All posts by David Rovics

Blowing the Whistle in 1943

Being a writer of weekly columns and topical songs, these things are supposed to be at least somewhat temporary in nature. But whether it’s a podcast from last summer or a song I wrote a decade ago, change one or two words and it could have been written yesterday. To mention a few subjects I have addressed in recent months that refuse to fade into recent history: child separations at the border are once again in the news for a number of reasons, including corruption charges against the biggest for-profit child detention facility in the US; politicians and pundits continue to find supposedly new reasons to refer to Jeremy Corbyn, Ilhan Omar and the Gilets Jaune as anti-Semitic, despite all the accusations being self-evidently baseless; there has been yet another massacre in Gaza carried out by Israeli snipers, who are now as of this week being charged by the UN for war crimes; there has been a further dramatic escalation in the far right’s efforts to overthrow the democratically-elected government of Venezuela; the War on Refugees continues in the form of the 2020 Wall Budget Debate; and Chelsea Manning is back in jail, this time for refusing to testify to what is known as a grand jury.

To refresh our memories, what Private Manning was originally imprisoned for blowing the whistle on were things like the US use of torture and the commission of other war crimes such as a massacre of journalists and children by helicopter gunship. For exposing war crimes, Chelsea was not given an award or a promotion, she was called a traitor and many other things and given a very long prison sentence, eventually commuted by the last president just before he left office. Other people have blown the whistle on other crimes committed by our government and other governments, and for their good work they have been similarly rewarded, and some accidentally-released legal documents indicate that Julian Assange is completely justified in fearing that the US government is seeking his extradition and imprisonment, because they are. If not for the quick actions of Wikileaks and the Russian government back in 2013, Edward Snowden would be facing the same. (The hatred of these heroic whistle-blowers among the ranks of the US Congress has been largely bipartisan, it should be noted.)

Hearing about the re-arrest of Chelsea Manning and other developments that continually reinforce the general feeling that we are in the midst of a rapid descent into full-fledged fascism obviously inspires a lot of historical comparisons, especially among people who are apt to make such comparisons with very little provocation. As it happens, the particular village where I’m heading to at the end of this month invites more of the same comparisons.

For the first week of April and for most of July and August I’ll be running a very small cafe in Denmark — most of that time with my wife, Reiko, and our three kids. (Our toddler, Yuta, is already becoming a very good barista, practicing daily on his favorite toy, our home espresso machine.) I don’t know how old the building thirty meters from Øresund is that houses the cafe, but it has a traditional straw roof, and it was built at a time that the average Dane was a lot shorter than today. Standing up inside this cafe is only possible in certain spots if you’re an American male of average height (like I am). If this little building could tell stories, it would have a lot to say.

It directly faces the inlet that separates Denmark from Sweden. Cafe Hellebaek is named after the little fairy tale Danish village of Hellebaek in which it lies, on the line — and the road and bike path — separating the forested hills from the sea. For centuries, this part of Denmark was the front line in the Danish crown’s unceasing efforts to re-take contested parts of Sweden on the other side of the inlet. It was the longest war in recorded history, according to my friend Kristian Svensson, a Swedish songwriter, playwright and historian. (I learned a lot of other interesting random pieces of information from touring with Kristian.)

It’s been quite a while since there has been conflict between Sweden and Denmark. But in more relatively recent times, the little coastal village was witness to drama of the global-historic variety, particularly during a week spanning the end of September and beginning of October, 1943. Hellebaek would be one of three main villages that would be the launching points for the thousands of Danish Jews who would be successfully saved from imminent deportation and given asylum in Sweden, which, unlike Denmark, was not then suddenly under direct administration by Nazi occupiers.

These were not a matter of fake accusations of anti-Semitism back then. This was far, far too real. A phenomenon that had little history within the Muslim world prior to the twentieth century, but has been a major aspect characterizing European Christendom for over a millennia, culminating with the mechanized genocide carried out by the Nazis and their collaborators throughout Europe.

There were other forms of official anti-Semitism as well — for example, in Roosevelt’s America.

In 1943 the official policy of the US towards Jewish or other refugees from Germany or eastern Europe was to deny them visas or send them back. Perhaps not for the same reasons, Sweden was also wary of taking in such refugees. The Swedish policy changed on October 2nd, 1943, and this change was announced on the radio publicly, which was a crucial element of the whole operation actually taking place and working.

The overwhelming success of the operation was a testament to many things — to the bravery and efficiency of the Danish underground resistance movement; to the solidarity of the Danish people with their fellow Danes, whether they be Jewish or communist; to the fact that most of the German military was busy being defeated at Stalingrad; to the fact that Øresund is very narrow; and in no small part, to the principled actions of a Nazi Party whistle-blower named Georg Duckwitz.

As with Chelsea Manning, Georg Duckwitz was serving a regime that was actively committing crimes against humanity that differed in detail and in scale but in both cases involved things like invading countries based on false pretexts, overthrowing democracies, supporting and imposing dictatorships, immense corporate profiteering, millions of dead, millions of refugees, with entire countries, entire societies, laid to waste.

As with Chelsea Manning, Georg Duckwitz could no longer bear to be a cog in this machine of genocide, regardless of how direct or indirect his involvement was with the worst of the crimes being committed in the name of his blood and soil. Duckwitz’s moment to make a difference came when he learned of plans from Berlin to begin rounding up all the Jews they could find in Denmark. Obviously risking his life and liberty, Georg Duckwitz informed the chief rabbi of Denmark and on false pretenses he flew to Stockholm to inform the Swedish crown and to beseech them to accept Jewish refugees.

The chief rabbi informed the Danish resistance movement, and with a clear plan in place due to the public broadcast from Sweden, the fishermen, innkeepers and other regular Danish people did the rest.

No one informed Duckwitz’s Nazi colleagues of what he had done. The diplomat returned to his duties, an unnoticed hero, until long after the end of the war. When the role he played in the rescue of the Danish Jews was realized, he received appropriate recognition and a couple of awards — not prison time, accusations of treason and presidential death threats.

Unfortunately for Chelsea Manning, this is the USA in 2019, not occupied Denmark in 1943. But it’s important to recall more optimistic historical moments than the present one.

The Venezuela Deception

If you are getting your news from mainstream media, whether it’s from supposedly “conservative,” “liberal,” or “objective” outlets, whether a corporate-owned or so-called “public” network, if you’re in the US, the UK, and many other countries, you are being lied to. How much they’re lying depends on what they’re reporting on. What you can be sure of, though, is if it’s something we really, really need to know the truth about right now — if a light needs to be shone on an urgent issue, like a possibly imminent invasion of a sovereign country by the US military — you can be sure that that’s when they’ll lie more, not less. When we need them the most, that’s when they’ll fail us most spectacularly.

It’s also at times like these that we see most starkly the difference between those of us with a solidly anti-imperialist understanding of reality, and so many of our supposedly progressive Congresspeople as well as so many of the ostensible beacons of freedom and democracy in Europe. When these Congresspeople and these European states are most needed to defend principles of national sovereignty, democracy, and international law, that’s exactly the moment when they will almost always side with the global, US and/or local corporate elite, and against a socialist movement, no matter how popular or democratic it may be.

So, are all these journalists and all these Congresspeople and their European counterparts evil stooges of US imperialism who hate democracy and socialism? Not necessarily. It’s more complicated than that — that’s why so many people believe their lies — because oftentimes, they believe them themselves.

How can that be the case? Here’s the thing. In so many instances, no matter how much you think you know about something that’s happening in your neighborhood or in another country, you can use all your senses and you can still miss the most important aspects of what is going on. This is because there are many things that can only be understood so well by mere observation — there are many instances where we will not know everything about what’s happening now until later, sometimes much later. So rather than believing sources that are clearly spouting propaganda because you don’t know what else to believe, you can understand any situation far, far better by being intimately familiar with the history of the place, with what has happened before there.

So let’s just back up in Venezuela to what we know for sure, to recent history. In the years following the election of Hugo Chavez, millions of people were brought out of poverty, millions of people got medical care who hadn’t had it before, schools and hospitals and farmer collectives opened up all over the country, and Venezuela became a beacon for socialism and democracy for many people around the world, including within the United States. Venezuela’s Bank of the South liberated many countries from the intentionally destructive strings attached to IMF loans. Millions of people in many other countries benefited from the generosity of the Bolivarian Revolution’s internationalist programs, including people struggling to pay their heating bills in cities like Boston and Chicago.

Those are all facts. You won’t hear any of them mentioned on NPR or BBC these days, though at some point in the past they have done fairly positive pieces on some of these things — at times when it didn’t seem to matter too much. If you complain that they’re acting like arms of the imperialist propaganda machine, if some intern answers your complaint, they’ll point to a 3-minute news story on a Saturday during Thanksgiving vacation a decade ago — see, we said something nice about Hugo Chavez once!

So why is it that they don’t talk about the Venezuelan opposition attempting to launch another in a series of other attempted coups? Why don’t they talk about the crash in the price of oil that so affected this still largely oil-based economy? Why don’t they talk about how free and fair the UN and the Carter Center said all the elections were? Why don’t they focus on the massive differences between Venezuela and Cuba, such as the very active rightwing media in Venezuela that the government there allows to exist, in the name of pluralism? Why do they only talk about the similarities between these two countries? Why don’t they mention that most of those tens of thousands of Cubans in Venezuela their rightwing guests keep ranting about are doctors and nurses? Why don’t they talk about the billions of dollars in assets that have been seized and are being withheld by the US, the UK, and other states? Why do they only go on and on about how Venezuela’s problems are supposedly all to do with Maduro’s corruption? Why don’t they ever interview the many experts from the UN and other organizations who have a completely different version of reality from the one being presented on Newshour or in the pages of the New York Times?

It’s not a cut-and-dried, simple answer. But with regards to the many journalists and politicians who are otherwise well-meaning but are currently falling in line behind US imperialism once again and acting like they have lost any capacity for critical thought, it is their ignorance of history that allows them to be used thus.

Because if we’re not sure of all the sources of information or of the root causes for everything that is happening in a given instance, if we know how things went before, we have some solid basis for interpreting what is going on now.

For example, in another South American country when another popular socialist was elected in a landslide and started lifting millions of his country’s people out of poverty through his extremely popular socialist policies, here’s what happened: the US government, through the CIA and other agencies, organized a massive campaign to destabilize Chilean society and destroy the Chilean economy, while cultivating a CIA-trained general within the Chilean military to seize power in a violent coup, which resulted in a military dictatorship that lasted decades and led to untold thousands being tortured and killed by sadistic, US-trained Chilean soldiers and government agents.

And that is only one of so many, many examples. The CIA-led coup in Guatemala in 1954 led to decades of a genocidal, fascist dictatorship and hundreds of thousands tortured and killed, all with active, constant US support. There are 35 countries in the Americas from Canada to Argentina, and the United States has invaded every single one of them, often multiple times. The corruption and poverty in Haiti is a direct consequence of centuries of US and French interventionism, which began immediately after the Haitian Revolution, during which the entire country was destroyed and a third of the population was killed. You cannot find a country in the Americas that doesn’t have a history of the US, France, the UK, and other colonial powers siding with dictators against popular movements and the governments that sometimes come to power as a result of such movements in places like Guatemala, Chile, Haiti, Venezuela, and elsewhere.

The journalists and politicians who do not understand that at its essence the United States is and always has been an expansionist empire under the control of a capitalist elite that is driven in so many different ways to get ever bigger, ever richer, ever more powerful will inevitably draw all the wrong conclusions from the same observations of reality that I might make – especially if their underlying, completely baseless, but very widespread assumption is that the US habitually supports democracies and opposes dictatorships.

If you are a politician or a journalist or anyone else trying to understand anything that is happening in the Americas that involves the US government or a large US corporation, and you actually want to understand it and not be a stooge of a centuries-old, globally devastating, capitalist empire run nominally out of Washington, DC, the first and most sensible lens to see reality through is this: the US consistently sides with dictators and against democracies the overwhelming majority of the time, and has done so since the US has been a country. And every time they do it, they come up with elaborate lies, excuses, and subterfuges to explain why they’re doing it.

Every time — without exception up til this point. When the US invaded Iraq they said it was Weapons of Mass Destruction. Turned out they knew they didn’t exist, and that Colin Powell lied in a speech 31 times in a row to justify the US invasion, which has now resulted in millions dead and dying. When the US invaded Vietnam, Vietnamese forces had supposedly attacked a US ship off the coast near Vietnam. Turned out this never happened. Throughout the so-called Cold War the US invaded one country after another, overthrew or attempted to overthrow one popular government after another – to back a fascist dictator in Korea the US killed millions of Koreans and half a million Chinese soldiers, and still could only hold on to the southern half of the country, so popular was the communist movement there.

Through slightly less direct methods, also in the name of fighting the Cold War, democracies in Iran, Guatemala, Chile, Grenada, Honduras were all overthrown by some combination of the CIA and local fascists. The Cold War provided, conveniently, the same lie to be used in multiple arenas – popular democracies (known to us as populist regimes when the liberal media doesn’t like them) have to be overthrown if they have any remotely friendly relations with the Soviet Union. No other explanation needed, but for good measure, they always came up with other reasons – saving students in Grenada that were in no danger to begin with, or saving people from an oppressive dictator, who actually was a popularly-elected democrat but suddenly became an oppressive dictator because he started nationalizing the land of rich people in order to feed and house his hungry and landless people in Guatemala, or Haiti, or Paraguay. There are so many more examples.

With a proven record of imperialism like that, there is absolutely no reason to believe the current crisis is any different, or that it’s anything but manufactured — and lots of reasons to believe it isn’t.

Apocalypse Northwest: Blame, Shame and Responsibility

The world outside my window looks, smells and sounds apocalyptic.  The sound is primarily the sound of silence, since few people want to walk or ride a bike when the air is so thick with haze from out-of-control forest fires burning up and down the western half of the continent.  There are few clouds in the sky, but the sky looks a lot like the eclipse did a couple weeks ago, when it was at about 50%.  We’re in the midst of another almost-unprecedented heat wave due to climate change, but the haze keeps the temperature a bit lower, makes everything look orange and dusky.  As the newsreaders are fond of repeating, the air quality is worse than it is in Beijing.

And of course that’s just outside my window.  In other parts of the US, hundreds of thousands of homes and vehicles have been destroyed by flooding, flooding which has also unleashed massive amounts of toxic waste from superfund sites and petrochemical refineries all over the region — as also happened on the Gulf coast in similarly massive environmental catastrophes in 2005 and 2010.  Another huge storm is currently bearing down on Puerto Rico and Florida.  And what’s happening now on the Gulf coast pales in scale compared to the flooding going on right now in parts of South Asia and Africa.

What strikes me as I navigate my social circles online and in my physical neighborhood in Portland, Oregon is the degree to which shame appears to be so much more pervasive than outrage.  I can’t quantify this and I haven’t taken any polls, but the distinct feeling I get from a lot of people out there is they feel responsible for the situation we find ourselves in.  There is also a widespread awareness of the shortcomings of our political leadership in dealing with the apocalypse effectively.  But many people seem more ready to blame themselves for driving a car, owning a smartphone and using electricity than they are prepared to blame the oil and coal industries for their role in this.

But more insidious than this widespread shame in terms of how we got to where we are now is what I hear around me in terms of how we need to deal with the situation.  I hear people talking about individual lifestyle changes they need to make — ride the bike more, use mass transit more often, stop driving a car, use less electricity, become a vegan, don’t have kids, etc.

I imagine some readers asking at this point, but who cares about whether people feel guilty or not?  The point is we need to do something about all this.  Which of course we do.  But in order to understand where we need to go, we need to understand where we’re at and how we got here.

Obviously, any society is made up of individuals.  But only in some philosopher’s fantasies does there exist a society that is actually made up of equals, who participate equally in making the decisions that shape a society.  Only in some people’s heads does there exist a society where individuals can create their own realities, independent of the societies in which they live.

So, while it is true that individual settlers carried out genocidal policies against Native Americans, it was also true that they were paid very well for every Native scalp that they brought in to the colonial authorities.  While it is true that individual farmers in places like Oklahoma planted cotton on their arid farmland in the early twentieth century, it is also true that the only way they could get credit to borrow money to plant crops was if they agreed to plant cotton.  While it is true that millions of individuals in the US bought cars when cars started to become more affordable ninety years ago, it is also true that the country’s infrastructure was being consciously designed by those in power to be a car-dependent one, with a rail system that became ever more anemic with each passing decade.

Individuals have choices, of course.  Some people have many more choices than others — especially if you have lots of money, citizenship in the right country, an engineering degree, or other such advantages.  But for most people now and throughout modern history, in practical terms these choices have been far more limited.  For the much-vaunted “pioneers” that they talk about incessantly in the elementary schools of Oregon, their choices were to live and die as tenant farmers, breaking their backs and dying young somewhere out east, or to take the land the government was offering them for free out west.  For those Oklahoma farmers I mentioned that were participating in the process that resulted in the Great Dust Storm of that period, their choices were to plant cotton and starve later, or don’t plant cotton and starve now.  Or go to the west coast and be a farmworker (which is generally an even worse fate than being a tenant farmer).

And for all the people living in the suburbs and driving into the urban centers to work in cities across the US with traffic-clogged highways every day of the year, they are doing what people have been doing in the US since long before the invention of the suburb or the invention of the automobile:  they are buying, building or renting a house or an apartment somewhere that they can afford to live, and they are finding work somewhere where they can find work.  By design and/or as a result of market economics, these places are usually not anywhere close to each other.

I’m pretty sure that what I’ve just laid out in the past few paragraphs isn’t news to many of the same people who feel this intense sense of guilt for what is now happening around us.  This contradiction between what we know and what we feel should not be surprising.  As the father of a sixth-grader I am keenly aware of the messaging that pervades both public and private schools here in Oregon and elsewhere in the country.  It’s drilled into the heads of the children in so many ways on a daily basis — we humans are responsible for the situation we’re in, as a species, and we must be more vigilant about recycling, not idling your car engine when you can help it, not wasting paper, not buying too many things made of plastic.

Just as pervasive as these messages of individual responsibility being daily drummed into the heads of children and adults alike is the message that we live in a democracy and we can change the situation we’re in by mobilizing around a political party, by voting for different candidates.  While I’d welcome a situation where Bernie Sanders’ wing of the Democratic Party became politically dominant, we’re not anywhere close to being there in reality.  Both parties are solidly in the hands of the corporate elite, in ways that are easily measurable in terms of who funds the campaigns of those in office and the bills they propose, the bills they don’t propose, and how they vote on the bills that do get proposed.

And as a student of history I can say definitively that this has always been true in the United States.  We have always had a two-party duopoly.  The two parties have, throughout much more than 95% of the nation’s history, ruled essentially as one.  That is, the policies that have defined our country and gotten us to the point we’re at today — things like genocide, slavery, imperial wars, conquest and annexation of neighboring states, feudal land ownership policies, the abolition of rent control, the building of the interstate highway system, the destruction of the railroad network, zoning laws to encourage suburban sprawl, the wholesale clearcutting of the forests of the west and southeast, to name just a few policies — these policies all enjoyed massive bipartisan support among the leaders and so-called elected representatives of both major parties.

We don’t live in a real democracy.  If we did, we would have had choices when it came to all of these policies.  And let’s be clear about the historical record in terms of these policies that enjoyed such massive bipartisan support:  they were extremely controversial at the time.  It’s just that those in opposition to these policies were not the ones making the decisions, and they had no parties or candidates to represent their views — not ones with any chance of getting far within the confines of a completely rigged political system.

There is no such thing as “taking America back” or “restoring American democracy” or any of that nonsense.  We’ve never had democracy (at least not since the conquest and annexation of the Iroquois Confederacy).  And although individuals carried out all of these policies, their implementation had nothing to do with individual choice, and everything to do with the obscenely dominant position of the rich and their corporate Political Action Committees (which existed in one form or another long before we had the term “PAC,” and long before the Citizens United Supreme Court decision).

As long as the powers-that-be can convince us — in direct and indirect ways — that we are individually to blame for the situation and individually responsible for changing it, then we are a defeated and useless population, just the way those in power want us to be.  But your enemy is not yourself or your neighbor or your desire to feed yourself and your family or your desire to live somewhere with hot running water, electricity and a TV.

As a songwriter, I always say that the most powerful way to make a point is to tell a story that illustrates your point, and let the listeners then draw their own conclusions from that story, without summing it up for them.  Well, this essay isn’t one of those songs.

Point blank, the problem is not your lifestyle.  The problem is monopoly capitalism, and the fact that we do not have any semblance of democratic control over anything of importance, when it comes to the survival of our species.  Because the apocalypse is happening by bipartisan consensus — and reversing course, to the extent that that’s even possible at this late stage, will require nothing short of the overthrow of monopoly capitalism and the institution of real democratic control over the things that matter.

Nazis, IS, Antifa, the YPG, Democratic Landlords, the Spanish Civil War and Fake News

There’s been a lot happening this month.  I don’t have any great plans of action as to the way forward, but I have some knowledge of the background, in terms of how we got here, that seem worth sharing.  Basically I just need to process, and thought I’d do that out loud.  So here are a few reflections on the events of August, 2017, that may be intimately related to one another.

Note:  any links that appear below will take you to songs on the subject, mostly written in the past few weeks…

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The Spanish Civil War has been discussed in the media more in the past few weeks than I can remember in my lifetime.  The media has said more nice things about anarchists in the past few weeks than ever in my lifetime as well, and I’m pretty sure they have covered protests more lately than at any time since 1970 or so.
At the beginning of the month I wrote a song, “Rojava,” after getting encrypted messages from the front lines of the war against Islamic State in Syria, sent by an anarchist from the US who is there fighting with the YPG.  Which is the male version of the YPJ, which together makes up the biggest chunk of the military wing of the struggle for the freedom of the people of the region known as Rojava.
Most of the people around there are Kurdish, as are most of the fighters, but there are many others involved, including dozens of anarchists from the US.  One of them, Rob Grodt, died last month.  Rob was the fourth anarchist from the US to die fighting in the ranks of the YPG.  He and the friend of his who contacted me had sung a song of mine together at a gathering of YPG fighters and officers just before Rob was killed.  His friend thought I should write a song, and I agreed I should.
The YPG/YPJ are fighting a war against oblivion.  I probably avoided trying to wrap my head around this movement, because in some ways it’s very complicated.  For example, the armed struggle there has received support from both the US and Russia — and that’s only the tip of the iceberg.  But Rob’s friend summed it up so well, in one of his text messages.  To paraphrase, the Yazidis were being slaughtered, and the people that came to their aid were the PKK, with air support provided by the US.  When there’s a slaughter going on and someone steps in to stop it, you don’t argue about politics — you help stop the slaughter.  At least, if you’re as dedicated to humanity as these folks are — or, in Rob’s case, were.
Robert Grodt’s memorial is in New York City on September 4th.
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Another fighter for social justice, Heather Heyer, died this month in Charlottesville, when a white supremacist plowed his car into some of the folks who were marching against them (I wrote a song — “Today in Charlottesville“).  Like Rob, Heather had been involved with the social movements of her day for justice and equality, which is what she was doing when she was killed, and others were maimed for life.

In the course of the protests and counter-protests in Charlottesville around the controversy over the statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee, Antifa has been mentioned in the news more than ever.  Generally in glowing terms, in stark contrast to the way Antifa and similar groupings of people were discussed in the media just prior to Charlottesville, when they would more commonly be referred to as thugs — or “anarchists,” which used to mean the same thing to the corporate media (and will again soon enough, I promise).

Listening to Amy Goodman interview someone on the subject of Antifa recently, it occurred to me that maybe most other people in the US know as little about this group as Amy seemed to know.  No one in the media seemed to have anything to say in response to Trump’s “on many sides” response to Heather Heyer’s untimely death, other than to condemn his statement as both insensitive and wrong.

Antifa is more a philosophical approach to the world than any kind of organized group.  Local chapters can have meetings and agree to sets of principles and rules of conduct, goals, etc., but there are many differences between groups within nations and between nations.  For example, in both Germany and France, people who identify as Antifa regularly disrupt events involving speakers or performers who they decide are anti-Semitic, including yours truly, on many occasions.  In doing so they regularly employ violence, threats of violence, property destruction, and threats of property destruction.

But mostly Antifa is known in Europe for fighting Nazis and their ilk.  This often means defending refugees from being attacked by Nazis who are laying siege to their apartment blocks while the police stand by in places like Rostock, Germany.  But as many Antifa in many different European cities have told me proudly, when they see someone on the street who they know is a Nazi, they beat them up.  Being a Nazi is considered to be sufficient provocation — the Nazi doesn’t have to be attacking refugees to be a fair target.

Whether or not you agree with beating up Nazis whenever and wherever you see one, that’s what many people who identify as Antifa do with their time — along with drinking a lot of beer, wearing black clothing, and listening to punk rock.  Many of my favorite people in the world are Antifa fighters from across Europe and the US (active duty or retired) — but when Trump says violence was committed by both sides, he is stating a simple fact.  He is also a racist, etc, but he is stating a fact when he says that, and any media that pretends this isn’t the case should look at how they were reporting on Antifa and similar groups for the century or so preceding Trump’s election.

I remember on NPR after 9/11 a commentator said, “last week they were protesting the World Trade Organization, and this week they’re bombing the World Trade Center.”  That pretty much sums up how they used to report on us.

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The media is participating in a United Front against Trump, Bannon and white supremacists.  Black Lives Matter and Antifa are no longer highway-blocking hooligans, they’re resistance fighters.  The Democrats are no longer your landlords (even though they are), they’re the #Resistance against those other landlords.  The Democratic landlords of the #Resistance and the white supremacist landlords are all raising the rents, gentrifying the cities, and driving out people of color, artists and other marginal people, but they’re otherwise very different.

While the principle involved with forming a United Front is fairly obvious — that the more people who are united against a common enemy, the more likely the enemy can be defeated — it’s also fraught with problems.  That is, reality doesn’t necessarily work that way.

Democrats (and Republicans) starting imperial wars, spending half of our tax money on the military, imprisoning millions, and consistently failing to provide for much of the population in the US is how we got to where we are today — a terribly divided country, whose people (of all genders and colors) are largely illiterate and impoverished (some more than others).  And while the media is blanket-covering every gathering of a small handful of white supremacists and every anti-Trump protest involving more than six people (as well as those that are bigger), the gentrification and impoverishment of the country that the Clintons and the Bushes and the Obamas presided over continues apace.

On September 10th there’s a “free speech rally” being held by the far right here where I live in Portland, Oregon.  If these people can manage to get a few hundred people to come to their rally, they’ll be doing very well.  By European standards it’s really a pathetic little far right movement.  When Europeans ask me why there doesn’t appear to be a relatively large, organized far right movement in the US the way there is in many European countries, I always say that if someone really wants to harass and torture and kill people of color and other undesirable elements on a daily basis, all they have to do is join their local police force.  I’d still say the same thing in August, 2017.

Anyway, the “free speech” rally will be opposed by a much bigger crowd of counter-protesters.  If the local, national and international media gives blanket coverage to the counter-protests like they just did in Boston last week, maybe we’ll have tens of thousands coming to the counter-protest here, too.  If the organizers are as confused as the folks who organized the last two protests I attended in downtown Portland since events in Charlottesville, there will be no audible sound system for the rally.

In short, the protests recently looked just like other protests in recent years in the US — small and quiet.  And that was the case even though they were announced in advance on the radio, which almost never used to happen.  If you recall, it used to be the case that if you wanted to publicize a protest, you could always count on the corporate and “public” media doing nothing to help.  And usually, if they weren’t actively ignoring you, they would run fear-mongering pieces encouraging everybody to stay away from the protests so they wouldn’t get hurt by crazed anarchists.

Why so small and quiet?  Because, as far as I can tell, the #Resistance is more a creation of Facebook and the corporate media than real life.  Why is that?  Because most people can smell the fish.  They know that their landlord is a Democrat, and that if Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer are claiming to be part of a #Resistance, then that must mean they’re not in it.

That’s how the United Front can backfire, in my view, and already has.  If the #Resistance is ever to find its feet, it will do so after it manages to differentiate itself from the Democratic landlords.

*     *     *

In Spain there was a United Front against Fascism.  Well, sort of.  It was mostly a not-very-united front between anarchists, communists and others who would typically be identified as somewhere on the Left.  The enemy was a big chunk of the Spanish military, which had launched a coup against the democratically-elected socialist government at the time, in 1936.  These forces, led by General Franco, were supported by the fascist governments in power at the time in Germany and Italy.  The UK, France, the US and other “western” powers were officially neutral, but in reality were providing aid to the fascists both by selling them much-needed oil, and by preventing Soviet tanks from arriving in Spain, in the name of neutrality, while German and Italian troops and tanks poured in.

Although there were many foreign soldiers involved with the fight in Spain, including many Germans, Italians and people from (Spanish-occupied) Morocco on the fascist side, there were also many volunteers fighting on the side of the Spanish Republic, including similar numbers of communists and others from across Europe, North America and elsewhere — particularly German and Italian communists.  But mostly the war was fought by people from Spain.  (Which is a short-hand term for saying people from what we know of as Spain, who might or might not themselves identify as “Spanish” as opposed to Catalonian, Basque, etc.)

My friend Bob Steck was one of the folks from the US who joined the fight in Spain.  After 16 months on the front lines and 16 months in a concentration camp, he was one of the half or so of the volunteers from the US who came home alive.  He spent the rest of his life involved with the same sorts of social justice struggles that brought him to Spain in the first place.  He also touched many lives in the course of a long career of teaching high school history in New York.

I had many conversations with Bob on many different subjects over many years, but one that stands out for me in recent months in the course of all the discussions about united fronts is something Bob said one day about the united front in Spain.

Bob was a life-long, self-described communist (though he quit the Communist Party for political reasons in the 1950’s — not because of the Red Scare).  He said, though, that the anarchists in Spain had the right approach, and that if the rest of the Republican movement in Spain had adopted the anarchist approach, maybe they would have won.

His explanation for this argument went like this:  most of the anarchists were from the cities, and most of Franco’s support came from the countryside.  Then as now, one of the biggest contradictions within Spanish society (like US society then and today) had to do with the question of land — who owns it, who rents it, who has lots of it, who has none.  When the anarchists liberated a town, they immediately distributed the land so that those who had lots of it suddenly had a lot less, and those who had none suddenly had some.  (They also often burned down the local church, among other memorable activities.)  These land distribution policies made the anarchists very popular wherever they went, Bob said — and dried up Franco’s base of support in towns where the land had been distributed.

The communists in Spain, and the socialists elected to power there, had a “after the revolution” policy of land distribution.  That is, they’d settle the land question after they won the fight against fascism.  This did not make them popular in the countryside, and allowed Franco to have a steady supply of troops.

*     *     *

Last week began with a white supremacist plowing into a crowd in Charlottesville and ended with an IS cell doing the same thing in Catalonia, with deadlier results.  Islamic State — in Iraq, Syria, and Europe — is a direct outgrowth of US imperialism.  The organization wouldn’t exist without the US invasion of Iraq, just as Al-Qaeda wouldn’t exist without the US funding the resistance to the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan in the 1980’s.
White supremacy and white supremacists, along with xenophobia and other things, are an intimate part of US history, from way before the founding of the country, right up to the present.  We can beat up all the Nazis we want to and we can get run over by them, too, but they won’t go away until certain white people stop feeling disenfranchised.  And when the landlords are both Democrats and Republicans, then a united front against Nazis that includes Democrat landlords is doomed to failure, since it consists of the same forces that created the need for it.
Of course, the same principles apply to IS and Al-Qaeda — fighting them will not defeat them.  Ending imperialism (draining the swamp, so to speak) will.  But if Yazidis are being massacred, someone (thankfully) is going to try to stop it from continuing.  Just as some people will try to stop Nazis from marching through your local university with torches, chanting racist and anti-Semitic taunts.
If I’m not ending this rant with a tying together of the various strands, it’s because I believe the situation is too complicated for such an ending.  But I hope these reflections might give you just a tiny bit more substance with which you might draw your own conclusions.

Nazis, IS, Antifa, the YPG, Democratic Landlords, the Spanish Civil War and Fake News

There’s been a lot happening this month.  I don’t have any great plans of action as to the way forward, but I have some knowledge of the background, in terms of how we got here, that seem worth sharing.  Basically I just need to process, and thought I’d do that out loud.  So here are a few reflections on the events of August, 2017, that may be intimately related to one another.

Note:  any links that appear below will take you to songs on the subject, mostly written in the past few weeks…

*     *     *
The Spanish Civil War has been discussed in the media more in the past few weeks than I can remember in my lifetime.  The media has said more nice things about anarchists in the past few weeks than ever in my lifetime as well, and I’m pretty sure they have covered protests more lately than at any time since 1970 or so.
At the beginning of the month I wrote a song, “Rojava,” after getting encrypted messages from the front lines of the war against Islamic State in Syria, sent by an anarchist from the US who is there fighting with the YPG.  Which is the male version of the YPJ, which together makes up the biggest chunk of the military wing of the struggle for the freedom of the people of the region known as Rojava.
Most of the people around there are Kurdish, as are most of the fighters, but there are many others involved, including dozens of anarchists from the US.  One of them, Rob Grodt, died last month.  Rob was the fourth anarchist from the US to die fighting in the ranks of the YPG.  He and the friend of his who contacted me had sung a song of mine together at a gathering of YPG fighters and officers just before Rob was killed.  His friend thought I should write a song, and I agreed I should.
The YPG/YPJ are fighting a war against oblivion.  I probably avoided trying to wrap my head around this movement, because in some ways it’s very complicated.  For example, the armed struggle there has received support from both the US and Russia — and that’s only the tip of the iceberg.  But Rob’s friend summed it up so well, in one of his text messages.  To paraphrase, the Yazidis were being slaughtered, and the people that came to their aid were the PKK, with air support provided by the US.  When there’s a slaughter going on and someone steps in to stop it, you don’t argue about politics — you help stop the slaughter.  At least, if you’re as dedicated to humanity as these folks are — or, in Rob’s case, were.
Robert Grodt’s memorial is in New York City on September 4th.
*     *     *

Another fighter for social justice, Heather Heyer, died this month in Charlottesville, when a white supremacist plowed his car into some of the folks who were marching against them (I wrote a song — “Today in Charlottesville“).  Like Rob, Heather had been involved with the social movements of her day for justice and equality, which is what she was doing when she was killed, and others were maimed for life.

In the course of the protests and counter-protests in Charlottesville around the controversy over the statue of Confederate General Robert E Lee, Antifa has been mentioned in the news more than ever.  Generally in glowing terms, in stark contrast to the way Antifa and similar groupings of people were discussed in the media just prior to Charlottesville, when they would more commonly be referred to as thugs — or “anarchists,” which used to mean the same thing to the corporate media (and will again soon enough, I promise).

Listening to Amy Goodman interview someone on the subject of Antifa recently, it occurred to me that maybe most other people in the US know as little about this group as Amy seemed to know.  No one in the media seemed to have anything to say in response to Trump’s “on many sides” response to Heather Heyer’s untimely death, other than to condemn his statement as both insensitive and wrong.

Antifa is more a philosophical approach to the world than any kind of organized group.  Local chapters can have meetings and agree to sets of principles and rules of conduct, goals, etc., but there are many differences between groups within nations and between nations.  For example, in both Germany and France, people who identify as Antifa regularly disrupt events involving speakers or performers who they decide are anti-Semitic, including yours truly, on many occasions.  In doing so they regularly employ violence, threats of violence, property destruction, and threats of property destruction.

But mostly Antifa is known in Europe for fighting Nazis and their ilk.  This often means defending refugees from being attacked by Nazis who are laying siege to their apartment blocks while the police stand by in places like Rostock, Germany.  But as many Antifa in many different European cities have told me proudly, when they see someone on the street who they know is a Nazi, they beat them up.  Being a Nazi is considered to be sufficient provocation — the Nazi doesn’t have to be attacking refugees to be a fair target.

Whether or not you agree with beating up Nazis whenever and wherever you see one, that’s what many people who identify as Antifa do with their time — along with drinking a lot of beer, wearing black clothing, and listening to punk rock.  Many of my favorite people in the world are Antifa fighters from across Europe and the US (active duty or retired) — but when Trump says violence was committed by both sides, he is stating a simple fact.  He is also a racist, etc, but he is stating a fact when he says that, and any media that pretends this isn’t the case should look at how they were reporting on Antifa and similar groups for the century or so preceding Trump’s election.

I remember on NPR after 9/11 a commentator said, “last week they were protesting the World Trade Organization, and this week they’re bombing the World Trade Center.”  That pretty much sums up how they used to report on us.

*     *     *

The media is participating in a United Front against Trump, Bannon and white supremacists.  Black Lives Matter and Antifa are no longer highway-blocking hooligans, they’re resistance fighters.  The Democrats are no longer your landlords (even though they are), they’re the #Resistance against those other landlords.  The Democratic landlords of the #Resistance and the white supremacist landlords are all raising the rents, gentrifying the cities, and driving out people of color, artists and other marginal people, but they’re otherwise very different.

While the principle involved with forming a United Front is fairly obvious — that the more people who are united against a common enemy, the more likely the enemy can be defeated — it’s also fraught with problems.  That is, reality doesn’t necessarily work that way.

Democrats (and Republicans) starting imperial wars, spending half of our tax money on the military, imprisoning millions, and consistently failing to provide for much of the population in the US is how we got to where we are today — a terribly divided country, whose people (of all genders and colors) are largely illiterate and impoverished (some more than others).  And while the media is blanket-covering every gathering of a small handful of white supremacists and every anti-Trump protest involving more than six people (as well as those that are bigger), the gentrification and impoverishment of the country that the Clintons and the Bushes and the Obamas presided over continues apace.

On September 10th there’s a “free speech rally” being held by the far right here where I live in Portland, Oregon.  If these people can manage to get a few hundred people to come to their rally, they’ll be doing very well.  By European standards it’s really a pathetic little far right movement.  When Europeans ask me why there doesn’t appear to be a relatively large, organized far right movement in the US the way there is in many European countries, I always say that if someone really wants to harass and torture and kill people of color and other undesirable elements on a daily basis, all they have to do is join their local police force.  I’d still say the same thing in August, 2017.

Anyway, the “free speech” rally will be opposed by a much bigger crowd of counter-protesters.  If the local, national and international media gives blanket coverage to the counter-protests like they just did in Boston last week, maybe we’ll have tens of thousands coming to the counter-protest here, too.  If the organizers are as confused as the folks who organized the last two protests I attended in downtown Portland since events in Charlottesville, there will be no audible sound system for the rally.

In short, the protests recently looked just like other protests in recent years in the US — small and quiet.  And that was the case even though they were announced in advance on the radio, which almost never used to happen.  If you recall, it used to be the case that if you wanted to publicize a protest, you could always count on the corporate and “public” media doing nothing to help.  And usually, if they weren’t actively ignoring you, they would run fear-mongering pieces encouraging everybody to stay away from the protests so they wouldn’t get hurt by crazed anarchists.

Why so small and quiet?  Because, as far as I can tell, the #Resistance is more a creation of Facebook and the corporate media than real life.  Why is that?  Because most people can smell the fish.  They know that their landlord is a Democrat, and that if Hillary Clinton and Chuck Schumer are claiming to be part of a #Resistance, then that must mean they’re not in it.

That’s how the United Front can backfire, in my view, and already has.  If the #Resistance is ever to find its feet, it will do so after it manages to differentiate itself from the Democratic landlords.

*     *     *

In Spain there was a United Front against Fascism.  Well, sort of.  It was mostly a not-very-united front between anarchists, communists and others who would typically be identified as somewhere on the Left.  The enemy was a big chunk of the Spanish military, which had launched a coup against the democratically-elected socialist government at the time, in 1936.  These forces, led by General Franco, were supported by the fascist governments in power at the time in Germany and Italy.  The UK, France, the US and other “western” powers were officially neutral, but in reality were providing aid to the fascists both by selling them much-needed oil, and by preventing Soviet tanks from arriving in Spain, in the name of neutrality, while German and Italian troops and tanks poured in.

Although there were many foreign soldiers involved with the fight in Spain, including many Germans, Italians and people from (Spanish-occupied) Morocco on the fascist side, there were also many volunteers fighting on the side of the Spanish Republic, including similar numbers of communists and others from across Europe, North America and elsewhere — particularly German and Italian communists.  But mostly the war was fought by people from Spain.  (Which is a short-hand term for saying people from what we know of as Spain, who might or might not themselves identify as “Spanish” as opposed to Catalonian, Basque, etc.)

My friend Bob Steck was one of the folks from the US who joined the fight in Spain.  After 16 months on the front lines and 16 months in a concentration camp, he was one of the half or so of the volunteers from the US who came home alive.  He spent the rest of his life involved with the same sorts of social justice struggles that brought him to Spain in the first place.  He also touched many lives in the course of a long career of teaching high school history in New York.

I had many conversations with Bob on many different subjects over many years, but one that stands out for me in recent months in the course of all the discussions about united fronts is something Bob said one day about the united front in Spain.

Bob was a life-long, self-described communist (though he quit the Communist Party for political reasons in the 1950’s — not because of the Red Scare).  He said, though, that the anarchists in Spain had the right approach, and that if the rest of the Republican movement in Spain had adopted the anarchist approach, maybe they would have won.

His explanation for this argument went like this:  most of the anarchists were from the cities, and most of Franco’s support came from the countryside.  Then as now, one of the biggest contradictions within Spanish society (like US society then and today) had to do with the question of land — who owns it, who rents it, who has lots of it, who has none.  When the anarchists liberated a town, they immediately distributed the land so that those who had lots of it suddenly had a lot less, and those who had none suddenly had some.  (They also often burned down the local church, among other memorable activities.)  These land distribution policies made the anarchists very popular wherever they went, Bob said — and dried up Franco’s base of support in towns where the land had been distributed.

The communists in Spain, and the socialists elected to power there, had a “after the revolution” policy of land distribution.  That is, they’d settle the land question after they won the fight against fascism.  This did not make them popular in the countryside, and allowed Franco to have a steady supply of troops.

*     *     *

Last week began with a white supremacist plowing into a crowd in Charlottesville and ended with an IS cell doing the same thing in Catalonia, with deadlier results.  Islamic State — in Iraq, Syria, and Europe — is a direct outgrowth of US imperialism.  The organization wouldn’t exist without the US invasion of Iraq, just as Al-Qaeda wouldn’t exist without the US funding the resistance to the Soviet-backed government in Afghanistan in the 1980’s.
White supremacy and white supremacists, along with xenophobia and other things, are an intimate part of US history, from way before the founding of the country, right up to the present.  We can beat up all the Nazis we want to and we can get run over by them, too, but they won’t go away until certain white people stop feeling disenfranchised.  And when the landlords are both Democrats and Republicans, then a united front against Nazis that includes Democrat landlords is doomed to failure, since it consists of the same forces that created the need for it.
Of course, the same principles apply to IS and Al-Qaeda — fighting them will not defeat them.  Ending imperialism (draining the swamp, so to speak) will.  But if Yazidis are being massacred, someone (thankfully) is going to try to stop it from continuing.  Just as some people will try to stop Nazis from marching through your local university with torches, chanting racist and anti-Semitic taunts.
If I’m not ending this rant with a tying together of the various strands, it’s because I believe the situation is too complicated for such an ending.  But I hope these reflections might give you just a tiny bit more substance with which you might draw your own conclusions.

The Global Consequences of Inequality: From Portland to London to Mosul

“…He’s taught in his school
From the start by the rule
That the laws are with him
To protect his white skin
To keep up his hate
So he never thinks straight
‘Bout the shape that he’s in
But it ain’t him to blame
He’s only a pawn in their game”

Bob Dylan

“The tactical, or if you will, ‘technical,’ task was quite simple — grab every fascist or every isolated group of fascists by their collars, acquaint them with the pavement a few times…”

Leon Trotsky

“The pundits on the TV will talk of integration
Most of them agree there’s too much immigration
They’ll talk of social policies, things they should’ve done before
Whatever you say, don’t mention the war —
If you bomb somebody, they might just bomb you back”

David Rovics

I’m sitting at a cafe in the north of England.  I landed at the Manchester airport the night after the suicide bombing there.  The normally bustling airport was almost completely empty — life is anything but normal here.  Soon after that event, I got the news about the multiple stabbings by a white supremacist on a train in my home town of Portland, Oregon.  Then last night as I was going to bed in a hotel room in Leeds, I turned on BBC only to hear the breaking news about the van-and-knife attacks that were ongoing at the time.  (Actually they were over by then, with the three attackers killed by police, but nobody knew yet when I tuned in whether or not there were more of them.)

These events represent only a tiny fraction of the death that has been meted out by suicide bombings, aerial bombings, stabbings, and gunfire by state and non-state actors in many other countries over the same week, with scores killed in Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Cameroon, Mexico and elsewhere.  This, of course, is to say nothing of the many more who have died in the past week due to malnutrition and car accidents.

With the fast-moving nature of this multitude of violent events, it’s easy to get lost in the details, and overlook the blaringly obvious fact that all of these things are very intimately related, and all of this ongoing violence is ultimately — and often directly — a consequence of endemic and growing inequality, both within and between societies.

Today in Portland there is a white supremacist rally that is scheduled to happen downtown, and an anti-fascist rally will confront it, with lots of riot cops in between the two groups, presumably.  Masked, primarily white youth will destroy property, get beaten and arrested by cops, and this will dominate the news cycle.

I sat down to write this now because all day I’ve been thinking about the stabbings in Portland and the attacks in London, and all the similarities between these two events.  The fact that they both involved knives and happened within a week or so of each other helped to make the connections for me, but there are many other, far less superficial connections that need to be made.

And then I was thinking about the planned antifa protest in Portland today, and whether I would go to it if I were there.  While I have no moral problem with following Trotsky’s advice on what to do with fascists, he was, as he would have been the first to explain, talking about appropriate tactics at a certain place and time — and if you read the rest of the essay that the oft-quoted bit above is derived from, he makes that context abundantly clear.

But whether or not Trotsky would agree or disagree with Jesse Jackson on whether or not antifa should protest the “alt right” in Portland today, and what kinds of tactics they should attempt to employ if they did, the thought of attending that rally also got me thinking about whether I would go to a rally in London or Manchester against Islamic State, if anyone were to organize one.

I wouldn’t.  But why?  Isn’t Islamic State a horrible bunch of genocidal killers?  Well, yes.  But the young Englishman who blew himself up at the Manchester Arena last month was, just like the extremely troubled racist on the train in Portland, a pawn.  People like them are the predictable result of divided, unequal societies with hysterical, racist pundits and politicians — politicians who have a longstanding tendency to “solve” many of their problems through militaristic violence.

Obviously, anyone in any society, confronted by a knife-wielding attacker of any color, creed, religion, etc., should ideally defend themselves and others against such people.  It is entirely right to praise any such efforts as heroic, and entirely right to mourn and remember the dead.  But this doesn’t mean falling victim to the divide-and-conquer tactics of the ruling class.

Most politicians are not the bumbling idiots they appear to be.  (Whether Trump might be an exception to this rule is not the point.)  Insurgent campaigns within some political parties notwithstanding, for most of US history and most of modern British history as well, the powers-that-be have consisted of two main political parties, both of which have ruled in the interest of capital and empire.  In both countries (and many, many others) these ruling classes have systematically, cynically created and exacerbated divisions in society in order to maintain those divisions, so that people will fight over crumbs, rather than going for the whole loaf.

These neocolonial powers have also systematically used these divide-and-conquer tactics to create and/or exacerbate conflicts within different groups in societies they control (or seek to control), such as the Sunni/Shia divide in many predominantly Muslim countries.

At the same time, the wars and the very real refugee crises in the Middle East and the so-called refugee crises in Europe and the United States — all largely manufactured by US foreign policy in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and Latin America over the past century or so — are also used to foment racism and division in western societies as well.

My understanding of history and my experience traveling extensively in 25 or so countries leads me to the conclusion that, at least among the more prosperous nations in the world, there is no country more successfully divided and conquered than the United States.

While there are many other countries ruled by two main political parties that have few significant differences between them, both parties and their policies are much further to the militaristic right in the US than anywhere in Europe.  The way this plays out in terms of people’s lives is we have a shorter lifespan, a vastly more huge problem with poverty, homelessness, property speculation, housing costs, police brutality and endemic violence of all kinds — the biggest prison population in the world, and so many other problems that were created by bipartisan consensus.

It seems clear to me that the main way the US ruling class has been so much more successful than its European counterparts at screwing its own population, as a rule, has been the rulers’ ability to take advantage of the racism that they systematically created over the course of the past centuries.  For a long time this division was a largely black-white one in most of the country.  As the whites-only immigration policies have very slowly given way to allowing immigration from places other than Europe, the dynamic of racism in the US has evolved to include other marginalized groups.

If I or any other self-styled anarchist intellectual could tell you how to get from point A to B, I would.  I don’t know, and nobody else seems to know, either, otherwise maybe we’d be making some progress here, rather than just watching an ever-increasing series of imperial wars and terrorist attacks combined with austerity budgets, even more privatization, “free trade” bills, bank bailouts, rapidly increasing stratification of wealth, mushrooming homelessness, etc.

But where point B is located is abundantly clear.  And knowing where we need to get to is extremely important, for this is a very large part of the equation in terms of who controls the narrative.

We need to remember that the “alt right” is our main problem just as much as Al-Qaeda or Islamic State is.  These movements are real, they’re terrible, and terribly violent, but they are just symptoms of a much, much bigger set of problems.  Those problems — the problems that have given rise to these movements — are the same problems.  And if I were to try to boil down all of those problems to one word, it would be this:  inequality.  And how inequality can be exploited by ruling classes, racists, and terrorists alike.

This state of ever-increasing inequality in the US, the UK and much of the rest of the world has inevitable consequences.  The vast majority of people in most societies won’t take the bait, but a significant number will.  And this number will grow, unless we can manage to change the course of the future in this particular respect.  If we can do that, then the consequences of inequality will begin to dissipate until they become insignificant.  If we fail, we’ll have lots more weeks like this last one, and much, much worse.

Once the political “choices” in places like France and the US are between a capitalist and a fascist, supporting the capitalist against the fascist will only delay the inevitable.  I am not here taking a cut-and-dried position on whether or not one should bother supporting the capitalist vs the fascist, whether or not one should go protest the “alt right” when it manages to gather more than a couple dozen testosterone-poisoned young men in one place, etc.  These kinds of tactical choices can vary depending on the situation, and I don’t know the answers to these questions.  What I do know is that the problems, divisions, violence, etc. will grow as long as inequality and poverty continues to grow.

And I also know that the solution is equality.  Neither May or Macron’s Clintonian capitalism nor Trump’s neofascist politics of deception will bring us forward — on the contrary, these sorts of rulers will only guarantee everything gets much worse, very quickly.  And if we busy ourselves primarily with arguing with the pawns of the game, it seems clear to me that we’ll achieve less than nothing.

Now more than ever, we need to remain focused on the goal, rather than on the consequences of not achieving that goal.  I don’t pretend to know how we get there, as I’ve said — but I’m sure there are many different ways that societies can move in that direction, through large, militant, visionary and well-organized social movements, whether those movements are regional, national or global.