Thursday, December 8, 2016

Looking Forward (With Thoughts, Ramblings, and a Diatribe).

My anarchist friends are fond of telling me that if voting could change the system it would be illegal.

They may be right. After witnessing the 2016 elections and other so-called exercises in democracy that have occurred in the United States recently, and also factoring in other strange Republican Party shenanigans over the years like the photo ID to vote, my anarchist friends may be on to something.

Let’s face it:  this country was organized on restricting democracy.  Some of our major Founding Fathers made it a point to emphasize that government should not be left to “the rabble”— and they identified the “rabble” as anyone who was not a white male property owner over the age of 25--. Or where we still have an election of the President of the United States which is based on an “Electoral College”. (God forbid that the people of this country should elect their own President). We did not have direct election of US Senators until 1913. Women were not granted the right to vote until 1920. Native Americans were not even considered citizens until 1924. And the Republicans are still conniving on how to deny African–Americans the right to vote!

The System has been engineered from Day One to limit the vote rather than encourage it.  (And the engineering continues: Integral to my nerdy fashion of being a trend watcher of the worldly scene, and offering my own personal view in this Diatribe, it looks like part of the major unwritten political struggles between the Democrats and Republicans involves the authoritarian tactics of the Republican Party against the more libertarian defenses of the Democrats, especially and definitely in regards to voting rights.  Let there be no mistake about this: Presidents come and go, but the real power is in the courts.  If the Republicans control the courts, they control the Constitution and the nation.  Voting rights are the one thing that really keeps the GOP from eventually controlling the courts. This is a major political game we as socialists need to recognize, because any issue concerning voting rights will also involve the Socialist Party and our access to the ballot.)

The whole nature of the Electoral College---and in the Republican Party today it is probably comprised predominantly of the usual white-male-property-owners-over-the-age-of-25---was designed to have party trained activists insure the selection of the President rather than risk a direct election of the most important position in the nation by the “rabble”.   It is all about protecting the states, we are told.  (Yeah, we have heard this “state’s rights” stuff before, and in not so glamorous a light.)

In view of the current 2016 election, maybe my anarchist friends should have warned us more about the reciprocal effect of voting: It’s a scenario of telling the American people to “be careful what you wish for.”  Hopefully in 2016 we have not elected the reincarnation of Germany in 1933….

But I digress from my Diatribe:

Somewhere down the line Socialists have believed that the abolition of capitalism could be achieved through political means, that somehow we could vote out capitalism and vote in a cooperative commonwealth of economic democracy. That is what corporate “democracy” has been putting into our heads for the past 240 years.

What this corporate “democracy” always factored in, with a little help from its selected representatives who drank its Kool-Aid and cashed its checks, was the economic power of its corporate elites to buy whatever they wanted, especially “democracy”.

But even while we must continue our political struggles against racism, gender discrimination,  economic injustice, and  especially all things Trump, if we really think that we will be able to “vote out” corporate crony capitalism, and  simply vote in economic democracy, then we are very sorely mistaken. Politics are good and fine—they let us know that we are really participating for a democratic social order using the established rules of the ruling corporate elite--,  but the achieving of economic democracy will be a little more difficult.

(And, on the flip side, if we think that somehow we will be able to overthrow capitalism by some sort of uprising of the masses, in some sort of revolution with armed workers militias waving red flags on the barricades and the like, then we will definitely need a reality check—this scenario is not going to happen unless Trump really turns into a major asshole! This is the United States in 2016. If we are going to have a revolution, let’s all first move into the 21st century and approach 21st century capitalism with a new model of 21st Century socialism. Let’s leave all the dead revolutions and revolutionaries to be discussed on the history list serves.  Our revolution needs to be alive, fluid, contemporary, modern, and must flex with the times.)

If we want to defeat the capitalist system, then we must resolve to not participate in it.

To abolish and vanquish corporate capitalism, we need to replace that capitalist economic order with an alternative economic system. Period.

We will have to build the new economic system inside and outside of the framework of the old, and probably from its detritus. The old concept of rising from the “ashes of the old”, as they say, and as popularized by the Industrial Workers of the World, comes to mind.  This is not something we can vote in.

This idea used to be dismissed as “utopian”.  The scientific-socialist model dismissed this idea as precisely that. The working model became one of being able to vote socialism into office or take over by force, power, and oppression.  Both of these models have failed in the United States.

And even as  various the working “utopian” models also largely collapsed, usually destroyed by unscrupulous outside agents, economic conditions in the capitalist world, or sectarian infighting, maybe it’s time for a  working synthesis of the various models we have learned from in the past. 

Obviously, let’s continue the political work. Let’s continue to support and vote for the Socialist candidates working within the corporate political system. Let us even support like-minded folks. Let us continue to protest against the injustices that The System is going to throw at us. Thus our revolution will be televised; we should make use of the corporate media, Facebook, the Internet, Twitter, etc., to advance our anti-capitalist agenda.  By any means necessary, as they say.

But let us not make any illusions in our own mind that we are going to change The System by these means alone.

As socialists, we need to develop that alternative economic system within the existing system. Let us start building that alternative.

If we really want to change the economic system, then we need to be able to operate and survive outside of their economic system. A revolutionary transition must be able to provide alternative economic survival outside of the corporate system or we will continue to be trapped within the Web.

OK, easily said. Everyone has got a mouthful of nice sounding rhetoric and graffiti.

So how do we do this?

Economist Gar Alperovitz has been working on this idea for decades. There exists a US Federation of Worker Owned Cooperatives. Farmers have been working through cooperative associations for decades. The Mondragon collective in Spain has thrived for years.

Let’s start with a few easy steps:
1)    Join a credit union instead of a bank.
2)    Join a labor union; organize a labor union. Organized labor is still the best tool against corporate capitalism
3)    Join a co-op.
4)    Put the boycotts to work.
5)    Work outside of the established system. Work under the table.
6)    Trade your labor. Barter. Use the Gray Market.
7)    Work with your neighbors for common projects.
8)    Become as self-sufficient as you can.
9)    Do not put more money into the System than you have to.
10) Undermine the existing Illegitimate Economic System in your own ingenious ways. Make it so that nothing they throw against you can keep you from thriving.

OK, so maybe this hippie-style revolution will not happen overnight, and you get frustrated and quit being a socialist because the socialists aren’t doing anything quick enough. And you do have a good day job. Maybe it’s not your glass of wine.

Well, guess what, comrades. It’s something that will take the long haul.   I cannot tell you how to individually do this. Each person’s life and circumstances are different.

So now let’s think outside the box. Here is where our Socialists and our organizations might begin to earn their merit badges by organizing a few possible scenarios:

What if our communities used the legal notion of “eminent domain” to repossess abandoned mills and factories to provide jobs for the unemployed?

What unemployed seamstresses from Fuerza Unida in San Antonio provided labor for a clothing collective in Chicago with textiles from a repossessed mill in North Carolina using cotton or flax donated from a farmer’s cooperative?

What if your labor union or credit union or neighborhood group started working with other neighborhood groups to provide a communal day care center staffed by volunteers? 

What if a farmer’s coop began providing food to a homeless shelter in exchange for farm labor?  What if unemployed workers began constructing homes for homeless people using materials donated from the recycling of construction sites?

What if all of the above scenarios were connected together into a nationwide network of similar organizations using the same grassroots economic principles?

What if this nationwide network could eventually exist outside the framework of the corporate capitalist system?

What if we worked to organize this network?

We are only limited by our imaginations and fears. May our organizing be versed towards the building of the new society, not only through our art and poetry and love, and not just through our protestations against the old, but also towards actively building the Future.

We have a world to win, as they say.

--- By Steve Rossignol  12-3-2016

Saturday, June 25, 2016

Lest we forget….

As the 2016 Presidential election season enters its final laps, one thing we can be well-assured of is the non-distinction between the two major parties and their candidates, especially in their similar relations to Wall Street and their similar positions on US foreign policy.

Nothing could be greater proof of this cozy relation than that cultivated by Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump with that most notorious representative of US imperialism, Henry Kissinger.

We should never forget the amoral role that Kissinger has played as Foreign Policy Adviser and Secretary of State in the administration of the equally notorious Richard Nixon. Even if the American people give a rat’s ass in the first place, the electorate has a short memory when it comes to political affairs and politics; hence we must feel obligated in re-stating what has become known of the secret atrocities committed by Kissinger and Nixon while they were in office.

Let us not forget Kissinger’s role’s as the chief architect of the CIA sponsored overthrow of the democratically elected Socialist government of Salvatore Allende in Chile in 1973, nor should we forget Kissinger’s flippant and callous remark,  “I don't see why we need to stand by and watch a country go communist due to the irresponsibility of its people. The issues are much too important for the Chilean voters to be left to decide for themselves.”  With this meddling in the affairs of another nation, Kissinger can be linked directly to the tortures and murders of over 3000 Chileans.

Let us not forget the carpet bombing of Cambodia, whose territorial integrity was violated during the Vietnam War, orchestrated by Nixon/Kissinger, nor Kissinger’s open support for the Khmer Rouge  (“You should tell the Cambodians [i.e., Khmer Rouge] that we will be friends with them. They are murderous thugs, but we won’t let that stand in the way. We are prepared to improve relations with them. Tell them the latter part, but don’t tell them what I said before.” (Nov. 26, 1975 meeting with the Thai foreign minister)  .  And the Khmer Rouge were Communists!  Let us not forget the 1.4 to 2.2 million Cambodians who died during the Khmer Rouge purges.  Even as difficult it is to fathom the total scope of these atrocities, let us never forget those Cambodian Killing Fields.  

Let us not forget the total war bombing of North Vietnam, with more explosives dropped than were ever used during all of World War II. Let us not forget that those bombs specifically targeted hospitals and schools. Let us not forgot that despicable jungle war in Vietnam, where over 55,000 young Americans and innumerable Vietnamese died in an unwinnable war to save American Face and to profit American corporations.

And let us not ignore the evidence that Kissinger probably was directly responsible for delaying the end of the Vietnam war during the early years of the Nixon administration in order to make sure that Nixon could be portrayed as the candidate to end the war in Indochina in the upcoming 1972 US elections.

Let us not forget the Nixon-Kissinger (and Gerald Ford) complicity in the destruction of the independence movement in East Timor, where US henchman and dictator Suharto, equipped with US materials, arms and support,  was directly responsible for the deaths of over 1.5 million people.  

The definitions of war crime, (" (b) War Crimes: namely, violations of the laws or customs of war. Such violations shall include, but not be limited to, murder, ill-treatment or deportation to slave labour or for any other purpose of civilian population of or in occupied territory, murder or ill-treatment of prisoners of war or persons on the seas, killing of hostages, plunder of public or private property, wanton destruction of cities, towns or villages. or devastation not justified by military necessity;)  and crimes against humanity (" (c) Crimes against Humanity: namely, murder, extermination, enslavement, deportation, and other inhumane acts committed against any civilian population, before or during the war, or persecutions on political, racial or religious grounds in execution of or in connection with any crime within the jurisdiction of the Tribunal, whether or not in violation of the domestic law of the country where perpetrated.") used against the Nazi criminals at the Nuremburg trials clearly apply to Henry Kissinger; the massive destruction of peoples ---all of them people of color—clearly indicate genocidal notions in the amoral and immoral foreign policy orchestrated by Kissinger.

As such, we should repeat and echo the calls for the trying of Henry Kissinger for War Crimes and Crimes against Humanity. The charges brought against the Nazis at Nuremburg should equally apply to this old Nazi who has been allowed to remain at large simply because he has been validated by an American foreign policy that justifies itself in everything it does.

Equally, Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton should tread very carefully with their relations with Kissinger, lest they also be complicit with the same accusations.

---Steve Rossignol, 6-12-2016

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

On the Friedrich’s Case and Other Supreme Court Follies

By Steve Rossignol 4-3-2016

Public sector unions in California and probably elsewhere in the United States most certainly dodged a bullet on March 29th when the Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling allowing public sector unions to deduct dues from employees’ paychecks.

While most certainly we will not take any joy in celebrating the demise of anyone, there is no doubt that the recent death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was integral in this favorable ruling for the unions.  Scalia had specifically said in January that he would be in favor of overturning the lower court ruling.

And it would almost appear that the Republican Party could technically have been hoisted by their own petard with their insistence on not approving a Supreme Court judicial nominee—it is quite possible that the corporate agenda could have succeeded had the appointment of a judicial nominee been selected and confirmed prior to the Friedrichs decision.

But public sector unions—and indeed probably all unions—are not out of the woods yet. Even while the tie ruling in Friedrichs v California Teachers Association left the verdict of the lower court unchanged, there are at least twenty more pending cases around the country which seek to challenge the authority of unions to deduct union dues.

Many of these pending cases are spearheaded by the Center for Individual Rights, a conservative legal lobby which is already preparing legal action to have the split vote Supreme Court ruling reheard under different auspices.

The fact that the conservative corporate anti-union business sector of the nation is feeling emboldened by these continued legal attacks should come as no surprise in view of the steadily pro-corporate rulings of the Supreme Court in recent years. 

But even these recent court rulings appear to have been following a long trend of pro-business SCOTUS decisions over the course of American history.  The entire notion of “corporate personhood” is a shining example of this corporate trend.

The notion of a corporation as a “person” obviously has to take some sort of legal form—corporations have to have some sort of persona in which they can sue and be sued in the legal system.  The notion probably dates to medieval times when the Church had to pursue its interests in a secular world. In the United States the notion began early, with a ruling in 1790 that established the mechanism for this legal stature.   Therein followed Marshall v Baltimore and Ohio Railroad in 1853, wherein The Supreme Court upheld the notion that corporations were citizens, but only for the purposes of court jurisdiction;  thereafter followed the Crown Jewel of the corporate personhood cases, County of Santa Clara v Southern Pacific Railroad, in which the railroad, and subsequently by consequence all corporations, sought to have the “Equal Protection”  clauses of the 14th Amendment of the US Constitution applied to themselves.  Robber baron corporations now had the same protections as freed slaves.

In one of those strange quirks of history, the former railroad man who was at the time the court reporter for the Supreme Court wrote in the published notes of that case that the 14th Amendment did in fact apply to the company, even though this appeared nowhere in the Court’s actual ruling in the case. But it had been inscribed unto the Laws of The Land:  Eleven years later the Court ruled that the issue of corporate personhood via the Equal Protection Clause was “well settled” and, per Chief Justice Morrison Waite, "The Court does not wish to hear argument on the question whether the provision in the Fourteenth Amendment to the Constitution which forbids a State to deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws, applies to these corporations. We are all of the opinion that it does.”

It’s been all downhill since then (or perhaps uphill for the corporations), but one could say that “equal protection” really went to crap for the rest of us with three decisions –one from the conservative Rehnquist Court, and two from the equally conservative Roberts Court: 

1)   Kelo v. City of New London in 2005, which granted the right of "eminent domain to transfer land from one private owner to another private owner to further economic development.”   The Court held that the general benefits a community enjoyed from economic growth qualified private redevelopment plans as a permissible "public use under the Taking Clause of the Fifth Amendment" [from Wikipedia]

Already this ruling has been used to justify construction of oil and natural gas pipelines in the country, notably the infamous Keystone pipeline from Canada, as well as a host of other “economic developments”.  One case in Texas even allowed for a large hotel chain to acquire beach front property from a small landowner.

It must be said that the majority vote in Kelo came from the “liberal” justices—Kennedy, Breyer, Ginsburg, Souter, and Stevens.

2)   Citizens United v Federal Election Commission in 2010, wherein the government could not restrict the “free speech” of corporations and associations via political campaign expenditures. Granted, this also applied to labor unions.

Henceforth, the concept of corporate personhood was extended to a strange definition of “free speech” for the corporations, a definition which was defined in regards to political expenditures, and the more one spent, the freer ones corporate speech became.

3)   McKutcheon v Federal Election Commission in 2014. Citizen United provided a legal precedent for this third corporate-centric case. In McKutcheon, the Roberts Court removed all limits to campaign spending by the corporations or associations (read this as “Political Action Committees”).

It must be said, however, that the McKutcheon case did not remove the campaign donation restrictions for individual political contributions, which remain fixed at $2600 per individual per election.  It became pretty obvious that corporate “free speech” was just a wee bit freer than individual free speech.

It is becoming increasing obvious to the innocent bystander that not only is the entire concept of judicial precedent being used to further increase corporate wealth and power in American jurisprudence, exerting a profound and undue influence in the name of “law”, but also that somehow the entire American judicial system has appeared to lose its way, where now the “rule of law” has become more specifically the “rule of capitalist law”. 

In the criminal legal system, it has always been obvious that the rich have been more immune to punishment and the poor have always gotten the shorter end of the proverbial legal stick, but now it is apparent that the entire American legal and political system has become a tool by which the wealthy and the corporations are literally able to purchase the legal rulings of their choice. 

The Supreme Court, as the “supreme law of the land”, continues to demonstrate the supreme collective power of the 1%.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

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How San Antonio, Texas resembles Detroit and Flint, Michigan

Almost all have heard of the ongoing water crisis in Flint, yet few have heard of the actions that led to this event – how a sequence of bad decisions, intended and otherwise, led to the people of Flint drinking highly contaminated water for over a year.

Many citizens, especially from marginalized communities, are now sick with lead poisoning and other issues. This crisis was brought about by a decision to form a public--‐private
Water utilities partnership in Detroit.

These consequences of development  and water privatization do not lie solely in the Detroit--‐Flint area. San Antonio has entered into a public--‐private partnership with Abengoa
Vista Ridge in order to build the Vista Ridge Pipeline – a 142--‐mile pipeline that will bring water from the Carrizo aquifer to San Antonio.

In October 2014, City Council unanimously voted to approve Vista Ridge. Access of information to the public and forums for feedback were limited and despite heavy protests from residents of San Antonio and Burleson County, City Council unanimously voted to raise water rates to build the Vista Ridge Pipeline  in November 2015.

As  a result, water rates in San Antonio are being sharply increased at an unsustainable rate – by 2020 many ratepayers’ rates will have doubled. Even more, Abengoa Spain, the parent company, became bankrupt in December and in February Abengoa Vista Ridge asked investors for 30% more investment and in March for an $885 million loan from the

The City of San Antonio is disregarding these obvious signs of a defaulting builder and discontent ratepayers and is continuing to throw its full support behind the project. Residents  have been opposed to the building of the pipeline from the very start due to many environmental and social justice concerns.

Too often working class communities and communities of color end up subsidizing the wealthier and whiter communities. This can be seen in the increased water rates which are set to increase even more at a level unsustainable for many ratepayers – the poor, communities of color, the elderly, and large and single--‐parent households. This is occurring while commercial and development water rates are being decreased.

City Council and the Chamber of Commerce have fought hard to portray San Antonio as “Water City, USA” in order to draw in new development. However, San Antonio, along with the entirety of Texas, is not a water abundant area. This development will lead to a lack of water conservation, an increase in development and gentrification, and thus an increase in population displacement. These burdens will be disproportionately and unnecessarily placed on the backs of marginalized communities, just as they were in Flint.

Many citizens have recognized this and protested the Vista Ridge decision. Yet, just as in Flint, their concerns have been pushed to the side in favor of more development and outward growth – neither of which will benefit the ones paying the most for this project.

For interviews or more information please contact Gianna Rendon at or call (210) 228--‐0201.

This statement is written on behalf of the Mi Agua Mi Vida Coalition which is composed of the Sierra Club, Esperanza Peace and Justice Center, Southwest Workers Union, Fuerza Unida, Bexar Green Party, SEIU, San Antonio Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance and the American Indian Movement.