Thursday, February 13, 2020

Anarchists For Bernie



A Sanders presidency is a long shot -- and it might also be our only shot.

Since only recently discovering the social media platform, Reddit, I have been posting various things to various sub-Reddits, depending on the subject matter of whatever I'm posting. Knowing it was possibly going to be considered unwelcome on the very popular Anarchism sub-Reddit, I posted a song I just wrote, called "Bernie 2020." It got some positive response from some folks, as it did on other platforms. (I haven't sung it to a live audience yet.) But then it got taken down by the moderators of the Anarchism sub-Reddit, because it's about electoral politics.

Let me say at the outset, for any of you who are moderators of the Anarchism sub-Reddit, this is not at all a dig at you -- I understand these spaces need structure and moderation in order to flourish, and I appreciate your efforts. I already thought my post might be removed, or at least roundly criticized, for liberalism or whatnot. But the experience, along with a conversation I've been having with my friend Peter Werbe, an editor of the Fifth Estate newspaper, has inspired me to share some thoughts.

I suppose the intended audience for what I'm saying here are mainly my fellow anarchists, particularly in the US -- along with anyone else who might be interested, of course. But especially anyone out there who is generally too far left to bother with voting.

I am an anarchist, or a libertarian socialist, if you like -- take your pick of terms. Either of these terms means different things to different people at different times, in different situations, and nothing is ever as concrete as people would like to believe. But for me, and for many others, the term "anarchist" is shorthand for one who believes that society would work best if it were horizontally organized, in the form of collectively-owned and collectively-managed enterprises of all varieties.

It also tends to indicate one who, like me, has a deep distrust in the possibility that severely hierarchical institutions like the US federal government can possibly be reformed. This distrust among anarchists of reformist movements dates back at least to the aftermath of the Europe-wide rebellions of 1848, which saw many reforms in many governments, none of which managed to eliminate the widespread poverty and misery of most of the European laboring classes in the decades following 1848.

Indeed, on every continent save Antarctica, the histories of the 19th, 20th and 21st centuries are full of reformers in government with apparently good intentions, failing to deliver on them. History is also full of reformers who did deliver on reform, such that their populations often saw their lives improve dramatically -- only for the great leaders of social and economic reform to turn out to be genocidal maniacs, intent on world or regional domination, such as Franklin Roosevelt or Saddam Hussein.

History also gives us some prominent examples of how the failure of social democratic governments to provide for their populations gave rise to fascist movements. Notable occasions include Italy in the 1920's, Germany in the 1930's, and right now, in an ongoing process with an undetermined outcome in India, Brazil, the Philippines and the United States, to name four fairly major countries.

But for those of us who have an outlook that we would describe as anarchist or socialist, or for anyone who is most especially opposed to the possibility of fascism, it seems most crucial to me that we note the following: in instances where social democratic rule has been instrumental in maintaining relatively prosperous societies for the past few decades, we do not see fascist movements of any significant size -- such as in Denmark, Norway, or Switzerland. In countries with social democratic governments that have more fully embraced privatization and other neoliberal reforms, fascist movements have much more fully taken root -- such as, once again, in Italy, along with other countries I've already mentioned, particularly my own.

I travel and play music for a living, more or less, mainly in Europe and North America, so I'm also talking from direct, first-hand knowledge here, when it comes to 21st century developments, not just what I've processed second-hand.

Our Orangeman was the natural outcome of decades of neoliberalism and austerity. In Europe, it's common knowledge that the fascist movements got their big boost with the Global Financial Crisis in 2008, which here in the US the media generally refers to as a "recession," while they refer to our economy as "booming" -- in stark contrast to what most people are experiencing, and what most people can see when they look around them, if they don't live in a gated community.

Point is, there are different forms of governments, much as I'd prefer neither rule by corporations -- which make no pretense of representing anyone's interests but their stockholders -- or allegedly representative governments. But as much as there are tendencies toward corruption and all sorts of other problems with representative government, including within the so-called advanced social democracies, all governments are not the same.

In fact, they can be very different. There's a big difference, for example, between a state that has been completely captured by corporate interests, and a state that hasn't been. There are big differences to be seen between governments that rule in such a way that their population is able to prosper, as opposed to those that don't, or can't.

Given these observations about government, society and history that I have made, my take on the current precipice we're on is this: we can talk about which wars he's supported and which ones he hasn't, which military expenditures he's voted for and which ones he's voted against. He is far from perfect. But, as with Jeremy Corbyn in the UK, Bernie Sanders is not just the flip side of the same coin. There is no Sanders wing of the Democratic Party. The Democratic Party is a corrupt, captured institution, and Sanders' campaign is an insurgent campaign to take it over. A Sanders government could -- not would, but could -- be a qualitatively different sort of government, of the sort that could make a difference in whether we continue our societal march towards fascism or reverse course.

It's a very, very long shot, to be sure. The entire corporate media, including the supposedly liberal outlets, are virulently opposed to Sanders (just as they are to Corbyn in the UK). The captured corporate leadership of his own party is horrified by his rise, just as the party's base is more excited than they've been in a very long time. Both the corporate and so-called "public" media will continue to trash Sanders at every opportunity, and his own party leadership would actually rather have fascism than even the threat of socialism -- they have made this clear over and over again.

And then, if he gets the nomination, he'll have the corporate media, his own party, as well as all of the resources of the other party, to oppose his election. If he somehow manages to actually get into the White House, he'll then be opposed by the vast majority of members of both parties of the Congress, and the corporate media will immediately launch a campaign to depict Sanders and his administration as totally inept. The corporate elite will secretly conspire to sabotage the US economy and blame it on Sanders. They'll arrange shortages, like in Chile and Venezuela. And that will only be the beginning of the opposition to a Sanders presidency.

The only way he'll even get as far as winning the nomination to be the Democratic Party candidate will be because of a massive groundswell that can't be ignored by superdelegates and corrupt officials. The kind of groundswell that threatens to disrupt business as usual, and keep disrupting it, until the state has been un-captured.

A victory of any of the so-called "moderate" candidates -- the ones who favor a continuation of the neoliberal Reagan-Bush-Clinton-Obama status quo that led us to our current precipice -- will guarantee the further rise of the fascist movement that Trump represents, though it might delay it a bit. A Sanders or Warren victory could disrupt the trend enough that it makes a real difference. If, and only if, one of them gets elected, and then gets massive popular support in the streets, to the point that they are able to actually implement any of their social democratic policies, this could be an opportunity -- perhaps our last opportunity, not to be overly dramatic -- to avoid ongoing and untold suffering for so many societies, including ours.

To be sure, a movement in the streets will be absolutely required for even the remotest possibility of a Sanders nomination. There are no rules, as you may have noticed -- the party leadership is making them up as they go along, in order to keep him out of office. It's not just about voting -- mostly not. But that's one small element of it. So yes, in case my conclusion for this thought process is not already abundantly clear -- take to the streets, shut the cities down, stop business as usual, as much as and wherever possible. But also, vote for Bernie.

Thursday, February 6, 2020

PDX: Taking City Hall

If Chloe Eudaly can keep her seat, and Margot Black wins hers, we could have a pro-worker, pro-renter majority in the Portland City Council.

What is a city?  I mean, what is a city for?  That, of course, depends on who you ask.  For most rich people, for real estate speculators and developers, cities are their main source of income.  Cities are places where millions of people need housing, and housing is an investment you profit from massively, because everybody needs it, no matter how expensive it becomes.  And you can monopolize it, and fix prices, and make trillions of dollars from the misery of a hundred million American tenants.  If you're rich.

Most people aren't rich, and don't benefit from the laissez faire economics that allow the real estate developers and offshore investors to profit so handsomely from our rents in places like Portland and Seattle doubling and tripling and quadrupling.  But it is the interests of those real estate developers, those housing capitalists, that most of the political bodies governing most US cities serve.

This is not, however, how they generally get elected.  In fact, I don't know of a single case where someone runs for office saying they will facilitate an atmosphere conducive to real estate speculation and rent-gouging.  They focus on other things.  People like, say, former Portland mayor Sam Adams.  He's currently in the race for Portland City Council, and his platform is basically a bunch of drivel -- but it's progressive drivel, hitting the right sorts of talking points, with nothing approaching a concrete proposal.

People running on platforms that look like some progressive version of trying to please everybody are, I have learned over the course of the past 52 years, lying.  When you're living through a housing crisis of unprecedented proportions that is worsening dramatically by the month, and a political platform says nothing about the radical changes necessary to take on the real estate developers, who are making record profits off of so much human misery, while our neighbors are priced out of town, or move into their cars, that campaign is worthless.  And when such a campaign is starting up in direct opposition to the first renter from the east side of town ever to be on the esteemed political body, I believe, Chloe Eudaly, who has upset the upper caste elements of society who are used to running things, then the motivations are laid bare.

But if Chloe manages to keep her seat, and if Margot Black wins the contest for the seat that has become available because of the death of Councilor Nick Fish, Portland could have a pro-worker, pro-renter majority in the city council for the first time that I'm aware of -- not to mention a continuation of the female majority that we already have.

With the outrageous shenanigans going on at the moment in Iowa, not to mention so many other elections, and what with the generally captured nature of government, at every level, in the United States today, it's hard to get excited about any of these exercises of our largely broken democracy.  Social change is more likely to happen because of factors other than elections, history abundantly illustrates.  But history -- and current events -- also demonstrate that pro-renter majorities in municipal governments can enact laws that can challenge the status quo in many different ways, and can be part of a broader movement to make housing a human right, the way health care already has already now become for the vast majority of Oregon residents by 2020.

In the epic struggle between the haves and the have-nots that quietly characterizes life for so many struggling workers trying to stay on top of paying their ever-increasing rent, paying down their credit card debts, their student loans, and all the other bills that seem to increase in number with modern life, Margot has always been on the side of the have-nots.  As a long-time Portland resident, I have seen her in action on countless occasions, as an advocate for tenants, as a founding organizer of the Portland Tenants Union.

When dangerous radicals appear to be about to take power, the Right tends to send lots of their money to some establishment candidate that won't be talking about public housing, or housing the public, for real, beyond the usual verbal diarrhea, unconnected from any actual intentions, especially of the variety that might have a positive impact for the working class, and a negative impact on the real estate capitalists.  I predict Sam Adams' campaign will be awash in money.  I predict the same thing will be true of whoever the establishment decides to back to oppose Margot.

While the electoral game is even more rigged than the social ladder is in the US generally, it is worth noting here that you do not need to be a Portland resident to donate to Margot's campaign, any more than the landlord lobby in Washington, DC needs to live in Portland to support the establishment candidates.  Any US resident or green card holder can donate.  A local program aimed at making elections a bit less corrupt will see to it that donations to Margot's campaign are multiplied by sixfold through public funding.

If you're a local, I hope to see you at one of Margot's campaign events -- you can get plugged in at votemargot.com, where you can also hear her very well-written campaign song.

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