Repeal the Farm Acts!

Radical Socialist

Protesting farmers hurl back tear gas shell as they march to the capital, breaking police barricades, during India’s Republic Day celebrations in New Delhi on Jan 26. (Photo: AP via Dawn.com)

As winter cold descends hard on North India, the newly emerged ‘trolly cities’ along the length of National Highway 1 and 9 at the Singhu and Tikri borders respectively, are getting longer day by day. Carrying with them rations for months, these protests have emerged as a formidable reaction against the neoliberal march of the Khaki Brigade and government. With nearly 200,000 people residing in these makeshift cities with working toilets, bathrooms, water heating geysers running on firewood, kitchens, reading rooms, their own newspaper and libraries, these protests are said to be one of the largest-ever protests, at least in the recent history of India. While these protesters are demanding the repealing of the three Farm Laws, the crowds present here are far from limited to just farmers — students, unemployed youth, teachers, artists and people from various sections of society are also part of these protests.

Contrary to the numbers at the national level, where 86 percent of farmers are small and marginal, in Punjab, the number of small and marginal farmers, who own less than 2 hectares, is about 33 percent. However, the numbers are relatively closer to the national average in Haryana — 67 percent. These two states were at the heart of the Green Revolution and experienced a flourishing agricultural economy from the 1970s onwards. In the early 90s, the Centre started taking back its support to farmers in the form of subsidies, while agricultural productivity started declining and input costs started increasing. This growing crisis was further exacerbated by the entry of multinational and corporate agribusinesses.

These factors had a detrimental impact on the emerging capitalist farmers who owned less than 4 hectares. Increased costs for inputs and technology mired them in loan cycles, which culminated in a suicide wave that took the lives of nearly 20,000 farmers in the last two decades in Punjab alone. It is important to note that the number of farmer suicides in the country since 1995 is well over 300,000. If we add the number of landless working in the fields the figures will be much higher. This is a sign of a much deeper malaise and an all-engulfing crisis that has gripped the country since the implementation of neoliberal measures.

In the wake of the Green Revolution, a procurement regime was established, whose function was to procure the crops of wheat, rice and other food grains at the Minimum Support Price (MSP) set by the Centre. These food grains were made available to the poor at a negligible price through Fair Price Shops, but under pressure from free-market forces, the universal Public Distribution System (PDS) was seriously weakened.

The Essential Commodity Act (amendment), which is one of the three Farm Laws, is one more step towards dismantling the procurement regime and PDS. Under this Act, the hoarding of essential commodities that can be stored such as food grains, has become legal, enabling the manipulation of food prices for the benefit of big agri-corporations while the other two Laws aim to eradicate MSP, and to promote contract farming by big agri-businesses — all of which will enable them to make huge profits, while also leading to the massive polarisation of landholdings.

The basic line of confrontation and struggle can be put very simply — it is farmers control over their own lives and livelihood versus corporate control over the agricultural sector ushered in by this government!

These three Laws, by aiming to greatly undermine the regime of procurement and distribution in the name of promoting market freedom, are an attack not only on the peasantry but also on all working people of India. Moreover, the Centre has put forward proposals for allowing corporates to set up their own banks, for privatising certain public sector utilities, and is pushing through Four Labour Codes whose purpose is precisely to casualise and contractualise and dismiss labour in the mining, manufacturing and service sectors by shifting more control and power to private business, especially to big corporates.

If the government succeeds in this current assault on farmers, they will be much more strengthened in their subsequent attempt to go after urban and semi-urban workers. This is why the need, today and tomorrow, is to forge a strong and enduring worker-peasant unity!

To understand the present protests, we have to look beyond the agrarian crises into the current rural distress in the states of Punjab and Haryana. Unemployment in the state of Punjab is 33.6 percent, and 35.7 percent in Haryana — higher than national levels. Furthermore, the de-peasantisation of small and marginal farmers in the last two decades has worsened the crisis.

From the 1990s onwards, the rising costs of inputs and technology has made farming unviable for the small and marginal farmers and pushed a large section of them out of agriculture. Farmers who own from 2 hectares to 4 hectares barely make enough to pay for their costs, owing to the assured price in the form of MSP. In fact, it is precisely this combination of serious unemployment, de-peasantisation and unviability of cultivation for the majority of farmers that lies at the heart of this unrest.

What makes these protests different from other protests against the Modi regime is the dominant involvement of Left forces. A great many of these forces belong to the Marxist-Leninist tradition of the Indian Left. While this fact opens possibilities unseen in preceding protests, the ideological sectarianism of these forces also puts constraints on the potential of the present unrest.

The issue of securing a proper MSP for agricultural produce has garnered support of peasants from Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh and Uttrakhand. The Left should make all efforts to transform these protests into wider peoples struggles against the present authoritarian regime and to give it an anti-capitalist disposition.

To broaden and deepen these protests, efforts should be made to include the demands of various sections of working people. Incorporation of demands for employment generation and food security can reinforce the appeal and strength of this movement among the masses across different regions.

Pursuing these demands would not only help the movement to gain support among the working people, but it would also push the representatives of the sections of the rich peasantry to the margins. There is an urgent need to build solidarity with the working-class struggles going elsewhere.

Left populism may not be the end objective of Left politics, but it can be an ushering of anti-capitalist politics. Around the world, the Left has seen the resurrection in one or other form of Left populism — US, Britain, Spain and Greece are some of the examples. Many of these experiments have faced defeats, but one thing is certain — that they have succeeded in gaining the support of working-class people and could be used as a springboard for furthering working-class politics. The present movement, with the involvement of Left forces, has the potential to be used as the departure point for such class politics. The left needs to recognize this possibility and work together towards this goal.

The biggest limitation the dominant Left forces have is their sectarian attitude towards electoral politics. For them, electoral politics is the point which differentiates the ‘revolutionary’ Marxist-Leninist forces from the ‘revisionist’ mainstream Left parties. However, there is an urgent need to give this rising ferment an electoral form to not only counter the forces of Hindutva [Hindu nationalism] but also to mobilize the masses behind the anti- neoliberal agendas.

On the other hand, the role played by the mainstream Left parties to support and strengthen present unrest is insufficient. Even in the states and districts where they have a significant presence, much more mobilization around the issue of repealing the Farm Laws is required.

This is not a peasant uprising to capture state power, as professed by Maoist organisations, nor is this a movement of only rich peasants, as claimed by the adherents of socialist revolution by stages. This is a movement where the majority of people are fighting for their immediate and longer-term survival. The Left should not squander this opportunity to form a redoubtable opposition to Hindutva and to come out of their time-worn ideological cocoons.

Our International Appeal

To:

The Fourth International members and sections from France, Germany, Belgium, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal, Britain, Denmark, Sweden, Austria, Switzerland, Brazil, Argentina, the United States, Morocco, Tunisia, South Africa, Pakistan, the Philippines, Japan, Russia, Hong Kong…

Asia Europe Peoples Forum(AEPF)

Committee for the Abolition of Illegitimate Debt (CADTM)

South Asia Alliance for Poverty Eradication (SAAPE)

Dear Comrades,

You are possibly aware that the farmers’ protest in India has posed a serious political challenge to the Indian government. Tens and tens of thousands of farmers have surrounded India’s capital, New Delhi, where they intend to camp out for weeks to protest against the iniquitous new agricultural laws that could destroy their livelihoods. To understand why farmers are protesting, please see the accompanying Radical Socialist Statement (above) which provides an assessment and analysis of the ongoing struggle and dynamic as we see them.

It is testimony to the anger, courage and urgency that farmers feel, that despite the Covid lockdown they have come out in such huge numbers.

The protests have also spread to other parts of the country. Apart from farmers hitting the streets in large numbers, other sections of the society, including students, intellectuals and ordinary citizens, have come out in their support, cutting across religious, caste and political lines.

Instead of meeting their legitimate demands, the government is determined to tire out the agitating farmers through delaying tactics, while misleading the general public through lies and disinformation about the protesting farmers and the nature of their struggle.

What we need today, more than ever, is an international solidarity that can build further pressure on the Indian government. Your support is vital for the success of the movement.

Please write to the Indian government, the Indian embassies and diplomatic missions abroad. Demonstrations at the overseas Indian missions would be more than welcome. The success of the movement depends on collective struggle at home as well as international solidarity from all those concerned to promote the struggle against neoliberalism, far-right authoritarianism, and for dignity and justice for the oppressed.

With warm regards,

Radical Socialist

[December, 2020. Contact Person and Number: Amol Singh at 8289000849.]

This article appeared on the Radical Socialist website on December 20, 2020 here. The Solidarity National Committee has signed the appeal.

‘We’re witnessing a fundamental political realignment’: Mike Davis on the crisis in the United States

Ben Hillier interviews Mike Davis

The House has voted to impeach Donald Trump for “incitement of insurrection”. What do you make of the choice to impeach on this ground?

We need to be very careful in analysing this. “Insurrection” and “coup” are hyperbole: there was no plan to seize power on 6 January. On the other hand, there may have been a plot to capture or even kill members of the Senate and the House, particularly Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Nancy Pelosi. So “riot with deadly intent” is the most accurate term, and we now know that certain Republicans in the House helped organise the invasion.

In one survey a few years ago, researchers were stunned by the large number of Trump voters who believed that political violence, even the overthrow of what they considered unlawful government, to be totally justified. And we now have polls showing that 70 percent of Republicans still strongly back Trump.

A majority of Republicans in the House, moreover, voted against certifying the election. These Trump diehards now constitute a de facto third party. Since Trump thinks only of revenge, there is little chance of reconciling this group with the majority of Republicans in the Senate who voted in favour of accepting Biden’s election. The Republican Party is splitting in two even if both wings retain the same brand name. The Trump movement indeed has become a genuinely neo-fascist force organised around the myth of the “stolen election” and tacitly condoning political violence. Their rage has become even more incandescent after Facebook and Twitter closed down Trump’s accounts.

On the other hand, what happened in Washington was also a liberation of sorts for many Republicans on the other side of the certification debate. The Trump cult has stifled the ambitions of younger conservative senators such as Ben Sasse (Nebraska) and Tom Cotton (Arkansas). Now a space has been cleared for them to run in the presidential primaries in 2024. Intra-party polarisation has also emboldened Republican hawks like congresswoman Liz Cheney, daughter of George W. Bush’s former vice president, who hate Trump’s coddling of Russian President Putin and blame him for undermining American hegemony.

This “post-Trump” wing has been given courage by an extraordinary revolt of the party’s traditional business donors against the president. I must confess to astonishment when, on 6 January, the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM), representing the entire spectrum of older industries large and small, called on Mike Pence to invoke the 25th Amendment to depose Trump. For 125 years, NAM has been virtually identical with the Republican Party, so this was a real earthquake, as was the declaration by the Koch network, the superpower coalition of donors on the right, that it would re-evaluate contributions in light of the Capitol riots.

But we shouldn’t leap to the conclusion that post-Trumpism is a rebirth of “moderate Republicanism”. It is not. The break is with Trump authoritarianism, not with most of his far-right domestic policies. It remains to be seen whether the hard Christian right, which has anointed Trump as the hand of Jesus, will also divide. In any event, we’re witnessing a fundamental political realignment occurring in real time.

The new administration will be inaugurated on 20 January. Can you say something about what Joe Biden and the ruling class hope to get out of the next four years of Democratic rule?

His cabinet and advisory appointments are almost entirely Obama regime veterans, and especially members of his vice-presidential staff. Progressives have been scorned, with one notable exception: the nomination of Deb Haaland (a Democrat from New Mexico) as the first Native American cabinet member (Department of the Interior).

His promise to be “the most pro-labour president in history” coexists uncomfortably with his heavy support from Wall Street, Silicon Valley and Hollywood. One of his chief goals, moreover, is the restoration of the North Atlantic alliance, not only as barrier to Russian ambitions, but as a vehicle for synchronising stimulus packages and maintaining the stability of big finance. Domestically, most of his vaunted “green energy” revolution, if adopted, will subsidise private industry, not expand the public sector.

We should recall how he won the nomination after having lost so many primaries to Bernie Sanders. During the South Carolina primary, there was an incredible rallying to his side of the entire Democratic establishment, the other defeated candidates and the traditional Black leadership in the south. The implicit slogan was “stop Sanders at all cost”.

After Bernie conceded defeat, his campaign and Biden’s agreed to form a series of working committees to negotiate the content of the Democratic platform. To the horror of millions, in the healthcare group, the Sandernistas conceded universal health care — they decided not to make it a make-or-break issue in the election and accepted instead Biden’s far weaker modification of Obamacare, which would still keep private insurance companies at the centre of medical provision. This was a huge defeat at a time of the greatest medical crisis since the Spanish flu.

Given the way the impeachment is being carried out — the daily valorisation of and rallying around the sacred institutions of US democracy — is it a distraction for progressives whose tasks soon will be to challenge many of the policies of the incoming administration?

We need to challenge the cant about the Constitution. I personally consider nothing more obnoxious than the unctuous reverence for the Constitution on the part of the Democrats. If you look at it historically, at the beginning of the twentieth century, Woodrow Wilson was a fierce critic of the Constitution. Both Republican progressives and the Socialist Party at the time regarded the Constitution as an obstacle and nothing holy.

But it shows how completely the Democratic leadership has bought in to this almost biblical reverence of a document created by slave owners and wealthy merchants to control demands for democracy and to stabilise slavery in the south. And anointing with holy water the Constitution also precludes the fundamental structural reforms that must take place, starting with the abolition of the Electoral College.

So the establishment is just gloating over itself and instrumentalising the events of 6 January to its advantage. This also creates more leverage for the new administration, which is a restoration of the status quo ante — the Obama personnel and regime. It gives them more leverage to try to punish and control the progressive wing of the party.

However, the two Democrats who publicly have been the least enthusiastic about impeachment are the president-elect himself and Bernie Sanders. Biden still drinks the Kool-Aid and subscribes to the myth of bipartisanship in Congress, of a moderate centre in American politics. It’s just like Obama’s quest to bring us all together and make us nicer and more decent people. It’s a real delusion, but clearly one he believes in. Bernie Sanders will probably vote to convict Trump, but he’s been very clear that working-class America has to be, always, the major issue in the foreground, has to be the highest priority.

Having said that, the greatest crime of the Trump administration is not what happened on 6 January. It’s the fact that from the late spring onward, the administration has been sabotaging and undermining the public health response to the pandemic. Its hands are bloodstained and responsible for the deaths of at least half of the almost 400,000 people who have died. We should be demanding an independent commission to investigate all this, but also to indict those responsible. I doubt this has any purchase in Congress. But, if necessary, it should be conducted independently by medical experts and above all give voice to rank-and-file workers. It would be hideous to allow Trump and his administration to escape any kind of real punishment for the fact that their policies have become the active vector of the coronavirus infections.

Obama gave amnesty, informally, to the Bush administration for its war crimes and use of torture and then turned around and extended the same kind of informal amnesty to the bankers who brought the American economy down. Biden’s instinct is to not punish the Trump administration — although he may modify this to some degree because of the pressure that he’s under.

The trick for progressives is to demand punishment and criminal indictment, but at the same time not allow the Biden administration or the Democratic leadership in the House and Senate to turn impeachment and so on into a distraction.

I think it’s entirely possible for progressives to demand the sternest punishment for the Trump administration, but at the same time point out the need for fundamental structural reform. The American constitutional political system is completely undemocratic in certain aspects. The Senate, for example, was designed primarily as a check on the tendencies and movements towards democracy in the early republic. Even if reform is difficult or ultimately impossible to accomplish, it’s necessary to change the discourse and to put these hallowed institutions in a realistic light.

Thinking more broadly about the situation in the US in 2021, what do you think are the most consequential “known knowns” and “known unknowns”? What do you think are the most important issues facing the US left?

The conditions in this country are extreme for low-wage workers in general and the working class as a whole. They’re living under depression conditions. And it’s doubtful that the Biden administration will be able to do anything dramatic about that, at least in the short term.

The great priority must be struggles to organise workplaces and defend workers, to organise in the communities around life and death issues like rent control and medical coverage and to build effective national protest movements after the bitter experience of last year — of seeing the pandemic response annexed by the Trumpites, allowing the far right to mount the only effective protest movement that occurred, rather than a broad progressive coalition fighting for workplace safety and supporting the healthcare and essential workers. Never has the progressive camp, or more explicitly the American left, had greater tasks and responsibilities placed on it than it has for the forthcoming year.

Among the known unknowns is the cold war with China, of which Australia is the front line. Biden ran on Trump positions about China. Remember this was one of the centrepieces of the second Obama administration — the pivot from the Middle East to South-East Asia and the South China Sea, and the attempt to create a more activist and militant alliance against China. This is extraordinarily dangerous. I think progressives should do everything they can to support the rights of Uyghurs and democracy in China. But a cold war is an extraordinarily dangerous situation.

Another known unknown is the ability to restore, within the OECD bloc, a stabilising level of economic growth. I tend to be extremely sceptical about that possibility. Clearly, in the United States, the private sector cannot any longer create a stable supply of well-paid, meaningful jobs to compensate for the job losses that have occurred so far in the pandemic, but especially for what all the mainstream economists are telling us will be job losses due to the application of artificial intelligence to every sector of the economy. What that means is that the public sector has to be the engine that drives employment and keeps up the level of domestic demand — but public sector employment, particularly in the English-speaking countries, has been savagely cut over the last generation.

Another known unknown will be whether the labour uprising and resurgence, which is the central hope of the left, will occur. Right now, the most progressive unions are ones like the National Nurses United and some of the public sector unions. But other sections of the union movement that historically have been decisive power centres have been enormously weakened by job automation and job export, but also by corruption. The United Auto Workers, once the most powerful single union in the country, which set the pace for national labour negotiations, was eviscerated a few years ago by immense corruption and crisis inside the leadership. The American union movement has very activist and committed sectors, but it also suffers from a great amount of internal decay.

Then there’s climate change and the environmental crisis. In places like Australia and California, what we’re seeing in the phenomena of annual or biannual mega-fires is an immense biological transition. Forests are dying and not being replaced. Fire is creating irreversible changes in the landscape. Drought is ravaging some of the most important irrigated agricultural systems in Europe. Food security is as precarious as it has been in a generation and will grow even more so. This is the background crisis to everything else. And certainly here in California, like you in Australia, we have a heightened sense of this. I live in San Diego, but I grew up in the rural East County. And almost half of the East County has been burnt in the last sixteen or seventeen years. California’s iconic landscapes in some cases are disappearing. It’s no longer a matter of an episodic disaster; it’s a continuing catastrophe that grow bigger and bigger every year.

You shouldn’t ask me these questions because, you know, I’m always characterised as a prophet of disaster (laughs). I probably have too many bad scenarios. I ultimately believe that global capitalism can’t create meaningful social roles for humanity, that it cannot decarbonise the planet, that it cannot prevent nuclear wars, that it cannot provide food security. I don’t think another golden age of capital is possible, certainly not globally.

And China’s ability to step in and take the place of America, as it did after the 2008 financial crisis, engage in vast public spending campaigns that increase demands for products and help a large part of the world escape the economic crisis — well it’s an open bet on China’s capacity to do this, but I’m extremely doubtful that a new market-based world order will emerge to bring us back to anything that represents prosperity.

Rather, the opposite seems to be happening, with, even in the rich countries, enormous numbers of people, particularly young people, reduced to the most marginal economic roles, without any forward motion or ability to escape the purgatory of casualised and contingent labour or, for that matter, the housing crisis that threatens to put hundreds of thousands of people out on the streets.

On the other hand, the United States differs from Western Europe in one important aspect. Okay, we’ve seen the growth of far-right authoritarian movements which had success in areas of Western and Central Europe among formerly left-wing blue-collar workers. But in this country, the most astonishing thing, I think, is not so much the rise of Trump and far-right populism. It’s that among people under 30, every poll shows that a majority looks more favourably on socialism, whatever that means to them, than on capitalism. And it’s that so many of them, hundreds of thousands of them, have been active in campaigns from the Occupy movement to Black Lives Matter and so on.

One of the principal concerns of progressives right now is how to sustain that activism, how to prevent it from being demobilised. Much of the future rests on the ability of the left to do that. There’s been no other country — certainly no European country, or Australia, New Zealand or Canada — that has seen such a powerful resurgence of the left, or one that is so solidly, generationally specific and anchored. And of course, youth of colour, the coming plurality of the American population, played a central role in this — particularly the Black women who built Black Lives Matter. After Sanders’ concession, you faced the possibility that tens of thousands of young people who had been active in his campaign would just become pessimistic and disorganised, when instead their activism was recycled by BLM. We must conserve and nurture activism above all.

This article appeared on the Red Frag website on January 15, 2021 here.

Bolivia’s Elections: The Return of Democracy and an Uncertain Future

Bret Gustafson

Luís Arce and MAS supporters celebrate election victory, October 19, 2020 (Photo: Ronaldo Schemidt/AFP)

Bolivia has given the world an impressive lesson in democracy, but reactionary sectors of the country are once again revealing their anti-democratic impulse. On October 18, 2020, the country went to the polls for the second time in a year. Despite the pandemic and intense polarization, they delivered 55 percent of the vote to Luís Arce, the candidate of the left-leaning MAS (Movement to Socialism) party. That would not be so remarkable, given that the MAS party had overseen 14 years of economic growth. But in the wake of the turmoil that followed the 2019 elections—a process that saw massive protests of fraud and, in the end, a military-backed ouster of then President Evo Morales—many thought that the time of the MAS had come to an end. They were wrong.

Evo Morales, despite his critics, had managed 14 years of economic stability and prosperity. He did so through a pragmatic rapprochement with capital—especially the natural gas industry and domestic business interests, in particular the agro-industrial elites. Frugal management of foreign reserves earned from gas exports and a generous dose of public spending had allowed for a bank full of dollars, a stable exchange rate, economic growth, and poverty reduction. To be sure, corruption cases were common, as they have long been in Bolivia. Critics also pointed to Evo’s contradictions. He spoke of Mother Earth while pushing for more mining and gas drilling. He touted Indigenous revitalization while running roughshod over Indigenous organizations opposed to certain state development projects. And he embodied a hyper-masculine mode of politics amidst a rising crisis of violence against women and refusals to move forward on issues of abortion rights and sexual equality. Evo and the MAS had managed to maintain hegemony by offering concessions to agro-industry as well, putting the brakes on land reform and limiting Indigenous autonomy projects to a handful of municipal restructurings. Yet all of this was countered by relative economic well-being and a deep layer of grassroots support, strong in all parts of the country.

There was, as well, widespread discontent. This was to be expected from sectors of the far right, strongest in the eastern Bolivian city of Santa Cruz. Even though banking, construction, and big ag had done well over 14 years, the end of the gas boom was near and agro-industry, in particular, was looking at serious challenges. They want more genetically modified seeds, more land, more tax breaks, more subsidies (in the form of cheap fuel and state loans), and more protection from peasant organizing. Already shaped by deep racism against Andean peoples, their opposition to Evo Morales—despite the overtures to their elites—was intense. Even before the October 2019 vote, this opposition had declared its intent, with echoes of Trump, to declare fraud if Evo was elected.

In the more moderate sectors of the urban middle classes, and even among many in the Bolivian left, there was also exhaustion with Evo Morales. Morales had deepened the country’s dependence on natural resource extraction and used those revenues to expand a patronage-based political system that was increasingly seen as decadent and degraded. Despite much ideological enthusiasm in the early years of the MAS (an enthusiasm still voiced by many leftists who live outside of Bolivia), it was increasingly clear to many that there was very little left of the revolutionary core of the MAS project. The concessions to big business and, of late, a series of legal measures that approved new GMO seeds and incentivized clearing of new agrarian lands in the east suggested that Evo was as much in support of big capital as of any revolutionary agenda. And finally, Evo’s maneuvers to change the constitution and allow himself a third term rubbed many the wrong way, reminding Bolivians of their intense distrust of dictators and those who want to perpetuate themselves in office. Many of these moderates also opposed Evo’s candidacy and were deeply suspicious of the electoral process itself.

The events that followed the 2019 vote are still being debated. Some say there was fraud and no coup. Others (including myself) say that evidence for widespread fraud is thin, while the appearance of a coup is practically undeniable. At any rate, with thousands of people in the streets and the military suggesting he step down, Morales left the country. What followed was a year-long interim government characterized by corruption, brutality, and incompetence in the face of COVID-19. Perhaps for these reasons, much of Bolivia apparently changed their minds when they went back to the polls a year later and sent the MAS back into office with a near historic turn out and an overwhelming majority for Luís Arce.

What happens next is the main challenge. The new president and vice president reflect the power of the MAS to build coalitions but also hint at its internal schisms and contradictions. Arce, an economist who does not self-identify as Indigenous, is associated with the technocratic side of the MAS coalition. David Choquehuanca, the vice president, is Aymara and is highly respected as a leading intellectual of Indigenous thought, including its critiques of rampant extractivism and Western-style patriarchy and power. At their inauguration ceremony on November 8, Arce’s speech was focused on economic recovery. Choquehuanca’s included an admonition (not so veiled) against continued abuse of power, the politicization of justice, and colonialist patriarchy. This does not suggest any deep division, as Arce has also embraced indigeneity and its key symbols, and Choquehuanca, clearly on the left, said that “power, like the economy, has to be redistributed.” Nonetheless, some parts of the MAS coalition who identify more closely with the Indigenous position thought Choquehuanca should have been the president. Nonetheless, Evo Morales himself is said to have pushed Arce forward, hoping to appeal to the urban middle classes by positioning a “white” Bolivian at the top of the ticket. Whether that explains the electoral victory or not, the combination is for the moment creating positive reactions. Acquaintances who were increasingly disillusioned with Morales have expressed some hope that Arce and Choquehuanca can avoid falling into the seductions of power. Whether Choquehuanca’s thoughtful critiques of the old way of doing politics can carry weight remains to be seen. He himself was somewhat marginalized during the latter years of the Morales government, having been unwilling to fall in line with some of Evo’s more egregious errors.

At any rate, the future will be challenging. President Luís Arce, who had been the minister of economy for most of Evo’s 14 years in office, confronts lower natural gas prices and thus shrinking revenues to the state. Arce, like Evo, will have to balance often-conflicting demands from different sectors of society in a context of intense polarization. Right up to the inauguration date, the right-wing extremists of Santa Cruz were mobilized again. Despite all evidence to the contrary, they were saying the election was fraudulent. While there may have been some reason to suspect fraud when the MAS was running the elections last time, this time it is laughable. Salvador Romero, one-time employee of the U.S. government National Endowment for Democracy, was in charge of the process. The coup government oversaw it. And the MAS still won by a landslide. The extremist minorities of the east, much like the gun-toting Trump supporters of the United States, clearly do not believe in democracy at all. With young muscle-bound men in baseball hats and ski masks, they have blocked streets, and many, including those of the evangelical Christian right, are literally praying for a military coup. On November 3, the unelected civic chamber of Santa Cruz, called the “civic committee,” petitioned the constitutional court to suspend the inauguration of Luís Arce and demanded an audit of the electoral process (basically a recount). Not without some humor, the judges have granted the civic committee a hearing, but scheduled it for November 10, two days after the presidency changed hands.

Evo Morales himself may also be a complicating factor. On November 9, the day after the swearing-in of Arce and Choquehuanca, he triumphantly walked across the Argentina-Bolivia border into the far southern part of Bolivia. Greeted by euphoric crowds, he thanked Argentina’s president and fellow left-leaning traveler for having saved his life. He planned a two-day caravan to return to the Chapare, his home region in central Bolivia. Publicly, he has pledged to stay out of Arce’s way. Yet as the undeniable historic leader of the MAS—and now the president of the MAS party organization—he will surely play an influential role, perhaps more privately than publicly. Many doubtless support this possibility, though some fear that Evo’s urge to return to power may somehow derail the Arce-Choquehuanca government. Many former high officials associated with Evo, such as his cabinet members, are being held at arm’s length by the new government. Critics and sympathizers alike increasingly fretted about the so-called “invited” ones or the “infiltrators”*—figures who had no deep MAS loyalty or history but who had been given posts by Evo in order to curry political support. Some of these figures, such as former Minister of Government Juan Ramón Quintana, are seen as being among those who had pushed Evo and the MAS away from the more Indigenous orientation. Despite all of these internal politics—and despite his own less than ideologically-pure personal and political style—Morales is still a national and international icon of the left and the Pink Tide. As with Alvaro García Linera, the former vice president who has stayed largely out of public view since their return to Bolivia, Morales may also play a role articulating connections with movements elsewhere. For example, during his return to Bolivia he met with Indigenous and labor organizations from Ecuador and Argentina. With Argentina and Venezuela still standing leftward, Chile having just voted to dump a Pinochet-era constitution, Peru in upheaval, and elections coming soon in Ecuador and in two more years in Brazil, we may see a new Pink Tide or at least a “Pink Flow” returning after its ebb.

The main question remains as to whether Arce will try to challenge the power of capital given that Evo had largely made amends with it. For the moment, it is unlikely. This is partly because of the risks of political and economic instability. The reactionary forces, largely backed by the banking, insurance, and agricultural capitalists of eastern Bolivia, tried to use the spurious fraud claims to counter the overwhelming mandate of the MAS and Luís Arce with a show of regional power. The country has entered into an economic recession for the first time in 14 years. Arce says it may take two years to return to positive growth. Although the left and the environmentalists would like to see a turn away from extractive industries and the destructive power of big ag, Arce may find himself supporting both of these in a bid to get the economy going again. At this writing, he has just visited the Amazonian department of Beni and promised to invest in expanding cattle ranching and agriculture—both deemed problematic by more environmentally-minded observers. Arce, who is more of a Keynesian than a socialist, is unlikely to shift the government radically leftward or to embark on an ecologically radical rethinking of extractivism. While Keynesianism is better than neoliberalism, whether the engagement with capital can maintain the redistributive orientation of the state remains an open question.

A lot will depend on whether and how the working class and rural social movements regroup and reorganize. Before Evo, the movements were militant and at least relatively politically autonomous. During the 14 years of the MAS, many leaders became state officials and the movements were often absorbed into patron-client relations with the state. Those who showed loyalty were rewarded. Those who criticized the MAS were excluded. Recovering some autonomy is crucial to influencing political change. Now with state largesse in retreat, we may see a reconfiguration of Bolivia’s historic movements that sets the stage for a return to a more progressive process of change. For the moment, the serene, serious, and patient exercise of the democratic process on October 18, 2020, showed the country’s commitment to the idea of a nation and state—and a form of politics—that is meant to meet the needs of its people. Against the minority sectors voicing racism and exclusionary talk, there is a collective moral consciousness that by-and-large bristles at state violence, military intervention, and injustice. Wherever one stands on Evo Morales, and despite the challenges ahead, it is clear that at least for the moment, Bolivians continue to challenge capitalism and its orthodoxies.

This article appeared on the New Politics website on January 21, 2020 here.

The Greens in 2020 Elections and Beyond

Howie Hawkins

Greens knew from the start that 2020 would be a tough year for their presidential ticket. The election would be a referendum on Trump. For most progressives, Anybody But Trump would do.

Our campaign believed that an ecosocialist program is needed for real solutions to the life-or-death issues of climate, inequality, racism, and war. We believed that the way to defeat the Trump Republicans was for the left to put forward its own program and not rely on the Democrats’ pallid centrism, which would not speak to the economic and social anxieties that the Trump far-right has been mobilizing around with racist and conspiracy scapegoating.

Bernie Sanders did advance a set of popular progressive reforms in the Democratic primaries, but once the corporate Democrats closed ranks to defeat him, he too lined up behind Biden’s vapid incrementalism. The progressive left stopped raising its demands in order to unconditionally support Biden, who repeatedly boasted that he beat the socialists and their demands like Medicare for All. “Biden stiff-arms the left — which holds its fire” is how the headline of the Washington Post article on the first Trump-Biden debate aptly characterized Biden’s relationship to progressive Democrats.

Instead of campaigning for progressive demands, prominent progressive personalities focused their efforts on attacking the Green campaign as “spoilers” in a series of open letters (e.g., safe states, environmentalists, no states) in progressive online publications, very few of which would print our responses (safe states, environmentalists, no states).

Despite this unfavorable dynamic, we ran to build an independent ecosocialist alternative and for the same practical reasons Greens have run presidential tickets since 1996: to win state ballot lines, advance policy demands, and recruit new Greens.

The Green vote is coming it at something over 400,000 votes, or 0.3%, once the write-in votes in the states that report them are counted in. Though the prevailing lesser-evil dynamic was the biggest factor, the Green vote was also suppressed by limited ballot access. The greens were on only 30 state ballots, down from 45 in 2016, due to the difficulties of petitioning during the pandemic and successful Democratic legal challenges to Green ballot access in Montana, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania.

The Green presidential vote failed to meet the threshold for continued ballot access in six states — Massachusetts, Missouri, New Mexico, New York, North Carolina, and Utah — dropping the Greens from 21 to 15 state ballot lines. The Greens should be able to recover those ballot lines without too much trouble except in New York, where New York’s ballot access requirements are now the most difficult in the nation. New York Democrats rammed through a third party suppression law under the cover of the Covid-19 pandemic, attached to the state budget bill in April.

The policies our Green campaign advanced — including a full-strength Green New Deal, a fracking ban, Medicare for All, a Job Guarantee, and reprioritizing federal spending from militarism to social and environmental protections — were not debated except when Trump tried to pin them on Biden and Biden ran away from them. Our campaign was blanked out by the progressive media as well as corporate media more than any Green presidential campaign to date.

Our campaign did recruit thousands of new supporters mainly through social media. The biggest cohort of new supporters is young people in their teens and twenties. They are urging us to keep campaigning for our program. Some of the videos about our campaign that these young supporters posted on Tik Tok have been viewed by millions. As they have told us in their messages during and since the election, they want to fight with us for their futures against climate change, racial injustice, and bleak educational and economic opportunities.

The media coverage was all about Trump, as it has been since Trump first announced in June 2015. Trump’s latest tweet or utterance generated outrage from Democrats and the liberal media and cheerleading from Republicans and the conservative media. Our campaign could not get a word in edgewise in the media. The issue was Trump. Biden was Not Trump. He was not the champion of any policy. His message was “national unity” and “restoring the soul of the nation.”

While that message won Biden the presidency thanks to narrow margins in half a dozen swing states, it did not yield the anticipated Democratic sweep of the House, Senate, and state governments. It wasn’t only the Greens that had a bad election. So did Democratic centrists and progressives. The prospects for even the Democrats’ modest reform agenda under the next administration are dim.

The Larger Dynamic Determines Green Outcomes

The larger dynamic of presidential races has always determined how the Green and independent left tickets have done in recent decades far more than the candidates, message, and organization. The highest and lowest results from those campaigns have all been marginal to the contest between the two capitalist parties.

The 2020 Green vote is not as low as David Cobb in 2004 (119,859 votes, 0.1%) or Cynthia McKinney in 2008 (161,797 votes, 0.1%). On the other hand, it is a step down from 2016, when Jill Stein received 1,457,216 votes, or 1.1%, under the very different dynamic of an open seat against the two most unpopular major party candidates in polling history.

In 2000, Ralph Nader ran for an open seat against Al Gore, representing the corporate Clinton legacy, and George W. Bush, billing himself as a “compassionate conservative.” Even with his nearly universal name recognition as an accomplished progressive reformer, Nader’s best-ever Green result in 2000 was still only 2,882,955 votes, or 2.7%, from 44 state ballots.

The most difficult campaigns for the Greens have been running with an incumbent right-wing Republican in office, Bush in 2004 and Trump in 2020. Despite the unfavorable dynamic, the 2020 Green vote is in the middle range, hopefully reflecting modest growth in the committed independent left vote over the last decade.

The 2020 vote is comparable to the vote that Jill Stein received in 2012 (469,627 votes, 0.4%) running against Barack Obama, who had disappointed many progressives, and Mitt Romney, who presented himself as a moderate country-club Republican. Stein 2012 was on 37 ballots, compared to 30 ballot in 2020. The Green percent of the vote in states where its ticket was on the ballot in both 2016 and 2020 was higher in most states in 2020. This years results are also comparable in percentage to the vote (233,052 votes, 0.3%, from 30 ballots) for the 1980 campaign of environmental scientist Barry Commoner for the Citizens Party, which European Greens at the time considered America’s Green Party.

400,000 votes for an independent ecosocialist ticket is a base that can be built upon. However, a Green presidential ticket is unlikely to draw more than a small percentage of the vote until the Greens have become a major political force by electing thousands to municipal office and, on that foundation, to state legislatures and the House. The Greens have won over 1,200 elections over the years and currently have over 100 elected Greens in office. The Greens have proven they can win local races where the party’s community presence and canvassing count more than the money and media of major party candidates. When the Greens have built up their political strength from the bottom up and have a caucus in the House, a Green presidential ticket will draw more support.

A Tough Election for Progressive Democrats Too

The Greens may have had a tough election, but so did progressive Democrats. After supporting Bernie Sanders in the Democratic primary, progressives folded up their tents in the general election and relied on Biden’s cautious centrism to defeat Trump’s right-populist demagoguery. The overall results were almost identical to 2016. Biden squeaked by with narrow wins in half a dozen swing states. But while Trump himself was defeated, Trumpism came through the election stronger than ever with down-ballot wins, an 11 million increase in his total vote, and a demographically broader coalition.

The Democrats’ assumption that changing demographics, based on growing proportions of people of color, guarantees them growing victories was confounded by the results. Trump’s overall vote increased from 63 million in 2016 to 74 million in 2020. Trump gained support among women and people of color even after 5 years of misogynistic and racist rantings. Compared to 2016, Trump’s 2020 vote share rose 9% among Black women, 9% among Black men, 8% among Latino men, 5% among Latina women, and 2% among white women. The only group where Trump lost support was in his strongest base, white men, where his share fell 8%.

With the exit polls showing that the top issues for Trump voters were jobs and the economy, the absence of a clear economic message from Biden and the Democrats was a major weakness. The election results show that they cannot continue to take for granted high levels of support among women and people of color.

The projected blue wave to take over the U.S. Senate and state legislatures and increase the Democratic majority in the House did not materialize. It will now be difficult for Democrats to pass even their modest reforms in the next Congress. Republicans will be in charge of redistricting in 30 states, where they will have the power to gerrymander a reinforcement of their overrepresentation in legislative seats, compared to their popular votes, in state legislatures and the House for another decade.

Progressive Democrats contributed to these results by failing to make any demands on Biden. After the Democratic Party leadership closed ranks to defeat Bernie Sanders in the primaries, progressive Democrats closed ranks behind Biden. Instead of advancing progressive demands, progressive Democrats attacked the Green campaign that was still raising demands like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All.

The prominent public intellectuals arguing for this lesser-evil approach moved right from 2004, when they advocated a “Safe States Strategy” of voting for Kerry in swing states and Green in safe states, to “No States Strategy” of a Biden vote everywhere, even in states like California, Massachusetts and New York. where Biden had a consistent lead of 25%-30% in the polls the whole campaign.

A number of these prominent progressives called me to say that if I called for a Biden vote in the swing states, they would help build the Green Party after the election. But if I didn’t adopt a safe states strategy, they would call for a Biden vote in every state. Not only did I not agree with their strategy or appreciate their threats, I remembered the empty promises from these same people of helping the Green Party after it did take a safe states approach in 2004.

This near-total collapse of prominent progressives into depending on the soft-right Democrats to defeat the hard-right Republicans reveals a profound loss of confidence that the left can win. In hoping to defeat Trumpian neofascism with the Democratic neoliberalism, they affirmed the policies that created the economic insecurities that fueled Trumpism in the first place. They have given up on a left that can defeat the right with a socialism that ends economic insecurities.

Democrats Fueled Republican Overperformance

Progressives thus reinforced Biden’s cautious centrism, while Trump energetically framed the campaign as a choice between jobs and public health — opening up the economy and getting people back to work with Trump vs. closing the economy to fight Covid-19 and losing jobs and businesses with Biden. The energy was with Trump’s followers. His campaign knocked on a million doors a week, while the Biden campaign stayed at home and counted on its money advantage to win the advertising air war and a blue wave. Trump’s base was on the streets in motorcades and rallies. Biden’s base was staying home.

Polling all year after the pandemic broke out showed that jobs and the economy were the top issues. Exit polls confirmed this, especially with Trump voters. Like Hillary Clinton in 2016, Biden ran without a progressive populist economic message. He could have pounded away at Trump and the Republicans for blocking a Covid relief package. He could have railed against the costs of health care and prescription drugs. He could have attacked corrupt tax breaks for big corporations and rich guys like Trump.

Hearing no clear economic message from Biden on the top issue of the campaign, many of those struggling or worried economically defaulted to Trump’s far-fetched boasting and promises about economy. They accepted or tolerated his strongman cultism and conspiracy-minded attacks on immigrants, people of color, China, intellectual elites, journalists with their “fake news,” and scientists with their climate and Covid “hoaxes.”

Having made no demands on Biden or independently campaigned for progressive reforms, progressive Democrats have no leverage in the Biden administration. Biden is stuffing his administration with deficit hawks and war hawks recycled from the Clinton and Obama administrations. Senate Leader Mitch McConnell is poised to to be the effective co-president, with a veto on Biden appointments and legislation.

Going forward, without solid majorities in both houses of Congress, the Biden Democrats are in no position to deliver a progressive economic alternatives like Medicare for All and public jobs for the unemployed, even if they wanted to. In any case, it is clear they don’t want to. Their big bloc of working-class voters of color may want to, but they are taken for granted because they are not going to exit in mass for the racist Republicans, though their support could continue to erode into political abstention or protest votes for Trumpist candidates.

The Democrats’ super-rich donors don’t want those progressive programs. Nor do the Democrats’ other big bloc of voters in the well-educated professional middle classes. Centrist Democratic messaging speaks to these people, who are socially liberal but fiscally conservative, i.e., not for generous spending on public schools, housing, transportation, or poverty relief for workers. They are for formal equality and meritocratic diversity at the top, but not the substantive equality of just outcomes for the masses.

Biden also failed miserably in countering Trump’s race war narrative. Trump used it to mobilize an expansion of white working-class voters (wrongly defined in exit polls as lacking a 4-year college degree). Alongside his tepid economic message, Biden’s racial justice message was equivocating at best, as he went out of his way to condemn the “violence” on the fringes of anti-police brutality demonstrations, called for increased federal funding for police, and made insensitive gaffes speaking to Black audiences. Trump’s racism was not countered by a righteous anti-racist message from Biden that might have motivated Black voters more than his “I’m not Trump.”.

With no credible economic or racial justice message, let alone legislative program, likely to come of out the early Biden administration, there’s fertile ground from Trumpism’s authoritarian, conspiratorial, and irrationalist explanations to grow, possibly led by someone not as ignorant, incompetent, and lazy as Donald Trump. Trump may be a martyr by the time the mid-terms come around, facing charges of bank, insurance, and tax fraud and money-laundering in New York. The right-wing media of Fox News, Newsmax, and 24/7 rightwing talk radio will continue to feed the sense of grievance and victimhood to the Trumpian base. 86% of Republicans believe the was stolen by Biden. 71% of Trump supporters do not view climate change as an important problem. 82% approve of Trump’s Covid response. Trump may have lost the election, but Trumpism is alive and well.

Progressive and Socialist Policies Are Popular

Angela Walker, Green Party 2020 vice-presidential candidate

Our campaign platform was far more popular than Biden’s and Trump’s. While Biden joined Trump in opposing all of the following measures, majorities joined us in supporting them.

Candidates who did run on policies like these did well. The Greens ran over 200 candidates in 2020 and elected at least 22. Two days after the election, corporate Democrats blamed progressives in their House caucus meeting for their poor results in the House, Senate, and state legislative elections. But the corporate Democrats were wrong. All 112 co-sponsors of Medicare for All won their races in Democratic-majority and swing districts alike, while several incumbent Democrats who opposed Medicare for All lost. Ninety-seven of 98 co-sponsors of the Green New Deal resolution won their races.

Progressive ballot initiatives won all across the country. In Florida, where Trump won by 372,000 votes, the $15 minimum wage won by 2,274,000 votes. Legalizing marijuana won in Arizona, Montana, New Jersey, and South Dakota. Decriminalizing all drugs won in Oregon. Colorado passed paid family leave and rejected a ban on late-term abortions. Boulder, Colorado, passed the right to counsel for people facing eviction. Nebraska passed restrictions on payday lenders. Ranked-choice voting (RCV) passed in Alaska and five cities, including multi-seat RCV for proportional representation on the city council and school board of Albany, California.

Even as Democratic primary voters were choosing Biden over Sanders after Super Tuesday last March, exit polls showed majorities of primary voters supported Sanders’s signature issue, Medicare for All. Yet Sanders’s forces capitulated across the board in the statement coming out of the Biden-Sanders Unity Task Force in July on everything from Medicare for All to the Green New Deal and the fracking ban. In an interview with Ali Velshi on MSNBC, Sanders abandoned Medicare for All and accepted the task force recommendation of Medicare for 60 and up.

The paradoxical results of the election show an expanded vote and retained political strength for the Trump Republicans alongside good results for progressive candidates and ballot measures. The conclusion we draw is that Democratic Party centrism didn’t defeat the Trumpism but continued to enable it.

Green Party Suppression

While progressive Democratic pundits were dropping their demands in deference to Biden’s centrist messaging and focusing their fire on the Green “spoilers,” Democratic Party officials were attacking Green ballot access.

The Covid-19 pandemic made petitioning difficult. Many state parties and our campaign appealed to state governments and/or sued them for relief in the form of ballot placement based on previous ballot status, reduced signature requirements, and/or electronic signatures. We got relief from some states and won some relief lawsuits and lost others, but many of these appeals were not resolved until a week or two before the petitions were due. The ballot-access fights, together with 47 competitive Green primaries leading up to the July 11 nomination convention, meant that many state parties waited to start petitioning until deadlines were right on top of them.

Nonetheless, in several states where the Greens did get on the ballot, the Democrats then engaged in an aggressive campaign to knock us off the ballot, which succeeded in Montana, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania. The votes on election boards and in the courts were strictly partisan, as Democratic hacks voted to knock us off the ballot and Republican hacks vote to keep us on, irregardless of the actual facts and the law. What other democratic country has their ruling parties administering their own elections instead of an independent nonpartisan agency? The Democrats’ challenges to Green ballot access were the most extensive party supression campaign since 2004, when the Democrats hired 52 law firms to file 29 frivolous and harassing lawsuits to block ballot access in 19 states against the independent ticket of Ralph Nader and Peter Camejo.

Meanwhile, the Democrats’ New York party-suppression bill tripled the number of votes the Green Party needed to stay on the ballot, doubled the frequency we have to meet that standard from every four years to every two years, and tripled the signature requirement to get back on the ballot — 45,000 signatures in a six-week window — and increased five-fold to 500 signatures the distribution requirement we have to meet in half of New York’s 27 congressional districts. After the election, both Governor Andrew Cuomo and state Democratic Party chair Jay Jacobs stated their satisfaction with elimination of parties from the ballot except for the fusion parties, the Working Families and Conservative parties, both of which routinely run Democrats and Republicans on their lines. Cuomo and Jacobs said the laws was desiged to keep them on the ballot.

The law was obviously aimed at the Green Party, which has won as much as 5% of the statewide vote running against Cuomo. New York’s elected “democratic socialist” Democrats have been silent about this change in the law and the elimination of the Green Party from the ballot. None of the progressive and socialist intellectuals who called for a Biden vote in New York have expressed any regrets about the Greens losing their ballot line.

Democratic commentary out of Pennsylvania is congratulating itself for suppressing the Green Party, saying it is why Biden won those states and also saying Greens “robbed” votes from Democrats who lost to Republicans down ballot .

Republican voter suppression through voter-roll purges, onerous ID requirements, insufficient polling resources in communities of color, and so forth is despicable. Less recognized is the Democrats’ voter suppression through party suppression. Running for offices is the fullest expression of First Amendment rights to free speech and press and to petition the government for redress of grievances. Party-suppression is the mark of an authoritarian regime.

Green Socialist Movement Building

Howie Hawkins, Green Party 2020 presidential candidate

After reflection on this election, we remain as convinced as we have ever been that the lesser=evil approach only enables the greater evil. The best way to defeat the hard right is with an independent green socialist movement, program, and party. It is politically ineffective to defer to the corporate warhawks of the Democratic Party to defeat the hard right, and the Democrats themselves are a danger to peace, economic security, and ecological sustainability that must be defeated as well.

The Green Party adopted a plank in its platform in 2016 committing the party to an “ecological socialism.” That decision has not been without controversy, and an anti-socialist rearguard remains vocal in the party. But Angela Walker and I ran as open socialists and decisively won Green Party primaries. That’s a good indication that the majority of Greens support an ecosocialist approach.

Angela and I have filed with the Federal Election Commission to continue our candidate committee for the next election cycle, so that we can continue to raise and spend money in support of green socialist organizing. Whether we run again is a decision that will be deferred until after the 2022 elections. For now, our focus is working with our campaign supporters to promote left solidarity in building a mass party of the green and socialist left.

We want to help strengthen local Green parties around a year-round organizing program to build a mass base as opposed to periodic mobilizations of the existing base. We will continue to raise our national demands for the ecosocialist Green New Deal, the Economic Bill of Rights, and so forth, but we see many more possibilities to win reforms in the next few years at the local and state level, where we want to help candidates and issue movements run effective campaigns. We will participate in the growing movement for ranked-choice voting (RCV) at the local, state, and federal levels, particularly for RCV from multi-member districts to create proportional representation in legislative bodies. We will also campaign for replacing the Electoral College with a ranked-choice national popular vote for president. We will engage in popular education on ecosocialist principles and policies.

We are also recommending that the Green Party become a mass-membership party of individual dues-paying members, like every other Green Party in the world. The U.S. Green Party has been hampered by its structure as a federation of state parties. Exactly who is represented by state party delegates to the national committee and convention varies widely from state to state and is hard to ascertain in some. In many states, party registrants and supporters are largely isolated from the party organization and its issue and election campaigns. This structure has made grassroots participation, leadership accountability, fundraising, and effective organizing weak. The party needs to become a party of dues-paying members who are represented in the national party in proportion to their membership in their states.

The future base of a mass party of the green and socialist left are the people who tend to vote in smaller numbers. They are disproportionately working-class, people of color, and young. We believe most of them are alienated, not apathetic. They don’t believe the politicians of the major parties know their issues or care about them. They are not going to be reached through the mass media that excludes independent left voices. Reaching them will require year-round organizing by local parties, where this base knows the local party activists personally as people who are consistently active on the issues that concern them. If a mass party of the green and socialist left is to grow into a major force in American politics, it will have to built from the bottom up through local parties, candidates, and issue campaigns.

Republican Ship Deserting Sinking Rat

David Finkel

January 13, 2021 — With the House of Representatives today debating an unprecedented second impeachment of a sitting President, this time with bipartisan support, fast-breaking events in the past week call for an update of our previous discussion of Grand Theft Election? It Could Happen Here.

Contrary to the typical pattern of a Trumpian outrage or incident of white-supremacist violence fading into the background noise, the aftermath of the January 6 mob assault on the Capitol has seen fast-breaking developments that focused popular as well elite attention on the extent of preparation and the enormity of what took place. The following points are only a brief interim followup.

Donald Trump admits no wrong, lashes out. White House, January 12, 2020. (Photo: Gerald Herbert/AP)

1. The full reality of horrific violence and murderous intent of parts of the crowd have been exposed on video and in eyewitness accounts. Our previous article argued that this wasn’t properly an “insurrection” or “coup” — given the absence of either a mass popular movement or any support from the military or the state machinery. Yet many QAnon-intoxicated participants evidently thought they were involved in an “insurrection” with some mythical “plan” behind it, or a revolution, an even greater fantasy. Others were mainly innocent folks out for a rebellious, masculinist good time wandering the Capitol halls — hence those self-incriminating selfies, live-streamed videos and social media posts which are now a treasure trove for investigators.

2. More important, by some combination of organized intent and spontaneous mass hysteria, the assault morphed into a serious lynch mob that murdered one Capitol police officer, injured many others and went hunting for leading politicians of both parties, including Trump’s loyal enabler Mike Pence and his family. At the core of the action, with threats of more to come, are the network of neo-Nazi, white-nationalist and militia groups joined together under the banner of the Trump cult.

This is what finally became a bridge-too-far for the U.S. ruling class, speaking through its organs the big banks, major corporations and National Association of Manufacturers, after years of happily accepting the billions of dollars stuffed into their pockets by the Trump administration’s tax cut, deregulation and ecocide actions. Even Trump’s and his enablers’ never-ending lying Grand Theft Election games did not overly disturb them, until the January 6 assault brought the country face to face with the fragility of its “sacred” institutions.

That’s when much of corporate capital announced they’re cutting off the campaign contribution lifeline to Republicans who voted against certifying the Electoral College vote. And like a snowball rolling downhill, that triggered leading captains of the Republican ship to begin deserting the sinking presidential rat.

3. How could it have happened that the Capitol police were so severely underprepared for the assault, and that multiple appeals for the National Guard were rejected for hours? The possibility cannot be excluded that there was simple command incompetence, blindness and complacency, compounded by the vacuum of White House leadership as Trump sat glued to the televised coverage. But a serious investigation is required to determine whether there was active or passive complicity within the security forces in ignoring advance intelligence of the attack that had been prepared.

4. The violent mob attacks on police officers, as well as the revelations about armed white-supremacist forces and the direct incitement by Trump. Giuliani and several politicians, have forced the FBI and other investigative bodies to finally regard the events as the “domestic terrorism” (a contested and slippery, but descriptive term) threats that they actually are. The threat includes not only future armed “protests,” but the clear danger of bombings and assassinations. Belatedly, there will be real investigations and possibly dismantling of the Proud Boys, the Boogaloo Movement and other militia types.

In one regard, such revelations and investigations are essential and long overdue. On the other hand, the FBI and other state security institutions remain, as they’ve always been, the most serious ongoing dangers to democratic rights and civil liberties. The left and civil rights organizations must demand that the incoming Biden/Harris administration not allow the Capitol assault to trigger, as the right wing will surely advocate, even more surveillance and crackdown on anti-racist movements. This is as great, if not a greater, longterm menace as the violent right wing itself.

5. Similarly, the American Civil Liberties Union is quite correct in raising alarm over social media companies’ peremptory cutoff of Trump and others’ accounts. The obvious contradiction here is that yes, Trump’s tweets are a clear and present threat and emergency, but no, the Facebook/Google corporate empire cannot be entrusted with the mandate of determining where speech does or doesn’t cross the line into direct incitement of violence.

Whatever their origins as entrepreneurial startups, the social media giants should now be regarded as quasi-monopoly utilities that need to be under democratic control — in fact, nationalized, but short of that, carefully and accountably regulated with clear and transparent rules. This is a complex but urgent discussion!

6. The left must repudiate the sickening (bipartisan) rhetoric all around about the United States as “the shining city on the hill.” The “shining city” is the imperialist metropole dumping its garbage, raw sewage and toxic waste, figuratively and literally, onto the nations and people down the hill, including much of its own population.

Yes, Trump needs to be thrown out and prosecuted. But instead of joining this obscene celebration of “our democracy,” folks on the left and particularly socialists need to focus our demands on the Biden administration to confront the staggering social, economic and public health emergencies facing the U.S. population. That’s the only way that the appeal of white-nationalist false promises to white workers and middle-class people can be curbed.

7. It’s necessary to conclude here with one particular act of premeditated murder — the federal execution last night of Lisa Montgomery, even after one court had intervened to stay it due to her severe mental disabilities resulting from unspeakable childhood sexual violence. The last-minute resumption of federal executions is the final demonstration of the sadistic monstrosity of Donald Trump and his attorney general William Barr.

While this occurred the same day that 4400 people in the United States died of COVID due to Trump’s criminal negligence, the pure savagery of Lisa Montgomery’s execution stands out. The fact that Barr left the White House a few weeks ago and crawled back under his rock doesn’t change his guilt. This case will pursue Barr, along with Trump and all the rest who perpetrated it, to the gates of hell. Contrary to all the patriotic drivel, yes, all this is “who we really are.”

Grand Theft Election?

David Finkel for the Solidarity National Committee

It Could Happen Here

JANUARY 7, 2021 — Much will be heard in coming weeks about the “strength and resilience of America’s democratic Constitutional institutions” in the face of the defeated president’s insistence on overturning the November election, and an attempted “insurrection” incited by Donald Trump. It’s reasonably safe to predict that the chaos surrounding the formal Congressional ratification of the Biden/Harris Electoral College victory won’t be repeated at the January 20 inauguration — both because Trump is so isolated and discredited now, and because the police and security presence then will be absolutely massive in contrast to yesterday’s debacle.

The reality is much more complicated, and a lot less rosy. Those sacred “institutions” are actually quite vulnerable to anti-democratic manipulation, in part because they were never designed to be democratic in the first place. The Trump game of “Grand Theft Election” fell apart for a number of reasons, but under different but entirely conceivable circumstances could have been much more threatening.

A Trump scarf outside a broken window at the Capitol. (Photo: Jason Andrew for The New York Times)

Let’s look at some centrally important facts:

1. American democracy, such as it is, was saved by massive election turnouts of Black — and in crucial swing states, Latinx and Indigenous — voters that defeated Trump by margins too large to credibly deny. In places like Georgia in particular, this is a tribute to many years of on-the-ground grassroots organizing that overcame systematic voter suppression measures by rightwing gerrymandered state legislatures. Although we would argue that these heroic efforts are worthy of a better cause than the wretched neoliberal-led Democratic Party, they’ve undoubtedly made an historic difference in U.S. politics.

2. This longterm struggle is by no means over. As Republican figures desert Trump’s sunken ship — many of them having been his most notorious enablers — their party will be divided over Trump’s “legacy” and whether to coexist and cooperate with the centrist-neoliberal Biden administration, or carry on the wreck-to-rule obstructionism they’re pursued ever since Barack Obama’s election. What will unite Republicans, especially at state levels, is voter suppression — the only way this party can hold onto power as the white proportion of the U.S. electorate ages and declines.

That’s no idle threat. After the smoke cleared in the evening, if you paid attention to some of the Republicans speeches purporting to uphold the election result, they said it wasn’t up to Congress to “intervene in states’ right to run their elections.” One of those speakers was Senator Rand Paul, who before the Georgia runoffs had opined that encouraging more people to vote “could alter the result of the election.” No kidding!

What’s needed in fact is strong federal voting rights legislation, precisely to intervene where state legislatures or administrations — not only in the Deep South — conduct voter roll purges, obstruct registration, restrict early and mail-in voting that helped make the November turnout historically large in the midst of the coronavirus crisis, blatantly reduce polling sites for Black communities, and racist partisan gerrymandering. Whether the Biden/Harris administration will fight for voting rights, not just talk about it, will be a very big question. (Beyond this is the bigger constitutional question of eliminating the “sacred institution” of the Electoral College, which disempowers the national popular vote and enables malicious mischief in closely contested states.

3. Politicians and media are describing what happened yesterday as an “insurrection.” This is a piece of nonsense that sullies the good name of insurrection.

As a premeditated and potentially murderous mob action, the attack on the Capitol is indeed very serious, and an ominous threat of rightwing terrorism that may be coming. No one can miss the contrast between the brutal response to many Black Lives Matter protests against police brutality as opposed to the fact that apparently few if any invaders yesterday were arrested inside the building. (Later arrests were for curfew violations, after the events of the day.)

At his Wednesday morning rally repeating lies about his stolen “landslide” victory, Trump called on the crowd to “march to the Capitol,” indicating he’d be with them. Of course, he then retired to his TV-bedecked White House bunker. When calling on people to turn out in Washington on January 6, he’d said the day would be “wild.” Beside the fact that all these were virus super-spreader events, it was mob incitement for sure.

But an “insurrection,” meaning an attempt to seize power? That kind of thing requires more than semi-spontaneous attacks on government offices. From the left, insurrections against repressive regimes require mass popular movements capable of waging general strikes and forcing splits in the military apparatus. From the right, coups may employ mob violence as an auxiliary but the real action is tanks in the streets, targeted roundups and arrests, and organized terror against dissident populations. None of that was even remotely present in Washington DC yesterday, to say nothing of the country as a whole. This is not to underestimate the real threat that is posed from the white-supremacist far right and the legion of Trump voters living in a reality-free ideological universe who think their election was “stolen.”

4. The Trump/Republican Grand Theft Election threat, understood and widely discussed ahead of time by the Transition Integrity Project and many authors, was not a joke. The shambolic way in which it’s collapsed shouldn’t deceive us.

If the November election had been closer, if the Trump gang’s post-election moves had been more competently organized and coordinated, if the legal maneuvers hadn’t been in the hands of the barely-warm corpse of Rudy Giuliani, if a few state and federal judges had been as corrupt as Trump himself — and perhaps if governorships in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin had remained in Republican hands after 2018 — the United States might have truly faced an existential threat to the Constitutional institutions that have served its elites so well for more than two centuries.

The rickety state of U.S. democracy is as vulnerable to destruction from within as, it turns out, its government and corporate computer systems are to Russian hacking. If carried to its outer extremes, another Grand Theft Election scenario could conceivably break the country apart, not now but sometime down the road. Yes, it could happen here.

5. Yesterday’s violent debacle has shattered what remained of the Trump presidency, and probably (although one can never be certain) destroyed his own and his crime family’s future political perspectives. Rush Limbaugh actually puts it accurately: “If you want to have a life in Washington DC today, you have to denounce Trump now” (radio broadcast, January 7). You don’t have to be a Limbaugh fan to appreciate the hypocrisy of these sudden Republican conversions.

At long last, leading circles of the corporate ruling class weighed in as Twitter and Facebook suspended Trump’s access to his cult followers, the National Association of Manufacturers called for his removal by the 25th Amendment, financial industry leaders like CEO David Solomon of Goldman Sachs, Jamie Dimon and others obscenely enriched by Trump’s policies turned against him. He’s no longer useful to them.

Trump running in 2024 could destroy the Republican Party for good. That does not mean the end of what’s called Trumpism, even if it now has to go forward without Trump.

In this regard, the analysis by Samuel Farber published January 3 in Jacobin, Trumpism Will Endure, is highly recommended. Although writing before Trump’s self-implosion yesterday, Farber nails the critical point: “Perhaps the most useful way to understand Trumpism is as a right-wing response to the objective conditions of economic decay and a perceived moral decay.”

In this context, “perceived moral decay” centers around rightwing resentment that the standing and privileges that too many white males have assumed as given are now under challenge. This requires a deeper discussion than is possible here, but it gets to the heart of one reality of U.S. society and, in particular, the central problem confronting those of us on the socialist left: A large sector of the working class, among white workers in particular, has been recruited to authoritarian, rightwing racist politics.

It remains to be seen whether their loyalty can be transferred from the Trump cult to a new standard bearer. But that’s secondary to the fact that working class “Trumpism” will remain as a major obstacle to struggles to gain serious reforms that can be won and maintained.

To understand why and how that’s happened requires coming to grips with the second reality of our condition: the objective immensity of the crises that await Biden and the narrowly Democratic-controlled houses of Congress. The COVID catastrophe, medical system collapse and the mess of the vaccine rollouts; the tens of millions of working and middle-class families facing eviction, permanent unemployment, bankruptcy, ruin from debt and medical expenses; state and local governments hopelessly underwater; and overhanging it all, continuing climate change and environmental disasters made worse by four years of Trump.

The situation absolutely demands big measures: large-scale economic stimulus and relief, a mobilization of public health and possibly military resources to make vaccinations happen, a “warp speed” transition from the fossil fuel industry, a true Green New Deal and Medicare for All, and immediate closure of the obscene for-profit immigrant detention centers, among other things. What then is to be expected from those acclaimed “moderate” forces in both parties, as Democrats ponder how to use the power they’ve been given and those on the Republican side figure out whether to be “bipartisan” or obstructionist?

For the left and the social movements, all the more important to remain active and mobilized to fight for what we need, not for a few crumbs. Celebrating Trump’s self-destruction is certainly in order; a leftwing honeymoon for Biden most certainly is not.

Defend Kshama Sawant!

Scott McLemee

Call it a voter-suppression effort, ex post facto.

The attempt to remove Kshama Sawant from her seat on Seattle’s City Council through a recall petition is a blatant attack on the democratic rights of constituents — and on the emergence of a new socialist left as a current in American politics. Sawant is the public face of Socialist Alternative, one of numerous small Marxist organizations in the United States. But defending her from corporate and right-wing attack is an issue that everyone on the left in the United States should support.

Sawant has been elected to her position three times now, running on a platform of solidarity with the Seattle’s workers — backed up by heavy and long overdue taxation of the city’s millionaires and billionaires. In the summer of 2020 she gave full support to Black Lives Matter. And that seems to have been the proverbial straw breaking the camel’s back: Sawant’s activity in solidarity with BLM features prominently in the recall campaign’s complaints about her.

With hindsight, it’s clear that Sawant’s election to City Council in 2013 foreshadowed the groundswell of support for Bernie Sanders’s presidential run in 2016. The platform for her first campaign included public ownership of Washington state’s corporate behemoths, including Microsoft and Amazon. More recently, her page on the City Council website has demanded taxation “to fund immediate COVID-19 relief for working people, and then to go on in 2021 and beyond to fund a massive expansion of new, affordable, social housing and Green New Deal renovations of existing homes.”

In 2019, Amazon contributed $1.5 million to a political action committee opposed to Sawant, who was reelected anyway.

In June, when mass protests against the murder of George Floyd and other victims of police violence swept the country, The Seattle Times quoted Sawant as saying: “The police have inflicted tear gas, mace, rubber bullets, flash-bang grenades, curfews, arrests and other repressive tactics on Seattle activists and residents — including children — in an attempt to bully and silence the protest movement.” She called for the resignation of Jenny Durkan, Seattle’s mayor.

Durkan responded with a letter to the City Council urging it to expel Sawant. The City Council declined to do so. But when a formal recall petition was filed with the King County Election Office in mid-August, it bore more than a passing resemblance to Durkan’s letter.

Details of the ensuing legal process are covered by an entry on the recall at the Ballotpedia site, which also presents the formal complaint initiating the recall effort. Suffice it to say that in January 2021, the state’s Supreme Court will rule on Sawant’s appeal to have the petition thrown out. If she loses the appeal, the anti-Sawant forces will begin trying to get 10,700 signatures from registered voters in her district (a quarter of the votes cast in the 2019 election) to have the recall put on the ballot, probably sometime in the spring or summer.

In short, after consuming much of their time and energy during the last third of 2020, Sawant and her supporters are likely to have the recall threat hanging over them for much of 2021. An opinion piece by a Socialist Alternative member published in Real Change, one of Seattle’s alternative newspapers, spells out what they are up against:

The public part of the recall donor list reads like a who’s who of Seattle’s business elite, including Trump-supporting billionaire Martin Selig and corporate executives like Airbnb Chief Financial Officer David Stephenson and Merrill Lynch Senior Vice President Matt Westphal. The recall campaign is absurdly trying to portray their supporters as a grassroots group of local ‘concerned citizens’ while painting Sawant’s support as coming from out-of-town agitators — a typical right-wing attack. But the truth is that Sawant has more than twice as many donors from her district than the recall campaign does — with already 670 District 3 donors, compared to only 322 District 3 donors for the recall campaign. The most common professions of our donors are educators, students and tech workers, in sharp contrast to the district’s super rich backing the recall campaign.

But class solidarity never ends at the city limits. This attack on a militant socialist political figure — and on the people she represents — poses a danger that every socialist should recognize. Please follow the Sawant Solidarity Campaign and, if possible, consider donating to its effort.

The Class Politics of Pandemic Relief

Luke Pretz

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Democrat, and Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, Republican, bump elbows in Washington, March 12, 2020. (Susan Walsh / AP)

If there was ever policy debate in the 2020 United States presidential election it was about the response to the Covid-19 crisis. The difference between Donald Trump and Joe Biden seemed stark. On one side was Trump, fully committed to the lie that the US was “rounding the corner” and the pandemic would soon be resolved without further restrictions. On the other side was Biden fully committed to “listening to scientists” without any clear indication of what that meant practically. There was one clear point of agreement between the two: opposition to the one policy shown to be highly effective, another lockdown.

Biden and Trump’s opposition to another round of lockdowns stands in stark contrast to just months ago when politicians were celebrated because they pushed for lockdowns. The strict social distancing measures were framed as “a little suffering now to avoid even more suffering later on.” As the pandemic, restrictions, and lack of financial aid dragged on, Trump’s claim that the “cure cannot be worse than the disease,” rang increasingly true to many. As a result, politicians on both sides of the aisle quickly began to hedge on their earlier support for lockdown measures.

Why is it that a few months later there is a bipartisan consensus in opposition to another round of lockdowns when we know that it would drastically slow the transmission and death rates?

The problem with lockdowns

In capitalist society a working class person’s survival is contingent on their access to a wage directly through paid work or indirectly through the wage of a parent, spouse, child, or other workers. Social welfare programs in the US that supplement low wages or replace lost wages, which are funded by taxes on workers’ wages, have been ground down by bipartisan neoliberal policy. So, when the lockdowns are in place workers must make a choice: forego wages and risk eviction, loss of health care, and going hungry or put themselves and those around them at risk of contracting the virus.

The pandemic and lockdowns have been especially devastating to women. The early pandemic job losses were skewed towards women who are often employed in service industry fields requiring them to be on the jobsite. As the pandemic wore on, the unwaged work of reproducing the working class itself expanded as schools closed, emotional stress boiled over, and family members became sick. The expanded workload in the house has compelled massive amounts of women to leave the waged workforce to work full time in the home.

The loss of wages does not have to be an issue. In the United States there is enough wealth to ensure that all people have food, shelter, water, health care, and all of the other things individuals and families need to live comfortably while observing strict social distancing measures. The federal government could provide an income that is sufficient to cover needs and then some, pay for rent and utilities, and make sure necessary healthcare was provided. In making sure that everyone was able to thrive during a lockdown without worrying about the loss of a paycheck, the primary reason for not observing lockdown measures would be eliminated. Additionally, the psychological toll of the pandemic would be greatly reduced by removing one of the main stressors in working people’s lives.

The capitalist class faces a serious economic problem when lockdowns are put into place. The imposition of a lockdown would be a work stoppage for all but the most essential businesses and those whose staff can work from home. This is a problem for capitalists because such a work stoppage would shut down much of the production of value that fuels the capitalist economy. It would also drastically slow the circulation and realization of the value of the goods and services produced, because most stores and restaurants would be closed and without workers being paid not much could be bought. As a result of the sudden disappearance of profits throughout the whole economy, we would be staring down a crisis much like we were in March and April when many states issued the first round of lockdowns.

It’s clear that the government faces a serious choice between the wellbeing of the working class or the wellbeing of the capitalist class. The lives of countless working class people could have been saved if a paid lockdown was implemented early on. With the issue of losing a wage removed the reasons for going out during the pandemic are largely eliminated. However, in implementing a successful lockdown the state would be cutting capitalists off from the one thing that they need to reproduce capitalism, the working class itself.

The attempt to overcome the contradiction

In the face of the sudden drop off in the economy, the US Government attempted to resolve the contradiction between human life and the loss of a wage that comes with protecting it. The Federal Reserve intervened, loaning out $1.5 Trillion to preserve liquidity and ensure that financial markets continued to run smoothly. Congress passed the CARES Act which sent out stimulus checks that were at least $1,200 if you made less than $75,000, lengthened and increased the payout of unemployment benefits, created the Paycheck Protection Program that made $669 billion in forgivable loans to large and small businesses

As the pandemic dragged on over the months Democrats proposed the HEROES Act. The bill would have sent out another stimulus check, extended unemployment benefits, expanded access to SNAP benefits, and covered COBRA premium costs for those who lost their jobs. There were also provisions that would have expanded funding for utility bill aid, job training programs, and additional financial support for small businesses. The HEROES Act ultimately failed to pass due to a Republican majority in the Senate fully committed to Trump’s Covid denial gambit and a Democratic Party unwilling to make expanded aid a central campaign issue.

Aid and stimulus talks since the election of Joe Biden to the presidency have revealed the basic priorities for both parties: the smooth functioning of capitalism. Both parties came to an agreement on a stimulus package with a much smaller $600 stimulus check, extended but reduced and not retroactive unemployment benefits, and a continuation of the business loans program. The payments to workers are hardly enough to cover rent, utilities, and food costs. Despite the cuts to programs that directly support workers, Democratic Party leaders are boosters of the legislation.

From Washington’s perspective, it is time to go back to work if you have not already.

The problem with the intervention

The legislation, passed and/or proposed, was unable to create the conditions for working class people to participate in an effective lockdown without the threat of starvation or eviction.

One of the major issues with the way that aid was structured was that it relied on unemployment benefits. The use of unemployment benefits to deliver aid creates a situation that requires workers to continue working until their workplace shuts down, someone they live with catches Covid, or they themselves catch Covid. In addition to creating circumstances that encourage workers to continue working through the pandemic, an approach that uses unemployment benefits leaves out some of the most vulnerable members of our society, such as undocumented workers and those working in the informal economy.

In addition to the issues with the use of unemployment benefits as the primary way of delivering financial aid, the CARES and HEROES Acts were both one shot bills. The one time stimulus payments were far from enough to replace the wages of a worker and their families who wanted to lockdown before they were fired or caught the disease. Even if a worker qualified for unemployment benefits those were time limited. The federal bonus would only payout for 13 weeks, the program ends on December 31, 2020. The length of time a worker was eligible for standard unemployment benefits ranges from 26 to 12 weeks, depending on what state they live in. So, if you ended up on unemployment in April by the end of September your benefits were up.

In effect the bill bound working class people more tightly to their participation in wage labor. For many it was almost certain that they were ultimately going to lose their jobs if the pandemic continued on. If their workplace did not close down or drastically cut staffing they would get the aid once they caught the disease.

Why we cannot get the legislation we need

The passage of the CARES Act was a work of needle threading in that it had to protect the interests of the capitalist class while preserving the veneer of serving working people. This is not only because elected officials are backed by corporate donors but also because the capitalist state is the ultimate guarantor of private property and funded through taxes on wages and profits. That means the state’s intervention has to guarantee, to the greatest extent possible, that the labor force is at work. The state also has to guarantee, to the greatest extent possible, that there would not be a debt crisis brought about by a wave of business bankruptcies and that there would be places for workers to return to after the pandemic was resolved.

While the state is bound to the capitalist class it is also subject to pressures from the working class. Letting it ride and continuing without aid to working class people was possible and this is what happened in the 2008 financial crisis. However, the heading off of open class struggle is something desirable for capital in the medium and long term and the political fortunes of politicians in the short run. In the days leading up to the passage of the CARES Act the possibility of such a struggle was evident as the protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd and the murder of black people at the hands of the police in general escalated rapidly.

Beyond the economic calculus of ensuring that the production and circulation of capital continues uninterrupted, a paid lockdown poses a serious political threat to capital. A paid lockdown, that is a work stoppage where all were provided a living wage thus removing the need to work, is especially dangerous for capital. It would reveal the absurdity of wage-labor, the degree to which we over-work, and would demonstrate the practicality of simply providing for people’s needs.

If a paid lockdown were put into place the horizon of possible solutions would be opened up in the popular imagination. If we could do that in a time of crisis why not under better, normal, circumstances? Such a situation could create serious opportunities for the popularization of socialist solutions and open up new terrain for class struggle that challenges the capitalist wage relation.

It seems clear that, as socialists, the only position to take is that both capitalist parties are complicit and there is no use in separating out blame. We should be demanding and arguing for paid lockdown and guaranteed healthcare and all of the other policies like mask mandates that would slow the spread. Not just because it is maybe the only humane way to stop the spread while we wait for a vaccine to become widely available, but also because it points towards a socialist future.

Out with the Old, In with the — Older

David Finkel

Photo: Hilary Swift for The New York Times

The Trump regime exits amidst a flood of garbage lawsuits and a frenzy of last-minute sadistic federal executions, ecocidal border wall construction and oil-drilling auctions for priceless wildlife reserves, sporadic but menacing mob threats on election officials — and deliberate sabotage of the economy as tens of millions of people in the United States face prospects of hunger, eviction and pauperization.

“Help is on the way,” promise Joe Biden and Kamala Harris as the incoming administration takes shape. And what a shape it is — a reunion of the corporate neoliberal faces of the Barack Obama presidency, with a touch more “diversity” but minus the hope-and-change aura that surrounded Obama’s ascendance.

This was entirely predictable, of course, as are the open attacks by the Biden-Obama-Pelosi-Schumer national Democratic leadership against the “progressive wing” of the party which energized so many millions of voters during the election season. That was then, this is now — time to drop all those hopes of Medicare for All or a Green New Deal, let alone, heaven forbid, even talking about defunding police.

It’s a case of out with the old and in with the older — not meaning the ages of Trump and Biden, but the politics and personnel going and coming.

Activist critics of the Pentagon-industrial-complex revolving door claimed one symbolic victory when Michele Flournoy, a hawkish figure whose work in the Pentagon goes back to the 1990s under Bill Clinton and advises military contractors through the WestExec firm, was passed over for the Secretary of Defense appointment. (It’s a position she’s long coveted and had been expected to get in a Hillary Clinton administration.)

CodePink led the campaign exposing Flournoy’s record, pointing out that she “pushed for the bombing of Iraq” and the entire “failed interventionism of the post-9/11 area that has devastated lives across the Middle East, North Africa and western Asia.”

If this righteous protest helped derail one egregious selection, there’s many more where she comes from. Secretary-of-State-designate Anthony Blinken, like Flournoy, is a founder of the WestExec consulting outfit, and a raft of other appointees inhabit that nest too. For the dreary details, see Biden Appointees’ Ties to Consulting and Investment Firms Pose Ethics Test, The New York Times, November 28, 2020.

Lloyd Austin III, the retired general designated to be the first African-American Secretary of Defense (presuming he receives the necessary Congressional waiver over being out of military service for fewer than the required statutory seven years), also comes from the dense corporate consulting ecosphere.

Tom Vilsack will return to his Obama-era tenure as Secretary of Agriculture, continuing his long career as a sponsor of the interests of corporate agribusiness. His role in the cowardly firing of Shirley Sherrod from her position as Director of Rural Development in 2010, after she was falsely targeted by a Breitbart attack video, is but shouldn’t be long forgotten. (In case you don’t remember, Ms. Sherrod was getting ready to haul Andrew Breitbart into court for defamation, but he evaded the lawsuit by the tactic of dropping dead.)

There were hopes that Marcia Fudge, an African-American congresswoman from Ohio, might be selected for the Agriculture post, which could have been a big improvement. Instead Biden nominated her for Housing and Urban Development, the spot that Ben Carson has occupied in near-total radio silence for the entire four years of Trump rule.

The return of a type like Vilsack is particularly disgusting, but nothing in the overall pattern of appointments should be surprising. Pending the outcome of the January 5 Senate runoff elections in Georgia and the general mood of Senate Republicans, we don’t know how much obstruction Biden’s cabinet selections might face, or if a handful of Democratic Senators might raise objections. But why wouldn’t we expect Biden to choose people he’s known and worked with for decades, and who share his view of “government that works” as neoliberal corporate rule with a human and mildly regulatory face? Any genuinely progressive figures who might get appointed would simply be window dressing and trapped in the right-of-center maze.

Some environmentalists are encouraged by Biden’s pledge to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord and the appointment of John Kerry (come on now — you were expecting maybe Bill McKibben?) as his envoy for fighting climate change. What remains to be seen, however, is what regulations Biden might be prepared to seriously fight for in the face of the fossil-fuel industry — to say nothing of the desperately necessary radical restructuring embodied by the Green New Deal, which he has explicitly rejected.

The biggest questions, of course, don’t have to do with inside-the-Beltway issues of Cabinet personnel, but the enormity of the crises facing the society and the world. COVID deaths in the United States have reached 300,000 and will top half a million before vaccinations are widespread. Without truly massive relief and stimulus programs, which Republicans will almost surely roadblock, deep economic stagnation or collapse is entirely possible. Climate change and dangers of war — which by themselves require another whole discussion — are escalating.

On top of all this, it would be a big mistake to dismiss the political poison and land mines that Trump leaves behind. The rightwing-stuffed and pro-corporate-elite Supreme Court wasn’t about to stupidly shatter its legitimacy by overthrowing the November election, but what it might do to the Affordable Care Act, Roe v. Wade and future voter-suppression state tactics are big unknowns. The damage done to workers’ rights by SCOTUS rulings in recent years will no doubt be compounded.

Trump’s botched post-election efforts at a sort-of-coup through courts and state legislatures predictably fell apart, but they’ve left a toxic legacy: If 45+% of the country voted for Trump and 70+% of his voters think it was “stolen,” that means more than 30 percent of the U.S. population lives in a kind of reality-free parallel ideological universe where facts simply don’t matter.

That has ominous implications going forward, not only for politics but for facing the horrific next period of the pandemic, among other things. Much of the Republican Party has devolved into a party of militant white supremacy, the glue holding together the web of bribery, brainwashing, conspiracy theory and deceit that Trump has perpetrated — which cannot be undone any time soon, if ever.

Under the pressure of multiple looming calamities and possible all-out Republican obstruction, the Biden administration might take more activist and aggressive actions than his instincts, his politics and his record would predict. But that would not result from pressure from “progressive” Democrats, whose numbers have grown, especially in local arenas, but who’ve been pushed to the margins nationally. And in any case, don’t hold your breath. Continual movement-building and mobilization, even amidst the coronavirus, will be required to make any progress toward the changes we desperately need.

Trump’s defeat interrupts momentum of authoritarian right worldwide

Executive Bureau of the Fourth International

● The US elections have brought a serious defeat for Trump’s project. Biden has obtained 80 million votes and 306 electors in the electoral college which means a lead of more than 70 in opposition to Trump. Despite the difficulties imposed by the pandemic, these elections appear to have had the highest participation since 1908. This broad margin made it very difficult for Trump to continue to challenge the result and opened the way for Biden’s accession. We welcome Trump’s defeat, which represents a weakening of the most reactionary and authoritarian forces on the planet.

● Trump continued on his path of not acknowledging the defeat and raising false fraud accusations for three weeks. But lacking any plan and organization, this was a losing battle to subvert the electoral procedure. He lost support even within the Republican party, and has been forced to more or less accept Biden’s win. However, his peddling of conspiracy theories and undermining of the electoral procedure is having broad diffusion among his voters, and will certainly contribute to degrade further the poor democracy of the USA.

● This is part of a larger trend where new forms of authoritarian, antiscientific, conspiratorial theories are spreading quickly across many countries. These kinds of ideas reflect the despair of the situation and the mistrust against established institutions and are animated and manipulated by forces of the far right. In the absence of mass mobilizations and victories driven by progressive forces, these kinds of ideas might continue to spread. It is our task to try to isolate these currents, fight them and denounce them by any means, as they open the way for the most extreme authoritarianism.

● In this context, Trump’s defeat is indeed a breath of fresh air, an event that breaks the momentum of the spreading authoritarianism around the world in Poland, Hungary, Turkey, India, the Philippines and Brazil eliminating the most powerful of these new authoritarian leaders.

● Biden’s new administration represents the business as usual of American democracy, where the government, be it Republican or Democrat serves the interest of big corporations and American imperialism. His first appointments show that he does not plan to change this course, and will continue to take distance from and isolate the emerging left elements within the Democratic party. On the other hand, social struggles in the United States continue as nurses and teachers and some essential workers in transportation, food distribution, and other sectors engage in strikes, protests and job actions to protect their health amidst the pandemic now spreading uncontrolled throughout the country. Blacks and Latinos, almost always now supported by whites and Asians, continue to protest the ongoing racist police violence against their communities. The enormous anti-racist protests involved about twenty million people and impacted public opinion, as well as sparking an international movement.

● In other parts of the globe, mass social movements and some victories also give us reason for hope that despite setbacks and repression, popular defensive and aspirational movements will continue to arise. We have seen the victory of the MAS in Bolivia, which managed to reverse a US based backed coup with a massive popular support and mobilization. In Chile, the popular movement has succeeded in overturning Pinochet´s constitution, opening the way for deeper changes in society thanks to mass mobilization. In Poland, an unprecedented mass movement led by women is challenging the reactionary hegemony in the country. In Brazil, the left has managed an historical breakthrough in the municipal elections. In Thailand, Belarus and Hong Kong we are witnessing mass mobilizations, which show that people are willing to organize and fight for a better future, despite the difficulties, the obstacles and state repression.

● Despite all this the general situation remains very difficult for the popular classes and emancipatory struggles. The second wave of the pandemic is hitting hard across the world, raising the number of deaths and people requiring intensive care. The measures imposed to try to stop the spread of the virus are all the less accepted by the populations because they are seen as the consequence of government’s failure to act to extend and strengthen health care in the first wave of the pandemic.

● The lock-downs and partial lock-downs are also having deep effects on the economy, with the worst projections becoming the most likely scenarios. The cost of this crisis seems, will be paid by the popular classes and a worsening of their social and economic condition. As we have previously noted the hardest hit will be those who are already victims of social and economic injustice, in the migrant black and ethnic communities, women and LGBT people.

● Furthermore, lock-down measures and curfews are being used by governments to limit and curtail democratic freedoms, making it more difficult to organize and mobilize. Nevertheless even where there are not mass movements such as in Chile or Thailand, there are localized workplace, neighbourhood and community struggles that also show the rejection of lockdown and repressive policies that try to compensate for governmental failures to plan for the foreseeable second wave. More and more clearly governmental policies favour big business even though certain sectors (notably hospitality and travel for mass consumption) have to be to a certain extent sacrificed. Where public expenditure has been boosted, it has been through an explosion in public debt which worsens the ongoing problem and ultimately shifts all the costs to the working class.

● Feminists have continued to organize particularly, although not only, on the question of violence against women. The increase in domestic violence during periods of lockdown was evident and pushed certain governments to put in place schemes to enable women to report incidents and to leave homes shared with violent partners. These, like other pandemic measures, were insufficient and too short-lived.

● One of the sectors that concentrates the contradictions is the education sector with the risk of infection in bringing different generations together in conditions where physical distancing and barrier measures are difficult to implement, there is the right for young people to a decent education and where online teaching is an insufficient response if devices, reliable internet access, appropriate working conditions cannot be guaranteed, there is the right for teachers to work in safe conditions with adequate technical resources for online teaching provided. Governments are using popular concern for the right to education and a future of young people to keep educational establishments open despite the real danger this can represent in the spread of Covid-19.

● The movement against climate change has continued to organize making use of virtual meetings, very much alive and well in its radicality and diversity. It is well placed to hold to account Biden’s pledge that the US will rejoin the COP under his presidency. The issue of the fight for climate justice, for an end to carbon emissions, and for a deep transformation of our energetic and production system, must come again to the forefront in order to fight for a real alternative to the capitalist and extractivist system.

● The issue of democracy is an overriding principle in many of the current struggles. People are demanding the right to decide against the rising authoritarianism and the disconnection of political and neoliberal classes from the suffering of the popular classes. We promote these struggles pushing for self-organization and self-determination.

● We enthusiastically support and fight for the victory of the struggles and movements whether they be local or at a broader level, while striving to underline the objective convergence between them. We underline the failure of all capitalist governments to adequately respond to the pandemic, their increasing recourse to conspiracy theories, reactionary ideology and authoritarianism. It is thus urgent need to fight for anticapitalist structural measures (expropriation of banks, big pharma, energy,…) and exceptional taxation on the rich and the big corporations, and for a global alternative based on social, economic, gender and ecological justice.

This statement was adopted by the Executive Bureau of the Fourth International on November 30, 2020. It appeared on the Fourth International website on December 1 here and on the International Viewpoint website on December 2 here.