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Sunday, June 17, 2018

Sam Webb: Loose ends in dangerous times

Loose ends in dangerous times

1. The old global order dominated by US imperial power with its many contradictions and inequalities is cracking along many seams. But what is much less evident is what will replace it. I would like to be optimistic, but given the weaknesses of the left and progressive movements in the US and elsewhere on the one hand and the momentum and strength of the right on the other, It is hard to be sanguine about the future. In fact, one can make an argument that thanks to Trump, Putin, and other rightists who demagogically exploit the contradictions of everyday life and contemporary capitalism for anti-democratic and selfish purposes that a long era of democratic governance (with its obvious — you don't have to remind me — limitations) could well be in the autumn of its life.

All of which, I believe, gives profound importance to this fall's elections. Here in Kingston, NY we have the opportunity to unseat the Republican House incumbent. Years ago this contest for a House seat might have gone unnoticed by me, but not now. And better yet millions across the country are of the same mind.

2. Few things so viscerally demonstrate the utter inhumanity, cruelty, and depravity of Nazi Germany than the scene in the movie Sophie's Choice when the Nazi officer tells Sophie (Meryl Streep) to decide which of her two children will live and which will die. The Trump administration hasn't got to quite to that point, but in ripping children and babies out of the arms of their parents and interning them in makeshift shelters at the border, what it is doing is in the same ballpark.

3. Below is an excerpt from the speech of AFL-CIO leader Richard Trumka earlier this week to the UAW Constitutional Convention,

"As we fight… as we educate our members… as we campaign this summer and fall, we'll spell out our independent worker agenda again and again. We don't work for any political party. We work for workers, because we want more Republicans who will break rank and stand with working people. And while we're at it, we want fewer Democrats who take our money and energy and then forget who got them elected in the first place."

I find this so wrongheaded given the particular circumstances of this election. I suppose for some it might seem like an expression of political independence, but when looked at concretely, when looked at through the lens of the overarching imperative of electing a Democratic majority to the House and Senate this fall in order to preserve democracy and slow down the many sided, unrelenting, and unprecedented, anti-people offensive of Trump and his Republican Congressional quislings, it fails badly to meet the challenge of the present moment.

Much the same could be said about another remark by Trumka in his speech. He asserted:

"The corporate billionaires can't touch our solidarity… . yet when they attack our institutions… when they attack our ability to fight for our members and our communities… when they attack our ability to harness political power for working people… we'll fight back. We will fight back against every attack on working people, and we'll fight hard… we'll fight to win!

I appreciate the militant spirit expressed by Trumka here; it's sure needed. But I find the claim that "the corporate billionaires can't touch our solidarity" a misrepresentation of reality. That fact is that over the past two years Trump, who represents a healthy section of corporate billionaires, has fractured the solidarity of the labor movement as well as working people generally. And the fractures are along racial, gender, nativist, and nationalist lines. To suggest otherwise is of little help to the very members that Trumka represents, not to mention working people and their allies generally.

What would have served his audience better is if Trumka, much like he did in the presidential campaign of 2008, had spoke forthrightly and tactfully to these divisions . They aren't, after all, strangers to the UAW nor the labor movement across the Midwest at this moment. Trump knows this well. And, he will continue to say and do whatever he is necessary to exacerbate them. Such a posture, whose purpose is to peel away a substantial section of white workers to his side, is at the core of his political and reelection strategy to secure a beachhead in the Midwest in particular and country generally.

Hopefully, Trumka will make a course correction. Still time to do it.

4. Pre-trail detention for Paul Manaford, according to Trump and his minions, is cruel and arbitrary, but when it comes to the breakup of families and the lockup of children and babies at the border, that's perfectly ok, even scriptually sanctioned.

5. If the Summit was so good — and it was a step back from a war of words, threats, and nuclear brinksmanship — what was so bad about the Iran agreement?



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John Case
Harpers Ferry, WV
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