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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.

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.

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

By Elizabeth 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.”

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!

The power of the movements facing Trump

By Michael Hardt and Sandro Mezzadra - ROARMag, November 16, 2016

It is much too early to say to what extent President Trump will enact his campaign promises as government policy and, indeed, how much he will actually be able to do in office. But every day since his election demonstrations have sprung up throughout the United States to express outrage, apprehension and dismay.

Moreover, there is no doubt that once in office Trump and his administration will continually do and say things that will inspire protest. For at least the next four years people in the US will rally and march against his government, regularly and in large numbers. Protesting against threats to the environment will undoubtedly be urgent, as will be the generalized atmosphere of violence against people of color, women, LGBTQ populations, migrants, Muslims, workers of various sorts, the poor — and the list goes on.

One of the potential pitfalls for social movements, however, is that activism goes no further than protest. Protest, of course, can bring a city to a halt, can block temporarily the action of the government, and can even play the crucial role of opening up spaces for political alternatives. But on its own, protest is never enough to create lasting social transformation.

The significance of the Trump presidency and, moreover, the keys to developing protest against it become clearer, we think, when posed in a global context. Before coming back to the questions for social movements, then, let us frame some of the basic aspects of the global context into which Trump’s government will enter.

How to support Standing Rock and confront what it means to live on stolen land

Berkley Carnine and Liza Minno Bloom - Waging Nonviolence, October 13, 2016

A month after President Obama told the Army Corps of Engineers to pause construction on the Dakota Access oil pipeline, the Standing Rock Sioux and those supporting them still find themselves in a dire struggle to protect their water and land. With winter approaching, the 300 tribes that are now represented at the Camp of the Sacred Stone in North Dakota are preparing for a lengthy battle.

In their effort to protect water, life, ancestors and future generations, indigenous peoples are also demanding that corporations, the U.S. government, and settlers respect the treaties and indigenous self-determination. This is widening an existing dialogue and expanding ties of solidarity to include more of us who are of white European descent occupying indigenous land.

As support for those at Standing Rock grows, it is important that allies also confront the fundamental questions of what it means to live on stolen land and how to transform colonial relations in a way that creates a viable and just future for all communities and the planet. After almost a decade of engaging in request-based, volunteer solidarity organizing with indigenous groups fighting relocation in Black Mesa, Arizona due to coal mining, we have learned and honed a list of action steps for non-Native individuals just getting involved, as well as a set of best practices for activists already working on other organizing efforts.

As people of European descent who benefit from both white privilege and settler privilege, we understand that our work and writing is most effective when it is developing and acting upon a mutual stake in decolonization. This means focusing on the responsibilities specific to our position, which is inherently different from that of indigenous and non-Native people of color. Nevertheless, their organizing, along with much activist scholarship — some of which is linked to below — has helped inform this list of action steps and set of best practices.

Plane Stupid stands in solidarity with #BlackLivesMatter's #ShutDown

By Paula - Plane Stupid, August 6, 2016

[On the morning of Friday, August 5, 2016] #UKBlackLivesMatter carried out a series of actions across the UK following a call for a #ShutDown.

Their actions were highlighting that for Black and Brown people, every day is a crisis in a system based on White Supremacy. That racism can be felt in many different ways, from the extreme brutality inflicted by police and state violence, which has resulted in 1,562 people losing their lives in police custody in the last 20 years; to the abhorrent detention of people fleeing war-zones; to the subtle and insidious forms of racism such as Black people being up to 37 times more likely to be stopped and searched. #BlackLivesMatter call for a #ShutDown of racism, and only by taking disruptive direct action are their voices beginning to be heard. Business as usual is a crisis. Therefore, we must #ShutDown.

By no small coincidence, some of these actions affected two major UK airports: Heathrow and Birmingham. For us the links between our struggles are clear. Expanding aviation, which is driving climate chaos, is part of the same way of thinking that is driving racism in the UK. Politicians and businessmen want to expand aviation to make more money for them and their friends. Also, the majority of flights in the UK – over 70% -  are taken by a rich minority of the population – just 15%. Globally, just 5% of people have ever taken a flight. The rich minority benefit, whilst other people pay the cost. This can be through losing their homes and or suffering pollution which affects their health locally and globally. The rich want to profit at the cost of other peoples' lives and communities.

Climate change is already killing 300,000 people a year and this will only get worse. The effects of climate change aren't colour blind, as it is primarily Black, Brown and indigenous people in the Global South who feel the effects first and hardest. The UN estimates there will be 75 million climate refugees by 2030. We're already able to see the effects, for instance, in Syria. It is only because those in power don't consider these lives to matter that they can make such life destroying decisions. The rich in the Global North benefit whilst the Global South pays the price. This is Climate Colonialism. This is Environmental Racism.

Our movements have a lot to learn from one another and have so much in common. Fundamentally, systemic change is needed to bring an end to both racism and climate change. People of colour's struggles have much to teach us, historically and in the present day, about what it means to be affected by these issues and how to fight back. #BlackLivesMatter are bringing these issues to the fore, and showing the rest of us that direct action is necessary to bring about change. It's time to #ShutDown.

Bridgeport Residents Release Balloon Banner at City Hall: “Fracked Gas is Environmental Racism”

By Dan Fischer, et. al. - Capitalism vs the Climate, February 2, 2016

Bridgeport, CT—PSEG expected to celebrate on Monday night as Bridgeport’s city council voted to endorse the company’s plan to replace its Bridgeport Harbor coal-fired power plant with a new fracked gas plant in 2021. Some environmentalists had even signed onto the agreement. To PSEG, it looked like local criticism would finally be silenced, that the company could maintain a “green” image while continuing to pollute one of Connecticut’s most vulnerable communities.

The corporate polluters must have been disappointed, then, when a group of Bridgeport residents and teachers, some of them members of Capitalism vs. the Climate, flooded a short public hearing preceding the city council session with a barrage of comments opposing the proposed fracked gas plant. As 10 year-old Jaysa Mellers spoke out against the proposal, with the words “no coal, no gas, go green!”, a Bridgeport-based member of Capitalism vs. the Climate released a banner tied to a bundle of balloons. The banner floated to the high ceiling, and city councillors and residents read its message: “Fracked gas is environmental racism! No coal, no gas!”

“Environmental racism is when an unfair share of pollution is placed on communities of color and low-income neighborhoods. That’s what is happening in Bridgeport. PSEG is making it worse by trying to open a new gas plant, which would continue to release pollution in the air for decades,” said Gabriela Rodriguez, a nineteen year-old Bridgeport resident and a member of Capitalism vs. the Climate.

Strategies For Climate Justice And A Just Transition

By Environmental Justice League of RI - RI Future, January 15, 2016

The Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island (EJLRI) has created a brilliant position paper, “National Grid’s Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) Liquefaction Facility: Toxic Hazards in the Port Providence: Proposals for a Just Transition” that eviscerates National Grid‘s plans to build a new liquefaction facility for fracked LNG at Fields Point in South Providence. Over the next few days RI Future will be presenting the EJLRI’s position paper in its entirety.

Solutions and Alternatives

The information presented in the previous posts show that in addition to not being necessary, National Grid’s proposed LNG Liquefaction Facility would be dangerous and would contribute to existing environmental racism. LNG Liquefaction is not needed in Rhode Island in general, and it certainly should not be placed in the most toxic and most impoverished part of the state.

The immediate solution is to stop this facility from being built. The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) needs to deny National Grid LNG LLC’s application, and the RI Department of Environmental Management (RI DEM) and RI Coastal Resources Management Council (RI CRMC) need to deny the state level permits.

That being said, ­ the proposed liquefaction facility is not the only problem outlined in this position paper. Even without the added significant risks of the liquefaction facility, the existing LNG storage tank, the Motiva oil terminal, the Univar chemical plant, the Enterprise LPG terminal, and other facilities in the area all pose significant environmental health hazards, and create the overall context of environmental racism. Toxic and hazardous facilities are dangerous for communities and dangerous for workers. Yet families are dependent on them for jobs, municipalities are dependent on them for tax income, and the way our socio­economic system is set up we are all collectively dependent on the products they produce. Regardless of our dependency, the reality of climate science is that the fossil fuel / petrochemical industry is rapidly pushing our planet past its limits, producing present and future catastrophic impacts, and making people sick, ­especially front-line communities of color and indigenous communities. Our dependency on these industries is literally killing us.

As an organization, the EJ League is interested in big­ picture, long­ term, real solutions to interlocking crises that impact communities of color, marginalized communities, and planetary ecosystems. We are members of three national coalitions of grassroots, membership ­based organizations: Right to the City, Grassroots Global Justice, and Climate Justice Alliance. Together, and lead by our members and our communities, we are developing and sharing solutions that address these intersecting crises from the grassroots. These community­ based solutions are in opposition to the corporate top­ down false solutions that pretend to address a single symptom while reinforcing the underlying root causes of the problems.

True solutions are rooted in the work of grassroots internationalism, and using the framework of a “Just Transition”. We are collectively building a different context and a different system, an economy for people and the planet. The Just Transition framework emerged from partnerships between environmental justice and labor organizations. In the words of the Just Transition Alliance, “together with front-line workers, and community members who live along the fence ­line of polluting industries, we create healthy workplaces and communities. We focus on contaminated sites that should be cleaned up, and on the transition to clean production and sustainable economies.”

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