What Will It Take to End the Trump Nightmare?


“If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom and yet deprecate agitation are men who want crops without plowing up the ground; they want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters.” - Frederick Douglass

This is a response to Julia Reynolds Martinez’s recent piece about Facebook and Royal Calkins’s recent piece lamenting the dilapidated state of the local anti-Trump resistance, both published by Voices of Monterey Bay.

See: https://voicesofmontereybay.org/2018/06/27/the-partisan-ending-the-trump-nightmare-requires-more-than-tweeting/

See:
https://voicesofmontereybay.org/2018/06/27/editorial-facebook-is-messing-with-the-news-and-were-not-going-to-play-along/

In April 2017, Google implemented changes in its search evaluation protocols with the stated purpose of blocking access to “offensive” sites, while working to surface more “authoritative content.”  Over the next three months, anti-war, progressive and socialist web sites suffered a massive loss of readership due to a decrease in traffic from Google searches.

See:  https://www.nytimes.com/2017/09/26/technology/google-search-bias-claims.html?_r=0

According to research done by the World Socialist Web Site, within three months of the implementation of the changes, these sites experienced a decline of traffic generated by Google searches:

wsws.org fell by 67 percent
alternet.org fell by 63 percent
globalresearch.ca fell by 62 percent
consortiumnews.com fell by 47 percent
socialistworker.org fell by 47 percent
mediamatters.org fell by 42 percent
commondreams.org fell by 37 percent
internationalviewpoint.org fell by 36 percent
democracynow.org fell by 36 percent
wikileaks.org fell by 30 percent
truth-out.org fell by 25 percent
counterpunch.org fell by 21 percent
theintercept.com fell by 19 percent

On May 23, 2018, a meeting took place at Facebook's headquarters in Menlo Park, California.  In attendance were representatives from Amazon, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Oath (owner of Yahoo! and a subsidiary of the telecommunications giant Verizon), Snap, and Twitter.  They were joined by agents from the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.  The meeting was initiated by Facebook and was described in the Washington Post as a “new overture by the technology industry to develop closer ties to law enforcement.”
The meeting is an example of the increasing integration of Silicon Valley with what Jeff Halper has described as the U.S. MISSILE (Military, Internal Security, Surveillance, Intelligence-gathering, and Law Enforcement) complex. 
Amazon, Google and Microsoft are currently competing for a $10 billion contract to host the Pentagon's Cloud infrastructure.  In recent months, employees at the three companies have denounced Amazon’s provision of facial recognition software to police agencies, Google’s development of artificial intelligence technology to improve drone targeting, and Microsoft’s assistance to Immigrations and Customs Enforcement.  But the executives at these companies clearly see providing the technical infrastructure for the repressive apparatus of the state, along with the censorship of anti-war, left-wing, and progressive viewpoints, as integral to their business strategies.
The campaign to censor the internet is a logical outgrowth of the Russiagate conspiracy theory which has been relentlessly promoted by the Washington Post, the New York Times, CNN, MSNBC, the Democratic Party, and the spy agencies. (The Washington Post is owned by the world’s wealthiest person, Jeff Bezos, who is also the CEO of Amazon, a company which secured a $600 million contract with the CIA in 2013.)
The purported impetus for the censorship drive was the unsubstantiated claim that “fake news” spread by Russian agents played a major role in the election of the Bigoted Billionaire in 2016.  In the real world, however, the purpose of the drive has been to censor left-wing news sources not controlled by the corporate media, and to block the spread via social media of news which might rouse the rabble, such as videos of mass roundups of immigrants and police killings of civilians, and reports of grassroots resistance to corporate and government criminality and malfeasance.  

At least twenty intelligence and military operatives from the CIA, National Security Council, Pentagon, and State Department are running as Democratic candidates for Congress in the 2018 elections. The potential entry of such large numbers of representatives of the MISSILE complex into the national legislature is unprecedented.

The United States has the highest level of economic inequality in the developed world.   Under Barack Obama, economic inequality grew more rapidly than at any previous time.  The wealthiest 0.1% of the population now owns more wealth than the bottom 90% combined.  Under the Bloviating Bully, the transfer of wealth from the majority to a tiny minority continues to accelerate.

It is inevitable that the 90% (the “rabble”) will protest and rebel against their steadily worsening living conditions.  The interests of the privileged and powerful require that the rabble be confused, divided, and pacified.  Most importantly, no effective and organized Left can be allowed to develop. 

When used to describe a political orientation, the much-abused term “Left” has a specific meaning, stemming from the time of the French Revolution.   Succinctly, the Left works to reduce or eliminate excessive inequalities of power, status, and wealth, whereas the Right defends political, social, and economic hierarchies as desirable, inevitable, natural, or normal.  There is no effective and organized Left in Monterey County.  And there is no organized Left anywhere in this country with any detectable influence on national policy.  It is patently absurd, although distressingly common, to refer to the Democratic Party as the Left or as part of the Left, simply because the Republican Party is (on most issues) further to the Right.  New York City is not a west coast city simply because Boston is further to the east. This is not a question of being an ideological purist or zealot.  It is a question of using words correctly, which is a prerequisite for meaningful communication.

The United States began as a “democracy” for wealthy men of recent European descent. The history of this country has been the history of difficult and frequently painful struggle to gain freedom, justice and equality for all Americans. Every bit of progress achieved has been the product of bitter struggle against a tiny elite determined to maintain its position of power and privilege at any cost.

The struggle to topple the slave-owning Southern aristocracy cost the lives of over 600,000 Americans. Workers won the eight-hour day after years of mass strikes that led to the jailing and hanging of labor organizers. The right to unionize was won by the efforts of thousands of workers who engaged in general strikes in cities across the country. These workers endured massive state violence such as the murders of ten strikers by Chicago police in 1937. These struggles led to the creation of Social Security and the New Deal legislation under FDR. Suffragettes were beaten and jailed in a successful effort to gain voting rights for women. In the 1950s and 1960s, hundreds of thousands of African Americans and thousands of their white allies faced terrorism from police and racist vigilantes as they marched across the south, demanding full and equal economic and political rights. This movement spread to cities in the north and west, leading to urban uprisings against police violence and economic injustice. These mass movements led to the creation of Medicare and other Great Society programs under Lyndon Johnson.  Massive protest against the war in Vietnam helped bring an end to that war and helped constrain U.S. aggression in other parts of the world for years.  The last great wave of progressive legislation in America lasted from 1965 to 1974 and was brought about through the efforts of the Civil Rights, Free Speech, New Left, Anti-war, Anti-nuclear, Feminist, Free School, and Gay Liberation movements.  These movements forced the Nixon administration to create the Environmental Protection Agency and OSHA and to initiate the first federal affirmative action programs. 
In 1914, the Colorado National Guard and Colorado Fuel and Iron Company guards attacked a tent colony of 1,200 striking coal miners and their families at Ludlow, Colorado. The National Guard used machine guns to fire into the colony, killing about two dozen people, including miners' wives and children.  John D. Rockefeller, Jr., the chief owner of the mine, is believed to have orchestrated the massacre.  (Fifty-seven years later, his son, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, ordered state troopers to retake Attica State Prison during the prisoners’ uprising, leading to the deaths of thirty-three prisoners and ten correctional officers and prison employees.)  The Ludlow massacre was the seminal event in the Colorado Coal Wars, the deadliest strike in the history of the United States.   The resulting public outrage helped bring about child labor laws  and an eight-hour work day.
In 1921, in the Battle of Blair Mountain in Logan County, West Virginia, 10,000 coal miners battled government and volunteer forces under the command of Colonel William Eubanks of the West Virginia National Guard.  Approximately one million rounds of ammunition were fired during the week-long battle.  Private planes were used to drop homemade bombs and bombs left over from World War I on the miners. Afterwards, over 900 miners were prosecuted for charges including murder, conspiracy and treason and several received lengthy prison sentences. 
In 1973, thousands of members of the United Farm Workers began picketing in California fields.  Mass arrests followed, and many county jails were soon overflowing with UFW members.  Farm workers were physically attacked.  Firebombs were thrown at picket lines and at least one UFW member was shot to death.  César Chávez was arrested by federal marshals and put in Monterey County jail in Salinas, where he was visited by Ethel Kennedy (widow of Robert Kennedy) and Rafer Johnson (the 1960 Olympic gold medalist in the decathlon).  Johnson and Kennedy were attacked by an anti-union mob on the steps of the jail,and were saved from injury due to the intervention of the Brown Berets, Salinas police officers, and Monterey County Sheriff’s deputies.

Some notable historical figures on the American Left were: Mary Harris “Mother” Jones, Big Bill Haywood, John Reed, Eugene V. Debs, A.J. Muste, Paul Robeson, and Martin Luther King, Jr.  All these people made great personal sacrifices as activists.  Reed was beaten, arrested and prosecuted and his career as a journalist was destroyed because of his activism.  Jones was imprisoned on more than one occasion.  Haywood was prosecuted for murder, acquitted, and then prosecuted for espionage.  Facing twenty years in prison, he fled to Russia, where he died seven years later.  Debs was imprisoned twice for his activism.  Robeson was blacklisted and harassed by the government, making it virtually impossible for him to make a living for many years and, at one point, driving him to attempt suicide.  Muste was beaten and jailed.  King was arrested twenty-nine times and lived his final years under constant threat of death before being murdered at the age of 39. 

Significantly, the political activism for which these people are known was conducted independently of the Democratic Party.

Every bit of progress toward freedom, justice and equality has been the product of the efforts of tens of thousands of people from diverse cultural and ethnic backgrounds coming together in massive, militant mobilizations against war, racism and inequality. Those with power and privilege have resisted every bit of progress won through these struggles.

Powerful elites have responded to progressive movements by attempting to co-opt them and/or to repress them.

The purpose of cooptation is to divert popular resistance into “safe” channels which present no threat to the privileged and powerful. The goal is to convince activists that they are taking effective action to achieve change when, in reality, they are advancing and defending the interests of the privileged and powerful.

As described by clearer thinkers and better writers than I, successful cooptation involves:

(1) inducing progressive movement activists to focus scarce resources on electing and defending “centrist” politicians who are certain to betray peaceful-sounding and populist-sounding campaign promises upon the attainment of power;
(2) pressuring activists to rein in their movements, thereby undercutting the potential for struggle from below;
(3) using material and social status incentives to buy off social movement leaders;
(4) feeding a sense of futility regarding activity against the existing political and social order.


Movements, organizations and activists will show tell-tale signs if they have been co-opted. They are likely to use “Left” rhetoric about revolution and resistance but they are likely to avoid asking their members (or themselves) to engage in any activism which might expose them to the risks associated with effective activism: being arrested, being spied on by the government, losing friends, losing one’s job, etc. Coopted movements and organizations allow one to join the “resistance” without resisting anything. Contrary to the ideas of Frederick Douglass, they offer leftists and liberals the promise of crops without plowing up the ground, of rain without thunder and lightning, and of the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. One can be a revolutionary without getting one’s hair mussed.

During the Red Scare (1917-1921), federal agents supported by local police rounded up large groups of suspected radicals. People were often targeted not because of their behavior, but simply because of their affiliation with a labor union or an anarchist or communist organization. Undercover informants and warrantless wiretaps helped to identify several thousand suspected leftists and radicals to be arrested. Socialist Party leader Eugene V. Debs and many other activists went to prison. Several hundred people were deported.

During the Second Red Scare in the McCarthy era (approximately 1947 to 1956), hundreds of Americans were accused of being communists or communist sympathizers and became the subject of aggressive investigations and questioning before committees, panels, and "loyalty review boards" in federal, state, and local governments. Many private agencies carried out investigations for companies concerned about possible Communists in their work force. Suspicions were often given credence despite inconclusive or questionable evidence. Many people suffered loss of employment or destruction of their careers. Some went to prison.

These two Red Scares had a devastating and lasting effect on the labor movement and on leftist and radical organizations.

COINTELPRO (an acronym for counter intelligence program) was a series of covert projects conducted by the FBI aimed at discrediting, disrupting, infiltrating and surveilling groups and individuals deemed by the FBI to be subversive. Those targeted included: activists from the civil rights and black power movements, including Martin Luther King, Jr. and the Black Panther Party; antiwar organizers; feminist organizations; independence movements (including Puerto Rican independence groups like the Young Lords); and other organizations on the Left. FBI agents were ordered to discredit, disrupt, expose, misdirect and otherwise neutralize these groups and especially their leaders.

FBI agents spied on these organizations and their leaders. FBI informants infiltrated organizations and disrupted their activities by creating discord and division, frequently by spreading false rumors to discredit those seen as charismatic and effective leaders.

Like other such projects before and since, COINTELPRO was particularly concerned about the prospect that diverse groups would form alliances, particularly across ethnic or racial lines. Dr. King came to be viewed as an especially dangerous threat due to his efforts to unite the civil rights and antiwar movements.

COINTELPRO operated from 1956 to 1971, under Democratic and Republican administrations. and used tactics which included: discrediting targets through psychological warfare; smearing individuals and groups using forged documents and by planting false reports in the media; illegal violence; and wrongful imprisonment. Members of the Black Panthers were sent to prison for decades on trumped up charges. Others, like Fred Hampton and Mark Clark, were shot to death by police. In 1970, a false story planted in Newsweek and the L.A. Times led actress Jean Seberg (a white supporter of the Black Panthers) to attempt suicide, resulting in the stillbirth of her child. Seberg attempted suicide every year on the anniversary of the loss of her child, eventually succeeding in 1979.

During the 1980s, the FBI conducted a campaign of disruption, harassment, infiltration and surveillance against the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES). This sweeping and intrusive investigation utilized informants, intense physical surveillance, undercover agents and wiretaps. It affected 180 CISPES chapters and over 200 other groups that had connections with CISPES.

The Democratic Party has a long history of successfully co-opting movements for social change, leading some on the Left to describe the Democratic Party as “the graveyard of social movements.” One of the masters of the art of cooptation was Barack Obama, who campaigned as the “peace” candidate and then proceeded to bomb more countries than his predecessor. The antiwar movement in the United States demobilized as Democrats withdrew from antiwar protests when the Democratic Party achieved electoral success, first with Congress in 2006 and then with the presidency in 2008.

The Obama administration also succeeded in co-opting and suppressing the Occupy movement, adopting the movement’s rhetoric about reducing economic inequality while presiding over the greatest increase in economic inequality in American history. At the same time, the FBI, Homeland Security, local law enforcement agencies and the banks engaged in a coordinated campaign to disrupt, harass, infiltrate and surveil the movement.

Since the election of the Bilious Braggart, the Democratic Party has been engaged in a frantic and highly successful effort to sabotage any effective resistance to his policies and to divert popular resistance into support for the Democratic Party, a party which represents the interests of Wall Street, Hollywood, Silicon Valley and the MISSILE complex.   To this end, the Democrats have focused primarily on attacking the most right-wing administration in U.S. history from the Right, advocating for a more belligerent attitude toward Russia over Syria (thus increasing the likelihood of a species-terminating nuclear war) and for increased censorship of the internet.

In Monterey County, the main vehicle by which the Democrats sabotaged the resistance has been Indivisible, a Democratic Party project which masqueraded as a nonpartisan, grassroots movement.

On January 31, 2017, a certain local Left activist sent this message to a group of about a half dozen influential local Democratic Party activists.

 “I don't wish to be unduly negative, and the last thing I want to do is to discourage people from engaging in progressive activism, but I do have some concerns about the ‘Indivisible’ movement.
… The local progressive movement (or Left) is very fractured and scattered. If one looks at the list of 30+ groups who endorsed the January 20 Rally for Unity and Equality one might notice that a lot of these groups have only a few members, duplicate the efforts of other local groups, and don't coordinate with cooperate with or communicate with other local groups in a highly effective manner. We are working to help facilitate coordination, cooperation and communication between different groups. So, I am concerned that there are now five or six different Indivisible groups in this county. In addition, as far as I can tell, the Indivisible guide is simply a tool, a tool that can be used by anyone to advance any agenda. So, why is it necessary or even beneficial to have Indivisible groups springing up? Wouldn't the logical and more effective course of action be for existing groups to use the Indivisible guide to advance their agendas and for existing groups to figure out how to work together to advance common interests? Instead of setting up meetings of Indivisible groups, wouldn't it make sense to attend meetings of already existing groups and have those groups use the Indivisible guide? Do we really need more groups and more meetings? I don't know about you, but I attend too many meetings as it is.”

Local Democrats reacted to these concerns by either: (a) ignoring them entirely; or (b) launching ad hominem attacks on the activist who raised the concerns.  The activist in question, who had been one of the most effective activists in the local community for several years and had been described as the only person providing “dynamic leadership” to the local peace movement, soon became the target of campaign of gossip and character assassination.  He was accused of being a “Putin-lover,” a “Trump supporter,” “hostile,” “insulting,” “holier-than-thou,” and a “narcissist” and of having “no brain, no heart and no balls.”  In a textbook example of bad-jacketing and gaslighting, this activist, who had been working for months to promote collaboration, communication, cooperation, and coordination among students, elected officials, civil rights and reproductive rights activists, and activists from organized labor and the local African-American, Native American, Mexican American and gay and lesbian communities, was accused of being “divisive.”   None of these accusations were ever made to the activist’s face.  They were circulated via rumor or on social media.  The campaign of character assassination worked.   The activist dropped out of local activism entirely in the Spring of 2017.

Eighteen months after the catastrophic November 2016 election, the local “Resistance” is, as Royal Calkins noted, more or less invisible.  There is an occasional burst of protest over the latest outrage, but there is nothing that even resembles remotely an effective and organized movement.  The crowds attending these occasional demonstrations are notable for their lack of diversity, consisting primarily of white, liberal, college-educated Baby Boomers.

Every existing local peace-and-justice/progressive organization I can name is either an official or unofficial appendage of the Democratic Party or so small and ineffective as to be irrelevant.  Of particular concern is our local Veterans for Peace chapter, which recently co-hosted an event promoting the Third Way, a “centrist” think tank devoted to pushing the Democratic Party further to the Right.  (VFP Chapter 46 appears to be one of the most conservative VFP chapters in the country.  At its national convention in 2005, VFP voted to support the BDS movement the movement for boycott, divestment and sanctions against Israel.  As recently as 2013 and possibly later, VFP Chapter 46 opposed the BDS movement.  In the first few months after the November 2016 election, when a certain activist was in the process of putting together a local progressive coalition of unprecedented breadth and diversity (see:  http://www.mocoleft.org/2017/11/the-peoples-rally-for-unity-and-equality.html) and invited VFP members to participate, the leader of VFP Chapter 46 asked him to stop “pestering” the members and demanded that the activist “start being a uniter instead of a divider.”)

Local activists with antiwar and left-wing views have been marginalized.   In April 2017, a demonstration protesting Trump’s decision to bomb a Syrian airbase drew about two dozen people.  A recent demonstration in support of the Palestinians (who are carrying out one of the most inspiring sustained nonviolent resistance movements in modern history, confronting one of the most heavily armed, genocidally violent, and viciously racist regimes on the planet) drew the same 15-20 people (mostly gray-haired pacifists) who show up at every rally and drew none of the well-known local Democratic Party activists.

Local Democrats/Indivisibles seem to be intent on turning every gathering into a get-out-the-vote drive for the Democratic Party.  It appears that they are hard at work attempting to coopt the local New Poor People’s Campaign.  One particular local Democratic Party activist can be described as the “De-Energizer Bunny” for his seemingly endless capacity to show up at every progressive event and drown any radical impulses which might be expressed in a gelatinous goo of lukewarm liberalism.

Royal Calkins is correct that the dire situation we face demands resistance on a mass scale, including marches, rallies, blockades, boycotts, and civil disobedience.   I vaguely recall a local activist who was calling for this type of massive resistance in November and December 2016.  Here is an email this activist sent to about a dozen local Democratic Party activists on December 4, 2016.

“For the past three weeks, I have relentlessly promoted the idea that local progressive organizations need to immediately form an effective and organized coalition to defend human rights in our community.    I organized a meeting at the Democratic Party Center for Change that was attended by 40 – 50 people.  I played a key role in the success of the November 20 march in Monterey, which was the largest demonstration I have ever attended in Monterey County.  (Principal credit goes to Sarah Ricks.)  I have attended several meetings at the Center for Change as well as a meeting at the Unitarian Church.   I have communicated via phone, text, Facebook, email and face-to-face conversations with dozens of activists from the ACLU, the NAACP, Amnesty International, the Democratic Party, Progressive Democrats, Black Lives Matter Seaside, National Coalition Building Institute, Whites for Racial Equity, the Green Party, the Brown Berets, California Attorneys for Criminal Justice, and the National Lawyers Guild, as well as students and faculty at CSUMB, MIIS, MPC, Hartnell College and East Alisal High School, representatives from the Muslim community, the Unitarian Universalists, and Unity of Monterey, and government officials at the city, county and state level, soliciting their input and inviting them to become part of a coalition.  My message has been consistent:  We need to form an effective and organized local coalition to defend human rights and we need to do it now.  A central component of the coalition’s activity would be rallies and demonstrations.  As early as November 13, a proposal was put forward to have a demonstration in Salinas on January 20. 
“At a planning meeting at noon, on Saturday, December 3, a group of us discussed at length the issue of whether a major demonstration should be held on January 20 or January 21 or both and whether we should march in Monterey, in Salinas, or in both cities. The Democratic Party was invited to send a representative to this meeting but did not.  At the meeting, the group decided that we did not have enough input from the community to make a decision.  
“On the morning of that meeting, the Democratic Party held its own meeting.  I was able to attend but left before the meeting was concluded in order to get to the noon meeting I’d already scheduled.  After I left, the Democrats decided that a major demonstration would be held on January 21 in Monterey.  My understanding is that this demonstration is intended to be a coalition effort.  However, to my knowledge, no one other than Democratic Party activists was consulted about the date and location. Based on my interactions with dozens of activists, both in and out of the Democratic Party, there is strong support for a demonstration on January 20.  And my informal poll indicates that Salinas is the preferred location for a majority of local activists.”

The picture that emerges should be clear.  Within weeks of the November 2016 debacle, a promising effort was underway in this community to build a broad based, diverse, inclusive, effective, organized, unified and nonpartisan movement to resist the right-wing, authoritarian policies of the incoming administration and its allies in Congress.  And within weeks of the election, the local Democrats began undermining that effort.

We now have empirical evidence from decades of history from this country and around the world informing us about what it takes to bring significant change.  It takes the sustained mobilization of massive numbers of people.   Serious activism in Monterey County would involve mobilizing 10,000 to 15,000 people on a regular and sustained basis.  This cannot be achieved unless activists are able to work with people who don’t think like or look like them.  No activist organization in this community should be taken seriously if it is unable to mobilize large numbers of people who aren’t white, English speaking, relatively affluent retirees.

Another lesson from American history is that effective movements for social change must operate independently of the two major parties.  Any movement that aligns itself with the Democratic Party is destined to fail.   Activists who attempt to use the Democratic Party as a vehicle for meaningful social change are ignoring the lessons of history. 

The Democratic Party and the activist groups in its orbit are not part of the solution; they are part of the problem. 

(Thanks to Bea at https://www.allriot.com/ for the image.)

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Facing Reality: Barack Obama and the Democratic Party

The People's Rally for Unity and Equality