Jun 272016

onaschoutsmall  by Bill Onasch

Way Out

That’s how the exit signs read in the London Underground, aka Tube, what us Yanks call the Subway. It’s not always clear where you will be once you reach “out.” But, as a visitor who more than once alighted at the wrong station, I can testify you can’t go back the same way.

52 percent of those voting on Brexit—a referendum deciding whether the United Kingdom should stay in or leave the European Union—could hardly wait to shake the dust of the EU from their feet on the Way Out. EU leaders promptly responded by asking them to make their exit brisk—and mind the door so it doesn’t hit you in the backside.

Brexit is making climate and environmental scientists and activists nervous. An article in Inside Climate News quotes one,

It leaves me shocked, disappointed and extremely concerned about the future of environmental protections in the UK,’ James Thornton, the chief executive of ClientEarth, a non-profit environmental law organization with offices in London, Brussels and Warsaw, said in a statement. ‘Many of the laws which my organization uses to ensure that nature and health are protected in Britain were drawn up with the UK’s agreement in Brussels. Now as the UK prepares to go it alone, we have no idea which laws will be retained.’”

Before commenting on developments in other countries I always check what cothinkers on the scene are saying. All of the “hard left” are resolutely opposed to both the British ruling class and the alliance of European rulers in the EU. But they were divided over Brexit. Some hailed it as a major disruption to neoliberal capitalism—patently true–and joined the far right supporting leave.

But the group I know best and most closely identify with—Socialist Resistance, the British section of the Fourth International—had, in my opinion, a more sober assessment of what’s going on while they supported a vote to remain. Here are some excerpts from their initial response to the vote,

The Brexit vote to leave the EU is a victory for the right-wing xenophobes and a disaster for the struggle against austerity in Britain. It is a victory for racism and a mandate to strengthen the borders of Britain against migration. We say that it is a disaster not because we have the slightest illusion in for the EU or its institutions—we regard it as a neo-liberal bosses club. Nor because we have any time whatsoever for the reactionary official ‘remain’ campaign led by [Tory Prime Minister] Cameron, who with his so-called renegotiation set out to worsen the conditions of workers in this country including migrant workers. It is because an exit from the EU at this time and in this way will push the political situation in Britain sharply to the right and weaken the struggle against austerity. It will also be a disaster for every migrant, refugee, and minority in the country….

Jeremy Corbyn [left-wing Labor Party shadow Prime Minister] played a principled role during the referendum campaign – calling for a vote to stay in but with no illusions in the EU or its institutions. His interview on Sky TV News in the final week, for example, was filled with opposition to xenophobia, privatisation and austerity in front of a predominantly young and engaging audience. Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell made a radical call against austerity and racism at a large ‘Another Europe is Possible’ rally in London…

If Labour is to win an election, likely to come at the end of the year, against a Tory Party led by a newly invigorated and right-moving Boris Johnson-Michael Gove leadership with a manifesto to curb immigration and claiming the authority of the referendum, it can only do so with a radical left programme that opposes austerity in all its forms and supports the right of migrants and all workers. If Corbyn is prepared to fight on such a platform, which we expect he would, the left should get fully behind him.”

This seems a sensible approach to me.

A Better Europe Is Possible” is a variation of a slogan once popularized by European socialists—For a Socialist United States of Europe. The European Union is certainly not that and it is structured to ensure it never will become that. Similar obstacles are incorporated in the “checks and balances” of the Federal government in the USA. Eliminating those roadblocks to allow the working class majority to govern in our interests will require a political and social revolution more thorough-going then the one led by democratic socialist Senator Sanders.

But let’s consider a scenario only marginally more far-fetched than Brexit. What if a right-wing racist, xenophobic, LGBT-bashing, anti-union state government—like North Carolina for example—moved to exit the USA? That certainly would disrupt the bosses’ rule. Would we then support it? Ignore it?

I think not. Just as the American followers of Karl Marx rallied around the first Republican President against secession of North Carolina and other slave holding states 155 years ago, we would fight their exit today from the protections of the Bill of Rights, civil rights legislation, OSHA, EPA, Fair Labor Standards Act, Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, etc, etc.

Of course independence as expression of self-determination by those dominated by other countries is a different matter. The peoples of Scotland and occupied Ireland voted against leaving the EU—but want to exit the UK. I believe we should defend the right to an independent Scotland and a unified Ireland.

It’s hard to predict the depth and tempo of the ramifications of Brexit which will be felt far beyond Her Majesty’s jurisdiction. As a couple of wise Germans once advised groups like Socialist Resistance long ago—we should have no interests separate and apart from those of the working class. If in all countries we stick to this core framework we can figure out the most complicated questions—and ultimately our side will prevail.

What the Revolution Won In St Louis

The Democrat Platform Committee wound up their deliberations early Saturday morning. They absorbed a few demands of Senator Bernie Sanders’ Political Revolution but they weren’t singing The Internationale with raised fists at the end. The Associated Press reported,

Democrats approved a draft of the party platform early Saturday that includes steps to break up large Wall Street banks, advocates for a $15 an hour wage and urges the abolition of the death penalty, reflecting the influence of Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign. Supporters of presumptive Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton defeated measures pushed by Sanders’ allies that would have promoted a Medicare-for-all single-payer health care system, a carbon tax to address climate change and impose a moratorium on hydraulic fracking.”

Breaking up big banks is hardly part of the “democratic socialist” tradition Bernie claims to embrace. It is a muddle-headed “reform” that aims at size of institutions rather than class control of money. The Socialist Party of Gene Debs—whose icon graces Bernie’s office–called for nationalizing the entire banking system.

The 15 dollar demand is two bucks more than the presumptive nominee favored—and 4.90 more than the President proposed. The 15 minimum has already been won in a few states and numerous cities—with little support from Democrats. The victories were driven by strikes and demonstrations of low wage workers and 15 Now coalitions through mass pressure on politicians and ballot measures enabled by petitions in working class communities. There’s every indication that these independent efforts will continue even through the election campaign.

Opposition to capital punishment—a worthy reform–has, at times, been in previous platforms. Instead we got harsher sentences from Democrats, such as Three Strikes and Out, introduced by President Bill Clinton—receiving a supportive vote by Bernie.

The ruling class will not feel the least bit threatened by the Donkey Platform now that deal-breakers on health care and climate measures have been abandoned.

Denial In Coal Country

On Thursday, the United Mine Workers of America announced a tentative agreement with the Bituminous Coal Operators Association. Back in the day of John L Lewis, hundreds of thousands were covered by this contract. That was when railroads owned their own mines to keep their steam engines running and most homes, stores, and public buildings were heated by the most abundant fossil fuel. Picks and shovels were the main tools of union miners.

Miners Public Employees Rally

Today it includes only a few mines—all owned by Murray Energy. No details were released but union president Cecil Roberts was honest about its shortcomings—but less frank about the reasons for the decline of the coal industry,

We are pleased that the BCOA and UMWA have reached this very important tentative agreement, which will go a long way in ensuring that Murray American’s UMWA-represented employees are able to continue working, even in this very depressed coal marketplace. Indeed, over the past several years, the United States coal industry has been absolutely destroyed by policies of the Obama Administration and by the increased use of natural gas to generate electricity. Coal markets and prices have generally been cut in half. This tentative agreement provides the BCOA and UMWA with a path forward, even in these extremely difficult times.”

Brother Roberts neglected to mention new technology such as longwall automation and environmentally devastating mountaintop removal, and nonunion mines, introduced by the coal operators to slash labor costs. And most important—he skipped the inconvenient truth that continued burning of coal is now recognized as a major factor in global warming. All these factors led to massive loss of jobs and union members.

Those jobs aren’t coming back—nor should they. To have a shot at stopping climate change before it wrecks our biosphere we need to leave coal—along with oil, natural gas, and bitumen—in the ground. But as we do this for the better good of all we must assume an obligation to leave no coal miner, or their families, or the communities that have depended on coal, behind. We need to offer them not charity–but solidarity.

Coal miners need a Just Transition program to guarantee union wages, along with retraining and relocation help, to get them in to suitable new employment. And we need to guarantee the pension and health care plans for retired miners—in danger of imminent collapse. That’s a vital component of class and climate justice. I hope brother Roberts and the UMWA will come to recognize this is the way forward.


Short-seated SCOTUS deadlocked over a Republican suit challenging President Obama’s executive order delaying deportations—and offering possible work permits, even amnesty–to about five million undocumented workers. Since the GOP had prevailed at the previous level of appeal, the executive order has now been effectively quashed.

Though the White House said they would only actively work to deport immigrants who commit serious crimes, a New York Times article entitled Low-Priority Immigrants Still Swept Up in Net of Deportation cites disturbing examples to the contrary. One was among the many unaccompanied children fleeing violence in Honduras who turned themselves in to the Border Patrol. He had been sent to live with his parents in North Carolina. Now 19, he’s been ordered back to the dangerous land from which he fled.

The President had hoped to leave a legacy of “immigration reform” with the order struck down by the courts. Now he will have to live with a more accurate memory—the most deportations of any administration.

That’s all for this week.

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