It’s Our Chance to Become Players in History Through Grassroots Organizing

By Mark Rudd (April 28, 2017)

My Chicano and Indian friends have in one way or another been trying to tell me that T and company are nothing new. Juan Abeyta, for example, told me months ago to look on a $20 bill and see who’s there? I already knew: Andrew Jackson, mass murderer, destroyer of whole Native nations, as cruel and repugnant a racist as anything we have in the White House now.

Today the same subject came up and Juan said, “It’s American history being exposed naked once again. Everyone can see it as it is. It’s a good thing.”

I’m sorry, what I’m about to write is reductionist, there’s all sides of American history, I know because I’ve read both the original Howard Zinn’s “People’s History of the United States,” and the comic version, “People’s History of US Imperialism.” So please don’t get all teary eyed and sentimental, like you’re listening to Garrison Keeler bleat on about this gorgeous, good good country. Anybody with half a brain and the guts to look at the situation knows that it’s been murder and theft and rape and bragging about it since before the beginning, around 1609, when the English killed their first Indians and brought the first African slaves to this continent Not to ignore the ignoble Spanish in Mexico and what is now the US Southwest, where I live. Most relevantly, I know that the only reason I live comfortably in New Mexico is the US Army occupation by force of arms in war, 1846. Beginning and end of story.

So Mr. Trump is the real deal, the embodiment of the real America. Vicious thief, bully, rapist, who knows how many people have died because of him? Make America Great Again!

Trump and his advisors, especially Bannon and the Mercer family behind him, correctly identified the true nature of the seething revolt of the left-behind, the miserable rural and white unemployed working class. And they correctly identified the bogus twin enemies to present to their angry and hurt base, immigration and Mexicans on the internal side, and the rest of the world, especially Muslims, on the outside. Promises to undo trade agreements, get tough on China, and bring back coal were supposed to somehow Make America Great Again!

Mostly, though, fantasies of a mythological America, sturdy independent pioneers conquering the wilderness, subduing savages, bringing to heel the wretched Mexicans, swirl in the heads of Trumps right-wing populist base. And Trump is more than willing to say anything, insult anyone, demean whole nations and peoples, even murder them in war if need be.

It actually gets even worse. As official committed global warming deniers, Trump and the Republican Party are hastening the demise of the planet. Ideology is much more poerful than science. Naomi Klein has written extensively in recent years of the origins of global warming in global capitalism. I believe it’s in her 2014 book, “This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the climate,” that she makes the bitter observation, “When given the choice between saving the planet or saving capitalism, many people will choose capitalism.”

But Klein also points to the resistance of indigenous people to fossil energy development in their lands. Calling the resistance “Blockadia” she effectively predicted the rise of Standing Rock and other struggles here in the US and around the world.

And that points to a way out of our predicament. There are many more of those of us who love our planet and our lands and peoples than there are those who worship money. We can resist injustice and global destruction through direct action, and through whatever other nonviolent means exist, such as running candidates. The levers of political power still have some semblance of democratic access. It will take work, it will take organizing, it may take years. But we’ve got to do it. It’s our chance to become players in history, rather than observers.

Here’s a great example of what can be done through organizing: In Houston, TX, of all places there was an almost clean sweep by Democrats in local elections in November. This article from the March 2017 Harpers tells the story. The organizers of the Texas Organizing Project achieved the Holy Grail of progressive Democrats, something that regular Democrats have rarely if ever done, mobilizing unlikely voters to actually vote.

Actually the Grail was achieved also by Obama’s campaign in 2008 and 1012, but this Houston/Harris County model brought brought people out to vote in local elections. Their method in 2016: old fashioned, fine-grained community organizing. Check it out.

(Thanks for staying with me this long. I know it’s tough to read long stuff, but I’m trying to bring back the form. I’m the anti-Trump.)


In the US, There Needs to Be a Place to Warehouse All the Leftover Pain

By Teka Lark (April 25, 2017)

“In the Lewis model of a dual economy, much of the low-wage sector has little influence over public policy. Check. The high-income sector will keep wages down in the other sector to provide cheap labor for its businesses. Check. Social control is used to keep the low-wage sector from challenging the policies favored by the high-income sector. Mass incarceration – check. The primary goal of the richest members of the high-income sector is to lower taxes. Check. Social and economic mobility is low. Check.”

What I have noticed is that I see a mimicking of this control of mobility among the middle class to the working and middle class communities color.

When I was in Morningside Park (a Black community in Inglewood) and I talked about bikelanes and coffee shops, not only were the status quo upset because that wasn’t my lane, but neighboring less diverse communities were upset. The reason being was that my community was supposed to be the dumping ground of all society’s ills. My community was supposed to be the mammy for everyone else’s community.

It almost seemed as if they thought if my community got a bikelane or Trader Joe’s that would disturb the order and prevent their community from getting a bikelane and a Trader Joe’s.

Like how dare a Black person discuss anything beyond cops, God and racism in a very literal fashion.

Mobility and progress seems to be only allowed if it’s granted from the top down or rather from the dominant culture down.

It seems to me that the way the United States is set up in a way that “middle class” (white people) can’t exist without the slum next door, that there needs to be a place to warehouse all the left over pain.

A place to show “middle class” people what will happen to them if they get out a line.


The French Election Shows Us the Power of Branding

By Alexander Reid Ross (April 23, 2017)
Marine Le Pen’s popularity at 21% of the electorate is not much higher than her father’s 16.9% in 2002, which earned the Front National their first second round visit. However, her higher stature is due largely to her attempts to soften the FN’s brand by relaxing its stance on homosexuality and Israel, among other things.
Meanwhile, the trouncing of the Parti Socialiste is the damning result of Hollande’s neoliberal austerity politics. Yet Hamond, who carried the weight of that condemnation, represents the PS’s left-most faction. If you want to find a true inheritor of Hollande’s worst, look no further than Macron and En Marche! His skillful rebranding of the status quo would be Justin Trudeau worthy if he was a few more notches to the left—and that’s saying something.
Expect Le Pen’s rebranded image to burn brighter than her father’s old party, but not by much. I’m forecasting around 31% for her in the second round, as pieces of Fillon’s reactionary wing shift to her side.
As François Luong noted, “Macron lacks the party infrastructure to govern.” En Marche will be mostly the “centrists” of Euronext Paris from Republican and Hollande camps, but the French will fight austerity all the way and make France ungovernable.
The best thing the left can do, short of intervening in some grand, spectacular general strike, is line up against fascism in the elections and then resist austerity after. In parliamentary terms, this could look like Mélenchon getting over himself and forging a coalition party to contest the upcoming legislative elections. Such a group would cement infrastructure through local elections and then have a serious chance of defeating Le Pen after five more years of austerity.
It is either this or the defeatist whimper: “Macron in 2017, Le Pen in 2022.” The Republicans may shift back toward the center after Fillon’s embarrassment, but that still might not be enough. On their own, the Socialists in France seem as pathetic as the Dutch Labor Party. There is a new political paradigm emerging and the left, as they say, can let fate guide them or be dragged along by it.

A Bronx Cheer for Science and a Reply: Is Science Just Ideology?

By Peter Goodman and Denis White (April 23, 2017)



Many of you will march for science this Earth Day. In the context of massive state power and it apparatus of coercive control, in the context of mega corporations, in the context of mass culture pause to consider what it is that you are supporting.


Science is so intertwined with power in our era, so in the service of power, so powerful in itself as an ideology, it would be false to consider science “neutral” or somehow more objective, more true than human subjectivity. Subjectivity has a democratic base as it resides in the experience of the individual while big science is embedded in big universities, big corporations and big government bureaucracies in support of their massive projects of social control.   The scientific method produced the atomic bomb and rationalized and facilitated the logistics of the Holocaust. Science didn’t save the redwoods or the native forests of the Northwest. The scientific worldview has stripped people of their vernacular, local and personal wisdom and replaced it with the cold numbers that translate into the horrific age we live in. There is the science of Francis Bacon and there is the wisdom of indigenous peoples. These two world views are incompatible. One elaborates human hubris, the other supports a respect and coordination between the natural world and the human world. We are reminded by the indigenous worldview that the human project is, in fact, part of the natural world.


“Disinterested” science is a myth and a rapacious world view in the service of extraction, exploitation and power. Ethical positions come from personal experience informed by social struggle. “Scientific Socialism” was neither scientific nor socialism. As it turned out, Marxist was a moral perspective not a scientific perspective. In social struggle as opposed to the iron certainty of presumed “scientific rationality”, classical Marxism turned out to be a false and tragic sham partially because it claimed the authority and logic of science . The liberal consensus floating on a sea of false rationality and denial failed to protect the natural world and human society because it believed that Capitalism could reform its essential dynamic and that the state could act as a buffer to greed. It could not. The state and Capitalism are twin aspects of modern civilization justified and reinforced by science. Science and technique can never promote human freedom and social liberation. New forms of domination are always appearing and the scientific viewpoint is one such system of thought and social control.


The ultimate justification for social agendas are moral and cannot be “scientific”. The “facts” are essentially irrelevant when weighing what is the right thing to do personally or socially. It is a matter of values not facts that should inform human action. Human beings can make the “facts” fit any agenda. Facts should bolster the moral argument, but science cannot and should not determine values. Only values are the real justification for action. To use science to justify social programs is illusory and concedes the wholesale dismissal of human subjectivity which is at the heart of human values. Religions are false subjectivity, based on illusion. Religion serves the interests of coercion , hierarchy and power. Religion and science have similar purposes in social life although, a casual glance seems to observe them as opponents which is a false dichotomy. Truth comes from human struggle in all forms not from the scientific method nor from the pulpit nor from mass elections.


Truth comes from individual freedom expressed in human solidarity. Truth is an experiment which is often aborted by the apparent necessity of “rationality” and the artificially induced constraints of class, gender and race. Science limits and corrodes that freedom by its “objectivity”, its denial of human subjectivity and support of mass culture. Religion also constrains and corrodes human freedom by infantalizing the human genius with authoritarian myth, dogma and fear. The point is to make our own social/personal reality not be the passive recipients of a reality handed down in the form of rational coercion.


So what can we learn of the world without exploiting that world for the profit of a few and the destruction of that world? I suggest our sense of what “knowing” can or could be is crucial. May we say that some things, the most important things, may not be knowable in scientific terms or religious terms but are true and real in other more emotional, personal and subjective ways? These fuse with others subjectivities to create powerful social struggles waged in human solidity among truly free individuals. No myths, religions or science, governments or private property are needed to inform the process. No myths, religion or science are needed to falsely excuse and justify the subjugation of the human project.


The idea is not to possess the truth but to live it. We are active agents in making our collective truth not the passive objects of power’s truth.




Thank you for your words about science.  Yes, I agree that much of the science of modern western societies operating under capitalism is a tool of government, elites, and corporations.  However I think the bigger picture of the relationship of science to human life is more complicated and less black and white than you make it.

There are moral and other value judgments inherent in all of science.  We may not agree with many of those judgments when they foster a science that leads to destruction, oppression, or domination.  Yet there are scientists trained in the western tradition who practice a science that embodies wholeness, respect, and love for what they study.

Furthermore, facts and values are not two totally separate domains. Facts are ultimately discovered or obtained (or created) within systems of values, and are thus always connected to values.

Two examples.  The attached satellite-based photo of the Oregon Coast Range is ostensibly a value-free set of facts about conditions on the ground.


Even though these facts came from a huge corporation, Google, they are provided at least in part because that corporation believes that presenting information of this type is good for their business.  Of course, they could alter these facts if that would help their business but in this case we tend to believe what Google is showing because there are corroborating facts of these conditions by people including scientists who have themselves been there or looked at separately obtained imagery.  This particular image of facts on the ground and many others like it have a clear moral message for me about how the very civilization that made it possible to make such images is simultaneously ruining the material support for our species’ existence.
I have recently been introduced to a group of scientists and others who are devoted to turtle knowledge and conservation.  These people, clearly to me, love turtles and spend much of their intellectual, emotional, and physical energy in working to know and save these amazing and beautiful species.  When they publish quantitative facts like these,

“Of the 335 total species of turtles and tortoises, 107 (31.9%) are Critically Endangered or Endangered, 167 (49.9%) are Threatened (Critically Endangered, Endangered, or Vulnerable), and 175 (52.2%) are Threatened or Extinct. If we include recently Extinct species, and also adjust for Data Deficient species, then circa 60% of all modern turtles and tortoises are either already Extinct or Threatened. These numbers and percentages of threatened species have increased substantially since our last checklist. Turtles are among the most endangered of the major groups of vertebrates, surpassing birds, mammals, cartilaginous or bony fishes, and amphibians.”

it is not because they are under the thumb of corporations or governments but because they love these animals and want people to know what we are losing of our natural heritage.

Indeed, some of the best in the western tradition of science is indeed very close to the indigenous knowledge of nature.  This is called, pejoratively by scientists devoted to what they call an “objective” and “quantitative” approach to their work, natural history.  Indigenous knowledge is not radically different from natural history, in fact, the approaches are similar.  One discussion that came through today, for me via Portside, but here referenced to the original article, is

To our continued camaraderie and sharing,


We Need White People to Want Racial Justice

By Chris Crass (April 18, 2017)

We need white folks to care more about wanting racial justice, wanting to end the nightmare of white supremacy in society and in our institutions and communities, wanting to listen to and show up with leaders of color who are moving forward the deepest values of our faiths, of our liberation politics, of our justice principles, we need white people more on fire to end racism, than on pause debating whether white supremacy is the proper term for the problem we face, the obstacle we face to moving towards liberation.

We need white people to wade into the waters of liberation struggle, rather then declare that they would do the work, but only if it is totally defined in ways that meets their own standard of both comfort and detachment, so as to eventually declare, “this is all just an over reaction, let things stay as they are” and retreat to the wrong side of history.

We Need to Make Our Communities Bastions Against Fascism

By Alexander Reid Ross (April 17, 2017)

It is indeed disappointing that Trump’s fascist supporters eventually got to take over a couple major intersections in Berkeley, CA—but don’t feel dispirited.

The alt-right and Oath Keepers streamed in from places as far flung as Colorado. They made a point of forcing their way through Berkeley *because* they’re so unpopular. The cops protected them against antifas, which is typical.

The fact that they were able to hold a rally in Berkeley isn’t a defeat, in itself—it’s just the state doing what it does. We stopped JT Ready in the streets in Phoenix in 2010, but the cops made sure they could still eventually make their way to their destination and rattle off boring speeches.

The antifascists who went toe to toe with the indiscriminate violence of misogynistic racists are courageous as fuck. They stood up for their communities, because they know that this is how pogroms begin. Fascists running riot through the streets is only a taste of what would happen were they are not opposed.

This was not Cable Street in ’36 but it also was not Rostock in ’92. The long-term struggle demands recalibration and forward thinking, making communities bastions against fascism, and maintaining broad-based solidarity. Claim no easy victories, as Cabral once wrote, but don’t concede defeat to a pathetic group of fascists desperately striking out at an entire metropolitan center.

Let them revel in their supposed “victory.” Their president’s approval rating is lower now (39%) than it was before he bombed Syrian air fields. The Oath Keepers have no further recourse to the rhetoric “freedom” having thrown in their lot with the fascist alt-right. The struggle against fascism and empire is clarifying in the minds of people around the world. The movement for collective liberation grows stronger and more powerful every day.


How Should Peace Activists Think About Chemical Weapons?

By Chris Lowe (April 9, 2017)

A question for peace and anti-war and international law oriented friends:

As I have been thinking about the recent episodes in Syria of the apparent sarin gas attack by the Syrian government and the U.S. bombing in response, I have started to wonder about the way we, or at least the media, talk about “chemical weapons.”

All explosives are in some sense chemical weapons. Alfred Nobel the inventor of dynamite was a chemist. Even bullets are propelled by a chemical reaction. 

Sometimes the distinction is drawn relating to “weapons of mass destruction.” The at least partial validity of this can be seen if we reflect on the scale of mass deaths caused by several deployments of poison gas by Hussein in Iraq in the 1980s, for example. Causing mass death may have been an element of the original international law ban going back to the experiences of World War I.

A related idea is indiscriminateness. Poison gas is uncontrolled once released.

Yet scale varies widely. The recent chemical bombing in Syria reportedly killed about 80 people. A single 2000 pound bomb or a barrel bomb, or a car bomb, exploded in a crowded area, often causes similar scale deaths. At the other end, I have seen activists locally in Portland criticize use of mace and tear gas by police as chemical warfare, and I think at least some agents used to repress demonstrations are banned for use in war under international law.

More to the point is this: Does singling out chemical weapons becomes a cover for mass destruction and indiscriminate killing caused by mass application of “conventional” weapons?

The horrors of gas attacks in the First World War were real, but the vast majority of mass deaths and maiming came as the effects of artillery and machine guns combined with the cannon fodder mentality of moral cretins commanding the armies. Most anti-war people are familiar with and have thought about fire bombings in World War II and the “carpet bombing” mass bombing horror campaigns of the U.S. in Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.

In Syria, the country has been wrecked, hundreds of thousands killed, and millions displaced by mass indiscriminate use of “conventional” artillery and bombs.

What is the right approach to this question? Is it to give up the distinction?

Is it to try to consistently point out when we speak of chemical or nuclear weapons that while their specific mass indiscriminate qualities matter, conventional weapons deployed at scale also cause mass, indiscriminate death often directed at civilians?

Is it to focus on mass warfare in all forms so as to shift the focus to warfare and militarism?

Something else?


Trump’s Syrian Strike Has No Visible Strategic Goal

By Marc Cooper (April 6, 2017)

Purely for domestic consumption and with the usual unforeseen consequences.

One consequence for sure: This “retaliatory” strike will do absolutely nothing to stop or resolve the war in Syria. It MIGHT be the beginning of a deeper American intervention in days to come but, frankly, I doubt it. And as horrific as the gas attack was, it was not aimed at the U.S. so I don’t get how this is “retaliation.”

Almost half million Syrians have already died in this conflict and millions have been displaced into neighboring countries while this Big Orange Putz is banning all Syrian refugees.

At this point, and I might be wrong, this cruise missile attack is probably just punctuating one of his talking points i.e. that he’s “not weak.” There is no other visible strategic goal.

This is one case where some collusion or at least consultations with the Russians is actually in order as they maintain Syrian air defenses, fly Russian combat aircraft, and have “advisors” embedded among Syrian troops.

The Pentagon, I assume, knows better than to have struck any Russians tonight. I certainly hope that is the case.

In the meantime…. I heard a dozen military analysts today speculating on what this inevitable action would mean, what its objective might be, and the most they could come up with is what I said above: It’s Trump “sending a message” he’s a tough guy.


Marc Cooper, a Nation contributing editor, is an associate professor of professional practice and director of Annenberg Digital News at the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism.

Angela Davis, MLK, and the “Intersectionality of Struggles”

By Joseph Orosco (April 6, 2017)

In an interview in her new collection, Freedom is a Constant Struggle, Angela Davis is asked about being a pioneer in developing the concept of intersectionality. She responds:

There were many pioneers of intersectionality but I do think it is important to acknowledge an organization that existed in New York in the late sixties and seventies called the Third World Women’s Alliance. That organization published a newspaper entitled Triple Jeopardy. Triple jeopardy was racism, sexism, and imperialism. Of course, imperialism reflected an international awareness of class issues. Many formations were attempting to bring these issues together. (p. 18)

Davis goes on to cite her own work in a lineage of pioneers that includes Gloria Anzaldua, Cherrie Moraga, bell hooks, and Michelle Wallace.

She rounds out her response by saying that there were many pioneers in this field,  but she wants to center her work in what she calls the “intersectionality of struggle” and not so much the intersectionality of “individual analysis”: “Initially intersectionality was about bodies and experiences. But now, how do we talk about bringing various social justice struggles together, across national borders?” (p. 19)

This way of talking about intersectionality struck me this week as we celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous Riverside speech “Beyond Vietnam”. In it, King spoke out publically for the first time against the Vietnam war and called on the United States to engage in a deep reflection about its role in promoting violence in the world. What is significant about this speech is that King says we need to recognize the intertwined “triple evils” of racism, capitalism, and militarism that have deeply infected most of our major social, political, and economic institutions. In the end of it, he called for a movement to initiate a “revolution of values” to restructure the foundation of US American society.

Mark Rudd has called this speech the “origin story” of the modern Left in the United States because it lays out the value foundation for social justice struggles ever since. I think there may be more to it than just a foundational document. If we take Davis’s distinction seriously, then we ought to think of King’s speech as one of the pioneering visions of what an “intersectionality of struggle” might look like.  If today we need to investigate how to strengthen the kind of the transnational solidarity that can link movements from Ferguson to Palestine and beyond, then King’s later work seems to be an important stepping stone.

Why Bannon Off the NSC is Hopeful for Struggle

By Alexander Reid Ross (April 5, 2017)

The important thing about Bannon being kicked off the National Security Council is that the Council is now tracking toward more conventional foreign policy that is removed from Bannon’s provocations and repeated failures. Bannon’s insanely reactionary ideology is particularly dangerous, and I’m glad he’s been ousted from that post even if he still has access to the White House. Basically, it looks like a continuation of implosion of the Trump Administration, which they’re trying to counterbalance by restoring the GOP hierarchy. It might work to some extent, but it’s hard to see Trump generating the vitriolic support he had last year in 2020 if he’s sidelining his cultish followers and following “mainstream cuck” hegemony.

It’s definitely still important to recognize that Attorney General Sessions, et. al., are white nationalists. The administration must be resisted at every turn. There is reason to have hope, but not to stop struggling.

I don’t think the white supremacism of the administration is more or less; it’s more ideological—like a step down from a parafascist GOP strategy to a more radical right one. The motion from fascism toward moderation is a good one. It shows that they’re on their heels and making defensive fall-backs. The more we push, the weaker they seem. Let’s keep up the struggle.



Alexander Reid Ross is the author of Against the Fascist Creep (AK Press, 2017).

King’s Riverside Speech the Origin Story of the American Left

By Mark Rudd (April 4, 2017)

Today is April 4, the fiftieth anniversary of Dr. M.L. King Jr’s historic speech at Riverside Church in NYC in which he broke his long silence on Vietnam and made the crucial link between militarism and poverty and racism. I consider this the left’s origin speech. It’s who we are, what we stand for.

Please take just five minutes to watch this beautiful video of excerpts from the speech presented by members of the US Dept. of Arts and Culture, progressive intergenerational arts organizers. It’s called A Revolution of Values.