Cruelty Toward Children Is Part of US History and Culture

By Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz (July 29, 2019)

I think the most insidious and cruel aspect US fundamentalist capitalism and Ayn Randian individualism is the hatred for children, prominently now those thousands of caged children in concentration camps on the border, and in pedophilia infested centers around the country; but also the ongoing lead in the water in Flint, in Oakland, in southern Louisiana, the lack of public child care for working parents, and in Syria and Yemen, Afghanistan, Palestine, dead and lost generations of children, refugee children the US refuses to take in, cruelty and hatred of children baked into US socio-political-cultural history, into every institution, the kill the children first in raids on Native communities, the unimaginable horror of enslaved African children separated form parents, no childhood at all, children as property to be bought and sold and groomed for lives of labor.

The US is the only country in the world that has not ratified the 1990 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Poverty: The U.S. ranks 30th out of 34 rich countries in terms of child poverty. 21.2% of children in the United States live in poverty. The average for rich countries is 13.3%. Only Chile, Turkey, Mexico and Israel had higher child poverty rates.

The U.S. is the only high-income country not to grant paid maternity leave.

The U.S. is also the one country in the world that sentences offenders under the age of 18 to life in prison without parole, which the Convention opposes.

How do we in the US live with this horror that is the US? We should not be shocked how the USG is treating refugee children at the border, given that it doesn’t treat US citizen children much better.


No Panic at the Supreme Court

By Mark Naison (July 27, 2019)

Last week, I had the opportunity to spend time with someone who just left a position as a law clerk to a Supreme Court Justice. There are many things I learned from the conversation that I can’t share publicly, but two things stood out that I can pass along

First, an atmosphere of civility still prevails. Law clerks serving conservative and liberal justices socialize together and get along well.

Secondly, there is no atmosphere of panic about the nation’s direction. Most of the Republican law clerks, like their Democratic counterparts, think Donald Trump is a clown and a fool, but are convinced the nation will survive his Presidency, whether it lasts 1 year or 5.

On the one hand, I found this reassuring. Those involved in our federal courts- at the highest level- feel confident that Donald Trump will not shatter the separation of powers and take us down the road to Presidential Dictatorship

One the other hand, there is a deficit of courage when it comes to speaking out against the President’s words and actions which spread hatred and division, especially within the Republican Party.

Either way, it gave me an insight into the thinking of very smart young people within the Republican Party trying to walk a tightrope during the Trump Presidency.


History is a Weapon: Learn How to Use it

By Arun Gupta (July 23, 2019)

I have a little quiz for you. The questions are related, but by no means comprehensive. I could add many others. From memory only! No googling.

1) What do you know about the origins of American policing, in both the South and the North, particularly in the 19th century?
2) What was the Great Upheaval?
3) What is a Sundown town? Do you know if you grew up in a Sundown town
4) What do you know about the origins of the Texas Rangers and the role in served specifically during WWI
5) Which pogroms of African-Americans can you name from 1910s and 1920s?
6) What is eliminationism? What was the Rock Springs Massacre?
7) What is producerism?
8) How many U.S. citizens were deported to Mexico during the Great Depression?

I know many of you can answer most or even all these questions because you are scholars or have studied these subjects in depth. But otherwise very few Americans could answer even one of these questions.

I was a history nerd from a young age. I learned exactly zero of this by the time I graduated high school. I learned a little of this in college, where one of my majors was U.S. history. But only in the last decade have I learned about all these topics. Largely because I was interested in exploring the social and ideological construction of America as it happened, not the fantasy version spoon-fed in school, the media, and Hollywood.

If this was a college exam, I would add essay questions on Bacon’s Rebellion, the Dred Scott Case, Reconstruction, Plessy v. Ferguson, the Indian Removal Act, the Chinese Exclusion Act. And I haven’t even touched on the post-WWII era.

This brings me to the point I want to make: History is a weapon. Learn how to use it.

In America those who claim to love their country the most are the most profoundly ignorant of how it came to be. They live in a fantasy shrouded in myth cloaked in lies. They imagine themselves as avatars of goodness besieged by enemies all around them.

In reality, they hate everyone who isn’t part of their nativist, xenophobic, fundamentalist, murderous horde. They hate women, they hate Black people, they hate Mexicans, Muslims, the indigenous, Jews, immigrants, queers, teachers, intellectuals, scientists, free thinkers, and everyone who has ever fought for liberty and justice. They hate virtually everyone and everything decent that has happened in this land.

They revere rapists and murderers. The founding fathers were slave owners and massacred Indians.They were smugglers, tax evaders, and traitors. They were all hardened criminals. Nearly all of them idealize Confederates, too, every last one of which should have been shot for being traitors, among other crimes.

History is a weapon. Use it to beat back and shut down the racists and fascists rallying to Trump’s white nationalist order. When they talk about “law and order.” Make them own that legal history of slavery, genocide, lynchings, reservations, pogroms, Jim Crow, forced pregnancy, second-class status for women, the criminalization of LGBTQ people.

They hate the Constitution. They hate the free speech of Colin Kaepernick. They hate the free exercise of religion by Ilhan Omar and all Muslims. They hate the ideas of Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

When they talk about “illegals” coming over the border, hit back hard. The only criminals are in the Trump administration. Under U.S. law, it’s illegal to deny asylum-seekers entry onto U.S. soil to present their claim and stay while it’s adjudicated. It’s illegal to return them to Mexico. It’s illegal to break up families. It’s illegal to kidnap children or hold them for more than 20 days. And it’s certainly illegal to torture them as the Trumpkins are doing now. All of this is illegal under U.S. law. Nearly all ICE raids are illegal because they use administrative warrants to violate people’s 4th Amendment rights.

And when they get worked up, anticipate their responses. If they say Democrats were responsible for Jim crow and the Klan say, “Sure, and the moment they abandoned that in the 1960s, the Republican Party welcomed all the racists with open arms.”

When they blame harsh immigration policy on Obama, tell them, “I opposed it then. I didn’t see you at any protests. I don’t support a party or a racist grifter for President like you. I support justice and liberation for all people, everywhere.

I don’t believe in reclaiming the flag or patriotism. The former is too blood-soaked, the latter too stepped in reactionary sentiments. But shutting down the Trumpkins can work. You don’t need to win them to your side. You just need to discourage and confuse them. To make them feel they can’t articulate their ideas, which are a jumble of rage, misogyny, authoritarianism, and racism more than coherent thoughts anyways.

Learn the history and learn how to shut them down.


What Political Weapons Does the Left Bring to the Fight?

By Marc Cooper (July 23, 2019)

No question that the monkey-see-monkey-do footage from Trump’s North Carolina rally is chilling. The sweaty chanters are clearly prime recruits for an explicitly fascist movement. No defense of Tump or his supporters, but the heated and over the top rally goers are a very small percentage of actual Trump voters.

i am not (yet) worried that we are about to succumb to Nazism or anything like it. Almost 70 percent of Americans found Trump’s tweets about The Squad to be racist. That’s the good news. Yes, he is whipping up his base, but that it is to be expected. and that alone is not enough to win anything except maybe a set of steak knives.


I’ll tell you what I DO worry about. It accomplishes next to nothing to characterize the rally mobs as this or that… deplorable, racists, fascists etc etc. it makes no difference what you call them and nobody really cares.

What is worrisome is that Democrats have almost no candidates who can evoke as much (positive) energy as Trump invokes the negative and the dangerous. The Dem candidates, compared to Trump, are mostly like dead fish. I make an exception for Bernie Sanders who is, in fact, the only opposition candidate that generates any real passion and who, at the same time, has a 100 percent clear program for change. Unfortunately, it seems that a major if not a majority chunk of Democrats have decided in their infinite wisdom that Bernie is some kind of devil and will not support him. Um.. like always…they are afraid (unlike the Trumpista core). If Democrats didn’t have such a miserable record in picking losers, i might be more convinced by what seems the — cautious– conventional wisdom. But they do not and therefore I do not.

Ok, fine. Pick somebody “safe.” Once your bed is made, you can then take a nice rest in it… if you are real unlucky you might even get another 4 year long nap.

The more loathsome you find the Trump rallies, the more you better start thinking about what political weapons you want to bring to this ugly fight. If you think you can get people to stand and cheer and race to the polls to soundly knock out Trump, you better show up with something more impressive than a rotting mackerel and a bunch of jibber jabber about pronouns and your frickin’ identity.


The Liberation of Creativity: Making a Better World at the Corvallis Solidarity Fair

By Joseph Orosco (July 2, 2019)

This year marked the 8th anniversary of the Solidarity Fair in Corvallis, Oregon. Started as a project by members of the Corvallis Industrial Workers of the World and Occupy Corvallis, the Solidarity Fair is a once a year event that brings together groups and individuals from the Willamette Valley that are interested in grassroots social transformation through social, economic, and environmental justice struggles.


One of the hallmarks of the Fair have been what is called ‘movement conversations’: facilitated discussions dealing with issues such as community organizing, labor struggles, envisioning more just futures, etc. This year, the Fair sponsored two discussions for Fair-goers: Stop Making Capitalism and Make a Better World.

Stop Making Capitalism was a particularly well-attended conversation focused around some of the following questions:


  • How do we resist power-over dynamics by building power-with each other?
  • In our workplaces, neighborhoods, communities, schools: What are examples of resistance right now? (i.e. walkouts, strikes)
  • What leverage do we already have and what leverage can we create?
  • How can we encourage the conversation to go beyond the local to broader connections?

solidarity 2

As co-directors of the Anarres Project, Tony Vogt and I were tasked as being the facilitators for the second discussion about imagining a better world. We met beforehand and drew up a few questions to help structure the dialogue. Our conversations was built around these ideas:


  • Are there examples of people coming together to form a better world in your community, region, union, movement, neighborhood? (Examples of not just resistance but alternative building)


  • In building a better world, what sort of continuity with the current world would you want to keep and build on, improve, reform? Does a better world have to be built by rejecting the status quo or can it be built within the shell of the old?


  • Who are the allies in building the better world you imagine and why are they allies?


Our conversation was a bit smaller than Stop Making Capitalism: there were about 10 individuals, ranging from Boomers to Generation Z (many of them members of Democratic Socialists of America).


Examples of Alternative Building

Someone started by bringing up the example here of the movement in Oregon to legislate universal health care. The idea behind this struggle, it was explained, was to create social programs that would take care of residents, freeing up money from other programs devoted to incarceration, for instance. A result of this would be to renew trust in the state as an institution that works for the people.


Other individuals immediately questioned whether building trust in the state was something to spend time and energy on. They offered examples of creating worker and housing cooperatives, instead.


When we asked the group to think of any projects in existence that inspired them in alternative building the Rojava Revolution immediately came to the mind of several. It seems clear that this example is to younger folk what the Zapatistas were to previous generations. Several mentioned they were inspired by the idea of municipal democracy and working at local city levels (Bookchin libertarian muncipalism ideals filtered through the news of Rojava)


Continuity with the Old

When asked whether building a better world had to be premised on the idea of something like a slate cleaning revolution that would wipe away all vestiges of the old world, or on reform that would improve on the deficiencies of the old world, the discussion participants turned right away to the question of the market. How would a new and better world distribute goods and services?


Most seemed to agree that an economy driven by profit had to be eliminated, but were not sure that a market economy had to be profit motivated. Was it possible to have a social welfare capitalism as a goal for a better world?


Participants quickly realized that any projects for envisioning a better world had to deal with the limit of ecological crisis. No economy was going to work that did not factor in resource depletion and climate change. The conversation quickly changed to the realization that there were going to be many lifestyle sacrifices—there was long discussion about what it was going to be like to not be able to get certain produce and food items any longer.


Privatization of creativity

I noted that it seemed like the question of lifestyle sacrifice always seemed to haunt leftist discussions about building alternatives.  I suggested that this was a turn we should think about avoiding because it seems demobilizing and creates a politics of fear or desperation. Instead, I said we should think about what we might gain by building alternative worlds.


Participants agreed that thinking about what luxuries we might lose in leaving behind the status quo was a deception. Someone pointed out that the idea of a luxury in today’s world is usually something valuable or pleasurable that we want because of the hollowness that capitalism produces in our lives. People started to imagine that in a world without capitalism we might have more free time to spend with family and friends. Tony reminded everyone that a central feature of the US labor movement had been taking control over leisure time—the eight hour work day and the weekend. We pondered what kind of abilities and capacities might be unleashed if people did not have to work so much just in order to survive. One young person pointed out that there is a widespread view that someone capitalism is the economic system that drives innovation and progress, “What it really does is privatize creativity into the minds of a few”.

We wrapped up our 45 minute conversation on that point and left everyone to ponder what sorts of allies were out there for the kind of struggle we imagined.