1. The Wall is more than a clump of cement or steel; more than a poor use of taxpayer dollars; more than Trump’s vanity project. It’s become a symbol of everything that is wrong with the Trump presidency – beginning with its vile racism and xenophobia. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is exactly right when she said that Trump’s wall is immoral; its not who we are as a people or country.
To spend even a penny on this wall to break the impasse over the government shutdown is not a compromise that we should consider for even a moment. It might open up the government, but it also would scar our heart, our soul, and our future.
I find it helpful at moments like this to ask myself: What would Martin Luther King do? And I have to think he would say that our sacred duty is to bridges of understanding, equality, kindness, and solidarity at the border and everywhere else in our society, not walls of hate or division. It is, he would likely add, the only road to a “Beloved Community,” to a society that is fully just, decent, and non-violent.
2. A declaration of a national emergency may end the government shutdown, but in doing so it sets a dangerous precedent at a moment when Trump, reckless and authoritarian by nature, finds himself more and more inextricably entangled in legal and political challenges that threaten his presidency and could land him in jail.
3. The resistance to the Trump administration as well as the experience of 20th century socialism reminds me once again that that the defense of the misnamed “bourgeois” democratic rights, liberties, protections, and institutions — not to mention an independent media — isn’t a negative task that we reluctantly embrace at this moment nor is it something we can dispense with once we arrive at the “emancipatory” gates of socialism. To the contrary, it is a crucial terrain of struggle that should be defended, expanded, and deepened now as well as in any socialist society that is worthy of that name.
In reflecting on the experience of the past, not least 20th century socialism, the great historian E.P. Thompson wrote:
“I am told that, just beyond the horizon, new forms of working class power are about to arise which, being founded upon egalitarian productive relations, will require no inhibition and can dispense with the negative restrictions of bourgeois legalism. A historian is unqualified to pronounce on such utopian projections. All that he knows is that he can bring in support of them no evidence whatsoever. His advice might be: watch this new power for a century or two before you cut down your hedges.” Whigs and Hunters: The Origins of the Black Act
4. It’s hard not to like Alexandria Ocasio Cortez. She’s a fresh, new, democratic socialist voice in the political universe. Her star, already bright in the sky of U.S. politics, could easily grow brighter in the years to come. Let’s hope so.
But what I don’t like are the efforts of some on the left who would like to turn her celebrity, political outspokenness, and political pedigree into their ax to grind against her Democratic Party colleagues — many of whom have a long record of engagement, represent powerful social constituencies, and possess progressive politics — and the Democratic Party, which, by and large, is tacking in a progressive direction. Moreover, its role is vital in the struggle against Trump and right wing, white nationalist authoritarian rule.
5. Trump’s shutdown of the federal government is the political equivalent of a corporate lockout, albeit with some differences. One being its scale — 800,000 plus uncounted workers employed by federal contractors. Another its solution is in the hands of Congress. Still another is the boss has no economic skin in the game, while his stockholders in the Republican controlled Senate obediently bend to his manias and outbursts for now, no matter how irrational on their face.
What then to do in these circumstances? Wait it out, while worrying about the next bill? Find another job to tide yourself over? Appeal to family members for help in these difficult times? Visit food pantries? Go to your local pawn shops?
But with no obvious end in sight and day to day life becoming more dire for locked out government workers and their families, is it time for TSA workers and the entire federal government workforce to consider a job action? This question was posed and answered affirmatively in an oped in the NYT earlier this week.
Neither author is in the top circles of the labor movement, but, I believe, it is a fair question to ask and one that deserves discussion in the labor movement in the first place. After all, this is the longest government shutdown in history and, even more to the point, appears to have no quick ending.
No doubt it would be a perilous choice to make. And maybe it is impractical for all sorts of reasons. But that determination should be made after careful consideration by labor and its allies in the community and congress to begin with, not assumed beforehand.
It is hard to imagine that striking government workers in present circumstances wouldn’t receive the sympathy and solidarity of the majority of people across the country. This isn’t a PATCO Moment. Most people don’t like the Bully in the White House, and even more believe that the Bully is behind the shuttered government.
No harm in discussing it.
6. The late Raymond Williams begins his famous essay, “The Future of Marxism,” this way:
“There are two dimensions of politics. There is the dimension in which, because of living pressures, men try to understand their world and improve it. This dimension is persistently human. But beside it, always, is that parading robot of polemic, which resembles human thinking in everything but its capacity for experience.”
Insightful for sure. But not so easy to assimilate when our own “parading robots of polemic” provide ready made answers to a complex and changing world, even if they disappoint and come back to bite us in the long run. I know that from my own experience.
7. Back in the day I used the phrase, “A labor led people’s movement.” Thinking more about it, and notwithstanding labor’s long arc of struggle against right wing extremism and its necessary role in any long step down freedom road, I can’t help but think that this phrase was a case of wishful thinking, unexamined ideological commitments, and an abstract and rigid understanding of marxism obscuring the actual dynamics of struggle at the time.
Or. said differently, my “parading polemic” ignored experience.
8. When Marx writes that every revolution has to rid itself of the “muck of ages (German Ideology) he leaves unanswered what should be answered: What is muck and what isn’t? No less importantly, how quickly does the muck have to be removed? And who has to be assembled to do it? 20th century revolutionaries had their answers to these questions and many were badly off the mark.