Week In Review January 30

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Jan 302018

  by Bill Onasch

Last Year and This

Last year’s Women’s Marches on Trump’s first full day in the White House were the biggest nationally coordinated political demonstrations in U.S. history and inspired solidarity actions on every continent. Pulled together in less than two months, they were largely self-organized on the fly in local areas. For many, probably most, it was their first nonelectoral political action of any kind.

Their focus was ongoing struggles around “women’s issues”–such as defending the right to control their own bodies; fighting sexual harassment; the lack of affordable quality child care; and eliminating the gender pay gap. But they were not alone in their sense of urgency sparked by the election of the most reactionary president in living memory–an exposed misogynist and racist to boot. Women were first in the queue of anti-Trump protests and attracted many from Black Lives Matter, peace, climate justice, immigrant rights, LGBT and union organizations—forces that also had some clashes with the Obama administration but were even more alarmed about the heightened threats of Trump.

Hillary Clinton and Barrack Obama have been seldom seen or heard from since the Democrats managed to lose another election in which they received the most votes. But that party’s liberal wing saw an opportunity to declare a “resistance movement” based on anti-Trump. Groups like Our Revolution, Democracy for America, the National Women’s Political Caucus, and more traditional opportunists like moveon.org, keep the “Resistance” busy with e-mail blasts about signing petitions, calling Congress, supporting good Democrat candidates (including some who are antichoice)—and above all fund appeals.

With these diversions receiving sympathetic attention from anti-Trump media such as the New York Times, Washington Post, and MSNBC, it was no surprise when the national leadership of this year’s marches chipped in with a theme tied to a “march to the polls” to advance the Resistance in the midterm elections.

They also decided that in so-called “Red States” it would be better to have fewer marches, concentrating on “blue islands in red states.” My blue island in Kansas City, where 10,000 rallied last year, didn’t make the cut. Those asking for our money told us to hit I-70 and head to a small campus town like Lawrence, Kansas or Columbia, Missouri.

This year’s marches were about half the size of last year. Still, half of four million isn’t chopped humus. A new article by Ann Montague justified its headline—Women’s Marches Get a Huge Turnout Nationwide. Totals in many major cities were impressive indeed—500,000 in Los Angeles; 300,000 in Chicago; over 200,000 in New York City; 60,000 in San Francisco and Philadelphia; and tens of thousands in D.C. were among the highlights of hundreds of events in the USA and another 200 abroad.

Montague goes on to describe many hand-made signs, speeches, and interviews that indicate there is no consensus among women activists around the Resistance doubling-down support to Democrats.

Montague is a veteran activist who experienced all the broken promises of the Equal Rights Amendment, and equal pay for comparable work, by the Democrats. She warns,

This year showed that the uprising of women with the election of Donald Trump has continued and remains strong even in the smallest communities in the country. The Democratic Party will continue to attempt to ‘harness’ the movement and drive it into electing their candidates. They will try to bring women into a political system that has no answers for institutionalized sexism and racism.”

Ann Montague shed her “harness” long ago, becoming a socialist and a staunch Labor Party Advocate. Many more will likely take the same path in the struggles ahead.

Not Even Landing a Punch

Eduardo Porter, a leading economics writer at the New York Times, is no climate change denier. Far from it, instead of skepticism he is close to the pessimism of those who say climate change is now inevitable. His gloom and doom is expressed in Fighting Climate Change? We’re Not Even Landing a Punch.

Porter builds his case by examining international climate gatherings, beginning with the very first in Toronto in 1988 right through to the current accords adopted in Paris in 2015.

At the time of Toronto, the Earth’s average temperature had risen about .5ºC over measurements in the late nineteenth century, annual global greenhouse emissions amounted to 30 billion tons, and scientists suggested those emissions be reduced by 20 percent.

At the landmark Paris summit a little over two years ago, the planet’s warming had reached 1.1ºC and emissions had risen to nearly 50 billion tons. The two full years since Paris have set new warming records and emissions continue to climb as well.

Porter writes,

While the world frets over President Trump’s decision to withdraw the United States from the Paris agreement, I would argue that the greatest impediment to slowing this relentless warming is an illusion of progress that is allowing every country to sidestep many of the hard choices that still must be made.

“’We keep doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome,’ said Scott Barrett, an expert on international cooperation and coordination at Columbia University who was once a lead author of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

Porter proves his assertions about the already palpable failure of international diplomacy to even slow down global warming. But diplomacy is determined by governments. And nearly all governments—tiny Cuba being an honorable though hard pressed exception—serve the interests of the ruling capitalist class.

We have the science, technology, human and material resources available to restructure a planned ecologically sustainable world economy while providing an acceptable standard of living for everyone on this planet. But to start landing punches on climate change we have to first knock out its instigator and continuing perpetrator—capitalism. But that’s not an option you’ll ever see in the Business section of the New York Times.

Transit Equity Day

Transportation recently surpassed electricity generation as the biggest source of greenhouse emissions in the U.S. That makes expansion of public transit more important than ever in tackling climate change. Safe, reliable, affordable transit has also historically been an important demand of the civil rights movement.

Next Monday, February 5—the next workday after the birthday of the late Rosa Parks who helped launch the pivotal Montgomery Bus Boycott that ended segregation in public transit–is Transit Equity Day. This initiative of the Labor Network for Sustainability is being co-sponsored by the Amalgamated Transit Union, Greenpeace, Jobs with Justice, Institute for Policy Studies, Sierra Club, 350.org, among others. You can find more information here.

I’ll Be There

I’m happy to report that I once again will be taking Amtrak to the Windy City for the biennial Labor Notes Conference. In recent years these gatherings have attracted thousands of labor activists from across the country—and the world.

Unfortunately, due to a tight budget, I won’t have the usual KC Labor table there. But I’m pleased my wife, Mary Erio, will be accompanying me for her first Labor Notes experience. I hope to see you there.

Health Alert

Besides the opioid pandemic and flu epidemic there are other new shake-ups in America’s health care system. After eliminating the “individual mandate” in the Affordable Care Act the Trumpites are going after the employer mandate that could lead to millions losing coverage. Drug giant CVS is acquiring Aetna, one of the biggest health insurers. And two of the richest men in the world, along with the CEO of America’s biggest bank founded by a former richest in the world, have announced a plan to provide health care directly to their employees. Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Warren Buffet of Berkshire Hathaway, and Jamie Dimon of JP Morgan Chase provided few details in their Tuesday announcement.

In Brief…

* Reuters reports–“German industrial workers will start a fresh wave of walkouts at metals and engineering companies across the country late on Tuesday, labor union IG Metall said after last-ditch talks over wages and working hours failed to reach a deal over the weekend.”

* According to the Guardian, the 26-county Irish state will schedule a May referendum on reforming the present total ban of abortions.

* The St Paul Federation of Teachers has scheduled a strike authorization vote on Friday. The main issue in contention is class size.

* Harley-Davidson disclosed on Tuesday that it will close its Kansas City Assembly plant next year. The plant was opened with substantial government incentives in 1998 and once employed a thousand. About 800 current jobs will be eliminated while 400 new positions will open up in York, Pennsylvania. Last year Harley staged a photo op with President Trump sitting on an American icon HOG on the White House lawn. Shortly after, they announced the opening of a new plant in Thailand. The Steelworkers and Machinists share representation at the plant.

That’s all for this week.

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Week In Review January 24

 Week In Review  Comments Off on Week In Review January 24
Jan 242018

  by Bill Onasch


While it didn’t change anything substantial, I feel a need to correct an error I repeated from an early news report on Trump’s vulgar outburst in a meeting with Senators about immigration legislation. That gathering actually took place in a somewhat crowded Oval Office, not the Cabinet Room as I wrote in the last WIR.

Getting Us to Third Base

Cornel West

In the last WIR, I promised some comments about a noteworthy article published on the Guardian site—America Is Spiritually Bankrupt, We Must Fight Back Together.

I’ve followed its author Cornel West since he became known as a prominent intellectual and activist in the 1970s. He has taught at Harvard, Princeton, Yale Divinity School, and the Union Theological Seminary. He co-hosted a radio show on NPR, and won an award from MTV for explaining his radical views through hip-hop albums. He is often invited to speak at mass demonstrations including last year’s confrontation with neofascists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

While generally admiring his work, I have not always agreed with him. Considering the framework for his ideas I suspect all of his readers/listeners have some caveats. The Wikipedia article about him says,

Styling himself as a radical democrat socialist, West draws intellectual contributions from multiple traditions, including Christianity, the black church, Marxism, neopragmatism, and transcendentalism.”

That’s a potent mixture not easily blended. And it doesn’t always go down smoothly for Marxist socialists who value dialectical logic over pragmatism and are mostly materialists who do not believe in supernatural forces.

Of course, that doesn’t mean all those who accept the Marxist vision of socialism have to renounce God. And we should especially recognize the unique role churches have played among those suffering national or racial oppression. The great Celtic Marxist James Connolly remained a devout Catholic until executed by a British firing squad. In my lifetime, the two greatest leaders of the struggle against racism in America were clergy—the Christian Martin Luther King and the Muslim Malcolm X.


The Guardian piece marks the 25th anniversary of the publication of West’s important book Race Matters. (You can read a review written at the time by the socialist Malik Miah here.) In retrospect West writes,

I tried to lay bare the realities and challenges to American democracy in light of the doings and sufferings of black people. Back then, I reached heartbreaking yet hopeful conclusions. Now, the heartbreak cuts much deeper and the hope has nearly run out.”

The election of the 45th president enhanced this disappointment and he pulls no punches in describing the CEO of what he calls an imperial meltdown,

The political triumph of Donald Trump is a symbol and symptom – not cause or origin – of our imperial meltdown. Trump is neither alien nor extraneous to American culture and history. In fact, he is as American as apple pie. He is a sign of our spiritual bankruptcy – all spectacle and no substance, all narcissism and no empathy, all appetite and greed and no wisdom and maturity.”

But West is no kinder about Trump’s predecessor,

The painful truth is there is no Donald Trump without Barack Obama, no neofascist stirrings without neoliberal policies – all within the imperial zone. Obama was the brilliant black smiling face of the American empire. Trump is the know-nothing white cruel face of the American empire. Obama did not produce Trump, but his Wall Street–friendly policies helped facilitate Trump’s pseudo-populist victory.”

Within the abridged format of the Guardian piece, West nails the multiple catastrophes produced by Empire—

Climate change, “Our ecological catastrophe is real. The Anthropocene epoch engulfs us. Human practices –especially big business and big military operations – now so deeply influence the Earth’s atmosphere that extinctions loom large.”

Nuclear war, “The potential for nuclear catastrophe remains urgent as US-Russia tensions escalate and other nuclear powers, like North Korea, China, Pakistan, India and Israel, are expanding and restless.”

And others not so irreversible,

Our economic catastrophes proliferate along with grotesque wealth inequality. Our political catastrophes deepen as oligarchy triumphs from governmental dysfunction. Our civic catastrophes deepen as the public interest, common good, or even rule of law are undercut by big money.

“And our cultural catastrophes are often hidden – the vast and sad realities of trauma and terror visited upon vulnerable fellow citizens who are disproportionately poor people, LGBTQ people, peoples of color, women and children.”

West concludes with some examples that for him keep hope alive—Black Lives Matter; the indigenous stand along with allies at Standing Rock; the massive women’s marches in January 2017; Reverend Barber’s Moral Monday and Poor People’s campaigns.

And he reiterates his Race Matters theme,

Race matters in the 21st century are part of a moral and spiritual war over resources, power, souls and sensibilities. There can be no analysis of race matters without earth matters, class matters, gender matters and sexuality matters and, especially, empire matters. We must have solidarity on all these fronts.”

Such a masterful, comprehensive essay is rare indeed in the American Empire. But it leaves unanswered how we can advance solidarity on all these fronts. Using a baseball metaphor, West hits both fast balls and curves to get us to third base. But how do we get home to put a winning run on the scoreboard?

That requires more than ad hoc coalitions of various issue movements–important as they may be. There can be no moral just society until we break the political monopoly of the two-faced twin parties of capital with a party of our own.

In 2016, Cornel West backed the campaign of the Danish-style socialist Bernie Sanders to become the standard bearer of one of the parties of Empire. After that campaign failed, and Sanders backed Hillary Clinton, West supported the class agnostic Green Party candidate Jill Stein.

Trump’s victory revived lesser evilism. The moveon.org hucksters for the Democrats are again bird-dogging mass movements such as last weekend’s women’s marches– hailing them as part of a march to the polls in November. (More about that next time.)

My hope was kindled by events on the other side of the Atlantic—the rescued and rejuvenated British Labour Party. After being hijacked by the neoliberal war criminal Tony Blair, the Corbyn leadership is finally reclaiming its historic mission as the party of the working class. Its structure includes not only affiliated unions but also antiwar, antiracist, feminist and climate justice movements, as well as community based branches. And it’s not just an electoral machine—it also is building support for strikes and mass demonstrations against austerity.

In my opinion, an American labor party is key to uniting solidarity on all fronts—and taking power away from the destructive, and yes spiritually bankrupt, ruling class of Empire. Fighting back together, let’s bring it on home.

In Brief…

* Fossil Deaths at Sea—In yet another ship collision in the busy China sea, a freighter carrying American grain suffered no injuries and only relatively minor damage. But the other vessel, a tanker carrying a million barrels of highly volatile Iranian light crude was not so lucky. Thirty-two sailors perished as their ship erupted in flames—a fire that burned for six days before it sank releasing the unburned oil in to the sea.

* Fossil Deaths on Land—Details have been sparse about a gas explosion at a drill site in Oklahoma Monday that left five workers “missing” and presumed killed. Early reports could not even confirm whether the drilling was intended for oil or gas. The OSHA investigation was delayed because of the government shutdown.

* The Times They Are a Changing—A New York Times story began, “Journalists at The Los Angeles Times voted overwhelmingly to form a union despite aggressive opposition from the paper’s management team, reversing more than a century of anti-union sentiment at one of the biggest newspapers in the country.” The vote wasn’t close—248-44.

* In Passing—I briefly had a chance to collaborate with Paul Booth in 1965 when I was assigned by the Young Socialist Alliance to work with the SDS national office in Chicago to build the first national demonstration against the Vietnam war. Unlike many of his New Left colleagues, Booth was a skilled organizer and SDS should be remembered for being the catalyst for the mass antiwar movement that followed. SDS soon split in to many fragments and Booth chose a career in the union movement with AFSCME. After a long bout with leukemia, Paul Booth passed away last week at age 74.

That’s all for this week.

If you’re not already signed up you can get the Week In Review free of charge in one of the following ways.

http://www.workdayminnesota.org/sites/workdayminnesota.org/themes/workdayminnesota/images/social/large/rss.png Really Simple Syndication (RSS)

Simply send your name and e-mail address to billonasch[at]kclabor.org

Follow Bill Onasch on Google +

Powered By Blogger Our companion Labor Advocate news blog posts articles of interest to working people by 9AM Central, Monday-Friday.

Our sole source of operating income is reader contributions. If you can help please visit the KC Labor Donate page.

Privacy Policy. We don’t share any information about our readers with anyone else—period.

The original content we provide is copyrighted and may not be reproduced by commercial media without our consent. However, labor movement and other nonprofit media may reproduce with attribution.