Hunt for Snowden Raises International Tensions

by Barry Sheppard

June 26, 2013

As of this writing, Edward Snowden remains in the transit area of the Moscow airport, and Washington is stepping up its threats against China and Russia for not turning him over to the U.S.

Secretary of State John Kerry said that China’s decision to allow Snowden to leave Hong Kong would “without question” affect U.S.-China relations and “have consequences.”

Meanwhile, Hong Kong authorities are demanding that the U.S. come clean concerning its massive surveillance of, and hacking into, all electronic data concerning government and business transactions in Hong Kong, which is a center for such electronic traffic for all of China.

Snowden’s exposure of these attacks has received wide publicity in China while infuriating the Obama administration by undercutting Washington’s assertions that China was engaged in such hacking of U.S. government and business secrets.

Once it was known that Snowden was in the airport in Moscow, Kerry turned his fire on Russia, demanding that Russia seize the whistle-blower and turn him over to the U.S. for prosecution under the 1917 Espionage Act, to be shut up in prison for life.

Russian President Putin said no.

Snowden has applied for political asylum in Ecuador and possibly other countries. Frothing at the mouth, the White House has warned Latin American countries not to grant Snowden asylum or face serious “consequences.”

Kerry had the gall to claim that Russia was obligated by “law” to turn Snowden over. Whose “law”? The law is what the U.S. says it is.

We have the spectacle of the U.S. threatening Russia, China, and Latin America while sputtering with impotent rage.

Ecuador’s foreign minister, Ricardo Patino, speaking while on a diplomatic trip to Vietnam, criticized the U.S. for its pursuit of Snowden. “The one who is denounced pursues the denouncer,” he said. “The man who tries to provide light and transparency to issues that affect everyone is pursued by those who should be giving explanations about the denunciations that have been presented.”

The wounded beast, its vast programs of spying on every telephone call made in the U.S. and its monitoring of electronic communications worldwide exposed by Snowden, remains dangerous. Already there are calls by some politicians to send in the Navy Seals to capture Snowden.

White House spokesman Jay Carney said the fact that Snowden sought refuge in China, Russia and Ecuador indicated “his true motive throughout has been to injure the national security of the United States.”

The White House attacks on China, Russia and Ecuador are reminiscent of the rhetoric of the Cold War.

This appeal to anti-communism is part of the all-out effort by both the Republicans and Democrats to deflect discussion inside the U.S. away from what Snowden exposed, to Snowden the traitor and criminal.

The capitalist media with very few timid exceptions has gone all out in support of this bipartisan effort. The media has completely dropped discussion of the attack on the rights of all Americans Snowden exposed. Instead we are being bombarded with outright lies from Obama that the rights of all U.S. citizens are being protected, to concentration on “where’s Snowden?” and incessant assertions that Snowden is a traitor and criminal.

The Big Lie is being repeated over and over that what Snowden exposed will result in “Americans being killed” in Obama’s words. This is being hammered home without even the slightest attempt to connect what Snowden actually revealed to any possible harm to U.S. citizens.

But as Nazi propaganda chief Goebbels famously said, by incessantly repeating a Big Lie, it comes to be believed.

It is having an effect. But there are some indications that many are beginning to see through this Big Lie. When Democratic Party leader in the House, Nancy Pelosi, recently told a meeting of rank and file Democrats that Snowden was a criminal who must be prosecuted, she was booed.

Also, in the one month, from May to June, that witnessed Snowden’s exposures, Obama’s approval rating dropped 8 percentage points. Among young people, who had been disproportionately in Obama’s favor, the drop was 17 percent. Young people especially don’t like their tweets, Facebook pages, phone calls and emails being swept up by the NSA.

The ruling class is going all out to get Snowden, as part of a broader campaign against whistle-blowers who expose war crimes, vast Big Brother surveillance, and so forth.

If Snowden “gets away with it” – that is if he is not killed or imprisoned – the powers that be fear others may follow in his footsteps.

There are also threats to journalists who report the whistle-blower’s exposures. We saw the massive spying on Associate Press reporters, in search of a “leaker.”

Already, there are voices in Congress that Glen Greenwald, the reporter who broke the news of Snowden’s exposures to the Guardian and the Washington Post, should also be charged under the Espionage Act.

Recently there has been another exposure, not from Snowden, but from McClatchy News, of how far the pursuit of leaks has extended. This too came from leaks.

Following Bradley Manning’s exposure of U.S. war crimes, the White House initiated a program called “Insider Threat,” that forces government employees to spy on each other and report any “suspicious” behavior. It even encourages penalties against employees who fail to report what they see.

What’s most amazing about what McClatchy News reports is that the hunt for leakers goes way beyond disclosing classified information to disclosing to the public anything that a government department wants to hide.

Insider Threat covers not only the NSA and the Pentagon, but departments like the Peace Corp, the Social Security Administration, and the Departments of Education and Agriculture. As part of the program staffers at the Departments of Agriculture and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration have taken an online tutorial called “Treason 101.”

What are the suspicious activities to be on the lookout for? The Department of Education has told its employees “certain life experiences … might turn a trusted user into an insider threat.” These experiences include “stress, divorce, financial problems or frustrations with co-workers or the organization.”

Any employee who notices such symptoms in another employee must report her or him.

Other symptoms of a potential leaker is someone who reads the satirical newspaper “The Onion” on lunch break or isn’t “cheery” enough.

Under Insider Threat, leaks of any information, classified or not, is considered “espionage.”

A Pentagon strategy document instructs superiors in other government departments to “Hammer this fact home … leaking is tantamount to aiding enemies of the United States.”

McClatchy News warns, “The [Insider Threat] program could make it easier for the government stifle the flow of unclassified and potentially vital information to the public, while creating toxic work environments poisoned by unfounded suspicions and spurious investigations.”

Barry Sheppard is a member of Solidarity in the Bay Area. He has written a two-volume political biography about his time as a leading member of the Socialist Workers Party. He writes a weekly letter from the U.S. for the Australian Green Left Weekly and Socialist Alternative magazine, where this article also appears.

Government Targets Whistle-Blower Snowden for Exposing Its Crimes

by Barry Sheppard

June 13, 2013

The exposure of the massive extent of the surveillance by the National Security Agency of all phone calls in the U.S., as well as of the vast data mining of all electronic communications through computer servers and search engines worldwide, is one of the most important whistle-blowing events of our times.

Daniel Ellsberg, who leaked the Pentagon Papers during the Vietnam War, says these exposures by Edward Snowden, who worked for a private contractor under the National Security Agency, are even more important than the release of the Pentagon Papers.

What has been laid bare is the existence of a National Security State of a scope beyond what the great majority of the world’s peoples, including Americans, could even imagine.

The ruling class response has centered on a manhunt to capture Snowden, and put him in the dock like they are doing to Bradley Manning.

Democrats and Republicans have closed ranks, with few exceptions, to whip up a witch-hunt to hunt down Snowden and prosecute him “to the full extent of the law.”

Top leaders of both parties have chimed in. Democratic Senator Dianne Feinstein, head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said that Snowden’s revelations are “an act of treason.” Republican Speaker of the House John Boehner said Snowden “is a traitor.”

The penalty for treason is death.

Snowden knows he is in danger. In his famous interview from Hong Kong, where he flew before his name was released as the leaker, he said, “I could be, you know, rendered by the CIA. I could have people or any of their third party partners come after me …. Any of their agents or assets. We’ve got a CIA station just up the road in the consulate here in Hong Kong, and I’m sure they’re going to be very busy for the next week. And that’s a fear I’ll live under the rest of my life, however long that happens to be.

“You can’t come forward against the world’s most powerful intelligence agencies and be completely free from risk, because they’re such powerful adversaries that no one can meaningfully oppose them. If they want to get you, they’ll get you, in time.”

The media and pundits are being mobilized to counter the positive image and message Snowden presented in his interview. He either isn’t very smart and couldn’t have had the material he exposed, or he is an evil genius bent on destroying the United States.

He didn’t graduate high school, so he is a dumb clutz, or he is so smart and proficient with computers he just knew too much for his own good. Besides, he is lying – who are you to believe, the President, Congress, the judicial system and the NSA or some guy who turned against the war while a soldier in Iraq?

Some liberals are arguing that the vast programs revealed are unfortunately needed to prevent “a new 9/11”, which if it should occur, would lead to even worse attacks on democratic rights, so we have to get behind the president and trust him.

Obama supporters who were appalled when Bush raised implementing such a program (but went ahead with it secretly anyway) now claim that Obama’s continuation and acceleration of the program is different. After all, Obama reassures us that he knows how to balance national security and Americans’ democratic rights.

And isn’t he an honorable man?

Obama went on TV to tell U.S. citizens that “no one is listening to your phone calls.” The “only” information about every phone call the NSA gathers and sorts through and saves, is who is called, when and for how long. This creates a vast trove of information about everbody’s communications.

As Snowden explained, “Even if you’re not doing anything wrong, you’re being watch and recorded. …You simply have to fall under suspicion from somebody, even a wrong call, and then they can use the system to go back in time and scrutinize every decision you ever made, every friend you’ve ever discussed something with, and attack you on that basis, to sort of derive suspicion from an innocent life and paint anyone in the context of a wrongdoer.”

The only phone calls actually listened to in this dragnet will be those the watchers decide to listen in on. Obama promises this will only be done with a judge’s oversight. But legal authorization has already been given by secret judges’ decisions beforehand. They’ll listen in to whatever they want.

The first of Snowden’s revelations that reporter Glen Greenwald released in the British Guardian and the Washington Post concerned this surveillance of every phone call in the U.S.

The second revelation was about the even broader dragnet of Internet communications throughout the world. This is done by wholesale monitoring of Google, Facebook, Apple, Verizen etc. etc.

These huge firms are fearful that the revelations will cause users worldwide to distrust them. The British Financial Times, always on the lookout for a business opportunity, speculated that European outfits may want to move into this market with the promise they won’t do business with the NSA.

This overwhelming search and seizure without the fig leaf of probable cause or even suspicion of a crime of those being targeted is in direct violation of the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution.

The NSA can zero in on anything that relates to “national security” as they sift through the data. Whenever the rulers use this phrase they mean their security. This can mean monitoring striking workers, union dissidents, socialists, civil rights and immigration rights activists, and anyone the capitalists think might disturb their “security.”

Is there any doubt that they monitored, read or listened in to every Facebook entry, every tweet, every phone call of the participants of the Occupy movement? Or that this information wasn’t used to coordinate the nation-wide police dispersal of that movement? Not after these revelations should anyone have any doubt on that score.

The dragnet of the Internet means they also monitor every email, tweet, etc. of protesters throughout the world. Does the NSA share this information with its allies, such as the governments of Israel, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain? Did it share with Mubarak during the Egyptian spring?

Since much commerce is done over the Internet, the NSA is gathering information about the trade and commercial secrets of U.S. capitalist competitors throughout the world. This is being done while the U.S. is loudly protesting that China is hacking such secrets of U.S. firms.

A further revelation — and Greenwald promises more to come — from Snowden is that Obama ordered his senior national security and intelligence officials to draw up a list of potential foreign targets for U.S. cyber-attacks, which the administration itself characterizes as “acts of war,” while accusing others of doing just that.

Then Greenwald revealed more details about an NSA data-mining tool called Boundless Informant. In just one month, March 2013, the NSA collected 97 billion pieces of information from computer networks worldwide.

A top-secret “global heat map” showed the most frequently targeted were Iran, Pakistan, Jordan, Egypt and India. In the same month, the NSA collected three billion pieces of information from computers in the U.S. under the program.

In the new Kafkaesque world of the National Security State, logic is of a special type. Snowden committed a crime, you see, because the very existence of the massive surveillance operation itself was classified, so revealing its existence violated the rules of classification of state secrets.

After the first revelations, Obama said he welcomed the discussion on them. But the discussion itself couldn’t have begun if Snowden hadn’t revealed the existence of the program, which was to have been kept secret. So Obama welcomes a discussion on the existence of the program, but seeks to imprison the person who revealed its existence, which Obama tried to hide.

In reality, the administration is moving to squash any real debate by coming down with an iron fist.

Whether this will work, or whether a mass movement in defense of democratic rights begins to coalesce around these revelations remains to be seen.

Barry Sheppard is a member of Solidarity in the Bay Area. He has written a two-volume political biography about his time as a leading member of the Socialist Workers Party. He writes a weekly letter from the U.S. for the Australian Green Left Weekly and Socialist Alternative magazine, where this article also appears.

The Trials of Bradley Manning

by Barry Sheppard

June 7, 2013

The courts-martial trial of Pvt. Bradley Manning opened on June 3, and is expected to last 12 weeks.

The courageous U.S. soldier leaked a large trove of classified material documenting U.S. war crimes in Afghanistan and Iraq, diplomatic cables exposing Washington’s machinations in the Middle East and elsewhere, and other material.

At a previous hearing, Manning admitted that he was the source of these leaks. As a result, he could have been sentenced to 20 years in military prison.

Manning denied that he was guilty of the most serious charges of “aiding the enemy” and “endangering U.S. forces,” under which he could face the death penalty or life in prison. The prosecutors say they will not seek the death penalty, but life in prison without the possibility of parole.

Not content with inflicting a 20-year sentence on him for exposing the truth, the military prosecutors and behind them the Obama administration are hell bent on convicting him on the more serious charges.

On the first day of the courts-martial, the prosecution outlined its case. Under the laws they are using, they do not have to prove that the material Manning released actually endangered U.S. troops or aided the “enemy.” Also, the prosecution doesn’t have to prove that Manning intended to do so.

The prosecution says it only needs to show that Manning was the source of the leaks, that they were then picked up and distributed to the press by Wikileaks and Julian Assange, and that the “enemy” read them or saw them in the media.

Since Manning has already admitted to being the source, and Wikileaks did distribute the material to the press, and many newspapers, TV outlets, social media, etc. around the world did carry them, and since it is quite likely that the “enemy” did see them, the case is closed and Manning is guilty.

By chance, I happen to be rereading Franz Kafka’s The Trial. While the story line is different, and Kafka’s protagonist is no hero like Bradley Manning, the legal “logic” in Kafka’s book is on a par with the prosecution’s in the courts-martial.

The prosecution does have some problems with its “reasoning”. One is, who exactly is “the enemy”? One of the most widely viewed of all the material Manning released was the video taken by U.S. soldiers from an assault helicopter in Iraq.

The video and the accompanying audio showed the soldiers in the helicopter asking for and getting approval to murder a group of unarmed Iraqis on the street, including two photographers working for Reuters. When some other Iraqis show up in a van to try to help survivors, they are blown away too.

Two of those who were killed in the van were children.

The killers in the helicopter were also caught chuckling and gloating about the murders.

One can understand why the release of this horrific video enraged the Bush and then the Obama administrations and the military. They want to keep the lid on any exposures of the truth about these wars.

That’s why the authorities were enraged about a different earlier leak, that of the graphic photos of the torture of Iraqis by U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib. When the existence of thousands of similar photos came to light, and they were viewed by some U.S. Senators behind closed doors, those thousands of photos were suppressed — on the grounds that releasing them would “aid the enemy” and “endanger the troops.”

In Afghanistan and Iraq, all who resist the U.S. occupation are “the enemy.” And many other citizens who are not combatants are also so considered, as the helicopter video demonstrated.

The prosecutors at Manning’s trial got around the difficulty having so many “enemies” by claiming they were only considering Osama bin Ladin and his Al Qaeda as having read the material Manning was the source of.

So the linkage becomes: Manning, Julian Assange, The New York Times and hundreds of other media outlets, and Osama bin Ladin. All in this chain are guilty.

That presents another problem for the prosecution. They want to tie in Wikileaks, but they want to let The New York Times off the hook, at least as far as the guilty verdict is concerned. (However one aim of the show trial is to threaten the media away from making such material public.) Also, they can’t indict much of the world’s press without looking foolish.

The military prosecutor kept pounding away at Wikileaks in his opening statement.

Julian Assange and the Wikileaks organization are the targets of the courts-martial in addition to Bradley Manning.

This has been true from the beginning, ever since Manning was arrested over three years ago. It explains why it has taken so long to bring him to trial — another violation of the U.S. Constitution, which guarantees a speedy trial.

All this time, the military has sought to break Manning, to get him to testify that Assange was his co-conspirator.

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Marchers demand Manning’s freedom. San Francisco, 2012.

After his arrest in May, 2010, Manning was put in a stockade in Kuwait, where he was subjected to being observed at all times including while using the toilet, deprived of sleep, forced to stand naked before other soldiers including females, and similar acts of cruelty.

On July 29 of that year, he was transferred to the prison at the Marine base in Quantico, Virginia, and classified as a “Maximum Custody Detainee.”

There he was placed in solitary confinement in a windowless cell six feet by twelve feet containing a bed, a sink and a toilet. Guards checked on him every five minutes. He was allowed one hour each day to walk outside his cell, but not allowed to exercise while in his cell, with light bulbs on 24 hours a day.

He was not allowed to sleep between 5 a.m. and 8 p.m., and if he dosed off, he was made to stand up. He was denied sheets and a pillow, and his clothes were removed except for underwear. Later his underwear was also taken.

Guards would taunt him, giving him orders such as to “turn left, don’t turn left,” and berated for such things as replying to questions with “yes” instead of “aye, aye,sir.”

As news of his treatment began to come out, voices began to be raised internationally. Juan Mendez, a United Nations Special Rapporteur on torture wrote that Manning’s treatment was “cruel, unusual and degrading.”

In January 2011, Amnesty International asked the British government to intervene, which it did not. In March 2011, State Department spokesman Philip Crowley criticized Manning’s treatment and was forced to resign two days later.

In early April that year, 295 academics (most of them American legal scholars) signed a letter arguing that Manning’s treatment was in violation of the U.S. Constitution.

The Pentagon finally relented, and on April 20 transferred Manning to a medium-security prison, where he was placed in a larger cell with a window and a normal mattress with sheets and a pillow. He was then allowed to mingle with other prisoners, wear clothes, and keep personal objects in his cell.

They had failed to break him. They failed to get him to testify against Julian Assange with promises of a lighter sentence and better conditions. That is one reason they are going for the maximum sentence – vengeance. The other reason they seek harsh punishment is that while he has admitted to being the source of the leaks, he maintains that he was correct to do so to shed some light on the ugly truth of the U.S. wars. Their major objective is to terrorize others who might be whisle-blowers.

Bradley Manning is a true hero, a man of conscience.

Manning is gay. A group of his supporters wanted to march in this year’s San Francisco Gay Pride Parade with his picture to support and honor him. The powers that be leaned on the organizers of the parade to deny the Bradley Manning contingent access. The cowards caved in to this further attack on democratic rights.

There are other things to note about this courts-martial. One is that it is conducted under military law, not U.S. civil law. As a result, he will not be able to appeal his conviction to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Another is that the public will be kept in the dark about much of the trial. The military judge has already ruled at 24 prosecution witnesses will testify in secret and that evidence labeled “classified” will also be kept secret. Of course, this is being done to avoid “aiding the enemy” and “harming U.S. soldiers.” To add to the Kafkaesque flavor of this madness, those documents already leaked to the world by Wikileaks which are introduced at the trial will be done so in secret, since they remain “classified.”

What the judge will finally decide on Manning’s sentence will be influenced by the support manning receives in the U.S. and the world.

Barry Sheppard is a member of Solidarity in the Bay Area. He has written a two-volume political biography about his time as a leading member of the Socialist Workers Party. He writes a weekly letter from the U.S. for the Australian Green Left Weekly and Socialist Alternative magazine, where this article also appears.

The Feds' Vendetta Against Assata Shakur: Why Now?

by Barry Sheppard

May 6, 2013

In the aftermath of the bombing of the Boston Marathon, the Obama administration is broadening its definition of “terrorism” to include fighters for Black rights in the U.S.

Washington has already used the term so indiscriminately against its opponents internationally that it has become virtually meaningless. For example, every act of resistance to U.S. occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan is labeled “terrorism.”

By that definition, George Washington and the other American revolutionists were “terrorists” for resisting British occupation.

On May 2, the Department of Justice chose this moment of confusion and fear generated by the Boston bombing to place exiled former Black Panther Assata Shakur on the FBI’s “Most Wanted Terrorists” list.

This is the same list Osama bin Laden was on. When the announcement was made, it included a bounty of $2 million on her head.

“It is an open invitation, not only with respect to the United States government, but for anyone, in Cuba or elsewhere, to become a vigilante, to go there and to not only apprehend and bring her back, or to kill her,” said Lennox Hinds, Shakur’s lawyer in the U.S.

There is no right to appeal being placed on the Most Wanted Terrorists list.

Assata Shakur has been living in Cuba since 1979, a political refugee, having been granted asylum by the Cuban government on the grounds that she faced prosecution based on her political beliefs and race.

At first glance, this seems quite bizarre. Shakur’s alleged act of “terrorism” occurred forty years ago. Why dredge this case up now, with the sensationalism of placing her on the Most Wanted Terrorists list? Shakur was charged with murder in that incident.

The famous Black activist, professor and author Angela Davis, who faced a similar charge of murder in 1970, and was finally acquitted after a massive international defense campaign, had this to say:

“It was a major shock to hear that Assata Shakur has become the first woman to be added to the FBI’s Most Wanted Terrorists list….It seems to me that this act incorporates or reflects the very logic of [the war on] terrorism. I can’t help but think that it’s designed to frighten people who are involved in struggles today,” around “police violence, healthcare, education, people in prison, and so forth.”

Hinds and Davis were interviewed on “Democracy Now!”

In its statement, the Department of Justice said that Shakur was not only a terrorist 40 years ago, but remains so today, organizing terrorist acts against the U.S. from exile in Cuba. This is so absurd it is mind-boggling. Not one shred of evidence was given or asserted that over the past 30 years she has been involved in any movements or organizations plotting terrorist acts against the U.S.

At he May 2 news conference, FBI agent Aaron T. Ford said she was put on the list because she “is a supreme terror [sic] against the government who continues to give speeches espousing revolution and terrorism” from her exile in Cuba.

Ford is lying. In none of her speeches has Shakur advocated terrorism, and he gave no evidence of any such.

What she has done is to continue to promote her political beliefs. “There’s always this slippage between what should be protected free speech – that is to say, the advocacy of revolution, the advocacy of radical change – and what the FBI represents as terrorism,” Davis said.

“You know, certainly, Assata continues to advocate radical transformation of this country, as many of us do. I continue to say that we need revolutionary change. This is why it seems to me that the attack on her reflects the logic of [the war on] terrorism, because it is precisely designed to frighten young people who would be involved in the kind of activism that might lead to change.”

Until this latest statement by the Department of Justice, Assata Shakur was never charged with “terrorism.” She was convicted of murder in 1977 in a frame-up trial resulting from an incident that occurred in 1973. The word “terrorism” was never mentioned at her trial.

To understand the original charges against Shakur, we have to recall the political atmosphere of the Black liberation struggle of the 1960s and early 1970s, and the war waged against it by the FBI and police.

The head of the FBI at the time, the notorious anti-communist and racist J. Edgar Hoover initiated COINTEL, a program of disruption and frameup of the antiwar and Black movements, as well as socialists. Concerning the Black movement, all Black organizations were under attack, from the Black Panthers, the Southern Christian Leadership Conference of Martin Luther King, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the Nation of Islam whose most powerful spokesman was Malcolm X, to everything in between.

Hoover issued a directive that the rise of a ”Black messiah” had to be crushed, and made reference to King and Malcolm X. A “Mau Mau uprising” had to be thwarted, a reference to the liberation movement that occurred in Kenya.

The FBI and police departments waged an especially murderous campaign against the Black Panthers and its offshoots, killing and framing up many.

Joanne Cheismard had first joined the Black Panthers, and changed her name to Assata Shakur when she then became part of the Black Liberation Army.

In 1973, Shakur was traveling in a car with other BLA members on the New Jersey Turnpike, when they were targeted by state police and pulled over. The police opened fire, and shot Shakur in the back.

In the ensuing gun battle, a state trooper was killed, as was a BLA member.

A surviving BLA member was convicted of the killing of the trooper, and remains in prison.

At her trial, it was claimed that Shakur had taken the trooper’s gun and shot him. This assertion couldn’t hold up. Her lawyer, Lennox Hinds, who took her case and has been fighting to have her exonerated since, recalls, “If we look at the trial, we’ll find that she was victimized, she was shot. She was shot in the back. The bullet exited and broke her clavicle in her shoulder. She could not raise a gun in her hand to shoot.

“And she was shot while her hands were in the air. Now, that is the forsensic evidence. There is not one scintilla of evidence placing a gun in her hand. No gun shot residue was found on her clothing or on her hands.”

So she was not convicted of being the actual shooter. Nevertheless, at the May 2 news conference, the FBI resurrected this charge, falsely claiming it was proven.

Shakur was convicted of being an accomplice because she was in the car, and therefore was convicted of murder by an all-white jury in the inflamed atmosphere of the times.

Shakur nearly died of her wounds. Imprisoned, she was tried and convicted in 1977. In 1979 she escaped, and through an underground railroad that other political prisoners took made her way to Cuba.

In addition to equating advocacy of revolution to “terrorism,” the government has another objective in putting Shakur on the Most Wanted Terrorists list. They want to bolster their long-standing designation of Cuba as a “terrorist state.”

Hinds, who is a professor of criminal justice at Rutgers University in New Jersey, said, “Cuba is accused of harboring terrorists.…[But] the United States government and the CIA have encouraged, trained, sent individuals to not only disrupt the Cuban economy by killing tourists, placing bombs in restaurants and hotels, and to assassinate Fidel Castro, and individuals who admitted that they were involved in the downing of a Cuban airliner in 1973.

“I’m talking about Posada Carriles. Here was a man who made the open admission [of the airliner bombing], trained by the CIA, harbored by the United States. When he was found in the United States, did the United States prosecute him for his crimes? No. They, on a pretext, prosecuted him for lying to the FBI. And acquitted him of that.”

Guantanamo Hunger Strikers Choose Death Over Inhumane Conditions

by Barry Sheppard

May 1, 2013

Facing a massive hunger strike by desperate prisoners at the U.S. military base in Guantanamo, Cuba, President Obama has acknowledged that the prison should be shut down. He has said that before over four years ago when he was running for his first term, but did nothing after he was elected.

Protestors rally in front of the White House to demand that President Obama shut down the detention center at Guant¡namo Bay. Pete Marovich/Zuma

In recent years the plight of the prisoners at Guantanamo has receded in public consciousness in the U.S. The hunger strike, which began in February, has begun to change that.

In the wake of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, the Bush administration with bipartisan support launched the wars against Afghanistan and then Iraq. Prisoners taken in those wars were declared to be “enemy combatants,” not prisoners of war, and not covered by international conventions of how such prisoners must be treated.

As “enemy combatants” they had no rights at all. They were held without charges indefinitely, subject to brutal torture, sexually humiliated and raped, and some were murdered. These activities were carried out in “black sites” in Afghanistan and Iraq, as well as at Guantanamo.

Another indignity they were subjected to was humiliation of their Muslim religious beliefs. Korans were desecrated. It was another such incident in February which was the spark that ignited the hunger strike against the prisoners’ intolerable conditions.

The Bush administration chose the U.S. military base at Guantanamo under the theory that it wasn’t part of the U.S. but of Cuba. Thus U.S. laws didn’t apply to people imprisoned there, and they could be mistreated at will. The base isn’t under Cuban law either, since the U.S. occupies the base and maintains it by military force.

In the first inter-imperialist war, between Spain and the United States in 1898, the U.S. conquered Cuba and other colonies from Spain. The U.S. granted Cuba a fake “independence” a few years later but kept real control that included sending in the Marines when necessary, and retaining Guantanamo as a U.S. Naval base in the Caribbean Sea, ostensibly “renting” it from Cuba. But when the Cuban Revolution of 1959 declared independence from U.S. imperialism and denounced the farce, this legal fiction was maintained by force.

Washington claims that the worse aspects of the mistreatment of prisoners at the base have been stopped, and that may be true. But the main issue, that people are being held without charges or trials indefinitely, has continued now for over a decade. It is this situation of utter despair that erupted in the current hunger strike.

One of the hunger strikers, a Yemeni man named Samir Naji al Hasan Moqbel, wrote a letter that somehow was smuggled out, and which appeared in the New York Times. In it he said, “The situation is desperate now. All of the detainees here are suffering deeply….

“And there is no end in sight to our imprisonment. Denying ourselves food and risking death every day is the choice we have made. I just hope that because of the pain we are suffering, the eyes of the world will once again look to Guantanamo before it is too late.”

Moqbel has been held at the prison for 11 years without charge.

Over the years, of the hundreds held at the base, many have been released because there was no evidence against them. However, 166 remain. Of these, 86 have been found to be “not guilty” by the U.S. armed forces themselves, but are being held indefinitely anyway.

According to independent investigations, and a recent one by a commission set up by the government itself, the torture and indefinite imprisonment of “enemy combatants” has not yielded even one instance of information about any attack against the U.S.

At first, the Obama administration sought to play down the hunger strike, saying it was just a few. Then there was an attack on the strikers by the military, to round them up and put them into solitary confinement in the hope of forcing them to eat. This has failed.

Lawyers for the prisoners, who are granted only limited access to them, report that at least 130 are participating in the hunger strike. The government has reluctantly admitted that the number is over 100.

Besides isolating the strikers, the military has begun force-feeding some, through tubes shoved up their noses and down into their stomachs. This is being done with tubes of large diameter, to inflict pain in hopes of breaking the will of the strikers.

Carlos Warner, a lawyer for some of the prisoners, was interviewed on the “Democracy Now!” show on April 29. He spoke about one prisoner, Fayiz al-Kandry, whom he talked to by telephone on April 26:

“This is the third conversation I’ve had with him since the strike began. I visited him in person twice, and then I got the phone call. And things have gone downhill…. he told me that they’re force-feeding him with what’s called a size 10 tube, a bigger tube than what is required. He said that this makes it difficult for him to breathe, and it induces vomiting. And he asked them to give him a smaller tube, and the military refuses to do so. Why they would not do these things, we have no idea.”

Warner broke down as he read a letter from Fayez to him. The letter contained a photo of a homemade lantern. “I made this lantern with my brothers. It’s made with bits of paper and cardboard. We painted it with bits of paint and fruit juice. We used a water bottle sanded on the floor as glass. It’s held together by pressure only.

“We made this lantern for those in the world who remember and pray for us during this time of suffering. Let its light fill you.

“Use it to bring peace to your heart.

“Thank you, Fayiz.”

Warner added, “And when he wrote that, I mean, I felt that was a goodbye letter.”

In his news conference where Obama once again called for the closing of Guantanamo, he said that prisoners were being force-fed for “humane” reasons. Given Washington’s inhumane treatment of the “enemy combatants” for over a decade, this assertion is laughable.

The real reason for the force-feeding is to try to avoid the international embarrassment of the hunger strikers beginning to die. Force-feeding them against their will to carry their protest to the death is one more denial of the prisoners’ elementary human rights.

In the wake of the bombing of the Boston Marathon, there has been an upsurge of Islamophobia. While nakedly vicious among Republicans, Democrats have echoed it too, even if less openly appealing to prejudice. This is the background against which the Guantanamo events are unfolding.

In the past, Obama has cited Republican opposition to the closing of Guatanamo as his excuse for not doing so. This cynical dance between the Democrats and Republicans is playing out across the board, from the disputes about the federal budget to immigration etc. etc. to Guantanamo.

It is also a bald faced lie. As Commander in Chief of all the armed forces, Obama could bring charges against the prisoners and give them trials, release those he can’t charge because there is no evidence against them (aside from possible “confessions” obtained by torture), and release the 86 who have already been found “not guilty.” He could instruct his Attorney General to try them in American courts under U.S. law, and not in the kangaroo military tribunals that only a handful are being slowly tried in.

Obama is Mr. Commander in Chief when killing defenseless “enemy combatants” by drones, but feigns Mr. Wimp when faced with a Republican critic.

Barry Sheppard is a member of Solidarity in the Bay Area. He has written a two-volume political biography about his time as a leading member of the Socialist Workers Party. He writes a weekly letter from the U.S. for the Australian Green Left Weekly and Socialist Alternative magazine, where this article also appears.

Detroit: The Olympics of Restructuring

by Dianne Feeley

March 17, 2013

On March 14, Michigan Governor Rick Snyder announced the appointment of Kevyn Orr, named last year as one of Washington DC’s top bankruptcy attorneys by Washingtonian Magazine, as an Emergency Financial Manager for Detroit under Public Act 72. Essentially this puts Detroit in receivership.


Detroiters marching against Lansing’s imposition of an Emergency Manager.

This position, created under a Michigan law that many Michiganders believe is a figment of the state government’s imagination, will be converted into an Emergency Manager once Public Act 436, passed during the lame-duck session after an earlier EM law was voted down in the November 2012 election. The EM law that was passed in March 2012 was suspended once the referendum signatures were submitted last summer but the Governor and legislature claimed this revived Public Act 72. However, that was a hotly disputed interpretation!

Nonetheless six Michigan communities—Allen Park, Benton Harbor, Ecorse, Flint, Highland Park, Pontiac, all formerly industrialized working-class towns, and except for Allen Park with heavy majority African-American populations—and three school districts—Detroit, Highland Park and Muskegon Heights—operated under Emergency Managers who then became EFMs and will once again be converted into Emergency Managers when Public Act 436 takes effect March 28. With the addition of Detroit, nearly two-thirds of the state’s African Americans will be under state oversight.

Orr is an African American with an unflappable personality. Appointed by a Republican Governor, he is a Democrat who will be paid $275,000 a year by the state under an open-ended contract. His “incidental costs” in order to relocate to Detroit and perform his duties will be privately raised, according to State Treasurer Andy Dillon (a career politician and also, incidentally, a Democrat).

Orr has resigned his partnership in the prestigious Jones Day law firm. As an expert in restructuring and bankruptcy, he represented Chrysler in its 2009 bankruptcy and pointed out how successful Chrysler has now come roaring back.

At the press conference where Orr was introduced to the city by Snyder, he exhibited confidence in being able to turn around Detroit. He called his job being in “the Olympics of restructuring,” but stated that with cooperation he could accomplish his task in as little as three to six months. This is an amazing boast given the structural problems of Detroit. Flint, for example, has been in state receivership since 2002!

Given Detroit’s long-term liabilities of approximately $15 billion — with $600 million a year in debt service to banks and $5.7 billion in city retirees’ health care benefit — the press asked if Orr was going to take the city through bankruptcy. He said he didn’t want “to pull out that cudgel unless I have to.” To avoid that process, Orr proposes negotiating with the city labor unions, vendors and bondholders.

Once Orr’s powers are extended when Public Act 436 takes effect, he can be the sole negotiator with unions over collective bargaining. He can reject or change existing contracts, consolidate or eliminate city departments, hire consultants, contract out services and even sell off city assets with the approval of state government. However many of these have already taken place under city government and the consent agreement city government signed with the state last year.

Here are a few examples:

  • Management of the Detroit Department of Transportation was contracted out by Mayor Dave Bing in 2011 and has since been subcontracted.
  • The Public Lighting Department is undergoing a seven-year transition to turn its customer base over to DTE Energy. The department is already buying all of its energy — instead of upgrading its own facilities. Part of the transition includes reducing 88,000 street lights (58,000 operational) to 46,000. According to the plan, the more “distressed” areas of the city will retain only 30-40% of their current number.
  • The Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, built over 150-year period, operates a fresh water and discharge system to the city and suburbs. A report commissioned by the department last summer called for outsourcing billing, maintenance and other functions and reducing its work force by over 80%. Yet no-bid contracts are rewarded while there is has been little to no worker/community review. The Detroit Water and Sewerage Commission, which has been turned into a regional body, just issued a “Final Compliance Report” in order to end the federal oversight that has existed over the last 35 years. The report recommends turning the department into an independent public authority supervised by regional commissioners.
  • The Department of Human Services has been turned over to Wayne (county) Metro Community Action Agency, whose board members mainly reside in wealthy suburbs.
  • The Planning and Development Department is being run by the quasi-private Detroit Economic Development Corporation.

Federal and state tax collection returns fewer dollars to cities these days. At the federal level the military budget and the war on terrorism absorbs more than half of the annual budget. At the state level, Michigan is mandated to share its tax collection with municipalities and counties. One stream of revenue sharing is constitutionally guaranteed but the other portion is statutory. Since 2001 state tax collection has declined about four percent but the fiscal decline has been used to cheat municipalities out of their fair share of revenue. Between 2001 and 2010 Detroit lost about $450 million. While state tax revenue declined four percent during that period, the Michigan Municipal League pointed out that payments to Detroit dropped 28%.

Detroit’s Problems Suggest Solutions

Detroit’s main problem is the lack of jobs. For every 100 residents, 27 have jobs. (By comparison, in Philadelphia it is 35, in Atlanta it is 73.)

Forty percent live and work within the city (71,000), the majority work in the suburbs (111,000). More than 160,000 commute to work from the suburbs. Forty percent of the Detroiters who work in the suburbs earn less than $15,000 a year. Meanwhile many companies located in Detroit don’t bother to deduct the non-resident city income tax for their commuting suburbanite workers – resulting in enormous losses for the city. (DTE Energy alone, which cuts off gas and electricity for thousands of Detroiters behind on their bills, is said to have cheated the city of $15 million.)

Beginning in the early 1950s corporations moved plant operations to the suburbs and beyond, and many Detroiters followed. We are now a city of less than 700,000 with 40% of the 140-square miles vacant. More than 70 sites are toxic waste dumps. Since 1999, with the first state takeover of the public schools, the city has only had control over the school district for two years. Schools have been shut down; charters have mushroomed along with the school debt.

Services have declined while taxes on home properties have not been decreased nor mortgages brought into line with their market value. For example, last summer the Occupy Detroit Eviction Defense Committee organized a four-week vigil to prevent the sheriff for evicting a family whose mortgage was valued at $140,000 while it was assessed for market value of $20,000. Unless a family is willing to carry out a public campaign against the banks and Fannie Mae, the government agency that backs them, they usually end up abandoning the house and creating one emptier house in the neighborhood. It then gets stripped by professional thieves.

While Governor Snyder and newly appointed EMF Kevyn Orr claim they will move to generate community cooperation by getting buses running on time and fixing the broken street lights and by having quicker response time from police, fire and emergency service, the reality is that they will not develop a jobs program — in fact, they will continue the policy of laying off public sector workers.

Just as in other countries facing austerity, Detroiters will be expected to have fewer services and more low-wage jobs. More than a third of city residents live in households with an income below the poverty line. What will cutting retiree benefits do for the 11.5% of Detroiters already retired? It will decrease their ability to access health care and reduce their quality of life.

What Governor Snyder and EMF Orr could do in addition to developing a jobs program — cleaning up toxic waste dumps, renovating and weatherizing buildings and converting closed plants into developing non-fossil energy sources — is to call public meetings so that residents can review the budget and understand the nature of the deficit. Let there be a people’s audit, where one of the obvious demands requires banks take a haircut.

One example: according to a 2011 public filing, Detroit had $3.8 billion in outstanding variable interest-rate swaps. These were sold to the city in a series of transactions beginning in 1997, supposedly to hedge interest-rate risk. Clearly Wall Street sold public officials a bill of goods and now we are expected to pay for this robbery. Such an odious debt should be repudiated, not paid back with interest to boot!

Although the Detroit City Council fussed over the imposition of the Emergency Manager, the majority—along with Mayor Dave Bing—have now decided to join the Orr “team.” Orr will try to sweet-talk residents; the foundations that support the Emergency Manager (and charter schools) and have roots in neighborhood associations and urban gardens will do their part to back him up.

Clearly resistance must come from below. The National Action Network has taken a lead by calling an action the day Orr was appointed. A union-sponsored action will confront the Governor when he returns to Detroit March 18. But much more is needed than symbolic actions. Many union members were very angry that the day right-to-work-for-less passed in Lansing, Jimmy Hoffa and Bob King only called for turning the scoundrels out of office in 2014. Why not use workplaces as organizing centers and move toward collective action?

Occupy Detroit Eviction Defense Committee will be demonstrating at noon Wednesday, March 20 in front of the Wayne County Treasurer’s Office, 400 Monroe, in Detroit’s Greektown. The following day the action will be at the Michigan State Housing Authority Office, State of Michigan Building, 3028 W. Grand Blvd., Detroit. These demonstrations will link the Detroit debt to tax foreclosures. The reality is that the State of Michigan holds $204 million in federal Hardest Hit Homeowner funds for homeowners to pay off delinquent property tax bills so there is no excuse why any homeowner should lose his/her home to a tax foreclosure—but 42,000 are scheduled for tax foreclosure in 2013.

After a home is foreclosed, Wayne County sells it at an auction for a fraction of the amount owned however the full amount is charged to the city. This year alone Detroit will pay out over $80 million in these charges. So stopping tax foreclosures will aid homeowners, stabilize communities and save Detroit millions of dollars.

The solutions to Detroit’s problems are in front of us.

Dianne Feeley is a retired autoworker and editor of Against the Current. She lives in Detroit.

Chronicle of a Death Foretold: The Post-Chávez Venezuelan Conjuncture

by Jeffery R. Webber

March 7, 2013

On live television, Venezuelan Vice-President Nicolás Maduro choked on his words. Hugo Chávez, the improbable President, born in the rural poverty of Sabaneta, in the state of Barinas, in 1954 had died of cancer. To his wealthy and light-skinned enemies he was evil incarnate. To many impoverished Venezuelans, his contradictory and eclectic ideology – a labyrinthine blend drawing on the thought of nineteenth century Simón Bolívar and Ezequiel Zamora, twentieth century left-military nationalism and anti-imperialism, Soviet-inflected, bureaucratic Cuban Socialism, social Christianity, pragmatic neostructuralist economics, and currents of socialism-from-below – made a good deal of sense at least insofar as he had come from origins like theirs and had made the right sort of enemies. For sound reasons, the international legacy of the Venezuelan president for sections of the left has been tarnished by his appalling support of Gadhafi, al-Assad, Ahmadinejad, and the Chinese state. But to begin there for an understanding of the profound resonance of his death for the millions upon millions of Venezuelan and Latin American victims of colonial rule, capitalist exploitation, and imperial humiliation would be to resolutely miss the point.


The casket of Hugo Chavez accompanied by thousands

Hysterical Venezuelans

There’s something about Chávez that encourages a starker-than-usual embrace of mediocrity in the quarters of the establishment press. How else to explain the appeal of Rory Carroll, whose dystopic fantasies about the life and times of Venezuela since 1999 have found their unmitigated expression in the pages of the Guardian, New York Times, and New Statesman, among others, over the last few weeks. For Carroll, the Venezuelan popular classes have been the mute and manipulable playthings of the “elected autocrat,” whose life in turn is reducible to one part clown, one part monster.

If we once imagined that Chávez emerged out of the debauched embrace of neoliberalism by an old rotating political elite ensconced in the traditional AD and COPEI parties in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the concomitant socio-political fissures created by the popular explosion of anti-neoliberal sentiment during the caracazo riots of 1989, and the folkloric rise of a dissident military man to the status of popular hero though a failed coup attempt of 1992 (targeting the status quo), we now stand corrected. The idea that Chávez is the result of Chavismo – a pervasive groundswell of demands for social change, national liberation and deeper democracy – becomes a fraud. “We Created Chávez!” – a popular delusion.

“His dramatic sense of his own significance,” we learn from Carroll, is rather what “helped bring him to power as the reincarnation of the liberator Simón Bolívar” – the trope of autocratic caudillo, and crocodile charisma. It was this very same “dramatic flair” that “deeply divided Venezuelans” rather than, say, the uneven and combined development of neoliberal capitalism in a dependent country of the Global South – the trope of manufactured polarization. “He spent extravagantly on health clinics, schools, subsidies and giveaways,” the trope of populist clientelism and the undeserving poor. “His elections were not fair” – the trope of creeping authoritarianism. He “dominate[d] airwaves,” the trope of media monopolization. Ultimately, though, his evil was banal, his rule was that, “in the final analysis,” of “an awful manager.”

“As Venezuela begins a new chapter in its history,” US President Barack Obama said in response to the death of Chávez, “the United States remains committed to policies that promote democratic principles, the rule of law, and respect for human rights,” all implicitly absent in the South American country. “At this key juncture,” Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper noted in the same register, “I hope the people of Venezuela can now build for themselves a better, brighter future based on the principles of freedom, democracy, the rule of law and respect for human rights.” Although disingenuous in the extreme, this was still more measured than Harper’s comments in 2009, just prior to a Summit of the Americas meeting. There he noted that Chávez was representative of certain leftist leaders in the Western hemisphere who were “opposed to basically sound economic policies, want to go back to Cold War socialism… want to turn back the clock on the democratic progress that’s been made in the hemisphere.”

We are to understand from this that contemporary liberal democracy is the selection of good managers. A proper manager for the twenty-first century is presumably something closer to the pliant figure of unelected free-market Italian technocrat Mario Monti, whose loss in the recent Italian elections was mourned by the same media outlets demonizing Chávez. The Economist spoke of the stubborn Italian electorate’s “refusal to recognise the underlying causes of Italy’s plight” achieving its full expression in “their refusal to back Mr Monti.” The tidal wave of anti-Chávez vitriol on behalf of the world’s rulers is rooted in the refusal he represents for the poor and dispossessed, for the exploited and oppressed – a refusal to go on as before, to submit to neoliberal capitalism, and to get on one’s knees before imperialism. It’s true, in other words, that he made an awful manager.

On March 7, 2013, the conservative opposition media reported “hundreds of thousands” in the streets of Caracas mourning their manager’s demise. An editorial in the Mexican daily La Jornada speaks of “millions.” A quick search of Google images and Youtube produces a veritable red tide of mourners. Through Carroll’s prism these multitudes must radically misunderstand the legacy of 14 years of Chávez: “the decay, dysfunction and blight that afflict the economy and every state institution.” They must misconceive the “profound uncertainty” the late president has thrust them into. They must be blind to the “bureaucratic malaise and corruption” surrounding them.

Charges of Autocracy, Clientelism, and Decay

Mark Weisbrot, a social-democratic economist based in the United States, once complained that Venezuela “is probably the most lied-about country in the world.” In fourteen years Chávez won fourteen national electoral contests of different varieties, coming out securely on top of thirteen of them. According to Jimmy Carter, former US President, Nobel Prize winner, and monitor of ninety-two elections worldwide in his capacity as director of the Carter Centre, these Venezuelan contests were the “best in the world.” In the 2006 presidential race, it was opposition candidate Manuel Rosales who engaged in petty bids of clientelism aimed at securing the votes of the poor. Most notoriously, he offered $US 450 per month to 3 million impoverished Venezuelans on personal black credit cards as part of a plan called Mi Negra. In what his right-wing critics could only understand as a rare act of agency, the ungrateful would-be recipients apparently aligned themselves on the other side of history, backing Chávez with 62 percent of the vote.

The “suppressed media” mantra is another favourite go-to card of the opposition. In one representative report, the US-based Committee to Protect Journalists claimed that the heavy hand of the Chávez government wielded control over a “media empire.” In actual fact, Venezuelan state TV reaches “only about 5-8% of the country’s audience. Of course, Chávez can interrupt normal programming with his speeches (under a law that predates his administration), and regularly does so. But the opposition still has most of the media, including radio and print media – not to mention most of the wealth and income of the country.” Walking the downtown streets of the capital in the lead up to the presidential elections of October 2012, with billboards of right-wing candidate Henrique Capriles Radonski hanging from the lampposts, and Kiosks overflowing with newspapers beaming headlines on the latest disaster induced by the Chávez regime, even the most spiritual of journalists would strain in vain to find a ghost of Stalin in Caracas.

Back to Some Basics

At its root, explaining support for Chávez among the lower orders involves neither the complexity of quantum mechanics nor the pop-psychological theory of masses entranced by a charismatic leader. Venezuela sits on oil. Other petro-states, such as those in the Gulf, have funnelled the rent into a grotesque pageantry of the rich – skyscrapers, theme parks, and artificial archipelagos – built on the backs of indentured South Asian migrant labourers. They’ve done so, moreover, while aligning geopolitically with the US Empire – backing the wars, and containing the Arab uprisings. Much to the bizarre dismay of journalists like Ian James, the Venezuelan state in the last fourteen years has been forced into different priorities. After recovering from the steep collapse in gross domestic product (GDP) in 2002 and 2003 – hitting -8.9 and -7.8 percent respectively as a consequence of political crisis spurred by an unsuccessful coup attempt and business-led oil lockout – GDP soared on high petroleum prices to 18.3, 10.3, 9.9, and 8.2 percent in the years 2004-2007. There was a drop to 4.8 percent in 2008 as the international oil price took a fourth-quarter plunge from $US 118 to $58 a barrel due to centrifigual waves of the global crisis spreading out from its American and Eurozone epicentres. Within six months, however, world oil prices had largely recovered, and countercyclical spending brought the Venezuelan economy up to 4.2 percent growth in 2011 and 5.6 in 2012.

After the relative modesty of state policy between 1999 and 2002, the extra-legal whip of the Right lit a fire of self-organization in the poor urban barrios of Caracas and elsewhere. The empty shell of Chávez’s electoral coalition in the early years began to be filled out and driven forward in dialectical relation to the spike in organizational capacity from below in the years immediately following 2003. New forms of popular assembly, rank-and-file efforts in the labour movement, experiments in workers’ control, communal councils, and communes increasingly gave Venezuelan democracy life and body for the first time in decades, perhaps ever. The dispossessed were solidly aligned with Chávez in opposition to the domestic escualidos (the squalid ones who supported the coup), and ranged against the multifaceted machinations of US intervention and the pressures of international capital; but they were also rapidly transcending the timid confines of government policy.

From above, more state resources consequently began to flow, feeding an expanding array of parallel health and education systems for the poor. According to official national statistics, the cash income poverty level fell 37.6 percent under Chávez, from 42.8 percent of households in 1999 to 26.7 percent in 2012. Extreme poverty dropped 57.8 percent, from 16.6 to 7 percent between 1999 and 2011. If these income poverty measures are expanded to include welfare improvements from the doubling in college enrolment since 2004, new access to health care for millions, and extensive housing subsidies for the poor, it is easy to see how Carroll’s narrative of decay breaks down. This backdrop in its entirety provides a reasoned explanation for the red tide of mourners. But it doesn’t explain the challenges ahead, and a socialist Left that stops here cedes unnecessary ground to thermidorian reaction.

Assuming Maduro’s victory over the right in forthcoming elections, the pragmatic balancing of contradictory elements within the Bolivarian process that Chávez managed to sustain is likely to be much more difficult. The game, ultimately, is not a virtuous circle of mutuality, but a zero-sum competition of classes with opposing interests. The lubricant of oil has blurred this reality temporarily, but different developmental exits in which distinct classes win and lose are likely to come to the fore relatively quickly. The conservative chavista right within the state apparatus, the currents of reaction inside the military, the red bureaucrats enriching themselves through manipulation of markets, and the union bureaucrats aligned against working-class self-organization and emancipation are the preeminent obstacles of immediate concern. At the same time, the experiences of workers’ control, communal councils, communes, and popular assemblies have raised the consciousness and capacities of millions. A dire turn is therefore not a fait accompli. Today we mourn the death of Chávez, tomorrow we return to the grind for socialism.

Jeffery R. Webber teaches politics and international relations at Queen Mary, University of London. He sits on the editorial board of Historical Materialism, and is the author of Red October: Left-Indigenous Struggles in Modern Bolivia.

Istanbul Mayor Bans Freedom and Solidarity Party Campaign

by Dan La Botz 

December 18, 2012

While in Istanbul last week I participated in a march and demonstration by the Freedom and Solidarity Party (ODP) on Dec. 9 to launch a campaign to link grassroots community organizations to a broader program for social and political change in Turkey. The march of hundreds of ODP members of all ages, some of them families with children, was a peaceful event though the chants were militant. “Let us live like human beings. Take the government’s hands off the people,” was one. And periodically the marchers shouted, “Revolt!”


ODP Rally in Istanbul

When the marchers had assembled in one of the city’s many squares, ODP Co-Chair Alper Taş spoke, explaining the campaign. Taş talked about the need to end the rule of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) and to create a genuinely democratic Turkey. This would be done, he said, through the campaign to build grassroots organizations in local communities throughout the country. The community organizations would take up local issues, and the party would link them to the broader agenda of democracy and socialism. (To understand more about the ODP’s motivation in launching its most recent campaign see the concluding declaration of the Charter Congress held in October.)

The crowd took up the campaign slogan: “Let’s Demolish AKP Order and Build a New Turkey.” The ODP hopes to “demolish” the AKP regime of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan which has been in power for eleven years by building a democratic mass movement for socialism. The Freedom and Solidarity Party (Özgürlük ve Dayanişma Partisi—ODP) is a mass, socialist party  that places itself in the tradition of Devrimci Yol (Revolutionary Path), an earlier Marxist party that rejected both the Soviet and Chinese Communist models. That party was crushed after the military coup of September 12, 1980. More than 30,000 were jailed and many subjected to torture. The ODP has approximately 20,000 members with a periphery of 100,000. It received 250,000 votes in the general elections of 1999 representing 0.8% of the total. They were barred from participation in the last elections in 2011. The ODP publishes a daily newspaper, BirGün with a circulation of 6,000.

The ODP is committed to fighting for democracy and socialism, including workers control, full civil liberties, full religious freedom and the total separation of church and state, full equality for Kurds and other ethnic groups, the rights of women and of gays and lesbians. (See the party’s program in brief.)

Campaign Banned

The campaign had hardly been launched when Istanbul Mayor Hüseyin Avni Mutlu banned the ODP campaign. This included a ban on all meetings, banners, and ODP posters associated with the campaign. The ODP is now organizing protests against the ban with the slogan, “You have your bans, we have the streets.”

The Istanbul ODP Provincial Organization had applied to the mayor’s office for permission for the campaign “Let’s Demolish AKP Order and Build a New Turkey” on the 4th of December but the Mayor informed the Party that the Party campaign wasn’t found appropriate and the main poster of the campaign was banned.

Provincial Chairperson of the Party, Avni Gündoğan said: “We won’t give up the campaign that will be held all over Turkey including Istanbul between 9th December and 9th June. We are eager to pursue this campaign with the slogan of ‘Let’s Demolish AKP Order and Build a New Turkey.’ We made a call, as ODP, to develop and organize a resistance against AKP in order to make the voice of the oppressed and the working class heard all over the country against this terrible regime. We are reiterating our call once again today. We won’t take a step back.”

Typical of Turkish Politics

The Istanbul mayor’s ban on the ODP is typical of the ADP government and unfortunately of politics in Turkey throughout its modern history. Turkey’s prisons are full of journalists, students, and Kurdish activists. Just a week ago the Committee to Protect Journalists announced that there are 232 journalists in jail around the world, with Turkey the leading violator of journalists’ rights, having imprisoned 49 of them.


ODP co-chair Alper Taş speaking at rally

In August the Turkish press reported that there were then 2,824 high school and college students languishing in Turkish prisons. Deputy Özgür Özel of the main opposition party, the conservative Republican People’s Party (CHP), said at the time, “This is even more than we had thought. Even the students unfurling banners about free education are charged with [crimes related to] the armed terrorist organizations. The prosecutors trying to create criminals seemed to have achieved that,” Özel said.

Many Kurds are also held in Turkish prisons on charges of terrorism. In November, Turkey’s government admitted that at least 682 inmates were participating in a hunger strike in at least 67 prisons across the country. The hunger strike ended on November 21 because of health risks to the participants.

As Human Rights Watch stated in its World Report for 2012, the Turkish government “has not prioritized human rights reforms since 2005, and freedom of expression and association have both been damaged by the ongoing prosecution and incarceration of journalists, writers, and hundreds of Kurdish political activists.” In November, Amnesty International condemned the Turkish authorities for the killing of two civilians.

The ODP pledges to continue the struggle against repression and for democracy in Turkey.

Dan La Botz is a Cincinnati-based teacher, writer, activist, and member of Solidarity.This article was originally published by New Politics.

VIDEO: "System Change, Not Climate Change! Radical Responses to the Ecological Crisis"

from Baltimore Solidarity

December 17, 2012

Last month, Solidarity and the International Socialist Organization (ISO) jointly sponsored a forum in Baltimore entitled “System Change, Not Climate Change! Radical Responses to the Ecological Crisis.” The forum began with a talk by Heather Kangas of the ISO on why the present system can’t solve the ecological crisis, followed by Nick Davenport of Solidarity on the revolutionary politics of building a sustainable society.

This was followed by a robust discussion, with multiple points of view aired on critical questions facing the movement. “Why do so many people appear complacent in spite of the urgency of the crisis?” “Can a major disaster that disrupts social institutions open up space for building alternative structures, or do we need a political strategy aimed at taking power?” “Are there too many people?  Do we need more or less urbanization?”

Members of several organizations were present at the forum.  The hope is that the forum catalyzes further joint work between left organizations as well as more activity around radical ecology.  Opportunities for ecological struggle are heating up in Baltimore, with a fight over fracking brewing at the state level and residents of a working class community resisting the construction of a new incinerator. We hope this discussion proves valuable for activists facing similar challenges in other areas.

Contact the Baltimore branch of Solidarity by e-mailing baltimore@solidarity-us.org.

A Review of Progressive Third Parties in U.S. Elections

by Adam Hefty

November 13, 2012

The chart below is the culmination of a procrastinatory project that originally started out with a couple of simple, contemporary questions. How did Jill Stein, Roseanne Barr, and Rocky Anderson do, in comparison to each other and in comparison to recent history? The contemporary period for left-of-center third-party presidential races starts with Ralph Nader in 2000. But then I wondered how the weaker numbers from 2004, 2008, and 2012 compared to previous years. After all, in recent years, Nader’s 2000 campaign was kind of an outlier in its relative impact. What were its precedents? Eugene McCarthy’s several campaigns? The foundation of the Peace and Freedom Party in 1968? Henry Wallace’s 1948 campaign? Going back even further, Norman Thomas, Eugene Debs, or “Fighting Bob” La Follette? And what if anything was the historic pattern in between these high water marks?

I decided to chart of left-of-center third-party presidential campaigns covering most of US history, to the extent that that was even a coherent category. (It turned out to be incoherent before 1840 or arguably 1876, as I’ll explain.)

This chart and this post may not directly engage the debate, heightened over the past few months as it is every four years, about how to vote or whether to build a third party. It is intended more as a node of reflection for those of us who are already somewhat engaged in or committed to building an independent, left third party (or “independent political action,” as it is sometimes called amongst socialists).

Left-of-center presidential candidates’ combined vote:

Figures taken from US Election Atlas

2012 Stein (Green), Barr (Peace and Freedom), Anderson (Justice), Lindsey (Socialism and Liberation) 0.43%
2008 Nader (independent), McKinney (Green), Calero (Socialist Workers), LaRiva (Socialism and Liberation), Moore (Socialist) 0.71%
2004 Nader (independent), Cobb (Green), Peltier (Peace and Freedom), Brown (Socialist), Calero (Socialist Workers) 0.52%
2000 Nader (Green), Harris (Socialist Workers), McReynolds (Socialist) 2.75%
1996 Nader (Green), Moorehead (Workers World), Feinland (Peace and Freedom), Harris (Socialist Workers), Peron (Grassroots) 0.79%
1992 Fulani (New Alliance), Daniels (Peace and Freedom), Warren (Socialist Workers) 0.12%
1988 Fulani (New Alliance), McCarthy (Consumer), Winn (Workers League), Warren (Socialist Workers), Lewin (Peace and Freedom), Holmes (Workers World) 0.33%
1984 Johnson (Citizens), Serrette (Alliance), Hall (Communist), Mason (Socialist Workers), Holmes (Workers World), Winn (Workers League) 0.23%
1980 Commoner (Citizens), Hall (Communist), DeBarry (Socialist Workers), Smith (Peace and Freedom), Griswold (Workers World), McReynolds (Socialist), Pulley (Socialist Workers) 0.42%
1976 McCarthy (independent), Camejo (Socialist Workers), Hall (Communist), Wright (People’s), Levin (Socialist Labor), Zeidler (Socialist) 1.17%
1972 Jenness (Socialist Workers), Spock (People’s), Fisher (Socialist Labor), Hall (Communist), Reed (Socialist Workers) 0.33%
1968 Blomen (Socialist Labor), Gregory (Peace and Freedom), Halstead (Socialist Workers), Cleaver (Peace and Freedom), McCarthy (New Party/write-in) 0.28%
1964 Hass (Socialist Labor), DeBarry (Socialist Workers) 0.11%
1960 Hass (Socialist Labor), Dobbs (Socialist Workers) 0.13%
1956 Hass (Socialist Labor), Dobbs (Socialist Workers) 0.08%
1952 Hallinan (Progressive), Hass (Socialist Labor), Hoopes (Socialist), Dobbs (Socialist Workers), Krajewski (Poor Man’s) 0.34%
1948 Wallace (Progressive), Thomas (Socialist), Teichert (Socialist Labor), Dobbs (Socialist Workers) 2.75%
1944 Thomas (Socialist), Teichert (Socialist Labor) 0.17%
1940 Thomas (Socialist), Browder (Communist), Aiken (Socialist Labor) 0.36%
1936 Lemke (Union), Thomas (Socialist), Browder (Communist), Aiken (Socialist Labor) 2.56%
1932 Thomas (Socialist), Foster (Communist), Harvey (Liberty), Reynolds (Socialist Labor), Coxey (Farmer-Labor) 2.73%
1928 Thomas (Socialist), Foster (Communist), Reynolds (Socialist Labor), Webb (Farmer-Labor) 0.94%
1924 LaFollette (Progressive), Foster (Communist), Johns (Socialist Labor), Wallace (Commonwealth Land) 16.85%
1920 Debs (Socialist), Christiansen (Farmer-Labor), Cox (Socialist Labor), Macauley (Single Tax) 4.54%
1916 Benson (Socialist), Reimer (Socialist Labor) 3.27%
1912 Debs (Socialist), Reimer (Socialist Labor) 6.18%
1908 Debs (Socialist), Gillhaus (Socialist Labor) 2.92%
1904 Debs (Socialist), Corregan (Socialist Labor) 3.23%
1900 Debs (Socialist), Barker (Populist), Maloney (Socialist Labor), Ellis (United Reform) 1.32%
1896 Matchett (Socialist Labor). Note: Populists nominate Democrat W. J. Bryan this year. 0.26%
1892 Weaver (Populist), Wing (Socialist Labor) 8.69%
1888 Streeter (Union Labor), Cowdrey (United Labor), Socialist Labor Party electors unpledged to a candidate 1.34%
1884 Butler (Greenback) 1.33%
1880 Weaver (Greenback) 3.32%
1876 Cooper (Greenback) 0.99%
1856-1872 No left-of-center candidacies got ballot access and obtained more than 0.01% of the vote.
1852 Hale (Free Soil) 4.93%
1848 Van Buren (Free Soil), Smith (National Liberty) 10.22%
1844 Birney (Liberty) 2.30%
1840 Birney (Liberty) 0.31%
1789-1836 No left-of-center candidacies got ballot access and obtained more than 0.01% of the vote.

Methodology of this chart

Deciding who to include and exclude from this chart involved judgment calls. I tried to include all candidates who were generally left of center, that is, left of the bourgeois consensus or left of the two major parties in a given era. I included everyone from left-liberals and populists to candidates of small left organizations who may be considered sectarian (or even cultish in a couple of cases) by some of my readers. I only included those candidates / parties that received at least 0.01% of the vote.

For the purposes of this chart, I don’t care how healthy these parties were, just that their candidates were espousing left-of-center views semi-consistently. I did not include Lyndon LaRouche, whose origins are on the left but whose ideology by the time of his presidential runs was not clearly left-of-center. (I’d consider LaRouche’s ideology to be corporatist, capitalist, and tending towards a paranoid form of Bonapartism or Caudillismo, perhaps with some qualities that hearken back to Huey Long or Father Coughlin within US political history. Others consider him to be semi-fascist, due to apparent anti-semitism and attacks on the left.)

Speaking of Long and Coughlin, I did include the 1936 Union Party, after some hesitation, since it at least posited itself as a populist wing of the New Deal. And I included a couple of candidates who received small numbers of votes based on a platform articulating some kind of slightly left-of-center-leaning reform, like the 1932 Liberty Party or the Single Tax / Commonwealth Party of 1920 and 1924.

I wasn’t sure how far back to take this exercise. In different ways Eugene McCarthy, the Peace and Freedom Party, Henry Wallace, and finally Debs are the antecedents of the contemporary third party / left celebrity presidential campaign. Even LaFollette’s run, the most successful in history for a left-of-center candidate in these terms, seem to belong to a fundamentally different era with a different language and social base. Nevertheless, the People’s Party of the 1890s and the Greenback Party before that represented real antecedents to Debs, and to some extent provided a milieu from which the Socialist Party then departed.

I decided not to include Tom Watson’s Populist Party runs in 1904 and 1908, at which point Watson had taken a stances that were racist (even having called for the reorganization of the KKK), anti-Catholic, anti-Semitic, and anti-socialist. This same Watson had previously fought for cross-racial agrarian unity in the South in the 1890s. Of course many of his 1904 and 1908 voters were probably still left-of-center, and I’m sure a fair number of Populist voters before 1900 would have taken some of these same, contradictory stances. The People’s Party was hardly consistent even in its healthiest days by the later standards of the Socialists and even contemporary multi-tendency parties like Peace and Freedom and the Greens. However, I’d argue that their first incarnation was clearly left-of-center, while after 1900, following a disbanding and reorganization, many of the leftists had left for the Socialist Party, and there was something of a collapse of the old agrarian producerism beyond the peculiarities of Watson.

Arguably the first real electoral “third party” in the modern sense was the Greenbacks, in the sense that they were a party with a broad conception of the political world, using electoral campaigns more to advance this vision than to elect a candidate to office in the near term. After some consideration, I decided to include abolitionist (Liberty) and Free Soil candidates from 1840-1852, as well. The term “left” is probably a bit anachronistic for this time period, but the abolitionists were radicals, attacking the question around which the nation would soon (nearly) dissolve. (The Free Soil Party was a pragmatic offshoot of this, opposing the extension of slavery to new land, a program which abolitionists could see as a first step and other Northerners could see as a practical extension of their mode of life into land which was about to be colonized and settled.) As an electoral party they were also single-issue reformers, in a sense, even if that single issue was the most fundamental of the day, and key figures were often social elites whose political style has as much in common with the later, 1910s Progressives (who I haven’t included here) as with the later left. Famously, as Du Bois observes in Black Reconstruction, the Northern labor movement and abolitionism were able to find little common ground, to the great detriment of the possibility of a labor movement which could perceive and act upon a common class interest.

Immediate Interpretations

The numbers seem to tell a story that is at variance with how leftists usually talk about history in some interesting ways, at least on the face of it, though number of votes are a poor and to some degree not terribly meaningful (some would argue, completely meaningless) proxy for the political significance of a campaign.

One interesting factor was the variance between years in which “single tendency” or sectarian campaigns did well vs. years in which multi-tendency or broad left campaigns did well. Since 1996 the biggest vote getters amongst the third-party candidates have been Green, independent, or Peace and Freedom candidates supported by a fairly heterogeneous array of forces. The New Alliance Party in 1992 and 1988 was more or less a sect presenting itself as a multi-tendency party. 1976-1984 also saw broad left efforts led the way, but from 1956-1972 the relatively well oiled campaign apparatuses of the Socialist Labor Party and Socialist Workers Party pulled in the most votes on the left. We think of 1968 and 1972 as exciting times to be on the left and formative years for third party campaigning, but Benjamin Spock in 1972 was outpolled by the SWP, and in 1968 the SLP candidate led the way, though the Peace and Freedom Party would have outpolled him had they run the same candidate everywhere. (They ran runner-up for the nomination Dick Gregory in some states, since Eldridge Cleaver was 34, too young constitutionally to be eligible for the office of president, and therefore declared ineligible for the ballot in some states.)

Henry Wallace’s 1948 run is widely remembered on the left , while William Lemke’s 1936 run and (to a lesser extent) Norman Thomas’s in 1932 are almost forgotten. Yet, the three are of a similar order of magnitude.

Looking cross-historically at Nader and Wallace, it’s tempting to conclude that 2.7% of the popular vote is just enough to get you reviled by the political establishment, possibly tarnishing your associates by proximity and requiring you (Wallace) or countless supporters (Nader) to vocalize mea culpas for years, to try to live down the audacity. If Schopenhauer’s maxim (“All truth passes through three stages. First, it is ridiculed. Second, it is violently opposed. Third, it is accepted as being self-evident.”) applies to third-party left politics, then 2.7% might be just enough to register violent opposition in the modern era. Of course in the Debs era, the Socialists got more than 2.7% five elections in a row.

The Broad View

Why do some of us on the left bother running or supporting left-of-center presidential candidates every four years? Why do leftists whose views are far removed from the mainstream axis around which presidential elections turn bother to engage with presidential races at all, when local races offer possibilities for more immediate inroads?

In heady years, like those of Nader’s 2000 run, a third-party presidential campaign seems like it could lay the groundwork for a permanent shakeup of the electoral system and provide a space for the expression, development, and broadening of radical politics. (Arguably, if Jesse Jackson’s Rainbow Coalition had left the Democratic Party in 1988, this would have provided an even better opportunity for such a development. But Jackson was nowhere near taking such a step, and independent forces within the Rainbow Coalition were not developed enough to challenge him.) In lean years, like 2004-2012, supporting a third-party presidential campaign is a good way to alienate your liberal and progressive friends (and bore your anarchist friends) seemingly without a lot in return.

Yet, presidential politics occupy a large space within the terrain of the national-popular. Every four years, most other political discussions come to a halt or get derailed as this large symbolic prize takes center-stage. One may find it frustrating to see social movements dissipate in the face of a presidential election, but that they often do so is a fact. The failure of Occupy to experience a spring 2012 revival may have been partially conditioned by an already growing focus on the presidential race. Arguably a downturn in the Immigrant Rights Movement coincided with the 2008 cycle, though activism by undocumented youth has provided a partial revival, albeit without hundreds of thousands in the streets at once. The clearest example in recent memory is the 2004 cycle, when many liberals and progressives, led by groups like MoveOn, abandoned the antiwar movement and buried their energies in “Anybody But Bush” efforts which ultimately coincided with the Kerry campaign.

Local and state races never take up this amount of space, and even midterm Congressional, Senate, and gubernatorial elections only take up a fraction of it. Fundamentally, I think this is why we do it: propagandistically, if the left wants to speak to people during these paroxysms that arrive like clockwork every four years, there’s nothing quite like an electoral intervention at the presidential level. It’s a space of political debate that is tantalizingly desirable and maddening: desirable to the extent that it offers a specter of debate over the direction of the country; maddening to the extent that the parameters of that debate are very carefully circumscribed. It provokes a certain kind of detailed, frenetic, yet politically captivated energy on the part of a great many politically engaged people, to the extent that people whose politics are way to the left of the candidates who have a chance of being elected begin to think like tacticians for one of these candidates. Platitudes abound on all sides for how an election is the bare minimum, not the end-point, of political engagement, yet the organizing we promise each other and the holding-accountable we promise towards the candidates tend to fall short. Shibboleths of immanent fascism and reaction rattle about, along with the hyperbolic inflation of the preciousness of each vote, to the point where the whole thing becomes a depressing and sometimes disgusting exercise. Of course that reaction is often a real threat, and disenfranchisement of poor voters and voters of color is all too real.

The 2012 election seems to have dealt a blow to reaction on several fronts, though Obama’s promised “Grand Bargain” suggests that the Democrats will continue their approximately 1970s-present tradition of triangulating away their political capital instead of using it to build a governing consensus. Nevertheless,  suggestions that Republican reliance on a shrinking older, white male demographic might cause them to go the way of the Whigs are intriguing. Chances are better than not that they will figure out a way to rebrand themselves, and that as early as 2014 we’ll see a wave of Latino Republican standard-bearers, along with a few Black and Asian candidates and more and more women, articulating some modernized version of the GOP maybe along the lines of a more plebeian version of the pre-2001 George Bushes. Nevertheless both a Republican collapse and an increasing level of two-party “transformism” seem within the realm of possibility, at which point the left’s ability to articulate something could become more important.

Such a transformation would probably not happen in one or two election cycles, though it’s impossible to predict idiosyncratic political personalities and ever sharpening economic crises. In my view, what we should be aiming for would be a series of results that would look like the Socialist Party’s from 1900-1920, possibly presaging a leap into major party status. This sounds like a modest task but it is in fact immense, since socialism from 1900-1920 was an idea that captivated a great deal of excitement, reflected however diffusely in these results. In those years the US labor movement was combative and experimental, led by the IWW; revolution was on the agenda around the world; socialism had a cultural milieu, building on the legacy of populism; and the world got embroiled in a terribly unpopular, grisly, draining world war. The left today is still mostly mired in a post-1989 inability to project the new world we insist is possible, as opposed to rejecting the neoliberal consensus and making pleas for a different kind of public space. Furthermore, even the better vehicles we have for the electoral aspect of such a project are in relative disarray.

Third parties are largely secondary to a revival of some kind of democratic, worker-driven labor movement and either sustained mass movements or an intensification of episodic struggles, and presidential races are probably even more secondary in some ways to local campaigns that could be winnable short-term, building the base for a new historic bloc. They may only be important as a kind of superstructural barometer of how we’re doing, or they may provide a space for making propagandistic inroads.

A useful accompaniment to this piece would be a history of insurgent political expressions within the major parties, such as the Rainbow Coalition, the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party, etc. I suspect that the establishment of a left historic bloc of this sort would not emerge solely from the organic growth of a left-of-center electoral bloc, but also from a split in which wings of one or both of the two major parties broke away. It seems most likely to imagine such a split from the Democrats, though it’s worth observing that before their consolidation into a reiteration of the conservative wing of the Republican Party, the Tea Party was a movement of disaffected, anti-bailout, largely white and non-urban / non-cosmopolitan social groups. Within the range of political possibilities currently articulated and the prevalence of reactionary racial politics in this milieu, it was perhaps inevitable that the Tea Party evolved in the direction it did, but if the legitimacy of capitalism continues to come into question, it’s possible to imagine similar formations evolving in a populist or even radical direction.

Check out Adam’s blog at overturning praxis.