The Anti-Trump Resistance and the Democratic Party

It would be surprising if anyone who believes in peace, justice, economic equality, and environmental protection did not feel white-hot anger at the policies and pronouncements of President Donald John Trump. He is at not only a racist, sexist, labor-hating, war-mongering reactionary. He is also a boorish, stupid, and incompetent narcissist, who has no business holding the most powerful job, in the most powerful government, in the most powerful country that has ever existed on this earth. People who recognize the truth about this man have participated in activities under the rubric of “Resistance,” recalling the heroic people of occupied Europe who fought back against the Nazis during the World War II. Under Trump’s administration, big business’s campaign to curtail the right of working people to organize trade unions, to limit people of color exercising their democratic right to vote, and to knock down all environmental protections in the name of “deregulation” is galloping ahead. Resistance is absolutely what is needed at this time.

It is also completely natural that people who believe in peace and justice would like to see this president removed from office. Because of Trump’s incompetence as a chief executive, his ignorance of diplomatic protocol, and the damage his uncouth comments and actions are doing to international diplomacy, even sections of the financial elite and senior government officials have come to the conclusion that he has to go before he faces the voters in 2020. So we see two social forces with diametrically opposed economic and political interests both coming to the same conclusion—that the current president of the United States should be removed from office.

Ultimately, there are two ways that the president could be removed from power. One way is by a workers’ revolution, in which working people in their massive numbers refuse to work any longer for the profits of the financiers and shift their allegiance to a new workers’ government composed of people who truly represent them, elected at the workplace and community level. Though that may indeed be desirable, it is not going to happen in the short term. The other way is through the processes defined in the U.S. Constitution, which include impeachment, as defined in Article 2, Section 4, or the provisions of Section 4 of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment. It is understandable that the millions of people observing the horror show of the Trump administration support the idea of impeaching Trump, which is probably more realistic than expecting Trump’s vice president and cabinet to agree to remove him under the provisions of the Twenty-Fifth Amendment’s Section 4. When sections of the financial elite also believe that the President should be impeached, it becomes a realistic possibility, and, yes, in the short term.

As any Democratic campaigner will explain, impeaching Trump will be a lot more likely if the Democrats gain a majority in both houses of Congress in the 2018 elections, which will take place in about three months. Impeachment requires a majority in the House of Representatives, and removal from office requires a two-thirds majority in the Senate. However, the majority party controls the agenda in each house of Congress. The committee hearings which could lead to the drafting of articles of impeachment in the House of Representatives would simply not be held against the wishes of the Speaker of the House and the majority leadership. Consequently, the Democratic Party is not shy about stressing the importance of returning a Democratic majority to both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Activists in the labor movement and in many other struggles for social justice are hearing from their Democrat-supporting colleagues that “now is not the time to go ‘third party,’” referring usually to the Greens, but sometimes to socialist electoral efforts.

In the past, Democratic electoral campaigns have attempted to limit mass action by the movements for social justice and racial equality in the interests of getting their candidates elected. Things have changed. The largest mass actions in the history of the United States took place on January 21, 2017, the day after Trump’s inauguration. Three million people took to the streets on that day. Officially, it was called as a day of marches for women’s rights in response to Trump’s coarse sexism. The huge numbers showed how deeply women are worried about losing their rights under the Trump administration and how outraged they are about Trump’s open contempt of women. In addition, those concerned about other issues joined in, expanding the protests expanded into a day of anti-Trump demonstrations. Mass actions opposing the Trump administration’s travel ban on Muslims a few weeks later were also very large. While some of the protest was spontaneous, well organized pro-Democratic networks such as MoveOn.org, called for many of the actions and used their vast social media and other resources to build them.

Unfortunately, coalitions that were not linked to the Democratic Party were unable to mobilize anything close to the massive numbers seen at the Women’s March. An antiwar mobilization called for several cities during the weekend of April 14–15 had a very disappointing turnout. Of even more significance was the Poor People’s Campaign, which was called by one of the most charismatic leaders of the African-American community, Rev. Dr. William Barber II, a man who has been compared to Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Dr. Barber has led the Moral Mondays movement in Raleigh, North Carolina, for a number of years, mobilizing thousands of people in struggle. His group, the Repairers of the Breach, called for a “Moral Revival,” uniting faith communities for social justice, peace, and the health of the planet. The Poor People’s Campaign specifically rejected giving elected officials or people who were campaigning to be elected officials any leadership role, not even as speakers at rallies.  Only a few hundred protesters showed up at most State Houses for the six Mondays of rallies and civil disobedience. To be sure, organizers of both the peace demonstrations and the Poor People’s Campaign made mistakes, but during a period when so many people have shown that they are ready to take to the streets to protest Trump administration policies, the poor turnout indicates that pro-Democrat organizations failed to mobilize for actions they could not control or take credit for having organized.

Meanwhile, the political establishment has found the “high crime” with which they will charge Trump to remove him from office—and it is a big one, actually mentioned before “high crimes and misdemeanors” in the Constitution. It is treason—yes, treason. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), as well as other agencies in that murky network known as “the intelligence community” have come to a consensus that agents of the Russian “intelligence community” attempted to influence in the 2016 election in favor of Mr. Trump. James Comey, the director of the FBI whom Trump fired, testified in Congress that there was “no doubt” that the Russians attempted, through the release of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton’s emails and other information that put her in a poor light, and by trying to exacerbate current political divisions, to turn voters toward Trump. What success they had is very much open to question. However, if it can be proven that Trump or his campaign staff consciously cooperated with Russian operatives in that effort, then they can be found guilty of treason, which could send them to prison for the rest of their lives. In fact, if a declaration of war had been in effect against Russia, such an act of treason could be punishable by death. Former FBI director Robert Mueller, the Special Counsel charged with investigating the matter, has amassed significant amounts of evidence, which he and his team are keeping secret as good lawyers know how to do. Trump’s early campaign manager Paul Manafort is facing trial on charges of embezzling and tax evasion unrelated to the Russian meddling in the election campaign—however, it has been clear from the beginning that Mueller has been using the charges as pressure to persuade Manafort to tell what he knows about the Trump or his staff’s collaboration with Russian intelligence agents.

Suddenly, Democrats have worked themselves into a frenzy about Russia. Liberal politicians and press commentators have for the past year been referring to Russia as an “adversary,” which, one supposes, is one step below “enemy.” Many of us are wondering when the decision that Russia is an “adversary” was made and who made it. We certainly didn’t get the memo.

What is dangerous is that liberal Democrats are now taking a page from the Cold War playbook. We have heard accusations that, not only is Trump a “traitor,” but that anyone who does not actively work for his impeachment is a “traitor,” too. That goes for anyone who does not vote Democratic in the 2018 election or who campaigns for electoral candidates running as Greens or as independent socialists. For example, in New Jersey, the Democratic Party’s candidate for Senate, the incumbent Senator Robert Menendez, is one of the most corrupt politicians in office today. He has a terrible record of supporting war. Yet some peace and social justice activists are endorsing him him and criticizing former New Jersey Peace Action Executive Director Madelyn Hoffman for running against him on the Green Party line. Behind it all is the subtle—and sometimes not so subtle—implication that the Green campaigns and other independent electoral initiatives are part of the Russian attempt to help Trump in the elections.

These are tactics worthy of Senator Joseph “Tailgunner Joe” McCarthy, whose reign of terror in the late 1940s and early 1950s was a sad chapter in the history of this republic. The liberals are attempting to intimidate people into voting Democratic, as increasing numbers of voters recognize that the Democrats do not represent our interests, as evidenced in the extreme by the choice presented in the contest for New Jersey’s Senate seat. The social-justice wing of the labor movement needs to stand up and fight back against these undemocratic election tactics. The Democrats need to be told in no uncertain terms that working people have the right to vote as they see fit to promote their interests and values, and that it is not treason to do so.

At the same time, it is important to support and work for the success of mass actions in the streets, even when they are organized by liberal Democrats and used as a platform for their candidates. Mobilizing millions of people in the streets around issues such as women’s rights is a good thing. The recent mobilizations against the Trump administration’s flat-out evil immigration policies, which include snatching small children from their parents’ arms at the border, and against the Trump administration’s wholesale assault on environmental protections are other good examples. It is important to be at these actions and, if possible, to be involved in their planning and organizing. Mass demonstrations in the streets are the first step to organizing working people in their own interests and in their own name to take whatever actions necessary to save life on Earth. Simply removing Donald Trump from the presidency—as desirable as it is—will not do that. After all, can we expect anything good from President Mike Pence?

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All Out for the Poor Peoples Campaign!

By Labor Fightback Network

The Labor Fightback Network urges all our readers to participate in the Poor Peoples Campaign (PPC). Visit the PPC website to sign up for events.

Inspired by the PPC of 1968 that the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was working on at the time he was assassinated, it focuses on the three issues he raised in 1968: poverty, racism, and, militarism, and adds an issue not as central in the 1960s: climate change and environmental degradation. The 1968 campaign was made up of a broad multiracial coalition of organizations committed to mutual support for each other’s issues. It encouraged participants to see their common ground and identify common enemies and obstacles. Mass protest and non-violent civil disobedience, as practiced in the Civil Rights Movement, were its central tactics. This included including the building of a massive temporary tent city in Washington, DC, to demonstrate the impact of poverty in the US.

The new PPC proposes to be an ongoing movement. Its current focus is on a 40-day program of demonstrations, civil disobedience actions, teach-ins, and religious services starting on Mothers Day (May 13) and culminating in a mass demonstration in Washington DC on June 23. Each of the 6 weeks will feature a different set of issues:

Week 1—May 13–19:  Somebody is Hurting Our People and It’s Gone on Far Too LongWomen, Youth, the Disabled, and Children in Poverty and the Right to Education
Week 2May 2026: Connecting Systemic Racism and Economic JusticeVoting Rights and Just Immigration
Week 3May 27June 2: Veterans, Our War Economy, and Militarism
Week 4June 39: The Right to Health – Ecology, Justice and HealthWater, Extreme Extraction, Climate Change, Health Care
Week 5June 1016: Everybody’s Got a Right to LiveLiving Wages, Guaranteed Income, Housing and Social Services
Week 6June 1723: A New and Unsettling Force Challenging Our Nation’s Distorted Moral NarrativeA Fusion Movement Rising Up

Each Monday during this period, starting with May 14, will feature protests and CD actions in up to 40 state capitols thus far. The goal is that a lasting movement committed to fundamental change, with both local and national structures, will grow out of these actions.

The central organizer of the new PPC is the Rev. William Barber, the progressive Black minister largely responsible for leading the North Carolina Moral Monday protests, which the Labor Fightback Network has long supported. Rev. Barber reflected the concerns of many that, despite efforts made to address the issues of poverty, racism, and militarism throughout the last 50 years, in many ways conditions are worse than they were in 1968, with the added concerns of climate change and the growing awareness of environmental racism. In conjunction with other leaders of the Kairos Center for Religions, Rights, and Social Justice, a progressive religious think-tank and organizing space, Barber decided not just to commemorate Rev. King’s work, but to revive it as an active movement using similar tactics. In preparation for the campaign, the Kairos Center, the Institute for Policy Studies, and Barber’s organization Repairers of the Breach, have published an extensive report documenting how income inequality, racism, militarism and attacks on the environment have harmed people in the US and throughout the world. The report offers both objective data and personal testimony and provides a strong political and economic analysis directly critical of capitalism and placing the blame directly on the US ruling class. In keeping with its religious inspiration, the report—and the campaign itself—emphasizes the need for a moral revival, arguing that a movement needs to arise that is not focused on electoral politics with its shallow definitions of right and left, but on right and wrong—what is right or wrong for the vast majority of working class and poor people. Grounded in its moral preference for the needs of the majority, it is explicitly pro-labor and multicultural.

Why do we feel so strongly that this campaign is one of the most important and promising developments in a very long time?

First, the PPC is truly inclusive. Its “fusion” approach seeks to unite all the various victims of capitalism across the most critical divide of our time: race. It fully acknowledges that race is the major means used to divide US Americans, urging us to overcome these divisions by working together against common enemies. While this has long been the approach of the progressive wings of organized labor, it has not been as supported by a lot of social movements in recent years. Often the issues of class and race are counterpoised. Many activists today view class as a distraction from the central issue of racism, and, raising class issues is often seen as a way to let working class white people off the hook for racism. By holding up poverty, racism, militarism, and environmental attacks simultaneously, the PPC does not counterpoise these issues and offers various points of entry to activists committed to overcoming all of them. The campaign promotes the organized labor movement, raises the need for single-payer healthcare and affordable housing, and supports full rights for immigrants. It defends the rights of women and LGBTQ communities, thus distancing itself from conservative religious groups. While led primarily by Christian clergy, it is multi-faith in its orientation.

Second, the PPC is projecting political independence. It is not calling specifically for independent electoral politics. However, it explicitly calls out capitalism and the US ruling class as the primary sources and enforcers of the status quo. Regardless of the electoral views of its leaders, some of whom do participate in mainstream politics, the campaign as a whole does not want to be identified with any party or politician and is willing to criticize any politician on the basis of their specific actions. Speakers at PPC organizing rallies have openly criticized Democrats and even the Democratic Party itself, not only Republican politicians. This is consistent with our position that policy reforms are won by mass pressure on elected officials, not by giving up our power to the parties that do not represent our interests as workers. To document its independence, the campaign is not allowing politicians to speak at events or accepting direct funding from them.

Third, the PPC wants to be ongoing mass movement. Lasting movements need a clear vision of what is necessarya vision with a broad appeal to lots of people—and a leadership that does not encourage or allow others to water down or divert its vision. So far, the PPC appears to model this. While the four major areas of its focus encompass many different issues, the PPC is not presenting a proverbial “laundry list” of demands, a common approach that often serves to exclude those who disagree with some demands or do not want to prioritize them equally. One can oppose poverty, racism, militarism, and environmental degradation from many different perspectives without having to agree on details. With its emphasis on morality, the PPC cuts across partisanship, ideology, and academic theory to appeal to the common value of wanting a better life for ones own family and communities.

We believe the PPC’s approach is consistent with our own views on what is necessary to build a mass movement. A movement, though, is only as effective as the people who build it. Sign up now.

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The Wars Abroad and the Wars at Home—and the Work of Putting an End to Them

Of the many injustices to which working people are subjected day after day, generation after generation, the worst is war. Young working-class people are handed weapons and ordered into battle to kill—or be killed by—other young working-class people. Those who are not directly involved in combat face death by bombs falling from the sky, missiles and drones sent and controlled from hundreds or even thousands of miles away, and from starvation and disease as the necessary social infrastructures are destroyed. Behind all of it is the threat that the ultimate weapons, thermonuclear bombs and missile warheads, could destroy all society in minutes and with it nearly all life on the planet.

For nearly all of the current century, the United States has been at war on many fronts. Some of them we know about: Afghanistan, beginning in 2001; Iraq, beginning in 2003. Some of them most of us do not know about: Somalia and Niger. Then there are the so-called “proxy wars,” where other countries’ troops or nongovernmental entities are doing the actual fighting, directed from Washington and other world capitals. Such conflicts are going on in Syria and Yemen, and the human suffering in those two countries is some of the most heart-wrenching on earth. Lastly, there is the war of words between the United States and the People’s Democratic Republic of Korea (North Korea), two countries armed with nuclear weapons which could be launched because of a stupid mistake at many different levels of the chain of command. President Donald Trump’s threat to unleash “fire and fury” on Korea, ironically between the seventy-second anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan, reminded all of us that the work of dismantling the nuclear arsenal remains high on the people’s agenda.

On April 13, Trump, along with British Prime Minister Theresa May and French Prime Minister Emmanuel Macron, ordered missile strikes against Syrian targets. Ostensibly it was in retaliation for a chemical attack on civilians in the village of Douma, near Damascus, allegedly carried out on April 7 by the Syrian government, headed by President Bashar al-Assad. The assertion that the Syrian government attacked civilians with chemical weapons has never been verified, and even the occurrence of a chemical weapons attack at all has been called into question. However, the truth has never been terribly important to the U.S. President.

The sheer hypocrisy of Trump’s “concern” for Syrian children is beyond belief. For one thing, the Kingdom of Sa’udi Arabia is carrying out a horrific attack on the Shi’i people of Yemen with the blessings—and military hardware—of the United States and its allies, and it is going on every day, not an attack here or an attack there. Secondly, if Trump is concerned about Syrian children and other noncombatants, why does he continue to bar them from seeking refuge in the United States? It shows clearly that Trump is motivated by a different agenda and does not care in the least about Syrian civilians.

However, the truth is that the United States has absolutely no business being involved in Syria. None. Whatever bad things Bashar al-Assad may have done in Syria—and there is dispute about the accusations—the Syrian Arab Republic poses no threat to the working people of the United States. The Syrian armed forces have not attacked U.S. troops in the region. There is been no accusation—true or otherwise—of terrorist activity instigated by the Syrian government in the United States or in any other country. The U.S. government has one and only one task to carry out in Syria. This is to get out, immediately, totally, and unconditionally. That means no troops on the ground, no troops in the air, no missiles, no drones, no weapons, no money, nothing!

The missile attack provoked emergency protests in cities and towns all over the U.S. Furthermore, regional demonstrations had been called months earlier, coming out of the January Conference against U.S. Foreign Military Bases, held in Baltimore, MD. Rallies and marches were planned for the weekend of April 14 and 15 in Oakland, CA, Minneapolis, MN, Washington, DC, New York City, among other places. They were called to “End U.S. Wars at Home and Abroad,” calling attention not only to U.S. military actions and interventions but to police brutality and murder, especially of young people of color, glaring income inequality, the continued rape and harassment of women, and the degradation of the earth’s environment and climate, among other serious problems which working people face, problems which could justifiably be called “war at home.”

Unfortunately, attendance at the Spring Actions was disappointingly small. The turnout in New York City was slightly over 1,000 at the Herald Square rally, with about 300 choosing to march to Trump Tower afterwards. To be sure, New York’s weather was cold and damp, and emergency demonstrations were scheduled throughout the region, including Highland Park, NJ (near New Brunswick), Greenwich, CT, and other towns. In the San Francisco Bay Area, an estimated 600 people joined the Spring Action. More emergency demonstrations will be held in the coming days.

It was good and important that actions were held against the wars at home and abroad as well as against the attack against Syria. However, an effective response to war requires mass action, not just action. What was needed were rallies and marches on the order of the Women’s Marches of January 2017 and 2018, the March for Our Lives in February 2018, or the nearly spontaneous response to the Trump travel ban at the airports in January 2017.

During the upcoming weeks there will be discussions of mistakes that were made and things which the local and national coalitions could have done better. Though some of these issues are important and merit serious discussion — such as, for example, the need to focus on more limited demands that can unify the broadest movement against the U.S. warmakers — none of these was decisive. There are many factors, but the key factor is the political domination of forces allied with the Democratic Party, and one of those forces is in fact the labor movement. And the Democratic Party has no fundamental disagreement with Trump’s foreign policy. Breaking the labor movement and other decisive forces in society from its stranglehold is a long-term campaign, which is under way, but there will be no substitute for the hard and unglamorous organizing work. That may include—in some situations—working with Democratic Party politicians to build united mass actions in the streets demanding an end to the wars at home and abroad. Flexible tactics within a mass action strategy, designed to bring hundreds of thousands into the streets for their own agenda, not that of bankers, businessmen, or politicians will be required.

In the weeks ahead the Poor People’s Campaign—a National Call for Moral Revival—will be bringing working people from all of our different communities into the public square in cities and small towns throughout the United States to confront the many issues facing all of us, from economic inequality to mass incarceration to environmental racism, and many other social injustices. Spearheaded by a group called Repairers of the Breach, which is led by Rev. Dr. William Barber II and other leaders of the Moral Mondays movement in North Carolina, the Poor People’s Campaign is consciously resisting any attempts by politicians to use it to advance their own agendas and careers.

It bears repeating: of the many injustices to which working people are subjected day after day, generation after generation, the worst is war. To bring the issue of war into the Poor People’s Campaign would be natural and non-controversial. Any call for moral revival must demand peace. The destruction—indeed sheer waste—of young lives is unconscionable, and the amount of money wasted on that destruction is money which could be addressing the human needs to which the Poor People’s Campaign is drawing attention. This is not the time for retreat or demoralization, but for taking advantage of new opportunities and moving ahead.

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West Virginia Teachers Strike of February 2018

by Donna Dewitt, retired President, South Carolina AFL-CIO

WV teachers pay ranks 48th in the nation, with a minimum $32,000 annually and there has been no increase since 2014. Collective bargaining is prohibited for WV public employees and the Governor and Legislature are Republican. Across the state teachers walked out on February 22 in an act of civil disobedience to demand an increase in wages and an end to spiking insurance premium increases. 20,000 teachers and 13,000 school service personnel in 55 counties were joined by parents and students during the nine day protest.

The little known fact that the state decided if they called it a strike they would have to impose injunctions threatened by the state attorney general. Authorities referred to it as “Snow Days” and the teachers continued to be paid. The state police were, also, demanding a 5% increase and many of their family members were teachers. Therefore, the authorities did not want to call them out to random pickets. The strike fund was used to help families in need, mostly kids on the picket lines. A large percent of WV students qualify for free lunches. The strike fund raised $200,000. (contributed to Alan Benjamin)

The members defied the union leadership, who encouraged the strikers to return to work on the promise of the 5% wage increase, and remained strong until the wage increase was approved by the Legislature and a commitment was made on the employee health insurance, creating a bipartisan task force appointed by the Governor. There have been spontaneous protestations, encouraged by Koch Brothers funding, that the 5% will result in cuts to social programs and Medicaid. The response from the governor’s office has been that it will come from new revenue or executive branch cuts.

Social media provided broad communication that allowed constant news on the strike. The many statements of solidarity and presence of other international unions including CWA members on strike at Frontier and UMWA members and their President Cecil Roberts strengthened the solidarity efforts. Lita Blanc, president of the United Educators of San Francisco, coordinated a GoFund Pizza fund that raised approximately $21,000. The pizzas were delivered through AFT leaders in West Virginia on the crucial last days of the strike. Any money remaining was divided between the three teachers unions in WV.

The WV strike provides inspiration to teachers in Oklahoma, Kentucky, NJ, Arizona, Oregon and others to days of protest and strikes on issues of retirement, wages, insurance and other issues. Adjunct professors in Edinburgh Scotland on strike held signs of solidarity with WV teachers. They were inspired and despite encouragement from their union leaders to accept a new contract, they voted not to accept. The WV strike aligned with other progressive movements and captured the power to create wins. The strike further promotes the energy of independent politics to create a workers movement.

We know the resistance will be extreme. We see it in Florida in the proposed law for teachers unions to prove 50% membership. 24 states do not allow public employees to authorize in this manner. Wisconsin opened the door for this and there will probably be revamping in many states. Every state will be faced with these ALEC laws to further erode union membership. In the words of MLK “Unjust law is as good as no law at all.”

“But the lesson of West Virginia is not that unions are no longer the vehicle needed to advance workers’ struggles. Unions are needed more than ever. The lesson is that the rank-and-file have the power—and, if harnessed, that power can overcome what appear to be insurmountable obstacles. The lesson is that to win, democratic control of the unions from the bottom up is needed, with restored bargaining rights and local control over bargaining. The lesson is that right-to-work laws must be repealed. In a nutshell, what is needed is to reclaim the unions for struggle.” Alan Benjamin, The Organizer.

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Labor Fightback Network Endorses Effort to Revive Martin Luther King’s Poor People’s Campaign

It’s been more than 50 years since Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., warned us about the triple evils of Racism, extreme Materialism, or poverty, as some would say, and Militarism, or the war economy. He called for a Revolution of Values to address these societal failures. He also accused the U.S. government of being “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world” as the U.S. waged war on Vietnam. Probably no one at the time could have imagined that 50 years later, things would actually be worse, not better, that the U.S. would have fallen far short of the goal of justice for all. Yet that is the case.

That is why people across the nation are now sounding the alarm for a Moral Revival, a movement to build up people power, to demand true racial and economic justice. And because we are now facing the serious threat of extreme climate change, a fourth issue that disproportionately affects the poor has been added—ecological devastation.

Actions to launch the Poor People’s Campaign have already started, but the official kick off will commence on Mother’s Day, May 13, followed by 40 days of sustained action in state capitals around the country. There are approximately 40 states on board right now. The campaign has been built around a set of fundamental principles, which in brief, include the following:

Moral revival is necessary to save our failing democracy; lifting and deepening the leadership of those most affected by systemic racism, poverty, the war economy and ecological devastation; dismantling unjust criminalization systems that exploit communities of color and the poor; transforming the “war economy” into a “peace economy” that values all humanity; equal treatment under the law is non-negotiable; poverty in the richest nation ever to exist will not be tolerated, nor will accepting the claim that the U.S. does not have the abundance of resources to overcome poverty; systemic racism that maintains economic oppression must be named, detailed, and exposed, while recognizing the role white supremacy has played in maintaining economic inequality; the distorted moral narrative promoted by religious extremists must be shifted from single issues such as gun rights, abortion, prayer in school, sexuality, to systemic injustices like how society treats the “least of these”; building people power and state based movements to transform the political and economic structures of our society as the model, movement not from above, but from below ; a non-partisan movement about right and wrong, not Democrat or Republican; and engagement in a season of sustained non-violent civil disobedience, recognizing the need to put our bodies on the line; violent tactics will not be tolerated.

An excellent fact sheet from Souls of Poor Folks Preliminary Report Dec. 2017 provides supporting information as to why this call for a moral revival of values is critical at this time. The full fact sheet and sources can be found on the Poor People’s Campaign website, but here are a few examples:

Systemic Racism

  • There are fewer voting right in place today for people of color than 50 years ago when the Civil Rights Act was passed. Since 2010, 23 states have passed racist voter suppression laws.
  • As of July 2017, 25 states have passed laws that preempt cities from passing their own local minimum wage laws,
  • Since 1976, the criminalization of poverty has raised federal spending on prison tenfold to $7.5 billion a year. The number of state and federal inmates grew from 188,000 in 1968 to nearly 5 million in 2015. Racial profiling, biased sentencing, and policing practices have expanded the share of inmates who are people of color from less than half in 1978 to 66% in 2015.
  • Federal spending on immigration, deportations, and the border has gone from $2 billion in 1976 to $17 billion in 2015, with 10 times more deportations.

Poverty

  • As of 2016, there are 40.6 million people living below the federal poverty line and of these, nearly three-quarters are women and children. There has been a 60% rise in poverty since 1968.
  • Poverty is still disproportionately impacting people of color. The poverty rate for white people is 8.8%, 22% for African Americans, 19.4% for Latinos, and 26.2% for Native Americans.

Jobs, Income, Wealth

  • From 1973–2013, productivity went up 74.4%, but hourly compensation only went up 9.2%.
  • In 2017, 3 individuals had a combined wealth of $248.5 billion, the same amount of wealth as the bottom 50% of U.S. households, or 160 million people. Meanwhile, the bottom 38% of American households have 0 net worth.

War Economy and Militarism

  • The cumulative costs of the US wars in Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and post 9/11 Veterans Care and homeland Security from 2001–2018 are estimated at $5.6 trillion.
  • At height of the Viet Nam War, military spending was $354 billion, today it is nearly twice that at $635 billion. 53 cents out of every discretionary tax dollar goes directly to the military.

Ecological Devastation

  • Pollution caused an estimated 9 million premature deaths in 2015 worldwide. Water pollution alone kills 1.8 million a year around the world.
  • The U.S. is the largest producer of oil and natural gas in the world. Between 2010 and 2015, there were more than 3300 incidents of crude oil and liquefied natural gas leaks or ruptures on U.S. pipelines.
  • At least 4 million families with children are being exposed to high levels of lead from drinking water and other sources.
  • A 2015 EPA analysis found that the population within three miles of highly contaminated “Superfund” sites was 45.7% non-white.

We encourage you to get involved in your state by going to www.poorpeoplescampaign.org and fill out the pledge form. Let them know in the comment section that you want to be connected to your state campaign. Individuals join to be part of the collective, not to represent an organization. But organizations, such as unions, are encouraged to spread the word to their membership. You can make a huge contribution now by getting the word out to friends, family, and colleagues and by passing resolutions to support this timely campaign. Pledge cards can be downloaded from the website and distributed.

As a resolution from the San Francisco Labor Council states, “This campaign has the potential to create a significant fight-back to the assaults by the rich.” Labor has a rich tradition of fighting for racial and economic justice. Let’s keep that tradition going. Get involved today.

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Join us in Supporting the National Assembly for Black Liberation (May 18–20, 2018)

Save this Date!

National Assembly for Black Liberation—May 18–20, 2018

Black people are fighting against oppression and injustice on every battlefront, but the Black liberation movement is still fragmented in various alignments whose programs and demands have much in common.

The unity of these organizations and alignments would represent the critical mass of activists and cadre rooted in the many mass battlefronts of the working-class and poor masses, able to wage a more conscious, coordinated and powerful struggle for radical change. This unity would be a catalyst inspiring the struggles of other oppressed, working-class and poor people and social movements.

The UN proclaimed 2015–2024 as The International Decade for People of African Descent. 2018 US elections will also shape a political climate of national discussion, debate and actions not only about who to vote for, but about the needs and demands of working-class and poor Black and oppressed masses, and the need for radical change that brings about an alternative to the capitalist system. This period should be a period to develop a national and international mandate for Black liberation and radical change.

On May 18–20, the National Assembly for Black Liberation will be held at the North Carolina Central University in Durham, North Carolina to discuss the Draft Freedom Manifesto as a unity document along with resolutions submitted by battlefront committees to begin to draft a program of action.

We appeal to you as fighters in the battlefronts, allies, supporters, human rights activists, friends, and Revolutionaries, to help us by donating to the National Assembly Organizing Committee—through the Ebony Book Club

Please click here to make your financial contribution:

Thank You,

Saladin Muhammad

* * * * *

Presentation by Saladin Muhammad, Southern Workers Assembly, to the Opening Night Session of the Third National Labor Fightback Conference in Cleveland, Ohio (July 21, 2017)

This is a crucial time for the Labor Fightback Network to be meeting. It is a moment in an historical period when the contradictions of capitalism and the US system of top-down democracy controlled and manipulated by the 1-percent are open for all to see. These contradictions are usually taking place behind closed doors. People are getting a glimpse of aspects of what US fascism might look like.

This period has been developing over the last 40 years under both Democratic and Republican administrations. It can be shown how each administration and major political party has established social policies and new structures that have politically, economically and socially created the conditions and political climate for the election of the Trump regime and his promotion of white nationalism as the social base for his neo-fascist agenda.

While uneven, the objective conditions caused by the crisis of capitalism have a shaped a spontaneous anti-racist and working-class consciousness. It is developing among the millennials, but it has not gone deep enough into the organizations of the working-class, especially the trade unions.

The main example of the class struggle led by the millennials, has been the Fight 4 $15 and a Union. They have connected to Black Lives Matter protests.

With few exceptions like the shutdowns of West Coast longshore workers, the resistance has mainly taken the form of a spontaneous protest movement. Most of the activists in Black Lives Matter and the Fight 4 $15 and a union have no trade union and labor movement experience.

Business unionism that only sees the working class as an economic force, without regard to the structural racism and women’s oppression that creates a margin of super profit that is responsible for the massive wealth divide, cannot help to transform the spontaneous struggles into a conscious anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist movement.

The unity of the multinational working class must be forged through struggle by labor’s rank-n-file based in principles of social movement unionism, independent political action and recognizing the right of self-determination of nationally oppressed sections of the multinational working class to call on the working class to support their struggles as if they were their own.

It is also important that the labor movement as the most organized and resourced anchor and base for the working class to be positioned to strategically impact US and global capitalism and to help sustain long-term struggles.

Structural racism and the ideology of white supremacy became a fundamental part of the development of US and global capitalism’s accumulation. The imperialist structure of the US State and the Manifest Destiny philosophy of many of the founding fathers, from the very beginning of the development of the US republic, established forms of domestic colonialism in the treatment the indigenous peoples, enslaved Africans, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans and other oppressed peoples and annexed territories.

The US South, the main region of plantation slavery, for the genocide and forced migrations of the native nations and hundreds of thousands of Native peoples, has been a region essential abandoned by the labor movement as a force fighting for the working-class unity and power.

In addition to the use of robotics, a major part of the US capitalist crisis has been promoting regional shifts and restructuring of its manufacturing base to the low-wage and low-union South. This led to the forcing down of wages, concessionary bargaining and business-union economism that gave way to the Democratic party’s passage of NAFTA, workfare, cutting of welfare and the passage of the “3 Strikes, You’re Out” law. Right-to-work laws spread during the period of the Obama administration and the Democratic Party.

There were no real choices in the two major parties for the 2016 presidential election. The poor voter turnout made this point. The distrust for both candidates should be viewed as distrust for both major parties.

Labor’s rank-and-file must see this as an opportunity to help build an independent working-class political and social force. But a catalyst is needed to help ground a new social movement in the demands of the most oppressed and exploited sections of the US multinational working class that suffer racist national oppression that politically and social subjugates.

The national sentiment shaped by the spontaneous struggles of the Black and Brown millennials can become a catalyst if widened and deepen by the trade union rank-n-file.

Several organizations are stepping forward as endorsers for the holding of a National Assembly for Black Liberation to bring together the many battlefront struggles rooted in the Black working class that have grown to effect widening sections of the larger US working class —  like issues of healthcare, clean water, environmental racism, affordable housing, labor rights, women and gay rights, imperialist wars, and for independent political action, among others — to hammer out a program of action that a Draft Freedom Manifesto has been developed for discussion and refinement to help give political focus and context to the spontaneous struggles as flanks of a struggle for transformative power.

We feel that we should use the anger against the racist Trump regime to launch a mass campaign to mobilize the many battlefronts under the slogan of Impeach Trump: Build People’s Power.

We understand that elements in the Democratic Party are calling to impeach Trump as part of a campaign for winning Congressional seats in the 2018 elections. We must point out that without an independent political and social base of power that empowers the working class in the workplace, community and the many institutions throughout society impacting our lives, that we won’t have the base for contending and transformative power to make radical and revolutionary changes.

The Black masses being a target base for the Democratic Party, requires that the Black liberation movement focus on building mass-based forms of people’s independent democratic power, including running independent political candidates out of the working-class battlefronts that are accountable to people’s power commissions in those battlefronts.

This campaign must tie the battlefront struggles against state and local government and corporate targets to the national demand of Impeach Trump: Build People’s Power. This is a call for the Black liberation movement to launch a campaign and movement strategically aligned with other movements mainly in the working class, for popular and dual contending and transformative power. This would lead into a National Assembly for Black liberation.

The fragmented forces of the national Black liberation movement needs to hold a National Assembly for Black Liberation to unite the many single-issue struggles, social movements and revolutionary organizations in a national coordinating framework and around a strategic program based on an 80–20 percent principle where agreement does not have to be around every demand, but around some core demands that connect the battlefronts in an anti-capitalist, anti-imperialists, anti-racist and anti-sexist under the leadership of the Black working-class.

We need the Labor Fightback Network to promote and organize a trend in the labor movement in support of the struggle to Impeach Trump and Build Peoples Power as a campaign to not only defeat the Trump regime, but to build a movement for independent political action as part of a struggle for popular and dual contending power.

The Southern Workers Assembly that was formed in 2012 to build a rank-n-file network of social movement union cadres will be holding the 8th session of the SWA’s second Southern Workers School next weekend. We will deal with making this campaign part of their training and work in their workplaces, communities and trade unions.

We must see this as a protracted struggle that organizes to alter the balance of power favoring the working class and anchored by its most oppressed and exploited sectors. This period offers an opportunity to launch such a movement that begins to move labor and the social movements off the defensive.

Organized labor is needed to help launch this campaign outside of the control of the Democratic Party.

Impeach Trump: Build Peoples Power!

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The Spring Antiwar Actions of April 14 and 15: A Step Forward Toward the Mass Action That Is Needed

We are fewer than twenty years into the new millennium—and the United States has been at war nearly all of them. The war that began in October 2001 in Afghanistan is still going on. The United States invaded Iraq in 2003. When U.S. troops were finally withdrawn—and not completely withdrawn—in 2011, that country was less stable than it was at the beginning. The threat that U.S. troops will be redeployed to Iraq remains serious. Meanwhile, the U.S. is involved in proxy wars in Syria and Yemen and is threatening Iran and Venezuela. Most concerning is the Trump administration’s threats against the nuclear-armed People’s Democratic Republic of Korea—raising the spectre of “fire and fury such as the world has never seen,” and making this threat between the seventy-second anniversaries of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Support for foreign war among working people and young people in the United States is possibly the lowest in the entire history of this Republic. It has become clear that eight years of death in Iraq and over sixteen years of death in Afghanistan has accomplished nothing positive for the security of the United States, let alone for the people in those devastated countries. Donald John Trump had to speak out against the lies of the Bush administration which led to the Iraq war, even as he was running one of the most racist and reactionary presidential campaigns in recent memory. The American working people know that they are being called on to send their sons and daughters to be killed or maimed for nothing. They are being put through such an experience that suicides among returning veterans far outnumber combat deaths.

Popular opposition to the continuing wars and interventions is at an even higher level than it was during the Vietnam War of a half century ago. But for over ten years, there has been very little visible protest. Mass action on the scale of the demonstrations in New York and Washington in the early years of the Iraq war is clearly needed.

The women’s marches—which mobilized thousands of men as well as women—of January 21, 2017, and January 20, 2018, combined with the nearly spontaneous outpourings of support for the rights of immigrants and refugees, have shown the potential for mass action in the United States at the present time. This president has a remarkable knack for making people angry, and it has led to an increase in visible protest, from vigils of a few dozen outside Congress members’ offices to the three million who marched and rallied in the streets of U.S. cities on January 21, 2017, dwarfing the attendance at Trump’s inauguration as the forty-fifth president, just the day before.

On October 25, 2017, the AFL-CIO at its convention overwhelmingly adopted “Resolution 50: War Is Not the Answer,” calling on the president and Congress to “seek peace and reconciliation wherever possible” and to “bring the war dollars home.” This important document, adopted by an organization of more than twelve million, is a clear indication that there is strong potential for mass action for peace, which could mobilize the ranks of labor.

Discussion about concrete organizing of a mass action for peace began shortly before the Christmas holidays in 2017, initiated by Linda Thompson of Metrowest Boston Peace Action. She drafted a resolution based on the AFL-CIO’s “War Is Not the Answer,” and her group proposed to the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) that it move the resolution at a Conference Against U.S. Foreign Bases (No Bases Conference), to be held in Baltimore, Maryland, January 12–14, 2018. That conference was initiated by the U.S. Peace Council but was supported by a very broad coalition that included UNAC and many local Peace Action groups and was endorsed by the Labor Fightback Network as well.

In fact, the No Bases Conference organizing committee agreed to propose the resolution, with its own modifications, to the conference. On Sunday, January 14, it was agreed to, though to be sure, the conference had not allocated sufficient time for discussion of action resolutions, and many participants either had left already or had to leave before the discussion was over. The Resolution on a National Day of Action against U.S. Wars at Home and Abroad in Spring 2018 was passed with little opposition. It was a promising beginning, focused around five principled, united-front demands:

“• Ending all U.S. wars, bombings and drone attacks, and other forms of U.S. aggression including economic sanctions and weapons sales;
“• Closing of all U.S. bases on foreign soil;
“• Bringing all U.S. troops home;
“• Using the funds of the massive military budget for human needs and protection of the environment;
“• Dismantling all nuclear weapons.”

Concrete implementation of the resolution has proved to be more difficult. The resolution coming out of the No Bases Conference did not specify a date. There is already a full calendar of demonstrations, picket lines, vigils, and other “days of action,” including the Working People’s Day of Action, sponsored by the AFL-CIO on February 24; Earth Day on April 22; the Poor People’s Campaign, beginning on May 13 and continuing into June; May Day, and many other activities related to healthcare, immigration, a $15 minimum wage, and many different aspects of the environment, especially the extraction and transport of fossil fuels.

A few days after the No Bases Conference, a conference call meeting settled on the April 14–15 weekend. However, that weekend already has actions planned for it across the country, including actions organized by immigrants’ rights activists. As of February 19, fewer than eight weeks before the Day of Action is supposed to take place, the Spring Actions 2018 website lists only three cities, Washington, DC, Minneapolis, MN, and Oakland, CA. A planning meeting took place in New York City on February 22.

Even though the Resolution adopted by the No Bases Conference lists five demands related clearly to war and weapons, the Spring Actions 2018 website lists many other demands, many of which are being addressed by other actions and coalitions during the spring period. It is our view that the broadest unity in action can best be forged by focusing on the five demands of the No Bases Conference listed above.

It is clear that the Spring Actions of April 14–15 will not be mass actions on the scale of the women’s marches of January 2017 and 2018. However, if mass actions of hundreds of thousands for peace are to be organized in the future, antiwar activists must put their energy into making this year’s Spring Actions as successful as possible. They must also bring together a unified, authoritative coalition, bringing together UNAC, United for Peace and Justice, Act Now to Stop War and End Racism (ANSWER), U.S. Labor Against the War, and other coalitions.

It needs to include organized labor, faith communities, and the millions of people who have a deep desire for peace but who have never before marched or picketed for it. This process will continue long after April 15, 2018, and it has already started. Peace activists need to have a clear idea that mass action, which mobilizes the social forces that have the power to end the current wars and prevent future wars, is the winning strategy.

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