3 years on from the J1O strike

3 years on from the J10 strike

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Ginger Jentzen address the rally

Today marks 3 years since public sector workers in Coventry and across the country took action against pay cuts, attacks on pensions and in defence of public services. It gave a glimpse of the power of workers from different unions striking together. Here in Coventry the strike was very well supported, with workers being given a boost by Socialist Alternative member Ginger Jentzen who was visiting from the United States. Ginger spoke at a 500 strong rally in Broadgate Square bringing solidarity from American workers and Socialist Alternative in the US.  To see pictures and reports of the picket lines, read our article here.

With the focus being brought back on to public sector pay, trade union members and activists needs to discuss the lessons of previous pay campaigns in order to make sure this time we win a decent pay rise as well as getting rid of the Tories. We encourage readers of this site to have a look at the article by Socialist Party trade union organiser Rob Williams who discusses how we can take the movement forward.

Want to help break the pay cap and get the Tories out? Fill in the form below!

 

US Socialist to speak in Birmingham on resistance to Trump’s policies, the Black Lives Matter movement and the rise of socialism

US Socialist to speak in Birmingham on resistance to Trump’s policies, the Black Lives Matter movement and the rise of socialism

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Darletta v Fox News

We are pleased to publish this press release from the Socialist Party in Birmingham regarding a public meeting taking place on Tuesday night (15th Nov). This is an excellent opportunity to hear first hand about the growing movement in the US following Trump’s election – if you would like more information please in touch by calling 07530429441


Press release

14.11.16 – for immediate use

US Socialist to speak in Birmingham on resistance to Trump and Black Lives matter

Darletta Scruggs was an organiser of the Movement for Bernie in Chicago where she is also an activist with Black Lives Matter and the 15Now campaign for a $15/hr minimum wage. She is a member of Socialist Alternative, co-thinkers of the Socialist Party in the USA,  who have been the key organisers of the anti-Trump protests in cities across the US. Read more here

Darletta says: “Donald Trump was the most hated Presidential candidate in the history of this country, according to the polls. Yet Hillary Clinton, the Wall Street, Wal-Mart, warmonger, couldn’t defeat him. Now, tens of millions of people are both afraid and angry.

“We marched for Bernie and we fight for free education and $15. We will take to the streets in protest to fight against Trump’s racist, sexist and billionaire agenda.”

Here you can see a clip of Darletta when she was on Fox News defending free education: 

Darletta says: “Me and millions like me marched and campaigned for Bernie Sanders but the Democratic nomination was rigged against us. He should have stood. Sanders would have likely defeated Trump, and Bernie could have cut across Trump’s bluster if he’d run as an independent like Socialist Alternative urged.”

Watch this clip to see Darletta doing a speech on the March for Bernie in Chicago earlier this year:

Socialist Alternative is organising protests across the country against Trump’s agenda. Trump is bound to disappoint many of those who backed him in the mistaken hope that he would act in favour of working people.

Three years ago Socialist Alternative member Kshama Sawant was elected as the first socialist representative in Seattle in 100 years. Since then Kshama has led the successful movement which introduced a $15 wage in the city.

Darletta will be speaking at a public meeting, to which all are welcome  in Birmingham on Tuesday 15 November on the subject of the battle against Trump’s agenda and the rise of socialism and Black Lives Matter in the USA at 7.30pm at the Victoria Pub, John bright Street, Birmingham City Centre, B1 1BN

Click here to access the Facebook event

We need mass resistance to Trump and a new party of the 99%

We need mass resistance to Trump and a new party of the 99%

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Socialist Alternative have initiated mass protests across the United States

We are proud to publish the latest analysis from Socialist Alternative, our co-thinkers in the United States.

Last night (9 November), Socialist Alternative organised mass marches and rallies across the US as a first response to Trump’s election. Tens of thousands of people attended, at only hour’s notice.

We urge people to help share this article amongst family and friends, and if you agree to join the fight for a new type of society. The choice before us is clear. Get active in the movement for Socialism here in the UK and across the world. Click here or fill in the form at the end of the article.


We need mass resistance to Trump and a new party of the 99%

By Tom Crean and Philip Locker

People in the US and around the world awoke today to one of the most shocking political upsets in living memory with the election of Donald Trump as president. It was the culmination of an election cycle when ordinary Americans rose up against the political establishment and against the destructive effects of globalization and neo-liberalism. This was expressed both on the left, with the campaign of Bernie Sanders which galvanized millions for a “political revolution against the billionaire class,” and, in a distorted way, on the right with Trump’s campaign.

But Trump did not just run as the alleged defender of the “forgotten men and women” in working class communities. He also ran the most overtly bigoted and chauvinist campaign of a major party candidate in modern times. He created a space for white nationalists and open white supremacists to come out of their holes and try to reach disaffected white workers and youth. This is a very dangerous development.

However, we completely reject the notion – relentlessly pushed by liberal commentators, trying to deflect from the staggering failure of the Democratic Party – that the outcome demonstrates that the bulk of the white working class shares Trump’s racism and xenophobia. Clinton actually won the popular vote by a narrow margin. Trump only got 47.5% overall, with tens of millions of the poorest and most downtrodden Americans not voting.

Trump’s vote was first and foremost a vote against Clinton and the establishment; it was a vote for a “change agent” against a consummate representative of the corporate status quo. Many responded to his attacks on the “rigged system” and corporations who move jobs overseas.What was tragically missing was a clear choice on the left that could offer an alternative to the seduction of right populism.

Socialist Alternative stands with the millions of women who are disgusted by the election of an open misogynist and correctly see it as a step backward; with Latinos who fear that mass deportations of undocumented workers are about to ramp up to unprecedented levels; with Muslims and African Americans who fear that Trump’s hate speech will incite more violence and the growth of a far right force.

We immediately called protests in cities around the country to make it clear that working people and the oppressed must stand together and prepare to resist the attacks of the right. In the past 24 hours we have been inundated with requests for more information about our organization. We must start today to build a genuine political alternative for the 99% against both corporate dominated parties and the right so that in 2020 we will not go through this disaster again.

A Shock to the Ruling Class

It needs to be underlined that the outcome of this election was not just a shock to tens of millions of progressive workers, women, immigrants, people of color, and LGBTQ people but also – for quite different reasons – to the ruling elite of the United States.

The majority of the ruling class see Trump as temperamentally “unfit to govern.” It is certainly true that Trump’s bully boy approach of publicly humiliating opponents and reacting to every perceived slight with nasty twitter posts has more in common with “strongmen” dictators in “failed states.” Even George Bush was not as proudly ignorant of international affairs as Trump. The ruling class see a Trump presidency as potentially deeply damaging to the interests of US imperialism at a time when its global power is waning, particularly in the Middle East and Asia, challenged by Russia and especially by an increasingly assertive Chinese imperialism.

They strongly object to Trump’s vociferous rejection of free trade deals and the dominant capitalist economic doctrines of the past forty years. But the truth is that globalization is stalled. Its engine of trade has gone into partial reverse. The Trump vote has some parallels with the Brexit vote in Britain to leave the European Union earlier this year which also reflected a massive rejection of globalization and neo-liberalism by the British working class.

The ruling class also fear that Trump’s crude racism, xenophobia, and misogyny will provoke social upheaval in the US. In this they will certainly be proved right.

At a deeper level, perhaps the most shocking aspect of this outcome for the ruling elite – including the corporate executives and the political establishment and corporate media outlets who serve them – is that the way they have dominated politics in this country through the two party system is broken. In election cycle after election cycle, the primaries have been used to weed out candidates who are not acceptable to corporate interests. Then the electorate would be left with the choice of two “vetted” nominees. The corporate elite might strongly prefer one or the other but they could live with either. Ordinary people were then left with the choice of picking a “lesser evil” or voting for a third party candidate with no chance of winning.

All that changed in 2016. First Bernie Sanders raised $220 million dollars without taking a dime from corporate America and came very close to defeating Hillary in the rigged Democratic primary. Trump was also largely shunned by the Republican “donor class” and the last two Republican presidents and the most recent Republican nominee were very public in rejecting him.

The Chickens Have Come Home to Roost

It is still staggering that the outcome of the primaries left people with a choice between the two  most unpopular major party candidates of the modern era. Exit polling showed 61% of voters had an unfavorable view of Trump and 54% said the same about Clinton.

In the primaries, the Democratic National Committee did everything it could to stack the deck for the establishment’s chosen candidate, Hillary Clinton, against Sanders whom polls showed consistently doing much better against Trump. This speaks directly to the fact that a significant element of Trump’s eventual electorate was open to a genuine working class argument opposing the power of Wall Street and their free trade agenda while calling for a $15 minimum wage, free college, single payer healthcare and massive investment in green infrastructure. But the truth is that the Democratic leadership would rather lose than to be tied to a program that really spoke to the interests of working people and the poor.

Disgracefully most union leaders threw their support and millions of dollars behind Clinton in the primaries while an important section of trade unionists and several national unions backed Sanders. In this way, the labor leadership helped to prop up Wall Street’s candidate against a pro-working class challenge.

Clinton limped into the general election as a deeply damaged corporate candidate. What received the most attention in the media was the State Department email scandal. But the continuing Wikileaks revelations also confirmed in detail and underlined the picture that Sanders had painted in the primary: that Clinton was a servant of Wall Street who said one thing in private speeches to bankers who handed her millions and another in public.

Liberal apologists will seek to blame the white working class, Bernie supporters or even Jill Stein’s voters for the outcome. But as we have repeatedly pointed out the Democratic Party long ago abandoned even the pretense of defending working class interests. For decades they implemented or supported one neo-liberal measure after another: from “ending welfare as we know it,” expanding mass incarceration, pushing through NAFTA and repealing Glass Steagall under Bill Clinton to bailing out the banks while millions lost their homes under Obama.

After the 2008 and 2009 economic crash, the left gave Obama a pass. The Democrats controlled Congress and did little to help the working class in the worst crisis since the 1930s. This opened the door to the Tea Party to mobilize opposition to the bailout of Wall Street and anger at the politicians.

Under pressure from the 45% who supported Sanders in the primary, the Democrats adopted the most left platform at their convention in 40 years. But Clinton ran her campaign solidly focused on the message that Trump was an existential danger to the Republic and that “America was already great.” Hillary’s donors did not want her stressing issues like the minimum wage or ending college debt for fear of raising expectations among fired up working people. It could be argued that Hillary had no credibility as a progressive so what could she do? Well what she did was make Tim Kaine who supported TPP and bank deregulation her vice presidential candidate instead of someone like Elizabeth Warren. She refused to promise not to appoint a bunch of Goldman Sachs personnel to her administration. All of this was completely uninspiring to the millions of people hungry for real change.

It is therefore no surprise that Clinton was unable to enthuse greater voter turnout. Neither Trump nor Clinton got 50% of the vote. And while Clinton got a very slightly larger share of the popular vote than Trump, she got six million fewer votes than Obama in 2012 and fully ten million fewer than Obama in 2008. Meanwhile, Trump’s vote was actually a million votes lower than Romney’s!

As Jacobin pointed out: “Clinton won only 65 percent of Latino voters, compared to Obama’s 71 percent four years ago. She performed this poorly against a candidate who ran on a program of building a wall along America’s southern border, a candidate who kicked off his campaign by calling Mexicans rapists. Clinton won 34 percent of white women without college degrees. And she won just 54 percent of women overall, compared to Obama’s 55 percent in 2012. Clinton, of course, was running against a candidate who has gloated on film about grabbing women ‘by the pussy.’” Clinton also did not excite younger black voters, many of whom sat the election out. And she lost in white working class communities where Barack Obama won handily in both previous elections.

The Democratic establishment played a dangerous game in this election – and they lost. And it will be working people, communities of color, and women who bear the brunt of their failure.

Sanders Should Have Been on the Ballot

In the past few years we have seen a profound political polarization in the US with the growth of support among young people for socialism and Black Lives Matter while there is a growth of open xenophobia and racism among a minority of the population. But the overall trend in American society has been to the left, expressed in support for marriage equality, a higher minimum wage and taxing the rich. This election does not change that underlying reality but it clearly puts the right in the driver seat with control of the presidency, both houses of Congress and the bulk of state legislatures.

A large section of the white working class and middle class did indeed use this election to underline their utter rejection of the Democratic Party and also the establishment of the Republicans. In a distorted way, tens of millions were looking for a way to oppose the corporate elite. We cannot close our eyes to the growth in support among a minority for far right ideas but it is revealing, for example, that exit polls showed that 70% said undocumented immigrants “should be offered legal status” against 25% who said they should be deported.

This is why it is absolutely tragic that Bernie Sanders was not on the ballot yesterday. We urged him to run as an independent as early as September 2014 when he first raised the idea of a presidential campaign. When he decided to run within the Democratic Party primary we disagreed with accepting this framework but continued to engage with his supporters in a discussion about how to achieve his program and the need for a new party.

Our warnings about the consequences of supporting Hillary have been tragically borne out. If Sanders had continued to run all the way to November, as we and many others urged, his presence would have radically changed the character of the race. He would have almost certainly forced his way into the presidential debates and we would right now be discussing the immediate question of forming a new party of the 99% based on the many millions of votes he would have received. This is a massive opportunity missed.

Socialist Alternative supported Jill Stein of the Green Party who received just over one million votes because she also put forward a platform that substantively spoke to the interests of working people. Stein’s campaign had many limitations but, despite them, her vote in a small way indicates the massive potential that exists for the development of a mass left alternative.

A Presidency of Chaos and Struggle

The election of Donald Trump is a disaster which will have many negative consequences. But it is also a phase in the ongoing process of political and social upheaval in the US. Capitalism and its institutions are discredited as perhaps never before, a process that continued right through the end of the general election with the FBI interjecting itself into the political process and Trump relentless talking about the “rigged” political system.

There will inevitably be widespread despair in sections of the left and a feeling that all attempts to move society forward are useless. It is absolutely essential to push back against this mood. Real change as Bernie Sanders correctly pointed out comes from the bottom up, from mass movements in the workplaces and the streets.

Trump’s victory represents the “whip of counter-revolution.” There will be chaos and provocations which will impel millions into defensive action. This is why those who have been radicalized in the past period must redouble their efforts to build a real mass movement for change, independent of corporate control. The social movements of recent years and especially BLM show the potential.

But it also essential to see that Trump will inevitably disappoint his supporters. “Building a wall” will not create millions of good jobs to replace those lost to automation and trade deals. And though he talks about investing in 21st century infrastructure, he is also committed to even further massive tax breaks for billionaires like himself. A mass movement against Trump will need to appeal directly to the white working class and explain how we can create a future where all young people can have a decent future rather than trying to recreate the “American dream” by deepening racial division. Such a future can only be achieved with socialist policies.

Get involved, join the struggle for Socialism! Fill in the form below and we will be in touch

A response to Owen Jones on the US elections – the disastrous failure of lesser evilism

A response to Owen Jones on the US elections – the disastrous failure of lesser evilism

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Guardian journalist Owen Jones

Guardian journalist Owen Jones has today released a short film where he calls for a vote for Hillary Clinton in the forthcoming US presidential elections to stop Donald Trump. We do not agree with his approach and are proud to publish an article written by members of Socialist Alternative in the United States where the weaknesses of ‘lesser evilism’ are explained and a way forward outlined for ordinary people.

We welcome comments and opinions on the article.


THE DISASTROUS FAILURE OF LESSER EVILISM

  By Patrick Ayers and Ty Moore

With the presidential race entering the final lap, panic is setting in as Hillary Clinton fails to pull ahead of Donald Trump in the polls. In a viral video, an exasperated Clinton asks “why am I not 50 points ahead?” Even the mainstream media talking heads – including those who previously dismissed polls consistently showing Bernie outpacing Hillary against Trump – are recognizing the huge challenge of motivating working people to vote for an establishment, Wall Street candidate.

Originally published at CounterPunch.org.

The truth is, a majority of those planning to vote for Clinton will be holding their noses as they cast their ballots on November 8, motivated by fear of Donald Trump rather than positive support for Hillary. A Pew Research Foundation poll found that 55% of voters say they are “disgusted” with the presidential election, with only 12% saying they would be “excited” if Clinton won (CNN, 9/21/16). Even with the historic prospect of electing the first woman president, less than half of all women approve of Clinton (Washington Post, 8/31/16). Asked about the presidential debate, 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick summed it up well: “It’s embarrassing… both are proven liars.”

As the Financial Times pointed out: “It is little short of astonishing that this close to midnight [Clinton] feels obliged to launch another drive to explain to voters why she wants to be president. What exactly was the past year about? Or the past decade? As the song says, ‘If you don’t know me by now …’” The problem is, the more voters learn about Clinton and her legacy of promoting an aggressive corporate agenda, the more they dislike her. The FT continues: “It should be no surprise that voters are sceptical of her honesty. If this is a contest over who is least unpopular, Mrs Clinton is capable of losing it” (9/18/16).

Liberal commentators have focused on Trump’s bigoted hard-core base which, while significant, remains a distinct minority of voters. Fatally missing from most liberal analysis  (and political strategy) is that the main fuel powering Trump’s campaign is popular rage at the corporate corruption of the political establishment. Clinton’s corporate campaign is incapable of tapping into this mass desire for change. Unfortunately, the failure of union and progressive leaders to offer an independent, anti-establishment challenge to Trump leaves the right-wing an open field to exploit the popular anger.

Even if Trump loses this election, the left’s subservience to the Democratic Party is paving the way for future, stronger Trumps. Polls show Bernie Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, remains the most popular politician in America, and it remains clear he would be a far stronger candidate against Trump than Clinton. But as the Democratic National Committee’s fierce backing of Clinton proved, the Democratic Party tops are more firmly committed to maintaining their alliance with Wall Street and big business than they are to defeating Trump and the right-wing.

Faced with the horrifying prospect of a Trump White House, it is understandable that millions of ordinary people who completely oppose Clinton’s Wall Street politics will nonetheless cast a vote for her on November 8th. At the same time, using popular opposition to Trump as a veil, most union and progressive leaders are arguing for a dangerous and self-defeating “lesser-evil” strategy that endlessly reduces our movements into pressure campaigns on the corporate controlled Democratic Party.

By spending hundreds of millions of dollars to whip up support for corporate Democrats, by bending social movement priorities around the singular goal of electing the Democratic Party, and by clinging to the false hope of one day “reclaiming” the Democratic Party from big business domination, the left is undermining its ability to defend people of color, women, immigrants, and working people generally from right-wing attacks.

Covering up for Clinton

“Unnerved” by strong polling numbers for third party candidates, the New York Times reports Clinton’s campaign and affiliated Democratic groups are “shifting their focus to those voters, many of them millennials, who recoil at Mr. Trump, her Republican opponent, but now favor the Libertarian nominee, Gary Johnson, or the Green Party candidate, Jill Stein” (9/15/16). A representative of Clinton’s Wall Street funded Super PAC reported: “We’ll be launching a multimillion-dollar digital campaign that talks about what’s at stake and how a vote for a third-party candidate is a vote for Donald Trump.”

Enlisted to deliver the Super PAC’s focus-grouped messaging will be progressive politicians like Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, alongside social movement and trade union leaders. Many readers will have already seen this sophisticated, multi-pronged campaign rolled out over their social media feeds. In private, most left leaders will acknowledge the corporate character of the Democratic Party, and some will even agree that a new left party is needed. Yet the whole logic of backing Hillary – of turning out the vote among the angry, betrayed, and disillusioned base of the Democratic Party – compels these leaders to argue against political independence and instead actively cover up for Clinton’s criminally corporate record.

For example, Clinton’s website profiles SEIU president Mary Kay Henry saying “Hillary Clinton has proven she will fight, deliver, and win for working families. SEIU members…are part of a growing movement to build a better future for their families, and Hillary Clinton will support and stand with them.”

Bernie Sanders himself, who won mass support for exposing Clinton’s deep corporate corruption, is a living demonstration of the corrosive logic of lesser evilism. Since Bernie started heaping praises on Clinton in order to turn out the vote against Trump, his credibility has waned and attendance at his rallies has dramatically dropped off. The once-enthusiastic movement behind Bernie is now largely confused, demoralized, and scattered, no longer able to act as a cohesive force pulling society leftward. The policy of covering up for the corporate character of the Democratic Party remains a central strategic failure of the unions and progressive leadership in America.

This strategy also paved the way for the Tea Party and their sweeping electoral victories in the 2010 elections for Congress and state legislatures. When Obama took power amid the 2008 financial crisis, his first act was to bail out the Wall Street banks. These banks showered him with campaign contributions as millions lost their homes. However the union and progressive leaders were fearful of embarrassing the Democrats. They failed to mobilize the enormous anger at Wall Street into a left opposition movement, leaving Tea Party Republicans an open field.

Wherever the left fails to organize a bold, fighting, working-class challenge to corporate politics-as-usual, popular rage at the failures of capitalism will be channeled behind right-wing “anti-establishment” figures like Trump. The more the left ties itself to the Democratic Party, the more left leaders undermine their own credibility by covering up for big business politicians, the more political space they create for Trump or other brands of right populist bigotry to flourish.

As Bernie Sanders demonstrated during the primaries, the most effective way to cut across support for Trump is to combine a full-throated denunciation of bigotry with a fighting, anti-establishment message to unite workers in common struggle against Wall Street and big business.

“Not the Year for a Protest Vote?”

Lecturing backers of Jill Stein’s Green Party presidential campaign, Bernie Sanders and others argue that “this is not the year for a protest vote.” While Donald Trump is in some ways a uniquely dangerous Republican nominee,  this is the same mantra we hear every four years. It’s a political race to the bottom that never ends. When exactly is the right year? 2020? 2024? 2040? In truth, since entering Congress, Bernie has always backed Democrats for president and argued against supporting independent left challengers.

Socialist Alternative gathered over 125,000 signatures urging Bernie to run all the way through November and use his massive base of support to build a new party for the 99%. But now that Sanders endorsed Clinton, we are urging a vote for Stein in all fifty states to register the strongest possible protest vote against racism and corporate politics, and to help popularize the need for independent politics.

To those left leaders who say they agree that the Democratic Party is hopelessly corrupted by corporate cash, but propose a “strategic” vote for Clinton “just this year,” we should ask: Why not at least urge a vote for Jill Stein in the majority of the country that are considered “safe states” like New York, where Clinton is up by 18%? Given the Electoral College system, the election will really be decided in a small number of swing states like Ohio, Florida, and Pennsylvania.

If their concern is purely blocking Trump from entering the White House, then such an approach would allow them to achieve that, while helping to lay the groundwork for a broad-based left political alternative. The left’s failure to back a strong left alternative, even in “safe states,” reveals that behind talk of “strategic” support for Clinton “this year,” there is no real strategy to break out of their dependence on the Democratic Party.

If the unions and the wider left organized a strong working class challenge to Clinton and Trump, they would be far more effective at peeling away Trump’s soft supporters, those who are not hardened bigots but rather working class people looking to “kick out the bums” overseeing our corrupt political establishment. We understand why people will vote for Clinton in swing states to block Trump. But Socialist Alternative is campaigning for Jill Stein throughout the country as the best way, in this period of heightened political debate, to strengthen support for what’s most needed: political independence for our movements and a new party of the 99%.

Movements & the Democratic Party

Some voices on the left, like the Democratic Socialists of America, argue  that under Democrats our social movements have more room to grow into offensive struggles, whereas under Republicans we are often forced onto the defensive. While there is a grain of truth to this, the argument is typically linked to the illusion that by backing corporate Democrats we get “a seat at the table” and from there can pull our political “allies” leftward from the inside.

What they ignore is how, today and throughout history, hitching our struggles to the Democratic Party – even its more liberal wing – actually undermines the strength of our movements. In a society so deeply divided along class lines, no political party can serve two masters. Clinton and the Democrats may give lip service to supporting the interests of workers, people of color, women, and LGBTQ people, but in the final analysis they serve their big business backers. In the end, the promise of a “seat at the table” turns out to be a tool for big business to co-opt our movement leaders and to tamp down our demands and expectations.

This false strategy is what led most union leaders to scandalously back Hillary Clinton in the Democratic Party primary, even though Bernie Sanders could have won with solid labor backing. History is replete with examples of movement leaders amplifying the false promises of corporate Democrats, only to have their causes betrayed once the election is over. The hard lesson is this: no movement can navigate a path to serious victories without being crystal clear on who their friends and enemies are. The apparent logic of backing Democrats inevitably leads to confusion and betrayals.

Historically, what matters most in determining a movement’s success is not whether a Democrat is president, but the size and fighting capacity of the movement itself. Compare the presidency of Republican Richard Nixon to that of Democrat Bill Clinton. Nixon was one of the most conservative Republicans of his time, but under his administration, movements won the end to the Vietnam War, abortion rights, the expansion of civil rights and poverty-reducing programs and environmental and workplace regulations. Nixon was forced to grant significant concessions because there were millions of people in the streets and for fear that these movements would become even more radical.

Yet when Bill Clinton was elected in 1992 with the support of the AFL-CIO and most progressive leaders, there were no mass movements organized. Clinton delivered one of the most right wing agendas in living memory. Bill Clinton signed NAFTA, “ended welfare as we know it,” deregulated Wall Street, supported the anti-LGBTQ “Defense of Marriage Act,” and oversaw the curtailing of abortion rights and a doubling of the prison population.

The End of the “American Dream”

Many on the left talk about “reclaiming” the Democratic Party from big business, but it has never been a party for working people or the left. The Democrats were originally the party of slavery and Jim Crow and the party that brought the U.S. into the Vietnam War. Many paint Franklin D Roosevelt as a champion for workers, but the “New Deal” reforms were forced on his administration by mass strikes and protests, and FDR called out the national guard to suppress strikes more than any president in history. More recently, the Democrats united with the Republican establishment in 2008 to bail out Wall Street. The Democrats promoted the militarization of police departments across the US, “tough on crime” policies that doubled the prison population, while expanding NSA domestic spying and drone bombings.

Bernie Sanders has popularized the idea that the U.S. should be more like European countries that provide everyone with free higher education, childcare, paid family leave, and health care. He repeatedly pointed out how the U.S. was the only major country on the planet without a universal public healthcare system, but Bernie left out that we are also the only major country to have never established a viable mass workers party. All the gains won in Europe in the mid-twentieth century were the result of working people building their own mass socialist parties. The ruling class feared the potential of the mobilized, independent power of the working class to challenge the capitalist parties for control of society and demand fundamental change.

Yet, in the United States, the unions and progressives never succeeded in creating a mass independent party of our own and have instead supported the Democrats, a liberal big business party. This is not primarily because of some superior design of the U.S. political system.  Historically, the stability of the two party system was fundamentally rooted in the enormous and expanding economic strength of U.S. capitalism. Up through the 1980s, every American generation lived better than their parents, cutting across support for socialist ideas and providing a material basis for the “American Dream” for big sections of the working class.

However, the last two generations are living worse than their parents, only staying above water on the basis of an expanding debt burden. Since the 1980s, neo-liberal policies have hollowed out the American economy, producing unprecedented inequality, eroding the social safety net, and ushering in a new era of political upheaval.

Especially since the 2008 economic crisis, the “American Dream” has unravelled and opened up unprecedented space for building the socialist movement and launching a new mass party of the left. Capitalism is mired in an ongoing global crisis, and there is no prospect for a return to the previous era of generous social welfare states without mass struggle and a socialist transformation of society.

A New Party of the 99% Needed

That is the historic backdrop to the collapsing popular support for the American political establishment  and both capitalist parties. The meteoric rise of Bernie Sanders on the left and Donald Trump on the right reflects the anger and frustration of a society searching for a way forward as decaying U.S. capitalism proves itself incapable of resolving any of the fundamental problems we face. Whatever the results of the 2016 elections, the political instability and polarization we’ve seen this year will only increase, both in the U.S. and globally. This underscores both the historic opportunity, and the urgent need, for the left to build a new mass party of, by, and for working people. Because if the left continues to fail this challenge history places before us, the right will continue to strengthen its position, with terrible consequences.

Bernie Sanders’ historic campaign raised nearly $230 million from over two million ordinary people, with the average donation just $27. Calling himself a democratic socialist and framing his campaign as a “political revolution against the billionaire class,” Sanders won overwhelming support among young voters and established himself as the most popular politician in America. Even within the rigged Democratic Party primary, which skewed heavily toward older, wealthier party loyalists, Sanders won 46% of the delegates. These numbers demonstrate the immediate viability of launching a new mass party of the 99%, completely independent of corporate cash.

The outline for a new party could be created on the initiative of the more left-wing unions that backed  Bernie like the National Nurses United, and bring together activists from Black Lives Matter, Occupy Wall Street, Greens, socialists, and other leftward moving social movements. A starting point could be joining together through democratic conferences to discuss a plan for running independent candidates and debating a platform and structures for a new nationwide party.

To be effective, a genuine left party could not just limit itself to electoral initiatives. Change comes primarily through mass struggle and a new party should act as an organizing center for building movements and solidarity between various struggles. To demarcate it from the establishment parties, a new party should reject corporate cash and, like Kshama Sawant, its public representatives should take only the average wage of the working people they represent while donating the rest of their salary towards building social justice movements.

The voting base of the Democrats is far to the left of the party leadership. Even many working class Republican voters – and those who don’t feel they have anyone to vote for – could be drawn to a bold fighting program to take on the corrupted political establishment. The ruling establishment of both capitalist parties, seeking to cut across the vote of a new left party, would be under pressure to make concessions. Almost everywhere local government is completely controlled by just one of the two major parties, and a new party fighting for positions on city councils and state houses could make rapid gains.

We can’t afford more elections with the right-wing as the only political force capturing the anger in U.S. society. It is urgent we begin building a powerful new party of the 99%, uniting all the social movements in society into a common political challenge to corporate politicians and the right.

Fighting racism today

Fighting racism today

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American footballer Colin Kaepernick has protested against racism (Photo Mike Morebeck/Creative Commons)

The following article was written by Hugo Pierre of the Socialist Party. Hugo is also a member of the National Executive of the UNISON trade union representing black members (writing here in a personal capacity). We believe this article raises some key issues for those wanting to fight back against racism.


Fighting racism means fighting capitalism

Solidarity with Black Lives Matter

By Hugo Pierre, Socialist Party black and Asian group

The police killing spree in the United States has unleashed a mass movement.

As in the 1950s and 1960s with the civil rights movement, a new generation of black youth has been forced into action against racism. First in the belly of the beast – the US – but also other parts of the world, particularly the UK.

This movement is not limited to the narrow confines of police brutality. It has spread its wings to tackle all the political issues facing black people and oppressed racial groups. Some are drawing the conclusion that capitalism itself is the root of the problem.

The federal investigation into Ferguson Police Department following the police murder of 18-year-old Michael Brown shines a spotlight on the real issues facing blacks in particular. In a city where 69% of the population is black, the investigation found a justice system riddled with institutionalised racism:

  • 93% of all arrests were black – and in 90% of these arrests, force was used
  • Black drivers made up 85% of all vehicles stopped, even though these searches revealed they were 25% less likely to be carrying anything illegal
  • 95% of those jailed for more than two days were black
  • Blacks were 68% less likely to have their case dismissed

But the findings also revealed a corrupt justice system that had become focused on bringing in income from fines. This income was necessary to maintain the whole justice system, as it had become commercialised through a succession of cuts and sell-offs.

For-profit justice

Meanwhile, a system operated where white people who faced fines would be let off by friends, acquaintances, neighbours – and even themselves – working in the court system. Racist emails, even by senior staff, were a matter of course.

This profit-driven approach had lethal consequences for Michael Brown. But the picture is repeated one way or another in police forces around the US. And a black US President and countless black city mayors have failed to take action against a for-profit justice system.

Jails are full of young black men. They are typecast because of petty misdemeanours in school, fallen foul of ‘zero tolerance’ policies. They end up being statistics in privatised US jails which have to meet their quotas to get government payments.

More young black men are in US jails than on US college campuses. Black communities are blighted by poverty, unemployment and de facto segregation. Growing filming of racist incidents shows how brutal police action is, as testified recently by the killing of Philando Castile in his car in front of his girlfriend and her young child.

Resistance

But black youth across the US have organised mass civil disobedience in response. The #BlackLivesMatter movement has acted as a lightning rod for the discontent and anger of the many. Demonstrations are now a feature following almost any police killing.

Protests in cities have shut down freeways, closed city centres. Some have been attacked by police. Some have led to uprisings against state forces. In Ferguson, the chief of police was forced to resign. But no officer responsible for killing unarmed black men or women has been found guilty of murder.

Rallies, demonstrations and direct action are not limited just to tackling police murders. And the outrage against police killings isn’t limited to the US.

Black Lives Matter demonstrations started in sympathy in London, Birmingham, Sheffield and other cities. Of course, black workers and youth in the UK have our own victims. The killings this year alone of Mzee Mohammed and Dalian Atkinson at the hands of British police have caused outrage.

These anti-racist campaigns have brought to the surface the often-hidden inequalities that face young black people: higher rates of unemployment, lower access to higher education, lower access to graduate jobs.

Figures released by the Trade Union Congress showed that London, often considered to be diverse and tolerant, had one of the highest gaps between black and white youth unemployment rates. This was not simply an issue of ‘skills mismatch’. When looking at workers with comparable qualifications, black youth could be two to three times more likely to be unemployed.

Studies by UK trade unions have also found that during the post-2007 ‘Great Recession’ and its mass shedding of jobs, black workers were more likely to face redundancy. Some local councils have sacked black workers five or six times as fast as their white workmates. Shamefully, there is little difference in the outcome for black workers whichever party controls the council.

The ‘Movement for Black Lives’ campaign in the US is drawing political conclusions.

This has come not long after the anti-establishment Occupy movement. It’s hot on the heels of the outline of a political campaign against the super-rich represented by self-described socialist Bernie Sanders’ presidential nomination campaign. Young people have lifted their sights.

Demands

The Movement for Black Lives has started to raise many political demands around which various campaign groups can organise political action. These include “an end to the war on black people”, “economic justice”, and investment in education and health rather than “the criminalising, caging and harming of black people”.

These are the beginnings of a programme for a political alternative. This is very welcome. But although it highlights many issues seriously, it also currently has some limitations.

The campaign’s platform recognises the fundamental right of workers to organise, and the need for collective action. There is criticism of the weakness of current US legislation which enshrines the right to organise, but then is toothless when employers refuse to allow workers to exercise that right. It notes the strength of unionised workers in raising the living standards of black people in both the public and private sectors.

Calling for tougher pro-union legislation, and the repeal of anti-union legislation, is right – but alone will not lead to a change in the situation.

The trade unions will be crucial in developing bold, campaigning organisations to bring workers of all races together to fight for rights at work, against discrimination, and against poverty pay and conditions. Especially in the US – but also in the UK – changing the rotten, pro-capitalist leadership of many of those unions, and widening union democracy, are crucial to this task.

The need to challenge the racist capitalist state will also be central to any successful programme. But simple reforms aimed at encouraging full participation in the current ‘democratic’ process will not lead to a fundamental shift in the balance of power from the super-rich 1% to the 99%. For that, we need to take economic power from the capitalists.

Anti-establishment

As in the 1960s, campaigns around voter registration could mobilise substantial numbers to engage. But voter dissatisfaction with both Clinton and Trump means these campaigns will have to break with establishment politics to make real headway.

The two successful Seattle City Council elections campaigns for Kshama Sawant, a member of the Socialist Party’s US co-thinkers Socialist Alternative, show what achievements are possible when workers have socialist representatives to back their campaigns.

Sawant helped win a $15 an hour minimum wage in Seattle, the first major US city to adopt it. She plays a leading role in fighting poor housing conditions and anti-working class housing regulations. These are major gains, and have helped to inspire a new generation of black and white young people into political activity.

Corbyn

Similarly, in the UK, the campaign to keep Jeremy Corbyn as leader of the Labour Party has given some political expression to the millions who want a fight against austerity. Some blacks have taken part, but many more will be wary at this stage, because of the right-wing Labour establishment blocking their participation.

Momentum, the ‘official’ Corbyn support group, must not fall into the traps Labour’s right wing has set. Blocking forces outside the Labour Party from getting involved, and backing down to establishment Labour politicians, will blunt or blot out the mobilising effect Corbynism could have.

In the 1950s, ’60s and ’70s, the mass civil rights movement was initiated by trade unionists and socialists. They enlisted the services of the churches and the broader community to help organise mass campaigns throughout the US.

The leaders that came through this movement were forced to change their views – and ended by groping towards the ideas of genuine socialism. Figures like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King started their political lives with a religious fervour, but were assassinated because they took the side of the working class.

Socialism

Malcolm X said “you can’t have capitalism without racism.” Martin Luther King said “There must be better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.” He was assassinated a day after marching with striking sanitation workers. The Black Panther Party correctly adopted the ideas of socialism – but unfortunately, without a thorough understanding of what it would take to achieve a socialist society.

Black youth have opened a new chapter of struggle against racism. New movements like Black Lives Matter could play a key role in bringing young people to participate in this essential struggle. The conditions they face will force them to fight to the end.

The lessons of previous movements will have to be learnt quickly. The key lesson is that the struggle to end racism is linked at every level to the struggle against the rule of an economic and political elite which relies on racism to justify exploitation and keep workers divided against each other. That means the struggle against racism must also be the struggle for a socialist society.

If you agree with us, we urge you to join the struggle

Socialism in the States – Fox News gets schooled

Socialism in the States – Fox News gets schooled

Darletta v Fox News

Darletta v Fox News

We are proud to publish a link to an interview that appeared on Fox News recently, with Socialist Alternative member Darletta Scruggs. It is well worth a watch – and extremely inspiring to see a Socialist put their views across to the millions that have now watched the interview across various media platforms. Agree with Darletta? Then fill in the form  below the video!

Watch this : Kshama Sawant addresses thousands in Seattle! When we fight – We win!

Watch this: Kshama Sawant addresses thousands in Seattle! When we fight we win!

Kshama Sawant

Kshama Sawant

Watch this video of Socialist  Alternative Council Member Kshama Sawant addressing a mass rally of thousands held for the Bernie Sanders campaign. Kshama takes aim at Donald Trump, corporate politics, shows support for Black Lives Matter and explains how $15 was won in Seattle. She also calls for a party of the 99 per cent and for democratic public ownership of the economy to put people before profit. The positive response from the mass rally shows that Socialist ideas are becoming popular in the United States, and throughout the world.

Join the political revolution! Join the fight for a party of the 99 per cent that fights for socialism!

Image of the week – Kshama Sawant says #ImNotWithHer to corporate warmonger Clinton

Image of the week – Kshama Sawant says #ImNotWithHer to corporate warmonger Hillary Clinton

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Kshama holding sign – Hillary Clinton on right of pic. Photo by Alex Garland

Kshama Sawant, an elected Seattle council member protested against Hillary Clinton at a rally in Seattle. Sawant is the first Socialist elected in Washington state for 100 years, and a member of Socialist Alternative, who are in political solidarity with the Committee for a Workers’ International, which the Socialist Party is part of.

Kshama staged this protest due to Clinton’s role as a warmonger and a supporter of big business and the “1%”. Working class Americans need a party that stands up for ordinary people, a party for the 99%!

For extensive coverage from the US elections from a socialist perspective, please visit the website of Socialist Alternative

Are you with Kshama, or Hillary?

We proud to say we are with Kshama, and we urge you to join the fight for socialism against capitalism. Fill in the form below to get involved!

Report from Socialists in USA: How Seattle won a $15 minimum wage

The below report and article is from the Socialist Alternative organisation in the USA (co-thinkers of the Socialist Party in the US) where a major victory has been won for a $15 an hour minimum wage in Seattle. The campaign and struggle developed on the back  of the historic election victory of Socialist Alternative member Kshama Sawant to the Seattle City Council last November. The struggle provides important lessons and inspiration for the fight for a £10 an hour minimum wage here in the UK.

Workers can win – Victory for $15 campaign in Seattle

$15

“We did this. Workers did this. Today’s first victory for $15 will inspire people all over the nation,” said socialist Seattle city councillor Kshama Sawant.

She was speaking after the 2 June meeting of the city council which voted to adopt a minimum wage of more than double the federal US rate. $15 an hour (about £9) will raise 100,000 low-paid workers in the city out of poverty.

What’s the difference between Seattle and the other cities in the US where workers have also been fighting heroic battles demanding $15? Mass campaigning built support for $15 and elected Kshama, a member of Socialist Alternative (co-thinkers of the Socialist Party in the US) last November. This was a turning point.

Kshama Sawant

Kshama Sawant

A Guardian website article reports: “Kshama Sawant, the only socialist city councillor in the US, whose election campaign last year became a driving force behind the minimum wage legislation in Seattle, hailed the vote at a boisterous meeting before a packed council chamber as a ‘historic victory’ for working people.”

Kshama exposed and opposed how big business weakened the legislation but she voted for $15. She said: “We’ll come back to the questions of tip penalty, the long-phase in, the training wage. What was lost through corporate loopholes is a reminder to us that outcomes are determined by the balance of forces… we need to continue to build an even more powerful movement strong enough to overcome the counterattacks from business.”

And Kshama explains: “My organisation, Socialist Alternative, was the backbone to this struggle. We have provided analysis and strategy, first to win this important seat in City Hall for a socialist and then immediately to turn it into a tool for organising.”

The 15 Now campaign set up by Kshama and Socialist Alternative established neighbourhood committees across the city which organised rallies and meetings. Fast food workers had protests and strikes demanding $15. Kshama pointed out: “This was not won at the negotiating table, it’s not a result of the generosity of the Democratic Party – it is a reflection of what workers won on the streets.”

The historic victory in Seattle shows what can be achieved when workers fight back. It shows the strength given to a movement when representatives of that movement are elected to political office and use their position to drive home its aims. This should be an inspiration, not just to workers in Seattle and the US, but to working class and poor people, socialists and trade unionists internationally.

As Kshama said after the vote: “$15 in Seattle is just a beginning. We have an entire world to win.”

 

US: How Seattle won a $15 minimum wage

Seattle is the first major US city to pass a $15 an hour minimum wage. 100,000 workers will be lifted out of poverty, and millions will be inspired all over the country and around the world.

On 29 May the city council’s committee dealing with the minimum wage voted to raise Seattle’s minimum wage to the highest in the country.

The proposed law will mean that starting on 1 April 2015 all workers in big businesses like McDonalds and Starbucks will see an immediate increase to $11 an hour and by 2025 all workers will be making a minimum of $18 an hour.

Altogether it is estimated that Seattle businesses will have to pay their workers an additional $3 billion in wages over the next ten years! This demonstrates that struggle pays – ordinary people can take on the biggest corporations in the world and win, when we organise and fight back.

The movement of fast food workers, inspired by 2011’s Occupy, put $15 on the agenda across the country. This received a boost in Seattle when the labour movement successfully won a $15 ballot initiative last November in SeaTac, a small town outside Seattle. But it was the election of Socialist Alternative candidate Kshama Sawant to Seattle City Council in November that was decisive in creating an unstoppable political momentum for $15 in Seattle. Kshama ran on a bold platform of $15, creating a major debate throughout Seattle, and won with almost 100,000 votes.

Shortly after the election Kshama and Socialist Alternative launched the campaign ’15 Now’ to keep the pressure high. 15 Now set up eleven action groups in neighbourhoods across the city mobilising in the streets and at public forums.

Exposing the Democrats

Through her public position Kshama was able to counter the propaganda in the corporate media and expose big business’s attempts to water down $15 and hide behind the concerns of small business. Against the claims of some that electoral politics only serves to co-opt movements, we showed how elected office can be used to build and strengthen them.

Initially all the Democratic Party politicians in Seattle opposed the demand for $15. But given the huge public support that was developing, the two main Democrats running for Mayor both came out in favour of $15 last September. After winning the November election, Mayor Ed Murray said he supported $15 but wanted to do it in a way “that would work for business, too.”

Murray set up an Advisory Committee of business and labour leaders (but mainly business) to negotiate a compromise. The business and political establishments recognised that there was no stopping $15, but they used the process to insert a number of corporate loopholes such as a phase-in over many years. Business fought until the final days of the city council process to water the bill down further.

At the vote, a majority of Democratic Party councilmembers moved to change the implementation date until April next year and include sub-minimum teenage and training wages. 15 Now and Socialist Alternative mobilised supporters to come to the City Council meeting on 2 June to fight for the removal of all loopholes.

A Mass Demo of the $15 campaign

A Mass Demo of the $15 campaign

This process has demonstrated the reality that, even though the Democratic Party uses more progressive rhetoric than the Republicans, fundamentally both parties work to serve the interests of big business. On a national level, the Democrats have failed to seriously organise and fight for a $10.10 an hour minimum wage which President Barak Obama floated in his 2014 ‘state of the nation’ speech. Instead they are using it as an electoral gimmick for the 2014 elections.

That is why Socialist Alternative argues, as we did in Kshama’s election campaign, that working people need our own political alternative to the Democratic and Republican parties. Given the huge alienation with Congress, the mistrust in politicians and the need to defend working class families, there is a unique opportunity opening up to build a new party for working people.

While Seattle has won the highest minimum wage in the country, big business was able to weaken it in a number of ways. There are unreasonable delays of three to ten years for the $15 to be fully implemented (depending on the size of the business you work for), and a tip penalty and healthcare deduction were added for the first ten years. This was not inevitable.

Defending our victory

In our view the strategy of those leading the main labour unions was not focused on building the movement from below but instead oriented towards the Mayor’s process of negotiating with business. They believed this was necessary because labour could not win a direct and open clash with big business.

After decades of setbacks and historically low levels of class struggle, it is understandable that the self-confidence of the working class is low. However, Socialist Alternative argued that this was an enormous opportunity to try to mobilise new layers of workers into a movement. This would bring more pressure to bear and is a critical way for a new generation to gain experience of organising, and to learn political lessons. This is the way to begin to rebuild the workers’ movement.

It was in that context that we argued for putting forward a ballot initiative for a strong $15, without exemptions to benefit big business. If the big unions had backed the threat of a ballot initiative for a stronger $15, business could have been forced to concede much more.

Labour unions in the US have tremendous resources and political weight. They have millions of dollars and millions of members that could be mobilised behind a bold campaign to raise the minimum wage. The fast food strikes have played an important role in drawing attention to the issue of poverty wages, but the movement could be much stronger if the unions ended their reliance on the Democratic Party and looked to mobilise the full power of working people through building democratic mass movements.

Over the last three decades, labour’s strategy of trying to appease big business to get some concessions only increased the demands of Corporate America. It’s time to drop this futile effort.

And we must remember that no reform is guaranteed under capitalism. Big business could challenge what’s won in Seattle with a referendum or other means so our movement must be prepared to mobilise and defend what we’ve won.

See www.socialistalternative.org for more analysis

 

Coventry Socialists campaign for public ownership of utility companies and show support for Kshama Sawant

Coventry Socialists campaign for public ownership of utility companies and show support for Kshama Sawant and Socialist Alternative in USA

Socialist Party members show support for Kshama Sawant and Socialist Alternative

Socialist Party members show support for Kshama Sawant and Socialist Alternative

Members of the Socialist Party in Coventry were out in the city centre today and other locations around the city building a campaign against the increase in gas and electricity prices, calling for these profit loving vultures to be brought back in to public ownership. Many people are having to choose whether to ‘heat or eat’ whilst huge profits are made at our expense.

Discussing with Saturday shoppers

Discussing with Saturday shoppers

We took great pride in letting people know about the Socialist victory in Seattle for Kshama Sawant and Socialist Alternative, displaying the poster supplement from this week’s issue of ‘The Socialist’ newspaper. Leaflets were also distributed for a forthcoming  anti-cuts meeting hosted by Coventry TUC.

Thank you to all who donated to our fighting fund, special mention going to the two separate donations of £5 that were given.