Archive | February 13th, 2020

Islamic school sues Ofsted after being failed over 25 yr old leaflet promoting Khilafa

By 5Pillars 

A Birmingham Islamic school has mounted a legal challenge against education watchdog Ofsted after it was failed following the discovery in the library of a 25-year-old leaflet about an Islamic conference promoting Khilafa.

Ofsted rated Birchfield Independent Girls’ School in Aston as “inadequate” after inspectors found the leaflet about the 1994 conference which was organised by Islamic political group Hizb ut-Tahrir.

The school had been predicted to get a rating of “good” until the discovery during the second day of the inspection.

Khilafa (Islamic state) is a normative concept in mainstream Islam but has been fiercely attacked by the government and mainstream media.

Birchfield said it had been a victim of Ofsted’s “draconian and inconsistent inspection practices” against faith-based independent schools.

Birchfield Independent Girls’ School

In a statement, the school said: “We are deeply disappointed with the judgements in our recent Ofsted report. They in no way reflect the paramount importance that we place on safeguarding, nor the evidence base collected by inspectors. Our pupils are safe, well cared for and our school has robust systems in place to safeguard our pupils.

“The leaflet identified has no place in our teachings, curriculum or ethos. We work hard to promote fundamental British values and the rule of law at our school. Our pupils are well equipped to combat radicalisation and inspectors were able to verify this as part of the inspection process.

“Our library has been vetted to ensure all materials are appropriate and in line with fundamental British values. Any newly added material is vetted before it is included in the library and senior staff and the librarian on a regular basis make checks.

“Additionally, pupils’ access to the library is always supervised and the room is under lock and key when not used. The room was given to the inspectors as a base during the inspection period. Subsequently we were unable to carry out our regular due diligence on the days of the inspection and the leaflet highlighted was found on day 2 of the inspection.

“Sadly, we are not the only faith based independent school to fall victim to Ofsted’s draconian and inconsistent inspection practices. It remains a growing and dissatisfactory issue which must be addressed. It is simply unacceptable for Ofsted to undermine all of the hard work put in by staff and pupils when coming to wholly inaccurate judgements of schools. We continue to challenge the decision making which led to our inspection judgements and await Ofsted’s legal response.”

“Seriously inflammatory leaflet”

Following the inspection in November inspectors rated the quality of education as “good” but said the leadership and management were “inadequate.” It added that the school does not meet independent school standards.

Inspectors said: “A seriously inflammatory leaflet that encourages radicalisation was found on the bookshelf in the school library during the inspection. Leaders have not made sure that pupils are protected from this type of material. This means that pupils are not safe. None of the school leaders could explain how the leaflet got there.”

Regarding the leaflet, Ofsted said: “It states, for example: ‘Today we find that the sons and daughters of Islam are under continuous attack by the forces of non-Islam’. It promotes the Khaleefah which is defined as: ‘The total rulership of Muslims over the world.’

“The leaflet is an advertisement for a meeting held in Wembley stadium that advertised the Islamic State in 1994. A web-based search of the meeting could lead pupils to views promoting the proposed supremacy of Muslims in the world. Leaders could not explain how the leaflet came to be there or why it was not spotted and removed by school staff.”

However, the inspection team also found that these sentiments did not reflect the views of pupils and that they are encouraged to accept differences and to value diversity.

“Pupils are happy in this school,” Ofsted said. “Pupils and staff work well together and there is a good level of mutual respect. Despite the unacceptable literature found, pupils are taught to accept everyone, whoever they are…

“Every pupil does her best. The teachers help all the pupils to make progress. The broad curriculum is often delivered in fun and interesting ways. This promotes pupils’ learning. They do well as a result. Pupils behave well because that is what staff expect. Any bullying incidents are dealt with quickly and effectively…

“Leaders have improved the delivery of the curriculum since the previous inspection. Consequently, the school is now providing a good quality of education.”

A spokesperson for Ofsted said: “Our inspection handbook makes it clear that a setting will be rated inadequate if it is considered that safeguarding is ineffective.”

Posted in Campaigns, Education, UK0 Comments

Jimmy Carter says Trump’s Middle East plan violates international law

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter (Photo by Reuters)

Former U.S. president Jimmy Carter (Photo by Reuters)

Atlanta, February 2 (RHC)– Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter says Donald Trump’s self-styled initiative for resolution of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict serves instead to compromise any prospect of “peace” and violates international law. 

“The new U.S. plan undercuts prospects for a just peace between Israelis and Palestinians. If implemented, the plan will doom the only viable solution to this long-running conflict, the two-state solution,” he said.  

Trump had announced the scheme, which he has named as the “deal of the century” years ago, but had withheld its details.  He unveiled its outlines last Tuesday, saying it considers occupied Jerusalem al-Quds to be Israel’s “capital” — although Palestinians want the city’s eastern part as the capital of their future state.

Carter recalled that the plan violated the United Nations’ repeated calls for a “two-state solution” based on the 1967 borders.  Tel Aviv occupied the Palestinian territories of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip that year.

Not only did not Trump’s scheme mandate Israel to withdraw from the West Bank, but also it said the regime would be annexing the illegal settlements that it has been building on the occupied territories under the US scheme.  Carter also called on UN member states “to adhere to UN Security Council resolutions and to reject any unilateral Israeli implementation of the proposal by grabbing more Palestinian land.”

The U.S. proposal also “breaches international law” addressing the issues of Palestinian self-determination, acquisition of foreign land by force, annexation of occupied territories, and also denied Palestinians equal rights, he added.

Palestinians, who had already spurned the plot, repeated their opposition to it soon after Trump’s announcement.  Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas has cut his organization’s ties with Washington and Tel Aviv in response to Trump’s announcement, saying his decision followed the US and Israel’s “disavowal of signed agreements and international legitimacy.”

Posted in Palestine Affairs, USA, ZIO-NAZI, Middle East0 Comments

Trump’s ‘peace’ deal flagrantly tramples on Palestinian rights and freedoms

By: Yara Hawari

This plan is simply a continuation of US-Israel policy. Palestinians have heard it all before and won’t accept it

Palestinians in Rafah protest against the Middle East peace plan. ‘The White House never expected the Palestinian leadership to accept this plan.’
 Palestinians in Rafah protest against the Middle East peace plan. ‘The White House never expected the Palestinian leadership to accept this plan.’ Photograph: APA Images/News Pictures/Rex/Shutterstock

At the White House on Tuesday, Donald Trump laid out his “deal of the century”: a plan for total Palestinian capitulation. It calls on Palestinians to recognise Israel as a Jewish state with all of Jerusalem as its capital, to give up the right of return that would allow Palestinian refugees to live in Israel, to accept the annexation of the Jordan Valley and the illegal Israeli settlements there, and to live in a series of Bantustans connected by roads and tunnels that would all essentially be controlled by Israel.

None of this should be surprising. Not only is the plan simply a continuation of the Trump administration’s policy towards Israel and Palestine since the day he took office, but it comes after decades of disregard towards Palestinian aspirations of freedom and sovereignty.

No deal: why Trump’s plan for Palestine will only create more conflict.

When the Oslo peace accords were signed in 1993, they were hailed as the foundation for a negotiated peace between Israel and Palestine – a stance that most international actors and bodies have continued to hold in the decades since. At the time, however, the Palestinian scholar Edward Said dubbed the much celebrated accords “a Palestinian Versailles”, a degrading spectacle that undermined the liberation struggle and any hopes for future Palestinian sovereignty. Unfortunately, he has been proven right. The division of the West Bank into Areas A, B and C under the accords allowed Israel to dominate the latter two areas while the former became pockets of limited Palestinian autonomy. In other words, it facilitated the complete Bantustanisation of the West Bank and the isolation of Gaza.

Meanwhile, the accords failed to properly address the key issues of Jerusalem, refugees, settlements, borders and security; instead, they were designated “final status issues”, to be resolved as part of some future peace deal. Inadvertently, then, the PLO (Palestinian Liberation Organisation), led by Yasser Arafat, allowed them to become disputed issues, rather than ones central to the Palestinian struggle and defined clearly in international law. This was clear at the White House yesterday when, standing at Trump’s side, Benjamin Netanyahu said that talk of the occupation as “illegal” was outrageous.

There were no Palestinians at the White House; indeed, Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and the architect of this plan, barely bothered to speak to any Palestinians. And there is no mention in Trump’s plan of Palestinian rights. Instead Palestinians are promised economic incentives, namely $50bn of investment over the next 10 years, in exchange for their internationally enshrined rights – another all too familiar component of previous “peace” plans. As if paying Palestinians off would make them forget the rights to Jerusalem, to return to their villages and towns of origin or to live as equal and full human beings.

It is thus clear that Trump’s plan is not only an assault on Palestinian rights and freedom but also an attempt to put forward a new world order that completely undermines international law. Whatever the White House might say, it never expected the Palestinian leadership would accept this plan or even consider some of its terms and conditions. And that means it can continue to buy into the decades-old and quite frankly racist narrative that the Palestinian people are rejectionist and unwilling to negotiate. That was evident in Kushner’s comments: if the Palestinians don’t accept this deal, he argued, “they’re going to screw up another opportunity like they’ve screwed up every other opportunity that they’ve ever had in their existence”.

Depressing as the Trump plan may be, it does suggest one possible opportunity. It stipulates that while negotiations take place, the PLO is not to take part in any action against Israel at the international criminal court – in a nod to the recent war crimes probe opened by the court’s chief prosecutor. This reveals that Israel is genuinely scared of such a move, if any international actors are brave enough to seek it.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, Middle East, USA, ZIO-NAZI0 Comments

From Oslo to Mein Trump

Posted by: Sammi Ibrahem,Sr

Image result for OSLO TRUMP CARTOON

بيان:نحنُ الموقعين أدناه
نُعلن رفضنا لصفقة القرن التي تُمثل امتداداً لوعد بلفور ولنكبة عام 1948، وإذ نُحيِّ جماهيرَ شعبِنا وقِواهُ في الضفة الغربية وغزة والقدس؛ وفي مناطق 48 وأهلُنا في الشتات، وانطلاقاً من دورنا الوطني المسؤول كفلسطينيين وأصحاب أرض فإننا ندعو للعمل الجاد في إتخاذ الإجراءات التالية :
أولًا/
التنفيذ الفوري والفعلي لقرارات الإجماع الوطني بدءاً من إنهاء أوسلو وتبِعاتِه ونتائجه ، وفي مقدمتها وقف التنسيق الأمني وسحب الإعتراف بدولة الإحتلال وإلغاء إتفاقية باريس الإقتصادية.
ثانيًا/
إستعادة وحدة شعبُنا وأدواته من خلال تحقيق وحدة وطنية حقيقية في جبهة وطنيةواحدة ، تُنهي الإنقسام وتتصدى لجذره بعيداً عن الحوارات العبثية والطويلة وإستبعاد أي دور للتوتيريين وأصحاب الأجندات الخاصة .
ثالثًا/
تجديد الشرعيات الفلسطينية من خلال إنتخاب مجلس
وطني فلسطيني يُعيد الإعتبار لمُنظمة التحرير وميثاقُها
ودورها الريادي بكافة مؤسساتها وهيئاتها على أسس الشراكة الوطنية بمشاركة كافة مكونات العمل الوطني والإسلامي.
رابعًا/
فك الدمج الرسمي والجغرافي بين رئاسة السلطة ورئاسة منظمة التحرير .
خامسًا/
الإعلان وبشكلٍ واضح أننا مع محور المقاومة والمُقاوميين ، ونُدين ونّشجب المُطبعين من بعض حُكام الخليج العربي والطابور السادس الثقافي ونُطالب شعوب أُمتُنا العربية والإسلامية بموقفٍ واضح وصريح بالوقوف مع الشعب الفلسطيني وقضيتهُ وإعادة الإعتبار لقضية فلسطين بإعتبارها قضية عربية وإسلامية مركزية.
سادسًا/
وقف الحديث عن المفاوضات العبثية التي لم يجني شعبنا من ورائها إلا ضياع حقوقه ومكتسباته، والتي كانت مقدمات لتجرؤ ترامب على شعبُنا وقضيته.
سابعاً/
المضي قدما ً في عملية إجراء الانتخابات بإصدار المرسوم المتعلق بها بدون المزيد من التأخير . لن يقبل أحد بإجراء انتخابات بدون القدس . ولكن ذلك يجب ألا يخضع لموافقة أو ڤيتو اسرائيلي . وشعبنا قادر على تحويل معركة الانتخابات في القدس إلى إحدى أول معارك المواجهة لصفقة ترمب . والقيادة الوطنية الموحدة قادرة على وضع الخطوات العملية لتجسيد هذا التحدي .
الموافقون : أ.د. رياض مصطفي شاهين . د. ناجي البطة. د. رمضان العمري. د. علي الهبيل. .د. فهمي شراب. د. عماد أبو حرب . د. هاني الجزار . د صالح الهمص . ايه اسليم . د- خميس العرابيد . م. أنور عطا الله. د . إبراهيم ماضي – أ. يونس أبو معيلق . د. ماجد أبو عمشة . د. رشاد المدني . د- . حسام الدجني د.- أ.د. شفيق جندية. أ. احمد الطيبي .- م. باسم شراب. أ.د. محمد مقداد. – د. حنان العكلوك . د. محمد اسعيد العمور . م. جهاد صلاح .- م. نزار الوحيدي .- د. كمال حمدان.- م. عصام حماد . د. عبدالله عياش .د حسن خريشه د معاويه المصري د عبد الستار قاسم د عبد الرحيم كتانه حسام خضر. فخري تركمان احسان سالم. د ياسر ابو صفيه عبد الجواد صالح نافع الحسن د حسن خاطر د منصور سلامه دعلي ابو الريش د يحيى شاور مجدولين حسونه رحاب دويكات. جمال الصابر د فيصل الزعنون د سامح ابو سير. د انور الجانم. د زائد ابو دريه د عبد الفتاح ابو الشكر. د.وليد طرايرة محمد حجة د منصور سلامه نزار بنات محمد عمرو تغريد سعاده مسعد عربيد خالد ابو خالد محمد عادل زهرة محمد، عادل سماره.محمد بريغيث، عزمي منصور ، محمود ابراهيم فنون، كامل جبيل، سوين مروة،
نجدد التأكيد على أن الصفقة تسقط بوحدتنا
ملاحظة: البيان مفتوح للتوقيع عربيا ويمكن إرسال الأسماء إلى موقعي:الوعي العربي و kaanonline.org على ان تتولى إدارة الموقعين توزيعه إلى مختلف المواقع العروبية.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, USA, ZIO-NAZI, Arabic0 Comments

Bloc of Muslim Nations Warns Trump ‘Israel’-Palestine Plan ‘Destroys the Foundations of Peace’

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation emphasized that “peace and security in the Middle East region, as a strategic option, will only be achieved with the end of the Israeli occupation.”

by: Jessica Corbett,

Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meeting

Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) Secretary-General Yusuf bin Ahmed Al-Othaimeen (L) and Foreign Minister of the Palestine Riyad al-Maliki attend the OIC’s emergency open-ended executive committee ministerial meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia on Feb. 3, 2020. (Photo: Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

Joining global critics of a plan that President Donald Trump unveiled last week to address the decades-long Israel-Palestine conflict, the Organization of Islamic Cooperation on Monday rejected the “biased” proposal and urged members states not to cooperate with U.S. efforts to enforce it.

At a meeting in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, the OIC executive committee adopted a resolution which decried Trump’s so-called “Deal of the Century,” reaffirmed support for the Palestinian people and the Palestine Liberation Organization headed by Mahmoud Abbas, and emphasized that “peace and security in the Middle East region, as a strategic option, will only be achieved with the end of the Israeli occupation.”

The 57-member body of Muslim-majority countries declared that Trump’s plan “lacks the minimum requirements of justice and destroys the foundations of peace, including the agreed legal and international terms of reference for a peaceful solution and the need to respect and recognize the inalienable rights of the Palestinian people, including the right to national independence and of Palestine refugees to return.”

The resolution expressed “regret at the biased approach of the ‘plan’ that fully adopts the Israeli narrative and endorses the annexation of vast areas of the occupied land of the State of Palestine, under the pretext of security for Israel, the illegal occupying power, in flagrant violation of the principles of international law, the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by force, the United Nations Charter, and relevant international resolutions.”

According to the resolution, Israel is “responsible for the deterioration of the situation on the ground because of its denial of relevant agreements, its defiance of international legitimacy and the continuation of the policies of colonization, annexation, settlement expansion, discrimination and ethnic cleansing, which have been perpetrated against the Palestinian people in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem.”

Along with warning Israel against making any further moves “to consolidate its colonial occupation in the territory of the State of Palestine,” the OIC called on the international community to reject and confront “any action or proposal that is inconsistent with international law and relevant United Nations resolutions.”

The resolution came just two days after the Arab League also rejected Trump’s proposal, concluding that “it does not meet the minimum rights and aspirations of Palestinian people,” and vowed to not cooperate with the U.S. efforts to implement the plan.

Abbas, the Palestinian Authority president, announced at the Arab League meeting that in the wake of the plan’s unveiling, “we’ve informed the Israeli side … that there will be no relations at all with them and the United States including security ties.” The Palestinian leader has declined to communicate with Trump by phone or letter.

Other critics of the proposal—which Trump introduced at the White House week with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu by his side—have denounced it as an “annexation plan.” Last week, Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) called it “shameful and disingenuous” while Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a 2020 White House hopeful, warned that the plan “will only perpetuate the conflict.”

The OIC resolution also came as Agence-France Presse reported that the United States requested a closed-door United Nations Security Council meeting Thursday for a presentation by Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and senior adviser, who oversaw the development of the administration’s plan.

That meeting would occur just days before Abbas is set to arrive at the U.N. on Feb. 11 “to express opposition to the U.S. plan and to demand adherence to international law,” AFP noted. “On the occasion of Abbas’ visit, the Palestinians have indicated they plan to submit a draft resolution to the Security Council, through Tunisia, a non-permanent member of the council.”

Posted in Palestine Affairs, Middle East, USA, ZIO-NAZI0 Comments

Trump’s plan leaves Palestinians no option but to reject it. Just as he intended

Trump's plan leaves Palestinians no option but to reject it. Just as he intended

By: Muhammad Shehada

Since taking office, Trump has enacted a shockingly pro-Israel agenda [Getty]

Date of publication: 28 January, 2020Share this page:

Comment: From the very beginning, Trump and Kushner’s plan was intended to drive Palestinians away, rather than back to the negotiating table, writes Muhammad Shehada.

The Trump administration saw an opportune moment in Gantz’s announcement, and invited both rivals to the White House. To make the visit all the more interesting, Trump announced a welcome gift; all of the sudden, his team would be ready to reveal their “peace” proposal on Gantz’s and Netanyahu’s arrival this Tuesday.

Politicised timing

The timing of Trump’s plan shows that it has always been more about Israeli and American politics and domestic affairs, rather than anything to do with reaching Israeli-Palestinian peace. After three years of consistent procrastination, Trump’s team suddenly saw fit to release the plan, perhaps to lure Gantz into a coalition with Netanyahu, and maximise the latter’s chances of winning, by gifting him a blank cheque to satisfy the ultimate wishlist of Israel’s more fanatic constituents.

Amit Segal, a political analyst with Israel’s Channel 12 dubbed the scheme “the best plan ever proposed to Israel,” as it greenlights major Israeli annexations in the West Bank.

An unexecutable plan

Timing aside, everything about the proposal is catastrophic. Leaked details suggest a purposeful effort to compromise and exterminate, rather than revive the peace process. It’s most telling that Trump is not even bothering to invite a single Palestinian to the unveiling of this miserable scam designed by con artists with their own agenda.

Trump’s proposal apperas to suggest that Palestinians should give up any rudimentary defenses they’ve developed against Israel’s oppression, and acquiesce to Israel’s engulfment of all of Jerusalem and its annexation of the very lands that would otherwise make a Palestinian state viable.

Leaked details suggest a purposeful effort to compromise and exterminate rather than revive the peace process

Assuming for a moment Palestinians did ever accept this formula for defeat, the reward in Trump’s deal is little more than a tentative cash handout, and merely symbolic and fragemented self-rule that would allow Israel’s occupation and apartheid-style rule to be perpetuated for good.

If this sounds “unexecutable,” – as Trump’s own State Secretary described the plan – that’s because it’s meant to be. At every turn, the plan is likey to contain incapacitating or impossible conditions that are intended to attack the Palestinian side; to bait us into rejecting the deal in order to give Netanyahu an alibi for unilateral annexation, then blame us for the miseries that Trump’s team wants to perpetuate.

Exclusivist from the beginning

Since the outset, the process for developing and the so-called ‘peace’ plan has displayed the intention to deliberately sideline Palestinian input. Since Trump took office, every unilateral move his administration has taken in the Israel-Palestinian conflict has been a strong slap in the Palestinians’ face.

This began with the US administration’s recognition of united Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, and went on to include its heavy assault on the lifeline of Palestinian refugees – the UNRWA – and the massive defunding of Palestinian hospitalsthe Palestinian AuthorityUSAID operations in Palestine and even peace groups.

With each new slight, smirking faces insisted that such grave assaults on us should somehow lead to peace. But the constant trolling of Palestinians by Trump’s team intentionally served as powerful statements, intended to drive Palestinians away from the negotiating table rather than back to it.

Jared Kusher reaffirmed this intention in late 2018, when he told a group of journalists that Trump’s peace plan was coming even without the Palestinians, adding “we don’t need them.”

By positioning the Trump administration as a key enabler of Israeli aggression, Trump’s team effectively prevented the Palestinian leadership from deliberating the so-called ‘peace plan’ or having any say in it.

Trump is not even bothering to invite a single Palestinian to the unveiling of this miserable scam

As such, the plan was left entirely up to the fanatical US Ambassador David Friedman, and Netanyahu’s ambassador to the US Ron Dermer. Together, they crafted it to the full satisfaction of Israel’s extreme right, while Palestinians were forced into the audience seat, uninformed about how their fate was being decided.

With the mission of driving Palestinians away being accomplished, the conclusion of Trump’s plan rather than its beginning, is what comes next; the annexation of the very areas in the West Bank that would otherwise make a Palestinian state viable.

From the very beginning, Trump’s team were planning all along to push for Israel’s annexation of major parts of the West Bank; in order to use it as a boost for Trump and Netanyahu’s popularity among their extremist electorates.

Nothing shows this better than when Trump’s Mideast Peace Envoy, Jason Greenblatt, called on Israel to hold off annexation plans, until after Trump’s peace plan had been revealed.

To give annexation to Israel for free, Trump and Netanyahu need only the Palestinian rejection of the “peace plan” to solely blame us for its failure and the demise of the two-state solution.

To Trump, it doesn’t matter that Netanyahu’s Defense Minister already declared he would reject Trump’s plan if it recognised a Palestinian state on what would be left of land after annexation. And it doesn’t matter that an Israeli settler leader said plainly that Israel will pick and choose from the deal only what’s in its favour, and reject the rest.

Palestinians were forced into the audience seat, uninformed about how their fate was being decided

Palestinians need only to blink first and say no to the deal in order to have it on record that we’re the anti-peace “rejectionists”, and not Israel. This will feed the ad nauseam trope that “Palestinians never miss an opportunity to miss and opportunity.” And so, Palestinians will likely be blamed yet again for the irrevocable damage caused by the normalisation of Israeli apartheid, with Trump’s blessings.

The international community must not remain silent over such a farce. Rejecting Trump’s serious assault on the peace process necessitates more than routine denunciations, it calls for clear actions to deter such flagrant violations and show solidarity with the Palestinian quest for justice and freedom. As annexation looms, it’s time to sanction Israel’s lawlessness, once and for all.

Posted in Palestine Affairs, USA, ZIO-NAZI0 Comments

The Afghanistan Papers and a Mother’s Question

We must stop the killing, take the trillions of dollars devoted to endless war and instead invest in our people, invest in our environment, and invest in our future. 

by: Mary Hladky

Congressional hearings must be held and the Afghanistan War must end now. (Photo by Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Congressional hearings must be held and the Afghanistan War must end now. (Photo by Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

The Washington Post recently released the Afghanistan Papers, which are internal government documents that exposed the lies told to the American people, documenting early on that the Afghanistan War was a debacle and could not be won.  Yet, our government chose to continue that war now in its 19th year.  

As the mother of an infantry officer who served in Zhari District, Kandahar Province, Afghanistan, at the height of President Obama’s surge, I have a question:  How do three Presidents and top military leaders responsible for the Afghanistan War, justify their actions to those mothers who lost a child for no good reason?   

Our government, and those who enable endless war, have clearly shown us what they think of our military men and women, the ones they proclaim to honor and respect—that, in fact, their lives are disposable, and can be simply thrown away, sacrificed for lies, unwilling to admit the Afghanistan war could not be won, damn the consequences.    

As the Afghanistan Papers clearly outline, lies were told to benefit ladder climbing officers, falsely documenting progress on their watch, when none was made.  And lies were told by our government leaders, on both sides of the aisle, who knew, or should have known that the war was futile. And the arms makers made a killing off of killing, raking in billions of dollars, year after year.  They were just fine with the concept of endless war and endless profits. All of this is despicable and disgraceful. Those in power have deeply betrayed our military men and women.

These facts are just another way to continually torture families who lost a loved one, or whose family member returned home from war broken, physically and mentally.  

And to add more insult to injury, Congress overwhelmingly approved, in the wake of these horrendous revelations, the ever-increasing Pentagon budget of $738 billion.  

Also, the U.S. has dropped more bombs on Afghanistan in 2018 and 2019 than at any other time since the war began. In 2019 alone, the US dropped 7,423 separate munitions on Afghanistan targets representing a dramatic increase in bombings since President Barack Obama’s “surge” in 2010, when 5,101 bombs were dropped. These bombings have greatly increased civilian casualties. And to what end? Killing civilians is the most effective recruitment tool, creating more enemies determined to fight America.          

So, for the record—we have documented proof that the U.S. government has gone to war for lies in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan.  And these lies have cost the lives of at least 66,000 U.S. troops and the lives of well over a million civilians.      

How can we ignore these facts?  Where is our humanity? Where is our anger?    

The war in Afghanistan is criminal, the horrors outlined in the Afghanistan Papers demand accountability. Congressional hearings must be held and the Afghanistan War must end now.       

We must stop the killing, take the trillions of dollars devoted to endless war and instead invest in our people, invest in our environment, and invest in our future.       

Stop the Madness—No More War.

Posted in USA, Afghanistan0 Comments

The Survival of the ILWU at Stake!

by JACK HEYMAN

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Coastwide Port Action Can Stop Union Busting! 
Labor Solidarity Must Prevail

A recent federal court decision in Portland, Oregon poses an immediate existential threat to the strongest union in the U.S. today, the ILWU, and ultimately to the labor movement as a whole. The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), arguably one of the most militant unions in the U.S., has been hit with a union-busting $93.6 million dollar court-imposed fine for a secondary boycott deemed illegal under the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act. The plaintiff, International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) is owned by the third richest man in the Philippines, billionaire Enrique Razon Jr. and operates in 27 ports worldwide, mainly in poor, developing countries.

The maritime company claims it was run out of business in Portland because of a secondary boycott by the longshore union during a long-running dispute over two mechanics jobs which are presently done by another union, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW). ICTSI argues the primary employer is the Port of Portland which hires the mechanics, so they claim the longshore union organized an “illegal” secondary boycott. For the ILWU’s part, it was a foolish top down campaign organized by the dubious Leal Sundet, then, an ILWU Coast Committeeman who had previously been an Oregon area executive for the employers group, the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA).

On February 14 in Portland, this capital vs labor battle may be decided by a federal court judge. The response of the ILWU to the union-busting verdict should be to take the struggle out of the courts and onto the docks where our strength lies, as it did so many times in the past. Otherwise the union leadership is agreeing to let this battle between labor and capital be decided by a capitalist judge. Some members don’t want to declare bankruptcy but that would mean an exorbitant assessment of all longshore workers. Others want to re-join the AFL-CIO but that doesn’t necessarily mean real support for the ILWU. The main obstacle is that the leadership is offering no kind of active labor defense, only a deadly silence in the media.

Known as the slave labor act by the organized labor movement, the Taft-Hartley Act bans solidarity actions or secondary boycotts as the government’s National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) refers to an action not directed against the primary employer. But it was solidarity actions that built the labor movement during the Great Depression and it was solidarity actions that won and sustained ILWU’s victories that are recognized internationally.

*In 1984, during the repressive Reagan years San Francisco longshore workers boycotted a ship from South Africa for 11 days to protest apartheid. After Nelson Mandela was freed from prison he addressed a packed Oakland Coliseum on his 1990 world tour. He praised ILWU Local 10’s action for sparking the anti-apartheid movement in the Bay Area.

*In 1997, longshoremen refused to work the Neptune Jade, a ship from England, in solidarity with locked out Liverpool dockers. The action, with the backing of ILWU President Brian McWilliams, sparked a boycott in three consecutive ports across the seas that displayed a union power that frightened maritime employers.

*That international solidarity action was followed with a campaign to defend the predominantly black longshore union, ILA Local 1422, against union busting in Charleston, South Carolina. That campaign, initiated by the ILWU and Local 1422, became a cause celebre of the entire AFL-CIO, peaking with a march of several thousand trade unionists protesting at the state capitol which was flying the Confederate flag.

*In 1999, President McWilliams addressed a rally of thousands in Seattle announcing that the

ILWU shutdown West Coast ports in solidarity with anti-WTO demonstrators including Teamsters and other unions and in protest against police brutality.

*That same year ILWU led a march of 25,000 through the streets of San Francisco, supported by the San Francisco Labor Council, to demand freedom for innocent political prisoner Mumia Abu-Jamal. His death sentence was rescinded but he still remains imprisoned after 38 years.

*In 2008, ILWU shut down all West Coast Ports to protest the “imperialist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan” despite vicious PMA threats to sue the union under Taft-Hartley in the NLRB.

*In 2010, Local 10 shut down Bay Area ports to protest the BART police killing of Oscar Grant and has continued protest actions against racist police and fascist terror.

*In 2010 and 2014, Local 10 members refused to work ZIM Lines ships to protest the Israeli massacre of Palestinians in Gaza and on a flotilla carrying humanitarian aid. These actions drove ZIM ships out of the port of Oakland much to the dismay of the Zionist government.

*And in 2011, When Wisconsin workers were under attack by Governor Scott Walker and had occupied the state capitol building, AFL-CIO President Trumka and ILWU President McEllrath sent out calls for solidarity with the state workers. ILWU Local 10 answered that call with job action, shutting down all Bay Area ports in a solidarity strike action.All these actions were in violation of Taft-Hartley’s secondary boycott provision.

ILWU’s history shows that labor’s strength lies in union solidarity actions not in kangaroo courts.

Yet, this new ILWU leadership has limited the fight against Taft-Hartley to the courtroom. ILWU’s International President William Adams states in the November 2019 issue of The Dispatcher, the union’s newspaper, “While we respect the process, we disagree with the excessive damages award”. Respecting the anti-labor Taft-Hartley process means an unprecedented course of navigation for the union into treacherous waters with a broken sextant. This strategy rejects ILWU’s history of challenging Taft-Hartley from the very start. Adams, who has never played a leading role in solidarity job actions, claims ILWU may declare bankruptcy but will survive. Veteran activists know that accepting such an onerous fine will not only bankrupt the union but chill solidarity actions, stifling the future of ILWU’s proud legacy. Adam’s demagogic calls for “unity” behind this defeatist strategy will land the union’s ship on the rocks. The ILWU must appeal, publicize its case broadly and initiate labor solidarity actions.

ILWU’s Historic Role in Fighting Taft-Hartley and Building Labor Solidarity

West Coast maritime workers have long been in the forefront of U.S. labor struggles. In San Francisco in 1934 longshore workers and sailors led a mighty maritime strike in the midst of the Great Depression. A general strike in San Francisco was provoked when police killed two strikers. Today, in front of the Local 10 union hall a “Bloody Thursday” sidewalk mural of the fallen martyrs defiantly proclaims,”Men Killed, Shot in the Back, Police Murder.” The news media railed against communists, socialists and anarchists during the General Strike but to no avail. San Francisco was shut down tight with solid support from the Bay Area’s working class. Despite the conservative San Francisco Labor Council bureaucrats ordering all workers to return to work after a few days, maritime workers refused and returned to the picket lines with a new resolve and in the end won their key demands, including the hiring hall, union recognition, a coastwise contract, a six-hour shift and safe working conditions. That radical image stands the test to time and is instrumental in ILWU’s recent organizing drives at Anchor Steam brewery and Tartine Bakery in San Francisco.

In 1947, the Taft-Hartley Act,(on which ICTSI owner Razon hangs his litigious hat) was passed with support from both Democratic and Republican parties at the beginning of the McCarthy witch hunts. It banned all manner of class struggle: solidarity strikes, mass picketing, closed shops, including union hiring halls, and communists from holding union office. ILWU was one of the first unions to challenge the law and became a haven for workers purged from the CIO and the AFL by anti-red union leaders. These workers led struggles in the ’30’s that built the unions: Blackie Meyers (NMU), Bill Bailey (MFOW), Shaun Maloney (SUP and the Teamsters), Morris Wright (MMSW) and Jim Herman (MCS). As West Coast maritime unions began negotiations in 1948, ILWU members at the recommendation of its Coastwide Longshore Caucus voted 89% to authorize a strike. However, in 2002 after the 9/11 attack and the subsequent government anti-terror campaign, the Longshore Caucus stopped that standard practice of backing the Negotiating Committee with a strike authorization vote, an early sign of union’s departure from its militant past.

Phil Drew cartoon from The Dispatcher, 1948.

When President Truman invoked Taft-Hartley, longshoremen responded with class struggle, a work slowdown. (What McEllrath/Sundet did in 2013 at ICTSI’s terminal in Portland was in the service of class collaboration.) After the 80-day cooling off period, Truman’s National Labor Relations Board tried to bypass the union leadership by ordering longshoremen to vote on the employers’ proposed contract. The two outstanding issues were both banned by Taft-Hartley: the union hiring hall and a union leadership that employer propaganda accused of being “dominated by the Communist Party.” Of the 26,695 members on the entire West Coast not a single ballot was cast in the NLRB vote. Later, another vote was taken on the employers’

proposals but was rejected by 96.8% and a second vote on forcing union officers to sign a non-communist affidavit was again rejected by 94.39% of the membership. Then, the ILWU went on strike. European dockworker unions expressed solidarity sending telegrams to President Truman warning that any ships loaded by the military would not be unloaded in Europe. That’s the way working class struggles are won!

During the repressive McCarthy period ILWU President Harry Bridges was jailed and threatened with deportation. Other ILWU officials including Jack Hall and Bob McElrath of the “Hawaii 7” were accused of being communists and jailed under the Smith Act. (Robert McElrath, husband of the late ILWU firebrand Ah Quon McElrath, was no relation to “Big Bob” McEllrath.) ILWU Hawaiian plantation workers struck to demand their leader Jack Hall’s freedom. He was released from jail the next day. The Communist Party (CP) had applauded the jailing under the the very same anti-communist Smith Act in 1941 of their Trotskyist opponents in the Socialist Workers Party, including leaders of the militant Minneapolis Teamsters strike of 1934. That political transgression only emboldened the government to use the Smith Act against the leadership of the CP seven years later.

In 1964, ILWU Local 10 Executive Board member Archie Brown, an open member of the Communist Party, was indicted for violating a key provision of Taft-Hartley. He was tried, convicted and arrested. Brown, with backing from the union, appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court and won. The communist-exclusion clause was ruled invalid, although AFL-CIO tops still try to use it to keep reds out of office, but the law as a whole still stands.

The West Coast longshore union was forged in the cauldron of class struggle in the ’30’s. Victory was achieved by mass picketing, appeals for solidarity and racially integrating the union. That was 30 years before the Civil Rights Act was passed. The ILWU went on its own fight for reforms— building affordable housing for working people in St. Francis Square and negotiating with Kaiser to establish one of the first comprehensive medical plans for its members on the West Coast and Hawaii. These stories,  portrayed in murals all over the Bay Area by WPA muralists, Victor Arnautoff and Anton Refregier, were targeted for destruction by right wing nuts during the McCarthy period because the muralists were members of the Communist Party. Today, the SF School Board and Democratic Party identity politics individuals want to cover up or destroy Arnautoff’s murals at George Washington High School. The ILWU defended those murals then as it does today.  ILWU now has a majority African American, Latino, Asian and Hawaiian membership that has continued its militant history of defending immigrant workers’ rights, organizing protest actions against racist police and fascist terror and in solidarity with workers struggles internationally. All this is threatened by the verdict against the ILWU.

Razon’s Rogue Business Gambit

Razon’s modus operandi for ICTSI is raw, aggressive neo-liberal capitalism, buying up public-owned ports in developing countries, busting unions, suing competitors or government agencies and making billions in the process. Razon, like the rest of the Philippine elite, keeps close ties with the military, which is noted for its relentless repression of labor, left populist protests and the Muslim rebellion in the south. Last year, he was awarded alumnus status by the Philippine Military Academy. The pugnacious image which Razon likes to cultivate fits well into his latest venture to build luxurious super casino resorts in the Philippines to compete with Macau.

Razon, like many in the ruling class of the Philippines, are descendants of the Spanish colonists, who have waged a vicious campaign against working people whether at home or abroad. Many Filipinos work as seamen aboard foreign-owned ships. Labor contractors and shipowners exploit these crews by paying slave wages and often not remitting allotments from wages to their families back home dependent on them for survival. The ILWU has fought to defend these workers. In 1980, while Reagan was firing PATCO strikers, Philippine dictator Marcos’ agents killed two ILWU officials Silme Domingo and Gene Viernes in the Seattle Local 37 union office. Marcos was successfully sued by the families for that crime.

In Honduras in 2013, Victor Crespo, General Secretary of the Sindicato Gremial de Trabajadores del Muelle (SGTM), received threats on his life for organizing dock workers shortly after Razon’s ICTSI was granted a lucrative 30-year contract to operate in Puerto Cortez, Honduras. Crespo fled the country but the following year his father was murdered outside the family home.

Where the ILWU Went Wrong: Putting the ICTSI Dispute in Context

This battle between ICTSI and the ILWU began in 2012, shortly after a year-long lockout by the international grain conglomerate Export Grain Terminal (EGT) in Longview, Washington downriver from Portland. Longshore members did everything in their power to win that conflict— blocking grain trains on the tracks, and when they were slapped with injunctions their wives and daughters stood fast on the tracks. They occupied the EGT facility, defended themselves against violent police attacks and went to jail for picketing. When ILWU President McEllrath was called to the front of a protest on the railroad tracks by members he was arrested. All Northwest ports shutdown and marched on Longview the following day. That’s the power the union wields.

Yet, the moment of truth came February 2012, as a scab grain ship was escorted by an armed Coast Guard cutter dispatched by President Obama. State and local police forces were mustered. Faced with an all out fight on the docks with mass support to be mobilized in caravans committed by labor councils in Longview, Seattle, Portland and San Francisco and the burgeoning Occupy movement, the ILWU International President Bob McEllrath and Coast Committeeman Leal Sundet, fearful of a serious class battle, capitulated and forced local officials to sign the contract. Longview union members were incensed by this betrayal. They were not even given the right to vote on the contract which violates the ILWU Constitution but not capitalist law. The ILWU was able to maintain jurisdiction, but the loss in working and safety conditions was devastating. The union tops had snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.

Dan Coffman, Longview Local 21 President, and Byron Jacobs, Secretary-Treasurer, tried to call for a Longshore Caucus, an elected body representing all ports, at the start of the EGT struggle to build solidarity actions on the Coast. International Officers blocked that effort, stopped Local 10 from implementing solidarity actions and kept the locked out workers isolated from the major ports in California. Moreover, union members like Longview Local 21’s Byron Jacobs and others were arrested for picketing and left in jail for weeks without bail or union defense. Tragically Byron died 2 years ago while working on the Longview docks because of unsafe working conditions. Many were inspired by Byron’s brave class struggle actions during that hard-fought battle.

Veterans of historic ILWU actions in defiance of Taft-Hartley against solidarity actions opposed the EGT contract in a signed leaflet, Danger! ILWU Headed in Wrong Direction! EGT-Longview Contract -Worst Ever! June 12, 2012 because it undermined basic union principles, gains and for the first time codified Taft-Hartley into a longshore contract. Apparently, this ILWU leadership has learned nothing from the union’s long and storied history. Signers of the leaflet included Local 10 members Leo Robinson, Howard  Keylor and Larry Wright who led the 1984 anti-apartheid strike and Herb Mills who organized protests against the 1960 HUAC hearings at San Francisco City Hall and the 1978 refusal of longshoremen to load bombs for Pinochet’s military dictatorship in Chile; Jack Mulcahy, longtime Local 8 activist who participated in the militant actions of the Northwest longshore grain workers and Jack Heyman, Local 10 who initiated the 2008 May Day West Coast ports shutdown against the imperialist wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, a union action stridently fought for and won against by PMA’s obstinate opposition with dire threats of suing the union over Taft-Hartley. All of these labor actions were initiated and organized from the bottom up not the top down.

ICTSI Campaign Was Top Down and Wrong—Union Solidarity Actions Are Bottom Up

Shortly after the EGT debacle was over, Sundet directed the “job trusting” campaign, actually union raiding, in Portland to get the two electrician jobs at ICTSI. Sundet, in an act of class collaboration, even got PMA to join the lawsuit jointly with the ILWU against ICTSI but the employers bailed out later. The “slowdown” claimed by ICTSI only reduced container handling by 5-7 cans an hour. ICTSI said ILWU was gimmicking safety issues. The truth is union members were being fined by Local 8 officials for raising safety beefs, shamefully doing diligent work for the employer. To top it off the judge wouldn’t allow this scandalous discipline by union bureaucrats to be introduced in court! Many members were frustrated by Sundet’s long-running top down job action. In any case the capitalist courts shouldn’t determine union jurisdiction. A job trust is an employer-worker monopolistic scheme for the benefit of the employer and labor aristocrats. An all port workers council should have been organized with longshoremen, electricians, mechanics, port truckers and other port workers to make the Portland waterfront 100% union and democratically decide jurisdictional disputes amongst the workers excluding the employers. Real class unity can challenge the employing class and even stop the fascist attacks in the Portland/Vancouver area.

At the start of the EGT campaign Sundet directed longshore workers to cross picket lines of AFL-CIO construction unions who were picketing the use of non-union labor to build the new EGT facility. Sundet’s scabrous action made it difficult later to get unions to honor ILWU picket lines and to get resolutions passed at the Oregon and Washington state AFL-CIO organizations. A couple years later during master longshore contract negotiations ILWU International Officers extended the expired agreement in order to help employers in Los Angeles quash a picket line of port truckers, mainly immigrant workers. That scam allowed the PMA arbitrator to rule it was an “illegal” action. Union officials then directed longshoremen to cross the truckers’ picket line breaking the action. It was these kinds of traitorous acts that earned ILWU President McEllrath and PMA President McKenna a joint Connie Award from the maritime capitalists.

Worse still, ILWU officials have continued to direct longshore workers to cross truckers picket lines. Local 13 president Ray Familathe, (who lost to Adams in the last election) even warned striking ILWU Boron miners in 2010 not to set up picket lines in the ports of Los Angeles and Long Beach under pain of losing their strike fund benefits. Other officials directed ILWU longshore workers to cross picket lines of the striking ILWU Local 63 Clerical Unit, largely women workers. ILWU’s Ten Guiding Principles have been jettisoned down the hawsepipe sending the union in a downward tailspin. The need for a class struggle leadership is abundantly clear for the sake of all divisions of the ILWU.

Honoring ILWU’s “Ten Guiding Principles” and Building a Class Struggle Leadership

At the peak of the McCarthy witch hunts, the ILWU concerned about the survival of the organization, hammered together “Ten Guiding Principles”, one of which is to never cross or work behind a picket line even if ordered by your union officials. The last ILWU president, Brian McWilliams who understood the importance of labor solidarity and picket lines, was instrumental in supporting international solidarity for the Liverpool dockers struggle and shutting down West Coast ports in solidarity with the WTO protesters in Seattle.

A defining moment in the ILWU occurred at the 2002 Longshore Caucus. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld and Homeland Security Czar Ridge threatened the union that if there were any jobs actions on the docks, troops would be called out to occupy the ports.  The leadership did not call for international labor solidarity actions as in the past but requested the delegates not to vote for the traditional strike authorization to bolster the Negotiating Committee.

“Homeland Security,” cartoon by Mike Konopacki 2002.

Labor Must Defend the ILWU 

If ICTSI’s owner billionaire Enrique Razon is successful in his court suit, it would be a body blow to labor’s solidarity actions. Union bureaucrats, whether in ILWU or in any union, before taking any action will first consult with attorneys which means no action because of the fear of fines. Given the long history of ILWU’s labor solidarity, often challenging Taft-Hartley, it’s high time for other unions in the U.S. and internationally to reciprocate even if the ILWU isn’t at this time affiliated to the AFL-CIO.  The old syndicalist motto must prevail, “An injury to one is an injury to all!”

Has the labor movement learned its lesson from the defeat of the 1981 PATCO strike? President Reagan attacked the striking air traffic controllers, shackling its union leaders and hauling them off to jail in front of TV cameras, Trump style. The AFL-CIO leadership remained criminally silent, refusing to lift a finger to support the strikers’ picket lines and shut down the airports. Reportedly, when ILWU President Jim Herman suggested to IAM President William Winpisinger that airports and seaports be shutdown in an act of solidarity he was rebuffed. The trade union movement has paid a heavy price for the betrayal of PATCO strikers. Union membership has atrophied for the last 40 years, peaking in 1979 with 21 million members and atrophying to less than half that figure today.

In 2011, when AFL-CIO President Trumka issued a call for unions to support the besieged Wisconsin state workers. Only ILWU Local 10, again in defiance of Taft-Hartley and in the face of PMA employer threats, took on-the-job action and shut Bay Area ports down in a bold act of solidarity. The S.E. Wisconsin AFL-CIO issued a letter stating: “Whether it’s racist apartheid in South Africa, imperialist war in Iraq, or fascist plutocracy in Wisconsin, Local 10, over and over again, shows us “What a Union [should] look like!!” Please convey our appreciation to your members and kick some PMA ass on April 25. In Solidarity, James A. Cavanaugh, President.”

Now the survival of the ILWU is at stake. If the ranks follow ILWU’s militant history, West Coast ports will be shutdown against a union-busting, government-imposed fine. Other unions must join the fight. The ball is in the court of the working class, organized and unorganized. If Trumka doesn’t act in defense of the ILWU and call for solidarity actions, workers must pick up the cudgel. This anti-labor court decision in Portland is a decisive moment for organized labor and all working people.

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Talking Points For News Anchors Against Sanders

by GARY LEUPP

Drawing by Nathaniel St. Clair

It appears the news directors of the cable channels have directed their anchors to note the following about Bernie Sanders in their objective, fair and balanced news coverage.

1. Bernie Sanders is a self-described socialist. A socialist cannot win in America. Repeat. A socialist cannot win in America.

2. Black people don’t like him, and you need blacks to win. Black church women are the backbone of the party, and they will not vote for an old socialist atheist Jew. Period.

3. He has “Bernie bros” in his campaign, young white men who hate women. There are emails showing this! And he told Warren (she says) a woman can’t win. Next!

4. He hasn’t explained how he will finance universal health care, and he wants to take your private insurance away. Americans love their insurance companies.

5. He is an unlikable, angry old man. Nobody likes him. Repeat. Nobody likes Bernie.

6. In 1985 on a trip to Nicaragua Sanders praised the achievements of the Cuban revolution and that of the Sandinistas. He’s pro-communist. Full stop.

7. Polls show the voters want a moderate, not a progressive radical. Enough said.

8. Trump would win in a Trump-Sanders match because it would be a choice between capitalism and socialism and the masses—as Americans—prefer capitalism.

Memorize these points and with them in mind report the news. Joy Reid, make sure you furrow your brow in feigned puzzlement. Joe Scarborough, feel free to roll your eyes. Mika, purse your lips. Fareed, frown away as you lament the Sanders surge.

***

I can imagine the talking points changing as CNN and MSNBC are forced to accept, post-New Hampshire, post-Super Tuesday, a de facto Sanders-Trump contest.

1. Bernie Sanders’ “socialism” is like that of many U.S. European allies. It’s actually not that big of an issue.

2. Young African-Americans are supportive of Bernie, and many African-American celebrities have actually embraced his campaign.

3. He has strong support from women, especially young women.

4. He has a detailed proposal for universal health care, which Congress will have to address. It’s not like a president has unlimited power. The point is, he has a progressive vision of health care reform.

5. He is a cantankerous old guy, but so what? He’s obviously widely loved. Surely more than Hillary.

6. He like many people in this country never bought into the Cold War brainwashing. What he said about Cuba was true.

7. Polls show the voters are actually comfortable with a “democratic socialist” candidate (due to the failure of that brainwashing).

8. It is not a choice between capitalism and socialism and the masses have become less influenced by Cold War fear-mongering.

The ruling class might well be confronted with a Trump-Sanders choice this year. It will remain divided over Trump. The question is how far factions within it will move to embrace the Sanders campaign, if it becomes clear that he can indeed defeat Trump. The strange deference that billionaire Tom Steyer shows Bernie suggests that the senator can become more palatable over time, not because he compromises ideologically but because he continues in fact to pose little threat to the capitalist-imperialist system as a whole. At least not in the short term.

The reason to support Sanders is not to support the immediate establishment of socialism. It’s to topple Trump while opening the door to future discussion of socialism. “Socialism” has been the He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named of U.S. politics, but since Occupy Wall Street (2011) young people have largely embraced the concept, or some version of it. A Sanders victory in New Hampshire followed by one in Nevada could force the bourgeois media to rethink their rejection of Bernie. If Joe Biden could hug him on stage, refuting Hillary’s charge about his unlikeability, MSNBC can back off from its Berniephobia if only to defeat Trump.

Then we can start reforming capitalism, seriously, discovering inevitably that much more than reform is in order and Sanders, bless his soul, was just a useful transitional figure on the road to real revolution.

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The Bernie Sanders campaign and building the movement for socialism in the US

By Brian Becker

The Democratic Party establishment and the major capitalist-owned media have been waging a low intensity war against Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign for the past year and it’s not working too well. Now these attacks are escalating. If Sanders continues to succeed, the floodgate of scurrilous and demonizing assaults will open, just as happened to Jeremy Corbyn in the UK. For the past 12 months, almost all of the ruling class centers of power have been arguing that Sanders is a socialist and thus “too left;” that his medical reforms “are too expensive” and will break the bank; that he “can’t beat Trump;” or, in the aftermath of his heart attack, that he isn’t “healthy enough,” which goes along well with the mantra that he is “too old.”  Then at the last debate CNN and Warren conspired to set up Sanders as “sexist,” yet another argument to add to the list.

These attacks on Sanders have not worked.What’s the real reason the ruling class is so alarmed? What has become crystal clear is that the Democratic Party establishment and its echo chambers in the “free press” clearly would favor four more years of Donald Trump over Sanders, a self-identified democratic socialist, in the White House. One must take a moment and ask why this is. By European standards Bernie Sanders would be an acceptable center-left politician. He would not be perceived as a danger to the existing social order. What is the American ruling class so afraid of? Why is the Democratic establishment trying to destroy the Sanders campaign?

The ruling class and both of its two political parties rightly fear that a new, truly radical and even pre-revolutionary mass movement can quickly sweep through the country as it did both in the 1930s and at the end of the 1960s. The Sanders electoral campaign itself is not that, but insofar as it is exciting and raising the expectation of millions who want to win substantive reforms by fighting the billionaire class, it presages what is to come. Sanders, the individual, may turn out to be an accidental political figure who spent a lifetime in the hallowed halls of the bourgeois Congress barely causing a stir, but whose presidential campaigns became a vessel and a catalyst for something more enduring – a movement of millions of people who are demanding radical solutions to the grievous injustices caused by plutocratic capitalism.

The ironies of historyThe country is badly in need of a mass, energized movement for radical change. It may be an irony of history that such a radical break from the established order could take shape from within arenas and institutions that constitute a center of ruling class political legitimacy. But history is filled with such ironies. Nascent radical mass movements throughout the centuries have often first taken shape where the line of least resistance appears in the old order. Here, the path of least resistance is the elections. People in the United States are familiar with elections.

The process, symbols and iconography of the elections are accepted as places for heated discourse and heated debate. It is the main political form that can imbue a political program with instant “legitimacy.” In every school, it is where children are taught they must try to make change — a point reinforced every day in the media. The notion of making change through other means such as workplace action and street protest, let alone more militant forms, is almost exclusively learned through interaction with people’s movements and with radicals. From the standpoint of those fighting for radical and revolutionary change, a fundamental lesson is that the U.S. electoral form of government has functioned more than anything as a deception — a way of giving the illusion of choice that masks the dictatorship of the capitalist class. That is still its main function. 

Socialist tacticsBut socialist tactics have to be considered and decided based on the state of class-consciousness of the entire working class, and appreciation of where we are in the historical process, and what is most essential at our current juncture. The firmly held convictions of small groups of revolutionary socialists — for instance, that the capitalist system is fundamentally unreformable and that the Democratic Party would sooner come apart than be transformed — is not sufficient to draw out a tactical orientation. The question is how to fight alongside and to an extent merge with masses of people who are in their own process of struggle, so that such conclusions can be tested and proven in real life.For our purposes here, the point is that it is unsurprising that the mass reawakening of anti-capitalist and pro-socialist consciousness would register profoundly in the electoral realm, the path of least resistance.

For tens of millions, it feels more legitimate and more possible to identify as a socialist or promote a socialist candidate in an election cycle rather than at a militant street protest or barricade. Given the relative smallness and limited influence of the revolutionary socialist trends in the United States, with whom these tens of millions have largely never interacted, how could it be otherwise? That the form of this struggle is currently inside the Democratic primary contest in some ways obscures its potentially radical or even revolutionary next manifestations. 

The ruling class and its “thinkers,” however, are keenly aware that such trends can morph quickly into a truly mass, militant movement against a system dominated by billionaires. The ruling class, because of its role in society, is more acutely class conscious than the classes over which they dominate. They fear more than anything a new consciousness arising from the mass of the people who, should they begin to first stir and then move together with new demands, could become an irresistible force.  The dynamic surge of the Sanders campaign both reflects the nascent mass movement for radical change and further stimulates this phenomena inside the United States – at least so far.

The last year has witnessed a wave of mass protests all over the capitalist world. The subterranean yearnings for radical change are starting to burst out into the open, above ground, and they are rattling the existing social order and the ruling classes from Chile and Ecuador to Sudan, France, Lebanon, Iraq and beyond. This yearning for change hasn’t, in fact, come all at once. It has been developing for nearly a decade. The Occupy movement in 2011 showed the potential for it when it burst onto the political scene. It spread like wildfire before it collapsed under the weight of both state repression and the folly of anarchist tactics.

The Arab Spring started with the same impetus and the same dynamism but it too collapsed for multiple reasons, including the absence of an experienced revolutionary leadership capable of circumnavigating such troubled waters, the inability to stir the countryside and the opportunist intervention of imperialism. Three years later, the rebellion in Ferguson, Missouri, ignited another new national movement against racism and for Black freedom and equality. Rebellion and resistance are in the air once again in 2019-2020 in the United States and around the world – and the ruling class and its two political parties inside the United States are scared.

The billionaires and bankers don’t actually fear Sanders the person at all, but they do fear that his campaign is becoming a springboard for something much larger and more radical. The PSL believes that this is the primary characteristic feature for evaluating the Sanders campaign and determining socialist tactics to intervene in the current political struggle.Sanders’ insurgency against the Democratic establishmentSanders is running against Trump but his main foes come from within the Democratic Party elites, and thus his campaign presents itself as an insurgency against the Democratic Party itself.

The adversarial relationship between the Democratic Party and the Sanders campaign is a widely recognized fact. Sanders himself said at his very large closing campaign rally ahead of the Iowa caucus, “We are taking on the entire political establishment, both the Republican and the Democratic establishment.” Failed presidential candidate and longtime leading imperialist John Kerry was overheard by an NBC news analyst talking on the phone about “the possibility of Bernie Sanders taking down the Democratic Party — down whole.” Rahm Emanuel , former Chicago mayor and Obama’s chief of staff, warns of “a rupture in the party that is irreparable.” Sources close to former president Obama say he will only intervene forcefully in the primary on one condition: if Sanders were to win in Iowa and start to gain momentum. Stopping Sanders is now their top priority.Another issue that all socialists must consider is the extent to which this race is being shaped by both major parties as a referendum on socialism in the United States.

Trump is organizing his 2020 campaign around the fight to save the country from socialism. He called Sanders a “communist,” who is “far beyond a socialist.” Of course he is not the first Republican to use false anti-communist attacks to attack the Democratic nominee. That was a characteristic of the right-wing campaigns against Obama too, despite him being a center-right neoliberal candidate. But what makes this year different is that for the first time in modern history, the Democratic Party is mirroring these talking points against its own candidate, emphasizing that socialism can never win in the United States.The Sanders campaign is, at this moment, the vessel for a progressive, vaguely socialist insurgency within the confines of the Democratic Party.

The Democratic Party has consistently acted against the interests of working people in the United States while trying to present itself as the only option for progresive values. It is a brake on the development of an independent and militant movement in the country. Socialists who understand that the Democratic Party is an unreformable ruling class party should support this insurgency.After the primaries If Sanders fails to win the nomination or has it stolen from him, he has pledged to support the party’s pro-ruling class nominee in the general election. He did the same in 2016 when he campaigned for capitalist war hawk Hillary Clinton. If Sanders again abandons his own movement by supporting a ruling class candidate in 2020 the movement should refuse to follow him; it should refuse to be a tail to the kite of either wing of the capitalist political machine and the military-industrial complex.

It should continue building its own grassroots base and promoting the socialist movement in confrontation with the reactionary Democratic Party elites. That would make it a genuine resistance movement not only to Trump but also his super-reactionary war-mongering foes in the Democratic Party leadership.In response to the attacks against Sanders, his campaign has moved to the left on domestic issues and grown in popularity, consistently broadening its base of support among young people, working class voters overall, in Black and Latino communities, among women, the LGBTQ community and other sectors of society that seek radical solutions to the grotesque levels of inequality that are the fundamental feature of late-stage capitalism.

One such grotesque feature is evident in the fact that Jeff Bezos “earned” an additional $12 billion on January 29 — one single day — at the same time that the media reported soaring levels of homelessness among working families. Simultaneously, in the face of the establishment’s attacks and pressure, Sanders has either embraced the ruling-class narrative on Venezuela, China and Russia, or has offered little or very little real opposition to the dominant foreign policy positions of the imperialist establishment. Sanders undoubtedly hopes this will make him more “respectable” in the eyes of the corporate media, but the deeper effect is to lock the budding mass socialist consciousness to the imperialist status quo, keeping that potentially radical sentiment from moving too far left in the direction of internationalism.

What does critical support mean? Socialists can join the insurgency against the Democratic Party establishment without becoming  Bernie Sanders followers or uncritically parroting any and all positions adopted by him. Critical support to the Sanders campaign means that when Sanders takes reactionary positions there should be no holding back on open criticism. Sanders’ foreign policy positions are not anti-imperialist or socialist. Yes, he has a toned down, softer, more liberal foreign policy than the other Democrats. Undoubtedly,  governments in Cuba, Venezuela, Iran and among Palestinians would consider a Sanders presidency a big step forward by the standards of who his competitors are, and the conduct of previous presidents.

But his foreign policy accepts and promotes the narrative of the empire and supports imperialist sanctions against targeted countries.For instance, when Sanders was one of just two members of the Senate to vote no in June 2017 on a new sanctions resolution against Russia, North Korea and Iran, he made it clear that he was working within the Obama-approved framework and was not taking a radical departure from the ruling class consensus. He explained this in a video that his team produced to prove that his vote should not be considered an outlier or radical shift:  “While I support sanctions on Russia and North Korea, I voted against the sanctions bill last week because it contains sanctions on Iran that I believe could endanger the Iran nuclear agreement.

This agreement was President Obama’s most important foreign policy achievement, and President Trump has made clear his intention to destroy it. Progressives must get mobilized to protect it, just as we did with the Affordable Care Act!”The PSL’s socialist presidential campaign & building a mass movement for changeThe Party for Socialism and Liberation is running its own socialist campaign for president. This campaign will promote a genuine socialist and internationalist program and thereby provide real definition to socialism. Gloria La Riva is running for president and her running mate is Native activist and political prisoner Leonard Peltier, who continues to be unjustly incarcerated 44 years after his arrest. Our campaign is reaching out across the country to explain the urgency of the struggle for socialism as the only answer to the existential threat to life on the planet due to climate change, the growing war danger, and deepening poverty based on job destruction.

These existential crises are all based on capitalism, a system that puts the insatiable quest for profits for a small ruling class over all else.The PSL’s program has similarities and differences with that of Sanders. We wholeheartedly support the far-reaching reforms he demands, including improved Medicare for all people, eliminating student debt, dismantling the system of mass incarceration, full abortion rights and more. Winning these much needed basic reforms will require building a mass, militant working class movement. Even if Sanders were elected president the capitalist centers of power would do everything, and we mean everything, to prevent these reforms from being implemented. Sanders as president would not succeed in implementing these reforms absent a large mass movement.

Every significant reform in the capitalist system was won through the hard-fought struggle of the people. It was not a gift from Roosevelt that gave us unemployment insurance, social security or the right to unionize in the 1930s. It was mass strikes, general strikes, sitdown strikes and factory seizures and the building of mass organizations of the unemployed. Likewise it was a radical mass movement in the 1950s and 60s that led to the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act in the mid-1960s, which ended the legal status of apartheid in the United States for Black Americans while also leading to the adoption of Medicare so that the elderly would have a right to health care.

The ending of the Vietnam War, winning the right to abortion, the passage of marriage equality and the adoption of anti-discrimination measures protecting LGBTQ people — all of these were the consequences of determined movements of masses of people. The PSL, like the Green Party and other independent campaigns, will not be allowed to participate in the presidential debates — no matter how many states we get on the ballot. The electoral system is rigged to ensure that only the two ruling-class parties are given a competitive chance to win. The two parties also make ballot access extremely complicated, expensive and subject to expanding obstacles for third-party candidates unless they are a toy of one billionaire or another.

What to do nowAlthough we are not Democrats, we encourage those voting in the upcoming Democratic Party primaries to vote for Bernie Sanders. Members of the PSL will be going out to Sanders campaign events to connect with the most radical and committed layers of people drawn to his program and to build relationships that will last far beyond the current election cycle. This is consistent with our Party’s orientation to the 2016 election.If Bernie Sanders fails to get the nomination, he says that he will campaign for whomever is the candidate, including Joe Biden, in the general election.

The PSL will not follow that advice. We will urge people to vote for the La Riva/Peltier ticket instead wherever they have achieved ballot status either as PSL candidates or representing the Peace and Freedom Party in California or on other progressive third parties’ ballot lines in other states. If Bernie Sanders wins the Democratic nomination, in spite of the Democratic Party establishment’s war against him by, the PSL will not run candidates in battleground swing states. If Bernie Sanders were to win the Democratic Party nomination and then shift his campaign stance and orientation to the right to appease sections of the ruling class and the Democratic Party leadership elites, we will retain our independent capacity to evaluate, criticize or condemn such moves.

Appeasing reactionaries in the ruling class only facilitates the growth of right-wing and ultra-right politics. In the event of a Sanders vs. Trump general election, the La Riva/Peltier campaign running outside of swing states will still make an important contribution to the radicalization of popular consciousness. In a period of intensifying class struggle, independent organization and clarity on the meaning of socialism — and how to achieve it — becomes more necessary than ever. Tactics can never be absolute, designed for all situations or last forever. On the contrary, revolutionaries must combine a rock-hard adherence to core principles with tactical suppleness to advance the movement for socialism under varying conditions and on shifting terrain.

For now, the Sanders campaign represents a dynamic insurgency promoting radical social changes in the face of increasingly stiff headwinds from a criminal ruling class that fears the loosening of its absolute grip over U.S. politics and the economy. We support the insurgency against the reactionaries.

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