Capitalism

No One Is Illegal on Wyoming’s Stolen Land

Barrasso and Gordon lied about Wyomingites’ immigration concerns. That covered up an even bigger lie about the U.S. settler state.

by Derek Jolley on May 17, 2021

Amid the numerous and varied political issues faced by Wyomingites in 2021, much of which we try to dissect and analyze through an anti-capitalist lens in our media here at Solidarity Collective, two of the most influential figureheads in Wyoming politics have recently used their platforms to “fan the flames of discontent,” as it were, specifically at what the media often refers to as the “immigration issue” or “border crisis”.  Both Governor Mark Gordon and U.S. Senator John Barrasso have, as of late, made incendiary and dehumanizing statements regarding Wyoming’s role in prolonging the hardship of those who have already been subjected to unimaginable trauma, often a very traceable result of U.S. imperialism and economic warfare.

On March 31, Senator Barrasso spoke to students and faculty at Laramie’s Slade Elementary School.  After congratulating the school for a recent achievement, Barrasso recounted his recent experience of traveling to the Donna Soft-Sided Processing Facility, a detention center near the Texas-Mexico border, with 17 other Republican senators.  He spoke of how the border patrol agents’ jobs became much more difficult as the number of detained immigrants skyrocketed after the commencement of the Biden presidency, how, while on a midnight patrol, he witnessed “traffickers and smugglers” on the Mexican side of the Rio Grande shouting and taunting the U.S. agents, saying “You can’t stop us now!” (implying the glee that these dangerous criminals feel regarding the new lax immigration policies), and how the thousands more detainees who now occupy this detention center are in these squalid conditions due to Biden’s compassionate rhetoric.

Barrasso further amplified this story on the Senate floor on April 12, elaborating that he does indeed see the overcrowded detention centers as a humanitarian crisis, while also referring to the trafficking and smuggling issue as a “national security crisis.”  While voicing the need for immigration reform, Barrasso fundamentally views the entire issue as an aberration completely manufactured and owned by the Democratic Party, and uses this framework as a means to score legitimacy points for his own particular brand of right-wing populism.

Governor Gordon’s notorious series of tweets from April 16 read in full:

“I share the concerns of many Wyoming residents about illegal immigration issues currently facing the country and how they may be impacting Wyoming.

“I want to state clearly and unequivocally that the State of Wyoming will not participate in relocation or housing efforts of illegal immigrants or unaccompanied minors, and I have made our position clear to Federal officials.

“The Wyoming Office of Homeland Security has advised our office that they are not aware of any Federal immigration plans that include Wyoming. Along with other Republican governors, I will continue to actively monitor the situation and will respond as forcefully as needed.”

While both Barrasso and Gordon have received pushback for their unsubstantiated claims that immigration ranks among the most pressing of issues in the opinion of their constituents, the discourse often lacks discussion of the right’s propensity to use sensationalized anecdotes and half-truths to maintain institutional hegemony.  It isn’t my intention to deny the existence of the international drug trade and the violence that surrounds it, nor the likely link between Biden’s “back to normal” rhetoric and a surge of desperate migrants believing that the new administration is dismantling barriers to entry.

I think it would be a meaningful exercise to take a step back and examine the tenets of the geopolitical narrative that dominates right-wing discussions of what is commonly called the “border crisis”.  Subsequently, I will present the leftist framework for understanding why so many people feel the need to leave their homelands in the first place.

The Right’s Immigration Narrative

  • The United States was founded on the principles of equality and universal rights to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” and therefore the right to private property.
  • Minimal government interference in the markets allows for the greatest amount of prosperity among the citizens.
  • The pro-capitalist government of the U.S. has fostered the country into becoming the richest and freest in the world.
  • The destitution of other nations is primarily the result of government intervention in those nations’ markets; many people of these countries would rather come to the U.S. and reap the benefits of a wealthy, free nation that accrued its wealth honestly than stay and use these principles to make their own countries prosperous.

Obviously, a great diversity of opinion exists among people who identify with “the right” or are otherwise subservient to U.S. imperialism.  Many incorporate this narrative with a reactionary variant of Christianity, believing the rise of the United States to not only be God’s will but God’s personal project to prepare for a fuller expression of Christian rule.  Many others will acknowledge the evils behind the founding of the United States, but contend that the reformations that have been made have already brought justice to the descendants of those who were wronged.

Thus, I will juxtapose this narrative with a leftist interpretation of American history.  Again, leftists are no strangers to disagreeing with each other about the details and what the best course of remediatory action is.  Volumes of books have been written on the subject, but in the best way I can summarize my interpretation:

An Anti-Imperialist Leftist Framework

  • The United States is a settler-colonialist power that was founded on the assumption that indigenous land claims are inherently invalid.
  • Through the continued theft of indigenous land, forced labor by enslaved Africans, and rampant exploitation of the working class, the United States emerged as a powerful player in world politics.
  • Voluntary participation in these systems of oppression is cultivated by the propagandistic image of the American system of government being one of maximum personal liberty, as well as materially rewarding those who contribute to the growth of U.S. imperialism.
  • The United States continues to engage in corporate imperialism as a means of channeling the wealth of other countries into its own economy, and militantly undermines and overthrows foreign governments that do not bow down to its will.
  • People from destabilized nations seeking to immigrate to the United States are by no means looking for free handouts, but rather hoping to reclaim some of the wealth that was looted from their homelands.  They do not owe anything to the U.S. government or economy.

To all who may say that this framework is hyperbolic or essentializing, I highly recommend diving into the history of the United States’ conquest of North America from scores of indigenous nations, as well as the more modern and ongoing history of maligning other nations’ rights to self-determination.  While listing every regime change the U.S. has been involved in would be a Herculean task, some of the most notable examples include:

  • the CIA-supported overthrow of Allende’s socialist republic in Chile and installation of the brutal Pinochet regime in 1973
  • the Guatemalan coup of 1954, wherein the United States, in an effort to protect the banana profits of the United Fruit Company from the social democratic Árbenz government, instigated the Guatemalan Civil War which resulted in a genocide against indigenous Maya people
  • the US-backed 1964 Brazilian coup, where a social-democratic government was overthrown, causing Brazil to be ruled by a series of authoritarian dictatorships with favorable policies toward the U.S. for decades to follow.

The simple maxim “Actions speak louder than words” demonstrates that the United States does not value democracy as it claims to, as our nation, regardless of whether a Democrat or Republic sits in the Oval Office, will readily align itself with any dictatorship that is willing to support U.S. corporate interests.  As destabilized nations are far easier to exploit than nations that have the power to work toward their own interests, the words of Michael Parenti ring clear and true: “These countries aren’t poor.  These countries are rich!  Only the people are poor!  They’re not underdeveloped, they’re overexploited!”

My hope is that the people of Wyoming and elsewhere throughout the exploitative nations of the world will be able to see past the fear mongering and institutionalized colonialist racism being pushed on us by those in the halls of power, and recognize the role they play in global imperialism.  Only when the “workers of the world unite” can we hope to save humanity from impending climate disaster and the system causing it.

Derek Jolley is a member of Solidarity Collective and a co-producer on the Solidarity House Cooperative media team.

Tell Us Stories

by Sudip Bhattacharya

Posted April 28, 2021

I will begin with the story of Rosa rushing from one aisle to the next for the exact type of chicken tenders the consumer ordered, sweat stinging their eyes,
their Instacart app not updating,
all the while a cough is crawling up her throat,
an internal scream.
Karl, a few miles away seeking out the perfect pack of celery and updating that into the app as fast he could, trembling hands rattling within, nights spent scrolling through YouTube for cats that could distract, and yet,
Rosa would reach out, ideas zooming, red blood flowing, muttering, murmuring, stitching rants into discussions,
concluding they needed to talk to more of their coworkers,
albeit the process would take time,
it would require time,
time they may not have, Rosa would say,
we can’t rush this, Karl would respond,
Rosa agreed, to a limit, though there were days when she too would pace, would feel her sweat burning down her face, would throw open her soul and down drink after drink,
until all that made sense was falling asleep on the couch she pulled in from the street months ago, a show tracing silhouette over her eyes and cheeks,
she insisted, however,
fighting the internal scream.

I will begin with the story of Ida conveying the street battle between law enforcement and
young men and women pushing against the barricades,
a part of Ida understands that what she will try and express will be looked over and neutralized
her editor will seek to create a “level playing field” between men with shields and guns and people gasping.
a part knows that to keep going one needs to pay their bills or otherwise the Four Horsemen are just around the corner,
plotting and cloying,
and she takes a few snaps, finds a few to talk to, tells them she is there for a purpose,
she knows,
she knows very well,
about the rot
about the reality
the stench,
gritting one’s teeth, smearing on a smile,
she knows,
they know,
enough people know,
yes.
Ida takes in a deep breath as she washes out her eyes over the sink,
Ida takes in a deep gulp of air,
yes.
Fingers typing like on a piano,
the final form emerging like a silhouette through the fog,
still,
yes,
people know.

I will begin with the story of Hosea, the imagination sparking, lurching too,
Hosea spends time thinking through whether to take the Advil now or later,
as boxes line the floor, as packages filled to the brim with computer parts, new pieces of a sofa, whatever else people need when the world is a 1/4th of what we knew.
his nerves are stretched, to their brink, his arms shaking, the muscles in his back ready to pop from their sockets, to spring back like puddy,
Hosea glances at his coworkers stacking boxes on the conveyor belt,
he dropped his, and yet, he sees clearly,
and, he melts and reemerges in the center of the room,
thinking about friends who he’d never see, cause they’re so far away now,
up in the sky,
especially his buddy who held his hand while collapsed on the floor, choking back coughs,
heart pounding,
pleading for Hosea to take him to the hospital, while everyone watched,
trying to keep their distance of course.
technically, the man wasn’t a friend. he was someone he worked with and knew some things about, like he had a wife and some kids, not sure how many, and that he also grew up in the suburbs right outside the city, where you could have a view of the Manhattan skyline and yet, be living in a tiny box home, where the grass is brown, where the weeds look green at least.
still, days after, Hosea’s heart would race and he’d flinch in the middle of dreams,
one day, he heard word that his friend/acquaintance/fellow working person who had no choice but to spend days in a crowded warehouse was in recovery but still having to drag in air, and,
Hosea woke up when it was still pitch black
and, he wandered over to the window, and look across and see someone’s silhouette in a window across the street, looking back at him, like some spectral figure, like somebody in a portal,
but they weren’t someone special,
they were him, also, up, wondering and wandering and searching,
yearning and flinching,
and then, there is a fear and frustration and fear that grips him, that mounts an attack,
he has the urge to vomit on the floor, he is dizzy and has the urge to vomit on the floor,
like he knew he would if he pushed himself so hard,
he needed to call on someone he could trust but his friend is in the hospital,
and he’s in his apartment on his knees dragging in air,
he feels the need to vomit, but he doesn’t want to and grips the carpet and moans,

I will begin with the story of
I will begin with the story of
I will begin with the story of
I will begin
I will begin
I will

Sudip Bhattacharya has been published at Current Affairs, Reappropriate, The Aerogram, and local newspapers across the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. He is also an organizer with the Central Jersey DSA, and is pursuing a PhD in Political Science at Rutgers University.

Illustration: “Capitalist Culture,” November 1930, Cover of Bezbozhnik, 1920s-1930s Soviet magazine

Wyoming Rep. Gray Exposes GOP Fossil Fuel Gullibility

by Derek Jolley and Matt Stannard, on March 1, 2021

On the February 26 Solidarity Wyoming podcast, the writers of this post discuss the North American winter storm and the widespread political misinformation covered here. We also discuss the sweetheart deal that failed coal mine owners struck with the Department of Interior to the detriment of people and communities in Wyoming.

From February 13-17 of this year, Winter Storm Uri covered Texas with snow and ice. The underdevelopment and maldevelopment of Texas energy infrastructure resulted in widespread power outages in that state.

On February 16, Wyoming State Representative and former talk show host Chuck Gray of District 57 asserted on his Facebook page:

“Just as Wyoming conservatives predicted, the Texas grid is failing because of their reliance on renewables. I’m bringing a bill in the upcoming legislative session to assert that utility decisions must be made with consideration to reliability. We must save our coal-fired power plants.”

Congressman Gray’s effort to conform to one of the most lucrative tenets of the GOP party line shows how little he respects the intelligence of his constituents, as his statement on Facebook makes one of the most easily refutable yet oft-repeated claims by his particular brand of punditry.  In the continuing wake of ‘Winter Storm Uri’, this claim has seen a renewal in mainstream political discussion.  These unfounded attacks on the supposed unreliability of renewable energy sources are long past due for retirement.

Casper’s own Oil City News provided the most basic numerical refutation of the claim that the continual rolling blackouts experienced in Texas are the fault of “their reliance on renewables.”  In the first place, wind-generated power accounts for only 25% of Texas’s total electricity supply.  Offline power from renewable sources amounted to 16,000 megawatts, compared to 30,000 megawatts offline from gas, coal, and nuclear sources.  Wind power in particular proved to be, on average, more reliable than nonrenewable sources during the February outages.

In examining the lie that Congressman Gray is parroting, a simplistic narrative emerges: the winter storm coated wind turbines with ice and otherwise induced malfunction, in contrast to fuel-burning energy sources, which are impervious to such problems due to the high-temperature nature of their operation.  Yes, there were cases of storm-produced wind turbine shutdowns (due to a lack of proper weatherization).  In the big picture, the extreme freeze largely disrupted off-source electrical equipment regardless of what that source was, again, thanks to the lack of sufficient weatherization.  Severe winter storms in the region are not unprecedented – they occur rather regularly every eight to ten years, thus the excuse that proper equipment weatherization is not worth the cost is invalid.

An interesting case study in the propagation of this lie takes the form of a meme primarily transmitted on Facebook in the wake of the power crisis.  Originating with Texas fossil fuels pundit and consultant Luke Legate, the meme consists of a 2015 photograph of a helicopter deploying a fluid de-icing agent to a wind turbine in Sweden with a caption that reads: “A helicopter running on fossil fuel spraying a chemical made from fossil fuels during an ice storm is awesome.”  Another variant comprised the same image superimposed with the text “Only two things are infinite; the universe and human stupidity. – Albert Einstein”.  It seems clear that the meme was spread with the intention of making the viewer think that this aerial maneuver was photographed in Texas, and more insidiously, that “helicopter turbine rescues” widespread practice in Texas.  The photo was in fact taken during a research and development exercise for improving turbine weatherization technology, not an attempt to put a turbine back online “during an ice storm”.  Weatherization technology has made wind a viable source of power from Canada to Antarctica.

The February winter storm has brought to widespread public attention the infrastructural anomaly that is the Texas Interconnection, the power grid that covers most of the state; this provides critical context for understanding the significance of the previously mentioned numbers.  At no point crossing the state line, the Texas Interconnection’s manager, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is spared the trouble of having to comply with FERC regulations.  This geographic confinement also nixes the state’s ability to take in power from outside sources, at least in a reasonable amount of time. In short, Texas’s intentional separation from outside electrical grids is the reason for the deadly power outages, not a reliance on renewable energy. The profit incentive so foundational to a capitalist economy has, as it always does, superseded the value of human life.  The motivation for a separate Texas Interconnection was based on fossil fuel moguls’ unwillingness to sacrifice revenue to federal regulation; scores of otherwise preventable deaths are attributable to the Texas power outages alone.

One might question how such disasters are the fault of capitalism.  To illustrate one aspect of this declaration, let’s look at the alliance between dozens of key players in the fossil fuel industry and the politicians who ensure their continued survival.  Three members of Congress who represent Texas, Senator John Cornyn, Senator Ted Cruz, and Congressman Dan Crenshaw, are widely known as being some of the most outspoken proponents – and reliable voters – for the interests of the fossil fuel industry.  In the 2020 election cycle alone, these three politicians together were the recipients of over $1.1 million in donations from fossil fuel donors.  These donors took the form of political action committees organized by dozens of corporations, including giants like Chevron and Exxon and smaller regional players like Wildhorse Energy and Chief Oil & Gas, as well as thousands of individuals employed in these companies.  Interestingly, Senator Cruz received tens of thousands of dollars in donations apparently just as personal spending money, since he wasn’t up for reelection this cycle and not running a campaign.  

Hundreds of thousands more are donated to Texas state-level politicians every year, like Governor Greg Abbott, who in a recent appearance on The Sean Hannity Show claimed that the blackouts “shows how the Green New Deal would be a deadly deal for the United States of America…” and Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who is preparing a bill that would blacklist Texas companies that “don’t love fossil fuels”.  Fossil fuel corporations use this method of legislative electioneering as a form of insurance.  Every dollar that they give to their political allies is a frantic attempt to protect themselves from legislation that would otherwise gut their profits or ultimately work toward replacing them.

A few days after Rep. Gray’s ridiculous comments, according to the Powder River Basin Resource Council,

“the Department of Interior, Eagle Specialty Materials (ESM), and the attorneys in Blackjewel’s bankruptcy case released a settlement agreement for unpaid royalties on federal coal leases mined by Blackjewel, and its predecessor, Contura, at the Eagle Butte and Belle Ayr mines in Wyoming’s Powder River Basin. According to the legal filing, over $32 million in royalties are unpaid at the Belle Ayr Mine and $27.8 million in royalties are unpaid at the Eagle Butte Mine, with hundreds of thousands owed in interest.”

Be sure and read the whole story. Belly-up mine owners are regularly taking millions of dollars away from mine workers and residents of Wyoming, often while getting away with their own golden parachutes. That makes it even more disturbing to far right politicians making such earnest efforts to lie for the industry. Who are their stakeholders?

The exorbitant amount of political power wielded by industrialists demonstrates a mortal flaw in a government system heavily influenced by liberalism (in this case referring to the political philosophy that props up free markets and private property rights).  Democratic ideals are ineffectual when the capitalist elite have such an enormous influence on the information we have access to and the way we interact with each other.  If you “vote with your dollar” under capitalism, in what way is the system where a few people have billions of times more votes than you democratic?  Americans, and all who live under capitalist hegemony, live their lives with the unspoken understanding that, in the end, it is the rich and powerful who have the final say in how decisions are made.  

Fossil fuel barons and their political allies are not our friends.  Just as tobacco executives promised that their products were not addictive, fossil fuel executives are aware their products have been environmentally poisonous and are not economically viable.  This is why companies that fund climate denialism and economic scare-mongering in the media are at the same time insuring their facilities against the effects of climate disruption. 

It takes a great deal of moral fortitude to admit we’ve been duped, and we hope you’ll join us in the struggle for a healthier world and a more democratic society.

Derek Jolley and Matt Stannard are members of the Solidarity House Cooperative media team in Laramie. You can hear their discussion of this article on the February 26 episode of the Solidarity Wyoming podcast. You can support their work here.

Democratize Love

by Matt Stannard

October 11, 2020

” . . . the extent to which, therefore, the other person as a person has become for him [sic] a need.” ~Karl Marx, Private Property and Communism

Maybe the shaping of our love-needs is a micro-instantiation of our entire regime of private property and colonialism, our personal primitive accumulations as our sources of traumatic seizures and losses, violent encounters, making some of us need multiple others to love us, and others need the exclusivity of one partner to call (to name, claim surety of) one’s own. In any case, none of it is clean. Polyamory even with the “ethical” designation still risks all kinds of power assertions and unspoken rewards and deprivations, while monogamy can go from liberating to coercive as easily as a gust of wind can slam a door.

In other words, if there is a disagreement between poly and mono advocates, I don’t think one side or the other can ever have moral high ground. Our needs may be met by multiple partners or one; the point is to abolish hierarchy. That doesn’t mean one shouldn’t advocate–and particularly that critics of monogamy shouldn’t speak out on how monogamy carries the concept of property and “mirrors capitalism’s deficiencies.”

We know that, in the broadest senses, the fulfillment of human needs is a collective project. People express their emotional and sexual needs in different ways, and the necessity of a collective response can be expressed by those able to express. Gracie Brett describes the thought process, and the desire process, in the form of a question grounded in socialist theory and a kind of ethical curiosity: “I questioned why we are socially limited to one partner, when we could probably fulfill each other’s sexual, emotional, and other desires more comprehensively as a collective project.”

Gracie argues that since we have been “conditioned to not share in other facets of life” monogamy becomes an extension of this hegemony–an enclosure, like the enclosure of the Commons. I get it and I feel a strong attraction to that metaphor, but it’s not quite on point, or at least there’s a lot of work to be done in re-describing the construction of the partner-subject in order to envision the socialization of intimate relationships. Again, and regardless of whether it reproduces capitalism, monogamy may also fulfill a deep yearning not to have one’s intimate bits scattered or subject to a working group vote.

As Zoe Belinsky writes in an essay that anyone interested in these questions should read, “our relationships with each other are a part of our means of producing the world” which makes them “valid objects of communist political critique, ones that ought to be acted on, clarified, critically assessed, and mobilized as a resource for material practice.” Socialism is the movement toward elimination of material hierarchy in every sphere of life. If relationship exclusivity deprives one of a need that would better be fulfilled under a paradigm of collectivism, then exclusivity reinforces a hierarchy, even if it’s a microhierarchy (and it is not just that anyway). So the call to “abolish” monogamy doesn’t mean to forbid it, but only to say that the choice of one partner should not be seen as a default–and to emphasize how collectivizing and democratizing relationships can happen. The question is what can non-exploitatively meet our needs.

If you want to support my work, you can become a supporter of Solidarity House Cooperative, where you’ll be supporting lots of other people’s work too.

Art: Untitled First Abstract Watercolor (1913) by Wassily Kandinsky, at the Art History Project

Neoliberalism Enables Fascism. It is not Fascism.

September 23, 2020

by Matt Stannard

Neoliberalism seeks to build normalcy by hiding and peripheralizing the violence of capitalism. Fascism builds on the glorification of violence in order to achieve widespread enforcement, compliance, and celebration of a mystical order that is really just capitalism.

The failure of neoliberalism to do what it promises to do calls fascism into its performative life.

The performativity of fascism matters. Jedd Legum reported a few weeks ago on the Trump campaign’s acceptance of “thousands in donations from a notorious neo-Nazi leader and other racist extremists.” The neo-Nazi leader is Morris Gulett, leader of the Aryan Nations. “The Trump campaign has repeatedly accepted cash from Gulett”, who preaches that “White, Anglo-Saxon, Germanic and kindred peoples are the direct descentants of the Adamic man . . .” and has called for genocide against those of African descent, calls Jewish people children of Satan, and so on.

Gulett’s contributions were brought to the attention of the Trump campaign in July 2018 by The Forward. At the time, Gulett had donated to the Trump campaign three times for a total of $200. The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment from The Forward.

The Trump campaign also did not respond to a request for comment by Popular Information about Gulett’s continued donations.

Judd’s post at his really good Popular Information site lists a handful of additional donations–in the several thousands of dollars–Trump has accepted from other open racists and white nationalists. There’s no attempt to hide any of this. Nobody in Trump’s support base, which may total as much as 40 percent of the country, will walk back that support. The reason they won’t isn’t because they are fascists (politically active and committed white supremacists, to functionally describe what I mean by this) per se, but because they’ve accepted that the open celebration of white supremacy is an effective means of protecting and promoting their own perceived interests and values.

For U.S. politics, including for a socialist approach to politics, it matters that one side is doing this and the other side isn’t.

There are two things that make the Democratic Party’s difference from, in particular, the Trumpian Republican Party, matter strategically. One is the presence of social democrats and democratic socialists in the party. Their presence is not “cover” for neoliberal and right-wing Democrats, but rather is the result of factional political struggle and popular support for the left in the United States’ two-party system.

The second implication of the difference is the philosophical positioning of the Democratic Party as embodying the promise that capitalism can be made humane.

Strategically, these implications give socialists the opportunity to emphasize both neoliberal capitalism’s broken promises and the importance of electing and protecting left Democrats while building an independent infrastructure for both direct action and electoral anticapitalism–whatever forms those take in the coming months.

Trumpian fascism, like all fascism, begins with the premise that capitalism can’t and shouldn’t be made humane, but rather that its violences are its virtues, the desirability of a violent hierarchical system, a sadistic celebration of brutality and caste order.

Fascism exists because humane capitalism rests on a lie. Neoliberalism’s stability rests, in turn, on the always-looming threat of fascism. We should be pointing this out–not as a pretext for comparing candidates or making epistemically sloppy arguments about equivalencies or third parties, but for building socialism as mass movement in opposition to capitalism, neoliberalism, and fascism.

You can support Matt Stannard’s political writing by supporting Solidarity House Cooperative on Patreon.

Notes on the Current Fascism

September 7, 2020

by Matt Stannard

Several converging events summon these notes: a massive upsurge in right-wing violence encouraged by the Trump administration, the infusion of fascist ideology into the covid-19 pandemic crisis (particularly the often hidden argument that it’s okay for vulnerable people and the elderly to die), a concern with how socialists should approach the Republican and Democratic parties politically, and a friendly disagreement with Chris Richards of Political Hack & Slash, which we dig into on this episode of the Cowboys on the Commons podcast

Donald Trump has been an incipient fascist figurehead, and whether he’s done so consciously or not, members of his administration are conscious white nationalists with yearnings for the administration to possess absolute executive power, the ability to silence both governmental and media criticism, and a preference for visible brutality. The administration and its boss have encouraged the growth of far-right street and militia-sustained violence against minorities and the left. The administration is fiercely nationalist. All of these traits are fascist. Although a few initial assessments of Trump a few years ago concluded against the label, such as this not-very-prescient Vox piece that relied on extremely bourgeois opinions, the fact behind those assessments have rapidly changed, and many of their conclusions failed even to consider the evidence at hand at the time. 

But there’s a thread of thinking (which has been around at least since the term “liberal fascism” emerged in the 1980s from anarchist-punk discourse and then received a new iteration from the far right), that puts both neoliberal, centrist Democratic Party governance and far-right Republican governance on the same basic canvas and calls it “fascism.” Chris Richards’ use of this term to describe the entire spectrum ranging from Biden-Harris to Trump-Pence led me to invite him to a friendly debate on the podcast. I felt like it was important to distinguish the current administration as uniquely fascist, and I still do after listening to Chris, although I think he raised some important issues that problematize making that conclusion too soon. In the end, he feels he has empirical justification for his broader use of the term, and I feel I have arguments justifying the distinction, and we’ll each go our separate ways doing what we need to do (and we largely agree that there are important differences between Biden and Trump although they’re both awful), but I wanted to explain my distinctions in more detail.

The Historical and Marxist Definition of Fascism

Fascism plays a distinct role in brutal institutional countermovement against the democratization of economic and political life. Fascism is when capitalism has a temper tantrum, stripping back liberal reforms and the rule of law, punishing the humanitarian tendencies of liberalism, and doing direct violence against socialist and anti-capitalist movements, liberatory identity movements, and progressive public dissent. 

I don’t consider myself an orthodox Marxist, but the general definition of fascism at marxists.org contains what I think are the vital components of a definition of fascism: “Fascism is right-wing, fiercely nationalist, subjectivist in philosophy, and totalitarian in practice. It is an extreme reactionary form of capitalist government.” The definitional essay lists several “fundamental characteristics” including that fascism is right wing, nationalistic, hierarchical, anti-equality, religious, capitalist, warlike, voluntarist (in that it advances a particularly metaphysical view of “the will”) and anti-modern. 

Fascism is Performative

Moreover, although this is not explicit in the Marxist definition, these characteristics are performative as well as substantive. By this I mean that fascism celebrates nationalism, the fervor of its hierarchy, and its insistence on violence. Fascism isn’t just authoritarian nationalism in substance–it’s a violent and forceful public argument for authoritarian nationalism.

Although during our conversation on the Cowboys on the Commons podcast, Chris argued that fascism inherited its violent practices from, say, Italian politics or an American tradition of party-based violence that implicated the communists as much as the fascists, the communists did not celebrate their violence or make it party ideology, and by all accounts, fascist violence in Italy, Spain, and Germany far exceeded prior manifestations of political violence. Violence was often the sole argumentative tactic of fascists. The Italian fascists systematized and stepped up political violence. The Spanish fascists were unrelentingly abusive towards peasants and communists and used violence to demoralize republicans in the Civil War. And Kenneth Burke writes of Hitler’s early street-level political team deliberately antagonizing people at rallies in order to start fights that would become performative arguments for National Socialism: 

“Hitler also tells of his technique in speaking, once the Nazi party had been effectively organized, and had its army of guards, or bouncers, to maltreat hecklers and throw them from the hall. He would, he recounts, fill his speech with provocative remarks, whereat his bouncers would promptly swoop down in flying formation, with swinging fists, upon anyone whom these provocative remarks provoked to answer.”

. . . a tactic duplicated by the Trump campaign. 

So the difference between authoritarianism (which tolerates the liberal state) and Fascism (which doesn’t tolerate the liberal state) is obvious in the way the two forms of governance and political movement function. And there are other distinctions. Fascism flirts with a few revolutionary demands. It typically does this by promising a strong executive, a “strongman” who will bypass the democratic process to create special “exceptional” policies favoring some group or another and overriding procedural barriers to meeting their needs or demands. The Trump administration has done this, though the degree to which the administration has any legitimacy on this is determined by the outcome of internal cabinet struggle and placating big capital. 

Above all, fascist ideology glorifies violence, celebrates mythic strength, divides strong and weak. The Trump administration does this by encouraging interpersonal violence, police violence, right wing nationalist violence, the death of “weak” people vulnerable to disease, and the explicit celebration of immigrant detention (rather than Obama’s and presumably Biden’s, more humane-appearing and sugar-coated anti-immigrant violence, which also contains zones of exception and the space for change that explains why most immigration attorneys would undoubtedly prefer a Biden administration to a Trump one). 

Fascism is inseparable from white American nationalist and white Euronationalist ideology. Where nonwhite groups have exhibited fascist tendencies they have done so in the context of right-wing nationalism (e.g. Hindutva) or anti-Semitism and mysticism (Nation of Islam under Farrakhan). 

Fascism relies on the conscious, publicized creation of street-level gangs and, in the American context, right-wing militia. Fascism is not as contemptuous towards the managerial or liberal state, the military and the intelligence sector as it is to the far left–that is, fascists believe the far left must be eliminated first–but fascists do want to dismantle the liberal state and remake it as a totalitarian state based on mysticism and force. That this goal is ultimately unattainable* is not an immediate concern. 

The difference between the fascist state and the liberal state is that the liberal state tolerates judicial review, popular demands, local control and other checks on totalitarianism up to a point. Fascism can’t do that. Liberals form relationships with those protections, demands, and procedural checks that are very different from the bare, aggressive antagonisms of fascism. 

Errors from Misunderstanding fascism or Conflating it with General Authoritarianism: 

1. Misunderstanding the push-and-pull game of liberalism and fascism. Liberalism is based on the argument that the progressive liberal state can co-exist with capitalism. Fascism rejects that argument, sees liberal progressivism as a threat to capitalism (and to the white supremacist order behind it), and thus periodically destroys it. 

To some extent, the working class can demand and take advantage of the reformism of the liberal capitalist order. The socialist movement can use the tension between liberalism’s promises and failures to deliver them to open up wider political space. Fascism closes that potential and that space. Fascism doesn’t just function to reassert capitalism but also to reassert white supremacy and patriarchy and really the whole Kyriarchy, to borrow from the feminist term. Ultimately, just as the looming threat of communism has forced parliamentary democracies to enact social democratic reforms (like universal health care), the threat of fascism serves to close that reformist space. Thus, fascism and liberalism can never “be the same” functionally because to do so would undermine their ability to play off of each other in the service of capitalist white supremacy. 

2. Misunderstanding America First-ers’ & MAGA’s argument that Trump won’t start wars. This is a particularly frustrating public argument–that Trump will keep us out of war where liberal internationalists and neocons are more likely to start wars. It’s frustrating because there is a kernel of truth in fascism’s arguments against the interventionist and internationalist state, but we also know that nationalism, particularly non-liberatory nationalism, is an antecedent to the kind of unilateralism that, had things gone a little differently in Iraq and Iran earlier this year, undoubtedly would have taken us into an extremely destructive war. I can write more about this later, or talk about it on a podcast (mine or someone else’s) because I have limited time here and it is a complex discussion. Short version: Trump, like Hitler and Mussulini, would risk millions of lives if he believed it would advance his interests, including very immediate and very personal ones. We already know that he has no qualms about spending American lives in the service of illusory leadership. 

3. Misunderstanding other far right regimes like Putin’s Russia. 

4. Ceding political space to fascists by not forming critical/contingent electoral alliances with left liberals/left Democrats. There’s a great discussion about this on the vast majority podcast, and I would add that those who believe electoral politics are irredeemable need to answer a few questions: what’s your theory of the state? Are we cool ceding state power, the administrative and material power of various elected and appointed positions, to the far right? How far down the ballot is this true? Do you feel comfortable with the kind of oddsmaking that says we’ll be “worse off” or “just as bad off” regardless of who occupies those positions? 

5. In all of these errors, confusing bourgeois identity politics with demands for civil rights, equality under the law, and more radical anti-oppression work. Do we want to be the Socialist Workers Party or the Socialist Equality Party, the former praising the Bundy family and the white supremacist takeover of federal facilities, the latter mocking campaigns against sexual assault? I say that instead of this, we need to acknowledge that even though class and materiality contextualize struggles for equality under the law and equality in the anti-capitalist struggle, we still should support strong steps towards securing political and civil rights within the capitalist system. 

6. Sliding into accellerationism. This is where the rubber meets the road, as far as I’m concerned, about socialist praxis. Accellerationists, including people who don’t really know or admit that they’re advocating accellerationism, do this by rejecting reforms that socialists have traditionally led the way in demanding of the capitalist state, and by committing what I’ve come to call the “bare face” fallacy, assuming it’s preferable to have an open fascist in control of the state than a liberal. 

Conclusion

This kind of analysis will always feel futile and fleeting if we’re being honest with ourselves. Method and analysis can’t capture the dynamic, ever-changing clusters of material power and meaning-making around us. Nevertheless, in my own attempt to make sense of it, I find that the difference between liberal/neoliberal capitalism and fascistic neoliberal capitalism is that in the former, there is space to fight for, carve out, and demand non-systemic, but useful reforms; in the latter, there is a mad, overwhelming dash to end reforms, relief, and any checks possible against the self-directed excesses of capital. 

The liberal/neoliberal capitalist state is still brutal, often exporting or hiding or otherwise deferring the violence away from the political centers of its regime. But it is more likely to pay legal and rhetorical heed to political equality across identities, and more open to demands for relief and service as a function of democratic processes and public bureaucracy or coordination than the fascist state. In those instances where the fascistic capitalist state grants relief, it does so under the public warrant of strong executive power, so that all relief and reform depends on the will and the grace of the strong (and aspirationally unitary) executive. And the fascistic capitalist state is likely to continuously engage in the stripping of legal protections for minorities, as well as sanctioning rhetorical dehumanization of minorities.  

These distinctions are problematic; as my discussion with Chris revealed to me, the liberal/neoliberal capitalist state has broken down the distinction between legal and extralegal violence that used to enhance fascism’s reliance on street gangs and militias. But I think the distinctions still explain how liberalism creates the conditions for fascism, and in a sense relies on the looming threat of fascism to prevent the material delivery of socioeconomic rights, or sometimes weaken the enforcement of civil rights. 

The U.S. electoral system, particularly where presidential elections are concerned, is pretty much broken, and so I don’t think it’s constructive to get involved in the numerous debates about whether socialists should vote for the Biden-Harris ticket, abstain from voting for a presidential ticket, or vote for a third party. The system is soaked so full of voter suppression and electoral college distortion that one can’t confidently draw an arrow from one’s individual vote to a predictable outcome. What I can say is that a Biden-Harris presidency will raise extremely different needs and tasks for socialists, the anti-capitalist movement, and those concerned with cooperation and justice, than a Trump-Pence re-election–and that there are many people fighting on the front lines of labor, immigration, LGBTQAA+ and civil rights who note an exhausting, perpetually demoralizing, ship-always-sinking, fires-always-burning feeling from the Trump administration. Such an effect is intentional when an administration is full of open white nationalists, radical supply-siders, and advocates of unitary executive governance. There will not be fewer challenges presented by a Democratic administration, but the challenges are likely to manifest in a different, less exhausting and demoralizing way for many categories of progressive resistance. Although we should never pretend that’s good enough, I don’t think we should discourage people from preferring that outcome. It remains for us to educate people why it is, at best, necessary but not sufficient.

* Unattainable because the function of fascism is to beat back resistance to capitalism; when it fulfills that purpose it often (but not always) goes into retreat. Its remnants are assimilated into the liberal state, but that doesn’t make the liberal state a fascist state. The explicitly fascist traits are watered down, rehabilitated, and change rather drastically in form.  

Solidarity Collective Fights to Survive in 2020

We aren’t going down yet, but we haven’t achieved long-term viability

by Matt Stannard
May 22, 2020

Solidarity Collective’s landing at this space, with its large 1878 main house, and 3-acre estate full of other structures, pasture, and abandoned junkpiles, has always been a work in progress. It wasn’t some comfortable and ready-made space, although it has striking wonderfulness all over it. Making it work was going to take time and money. Making it work as an anti-capitalist commune was going to be even more challenging, because that meant we would not exploit each other or anyone else in the restorative process. At our approaching two-year mark, we’re running out of the resources–all the resources–to make it work.

We are still fulfilling our mission: we host (now virtually) political and social events and open our resources and spaces up for a wide range of socialist, left-wing, intentional community, anti-capitalist, anti-oppression and progressive causes. We give away and sell food. We produce podcasts with hundreds of downloads per month. In some instances, resource and labor shortages, and now the pandemic, have slowed our pace, and at our last annual retreat we lamented our failure to get more projects off the ground, particularly work in anti-racist education. But we are productive and values-aligned enough that our service and output is not the reason we’ve recently come so close to calling it quits.

I point out that we’re still living our values and fulfilling our mission because the consensus of the comrades, at least now, is firmly that deciding not to live that mission and those values would mean that the work we are putting into maintaining the space of the collective wasn’t really worth it. We’re not yet ready to concede we need some kind of Cuban “special period” of capitalism, and i suspect none of us could be capitalists even if we wanted to (capitalism means exploiting the labor of wage workers for profit; on the relationship of worker-owned cooperatives to anti-capitalist politics, see the work of Richard Wolf, among others). We also recognize the limits of the cooperative model.

Finding a way to make it work means finding a way to make all of it work: the finances, the values, our sustainable and nurturing treatment of each other. Our radical egalitarianism is non-negotiable. If we were to fold, it would be cooperatively, with the expectation that everyone will do everything they could to make sure each comrade finds a stable transition and destination.

We have some good things going for us: we’re bringing in 3 new members in the next three months, we’ve gotten additional inquiries beyond those, socialist and alternative economics are surging in popularity, including in Wyoming, and we are still full of energy and ideas to push forward.

But we have some bad things going against us too: Solidarity Collective isn’t presently financially viable in the long term. None of us are remotely well-off financially, and collective ownership was the only option for owning this space. Paying our mortgage, keeping the power and heat on, feeding ourselves and others, maintaining our main work and living spaces are our top priorities, and the lights aren’t going out, nobody’s hungry, we’re warm and safe, and won’t default on the mortgage. But repairs, taxes, and project financing have put us in a slowly growing hole, such that our long-term projections are not viable without increasing our prospective membership by around 50%. In the best case scenario, climbing out of the red won’t take as long as it took us to get there, but it’s not going to be easy or quick, and our current configuration doesn’t have the resources to do it.

We have viable, if modest, business models for the enterprises we run (again, if the point was to make huge profits, we would not be operating communally or within our values), and we are exploring ways to increase our Patreon support, produce more podcasts and grow our listenership, and expand our farming operations. But these take human labor and we’re all stretched very thin.

Partnerships may work for some of them. We’re meeting twice a week, painstakingly (and emotionally) considering possibilities and propositions. We can always re-prioritize our labor but we have no room to reprioritize our financial commitments. They have been massaged and scrutinized over and over again, and we’re at the part of that slide show which shows that we will not survive long-term.

Another important factor is that it’s hard to do what we’re doing. Material and cultural cooperation isn’t just learning the skills needed to share. It also proceeds from the same general principle as socialism: that a wide scaling of shared resources can serve everyone’s needs. “From each according to ability, to each according to need” can only really meet the diverse needs of a group of people if the gives-and-takes are sustainable. Our financial, physical, and emotional resources are stretched and often broken, week after week, month after month. There is no more “from each according to” to take.

We’ve also just had some bad luck. Some of us have lost work due to Covid-19; two comrades’ jobs have been eliminated. Another has had a string of tough health issues. Expected move-ins have been delayed by the pandemic and roadbumps in people’s lives. A guest who was temporarily staying with us seriously damaged an apartment and we don’t expect them to be in any position to fund the repairs we need. At the same time, we’re aware that some unexpected good luck could turn up, as it has before. In any event, we aren’t viable if we depend on good luck and dread the bad knowing we can’t absorb it. Viability under capitalism is nothing if not highly dependent on the ability to absorb bad luck.

I write this even though what sticks out in my reflection over the last two years has been the number of times each person here (and some who have left) have risen above and beyond what might be normally expected of people. Communal heroism has been on alternating display here, from those that live at the commune and those who actively support it from the outside (whose visits and constant help has been the stuff of legend). In other words, I say this feeling strongly that each person involved with this project has at one time or another been vital to our functioning.

That’s outstanding. It confirms, for me, a lot of my beliefs about the viability of solidarity–when people’s care for others is sustained by socialized, restorative systems. We don’t presently have enough people to create or sustain all the systems we need, but we’re trying to find a way.

Why am I telling you this?

Because we’ve always been transparent about our intentions and our resources.

Because if a strong part of you or someone you know tells you that you have been wanting to join an anti-capitalist commune and you like fighting good fights with long odds, this is your opportunity to do it–get in touch and help us soberly and objectively make our decision about the future.

Because if you are fascinated by processes and challenges like these, you are welcome to follow our saga through to whatever conclusion it reaches.

Because regardless of the outcome, we have hard work ahead (dissolving or rebuilding will both take tremendous amounts of work) and we need to maintain our connections to supportive and well-wishing friends: we need the love and connection of those who care about us and what we’re doing.

Because we have accomplished a whole lot here, and that won’t change even if we end this phase of our work, and you can help us celebrate that. We need celebration too.

You can support Solidarity Collective in many ways (contact members for more information) but one easy way is to subscribe to their Patreon at this link.

Broken Promises Threaten Lives of Greeley Meatpacking Workers

by Michael Yates
April 24, 2020

The largest employer in Greeley, Colorado is the food processor JBS USA Holdings Inc. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of JBS S.A., a Brazilian company and the largest processor of fresh beef and pork in the world. The plant in Greeley employs some 6,000 people, many of them immigrants. In Greeley, nearly 40 % of the population (which is about 107,000) is Hispanic, meaning that many of the workers are Hispanic as well.

Work in a meatpacking factory can best be described as laboring on a disassembly line, as animal carcasses are disassembled as the animal moves along a mechanized line. By all accounts, the work is intense and dangerous (see Roger Horowitz, “Negro and White, Unite and Fight”: A Social History of Industrial Unionism, in Meatpacking, 1930-90, along with my review in the Oct. 1998 issue of Monthly Review). Animal blood everywhere. Knives flying, cuts omnipresent, as the line moves ever faster and the boss demands more and more production.

There was once a strong and radical union of packinghouse workers, but mechanization, globalization, and business consolidation, along with red-baiting, damaged the union beyond repair. Today, the much weaker and less radical United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) represents workers in some of the US plants, including the one in Greeley. Of course, just about any union is better than none, but the old union, the United Packinghouse Workers, won wages that were among the highest in the country. It also had an ingenious structure of shop stewards, who coordinated confrontations with management across plants nationwide. Today, wages are much lower and the union much less militant.

As essential labor, the operatives at the Greeley facility continued to work during the pandemic. The company did no testing, and the workers went without adequate personal protective equipment. As could have been predicted, employees soon became infected by the virus, and then they infected family members. Or they contracted the virus outside the plant, and then infected their coworkers. Hundreds were ill, and several died. The situation went national when Trump and Pence referenced it at a daily news conference. Pence promised that tests would be quickly made available, and the company also promised testing immediately. Not surprisingly, neither promise has been kept. A report from Contact 7 in Denver on April 22 states:

“Now less than a week from the scheduled reopening of the plant, promises from the White House and JBS management have not been kept. ‘We can only assume the reason they stopped testing is they don’t want the numbers to come out, it’s bad PR,’ said Sylvia Martinez, a spokesperson for Latinos Unidos of Greeley. Multiple informed sources confirmed to Contact7 Investigates that JBS management stopped testing shortly after it started doing so on April 11 and well before its promise to test its 6,000 employees. Insiders have told Contact7 Investigates that between 40% and 80% of managers/supervisors tested positive on the initial day of testing and those results prompted JBS to end the testing program. ‘I believe when it became apparent that most of the supervisors tested positive JBS abruptly stopped the testing,’ said JBS Union President Kim Cordova.”

Sadly, the plant reopens today, April 24. The UFCW national president, Anthony Perrone, warns that it is not safe to reopen the meatpacking plants that have been closed, including the one in Greeley. Stories out of the Smithfield plant is South Dakota are heartrending, with the same management lack of concern for the largely immigrant workforce. BBC News reports:

“But according to Smithfield employees, their union representatives, and advocates for the immigrant community in Sioux Falls, the outbreak that led to the plant closure was avoidable. They allege early requests for personal protective equipment were ignored, that sick workers were incentivised to continue working, and that information regarding the spread of the virus was kept from them, even when they were at risk of exposing family and the broader public.”

Today, governors in several states have begun “opening up” their economies, and many others are itching to do so. Let what is happening at these meatpacking plants, and many other “essential” workplaces serve as a warning as to what is likely to happen if we return to business as usual. We are in the midst of a horrible pandemic. Our “leaders” are advising tactics that will only worsen things, sickening and killing more people. Yesterday, Trump suggested that we could inject disinfectants to cleanse our bodies of the virus. Maybe that will be the salvation of the packinghouse workers, and all of us. Hitler, anyone?

Michael Yates is Editorial Director of the Monthly Review Press. He was a labor educator for more than three decades. He is the author of The Great Inequality, Why Unions Matter and Can the Working Class Change the World?

Working People Have No Country

by Matt Stannard
January 3, 2020

Try this early and often–in every conversation about the administration’s war-drive against Iran, every discussion online and offline. Say:

“You and I have more in common with an Iraqi or Iranian militia grunt than with Donald Trump.”

. . . and simply: “Working people have no country.”

If your concern is beating this administration, and thus restoring the legitimacy of things like U.S. military hegemony, then this strategy and this blog aren’t for you. If your concern is to use the present political moment as an opportunity to strike at one of the root causes of this administration’s existence, the kind of world where mobbed up landlords become world leaders, then understanding our commonalities with Iranians is more than just liberal cosmopolitanism.

The warrant for “working people have no country” as an anti-war slogan is that if we see ourselves as beings in a common material class, and have adopted cooperative economic praxis, it won’t make sense to go to war with one another–at least where the interests of the majority are concerned.

There’s a large body of work on this, and it would be counterproductive for me to recommend that one read too much of it before diving right into direct political engagement. In reviewing the topic, I wanted to center on a singular explanatory text, and not necessarily a “Marxist” one, explaining why Marx and Engels were concerned that working people struggling for socialism or communism would center the ruling class in their own countries as the first oppositional force needing overthrow, and would view the working class as an international class.

So I tracked down Evan Luard’s Basic Texts in International Relations, in which Luard devotes an informative overview, “Class Consciousness as a Restraint on War” to the issue of why shared working class consciousness rejects war between states.

Part of the working class’s motivation for rejecting their own governments’ war drives is that the aspiration of working class political power includes eliminating those drives. “Once they had acquired power,” Luard puts it, “they would cease to have any interest in a war against any other state where the people had taken power. War would then, like the state itself, wither away.” Wither away because “the state” is based on antagonisms, war is a flare-up of such antagonisms. Luard points out that 50 years after the Manifesto Karl Kautsky, in a more utopian tone, wrote that workers would recognize the interdependence of their needs and the common conditions of their existence. In one form or another, most socialists adhere to that belief.

But I think it’s obvious, and probably necessary, to point out that we don’t need to view these beliefs as subscriptions to inexorable, mystical axioms. There might still be conflict. There might still be bloodshed. You can think this because you think humans are just inherently that way, or you can predict that the antagonisms of previous orders take a long time to exorcise and may never completely go away, or whatever. You don’t have to accept these premises as anything other than general prediction of tendencies. And you don’t have to believe that overcoming class will cause all other differences to be erased, synthesized, dissipated, or otherwise minimized. You can simply believe, as more and more people do, that capitalism and material hierarchy make it much, much harder to solve the conflicts that accompany those differences and conditions.

Class politics– emphasizing our shared materiality and shared security needs, using that shared materiality as a way of faithfully and vulnerably working through and dwelling in our other differences–can inform our anti-war politics, and connect our opposition to war to our larger ecological and economic justice agenda.

And, in many ways, most of us already recognize that our ethical obligations to each other transcend national origin. If the breakdown of such consciousness today can be discerned by opposition to the current administration’s actually existing fascism on immigration. Granted, it’s not a magic 8-ball on working class internationalism, but most Americans want more immigration and diversity, not less. Recently, political researcher Stanley Greenburg described how this administration has hastened the crystalization of such attitudes:

Pew asked whether immigrants “strengthen our country because of their hard work and talents” or “are a burden on our country because they take our jobs, housing and health care.” The proportion embracing immigration jumped from 53% in 2015 to 62% this year. Trump sent troops to the border, warned of an America exposed without a wall and ran ads showing illegal immigrants who murdered innocent Americans, and yes, he made immigration the most important reason to vote against the Democrats in the off-year elections. His party lost the House in a 53%-45% landslide last year and has lost the battle of public opinion on immigration by much more than that.

This is an example of the various accelerations we currently live, whether we want to admit it or not–and at least some of this consciousness will survive even if trumpism does not. On immigration, as on climate and healthcare and, I ultimately suspect, on warmaking, a large cross section of America is turning sharply socialist, almost leapfrogging over more moderate-liberal analogs, and while it’s not the same as storming the palace, it points to what could turn out to be a massive fucking anti-war movement, assuming the administration treats the current war drive as a traditional war drive.

At least as important as magnitude will be motivation. Mass movements don’t often stop wars from starting, but mass opposition to those wars energizes class politics. We have an opportunity to make the slogan “working people have no country,” and the careful and powerful analysis behind it, central to our argument against this war and all wars, and in so doing, invite more people into socialist politics.

Uttering and explaining the slogan will help win people over. It will cause some other people to yell back “yes we do have countries” and invoke their fatherland myths–and it’s useful to know who those people are too.

Matt Stannard is operations director of Solidarity House Cooperative and produces content on cooperative economics and law.

Obama is wrong: We shouldn’t “chill out” about the primaries

by Yana Ludwig

December 13, 2019

It’s been a couple weeks now, but I’m still thinking about Barack Obama’s request for everyone to “chill out” about differences between presidential candidates. It is just the latest in a long series of “Vote Blue No Matter Who” sentiments to get far more air time than Bernie Sanders record breaking 4 million donations. It’s not only annoying: I believe it is damaging our democracy. 

The better message would be: Vote smart in the primaries because that’s where we are deciding what really matters.

Both major political parties in the US are in epic battles for the souls of their party right now. Many people have deep frustrations with being told to be loyal to a party whose current leadership simply doesn’t share our values. It feels for many like the “choice” we have in November isn’t nearly as much of a choice as we want… or see the world needing. 

It’s easy to see that from the left, in part because only a thin slice of those currently holding office share our most core beliefs. We can see that the line should be drawn, not along formal party lines, but along economic analysis lines: not between Democrats and Republicans, but between neoliberal capitalism (AKA business as usual in the US) and eco-socialism (of which Bernie Sanders’ and AOC’s version of the Green New Deal is our closest example in national political dialogue right now). 

Neoliberal capitalism is maintains that everything should be privatized and that access to those private goods and services should be determined by your ability to compete well enough in a dog eat dog economy. It’s a “good fight” writ cruel and petty. Neoliberals are enthusiastic about everything from education and spirituality to technology and entertainment to (formerly) public lands and insulin all coming with price tags that only some can pay. 

Neoliberalism is built-in means testing for everything we need to survive. Poor people are consistently judged unworthy, complete with implied moral failings, because to be a successful economic producer is the primary indicator of being a good person. Except most of us are failing, and that should tell us more about the test itself than the people being tested.

Among neoliberalism’s tools that spill into politics is the practice of attaching status to your ability to acquire things. Both parties seem to crave wealthy people’s approval, attention and resources, and it is a rare candidate who resists this in a genuine way and centers their attention and policy proposals firmly on the masses.

Socialists resist the whole neoliberal paradigm. Socialism is about democratizing the economy; giving everyone not just “access” (which has become the buzzword among neoliberals who want to appear more left than they actually are on healthcare) but an economy structured around workers actually deriving full benefit from their own labor. It says that a public sector is good, not because of some excessive love of “big government” but because when we take cut-throat profiteering out of the equation, everyone has a genuinely fair shot at getting their needs met.

Socialism says that there should not be whole industries designed to be gatekeepers to Life (because healthcare is a right), Liberty (because freedom from unjust persecution and imprisonment is a right) and the Pursuit of Happiness (because education is also a right). Neoliberalism is fine with someone making money off of you and your “basic” rights. In that way, it fundamentally undermines those rights to the point that they are no longer basic in truth. Socialism demands that we de-privatize healthcare, the prison system and education (among other things) because without doing that, our American core values are just words on paper.

There was a fascinating recent article about my home, Wyoming, and the internal crackdown happening within the state’s Republican party. The far right has taken over state leadership in the party, rewritten the platform in the Trump’s and Cheney’s ugliest image, and is now punishing county party leadership who are not toeing the line strongly enough. It’s nasty and epic, and reading that article made it clear to me that Republicans are also struggling with what their party is all about. 

Obama is friendlier for sure, but he represents a similarly ugly push to get in line.

It’s important for Republicans right now to be asking if they prefer Trump’s world or, say, Romney’s, just as it is for Democrats to be paying close attention to the differences between a Sanders presidency and a Biden presidency. Unless we have a candidate who is not a neoliberal on the ballot in November, we are ceding critical ground to the economic paradigm that led us to this moment of resurgent fascism in America, and to the climate crisis that threatens us all. 

The differences are that big and that important.

So my exhortation here is simple: Do. Not. Chill. Out. The primaries are like the semi-finals of a national championship, and whether your team makes it to the finals and has a shot at some actual political power matters to the fate of our people and planet. We are writing the story right now. We have not two but four critical, and markedly different, options in front of us. Choose well.

Yana Ludwig is the author of Together Resilient: Building Community in the Age of Climate Disruption, a member of Solidarity Collective and Democratic Socialists of America, and a candidate for U.S. Senate from Wyoming.