Saturday, November 7, 2015

11-8-15 Activist Newsletter

November 8, 2015, Issue 221
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Editor's note: Illness mainly required that we suspend publication of the Activist Newsletter for the last four months, but now we expect to resume our regular publication schedule. The Hudson Valley Activist Calendar will be posted in a few days. Let us know what you think about the articles or a particular article.


1.   Photo of The Month: Homeless in L.A.
2.   Goodbye Middle Class
3.   Working Class Poverty
4.   IMF: Unions Reduce Inequality
5.   At Last Obama Rejects Keystone XL
6.   Climate Change News Notes
7.   The Bureau of Sex Slavery
8.   Problem for U.S. Power Projection
9.   For General and Complete Disarmament
10. NATO Ponders More Troops On Russian Border
11. The Processed Meat Warning
12. Check It Out
13. Hawkish Hillary
14. What Happened To Canada's Left?
15. U.S.-Cuba, New Bottle Old Wine
16. Bolivia Climate Meet Blames Capitalism
17. How Should Socialists Relate to Bernie Sanders?
18. Nobel Prize to Inequality Expert
19. New House Speaker, Same Old Policies

Homeless in Los Angeles

A homeless man sleeps on a bench in Los Angeles, perhaps unaware of the movie title decorating his temporary bed. The film is about a man who finds himself stranded and alone on a hostile planet, not entirely unlike the plight of the sleeping person on the bench.

Mayor Eric Garcetti has declared a public emergency in response to an increase in homelessness, and proposed spending $100 million a year to fight it. Alice Callaghan, a longtime advocate for the homeless on Skid Row, said the proposed funding would not be nearly enough to stop the loss of affordable housing, especially in rapidly gentrifying areas downtown and on the west side. 
Photograph: Kevork Djansezian/ Getty Images.



By Michael Snyder

According to a new report released Oct. 25 by the Social Security Administration, 51% of all workers in the United States make less than $30,000 a year. 

You can’t support a middle class family in America today on this amount. In order to have a thriving middle class, you have got to have an economy that produces lots of middle class jobs, and that simply is not happening in America today. Here are the new facts:

1.     38% of all American workers made less than $20,000 last year.

2.     51% of all American workers made less than $30,000 last year.

3.     62% of all American workers made less than $40,000 last year.

4.     71% of all American workers made less than $50,000 last year.

If you worked a full-time job at $10 an hour all year long with two weeks off, you would make approximately $20,000, as do nearly 40% of American workers. This should tell you something about the quality of the jobs that our economy is producing at this point, and the quantity of the profits in capitalist bank accounts

And don't forget the 7.9 million working age Americans that are officially unemployed right now, not counting the millions of part timers who really need full time jobs or millions more "discouraged" workers who have finally given up seeking nonexistent jobs.

— From The new report is at


Iconic and painfully ironic photograph of a breadline from the 1930s Great Depression.
By Simon Black

Last month Credit Suisse — the Swiss Bank and financial services company — released its annual Global Wealth Report, and it wasn't good news for the great majority of the world population.

The big headline grabber was that the bank's analysis showed that the top 1% of people now own 50% of the world’s wealth.

The report also found that 10% and 20% of the world’s poorest are in North America and Europe. This means that, there are now more poor people in the United States and Europe than there are in China, with its population of over 1.4 billion.

Credit Suisse also estimates that 25% of Americans have a negative net-worth (assets minus debts).  "If you’ve no debts and have $10 in your pocket you have more wealth than one-quarter of Americans have collectively."

As it stands today, the U.S. may technically be the richest country in the world but the vast majority of
the wealth is held in the hands of the tiniest percent; a quarter of the population has negative net worth; the government has $18 trillion in debt and another $42 trillion in unfunded liabilities; the central bank is borderline insolvent, wages are stagnant and inequality is rampant.

— From 10-20-15 Sovereign Man website, Simon Black is an international investor and entrepreneur.


Fast food workers demanded $15 an hour and union protection in New York  earlier this year.
By Campaign for America's Future, Nov. 2, 2015

A new study from the International Monetary Fund concludes that unions reduce inequality and foster a healthier economy for everyone.  The study shows that a reinvigorated labor movement is essential to both a just economy and a well-functioning democracy. It deserves widespread attention – and should inspire concerted action.

The study's conclusion by research economists Florence Jaumotte and Carolina Osorio Buitron is that "the decline in union density has been strongly associated with the rise of top income inequality” and that “unionization matters for income distribution."

The researchers examined the relationship between unionization and income inequality indicators in 20 advanced economies between 1980 and 2010. They found that the very wealthy capture a larger share of an economy’s overall income when fewer people belong to unions. This was true even after controlling for other forces that can affect inequality, including technology, globalization, and financial deregulation.

Their findings are consistent with America's experience. Hourly wages kept pace with productivity gains in the United States for roughly a quarter-century after World War II.  As the Economic Policy Institute observes, "If the hourly pay of typical American workers had kept pace with productivity growth since the 1970s, then there would have been no rise in income inequality during that period." Union membership began declining in the U.S the same time as wages began to lag behind productivity.

Inequality is not the only adverse outcome of a weakened union movement. The IMF authors also conclude that decline in union membership has led to unions having less influence on public policy. That has led to a lower real minimum wage, weaker unemployment benefits, and weaker employment protection laws.


By the Activist Newsletter

After seven years of first seeming to support construction of the 1,179-mile Keystone XL pipeline from Canada to Texas, then more years mulling it over for fear of making an unpopular political decision, President Obama finally rejected the entire proposal Nov. 6.

He did so as a result of mass popular opposition to the pipeline in the U.S. and because the leading Democratic candidates for the presidential nomination — Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders — both oppose the project. The political conditions affecting his legacy have shifted, and it would hardly do for him to remain noncommittal.

President Obama immediately took total domestic and even geopolitical credit for his much-delayed decision: "America is now a global leader when it comes to taking serious action to fight climate change," he said. "And frankly, approving this project would have undercut that global leadership."

Tar sands oil is known as a "dirty" fuel. Among many other negative aspects it spews three times the global warming pollution of conventional crude oil production. But when Obama first entered office there was a serious concern that the U.S. required additional external sources of petroleum.

In Oklahoma a couple of  years ago, President Obama seemed
 quite pleased about building  the Keystone Pipeline. Here he
is inspecting a pipeline faceility.
The U.S., of course, is hardly the global leader against climate change, as its unimpressive performance at annual UN climate conferences makes entirely clear. During his tenure, Obama doubled domestic oil production by greatly expanding the areas for drilling, including along the Atlantic Coast, the Arctic and on American public lands. In addition, fracking for shale oil and gas extraction helped the U.S. become the world's biggest oil producer, overtaking Saudi Arabia and Russia last year. Bloomberg reports "Annual investment in oil and gas in the country is at a record $200 billion." U.S. oil output will surge to 13.1 million barrels a day in 2019."

In his first term alone, according to the Wilderness Society: "The Obama administration has leased 2.5 times more land to oil and gas drilling than it has set aside for preservation and conservation. In 2011 alone, the Bureau of Land Management held three of its five largest lease sales for drilling on public lands.  The amount of public land protected by President Obama is far less than his predecessors."

The main credit by far for rejecting Tar Sands oil belongs to the various environment groups, large and small throughout the U.S., and the 400,000 people who marched against climate change in New York City last year. Without them, the White House could easily have made the opposite decision years ago.

Bill McKibben, a tireless advocate for the environment who helped organize protests against the pipeline, declared hours after the announcement: "We just made history together. Four years to the day after we surrounded the White House, President Obama has rejected the tar sands pipeline! This is huge. Make no mistake: this victory belongs to us, the movement. President Obama's courage today is a reflection of the courage shown by thousands of people who have sat in, marched, and organized, across North America against this pipeline."


By the Activist Newsletter

1. "Pledges by nations to cut carbon emissions will fall far short of those needed to prevent global temperatures rising by more than the crucial 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit) by the end of the century," reports The Observer (UK) Oct. 10. "This is the stark conclusion of climate experts who have analyzed submissions in the run-up to the Paris climate talks in weeks. A rise of 2C is considered the most the Earth could tolerate without risking catastrophic changes to food production, sea levels, fishing, wildlife, deserts and water reserves. Even if rises are pegged at 2C, scientists say this will still destroy most coral reefs and glaciers and melt significant parts of the Greenland ice cap, bringing major rises in sea levels. 'We have had a global temperature rise of almost 1C since the industrial revolution and have already seen widespread impacts that have had real consequences for people,' said climate expert Professor Chris Field of Stanford University. 'We should therefore be striving to limit warming to as far below 2C as possible. However, that will require a level of ambition that we have not yet seen.'

"In advance of the COP21 United Nations climate talks to be held in Paris Nov. 30-Dec. 11, every country was asked to submit proposals on cutting use of fossil fuels in order to reduce their emissions of greenhouses gases and so tackle global warming. The deadline for these pledges was Oct. 1. A total of 147 nations made submissions, and scientists have since been totting up how these would affect climate change. They have concluded they still fall well short of the amount needed to prevent a 2C warming by 2100." Later in October the Grantham Research Institute released its analysis of the COP21 submissions. They show that the world’s carbon emissions, currently around 50 billions tons a year, will still rise over the next 15 years, even if all the national pledges made to the UN are implemented. The institute’s figures suggest they will reach 55 to 60 billon by 2030. It should be noted that Nov. 4 was the 50th anniversary of the receipt by President Lyndon Johnson of a warning about climate change by his Science Advisory Committee.

Climate change campaigners have promised to blockade the UN climate summit in Paris with what they say will be nonviolent direct action on a scale Europe has not seen before. Grassroots groups from to Attac France are backing the “Climate Games” event for the landmark December conference.

2. On Oct. 30, issued a letter signed by 49 climate campaigners, civil rights organizations, indigenous people’s groups and others, calling on Attorney General Loretta Lynch to investigate allegations that the oil giant Exxon Mobil illegally covered up the truth about climate change. The letter cited "revelations that the company knew about climate change as early as the 1970s, but chose to mislead the public about the crisis in order to maximize their profits from fossil fuels....  Given the damage that has already occurred from climate change that will certainly occur going forward, these revelations should be viewed with the utmost apprehension. They are reminiscent — though potentially much greater in scale — [of] similar revelations about the tobacco industry." Earlier in the week, first Bernie Sanders and then Hillary Clinton, the leading Democratic presidential candidates, called for the U.S. government to announce an official investigation.

3. Many Republican politicians who deny or minimize climate change are fully aware of the danger of increasing greenhouse pollution in the atmosphere. According to New York Times economic columnist Eduardo Porter Oct. 13 there are two main reasons for their opposition to even small moves to contain climate change. First "trying to curb carbon emissions to slow the change could destroy the economy," i.e., capitalism will not risk the possible loss of some immediate profits to save humanity. Second, "small government" GOP politicians fear a serious carbon limitation program will lead to a "big government" take over of the economy and the energy sector. Others are in liege to oil, gas and coal campaign contributors, while some others think only God can cause climate change.

4. "Climate conditions in much of the Persian Gulf/Arabian Peninsula area will often push past the limits of human adaptability by the end of this century under current greenhouse gas pollution trends," according to an Oct. 27 report in Nature Climate Change.  The study, by researchers at Loyola Marymount University and MIT, projected temperature and humidity increases in far southwestern Asia between 2071 and 2100 based on current greenhouse gas emissions trends. It found that a key threshold of human habitability — essentially heat plus humidity — is expected to "exceed (the) threshold of human adaptability" several times across the region over those 30 years. A combined calculation of temperature and humidity — commonly referred to as mugginess but which the scientists refer to as "wet-bulb" temperature — exceed 35 degrees Celsius, a level equivalent to the National Weather Service’s heat index of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. It also found that temperatures reached on the hottest 5% of summer days in the region now will become more or less the norm for summers in that future. 

5. The same day that a key feature in President Barack Obama's climate-change initiative became law, 24 states and other concerned energy entities sued Oct. 23 to block the new regulations that are designed to eventually cut U.S. carbon emissions from hundreds of power plants, according to The regulations demand a 32% reduction in power plant emissions by 2030, with the baseline set at 2005 emission levels. Coal-burning power plants, which generate about a third of the nation's power, are the hardest hit under Obama's plan. West Virginia and Kentucky, two of the states that rely heavily on coal for power and jobs, are spearheading the attack on Obama's plan. The suit asks a federal appeals court to immediately block the Environmental Protection Agency regulations that are known as the Clean Power Plan. The purpose of the plan, announced in August, is to require the utility industry to shift to cleaner-burning energy sources to power their energy producing plants. The utility industry is currently the biggest source of carbon emissions in the U.S. contributing to climate change.

6. Roman Catholic leaders from around the world made an unprecedented joint appeal Oct. 26 to a forthcoming United Nations conference on climate change to produce “a truly transformational” agreement to stem global warming. The Catholic cardinals, patriarchs and bishops signed the appeal in the Vatican, saying climate change had to address social justice and that any agreement must be fair and ensure the poor and most vulnerable were not sold short. Their 10-point document was based on Pope Francis’ landmark encyclical last June, called "Laudato Si," which demanded urgent action to save the planet from environmental ruin. It again put the 1.2 billion-member Catholic Church in the front line of the debate over the causes of climate change, an active role that some Catholic conservatives, including U.S. Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, have criticized.

7. Bad and good news from China.
The bad: China revealed this week that it had underestimated the amount of coal it burned by 17% in the  last decade. Coal is the worst of the pollutants.  This may amount to an additional 1 billion more tons of CO2 in the atmosphere.

The good: In recent decades China displaced the U.S. as the world's biggest emitter of greenhouse gases, but now it's cutting back significantly. The Wall St. Journal reported recently that newly released research shows "China is on track to hit its short-term target for reducing carbon emissions. In a newly published paper, the World Resources Institute said an analysis of unofficial data shows that by the end of 2014, China may have cut its carbon intensity by 15.5% compared with 2010 levels. Such a drop would put Beijing well on its way toward hitting its target for the 12th Five-Year Plan, which calls for carbon intensity to be lowered 17% by the end of this year compared with 2010. Carbon intensity measures emissions per unit of GDP, a commonly used metric in China, where overall emissions of carbon dioxide continue to rise. The story is similar for overall energy-intensity reduction, the analysis shows. The Washington-based think tank estimated those levels had fallen 13.4% over the same period, which would be in line to hit a reduction target of 16% by the end of this year."

8. Children are particularly vulnerable to a rising global public health and safety threat posed by climate change, the American Academy of Pediatrics said in a new policy statement. CBS News reported Oct. 26: "The group is urging pediatricians and politicians to work together to solve the crisis and protect children from the immediate and long-term health consequences of climate change.... Children may increasingly suffer from respiratory diseases and asthma due to decreased air quality, lengthened allergy seasons and smoke from wildfires," the report states. Climate also influences the spread of a number of infectious diseases that affect children across the world, including malaria, dengue fever, West Nile virus and Chikungunya, a mosquito-borne virus that has been spreading through the Caribbean in recent years. In addition, the authors point to the increased transmission risk of Lyme disease in the northeastern United States in recent decades, and they suspect rising temperatures have played a role. Changing weather patterns also threaten nutrition among children around the world, as severe storms, drought and loss of fertile land to rising seas challenge farmers' abilities to produce crops.

Yazidi women captured and chained last year— then sold as slaves.
[It may be difficult to read this article by Eve Ensler — the author of The Vagina Monologues, anti-rape activist, and initiator of the annual One Billion Rising international female empowerment event throughout the world held around V Day. But read it. She is referring in part to the several thousands of Yazidi women kidnapped by the Islamic State who are sold as sex slaves. Ensler dedicated the article to "Yanar and my sisters in Iraq and Syria."]

By Eve Ensler

I am thinking of the price list leaked out from the ISIS (the Islamic State or IS) Sex Slave Market that included women and girls on the same list as cattle. ISIS needed to impose price controls, as they were worried about a downturn in their market.

Forty- to 50-year-old women were priced at $41, 30- to 40-year-old women at $62, 20- to 30-year-old women, $82 and 1- to 9-year-old children, $165. Women over 50 weren’t even listed. They had no market value. They were discarded like milk cartons with past sale date markers. But they weren’t simply abandoned in some smelly dung heap of trash. First, they were probably tortured, beheaded, raped — then thrown into a pile of rotting corpses. I am thinking of a 1-year-old child’s body for sale and what it would be like for a hefty, sex-deprived, war-driven 30-year-old soldier to buy her, package her, take her home like a new television. What would he be feeling or thinking as he unwrapped her baby flesh and raped her with his penis the size of her tiny body?

I am thinking that, in 2015, I am actually reading an online Best Practices for Sex Slavery manual with step-by-step instructions and rules of how to treat your sex slave published by a very organized wing (Bureau of Sex Slavery) of a rogue government with the unapologetic mandate of regulating the raping, beating, buying, and enslaving of women.

Here are examples of the dos and don’ts in the manual: “It is permissible to beat the female slave as a [form of] darb ta’deeb [disciplinary beating], [but] it is forbidden to [use] darb al-takseer [literally, breaking beating], [darb] al-tashaffi [beating for the purpose of achieving gratification], or [darb] al-ta’dheeb [torture beating]. Further, it is forbidden to hit the face.”

I am wondering how the ISIS bureaucrats will distinguish punches, kicks, and choking as acts of discipline from acts of sexual gratification. Will a team of the Bureau break in and check for hard-ons as the beatings of slaves occur? And how will they know what actually made the soldier hard? Many men get turned on solely by the assertion of power. And if it is determined that the soldier beat, choked or kicked his slave for pleasure, what will the punishment be? Will the soldier be forced to return the slave and lose his deposit, pay a steep fine, or simply be made to pray harder?

 Twenty Yazidi women and girls, including one as young as 12, who escaped from ISIS captivity in April, had been subjected to “systematic rape and other sexual violence. 
Photo: Reuters, Ako Rasheed.

I am thinking how easy it is to make ISIS a monstrous aberration, when in fact they are an outcome of a long continuum of multiple crimes and disorders. Their sexual atrocities only vary in design and application from many other warlords in other wars. What’s shocking and new is the brazen and unabashed display of these advertised crimes on the Internet, the commercial normalization of these atrocities, the ISIS app, using rape as a recruiting tool.

But their work and its rapid proliferation don’t exist in an historical vacuum. It is escalated and legitimized by centuries of rampant impunity for sexual violence.

This led me to thinking about the comfort women, among the first modern-day sex slaves. These young girls, mostly from Asia, were abducted in their prime by the Japanese Imperial Army in World War II to be held in comfort stations, providing sex to Japanese soldiers in service of their country. The women were raped sometimes 70 times a day. If they got too tired and were unable to move, they would be chained to their beds and continued to be raped like limp sacks. The comfort women were silenced in their shame for 45 years, and then for 25 years since they have marched and stood vigil in the rain demanding justice. And now only a few remain; while only last month the Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe sidestepped a direct apology yet again.

I am thinking about how terms like re-raped have now become re- re- re- re- raped.

I am thinking about the inertia, silence, paralysis that has stalled and prevented investigation and prosecution into sexual crimes against Muslim, Croat, and Serb women raped in camps in the former Yugoslavia; African-American women and girls raped on plantations in the South; Jewish women and

Distrtaught Yazidi man showing photos of his 
wife and children who were captured by ISIS,
girls raped in German concentration camps; Native American women and girls raped on reservations in the United States. I am hearing the cries of the permanently unsettled ghosts of violated women and girls in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Haiti, Guatemala, the Philippines, Sudan, Chechnya, Nigeria, Colombia, Nepal, the list goes on. I am thinking of the last eight years I spent in the Democratic Republic of Congo, where a similar conflagration of predatory capitalism, centuries of colonialism, endless war and violence in the name of mineral theft has left thousands of women and girls without organs, sanity, families or a future. And how terms like re-raped have now become re-re-re-re-raped.

I am thinking that I have been writing this same piece for 20 years. I have tried it with data and detachment, passion and pleading, and existential despair. Even now as I write, I wonder if we have evolved a language to meet this century that would trump a piercing wail.

I am thinking about the failure of every patriarchal institution to intervene in any meaningful way and how structures like the UN amplify the problem as peacekeepers, meant to protect the women and girls, are rapists themselves.

I am thinking of Shock and Awe and how it helped unleash Rape and Behead. We all knew then in our bodies and beings as we marched against the pointless, immoral war on Iraq, millions of us disregarded citizens around the world, what shrapnel-filled hurts and humiliations and darkness would be torn asunder with those deadly 3,000 U.S. Tomahawk missiles.

I am thinking of religious fundamentalism and God the Father and how many women have been raped in his name and how many massacred and murdered. I am thinking about the notion of rape as prayer and a Theology of Rape, a religion of Rape. And how this practice is one of the largest world religions, growing hundreds of converts every day as 1 billion women will be beaten or raped in their lifetime.

I am thinking of the manic speed at which new and grotesque methods for commodifying and desecrating the bodies of women multiply in a system where what is most alive, whether the earth or women, must be objectified and annihilated in order to escalate consumption, growth and amnesia.

I am thinking of the thousands of young men and women from the West between the ages of 15 and 20 who signed up to join ISIS. What compelled them to join? Poverty, alienation, Islamophobia, rage at the imperialist destruction of their homelands, identity, responsibility?

I am thinking of what my activist sister told me on Skype from Baghdad this week. “ISIS is a virus and the only thing to do with a virus is exterminate it.” I am wondering how we exterminate a mindset, bomb a paradigm, blow up misogyny, racism, capitalism, imperialism, and religious fundamentalism?

IS soldiers enter town in triumph.
I am thinking, or maybe I am unable to think, caught inside the ongoing mind fuck of this century.

Knowing on one hand the only way forward is a total rewriting of the current story, a deep and studied collective examination of the root causes of the various violences in all their economical, psychological, racial, patriarchal parts, which requires time, and at the same moment knowing that here and now 3,000 Yazidi women are being beaten, raped and tortured.

I am thinking of the women, the thousands of women around this world who have worked endlessly for years and years exhausting every fiber of their beings to make rape real, to end this pathology of violence and hatred towards us and no matter how logical we are, how patient, how empathetic, how many studies we do, how many numbers we show, how many survivors we treat, how many stories we hear, how many daughters we bury, how many cancers we get, the war against us rages on, each day more methodical, more brazen, brutal, more psychotic.

I am thinking that ISIS — like rising sea levels, melting glaciers, and murderous temperatures — may be the scalding indicator that the end game for women is near. The day has arrived when eons of women’s rage must in turn coalesce into a fiery volcanic force, unleashing the global vagina fury of female goddesses Kali, Oya, Pele, Mami Wata, Hera, Durga, Inanna, and Ixchel — and let our wrath lead the way.

I am thinking of the famous female Yazidi folk singer Xate Shingali, and imagining that after finding the heads of her sisters hanging from poles in her village square, she asked the Kurdish government to arm and train the women, and how now the Sun Girls, the women’s militia she formed, are fighting ISIS in the mountains of Sinjar. And in this moment, after years of working to end violence, I am dreaming of thousands of crates of AK47s, falling from the skies, landing in the villages and centers and farms and lands of women, breasted warriors rising in armies for life.

Yazidi women protest the cruel abductions.
This led me to love, thinking about love, how the failure of this century is a failure of love. What are we being called to do, what are we really made of, each of us alive on this planet today. What kind of love, what depth of love, what fierceness and searing love is required. Not a naive sentimental neoliberal love, but an unrelenting selfless love. A love that would vanquish systems built on the exploitation of multitudes for the benefit of the few. A love that would catalyze our numb revulsion at crimes against women and humanity into unstoppable collective resistance. A love that revered mystery and dissolved hierarchy. A love that found value in our connection rather than in our competing. A love that insured we opened our arms to fleeing refugees rather than building walls to keep them out or tear-gassing them or removing their dead bloated bodies from our beaches. A love that would burn so bright it would permeate our deadness and melt our walls, ignite our imaginations, and inspire us to finally break out of this story of death. A love so electric it would jolt us to give our lives for life itself if necessary. Who will be the brave, furious, visionary authors of our manual of revolutionary love?

[This article was originally commissioned for the Italian daily La Repubblica and was published in October simultaneously in The Nation and French Elle.


The U.S. Navy reported that aircraft carrier USS Ronald Reagan (above) was closely followed by a Chinese submarine during the weekend of Oct. 24. Days later the Navy reported another "incident" when two Russian bombers passed within a mile of the Reagan. Navy jets were scrambled.
By the Activist Newsletter

The Pentagon's ability to project power is the indispensible tool of American global hegemony and war making. The aircraft carrier, a floating airbase capable of bringing jet fighters and bombers within range of virtually all its potential enemies, is one of the most important of the mechanisms of projection.

The U.S. carrier fleet consists of 10 nuclear fueled and nine conventionally fueled vessels with one in reserve and three under construction. The majority of carriers were switched from the Atlantic to the Pacific Ocean a few years ago as part of Washington's military buildup against China that accompanies President Obama's "pivot to Asia." China has one old, second hand carrier, purchased from Russia.

Advances in missile technology, such as those of China over the last several years, are compromising the viability of the carriers in a future war against a major power, and this has the Pentagon scurrying for additional power-projection weapons.

Following is a brief excerpt from an Oct. 19 report from the Center for a New American Security titled Retreat from Range: The Rise and Fall of Carrier Aviation, by Jerry Hendrix.

"Over the past 20 years naval aviation in the United States has undergone a dramatic change in focus and capabilities, and not for the better. Its historical and traditional focus on long-range capabilities and the deep strike mission has been overtaken by a concentration on lower maintenance costs and higher aircraft sortie generation rates.

"American power and permissive environments were assumed following the end of the Cold War, but the rise of new powers, including China and its pursuit of anti-access/area-denial (A2/ AD) strategies and capabilities to include the carrier-killing 1,000 nautical mile (nm) range Dong Feng-21 anti-ship ballistic missile, now threatens to push the Navy back beyond the range of its carrier air wings. This push back would limit the service’s ability to project power and thus undermine the credibility of the United States and the effectiveness of the global international system of governance that it, in conjunction with its allies and partners, has labored to build over the past 70 years....

"Today the Navy faces a future in which its increasingly expensive carriers have been rendered ineffective by defensive systems being developed, fielded, and exported by our competitors, but there are paths back to relevance for these symbols of national greatness if the Navy makes the right investments. New capabilities in the areas of unmanned systems, stealth, directed energy, and hypersonics could be combined to provide the range required to perform deep strike missions.

"Experimentation, such as that seen with the X-47B demonstration unmanned combat aerial vehicle, as well as the lessons learned from operating unmanned platforms such as the MQ-9 Reaper over the past decade of conflict, provide an opportunity for the Navy and the nation to move forward with an innovative and revitalized approach to sea power and power projection. Cost curves can be bent, and the combination of mass, range, payload capacity, low observability, and persistence — capabilities that emerged as critical during decades of naval air operations — can once again characterize the carrier air wing of the future, ensuring the carrier’s relevance for decades to come."

From the Newsletter: The Pentagon will catch up with new technology. It has been continuously engaged in wars or planning for the next wars for over 75 years with an unlimited budget. (The "cutbacks" never hurt.) Adjustments will have to be made in the existing blueprints for World War III but that's just a detail.


By the Activist Newsletter

From the late 1950s until the Soviet Union was collapsing in 1989, the Moscow government repeatedly called for general and complete disarmament between the two superpowers and worldwide as well. The idea was not just to ban nuclear weapons but murderous conventional arms as well, such as those that killed 27 million Soviet people in World War II.

The United States would have none of it, the objective being to destroy the USSR one way or another.  The Soviet Union disappeared over a quarter-century ago, in part after undermining its smaller economy trying to keep up with America's war spending. Today's world not only has nuclear arms but its modern conventional armaments are just about as lethal. Indeed the U.S. is engaged in a hugely expensive project to upgrade its nuclear weapons and delivery systems to maintain its considerable advantage over Russia and China.

An Oct. 22 article in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has revived the call for general and complete disarmament. It was written by University of Chicago Professor Kennette Benedict, who served until this year as executive director and publisher of the Bulletin. Following are excerpts from her article:

Interest is growing in tackling one of the most difficult goals in international relations, general and complete disarmament — that is, getting rid of not just nuclear warheads and other weapons of mass destruction, but reducing and controlling conventional weapons too.

In light of successful negotiations with Iran to stop its nuclear weapons program, and bolstered by UN passage of the conventional arms trade treaty in 2014, advocates of general disarmament believe it is time to try to move forward. Why now? Because nuclear disarmament today looks less "utopian" than ever, and as the world gets closer to that long-cherished goal, it could become more likely that we will see a large-scale war with conventional weapons. As the United Nations’ founders understood, we can’t really have one kind of disarmament without the other.

In a sign of renewed interest in the concept of general and complete disarmament, more than 40 people, including UN ambassadors, attended an October presentation by researchers from the University of London School of Oriental and African Studies on ways to advance the cause, held during the annual UN General Assembly meeting of the First Committee on Disarmament and International Security.

Meanwhile, the United Nations’ Conference on Disarmament, the 65-country forum responsible for treaties banning biological and chemical weapons, continues to list complete and general disarmament on its formal agenda. The Conference on Disarmament is not known for swift action — its last-negotiated treaty, the 1996 Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, has not yet entered into force — and its "consensus rule" will likely continue to hinder progress. Nevertheless, some member states and civil society organizations hungry for new ways to tackle general disarmament are watching closely as the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs tries to re-energize this deadlocked body and move the agenda forward. 

There are several reasons that the call for general disarmament may get some traction now. One is that Cold War dynamics have waned.... In the post-Cold War era... the rationale for focusing narrowly on nuclear arms control lacks the force it had at the height of East-West hostilities in the 1960s and '70s.

Now, with Cold War pressures behind us, there is growing recognition that nuclear arms control is no longer enough; it is finally being recognized for what it always was — a way of establishing floors for the number of nuclear weapons each country may retain, rather than a ceiling that will continually be lowered. As such, more countries are calling for enforcement of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty’s provisions for general and complete disarmament. Nearly all countries have chosen to forgo nuclear weapons, and in exchange, they demand that the nuclear weapon states disarm.

There has also emerged, in the last three years, a movement to eliminate nuclear weapons based on their humanitarian effects. Three UN-sponsored conferences have convened leaders from the developing world and humanitarian organizations who argue that even just a few nuclear weapon detonations would devastate countries and the networks that support aid and economic development.

A movement focused on the humanitarian effects of war, though, could naturally come to encompass suffering caused by all types of weapons. While the use of even one nuclear bomb would maim or kill the vast majority of people in a region, the current use of powerful conventional weapons is killing hundreds of thousands, destroying cities, collapsing societies, and spurring mass migrations that are causing suffering and disruption in nearly all countries. While nuclear weapon disarmament still demands the world’s attention, the humanitarian motivation for general disarmament is plain.


By Stratfor, Oct. 29

NATO countries are discussing boosting the numbers of troops stationed in member states bordering Russia, as well as placing them under formal alliance command, unnamed diplomats and military officers said, the Wall Street Journal reported Oct. 29. Under one plan, NATO would have a battalion (around 800-1,000 soldiers) in each of the three Baltic states, as well as Poland.

The United States and other allies support the idea, but German officials are reportedly concerned about treating Russia as a permanent enemy or locking it out of Europe — though Berlin may back a more modest deployment.

The new plans are at an early stage, officials with the alliance said, and no deployments are likely before the July 2016 summit of NATO leaders in Warsaw. U.S. officials also are reportedly open to putting the 150 U.S. troops currently deployed in each of the four states under NATO command and rotating in additional troops. The plan would also require other alliance members with troops deployed in these states to agree to NATO command. The alliance is finding itself with renewed purpose after suffering considerable angst over its perceived demise and challenges to its reason for being.

— There is an interesting 3-minute video of a State Department news conference on whether Russia is moving closer to NATO or NATO is moving closer to Russia. It's at:

By the Editor of the Activist Newsletter

By now all of you have read or heard about the World Health Organization (WHO) report released Oct. 26 which placed processed meats, including bacon, frankfurters, sausages, ham, corned beef, salami, etc., in the same cancer-causing category as smoking and asbestos. ("Processed" means meat that’s not sold fresh, but instead has been cured, salted, smoked, or otherwise preserved in some way.)

The WHO's report also said that fresh red meat like steaks and roasts are considered probable causes of cancer. (Red meat, obviously, is any meat that’s a dark red color before it’s cooked.)

The meat industry is howling about the WHO report, just as the tobacco industry did when health authorities defined cigarettes to be a cause of cancer, and it is expected to go all-out with years of pro-processed meat propaganda. Processed meat eaters are not in immediate danger. Like cigarettes it may take years or decades to fall victim, if ever. But like millions of former cigarette smokers many probably will quit too late and develop serious health problems.

As an old man who became a lifelong vegetarian in my teens I am moved to recommend that those of you thinking of cutting down on meat consider at least a partial or better yet a full vegetarian or vegan diet. There are four reasons for doing so.

1.     A non-meat diet is proven to be much healthier. (Also, vegetarian/vegan cuisine is varied and delicious, and less costly than meat.)

2.     For anyone interested in the environment, it is a fact the raising of farmed animals for human consumption is a significant component of global warming.

3.    Over 56 billion farmed animals are killed every year by humans, most with inhumane cruelty. They feel pain, of course. More than 3,000 animals die every second in slaughterhouses around the world. These shocking figures do not even include fish and other sea creatures whose deaths are so great they are only measured in tons.

4.     Human beings in the 21st century can survive quite well — even better healthwise — without the mass slaughter of farmed animals, each of which is a thinking, feeling individual who wants to live a natural and safe life.

By The Activist Newsletter

1. For an excellent analysis of the just released full text of the Trans Pacific Partnership view Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch and a leading TPP critic, on the November 6 broadcast of Democracy Now at:

2. Playwright and anti-rape activist Eve Ensler was in Cuba the last couple of weeks and presided over a very successful presentation of The Vagina Monologues. She will return in March to participate in that country's first One Billion Rising celebration. Here she is in a 2-minute video from Havana that's well worth watching.

3. Mumia Abu Jamal spoke up in a 2:23 minute commentary from prison Oct. 28 about the white cop who dragged the black teen girl across the classroom floor before handcuffing her. It's at:

4. The great progressive Israeli journalist and Ha’aretz columnist Gideon Levy spoke Oct. 19 at Greenburgh Town Hall in Westchester County, N.Y. He was the guest of Jewish Voice for Peace and Westpac — and he had to face down hecklers, of course. Levy argued that Israel had demolished any hope of a two-state solution and advocated for a single state for both Jews and Palestinians with equality for all. A brief article and a video of the meeting is at Mondoweiss:

By Medea Benjamin

As the first Democratic presidential debate drew to a close, moderator Anderson Cooper posed a question to Hillary Clinton: How might her presidency differ from Barack Obama’s?

Clinton smiled. “Well, I think it’s pretty obvious,” she replied to rapturous applause. “Being the first woman president would be quite a change from the presidents we’ve had.”

Hillary Clinton, hawkish on Iraq,
Iran and Libya. More to come.
Indeed, a Hillary Clinton presidency would shatter the glass ceiling for women in the United States. But it would also leave intact the old boys’ military-industrial complex that’s kept our nation in a perpetual state of war for decades.

Clinton, it seems, failed to learn anything after supporting the disastrous Iraq War, which plunged a huge swath of the Middle East into chaos and cost her the 2008 Democratic presidential nomination. Instead of embracing diplomacy, she continued to champion ill-conceived military interventions as secretary of state.

In 2011, when the Arab Spring appeared to come to Libya, Clinton was the Obama administration’s most forceful advocate for intervening to overthrow Muammar Gaddafi. She even out-hawked Robert Gates, the Pentagon chief first appointed by George W. Bush who was less than enthusiastic about going to war in Libya.

Ironically, the political grief Clinton has suffered over the subsequent attack on a U.S. diplomatic outpost in Benghazi, which killed four Americans, might never have occurred if Clinton had opted against intervening in Libya’s civil war.

While House Republicans recently spent 11 hours relentlessly drilling Clinton about Benghazi and her personal email account, the larger disaster by far is the postwar chaos that’s left Libya without a functioning government, overrun by feuding warlords and extremist militants, including Islamic State.

Clinton favors greater military intervention in Syria’s civil war, too. In her presidential bid, she’s joined hawkish Republican senators like John McCain and Lindsey Graham in supporting the creation of a no-fly zone over the country.

That puts her at odds not only with President Barack Obama, but also with her Democratic presidential rival Bernie Sanders, who warned that it could “get us more deeply involved in that horrible civil war and lead to a never-ending US entanglement in that region.”

Clinton did end up supporting the administration’s Iran nuclear deal, but her support came with a history of bellicose baggage. Back in 2008, for example, she warned that Washington could “totally obliterate“ Iran. During that presidential campaign, she chided Obama as “naïve” and “irresponsible” for wanting to engage the country diplomatically.

Even after the nuclear agreement was sealed, she struck a bullying tone: “I don’t believe Iran is our partner in this agreement,” Clinton insisted. “Iran is the subject of the agreement.” She added that she “won’t hesitate to take military action” if it falls through....

When it comes to war and peace, it might not matter too much if a Republican or Hillary Clinton wins the White House. In either case, the winner will be the military-industrial complex.

— From Other Words, Oct. 28. Medea Benjamin is the cofounder of the peace group CODEPINK and the human rights group Global Exchange. She is the author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.

By teleSUR (The Empire Files, Abby Martin)
 Liberal Justin Trudeau won.

Canadians spoke out Oct. 19 and finally voted out the Conservative Party, which had been leading the country for almost a decade, putting the Liberals, under leader Justin Trudeau, in power. He assumed office Nov. 4.

The results were not entirely surprising, but may have come as a shock to some after the left-leaning New Democratic Party (NDP) — which had been the official opposition for the past four years — started the election campaign with a massive lead in the polls. By the end of the night, however, the social democrats had dropped from 95 to 44 seats in Parliament.

When campaigning first began some three months ago, the NDP looked set to take the elections. It was easy. More than 70% of Canadians already said they wanted a change from the Conservative government. Prime Minister Stephen Harper had been moving toward decreasing civil liberties in the name of "fighting terrorism" and backing away from Canada’s environmental and human rights commitments, all while diminishing corporate taxes and social services.

The NDP already had a major advantage to be positioned as the party to fulfill the desire for change, having been the official opposition party since 2011, for the first time in its history. During the 2011 election, the party and then leader Jack Layton were seen by many as promoting progressive policies against the Conservatives.

Historically, the NDP has always been relegated to third or fourth party status in the Canadian parliament. Though it has held power in some provinces, it had never really been considered a serious contender for federal power. This was left to the Liberal and Conservative parties. Though there were occasions that the NDP supported minority Liberal governments, helping usher in progressive policies, such as Canada’s famous single-payer healthcare system.

Under the leadership of Layton — who died from cancer shortly after the last election — the NDP opposed the conservative government on key areas including extending Canada's mission in Afghanistan, and the 2006 and 2007 federal budgets, which included major spending cuts.

Many Canadians believed in the party's progressive positions and turned out to support it in the 2011 elections, voting in a record 103 seats for the NDP.

Canadians seemed inspired by stances taken by Layton’s successor, Tom Mulcair, particularly his principled opposition in the House of Commons to Harper’s right-wing agenda. The NDP’s opposition to the highly-controversial Bill C-51, which opponents accused of attacking civil liberties, led to a significant bump in support.

Thomas Mulclair, NDP leader.
The Liberals under Trudeau, on the other hand, voted in favor of Bill C-51 out of fear that the Conservatives would paint them as soft on terrorism during the election. A logic defended by Trudeau himself.

However, the NDP during the election failed to live up to its progressive standards in the 2015 election, instead putting forward a tepid platform. In the words of the left-wing icon and activist Naomi Klein, "The Libs ran left and soared. The NDP moved right and crashed. Now it's up to the public to turn cynical strategy into action," she wrote on her Facebook page.

David McNally, Political Science Professor at Toronto's York University, also said the NDP loss of support was due to its lack of a progressive campaign. The NDP "saw the polls early on and believed that the desire to get rid of Harper was so strong that they, being the number two, believed that all they had to do was avoid scaring people off," McNally told teleSUR.

“The last thing they wanted to do was come up with some bold message that might peel away from 5-10% of voters who would otherwise go to them. So they sat on their hands and put out the most cautious message, thinking the election was theirs," added McNally.

This strategy by the NDP leadership was predicated on the assumption that the Liberals would continue to flounder under Trudeau. However the Liberal leader exceeded expectations on the campaign trail. Meanwhile, the NDP itself inadvertently helped to foster Trudeau’s success by joining with the Conservatives in trying to paint the young Trudeau as too inexperienced to lead. (He is 43, a member of parliament and is the son of late Prime Minister, Pierre Trudeau.

One of the most important policy decisions that shaped the NDP's campaign was its decision to maintain a balanced budget, continuing on with the Conservative policy of putting budget cuts ahead of social services or stimulating the economy. 

The Liberals on the other hand, took a more drastic stance. The party promised to put austerity measures aside and run a $7.5 Canadian billion (some US$5.8 billion) deficit per year for the next four years in order to stimulate the economy. The party also announced that it would be able to balance its budget at the end of that four-year term, which it planned to achieve by implementing other measures such as taxing the wealthiest Canadians, and cracking down on tax evasion.

The federal Liberal party seemingly took a page from their provincial cousins in the province of Ontario, who in the 2014 election also ran a campaign to the left of the NDP. That strategy also worked for the Ontario Liberals, who were given a majority government.

According to the polls, things started to turn sour for the NDP in late August after the party announced its commitment to balance the budget. They started out leading the three parties, but ended in third place in the last polls before the elections, hovering around 24%.

“It was a disaster and it should have been predictable, because what we saw in this campaign, was once again an attempt by our social democrats, the New Democratic Party, to run as fiscal conservatives,” said McNally.

The NDP also seemed to misjudge the mood of voters, who did not just want a change of prime minister but a new direction for the country, something the Liberals successfully tapped into.

The NDP found itself in the difficult position of trying to convince voters they were the more progressive choice, even though the rival Liberals sounded more progressive than the NDP.

Realizing its mistake, the NDP tried, in vain, to restore its position as the left alternative, coming out strongly against the Trans-Pacific Partnership. With the shift coming with only two weeks left in the campaign, it proved to be too little, too late.

On election day, the party came out with just under 20% of the vote, being left with only 44 seats in Parliament, after having lost half of its previous seats.

“The Left blew an opportunity in this election,” said McNally.

Conservative Steven Harper,
illustration by Victor Juhasz
for the National Observer.
Some NDP insiders have blamed the defeat on their anti-xenophobic stance during the campaign. The Conservative fear-mongering Islamophobia did bleed support from the NDP in the province of Quebec, where much of the party’s support was found. This did change the dynamic of the race, but the Liberals also sided against the Conservatives and they ultimately cruised to victory.

The Liberals' overwhelming victory, which outpaced predictions, is also attributed to the collapse of the NDP vote. When electors saw that the alternative to Harper’s Conservatives was the Liberal party and not the NDP, many who intended to vote for the NDP switched to the Liberals at the last minute.

“The NDP generals are fighting the last war, by which I mean they're trying to preserve their credibility in the age of neoliberalism,” said McNally, referring to the party's determination to stick to a balanced budget. “The new war is how do you capture the imagination of millions of people who are fed up with austerity, who are fed up with massive levels of youth unemployment, who are fed up with growing social inequality and deteriorating public services.”

According to McNally, Britain's Jeremy Corbyn represents the new war, as does the U.S.'s Bernie Sanders, Syriza in Greece and Podemos in Spain.

After failing to lead the party into government, NDP leader Mulcair is widely expected to resign or be pushed out. However many of the leftist NDP members of Parliament, such as Megan Leslie and Peggy Nash, lost their seats Monday, meaning a leftist contender for leader is not immediately obvious.

It will be interesting now to see how Canada's left and its social democratic party will respond.

Trudeau made an excellent beginning on his first day in office by introducing his relatively young 30-member cabinet, half of which is composed of women. Asked by the press why he did so he replied: "Because it's 2015."

—From teleSUR,

By the National Network on Cuba

As it has every year for the past 24 consecutive years, the United Nations on October 27 condemned
the United States blockade of Cuba.  As usual, Washington has been isolated in its opposition to the resolution, with only Israel voting with the U.S. to uphold the cruel and genocidal policy. The final vote total is 191 in favor of the resolution, 2 against the resolution, and zero abstentions. The resolution titled:  “Necessity of Ending the Economic, Commercial and Financial Blockade Imposed by the United States of America against Cuba” outlines the monetary and humanitarian damages of the U.S. policy.

The brothers Castro, Fidel and Raul, viva Cuba.
This year there was considerable speculation that the Obama Administration would abstain from voting. There was also speculation that the U.S. would vote against the resolution because it did not demonstrate "compromise" on the part of Cuba.  Other than its sovereignty, Cuba has nothing with which to "compromise." Cuba has not imposed a blockade on the U.S., or demanded that the U.S. change its political system. Cuba has not aimed illegal media broadcasts at the United States, or denied life-saving medicines and technology to the U.S., or occupied any U.S. territory.

While the past year has seen the reopening of embassies, the return to Cuba of the remaining 3 Cuban 5 prisoners, the removal of Cuba from the "state sponsor of terrorism" list [where it never belonged in the first place], Washington's basic policy and intent has not changed.  The travel ban and economic blockade remain legislatively intact. The U.S. continues to prohibit the sale of medicines to Cuba, and has imposed multi-million dollar fines on financial institutions doing business in Cuba. The White House has even threatened to revoke the tax exempt status of IFCO/Pastors for Peace — one of the most respected and experienced Cuba advocacy groups.

From the Activist Newsletter: Lastly, although the tactics are changing, Washington's ultimate goal of facilitating the return of capitalism to Cuba remains unchanged.

"Caring for Mother Earth is a moral issue," UN Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon (left) told the leftist Climate Change Conference in Bolivia. "We must change how we use Mother Earth's resources, and live in a manner that is sustainable." Here, he is pictured with Bolivian President Evo Morales, the host of the conference. Photo by Reuters.
By Deirdre Fulton, Common Dreams

Decrying capitalism as a "threat to life," an estimated 7,000 environmentalists, farmers, and Indigenous activists from 40 countries convened in the Bolivian town of Tiquipaya for the Oct. 10-11World People's Conference on Climate Change, aiming to elevate the demands of social movements and developing countries in the lead-up to upcoming United Nations-led climate talks.

"Capitalism is Mother Earth's cancer," Bolivian President Evo Morales told the crowd, which also heard over the course of the three-day conference from United Nations Secretary-General Ban ki-Moon as well as other Latin American leaders.

The people's summit produced a 12-point declaration that will be presented during the COP21 climate negotiations taking place Nov, 30-Dec. 11 in Paris, France, during which 200 countries will attempt to cement an agreement to curb global warming. The COP21 agenda has been criticized for its sidestepping of issues like the role of capitalism in climate change and for the robust involvement of multinational corporations in the talks.

According to a translation from the Spanish, the Declaración de Tiquipaya calls for, among other things:

The creation of an international tribunal with "a binding legal capacity to prevent, prosecute and punish states that pollute and cause climate change by action or omission"; compensation from wealthy countries to developing nations for "climate, social, and ecological debt accumulated over time"; reclamation of the global commons; and wholesale rejection of global capitalist and colonialist systems.

"We demand that the Paris Agreement does address the structural causes of capitalism," the declaration reads. "It does not have to be an agreement that reinforces the capitalist model, through more market mechanisms, allowing volunteer commitments, encouraging the private sector and strengthening patriarchy and neo-colonialism."


Bernie Sanders leads march of supporters in Des Moines, Iowa, Oct. 24.

[Whether or not he gains the Democratic presidential nomination, much less the presidency, Sen. Bernie Sanders has achieved three significant firsts: 1. He has at least temporarily liberated Democratic Party liberals from the silence imposed upon them by party leaders for decades. 2. His popularity has forced Hilary Clinton to adopt several liberal programs of her own for the election. 3. Most importantly he has responded to anger over increasing inequality and stagnant wages in America by openly campaigning as a socialist, and this has not interfered with his growing popularity. What are left socialists to think of this? Here is the analysis by a central leader of the Party for Socialism and Liberation.]

By Brian Becker

It may seem on the surface to be an irony, although not surprising, that there is confusion among socialist and communist forces about the sudden popularity of the self-proclaimed democratic-socialist Bernie Sanders in his bid for the Democratic Party presidential nomination for the 2016 election.

The confusion is not so much about how to politically characterize Sanders himself. As Eli Stephens and others have written, Sanders’ definition of “democratic socialism” is akin to the social-democratic models of the capitalist countries in northern Europe. Also, the term “democratic socialist” is well-understood in bourgeois circles to mean “not communist,” not a supporter of the Soviet Union or Cuba, and not a revolutionary.

Bernie as Mayor of Burlington, VT, 1981.
So it is not the political characterization but the question of tactics that have led to confusion. How should radical or revolutionary socialists approach the Sanders campaign? More importantly, how can their orientation impact the millions of people who have been brought into political life, many for the first time, in support of someone who defines himself as a socialist?

Like all political phenomena, the Sanders campaign has contradictory features. Revolutionary people advocating for the revival and popularization of socialism need to evaluate their tactics in light of the fundamental or primary contradiction of the Sanders campaign. What is it?

On the one hand, the Sanders campaign has suddenly elevated the issue of socialism as an issue and topic of discussion for millions of his grassroots supporters who are not yet socialists themselves. Since anti-communist ideology has reigned supreme as the unofficial religion of the United States for the last 70 years, that has to be considered a very good thing.

On the other hand, Sanders is not a revolutionary socialist but rather an advocate for progressive reforms within capitalism, and he is not an anti-imperialist. In fact, he wrongly defines socialism, equating it with all public institutions, such as libraries, fire departments and even the police. His record in the U.S. Senate shows that he functions as a traditional liberal politician and not a radical internationalist when it comes to U.S. foreign policy.

Which side of this contradiction is primary? That millions of people are now talking about socialism without fear of reprisal and the hysteria that has dominated American political life for three generations? Or is it that Sanders is misleading people about what “real socialism” stands for?

This is the source of confusion, or what I think is actually the mis-leadership in tactics of some of the more radical socialist groups and individuals. Many of these people are well-intentioned and some consider themselves “revolutionaries,” although that label can only be verified in the heat of battles yet to come.

The Party for Socialism and Liberation believes that the fundamental or primary side of the contradiction that socialists need to emphasize is the vast opportunity created by the explosive growth and surprising popularity of the Sanders campaign.

In the very first question posed in the Democratic Party televised debate, a debate watched by millions of people, Sanders was asked:

Moderator: Senator Sanders. A Gallup poll says half the country would not put a socialist in the White House. You call yourself a democratic socialist. How can any kind of socialist win a general election in the United States?

Sanders: Well, we’re gonna win because first, we’re gonna explain what democratic socialism is. And what democratic socialism is about is saying that it is immoral and wrong that the top one-tenth of 1 percent in this country own almost 90 percent—almost—own almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent. That it is wrong, today, in a rigged economy, that 57 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent. That when you look around the world, you see every other major country providing health care to all people as a right, except the United States.… ”

That he had to open the TV debate to explain why socialism wasn’t so unpopular that he could never win the general election did not hurt Sanders. In fact, starting right at that moment and over the next few hours, more than 44,000 individuals sent small on-line donations to his campaign (averaging about $31 per donation) for a total of $1.3 million.

It also led to an increase in the interest in socialism. During the debate, a Merriam-Webster editor tweeted, “‘Socialism’ spiking off the charts @MerriamWebster. #DemDebate.” Meaning, an unprecedented number of people were looking up the definition of “socialism” on the Merriam-Webster website.

Sanders was featured on the front cover of Time magazine. The photo showed a smiling, friendly appearing older man (Sanders is 73) and the headline read: “Socialize this, America.”

Millions of people are hearing about “socialism” in a non-demonized way for the first time. This offers an immense opportunity for socialists to popularize socialism in the general public. Millions of people are for the first time in their lives wondering whether socialism might be valid even if they don’t yet know fully what it means or is.

Yet some radical socialists have emphasized in their agitation how “bad” Sanders is on some issues, or that he is not a “real socialist.”

That is not the best way to reach the millions of new Sanders supporters who for the first time in their
lives want a "democratic socialist" to become president of the United States.

Our tactics and our agitation must be aimed at the Sanders supporters. As Sanders gets more visibility, more people who until now never heard of him, will support his message. For many, it is their first step in supporting a political campaign that is connected in any way to "socialism." It is the enthusiasm and devotion to the campaign by millions of grassroots people that has allowed Sanders to become a national phenomenon even though the capitalist-owned media wrote him off as a fringe candidate just a few months ago. He doesn’t get corporate funding. It is hundreds of thousands people sending him small donations that has allowed him to keep up with Clinton.

The National Nurses United is the only national labor union to openly endorse Sanders so far. But support for Sanders is growing among rank-and-file workers in many unions as well as more left-wing organizers and militants.

Sanders, stunning the capitalist political establishment, has been drawing far and away the largest and most enthusiastic crowds of any candidate, Democrat or Republican—28,000 in Portland Ore., 27,000 in Los Angeles, 15,000 in Seattle, more than 10,000 each in Wisconsin and Arizona, and 8,000 in Dallas. Thousands more have packed convention centers and auditoriums in Louisiana, Colorado, Vermont, Iowa and other states.

Historical context is necessary to appreciate the significance of this. We don’t mean ancient history but the history of the past 70 years—since 1945.

Not just radical socialists and revolutionary communists but even the most moderate socialists have been forced to swim in a very small pond since the brutal ascension of anti-communism as the country’s unofficial religion 70 years ago virtually destroyed the socialist left. Not only was the left censored from above but leftists self-censored and didn’t talk about socialism on the job with their co-workers, their neighbors, and even their families. People didn’t want to get fired or risk social isolation. Socialism became a dirty word. And as such, the ideas of socialism were cast as deeply negative and forced into a nearly underground existence in the “Free World.”

The Communist Party, which had 100,000 members at the end of World War II, was declared illegal by the U.S. Congress. The top leaders of the CP were sent to prison for being traitors. The United States labor movement was purged of leftists. Anti-communist loyalty oaths were a requirement for employment. Thousands of communists and socialists went into exile and fled the United States. In Hollywood and in academia, progressive, left and socialist personalities were blacklisted. The House Un-American Activities Committee subpoenaed people from every walk of life and demanded that they renounce socialism and “name names” of people who may have signed a petition for peace, in opposition to nuclear weapons, for peaceful relations with the Soviet Union. Martin Luther King Jr. and every other civil rights leader who emerged in the 1950s and 1960s was condemned by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI as being puppets of communist agitators.

Socialism and communism were purged from “American” politics. Its history textbooks scandalized and defamed socialism. The left was purged not only from present politics but from American history, leaving several generations with ignorance or hatred of socialism. Instead of celebrating International Working Women’s Day we had Mother’s Day.  Mayday became Law and Order Day.

The impact of anti-communism for the last 70 years in the United States should not be underestimated. Not only was the left censored, but it learned as a matter of survival to engage in self-censorship. To learn more about this process, see Abby Martin’s recent 28-minute episode from the Empire Files [1] .

Now the pond has suddenly got bigger. Millions of people are now supporting someone who calls himself a socialist. Socialism, it turns out, is not that scary to them. That’s something new and its importance must be grasped.

Does it really make sense tactically for more radical socialists, at this moment and under these circumstances, to emphasize that Sanders “isn’t really a socialist”? Or that Sanders is just a big fraud and this entire mass outpouring is just a clever “sheepdogging” manipulation by the Democratic Party designed to keep the more progressive part of the population voting Democrat in 2016.

Does it make any tactical sense, if you want to truly popularize socialism with the millions of new Sanders supporters who are supporting him precisely because they want change and see a “socialist” candidate as the vehicle for change, that they are just really wasting their time or worse.?

No, it does not make sense. Perhaps it is a psychological fear by small fish who have been comfortably swimming in small ponds for so long that they fear the scary waves and powerful currents of larger bodies of water or simply being swallowed up by the bigger fish. Or, in the case of some very militant and radical young people who are unfamiliar with the crushing suppression of the socialist and communist left in the U.S., they are understandably turned off by and not seeing past Sanders’ liberalism.

Again, we need to emphasize with them that the issue isn’t about Sanders the person but about the new opportunity that has arisen to reach millions of people who are just thinking about socialism in a positive way for the first time. Bourgeois politics is highly personalized and focuses attention on the individual candidate. People make judgments on the individual candidate: Are they bad or good or even great? Socialist tactics reject this method. A tactical orientation should be based on the larger political trends, opportunities and challenges.

The ruling class wants the Sanders campaign to be diminished not because he is a dangerous revolutionary socialist, which he is not, but because his campaign is starting to legitimize a broader discussion of what’s wrong with the U.S. economic system and to generate enthusiasm for socialism even if the term is still vague and not well understood.

This campaign comes just three years after U.S. law-enforcement agencies arrested 7,000 people and broke up their encampments in public places. “We are the 99%” caught on like wildfire. It scared the hell out of the bankers, and the government went into mobilization mode, sending its cops to break up the movement. It was not because the Occupy Movement was a revolutionary danger to the capitalist elites. It was a peaceful and loosely organized protest movement. But the ruling class was alarmed that any radical expression against Wall Street’s devastating war against the people can quickly morph into a genuinely revolutionary movement that does threaten their power. The FBI and Homeland Security sprang into action and in coordination with local police departments carried out a nationwide crackdown that snuffed out the Occupy movement. For all their talk about democracy, the U.S. capitalist establishment really fears that any expression of real democracy, in the streets or even in the electoral arena, will lead to a new wave of radical and revolutionary struggle similar to what happened in the 1930s or 1960s.

Sanders is walking a fine line. The unexpected wave of mass enthusiasm and support he has generated is due to his powerful rhetoric against Wall Street greed, inequality and poverty. But to be even mildly tolerated by the centers of the capitalist establishment, he sends other signals that he is not really a radical.

Sanders is running as a Democrat even though he officially is identified as an independent in the Senate. He said that he could never stand a chance of winning the general election unless he ran as a Democrat. He has also promised to support whomever the Democratic Party finally selects as its candidate for the 2016 presidential election. He vows that he will not run as an independent candidate if he doesn’t win the Democratic nomination, because, he asserts, that would split the Democratic Party vote and allow the right-wing Republican candidate to win the White House. Given how racist, anti-women and anti-immigrant the Republican candidates are, this will make sense to many of his supporters.

But there will also be many Sanders supporters who will not want to support Hillary Clinton or any other representative of the Democratic Party establishment entirely enmeshed with Wall Street, the most powerful corporate elites, the NSA, and the Military-Industrial Complex. They will want Sanders to run as an independent and break from the Democrats if he doesn’t win the nomination. They are not supporting Sanders because he is a Democrat but because he is running on a progressive platform that is far to the left of the other politicians. But, come August 2016, if Sanders has failed in his bid he promises to do what Jesse Jackson did in 1984 and 1988. That is, to fold his progressive tent and tell his followers to vote for the establishment Democratic Party candidates so as to prevent the Republicans from capturing the White House.

This is the dilemma created for leftists by the carefully constructed political system in the United States.
In a parliamentary system, such as exists in most of the capitalist countries, Sanders could run independently from the Democrats and in competition with the Democrats and still win a sizable part of the general vote and a significant number of parliamentary seats. Any combination of parties and factions that combine to constitute a majority in parliament then select the head of state.

But in the U.S. system, it is winner take all. Thus, the “logic” of lesser-evil politics is reinforced. If the Democratic Party loses, then the even more right-wing Republicans take hold of the government. Most leftist and progressive people end up voting for the Democrats out of fear that the Republicans will even more greatly eviscerate the rights of the people. U.S. electoral politics, by virtue of how the system is constructed, therefore leaves a fundamentally narrow field for radical socialist and revolutionary politics. And yet, it is precisely in the electoral arena, that “socialism” is being revived in the United States after its decades of near-underground or small-pond existence.

The PSL has its own election campaign with Gloria La Riva and Eugene Puryear running for president and vice-president. The campaign has a 10-point program. It is clearly more far reaching than the Sanders campaign program, and unlike Sanders’ program it is consistently anti-imperialist.

Of course, we will point out all the political differences that we have with the Sanders campaign. We are in complete solidarity with the Palestinian people and their right to be self-determining rather than living under brutal occupation, for instance. Also, Sanders wants a carefully crafted and cautiously used drone program, but the PSL condemns the Pentagon drone program because it constitutes a war crime and reflects the criminal nature of U.S. imperialism. The PSL does not want the Wall Street banks to be more regulated, as Sanders proposes, but rather seized as criminal enterprises. The top bankers’ greed and avarice has made millions of people jobless, thrown millions from their homes, and impoverished a vast swath of the population so that a small cabal of billionaires become richer still. They should be identified as the biggest criminals in the country and punished as such. The PSL is campaigning to make a job or an income a constitutional right and to make health care, childcare services, and education entirely free.

The PSL presidential campaign is quite different than Sanders’ campaign. But instead of attacking his campaign as a fraud or not “real socialism,” we want to reach out to the grassroots supporters of the Sanders campaign and let them know that we, like them, want real change. We want to emphasize that socialism is much better than capitalism and use the space to have meaningful, friendly and persuasive discussions about what socialism is and how it can work. We lose nothing by acknowledging that the Sanders campaign and the work of its volunteers and supporters have made a major contribution to helping popularize socialism in this the center of world capitalism where the system’s thought police thought they had successfully snuffed out socialism once and for all.

Finally, what else can supporters of the PSL’s Gloria La Riva and Eugene Puryear’s presidential election campaign say to Sanders supporters? We can point out why they should not follow Sanders’ advice when he tells his supporters that they should ultimately back any other Democratic Party nominee in the event that Sanders doesn’t win the nomination. We should argue that Bernie Sanders’ program for guaranteed health care, college education and other major reforms is what’s important and if Sanders is truly serious about winning these reforms, he should run as an independent. Millions of people are excited about his campaign. If the ruling class succeeds in installing Clinton or some other “acceptable” pro-Wall Street candidate instead of Sanders, however, why should his supporters be told to back a political candidate who has no intention of implementing such needed reforms. If Sanders ran as an independent candidate for president, as a “democratic socialist,” he would receive the votes of millions of people. That would be something really significant in creating a new political dynamic in the United States.

If Sanders, now with the backing of millions of people, ran as an independent, that would put him on a collision course with the Democratic Party establishment. We can point out that the Democratic Party, even when it controlled both the White House and both houses of Congress in 2009 and 2010, refused to pass single-payer health care or comprehensive immigration reform or relief for staggering student debt. The Democrats, when they were completely in charge, refused to implement any of the reforms Sanders is advocating. Instead, the Democratic Party leadership chose to bail out Wall Street bankers with taxpayers’ money while millions of working families were evicted from their homes by the very same bankers. The Democratic Party is not the vehicle for the desperately needed changes that Sanders is advocating. It is a ruling-class party completely under the control of the biggest banks and corporations.

If Bernie Sanders chooses to run as a political independent, that would enrage the capitalist leaders of the Democratic Party. He would be condemned by the political establishment, which would demonize and red bait him to no end. Sanders has pledged that he won’t run as an independent, but his supporters should demand it. If he ends up backing the Democratic Party establishment candidate, his supporters should stay true to the fight and vote for socialist and truly progressive candidates in 2016.

[1] The History of Anti-Communism — America's Unoffcial Religion,


Princeton Professor Angus Deaton was awarded the 2015 Nobel Memorial Prize in Economics Oct. 12. His specialty is microeconomics, human consumption, welfare and poverty. In 2013 The British-American economist published his latest book, The Great Escape: Health, Wealth, and the Origins of Inequality.

With frequent reports of U.S. billionaires buying politicians, including Presidential candidates, House and Senate members, as well as increasing inequality and poverty throughout the country, we find the following three paragraphs from The Great Escape to be particularly relevant to America's collapsing democracy.

"If democracy becomes plutocracy (government by the wealthy), those who are not rich are effectively disenfranchised. Justice Louis Brandeis famously argued that the United States could have either democracy or wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but not both. The political equality that is required by democracy is always under threat from economic inequality, and the more extreme the economic inequality, the greater the threat to democracy.

"If democracy is compromised, there is a direct loss of wellbeing because people have good reason to value their ability to participate in political life, and the loss of that ability is instrumental in threatening other harm.

"The very wealthy have little need for state-provided education or health care; they have every reason to support cuts in Medicare and to fight any increase in taxes. They have even less reason to support health insurance for everyone, or to worry about the low quality of public schools that plagues much of the country. They will oppose any regulation of banks that restricts profits, even if it helps those who cannot cover their mortgages or protects the public against predatory lending, deceptive advertising, or even a repetition of the financial crash."

This is one reason why there have been virtually no substantial social programs to benefit the American people in 45 years. Yes, there's Obamacare — originally a Republican program with a number of shortcomings copied by President Obama. It's simply no match for President Truman's unsuccessful efforts to introduce a single-payer system 68 years ago. The U.S. isn't behind on this because it lacks money. The problem is the money is in the wrong hands. 

By CAP Action War Room

After much chaos and dysfunction, the House of Representatives elected Rep. Paul Ryan from Wisconsin to be Speaker of the House. The Republicans have lauded their new Speaker as their “thought leader” who creates the “blueprints” for policies: he was Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012 and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. Much of the GOP rhetoric around Ryan’s run for speaker has suggested that he will usher in a new era of moderate, pragmatic, and effective leadership that will be both good for the economy and the American people.

Despite GOP rhetoric, the reality of Paul Ryan’s record, including his signature 2014 budget, suggests that his Speakership will be full of the same, extreme Republican policies that undermine working families to help the rich get richer — policies that voters already rejected in the 2012 election [but the GOP grabbed both chambers of Congress in 2014). Here are a few reminders of Ryan’s record:

Bad for low-income families. Ryan tried to paint himself as an anti-poverty crusader, by embarking on poverty tour in 2014 and releasing a report documenting his concerns about poverty. But in reality, Ryan creates policies that cut programs that are vital for working families and blames poverty on personal failures, claiming that it is the result of a “culture problem.” The bulk of the Ryan Budget’s spending cuts. 69%, come from gutting programs that serve low-income people. And after his 2014 poverty tour, he proposed slashing $125 billion from the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), also known a food stamps, over the next 10 years, and converting it to a flat-funded block grant. He also proposed cuts to Medicaid, a critical program that provides health care to 70 million Americans, including low-income children, seniors, and people with disabilities. And of course, Ryan wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which has provided health insurance for 17.6 million people.

Rep. Paul Ryan
Drawing by Johb Springs, NYRB
Bad for seniors. In his 2014 budget, Ryan abandoned the pledge Republicans made to protect anyone increase premiums for traditional Medicare by 50%, according to the CBO. Ryan has also attacked one of the other pillars of economic security for seniors: Social Security. Despite the fact that Social Security survivor benefits made it possible for him to pay for his college tuition, Ryan’s 2010 budget cut benefits and privatized a substantial portion of the program, instead of lifting the Social Security payroll tax cap so that the rich pay their fair share of payroll taxes.
age 55 or older from Medicare cuts and instead advocated for forcing seniors to pay more by radically altering Medicare. He also supports turning Medicare into a voucher system, which would

Bad for women. Ryan’s dismal record on women’s issues has earned him a 0% score from Planned Parenthood on women’s issues. He has voted numerous times to defund Planned Parenthood and is a leading advocate for personhood bills. And though Paul Ryan used his power to guarantee time with his family despite his Speaker duties, he refuses to support legislation, such as guaranteed paid sick and paid family leave, to help others have this right. Unlike Paul Ryan, no one else has federally guaranteed paid time off for illness, holidays, vacation, or the arrival of a new child. Women usually still most feel the burden of this lack of paid leave. More than 40% of mothers have cut back on work to care for family. And as new research shows that boosting women’s earnings helps slow the growth of inequality, it is apparent that Paul Ryan’s extremism hurts not only women, but also the economy.

Bad for the economy. Ryan’s budgets and rhetoric tout the same failed trickle-down economic theories that have only helped the rich get even richer but leave middle class and working families behind. His budget proposed giving millionaires a tax cut of at least $200,000. And analyses indicate, there is no way to implement Ryan’s tax cuts for millionaires in a deficit-neutral way without raising taxes on the middle class. Ryan also advocates for austerity measures that have never worked and would hurt the economy. And yet, his budget advocates for enormous cuts to investments in education, science, and other programs that benefit the middle class.