Martin Luther King

Martin Luther King was the outstanding people’s leader of the 20th century. He left us an unparalleled legacy. Nobody combined a liberating and humane vision, strategic insight, and practical know-how as well as he did at the time or since. Below is a brief excerpt from his speech, “Beyond Vietnam – A Time to Break the Silence”  delivered at Riverside Church in New York City (1967). Still resonates. Or should I say it resonates even more?

” … we are called to play the Good Samaritan on life’s roadside; but that will be only an initial act. One day we must come to see that the whole Jericho road must be transformed so that men and women will not be constantly beaten and robbed as they make their journey on life’s highway. True compassion is more than flinging a coin to a beggar; it is not haphazard and superficial. It comes to see that an edifice, which produces beggars, needs restructuring. A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth.”

Back to the bench

I’ve decided to bench once again the term “center,” as in a political coalition of the center and left. That’s where it had been for years. But in the wake of Trump’s election, I decided to bring it back into action. My hope was that it would give emphasis to the necessity of constructing a coalition that is broad and diverse enough to contest the Trump administration and the Republican controlled Congress.

Or, to put in a little more polemically, I thought it would offer an alternative to the small-ball, ideologically driven, “blow up the Democratic Party” politics that were making the rounds on social media. The latter has a militant tone for sure, but, in dissing people, organizations, and sections of the Democratic Party occupying the middle of the political spectrum, they become a very poor strategic counterweight to resist the concentrated power of the extremist juggernaut entrenched in Washington and a majority of state capitals now.

On their best days, small ball politics can make some ripples, but what they can’t do is set into motion and sustain powerful waves of opposition to effectively oppose Trump. Only a dynamic, broadly constructed – and at times contentious – coalition that includes the center as well as progressives and the left, older establishment organizations as well as new social movements, and Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer as well as Bernie Sanders has that capacity. And even if assembled, albeit through dint of great effort, compromise, and creativity, the going will still be hellacious in present circumstances.

Moreover, much of center is trending in a progressive direction, realizing that the days of a centrism that turns on the unalloyed blessings of globalization, financialization, and triangulation are over.

So, you might be thinking, why bench the term? What’s the problem? The term, I found, in its brief run over the past few months, confused more than clarified. Rather than being understood as a broad and fluid political current that evolves and is an absolutely necessary part of the far flung opposition to Trump, it is, for some people, nothing more than a term of derision, signifying an attempt to recycle the corporate driven policies and ideology of the Clinton presidency. For others, less ideologically inclined and new to politics, it is too vague a term to shed much light on what kind of alliances and coalition relations are necessary, if we have any chance of turning back the anti-democratic and authoritarian impulses and polices of Trump and gang.

Now I realize that no terminology is going to magically put everybody on the same page. Nor will any term resolve longstanding political differences of the varied groupings that make up the resistance to the Trump administration. We’re still going to lock horns, for example, over the Democratic Party – its nature and reform (and radical) possibilities. No doubt differences will crop as well over the role of the labor movement and other traditional social organizations aligned to the Democratic Party. Nor will everybody be on the same page as far as how to engage the Trump administration. Finally, the discussions will continue on the merits (or weaknesses) of an economic-working-class populism that subordinates (and sometimes is deaf to) issues of race, gender, sexuality, and nationality.

None of this, however, changes my decision to bench “center.” I haven’t quite figured out what I will put in its place. But I do know this: what I won’t bench is is my conviction that broad and flexible strategic and tactical concepts of struggle that unify people and organizations, politically and socially varied in outlook and composition, is imperative at this moment.

If Trump goes?

A comment of mine to someone else’s post. I hope you get the gist.

I hope you are right, that Trump’s days are numbered. I go back and forth as to Trump’s longevity in office. If he goes, its effects across the political landscape, would go beyond, in my view, an exchange of one bad cop for another and the triggering of an angry backlash from Trump’s base.

First, Pence is a nasty right winger to be sure. But his political pedigree isn’t identical with Trump’s. Pence’s traces back to the rise of Reagan and Reaganism, while Trump’s better fits the new kids on the bloc – the alt right. This latter association makes Trump uniquely dangerous, but what cranks up the danger meter to a much higher reading is his psychological makeup – his unpredictability, instability, and narcissism.

This toxic mix of extremist politics and a pronounced personality disorder makes Trump at once completely contemptuous of democratic governance and ready to take highly risky actions without serious consideration of their consequences to the country and world. It doesn’t take a flight of imagination to hear Trump repeating the words of the absolutist ruler of France Louis 14th, if he were familiar with them, who, so the story goes, exclaimed, “L’Etat c’est Moi,” (I am the State). Thus, a Trumpless White House would allow me anyway to breathe a little easier, while fully understanding all the while that we would still face major challenges and dangers from a Pence administration.

As for Trump’s core supporters, it is fair to think that many will become enraged by the sacking of their Boss, but it’s also not out of the question that some – maybe no more than a silver – will become demobilized, too much duplicity and stress for them. Much would depend on what Trump would do in reaction to his unceremonious dimissal. Meanwhile, new and significant rifts, almost inevitably, would open up in the GOP political coalition, as the alt right goes to war with the traditional right. And on our side of the ledger, it is reasonable to expect that the broader democratic coalition and the Democratic Party will gain momentum, energy, and confidence due to Trump’s ouster. Finally, I can’t help but think that all this and more would improve, among other things, our election prospects next year.

International Women’s Day

A couple of thoughts that International Women’s Day brings to mind. One very brief, the other a bit longer:

* To say that women hold up half the sky (and just about everything else) is a gross understatement. I learned that as a young child, and have come to more deeply appreciate it as a (much) older man.

* The notion that waged work on a “production” site and in the formal sectors of the economy set the parameters for who’s in, who’s out, and who’s on the bubble of the working class – not to mention who has a hand in the production of the economic surplus from which profits and a fresh round of capital investment are derived – is a gendered as well as a racialized and generally exclusionary concept. In earlier centuries, it left large numbers of women as well as slaves of African ancestry, indigenous peoples, and new immigrants outside the category of working class, even though their labor was commonplace, abundant, and essential to capitalism’s accumulation, industrialization, and commodification process.

Today, global capitalism continues to rely on such labor, albeit on a much broader scale and in new as well as old forms, to sustain and expand its accumulation process, But in doing so, it makes this truncated and limited notion of class no more serviceable now than it was in previous centuries. This is especially so in the Global South.

Only a wide angled framing and understanding of who constitutes the working class, along with the specific class trajectories, histories, needs, and, not least, capacities, of each constituent group, and especially the historically invisible, uncounted, and subordinate, will provide us with a sturdy basis for unity and thus the grounds for victory against the nasty coalition of the right and alt right that is threatening democracy and everything that is decent and good in our country. In the elections, an exclusivist, racialized, gendered, and nativist concept of class captured the thinking of many white workers, and thus contributed significantly to the election of Trump – a candidate who was proudly, outspokenly, and uniquely misogynist, racist, and xenophobic. This, needless to say, presents the broad democratic movement and the Democratic Party a major challenge, if they hope to congeal a united people’s movement and transform a dire situation into a new step down Freedom Road.

Trumpscapades – A Danger to the Republic

* Someone said on Morning Joe – Joe Scarborough I think – that instead of tweeting groundless charges against former President Obama, Trump should turn his attention to the security threat from North Korea. Really? Who in their right mind wants him doing that? Trump is unstable and erratic. He is capable of doing crazy things, as he once again demonstrated over the weekend. It’s time to make a case for Impeachment.

* It is argued that Trump’s tweets this weekend accusing former President Obama of issuing an order to spy on him were successful in so far as they distracted public attention from the growing firestorm around his attorney general, Jeff Sessions. Sessions, it came out earlier in the week, had misled Congress about his meetings with the Russian government officials – another thread in a growing scandal that could lead to impeachment and much more.

But I don’t buy this argument. People are more sophisticated than that. They have longer memories. Sessions and his misdeeds remain in the public mind. If anything, what Trump did serves to reinforce the growing impression that Sessions as well as Trump himself and his advisors are swimming in a sea of duplicity, coverup, lawlessness, and gross violations of democratic and constitutional norms.

* I hope that the broader opposition to Trump turns impeachment into a popular, well argued campaign. I got to think that what he did this weekend left a lot of people – in high and ordinary circles – wondering – once more – about his fitness for office and thinking much more seriously about his removal for the sake of the country – some to protect their own positions. And their first reactions were reinforced when the FBI and NSA quickly challenged Trump’s claims.

Such a campaign doesn’t have to be at loggerheads with the present and ongoing opposition to his (and the Republican Party’s) policies. It canreinforce the actions and message of this far flung opposition.

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