Thursday, September 29, 2016

2457. As Tribes Fight Pipeline, Internal AFL-CIO Letter Exposes 'Very Real Split'

By Jon Quealy, Common Dreams, September 22, 2016
The AFL-CIO has received widespread criticism for standing against Native American tribes and their allies who have said the Dakota Access Pipeline project violates tribal sovereignty while also threatening water resources, sacred burial grounds, and the climate. (Photo: Joe Brusky/flickr/cc)

The AFL-CIO, the nation's largest labor federation, generated waves of criticism by standing against the Standing Rock Sioux and supportive allies last week when it endorsed the Dakota Access Pipeline – a project opponents say threatens tribal sovereignty, regional water resources, and sacred burial grounds while also undermining efforts to curb greenhouse gas emissions and fight climate change.
Yet while a public statement by AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka stirred widespread backlash, what has not been seen by the general public is an internal letter which preceded that statement—a letter which not only reveals a deeper and growing rift within the federation, but one that also helps expose the troubling distance between the needs of workers and priorities of policy-makers on a planet where runaway temperatures are said to be changing everything.

Trumka said the pipeline deserved the AFL-CIO's support because it was "providing over 4,500 high-quality, family supporting jobs" and argued that "attacking individual construction projects is neither effective nor fair to the workers involved.”

In turn, many of the tribes and their progressive allies saw the statement as a short-sighted, if predictable, position on behalf of the federation's building trade unions. 
Norman Solomon, writing on these pages, didn't mince words when he said Trumka's remarks amounted to "union leadership for a dead planet" that could easily be mistaken for the "standard flackery" of the oil and gas industry. On Monday of this week, a coalition of AFL-CIO constituency organizations, made up of groups normally supportive of the federation, bucked Trumka's public stance by declaring their own opposition to the pipeline.

But many of those outside critics of the AFL-CIO didn't know the half of it. That's because none of them have likely seen a much more harshly-worded letter, obtained by Common Dreams, which was circulated internally among the federation's leadership ahead of Trumka's statement.

The five-page letter (pdf), dated September 14th, is addressed to Trumka and copied to all presidents of the AFL-CIO's 56 affiliated unions. It was sent by Sean McGarvey, president of North America's Building Trades Unions (NABTU), which represents 14 separate building and construction unions within the federation.

In the letter, McGarvey questions top leadership for not taking a firmer position in defense of the union members working on Dakota Access and calls out other AFL-CIO member unions—specifically the Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU), the National Nurses United (NNU), the Communications Workers of America (CWA), and the American Postal Workers Union (APWU)—for aligning with "environmental extremists" opposed to the pipeline and participating in a "misinformation campaign" alongside "professional agitators" and members of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe.

Indeed, McGarvey's letter appears written as a direct response to those same unions who just days earlier issued public statements of support for the tribe's efforts to stop the pipeline. After first expressing frustration for being forced to sit through the "non sequiturs and dubious pronouncements regarding the future of the labor movement" from these union leaders during federation meetings in recent years, McGarvey's letter laments their objections to previous fossil fuel projects, including the controversial Keystone XL tar sands pipeline. The letter then continues:

Though McGarvey says in the letter that pipeline workers have been intimidated and made fearful by the presence of those objecting to the pipeline, much of the publicly documented violence so far has been against tribal members—including those last month who were pepper-sprayed and attacked by dogs handled by private security contractors hired by the pipeline company.

As Dave Archambault II, chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux, told the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, Switzerland this week: "Thousands have gathered peacefully in Standing Rock in solidarity against the pipeline. We stand in peace but have been met with violence.”

McGarvey does claim in his letter that the unions he represents "are sensitive to the long and tragic history of mistreatment of Native Americans," but does nothing to address the repeated and consistent arguments of the Standing Rock Sioux and others who say the Dakota Access project is a direct descendant of that same mistreatment.

Criticizing the unions standing with the tribes, McGarvey accuses their leaders of "callously" and "hypocritically" disregarding the pipeline workers. He also declares the "misinformation and inaccuracies that [these union members] have used to justify their opposition to this project to be nothing short of astounding if not wholly ignorant." McGarvey's letter concludes by demanding a "public apology" by those unions "for not only the uninformed public opposition to this project" but for also "initiating the conscious decoupling of the American Labor Movement or, what remains of it."
Those interviewed for this story described the overall tone of McGarvey's letter as ranging from "strong" to "aggressive" to “threatening."

That these tensions exist, of course, is no more a secret within labor circles than how under McGarvey's leadership the building trade unions have forged controversial labor-management partnerships with large corporations and celebrated stronger ties with powerful industry lobby groups like the American Petroleum Institute (API) and the American Chemistry Council. Still, the latest intra-federation conflict takes place in the midst of a contentious presidential campaign, one in which the condition of workers and the climate threat (or denial of that threat) have played a prominent role.

Tom Owens, NABTU's director of marketing and communications, said his group would not comment for this story, stating in an email: "The letter speaks for itself."
And though not all the unions named in the letter had responded to interview requests by the time this story went to press, RoseAnn DeMoro, executive director of the NNU, reacted by saying the contents and tone of McGarvey's remarks were troubling, yet also instructive.

First of all, said DeMoro, she remains "absolutely sympathetic" to those workers who will be out of work if this pipeline project is halted. "I understand these workers are desperate for jobs," she told Common Dreams in a phone interview. "But this letter portrays us as the enemy of workers—which is just outrageous because nurses are tremendous and tireless advocates for workers, their jobs, their families, and their health.”

But there are also bigger questions that must be asked, she said, regarding the sacredness of the lands these tribes are defending as well as the climate implications for this project and others like it.

"I mean, would you build a pipeline under Arlington National Cemetery? I don't think so. And so on that point, sacred is sacred. You just don't do this," she said. "And what we're seeing here is the pipeline company—and this is nothing new—pitting workers against workers.”

Ultimately what these latest internal tensions expose, DeMoro and others argue, is an absolute failure of the political class and elected officials to move from talking about "creating green jobs" to actually approving and implementing policies that would do so on the scale that climate scientists say is necessary and policy experts have shown is both possible and affordable.

Who's Standing Up and Who's Rolling Over?
In his response to the letter, Jeremy Brecher, a historian and researcher with the Labor Network for Sustainability, joined DeMoro in making clear how important it is to take the concerns of the pipeline workers seriously.

"These five thousand workers on the pipeline," he told Common Dreams, "are very reasonably concerned about their jobs." However, he continued, "we have to be clear that's not what most of this is about. These workers are also pawns in a much larger game.”

One very important thing to know about NABTU, explained Brecher, is the close ties it has formed with the fossil fuel industry, specifically the American Petroleum Institute (API). According to Brecher, in the context of the Dakota Access Pipeline—a joint project spearheaded by two API-affiliated companies, Enbridge Energy Partners and Energy Transfer Partners—the heads of the building trade unions and McGarvey are "essentially acting like a paid mouthpiece for the oil and gas industry.”

Brecher called it a "horrendous thing" to have the AFL-CIO acting in such a "callous way toward both the needs of Native American people and to the needs of all workers and all people in terms of protecting the climate." So McGarvey's rhetoric and tone, he said, "is just devastating to anyone who thinks that the labor movement is and should be an expression of human rights and social justice. And anyone who feels that way, should say so in whatever way is appropriate for them.”

For these and other reasons, Brecher said he was glad to see CWA, NNU, APWU, ATU, and other groups make their support known. But he also believes the internal divisions within the AFL-CIO speak to a broader problem—which is that the American labor movement as a whole has backed itself into a corner when it comes to climate change, job creation, and public policy.

"The core of the problem" he explained, "is that the AFL-CIO has consistently opposed significant cuts to climate-destroying projects, like Dakota Access, while failing to adequately advocate for policies that would actually address climate change in a worker-friendly way.”

This is not to deny that some climate-protecting policies will have negative impacts on specific sets of workers—like pipefitters and coal miners—whose jobs or industries need to be changed, or ended entirely, in order to protect the climate. "So the solution is quite straightforward," argued Brecher. "We need to have strong protections for those workers and communities who are directly affected. And more broadly, we need a full employment policy based on putting hundreds of thousands, or millions, of people to work fixing the climate. This is an emergency like World War II, and we need an emergency response like the mobilization of the 1940s.”

In fact, all of this comes as a new report (.pdf), released Thursday, argues world governments simply have no choice but to end the building of new fossil fuel infrastructure projects. "This does not mean stopping using all fossil fuels overnight," the groups behind the report note, but "governments and companies should conduct a managed decline of the fossil fuel industry and ensure a just transition for the workers and communities that depend on it.”

 A 'Just Transition': New Research Offers Hope 
The notion that a war time-style mobilization is needed to tackle the problems of a rapidly warming planet has been around for years, but an in-depth story in The New Republic last month by Bill McKibben, author and co-founder of, has helped propel the analogy back into the forefront among climate action campaigners and labor unions.

Within the framework of forging a solution that can both address climate change while protecting workers, one of the key concepts is that of the "just transition"—a set of economic and policy reforms which recognizes that while a rapid transformation from a fossil fuel energy system to one built on renewable energy is imperative, the workers and communities directly upset by this transformation must have their standards of living maintained, or improved, as a part of that process. 

One of the leading researchers on the just transition is Robert Pollin, co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at UMass Amherst, who is on the verge of publishing new research on the topic. In a forthcoming working paper from PERI, some of which was previewed earlier this year in the American Prospect, Pollin and co-author Brian Callaci show that not only would a generous program for displaced fossil fuel workers be possible, it would actually be much more affordable than even many mainstream politicians have estimated.

The findings of the working paper, reviewed by Common Dreams, show that a "rough high-end estimate" for just a transition program designed to serve American workers and communities currently dependent on domestic fossil fuel production would be a "relatively modest $600 million per year." Projected over a 20-year transition period, the total program would cost just $12 billion. According to the paper's introduction, "This level of funding would pay for 1) income, retraining and relocation support for workers facing retrenchments; 2) guaranteeing the pensions for workers in the affected industries; and 3) mounting effective transition programs for what are now fossil-fuel dependent communities.”

In a conversation with Pollin, he joined with others in expressing both sympathy and disappointment over the AFL-CIO's position on the Dakota Access Pipeline.
"It's a totally understandable position. But it's also short-sighted," he said.

"It's obviously true that a green transition out of fossil fuels into green energy is not favorable for jobs in the fossil fuel sector or related jobs like laying pipeline," he continued. "Those jobs will not exist. But to just out-and-out denounce the opponents of this pipeline, chastising the 'extreme environmentalists,' and so forth is not constructive, it's not helpful, and it's not on the side of history. If we are going to avoid managing to burn up the planet we have to eliminate fossil fuels and everybody—including union leaders and union members—needs to recognize that and then fight for a just transition.”

Pollin points out that the $12 billion price tag over two decades for such a program should make it an easy sell among policy-makers. Hillary Clinton's campaign, for instance, calls for a $30 billion package for coal workers and others displaced by a clean energy transition. During his presidential campaign, Bernie Sanders called for as much as $41 billion for a similar kind of program.

And the other key factor when it comes to cost is that, ultimately, the green jobs transition pays for itself. "I mean, even if just talk about federal government doing energy efficiency retrofits for the buildings it owns and leases, you're gonna come out with twice as much in savings than the $600 million," explained Pollin.

Meanwhile, if lawmakers are looking for other ways to fund this kind of program, an analysis out this week by Oil Change International showed how the key owners of the Dakota Access project—Energy Transfer Partners and Enbridge Energy Partners—collectively avoided paying over $650 million in taxes in 2015. Given Pollin's new research, that amounts to a well-endowed federal transition fund for all out-of-work fossil fuel sector workers—with money to spare.

Citing his previous research on the green economy and job creation (.pdf), Pollin noted how spending on the energy transition generates roughly three times the number of jobs as maintaining the fossil fuel economy. "It's just massive," he said. And though that doesn't help the individual worker who just lost his or her job on a pipeline, his study shows how policy changes can take care of those workers. "So we say those workers need to be supported. We say they deserve job guarantees and must have their pensions protected. And we also say compensation insurance for these workers, so that even if you get a job in a green sector that pays less than your old job, you're covered for the differential.”

And so, concluded Pollin, "I absolutely sympathize with those workers. But unless we want to dismiss the climate science—like Donald Trump—we simply have no choice but to get off fossil fuels as quickly as possible. And this research is an effort to really pin it down. And maybe it has faults I haven't noticed yet, but at least it tries to be very specific.”

The Missing Link: Political Will or Necessary Pressure?
What all of those now standing against the Dakota Access Pipeline appear to be clamoring for above all else is this: a shift. What one hears them say repeatedly is that they want another way of doing things, because the current path—whether of the pipeline itself, the political situation, or the energy system as a whole—is just no longer sustainable or tolerable. The tribal resistance to the Dakota Access Pipeline is evidence of that, but so are the deeper issues—including the sacredness of water and land or assaults on sovereignty and dignity. These larger arguments are repeatedly raised by opponents of the pipeline, proving that while this is certainly about the Dakota Access Pipeline project, it's also about much deeper existential concerns and desires.

And the same could be also be said of the very workers McGarvey is defending in his letter to the AFL-CIO. Everyone interviewed for this story spoke about recognizing and sympathizing with what it's like to be threatened with losing your job and what that means in terms of providing for oneself or one's family.

"For those building trade workers," said NNU's DeMoro, "this is a threshold issue—their jobs. And it should be. That's why this is so horrible—because they're right. They should be mad. They're just mad at the wrong people.”

Peter Knowlton, general president of the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America (UE), explained that even though he doesn't agree with position taken on behalf of the building trades union on the pipeline, he says he totally understands it.
Though the UE is not an AFL-CIO affiliate, many of its members work in the fossil fuel and energy sectors. "But here's the thing," Knowlton told Common Dreams: "If we don't move to renewable energy, humanity is toast. And it will be the poor and the working class—not the rich—who pay the biggest price. We need all the workers to unite, but we'll need a common understanding in order to do that.”

Both Knowlton and DeMoro pointed to the presidential campaign of Bernie Sanders which, for them, provided a glimpse of what it would mean to actually foster such common understanding. The creation of the 'Labor for Bernie' effort within the Sanders campaign, in Knowlton's words, "was truly amazing." What was so impressive, he explained, was how Sanders' presidential campaign was able to be a vocal advocate for workers—the "strongest we've seen in our lifetimes"—while simultaneously demanding urgency to act on climate.

Though many people remain unable, or unwilling, to grapple with these issues, Knowlton thinks it is the responsibility of workers and their unions do so. "We have to deal with this, but we don't have a lot of time," he said. "The problem is that there's too little urgency among too many people.”

What he understands about those working in the fossil fuel industry is that those workers—and "not for nothing"—do have pensions, decent health care, solid wages, and safety laws designed to protect them on the job. In contrast, he says, many of the new jobs in the renewable sector have comparably "lousy pay, lousy benefits, and shitty health insurance." Pollin also noted this dynamic and deals with it specifically in his transition plan.

That reality of job quality has to be dealt with, Knowlton argued. "It's not a winning strategy to tell workers to just 'Suck it up.’"

Drawing from his experience working with both environmental and labor groups, Brecher thinks there are plenty of reasons—despite the resurfacing of old tensions—for optimism.

"Just as in the rest of society," he said, "there is a growing recognition within the labor movement—both among the rank-and-file and the lower-down leadership—of the realities of climate change which includes fear, worry, and concern. And out of that is a growing willingness to take action. And that's what really has to develop and be mobilized in order to change the behavior of those at the upper reaches of labor leadership.”

Indeed, said DeMoro, what's really troubling about the position of the AFL-CIO—and especially how it was articulated in McGarvey's letter—is that it "basically creates a class war within the working class in order to protect the company's profits. So that's a narrative we see out there, but it's a false dilemma. And it's a false dilemma, especially in the unions, because everyone wants these workers to have jobs.”

Meanwhile, in a fresh article published Thursday, 350's McKibben renewed his long-held argument that the physics, chemistry, and math of global warming are simply not concerned with politics or labor disputes. "This is literally a math test, and it’s not being graded on a curve," McKibben writes. This test, he warns, has "only has one correct answer" and "if we don’t get it right, then all of us—along with our 10,000-year-old experiment in human civilization—will fail.”

Putting that idea together with her concern for workers, DeMoro said the nurses at NNU and her fellow union leaders standing against the Dakota Access Pipeline understand the totality of what's at stake. "What we understand is that people's health must be protected, that the planet must be protected, and that people's jobs and livelihoods must be protected.”

"That's not radical," she said. "That's just right."

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

2456. To Defeat Hitler Vote for Hindenburg! – “Lesser Evil” Voting Then and Now

By Stanley Heller, Economic Uprising, July 2, 2016
Hillary and William Clinton at Trump's wedding
In 1932 in Germany there were four national elections including two for the powerful position of president. The two leading candidates for president of Germany were Adolf Hitler and Paul von Hindenburg. Today when we hear the word Hindenburg we think of the zeppelin with that name that burned in New Jersey in 1937, but Paul Ludwig Hans Anton von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg was a very famous man for decades in Germany.  During “the Great War”, which we now call World War I, he was Chief of the General Staff of the German army. In the last years of the war he was in effect military dictator of Germany.  The German revolution ousted the Kaiser from power, but the leaders of the SPD (the very big German socialist party which supported the war) allied with counterrevolutionary forces and after massacres of the revolutionary Left made Germany into a capitalist republic.  Hindenburg, who should have been in disgrace for his failed war leadership, came through the period with his reputation unscathed.
Longstory short.  The SPD steadily weakens. Hindenburg is elected President of Germany in 1925. The Great Depression hits Germany like a hammer and the Nazis go from getting 3% of the vote in 1928 to 18% in 1930.  Their goons are running the streets. The German communists (KPD) follow the orders of Soviet ruler Joe Stalin to totally go it alone.  They claim that the SPD were just another kind of fascist, “social fascists”  For its part the SPD refuses to work with the communists.  In 1932 Hindenberg runs for reelection, the KPD runs its own candidate and the SPD supports Hindenburg as the “lesser of two evils”.
Most people will agree that Hitler was the ultimate evil, so Hindenburg was certainly “lesser”, but the SPD strategy did not work as planned. Hindenburg won the April 1932 run-off presidential with a solid 53% of the vote. “Mission accomplished” or so the SPD thought. Hindenburg stayed in office and he continued to choose the Chancellors and cabinet. However, the string of men he picked totally failed to rescue the German economy. Then Hindenburg made a fateful decision.  In January 1933 he appointed Adolph Hitler as chancellor in a deal that gave the Nazis only 3 of the 11 cabinet positions.  This was thought all that would be needed to keep Hitler under control.  Brilliant plan. Hindenburg was putty in Hitler’s hands.  Within two months Hitler had bullied Hindenburg to sign an Enabling” Act” which gave the Nazi leader dictatorial powers.
So what has this got to do with today?  Well, we have a candidate running for president who a lot of people have compared to Hitler.  And we have as his opponent a woman who
stands for the status quo, a millionaire who does the bidding of Wall Street, a bloody war “hawk” with notches on her belt from the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and Libya, a blind supporter of Israeli war crimes in Palestine and elsewhere. Yet people are running to herto defeat Trump, to save them from “Hitler”. (See Halle/Chomsky defense of lesser evil voting )
Now obviously, obviously things are a lot different in the U.S. now compared to  Germany in the ‘30’s. Joblessness though a lot higher than the “unemployment rate” is not as massive as in the ‘30’s.  The U.S. hasn’t felt the shock of a terrible defeat in war and a loss of territory. Though Trump has been embraced by enthusiastic neo-Nazis their gangs are not (yet) running riot.
On the other hand there are two threats we live under that were unheard of in the 1930’s. One is nuclear war. We were told with communism gone there would be an “end of history” and the danger of nuclear war would be gone, but any chance for nuclear disarmament in the 1990’s was completely thrown away by Bill Clinton.   At present the U.S. government still has hundreds of nuclear weapons on hair trigger, meaning they could launch in minutes.  Russia probably still has the same.  With NATO expanding and Putin conquering, the two nuclear powers are eyeball to eyeball again.
The other threat is out of control global warming.  Climate scientist Robert Howarth (who was on the short list in 2011 for Time magazine’s person of the year) says we’re on a path to go over the crucial 1.5 degree centigrade increase in just 13 years.  Carbon dioxide emissions in the U.S. have leveled off in recent years, but methane emissions from fracking have undone all the good and the total global warming gases are increasing at record levels. This is a path to catastrophe, a catastrophe from which there may not be a recovery.  Somewhere between 1.5 and 2 degrees world temperature increase the permafrost releases massive amounts of methane and we go into a feedback loop of another big jump in temperatures.  One of many results is that large areas of the world become either under water or uninhabitable.  If you think we have refugee problems now, wait until there’s tens or scores of millions of climate refugees.
Hillary Clinton will absolutely not save the world from either menace.  She raised no objection to Obama’s trillion dollar nuclear modernization program or his (or was it her) drive to stick NATO right in the face of Putin.  Clinton supported the Keystone XL pipeline as Secretary of State and only changed her mind under relentless pressure from Bernie Sanders.  She calls for an 80% cut in carbon emissions by 2050.  That sounds like a big deal, but it’s a totally inadequate measure to stop the warming that’s coming, a death sentence for coastal cities and genocide for Africa.  Let me emphasize this climate menace is on the way. The balance of nuclear terror may hold for more decades, but the things that balance global gases, like the world’s oceans can no longer do the job.
So who should we vote for in the U.S. presidential election?
Before we answer that question there are others to deal with first.    What is the minimum we need for continued human civilization (as opposed to a global war of all against all as livable land areas dwindle) and what would create the force, the movement, the organization necessary to win the minimum changes?
For climate I see no way to avoid intolerable climate change unless there is a government takeover of the energy, heating and transportation industries and a “Manhattan Project” crash program for 100% renewable energy by 2030.  The bloated armaments industry which lives on wars and the need for ever more nuclear “modernization” should be nationalized, too.  Its industries need to be converted to peace time use and its workers hired in “green” jobs. This has to planned at the highest level and worker run at the day to day level.  We need a new system, a social democracy that is able to maintain a sustainable ecology, in short “ecosocialism”.
Now the Democrats and Republicans are both staunch defenders of (somewhat different versions of) capitalism and nothing in the short run is going to change that. Unfortunately if we have 13 years to fix the climate all we have is the short run.  The recent farce at the Democratic platform committee where every proposed method of weaning away from fossil fuel was rejected should disabuse those who think the Democrats can be a vehicle for the necessary drastic changes need in the next decade.
The largest Left party is the Green Party which gets a miniscule vote in national elections and gets denounced for taking away votes that naturally belong to the “lesser evil”.  It’s hampered by a voting system totally stacked against third parties.  (As a result no party other than the Democrats and Republicans has won a single presidential electoral vote in almost 50 years.)  It sees its role as running in elections, period.  It rarely takes part in creating social movement or anti-war actions.
That’s not enough.  There needs to be something else, something that will run in elections, but that will also organize massive disruption to undo the power structure and build a new ecosocialist society. It has to be an ever rising tide of democracy and environmentalism.  We must do what is necessary to build the build that movement, that force and we can’t be intimidated by the fear of being taunted as the “spoiler” in elections.  We have to say in advance that if our actions result in a more repressive, more racist and environmental Know Nothing party taking over for a while, so be it.   We’ll have to grit our teeth and deal with it.  There’s no time for glacial progress. Human society is at stake.
 On June 20 Juan Gonzalez, the great journalist, former Young Lords leader and current co-anchor on Democracy Now!  spoke at the Bernie Sanders’ “Peoples Summit” .  He told the thousands attending, “Don’t make the mistakes of 1968 that elected Nixon.”  What were those mistakes according to Gonzalez? People came to Chicago to “confront” the Democrats who were about to nominate Hubert Humphrey.  Also SDS told people not to vote.   Gonzales claimed “there would have been a positive change, if Nixon had not been elected.”  The lesson, though Gonzalez didn’t say it outright is “vote for Hillary”.
Actually, what Gonzalez proposed would have been suicide for the movement. Hubert Humphrey was Lyndon Johnson’s lickspittle and junior partner in war crimes against Vietnam.   A Humphrey victory could well have led to eight more years of genocide for the people of Vietnam. Instead Chicago in ’68 was a milestone of direct action.  Neither the Chicago police riot nor the prosecution of protest leaders on bogus charges dampened spirits .   The Yippie and Left protests of ‘68  led to many more direct actions and the eventual radicalization of part of the U.S. military.  Thousands of U.S. soldiers would no longer fight for the empire.  They refused to be cannon fodder.  That scared the bejeezus out of the power structure and that’s what ended the war.
 Two more recent movements come to mind, the 2006 immigrant “boycott”  and what’s going on in France today.  On May 1, 2006 millions of Latinos “boycotted” work , maybe five million undocumented and documented workers went on a one day strike.  They came out into the street to protest an anti-immigrant law that was making its way through Congress.  The law was never passed.   Fast forward ten years and the neoliberal Socialist Party of France proposes a labor law to reduce labor rights.  For a month tens of thousands have come into the streets night after night to demand its defeat.
So what do we do here in the U.S. this election year?  As far as the election I’d counsel voting for Jill Stein of the Green Party for president.    I don’t have illusions that the Green Party will win the presidency. Nor do I think a “Green New Deal” is at all an adequate way to dealing with capitalism and I don’t like Stein’s blindness about Russia’s horrific role in Syria .  However, the Green Party will actually be on the ballot in 30 or 40 states.  A vote for the Green Party will be noticed and it’s the best vehicle we have to send out a certain message.
The message the vote will deliver to the public is that we’re uncompromising, yes “uncompromising”.  We’re not dogmatic about some belief or program, but we’re uncompromising about the need to preserve human civilization and to avoid a massive die off of human and animal life.  We realize that politics as usual is a death sentence and we won’t participate in our own executions. We intend to promote an ecosocialist tide and turn it into an unstoppable deluge.
Our main work is not electoral. During and after the election we continue our base work, organizing in the neighborhoods, workplaces and in the streets, coming out to the July 24 anti-fracking march, standing with immigrants, denouncing great power aggression and  indifference to the plight of Syrians, condemning the Saudi-U.S. war on Yemen.  We need to organize the millions of angry people that came out for Bernie and who are now being told to dive into the Democratic Party graveyard.
The Left in the ‘30’s had a slogan “socialism or barbarism”.  It needs to be updated for a world that faces even greater perils.  Ecosocialism or the abyss.

2455. Learning from History: Who’s going to be the lesser-evil in 1968?

By Hal Draper, Independent Socialist, January 1967

Hal Draper (1914-1990)
In 1968, when the presidential sweepstakes come up again, liberals all over the country are likely to face the California Syndrome. At the risk of sounding like a Californian, I’m referring to the political pattern that was acted out in the recent Brown-Reagan [1] contest in that state – whose denizens have this in common with New Yorkers, that they tend to think that whatever is happening in their state is What’s Happening. Sometimes it is.

In ’68 the problem is going to be: vote for Lyndon Johnson [2] again or not. Among all those schizophrenic people you know whose heart is in the famous Right Place – viz. a little left of center – ulcers are going to ulcerate, psychiatrists’ couches will get political, and navels will be contemplated with a glassy stare. Johnson or Nixon? Johnson or Romney [3]? Johnson or Reagan [4]? Johnson or anybody? As a matter of fact, even before this point is reached, there bids fair to be a similar pattern inside the Democratic Party machine itself: Johnson or Kennedy-Fullbright, [5] or its equivalent.

Now radicals have been wont to approach this classic problem with two handy labels, which in fact are fine as far as they go. One is called the Tweedledum-Tweedledee pattern, and the other is called the Lesser Evil pattern. Neither of these necessarily quite describes What’s Happening. To see why, let’s take a quick look at both of them in terms of 1968.

1 The ’68 race could be a Tweedledum-Tweedledee affair, and it may be. For example, Johnson versus Governor Romney. One can defy even Max Lerner [6] to insert even a razor-thin sentence between the politics respectively represented by these two millionaires. In fact, there is bound to be a sector of liberal sentiment which would indeed see the Lesser Evil in Romney, since there is as yet no evidence that Romney is quite as rascally a liar as the present Leader of the Free World. But roughly speaking, these two are politically indistinguishable: this is the defining characteristic of the Tweedledum-Tweedledee pattern. (The sociological label for this invented by the professorial witch-doctors is Consensus Politics.)
2 In contrast, the Lesser Evil pattern means that there is a significant political difference between the two candidates, but –To explain the “but,” let’s take – for reasons that will appear – not a current example, but the classic example.

The day after Reagan’s election as governor of California, a liberal pro-Brown acquaintance met me with haggard face and fevered brow, muttering “Didn’t they ever hear of Hitler? Didn’t they ever hear of Hitler?” Did he mean Reagan was Hitler? “Well,” he said darkly, “look how Hitler got started ...” A light struck me about what was going on in his head. “Look,” I said, “you’ve heard of Hitler, so tell me this: how did Hitler become chancellor of Germany?”

My pro-Brown enthusiast was taken aback: “Why, he won some election or other – wasn’t it – with terror and a Reichstag fire and something like that.” – “That was after he had already become chancellor. How did he become chancellor of Germany?”

Don’t go away to look it up. In the 1932 presidential election the Nazis ran Hitler, and the main bourgeois parties ran Von Hindenburg, the Junker general who represented the right wing of the Weimar republic but not fascism. The Social-Democrats, leading a mass workers’ movement, had no doubt about what was practical, realist, hard-headed politics and what was “utopian fantasy”: so they supported Hindenburg as the obvious Lesser Evil. They rejected with scorn the revolutionary proposal to run their own independent candidate against both reactionary alternatives – a line, incidentally that could also break off the rank-and-file followers of the Communist Party, which was then pursuing the criminal policy of “After Hitler we come” and “Social-fascists are the main enemy.”

So the Lesser Evil, Hindenburg, won; and Hitler was defeated. Whereupon President Hindenburg appointed Hitler to the chancellorship, and the Nazis started taking over.
The classic case was that the people voted for the Lesser Evil and got both.
Now 1966 America is not 1932 Germany, to be sure, but the difference speaks the other way. Germany’s back was up against the wall; there was an insoluble social crisis; it had to go to revolution or fascism; the stakes were extreme. This is exactly why 1932 is the classic case of the Lesser Evil, because even when the stakes were this high, even then voting for the Lesser Evil meant historic disaster. Today, when the stakes are not so high, the Lesser Evil policy makes even less sense.

In 1964, you know all the people who convinced themselves that Lyndon Johnson was the lesser evil as against Goldwater [7], who was going to do Horrible Things in Vietnam, like defoliating the jungles. Many of them have since realized that the spiked boot was on the other foot; and they lacerate themselves with the thought that the man they voted for “actually carried out Goldwater’s policy.” [8] (In point of fact, this is unfair to Goldwater: he never advocated the steep escalation of the war that Johnson put through; and more to the point, he would probably have been incapable of putting it through with as little opposition as the man who could simultaneously hypnotize the liberals with “Great Society” rhetoric.)

So who was really the Lesser Evil in 1964? The point is that it is the question which is a disaster, not the answer. In setups where the choice is between one capitalist politician and another, the defeat comes in accepting the limitation to this choice.

New development
For the moment, so much for the Lesser Evil pattern. But there is an interesting difference between the classic case (Hitler and Hindenburg in 1932) and the Johnson-Goldwater case. There really was a significant political difference between Hitler and Hindenburg; the general himself would never have fascized Germany. If he called the Nazi to the chancellorship, it was because he believed that the imposition of government responsibility was the way to domesticate the wild-talking Nazis, that the burden of actually having to run the country would turn the “irresponsible” extremists into tame politicians like all the others, in the pattern usually seen (as with the Hubert Humphreys [9]). But Hindenburg himself was not a Hitler and he really was a Lesser Evil. What the classic case teaches is not that the Lesser Evil is the same as the Greater Evil – this is just as nonsensical as the liberals argue it to be but rather this: that you can’t fight the victory of the rightmost forces by sacrificing your own independent strength to support elements just the next step away from them.

This latter pattern is what has been going on in this country for the last two decades. Every time the liberal labor left has made noises about its dissatisfaction with what Washington was trickling through, all the Democrats had to do was bring out the bogy of the Republican right.

The lib-labs would then swoon, crying “The fascists are coming!” and vote for the Lesser Evil. In these last two decades, the Democrats have learned well that they have the lib-lab vote in their back pocket, and that therefore the forces to be appeased are those forces to the right. The lib-labs were kept happy enough if Hubert Humphrey showed up at a banquet to make his liberal speeches; or, before that, by the Kennedy myth which bemused them even while the first leader on this planet poised his finger over the nuclear-war button and said “Or else!” With the lib-lab votes in a pocket, politics in this country had to move steadily right-right-right-until even a Lyndon Johnson could look like a Lesser Evil. This is essentially why – even when there really is a Lesser Evil – making the Lesser Evil choice undercuts any possibility of really fighting the Right.

But now notice this: when the Lesser Evil named Johnson was elected in 1964, he did not call in the Greater Evil to power, as did Hindenburg. He did not merely act in so flabby a manner that the Right wing alternative was thereby strengthened – another classic pattern. These patterns would have been old stuff, the historic Lesser Evil pattern in full form.

What was bewildering about Johnson was that the Lesser Evil turned out to be the Greater Evil, if not worse. Was it then the Tweedledum-Tweedledee pattern, after all? Am I merely then saying that the apparent difference between Johnson and Goldwater (even within the framework of capitalist politics) was just an illusion? Is the conclusion merely that all capitalist politicians have to be the same, that therefore the case against voting for the Lesser Evil is that there is no Lesser Evil?

I don’t think that’s the answer; I think there is a third pattern around, which is neither Tweedledee-Tweedledum nor the classic Lesser Evil choice. If the Johnson-Goldwater contest was one example, then an even better one was provided by the recent Brown-Reagan race. For Pat Brown really is a liberal, whatever you may think of Johnson; and thereby hangs the tale.

Because this genuine liberal, Pat Brown, acted for eight years as governor of California in no important respect differently from what a conservative Republican would have done. The operative word is acted. He sold out the water program to the big landholding companies as his two Republican predecessors never dared to do. He fought tooth and nail for the bracero system [10] as no Republican governor of an agricultural state dared to do.

It was he (not Clark Kerr [11]) who in 1964 unleashed an army of police against the Berkeley students. After the Watts uprising, it was he who named John J. McCone’s commission to whitewash the whole business, and who then supported the right wing’s anti-riot law to intimidate the ghetto. It was Brown who gave the liberal Democratic CDC the final decapitation when he personally mobilized all his strength to oust Si Casady as CDC head. [12] If half of this had been done by a Reagan, the lib-labs would be yelling “Fascism” all over the place. (As they will during the next four years, no doubt.)

And I repeat that I don’t think this took place simply because Pat Brown was a Tweedledee reflecting image of Reagan. Here is a somewhat different interpretation:

A profound change has taken place in this country since the days of the New Deal – has taken place in the nature of capitalist politics, and therefore in the two historic wings of capitalist politics, liberalism and conservatism. In the 1930’s there was a genuine difference in the programs put before capitalism by its liberal and conservative wings. The New Deal liberals proposed to save capitalism, at a time of deep-going crisis and despair, by statification – that is, by increasing state intervention into the control of the economy from above. It is notorious that some of the most powerful sectors of the very class that was being saved hated Roosevelt like poison. (This added to the illusions of the “Roosevelt revolution” at the time, of course.) Roosevelt himself always insisted that a turn toward state-capitalist intervention was necessary to save capitalism itself; and he was right. In fact, the New Deal conquered not only the Democratic but the Republican Party. When Roosevelt’s New Deal and Truman’s Fair Deal were succeeded by Eisenhower’s regime, the free-enterprise-spouting Republican continued and even, intensified exactly the same social course that Roosevelt had begun. (This is the reality behind the Birchite charge that Eisenhower is a “card-carrying Communist”!)

In the three and a half decades since 1932, and before, during and after a second world war which intensified the process, the capitalist system itself has been going through a deep-going process of bureaucratic statification. The underlying drives are beyond the scope of this article; the fact itself is plain to see. The liberals who sparked this transformation were often imbued with the illusion that they were undermining the going system; any child can now see that they knew not what they did. The conservatives who denounced all the steps in this transformation, and who had to be dragged kicking and screaming into the new stage, were also imbued with the very same illusion. But even Eisenhower – who has never been accused of being an egghead, and who, before he was nominated for the presidency, made exactly the same sort of free-enterprise-hurrah speeches as Reagan was paid to make for General Electric – even he was forced to act, in the highest office, no differently from a New Deal Democrat. Because that is the only way the system can now operate.

Fruits of lesser evilism
Under the pressure of bureaucratic-statified capitalism, liberalism and conservatism converge. That does not mean they are identical, or are becoming identical. They merely increasingly tend to act in the same way in essential respects, where fundamental needs of the system are concerned. And just as the conservatives are forced to conserve and expand the statified elements of the system, so the liberals are forced to make use of the repressive measures which the conservatives advocate: because the maintenance of the system demands it. [13] Just as when Truman vetoed Taft-Hartley [14] and then invoked it against striking workers. What is more, because the liberal politicians can point a warning finger towards the right and because the lib-labs will respond to it, they are even more successful than the conservatives in carrying out those measures which the conservatives advocate. It is not necessary to claim that even that pitiful man, Hubert Humphrey, is merely a hypocrite. No, I fully believe, myself, that he is as sincere a liberal as the next lib-lab specimen. It is liberalism which requires the examination, not Humphrey’s morals. Nor was that even more pathetic man, Adlai Stevenson, simply a rascal when he found himself lying like a trooper at the UN in the sight and knowledge of the whole world. [15]

So besides Tweedledee-Tweedledums and besides the Lesser Evils who really are different in policy from the Greater Evils, we increasingly are getting this third type of case: the Lesser Evils who, as executors of the system, find themselves acting at every important juncture exactly like the Greater Evils, and sometimes worse. They are the product of the increasing convergence of liberalism and conservatism under conditions of bureaucratic capitalism. There never was an era when the policy of the Lesser Evil made less sense than now.

That’s the thing to remember for 1968, as a starter.

1. Edmund G. “Pat” Brown (Democrat): California state attorney general, 1951-59; Governor of California, 1959-67
2. Lyndon B. Johnson: the Texas Democratic vice-president was sworn in as president in 1963 after the assassination of John F. Kennedy. He went on to win election to a full term in a landslide against GOP candidate Barry Goldwater in the presidential race in 1964. At the time of the writing of this article, Johnson was planning to run as president; but he later announced he would not seek another term as president after the January, 1968 Tet Offensive exposed the U.S.’s inability to win the war in Vietnam and his poll figures dropped precipitously.
3. George W. Romney: Served three consecutive terms as governor of Michigan, from 1962 to 1968. Chairman of American Motors Corp. from 1954-1962, and a contender for the 1968 Republican presidential nomination.
4. At this time, Ronald Reagan was the Republican governor of California. He later (1980) was elected president and served two terms. His presidency personified the new drift to the right in U.S. politics – a ruling class backlash against the political and social movements of the 1960s and early 1970s. He was famous, like the current president, for making inane statements such as: “Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do.”
5. This refers to a hypothetical 1968 presidential ticket of Sen. Robert F. Kennedy and Sen. J. William Fulbright. Kennedy served as attorney general in brother John F. Kennedy’s brief presidential administration, and then became a senator in 1964. He was assassinated on June 5, 1968. Fulbright of Arkansas (who once employed Bill Clinton as an intern) was chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Fulbright was an early Vietnam hawk who became a leading establishment opponent of the war.
6. A well-known liberal newspaper columnist of the day.
7. Barry Goldwater was the Republican presidential nominee who ran against Johnson in 1964. He advocated using nuclear weapons to defoliate Vietnam.
8. Johnson ran for president in 1964 promising to de-escalate the war in Vietnam. When he won the election, he did the opposite, sending hundreds of thousands more troops.
9. Hubert Humphrey: elected as vice president with President Johnson on the Democratic ticket in 1964, and he was his party’s unsuccessful presidential candidate in 1968.
10. The bracero program: a post Second World War government-sponsored plan aimed at importing low-paid Mexican labor to the U.S. Mexicans under this program were allowed to come and work in the U.S., but were required to return to Mexico when their work term expired.
11. President of the University of California system during the Berkeley students’ famous Free-Speech fights in 1964.
12. Original note by author: The reader is referred to the October 1966 issue of Ramparts magazine for a brilliant (and detailed) exposition of all this, including an analysis of how it all could be done by a man who really is a liberal. Ramparts does this in terms of concrete facts; in this article I am generalizing.
13. It is worth noting that although the trend toward statification that Draper describes began to shift by the late 1970s toward “globalization,” i.e. more neo-liberal capitalist policies, the same political pattern was apparent. Not only Republicans Reagan and Bush, but also Democrat Clinton, carried out the neo-liberal policies. Therefore Draper’s point that liberalism and conservatism tend to converge around the particular historic interests of the ruling class still applies.
14. Taft-Hartley: 1947 labor bill that curtailed the rights of unions. Among other things, it empowered the government to obtain an 80-day injunction against any strike that it deemed a peril to national security. The act outlawed sympathy strikes or boycotts (boycott against an already organized company doing business with another company that a union is trying to organize), denied legal protection to workers on wildcat strikes, and outlawed the closed shop.
15. Adlai Stevenson: US diplomat & Democratic politician; governor of Illinois 1949-1953; Democratic presidential candidate 1952, 1956; US ambassador to UN 1961-1965. Famous for making a presentation to the UN in 1962 revealing the presence of Russian nuclear missiles in Cuba. Stevenson’s presentation denied important facts. For example, the U.S. had recently launched an armed CIA invasion of Cuba – landing at the Bay of Pigs in April 1961. Stevenson denied U.S. involvement. Stevenson also left out of his presentation the fact that the U.S. had placed nuclear missiles in Turkey pointed at the Soviet Union.