The Class War Should Unite Us

Nijmie Dzurinko (bottom, middle) with the Mother Jones Leadership Program participants and mentors, 2017. (Photo: Courtesy of Nijmie Dzurinko)

By Sarah Jaffe for Truthout – Nijmie Dzurinko: I think the first thing to know about the piece is that, although it does chronicle the story of one of our members, Danelle Morrow, and her husband Kevin, from Johnstown, Pennsylvania, a place where Trump campaigned heavily in the election, the purpose of the story is not to say that our intention was to turn him from being a Trump voter. That was an outgrowth of the strategy, which is to really build an intersectional working class movement across the state of Pennsylvania that meets people where they are at, sees them for who they are, engages them around where they are hurting, then, moves us all toward a vision of human rights that is inclusive of all people. Including them. Danelle wrote this piece about her husband. She found Put People First online. She saw us on Facebook. The first contact she ever made with us was jumping in a car with her two daughters and driving about two and a half hours to come to a meeting with a bunch of people she had never met before because she just liked the sound of what we were doing. She then found a place in the organization and has since has become a leader of an organizing committee in Johnstown…

A Class-Only Approach Will Fail Women Of Color

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By Andrea Flynn and Angelique Roche for Roosevelt Institute – Last week President Trump released a budget that would gut public programs that lift up millions of American women and families. Contrary to its title, “A New Foundation for American Greatness,” the budget is a roadmap to a place where women and their families would be less safe, less healthy, and less economically secure. As we argue in a new report published by the Roosevelt Institute and the Ms. Foundation for Women, women, and particularly women of color, are at greatest risk from the President’s latest proposal. Among all social groups in the United States, women of color experience some of the starkest disparities and inequities across nearly every social and economic indicator: Compared to white women, they have higher levels of unemployment and poverty; they have significantly less wealth; they are more likely to be targeted by and come in contact with the criminal justice system; they are at a much higher risk, regardless of their income or education, of dying as a result of pregnancy and of losing their children in infancy; they are less likely to own a home and more likely to have high-risk mortgages when they do own a home; and they are less likely to attend college and, when they do, tend to carry heavier student debt burdens. They are caught in a web of injustices.

Labour’s Manifesto Is A Template For The Struggling Left Worldwide

Jeremy Corbyn launches the Labour party election manifesto. Photograph: Leon Neal/Getty Images

By Owen Jones for The Guardian – Wanted: a compelling vision for a left-of-centre party. Must invest in economy, modernise essential services, get the well-off to pay more tax. Free wifi on trains a bonus. Someone answered my personal ad! Labour’s manifesto – unveiled today – is a moderate, commonsense set of antidotes to the big problems holding back one of the wealthiest countries on earth. And – intriguingly – here is an attempt to confront the crisis of identity and vision afflicting social democracy not just in Britain, but across the western world. The manifesto sketches out an answer to Britain’s broken model. The current model is bankrupt: it’s not just unjust, it’s irrational. It concentrates wealth in very few hands – the richest 1,000 British people enjoyed a 14% jump in their fortunes over the past year – while wages have suffered the longest squeeze in generations. It fails to build the housing the country needs. It robs many communities of secure, properly paid, skilled jobs. It leaves most people in poverty in work, earning their poverty. It allows multinational corporations to pay little or no tax while small businesses struggle.

Which Way To The Barricades?

1933 Dressmakers' Union strike demonstrators take a break in a diner. Kheel Center / Flickr

By Steve Fraser and Nelson Lichtenstein for Jacobin Magazine – Shelly’s “Masque of Anarchy” has been a spectral presence for nearly two hundred years, summoned at climactic moments of civil warfare. Composed to memorialize the 1819 Peterloo massacre, the poem commemorates the sixty thousand people who gathered at the very dawn of the industrial revolution to demand a radical expansion of suffrage, especially to those laboring in England’s dark satanic mills. Dozens died, hundreds were wounded. The poem wasn’t published for over a decade, until the Chartist movement took it up in 1832. Another ten years after that, it became the anthem of an almost nationwide general strike. Participants referred to the time leading up to that moment and the strikes that preceded it as “holy days.” Since then “Ye are many—they are few” has inspired rebellion, resistance, and liberation again and again. The New York garment worker strikes of 1911, the sit-down strikes of the 1930s, May 1968 in Paris, and, most recently, the pro-democracy congregations during the Arab Spring and the Occupy uprisings of 2011 are all etched in our collective memory. There are also largely unknown, but hardly less remarkable, general strikes: not just those that shut down Winnipeg and Seattle in 1919…

Here To Stay: Immigrant Workers Demand Justice, Respect On May Day

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By Anne Meador and John Zangas for DC Media Group – Thousands of people marched in the streets of Washington, DC to celebrate May Day, the holiday often known as International Workers’ Day, with defiant calls for a living wage, benefits, and safe working conditions. In light of President Trump’s assault on immigrants and refugees, the rallies and marches also became protests against refugee bans, deportations and raids on immigrant communities. Crowds filled Dupont Circle, Malcolm X Park, Freedom Plaza, and Courthouse in Arlington, then converged into marches to the White House. American flags mingled with Mexican flags and bright red socialist flags. Many of the large number of Hispanic participants were immigrants from Mexico and Central American countries, and, in spite of risks, even undocumented immigrants were present and vocal. While some might expect recent Trump initiatives, such as Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids and efforts to build a wall on the border of Mexico, to intimidate those born in another country, there was an unmistakable tone of defiance in every speech, chant and sign. “No papers, no fear!” they cried. Some signs advertised the hashtag #heretostay.

Reign Of Idiots

Mr. Fish / Truthdig

By Chris Hedges for Truth Dig – The idiots take over in the final days of crumbling civilizations. Idiot generals wage endless, unwinnable wars that bankrupt the nation. Idiot economists call for reducing taxes for the rich and cutting social service programs for the poor, and project economic growth on the basis of myth. Idiot industrialists poison the water, the soil and the air, slash jobs and depress wages. Idiot bankers gamble on self-created financial bubbles and impose crippling debt peonage on the citizens. Idiot journalists and public intellectuals pretend despotism is democracy. Idiot intelligence operatives orchestrate the overthrow of foreign governments to create lawless enclaves that give rise to enraged fanatics. Idiot professors, “experts” and “specialists” busy themselves with unintelligible jargon and arcane theory that buttresses the policies of the rulers. Idiot entertainers and producers create lurid spectacles of sex, gore and fantasy. There is a familiar checklist for extinction. We are ticking off every item on it. The idiots know only one word—“more.” They are unencumbered by common sense. They hoard wealth and resources until workers cannot make a living and the infrastructure collapses.

The Price Of Resistance

Mr. Fish / Truthdig

By Chris Hedges for Truth Dig – In the conflicts I covered as a reporter in Latin America, Africa, the Middle East and the Balkans, I encountered singular individuals of varying creeds, religions, races and nationalities who majestically rose up to defy the oppressor on behalf of the oppressed. Some of them are dead. Some of them are forgotten. Most of them are unknown. These individuals, despite their vast cultural differences, had common traits—a profound commitment to the truth, incorruptibility, courage, a distrust of power, a hatred of violence and a deep empathy that was extended to people who were different from them, even to people defined by the dominant culture as the enemy. They are the most remarkable men and women I met in my 20 years as a foreign correspondent. And to this day I set my life by the standards they set. You have heard of some, such as Vaclav Havel, whom I and other foreign reporters met most evenings, during the 1989 Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia, in the Magic Lantern Theatre in Prague. Others, no less great, you probably do not know, such as the Jesuit priest Ignacio Ellacuria, who was assassinated in El Salvador in 1989.

Baltimore’s Mayor Rejects $15 Minimum Wage Bill

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By Danny Haiphong for Black Agenda Report – Black Agenda Report (BAR) has been the only media outlet in the United States to criticize and condemn mainstream Black political leadership. BAR anointed such leadership a well-deserved new title: the Black misleadership class. The Black misleadership class occupies the halls of local, state, and federal office. Members of this class have been traditionally nurtured from the bowels of the Democratic Party, with few notable exceptions. The rise of this class has correlated with an increase in representation of Black entertainers, athletes, and media pundits to ensure the most progressive polity in the US, Black America, is kept in the ideological thrall of the ruling system. Baltimore’s Democratic Party mayor Catherine Pugh showed off her lock-step allegiance to the Black misleadership class with her veto of a bill that would have raised the local minimum wage to $15 per hour by 2022.

Heavily Armed Left-Wing Group Shows Up At Pro-Trump Rally

Pro-Trump rally participants in Southern California. — REUTERS

By Jacob Steinblatt for Vocativ – A heavily armed left-wing group, the John Brown Gun Club, made a surprise appearance over the weekend at a pro-Trump rally being held in Phoenix, Arizona with a conciliatory message for supporters of the president. About two dozen men and women armed with a variety of rifles stood beside the march in downtown Phoenix, in order to both show their opposition to the Trump administration and its policies, and to appeal to supporters of President Trump as fellow members of the working class. The group describes itself as largely white and working class, with the ultimate goal of “total liberation of all working people, regardless of skin color, religious background, sexual orientation, gender identity, [or] nationality.”

Protest Groups Uniting As 'The Majority' For Actions On May Day

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By Aaron Morrison for Mic – Activist groups are uniting as a broader coalition they’ve dubbed “The Majority,” an idea inspired by the Movement for Black Lives — a collective of organizations in the Black Lives Matter movement — organizers first shared with Mic on Thursday. More than 50 partners representing black, Latino, the indigenous, LGBTQ, refugees, immigrants, laborers and the poor will collaborate from April 4 through May 1, International Worker’s Day, when they’ll launch massive protests across the country. The action will “go beyond moments of outrage, beyond narrow concepts of sanctuary, and beyond barriers between communities that have much at stake and so much in common,”…

Brazilian People Mobilize Against Michel Temer Reforms

The mobilizations were convened by the Brasil Popular and Pueblo Sin Miedo fronts. (Photo taken from PL)

By Staff of Escambray – Brazil staged today a National Day of Mobilization and Paralysis against the proposed labor and social security reforms by which popular movements and central trade unions describe as Michel Temer”s ”illegitimate government.” Throughout the country, demonstrations of protest are planned from the early hours of the morning, culminating in the event that will take place in the afternoon on the crowded Paulista Avenue and which former President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva will attend. The mobilizations, convened by the Brasil Popular and Pueblo Sin Miedo fronts and backed by the main Brazilian trade union centers, will coincide with the beginning of a general strike of public education workers.

What It Takes To Change Hearts And Minds

By Colin Beavan

By Colin Beavan for Yes! Magazine – Some years ago, the communications psychologist John Marshall Roberts said at a talk I attended that there are three ways of converting people to a cause: by threat of force, by intellectual argument, and by inspiration. The most effective of these methods, Roberts said, is aligning communication about your cause with the most deeply-held values and aspirations of your friends, relatives, neighbors, and fellow citizens. To get people’s total, lasting, and unwavering support, in other words, we should try neither to cajole them judgmentally nor convince them forcefully. We should inspire them toward a vision that they—not we—can really care about. Which points to the potential problem of blindly using facts and science—be it climate science or demographic science—to “prove” the righteousness of our causes. Research shows that people tend to embrace data that support their life views and reject data that refute them. Whether we like this or not, it is a truth about how humans evaluate and make decisions.

Right Now -- Resist, Rethink, Recreate

Now, this very week, it is possible to Resist much closer to home. Congress is in recess this week, and it is possible to show up at our elected officials’ events, town halls, and other public appearances to demand answers to questions like whether our own members of Congress will pledge to protect and improve our health care, to protect the religious freedom of Muslims and to meet the human needs of immigrants.

Resistance is not only about the “content” of political demands, but about the “style” of holding officials accountable. If CongressMembers refuse to hold town meetings, we can hold our own with the Congressional chair empty -- to highlight to the public and the media the lawmakers who won't even meet with their constituents. These events are being called “Resistance Recess.”

Click here to find your local Resistance Recess event and RSVP.

So far, the least bold resistance has been defense of the planet that keeps us alive. This is sad, but not surprising. Health care for the sick, religious freedom, the human needs of immigrants and refugees can all be portrayed in human-interest stories, videos, photos. Despite multiplying hyper-droughts and hyper-floods, the connection between planetary scorching and human disaster is harder to see and feel. Yet it remains the Big Story of survival.

So on April 29, we intend to bring together in Washington DC and in support cities around the country a People's Climate March and Movement. I urge you, The Shalom Center ‘s members and readers, to join in that effort.

For many Jews and Jewish organizations, the fact that April 29 is Shabbat makes participation difficult. Plans are under way for a multi-religious prayer service like the one that led the 400,000-person People’s Climate March in New York City in 2014. And in some Jewish communities, there are plans for local Shabbat gatherings in support of the Washington March.

You can get fuller information here as the plans unfold, and you can register to receive bulletins by clicking here www.peoplesclimate.org/?source=theshalomcenter

2)  RETHINK

We need to rethink the assumptions of what American democracy means. Rethinking is necessary because the Trump-Pence-Bannon coalition is right about one thing –-- right enough to win an election under the Constitutional rules even while vastly losing the popular vote.  They are right that for important parts of American society, the globalization model in economics and culture is not working.

Even if they had barely lost instead of barely winning the recent election, American society would have had to keep living with a painful ulcer of fear and rage. That ulcer would have kept us paralyzed. If as a nation we had ignored it, we would have continued to be unable to heal our society as a whole while the ulcer grew and worsened.

Unable, as Dr. King warned, to conquer the triplets of Racism, Militarism, and Materialism.

And this is not only a politically profound issue, it is a spiritually profound challenge. Are those who voted for Trump not still our neighbors, deserving of our open ears and hearts, our striving to understand their legitimate needs and to craft both human connections and policy responses? This too is a question that Dr. King faced in his own day and calls on us to face.

The Trumpist answer to this crisis is even more domination, more top-down control, more repression of those energies that are refusing to keep living passively in situations that are abusive and oppressive. That is an anti-democratic, anti-human, anti-web-of-life response; but the status quo is not viable. So we need to rethink what democracy must mean in our generation.

We need to rethink the relationship between the “old America” that now feels cast out economically, culturally, and spiritually –- and the New America which thinks it is the wave of the future but feels disempowered in the present. Is it inevitable that both kinds of the “left-outs” are hostile to each other, or can we reach beyond the present barricades? 

We need to rethink our top-down political parties, the power of Hyper-Wealth over our elections, the precariousness of our voting rights, including the built-in blockages against democratic decision-making.

We need to reexamine the nature of coalitions between groups of people and organizations that may share some agendas but disagree on others.

We need to rethink the roles of neighborhoods, urban and rural, in giving life to democracy.

We need to rethink the nature of jobs, work, and income in our increasingly computerized and robot-enabled society.

We need to rethink how we think –- the processes of education, culture, media old and new
We need to rethink even religion. Already, the proliferation of “interfaith” and “multireligious” prayer services challenges the very foundations of what the Abrahamic traditions thought Truth was for most of the last two thousand years. It has happened before in history –- under the tyranny of the Roman Empire and the tyranny of Pharaoh, for example --  that an overweening exercise of tyrannical power that shattered old forms of community has led through times of tumult to the birth of new forms of sacred community. Could that be happening now?

By Rabbi Arthur Waskow for The Shalom Center – We are facing a government that is beginning the process of shattering democracy and devastating the Earth, elevating what Martin Luther King defined as the deadly triplets of Racism, Militarism, and Materialism into the domineering reality of our lives. That government is trying to make it become the new normal that our lives will be fearful, consumed by fake news and “alternative facts,” struggling to deal with worsening economic pressures and worsening ecological disasters, even life-spans shorter in years. Three different sorts of energy have been stirred into a devil’s brew to fuel this anti-democratic political machine. They have three specific people as their embodiments: First, a Leader – a Bully — with a strong personal streak of narcissism, cruelty, and vindictiveness: Mr. Trump. What he brings to the amalgam is a “populism” that is not about policy but about an emotional connection with people who are angry enough to break the rules of decorum –- and welcome a leader who does break them.

The Struggle To Decolonize

From decolonizingsolidarity.blogspot.com

By Staff of Renaissance – The system we live in (or under) is founded on exploitation and practices it in nearly all of its endeavors. The system forms a binary, a dichotomy wherein one is either an exploiter or one is exploited. Put another way, one is either the oppressor or the oppressed. Much of our understanding, false though it is, begins with our education that is more correctly an indoctrination. Even the style of education within this system presupposes hierarchical structure of dominance in what Paulo Freire termed the “Banking System” of education in the Pedagogy of the Oppressed, wherein communiques are merely deposited into students who are presupposed to be ignorant, and thus, inferior. The students in order to succeed must concede and adapt to this position of inferiority thereby solidify the exploiter-exploited relationship and contradiction.

The Elites Won’t Save Us

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By Chris Hedges for Truth Dig – The four-decade-long assault on our democratic institutions by corporations has left them weak and largely dysfunctional. These institutions, which surrendered their efficacy and credibility to serve corporate interests, should have been our firewall. Instead, they are tottering under the onslaught. Labor unions are a spent force. The press is corporatized and distrusted. Universities have been purged of dissidents and independent scholars who criticize neoliberalism and decry the decay of democratic institutions and political parties. Public broadcasting and the arts have been defunded and left on life support. The courts have been stacked with judges whose legal careers were spent serving corporate power, a trend in appointments that continued under Barack Obama.