Xi, Trump and Rising China in the World

Posted by Janet Tuckers on June 24, 2017 under Pre-Convention Discussion | Be the First to Comment

Xi, Trump and Rising China in the World

by Duncan McFarland
Center for Marxist Education, Cambridge Mass. (June 2017)

The Chinese Communist Party will hold its Nineteenth Party Congress in Fall 2017. Held every five years, the congress makes important decisions about leadership and policy. The course of China-US relations is one important issue as China seeks to work out a relationship with the new Trump administration, whose rhetoric was at first harsh but then moderated. However, the longer term US policy towards China is not clear but will include both competition and cooperation; China’s history will help shape its response. Another important program for China this year is the huge One Belt, One Road initiative of economic development projects in Asia, East Europe and East Africa, with major Chinese funding. Education is key as the US Left and progressives should work for peace and friendship with China and oppose the US military buildup in East Asia, seeking dialogue and not confrontation. China is again reaching out to socialists worldwide.

Trump and China

The US-China relationship is one of considerable global importance on several levels: political, economic and the situation of socialism and the international working class. Trump in his presidential campaign adopted a very hostile anti-China tone. However, after Trump assumed power, he changed; his actions towards China proved largely a continuation of established policy. Why did this happen? What are the prospects for the future of the relationship?

Trump is his campaign elevated the now standard anti-China rhetoric of both Democrats and Republicans to a new level of belligerence. He blamed China’s supposed cheating approach to trade for swindling the US, resulting in huge trade deficits and job loss. Trump said he would declare China a currency manipulator on his first day of office and spoke of applying a 45% tariff to Chinese goods. Shockingly, he took a congratulatory phone call from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen and referred to the one-China policy, the foundation of US-China relations for 40 years, as a “bargaining chip.” Rex Tillerson, the nominee for secretary of state, said China should be denied access to its new installations in the reefs and small islands of the South China sea, suggesting possible military conflict. If implemented, this approach would have yielded a rapid deterioration in US-China relations.

However, after the new administration took office, much of this changed. The one-China policy was reaffirmed and Chinese President Xi Jinping then agreed to receive a phone call from Trump. After review, the US announced that in fact China was actually not a currency manipulator. There was less chance of military confrontation in the South China sea. US withdrawal from the Trans Pacific Partnership reduced economic pressure. Secretary of State Tillerson during a visit to Beijing dropped the anti-China talk and even repeated some of Xi Jinping’s favorite rhetoric, calling for cooperation, nonconfrontation and mutual respect. Xi visited Trump in Florida in April and the talks seemed reasonably cordial with Xi proposing a 100-day process to overhaul the US-China trade relationship and inviting Trump to visit China soon. The US did bomb a Syrian air base in the middle of the two-day meeting and rushed to install an anti-ballistic missile system in South Korea. However, Trump seemed mostly concerned with pressuring China to adopt harsh sanctions against North Korea.

Why did the new US administration moderate its position? US capitalism-imperialism since the 1980s has been ambivalent in its attitude towards China. While all sectors of capital want to see counter-revolutionary regime change in Beijing leading to us US-compliant government, strategies are different. With the expansion of China’s private sector in the 1980s, US corporations have made big profits in China and many companies like Boeing, Apple, GM and Ford have major commitments. Wall Street banks seek to penetrate Chinese markets. This section of US capital supports normal relations to pursue their lucrative business interests and wants to avoid war; their strategy is soft power. They think that Western liberal values and practices like democracy, human rights, freedom of speech, direct elections and consumerism will appeal to youth, grow a new middle class and undermine communism. The US role is to support Chinese elements who will oppose and eventually topple the Communist Party of China and institute Western-style political institutions.

Other sectors of US capital, however, see a rising Chinese colossus as the fundamental threat and obstacle to US global hegemony. This group focuses on long-term strategic considerations, is more ideological and less concerned with immediate corporate profits. It backs the “pivot” to Asia or encirclement of China with bases and alliances. US support for reviving militarism in Japan and installation of the THAAD anti-ballistic missile system in South Korea are elements of this approach. Peter Navarro, head of the White House trade council, advocates the “America first” version of this strategy; his books include “The Coming China Wars” and “Death by China.” Trump apparently was influenced by Navarro during his campaign but more moderate influences emphasizing continuity — perhaps his son-in-law Kushner — seemed to have gained favor since the administration took power.

The Chinese government has adopted a wait-and-see attitude towards Trump, responding not to his talk but to his actions. President Xi is willing to negotiate trade but will not change his position on core issues bearing on national sovereignty. China, wanting to de-escalate military tension in the Korean peninsula, will work with the US if possible to do so; but the longer range situation dealing with the new administration is not clear.

Roots of China’s foreign policy

To understand China’s foreign policy, it is necessary to know some basic history. China was for many centuries the dominant power in East Asia. This changed in 1839-42 as British naval power defeated China in the First Opium War beginning the “century of humiliation.” China subsequently lost a series of wars to Britain, France and Japan and lost control over its coastal seas, culminating in the US Seventh Fleet asserting control over the Taiwan Straits in 1949, thereby enabling Jiang Kaishek to take power in Taiwan. Today, China feels it is reasserting its traditional position in the South and East China Seas, important for national security. Tensions have decreased in 2017 as Asian countries are moving towards negotiations and avoiding confrontation, but China’s neighbors are very aware of the long history of Chinese regional domination.

Twists and Turns in the People’s Republic

During the 1930s and 1940s, Mao Zedong and Zhou Enlai repeatedly expressed the desire to have friendly relations with the US, and welcomed Americans such as the journalist Edgar Snow and Canadians like the physician Norman Bethune. But with the Korean War in 1950, Chinese troops fought the US in bitter warfare. China allied with the Soviet Union and Mao described the nuclear-armed US as a “paper tiger.”

China’s foreign policy has long been based on the Five Principles of Peaceful Coexistence, jointly issued with India in 1954 and adopted by the Bandung Conference in 1955 and the non-aligned movement: 1) mutual respect for territorial integrity and sovereignty, 2) non-aggression, 3) non-interference in internal affairs, 4) equality and cooperation for mutual benefit, 5) peaceful coexistence.

Major policy disputes led to the Sino-Soviet split in the 1960s. Eventually China emerged from its relative isolation during the Cultural Revolution to advance its “Three Worlds Theory” in 1974. This targeted both US imperialism and “Soviet social-imperialism” and positioned China as leader of the Third World. However, China’s strong anti-Soviet stance often led to alignment with US strategy and led to confusion in national liberation and left wing movements.

Deng Xiaoping, taking power after Mao’s death, adopted the “crouching tiger” approach — lie low, build up strength, don’t take leadership. This was the period of rapid industrialization and expansion of trade based on low-wages, exports and encouragement of foreign investment to access foreign markets. Paramount was the need to build a strong economy and advanced technology. Friendly relations with Japan and the West were the priority at the beginning, although eventually China became a huge trading partner with many countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Thus Chinese influence grew because of its economic clout.

The speed of this expansion was facilitated by China’s “no strings attached” trade and investment policy that makes no political demands on developing countries, in contrast to the IMF, World Bank and Western countries which pressure for neoliberal policies, structural adjustment and austerity budgets. Former colonies in particular appreciate the opportunity to do business on these terms, an application of the “non-interference” point of the Five Principles.

Today, “crouching tiger” has been replaced by “China’s peaceful rise,” introduced by President Hu Jintao in 2005. Beijing wants a peaceful global environment to enable its continued economic and social development. China opposes hegemony and supports the trend towards a multi-polar world. This means commitment to multilateral institutions such as the United Nations, the G77 plus China, the G20, the Shanghai Cooperation organization and BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa).

Premier Li Keqiang, at the National People’s Congress in March 2017, said, “China is ready to join hands with the international community and build a new type of international relations based on cooperation and mutual benefit and make new contributions to building a community of shared future for all humankind.” This means upholding global multilateral institutions and pushing economic globalization to be “more inclusive, mutually beneficial and equitable.” President Xi Jinping has called for a new type of “win/win diplomacy” among countries where cooperation is primary and relations based on mutual benefit. Increasing globalization is is the long term trend but it must be inclusive and not controlled by corporate interests.

Thus China’s foreign policy is based on lofty ideals, which overlap with peace movement sentiment. Like most developing countries and people of the world, China wants economic and social development, not war. Peace/antiwar activists should examine the implementation of this policy in both its accomplishments and problems.

Rising China’s new economic initiatives

The new Chinese-initiated Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank was boycotted by the US but most Asian and European countries, including the U.K., are participating. The bank is helping finance a major new international economic effort: the “Belt and Road,” an ambitious centerpiece of Xi Jinping’s international program. Launched in 2013, this plan includes large-scale cooperative development and infrastructure projects involving dozens of countries in Southeast and South Asia, and west to Central Asia and Russia, to the Middle East, Eastern Europe and the east coast of Africa. Fifteen Chinese provinces are also working on the transportation, energy and trade projects. Favorable financial terms are extended through the Silk Road Fund and the AIIB. At an international meeting in May, Xi announced $100 billion funding of projects with eventual total investment projected at one trillion dollars. The Belt (overland through central Asia) and Road (new maritime silk road leading from Southeast Asia across the Indian Ocean) if successful will considerably strengthen China’s international economic influence as well as bolster development in China’s poorer interior provinces. And the Belt and Road is only part of China’s huge program of investment in the developing world.

Military modernization

The Obama administration initiated the “pivot” or rebalancing to Asia-Pacific, often seen as a strategy to thwart a rising China. China is modernizing its military with a new emphasis on coordinated air and sea operations and ability to fight and win local high-tech wars. In part, this is a response to the US military buildup. China is also modernizing its arsenal of nuclear weapons, which consists of about 300 nuclear warheads and long range ballistic missiles. The Chinese have a no first strike policy and advocate nuclear disarmament; however, China also feels that the largest and most aggressive nuclear superpower, the United States, should take the lead in the disarmament process. China has just one overseas base, a refueling station in Djibouti to help with patrols against pirate ships off the coast of East Africa. The Chinese have no formal military alliances although in recent years there have been large scale joint military exercises with Russia. China has a great deal of pride in its space exploration program to eventually reach the moon and Mars.

China and Climate Change

China is a signatory and strong supporter of the Paris Climate agreement. The Chinese join the Group of 77 in calling to broaden the scope of containing global warming to include considerations of historical responsibility for pollution and compensation for damage to the environment, and financial support from developed countries for green technologies in poorer countries. While still the world’s number one emitter of greenhouse gases, and plagued with a bad smog problem in major cities, the Chinese have been gradually reducing their dependency on coal and have committed to generating 20% of their energy from renewable resources by 2030. The government invests in renewables on a large scale and the country has the world’s biggest installation of solar and wind energy. Solar panels are manufactured with greater efficiency and lower prices for global export. Many feel that China will have an opportunity to be a world leader in fighting climate change especially as the US Trump administration has backed out of the Paris agreement; for example, California Governor Jerry Brown visited Beijing in June, met President Xi and signed an agreement for cooperation in low carbon technologies.

Domestic shifts

Shifts in domestic policy also affect China’s outlook on the world. China today has a mixed economy, with socialist and capitalistic sectors moving in the direction of more socialism, led by the Communist Party. The move towards strengthening socialism has been pronounced since the 2008 global recession. While growth has slowed, this is in part deliberate, due to the shift to a different economic model, the “new normal.” Moving away from an export-oriented, low wage strategy, China is now developing a more mature, innovation driven, service oriented economy; emphasis is on building domestic consumption and government services as drivers of growth and not manufacturing for export. China still refers to itself as in the first or primary stage of socialism, planning to achieve a moderately well-off society by 2021 and a developed socialist country by 2049.

Politically, 2017 is an important year as the communist party will convene its 19th congress in the Fall; this is a time of political maneuvering as the new leadership group is elected. Xi Jinping, recently named as a “core leader,” appears to be in a strong position. Under Xi, politics have shifted to the left, from a Western viewpoint; for example, there is more discussion of core socialist values, emphasis on Marxism-Leninism in education and critique of bourgeois Western influences. The leading role of the Communist Party has been affirmed. In foreign policy, Xi’s orientation has tilted toward the developing world and Russia, rather than accommodating the West and Japan for export markets.

The anti-corruption campaign

Former Communist Party General Secretary Hu Jintao, at his 2012 speech summing up ten years in office, identified problems within the communist party itself as the biggest threat to the Party’s support among the people and thus continuing in power. In addition to illegal activities such as bribery and nepotism, there are serious problems of bureaucratism and arrogance, and excessive perks among officials — all resented and thus creating a gap between the Party and the people. Soon after taking office in 2013, Xi Jinping launched a popular anti-corruption campaign targeting both “tigers and flies.” Numerous corrupt officials have been prosecuted. For example, Zhou Yangkong, former member of the Standing Committee of the Political Bureau, China’s most powerful political body, was sentenced to life in prison in 2015 for taking bribes.

Xi Jinping, at a high level meeting in Feb. 2014, stressed the importance of “core socialist values” as the ideological and moral foundation for China (Xinhua, 2/25/14). Emphasized at the 18th Party Congress in 2012, there was concern that China had lost its moral compass during its three-decade economic boom, as corruption, alienation and other social problems intensified, with increasing individualism and crass consumerism. At a Dec. 2016 conference in ideological and political work in China’s colleges and universities, President Xi strongly reaffirmed the supremacy of Marxism and socialism in Chinese institutions of higher learning. The greater emphasis of Marxist teachings has led to greater funding for research bodies such as the Academy of Marxism of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

China’s rising: unique in the world

China is a unique country: a 4000 year old civilization with 2000 years of feudalism giving way to both democratic and socialist revolutions in the 20th century, followed by a historic program of rapid industrialization. Today, China still has the world’s largest population and industrial working class, and an 89-million member communist party. China’s continuing rise is one of the most important features of the 21st century looking forward. Lives of Americans are impacted not only by Chinese made products but also by growing job producing investments. Chinese companies now own billion dollar enterprises such as AMC theaters, GE appliance division, Motorola mobile phones, Smithfield foods as well as New York’s Waldorf-Astoria hotel. Jobs are provided for about 100,000 Americans.

China rose from the relative isolation of the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s to the world’s largest trading country today, as measured in total value of imports and exports. One of the largest recipients of foreign direct investment starting in the 1980s, China is now the largest source of investment funds in the developing world, surpassing the World Bank and western institutions. Its military modernization is beginning to challenge US dominance in its coastal regions. Chinese influence in international relations is also increasing with an activist orientation in the United Nations, the Paris Climate Accord and international bodies such as the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. Founded in 2001, the SCO is an Eurasian political economic and security organization; with India and Pakistan joining in 2017, the SCO now represents about half the world’s population.

China is also rebuilding a center for the world’s working class parties. For example, the World Socialism Forum is held in Beijing in October. The World Association for Political Economy in Shanghai publishes the World Review of Political Economy and organizes international conferences; the 2017 conference is in Moscow. Xi Jinping’s “The Governance of China” was published in English and distributed in US bookstores, and exchange visits by Chinese Marxist scholars are more frequent. In addition, a series of Confucius institutes around the world promote Chinese culture and language at colleges and universities.

Education needed

China is not well understood by the Left, progressives or the US general public. US mainstream media, quite positive in the 1980s when the government was expanding the private market, is now mostly one-sided and negative during a period when socialism is strengthening. A balanced perspective is needed, telling both sides of China’s complex and often contradictory reality. Socialists and communists too need to study socialist construction from the Chinese perspective. A critical part of understanding is to read the Chinese press as well as western coverage to get a balanced, and more complete and accurate picture. When government relations are uncertain, people-to-people contacts assume great importance, such as study tours, exchanges and cultural activities.

Conclusion

The pursuit of dominance by US imperialism in the context of declining capitalism will sharpen global class contradictions and tensions with the developing world. Capitalist United States could directly oppose the People’s Republic of China, the product of a socialist revolution. The Pentagon a few years ago created a contingency plan for war with China, called “air/sea battle.” Such a war is considered quite possible by those who favor US hegemony and see China as the main obstacle. Such a war would be a disaster for the US, leading to economic dislocation and political repression. The Left and progressives should work for peace and friendship with China as a basic part of a democratic US foreign policy. Socialist and working class organizations should actively pursue international contacts. We should oppose militarism at home and abroad, cut the military budget, and support international cooperation such as the Paris peace accord and building a multipolar world. There are vast possibilities for mutual exchange which would enrich Western, Chinese and world civilization. The arc of history bends towards justice — there will be a better world!

United and Popular Front: Lessons from 1935-2017

Posted by Janet Tuckers on June 6, 2017 under Strategy | Be the First to Comment

United and Popular Front:
Lessons from 1935-2017

By Paul Krehbiel

Donald Trump won the presidency in November 2016 on promises of jobs, coupled with appeals to those swayed by racism, nationalism, and misogyny. He also promoted the undermining of human rights, advocated expanding corporate power, appealed to white workers while pushing anti-working-class policies, scapegoated immigrants and Muslims, promoted militarism and the erosion of democracy, and championed authoritarianism. A number of scholars have written about many of these characteristics in politics, such as Robert Paxton and others, as they were key elements of fascist regimes that came to power in Europe after WWI, especially Mussolini in Italy in 1922, and Hitler in Germany in 1933. Some people today are asking, “Is Trump a fascist, and will he bring fascism to the US?” While Trump’s actions aren’t nearly as brutal as Hitler’s and Mussolini’s in the president’s early days in power, it’s still too early to tell. But Trump’s statements and actions have alarmed people from all walks of life. And history has shown that a country can turn to the right very quickly.

Millions of people are protesting Trump’s ascension to power, beginning with the powerful Women’s Marches the day after Trump assumed office. Street demonstrations, rallies, mass Congressional phone calls and town hall meetings, and much more have continued since. Discussions abound regarding how best to build this resistance movement. While we can learn from many sources, the success of the United Front and Popular Front strategies of the 1930’s and beyond provide important lessons for us today.

The United Front and Popular Front strategy was developed by Georgi Dimitrov, leader of the Bulgarian Communist Party and a leader of the Communist International. Dimitrov presented his strategy at the Seventh Congress of the Communist International in 1935. He said that all working-class and socialist organizations should work together in a United Front to defend their interests, and to resist and fight to defeat and overthrow fascism. He then said this United Front should also promote the creation of a broader, Popular Front, that would be comprised of the forces in the United Front but would reach out to all other sectors of society that are against fascism, including capitalists who opposed it. Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy were arresting and killing targeted groups in their own countries, and invading foreign lands, waging war, and taking over other governments. They were rolling over traditional defense forces with lightening speed and power, some of whom simply surrendered in the face of vastly superior military power. Fear spread across Europe and beyond. This dire state of affairs led the Communists to develop a better, more comprehensive strategy for fighting and defeating fascism.

Fascism and the Crisis of Capitalism

Dimitrov described the roots and rise of fascism as a logical response, from the point of view of capitalists, to resolve the severe internal contradictions and crises within capitalism, reverse its falling rate of profit, and save the capitalist system from growing turmoil, chaos and threat of collapse or overthrow. The solution was to merge the most reactionary sectors of monopoly and finance capital with strong right-wing political and military forces. The goal was to stop capitalism from hemorrhaging assets and end all threats to its power and rule. It’s chief method was to cripple democratic institutions and working-class organizations such as unions that the working-class and the people as a whole had used to wrest concessions from capital in the past, which cut into capitalist’s profits. The result of imposing fascism was the further enrichment of select corporations and political groups, and their dictatorial control of the government, the economy, and the major institutions of society.

Today in the US we see the merger of right-wing political and corporate forces at the highest level of government, in the persons of billionaire real estate mogul Donald Trump in the president’s office, with former CEO of Exxon Mobil Rex Tillerson as Secretary of State, General James “Mad Dog” Mattis as head of the Department of Defense, combined with extreme right-wing, neo-fascist media white supremacist and former Goldman Sachs banking executive Steve Bannon as Trump’s chief strategist and advisor, to name just four. While capitalism is not on the verge of collapse, it is wrought with growing internal contradictions and crisis that the ruling capitalist class finds increasingly difficult to resolve. Fascism is an attempt at a solution to this economic crisis.

This merger of corporate and extreme right-wing power are key elements in the construction of fascism. No one can predict whether the group around Trump will try to impose a fascist regime, or not. Nor can anyone answer the question, if the Trumpists move more decisively toward fascism will it be similar to Nazi Germany and Fascist Italy? If it happens, there could be features of Nazi Germany, or some other fascist or right-wing country, or develop its own unique forms of right-wing control. A major motivator for a greater turn to the right could be another major economic crisis. While there are some similarities between Trump’s group, and Hitler’s and Mussolini’s groups, there are also differences that should be recognized. It is not ordained that fascism will come to America. Much depends upon the size and scope and direction of the anti-Trump, anti-fascist resistance movement. There are good historical examples of mass movements that stopped fascism. One country that succeeded in the early 1940’s was Norway. Other countries overthrew fascist regimes and established socialism. There are enough warning signs within the Trump movement to cause concern, and impel us to plan for a sharper turn to the right.

Popular Front: Alliance of Necessity

Unfortunately, the leaders and major political forces in most European countries in the 1920’s and 1930’s, for the most part, weren’t prepared for the rise of Hitler and Mussolini, nor other right-wing dictators in other countries. Divisions and sectarianism on the left and within the ruling classes of many countries existed, as well as among other sectors of society, and there was an under-estimation of just how serious the threat was until it was too late. Much horror, suffering and the deaths of tens of millions resulted.

In 1939, the United Kingdom and France and other smaller states joined forces to fight Nazi Germany, Italy and Japan. France succumbed, but a left-led resistance organized a French underground anti-fascist movement. The Soviet Union joined the fight against the Nazi’s in June of 1941 after Germany invaded the USSR, and the USA joined in December 1941 after Japan bombed Pearl Harbor. Out of necessity the UK and the USA and smaller capitalist countries recognized that they had to ally with every country opposed to fascism, and that included the socialist Soviet Union. They put aside their anti-communism temporarily and joined forces, creating a Popular Front against fascism, exactly the kind of broad coalition the Communists had first proposed in 1935. The UK, USA and other capitalist countries also saw the necessity of creating a broad Popular Front domestically as well to mobilize and unite all forces in every society to build the greatest power possible to defeat fascism. Communists, socialists, and trade unionists worked together with major capitalists, including joining the military in capitalist countries to fight fascism. This strategy, and this strategy alone, was responsible for defeating fascism. Dimitrov’s strategy was published as a book, For a United and Popular Front. A similar broad front is emerging in the US in the resistance to Trump today, which is exactly what is needed.

Some on the left opposed the Popular Front strategy, believing that it meant selling out to capitalism and the corporate billionaires. When Dimitrov proposed his strategy to defeat fascism he did not intend that the working-class, the unions and the left give up their views, nor their independent organizations. Nor did the capitalists give up their support for capitalism. The Popular Front was a necessary temporary multi-class alliance to amass enough power to achieve a common goal: the defeat of fascism. The left, and especially the Communist Parties in many countries, including the US, pursued this strategy since Dimitrov’s 1935 speech. They did broad outreach everywhere, and helped build industrial unions, fought Jim Crow racism, and contributed to the defeat of fascism. As a result, the Communist Party USA gained a wider acceptance in society, and grew from less than 10,000 members to 100,000 members over the course of ten years. These same principles brought victories to the labor movement in the 1930’s with the organizations of powerful unions, the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s, the anti-war movement during the war in Vietnam, the women’s movement, the LBGTQ movement, and more. The right always counter-attacked in an effort to stop progress or roll back gains that the people made. Too often history took two steps forward and one step back.

After fascism was defeated in 1945, the capitalist elite in the United States immediately turned against the left, domestically and internationally. In Greece, for example, the US capitalist class and their government supported the Greek capitalists and political right to crush a powerful Greek Communist-led movement for socialism. In the US, the US corporate elite and their right-wing allies launched a propaganda and action campaign to malign the Communists, socialists and other progressives by launching an anti-communist crusade that painted anyone left of center as a Communist. This right-wing movement purged Communists, socialists, progressives and strong-willed principled liberals from their unions, teaching jobs, from Hollywood and many other sectors of society. This was a part of capitalism’s overall ramping up of the Cold War to oppose leftism everywhere in the world. The attack was so ruthless that it wounded the left nearly everywhere. In the US even the broad liberal mainstream of society, most of whom supported capitalism, was retaliated against and weakened. Liberalism, in the eyes of this conservative ruling capitalist bloc, opened up society to a discussion of different ideas and different views, including leftist views. This was seen as a threat to their singular, right-wing philosophy and control of the world as they wanted to shape it. But even the most repressive conditions were successfully resisted. Fascist Italy was one such place.

Togliatti and Underground Organizing

Palmiro Togliatti, leader of the Italian Communist Party, developed a strategy to deal with extremely repressive conditions. He deepened the strategy to fight fascism inside Italy where unions were banned, democracy crushed, and repression ran rampant. Togliatti told Communist Party workers in a series of secret lectures conducted underground that they had to go where ever workers went. There were popular local clubs where workers went after work to drink beer and wine and socialize. The Fascist Party had come into many of these clubs, gave speeches, and put their fascist emblem on the door. Many Communist and other progressive workers stayed away, repelled by the fascist emblem and speeches inside. But Togliatti told the Communist workers that they had to go inside and socialize with the workers. Not everyone at these clubs agreed with the fascist program, Togliatti explained. Listen to what people talked about, how they reacted to news reports about Fascist activities, or Resistance activities, he told them. When a worker questioned a Fascist act, even quietly, sit with him and become friends. Listen and contribute to the conversation, helping the worker see other negative things about the regime that he may not have noticed. Help him make connections, advance his political consciousness, and when the time was right, agree to meet outside the club, privately for more in depth discussions. Eventually this led to recruitment into Resistance activities. Because the Communists adopted this method of work, after Mussolini was captured and executed and the Fascist government overthrown, the Communist Party came out of the underground as one of the strongest political parties in the country. Their reputation in building the resistance was very high, and they got elected to political offices in cities and towns across Italy in the post war period. Togliatti’s work was published in a book, Lectures on Fascism.

Bernie Sanders was Correct: Stop Trump

While we don’t have fascism in the United States as we go to press, there are lessons to be learned from these historical examples. When Bernie Sanders did not win the Democratic Party nomination, he endorsed Hillary Clinton for president. A number of Bernie supporters were angry and upset, and some felt betrayed. Others, including this Bernie supporter, argued that Bernie was correct by urging people to vote for Hillary, if only because Trump was much worse. Taking such a position does not mean that one supports everything Hillary stands for, such as her close ties to Wall Street and support for neo-liberalism, the fear that she may be too quick to go to war on inaccurate information and faulty arguments. The reality is that Trump is a part of the billionaire class, as Bernie called them, and his history and campaign abuses spelled a sharp turn to the right, and his policies would be harmful to many people on nearly every issue. Hillary, on the other hand, would have worked for some positive programs, based on her past, such as her history of helping children, and support for many social programs. While Trump isn’t a full-blown fascist as of this writing, the anti-fascist strategies of the 1930’s and 1940’s can guide us today, especially in building the largest possible front against the Trump-Pence-GOP-rightwing-corporate alliance.

Fortunately, the anti-Trump Resistance is pursuing this path today, reaching out to the broadest political forces if they oppose Trump even on one issue. Our Resistance movement is winning important victories: stopping of Trump’s ban on Muslim’s entering the country, the defeat of Trump’s and House Speaker Paul Ryan’s effort to “repeal and replace” Obamacare, Labor’s victory in stopping anti-labor Andrew Puzder from becoming secretary of the Labor Department, failure to force Mexico to pay for Trump’s counter-productive wall, and more. These victories came about because huge coalitions of people from all walks of life and all social classes came together to accomplish a common goal. These efforts parallel the victorious campaigns against the right and fascism 60 years ago. The lesson for today is clear: Unite the many to defeat the Trump cabal, while building the movement that can usher in an era of peace, equality, economic security, and justice for all.

Paul Krehbiel is a long-time trade union activist, former president of United Union Representatives of Los Angeles, a coordinator of Los Angeles Labor for Bernie, and is Co-chair of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism.

US and North Korea: Three Steps to Peace

Posted by Janet Tuckers on May 13, 2017 under Pre-Convention Discussion | Be the First to Comment

US and North Korea: Three Steps to Peace (  5/8/17)

Statement of the Peace and Solidarity Committee of Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism

1) The United States immediately reduce tensions by ceasing threatening rhetoric and aggressive military posturing, and commit to a political resolution of differences.  This includes canceling the THAAD anti-ballistic missile system, a major escalation.

2) The United States agree to the Chinese and international proposal that the US and South Korea suspend joint military maneuvers and that North Korea suspend its nuclear weapons and missile program simultaneously.  This will de-escalate the crisis and allow for the resumption of the six-party talks for a nuclear free Korean peninsula.

3) The United States enter into direct negotiations with North Korea to sign a peace treaty officially ending the Korean War of 1950-53, and establish normal diplomatic and trade relations.

Background

The United States in cooperation with China can easily improve the tense situation on the Korean peninsula by rejecting military action and adopting a policy of diplomacy and reconciliation.

Korea was annexed by Japan before World War I.  Then Korea was divided at the end of World War II as Soviet troops moved into the North and US troops into the South, prior to accepting the Japan’s surrender.   The people of Korea wanted and still want reunification. Kim Il Sung, the leader of the Korean Workers Party in the North, was also an outstanding leader of the resistance to Japanese imperialism and thus a national hero.  In any fair, democratic national election, it was clear that Kim Il Sung would be elected president of reunified Korea.  To prevent this and protect US interests, the US appointed Syngman Rhee as President of South Korea.

Rhee suppressed popular political opposition and launched border attacks on the North. North Korean responded with an all-out military assault in 1950.
US bombing of North Korea created massive destruction, nearly demolishing all of North Korea, and there were millions of Korean casualties in the war.  This ended in an armistice in 1953. There was no permanent peace treaty, because the US refused to negotiate directly with North Korea.

Today the North Korean government’s central demand is a peace treaty ending the war and recognition as an equal among nations.  In the 1990s, North Korea suspended its enriched uranium and possible nuclear weapons program in exchange for assistance with different types of energy production.  This cooperation ended in 2001 when the Bush administration labeled North Korea as part of the “axis of evil.”

The North Korean government has reasonable proposals to work towards peace and deal with the nuclear weapons issue.  However, as long as it is confronted with a hostile US retaining “all options” including pre-emptive and nuclear war, North Korea will continue to develop its military strength that it sees as self-defense.  If the United States drops its refusal to negotiate directly with North Korea and moves towards normalized relations, the crisis would be ended quickly.  The Korean people do not want war. The American people do not want war. It is up to realists and progressives in the United States to demand enactment of the three steps to peace.

RIGHTS ERODING

Posted by Janet Tuckers on April 28, 2017 under Pre-Convention Discussion | Be the First to Comment

Labor Paeans—May 2017
RIGHTS ERODING
By Ira Gruppernisson2

Publis300px-0grupperhed by FORsooth, newspaper of Louisville, Kentucky chapter of F.O.R. {Fellowship of Reconciliation]

The Ancien (Old) Régime ruled in France from the Middle Ages until the late 18th century, when the exploited folk began taking-care-of-business (double-entendre intentional). It is called the French Revolution, and it abolished feudalism and the nobility. A Reign of Terror lasted from September 1793 until the fall of Robespierre in 1794. Its purpose was to purge France of enemies of the Revolution, domestic and foreign, as in bye bye Marie Antoinette.
In a reverse twist today, as the rights of poor and working class people in the U.S. are rapidly eroding under Trump, the sometimes liberal, sometimes milquetoast recent Obama regime is missed, but not by the large number of immigrants the U.S. deported under his orders. Nor do we miss the hyper-imperialist war-hawk views of his former Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton [Haiti (1994); Iraq (2002); Pakistan (2007, 2008); Afghanistan (2009); Libya (2011); Syria (2012)—ad nauseam].
The most reactionary sectors of the owning class seek to reverse gains made over the years in support of social and economic justice, and in opposition to racism, sexism, and war.
The greed is worldwide. Reports “Avaaz”:
“Elephants are being born without tusks — an extraordinary last bid to survive human cruelty and greed. We’re slaughtering these majestic beasts for ivory trinkets! But for the first time ever China just announced it’s shutting down its market. Now if we push Europe to follow suit we could end ivory forever.”
The U.S. fightback is encouraging, from the historic Women’s March, to the Democratic Party beginning to wake up (well, sort of). The struggle, by the UAW (United Auto Workers), to organize the huge Nissan automobile factory in Canton, Mississippi (6,400 mostly African American workers), is promising. A labor-clergy alliance is in support.
The union charged, in March, that Nissan Motor Co stopped workers from handing out literature outside a plant gate. As well, the company faces fines for safety violations in its Mississippi and Tennessee plants.
The close trade and economic relationship developing between President Donald Trump and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe could well be tested in this battle. Neither is a friend of the working class.
“Nissan became legendary in Japanese industry for crushing one of the country’s most militant unions. This happened in 1953 during a famous 100-day strike against Nissan. The company used the strike to break a powerful, left-wing union that was one of the most influential in Japan.
“The Confederation of Japan Automobile Workers’ Unions (JAW), the union that took over, soon became a symbol of the company union-style of labor relations that can still be seen in certain Japanese industries today. Its website actually celebrates the dissolution of ‘Zen Jidosha,’ as the militant union was known.” (Tim Shorrock, In These Times). Is there a parallel with the crushing of the C.I.O. labor federation in the U.S. in the late 1940’s?nisson3
James Meredith, the first African American to graduate from the University of Mississippi, conducted a March Against Fear (alone) in 1966—and was shot. (I joined this march soon thereafter). In Canton, the marchers were greeted with cops firing huge amounts of tear gas. Will this happen again, in the same Canton, all these years later, this time at the Nissan factory?
Japan, China, Mexico and Germany have huge trade surpluses in relation to the U.S. How will the Nissan organizing drive impact this?
Misnamed Right to Work laws are preventing unions from organizing the unorganized. Here in Kentucky, we had been the only state in the South that was not a right-to-work state. Not any longer—and our state and city labor movements, in dire straits, are struggling to figure out how to get our act together.
Will the working class be able to push the labor movement into really effective action? Will we stand with the Muslim and Jewish communities in their fight against the Klan, Nazis and others?
Will we stand with the Asian Pacific American Labor Alliance when it cries out: “The Trump effect is real; white supremacy is endangering our families and friends. We’re seeing more incidents of hate against communities of South Asian – or those perceived to be – descent. It’s clear that more than ever we need to resist, organize, and fight back against any and all attempts that put our lives at risk.”
Will we fight for single-payer healthcare (a song many decades ago is so painful: “When you’re too old to work and you’re too young to die.”)? Will we effectively protest the genius of an Arkansas state legislator, who wants publicly supported schools to exclude works of Howard Zinn? Why? Maybe because Howard wrote: “If you look at history from the perspective of the slaughtered and mutilated, it’s a different story.”
There is wonderful mobilizing going on in the U.S. today. But is there sufficient ORGANIZING? Will we be able to change company-union-style labor relations in a transition to class-struggle unionism? Stay tuned.
Contact Ira Grupper: irag@iglou.com

REBUILD THE PEACE MOVEMENT NOW! STOP THE VIOLENCE! STOP THE INTERVENTIONS!

Posted by Janet Tuckers on April 19, 2017 under Pre-Convention Discussion | Be the First to Comment

REBUILD THE PEACE MOVEMENT NOW! STOP THE VIOLENCE! STOP THE INTERVENTIONS!
Harry Targ

AlthoPeace-sign-peopleugh most progressives preferred a Hillary Clinton victory in the 2016 election, strong reservations about her candidacy existed because of her historic association with foreign policies promoting the globalization of violence, war, and covert operations in countries which challenged the neoliberal policy agenda. Candidate Trump made bold statements about avoiding escalation of United States involvement in Syria, staying out of the perpetual tensions on the Korean peninsula, pulling the plug on NATO, and opposing the Trans Pacific Partnership and the North American Free Trade Agreement. Most of all Trump seemed to strike a rational chord with his call for improving relations with Russia.

The Trump campaign created concern among the two dominant foreign policy factions which have dominated United States foreign policy since the Reagan period: the neoconservatives and the humanitarian interventionists. The first group, particularly influential in the eight years of President George Walker Bush, argued that the United States was the world’s hegemonic power and it should use that power to transform the globe. Militarism should be the primary instrument of foreign policy, not diplomacy. The second group, primarily those affiliated with Presidents Clinton and Obama and presidential candidate Hillary Clinton advocated a more selective use of military power, promoting neoliberal globalization through diplomacy and trade agreements, and covert interventions to destabilize regimes hostile to the global economic agenda of capitalism. Clearly, these two factions of the foreign policy establishment overlapped and both sought to promote global capitalism and imperialism. But their methods varied.

The Trump campaign foreign policy agenda was seen by both factions as a threat to the imperial project. It stressed economic nationalism, a more judicious participation in international affairs, and potentially to use the old hyperbolic label “isolationism.” Therefore, after Trump’s election, what some analysts called “the deep state”– foreign policy institResist-Trump-War-1080x541utions such as the CIA, NSA, DIA, FBI, leadership of both political parties, liberal and conservative think tanks, and the mainstream media–launched a campaign to embarrass Trump, primarily using loose charges of a Trump/Putin election season cabal. The pressure on Trump became so strong and so single-minded in the liberal media (particularly MSNBC) that Trump began a significant tactical shift in foreign policy.

After weeks of increasingly hostile rhetoric about Russia, President Trump launched a massive missile assault on targets in Syria (which took off the front pages an “erroneous” mass slaughter of civilians in Mosul one week earlier due to a “mistaken” US air attack). He adopted the deep state narrative that Syria had dropped chemical weapons on its population. He threatened more military action. The hostility was coupled with threats and counter-threats between representatives of the US and Russian governments. Trump escalated bombing of targets in Yemen, giving support to the Saudi driven war there. And during the week of April 12, the United States dropped a “mother of all bombs” on alleged enemy targets in Eastern Afghanistan. This bomb had the largest explosive power of any bomb used since World War II. In addition, the president and his vice president increased threats on North Korea, pledging military action if they test-fired new missiles and/or nuclear weapons. Trump sent an aircraft carrier group to waters adjacent to the Korean peninsula; another act of provocation. In addition, and below the radar screen of brutal violence, anti-government protestors in Venezuela mobilized to challenge the government of Nicholas Maduro. These so-called “dissidents” have among them activists on the payroll of the United States government. The campaign against the Bolivarian Revolution is being manifested in diplomatic and covert assaults against Bolivia and Nicaragua as well.

In sum, the new Trump administration has embraced a foreign policy that combines the worst aspects of the two factions of the foreign policy establishment, the deep state. He has shifted US policy to a militarism on high alert. He has returned to a posture that calls for the overthrow of the Assad regime in Syria. He has put war against North Korea on the table. He has continued the covert operations in Latin America. And he has joined the neoconservatives and humanitarian interventionists in a campaign to challenge the place of Russia in the international system. On this last point, Russian expert Stephen Cohen, warns that we are closer to nuclear war with Russia than at any time since the Cuban Missile crisis. And as he and British journalist Jonathan Steele point out, the arguments for the new militarism are based on no evidence of new danger.

The one card that remains unclear, and perhaps the best hope for avoiding global war is the resistance of other powers in the world. Trump’s meeting with the Chinese leader, Xi Jinping, in Washington and China’s role in efforts to forestall war in Korea remain unclear. Also representatives of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa) met after the recent US attack on Syria to discuss a common response.

Without demeaning the centrality of the climate crisis, the title of Naomi Klein’s recent book, “This Changes Everything,” might be applied to the latest developments in United States foreign policy. New louder voices must be raised in the peace movement—and as part of every movement it is allied with—to Stop the Violence, Stop the War. In addition the clear connections between the $54 billion increase in military spending and the parallel cuts in non-military spending needs to be highlighted.

The famous clock of The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has been moving toward midnight, total darkness. The peace movement must act now.

DIARY OF A HEARTLAND RADICAL

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 19, 2017

Capitalists intensify attacks, Resistance grows

Posted by Janet Tuckers on April 6, 2017 under Pre-Convention Discussion | Be the First to Comment

anti trup1

Time of Day Briefing
Committees of Correspondence for Democracy & Socialism
4/2/2107
by Randy Shannon

This report will discuss some context and focus on some important elements in the present conjuncture.
The capitalist class is unified in the drive to reverse the decline in the rate of profit that became critical in the 1970’s due to labor’s growing bargaining power. The capitalist class is pursuing four tactics to restore the profitability of their system of production relations – globalization, neoliberal austerity, financial speculation, and military expansion.

The economic, political, and social crisis that we now experience is evidence that the bourgeois solution to their crisis is a failure. The system has not recovered. There is no expansion of production, no revival of infrastructure investment, and the 1.1% annual increase in labor productivity since the Great Recession is the lowest in history.

The deepening crisis is emblematic of Gramsci’s analysis: “A crisis occurs, sometimes lasting for decades. This exceptional duration means that incurable structural contradictions have reached maturity, and that, despite this, the political forces which are struggling to…defend the existing structure…are making [persistent] efforts to…overcome [the contradictions]. These…persistent efforts form the terrain of the conjunctural and it is upon this terrain that the forces of opposition organize…any falling short before a historical duty increases the necessary disorder and prepares more serious catastrophes.”

The capitalists are now divided on how to proceed. The new dominant option is to double down on the exploitation of labor, destroy the regulatory limits on production, abandon the social safety net, and steal undeveloped natural resources. The former option is to profit from crises like global warming with limited new investment, invest in more automation, slowly erode the social safety net, and gain consent for intensified exploitation of labor and natural resources through trade agreements.

For the working class the unifying elements are the increase in exploitation of labor accompanied by an attack on unions, depressed wage growth, an intensified work pace, automation, and increasingly authoritarian management of the workplace. In the US 40% of the civilian labor force is out of the labor market and 15% of the employed do not have stable jobs.

These conditions are profoundly affecting the political consensus. Loyalty to the employer and the dominant culture is challenged by dismay at the tremendous disparity in wealth and income while millions struggle in poverty or on the edge of poverty. Consent to the leadership of the hegemonic block dominated by finance capital with labor and minority organizations as partners began eroding in the 1970s with the beginning of neoliberal austerity. Now the neoliberal bloc has lost control of the government apparatus. The Democratic Party, their effective agent of consent, has lost the trust of the progressive majority.

The inability of the center-left forces to organize political opposition to neoliberal austerity, globalization, and financial speculation allowed the far right to exploit economic anxiety using xenophobia, racism, sexism, and great power chauvinism to build an alternative political consensus. Although far from a majority, this far right consensus, helped by fraud at the polls, elected a far-right authoritarian government. The election outcome has shocked the financial elite and their partners in the Democratic Party, the labor movement, and the progressive majority.

The fledgling Sanders primary campaign, although unable to upset neoliberal dominance, articulated an opposition to the policies of neoliberal capital that can mobilize the progressive majority. The Sanders campaign also highlighted the inability of the left to field a competent team of ideological and practical organizers and activists. There was no left infrastructure either inside or outside the Democratic Party to wage an effective ground game or to guarantee that the votes cast for Sanders would be counted.

Likewise there was no left or liberal infrastructure in the Democratic Party that was willing or able to challenge the massive fraudulent elimination of African-American voters from the polls in numerous swing states, including Michigan and Wisconsin where their numbers exceeded Trump’s margin of victory.

The Trump administration immediately attacked the government infrastructure so that governance is in the hands of a few Wall St. and far-right loyalists constituting an authoritarian clique. The Republican attack on healthcare coupled with a massive tax cut for the wealthy and Trump’s budget proposal liquidating most social programs provided the shocked electorate with the first concrete issues.

We are in the midst of a building wave of social, cultural, and political resistance and opposition to the far-right agenda. The women’s march on January 21st was a mobilization of 3 million across the country raising numerous issues, but focused on equality and respect for women. This 3 million is one quarter the size of an effective mass counterweight to the authoritarian government, based on the research of Erica Chenoweth. The mobilization of 3 million was a remarkable achievement and a promising step toward the practical goal of 13 million nonviolent resisters.

The women’s march was followed by a broad mobilization of millions directed at the Congress to stop the destruction of Medicaid to pay for a tax cut for the rich. Again women were at the forefront. Daily Action, a political service that texts subscribers with a suggested political action for the day, was launched in December. Over 250,000 subscribers log an average 10,000 calls per day. A poll of these grass roots activists found that of the 28,000 respondents, 86% were women and over 60% were 46 or older. Almost 75% reported they planned to attend more protests. The growing activism and emergence of leadership of women in the resistance to the far-right and for a progressive agenda is a critical element in the development of the progressive majority.

The Sanders campaign has awakened the youth to the political reality and the necessity to work for change. Our Revolution has succeeded the campaign as an organization of 66,000 activists and a mobilization tool for even more. The critical element for the development of the progressive majority is the flood of young Bernie activists into Democratic Socialists of America – DSA. This is becoming a mass phenomenon that reflects the millennials’ negative assessment of US capitalism. DSA has become the base upon which the young generation seeks to build a left alternative to bourgeois politics. DSA is multi-tendency with a flexible approach to the struggle for political power. The mass development of DSA chapters across the country presents a critical demand for left resources to help build the organization into the left pole of US politics.

There are two levels of problems that we confront. One is the overall problem of developing an effective resistance and counter-attack against the far right that can mobilize 13 million nonviolent protesters. This problem can only be solved by arguing for a broad coalition of all the organizations in the progressive majority. The North Carolina Moral Monday coalition provides a model for solving this problem. The June 9the People’s Summit in Chicago is a step in this direction.

The upsurge is taking many forms. Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, Black Lives Matter have seen new support and activism. #DemEnter, Progressive Democrats of America, Progressive Caucus formation in 18 state Democratic Parties, Indivisible, and many local groups are expanding size and impact as they fight for leadership of the Democratic Party. The path forward requires work to unite the new activists around a progressive agenda that focuses on concrete issues rather than personalities; unites different social strata; and builds solidarity with the African American, Latino, and Muslim communities that are targets of the xenophobic racists in the government.

A particularly difficult set of problems confront the trade union movement. The Trump regime and the Republican Congress will intensify capital’s war on the unions. The unions representing federal employees are fighting back. Across the country labor activists are supporting the many groups forming the resistance to Trump. Unions and Labor Councils are working in coalition with progressive forces. Key areas of labor involvement are protecting immigrant workers, fighting to raise the minimum wage, and protecting and expanding access to healthcare.

However, the unions’ defensive ability is compromised by the failure of the labor-management partnership, established in the 1950s, to serve the interests of rank- and – file workers. The labor-management partnership includes the political alliance of trade union leadership with the corporate wing of the Democratic Party. This has required the acceptance of the erosion of workers’ rights. This deal has demoralized and demobilized the mass of union workers and their friends. This trend resulted in the political blowback of 2016 in which 37% of union members voted for Trump, according to an AFL-CIO poll. The Building Trades Unions met with and praised Trump, while AFL-CIO Pres. Richard Trumka praised Trump’s reactionary State of the Union address to Congress. SEIU announced a 30% budget cut to deal with the anticipated assault on its members. As a top staff member of the USW said to me: “We feel that our members abandoned the union when they voted for Trump and the members feel that the union abandoned them when we supported Clinton because of the trade issue.” Labor is facing important internal and external challenges that must be successfully confronted for the power of the progressive majority to grow. Labor leadership must be at the core of a successful nonviolent movement of 13 million Americans.

Lastly the threat of nuclear war has accelerated since the second Obama Administration and is near a dangerous critical mass. The Trump administration is committed to carry out Obama’s $1 trillion nuclear escalation including a new level of nuclear threat to Russia with an ABM system in eastern Europe. This is accompanied by a simultaneous mobilization of the largest number of US troops, tanks, and war-fighting equipment into eastern Europe since World War 2. The US navy is also building up a fleet of warships in the Black Sea. The US is leading a boycott of the first session of United Nations talks on a treaty eliminating nuclear weapons, joined by Britain, France and 37 other countries. The left and the progressive majority must find a path of effective rejection of nuclear arms to guarantee humanity’s future.

STOP THE PERMAMENT WAR ECONOMY NOW!

Posted by Janet Tuckers on March 30, 2017 under Antiwar, Pre-Convention Discussion | Be the First to Comment

Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism: Peace and Solidarity Committee

war economy

President Trump’s proposed budget includes a big increase in military spending and is a document for war.  It attacks the environment, diplomacy, education and social programs that benefit the poor and people of color.  CCDS opposes this budget, calling instead for a 50% cut in funding for the Pentagon to support jobs, the environment and programs benefiting the people.  The following statement gives historical perspective to the growth of the military budget and the military industrial complex.
Woodrow Wilson’s Secretary of State, Robert Lansing, proclaimed the danger the new Bolshevik Revolution represented to the needs of capitalist expansion: trade, investment, cheap labor and resources.

Almost thirty years later as World War II ended key advisors of President Truman warned of a return to the Great Depression if war related demand for manufacturing products would decline. The United States Cold War against the former Soviet Union began with the dropping of the bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki, sending a message to the Soviets that the United States was the new dominant power in the world. Between 1945 and 1950, the President declared his famous doctrine warning of an “international communist threat,” began a foreign assistance program for part of Europe, launched the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and promised never to recognize the new Peoples Republic of China.

In 1950 President Truman embraced the recommendations he received from advisors in National Security Council Document 68. It called for a perpetual commitment to military spending. It recommended that when a president sits down to map out a federal budget, his/her first priority should be to spend all the military wants and only after that should he allocate financial resources to other societal needs.

As soon as the Korean War started NSC 68 became an unchallengeable feature of public policy. It served the needs of the economy, provided the war material to engage in imperialist adventures all across the globe and, to justify itself, launched a global struggle against “international communism.” Even though the image of the demonic enemy, the Soviet Union, was a lie, US military prowess would be used to stifle revolutionary nationalist and socialist movements and regimes wherever they sprung up.

Dramatic increases in military spending occurred periodically ever since the 1940s for major foreign interventions and as an economic stimulus. For example, President Kennedy’s administration was made up of the military hawks who had tried to get President Eisenhower to spend more on the military. Kennedy expanded investment in counter-insurgency forces, war-related research and development, and military assistance. Eisenhower had held the line and in his farewell address warned of the unlimited influence of the military that was growing in the United States, a military/industrial complex. But in the Kennedy and Johnson years, military spending increased by a third. To scare the American people and get votes candidate Kennedy warned of a “missile gap” with the Soviet Union which turned out to be false.

Twenty years later President Reagan spoke of a “window of vulnerability” as US defenses allegedly had diminished because of “détente” with the Soviet Union in the 1970s. Reagan’s justification for defense spending was a lie also. After modest declines in military spending in the 1990s as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union, President Clinton’s last projected defense budget before leaving office was set at $306 billion.

In the new century the United States substantially increased military spending to launch two wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Some years ago Joseph Stiglitz predicted the Iraq War would cost the American people $3 trillion dollars. Today some analysts claim that figure has been surpassed.

During the Obama years military spending stabilized in some areas and increased in others, such as projected development of a new generation of nuclear weapons.
War has changed also as US forces over the last two years have struck “enemies” with drones and bombs in six countries, and maintained over 700 military bases in at least 40 countries (particularly on the African continent). The military spending and wars of the twenty-first centuries were defended as responses to the shock of 9/11 and the need for a global “war on terrorism.”

Now we have a new Trump administration, The President has announced he will be seeking an additional $54 billion in his first military budget (which will total just over $600 billion), a large 10 percent increase while cutting a comparable amount of spending for non-military tasks. For show he has targeted selected military projects for criticism but it is clear he “wants to win wars again.” As NSC 68 called for a long time ago military spending will remain the first priority of the federal government.

In sum, what we can deduce from this history is that military spending since World War II has been a top priority of the federal government. Military spending has consistently “primed the pump,” overcoming the traditional tendency of capitalism toward stagnation. Also, military superiority (the US spends more on the military than the next seven countries combined) has been the prime tool for maintaining global capitalism and opposing any governments, movements, or ideologies that oppose the expansion of capitalism. Millions of deaths and casualties of people everywhere, the loss of thousands of lives of American military personnel, the flight of millions of refugees from war torn lands, and the incredible impacts of war and preparation for war on the environment all suggest that the war system is a nightmare for most citizens of the globe.

We in CCDS call for a 50% reduction in the military budget to fund social programs, jobs, and a Green New Deal. We welcome and encourage the rebirth of a US and global peace movement and we pledge to participate in doing all we can working with others to end the capitalist war system.

FOREIGN POLICY: THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

Posted by Janet Tuckers on January 14, 2017 under Pre-Convention Discussion | Be the First to Comment

elephant-in-the-room-768x586

Monday, January 9, 2017
FOREIGN POLICY: THE ELEPHANT IN THE ROOM

Harry Targ, Co-Chair CCDS

An Empire in Decline

United States global hegemony is coming to an end. The United States was the country that collaborated with the Soviet Union to defeat fascism in Europe and with Great Britain to crush Japanese militarism in Asia in 1945. The Soviet Union, the first Socialist state, suffered 27 million dead in the war to defeat the Nazis. Great Britain, the last great imperial power, was near the end of its global reach because of war and the rise of anti-colonial movements in Asia and Africa.

As the beneficiary of war-driven industrial growth and the development of a military-industrial complex unparalleled in world history, the United States was in a position in 1945 to construct a post-war international political and economic order based on huge banks and corporations. The United States created the international financial and trading system, imposed the dollar as the global currency, built military alliances to challenge the Socialist Bloc, and used its massive military might and capacity for economic penetration to infiltrate, subvert, and dominate most of the economic and political regimes across the globe.

The United States always faced resistance and was by virtue of its economic system and ideology drawn into perpetual wars, leading to trillions of dollars in military spending, the loss of hundreds of thousands of American lives, and the deaths of literally millions of people, mostly people of color, to maintain its empire.

As was the case of prior empires, the United States empire is coming to an end. A multipolar world is reemerging with challenges to traditional hegemony coming from China, India, Russia, and the larger less developed countries such as Brazil, Argentina, South Africa, South Korea, and Thailand. By the 1970s, traditional allies in Europe and Japan had become economic competitors of the United States.

The United States throughout this period of change has remained the overwhelming military power, however, spending more on defense than the next seven countries combined. It remains the world’s economic giant even though growth in domestic product between 1980 and 2000 has been a third of its GDP growth from 1960 to 1980. Confronted with economic stagnation and declining profit rates the United States economy began in the 1970s to transition from a vibrant industrial base to financial speculation and the globalization of production.

The latest phase of capitalism, the era of neoliberal globalization, has required massive shifts of surplus value from workers to bankers and the top 200 hundred corporations which by the 1980s controlled about one-third of all production. The instruments of consciousness, a handful of media conglomerates, have consolidated their control of most of what people read, see, hear, and learn about the world.

A policy centerpiece of the new era, roughly spanning the rise to power of Ronald Reagan to today, including the eight years of the Obama Administration, has been a massive shift of wealth from the many to the few. A series of graphs published by the Economic Policy Institute in December, 2016 show that productivity, profits, and economic concentration have risen while real wages have declined, inequality has increased, gaps between the earnings of people of color and women and white men have grown, and persistent poverty has remained for twenty percent of the population. The austerity policies, the centerpiece of neoliberalism, have spread all across the globe. That is what globalization is about.

Paralleling the shifts toward a transnational capitalist system and the concentration of wealth and power on a global level, the decline of U.S power, relative to other nation-states in the twenty-first century, has increased. The wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, and the spreading violence throughout the Middle East have overwhelmed US efforts to control events. Russia, Iran, China, and even weaker nations in the United Nations Security Council have begun to challenge its power and authority. Mass movements increasingly mobilize against vial regimes supported by the United States virtually everywhere (including within the U.S. as well).

However, most U.S. politicians still articulate the mantra of “the United States as the indispensable nation.” The articulation of American Exceptionalism represents an effort to maintain a global hegemony that no longer exists and a rationale to justify the massive military-industrial complex which fuels much of the United States economy.

Imperial Decline and Domestic Politics

The narrative above is of necessity brief and oversimplified but provides a back drop for reflecting on the substantial shifts in American politics. The argument here is that foreign policy and international political economy are “the elephants in the room” as we reflect on the outcomes of the 2016 elections. It does not replace other explanations or “causes” of the election but supplements them.

First, the pursuit of austerity policies, particularly in other countries (the cornerstone of neoliberal globalization) has been a central feature of international economics since the late 1970s. From the establishment of the debt system in the Global South, to “shock therapy” in countries as varied as Bolivia and the former Socialist Bloc, to European bank demands on Greece, Spain, Portugal, and Ireland, to Reaganomics and the promotion of Clinton’s “market democracies,” and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the wealth of the world has been shifting from the poor and working classes to the rich.

Second, to promote neoliberal globalization, the United States has constructed by far the world’s largest war machine. With growing opposition to U.S. militarism around the world, policy has shifted in recent years from “boots on the ground,” (although there still are many), to special ops, private contractors, drones, cyberwar, spying, and “quiet coups,” such as in Brazil and Venezuela, to achieve neoliberal advances.

One group of foreign policy insiders, the humanitarian interventionists, has lobbied for varied forms of intervention to promote “human rights, democratization, and markets.” Candidate Hillary Clinton and a host of “deep state” insiders advocated for support of the military coup in Honduras, a NATO coalition effort to topple the regime in Libya, the expansion of troops in Afghanistan, even stronger support of Israel, funding and training anti-government rebels in Syria and the overthrow of the elected government of Ukraine. As Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton was a major advocate for humanitarian interventionist policies in the Obama administration.

Humanitarian interventionists have joined forces with “neoconservatives” in the new century to advocate policies that, they believe, would reverse the declining relative power of the United States. This coalition of foreign policy influentials has promoted a New Cold War against Russia and an Asian pivot to challenge the emerging multipolar world. The growing turmoil in the Middle East and the new rising powers in Eurasia also provide rationale for qualitative increases in military spending, enormous increases in research and development of new military technologies, and the reintroduction of ideologies that were current during the last century about mortal enemies and the inevitability of war.

The “elephant in the room” that pertained to the 2016 election was growing opposition to an activist United States economic/political/military role in the world. Many center/left Americans, to the extent that they were motivated by international issues, saw the Clinton foreign policy record as emblematic of the long history of United States imperialism. Further, given the fact that U.S. interventionism and support for neoliberalism have generated growing global opposition, many voters feared a possible Clinton presidency would extend foreign policies that have already created chaos and anger, particularly in the Middle East and the Persian Gulf.

Finally, to the extent that economics affected the electoral outcome (and the degree to which this is correct is being hotly debated), the neoliberal global agenda that has been enshrined in United States international economic policy since the 1970s, has had much to do with rising austerity, growing disparities of wealth and power, wage and income stagnation, and declining social safety nets at home as well. The Trans Pacific Partnership was both a possible reality and a metaphor for fifty years of failed international economic policy for American workers.

Since the election, foreign policy has become even more of an “elephant in the room” as millions of Americans struggle with the prospects of a devastatingly inhumane new administration (perhaps one that logically follows from the fifty year trajectory described above).

The Post-Election Narrative: Trump Won the Election Because of the Russians!

The Washington Post late Friday night published an explosive story that, in many ways, is classic American journalism of the worst sort: the key claims are based exclusively on the unverified assertions of anonymous officials, who in turn are disseminating their own claims about what the CIA purportedly believes, all based on evidence that remains completely secret. Glenn Greenwald, “Anonymous Leaks to the WashPost About the CIA’s Russia Beliefs Are No Substitute for Evidence,” The Intercept, 12/10/16.

The “liberal” cable news outlet MSNBC, print media, and social media went ballistic Friday night, December 9, over the release of a story in the “objective” Washington Post that the CIA had found a connection between Russian hackers, WikiLeaks, and the release of damaging stories about presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton.

Rachel Maddow was positively breathless as she reported the Post story which in effect explains the Clinton loss as a result of Russian interference. Weaving a yarn of conspiracy, Maddow also implicated the leadership of the Republican Party in Congress for opposing any investigation of the CIA warning before the elections. The Republican leader, Senator Mitch McConnell questioned the credibility and partisanship of the CIA claims about a Putin/Trump collaboration.

Maddow further linked the CIA claims that Russia used the distribution of hacked messages to embarrass candidate Hillary Clinton to Trump’s alleged close ties to Russia, his investments in the Russian energy industry, and rumors that the next Secretary of State would be an Exxon/Mobil CEO, whose corporation has close ties to Russia. (She correctly pointed out that if Russia had sided with the Clinton candidacy, the Republicans would have been outraged). Maddow, the Post, and many social media outlets have suggested that all this adds up to a severe constitutional crisis. A foreign nation, Russia, had interfered with free elections in American democracy. She implied that the U.S. would never engage in such conduct overseas nor should it accept outside interference in the electoral process at home.

The story was flawed from so many perspectives it was difficult to disentangle the real threats to American society.

First, the United States has been interfering in elections all across the globe at least since the onset of the Cold War. The same CIA that is the hero in this story created Christian Democratic parties in Europe shortly after World War Two to challenge the popularity of Communist parties across the continent. It was instrumental in creating and supporting virulently anti-Communist trade unions in Europe and Latin America. And it funded the development of a panoply of anti-Communist scholarly networks inspired by the Congress for Cultural Freedom. Some of the most revered scholars, writers, artists, were knowingly or unknowingly compromised by the CIA political agenda.

In recent times, anti-Communist and erratic Russia President Boris Yeltsin received aid and campaign advice from the Clinton Administration during the Russian leader’s 1996 run for reelection. Yeltsin was being challenged by candidates from Russian nationalist and Communist parties. The victory of either would have slowed or reversed the so-called “shock therapy” conversions from a state-directed to a neoliberal economy introduced by a compliant Yeltsin.

Of course, interference in the politics of other countries has been an unfortunate staple of United States foreign policy throughout the world, particularly in Latin America: Guatemala, the Dominican Republic, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and most recently, Honduras and Venezuela. These patterns of interference have not been merely gossipy stories leaked to the media but the funneling of money, sabotage, training and support of coup plotters, and other direct, physical forms of intervention.

As suggested above, inside the Beltway an influential group of foreign policy elites have been pressuring the Obama Administration to expand efforts to push back Russia, including undermining Vladimir Putin’s rule (Putin is no different a political dictator and supporter of crony capitalism than the earlier U.S. favorite Boris Yeltsin claimed Stephen Cohen, “CNN Gets Schooled by Stephen Cohen on DNC Hack, Trump-Putin Links, Video,” Russia Insider, Russia-insider.com August 1, 2016).

The United States and its NATO allies, violating promises from the 1990s, have been placing troops and bases in Poland and the Baltic states. The United States played a significant role in the campaign that led to the ouster of the elected leader of Ukraine (a plot organized by a neoconservative State Department ally of Hillary Clinton). In short, leading foreign policymakers have been lobbying for a New Cold War. And, the “liberal media” stereotype of an aging, macho, shirtless, dictator provides a superb visual image of the enemy. And to the contrary, candidate Trump hinted at the possibility of reducing tensions between the United States and Russia.

Further, the aforementioned media have assumed but not demonstrated in any way that the alleged Russian hacking and the use of WikiLeaks (an opponent believed inside the Beltway to be almost as nefarious as Putin) to publicize compromising e-mails determined the outcome of the elections. This is in juxtaposition to the electronic libraries of published articles seeking to explain the election outcomes.

Many election analyses have correctly highlighted factors shaping the election including such variables as class, race, region, anti-immigrant sentiments, voter suppression, and campaign tactics. “Fake News” (as opposed to the usual mainstream media distortions) is the latest variable added to the list of explanations. It is the case that the allegations of Russian hacking uncovered by the CIA months ago and resurfacing now is the Washington Post, MSNBC, USA Today, CNN version of “Fake News.”

In the post-election period serious reflection and debate about who won and lost, why, and what can progressives do to resist and reorganize has been overtaken by an old story about foreign intervention. The old spies who had deviously worked in factories and tried to organize unions, marched with civil rights activists, taught a different history in schools that touched on the massacre of Nation Americans, slavery, the lack of voting rights, and segregation, have been replaced by cyber spies: hackers who sit at computers anywhere around the world bent on destroying American democracy. And these hackers get their marching orders from, whom? The Russians! Foreign policy remains “the elephant in the room.” Progressives need to add it to strategizing about the future.

Harry Targ teaches United States foreign policy at Purdue University. He is a co-chair of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS) and blogs at www.heartlandradical.blogspot.com

CCDS Remembers Fidel Castro

Posted by Janet Tuckers on November 28, 2016 under Pre-Convention Discussion | Be the First to Comment

15109497_1118248628288421_7135082385598344799_nCCDS Remembers Fidel Castro

We in the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism (CCDS) join the majority of humanity to express our sorrow at the death of Fidel Castro, leader of the Cuban Revolution from 1953 until 2006. Fidel and his movement overthrew the rule of US big business in Cuba, and ended the exploitation and impoverishment of the Cuban people, achieving independence for the proud island nation 90 miles from our shores. This historic victory reverberated world-wide.

Many of the people’s of the Global South saw Fidel as an inspiration for their own struggles for liberation from colonialism and neo-colonialism. Those from the United States and  Europe, and especially the youth from all classes and walks of life –Black, Latino, and white working-class youth and many young people with privilege, learned from Fidel that progressives must struggle to support human liberation everywhere.
After generations of extreme poverty and suffering for the Cuban people, Fidel Castro at the head of the Cuban Communist Party embarked on a hugely successful program to eradicate major diseases from Cuba and greatly improve the health and life expectancy of the Cuban people. From these achievements, Cuba has sent medical professionals abroad to treat and train people in developing countries, especially in the Global South. Fidel and the new revolutionary socialist Cuban government mobilized thousands of young people to eradicate illiteracy in Cuba, and create an educational system that is the envy of many countries around the world, and especially those struggling under the yoke of neo-colonialism, capitalism, and the capitalist-dominated global economy today. Fidel and his comrades also established programs to provide jobs and a basic level of economic security for the Cuban people. Cuba today is leading the world in assisting the development of worker-run cooperatives, enriching the development of socialism in Cuba and setting an example for others. Fidel and the Cuban government worked hard to meet the needs of and empower the Cuban people, while also extending a helping hand to millions of people around the world. All of this despite the brutal economic blockade imposed by the US for over a half a century, with the intent of strangling Cuba economically, and despite repeated failed attempts by the US to overthrow the Cuban government and to assassinate Fidel Castro.
Fidel was correct when he said: “I speak on behalf of the children of the world who do not have a piece of bread. I speak on behalf  of the sick  who have  no medicine, of those whose rights to life and human dignity have been denied.”

We, along with millions of others world-wide, pledge ourselves to continue along the path initiated by the vision of Fidel Castro, to build a world of social and economic justice, and of socialism.

Venceremos
Viva Fidel Castro!

CCDS Dialogue About the 2016 Election: What Happened and Where Do We Go From Here

Posted by CarlDavidson on November 22, 2016 under Elections, Organizing, Rightwing, Strategy | Read the First Comment

 

Four Articles Inviting Comments

CCDS members, along with the left and progressives generally, have been engaged in discussions about the recent presidential election and what it means for our political work for the next several years. The essays below are initial offerings in what should be an ongoing discussion. Please send us your writings about the election and how you see the future of the left and the progressive majority.

1. Sanders, Clinton and Trump – the Political Crisis of Neoliberalism

By Randy Shannon, National Coordinating Committee, CCDS,

Report to National Executive Committee of CCDS on the 2016 Election

November 16, 2106

(This report was fashioned to meet a ten minute spoken delivery limit.)

A New York Times analysis showed that the majority of voters whose income was less than $50k voted for Hillary Clinton. The majority of voters whose income was over $50K voted for Donald Trump. The electorate is defined as the body of persons entitled to vote in an election. 75% of the electorate gave up hope of changing the austerity regime of neoliberalism. They either did not vote for Clinton or refused to vote. Consent of the governed to the Wall Street leadership of the hegemonic bloc of capital – despite a $1 billion campaign war chest – has withered.

The Trump alternative was so repugnant that only 25% of the electorate voted for him. Thus there is an electoral mandate to reverse or reject the policy of neoliberal austerity; but there is not an electoral mandate to enact the far right policies identified with the racist obstructionist Republican Congress. This mandate was expressed in the Democratic primary vote for Sanders whose social democratic program and candidacy were nevertheless anathema to the hegemonic bloc of Wall Street banks.

The rejection of the austerity regime was also expressed in the success of all ballot initiatives to raise the minimum wage. Some voter polls confirm this trend: 49% of voters cited “change” as the most important reason for their vote; of these, 85% voted for Trump. In MI and PA 50% said trade deals cost jobs; 60% of these voted for Trump.

The 2008 crash of the banks’ housing bubble accelerated the economy down the path of a deflationary crisis. Under Pres. Obama the central bank has managed the crisis for the oligarchs by using extraordinary monetary easing with zero interest and creation of money to prop up the Wall Street banks. Since 2008 the Fed Funds rate was slashed from 5.5% to 0% and the Fed’s balance sheet expanded from $870 billion in 2007 to over $4.5 trillion in 2014.

December 2015 saw the peak of the weak Fed induced economic recovery. For workers, most of whom never benefited from the recovery, the pace of economic decline has accelerated. On November 16th the NY Fed, in its monthly Empire Report, stated “employment counts and hours worked continued to decline.” A similar report of economic contraction was released by the Philadelphia Fed on November 17th. The current austerity regime offers low wage and unemployed workers no prospects, thus the Fight for $15 movement. More importantly those still employed are experiencing the slow motion economic implosion of the last 8 years.

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