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The white-Left Part 1: The two meanings of white

Wednesday, November 11, 2020

Will Trump order the Army onto US streets in a desperate attempt to continue his control?

At the first presidential debate, US President Donald Trump famously told the white supremacist Proud Boys to “Stand by.” Now we know what he was telling them to stand by for: Proud Boys is calling for a million MAGA march in Washington, DC on Saturday. Is Trump hoping that they can cause enough violence and disruption to allow him to declare martial law and deploy US soldiers on to American streets to preserve his presidency?

After the May murder of George Floyd, racial justice protests broke out across the country under the banner of Black Lives Matter, Trump wanted to send regular US Army troops to suppress the protests. At the time, this move was opposed by the only other person in the US government that can issue direct orders to the military, Secretary of Defense Mark T.  Esper.

Because the 1878 Posse Comitatus Act limited the power of the federal government to use federal military personnel to enforce domestic policies within the United States, Trump could legally deploy the US military for domestic law enforcement only by invoking the Insurrection Act of 1807. This rarely used act allows the President to deploy US. military and federalized National Guard troops for particular circumstances, such as suppressing an insurrection. While the Black Lives Matter protests were wide-spread and massive, they hardly represented an attempt to overthrow the US government.

Two days after President Trump threatened to invoke the Insurrection Act, and send active-duty military troops to control the growing wave of protests, Esper came out and publicly opposed Trump's move towards martial law. At a 3 June press conference, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said:

“The option to use active-duty forces in a law enforcement role should only be used as a matter of last resort and only in the most urgent and dire of situations. We are not in one of those situations now. I do not support invoking the Insurrection Act.”

A month later, 5 August 2020, Esper called the protests in the wake of George Floyd's murder “a wake-up call not only for America, but for himself,” according to Military Times. He continued:

“I don’t think what everybody appreciated — at least me, personally — is the depth of sentiment out there among our service members of color, particularly Black Americans, about how much the killing of George Floyd — and the other incidents that preceded it and succeeded it — had on them and what they were experiencing in the ranks as well.”

He promised to step up efforts around diversity and inclusion in the Defense Department.  He also banned the Confederate flag from military bases and supported the renaming of those named after Confederate traitors. About Trump invoking the Insurrection Act he added:

“I was really concerned that that continued talk about Insurrection Act was going to take us in a direction, take us into a really dark direction, and I wanted to make clear what I thought about the situation as secretary of defense and the role of the active-duty forces. And to kind of break the fever, if you will, because I thought that was just a moment in history where ... if somebody doesn’t stand up now and say something and kind of push the pause button, then ... it could spiral.”

We are there now. Esper is gone, fired by Trump in a tweet on Monday. Esper said about his firing, “Who’s going to come in behind me? It’s going to be a real ‘yes man.’ And then God help us.” In his final message to the troops he thanked them for putting “People and Country first,” and admonished them to “always do the right thing.”

The yes man replacing Esper is Christopher C. Miller. He is the director of the National Counterterrorism Center, and now he has been named as acting defense secretary.

Trump didn't just replace the defense secretary, he decapitated much of the Pentagon's top civilian leadership and replaced them with Trump sycophants and white supremacists. By Tuesday, top officials overseeing policy, intelligence and the defense secretary’s staff all had resigned. 

James Anderson, the Pentagon’s acting policy chief, is being replace by retired Brig. Gen. Anthony Tata. He is a racist who promoted the conspiracy theory that former President Barack Obama was a “Manchurian candidate,” and a “terrorist leader.”  He called Islam “most oppressive violent religion I know of.”

Jen Stewart, the Defense Secretary's chief of staff, has been replaced by Kash Patel, a Devin Nunes acolyte who has had a number of roles in the Trump administration, including helping Republicans discredit the Russia probe

Joseph Kernan, undersecretary of defense for intelligence, is being replaced by Ezra Cohen-Watnick, was a close ally of former national security adviser Michael Flynn.

Trump is clearing house, and putting Trump loyalists in key positions in the Pentagon. He is likely doing that with other federal agencies that wield the coercive powers of the federal government. It is also rumored that Christopher A. Wray, the F.B.I. director, and Gina Haspel, the C.I.A. director, could be next in line to be fired.

Why is he doing this with only 70 days left in his legal term as president? Is it possible that he is planning a coup that will require invoking the Insurrection Act and martial law? While that seems far fetched given the 200 year history of stable transfers of power in the US, at least one person who knows his way around the Pentagon says “Mark me down as alarmed.” Retired four star general Barry McCaffrey doesn't give any credence to the idea that the Esper firing is a simple question of revenge for opposing Trump in the past.  He's seriously worried that they are looking at illegal methods of using the power of the US military, and other security agencies, to turn Trump's presidency into a dictatorship. “This is some crazy thinking inside the White House,” he said,  “We are in a risky situation right now.”

We need to take his situation very seriously. It's clear that Trump has no intention of conceding the election to Biden, or leaving the White House before he is forced out. What makes this situation so perilous is that many Republican lawmakers and other administration officials, such as the Secretary of State, appear to be backing Trump's attempt to ignore the clear mandate of the voters.

They know that all the fuss they are making over dead people voting, which no doubt happens in every election in which ballots can be submitted before election day, or their extra poll watchers leaving dissatisfied, has a snowball's chance in hell of overturning the election. These are just tactics to distract, and buy time. As are the excuses given by various Republicans that they are just giving Trump time to adjust to the new reality.

Most probably, they will try to convince Republican controlled state legislatures to overrule the voters in their state and instead, send Trump friendly electors to college. They must know this won't be accepted by the people either. They also know from the Black Lives Matter protests of the Summer, and the recent massive celebrations of Trump's defeat, that there will be massive resistance to any attempt by the Trump cabal to stay in power.

This is the best explanation for these recent changes in the leadership of the coercive arms of the federal government.

Where do the Proud Boys come in? And by the way, they have recently dropped the thin veneer of being multi-ethnic defenders of “Western Civilization”, and declared themselves white nationalists. 

Trump can't just declare martial law on a whim. That would never do. He has to have a cover story, an excuse to invoke the Insurrection Act. This Million MAGA March could be just the ticket, provided anti-fascist fighters take the bait and engage with them.

If this scenario seems far fetched, it would be good to remember that Trump had ordered ordered active-duty troops from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to assemble outside the D.C. area to put down the Black Lives Matter protests in June, before Esper strongly objected. That's how close we came.

Any woman that has broken up with an abusive boyfriend will tell you this is the most dangerous stage of the relationship.

We must now think about the unthinkable, and prepare to repel attempts by the Trump cabal to use state violence to stay in power.

Clay Claiborne

Time of the Preacher by Willie Nelson

It was the time of the preacher

In the year of '01

Now the lesson is over

And the killing's begun

It was the time of the preacher

In the year of '01

When you think it's all over

It's only begun

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Why Joe Biden is a lesser evil than Bernie Sanders or Greens' Howie Hawkins

In November 1975, I learned my first hard lesson about third party voter suppression. It was a very personal lesson. 

Clay Claiborne @ Amcar - 1975
At the time, I was the Shop Steward for Department 102 at a boxcar factory, the Amcar division of American Car & Foundry [AFC], down by the river in St. Louis, Mo. 

We had just come off a 20 week strike that started on the 3rd of May, and ended on the 20th of September. There were several thousand workers at this plant, half of them African American, divided among several unions. I was among the 700 or so in the International Brotherhood of Railway Carmen of America, Local 365, AFL-CIO.

Before the strike, a core of several dozen activist workers formed a cross-union organization by the name of Labor Power that helped propel the militancy of the strike; as a result it continued to grow during the strike, and after. On the strength of that work, I ran as the Labor Power candidate for Steel Plant Committeeman, which would have given us a seat on the local's executive board. When all 304 ballots were counted, I had lost by a mere 6 votes.

Some said I lost because I ran openly as a communist. Others said I lost because I ran a militantly anti-racist campaign. But I alway felt I lost because local leadership had convinced another member in my department, A. Baldridge, to run even though he had absolutely no chance of winning. He drew only 9 votes, most likely from friends in our department, and that gave local leadership the outcome they were desperate to achieve.

Fast Forward...

If A. Baldridge had said about his 9 votes, “Whatever happened to working class solidarity?,” he could have presaged 2020 Green Party presidential candidate Howie Hawkins' “Whatever Happened to Left Solidarity?” complaint in CounterPunch, 26 Oct. 2020.

Similar to the way Fox News tries to pretend the pandemic is not the context for everything else they are presenting; this is another one of those cases where what is not said, what is missing upon reflection, is the biggest problem. 

Because of Trump's 2016 victory, and what has coalesced around him since, a resurgence of white supremacy is on the ballot in 2020. That is the number one issue. All others are secondary. Howie Hawkins doesn't get that; neither did Bernie Sanders for that matter,

Joe Biden
at least gets that. That's why his campaign slogan is “Battle for the Soul of the Nation.” It's why he campaigned at Gettysburg, and in Georgia. It's why he did well in South Carolina. He says it's why he got into the race in the first place. 

Unlike World War II, the American Civil War was not ended on terms of unconditional surrender; certainly not with regards to white supremacy. A sort of compromise was reached. Although forced to relinquish some of its most offensive habits, it was allowed to linger on. With struggle, its operations have been diminished with time.

Now, surrounding the Trump presidency, we have seen a resurgence of white supremacy, and an attempt at a breakout. In 2020, a kind of "Battle of the Budge" against racism is going on, and Bastogne is on the ballot. If Trump gets a second nod for his racist and fascist policies, and another four years to reshape the government and the country, the results could be catastrophic for humanity.  

Bernie Sanders
From the beginning, Biden has been running an anti-racist campaign. That is the battle that must be taken to Trump et al. That is the minimum requirement for the opposition candidate in this particular go round. At least Biden meets that, which is more than can be said about Howie Hawkins, or Bernie Sanders.

Marianne Williams was the only other candidate in the Democratic primary debate that got it. In response to the bickering over the branding of environmental and health policy at the first CNN Presidential Candidates debate, Tuesday, 30 July 2019, she warned them to focus on the question of the year:
I assure you I lived in Gross Point, what happened in Flint would not have happened in Gross Point, this is part of the dark underbelly of American society, the racism, the bigotry, and the entire conversation that we're having here tonight, if you think any of this wonkiness is going to deal with this dark psychic force of the collectivized hatred that this President is bringing up in this country, then I'm afraid that the Democrats are going to see some very dark days.
Unfortunately, she was never taken seriously as a contender. She endorsed Bernie, after she dropped out, and then she endorsed Biden.

What is prompting this new turn toward racism? 

“There will be no Medicare for All or Green New Deal from the Democrats," Hawkins complains. Sorry, not this go round, that's not number one and two on the list right now. The question is how will the nation respond to this attempted resurgence of racism in the United States? The millions that protested under the banner of Black Lives Matter after the murder of George Floyd voted with their feets this Summer, and they were of all colors. This Fall, our attentions turn to the ballot box because it still represents the most direct, and hopefully, the least painful way, of getting the Trump cabal out of power soonest. Many things make this an imperative, not least of which is that because of the pandemic, tens of thousands of lives hang in the balance. 

And Howie Hawkins just doesn't get it. He doesn't ever really make an ant-racist argument.

When Hawkins does get around to discussing what would be called “The Negro Problem” in another era, he manages to do it without mentioning racism or Trump, while making a Fox-News-like critique of the Democrats:
[W]e fight for affordable housing and against the brutality of police forces that do what the Democrats in the cities designed them to do, which is to keep downscale people, particularly Black people, down and out of upscale communities.
Whatever does he mean by “downscale people”? Are all Black people “downscale people”? He doesn't give us a clear answer. Instead, we are subjected to such nonsensical drivel as this: 
The simple-minded trope that a vote for the Greens is a vote for Trump ignores the fact that a Green vote is in the Green column, not Trump’s. It is an anti-Trump vote, a stronger anti-Trump vote, and a second front against Trump that adds to the total against Trump.

Okay, I thought I had a basic grasp of this electoral college thing, but now I'm confused. Where does “Total Votes Against Trump [TVAT]” fit in? What column does it go in when it comes to determining which individual candidate has more than 270 electoral votes?

Hawkins whines and complains like Trump; he continues, even “ecosocialists are not calling for system change in this election.” Yes! Get the Net! The only system change on the ballot this year is the moves in the direction of an openly white supremacist and authoritarian state being implemented by Trump, his cronies, and his enablers. People from all over are rallying around the Biden/Harris campaign to oppose this reactionary system change.

Instead of bemoaning a lack of “Left Solidary,” and proposing the cure be that everyone join him in his blindness towards the current situation, maybe he should drop his own competing bid for president, and join with the great masses of progressive people by voting for Joe Biden, and putting an end to the hard reign of Trump.

Green Party is being used for Voter Suppression

The Senate Intelligence Committee Report on Russian Active Measures Campaigns and Interference in the U.S. 2020 Election cited the work of cybersecurity researcher Renee DiResta
Voter suppression narratives were in [the data], both, on Twitter (some of the text-to-vote content) and within Facebook, where it was specifically targeting the Black audiences. So the groups that they made to reach out to Black people were \ specifically targeted with 'Don't Vote for Hillary Clinton,' 'Don't Vote At All,' 'Why Would We Be Voting, ' 'Our Votes Don't Matter, ' [and] 'A Vote for Jill Stein is Not a Wasted Vote. '
This is how the Russians did voter suppression in 2016. They also supported the Jill Stein campaign more directly, as did certain Republicans, with the goal of  helping Trump win.  Trump understands the value of voter suppression. In a leaked audio, he can be heard rejoicing over low black voter turnout in 2016  “Many Blacks didn’t go out to vote for Hillary ‘cause they liked me. That was almost as good as getting the vote, you know, and it was great,”

In Wisconsin, the Republicans have been helping both Kanye West and the Green Party get on the ballot because they understand the value of 3rd party voter suppression. Knowing that a vote for Hankins was almost as good as a vote for Trump, some well known Republican lawyers were happy to help, and Hawkins was happy to accept their help. He excused the collaboration with “You get help where you can find it.”  He has a similar excuse for accepting help from Putin's Russia via appearances on RT: “Beggars can’t be choosers.”  It looks like while Howie is warning his supporters “Don't vote for the lesser of two evils,” he is acting like the enemy [GOP/RT] of my enemy [Biden] is my friend. 

At the end of that 20 week strike, we ended up voting for a contract that was less than we were fighting for. The advise "don't vote for the lesser of two evils," never made practical sense. Sometimes you just have to make the best of a bad situation.

Friends in High Places...

I have many stories from my years at the boxcar factory. This is my favorite...

On Strike 20 weeks in 1975
The company attempted to fire me many times, but the union, and the workers always fought hard to get me back inuntil the last time. Once I even had to file a case with the National Labor Relations Board[NLRB].

James, a friend, was an overhead crane operator. It was a thing of beauty to watch him rotate the whole side of a boxcar 180°, while avoiding all the obstacles, as he moved it from one side of the plant to the other. The hook on his crane was half my size. So skillful was he that his idea of a good joke was to silently maneuver the tip of that hook under the back of my hard hat, and lift it slightly to announce his presence 50 ft. overhead. 

After I got back from one of these firing attempts, people told me of a stunt he had pulled in the struggle to get me back. Using a 10-ton parts bin, he pinned my foreman against a large machine so delicately that while the foreman, Joe Fielder, couldn't extract himself, not a bone was broken, and no real injury was done.  Then he leaned out of the cab, and yelled down at him a warning, “You stop f*cking with Claiborne!” before releasing the frightened manager.

After I heard that story, when someone asked me how I got my job back, I simply said, “I have friends in high places.”

Clay Claiborne

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