Introduction to The New Rise of the Women’s Movement

Dianne Feeley

The document, “The New Rise of the Women’s Movement,” outlines recent developments in feminist mobilization internationally and sees a new wave of struggle ahead. As a result of these experiences, a diverse movement is developing new forms of mass participation and new discussions over what women need for our emancipation. Written by the Fourth International Women’s Commission and adopted by the FI at its February 2021 International Committee, the document summarizes features of the capitalist crises as they impose themselves on women: precariousness, cutbacks in public services, a rise in right-wing religious fundamentalism, the growth of an international supply chain and the emerging pandemic. These features endanger women in several ways.

The Women’s Commission is made up of organizational representatives from different countries. It attempts to summarize the women’s movement and its demands in its ebbs and flows. As it reports on events and mobilizations, the Commission seeks to discover communalities and analyze developing trends and consciousness. It prepares conferences, drafts resolutions and encourages feminist work in its component organizations.

Recently there have been massive mobilizations around reproductive rights in a number of countries, and most stunningly in Poland and Argentina. A second series of mobilizations around sexual violence at home, in school, in sports, in the workplace and in the streets has erupted on several continents. Women have also led popular mobilizations around Black Lives Matter and struggles for land, we have led workers’ strikes and opposed destruction of the environment in Ecuador, Brazil, India, Canada, the United States, Germany and South Africa. Today women are challenging capitalism’s many-headed crises with demands for an economic and political system that prioritizes justice.

The document quickly reviews the previous period’s international encuentros (confernces) with their demands, proposals and coordinated days of action and goes on to discuss the specifics of the current movement. It raises the idea that “the feminist strike” has the potential to become a powerful new tool.

The resolution notes that each new generation of women produces its own “grammar.” It takes up new debates — or circles back to enrich old ones – developing or refining its theory along with new forms of expression. The document analyzes these changes from the vantage point of a socialist feminism tradition deeply rooted in the idea of women’s self-organization; It is neither based on biological determinism nor “lean-in” corporate feminism. Given that this seems to be the opening of a new feminist wave, the resolution is less concerned with demands and more interested in the development of vibrant collective action. It does recognize two recent theoretical contributions – anti-capitalist ecofeminism and social reproduction theory, along with the older concept of intersectionality — as helpful in explaining the alienation and oppression capitalism imposes on women. Finally, the resolution ends with a call for continuing revolutionary analysis and deepening international coordination.

The New Rise of the Women’s Movement

Background reading:

The first full-length resolution, “Socialist Revolution and the Struggle for Women’s Liberation,” was written during the second wave of the women’s movement and adopted at the 9th FI World Congress in 1979. It is available here:

At the 11th FI World Congress, “Latin Amera: Dynamics of mass movements and feminist currents,” was adopted in 1991. It is available here:

Also voted on at that 11th FI World Congress was the document, “Positive action and partybuilding among women,” which is available here:

Powerless in Texas

Snehal Shingavi

Capitalist competition and greed lie at the heart of the power outages causing desperation across the state.

Two images capture the crisis in Texas perfectly. First, nurses at St. David’s South Austin Medical Center came to work on Thursday to this: “A notice said the water went out. The notice then listed some instructions for using the restroom, such as to not put toilet paper in the toilet when urinating, and to use trash bags to remove feces from the toilet and to then place it in a biohazard bag.” Reminder, this is in the middle of the pandemic. Second, Ted Cruz, the senior Republican senator from Texas, got on a plane this morning to head to Cancun, Mexico. When asked about why he was fleeing in the middle of the crisis, Senator Cruz gleefully threw his daughters under the bus, saying they had a school vacation and wanted to “take a trip with friends.”

Texas has, in a matter of days, revealed just how unprepared its infrastructure (both economic and political) is to deal with the new normal created by climate change. The horror stories abound: elderly folks without food or heat; people stranded in cars for warmth; a few dozen reported dead; vaccine distribution halted; citywide boil-water notices because of treatment plant failures; hundreds of vehicular accidents; emptied grocery stores; millions without power; millions more without drinkable water. 

The press conferences that happen every hour on the news (for those who still have power) are maddening in their hypocrisies: the system could not have possibly prepared for this once-in-a-generation crisis, but in the same interview, there are clearly people who knew that this could happen and they will be held accountable. Heads will certainly fly, just not the ones that count.

The media has put forward its own theories of what happened and why, and most of these are incomplete and terribly misleading. Most of the stories point to the mismanagement by ERCOT (the Electric Reliability Council of Texas) of the necessary weather-proofing of the infrastructure. Others point to the right-wing ideologues in Texas who have always clamored for secession from the US, for whom the uniquely separated Texas electricity grid is a symbol of “Texit” independence. 

The problem with both of these perspectives is that there is a presumption that with the right leadership in Texas (read: Democratic Party) these problems could have been avoided. A few stories have made reference to climate change and the extreme weather patterns it puts forward, but these are made in knee-jerk fashion because no real solution to the climate crisis has emerged from either party. That would require far greater changes than the ones that can be made at the ballot box.

Real solutions to the climate crisis would require far greater changes than the ones that can be made at the ballot box.

What all of the stories fail to take into consideration is that the design of the grid, its maintenance, and its operation are all deeply entwined with the needs of Texas capitalism. Energy has always been an important commodity in Texas, even after the attempt to diversify the economy away from oil and gas that began in the 1980s. Massive tax cuts for corporations (Texas’s corporate income tax rate is a whopping 0 percent) and large giveaways of state resources, land, and money (affectionately referred to in part as the governor’s “rainy day fund”) made the diversification possible. Corporations (like Apple, Google, Facebook, Samsung, and Tesla) have set up in Texas in part due to its extensive supply of cheap energy and its bargain basement tax rates. Don’t be misled: the industrial sector, not households, accounts for more than half of the energy consumed in the state. When the power has to be rationed, it is households that are asked to tighten. 

The grid in Texas is also set up as a deregulated market, which means that there are daily and even hourly auctions for energy based on demand. ERCOT manages this competitive wholesale energy market by buying at rates that allow it to fill demand, but only just. This has three interrelated consequences. First, ERCOT was designed in response to the rolling blackouts that plagued the rest of the country in the 1960s and 1970s. The regulation-free environment of Texas allowed it to foster certain kinds of investment and production that the rest of the country could not. It is this flexibility that allowed Texas to diversify away from coal and petroleum toward natural gas and renewable energy, especially wind (though the latter came counterintuitively with massive Republican tax-cuts). This solved one problem but left the grid vulnerable to extreme weather events that simultaneously increased energy demands and reduced supplies (the situation that Texas faces today). 

Second, the nature of the wholesale price markets means that there is no coordinated way to maintain and predict energy reserves. Companies that can hoard energy while supplies are plentiful do so only to release supplies when demand forces prices to sky-high rates (like now). This accounts for the woefully short supply of reserves that Texas has regularly. That is why the price of energy jumped on the grid from $30 megawatts/hour to an unbelievable $9000 megawatts/hour. 

Finally, it has been this deregulated energy market that Texas has used to drive investment into the state. Not only does it allow corporations to produce their own energy (which is what General Motors, IKEA, and Proctor & Gamble do), but it also allows them to sell energy to the grid. This has been an arrangement that has made billions for the energy sector and for others investing in it, but it has left the needs of households completely at the whim of the market.

None of these systemic problems change with a new governor or a new board of directors for ERCOT. Corporations and energy companies will fight tooth and nail to keep their cozy relationship to the state intact, while the embeddedness of energy into the state economy means that few in leadership have the will or desire to alter this arrangement significantly. 

None of these systemic problems change with a new governor or a new board of directors for ERCOT.

The bigger crisis, though, is in what it is doing to ordinary people, and the focus on the failures of the energy grid has allowed state and municipal leaders to wring their hands in feigned powerlessness. If this crisis has revealed anything it is how badly state and municipal leaders (even the ones who dealt with the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey) are at dealing with human needs. Decades of bloated police budgets have left cities without social services to deal with problems. Instead, government spends its resources directing people to the already stretched nonprofit sector or telling people to ration what little that they have. It took massive pressure to get the city of Austin to turn the power off for unused downtown office buildings and for the empty capitol building. The easier response would have been to open the doors to everything with power and let people have access. 

Local networks are accomplishing brilliant and heroic things person-to-person. But imagine what would it look like if the city and the state were actually designed to organize the efforts that people are undertaking individually: if food and water deliveries were coordinated; if the office and government buildings were opened up for people to stay in; if we actually coordinated relief neighborhood by neighborhood so people didn’t have to drive on icy roads; if people didn’t have to plead on social media (if they still had power) begging for help. It is of course the most marginalized people—people without communities, dependent on the state, or completely without shelter, many of them from racial and sexual minority groups and people with disabilities—who are hurting the most. The aid being provided right now is so makeshift and provisional that there is no chance that it can reach all the people who need it most.

But the most acute absence is one that will hopefully be felt by everyone in Texas who is fed up with the people who run this state and its state of affairs. There is a desperate need for different kinds of thinking and leadership. Currently, at best, we can hope for a firing of ERCOT leadership and maybe a shift to Democratic state leadership next year. Maybe. But the revamping of the grid, the reorganization of the economy, the dependence on fossil fuels for energy and wealth, the irrational transportation and housing system, the wholesale giveaway of state resources to corporations and the rich—these are things that require a more radical understanding of the depths of capitalism’s reach into our lives. All of these would be made easier if the people involved in these processes and industries were working together rather than competing for profits. 

Unless there is a functional way to turn this experience into action, we are only waiting for the next crisis.

If and when the weather changes, the power returns, the water runs, we will breathe a collective sigh of relief (just like we did when the vaccines were announced, Trump lost, and 2020 ended). But unless there is a functional way to turn the experience into action that resonates with large numbers of people, we are only waiting for the next crisis. 

The fact that there is no far left in this country means that we are left spinning our wheels, recycling the same anodyne understandings of our problems or, worse, descending into obscure conspiratorial logic. There will be a settling of accounts with the GOP and ERCOT in Texas, as there should, but the next crisis will likely be worse without a serious left-wing alternative.

This was originally published in Rampant Magazine on Feb 19, 2021

Disruptions, or, Something to (Urgently!) Learn

Alexander Billet

Black Lives Matter Protests New York June 14, 2019

On Wednesday January 6 a gaggle of armed fascists and white supremacists managed to break through four fences and a line of armed police to swarm into the Capitol Building. There was little likelihood of them achieving their goal, of changing the results of the election and preventing Joe Biden being confirmed as the next president. And if this episode does lead to key parts of the American political establishment throwing Donald Trump under the bus, then that will be a positive. But neither of these are the main takeaway.

These events highlight the urgency and challenges of what the left has been saying for months but needs to be said even louder: that the state won’t be protecting anyone from Trumpism just because that state now has Democrats at its helm. If future-President Biden is right, that “the words of a president matter,” then Trump’s two-faced, half-assed response shows what weak sauce most Democrats’ words are. Virtually none of those who cheered with enthusiasm as MAGA chuds and Nazis stormed the Capitol were going to be swayed by what Biden or his allies have to say. Chaos reigned, and it will continue to reign, unless those creating the chaos are met with an opposite force both willing and able to demobilize them.

Those pointing out the hypocrisy of the police’s actions are absolutely correct. The cops literally opened the fucking gates for these people. If the crowd was BLM or DSA or antifa, there’s no question the cops would have opened fire rather than let us get through even the first fence, let alone smash our way into the Capitol Building. It points to just how much of more of a challenge it is for our side to actually build power in a colonial settler society like the United States. And why that task cannot be done by primarily focusing on the ballot box.

A piece published by Mike Davis at Sidecar is worth reading because it points to just how much we’ve flubbed it by having our horizons shaped primarily by the elections over the course of the pandemic. He is a bit glib about how easy it might have been given the fear and confusion during the pandemic’s early days, but his overall point – that the right was able to step into a void that should have been filled by us – stands. For as much as our horizons might have been opened up by a Sanders victory, the near single-minded focus on electoralism ended up narrowing them in the long-run.

To be clear, it is a good thing that the Squad exists, that someone like Bernie Sanders is in the Senate. I enthusiastically supported Sanders and, if I lived in a district represented by an AOC, an Ilhan, a Cori Bush, would likely find myself campaigning for them. But if there is any weakness on the left that has emerged over the past five years, it is how much elections shape our vision of the movement when in fact it should be the other way around.

This is not to wag fingers. Given how thoroughly the US smashed the left (and the left abroad in many cases), given the deleterious impact this has had on our imagination and conceptions of power, we were always going to have this hurdle to overcome. But the events of the past year have illustrated just how urgent it is we overcome it, and fast.

There is a pressing need for “infrastructures of dissent” in the United States. This term is taken from Marxist sociologist Alan Sears, who elaborates on it in his book The Next New Left. It is written in a Canadian context – many of the details will not be relevant to the US – but the full scope of what he describes should be eye-opening for most American leftists. A truly powerful left almost certainly has representation in bourgeois elected bodies. But what matters far more is that it has representation in almost every other facet of everyday life for working and oppressed people: workplaces, neighborhoods, campuses, community groups, unions both establishment and unorthodox, the list goes on. The key here is that it is through these relationships, these connections, these institutions formal and informal, the trust that is built through them, that we gain the capability to disrupt, and in turn, through this, wield power.

We saw a glimpse of this with the BLM uprising this past summer. Hundreds of thousands of people flooded the streets, said no to an order in which poor and oppressed people were deemed disposable, blocked traffic, showed the world that police and other agents of the state are not invincible. In a flurry of cases, we gained support from labor, as in when bus drivers refused to transport arrested protesters. And in a tiny handful of incidents, for vanishingly short periods of time, we saw sections of cities decisively under our control, the door opened wide for us to reimagine a life without repression.

Think back to that moment. Remember how it felt? Remember not waiting for an election result to know that you could walk the street and have others recognize you as a full human being? Remember looking people in the eye as crowds gathered knowing that, if you fell, they would pick you up, and acknowledging to yourself that you would do the same? Remember reading the news and realizing that others were following through on that same impulse for solidarity? That realization that if enough people were able to regard each other in this way, we no longer needed to ask permission of anyone?

Now remember the disorientation that set in when the protests slowly shrank. When tens of thousands became a few hundred. Can we conceive of the links it would have taken to spread these uprisings into, say, Amazon warehouses, whose workforces are disproportionately Black and brown, and are infamously over-exposed to Covid? Or nurses and teachers, among which there is a similar representation and even more dire set of pandemic risks? How would this have changed the dynamics of the following months? Or the confidence or effectiveness of armed right-wingers showing up to do battle on the streets? Could it, perhaps, have allowed the current debates around defunding police, rent cancellation, or Medicare for All to happen on a stage far larger than Twitter?

The right has figured this out. At least better than we have. They are still, as Richard Seymour argues, inchoate and in an experimental phase, and as of now without the full backing of the state or capitalist class, but they are further into that experiment than we are in ours. Wednesday’s events are only the most recent showing of just how much further. Their goals are, obviously, diametrically opposed to ours, to liberation. The coherence we find through common interest, trust and solidarity they find through what might be described as a militarization of mind and relationship. It’s a potent structure when you are looking to protect your suburban own rather than your actual fundamental rights, to preserve property rather than destroy it.

Through this, they have been able to construct a stronger infrastructure through which they are able to wield different sorts of power. It’s how their narratives – including some of the most batshit virulent conspiracy theories – are able to proliferate. On the inside of Congress today, there were a hundred members of Congress that were ready to aggressively question the results of the election. The proto-fascists outside were encouraged by it. Meanwhile Ted Cruz and others inside knew they had a measure of popular support. The infrastructure, the channels through which a broad common goal can manifest in both the halls of official politics and in the language of insurgent power, serves its function. And moving forward, even after the election is confirmed, both manifestations will be able to rally around the story that they have been bilked. One of fascism’s strategies of insurgency, the centrality of the myth of a great national spirit undermined, stays intact, growing in and among supporters’ minds in inverse relation to the ability of conventional politics to keep a lid on things. Weimar beckons.

We do not have this kind of capacity right now. There is no point in being equivocal about it. This, to be blunt, is what those agitating to “Force the Vote” didn’t grasp. That the ability of our new, still-small, still-isolated social-democratic contingent in Congress had no room of maneuverability to speak of in the terms of American establishment politics. Despite overwhelming support in polls for programs like Medicare for All, the presence of those willing to go out and make that support a concrete fact was non-existent. There is no power for them to appeal to other than that vague descriptor of “public opinion,” which has always been easily dismissed in American democracy. Those who defended the Squad and company, in DSA and beyond, were correct, but their arguments about mobilizing support often drifted into vague territory. Too often, their vision of a mobilized support hinted at simply getting more DSA-endorsed representatives elected. A worthwhile goal, but narrow on its own terms.

Acknowledging this doesn’t mean we throw the work and victories of the past few years (small as those victories are) out the window. It means we seriously interrogate the limits of an electoral strategy that brackets every other strategy. It means we get a little more clear-headed about the nature of the state under capitalism. Maybe we also get a little more autonomist on one end and a little bit more Eurocommunist on the other. Provided we can keep square such a boggling contradiction in our own heads.

We have to ask what will allow bottom-up institutions rooted in communities and workplaces to flourish in the face of both direct repression and soft co-optation. It does not mean we drop calls for Medicare for All, Green New Deal, universal housing or other ambitious projects of collective wellbeing, but that we face up to the fierceness with which the American state will stand in the way of such reforms. Perhaps we need to read a bit more Andre Gorz, wrap our heads a little more tightly around the idea of “non-reformist reforms,” those that test the limits of the state and widen the horizons of working and oppressed people. Doing so may give us a better sense of the dialectic between how power is “officially” exacted and how it is wielded on our own terms.

Italy, that country that whose struggles in the 1960s and 70s helped reinvigorate the vision of a world where working people might control (and abolish!) work, has two words for power. One is “potere,” power as potential, something whose forces have enough weight to make it happen should all the moving parts fall into place. The other, “riuscire,” is power when the parts are in place, when the potential is realized. Power as a hard, immovable fact.

You can see where I’m going with this. And indeed, I’m not the first left-wing writer – in Italian or English – to use this lovely linguistic peccadillo to illustrate an impasse such as this. It takes more than sheer numbers to exact power. It also takes more than the willingness to fuck shit up. It takes the willingness of large numbers to disrupt, and in a coordinated way. What’s more, it requires a way forward, a fully-fleshed out, democratically grasped vision not just of a world in our own hands, but of what needs to happen to get there. It takes revolutionary strategy that is as flexible and adaptable as it is vibrant and widespread. In other words, to paraphrase and build on Frederick Douglass, power concedes nothing without a demand, but a demand without disruption is utterly powerless.

How we are able to achieve this will to a great degree be down to trial and error. It is a painful irony that right when we feel our least patient and most urgent, we must come to grips with the full scope of what “no shortcuts” means. But here we are. We either face the challenge or drown in our own bromides.

Firestorms and Our Future

Solidarity Ecosocialist Working Group

FIRESTORMS IN THE western states, hurricanes pounding the Gulf and East Coast, rising water along the ocean shore and Great Lakes along with the pandemic blanketing the United States all starkly reaffirm that humans are part of nature — and can only attempt to subdue it at our own peril.

Hopefully, more and more people recognize that the scientific predictions of the last 50 years are coming to pass — even sooner than projected — as climate change unleashes its intensified heat and wind upon the land.

Climate deniers and rightwing conspiracy-mongers, still at work with their systematic falsehoods, now accuse social activists of setting the fires. Shockingly, some Oregonian residents built blockades to confront the “antifa” demonstrators they believed were setting fires. But there were none.

Evaluating the destruction of the west coast fires, we see it made up of a combination of several climate factors.

Spring and fall rains now come in the winter, so the rise in the Pacific Ocean’s temperature feeds the winds as they pick up speed over dry land. Heat rises to 115 degrees — reaching 130 degrees in Death Valley — and the electrical grids grind to a halt.

Fire season no longer starts in the fall but begins in late summer as hot and dry conditions allow wildfires to spread faster and further. Compounding the longer and increasingly hotter fire season is its size and intensity.

Retreating to Mountain Homes

Whitman County Sheriff Brett Meyers told at New York Times reporter that the fire burned as if it were jet fuel. “Unless you had a fire truck for every house that was on fire, you just couldn’t touch it. It was that swift.”

Who are the people living in small mountain areas? It is a combination of rich and poor, with two-thirds of this housing built in fire-risk areas over the last two decades.

Particularly given. the prohibitive cost of housing in California, Oregon and Washington, low-income families, seniors and the disabled have moved into these areas, or never left. Some would prefer to live in places that have more services but can’t afford it. They live on narrow and winding roads that are the only way in and out of town. They are the most likely to be trapped and die because they have less opportunity to be notified of the need to evacuate, have difficulty moving quickly, or are without reliable transportation.

Given today’s economic inequality, the fire disaster — just like the coronavirus pandemic — hits the most vulnerable In many areas, the homeless were left to shift for themselves.

Spreading Fires, Narrowing Possibilities

Of course the extent of the 2020 fires goes well beyond these isolated areas, threatening the more suburban towns of several major cities. Cities such as Los Angeles, San Francisco, Oakland, Portland, and Vancouver in Canada suffered some of the worst air anywhere in the world, with the Air Quality Index reaching 500-700. The smoke traveled to the U.S. Midwest and East Coast, then all the way to Europe.

Mike Davis, the urban theorist and Marxist historian, compared these fires to the equivalent of “endless nuclear war.” He noted that the growing number and intensity of the fires have prepared the ground for the invasion of non-native grasses, shrubs and trees. As these invasive species spread, the ground becomes even more flammable.

All along the west coast the infrastructure of colonialization and industrialization has transformed the natural ecology with its mining, lumber, reservoirs, dams, industrial agriculture and the building of roads.

Firestorms, drying deserts and forests along with rising and warming oceans have narrowed our possibilities. There’s a clear and present global emergency.

Not only the western USA, but Siberia and the Amazon rain forest are burning. The melting of the Greenland ice sheet, we’re informed by climate scientists, is now irreversible.

Meanwhile the racial segregation of our cities means Black, Brown, Indigenous and low-income communities live near toxic fossil fuel sites and incinerators; consequently these communities disproportionately suffer from high rates of asthma, cancer and the daily stress of racial discrimination.

Extracting fossil fuels locks in planet-warming pollution and compounds the problem, placing these communities at a higher risk of dying from COVID-19.

Around the world clear-cutting forests, expanding industrial agriculture and road building create the conditions for transmitting viruses from animals to humans, as it has done for COVID-19. While know-nothing politicians like Trump call for reopening the economy, 210,000 have died in the United States and the death toll has passed one million worldwide. Scientists are only beginning to talk about the long-term effects for the millions who have survived the virus.

California Governor Gavin Newsom (D), who calls for making the state a leader in building a livable planet, was hailed for signing an executive order to stop sales of new gasoline-powered passenger cars and trucks by 2035. As if we didn’t know punting programs to the legislature is a delaying tactic, he announced that he will ask the legislature to end new fracking permits by 2024.

Some state governments and even corporations talk about being “carbon-neutral by 2050.” But these are mere pledges. As we have seen from the results of the Paris Accords, they may not mean much.

Clearly we need to focus on moving away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible. But that’s just the beginning. Our transportation system has to prioritize mass transit not the individual car.  With sustainability as our primary concern, we need a moratorium on new construction in fire-prone areas, instead developing green and affordable housing models.

We note that Indigenous communities throughout the Americas have lived in these forests, jungles and mountains before colonialization. They have knowledge in land management and food production that can help us begin to repair the environmental damage.

We acknowledge that human civilization must live in concert with nature in order to survive. It is the fear of creating feedback loops, and not a calendar date, that must set our agenda. But with a certain confidence, we pledge to build an ecosocialist consciousness, for an ecosocialist world.

Originally published in Against the Current 209 November-December 2020

Trump Can Steal the Election and the Left Must Mobilize to Stop Him

Bill Resnick

A Critique of Kit Wainer’s Complacent View

Kit Wainer’s essay “A very ‘American` coup” dismisses as alarmist and very very improbable a Trump success in stealing the election. Wainer bases his confident prediction on several arguments: That when it appears to his Congressional and Party supporters that Trump is losing, they will turn away from him. That the military and key parts of capital will not support him. That his vigilantes, militias, and 2nd Amendment people, while dangerous, are disorganized and weak. Thus that if Trump attempts a coup, he will end up abandoned and alone.

Count the vote protest organized by Protect the Results in Boston, Nov 4, 2020

Though Wainer doesn’t dwell on them, his intelligently argued fantasy has implications as to action by the anti-capitalist left. Namely that since Trump stealing the election is no threat, tactical support for the lesser evil makes no sense. That our task is to support the Green Party in this election, and also prepare for the period ahead resisting the Biden capitalist brand and seeking to build the movements and political party that are necessary to replace capitalism.

To be sure our task is to build the movements and party, but for me Wainer’s analysis is an oblique attack on those who propose that we consider whether to support a lesser evil a question of tactics not immutable principle. In addition, his analysis of Trump is dead wrong, choosing evidence to support his view and ignoring a world of evidence that contradicts it, for example the lack of any mention of the police and federal courts. And his singular focus on voting Green is counterproductive, and not responsive to the challenges we face and the opportunities we have.

Contrary to Wainer, Trump could succeed. But he also could be stopped. Recent coups around the world have been stopped by determined popular mobilization. The anti-capitalist democratic left should have been involved in building that mobilization for at least the last six months.

Still, even for this election it’s not too late. Chances are that we face a considerable period of struggle and uncertainty as the ballots are counted, the battles ebb and flow in the streets and rage in the courts, the police attack the left, and the still President Trump repeats in a concentrated way what he has done over the last period: foment fear and violence, encourage police attack, encourage his armed base into the streets, and order the Federal forces including the military into action. Contrary to Wainer, the military will likely obey, though reluctantly, our best hope in a very measured way with weapons holstered.

In this scenario the anti-capitalist democratic left has obvious short term responsibilities – to build and participate in determined non-violent self-defense and street action. As to the long term we might start rethinking the way we operate in elections and the way we contribute to building movements and a contending left party.

Why Trump Could Succeed

It drives many sane and composed observers into anxiety ridden days and sleepless nights — Trump could win.

For one, Trump could win the election outright through Constitutional if not ethical maneuvers. Trump won in 2016 and he has solidified his base if perhaps alienating independents and some “moderate” Republicans. And not one poll finds a Trump outright victory completely impossible. All polls report the swing states quite close and the red states solidly red, such that Trump could win the election but surely not the popular vote if counting is fair. Though for historians and us it would be tarnished by voter suppression, many of its means now constitutionally permissible under doctrines of state rights to insure ballot integrity.

Secondly, he could outright steal the election, even if way behind on election night for he has substantial assets, few liabilities, and immense personal motivation.

Trumps Actual Assets: These include the police and the Federal Courts, especially the Supreme Court. While “A very ‘American` coup” has not a word on ether the police or the Court, they are now solidly reactionary and will keep him in power unless stopped by overwhelming popular resistance (the resistance to be discussed later).

The police over the last decades have militarized and have intensely politicized, their reactionary conservatism now grown to fever pitch with the BLM protests and the unexpected sudden rise of the abolition and close cousin defund/replace movements. In most cities they have for some time acted with impunity and are still out of control. They are now organized regionally and nationally at both executive and union levels. And they despise the left and its liberal enablers. Last but not least: For quite some time the alt right and militant Christian evangelical warriors have both infiltrated the police and like Trump cultivated them. In Portland the Proud Boys and Patriot Prayer are buddy-buddy with the officers who protect them when the march.

As to the Federal courts, the District and Circuit Courts of Appeals are split, sometimes handing down a pro-democracy opinion. As to the Supreme Court, it is now 6-3, and its militant conservative majority well experienced in the role of super legislator, making law as they see fit. They will have plenty of opportunities to do that. For Trump is probably the most litigious person on earth (in 2016 he was either plaintiff or defendant in 3,000 open cases in this country). He, the Republican Party, and his loyalists at the U.S. Justice Department have already filed hundreds of cases all over the country. Expedited they have quickly mostly won in the Supreme Court. The only progressive victories were very partial and appear issued for the purpose of protecting the court’s legitimacy.

Just as worrisome, there’s of course the case Bush v Gore 20 years ago, when the Court reversed the Florida Supreme Court orders that the votes be counted, thus handing the Presidency to Bush. The decision was legally absurd, relying on a very odd reading of an odd doctrine that had been rejected for 200 years. But decision was made and the court and country survived. The Court is likely to do it again. Though twenty years ago the Republican case seemed so ridiculous that no one expected the Court to rule in their favor. Now we know better and have time to organize.

Trump’s liabilities according the Wainer: Wainer contends that the military and capitalist elite will likely impede Trump and that his armed supporters are weak and disorganized. I find this assessment to be superficial, that it relies on trivial evidence and ignores the situation, the facts on the ground, likely to exist.

As to the military, Wainer concluded that it was likely to stay in their barracks, ignore Trump’s order to dominate the streets in the various places Trump found required them, basing this assessment on reports that the Officer Corps including camp commanders despised at least disliked Trump.

Yes, the military might split, they might stay in the barracks, if the orders were given on January 21st, 2020, if Trump had not been sworn in as President and Commander in Chief. But in conditions prevailing in the aftermath of the election, with Trump still President, with chaos and violence in the streets (probably greatly exaggerated in the media), with the majority of the people fearful and craving stability, the military will very likely obey the President’s orders.

The military Officer Corp is deeply committed to the military chain of command, especially the duty to obey the Commander in Chief. We can expect them to obeying orders from the elected President serving out his term. As Garrett Reppenhagen, the head of Veteran’s for Peace, told me in an interview: So, you know, it’s not an ethical, moral institution to begin with, so don’t think they’re going to … do the right things and follow their conscience when ordered to do something.  Be prepared for that. And, if it’s possible and it serves the purpose of the military, I think that they’ll occupy American streets if the opportunity arises.” 

Finally, Trump remains President till Jan 20, 2021, and he might try to reshape the high command in the two and one-half months remaining in his term, as he would certainly do try if he wins his second term. For near are whole history the U.S. military high command has been comfortable in a bourgeois top down system with the trappings of democracy. If Trump steals the election, we could be living under a fully committed Trump supporting military force.

As to the capitalist class, most may despise Trump. But in the situation at the moment — the cities in chaos, the pandemic advancing, economic activity plummeting — they may come to welcome a law and order response, to stabilize, to return to business as usual. In addition Biden might well declare a national lock down to stop the pandemic, killing the economy if temporarily. And Trump will likely fulfill his campaign promise to support s big stimulus/COVID relief package, as will Biden, but under Trump much more generous to corporate America and especially real estate interests.

As to the armed vigilantes, militias, and Trump’s Second Amendment people, yes they are poorly organized but they will very likely show up, conspicuously armed, in the swing states and maybe other states to intimidate voters and vote counters. And in every state, if Trump attempts to steal after the election and protests erupt, the they will do what they can to instill fear in prospective protestors, especially those older or in families. Importantly, Trump’s armed forces include provocateurs of various stripes bent on provoking violence, sufficient amounts to give an excuse for the police to descend on the protestors and then prevail on mayors and governors to call in Federal help.

Many will particularly the Republicans. Wainer’s rosy prediction that most formerly loyal Republicans will break from Trump if he seems to be losing is a wish unlikely to come true. For the same reason that many have stuck to him now, that Trump and his base will massacre her, him, or they in the next Republican primary.

Finally in assessing Trump’s possibility of maintaining office, one can’t ignore, as Wainer has, his personal motivation. For Trump is cornered and without options. If he becomes a private citizen, he will face multiple prosecutions, law suits, possible bankruptcy, even convictions, and humiliation. Though some have speculated that he will shepherd his family into an airplane and fly off to a country without an extradition treaty with the U.S., where he can live high off his secret bank accounts. Others argue that for Trump this would be worse than death, depriving him of the adulation and reassurance that he so needs and has come to expect, first on his TV show and then as President.

In considering all this, could Trump succeed in stealing the election? Sure, several clear paths to Trump’s victory are easily discernable. He could win it outright through voter suppression. He could win it in the Supreme Court. And he could win if he and his supporters and the provocateurs and the police generate sufficient violence and chaos and fear so that a majority of people come to crave stability and order and hunker in their homes as the police, army, and sanitation crews clean up the mess and restore order.

What Could Still Be Done

This piece was completed on election day. We will soon have a lot more information on how the various forces are maneuvering.

As to immediate action, unless Trump does what no one expects, concedes on election night we must join with the people, groups, and movements building local coalitions across the country to mobilize to stop Trump and protect the election. In Portland the Defend Democracy Coalition is circulating a national pledge:

  1. We will vote.
  2. We will refuse to accept election results until all the votes are counted.
  3. We will nonviolently take to the streets if a coup is attempted.
  4. If we need to, we will shut down “business as usual” to protect the integrity of the democratic process.

The Portland coalition seeks to reproduce the forces of the George Floyd/BLM protests that marched and resisted the police and Federal troops in Portland for close to three months. Though this time around with one important difference, that the Coalition is insisting on radical non-violence including non-violent self-defense to disable the various provocateurs. The Coalition’s opening action is scheduled for the afternoon and early evening of November 4th — a non-violent rally and march, as a start for what will likely be a protracted campaign to stop Trump’s coup and prepare our forces to struggle for what amounts to a radical Green New Deal.

In working in these local coalitions we can discuss further action challenging Trump autocracy if he prevails and also discuss how a united left can fight and force a Biden administration to take meaningful action on racism, climate change, public health, jobs, poverty, and labor, reproductive rights among others.

Over the longer term the anti-capitalist left, certainly Solidarity, need rethink its strategies for building the movements and political force/party necessary to achieve that better possible democratic and sustainable world. (Proposals for rethought strategy are discussed in my essay “Dump Trump, Fight and Force Biden: An Electoral Strategy for the Left” that can be found in the Solidarity webzine at solidarity—

Mobilizing Veterans in Labor to Beat Trump and the GOP

Steve Early and Suzanne Gordon

vets against trump

During his 2016 presidential campaign, Donald Trump dissed a Gold Star family that lost a son in Iraq. He called Senator John McCain, America’s most famous prisoner of war, a “loser” for being captured in Vietnam. When asked about widespread sexual assault in today’s military, he dismissed it as a problem. He had to be publicly shamed into making a promised donation to veterans’ charities.

His opponent, Hillary Clinton, was backed by more than 100 former high-ranking officers. Trump was endorsed by only a few. Nevertheless, on election day four years ago, most military veterans ending up voting for a wealthy recipient of five draft deferments. Among former military personnel, Trump beat Clinton by a 26-point margin, a bigger percentage of the “vet vote” than McCain’s own share when he ran against Barack Obama in 2008. 

A Pew Poll conducted last fall showed that Trump remained popular among veterans, even as his ratings began to sink among other constituencies.  U.S. military intervention in Iraq and Afghanistan– which Trump criticized as a candidate in 2016 and, again at West Point this year—is now viewed unfavorably by a majority of the vets surveyed.  In blue collar communities in Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin which suffered some of the highest post 9/11 combat-casualty rates, veterans and their neighbors helped Trump carry those decisive swing states four years ago. 

To repeat that regional sweep next month and give Trump a second term, the Republican Party has again targeted the nation’s 20 million veterans as a key voting bloc. Among the groups trying to prevent the GOP from out-organizing the Democratic Party among veterans and military families are the Communications Workers of America (CWA) and Common Defense, a national organization of progressive veterans.

Veterans for Social Change   

CWA and Common Defense unveiled their joint initiative in the fall of 2019, when CWA President Chris Shelton, an Air Force veteran and former telephone worker, launched a “Veterans for Social Change Program.” Its purpose is to “develop and organize a broad base of CWA activists who are veterans and/or currently serving in the military.” As the union notes, veterans, active duty service members, and military families “are constantly exploited by politicians and others who seek to loot our economy, attack our communities, and divide our nation with racism and bigotry so they can consolidate more power amongst themselves.”

CWA seeks to counter Trump-era threats by encouraging veterans in its own ranks to engage in grassroots campaigns with community allies

CWA seeks to counter these Trump-era threats by encouraging veterans in its own ranks to engage in grassroots campaigns with community allies and increase awareness of veterans’ issues within CWA, like the need for a strong fully funded veterans’ healthcare system.

Last October, CWA local leaders who served in the military joined veterans from around the country at a Common Defense sponsored Veterans Organizing Institute (VOI). Previous weekend sessions of the VOI had helped train a network of hundreds of younger veterans to organize more effectively in their own communities, counter the influence of big money in politics, and make politicians more accountable to poor and working-class people.

At the training conference attended by CWA members, union activists from swing states like Ohio, Arizona, North Carolina, and Texas shared organizing experiences and learned new skills useful in electoral campaigning and day-to-day advocacy for fellow workers and veterans.

“The VOI provides a great introduction to getting a grassroots movement started and getting veterans, labor, and the community all working together,” says John Blake, a Brick N.J. electrician  who attended the training. 

After Blake left active duty in 2004, he used the GI Bill to go to vocational school. His step-father is a union electrician so he also got strong family encouragement to join the apprenticeship program of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). Blake is now a member of IBEW Local 400, where he chairs  veterans’ committees in his own local and the AFL-CIO central labor council (CLC) in his area.

 On the organization chart of the AFL-CIO, its national affiliates, and local CLCs, the dual identity of union members who served in the military has long been acknowledged via the existence of such committees. But their level of activity may be low unless an activist like Blake takes the lead in “making our union brand more appealing to vets coming out of the service.” His Local 400 does this by participating in local events like “Operation Ruck It,” an annual fundraising walk to raise awareness about veteran suicide,

Vet Organizations, Old and New

According to the Economic Policy Institute, about 16% of all veterans—1.2 million men and women–are covered by a union contracts (compared to 10.3% of all workers). They are most heavily represented in the American Federation of Government Employees and American Postal Workers, where veterans have a strong collective identity and internal union presence. On an individual basis, union members who are veterans may also belong to local posts of the American Legion, Veterans of Foreign Wars, or AMVETS.

But these old-line groups tend to be conservative on military and foreign policy issues and not much engaged with issues affecting veterans as workers. Common Defense, in contrast, proclaims its commitment to “progressive values” and seeks partnerships with like-minded unions working for social and economic justice.

Last year, Will Attig, who leads the AFL-CIO’s Union Veterans Council, invited both Common Defense and VoteVets, an advocacy group more closely aligned with the Democratic Party, to discuss their work at a meeting of national union political directors. Attig is a combat veteran of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, who joined a southern Illinois local of the Plumbers and Pipefitters after he left the military.

He did legislative/political work for his own union and then the Illinois state fed before moving to AFL-CIO headquarters in Washington. After the presentations he helped arrange, both CWA and the IBEW contacted Common Defense about sending members to VOI training.

During Trump’s first term, Common Defense rallied its 20,000 supporters to call for his impeachment.

Common Defense grew out of anti-Trump organizing in 2016. Co-founders of the group first met during protests over Trump’s failure to donate money to veterans’ charities, as promised during a campaign event in Iowa. One of the protestors was ex-Marine Alex McCoy, then attending Columbia University on the GI Bill. He and a group of like-minded vets “felt really strongly about Trump was constantly using veterans as props while running a campaign that was so founded in hate and division.”

During Trump’s first term, Common Defense rallied its 20,000 supporters to call for his impeachment. The group endorsed Senators Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren for president, during the 2020 Democratic Presidential primaries, after both helped solicit other Congressional signers of a pledge to end “forever wars” in the Middle East. One particular target of Common Defense lobbying is military veterans now serving on Capitol Hill after mid-term election victories that gave Democrats control of the House in 2018.

Veterans Organizing Institute trainings, conducted by Common Defense staff members like McCoy, are designed to hone the political skills of veterans involved in unions, community organizations, and electoral campaigns.  Four months after his VOI training, Frank J. Cota, a Marine Corps veteran and vice-president of CWA Local 7026 in Tucson was in Washington, DC., as part of a group of CWA veterans urging Congress to pass the PRO Act, legislation that would strengthen private sector organizing and bargaining rights.

McCoy believes that Common Defense can play a key support role in workplace organizing, particularly at firms like Amazon and Wal-Mart which brand themselves as “veteran friendly” and hire tens of thousands of former military personnel, while pursuing “anti-worker policies,” which often violate federal labor law.

For Racial Justice

When nationwide protests developed last June, after the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, Common Defense leaders vigorously opposed military deployments in Washington, DC and other cities. Kyle Bibby, a former Marine Corps infantry officer and graduate of Annapolis, urged fellow veterans to stand against “Trump’s authoritarian plan to use the military as his personal storm troopers to suppress dissent.”

A co-founder of the Black Veterans Project, Bibby condemned the “use of force by uniformed police and a culture of violence that seeks to dominate communities rather than serve and heal them.” Recalling his own past interactions with law enforcement, in and out of uniform, Bibby declared that “the police don’t care that I’ve gone to war to protect this country — I could be the next George Floyd solely due to the color of my skin.”

Common Defense activists, including Bibby, launched a new campaign, called “No War On Our Streets,” against police department use of $7 billion worth of hardware obtained from the Pentagon. “It was our equipment first,” says Bibby, who served in Afghanistan. “We understand it better than the police do … It’s important that we have veterans ready to stand up and say: ‘These weapons need to go.’”        

The educational efforts of veterans’ advocates allied with labor, like Common Defense and VoteVets, appear to be paying off. Not only is Trump faring poorly in presidential preference polls conducted among all likely voters. His stock is dropping among military personnel who helped him gain office in 2016.  Forty-one percent of the active duty personnel surveyed by Military Times said they were voting for Biden, while 37 percent still favored Trump.  In 2017, 46 percent of the troops polled by the same publicationhad a favorable opinion of the president. 

Three years later, half of the respondents (49.9 percent) now held an unfavorable view of him, compared to just 38 percent who still liked him.  Among officers, the disapproval rate was even higher—59%–with more than half expressing strong disapproval. Nearly ¾ of those surveyed—officers and enlisted personnel—opposed Trump’s threatened use of the military to help police American cities during their civil unrest.

Progressives wooing the “vet vote” saw a similar shift in political sentiment in other states As Nov. 3 neared, the Biden campaign was clearly making inroads among post 9/11 veterans who are younger, female, and non-white, while ex-soldiers who are older, white males living in longtime Republican strongholds remained a harder bloc to crack.

Angel Wells, an African-American Army veteran who works for AT&T in Arizona and belongs to CWA Local 7050, was among those union members protesting White House efforts to suppress voter turn-out by discrediting mail ballots and undermining Postal Service capacity to deliver them.

As she pointed out, in an election year when 800,000 service members and their families stationed abroad were scheduled to vote that way, “mail in ballots for veterans is not that foreign a concept.”

With a pandemic still raging, the economy cratering, and millions of workers, including veterans, finding their jobs, unions, or health care at risk, there were many reasons for voters who served in the military to choose a new commander in chief.

This was originally publish in LA Progressive

Justice Is Indivisible

Dianne Feeley

Professor Rabab Abdulhadi gave this presentation on the situation in Palestine and the growth of the global solidarity movement to a webinar on Tuesday, August 25, 2020 sponsored by the Detroit branch of Solidarity, Jewish Voice for Peace – Detroit, U.S. Palestinian Community Network (USPCN) – Detroit and Palestinian Youth Movement – Detroit. Dr. Abdulhadi emphasized the importance at this critical time of movements coming together to oppose racism and colonialism everywhere, from the USA to Palestine. She particularly noted the solidarity and mutual support shown by #Black Lives Matter and Palestinian struggling under Israeli occupation, and the growing support for Palestine in the progressive sectors of the Jewish community, among organizations like Jewish Voice for Peace as well as Queer Jewish activists.

The brutal treatment of Palestinian prisoners in Israeli jails, made even worse by the Covid-19 pandemic, is a point of special concern as are conditions in U.S. prisons and the horrific situations in immigrant detention centers.

The presentation was preceded by brief welcoming remarks from the sponsoring groups, and followed by a question and discussion period. Dr. Rabab Abdulhadi directs the center at San Francisco State University that she organized, AMED (Arab and Muslim Ethnicities and Diaspora Studies).

On the Attack on Robert Cuffy at the Mass March to Defund the NYPD

Solidarity National Committee

Statement of Solidarity, 
Call for Information Accountability and Action 

Foley Square, New York, NY, 8:55 pm –

While leading Monday June 29th’s  Mass March to Defund the NYPD & Abolish the Police from Washington Square to Foley Square Robert Cuffy was filming the march, when he was blindsided and tackled by an unidentified man who then slammed Robert into another car, dislocating his shoulder. Prior to this moment Robert was straining his voice by calling out to marchers “We’re going to City Hall!” but he was not able to continue due to the severity of his injuries.

Police nearby observed the assault, and joked with the attacker before walking him to the Foley Square subway station, where they released the attacker without charges. NYPD  didn’t even document the attacker’s identifying information. 

Robert is a well-known revolutionary socialist in NYC, and an effective organizer for Black Liberation. He is a member of the DSA Afrosocialist Caucus, a leader of the NYC Fight for Our Lives Coalition (which is part of People’s Strike, a National coalition organized by Cooperation Jackson), and a founder of the Socialist Workers Alliance of Guyana. He is also a leader of the DSA Labor Branch. This made him a target. 

Robert was put into an ambulance, and was told that he would be taken to New York Presbyterian. Instead, he was driven a few blocks away where Robert waited over an hour inside the ambulance, which did not budge from its location at Spruce and Nassau Streets. Fearing for his own safety, Robert texted marchers to gather at the intersection for support and to enforce transparency. Robert was provided no pain control for his injury. This punitive and callous treatment of Black patients, especially of movement fighters, is all too common. 

Robert had every reason to be afraid that medical neglect or overt violence at the hands of police could be life-threatening; from Ferguson to Baltimore to here in New York, incidents like this have ended with the deaths of far too many Black Liberation activists and of other working class people of color. Even when treatment is provided, individual EMTs who are aligned with police will often take activists and other Black patients past the closest hospitals, going out of their way to drop them off at the most overcrowded, underfunded, and dangerous facilities, as a particularly isolating and potentially lethal form of racist abuse and punishment. Robert was lucky to have a caring EMT named Nancy who kept him safe and even got Robert a blanket upon his request after arriving at the hospital 

On the short ride to the hospital, his fear, horrifyingly, began to come true; he had been left without a seatbelt and was nearly subjected to a “rough ride” of the kind that notoriously ended the life of Freddie Gray in the back of an ambulance in 2015. Without the use of his arm, Robert (just as Gray, handcuffed) wouldn’t be able to physically protect himself from being slammed into hard, sharp metal surfaces inside the vehicle. 

By responding quickly and collectively, activists can protect ourselves and each other from this treatment by disrupting that isolation. When dozens of  supporters mobilized and gathered outside the ambulance, the police were forced to take a statement from Robert, rather than ignore the attack, or worse—spuriously charge Robert, potentially making good on the continued threats spewed by his attacker immediately after the assault. That collective support gave force to Robert’s demand that his seatbelt be buckled.

Too often, and for too long, Black victims of violence have been routinely subjected to exactly this sort of revictimization by cops and vigilantes, even in death. It is impossible to forget that Trayvon Martin was branded a “thug” by his killer, or that Mike Brown, described there as “no angel,” was blamed for his own murder in the press.

The ambulance eventually transported him around the block to the hospital where his partner, mother, and other comrades were waiting for him. NYC Fight For Our Lives Coalition, Peoples Strike, and the DSA are SEEKING FOOTAGE AND DOCUMENTATION of the attack, the attacker, the license plate of his car, cars parked in that location, the ambulance, and its driver/EMT, as well as badge numbers and identification of the police involved. Any information, including witness statements, may be useful

The attack on Robert Cuffy was not an isolated incident. Police and far-right vigilantes are threatening coordinated attacks on protestors, particularly as the calendar nears July 4. As the #GeorgeFloyd Uprising continues to flourish, and as protests and rallies nationwide call to defund, dismantle, and disarm police, law enforcement and their backers have been stoking the fascist fire, encouraging lone-wolf attacks to terrorize supporters of the fight against police brutality. 

This is a reminder that the movement will need to increase security measures and step up our game. We have to collectively prevent further attacks and protect ourselves as the movement grows, continues to win reforms, and pick up steam. Go out into the streets with your friends and comrades, use the buddy system, and coordinate security to protect the movement’s leaders as we continue this rebellion. Remember that we are all leaders in the fight to get free.

We call on the NYPD to identify and to immediately fire and hold accountable the officers who not only ignored this attack, but aided the attacker. 

If you have any relevant information, or to connect with and support the work that Robert has dedicated himself to, contact NYC Fight For Our Lives Coalition at: 

Phone: (347) 433-8652


Twitter: @fight_nyc

Instagram: @fightforourlivesnyc



Join Us, July 4th: 
Fire and Thunder: Movement for Liberation Broadway Junction, Brooklyn, July 4th @ 4pm

Event Intention:
Inspired by Frederick Douglass’ famous speech “What to the Slave Is the Fourth of July?”, the NYC Fight for Our Lives Coalition is calling a march for freedom on the 4th of July. It will begin with a meditation and community grounding in recognition of the history of the U.S. as a nation founded on the systematic murder abuse and exploitation of Black people.  

Reimagining Schools Post-Covid

Ann Finkel

I am a 7th grade teacher in Boston Public Schools, a member of the fledgling BTU Caucus of Rank and File Educators (CORE), a member of the PUEBLO neighborhood coalition of East Boston, a DSA member, and a member of Solidarity. 

The Covid crisis has upended the lives of students and their families across the country and world, and has forced teachers to reinvent curricula and teaching methods within days. On top of that, schools are going to enormous efforts to provide food, rental support, cleaning supplies, health supports, and critical information in a family’s native language to not only students but families as well. To the outside observer it may appear as if schools are taking on entirely new roles, but in fact these are roles that schools have always been expected to fill. But now, the need is higher, the resources are fewer, and the methods of support are more challenging than ever. And as in all crises, the inequities between low-income and high-income cities are being laid bare and exacerbated, and the inequitable impact on students’ access to education is tremendous.. Although the education system is more broken than ever, and morale is especially low (anecdotally, we rarely have any kind of staff meeting without at least several people winding up in tears), this situation presents a somewhat unprecedented chance to rethink what schools could, and should, look like in the long run. It is important that teachers, students, families, and unions  determine what the new normal in education will be, before corporate reformers do it for us.

The Crisis After Trump—Podcast Edition Solidarity Radio

School’s Role in Mutual Aid Efforts

To my knowledge, none of my 105 students have parents who are “working from home.” They are either laid off and running out of money, or working, highly exposed, and in many cases, getting sick. Further, due to immigration status, many were ineligible for a $1,200 stimulus check. 

As a touchstone for many families, particularly among the largely Spanish-speaking population of East Boston, my school is situated to provide an important information-sharing and coordinating role in the East Boston Mutual Aid network (EBMA). EBMA is coordinated by various community groups and neighborhood leaders. There are two sides to the network: the food and resources side, and a substantial educational component. In order to provide for our school’s families, the Family Support Team has been working with EBMA, as well as tapping into our own staff’s resources. For the last several months, we’ve coordinated the efforts of 50 staff who have volunteered to buy and deliver groceries to the 100 families that we know of (there may be many more) who are facing food insecurity. We have also partnered with EBMA and particularly an urban farm in East Boston who, for about six weeks, provided us with 50 hot meals each week, which teachers spend hours delivering. (It should be noted that BPS does have meal sites set up for students to pick up food daily. However, these BPS meals are pre-packaged, small portions, not particularly nutritious or appetizing, and impossible for quarantined kids to pick up).

As staff have been providing grocery support to families, it has also been important to us to empower the neighborhood organizing as best we can. One way we are doing this is by connecting families to the educational and informational side of the mutual aid. There have been various teach-ins and webinars about tenant rights and other topics run by the neighborhood groups in East Boston and Greater Boston, including City Life/Vida Urbana. As teachers it is easy to contact families quickly to connect them to these resources – I can text 105 parents in 30 seconds – so that is a power we are trying to make good use of. While some (probably less than half) of these resources are sent in emails to BPS, this is grossly inadequate communication. The vast majority of our families are more comfortable communicating via phone calls and text messages in Spanish, which is how teachers communicate most effectively with parents throughout the year.

Reimagining Schools: A Return to Normalcy is Not the Goal

Where do we go from here? How do we harness this collective energy and organizing capacity to create more radical demands and actions? It is important to keep in mind that many people were living and learning in horribly stressful, inadequate, and unstable conditions before the COVID crisis hit. 

Right out of the COVID gate, our Boston Teachers Union created a Common Goods platform. This included calls to cancel MCAS – our high-stakes end of year test – and to put a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures. Both of these demands did pass at the state level, and soon thereafter our CORE group successfully pushed BTU to sign the Housing Guarantee petition that would cancel rent outright for those unable to pay. But these are just some first steps.

We (several like-minded teachers and I who are coordinating the Family Support Team) are also trying to use this moment to push thus far well-meaning but politically disengaged teachers to take the next step beyond just donating money. These teachers are willing and eager to help students that they know. The question is how to get them to see the larger systemic injustices facing BPS students (fight for someone they don’t know, if you will), and understand the underlying problems that are creating these financial crises for our families. How do we turn this often well intentioned charity into an organized resistance aimed at the root of the problem? As a small part of this effort, I plan next week to host a zoom-action-party where staff can come and work together as we sign the Housing Guarantee Petition, call our State Representatives to push for a bill that would give stimulus checks to people regardless of immigration status, etc. I believe this is also where CORE becomes especially important, as a body of teachers dedicated to pushing our union to the left. 

This is a chance for educators and parents and students to rethink schools and what our priorities are. Some concrete initial ideas are as follows:

  • Educators pushed to get MCAS canceled, and we were successful in that. Year after year, we have always been told that cancelling MCAS is impossible, and yet here we are. Permanently cancelling (or significantly restructuring/reducing) MCAS is no longer a pipe-dream. 
  • Parents are getting a chance to homeschool their kids, and largely determine the curriculum for themselves. We are seeing parents spending more time outside, gardening with their kids, talking about culturally relevant ethnic studies, allowing more play time for kids of all ages. When we return to school buildings, it will be important for educators to gather this data from parents, and ask parents and students what they want emphasized in our curricula. We should also go a step further by inviting family members in to school as guest speakers, particularly when it comes to teaching students the history of their own countries, cultures, and immigration stories.
  • Within two weeks of school closure, BPS ordered 20,000 chromebooks and many internet hotspots (let it be noted that we spent days driving around and delivering these chromebooks and hotspots, while teachers and students in wealthier and whiter districts spent that time starting their online learning routines). Chromebooks and internet access are incredibly important learning tools for students, especially high schoolers applying to jobs and colleges (not to mention their parents needing to apply to receive gift cards from the soup kitchen, apply to the Rental Relief Fund, etc.) If Boston was able to get computers and internet access to all students within a couple of weeks, it should have happened a long time ago. And at the end of the COVID crisis, these resources should not be taken away. 
  • When we return to school buildings, it is likely that there will be significantly reduced class sizes. This could revolutionize teaching strategies and community building within a classroom, and we may need to fight for class sizes to remain small (with increased numbers of school buildings and school staff, of course).
  • Although online platforms have been important in these last several months, it has become clear to any parent, student, and teacher in doubt that online school is a wholly inadequate replacement for the real thing. Many teachers are worried about corporate online schooling, and all kinds of ed-tech companies swooping in and chomping at the bit to turn a profit and take advantage of this crisis. It will require concerted organizing to keep the corporations at bay. 

Closing Thoughts

Teachers, counselors, administrators, and nurses are working around the clock to not only educate our students, but to make sure they are healthy, housed, and fed. While these efforts have reached incredible new heights as more and more students are in crisis, it is a job that school staff are well-versed in even in the best of times. With physical schools closed, the extent of services that teachers and other school staff normally provide has become increasingly clear to the public. As we re-open, schools need to be properly funded as the social service catch-alls that they are, school communities need to continue to be integrated with neighborhood organizing efforts, and teachers need to organize and fight for the re-imagined schools we know our students deserve.

Mutual Aid and Labor Organizing in New Orleans

Michael Esealuka transcription

I’m going to talk about mutual aid and labor organizing, out of my experience with unemployment workshops and tax clinics that New Orleans DSA has been doing as a part of our Fair Fund campaign.

DSA New Orleans launched the first Brake Light Clinic project which got taken up by other DSA chapters. We basically fix brake lights for free in an agitational way of raising awareness about police violence and state violence.

At first, we got a lot of criticism and a lot of blow-back that said our project was a form of charity and this led us to do some internal struggling and political development. We’ve come out of that with an understanding that mutual aid is a tactic and as a tactic, it can only really be evaluated within the framework of a larger campaign–how effective it is in advancing your campaign’s goals.

As socialists, you know, we’re fighting for more working-class power, we’re fighting to capture the state, and services can be a way of building trust with the communities of people that we’re trying to bring into our fight. But we can’t evaluate whether mutual aid is good or bad on its own. That’s like saying is canvassing good or bad; are petitions good or bad.

I’ll just talk a little bit about our campaign right now. In New Orleans, we were really, really hard-hit by the Covid crisis. For a while we had the highest per capita rate of cases in the country. Our neighboring parish, St. John the Baptist, has the highest per capita rates of death from COVID-19 in the country. And, of course, our economy is very heavily reliant on service and tourism. We estimate there are between 85,000 and 100,000 restaurant workers in the greater New Orleans metropolitan area, so they constitute a massive section of our workforce.

The Crisis After Trump—Podcast Edition Solidarity Radio

The New Orleans convention center oversees a reserve fund that is made from hotel and tourism taxes. They have an annual revenue of at least $30 million a year and right now they are sitting on $186 million of unrestricted funds, like a rainy day fund.

Community organizers in our city have been trying to get our hands on this money for a long time; that money is made from the work that restaurant workers do in our city. So, DSA did some research to figure out who is our target and we came up with a demand that we wanted $100 million of that relief fund to be allocated evenly, with no means testing and no restrictions, to every single restaurant worker in the city. That sounds like a lot of money, but it’s actually only $1,000 per worker.

We teamed up with UNITE HERE and other local unions, working class community groups and labor organizations to build a coalition around a campaign for $100 million in relief that now includes around 37 organizations. Our coalition included sex workers’ organizations and immigrants’ rights organizations.

In the first phase of the campaign we used unemployment trainings and tax clinics as a way of bringing people in. Tourism involves not only restaurant workers and hotel workers but also taxicab drivers, Uber drivers and gig workers like dancers, sex workers, psychics, musicians, all sorts of things. These are people who fall through the cracks. Separate from this campaign, we also set up a mutual aid Facebook group that our members bottom line. There are about 6,800 people in that mutual aid group. We also organized a petition drive and got about 1,800 signatures—most of them (about 1,200) unemployed hospitality workers, so we had a base of about 8,000 people for our campaign.

We began the campaign by hosting regular tax clinics for independent contractors to teach them how they could file a simple tax form so that they could qualify for the $1200 relief check. And then we also were setting up unemployment workshops. We partnered with a local, nonprofit organization called the Southeastern Louisiana Legal Services, so they were able to provide expertise and we provided access to workers. These workshops were organized by laid off restaurant workers teaching other hospitality workers how to file for benefits. And we pulled participants from those workshops into helping us set up future workshops. And all of these people became part of the mutual aid Facebook group.

And we used these trainings as an agitational tool. We said, you know, why is it that the people who need this money most are always the people who fall through the cracks? How is it that we are the people that keep this city running and we know that the city of New Orleans runs because of the work we do and yet we’re getting left in the gutter by the people who’ve gotten rich off of our work?

Our coalition did win $1 million from the reserve fund to be given to workers in the city, and we also won an additional $1.5 million in grant funding that our coalition is going to be distributing to members of our organizations however we see fit. So, we won $2.5 million; though we didn’t get all the way to the $100 million we demanded.

Our tax clinics were really effective in the first stage of the campaign. Now, most people have filed for unemployment and so we have shifted to partnering with the many mutual aid organizations that have sprung up in the city, organizations that just provide services without political education. For example, the Greater New Orleans Caring Collective started around March 15th and they’ve really quickly established this incredible infrastructure. They’ve been able to distribute fresh food and other services to a thousand working class families across the greater New Orleans area, and they have this desperate need for volunteers. So, rather than set up our own mutual aid system, we partner with them. They get access to our volunteers and we get access to working class families that we can work with around political education.

Just to reiterate, mutual aid is a tactic; it has to be understood within a framework of a broader campaign around demands. It is a way to bring working class people into your struggle and to build trust; but it’s not enough on its own.

Michael E. was a restaurant worker for eleven years and is now an environmental organizer. She is a member of the New Orleans DSA chapter and on the steering committee of the DSA labor commission.