went all the way up to the Supreme Court. On Obama’s urging, the court denied a hearing, thus leading some to assert that a president with a background in constitutional law was gutting habeas corpus.

14. Obama maintains a secret kill list that included American citizens. This suspension of habeas corpus not only led to the murder of Anwar al-Awlaki—an American—but his 16 year old son who was never charged with a crime. Robert Gibbs, Obama’s former press secretary, defending the killing this way: “I would suggest that you should have a far more responsible father if they are truly concerned about the well being of their children.

15. Obama’s raid on Osama bin-Laden’s house was essentially illegal. Amnesty International described it as an extrajudicial execution.

16. His use of drones has led to the deaths of many noncombatants, including a number that have been covered up. The criterion used by the White House is that any military aged male within the target range is fair game. If this is not the policy of a war criminal, then I do not know what is.

17. Many of Obama’s policies are shrouded in secrecy. When the White House leaked word about its kill list—intended to burnish its reputation as tough on terror—nothing happened. But when people like Bradley Manning reveal the machinations that lead to war, he is put in solitary confinement and faced with a lengthy prison term.

18. Despite the hostility of Netanyahu, Israel continues to get carte blanche from the administration. When Americans consider the possibility of joining a flotilla to bring humanitarian aid to Gaza, they have to worry about the threats of fines and imprisonment brandished by Hillary Clinton. Despite toothless remonstrations to Israel about West Bank settlements, the U.S. voted against a U.N. resolution that described them as illegal. Finally, despite American nervousness about an armed attack on Iran, the U.S. continues to back crippling sanctions all in the name of reducing the threat to Israel, a country that flouts international treaties against its own stockpile of nuclear weapons.

19. Against all evidence that its occupation of Afghanistan has been a disaster to the Afghan people and to the soldiers serving there, Obama pledges to “finish the job” in Nixonian terms. Sticking to a 2014 deadline for withdrawal, he will likely step up the use of drones as he begins to wind down troop deployments. 42 states and the District of Columbia are facing serious budget shortfalls this year. Spending for the Afghanistan war would more than make up for the shortfalls.  As is always the case, it is guns trump butter.

20. Despite all the hype about the breakthrough of having the first African-American president, there are signs that Obama has largely ignored the suffering of Black America. In a very important article that appeared in the October 28th New York Times, Columbia University’s director of Black studies wrote: “Whether it ends in 2013 or 2017, the Obama presidency has already marked the decline, rather than the pinnacle, of a political vision centered on challenging racial inequality.” Among the findings in this article: 28 percent of African-Americans, and 37 percent of black children, are poor (compared with 10 percent of whites and 13 percent of white children); 13 percent of blacks are unemployed (compared with 7 percent of whites); more than 900,000 black men are in prison; blacks experienced a sharper drop in income since 2007 than any other racial group; black household wealth, which had been disproportionately concentrated in housing, has hit its lowest level in decades; blacks accounted, in 2009, for 44 percent of new H.I.V. infections.

21. Obama has deported twice the number of undocumented workers per annum than Bush. 59 percent of Latinos disapprove of his policies but face the quandary of voting for Romney, who complains that Obama is not deporting enough.

22. Obamacare has effectively preempted the only health care option that made sense, namely a single-payer plan that would effectively extended Medicare (but a much improved on) to all. As Obama has said on countless occasions, this is the same plan that Romney pushed through when he was governor of Massachusetts. It is also the same plan that American Enterprise Institute scholar J.D. Kleinke defended in a September 29, 2012 NYT op-ed piece titled “The Conservative Case for Obamacare”: The rationalization and extension of the current market is financed by the other linchpin of the law: the mandate that we all carry health insurance, an idea forged not by liberal social engineers at the Brookings Institution but by conservative economists at the Heritage Foundation. The individual mandate recognizes that millions of Americans who could buy health insurance choose not to, because it requires trading away today’s wants for tomorrow’s needs. The mandate is about personal responsibility — a hallmark of conservative thought.”

23. Obama set up something called National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform that was co-chaired by a couple of fiscal hawks, Alan Simpson and Erskine Bowles. There are fears that the policies favored by these two reactionaries will be implemented as cuts in Social Security in Obama’s second term. In his debate with Romney, Obama said, “I suspect that on Social Security, we’ve got a somewhat similar position. Social Security is structurally sound. It’s going to have to be tweaked the way it was by Ronald Reagan and Speaker — Democratic Speaker Tip O’Neill. But it is — the basic structure is sound.” With the likely continuation of Bush tax cuts, there will be pressure to cut the deficit. Between Social Security and tax breaks for billionaires, guess which will be sacrificed.

24. The White House has been a pillar of support for charter schools. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan is one of the country’s leading advocates for what amounts to the privatization of public schools and the liquidation of the teacher’s union, one of the few in the country that still has some backbone. The irrepressible Diane Ravitch described Duncan this way: “Duncan cheered when the superintendent of the Central Falls, Rhode Island, school district threatened to fire every teacher in the town’s only high school; the Education Secretary memorably said that Hurricane Katrina—which wiped out public schools and broke the teachers’ union in New Orleans—was the best thing that ever happened to the school system in that city. Teachers are demoralized by such statements.”

25. Finally, in the one bright spot in recent American history of people challenging the status quo—namely the Occupy movement—there is strong evidence that the White House conspired with local authorities to crush it. David Lindorff reported for Counterpunch: “A new trove of heavily redacted documents provided by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in response to a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request filed by the Partnership for Civil Justice Fund (PCJF) on behalf of filmmaker Michael Moore and the National Lawyers Guild makes it increasingly evident that there was and is a nationally coordinated campaign to disrupt and crush the Occupy Movement.”

None of this should be interpreted, of course, as a preference for Romney, which would be like recommending cyanide instead of arsenic.

On Tuesday I will be happily pulling the lever for Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate for president.

November 2, 2012

#Occupy for President: #2012 and Beyond

Filed under: Occupy Wall Street,parliamentary cretinism — louisproyect @ 5:55 pm

#Occupy for President: #2012 and Beyond

by Pham Binh of Occupy Wall Street, Class War Camp on November 2, 2012

in analysis

The 2012 presidential race bears no trace of Occupy or the militancy it spawned among Chicago teachers and Wal Mart workers. This is no accident — the U.S. political system is a machine, and this machine smothers militancy. The ugly inner workings of the Democratic part of that machine were briefly exposed when a televised floor vote was held at the Democratic National Convention (DNC) to add God and Jerusalem as apartheid Israel’s capital to the party platform at the behest of President Obama. What followed was a charade, the kind of party-line “democracy” practiced at Communist Party congresses in China, North Korea, and the U.S.S.R.:

One DNC delegate stormed out and joined Occupy. Nothing teaches that the Democratic Party does not belong to Democrats better than painful, bitter experiences like this.

full: http://www.thenorthstar.info/?p=2320

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