Guidelines for Organizing in These Times of Grief

By Arun Gupta (May 17, 2017)

There is a lot of grief and anguish in Portland. The killings of the two men standing up to defend women of color were horrific and jarring to everyone in the city of what their sense of community is. But life and politics go on. Here are some principles you may find useful going forward.

1) First and Foremost: The measure of one’s politics are when the situation is at its worst, not its best. The last six months have been hard. Shock gave way to hope to depression and now trauma. But staying rational, level-headed, and keeping one’s eyes on the prize are the best tools to find the path forward. Avoid dramatic rhetoric and stop freaking out. Clear, cool, calm thinking is the only way out of this mess.

2) Get off social media. It encourages division and infighting as drama is what gets attention. Meet people in person and talk. ESPECIALLY those you disagree with.

3) Learn how to listen. Let other people have their say. Don’t wait, letting them talk., just so you can make your point or rejoinder. Hear what they are saying, not saying, and feeling. Consider their perspective and the fact you have not walked a mile in their shoes.

4) Ask questions rather than making assertions. This avoids most conflicts. Don’t make sweeping statements or hurl accusations or insults.

5) Employ grace, understanding, and compassion. It’s easy to be angry. It’s essential to be generous. That’s how one builds movements that win and brings to life the ideals we hold dear.

6) But let’s not beat around the bush. There is a lot of infighting right now. Much of this is due to the spread of authoritarianism and white nationalism. Lines have sharpened because there is a lot more at stake and there is no clear strategy. Everyone is trying to chart a path while blindfolded in an unfamiliar landscape.

7) Stop attacking. Don’t project your anger and frustration at global and historic forces on the people around you. No matter the personal, ideological or organizational disputes you have, they are not the enemy. It’s better to work with them 50% of the time rather and agree to disagree the other times rather than fight them 100% of the time.

8) Nonetheless, don’t try to paper over differences or create false unity. It’s fine to disagree. Just keep it civil and don’t forget the humanity of those who ultimately are on your side.

9) And then there are those who are not on your side. There is an enemy. They are real. They are vicious. And they must be defeated.

10) But there is no one tactic or strategy to do so. This is a time of experimentation. And humility. Try different strategies and tactics, but don’t die on a hill defending them if they are not working.

11) Have fun. Enjoy life.

How Neoliberal Austerity Politics Exacerbates Inequality: U.S. neocolonial edition

By Chris Lowe (May 30, 2017)

I first ran across the term “neoliberal” in the context of being a scholar of Africa in the 1980s when neoliberal economists and policy makers took over the World Bank and IMF under Reagan and Thatcher, and began imposing what were known as “structural adjustment” policies on poor countries seeking to renew loans. For context, structural adjustment is what early modern autocrats and religious fanatics did to their enemies when they put them to The Rack.

Basically in return, not for debt relief, but just for debt extensions that did not get countries out of the problems they faced nor out from under the coercive power of the International Financial Institutions (IFIs) governments were called upon to privatize many public institutions, and to slash spending for other basic public services, particularly in health and education. In Africa, it quickly put an end to broad gains that had been made since independence in literacy and life expectancy, despite all of the political and proxy war and civil war travails of many African countries. The emergence of the HIV and AIDS pandemic was heightened by the consequences. The absence of effective public health infrastructure in the West African Ebola crisis a few years ago was another consequence. Effects in much of the Caribbean were similar. The approach was spread to the former Soviet Union and Soviet Bloc with “shock treatment” in the 1990s that devastated their economies while creating new corrupt and corrupting oligarchies with privatized public wealth setting up today’s authoritarian governments.

Somewhat different forms of neoliberalism have been extended in the continental U.S. and in the EU.

The key rule of neoliberalism is that debt must be repaid, no matter how odiously acquired, no matter if the debt was redirected to private benefit from its ostensible public purpose, no matter if it was promoted on false promises, and no matter the social harm it causes or the obstructions to economic growth it imposes.

What is happening in Puerto Rico resembles the neocolonial structural adjustment version. The social implications of the destruction of the University of Puerto Rico reported in this story are just devastating.

It’s Time for Love Against Fear in Portland

By Alexander Reid Ross (May 27, 2017)

I am so deeply horrified right now. Jeremy Christian, the PDX killer, represents exactly the kind of person I’ve been researching and cautioning against.

A clear white supremacist, he also identified with subcultures and called himself an “anarcho-nihilist” who sympathized with “both Commies and Nazis because of Semitic Patriarchal Monotheism.” A registered libertarian, he voted for Bernie and then Trump.

There has been a significant attempt among fascists to insinuate their ideology into subcultures and meld anarchist and nihilist ideas with their own. Sometimes, as in the case with Christian, it works the way they want it to. Fascism is not equivalent to anarchism; it is the opposite. According to anybody’s definition of fascism in the generic sense, Christian is a fascist.

Aside from identifying Portland as “Vinland” and calling himself a “Viking,” he posted anti-Semitic, transphobic, and racist content on his Facebook page. It is absolutely important that he chose antifa as the target of most of his rage, claiming that “antifascists are the real fascists” as most crypto-fascists do.

He talked about stabbing or throat punching antifascists on his FB page. He didn’t just show up at the “Free Speech Rally” on 82nd St, he was openly recruiting people to come with him. Christian wasn’t a guy who would protest in a black bloc at May Day; he detested the left so much it drove him to murder.

Yet it is Joey Gibson and his alt-right supporters who are truly responsible for cultivating the atmosphere of terror that is behind this murder. They have encouraged people like Christian to act out in extremely violent ways, supporting assault against people on the basis of their willingness to defend the people most vulnerable to their attacks. At the same time as people received word of the attack, Nazis drove through the Portland State University campus, celebrating and shouting “White power!” as they made the Roman salute.

We must build a stronger community of resistance in Portland. We can’t let people like Gibson and Christian run our streets. This isn’t just about antifa, this is about making Portland a no-tolerance zone for hatred and about making persistent efforts to enfranchise equality against oppression and love against fear.


Lessons from Trump: Great Wealth in Office is Inherently Corrupt

By Chris Lowe (May 17, 2017)

We watch in awe and dismay Donald Trump’s amazing performance art piece Drunken Juggler President. We prepare to duck and dodge when the next plate in the plate spinning part caroms off toward us, and to groan: Noooo, don’t drop the globe!

The details are endlessly fascinating, in that recurring monster movie dream time nausea way.

But occasionally it is worth stepping back to reflect past the details of the spectacle on larger elements of U.S. politics that his whirling strobe lights may expose.

Today’s theme: Billionaire presidents increase the problem of corruption, contrary to the idea that they are immune to it.

Trump, like Michael Bloomberg and Ross Perot before him, ran on the beguiling proposition that he was too rich to be bought.

Superficially it seems to make sense. Ordinary politicians occupy a scale where running for office costs a lot more money than anyone who is not quite rich can afford, in the hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars. Hence the need for constant fund raising. Yet that scale is also small compared to the revenues and profits of large national and multinational corporations. Donations that secure lobbyist access, whether directly to candidates and office holders, or indirectly through industry groups and political committees of various sorts, are a relatively small cost of doing business.

The asymmetry is striking when you think about it.

It becomes tempting to think that a rich candidate can escape the rounds of fund raising, lobbyist access, revolving door staff appointments, networking, and influence peddling.

Trump, however, has taught us that this is an illusion. It turns out that when you have wealth on the grand scale, on the scale with global reach, you have inescapable conflicts of interest in national office.

The ordinary politician may be compelled to trade access for donations. May learn to make his or her way through trading favors, in time honored ways with new expressions, as the political economy grows and develops. May be aware that going too far may lead to cascades of money on that middle scale redounding to the benefit of a primary opponent.

But the ordinary politician retains some control over his or her choice of how to respond to the access and influence.

The politician of super wealth, on the other hand, faces choices that directly influence the prospects of his or her companies and holdings.

Great wealth out of office may buy influence, and may do so corruptly. Great wealth in office is inherently and inescapably corrupt.

Is a youth driven mass movement possible today?

By Mark Rudd (May 16, 2017)

My friend, Glenn Silber, a filmmaker in Santa Fe, is currently screening his 1979 gem, “The War at Home,” which tells the story of the anti-Vietnam War movement in Madison, WI, from 1963 to 1970.

I attended the opening showing on May 5, as well as an earlier screening at University of New Mexico, Valencia campus. If you’ve never experienced what a momentum-driven mass movement looks like, now’s your chance to see the thousands of young people take to the halls and streets. The movie has a powerful dramatic arc, since it ends with the bombing of a US Army research center and its aftermath. A naive viewer is exposed to the inner logic of movement participation, even up to violence.

The large majority of the audience at the opening were old people, veterans of the New Left like myself. A handful of younger people were there also. During the Q and A with Glenn after the showing, one of the latter, Cathy Garcia, a teacher and organizer with the new Santa Fe chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, asked two questions which got to the core of the problem of the value of this 50 year-old history. I’ll try to accurately capture her question : “Seeing this mass movement is all very well, but how did we get from that to the mess we have now? Was something important missing, like knowing how to create an intersectional movement?”

Glenn wasn’t able to address the questions, unfortunately. I have an answer to the first one, though: the mass movement helped end the war but we didn’t build it into something that could take power. Meanwhile, the far right had no problem with going for power, having started in the early sixties with Goldwater’s candidacy.

As to building an intersectional movement, that understanding emerged in the last decades and remains to be acted upon. A young friend explained the concept to me later than evening: “Identity politics has failed, so this is an attempt to unite as many people as possible recognizing the various different experiences.”

Cathy’s questions thoroughly shook my faith in the value of studying this ancient history. For me this is a big deal, since part of what I do is sell history, that of the New Left, the student anti-war movement, and the misbegotten Weather Underground. But if this history is seen by young people as a dead end (which in a way it was), and if the lessons are primarily negative–don’t do this again, maybe it’s best to just move on and not waste time with it. Speaking of time, the movie is 100 minutes long. It demands undivided attention. Will young people even sit through it without being coerced to do so (which I’m philosophically opposed to)?

Has the world changed so much in 50 years that images of well-to-do white kids at an elite state school wearing ties and jackets and full skirts as they picket with their anti-war signs, are like finding ancient hieroglyphics? Is all this stuff so pre-digital age that it belongs somewhere long time ago, like World War I felt to me growing up in the fifties?

There are so many reasons that such a mass movement has not and will not arise among students that I won’t even begin to list them. Though such an accounting might be useful in some other context. How the current momentum-driven mass movement will grow to include young people I don’t know. Millions voted for Bernie, but now another step–organizing–has to be taken.



Is Trump the Cause, or the Sign of, a Deeper Constitutional Crisis?

By Chris Lowe (May 13, 2017)

Since Comey was fired as FBI director, an increasingly widespread meme has emerge in the commentariat, that the U.S. is in “the biggest political crisis since Watergate.”

The question this raises is the nature of the crisis. Is it caused by the actions of Donald Trump? In that case, removing him would resolve it. Many liberals and partisan Democrats seem to take this view.

Or is the fact that Donald Trump was able to be elected president at all an expression of a deeper crisis? That would be my view.

In that case, removing Donald Trump would not resolve the crisis. Removing him badly, in a manner perceived as unfair by his supporters, might even deepen it, by deepening their ressentiment and giving them a new “stab in the back” narrative.

If Trump were removed, what else in the forces that brought him to power would be changed? Is his firing of Comey really a bigger constitutional issue than Mitch McConnell’s blocking of even a hearing for Merrick Garland in order to politically manipulate the membership of the Supreme Court? For example. Would the broad policy outlines around health care, tax cuts for the rich, roll back of ecological regulation, re-expanded militarism, really be changed?

Insofar as any partial resolution lies in the realm of Democratic and liberal politics, it would require a rethinking of the weaknesses of those politics that enabled the tremendously weak candidate Donald Trump to get elected. Pleading Russian manipulation won’t do, even though it is true enough. The Russians did not create the vulnerability to manipulation that some subset of them exploited — whether state actors, or state-permitted actors.

But in turn the weakness of the DP points to need for popular organizing. There is no quick fix.


Anarchists Want Fundamental Social Change

By Paul Messersmith-Glavin (May 12, 2017)

This is in response to the “City Must be Done with Punk Fascists” Oregonian editorial of Friday, May 5th, and their call for responses to the police action at Portland’s May Day parade.

The Oregonian asks: what do anarchists want? From my own perspective, anarchists want a society free of racism, class exploitation, misogyny, and ecological ruin. Anarchists want everyone to have access to free health care. Anarchists want to live in a way that doesn’t necessitate imperialist wars. Anarchists want a society that doesn’t change the climate. Clearly, this society does none of those things, and therefore, anarchists want fundamental social change. We can debate about tactics and strategy, but we need to be consistent in our uses of terms.  Fascists believe in white supremacy, genocide, and an authoritarian state.  Anarchists are, in fact, the opposite of fascists.  All those anarchists who died fighting fascists–in Spain in the 1930s and elsewhere–could attest to this. They gave their lives for their ideals.

The black bloc anarchists on May Day confronted a violent police attack on working families when the police cancelled the parade permit and attacked innocent people using tear gas, concussion grenades, and baton charges. It is fortunate that a section of the march, those in the black bloc, was prepared for this heavy-handed over-reaction to some thrown Pepsi cans. Our focus should be on the police’s violence. The Oregonian’s attempt to deflect attention from the true brutality exhibited on May Day – that of the police – is apparent.





Should We Care About Comey?

By Joe Lowndes (May 11, 2017)

The Comey firing puts the left in a bind. On the one hand, he was the head of the most powerfully repressive institution within the US. The chief enemy of all struggles for liberation, the damage it has done to people, organizations, and movements over the last century is incalculable.

Under Comey, the FBI has been no different. It has harassed and intimidated antiwar activists, manipulated fragile individuals to ensnare organizations with terrorism charges, surveilled Muslim students, menaced ecology movements, coordinated the national crackdown on Occupy, and did the same with Black Lives Matter. And this is only what we DO know.

On the other hand, firing Comey during an investigation of Trump’s Russia connection is an obviously authoritarian move to keep himself and his administration above scrutiny, one which seems to expand autocratic power in the executive office.

Comparisons to Nixon abound, and they are apt as far as they go. But there are differences. Nixon acted when he was truly cornered, when mounting evidence pointed directly at him – which the White House tapes would reveal, he knew. And firing Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox was, it was ruled, illegal. Trump, on the other hand, is well within his authority to fire the head of the FBI before his ten-year term is up. There are no statutory conditions attached to his power to do this.

What’s more, there is nothing Trump can do to prevent a Congressional select committee from carrying on a thorough investigation of Russiagate. Should they fail to do this, it is not evidence of Trump’s executive authoritarianism as much as the GOP’s congressional collusion, which is a different issue. And in any case, if there is really a smoking gun here, there is nothing to prevent Comey or other FBI agents from coming forward now, particularly if they sense that there is in danger of their institutional autonomy being destroyed.

At some other level, where Nixon acted with increasing paranoia, fearing loss of control, Trump seems to revel in the humiliating the FBI director, as Edmund Fong suggested. Sending a courier to blindside Comey at a speech to the FBI in Los Angeles was theatrical and sadistic, not a fearful, cagey attempt to shield his own actions. Roger Stone, the old Nixon dirty trickster and current Trump confidante, buoyantly told Politico Tuesday night that he enjoyed a fine cigar after hearing of Comey’s dismissal. It all feels somehow more like masterful trolling than damage control.

With all this in mind, I’m not sure that we should be putting efforts into demanding impeachment (which will never happen anyway), or defending the institutional role of the FBI. If Comey’s firing is a failure of democracy, it will have been a systemic failure of an increasingly decaying Constitutional frame, not merely one of Trump’s own authoritarian desires.

The dangers of Trumpism are very real and very serious, and I think we have to combat them. But those dangers are plain to see: mass detainment and deportation, the DOJ’s greenlighting of local police attacks on people of color, and the very rapid growth of fascist formations in communities across the country among them. it seems to me that these are far more egregious than dubious claims of foreign control of the executive branch.

The Global War At Our Doorstep

By Joseph Orosco (May 10, 2017)

A new report from the International Institute for Strategic Studies claims that Mexico is the second largest conflict zone behind Syria in 2016.  Some 50,000 people died in the Syrian conflict in 2016.  In Mexico, some 23,000 people were killed in one year as a result of drug cartel violence (that’s more than the conflicts deaths recorded in both Iraq and Afghanistan combined)  Its estimated that between 2007 and 2014, some 167,000 people died as a result of the Mexican drug wars.

Of course, the cartel violence is a transnational problem since most of the drug consumption happens in the United States.  The estimates are that almost half of all federally incarcerated prisoners are there as a result of the US war on drugs–that would be about 1.5 million people.  You can see the skyrocketing rates of incarceration since the US began target drugs in the 1970s:


It’s clear that when you look at the war on drugs from a transnational perspective, we are looking at a staggering waste of human life and potential.


Why the Trump Administration Scandals Should Be No Surprise to New Yorkers

By Mark Naison (May 10, 2017)

No one familiar with the history of New York City should be surprised by the scandals that have beset the Trump Administration. No one, I repeat no one, could have had the success Donald Trump had in putting up building after building in New York City during the 1970’s and 1980’s without having ties to the underworld figures who controlled the concrete industry, and had powerful influence in the city’s construction and transportation unions. it took prosecutions by people like Rudy Guiliani and my friend Ed McDonald, who was head of the Organized Crime Strike Force in NYC ( and who played himself in “Goodfellas”) to loosen the grip organized crime had on construction, but by that time Donald Trump’s career was already on his way and his reputation as a miracle worker putting up buildings in a decaying city had been made.

Let’s be blunt. Donald Trump, in his own way, is an extremely talented business leader. His accomplishments speak for themselves. His footprint is all over Manhattan in the buildings he put up. But those accomplishments came as a result of deals that would inevitably create problems for anyone who used their success as a developer to elevate themselves to public office

Voters took a huge chance, given Donald Trump’s business history ( the bankruptcies and lawsuits as well as the secret deals) in elevating him to the Presidency.

Now they, and the nation, are about to reap the whirlwind..


The Senate Will Never Pass Trumpcare: Now is the Time to Fight

By Marc Cooper (May 5, 2017)

Time for a little mansplainin’….As I have been saying all along, the Senate will NOT pass anything near the House version of Trumpcare. Never. Indeed, many of the House members who voted yes today also severely disliked the bill.

The reason behind the House approval was simply to “move” the health care bill, any health care bill. First of all, to get it the hell out of the House. And, second, to allow the Senate to act. And many House members knew very well that they were approving a text that would never become law…which is one reason that some of these turds did not even bother to read the revised draft. They know it is fiction and YOU should also know that.

It’s now quite possible the Senate will act. But it will take months. And as it is now clear, the Senate bill will start from scratch and while I have no trust whatsoever in the GOP senators, I am sure they are evil but not insane.

They can do the same political math as you or I can. And when the CBO scoring comes in next week, revealing that MORE than 24 million people would lose their health care, and a huge deficit will be created the House version will become radioactive. There are also a number of Republican senators who absolutely oppose the slashing of medicare as the current program saves their respective states a lot of dough.

So here is what is going to happen:

1) There will be a massive negative reaction to the CBO scoring next week. Something the Senate will not ignore. Especially if the American people mobilize to underscore that affordable and comprehensive health care is a right, not a privilege.

2) Sometime down the road, probably in late summer, the Senate will come up with its own health care plan that, no doubt, will be noxious but will have very little resemblance to the House version.

3) If, and I repeat, IF the GOP can get 50 votes out of its 52 member conference, this Senate Trumpcare version will pass. Then the bill will go to a joint House/Senate conference committee that will have to compromise and agree on one version.

4) But we have two contending forces: the extreme conservatives in the House and Freedom Caucus and the relatively more rational cluster of so-called “moderate” Senators. One side or another is gonna be quite unhappy with the sausage that is produced….if indeed it gets that far.

5) If the congressional conference committee comes up with that hot dog, then it must go back to the House to be approved…. a big unknown given the intransigence of the Freedom Caucus and Little Bitch Paul Ryan.

6) If THAT hurdle is cleared then it goes back to the Senate and must again be approved. Then it becomes law when Trump signs it.

7) That’s a lot of friggin’ hurdles and this is not a high priority on the Repub agenda.

8) It’s impossible to guess what, if anything, the Senate will come up with. But what you can count on is that it will NOT approve a repeal and replacement that contains the worst of what the House did today. I am not pollyannish about the Senate Republicans but they are not going to jump off a radical plank like the House did today.

9) So let’s keep this in perspective and not go nuts.

10) Which brings me to my final point: As crazy as the House Republicans might be, the Democrats are outright pathetic. This notion that they or anybody else is “the resistance” is complete bullshit. And it is an insult to the memory of the real Resistance made up of people who risked life and limb to combat armed Nazi-Fascism. Don’t flatter yourself… wearing a safety pin or holding a placard is a long long way from taking up arms in the anti-Nazi Resistance.

What we need now is not a faux “resistance” but rather a pro-active “alternative.” If there was ever an historic moment to begin putting single payer on the table it is right now. And the Democrats don’t dare support that (or any other real “fixes” to what are the real insufficiencies of Obamacare). Singing bye bye today in the House was a juvenile, feckless act that does nothing to really confront the Republicans.

We now have several months of time to mobilize and bring pressure to bear on the Senate in a targeted and strategic manner that hopefully proposes some real alternatives. Depending on the Republicans to defeat themselves is not enough (no matter how good a job of self destruction the GOP has been conducting).

So eyes on the ball… this is a crucial juncture that will depend exclusively on the ability of civil society to defeat Trumpcare in the Senate. Neither the Democrats nor exaggerated fears will be of much help.

Time to fight.

Marc Cooper is a past contributing Editor to The Nation Magazine.