Political Action

MoveOn Responds to Donald Trump’s Afghanistan Address

Move On - Mon, 08/21/2017 - 21:25

In response to Donald Trump’s address on the way forward in Afghanistan, Ilya Sheyman, executive director of MoveOn.org Political Action, released the following statement:

“Donald Trump’s plan to double down on a military deployment in Afghanistan would be a military, economic, and humanitarian disaster. After decades of conflict, tens of thousands dead or wounded, and trillions in projected U.S. taxpayer dollars spent, putting more lives on the line to continue the fighting will do nothing to put an end to this bloody war.

“There is no military solution to Afghanistan’s challenges.

“Congress must reassert its authority over war-making, repeal the 2001 Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF), and debate and vote on whether or not to authorize ongoing military operations in Afghanistan.

“The timing of tonight’s speech is telling: With his approval ratings at an all-time low, Trump is beating the war drums in an attempt to divert the American people’s attention from his abhorrent failure to condemn the white supremacist terror in Charlottesville.”

Categories: Political Action

How Boston turned the tide on the far right

Socialist Worker - Mon, 08/21/2017 - 01:00

Spurred on by the horror in Charlottesville, tens of thousands of people poured into the streets of Boston in protest--and the fascists went home early, reports Ryan Roche.

Thousands flood the streets of Boston to protest the Nazis

TENS OF thousands of people mobilized in Boston on August 19 in a magnificent display of solidarity against a rally that far-right and neo-Nazi forces had been organizing for weeks.

Defying sweltering summer heat and humidity, thousands upon thousands marched and chanted their way through the streets of Boston.

Some 15,000 took part in a two-mile march from Roxbury Crossing to Boston Common, where the white supremacists were gathering. But by the time the march arrived, the two-dozen or so fascists had already packed up and left, with the help of a heavy police escort.

Another 10,000 people who wanted to show their opposition to the right came directly to downtown Boston, gathering where the white supremacists planned to meet or at a smaller demonstration on the steps of the Statehouse.

The horrible neo-Nazi violence one week earlier in Charlottesville, Virginia, convinced many that they had a responsibility to make a statement against the far right. As protesters gathered in Roxbury, there was anxiety mixed with angry resolve about what the day might hold.

But by the time the march ended, the fear had melted away, replaced by confidence in the power of solidarity and a sense of jubilation that the far right's mobilization had failed utterly to achieve any of its goals.

The march received support from dozens of organizations in the city: Labor unions, NGOs, liberal organizations, leftist and activists groups and so on. In particular, the march from Roxbury--which members of Black Lives Matter played a key role in organizing--gave people the opportunity to gather into a large force away from where the far right was gathering.

This gave confidence to organizations such as the Massachusetts Teachers Association--the state's largest union--to mobilize their members to attend. This tactic, combined with a single point of unity in opposition to the fascists, helped mobilize a massive and inspiring turnout.

Nearly 40 years after the busing riots in Boston--when local politicians marched under the Confederate flag in opposition to de-segregation--Boston showed that hate will be met with solidarity. This victory in the streets of Boston needs to be repeated everywhere that the far right tries to mobilize.

"I'm here because my Japanese-American grandparents were sent to an internment camp during the Second World War," said local resident Ashley in an interview as she carried a Black Lives Matter sign. "The other side of my family is Mexican, and Trump's whole campaign was built on slandering people I love. I also felt like I needed to come out against the president--as a woman and as a survivor of a sexual assault.

"After Charlottesville, enough is enough. We need to stand up, and I want to build a better world for my kids."

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BACK IN May, a similar cast of reactionaries held a rally on Boston Common, but anti-racists, despite strong efforts, didn't organize a united response. The 150 or so activists who came to protest the neo-Nazis found themselves outnumbered two to one.

This time, though--with the death of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville one week earlier focusing the world's attention on the violent threat of the far right and Donald Trump's defense of them--people of all ages and backgrounds poured into the streets to send the message that Boston would not stand by and allow a repeat.

After Charlottesville, the number of people indicating on Facebook they would protest on August 19 grew from several hundred to a combined 15,000 for the two main counter-protests that took place--the march from Roxbury and a rally on the Statehouse steps.

Meanwhile, some of the right's high-profile speakers, including Gavin McInnes of the "alt-reich" Proud Boys, announced they were backing out of the planned mobilization.

People came from Vermont, Maine, western Massachusetts, Connecticut and New York to answer the call for an all-out effort to counter the Nazis. This high level of mobilization built the confidence of key activists who were the organizational backbone of the events--and were integral to making the day a success for our side.

In Roxbury, the rally began with a speech by a contingent of Indigenous people, who reminded the crowd that the land our country is built on was stolen from them, and that white supremacists have no right to lay claim to it.

The next speech was from an organizer with Black Lives Matter, who called for diverting money from the police to underfunded public schools, and decried the rapid gentrification of the city's Black and working-class neighborhoods.

Then, Khury Petersen-Smith of the International Socialist Organization (ISO) electrified the crowd, in speaking about the importance of mobilizing to confront the far right. "Now that they have some friends in the White House...they are walking out, they are in the open and marching with torches and with smiles on their faces," said Petersen-Smith. "And what we are here to say is that if you come to Boston, we're going to march down to the Common and wipe that smile off your face!"

A number of socialist organizations, including Socialist Alternative, the ISO and Democratic Socialists of America, marched together in a joint contingent.

As the contingent prepared to step off, news spread that the Industrial Workers of the World and the Boston Socialist Party had also decided to join in. Hundreds of people cheered and shouted from windows and sidewalks in support of the contingent all along the route.

Our contingent was very close to the front of the march and maintained a loud and lively chorus of chants. Favorites included, "If they attack one of us, they attack all of us!" "Heather is a hero" and "Hey hey, ho ho, Nazi scum has got to go!"

For almost two hours as the march made it way to the Common, we kept up the chants. At the front of our 500-strong contingent was a wall of banners bearing the names of the various socialist groups that had mobilized.

Another 2,000 people or so held a rally on the Statehouse steps. That rally was separately organized to put forward a list of demands, and as people from across the city arrived on their own to add their voices to the protest, they eventually formed a crowd of some 8,000 to 10,000 to defend their city against the fascists.

Police estimates of the overall crowd were even higher, putting the number at 40,000.

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THE MASSIVE turnout filled the crowd with energy, despite the withering heat. Amy Gaidis, who made the trip to Boston from Portland, Maine, put it this way on Facebook the day after the march:

Although it's clear now that we outnumbered the fascists by a staggering scale, this wasn't readily apparent early on in the march. We were moving forward to the Common, but we did not know exactly what we would encounter there. Were we marching into an open confrontation with a hardened emboldened right and their heavily armed sympathizers in the police force? Would everyone who started the march in Roxbury want to press on if that's what we found, or would our numbers shrink and leave us vulnerable? Would a far-right extremist take this opportunity to terrorize our movements yet again?

There was confidence in what we were doing, but the violence of Charlottesville and everyday America hung over us still. I know a lot of people hugged their loved ones extra tight before they left to take the streets in Boston yesterday.

Yesterday was a victory for our side not just because we scattered and demoralized the white supremacists, but because tens of thousands of people went through the experience of standing confidently in their convictions in the face of real fear.

To win a better world, one free of white supremacy, oppression and exploitation, we will need to go through experiences like yesterday again and again, on a larger and larger scale. Boston was a victory that drew us a little bit closer. Today I don't feel fear. I feel the pride and hope that comes from solidarity in mass action!

The sense of power and pride among those who marched on the side of justice stood in sharp contrast to the ineffectiveness of the far right. By the time the Roxbury march arrived at the Common, the far right had already been forced to evacuate.

One Boston resident who went to the Common on his own to show his opposition to the fascists reported that he saw about 15 to 20 taking part. Occasionally, he would see pairs of them enter the crowd of counterdemonstrators and try to start conversations, but the crowd wasn't having it. The police would then escort them back within the security perimeter.

After 30 or 40 minutes of speeches, the tiny group did some chanting, which was inaudible over the noise of the counterprotesters.

Those packed into the Common knew when the march from Roxbury was approaching because the helicopters filming the march were also getting closer and louder. Just as the march was about to arrive, the police escorted the far right off the Common and evacuated them from the area in vans.

A third rally, organized clandestinely by anarchist forces, was attacked and pepper-sprayed by riot cops. Activists are circulating a petition calling on the city to drop all charges against those arrested.

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THE IMPACT of the sharp shift in the political climate after the murder of Heather Heyer in Charlottesville--and the viral spread of the VICE News documentary about the white supremacists who caused it--can't be overstated.

In recent months, even as the far right and those inspired by them carried out murders at the University of Maryland and in Portland, Oregon, and left a noose at the National Museum of African-American History and Culture, many considered them a threat that could be safely ignored.

Charlottesville changed that.

While it's impossible to predict such sea changes in consciousness, we should be prepared to build on such moments when they occur. The first attempt by the Boston left to oppose the far right back in May was disheartening. But the events of August 19 showed that mass mobilizations are effective and can have a lasting on the confidence and organization of all those who care about social justice.

The coming protests in San Francisco and Berkeley on August 26 and 27 can take heart from what took place in Boston. See you in the streets next weekend!

Categories: Political Action

The Bay Area gets ready to confront the right

Socialist Worker - Mon, 08/21/2017 - 01:00

The next challenge to the far right will come in the Bay Area on August 26-27, with solidarity actions planned around the U.S. Brian King and Elizabeth Schulte report.

Protesters stand up to bigotry after the Charlottesville attack

ANTI-RACISTS from all over the Bay Area and beyond--student groups, faith and community organizations, unions, socialists, and groups and individuals of all kinds--are coming together to organize what will hopefully be the largest mobilization against the far right at Berkeley in recent memory on August 27.

Anti-racists have been organizing for the Bay Area Rally Against Hate since July, when neo-Nazis and other far right groups announced they would be gathering at Berkeley's Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park on August 27 and San Francisco's Crissy Field Beach on August 26.

Since then, more than 70 organizations have added their name to the list of endorsers of the counter-mobilization, including the Berkeley Federation of Teachers, AFSCME 3299, SEIU 1021, the Alameda County Labor Council, Alameda for Black Lives, Muslim Student Association at UC Berkeley, the International Socialist Organization, several chapters of the Democratic Socialists of America, Socialist Alternative, NARAL Pro-Choice California, Jewish Youth for Community Action and many more.

On August 19, International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 10 voted in favor of a stop work action and march against the fascists on August 26. The local's resolution concludes that the ILWU, "in the best tradition of our union that fought these right-wingers in the Big Strike of 1934, will not work on that day and instead march to Crissy Field to stop the racist, fascist intimidation in our hometown and invite all unions and antiracist and antifascist organizations to join us defending unions, racial minorities, immigrants, LGBTQ people, women and all the oppressed."

After the white supremacist attack on anti-racist protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, that killed Heather Heyer and injured many more, Bay Area Rally Against Hate organizers issued a call for protests and actions across the country for a National Weekend of Solidarity Against Hate.

The purpose of the rally in Berkeley is clear: The far right is mobilizing in an effort to recruit people to their side, and they want to make Berkeley a battleground for their hate. The only way to stop them is to demonstrate the strength of our side and turn out in the kind of numbers it will take to chase them out of town.

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THIS ISN'T the first time the far right has made Berkeley a target in the months since the Trump administration's immigrant-bashing, Islamophobia and racism have emboldened the right.

When then-Breitbart News contributor Milo Yiannopolous came to the University of California at Berkeley in February, he was met by a huge counterprotest of more than 1,000 students and others--campus officials decided to call off that event.

On March 4, far-right groups descended on Martin Luther King Jr. Civic Center Park to bring out people they had been organizing online for a physical show of strength as part of a national mobilization called in support of Trump. The event in Berkeley was called jointly by right-wing libertarian Richard Black and the Proud Boys, a self-described group of "Western chauvinists."

That day, the right-wingers numbered under a hundred. They clashed with Antifa activists, backed by more than 100 counterprotesters, and the hate march never began.

But in April, several factions of the "alt right" and "patriots' movement" mobilized from up and down the West Coast to descend for a so-called "Free Speech Rally" in Berkeley. Some 50 members of the Oath Keepers, a far-right militia made up of former cops and soldiers, provided security. The Proud Boys were there again, as well as other far-right individuals and organizations, including the white supremacist group Identity Evropa.

As Mukund Rathi reported at SocialistWorker.org:

This time, the right-wingers were ready for a fight, armed with pepper spray, knives, Tasers and sticks. They outnumbered the counterprotesters, who were mainly Antifa. Hundreds of scuffles began in the park and spilled out into the streets, along with several separate marches by each side. A viral video shows Identity Evropa founder and Cal State Stanislaus student Nathan Damigo punching an Antifa woman who was later stalked and threatened online."

As this was all taking place, the UC administration was embroiled in a fight with the Berkeley College Republicans over right-wing ideologue Ann Coulter coming to campus. When the authorities canceled her speech, citing security reasons, this "only added fuel to the far-right fire, while doing nothing to contribute to a challenge against its hate and violence."

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NOW THE far right is returning to Berkeley. But this time, its claim to only be exercising their "free speech" is seen in a different light--not only because of their own violence last spring, but the murderous terrorism of the fascist mobilization in Charlottesville.

Charlottesville made it clear what the far right movement is about: hate, not just in words, but in brutal, violent action. When they march, they are seeking to terrorize marginalized communities, spread their racist, sexist, anti-Semitic violence and recruit more racists to their cause.

And before Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, there was Ricky John Best and Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche--murdered in June when they intervened to stop a white supremacist from harassing two young women of color on a train in Portland, Oregon. The month before that, a known neo-Nazi murdered African American student Richard W. Collins III on the University of Maryland campus.

In the Bay Area, organizers have found growing number of people who want to make their voices heard against the right. But they hadn't been able to find a way to put their opposition in the spotlight until the organizing for the August 27 protest.

August 27 organizers emphasize building a united stand against fascism that can include as many groups and individuals who would like to fight the right as possible--a contrast to groups that have focused on trying to counter the right in small, street actions.

As Alex Schmaus, an ISO member who is part of the Rally Against Hate organizing, said in an interview:

The street fighting that took place in Berkeley in the spring between the far right and the far left created a situation where anti-fascism had become a spectator's sport in Berkeley. What we want to do is provide a space for people in the Bay Area to see that there are many of us that want us to take a stand against racism and the far right.

The coalition behind the organizing for August 27 is committed to turning out numbers significant enough to drown out the right and show that they are vastly outnumbered.

In June, in Portland, Oregon, when the far right tried to rally again for "free speech" after the racist murders, this strategy of aiming to mobilize large numbers in a united action to confront the right, was the goal, according to Wael Elasady, who helped lead the anti-fascist rally:

It was very powerful to see unions, racial justice groups, immigrant rights groups, socialists and others arrive with their banners, marching into the rally with organized contingents. There was a brass band contingent, a Native American drumming group, families of victims of police brutality who came out, and throngs of Portland residents who brought their homemade signs.

This sent an important message--it wasn't only a minority of left-wing activists who rejected the racism of the far right, but masses of ordinary residents of Portland.

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IN THE Bay Area, organizers are finding out at every planning meeting how many people want to come out and show their opposition to the far right.

Abdullah Puckett, a member of the Black Student Union and Muslim Student Association at UC-Berkeley who is part of organizing the Rally Against Hate, said in an interview:

The wonderful thing about the planning process for this rally is that at each meeting, we've had more people, more organizations, more voices coming out to support this demonstration. It's been wonderful seeing how many people are out there who wanted to do something like this and have now found a group that is putting it together.

As in Portland in June, there is pressure on people to stay at home. In a blog post, Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin told people avoid the rally. Members of labor and community groups mobilizing for the protest say the mayor met with them to try and dissuade them from attending. But so far, these groups still plan to turn out.

The city is also trying to make it more difficult for anti-racist protesters. On August 18, the Berkeley City Council passed an "urgency ordinance" allowing the city manager to issue temporary rules for large public events, including banning items that city officials deem can be used as weapons.

However, the 40,000-strong August 19 demontration against the far right in Boston has showed how organizing to build the biggest united force can defeat the fascists.

August 27 is the next step in mobilizing to push back the far right--not only in the Bay Area, but in cities across the country as part of the Weekend of Solidarity Against Hate.

With Donald Trump condemning "both sides" equally in Charlottesville, it's clear that we need to get organized to fight the right and the hate-mongers, from the top of society on down. Through these mobilizations and the networks forged to counter white supremacists, we can build the basis for an ongoing opposition to not only the far right, but the Trump regime, too.

Categories: Political Action

Losing the battle and the war

Socialist Worker - Mon, 08/21/2017 - 01:00

The Democratic Party's backsliding on any defense of abortion rights puts all women's rights in danger, argues Lichi D'Amelio, in an article written for Jacobin.

Anti-choice Nebraska Democrat Heath Mello

IT'S NOT often that supporters of reproductive rights get a piece of good news. Though what can be described as good news these days is part of the bad news.

On July 28, an Alabama magistrate judge ruled in favor of the ACLU and struck down portions of HB494, the state's 2014 law that, among other things, put minors seeking abortions on trial and even provided lawyers--for the fetuses.

Alabama is one of 37 states that require parental involvement in a minor's decision to receive abortion care. Specifically, Alabama requires the consent of one parent at least 48 hours in advance of the procedure but, like the vast majority of states with parental involvement laws, it also includes what is known as a "judicial bypass." This alternate route exists for all the reasons a teenager may be unable to obtain parental consent.

As Tara Culp-Ressler explains, "That could include a teen from an abusive household, a foster child who doesn't have legal guardians, or a girl who's become pregnant because someone in her family has raped her."

But HB 494 tightened restrictions around the judicial bypass and gave the state the right to call witnesses--friends, boyfriends, teachers, neighbors, family members, up to and including parents--to testify as to whether the minor was "mature enough" to make the decision to have an abortion. This, in addition to providing a guardian ad litem in order to protect the "best interests" of the fetus.

Judge Susan Walker ruled that those amendments--in place for the past three years--were a constitutional violation of a minor's "right to an anonymous judicial bypass hearing."

Earlier this summer, the law received national attention due to the case of a 12-year-old Alabama girl who was raped by a relative and became pregnant as a result. Because the state does not allow for exceptions to parental consent in the case of rape or incest, the girl requested the judicial bypass and had to stand before a judge and ask permission to exercise her constitutional right to terminate her pregnancy--already at 13 weeks.

While the judge granted the abortion, a district attorney--empowered by HB 494--appealed the decision the very same day. She had to wait another two weeks before the Alabama Court of Civil Appeals would grant her abortion again. Then, two fanatical lawyers held a press conference denouncing the decision on the basis that the girl was not "mature enough to decide to murder her own child in her womb."

This recent case is but one illuminating snapshot of the state of abortion rights in the United States today. The broader picture--a detailed examination of which can be found in the webpages of the Guttmacher Institute--will have to be summarized:

Since 2010, the U.S. abortion landscape has grown increasingly restrictive as more states become hostile to abortion rights. Between 2010 and 2016, states enacted 338 new abortion restrictions, which account for nearly 30 percent of the 1,142 abortion restrictions enacted by states since the 1973 Supreme Court decision in Roe v. Wade.

Even this doesn't capture the nearly 200 abortion providers that have closed their doors since 2011. Let alone the countless other stories just as horrifying, or worse, as that of the anonymous 12-year-old girl from Alabama.

While states continue to grow more hostile toward abortion, however, popular support for Roe hovers at around 70 percent, marking a slight increase over the past few decades. Unsurprisingly, a huge majority of Democratic Party voters, 84 percent, oppose the overturning of Roe and, interestingly, even a majority of Republican voters, 53 percent, oppose it.

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THUS, THE strategy employed by the antis of going after abortion rights incrementally, restriction by restriction and state by state, has been as deliberate as it is successful. There is really no way to overstate just how dire the situation is. This isn't so much about the prospect of Roe being overturned--the perennial fear that drives many Democratic voters to the polls--it's about the fact that for millions of women in thousands of zip codes across the country it feels like it already has been.

This reality explains the widespread dismay at the recent comments made by Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman, Ben Ray Luján, that the party would open its doors to anti-abortion candidates. "There is not a litmus test for Democratic candidates, Luján told The Hill. "As we look at candidates across the country, you need to make sure you have candidates that fit the district, that can win in these districts across America." Luján was also explicit that the tactic had everything to do with the 2018 mid-term elections, arguing, "To pick up 24 [seats] and get to 218, that is the job. We'll need a broad coalition to get that done. We are going to need all of that, we have to be a big family in order to win the House back."

Luján's remarks seem to make official the increasingly apparent trend within the party to open its doors to anti-abortion candidates and de-prioritize at this historically vulnerable moment what many consider to be a staple of Democratic Party politics, even if nominally so. This, despite the fact that millions of people across the country who make up the base of the Democratic Party came out for the Women's March to protest Trump's election and his specific attacks on women during his campaign.

Still, Nancy Pelosi argued back in May that the issue was "fading" for the Democratic Party and also struck the folksy family theme. "I grew up Nancy D'Alesandro, in Baltimore, Maryland; in Little Italy; in a very devout Catholic family; fiercely patriotic; proud of our town and heritage, and staunchly Democratic," Pelosi bragged. "Most of those people--my family, extended family--are not pro-choice. You think I'm kicking them out of the Democratic Party?"

While unwelcome, this appeal to the most right-wing elements of the party is to be expected from the likes of Pelosi and, of course, Chuck Schumer, both part of a larger camp who've drawn the laughable conclusion that Clinton lost the election to Trump because the Democrats are too left wing for the amorphous and highly caricatured "middle America."

But the argument to welcome anti-choice Democrats into the party has also come from Bernie Sanders, who put all his support behind Omaha's openly "pro-life" mayoral candidate Heath Mello. This was less expected and far more disappointing for the obvious reason that Sanders' primary campaign activated the youngest and most left-wing elements of the party and injected a deeply felt optimism about what could be fought for based on a solidly social-democratic platform.

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UNFORTUNATELY, A critical examination of the reasons for Sanders' support for Mello and generally ill-considered position on the crucial question of abortion rights--or its potential impact--was quickly hijacked by Clinton supporters still bitter about her loss and eager to defame Sanders and his mythical "Bernie Bro" supporters. One of the worst, but certainly not the only, offenders was liberal writer Jill Filipovic whose seething anger against "some men" in the Democratic Party and "the self-proclaimed socialist left" seemed to be little more than an excuse to attack Sanders supporters while ignoring Clinton's vice presidential pick of Tim "Abstinence Only" Kaine and even defending her infamous "safe, legal and rare" formulation as something remotely progressive.

But, perhaps even more unfortunately, much (though not all) of the Sanders-supporting left took the bait and became defensive. Instead of criticizing Sanders for backing Mello, a perfectly reasonable thing for Sanders supporters to do, many perpetuated the thinly evidenced notion that Mello had evolved on the question of abortion rights. This argument seemed to be based mostly on a statement made by his campaign manager that during his "most recent term in the legislature, Heath Mello voted 100 percent with Planned Parenthood Voters of Nebraska." This was, however, quickly debunked by a statement put out by the organization that explained in part:

Planned Parenthood Voters of Nebraska only scores votes on passed legislation. In 2011, PPVN's scorecard shows Heath Mello voting against Planned Parenthood's position on three votes--all abortion related. In 2015, PPVN scored two votes in the Nebraska legislature, which were Medicaid and family planning related. PPVN's scorecard shows Heath Mello voting in favor of the Planned Parenthood position. To be clear, that does not translate into a 100 percent rating or an endorsement.

Heath Mello, like Tim Kaine, doesn't hide his personal objection to abortion and while he said during his mayoral campaign that he "would never do anything to restrict access to reproductive health," the problem is that he already has. Mello was a co-sponsor of a bill that required abortion providers to tell women that they had the "choice" of looking at an ultrasound before obtaining an abortion. He also sponsored a ban on abortion after 20 weeks--a violation of Roe--as well as "requiring physicians to be physically present for an abortion in order to impede access to telemedicine abortion care, and a law banning insurance plans in the state from covering abortions. He has previously been endorsed by anti-choice group Nebraska Right to Life."

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THE LEFT, it should be obvious, has absolutely no reason to defend this shameful record and should frankly recoil at the suggestion. Especially considering the context of Nebraska, one of the worst offenders with regards to abortion rights, where a court refused the request of a 16-year-old girl to obtain an abortion in 2013. This wasn't at all uncommon except for the fact that she appealed the decision and made national headlines--only to be denied again.

Moreover, what got lost in the melee of the debate was Sanders' rationale for supporting Mello.

"If we are going to protect a woman's right to choose, at the end of the day we're going to need Democratic control over the House and the Senate, and state governments all over this nation," Sanders argued, echoing Lujan. "And we have got to appreciate where people come from, and do our best to fight for the pro-choice agenda. But I think you just can't exclude people who disagree with us on one issue."

For Sanders this clearly wasn't about Mello's nonexistent evolution on the question of abortion rights. It is an explicitly strategic calculation and the left should unequivocally oppose that strategy. The fact that, instead, many stumbled over themselves to try to make Sanders' move to the right on this question more palatable is an ominous illustration of how a narrow focus on elections can cause us to lose sight of our long-term goals.

Sanders supporters should take to heart that his conclusions about the reasons for the Democratic Party's election loss had been the exact opposite of Pelosi's and Schumer's. At the People's Summit in Chicago in early June, in response to Jeremy Corbyn's stunning parliamentary victory against Theresa May in the UK, Sanders said, "The Labour Party won 30 seats not by moving to the right or becoming more conciliatory, but by standing up to the ruling class of the UK."

That statement should be a starting point for left strategy today--and it is completely at odds, it's worth noting, with Sanders' rationale for supporting Mello, who eventually lost.

In fact, the strategy of opening the doors to anti-choice Democrats in order to "fit the district" is actually rooted in a profoundly elitist notion that people in certain parts of the country couldn't be swayed by left-wing arguments around abortion--despite the fact that women all over the country and from all religious backgrounds need and try to get them.

Disguised as "pragmatism" it is actually a significant part of the reason--in addition to a retreat from grassroots activism--that abortion access is so dismal today.

As an example, in 1986 Arkansas voters nearly passed an amendment to their state's constitution that would have banned abortion subsidies in the state, despite the fact that Arkansas wasn't providing abortion subsidies and the Hyde Amendment prevented federal subsidies as well. While Amendment 65 didn't pass, the strategy to defeat the amendment concocted by Democratic consultants, funded by groups like NOW and the ACLU, highlight the problems with the narrow electoral strategy.

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THESE CONSULTANTS argued that Arkansas voters would be completely immune to arguments about women's rights, so they should be avoided at all cost. In fact, they argued to stay away entirely from the words "women" or "rights." They would win skeptical, right-leaning voters on the basis of government intrusion on private, family decisions. For these voters, government intrusion meant taking away their guns or telling them who to live next to (read: black people). These racist right-wingers were the voters that would guide the strategy of the consultants.

Rather than attempting to explain why abortion is a critical issue for working-class and poor women and why actually subsidizing abortions is crucial to making this constitutional right accessible to everyone--not just the rich--they geared their message to right-wingers and preyed on voters' worst racist instincts about public spending. As William Saletan wrote in his 2003 book, Bearing Right: How Conservatives Won the Abortion Wars:

Strategists for NOW and the ACLU purged their literature of references to their organizations. They called themselves the "Stop Big Government Committee of Arkansas" and distributed flyers proclaiming, "KEEP BIG GOVERNMENT OUT OF BEDROOMS." ACLU director Kurjiaka wrote to a right-wing lawmaker, reminding him that "government intervention" was a hallmark of "communist, socialist or Marxist societies."...A pro-choice fundraising letter claimed that the amendment would require "tax supported maternity centers" to provide "free prenatal care." According to the letter, Arkansas would become a welfare magnet for "families of child-bearing age."

So in order to prevent a bill that would constitutionally ban public funding, abortion rights supporters ended up making an argument against public funding. This seems to be a classic case of winning a battle, but losing the war.

And this wasn't a one-off. The Arkansas victory was seen as the model for "keeping Roe" going forward. This was a conscious decision to shift towards an electoral strategy aimed at disassociating abortion rights from its emancipatory origins in the women's movement. And it meant compromise after compromise on all kinds of questions that should have been non-negotiable.

It was the same strategy that drove NARAL to support--while not explicitly endorsing--the campaign of Democrat Doug Wilder against Marshall Coleman in Virginia's 1989 gubernatorial race. Wilder was the classic Southern version of a liberal. A conservative, Black politician who was anti-union, pro-death penalty and pro-choice--under certain circumstances. Wilder's campaign took Arkansas' lead and when confronted with the question of abortion talked about the right for "families" to decide, not the government. But, when a parental consent bill became a national legislative battle, he conceded that minors needed to get their parent's approval before getting an abortion. Here's how Saletan explains NARAL's position:

[R]ather than treat elections as a means to winning legislative fights, NARAL would treat legislative fights as a means to winning elections. It would focus on campaigns rather than government, as [one strategist] had put it in his creed of political consulting. "Our decision to become involved in defensive legislative efforts should be dictated by our political and electoral objectives," [another consultant] wrote. On this principle, NARAL might support bills crafted to "give our friends 'cover' on issues such as parental consent." Better to pass a diluted parental involvement bill than to jeopardize the careers of pro-choice lawmakers by forcing them to oppose the idea altogether.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

HINDSIGHT SHOULD tell us that the left's strategy must distinguish itself from Democratic electoral strategy. What the left needs to do on the ideological front is to put forward a clear, uncompromising and unapologetic defense of abortion rights. An excellent example of how to do so is provided by Dr. Willie Parker, whose recent book, Life's Work: A Moral Argument for Choice, is required reading for all those wishing to advance the struggle for reproductive rights.

Parker makes it clear that if a woman cannot be trusted to make decisions about her reproduction, she has no control over her life and future. While Democrats--and organizations who support and even provide abortion care--have continuously ceded ground to the notion that there is something morally objectionable about abortions or abortion care, the left needs to argue that what is truly immoral and cruel is forcing women, trans men and girls to stay pregnant even a moment longer than they want to be or, worse, forcing them to carry an unwanted pregnancy to term. Any argument to the contrary amounts to the policing of and punishment for a person's sexual activity--a violation of one's bodily autonomy.

The picture is grim and the stakes are high. But we can take solace in the fact that a majority of the country still supports the constitutional right to an abortion--an excellent basis for further argumentation and education on the question. And the fact that 62 percent of Americans think it is the responsibility of the federal government to guarantee health care for all is further reason for optimism. These are openings that reproductive rights activists should be pursuing and attempting to expand on.

It is not too late to turn the tide on this question. Our motivation should go beyond the numbers and statistics and keep at the forefront of our minds the real stories of real people who will and have suffered the devastating consequences of abortion restrictions. If we make the argument and tell those stories, we might be surprised at how many minds we can change.

First published at Jacobin.

Categories: Political Action

Don't glorify either war "hero"

Socialist Worker - Mon, 08/21/2017 - 01:00

Donald Trump is falsely equating Washington and Lee for his own purposes, but that doesn't mean we should defend the "father of our country," writes Steve Leigh.

Left to right: George Washington, Donald Trump and Robert E. Lee

IN THE aftermath of the Nazi attack on anti-racists in Charlottesville, Donald Trump tried to equate the anti-fascist left with the fascists, saying there was violence on "many sides," and then later explicitly singling out "left-wing activists" as responsible for violence.

Trump's disgusting implication that there is no difference between marching for genocide against people of color and Jews and organizing to prevent genocide was denounced across the political spectrum, even by Republicans.

But Trump dug himself into a deeper hole when he said that there were "good people" on both sides, that the Confederate statues the far right was rallying to defend were "beautiful," and that the racists were just trying to protect their "heritage." He might have been right about this last point--only it's the "heritage" of slavery that they wants to celebrate.

Finally, Trump tried to equate taking down a statue of Robert E. Lee, the military leader of the slave-owning Confederacy, with taking down memorials to George Washington, the first president and leader of Continental Army in the War of 1776. "What's next?" Trump asked. "Taking down George Washington's statues?"

Trump's equation of Washington and Lee was a blatant attempt to make the movement to take down Confederate statues seem absurd. Anti-racists obviously need to reject Trump's attempt to deflate our movement with his false equivalences, whether between the left and right or Washington and Lee.

Still, in response to Trump, mainstream commentators, political leaders and comedians leapt to the defense of George Washington with a whitewashed version of who he was. Their main line of defense was American patriotism: Washington helped found the United States, but Lee rebelled against it.

We can reject Trump's cynical attempt to exonerate Robert E. Lee and the racists who still worship him by comparing Lee to Washington without accepting a false, rose-colored picture of "the father of our country."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

WASHINGTON WAS, as many people know, a slave owner--at the time of his death, there were 317 slaves living at his Mount Vernon plantation in Virginia.

Before leading the military struggle against British rule, he was known as an "Indian fighter." One of the main issues of the American War of Independence was the white colonists' desire to go past the Appalachian Mountains and steal more Native land--something the British, for their own reasons, were against.

The main leaders of the war were slave owners like Washington from the South and merchants in the North. The goal was not just independence, but the desire of the new ruling class to expand its conquest of North America.

After the war, Washington supported various governmental arrangements that were intended to concentrate power in the hands of the elite. The new Constitution that paved the way for Washington to become the first president included property qualifications for voting--and, of course, women, Blacks and Native Americans were excluded altogether.

Washington supported military force being used against citizens of the new nation who rose up against ">the heavy debt burden on poor farmers in Shay's Rebellion of 1787 and against heavy taxation and other grievances in the Whiskey Rebellion of the early 1790s.

Though the War for Independence defeated British rule, its long-term result was the total dispossession and genocide of Native peoples--and in the short run, it allowed the slave system to expand from the east coast of the Southern colonies throughout the rest of the Southeast.

So in telling the truth about Robert E. Lee and cheering as Confederate statues are pulled down--either officially by local governments or by direct action--we shouldn't glorify the record of the American republic or its co-founder George Washington.

Right now, the main issue is the continuing glorification of Robert E. Lee's Confederacy. Trump's references to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson as slaveholders is an attempt to keep the Confederate statues up, where they will remain a rallying cry for the right.

But a successful effort to get the Confederate statues taken down can help lay the basis for the bigger struggles against the American Empire as a whole.

Take down the Confederate statues now! We'll deal with Washington's later.

Categories: Political Action

Views in brief

Socialist Worker - Mon, 08/21/2017 - 01:00
Students lead the way in Vermont

IN RESPONSE to "Students dump a racist symbol": I am the principal of South Burlington High School (SBHS). Please share my appreciation with Matthew Gordon for his article recounting our recent experience with changing our mascot.

As Matthew states, student voice played a very large role in the change...and it has been a difficult time for our school and community.

I'm entering my 20th year at SBHS. I'm grateful every day that there are still times when the students "become the teachers"--certainly this was one of those times. Matthew was correct to identify the students as the catalyst for this change.

As we start school, we're hoping to reunite our school and community--certainly all our students deserve our best efforts to that end.
Patrick Burke, from the Internet

Demolishing Israeli myths

IN RESPONSE to "Deconstructing Israeli mythology": I want to thank SocialistWorker.org for reviewing Ilan Pappé's new book. This book is a welcome addition to an increasing repertoire of literature in the struggle for Palestinian rights as we watch the Occupied Territories take steps into a new phase of resistance.

Readers' Views

SocialistWorker.org welcomes our readers' contributions to discussion and debate about articles we've published and questions facing the left. Opinions expressed in these contributions don't necessarily reflect those of SW.

The idea that Palestine was "a land without a people" is still taken as common sense over 70 years later, even among people who are sympathetic to the Palestinian cause. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Levant was divided into four distinct states by both Britain and France following the First World War, only one of which was Palestine, under the secret Sykes-Picot agreement. In order to maintain both empires' domination over the coveted Suez Canal and easy access to the riches of India and Southeast Asia, the French and British empires used ethnic and religious tensions to their advantage--playing them against each other in the creation of these states.

The displacement of Palestinian Arabs and the creation of Israel in 1948 were largely a part of Britain's decision to upset the fragile balance and to have a state in line with European interests in the Middle East.

The U.S. took over that precious mantle during the Cold War, where Arab states had been pitted against each other through the pro-West monarchies of the Gulf and the Arab nationalists courted by the USSR of North Africa and the Levant. In a tragic finale, the Cold War found its last battleground in the streets of Beirut--a brutal civil war that has only waited to resurface in the streets of Aleppo, Kobane, Raqqa and Mosul.

Pappé's new book is an invaluable resource for revolutionary socialists trying to come to grips with the history of anti-Semitism, Zionist colonial occupation, and the long 20th and 21st century history of oppression.
Tom Gagné, Atlanta

ICE lies about Frank Fuentes

IN RESPONSE to "ICE is guilty of the murder of Frank Fuentes": I knew Frank Fuentes. It seems very surreal that his picture is everywhere in the media. And yes, it is very political.

He was a very Americanized Latino who struggled when deported to Guatemala, a place he didn't even remember. He would be turning in his grave if he could see that the media was trying to paint him as a gang member and an MS-13 gang member, something he hated! (And, while he was alive, something all of his friends hated.)

So you can imagine that seeing the media trying to paint him as an MS-13 member had me speechless. We see how ICE is using this to their advantage. They are trying to paint people as gang members to get them deported.
Wilbert, Falls Church, Virginia

A question not asked

IN RESPONSE to "How will Brazil's left react to the Lula verdict?": I am glad SW published this article. Both parts of the article and the introduction ask the question "how will the left react" to Lulu's verdict. I think, given the influence (though relative weakness to the Workers Party [PT] itself) that this is a legitimate question to pose, but actually it is the secondary question.

The primary question is not where the left falls in this, though it is, of course, of interest to the readers of this paper, but where will the working class fall on this issue? That is not posed at all in the article. Given the huge role of the unions in particular, which group together the most class-conscious workers in Brazil, not posing this question is a disservice to the readers.

The largest union in Brazil and the union that groups together the majority of manufacturing workers in this country, the CUT is the largest union in the Western Hemisphere. There are other militant unions as well.

The CUT has not, generally, distinguished itself independently of the Lula leadership, and this has hurt them. Yet workers continue to look to this organization as the highest expression of their class interests. This needs to be discussed.
David Walters, San Francisco

Hands off Venezuela

IN RESPONSE to "Being honest about Venezuela": While I agree with your analysis of the mistakes made by Nicolás Maduro and the growing bureaucracy behind him. I find your lack of advocacy of a fight back against the right-wing opposition dangerous to the extent that, without support of the government at least to defend what has been achieved, you are helping to promote a Chilean-type coup.

I am a member of the UK Socialist Workers Party and remember that when Cuba was under attack we supported "Hands off Cuba" demonstrations. Why are you not promoting "Hands off Venezuela" demonstrations to defend what gains have been made and protest the destabilization policies that all left-wing governments--whether top down or bottom up--would be subjected to?
Jim Hutchinson, Gateshead, UK

Categories: Political Action

Now is the Time for Talks with North Korea

American Friends Service Committee - Fri, 08/18/2017 - 15:38
News Source: Zoom in Korea
Categories: Political Action

Digital Rights Organisations Tell NAFTA Negotiators: Move Talks Out of the Shadows

Creative Commons - Fri, 08/18/2017 - 12:31

Today Creative Commons and over two dozen civil society and digital rights organisations released a letter raising concerns about the potential impact of the re-negotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on access to information, digital rights, and the open internet. The letter was released this week because trade negotiators from Canada, Mexico, and the United States are meeting this week in Washington, D.C. for the opening round of the renewed negotiation process. In June we asked whether re-negotiating the agreement is opening Pandora’s Box.

In the letter, we demand that negotiators immediately reform the trade negotiation process to make the proceedings more transparent, inclusive and accountable. We believe it is unacceptable that binding rules on intellectual property, access to medicines, and a variety of other trade-related sectors will be reworked within a process that is inaccessible and often hostile to input from members of the public.

We warn against making changes to the existing rules around intellectual property, noting that in most recent multilateral trade negotiations there has been a significant push to drastically increase copyright enforcement measures, lengthen copyright terms, and demand harsh infringement penalties without corresponding provisions to protect the interests of users of copyright works. But if intellectual property is to be addressed within NAFTA, it is critical that user rights are balanced alongside the extensive protections already granted to rights holders. There must be active and enforceable mechanisms to protect copyright exceptions and limitations, including fair use and fair dealing regimes. It’s critical that the negotiating parties resist extending copyright terms (which do nothing to promote the creation of new works).

As the NAFTA talks unfold, we stand by our belief that these negotiations must be reformed to fully support a process that is transparent, inclusive and accountable. If negotiators wish to address copyright concerns, they should do so not by increasing protectionist measures that will benefit only small number of powerful rights holders. Instead, they should advocate for balanced, progressive provisions that empower new creators and users and protect the public good.

Transparency, Digital Rights, and NAFTA (English)
Transparencia​ ​y​ ​los​ ​derechos​ ​digitales​ ​en​ ​el​ ​TLCAN (Español)

Transparency, Digital Rights, and NAFTA

We, the undersigned, are Internet freedom and public interest advocates drawn from all three nations party to this agreement, who are dedicated to the rights of all peoples to access cultural and educational resources, to enjoy a free and open Internet, and to benefit from open and needs-driven innovation.

As the United States, Mexico and Canada begin talks on the renegotiation of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) this week, we write to share our concerns about NAFTA’s potential impact on the critical functions of the Internet and its potential to threaten access to information, the dissemination of news, cultural exchange and democratic organizing.

First and foremost, we call upon the United States, Mexico and Canada to meaningfully reform trade negotiation processes to make them more transparent, inclusive and accountable. It is unacceptable that binding rules are created in a forum that is inaccessible and often hostile to input from members of the public. Specifically, we would like to see: public release of text proposals by governments before negotiations, with clear processes established for members of the public to comment on them; consolidated versions of negotiating texts published between negotiating rounds; locations and times of key meetings announced well ahead of time; and the establishment of consultative trade groups that are broadly representative of both business and public interest stakeholders with a commitment to conducting deliberations openly.

Without these reforms, public trust in trade processes will continue to wane, and governments will face significant popular resistance to agreements based on process alone.

We also share concerns about the suitability of trade mechanisms to create prescriptive policies that govern Internet use, cultural sharing and innovation. In general, developments in technology happen quickly, and trade processes that do not keep pace with technological and social advancement may inhibit each of our respective governments from making necessary and appropriate changes to related rules, especially with regard to intellectual property regulations that impact our rights to culture and free expression.

With specific regard to including intellectual property rules in trade agreements, when these policies have been included in past agreements, we have seen that there is a significant push to drastically increase enforcement measures for rightsholders, lengthen copyright terms, and demand harsh infringement penalties, without corresponding provisions to protect the interests of users of copyright works.

We do not believe these types of rules belong in trade agreements, and given the ambitious timeline for a completed NAFTA renegotiation, the inclusion of prescriptive IP provisions will prove to be a stumbling block for governments seeking to create public consensus around a mutually beneficial agreement.

However, if intellectual property is addressed within NAFTA, it is critical that user rights are balanced alongside the demands of rightsholders: there must be active and enforceable mechanisms to protect exceptions and limitations regimes, fair use/fair dealing and the public domain. Parties should resist extensions in copyright terms that punish new artists and creators, and there should be no increased criminalization for digital rights management circumvention.

Further, any rules aimed at promoting the free flow of data across the Internet and reducing barriers to trade in digital products and services must preserve countries’ flexibility to robustly protect individual privacy and security, including the ability to place limits on cross-border data transfers or on the protection of trade secrets.

A renegotiated NAFTA should not be developed in secret, and must not lead to a rewriting of intellectual property rules that further tilts the balance away from the public interest or undermines the free, open and interoperable Internet.


Electronic Frontier Foundation
Creative Commons
R3D: Red en Defensa de los Derechos Digitales
Public Interest Advocacy Centre
Derechos Digitales
Just Foreign Policy
Public Knowledge
Media Alliance
Data Roads Foundation
Public Citizen (Access to Medicines, Innovation and Information)
Red Mexicana de acción frente al Libre Comercio (RMALC)
Common Frontiers
May First/People Link
Internet Archive
SonTusDatos (Artículo 12)
Authors Alliance
Sierra Club Canada Foundation
Samuelson-Glushko Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC)
National Family Farm Coalition
Wikimedia Foundation

The post Digital Rights Organisations Tell NAFTA Negotiators: Move Talks Out of the Shadows appeared first on Creative Commons.

Categories: Political Action

As First NAFTA Round Opens in Secrecy, Digital Rights Groups Fear Another TPP

Deep Links - Fri, 08/18/2017 - 12:22

The opening round of a series of negotiations over a proposed revised North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) began this week in Washington, D.C. between trade representatives from the United States, Canada, and Mexico. Already it is clear that the office of the U.S. Trade Representative (USTR) has ignored our specific recommendations (to say nothing of USTR Robert Lighthizer's personal promises) about making the negotiations more open and transparent. Once again, following the failed model of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the USTR will be keeping the negotiating texts secret, and in an actual regression from the TPP will be holding no public stakeholder events alongside the first round. This may or may not set a precedent for future rounds, that will rotate between the three countries every few weeks thereafter, with a scheduled end date of mid-2018.

Although EFF has been keeping an open mind about the agreement until we have a better idea of what it will contain, the secrecy of its first negotiation round augurs poorly for what is to come. Already, the usual copyright lobbyists have descended upon the negotiations, sending a letter to the USTR this week which directly opposes the inclusion of a "fair use" copyright exception in the agreement, as EFF had suggested. This "creative industry" letter relevantly states:

The three-step test strikes the appropriate balance in copyright, and any language mandating broader exceptions and limitations only serves as a vehicle to introduce uncertainty into copyright law, distort markets and weaken the rights of the small and medium businesses and creators we represent. For that reason, we strongly urge USTR to not include “balance” language similar to what appeared in the TPP or any reference to vague, open-ended limitations.

But more than two dozen public interest groups, including EFF, Creative Commons, Public Knowledge, Public Citizen, and OpenMedia, have written a letter of our own, in which we counter this argument and raise some of our own key concerns. Aside from the fact that we have been shamefully shut out of the negotiations, without any opportunity to see the texts that are being negotiated on our behalf, our letter also warns against the inclusion of one-sided copyright and digital trade provisions in NAFTA, such as those that had previously been part of the failed TPP:

We also share concerns about the suitability of trade mechanisms to create prescriptive policies that govern Internet use, cultural sharing and innovation. In general, developments in technology happen quickly, and trade processes that do not keep pace with technological and social advancement may inhibit each of our respective governments from making necessary and appropriate changes to related rules, especially with regard to intellectual property regulations that impact our rights to culture and free expression.

The letter will be delivered to the trade ministries of the three countries today. You can read it in full below.

Categories: Political Action

Cumberland Homesteads: Friends in high places

American Friends Service Committee - Fri, 08/18/2017 - 10:41
News Source: Crossville Chronicle
Categories: Political Action