zaterdag 28 juli 2018

Jewish ‘War Against Corbyn’ can bring antisemitism to Britain

The Jewish ‘War Against Corbyn’ risks bringing real antisemitism to Britain

Greetings from Britain, where the Jewish community is facing an “existential threat to Jewish life”. At least that’s according to an editorial shared by all three of our Jewish community newspapers this week – the Jewish Chronicle, The Jewish News, and the Jewish Telegraph.
You’re probably thinking that Her Majesty’s Government must have just introduced the equivalent of Hitler’s Nuremberg race Laws of 1935. Perhaps it’s worse. Perhaps the round-ups have already begun.
Don’t worry, you haven’t missed a major global news story. Britain remains one of the safest places to live as a Jew on the entire planet. That doesn’t mean there’s no anti-Jewish prejudice here. It’s just that there’s a great deal less of it than some people want you to believe. That’s true for now, but how long will it last?
Thanks to a Jewish communal leadership and a Jewish press which have merged Jewish interests in Britain with the need to defend the interests of the State of Israel, we are set on a path that risks turning fake antisemitism into real antisemitism. What we are witnessing could be an on-coming, self-inflicted tragedy for the Jewish community in Britain. Calling it out now is the best way to stop it happening.

How did we get here?

For those of you who’ve not been following every twist and turn of this saga let me bring you up to speed on the recent developments and the longer term background.
This week’s “existential threat” is just the latest ratcheting up of the rhetoric against the Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn over his alleged failure to deal with the alleged epidemic of alleged antisemitism running rife in the party under his leadership – allegedly.
It all began three years ago soon after Corbyn’s election as Labour party leader. What started off as allegations that he was allowing antisemitism to fester in his party unchecked have evolved into direct accusations that Corbyn is himself antisemitic.  
I’m yet to see a credible piece of evidence that demonstrates that antisemitism is rife in the Labour Party. That doesn’t mean it’s non-existent but the claim made in the joint editorial that the “stain and shame of antisemitism has coursed through Her Majesty’s Opposition since Jeremy Corbyn became leader in 2015” does not stand up to scrutiny.
It’s impossible to understand the hostility against Corbyn from the Jewish community without acknowledging Corbyn’s long standing support for the Palestinian people and the need for their rights to be respected and international law implemented. Take this fact away and the last three years would have been very different.

IHRA Definition   

This week’s show of Jewish media unity was all about attacking Corbyn for failing to adopt “in full” the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of antisemitism. This has become the pretext for all-out war against the Labour leader.
I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but the IHRA document has now become the ‘gold standard’ for our Jewish establishment in determining exactly what antisemitism is in the 21st century. This despite the fact that the IHRA webpage itself describes the document as a ‘working definition’, that is to say it’s a work in progress and a document to be studied, not a statute of government or a piece international law.
But this appears to be far too much nuance for the Board of Deputies and the Jewish Leadership Council which have led the community to war against Jeremy Corbyn.
Two weeks ago, Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) decided that the IHRA document might not be as perfect as the Jewish leadership and media think it to be. While adopting the vast majority of the IHRA wording, and indeed tightening it up in places, the NEC thought it better to separate out those parts of the document that suggest that criticism of Israel could in certain circumstances become antisemitic.
One IHRA example the NEC rejected was that it was anitisemitic to describe Israel as a “racist endeavor”. The NEC had clearly taken note of some of the legal opinion produced highlighting the risk to free speech, such as this critique by Hugh Tomlinson QC.
The attempt by the NEC to create a policy against antisemitism that balanced the needs of the Jewish community with the need for free speech turned out to be the last straw for our Jewish establishment. In short they went ballistic, insisting that only the Jewish community has the right to determine what is antisemitism and who is being antisemitic and what punishment they should receive.      
“This is a sad day for the cause of anti-racism in this country. Labour, for so long a Party that put equality and inclusion at the centre of its values, has today decided to claim that it understands antisemitism better than the victims of this vile prejudice and to set its face against the clear views of the Jewish community.”
Others including a Jewish Labour MP, Dame Margaret Hodge, felt it justified to call her party leader “a fucking anti-Semite and racist” to his face. This despite Corbyn’s record on fighting racism which looks a whole lot more impressive than just about any other MP at Westminster, certainly Margaret Hodge, as this piece from David Rosenberg shows.
Even 68 British Rabbis who would fail to agree on just about any other issue, political or religious, decided that the IHRA definition was chiseled in stone by Moses himself and was beyond critical engagement.
More rational, intelligent and calmer Jewish thought on the subject was available from
experts on antisemitism such as Professor Brian Klug and Anthony Lerman. But the wave of Jewish establishment hostility continues to drown out those voices.
And this is why I’m becoming increasingly worried that a real wave of antisemitism could be on the way.

General Election

There is a reasonable chance that Jeremy Corbyn could be Britain’s next Prime Minister.
Thanks to the on-going political turmoil created by Brexit we could well be facing a General Election in Britain in the late autumn or next spring. It will be fought predominantly on our post-Brexit relationship with the European Union, a question which will determine the future prosperity of the country for decades to come.
If Labour runs a good campaign the election will also be fought on the issues that mattered long before the Brexit referendum – ending economic austerity, funding for the National Health Service, affordable housing, safer communities, and care for the elderly. As the most radical version of Labour for many decades, a Corbyn victory could well herald serious change and the reversal of the neo-liberal economic agenda pursued by Thatcher/Major/Blair/Cameron/May for the last thirty years. The quality of life for millions of people in this country is at stake. For a change, who wins the next election will actually make a difference.
But none of this is of the slightest concern to the Jewish community’s leadership or its media. They only have one issue on their mind – Israel, and how best to protect it from criticism. On this basis they are willing to brand the main opposition party in Britain as irredeemably antisemitic under Corbyn’s leadership. The Jewish Chronicle has already called for Jewish Labour MPs to break away from the party.
And that’s what makes me fear where we could be heading.
If you vote Labour will that make you antisemitic in the eyes of the Jewish community? If you stand for election as a Labour candidate will you be antisemitic?
And what if Corbyn losses by a narrow margin? How will the millions who voted for him see the Jewish community and its three-year campaign to brand him toxic?
The ‘Jewish War Against Corbyn’ is not good Jewish communal politics. It’s playing with fire.

Fighting racism with both hands tied

This is where you end up when you allow antisemitism to become mixed up with Israel and Zionism. This is where the merger between Zionism, Judaism and modern Jewish identity leaves you: fighting racism with both hands tied behind you back.
Mainstream Jewish thinking has created a whole new category of anti-Jewish hatred which the joint editorial this week described as “political antisemitism”. In other words, where they once hated us for our faith, and then for our race, now they hate us for our politics.  This is how Jewish nationalism skews Jewish communal relations around the world.
It’s hardly surprising that the leadership of our community want to frame the debate about Corbyn in terms of antisemitism. It’s much easier to talk about antisemitism than defend Israel directly. Israel itself keeps making that harder and harder.
After the Nation State Law was passed who can truthfully claim that Israel does not support creating apartheid communities and does not deny national self-determination to millions of Palestinians under its direct or indirect authority? What’s been the case for decades has just been given a constitutional ratification by the self-styled ‘only democracy in the Middle East’. Even the Board of Deputies is uncomfortable with what’s just happened. That’s because it knows how much harder it will make their work on Israel advocacy.
If you want to look credible in fighting racism against Jews, and other minorities in Britain, it’s best not to be supporting it in Israel.

No Palestinian voice

The other benefit of focusing the ‘Corbyn War’ on antisemitism, rather than criticism of Israel, is that it means we don’t need to hear from any Palestinians. The debate becomes an entirely Jewish affair where the rights and concerns of the Jewish community are all that’s being discussed.
In the last few weeks, as the row has dragged on and escalated, I’ve never see a Palestinian invited to comment on the TV news or mainstream media. You never see a Palestinian asked if they think Israel is a “racist endeavor?”. Only Jews are allowed to define their oppression. Israel and Zionism, according to Jewish rhetoric, has had no victims.

Jewish voices of protest

I hope I’m wrong about the threat of a backlash against the Jewish community if Labour is narrowly defeated in the next General Election. I hope the British public will be able to understand the diversity of Jewish opinion on Israel that’s mostly obscured by those who claim to speak for us in our entirety. It’s difficult, if not impossible, for non-Jewish voices to call out the attacks on Corbyn as disingenuous or at least motivated by a more complex agenda than is being admitted to. The antisemitism allegations come think and fast.
That’s what makes the Jewish voices in Britain that have been attempting to counter the official Jewish War Against Corbyn, such as Jewish Voice for Labour and Independent Jewish Voices  so vital to our long-term well-being in a country that remains (so far) incredibly hospitable towards Jews.

Did God Send Us Donald Trump?

Did God Send Us Donald Trump? 

Photo by Durán | CC BY 2.0
And I think about killing myself
And I love myself way more than I love you, so
— Kanye West, I Thought About Killing You
For the past two years, I have been wondering why Americans have been so ready, if not eager, to reengage the Cold War with Russia, despite Russia showing no desire to do so. A war between Russia and the United States, given the nuclear arsenals, political allegiances around the world, and the unhinged nature of our President, could destroy the entire species. And for what? Russia’s alleged crime of election meddling, is negligible at best when in comparison to what America has done in Russia, or what rich Americans have done in America. Xenophobia, historical revisionism, and an embrace of fake news are all on the rise in the age of Trump, and are surely all factors for blaming Russia. But lying and bigotry, while practiced routinely, is often shameful, not something to get excited about.
No, my new theory about why Americans want conflict with Russia is because we know in our heart of hearts that the world is ending soon because of climate change. Just as born-again Christians flock to Trump as they yearn for a Revelations-style apocalypse, liberals want a showdown with Russia. If the world is ending anyways, let’s end it on our own terms seems to be the rationale. Other countries have reacted with a more rational response to the potential of the world ending—namely doing something about it. The Republican Party stands alone, in terms of rich countries, in its blatant denial of climate change. This is why Noam Chomsky correctly calls them the most dangerous organization in human history. The Democratic Party, their hapless and willing enablers, are a close second.
The Republican Party though has seemed to stand alone in their tendency to live in an ‘alternative facts’ universe. As bad as Democrats are, they know better ways to lie. But since the election of Donald Trump, the Democrats have become just as paranoid and dishonest as their friends across the aisle. The Republicans may see a communist behind every corner, but the Democrats see a Russian behind every corner. This makes sense because Russia, or at least the Soviet Union, was seen as communist the first time around. And the Democrats have always been scared of communism too. Now Russia isn’t communist, or even close, but what world power is? Poor Mr. Putin. He has tried so hard to be a ruthless capitalist, in fact he has succeeded at this goal, but it appears that America is too hotheaded to care.
In the age of Barack Obama, those who deal with life superficially could forget the coming Armageddon. If one could get by his arrogance and kill lists, Mr. Obama seemed like a pretty cool guy. And when it came to Russia, a better diplomat. One has to wonder if the fear of Trump has become so irrational that we are scared of anything he does, and that by simply forcing him into the opposite, we will be better off. There also is surely a part of the American psyche that is just rooting for Mr. Trump to fail. And who wouldn’t want that? Anything that gets him out of office as soon as possible should be welcomed, no matter the undemocratic implications of Robert Mueller’s agenda. Trump failing while in office though? It is unclear who this helps besides the anti-Trump resistance who may be more interested in being morally superior than stopping Trump’s vicious agenda.
Regardless, what Donald Trump brings to America is the sense that we are powerless. He is unpredictable, reckless, stupid and vengeful. We now live in constant fear, and for good reason. But the legitimate fear of Trump manifests as illegitimate fear of Putin, even though there is little implication they actually like each other. We fear Putin’s authoritarian state, when it is Donald Trump who is bringing authoritarianism home. Why? Well, many of the resistance are imperialists. We want an enemy we can bomb and scapegoat, not one that pervades all of our own crumbling American institutions. It is the same reason why Republicans blame immigrants that Democrats blame Russia. Someone to blame, not something to change.
This powerlessness we feel may remind us of our powerless future that can easily be forgotten in the age of mass distraction. However, with Donald Trump, he is both the distraction and the problem. He is useful to the rich because he distracts, but perhaps he is a little too close to the real problem to be the calming relaxer that our smartphones are. One can turn on the TV and see Trump said blank, or Russia did that, but any person could quickly be reminded that not only is Trump a petty scandal, but a serious one.
Such is the reason for this extreme level of neurosis. There is endless piffling Trump material to focus on, but the material is based in something far more alarming not yet examined in a serious way. Thus, Trump, while ever present, remains enticing simply because we are not yet at the root of our fear. Many Americans may fear Donald Trump will grope them, insult them or embarrass them but the real fear is that he is deregulating and privatizing everything, and killing us all in the process. This is not the focus of discourse though. In part because mass media and their ties to polluting companies won’t allow it. But also in part because it is no longer fun gossip.
Russia somehow remains fun gossip. The game of bringing down Donald Trump continues. He messes up, we scold, nothing happens. Until we drop the bomb, it’s all fun and games. It’s endless flirtation without a lot of action. I imagine it is how Ted Cruz deals with his sexual urges. It is a whole lot of fun talking about them, but he knows he is going to hell if he ever does them. Likewise, Russia is fun to talk about, but if we ever act on our claim that they are the greatest threat to democracy since 9/11, we will be bringing the end times early.
If Donald Trump was impeached, what would war-mongering corporate liberals talk about? Expect them to ask Russia to rig it even harder in 2020 for Mr. Trump.
Trump has reminded us of the real cause for alarm: the mass extinction thundering towards us. We feel so uneasy, but what can we do? Climate change is depressing and horrifying and we can seemingly do nothing about it on an individual level. We then opt for the only thing that we have left to control: how we all die. Foolish, I think. As bad as Trump is, there is something left to live for, and if Trump were to blow up Russia, it would not be on our terms, but on his. In fact, he is only likely to blow up Russia if he feels he is being out-machoed by the neoliberal corporate class in combative rhetoric. As it stands, America is egging on this madman for no other purpose than a sense of control over our own demise. If anything lets Trump and the corporate overlords win, this is it.
It is worth detailing what has happened in the Russia scandal, if only to show nothing has really happened. The first charge, which is denied by the accused firm, is that a Russian company known as Internet Research Agency funded ‘millions of dollars’ in advertisements. There has been no link established between this company and the Russian government. The accusation, if it is true, is no different from the private American companies who invest billions in elections, sometimes illegally, but often legally. The second charge is related to the Russian government and the alleged hacking of the Democratic National Committee. Once again, this is only a charge, but the information released by hackers was potentially damaging to Hillary Clinton and the Democrats, simply because it was true. The irony is that the damaging information for the DNC was that they had rigged their own primary. The accused riggers only crime is exposing the proven riggers. There are allegations of state and local hacking too, but those were present before 2016. Did Russia do it? is hardly our biggest story now. For whatever it is, even if it did prevent the corporate warmonger Hillary Clinton from winning, it should be far less concerning than the obsessive, neurotic, fear-mongering, scapegoating, ominous mood in the United States since the 2016 election.
Why were Democrats tearing their hair out over a Trump-Putin meeting last week that seemed to offer zero conclusions about how Trump felt about anything? The whole week, which was typical Donald, was just another week of bullying the weak and submitting to the strong. Putin may be able to push some buttons in his own country, but when Trump, who never apologizes for anything, ran back his own words, it was clear that NATO would live to see another day, no matter the scattered thoughts of a wimpy man in over his head. The deranged response to the deranged Donald was enough for me to think long and hard about a theory given to me by a right-wing woman this past week.
Her theory was that God had in fact sent us Donald Trump. My first thought: highly unlikely. This man lacks the morals of the people God sends to us. In fact, I can hardly think of a worse human being. There may actually be no human being worse than Trump, save maybe Charles Koch, David Koch and whoever funds Adam Sandler movies. But I thought of the alternative the corporate media was telling me: Vladimir Putin is the real President of America and the real reason the entire country is undemocratic, poor, hungry, and in prison. Also, highly unlikely.
Yet the pamphlet this woman handed me at least admitted there was no rhyme or reason to this theory other than some guy hearing it from God: “I, like many of you, was shocked by the word I received regarding Donald Trump. Trust me when I say it was given with fear and trembling.” Has the fear and trembling gone away?
The only biblical evidence of this theory the pamphlet provided was 1 Corinthians 15:52: “In a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump: for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed.” and 1 Thessalonians 4:16: “For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first.” The problem with being a fundamentalist in the age of Trump is that you are taking a book word for word that you haven’t even read. If you are going to take it literally, at least look for that capital T in trump, otherwise you have to take every trumpet player as a prophet. Next thing you know Trumpettes will be swapping out their Johnny Rebel records and replacing them with Lee Morgan. Still, the trail left by the Trumpettes was no less convincing than Robert Mueller’s. There was as much evidence of Trump in the Bible as Trump in Putin’s pocket.
It should come to no one’s surprise that Donald Trump has not exactly been pro-Russia. A broken clock may strike right twice a day, but a doomsday clock never strikes right. Glen Greenwald points out that Barack Obama was actually more pro-Russia than Trump: “you look at President Obama versus President Trump, there’s no question that President Obama was more cooperative with and collaborative with Russia and the Russian agenda than President Trump. President Trump has sent lethal arms to Ukraine—a crucial issue for Putin—which President Obama refused to do. President Trump has bombed the Assad forces in Syria, a client state of Putin, something that Obama refused to do because he didn’t want to provoke Putin. Trump has expelled more Russian diplomats and sanctioned more Russian oligarchs than [Obama] has. Trump undid the Iran deal, which Russia favored, while Obama worked with Russia in order to do the Iran deal.” Once again, liberals give Mr. Trump too much credit. He has no friends. He gets along with no one. There is no coherent plan here other than corruption.
As liberals resist Putin-Trump with homophobic memes, one has to wonder, how mad are these people? Do they realize that Donald Trump is crazy, even crazier than them? Why on earth do they want Trump armed and angry?
Anyone who can still bear to follow the news knows that the corporate media is still attempting to paint Russia as an aggressive and unreasonable foe. This is all with Mr. Trump as the President! It is hard to believe that anyone is more unreasonable and aggressive than Trump, but once again, the liberals let him off the hook. Despite military on Russia’s borders, years of war-mongering rhetoric and hostile economic activity, meddling in Russia’s own elections, and constant racism, Russia remains a reasonable actor in its relation to the United States. One wonders why Russia tries to reason with us at all, but the nuclear weapons certainly make things a little more complicated.
For all the talk about Putin destroying American democracy, no one mentions the real threats to U.S. democracy that led to Trump’s election—absurd campaign financing, a sensationalist profit-driven corporate media, and voter suppression. No one mentions that there was a proven election scandal in the United States in 2016. This scandal was the DNC rigging its primary for Hillary Clinton over Bernie Sanders. If the United States was a democracy, Bernie Sanders would be President right now.
Finding no comfort or coherence in the liberal narrative, I turned once again to my new right-wing friend. She told me that all these recent storms were punishment for the sins of a liberal society. Almost, actually. But her anti-choice, anti-immigrant complaints showed me she was as far from the truth as anyone else. Still, I found this to be a fascinating denial of climate change. It was not so much that she denied that it is happening, she just denied human involvement. Which goes to show, as climate change becomes increasingly hard to ignore, religion may be the only method left to explain it away.
I have always thought the war over public opinion is a losing battle though. After all, what is the prize if you win? It is far more rewarding to fight hunger, poverty, deregulation, incarceration and war. Beat those things and we will all be too cozy to have a worthwhile opinion anyways.
The public opinion debate too often turns into a qualification of other people’s mental health, as if any skepticism deserves to be medicated by the liars who tell you that you need their drugs. Climate change skeptics should have a place in public discourse. The skeptics do at times have a financial interest in keeping us fooled, but then their problem isn’t their skepticism, but their dishonesty, which almost proves the real skeptics right. Otherwise, these are sincere believers who are right to be skeptical of science, which has brought us eugenics, unnecessary mental health treatments, nuclear power, and the very pollutants we now oppose, and would have kept at it without government checks and populist skeptics. If only the same amount of skepticism could be applied to Fox News and the corporate hacks Donald Trump appoints.
In the spirit of skepticism, let’s look at what Trump has done on climate change and the coming end of the world. As Noam Chomsky puts it, the Republicans are racing to the precipice. Among the recent sins by Mr. Trump:
1. Rolling back the Endangered Species Act.
2. Cutting NASA Climate monitoring.
3. A move to make details of scientific studies public, making sure that scientists will have to choose between privacy rights and conducting a study.
4. Rollback of car emissions standards
5. Repeal of Water of the United States rule, which threatens clean water for 117 million Americans.
6. Repeal of lead-risk reduction program
7. Reduction of chemical bans for methylene chloride, trichloroethylene and N-Methylpyrrolidone
8. Stripping rules for coal ash waste removal.
9. Pardoning despicable ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond
10. Appointing anti-EPA Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court
11. Pushing for drilling the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
If anything, God sent us Trump to punish us for our sins, not to save us from them.
Alas, while a worthwhile exercise to imagine that God indeed sent us Donald Trump, I was only reminded that the right-wing is just as bonkers as the neoliberal wing. A week of watching CNN will have you believing anything; even pushing one to believe that God really did send Donald Trump. But I will confirm, for anyone so tempted by a new way of thinking, the glove just doesn’t fit. God did not send us Donald Trump. I can’t prove it, but I am fairly certain. I then was left with one mystifying question: if God did not send Donald Trump, what does the corporate media have against him?
The common variable between Trumpettes and Russiaphobes is the end of the world narrative. Is it a reaction to climate change that both must make up stories about how the world will end? Is it the only power any of us have left? Is it the cancer patient learning they have a year to live and then shooting up a school just so they can end it on their own terms? Sorry, to all Cold War Warriors and all Donald Doomers, some of us just are not ready to die. There is, one has to believe, a rose growing in the concrete somewhere that makes these prophecies not worth an early exit. At the very least, must we go out on such fabricated and petty terms? Surely there is something worth dying for besides hating political correctness or Putin’s soccer ball.
What is that nuclear taste? Is reviving Hillary’s corpse really worth it? Or has the entire country given up and opted for a death they can blame on someone else? It is not so dissimilar from the apocalypse envisioned by the Trumpettes, who can blame every storm that Trump makes worse on the sins of a liberal society. If Trump and Putin were to blow each other up tomorrow, liberals would die on top. However, if we are to die slightly slower due to climate change, the entire industrialized world will have to know we played a part. And there will be those pesky Trumpettes who blame it on liberalism, not capitalism. To all this I say, who cares. Yes, we messed up. We shouldn’t have drained the earth of all its resources, we shouldn’t have elected Trump. But no need to feel guilty and embrace the end of the world! There is still good work to be done. Who will be laughing when the world dies by nuclear (a Russiaphobe wet dream) or fire (a Trumpette wet dream). There will be no moral high ground at that point. The apocalypse will be the great equalizer. Even in the age of Trump, the world is worth sticking around for, although She might as well be done with us as soon as She can be.
Surely the principle of lesser evilism still has a place, no? Can’t we all agree that dying tomorrow is better than dying today? Who is more looney, the apocalyptic Trumpettes or the Russiaphobic corporate class? We will find out soon enough. While it is very likely that Trump will win reelection (poll numbers in the Republican Party for him are very positive), it is just as likely that the new Cold War will continue until Trump is gone, whether that be in 2 years, 6 years, or 14 years (Ivanka). The premise is that we will either have Trump’s apocalypse or we will blow up Russia. There must be a winner. Given Trump’s flair for winning and upending the liberal class, who would be surprised if it was he who ended up blowing up Russia, not for our reasons, but for his own. Therefore, it is equally important to get Trump, the Republicans and Democrats out of power as quickly as possible.
We are once again pawns to the powers that be. Sensing the end is coming, they wish to go out with a bang. It is true, the end is coming, whether that be by climate change, nuclear weapons or God Himself. The battle over how we end is worth fighting for. I for one have no interest in being killed by Trump, the neocons, or the ecocide maniacs. If God must take me, I will let Him, but giving the establishment the satisfaction of having the last word is too much to bear. To hear Hillary’s cackle at my funeral with the words “We came, we saw, he died” across the headstone would be a tragedy too great for even a species sprinting towards the precipice. If Donald were to preside over my grave, he would simply say “I won, you tiny loser”, but I would resent this option equally. If God exists, and wants the last word for Himself, He should start by kicking all with nuclear fever to the curb. For we all are dangerously close to becoming the latest item on America’s war-mongering resume. Let’s just hope Donald doesn’t take the bait and one-up the liberals one last time.
Even if God doesn’t exist, one would have a better chance reasoning with Him than either Donald or his yuppy resistance groupies. So I thanked my right-wing friend today. For even if she was no more sane than the neoliberals prattling to the abyss, she at least had a nice place to send me after the world ended; that is assuming, I was born in America, had as many babies as ejaculations, and voted for God’s unconventional servant, Donald J. Trump.
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Nick Pemberton is a student at Gustavus Adolphus College. He is currently employed by Gustavus Dining Services. Nick was born and raised in St. Paul, Minnesota. He can be reached at

We Need Radical Change

Sorry, Bernie, We Need Radical Change

Photo source Alex Hanson | CC BY 2.0
One of the more darkly amusing narratives in current establishment Democratic Party positioning for the 2018 mid-term elections and the 2020 presidential contest is the claim that the Bernie Sanders tendency represents a radical “socialist” threat that will tip the races to the Republicans and Trump.
Never mind that the progressive and mildly social-democratic policies Sanders and his cadre of Democrats back – Medicare for All, progressive taxation, free college tuition, a significant increase n the federal minimum wage, the re-legalization of union organizing – have longstanding majority support from the U.S. populace.
Never mind that it precisely the centrist neoliberal nothingness of the dollar-drenched dumpster- fire that is the current corporate Democratic Party (aptly described by Sheldon Wolin as “the Inauthentic Opposition” in early 2008) that has delivered state and federal government over to the widely hated, radically regressive and arch-reactionary (racist, sexist, white-nationalist, and eco-fascist) Republicans.
Never mind that Sanders goes out of his way again and again to proclaim that the changes he advances “are NOT radical ideas” but are instead moderate reforms.
And never mind that Bernie continues to function as an electoralist get-out-the-major party-vote “sheep dog” for the aforementioned dumpster-fire and inauthentic opposition – the dismal demobilizing Dems.
“Don’t Be Rude to White Nationalists, Do What Alexandria Did”
A few weeks ago, Sanders said he did not support being rude to “people” when he was asked about incidents in which Trump administration officials were publicly harassed because of their vicious policy of kidnapping migrant children at the southern U.S. border.
“I’m not a great fan of shouting down people or being rude to people,” Sanders told MSNBC host Kristen Welker two weeks ago. “I think,” Sanders lectured, “we have a situation and a Congress that’s way out of touch with where the American people are. People have a right to be angry when Congress gives tax breaks to billionaires and wants to cut nutrition programs for low income pregnant women. You have to a right to be angry. Take that out in a constructive way.”
“I think people have a right to go into a restaurant and have dinner,” Sanders elaborated. “That’s where we got to place our energy. I do know that people are angry. They are angry about these terribly inhumane immigration policies. They’re angry about the fact they can’t afford prescription drugs. They are angry about tax breaks that go to billionaires. The way to deal with that is exactly what Alexandria did.”
Sanders was referring to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, a progressive Democrat who won a Democratic Party primary election against 10-term incumbent New York Rep. Joe Crowley.
“Organize at the grass roots level. Win elections and get involved in the political process,” Sanders said.
I’m not a big fan of venting at terrible public officials in public venues myself. Anything less than arresting them and dragging off to revolutionary peoples’ tribunals looks weak and childish to me.
Still, I found Sanders’ comments disturbing. It was depressing and revealing that he folded in-power and proto-fascistic white nationalist Trump administration operatives into the broad and overall category of “people” — you know, just everyday folks, no different than anyone else trying to have a dinner out.
If Bernie doesn’t understand that these particular “people” stand out from the common lot of humanity as agents of racist evil, then it’s kind of hard to take his call for “civility” very seriously.
“People” Have a Right to Dine Out
It blows me away that it would enter Sanders’ mind to say that “people have a right to go into a restaurant and have dinner” when we are talking about children and families detained, caged, separated, and terrorized by U.S. border authorities. So, “people” – highly class- and race-privileged Trump officials, that is – “have a right” to go out for dinner, do they, Bernie? Well, Senator, thousands of people who happen to be brown-skinned migrants fleeing U.S-backed terror and stuck in racist U.S. holding pens don’t have the right to leave the oppressive facilities in which they are detained. Many of them have had their children stolen from them and sent to distant locations somewhere in the U.S.
Who old Bernie that racist and nativist white nationalists are “people,” anyway? I am reminded of the great Soviet sniper Lyudmila Pavlichenko, who killed 309 German Nazis invading her country. When Eleanor Roosevelt observed that Pavlichenko had killed hundreds of “men,” the sniper corrected, pointing out that she shot “fascists,” not “men.”
Keeping People off the Streets, Herding Them to the Ballot Box
Bernie Sanders used the “civility” issue to pose a false dichotomy: either (1) be destructively uncivil by “shouting down” and “being rude” to “people” (to vicious racist and eco-cidal policymakers, that is) or (2) be “constructive” by “organiz[ing] at the grassroots level,” understood as getting involved in U.S. major party electoral politics and “win[ning] elections” – doing “exactly what Alexandria did.”
What, you haven’t won a major party congressional primary election yet this year? You better get to work, my fellow American!
That was the not-so “independent” Senator from Vermont continuing to play his longstanding role of trying to sustain progressives’ deadly and dysfunctional attachment to the nation’s narrow and strictly time-staggered election- and candidate-centered politics. It was Bernie feeding what the great radical American historian Howard Zinn called “the election madness” that “engulf[s] the entire society, including the left” once every two years “because we have all been brought up to believe that voting is crucial in determining our destiny, that the most important act a citizen can engage in is to go to the polls.”
“The really critical thing,” Zinn once sagely wrote, “isn’t who’s sitting in the White House, but who is sitting in —in the streets, in the cafeterias, in the halls of government, in the factories. Who is protesting, who is occupying offices and demonstrating—those are the things that determine what happens.”
“The only thing that’s going to ever bring about any meaningful change,” Noam Chomsky (a Sanders backer to some degree) told teleSur English’s Abby Martin in early 2016, “is ongoing, dedicated, popular movements that don’t pay attention to the election cycle.”
Bernie was and remains all about the masters’ election cycle, which is dedicated to the delusional and empirically false notion that U.S. citizens get meaningful input into policy by spending three minutes in a voting booth once every 2 or 4 years choosing from among a handful of candidates selected in advance for us (except in comparatively rare and exceptional cases) by the nation’s unelected and interrelated dictatorship of money and empire. It’s about keeping the people off the streets, where they belong on a regular basis if they are serious about progressive change in this time of viciously racist, classist, sexist and eco-cidal reaction. It’s about selling citizens false hope in politicians – the snake-oil promise that all or most of our energies should be poured into herding people to the polls to take a painfully brief and coldly time-staggered moment (three minutes once every two or four years) to mark a ballot for the right masters to nominally rule over us (the real rulers are in corporate and financial suites, not elected offices). That’s the basic “sheep-dog” message.
No Cartwheels
Is Democratic Socialists of America member Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez different from the general run of corporate major party politicos, including “people” like Crowley? Sure. Absolutely. So is Sanders. No argument there. If I lived in the New York 14th Congressional district and was registered there (unlikely) as a Democrat (New York does not have open primaries), I would certainly have taken three minutes to vote for Ocasio-Cortez in the primary. I would have done so (a) to help bring down the corrupt, high-ranking corporate-imperial Democrat Crowley and his local Democratic machine backers and (b) to show support for Ocasio-Cortez’s progressive, social-democratic domestic policy agenda, including Medicare for All, free college tuition, and the abolition of racist-nativist Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency. I would have been motivated also by Ocasio-Cortez’s professed “socialism” and concern with class inequality and by her history as someone with recent experience in a real working-class job (waiting tables) and in social and protest movements (e.g. Standing Rock).
Still, I did no cartwheels over her victory. I cannot follow Sanders in pointing to “Alexandria” as the holy grail national and “grassroots” alternative to “being rude to people.”
This is for five reasons. First, Ocasio-Cortez won with incredibly low turnout (13%), something that falls quite short of a leftist landslide and reflects local peculiarities in the operation of the New York City Democratic machine.
Second, as the veteran Left urban political strategist, activist, and commentator Bruce Dixon  noted on Black Agenda Report, “Joe Crowley pretty much gave up the seat: After 10 terms in Congress and with lots of corporate friends, Joe Crowley knows he can start at seven figures, at least six to twelve times his congressional salary plus bonuses as a lobbyist. That had to be a powerful motivation not to campaign too damn hard, and another circumstance
Third, Ocasio-Cortez’s victory partly reflected a combined demographic (racial and ethno-cultural) and party anomaly: the over-long presence of a white Democratic machine politician atop a recently racially and ethnically redistricted and now majority nonwhite and nearly majority Latinx district where the Democratic Party had failed to cultivate a neoliberal candidate of color – the kind of safe Latino or Black politico the nation’s second corporate and imperial party has developed across urban minority-majority congressional districts. As Danny Haiphong observed in the American Herald Tribune, “New York District 14 is one of the few [urban minority Congressional districts] left where neoliberal Black and Brown politicians do not dominate the political landscape. It will be difficult to replicate Ocasio-Cortez’s victory across the country because neoliberal, Black politicians in other districts are protected by the politics of representation.”
Fourth, as Dixon observed, “while there are no institutions under US law and custom that can hold leftist candidates and officeholders accountable to left constituencies or organizations…there are a galaxy of institutional levers and pressures operating inside the Democratic party aimed at flipping progressive elected officials rightward.”
As a Congressperson (her victory in the general election is virtually guaranteed in the bright blue 14thdistrict), the inspiring Ocasio-Cortez will face an enormous power disparity between local grassroots pressure from below and the nationally mobilized monopoly, empire, and party pressure exercised on her from the top down.
The CIA Democrats
Fifth, Haiphong was right to note that the dismal Democrats are dead and buried as a means of progressive transformation:
“The Democratic Party is incapable of reform and serves not as a vehicle for change but rather as a graveyard of social movements. It will be the graveyard of Ocasio-Cortez’s principles too if we don’t build independent institutions and organizations capable of moving popular excitement over her campaign away from the Democratic Party’s corporate grave diggers…We need to build a political alternative to the Democrats because when it comes to the Democratic Party, there is nothing left to hold it to account. Left-leaning youth and workers must break free from the ball and chain that keeps them shackled to the Democratic Party. Social movements are the only vehicle that can convince struggling people in this country that the Democratic Party is accountable to Wall Street and Wall Street only.”
(Well – accountable also to related and overlapping wealth and power structures in Silicon Valley, Hollywood, and the military-industrial complex.)
I’ve been listening to nonsense about supposed chances for the progressive takeover and reform of the Democratic Party since I was a grade-schooler in the original Mayor Daley’s Chicago. (The closest that’s ever come to really taking place was Harold Washington’s Chicago mayoralty of 1983-1987 – one city for just four years, with strict qualifications and thoroughly transcended by the long-term neoliberal mayoralties of right-wing corporate Democrats Richard Daly II and Rahm Emmanuel.)
The Democrats are running a large crop of former intelligence operatives and ex-military candidates this November – all strong advocates of an aggressively imperialist US foreign policy dedicated to the full prosecution of the New Cold War with Russia. As the World Socialist Website’s Patrick Martin explains:
“the anti-Russia campaign mounted by the Democrats is…aimed at pushing the Trump administration to sharply escalate the war in Syria and adopt a more aggressive policy against Russia. At the same time, it has been used as the justification for a massive and coordinated campaign to censor the Internet. The manipulation of search and news feed algorithms by Google and Facebook will be followed by more direct efforts at the suppression of left-wing, anti-war and socialist publications.”
“The campaign has also served to position the Democrats as the party that stands up for the ‘intelligence community’ in its conflict with the Trump White House. This is now being supplemented, in advance of the November midterm elections, byan influx of candidates for Democratic congressional nominations in competitive districts drawnheavily from the ranks of the CIA, the military, the National Security Council and the State Department.”
“The conduct of the DNC demonstrates the reactionary and bankrupt character of the claims by liberal and pseudo-left groups—all of whom have maintained a complete silence on the isolation and persecution of Julian Assange—that the election of a Democratic-controlled Congress is the way to fight back against Trump and the Republicans. The truth is that the working class confronts in these parties two implacable political enemies committed to war, austerity and repression” (emphasis added).
With all due respect for the progressives and social democrats (“democratic socialists”) running in Democratic primaries this year, this broad imperialist “CIA Democrat” slate that Bernie Sanders will be asking citizens to mark ballots en masse for in the fall. This is Sanders playing his well-established role as a leading voter-turnout “sheepdog” not just for the nation’s not-so “leftmost” major war party but also and more broadly for the “election madness” Zinn tried to warn us against.
No Electoral Short-Cuts: The Real Issue to be Faced
It’s good that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took down the lazy white corporate machine Democrat Joe Crowley. But her locally distinctive triumph is no compelling argument for left progressives to center their activism around an election-frenzied run to that great “coffin of class consciousness” (historian Alan Dawley) that is the American ballot box. Want to vote?  Great. It takes two minutes.  There are no short-cuts, electoral or otherwise, to the more serious and urgent politics and difficult, day-to-day nuts and bolts organizing work of building an actual American Left – something that would maintain a healthy distance from the seductive siren songs of the narrow and time-staggered major party electoral extravaganzas that are sold to us “politics,” the only politics that matters.
And there’s no great virtue in selling progressives as “not radical.” Sorry, but the diagnosis right now is dire.  We need radical – radically democratic change – to replace the racist, imperialist, classist, and now fully ecocidal rule of capital with peoples’ power.  “The real issue to be faced,” as the actual democratic socialist and non-electoral social movement activist Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his last published essay, “is the radical reconstruction of society itself.” King’s judgement was right-on in 1968, when thousands of U.S. troops were briefly diverted from the American Empire’s mass-murderous “crucifixion of Southeast Asia” (Chomsky’s phrase at the time) to bloodily suppress Black rebellions in U.S. ghettoes.  It’s even more accurate 50 years later, in a time when three absurdly wealthy Americans (Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren “my class is winning the class war” Butfett) possess between them the same net worth as the poorest half of the U.S. populace and when the growth- and accumulation-addicted profits system is ever more obviously drive humanity over the ecological cliff.
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