Monday, March 31, 2008

Food Stamps, Wall Street, and Corruption

by Norman Markowitz

A few quick comments on the news of the day. First, the number of people receiving food stamps has risen to twenty-eight million, which goes up and down with the number of jobs in the economy.

Now the Food Stamp Plan is something that I know a great deal about as a scholar. It was created in the Department of Agriculture under Henry Wallace's leadership in 1939 and then eliminated by the conservative coalition in Congress during WWII (conservatives always despised all New Deal social programs and used the fact that the war had produced a full employment economy to eliminate the program).

The Food Stamp Plan was revived in the 1960s and has had its ups and downs since then, as the terms which make people eligible have changed over and over again. But Food Stamps was the kind of reform that the New Deal government was famous for. The program helped the poor directly, helped merchants who could retrieve the coupons or stamps from the government for money, and helped move foodstuffs, which helped farmers also. It was a social subsidy program that benefited those in need. The rightwing has not been able to abolish it over the last forty years, even though it has crusaded to eliminate all New Deal and Great Society programs that it could.

The Republican Right also pledged to eliminate the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and failed. But here the story is a little different. Here, Bush's HUD Secretary, Donald Jackson, is resigning as stories mount of a major scandal. Jackson is accused of giving big HUD contracts for projects in New Orleans and the Virgin Islands to big developer friends. He is also accused of threatening the Philadelphia Housing Authority with a withdrawal of HUD aid unless it turned over a two million dollar public property to a developer associate. What is alleged here is exactly the sort of thing that rightwing Republicans did in the 1920s, that is, privatize for a price, as a sinister alliance of rightwing ideologues and simple crooks ran wild. The Reagan administration in the 1980s launched a policy of massive reductions of HUD aid for public housing and housing authorities. Using HUD as a shill for private developers stimulates this kind of corruption. Using HUD as an instrument to provide federal support for public housing and rent controls so as to reduce the overall cost of housing to the general population and also eliminate the super-exploitation of both small homeowners and rents who find themselves paying more than half of there incomes in many cases for housing plus utilities costs should be a high priority for the next administration.

Meanwhile, the average price of a gallon of regular unleaded is now $3.27, suggesting the need for both re regulation and a national energy policy (in that area, Senator Obama especially has come forward with important suggestions and McCain with nothing. Lehman Brothers, caught in the mortgage debacle, is raising three billion through stock sales and issuing statements that the fact that it could borrow from the Federal Reserve is evidence that it is in decent shape(as against the fact that it had to borrow from the Fed is an example of the opposite).

Finally, the Bush administration's Treasury Secretary has come forward with a comically phony plan to "expand" the Federal Reserves Regulatory powers by reducing the SEC's regulatory power over Wall Street even more, turning credit unions into banks, and give state regulated insurance companies the "choice" of either continuing to be regulated by states or taking on a federal regulator (a bit like economic HMO choices). It is doubtful that any of this will be enacted and even the Treasury Department understands that but the fact that they would even put forward such a "regulatory reform" shows either how disconnected from reality they are or how contemptuous they are of the public. Senator Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, mentioning that this plan was introduced on the first day of the baseball season, called it a "wild pitch," which was charitable. For those suffering the effects of the escalating mortgage scandal it is, along with the HUD scandal, more like a bean ball.

All of this shows the need for real re regulation in the interests of wage earners and consumers and public sector revitalization in the interests of all people in the next administration. The present administration and those who seek to continue it through the McCain campaign haven't a clue about what is to be done to deal with the U.S. economic crisis.

CPUSA 2008 Election Policy


The Communist Party USA views the 2008 elections as a tremendous opportunity to defeat the policies of the right-wing Republicans and to move our country in a new progressive direction.

The record turnout in the Democratic Presidential primary races shows that millions of voters, including millions of new voters, are using this election to bring about real change. We wholeheartedly agree with them.

While we do not endorse any particular candidates, we do endorse and join in the anti-Bush/anti-right wing sentiments that are driving so many people to activism.

The fact that the Democratic frontrunners are an African American and a woman speaks volumes on how far the country has come. Hillary Clinton’s campaign has attracted large numbers of supporters, especially women. Other Democratic contenders presented some excellent proposals to reverse the devastation caused by the Bush administration’s policies.

Barack Obama’s campaign has so far generated the most excitement, attracted the most votes, most volunteers and the most money. We think the basic reason for this is that his campaign has the clearest message of unity and progressive change, while having a real possibility for victory in November.

As we see it, however, this battle is bigger than the Democrats and Republicans, even though those parties are the main electoral vehicle for most voters today. Our approach is to focus on issues and movements that are influencing candidates and parties.

We will work with others to defeat the Republican nominee and to end right-wing control of the new Congress.

The activism growing out of this election will help guarantee a progressive mandate no matter who is elected. It is critical to our country’s renewal and future.

We think this election is a great opportunity to bring an early withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. It can mean job creation and relief for those who are losing their homes or unable to pay their bills.

This election can set the stage to advance the interests of working people; of those excluded because of race, gender, sexual orientation and immigration status.

This election can begin to turn the tide: it can help bring universal health care, save the environment and start the restoration of our democratic rights. This election can strengthen democracy for all.

In the long run, we see the need for an independent “people’s party” -- an electoral party that will unite labor and all democratic forces. We also are working for a political system and government whose priority is to watch the backs of working families, not fill the pockets of the corporate fat cats. Our slogan, “people before profits” and our goal of “Bill of Rights socialism” say it all.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Reading Lenin 10

READING LENIN: Materialism and Empiro-criticism [ 10 ]
Thomas Riggins

Using our editor's blog to further Marxist education seems like a good idea. So here is a famous work of Lenin's that outlines what Marxist philosophy is all about. It's 100 years old this year and we might ask ourselves what is still valid in this classic. Have new philosophic developments in the last 100 years made this work outmoded? I'm going to post some reflections on the book section by section and anyone who wants to read along and comment is welcome to do so. I hope to post weekly updates and Sunday seems the best day to this as it is a free day for me.

Chapter Two : Section Five: "Absolute and Relative Truth, or the Eclecticism of Engels as Discovered by A. Bogdanov"

This great discovery was made, says Lenin, in the preface to Book III of Bogdanov's Empirio-monism. Bogdanov thinks he is ridiculing Engels when the latter gives as examples of "eternal truths" such statements as "Napoleon died on May 5, 1821" or "Paris is in France." To Bogdanov this is too trivial for words.

"What sort of 'truth' is that?", he asks, "And what is there eternal about it? The recording of a single correlation, which perhaps even has no longer any real significance for our generation, cannot serve as the starting-point for any activity and leads no-where." For some reason Bogdanov calls such "truths" eclectic, as if Engels is just uncritically adopting them from all different forms of materialism.

Of course the examples given by Engels are "trivial", but they are given to make a point, which is that there are many examples of objective and eternal truths all around us and that idealist philosophers are just being foolish when they try to make a big mystery about "truth." Bogdanov's objections are just "turgid nonsense" according to Lenin.

"To be a materialist," Lenin writes, "is to acknowledge objective truth, which is revealed to us by our sense-organs. To acknowledge objective truth, i.e., truth not dependent upon man and mankind, is, in one way or another, to recognise absolute truth."

What we have to do is get away from these trivial criticisms and examine DIALECTICALLY the distinction that Engels was trying to make between relative and absolute truth in his criticism of Duhring's philosophy. By ignoring the context of Engels' argument Bogdanov only reveals his own incompetence.

By thinking dialectically Engels arrives at a concept of absolute truth that grows out of relative truth. Each one of us as an individual has a part of the truth, relative truth, but absolute truth is the whole which gradually reveals itself, but only partially at any one time.

"For Bogdanov (as for all Machists)," Lenin writes, "recognition of the relativity of our knowledge EXCLUDES even the least admission of absolute truth. For Engels absolute truth is compounded from relative truths. Bogdanov is a relativist; Engels is a dialectician."

Absolute truth (the reality behind the world of our sensations) is built of the relative truths we gain from experience. Towards the end of this section Lenin says, "Dialectics -- as Hegel in his time explained -- CONTAINS an element of relativism, of negation, of skepticism, but IS NOT REDUCIBLE to relativism."

What is at issue, and which Bogdanov and the other Machists fail to see, is "the CORRESPONDENCE between the consciousness which reflects nature and the nature which is reflected by consciousness." This is something that Marx and Engels understood (and Dietzgen and Feuerbach as well). Bogdanov and the Machists, under the guise of modern science are just repeating "ancient trash."

SECTION SIX: "The Criterion of Practice in the Theory of Knowledge"

"'The dispute over the reality or non-reality of thinking which is isolated from from practice is a purely scholastic question,' says Marx in his second Thesis on Feuerbach,'' Lenin points out, and Engels repeats: "The success of our action proves the conformity of our perceptions with the objective nature of the things perceived."

And what does Mach have to say about the criterion of practice? According to Lenin Mach, in The Analysis of Sensations, makes a distinction between theory and practice. Mach: "Physiologically we remain egoists and materialists with the same constancy as we forever see the sun rising again. But theoretically this view cannot be adhered to."

This is supposed to be the newest scientific viewpoint (1908). I won't go into the newest viewpoints (2008), but will remark that the battle continues! But it is an old battle. A hundred years before Lenin it was raging, Fichte, and two thousand years before that with the Greeks as well as in other philosophical traditions.

"Of course, we must not forget that the criterion of practice can never, in the nature of things, either confirm or refute any human idea COMPLETELY. This criterion too is sufficiently 'indefinite' not to allow human knowledge to become "absolute", but at the same time it is sufficiently definite to wage a ruthless fight on all varieties of idealism and agnosticism."

Next week we shall do the first 2 sections of Chapter Three.

See Reading Lenin 9 here...

CPUSA, Nat'l Cmte., March 30th – Report on the Environment

Marc Brodine, a member of the national board of the CPUSA and the chair of the Communist Party in Washington State, delivered a report on the impact of global warming, its causes and consequences.

"Global warming," he said, "is not just an inconvenient truth." Global warming has to be examined within a larger context of capitalism and other environmental problems.

"We can't have a healthy humanity without a healthy natural world," he said.

He tied environmental degradation to capitalism. Increased capitalist exploitation of nature will result in serious crisis, he said. "We can either work with nature or nature will work against us," he argued. "Capitalism is playing with the survival of humanity for short-term profit," he noted.

Climate crisis is not the only severe environmental problem facing us. Depletion of fishing, soil, and fresh water supplies, animal extinctions, the spread of disease-causing pollutants, desertification, and growing air and water pollution are among the most severe.

"Even in the best case scenario, global warming requires immediate and dramatic action," Brodine said.

Brodine insisted that political changes are required, including democratization of the political process, public policy, and economic decision-making. These changes need to happen in order to move in the right direction and to mitigate the destructive policies of the Bush administration and the worst actions off the big transnational polluters.

Immediate action is needed because global warming threatens to transform the earth's climate systems in a very short period of time and create environments that are hostile to human survival never before experienced by developed humanity.

The earth is getting hotter, but global climate change has other features: in some places more rain and more flooding; in others less rain and more drought; in some places more snowfall next to glacier melt; flooding; and so on.

It is caused by the accumulation of greenhouses gases in the atmosphere trapping the sun's heat, warming the air and the land.

This is primarily caused by the burning of fossil fuels.

"It is caused by human activity and can be slowed by human activity," Brodine said.

Social consequences include food and fresh water shortages leading to political competition for these dwindling resources.

"We can't profit our way to a solution," Brodine said. "But neither can we wait for socialism. Economic development that doesn't destroy the environment is required."

Some basic solutions are readily available but need political struggle to implement: green construction, production of hybrid vehicles, mass transit, alternative energy products like solar and wind, reduce mechanized industrial food production and increase labor-intense small agriculture, and major conservation efforts.

Brodine addressed current environmental action. "The biggest problem is not caused by individuals but by a system that privileges profit over people and nature," he said.

Capitalists are to blame for the crisis, but tend to try to shift the blame to ordinary folk, workers and the poor. They seek solutions that put the burden on us rather than on the policies and actions they take that cause the problem.

Some solutions that are being put forward by big industry are either partial solutions or untested or are very problematic steps. Biofuels, for example, drive up the cost of food or cause food shortages. "It means solving an energy problem by creating a food problem," Brodine stated.

Cap and trade schemes aren't enough.

Promotion of nuclear and "clean coal" are untested and present their own significant problems.

Brodine urged the formation of multi-issue broad-based coalitions that link environmental issues to public policy and other political struggles.

The working class, nationally and internationally, is the only force that can win and implement the changes needed.

Globally, people who contribute least global warming are paying the highest price as a result of climate change.

International reforms should include transforming international financial institutions and ending exploitative debt policies imposed on developing countries; transfer of green technology to developing countries; and implementing binding global agreements that enforce reduction of greenhouse emissions and fossil fuel usage.

Brodine pointed out that the Communist Party has a special role in winning the international communist movement to this agenda.

He urged that the environmental question be injected into all of the struggles people are involved in. The labor, youth, peace and equality movements have a significant contribution to make on the issue.

Individual actions are necessary but not sufficient to bring the change needed, he said.

Brodine proposed the expansion of the party's education on the question and the reconstitution of the party's environmental commission.

Saturday, March 29, 2008

CPUSA Nat'l Cmte. March 29 – Report on the Peace Movement

Judith LeBlanc, who is a member of the national board of the CPUSA, delivered her report on the peace movement and the 2008 elections.

She argued that it was the people's movement – not the media or the Democratic Party – that have transformed the attitudes about the ultra right and the war in the recent years. "On the ground, people know the truth," she said. Seven years of organizing by the labor movement, the peace movement, and the various movements and communities against the Bush administration and the war have paid off and voters are ready for a big change.

She added that with regard to Iraq, the war can't wait until 2009. The peace movement has to continue the fight to end the war.

LeBlanc linked the war to the elections and the defeat of McCain and the Republicans. "In the peace movement, it is strategic to win and win big, and to have that victory interpreted as a result of the efforts of the antiwar movement," she argued. It will increase pressure on the majority in Congress and the next president to bring the war to an end.

The peace movement has developed two levels of struggle: one, direct involvement in the campaigns of anti-war candidates as a step in the struggle to end the war; two, continue to mobilize the antiwar movement to become involved in defeating McCain in November.

United for Peace and Justice, the country's largest antiwar coalition, plans to build a voter engagement project that will help educate voters on McCain's plans to expand war and to focus efforts on winning in the general election.

Some efforts by peace activists have begun to argue that "Obama is for peace" and have taken to highlight differences between McCain, Clinton, and Obama. Some in the peace movement have begun to make the argument that Obama is the best of the three. Many in the peace movement say "Obama is the candidate who would go the furtherest on foreign policy and Iraq," LeBlanc suggested.

LeBlanc furthered urged the antiwar movement's continued efforts to respond to the unfolding crisis happening in Iraq now with the collapse of the surge and Bush's apparent glee at recent military failures there. Bush is eager to expand the occupation and combat operations.

The peace movement must continue to push to end the funding for the war, LeBlanc said, and she noted that both Obama and Clinton voted to end war funding in the 2007 session of Congress.

LeBlanc argued for the Communist Party to develop a multifaceted effort that at the same time seeks to win the best antiwar candidates in the 2008 elections, but also to work within the peace movement to raise the discussion about how funding for the war saps resources for communities. Additionally, she stated, participating and leading political discussions about connecting war and the economy and health care and more to the elections helps to build the Communist Party.

As a result people will see that the Communist Party has both a vision and concept of winning the unity of the people but also that it has a strategic concept for winning peace and social progress, LeBlanc concluded.

Nat'l Cmte. CPUSA, March 29th – On the Party and Press Building

Elena Mora, organizational director of the Communist Party, delivered this report. She began by arguing that the Communist Party's "role is bringing to life our strategic policy of building the labor-led movement to defeat the extreme right."

Specifically, she stated, our goal is to build a bigger communist contingent in the labor-led people's movement.

What is this movement? This movement is composed of a diverse and widespread group of forces and organizations and communities that are gathering around this election struggle to defeat the Republicans, she said. Many of these forces are new, and many others are more traditional.

Mora also questioned whether it is possible for the labor-led people's movement to struggle for change, to succeed in changing our country without our own party from being changed? No, I don't think so, she said. Our party can only get bigger as we engage with the labor-led people's movement to defeat the Republicans in the 2008 elections and win social progress after the election.

Speaking directly to the Communist Party's organization, Mora said, "growth is not automatic. Our party is growing, but not steadily, and we're still a long way away from achieving steady growth everywhere."

What are some ways to achieve this growth?

"Communists have to be foot soldiers in the labor-led people's movement in order to meet the other foot soldiers in the movement. They're our people," she said. Working with others and being open about thier party affiliation, communists will win others to our party, she indicated.

Mora also reported that the People's Weekly World, the weekly newspaper of the Communist Party, sold 700 new subscriptions in its recent subscription drive at the tail end of 2007. But, she said, "We have to adjust our minds to the idea that this paper can be a mass circulation newspaper." We need not view it as exclusively a newspaper for communists or the left.

CPUSA Nat'l Cmte. March 29 – Report on the Elections

This report on the 2008 elections was delivered by Joelle Fishman and will be available soon in a complete form at

"This election presents an historic opportunity to end ultra-right-wing rule of this country, " Fishman started.

Our role and the main goal of all progressive forces should be to defeat McCain and to win with a landslide victory in November.

"A massive voter turnout in November is needed to provide the political strength to win new priorities," Fishman said.

Obama's candidacy is new an unique. He recognizes the role of the people in bringing about progressive change. He also understands the need for maximum unity to win social progress, Fishman said.

His contribution on the issue of racism recognizes that racism holds everyone back and that ending racism benefits everyone, she said.

"Neither candidate is of the left," Fishman said, but history teaches us that when people mobilize candidates can be forced to act to do the right things.

Keeping fire on McCain and exposing the fact that he is the favorite off the ultra-right and of Wall street, is a main task for us.

"John McCain is a favorite of the military industrial complex," Fishman noted. "He is the favorite of Wall Street.

He opposes S-CHIP and universal health care; he supports obscene tax cuts for the super-rich; he supports Bush's war policy and wants to stay in Iraq endlessly and spread that war to Iran.

(Fishman noted here some examples of the key policy differences between the Communist Party and the Democratic Party. While Democratic candidates seem to favor repealing the worst of Bush's tax cuts for the rich, Communists want tax policy to be moved back to 1970s levels to ensure that the very richest people pay their fair share into the treasury and lift the burden off of working families. Democratic candidates appear to favor the ongoing war and occupation of Afghanistan, while the Communist Party calls for bringing those troops home as well as ending the Iraq war and transforming US foreign policy. Also, while the Democratic candidates have offered plans that move toward universal health care, the Communist Party seeks passage of a national health insurance program that is a single-payer, not for profit Medicare for all system.)

In addition to winning the presidency, Fishman argued, bigger Democratic majorities need to be won in Congress. Citing failed efforts to win passage of several bills that would have mandated timetables for withdrawal from Iraq as examples, Fishman said larger majorities could override vetoes and block Senate Republican filibusters.

"There is a need to increase the pro-labor and pro-peace members of Congress," she said.

The Communist Party plans to watch closely 28 House races, 4 Senate races, 2 governorships, and several ballot initiatives across the country, Fishman announced.

Fishman also reported on the role of "core forces" in the 2008 election cycle. The Communist Party uses the term "core forces" to refer to those communities in our country who have a special role within the working class and around the working class in bringing about social progress.

Fishman stated that Latino, youth and women voters have dramatically increased their votes for the Democratic candidates, while African Americans have increased their turnout in the South.

Labor is making a huge national effort to win the presidency for a Democratic candidate. Additionally, the AFL-CIO and the Change to Win coalition are launching a massive postcard campaign to get 1 million signatures in support of passage of the Employee Free Choice Act and for universal health care. While some AFL-CIO unions have endorsed Obama and some have backed Clinton, the federation itself is waiting to endorse the Democratic nominee. CtW has backed Obama.

The labor campaign will also work to expose the real McCain. He is not on the side of workers. He supports NAFTA unquestioningly. He opposes universal health care. And he will seek to expand the war.

African Americans have been inspired and energized by the Obama campaign. Massive new efforts to register Black voters are underway. If African American voters in some southern states like South Carolina and Georgia vote in proportion to their populations, they could flip those states from red to blue, Fishman argued.

Fishman also described as "hype" the notion that Latino voters will not back Black candidates. Latino voters have voted in the primaries 79% for Democratic candidates (up from 60 in 2004 general election). Latino turnout has tripled. New registration drives among Latino voters aim for 12 million registered with 10 million voter turnout.

Fishman called for Democratic candidates to reject the divisiveness promoted by the ultra-right Republicans on the immigration question.

Women voters have also turned out higher for the Democratic candidates.

Additionally, youth voters, environmentally-oriented, and peace voters have an opportunity to make their mark on this election.

For its part, the Communist Party will develop multimedia/Internet tools and printed pamphlets that expose the real McCain and his record and introduce voters to the election platform of the Communist Party. Communist Party members will work in local communities registering voters from the core forces and mobilizing them to defeat John McCain and to win bigger majorities in Congress.

Notes on the Main Political Report, Nat'l Cmte. CPUSA, Mar. 29-30

Sam Webb delivered the main political report, which is a collaborative speech produced and commented on by many party leaders. Here are some notes. The full speech will be available in a few days at

American voters have confounded pundits and political predicters have set the stage for a political victory in November for the people's movement.

The election and empowerment of a people's government would remove barriers to social progress by checking the power of monopoly capital and militarism.

The people's movement is seeking a leader that will appeal to our better selves and unify our movement.

Democratic primaries signal a huge upsurge with record-breaking turnout and enthusiasm.

"The high octane of this upsurge is simply breathtaking," he said.

Webb rejected the notion that the primaries are sidelining issues for the sake of personalities.

"This is anything but an issueless campaign," he said. Contrasting it with 2004, Webb recalled that the war on terror took up all of the conversation in the past.

"It should be celebrated as a great democratic achievement, " he said in reference to the the nature of the campaign, that Clinton and Obama are the leading candidates.

Webb predicted the outcome would bring enormous change that puts people's need before warmaking, sleaze and policies that put profits before peoples need.

Such an outcome is possible regardless of whether or not Clinton or Obama wins.

The main dilemma of the left is to not be left behind in this upsurge, he said. If we are not engaged in this struggle to advance the people's movement, we will be left behind.

The Democratic campaigns and the possibility for change have eroded disillusionment and apathy.

Independent involvement is part of the upsurge, and people are inspired by the possibility that this election will result in real changes and improvements in their daily lives.

The US left generally rejects out of hand the electoral politics of the Democratic Party resulting in the failure to recognize the importance of daily events and the significance of the upsurge. We don't follow this path, Webb said.

In 2007 we, the CPUSA, said the presidential elections could set into motion a process of social progress, Webb added. But, we didn't anticipate the full impact of this upsurge, however.

Webb spoke to the role of youth voters in the upsurge. In comparing the youth presence today to the past, Webb said it is of a qualitative different magnitude.

Webb talked about the fact that the nature of the support for the both candidates shows that working class voters will vote for a woman and an African American candidate. Neither would have been swept to the place they are now with support from either women or Black voters alone.

To say that Clinton has garnered the vast majority of the working class vote is simply wrong, he said. Black voters are overwhelming working class. The working class has divided its vote between the two. Trade union voters have given a slight edge to Clinton, but Obama has polled well and has won important endorsements.

On the issue of demographics, "we should stay away form easy and static explanations," he said.

Whites vote for Obama because of his stance on the war, his ability to unify the country, his personal appeal, his youthfulness, his stance on issues and so forth.

Some men may be inclined to be so motivated by sexism that would never vote for Clinton, but most men haven't followed this pattern and have voted for Obama for many other reasons.

White voters who have backed Clinton have not simply done so out of racial motives. They have supported her for experience and her stance on issues.

The point is that there are many different reasons that workers have cast their support in one direction or the other and cannot be simply reduced to race, gender, or other simplistic demographic categories repeated in the mainstream media.

Obama's candidacy is unique in all of this. It is transformational and new. It has brought new forces into the process and built new organizational forms.

"What makes it different is that it has the feel of a movement," Webb said. Obama speaks to people's desires and inspires them.

"He is a fresh voice on the political scene. His courage and astuteness are obvious," Webb said.

His desire to over come racial and religious and national and other divisions "strikes a deeply responsive chord far and wide."

"His ability to articulate a vision, speak to people's hopes, and use his platform to educate millions is refreshing, Webb said.

While he shares many policy ideas with Clinton, his capacity to speak to people and to build unity is more impressive.

For her part, Clinton would likely govern to the left of her husband, and she would be a formidable opponent for McCain.

Rhetorically posing a common question on the left, Webb asked, what about Obama's backing from Wall Street and leading elements in the Democratic Party?

The answers to these questions, while crucial, don't tell us about what his presidency will look like.

While class and class struggle shouldn't be set aside, the character of an Obama presidency cannot be solely determined by questions about the nature of the capitalist backing of his candidacy.

Webb cited historical examples. Frederick Douglass would not have backed Lincoln's candidacy, if he had allowed narrow political questions about abolition to govern his decision to do so.

William Z. Foster would not have tacitly backed Roosevelt and the New Deal if he had allowed narrow questions about FDR's class background to determine his view on this matter.

We have a chance to sweep the Republicans from power in a landslide. "It is an altogether new page in American politics," Webb said.

Webb rejected the ongoing presence of racism in the campaign, but praised the general sense that millions of working class voters have also done so already.

"The struggle against racism and sexism in all of its ideological forms is in as much in the interest of white workers as it is in the interest of female workers and and workers of color," Webb said.

We should reject the notion of the racial or gender progress as a zero sum game. Advances in equality do not come at the expense of white or male or native-born workers.

Webb discussed the role of a racial subtext injected by Bill Clinton and others in the Clinton campaign. "Concerns about unity seem to have been cast aside," Webb noted, in her drive to an inevitable coronation in August. Webb referred to her campaign's fear about Obama's religious background, his patriotism and his racial identity.

Both campaigns should insist on ending this kind of campaigning or what appears to be a solid chance at victory could vanish, Webb said. Only a united movement can lead to a victory in November.

Likewise, Webb continued, Hillary-bashing in sexist terms also diminishes the unity of the movement.

Webb described Obama's speech on race as courageous and brilliant and lauded him for taking an opportunity to talk about a difficult subject that has rarely been addressed by a national figure.

Webb suggested that smearing Obama is done out of fear by sections of the ruling class and the right-wing and some right-wing Democrats that his candidacy represents a diminishment of their power in ruling circles.

They lose sleep over fear that a people's movement will inspire the emergence of a new New Deal.

Webb went on to discuss the deepening economic and financial crisis. He linked Republican policies of the last thirty years and the ongoing decline of US capitalism and imperialism.

What is needed is a broad and ambitious program off housing relief, urban investment ,environmental clean up and more.

A favorable outcome of this election will give working people power to prevent capitalists from shifting the burden of this recession onto the backs of workers.

Equally the war must end. Resources for the war would've have been better spent on needs at home.

"Too much blood and treasure has been lost. It's time to bring the troops home," Webb said.

All peace minded people should unify and defeat McCain.

Obama isn't a "left" candidate and isn't going to embrace "left" issues. The aim of this election is to defeat the right. As such the goal is to elect a Democratic president strengthen Democratic majorities in Congress. This won't constitute a victory only for the Democratic Party but one for the whole working class and for people around the world.

"The day after the election won't matter if we don't win the day of the election," Webb said.

Left and progressive forces are too small to drive the debate and pressure from the left. Thus we should join the conversation that is already taking place and participate in that manner. Our main task is to expose McCain and contrast his views on a host of issues with the Democratic nominee.

The left's goal should not be to influence candidates but to influence the ideas and thought patterns of the people.

Three ideological questions:

1) Labor-led people's movement: How not to diminish the role of the movements of other core forces (movement for equality of the nationally and racially oppressed, Women's movement, and so on)? How can we avoid a unnecessarily narrow views on these questions in order to avoid given the appearance that we see other core forces as "add-ons" or footnotes in the movement?

2) Class: How do we clarify a notion of the working class to that promote the unity of the class? Not simply reducibly to trade unionists or productive workers. Our view should be wide-angled but with the notion that there are strategic sectors, but that our aim is to unite the whole class.

3) What is the relationship between unity and struggle? Clarify the relationship between participating in struggle and deepening ideological and practical activity to advance the struggle.

Live blogging from the CPUSA Nat'l Cmte. Mtg., March 29-March 31

Who would have thought that an African American and a woman would be serious contenders for the White House, said CPUSA executive vice chair Jarvis Tyner in his opening before the crowd of about 100 CPUSA leaders from the across the country.

The national committee has gathered in New York as part of its quarterly meeting to chart the political course of the party over the next few months.

It is because of thirty years of right-wing attacks on workers and damaging rule that have led to this moment, he said.

"I feel proud at this moment. I feel proud of our party," he said. "We have to do what ever we can to defeat racism, militarism, sexism, and whatever obstacles that stand in the way of social progress," he said.

"We have to do our part to help win a landslide in the November 2008 elections. This is a role of our party," he said.

CPUSA organization secretary Elena Mora proposed chairs for the various sessions and the agenda of the two-day meeting:

Sam Webb's main political report
Joelle Fishman report on the elections
Elena Mora, remarks on party and press building
Marc Brodine on the environmental crisis
Matt Parker and Sam Delgado, Internet presentation

"Coalition of the willing" Falling Apart

One day after George W. Bush described withdrawal from Iraq as a disaster, Australian PM Kevin Rudd, announced the withdrawal of Australian troops, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Unfortunately Rudd has no plans to withdraw troops from Afghanistan and urged an extended occupation there.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Take Action: Speak Out Against Exploitation in the Fields

From Jobs with Justice:

In the tomato fields of south Florida, modern-day slavery still thrives. As part of the week of action, students across the country are demanding that Burger King and food industry leaders work with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to improve the wages and conditions for the workers who pick tomatoes and join an industry-wide effort to eliminate human rights abuses from Florida's fields.

Click here to sign the National Petition to End Sweatshops & Slavery in the Fields:

Preview of the Main Political Report to the Nat'l Cmte. of the CPUSA

By Joel Wendland

The National Committee (NC) of the Communist Party USA is scheduled to meet March 29 - March 30 in New York.

The national committee is composed of local leaders of the party from more than 30 districts across the country.

I just talked to Sam Webb, who chairs the party and will deliver the main political report to the national committee, about what the major theme of his report will be.

He said that at the last NC meeting last fall, the committee discussed the 2008 elections as a possbile sea change election. If that were true then, Webb will argue, it is even more true today as, among numerous other signs, there is a mass exodus out of the Republican camp into the Democratic camp.

Stay tuned for more details about tomorrow's meeting.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

McCain: Working Families to Blame for Mortgage Mess

Across the country, the collapse of the housing market has created a crisis of foreclosures that is dragging down the economy. Finding a fair solution for this mess should be a top priority of the next president. So presidential candidate Sen. John McCain must have a plan to address the crisis, right? Not so.

read more ...

Take action to reverse racist drug laws

This informative action item comes from

The so-called "war on drugs" has created a national disaster: 1 in 9 young Black men in America are now behind bars. It's not because they commit more crime but largely because of unfair sentencing rules that treat 5 grams of crack cocaine, the kind found in poor Black communities, the same as 500 grams of powder cocaine, the kind found in White and wealthier communities.

These sentencing laws are destroying communities across the country and have done almost nothing to reduce the level of drug use and crime.

Senator Joe Biden is one of the original creators of these laws and is now trying to fix the problem. But some of his colleagues on the Senate Judiciary Committee are standing in the way. Join us in telling them to stand with Joe Biden and undo this disaster once and for all:

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Enough Clinton, Enough Carville, You Won't Drag Obama Into the Gutter With You

By Norman Markowitz

This is quick angry post about the escalating nonsense of the Clinton campaign. Hillary Clinton, who seemed to be moving a little to the left in her proposal aid homeowners threatened with foreclosure, has now jumped on Pastor Wright in Pittsburgh, saying that she would change churches in response if she had a minister like Wright. She, the daughter of a rich Republican Illinois businessman, even had the effrontery to say that you don't choose your family but you can choose your church.

Senator Obama answered the criticisms eloquently in his speech on race in America. The issue is dead except for those who want to beat Senator Obama up with it, to make him grovel before them and denounce Pastor Wright over and over again. The hidden message in these comments as I see it is Obama won't denounce Wright completely eave his church, that he formerly served because he is Black and Wright is Black and the yall stick together and they all deep down "hate whitey." That is crude, but accurate I think, to explain why and who the Clinton campaign beating this issue to death.

James Carville, a roguish Clinton guy, political "consultant," and inside dopester, called Governor Bill Richardson a "Judas" for endorsing Senator Obama around Easter Time and then said he wasn't misquoted. First of all, Bill Richardson is a man with substantial achievements as a politician and diplomat and James Carville is a non New York Damon Runyon character who has accomplished nothing except to manipulate media to his own and his client's advantage. In a rational world, one might conclude that Carville is comparing Hillary Clinton to Jesus, which would of course mean that rational people would immediately realize that he is not rational. Also, according to Carville, Richardson endorsed Obama symbolically for "30 pieces of silver" (this from a guy who is an expensive hired gun for politicians).

If anything, this sort of demagoguery should help convince Democratic Super Delegates to begin to endorse Senator Obama and end the contest before the Clinton campaign continues to hurt the Democratic party and its leaders (like Bill Richardson) in its selfish and unprincipled assaults on Senator Obama and his supporters.

McCain in Wonderland

by Norman Markowitz

John McCain was talking like the Mad Hatter in Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland (which was itself a satire on British politics in the form of a children's fable) today. He actually said the following: "it is not the duty of government to bail out and reward those who act irresponsibly whether they are big banks or small borrowers." But what Looking Glass is McCain looking Into? It has been both the policy and the philosophy of his party and especially his political hero Ronald Reagan to both deregulate industry and finance as much as they could and then proceed to bail out the banks and corporations with taxpayers money. This certainly wasn't what John McCain said to the Federal Home Loan Board over twenty years ago when he asked them not to seize the assets of Charles Keating, his friend and financial backer, who was a major figure who "acted irresponsibly" in the Savings and Loan scandals brought about byReagan administration deregulation (which taxpayers are still paying for).

But McCain went on, talking like the Mad Hatter to smiling businessmen. The problem wasn't deregulation, the banks who packaged crooked mortgages into securities, but the dopes who got the mortgages to begin with, believing that they could refinance in a rising market, the small time operators who made the wrong choice and now face losing their homes.

There are 80 million home owners and "only 55 five million have mortgages," McCain the Hatter went on to say and "51 million are doing what is necessary---working a second job, skipping a vacation and managing their budgets to make the the payments"(I wonder when McCain worked a second job or skipped a vacation, or even managed his budget).

But McCain stopped short at calling the four million home owners in dire straights today an unimportant group of deadbeats. Instead he went back to Herbert Hoover language from the early 1930s, calling what is happening a "crisis of confidence in the markets." How do you restore "confidence" in the markets. Through "accountability and transparency," McCain said. How can you have accountability and transparency with extensive deregulation of industry and finance? McCain didn't say and of course he can't because you can't do that.

All government assistance, went on to say (unlike Obama and Clinton he didn't have any specific suggestions for aid) should go owner to "homeowners," not to "people who bought houses for speculative purposes, to rent or as a second home." How on earth can you distinguish between those who buy houses for speculative purposes, when the real estate industry presents them with commercials for "starter houses" and encourages them to "trade up" to bigger and better houses" and the homeowner simply looking for a permanent place to live? McCain didn't say and he can't say because unless you uses some debtors version of the patriot act to go very specifically into peoples private economic dealings, emails, phone calles, etc, you can't.

Reporters on the McCain campaign say that he is crafting his campaign around the theme that the economy is "sound in its fundamentals" (Hoover said over and over again that the "economy is fundamentally sound" which was a better sentence even though the overwhelming majority of people knew from experience that it was totally false).

As in Ohio where he told workers that they would have to forget about their lost jobs and adjust (his hero, Ronald Reagan, told former GM workers in Flint, Michigan over twenty years ago that they could always "go West" to find new and better jobs) McCain will be running a campaign that will tell Americans to forget their troubles, "support our troops" in this war and the next by giving the President everything he wants, and go onto the next frontier in the economy, which will be better than the last frontier, just like the Reagan frontier with its declining wages, deteriorating infrastructure, escalating health care crisis, and revival of mass homelessness, was a step upward from the days of "liberal big government."

Perhaps McCain is trying to prove to those Right-wing radio demagogues that he is a true conservative and they should say nice things about him. He doesn't have to convince me. I know that he is a Goldwater-Reagan and now Bush Republican and that he always has been. I also know that rightwing Republican policies have been discredited among the majority of people, except those who can be reached by appeals to fear and hatred and those whom Herbert Hoover, as he prepared to go down to defeat to Franklin Roosevelt, called "the irreducible minority of the Republican party" (about one third of the voters who would vote for anyone, even Donald Duck, on the Republican ticket). There were a couple of Mad Hatters who became Prime Minister of England and a number who became President of the United States. We can't afford another one in the White House if we want to keep the economic crisis of today from becoming a general depression tomorrow.

John McCain Agrees with Osama bin Laden?

Campaigning in California on March 24, John McCain told reporters, according to MSNBC: "General Petraeus and I and Osama bin Laden are in agreement. It is hard to understand why Senator Clinton and Senator Obama do not understand that [Iraq is the central battleground]. I don't know if it is naiveté or what the problem is but it's obvious that they're dead wrong, and they're wrong when they say that we should leave Iraq immediately."

So...Gen. Petraeus, Osama bin Laden and John McCain agree? No matter what you think of the ongoing war in Afghanistan, and I oppose it, you have to wonder why McCain chose these words.

Of course Osama bin Laden agrees with George W. Bush and John McCain and wants Iraq to be the "central battleground" in the war on terror. He has good reason to suspect that a concerted international effort to hunt him down in Afghanistan and/or Pakistan would likely succeed in capturing him and the other real perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks.

Of course he wants to see the US waste its military prowess and treasure bogged down in the quagmire in Iraq.

Of course he prefers US troops wasted in a civil war that they should never have been sent to rather than pursuing him.

McCain's comment is baffling.

Of course in the context of his repeated blaming of Iran for supporting Al Qaeda last week, an erroneous claim he only corrected after Joe Lieberman whispered into his ear at a conference with reporters, McCain's " I agree with Osama" remark seems as equally inept.

Does Basra Today Hint at Post-Occupation Situation?

by Joel Wendland

Reuters is reporting that Iraqi security forces are handling some violent, some not-so violent situations in Basra.

Basra is the southern port city occupied by more than 13,000 British troops until last year when popular opinion in Britain against the war forced former Prime Minister Tony Blair into early retirement and early troop withdrawal plans for British troops form Iraq.

The total number of British troops has been reduced to around 4,000.

The Jones Commission, a commission of current and retired military and civilian police security experts mandated by Congress and President Bush to give an assessment and recommendations about Iraq's security situation in 2007, reported last fall that the British troop reductions and transition efforts in Basra were good examples of how the US should develop its own plans to reduce its "footprint" and hand power over to Iraqi authorities.

So far, British troops have not become involved in this week's actions of the Iraqi government.

The US military has, however. It has attempted to provoke hostilities by sealing of the Sadr City section of Baghdad – population 2 million – and action that will not reduce violence but likely will provoke more.

This action in Sadr City is a clear and deliberate provocation intended to cause the failure of the Basra security efforts and to promote violence elsewhere. It is designed to prove to the world that the occupation is still needed.

No Iraqi Bush 41 Assassination Plot

By Joel Wendland

The Saddam Hussein regime apparently didn't actually try to kill former President George H.W. Bush, according to recent media reports.

In addition to not possessing stockpiles of nuclear, chemical or biological, as the current Bush administration deliberately misled us into believing, or having ties to Al Qaeda, as some members of the Bush administration still try to claim, a recent semi-secret Pentagon report detailing the examination of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi documents shows that the former Iraqi regime probably hatched no plot to assassinate Bush's daddy.

But reminds us of the iron fist of Rumsfeldian logic: "The absence of evidence is not evidence of absence."

But then again half-buried media reports from 1993 also suggested at the time the Kuwaiti government made up the whole Bush 41 plot scenario anyway.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Reading Lenin 9

Reading Lenin 9

READING LENIN: Materialism and Empiro-criticism [ 9 ]
Thomas Riggins

Using our editor's blog to further Marxist education seems like a good idea. So here is a famous work of Lenin's that outlines what Marxist philosophy is all about. It's 100 years old this year and we might ask ourselves what is still valid in this classic. Have new philosophic developments in the last 100 years made this work outmoded? I'm going to post some reflections on the book section by section and anyone who wants to read along and comment is welcome to do so. I hope to post weekly updates and Sunday seems the best day to this as it is a free day for me.

Chapter Two : Section Three: "L. Feuerbach and J. Dietzgen on the Thing-In-Itself"

In this section Lenin discusses the views of two materialists, Feuerbach and Dietzgen. Feuerbach is a classical materialist, not a dialectical materialist, but his philosophy is the link between Hegel and Marx and Engels. The thing-in-itself for Feuerbach is something "existing objectively outside of us," Lenin says, and acting "upon our sense-organs.... Sensation is a subjective image of the objective world, of the world AN UND FUR SICH" [i.e., in and for-itself].

This view of Feuerbach is basic to all forms of materialism. "The 'doctrine' of Machism that since we know ONLY SENSATION," Lenin concludes, "we cannot know of the EXISTENCE of anything beyond the bounds of sensation, is an old sophistry of idealist and agnostic philosophy served up with a new sauce."

Well, I suspect that readers of this outline have all heard about Feuerbach and know something of his materialism from Marx and Engels. If you want to read something by him I recommend his THE ESSENCE OF CHRISTIANITY, which as been translated into English by George Eliot (of Silas Marner and The Mill on the Floss fame).

However, you may not be as familiar with Joseph Dietzgen, the next person discussed by Lenin. Dietzgen (1828-1888) was a self educated German tanner who indepently developed a philosophy of dialectical materialism. He was extremely influential in the socialist movement in the last half of the nineteenth century and the early twentieth century. If you Google his name you will find some interesting articles about him.

Lenin quotes Dietzgen, as an independent materialist: "Unhealthy mysticism unscientifically separates the absolute truth from the relative truth. It makes of the thing as it appears and the 'thing-in-itself', that is, of the appearance and the verity, two categories which differ TOTO COELO [completely, fundamentally] from each other and are not contained in any common category."

When trying to explain the relation of perception to the thing-in-itself we have already seen how the Russian Machists, especially Bogdanov, confuse the materialist position with Kantianism and agnosticism. "The reason for Bogdanov's distortion of materialism," according to Lenin, "lies in his failure to understand the relation of absolute truth to relative truth (of which we shall speak later)." Section 5 is dedicated to this topic, but first we will look at Section 4.

CHAPTER TWO SECTION FOUR: "Does Objective Truth Exist?"

Bogdanov, in his book "Empirio-monism" tries to explain what constitutes "objective" truth. Truth, he tells us, "is an ideological form, an organizing form of human experience...." But, Lenin says, "If truth is ONLY an ideological form, there can be no truth independent of the subject, of humanity, for neither Bogdanov nor we know any other ideology but human ideology." But this is absurd for science tells us it is a truth that the earth existed prior to man and his ideologies!

Is this subjectivism some failing in Bogdanov as a person? Lenin thinks not. Bogdanov personally "refuses to own himself a Machist" but still is influenced by the "new" philosophy. It is this mixture of Marxism and Machism that causes the muddle of Empirio-monism. Thus, "Bogdanov's denial of objective truth is an inevitable consequence of Machism as a whole and not a deviation from it." His deviation is from materialism.

Engels, who criticizes both Hume and Kant, even States that Hegel had in fact refuted the main points in both their philosophies. Lenin then quotes Hegel: "For empiricism the external in general is the truth, and if then a supersensible too be admitted, nevertheless knowledge of it cannot occur and one must keep exclusively to what belongs to perception. However, this principle in its realisation produced what was subsequently termed MATERIALISM. This materialism regards matter, as such, as the truly objective." But Lenin does not here follow up on Hegel.

Instead, he agrees that experience is the source of all knowledge and that materialists hold that OBJECTIVE REALITY is the source of experience. If you don't hold to this view you become inconsistent and the "inconsistency of your empiricism, of your philosophy of experience, will in that case lie in the fact that you deny the objective content of experience, the objective truth of knowledge through experience."

The Machists think that the "new" physics has made the views of the older materialists "antiquated." Now Lenin was writing a hundred years ago and physics has moved on a pace-- string theory , etc., but he is absolutely right when he says it is "unpardonable to confuse, as the Machists do, any particular theory of the structure of matter with the epistemological category, to confuse the problem of the new properties of new aspects of matter (electrons for example) with the old problem of the theory of knowledge, with the problem of the sources of our knowledge, the existence of objective truth, etc."

This category, "matter", which refers to the objective reality revealed to humans by means of their sense organs has not become "antiquated", Lenin says, since the days of Plato and Democritus.

Next week we will finish off chapter two by going over sections 5 and 6.

Read "Reading Lenin 8" here.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Interesting Insights Into Senator Obama and Media Mythology

by Norman Markowitz

There is an interesting article by Jim Vanderhei and Mike Allen on the website, The Politico. It is titled "The Story Behind the Story: The Clinton Myth." It isn't deep and it certainly isn't left. But it is smart the way some sports bookies, horse handicappers, and even stock brokers are smart. It's simple solid factual point is that Senator Barack Obama has built in reality a solid lead against Senator Hillary Clinton, that it would be very difficult for Clinton to win (maybe one out of ten, the quote one insider as saying) But the media, according to the authors, "have become partners with the Clinton campaign in pretending that the contest is really closer than it is."

Their arguments about why this is so are all insider conventional wisdom. The pundits were all predicting Clinton early and don't want to be embarrassed. The media "loves a close race---its more fun and its good for business. The authors call that reason subliminal, but there is nothing subliminal in it in that mass media is both about business and selling conventional wisdoms all of the time. They also mention the media's love of the Clintons' ability to overcome adversity, engage in Perils of Pauline escapes. Finally they look at the Clinton campaign's ability to set the media "narrative" in their press releases, which they attribute to their "talented" campaign staff.

Let me make as a good Marxist what I think are a few constructive criticisms of Vanderhei and Allen's useful article, criticisms. First, they are very right in their "doing the math" to show that Hillary Clinton would need to have new elections and large victories in Florida and Michigan to make this a really close race and that isn't going to happen Also Senator Obama has a lead of some 150 delegates and his lead is growing and likely to continue to grow.

Along with the significant Pennsylvania primary and its one hundred and fifty eight delegates (a primary which is garnering great attention because Clinton, with the support of virtually the entire Democratic establishment is in the lead) there is the upcoming battle for North Carolina's delegates, which is garnering very little attention, even though the state has 115 delegates and Obama is expected to do very well (based on my own readings I would estimate that even if Clinton does better than she is expected to do in Pennsylvania, and I don't think she will, the combined delegate distribution between Pennsylvania and North Carolin will be a net gain for Obama) Also, the other states whose delegates have not yet been chosen, Oregon, (52 Kentucky (51), Indiana, (72) West Virginia (28) South Dakota (15) Montana (16) and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico (55) add up I think to a net gain for Obama.

Clinton's only chance would really be to win a large victory among the 794 "superdelegates," 261 of whom are uncommitted and 71 of whom have yet to be chosen (I didn't know that until I read the article ). Frankly, I was appalled after reading the article to see how badly the print and electronic media have been explaining the delegate count and contests to readers and viewers, which in lieu of analysis is what they are doing most of the time, and doing such a poor job).

But let me suggest to the authors that there are more important reasons to explain why most of the press and televisin have been perpetrating the myth that Clinton and Obama are locked in a close race that could go either way.

The talking heads on TV and the word processors in the press, and their staffs and especially editors and owners are part of a power structure that is afraid of change, afraid of an administration which might might respond to popular movements and take away some of their wealth and privilege in the public interest.

Clinton is the candidate they are are comfortable with and Obama isn't. A Clinton-McCain presidential race (I apologize to my friends and comrades who will take great umbrage at this statement) is a win win situation for the Master of the World on Wall Street, the Texas Oil Lords, and the Rupert Murdochs and Ted Turners of the mass media because me, my friends and comrades and a probable majority of the electorate will vote for a lesser of two evils middle of the road Democratic candidate who will go back to the old politics (which Franklin Roosevelt in an inspired moment once called "tweedle dumb and tweedle dumber") at the drop of a hat and that will be the best case scenario.

A people who survived the horrors of George W. Bush will be left with Hillary Clinton, just as an electorate which survived the horrors of Ronald Reagan and George Bush I was left with Bill Clinton. The right-wing will regroup and Hillary will sometimes fight them, sometimes appease them, and if they regain control of congress, collaborate with them. In essence they will begin to transform the Bush defeat into another victory for their class interests and the broad left and peoples movements will continue in a political wilderness, fighting defensive battles as band aides are put on a hemorrhaging economic and the working class takes, as it did under Hillary Clinton, takes less of beating but still a beating, than it took under George Bush just as under Bill Clinton it took less of a beating, but still still a beating, than it took under Ronald Reagan.

With Senator Obama, that probably won't happen. First, the victory will be much greater. Second, the president, with far fewer ties to the worst elements of the old Democratic Party politics, will bring new forces into government from the mass movements that are supporting him. Third, the president has shown that he has the ability to articulate a broad progressive vision and mobilize people around it.

Perhaps that is most telling example of mass media's anti-Obama outlook (which is both openly conservative and "closet conservative") is that the very skills that journalists and scholars point to in all of the "great presidents," the ability to go to the people and win them over with both ideology and policy (what distinguishes an Abraham Lincoln from a William McKinley, a Franklin Roosevelt from a Bill Clinton) Obama has and everyone knows he has.

The only reasonable conclusion should be that most of the "media," the high-priced talking heads and word processors, their editors and owners, don't want such a president and they are belittling and denying Senator Obama's remarkable achievements so far in the desire to turn their subjective wishes into objective reality.

Fortunately, I agree with Vanderhei and Allen that there isn't too good a chance that they and the Clinton campaign will succeed, especially if the more than 330 uncommitted "Super Delegates" come to the conclusion that robbing Senator Obama of the victory he is continuing to win among the people is the worst course of action for the Democratic Party and the the nation.

Protection of Artists to Make a Living

Protect Creative ARtists Right to Make a Living

Eric Green


Bill Bragg Speaks for Us ALL:  Protection of our creative right to make a living is a stake.   The following OP Ed in today's NY Times is both poigant and demanding.

All creative artists deserve our support.

Op-Ed Contributor

NY TIMES   22 mAR 08
Article Tools Sponsored By

Published: March 22, 2008

Dorset, England

LAST week at South by Southwest, the rock music conference held every year in Austin, Tex., the talk in hotel lobbies, coffeeshops and the convention center was dominated by one issue: how do musicians make a living in the age of the Internet? It's a problem our industry has struggled with in the wake of the rising popularity of sharing mp3 music files.

Our discussions were brought into sharp relief when news reached Austin of the sale of to AOL for a staggering $850 million. Bebo is a social-networking site whose membership has risen to 40 million in just two years. In Britain, it ranks with MySpace and Facebook in popularity, although its users tend to come from a younger age group.

Estimates suggested that the founder, Michael Birch (along with his wife and co-founder, Xochi), walked away with $600 million for his 70 percent stake in the company.

I heard the news with a particular piquancy, as Mr. Birch has cited me as an influence in Bebo's attitude toward artists. He got in touch two years ago after I took MySpace to task over its proprietary rights clause. I was concerned that the site was harvesting residual rights from original songs posted there by unsigned musicians. As a result of my complaints, MySpace changed its terms and conditions to state clearly that all rights to material appearing on the site remain with the originator.

A few weeks later, Mr. Birch came to see me at my home. He was hoping to expand his business by hosting music and wanted my advice on how to construct an artist-centered environment where musicians could post original songs without fear of losing control over their work. Following our talks, Mr. Birch told the press that he wanted Bebo to be a site that worked for artists and held their interests first and foremost.

In our discussions, we largely ignored the elephant in the room: the issue of whether he ought to consider paying some kind of royalties to the artists. After all, wasn't he using their music to draw members — and advertising — to his business? Social-networking sites like Bebo argue that they have no money to distribute — their value is their membership. Well, last week Michael Birch realized the value of his membership. I'm sure he'll be rewarding those technicians and accountants who helped him achieve this success. Perhaps he should also consider the contribution of his artists.

The musicians who posted their work on are no different from investors in a start-up enterprise. Their investment is the content provided for free while the site has no liquid assets. Now that the business has reaped huge benefits, surely they deserve a dividend.

What's at stake here is more than just the morality of the market. The huge social networking sites that seek to use music as free content are as much to blame for the malaise currently affecting the industry as the music lover who downloads songs for free. Both the corporations and the kids, it seems, want the use of our music without having to pay for it.

The claim that sites such as MySpace and Bebo are doing us a favor by promoting our work is disingenuous. Radio stations also promote our work, but they pay us a royalty that recognizes our contribution to their business. Why should that not apply to the Internet, too?

Technology is advancing far too quickly for the old safeguards of intellectual property rights to keep up, and while we wait for the technical fixes to emerge, those of us who want to explore the opportunities the Internet offers need to establish a set of ground rules that give us the power to decide how our music is exploited and by whom.

We need to do this not for the established artists who already have lawyers, managers and careers, but for the fledgling songwriters and musicians posting original material onto the Web tonight. The first legal agreement that they enter into as artists will occur when they click to accept the terms and conditions of the site that will host their music. Worryingly, no one is looking out for them.

If young musicians are to have a chance of enjoying a fruitful career, then we need to establish the principle of artists' rights throughout the Internet — and we need to do it now.

Billy Bragg is a songwriter and author.

Friday, March 21, 2008

Film Review: The Counterfeiters

by Eric Green

The Counterfeiters
2007; One hour and 38 minutes

After the Oscar debate on which film should have received the best film of the Year 2007: There Will Be Blood; No Country for Old Men; and, even Michael Clayton….the real answer is the German film, the Counterfeiters. This film won the best foreign language film, but easily deserved the best overall.

If you thought, as I certainly did, that Daniel Day-Lewis was a shoe in for best actor; after seeing Karl Markovics, I would reevaluate and say that it was at least a tie.

Markovics played Salomon "Sally" Sorowitsch, a printer, with an amazing skill in counterfeiting documents. He was arrested by the Nazis for practicing this skill to help people opposed to their rule. That took place in the late 1930s.

Sally's life came from the memoir, "The Devil's Workshop," written by Adolph Burger. Burger was an Austrian within the Nazis concentration, prison system. This is true story that finally was produced for a major, commercial film. It took an Austrian and a German producer to make it happen. And, it took a great director and screenwriter, Stefan Ruzowitzky to put it on the screen.

The story is a simple one: Should prisoners, in this case Jewish prisoners, cooperate with their jailers, Nazis, to survive? The film takes place in 1944, at the Sachsenhausin, concentration camp. In this case the 25 or so Jewish prisons chose to produce fake English pounds to disrupt the English economy. Their choice was produce the documents are die. They chose to produce them. It was called, "Operation Bernhard." But, when the demand came to produce a USA dollar, the growing resentments surfaced. Sally, the genius of currency fakery, is up against another prisoner who wants to stop the cooperation and put an end to their collaboration.

The Counterfeiters was chosen over 4 other films for the Oscar for the Best Foreign Language film of the year. The acceptance speech was very special.

"There have been some great Austrian filmmakers working here," Ruzowitsky said in his acceptance speech. "Thinking of Billy Wilder, Fred Zinnemann, Otto Preminger, most of them had to leave my country because of the Nazis, so it sort of makes sense that the first Austrian movie to win an Oscar is about the Nazis' crimes."


A New Poll Shows US Public Wants to be Heard, Cheney Ignores

In an interview with ABC, when asked about the overwhelming public opposition to endless war in Iraq, Dick Cheney answered, "So?" He added that the US government doesn't have to listen to the people.

The following day, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino told reporters that Americans had their say in 2004, and that the US government needn't listen to their concerns now.

But a new poll by shows that more than 8 in 10 Americans think the US government should listen to public opinion polls and 94% believe that public opinion should affect policy decisions between elections.

Of course, the Bush administration's denial of the voice of the people is a denial of democracy and is a key reason their approval ratings are among the lowest in US history. But then again, the actions of the Bush administration in launching a drive for war from day one – not on his campaign platform as you may recall – signals the importance of the people having a voice in their government everyday.

Bailout goes to Wall Street, not Main Street

Most Americans are having no trouble figuring out whether or not we are in a recession. Certainly not the 100,000 workers tossed onto the jobless pile in January and February, or the millions living an economic nightmare following last summer’s bursting housing bubble, the subprime mortgage crisis, and the resulting credit crunch.

read more | digg story

Some Comments on Racism

I am grateful to Joe Sims, Dee Myles, Jarvis Tyner and others for their thoughtful recent pieces on race and racism (Sims “The Anti-Racist Majority Comes of Age,” Myles “Humbled by Magnificence: The Fruit of the African-American Experience” and Tyner’s Keynote comments to the meeting of the African American Equality Commission of the CPUSA, June 2007). They inspire me to the following reaction:The statistics cited by the above commentators and many others show that racial prejudice among white residents of the United States has in many respects declined markedly in the past 20, 30 or 40 years.

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Gov. Bill Richardson Endorses Barack Obama

In an e-mail to supporters labeled "A personal note," Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM), former presidential hopeful and former top official in the Bill Clinton administration and huge supporter of Clinton administration policies as a leader in the US House of Representatives, announced his endorsement of Barack Obama for president.

"We have been through a lot together," the e-mail read, "and that is why I wanted to tell you that, after careful and thoughtful deliberation, I have made a decision to endorse Barack Obama for President."

The letter goes on:

My affection and admiration for Hillary Clinton and President Bill Clinton will never waver. It is time, however, for Democrats to stop fighting amongst ourselves and to prepare for the tough fight we will face against John McCain in the fall.

Richardson cited Obama's historic speech on race:

Earlier this week, Senator Barack Obama gave an historic speech. that addressed the issue of race with the eloquence, sincerity, and optimism we have come to expect of him. He inspired us by reminding us of the awesome potential residing in our own responsibility. He asked us to rise above our racially divided past, and to seize the opportunity to carry forward the work of many patriots of all races, who struggled and died to bring us together.

Linking Obama's words to his own experiences as a Latino and that of Latinos in the US, Richardson said, "Senator Obama has started a discussion in this country long overdue and rejects the politics of pitting race against race. He understands clearly that only by bringing people together, only by bridging our differences can we all succeed together as Americans."

Obama is the leader we need to bring change, said Richardson. "To reverse the disastrous policies of the last seven years, rebuild our economy, address the housing and mortgage crisis, bring our troops home from Iraq and restore America's international standing, we need a President who can bring us together as a nation so we can confront our urgent challenges at home and abroad."

Thursday, March 20, 2008

McCain Disappoints Me. I thought he was less ignorant than Bush

by Norman Markowitz

Having recently completed an article on John McCain which will be in the next print edition of Political Affairs, I thought that, even with his very poor class standing at Annapolis, he was at least somewhat less ignorant about world affairs than George W. Bush. But his Monty Python moment on his visit the troops trip to Iraq, has disillusioned me.

After seven years of mass media descriptive commentaries about Shia and Sunni Muslim denominations he would know better. There has been no real analysis of the differences between the two, but at least Americans have been told over and over again that Iran is an overwhelming Shia denomination country, Iraq is a majority Shia country, Al Qaeda is an ultra right Sunni religious terrorists group. McCain could at least get that right without having to worry about being considered a liberal. But he didn't. Even with his sidekick Joe Lieberman trying to correct him (Lieberman may set a record by becoming the only man to run for the Vice Presidency of both major parties and lose both times) he continued to make his screwy statements about Al Qaeda using Iran as a base of operations.

Let me pretend that I am a media pundit and try to over analyze these dumb statements, in a way that I think will complement Tom Riggins intelligent last post, which ended with the words "twice a fool or someone out to deliberately mislead his audience."

It is possible that McCain is neither. He may be confusing his wars. He may be seeing Vietnam in Iraq. After all, the National Liberation Front was seen by both the right and the cold war liberal Democrats of the Kennedy and Johnson administrations who escalated the war as "agents" and extensions of "North Vietnam," not as an indigenous force. Barry Goldwater, McCain's early political hero, talked about invading North Vietnam. Curtis Lemay, former crackpot commanding General of the Strategic Air Command (and character whom many believe was the inspiration for General Jack D. Ripper in Dr. Strangelove talked of "bombing North Vietnam into the stone age" which he ran for Vice President on George Corley Wallace's pro Segregation racist presidential ticket in 1968 (McCain was a prisoner at the time in the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, having been shot down in a bombing raid over Hanoi and was, given his subsequent statements, sympathetic to winning the war through bigger and better bombing raids). Now he may be dreaming of winning the Vietnam War at last by invading or at least "bombing Iran into the stone age."

After all, why be bothered with careful analyses of different political movements, ideologies, institutions, both secular and clerical. They only get in the way, as they did in the Vietnam War, where the differences between China, the Soviet Union and Vietnam on many issues, the history of imperialism in Vietnam, and the fictitious nature of the South Vietnamese state, were all beside the point. The U.S. had to win to keep the dominoes from falling to keep revolutionary Communist forces from sweeping through the "third world" and eventually threatening San Fransisco (before the religious right began to threaten San Francisco). And many of the policy planners who supported these notions were "the best and the brightest," the products of elite Ivy League schools and special think tank programs that the cold war created and funded generously , not a couple of academic losers like Bush and McCain.

Bush by the way trotted out some old cliches reminiscent of the Vietnam War (when he chose with help from family and powerful friends to defend Texas through the Texas Air National Guard, rather than be drafted to fight in Vietnam, since in those days the National Guard was still a domestic force) in proclaiming that the U.S. invasion and occupation of Iraq was and is right. To withdraw would be to intensify the threat of another World Trade Center attack on the U.S.

Neither Bush nor McCain seem capable it seems of understanding that Al Qaeda is in Iraq because of the U.S. invasion. That kind of thinking gets in the way of both the message and the policy. Al Qaeda was as the whole non Bush world knows (and most really did know at the time) violently opposed to the secular rightist Baath party dictatorship of Saddam Hussein and benefited the U.S. invasion, which enabled it to regroup and strengthen its relationship with its only real ally in the region, the Taliban forces now using as a base to attack the U.S. supported government in Afghanistan the areas of Pakistan in which, with CIA funding, were used by the forces to attack the Soviet supported Communist government in Afghanistan in the 1980s. Seeing that, meaning looking at simple facts, might mean that fixed ideas and the policies that emanate from them would have to be questioned. And that neither Bush nor McCain can do.

Realizing that the Al Qaeda group is also a fierce enemy of the clerical regime in Iran , as it is of all states in the Muslim world, secular or clerical, which do not bow to its clerical ideas, also gets in the way of the message and the policy, i.e., escalating the war in the region, which is frankly where I expect McCain would go if he became president.

Ignorance really is a kind of bliss for reactionaries. It isn't, as Tom says, ever inexcusable for them. Rather it is the excuse for their policies and the confirmation of their ideology. It enables them to, as fascism's "founding father," Benito Mussolini, once said to "think with your blood," to make military force the solution to all questions at home and abroad. If that is your beginning and your end, you engage in the same aggressive interventionist policies, making each intervention a justification for future interventions until counterforce catches up with you and the enemies you make unite to defeat your.

I am not calling McCain or even Bush a fascist but I am saying that the policies which they are identified with, feeding the military industrial complex at the expense of all others, supporting huge restrictions on traditional civil liberties in the name of an open ended "war against terrorism," even pursuing voter disenfranchisement and vote counting policies which have hugely undermined public confidence in U.S. elections, are policies which in the past have been associated with regimes which were or became open terroristic fascist dictatorships. These regimes have also not only brought endless war and unspeakable horrors to peoples who were their targets, but they have ended with the devastation of the societies in which they gained power.

Obama Discusses Costs of Bush's War in Iraq

By Joel Wendland

In West Virginia today, Democratic frontrunner Barack Obama continued his criticisms of Bush's handling of the Iraq war. He focused his remarks on the costs of war.

"We honor the brave men and women serving this nation in Iraq, Afghanistan, and around the world. A grateful nation slautes them," he stated.

No one pays as a high a price for war as troops themselves and the people who love them, he said. But we are all paying a high price for the war.

When National Guard troops are diverted to Iraq and aren't here to provide aid during natural and other disasters in their home states, that is a cost of this war, Obama pointed out. He cited the 2005 hurricanes in the Gulf Coast and massive flooding in West Virginia.

Obama also cited the Bush administration's diversion of resources from the fight in Afghanistan against Al Qaeda to Iraq, a strategic cost that has not made anyone safer.

Additionally, the Iraq war has cost US prestige and leadership on major global issues that impact our country as well, Obama added, including global poverty, disease, genocide, and nuclear proliferation.

The diversion of federal resources to give tax breaks for the wealthy and no-bid contracts to administration-friendly corporations like Halliburton has come at the expense of providing adequate funding for veterans health care. Obama cited Ft. Drum in New York, where recent reports indicate that returning veterans are waiting months to gain access to the VA system due to a lack of adequate funding.

Economically, Americans are paying for the war in other ways as well. Each household, he said is paying about $100 per month for the war. Skyrocketing gas prices – four times higher now than they were before the war – are not only taking a toll on working families' pocketbooks but also on the general economy pushing up prices across the board.

"The cost of this war has been far higher than what we were told it would be," Obama said. Obama cited recent estimates that put the final cost of the war at about $3 trillion.

Bush administration officials convinced many Americans to support the war by promising it would cost as little as $50 or $60 billion. Bush didn't tell us the truth, Obama said.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

McCain's Ignorance About the War in Iraq is Inexcusable

Thomas Riggins

When you have lied to the American people so many times about the War in Iraq it becomes second nature to you. John McCain can no longer tell the truth from the propaganda he spouts about the war. The man wants to be president but doesn't know the difference between Shia and Sunni in the Islamic world, or which side is which in Iraq.

Today's New York Times reports that while In Jordan on Tuesday McCain accused Iran of training Al Qaeda and then sending them into Iran. McCain said "they are taking Al Qaeda into Iran, training them and sending them back."

Not even the Bush administration makes the claim that Shia Iran is training the Sunni Al Qaeda group. "Well," McCain said, "its common knowledge and has been reported in the media that Al Qaeda is going back into Iran and receiving training and are coming back into Iraq from Iran. That's well known. And it's unfortunate."

It's unfortunate for McCain that he says this because it shows how deep his ignorance is about the war. Not that his supporters care about such things. Luckily for him Senator Lieberman was with him and whispered into his ear just how off he was. Oops. He then corrected himself.

But where was Lieberman when McCain called into a talk show from Jordan, "The Hugh Hewitt Show"? He said the same thing over the air. Once is an accident. Twice is a fool or someone out to mislead his audience.

Dennis Kucinich: 5th Anniversary of the start of the Iraq War

From here...

7 in 10 Iraqis Want U.S. Troops Out

I am getting tired of the Bush administration and its clones (e.g. McCain) going on about how Iraqis still want us there.

According to a British media survey of Iraqis, after five years of war with no plans to bring it to an end, 70% of Iraqis want foreign troops out. About 6 in 10 Iraqis seek a smaller role for the U.S.

More Iraqis have a positive outlook, the survey also indicated. But what that means isn't entirely clear. If terrorist attacks in my town went from several thousand a month to a couple thousand a month, I might have a positive outlook too.

It is also unclear how sustainable positive outlooks are when U.S. policy is basically geared toward fomenting divisions by sect and forcing the Iraqi government to hand its oil resources over to private foreign companies, as Cheney did in his recent visit.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Free the Angola 3


For 35 years, Jim Crow justice in Louisiana has kept Herman Wallace and Albert Woodfox locked in solitary confinement for a crime everyone knows they didn't commit.

Despite overwhelming evidence of their innocence, the "Angola 3", spend 23 hours each day in a 6x9 cell on the site of a former plantation. Prison officials - and the state officials who could
intervene - won't end the terrible sentence. They've locked them up and thrown away the key because they challenged a system that deals an uneven hand based on the color of one's skin and tortures those who assert their humanity.

We can help turn things around by making it a political liability for the authorities at Angola to continue the racist status quo, and by forcing federal and state authorities to intervene. I've signed on with to demand an investigation into this clear case of unequal justice. Will you join us?

When spoke up about the Jena 6, it was about more than helping six Black youth in a small town called Jena. It was about standing up against a system of unequal justice that deals an uneven hand based on the color of one's skin. That broken system is at work again and is joining The Innocence Project and Amnesty International to challenge it in the case of the Angola 3.

"Angola", sits on 18,000 acres of former plantation land in Louisiana and is estimated to be one of the largest prisons in the United States. Angola's history is telling: once considered one of the most violent, racially segregated prison in America, almost a prisoner a day was stabbed, shot or raped. Prisoners were often put in inhumane extreme punishment camps for small infractions. The Angola 3 - Herman, Albert and Robert - organized hunger and work strikes within the prison in the 70's to protest continued segregation, corruption and horrific abuse facing the largely Black prisoner population.

Shortly after they spoke out, the Angola 3 were convicted of murdering a prison guard by an all-white jury. It is now clear that these men were framed to silence their peaceful revolt against inhumane treatment. Since then, they have spent every day for 35 years in 6x9 foot cells for a crime they didn't commit.

Herman and Albert are not saints. They are the first to admit they've committed crimes. But, everyone agrees that their debts to society for various robbery convictions were paid long ago.

NBC News/Dateline just aired a piece this week about the plight of the Angola 3. And it's time to finally get some justice for Herman and Albert. For far too long, court officials have stalled and refused to review their cases. Evidence of prosecutorial misconduct and constitutional violations have not swayed them.

It's now time for the Governor of Louisiana and the United States Congress, which provides the funding for federal prisons like Angola, to step in and say enough is enough. Please join us in calling for Governor Bobby Jindal and your Congressperson to initiate an immediate and full investigation into the case of the Angola 3.