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America The Not So Beautiful

By Richard Mellor - Facts For Working People, February 8, 2017

The US is a country of extremes. It is the porn capital of the world where young 18 year-old women and men can bare all on screen or be sent to fight in wars yet can’t buy a bottle of beer at a convenience store.

It is also the richest and most powerful nation in history and its defense budget at $608 billion annually, dwarfs all others. China is a poor second at a little over $215 billion with the Russians lagging at third with a paltry $66 billion.

God Bless America is a familiar phrase in these United States but when we look at quality of life, God’s blessing has been very selective. We have more billionaires than anyone else and more people in prison than anyone else. The incomes of the most blessed, a tiny section of US society, are staggering. The wealth displayed at the Superbowl for the world to see is not America. It was bizarre to see these players kissing this oblong silver object passed along as if it was some oracle from above. Sport should be a cultural event.

Trump makes much ado about the loss of jobs and especially blue-collar post war jobs that were the traditional home for white males although this changed to a degree after the rise of the CIO and the Civil Rights movement that followed. It is to this constituency that Trump has appealed as these jobs have disappeared due primarily to innovation and technology and moving production oversees where human beings come cheaper.

But as Sarah O’Connor points put in today’s Financial Times, “…prime-age male participation has been falling in the US for 60 years without much panic. What tempered this to a degree was the entrance of women in to the workforce. Immediately after WW11 less than one third of US women were in the workforce and by 1999 that had risen to 60%. *As most workers are aware, back in the 1950’s one income covered a mortgage, today that is almost impossible certainly when we throw in childcare and other related expenses.

But women’s labor force participation is declining along with men and was just under 68% by 2012.This is not the case in most advanced capitalist (OECD) countries as O’Connor points out and the US now has a lower female labor force participation than Japan. Similar factors that have affected male rates affect women’s but there is another major factor and that is the barbaric nature of US capitalism.

In the age of the Internet most people are aware of the disparity in statistics like health care, infant mortality, crime, homelessness working hours, incarceration and basic social services between the US and other OECD countries; even tiny Cuba has a better infant mortality rate than the US. It is this human/family hostile free market haven that is also forcing women out of the workforce reversing the trend that began after WW11. US policy is  “…particularly unsupportive of women who want to stay in work when they have children — with the result that many drop out.”, O’Connor writes.

Despite major gains, women still bear the brunt of housework and basically caring for the family. In the US, pregnancy is almost treated like an illness. Meanwhile it is the expansion of “family friendly” leave policies in other advanced capitalist economies that O’Connor cites as the cause of why US female labour force participation had fallen behind.”

100 Days of Resistance: Center for Biological Diversity Releases Action Plan

By Kierán Suckling - Center for Biological Diversity, January 26, 2017

The Center for Biological Diversity today released its 100 Days of Resistance plan to stop Donald Trump’s unprecedented attack on wildlife, people, civil rights and democracy.

The 25-point plan includes mobilizing 1 million people to take the Pledge of Resistance; halting the Keystone XL and Dakota Access pipelines; fighting the confirmation of Trump’s corrupt, unqualified cabinet nominees; hiring 10 new attorneys, investigators and activists to aggressively hold the administration accountable; protecting the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act for the benefit of people and wildlife; defeating efforts to give away or turn management of our public lands over to states and corporations; and strengthening alliances with groups fighting for gender and racial equality, American Indian sovereignty, LGBTQ rights, freedom of speech, press and religion, workers’ rights and other civil rights and values.

“Trump has awoken a fierce resistance movement such as this country has never seen,” said Kierán Suckling, the Center’s executive director. “His authoritarian agenda has galvanized people from every walk of life to fight for the protection of wildlife and the environment, civil rights, equality and a democracy that serves everyone, not just the corporate elite. He should know this: We’re in it for the long haul. We’ll fight him every day in the courts, every week in the halls of power, and in every street of this nation.”

The Center’s Earth2Trump Resistance Roadshow just completed a very successful, high energy cross-country tour of 16 cities, rallying thousands of people from Seattle to Salt Lake City, to Houston, Denver and Omaha to organize, resist, and to write personal #Earth2Trump messages which we carried to the inauguration protest in a huge globe. More than 180,000 have signed the Center's Pledge of Resistance in person or online.

A 10-point plan to stop Trump and make gains in justice and equality

By George Lakey, Waging Nonviolence, January 23, 2017 

I was among the 100,000 who marched in San Francisco’s Women’s March the day after Donald Trump’s inauguration. While enthusiasm for the struggle seemed high, an important question was looming: What’s the strategic plan, as we head into the Trump era? Although there’s no simple answer, I offer this 10-point plan — fully open for discussion and debate.

1. Recognize that we represent the majority, not Trump. 



Three times more people participated in the Women’s March in Washington, D.C., than were present at the inauguration the day before. He lost the popular vote in the election. Many of his own voters admitted in exit polls that they consider him unqualified to be president. Furthermore, Trump plans to target progressive policies that polls find to be supported by solid majorities of Americans.

Trump does have strengths in addition to his brilliance in manipulating mainstream media. Key parts of the economic elite have decided that they can use him for their own goals. So, they will support him — as long as he can deliver acceleration of school privatization, for example, or the fossil fuel pipelining of America. His core voting base (the minority of a minority) may support him for a period, until his failure to deliver unrealistic promises becomes apparent.

Even before the inauguration, he alienated significant parts of the security state that he needs to depend on. He needs a vast professional bureaucracy to carry out his will, but it has many subtle ways of thwarting him. Harry Truman famously admitted, publicly, his frustration after he was repeatedly stymied by an uncooperative bureaucracy.

Trump’s bullying is both a strength and a weakness. His style alienates many, including among his own voters, and stirs opposition.

Stopping Trump is not a slam dunk, but it is possible when he is given his due as a cagey opponent. It also helps when we decide to be strategic rather than led by fear and moral outrage, jumping from whichever tactic feels good in the moment, but has little impact. Now is the time when we can identify his pillars of support and lay plans to undermine them.

How Labor and Climate United Can Trump Trump

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, January 2017

Donald Trump and his congressional Republican allies have taken control of the U.S. government. The result threatens to be devastating for both labor and the climate — not to mention immigrants, African Americans, Muslims, women, children, the elderly, the disabled, LGBTQ people, and many others.

The Trump regime is potentially vulnerable because it only represents the interests of the top 1% of the top 1%. But it has a potentially winning strategy to rule nonetheless: keep those who might stand up in the interest of the 99.9 percent divided and therefore powerless. While Trump has played black against white, Latino against Anglo, women against men, gay against straight, and exploited many other divisions, his “trump card” may well be his ability to divide labor and climate advocates.

The Trump ascendancy creates a new context for addressing long-standing tensions between organized labor and the environmental movement, between workers’ job concerns and everyone’s need to protect the climate. Trump and his congressional Republican allies intend to exploit these tensions to the max. But their threat to workers, the earth’s climate, and society as a whole make cooperation against them imperative for both organized labor and the climate protection movement. Forging a force that can effectively counter Trumpism requires change that will involve tension within each movement as well as between them, but that may be necessary if either is to have a future. The alternative is most likely decimation of both movements and of everything they are fighting for.

Setting out a left agenda in the Trump era

By Danny Katch - Socialist Worker, January 23, 2017

THE ENORMOUS anti-Trump protests on January 21 are a major opportunity to build a new political resistance. Yet the expanding but still small radical left in the U.S. also faces a major challenge in creating an alternative to the failed strategy of channeling all opposition through the dead end of the Democratic Party.

With the aim of strengthening this left, Jacobin magazine, Haymarket Books and Verso Books organized "The Anti-Inauguration"--a panel discussion of five prominent writers and activists in Washington D.C.'s Lincoln Theatre on the night Trump took office to talk about how to build an opposition to the threat he represents and the rotten status quo that got us into this mess. You can watch a video stream of the event at Facebook.

"Donald Trump has been inaugurated as the 45th President of the United States," said Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, author of From #BlackLivesMatter to Black Liberation. "The shock and disbelief must now give way to defiance and organizing. Part of that pivot demands that we understand how we got here in the first place, but more importantly how we move forward."

War correspondent Anand Gopal, author of No Good Men Among the Living: America, the Taliban, and the War Through Afghan Eyes, ran through two decades of anti-Muslim measures enacted by Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama before concluding:

It's only because of all of those policies that came before, it's only because of the dog-whistle politics around the questions of Islam, it's only because of the institutionalizing of Islamophobia by three administrations that we could come to a point in 2016 where a man can stand for president and openly call for banning Muslims.

So we need to resist Trump, but we also need to resist a system that makes a Donald Trump possible. That means allying with everybody who's on our side, but maintaining independence from a liberal establishment that aided and abetted this calamity from the very beginning.

The Women’s March was a huge success. Next up: Sustained Resistance

By Elizbeth Perry - Work and Climate Change Report, January 22, 2017

Unionists were among the hundreds of thousands of Canadians who joined in the Sister Marches for the Women’s March in Washington on January 21, 2017 . The Canadian Labour Congress statement of “Why we March” is here . Unifor’s President Jerry Dias endorsed the March and called for a “united mobilization effort” against the Trump agenda. The March was an undeniable success, and the Washington organizers, quoted in a Globe and Mail report, recognized: “This is more than a single day of action, this is the beginning of a movement – to protect, defend and advance human rights, even in the face of adversity. ”

Jeremy Brecher of Labor Network for Sustainability tackles this issue for U.S. labour unions in “How Labor and Climate united can trump Trump” . After cataloguing some of the worst threats under a Trump administration , he calls for “an alliance of unions and allies willing to fight the whole Trump agenda” and states: “Such a “big tent” needs to include unions that are not part of the AFL-CIO, such as SEIU, Teamsters, and National Education Association. Some unions may choose not to join because they are unwilling to take a forthright stand against the Trump agenda; it would be both absurd and catastrophic for that to prevent the rest of the labor movement and its allies from taking on a fight that is about the very right of unions to exist.”

The United Resistance, led by the NAACP, Greenpeace USA, and the Service Employees International Union, is chief among these new alliances, pledging to “stand together” on the issues of civil rights, immigrants, women’s reproductive rights, social equality, action on climate change, public health and safety, public dissent, and access to information. Their inspirational video is here , as well as a list of the alliance members. The AFL-CIO is not listed as a member of the United Resistance, though their recent blogs oppose Trump’s nominees, and they promoted the Women’s March. For more about the United Resistance, see “More than 50 Organizations Launch United Resistance Campaign as Trump’s Cabinet Hearings Begin” in Common Dreams (Jan.10).

In a second article , SOCIAL SELF-DEFENSE: Protecting People and Planet against Trump and Trumpism , Jeremy Brecher borrows a term from the Solidarity movement in Poland 40 years ago, and takes a larger, more global focus. He writes that “Social Self Defense includes the protection of the human rights of all people; protection of the conditions of our earth and its climate that make our life possible; the constitutional principle that government must be accountable to law; and global cooperation to provide a secure future for people.” “Social Self-Defense is not an organization – it is a set of practices to be engaged in by myriad organizations, hopefully in close coordination with each other.” Although the article highlights a number of examples, such as the growing Sanctuary movement in the U.S., and case studies of alliances, including Vermont Labor Council Initiates Social Self-Defense , the overriding impact is to emphasize the scale of the task: “These actions appear to be on the way to being the greatest outpouring of civil resistance in American history.”

Tripping Up Trumpism Through Global Boycott Divestment Sanctions

By Patrick Bond - CounterPunch, January 19, 2017

The forces arrayed against Donald Trump’s presidency and neo-fascist movement range from the Central Intelligence Agency to oppressed minorities, and will soon encompass the whole world once his climate change threats are carried out. From above, conflicts will continue with moderate Republicans, Democratic Party elites, so-called Deep State opponents including neoconservative factions of the military, exporting companies concerned about protectionism, and deficit hawks worried about excess spending on filthy-Keynesian infrastructure.

But it’s likely that elite opposition will fade within weeks. Then what about resistance from below? Learning explicitly from apartheid’s defeat, it makes sense to prepare a global Boycott Divestment Sanctions (BDS) strategy against Trump, his leading cronies and United States corporations more generally.

For human rights victims in the US, mutual aid commitments like the new United Resistance linking dozens of campaigning groups and a sanctuary movement (hated by the far right) offer close-to-home “social self-defence,” as activist Jeremy Brecher remarks in his survey of myriad anti-Trump struggles.

When it comes to raising the costs of Trump’s noxious politics internationally and preventing corporations from full cohesion to his program, the US oppressed still must take the lead. Evidence of this is already emerging, with Trump boycotts seeking to delegitimise his political agenda and companies that support it. Internationally, we can predict that when Rex Tillerson takes trips or Trump attends the Hamburg G20 in July, protesters will be out.

#Trump: Notes to self and Lefty friends

By Aaron Tanaka - Medium, January 15, 2017

Trump Repression, Regression and Response (11)

  1. prepare for devastating regulatory and policy losses. resist implementation along the chain. become ungovernable through direct action, divestment, boycotts, strikes, mass CD, creative disruptions etc. raise up, resource and support action by those most targeted by Trump. call-in people with privilege to push beyond their comfort zones. direct action can still get (some) goods.
  2. state persecution at mass scale requires participation and complicity from local and state police and other arms of local law enforcement. intensify local organizing around police accountability #blacklivesmatter — make participation in Trump’s new repressive programs politically infeasible for locally elected mayor’s, DA’s, sheriffs etc. prioritize policies envisioned for sanctuary cities and other forms of local governmental non-cooperation w Federal repression. give cover to local pols and officials that step out.
  3. support our friends and family in rural and agricultural cities who face very different political conditions; national hate-mongering accentuates disparities across geography. a comrade in Jackson, MS reports a social volatility with growing white supremacist elements that advance physical threats (arson and worse) targeting Black movement spaces etc. invest and rally around Black and indigenous led resistance especially in the South and Midwest.
  4. support rapid response networks (deportation resistance, hate crime response, safety walks, abortion facility protection, eviction blockades, copwatch etc.) and other mutual aid supports for targeted peoples. consider efforts growing community “first responders” — who intervene and help diffuse disputes — as an alternative to calling the police. help align these strategies to model and scale longterm community controlled security infrastructure.
  5. invest in readiness training for environmental and political disaster, and view crisis related skill building as a political strategy. advance the localization and decentralization of food and energy production to build community resilience in the face of global economic and political volatility.
  6. as assault on women and queer & trans people intensifies, develop strategies to better integrate womanist analysis and framework in our community and labor organizing. push mainline white feminist organizations to resource especially the leadership of low-income queer and trans women of color. seek to align political resistance against Trump with pro-feminist values, like promoting #ConsentCulture as contrast to Trump’s rhetoric and policies. #DemandConsent #NoTrump
  7. educate our communities and networks around the functions of our surveillance state, the history of cointelpro and other domestic repression. reject the digital security divide, and seek equitable access to communications tools like encrypted texting, trainings in “security culture,” and infrastructure like the blockchain sector to anticipate repression and popularize resistant alternatives in technology. better integrate speech & privacy, and press & internet freedom fights into our movement discourse and strategies.
  8. prepare for specific attacks on Left and nonprofit infrastructure by the federal government. expect efforts to freeze c3 & c4 funds. move assets to more secure legal and financial vehicles.
  9. prepare to resist extreme privatization. find better ways to communicate about the commons, the public good, and the danger of the profit motive in essential public services. link to #flint and other animating impacts of profit creep or austerity within the public sector. attempt to leverage the debate on healthcare to articulate the nuances: attribute ObamaCare’s real challenges to the lack of a #PublicOption, and a dependence on market solutions that enriched private insurance & health companies. foster clear eyed discernment of #infrastructure scams and mass corporate subsidies, couched in universalist language.
  10. support domestic community based organizing and the nonprofit sector to build internationalist analysis and narratives to compete with Trump’s nationalist panic. a popular front against militarization, trade aggression, migrant & refugee persecution, sex-trafficking, and climate change not only depends on resistance by US frontline communities, but also an emergent moral populism animated by a sense of global solidarity and empathy.
  11. invest in and amplify cultural and narrative resistance strategies. our role is not to change his mind. rather, work to delegitimize him by exploiting contradictions within his already fractured coalition, while energizing our base. make #2FaceTrump the least popular president in modern American history.

SOCIAL SELF-DEFENSE: Protecting People and Planet against Trump and Trumpism

By Jeremy Brecher - Labor Network for Sustainability, January 14, 2017

Introduction: These are times to try our souls

Donald Trump and a powerful collection of anti-social forces have taken control of the U.S. government. They seek permanent domination in service of their individual and class wealth and power. Trump’s presidency threatens immigrants, African Americans, Muslims, workers, women, children, the elderly, the disabled, LGBTQ people, and many others. Indeed, it threatens all that holds us together as a society. We the people – society — need to defend ourselves against this threat and bring it to an end. We need what resisters to repressive regimes elsewhere have called “Social Self-Defense.”

The term “Social Self-Defense” is borrowed from the struggle against the authoritarian regime in Poland forty years ago.  In the midst of harsh repression, Polish activists formed a loose network to provide financial, legal, medical, and other help to people who had been persecuted by the police or unjustly dismissed from their work. Calling themselves the Committee for Social Self-Defense (KOR), they aimed to “fight political, religious and ideological persecution”; to “oppose breaches of the law”; to “provide help for the persecuted”; to “safeguard civil liberties”; and to defend “human and civil rights.” KOR organized free trade unions to defend the rights of workers and citizens. Its members, who insisted on operating openly in public, were soon blacklisted, beaten, and imprisoned. They nonetheless persisted, and nurtured many of the networks, strategies, and ideas that came to fruition in Solidarity – and ultimately in the dissolution of repressive regimes in Poland and many other countries.[1]

From the day Donald Trump was elected President of the United States, thousands of people began to resist his agenda. Demonstrations against Trump broke out in American cities; police chiefs, mayors, and governors declared they would not implement his attack on immigrants; thousands of people signed up to accompany threatened immigrants, religious minorities, and women; technical workers pledged they would not build data bases to facilitate discrimination and deportation. Discussion of how to resist the Trump regime broke out at dining room tables, emails among friends, social media, and community gatherings.

It is impossible to know whether the Trump regime will rapidly self-destruct; successfully impose a reign of terror that dominates the U.S. for years or decades to come; or deadlock indefinitely with anti-Trump forces. We do know that the future of the planet and its people depends on resisting and overcoming Trump’s agenda. The struggle against Trump and Trumpism is nothing less than the defense of society – Social Self-Defense.

Vermont Labor Council Initiates Social Self-Defense

By Traven Leyshon, president of the Green Mountain Labor Council, AFL-CIO and Communications & Community Engagement Coordinator Vermont State Labor Council, AFL-CIO - Labor Network for Sustainability, January 10, 2017

Following on what was for many of us the surprise election of Trump, and the consolidation of a far-right Republican Congress, our small Vermont Green Mountain Central Labor Council called an Emergency Community Meeting. We knew that things were rapidly going to get really ugly for the labor movement. So we contacted our affiliates and community based allies with the message that, “There is a great need for all of us to come together to understand the attacks that will be coming down on our unions, workers rights, women’s rights, immigrants’ human rights, on black Americans, on climate justice,  on seniors, on the lgbtq community – in other words on the 99%. Going beyond fear and rage, we need to strategize how we’re going to work together to turn things around.”

Given the Holidays, our assumption was that this would not be the mass meeting that we would need to build later – but that we should start while the initial shock of the election was being registered to begin to shape an effective, strategic response to the developing situation. So we reserved a room that would hold up to 45 people, and sent out an email asking our labor, social movement, and community based allies to join in building the meeting. We also asked them to think through strategic responses that we might be able to unite on. We said that, “We don’t need a crystal ball to figure out what a Trump presidency has in store, especially with Republicans controlling the House and the Senate. The extreme right wing, pro-corporate agenda that we will be facing will methodically seek to divide us (as they successfully did in the 2016 election).

As people were just beginning to process the reality that this was not just another conservative Administration, that the Republicans would not be gradualist, we warned that, “priorities listed in the Trump/Ryan hundred day plan include: rolling back all of the recent pro-workers rights National Labor Relations Board decisions, initiating the process to deport over 2 million migrants and imposing a hiring freeze on all federal employees, removing roadblocks to dirty energy projects like Keystone KXL, DAPL and other oil and gas pipelines, and canceling payments to UN climate change programs. The impact of their policies would intensify racial oppression, roll back women’s rights, slash Medicare disability, victimize the lgbtq community, cut Medicaid funding (making the Vermont state budget scream), eliminate the subsidies that make Vermont Health Connect (Obamacare) more affordable, eventually abolish Medicare by replacing it with vouchers, privatize social security, pass national right to work (for less) legislation and defund unions (expect Friedrichs type court made law which would make the public sector open shop), outsource and privatize more public services, ban prevailing-wage laws…”.

Our press release emphasized the we were coming together “to affirm values of tolerance and social, economic and climate justice, while discussing actions we can take to protect our communities, defend democracy, and build a Vermont and country that works for everyone. ..(that) Representatives of labor, Black, immigrant, women’s, senior, gay and lesbian, climate, and racial justice organizations will speak… (that) It is not enough to define ourselves as the resistance. Defense needs to be married to offense.”

Despite the Holidays, our message went viral as our social movement allies answered that this was just what we needed. So we booked a larger venue which  turned out to be necessary as 140 people participated on December 12th (this in a town of 7,855 people!).

Only months before the Vermont Workers Center had organizing a conference around the theme of building one movement for people and the planet. While there was a decent turnout, it had not led to greater collaboration, and the discussion felt forced and artificial to many of the participants. Today that is no longer the case as people are seeking to build a powerful unity.  Thousands have turned out for emergency meetings across the country, concerned about hate crimes, the climate crisis, threats to civil liberties, and rollbacks to progressive gains under a Trump administration. Millions of people are looking for a way to fight back. But mass participation won’t lead to real power without organization and vision.

Our labor council opened the meeting arguing that we needed to develop a coalition of the willing, an alliance of unions and allies willing to fight the whole Trump agenda. That we need to unite our struggles for justice and become a unified front for environmental justice, to make Black Lives Matter, for workers rights, to make Native Lives Matter, for reproductive justice, LGBTQ rights, immigrants rights, and peace. We said we need to build an army of resistance and create a vision of the future based on unity not hatred. We need to practice and nurture a culture of solidarity, of taking action not just because we feel empathy with the victims of bad policies, but because we understand that our liberation is bound up with theirs. Especially today, the labor battle cry “An injury to one is an injury to all” takes on new urgency.

Our panel featured speakers from racial justice, migrant, climate justice, senior, lgbtq, women’s, and faith organizations as well as unions.

There seemed to be broad agreement with the view that Trumpism is a symptom of the disease. Many people voted their cynicism about a system that left us behind, that wrought forty years of devastation on working-class communities, that privileges the rich and well connected while treating most of us as patsies. But whatever motivations may have led people to vote for Trump, there can be no doubt that their votes gave racism and sexism a pass. Still we have to find a way to appeal to alienated Trump voters that not only gives lip service to their interests, but actually wins them over.

The current economic/political system is failing for increasing numbers of people around the world – and the Far Right has been successful at seizing on the growing discontent as evidenced by Brexit, the rise of the Marine Le Pen in France, the radical right throughout Europe, and the coup in Brazil.

But it is also a consequence of the failure of the labor and social movements to formulate a credible transformative strategy, and to organize a concrete alternative to the failed policies that paved the way to Clinton’s defeat. We must know what we want, not just what we’re against.  We need to act morally, courageously, and strategically in pursuit of a clear progressive vision.

The agenda we are facing is methodically seeking to divide us. Established residents against immigrants. Tax payers against public sector workers.  The building trades against environmentalists, and so on. Trump will seek to inflict severe and demoralizing defeats by picking off one target at a time. We know that Nazi-era bromide about “First they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew…” In this case, there’s no mystery: First they’re coming for the undocumented. It will be a real fight for the soul of our nation.  We have to live by the imperative that If they come for one of us they come for all of us!

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