Category Archives: Vote

The Obscured Horror Show

Karl Marx used a metaphor about a camera obscura to describe the contortions in the interpretations of ideology, and it’s also an interesting metaphor to think about how information is delivered to us from power. A camera obscura receives an image from a tiny hole where the image is then projected in a state that is inverted and reversed, such is the perspective given to us by the powers that be where we are fed a myopic view and what is shown to the people is the opposite of what is really going on. The pictures taken from the camera obscura of the ruling class are then captioned for the people by the corporate media and government PR providing obscured narration around the already obscured images which are carefully curated so that nothing is ever perceived by the people other than what is intended by the propagandist photographers.

The actions taken by elites must be obscured because if they were done right in front of you sans the gaslighting it would strike anyone in a mindset outside of an indoctrinated culture to be horrified. And when the events that occur every day in our society are thought of on a small scale without the socially applied labels, it’s clear to see the type of people we are truly dealing with, and why ousting their system from power is likely the only option if the story of humanity is to have a next chapter. Because these are not people acting in good faith; rather these are people who rule over us and are addicted to power and will do or say anything to get another hit to satisfy their addiction, which includes obliterating the natural environment that every living thing on the planet depends on and is only done so that a few people can have greater ego status and some meaningless luxuries.

Continuing to trust the US government to not start another war based on false pretenses or trusting politicians and the corporate state to stop the environmental destruction is akin to trusting Freddy Krueger to babysit your kids and expect it’s going to end up in something other than a horror show…

Well, Mr Krueger, let’s take a quick look at your babysitter qualifications before the wife and I head out for the evening. I see here you have no references and have some rather gruesome scars, how did that happen? Oh, some parents burned you alive after you diddled and murdered their kids? I see. Still, I’m not going to jump to any conclusions and disqualify you on that alone, I do believe in second chances. Sooo what are those knives on your hand for? You say they’re just decorative? Ok, but they look awfully sharp. And that’s a rather creepy maniacal laugh you have there, that doesn’t seem quite right, but still, I think it’s going to be fine. We’ll be back at 10, call us if you need anything and there’s money to order a pizza on the kitchen counter.

The American people are equally as naive, trusting their government, banks, and corporations who are just as crazy as a horror movie slasher and the evidence is directly in front of us. Acting as if we need a military this large which is ostensibly for defending the US is like Freddy telling you his glove with knives is only for easy access to kitchen utensils. They are both obviously for murdering people.

These corporatists and politicians are well dressed raging narcissists who speak with a specific nomenclature and a twisted tongue directly for the purpose of deceiving the masses. People like those in power now have been running these power games for a very long time and they have no intent of ever changing. They lure the masses in with carefully crafted words every election season and the people gab and gossip over which one of these lying psychopaths is better than the other. Sure Michael Myers has an excellent foreign policy, but Leatherface seems to have good domestic fiscal policy, but then again, I really like what Jason Voorhees has been grunting about immigration.

Right now the people still remain unconvinced a Freddy Krueger-ish ruling elite are bad guys, and perhaps it’s not as obvious when they lack a maniacal guffaw, don’t openly look hideous, or wear blood stained knives on their hands. But let’s think about what is being done by those in power through a clear lens and hopefully reach a point of socioeconomic enlightenment. To illustrate the point of their insanities it’s best to think of their actions on a smaller scale and ask yourself if these people and their social construct are something we can ever trust given their history and present state. And will this system somehow turn things around and become the altruistic thing they pretend to be in photographs crafted by the camera obscura.

So it is pertinent to ask what kind of people are these that would make others homeless out of nothing but greed. Let’s hypothetically ask an ethical question here. If there were only two people in the world and five homes available, would it not be the height of selfishness to claim all the homes for yourself and keep the other person out of the available homes by threat of violence while the existing structures sat and rotted away unused? Yet banks, corporations, and government policy allow this kind of behavior to happen ubiquitously in every area afflicted with capitalism, and they call it freedom for moneyed elites to be allowed to do so in the vaunted “free” market system. They say it’s not greed you see, it’s freedom for the powerful to do as they please. It’s like saying Ted Bundy has a god given right to murder women and proclaiming it liberty for the serial killer.

Here’s another. If people were starving and you had a warehouse full of groceries in your backyard and you threw out the fruits and veggies with a spot or two and refused to even let the starving people use the garbage you threw out what kind of person would you be? Yet this is exactly what capitalist grocers routinely do and worse, as it’s a special kind of awful to have buildings full of food and that sits unused while others go without proper nourishment. And again to excuse this behavior of hoarding because people in power tell you that you’re not working hard enough for them, and even after a lifetime of work it’s still not enough to qualify you to have a right to food if you don’t have enough of their money which they can, and do, create out of thin air in computers and handout in large amounts to cover the imbalances in their financial and banking systems. To those in charge, it’s more just that a person starve than a banking system go unbalanced, or god forbid, take a financial loss.

Or consider this.  If you were to throw a party and you caught someone smoking a joint in your house would a rational reaction to this be to strip search them, lock them in your closet, and then force them to pay you a fine for smoking? Then after keeping them as punishment in your closet from several months to a couple years you proceed to track them and make them report back to you that they found a job you approve of, while also demanding they come by and piss in a cup so that you can be sure they haven’t decided to smoke pot again, and if they don’t abide by your rules you threaten to throw them back into the closet. And you do all this while telling them it’s for their own good and the good of the greater society. Is this sane behavior? Yet again, we accept a nation state that does this and worse on a massive scale.

Or what if a group of your neighbors, who happen to have the most weapons, stopped by one evening to tell you that you can no longer grow vegetables on open unused land and can no longer fish out of a local lake, and that all these resources would now be managed by them. They will give you an allowance if you do their work in a manner fitting to them so you can now buy food only from their approved sources. And if you work hard enough and pay tribute to them with the allowance they have given you then they may even let you stay in your home. Remember, if you don’t obey what they say and refuse to live by their laws, they will be forced to kidnap you and incarcerate you, and if you run from them when they try and kidnap you then they will get their guns and shoot at you simply because you ran. Sounds nuts, right? Yet, here we are with a very similar way of being only applied to billions.

Or what if your neighbor next-door started investing heavily in tanks and missiles and they shoot at your kids whenever they come close to the property line. And when questioned why they are doing such things they claim it’s for their own protection when almost no one else in the neighborhood has a single gun. Then one day your crazy neighbor knocks on your door and tells you the guy down the street is a danger to everyone, this supposed threat down the street also happens to have a large RV camper you’ve seen your neighbor eyeing repeatedly, and now they want your kids to take some of their guns over there and murder them even though you have no idea what those people down the street actually did or if the situation could be resolved through a dialectical conversation instead of resorting to violence. Regardless, they refuse to have a conversation and inform you that if your child doesn’t want to murder someone for them they’ll lock them in their basement for punishment. It doesn’t seem rational, does it? But it seems rational for the US to do these things and continue to have a military many times the size of any other nation while they make claims they are the ones being threatened.

And it’s worth pointing out again, these psychopathic behaviors are everywhere and people will still treat this system and its election theater with utmost seriousness. Many of the problems we face are solvable, yet they persist, and it never seems to cross the mind of the common voter that these injustices persist precisely because those in power are doing something awful, the people simply cannot fathom that those they elect to rule would act with such disregard for the well being for others. The people buy into a society that has the worst kind of morals built into it and continue to pretend like there is something here worth saving. To the blind masses it still seems rational to cast votes for people to rule over us while these psychos ramp up their discipline, surveil, and punishment tactics and spread endless warfare and pain across the planet.

All these first world nation-states are eager to tell you how free you are. Essentially free to pay their taxes, work their jobs, and contribute to their capitalist growth in some manner. But if you’re so free then try to get a group of people and attempt to escape their system. Try to secede from their rule at any size and you’ll be met with instant opposition. Leaving their system isn’t an option. You can perhaps live in another nation-state they recognize, but you cannot start your own, and even the ones they recognize who don’t behave in an economic manner that pays proper tribute to the ruling classes will be put under threat. The planet is owned by a cartel of mafiosos with important sounding titles, where sovereignty is granted not by the will of a people to be free, but from the existing powers that be.

Everything nation-states, capitalists, or any social structure in a hierarchical form does is horrific and iniquitous while being normalized by way of semantics. Only when their actions are reframed under an objective lens without the titles, badges, and uniforms does the picture become clear and sanity returns. We are collectively captured by mavens in the art of cruelty, and not only do the collective people openly fight against their rule, but we can’t accept or even be brought to discuss the true intent of their actions.

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.

Netanyahu Reigns Supreme, and all Opposition has been Crushed

Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party emerged from Tuesday’s Israeli election tied with the Blue and White party, led by Benny Gantz and other high-powered generals. Although each party has 35 seats in the 120-seat parliament, Netanyahu is now firmly in the driving seat.

The small far-right and religious extremist parties that are needed to make up a parliamentary majority lost no time in declaring their support for Netanyahu. That will allow him to establish his fourth consecutive government.

Netanyahu now enjoys the luxury of choosing between a narrow government of these far-right parties, and a right-wing national unity government embracing Gantz. The latter option would potentially command four-fifths of the seats in the Israeli Knesset.

Whatever his decision, Netanyahu is now set this summer to become Israel’s longest-serving prime minister, beating the record set by Israel’s founding father, David Ben Gurion.

Demand for “immunity” law

The only obstacle on the horizon – a set of corruption indictments against Netanyahu, announced by the attorney-general during the campaign – is certain to be swept away once Netanyahu has been formally installed as head of the next government by Israeli President Reuven Rivlin.

Netanyahu’s coalition partners are already insisting on the passing of special “immunity” legislation – which would make it impossible to indict a sitting prime minister – as a condition for their support.

Bezalel Smotrich, of the far-right Union of Rightwing Parties, said such a law would “build trust among coalition members that the next government can rule for a full term”.

They understand that Netanyahu, given his track record, is their best meal ticket to a long-term place in government.

And Netanyahu’s own voters have demonstrated that they care not a whit whether he is corrupt, as long as he continues to promote a Jewish supremacist agenda.

Extolling Gaza rampage

Gantz’s success in matching Netanyahu’s tally of seats is impressive, given that he presided over a brand new party whose only policy seemed to be: “It’s time to get rid of Netanyahu.”

That showed there is a significant section of Israeli society fatigued by a decade of Netanyahu rule and the political and personal corruption he embodies.

But it also emphasised the continuing veneration by Israeli Jews of the army and their desire to find exclusively military solutions to political problems – not least, how to reach an accommodation with Palestinians and their claim to statehood.

It certainly does not, as some observers have claimed, signify an appetite among Israeli Jews for left-wing politics. Gantz and his fellow generals are not doves of any kind.

After all, the Blue and White party’s main selling point was Gantz’s pulverisation of Gaza in 2014, when he was army chief of staff overseeing a military operation that killed more than 500 Palestinian children.

Collapse of opposition

Netanyahu’s victory is underscored by the two most dramatic trends of the election. Those relate to the collapse of the opposition to the right – both among the Jewish electorate, and among voters belonging to the Palestinian minority, a fifth of Israel’s population.

In many ways, the most shocking result is the diminishment of the Labor Party, which founded Israel and ruled it for decades, to just six seats. That turns it into a marginal, special-interest party.

Combined with the four seats of the dovish Meretz party, that reduces what is commonly referred to in Israel as the “centre-left” to just 10 seats. According to a recent poll by the Israel Democracy Institute, only about 12 percent of Israeli Jews are still prepared to describe themselves as left-wing.

It is hard to see Labor ever recovering. If the trend continues, Labor and Meretz may need to merge in future elections to ensure they pass the polling threshold.

The ‘leftwing threat’

The mistaken description of Labor as belonging to the left is a legacy of its early connections to European socialist parties and its development of a centrally planned economy in Israel’s first decades.

Labor’s emphasis on ethnic politics and communal segregation – the idea that Jewish and Palestinian citizens should live and learn apart – would have earned it a classification as an ultra-nationalist party anywhere but Israel.

Nonetheless, Labor has in the past signalled that it wants to separate from parts of the occupied Palestinian territories, chiefly as a way to ensure that an expanded Israel – one that includes some of the larger, illegal settlements – remains overwhelmingly Jewish. Its policies have also been constrained, relative to the right, by concerns about Israel’s image abroad.

By shifting the political centre of gravity ever further rightwards, however, Netanyahu has clearly established the idea in most Israeli voters’ minds that Labor is an extremist left-wing party that threatens to bring about the end of a Jewish state.

‘Eliminating the Israeli state’

That was highlighted in the previous election, when Netanyahu not only fearmongered among Jewish voters that Palestinian citizens were coming out to vote “in droves”, but falsely blamed the left for “bussing” them to polling stations.

This process reached new levels of absurdity – and danger – in the current election campaign.

Netanyahu repeatedly warned that Gantz’s party – dominated by generals and extolling its security record in crushing Palestinians – was part of the centre-left.

Netanyahu argued that a vote for Gantz would result in Israeli-Palestinian parties acting as kingmakers in the next government and thereby help to “eliminate” the state of Israel.

Historic low turnout

The four Palestinian parties in the election race, running this time on two slates rather than as a single Joint List, have also struggled. They looked set to scrape through with between six and 10 seats, down from 13 in the last Knesset.

That is because turnout among Israel’s Palestinian citizens hit a historic low in this election, hovering around the  50 percent mark. This was the most lacklustre campaign ever seen in Palestinian communities in Israel.

The polling figures contrast sharply with voting rates among the minority of close to 90 percent back in the 1960s, and of 75 percent just two decades ago, as well as a turnout of 85 percent in local authority elections just a few months back.

The collapse of the vote marks the minority’s near-complete disillusionment with Israeli national politics, and their conclusion that a fundamental and irreversible rift has taken place with the Jewish majority.

Hidden cameras spy on voters

That was made clear last summer, when Israel passed the nation-state law, which made explicit that Israel was a state belonging exclusively to Jews, rather than to all Israeli citizens – thereby cementing the minority’s status as unwelcome spectators in a “Jewish democracy”.

As one Palestinian analyst noted to the daily Haaretz newspaper, Israeli politics is now like a perverse football game, in which there are two Jewish teams and Palestinian citizens serve as the ball. “Everybody’s kicking us and neither team wants us,” he said.

Netanyahu underscored that point on election day itself, when he pulled another of his incitement stunts against the Palestinian minority. He sent more than 1,000 activists armed with hidden video cameras to monitor polling stations in Palestinian communities.

It was a gross violation of Israel’s election laws. But publicity over the cameras’ confiscation by police was another coup for Netanyahu’s fear-based politics. He defended the move as ensuring the election’s conduct was “kosher”, the term used to denote food that accords with strict Jewish dietary laws.

Like his earlier “droves” comment, it sent a clear message that the very presence of Palestinian voters subverts a democratic process intended for Jews only, and that the extreme right he represents is uniquely prepared to take the necessary action to defend a Jewish state.

Palestinian parties ostracised

Netanyahu, however, cannot be solely blamed for this state of affairs. Previously the Labor Party, and now Gantz’s party of generals, actively conspired in Netanyahu’s carefully crafted narrative, presenting Palestinian citizens as a fifth column.

Gantz repeatedly distanced himself from the Palestinian parties in response to Netanyahu’s incitement, vowing to sit only with “Jewish and Zionist” parties.

Effectively, with that promise, he not only shot the Palestinian minority in the head, but himself in the foot. It meant he never stood a hope of having enough seats to provide an alternative government to Netanyahu.

Now, it seems, Israel’s 1.8 million Palestinian citizens have fully absorbed the lesson: that all the Jewish parties, bar the four-seat Meretz party, have stripped them of a legitimate claim to political rights inside a Jewish state.

Haggling over annexation

There are a few other significant take-homes from the results.

Religious extremist parties are now the kingmakers on the right. Between them, they won more than a sixth of the parliament. Netanyahu will almost certainly need them in the government, and they will demand socially influential ministries, further accelerating the shift to religious fundamentalism in Israel.

In the run-up to the coalition-building negotiations, one such party representing religious settlers has already demanded that it be given the education and justice ministries.

Netanyahu is also in a weak position to resist – assuming he wished to – the demands of the far-right parties to begin the process of formally annexing significant parts of the West Bank.

Media reports are already suggesting that post-election haggling will focus on demands from these far-right parties for some form of annexation, in return for their agreeing to pass immunity legislation to shield Netanyahu from corruption indictments.

That explains his comments in the last days of the campaign, in which he promised to annex swaths of the West Bank where the settlements are located.

As Netanyahu’s hold on power became clear on Tuesday, he made a speech encapsulating his style of speaking with a forked tongue. He told the crowds: “I intend to be the prime minister of all the citizens of Israel, right and left, Jews and non-Jews.”

To outsiders, it may have sounded conciliatory. To those in Israel who know Netanyahu, it sounded more like a threat from a man who understands that there is no one in Israel – right or left, Jew or non-Jew – in a position to resist his dictates.

• First published in Middle East Eye

The Need for a Compelling Anti-Capitalist Narrative

There’s a scene in George Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia where he describes how the communists propagandized the fascists during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s. Orwell was with a scruffy, makeshift band of fighters high in the Spanish Alps. Both the communists and fascists were dug into their trenches and a general stalemate had ensued. During the frigid mountain days, certain soldiers were tasked with communicating to the enemy. They would first position themselves in a safe place. Then using a megaphone would recite a prefabricated monologue about how the fascist soldiers were little more than pawns in the service of elite capital interests. They were the disposable implements of war, easily discarded once used. Orwell wrote that nearly everyone on the communist side assumed the efficacy of these communiques. The conscripted fascist, often a teenager and drafted against his will for a fight he had little knowledge of or interest in, would be sunk within a muddy trench, hungry, thirsty, tormented by the alpine freeze of high altitudes. How could the socialist message not appeal to him? Of particular value, Orwell noted, were the segments of the script that announced to the disgruntled fascists that the communist speaker was, at that very moment, consuming a delicious piece of warm, buttered toast. An absurd thing to say, and perhaps the brooding fascist understood how unlikely it was to be true, but the mere image of it, a slightly burnt half of toast slathered in golden melting butter, was enough to destabilize even the most stout-hearted soldier.

The Language of Transformation

The point being, to win “the fight for the minds of men,” as America’s great war propagandist George Creel put it, one must conjure charismatic images, weave imagistic tales, and produce a historical narrative that resonates with and unifies a vast disenfranchised public. Creel served under the Wilson administration and helped turn a pacifist citizenry into a bristling public angry at the fearsome “Hun” it had never actually encountered (not unlike the roving, rape-obsessed immigrants that hysterical Republicans have never encountered, even as they obsessively grease their rifles).

Despite the obvious need for compelling stories, how often do we read interviews or articles with committed leftists or socialists, even the venerable Noam Chomsky, for instance, reminding us in the driest of terms that voting is a mere five-second act that should be given no more attention than a quick, lesser-evil calculation before stepping into the voting booth. Rather, as various authors remind us, like humorless fathers admonishing a frivolous child, that only the hard, laborious, and thankless work of community organizing, conducted tirelessly between elections, will lead to real and lasting change. True as it may be, it is, as framed and presented, a cheerless and dispiriting prospect, a maxim that literally no one wants to hear or is wont to repeat.

What this deadpan delivery misses is how voting is the one event that truly captures the imagination of the public. It is the collective ritual that confirms for many Americans that we are privileged members of a rich and enlightened western democracy. That, despite our problems, we are yet at the forefront of history, participating in the march of human progress with a faith and purpose rivaled on by the Athenian demos and the arbiters of the Magna Carta. It forgets that for many it is a hallowed booth into which we step, where one’s choice is cloaked behind a dark curtain like some kind of secular confessional, and after making their confession, the cleansed citizenry wear bright stickers proclaiming to all and sundry that they did their civic duty.

Voting, perhaps, is the one communal political act which our atomized capitalist society permits us. It rests alongside holiday consumption sprees and sporting rituals as self-defining markers in the firmament of our national consciousness. It may be myth but it is an animating myth of our society. As such, it shouldn’t be discarded with such facile contempt. Rather, it ought to be mined for pointers on how to model a socialist myth that can be evangelized to a public in desperate need of new answers.

Story and Symbol

In Geoffrey Miller’s evolutionary psychology tour de force, The Mating Mind, in which he explores the idea that art and language evolved under sexual selection pressures (rather than by pressures of natural selection), he writes the following:

Imagine some young hominids huddling around a Pleistocene campfire, enjoying their newly evolved language ability. Two males get into an argument about the nature of the world, and start holding forth, displaying their ideologies.

The hominid named Carl proposes: “We are mortal, fallible primates who survive on this fickle savanna only because we cluster in these jealousy-ridden groups. Everywhere we have ever traveled is just a tiny, random corner of a vast continent on an unimaginably huge sphere spinning in a vacuum. There sphere has traveled billions and billions of times around a flaming ball of gas, which will eventually blow up to incinerate our empty, fossilized skulls. I have discovered several compelling lines of evidence in support of these hypotheses…”

The hominid named Candide interrupts: “No, I believe we are immortal spirits gifted with these beautiful bodies because the great god Wug chose us as his favorite creatures. Wug blessed us with this fertile paradise that provides just enough challenges to keep things interesting. Behind the moon, mystic nightingales sing our praises, some of us more than others. Above the azure dome of the sky the smiling sun warms our hearts. After we grow old and enjoy the babbling of our grandchildren, Wug will lift us from these bodies to join our friends to eat roasted gazelle and dance eternally. I think these things because Wug picked me to receive this special wisdom in a dream last night.”

Which ideology do you suppose would prove more sexually attractive? Will Carl’s truth-seeking genes–which may discover some rather ugly truths–out-compete Candide’s wonderful-story genes? The evidence of human history suggests that our ancestors were more like Candide than Carl. Most modern humans are naturally Candides. It usually takes years of watching BBC or PBS science documentaries to become as objective as Carl.

If this is so, is the left guilty of transforming itself into a brooding Carl, arms overflowing with manifestos and tomes, arguing apocalypse to a weary electorate that just wants some good news? Or, at the very least, a piece of escapism, an entertaining tale that removes them from their chronic worries for a couple of hours? Recently, teacher Bruce Lerro illustrated some of the themes he emphasizes in a class he teaches, “Brainwashing Propaganda and Rhetoric: Dark Psychology in the 20th Century”. The gist of his two-part series is that socialism has yet to grasp the theatrical side of human nature that is a requisite of movement building. He points to religion, nationalism, and sports as three fields which have successfully leveraged the tribal, ethnocentric, and ritualistic tendencies within human nature to promote their particular interests.

We know Hollywood and the defense industry often collaborate on films that reify the tropes of patriotic Americanism for each passing generation. We know from marketing that advertising that creates dramatic tension and that draws from the story arcs of conventional dramatic theory improve attention and likability. Metaphors are triggering devices for the senses, hence the durable appeal of the ‘shining city on a hill’ and the visual tropes of the American Dream.

The figure of the charismatic leader has lately done a number on the American imagination. If we are so addicted to facts, as the interminable and farcical Russiagate campaign has so many of us believing, then why is Barack Obama still revered as a peace candidate? A man who as Commander in Chief dropped 26,000 bombs in a single calendar year. Who bombed the Middle East for eight years with the implacable consistency of a religious rite. Who was at war in some fashion or another his entire presidency. Yet Obama was just last month handed the RFK Human Rights Ripple of Hope Award. The organization tweeted an image of the former president in a popular pose: impeccably dressed in an expensive suit of muted azure thread, his face is a portrait of composure and gentle optimism, as his eyes gaze placidly at some unnamable dream far and high and away from where he–and we–are. The gap between the man and the myth is abyssal. Yet one can recall the masterfully rendered illustrations of the young Obama gazing determinedly into the near distance, above bolded letterings of “HOPE” and “CHANGE”, and the flowing waves of the campaign logo.

The Need for a New Myth

All this to say that without a more stirring socialist vision, imbued with the symbols and ritual that instantiate human myth, we will continue to find our attempts to inspire revolution co-opted by monopoly capital, which tend to better stories than the left does. As Henry Giroux points out, “…the lack of mass resistance to [neoliberal] oppression signals more than apathy or indifference, it also suggests that we don’t have an informed and energizing vision of the world for which we want to struggle.” Are we fighting for socialism or against neoliberalism? Are we battling neoliberalism or capitalism itself? Are we after a New Deal or a new society? Is the enemy neoconservatism or the white supremacist? Are we fighting racism, sexism, imperialism, neoliberalism, or all of the above?

This messaging mayhem is not an issue for the establishment. Rather than issuing harsh systemic critiques, the establishment paints pictures. For liberal audiences, Democrats fulminate about Donald Trump as the living manifestation of evil and traffic in the language of tyranny and resistance. For white supremacists, Republicans rouse racist enmities with images of impoverished refugees moving steadily toward our borders, which take on a monstrous character in the minds of MAGA minions. For uncompromising patriots, the armed forces air commercials of heroic young men jumping from helicopters and landing crafts and running across smoke-filled landscapes “toward the sound of chaos.” For bootstrap conservatives, there are Reagan’s welfare queens arriving at the unemployment office in waxed Cadillacs. For humanitarian interventionists, there is Colin Powell’s imagery of a team of mad scientists zigzagging Mesopotamia in mobile weapons labs, or Tony Blair brandishing a dossier warning that a nuclear-tipped WMD could hit central London in just 45 minutes.

In a mediascape littered with symbols, calls for the head of corporate capitalism on a gilded platter are thus swept aside by an interdependent duopoly that thrives on facilitating corporate exploitation with one hand and teasing the inexhaustible well of mass credulity with the other. Belief is the dodgy virtue that venal duopolists deploy the most. Each election cycle is an exercise in peddling hope and fear in alternating cycles, like a trafficker controlling his prisoners by a devious alternation of drug and deprivation. The left has done well illustrating the monstrosities of corporate capital, and the need to colorfully adumbrate the crimes of the ruling class will always be crucial. But so too is the need to craft more compelling stories of a world without war and a land where health and education and work are rites of passage rather than a lifelong ordeal. Can the traditional bearers of bad tidings shape an electrifying vision of a socialist society? A companion narrative that finally replaces the extant portrait of collectivism as a bloodbath of mayhem and menace? The left’s chances for mass appeal likely depend on it. Even the Bolsheviks, who were scathing critics of socialist opportunism, let alone capitalists, headlined their 1917 revolution with the triple promise of, “Peace! Land! Bread!” The workers and the peasants knew exactly what they were fighting for.

Palestinians in Israel face Uncertain Political Future Amid Joint List Split

A political coalition representing Israel’s Palestinian minority – currently the third biggest faction in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset – has been plunged into crisis by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s decision to call for a surprise general election for April.

Long-simmering ideological and personal tensions within the Joint List, comprising Israel’s four main Palestinian parties, have erupted into a split over who should dominate the faction.

Knesset member Ahmad Tibi announced this month that he would run on a separate ticket with his small Taal party, after polls showed he was more popular than the List’s current head, Ayman Odeh.

The move is yet another blow to the coalition, which has been beset by acrimony since its establishment four years ago.

The latest divisions threaten to further alienate Palestinian voters in Israel, potentially weakening their representation in the Israeli parliament and strengthening the right-wing bloc under Netanyahu.

Falling voter turnouts

The 1.7 million Palestinian citizens of Israel are the remnants of the Palestinian population that was mostly expelled from its homeland in 1948 to create the state of Israel. Today, these Palestinians make up a fifth of the population, but face systemic discrimination.

Voter turnout among Palestinian citizens of Israel has been in steady decline for decades, reaching a low at the 2013 election, when just over half cast a ballot.

No Palestinian party has ever been invited to participate in any of the complex coalitions that are the basis of Israeli governments.

In addition, the Palestinian parties’ use of the Knesset as a platform to call for an end to the Israeli occupation and for equal rights for Palestinian citizens regularly attracts the ire of Jewish Israeli politicians.

Israeli Minister of Public Security Gilad Erdan recently wrote a letter to the Knesset’s ethics committee describing Odeh, the head of the Joint List, as “a criminal and a supporter of terrorism”.

While launching his election campaign this week, former defence minister Avigdor Lieberman accused the Joint List of “treason” and called it “total lunacy” to let its representatives participate in the Knesset.

Acrimony in the Joint List

The creation of the Joint List in time for the 2015 legislative elections briefly boosted turnout, as Palestinian voters in Israel hoped it would give a stronger voice to their interests on the national stage.

The List won 13 out of the 120 seats in the Knesset, but a recent poll showed that only 44 percent of Palestinian voters thought it represented their interests, with 52 percent disagreeing.

Tibi’s departure threatens to lead to further splintering of the coalition, with the southern Islamic Movement also reportedly considering breaking away or demanding leadership of the surviving List.

Relations between the two other parties – Hadash, a block of communist and socialist groups headed by Odeh, and national-democratic party Balad – are fractious, as they compete for a similar pool of secular Palestinian voters.

Call for reform

According to Tibi, the fact that his party, Taal, only holds a single seat in the Knesset is “clearly unjust”.

“The composition of the List should be decided by the people, not decreed by the parties,” he told Middle East Eye.

According to polls, a separate Tibi ticket would be likely to receive six seats, level-pegging with the remnants of the Joint List.

He said an overhaul of the List would make it more democratic and accountable, and revive flagging support from Palestinian voters in Israel.

“The competition between two big lists will actually encourage people to come out and vote,” Tibi said. “Surveys show that we can get 12 seats when we run apart, but together we will drop to 10 or 11 seats.

“The other parties don’t want change because they are afraid of the outcome.”

Tibi said he would consider returning to the List only if it introduced more democratic procedures allotting seats to the parties on the basis of their popularity – either assessed through opinion polls or primaries.

Split could backfire

On social media, Odeh harshly criticised Tibi for the breakup, accusing him of prioritising his “personal interests”.

“Netanyahu wants to see the Joint List break up more than anyone else. The extreme right wants to divide and conquer the Arabs,” he tweeted.

According to analysts, the split could indeed backfire, fuelling disenchantment.

“Surveys show that people support the idea of the Joint List but want more, not less, unity from its parties. They want it better organised and more effective,” Asad Ghanem, a political scientist at Haifa University, told MEE.

“If that trend doesn’t continue, a significant proportion are likely to stay home – or vote for Jewish parties on the basis that at least those parties have some influence within the Israeli political system.”

‘Coming out in droves’

Ghanem also noted that Tibi, a former adviser to late Palestinian national leader Yasser Arafat, had until now been a largely one-man outfit. In the past, he has always allied with another party at election time.

“On paper, Tibi enjoys a lot of support, but that ignores the difficulty he faces widening his party’s appeal,” he said. “He needs to create a convincing list of candidates and establish a party machine capable of bringing out his voters to the polls.”

A combination of low turnout and separate parties could mean one or more fail to pass an electoral threshold, dramatically reducing Palestinian representation in the Knesset.

That would likely delight the Israeli right, including Netanyahu, who raised the electoral threshold before the 2015 vote in an undisguised bid to prevent Palestinian parties from winning seats.

When the Palestinian parties responded by forming the Joint List, Netanyahu used scaremongering on polling day to rally his supporters. He warned Jewish voters that the Palestinian minority was “coming out to vote in droves”.

Aida Touma-Suleiman, a legislator for the Hadash party, said those who preferred the Joint List to splinter were “gambling” that they would manage to pass the threshold. “That’s a very dangerous position to adopt,” she told MEE.

Need for common platform

Ghanem criticised the Joint List for failing to make an impact on the most pressing socio-economic issues faced by the Palestinian minority. Half of Palestinian families in Israel live under the poverty line, nearly four times the rate among Israeli Jews.

He also accused the List of failing to effectively counter recent legislative moves by the Netanyahu government that have targeted the rights of Israel’s Palestinian minority.

In 2016, the government passed an Expulsion Law empowering a three-quarters majority of the parliament to ban a legislator for holding unpopular political views. It was widely seen as a measure to silence Palestinian Knesset members.

And last summer, Israel voted through the Nation-State Basic Law, which explicitly gives the Jewish people alone a right to self-determination in Israel.

Ghanem said the Joint List’s failure to offer a clear position on the last law, or mobilise Palestinian opinion against it, was especially glaring.

“The problem is that the List has failed to develop a common political programme. It is not enough to have a Joint List, it must have a joint voice too.”

Touma-Suleiman, however, called much of the criticism of the Joint List unfair.

“The Nation State Law showed exactly what the Netanyahu government thinks of our rights. Anything we achieve is like pulling teeth from the lion’s mouth,” she said. “We are operating in a very hostile political environment.”

Crisis of legitimacy

Jafar Farah, the director of Mossawa, an advocacy group for Israel’s Palestinian citizens and rumoured to be a future candidate for the Hadash party, agreed with Tibi that the Joint List was suffering from a crisis of legitimacy.

“Who speaks for our community when we address the Israeli public or speak to the Palestinian Authority or attend discussions in Europe?” he told MEE. “That person needs to be able to say credibly that they represent the community.”

Farah, however, noted that the reality of Palestinians in Israel was “more complicated” than that for most other national minorities. Israeli officials have strenuously objected to any efforts by the Palestinian minority to create its own internal parliament or seek self-determination.

Nonetheless, he said, the Palestinian parties were making themselves irrelevant by focusing on a two-state solution in an era when Netanyahu and the right had imposed on the region their agenda of permanent occupation in the context of a single state.

“We can’t just accept the rules of a political game in which we operate in the margins of a Jewish democracy. It is not enough just to have a leader, we need to offer a new political vision. We have to be creative and bring a new agenda.

“The Jewish majority won’t come to our aid. We have to lead the struggle and be ready to pay the price.”

End of ideological politics

Ghanem said the Joint List’s failures, combined with the collapse of any peace-making efforts to end the occupation, had encouraged a move away from ideological politics among many Palestinian voters in Israel.

“People are instead increasingly focusing on their own personal concerns,” he said.

He pointed to recent local elections in Nazareth, the largest Palestinian-majority city in Israel, where the main political parties bowed out and left the mayoral race to two independent candidates.

The trend away from ideological politics was being reinforced, as elsewhere, by new media that offered people a wider set of perspectives.

“Generally, people feel more confused, and want clear, strong figures like a Netanyahu or a Trump,” Ghanem said. “Tibi can exploit that trend.”

Gaining more influence

Tibi said it was vital for the parties to find a way to make alliances with centre and centre-left Jewish parties in the current climate.

“It is not just about getting more Arab legislators into the Knesset,” he said. “It is about having more legislators who can have an influence, who can help shape the choice of the prime minister. That is imperative if we are going to bring down Netanyahu and the right.”

Tibi said he hoped that, by rebuilding the credibility of the Palestinian parties, they would be in a position to form a “blocking majority” in the Knesset, similar to the situation in the early 1990s.

Then, a newly elected centre-left coalition headed by Yitzhak Rabin needed the support of the Palestinian parties to push through the Oslo Accords, against fierce opposition from the right, led by Netanyahu.

Rabin did so through an arrangement with Palestinian legislators that they would back the coalition from outside the government.

“We helped Rabin achieve his goals and in return the situation of our community improved, with more rights and higher budgets,” said Tibi. “We can be in that position again but only if we can regain the confidence of our community.”

Calls for boycott

Tibi and others believe that, if the turnout among Palestinian citizens returns to the levels of the 1980s, the minority could elect several more legislators, potentially tipping the balance towards a centre-left government.

But for that to happen, the Palestinian parties will need to overturn growing apathy and frustration from their voters, warned Ghanem.

Salman Masalha, a Palestinian columnist for Haaretz newspaper, called the Palestinian members of the Knesset “a fig leaf” whose participation served only to “beautify the state to the world, making it look like a vibrant democracy”.

He argued for a boycott of the election, playing on Netanyahu’s 2015 election incitement: “Arab citizens must respond, ‘the Arabs are boycotting in droves’ the scam of Israeli democracy.”

A boycott of the national elections is the official platform of two factions: the small, staunchly secular Abnaa al-Balad (Sons of the Land) party and the popular northern wing of the Islamic Movement, under Sheikh Raed Salah, which the Netanyahu government outlawed four years ago.

Ghanem observed that Netanyahu’s fate, as he faces indictment on several corruption charges in the midst of the election campaign, could play a decisive role in the turnout of Palestinian voters.

“If Netanyahu looks vulnerable, more [Palestinian voters] will come out in the hope that their parties will be able to support the centre-left in challenging the right.

“But if he looks likely to win, as seems the case at the moment, then many will conclude that the situation is hopeless and stay home.”

• First published in Middle East Eye

Give Children the Vote, Strengthen Democracy

In December 2018 David Runciman, Head of Politics at Cambridge University, made the radical proposal that children as young as six should be allowed to vote in elections to deal with the age bias in contemporary democracies. Allowing children to vote he said, would give a ‘jolt of energy’ to democracy. While the thought of six year olds voting sounds extreme and will no doubt be broadly dismissed, there is a strong democratic argument for lowering the eligible age from 18, which is the standard voting age in most countries, and allowing children to vote.

In response to Professor Runciman’s suggestion The Guardian newspaper asked a group of children “aged 6-12 what [political] policies would get their vote.” Their intelligent, straightforward answers are inspiring and in accord with the views of many of us. Freed from ideology and party politics these children see the issues clearly and speak in an unencumbered way, direct from the heart.

Thomas Atkinson is 10 and lives in Belfast. “The other day I saw someone sitting on the pavement. He looked about 20. Why is that happening? He needs a job and a home – and there are so many jobs that need doing. Like, for example, the environmental problems. There is plastic on the beaches all around Bangor. We need people to clear that.”

Petra Pekarik is 11 and lives in London. She is a Hungarian citizen – “it doesn’t make sense to me that Britain is putting up barriers. I feel the opposite should be happening, and we should be taking barriers away.” She says that in school they talk a lot about fairness, but in society “there are some people who are so special, and other people who don’t even have a home. Sometimes I see people living on the street and I think, why are they there? It’s important because we are all the same: these people aren’t different, they’re people. We are all people.”

And Tom Ashworth, who is 9 and lives in Ambleside: “Climate change is the big issue politicians need to work on…. We can’t just let this happen and do nothing – it’s got to be stopped. We have to stop doing the things that cause climate change. It’s really important right now…. We need to stop wasting food and everything else we’re wasting.”

The only six-year-old spoken to, Wilfie Tudor-Wills from London, said that, “there should be more houses in London. There are a lot of people in this city and they need places to live…. there should be less pollution, because it’s bad for your lungs.” And, given the chance to speak to the UK Prime Minister, Teresa May, he would “tell her to get more people to have electric cars because they’re better for the world. And also I’d like there to be more parks.”

The other children who were questioned gave answers that are just as insightful, but the views of these children, like all children their age go largely unheard. Children under 18 are commonly, and as these children’s comments demonstrate, mistakenly, thought to lack the understanding to participate in current affairs and as a result are denied the most basic democratic right, that of voting in an election; be it local or national. But at 18, everything changes; it is apparently the age when adulthood begins and with it full citizenship. Previously it was 21.

The arguments for excluding children from voting echo those trotted out in the past to ban other groups – women and people of color e.g. They are usually based on the idea that children are intellectually incapable of understanding the issues, are politically apathetic, and that, lacking a mind of their own, they will simply vote for the same candidate/party as their parents. This facile point was used to justify denying women the vote, only in that particular statement of prejudice, it was husbands not parents who it was said would determine the woman’s choice, because, like children, women cannot, or could not, think for themselves! Even if a child does vote in the same way as their parents, as indeed many over 18s do, it does not invalidate the ‘one person one vote’ system and is not a reason to deny him or her the opportunity to participate.

In countries or cities where 16 year-olds have been allowed to vote these justifications of exclusion have proven to be hollow.. Multiple studies show the younger first-time voters are, the greater their participation: The Washington Post related the example of Takoma Park, the first city in America to lower the voting age to 16 (in 2013), where “16 – 17 year olds voted at twice the rate of the voting population.” In the 2016 Scottish Independence referendum 16 year olds were given the vote; they were actively involved in debates and 75% of those eligible to vote actually did so, 20% higher than 18 – 24 year olds. Support for early enfranchisement among the population at large also increased after the referendum – from around a third to 60%. The voting age in Scotland has since been lowered to 16 for all elections.

Whether 16 year olds, or anyone else for that matter, who are given the right to vote actually do so or not, however, should not be regarded as a reason to grant or withhold that right. In most general elections in the UK for example, an average of only 65% of those on the electoral register actually vote, and this is broadly the case in other western democracies.

Young people overwhelmingly support progressive liberal parties; they reject nationalism, embrace people from other countries and are often in the forefront of the environmental movement and calls for social justice. I suggest it is this knowledge that motivates conservative leaning groups of all kinds to resist lowering the voting age.

If representative democracy is to become truly reflective the maximum level of participation by the largest number and broadest range of people needs to be facilitated and encouraged, and this not just in the political sphere, but in all areas of contemporary life. In countries where the voting age has been kept at 18, a huge percentage of the population has no voice of their own; in Britain, which has an ageing population, that’s approximately 17 million young people. This is wholly un-democratic and needs to change.

The concerns and views of young people must be heard, acknowledged and acted upon and they should be granted that most rudimentary of democratic rights – the right to vote. The discussion should be focused on what level to lower the voting age to, not whether it should be reduced. The suggestion by Prof David Runciman that children as young as six should be allowed to vote does indeed seem extreme, particularly in a single step, the age most widely proposed is 16; a process of incremental changes, which can be reviewed, may be most fruitful and children themselves should be engaged in the debate.

Democracy is participation: not only should children be allowed to vote in elections of all kinds, they should have an active role in the management of schools and colleges and the composition of the educational curriculum. Facilitating such participation would not only encourage broader social responsibility amongst young people, it would enrich and strengthen democracy itself.

Israeli Politics is Being Dragged into the Grubby Realm of Reality TV

Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu commandeered the country’s airwaves last week in what many assumed would prove a moment of profound national import. They could not have been more wrong.

The context was his decision last month to move forward the general election to April, widely seen as a desperate effort to turn the vote into a referendum on his innocence as long-standing corruption investigations close in.

The police have recommended that he be charged over three separate allegations of bribery. By calling the election, Netanyahu has forced the attorney-general, Avichai Mendelblit, onto unfamiliar – and constitutionally tricky – terrain.

Mendelblit, an appointee of Netanyahu’s, has indicated that he will make a decision on whether to issue an indictment before the ballot, so that voters have the facts to make an informed choice.

But Netanyahu has said he won’t drop out or resign, even if indicted, and there is no decisive precedent to suggest he must.

Instead, he would prefer to bully the attorney-general into delaying a decision until after voters have spoken. That was the purpose of his unexpected live national TV address.

His supporters have already set the stage, claiming that an indictment mid-campaign would influence the outcome and usurp the will of the people.

Either way, Netanyahu hopes to benefit. If an indictment is served before the vote, it will rile up his base and bolster a carefully crafted narrative that he faces a campaign of persecution from state authorities.

If Mendelblit delays, Netanyahu will aim to exploit any electoral success to face down prosecutors, accusing them of seeking to reverse his popular mandate.

Netanyahu’s strategy was on full show last week when he took to the main TV channels. He used this moment of enforced national attention for nothing more serious than a self-serving gripe.

The investigators, led by a far-right police commander he personally approved, had supposedly joined a leftist plot to oust him. The proof was that they had denied him a chance to confront in person his accusers – former aides turned state witness – and challenge their testimony.

Claiming that he had been stripped of his legal rights, Netanyahu demanded a showdown be broadcast live – effectively trailblazing a new type of reality TV show for suspects in high-profile criminal cases.

Of course, Netanyahu understands only too well that such confrontations with witnesses are decided by the police, not the accused, and used only when evidence needs to be tested.

The police believe they already have the evidence required for a conviction, and hope to test it in a court of law, not in the type of TV spectacle in which Netanyahu excels.

Netanyahu’s move was intended to reinforce his claim that the “system” – one that has kept him and the ultra-nationalist right in uninterrupted power for a decade – is rigged against him.

There was a striking parallel with events last week in the United States, where President Donald Trump similarly addressed the nation to corner his opponents in Congress.

In his case, Trump sought to rally his base by fearmongering about a supposed “invasion” of immigrants, suggesting that the Democrats were subverting his efforts to block their entry with an Israeli-style wall.

But whereas many have described Netanyahu’s latest intervention as “Trumpian”, in truth the Israeli leader is as well-practiced as his American counterpart in the dark arts of media manipulation.

Two of the three bribery cases he faces relate directly to allegations that he offered favours – in one case captured on tape – to Israeli media moguls in return for better coverage in their publications.

Netanyahu has long demonstrated an obsession with controlling his image, and has proved an arch-manipulator of passions to mobilise support for his hawkish agenda.

It was at the last general election, in 2015, that he turned the tables on his right-wing rivals at the last moment. He rallied voters by claiming that Israel’s Palestinian citizens – a fifth of the population – were turning out in “droves” at polling booths. Only a vote for Netanyahu, he suggested, would save the Jewish state.

Not only did he imply that voting by Palestinian citizens was illegitimate, he claimed that the Israeli left was “bussing” them to the polls, citing this falsehood as proof of the left’s treachery.

Now Netanyahu is again deploying the “leftist” slur, this time to discredit the police and prosecution service.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Netanyahu’s Likud party is the only faction opposed to a plan by the Central Elections Committee to bar online propaganda in the campaign’s final two months.

Underscoring the way TV has increasingly become a tool in Israel not for clarifying issues but for inflaming emotions, the US TV comedian Roseanne Barr has been invited to address the Israeli parliament at the end of the month.

She will use the opportunity to denounce as Jew haters activists in the international boycott movement who stand in solidarity with Palestinians. Only in Israel’s current degraded public discourse would Barr, who has a history of making offensive comments variously about Jews, Muslims and black people, be taken seriously as an arbiter of racism.

Analysts widely expect this election campaign to be the dirtiest in Israel’s history. But, although they worry about Netanyahu’s demagoguery, they still overlook its grubbiest aspect.

Palestinians under occupation have been effectively disappeared from the campaign. They will have no voice in choosing the Israeli politicians who have determined their fate for the past five decades.

In fact, not one of the Israeli Jewish parties is highlighting Palestinian rights or putting the occupation at the centre of its platform. The vast majority of Israeli politicians want to entrench the occupation, not end it.

Israeli commentators noted that Mr Netanyahu had another pressing reason – apart from legal threats – to bring forward the election. He feared that otherwise Trump might unveil his long-promised peace plan.

However bad that plan will be for Palestinians, Netanyahu does not want his unwillingness to make concessions exposed.

But Netanyahu is far from the gravest threat to Israel’s “democracy”. The most dangerous thing of all is the widespread refusal in Israel to recognise that the Palestinians are human beings too – and that they should be able to determine their own fate, just like Israelis.

The New Congress and the Rolling Catastrophe of the US Body Politic

Bathed in the soothing waters of the Blue Wave, such that it was, a new US Congress will be baptized on January 3rd. But what portends when “Mad Dog” Mattis, arch racist Jeff Sessions, and deep state spooks are canonized by self-identified liberals and leftists as bulwarks against fascism? When all mainstream “opposition” politics can be reduced to a single issue: Trump. And when the mid-term elections ignored deepening impoverishment at home, endless wars abroad, and climate calamity – let alone the tax cut for the super-rich – and instead focused on the “threat” posed by (take your pick) immigrants or the Russians.

For the first time ever, the Gallup poll reported that most Democrats favor socialism to capitalism. And for good reason: as the Occupy movement proclaimed, “the system isn’t broken, it’s fixed.” An observer from the UK quipped, if the mid-term elections would have changed anything, they would not have been allowed.

The American body politic is in deep malaise with the current administration. But Trump is the symptom, not the disease, which is neoliberal rule. The conditions that allowed the ascendency of Trump were the result of the neoliberal policies of Obama/Bush and of their predecessors. Trump does not so much represent a break or reversal of Obama era policies. Rather, we are suffering a continuation and intensification of those policies as the body politic lurches to the right.

The Leadup to the New Congress

The good news for US democracy was the largest voter turnout in half a century for the congressional mid-term elections. For the 66% of the US population under 50 years, it was the highest in their lifetime. The more sobering news is that even with this record turnout, the majority of eligible voters didn’t vote. While the pool of eligible voters is diminished by felony disenfranchisement and other laws and practices depending on the state.

Beyond the microcosm of the corporate two-party system, there is a universe out there and even issues that transcend one’s affection or distaste for Trump. What if we had an electoral system like Cuba, where the vast majority of eligible voters are motivated to participate?

A glimpse of the smoldering discontent within the US electorate was seen in the vaguely insurgent candidacies in 2016 of Trump, with his faux populist appeal to those dispossessed by an economy that left them behind, and of Sanders with his critique of income inequality in a rigged system. For now, those grassroots potentials for genuine change have been contained and domesticated within the two-party system, dedicated above all to preserve existing power relationships.

Only 30 of 435 seats (7%) in the House were considered truly contested. Fully 74% of the seats were considered solidly safe for their respective parties; 183 for the Democrats and 137 for the Republicans.

In my one-party state of California, senator-for-life Diane Feinstein ran against a fellow Democrat. Our peculiar institution of placing only the top two winners of the primaries, regardless of party, on the general election ballot barred voters from voting for, or even writing in, a third-party choice let alone a Republican.

So, the majority of eligible voters sat out the mid-term spectacle, simply not bothering with politicians awash in ever more obscene tsunamis of corporate cash.

Nancy Pelosi, representing San Francisco’s congressional district, spent an astronomical $5,111,387 for her virtually uncontested House seat. Her Republican opponent spent a paltry $12,443, barely enough to place a campaign statement on the ballot and pay for the postage to mail it. Had Pelosi sat out the campaign as did her opponent, Pelosi still would have coasted to victory on party and name recognition.

There is a reason why Pelosi, running in an absolutely safe district, outspent her opponent 410 to 1. Pelosi doled out her millions to other candidates running for the House who will then repay the favor by electing her majority leader of the new Congress. In other words, she served as the bag lady for her corporate donors to gain that position, which is not insignificant. Were Trump to become any more puffed up with ego and explode, taking Pence with him, Pelosi would be the next POTUS paid for by Facebook, Amazon, and the American Hospital Association.

Elections as currently constituted are auditions by politicians performing for the big money interests who cast those best at conning the electorate.

Who Are Our Friends – Who Are Our Enemies?

The present oligarch of the Oval Office is not a friend of working people, even if in his erratic behavior he may on occasion stumble to the left as with his flirtation with détente rather than nuclear war with Russia. Cautionary note: Trump is not about to reverse the US imperial project.

What was shocking about Trump’s intention to withdraw US troops from Syria was not the suddenness of the announcement. In fact, this was a campaign promise made when he was candidate Trump and reiterated since. What shocked and indeed infuriated the establishment was that a politician was actually following through on a campaign promise that would draw down a US military invasion and occupation. For now, at least, Trump has broken with the time-honored US electoral tradition (e.g., Obama’s promise to close Guantánamo) of promising the electorate peace and giving them war.

Remember the Democrats’ promise of a “peace dividend” at the end of the old Cold War in the early 1990s? Now they are the war party nipping at Trump’s haunches from the right, goading him into an ever more aggressive new Cold War. Democrats voted 2 to 1 to increase, rather than cut, Trump’s first military budget. Democrats are vehemently against drawing down US troops in the Middle East and positively apoplectic about the threat of peace breaking out in the Korean Peninsula.

It goes without saying that Trump and the Republicans are not an alternative for progressive social change. Unfortunately, traditional liberalism is also a dead end. There has been no major progressive legislation passed since the mid-1970s. According to Noam Chomsky, the last liberal president was Richard Nixon. Liberals, because they no longer even pretend to have a progressive agenda, are relegated to the role of, on one hand, legitimizing those to the right and, on the other, attacking genuine progressives, especially those representing third parties such as the Greens or the Peace and Freedom Party.

In the Hall of Mirrors Called the Democratic Party, the Lesser Evil Becomes the Other Evil

With brand Obama, the Democratic Party had peddled hope to the masses. That advertising appeal no longer passes the red face test. The new marketing strategy by leftish apologists for the Democrats is to be sophisticatedly unapologetic about the deep corruption of the electoral party of their choice.

  • Noam Chomsky laments “a New Democrat leadership that panders to the donor class.”
  • Author Thomas Frank regrets the Democratic Party going from the party of the people to “the party of the rich elites.”
  • Filmmaker Michael Moore bemoans how the Democrats paved the way for Trump.
  • Blogger Paul Street deplores: “Yes, the Democrats are horrible. They make my skin crawl. I’ve documented their record as a pack of ‘lying neoliberal warmongers…’”

And then they all urge us, in the words of Street, “to hold one’s nose and vote ‘for’ the Dems” once again, and again, and again…and forever. Presumably to reward them for bad behavior.

The latest addition to the Democratic Party leadership is party caucus leader Hakeem Jefferies, an African American from New York City. Although a member of the Progressive Caucus, he earned his spurs attacking single-payer healthcare and Bernie Sanders from the right, while being a leading champion of charter schools and the security state. It is difficult to tell left from right in the hall of mirrors called the Democratic Party.

With the realignment of the Democratic Party, it is no longer the “lesser evil” but the “other evil.” Meanwhile, both the economy and the polity have become more concentrated and less democratic with an ever-wealthier elite perched atop of an ever-growing surveillance state, mass incarceration, and censored media on the internet.

Lacking a substantive progressive agenda, Trump is the best thing that could happen to the Democrats whose main platform is the resurrection of the anti-Trump candidate. Will it be Oprah, Hillary, Biden, Beto, or even Bernie? The Democratic Party leadership preferred Trump as the Republican presidential candidate, showing it chose to risk a Trump presidency rather than a Sanders one, which would have been beyond the comfort zone of their corporate funders.

That was the dark secret revealed by DNC emails made public by Wikileaks. Which well explains why the Democrats have been obsessed with promoting Russiagate as a distraction and are so vindictive against Wikileaks editor Julian Assange.

A Political Party of Another Kind

With the Democrats and Republicans feeding from the same corporate trough, how different can the two parties be? The following report on a political party of another kind gives an indication.

Washington Post heiress Lally Weymouth held a swank party in the Hamptons for the ruling elite. In keeping with the virulently anti-Trump/pro-Democrat editorial line of the Post, the guest list included Senator Chuck Schumer, former governor/senator Bob Graham, and other Democratic Party politicians along with billionaire funders of the party such as George Soros, Ronald Lauder, and Carl Icahn.

But, hey, this was a ruling class party. So also attending were Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, a number of Trump’s cabinet secretaries, and fat-cat Republican funder David Koch of the Koch brothers.

As reporter Maureen Callahan observed:

Weymouth’s party is the latest reminder that for all the bruising rhetoric, the constant polls showing a deeply divided America and the most polarizing president in history, our battle isn’t red vs. blue, right vs. left: It’s about the 1% vs. the rest of us. They laugh as we take their political theater for real.

The New Congress and the Rolling Catastrophe of the US Body Politic

Bathed in the soothing waters of the Blue Wave, such that it was, a new US Congress will be baptized on January 3rd. But what portends when “Mad Dog” Mattis, arch racist Jeff Sessions, and deep state spooks are canonized by self-identified liberals and leftists as bulwarks against fascism? When all mainstream “opposition” politics can be reduced to a single issue: Trump. And when the mid-term elections ignored deepening impoverishment at home, endless wars abroad, and climate calamity – let alone the tax cut for the super-rich – and instead focused on the “threat” posed by (take your pick) immigrants or the Russians.

For the first time ever, the Gallup poll reported that most Democrats favor socialism to capitalism. And for good reason: as the Occupy movement proclaimed, “the system isn’t broken, it’s fixed.” An observer from the UK quipped, if the mid-term elections would have changed anything, they would not have been allowed.

The American body politic is in deep malaise with the current administration. But Trump is the symptom, not the disease, which is neoliberal rule. The conditions that allowed the ascendency of Trump were the result of the neoliberal policies of Obama/Bush and of their predecessors. Trump does not so much represent a break or reversal of Obama era policies. Rather, we are suffering a continuation and intensification of those policies as the body politic lurches to the right.

The Leadup to the New Congress

The good news for US democracy was the largest voter turnout in half a century for the congressional mid-term elections. For the 66% of the US population under 50 years, it was the highest in their lifetime. The more sobering news is that even with this record turnout, the majority of eligible voters didn’t vote. While the pool of eligible voters is diminished by felony disenfranchisement and other laws and practices depending on the state.

Beyond the microcosm of the corporate two-party system, there is a universe out there and even issues that transcend one’s affection or distaste for Trump. What if we had an electoral system like Cuba, where the vast majority of eligible voters are motivated to participate?

A glimpse of the smoldering discontent within the US electorate was seen in the vaguely insurgent candidacies in 2016 of Trump, with his faux populist appeal to those dispossessed by an economy that left them behind, and of Sanders with his critique of income inequality in a rigged system. For now, those grassroots potentials for genuine change have been contained and domesticated within the two-party system, dedicated above all to preserve existing power relationships.

Only 30 of 435 seats (7%) in the House were considered truly contested. Fully 74% of the seats were considered solidly safe for their respective parties; 183 for the Democrats and 137 for the Republicans.

In my one-party state of California, senator-for-life Diane Feinstein ran against a fellow Democrat. Our peculiar institution of placing only the top two winners of the primaries, regardless of party, on the general election ballot barred voters from voting for, or even writing in, a third-party choice let alone a Republican.

So, the majority of eligible voters sat out the mid-term spectacle, simply not bothering with politicians awash in ever more obscene tsunamis of corporate cash.

Nancy Pelosi, representing San Francisco’s congressional district, spent an astronomical $5,111,387 for her virtually uncontested House seat. Her Republican opponent spent a paltry $12,443, barely enough to place a campaign statement on the ballot and pay for the postage to mail it. Had Pelosi sat out the campaign as did her opponent, Pelosi still would have coasted to victory on party and name recognition.

There is a reason why Pelosi, running in an absolutely safe district, outspent her opponent 410 to 1. Pelosi doled out her millions to other candidates running for the House who will then repay the favor by electing her majority leader of the new Congress. In other words, she served as the bag lady for her corporate donors to gain that position, which is not insignificant. Were Trump to become any more puffed up with ego and explode, taking Pence with him, Pelosi would be the next POTUS paid for by Facebook, Amazon, and the American Hospital Association.

Elections as currently constituted are auditions by politicians performing for the big money interests who cast those best at conning the electorate.

Who Are Our Friends – Who Are Our Enemies?

The present oligarch of the Oval Office is not a friend of working people, even if in his erratic behavior he may on occasion stumble to the left as with his flirtation with détente rather than nuclear war with Russia. Cautionary note: Trump is not about to reverse the US imperial project.

What was shocking about Trump’s intention to withdraw US troops from Syria was not the suddenness of the announcement. In fact, this was a campaign promise made when he was candidate Trump and reiterated since. What shocked and indeed infuriated the establishment was that a politician was actually following through on a campaign promise that would draw down a US military invasion and occupation. For now, at least, Trump has broken with the time-honored US electoral tradition (e.g., Obama’s promise to close Guantánamo) of promising the electorate peace and giving them war.

Remember the Democrats’ promise of a “peace dividend” at the end of the old Cold War in the early 1990s? Now they are the war party nipping at Trump’s haunches from the right, goading him into an ever more aggressive new Cold War. Democrats voted 2 to 1 to increase, rather than cut, Trump’s first military budget. Democrats are vehemently against drawing down US troops in the Middle East and positively apoplectic about the threat of peace breaking out in the Korean Peninsula.

It goes without saying that Trump and the Republicans are not an alternative for progressive social change. Unfortunately, traditional liberalism is also a dead end. There has been no major progressive legislation passed since the mid-1970s. According to Noam Chomsky, the last liberal president was Richard Nixon. Liberals, because they no longer even pretend to have a progressive agenda, are relegated to the role of, on one hand, legitimizing those to the right and, on the other, attacking genuine progressives, especially those representing third parties such as the Greens or the Peace and Freedom Party.

In the Hall of Mirrors Called the Democratic Party, the Lesser Evil Becomes the Other Evil

With brand Obama, the Democratic Party had peddled hope to the masses. That advertising appeal no longer passes the red face test. The new marketing strategy by leftish apologists for the Democrats is to be sophisticatedly unapologetic about the deep corruption of the electoral party of their choice.

  • Noam Chomsky laments “a New Democrat leadership that panders to the donor class.”
  • Author Thomas Frank regrets the Democratic Party going from the party of the people to “the party of the rich elites.”
  • Filmmaker Michael Moore bemoans how the Democrats paved the way for Trump.
  • Blogger Paul Street deplores: “Yes, the Democrats are horrible. They make my skin crawl. I’ve documented their record as a pack of ‘lying neoliberal warmongers…’”

And then they all urge us, in the words of Street, “to hold one’s nose and vote ‘for’ the Dems” once again, and again, and again…and forever. Presumably to reward them for bad behavior.

The latest addition to the Democratic Party leadership is party caucus leader Hakeem Jefferies, an African American from New York City. Although a member of the Progressive Caucus, he earned his spurs attacking single-payer healthcare and Bernie Sanders from the right, while being a leading champion of charter schools and the security state. It is difficult to tell left from right in the hall of mirrors called the Democratic Party.

With the realignment of the Democratic Party, it is no longer the “lesser evil” but the “other evil.” Meanwhile, both the economy and the polity have become more concentrated and less democratic with an ever-wealthier elite perched atop of an ever-growing surveillance state, mass incarceration, and censored media on the internet.

Lacking a substantive progressive agenda, Trump is the best thing that could happen to the Democrats whose main platform is the resurrection of the anti-Trump candidate. Will it be Oprah, Hillary, Biden, Beto, or even Bernie? The Democratic Party leadership preferred Trump as the Republican presidential candidate, showing it chose to risk a Trump presidency rather than a Sanders one, which would have been beyond the comfort zone of their corporate funders.

That was the dark secret revealed by DNC emails made public by Wikileaks. Which well explains why the Democrats have been obsessed with promoting Russiagate as a distraction and are so vindictive against Wikileaks editor Julian Assange.

A Political Party of Another Kind

With the Democrats and Republicans feeding from the same corporate trough, how different can the two parties be? The following report on a political party of another kind gives an indication.

Washington Post heiress Lally Weymouth held a swank party in the Hamptons for the ruling elite. In keeping with the virulently anti-Trump/pro-Democrat editorial line of the Post, the guest list included Senator Chuck Schumer, former governor/senator Bob Graham, and other Democratic Party politicians along with billionaire funders of the party such as George Soros, Ronald Lauder, and Carl Icahn.

But, hey, this was a ruling class party. So also attending were Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner, a number of Trump’s cabinet secretaries, and fat-cat Republican funder David Koch of the Koch brothers.

As reporter Maureen Callahan observed:

Weymouth’s party is the latest reminder that for all the bruising rhetoric, the constant polls showing a deeply divided America and the most polarizing president in history, our battle isn’t red vs. blue, right vs. left: It’s about the 1% vs. the rest of us. They laugh as we take their political theater for real.

Socialism and the ballot

In recent elections, it seems American voters have had little choice but to elect candidates they perceive as being “on their side,” or perhaps as being “better than the other guy.” Since the enfranchisement of women and Black Americans in the course of the last century, voter participation has been too easily circumscribed by powerful elements, and often approached as if little more than a championship football game. Damage control is simple enough when just two teams play, when only two rule books vie for predictable outcomes, and when always, always, the rich get richer in the end, win who may. Certainly, to an appreciable extent, voters themselves have co-produced this system. Albeit, this problem is nothing new to anarchists who have long pointed out that democracy’s fundamental flaw is that it pivots on processes, not results.

Now, in a country where monopoly pretends to validate the total success of financial as much as political ventures, there may be a telling irony to the current American political moment, a time in which a protracted battle for supremacy yet rages between the major political parties and underscores, rather than snuffs, radical sentiments and the concomitant trends in voting behavior that bespeak them. For many voters today, these elections indicate a departure from what was not so long ago perceived as “politics as usual.” Obama’s election marked a kind of departure from the Bush-Gore election moment, and now, right-wing populism and white nationalism once again leave their substanceless but de-democratizing watermark on the pages of American political history being underwritten by Donald Trump, a shameless clown.

With this year’s midterms, voters yet witness what has been seeping through the political cracks all along. Rather than being eclipsed by the usual two-party political “football rivalry,” and now a peculiarly self-serving presidency, socialist ideas are being floated with a fresh degree of regularity, and very much at the grass-roots level. Some of this year’s candidates, notably women and members of minority and marginalized groups, folks who propound radical ideas to realize necessary dreams, seek to secure historically off-limits establishment positions. One question is why, now, in this utmost neoliberal moment, do socialist ideas lure voters away from either ideology of the dominant, entrenched camps in support of once unthinkable political victories?

The economists who have published the recent World Inequality Report 2018 offer several income-based observations that elucidate a potential, if partial, answer to this question. For example, Piketty and colleagues state:

Until recently, most available long-run series on inequality focused on top-income shares. …[W]e present new findings on how the shares going to the lowest groups of populations have evolved. …[B]ottom-income shares have declined significantly in many countries. In particular, we document a dramatic collapse of the bottom 50% income share in the United States since 1980 but not in other advanced economies, again suggesting that policies play a key role.

Anyone aware of the neoliberal turn ushered in under Reagan and Thatcher could not mistake the year 1980: it all but marks the beginning of the decimation of bottom income shares that is now under study by mainstream economists, who are sounding the alarm. “The income-inequality trajectory observed in the United States,” they write, “is largely due to massive educational inequalities, combined with a tax system that grew less progressive despite a surge in top labor compensation since the 1980s, and in top capital incomes in the 2000s.” Indeed, nearly four decades later, neoliberalism’s downward pressure on workers, the poor, and the marginalized has squeezed the least powerful to a political point of degeneracy pressure, which a star undergoes before eventual detonation. The squeeze is only tolerable to a point, and consequent change is phenomenal.

Under such pressure, what choice do voters have but to vote for candidates sympathetic to the idea of workers controlling the government, and the government controlling the economy? Such is how Danny Katch describes the encompassing pillars of socialism in his book Socialism…Seriously: A Brief Guide to Human Liberation.

Moreover, voters know that socialism is not a pipe dream. Piketty’s report possibly provides scientific grounds for steering toward a socialist future. They observe that current economic inequality is “largely driven by the unequal ownership of capital, which can be either privately or publicly owned,” and, globally, current income inequality is going to increase “even more if all countries follow the high-inequality trajectory followed by the United States between 1980 and 2016.” So, given the chance to change from a life lived under capitalism to something else, something much more humane and equitable, socialism amounts not to a “left turn” in the colloquial sense, but very much a “right” one.

But what, exactly, are voters turning away from when they vote at the ballot box? Perhaps unwittingly, Alan Greenspan, appointed Chairman of the Federal Reserve by Reagan in 1987, and serving as chairman until 2006, provides insight into this question in his new book Capitalism in America. Greenspan and coauthor Adrian Wooldridge actually paint a dismal, if mythically American, picture of capitalism, which they claim to be the most democratic, globally.

To them, American capitalism is unlike capitalism elsewhere in the world, where unfortunately it is caught up with “a plutocratic elite” and not of any service to ordinary people. Moreover, they believe American capitalism has allowed some to live financially ascendent lives while the rest, at worst, enjoy the spoils of the individual economic cunning of more successful figures. Yet, these authors also acknowledge some blemishes: “…the mistreatment of the aboriginal peoples and the enslavement of millions of African Americans” was bad but excusable when weighed against all the positives. Furthermore, they claim Americans instinctively surmised that Marx was wrong: workers were not responsible for historical change but the industrious men who pull themselves up by their bootstraps (e.g., Thomas Edison, Henry Ford, and Bill Gates).

Another claim central to their argument is that American capitalism has importantly depended on creative destruction, which in turn relies on better machines and business processes, information, cost reduction, efficient use of inputs, reduced transportation costs, and location. But alas, despite having the secret recipe for it, they admit the upsides to creative destruction are not an immediate given for anyone. And if potentially failing to exist altogether were not the worst of creative destruction, that is to say the very heart of Greenspan’s reduction of American capitalism, the authors cede the fallout manifests two ways: “…the destruction of physical assets as they become surplus to requirements, and the displacement of workers as old jobs are abandoned. To this should be added the problem of uncertainty.”

Naturally, this key economic feature in American capitalism begets winners and losers. Greenspan’s fix for making such a system “truly actuarially sound” is simple: reduce “benefit levels … by 25 percent indefinitely into the future, or taxation rates need to be raised”–the latter being a political non-starter, of course.

Yet, history is not inaccessible to the rest of us, and individuals with power similar to Greenspan’s have themselves weighed-in on capitalism from time to time. Nearly a century-and-a-half ago, for instance, John C. Calhoun asserted “there never has yet existed a wealthy and civilized society in which one portion of the community did not, in point of fact, live on the labor of the other. Broad and general as is this assertion, it is fully borne out by history” Calhoun further argues “it would not be difficult to trace the various devices by which the wealth of all civilized communities has been so unequally divided, and to show by what means so small a share has been allotted to those by whose labor it was produced, and so large a share given to the non-producing classes.” This flies in the face of Greenspan’s gambit that American capitalism has proven, definitively, that workers are not responsible for historical change.

Prior to Calhoun, even, Andrew Jackson ostensibly bemoaned the rigging of the American government in favor of capitalism and its winners, as well as the inability of American democracy, thoroughly sustained by capitalism, to provide a solution:

It is to be regretted that the rich and powerful too often bend the acts of government to their selfish purposes. Distinctions in society will always exist under every just government. Equality of talents, of education, or of wealth can not be produced by human institutions. In the full enjoyment of the gifts of Heaven and the fruits of superior industry, economy, and virtue, every man is equally entitled to protection by law; but when the laws undertake to add … distinctions, to grant titles, gratuities, and exclusive privileges, to make the rich richer and the potent more powerful, the humble members of society – the farmers, mechanics, and laborers – who have neither the time nor the means of securing like favors to themselves, have a right to complain of the injustice of their Government.

Today, while the three richest individuals in the United States and half the country’s population (i.e., its poorest half) possess the same amount of wealth, and when over four-fifths of the wealth created in the last year flowed only to one percent of all people, globally, it makes intuitive sense that people should be wont to–as anarchist thinker Ivan Illich says–“shake off the illusion that men are born to be slaveholders and that the only thing wrong in the past was that not all men could be equally so.” And so, the present critique of capitalism manifests many places, the ballot box being but one of them.

Voters are questioning crisis, whether economic or social. They question the distribution of wealth, what wealth means, and how it gets created. Fairness is questioned: who gets what, why, and for what work? Furthermore, voters are questioning “what counts as labor, how it is organized, and what its organization is now demanding from, and doing to, people,” as Nancy Fraser and Rahel Jaeggi examine in their book Capitalism: A Conversation in Critical Theory.

The same authors indicate that criticizing capitalism entails equity as well as questions surrounding why so few lives are stable or undergirded by “a sense of wellbeing…” Also, why is there such precarity relative to work? Why must voters living under capitalism continue acquiring multiple jobs with “fewer rights, protections, and benefits,” not to mention increasing instances of crushing debt? Fraser and Jaeggi add:

Equally fundamental questions surround the deepening stresses on family life… Deep questions arise, too, about the increasingly alarming impacts of our extractive relation to nature… Nor, finally, should we forget political questions, about, for example, the hollowing out of democracy by market forces at two levels: … the corporate capture of political parties and public institutions at the level of the territorial state; [and] the usurpation of political decision-making power at the transnational level by global finance, a force that is unaccountable to any demos.

Rightly, these theorists consider all of the above to be “central to what it means to talk about capitalism today.”

Capitalism and critique notwithstanding, conservative thought leaders in America could not be happier to finger Venezuela as suffering from a failed, tag-team combination of Venezuelan socialism and Cuban communism. They say whereas Venezuela was once among the world’s richest countries, socialism is unequivocally to blame for the bankruptcy and misery that Venezuelans currently face. The old self-evident truth once again emerges in their ploy: heterodox approaches to economic policy and political governance breeds dissonance and suffering time and time again. But really, what is the mis-direction being given here? Simply, resist socialism. The American government itself promotes the same, calling on the international community to help in restoring democracy, or capitalism, in Venezuela through economic sanctions and pressure on the Venezuelan people.

Consider the source of the advice that encourages American voters to resist socialism. In America, the government is not controlled by the workers. What is largely possible for voting constituents to achieve, radically speaking, is to an extent determined by what the state is willing to ordain and prescribe. As Alain Badiou notes, “The State is always the finitude of possibility, and the event is its infinitization.” So, voters must necessarily consider the state also to be preoccupied with what is, or what, for its own sake, ought always to be, impossible. Truly, for for the American state, this is likely imperative to self-preservation in a time of revived interest in socialist ideas.

To the state’s liking, what is possible under the present political arrangement in America is: one, a highly susceptible constitutional government; two, an economic system marked by capitalism; three, law for the sake of property; and four, military and police apparatuses. This arrangement frees the state to further discern what possibilities it will engender and espouse going forward, organizing itself accordingly and, thus far, along two party lines. That anything else outside either the will or the activity of the state will be tolerated endures “only to the extent that it is subtracted from the power of the state,” as Badiou asserts.

As further evidence of this, French anarchist Jacques Ellul provides a historical observation on “technique” and the state in the mid-twentieth century: “…either it receives from the state that sanction which alone can render it efficacious, or it must remain a mere abstraction, an offer without a taker. But who believes that such a noble edifice can remain an abstraction? There is, in any case, one agency which asks nothing better than to intervene: the state.”

In all likelihood, the continued existence of capitalism serves to ensure the dream of socialism be kept alive. And because life becomes increasingly dire for so many while a select few enjoy more and more spoils, it is only reasonable that voters should be acting to materialize some of their dreams by supporting candidates oriented toward socialism. As Ernesto “Che” Guevara once wrote, a revolution is not “an apple that falls when it is ripe.” Rather, “You have to make it fall.”

Today, a vote outside the political binary that perennially conforms American voters to a selection between two all but inevitable evils has dangerous fissures where radical political seeds have been sown, and by some mainstream politicians! The message? Principally, that another world is possible, no matter how dire the outlook at present, and that voters are precipitating the revolution at the ballot box. But for those who continue vote instep with the “spirit of Socialism,” as anarchist writer Rudolf Rocker calls it, that the overarching, albeit nominal, democracy should remain oriented towards processes rather than outcomes is problematic. If the state can know the outcomes or predict them based on the processes in place, or the “sides of the aisle,” then the various administrative tendrils of the bureaucratic corpus can ensure a viable existence going forward.

Of course, talking heads rally behind the state and come to its aid. Economists, politicians, pundits, and so on, all decry the recent upwelling in interest about socialism, contending that much of the original momentum of heterodox economics of decades, and even centuries, past is now lost. Despite the jingoism, both radicals and the uninitiated find themselves in good company at present. The thought of carrying on the radical work initiated by predecessors suffices to inspire them. For, the ideas of socialism are often practical as much as moral ones. Hence, Noam Chomsky instructs that “at every stage of history our concern must be to dismantle those forms of authority and oppression that survive from an era when they might have been justified in terms of the need for security or survival or economic development, but that now contribute to–rather than alleviate–material and cultural deficit.” Indeed, it is the reasonable humanist who sides with Enlightenment ideals and continues the age-old assault on the attendant inequality in society through an entire suite of prudent and necessary means.

Certainly, socialism’s detractors would have all voters believe there is no alternative to the dreadful status quo or its companion hierarchies that brace the current socio-political and economic arrangements. Furthermore, to inquire as to the feasibility of alternatives to the status quo is to welcome the usual self-serving response that guards the thing–perhaps as Badiou says of the “red decade,” beginning with the mid-1970s, which “finds its subjective form in a resigned surrender, in a return to customs–including electoral customs–deference towards the capito-parliamentarian or ‘Western’ order, and also the conviction that to want something better is to want something worse.” Or, in other words, to want socialism in America is necessarily to want to live a life under “failures” of economic and political experiments manifest elsewhere.

Well, what of the world’s dominant incarnation of oligarchic representative democracy? Indeed, it is like what Badiou asserts of the so-called “Communist hypothesis,” precisely that to compare most any alternative to what American capitalism and its government has espoused and engendered at home and abroad is to risk proselytizing about the benefits of subscribing to the “free world” values whose purportedly necessary protection is used as an excuse to further the state’s waging of endless war around the world. This, too, empowers the West to designate as “bad” anything of its choosing.

Reagan knew this well, and thus enjoyed the cultural currency afforded him by giving an incredible platform to the term “Evil Empire.” But this may also be evidence in support of anarchist Murray Bookchin’s assertion, “There is no future for hierarchical society to claim, and for us there are the alternatives only of utopia or social extinction.” In the face of the current extinction event, which the state has not designated as “bad” enough so as to go to war with it, the sweeping, steady turn towards socialist ideas is precisely a turn away from social extinction and toward something better.

As Katch writes:

Because we are so used to picturing the masters of both government and economy as narrow centralized powers that rule over us from a handful of buildings, it is hard for us to picture changes in society that go beyond replacing the people in those buildings with others who are hopefully more honest and noble. Socialism wouldn’t just replace those people but the system that centralizes so much power in a few buildings. It would broaden the bases of decision-making to thousands of buildings and public squares and community centers.

Therefore, so many cast their ballots this year in the hopes of realizing socialist aims: elaborating a system whereby they, the people, “control the government by changing what government means.”