Was John Brown Right?

On the morning of his execution by the State of Virginia on December 2, 1859, John Brown penned these words:

I, John Brown, am now quite certain that the crimes of this guilty land will never be purged away but with blood. I had, as I now think, vainly flattered myself that without very much bloodshed it might be done

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Brown_(abolitionist)

Not many years passed before the Civil War unleashed such a purge of blood as this nation had not seen before and has not, since. But the crimes of which he spoke were not washed away. Far from it. The legacy of slavery, almost the slavery itself, remain alive. In the words of William Faulkner, this past is not dead; it is not even past. The new Legacy Museum with its national lynching memorial only covers up to 1950. It needs an expansive annex to include the state-sponsored and -enabled murders of the past seventy years. George Floyd’s name is only among the most recent links in a long chain of innocent men, women, and children martyred by domestic terrorism.

As so many times in the past — think the aftermath of the murders of Martin Luther King, Rodney King, Malcolm X, Michael Brown — American cities exploded and burned. Irrepressible flareups of anger filled the streets with shouting voices and raised, unarmed hands. As always, the mainstream of peaceful protest rubbed against a narrow margin of vandalism, arson, and looting, and the media, following an old established playbook, blew up that sideshow into the main event. Next in the playbook comes the curfew and more police brutality, and the National Guard, and the cities turn into military fronts, where the establishment makes war on the people.

Shut the f**k up, America, about Hong Kong. Shut up about Venezuela. Shut up about Iran, and Russia, and every other country that doesn’t meet your imaginary standards of democracy. Hong Kong, Venezuela, Iran, Russia, all of them are right here. The moral high ground has long worn a veil of hypocrisy. Now once again, the veil is shredded. We stand here naked, bloody, covered in excrement, leering with sanctimony, every word a lie, every act a crime, everything we touch, corrupt and dead.

This is not about Donald Trump. He stands apart not for his resort to military repression — they all did that — but for his personal cowardice, hiding in the bunker as peaceful demonstrators massed outside the White House. Are there any voices with moral courage among the clubs of billionaires that own and run the country? If there are leaders of the establishment who can not only speak the necessary words, but begin the required actions to demolish the monstrous mausoleum of injustice that weighs on the country, they are silent.

Hope then shifts to the Democrats. What a pathetic lot. Joe Biden, who owes his status as presumptive nominee to the Black voters of South Carolina, has no vision beyond restoring normalcy. What does normalcy mean? Normalcy for many decades has meant not only police brutality, but job discrimination, housing discrimination, medical discrimination, school discrimination — racism in every dimension and every moment of life from conception to burial. Biden is likely to ride a tide of national disgust with Trump into office. But little, if anything, will improve, and many things will get worse.

This is a time when the whole edifice of government and the economic structure have lost their legitimacy. It’s not only that we have a climate where cops and white vigilantes can murder black people with impunity. It’s a life where authorities can order people to avoid the virus, but don’t provide them with masks, gloves, shields, or gowns to carry out that directive. It’s a system where employers can order millions of people not to come to work, but don’t provide them with the money to survive. They order other people to show up and work extra hours, but don’t provide them with protective equipment on the job, or with sick leave. In the greatest health crisis this country has known in a century, millions of people have lost even basic health care coverage, and the medical system is in tatters. The powers on high have pushed tens of millions of Americans off a cliff. And you wonder why there are mass demonstrations, and why there was also looting, despair, open defiance of authority all across the country. Government only endures with the consent of the governed, and this consent has worn out.

This is one of those historical moments when America desperately needs a revolution. Among the wealthy classes some see “mobs with pitchforks” on the horizon, and have prepped their getaways, hideouts, safe rooms, and arsenals. On the other side we hear revolutionary voices calling for the overthrow of the imperialist ruling class and the establishment of socialism, but these phrases remain abstract.

Bernie, Elizabeth, and the “squad” have the right idea. Concrete proposals: free and universal health care, free and universal education, for starters. But that doesn’t go nearly far enough. The math doesn’t work: how to pay for those things, if everything else stays the same? And what exactly will begin to level the bleeding gaps of income and wealth between the classes and the races?

We need to think pragmatically. There is enormous, unimaginable wealth, but it’s in the hands of a tiny club of private owners. It’s time for a capital levy, followed by a steeply progressive wealth tax, levied at the corporate sources. Both are reasonably well understood economic measures with historic precedents, capable of generating the revenue needed for social reconstruction.

A massive campaign to rebuild America offers the staircase for elevating communities of color to parity. Begin with free schools for hundreds of thousands of men and women of color to learn the construction business: carpentry, plumbing, electrical, iron, sheet metal, computer aided design, architecture, civil engineering, project management, AI and everything else required for a huge popular DIY mobilization to clean up, upgrade, renovate, restore, rebuild and/or build new housing, new industry, and the infrastructure to support it, in America’s depressed urban and rural communities. The reward, besides a living wage, will be equity. Workers will become owners of the rebuilt or newbuilt apartments and houses. The wealth gap between the races will narrow and vanish in one generation.

To solve the education gap, there needs to be a huge make-up investment in black colleges and universities until their endowments equal or surpass those of the big ivies, and in black high schools and lower grades right through to preschool until their facilities, assets, and staffing equal or surpass those of the best white suburban schools. When that is done, in two generations the attainment gaps in education, and segregation itself, will fade into history.

But to make any of those measures work, there has to be a thorough purge and turnover of our machineries of government. Too many police departments are saturated with Klan ideology; they must be re–educated or weeded out. Too many “public servants” are whores for wealthy donors. The revolving door between public office and private profit has turned the headquarters of many, perhaps all government agencies into cesspools of corruption and conspiracy against the public interest. Nothing useful can be achieved with this kind of governmental apparatus. It must be cleansed and reoriented, and in some cases smashed entirely and rebuilt from scratch. A thorough purge of the state machinery at all levels is the precondition of progress in every other area.

If this vision, broad as it is, can be made real by deep democratic reforms, then John Brown’s gallows prophecy will prove to be hollow. But if all that comes out of the current upheavals is a return to “normalcy,” then God help America. This normalcy is a knee on the neck not only of African-Americans, but of all Americans whose dream is to breathe free. If “normalcy” prevails, we will come out of the emergency more divided, with greater wealth in fewer hands, with greater poverty and sickness, with less security and protection from governmental abuse, and in an atmosphere more saturated with deadly poisons of the body and the mind than before.

Demographics is the foundation of hope for America. We are becoming more diverse, more free thinking, tolerant, clear eyed, primed for change, angry, and willing to take action. The current power surge of rich racist old white men is a rear guard action. It will not last. The only question is whether a brighter, cleaner, fairer, authentic, and secure America can be won through methods that are mainly peaceful, or whether we must reach the future in the manner foretold by the great emancipator John Brown.

John Brown’s Christmas raid into Missouri 1858, freeing 11 slaves. Unsigned painting, 1940, Kansas State Capitol Building.

Note from Norway

From Mike Seltzer, Oslo, April 21 2020

A short note about how things are developing here in the Nordic countries, specifically Norway, Denmark, and Finland, with a side look at Sweden.

Norway, Denmark, and Finland went on lockdown — schools, restaurants, drinking places, cinemas, etc. — on about March 11 or 12. All except those in vital occupations — medicine, transport, drugstores and supermarkets — were told to stay at home. Since then the spread and impact of the coronavirus in all three countries have followed the same pattern.

Our infections and deaths peaked about the same time and have now been steadily going down each day. Consequently, all kindergartens in Norway opened yesterday and next week later the first four grades of primary schools will be opening, and one week after that barbers and hair salons, physical therapists and related occupations will be free to go back to work. That is more or less what is taking place in Denmark.

But meanwhile in Sweden the death rate per million populations is currently four times that of Norway and I think of Denmark too.  Here is a link to a statistical site we check each day. And here as in the other Nordic countries deaths have been tightly concentrated among elderly people — mainly those with preexisting conditions like diabetes, heart conditions, etc.

Since March, many of us here in the North have been deeply troubled with what has  been taking place in Sweden. There, they have as state epidemiologist, a man named Anders Tegnell, who got his job being the protege of the former state epidemiologist. For those with a few years in academe behind us, it is a rather familiar story where the protege, i.e. the favored candidate with the fewest qualifications gets the position. The keyword is “lovende” which translate into “she/he is promising”. At any rate, this man, never questioned critically by Swedish journalists at daily press conferences, has kept schools and high schools, bars and restaurants open, and what we see on Swedish television of life in the streets and eating and drinking places is like watching a movie about life on another planet.

Finally, last week, 38 professors in fields like virology and bacteriology publicly attacked Tegnell and in good Swedish understatement characterized him as being “utan talang” which translates as totally lacking talent. And they have called for a radical change in Swedish policy making it more like that of Denmark, Norway and Finland. By the way, Norway has closed its borders to Sweden and any Norwegian coming across from Sweden is to go into voluntary quarantine for 14 days – and this morning the Norwegian police announced that they had jailed someone who broke the quarantine and they are hitting him with a big fine.

As it looks now, if the virus does not resurge, Norway in midsummer, always a big holiday, may be back to normal – again if the virus does not resurge.  Even then, the Norwegian government is advising us to stay in Norway during July when everyone gets four weeks of vacation.

I hope that what Norwegians, Danes and Finns have experienced gives you some hope in the dark times you all are now experiencing. Of course, we have here three things lacking in the US: a rational response by the government, a well functioning and FREE medical system headed by a national institute of health and nationalized radio and television system dealing in facts, not opinions.

I cannot for the life of me understand after watching weeks of Trump that Fauci does not simply take the mike and say: ” Do not believe this man. He knows nothing. And everything he says leads to more deaths.” Fauci resigns, gets a pension, and like the captain of the Theodore Roosevelt, I am sure there would be a massive public outcry if Trump and the Trumpsters went after him. And it is so nice these days to watching your California governor – and in fact all the Dem governors.

Finally if you have not seen this, please share. It will help bring a smile even as the Donald prepares for the next so-called press conference.

 If Trump were captain of the Titanic, here are his announcements in chronological order.

  • There isn’t any iceberg.
  • There was an iceberg but it’s in a totally different ocean.
  • The iceberg is in this ocean but it will melt very soon.
  • There is an iceberg but we didn’t hit the iceberg.
  • We hit the iceberg, but the damage will be repaired very shortly.
  • The iceberg is a Chinese iceberg.
  • We are taking on water but every passenger who wants a lifeboat can get a lifeboat, and they are beautiful lifeboats.
  • Look, passengers need to ask nicely for the lifeboats if they want them.
  • We don’t have any lifeboats, we’re not lifeboat distributors.
  • Passengers should have planned for icebergs and brought their own lifeboats.
  • I really don’t think we need that many lifeboats.
  • We have lifeboats and they’re supposed to be our lifeboats, not the passengers’ lifeboats.
  • The lifeboats were left on shore by the last captain of this ship.
  • Nobody could have foreseen the iceberg.

A Laugh and a Song

The Covid-19 pandemic is no laughing matter. But in this grim situation a laugh is more needed than ever. Here is a YouTube video that cracked me up.

And here’s a follow-up in the same vein. Hats off to the producers and talent, these are well done.

In a different mood, here’s a beautifully done one-artist production by friend Chet Gardiner:

It’s true that the virus doesn’t discriminate, but whether “poor and rich end up in the ditch” depends. Item: this item from the NY Post, forwarded by friend Mike Seltzer in Norway. The rich are using their elbows to push the poor into the ditch. When it comes to rich and poor, we’ve got social distancing big time. Hardly even in the same world.

Here, thanks to David Tam, is another YouTube song performance that gets it right:

Is Pete Buttigieg Just a Shill for Corporations and the Donor Class?

Why has Buttigieg flipped from being a putative progressive to being perhaps the most conservative, pro-corporate Democrat remaining in the field? A good place to start would be to follow the money.

By Miles Mogulescu Reposted from Common Dreams 11/22/19

Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaking with attendees at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention at the George R. Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California on June 1, 2019. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)
Mayor Pete Buttigieg speaking with attendees at the 2019 California Democratic Party State Convention at the George R. Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, California on June 1, 2019. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/flickr/cc)

Pete Buttigieg, the 37-year-old mayor of South Bend, the fourth-largest town in Indiana, is the shiny new object in the race to become the Democrats’ candidate for president in 2020. Coming from almost nowhere, he’s finished first in several recent Iowa polls.

Superficially, there’s a lot that’s appealing about Mayor Pete: He’s articulate, quick on his feet, can speak in full paragraphs—sometimes in Norwegian—and projects a sense of optimism. But when you scratch below the service, it’s hard to find Buttigieg’s core convictions, and and he now appears to have put himself up for sale to corporate interests.

Buttigieg’s Flip-Flop On Progressive Policies

As a virtual unknown, Buttigieg started his campaign backing progressive policies. In February, he called the Green New Deal “the right beginning.” He called for structural reforms, like adding Justices to the Supreme Court and abolishing the Electoral College. He said he was “all for” a single payer health care system and tweeted, “I, Pete Buttigieg, politician, do henceforth and forthwith declare, most affirmatively and indubitably, unto the ages, that I do favor Medicare for All.”

“As things stand today, Mayor Pete is the candidate most likely to ensure that no reforms seriously threaten the interests of these oligarchs.”

Buttigieg has flip-flopped on all of these policies. He has now become the most outspoken Democratic candidate in opposing Medicare for All. It would be one thing if his opposition were merely tactical. (While I support Medicare for All, there’s at least a principled argument that it’s not achievable right away and that a slower approach meant to move towards Medicare for All in the medium range is more politically practical.) But Buttigieg has started parroting Republican talking points opposing Medicare for All on principle because it takes away people’s “free choice” to choose private insurance.

Buttigieg’s “Medicare for All Who Want It” is a slick campaign slogan, but bad policy as a long-term solution. Rep. Ro Khanna (D. CA.) said Buttigieg’s plan “won’t bring the administrative costs down of private insurers or maximize negotiation with Big Pharma and hospitals…This means higher premiums, higher drug costs, higher deductibles, and more denied claims for the middle class.” The New Republic‘s Libby Watson called Buttigieg’s health care plan “the worst yet,” saying it was “deeply stupid.”

The plan, wrote Watson, “betrays a terminal case of Democrat Brain; it is a faux-technocratic fantasia soaked in the utterly meaningless jargon of Access and Affordability that won’t even accomplish the things it pretends to want. It is an insult.” And Buttigieg has taken to attacking other Democrats for being too generous in their proposals to make higher education free.

Buttigieg and the Donor Class

Why has Buttigieg flipped from being a putative progressive to being perhaps the most conservative, pro-corporate Democrat remaining in the field? A good place to start would be to follow the money.

Buttigieg has become one of the biggest recipients of contributions from the health care, financial services, and big tech industries. Under the proposals advanced by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, Buttigieg’s big money donors are the ones who would have to pay higher taxes to support things like free college tuition and universal health care. In Buttigieg, they’ve found a candidate to speak up for their interests.

Buttigieg is the second-largest recipient of contributions from the health care industry, after only Donald Trump. Buttigieg donors include the chief corporate affairs officer at Pfizer, the president of Astex Pharmaceuticals, a state lobbyist for Biogen, a vice president of public policy at Novartis, and the deputy vice president at the nation’s largest pharmaceutical trade association, PhRMA, plus lawyer for AbbVie, Johnson & Johnson, and Merck.

Meanwhile, top executives of the largest tech companies have flocked to contribute to Buttigieg. Among those holding fundraisers for Buttigieg are Netflix CEO Reed Hastings, Nest Lab’s co-founder Matt Rogers, and Uber director of product communications, Chelsea Kohler. Other rich big tech donors include Ron Conway, who has led San Francisco mayors to back tech-friendly policies; Scott Belsky, the chief product officer and executive vice president at Adobe Inc; Tony Xu, CEO of Doordash Inc.; David Marcus, the head of Facebook’s Libra cryptocurrency project; and Wendy Schmidt, wife of former Google CEO Eric Schmidt.

Zuckerberg’s Secret Help

Moreover, according to Bloomberg News, Mark Zuckerberg and his wife, Priscilla Chan, privately contacted Buttigieg to recommend campaign staff. Two of their “suggestions” were hired.

With Facebook, Google, and other high-tech oligopolies facing increasing public criticism, how likely will Buttigieg be to bring them under control, or even, as Elizabeth Warren has suggested, use anti-trust laws to break them up?

And the hits just keep on coming. Buttigieg has become a favorite of Wall Street donors. For example, Tony James, the executive vice chairman of Blackstone, the world’s largest private-equity firm, hosted a fundraiser for Buttigieg. James was a top contender for Treasury Secretary if Hillary Clinton got elected, and his fundraising for Buttigieg may be a new play for a top cabinet position, from which he could protect his Wall Street cronies from significant tax increases.

Buttigieg as Corporate Consultant

Buttigieg should be quite comfortable in the company of financial elites. As In These Times journalist Nathan Robinson points out, after graduating from Oxford and Harvard, Buttigieg could have found almost any job he wanted. He chose McKinsey & Company, which Robinson describes as a “cult-like management consulting firm.” McKinsey, Robinson continues, “may be the single greatest legitimizer of mass layoffs. Its advice: Identify your bottom 10 percent or 25 percent or 33 percent, and get rid of them as soon as possible.”

McKinsey has also advised dictatorships like Saudi Arabia and consulted with Purdue Pharma LP, which just went bankrupt because of lawsuits over its role in the opioid crisis. As a former McKinsey consultant writes anonymously in Current Affairs, describing the firm as “capital’s willing executioners:”

I came into my job as a McKinsey consultant hoping to change the world from the inside, believing that the best way to make progress is through influencing those who control the levers of power. Instead of being a force for good, I found myself party to the most damaging forces affecting the world: the resurgence of authoritarianism and the continued creep of markets into all parts of life…. McKinsey serves 90 of the top 100 corporations worldwide. It has acted as a catalyst and accelerant to every trend in the world economy: firm consolidation, the rise of advertising, runaway executive compensation, globalization, automation, and corporate restructuring and strategy.

We can only guess as to whether Mayor Pete has also had a change of heart about his time with McKinsey, as this former consultant did. But while Buttigieg no longer puts McKinsey at the top of his resumé, as he did during his run for mayor of South Bend, he calls his stint at the management consulting firm his most “intellectually informing experience.”

American politics are a money pit, so we should not be surprised that powerful corporations and CEOs like Zuckerberg are constantly seeking ways to maximize their influence. But why have they now singled out Buttigieg, who only recently espoused bold reforms, to be the top spokesman for the donor class in the Democratic primary? It’s because as things stand today, Mayor Pete is the candidate most likely to ensure that no reforms seriously threaten the interests of these oligarchs.

I will do everything I can to encourage the Democrats to nominate a candidate who can not only defeat Trump, but address the structural problems that led to his rise. But because Trump and those who now seek his mantle, like Mike Pence and Mike Pompeo, pose an existential threat to the future of the nation and the world, I will do everything I can to defeat Trump and encourage others to do the same—even if the Democratic nominee is ultimately a corporate centrist like Buttigieg or Biden.

Miles Mogulescu

Miles Mogulescu is an entertainment attorney/business affairs executive, producer, political activist and writer.Our work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 License. Feel free to republish and share widely.

The Wall 30 Years Later

By Victor Grossman

Media jubilation reaches a climax on November 9th, thirty years after the bumbling, perhaps even misunderstood decision to open the gate for all East Germans to stream through, hasten to the nearest West Berlin bank for their “welcome present“ of 100 prized West German marks, and taste the joys of the western free market system. Within less than a year they would end the experiment known as the German Democratic Republic to join, and fully enjoy, the wealthy, healthy, prosperous united Germany, with its freedom of the press, speech, travel and consumer bliss.

The jubilation thirty years ago is easy to understand and to sympathize with. Alone the ability, whenever and as often as desired, to meet and celebrate with friends and relatives, sufficed to bring tears to many, many eyes and the almost universal cries of „Wahnsinn!“ – “Simply crazy!“

But moving as those scenes were, and happy to so many in their recollections, a history-based, sterner evaluation awakens doubts that, despite the paeans in the world media, this was not purely  a peaceful  revolution, a choice of freedom by the masses, another successful victory for freedom and justice  as in past centuries. We recall that even revolutions are complex, that the American Revolution was followed by Shay‘s Rebellion, a bolstering of slavery and a bloody six year war which forced most Indians from Ohio. The short era of Robespierre meant almost a year in prison for Tom Paine. And enthusiastic crowds can also make very false judgements.

East Germans soon learned that freedom of the press was for those who owned the presses, that freedom of speech helped most those who ruled over studios and cable connections. Most tellingly, they learned very quickly that those 100 West-marks were soon spent and new ones, for all those glistening commodities and travels, had somehow to be earned, while over 95 % of the industry they had built up was taken over by Westerners and, robbed of any machinery of value, for the most part shut down. It was now very simple to move westwards; several million did, now not for freedom, consumer goods or better-paid jobs but for any job at all. Professors, teachers, scientists, journalists, administrators at every level were thrown out, replaced by second and third string West Germans who were certain they could do everything better – and got “bush bonuses“ for making the sacrifice of taking over East Germany. For workers, the wage level is still below that in the West, while jobless figures and the work week  for those now finding a job are both above the figures in the West.

The victory thirty years ago brought other changes. The old GDR had, until the end, no drug problem, almost no AIDS, no organized crime, no school shootings, none of the free food pantries now so prevalent, since people n the GDR, while lacking food items like oranges, bananas and other southern imports, all had enough to eat. Nor was there anyone in those years begging or sleeping in the streets, since there were always jobs a-plenty and evictions were illegal. So was any discrimination against women, who got equal pay, at least a half-year paid maternal leave, free abortions, cheap summer vacations and summer camps, and one paid day off a month for household duties.

Oh yes, there were blunders a-plenty, stupidity, careerism, dogmatism. Envy and greed could not be eradicated  from the human soul, but with almost no feverish competition they were lessened, as the polls found. True, where people gained positions of power they  were as capable of misusing it as elsewhere. Nor could all the remnants of fascist poison be erased from 16 million heads in one or two generations. But they were forbidden – and those with racist thoughts and prejudices kept them to themselves or within their closest circles, while truly masterful films, books and plays endeavored to combat them. Today, nazi thugs march every weekend , and the pro-fascist Alternative for Germany party has 94 seats in the Bundestag and won second place in three state elections.

             Here we hit on the main problem with the breaking down of the Berlin Wall. The GDR had thrown out – lock, stock and barrel – all the giant cartels and monopolies which profited from World War One, built up Hitler when, during the Depression, working people became rebellious, then earned billions from slave labor during World War Two and, after 1945,  regained immense wealth and power. In the West! Bayer and BASF, major perpetrators of Auschwitz, are on top of the chemical pile, world-wide now with Monsanto. Powerful old fascist fat cats like Daimler (Mercedes) and Quandt (BMW) are cheating the environmentalists, Rheinmetall and Heckler & Co. are again making billions with their tanks and guns and missiles. All their properties were confiscated by the GDR – which is why they hated it and conspired against it, successfully. Also because the GDR, as opposed to its rival in Bonn, supported the Algerians in their fight for freedom, Allende against the Pinochets, Mandela and the ANC and SWAPO, Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam and freedom fighters from Nicaragua to Aden.

             The very existence of the GDR represented a barrier against further expansion by the Bayers with their control of ever more seed sources and their destruction of natural life, from frogs and butterflies to orchids, cacti and rain forests, but also against weapons makers who desire nothing more than further world  tension, especially with Russia and China, the two main remaining barriers to world hegemony of the billionaires. They demand the use and replacement of their products. After 1945 and until 1990 no uniformed Germans were shooting presumed enemies anywhere in the world. With  the GDR out of the way the Bundeswehr flew missions and dropped bombs in the mountains of Afghanistan and trained soldiers in the desert sands of Mali – after beginning by bombing Serbia, repeating  Germany‘s crimes in two world wars.

              United Germany’s Minister of Defense, who hopes to become chancellor, has demanded that Germany play a far bigger role in today’s world – and plans a big build-up of weapons to achieve this. She has found smiling support from Secretary of State Pompeo, who came to Berlin and joined in the hallelujahs for the victory of democracy thirty years earlier.  Yes, Pompeo!

             The GDR had countless  faults and limitations, caused by poor leadership – mostly aged anti-fascist fighters, trying to save the endeavor to achieve socialism in at least this small corner of Germany, but overtaken by modern developments and never able to find rapport with large sections of a vacillating population tempted by daily TV images of a wonderful world in the Golden West, which had been built up to become one of the world’s richest countries. The GDR was battered by a world of problems from all sides, domestic and foreign, pressured into “arming itself to death“ militarily, limited by the giant costs of the new electronic, computer age, with no help from the east and a boycott by the west, plus its giant humanitarian project – supplying good, modern homes for everyone while keeping rents to about one tenth of income.

              In the end the odds were against it. But just as a World Series victory by the Washington Nationals did not mean that team was morally better  but simply that at the time it was stronger, the defeat of the GDR did not mean that the system it was trying to develop, strengthen and improve – socialism – was proven false by its defeat.

             The opening of the Berlin War was seen then and is still regarded by many as a wonderful victory. Looking around today’s deteriorating situation in Germany and much of Europe, with fascist movements on the rise and world-destroying weapons deployed and maneuvering dangerously, one might well recall the words of the Greek general Pyrrhus. After beating the Romans in the Battle of Asculum in 279 BCE, but with terrible losses for his own troops, he is quoted  as saying: “Another such victory and we are lost!“


Victor Grossman’s latest book, A Socialist Defector: From Harvard to Karl-Marx-Allee is available from Monthly Review Press.

San Francisco Labor Council says: NO to the U.S. Intervention and Attempted Coup in Venezuela!

The following resolution was adopted by the Delegates Meeting of the San Francisco Labor Council (AFL-CIO) on Monday, February 11, 2019.]

Whereas, Trump administration officials have openly declared their intention to overthrow the democratically elected government of Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro; and
Whereas, the U.S. has tightened economic sanctions, including the seizure of Venezuela’s oil properties in the United States, increasing the hardship on the people of Venezuela; and

Whereas, Venezuela has the largest oil reserves in the world, and leading Trump administration foreign policy officials have made clear their intention to privatize Venezuela’s oil and open it to exploitation by the U.S. oil companies if their coup strategy succeeds; and

Whereas, Elliott Abrams has been named Special Envoy to Venezuela and is notorious for his central role in the Iran-Contra scheme and arming of the Nicaraguan contras, the Salvadoran death squad government, and the genocidal regime in Guatemala responsible for the massacres of hundreds of thousands of indigenous people in that country; and

Whereas, the U.S. campaign of regime change in Venezuela is against the interests of the people of Venezuela, Latin America or the people of the United States; and

Whereas, the San Francisco Labor Council resolved on May 12, 2014, to “support the sovereignty of the Venezuelan people to continue their political and social process free from foreign intervention,” demanding “that the U.S. government refrain from intervention in the internal affairs of Venezuela.” 

Therefore Be It Resolved, that the San Francisco Labor Council endorse and support (1) the February 23 Emergency Bay Area Hands Off Venezuela protest action; (2) the March 16 National March on the White House to say “Hands Off Venezuela, No War, No Sanctions, No Coup,” which in the Bay Area will be held on Saturday, March 9; and (3) the Hands Off Venezuela National Action, which in the Bay Area will be held on March 31.

Be It Further Resolved, that this resolution will be sent to the California Labor Federation and to Bay Area Congress members.

(Adopted unanimously minus one abstention)Respectfully submitted by• Gloria La Riva, delegate, Pacific Media Workers Guild Local 39521• Alan Benjamin, delegate, OPEIU Local 29• David Welsh, delegate, NALC Branch 214.

Thanks to David Welsh for forwarding this item.

The President and the Speaker – Foreign Policy Twins Separated at Birth?

By  Tom Gallagher 

Political scientists have long noted the phenomenon of our country’s “one-party foreign policy.” Which is to say, while there are often substantial differences between the leadership of the Democratic and Republican parties on domestic issues — health care, the environment, taxation, education, etc. — when it comes to how the U.S. conducts itself vis-a-vis the rest of the world, the top figures of the two major parties tend toward the indistinguishable. Certainly, the events of the past week did nothing to diminish that assessment.

Consider the following statement on Venezuela:“Today, I am officially recognizing the President of the Venezuelan National Assembly, Juan Guaido, as the Interim President of Venezuela.

“I support the decision of the National Assembly, Venezuela’s sole remaining democratic institution, to recognize Juan Guaidó, President of the National Assembly, as the Interim President until full, fair and free elections can be held.

“In its role as the only legitimate branch of government duly elected by the Venezuelan people, the National Assembly invoked the country’s constitution to declare Nicolas Maduro illegitimate, and the office of the presidency therefore vacant.

“The United States must respect legitimate democratic processes, and support the right of the people of Venezuela to protest and defend their human rights.

“The people of Venezuela have courageously spoken out against Maduro and his regime and demanded freedom and the rule of law.

“Nicolas Maduro’s regime of repression and impoverishment for his personal enrichment continues to gravely violate human rights, and must be condemned swiftly by the full international community.

“I will continue to use the full weight of United States economic and diplomatic power to press for the restoration of Venezuelan democracy.

“During this perilous time, the United States must support the people of Venezuela.”

The first sentence, of course, comes from President Donald Trump’s statement on Venezuela, the next from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s, and then Trump, then Pelosi, and so forth — two views so uniform that they hardly even require the services of an editor to meld into a single statement.

Now, it could just be that the situation in Venezuela is so clear that even two diametrically opposed figures such as Trump and Pelosi cannot disagree, in the sense that if one of them were to declare that the sky is blue, the other would have to acknowledge the correctness of the statement, however grudgingly. And judging from virtually all news coverage and mainstream political discussion of Venezuela, that might well appear to be the case here.

But there are actually others outside the bounds of our “one-party” consensus who see it differently, very differently. For instance, Alfred de Zayas.In late 2017, de Zayas served as the UN rapporteur dispatched to assess the crisis situation in Venezuela, where, according to his report, “Successful UN mission to Venezuela,” he met with “stakeholders of all political colours, members of the opposition, of the National Assembly, university professors, churches, non-governmental organizations.” While no one disputed the fact that the country was experiencing a severe economic crisis, de Zayas believed that the “challenge is to understand its causes,” among which he counted “dependence of the Venezuelan economy on the sale of petroleum — a situation prevailing since the early 20th century,” the recent “dramatic fall in oil prices,” and “a series of unilateral coercive measures including sanctions and financial blockades.”

Although the President and the Speaker advocate precisely such measures to alleviate the current obvious distress of the country’s populace, de Zayas holds that they are part of the problem rather than part of the solution. Citing the example of Columbia’s refusal to deliver anti-malaria medicine to Venezuela in November 2017, which forced the country to purchase from India, he writes that at this point, “to avoid US penalties and complications, many banks closed Venezuelan accounts and other banks refused to effect transfers, routine international payments, even for the purchase of foods and medicines.”

He concludes that “economic sanctions kill.”This type of intervention — which he dates back to the 1999 rise to power of Nicolas Maduro’s predecessor, Hugo Chavez — he deems to be in violation of that section of the Charter of the Organization of American States specifically prohibiting “interference in the political or economic affairs of States.” And rather than agreeing with our President or our Speaker, he argues that “the solution to Venezuela’s crisis must be through mediation” — the route currently advocated by the governments of Mexico, Uruguay and the Vatican, and in “the meantime, if we want to help the Venezuelan people, we should ensure that sanctions are lifted and the economic war ends.”

And so what are we to make of Speaker Pelosi in all of this? Could she really be ignorant of history and international law? Well, I don’t recall ever hearing anyone call her stupid. Cynical? Perhaps reasoning that the surest way to be safe from charges of being soft on “defense” is to park the Democratic bus she drives right next to the Republicans’ truck? Hmm. Might be.

Few of us will have the time or wherewithal to become expert on Venezuela. Where is Maduro right; where is he wrong? Does the opposition have legitimacy? Reasonable people may differ on all this, but we should all be clear on one thing — we have no right attempting to overthrow the government of Venezuela.

You might think more people on Capitol Hill would recognize this, given all the consternation over Russian interference in our last presidential election. And ultimately, the problem with adopting cynical stances is that while they might appear so shrewd and canny in the daily round-up of political news, in the long run they just might make people cynical about you — and your party.

Reposted from Op-Ed News