Democratic Left

Fighting Faux Populism


By Joseph M. Schwartz

Brexit has come to the United States. For 30 years now, in Europe and the U.S., a bipartisan neoliberal consensus has embraced the benefits of globalization and the rise of the “knowledge economy.” If only workers would go back to school, retrain, and send their children to college, the good jobs that disappeared would somehow return. But those good jobs did not arrive, and voters have opted for a faux populism that promises to reverse globalization. The rise of mass parties of the far right coincides with the failure of both conservative and neoliberal-led social democratic parties to offer a viable alternative to austerity for the many and unrestrained affluence for the few. The same is true for Democratic Party elites.


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Next Steps in the Political Revolution

By Maria Svart 

I’m writing this column two weeks after the election, and the weight is only getting heavier on my shoulders. From the moment I wake up until I go to bed, my mind races. I worry about my vulnerable loved ones. I imagine my own future. I wonder how we can meet the challenges of our times and emerge in a place of collective liberation.

You, however, are my antidote. Two days after the election, when we held an emergency conference call for chapter leaders, more than 100 DSA and YDSers crowded the phone lines, first to mourn, then to brainstorm about organizing. At this writing, 2,800 additional people have joined DSA. And everywhere, new chapters are sprouting from these seeds and established ones are growing. By the time you read this column, and by the time Donald Trump takes the oath of office, we will have a new cohort of organizers already fighting back.

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What Are We Trying to Figure Out?

Newspapers React to Trump Victory

By Nikil Saval

Since the election results of November 8, shock has compounded shock. The initial shock was the surprise victory of Donald Trump, and the Republican Party throughout the country. The second has been the immediate turnaround on the part of commentators from shock and surprise to confident analysis and prognostication. It took virtually no time for the intelligentsia—pseudo- and otherwise—to reheat an old dish and serve up the culprit to be feasted on: the white working class. Endlessly discovered and rediscovered, from the hardhats of 1972 through the Reagan Democrats of 1984 and the Angry White Men of 1994, professionals have also wasted little time in projecting fantasy after fantasy onto this impossibly vast and intellectually diverse group of people (around 42 percent of the country). Barbara Ehrenreich dissected the lurid imaginings of the middle classes about the working classes in Fear of Falling (1989) in the wake of the victories of Nixon and Reagan. Now, as then, writers have launched blithely into trivial essays on what the voters wanted, more often through modes of inquiry resembling divination than actual reporting or analysis.

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Immigrant Communities Brace for Trump

By David Bacon

Immigrants and others protest in front of Oakland City Hall the evening after Election Day.

The state of Nebraska went red on Election Day, voting for Donald Trump and the Republican ticket, but working-class Omaha, Nebraska's largest city, went blue, voting for Hillary Clinton and the Democrats. Clinton won urban Omaha-Douglas County by 3,000 votes, but lost the city's electoral vote. In 2010, redistricting had joined Omaha to the wealthier suburbs of Sarpy County, delivering Trump a 12,000-vote advantage this year. Incumbent Democratic House member Brad Ashford lost his seat to Republican Don Bacon on Nov. 8 for the same reason.

Nevertheless, all 18 precincts of Ward 4 voted against Trump by a two-to-one margin, thanks to years of patient organizing by the immigrant Mexican community of South Omaha. African American North Omaha voted solidly against Trump as well. The Omaha results highlight both the achievements of years of organizing in U.S. immigrant communities, as well as the vulnerability of those same communities under a Trump administration.

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Four Futures: Interview with Peter Frase


The following interview was recorded by This Is Hell. It is partially reproduced here.

By Chuck Mertz and Peter Frase

Chuck Mertz: We are facing multiple crises that will change our lives and our planet forever. There’s climate change that will be environmentally devastating; we’ve got the crisis of capitalism, which is in a tailspin; and the potential for our jobs to be replaced by automation. And all of those problems may happen a lot sooner than you think.

So what does our future hold for us? Here to talk about the possibilities is sociologist Peter Frase, author of Four Futures: Life After Capitalism. Peter is a sociologist at the City University of New York, and on the editorial board of Jacobin. Welcome to This is Hell!, Peter.

Peter Frase: Thanks for having me on.

CM: You write, “Two specters are haunting Earth in the 21st century: the specters of ecological catastrophe and automation.” Why do you see automation as a threat that can be put in the same sentence as climate change? How much of a threat is automation to the planet? What would you say to someone who says that climate change is clearly the most important thing that we need to be engaging with right now?

PF: It’s really the interaction between those two things that we ought to be concerned with. Obviously climate change and the ecological crisis more generally is something that has come to our attention now as the new thing we should be worried about—and we should be very worried about it.

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Changing the "Free Trade" Consensus in Europe

(Mehr Demokratie/Flickr)

By Tom Ladendorf

In the not-too-distant past, support for so-called “free trade” from the mainstream of the Democratic and Republican parties was a foregone conclusion. But this year, the free-trade consensus has come into serious question. Both “outsider” candidates in the U.S. presidential election made a major point of opposing free trade because of its effects on the working class, driving this issue into the national debate in a way no one would have predicted. Following Trump's election, many are presuming the much-discussed Trans-Pacific Partnership dead—although it remains to be seen whether Trump will actually deliver on any of his supposed “economic populism.”

In Europe, too, the consensus on free trade is facing serious challenges. Massive political pressure has been building in opposition to three trade deals, respectively known as TTIP, Ceta, and TISA. Actually, with the help of the organized opposition, that number appears to have fallen to just two. TTIP, which seeks to harmonize regulations between the US and EU, has “de facto failed,” according to German Vice Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel. In the end, the two parties couldn't unite on what the transatlantic standard of regulation would be, apparently because Europe refused to submit to lower American standards of regulation.

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A Note on Joe Hill


Joe Hill/Franklin Rosemont

By Paul Buhle

Franklin Rosemont’s Joe Hill, appearing in 2003 from the venerable Charles H. Kerr Company (best known as publisher of revolutionary socialist books and the International Socialist Review magazine, way back in the 1910s), and reprinted in 2015 by PM Press, should be remembered as leading example of an autodidact author’s treatment of a great American martyr. So I mean to write about the writer as well as the subject.

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DC Panelists Face Up to Prospect of Contesting Trump

By Woody Woodruff

When they had geared up to talk about how the Left will bring pressure on a Hillary Clinton administration, but history intervened just the day before, how did a panel of left activists convened at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) in Washington D.C. shift gears on the Morning After?

Like many progressives, they were stunned by the magnitude of the catastrophe—not only a Trump victory but also a failure to change the Senate to Democratic control, leaving the entire government and future Supreme Court nominations in the hands of an exultant (if also temporarily stunned) Right.

The conversation at IPS Nov. 9 quickly switched to the terrain that could still be contested—state and local actions, both governmental and movement-oriented, and the overarching global scene, all of which a Republican administration would have to deal with.

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