Category Archives: Bernie Sanders

Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution in the Crosshairs of US Imperialism

With the likes of John Bolton and Elliot Abrams directing US foreign policy, the US government has abandoned all pretense of “plausible denial” for its illegal regime-change initiatives. The “humanitarian” bombs may not be falling but, make no mistake, the US is waging a full-bore war against the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela.

Back in 1998, Venezuela had had nearly a half a century of two-party rule. A duopoly, not unlike the Republican and Democratic parties in the US, alternated in power imposing a neoliberal order. Poor and working people experienced deteriorating conditions of austerity regardless of which party was in power.

Then third-party candidate Hugo Chávez was elected president. He initiated what has become known as the Bolivarian Revolution, which has inspired the peoples of the world while engendering the enmity of both the US imperialists and the Venezuelan elites.

This article explores the contributions, shortcomings, and lessons of the Bolivarian Revolution’s two decades, in the context of the US regime-change efforts from its inception to current attempts by the US to install the unelected Juan Guaidó as Venezuela’s president.

  1. Forging a new national identity based on a people’s history. History, it is said, is written by the victors. The historical narrative typically reflects the class that enslaved the Africans, dispossessed the Indigenous, and exploited the workers. There are exceptions. In the US, we have the legacy of Howard Zinn’s People’s History of the United States.

In Venezuela, Chávez revised his country’s history and thereby wrought a sea change of national consciousness. Prior to Chávez, Venezuela was arguably the most sycophantically pro-US country in South America. Miami was looked to for cultural affirmation; baseball was the national pastime.

Chávez took special inspiration from the leader of the South American struggle against Spanish colonialism and named his project after Simón Bolívar, known as the “Liberator.” Bolívar was not merely a national leader, but a true internationalist. The Bolivarian project is about the integration of nations based on mutual respect and sovereignty. Bolívar presciently declared in 1829: “The United States appears to be destined by Providence to plague Latin America with misery in the name of liberty.”

This new Venezuelan national identity and consciousness, based on their history told from the bottom up, may prove to be the most lasting legacy of the Bolivarian Revolution.

  1. Inclusive society. Fundamental to the Bolivarian project has been the inclusion of the formerly dispossessed: especially women, people of color, and youth.

As professor of Latin American history at NYU Greg Grandin observed, this inclusiveness has awakened “a deep fear of the primal hatred, racism, and fury of the opposition, which for now is directed at the agents of Maduro’s state but really springs from Chávez’s expansion of the public sphere to include Venezuela’s poor.”

For example, when an opposition demonstration came upon an Afro-descendent street peddler, he was presumed to be a chavista because he was dark-skinned and poor. The opposition demonstrators poured gasoline over him and set him on fire. Then the horrific image was posted on social media.

A less gruesome example occurred at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington, DC. North American activists in solidarity with the Bolivarian government protected the embassy in accordance with international law from being usurped by representatives of US-backed Juan Guaidó for 36 days. Before the protectors were evicted by the US Secret Service on May 16, counter-protesting opposition expatriate Venezuelans would wave bananas at African American solidarity activists, chanting “go back to the zoo.” Such is the racist loathing that fuels the Venezuelan opposition.

  1. Special option for poor and working people. Why should a state of all the people have a special option for those who are poor and working? Because these are the people who most need the social welfare services of the state. Billionaires don’t need government schools, hospitals, and housing, but the masses of Venezuelan people do.

The Bolivarian project had halved poverty and cut extreme poverty by two-thirds, while providing free health care and education. On May 27, the United Nations cited Venezuela as one of the top countries for guaranteeing the right to housing, recognizing the over 2.5 million public housing units built.

  1. Democracy promotion. The role of a state aspiring to be socialist is not simply to provide social welfare, but to empower the people.

The Bolivarian project has experimented in what is called “protagonistic democracy”: cooperatives, citizens councils, and communes. Some succeeded; others did not.  One of the first priorities was to eradicate illiteracy. The Bolivarian state has promoted community radio stations, low-cost computers, internet cafés for senior citizens, and other venues for popular expression. Venezuela now has one of the highest rates of higher education attendance in the world. These are not the hallmarks of a dictatorship.

  1. 21st century socialism. More than even Bernie Sanders, the Bolivarian Revolution put socialism on the agenda for the 21st century. For this we owe the Venezuelans a debt of gratitude, not for providing us with a playbook to be copied, but for demonstrating that the creation of a better world is principally a process.

This was not the primary transgression placing Venezuela in the crosshairs of US imperialism. Promoting socialism may be regarded as blasphemy, but the original sin is the following.

  1. Multi-polar world and regional integration. The greatest challenge to the Empire, to the world’s sole superpower, is a multi-polar world based on regional integration. In 1999, Chávez helped strengthen OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries). In 2004, he helped initiate ALBA (Alliance for Our Peoples of America), followed by PetroCaribe in 2005, UNASUR (Union of South American Nations) in 2008, and CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) in 2011. Venezuela has consistently demonstrated solidarity with the Palestinian struggle and other oppressed peoples.

When the small fish organize, the big fish gets nasty. Above all, this is why the world’s hegemon has targeted Venezuela.

The traumatic transition from Chávez to Maduro

 Chávez, suffering from cancer, died on March 5, 2013. The reaction in Venezuela was polarized. The elites danced in the street. The majority, composed mainly of poor and working people, were traumatized.

The bully to the north, smelling blood, saw an opportunity. The US had conspired to overthrow the Bolivarian Revolution from the beginning, backing a short-lived coup in 2002 followed by a boss’s strike. With the passing of Chávez, the imperialist offensive doubled down.

A snap election was called according to the Venezuelan Constitution for April 14 to replace the deceased president. Chávez, anticipating his demise, had designated Nicolás Maduro as his successor. Although polls had shown Maduro with a 10% lead going into the election campaign, he won with a narrow 1.5% margin.

I was in Caracas as an election observer when Maduro won. My observation of the election was like that of former US President Jimmy Carter, who had declared a year before that of the 92 elections the Carter Center had observed, “The election process in Venezuela is the best in the world.”

Within minutes of the announcement of Maduro’s victory, the main opposition candidate, Henrique Capriles, came on TV to denounce the election as fraudulent and call on the people to “show their rage.” Thus began the opposition’s violent offensive, the guarimbas, to achieve by violence what they could not achieve in democratic elections.

The opposition charges of fraud were investigated by Venezuela’s National Electoral Council (CNE) and found groundless, based on a 100% audit of the electronic vote backed up with paper receipts. Capriles still maintained the charge of fraud, and the US became the sole nation to refuse to recognize the Maduro presidency. The opposition violence continued, taking over 40 lives.

Upon assuming the presidency, Maduro inherited existing problems of crime, inefficiency, corruption, inflation, and a dysfunctional currency exchange system. These were problems that existed during the Chávez period and even prior to that. These problems persist in varying degrees to the present, despite concerted programs to address them.

President Maduro has had his feet held to the fire by the imperialists from the get-go. Far from having a respite, shortly into his presidency, Venezuela was hit with petroleum prices plummeting from a high of nearly $125/barrel to a low of close to $25/barrel. Despite efforts to diversify the economy, Venezuela remains dependent on oil exports for most of its foreign exchange, which is used to fund the social programs.

US regime-change war intensifies

The US regime-change war continues to intensify with increasingly harsh sanctions. These unilateral measures are illegal under the charters of the United Nations and the Organization of American States, because they constitute collective punishment. Trump’s security advisor, John Bolton, elucidates: “It’s like in Star Wars, when Darth Vader grips someone. That’s what we’re doing economically with the (Venezuelan) regime.”

In 2013, the US waited until after the presidential election in Venezuela to declare it fraudulent. Taking no chances, the US declared the 2018 election fraudulent four months before it was held. Joining Trump in this rush to pre-judgement were eleven Democratic senators including Bernie Sanders.

The charges of fraud were based on three issues: setting the date of the election, disqualifying opposition parties, and barring opposition candidates. Maduro had continually called for dialogue with the opposition to set the election date. But each time a date was mutually agreed upon, the opposition backed out after their US handlers intervened. As for the disqualified parties, they had lost their ballot status because they had boycotted past elections. They then refused to reapply for ballot status, because their intention was not to participate in the electoral process.

Opposition candidates, namely Leopoldo López and Henrique Capriles, were barred from running, because they had committed criminal acts that warranted their exclusion. López clearly incited violence that resulted in deaths and would have received far harsher treatment had he committed such acts in the US. Capriles was convicted of economic fraud, “administrative irregularities,” during his tenure as a state governor. While the courts found Capriles guilty, this action against a political opponent damaged the Maduro government’s international image.

Overall, the charges of fraud by the radical right opposition were mainly pretenses to delegitimize the upcoming election. However, several moderate opposition candidates did run, defying the US demand that the election be boycotted.

Henri Falcón was the leading opposition candidate to run in 2018, championing a neoliberal platform of privatization, austerity for workers, and subservience to the International Monetary Fund (IMF). The US, which would ordinarily gleefully embrace such a platform, instead threatened Falcón with sanctions for breaking the election boycott.

The explanation for this seemingly anomalous behavior by the US government is that the stakes in Venezuela are much higher than just the presidency. The regime-change project is to exterminate the Bolivarian Revolution, reverse its social gains, and return Venezuela to a subservient client state where the world’s largest oil reserves would be freely exploited by US corporations.

Orwellian world of US foreign policy

As CEO of the capitalist world order (that is what is meant by exercising “American world leadership”), then US President Obama declared in 2015 that Venezuela constituted an imminent and extraordinary threat to US national security. He didn’t mean a military or even an economic threat. That would have been preposterous. What Obama was implicitly confirming is that Venezuela poses a “threat of a good example.” Venezuela is at the top of US imperialism’s hit list because of the good things, not for its faults.

President Trump has intensified Obama’s regime-change policies aimed at Venezuela. Condemning the Bolivarian Revolution, Trump opined: “Socialism is not about justice, it’s not about equality, it’s not about lifting up the poor.” Might he have been really thinking of capitalism? His national security advisor John Bolton tweeted that removing the democratically elected President Maduro by violent coup and installing the US-anointed and unelected Guaidó is protecting the Venezuelan constitution.

On the other side of the aisle, Senator Sanders accused Chávez of being a “dead communist dictator.” Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez described the US regime-change war as a contest of “authoritarian regime versus democracy,” with the questionable presumption that the US is the democracy.

In the Orwellian terminology of US politicians and corporate media, a fraudulent election is one where the people vote their choice. A dictator is the democratically elected choice of the people. And the so-called dictator is an authoritarian if he resists rather than surrenders to the bullying power.

Surrender does not appear to be on the agenda for the Bolivarian Revolution, with US asset Guaidó forced to negotiate in Norway after his failed coup attempts. Despite the suffocating sanctions and threats of military action, the poor and working people in Venezuela who are most adversely affected by the US war against them remain the strongest supporters of their elected government.

Make Orwell fiction again!

How Russiagate replaced Analysis of the 2016 Election

An honest and accurate analysis of the 2016 election is not just an academic exercise. It is very relevant to the current election campaign. Yet over the past two years, Russiagate has dominated media and political debate and largely replaced a serious analysis of the factors leading to Trump’s victory. The public has been flooded with the various elements of the story that Russia intervened and Trump colluded with them. The latter accusation was negated by the Mueller Report but elements of the Democratic Party and media refuse to move on. Now it’s the lofty but vague accusations of “obstruction of justice” along with renewed dirt digging. To some it is a “constitutional crisis”, but to many it looks like more partisan fighting.

Russiagate has distracted from pressing issues

Russiagate has distracted attention and energy away from crucial and pressing issues such as income inequality, the housing and homeless crisis, inadequate healthcare, militarized police, over-priced college education, impossible student loans and deteriorating infrastructure. The tax structure was changed to benefit wealthy individuals and corporations with little opposition. The Trump administration has undermined environmental laws, civil rights, national parks and women’s equality while directing ever more money to military contractors. Working class Americans are struggling with rising living costs, low wages, student debt, and racism. They constitute the bulk of the military which is spread all over the world, sustaining continuing occupations in war zones including Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and parts of Africa. While all this has been going on, the Democratic establishment and much of the media have been focused on Russiagate, the Mueller Report, and related issues.

Immediately after the 2016 Election

In the immediate wake of the 2016 election there was some forthright analysis. Bernie Sanders said, “What Trump did very effectively is tap the angst and the anger and the hurt and pain that millions of working class people are feeling. What he said is, ‘I Donald Trump am going to be a champion of the working class… I know you are working longer hours for lower wages, seeing your jobs going to China, can’t afford childcare, can’t afford to send your kids to college. I Donald Trump alone can solve these problems.’ …What you have is a guy who utilized the media, manipulated the media very well. He is an entertainer, he is a professional at that. But I will tell you that I think there needs to be a profound change in the way the Democratic Party does business. It is not good enough to have a liberal elite. I come from the white working class and I am deeply humiliated that the Democratic Party cannot talk to the people where I came from.”

Days after the election, the Washington Post published an op-ed titled “Hillary Clinton Lost. Bernie Sanders could have won. We chose the wrong candidate.” The author analyzed the results saying, “Donald Trump’s stunning victory is less surprising when we remember a simple fact: Hillary Clinton is a deeply unpopular politician.” The writer analyzed why Sanders would have prevailed against Trump and predicted “there will be years of recriminations.”

Russiagate replaced Recrimination

But instead of analysis, the media and Democrats have emphasized foreign interference. There is an element of self-interest in this narrative. As reported in “Russian Roulette” (p127), when the Clinton team first learned that Wikileaks was going to release damaging Democratic National Party emails in June 2016, they “brought in outside consultants to plot a PR strategy for handling the news of the hack … the story would advance a narrative that benefited the Clinton campaign and the Democrats: The Russians were interfering in the US election, presumably to assist Trump.”

After losing the election, Team Clinton doubled down on this PR strategy. As described in the book Shattered (p. 395) the day after the election campaign managers assembled the communication team “to engineer the case that the election wasn’t entirely on the up and up …. they went over the script they would pitch to the press and the public. Already, Russian hacking was the centerpiece of the argument.”

This narrative has been remarkably effective in supplanting critical review of the election.

One Year After the Election

The Center for American Progress (CAP) was founded by John Podesta and is closely aligned with the Democratic Party. In November 2017 they produced an analysis titled  “Voter Trends in 2016: A Final Examination“. Interestingly, there is not a single reference to Russia. Key conclusions are that “it is critical for Democrats to attract more support from the white non-college-educated voting bloc” and “Democrats must go beyond the ‘identity politics’ versus ‘economic populism’ debate to create a genuine cross-racial, cross-class coalition …” It suggests that Wall Street has the same interests as Main Street and the working class.

A progressive team produced a very different analysis titled Autopsy: The Democratic Party in Crisis. They did this because “the (Democratic) party’s national leadership has shown scant interest in addressing many of the key factors that led to electoral disaster.” The report analyzes why the party turnout was less than expected and why traditional Democratic Party supporters are declining. It includes recommendations to end the party’s undemocratic practices, expand voting rights and counter voter suppression. The report contains details and specific recommendations lacking in the CAP report. It includes an overall analysis which says “The Democratic Party should disentangle itself – ideologically and financially – from Wall Street, the military-industrial complex and other corporate interests that put profits ahead of public needs.”

Two Years After the Election

In October 2018, the progressive team produced a follow-up report titled “Autopsy: One Year Later“.  It says, “The Democratic Party has implemented modest reforms, but corporate power continues to dominate the party.”

In a recent phone interview, the editor of that report, Norman Solomon, said it appears some in the Democratic Party establishment would rather lose the next election to Republicans than give up control of the party.

What really happened in 2016?

Beyond the initial critiques and “Autopsy” research, there has been little discussion, debate or lessons learned about the 2016 election. Politics has been dominated by Russiagate.

Why did so many working class voters switch from Obama to Trump? A major reason is because Hillary Clinton is associated with Wall Street and the economic policies of her husband President Bill Clinton. The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), promoted by Bill Clinton, resulted in huge decline in manufacturing jobs in swing states such as Michigan, Ohio and Pennsylvania. Of course, this would influence their thinking and votes. Hillary Clinton’s support for the Trans Pacific Partnership was another indication of her policies.

What about the low turnout from the African American community? Again, the lack of enthusiasm is rooted in objective reality. Hillary Clinton is associated with “welfare reform” promoted by her husband. According to this study from the University of Michigan, “As of the beginning of 2011, about 1.46 million U.S. households with about 2.8 million children were surviving on $2 or less in income per person per day in a given month… The prevalence of extreme poverty rose sharply between 1996 and 2011. This growth has been concentrated among those groups that were most affected by the 1996 welfare reform.

Over the past several decades there has been a huge increase in prison incarceration due to increasingly strict punishments and mandatory prison sentences. Since the poor and working class have been the primary victims of welfare and criminal justice “reforms” initiated or sustained through the Clinton presidency, it’s understandable why they were not keen on Hillary Clinton. The notion that low turnout was due to African Americans being unduly influenced by Russian Facebook posts is seen as “bigoted paternalism” by blogger Teodrose Fikremanian who says,The corporate recorders at the NY Times would have us believe that the reason African-Americans did not uniformly vote for Hillary Clinton and the Democrats is because they were too dimwitted to think for themselves and were subsequently manipulated by foreign agents. This yellow press drivel is nothing more than propaganda that could have been written by George Wallace.”

How Clinton became the Nominee

Since the 2016 election there has been little public discussion of the process whereby Hillary Clinton became the Democratic Party nominee. It’s apparent she was pre-ordained by the Democratic Party elite. As exposed in the DNC emails, there was bias and violations of the party obligations at the highest levels. On top of that, it should now be clear that the pundits, pollsters and election experts were out of touch, made poor predictions and decisions.

Bernie Sanders would have been a much stronger candidate. He would have won the same party loyalists who voted for Clinton. His message attacking Wall Street would have resonated with significant sections of the working class and poor who were unenthusiastic (to say the least) about Clinton. An indication is that in critical swing states such as Wisconsin and Michigan Bernie Sanders beat Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primary race.

Clinton had no response for Trump’s attacks on multinational trade agreements and his false promises of serving the working class. Sanders would have had vastly more appeal to working class and minorities. His primary campaign showed his huge appeal to youth and third party voters. In short, it’s likely that Sanders would have trounced Trump. Where is the accountability for how Clinton ended up as the Democratic Party candidate?

The Relevance of 2016 to 2020

The 2016 election is highly relevant today. Already we see the same pattern of establishment bias and “horse race” journalism which focuses on fund-raising, polls and elite-biased “electability” instead of dealing with real issues, who has solutions, who has appeal to which groups.

Mainstream media and pundits are already promoting Joe Biden. Syndicated columnist EJ Dionne, a Democratic establishment favorite, is indicative. In his article “Can Biden be the helmsman who gets us past the storm?” Dionne speaks of the “strength he (Biden) brings” and the “comfort he creates”. In the same vein, Andrew Sullivan pushes Biden in his article “Why Joe Biden Might be the Best to Beat Trump“. Sullivan thinks that Biden has appeal in the working class because he joked about claims he is too ‘hands on’. But while Biden may be tight with AFL-CIO leadership, he is closely associated with highly unpopular neoliberal trade deals which have resulted in manufacturing decline.

The establishment bias for Biden is matched by the bias against Democratic Party candidates who directly challenge Wall Street and US foreign policy. On Wall Street, that would be Bernie Sanders. On foreign policy, that is Tulsi Gabbard. With a military background Tulsi Gabbard has broad appeal, an inclusive message and a uniquely sharp critique of US “regime change” foreign policy. She calls out media pundits like Fareed Zakaria for goading Trump to invade Venezuela. In contrast with Rachel Maddow taunting John Bolton and Mike Pompeo to be MORE aggressive, Tulsi Gabbard has been denouncing Trump’s collusion with Saudi Arabia and Israel’s Netanyahu, saying it’s not in US interests. Gabbard’s anti-interventionist anti-occupation perspective has significant support from US troops. A recent poll indicates that military families want complete withdrawal from Afghanistan and Syria. It seems conservatives have become more anti-war than liberals.

This points to another important yet under-discussed lesson from 2016: a factor in Trump’s victory was that he campaigned as an anti-war candidate against the hawkish Hillary Clinton. As pointed out here, “Donald Trump won more votes from communities with high military casualties than from similar communities which suffered fewer casualties.”

Instead of pointing out that Trump has betrayed his anti-war campaign promises, corporate media (and some Democratic Party outlets) seem to be undermining the candidate with the strongest anti-war message. An article at Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) says, Corporate media target Gabbard for her Anti-Interventionism, a word they can barely pronounce.”

Russiagate has distracted most Democrats from analyzing how they lost in 2016. It has given them the dubious  belief that it was because of foreign interference. They have failed to analyze or take stock of the consequences of DNC bias, the preference for Wall Street over working class concerns, and the failure to challenge the military industrial complex and foreign policy based on ‘regime change’ interventions.

There needs to be more analysis and lessons learned from the 2016 election to avoid a repeat of that disaster. As indicated in the Autopsy, there needs to be a transparent and fair campaign for nominee based on more than establishment and Wall Street favoritism. There also needs to be consideration of which candidates reach beyond the partisan divide and can energize and advance the interests of the majority of Americans rather than the elite. The most crucial issues and especially US military and foreign policy need to be seriously debated.

Blaming an outside power is a good way to prevent self analysis and positive change. It’s gone on far too long.

Pseudo-Socialist Bernie Sanders Finally Opposes Charter Schools

After wavering and making confusing statements about charter schools three years ago when he was running for President, U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, who is running for President again, finally came out and issued a broad education plan on May 18, 2019 which, among other things, opposes charter schools.

Part two of Sanders’ ten-part “Thurgood Marshall Plan for Public Education” is titled, “End the Unaccountable Profit-Motive of Charter Schools.’

Sanders begins this part of his education plan for the nation by repeating the incorrect and refuted narrative, stubbornly promoted by the left, democrats, and “progressives,” that charter schools had humble, positive, grass-roots origins, as opposed to being conceived, organized, and implemented by neoliberals committed to destroying the natural and social environment.

After that, Sanders properly notes that: “Charter schools are led by unaccountable, private bodies, and their growth has drained funding from the public school system.” He also provides data showing that charter schools are significantly more segregated than public schools.

Sanders rightly demands that: “The damage to communities caused by unregulated charter school growth must be stopped and reversed.”

Reversing charter schools should include making reparations to public schools because of the severe harm charter schools have inflicted on them for more than 25 years.

Sanders goes on to call for a ban on for-profit charter schools and a moratorium on public funds for charter school expansion. Any time the funneling of public funds to the rich is stopped, that is a good thing for the economy, society, and people.

The remaining points in Sanders’ education plan correctly call for greater accountability in the notoriously low-transparency scandal-ridden charter school sector.

All these statements and demands should be supported because they serve education, the economy, society, and the national interest.

Finally, while Sanders states that “Every human being has the fundamental right to a good education,” this is not the same as saying education is a basic human right. The phrase “fundamental right” means something specific under U.S. law, namely that a law is “fundamental” if it is explicitly or implicitly expressed in the constitution. This does not, however, speak to whether said right enshrined in the constitution is an inalienable human right that government must guarantee in practice.

For its part, the billionaire-backed National Alliance of Public Charter Schools is self-servingly mischaracterizing Sanders’ opposition to charter schools as an attack on “what African Americans want”—the same African Americans that have been disrespected, abandoned, and betrayed by thousands of charter schools that have closed over the years.

Unfortunately, when all is said and done, despite the many positives of his belated position on charter schools, Sanders, as he did three years ago, will again play the calculated role of betraying millions of people who do actually want a much better society. Millions want an alternative to capitalism. People are fed up with an economy that cannot provide for the needs of the people. Sanders knows he will not be President and can afford to sound bold, daring, and pro-social. As he did three years ago, he will hand-over millions of supporters and voters to the Democratic party, which has long supported charter schools and other antisocial arrangements. Of course, this “hand-over” did not go so smoothly in 2016, but it is the aim of Sanders’ 2020 campaign for President.

Everyone, regardless of political affiliation, should vigorously oppose nonprofit and for-profit charter schools. These privately-operated, test-obsessed, segregated schools that oppose unions and have high teacher turnover rates have caused immense harm to the social environment. The call of the times is to defend public education and deprive the rich of their ability to dictate affairs in education and other spheres.

Why Shouldn’t the Boston Marathon Bomber Vote? U.S. Politicians Radicalized Him

Last month, 2020 U.S. presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders stirred controversy at a CNN town hall after answering a loaded question about whether his position on extending voting rights to incarcerated felons barred any exceptions such as the Boston Marathon bomber currently on death row. It was impossible for Sanders to respond honestly without being entrapped by the inclusion of Dzhokar Tsarnaev as an example, but the self-professed ‘democratic socialist’ gave a reflective explanation of the complexities of the issue behind his reasoning. The 77-year old Senator from Vermont’s thoughtful answer possibly avoided a campaign fate like that which befell 1988 Democratic nominee Michael Dukakis after he gave a widely perceived clinical reply in the presidential debates to whether he favored the death penalty for a hypothetical rapist and murderer of his own wife. Nevertheless, enough damage was done for a brief media firestorm to ensue following the televised event.

The backlash was entirely predictable across mainstream media, as were the reactions on both sides of the isle exemplifying the all too familiar shallow discourse of U.S. politics. Fox News and Donald Trump did the expected flag-waving, while Democratic Party ‘progressives’ tried to salvage the legitimate issue of voter suppression distorted by the question in what was another coordinated hit by CNN. The network previously exploited its conflicts of interest with the political establishment by colluding with the Democratic National Committee (DNC) against Sanders in 2016 with then-host and party chair Donna Brazile’s slipping of debate questions to his primary opponent, Hillary Clinton. While the Democratic status quo continues to sabotage any remotely progressive candidates in its field, Trump has created a distraction from the GOP’s systematic disenfranchisement campaign that purged ballots of racial minorities and the poor with wild exaggerations of the number of illegal immigrants registered to vote. It is hardly surprising that the world superpower with more than 800 military bases around the globe would also have such a large prison population that enfranchising its inhabitants would swing the outcome of its elections. Meanwhile, the bankrupt Democratic leadership has shown little concern for the voter suppression attacks compared to its ongoing obsession with bogus allegations of Russian meddling.

Sanders’ opponents gave rebuttals including South Bend, Indiana “Mayor Pete” Buttigieg who staunchly opposed such a measure. Buttigieg, who has risen in recent polls, is a former naval intelligence officer and in addition to opposing enfranchising all Americans has even spoken out against former President Barack Obama’s granting of clemency to army intelligence whistleblower Chelsea Manning. Buttigieg is the latest example in what has been an extraordinary amount of ex-military and intelligence operatives from the CIA, Pentagon, National Security Council and U.S. State Department to run for public office as Democratic entrants in the past year, including 11 who were victorious in the 2018 mid-term elections. In fact, the recent inundation of intelligence personnel into positions of government during the Trump era as a whole is without parallel. Buttigieg is joined in the race by Massachusetts Rep. Seth Moulton, a House Armed Services Committee member and affiliate of the Serve America Political Action Committee, an organization which channels corporate donations to political candidates with previous experience in the intelligence community, military branches or D.C. foreign policy blob. This trend illustrates the party’s overall hawkish turn to the right where the military-security complex has taken advantage of the anti-Russia hysteria by implanting a batch of veterans of the U.S. war industry into refashioning the Democratic Party to its liking. Not to say Obama didn’t already expand Bush policies, but the latest ‘blue wave’ has fully congealed the party structure with the intelligence apparatus.

It’s no surprise that Sanders’ center-right rivals with military-intelligence backgrounds would contradict his position on granting political suffrage to all citizens, including the 25-year old Kyrgyzstani-American convicted terrorist of Chechen descent awaiting execution at ADX Florence in Colorado. Completely missing from the subsequent conversation, however, is that the surviving Boston Marathon bomber was radicalized as a result of the military-security complex and its vaguely defined but never-ending ‘War on Terror’ that every candidate, including Sanders himself, supports. More disturbing is that Dzokhar Tsarnaev’s alleged path to extremism under the wing of older brother Tamerlan was not simply in purported retaliation to U.S. wars but was possibly more direct. The Chechen brothers may have become Oswald-like patsies in a FBI and CIA-coordinated sting operation gone wrong as a close look at the evidence surrounding the April 2013 bombings which killed 3 people and injured hundreds of others suggests a high probability the attack was facilitated by the U.S. domestic intelligence services who entrapped the Tsarnaevs for recruitment as assets or informants. They were then likely coaxed into committing a crime they never otherwise would have, if they even committed it at all.

No real understanding of the ‘War on Terror’ can be grasped without first revisiting the history of U.S. foreign policy which precipitated the present crisis the world is in today. A path can be traced from current domestic terrorism back to the catastrophic U.S. foreign policy move during the Carter administration under his National Security Adviser, the vehemently Russophobic Warsaw-native Zbigniew Brzezinski, who directed the Pentagon to provide covert support for the Afghan Mujahedin as part of the CIA’s Operation Cyclone program. This decision was made while the spy agency was still reeling from its discredited reputation after the Church-Pike Committees and Rockefeller Commission exposed its numerous abuses and illicit activities in the decades prior. Thereafter, the use of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) became the CIA’s modus operandi to serve as go-betweens shielding its activities using think factories like the National Endowment for Democracy (NED), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and other innocuously named “soft power” organizations to achieve its foreign objectives.

Support for the mujaheddin proxy army forced the Marxist Afghan government into requesting military assistance from the USSR, which was then framed by the West as a Soviet “invasion.” The U.S. backing of the jihadists was a deliberate effort to siphon Soviet involvement into a Vietnam-esque quagmire at Brzezinski’s own callous admittance. Continuing through the 1980s under the Reagan Doctrine, the CIA followed his blueprint providing arms and funds to the Afghan Islamist insurgency waging a guerrilla campaign against the socialist People’s Democratic Republic of Afghanistan in coordination with the Pakistani Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency and Saudi Arabia. As a consequence, U.S. money and weapons ended up in the hands of militants who would later form the nucleus of Al Qaeda and the Taliban.

After the Berlin wall fell, the Anglosphere continued its support of jihadists to facilitate the breakup of the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s where U.S. subsidies went to Al-Qaeda elements in the Bosnian mujaheddin and the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) in their war against Serbia, the Balkan nation with the closest cultural and economic ties to Moscow. Meanwhile, the former Soviet states and Eastern bloc were granted their ‘independence’ with the stumbling block of IMF lending enslavement. However, one area remained a federal subject within the new Russian Federation to the dissatisfaction of Brzezinski and his elite cohorts who coveted a total dismemberment of Eurasia following the reestablishment of free enterprise in Eastern Europe. The Chechen Republic with Western encouragement sought its independence from Russia resulting in a decade of violence and two wars while its close proximity of less than 70 miles from the oil-rich Caspian Sea made it a target for destabilization.

Brezinski had previously formed the Nationalities Working Group (NWG) which had been devoted to undermining the Soviet Union by whipping up ethnic divisions, particularly the many different non-Russian Muslim groups of the Caucausus. Meanwhile, the wellspring of the puritanical Wahhabist strain of Islam, Saudi Arabia, had spread its ultraconservative ideology from the Middle East to Russia’s predominantly Muslim southern border region. Tasked with fomenting secessionist terrorism and instability in the area once the Iron Curtain dissolved was the American Committee for Peace in Chechnya NGO, founded by the neocon cabal Freedom House, as well as The Jamestown Foundation, a Eurasia-centered think tank established during the Cold War by former CIA director William Casey, a man who once famously stated “We’ll know our disinformation program is complete when everything the American public believes is false.”

Those able to see through the war propaganda in Syria today have been horrified by the West’s rebranding of salafist groups in the Levant as ‘moderate rebels.’ Yet, that is exactly how the same media marketed Islamist terrorists in the Chechen Wars who committed countless deadly attacks including the barbaric seizure of hundreds of innocent schoolchildren, hospital patients and theatre goers as hostages throughout Russia. In a 2009 WikiLeaks cable, Deputy Secretary of Russia’s Security Council Vladimir Nazarov confronted the U.S. Director for Russian and Eurasian Affairs on the National Security Council, William Solomon, about the ties between Western NGOs and Chechen “rebels”:

Nazarov complained about U.S. NGOs that ostensibly foster separatist and extremist sentiments in the region and noted that for leaders in the region foreign interference is a sore subject. Nazarov claimed there are documented connections between terrorists in the North Caucasus and groups in Afghanistan and Iraq. Moreover, he claimed Russia has evidence that one of the participants in the 2004 Beslan school massacre met with individuals in London (Nazarov appeared to be pointing to a connection with British special services, but could have also been alluding to Chechen leader in exile Zakayev). Because of this, Nazarov said, the Russian government did not believe the UK government is serious about counter-terrorism cooperation.

In 1977, when Brzezinski was in the Carter White House, the CIA Station Chief in Kabul was an operations officer named Graham Fuller. Under Ronald Reagan, Fuller was promoted to vice-chair of the National Intelligence Council and became infamous for penning the study that influenced the administration’s decision to use a covert route selling arms to Tehran to fund another group of anti-communist “freedom fighters” in Nicaragua which culminated in the Iran-Contra scandal. Pushed into abrupt retirement amid the fallout, Fuller became a political scientist for foreign policy think tanks such as the RAND Corporation in the vein of Brzezinski, Henry Kissinger and Samuel P. Huntington, who even cited Fuller’s work in his highly influential The Clash of Civilizations. Fuller’s orientalist writings mostly focused on geopolitical questions in relation to the Muslim world, and his activities are so extensive he is currently facing an arrest warrant in Turkey for his links to the Islamic cleric Fetullah Gülen whom the Erdogan government believes directed the 2016 coup attempt that has strained relations between Washington and Ankara. In 1999 Fuller wrote of how Islam was useful for Western regime change aspirations:

In the West the words Islamic fundamentalism conjure up images of bearded men with turbans and women covered in black shrouds. And some Islamist movements do indeed contain reactionary and violent elements. But we should not let stereotypes blind us to the fact that there are also powerful modernising forces at work within these movements. Political Islam is about change. In this sense, modern. Islamist movements may be the main vehicle for bringing about change in the Muslim world and the break-up of the old “dinosaur” regimes.

It just so happens that Ruslan Tsarni, one of the uncles of the Tsarnaev brothers, was married to Fuller’s daughter Samantha in the 1990s while he was an employee for the CIA-contracted RAND Corporation. In the aftermath of the bombing in Boston in 2013, interviews with ‘Uncle Ruslan’ by the media were widely circulated where he gave an overdone performance condemning his two nephews while verifying everything in the FBI’s portrayal of them. Are we really supposed to believe this connection is by chance? The media gave virtually no attention to the fact that Tsarni not only worked as a consultant for CIA-fronts like RAND and USAID and as a contractor for Halliburton but even established an entity called the Congress of Chechen International Organizations which supplied Islamic separatist militants in the Caucasus while using his father in-law Fuller’s home address in Maryland as its registered place of residence.

Tsarni’s feigned denunciation of his nephews could not have contrasted more with the wholehearted and impassioned pleas by the mother of the two suspects, Zubeidat Tsarnaeva, who insisted that her two sons were set-up by the FBI and alleged that the family had contact with agents long before the bombing took place. The FBI was forced to admit they had indeed investigated Tamerlan Tsarnaev two years prior after being warned by the Federal Security Service (FSB) of Russia that he was a follower of radical Islam, but this didn’t prevent the Islamophobic legacy media from smearing the grieving mother as a crazed anti-American. The yellow press downplayed the significance of the 2011 tip from the FSB likely because it came after the older Chechen brother had attended workshops in Tblisi, Georgia while traveling abroad that were operated by an organization called the Caucasus Fund of Georgia. According to documents obtained by the Moscow-based Isvestia newspaper from Georgian counter-intelligence, the Caucasus Fund was financed by none other than the Jamestown Foundation. Graham Fuller himself has given keynote speeches at Jamestown events and corporate media could only have purposefully avoided piecing together the glaring ‘coincidences’ surrounding the Tsarnaev brothers and their uncle.

The FBI’s previous contact with Tamerlan Tsarnaev and their inability to prevent the April 2013 attack, as has been the case with so many others like it, increases the likelihood that the brothers could very well have been part of a undercover operation gone awry like their mother believes. Leaving aside the extremely suspicious death of Ibragim Todashev, Tamerlan’s friend, at the hands of agents where he had allegedly confessed in an interview to an earlier triple homicide that implicated his deceased companion, FBI records indicate that the domestic security service has proliferated its use of sting operations in recent years as part of its counterterrorism program. Nearly three quarters of all suspects apprehended in foiled plots who professed allegiance to ISIS have been through undercover deception, raising significant ethical questions about the agency’s practices. The New York Times reported in 2016:

The F.B.I. has significantly increased its use of stings in terrorism cases, employing agents and informants to pose as jihadists, bomb makers, gun dealers or online “friends” in hundreds of investigations into Americans suspected of supporting the Islamic State, records and interviews show.

If nearly two out of every three terror plots is being engineered with the ensnaring of vulnerable individuals whom the FBI believes have sympathies toward extremism, how many would not have attempted such acts had the operations not taken place? It is clear that the War on Terror has a business model and in order to meet its quotas, terrorist attacks that would otherwise happen randomly and infrequently are being manufactured on an industrial scale. If ISIS poses such a serious threat to homeland security, why are such orchestrations by the FBI necessary? Like Tamerlan Tsarnaev, the Afghan-born suspect in the Orlando Pulse nightclub shooting, Omar Mateen, had been surveilled by the FBI for a full year prior to the 2016 Florida massacre in a sting operation, while his father had been a longtime confidential informant. One can’t help but wonder how many of these tragedies are such cases of entrapment with deadly outcomes or if it would explain the increasingly routine nature of domestic terrorism in the U.S.

Samuel Huntington argued in The Clash of Civilizations that in the post-Soviet sphere, Islam would emerge as the primary foe of Western hegemony. It is worth noting that Huntington did not include the Christian Orthodox nations of Serbia, Russia, Belarus or Armenia as part of the West in his nine “core civilizations” but rather as “torn countries” divided between their civilizational heritage and close ties with Asia. His false paradigm became a conceptual justification for the U.S. empire’s unilateral dominion where an amorphous ‘war on Islamic terrorism’ replaced the absence of another superpower or viable threat after the end of the Cold War. That was until the return to the international stage of a competent Moscow and Beijing in today’s multipolar world where the machinations of Brzezinski and his apprentices like Fuller are still useful on the global chessboard in stoking the flames of religious fundamentalism to undercut the East.

It is significant that Brzezinski never considered himself a neocon and saw the post-9/11 management of empire by the Bush administration in the Middle East as the U.S. falling into the same trap he had laid for the Soviets in Afghanistan, despite the Wolfowitz Doctrine being an obvious inevitable outgrowth of the chain of events he set in motion. As for his colleague Huntington, the recent attacks in Sri Lanka and New Zealand against Christians and Muslims alike show the far reach of consequences from his prophesy of civilizational conflict. Like Brzezinski, the neocons carried out Huntington’s international relations thesis into what the author saw as a mutation of his vision. Indeed, 9/11 has been used to murder and displace millions of Muslims in seven nations, none of which ever attacked the U.S. Nevertheless, both Atlanticist manipulators gave birth to a cycle with blowback like the Boston Marathon bombing that will only be repeated if the lessons of our hidden history remain unlearned.

Can a Socialist Win in the U.S.A.?

It’s a stretch to assume, the way all cable news anchors do, that a self-avowed socialist cannot become U.S. president, due to a supposedly inherent, gut-level American antipathy to socialism. The talking heads posit this in an attempt to convince the viewers that any hopes they have for fundamental change are hopeless if they challenge the omnipotent capitalist system. Don’t even think about it!

The fact is, Bernie Sanders was the most popular politician in the country in 2016; he would likely have won the Democratic nomination had the Democratic National Committee not skewed the primaries in Hillary’s favor. (Committee chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz herself declared in a leaked memo to staff that it would be “silly” to think Sanders would ever become president. Recall how she had to resign in disgrace when the rigging was revealed, at the Democratic National Convention, once the sabotage had been done. Her punishment? She’s a Representative of Florida in the Congress.)

But since Bernie has again declared his candidacy, taking off with a fundraising roar, the talking heads agree that Bernie’s time is past. Okay, we’ll grant that he put up a good effort last time, and can be credited with placing certain issues like health care for all, student debt relief, tuition-free colleges, and income inequality on the table. But last time there was a narrow Democratic field, and this time it’s crowded with “progressive” candidates who will steal some of Sanders’ fire. He is thus unnecessary and redundant.  The good parts of his message are echoed by his rivals, who meanwhile repeat the loyalty oath: “I’m a capitalist.”

Elizabeth Warren boasts: “I’m a capitalist.” Echoes Beto O’Rourke: “I am a capitalist.” “I am not a democratic socialist,” says Kamala Harris, “I believe that capitalism has great strengths when it works for all people equally well.” “I’m a capitalist,” says soon-to-declare Joe Biden. These are the safe candidates who could win the next presidential election against Trump.

So socialism is a big Sanders negative. Senior correspondents and analysts agree that association with socialism is “toxic” in America, that it’s Kryptonite for the Democratic Party.

Then there’s his age. He appears in good health and has stamina. He is not a typical 77-year-old U.S. male, as his socialist identity shows, and indeed he has admirable, understated history of anti-racist activism that contributes to his appeal among youth. But his critics listing his problems include this one.

Worse than being old, Sanders is white; and “experts” on cable news say that being white may be a negative in the race. And he’s male–an old white male whose staff last time included some men who sexually harassed women. (So he’s possibly a secret sexist?) Worse, he’s Jewish–and not the religious sort beloved of the Zionist Christian Evangelicals but probably an atheist.

So, obviously a hopeless cause. Not because of his age, really: the establishment’s favored candidate Biden is 76. Nor because of his whiteness, really; again, the media fawns on Biden and O’Rourke. Nor because of Sanders’ Jewishness (and his progressive politics which are rooted in New York City Jewish activism). No, it’s his (supposed) socialism that makes him a necessary target.

As Counterpuncher Paul Street noted in his excellent piece March 13, MSNBC has in particular raged against the prospect of a socialist running for president (again). The network is as a matter of policy promoting capitalism as the national creed, the key to American prosperity (such as it is), the socio-economic embodiment of Freedom. Joe Biden positively demands from his guests their endorsement of the system; when Joe Scarborough asked Col. Governor John Hickenlupper, who co-founded a Denver brewing company, if he was a capitalist, and Hickenlupper hedged on the matter, Scarborough was horrified. The clip of Hickenlupper declining to boast about being a capitalist was repeated endlessly on MSNBC to underscore the seriousness of the problem of anti-capitalist sentiment.

To such a state have we fallen! When over half of young people see socialism positively, and capitalism negatively. And some presidential candidates might calculate that they’re better off not advertising themselves in what many see as negative terms.

Last week MSNBC commentator and advertising executive Danny Deutsch fumed on Morning Joe: “I find Donald Trump reprehensible as a human being, but a socialist candidate is more dangerous to this company, country, as far as the strength and well-being of the country, than Donald Trump.  I would vote for Donald Trump, a despicable human being… I will be so distraught to the point that that could even come out of my mouth, if we have a socialist [Democratic presidential candidate or president] because that will take our country so down, and we are not Denmark.”

Wow. As a capitalist, Deutsch’s lot is with despicable Trump, versus Sanders, Ocasio-Cortez, Rashida Tlaib (and Denmark). He wants to draw the line there.

This is in a way an enlightening time to live, when things that were not discussed clearly before now come out into full sight. During my childhood, we were taught that the big struggle in the world was Communism versus Democracy, it being understood that democracy includes free market principles. (The term “capitalism” was avoided, associated as it was with Marxist discourse.) But with the fall of the Berlin wall and the collapse of the USSR, the triumph of capitalism was shouted from bourgeois rooftops. What a revolutionary force in the world, so superior to the discredited, defeated socialism!

But since 1991 global capitalism has not succeeded very well, at least not in producing the positive changes people want. Certainly in this country today, young people live less affluently than their parents’ generation did; things are not getting better in many ways. It makes sense for youth to feel attracted to socialism, in the broadest sense, and ideally, to study some theory and engage in activism. The youth have not been successfully brainwashed to associate socialism automatically with  gulags, ideological conformity, and political oppression.

It is precisely because capitalism is in deep crisis that its high priests must insist on its inherent, eternal superiority and chide the youth for their foolish idealism.

I’m reminded of how, in 1925, just as the voting franchise in Japan was expanded suddenly to include all adult males, the existing law forbidding any questioning of the doctrine of the kokutai (the “national essence” of Japan as a country created by the gods, led by an unbroken line of emperors “coeval with Heaven and Earth” descended from the Sun Goddess) was augmented with a ban on criticism of the “system of private property.”  Of course it was already impermissible to criticize the emperor, or the Meiji Constitution he had given the people out of his benevolence. Now criticism of capitalism itself

was also firmly banned and harshly punished with prison terms.

Think of that. The emperor had been viewed as sacred, beyond criticism. Now capitalism was placed on a par with the kokutai, as something to revere.

Danny Deutsch wants us all to love capitalism. MSNBC does in general. CNN too, and Fox. They are, after all, capitalist networks whose advertisers impact the content of what they sponsor. Joe and Mika should alert the viewer each morning: “This is a capitalist network, paid for by capitalists who use 15 minutes per hour to sell their products and services. We accordingly report the news from a pro-capitalist, American point of view.” But that would be too blatant.

It’s good in any case that lines are being drawn, vaguely though they are; the commentators agree that young voters’ perceptions of socialism are unsophisticated. Sanders’ socialism is not that envisioned by Lenin but the type of welfare-state capitalism that has succeeded best in Scandinavia. Those who support socialism have many different ideas about what it is or should be, but they are clear on the fact that capitalism is one mode of production, very creative historically but not eternal, not the “end of history” but a mere stage beyond which humans can progress.

That’s really the key point of Marxist thought: the understanding that socio-economic structures are historically transitory. They come and go. There is still slavery in the world, but it has diminished over centuries. There are still millions chained to the soil and controlled like serfs, but wage-labor is more and more the global norm. The relationship between the worker and the capitalist employer, on the rise in Europe from the sixteenth century, constitutes capitalism. It had a birth in time, and will die in time.

What follows will probably be called socialism.  It will draw upon the Soviet and Chinese experiences of centralized planning, learning from successes and failures, but with a much deeper understanding of how markets work. Capitalism will be recalled as the dominant system in an era of  several hundred years, during which as Marx observed, the bourgeoisie played a revolutionary role. But today’s Danny Deutsches are no revolutionaries but reactionaries horrified that Capital is being questioned. “The soul of the capitalist is capital,” Marx observed. Threatened at the soul-level, the bourgeois commentariat takes aim at the Democratic Socialists, socialism in general, tuition-free college, medicaid for all.

Good, good. Let them attack. Let there be discussion. May capitalism and socialism become household words and debate rage. It’s high time.

Day of Wrath

In all times some must be rich, some poore, some highe and eminent in power and dignitie; others mean in subjeccion.
— John Winthrop, Governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony, A Model of Christian Charity, 1630

I think I can see the whole destiny of America contained in the first Puritan who landed on those shores.
— Alexis de Tocqueville, Democracy in America, 1830

Today utopia is maligned because no one really wants to see its realization.
— Max Horkheimer, The Authoritarian State, 1940

I continue to see this repackaged antisemitism appearing everywhere, but perhaps most disturbingly on the left. And it seems tied into a growing cultic response regards the multiple environmental crises. And, thirdly, I see the retreat, from so many on the left, to a tacit or even overt endorsement of Democratic Party candidates or office holders. Often from people who claimed they were done with the Democrats, wanted to see them destroyed, etc. But are now describing the new “socialist” (sic) dems as, well… socialist. Suddenly, Tulsi or Omar or AOC are treated with comfortable amnesia. It is more proof, if any were needed, that marketing and advertising works.

There is no hope in anyone who cannot unequivocally reject all US actions against Venezuela. Unequivocally means stopping the liberal slandering of Maduro. He is the elected president. He represents Venezuela. He has also presided during a time of near constant pressure from U.S. funded and backed fascist opposition. Not to even mention sanctions. All the “mistakes” liberals claim Maduro has made were reactions to either covert attempts at destabilization, or outright assaults on his life. The U.S. has been attacking Venezuela for 18 years, and for the entirety of Maduro’s presidency. But still, there is a constant liberal commentary about his “mistakes”, how he has created chaos and poverty. This is another example of that casual unconscious racism for which the American bourgeoisie is so famous.

It is time to demand this faux left stop the revanchist position of white saviour — of knowing what decisions to make. I cannot find words for how sick I am of the condescending and subtle but indelible racism of white American liberals. No more perfect stage for this subject position can be found than Maduro and the Bolivarian revolution. And for the record none of the Democrats listed above passed the Venezuela test.

So why do so many on the left flock to these manufactured sheepdogs of the DNC? AOC and Omar and Bernie have all called Maduro a dictator, and all mediated their anti intervention remarks (some retracting them) with calls for “empowering” the Venezuelan people (because, I guess, voting in free elections is not empowering). All endorse the idea that the U.S., in its strategies for Venezuela, have only good intentions. In fact, both Omar and AOC have smeared all official US enemies, from Maduro to Assad to Iran. They are imperialists who have no problem with the slaughter of the global south. They are unambiguously pro Imperialist.

Glen Ford of Black Agenda Report wrote recently:

White evangelicals — once and still the greatest source of anti-Semitism in the U.S. – are paradoxically the firmest supporters of Warrior Israel and its Bible-mandated role in ushering in the coming “tribulation” and Christ’s defeat of evil. Accordingly, 53 percent of evangelical Christians supported President Trump’s recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, while 63 percent of the general U.S. public opposed to the move. Rev. William Alberts, the “Counterpunch Minister,” writes that 87 percent of U.S. white evangelicals rallied to George Bush’s Iraq war because their spiritual leaders thought the invasion “would create exciting new prospects for proselytizing Muslims.” Rev. Albert calls this “Biblically legitimized imperialism,” but white Americans don’t require divine sanction to find excuses for killing non-whites. It’s how the West was won, and how the U.S. became a superpower.

Racialized imperialism is embedded in the white American worldview, including most whites that call themselves “progressives” – which is why so many of them support U.S. “humanitarian” military intervention in places like Libya and Syria, and now Venezuela. Humanitarian interventionists share with George Bush and Donald Trump the belief that the U.S. has the right – no, the responsibility – to use its superpowers to “protect” other peoples from their own governments.

And these topics are linked. The new hard boiled antisemites, a sort of newish voice of no nonsense real politik, leaps headlong into the oldest most well worn antisemitic tropes available…those about global secret Jewish power, and media influence and Rothschild’s banks. I had an unfortunate experience with Mint Press, that retitled my article (The Anti Imperialism of Fools, Counterpunch) to “The United States Doesn’t Need Jewish Help to Wage War”. Now why would they do that? Ask yourself that. And I certainly never submitted the piece to them, nor did they ever ask permission to print it or use it. And the photo they used was of Netanyahu. The attempt was to invert the meaning of my article that was, in fact, on antisemitism.

And this is, in a sense, what the Evangelical is doing as well. They support and embrace Israel, while maintaining their steadfast antisemitism in all other respects. For Zionists are not quite “Jews” to them.

I was on a thread in which the mantra became “why cant we talk about the disproportionate amount of campaign contributions to the Democratic Party from JEWS? The power they wield in media and politics”. To point out by way of quick answer that none of the Joint Chiefs are Jewish, nor are any high ranking generals in any branch of the armed services, nor are the five richest families in the US. But this is rebutted with, well, Zuckerberg and Page,… etc. What about Adelson and Soros? What does one say to this? 95% of concert violinists are Jewish, too. 74% of the NBA is black. So what? The fact that the US ruling class has identical interests with many Zionists or even almost all Zionists does not make a conspiracy of Jew power. One can hear in these new voices the echo of 1930s Berlin. Herr Rippontrop…. “we must have an adult conversation about the Jewish question.” “Yes, vee cannot run away from zer power in banking and zer cultural influence”. Today this is the voice of both the NASCAR white underclass and the voice, increasingly, of the (badly) educated white liberal — the one with mountains of student debt, few job prospects, and tons of resentment.

To be clear; and to rephrase the retitling of my earlier article, the US doesn’t need Zionists to make it go to war or invade or orchestrate coups. It’s been doing that longer than Israel has been a country.

And to be clear, the attack on Venezuela is both Imperialist and racist. One cannot over estimate the importance of race in the opposition to Chavez and now Maduro from the US and from the fascist white South Americans that are behind Guaido (Lopez really).

Allow me to quote Glen Ford again:

The historical U.S. embrace of apartheid Israel is rooted in much more than “the Benjamins” wielded by Zionist lobbies. The two most lawless states on the planet revel in their shared roguishness, bound together by race-based colonial ideologies that sanction and celebrate their crimes against humanity. Were it not for the U.S. superpower, there would be no State of Israel, an outpost of Europe in Arabia that most white Americans perceive as inhabited by kindred souls surrounded by savages, like the settlers of American mythology. It is the United States’ “exceptional” duty to arm and protect the “chosen” people of Israel, whose expansionist imperatives are perceived as benign and defensive, mimicking American Manifest Destiny.

The Green New Deal is being embraced and applauded by many on the left, much as AOC herself, and Ilhan Omar and Tulsi Gabbard are being embraced for saying a few tepid truths to power, or in the case of the GND, of rescuing capitalism. I mean, this is a kind of Stockholm Syndrome variant. I remember you would see guys arrested for the first time (usually) and how they desperately wanted the arresting officer to *like* them. They wanted the system about to punish them to *like* them. A small part of this was just the desire for some tiny affection while in a situation otherwise bereft of affection. But it was always more than that, too. It was the identification with aggression, with the aggressor, with power, and with violence. For this groveling before police detectives or even uniform cops (and often later guards) took on a slight odor of eroticism, too. Of S & M (see Pier Paolo Pasolini and Jean Genet). It also tied in with the sedimented traces of Puritan purges and self accusations.

Anyway…a bit of that is going on here. Gabbard says one thing about, oh, maybe we were helping ISIS. Like this is big news, right? Well, for the oily and noxious Stephen Colbert I guess it was. But no matter the rest of Gabbard’s imperialist framing of recent history, she is applauded. Or Ilhan Omar for saying stuff that everyone knows and says.. even while herself supporting the idea that the USA is a force for good in the world. There is a keen desire among even ardent leftists and critics of the U.S. to find an excuse to *like* the U.S. To like the system. To somehow be allowed to join in the festivities of the latest electoral pageant. And I do sympathize to a degree; it takes a toll to always be a minority voice of dissent. To always be a buzz kill. And deep down the thought of actual change is terrifying, and if a reason, however threadbare, is provided, that reason will be jumped on and praised.

Ilhan Omar is praised less for what she said, which was relatively minor (and walked back anyway) but because of who is criticizing her. Trump and Republicans criticize her, the neo-con Pro Zionists criticize her, ergo, she must be this terrific agent of social change. I mean, I’ve read several pieces talking about how scared the establishment Democrats are of the new “socialist” Democrats. Now it should be noted that Omar has waffled a good deal on the BDS issue, but regardless she has, it is true, been relentlessly attacked by the right (FOX News, the president, and a few conservative Democrats even). Attacked and smeared. Much as Maduro is smeared, come to think of it.

Now what Omar has said has been said literally thousands of times. Norman Finklestein has said it more articulately and in more depth, and done it for years. But he’s not a politician. Still, note that nobody is enshrining him for courage and truth. Perhaps they should, but they are not. The point is that these are comments (those of Omar and AOC) that threaten little. They unleash a lot of airtime for reactionary pro Zionist politicians, and they keep the idea of Israel and its specialness front and center. And they make left-leaning liberals, and sadly some actual hard core leftists, gush with new found and utterly irrational optimism. Omar has also voted along party lines in congress. (here is one example…thanks to Sam Husseini.)

This was a bill that encouraged the Arab League to recognize Israel, as well as allowing for the targeting of the IAEA (on Israel’s behalf, really). The point being this is standard Democratic Party voting. And Omar and AOC are perfectly in line with that. They are Democrats first, not beacons of truth.

A small additional aside here…AOC’s chief of staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, likes to wear a t shirt emblazoned with the image of Nazi loving Subhas Chandra Bose, from the anti communist Congress Party of India. Bose was a contemporary of Gandhi. I’m not entirely sure what one does with such info, but file it under the rehabilitation of fascism.

Now, I even saw one article talking about how the establishment is scared of Bernie Sanders because he is too left.

Bernie Sanders? Come on, Bernie IS the establishment. Omar and AOC are the establishment, too. They are products of a careful vetting and coaching system, the end result of a marketing campaign. They are products of the political machine. The Democrats needed a new brand, and AOC is it. And Bernie tags along, as he has done for thirty years. I mean, my god, the man called Chavez a “dead commie dictator”. Whoa, what a radical! The guy has been rewarded with seats on committees and my guess is he will get a chance to give a big speech at the next convention to introduce the candidate of choice (if I had to guess, I’d say Kamala Harris, but I’m probably premature in that). Or Ilhan Omar who one writer dubbed an avatar of truth. For what? For saying Israel was kinda, sorta, racist? That AIPAC was too pushy? I mean not stop the presses material. But the larger problem here is that everyone continues to talk about the Democratic party and this binary system of oppression. We are all, including myself right here, talking and writing about the same dulled bankrupt duopoly of war and corporate theft. The war party, branch one and branch two. And everyone is already caught up in the empty spectacle of American electoral theatre.

Meanwhile, across Europe, and in South America, and in India, there are rabidly right wing fascist and ultra nationalist parties growing in power and strength. But the liberal establishment would rather focus on Israel and the *Joooos*. And here we come to a curious psychological mechanism: something I want to call the Cult of Compassion. It applies to both the antisemitism that is growing and to the new Green agendas. Now to be clear, these things are not fictions or fabrications…I mean, there IS an environmental crises (though the nature of this crises seems still rather opaque) and there is a vicious incremental genocide going on in Gaza. But one might wonder at why the populace of Yemen is so ignored. Why are the suffering people of Venezuela ignored or told to empower themselves with U.S. aid. Why are the people of Afghanistan ignored, ignored for over seventeen years of US occupation, or those of more than half the countries in Africa. No, the compassion for Palestinians is driven by the hatred of Israel. And Israel is worth hating. No doubt. But so is Saudi Arabia and so is the opposition in Venezuela, or the Nazis in power in Ukraine, or the Vatican. But there are few memes about the Vatican’s wealth — which is extensive, I can assure you. The cultic expression of compassion is never about the ostensive object — whether that is the children during the recovered memories witch hunt, or the victims of sexual aggression in #metoo, nor is it the planet or Nature now in the majority of Green movements. It is a form of narcissistic subject creation. The desire for a cause. And in an age in which nobody bothers to read the fine print or research sources, the media with the most visibility controls the narrative.

The U.S. has military bases in every country in Africa save one. It has ravaged the land and protected western mining rights. It has armed both sides in the countless small conflicts that are taking place even now across the continent. It has helped foment larger and vicious wars in which millions have died, maybe tens of millions. The U.S. has nine hundred bases globally and a military budget that has grown to something like 700 billion a year. All the so called new socialists are on board with this, too. They are giving cover to the forces of Imperialist plunder. When Mike Pompeo talks of taking on Nicaragua next and then Cuba, the voting record of Omar and Ocasio Cortez is helping him make that a reality. So why do experienced leftists call these imposters “socialist”? Where is the compassion for the people of Honduras, prey now to the brutal right wing regime that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton put in power? How many of AOC’s adoring fans even know the name Berta Cáceres? What of Haiti? Or North Korea or Iran, or Syria, or any of the other official targets of U.S. aggression? The Democratic Party is not being changed by these quislings. They are only the bright and shiny (and younger) version of Bernie Sanders. And if you really did care about the environment, you would start here, with the war machine.

Oh, and then there is this (H/T @Club de Cordeliers and @Keatssycamore)…Omar fronting for rich white gentrifiers….

All this pantomime infighting between the Socialist Democrats and the pro Israel Democrats is only that. Pantomime, it’s political vaudeville. Nothing more. It provides cover for the supposed heroism of Omar and AOC.

But back to this question of antisemitism as it ties in with this new cultic passion for Green and Ecological awareness.

The imprint of Puritanism is strong even now, and the Evangelicals in government (about whom not nearly enough has been written or researched) have internalized far more of Jonathan Edwards and Cotton Mather and the Massachusetts Bay Colony, of John Winthrop and Roger Williams than they would admit or even know. But America overall has never lost the basic psychic architecture of the Puritan. Certainly not in relation to ideas of collective public behaviour and thinking.

This philosophy of the national covenant was not only a logical deduction from the Covenant of Grace, but also the theme of the Old Testament: Jacob wrestles in solitude with Jehovah, but Israel make their cohesion visible in an external organization – a church, a corporation, a nation, even a plantation. In their corporate capacity, saints stand, as long as they hold together, in a relation to God separate from (although bound up with) their spiritual salvation. As a people they are chosen because by public act they have chosen God. The prerequisite is not, cannot be, a flawless sanctity of all citizens, but a deliberate dedication of the community to a communal decision, like a declaration of war.

— Perry Miller, The New England Mind; From Colony to Province

Before the great Protestant migration to America the devout were scattered in small communities or cells, half in hiding, and mostly out of touch with one another. What America offered (and it could well have been anywhere, it just happened to be America) was the opportunity to be united in one collective body. And they did view it as a grand experiment. But the relevant aspect here is that the more their endeavours met with failure or at least less than success, the more self accusing the collective became. For it was “their” fault, not the fault of the experiment. As Perry Miller wrote…“the more these people accused themselves of having shirked their covenant, the more they asserted that they had not lost confidence.” 

Hence, far more than in England, public days of purgation (following experience of wrath, or catastrophe or misadventure) and humiliation were evidence of not just their confidence but their basic virtue and a realistic assessment of reality in this “new” England. But there occurred in 1692 a rather profound shift in theological interpretation for the Puritans. From that day forward “corruption” was seen as a visitation of wrath. Meaning that corruption was not a cause but the result of wrath — a sign of wrath and a punishment. It was a shift from the external to the internal. From material misfortunate and sin, to sinful thinking and spiritual self pollution. Moral deficiency eclipsed failures of fortune, or failures of planning. All became attributed to interior spiritual weakness.

Allow me a longer quote here from Miller….

The subjective preempted the objective: a universal anxiety and insecurity had become no longer something which, being caused, could be allayed by appropriate action, but rather something so chronic that the society could do nothing except suffer-and perpetually condemn itself. In the thirty years after 1660, the conception of the relation of society to the divine was unwittingly (and unintentionally) transformed into a thesis which positively reversed primitive doctrine. The mental anguish of the second and third generations was intensified because, while recognizing that somehow they had declined, they had lost the measure by which to decipher exactly how much or why. And so the day of humiliation became, not a blood-letting and a cure, but an increase of appetite that grew by what it fed upon.

Contemporary America retains the structure of Puritan logic, sans the belief in redemption. And today the new American puritan lies about it. The false optimism is a direct outgrowth of this universal anxiety and ambivalence. The sense of American decline and promises broken feeds the need for various ersatz days of purgation. For public ritual displays of self flagellation. This ritual scaffolding has merged with a Rene Girardian scapegoating mechanism. For today there is a projection outward of that sense of acute anxiety and standing in for the body politic are celebrities or even politicans. Guilt or innocence has little to do with it, actually. From Harvey Weinstein to Kevin Spacey, from Julian Assange to Jussie Smollet to Lori Loughlin — and the grand inquisitors like Robert Mueller and Jeff Sessions. I mean, from whatever sewer Trump crawled from, he is the perfect symbol of our internal corruption visited upon the land by an angry god. And this addictive need for public gossip and infantile amusements can be read as moral deficiency due for cataloguing in some grand fast day sermon, a jeremiad. Public spectacles of humiliation are a staple of American life, and have been since the early 1600s.

I have said before, though, that one aspect of the seemingly endless popularity of the Zombie story in film and TV is based in a desire FOR apocalyptic end of time events. Somewhere buried within the bourgeois mind is a desire to wash it all away and start over. And with that comes, in standard Hollywood terms, a new frontiersman mentality — it is to do Manifest Destiny again, only better, and starring ME.

Maybe (and I say this with some seriousness) all of this has to do with several decades now of Hollywood television and the profound insistence on a suspension of disbelief. One is trained to accept and follow nearly any narrative, regardless how illogical or meandering. And it also reflects overall the decline of the individual. What Adorno called the “unrestrictedly adaptable”, the “subjectless subject”.

But to stay on message here, the culture overall is, it seems, returning to ever older and earlier forms of ritual and collective violence (the very oldest antisemitic tropes are in play again). I will link to an earlier piece I wrote on antisemitism and some of the history.

America never learned how to be a society. The U.S. has always been preparing to be a great nation without ever even becoming a nation at all. From Manifest Destiny to the Monroe Doctrine to Responsibility to Protect, the mission has been about ‘others’. The empty rituals of the spectacle today are by virtue of their emptiness, reactionary. Winthrop reassured the early Puritan congregation that the mean and low were never meant to rise to positions of prosperity and respect. God ordained a hierarchy of classes.

From Propaganda, in a piece on Noam Chomsky recently…

The “Left” has taken quite a journey from the 1960s, the beginning of Chomsky’s career as a political commentator, to now. During that time, what people perceive as “the Left” transformed from something which was usually opposed to the status quo and genuinely radical into something more like what CIA official Cord Meyer called the “compatible left,” an agglomeration of “liberals and pseudo-intellectual status seekers who are easily influenced” by the elites that they purport to challenge, in the words of Doug Valentine. One of the primary purposes of “courting the compatible left,” according to Valentine, was to “court Socialists away from Communists” and into safe channels.

The new antisemitism seems joined at the hip to the anti communist left. What Doug Valentine called ‘The Compatible Left’. That relationship makes sense, of course. Over at Truthdig, Chris Hedges wrote a piece titled “Israel’s Stranglehold on American Politics.” It is both antisemitic AND anticommunist. To Hedges, Israel controls U.S. foreign policy. Apparently Zionist slanders are very ‘communist-like’. I think he says ten or twelve times that the article is not antisemitic. But it is. Israel does not control the U.S. government. AIPAC is a U.S. organization, in fact. That the U.S. is perfectly fine with Israeli war crimes in Gaza is not surprising. For one thing it helps normalize U.S. war crimes. It is never clear how Israel leverages the U.S., how exactly they are able to control America without whose support Israel cannot exist. Hypnosis? Blood sacrifice?

Horkheimer wrote in 1944:

Fascism is the caricature of social revolution. . . . The monopolistic elimination of competition takes within the fascist states radically destructive forms only against the Jews, on the outside against colonial or national groups. Apart from that this trend is only a side effect of the new subordination of the masses into the machine of production. The unchecked brutality of the individual entrepreneur will be checked in the age of working contracts and social welfare and be replaced by more rational relations within society. To understand the rationality of this, to understand the irrationality of this rationality, is our most important task. On the solution of this task depends also a theory of current antisemitism to a very large extent.

— Letter to Adorno, November 13, 1944

The popularizing of anti communism today (see, oh, Jordan Peterson, for example) and the rise of this revanchist antisemitism, runs alongside the rehabilitation of fascism one sees in media almost daily. They are tied together. In the same way one must see the links between U.S. racist police departments (fully militarized now, something that began in earnest under Obama) and the violence against the global south (see Venezuela, blackouts, and sanctions and sabotage of infrastructure). The fight for ecological well being begins with fighting these things, not supporting quisling Democrats. Rather than worrying about Israel being given money by US Zionists and Pro Zionist organizations, to then *control* America (sic), Hedges might better be concerned with what Leo Zhao (100 Years of Anti Communism) describes here…

Much of this legacy of mind-boggling corporeal violence, and the just as brutal history of economic strangulation and political coercion, other than a few episodes too big to hide, is brushed aside and ignored in mainstream Western narratives { } Even more concealed, disguised, and obscured than the process of physical and material onslaught are the innumerable and never ending operations in the war for hearts and minds. Even more hidden from public view are the myriad of disinformation campaigns; the countless counterfeit radio-stations; the labyrinthine global media networks (such as the “Radio Free…” networks, with tentacles deep in every continent); the CIA and Pentagon deals with Hollywood studios; the hordes of “independent” think-tanks publishing blatant lies under the flags of “liberty” and “human rights”. All of this comprising an elaborate global propaganda structure, with mutual support between its various branches, quoting and verifying each other. The red-scare content generated, which pushes imperialist agendas, normalises bourgeois ideology, valorises capitalism, and vilifies socialism, then finds its way into text books, taught in academies largely purged of leftist professors save for some tokens.

Israel is not *dragging* the U.S. war.

Today I will once more be a prophet: if the international Jewish financiers in and outside Europe should succeed in plunging the nations once more into a world war, then the result will not be the Bolshivization of the earth, and thus the victory of Jewry, but the annihilation of the Jewish race in Europe.

— Adolf Hitler (Speech to Reichstag, 30 January, 1939)

In other words, this is the epoch of immense and towering propaganda. And the first target of Western propaganda for over half a century has been communism. And today, the media outlets are in the hands of ever fewer people and organizations. An article here, from 2016 but only now translated, is worth reading if you wonder at all about this.

Antisemitism is tied directly to anticommunism. And left anticommunism is increasingly an acceptable position that is tied directly to normalizing and restoring the legitimacy of fascism.

Paul Manafort and the Crime of Not Provoking Russia

Paul Manafort has been convicted and sentenced to four years in prison for what the judge calls “white collar crimes” unrelated to “Russian collusion.” The mainstream press is in a state of shock. Surely, the morning cable anchors protest, he should have gotten 20 years!

He was friends with (“pro-Russian”) Ukrainian businessmen and politicians! He took fees for political consulting work with foreigners—that he never reported to the IRS! He committed bank fraud and tax fraud! And he may have had a role in the decision of the Republican National Committee at the Republican convention in July 2016, to modify a section of the program to remove reference to the provision of U.S. lethal military aid to Ukraine!

For two years that last accusation has been treated by the press as the truly damning one, the clear proof of a conspiracy to help Russia. There’s been a deliberate effort to generate outrage, where none really smolders in the masses’ breasts. How many people in this country feel strongly about the issue of Ukraine, could find the country on the map, have any knowledge in its history or any strong feelings about the matter of who should have sovereignty over Crimea?

The implicit argument is that not to give offensive weapons to the government in Ukraine at the time (then headed by Arseniy Yastenyuk, who had attained power through a U.S.-supported violent coup and the documented sponsorship of grotesque neocon beast Victoria Nuland) was anything other than the height of irresponsibility, if not treason. (“What more do we need than that?” demands the angry CNN “foreign policy analyst” or “national security analyst” while the hosts nod in agreement.), But this new regime in Kiev was riddled with fascists, was engaged in an effort to impose its armed authority over a rebellious ethnic Russian Donbas region, and might potentially be at war with Russia at any moment.

One could interpret the platform change as a rational retreat from an unnecessary provocation of Moscow. Why should that be so controversial or mysterious?

But to the talking heads of MSNBC and CNN, and maybe some on Fox, the minor move was sure, clear proof of Russian collusion. The party committee couldn’t have been applying mere common sense, and deference to a presidential nominee who’d expressed hope for normal relations with Russia. No, it had to have been hijacked by Russian agents.

In the real world, it’s just possible that Manafort (for whatever reasons) had educated Trump to some basic facts: Ukraine has long been ethnically divided between Ukrainians and (ethnic) Russians. The regime that seized power in February 2014 (toppling the democratically elected if highly corrupt one that Manafort had served) had completely alienated the Donbas region from the outset by its anti-Russian discriminatory measures, provoking the rebellion. As for the Crimean Peninsula, it had been Russian from 1785 to 1954, and the base of the Russian Black Sea Naval Fleet since the 1780s, so it wasn’t surprising that Moscow would want to re-assert sovereignty to prevent the very real prospect of losing its base to the relentlessly expanding NATO.

(It would have made sense for Bernie Sanders, had he won the Democratic nomination—that is, had we had a fair, not rigged, Democratic primary process—-to have stricken out any such language from a Democratic Party platform.)

I wrote a number of columns about Ukraine after the 2014 putsch opposing U.S. intervention in Ukraine and the U.S. effort, involving about $ 5 billion invested in what Victoria Nuland and Madeleine Albright both referred to publicly as “support for the Ukrainian people’s European aspirations.” (This was code for the drive of right-wing politicians in Ukraine to join EU after following the well-established pattern of former east bloc countries first joining NATO, then the European trade bloc.) Some of these were re-posted on Russian media. Am I thus guilty of collusion?

This matter of the non-support for military involvement in Ukraine, as a bad thing, is at the heart of the collusion case. The Manafort judge T.S. Ellis has been right to be skeptical, and to suspect that the prosecutors have been trying too hard to pin on Manafort a conspiracy charge implicating Trump and Russia. (Or a Trump staffer and a Russian businessman. Or a Trump aide and a Ukrainian businessman, or Russian-Ukrainian businessman, or Russian-American businessman.)

The fact of the matter is, as Graham Stack, a Fusion GPS researcher once hired to gather dirt on Manafort, pointed out last year: “Manafort was nothing like a pro-Kremlin influence on the former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych… Instead, Manafort was one of the driving forces pushing Yanukovich towards signing the agreement with the EU. The Kremlin has every reason to hate him.”

That is, Manafort for his own business reasons wanted Ukraine to join the European Union, just like Victoria Nuland wanted to use the Ukrainian people’s (supposed) yearning to join the organization—that was then squeezing the life out of the Greeks and was subsequently rejected by the British—-as part and parcel of Ukraine’s planned entry into the anti-Russian military alliance. (This had been announced in 2008, the same year as NATO unveiled plans to welcome Georgia as well in the near term. That plan is on hold after the Russo-Georgia War of that year, just as plans to admit Ukraine are permanently on hold for fear—by the Germans, if not the U.S.—of provoking Russia.)

The motives of Nuland and Manafort were very different. She wanted a cause that would unite the opposition and facilitate regime change; he wanted a deal that would personally aggrandize him, given his investments in EU countries and in Ukraine. But  Russia was as of February 2014 opposed, for reasons Moscow stated clearly. (Basically, the cross-border economies are so deeply integrated, the cultures so similar and movement between the two countries so free that EU goods once in Ukraine would flow uncontrollably into Russia, damaging the Russian economy. Was the Russian stance unreasonable? Moscow offered Kiev a generous aid package, which Yanukovych accepted; meanwhile, Russia indicated it had no problem with Ukraine’s eventual EU membership once certain issues were resolved, and reiterated Putin’s aspiration for a Eurasia-wide free market to extend from Vladivostock to Lisbon. (Was this reasonable? Or does it “threaten our national interests” somehow?)

The Russians perhaps convinced Yanukovych that the austerity measures Ukraine would have to accept even for associate NATO membership would be destabilizing. So he withdrew from the provisional deal that had been pushed by Manafort.The  U.S.-backed  opposition declared Yanukovych a traitor loyal to Russia, and the government fell giving way to the current dysfunctional regime that lionizes fascists like Stephan Bandera.

One should definitely condemn Manafort for his past “consulting work”—with the likes of Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Bob Dole, Gerald Ford, Ferdinand Marcos, Mobutu Sese Seko, and Jonas Savimbi. (This list of clients includes at least five mass murderers.) But why single him out for assisting the former, democratically elected Ukrainian president in his negotiations with the EU? (Oh, because he didn’t report the income…the tax fraud thing…  Terrible indeed.)

The fact is, Manafort would not have been on trial had there not been an effort to seize on any kind of link between anyone around Trump and any one or thing Russian to substantiate the charge of “Russian interference” in the U.S. election. The thinly researched and argued January 2017 “Assessing Russian Activities”intelligence report on that “interference” was followed by a drive to investigate Trump campaign collusion with Russia, with a clear political mission to explain Hillary’s loss by attributing it to Trump’s (treasonous, secret) relationship with Putin.

It hasn’t led to anything yet but a meeting in a Manhattan cigar bar Aug. 2, 2016 between Manafort, his deputy Mike Gates and Konstantin Kilimnik, a Russian business partner of Manfort’s since 2005 (“thought to be linked to Russian intelligence”) that might have involved  the sharing of some polling data that by law should have been kept secret (or only shared with U.S. political operatives seeking to legitimately influence the outcome of the U.S. election).

Maybe some Russians used the information to influence targeted U.S. minds, using Facebook to throw the election result in Wisconsin. That would see horrible, would it not? An attack by other people on our democracy?! (While we never interfere, anywhere!)

The message is in any case clear. We should be outraged that “the Russians” “interfered” in “our election” tainting its result. We should view “our” elections as sacrosanct affairs, and be outraged that Trump staffers were willing to talk to Russian officials or private citizens, about the election or lots of other things, neglecting to report any contact with nationals of a country that (for some reason) we’re supposed to regard as an “adversary.”   Indeed, the overriding historical import of the movement to drive Trump from office is its re-enforcement of Russophobia in this country.

Trump is depicted as evil less due to his bigotry, misogyny, racism, Islamophobia, or corrupt business practices than due to his failure to do the right thing: take a hard line on Russia.

That means denouncing Putin, the way Hillary did. (Clinton as top U.S. diplomat called Putin a new Hitler, for re-annexing Crimea.) It means continuing to demand, as Obama did, that Russia withdraw from Crimea and cease whatever material support it provides to the separatists in the Donbas region or face continuing U.S. (and EU) sanctions. (These are hopeless demands, and are hurting Europe as well as Russia. Yet their maintenance is depicted as the only responsible route forward, and suggestions they be lifted portrayed as capitulation to evil.)

And it means howling in indignation when Paul Manafort, the closest thing to a “smoking gun” about collusion between Russia and Trump, only gets four years behind bars. It means disparaging Judge Ellis, noting his expressed concern about special prosecutors’ overreach and the possibility of the case becoming a “political weapon.”

News anchors visibly consternated by the sentence length seem troubled too by the likelihood that the Mueller probe will conclude with no real evidence. The dream of Trump being exposed as a Russian agent—promising sanctions relief after his victory in return for advance Russian notice about Wikileaks’ hacked emails publication schedule—-is fading.

In its place is the dream of replacing Trump in 2020 with an (appropriately) anti-Russian leader. This would mean one committed to NATO (which is still officially on track to include Georgia and Ukraine, to better encircle and provoke Russia); committed to the sanctions designed to hobble the Russian economy and prevent other countries from trading with it; committed to challenging Russia’s influence in the Middle East and depicting any such influence as “foreign interference” in a region that ought by rights be dominated by the U.S. as the world’s “exceptional” nation; and the insistence on the myth that the U.S. has “national interests” transcending class interests that need to be protected from Russia pursuing its own.

The appropriately anti-Russian leader the mainstream media seeks must of course be, preeminently, a proud capitalist. The restoration of normality must combine the new Russophobia (which has nothing to do immediately with anticommunism—since the Russian state is thoroughly capitalist and Putin’s party is both pro-market and pro-Orthodox religion—but draws on Cold War specifically anti-Russian tropes) with a clear repudiation of socialism.

*****

Saturday: Dave Gura on MSNBC expressing puzzlement that John Hinckenluper in a Joe Scarborough interview refused to call himself a capitalist (recognizing the negative connotations of that word among many young people).

Shame! the bipartisan panelists all agree; he should have proudly broadcast his capitalist status, and promoted the market as the key to creating jobs. If the Dems go with a “socialist” message, Trump will win! The very word socialism is Kryptonite!

These two phenomena—the mainstream ruling-class disappointment that the “Russian collusion” case is collapsing, and alarm at the soaring popularity of “socialism”—are related. To bring him down, one accuses the president of collusion with a country vilified throughout the Cold War; the USSR was targeted for its “socialism” but also attacked on the basis of ethnic stereotypes that remain useful to the anti-Russian propagandist. To make sure his successor is committed to the post-Cold War strategy of maintaining global hegemony and preventing the emergence of any rival, one must insure that someone who accepts capitalist imperialism takes office.

The morning TV news anchors, makers of public opinion, unite in agreement that it is unacceptable to question the motives of legislators who always vote in favor of Israel. (In this they in fact unite with Trump, who’s opportunistically charging the Democrats with antisemitism.) They also unite in agreeing it’s good the Hanoi summit between Kim and Trump failed, because it would be against U.S. interests to reduce sanctions until Pyongyang gets rid of it’s nukes (which it’s not going to do without sanctions relief, so the anti-Trump position is a virtual demand for war). These are some of the responsible positions of the anti-Trump mainstream.

My, what an awful, awful man! Such a Russian stooge! Jeopardizing our national security, serving Russian interests, by pulling out of Syria! (When did insistence on indefinite deployment of U.S. forced illegally in Syria become so mainstreamed?) And by talking about an Afghan pullout!

And his campaign chairman was meeting Russians! (Let us recall Manafort was chairman all of three months.) And Manafort was secretly meeting Russians, our adversaries!

Such outrage. Such unanimity. Such slavish devotion to capitalism, imperialism, “our heroes” in the U.S. military, sterile political correctness plus unquestioned devotion to Israel, and of course the systematic vilification of Russia. The trashing of both socialism and Russia, the latter having nothing to do with the former anymore, but what difference does it make?  We’re supposed to believe that both of them are Kryptonite, and that the choice before us is between the responsible capitalist and Russophobe (such as Joe Biden) and the capitalist and imagined Russophile traitor Donald Trump.

Corporate and “Progressive” Democrats Threaten Medicare Itself

The Democratic Party won a majority in the House of Representatives in the November 2018 elections by making health care one of its top “messages.” Yet events from Bernie Sanders’ bill of 2017 to legislation that “progressive” Representative Pramila Jayapal introduced on February 27, 2019 show that the Party is on its way to destroy Medicare.

For decades activists identified the prize as “single payer health care.” The program would issue a Medicare card to everyone, like the one senior citizens get now. The card would be good at any doctor’s office, clinic, hospital, laboratory, and prescription pharmacy. These largely private businesses would be reimbursed from a public single-payer fund. The fund would receive broadly collected tax revenues; the patient would pay little or nothing at the reception desk, and no monthly premium. This is guaranteed, comprehensive health care.

In other words, single payer is Medicare for all, carried to completion by eliminating Part B premiums and by more comprehensive coverage including prescribed drugs.

Health care activists always agonized over the colorless name “single payer.” A few years ago many of them began to speak of Improved Medicare for All. Actually, it had been in the title of the benchmark bill, H.R. 676, when congressperson John Conyers introduced it in 2003. A few years later he shortened the title to The Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act. The text remained stable, and although the bill went nowhere in Congressional committees, H.R. 676 became the centerpiece of organizing. It is readable, only thirty pages of double-spaced large type. Hundreds of trade union locals and councils endorsed this model legislation in a steady stream year after year.

The health care industry has enjoyed a long-term phase of expansion, like railroads in the latter half of the nineteenth century. Back then, the new way of moving heavy goods and people was amazing and useful; today, new biological and biochemical understanding makes possible longer life, survival from a heart attack, restored clarity of vision, and so on. In both situations, capital has had strong pricing power and taken fat profits. And just as anger at railroads swelled into a populist revolt against The Octopus (Frank Norris’ novel about the Southern Pacific railroad corporation), people today are angry at insurance corporations, pharmaceutical monopolies, and hospitals, whether or not they call themselves “non-profit.”1

Opinion polls measure growing support for single payer health care for all. Employers continue to raise the employee cost of coverage, or simply not provide a health benefit. Health insurance purchased individually on the so-called exchanges of the Affordable Care Act (“Obamacare”) turns out to be full of exceptions like a slice of Swiss cheese.

Sanders Promotes Health Care for All Then Undercuts Conyers

Popular support erupted into a political force when Bernie Sanders launched his presidential campaign at the end of April 2015. Record-breaking crowds filled his rallies around the country. The top three issues in a Sanders speech rotated – sometimes including inequality of wealth and income, sometimes climate change – but he always revved up on health care for all. It had been the cause of a few thousand health care activists. Now Improved Medicare for All became a challenge to the neoliberal establishment. For the first time in forty years, people were on the verge of a mass campaign for a major gain in their quality of life and their security.

It did not happen. Sanders did not win the Democratic presidential  nomination. He returned to the Senate, making an implicit or private deal with the party: he would speak as a independent progressive, but he will act on all serious matters as an unannounced Democrat.

Doing something about health care for people largely fell out of public view. Health care activists carried on. Policy aficionados spun proposals. Sanders had used the issue in his campaign, but sustained mass organizing for it did not happen.

Then in September 2017, senator Sanders introduced his “Medicare for All Act.” S. 1804 is three times as long as H.R. 676, and the reader must unravel cross-references within the text. Sanders made no mention of Conyers’ H.R. 676 at his press conference. Since then, no one has asked him the obvious question: Why didn’t Sanders simply introduce the text of H.R. 676 in the Senate?

The “Buy-In” Trap

Sanders’ bill would actually undermine Medicare. It would set up a “Transitional Medicare Buy-in Option and Transitional Public Option.” Sanders portrayed it as a four-year period (longer if necessary) to bring people of age 55 or over into Medicare, then down to age 45, then down to age 35, then everyone. This scheme is the very opposite of guaranteed single-payer health care for all.

How is Medicare financed today? Most of the money comes from payroll and income tax revenues, not enrollees’ Part B premiums, by a ratio of 3½ to one.2 We all pay into Medicare. At the moment when someone needs care, she gets it, period – without financial worry. That is the single-payer principle, and Medicare implements it, although not entirely, since enrollees must keep up-to-date on their Part B monthly premiums, and there are some co-payments for services.

Expanded and Improved Medicare for All would eliminate premiums and co-pays. That is what H.R. 676 declared, but in Sanders’ S. 1804 people younger than 65 could “join” Medicare by paying fat monthly premiums (a “buy-in”). People who want to sign up this way would use the notorious Obamacare exchanges.

Trade union campaigners for genuine Medicare for all, H.R. 676, wrote in a December 11, 2018 letter:

Unlike HR 676, S 1804 inserts supposedly incremental steps of public options and Medicare buy-ins for four years prior to arriving at a real single payer plan. Because S 1804 expands care while maintaining the private insurance companies, costs will skyrocket before the savings of single payer kick in. The incremental steps will become a roadblock rather than a path to single payer. Perhaps the worst part of this inclusion of the public option and the Medicare buy-in is the reinforcement of the false notion that there should or must be transitional steps to single payer. Neither the public option nor the Medicare by-in are based on sound policy. To place them in the bill for even a short period of time endangers the single payer goal.

All Unions Committee for Single Payer Health Care, HR 676, Kay Tillow, coordinator

It is a neat trick: under the guise of expanding Medicare, you make it more dependent on premiums. You change it from a public good, like the neighborhood fire station, into a commodity insurance product that individuals buy. You make health care dependent on the patient’s finances.

This perversion of Medicare is not only a fraud upon people of age 55, 45, or 35. It is a threat to Medicare itself. Whenever Medicare seems headed for a financial crunch, real or conjured, the pressure in Congress will be to shift more and more toward a premium- and co-pay-financed program rather than one supported by general and progressive tax revenues – and to take chunks of medicine out of Medicare.

An independent in name but a Democrat, in fact, senator Sanders at his press conference happily introduced several corporate Democrat co-sponsors of his bill. Behind closed doors he had let them write sections of S. 1804! The public option section was written by senator Kirsten Gillibrand of New York. “One part of the bill that I worked with my colleagues to put in was the ability for every American to buy into a nonprofit public option as part of a four-year transition…,” she said during the news conference introducing the bill.

A public option is a competition with insurance corporations rigged in their favor. They know how to repel potential enrollees who are likely to need expensive care. A government health plan cannot and, of course, should not play that game. It can either raise premiums, or it can turn the program into something like its poor cousin Medicaid. Either way, it cannot become improved Medicare for all.

Democratic Party: “Death to H.R. 676!”

Two important bills stood in contradiction to each other: one for Expanded and Improved Medicare for All (H.R. 676), the other a threat to Medicare itself (S. 1804). Conyers’ bill has been the acknowledged model legislation since 2003; Sanders introduced his in 2017.

But words do not move on their own. The corporate Democratic Party soon put H.R. 676 on the chopping block. Representative John Conyers was pushed out of Congress in a #MeToo incident, resigning from a hospital bed, denying the charges but not up to the rigor of a fair hearing if he could get one.

Somehow, sponsorship of H.R. 676 went to new congressperson Pramila Jayapal. 3 She immediately announced that she was in consultations to rewrite it. In the meantime, she surrendered the number 676 that had been reserved for Conyers’ bill since 2003. It was issued to military legislation on January 17, 2019.

After the Democrats won control of the House of Representatives in the November 2018 elections, it became more urgent for them to gut single payer health care for all. Otherwise, they might have to deliver. Representative Nancy Pelosi, during a post-election whirlwind of bargaining to make sure she became Speaker of the House, agreed to help advance the same scheme that senators Sanders and Gillibrand had put into S. 1804: a buy-in to a premium-based option for people age 50 to 64. Jayapal, who also praised Pelosi during her run for Speaker, spoke out of both sides of her mouth. “I would prefer to have a reduction of the age of Medicare so that more people could qualify but not a buy-in, because that continues the problems that we have right now.” She said lowering the eligibility age “would be an appropriate way to go where we’re taking a step forward towards a system that will ultimately cover everybody.”

The Buy-in Trick Again

Representative Jayapal introduced H.R. 1384, her replacement for the Conyers’ model, on February 27, 2019. The 119-page bill is a masterful card trick. On one hand, it maintains the ban on premiums and co-payments, and it specifies a broad list of covered medical services, including some never proposed before in such legislation.

On the other hand, Jayapal copied Sanders’ big step backward – an optional “buy-in” transition period with premiums, only shortened from his four years to two. (After the first year, minors up to age 18 and people 55 and older would move automatically into the new system.) H.R. 1384 states:

The Administrator shall determine the premium amount for enrolling in the Medicare Transition buy-in, which may vary according to family or individual coverage, age, and tobacco status,… (H.R. 1384, Title X, Subtitle A, Sec. 1002 (e)(A))

Since Conyers introduced H.R. 676 in 2003, his bill never had a premium-based buy-in. Why does Rep. Jayapal think a buy-in period is necessary?

With a buy-in transition, the first experience people would have with the new system would be yet another commodity insurance plan with monthly premiums. This is a recipe for political failure. During those two years the tentative new system would soon be under attack as financially unworkable and just not popular enough.

People could buy in if they wished as individuals through the notorious Affordable Care Act exchanges (“Obamacare”). Because of the extensive benefits, the plan would be one of the most costly choices. Unaffordable for most as an individual premium plan, trying to compete in an unreformed health care system with its bloated costs, the buy-in would attract few enrollees. Enemies of genuine universal health care will pounce on the result, demanding that genuine Medicare for All be postponed and turned into a supplement of one kind or another to corporate health insurance.

Only H.R. 676 delivers guaranteed healthcare for all, the equal care for all of which our advanced society is capable. Bernie Sanders and Pramila Jayapal, just like openly corporate yet arguably less devious Democrats, cower before insurance capital, pharmaceutical capital, hospital capital, etc. These parasites demand that healthcare be a set of commodities that some can afford and others cannot. The people or the dollar – that is the inescapable choice.

  1. A nominally “non-profit” hospital today is not the church-run charity that it might have been a hundred years ago. Non-profit simply means that the corporation is tax-exempt. It does not pay dividends to stockholders, but it still makes a profit. Banks share in the loot, and layers of executives are paid millions of dollars. Affiliated for-profit clinics and labs may suck profits out under cover. Examine the Sutter Health and Kaiser hospital chains in California, for example.
  2. Medicare trust fund trustees’ report, 2018, pp. 45 and 78.
  3. Jayapal went to elite Georgetown University, got an MBA after that, worked on Wall Street on leveraged buyouts, switched to executive positions in several nonprofits, sat a mere two years in the Washington state senate, and won election to the House in 2016.

The Magic Socialist

So here it is, the announcement we’ve been waiting for … all aboard for another cruise on the new and improved U.S.S. Magic Socialist with your captain Bernie Sanders at the helm! If you’re not familiar with this extraordinary vessel, it’s like the luxury liner in The Magic Christian, except catering to credulous American socialists instead of the British filthy rich. Tickets start at just $27 dollars … so hurry, because they’re going fast!

That’s right, folks, Bernie is back, and this time it’s not just a sadistic prank where he gets you all fired up about his fake “revolution” for fifteen months, gets cheated out of the nomination, then backs whichever corporate-bought candidate the Democratic Party orders you to vote for.

No, this time the Bernster really means it! This time, when the DNC rigs the primaries to hand the nomination to Harris, or Biden, or some billionaire android like Michael Bloomberg, Bernie is not going to break your heart by refusing to run as an independent candidate, unbeholden to the corporations and oligarchs that own both political parties, or otherwise make you feel like a sucker for buying his “revolution” schtick. He’s not going to fold like a fifty dollar suit and start parroting whatever propaganda the corporate media will be prodigiously spewing to convince you the Russians and Nazis are coming unless you vote for the empire’s pre-anointed puppet!

Bernie would never dream of doing that … or at least he’d never dream of doing that twice.

There are limits, after all, to people’s gullibility. It’s not like you can just run the same con, with the same fake message and the same fake messiah, over and over, and expect folks to fall for it. If you could, well, that would be extremely depressing. That would mean you could get folks to believe almost anything, or that we were stuck in some eternally recurring multi-dimensional reality loop. The next year and a half in American politics would play out like one of those Groundhog Day knock offs meets The Magic Christian meets The Usual Suspects, directed by David Lynch, on acid. We’d be barraged by recycled Feel-the-Bern memes. Hacky sack shares would go through the roof. That creepy little bird would come fluttering back, land on Bernie’s podium again, and chirp out “L’Internationale.” People would start booking Tim Robbins for interviews. Ben & Jerry’s would roll out another revolutionary flavor of Bernie ice cream … and in the end it would all amount to nothing.

But that’s not going to happen this time. No, this time, the U.S.S. Magic Socialist is setting sail straight for Socialismland! This time, it’s really the Revolution! The end of global capitalism! And the best part of the whole deal is, you don’t even have to take up arms, stage a series of wildcat strikes, blockade major highways, occupy airports, or otherwise cripple the U.S. economy … all you have to do is vote for Bernie!

See, that’s the magic of electoral politics! The global capitalist ruling establishment, despite the fact that they own the banks and the corporations that own the government that owns the military and intelligence services, and despite the fact that they own the media, and all essential industries, and channels of trade, and are relentlessly restructuring the entire planet (which they rule with almost total impunity) to conform to their soulless neoliberal ideology, and are more than happy to unleash their militarized goons on anyone who gets in their way … despite all that, if we elect Bernie president, they will have no choice but to peacefully surrender, and transform America into a socialist wonderland!

Sure, they won’t be happy about it, but they will have no choice but to go along with whatever Bernie and his followers want, because that’s how American democracy works! We’ve seen it in action these last two years, since Donald Trump got elected president. The establishment wasn’t too thrilled about that, but they had to put aside their own selfish interests and respect the will of the American people … because imagine what might have happened if they hadn’t!

For example, they might have concocted a story about Trump being a Russian intelligence asset who was personally conspiring with Vladimir Putin to destroy the fabric of Western democracy so that Russia could take over the entire planet. They could have had respected newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post and television networks like CNN and MSNBC disseminate this story, and subtly reinforce it in endless variations, on a daily basis for over two years. They could have appointed a special prosecutor to investigate the facts of their made-up story, and indict a bunch of unextraditable Russians and a handful of inveterate D.C. slimebags to make the whole thing look legitimate. At the same time, they could have had the media warn everybody, over and over, that Trump, in addition to being a traitor, was also the second coming of Hitler, and was on the verge of torching the Capitol, declaring himself Führer, and rounding up the Jews. They could have generated so much mass hysteria and Putin-Nazi paranoia that liberals would literally be seeing Russians and Nazis coming out of the woodwork!

Fortunately, the global capitalist establishment, out of respect for democracy and the American people, decided not to go that route. If Americans chose to elect a jabbering imbecile president, that was their right, and far be it from the empire to interfere. Tempting as it must have been to use all their power to demonize Trump in order to teach the world what happens when you get elected president without their permission, they restrained themselves … and thank God for that! I don’t even want to contemplate the extent of the rage and cynicism they would have fomented among the public by doing those things I just outlined above. That might have left people with the false impression that their votes mean absolutely nothing, and that the entire American electoral system is just a simulation of democracy, and in reality they are living in a neo-feudalist, de facto global capitalist empire administrated by omnicidal money-worshipping human parasites that won’t be satisfied until they’ve remade the whole of creation in their nihilistic image.

Thankfully, the ruling classes spared us all that, so now we can hop aboard the Magic Socialist and take another cruise with Cap’n Bernie! Considering how magnanimous they’ve been with Trump, once Bernie wins the election fair and square, the empire clearly won’t have any problems with him nationalizing the American healthcare system, tripling taxes on the super-rich, subsidizing university education, and all that other cool socialism stuff (i.e., the stuff we mostly still have here in Europe, along with some semblance of cultural solidarity, although the global capitalists are working to fix that).

Oh, yeah, and in case you’re worried about Bernie backing the empire’s ongoing regime change op in Venezuela, don’t be. He’s just playing 4D chess, like Obama did throughout his presidency, by pretending to do the empire’s bidding while he actually went about the business of resurrecting hope and eradicating racism. Bernie’s just being sly like that! It might seem like he’s aligning himself with mass murdering thugs like Elliot Abrams and sadistic ass freaks like Marco Rubio, but he isn’t. Not really. It’s just an act. I mean, he has to get elected, doesn’t he?

How else are we going to get to Socialismland?

Despite Caving on Superdelegate Votes, Democratic Leaders Stick With Old Wine in Old Bottles …

The challenge by progressives to Democratic party leaders for November’s midterms—and the 2020 presidential election—is to tone down the anti-Trump focus and play up domestic planks as did the Great Depression’s president Franklin D. Roosevelt (“FDR”) to solve the nation’s critical domestic needs. Campaigners do not want to waste time and energies in yet another party defeat because the party continues to abandon the interests of millions once under its “big tent” in catering to the interests of banks, big business, and the rich.

*****

So Democratic party’s leaders finally surrendered to its progressive wing’s demand to disallow the 716 superdelegates bloc to vote on the first ballot for a presidential nominee in 2020. That took two years at hard labor for progressive movements to wear down the Democratic National Committee (DNC) movers-shakers from using this Machiavellian tactic to stop a super-popular candidate from blocking its hand-picked pro-corporate nominee.

To move the party back to its base and prioritize today’s domestic needs that campaigners can offer voters will require fighting the DNC cabal’s long-practiced backroom tricks and threats. A few days before the Chicago annual meeting of members was the cabal’s 30-2 vote reversing the rules committee’s two-month-old ban on taking donations from union leaders in the fossil-fuel industry. That will keep the doors open to company contributions constantly influencing Congress.

DNC members apparently overlooked this deed in also passing a procedural-reform package including both same-day registration and party change, open primaries, toughening conflict-of-interest rules and financial oversight of DNC finances, and adding an Ombudsman committee for complaints.

For progressives, that means the next and greatest hurdle in both the November midterm elections for Congress and the 2020 presidential contest is to wear down the DNC’s resistance to planks still packing stadiums and halls for Sen. Bernie Sanders’ hugely popular platform planks: Medicare-for-All, $15 minimum wage, tuition-free public colleges, expanded Social Security, and a federal public-works jobs program. They are the same kind of vote-getting planks created and implemented by the famed Great Depression president, Franklin D. Roosevelt (“FDR”) for a mostly destitute and despairing nation.

But the DNC cabal’s opposition has been fiercely opposed to such plans, especially Medicare-for-All. DNC and Congressional minority leaders—Rep. Nancy Pelosi, Sen. Chuck Schumer—reap thousands in annual donations from the health-care industry. Small wonder then that last year, Pelosi insisted that “Americans aren’t ready for Medicare-for-All.” In July, her hedge was that if the Democrats win the House in November, “Medicare-for-All” proposals “should be evaluated.”

The cabal’s stance is criminal, given that millions of uninsureds will die in that stall. By May, some 45,232,000 were uninsured because of cost, many because they could no longer afford Obamacare, thanks to Congressional Republicans killing its subsidized mandate and/or the insurance industry’s constant increases in premiums and deductibles.

Yet the Reuters-Ipsos June/July poll of nearly 3,000 respondents showed that 70% support Medicare-for-all (Democrats: 85%; Republicans: 52%). Current cost estimates for the program show health-care savings of $2 trillion dollars over a 10-year period over the present for-profit system because of significant low-overhead in federal administration of the program.

Increasingly disappointed in the last few years in the Democratic party’s choices of losing candidates for Congressional and president, campaign volunteers are going to be increasingly absent. Many veteran campaigners hoped the cabal would be almost totally focused on fixing the nation’s critical domestic needs, as was FDR rather than foreign adventuring.

We veteran canvassers have a greater sense of voters’ values and demands than the party’s indoor leaders and technocrats. And we have the slammed doors or welcoming greetings to prove it. Most householders on our walking lists are unlikely to vote for Congressional or presidential candidates serving Wall Street, the industrial complex, or super-conservative “centrism.” We know we’ll hear about Trump’s high crimes and misdemeanors or the critical need to attack Russia, Iran, North Korea, or China before they attack us.

What we heard on the doorsteps even in the 2015-16 presidential election was Americans’ yearning for a new FDR to address most American’s vital domestic needs, not endless wars continually supported by the party on behalf of multinational corporations. Didn’t 139 House Democrats just vote to allocate $717 billion for military spending?

We expect to be braced now on doorsteps on why the party doesn’t support Bernie’s platform or his presidential candidacy when he’s still ranked as America’s most popular politician and attracts standing-room crowds because of those planks.

Some householders may be politically savvy enough to ask why Pelosi is still House minority leader and pouring the DNC’s old wine into old bottles, something even Democratic cohorts are discussing in weighing her replacement after the midterms.

But she still remains the powerful voice of the cabal—and is a top fundraiser. As such, she wrote a six paragraph letter to Congressional colleagues the day before the DNC’s general meeting with pointed orders for the midterms. Four paragraphs dealt with fighting the Trump regime. True, “working people” are mentioned five times in her demand that incumbents focus on delivering a “strong economic message for the people.” But she carefully avoided planks about Medicare-for-All, a $15 hourly wage, and ludicrously urged the impossibility of eradicating political corruption, and closed with:

As November rapidly approaches, we must also stay focused on delivering our strong economic message to hard-working families across America that we are fighting For The People: working to lower health care costs and prescription drug prices, increasing workers’ pay through strong economic growth by rebuilding America, and cleaning up corruption to make Washington work.

She’s supported by the cabal’s latest tactic against progressives, the “New Democrats,” organized to preserve major donations from Wall Street, Big Pharma, big corporations, and the military-industrial complex. Its political-action committee (NewDemPAC) has raised $2.7 million. They counted on the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) to pick and fund its midterm candidates.

Support comes from neo-liberal groups and institutions, especially the Clintons’ Third Way Democrats, to carry the centrist dogma of super-caution in times when FDR-like bold actions are essential. The Third Way is touting 12 super-small planks to rebuild the economy: an American Investment Bank for small businesses and an Apprenticeship America plan to fund 100 apprenticeship programs.

The Third Way’s president defended these two top planks as the means “to stand up and launch a serious, compelling economic alternative to Sanderism.” Yet 40% of American families fret over paying for food, housing, increasing utility rates, and health care. An FDR assuredly would quickly expose Trump’s second-quarter boast that the GDP (gross domestic product) is at 4.1 percent, and his lies about a booming economy. Too many Americans are not experiencing it and echo the cry of “You can’t eat GDP. GDP doesn’t pay the bills.”

How are we volunteers to tell householders and renters that these ”New Democrat” programs are “serious, compelling economic solutions” to their basic problems?

Obviously, though this right-wing group has spent thousands on focus groups and “listening” tours around the country for those planks, their audiences must have been the well off. They’re deaf to the real needs attracting most voters in the Rust-Belt states to candidate Donald Trump and the millions flocking to Sanders’ rallies. It’s doubtful they care that 57% of Democrats and 51% of U.S. millennials view socialism positively, according to a July 30-August 5 Gallup poll. Or why such voters yearn for a new FDR to implement Sanders’ planks.

FDR was a powerful, experienced, and practical problem-solver as president. His leadership rescued the nation from its darkest hours of the Great Depression and grateful millions rewarded him with four terms in the White House.

Fresh from governing and working hard to rescue New York state, FDR was a jaunty 51 when he moved into the White House in 1933 with a pragmatic “brain-trust” staff experienced in relief work and practical economics. They hit the floor running.

In the first 100 days, they set up “New Deal” programs despite howling opposition from a terrified Democratic cabal and those in Congress, and the colossal power of big business, and the “banksters.” All of them learned no one could intimidate or deter Roosevelt in his near-impossible mission, not even Churchill, Stalin, or Hitler.

He and his team started by tackling the financial industry’s depredations with a bank “holiday,” followed by a tough law (Glass-Steagall) forbidding them to play the stock market. Another law refinanced home loans. A new agency (Securities & Exchange) finally policed Wall Street. Farmers got crop subsidies, preventing the nation from starving. Millions of unemployed got jobs fixing long-neglected and vast infrastructure needs (Works Progress Administration) so the nation got dozens of dams and the Tennessee Valley Authority for cheap power and flood control. Millions of idle youths got jobs doing environmental work (Civilian Conservation Corps).

FDR’s second term gave the elderly Social Security and brought unions protections for wages, hours, and collective bargaining (the National Labor Relations Board).

He primed the public pump both with temporary public debt and hiking taxes on the rich, actions petrifying today’s DNC cabal because of its heavy dependence on big donors bent on preserving the status quo of low taxes and few federal regulations.

The New Deal “investment” cost $500 billion in today’s dollars, but was repaid by jump-starting a dying economy into a miraculous recovery before WWII. Treasury revenues climbed because of federal paychecks spent on food, housing, goods and services. That fed business profits, increasing taxes and bank reserves for loans to those businesses and industries. Improved highways and ports moved commerce faster and farther which, in what’s called the “multiplier effect,” created jobs.

In short, led by FDR, the Democratic party was then in tune with the times and priorities of most Americans. As one old-timer recently remarked: “Roosevelt was so popular that the party wouldn’t have had to spend a dime campaigning.”

If he were in charge today, he would stump the country with specific plans crafted by a “brain-trust” and immediately implement them by Executive Order if a frightened Congress balked at fast-tracking such bills into law.

Every Congressional candidate for the November midterm elections would be “strongly urged” by an FDR to rescind the recent corporate tax-cut of 21% if it’s to be paid by cutting $2 trillion from Medicare, Medicaid, Obamacare, and public schools. At the least, they would be told to either block making those cuts permanent after the 2025 sunset or face another Executive Order forcing 95% of those cuts be invested in factory startups and wage increases.

A new FDR team also would be creative enough to block tax havens and money moved to international banks. Those cunning and greedy current actions to stratify profits rob the Treasury of billions in federal revenue.

In addition, they would fight for a $15 per hour wage in 2018, not 2025 because most Americans’ wages are not just stagnant, but dropping while living costs are rising and layoffs are increasing. The July PayScale study reported a decrease in 80 percent of industries and overall by 0.9% from this year’s first quarter.

Indeed, workers are earning 1.4% less than a year ago when measured against today’s Cost of Living (COLA) rate? No state has a minimum wage yet of $15 per hour. In 15 states alone, it’s still $7.25. In Georgia and Wyoming, it’s $5.15. But, then, if none in the DNC’s elitist cabal has ever had to survive on $5.15 or $7.25 per hour, why would they consider advocating wage hikes or increases in Social Security cheques to match the COLA rate?

Additionally, an FDR would make short work on the campaign trail of Trump’s claim that June’s unemployment rate was 4%. Such a statistic involves 6,600,000 humans and the 359,000 who’ve given up looking for work in times when manufacturing has “suddenly leveled off.” If robots are expected to cut manufacturing jobs by a third in the next decade, it means a jobless rate of 39,021,210, a catastrophic number compared to the Great Depression’s highest year (1933) of 12,830,000 when FDR took office.

He and his team would counter such a disaster again by the “multiplier effect” by resurrecting both the WPA and CCC, along with a federal guaranteed annual paycheck, again paid for by temporarily increasing the federal debt and raising taxes for U.S. companies moving overseas or “going robotic.”

Despite these immense and highly visible domestic challenges, the cabal’s actions to ignore them depend heavily on planks chiefly demonizing Russia, China, Iran, and North Korea. Unfortunately, most Americans aren’t war hawks. Media critic Norman Solomon notes: “…polling shows that few Americans see Russia as a threat to their well-being. That they’re far more concerned about such kitchen-table issues as healthcare, education, housing and overall economic security.” A recent Hill/HarrisX poll also shows 54% of Americans favor a second Trump-Putin meeting and that 61% believe “better relations with Russia are in the best interest of the United States.”

Loss of special-interest contributions has been one major threat. But Bernie showed how to raise millions by “volume” of $27 contributions from individuals.

Moreover, the DNC’s choice of a presidential candidate cost them the 2016 election because some 35% of eligible Democrats failed to vote. They balked either because a plutocrat regarded them as “deplorables” of fled to third parties like the Greens or Trump as the lesser evil. Too many of the cabal’s recent actions show the same disregard for millions of ordinary voters, the definition of insanity: doing the same things and expecting different results.

The battle lines between progressives and the “New” elitist Democrats have yet to be hardened. It’s never too late for campaigners and candidates to convince the DNC leaders to pour new wine into new bottles to bring back millions of voters they’ve ignored for the last three decades. That means seeking out new FDR types for Congress in the midterms and the White House in 2020.

As for the thousands of volunteers counted on to get-out-the-vote (GOTV), we’re tired of wasting time, creativity, “foot-power,” and money working for candidates continuing to ignore actions addressing the nation’s vast domestic needs. Give us another FDR and immediate action on Bernie’s planks or we’ll vote with our feet.