It’s not my country, but what happens in America affect the world. And we’re right next door. The Left Forum
had a panel discussion a couple weeks ago with Glen Ford
, Chris Hedges
, and Jill Stein
, chaired by Linda Thompson, that’s worth a listen. It’s two hours long, and a feat of tolerance for all the chattering and cell phones in the audience, so I summarized some highlights below.
In a nutshell, Clinton is just as scary as Trump, so everyone who hoped to vote for Sanders, should vote for the Green Party or any independent party if Sanders doesn’t win in the primaries. The Greens are unlikely to win, but it will send a clear message that there are enough Americans who care about reform, that they won’t fall for the ideology that there are only two parties running. Here are their arguments heavily condensed and slightly paraphrased:
Hedges on the Façade of a Two-Party System:
“Once the neo-liberal ideology is no longer able to hold the loyalty of a population, those regimes will collapse. Mechanisms that defend power are no longer willing to work on its behalf. That process of revolutionary change is slow and often invisible. The facade of the superstructure remains in place. That is precisely where we are in American history. It’s incumbent upon those who care for the socialist society, that we step outside these structures, even if we remain a minority, so that we provide an alternative to this power.
Nationalism is a disease which has infected both parties. It deifies the military. It sucks people into its orbit; it has at its disposal powerful forms of indoctrination that stokes the kind of proto-fascism we see at Trump rallies. Democrats are as culpable as Republicans at creating this toxic environment. Clintons are built on loyalty to corporate power and white supremacy. They passed the three-strikes law, massively expanded sentences, expanded the prison industrial complex, pushed through the first trade agreement. John Ralston Saul called Bill Clinton’s administration a corporate coup d’état.
Sanders was okay with Israelis bombing Palestinian communities. He’s an AIPAC wind-up doll. He’s been in the pockets of the Clintons for a long time; he campaigned for Bill Clinton in 2004. He’s got a faustian bargain with the Democrats, and he’s naive to think he could compete fairly in the primaries.
We owe it to our children to step outside this system and begin to fight back. We’ll never achieve power through political parties. All of our energy has to be invested in movement. We have to knit groups together (anti-fracking, black lives matter, fight for the minimum wage…) and carry out sustained acts of civil disobedience. The ability to reform from within the structures of power has been taken from us.
Stein on the Lesser Evil Agenda:
“I’m most horrified by a political system that gives two lethal choices and says pick between them. This is a reflection of inherent dysfunctions in this system. Both are minority parties, so it’s important that we seize this moment. A report from NOAA last week discussed an Oh my God report confirming that we could expect nine feet of sea level rise by 2050 if we don’t take profoundly different action by then. Instead we get drill baby drill on steroids not only increasing, but accelerating.
While agreement in Paris was being forged, and Obama was celebrating, they were behind close doors, signing on to the end of the oil export ban which massively increases oil exploration. We have a choice of a corporate vision with a smile or without a smile. Both parties are funded by same predatory banks, fossil fuel giants, and war profiteers. It’s clear we can’t keep going in this direction. Climate meltdown has a deadline. By 2050 all of the coastal US cities will be under water and 600 million people will be refugees. The greater evil is the economic meltdown we’re looking at. Banks are bigger than ever.
But we actually have the power. Alice Walker said that the biggest way we give up power is not knowing we have it in the first place. If we don’t fight in the halls of power, then we’re basically raising the white flag of surrender, and we’ll be bulldozed by the stroke of a pen. The great news is that we have the power to stand up. If you take just people locked into predatory student debt, locked into economic servitude, and those people are 43 million strong, that is a winning plurality in a presidential race. There’s only one party who will bail them out if that word gets out. It doesn’t take a whole lot of motivation to see it can be erased with a stroke of a pen if they vote Green. We’re in the polls now where Sanders was six months ago. As Bernie’s campaign begins to fold in a path of sabotage, we can’t have a revolutionary campaign in a counter-revolutionary party.
We need coalitions. Change is not going to happen under Clinton. We need to stand up now if we want to decommission nuclear power plants on the coast because they will flood out. We should be telling supreme court what to do. We did it in the 60s. We brought troops home; brought in clean air act and clean water act. Don’t accept that we’re powerless. We are powerful. And we have the numbers it takes to win the battle. We just need the courage of our convictions. There’s an attitude of cowardice that is unleashed when we’re told to accept voting for the lesser evil. We need to have courage. It’s time to forget the lesser evil and fight for the greater good like our lives depend on it, because they do.
The lesser evil paves the way for the greatest evil and makes it inevitable. People can’t mobilize themselves; witness the beating Sanders is getting. That party is being hijacked. Through the policies of the Clintons, we got the makings of Trump. We got the right-wing populism which is a response to the economic desperation of the people caused by Clinton. In terms of the nuclear threat, the Obama administration withdrew from the anti-ballistic missile treaty which was the main tool to move towards nuclear disarmament, and now the Obama administration is leading a trillion dollar movement towards nuclear war. We know what Hillary will do. She wants to take an airborne attack. Trump is risky, but Hillary is certain death.
Thompson on Some Problems with the Left:
Che Guevara said that revolutionaries are motivated by great feelings of love. The left is bad for getting too intellectual and has problems expressing that love. People have to feel safe abandoning the lesser evil and going for the unknown. Unity is the key. There are lots of little tiny groups of activist that have to unite.
A lot of the problem isn’t Trump, it’s the corporate media and the 1%. The left-wing media is to blame as well. Amy Goodman has blacked out Jill’s campaign as much as the right-wing media does. There’s a section of Democracy Now where you can say what you want to see on their show. Ask them why she’s not covering these parties. We can’t let them get away with this anymore. Call for a revolution.
Hedges on the Prison System and Fascism:
We have to stop talking about people within the system of mass incarceration and focusing on non-violent drug offenders. There are round-ups of everyone in the room in a drug deal. 94% of the people incarcerated never go to trial. They slap all sorts of charges on you that you didn’t commit. They tell you, if you go to trial, you’ll be charged with all of it, and you’ll never win. But if you accept the plea of 11 years, we’ll cut this and this. 80% of the people in the prison system shouldn’t be there. The whole system lynched them. My students with the longest sentences went to trial because they didn’t commit the crime, and they punished them with 30-year sentences.
Fascism rises out of a political vacuum. We have to stop getting conned into the personality. We have to see the system for what it is. In terms of fossil fuels, war machines, etc., there will be no difference between Trump and Clinton. Read Democracy Incorporated by Sheldon Wolin to get an understanding of how inverted totalitarianism works. Neither Clinton nor Trump will set up a reasonable environmental policy. In this system there’s no way to vote against Exxon Mobile.
Ford on Black Leaders
“Some black leaders are still corporate owned. We can’t just vote for people who look like us. We have to support people with values, people willing to stand up against racism and imperialism. We have to get away from skin-based politics.”
Stein added, “The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement put together a plan in the context of an emergency of racial injustice that demands attention.”
A commenter added: “Society can’t be dominated by white progressive and white liberals. There are so many overt displays of white supremacy, that black people don’t want to join them. We need to think of a society where you don’t have control of most of the land, because it wasn’t yours to begin with.”
Hedges on Fighting for Marginalized Communities:
Within marginal communities the system of capitalism has created a system of perpetual evictions, which has affected the psychological health of citizens and the cohesive nature of neighbourhoods. In the 30s, people would get up and block sheriffs from bringing foreclosures. Capitalism destroys the cohesiveness that make that resistance possible. Men are in prison and women and children are evicted. Marx called this surplus labour. People are preyed upon. They lock you in a cage to generate $40-50 thousand a year. Whole corporate entities (moving companies, storage companies, insurance…) are built around benefiting from systems of oppression.
We’re not in those community to see what’s been done to crush those people. None of us could endure that. It gets back to the dark system of corporate capitalism. You have to look now at sacrifice zones – at what we have allowed to be done to the vulnerable in society. We’ve gotten caught up in the boutique activism of personality politics. Feminism should be about empowering oppressed women, but it’s about having a woman president and woman CEOs. The bottom ⅔ of blacks in the country are worse off than when King marched. White liberals are caught in the game of diverting attention from horrific, brutal, cruel forms of injustice. I teach in a prison because I wouldn’t know otherwise. These people are invisible. They vanish. Newspapers don’t even have labour journalists any more.
Ford added: “It’s not just white liberals – it’s those who have become collaborators with this corporate system. In every struggle for independence of colonialist power, we have to kill more fellow African-Americans in order to get to the enemy.”
Stein: “It’s our job, as privileged white people who have enormous benefits from the system, to support the community and struggle in their fights as they define them. They’re already organizing; our job is to help. There have been victories in indigenous land and treaty rights. The support of environmental communities is critical to those victories. This is a model to support.”
Hedges: “In the prisons, they are so far ahead of us politically. They don’t think anybody’s going to overcome the lobbyists. They are organizing a mass prison strike. It’s going on right now across the country. It started in Alabama. I will be cross-country on September 9th, the anniversary of Attica. In system of neo-slavery, no prison runs without prison labour. Don’t go to the state house or the capital to protest, go to the prison house to show us you’re there. These people have so much courage. They broke their strike in Alabama by refusing to feed them. They are a highly conscious politically oppressed group who are rising up with integrity to fight back, and we have to stand with them.”
Thompson: “We don’t need to reinvent the wheel. We need to re-invigorate the discussion the Panthers started. They already created a 10-point program.”
Ford: “We need to decolonize Puerto Rico and forgive the debts.”
Stein: “We need to liberate the public airways. The president could instruct federal communication to stop the privatization of airways. When the FCC looked at privatizing internet, there was a social movement that stopped it.
Commenter: “We need to be willing to be under the leadership of The African People’s Socialist Party and go to the prisons. It’s the only way to be in touch in a vital, emotional way or else it gets too abstract. A lot of things we debate are moot. 39,000 strikers are protesting a destructive company that gets 1.8 million per month in a template that’s the demise of the working class. They shipped call centres to Trinidad.
Hedges: “Workers are reduced to serfs across the board. The problem is multifaceted. It’s partly the fault of the unions who made concessions to corporations. But this is what’s going to happen to all of us It’s a reconfiguration of the economy to neo-feudalism with prisons that feed like sharks off them, where a phone call home costs 5 times the actual costs, and prisoners have to pay from their $28/month wages.”
Stein: “The media calls Verizon strikers greedy, but it’s not just about wages. They’re demonized because they’re asking for more than living wage. We’re moving to a system in which a poverty wage is acceptable; it’s important to be vocal to support the strike.”
Ford: “It is all about the cost of labour and the race to the bottom driven by the tremendous wage differentials in the world.”
Stein: “We need social movements. They are the engine of social change. Political parties are able to unite social coalitions. A real political party is an effort to bring people together under a common agenda. There’s not a conflict between working for electoral parties and social parties.”
Hedges: “The next trade agreement will destroy the post office. It says that no government enterprise can exist unless corporations can compete with them. It’s the same reason hedge funds run charter schools. Marx explained that in late stages of capitalism, as you disenfranchise the country, you disembowel the state structures in order to make profits.”
To sum it up: We have the ability to make this change. It feels like there are a lot of issues to address, but there’s really just one: the neo-liberal agenda to profit off the back of the people. And it’s being promoted by the Democrats as much as the Republicans. We need to continue to have candidates run that come out of the movement. And we actually have to vote for them.