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Trump Vows to Disrupt Trade; Progressives Need to Push Him in the Right Direction

By Michelle Chen - In These Times, November 22, 2016

The one election issue tying together populist voices on the right and left was trade—or so it seemed. Donald Trump’s upset win, fueled in part by Rust Belt rage against free trade deals and globalization, could hand liberals an unexpected opportunity to push a fairer set of trade rules, if they can shift the debate away from Trump's reactionary “bull in a China shop” spectacle and toward a concrete movement to advance a people-centered alternative, based on social-justice principles not return-on-investment.

A group of human rights organizations, including the Business & Human Rights Resource Centre and Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), has framed a human rights-based trade agenda requiring signatories to “understand, assess, and address their full effects on human rights, with a particular focus on vulnerable and marginalized groups,” such as women and migrants. Core provisions would include the right to a safe and healthy environment, fair access to medicines and respect for labor and indigenous rights.

The group contends that pending trade deals fail on these basic human rights standards. Such deals include the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which would link 12 Pacific Rim nations and was panned by both Trump and Bernie Sanders during the campaign, and the Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which would connect Europe and the United States.

One of Trump's first policy announcements was that he would immediately kill the already-stalled TPP negotiations and, instead, seek to negotiate bilateral trade agreements supposedly more beneficial to the United States. But progressive internationalists, who note that the TPP was likely moribund anyway due to widespread public backlash, warn that Trump’s rhetoric is equally short-sighted.

In a broadly-worded memorandum on a 200-day trade agenda, Trump's camp has laid out a program of deregulation and corporate tax breaks as a way to preserve domestic manufacturing jobs. The president-elect plans to sanction China for violating trade rules and promote “America First” by privileging the enrichment of U.S. corporations and workers above those of Mexico.

Despite its populist spin, Trump’s plan centers on growing multinational monopolies, and by extension, aggravating global inequality, critics say.

“This is a guy who has said U.S. workers are overpaid, that climate change is a hoax and that has no problem buddying up with authoritarian regimes,” says Arthur Stamoulis, executive director of the fair-trade coalition Citizens Trade Campaign.

Advocates like Stamoulis see Trump as a continuation of previous administrations' neoliberal agendas. Even if he scraps the TPP and similar deals, his whole business persona embodies the predatory multinational investment that underlies free-trade market liberalism. According to IPS associate fellow Manuel Perez-Rocha, despite his populist veneer, the president-elect will likely “expand free trade and corporate-friendly policies but just with other names.”

A structural challenge to the neoliberal order would involve tackling not only trade policy, but also, for example, labor exploitation and dominance of international financial institutions over Global South economies. Rather than Trump's “'them against us approach,” a left trade analysis should, in Perez-Rocha's view, show “all these problems … are interconnected.”

After Brexit and Trump: don't demonise; localise!

By Helena Norberg-Hodge & Rupert Read - The Ecologist, November 22, 2016

The election of Donald Trump was a rude awakening from which many people in the US have still not recovered.

Their shock is similar to that felt by UK progressives, Greens, and those on the Left following the Brexit referendum.

In both cases, the visceral reaction was heightened by the barely-disguised racist and xenophobic messaging underpinning these campaigns.

Before these sentiments grow even more extreme, it's vital that we understand their root cause. If we simply react in horror and outrage, if we only protest and denounce, then we fail to grasp the deeper ramifications of their votes.

For the defeat of both the Clinton campaign in the US and the Remain campaign in the UK can be explained by their inability to address the pain endured by ordinary citizens in the era of globalisation.

By failing to focus on the reckless profiteers driving the global economy, they allowed their opponents to offer a less truthful and more hateful explanation for voters' social and economic distress.

In order to move forward, we need to give those who voted for Trump and Brexit something better to believe in. And we can. Because in both countries, voters emphatically rejected the system that has inflicted so much social and economic insecurity: pro-corporate globalisation. And that is the silver lining to the dark storm clouds we see.

Bite the Hand That Holds the Leash

By Patrick O’Donoghue - First of May Anarchist Alliance, November 18, 2016

“The thing to remember about people like Trump is that they offer false solutions and scapegoats to real problems- like the Klan did and still does, like the Commission on Public Safety did here in Minnesota during World War One, like the anti-refugee/anti-immigrant crowd does in stirring up hate against Somalis and Hispanic people in St Cloud and around the Twin Cities. The solutions Trump peddles don’t work. Deporting Mexicans can’t bring back jobs that got replaced by machines. Profiling Muslims can’t bring us security when the main domestic terror threat is white supremacists. You can’t reverse the stagnation of wages by busting unions. You can’t stop outsourcing by trying to stop other countries from developing.”

The night Trump got elected, I did a lot of soul searching, because the work I do as a revolutionary and an organizer involves, a lot of the time, trying to help and support people who… probably voted for Trump.

The place I work is mostly white, with coworkers that, like me, come from rural and blue collar backgrounds. It’s a place of contradictions, where rants about the boss getting rich off your labor comes as easily off of people’s lips as rants about ‘welfare queens’ coded in the tired language of black bashing, where nobody likes a cop until the issue of protesters and ‘thugs’ comes up. It’s a place where machismo is key and being “not PC” is part of being a man. A number of my coworkers are in that strange, almost fabled breed of voters who were excited about Sanders, then after he lost the primaries drifted towards Trump- more didn’t bother voting at all. It’s a racially divided workplace, and the black section, which has a union, is under attack from the company. Our section, mostly white, is non-union, and so far hasn’t gotten involved. Most aren’t even aware of the contract disputes; the two sections don’t talk much.

I was sitting on leave, thinking about my work, and wondering how the hell I could bring myself to go into work again and keep trying to talk to, and listen to, and support people who were fine with throwing my Muslim and queer family members and friends, and our immigrant and black coworkers, under the bus for a guy who made a lot of promises he can’t keep about making America great again. I knew, intellectually, why I had to- because after decades of neoliberal policies by a Democratic Party that abandoned the Great Society vision, of mechanization and outsourcing, of the Farm Crisis, and of the weakening of unions and the left, has left a lot of rural and working class white people searching for answers. I knew, intellectually, that if those answers don’t come in the form of standing with other exploited and marginalized people, they were going to come in the form of blaming even more exploited and marginalized people, of buying into the far right. I knew, from experience, that trying to approach anti-racism solely from a stance of guilt and blame is usually counterproductive and feeds the same processes that drive people to retreat into racism in the first place. I knew that I had to keep trying- but deep down in my gut, I felt like I was betraying my friends who are facing worse dangers under a Trump administration than I’m going to.

Then, the day after the election, a coworker of mine did something I hoped would happen for a long time. The man is a classic Rust Belt populist. A laid off union ironworker turned mariner, raised in a trailer park worrying about whether they’d have electricity that month. He harbors a lot of racial resentment over what he feels like are his problems not being acknowledged, being written off because of his relative white privilege. He resents being blamed or made to feel guilty for racism- and in a process familiar to anyone from my hometown, that defensiveness slowly turns into a defense of racism itself, a way to way to reject the blame by rejecting the idea that anything was wrong in the first place. This guy approached a queer coworker and an amazing organizer, and asked to meet with him, a Mexican, and a known Black Lives Matter arrestee to talk about forming a union. He insisted. He started talking organizing strategy. I got the news after work, in a pho shop near the waterfront. I almost broke down. It was the best news I could have hoped for. It gave me the strength to come into work ready to keep organizing.

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.

To Escape Trump’s America, We Need to Bring the Militant Labor Tactics of 1946 Back to the Future

By Admin - Life Long Wobbly, November 12, 2016

Back to the Future, Part 1:

The last general strike in the US was in Oakland in 1946. That year there were 6 city-wide general strikes, plus nationwide strikes in steel, coal, and rail transport. More than 5 million workers struck in the biggest strike wave of US history. So what happened? Why haven’t we ever gone out like that again? Congress amended US labor law in 1947, adding massive penalties for the very tactics that had allowed strikes to spread and be successful – and the business unions accepted the new laws. In fact, they even went beyond them by voluntarily adding “no-strike clauses” to every union contract for the last 70 years, and agreeing that when they do strike in between contracts it will only be for their own wages and working conditions, not to support anybody else or to apply pressure about things happening in the broader society. When we allowed ourselves to lose our most important weapons 70 years ago, we took the first step towards Trump’s America. We’re stuck in the wrong timeline – if we want to get out, we have to bring the militant labor tactics of 1946 back to the future!

Election of Trump clarifies the struggle for climate justice

By Nicolas Haeringer and Tadzio Müller - New Internationalist, November 11, 2016

Until Donald Trump’s electoral success, there was at least some reason to believe that the momentum was finally on the side of climate justice. After a cycle of failures and defeats, our mobilizations were finally proving to have an impact – from actions targeting infrastructures to the divestment movement, there were important successes, amplifying what seems to be the irresistible rise of a 100 per cent renewable future.

The climate summit in Paris was not Copenhagen. COP21 enabled the climate movement to enter a new stage with clearer strategic perspectives building stronger alliances among very diverse actors. COP21 (and the momentum it created) has not only changed the political landscape from a movement’s perspective. It has had an impact on the institutional sphere too. As such, this is no guarantee that world leaders will finally opt for bold climate action. But it enables us not only to demand actions but also to hold public actors accountable for decisions they’ve made. It makes our demands stronger: they’re not ‘only’ about climate anymore, but are demands for democracy, and leave us the space to defend the idea of a ‘climate state of necessity’.

Of course, these successes and progresses came with issues, doubts and debates within the movement. But we had this strong feeling that we were beginning to win: after an action this May in the East German lignite region of Lusatia, a thousand people in a circus tent shouted ‘we are unstoppable, another world is possible!’ – and meant it!

It is pretty easy, after Wednesday’s US presidential election result, to give up on hope – and consider Trump’s victory a serious setback. It is only going to be a setback if we let it be so. In that perspective, his victory ironically comes with a clarification, and a major simplification of the climate math. If Trump is to do what he said he was going to do (i.e. drill, drill and drill), it concretely means that the carbon budget for the rest of the world has in fact dropped to zero on election night.

That fact shouldn’t scare us. It is actually a very powerful and simple tool, which shows us what the next steps for the climate movement should be: if the UNFCCC process isn’t going to stop climate chaos, and if the US is being run by a madman – then the movements need to stop it themselves, and those outside of the US have to step up their game to impose fossil-fuel phase-outs everywhere. It also shows us what our solidarity with the communities at the frontline of the fight against climate change and fossil fuel extraction in the US should look like: the best way to build and show that solidarity is by freezing fossil fuel infrastructures everywhere.

To be sure: in a world where someone who claims that climate change is a ‘hoax cooked up by the Chinese’ has just been elected to what is perceived to be the most powerful office on the planet, it is not enough to simply claim that science, truth and reason now dictate how we step up our fight against the fossil fuel industry. After all, Trump’s success rested to a significant extent on the fact that he ignored established ‘truths’, and that his supporters frequently did not care that he was lying, or making utterly absurd statements about building walls and ‘making Mexico pay’ for them.

If Trump’s success is also the success of a ‘post-truth politics’, what does that mean for climate justice politics? It means that we need to leave the intellectually easy certainty of science and of ‘carbon budgets’ behind to a certain extent – science has played a huge role in shaping our movement and our successes, and there is no reason for it to cease. But the laws of physics don’t care about politics, and last night the former proved to be more powerful than the latter. In a trumped-down world, we might respond that the laws of politics don’t care about physics, that ‘truth’ as we traditionally understand it plays less and less of a role.

Trump won because his political discourse resonated with people on an affective level, that is to say: it made them feel understood and it made them feel powerful. Politics in the liberal/leftist tradition too often concerns itself with interests and truths (and then we often wonder why people vote ‘against their interests’, implying, rather arrogantly, that they have been duped by something we like to call a ‘hegemonic ideology’). But in the words of philosopher Baruch Spinoza, since people ‘are led more by passion than by reason, it naturally follows that a multitude will unite and consent to be guided as if by one mind not at reason’s prompting but through some common affect’.

If this is true – and we believe it is, all the more so in an age where neoliberal and centre-left elites have for decades used seemingly inescapable truths (‘There Is No Alternative’) as a battering ram against the historical achievements of working class movements, and where social media are producing multiple-truth-echo-chambers – then climate (justice) politics has to leave the high ground of science.

It has to recreate itself as a politics that makes people feel empowered, that starts not from carbon budgets per se, but from the struggles of those frontline communities most negatively affected, and that, quite simply put, is appealing enough to fight the racist, sexist, nativist juggernaut currently remaking the global North.

In short: we need less COP23, and more Ende Gelände; less potentially doomed fights for carbon taxes in Congress, and more effective, powerful and inclusive struggles like those against the Keystone XL or the Dakota Access pipelines – or rather, we need to embrace them and build them into one movement. Which means more organizing, more peaceful civil disobedience and less time in the political halls of the UN.

Not because the latter are wrong or bad or necessarily ineffective (though unfortunately they often are) – but because in a world where Trump is president of the US, if climate politics remain tied to reason and truth, and to global elite jamborees, it will necessarily fail.

Only a climate justice politics that exceeds the affective attractiveness of the jargon of the other side can win the fights we need to win. This is what many groups are already doing – those who are on the frontline.

No, Trump Didn’t Kill the TPP — Progressives Did

By Arthur Stamoulis - Medium, November 11, 2016

If you read the headlines, Donald Trump’s election has killed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). The headlines have it wrong.

Donald Trump didn’t kill the TPP. Assuming we see the fight through to the bitter end, it’s the cross-border, cross-sector, progressive “movement of movements” that will have defeated the TPP.

While overshadowed by the horror of Trump’s election, this victory will be one of the biggest wins against concentrated corporate power in our lifetimes, and it holds lessons we should internalize as we steel ourselves for the many challenges we face heading into the Trump years.

Under a banner reading “A New Deal or No Deal,” the first cross-sector demonstration against the TPP in the United States was in June 2010 — a full six years before Trump became the official Republican nominee. Held outside the TPP’s first U.S.-based negotiating round, it featured advocates from the labor, environmental, family farm, consumer, indigenous rights and other social justice movements.

While we didn’t outright oppose the TPP at that time, we warned we would organize against it if it didn’t represent a radical departure from trade deals past that put corporate interests ahead of working families, public health and the environment.

It took years of protests at subsequent rounds in Chicago, Dallas, San Diego, Salt Lake City, Maui and elsewhere — coupled with hundreds of other protests in cities and towns across the U.S. and around the world — to slowly, but surely, put the TPP on progressive groups’ radar.

Over that time, first thousands, then tens of thousands, then hundreds of thousands and then literally millions of Americans signed letters and petitions urging the Obama administration and Congress to abandon TPP negotiations that gave corporate lobbyists a seat at the table, while keeping the public in the dark.

We were up against Wall Street, Big Ag, Big Oil, Big Pharma, the Chamber of Commerce, the Business Roundtable, the President of the United States, the leadership of Congress — in short, we were up against some of the most powerful economic and political interests in human history.

Countless people told us we had no chance of winning. But we persevered.

Don’t Mourn, Organize!

By Anne Petermann, Executive Director - Global Justice Ecology Project, November 9, 2016

Dear GJEP Friends and Family,

While surprised by the turn of the election last night, I was not shocked.  Horrified, but not shocked.

The pundits had all but declared Hillary the winner in the days leading up to the election, but a lot of people who have been crushed by the system over the years stood up to be counted. They fell for the hateful, booming rhetoric of a billionaire businessman and TV star with no political experience-because he promised to stand up for them. He promised “change.”

According to exit polls by CNN, however, more than half of people polled are worried about what will happen in the coming years under a Trump Presidency. Over a third are more than worried, they are scared. The atmosphere is thick with sadness, rage, disbelief, fear.

After the filth of this election campaign, many will want to circle the wagons. To wait for the worst to blow over.

But that is not an option. And the fact is, no matter who won the election, we were on a collective course toward the edge of a cliff. Under Obama-the supposed face of progressive “change”-there has been no real action to address climate change. Activists at Standing Rock are being brutalized by the police for trying to stop a pipeline and protect their sacred water and land. Unarmed black people are being killed by police. Drones are dropping bombs on children in far away lands.

The system is broken, no matter who is at the helm.

Donald Trump and the new Republican held Congress will be nasty. There is no question about that.

But the one possible positive outcome of this spectacular disaster is that there is no such thing as complacency any more. You either organize or you let Trump’s agenda of hate run rampant. There have been galvanizing moments in United States history when injustice was so potent, so undeniable that people came out in droves to be part of the force for change. I believe this can become one of those moments.

There is no political party that will do this for us. It is up to us. It is time to acknowledge that the system doesn’t work and start talking about what we do next. Time to mobilize. Time to take action for real systemic change.

That is our commitment here at Global Justice Ecology Project.  GJEP was founded to address the intertwined root causes of social injustice, economic domination and ecological destruction.  That is our mission. And we will keep organizing and building to strengthen the global movement toward the fundamental, transformational, bottom up change necessary to achieve a sane future on this planet.

I hope you will join us.


Our Poisonous Economic System Needs A Grassroots Intervention

By Taj James - The Leap, November 2, 2016

Last month, nearly two hundred nations signed on to a legally-binding global climate deal seeking to phase out the greenhouse gases known as HFCs. And this Friday, the non-binding Paris Agreement will officially enter into force for seventy-six nations, which have made voluntary pledges to keep global temperature rise below 2 degrees Celsius and if possible, below 1.5°C.

These agreements are important, but they are not enough to save us. That is because admitting a problem is only the first step. To move forward, we must also properly diagnose and get to the root of the problem.

Right now, the problem that the Earth and the people on it are facing is a potentially terminal case of fossil fuel poisoning. We have a very short time window to stop the injection of the poison into our collective body and repair the harm done over previous decades. If we do not seize this moment, the future for humanity will be relatively short and extremely painful.

While national governments are finally admitting there is a problem, they have failed to diagnose the disease accurately. As a result, they are proposing solutions that will be fatal for the patient.

Their approach is like going to tobacco companies and asking them to handle the problem of lung cancer by coming up with a new tobacco product to cure it.

Our governments are opting for false solutions: they are looking to oil companies and market-based approaches to fix a problem that oil companies and market-based approaches created. They seem to believe that banks and the fossil fuel industry are the only players powerful enough and smart enough to address this crisis.

Thankfully, people all over the world are rising up to release their governments from the grip of corporations and demand that politicians serve the future of the people and the planet. Most importantly, communities are not waiting for national governments to act. They know what the real solutions are, and they are coming together to implement them in their towns, cities, and states. We’ve seen grassroots movements stop the Keystone pipeline and bring international pressure to bear on the Dakota Access pipeline, end fracking in New York State, and put Hawaii and other states on the path to 100% clean energy.

The fight for democracy, peace, and climate justice is accelerating. It is time to join the chorus of voices insisting that national governments do their part.

We have the power to divest from climate chaos and reinvest in local democracy and flourishing. We can build the next regenerative economy and repair the harm of the current system by restoring wealth back to the communities and countries that produced it. Such efforts include The Reinvest Network, which is moving money into a democratically-governed cooperative that invests in projects owned and operated by frontline communities, in order to build economic democracy rooted in ecological integrity; the Black Land and Liberation Initiative, a trans-local, Black-led land reclamation and reparations leadership network; and support for internally displaced climate refugees that recognizes present and historical structures of racial injustice. Projects such as these are crucial for eliminating the inequality on which our extractive economy thrives.

This is not a climate movement—it’s a movement for the future of humanity.

It will take all of us to accelerate the solutions already in our hands.

Why campaigns, not protests, get the goods

By George Lakey - Waging Nonviolence, October 29, 2016

After the election there will be many things to protest, no matter who wins. This is the time to figure out how to amplify our power and maximize the chance of winning victories.

To do that, we can start by freeing up the energy devoted to one-off protests, rallies and demonstrations. When I look back on the one-off protests I’ve joined over the years, I don’t remember a single one that changed anything. The really spectacular failure was the biggest protest in history, in February 2003. I joined millions of people around the world on the eve of George W. Bush’s war on Iraq. We did get a huge front-page headline in the New York Times, but Bush only needed to wait until we went home.

The Times said the protest indicated a “second global superpower,” but the Times was wrong. A one-off protest is for venting, not for exerting power. I realized even at the time that the protest wouldn’t prevent Bush’s war, because the protest’s leadership didn’t tell us what we could do next, and how we would escalate after that.

Bush had a plan to persist. We did not. The peace movement never recovered in the years since, despite the American majority’s fairly consistent opposition to the war. Because of the poor strategic choice to mount a one-off protest, discouragement and inaction followed.


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