Archive for category: COUNTERPUNCH
Using an intersectional, anarchist analysis we can see how racism, patriarchy, and class society are intertwined producing a society that actively is changing the climate. We can begin to untangle these relationships, digging into the history of white supremacy to see how it reinforces capitalist social relations producing the ecological crisis we confront. The Black Lives Matter movement offers us the chance, both through its critique and methods, to move closer to a society that no longer changes the climate.
Several hundred protesters crowded the streets of Rochester, New York to demand justice after video was released showing the murder of Daniel Prude while in the custody of police. Photo by Maranie R. Staab.
If we view various forms of domination as forming a ball of twine, we can see how pulling on one string can start to unravel the whole thing. Approaching racism, patriarchy, and class exploitation, for example, as interlocking and mutually reinforcing, organizing against any one of these might begin to reveal connections and relationships to the whole. Each is a potential entryway to understanding the complexity and interconnection of contemporary hierarchies. Better comprehending these relationships offers the possibility of beginning to detangle them. In this way we can relate the movement for Black lives, for instance, to the movement for climate justice.
As with police violence, pollution disproportionately impacts Black and poor communities. For instance, a recent study found that Black people are exposed to twice the particulate matter as white people, and that Hispanics had more exposure than non-Hispanic whites. The study also found that people in poverty had more exposure than people not in poverty. That the people of Flint, Michigan, almost half of whom live in poverty, were drinking lead contaminated water is only one of the more well-known recent examples.
What is known as “environmental racism” is the result of rigid social and political hierarchies, in which a large segment of the population is viewed as expendable. The dominant structures of US society seek both to control Black and poor communities through things like militarized policing while also treating those communities as dumping grounds for hazardous wastes and polluting industry. Environmental racism also makes Black communities more vulnerable to Covid-19, contributing to infection and fatality rates far out of proportion to the rest of the population. In Louisiana, Mississippi, and Michigan, where data is tracked, coronavirus cases seem to be clustered in mostly poor Black neighborhoods.
The changing climate is the result of an economic system that relies primarily on burning oil and coal to fuel production and enable the transportation of people and goods. The complex inter-relationships that make up “the economy,” from food, consumer and industrial production, to air and sea transport, contribute to varying degrees. This is the intricacy we must confront, examine, and replace. The modern capitalist economy is intimately bound up with a history, and continuity, of colonialism, racial domination, and patriarchy. These are interlocking systems of domination and exploitation that drive a world that is jeopardizing the continuity of human life, and they are quickly unraveling before our eyes. It is not “the planet” that is in danger, but human civilization itself.
The dominant economy and the modern nation-state facilitate the process of making profits. Capital accumulation creates profits for a small percentage of the population instead of the vast majority of us who do the work to make those profits possible. This has resulted in a system in which eight men have as much wealth as the 3.6 billion people that make up half the world. This system also relies on unpaid reproductive labor in the home, primarily done by women, a role historically enforced through male violence. Even as women entered the workforce outside the home, they were not financially compensated at the same rate as men, and continue to be subjected to domestic abuse, rape, and everyday harassment. And with the coronavirus pandemic, women with children have been forced to leave their jobs and stay home to care for them.
But not all women’s experience is the same. Because Black women are among the most marginalized people in the US, their political struggles often bring them into conflict with the harshest realities of capitalism. As the writers of the Combahee River Collective write, “If Black women were free, it would mean that everyone else would have to be free since our freedom would necessitate the destruction of all the systems of oppression.” The type of intersectional analysis these Black feminists developed has many similarities to anarchist politics.
Capitalism favors profit over the ecological integrity of the land that provides the resources for production, and treats the environment as a dumping ground for byproducts and waste. Capitalism directly contradicts the delicate foundations of life by operating as a grow-or-die system on a finite planet. Capitalism, bound up with and mutually reinforcing white supremacy, is the driving force of both environmental racism and ecological destruction more generally.The way to solve the ecological crisis, of which climate change is only one aspect, is to replace capitalism with a different social and economic model.
A small fire burns near the Federal Courthouse amidst weeks of racial justice protest on July 29, 2020 in Downtown Portland, Oregon. Photo by Maranie R. Staab.
Black Lives Matter
The 2020 uprising in response to the murder of George Floyd is the type of social movement that can help address race and class disparities, and also has the potential to lead to a different kind of world. The Black Lives Matter (BLM) movement is decentralized and particular to various places and circumstances. At its best it is militantly uncompromising, often operates outside the constraints of what is considered legal, and addresses the root of the problem of police violence by locating it in the structures and history of white supremacy. BLM confronts a long history of racial oppression that began with early capitalist development and the enclosures in Europe before being exported through colonialism and the slave trade.
Following the US Civil War white elites did not address the crimes of slavery through material compensation to former slaves. The horrors of slavery have never been truly reconciled by white institutions; the bill has never been paid and is still due. Despite the sacrifices and tireless work of the Civil Rights movement, the Black Power movement, countless organizing efforts and perennial riots, Black people in the US continue to be structurally and materially subjugated.
Anti-Black racism is a central tenet of the standard operating procedure of the US. Racism divides working people, seducing white workers into identifying with the capitalist class. The majority of Black people in the US are poor and working-class and the working-class will soon be predominantly made up of people of color. Race in the US is based in class exploitation.
Several hundred protesters crowded the streets of Rochester, NY to demand justice after video was released showing the murder of Daniel Prude while in the custody of Rochester police. Photo by Maranie R. Staab.
Militarism and Climate Change
Anti-Black racism intertwines with racism against people of color more generally. The mindset and institutions of white supremacy, intersecting with the needs of capitalism and US empire, necessitates overt military and covert action in what is sometimes referred to as the Global South. The mechanisms of US imperialism have resulted in millions of dead the world over. Some are targeted by US trained death squads, as in Central America in the 1980s and in the Middle East and Africa today. Civilians are regularly killed, both those targeted and those who die because they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Carpet bombing of Southeast Asia in the 1960s and 70s and the unilateral military invasions, covert actions, and drone strikes in the Middle East and Africa for the last twenty years have resulted in massive “collateral damage:” countless civilians dead. One can never forget the images of the US carpet bombing Vietnamese villages and surrounding jungles if one has witnessed them.
In addition to the victims of US military and covert operations, capitalism also has more indirect forms of collateral damage: those people of color who are displaced, driven into desperation, and killed by rising sea levels, extreme heat, typhoons, and weather made worse by climate change. Climate change results in food scarcity and hostile environmental habitats that make subsistence impossible.
Capitalism, and very specific corporations and nations, are the primary drivers of climate disruption which disproportionally impacts people in the Global South. It is estimated that there will be 143 million climate refugees by 2050 from the regions of Latin America, sub-Saharan Africa, and Southeast Asia. The dominant economic system benefits people in the US and the West, at the expense of people in the Global South, whose resources are stolen and whose labor and natural environment is exploited to provide cheap goods made available at places like Walmart.
The most exploited in the Global South are women, who do the majority of the unwaged and waged work, and who suffer both from economic exploitation and male violence. It the women of the Global South who suffer the most from climate change, as they increasingly struggle to hold their families and communities together under circumstances of increasing privation, violence, and war. They represent the intersections of capitalism, racism, and patriarchy. The people most impacted by climate change are those the least responsible for causing it.
Protesters in Portland used blow torches, ropes and chains to bring down a statue of Theodore Roosevelt as part of an organized “Indigenous People’s Day of Rage” on October 11, 2020. Photo by Maranie R. Staab.
Towards a Free Society
The Black Lives Matter movement, perhaps the largest social movement in US history – with between 15-26 million people estimated to have joined the protests – has been met with both reforms and massive police violence and arrests. For instance, in Portland, Oregon, since the movement began, there have been six thousand documented instances of police use of force. Yet despite severe police repression, the Black Lives Matter movement has succeeded in changing the conversation around race, helping create a new “common sense.” The widespread participation in and persistence of this movement is beginning to change the opinion of those not personally impacted daily by anti-Black racism. Increasing numbers of white people better understand the role of white supremacy in US society and the role of the police in violently upholding it. Getting a critical mass of the population on one’s side is crucial for any movement to succeed. Support for Black Lives Matter reached a highpoint in June, 2020 (67 percent support) and though it declined towards the end of summer, is still supported by the majority of US adults. Walking around neighborhoods in cities across the US, one sees countless BLM signs in people’s windows.
Black Lives Matter is a tenacious movement and, while it ebbs and flows, will likely persist as long as police continue to murder Black people. It is a decentralized grassroots movement largely led by Black women. By confronting white supremacy the movement moves us all closer to living in a free and cooperative society and offers us the opportunity to make connections to other forms of oppression while showing the way to organize for fundamental change. As we work to create a society in which Black lives matter we should understand the need for creating the material conditions for that to be actualized. If race and class are intimately bound up capitalism must also be abolished in the course of liberating all people. Capitalism, intertwined with racism and patriarchy, is the driving force changing the planet’s climate and threatening the future of humanity.
Donning a helmet, gas mask and eye protection a protester holds colorful balloons and a homemade shield outside of the Federal Courthouse in Downtown Portland, Oregon on July 30, 2020. Photo by Maranie R. Staab.
Carbon emissions already released into the atmosphere will continue to warm the planet for years to come. Although a certain level of climate change is guaranteed, it is still possible, through radical action in the coming decade, to give our descendants a better chance at a decent life: to lessen the possibility that they will inherit the hell-scape environment we currently are on course for. In Portland, Oregon people mobilized in their thousands, standing up for Black lives, putting on gas masks, making shields, and bringing leaf blowers to defend against toxic gasses and less-lethal munitions used by Federal forces. People did this night-after night, suffering many injuries, until those troops stood down. Although local police continued their brutality, this was an inspiring tactical victory.
Those of us organizing and theorizing need to see commonalities between movements and recognize we are in this for the long haul. If we follow the logic of Black Lives Matter to its conclusion, we need to work to fundamentally transform society to make that possible. Adopting an intersectional, anarchist analysis, we can make connections and nurture solidarity throughout our organizing as we confront together an uncertain future.
Abandoned passenger train car, Astoria, Oregon. Photo: Jeffrey St. Clair.
Twenty-five years ago, when the high-tech Second Industrial Revolution had just begun, I made a bet with an editor from Wired magazine that global society led by the United States would collapse in the year 2020 from a confluence of causes created by modern technology out of control.
It would be, I said, a mix of ecological disasters including earth overheating and polar ice melting, political disintegration including failed states worldwide and uprisings in major cities, and economic chaos including insurmountable debt and a stock-market crash and depression. He said, “We won’t even be close,” and slapped down a $1,000 check on my desk. Though a tidy sum in those days, I matched it and we settled on a mutual editor friend as the arbiter, to make the call when the time came.
That time, the end of the year 2020, has now indeed come. Who wins?
As to ecological disaster, the evidence is ample even though the response to it has been negligible. The ten hottest years on earth have been between 2005 and 2020, with 2019 the hottest ever recorded and 2020 very close. That means ice melting at a record rate, with significant loss at glaciers around the world, in Greenland, and at the poles, with ice going three times as fast in the last three years in the Antarctic as just ten years ago and the Arctic in what a scientist at the Polar Ocean Physics Group at Cambridge University has called a “death spiral.” The U.N. climate panel, which puts the blame for global warming on “greenhouse gasses,” says these must cease by 2030, a goal that not a single major country is capable of meeting.
Add to this the assault on the world’s oceans through acidification and overheating, including 60 per cent of the world’s fisheries fished to capacity and 33 per cent overfished, and the extinction of species at a rate that one scientific team in 2017 said offers “a dismal picture of the future of life,” and it may fairly be said that an ecological collapse is well underway if not yet quite complete.
As to political disintegration, take first the alarming state of the world where no less than 65 countries are now at war and there are said to be 638 other conflicts (involving separatist militias, armed drug bands, terrorist organizations, and the like) now raging. An annual index of “fragile states” that came out earlier this year found 24 countries at a “high warning” level, 22 at an “alert” level, 5 at “high alert,” and 4 “very high”—amounting to 30 per cent of the world’s governments being equivalent to failed states. And that was before the pandemic hit, a catastrophe that has added almost all third-world and a few developed countries to that list.
But the really interesting case of political collapse is right here. The inability of our political institutions to cope with the coronavirus for a year, and the spread now at record levels, and then the inability of the nation to hold an election without at least the strong suspicion of fraud, has certainly undercut a confidence in national government that has grown increasingly meager in the last few decades anyway. In the Wall Street Journal recently Gerald Seib pointed out that “this year’s election can be seen as the culmination of a two-decade period of decline in faith in the basic building blocks of democracy”—quite an obituary for a system once happy to proclaim its virtues around the world.
Add to that a general feeling that the Federal government just isn’t working, or as the Pew Research people put it, only 17 per cent of Americans trust the government “to do the right thing just about always.” It seems clear that loyalty to a cause or a race or an ideology is far greater than loyalty to the state, no longer quite seen as legitimate, and many commentators these days suggest that some form of separation, even a civil war, is inevitable. Political collapse, then, if not here would seem to be just around the corner.
And lastly the underlying depression that we have been in since March—despite the frantic gyrations of a central bank-fueled stock market—is just one sign that the American economy, like those of most of the Western world, is foundering. And no wonder: it is straining under the weight of a national debt of at least $27 trillion and national unfunded liabilities of more than $100 trillion, with a GDP of just $21 trillion to manage it with. But we have plenty of company—the world’s debt was a staggering $258 trillion at the start of the pandemic, some 320 per cent bigger than the world’s GDP, meaning we’re all living in a pipe dream unable to pay the piper.
And there’s still a few days left in a year that has exposed the weaknesses of the world system as never before.
The raging argument on the left between progressives who argue for radical change and centrists who advocate incrementalism is hardly new. Nearly a century ago, progressive titan and Wisconsin governor Robert La Follette and FDR were often at loggerheads over the same question.
Roosevelt, La Follette complained, was too quick to compromise with reactionaries. FDR insisted that “half a loaf is better than no bread.” While that might seem intuitively obvious, La Follette had a ready reply. “Half a loaf, as a rule, dulls the appetite, and destroys the keenness of interest in attaining the full loaf.” That can be dangerous. The average adult male requires approximately 2500 calories of nutrition per day. 1250 is better than 0, but 1250 is still malnutrition that would eventually kill him.
Even in a long-running crisis, the sustained agitation necessary to pressure the political classes into granting concessions doesn’t usually occur before people’s suffering has become acute. If the powers that be provide partial relief in the form of a half-measure that partly alleviates a problem, angry citizens can be persuaded to put down their pitchforks and go home peaceably. Yet the problem persists.
The Affordable Care Act is a perfect example. Obama became president at the peak of a major economic crisis, the subprime mortgage meltdown of 2007-09. With hundreds of thousands of people losing their jobs every month, the need for government intervention in the healthcare system was obvious to most Americans. So Obama campaigned on major change that included a public option. Two out of three people, including many Republicans, favored a single-payer system similar to those in many other countries.
Instead, we got the watered-down ACA.
As COVID-19 has made clear, the for-profit American healthcare system is even more scandalously dysfunctional than it was prior to the passage of Obamacare. The ACA “marketplace” has collapsed; many places only offer one “take it or leave it” insurance plan. Nevertheless, healthcare is no longer a top political issue. Support for a public option or Medicare For All has dropped to about 50%. The Democratic Party chose to nominate someone who promised to veto Medicare For All even if both houses of Congress were to pass it.
Tens of thousands of people are still dying every year because they can’t afford to see a doctor. But in too many people’s minds, healthcare was partly solved. So they are no longer demanding improvements. Though it might seem counterintuitive, the politics of the healthcare crisis would be vastly improved had the compromise ACA never been enacted. More people would be suffering. But the absence of an existing, lame, plan would add urgency (and supporters) to the fight for a real, i.e. radical, solution.
Half a loaf is killing us.
As Joe Biden fills his cabinet with Obama-era centrists and corporatists, many Democrats say they are satisfied with the improvement over Trump: officials with government experience replacing crazies and cronies, pledges to reverse the outgoing administration’s attacks on the environment, fealty to science. They are falling into La Follette’s “half a loaf” trap. Especially on existential issues like climate change but also regarding the precarious state of the post-lockdown economy, compromise will sate the appetite for meaningful change without actually solving the problems. As with the ACA, voters will be deceived into thinking things are getting better when in fact they will still be getting worse, albeit perhaps at a slightly slower rate.
Climate scientists are divided between those who say we might be able to save human civilization if we achieve zero net carbon emissions within a decade (which is the goal of the Green New Deal pushed by progressives), and those who say it’s already too late. A widely reported study predicts that human civilization will collapse by 2050, yet that’s the year Biden is promising to begin zero net carbon emissions. So if we do what Biden wants, we are going to die.
Trump denied climate science, deregulated polluters and pulled the U.S. out of the Paris Accord. Biden appears to be an improvement. He talks about the urgency of the problem, promises to restore Obama-era regulations and to rejoin the Paris Agreement. Pro-environment Democratic voters are breathing a sigh of relief.
But if the goal is to slow the rate of global warming as much as we reasonably can, both Obama’s regulations and the Paris Agreement are woefully inadequate. “Marginal cuts by the U.S. don’t have a long-term overall big effect on the climate,” Michael Oppenheimer, professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton University, told Scientific American in 2014.
A 2017 report by the United Nations Environment Program found that “if action to combat climate change is limited to just current pledges, the Earth will get at least 3C (5.4F) warmer by 2100 relative to preindustrial levels. This amount of warming would vastly exceed the Paris Agreement’s goal, which is to limit global warming by the end of the century to 2C (3.6F),” reported National Geographic.
“[3C increase] would bring mass extinctions and large parts of the planet would be uninhabitable,” the UNEP warned in 2019.
If liberals head back to brunch in a month thinking that the Biden Administration will move the needle in the right direction, if they stop being terrified, we are doomed. For as bizarre as it sounds, Donald Trump provided a valuable service when he scared the living daylights out of us.
Consider a more modern analogy than the loaf of bread: if a two-pill dose of antibiotics is required to cure an illness, taking one instead doesn’t make you half better. It actually makes you worse because not only do you not get better, you destroy your immune system’s ability to fight the disease.
This country is teetering on the verge of collapse. We can’t afford to settle for the single-pill solutions of incremental Bidenism.
The post In a Crisis, a Compromise Solution Is Worse Than No Solution at All appeared first on CounterPunch.org.
Since the media declared that former Vice President Joe Biden won the presidential election, the nation has witnessed a proliferation of right-wing Trump rallies. Their message: the election was a fraud and Trump’s win was stolen from him.
Is this the beginning of a domestic fascist movement to discredit our democratic institutions? Historian Timothy Snyder in his book “On Tyranny” argues that institutions preserve our decency. They do not protect themselves. They fall if citizens do not protect them.
The Trump-appointed Director of Cybersecurity, Chris Krebs, was fired because he announced the vote across the nation “was the most secure in American history.” Krebs has since filed a lawsuit charging that Trump has initiated a campaign of intimidation, retaliation and threats against Republicans.
Those are the Republicans who as state officials administered their election efforts. Trump attacked them for refusing to back up his unsubstantiated claims of massive election fraud. The national leadership of the Republican Party did not step forward to protect them. They were silent.
Trump, as president of our democratic republic, should be our national leader in citizenship. Instead, he has repeatedly refused to recognize that every judge he has asked to overthrow Biden’s victory, including judges he appointed as true conservatives, has concluded that his objections of fraud are baseless.
A couple of thousand pro-Trump anti-election protestors marched and rallied in Washington D.C. on Saturday, Dec 12, two days before the electoral college made the president’s loss official. Washington Post journalists described them as mask-less rallygoers cursing the Supreme Court, President-elect Joe Biden, and even Fox News for not recognizing Trump’s victory. Trump tweeted his support of the demonstration, “Wow! Thousands of people forming in Washington (D.C.) for Stop the Steal. Didn’t know about this, but I’ll be seeing them! #MAGA.”
Police estimate that the crowd included about 700 Proud Boys wearing their colors of yellow and black with a number of them dressed in body armor and helmets. Trump had previously asked them to “stand down and stand by,” hinting that he may need them to engage in some sort of physical struggle to assist him. The Proud Boys were reported to have marched through downtown in military-like rows, shouting “move out” and “1776!” At some point, they burned a “Black Lives Matter” banner belonging to the Black community’s historic Asbury United Methodist Church.
Despite the Proud Boys being accused of damaging four Black churches in DC, strong Christian beliefs appear to sustain Trump’s campaign to overturn the election. Addressing the gathering, conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, the host of Infowars, spoke of God and how Joe Biden “will be removed one way or another.” Another speaker, Black right-wing podcaster David Harris Jr. said if there were a civil war, “we’re the ones with all the guns.” Harris is a devout Christian who rails against authoritarian statism, secularism, and socialism as threats to a free society.
Protestor Ruth Hillary, 58, a pastor from California, is a prime example of the spirited foot soldier in Trump’s camp. In an interview with Washington Post reporters, she said she would continue protesting and holding up her sign, “Stop the Steal”, as long as the president believes she should. If he accepts a defeat, then she would too, “But right now, this is a Godly protest.”
Trump has founded and propagated an anti-democratic populist movement that appears more loyal to him than our democracy. His supporters repeatedly proclaim that they are simply defending our constitution. But the verbal defense of a constitution or a republic, without acknowledging that both are sustained through a stable democratic process, is not enough to avoid moving toward tyranny.
One can trace this faulty, if not devious, strategy back two thousand years ago when Caesar Augustus became Rome’s first emperor without ever proclaiming that he was. Instead, he took the title of the first citizen, assuring the senate that his efforts were to save the republic not to terminate it. We know how that went. The republic died and never returned.
In the period between the two world wars, fascism was created by Benito Mussolini who had become disillusioned with socialism. Like any ideology or “ism” there will be many competing definitions. But in the end, all ideologies have a cluster of features which describe it.
Author and Professor Eco Umberto provides a list for fascism in his 1995 essay titled Ur-Fascism (Eternal Fascism). He begins by noting that fascism creates a cult of tradition which leads to a belief that there is no need for additional learning, the truth has already been spelled out. Tradition is elevated to the point of conflicting with the scientific approach of critical thinking. Using a verifiable truth to argue against a traditional but unproven truth is seen as the work of a liberal intelligentsia betraying traditional values.
Consequently, we see protestors opposed to: (1) wearing face masks to mitigate the spread of the covid-19 pandemic because it’s just like the flu; or (2) reducing industrial pollution to avoid climate change because the climate is always changing: and (3) accepting verified election results because it’s impossible that a Democrat campaigning from a basement office could get more votes than a president drawing in tens of thousands to his rallies.
Umberto sees fascism seeking to build a consensus by exploiting and exacerbating the natural fear of difference. In other words, it is an appeal against the intruders, those who are new to our community, like immigrants, or who have been here but are seen as different, like people of color.
Those divisions easily lead to separating the general population into either deserving or undeserving communities. This is an attitude that has historically appealed to a frustrated middle class, and I would add a working-class as well. Particularly when they are suffering an economic crisis or feel politically humiliated. Their economic crisis has been unfolding for over forty years as their wealth and standard of living has at best stagnated if not shrunk by nearly half. And, who likes to be called a deplorable or an un-woke ignorant person?
Another feature of fascism that is relevant to today’s political environment is what Umberto describes as an obsession with a plot. That would be the conspiracy of the deep state that pre-dates President Trump and can be traced back to the John Birch society that saw communists everywhere, including Republican President Dwight D. Eisenhower.
The conspiracy of communists still lives on for Georgia Republican Senator Kelly Loeffler. She has repeatedly referred to her Black Democratic opponent Rev. Raphael Warnock as “radical liberal” often adding socialist to the label and accusing him of supporting communism. To the average Georgian voter, being accused as a communist is as close as it gets to being a national enemy. The Trumpite movement has been described as a populist one. However, Eco sees fascism as promoting popular elitism. Those that belong to it are the best citizens, those that do not, are considered the enemy, be they accused of being a communist, radical or liberal.
All of the above features that Umberto identifies as conditions that could lead to a fascist movement, are certainly present. Many if not most of them have been in America for a long time. But we have not had a significant homegrown fascist movement dramatically threatening our democracy. I think that is largely due to the durability of our citizens in believing in our democracy. While the politicians will come and go, those we like and those we don’t, we believe that the electoral system will continue to function. That is why democracies are a threat to authoritarian leaders.
A fascist movement above all opposes democracy. When the authoritarians took over Russia, Germany, and Italy, the first thing they did was to either abolish their legislative bodies and their independent judicial system or take them over with ideologically acceptable functionaries. Trump’s ability to throw out a legitimate election is hindered by not having an organization large and strong enough to do either. He could personally intimidate only so many Republicans.
Still, the Republican Party is currently under his sway, particularly at the federal level. So much so, that 126 House Republicans signed onto an amicus brief submitted in the Supreme Court case seeking to overturn Biden’s victory. The most conservative Supreme Court in the past seventy years unanimously rejected Trump’s appeal.
As I wrote before, he will still try to overturn the popular vote when the electoral votes must be counted by Congress. And he will fail, even though his White House advisor Stephen Miller told Fox News that “an alternative” group of electors was voting in the contested states and they were sending “those results to Congress.”
Trump’s final loss will not stop him from fanning opposition toward our electoral process. Are his actions contributing to an emerging fascist movement? There’s not a real movement, yet. At this point, there are no organized national para-military groups like the Free Corps that existed in Germany after WWI. And, from the beginning of our nation’s founding, there has been an anti-democratic subculture.
However, at times a political personality emerges that taps a swell of discontent that cares less about how a democracy should work. Donald Trump did it brilliantly, according to former long-time Republican strategist, Rick Wilson, author of Running Against the Devil. Trump exploited the grievance culture with messages that have powered past fascist movements, “Everyone is coming to get you.” and “You will be punished for not believing the right things.”
The task of deflating fascism is to address these messages through understanding the problems of all communities and working with them to arrive at workable and just solutions. That approach will take determination, persistence, and time in order to sustain our democracy. These are tasks that both parties must pursue.
The corporation may well mean corpus or a body of people, yet these are not ordinary people just as corporations are not ordinary organisations. Historically, the archetype of an evil corporation remains the East India Company tasked to exploit British colonies and most the people who lived there. Such an old corporation was very much seen as an evil corporation dedicated to what one of the master chefs of neoliberalism once called the social responsibility of business is to increase its profits – in whatever way possible.
Despite media capitalism’s rather marvellous public relations apparatus, negative perceptions of corporations had begun to increasingly sieve through, entering the general population during the latter half of the 20th century. More recently, so-called scandals – which in reality regularly occurred in corporate capitalism – like Ford Pinto, Nestle, Bhopal, Enron, Exxon Valdez, the global financial crisis of 2008, followed by Volkswagen’s Dieselgate, etc. began to pile up. It was time to re-birth the old corporation as the new corporation.
The new corporation pretends to be kind to workers, communities and the environment. At the same time, the new corporation continues to make sure that the rich are getting richer. To underscore this, JPMorgan’s CEO even announced the dawn of a new age of corporate capitalism with the goal of casting corporations as good actors. Key to the new corporation has been the Davos meeting also known as the World Economic Forum (WEF) run by a small clique of the global super-elite that has accumulated enough money and power to be granted access to the WEF.
WEF boss – Klaus Schwab – sees the new corporation as a blend of moneymaking and social responsibility. Next to business ethics, corporate social responsibility or CSR quickly became key ideologies of the new corporation. Both are pushed by business school professors and corporate apparatchiks inside corporations and adjacent PR-firms. CSR makes it easy for the new corporation to broadcast Schwab’s dream of the new corporation with a heart. All of this is aimed at pretending that the new corporation is a good global citizen. The advocates of the new corporation claim that 80% of the Davos elite rejects a return to Friedman’s shareholder value – profits at all cost.
Joining the bandwagon are the usual suspects of the global managerialist elite. Some are so-called management gurus who are called gurus because most managers and business journalist find it hard to spell the word charlatan. One of them – super-guru Michael Porter – rides on the bandwagon when saying, corporations have to change their tune, it’s undeniable. For once, he spoke the truth. The new corporation is a change in tune. The new corporation is just as the German philosopher, Adorno, once said – it is a variation of a theme. The theme being corporate capitalism and variation is the ideology of the new corporation.
In a PR drive toward reputation-conscious public relations, new corporations like Walmart, Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, etc. are suddenly making very sweeping promises of full sustainability, promises such as 100% carbon neutrality, zero waste to landfill, 100% recycling, etc. It is what Joel Bakan calls a kind of Ben & Jerry fiction of big business. In short, l’idée fixe new corporation is yet another diversion to conceal profit-making and accompanying corporate pathologies. The ideology of the new corporation is mainly about pretending what’s good for them is good for us – the bread-and-butter issue of CSR.
Behind the façade of CSR, the new corporation mercilessly pushes profits and tax cuts. The Coronavirus pandemic, for example, revealed how Donald Trump’s tax cuts saved JPMorgan $5 billion in 2019. It also shows how the same tax cuts helped corporations to reap record profits while simultaneously starving the government of the means to protect citizens in the face of a global crisis. Worse, America’s superrich boosted their collective fortune by $248 billion during just three weeks of the pandemic. These fortunes came at a time when thousands died.
Beyond that, the new corporation says it cares about social and environmental values. Yet they, the new corporation, does not want to pay taxes to protect and promote these much-acclaimed values. Despite polished rhetoric of conscientious commitments, corporations embracing social and environmental values, etc., the new corporation does so only when it helps them make even more money.
One such a social and environmental initiative is Unilever’s training of rural Pakistani women to become beauticians. In reality, the idea is creating a new market and sales force for Unilever’s beauty products. Similarly, Coca-Cola is mounting youth empowering programmes in Brazil’s impoverished favelas creating loyal customers for its products. Doing good can build positive reputations helping corporations to attract new customers.
Even global warming deniers and right-wing Koch industries have jumped on the new corporation and CSR bandwagon claiming to practice sustainability. And indeed, its companies have programmes to reduce waste, save energy, recycle resources, and prevent pollution. But Koch’s coal mining – unquestionably a profoundly unsustainable practice – continues undeterred. Meanwhile, British American Tobacco boasts of creating biodiversity at its tobacco fields; however, it makes a product that kills millions of people.
To sex-up the new corporation’s social and environmental reputation, the new corporation pursues small scale sustainability projects with limited impacts but significant PR effects. Yet, the new corporation talks differently compared to old corporations. It creates a patina of plausibility for vastly exaggerated claims to be environmentally friendly – corporate greenwashing.
Even corporations like BP now declare that we believe climate change is real. Their semi-delinquent off-sider ExxonMobil will have pumped 25% more oil and gas by 2025 compared to 2017. To camouflage this, the new corporation presents itself as solution providers and no longer as a problem creator. This marks a fundamental shift in corporate PR, which is designed to stave off urgent, and far-reaching measures scientists are calling for to prevent global warming.
This is what Great Thunberg calls, CEOs are making it look like real action is happening, when in fact, almost nothing is being done, apart from clever accounting and creative PR. A good example of this, as well as the new corporation, is Larry Fink – CEO of BlackRock investment – managing nearly $7 trillion in assets. Seven trillion looks like this: 7,000,000,000,000.
By comparison, Japan’s nominal GDP was $5.15 trillion in 2020. The man who is more important than Japan says he wants to dump bonds and stocks that generate more than 25% of revenue from coal production. An admirable goal. Yet, dumping coal is a shrewd business move as coal stocks have tanked. What is presented as a great CSR and environmental move is barely good PR and an economic necessity.
Worse still, Nestle also known to some as the baby killer company is not only the world’s largest food and beverage company, Nestle has also announced to rebrand itself as a nutrition, health, and wellness company. Even better is Volkswagen and its Internet video celebrating the company’s anti-corruption crusade saying, all we ask you is to follow the rules. Yet still better is the fact that Volkswagen ranked among the top-ten companies with the best CSR reputation by Forbes magazine. Volkswagen has also won an award at the World Forum for Ethics in Business.
Not long after all that, Volkswagen pleaded guilty to charges of conspiracy to commit fraud, obstruction of justice, and falsifying statements. Dieselgate damaged the corporation’s clever PR – for a while. These business-as-usual scandals committed by Volkswagen and many other corporations have made it abundantly clear that over the last two decades, corporations have been on a crime spree. Simultaneously, they are claiming they have become conscious and caring. The new corporation uses environmental PR – corporate social responsibility – to smokescreen profit-making and global environmental vandalism.
To understand corporate (mis)behaviour, it is imperative to realise what the new corporation is doing is part of a textbook-style cost-benefit calculus that incentivises corporate lawbreaking. Yet, it explains why most corporations commit offences – some routinely. Worse, much of this is purposely engineered under the neoliberal ideology of self-regulation. The prevailing mantra is self-regulate rather than be regulated.
Under the neoliberal ideology of governmental deregulation, corporate self-regulation is about the freedom of the new corporation to create its own rules, to decide if and when and how to follow them. Secondly, it is about preventing the government’s mandatory edicts. The 737 Max crashes, for example, shows how this operates. It is a stark and tragic reminder of what happens when governments retreat from regulation and leave corporations to regulate themselves.
Virtually the same occurred in the case of the UK’s Grenfell Tower fire. Before the fire in 2017, an all-party government committee called for regulation requiring apartment buildings to have fire-resistant cladding and sprinklers. The government simply said, no! Three years later, the Grenfell fire killed 71 people. The building’s exterior had been fitted with cheap flammable cladding. There were no sprinklers. This is how neoliberalism works. It increases corporate profits and lowers costs for governments. Everyone wins except the people who die.
Ideologically even better is recycling – the ultimate swindle. Recycling remains one of the greatest tricks that corporations have ever played. Many people know by now that recycling doesn’t work because much of what goes into recycling bins ends up in landfills or is burned. Yet, recycling is the ultimate trickery. Waste corporations and governments make people believe they do something for the environment.
Meanwhile, the new corporation can carry on overloading us with unnecessary packaging, plastic bottles and the like. The genius of the entire scam is a triple whammy. Firstly, consumers buy expensive rubbish and pay twice. Once for packaging and a second time for disposing of it. Thirdly, the entire scam is presented as environmentally friendly.
Much of this is part of a larger narrative that plays into the hands of the new corporation while simultaneously preventing real action towards sustainability. Virtually, the same goes for fairwashing, which occurs when fair trade masquerades corporate profits while helping multinational corporations. Some NGOs have been made part of the corporate structure. The corporate goal is to make sure NGOs no longer criticise and challenge corporations. Instead, they become co-operators and supporters. Simultaneously, NGO involvement cultivates the belief that we’re making progress. In strategic management, this is called stakeholder inclusion. The new corporation favours l’idée fixe of stakeholders.
Unlike neoliberalism that uses and abuses democracy, the new corporation has no space for democracy. It simply does not need democracy. As a consequence, there is no room for democracy in the ideological narrative of the new corporation. Yes, by letting corporations liberate themselves from democratically controlled regulation, we create a profoundly anti-democratic space for the new corporation.
Ultimately, the goal of the new corporation is to change society from having corporations towards being a mere appendage to the new corporation. The new corporation will no longer serve society. Instead, society will serve the new corporation. As this advances, the democratic space of society retreats and the lifeworld shrinks. Super philanthropist Bill Gates calls this stretching the market. It converts public goods into corporate goods which are for sale.
Of course, as the market advances, equality retreats. In 1980, the top 1% and the bottom 90% owned roughly the same share of wealth in the USA: 32% and 34%. By 2015, this had changed dramatically. The proportion was 40% and 21%. The rich were made richer while the middle-class was made poorer even though plenty of middle-class voters voted for Ronald Reagan in 1980 who together with Thatcher (UK) and Pinochet (Chile) turned a wired fringe dogma of neoliberalism into reality.
Perhaps it is just as Seattle Councillor Kshama Sawant says, you do not need a PhD in economics to know that your life sucks under capitalism. Yet, when the Coronavirus pandemic hit the world in 2020, the very opposite happened to what horror films showed and US preppers, and survivalists in their can-food-bunkers thought would happen. Instead of turning humanity into flesh-eating zombies, the pandemic has turned millions of people into good neighbours. Ten-year-olds went shopping for their elderly neighbours, and others shared toilet paper. Society did not collapse. Instead, Pëtr Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid prevailed.
In the end, the cure for the new corporation might be to reinvigorate and deepen democracy to ensure democracy controls the new corporation rather than society being controlled by it. Yet, the new corporation still tells an attractive vision of a corporate society, but in reality, it is a veneer for rampant corporate capitalism.
Having just turned 92, none other than Noam Chomsky‘s words on Joel Bakan’s book The New Corporation ring through. Chomsky wrote on the cover, a very important book, an arresting study directed to a central issue of our times.
As of mid-December 2020 the US economy has begun showing increasing signs of an exceptionally weak 4th quarter, October-December, growth. After having collapsed -10.5% in the March-June 2020 period, followed by a partial ‘rebound’ (not sustained recovery) in the 3rd quarter, July-September 2020, the economy is now slowing rapidly once again.
Dismal reports of consumer and especially retail sales in October-November appear driving the slowing growth—in turn driven by rising unemployment claims, a growing number of permanent layoffs by large businesses as the economy structurally changes long term, and, shorter term, by a sharp rise in Covid deaths, infections, and consequent partial shutdown of the services sector of the US economy throughout the US.
This scenario and trends has pushed more economists, mainstream included, to predict an even sharper 1st quarter 2021, contraction in the economy. Even a normally conservative forecast source like JPM Chase Bank’s research has raised the likelihood of a bona fide 2nd contraction of the US economy early next year—i.e. a ‘double dip’ recession, that this writer has been predicting since last March 2020.
The failure of both parties in Congress to pass a fiscal stimulus bill as late as mid-December 2020 has exacerbated the slowing economy and likelihood of a further contraction.
Ranks of Unemployed Rising; Benefits Falling
Latest initial unemployment benefit claims have risen, from the steady 1 million per week through the fall, to 1.28 million in early December, a weekly rise of 28%. As claims rise, a steady million per week have been exhausting their benefits for months. This is about to accelerate greatly, as a large block of 12 million are scheduled to end benefits by the last week of December.
Despite the US Labor Department’s monthly ‘low ball’ estimates of a jobless total of only 10.5 million and 6.7% unemployment rate, more than 20 million without jobs are still collecting unemployment benefits—twice the number the Labor Department and media consistently repeat as total jobless today!
Simultaneously, the ranks of the jobless without benefits, or having exhausted benefits, continues to rise as well. Four million workers have dropped out of the labor force altogether. Another 1-2 million have had to quit, in order to manage their K-6 grade children’s remote education. Millions are ‘furloughed’ at home with hope of at some point returning to work but not yet—a status the Labor Department erroneously calls working, and not unemployed, even though they aren’t being paid by their employers. (An error the Labor Dept. has made since last April, acknowledged it was an error, but has refused to correct nonetheless).
Easily at minimum 25 million American workers today as of December 2020 are jobless, either with or without benefits, not 10.5 million. And the unemployment rate is thus closer to 18%-19%–i.e. not even remotely close to the official, cherry-picked low ball number of 6.7% reported monthly by the Labor Department, which even most mainstream economists now ignore.
The Trump administration allowed the expiration of the supplemental $600/week unemployment benefits for millions of jobless last August. That reduced GDP spending by $65 billion a month (not counting multiplier effects on GDP of roughly 2X that amount). Some of that was restored for 5 weeks with $300 supplement unemployment benefits by Trump Executive Order in August. But the money was funded by reducing other government spending elsewhere, so there was no effective positive impact on total spending. That $65 billion (times 2X) negative spending effect on the US economy continued through December, and has no doubt played a part in the 4th quarter US consumer-retail spending slowdown.
The negative impact of reduced unemployment benefits is about to get much worse, however. The 12 million more that will lose benefits on December 26, 2020 is estimated to reduce household spending by another $150 billion per month (plus multiplier). Should current proposals restore half of that $600/wk., the negative household spending impact will still be $75 billion more in addition to the previous $65 billion reduction since August.
Renters’ Crisis Deepening
The real economy’s actual deteriorating condition is further illustrated by the renter crisis gaining momentum weekly. Of the 43 million total rental units in the US, 11.4 million are behind in their rents, averaging around $5,800 per household, for a total of $70 billion, according to the business research company, Moodys Analytics. As evictions moratorium ends in January 2021 many renters (mostly still unemployed) will not only have to start paying rents once again, but will have to make up the $70B in lost rent payments or still face evictions. Even after having been evicted, landlords will still legally pursue back payments.
The renewal of rent payments by renters, while still jobless, combined with back payments, will have a devastating impact on household spending and consumption in 2021, the latter of which accounts for 68% of all US economic spending and GDP.
Contrary to the media reporting, millions are already undergoing evictions and facing legal orders to repay back rents. The initial rent moratorium passed last March as part of the Cares Act (‘mitigation bill 1.0’) did not cover all renters, as the mainstream media consistently suggests, but covered mostly those whose housing was associated with government aid by the HUD and FHA agencies. States and cities in some cases had initiated local moratoria . But most of those local moratoria expired months ago. Trump’s Executive Order last August 2020 extended rent moratorium on federally supported rent units, but only until end of December 2020.
Issued by the Trump administration’s CDC in September, Trump’s EO for rent moratorium expiration will result in 2.4 to 5 million of renters evicted in January 2021 alone, with millions more per month thereafter, according the Wall St. Journal. Moreover, the Trump EO did not prevent landlords from initiating legal action to evict. Hundreds of thousands of evictions are already in progress and legally proceeding in cities across the US, per the Princeton University Evictions Lab. Most heavily impacted are minority households. A recent survey by the US Census Bureau indicates 32% of black renters and 18% of Hispanic renters were behind on rent payments, and about 12% of white renting households.
Homeowners Mortgages Crisis Brewing
While the picture is not as dire for homeowners as for renters, it too is deteriorating and will be intensifying in 2021.
There are 82 million single homes in the US. 49 million (62%) have mortgages. At present 3.6 million are in forbearance, meaning mortgage payments have been temporarily suspended. Suspended payments will have to resume in 2021, however, much like rent back payments suspended require payment. Like renters, homeowners may have to double up on mortgage payments, in whole or part, commencing 2021. It is estimated that 6.8% of homeowners have missed payments in 2020. That’s 5.5 million of homeowners—i.e. the 3.6 million in forbearance but another 1.9 million not and who have been missing monthly mortgage payments.
The percentages and totals for mortgage payments in arrears may seem less a problem than the renters’ missed payments. But the totals are actually far greater in terms of back money owed: all the deferred and missed mortgage payments amount to $752 billion in back payments that have to be made up. That make up will reduce household spending by another hundreds of billions of dollars in 2021, with further negative impact on US GDP in 2021.
Student Loan Forbearance Ending
Like renters and homeowners, the March 2020 Cares Act permitted suspension and deferral of student loan payments until year end 2020. Also like rent and mortgages, however, that deferral is scheduled to end in 2021. Students will have to make up payments and in effect ‘double down’ on payments in most cases.
The negative impact on ‘doubling down’ and making up lost payments is massive. There are 44.7 million student loans in the US, averaging $36,500. Hundreds of thousands own much more. Many more than $100,000. 35 million of the 44.7 million student loans were in forbearance in 2020 and the deferred principal will have to be repaid. The total principal alone, temporarily deferred, amounts to $777 billion in arrears.
Payroll Tax Deferrals
When Trump and his negotiators abruptly broke off negotiations on the fiscal stimulus bill in August 2020, they issued 4 Executive Orders with 24 hours (thus indicating they had planned to do so from the beginning, after having lured Pelosi-Shumer and the Democrats to reduce their May 2020 $3.2 trillion original stimulus proposal called the Heroes Act by $1 trillion).
Among the Trump four EOs was one that deferred payroll taxes of 6.2% for workers for the rest of 2020. (The other three EOs were the temporary substitution of $300/wk. supplemental unemployment benefits for five weeks; extending student loan forbearance to end of December; and the CDC’s partial extension of rent moratorium for 5 million renters). The EO affecting payroll taxes was clearly unconstitutional. Only Congress could change tax laws. But Trump went ahead anyway with the 6.2% payroll tax deferral. Not all businesses followed suit, however.
Since employers by law are responsible for collecting payroll taxes, they knew they were on the hook to repay the deferred 6.2% in 2021. They would have to add 6.2% to their employer share of 6.2% nonetheless in 2020 and then repay that in 2021. That meant doubling up on paying their share and their workers’ share of 6.2% (deferred September to December 2020) starting January 2021.
It could mean paying payroll taxes of twice that 12.4% in 2021, however. Employers were allowed to temporary suspend their 6.2% payroll taxes since March 2020, and starting repaying that deferred amount plus new payroll taxes by end of 2021. Not many wanted to face the prospect of paying double payroll taxes for both themselves, the company, and collecting and paying double for their workers as well—or 24.8% in payroll taxes. So most opted out of the Trump EO and didn’t stop their workers from paying the 6.2% in 2020.
Most large corporations opted out, including GM, UPS, Fedex, Costco, grocery chains, health companies, big Pharma, utilities, and many states as well. Trump forced federal government employees to suspend their payroll tax payments, September-December 2020. Other states and local governments did so as well. Starting January 2021 now many will have to start paying double payroll taxes. That will in turn reduce millions of public employees’ available disposable income for consumption in 2021. And that too will reduce US GDP in 2021.
Small Business Collapsing
Even greater magnitude of potential negative impact on the US economy is the current accelerating closing of many small businesses. There are an estimated 30 million small businesses in the US economy, which include millions of small ‘independent contractors’. Estimates by the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the trade organization for small business, are 3.3 million have permanently closed as of November 1, 2020. More than 110,000 restaurants, or every one of six. Hundreds of thousands more restaurants, bars, entertainment, travel, and related service small businesses are likely to close over the coming winter months. The impact on consumption, as well as business spending and unemployment, promises to be significant—and in addition to all the preceding negative effects on the US economy.
What is especially concerning about this scenario is that ever since August 2020 the Trump administration has sat on $135 billion in unspent funds allocated by the March 2020 Cares Act for loans and grants for small businesses assistance. $670 billion total was approved by the Cares Act for the PPP program, as it was called, to provide assistance to small business. Much of that was siphoned off and redirected to larger businesses. Millions of very small businesses received nothing. Despite the need in August, the program was ended in August with $135 billion unspent.
From Stimulus to Mitigation 2.0 Negotiations
What started out as a true economic stimulus bill in the form of the Heroes Act, passed by the US House last May 2020, has by mid-December collapsed into a partial economic ‘mitigation’ bill. Mitigation means just buying time until a true fiscal stimulus can be introduced. Mitigations simply slow down the economic collapse and crisis temporarily, to buy time. True stimulus proposals do just that: generate economic growth that is sustained for months and years to come.
The May 2020 Heroes Act was a true stimulus, proposing $3.2 trillion in new spending across a broad set of programs. It was immediately rejected by McConnell and the Trump administration, both of whom then played ‘hard cop/soft cop’ in negotiations with Democrats over the next six months. In August 2020 Democrat negotiators, Pelosi and Shumer, were lured into reducing their package of Heroes Act spending by $1 Trillion, down to $2.2T, in expectation—signaled by the Trump administration it would similarly respond with a major counteroffer to the Democrats $1 trillion proposal reduction. But they didn’t. Trump’s negotiators, Mnuchin and Meadows, simply walked out of negotiations after Pelosi-Shumer had come down $1 trillion. Meanwhile, McConnell sat back watching the show, holding firm on his no more than $500 billion spending proposal he offered in June.
As the 2020 election grew closer, Trump-Mnuchin offered several new proposals—without any details—to ensure it appeared they were interested in a deal. The latest in October was reportedly as high as $1.8 trillion. It appeared a deal was possible, with the Democrats at $2.2 trillion since August. However, McConnell scuttled the negotiations by making it clear he would not approve more than his $500 billion. Having been burned the previous August, Pelosi and Shumer did not ‘bite’ at the Trump shadow offer, correctly assuming it was pre-election posturing. Had they done so, Trump would have taken credit; no deal would have been reached; and McConnell would have stalled discussions—as he has ever since to the present.
Following the election in November 3, the next development was Mnuchin recalling $455 billion in unused funds from the Federal Reserve given to the central bank the preceding April as part of the Cares Act. That was to be used to help bail out businesses. The Fed did not use much of the Cares Act given it by the US Treasury and Congress, including $135 billion unspent on the small business aid program called the Payroll Protection Program, PPP. That program ended in August, but the Fed held onto the $135 billion, as well as other funds for medium sized and larger businesses and various financial markets. The total unspent came to $455 billion, which Mnuchin then told the Fed to return to the Treasury, which it did. Both Mnuchin and McConnell would use the $455 billion to pay for McConnell’s $500 billion long-standing offer in stimulus negotiations in December.
To attempt to break the bargaining logjam, in December a bipartisan group of Senators and Representatives offered a compromise package of $908 billion. There were no $1200 income checks, only half of unemployment benefits for only 90 days, no aid to state and local governments, and numerous other provisions missing from the Democrats’ $2.2 trillion package on the bargaining table. Nevertheless, McConnell still rejected the $908B compromise. He then cleverly offered to drop his ‘stalking horse’ proposal for business blanket liability if the Democrats dropped their $160 billion in aid to state and local governments.
In the latest iteration of the negotiation charade, the bipartisan group on December 14, 2020 revised their $908B proposal, reducing it to $748 billion by taking out the $160B for state and local government. It split its prior single $908B offer into two parts: one with the state-local government aid and the business liability; the other with all the remaining proposals it had originally offered.
As of mid-December, the proposal on the table by the bipartisan group, accepted in principle by the Democrats but not McConnell, is as follows:
+ Unemployment half benefits at $300/wk through March 2021
+ PPP small business funding of $300B, now with no need to use to pay workers’ wages
+ $45B for airlines & transport businesses (despite airlines with $billions of cash on hand)
+ No $1200 checks
+ Student loan forbearance continued for 3 more months
+ Renter evictions moratorium continued for one month
+ $82 billion for education
+ $13 billion for emergency food assistance
+ $35 billion for health care providers
+ $13 billion more for farmers & agribusiness (after receiving $70B since 2019)
+ $25 billion rent assistance (payable to landlords)
The important point of the total $748B, however, is that it too is a temporary ‘mitigation’ proposal—not a true stimulus bill.
Like the March 2020 Cares Act, also a mitigation bill, it will only buy a little more time for an economy clearly in a deep slowdown in the 4th quarter and on the brink of another double dip recession in 2021, if one were to agree with Chase bank!
The Cares Act of March was only $1.1 to $1.5 trillion in actual spending—not the $3 trillion mainstream media often noted. $650 billion of $3 trillion was business tax cuts that were mostly hoarded. And more than $1.1 trillion for medium and big business bailouts that didn’t happen by the Fed loans, the funds of which were returned to the Treasury in December. Big businesses were bailed out, but via Fed other $3 trillion plus money injections into the banks and markets—not by the Cares Act.
So the Cares Act was a temporary mitigation bill that ran out of spending by late summer. And the bipartisan group proposal of $748 billion is an even smaller mitigation bill that will run out of funds well before next spring.
There is, and there has been, no fiscal stimulus since the crisis began. Nor is a stimulus on the horizon. More importantly, what this means for the economy is that the lack of a true fiscal stimulus for 2021 means the double dip recession looms ever larger on the horizon now! Unemployed workers, renters and homeowners, student debt, double taxed workers, and small businesses will get another temporary partial assistance. And should the Democrats not win both seats in the Georgia Senate runoff elections on January 5, 2021, McConnell will retain control of the Senate and it will be four more years of ‘No, No, No’ in help to those truly in need. The implications of that for the US economy, and for Democrats in 2022 mid-term elections, is obvious. But that’s the likely intention and game plan of McConnell and the Trumpublicans no doubt.
The post Economic Consequences of a 2nd Economic ‘Mitigation’ Bill appeared first on CounterPunch.org.
Photograph Source: Gage Skidmore – CC BY 2.0
The renowned historiographer E.H. Carr famously compared the historian with his facts to the fishmonger with fish on the slab; the historian collects the facts, takes them home, and cooks and serves them in whatever style appeals to him. Naturally, the historian will add spices and other ingredients to draw out the precise flavor needed to make an average meal into a palette-pleasing feast for the senses. But, in doing so, there is the ever-present danger that the spices, the tantalizing aroma, and the aesthetically pleasing presentation are merely an attempt to mask the fact that the fish has long since turned rotten.
And when it comes to the course of US politics, there is the distinct stench of putrefaction. And, while America’s putrescent corpus decays further, the unmistakable rasp of circling vultures becomes inescapable, the smell overwhelming.
Enter: Donald Trump – the vulture made flesh. And, as the President-elect circles high above his prey, awaiting the moment that he and his Wall Street-Pentagon flock can begin their feast, it remains for the rest of us to consider just what we’ve lived through, and how the history of this low-water mark will be written.
A distinct narrative has already emerged from various corners of the media and blogosphere: Trump’s victory was due to discontent with neoliberalism and the decades of economic neglect and exploitation of the white working class. And, of course, this makes sense and is undoubtedly a significant factor. However, is it entirely true? Was Trump’s path to the Oval Office truly paved by the precarious economic existence of millions of blue collar white Americans?
But in answering that question, we’re confronted with another, even more complex question: how is economic disaffection among White America actually expressed? And do those expressing that rage have any cognizance of the root causes of their socio-political outlook?
By examining the available data, it becomes clear that while seething anger from economic hardship brought on by neoliberalism may be an aspect underlying much of the core of Trumpism, it is not the dominant factor. Rather, Trump’s win should rightly be understood as the triumph of white identity politics. And the data supports this conclusion.
A recent study conducted by researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst entitled Explaining White Polarization in the 2016 Vote for President: The Sobering Role of Racism and Sexism found that “while economic dissatisfaction was part of the story, racism and sexism were much more important and can explain about two-thirds of the education gap among whites in the 2016 presidential vote.” The analysis used data from a national survey conducted during the final week of October (just days before the election), and concluded that the negative effects of neoliberalism and the rule of Wall Street were not the single most important factor in the victory for Trump. Rather it was “whiteness” and misogyny which played a pivotal role.
It must be stated that the Democratic Party has attempted to explain away its stunning collapse in the face of perhaps the weakest Republican candidate in generations by attributing it entirely to racism and misogyny, thereby absolving itself of any blame. This is, of course, laughable. Still, the question of whiteness looms large.
Scholars at the Universities of Michigan and Texas recently published a key study entitled The Changing Norms of Racial Political Rhetoric and the End of Racial Priming which, among other things, concluded that overtly racialized political rhetoric has become normalized, that it is no longer taboo, and that the election of Barack Obama played a significant role in this process. While undoubtedly true, the researchers highlighted a far more important, and too often overlooked, engine of the Trump Train – “white oppression.”
The researchers noted that:
Whites’ perceptions of their group’s racial distinctiveness and disadvantage may be on the rise…[Studies have found] a rise in White identity over the last several election cycles, and especially since the election of the nation’s first Black president in 2008. Concerns about demographic shifts and economic stagnation may have led many Whites to increasingly think that their racial group is under external threat, and these pressures increase identification (Knowles & Peng 2005). These increases in entatativity [sic] – the perception among group members that they belong to a coherent and unified collective – boosts the acceptability of explicit expressions of prejudice and anger toward outgroups (Effron & Knowles 2015).
While it is typical liberal media swill to portray all anger and resentment at Obama and his disastrous policies as racist reaction against the first Black president, there is still that underlying social illness of white supremacy which undeniably does fuel a good deal of the anger. And that rage had its political expression in Donald Trump who deftly employed racist dog-whistles throughout his campaign. From describing Mexicans as rapists and drug dealers to calling for a ban on Muslims, Trump managed to capitalize on the increased entitativity of White America which, perhaps for the first time since George Wallace, had a political expression, an embodiment in one candidate.
None of this is to say that Hillary Clinton didn’t have plenty of white people supporting her, nor that Trump didn’t have support from non-white communities. But, taken in toto, it was the angry white vote which sealed the presidency for Trump.
As the researchers from Michigan and Texas (Valentino, Neuner, and Vandenbroek) implied, it was the perception of a coherent and unified collective which truly unified the white working class around Trump. It was less his pandering to working class issues than his ability to both overtly and covertly employ racist overtones.
Another study, this one conducted by researchers from UC Santa Barbara and Stanford University (Major, Blodorn, Blascovich), found that personal identification with whiteness was directly related to the perception of oppression and future destruction of white people. Those respondents who were told that nonwhite groups will outnumber white people in the next three decades were more likely to support Trump.
Again, this conclusion illustrates the fact that a significant proportion of Trump’s support came from a fear of a loss of identity, a loss of dominance which translates into a loss of culture, morality, and greatness. Hence the need to recapture that 1950s feeling of white privilege or, put in the parlance of political sloganeering, the need to make America great again.
But let us not dismiss out of hand the claim that Trump’s victory was primarily due to his support from the working class, and that his candidacy fundamentally altered the political identification of class. A useful method for interrogating this question is to examine the relative wealth and financial security of the Trumpistas.
According to an analysis conducted by the Urban Institute:
Among the 55 counties with residents with the highest average credit scores (720 and above), Hillary Clinton won just four of them: Falls Church, Virginia (with an average credit score of 729); San Juan County, Washington (722); Cook County, Minnesota (721); and Washington County, Minnesota (720). High credit scores are associated with long, successful credit histories and bills paid on time and are implicit markers of financial security and stability over a lifetime. High credit scores are also more often held by white consumers.
So, if Trump represented an upsurge in poor and working class political power, that was news to the tens of millions of affluent, employed, financially stable white people who voted for him. In fact, according to the data, the more financially secure the county, and the higher its average credit score and median income, the more likely it was to vote for Trump. Naturally, this is in large part due to racial inequalities that persist in the US as Blacks and Hispanics tend to have lower credit scores, less access to credit, lower median incomes, etc.
If anything, the question of class-based support has not been answered. Both Trump and Clinton captured rich people and poor people in their base. The difference is the overwhelming white support for Trump.
And this is borne out by what might be the most comprehensive demographic study on the Trumpen Proletariat yet. Gallup’s Jonathan Rothwell conducted an in-depth analysis which revealed something profound: Trump’s supporters are richer, not poorer, than average. Moreover, he concluded that the overriding factor determining support for Trump was not economics (NAFTA, Chinese competition, etc.) but rather segregation. Specifically, Rothwell found that the core of Trump’s support came from people living in communities mostly or entirely unaffected by immigration.
Consider that for a moment. White people living in all white communities thinking that they are under assault from immigrants, Muslims and other minorities. It is, once again, that entitativity: the feeling that white people form a cohesive and singular group that is increasingly oppressed. It is not immigrants taking their jobs, it’s the idea of immigrants taking their jobs. It’s not Muslims moving in next door, it’s the possibility that it might happen.
It’s not so much that, like the angry citizens of South Park proclaimed: “Dey took er jerbs!!!” Rather it’s that they’re over there down the road, and soon they’ll be here. This form of racism and white supremacy is manifested in the mind of the white racist as a lamentation for the despoiling of a once great white hope. America is under attack because whiteness is under attack. And who better to blame than the non-white?
Trump, Brexit, and the Politics of ‘White Genocide’
Perhaps one of the most effective levers for mobilizing the white racist vote is the meme that has been popularized by fascists – be they of the hooded klansman or the Alt-Right variety – of ‘white genocide’. This idea is multiform as it can take any number of iterations. For some white supremacists, ‘white genocide’ is a conspiracy theory that refers to the literal extermination of whites through immigration, miscegenation, abortion, and other means. However, it can also be used in a broader and more loosely defined sense as simply the process by which non-whites integrate into, and alter the character of, white European and Anglo-American society.
Recently, the well-known leftist academic George Ciccariello-Maher became the victim of an online smear campaign waged by white nationalists and their supremacist allies after he tweeted a satirical comment which read “All I want for Christmas is white genocide.” The tweet, which was intended as a humorous jab at the lunacy of the very notion of white genocide, instead created a media firestorm after hundreds of social media users issued threats against Ciccariello-Maher, his family, and his employer Drexel University.
While it may seem a minor social media hullabaloo, the incident actually cuts to the very core of Trumpism: white identity. For it is only in opposition to the corrupting forces of multiculturalism and diversity that the white identity is constructed. There is relatively little that unites the Irish-Catholic in New York City with the rural Baptist in the South or the Methodist in the Midwest, except for their whiteness, the feeling that they are on the same side in a struggle for survival. Put another way, it is only through the shared delusion of white oppression that something akin to white entitativity –White America as a distinct group – is even possible.
Of course, this phenomenon is not relegated solely to the US. In Britain, 2016 saw the Brexit referendum which many interpreted not as a vote on membership in the European Union, but rather as a referendum on immigration. Indeed, according to The Migration Observatory at Oxford University, at least 77 percent of Britons believe immigration levels should be reduced, with roughly 45 percent of respondents ranking immigration/race relations at the top of the list of important issues – this was up from near zero percent 20 years ago.
In Britain, just as in the US, it is whiteness that is under assault, and it’s the sense of loss of dominance and control that is driving so much of the white anger. And in Britain, just as in the US, that sense of loss of power is manifested in the slogans attached the movement. Where for Trump it was “Make America Great Again” for Nigel Farage and the Brexit supporters it was “Take Back Control.”
With both slogans there is the obvious reactionary quality, the sense that the past was glorious and that if only it could be recaptured things would go back to the way they were. And while both slogans are ostensibly positive, the subtext is clearly one of racism and jingoism. For white Britons, “control” was embodied by the British Empire with its dominion over so much of the world. To “take back control” is to recapture the lost glory, to rekindle the flame. Similarly in the US, making America great again is not a far cry from saying “Make America White Again” as Trumpistas reminisce about the good old days when men were men and ‘Coloreds’ entered through the rear.
Once again these interrelated campaigns are rooted in white identity masked as patriotism. For Trumpistas, America is, by its very definition, white, and any attempts to make it anything else are seen as an existential threat. For Brexiters, national identity, as distinct from that of continental Europe and the EU, was the crux of the issue. But when one probes what exactly that national identity is, it becomes clear that the rocky island off the northwestern coast of Europe has its island status rooted in its self-conception: Britain, the island standing against the human tide.
As Dr. Tim Haughton, Head of the Department of Political Science and International Studies at the University of Birmingham incisively noted, “‘Take back control’ effectively combined not just a sense of a positive future albeit never defined or elaborated, but also suggested a sense of rightful ownership.”
Precisely. It is the sense of ownership that is really at issue on both sides of the Atlantic. For Trump and Brexit supporters, it is the white Anglo-European who ‘owns’ the country, and all the brown and black skinned people are mere infiltrators whose very presence taints and despoils the pristine nation.
This very same phenomenon is replaying itself over and over all across Europe. Perhaps the most ominous such development is the steady rise of Marine Le Pen and the National Front in France. According to many political experts, including French Prime Minister Manuel Valls, Le Pen will likely go to a runoff in the May 2017 presidential election where she could prove to be the culmination of the same process that brought us Brexit and Trump. And with Le Pen, whose fascist pedigree is well known both inside and outside France, the notion of white identity as the basis for a political movement will become a hard, inescapable reality.
Similarly, in Russia the fascist philosopher-cum-political operator Alexander Dugin has become a mainstream figure as he promotes his brand of fascism in Russia and throughout Europe and the US. Using powerful state-sponsored media platforms such as RT and Sputnik, Dugin has propagated his so-called “Eurasianist” vision throughout the West. In Dugin’s worldview, it is liberalism and multiculturalism that have corrupted contemporary life with their slavish devotion to modernity and secular liberal values, and only a reconstituted Russian Empire that would fuse together much of Northern Eurasia (with China noticeably absent) into one “civilizational” unit can provide a viable future.
A fundamental feature of Dugin’s Eurasianist vision is the fact that it is racially segregated. According to Duginists, there is a natural order to the world wherein Blacks stay in Africa, Arabs in the Middle East and so on in what amounts to a form of global apartheid. Duginism appropriates left wing economic and political ideas such as anti-capitalism and anti-imperialism within a fascist socio-cultural framework. And, at the core of that ideology is white supremacy and white identity.
Trump, Farage, Le Pen, and Dugin all appeal to a sense of loss of identity. In fact, it’s undeniably their most effective position. But it must be clarified, and shouted from the mountaintops, that it is not simply a loss of national identity as many movement supporters, and political analysts alike, would have you believe. Rather, it is the loss of a white national identity that is at the root.
And so Trump, like his British and European analogues, has ridden a wave of momentum of white identity politics masquerading as pro-working class, pro-social safety net, anti-free trade, etc. But these are mere political chimeras, designed more for their reality TV appeal than ideological substance. In effect, Trump’s appeal was to the white working class on racial lines; his purported position on the social safety net programs mere political posturing whose subtext was really that it’s not going to be lazy blacks and “illegals” who will get their government benefits, it will be hard working whites.
It is almost painful, and certainly embarrassing, to have to explain that this has become the political reality in 2016, but it has. The rising tide of fascism under its many guises is unifying behind the concept of white supremacy or, as Alt-Right svengali Richard Spencer has called it, “racialism.” And, in the US, Donald Trump has managed to transform white identity into a political framework in a way that very few had thought possible.
So we must return to the question of the historian as fishmonger and chef. Yes, it’s true that the ingredients have been collected, the water brought to a boil, the apron and hat impeccably clean. And yet, there is that stench, that overwhelming, vomit-inducing putrid odor. So, what to do? Mask it with fancy spices, a good white wine, and some pungent herbs? Certainly it seems that’s what the lazy and inept chef might do.
Are our analysts and historians equally lazy? Will they mask the stench of racism, xenophobia and white supremacy behind wave after wave of sweet-smelling, but ultimately inauthentic, narratives of anti-neoliberal reaction and working class resurgence? Or will they instead write the real history of this moment, in all its complexity?
If it is to be the latter, then we must demand that the history of this moment be the documentation of a radical rightward shift in US politics. Not because a right-wing Republican is in office, but because the far right has captured political, social, and cultural legitimacy. And white identity politics has been their vehicle.
Naturally, the Mussolini of Midtown will come and go with the structures of oppression and power intact, and indeed expanded in both scope and scale. But the movement that has congealed around him will live on long after he’s ridden into the gold-encrusted sunset of his dreams. So too will the now fully formed socio-political concept of white identity.
This new chapter of struggle is much bigger than Trump, though he is undoubtedly the largest and orangest head on the hydra. This is now one of the defining political struggles of our lifetime.
And as our fishmonger-historian sits down to write the history of this period, what will he say? Will he record the story of the History of the Decline and Fall of the American Empire with The Donald as our Nero, tweeting while it all burns? Or will this be a story of redemption as millions of people from around the world came together to defend the oppressed, the marginalized, the exploited, and smash incipient fascism?
I suppose it will be up to us, the actors in this tragicomedy, to determine that.
The post Donald Trump and the Triumph of White Identity Politics appeared first on CounterPunch.org.
Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair
Portland, Oregon has been in the headlines again over the last few days, and this trend will continue. The reasons for the headlines will vary depending on who you ask. If you ask the far right they will say something about Antifa terrorists having violent confrontations with the police because they hate law and order. The mainstream media’s headlines will also tend to lead with the so-called violent clashes, but then they may inform us that the reasons for the confrontation have to do with folks trying to prevent the eviction of a Black and indigenous family that has lived in the Red House at 4406 North Mississippi for multiple generations.
Either way, the stories you’ll hear will focus on violence. If you look into it a little, you’ll realize that what the stories are really focusing on are destruction of property — particularly the windows of police cars smashed by well-aimed rocks — and the number of times over the past few months of the eviction defense encampment on the front yard of the Red House that the police have been called because of “disturbances.” 81 times, according to police records, the police emphasize in the report they issued after they entered the house and arrested occupants in a pre-dawn raid on December 8th.
I can only imagine what some of those disturbances might have been caused by. The house is just at the end of the commercial section of Mississippi Avenue, where what remains of one of Portland’s two historically Black neighborhoods stands, with its uncomfortable mix of wine-sipping gentrifiers living alongside a perennially struggling and shrinking Black working class, along with increasing numbers of people living in tents that line the highway which cuts through the neighborhood — the highway that was originally routed through that neighborhood in order to destroy it, as was done to so many other Black neighborhoods across the US when the highways were being built.
Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair
Last time I visited the Red House a few weeks ago, I was only hanging around for a matter of minutes before a man I recognized as a fascist drove slowly past, staring at us from behind his bushy beard, a bizarre new fashion among the fash here in the northwest lately, and in other parts of the world as well. Indeed, if you follow people on Twitter who are involved with the struggle at the Red House, you will see frequent mentionings of the latest spotting of a known fascist, whether Proud Boy or Patriot Prayer, along with the latest prediction of when the riot cops will next come to create chaos.
While the broken squad car windows, the conflicted neighborhood, the poverty, the homelessness, and the frequently-visiting fascist trolls are all very real, there is so much more going on at the Red House at this moment than these alarming reports would seem to imply. Primarily, what’s going on there is pure beauty, in the form of the most profound expression of human solidarity you’re likely to see anywhere.
Reading the descriptions from the police and in certain corners of the media, one would expect an unwelcome reception, if you were to visit the neighborhood they’re describing. In fact, as of last night, the police were officially warning people to avoid the neighborhood altogether, implying that it was, in fact, an anarchist jurisdiction, and therefore a terrifying thing. Mayor-select Tear Gas Ted Wheeler says Portland shall not have an “autonomous zone” like Seattle did for a while.
Mayor Ted really can’t stand it when the rightwingers in Washington, DC and the corporate landlords who own downtown call him a wimp for not cracking enough heads, even though his cops have been cracking more heads over the past few months than possibly any other police force in the United States. So his instinct, naturally, is to crack some more heads, in the service of his friends, the corporate overlords, the business lobby, the Owners of the City. (The real “stakeholders,” as the governor likes to call them — not the ones who hold the stakes that they drive into the ground to keep their tents from blowing away.)
I’m reminded, as I hear of these official pronouncements and fear-mongering, of my visit to the biggest city in the West Bank, Nablus, years ago. An Israeli soldier took me aside, separating me from my Palestinian friends, to privately make sure I was traveling of my own free will, and had not been kidnapped. Once determining that I was not a captive, the soldier’s next tack was to try to reason with me. There are very dangerous people in there, he informed me. They have bombs, he said. I politely thanked him for the information, not wanting to create problems for anyone, in our collective efforts to cross this checkpoint. But I wanted to ask him if he had ever tried leaving the machine gun at home and traveling in civilian clothes. His reception in Palestinian towns would be very different.
Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair
As I entered what has arguably now become a sort of gated community in reverse, I was welcomed everywhere I went, whether with words of greeting or just the sorts of eye contact that says more than enough. Not to extend the previous analogy with Palestine too much here, but the feeling is a bit similar, in the sense that when you’re an American in Nablus, people there tend to assume you probably are the kind of American who does not support Israeli atrocities against Palestinians. Going anywhere near the Red House as of yesterday, you are suddenly transformed from a “visitor” to a “participant” as soon as you pass through the makeshift gates, into the liberated space that is now the neighborhood surrounding 4406 North Mississippi Avenue in Portland, Oregon. Because you know once you pass these checkpoints and enter the anarchist jurisdiction, you are now as much of a potential target for a police attack as anyone else who is willfully disregarding orders to avoid the neighborhood.
From the time people began to maintain a constant presence in front of the house as part of an effort to prevent the forced eviction of the Kinney family within it, until a few days ago, it was the house and its yard that was being protected. Then, at 5 am on December 8th — the favorite time of day for these sorts of police attacks — the riot cops moved in, arresting a number of people, including a member of the Kinney family. Much was made in the police report about multiple firearms being seized in the course of these arrests, of course with no context provided — that armed fascists are regularly coming by to threaten people, and that the police make sure never to be present when that happens. For example. Or that the ownership of firearms is very commonplace in this country, especially lately, across the political spectrum, and is about as surprising as finding a baseball bat or a guitar.
The raid on the Red House on the morning of December 8th will, I believe, go down as an historic miscalculation on the part of Ted Wheeler’s corporate-friendly Democratic Party administration — with its recently-approved, massive police budget — that runs this city in the service of the landlord-stakeholders. What they have done with this raid is they have massively escalated the conflict, and I sincerely hope, and suspect, that they will soon regret this move. What they have done now, I believe, is they have taken two movements that were already intimately related, and fused them. If it was not already completely obvious, now it’s impossible not to see it, the police have made sure of this — if you are in favor of Black lives, you are also against evicting families onto the streets. And the converse is true as well.
Since the police raid, what was limited to one house is now a neighborhood-wide conflict. The neighborhood is already very gentrified, and the displeasure among some of the yuppies around Mississippi Avenue that black-clad youth had set up checkpoints on multiple intersections was occasionally being made clear, but only through the aggressive use of car horns, never by people actually getting out of their cars to engage with anyone on a human level, whether out of fear or embarrassment on the part of the horn-happy wine bar set.
After the raid, the police employed a fencing company to erect a tall fence to surround the Red House with. They apparently were operating under the premise that a tall fence would take care of the problem. In actuality, the fence they erected turned out to be very useful, but not for the reasons the authorities apparently believed it would be. What transpired in the hours after they erected the fence, as is easy to observe directly, is the fence was dismantled and reengaged, deployed as part of some suddenly very solid barricade constructions at every intersection surrounding the Red House. The barricades were set up in such a way that people who lived in other houses in the neighborhood could still access their houses, and mostly also their parking spaces, but they now had to take a much more circuitous route to get onto a main road. Each barricade has a little entryway that a human — but not a vehicle — can pass through, once the nice, thoroughly masked young person in black who greets you ascertains that you’re probably not a cop or a fascist.
During my time hanging around the neighborhood there last night, many people were engaged in many forms of industrious activity. If you haven’t spent much time among autonomously-organized youth — whether current youth or the same crowd that existed when I was young, in the 1980’s in New York City — you might not realize that when you enter such patches of liberated territory, whether it’s a mostly outdoor phenomenon like this, or a building takeover, you are entering a hive of activity, reminiscent of a beehive, with everyone engaged in doing their thing, whether they are responsible for cooking, collecting trash, building barricades, constructing tire spikes, collecting wood for the campfires, collecting rocks, or whatever other useful endeavors. Last night was full of that beehive vibe, with most people fulfilling one role or another, whether self-appointed, or appointed through an affinity group or larger network involved with specific aspects of organizing the things that need to happen when large numbers of people are being somewhere for a while. Folks need to eat, sleep, and shit, while also seeking to defend the Red House.
While many people were engaged in meetings or carrying out various tasks, the scouts looking for the next inevitable visit from the riot cops, and others involved with guarding the perimeter always have time to talk. Now, nothing that I’m about to say should come as a surprise to anyone who has spent much time on the ground at protests in Portland over the past eight months or so, but the crowd last night consisted of a very interracial, multigendered and otherwise very intersectional group of mostly young people. Mostly wearing black — which, incidentally, is not just a political statement, if it even is one, but is a matter of practicality for a variety of reasons.
Are there, as I’m sure some readers will be quick to point out, armed sentries? Yes, there are armed sentries. Very nice, armed sentries. The kind we need more of, unfortunately.
And what are people talking about in there among the campfires? I pass by one meeting, noting that most of the participants are people of color. I recognize the man who is speaking to the group of a dozen or so people. He spoke at the last rally I sang at, in fact. As I walk past the discussion, he’s talking about how to be inclusive of people who want to be involved, while still finding effective ways to exclude truly disruptive elements. I then came upon another couple of folks, who greeted me for the sole reason that I had stopped walking momentarily while in their general area, and we then spontaneously began having a conversation about the history of eviction defense actions across the US in the 1930’s, during the Great Depression.
Back in the 1930’s, all of us radical history buffs hanging around the Red House collectively noted, when the cops came to evict people, they often succeeded, but only temporarily. After evicting a household, the people would gather together — often in their thousands — to move the family back in, and un-evict them. That, we all noted, was exactly what was going on at 4406 North Mississippi Avenue.
I believe this struggle, around this particular house, will be won. I believe it will also set the stage for the much broader struggle to come, in the months after Oregon’s eviction moratorium expires. But the future is very much unwritten, and there are many more players involved with this deadly game, aside from the barricade-building youth, unfortunately.
So don’t just scroll on to the next article. Put your phone down, and come meet me at the Red House.
The post To the Barricades: The Red House and the Future of Eviction Defense appeared first on CounterPunch.org.
The Black Dirt Farm Collective is currently funded by grants, donations, and income from their training programs, but they are working toward building an Afroecological village that is self-sustaining and autonomous from wealthy donors.
This interview with the Maryland-based collective’s shakara tyler and Blain Snipstal is the second in a series highlighting grassroots organizations working, or seeking to work, outside a reliance on wealthy donors. It has been edited for length and clarity.
What is the Black Dirt Farm Collective ?
shakara: We are a collective of Black farmers, educators, scientists, agrarians, seed keepers, organizers, and researchers guiding a political education process. Through our cultivation of Afroecology, we work to activate Black agrarian communities’ personal, cultural, and technical capacities to be used as a transformative organizing tool. We do this through co-facilitating political trainings rooted in the wisdom of nature. We see this as a process of recovering our innate agrarian identities, Afro-diasporic histories and magic.
What is your vision for the Collective?
shakara: It’s ultimately about liberating ourselves from interlocking systems of oppression. We want to live freely in the ways that our ancestors intended as we avenge their suffering through our work and fight for our future generations.
The short-term vision is to create an Afroecological village — a place that we can call home and emancipate ourselves from capitalism, imperialism, the nonprofit industrial complex, and white supremacy.
In the long-term, we hope to be a model for others who aspire to do the same. We know that this is the century of decolonization and abolition according to many Afro-indigenous prophecies, and this is our time to build the realities we believe in.
How are you planning to build community wealth that is outside of the non-profit industrial complex?
Blain: Our trainings help equip us with the ideas and practical tools to make the land productive once we settle on it. We will revitalize the land, revalorize it, and hopefully generate some form of our own economy from it.
A principal endeavor is pointing folks to develop different businesses and economies on our land, whether they’re solidarity, service based, or something else. Essentially, if we can control our own means of production, then we don’t have to participate in the dominant wage economy.
Individuals can contribute to the project in various ways. We recognize sweat equity, solidarity, and the non-capital resources every human inherently brings. The initial resources will be self-funded, grants, and outright reparations from individuals.
What is the Black Dirt Farm Collective’s role in the anti-capitalist struggle?
Blain: BDFC was constructed to build up the creative and productive capacity of Black folk centered on the land. That itself is in direct contrast to capitalism. No, we are not organizing mass marches or rallies, nor are we engaging in broad policy and dominant political efforts.
Our particular piece is centered around revalorizing land. It’s a very deliberate act to target the folks that have historically helped to build the wealth of this society, but had no real participation in that said wealth. It’s also to create a container that supports folks to move from principal consumers to principal producers of our own means of production, whether that is through values, knowledge, culture, building things, or toiling the land.
That is anti-capitalist because it’s hard for folks to develop solutions if they are not thinking in a different way than the ideology that created the problems. If we have all been indoctrinated in a capitalist methodology from preschool on through college, how can we participate and construct a different world if we’re not being supported to unlearn and learn things differently? That’s at the heart of the Black Dirt Farm Collective.
shakara: As cities become more unlivable and capitalism becomes more deeply entrenched, even as it’s collapsing simultaneously, there needs to be a place where people can learn to live differently and retreat to. That’s the place we aim to be. We’re figuring it out as we go and stretching ourselves beyond what we think is possible — intellectually, emotionally, psychologically.
Do you have any advice for other groups seeking to work outside the non-profit industrial complex?
Blain: Don’t get ahead of yourself in the thickness that is the confrontation of capitalism. Unless you are going to renounce all things from society by carving out land somewhere and using hand tools, you are not working outside of capitalism no matter how intentional, mindful, analytical, or thoughtful you might be. Accept the contradictions, inherent inequities, and dualities of human life in today’s context. If you can hold those contradictions as something that is inherent to human life today, that will make things easier moving forward. Oftentimes, I’ve seen projects languish because of ideological or theoretical differences. And I’ve also seen analysis paralysis, analyzing so much, you don’t really do anything.
How can readers support your work?
Blain: I’m a founder of Earthbound Building, a partner organization to the Black Dirt Farm Collective. We’re a cooperative that builds ecological, affordable, and functional homes and farm infrastructure for rural communities. We just launched our first capital campaign. You can learn more about us and the campaign here.
The post Black Dirt Farm Collective: Building a Self-Sufficient Community appeared first on CounterPunch.org.