• Long Before Daniel Penny Killed Jordan Neely, There Was Death Wish

    C’est une analyse du film qui représente le pire dans l’esprit américain et une réflexion sur sa signification actuelle. Il n’y a plus de société pour nous protéger les uns des autresr alors on s’entretue en suivant nos instincts les plus sombres. La défense personnelle et le besoin d’argent ne sont que des prétextes pour l’expression de notre qualité essentielle : l’Homme est mauvais.

    [Ich bin] ein Teil von jener Kraft,
    Die stets das Böse will und stets das Gute schafft. ...
    Ich bin der Geist, der stets verneint!
    Und das mit Recht; denn alles, was entsteht,
    Ist wert, daß es zugrunde geht

    Dans ce monde sans pitié ni solidarité la politique ne peut être que fasciste ou libérale.

    27.5.2023 by Eileen Jones - The New York City subway killing of Jordan Neely by ex-Marine Daniel Penny has stirred up heated commentary across the political spectrum. One common denominator in the discourse has been a frequent tendency to reach for a comparison to the notorious 1974 film Death Wish, a neo-noir film starring Charles Bronson as an affluent New York City dweller whose family is attacked in a violent home invasion. In the aftermath, he becomes a vengeful vigilante prowling the streets at night hoping to attract muggers — so he can shoot them. The subway scene in which he shoots two would-be robbers who approach him threateningly, and is acclaimed by the public for it, achieved added notoriety when the scenario was eerily carried out in real life.

    In 1984, Bernhard Goetz shot four black teenagers on the subway whom he claimed tried to rob him. Goetz was dubbed “the Subway Vigilante” by the New York press and ultimately tried on multiple charges, including attempted murder. But he was convicted of only the most minor charge of carrying an unlicensed firearm.

    The shooting and trial ignited a volatile public debate between those claiming Goetz as an urban hero fighting the forces of darkness in an increasingly crime-ridden New York, and those appalled by how self-appointed vigilantes, especially when they’re white and attempting to execute people of color, are applauded by the public and let off lightly by the criminal justice system. It’s nauseating reading the accounts of the Goetz case, because there are such marked similarities to the Daniel Penny case — especially in the public commentary afterward.

    The New York Post op-ed by Rich Lowry, titled “Daniel Penny is NOT a Vigilante, But the Left Can’t Stop Pretending,” typifies much of such commentary. He begins with Death Wish:

    Pretty much everything you need to know about the Daniel Penny case you can learn from the “Death Wish” movies.

    Or so you might conclude if you took seriously the left’s analysis of the tragic incident in a New York City subway car this month that has led to Penny, a former Marine, getting charged with second-degree manslaughter.

    The upshot of this commentary is that conservatives favor “vigilantism” and support it, of course, because it’s a bulwark of white supremacy.

    “The Republican Embrace of Vigilantism Is No Accident,” according to New York Times columnist Jamelle Bouie.

    Lowry goes on to cite a series of op-eds and think pieces making supposedly left-wing accusations of right-wing tendencies to support vigilantism. He then argues that Penny can’t be a vigilante, relying on a dictionary definition of the word, as if he were a desperate undergraduate the night before a paper is due: “Merriam-Webster defines a vigilante as ‘a member of a volunteer committee organized to suppress and punish crime summarily (as when the processes of law are viewed as inadequate).’”

    Lowry promptly invalidates the point by conceding that there can be “loner vigilantes” too. But in his view, the term still applies only in a Death Wish scenario, when someone like the Charles Bronson character is deliberately stalking local malefactors, trying to get himself almost-mugged so he can shoot someone. Lowry then makes his main claim:

    By contrast, conservatives are, as a general matter, viewing Penny as a defender of himself and, most importantly, those around him — not an avenging angel administering the justice that Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg refuses to.

    Indications are that Penny (and his fellow passengers) sincerely believed Jordan Neely, suffering from untreated mental illness, was a threat to people on the train.

    There’s still much we need to know about the particulars of the case, but the impulse to protect others is deeply admirable and rare.

    Anyone who’s watched Westerns or action films could tell Lowry about vigilantism, which involves a self-appointed guardian or guardians of the public welfare acting like judge, jury, and executioner in meting out sloppy individual notions of justice — generally very rough, often fatal types of “frontier justice” — without due process under the law as defined by the Fourteenth Amendment.

    In short, little Richie Lowry really needs to put some more thought into defining his terms and rebutting implied counterarguments when writing essays. Grade: D-.

    All of which makes it interesting to go back and watch Death Wish, which remains so disturbingly pertinent. If you’ve seen it, you may not remember it as well as you think you do, as the cultural memory of the film is skewed by its notorious context. It touched a cultural nerve and was embraced by the kind of angry “silent majority” that’s never actually silent in the United States, and its popularity led to four hit sequels.
    A poster for Michael Winner’s 1974 vigilante thriller Death Wish, starring Charles Bronson. (Silver Screen Collection / Getty Images)

    The first Death Wish is an odd film, one of a number of films that reflected the United States’ rough political transition from a period of gains on the political left starting in the post-WWII era, culminating in the radical demands for change and countercultural turmoil of the 1960s and early 1970s, through the political malaise and stagnation of the mid-to-late 1970s, to the right-wing Reagan Revolution of the 1980s. In certain scenes, Death Wish actually signals a surprising awareness of how readily smug left-liberalism, entrenched in its societal gains and cultural mores but cut off from any socialist principles or serious critique of the political status quo, swings rightward under pressure toward fascism, expressed as violent, generally racist fantasies of “cleansing” a corrupt population by force.

    There’s good reason not to remember the film’s more compelling ambiguities, since its other lurid elements — such as manifest hatred of the poor and racist dog whistles — draw all the attention.

    It’s the story of how mild-mannered architect Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) goes from being a “bleeding-heart liberal” to a crazy-eyed vigilante after his family is brutalized by thugs. His wife Joanna (Hope Lange) dies as a result of the attack, and his daughter Carol (Kathleen Tolan) is gang-raped and so traumatized she has to be institutionalized. Soon afterward, Kersey is using the nighttime urban scene in New York City as a hunting ground, tracking malefactors, mainly unwary muggers, whom he shoots to kill.

    Several of the would-be robbers Kersey shoots are black. But regardless of race, they all approach him in states of excessive, sneering villainy and unambiguous threat, generally pulling out knives and waving them in his face. There’s no indication, through editing or cinematography, that this is the subjective vision of Kersey, deranged by the horror of his family’s experience. It’s clear that these are essentially bad people acting out of evil impulses because they enjoy it, not because they might desperately need the money they always demand with demeaning curses.

    The three men who commit the home invasion are white (startlingly, one of them is portrayed by the very young and still unknown Jeff Goldblum), but they’re the most cartoonishly villainous of all, exuding a kind of giggling depravity and love of violent chaos that ignites the protagonist’s determination that such people be put down like rabid dogs for the good of society.

    Which is the attitude expressed earlier by Kersey’s business partner (William Redfield), a fat cat in a business suit who makes a Taxi Driver–style argument that approximates the wish for a cleansing rain — or perhaps a hail of bullets — to wash all the scum off the streets. New York City is being made unpleasant for the rich and respectable, because they share the streets with the increasingly poor and desperate, which means the poor and desperate must be erased: “I say, stick them in concentration camps.”

    This is unusually bold, forthright fascism. Usually, in real-life public commentary, such statements vaguely indicate that people like Jordan Neely, who are homeless and mentally ill and shout about their misery and appear threatening to people, need to be removed from public life somehow. How often have we heard this line of talk in real life? Tech employees in the Bay Area, for example, made the news regularly for a while, demanding that the homeless be “somehow” removed from their sight while they commuted to and from work at Apple or Google or Yahoo.

    In response to his colleague’s insane rant, Kersey makes a vague, rote, half-hearted mention of his sympathy for the “underprivileged.” We’re clearly supposed to recognize the troubling weakness of his response. The early scenes of the film all indicate that Kersey, happy and successful as he is, is straining at the confinement of “civilization” and wants to break out in some way. We first meet him on vacation in Hawaii with his wife. When he proposes sex on the deserted beach instead of waiting to go back to the hotel room, she objects mildly: “We’re too civilized.”
    Paul Kersey (Charles Bronson) turning around to attack a mugger in Death Wish. (High-Def Digest / YouTube)

    “We’re too civilized” is meant to resonate thematically throughout the film as a critique of American society, referring to the idea that the solid bourgeoisie allows itself to be terrorized by the raging criminal underclass out of brainwashed liberal guilt. But is it just Kersey’s fast conversion to this idea that we’re watching, or the film’s overarching argument?

    There’s plausible deniability built into the film at certain points — the final image, especially, which shows Kersey arriving at Chicago’s O’Hare Airport, having left behind “that toilet,” which is how his Arizonan colleague describes New York. He watches a couple of teenage boys harassing a girl and points his finger in the shape of a gun, making the “pow, pow” sign at their backs as they run off. The film freezes on that image, capturing the insane look in Kersey’s eyes and showing that he’s going to continue his lone vigilante killing spree.

    Brian Garfield, the author of the original 1972 novel Death Wish, hated the adaptation:

    The point of the novel Death Wish is that vigilantism is an attractive fantasy but it only makes things worse in reality. By the end of the novel, the character (Paul) is gunning down unarmed teenagers because he doesn’t like their looks. The story is about an ordinary guy who descends into madness.

    According to Garfield, the admired actor Jack Lemmon was initially slated to play the lead role, with Sidney Lumet directing rather than Michael Winner, which gives some idea of how differently the adaptation might have turned out. Once Charles Bronson was set to star, the shift from thoughtful drama toward brutal neo-noir action film was set.

    Garfield so disapproved of the eventual film, he did “penance” by writing a 1975 sequel underscoring his own critique of vigilantism called Death Sentence. Meanwhile, the four increasingly violent and successful sequels to Death Wish, all vehicles for Bronson, rocked on.

    Making Kersey look like a menace to society at the end of the film is interesting, especially in terms of the ignoble way he’s shooting at retreating backs, something we’ve seen him do several times when using a real gun to finish off wounded robbers running away. It’s something no classic Western hero would ever do, because “honor” supposedly defined all his actions. The film contains a thoroughly developed Western theme, evoking a genre known for celebrating vigilantism and “frontier justice.”

    On a business trip to Tucson, Arizona, Kersey is brought to a fake-Western town, maintained for tourists and occasional Hollywood filmmaking, and gets strangely caught up in watching the actor playing the heroic sheriff gun down bank robbers who are shooting up the town. His colleague and host during the business trip is a gun enthusiast who celebrates how freely people like them move around in the world, carrying guns that supposedly guarantee their safety from outlaws and evildoers. And it’s revealed that Kersey was raised with guns, attaining almost sharpshooter abilities growing up, before his father was killed in a hunting accident and his mother banned all guns from the house. Kersey also mentions that he was a conscientious objector in the Korean War and served as a medic. His colleague’s response: “You’re probably one of them knee-jerk liberals, thinks us gun boys shoot our guns because it’s an extension of our penises.”

    Returning to the world of guns seems to revive his father’s frontier-style legacy, which had been interrupted by his mother’s presumably weak, “too civilized” fears. It also places Kersey back within Hollywood Western mythologizing, where it seems he longs to be.

    This mythologizing was accepted by many Americans as close enough to the nation’s actual history, which Hollywood studios encouraged. The harsh revisionist Westerns of the 1960s and early ’70s, aiming at greater authenticity about the inglorious vigilante violence, robber baron capitalism, cynical land grabs, racism, misogyny, and drug use that were widespread in the actual Old West, came as a rude shock to fans and all but killed off the genre.

    That Kersey develops an idea of himself as the Western hero is clear when he challenges the last mugger he encounters, who’s succeeded in wounding him, to “draw,” as if he were starring in Shane. It’s another of the film’s ambiguous scenes emphasizing Kersey’s mental collapse, and in this case also satirizing his inability to live up to his own heroic image of himself, especially when he faints from loss of blood.

    In the end, Kersey the anonymous vigilante has gotten so popular with the public, the police don’t dare arrest him, though they know he’s the killer. They’re trying to avoid making public Kersey’s success in reducing the number of street crimes, which might unleash an epidemic of vigilantism. Kersey’s given the option to avoid arrest by relocating, and he’s told by the police officer heading up the case to get out of town. Kersey echoes a phrase used by lawmen in Westerns, asking, “You mean get out before sundown?”

    The persistence of the inflammatory discourse around vigilante violence in the United States, whether it revolves around actual events in the world or fictionalized representations, indicates strongly that many Americans, like the Paul Kersey character, are still enamored of the vigilante justice celebrated in old Westerns. The belief is widespread that we live in an ever-degenerating society, a “jungle,” beset by vicious “animals” and mobs of rampaging savages that can only be quelled by a lone “hero” ever prepared to shoot and claim self-defense and defense of others, no matter what the actual circumstances. Outraged and outrageous commentary cheering on Paul Kersey and Bernhard Goetz and Daniel Penny all blurs together, making it terrifying to contemplate who’s going to be the next Jordan Neely, whose publicly distraught state should have brought him offers of help but got him murdered instead.

    Jordan Neely, street artist who died from chokehold on a New York City subway, mourned at funeral in Harlem

    19.5.2023 by Zenebou Sylla - Jordan Neely, the homeless street artist who was the victim of a fatal chokehold on a New York City subway, was remembered at his funeral Friday as a “well known and loved” performer.

    Neely, 30, known for his Michael Jackson impersonations, was restrained in a chokehold May 1 on a Manhattan subway by another rider, Daniel Penny, after Neely began shouting that he was hungry, thirsty and had little to live for. Penny, a 24-year-old US Marine veteran, surrendered to police last Friday to face a second-degree manslaughter charge.

    “He performed in front of thousands of people in the streets of New York City, and on the subways where he was well known and loved,” Neely’s great aunt Mildred Mahazu said at his funeral service at the Mount Neboh Baptist Church in Harlem.

    “One of Jordan’s biggest passions was to dance and entertain. He was greatly influenced by pop star Michael Jackson, who he started idolizing from the age of seven. Over time, he began to perfect MJ’s dance moves by the time he turned 18,” Mahazu said.

    Neely’s death ignited protests and calls for Penny’s arrest while refocusing attention on struggles with homelessness and mental illness across America.

    Penny was released on a bail package last week, which included a $100,000 cash insurance company bond. He has not been indicted and has not yet been required to enter a plea.

    Neely had experienced mental health issues since 2007, when he was 14 and his mother was murdered, said Neely family attorney, Donte Mills. He had been traumatized after his mother’s brutal killing was followed by the discovery of her body in a suitcase, his friend Moses Harper told CNN.

    After Neely lost his mother, with whom he shared “an unbreakable bond,” he moved in with his father, Mahazu said, adding that in high school he was a star basketball and soccer player.
    Andre Zachary, Jordan Neely’s father, follows the coffin of his son after the funeral service Friday.
    The Rev. Al Sharpton delivers eulogy

    The Rev. Al Sharpton, who delivered a eulogy at Neely’s funeral, said the street artist “wasn’t trying to be something negative,” but wanted to “be like Michael” and “made the world smile and get on one beat.”

    Sharpton did not directly address Penny on Friday but said the city should hold him accountable.

    “You didn’t have the right to snatch the life out of this young man,” Sharpton said.

    Sharpton promised that in Neely’s name he would work to change the circumstances of those experiencing homelessness and those battling with mental health issues by providing city services.

    Before his death, Neely had been on a NYC Department of Homeless Services list of the city’s homeless with acute needs – sometimes referred to internally as the “Top 50” list – because individuals on the list tend to disappear, a source told CNN.

    “In the name of Jordan, we’re going to turn this city around to serve the homeless,” said Sharpton.

    “We can’t live in a city where you can choke me to death with no provocation, no weapon, no threat, and you go home and sleep in your bed while my family got to put me in a cemetery. It must be equal justice under the law.”

    Penny’s attorneys said in a statement last week that Neely had been “aggressively threatening” passengers and Penny and others had “acted to protect themselves.”

    “Daniel never intended to harm Mr. Neely,” they said.

    Penny’s attorneys said they are confident he will be “fully absolved of any wrongdoing.”

    Neely’s death was ruled a homicide, though the designation doesn’t mean there was intent or culpability, a spokesperson for the New York City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner said earlier this week, noting at the time it was a matter for the criminal justice system to determine.

    CNN’s Emma Tucker contributed to this report.

    ‘It’s a failure of the system’ : before Jordan Neely was killed, he was discarded

    #USA #New_York #sans_abris

  • Class War Is an American Tradition

    18.5.2023 BY MARK STEVEN - In America during the late nineteenth century, class war wasn’t just a metaphor. Struggle between workers and their employers would regularly lead to actual warfare.

    This tendency has as much to do with the conditions of American capitalism as with the militancy of strikers. The global hegemony of the United States, as both an economic and a geopolitical superpower, was the result of industrialization — and its industrialization was entwined with war.

    The Next War

    So writes world-systems theorist Giovanni Arrighi and a team of researchers in their global history of political transformation:

    At least potentially, this giant island was also a far more powerful military-industrial complex than any of the analogous complexes that were coming into existence in Europe. By the 1850s, the US had become a leader in the production of machines for the mass production of small arms. In the 1860s, a practical demonstration of this leadership was given in the Civil War, the first full-fledged example of an industrialized war.

    The Civil War also revolutionized and concentrated the industrial and agricultural means of production, as waves of railway construction established privileged access to the planet’s two largest oceans. “A truly integrated US Continental System,” Arrighi adds, “was realized only after the Civil War of 1860–65 eliminated all political constraints on the national-economy-making dispositions of Northern industrial interests.” This dynamic, in which actual war countersigns accumulation while simultaneously giving it a mythic veneer, is the secret history of industrial capitalism in the United States.

    In the canonical version of this argument, the historian Matthew Josephson describes the emergent capitalist class — whose ranks included Jay Gould, J. P. Morgan, Andrew Carnegie, and John Rockefeller — as a cartel of robber barons. Here we get a sense of the martial spirit of industrial capitalism, which found its energies liberated by war and enjoyed lucrative deals in food, produce, clothing, machines, fuel, and railways:

    Loving not the paths of glory they slunk away quickly, bent upon business of their own. They were warlike enough and pitiless yet never risked their skin: they fought without military rules or codes of honor or any tactics or weapons familiar to men: they were the strange, new mercenary soldiers of economic life. The plunder and trophies of victory would go neither to the soldier nor the statesman, but to these other young men of ’61, who soon figured as “massive interests moving obscurely in the background” of wars.

    In short: capitalists in the United States consolidated their powers in and through war, exploiting political conflict to satisfy an enormous appetite for private profit, acquiring their social form through the battle’s economy and culture. This explains why those same capitalists were so given to narrate their enterprise using the language of military bombast, adopting terms like “captains of industry” and insisting that, for the continual triumph of large-scale industry, “the war of finance is the next war we have to fight.”

    Tentacles of Capital

    American literature has been alive to the historical apposition if not the mutual imbrication of social structure and military conquest. This tendency is at its most visible with The Octopus, a work of Zola-esque naturalism written by Frank Norris and published in 1901.

    Describing the conflict between independent wheat growers of the San Joaquin Valley in Southern California and the tentacular expansion of the Southern Pacific Railroad company, the narrative begins with a half-ironic invocation of the poetic muse on behalf of a young writer who will come to observe the clash between ranchers and the railroad:

    He was in search of a subject, something magnificent, he did not know exactly what; some vast, tremendous theme, heroic, terrible, to be unrolled in all the thundering progression of hexameters. That was what he dreamed, while things without names — thoughts for which no man had yet invented words, terrible formless shapes, vague figures, colossal, monstrous, distorted — whirled at a gallop through his imagination.

    The unnamed subject here is capital, a dawning empire whose blood-drenched epic is still elusive. “Oh,” he later opines, “to put it all into hexameters; strike the great iron note; sing the vast, terrible song; the song of the People; the forerunners of empire!”

    The social substance of such an epic is class conflict, and its combat often takes the form of strikes. As one railway driver insists, “they’ve not got a steadier man on the road,” even as his wages are slashed and his employment terminated, precisely because he has always been a scab. “And when the strike came along, I stood by them — stood by the company,” he says:

    You know that. And you know, and they know, that at Sacramento that time, I ran my train according to schedule, with a gun in each hand, never knowing when I was going over a mined culvert, and there was talk of giving me a gold watch at the time.

    Another character, who self-identifies as an anarchist, is said to owe his militancy to personal tragedy, for his wife was trampled to death by strikebreakers during the same conflict. “Wait till you’ve seen your wife brought home to you with the face you used to kiss smashed in by a horse’s hoof,” he intones, “killed by the Trust, as it happened to me.”

    Deeply opposed to any sort of moderation or compromise, which he describes as a bourgeois luxury — “You could do it, too, if your belly was fed, if your property was safe, if your wife had not been murdered, if your children were not starving. Easy enough then to preach law-abiding methods, legal redress, and all such rot” — this “blood-thirsty anarchist” advocates instead for violent action:

    That talk is just what the Trust wants to hear. It ain’t frightened of that. There’s one thing only it does listen to, one thing it is frightened of — the people with dynamite in their hands — six inches of plugged gaspipe.

    Railroad Rebellion

    There is, however, an anachronistic dimension to Norris’s book, which is set during the 1890s. Before the final decade of the nineteenth century, the railway had already been converted into a site of struggle. More than that, opposition to the railway as a capitalist technology had morphed into antagonistic social practices that used the railway as their vehicle, producing a kind of mobile insurrection for which strikes would serve as catalyst.

    As strikes escalated beyond a relatively orderly form of rebellion, anchored in place and defined by employment, the railway provided such antagonism with high-speed transport, spreading solidarity at the pace of capital, opening onto armed conflict against the state as well as the employers and their trusts. Such escalation was new to the period after the Civil War.

    As the historian Paul A. Gilje writes: “Before 1865, most violent strikes were limited to cracked heads and were local affairs. After 1865, the rioting became national in scope.” Note the modulation from strike to riot, pivoting on the use of violence, before the two modes of antagonism are regrouped as warfare. Gilje continues:

    In the great railroad strike of 1877, workers fought the military from Baltimore to San Francisco. The dimensions of these labor wars continued to capture national headlines with battles at Homestead in 1892, Pullman in 1894, Ludlow in 1914, and Blair Mountain, West Virginia, in 1921.

    And while the escalation from strike to war often effaces the original form of struggle, with the strike vanishing from narrative description as the antagonism leaves the worksite and enters the battlefield, here we will discern how that movement shifts its organizational energy away from any one given workforce in order to mobilize as a class. The multiple interlocking rail strikes of 1877 are exemplary and seminal events in such a movement, with workers in and around the railway industry organizing for, and committing to, an armed uprising.

    Taking place during the long depression that began in 1873 and lasted until 1879 — a downturn that wrecked the railroad companies, reduced track expansion, and decimated the railroad craft brotherhood — the strike started over wage cuts in Martinsburg, West Virginia. From there it spread up, down, and along the railways, with strikers taking up weapons, burning depots, and fighting off the forces of repression, only to be joined by workers from other industries, producing comprehensive general strikes that shut down entire cities.

    According to the writer and journalist Louis Adamic, this was a time of material hardship coupled with massively diminished union power:

    Hundreds of thousands were suddenly thrown out of work. Wages were reduced. The reductions caused prolonged and desperate strikes. Every one of them failed. Some strikes were followed by lockouts, so that vast numbers of people could not get to work on any terms. Labor leaders were blacklisted. Between 1873 and 1880 real and nominal wages were cut to almost one-half of the former standards. Labor organizations went out of existence. There were no leaders to lead them and no workmen to pay the dues. In New York City alone the trade union membership dropped from 45,000 to under 5,000.

    While the train brotherhoods were fragmented according to craft, didn’t coordinate with other branches, negotiated their own labor agreements, and were universally opposed to strikes or disruptions, now the workers self-organized into their own secret union: a representative and coordinating body open to all craft workers. Their first meeting took place in Pittsburgh on June 2, 1877, where they pledged to unite across crafts: “In short, unity of capital would be met at last by unity of labor.”

    America’s Paris Commune

    If this pledge gestured at an expanded (though industry- or employment-bound) sense of class, the conflicts themselves would take that principle further. The strike’s expansive scope was more than the result of the nearly absent labor unions. In fact, it occurred despite their presence, with warlike action fulfilling its pedagogical role in the place of older and ultimately conservative institutions.

    A manifesto issued by the workers in Westernport, Maryland, on July 20 warned the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad that, if wages were not restored, “the officials will hazard their lives and endanger their property,” and promised the kinds of sabotage pioneered by the Luddites in England:

    For we shall run their trains and locomotives into the river; we shall blow up their bridges; we shall tear up their railroads; we shall consume their shops with fire and ravage their hotels with desperation.

    True to their word, the strikers’ tactics were violent and destructive, including the removal of coupling pins and brakes, the tearing up of tracks, making trains only run backward, cutting telegraph wires, and shooting strikebreakers.

    As a school of war, these strikes demonstrate a double movement of expansion and escalation, from local strike to wider conflict and from reformism to insurrection; and this, as the realized threat of war, proved decisive in the consolidation not just of railway workers but of oppressed peoples from many backgrounds into a unified class. So writes the labor movement scholar Robert Ovetz:

    Several thousand Irish packing-house workers armed with butcher knives were met by cheering Czech workers marching across the city to enforce the strike and force employers to raise wages. Gender differences were also dissolving in the strike. The Times estimated that 20 percent of the strikers and their supporters were women. The Chicago Inter-Ocean generated national attention with their report of “Bohemian Amazons” whose “Brawny, sunburnt arms brandished clubs. Knotty hands held rocks and sticks and wooden blocks.” A fence around one plant was “carried off by the petticoated plunderers” and other similar portrayals of the powerful women who helped enforce the strike.

    Armed conflict serves as a shared language that leaps across racial as well as gendered divisions to forge a provisional unity against interconnected systems of oppression.

    This tendency would be carried through to the climax of the movement in the general strikes in St Louis and East St Louis, where for a few days a multiethnic coalition of strikers shut down much of their industry and the cities were controlled by executive strike committees. Comparisons were made with the events that had occurred six years previously in France. “In St. Louis and East St. Louis,” writes Ovetz, “the strike went further as workers across the cities shut down all industry and became renown in the press of the time as America’s ‘Paris Commune.’”

    Adamic made the same comparison in his history of class violence in America. “The underdog had given capitalism in America its first big scare,” he writes. “The memory of the Paris Commune of six years before was still fresh.” Not just the memory, either; it was the very spirit of 1871, the commitment to solidarity through an expansive mobilization of class, that made the movement powerful.

    #lutte_des_classes #USA #histoire

  • American Capitalism Has Produced Its Most Remarkable Innovation Yet: Breadlines

    Want, cruelty, waste, it’s all here — the whole needless cycle symbolized by long lines outside of food banks in urban areas where there is more than enough to eat. God bless the free market.

  • Architects Are Toiling Under Brutal Working Conditions - An interview with Andrew Daley

    Aux États Unis les idées d’Ayn Rand ont une place hégémonique dans la pensée des ouvriers white collar . Elles constituent un obstacle majeur pour les efforts de syndicalisation. Cet interview tourne autour des efforts pour syndiquer les employés des bureaux d’architecture.

    14.5.2023 Interview by Alex N. Press - In 2021, workers at SHoP, a New York architecture firm, filed for a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) union election with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers. They felt overworked (Curbed reported on a SHoP worker who “was hospitalized with pneumonia after working a 110-hour week and felt pressured to work while his wife was in the middle of childbirth”), and some of them carried a heavy load of student debt. They wanted a collective avenue of redress and a means to stabilize their work lives. The Architecture Lobby, a nonprofit that advocates for reform within the industry, has existed for nearly a decade, but SHoP was poised to become the first private sector architectural firm to unionize since the 1940s.

    The backlash was swift. According to the workers, SHoP management launched an anti-union campaign, hiring prime union-busting law firm Proskauer Rose LLP to craft the strategy. Management warned of losing clients and instituted an employee stock-ownership program (ESOP) that, while not providing a seat at the table or say over the direction of the firm, functioned as a wedge, peeling off support for the union by distributing company profits to workers in the form of company shares. It worked: fearing that it would lose the union election were it to go through with it, the SHoP union withdrew its petition in February of 2022.

    Andrew Daley was one of the SHoP workers who supported the union. During the campaign, Daley decided to make a change: he quit his job at SHoP and joined the Machinists as a full-time organizer. Since joining, Daley has assisted workers at Bernheimer Architecture, another New York–based firm, in winning voluntary union recognition. Earlier this week, another campaign went public, with employees at Snøhetta, a high-end firm, filing for an NLRB election.

    Jacobin’s Alex N. Press spoke to Daley about the SHoP campaign, the biggest issues facing architects, and his hopes for the current organizing efforts. The transcript has been edited for length and clarity.

    Alex N. Press

    You’re a full-time union organizer for the Machinists now, but you were an architect until recently. How did you decide to go all in on trying to organize the sector?

    Andrew Daley

    I’m a licensed architect in the state of New York and have practiced in four different states. I’ve been in the profession for twelve years, with experience at big and small firms. I’ve been an independent contractor, I’ve done construction. I’ve worked in lots of different environments. At those places, I’ve tried to agitate for better conditions for myself and people around me, whether that was by talking one-on-one to the owner or through committees or working groups. I had familiarity with unions, particularly from friends who are writers, but I think I had a sort of NIMBY [“not in my backyard”] attitude like, “I love this, it’s great for everybody, but I just can’t see that as a possibility for architecture.”

    In the summer of 2020 at the firm that I had then been at for around six years, we were rethinking firm policies on equity and diversity. We met with hesitation, an attitude of, “We’re doing the best that we can.” Then, they laid a bunch of people off in September of 2020. At that point, a few people, not myself, started connecting with organizers and talking about the possibility of unionizing so that even if we couldn’t stop layoffs, we could build a structure for them.

    I was brought into that conversation a few months after that, when there were about ten people in the group. We organized for another nine months after that, and I wound up leaving a little bit before the campaign went public right before Christmas of 2021. I was considering a shift to the public sector, but the Machinists asked if I’d be interested in becoming an organizer. I hadn’t thought that was a possibility, but I couldn’t pass it up.

    When the SHoP campaign went public, they had about 65 percent of workers supporting the union, and then there was another round of layoffs. Morale was low. But they filed. Ultimately, the firm ran a heavy anti-union campaign, and the workers pulled their petition, because a lot of the tactics started working.

    After that, the question was, what do we want to do at this point? We’d had a big push, we had thousands of followers on an Instagram that we hadn’t expected to get that kind of attention. People were interested in what was happening and devastated by the fact that it had failed. But a number of groups had reached out about organizing, and without exception they still felt they needed to unionize. One group in particular was the Bernheimer Architecture group, which included one member from the SHoP campaign who had been laid off and taken a job there afterward.

    Bernheimer went public in September of 2022 and got voluntary recognition. Now, we have around eight to twelve active campaigns (though of course, some of those might go dark, hit plateaus, and so on). There are around a dozen more firms where we’ve had some conversations. My point being: there is a lot of interest.

    Alex N. Press

    Are all of these firms in New York?

    Andrew Daley

    No, but the epicenter is here. A lot of that has to do with the critical mass of architecture in New York. Plus, there’s always been an ethos that the only place to make a decent living in architecture is in New York, which is a backward assumption: most of the architects I know in other cities weren’t making that much less than I was but had a way cheaper cost of living.

    So New York has a big concentration of architects and also the worst working conditions, which explains why these efforts took off here. But we’re talking to groups in Los Angeles, San Francisco, one in the Midwest, a firm with offices across the country. That’s exciting, because if this were just in New York, or at one type of profile of work, I’d think we didn’t have as good of a read on the industry as I’d have hoped. But instead, it’s all over the map in terms of location, size, and discipline. These are systemic issues throughout the industry that need to be addressed in a systemic way.

    Alex N. Press

    For people who might not be familiar with the architecture world, can you explain what you mean when you refer to different types and echelons of work?

    Andrew Daley

    I don’t want to use the term “starchitect,” but there are famous firms in the field. These aren’t identifying the firms we’re working with, but some famous firms would be Zaha Hadid, the SHoPs of the world, Bjarke Ingles, SOM, and Frank Gehry — high-profile people who a lay person may be familiar with. But the ones we are actually working with: some are doing mega-developments, some are doing high-rise luxury residential, some are small-scale retail interiors, some do really institutional work, some do government work, some do massive governmental and infrastructural planning. It’s not any one kind of work — it’s all kinds.

    Alex N. Press

    So you went through the SHoP campaign as a worker, and you referred to the anti-union campaign that peeled off enough support that the union ended up withdrawing the NLRB petition. What have you and the Machinists learned from that so it doesn’t end that way going forward?

    Andrew Daley

    As much as there are similarities in how each industry fights unions, there are also differences in tactics, and now that we’ve seen it in this industry, we know what to expect. We assume firms that don’t want this to happen will follow SHoP’s playbook. We can learn from how it played out. We’re open with every group about what they might expect.

    We also tell those groups that they’re going to have to call out their employers. Firms should know that if they’re going to break the law and pressure their employees rather than respect their rights, workers will put it in the press and make what is happening clear to the public. Public perception shifting on the campaign helps make those anti-union tactics stop. We will make things public, we will file unfair labor practice (ULP) charges.

    Another thing we’ve thought a lot about is the path that the Bernheimer group laid of voluntary recognition and a collaborative environment with their owner. We aren’t steering the ship in the negotiations at that firm; we’re a fly on the wall advising, but it’s about what they want in their workplace collectively. Do I think any of the firms that have big corporate structures and an ethos about being a corporation will offer voluntary recognition? No. But do I think that firms that are still owned by founding partners, or even the next generation of partners that may understand that they have something to gain here? Yes, it’s possible.

    The Conde Nast group is another model, where they didn’t file for a union election, but they knew they had support and figured out other ways of putting pressure on management. It might be harder to replicate that within an industry where there’s no union density, but it’s an interesting strategy.

    Alex N. Press

    Do you think what happened at Bernheimer could be replicable at other firms?

    Andrew Daley

    Yes. In one way, Andy Bernheimer is incredibly unique in how he thinks about himself, how he thinks about his practice, and how he thinks about labor overall compared to a lot of other firm owners. That being said, it’s also not that different from any other firm. It’s a twenty-person firm; there are tons of twenty-person firms throughout the country and definitely in New York. Maybe the Bernheimer playbook doesn’t work when we’re talking about a two thousand–person firm that has offices all around the world, but even up to a hundred and fifty employees, it’s something that we can point to. And Bernheimer is going to set the standard in the industry with its contract; it’s going to be the only contract of a private sector architecture firm, so that’s something to follow too.

    Alex N. Press

    Some of the shops you’re working with are small, and the first thing an employer will cite to oppose a union is the competitive pressure in the industry. What’s your plan to handle bargaining and winning multiple first contracts when these shops get union recognition?

    Andrew Daley

    We make it abundantly clear to everybody that their salaries are not going to double overnight. The first contract might only get minimal gains in terms of salary increases. But what we are going to be able to get is a lot of noneconomic things and protections that, frankly, don’t exist right now.

    Another thing that we are going to be pushing is policies that in one sense are economic but in another sense are disincentives for working a lot of overtime. The model of the industry is, “I have all exempt workers, so I don’t have to pay them overtime. I’m getting pinched in every direction in terms of my fee, and the only way to make it all back is to require my staff to do excessive amounts of unpaid overtime.” That’s what we’re conditioned to do from day one in architecture school.

    What that overlooks is the amount of inefficiency that happens within those hours of work that a client never sees and doesn’t care about, from internal miscommunication, to back-and-forth between multiple different partners reviewing a project, to redoing things not necessarily in the name of a better product. If we put in lots of disincentives in contracts (and it might not be time and a half right away, and it might not be forty hours right away), but if we build in structures to guard against it, we’re giving time back to all of the employees, because most firms are going to say, “Well, we can’t afford to pay the overtime.” So then we’re all in agreement: let’s make sure it doesn’t happen. That’s the biggest one to me because it trickles down to everything else.

    Alex N. Press

    The last time there were private sector architects joining unions in the United States was the 1930s. Unemployment in the sector was a key issue back then. With these recent campaigns, a lot of architects have mentioned overtime as a major issue. Is that what is driving this push now, or are there other problems?

    Andrew Daley

    A lot of things are driving it. Being an at-will employee itself is soul crushing. I’ve been laid off. I was tapped on the shoulder and asked, “Hey, do you have a minute?” This was at a three-person fabrication studio and it wasn’t like, “Here’s two weeks’ notice.” It was, “Go home now.” That was a unique situation, but it’s not uncommon, not only in architecture of course, but in this field, there’s very little severance, and what you get is not commensurate with the rest of the market. So not only can you be dismissed at will, but you’re not set up to do anything on the flip side of that, which leads you to rush into something new to stay afloat.

    A lot of issues that people talk about come back to uncompensated overtime. Burnout is directly related to hours. Work-life balance is directly related to hours. How much you’re getting paid is directly related to hours: if you’re getting paid an okay salary, but then you amortize that out over your hourly rate, which is 25 or 50 percent overtime, all of a sudden that wage doesn’t look so good.

    Alex N. Press

    There are some stereotypes about architects, though The Fountainhead may be responsible for that. Are there actual peculiarities to this work or this type of worker, be they ideological or something to do with the job itself?

    Andrew Daley

    The general public does perceive architects a certain way, as frustrated geniuses toiling away, trying to get the world to understand their singular brilliance. The idea is that it’s an individual pursuit, and if you’re just good enough and work hard enough at it, then everyone will see you for what you are — that’s how people see Frank Lloyd Wright, for example.

    But what we miss is that he had hundreds of employees. We never talk about Wright’s workers. And not only that: he started a school so that he could not only have workers, but have people pay to apprentice under him. So even when we think about this romantic time, the stereotype wasn’t true either. We aren’t taught that history, and we are really bad at educating the public about what we do and how much time it actually takes.

    Alex N. Press

    You changed your life to try to organize a nonunion sector. Is there anything you’d like to say about all of this on a personal level?

    Andrew Daley

    I might be the only licensed architect who is doing this full time. A lot of people ask me, “Do you miss architecture? Do you miss design?” In a lot of ways, yes. I miss the camaraderie of it. I miss being collaborative with people on a project. I miss seeing projects come to life.

    But in a lot of ways, this is similar. All of these different campaigns are different projects, and I’m helping people get rights that they don’t have now. I feel closer and more connected to the industry than I ever have before. In part, that’s because it’s now my job to be able to connect on these things. But personally, I now have a reasonable work-life balance and a healthy working environment. I don’t think I’ve ever had that in the industry before, and that’s what I want to be able to create for everyone else.

    For example, I talk to so many people who are parents who find themselves in a situation where they’ll leave work at six, catch their kids for a little bit, and then log back on for three more hours. That’s soul-crushing. I would love to see it not be like that any longer. That’s what I’m fighting for.

    #USA #New_York #travail #syndicalisme #organizing #architecture #Ayn_Rand #Fountainhead

  • US Imperialism Alone Can’t Explain the Triumph of the Right in Latin America

    Embrassez les fascistes (Küsst die Faschisten ... Tucholsky)

    2.5.2023 by Hilary Goodfriend - Histories of the Cold War in Latin America often center the United States’ bloody footprint in the region. And with good reason: US crimes in the region committed in the name of anticommunism included propping up dictatorships, overthrowing democratic governments, and enabling genocide.

    A new book by historian Vanni Pettinà takes a different approach. His recently translated A Compact History of Latin America’s Cold War shines a light on the role of Latin American nations on both sides of the region’s bitter conflicts. Rather than reducing these struggles to mere proxy wars between the United States and the Soviet Union (USSR), he advocates for recognizing “peripheries as active historical agents” in the revolutionary and counterrevolutionary struggles that rocked Latin America between 1947 and 1989.

    Readers looking for a history of US imperialism can find them in works like Eduardo Galeano’s classic Open Veins of Latin America or anything by historian Greg Grandin. But Pettinà’s nuanced interpretation has something to offer even the most ardent anti-imperialists.

    Just as the region’s revolutionaries were far from Soviet stooges, Latin America’s antidemocratic forces were not created wholesale by Cold Warriors in Washington. To fight the far right, it’s important to understand how historical conditions create organic social bases and material motives for homegrown reaction — then and today, in Latin America and around the world.
    Framing the Conflict

    The author calls for greater attention to the relations within and between Latin American nations, but he does not discount the weight of foreign interventions — most significantly, the innumerable military, economic, and diplomatic interventions of the United States. Rather, Pettinà identifies both an “external fracture” and an “internal fracture” provoked by the onset of the Cold War in Latin America.

    The external fracture comes from the United States’ abdication of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Good Neighbor Policy in 1946, which had paused the parade of US military invasions and occupations that characterized US relations with Latin America prior to 1933. One result of the return to overt military interventions, Pettinà argues, was a conflation of US anti-communism with anti-nationalism, as Latin American nationalist reformers often sought Communist support in their coalitions. This led to US support for reactionary actors in the region, as in the emblematic case of US alignment against Jacobo Árbenz in Guatemala. There, a CIA plot saw a democratically elected liberal reformer overthrown in favor of a genocidal military regime that plunged the country into decades of civil war.

    The internal fracture refers to the strengthening of conservative elements at the national scale. The Great Depression and World War II created the conditions for Latin American governments to try and overcome their dependency on commodity exports and develop more autonomous, diversified, and industrialized economies. Renewed postwar international trade, however, favored a backlash from traditional agricultural-exporting elites, in alignment with US free-trade dogmas that demanded the unequal international division of labor according to market-based comparative advantages.

    In the wake of the 1959 Cuban Revolution, Latin American militaries and the reactionary ruling class correctly saw that developmentalism, as the state-led programs to reshape the economy and expand social welfare were known, had created a material base for more radical and inclusive politics. With US support, they dismantled these nationalist policies in favor of outward-facing economic strategies that privileged foreign capital.

    Rather than an “episodic” historical analysis that hinges on spectacular events like coups d’état, Pettinà advances a “structural” one. He divides the conflict in different stages, beginning with an early period of democratic reversals from 1946 to 1954, when Communist Parties were banned across Latin America and purged from governing coalitions and labor unions.

    Three case studies show how this played out. In Costa Rica, democratization and social reforms advanced despite opposition from landowning elites and the US monopoly United Fruit Company. This was, in part, thanks to President José María Figueres’s “skill at using his anticommunist credentials to limit US intervention,” Pettinà writes.

    Mexico’s success was more ambiguous, with authoritarian consolidation under the governing Institutional Revolutionary Party (PRI) even as the party’s nationalist developmentalist agenda prevailed. The author credits the social welfare gains of this period to the fact that, unlike elsewhere in Latin America, the landowning oligarchy’s monopoly power had been weakened by land reform after the country’s 1910 revolution. He also notes the PRI’s internal legitimacy and stability, and the regime’s “discreetly anticommunist approach” even as it maintained an autonomous foreign policy that ran against the bipolar pro- or anti-communist paradigm insisted upon by the United States.

    Guatemala sits at the losing end of this continuum. Pettinà describes how Árbenz survived an earlier CIA-backed plot driven by neighboring Central American dictators thanks to the State Department’s opposition to violating the Good Neighbor Policy under Harry S. Truman, only to fall in 1954 when the new Dwight D. Eisenhower administration took a harder line. Together, these examples show how internal factors interacted with exogenous ones to determine the fate of distinct Latin American projects for reform.
    Cuba’s Breakthrough

    If the coup in Guatemala brought the Cold War home to Latin America, the 1959 Cuban Revolution took it to another level. In power, the nationalist guerrillas allied with Cuba’s Communists, who brought much-needed “experience, qualifications, ability to mobilize, and foreign connections” to the young revolutionary government. An economic and political alliance with the Soviet Union soon followed, as the United States’ initial cautious tolerance gave way to open hostility.

    The Cuban Revolution coincided with a renewal of the Latin American left. The new generation embraced counterculture and heterodox strategies that challenged the Communist Party’s insistence on working within electoral systems with allied nationalist reformers, a critique that was fueled in part by the Sino-Soviet split and confirmed by Cuba’s unorthodox success.

    By then, the USSR was promoting “peaceful coexistence” with the West, trying to win over the newly decolonized peripheral nations by demonstrating the superiority of its economic and social organization through development aid. Cuba, in contrast, took an active role backing armed insurgencies in the continent. Havana became a haven and diplomatic headquarters for Latin America’s revolutionary movements. Pettinà describes Cuban support for armed groups in Venezuela, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Peru, and Bolivia in the 1960s, including the provision of weapons, combat training, and logistical support.

    This aid diminished in the 1970s as Latin America’s guerrilla movements suffered severe setbacks and the island’s economic situation worsened, making it more dependent on Soviet support. Instead, Cuba turned to Africa, winning important victories in Angola. It would resume its active role in the following decade, when renewed revolutionary gains put Central America in the Cold War crosshairs.

    Pettinà also shows how regional elites responded to events in Cuba, mostly with repression. Governments in Mexico, Brazil, Venezuela, and Argentina embraced modernization and redistribution programs to counter Cuba’s revolutionary appeal, but the reformist efforts failed to fundamentally restructure these unequal, export-dependent economies, descending instead into counterinsurgent violence.

    This crackdown was bolstered by the United States. Washington’s vision for Latin America took shape under John F. Kennedy’s Alliance for Progress, which provided technical advisors and aid for countries in the region that instituted market-friendly policies, accompanied by robust military support. US recipes for economic development came to little. The counterinsurgent violence unleashed on the region, however, left a devastating legacy that the region is still reckoning with to this day.
    The Counterrevolution

    Pettinà calls the 1970s the “decade of terror.” Tensions may have eased between the United States and the USSR in this period, but conflict raged across the Third World, with the Yom Kippur War of 1973 between Israel and a coalition of Arab states, Cuban interventions in West Africa, and brutal authoritarian repression in Latin America.

    “Under the aegis of the National Security Doctrine (NSD),” Pettinà writes, “the reaction of state and military institutions in countries such as Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay turned citizens into enemies and targets of repressive acts, which included torture and forced disappearances” of victims numbering in the tens of thousands.

    A series of military coups, starting with Brazil in 1964, brought the militarist NSD into power across the region. Pettinà traces the NSD’s roots to long-standing Latin American military traditions, the French counterinsurgency strategy deployed against the Algerian national liberation movement, and US counterinsurgency paradigms. The latter spread throughout the region via institutions like the US Army’s School of the Americas, then located in Panama, and the Special Warfare School at Fort Bragg, as well as the widespread deployment of US trainers and advisors.

    US involvement ranged from relatively minor interference in Mexico to decisive intervention with the overthrow of President Salvador Allende in Chile. Even there, Pettinà highlights the role of multiple foreign actors. The Soviets declined to provide Allende the degree of support that his government had expected. Instead, Allende developed a close relationship with Fidel Castro, who advised him to defend his constitutional mandate with Cuban-backed armed revolutionary groups. Allende, however, was optimistically — perhaps naively — committed to legality. Accepting Cuba’s offer to support armed resistance, Pettinà writes, “might have saved his life.”

    From the other side, the US spent millions on destabilization before backing the 1973 coup. The radically anti-communist Brazilian military dictatorship also had a part in undermining and defeating Allende, after playing an instrumental role in the 1971 coup in Bolivia and the defeat of progressives in Uruguay.

    The author stresses that repression in this period found support among conservative sectors of the middle class in countries like Mexico and Argentina. Out of both fear and tacit approval, Pettinà argues that “the silence of broad sectors of Latin American societies enabled military juntas across the region to suppress public protests almost unchecked during the 1970s.”

    The author insists that “the NSD and the juntas’ acts of repression in no way represented any external or planned imposition by Washington in the region.” Local fascists had their own momentum, and the military regimes had an “independent streak” that often clashed with the United States. While they received active US support, he argues that “the juntas and their plans to overhaul the country’s politics, economy, and society were genuinely homegrown projects” that were influenced, but not invented by Washington.
    The Central American Finale

    The Cold War–charged backlash would come to a “dramatic climax” in Central America in the 1980s, where US-backed counterrevolutionary violence cost hundreds of thousands of lives. Again, Pettinà cautions against reducing this bloodshed to “a story of binary, proxy confrontation.”

    Pettinà’s account of the Sandinista Revolution is illustrative. US president Jimmy Carter directed the State Department to condition aid to countries like Nicaragua on their respect for human rights, but his resolve in this regard was far from steadfast. Washington’s pressure had little effect on the notorious Somoza dynasty, which continued to run the country like a personal plantation and suppress democratic movements with violence.

    In the face of Somoza’s intransigence and the United States’ “wavering,” Costa Rica, Panama, and Venezuela threw their weight behind the Sandinista insurgency, which had developed a sophisticated diplomatic operation. Argentina, in turn, actively backed Somoza, and Israel supplied weapons to the regime after Carter began to cut off military aid.

    Cuba was decisive, mediating the reunification of three opposing Sandinista National Liberation Front (FSLN) factions in March 1979 and providing reinforcements to the newly united guerrillas. Havana would play a similar role in El Salvador, helping to broker the unification of that country’s leftist coalition the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front the following year. Around this time, Mexico joined Nicaragua’s southern neighbors in cutting off diplomatic relations with Somoza. Internationalist fighters from across the continent joined the guerrillas, who overcame the regime in July 1979.

    The Ronald Reagan administration reinvigorated relations with South American dictatorships and made Central America the center of its anti-communist crusade. Reagan’s infamous Contra scheme involved moving aid to anti-Sandinista paramilitaries through a dizzying network of agents and countries that ran from Brunei, Saudi Arabia, Israel, and Taiwan to Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Panama.

    Mexico also played a key role, materially supporting the Sandinistas and seeking to broker a multilateral diplomatic resolution to the broader Central American crisis. Mexico was key in convening the “Grupo Contadora” with Colombia, Panama, and Venezuela, which sought negotiated solutions for Central America throughout 1980s. Against heavy opposition from Washington, these efforts finally led to Costa Rica’s peace plan, which helped draw down the Contra War at the end of the decade.

    As this history shows, Central America’s national liberation struggles had diplomatic and even military allies across Latin America. So did their opponents. While US intervention is unmistakably responsible for prolonging these conflicts and dramatically inflating their scale, regional actors on both sides had interests in influencing their outcomes and took action to do so.
    Giving the Bad Guys Their Due

    In emphasizing Latin American agency, Pettinà sometimes downplays the extent of US meddling. For example, the author refers to Washington’s “tolerance” for left-wing governments in Venezuela, Ecuador, and Bolivia in the 2000s as evidence for how the Cold War “distorted” US policy in the region. He does not mention the failed US-backed coup against Hugo Chávez in 2002, to say nothing of the subsequent successful ones in Honduras (2009), Bolivia (2019), and the frustrated attempt in Venezuela again in 2020. Readers can certainly add to this list.

    Nevertheless, the point that Latin America has its own homegrown fascism is well taken. As Luis Herrán Ávila writes in the NACLA Report, “Subordinating the Latin American Right to northern designs can result in underestimating these forces’ capacity to articulate, deploy, and implement their own intolerant and authoritarian visions.”

    As the geopolitical landscape takes an increasingly multipolar form, anti-imperialists on the US left should remember that not all forces of reaction are Washington puppets. Recent events in El Salvador, where an authoritarian far-right president has occasionally butted heads with Joe Biden’s administration, are an example of these complexities.

    Analysis of the far right in this context demands a sophisticated critique that takes Latin American societies’ internal contradictions seriously. Imperialism should never be underestimated, but it does not explain everything.


    Rosen auf den Weg gestreut

    Ihr müßt sie lieb und nett behandeln,
    erschreckt sie nicht – sie sind so zart!
    Ihr müßt mit Palmen sie umwandeln,
    getreulich ihrer Eigenart!
    Pfeift euerm Hunde, wenn er kläfft –:
    Küßt die Faschisten, wo ihr sie trefft!

    Wenn sie in ihren Sälen hetzen,
    sagt: »Ja und Amen – aber gern!
    Hier habt ihr mich – schlagt mich in Fetzen!«
    Und prügeln sie, so lobt den Herrn.
    Denn Prügeln ist doch ihr Geschäft!
    Küßt die Faschisten, wo ihr sie trefft.

    Und schießen sie –: du lieber Himmel,
    schätzt ihr das Leben so hoch ein?
    Das ist ein Pazifisten-Fimmel!
    Wer möchte nicht gern Opfer sein?
    Nennt sie: die süßen Schnuckerchen,
    gebt ihnen Bonbons und Zuckerchen …
    Und verspürt ihr auch
    in euerm Bauch
    den Hitler-Dolch, tief, bis zum Heft –:
    Küßt die Faschisten, küßt die Faschisten,
    küßt die Faschisten, wo ihr sie trefft –!

    Theobald Tiger
    Die Weltbühne, 31.03.1931, Nr. 13, S. 452.

    #USA #impérialisme #fascisme #nationalisme #amérique_latine

  • Peter Pan & Wendy Is Another Lifeless Disney Remake
    Je n’ai pas su développer un sentiment d’attachement pour les personnages de Peter Pan avant d’atteindre l’age adulte alors que je lisais les histoires de J. M. Barrie pendant ma jeunesse. Pour moi il leur manquais la cruauté et l’esprit humain des contes Grimm comme le degré d’abstraction froide d’Andersen ou la grandeur romantique de Wilhelm Hauff. La machine de transformation d’histoires inventée par les businessmen de nos temps modernes a resolu mon problème de jeunesse en confondant ces récits dans une sauce du type ketchup qui peut accompagner tous les plats culturels.

    Là les entreprises Disney se lancent dans une énième tentative d’incorporer les histoires pour enfants paradigmatiques des époques passées en convertissant Peter Pan et Wendy dans de la barbe à papa-maman-diverse-toutes-couleurs-confendues et trop sucrée. Plus les médias mutinationals avancent dans l’art du storytelling adapté aux besoins de l’impérialisme culturel anglo-saxon moins de contradictions humaines éternelles entre riches et pauvres, enfants et exploiteurs adultes survivent le grand filtre de leurs machines de commercialisation.

    Il est temps de lancer une campagne de retour au sources pour faire face à la castration des contes du royaume de l’magination.

    2.5.2023 By Eileen Jones - These insipid Disney live-action remakes of their own animated films are now a blight on civilization. Especially considering that Walt Disney himself built his empire by taking bloody-minded old European fairy tales and making them blander and more sanitized for a wimpier generation. People used to complain about how defanged they all were — imagine that! Now old Disney animated classics like Pinocchio, Bambi, Dumbo, and Sleeping Beauty seem daring, almost ferocious. Such tragic sorrows! Such scary villains! So much death and evildoing!

    But with the new live-action retreads of recent years, where does that put us on the bland-wimp scale? Off the charts, I’d say.

    I thought the latest one turning up on Disney+, Peter Pan & Wendy, might be better than the usual run — after all, the much-respected auteur David Lowery (The Green Knight, Ain’t Them Bodies Saints) cowrote and directed this one. And, with Lowery’s touch, it features perhaps a slightly richer color scheme and prettier images overall.

    But I should’ve known nobody could take on Disney. (Look out, Ron DeSantis!) Building a monstrous capitalist conglomerate doesn’t make you nice and respectful of individual filmmakers. You work for Disney, so you’ll do it the Disney way.

    So Peter Pan & Wendy is a big toothless bore, with gestures toward contemporary mores in the forms of a highly diverse cast plus girls playing Lost Boys. Wendy (Ever Anderson) protests upon meeting them, “But you’re not all boys!” and gets the stroppy answer, “So what?”

    And since this is the 2020s, Wendy herself has to be imbued with action-packed girl power and do sword-fighting and rescue the others instead of waiting to be rescued. Tiger Lily (Alyssa Wapanatahk, a member of the Bigstone Cree Nation) is now treated with what is presumably greater respect as a vaguely Native American character who appears to be a member of some unnamed American Plains tribe, which makes no sense — there’s no dodging the way Scottish-born writer J. M. Barrie treated “Indians” as fantasy figures for British children on a continuum with pirates and mermaids and fairies. Why not cut out Barrie’s Tiger Lily and her tribe altogether, but keep the mermaids, instead of the other way around in this mermaid-free adaptation? Who knows?
    Yara Shahidi as Tinkerbell. (Disney+)

    Anyway, Tiger Lilly also has to be portrayed as assertive and independent, rescuing Peter Pan (Alexander Molony) instead of the other way around. As for the other major female characters of the triumvirate surrounding Peter, Tinkerbell is played by a black actor (Yara Shahidi of Black-ish and Grown-ish), but more importantly, she’s entirely reconceived as a character. The miniature minx of the Barrie original as well as Disney’s first adaptation, who adores Peter and hates Wendy for usurping Peter’s attentions — even doing her best to murder Wendy as soon as she arrives — is now a sweet, helpful, pathetic little simp who befriends Wendy. Why? Because Wendy realizes that Tinkerbell has been denied her voice. Her voice is so tiny no one can hear it, actually. But Peter asserts that he knows what she’s saying and speaks for her, inaccurately. Only Wendy learns to hear Tinkerbell speak.

    Okay, so can we now drop forevermore the whole exhausted she’s-been-denied-her-voice narrative trope in films seeking feminist cred?

    It would be nice, too, if this were the last ever attempt to revive old material by doing Psych 101 backstories explaining how well-known characters got to be the way they are. Peter Pan and Captain Hook (Jude Law) are given the most lugubrious intertwined histories possible, because how could we possibly understand why they fight all the time, if we don’t know about their past traumas?

    Easy. By imagining vivid characters in all their details and contradictions, and not coming up with pat, reductive explanations for everything they do.

    Law, the only name actor in the cast, is talented but too contained to play the flamboyant, slashing Captain Hook, who’s also comically self-pitying, needy, and reliant on his motherly first mate, Smee (Jim Gaffigan). If you recall, Smee’s first duty is to protect the terrified Captain from the endless pursuit of the enormous crocodile that hungers for the Captain after eating Hook’s hand (cut off by Peter Pan in one of their many fights). Luckily the crocodile also swallowed an alarm clock, and the ticking sound always announces his approach. Lowery does almost nothing with that lovely plot detail.

    But you know how these kinds of movies go. Endless lesson learning, like the worst of Victorian kids’ literature. Peter has to learn he needs his friends to help him and to apologize when he’s hurt someone. Wendy has to learn that she’s actually ready to grow up and go to boarding school or whatever horrible thing her upper-class Brit parents (played by Molly Parker and Alan Tudyk) have in store for her. Hook has to learn why he hates Peter Pan, even if he can’t ever get past it. Everybody’s learning and affirming and casting loving looks at everyone else all over the Neverland map.

    It’s dreary as hell.

    Too bad, because there were real possibilities in imagining a new Peter Pan film. In the versions I’ve seen, nobody’s ever really gone for the weirder, creepier, colder-hearted Pan envisioned by Barrie. Here’s a description from his 1911 novel Peter and Wendy, which was based on his hit 1904 play, Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up:

    He was a lovely boy, clad in skeleton leaves and the juices that ooze out of trees but the most entrancing thing about him was that he had all his first teeth. When he saw she was a grownup, he gnashed the little pearls at her.

    The famed “androgyny” of the character we know, from the tradition of having slight, diminutive adult female actors such as Maude Adams, Jean Arthur, and Mary Martin play Peter Pan on the stage. But the feral qualities Barrie described, in combination with the physical beauty — the pearly-teeth snarl — never seem to get portrayed. Generally, since the squeaky-clean Disney animated Peter Pan (1953), live-action versions feature an ordinary boy, perhaps with slightly elfin facial features, stuck into a green tunic and green hat with a scarlet feather. The same thing happens in Peter Pan & Wendy.

    In these adaptations, Peter is shown to be, at worst, a bit of a jerk. But his real strangeness, the result of his perpetual childhood, living outside of time, is his amnesia and his cold selfishness. Once Wendy leaves Neverland, he forgets her, and of course he repudiates her entirely once she’s a grown-up. When he returns to her house, it’s to take her daughter Jane to Neverland to live with him and the Lost Boys as their temporary “mother.” And then a generation later, he comes to take Jane’s daughter Margaret.

    But then, Barrie’s whole attitude toward children was not like ours, and obviously his attitudes toward gender roles are bizarre as hell to us. He wrote, in the final line of the original Peter and Wendy novel describing this cycle:

    When Margaret grows up she will have a daughter, who is to be Peter’s mother in turn; and thus it will go on, so long as children are gay and innocent and heartless.

    Heartless is a word that really stops you, as one that’s never applied to children now. But portraying it in Peter Pan’s case, as part of the essence of childhood, would at least have made for a bold and interesting change. Instead, we get another pointless remake so Disney can grub up a few more bucks repurposing its vast holdings.

    #enfants #culture #contes #impérialisme #commercialisation

  • How Pete Seeger Turned Green

    J’ai perdu mon unique héro de jeunesse encore vivant quand Pete Seeger a chanté pendant la cérémonie d’inauguration du serial killer Barack Obama. J’étais écoeuré par le fait qu’une personne sincère, humaine et intelligente puisse seulement se rendre à un événement en honneur d’un futur chef des bandes armées que les impérialistes américains envoient piller le monde et détruire l’avenir des peuples.

    J’avais tort. J’aurais du me rappeller de ma première jeunesse quand je passais des soirées avec les GIs autour d’un feu de camp en chantant This Land Is Your Land et Take Me Home Country Roads . Le peuple des États Unis est tout compte fait naïf et enfantin y compris ses grandses figures culturelles de gauche.

    Cet article sur l’engagement de Pete Seeger pour la rivière Hudson me reconcilie un peu avec le pragmatisme de sa méthode.

    3.5.2023 by Jodie Childers - Styled “America’s tuning fork” by Studs Terkel, Pete Seeger (1919–2014) was known for his anthems of protest and his support for the labor struggle, civil rights, and the antiwar movement; yet arguably, his most innovative contribution to the American left was his environmental activism. Although this work spanned fifty years of his life, it has received the least amount of acknowledgment and recognition. Seeger’s environmental pivot emerged from a space of revolt in the aftermath of political persecution during the Second Red Scare. Denounced as “un-American” and pushed outside of mainstream media outlets during the 1950s and ’60s, he was forced to rethink how to enact social change from the political margins. Out of this experience of political suppression, Seeger launched a new kind of movement.

    Seeger’s decision to plead the First when he testified before the House Un-American Activities Committee (HUAC) in 1955 altered the trajectory of his life and career. While other unfriendly witnesses opted for the Fifth after the Hollywood Ten were cited for contempt in 1947, Seeger took a bold, principled approach — one advocated by Albert Einstein. Predictably, Seeger was also charged with contempt. After a seven-year battle over his case, which resulted in the dismissal of his charges, he remained barred from television and faced demonstrators at his concerts who branded him a subversive. Some venues simply barred him from performing. Even WQED, the public television station in Pittsburgh known for Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, canceled Seeger’s gratis folk performance on a program for children called Dimple Depot because of the singer’s “Commie ties.”

    During this political and personal struggle, Seeger took up sailing only to encounter industrial toxins and “toilet waste” on the Hudson River. For Seeger, the pollution evoked John Kenneth Galbraith’s notion of “private affluence amid public squalor.” Two books also prompted an environmental revolution in his thinking. The first and most obvious one was Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring. The second, however, was a more idiosyncratic choice. In 1963, Vic Schwarz, fellow musician, artist, and history buff, loaned Seeger a copy of the book The Sloops of the Hudson, which featured images of the elegant single-masted wooden ships of a bygone era. This prompted an extraordinary, even preposterous idea: Could they resurrect one of these extinct vessels as an emblem for the nascent environmental struggle? By building a community boat for the people, Seeger hoped to reclaim the neglected river and the act of sailing itself, which had become a hobby for the rich, despite its ties to working-class labor history.

    In the years that followed, Seeger attempted to raise money for the Great Hudson Sloop Restoration project through grassroots benefit concerts. Musically, this green evolution corresponded with his album God Bless the Grass, which he released in 1966. Contending with resistance from some who ridiculed his idealism and even more who perceived him as a threat to national security, Seeger performed old folk standards alongside new songs about an earth in crisis, such as “My Dirty Stream.” He also told stories about the polluted Hudson and outlined the plans for the construction of the boat. Despite the benign character of this set list, he was stymied at every level. Three hundred protesters picketed his concert in Westbury, New York, in March of 1967 — a performance that had been called off the previous year and only rescheduled after a legal battle, which determined the cancellation unconstitutional. Later that month in Granville, New York, the American Legion organized a demonstration, but when Seeger arrived, they changed their course and instead opted to monitor the standing-room-only show from the back of the auditorium.

    When Seeger finally returned to television on a variety show hosted by the Smothers Brothers in September of 1967, CBS censored his performance of “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy.” In some towns, the rumors alone were enough to prompt nervous organizers to postpone or cancel Seeger’s benefits. In January of 1969, the Nyack Board of Education voted to bar him from performing at the high school auditorium because, as one concerned member explained, “I did some research on this man. I found he did some work for the Communist Party. He was affiliated with the Daily Worker.”

    Raising the money was not the only obstacle to the project. No Hudson River sloop survived the nineteenth century extant, so finding a marine architect willing to design an obsolete vessel also presented a challenge. Nevertheless, with his expertise, eye for detail, and artistic sensibility, Cyrus Hamlin took on the task using two sources: a plan from a maritime magazine and a detailed painting. Local legend Harvey Gamage of Maine directed the labor and construction of the vessel, optimistically christened the Clearwater. After they laid the keel in October of 1968, the donations increased. Seven months later, on May 17, 1969, in South Bristol, Maine, the 106-foot wooden sloop, as Hamlin recalled, “slid into the water” for its maiden voyage.

    “We had a wonderful singing crew,” Seeger reminisced upon the group he rallied together for the journey. This cross-section of sailors and musicians included countercultural Captain Allan Aunapu; civil rights activists Len Chandler, Jimmy Collier, and Frederick Douglass Kirkpatrick; first mate Gordon Bok; sea shanty performer Lou Killen; and a young Don MacLean. While American news outlets covered the quest to clean up the river, reports did not highlight how the ecological mission extended beyond water pollution to encompass civil rights and antiwar resistance. When the sloop arrived in New York, Chandler performed his powerful protest song “Turn Around, Miss Liberty” in front of the Statue of Liberty. In a 1969 CBC interview on the deck of the Clearwater, Seeger belted out the chorus from “Bring Them Home” and then lamented the censorship in the American media landscape: “I don’t know what a song can do. But there must be something in a song or they wouldn’t try to blacklist them off TV.”

    Singing and sailing along a river that Aunapu described as smelling “like diesel fuel,” the Sloop Singers stopped in the towns along the banks of the Hudson to perform concerts at every port. Collier remembered their daily life on the boat:

    The hole where we slept was tiny. We were feet to head, feet to head. . . . What you got from that was being a sailor was not a fun lifestyle . . . and there was no beer down there.

    Seeger recalled the resistance they faced: “They said these hippies will have this thing sunk or sold within a year.” Yet despite the difficulties of the labor for this group of musicians, who were not all used to sailing, the dedication to the cause kept them going. “We were fulfilling a mission, and whether it was popular or not or people embraced it, we didn’t care,” Collier recollected.

    Despite the opposition, the movement grew, albeit slowly. Five hundred welcomed the arrival of the boat in Croton-on-Hudson in July; an older man came to the river and offered Seeger a mango, which he shared with the crowd. Locals jumped on board and learned how to raise the sail. Seeger made progress in Nyack too; when he returned in August of 1969, the town that had banned him now welcomed him for a concert at Memorial Park.

    However, he faced controversy close to home in Kingston that September. One of his staunchest antagonists was Democrat and local politician John P. Heitzman, who would later become mayor of the city. This was not the first time Seeger faced resistance in the Hudson Valley. The 1949 Peekskill Riots, a racist anti-communist mob attack on Paul Robeson, Seeger, and other performers left a lifelong impression on Seeger, whose car was belted with stones, shattering the windows. Twenty years later, in an editorial in the Kingston Daily Freeman, an anonymous detractor demanded to know, “Is Pete Seeger interested in cleaning up the Hudson, or is he a modern Pied Piper using this cause as a front to spread an ideology that is contrary to our American way?”

    Seeger explained how he sustained the momentum in the face of such resistance:

    The wind may be blowing against you, but if you use your sails right you can sail into the wind, into the wind, into the wind and you make slow progress using the very power of the wind that is against you. This is a great analogy in life. If you can use the forces against you to push ahead, you’re winning.

    With its distinctive aesthetic and its singing sailors, the Clearwater became a symbol of the colossal battle against corporate greed, linking the fight for the Hudson with a national environmental movement on the rise. In 1970, the Clearwater sailed to Washington, DC, for the first Earth Day, and Seeger performed before Congress. In 1972, the Clean Water Act passed, despite Richard Nixon’s veto.

    Over the years, the boat became the center of an environmental awakening that fomented campaigns and creative projects along the river, linking the local and the global. In 1978, Toshi Seeger expanded the concept of the riverside concert and created a two-day event called the Great Hudson River Revival (also known as the Clearwater Festival). The decades that followed are filled with stories of people whose lives were changed by what became a political and artistic movement, from Dan Searles, a resident of Beacon who helped transform the dump at the Beacon rail station into what is now known as the Pete and Toshi Seeger Riverside Park, to countless crew members on the Clearwater like Andra Sramek, who gave their time and energy to steer the course of the ship over the years.

    Seeger’s goal was to prompt the formation of small sloop clubs in towns along the river, all with their own boats, managed by volunteers whose activism would be driven by local concerns. He had always dreamed the Clearwater would be surrounded by dozens of these sloops, and while several popped up in the early 1970s and ’80s, including the Woody Guthrie and the Sojourner Truth, the plan did not pan out as Seeger had anticipated. The Clearwater still sails and is now a nonprofit and a historical landmark with a pedagogical and social justice mission. The local Beacon Sloop Club maintains the sloop Woody Guthrie and its grassroots character, offering free sails five nights a week and sponsoring festivals throughout the year staffed entirely by volunteers. Until the end of their lives, both Toshi and Pete could be found down at the waterfront on the first Friday of every month at the Beacon Sloop Club’s Circle of Song.

    The questions that Pete Seeger began to pose in the 1960s and the radical solutions he devised throughout the last fifty years of his life are particularly relevant to the present moment. Although Seeger maintained a defiant posture of resistance his entire life, he simultaneously channeled this creative energy of dissent into world-building as he and Toshi Seeger crafted and sustained a participatory, collectivist, and future-oriented eco-movement, devising imaginative arts-based environmental projects that carried forward the utopian spirit of the ’60s into the twenty-first century.

    As a new ecological crisis looms, the earnestness of Seeger’s response to the destruction of the natural environment is instructive. His unflinching belief that collective human action is capable of transforming the world offers an antidote to contemporary political nihilism, and a fusion of the joy of artistic expression and political participation. As we confront industrial crises in America’s waterways once again, perhaps now is the time to consider building upon Seeger’s unrealized dream, reclaiming the rivers in our country, from the Potomac to the Ohio, the Mississippi to the Cuyahoga. As Seeger proclaimed in 1969, “If there’s hope for the human race, there’s hope for the Hudson.”

    A propos de John Denver




    #USA #gauche #écologisme #socialisme #musique

  • Calling for Dianne Feinstein’s Retirement Is Stating the Obvious, Not Ageism or Sexism

    Après l’assasinat du maire et du membre du conseil des superviseurs de San Francisco Harvey Milk elle a participé à transformer la ville dans un El Dorado pour promoteurs immobiliers. Elle ne nous manquera pas.

    29.4.2023 by Liza Featherstone - The California senator Dianne Feinstein is losing her capacity to engage in basic Senate business, yet she refuses to step down. It’s a disgraceful finale to Feinstein’s career, which has been spent faithfully serving the rich.


    You’ve probably heard that California senator Dianne Feinstein, eighty-nine, has been too ill to show up to the Senate yet hasn’t resigned. As a result of her absence, the Senate on Thursday voted to overturn a critical Biden administration effort to control truck emissions. Feinstein has been in the hospital with shingles, has missed 75 percent of the Senate votes this session, and has not indicated when (if ever) she plans to return.

    Shingles aside, there are serious questions about whether she is up for this job, cognitively and physically. The vote on truck emissions was fifty to forty-nine, with Joe Manchin, coal baron and ally of the death-drive faction of US politics, joining the Republicans, who said the Biden regulations were too “burdensome” on the trucking industry.

    People will die because of this vote — a disgraceful yet fitting finale to Feinstein’s career, which has been spent faithfully serving capital.

    With the Democrats’ Senate majority so thin and some of the conservative Democrats at constant risk of voting with Republicans, it’s a disaster having a Senator who can’t or won’t show up. Allowing the trucking rule to die is bad enough, but Feinstein’s absence is also hindering the Senate from confirming Biden’s judicial nominees (previously a relatively effective dimension of his presidency).

    Predictably, Feinstein has her defenders, all accusing the critics of various “isms.” Nancy Pelosi suggested that the calls for Feinstein to step down were sexist. New York senator Kirsten Gillibrand agreed, as did California representative Norma Torres, Michigan senator Debbie Stabenow, and even some Republican women, like Senators Marsha Blackburn and Joni Ernst of Tennessee and Iowa, respectively. Others have cried “ableism” and “ageism,” real problems but not applicable to a situation in which one person not showing up to work has such a devastating impact on the larger society.

    Some of these callouts were directed at California representative Ro Khanna, who rightly blamed Feinstein for the horrible truck vote and has been insisting that it’s time for Feinstein to resign since she is “not showing up.” Said Khanna on Fox News Sunday: “Only in Washington would you get criticized for saying something so obvious.” Democratic socialist congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York has also called for Feinstein to step down.

    Thursday’s trucking vote has dire implications. Biden’s rule would have greatly eased pollution from heavy-duty trucks, especially nitrous oxides, which contribute to acid rain. It also would have reduced carbon emissions, necessary to avoid the worst effects of global warming. As well, asthma from air pollution caused by cars and trucks is a serious public health problem, especially in poor and working-class communities, which are much more likely to be exposed to heavy traffic. Biden’s Environmental Protection Agency estimated that the rule would have, by 2045, saved 2,900 people from early death and prevented eighteen thousand children from developing asthma.

    Who benefits from Feinstein’s absence from the Senate? The rich. Of course, corporate interests did not want the trucking rule. The Republicans had their backs, but the Democrats complied by not forcing Feinstein to show up or quit. Capital would also prefer that Biden never got to appoint any judges, since a Republican president would shape the judiciary with an even more reactionary vision.

    This whole saga seems like a logical coda for a person who has been loyally serving the plutocracy for half a century. The first woman to be mayor of San Francisco, she came into office in 1978, a distressing time when the city was still reeling from the assassination of its previous mayor, George Moscone, and Supervisor Harvey Milk, by fellow supervisor Dan White. (Feinstein had been president of the city’s board of supervisors.) Her mayoralty was characterized by intensely developer-friendly policies.

    Longtime Bay Area journalist Larry Bensky, writing in the Anderson Valley Advertiser in 1994, described her time as mayor this way:

    Her contributions were led by a wealthy father, an even wealthier husband and a constellation of powerful business leaders who — correctly — assumed she would be a safe vote for their interests. . . . she was an unabashed cheerleader for the easy-money game of downtown office construction. 30 million soulless square feet were added during her administration.

    Bensky contrasted Feinstein’s attentiveness to the real estate titans with her neglect of the city’s working class.

    As Senator, she continued this pattern of serving the rich at the expense of the rest. Feinstein opposed single-payer health care, even as it became a mainstream political priority during Bernie Sanders’s last two presidential campaigns. She has been a hawk on deficits and on defense. She was rightly criticized for praising — and (yuck) hugging — Lindsey Graham during the disgraceful Amy Coney Barrett hearings, in which California representative Katie Porter, NARAL, and other liberals pointed out that Barrett was in no way forced to explain or elaborate on her deeply reactionary antiabortion and anti-worker politics.

    Feinstein was often criticized for pursuing policies that could benefit her investor husband, Richard Blum, a billionaire who died last year. The private-equity tycoon had major holdings in firms that have benefitted from hundreds of millions of defense contracting dollars; some on both the Left and Right have been vulgar enough to point out that Feinstein was, during that time, a fan of robust defense spending.

    In sum, the criticisms of Dianne Feinstein are not sexist or ageist. Rather, they are long overdue. Not only is she not showing up for work — this billionaire has been serving the billionaire class for far too long. It’s past time for her to retire.

    #USA #politique #immobilier #business

  • The Cataclysmic Iraq War in 6 Charts | #Stephen_Semler

    Speaking recently about Russia’s criminal invasion of Ukraine, Joe #Biden said: “The idea that over 100,000 forces would invade another country . . . since World War II, nothing like that has happened.” He must have a short-term memory.

    US-led coalition forces in #Iraq easily eclipsed one hundred thousand every year from 2003 to 2009, during which time Biden was either vice president of the United States or the chairman or ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. As the following charts demonstrate, twenty years on, Biden is as connected to the Iraq War and its legacy as any active politician.

  • Film Workers Say a Gun on the Hip of a New York City Film Producer Led to a Strike
    Il ne faut pas travailler pour Uwe Boll. Jamais.

    6.4.2023 by Alex N. Press - When Alec Baldwin shot and killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of Rust in October 2021, it led film and television workers to speak out about the flouting of weapons safety standards on sets. As one Rust crew member told me at the time, the film’s first assistant director (1st AD, the person who oversees a film set during production) was nicknamed “Safety Last” and never seemed to take weapons safety as seriously as crew members felt he should. Other workers in the industry recounted incidents in which they caught weapons-safety errors that could have proven dangerous and claimed they were mocked and retaliated against by producers for taking such issues so seriously.


    The problem persists — and not just with weapons used in the film production itself. Last month in New York City, German director Uwe Boll was filming First Shift, an New York Police Department (NYPD) drama meant to mark his return to cinema after an extended absence. Boll has been referred to as “the most hated man in Hollywood” for his sloppily made film adaptations of video games, as well as his abrasive manner on set (a documentary about Boll is entitled Fuck You All: The Uwe Boll Story). He also once held a boxing match in which he fought some of his critics.

    For First Shift, he enlisted Ari Taub of New York City–based Hit and Run Productions, Inc. as his line producer. On day three of shooting the feature, Taub, who runs a “prop house” that provides for film productions and was providing props for the shoot, brought a gun to a church a few blocks away from the set in which department heads were meeting before lunch. Less than a week after the incident, several crew members had been fired, and the crew was on strike.

    I spoke with five members of First Shift‘s crew as well as Taub, the film’s international production coordinator, and the 1st AD and reviewed recordings, emails, and text messages between the workers, Taub, Boll, and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE). The materials show how an erratic producer and recalcitrant director, who allegedly responded to the workers’ safety concerns with retaliation, led the crew members, facing terminations for exercising their legally protected right to organize, to go on strike.
    “That’s It. I’m Walking.”

    During a production meeting on March 8, “James,” a member of First Shift’s grip and electric department, says that he spotted something unusual on Taub’s hip. (Boll and Taub have threatened crew members with lawsuits for discussing the working conditions on First Shift; thus, Jacobin has granted workers pseudonyms for this story.) It looked like a holster for a gun. James shared his suspicions with the 1st AD and the two asked Taub about it when the meeting ended.

    “I asked Ari, ‘Can I see that?’” recounts James. Taub agreed and handed the gun to James while “very loudly” reassuring everyone in the room that the weapon was fake. But James says that while handing it over, Taub whispered a warning into his ear: “Just make sure you don’t pull the trigger.” Taub denies he said this.

    “At that point, I’m realizing that it’s a full metal gun with the same weight and feel of a real revolver, and I can clearly see it has six bullets in it,” said James. He handed the gun to the 1st AD, who took the bullets out and saw they were blanks. At that point, James had had enough. “I said, ‘That’s it, I’m walking.’ I was done with the show and left the building.”

    Taub disputes James’s version of events. The producer says that it was a rubber gun and that both the weapon and the holster were props for one of the film’s actors, who plays an NYPD officer. “I was there to bring a prop for the actress who plays the lead, because we were having trouble with her prop and holster on the first day,” says Taub. “I rent these things as part of what I do… and all the props were rubber, non-firing props.”

    But the 1st AD confirmed to me that it was not a rubber gun: “It had brass in it, so it was not a rubber gun,” he says, noting that he is a gun owner and would not be likely to mistake a rubber gun for a more dangerous weapon. “I’m the one who unloaded it: I dropped the cylinder and ejected the blanks that were loaded into it into my hand.” The film’s prop master, who was also present, corroborated that version of events.

    “I am 100 percent sure that I saw a moving-parts weapon and a barrel came out,” says the prop master. The incident particularly concerned him because he says that while the holster looked like one of his props, the gun did not. “Ari had given me access to two moving-parts weapons, which I was not going to use anyway and thus had never been brought onto set, but it was neither of those weapons. Those guns were typical pistols that a police officer would use, but the weapon he had on his person was a smaller gun. It was not a weapon that I had known about.”

    There was no reason for a gun to be around crew members, and certainly not on the hip of a producer. That it was loaded with blanks does not make it safe, as evidenced by the accidental death of Brandon Lee in 1993 after the actor was shot by a blank fired from a prop gun.

    As for what motivation Taub might have had for bringing the weapon to work, Max, another crew member who was in the meeting, mentioned an argument the previous day. He recalls that the disagreement had to do with getting permits for placing a camera on a moving vehicle that was to be driven across a bridge from Brooklyn to Manhattan. A crew member was unhappy with Taub for failing to file the appropriate permits for the shoot; Max said that the crew member told the producer he was already in the middle of several lawsuits and didn’t want another one. A contentious argument ensued.

    “It was the day after this verbal altercation that Ari brought a gun that was loaded with blanks,” said Max. “He said it was a ‘joke,’ but from other people’s perspective, it was a show of force to get the crew member in question not to threaten him anymore.”

    Other crew members, and Boll himself based on a recording obtained by Jacobin, believe that Taub is simply erratic or has poor judgment. After all, there is no rational explanation for why a producer with decades of experience in the industry would bring a weapon anywhere near crew members. As the prop master told me, “There was no good reason, so you’re left with nothing else but to question the person’s judgment, and as a result, your safety.” Said the 1st AD, who had worked with Taub on two prior films, “He thought it was funny, but in reality, it was a bad joke.”

    When James left the church after the incident, he says he told the members of his department who were outside about what had just transpired. They agreed that they, too, would walk off the job. Then, the 1st AD came outside.

    “He spoke to us, and he was extremely upset about the situation,” said James. “We determined that to even talk about continuing to shoot that day, we needed Ari Taub removed from the set. That was accommodated by production, and they had him leave.” A recording of the conversation obtained by Jacobin confirms those statements.

    When I asked James if Taub’s behavior surprised him — after all, not only are New York City’s gun laws stringent, but guns on film sets are an especially delicate subject, not least because of the Baldwin killing during Rust — he mentions that he had worked with the producer once before, eight years ago. He says that Taub had been unprofessional then, too.

    “He did things there that went as far as impersonating a police officer to try to get people to turn down their music or leave the park area where we were shooting, even flashing fake NYPD badges at people,” said James. “He went shooting without permits as well. That seems on par with how Ari is, based on what others who have worked with him more have told me.”

    When I asked if Taub’s flouting of the law is unusual on low-budget independent shoots like First Shift, James said yes. “I’ve worked in this industry across the full range of types of productions, and he is the only person I’ve had that sort of experience with.” The 1st AD told me that it was enough of an outlier that he would no longer be working with Taub. “We had a pretty good relationship, but I take safety very seriously and this all was such a blatant disregard for others, especially after the Alec Baldwin situation.”

    Sarah, another crew member, had been in the room when James and the 1st AD asked Taub about the gun. She was not part of the meeting and says she only learned about what had taken place when she heard the 1st AD say, “Ari just had a loaded weapon on set.” Alarmed, she exited the church. Once she got outside, she said she walked to her car and received confirmation from other crew members that what she had just heard was accurate.

    “They said, ‘Yes, and we’re not filming while Ari is here,’” says Sarah. “I put my stuff in my car and said, ‘I’m with you guys.’” She then texted a representative from IATSE. First Shift was a nonunion production, but Sarah is a union member, as is James. (Union members often work on nonunion productions, particularly when times are slow in the industry.)

    The following Tuesday, she says the production was set to film a scene involving guns, the details of which kept changing. Given the deadly Rust shooting, she was concerned for her safety and that of her fellow crew members.

    “We had a scene coming up that involved guns firing blanks, and there was a question of whether this supply of equipment would come from Ari,” confirmed Max. “That confusion made people feel uncomfortable.”

    On the day following the incident, production went smoothly, and Taub was nowhere to be seen. Production then broke for two days, during which time the IATSE locals asked crew members if they desired union representation. A show that is nonunion can be “flipped” union by workers contacting IATSE. The union then contacts the production side of the movie or show requesting voluntary recognition; a demand letter containing a standard contract soon follows, opening negotiations. Several crew members told me that a majority of the crew signed on to request representation, which led the union to begin preparing to reach out to the production company.

    During the weekend, the prop master grew increasingly uncomfortable with his proximity to Taub: the two had to work together closely. He expressed his concerns and asked another member of the production team if he could work with someone else on set. “I was told, ‘No,’” he says.

    When the crew returned to set on March 12, they were greeted with a request from production at the 8 a.m. safety meeting: Would it be acceptable for Taub to be there that day? His father was slated to be an extra in a scene, and given his advanced age, the producer wanted to accompany him.

    “We said he was to be completely away from the crew,” says James. “If he was going to be there, he needed to be in a room with his father, away from us.”

    Production agreed to those conditions. But when James got in line for lunch a few hours later, Taub was there, talking to extras and intermingling with the crew. Multiple crew members said they saw someone jokingly pat Taub down as he laughed. James then contacted the IATSE safety hotline, and the union informed him that it was already preparing to email the production company to request voluntary recognition of the union so the two sides could begin negotiations.

    “Remember, I’m paying everyone’s salaries, and these are people who are in my face telling me off and telling me to get the hell off the set,” says Taub when I ask him about the incident. “I had a catering truck there, which cost me thousands of dollars, and I wanted to have my burrito or whatever for lunch. I couldn’t even enjoy my lunch because I was quickly ushered off the set.”

    The concerned crew members made their views known to management: they had given an inch, and production had taken a mile. In a recording from that day obtained by Jacobin, Boll expresses his displeasure that crew members contacted IATSE. Sarah tells him that she has the right to contact a union representative if she feels unsafe.

    Boll says that Taub bringing the gun to work “is the biggest mistake I’ve seen in my career.” But he argues that the crew asked him to ban the producer from the set, and he’d done that. James then notes that Taub had just been on set, and he’d heard him telling other crew members that he had never had a gun at all.

    At one point on the recording, Boll says that he has done thirty-six films and none saw accidents. (That is not true: an accident on one of his films once landed six people in the hospital.) “I guarantee Alec Baldwin has done more films, and he killed someone,” says Sarah. Boll responds, “I don’t want to talk about that.”

    Sarah and James urge the director to respond to IATSE’s email, explaining that if the production ignores it, they may face a recognition strike that shuts down production, which is often how workers flip a show union, given that the short time period of a film shoot precludes the extended process of filing for a National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) election.

    By the following day, in another recording obtained by Jacobin, Boll can be heard telling crew members that if the show were to flip, it would be sunk financially. He directed them to rescind their requests for union representation.

    “When I told him that I would not be doing that, he said that it seemed like I needed to quit as I was, in his mind, breaching the contract and halting the show,” said James. James told Boll that he did not want to quit, but that if the director wanted to fire him, that was his decision. Says James, “Boll got a bit mad, though never insulting, and called another crew member into the conversation with us. We had a back and forth, and the conversation ended with that crew member being fired from the show.”

    That crew member was Sarah. As confirmed by a recording obtained by Jacobin, Boll told Sarah what he had told James: rescind her complaints regarding the issues on set, or he would fire her.

    “If you release me from this film, you will be financially liable,” says Sarah, referring to the penalties an employer can face for illegal retaliation. “That’s what you think,” responds Boll. “You are not willing to fulfill your signed contact. . . . You can’t talk to me like this and think that I can work with you.”

    As Sarah prepared to leave the set, she says that she saw the director sitting with members of the grip and electric department, telling them to inform the unions that everything was fine and they no longer desired representation. One of those workers told me that Boll offered them an extra $50 per day if they would rescind their union representation.

    “I break into the conversation, because at that point, I want everyone to know that all of the repercussions have started, and I have been let go for speaking to the union,” says Sarah. “I also make it clear that I was let go because Uwe is a punk-ass bitch.” Then, she left.

    A few hours later, James received a text from Taub, which I have viewed. The producer writes, “YOU ARE FIRED,” to which James replies, “Can I ask what your reasoning for firing me is?” He received no response.

    Shortly after that exchange, Taub called the 1st AD and told him that the entire grip and electric department had been let go, and if he wanted to keep his own job, he would need to call Boll and beg for his job. After taking a moment to decide what he wanted to do, the 1st AD called Taub back. “I said, ‘Where do you want me to turn my walkie-talkie in?’’’ (In a phone call, First Shift’s international production coordinator denied that Taub fired the entire grip and electric department.).

    That same day as the firings, IATSE filed an unfair labor practice charge against Hit and Run Productions, Inc. with the NLRB, alleging the production had interrogated workers about their organizing activity and engaged in threatening statements concerning that activity. “There was no reason for us to be fired other than that we were trying to organize the show; we were all respectful throughout this tension,” says James. In an email, I asked Boll if he asked crew members to rescind their requests for union representation or face termination, offered them extra compensation to rescind those requests, and fired them for organizing at their workplace. He responded to each question with “No.”

    IATSE picketed the production the next morning, and many of the original crew members did not cross the picket line. Some workers who had been hired to replace those who had been fired saw the picket and refused to cross it. But only a few days of filming remained, and thanks to a cobbled-together replacement crew, First Shift wrapped on March 19.

    “That Kind of Sounds Like Extortion”

    In the days since the firings and subsequent strike by First Shift’s crew members, several crew members say Boll and Taub have threatened them with defamation lawsuits. An email seen by Jacobin from Boll shows the director threatening Sarah with a lawsuit; another text I viewed describes a crew member being asked to testify on Taub’s behalf in future legal proceedings.

    James told me that in addition to threatening to sue him, Taub has indicated that he will withhold payment for gear that he and his business partner rented to First Shift unless James recants his allegations. In a phone call with James’s business partner, Taub “said that basically, the only way that we would be paid for our gear being on the show would be if I somehow got the union and the NLRB to drop the investigation,” says James. “That’s not something I would want to do or even could do. Maybe I’m using an extreme word here, but that kind of sounds like extortion.”

    The Hollywood Reporter published an article about the dispute on March 31 in which the episode involving the gun is described as ending “without incident.” The article, which does not quote any crew members, notes that Taub “denies all charges against him and his company and says he will be taking legal action against the complainants.”

    In an email to the industry outlet, Michael Roesch, the film’s executive producer, writes: “What we can clearly say is that at no point was there a set safety issue. . . . We did not use even a single blank round in the entire film. All shots will be digitally added in post. All shooting days were completed without incident and without overtime.”

    In the Hollywood Reporter article, Boll characterizes the charges as “‘completely baseless’ and aimed at defaming him and sabotaging his film.” (Perplexingly, in his comments to the outlet, he focuses on the matter of whether a dog used in the production was properly cared for — an issue that only one of the five crew members I interviewed mentioned to me, and then only in passing.) First Shift’s problems have not discouraged the director: the film is now in postproduction, and Boll has plans for several more movies.

    Gino Anthony Pesi, one of First Shift’s actors, told the Hollywood Reporter that the film’s crew members are seeking to do “whatever they can to sabotage what little left we have to film on this very modest, low-budget project.” But in speaking with me, all of the crew members said that they are only concerned with ensuring that producers do not think of themselves as above the law when it comes to matters of workplace safety.

    Taub told me that he believes certain crew members sought positions on First Shift with the express intention of flipping the show union. “There are people who get themselves embedded into crews for independent, nonunion films, and their objective is to make the film union,” he says. “It turns out that they were not just there to make a movie, but to flip it. Their goal was to find a way, and safety violations, based on what happened on the set of Rust with Alec Baldwin, was the perfect one. They concocted a story that is based on lies to get the union angry enough to picket our film.”

    But the production was paying crew members rates above the union standard, meaning that union members like James and Sarah knew that they would not receive higher pay were the film to go union. Both of them deny that they had ever intended to flip the show, noting that turning a show union is “exhausting.” Plus, several crew members who had every reason to stay quiet about issues on set nonetheless sought help from IATSE. As the prop master told me, “My concerns were not addressed by production, and the only one who would listen to me was the union. At that point, I had no other choice.”

    “In filmmaking, there’s so much attention on the director and on the actors, and a lot of people don’t realize that the ones who suffer for the entertainment, especially when there are safety concerns, are the crew,” says Sarah. “They don’t get the support that people in front of a camera or people who are doing the interviews or people who receive the awards are getting, so their voices are not heard. But it is the crew who are often the ones losing their lives.”

    “We’re trying to send a message to other filmmakers who think they can come into New York City and skirt around the rules on safety,” says Max. He continues:

    In the industry, when you show up to work, every day has the potential to be different. When you walk onto set, you’re trusting that the producers are going to take care of everybody’s health and safety, so to find that the production is playing games with safety by taking unnecessary risks and violating safety laws is terrifying.

    It puts everyone in a difficult place where they have to decide if they are going to quit a job that’s unsafe and walk away from a project that they have committed themselves to at the expense of turning down other projects. They have to wonder if they can walk away from this project because they have rent to pay. We believe that nobody should have to make that decision, that everyone should be able to walk on set and not fear for their safety. No one should be in a position where they have to choose between surviving on set and surviving off set.



    1991: German Fried Movie (Regisseur, Drehbuchautor, Produzent)
    1992: Barschel – Mord in Genf? (Regisseur, Drehbuchautor, Produzent)
    1993: Amoklauf (Regisseur, Drehbuchautor, Produzent)
    1997: Das Erste Semester (Regisseur, Drehbuchautor, Geschäftsführender Produzent)
    1997: Fake – die Fälschung (Koproduzent)
    1998: Fiasco (Produzent)
    2000: L’Amour (L’amour, l’argent, l’amour, Koproduzent)
    2000: Sanctimony – Auf mörderischem Kurs (Sanctimony, Regisseur, Drehbuchautor, Produzent)
    2001: Backflash 2: Angels Don’t Sleep Here (Geschäftsführender Produzent)
    2002: Blackwoods (Regisseur, Drehbuchautor, Geschäftsführender Produzent)
    2003: Heart of America (Regisseur, Drehbuchautor, Geschäftsführender Produzent)
    2003: House of the Dead (Regisseur, Produzent)
    2005: Alone in the Dark (Regisseur, Geschäftsführender Produzent)
    2005: BloodRayne (Regisseur, Produzent)
    2007: Postal (Regisseur, Drehbuchautor, Produzent, Schauspieler)
    2007: Seed (Regisseur, Drehbuchautor, Produzent)
    2007: Schwerter des Königs – Dungeon Siege (In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Siege Tale, Regisseur, Produzent)
    2007: BloodRayne II: Deliverance (Regisseur, Geschäftsführender Produzent)
    2007: Demon Days – Im Monat der Geister (They Wait, Geschäftsführender Produzent)
    2008: Far Cry (Regisseur, Produzent)
    2008: 1968 Tunnel Rats (Regisseur, Drehbuchautor, Geschäftsführender Produzent)
    2008: Alone in the Dark II (Produzent)
    2009: Siegburg (Stoic, Regisseur, Produzent)
    2009: Darfur (Regisseur, Drehbuchautor, Produzent)
    2009: Rampage (Regisseur, Drehbuchautor, Produzent)
    2010: The Final Storm (Regisseur, Produzent)
    2010: Max Schmeling (Regisseur, Geschäftsführender Produzent)
    2010: Bloodrayne: The Third Reich (Regisseur, Produzent)
    2011: Blubberella (Regisseur, Drehbuchautor, Schauspieler)
    2011: Auschwitz (Regisseur, Drehbuchautor, Produzent)[48]
    2011: Schwerter des Königs – Zwei Welten (In the Name of the King 2, Regisseur, Geschäftsführender Produzent)
    2012: Tim Sander goes to Hollywood (Schauspieler)
    2012: Zombie Massacre (Produzent, Schauspieler)
    2013: Assault on Wall Street (Regisseur, Drehbuchautor, Produzent)
    2013: Operation Olympus – White House Taken (Suddenly, Regisseur)
    2014: Schwerter des Königs – Die letzte Mission (In the Name of the King III, Regisseur)
    2014: Seed 2 – The New Breed (Produzent)
    2014: Rampage: Capital Punishment (Regisseur, Drehbuchautor, Produzent)
    2014: Fürst der Dämonen (Viy, Ausführender Produzent)
    2015: Zombie Massacre 2: Reich of the Dead (Produzent)
    2015: ABCs of Superheroes (Schauspieler)
    2015: Anger of the Dead (Produzent)
    2015: Morning Star (Produzent)
    2016: Rampage: President Down (Regisseur, Drehbuchautor, Produzent)
    2022: Hanau (Regisseur, Drehbuchautor, Produzent)

    #Hollywood #wtf

  • The Paris Commune Was a Unique Experiment in Running a City for Its People

    18.3.2023 by Shelton Stromquist - The Paris Commune ended in mass violence with the slaughter of thousands of Communards on the barricades and the burning of much of the city. This final struggle forged the Commune as an iconic event in the history of socialism and the collective memory of popular struggle.

    Yet it is now only vaguely remembered that before the Commune’s demise, the people of Paris had set about reconstructing authority and governance in the city along unprecedentedly revolutionary lines, grounded in the popular euphoria surrounding the central government’s retreat from Paris on March 18, 1871.

    Despite near-constant threats to the Commune’s existence from the rival government occupying Versailles, the audacious common folk of Paris imagined and began to constitute a new city and a new politics of their own design. Time, as it turned out, was short.
    Birth of the Commune

    The surrender of Napoleon III to the Prussian army on the outskirts of Paris in early September 1870 had set the stage. A provisional government faced little choice but to mobilize the population in defense of Paris and other major cities.

    Into this political space a broadly republican popular movement leapt forward to provide organization for resistance and to claim the right to self-governance. This meant enhancing the National Guard, organized in neighborhood-based units and only minimally under a central leadership already badly discredited by the military debacle of the previous weeks.

    Encircled by the Prussian army, Parisians endured months of privation unequally distributed along class lines. At the same time, cut off from outside political and military support, Parisians invested local government, reinforced by the National Guard, with greater authority, through the “localization of activity.”

    That strategy included the formation of cooperatives, local political clubs, and secularized public schools. November municipal elections brought a significant augmentation of the Left’s influence, though well short of a dominating presence except in a handful of arrondissements.

    The advent of the Commune came only in the aftermath of a succession of events that profoundly altered the political stakes for a besieged Paris. First came the signing of an armistice on January 28, 1871, between the provisional national government ensconced outside the city at Versailles and the Prussians.

    The terms of the armistice proved humiliating and included the annexation of Alsace and Lorraine, a substantial indemnity payment, and a brief symbolic march of Prussian troops through the heart of Paris. A newly emboldened, broadly republican movement in which the Left’s influence had grown dramatically seized the role of defending the “fatherland” by asserting Paris’s autonomy.

    The months of resistance and hunger set the stage not only for national resistance but for a civil war. On the one hand stood the Communards, and on the other, a discredited national government barricaded with its middle-class supporters at Versailles and in the rural areas adjacent to Paris.

    The government’s failure to recapture cannons that were under the control of the Central Committee of the Parisian National Guard crystalized an already polarized politics. The central government added fuel to the fire by rescinding the Commune’s moratoriums on the sale of goods in government pawnshops and reinstituting the payment of rents and other bills that had accrued during the siege.
    The First Order of Business

    For an all-too-brief period, before being overtaken by brutal and ultimately cataclysmic suppression at the hands of central government troops under the command of Adolphe Thiers, the Paris Commune provided a unique setting for new forms of local governance to crystalize and challenge the traditions of urban bourgeois hegemony.

    Following the final withdrawal of the central government in March, the Commune issued a succession of declarations outlining in broad principles what was already being carried out to varying degrees in the streets and arrondissements. The first order of business was to establish viable democratic polities and governing procedures in the spirit of the Proudhonist vision of local associationism, which had deep roots among Parisian working people.

    Municipal elections on March 26 produced a new governing council for the self-declared Commune of Paris. While attacking bureaucratic control by setting maximum salaries of officials and breaking lines of authority from the central government, the Commune also limited the claims of landlords and creditors, affirmed “municipal liberties,” and circumscribed religious authority.

    The communal vision came somewhat more sharply into focus with the famous April 19 Declaration, even as the prospects for all-out civil war deepened. A month of political contention and two municipal elections had set the stage for a programmatic statement of far-reaching scope. The former mayors and deputies had shown their class colors and largely retreated to the protective embrace of Adolphe Thiers’s Versailles government-in-waiting.

    The Declaration of April 19 was vague at key points, and its aspirations were ultimately overwhelmed by the imperative to defend militarily the fragile social and political space within which the Commune defined itself. Nonetheless, it delineated the outlines of an alternative social order. This was to be a city within a federation of similarly constituted cities.

    Such a locally constituted republic would forge an alternative unity of French citizens. Through the free exercise of liberties within self-governing municipalities, cities would claim democratic control of their own budgets and administration. They would expand municipal services, create a whole new set of institutions ranging from public schools to cooperative workshops, and while not directly attacking property, would “universalize power and property,” as circumstances might dictate.

    Their vision was prescriptive, open-ended, and optimistic about the promise of municipal self-government. Future generations of municipal socialists would draw inspiration from that promise and the project of “social regeneration.” More importantly, the experience of governing in those early days suggested more powerfully than prescriptive declarations the tangible meaning of the municipal social republic envisioned.
    Haussmann’s Legacy

    Though piecemeal and incomplete, the Commune took some concrete steps to implement this vision both before and after the declaration. Some initiatives had been rooted in communal resistance to monarchist authority over the years immediately preceding the Commune.

    The massive reconstruction of Paris at the hands of Baron Georges-Eugène Haussmann during the prior two decades took on legendary status, thanks in part to his own self-promotion. The construction of wide boulevards less susceptible to barricading and the destruction of many old, central working-class neighborhoods created a new urban landscape into which the rapidly expanding population of Paris flowed with unpredictable consequences.

    That expanded population included large numbers of construction workers and stonemasons, some of whom had long been part of regular seasonal migrations to Paris from other parts of the country, like the Creuse. Their slow displacement from the central boarding houses and hiring fairs of the Place de Grève accompanied more permanent settlement in the new working-class neighborhoods on the periphery.

    Whether by reputation for chronic contention with authorities or because of the new solidarities in their adopted neighborhoods, the stonemasons and other building workers were overrepresented among the arrested and deported Communards following the final street battles in late May.

    Systematic studies by Jacques Rougerie, Manuel Castells, and others confirm that this “urban revolution” was not driven by a new proletariat but rather, as Rougerie termed it, “an intermediate working class” which included building workers, traditional artisans, and a significant component of shopkeepers, clerks, and professionals. As Castells put it:

    They were the people of a great city in the process of mutation, and the citizens of a Republic in quest of its institutions.

    David Harvey has shown that the “Haussmannization” of Paris in the years after 1848 produced urban space more starkly organized on class lines that set the stage for the upheaval of 1871.

    Ironically, the bourgeois transformation of Paris created conditions that promoted a diverse new citywide working class infused with the scent of a broader internationalism that potentially challenged the bourgeoisie’s “superior command of space.” And that challenge, as Roger Gould has argued, grew precisely out of the neighborhood solidarities of these new “urban villages” that encompassed a new class.

    Harvey and others have enumerated workers’ urban initiatives in the Commune that reflected their own claims over the control of Parisian space. The organization of municipal workshops for women; the encouragement given to producer and consumer cooperatives; the suspension of the night work in the bakeries; and the moratorium on rent payments, debt collections, and the sale of items from the municipal pawnshop at Mont-de-Piété reflected the sore points that had bothered working-class Paris for years.

    In some cases, during the days immediately following March 18, as Prosper-Olivier Lissagaray recounted, “former subordinate employés” assumed new responsibilities, as happened for instance in the postal service. They had to improvise with limited resources in the face of sabotage by departing higher officials.

    The Commune’s brutal denouement has, in some respects, obscured the innovative, localist social and political reforms that it briefly instituted and that it passed on to social democratic reformers who, in the 1890s and beyond, sought to craft a municipal socialism shorn of the revolutionary aspirations and the risks that were all-too-brutally embodied in the crushing of the Commune.
    Interpreting the Commune

    Memory of the Commune lingered for decades, not only in the nightmares of the bourgeoisie and their reformist allies but among social democrats who, like their Communard forbearers, saw in the city the opportunity to address the immediate grievances workers continued to face and to dream of an alternative social and political order they might constitute in cities.

    The paradox of brutal defeat in defense of what increasingly came to seem the utopian promise of municipal revolution was not lost on subsequent commentators. Contestation over the memory and meaning of the Commune unfolded most vigorously among socialists themselves.

    Karl Marx’s The Civil War in France in its earliest editions provided almost instant history of the events in Paris as they unfolded. Drawing on what limited sources he could find — newspaper accounts, smuggled letters, and occasional firsthand reports — Marx cobbled together a report to the General Council of the First International delivered in late May 1871 just days after the final massacre of Communards. Marx’s agenda was multilayered, and each layer subsequently fed into the memory and constructed meaning of the Commune.

    First, he sought to assert the proletarian character of the revolt, though he would subsequently revise that assessment. Second, and perhaps most basically, he defended the nobility of the Communards’ revolt and sacrifice, seeing it as a watershed event in the promulgation of socialism, though its immediate consequences were clearly more ambiguous.

    Third, he stressed the state-dismantling and state-building features of the Commune in ways that implicitly challenged the anarchists’ celebration of what they asserted was its nation-state–destroying character. Subsequently, he would belittle the moderation and “feel-good” measures undertaken by the Commune in the days and weeks following its initial creation.

    A further subtext in the responses of Marx, Engels, Karl Kautsky, Vladimir Lenin, and other Marxists was the continuing ideological war with Proudhonist associational influences, which, in their view, had been all-too-manifest in the Commune. Its emphases on localism, decentralized democracy, and producerist cooperative economy were seen as harbingers of a different socialist order, one that subsequently would continue to animate the practical reform programs of municipal socialists.
    Communal Spirits

    The horrific scenes of the Commune’s suppression between May 21 and 28 provided ample material for the elevation of those events to legend. Estimates of those slaughtered in battle or by execution ranged from seventeen thousand to forty thousand. Nearly fifty thousand were arrested, many sent into exile as far away as the French colony of New Caledonia in the South Seas.

    Subsequent observers would continue over the next decade and more to attempt to make sense of the stirring events in Paris or, in the case of anti-Communard bourgeois commentators, to contest or efface its memory. In France, socialist politics became a tangled web in which the Commune served as a touchstone for both “possibilist” and “impossibilist” factions.

    Paul Brousse, who served a “political apprenticeship” as an anarchist, came to believe in the revolutionary promise cities held, despite the failure of the Paris Commune. He advocated “le Socialisme Pratique” wherein “meaningful socialist measures could be achieved on the local level prior to revolution at the centre.”

    The key was a shift in tactical thinking away from violence toward politics. Others drew parallel conclusions, albeit in different contexts. Mary Putnam, an American living in Paris as the events of May 1871 unfolded, enjoyed close ties to a family sympathetic to the Commune and believed the events she witnessed signified a legitimate defense of “municipal rights.”

    The Commune continued to be honored as a moment of socialist martyrdom, and anniversaries and other symbolic occasions provided opportunities to affirm the sacrifices of the Communards on behalf of socialism. International commemoration of the Commune and particularly the date of March 18 became, in the words of Georges Haupt, “an idea, a profession of faith, and a confirmation of a historical future, of the inevitable victory of the proletarian revolution.”

    But even as commemoration of the Commune became a fixture of socialist rhetoric and iconography, so did the debates over its meaning intensify. The relevance of the Commune to the ongoing project of socialist transformation in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries reflected the deep polarization within the movement itself.

    American socialist Phillips Russell, visiting Paris in May 1914, on what turned out to be the eve of the Great War, joined a procession of “thirty, perhaps forty thousand . . . working men and women, and children too,” in commemoration of the Commune. The huge crowd grew suddenly silent as it approached a wall in the Père Lachaise cemetery.

    This was the spot where, as Russell recalled, “the workingmen and women, who took charge of Paris forty-three years ago and ran it peacefully and well,” had been mowed down by the army of Thiers, “their bodies piling in heaps against the wall.” Deeply impressed by the commemoration, in the face of a massive police presence, Russell “learned that the spirit of the Commune still lives in the hearts of its working people.”

  • From Slavery Abolition to Public Education, German Radicals Made American History
    Pendant la première guerre mondiale les élites étatsuniennes ont décider de jeter les hommes des classes populaires dans les tranchées d’Europe.

    The Naked Truth, Saint Louis 1914

    Pour y arriver ils se sont servi pour la première fois d’une forme moderne de propagande appllée relations publiques . La première victime de cette campagne organisée fut le souvenir des révolutionnaires et réformateurs sociaux d’origine allemande. Vingt ans après leurs organisations avaient été annihilés comme les syndicats et partis de gauche anglophones. Les capitalistes étatsuniens n’acceptaient que les nationalistes et nazis d’origine allemande jusqu’à ce que leurs organisations furent interdits aussi après Pearl Harbour. Cet article témoigne de la redécouverte des idée et personnes à l’origine des premières structures sociales modernes des États Unis.

    Depuis la dissolution des pays appartenant au bloc de l’Est nous observons en Europe un processus réactionnaire comparable. Le souvenir des luttes et traditions du mouvement ouvrier est systématiquement éradiqué par le pouvoir.

    On y procède par étapes plus ou moins violentes avec les banderistes d’Ukraineà la tête. Dans ce pays, en Pologne et dans les pays baltes c’est couplé avec une russophobie agressive. En Allemagne on ajoute aux mesures anticommunistes extistantes en RFA (lois pour la réintroduction d’une armée au sein de l’Allemagne capitaliste, interdiction du parti communiste, Berufsverbot, législation dite antiterroriste, decrets anti-kurdes etc.) le financement d’une véritable industrie du souvenir anticommuniste oûtre la discrimination des anciens employés de la RDA en retraite et la dissipation des institutions et du travail culturel populaire réalisé en RDA.

    On oublie le travail de mémoire pouplaire collective effectué par les éditions de l’Est. A l’Ouest les écrits socialistes historiques étaient censurés de facto car absents des bibliothèques publiques. Il fallait se rendre à Berlin-Est pour se procurer les classiques du socialisme à un prix abordable. L’internet a changé la donne mais il faut encore trouver une solution pour caractère éphémère des supports électroniques.

    Dans ces temps tourmentés il est urgent de suivre l’exemple des chercheurs de gauche des USA et faire découvrir au grand public l"exemple de nos ancêtres révolutionnaires.

    11.3.2023 by Devin Thomas O’Shea - Conditions in the German states leading up to the 1848 revolutions produced a generation of radical socialists and communists who changed world history.

    This generation fought against monarchical rule on the barricades of Central Europe, and then many of them crossed the Atlantic to the United States in time to shore up the Union during the Civil War. Radicalized German immigrants went on to prevent Missouri from joining the Confederacy, establish the first American commune during the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, and invent one of the most influential public school systems in the United States.

    Between the two world wars and McCarthyism, much of the contribution of radical German American immigrants to the socialist movement remains whitewashed and lost to Red Scare censorship. Except for a few century-old statues and the famed sewer systems of Milwaukee, the monumental influence of leftist Germans is hidden in US history unless you know where to look.

    Three hundred years before the ’48 revolutions began, a modern wave of social conflicts had been washing through the German states. Napoleonic troop movement stopped at Waterloo in 1815, but Napoleonic ideas spread everywhere.

    In Germany in the late fifteenth century, the invention of the printing press mounted an assault on established power. The Protestant Reformation turned literacy into a big middle finger to the church: “It is thus very true that we shall find consolation only through the Scriptures,” Martin Luther said, not priests and holy bureaucracy.

    Not long after the folk discovered they could read the Bible, they discovered they could read the newspaper. Three hundred years after Luther’s time, Germans began reading the works of young Hegelian bad boys Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, who published The Communist Manifesto in 1848, just in time for the revolutionary kickoff.

    Feudal monarchs, the old aristocracy, and the church were in terminal decline after several hundred years of societal control. The only dispute in 1848 was, “Who gets to take over? The bourgeoisie? Or the revolutionaries?”

    With barricades going up across the continent, the Manifesto demanded a number of adjustments to inheritance (cut it out), property distribution (abolish the private kind), and the establishment of a free public education system for all children: “And your education! Is not that also social, and determined by the social conditions under which you educate, by the intervention, direct or indirect, of society, by means of schools, etc.?” The Communists sought to massively expand literacy and “rescue education from the influence of the ruling class.”

    Marx and Engels aimed at a broad audience, but it was craftsmen and farmers whose livelihoods were most directly threatened by industrial capitalism in the German states. Journeymen are mentioned on the first page because assembly lines threatened to de-skill most of the working population.

    “Master craftsmen could still earn a decent wage,” Mark Kruger writes in The St. Louis Commune of 1877,

    but their journeymen lived on the edge of starvation. Artisans and master craftsmen were attempting to hold on to their privileges, to control their production, income, and work environments while journeymen sought to become masters at the time that guilds were dying.

    While factories meant child labor, boredom, machine-mangled limbs, and reduced wages for urban workers, the unequal division of common lands immiserated rural Germans. Prohibitions against hunting and gathering wood on aristocratic land could put a farmer away in a rotting jail cell. As tensions rose year after year, crowds of peasants began interrupting prosecutions of forest laws and freed prisoners.

    Poor harvests in the 1840s turned up the pressure. In parts of Central Europe, over two-thirds of the population were forced to beg, and between 1816 and 1850, five million Europeans emigrated. Half crossed the Atlantic.

    Finding no future in the failing economic machine, many sharpened a bayonet and picked out their least favorite prince.

    In 1843 Franz Sigel, a young revolutionary with a resemblance to Leonardo DiCaprio, graduated from Karlsruhe Military Academy and joined the army of the Grand Duchy of Baden. Sigel made lieutenant, and then five years later turned around and led the “Sigel-Zug” militia of four thousand volunteers against the Grand Duchy’s troops. Sigel was outnumbered, but made a name for himself.

    “The insurrection,” Marx wrote in 1848, “[is] growing into the greatest revolution that has ever taken place, into a revolution of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie.” Church bells rang as the barricades went up:

    The cannon replied until nine o’clock. Windows and bricks were shattered by the thunder of artillery. The firing was terrible. Blood flowed in streams while at the same time a tremendous thunderstorm was raging. The cobblestones were red with blood as far as one could see. . . . The number of dead is immense and the number of injured much greater still.

    Sometimes called the “Springtime of the Peoples,” the Revolutions of 1848 broke out in France, Italy, the Habsburg Empire, and Switzerland. According to the historian Eric Hobsbawm, three trends converged:

    Largely moderate upper-middle-class liberals who sought liberal republican reforms
    A more radical democratic group consisting of lower-middle-class elements
    Socialists, represented by the working poor who organized into the German League of the Outlaws, later known as the Communist League

    The events of 1848 had profound effects on both Marx and Engels, who argued for an internationalist approach to the revolution. Engels personally took part in the final push of the Baden Revolution — a last stand of sorts — fighting against counterrevolutionary Prussian troops alongside Sigel, who led four thousand volunteers in a siege against the city of Freiburg. Engels and Sigel met formally in the aftermath.

    While some revolutionary social reforms became permanent, counteroffensives organized. Between 1849 and 1851, many of the new revolutionary governments were defeated. Leaders fled into exile, including Marx who transferred the Communist League headquarters to Paris. Sigel moved to England before boarding a ship, along with many other German ’48ers, to America.

    In 1861, Ulysses S. Grant speculated:

    If St Louis had been captured by the rebels it would have made a vast difference. . . . It would have been a terrible task to recapture St Louis, one of the most difficult that could have been given to any military man. Instead of a campaign before Vicksburg it would have been a campaign before St Louis.

    Missouri remained Union — and St Louis was not blown up or burned to the ground — because of Captain Nathaniel Lyon and a militia of German immigrants led by officers who were veterans of the ’48 revolutions, including one Franz Sigel.

    With the election of President Abraham Lincoln, editors of St Louis’s Westliche Post cautioned its German immigrant readers to remain “as vigilant as the Wide Awakes.” German Republican clubs maintained armed readiness and organized “Home Guard” militia units, watching pro-Southern St Louisans like the Ninth Ward Washington Minutemen do the same.

    And St Louis was packed with ’48ers ready to bear arms. Between 1834 and 1837, thirty thousand largely educated Germans immigrated to the United States, and seven thousand settled in St Louis. They did so as slavery became the operative political and ethical issue of the day.

    Why St Louis? The answer is good utopian propaganda.

    In Report of a Journey to the Western States of North America, Gottfried Duden had portrayed the lower Missouri valley as “Western Eden, a better Rheinland especially suited to Germans.” A. B. Faust described Duden’s “dreamweaver” writing style:

    His skillful pen mingled fact and fiction, interwove experience and imagination, pictured the freedom of the forest and of democratic institutions in contrast with the social restrictions and political embarrassments of Europe. Many thousands of Germans pondered over this book and enthused over its sympathetic glow. Innumerable resolutions were made to cross the ocean and build for the present and succeeding generations happy homes on the far-famed Missouri.

    Once stateside, immigrants were largely excluded from the Southern plantation class, and abnormally few Germans owned slaves in St Louis, primarily out of a conscious, ethical objection. Missouri was a new chance to build a Rheinland on free soil, free labor, free men. “The only way we adoptive citizens can get through this political crisis,” Westliche editors wrote,

    is to fulfill all legal duties faithfully, to hold with the Union and the Constitution, and to work together with our American fellow citizens to preserve peace, order and law. . . . The gaze of the entire Union is directed at the German citizens of Missouri, so let us show ourselves worthy of the expectations that rest on us.

    This immigrant class brought along communal-social technologies: schools, newspapers, Turnverein athletic clubs, massive beer halls as opposed to isolated small taverns, hunting clubs that could train up into militias — all hard-learned community values from the pressure cooker of Europe. “Capitalism was coming to them,” said Matt Christman, Jacobin contributor and cohost of the podcast Chapo Trap House. “As opposed to the continental project in the United States, it became pretty clear that the only way to survive was through peasant solidarity in the new urban environments.”

    By the 1860s, of the 160,000 residents of St. Louis, sixty thousand were born in German states. Forty thousand were born in Ireland. These immigrants tended to oppose slavery, while the oldest wealthy families of the city became the biggest supporters of the Confederacy.

    Acting under the authority of the proslavery Missouri state government, General Daniel Frost established Camp Jackson and called up seven hundred volunteers to drill at the western edge of St Louis. Frost defended his militia camp as “citizens exercising their Constitutional right to protect the United States in the full possession of all her property,” meaning slaves.

    In May 1861, Captain Nathaniel Lyon observed that Frost’s command was “evidently hostile towards the Government of the United States.” He judged Frost guilty of being “openly in communication with the so-called Southern Confederacy.”

    Captain Lyon called up the Home Guard militia to march on the camp. The Home Guard received their orders in German.

    In exile, as outlined by Walter Johnson’s history of St Louis, The Broken Heart of America, Franz Sigel had become director of public schools in the city and contributor to the handbook titled Geschichte der Süddeutschen Mai-Revolution (“History of the South German May Revolution”). It was “intended to provide a manual of practical instruction for imagined future revolutionaries.”

    The handbook “combined a reading of German military theorist Carl von Clausewitz with the political economy of the Communist Manifesto,” Johnson writes. “Clausewitz argued that ‘general insurrection’ was a ‘natural, inevitable consequence’ of modern warfare and that the revolt of people against their leaders was a decisive importance in the conflict between the states.”

    Sigel and co-agitators like August Willich argued for “total levy” — the militarization of the common man. No standing military, only trained civilian militias. This way, soldiers couldn’t be dominated and directed by elites.

    Armed with his handbook, Sigel was ready for the succession crisis. Lyon gave the order to march on Camp Jackson, and as the Third US Volunteers passed Turner Hall, reserve troops inside cheered and wept for joy. The editor of the Westliche Post, Theodor Olshausen, compared the scene to the Paris uprisings of 1848 and to the Baden Revolution: “It was one of those splendid moments when emotions glowing deep in the heart of the masses suddenly break into wild flames.”

    Reports from the arrest of Camp Jackson said that Sigel’s men marched somewhat awkwardly and got spooked, turning their weapons toward hecklers in the civilian crowd. Hostile citizens lined the streets, taunting the “damned Dutchmen.” Sigel’s soldiers were without uniforms, but they were armed and trained to follow orders — in German.

    In Civil War St. Louis, Louis S. Gerteis writes:

    A neighbor worried that her brother, a surgeon at Camp Jackson, was in danger. To put her at ease, her friend explained that the young men in the Confederate militia were from the first families of St. Louis. “Young men of the best families did not like to be killed better than ordinary people.”

    Camp Jackson immediately surrendered to Lyon’s troops, but shots were fired in anger after hecklers got to the German soldiers who were “so upset that they fired their weapons, admittedly, over the heads of the onlookers.”

    Other reports said the firing came from buildings, the trees, and just beyond the camp fences. No one is really sure what happened, but by the end, several civilians and soldiers lay dead and dying.

    German volunteer troops went on to prevent Confederates from seizing the St Louis arsenal, the largest stockpile of weapons west of the Mississippi, and fought skirmishes against Confederate rioters.

    The ’48ers believed the struggle for emancipation to be, according to Steven Rowan in Germans for a Free Missouri, “an episode of a European revolutionary tradition that drew on shared language and symbols going back at least to the era of the French Revolution and the wars of liberation against Napoleon I of 1812–1814.”

    “The socialist and communist have to want Revolution even in its mildest form,” Sigel wrote in his diary, “just like the worker has to want the worst work. But both must, through superior effort and superior talent, gain dominion over the masters. The slave must make himself master.”

    As Matt Christman points out, the German revolutionaries had a grand utopian project in mind, and everything to lose. “There was an idea that if the United States could be culturally realigned along German lines,” Christman told Jacobin,

    and if the cultural values of ’48ers could be universalized, it would inevitably lead toward a revolution and bring about a just social order. But the American idea is all about getting as far away from others as possible. The Germans recognized that. If the American project was going to succeed, it needed a German social order to overcome and resist being subsumed by the market. Which it was.

    Immediately after the outbreak of war, Sigel became a rallying hero of German Americans who signed up to “Fight Mit Sigel!” in Lincoln’s army. Two hundred thousand German-born soldiers would go on to enlist. Twenty-five percent of the Union Army was foreign born; only 5 percent of the Confederates were.

    In most ways, recruiting was Sigel’s most important contribution; he proved a middling strategist and spent a lot of time in retreat. At the Battle of Carthage, Sigel’s outnumbered forces were driven back by the Missouri State Guard. He was redeemed at Pea Ridge, where Sigel personally directed Union artillery that routed the Confederates. At the Battle of Wilson Creek near Springfield, Sigel and Captain Lyon lead troops in an unsuccessful advance that cost Lyon his life. Sigel led the withdrawal.

    German troops locally insisted on fighting “mit Sigel.” But allegiance to the Union cause was not always clear. “A rational German is in a difficult position,” one enlisted man wrote, sampled in Germans in the Civil War: The Letters They Wrote Home. “Beset on the one hand by slavery, and its corruption of everything, all morality, the shameless impudence of preachers, and on the other hand the probable infringement of immigrant rights,” meaning the Know Nothings.

    During Reconstruction, public education was profoundly influenced by the “St Louis Movement,” a philosophical society that grew out of the city’s now-settled German population.

    Led by William Torrey Harris and Henry Conrad Brokmeyer, the St Louis Philosophical Society launched the Journal of Speculative Philosophy in 1866, which attracted the attention of Ralph Waldo Emerson and Louis Alcott.

    Brokmeyer was a young German who had studied at Brown before moving to the Missouri woods to live like Henry David Thoreau, studying Immanuel Kant and G. W. F. Hegel in a cabin. William Harris became superintendent of the St Louis schools from 1868 to 1880 where, according to The Public and the Schools by Selwyn Troen, “No educator in the United States stood higher than he in public and professional esteem.” Both advanced a theory of pragmatic action toward democratic social good — plus a “highly questionable use of the Hegelian dialectic which they believed to be historical forces that would propel St. Louis into an era of cultural supremacy in American society.”

    Public schools began for whites in St Louis in 1838. Black education was not explicitly illegal, but “unknown perpetrators” burned institutions like Ebenezer Church, where an influx of young fugitive slaves were being educated. In the 1840s, John Berry Meachum opened his “Freedom School” on a steamboat anchored in the middle of the Mississippi, where he taught dozens of black pupils who were rafted back and forth daily. “Lookouts warned of approaching strange or unfriendly whites,” Neal Primm writes in The Lion of the Valley, “whereupon books would disappear, and needles would fly.”

    With ’48ers now taking positions in the St Louis government, the postwar radical Constitution of 1865 demanded the support of black education. The following year, three black district schools were created with over four hundred pupils and tuition partially supported by the Freedmen’s Bureau. By 1905 Missouri had a compulsory school attendance law, and “black children were enrolled in St. Louis schools in larger numbers than whites of similar economic status.”

    The St Louis Movement went on to train teachers in Milwaukee, Chicago, and Massachusetts. Educators supervised opening kindergartens in Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, and a dozen other cities. The Journal of Speculative Philosophy was read as widely in Europe as in America and went on to influence William James and John Dewey. At its high point in 1900, St Louis had two hundred thousand children enrolled in public kindergartens, making it a model for the country.

    This pedagogical revolution came with rigid discipline, but the structure of public universal education was now a baseline facet of urban life in the United States — inherited directly from the German gymnasium movement starting in Saxony in 1528.

    Teaching the German language in St Louis schools was a controversy from the 1850s onward, and in 1887 it was dropped “for political reasons, thinly disguised as economic.” This was after the Great Railroad Strike, which was so dependent on the German immigrants that handbills declaring the strike were printed both in English and German.

    The strike was crushed, and its St Louis Commune was disbanded. As the turn of the century approached, the ’48er influence diminished.

    In The Future Great City of the World, printed in both English and German in 1870, Logan U. Reavis advanced a popular argument. Reavis said the best places for human development existed in an “isothermal zodiac,” and

    having followed the fortieth parallel westward from the Tigris-Euphrates valley through Europe to North America, civilization would reach its full flowering in the Mississippi valley, where “two waves of civilization, the one rolling in from the Celestial Empire [China], and the other from the land of Alfred and Charlemagne [Europe] — will meet and commingle together in one great swelling tide of humanity, in the land of Hiawatha.”

    Rivas’s book circulated in Germany, affecting some level of interest in immigration during the 1870s and ’80s. The ’48ers settled in the three corners of the Midwest German triangle: St Louis, Cincinnati, and Milwaukee, with Wisconsin’s “sewer socialists” becoming the most successful politically.

    Milwaukee’s Socialist mayor Emil Seidel, the son of German immigrants, established the city’s first public works department, organized its first fire and police commissions, and created the park system. “We wanted a chance for every human being to be strong and live a life of happiness,” Seidel used to say. Safety inspectors came to factories, the minimum wage was raised, and between 1910 and 1912 people in Milwaukee tangibly saw their lives improve and their children’s futures get brighter.

    Dual forces came together to erase this history. Starting with anti-German sentiment during World War I and then again in World War II, German immigrants became invisible despite their huge population numbers. Then McCarthyism and the Red Scare washed out the legacy of socialism as a community-minded ideology that built cities, school systems, and dignity.

    But the truth is still salvageable — it’s etched in stone, and out in plain view. The Naked Truth memorial at St Louis’s Compton Hill Reservoir honors three German-American journalists, two of whom were ’48ers. The statue depicts a black stone heroic female nude holding torches and seated on a large wall of pink granite, and sparks a discussion on public nudity now and then.

    There’s an urban legend that claims, at the outbreak of World War I, that all the German brewers in St Louis gathered up hundreds of statue busts of the Kaiser and threw them down into the limestone beer caves, where they sit in a grand pile of marble and bronze today. St Louis’s Berlin Avenue was renamed Pershing Avenue after General John J. Pershing, but downtown there stands a statue of the German poet Friedrich Schiller. And at one end of Union Boulevard, at the entrance to Forest Park, there’s a man on horseback who looks a bit like Leonardo DiCaprio.

    Franz Sigel is carved in stone “to remind future generations of the heroism of German-American patriots in St. Louis and vicinity in the Civil War of 1861–1865.” A similar statue stands in Riverside Park, New York, where Sigel worked in government and publishing after the war.

    Many walk by Sigel’s memorial every day without knowing the man on the pedestal is a “stone-cold communist,” as Walter Johnson put it. The United States has erased the radical German socialists who spilled blood for antislavery and other liberatory causes, but it’s time to remember them. Education, health, infrastructure — these hard-won public goods are now being eaten away by neoliberal capitalism, just as the monarchy and the church ate away at the lives of the working class in the German states. The only question now is, who will take over?


    #USA #Allemagne #histoire #socialisme #mouvement_ouvrier

  • In Chicago, a Socialist Teacher Takes on the Entrenched Political Machine

    Die Probleme der kleinen Leute sind überall die gleichen: Besser Schulen, bezahlbare Wohnungen, funktionierende öffentliche Einrichtungen und Transportmittel und die Beseitigung von Gewalt und Verbrechen. Der Süden von Chicago ist wie eine viel härtere Ausgabe der härtesten Ecken von Berlin Neukölln.

    In der Southside ist die Wahlkampagne einer Sozialistin Teil der Bewegung für einen gemeinsamen Kapf der Einwohner um eine Stadtverwaltung ohne die traditionelle Korruption und Vetternwirtschaft. Bis heute wird die Stadt wie der Erbhof einer Bügermeisterdynastie verwaltet. Damit soll jetzt Schluß sein.

    24.2.2023 by Caleb Horton - An interview with Ambria Taylor

    Chicago’s 11th Ward is the heart of the old “Chicago machine,” one of the largest, longest-running, and most powerful political forces in US history. For most of the twentieth century, the Chicago machine organized the political, economic, and social order of America’s second city. Patronage rewards like plum city jobs were awarded to lieutenants who could best turn out the vote for the Democratic Party, which in turn provided funds, connections, and gifts to the ruling Daley family and their inner circle.

    Mayor Richard J. Daley, often called “the last big city boss,” ruled Chicago from 1955 until his death in 1976. Daley spearheaded infrastructure and urban renewal projects that physically segregated white and black parts of the city with expressways and housing blocks and drove black displacement from desirable areas. He tangled with Martin Luther King Jr over school and housing desegregation, sicced the cops on antiwar protestors at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and gave “shoot to kill” orders during the uprisings following King’s assassination.

    The Chicago machine’s glory days are past, but the legacy of the Daleys lives on. Relatives and friends of Mayor Daley still hold office throughout Chicago, and his nephew, Patrick Daley-Thompson, had a strong hold over City Council as the 11th Ward alderman until July 2022, when he was convicted of tax fraud and lying to federal bank regulators and forced to resign.

    Although the Daley family has lost direct control over the 11th Ward, their presence is still felt in the neighborhood of Bridgeport. While racial segregation is not explicitly enforced, the neighborhood still has a reputation among many older black residents as a “no-go zone,” and throughout the 2020 protests over the murder of George Floyd, white gangs roamed the streets with weapons questioning anyone who looked “out of place” — a callback to the racist mob violence perpetrated by the Hamburg Athletic Club, of which a teenage Daley was a member a whole century prior.

    So what is Ambria Taylor, a socialist public school teacher, doing running for office in the backyard of this entrenched political fiefdom? Jacobin contributor Caleb Horton sat down with Taylor to discuss why she chose to run at this time and in this place, and how she is building a movement that can overturn the power of one of the nation’s most notorious political dynasties.

    Taylor launched her campaign in October 2021, when Daley-Thompson was still in office. After a few months of campaigning, the 11th Ward began to undergo major changes. First Daley-Thompson was arrested and then convicted of fraud, and then the ten-year ward remap took place, removing parts of the old 11th Ward and adding parts of Chinatown and McKinley Park.

    In just a few short months, Taylor was facing a newly-appointed incumbent, a new map, and six other candidates for alderman. Taylor is the only progressive in the race.

    Caleb Horton

    Why did you decide to run for office?

    Ambria Taylor

    Growing up, I experienced poverty and homelessness in rural Illinois. I moved to Chicago when I was seventeen to escape that. I slept on my brother’s floor, shared an air mattress with my mom.

    Chicago saved my life in a lot of ways. Urban areas have public transportation, they have dense development where you can walk to get what you need, where you can get to a job without a car. Public goods help people survive.

    Experiencing all that defined me. It’s why I’m so committed to protecting public goods like affordable public transportation and affordable housing. It’s why I’m a socialist. It’s why I got my master’s degree and became a teacher.

    I had a chance to grow up and live a decent life thanks to the strong public goods and services available in Chicago, but unfortunately that’s all been under attack due to neoliberalism, the hollowing out of the public sphere, and the assaults on unions.

    That’s why I’m running. We deserve a city that works for everyone like it worked for me. We deserve a city that, in the richest country in the history of the world, provides for the people who live here and make it run. And here in Chicago we have been building the movement for the city we deserve through making the ward office a space for people who are marginalized to build power.

    Caleb Horton

    What do you want to do when you’re in office?

    Ambria Taylor

    In Chicago the local ward office has a lot of local power. The alderman is kind of like a mini-mayor of their district. They have power to make proposals for spending taxpayer money, and they each get a budget of discretionary funds of about $1.5 million annually for ward projects.

    Aldermen have influence in the committee that oversees Tax Increment Financing (TIF) districts. On TIFs, we gave $5 million in taxpayer money to Pepsi and $1.5 million to Vienna Beef.

    We shouldn’t be taking money away from our schools to fund giveaways to megacorporations, period. But if we’re going to have TIFs, residents should have democratic input into how those funds are spent. We have dozens of empty storefronts in what should be our commercial hubs — why not fund small businesses providing needed services and quality of life to residents?

    My dream is to, for one thing, involve the public in development decisions. But most of all, I want to ensure that money goes to things that benefit residents. Things they can see and experience, like cleaning alleys or tree trimming or sidewalk maintenance. In this ward, there’s a history of “the deal is made, and then they have a public meeting about it.” I want things to be the other way around.

    I’m excited for the potential of what we could do here if there’s a ward office that’s open and collaborative and is genuinely trying to do things that benefit the most vulnerable.

    Caleb Horton

    Could you talk a little bit about the ward’s political history, and why it has been such an “insiders’ club” of decision makers?

    Ambria Taylor

    We are on the Near South Side of Chicago. This ward now includes Bridgeport, Chinatown, and parts of a few neighborhoods called Canaryville, Armor Square, and McKinley Park.

    The Daley family is from this area. The home that’s been in the family for generations is here. The family has been powerful here for a really long time. They were also involved in various clubs and associations, like the Hamburg Athletic Club that took part in the racist white riots in 1919.

    The 11th Ward is well known for being an enclave of extremely aggressive anti-black racism. In the 1990s there was a young black boy who dared cross over here from Bronzeville to put air in his bicycle tires from a place that had free air, and he was put into a coma by teenage boys.

    One of those boys was well connected to the Mafia here. Potential witnesses for the trial who knew this boy and were present when it happened weren’t willing to come forward. This happened in the 1990s. Think about how old the fourteen-, fifteen-, sixteen-year-old boys would be now. Many people who are influential now were alive during that time and were wrapped up in that culture. This was considered a sundown town, and to some people still is.

    Things are changing rapidly. People move to the suburbs, new people move in, things change over time. There still is a vocal conservative contingent here, but this is also a place where Bernie Sanders won the Democratic primary two times. Because of where we stand at this moment amid all those contradictions, we have the chance to make monumental change.

    There’s always been dissatisfaction with the machine, but we’ve started to cohere that dissatisfaction and the latent progressive energy into an organized base. We’ve brought together a base of people around progressive issues that many have said couldn’t exist here. We’re proving them wrong and proving the narrative about this part of the city wrong.

    As socialists, narratives are often used against us. It’s that narrative of what’s possible. The “Oh, we love Bernie, but he could never win. . . .” We say that a better world is possible. And what we’re seeing on the doors is that people are very excited to see a democratic socialist on the ballot. As far as I know, I’m the only person in the city running for office who has “socialist” on their literature. That’s big whether or not we win.

    Caleb Horton

    In what ways is this a movement campaign?

    Ambria Taylor

    We launched this campaign very early. We launched in October 2021 with an election at the end of February 2023. We did this because we needed time to organize.

    We started by holding community meetings for months. We brought communities together to articulate their desires for the city — like for streets and sanitation, public safety, the environment — and made those our platform planks.

    We engaged people with what they want to see happen in the ward: “How do you want an alderman to be working toward making those things happen? Let’s talk about how the city council works. Let’s talk about how the ward office operates and what budget it has.”

    Our residents have an appetite to get into the nitty-gritty about what an alderman can actually do to make progress on the things they want to see in this community and for Chicago. They want to take ownership over their own affairs.

    This is what political education can look like in the context of an aldermanic race. The people ask questions, articulate their needs, and we try to put that through the lens of what we can do as an aldermanic office and as organized communities.

    One thing we’ve found impactful is coming together for creative events. For instance, we had a huge block party with the owner and staff of a business called Haus of Melanin. This is a black-owned beauty bar that was vandalized twice in the months after they started up. A hair salon for black people? You can see why that might piss racists off.

    So we stepped in and built a relationship with them. We threw this huge block party, bringing a bunch of people together to say, “We’re going to celebrate that there are going to be black people in this neighborhood. There are going to be black-owned businesses that cater to black people.” And a lot of people came out in this neighborhood to say, “We support this business, we love that it’s here, and nobody is going to scare our neighbors away.”

    The business owner had talked about leaving. She had stylists leave because of the vandalism that happened. Haus of Melanin might have been chased out if the community didn’t turn out to say that these racists don’t represent us and we’re not going to take it. All of that is what a movement campaign looks like.

    Caleb Horton

    This is the city’s first Asian-majority ward, and the current alderperson is the city’s first Chinese American alderperson. Some people have said that this is an office that should go to an Asian American or a Chinese American person — that you as a white person shouldn’t be running for this office. How do you respond to that?

    Ambria Taylor

    We do remaps based on the census every ten years or so, and there was a big push to remap the 11th Ward to include Chinatown. Before the remap, the 11th Ward was 40 percent Asian, mostly Chinese. I think the biggest thing this remap did is unite a center politically that is already mapped culturally.

    The incumbent I’m running against was appointed by an unpopular mayor and is backed by the Daley family. Her father worked for Mayor Richard M. Daley. Richard M. Daley and John Daley sent out a letter backing our current alderman.

    It’s really exciting for this Asian-majority ward to have the opportunity to elect a representative they trust will fight for their interests.

    My team has worked hard to do everything on the campaign the way we plan to run our ward office. We have made the campaign a space to build power for people who are marginalized. We have a huge campaign team that includes canvassers who speak Mandarin, Cantonese, and Taishanese. Just today we used all three languages while we were at the doors.

    We make sure that people who are multilingual are present at our community meetings. Also every single piece of lit we’ve printed has been translated into three languages: English, Simplified Chinese, and Spanish.

    This election is not just about the candidate as a representative, but about electing someone who is going to focus on issues that matter to the people of this ward. This is bigger than one person, and we have been able to build a lot of meaningful connections.

    For example, we’ve made deep connections with Chinese-language newspapers, and that relationship is going to go a long way. We’ve had Chinese-language newspapers commenting on union rallies I was going to, my Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) endorsement, and so on, and we want to continue to nurture that relationship.

    Caleb Horton

    How has your experience as a Chicago Public Schools teacher influenced your politics?

    Ambria Taylor

    Teaching in Chicago Public Schools was really hard. I kind of expected that, but you have to live it for it to truly sink in.

    After a year of student teaching, I started my first lead teaching position in the 2019–2020 year. A month and a half later, we went on strike for almost two weeks. We came back to the classroom, and just as I was trying to get back into the swing of things, COVID hit.

    I became a remote teacher of middle schoolers, and things were really difficult. We had to eventually juggle hybrid learning and lack of staff. I became the union delegate for our school and experienced horrible retaliation from my principal. But through that, I learned to organize people in my building around workplace issues even if they had different politics than me.

    I saw how the workplace can unite us — it gives you something to convene around, and it’s hard to have anything interfere with that because your reality is informing it all. Public education is in a lot of trouble, and I firsthand experienced these schools unraveling at the seams.

    The city allocates money to bullshit while lead paint flakes off the walls and our buildings fall apart. As teachers, we face the struggle of trying to get through the day while kids are being put in the auditorium a few classes at a time because there is not enough staff to supervise them.

    That influenced me because a huge part of my campaign as a socialist is to fight against neoliberalism, austerity, and private interests’ attempt to narrow what the public sector does by choking these various public services and then saying, “It doesn’t work!”

    What is happening with Chicago Public Schools is happening everywhere — at the Chicago Public Library, in our transit system. My dream is being part of a movement that will help save our public sector.

    Caleb Horton

    The Chicago political machine faced an unsuccessful challenger in the 11th Ward four years ago. What makes your campaign different?

    Ambria Taylor

    There have been other challengers to the machine politicians in the 11th Ward. Usually it’s a person who has a few volunteers, and they raise less than $5,000. We’ve been able to raise over $90,000, and we have had over a hundred people volunteer for us. That’s something that challengers haven’t been able to muster up, and understandably so — it’s not an easy thing to do.

    The people of the ward want to support this kind of effort, and despite their modest fundraising, we’ve seen previous small campaigns still give the machine a run for its money. We had a guy take Patrick Daley to a runoff election, and he raised less than $5,000. What that shows is that a strong campaign stands a chance, and we’ve made a strong effort here.

    Caleb Horton

    What are the biggest issues facing the 11th Ward?

    Ambria Taylor

    Environmental issues are huge here. Our air quality is eight to nine times worse than northern parts of the city. Our city is very segregated. The further north you get the whiter it gets, and you will notice that the South Side has way worse air quality and way more heavy — or “dirty” — industry that pollutes our air and our soil.

    We used to have a Department of Environment that ticketed polluters that were breaking the rules and causing toxic contamination. That department is gone now, and the ticketing has gone down. When ticketing does happen, it happens on the North Side.

    So there is a lot we can do here, like reestablishing the Department of Environment and working with the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to make sure that the polluters in this area are being held to the standards they should be held to; also, when it comes to developments, saying, “No, I will not support new dirty industry coming to this region which is already severely overburdened.”

    Caleb Horton

    Public safety has come up a lot this election. What do you believe the 11th Ward could be doing about this?

    Ambria Taylor

    Public safety has become a major talking point this year. That’s not to say that everything is safe and everything is fine: we have carjackings, shootings, and assaults. People experiencing violence is unacceptable.

    However, a lot of people have given in to saying, “I’m the alderman and I love the police.” What that does is absolve our leadership of any responsibility. We’ve had police officers responding to forty thousand mental health calls a year. There’s been a big movement in Chicago to shift things like mental health and domestic violence calls to other city workers instead of the police.

    What we’ve seen is poverty and austerity are on the rise, and when you have high poverty, you have high crime. We need resources for young people, better social services, housing, and mental health care. A lot of people who we’ve canvassed agree that police are not enough and we need to address violence holistically.

    Caleb Horton

    What about affordable housing? Where do you stand on that?

    Ambria Taylor

    Here in the 11th Ward, there has been a push for affordable housing, but it’s really hit or miss as far as enforcement goes. Also, when it comes to affordability, we need to be stricter on how we define it. Right now, developments can say there are affordable units in a building even if they are not truly affordable and are just a little cheaper than other units in the building.

    We want affordable housing, and we want to hold developers’ feet to the fire as far as prices go. Having a resident-led ward gives us the opportunity to ask developers, “What do you plan to charge for the units?” and get them to commit to something truly affordable for people to live in.

    We must also expand public housing. Chicago has lots of money for it, yet we’re selling land that belongs to the housing authority off to private interests. That needs to stop. I’m interested in partnering with residents who live in public housing to make sure it improves and expands.

    I also support just cause for evictions and lifting the ban on rent control in Illinois. We have a ban on passing rent control — we can’t even introduce a bill on it. I very much support the effort to overturn that.

    Caleb Horton

    What are your plans for this progressive base that you’re building?

    Ambria Taylor

    From here on out, if I’m the next alderman, we will continue to organize through the ward office and institute participatory budgeting and resident-led zoning and development boards. We will make serious changes to how the ward office is engaging with the people who live here.

    And if we don’t win, we have movement institutions: we have the 11th Ward Independent Political Organization, we have DSA. We need to make sure we’re actually organizing people into groups where we can continue to grow what we’re doing. I’m really interested in where we are going to take this.
    Filed Under
    #United_States #Politics #Cities #racism #democratic_socialists_of_america #Chicago_City_Council

    A Live Chat with Ambria Taylor, 11th Ward Alderperson Candidate!

    6 Candidates Are Challenging Ald. Nicole Lee In 11th Ward Race

    Two teachers, a veteran police officer, a firefighter and an attorney are among the challengers looking to unseat Lee, who was appointed to the City Council seat in 2022.

    Ambria Taylor | Chicago News | WTTW

    Chicago DSA Endorses Ambria Taylor and Warren Williams

    #USA #Chicago #southside #Rassismus #Armut #Gewalt #Korruption #Sicherheit #Politik #Organizing

  • The War in Ukraine Has Exposed Germany’s Strategic Quagmire

    By Jörg Kronauer

    Germany’s so-called “National Security Strategy,” which Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock officially announced in March 2022, was originally supposed to be presented right before the Munich Security Conference that convened last weekend. Its goal? To hammer out a unified framework for German foreign and security policy across all government ministries — also ensuring that German state institutions speak with one voice abroad.

    From the viewpoint of the Foreign Office, it would have been extremely advantageous to present the document in the run-up to the security conference, where Baerbock was guaranteed maximum international attention. But it was not to be. Reportedly, the strategy was delayed by coordination difficulties — and likely also the fact that German foreign policy finds itself in an extremely difficult situation.

    In strategic terms, the war in Ukraine has significantly restricted Germany’s foreign policy options. For decades, Berlin pursued a kind of dual strategy vis-à-vis Moscow. On the one hand, the German government engaged in economic cooperation with Russia and thus ensured, among other things, that cheap Russian natural gas was always available to German industry. On the other hand, it sought to systematically pressure Russia and minimize its influence in Eastern and Southeastern Europe, not least with the help of NATO’s eastward expansion and, from 2014 onward, by strengthening NATO’s presence in Eastern Europe.

    The war in Ukraine has now taken cheap Russian natural gas off the table for the foreseeable future, and forced the government to look for replacements. At the same time, the war entails enormous costs, immense political effort, and real dangers for the German state. To meet these challenges, Berlin is relying on international alliances more than ever.
    Growing US Dominance

    Above all, a year of war has greatly increased Germany’s dependence on the United States, beginning with natural gas imports. German gas imports from Russia fell from 55 to 22 percent of total imports last year, compensated by an increase in imports of liquefied natural gas (LNG) brought into the country (much of it US-sourced) via the Netherlands and Belgium. When the new LNG terminal in Wilhelmshaven began operations in early January, it was with US fracked gas. The same was true of the new terminal in Lubmin that went online in early February.

    According to a study published last September by the Institute of Energy Economics at the University of Cologne, the share of US fracked gas in total EU imports could rise to almost 40 percent. That would make the EU almost as dependent on the United States in the future as it once was on Russia — and on much worse terms, since LNG is more expensive than pipeline gas. It is unclear to what extent Germany’s natural gas–intensive industries, which previously relied on cheap Russian gas, will remain competitive on the world market following the switch to US liquefied gas.

    Military dependence on the United States is also increasing. This applies first of all to Germany’s de facto participation in the Ukraine war through arms deliveries and the training of Ukrainian troops. While the United States is shaping Kiev’s war strategy together with Ukrainian officers and supplying target data for Ukrainian attacks, US secretary of defense Lloyd Austin heads the so-called Ukraine Contact Group, which has been coordinating arms deliveries to Ukraine since its first meeting on April 26, 2022, at Ramstein Air Base. Though Germany participates in this group and does indeed exert influence, it ultimately has to defer to the United States when it comes to, for example, decisions on war strategy or types of weapons delivered to Ukraine, which basically shape the war.

    The situation is similar in NATO, which is currently massively expanding its influence. For lack of an alternative — there is no real EU army — NATO’s European members depend on the transatlantic military alliance for their military buildup against Russia. And there, the United States sets the political tone.

    But Germany’s own rearmament also bolsters the position of the United States. For example, a considerable portion of the €100 billion in special funds earmarked for outfitting the German Army with new weaponry is going to US arms manufacturers rather than European firms. Why? The simple reason is that American weapons do not have to first be developed at great expense, as is the case with the planned Franco-German fighter jet FCAS (Future Combat Air System). Like the high-tech F-35 fighter jet, American systems have often long since been tested and are produced in series. The German government is using the special fund to finance thirty-five F-35s at a cost of more than $8 billion, sixty Chinook helicopters for at least $6 billion, as well as P-8A Poseidon maritime reconnaissance aircraft and all kinds of other armaments “Made in USA.”

    But weapons purchases are by no means the only area where this is the case. The United States is in the process of increasing its overall importance as Germany’s top economic partner. Nowhere have German companies invested as much as in the United States: up to 2020, the sum exceeded $450 billion. The United States is also Germany’s number-one destination for exports, totaling $167 billion in 2022. Since then, both investments and exports across the Atlantic have increased at an even faster rate.

    One reason is that many German companies have seen massive declines in their Russian business due to sanctions. Those who could looked for replacements; the United States was an obvious choice, not least because there are no sanctions against doing business with Americans — unlike, for example, with China. In addition, the United States offers several multibillion-dollar investment programs, the best known of which is the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), set to provide almost $370 billion for energy transition technologies over the next ten years. The economic upswing it has triggered in the United States may well lead to the occasional extra order for German exporters.

    There are some caveats, however. As a rule, contracts financed directly from the IRA can only be awarded to companies that produce in the United States. What to do if you want to get in on the American energy transition boom but don’t have a factory there? That’s right: you build one.

    One example making headlines is Swedish company Northvolt, which had planned to build a battery factory in the northern German town of Heide, but then began to consider putting the project on hold and investing in the United States as long as those coveted IRA funds were still available. The German government is currently doing everything it can to stop Northvolt and save the battery factory in Heide, though whether it will succeed is another matter.

    Northvolt is just one example among many. IRA subsidies would be quite attractive for many German companies — especially those whose factories require natural gas. After all, gas is much cheaper in the United States than in Germany, especially now that Germany has to buy pricey American liquefied gas. For months, economists have been warning that Germany my face a wave of deindustrialization caused by high energy prices and US attempts to poach companies from Germany. Even if things do not turn out quite so badly in the end, not only the political, but also the economic pull is now clearly in the direction of the United States.
    An Alliance Divided

    Traditionally, German foreign policy has relied on the EU to prevent precisely such a development and build up a counterweight to the US instead. Whether Brussels will succeed in slowing down or even stopping US economic traction with its own hundred-billion-euro investment programs is an open question. In any case, the EU is doing its best, most recently with its Green Deal Industrial Plan announced by European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, set to provide hundreds of billions to promote energy transition technologies.

    But compared to the United States, the EU has repeatedly struggled with internal divisions between its member states. These can also be seen in its attempts to prevent industry from migrating to the United States. One of the instruments Brussels uses to this end is permission to lure companies with investments in hitherto inadmissible amounts. This has led to friction between EU member states, however, as it gives rich countries capable of making large investments like Germany and France an advantage over poorer EU countries with insufficient state finances. The plan threatens to further increase inequality within the EU to the benefit of Germany and the detriment of less prosperous states.

    Furthermore, traditional internal tensions are holding back the EU right when Brussels would actually need all of its strength to assert itself against the United States. Practically hardwired into the EU’s foundation is the competition between Germany and France, the two strongest countries in the Union whose interests are often at odds with one another. The most recent example is Berlin’s refusal to recognize hydrogen produced with the help of nuclear energy as “green,” while Paris, which traditionally relies heavily on nuclear energy, insists.

    But there are plenty of other disagreements. Most recently, the French government began to systematically reinforce its position by concluding special treaties modeled on the Treaty of Aachen that Berlin and Paris signed to bolster their relations in 2019. First, France concluded the Quirinal Treaty with Italy in November 2021, then the Barcelona Treaty with Spain in January 2023. Both are intended to tie the two treaty states more closely together, and could create a kind of Southern bloc in the EU as a counterweight to German dominance. Berlin returned the favor by siding with Spain in the dispute over nuclear-generated hydrogen to drive a wedge between Madrid and Paris.

    Either way, these sorts of rivalries do not strengthen the EU’s diplomatic clout.

    The war in Ukraine is also deepening existing fault lines within the EU, the most important example being Poland. Already closely aligned with the United States in foreign policy for years, it has been far ahead of other European states in its support for Ukraine from the start, calling for shipments of fighter jets at a time when others were still struggling with sending artillery, and is arming itself more massively than any other state in Europe.

    Poland plans to increase its military budget to 4 percent of GDP this year — in the long term, the figure is expected to rise to 5 percent. Warsaw wants to have three hundred thousand soldiers in its army by 2035. By comparison, the German armed forces today number around 189,000 soldiers. Some are already speculating about Poland becoming the strongest military power in the EU and thus extending its influence considerably — to the benefit of its close ally, the United States, at the expense of German dominance.
    Growing Competition from China

    A similar trend can be observed in the Baltic states and indeed — since the recent presidential election — the Czech Republic. These four countries have not only taken a particularly tough line in the Ukraine war, but also stand out for repeated actions against China, completely in line with Washington’s increasingly aggressive stance toward Beijing.

    A “Taiwan Liaison Office,” the name of which alone represents an affront to the One China principle, opened in Lithuania in November 2021. While almost universally recognized within the international community, the One China principle is increasingly called into question by the United States. Immediately after his election, the new Czech president Petr Pavel, a former chairman of the NATO Military Committee, spoke on the phone at length with Taiwan’s president, Tsai Ing-wen — this, too, can be interpreted as a deliberate violation of the One China principle and a deliberate provocation vis-à-vis Beijing.

    These developments pose a real problem for Berlin. After all, China is of great and ever-growing importance for Germany. After decades of uninterrupted rise, the People’s Republic represents a rival not only for the United States, but also for Germany. Measured in purchasing power parity, China is already the world’s strongest economic power. It stands to replace the United States at the top of the world economy in absolute dollar terms by 2030 or 2035, according to the latest forecasts.

    China’s breakthrough is not only quantitative but also of a qualitative nature, as seen in its development of a leading high-tech industry. The country now boasts defensive military capabilities on a scale that makes the US military doubt whether it could still win a war between the two powers, and it continues to expand its influence in Southeast Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Should current trends continue, the already ailing West will not be able to maintain its global dominance for much longer. That reality is driving the United States to further harden the fronts with the People’s Republic.

    In principle, Berlin shares an interest in containing Beijing, for if the power of the West diminishes, so does Germany’s along with it. At the same time, the German economy is very closely intertwined with China. The People’s Republic is by far Germany’s most important supplier, selling the country goods worth more than $200 billion last year. By comparison, the United States ranks third, supplying Germany with goods worth around $96 billion.

    China may not be of critical importance to all industries in Germany, but it is to several individual sectors that form the bedrock of the German economy as a whole. The German automotive industry, for example, would collapse without the Chinese market: Volkswagen, Mercedes, and BMW sell between 30 and 40 percent of their vehicles there, and are increasingly moving electric vehicle research and development to China, now regarded as the leading global market for such cars. German chemical companies regularly insist that in the medium term, half the world chemical market will be concentrated in China and that staying out of that country would amount to driving themselves out of business.

    Nevertheless, to at least slow China’s rise, the United States is waging a full-blown economic war and imposing more and more sanctions on the country. These also threaten German business in China. The consequences can be seen in the current example of ASML, a Dutch manufacturer of machines for chip production that has found itself allowed to deliver less and less to the People’s Republic as a result of American pressure. The company has already lost billions in business, while 15 percent of its total sales are still in limbo.

    The nightmare scenario for German industry would be a so-called “decoupling,” meaning a complete disconnection of China from the rest of the world similar to what the West is currently trying to impose on Russia. Being cut off from China in the same way as they are now cut off from Russia would threaten many German companies with financial ruin.

  • Diplomat: Why the Minsk Agreements Failed in Ukraine - An interview with Wolfgang Sporrer

    There were three main reasons for the failure of the Minsk agreements. First, the Minsk agreements did not address the root cause of the conflict. It was stipulated, so to speak, that there was or had been some kind of ethnic conflict between Russians and Ukrainians in Ukraine, and that this was the reason for the outbreak of violence. And by settling this alleged ethnic conflict, the conflict could be pacified.

    This was pure fiction. The ethnic conflicts that existed in Ukraine were no more serious than ethnic tensions in many other countries.

    Moreover, the dividing lines in this conflict, if one insists on understanding them in ethnic terms, are incredibly blurred. This is not about the Russian versus the Ukrainian language or Ukrainian versus Russian national identity. Nor is it about religion, not even in the slightest. At most, one could find something like an eastern Ukrainian Donbas identity. But this regional identity of the Donbas is not much stronger than strong regional identities in other countries.

    What this conflict is fundamentally about is Russia wanting to exert influence over the domestic and foreign policy orientation of the government in Kyiv. In the Minsk agreement, however, this fiction of an ethnic conflict was constructed instead, although Russia actually had no particular interest in obtaining any autonomy rights for eastern Ukraine, for Russian-speaking or ethnically Russian Ukrainian citizens.

    Russia was not really interested in these issues, but Ukraine was not at all eager to grant such rights either, for fear of a supposed fifth column. However, Moscow was not only concerned with what was happening in the Donbas, but above all with what was happening in Kyiv. The Ukraine conflict is about the orientation of Ukraine, pure and simple. But the Minsk agreement addresses completely different issues. That’s why the process didn’t work.

    The second reason for their failure was the low technical quality of the Minsk agreements. There were far too many provisions for their verification, and the sequencing of various measures also remained controversial to the end, as the agreement itself didn’t specify any.

    The third reason for the failure — and this may sound banal now, but it is true — is that it has not been possible to meet in person since the end of 2019 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As little as the Minsk agreements were actually implemented in practice, they did help to build trust.

    The very fact that the parties were sitting around a table had a de-escalating effect. You don’t get the same sort of benefit online. For that, you need coffee breaks, shared meals, unofficial contacts and the like. If you lose the seemingly ancillary aspects of diplomatic talks, such a process is doomed to failure. With the Minsk process, therefore, an early-warning instrument pointing to a possible escalation of the conflict was also lost.

    ALEXANDER BRENTLER: This sounds as if the real concerns of both sides were excluded from the scope of the talks in advance. What, then, were the questions about which the parties should have negotiated, if not language laws or regional autonomy rights?

    WOLFGANG SPORRER: I do not want to comment on what the talks should have been concerned with, because it’s not my place to dictate that to either Russia or Ukraine. But what was at the heart of the matter, as I said, from my point of view, was Ukraine’s international orientation. That is usually understood in a very binary way. Joining NATO: Yes or no? EU accession: Yes or no? Gas transit: Yes or no? And so on. What was at stake was the whole package of Ukraine’s foreign policy and geopolitical orientation under the new post-2014 Maidan government.

    Russia believed that it should have some kind of sphere of influence, as great powers have often claimed, and therefore believed that it should have, at the very least, veto rights over Ukraine’s foreign policy and geopolitical direction, but without ever really articulating this claim openly. The Maidan government from 2014 on was quite clear that Russia should not have this kind of influence over the country. This, of course, represented a break with the line taken by the previous government under President Viktor Yanukovych, which had deliberately kept Ukraine neutral on security policy issues.

    These would have been topics that could have been addressed openly. But I think that at the time, everyone involved preferred to stick to the pretense that it was about minority rights. Nobody wanted to say at that time that Russia simply has no right to a sphere of influence. And the Russian side also did not want to say that it believed in such a right in its immediate neighborhood.

    Of course, one should also not forget that there is a geopolitical dimension here, which was also never addressed during the negotiations. There’s a quote from Zbigniew Brzezinski, the former White House security adviser, one of the really great theorists and also practitioners of international relations: “It cannot be stressed enough that without Ukraine, Russia ceases to be an empire, but with Ukraine suborned and then subordinated, Russia automatically becomes an empire.” This geopolitical reality has never been addressed, although there isn’t really a taboo about this question either. Everyone is aware that Russia wants to be an empire and everyone is equally aware that the United States wants to prevent it from becoming one.


    [...] But I think the current disagreement in the West [about the goal of the war] will be negligible compared to the disagreement that will emerge about how the EU and the West should deal with a postwar Russia. There is a very broad spectrum of opinion on this issue.

    Some believe that relations should be normalized as soon as possible. But there are also voices that argue: Russia will remain our eternal enemy, or at least for generations, and should best be split up, or rather must disappear from the planet.

    On this issue, I see a huge split coming for Europe, which we would have to talk about now in order to confront this question honestly. Because if you don’t really define such problems clearly and address them openly, they will fall on your feet later.

    #ukraine #minsk

      Many on the Left are calling for deprioritizing a military solution to the conflict and demand a focus on diplomacy and negotiations. What might a possible path to de-escalation look like? What steps would need to be taken now to initiate a process that could ultimately end in negotiations for a ceasefire?

      First, why is a political, nonmilitary solution to the conflict currently very unlikely? First, because both parties have more or less ruled out the option of negotiating a conflict settlement with each other — Ukraine by law, the Russians by preconditions.

      Secondly, […]

  • Nineteen Eighty-Four Was Written By a Socialist

    Paroles de psy en défense d’un socialiste dépourvu de ligne du parti

    12.2.2023 by Chandler Dandridge - Literature is our shared heritage. Books and authors do not belong to anyone in particular — they are free to be read, enjoyed, and interpreted by all. Nevertheless, every avid reader knows what it feels like to stake a claim on a work or body of literature, then writhe at its misappropriation or misuse. For the Left, few authors inspire this response as much as George Orwell, a self-professed democratic socialist whose books are routinely used to undermine the political vision he quite literally fought for.

    To be on the Left and to love Orwell means enduring opportunistic attempts to commandeer his work for reactionary purposes. For the past seventy-five years, the Right has enjoyed robbing the grave of one of the Left’s great artists. But it’s hard to greet the news, for example, that Orwell has turned up on reading lists compiled by Ben Shapiro and Prager University without indignation.

    Of course, Orwell is by no means an uncontroversial figure among socialists. His opposition to Stalinism was commendable, but shortly before he died, he went so far as to create a list for Britain’s Information Research Department of writers and cultural figures he viewed as too soft on communism to warrant employment in the agency. Still, that same year Orwell himself lay on his deathbed writing to American publications to defend his last novel, Nineteen Eighty-four, from its hijacking by budding Cold Warriors who were reading it as an attack on socialist ideas. Had Orwell lived past the age of forty-six, one can imagine that his stout defense of the novel, and his ongoing and ironclad commitment to democratic socialism, might have reshaped his legacy.

    But the Prager University book club discussion about Nineteen Eighty-four makes the tenth-grade public school classroom where I first read the book look as sophisticated as the Michel Foucault–Noam Chomsky debate. Dave Rubin and Michael Knowles offer some banal surface-level analysis and praise Orwell’s ability to think and write clearly, but they show no curiosity about the foundations of his thought. For the Prager boys, Nineteen Eighty-four is about freedom and “what it means to be human.” Quite right — but Orwell was not, as they claim, an “individualist” in the libertarian sense of the term. This is the crux of the Right’s failure to grasp the whole Orwell. His work certainly concerns itself with individual flourishing and society’s attempts to constrain it, but Orwell reaffirmed his devotion to democratic socialism and collectivism at every possible turn and in no uncertain terms.

    Rubin eagerly makes the connection between Nineteen Eighty-Four’s description of the totalitarian government censoring and rewriting books to the trend, supposedly exclusive to the Left, of political correctness. He identifies it as “anti-human to be so against thought.” Perhaps so, but his hypocrisy is glaring: Rubin has praised the political maneuvering of Florida governor Ron DeSantis and his own effort to ban books. Whatever Orwell would have thought of “cancel culture,” he would no doubt be vehemently opposed to DeSantis’s efforts to suppress socialist ideas in Florida’s public schools.

    Shapiro tries to gloss over Orwell’s stated political commitments by claiming that the author “didn’t understand socialism on an economic level.” This criticism is confusing, as Orwell was not an economist — his novels are works of art that speak to the political dimensions of the human condition, not Marxist treatises on the functioning of markets. Dismissing Orwell’s politics on the grounds that his work neglects to offer a unified economic theory of public ownership is like claiming that Sally Rooney is not a leftist because her novels don’t comprehensively explicate the labor theory of value.

    That said, there’s plenty of evidence in Orwell’s work of the sophistication of his political and economic thinking. Orwell was an apologetic novelist: he famously hated at least two of his books, Keep the Aspidistra Flying and A Clergyman’s Daughter, and considered ceasing their republication. They are not what I would call pleasant reads, nor is Nineteen Eighty-four, but they are better than their author thought and are worthwhile books, especially for those of us on the Left. In them Orwell is positively consumed by economic issues (he rarely isn’t). His characters fret over their pocketbooks throughout, and Orwell makes clear that, though it would not guarantee total happiness, their psychological and physical distress would be greatly alleviated if it weren’t for the woes brought about by their debts and low incomes. This is a point the Right fails to understand: money can’t buy you happiness, but it can certainly help with the copay at your next doctor’s appointment, leaving you with a little more freedom to attend to matters of the spirit.

    In his excellent essay “Can Socialists Be Happy?” Orwell outlines aspects of his vision of socialism. For him, there is no ultimate utopia. Total happiness and a resolution to all conflicts is not the end goal of socialism. “What are we aiming at,” he asks, “if not a society in which charity would be unnecessary?” He goes on to describe a world where people need not endlessly suffer with untreated tuberculous legs and where Ebenezer Scrooge’s unearned income is unimaginable. If Nineteen Eighty-four is prescient, Orwell’s nonfiction essays are just as timeless: he might as well be writing about the scourge of American health care and twenty-first-century income inequality.

    The crown jewels in the left canon of Orwell’s oeuvre are his book-length journalistic efforts: Down and Out in Paris and London, The Road to Wigan Pier, and Homage to Catalonia. The latter of these Noam Chomsky claims is his masterpiece and is for sure one of the most remarkable works of war reporting ever written. Down and Out is a rewarding read that makes strong arguments for the improvement of the lives of poor and working-class residents of both its eponymous cities. Wigan Pier excoriates middle-class liberals in mid-’30s Britain as it confronts the reader with the dreadful conditions of Britain’s Northern industrial workers.

    Orwell was deeply critical of many elements of the Left. At the same time as he called for the state to oversee production and distribution of foodstuffs, he warned against how such power could be abused. Those criticisms are a gift to contemporary democratic socialists as we seek to build a movement that avoids repeating the errors of the past, but they have also made it easier for the Right to seize his legacy. Yet it is Orwell’s complexity and attention to political contradictions that make his legacy worth fighting for.

    Again, Orwell is not an easy author to read. Nineteen Eighty-Four is bleak. His early novels are overwrought. And if, like me, you dare to read his diaries, be prepared for hundreds of pages detailing the dismal weather and the monotony of his English garden. There are many contradictions in his body of work, but one thing is clear: he never wavered in his adherence to the principles of democratic socialism.

    Orwell was not an individualist in the libertarian sense; far from it. “The real objective of Socialism,” he wrote in his essay on happiness, “is human brotherhood.” Anyone with siblings knows that sometimes you have to wrestle with them, to yell at them, to take their toys to show them their proper use. His criticisms of various elements of the Left were a family matter. When reactionaries try to loot our family inheritance, we have no choice but to lay claim to his legacy.

  • There’s No Such Thing as a “Self-Made Man”

    02.02.2023 by Akil Vicks - Review of Bootstrapped: Liberating Ourselves from the American Dream by Alissa Quart (HarperCollins, 2023)

    In 2020, Quaker Oats and its parent company, PepsiCo, announced the retirement of the Aunt Jemima brand for their syrup and pancake mix. The move was a response to backlash against the negative “Mammy” stereotype the brand invoked. But the discourse being what it is, there was inevitably a backlash to the backlash, with some sharing memes bemoaning the loss of a cultural icon.

    The general theme of this second backlash was that Nancy Green, who first brought the character of Aunt Jemima to life at the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago, was an exemplary American success story. Born into slavery, Green was an excellent cook who parlayed her talents into becoming the spokesperson for R. T. Davis Milling Co’s pancake mix. Through her individual efforts, the story goes, Green became one of America’s first black millionaires. To remove her from the box was to diminish her accomplishments.

    The American self-made success story is a powerful cultural force. In Green’s case, her ascent from humble beginnings to fame and wealth was perceived by many as far more important than the brand’s flaws, namely that the persona of Aunt Jemima was a racist caricature and that the character’s fictionalized backstory was a “lost cause” style celebration of the Antebellum South.

    The power of rags-to-riches narratives is the focus of Alissa Quart’s new book Bootstrapped: Liberating Ourselves from the American Dream. In the book, Quart, a journalist focusing on working-class issues and the executive director of the journalism nonprofit Economic Hardship Reporting Project, takes aim at the fiction of the self-made man. Bootstrapping stories, Quart writes, “enforce the pernicious parable of the deserving rich” while engendering feelings of self-blame in those who can’t attain the American ideal of success.

    Sometimes our bootstraps fictions are outright falsehoods. For example, a closer look at Green’s biography reveals that while she was able to use her notoriety to advocate for economic and civil rights, there is no evidence that Aunt Jemima’s parent company shared any of the profits that her advertising persona brought in. After twenty years of service, she was replaced without ceremony. Far from being a millionaire, she was still working as a housekeeper in obscurity when she died.

    But there is a subtler and more pervasive untruth that connects all bootstraps narratives. The idea that anyone can be “self-made” is itself a lie. Quart’s book unravels these “rich fictions,” tracing their evolution from the romanticization of the self-made man in early American literature to the hardened individualism of Ayn Rand and beyond. Behind every bootstrapper’s ascent, Quart reveals complex relationships of interdependence.

    Donald Trump is exemplary of all aspects of the bootstraps myth. To begin with, everything about Trump’s claims to self-made fame and fortune is a lie. But even more striking is just how much of his political support rests on voters’ perception of him as self-made. Some Trump voters were simply unaware of his childhood privilege and the many bailouts that kept his businesses afloat. Others were obliquely aware of these facts, but Trump’s bootstrapping narrative spoke directly to their own beliefs about what it takes to survive in America and what’s ultimately responsible for inequality and class stratification.

    The attachment to the image of Trump as self-made serves a deep psychological need for conservative voters who want to reconcile their entrenched political identity with the inequality they see and experience. Meanwhile, it lets conservative politicians off the hook when they cut millions off from desperately needed help on behalf of their rich donors.

    If all Bootstrapped aimed to do was expose the hypocrisy of those who promote the myth of total self-reliance, it would still be a well-written and valuable contribution. But Quart’s book has a larger point to make: there is simply no such thing as true independence within the human condition. Everyone requires some sort of help, whether it’s from mothers who perform unpaid care work and raise children, public infrastructure that allows businesses to function, or employees who sacrifice their time and effort — often for poverty wages — in order to make profits for owners who proudly tout their self-made fortunes.

    Bootstrapped is presented as a journey of sorts, Quart’s personal odyssey through the social and economic ramifications of the bootstrapping narrative. She talks to people from all walks of life: those who have successfully escaped crushing poverty, people who are still living in precarity, and even ardent Trump supporters who are crushed by the weight of the expectation to be self-made. Quart finds that even in institutions where the value of interdependence is evident and systemic thinking should come naturally — public schools, social welfare, charity, and mental health therapy — bootstrap narratives have crept their way in, perverting those institutions’ functions and leaving many to fend for themselves.

    Not content with mere diagnosis, Quart presents an alternative definition of and explanation for success, one where community and interdependence are the true drivers of economic prosperity and social cohesion. In her travels and conversations, Quart discovered that the pandemic had revealed the supreme importance of interdependence in providing the scaffolding for our economic system. For example, there is no way for two parents to work forty hours a week without day care, a fact that became distressingly apparent when the threat of COVID shut down day care centers across the country. Pushed to recognize their need for help, people responded by seeking support in community — tapping into social networks, church congregations, and mutual aid organizations. In the process, many learned a great deal about the myth of self-reliance, even in ordinary times.

    Bootstrapped is at its strongest when Quart tells the stories of people discovering the value of interdependence and using that knowledge to create social change. These are stories not just of people marshaling resources to help fill economic need, but also finding intellectual and emotional fulfillment as part of a community. They suggest a path to happiness and security that does not rely on isolating notions of individual “grit” and “resilience,” but rather on the invigorating realization that we are never alone.

    Quart also finds inspiration in the actions of politicians responding to the demands created by the pandemic, noting the significant — albeit, it seems, temporary — change in the Democratic Party’s rhetoric and legislative agenda away from Clintonite anti-welfare policies and toward universal childcare, the child tax credit, and even a potential wealth tax. The book doesn’t give much consideration to the legislative hurdles facing a Democratic Party agenda based on the value of interdependence, nor does it deal with the Democratic Party’s propensity to promote these kinds of ideas to garner electoral success only to abandon them at the behest of donors. For Quart, the material constraints keeping our national politics from wholly rejecting bootstrapping narratives are less important than acknowledging the potential for embracing and championing a new story.

    The bootstrapping narrative was created and propagated to obscure inevitable relations of dependence, and its ultimate purpose is to justify the extreme economic inequality that results from and fuels capitalism. Bootstrapped promotes a new narrative, recognizing that humans are naturally dependent on one another and rejecting the idea that needing help is a source of shame.

    #capitalisme #idéologie #mythologie #propagande

  • After Independence, Algeria Launched an Experiment in Self-Managing Socialism

    02.02.2023 by Hall Greenland - After the end of French colonial rule, Algeria’s first government began to promote workers’ self-management in the “Mecca of Revolution.” But a backlash by conservative elements led to a military coup that established the regime still in power today.

    There is a famous concluding scene to Gillo Pontecorvo’s classic 1966 film The Battle of Algiers. After witnessing the French paratroopers “win” the battle by a combination of torture and murder over the previous hour and a half, the film climaxes with the residents of the Casbah surging out into the city with their rebel flags and banners blowing in the wind proclaiming independence and freedom for Algeria.

    This was no sop to those of us who like a Hollywood-type happy ending but historical truth. Despite the rout in 1957 of the pro-independence Front de Libération Nationale (FLN) in the actual battle of Algiers, the people themselves went on organizing.

    When the French president Charles de Gaulle made his visit to Algeria in December 1960, the people of Algiers and half a dozen other cities throughout the country exploded into mass manifestations to impress on him their unbreakable determination to be free.
    Popular Power

    It was not the last spontaneous intervention of ordinary Algerians in the fate of their country. When independence came in 1962, most of the million European settlers decided to emigrate rather than live under Algerian rule. They left the country bereft of doctors, engineers, technicians, and teachers.

    They also left behind them a trail of destruction. It was not only the terrorist OAS (Secret Army Organization) which wreaked this vengeance, killing thousands of unarmed Algerians. Farmers and businessmen also destroyed machinery and wrecked buildings as they departed.

    The abandonment and destruction of the settler farms meant that Algeria faced starvation as the settlers had appropriated the best land. In addition, the French counterinsurgency had forced more than two million Algerians off the land as vast swathes of the countryside were cleared of villages and farms for free-fire zones.

    Into this impending famine stepped the hundreds of thousands of Algerian farm workers who took over the abandoned farms and managed them themselves. The harvest was saved. While there were similar takeovers in the towns, the self-management phenomenon was much stronger in the countryside. That said, in the early days, teams of city mechanics were mobilized to go to the farms to repair and service tractors and other machinery.

    This example of workers’ self-management was born of necessity. It did not rely on the leadership and initiative of the FLN, whose cadres had been scattered and driven out of much of Algeria by a French army of half a million soldiers. During the summer of 1962, the FLN split at a conference in Tunisia, further weakening its capacity to act. Just as in 1960, it was the self-organizing Algerian people who saved the day.

    Certainly, one should not idealize this moment excessively. It was a patchy takeover of the European farms and firms. Local democracy wasn’t always perfect: there were many examples of local bigwigs, mafia, and armed mujahideen doing side deals with emigrating European owners or seizing European property. However, in the latter cases, there were often ongoing struggles between the usurpers and local workers for control.

    The spontaneous reality of the summer of 1962 set the stage for the struggle that was to dominate the next three years: direct democracy versus bureaucratic and bourgeois control. To put it another way: the people against a nascent ruling class.
    Radicalization at the Top

    Initially the portents were good. In the struggle for power following independence, the most radical option came out on top, represented by the duo of Ahmed Ben Bella, one of the historic initiators of the war for independence, and Houari Boumédiène, the FLN’s army chief. The newly elected national assembly voted Ben Bella into office as president and Boumédiène as defense minister.

    Ben Bella’s inclination was to make Algeria another Cuba. His coming to power coincided with the arrival in Algiers of the Greek left-wing activist Michalis Raptis, better known as Michel Pablo. As secretary of the Trotskyist Fourth International, Pablo had assembled the first and most important of the European support networks for the FLN, including the organization of underground arms factories to supply the movement with weapons.

    Pablo firmly believed that an essential feature of socialism was the expansion of democracy. On the one hand, he did not think that you could have socialism in an underdeveloped and devastated country like Algeria, because socialism assumed a high level of economic development, which necessarily depended on an international division of labor. On the other hand, Pablo argued that you could lay the groundwork for a future socialism by fostering democratic institutions from the outset.

    Pablo had become an advocate of what he called “autogestion” (self-management) throughout society. He welcomed the spontaneous creation of workplace self-management in Algeria. In his mind, here was a chance (and it was only that) to create a viable alternative to the capitalist or bureaucratic models for developing societies.

    Pablo and Ben Bella struck up an immediate rapport and the new president hired Pablo as an economic counselor. A handful of supporters followed him to Algiers. There were also Algerian militants such as Mohammed Harbi and Omar Belouchrani who were already advocates of self-management.

    For his part, Ben Bella persuaded the Egyptian dictator Gamal Nasser to release a host of Arab communists from his prison camps to work in Algeria. Some of them assisted with schemes for self-management and agrarian reform.

    However, the gathering of this small staff of cosmopolitan revolutionary intellectuals could not conceal the fact that there was no national political force committed to self-management. The FLN was a shambles that was rapidly being rebuilt, attracting as many chancers and opportunists as genuine revolutionaries in the process.

    In addition, the union movement was very much in its infancy, and its leaders were men appointed by Ben Bella and Boumédiène rather than elected by the members. What we might call a culture of political democracy was largely absent.
    Bureaucratic Barriers

    Nevertheless, the early days of free Algeria were hopeful. Ben Bella accepted Pablo’s advocacy for a cancellation of the debts of the peasantry and the suspension and cancellation of the recent sales of European farms and property. He authorized Pablo to draw up the new laws governing the self-managed sector of the economy.

    This resulted in the March Decrees of 1963, which legislated the form that self-management was to take in all former European-owned farms and businesses. General assemblies were to hold the ultimate power, including that of electing the workers’ council. In turn, the council elected the management committee which was in charge of day-to-day matters. The government was to appoint the executive director in agreement with the self-management bodies of an area.

    The government launched implementation of the March Decrees with much fanfare. Ben Bella went on a national tour promoting those decrees, presiding over elections of workers’ councils and holding enthusiastic rallies wherever he went, proclaiming the birth of Algerian self-managed socialism. The Bureau national d’animation du secteur socialiste (BNASS or National Office for the Support of the Socialist Sector) was created to aid the new self-managed bodies and a regular radio program — the Voice of Self-Management — was inaugurated.

    However, the assassination of Ben Bella’s radical foreign minister, Mohamed Khemisti, cut short his national tour as he hurried back to Algiers. Back in the capital, he was subject to lobbying by long-standing comrades, including his old cellmate Ali Mahsas, who was now minister for agriculture. Mahsas argued that firm central supervision of the self-managed farms was essential.

    The original aim had been for the government to favor the self-managed sector with support and investment in order to boost its profitability and productivity: existing yields were about half those of comparable farms in Europe. The Algerian state would use taxes on these farms for local, regional, and national development.

    Yet the party-bureaucracy had other ideas that were essentially parasitical. The ministry took control of farm machinery, marketing, and credit. It established strong links with the directors and management committee presidents. Corruption became rife.

    In addition, the local préfets — officials in the traditional French administrative structure that Algeria inherited — used the farms to help solve unemployment. Often the farms now had four or five times the number of workers compared to colonial times. Ben Bella’s colleagues also persuaded him to put the BNASS under the control of the Ministry of Agriculture and the radio broadcasts were terminated.
    The Struggle for Self-Management

    Pablo and others protested this creeping bureaucratic coup, which basically reduced the self-managed councils and committees to the status of advisory bodies and the workers to that of state employees. As early as August 1963, Pablo wrote to Ben Bella, pointing out that all revolutions soon boiled down to a struggle between democratic and authoritarian tendencies, and he would have to choose his side.

    According to Pablo, it was necessary to free the self-management sector from the ministry’s tutelage and allow it to set-up cooperative bodies in order to market and distribute its products and have control of its tractors and other machinery. Ben Bella’s government would also have to set up an agricultural investment bank to extend credit to the self-managed firms.

    Ben Bella temporized. He authorized Pablo to draft an agrarian reform law redistributing land and encouraging the establishment of cooperatives for Algerian peasants, most of whom didn’t work on the former European farms and subsisted on tiny allotments. Pablo also drafted proposals for local communal councils, which would be a combination of directly elected representatives and delegates from the local self-management farms and enterprises.

    Pablo’s scheme would oblige these communal councils to call regular general assemblies of citizens to guide their work. The councils would form the basis of a federated republic, mobilize the local population for public works, and help draft the overall plan for the economy.

    These initiatives lay in abeyance until the first postindependence national congress of the FLN was held in April 1964. The congress adopted a manifesto, the Charter of Algiers, that Harbi had largely drafted in consultation with Pablo. It proclaimed self-managed socialism to be the goal of the FLN.

    Unfortunately, this rhetorical victory did not result in control of the official party machinery by advocates of self-management or any substantial changes in the government ministries. By this stage, discontent at the bureaucratic counterrevolution in the self-managed sector was building up among the farm workers themselves. In December 1964, it culminated in the second congress of agricultural workers.

    Delegates from the farms dominated this assembly of some three thousand people rather than the handpicked ministry and union representatives. The majority of speakers denounced the bureaucratic abuses and reasserted their demands for more self-management rather than less.
    The Mecca of Revolution

    From late 1964, there was evidence of a wider mass radicalization. A series of union conferences removed the puppet leaders that Ben Bella had appointed in 1962. The new leaders were more in favor of self-management, though understandably suspicious of Ben Bella himself.

    The most dramatic manifestation of this radicalization was the International Women’s Day march through Algiers on March 8, 1965. From the photographic evidence, it is clear that the bulk of the marchers were women from the plebeian ranks of Algerian society. This was no chic parade.

    Henri Alleg was the legendary editor of Alger Républicain, the bestselling (and communist) daily newspaper in the capital, and author of a damning book about his experience of torture at the hands of the French authorities during the independence struggle. He has left a telling anecdote in his memoirs about this march.

    As tens of thousands of women, by Alleg’s count, made their way past the Alger Républicain offices, the staff leaned out of the windows and balconies to cheer and exchange chants with the ululating women. On the opposite side of the street was the Ministry for Agriculture. There the spectators watched stony-faced and in silence.

    In his characteristic way, Ben Bella now began to pivot left despite the continuing attacks in the FLN’s army newspaper on the “atheistic communists” who held influential positions in his government. He signaled that he was about to sack the foreign minister, Abdelaziz Bouteflika, who was a key ally of the army boss, Boumédiène. At the central committee meeting of the FLN in mid-June, he supported a raft of radical motions.

    While Ben Bella was not consistently radical in domestic policies, he did make Algeria, along with Cuba, the strongest supporter of anti-imperialist struggles in the Third World. Movements such as Nelson Mandela’s African National Congress in South Africa, the Angolan MPLA, the Palestinian Liberation Organization, and even the Portuguese anti-fascist alliance opened offices in Algiers and sent cadres and guerrillas there for training.

    Amílcar Cabral, the great Pan-African poet and nationalist leader from Guinea-Bissau, dubbed the Algiers of this period “the Mecca of Revolution” — a phrase that the American historian Jeffrey James Byrne recently borrowed for an extraordinary study of Algeria’s foreign policy during the Ben Bella years. Quite naturally, Che Guevara chose Algiers as his first port of call in his attempt to revive the Congolese revolution.

    As a result of this activity, the Non-Alignment Movement (NAM) selected Algeria as the site for its second conference. All the giants of the anti-imperialist revolutions — from Fidel Castro, Jawaharlal Nehru, and Sukarno to Nasser, Josip Broz Tito, and Ho Chi Minh — were expected to attend or at least send their deputies to the meeting in July. Ben Bella was due to preside.
    Boumédiène’s Coup

    The prospect of this boost to Ben Bella’s prestige, combined with the president’s leftward move and his intention to remove key Boumédiène supporters from their posts, may have been what prompted Boumédiène to stage a coup against Ben Bella. In the early hours of June 19, 1965, a group of soldiers led by the army chief of staff entered the Villa Joly where Ben Bella was living and arrested him.

    Soldiers and tanks took up positions in all the cities and major towns. The coup leader Boumédiène announced an end to “chaos” and a return to order. He denounced figures like Pablo as foreign atheists. The NAM conference was canceled.

    Mahsas, the agriculture minister, naturally supported the coup. The protests against it were for the most part desultory, although Harbi has noted that one of the strongest demonstrations was in the city of Annaba, where “self-management militants . . . mobilized the people by explaining that the putchists were going to put an end to popular democracy.”

    In the streets of Annaba, the Algerian army fired on and massacred its own citizens for the first time. Algeria’s experiment with self-management, hobbled almost from the outset, was now over. Advocates of self-management became hunted men and women, and Pablo had to leave the country.

    Ben Bella remained under house arrest until after Boumédiène’s death in 1978. Harbi also spent time under house arrest, during which he began writing a history of the FLN. After escaping from Algeria in 1973, he went on to become the leading critical historian of the movement.

    During the 1990s, hopes for democratization were quickly dashed as Algeria was plunged into a brutal civil war pitting the military against religious fundamentalists. The army dictatorship persists to this day.

    But so do periodic popular uprisings to establish a genuine democracy. Boumédiène’s ally Bouteflika finally had to resign as president in 2019 after mass protests demanding an end to the dictatorship of the ruling bloc known as le pouvoir (“the power”).

    #Algérie #histoire #révolution #islam #décolonialisation #autogestion #socialisme

  • We Can’t Ignore Class Dealignment

    02.05.2023 - Matt Karp on class dealignment and why the Left’s weakening connection to blue-collar workers isn’t a problem we can wish away.

    In a recent article, Chris Maisano raises some important questions about the concept of “class dealignment” that many in the Jacobin orbit, including myself, have used to describe the recent shift in American voting patterns. Coming soon after Robert Brenner and Dylan Riley’s speculative essay in the last New Left Review, this suggests an element of dissatisfaction on the intellectual left with the dealignment idea.

    I’ve written a longer reply to Brenner and Riley, which I hope will appear soon. But I wanted to respond to a few of Maisano’s points directly.

    Maisano’s main critique seems to be about measurement. Using college education to stand in for class, he argues, misses a much more complex reality in America today. This is all true, so far as it goes, and Maisano’s sociological citations are helpful here. It’s one reason why the Center for Working Class Politics has designed our second study — which will appear later this spring — around fine-grained occupational data. (Much of it relies on the concepts and terms developed by Daniel Oesch, who Maisano cites. You can find a preview of the results in Jared Abbott’s essay in the latest Jacobin.)

    It’s always good to have more precise evidence. But above and beyond a debate over measurement, two larger points must be kept in mind. First, the same basic pattern that we call dealignment is visible everywhere, no matter which categories we use. And second, the challenge that this historic shift poses for liberals and Democrats is a challenge for the Left, as well — a challenge we can’t hope to meet if we pretend it does not exist.

    Maisano notes that dealignment appears to be weaker when tracked by income than by education. However, according to presidential exit polls (a crude but useful index), lower-income voters have in recent years moved toward the Republicans, while higher-income voters moved toward the Democrats. This is true broadly over time, and especially in the last decade.

    In 1976, at the start of the dealignment era, the Democrat Jimmy Carter won the bottom rung of the income distribution by twenty-four points. He won the bottom 40 percent by eighteen points. But he lost the richest income quartile to the Republican Gerald Ford by twenty-four points. Measured by income (or by occupation, as academics showed), New Deal–era class alignment remained very much in effect.

    This alignment atrophied across the next three decades, but Barack Obama’s semi-populist campaigns helped bring lower-income voters back toward the Democrats. In 2012, Obama beat Mitt Romney with the bottom 40 percent of income earners (under $50,000) by twenty-two points. He lost the top third (incomes over $100,000) by ten.

    This puts Biden’s 2020 performance in perspective: a nine point win with the bottom third of incomes, according to Pew, alongside a thirteen point win with the top quarter. Other polls show a less dramatic shift. Regardless, it is almost certain that no Democrat in US history has ever won the White House with a coalition so heavily weighted toward the top of the income pyramid.

    Yes, a thin majority of lower-income voters is still Democratic; and of course, many higher earners are still Republicans. But invoking these groups is a way of talking past the point. Dealignment has nothing to do with the minor auto-parts barons who voted for Trump, as they did for Gerald Ford, or the unionized health care workers who voted for Biden, as they did for Jimmy Carter. Dealignment, like most historical phenomena, is not an absolute; it is a process. Or, more prosaically, a trend: and it focuses attention on the voters who are in motion across the party system, in both directions. Not those who stay, but those who leave.

    It is of course important to understand more precisely who these voters are. But after wading through all the sociological complexities, it turns out that the two key groups are relatively easy to describe, as Maisano acknowledges: lower-education, lower-income voters moving Right; higher-education, higher-income voters moving Left.

    Looking at the data by occupational class, Ted Fertik found the same result: “skilled manual workers, lower-grade technicians, installers, and repairers” were the strongest Republican-breaking group in 2016; “higher-grade professionals, administrators, managers, and officials” the strongest Democratic-breaking group.

    In other words, however you slice it, the essential trade-off comes down to the same constituencies Chuck Schumer called out in his famous dictum: “For every blue-collar Democrat we lose in western Pennsylvania, we will pick up two moderate Republicans in the suburbs in Philadelphia.”

    Indeed: between 2012 and 2020, indeed, Erie County in western Pennsylvania (median household income: $55,949) shifted Republican by sixteen points; Chester County outside of Philadelphia ($109,969) shifted Democratic by seventeen points.

    How are we to describe this shift? Or, for that matter, the even more dramatic shifts in blue-collar places like Lee County, Iowa ($54,258), which broke Republican by thirty-five points from 2012 to 2020, or Zapata County, Texas ($34,406), which broke Republican by an improbable 48 points?

    Is this “a complicated new set of alignments rooted in the social and occupational structures of a postindustrial economy,” as Maisano says? Yes, of course. Is that just another way of saying “class dealignment”? I think so.

    For the Left, the primal question is what we are to do about it. Maisano invokes the long and honorable history of twentieth-century socialists making alliances outside their traditional industrial base. But today, as he notes, the social base for progressive or socialist politics is a different group: sociocultural professionals, mostly, with less active support from some groups of service workers.

    No one on the Left has seriously suggested a politics that excludes core constituencies like teachers, nurses, or social workers. Yet this base — even if we optimistically include other loyal Democratic groups — remains far smaller, weaker, and less united than the organized industrial workers of the twentieth century. So which other social groups must be won over to form a coalition capable of winning power outside northwest Brooklyn?

    It seems obvious that the critical group is the same one that Schumer and others have successfully helped push out of the Democratic party: blue-collar workers in places like western Pennsylvania, eastern Iowa, and southern Texas. Does the Left, in its current incarnation, have any better plan to reach these workers than the Democrats do?

    The concept of dealignment offers nothing like a solution to this dilemma. But it begins, at least, by acknowledging the scale of the challenge.

    #lutte_des_classes #USA #syndicalisme