Archive | June 13th, 2020

Black and white: unite and fight

Workers of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to win!

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Destroying workers’ power

In order to keep the obscenely unequal imperialist system in place, and to preserve their tremendous wealth and power, the billionaire capitalist class has become very experienced at dividing the oppressed.

Racism is used to make us redirect the anger and frustration that should be focused on the capitalist system at our fellow workers.

The job of bourgeois political parties is to protect the interests of the exploiting class. That’s why they turn a blind eye to the pollution of the planet, send working-class kids to die in predatory wars over resources and markets, and push wages down as far as possible.

The drive for a cheaper workforce has led to cuts in housing, healthcare, education, benefits and services. It also leads to the export of capital – whereby British capitalists close down enterprises here in order to produce more cheaply abroad.

These things are done to maintain profits, but blame for the ill effects is regularly laid on a scapegoated minority (‘immigrants’ or ‘asylum seekers’) which is itself suffering from the drop in living standards.

Essentially, all capitalist parties have to be racist. It’s part of their job to make sure that, instead of recognising that all workers are our class brothers and sisters, we learn to deride each other’s traditions, and to identify with our ‘own’ exploiters because of shared skin colour, language, culture or religion.

Racial prejudices are deliberately renewed by capitalist media and politicians every day, and this is increasing as the economic crisis gets worse.

Even better-off white workers suffer as a result, since our class is unable to organise itself to replace capitalist exploitation and war with a secure, meaningful, cultured and dignified socialist life, free from inequality, insecurity and war.

That is why we say that racism is a class issue and not only a problem for its victims.

Racism and immigration

Population migration has been a feature of human life as long as we have existed as a species. ‘Immigrants’ are not our enemy; British capitalism is!

Classifying workers as ‘illegal’ leaves them prey to the most extreme exploitation and abuse, and turns them into weapons of the capitalists to depress the wages of all.

That is why we demand full citizenship rights for all people who live and/or work in Britain.

If we fail to understand that it is the capitalists’ insatiable urge for profit, not some ‘other’ group of workers, that is responsible for our problems, we can become prey to the lies of fascistic hatemongers, who want to mobilise us against our own class to help save capitalism. Those who fall for BNP-type ravings are being turned into dupes of our rulers against their own class interests.

And it is not only white workers who are played for fools by the ruling class. Non-white communities, too, are encouraged to keep themselves apart – to avoid ‘contamination by western culture’ or to organise under the seemingly ‘progressive’ banner of black nationalism, which is founded on the insidious lie that all white people are congenitally racist and that ‘white supremacy’ rather than the capitalist ruling class is the main enemy of ethnic-minority workers.

Racism, the police and war

Recruitment of black officers cannot change the institutional racism of the police.

As agents of the capitalist state, they have to arrest disproportionate numbers of young black men, since mass criminalisation serves to reinforce the racial prejudices stirred up by media and politicians. Criminal records are also used as ‘proof’ that individuals are at fault, and not the system.

Another important reason for the promotion of racism is as a justification for wars abroad. If the people under attack can be presented as incapable of managing their own affairs, and their leaders as inherently corrupt and dictatorial, our rulers can dress up their barbaric bombings as ‘liberating’ missions.

Campaigns to demonise targeted peoples abroad are used in turn to renew racist vitriol against British workers with ethnic or religious ties to those being attacked. It is no accident that Britain’s wars in the middle east have been accompanied by an enormous wave of islamophobia.

Marx said that “a nation that enslaves another forges its own chains”, and showed that our oppressors gain strength both from the vast increase in their looted wealth and from the accompanying division of workers.

That is why communists support national-liberation struggles; we know that weakening British imperialism abroad will help us to destroy the capitalists’ power at home.

Socialism will end racism

When we have grown up in a capitalist world, it can seem that racial tensions are inevitable, but the experience of socialist countries shows that they are not.

The 1917 October Revolution in Russia declared imperialist war, occupation and colonial seizure to be criminal, and all people to be equal, outlawing discrimination.

By involving people from Asia in the building of a new society and culture, the USSR crushed imperialism’s excuses for its ruthless exploitation of the world, proving that there is absolutely no justification for any kind of racism.

The USSR replaced xenophobia, bigotry and warfare with cooperation, respect and fraternal harmony, and showed the huge contribution that all people are able to make to the building of a higher culture when given the opportunity.

The era when open racism and naked colonialism could be tolerated was over, as millions of oppressed people were inspired to join the fight against it.

This in turn inspired anti-racist movements in the imperialist countries.

Britain’s first anti-racism law in 1965 was an admission of moral defeat by our rulers. Where once they trumpeted their racist ideology proudly and openly, now they have to hide it behind weasel words about ‘equality’ and ‘respect’.

Organise the resistance

After decades of marginalisation and demonisation, the poorest communities in Britain today are a powder keg of frustration and rage, full of revolutionary potential.

What is lacking is the organisation and ideology that will turn the forest fires of our occasional uprisings into an unstoppable inferno that will ultimately burn the entire system of exploitation to the ground.

Class-conscious workers of all backgrounds need to take hold of the weapon of Marxist-Leninist education, and to use this understanding to break down the walls of suspicion between our communities, uniting them in a common fight against our oppressors, and advancing the revolutionary struggle against imperialism and for socialism.

As the old adage goes, ‘United we stand, divided we fall’. Or as Marx and Engels wrote so profoundly: “Workers of the world, unite. You have nothing to lose but your chains. You have a world to win!

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Second spike looms: Boris opts for ‘whack-a-mole’ over having a good plan

On every level, the performance of socialist countries in dealing with Covid-19 is putting the profiteering, anti-worker ethos of capitalism to shame.

Proletarian writers

North Korea’s strict precautions, taken on the principle of ‘better safe than sorry’ have ensured that the country has so far been completely free of Covid-19.

The soothing mood music emanating from Downing Street is aimed at giving workers the impression that the health crisis is calming down and the government, guided by sober science, is now judiciously engaged in fine-tuning the gradual easing of the lockdown. The reality is quite other, however: the illness is not going away any time soon.

Every day, a further 8,000 people are getting infected by Covid-19, and there is every possibility of the illness building to a lethal second spike, thanks to the disorderly stampede back to work, the precipitate reopening of schools and the loosening of restrictions on social contact – a loosening driven not by science but by a desire to court cheap popularity and to reduce losses to big business and costs to the Treasury.

The reality is that Britain has so far notched up the second-highest death rate in Europe, narrowly pipped at the post by Spain, as measured by excess mortality figures. The Financial Times explains: “Excess mortality is calculated by counting everyone who has died in a country and subtracting the average number of people who passed away over the same period in the past five years,” and notes that “Chris Whitty, the UK’s chief medical officer, called excess deaths ‘the key metric’.”

By this internationally recognised measure, Britain “has registered 59,537 more deaths than usual since the week ending 20 March, indicating that the virus has directly or indirectly killed 891 people per million”.

And unlike other countries, which have managed to contain the worst of the virus mostly to within one or two geographical areas, in Britain the excess death rate rose sharply across the whole country. Given the tardiness of the government in imposing lockdown in the first place, and the precipitate way in which restrictions are now being eased, the conclusion drawn by the FT article makes sobering reading:

“Examining the cause of the high death rates in certain countries, the strongest link appears at this stage to be between the date of a country’s lockdown and the probable number of infections that already existed when restrictions were applied.” (UK suffers second-highest death rate from coronavirus by John Burn-Murdoch and Chris Giles, 28 May 2020)

Guided by the science?

The scientific establishment, until now tending to keep any concerns it may have had about public policy under wraps, is starting to show signs of discomfort at being asked to lend its professional credibility to help fill the government’s own gaping credibility gap.

No less than three of the government’s scientific advisors have started vigorously blowing their whistles over the latest batch of mixed signals issuing from Number Ten.

“Professor John Edmunds OBE sits on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) – advising ministers on its response to the pandemic. The professor has warned Covid-19 incidents remain ‘really quite high’ in England, warning on the easing of restrictions: ‘We can’t lift things very much at all.’

“Prof Edmunds’ concerns join a growing list of expert advisers to the government expressing apprehension about England’s easing of lockdown. Prof Edmunds was joined by Professor Peter Horby, of the University of Oxford, and Sir Jeremy Farrar to warn that ministers are taking risks. All three are members of the Sage committee.

“Speaking to ITV News, Prof Edmunds said: ‘I think we are taking a bit of a risk at the moment, there’s a couple of things. One, the reproduction number is only just below one at the moment, so we don’t have a lot of headroom, we can’t lift things very much at all.

“‘Secondly, the incidents are really quite high, so [according to] the ONS survey we are getting 8,000 new infections every day in England, in just the community, that’s not counting cases that may occur in hospitals and care homes, and even other settings such as prisons. That’s quite a lot of cases, 8,000 every day.’” (Easing lockdown is ‘taking a bit of a risk’ warns top scientific adviser to government, ITV, 30 May 2020)

Another expert to speak out was a former director of the World Health Organisation (WHO), Professor Anthony Costello. He warned that the country could face a “resurgence” of the disease.

Ever since news of the pandemic hit the headlines, the government has been inconsistent in its handling of the situation. It delayed implementing a lockdown in the first place, allowing major crowd events like the Cheltenham races to claim their crop of victims. Once the lockdown was in place, the official advice came out in piecemeal form with many mixed signals, with even the police struggling to make sense of the rules.

And now that the government has begun to relax the rules in fits and starts, it is suddenly getting enthused about test, track and trace as the panacea that will fix everything – having dragged its feet for months on testing, and having as yet only got so far as launching eleven track-and-trace pilot experiments.

Boris Johnson’s ‘whack-a-mole tactics’

Boris Johnson’s reaction to the recent Covid outbreak in Weston hospital neatly sums up the chaotic opportunism which takes the place of any real planning.

When news broke that 40 percent of the staff who had been tested for the virus came out as positive (many of them asymptomatic) and more than 60 patients were infected, necessitating the closure of the hospital to new patients, the prime minister seized on this disaster to blow his own trumpet, claiming that it demonstrated the efficacy of government policy.

Rather than ponder about what such an occurrence might warn us about encouraging day trippers to head en masse to seaside locations like Weston, he claimed that the decision to close the hospital was in accordance with a grand plan to enforce more localised measures in a bid to stop the spread of the virus.

Johnson claimed: “We will be working with the local outbreak committees, and those responsible for dealing with whatever happens locally, and we will go through the local resilience forums which are leading on this.

“The Joint Biodiversity Centre will be looking at, for instance, the other day you saw there was an outbreak in Weston-super-Mare. We moved very quickly to close things down there to try to sort it out. That is the kind of whack-a-mole tactics that we are going to use as we keep driving the virus down and keep reducing the incidents.” (‘Whack-a-mole’ closure of Somerset hospital is first example of new localised lockdown tactics to curb coronavirus spread – Boris Johnson by Tomas Malloy, Somerset Live, 27 May 2020)

Or, in other words, keep on reacting to events, keep on fighting individual brush fires, and muddle through with no real plan.

Meanwhile, the stick needed to enable this ‘whack-a-mole’ strategy to be implemented – testing, tracking and tracing – is noticeably absent. Test results still routinely take 48 hours to arrive, despite the fact that effective contact tracing needs to be done within two days of a person becoming symptomatic.
Moreover, although some 2,000 people a day are presently being tested positive for coronavirus, the contact tracing that is supposed to follow diagnosis is not actually in place.

In the first four days of the tracing system going live, many of the 3,000 clinical caseworkers and 15,000 non-clinical ‘tier 3’ tracers who have been employed to do this vital job reported being unable to log into the system in order to carry out training modules, or unable to see any cases when they had logged on.

As one tracer put it, there is “an awful lot of money being poured into people to sit around not doing the job they were hired to do”. Despite all the evidence from other countries that this infrastructure would be our only route to contain the virus and first prevent and then come out of lockdown, the government only began seriously to discuss it in late April. (Contact tracers claim they have no work in ‘shambolic’ system by Billy Kenber, The Times, 1 June 2020)

Capitalism serves profit, not the people

Only a national plan driven by the welfare of the population, not by the capitalist market, would deal with the pandemic in the most humane and sane way, and only socialism can deliver that, as demonstrated in ChinaCuba and the DPRK.

In a recent article in the Guardian, George Monbiot pointed to what he describes as “the pernicious role of corporate power in public policy”, and how that hampers efforts to deal with health crises like the current pandemic.

A case in point has been the tragic farce over getting hold of the right personal protective equipment (PPE). Monbiot notes that some lucky manufacturing companies “have mysteriously been granted monopolies on the supply of essential equipment. These private monopolies have either failed to meet their contracts, or provided defective gear to the entire NHS, like the 15m protective goggles and the planeload of useless surgical gowns that had to be recalled.

“Instead of stockpiling supplies, as emergency preparedness demands, companies in these chains have been using just-in-time production systems, whose purpose is to cut their costs by minimising stocks. Their minimised systems could not be scaled up fast enough to meet the shortfall.”

An approach to inventory control like this may be superb for generating profits but has proved a disaster when it’s a question of protecting the health of key workers.

Again, speaking of the wholesale privatisation of the care sector, Monbiot notes: “Even before the pandemic, the system was falling apart, as many care companies, unable to balance the needs of their patients with the demands of their shareholders, collapsed, often with disastrous consequences.

“Now we discover just how dangerous their commercial imperatives have become, as the drive to make care profitable has created a fragmented, incoherent system, answerable sometimes to offshore owners, that fails to meet basic standards, and employs harassed workers on zero-hour contracts.”

And if the moneybags fear that emergency steps taken by a national government to deal with a national crisis may harm a hair on the head of their profit-taking, they will not hesitate to go to a (bourgeois) court to defend the rights of private property against the people’s health and welfare.

Monbiot cites a report by the Corporate Europe Observatory, which “shows how law firms are exploring the possibility of suing governments for the measures they have taken to stop the pandemic. Many trade treaties contain a provision called ‘investor state dispute settlement’. This enables corporations to sue governments in opaque offshore tribunals, for any policies that might affect their ‘future anticipated profits’.

“So when governments, in response to coronavirus, have imposed travel restrictions, or requisitioned hotels, or instructed companies to produce medical equipment or limit the price of drugs, the companies could sue them for the loss of the money they might otherwise have made.” (Tory privatisation is at the heart of the UK’s disastrous coronavirus response by George Monbiot, The Guardian, 27 May 2020)

Socialist planning serves the people

Such is the morality of the degenerate capitalists, shaping the morality of the societies they dominate. It is past time for it to be seen off by the revolutionary morality of the working class.

When apologists for capitalism furrow their brows and tell us how complicated it is to plan to meet the needs of society, we should invite them to take a look at how China and Cuba have been dealing with the pandemic. Or have a look at how the DPRK has been coping, despite the imposition of US sanctions, which seek to punish the Korean people for choosing the socialist path.

In a recent interview, Russian ambassador to Pyongyang Alexander Matsegora paid tribute to the vigorous measures that the north Korean government has taken to protect the health of its people.

“I must say that the leadership of the DPRK has taken the most resolute and strict measures to prevent this infection from entering the country. And it did so before anyone else. Even China still kept its borders open, but here entry/exit restrictions were introduced at the end of January, and since the beginning of February, the outer borders were tightly closed with an iron lock.

“Since then, it has become absolutely impossible to come here, even for north Korean citizens who are abroad – all of them still cannot get to their homeland (as you know, it is the compatriots returning from abroad who are the main distributors of infection for any country). The border provinces that have the most advanced ties with China were isolated from the rest of the country, as, by the way, was Pyongyang, where Chinese tourists came back in January.

“As for those who entered here after the outbreak of the epidemic in China, all of them, including foreigners, were placed in an unconditional 30-day quarantine, followed by daily checks by visiting teams of doctors for another month.

“Already in February, everyone here wore masks, and in every institution, in every entrance to residential buildings, their temperature was measured at the entrance and their hands and shoes were disinfected. School children and students were placed in complete isolation in mid-February, which began to weaken only in early May.

“Now there has been further easing of the measures. We are able to visit the market and all major shopping centres and the country has gradually begun to import goods again, but there is no international passenger traffic, and masks and widespread disinfections remain.”

Countering those who dismiss the DPRK’s efforts to combat the pandemic and accuse the government of secrecy about the virus, Matsegora pointed out: “Pyongyang does not hesitate to give World Health Organisation (WHO) and international humanitarian organisations comprehensive information about such diseases as tuberculosis or dysentery (and receives substantial assistance for their treatment).” (Russia unhappy at dialogue deep freeze between Pyongyang and Washington, The Communists, 31 May 2020)

It is the imperialist media in the west that try to conceal the successful efforts of the socialist countries in dealing with the virus, eager to hide their success, fearing that the world’s peoples might learn from their example.

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Yes to Brexit; No to xenophobia

Workers must hold tight to the motto Unity is Strength, and utterly reject the siren songs of racism and xenophobia.

Party leaflet

Download the Brexit xenophobia leaflet

The Brexit vote delivered a splendid blow by workers against British imperialism. Unfortunately, many of those who voted for it were influenced by the cancerous xenophobia that presently affects some sections of the British proletariat.

This nasty and highly-publicised aspect of the Brexit campaign led many decent people to vote to remain in the EU, simply to avoid being tainted by association. In doing so, however, they were associating with an even greater evil – the murderous, warmongering, exploitative, oppressive – and, indeed, xenophobic – interests of imperialism.

The CPGB-ML is as resolutely opposed to the European Union as it is to xenophobia, both of which are bitter enemies of the working class.

Xenophobia severely hampers workers’ struggle for liberation. It is routinely used by imperialism to trick us into giving support to unjust wars of aggression against countries that stand in the way of the maximisation of imperialist profit, as well as for colonial wars to subjugate other countries and control their resources.

If workers have been convinced of the wickedness and/or inferiority of their brothers and sisters abroad, they can be more easily mobilised to risk life and limb on behalf of imperialist interests.

Xenophobia enables the miniscule ruling capitalist class to maintain its class rule in spite of the harm its capitalist economic system inflicts daily on the majority of the population.

Foreigners are constantly blamed for the lack of jobs, low wages and poor social provision that are caused by capitalism, and workers are urged by bourgeois politicians and media alike to swallow the lie that if it wasn’t for ‘all the immigrants’ there would be jobs available at high wages for all native-born Britons, along with readily available housing at affordable rents and a decent level of social provision.

Capitalism is the problem

The truth, however, is that capitalism, in its desperate drive to push down production costs, must inevitably try to push down wages and social provision, too – not only to maximise profits, but also to survive the competition from its rivals and to win the struggle over markets.

If immigration were stopped tomorrow and average wages rose, it would not be long before enterprises presently relying on cheap labour closed down altogether, with their capitalist owners either being driven out of business and/or deciding that their money was better invested abroad and/or investing in new machinery that would lessen the need to hire workers.

That is why, despite the constant increase in productivity (which ought to lead to a shorter working day and higher living standards for all of us), living standards for workers continue to be pushed relentlessly downwards all over the world.

According to Oxfam: “In 2015, just 62 individuals had the same wealth as 3.6 billion people – the bottom half of humanity. The figure is down from 388 individuals as recently as 2010. Since the turn of the century, the poorest half of the world’s population has received just 1 percent of the total increase in global wealth, while half of that increase has gone to the top 1 percent.”

Foreign and native-born workers alike suffer as a result of this downward pressure on wages and benefits, whatever country’s labour force they happen to belong to. Our only possible defence is our ability to fight back – an ability that is lost if the working class is divided against itself, whether on xenophobic lines or any other basis.

Far from exciting hatred, working-class immigrants to this country should be treated with sympathy, since it is clear that the overwhelming majority who leave their countries of origin only do so because they feel they must in order to escape poverty, starvation, persecution or war.

Just like us, they love their families and are simply doing whatever they can to take care of them and secure their futures.

So long as capitalism exists, so long will workers have to fight every inch of the way to maintain reasonable living standards for themselves and their families – and will periodically suffer real deprivation as a result of battles being lost.

So long as capitalism exists, there will always be a reserve army of unemployed – both of local people and of people abroad – who are desperate for work. Competition among workers for jobs is built into the capitalist system, and so the proletariat must not allow itself to be tricked into believing that it is other workers who are the enemy.

The sole and only cause of this desperate situation is the continued survival of the capitalist system, which stands convicted of an utter inability to cater to the even the most basic needs of the overwhelming majority of humanity.

If capitalism was overthrown and replaced by a planned, socialist economy, in which all society’s resources were used to provide for the needs of the working people and their families, there would be no such thing as unemployment and no such thing as competition for jobs.

Every person would be found something essential to do, and all labour would enrich the whole of society.

Although all socialist countries to date have had to face unceasing attempts by powerful internal and external enemies to sabotage their economies – through war, sanctions and terrorism – they have still been able to perform miracles in building up their productive capacity.

In the decade from 1928-38, for example, the Soviet Union was able to turn itself from a backward peasant nation into a superpower, even though a catastrophic economic crisis much like the one we face today was gripping the capitalist world, decimating productive capacity, destroying workers’ lives and leading inexorably to WW2.

Because of the fierce, cruel and ruthless resistance of the exploiters – whose wealth gives them control of the capitalist world’s governments, armies, police forces, judiciary and propaganda media – overthrowing capitalism is never going to be easy. Without doing so, however, the future for the world’s workers looks bleak indeed.

In the words of Joseph Stalin: “Either place yourself at the mercy of capital, eke out a wretched existence as of old and sink lower and lower, or adopt a new weapon – this is the alternative imperialism puts before the vast masses of the proletariat. Imperialism brings the working class to revolution.”

Throughout human history, all minority ruling classes have been experts in the technique of Divide and Rule, since that is the only way for a small class to keep its power over an exploited majority. In the fight of the working class for the new society, the reactionary imperialist bourgeoisie, which reaps all the benefits of the present society, will be greatly assisted in its efforts to hang on to power by all and any divisions it can exploit within the working class.

For its part, the proletariat needs to hold tight to the motto Unity is Strength, and utterly reject the siren songs of racism and xenophobia.

YES to Brexit; NO to xenophobia!

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The Coup Against ‘The Most Loyal Ally’


Photograph Source: National Archives of Australia – CC BY 4.0

The Australian High Court has ruled that correspondence between the Queen and the Governor-General of Australia, her viceroy in the former British colony, is no longer “personal” and the property of Buckingham Palace. Why does this matter?

Secret letters written in 1975 by the Queen and her man in Canberra, Sir John Kerr, can now be released by the National Archives. On November 11, 1975, Kerr infamously sacked the reformist government of prime minister Gough Whitlam, and delivered Australia into the hands of the United States.

Today, Australia is a vassal state bar none: its politics, intelligence agencies, military and much of its media are integrated into Washington’s “sphere of dominance” and war plans. In Donald Trump’s current provocations of China, the US bases in Australia are described as the “tip of the spear”.

There is an historical amnesia among Australia’s polite society about the catastrophic events of 1975. An Anglo-American coup overthrew a democratically elected ally in a demeaning scandal in which sections of the Australian elite colluded. This is largely unmentionable. The stamina and achievement of the Australian historian Jenny Hocking in forcing the High Court’s decision are exceptional.

Gough Whitlam was driven from government on Remembrance Day, 1975. When he died six years ago, his achievements were recognised, if grudgingly, his mistakes noted in false sorrow. The truth of the coup against him, it was hoped, would be buried with him.

During the Whitlam years, 1972-75, Australia briefly achieved independence and became intolerably progressive. Politically, it was an astonishing period. An American commentator wrote that no country had “reversed its posture in international affairs so totally without going through a domestic revolution”.

The last Australian troops were ordered home from their mercenary service to the American assault on Vietnam. Whitlam’s ministers publicly condemned US barbarities as “mass murder” and the crimes of “maniacs”. The Nixon administration was corrupt, said the Deputy Prime Minister, Jim Cairns, and called for a boycott of American trade.  In response, Australian dockers refused to unload American ships.

Whitlam moved Australia towards the Non-Aligned Movement and called for a Zone of Peace in the Indian ocean, which the US and Britain opposed. He demanded France cease its nuclear testing in the Pacific. In the UN, Australia spoke up for the Palestinians. Refugees fleeing the CIA-engineered coup in Chile were welcomed into Australia: an irony I know that Whitlam later savoured.

Although not regarded as on the left of the Labor Party, Gough Whitlam was a maverick social democrat of principle, pride and propriety. He believed that a foreign power should not control his country’s resources and dictate its economic and foreign policies. He proposed to “buy back the farm”.

In drafting the first Aboriginal lands rights legislation and supporting Aboriginal strikers, his government raised the ghost of the greatest land grab in human history, Britain’s colonisation of Australia, and the question of who owned the island-continent’s vast natural wealth.

At home, equal pay for women, free universal higher education and support for the arts became law. There was a sense of realy urgency, as if political time was already running out.

Latin Americans will recognise the audacity and danger of such a “breaking free” in a country whose establishment was welded to great, external power. Australians had served every British imperial adventure since the Boxer rebellion was crushed in China. In the 1960s, Australia pleaded to join the US in its invasion of Vietnam, then provided “black teams” for the CIA.

Whitlam’s enemies gathered. US diplomatic cables published in 2013 by WikiLeaks disclose the names of leading figures in both main parties, including a future prime minister and foreign minister, as Washington’s informants during the Whitlam years.

Gough Whitlam knew the risk he was taking. The day after his election, he ordered that his staff should no longer be “vetted or harassed” by the Australian security organisation, ASIO, which was then, as now, tied to Anglo-American intelligence. A CIA station officer in Saigon wrote: “We were told the Australians might as well be regarded as North Vietnamese collaborators.”

Alarm in Washington rose to fury when, in the early hours of March 16, 1973, Whitlam’s Attorney-General, Lionel Murphy, led a posse of Federal police in a raid on the Melbourne offices of ASIO. Since its inception in 1949, ASIO had become as powerful in Australia as the CIA in Washington. A leaked file on Deputy Prime Minister Jim Cairns described him as a dangerous figure who would bring about “the destruction of the democratic system of government”.

ASIO’s real power derived from the UKUSA Treaty, with its secret pact of loyalty to foreign intelligence organisations – notably the CIA and MI6. This was demonstrated dramatically when the (now defunct) National Times published extracts from tens of thousands of classified documents under the headline, “How ASIO Betrayed Australia to the Americans.”

Australia is home to some of the most important spy bases in the world. Whitlam demanded to know the CIA’s role and if and why the CIA was running the “joint facility” at Pine Gap near Alice Springs. As documents leaked by Edward Snowden revealed in 2013, Pine Gap allows the US to spy on everyone.

“Try to screw us or bounce us,” Whitlam warned the US ambassador, Walter Rice, “[and Pine Gap] will become a matter of contention”.

Victor Marchetti, the CIA officer who had helped set up Pine Gap, later told me, “This threat to close Pine Gap caused apoplexy in the White House… a kind of Chile [coup] was set in motion.”

Pine Gap’s top-secret messages were de-coded by a CIA contractor, TRW. One of the de-coders was Christopher Boyce, a young man troubled by the “deception and betrayal of an ally” he witnessed. Boyce revealed that the CIA had infiltrated the Australian political and trade union elite and was spying on phone calls and Telex messages.

In an interview with the Australian author and investigative journalist, William Pinwell, Boyce revealed one name as especially important. The CIA referred to the Governor-General of Australia, Sir John Kerr, as “our man Kerr”.

Kerr was not only the Queen’s man and a passionate monarchist, he had long-standing ties to Anglo-American intelligence. He was an enthusiastic member of the Australian Association for Cultural Freedom, described by Jonathan Kwitny of the Wall Street Journal in his book, “The Crimes of Patriots”, as, “an elite, invitation-only group… exposed in Congress as being founded, funded and generally run by the CIA”.

Kerr was also funded by the Asia Foundation, exposed in Congress as a conduit for CIA influence and money. The CIA, wrote Kwitny, “paid for Kerr’s travel, built his prestige, even paid for his writings … Kerr continued to go to the CIA for money”.

When Whitlam was re-elected for a second term in 1974, the White House sent Marshall Green to Canberra as ambassador. Green was an imperious, sinister figure who worked in the shadows of America’s “deep state”. Known as the “coupmaster”, he had played a central role in the 1965 coup against President Sukarno in Indonesia – which cost up to a million lives.

One of Green’s first speeches in Australia was to the Australian Institute of Directors, described by an alarmed member of the audience as “an incitement to the country’s business leaders to rise against the government”.

The Americans worked closely with the British. In 1975, Whitlam discovered that MI6 was operating against his government. “The Brits were actually decoding secret messages coming into my foreign affairs office,” he said later. One of his ministers, Clyde Cameron, told me, “We knew MI6 was bugging Cabinet meetings for the Americans.”

Senior CIA officers later revealed that the “Whitlam problem” had been discussed “with urgency” by the CIA’s director, William Colby, and the head of MI6, Sir Maurice Oldfield. A deputy director of the CIA said: “Kerr did what he was told to do.”

On November 10, 1975, Whitlam was shown a top secret telex message sourced to Theodore Shackley, the notorious head of the CIA’s East Asia Division, who had helped run the coup against Salvador Allende in Chile two years earlier. Shackley’s message was read to Whitlam. It said that the prime minister of Australia was a security risk in his own country. Brian Toohey, editor of the National Times, disclosed that it carried the authority of Henry Kissinger, destroyer of Chile and Cambodia.

Having removed the heads of both Australian intelligence agencies, ASIO and ASIS, Whitlam was now moving against the CIA. He called for a list of all “declared” CIA officers in Australia.

The day before the Shackley cabled arrived on November 10, 1975, Sir John Kerr visited the headquarters of the Defence Signals Directorate, Australia’s NSA, where he was secretly briefed on the “security crisis”. It was during that weekend, according to a CIA source, that the CIA’s “demands” were passed to Kerr via the British.

On November 11, 1975 – the day Whitlam was to inform Parliament about the secret CIA presence in Australia – he was summoned by Kerr. Invoking archaic vice-regal “reserve powers” invested in him by the British monarch, Kerr sacked the democratically elected prime minister.

The “Whitlam problem” was solved.  Australian politics never recovered, nor the nation its true independence.

The destruction of Salvador Allende’s government in Chile four years earlier, and of scores of other governments that have questioned the divine right of American might and violence since 1945, was replicated in the most loyal of American allies, often described as “the lucky country”. Only the form of the crushing of democracy in Australia in 1975 differed, along with its enduring cover up.

Imagine a Whitlam today standing up to Trump and Pompeo. Imagine the same courage and principled defiance. Well, it happened.

Abridged from “The Coup”, in John Pilger’s book, A Secret Country, Vintage Books, London.

See also Pilger’s film, Other People’s Wars The Last Dream: Other People’s Wars

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A Superpower in Chaos


Minneapolis could not have happened at a worse time for the US elites. While violence perpetrated against African Americans by White police officers has happened a number of times before, its occurrence right in the midst of a huge health emergency that has already claimed more than a 100,000 lives and a related massive economic disaster that has robbed 30 million people of their jobs, is truly unprecedented. The mayhem and chaos accompanying the violence have spread to a number of other cities right across the United States of America.

What has sparked outrage among thousands of Americans (and not just those of African descent) was the way in which an unarmed Black civilian, George Floyd, suspected of using a counterfeit banknote was killed by a White police officer. The officer had pressed his knee on Floyd’s neck for 5 to 9 minutes forcing him to plead that he could not breathe until he went silent and limp. The officer has now been charged with third degree murder though a lot of the protesters are demanding that three other police personnel who were with him at the time of the incident should also be punished.

If there is a lot of anger among thinking, caring Americans about the Floyd incident, it is mainly because they know that discrimination against African Americans is still pervasive and is a manifestation of the larger marginalisation of the community. True, through education there has been some mobility for groups within this minority especially in the decades following the civil rights movement but large segments remain trapped at the bottom of the heap. The current economic devastation has underscored the vulnerability of these segments just as the coronavirus pandemic has also revealed how the poor and disadvantaged in the US and elsewhere are more likely to be the victims of the scourge than others.

That the US is not really able to protect the well-being of the poorer and weaker segments of society is obvious when we look at the situation of yet another minority, the Hispanics. In the last few decades their economic and social burdens have been exacerbated by an irrational fear of their alleged demographic challenge to the White majority. This fear was exploited successfully by candidate Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election as it will be manipulated again in the forthcoming November 2020 election through issues such as building a wall to protect the US’s southern border.

There is a third minority, better positioned than the first two, which is also the object of racist attacks from time to time. Broadly classified informally as ‘Asians,’ they are often equated with Americans of Chinese origin. Since the coronavirus crisis and president Trump’s attempt to pin the blame upon China, the harassment of Chinese and Chinese looking Americans has escalated. Indeed, verbal and even physical abuse of members of the community has been going on for a while given the constant negative targeting of China by some US elites on a variety of issues ranging from trade and technology to alleged human rights violations and suppression of minorities. Though independent research has shown that there is a great deal of distortion and exaggeration in these allegations, they appear to have impacted upon ordinary Americans through community and social media.

Why China is subjected to such vile treatment, it is not difficult to understand. The US elites and a section of the media see the ascendancy of China as a challenge to US dominance and control of the planet, or US hegemony, and are therefore determined to tarnish and subvert China. Other countries which are independent-minded and unwilling to submit meekly to US power are also often targeted. Sometimes, prejudice against a particular religion or specific ethnic communities — this is true of the prevailing attitude of certain segments of American society towards Islam and Muslims — tends to warp inter-community relations.

The US pursuit of global hegemony has affected adversely the rights and interests of millions of Americans in a number of ways. By spending so much on the military — in 2019 it was 732 billion US dollars — and maintaining some 800 military bases encircling the world, the US has sacrificed the essential needs of its people such as well-equipped hospitals and schools. Gross neglect of the economic and social rights of the people has emerged as a tragic reality for everyone to witness when the nation is confronted by a twin health and economic crisis of gigantic proportions.

Indeed, given its wealth, the US failure to enhance the rights of millions of its citizens including the underclass within the White majority is simply criminal. In the domestic arena, as in international politics, it is the height of hypocrisy of the US political elite to present itself as a champion of human rights and democratic rule. In fact, on a number of occasions in international politics —- Iran 1953; Chile 1973; Palestine 2006; and Egypt 2013 –the elite had directly and obliquely participated in the suppression of democratic principles.

Today, through the two crises that have overwhelmed the superpower and the righteous anger vented in the streets of the nation by ordinary citizens of all shades —- anger that stems from centuries of contempt and scorn heaped upon a people —- the truth about the elites’ lack of respect for human rights and human dignity is exposed for all to see. Will this lead to some sincere soul-searching especially among young Americans?

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“Total Domination”: Popular Rebellion in the Shadow of Trumpism-Fascism


Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

We’re going to clamp down very, very strong. The word is dominate

– Donald Trump, speaking to US governors, June 1, 2020

Danger, danger, there’s a fascist in the White House, it’s up to us to drive him out

– Refuse Fascism slogan, 2017-2020

Radical Potential

I joined a decent-sized civil and human rights march in Iowa City two nights ago. It started with mostly young and white people milling around, quietly chalking and talking at City Hall. When the numbers got big enough and two young Black sparkplug activists showed up, we took to (and took over) the downtown streets and had a rally at the Old Capital building on the University of Iowa’s scenic, tree-filled Pentacrest. Then we headed over to the Johnson County Jail, the headquarters of racist mass incarceration in Johnson County (which is named after a former U.S. Vice President reputed to have killed the great Native American rebel Tecumseh). We got a bunch of scared-looking sheriff’s deputies to take a knee for George Floyd.

There were shouts, honks, and fists of approval from cars, apartment dwellers overhead, and pedestrians, some of whom joined in. It was nice to see.

One of the loudest and favorite chants: “Fuck Donald Trump.”

Written in chalk in front of the Iowa City’s city hall and police department yesterday morning: “Disarm, Defund, and Dismantle the Police State.”

The crowd was mostly white (it’s Iowa, so no surprise there), but the match leaders were properly young and Black and there were plenty of nonwhite participants. (People of all colors nicely but insistently told a young white narcissist who tried to market his yoga website to step down and “pass the mike” back to the Black activist at Old Capitol. If you are going to grab the loudspeaker at a Black Lives Matter while white, you better say something short and meaningful for the cause).

If the march had a problem, it was that it ran too strong with chants were more about policemen than about the racist and fascist police state. “All Cops Are Bastards” becomes an awkward slogan when the big blue meanies agree to take a knee, leading many in the crowd to break into applause. “Boo cops, no, Yay cops!” is a little embarrassing.

The problem is that the cops can take a knee but we still have a racist-fascist militarized police state along with (more on this below) a racist-fascist regime in the White House (and in much of federal and state government beneath and beyond the Trump administration).

The radical potential of the night’s events was defused somewhat by the cops agreeing to kneel and by a group of people who started chanting “VOTE, VOTE, VOTE.” As we should know by now, American major party electoral politics is a populace-marginalizing cargo cult and a recurrent, biennial/quadrennial exercise in magical thinking and false savior hope. (Can anyone say “hopey-changey Obama”?) To quote radical activists I know in Chicago, “voting will not fix this mess; revolution, nothing less.”

Beyond the Psychological Wage of Racism

I am less bothered than some commenters (including a few Black bourgeois thinkers featured on the right-wing “P”BS “NewsHour” two nights ago) by the technical whiteness of many kids (and older folks) in the streets in the name of George Floyd and BLM. This is for four reasons.

First, I have been talking to young white Say His Name protestors and can reliably report that they are sincerely and morally opposed to racism and the racist police state. What is wrong with that?

Second, young white anti-racists are in the streets not only out of “bleeding heart” concern for darker-skinned others. They are also coming out of self-interest: they get it that this nation is being run (into the ground) for and by a predominantly white ruling class that controls the population in various ways including racial and ethnic divide-and-conquer.

They sense also that interracial solidarity is in their own interests. They are rejecting the “psychological wage of racism” (what the left historian David Roediger has called “the wages of whiteness”) that the American capitalist possessing classes have long used to keep working-class white folks down, along with everyone else.

Good for them.

Third, they are looking in horror at their own dire prospects under Covidian and ecocidal capitalism. They understand like never before that they and their loved ones are disposable in the calculations of the Lords of Capital and the owners’ bought-and-paid-for elected officials.

“Total Domination”: The Demented Fascist Oligarch Threatens Martial Law

Fourth, many of them get it now like never before that Trump’s racism is part of a many-sided neofascism that needs to be fought in the streets and not only or mainly in the ballot box.

They are correct in their understanding of Trump and Trumpism. The malignant white-nationalist-in-chief is leaving little doubt as to what is at stake in the United States the summer of 2020. His response to the nation-wide anti-racist “Say His Name” rebellion has been profoundly fascistic.

“Rather than focus on protesters’ grievances — such as systemic racism and police brutality – Trump,” NBC News reports. “has increasingly turned his focus to squelching the civil unrest that has accompanied the national demonstrations and has taken a hardline stance to restoring order.”

That is an accurate-enough summation, but it is remarkably credulous and understated. Why on Earth would someone like Trump, a cold-blooded “law and order” racist who has long been telling cops to “take the gloves off” to harshly punish people of color, listen with empathy to protesters’ cries against structural racism and police violence? Expecting anything remotely like that would be on par with expecting Grizzly Bears not to refrain from defecating in the forest.

“Taken a hardline stance to restoring order”? That is putting it mildly. On Monday, Orange King Covid berated the nation’s governors in a conference call, calling them “weak” in the face of the rebellion. “If you don’t dominate [the protests],” Trump said, “you’re wasting your time”:

“Washington, they had large groups, very large groups. … But we’re going to have it under much more control. We’re pouring in — we’re going to pull in thousands of people…We’re going to clamp down very, very strong. The word is dominate. If you don’t dominate your city and your state, they’re gonna walk away with you. And we’re doing it in Washington, in DC, we’re going to do something that people haven’t seen before. … we’re going to have total domination.”

“Total domination”: spoken like the dictator Trump has always dreamed of being.

Trump told the governors that “you have to use the military” and “we have a wonderful military.” He described the 2011 Occupy Wall Street movement a “disgrace” that was rightly ended by governors and mayors being “tough.” He ever told the governors that protesters should serve 10-year prison sentences.

“The Right Normal”

Trump’s top military police state henchman now calls the U.S. “homeland” a “battlespace.” With approval from the terrible tangerine-tinted Twitter-tantruming tyrant himself, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said this to a new domestic riot-control “central command center” headed Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. Mark Milley, Esper and Attorney General William Barr (along with key state and local officials): “The sooner that you mass and dominate the battlespace the sooner this dissipates and we can get back to the right normal.”

Interesting phrase, “the right normal.” That’s where everyone stays home and lets the ruling class ru[i]n the nation and the world while white cops, prison guards and border patrol agents murder people of color with impunity.

“Nice and Safe” for the Holy Bible

Trump ordered up 250 combat-ready military personnel from Ft. Bragg in North Carolina to Washington D.C. After police cleared LaFayette Square to let President Bone Spur come out of a protective bunker in which Secret Service had placed him, Trump gave a nod to the many Christian Fascists in his base. The Orange Chicken Hawk and aides walked across Pennsylvania Avenue to pose before cameras at historic St. John’s Parish. There the deadly clown Trump awkwardly held up a Holy Bible over his right shoulder. “We have the greatest country in the world, we’re going to keep it nice and safe,” Trump proclaimed.

Threatening a Domestic War Crime in the Name of God

In a chilling speech two days ago, Trump said that the American fascist police state must “dominate the streets” with “an overwhelming law enforcement presence.” If a city or state doesn’t crack down with an iron fist, Trump said, “I will deploy the United States military and quickly solve the problem for them.”

The demented fascist oligarch went on to falsely accuse protesters of “the spilling of innocent blood” — how Orwellian was that? — and called their actions “crime[s] against God.”

The malignant fascist could not say one word about the police murder of George Floyd, viewed by millions of American and world citizens on camera – the event that sparked the national protest wave. Smearing the entire movement as the handiwork of “professional anarchists, violent mobs, arsonists, looters, ANTIFA and others,” Trump threatened to commit a war crime by turning the US military on and against the public’s rights of free speech and assembly.

“Who’s Going to Stop Him”?

Doubling down on his effort to use the righteous, multi-racial people’s “Say His Name!” rebellion as a Reichstag Fire moment, Trump, Matthew Rotshchild notes, “threatens to usurp the role of governors and to send heavily armed U.S. troops to the states, raises the real specter of martial law in the United States.” As Rothschild chillingly reflected on “social media”:

“Some pundits and legal experts assure us that it probably still can’t happen here, but who’s going to stop him? Not the Attorney General of the United States. Not the Secretary of the Defense. Not the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. All three stood right behind him after he had troops violently disrupt a peaceful protest across the street from the White House…I suspect there have been plans on the drawing boards of the Pentagon for imposing martial law that were worked up after 9/11.General Tommy Franks, who led the invasion of Iraq in 2003, said that if we’re ever attacked again by terrorists with weapons of mass destruction, we might have to suspend the Constitution. Condoleezza Rice’s deputy at the National Security Council, General Wayne Downing, said essentially the same thing: If attacked again with chemical or biological weapons, ‘The United States may have to declare martial law.’ So when the generals talked in public about martial law, you can bet that their subordinates drew up plans for it. That’s how the military works…Since Trump is calling Antifa a terrorist group, he could seize on this interpretation and claim he is ‘deterring terrorism.’”

It could get worse. As Rothschild elaborated, Trump could well invoke the 1807 Insurrection Act, crafted with Black slave revolts in mind:

“Trump could also invoke the Insurrection Act of 1807, as legal experts have also speculated about. Even Preet Bharara, who was U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York under President Obama, told CNN on Monday night that Trump has a legal leg to stand on with the Insurrection Act…Whatever legal fig leaf Trump might use, he also is commander in chief of the most powerful military in the world.
I’m reminded of Stalin’s response to Churchill, who asked him to consider the views of the Pope. Stalin sneered: ‘How many divisions does the Pope have?’…Our democracy is hanging by a thinner thread than ever right now… If Trump declared martial law tomorrow afternoon, you can bet your last dollar that tomorrow night Sean Hannity would be praising him for doing so on Fox News.

Is the martial law threat just Trump hot air? Maybe. Even if it is, the simple fact that Dear Leader Donald has explicitly threatened to pre-empt governors and ram martial law down the American people’s throats is a cold fascistic departure.

Who’s going to stop him? We the People are. It’s up to us to drive him out.

“A Fulcrum Moment for this Nation”

Truthout’s William Rivers-Pitt puts it very well:

‘This is a fulcrum moment for the nation, one that could tilt either way. Either we secure a measure of justice through sustained effort, or the authoritarian pushback that has already begun will hurl us down into a darkness as yet un-comprehended should we weaken or stagger. We must not. ‘Someday’ is now. We can only write a better future if we are true to each other, to ourselves, and to the legion of victims who cry for justice from beyond this vale of fathomless sorrow.’

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From Mississippi to Minneapolis: Leaving the ‘Abyss of Despair’


Photograph Source: Adam Jones, Ph.D. – CC BY-SA 3.0

In the early morning hours of August 28th, 1955, two white men burst into the Mississippi home of Moses Wright where 14-year-old Emmett Till slept. Till had come down from Chicago to visit his cousins and was accused of having flirted with a white woman, Carolyn Bryant, while at a local country store with some friends four days earlier.

Around 4:00 am, Carolyn’s husband, Roy Bryant, and his half-brother, J.W. Milam, dragged Till from his bed and put him in their truck. In the hours that followed, Bryant and Milam beat, mutilated, and shot Emmett Till. To dispose of his body, they wound barbed wire around his neck, attached it to a metal cotton gin fan, and threw his corpse into the Tallahatchie River. When it was found days later, he was so unrecognizable, his cousin was able to identify him only from a ring he wore on one of his fingers.

Authorities wanted to bury him immediately, but Emmett Till’s mother, Mamie, insisted that his remains be sent back to Chicago. There, at his funeral, she left his casket open for all to see. Hideous photographs of the bloated and disfigured boy appeared in newspapers and magazines across the country highlighting the barbarousness of the lynching. No longer able to ignore what they couldn’t see, people across the country were forced to confront these brutal, racially-motivated murders.

Typical of those times, Till’s killers were acquitted by an all-white jury. The gruesome images of Emmett Till in his coffin nevertheless helped launch the civil rights movement. This would be one of the first times the photographic images of racial bigotry on display would galvanize people into action.

Eight years later, on April 16th, 1963 Martin Luther King, Jr. penned his now famous “Letter From a Birmingham Jail” in which he responded to fellow clergymen who had called his non-violent direct action activities “unwise and untimely”. “When you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick and even kill your black brothers and sisters; …when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of ‘nobodiness’ – then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into the abyss of despair.”

How timely King’s words ring today. As protesters throng the streets of Minneapolis and other major cities across the United States, appalled by a police officer’s public lynching of George Floyd; by the vigilante murder of Ahmaud Arbery; by the shooting death of Breonna Taylor in her own bed; and by far too many other similar and deeply disturbing killings, it is not difficult to understand why in many cases these demonstrations descended into violence. The Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s, for all its accomplishments, failed to rid our society of the plague of racism. Every year we are faced with more killings of unarmed black men and women and, more ominously, with the impunity of the perpetrators of those killings. While I believe violence will never purge our society of the evils of racism, bigotry, and injustice, I am nevertheless unsurprised that, in the past week, so many of the protesters have resorted to wanton destruction to express their anger.

“A riot is the language of the unheard,” King once memorably remarked. His words ring true today more than ever. As governors, city councilmen and women, news anchors, police officials, religious leaders, and others plea for calm and appeal to the civic honor and need for unity of the citizens of our cities, they are also mobilizing local police forces, fire departments, and the national guard to attempt to restore order. There is something inherently flawed in these national entreaties to stay home and respect the calls for peace. As King continued, “I must confess that over the past few years I have been gravely disappointed with the white moderate. I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in his stride toward freedom is not the… Ku Klux Klanner, but the white moderate, who is more devoted to ‘order’ than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice…”

Those weariest of the years of persistent discrimination and harassment are unlikely to be mollified by pleas for civility and respect for the rights and property of others. It is time for our local and national leaders to address their grievances. Rather than beseeching people to obey the law and refrain from using force, our leaders need to be acknowledging the social and economic injustice, oppression, and inequality so many Americans encounter day after vexing day. Protesters don’t want to return to the status quo. They don’t want to be told to quiet down. They want more than for the murderers of innocent people to be held accountable for their actions. George Floyd is not the cause of the unrest; he is the symbol of it. Whether it is the swollen, deformed face of Emmett Till or the image of a near dead and gasping George Floyd with the knee of Derek Chauvin crushing his neck, the issue transcends impropriety. People are not simply asking to breathe; they are asking to breathe free.

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Revolution, Not Riots: Prospects for Radical Transformation in the Covid-19 Era


Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

The murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police served as yet another wakeup call for a nation that has historically struggled with recognizing structural violence against people of color. The ensuing protests and riots represent a renewed effort to sensitize Americans to the reality of pervasive racism in their country. Recent events follow a familiar cycle:

1. racial profiling and police brutality persist, largely unabated, until public anger reaches a critical mass and boils over into protest and violence after a catalyst event – in this case, the murder of George Floyd;

2. Media coverage is heavily sensationalized, marginalizing the protesters who are non-violent, emphasizing looting and riots, and thereby obscuring the reasons for the protests;

3. National guard and police forces are mobilized to suppress the protests, further inflaming tensions and exacerbating the violence through the heavy-handed tactics of the police;

4. Millions of Americans nod in recognition of the travesty of racism and police brutality, while millions of others – including many whites – lament the destruction of property, while downplaying the loss of black lives to police violence;

5. Despite sensational media coverage, the basic point that millions of people of color are mad as hell at police brutality and societal racism manages to seep through, with it becoming increasingly difficult for most Americans to deny that race relations in the U.S. have reached crisis levels;

6. Reforms ensue, geared toward increased pressure on police forces to improve transparency, to rely more heavily on community policing initiatives, and to further sensitize Americans to the problem of structural racism. And the cycle repeats.

Covid-19, however, appears to have exacerbated public anxieties beyond a level seen in previous rounds of Black Lives Matter protests. Communities under pressure, particularly poor people of color who are worst hit by Covid-19, have reached a breaking point, and are rebelling in mass against the status quo of record economic inequality, racial oppression, rising unemployment, and a near-complete non-response from the federal government to the worst public health crisis in a century. Within the context of these intensified protests, many self-identified radicals I have talked to believe we are witnessing the beginnings of a political and economic revolution, in light of the violent protests that have now taken over dozens of cities in the U.S. But we should be wary of romantic celebrations of revolution. Americans are nowhere near developing the radical working-class consciousness that’s needed for a socialist revolution. And efforts to frame riots as revolution are fraught with peril in a country where the large majority of Americans lack critical working-class consciousness, let alone revolutionary consciousness.

Before examining the challenges faced by protesters and leftists who are seeking societal transformation, it’s important to emphasize the positive elements of this latest race rebellion in the struggle for democracy. First, protests are absolutely essential to drawing attention to police violence and repression in a country where large numbers of people have become willfully ignorant to recognizing these problems, despite a mountain of social science and journalistic evidence documenting the ways in which the “criminal justice” system routinely criminalizes people of color. Second, the protests represent a much-needed reorientation of our priorities, toward recognizing the tragedy of the loss of human life due to police repression, and away from the priorities of many privileged whites, who prefer to lament the destruction of property, while ignoring the countless lives lost to police violence. Third, most of the protesters in the streets are committed to non-violent action, and should be applauded for such restraint in the face of police repression. White affluent communities throughout the U.S. have long been allowed to self-police, with residents only engaging law enforcement when they are called to assist in defusing disturbances. I have little doubt that whites would be angry as hell, and many would riot too, if police treated them the same as they do people of color in communities that are severely over-policed.

Looting and riots across the country are the product of society’s failure to listen to those, like George Floyd, who are literally suffocating under the boot of police repression. Martin Luther King famously said in a speech assessing the prospects for change during times of violent protest and riots: “it is not enough for me to stand before you tonight and condemn riots. It would be morally irresponsible for me to do that without, at the same time, condemning the contingent, intolerable conditions that exist in our society. These conditions are the things that cause individuals to feel that they have no other alternative than to engage in violent rebellions to get attention.” MLK’s reflection represents a nuanced understanding of the frustrations that African Americans face in a society that systematically practices racial discrimination, as related to educational, occupational, residential, legal, and cultural repression. He recognized the legitimacy of the frustrations shared by people of color, without endorsing violent acts that provide an excuse for a “criminal justice” system to further suppress minority communities.

Despite the positive aspects of recent protests, there are some red flags that should be raised, and that threaten to undermine these protests. For one, it’s still disturbing how much we don’t know about many of those responsible for violence across American cities. Early accounts claimed that 80 percent of protesters arrested in Minneapolis were from out of state, although that conclusion was undermined after a review of arrest data showing that these protests were homegrown. With these efforts to marginalize demonstrators discredited, there is still the question of the extent to which white supremacists have participated in violence, in an effort to discredit the movement. A number of recent reports have spotlighted highly suspicious whites who are seeking to stoke riots, and who clearly have no interest in playing a positive role in protesting police brutality. Most perversely, some white supremacists have even used the protests as an opportunity to assault black protesters.

A second concern is the haphazard way that protesters have thrown caution to the wind by failing to make good-faith efforts to practice social distancing, in order to prevent the rapid transmission of Covid-19. It should be too obvious a point to remind people who have been told repeatedly for the last three months that it’s a really bad idea to be out in large groups in public without remaining six feet apart. Despite being a long-time (20 year) participant in progressive and radical social movements, I’ve made the decision, as someone with multiple immune system disorders, to refrain from participating in these protests. From all the news footage I’ve seen in recent days, and from the many individuals I know personally who have engaged in protests of Floyd’s murder, it’s become abundantly clear that large numbers of demonstrators are simply failing to practice social distancing. This failure carries perils. As public health experts are warning, large protest congregations, even with individuals wearing masks, threaten to further spread Covid-19 in heavily-populated urban areas. Furthermore, the failure to practice social distancing makes a mockery of leftists’ condemnations of “reopen America” protests, considering the main criticism put forward against these individuals was that they were flaunting basic public health and safety concerns. The failure to put public health first opens up Black Lives Matter protesters to charges of hypocrisy. Viruses, after all, don’t distinguish between worthy and unworthy political goals.

Most importantly, it is vital that we recognize there is a mountain of difference between rioting and revolution, and that we are nowhere near the latter at this time. It’s tempting to see people rising up in the streets and conclude that system-level change is afoot. And that may well end up being the case if these protests continue. But the difficult work of organizing and movement building to achieve system-level change has not been done. The worker strikes at Instacart, Amazon, McDonalds, Whole Foods, and elsewhere are an encouraging start for Americans seeking to assert themselves in the workplace. But the goals are hardly revolutionary. They include a $15 minimum wage – which has now become mainstream policy in the Democratic Party – and efforts to protect workers from Covid-19 infections in the workplace, among other reforms. And the labor movement in the U.S. remains a shadow of its former self, with only one in ten Americans being a member of a union as of 2019. Perhaps this pattern can be reversed, but it will require major struggles beyond this first round of Covid-19-era labor activism.

Furthermore, if revolution is the goal, no viable or radical mass worker organization yet exists that can help individuals in their workplaces to coordinate a national campaign to agitate for and demand collective expropriation and ownership of the means of economic production. We still appear to be very far from revolution, at least one that’s based on a libertarian vision of socialism in which workers decide their own fates and control occupational decision-making. And in order to get there, there will need to be a rapid rise in working-class identity and consciousness – and radical class consciousness – both of which have been in short supply to date.

The vast majority of Americans – approximately 90 percent – see themselves as some version of “middle class,” not as revolutionary proletarians. Even when a “working-class” option is provided in surveys, less than a third of Americans identify as such, while a sizable majority – almost two-thirds – prefer the amorphous “middle-class” designation. And as of early 2020, only 28 percent of Americans hold a favorable view of socialism, which includes less than 40 percent of younger Americans aged 18 to 38. Even for those who support socialism, most have little understanding of what it would look like in practice. They’ve been socialized by Bernie Sanders and his supporters to think that socialism means Scandinavian-style New Deal reformism and progressive-liberalism. That definition has little to do with historic understandings of socialism as founded upon grassroots, radical revolutionary politics, and worker takeovers of the means of economic production. A miniscule one percent of Americans cite “cooperative”-style work arrangements, in which workers are empowered to make their own decisions, as constituting the core of socialism. Clearly, we are very far from any sort of bottom-up organic socialist revolution when the vast majority of Americans don’t even understand the historical meaning of the concept, and overwhelmingly associate it with general notions of “equality” and government run public goods like Medicare-for-all.

The latest uprisings against racist policing are encouraging and can serve as a launching point for renewed efforts to combat inequality in America. But we should be careful not to romanticize rioting or mistake it for revolutionary change. If we seek the latter, then our nation has to work toward developing a radical working-class consciousness – one that understands capitalist owners of the means of production (the “bourgeoisie” in Marxian terms) as retaining fundamentally contradictory interests compared to the vast majority of Americans who are facing rapidly rising economic stresses in the Covid-19 era, and who have been squeezed by decades of corporate capitalism, unrestricted by basic obligations to the citizenry. Without an understanding of society that centers on class conflict and the incommensurable interests that exist between working Americans and political and business elites, there is little chance of working toward revolutionary transformation.

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Amy Cooper is Christian Cooper’s Lost, Younger Sister


Baldwin photographed by Allan Warren – CC BY-SA 3.0

This week – like most weeks – James Baldwin has been on my mind. The man Malcolm X called “the poet” of the civil rights revolution died over three decades ago, but his ideas are as relevant as ever. As I sat today thinking about the recent lynching of Ahmaud Arbery in Georgia, the state-sponsored terrorism that killed Breonna Taylor in Louisville and George Floyd in Minneapolis, and dogwalker Amy Cooper’s racist attempt to weaponize the state against the body of birdwatcher Christian Cooper in Central Park, I kept circling back to Baldwin.

There is something about this last case, I think, that Baldwin would tell us contains the key to understanding the other three.  The cases of Arbery, Taylor, and Floyd are sadly all too familiar.  Nary a day goes by in “the land of the free” when we don’t read stories about a person of color falling prey to white supremacist violence. As more details emerge about the Cooper case, though, many Americans who imagine themselves to be white are expressing surprise. “Did you hear that he went to Harvard?” and “can you believe it? She is a liberal!” seem to be the most shocking tidbits to this crowd.

Baldwin would not have been surprised in the least. As he said to many a white interlocutor, one’s “success” is not armor enough in a world where one is “at the mercy of the reflexes the color of one’s skin happens to cause” in other people. There are many things, Baldwin would often say, that he and Harry Belafonte and Sammy Davis Jr. could do that were not easily done by most folks they knew growing up, but their fame and celebrity did not mean much if they found themselves in a situation in which a white person held all of the power. Christian Cooper’s Ivy League pedigree and professional accomplishments were meaningless in the face of Amy Cooper’s desire to wield the arm of the state against his blackness.

But what would Baldwin make of Amy Cooper’s purported “liberalism”? She gave money to the “right” candidates and probably said the “right” sorts of things about race on social media and in polite conversation. Her “right thinking” even manifested itself in a perverse way as she repeatedly used the seemingly respectful “African American” to describe her imagined assailant to the emergency operator. None of this would have been a surprise to Baldwin. Indeed, he saved some of his most damning criticism for faux “liberals” like Amy Cooper. “Liberals” like Cooper have all of the right “attitudes,” but these attitudes have little impact on how they perceive and treat people in the real world. These sorts of “liberals,” Baldwin wrote, could deal with a person of color “as a symbol,” but “had no sense of him as a man.” There is not much distance between perceiving another human being as a symbol and perceiving him as a threat. The shallowness of Amy Cooper’s attitudes was revealed in the blink of an eye and it is not difficult to imagine how the price paid for this superficiality might have been Christian Cooper’s life.

I think Baldwin would find the coincidence of Amy and Christian’s last name all the more telling. One of Baldwin’s pleas was for us to come to terms with our history. That history, when it is honestly told, reveals Christian and Amy Cooper have more in common than a last name. The stories of their lives and their ancestor’s lives are inextricably bound together in every sense imaginable. They are, Baldwin would say, “flesh of one flesh, bone of one bone” – and not in some abstract or theological sense. Baldwin insisted that Christian and Amy and you and me and George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor are brothers and sisters in a very real sense.

In late 1962, Baldwin penned an essay called “My Dungeon Shook” for The Progressive magazine. The piece was for an issue devoted to the 100th Anniversary of the Emancipation Proclamation and Baldwin decided to frame his short piece as a letter to his 14-year-old nephew. “The crime of which I accuse my country,” Baldwin declared, is “that they have destroyed and are destroying hundreds of thousands of lives and do not know it and do not want to know it.” In the face of this, Baldwin told his nephew that people often make the mistake of assuming the solution has something to do with “white people” coming to “accept” black people. This, Baldwin insisted, was dead wrong.

“The really terrible thing,” Baldwin told his young nephew, “is that you must accept them. You must accept them and accept them with love,” for “these men are your brothers, your lost, younger brothers” and “we, with love, shall force our brothers to see themselves as they are; to cease fleeing from reality and begin to change it.”

What might it mean for us to think about Amy Cooper as Christian Cooper’s lost, younger sister who must be accepted with love? We must not let the ordinary ways we tend to talk about love confuse Baldwin’s message. When Baldwin called on us to love one another, he was not referring to something soft or sentimental or even something that is meant to make us happy. “Love does not begin and end the way we seem to think it does,” he told an audience in 1960. “Love is a battle, love is a war; love is a growing up.” The love Baldwin calls on all of us to practice is a love of confrontation, both within ourselves and with those around us. To really love oneself, Baldwin argues, we must engage in ruthless self-examination in order to expose what is false in our identities – those things we tell ourselves about our past in order to feel safe and innocent – and attempt to re-create ourselves “according to a principle more humane and liberating.” And to love another human being, Baldwin reminds us, is to be willing to confront them about the delusions under which they live. And one can demonstrate one’s love for a society by taking to the streets and expressing rage at the structures of power that fail to respect the dignity of so many lives. At his best “the lover,” Baldwin wrote in 1962, attempts “to reveal the beloved to himself, and with that revelation make freedom real.”

Even if one accepts Baldwin’s call to love oneself and others in ways that might allow us to come to terms with our history, what then? People who imagine themselves to be white often think the point of confronting history is to make them feel guilty. “I’m not interested in anybody’s guilt,” Baldwin said in 1964. “Guilt is a luxury that we can no longer afford.” What Baldwin demanded was responsibility. The stories of Ahmaud Arbery, George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Christian Cooper are our stories. Each one of us is complicit in the creation of this narrative and we have a responsibility to change it. Baldwin grew tired of the “chorus on the innocent” wailing: “we didn’t do it.” “I didn’t do it either,” he said. “But I am responsible for it because I am a man and a citizen of this country and you are responsible for it too, for the very same reason.”

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Deploying Federal Troops in a War at Home Would Make a Bad Situation Worse


Photograph by Nathaniel St. Clair

As the George Floyd Uprising intensified in Minneapolis on Friday and Saturday, President Trump asked Acting Defense Secretary Mark Esper for options to deploy federal troops to the city. He signaled to Minnesota Governor Tim Walz, “We have our military ready, willing and able if they ever want to call our military, and we can have troops on the ground every quickly.” Military Police soldiers from Fort Bragg (North Carolina), Fort Drum (New York), Fort Carson (Colorado), and Fort Riley (Kansas) were ordered to be ready to deploy for crowd and traffic control duties, if the state National Guards could not quell the unrest.

On Monday, Trump put Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman General Mark Milley “in charge,” lambasted state governors, and said he would soon order active-duty federal troops into U.S. cities to “quickly solve the problem for them.” He also indicated that he would soon be deploying active-duty military forces in the District of Columbia, where he has the direct authority to do so.

Although the National Guard has often been used against civil rebellion, deploying federal military forces within the U.S. is a drastic and historically rare move. I’ve studied the history and geography of U.S. military interventions from the “Indian Wars” to the Middle East, and have documented only a handful of times that Army, Marines, or federalized National Guard forces have been used against U.S. citizens over the past century. For Trump to take such a profound leap would be an admission, as Gov. Walz stated, that a conflict at home is being equated to an “overseas war.” Sending in soldiers trained for combat will only make a bad situation worse, by launching a war at home against domestic dissent.

The Insurrection Act of 1807 governs the President’s ability to deploy the active-duty military within the U.S. to put down rebellion. The Posse Comitatus Act of 1878 limited the federal government’s power to use the military to enforce civilian laws, constricting the military to a role supporting state and local police authorities. Interestingly, the limitation was put in place partly due to the white supremacist rollback of Reconstruction, as President Rutherford B. Hayes withdrew federal troops occupying the former Confederacy since the Civil War. The Act still allows the President to deploy forces in the U.S. under congressional authority (derived from the Insurrection Act), if a state cannot maintain so-called “public order.”

Wars against Indigenous and Mexican resistance

U.S. military forces fought the so-called “Indian Wars” as foreign interventions on the soil of Indigenous nations, to forcibly incorporate them into (or keep them within) the United States. These included the 1862 war against the Mdewakanton Dakota (Santee Sioux) in Minnesota, which ended in the execution of 38 Dakota men.

The Army’s last major Indian War was against the Lakota Nation, culminating in the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre of about 300 civilians, for which the soldiers were awarded Medals of Honor. Later interventions were directed against the Leech Lake Ojibwe in 1898 (using soldiers just returned from the Philippines), and the Muskogee (Creek) in Indian Territory (later Oklahoma) in 1901. U.S. naval forces also backed the 1893 settler overthrow of the U.S.-recognized Kingdom of Hawai’i.

During the Mexican Revolution, U.S. Army troops were also involved in fighting Mexican rebels who crossed the border, in the 1915 Plan of San Diego raids into Texas, and Pancho Villa’s 1916 raid into Columbus, New Mexico in 1916 (triggering the Pershing Expedition deep into Mexico). Although these were interventions on U.S. soil, they were not directed primarily against U.S. citizens.

The “Indian Wars” were rekindled in 1973, when FBI and other federal agents besieged Lakota community activists joined by the American Indian Movement (AIM) at the Wounded Knee massacre site, where two Native resisters were killed in firefights. Phantom jets from nearby Ellsworth Air Force Base conducted surveillance overflights. The 82nd Airborne was put on alert, but an FBI request for 2,000 Army troops was turned down by Colonel Volney Warner, and the 72-day siege ended without a second massacre. (AIM still exists, and is this week leading neighborhood patrols to protect the Minneapolis Native community, as an alternative to police or military violence.)

During the 2016-17 confrontations at Standing Rock over the Dakota Access Pipeline, North Dakota National Guard troops were deployed, and TigerSwan private security contractors (who had worked with the military in Iraq and Afghanistan) spied on the water protectors. Although there was no obvious direct use of federal military forces, it is not always clear which agencies operated surveillance planes and drones.

Deployments against strikers and veterans

Army troops have also been sent in to crush strikes by U.S. workers. During the 1894 Pullman rail strike in Chicago, troops killed 34 strikers. In Idaho, troops intervened against striking silver miners in northern Idaho’s Coeur d’Alene region in 1892, and occupied the area in 1899-1901. Troops were deployed against striking West Virginia coal miners in 1920-21 (including the first aerial bombing of U.S. citizens); the conflict inspired the film Matewan.

In 1932, during the Depression, Army soldiers were deployed against World War I veterans demonstrating in Washington for early payment of the government bonus for their service. General Douglas Macarthur led the light-tank assault on the “Bonus Army” veterans and their families; 55 veterans were injured and their shantytown burned to the ground.

African American civil rights and white backlash

By far the most common use of federal troops in the U.S. has been related to African American civil rights, and the white backlash against those rights. A series of racial confrontations and pogroms in the 20th century involved state National Guard troops, but it was not until World War II that federal troops were directly used. In June 1943, white rioters in Detroit protested a Black housing project and white workers went on strike against promotions of Black workers in local industries. The tension led to a cascading series of rumors, violent clashes, and shootings, resulting in the deaths of 34 people—25 African Americans (18 at the hands of police), and nine whites. Although most of the rioters were white, police arrested four times as many African Americans. President Roosevelt deployed Army tanks and 6,000 troops, who stayed in the city for weeks, as violence also erupted in New York and military bases in Britain.

Federal troops were deployed during the civil rights era to enforce desegregation orders, against intransigent Southern governors who refused to racially integrate the schools. President Eisenhower famously sent Army troops to Little Rock, Arkansas, to escort Black children safely to school past white mobs. President Kennedy federalized the National Guard to enforce federal courts’ orders to desegregate the University of Mississippi in 1962, and the University of Alabama and Alabama public schools in 1963. In 1965, President Johnson federalized the Alabama National Guard to protect civil rights marchers at Selma.

But in that same year, the Watts Uprising in Los Angeles signaled a wave of African American urban rebellions against economic inequality, judicial racism, and police brutality, causing repeated deployments of state National Guard troops. It was once again in Detroit, with its extreme segregation and nearly all-white police force, where federal troops were deployed. A July 1967 violent police raid on an African American club (whose patrons were celebrating the return of two soldiers form Vietnam) triggered a conflagration of violence that left 43 residents dead (33 African Americans and ten whites), and 1,189 injured. President Johnson sent in 4,700 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne to back up the police and 4,000 National Guardsmen.

The assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in April 1968 immediately triggered a wave of urban rebellions around the country that lasted up to two weeks, and the largest deployments of federal troops on U.S. soil since the Civil War. At least 21,000 federal soldiers were sent to cities around the country, 13,600 of them to Washington D.C. and others to Baltimore, Chicago, and other cities. Troop transport planes landed at O’Hare in darkened, combat conditions, and local soldiers were enlisted to guide military units around the city. There were more armed government forces (police and military) used in Chicago alone than in the 1983 invasion of Grenada. At least 43 people were killed in what became known as the “Holy Week Uprisings.”

Even Johnson acknowledged, “I don’t know why we’re so surprised. When you put your foot on a man’s neck and hold him down for three hundred years, and then you let him up, what’s he going to do? He’s going to knock your block off.”

First Bush Administration

In September 1968, the U.S. Army published a classified plan known as Garden Plot projecting that “dissatisfaction with the environmental conditions contributing to racial unrest and civil disturbances” may require large-scale federal military interventions “to preserve life and property and maintain normal processes of governments,” laying the basis for a series of martial law-style plans for counterinsurgency at home.

These plans for local martial law were put into motion during the presidency of George H.W. Bush, first in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where he sent 1,100 heavily armed Military Police to the island of St. Croix, which had been severely damaged by Hurricane Hugo. The storm damage exacerbated longstanding racial tensions, and the troops’ primary mission was not disaster relief, but suppressing looting (even if it was allowed by stores) and putting down a Black uprising. Although troops and military contractors have since been deployed to other hurricane-damaged regions, such as Florida in 1992 and Louisiana in 2005, they were sent in under state authority.

The largest deployment of federal forces after 1968 was during the Los Angeles Uprising, triggered by the April 1992 acquittal of police officers involved in the beating of Rodney King. Initial mass protests led to arson, looting, and racial violence over 32 square miles. As 10,000 National Guard troops were overwhelmed, Governor Pete Wilson used the Insurrection Act to request federal troops. President Bush federalized the National Guard, activated reservists at California military bases, and deployed 4,000 Army and Marine troops to set up checkpoints and back up police raids around the city. In one incident, a police officer confronting a shooter requested “cover” from the Marines, meaning to aim their weapons at the house, but the Marines instead unleashed 200 rounds in “covering” fire. In all, 63 people were killed in Los Angeles (including at least seven by police), and 2,000 injured.

The road from 9/11 and Ferguson

The 9/11 attacks in the George W. Bush Administration instantly demonstrated how, in its exclusive focus on overseas interventions, the Pentagon had never really prepared for the actual defense of the “homeland.” The PATRIOT Act and other laws intensified the militarization of law enforcement (equipping police with military weaponry and technology far beyond their needs), the use of private security contractors, military spying on antiwar groups, and the increasing use of some regular Army and Marine units along the U.S.-Mexico border. An 2006 revision of the Insurrection Act allowed the President to deploy troops as a police force during a natural disaster, epidemic, or terrorist attack, though it was reversed two years later.

The result of the so-called “Global War on Terror,” coupled with the continuing wars on drugs and undocumented immigrants, was a blurring of the distinction between wars abroad and the war at home. This trend became painfully evident by 2014 in the militarized, racist response to Black Lives Matter protests in Ferguson, Missouri, and many other cities. In 2020, as the George Floyd Uprising convulses the country during a pandemic and Depression, Predator drones (from Customs and Border Protection) conduct surveillance flights over Minneapolis, “Lakota” (!) and “Black Hawk” military helicopters fly low to disperse protesters in Washington, and President Trump designates anti-fascist groups as “terrorists” (perhaps to justify federal military involvement on U.S. soil).

Ordering rank-and-file soldiers into U.S. cities, to repress people in neighborhoods just like theirs, may not be as easy as Trump may think. Military discipline was difficult enough to enforce in Vietnam and Iraq, and will be harder in an American city. Soldiers have the right to refuse illegal orders to harm civilians. The Uniform Code of Military Justice (Article 92) establishes a duty to obey lawful orders, but also a duty to disobey unlawful orders to that are clearly contrary to the Constitution.

Veterans for Peace and About Face have already called for National Guard troops to stand down. If soldiers feel they are being given an unlawful order to harm or violate the rights of civilians, “I was just following orders” may not be an adequate legal defense. They can contact the G.I. Rights Hotline, or legally send an “Appeal for Redress” to their congressional representative that is protected under the Military Whistleblower Protection Act. Military personnel know quiet, creative ways to “work-to-rule,” and share vital information about unlawful actions, to help slow down the madness. And if in doubt, they (as a few police have already done) can always kneel in solidarity or pray for guidance.

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