How Corporate Power Killed Democracy

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Corporate Power is the Fusion of the Corporation and the State

The rise of Corporate Power was the fall of democracy.  Over the long haul, US politics has revolved around a deep tension between democracy and an unrelenting drive for plunder, power and empire. Granted that our democracy has been seriously flawed and only rarely revolutionary, yet the democratic movements are the source of every good thing America has ever stood for.

Since the mid-1970s, when the corporations fused with the state, a new imperial order emerged that killed what remained of representative democracy. Not only would corporations exercise public authority as only government once had, but government would coordinate and serve corporate activity. Power and profits became one and the same. Corporate power has replaced democracy with oligarchy and justice with a vast militarized penal system. Instead of innovative production, they plunder people and planet.

To achieve this new order, elections and the economy had to be drained of any remaining democratic content. Both Democrats and Republicans were eager to have at it.

By the 1990s “Third Way” Democrats like Bill Clinton abandoned what was left of the New Deal to try to outdo the Republicans as the party of Wall Street. The Republicans pioneered election fraud on a national scale in 2000, 2004, and 2016; a lesson the Democrats learned all too well by the 2016 Primary. Neither major party wants election reform since free and fair elections would threaten the system itself.

So-called private corporations like Facebook, Google and Twitter control information and manage the 1st Amendment. The corporate media now broadcast propaganda and play the role of censor once monopolized by the FBI and CIA. The migration of propaganda work to civilian organizations began under Ronald Regan.

While both major parties offer the people nothing beyond austerity and the worst kind of identity politics, the big banks like Goldman Sachs gained positions of real influence with both Republican and Democratic administrations and always with the Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve.  Without public money and political protection the banking system — the headquarters of the mythical free market — could not function.

The Rise of Corporate Power

Corporations made the first big power grab in 1913 when the Federal Reserve was created.  Banks were given the power to impose corporate regulation on the “cutthroat competition” of the free market.  Competition was chaotic and lowered profits. Corporations killed not just democracy but the free market as well.

Corporations also had their own private militarized police force. The Pinkertons, infamous for attacking striking workers, was the largest armed force in the US in the early decades of the 20th century: larger than the US Army at that time.

The mid-1970s were nonetheless a pivotal time as corporations achieved unmatched political supremacy and overthrew a brief period of relative economic democracy. Corporate power was the reaction to the American revolution that occurred between 1955 and 1975.

The corporations wanted to lower wages while maintaining high levels of consumption and profit.  Their solution was to deny workers raises while offering instead record levels of credit and debt. And for that move they needed massive banks.  Finance capital then leveraged even greater profits by repackaging debt as an investment and selling the world on their scheme. And for that maneuver to work banks needed to act with the full faith and confidence of the US government.

The shift to austerity for workers and power for bankers began during the mid-1970’s as wage increases no longer tracked productivity.  During the last two years of the Carter Administration — with a majority Democratic congress — those trends continued and were dramatically accelerated by Reagan who empowered bankers, revised tax codes and redistributed wealth. By the 1990’s the corporatization of government was more or less complete.  Take Robert Rubin’s career for example: he was a 26 year veteran of Goldman-Sachs and Bill Clinton’s Treasury Secretary.  Along with Henry Paulson, Alan Greenspan and Larry Summers, Rubin rewrote economic rules in the image of the corporation: a law unto themselves and in direct command of the power of the state.[1]

A well-funded revolving door insures the power of “Government-Sachs.”

After the 2008 crash $19 trillion was destroyed as everyday people lost their homes, jobs and pensions but the banks received the largest global bailout in history.  Big banks grew larger and more powerful than ever. Not only were there no indictments, but Obama returned Summers, Timothy Geithner and Ben Bernanke to power despite their roles as architects of the crisis. Hillary Clinton pandered to them, Trump railed against them, but after the 2016 election Trump appointed Goldman-Sachs executives to key postions.

Property is the Creature of the State

In order to kill the economic underpinnings of democracy, Corporate Power rigged the game. So deep is the fusion between the corporations and the state that profits are now created largely by political means. There is nothing “free” about this market; instead it is driven by political intervention every step of the way. From start to finish, the supply chain of corporate profits is government action.

If the true costs of risk, labor, research and development, environmental damage, war, and taxes were charged to their accounts, what corporation could claim profits? On environment costs alone, almost no industry would be profitable.

The fusion of the corporation and the state, not free-market capitalism, is the true political economy of the U.S.

 The State is the Creature of Property

Want to kill democracy? Rig the elections and restrict political rights.

While there are many, many, many ways to prove that big money rules America, Supreme Court decision “Citizens United” provides compelling evidence that corporations wield state power.  Instead of insuring that the people have protections like the Bill of Rights against the corporations that now govern, “Citizens United” repealed the 1st Amendment by recognizing corporations as people and protecting money as a form of free speech.  Corporate power is cloaked and protected, the peoples’ rights are stripped and rejected.

Justice Steven’s dissenting opinion in “Citizens United” argued:

“The Court’s…approach to the First Amendment may well promote corporate power at the cost of the individual and collective self-expression the Amendment was meant to serve. It will undoubtedly cripple the ability of ordinary citizens, Congress, and the States to adopt even limited measures to protect against corporate domination of the electoral process.”

The “corporate domination of the electoral process.” Done.

Given that the top 0.1% is now worth as much as the bottom 90% and that long-standing inequalities in wealth have only increased during the Obama Administration and are sure to continue under Trump, the super-rich have the capacity to drown out all others voices and secure their domination of politics in the US.

The price tag for federal elections held in 2016 was $6.5 billion. A tidy sum for an election so bankrupt and dismal that over 90 million eligible voters stayed home and at least 1.75 million that did vote refused to do so for President. Millions more could do no better than hold their noses and vote, once again, for some fabled lesser of two evils.

Corporate Power Must Be Confronted

It’s late in the day. In a 2014 study — the most comprehensive of its kind — Princeton and Northwestern University researchers have demonstrated the utter lack of democracy in the US. Corporate Power and the US Empire killed American democracy while political cowardice and propaganda have us looking for other perpetrators. No it’s not the Russians. Its our own history, culture and political system. American democracy is dead and we must own it in order to revive it.

Corporate power has created a world so unequal that there is no way to change it within the existing political framework.  Teams of researchers using data that span thousands of years have concluded that the current extremes in wealth are setting the stage for conflict. In The Great Leveler, historian Walter Scheidel, concludes that only mass mobilization wars, transformative revolutions, pandemics or state collapse have redistributed wealth once it has reached current extremes.

Americans have always dreamed that we are an exception to history but we are not.   Not only will “incremental change” or the “lesser of two evils” or faith in the wonders of technology fail to prevent disaster — such ideas have delivered us to the crisis we now face.  We long for an easy way out — a way that does not demand risk — a way without the only kind of struggle that has ever made history. Of the most likely outcomes that lie ahead transformative revolution and transformative social movements like Standing Rock, are our best chance to minimize violence, reduce harm and create a better world.

Corporate Power is so destructive to democracy and dangerous to the planet because it recognizes no limits other than those imposed upon it. Corporate Power has but one reason for being: the maximum possible profit and the maximum possible power.   Corporations must grow or die but now their growth threatens ecocide, perpetual war and the death of democracy.  Such a way of life cannot be sustained. There are but few possible outcomes: the internal contradictions of the system will drive us to desperate crisis, or we intervene first, rebuild democracy, protect the planet, and overthrow the corporate dictatorship.


 

[1]. The 2010 Academy Award winning film Inside Job documents the rise of the corporate state in the context of the 2008 crisis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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David and Goliath. Greens Against the Machines.

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We Are Learning How To Battle Giants.

The giant banks and political machines that control the Democratic and Republican parties of New Jersey represent the reign of money, power and war.  We need a real political contest to restore the voice of everyday people.  In Seth Kaper-Dale and Lisa Durden, the Green Party candidates for Governor and Lt. Governor, we have our champions.  But unlike the Bible story of David and Goliath, they cannot do it alone. This is not single combat.  This is a political revolution: the people vs. corporate power.

Both Democrats and Republicans are deeply entrenched top-down machines interested only in their own power.   But, their obsession with control and money is why both parties repeat the mistakes of the past.  The Republicans nominated Christies’s next-in-command and the Democrats allowed a very wealthy former Goldman Sachs executive to purchase the nomination.  If you are happy with more of the same then vote for the major parties.

Where is the lesser of two evils?

The lesser of two evils argument does not fly. One machine is barely less evil than the other and all too often they act as one instead of two.

The relationship between Democratic machine bosses and Christie was so cozy that in the 2013 gubernatorial race the Democratic party failed to support their own worthy candidate, Barbara Buono. Sixty elected Democrats, the most powerful Democratic bosses and a third of registered Democrats gave Christe and Guadagno a landslide victory.  The Democratic bosses wanted Christie because it was a way to maintain and enlarge their power.  Now they support Murphy for the same reason.  Chris Christie went on to help Trump and Goldman Sachs — they help Trump too.

Where is the lesser of two evils? Nowhere.

Does this sound like the a healthy system with real political competition or bands of cunning machines jostling for position, sharing power, calling the shots and looking out for themselves? No matter who the two corporate parties run for governor the best they can do is run deep cover for a fundamentally corrupt political system. Lesser of two evil voting is surrender to the system.

But we cannot battle giants without clear vision, steady aim, and the best stones and slings.  We have vision precisely because the Green Party accepts no corporate donations. None. We know how to get money out of politics because we already have.  This allows us to think outside of the box, free from the control of Wall Street and the war machine that blinds us to the fact that another world is possible.

Our Vision: The Last are First!

Who is last? We are. The 99% are. “We the people” are last. And so is the Earth we depend on.

The last thing in the crafty calculations of Wall Street and the two-party system are the poor and the working-class – white, black, and brown.  The last thing is the environment — and it’s really becoming obvious.  The children and the old, they are last. The sick, homeless, the immigrant and the prisoner comes last. Women are last, Blacks are last, Latino are last, LGBTQ folks are last too. And everyone that ever dreamed of freedom, democracy and peace:  we are last but we will never forget the promise.

The last gets lip service and crumbs from the table. Our job is to make the last first. But how? Here’s how: with policies and programs that are both bold and practical.

Care, Compassion and Cutting Taxes

Universal health care for the people of New Jersey is not on the agenda of the Democrats or Republicans. A single payer system is the key to solving our tax problems, funding pensions and improving health. Currently we spent $80 billion a year on health-related expenses in NJ. Of that $80 Billion nearly $26 Billion (33 cents of each dollar) goes to the overhead and profit of health insurance companies. Medicare by comparison, has an overhead near 2%. If we could move to NJ Medicare-for-all, and bring our overhead down to even 8%, imagine what we could do with an extra 19.6 billion dollars moving through our state. [1]

Make Clean Water a Sacred Right

The health of our children is at risk due to unsafe drinking water. Since the Department of Environmental Protection posted data showing there is an urgent toxic lead problem in Newark’s and Milltown’s drinking water. Since then more research has shown that the problem is far more widespread. The state of NJ should declare a public health emergency immediately and distribute filters. If we do not have clean water we do not have anything.

Legalize it!

Legalization of marijuana is an idea whose time has come. But what the two parties miss is the opportunity to turn legal weed into a development program for the people of our state — not just a profit making bonanza for big corporations. A majority of people oppose marijuana prohibition. Big Pharma should not control this natural resource. Seth Kaper-Dale proposes that individuals may grow for personal use and worker cooperatives should run farms and dispensaries for the public market. Legalization of marijuana in New Jersey must be an opportunity for working people to have decent jobs. Past prison convictions will be reviewed and prisoners released if serving state sentences related to activities rendered legal under the new law.  Releasing non-violent marijuana offenders will save taxpayers millions every year.

Public Banking for the Common Good

NJ invests it revenues into hedge funds managed by Wall Street banks and in return we pay excessive fees. To add insult to injury, these hedge funds then turn around and loan our money out all over the world, often times to fuel wars or build oil pipelines rather than investing it our future.  The mission for a NJ state bank will include providing low- interest loans to counties and municipalities for infrastructure projects, buying out mortgages of homes in contested processes of foreclosure, re-negotiating fair mortgages and providing low interest loans to NJ university students to make higher education affordable. We would partner with local community-based banks and credit unions to provide low cost loans to small businesses, rather than leaving them at the mercy of banking profiteers.

A Revolution of Values

Many years ago Martin Luther King called the world to a “Revolution of Values.”

“We as a nation must undergo a radical revolution of values….When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, materialism, and militarism are incapable of being conquered.”

King’s words ring true and we are still trying to catch up to his vision.

For far too long we have been ruled by fear and fatalism instead of guided by our values of freedom, democracy and community.  When the “last are first” we will all be free.

Your future is our future.

Seth Kaper-Dale, Lisa Durden and the Green Party are ready to challenge the corrupt machines and stand up for all of us. We are on a tight budget just like you. Donate today and give all you can give.  Volunteer your precious time and vote your precious vote.

Together we can take everything and everyone that has been last — and for the first time in our lives — make them first.

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[1] See the Seth Kaper-Dale for Governor Website.  I have relied heavily on the website for a description of the issues.

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Goldman Sachs vs. Goldman Sachs?

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Murphy vs. Trump?

In the race for New Jersey Governor Democrat Phil Murphy is way up in the polls against a weak Republican challenger.  With money and machines both aligned in Murphy’s favor New Jersey faces yet another non-competitive election.

To spice up a bland campaign, Murphy has positioned himself to run — not against Republican Kim Guadagno or Green Seth Kaper-Dale — but against Donald Trump.  In repeated statements on his website and in TV advertisements Murphy claims he will stand up against Trump. This is doubtful, unless you believe that Goldman Sachs is ready to take on Goldman Sachs.  Murphy will likely “take on Trump” the same way Christie was going to “shake things up” in Trenton and Trump was going to “drain the swamp.”  Which is to say not at all.

Goldman Sachs vs. the People

Goldman Sachs is the most politically active financial institution in the US and has  earned the nickname “Government Sachs.” Whether it’s a Democratic or Republican administration, Goldman continues to wield power and win influence despite being the protagonists of the on-going 2008 economic crisis.

The stage was set for disaster when Goldman pumped up the sub-prime mortgage market which they knew was highly risky.  They hawked so-called “derivatives” — investments made up of these bad debts — to insurance companies and pension firms, while betting against these same clients who had bought the tainted products Goldman promoted.

When the financial giants fell, global shock waves rolled out of New York City destroying an estimated $19 trillion of wealth in the US alone. Millions of homes, pensions and jobs were lost. The worst crash since the Great Depression devastated the working class with African American households losing half of their wealth.

Former Goldman executive and Bush’s Treasury Secretary, Henry Paulsen made sure Wall Street was insulated from risk by arranging massive bailouts from the US taxpayer to the very banks that had instigated the crisis.

Only in 2016 did Goldman Sachs quietly pay out $5 billion for wrongdoing. Informed observers claim that the penalty is itself another sham and that the actual fine is going to be far less.   To this day not a single Goldman Sachs executive has been indicted for crimes, let alone gone to jail. Goldman made billions every step of the way.

Phil “My Pockets” Murphy

Murphy’s vast personal fortune comes from the astronomical pay package he was  entitled to as a Goldman executive. Murphy made his political connections over the course of his 23 years at Goldman Sachs.

As reported in The Nation:

Murphy’s Goldman connections were instrumental in his transition from Wall Street to politics. “He is a close confidant of former treasury secretary and Wall Street veteran Robert Rubin…” reported the German weekly Der Spiegel….“It was through his connection to Rubin that Murphy began working as a Democratic Party fundraiser.” Murphy also had ties to Michael Froman, Rubin’s chief of staff at the Treasury. According to WikiLeaks, in 2008, it was Froman who recommended to John Podesta, then overseeing Obama’s transition, that Murphy get a top job in the administration.

 

In 1999, Murphy joined the firm’s management committee, an elite group that included Hank Paulson, later George W. Bush’s Treasury secretary, and Gary Cohn, now President Trump’s top economic adviser. Two years later, he became co-head of the division overseeing the assets of pensions, foundations, hedge funds, and other institutions…which totaled $373 billion by 2003. And as a prime broker for investors, his division fed hedge-fund clients enormous lines of credit, fueling Wall Street’s speculative bubble.

 

Murphy returned to the New York headquarters in 1999, just as the firm—and Wall Street—were undergoing a dramatic transformation. That was the year Glass-Steagall was repealed and a ban was placed on the regulation of derivatives. Both moves were orchestrated by Robert Rubin, the Clinton administration’s Treasury secretary and another Goldman Sachs alum…

While Murphy bankrolled the hedge funds with billions for their gambles, his confidant Robert Rubin turned Wall Street into a casino. Murphy’s colleagues on Goldman’s elite management team were Henry Paulson and Gary Cohn.  Paulson orchestrated the largest Wall Street bailout in history and Cohn fueled the sub-prime mortgage market. Today, Cohn is calling the shots for Donald Trump.

This is how “Government by Goldman” rolls.

Now Murphy claims he will take on Trump. This is hard to believe when Trump –more than any other president — is himself surrounded by former Goldman Sachs executives.

Trump’s administration has had six major players with deep ties to Goldman Sachs: Gary Cohn at the helm; Steve Bannon, now disgraced but still champion of the far right; Steve Mnuchin is in as Treasury Secretary; Dina Powell, economic advisor with ties to important Democrats and Republicans; Jay Clayton, chair of Securities and Exchange Commission. And, briefly, Anthony Scaramucci as White House communications director.

The most powerful is Gary Cohn, who is Giving Goldman Sachs everything it ever wanted from the Trump Administration.

The Trump economic agenda…is largely the Goldman agenda….If Cohn stays, it will be to pursue an agenda of aggressive financial deregulation and massive corporate tax cuts — he seeks to slash rates by 57 percent — that would dramatically increase profits for large financial players like Goldman. It is an agenda as radical in its scope and impact as Bannon’s was.

The Trump economic agenda is the Goldman Sachs agenda — created and pitched by Gary Cohn and Steve Mnuchin.

Money Makes the Machine Go Round

Murphy has made no effort to get money out of politics.  The reality is just the opposite: Money Won.

Instead of following the example of Bernie Sanders or Seth-Kaper Dale in refusing corporate donations, Murphy’s campaign would have been a big nothing without his Wall Street fortune. Murphy’s investments made $7.3 million in 2015 alone. He relied on personal wealth to win the nomination.

Big money was decisive.  Murphy paved the way by donating at least $1.15 million to state and local Democratic organizations since 2001. As early as October 2016, Murphy had put up $10 million for his own campaign.  “He’s raised another $613,000, with 30 percent of that coming from people once associated with Goldman Sachs.”  By the time the primary was over Murphy had spent “$21.7 million — or 64 percent of the $33.7 million spent by all the contenders put together. He loaned his campaign $16.3 million.

Once in the general election Murphy shifted gears and went for the public matching funds that gives him tax dollars while limiting his spending and personal loans to his own campaign. But, the program sets no limits on the spending of outside groups.

Chief among those outside groups is the Democratic Governors Association.  A September 25, 2017 fundraiser has revealed both the influence of money and the cozy relationship between Murphy and the old-line Democratic machine.  According to Observer.com:

The Cherry Hill event is a collaboration between Democratic gubernatorial nominee Phil Murphy and South Jersey power broker George Norcross. Tickets were $2,500 per person, but the invitation noted that the DGA can raise unlimited amounts from U.S. donors.   Murphy and Rep. Donald Norcross (D-1) shared top billing…and another Norcross brother, lobbyist Phil Norcross, was one of the hosts.

Murphy and the Norcross trio. It’s both money and the machine but its also more than that.

Although Murphy has never held elected office he did “serve” New Jersey.

In 2005, then-Gov. Richard Codey appointed Murphy chair of a task force on New Jersey’s pension crisis. One of his recommendations was to sell off public assets, which Corzine proposed but failed to get passed. He also suggested raising the retirement age and base pensions on a longer salary window, both of which were later put into effect. [emphasis added]

And who would put the recommendations into effect? Chris Christie, that’s who. And, of course, his Democratic enablers, Steve Sweeny and Sheila Oliver.

So Murphy’s script is Wall Street’s script: privatization of public assets and cutbacks to workers. The report did not recommend stopping tax breaks to corporations, reforming regressive tax structures or identify universal health care as the best solution to our budget problems.

Instead Murphy recommended “sacrifice.” It’s the same language used by elites to win concessions from workers following the 2008 crash. Did Goldman Sachs sacrifice? In the third quarter of 2007, when every other big bank showed huge losses, Goldman Sachs reported a $2.9 billion profit.  Former Goldman Sachs executives have held positions of immense power in the Treasury, Federal Reserve and as economic advisors to Presidents Clinton, Bush, Obama, and now Trump.

“Shared sacrifice” is for suckers and adverse interest is the sucker-punch.

Adverse Interest and the Lesser of Two Evils

Adverse interest” is when someone claims to “have your back” while they are stabbing you in the back.

Goldman Sachs claimed it was acting in the best interests of its clients. It clearly did not. They made billions betting against their own clients.  The Democrats and Republicans claim to represent the American people. They clearly do not. Their real interest is the billionaires and big corporations, and no one else.

American democracy has been ruined because we have accepted a no-win situation. Lesser-of- two-evils voting is the terms of our surrender. Which former Goldman Sachs executive will deliver prosperity?  Which faction of the secret police will protect us: the FBI, the CIA or the NSA? Should we vote for the vulgar racists that call the fascists forward or the systematic racists hiding behind Wall Street, endless war and mass incarceration. Which of the two bankrupt parties will lead? The lack of real democracy leaves us with a servant’s choice: do we want a kindly master or a cruel master?  A truly free people would have no masters at all.

We must stop signaling to the elites that it’s okay if they do not represent us — that it’s okay if they just hurt us a little less than the “other guy.”  Lesser-of-two-evils voting gives the two-party system no incentive to represent us, just like bailing out Wall Street gives them no incentive to restrain their reckless greed.

Instead we must only vote for parties and candidates that actually represent our interests and values. That is, after all, what representative democracy is supposed to be about.

 

 

 

 

 

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New Jersey is a One Party State

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The race for governor of New Jersey is the most important election of 2017.  With so much at stake you might think the people would have a real choice, and they do, its just not the choices presented by the Democrats and Republicans.

When it comes down to what really matters — power and money — New Jersey is run by machine politics and the insiders know how to wheel and deal.  Power in the Garden State is managed by a shifting alliance of political machines, ready to cut deals, share power and scratch each others back.  At least that is how its been since Chris Christie came to rule the roost.

60 Democratic officials endorsed Christie in 2013, including major Democratic machine bosses.

Let that sink in. 60 elected Democrats endorsed Christie.

In one of the best pieces of investigative reporting ever written on New Jersey politics Alec MacGillis states:

Christie owes his rise to some of the most toxic forces in his state—powerful bosses who ensure that his vow to clean up New Jersey will never come to pass. He has allowed them to escape scrutiny, rewarded them for their support, and punished their enemies. All along, even as it looked like Christie was attacking the machine, he was really just mastering it.

MacGillis continues to describe the gears and wheels of the machine:

In most of the United States, the big political machines have been broken, or reduced to wheezing versions of their former selves. In New Jersey, though, they’ve endured like nowhere else. The state has retained its excessively local distribution of power—566 municipalities, 21 counties, and innumerable commissions and authorities, all of them generous repositories of contracts and jobs. The place still has bona fide bosses—perhaps not as colorful as the old ones, but about as powerful. The bosses drum up campaign cash from people and firms seeking public jobs and contracts, and direct it to candidates, who take care of the bosses and the contributors—a self-perpetuating cycle…

The relationship between Democratic machine bosses and Christie was so cozy that in the 2013 gubernatorial race the Democratic Party failed to support its own candidate, Barbara Buono.

In her concession speech Buono thanked her supporters who:

“withstood the onslaught of Betrayal from our own party….The Democratic political bosses, some elected, some not made a deal with this governor….They did not do it for the State they did it out of a desire to help themselves.”

The machines effectively deprive the voters of New Jersey of a free, fair and competitive election.

This time around it’s Christie that “kicks sand” in the face of the Republican candidate even thought his very own Lt. Governor. Guadagno is 20 points down in the polls and millions short.  After Christie’s gross absenteeism during his vain run for the Presidency, Bridgegate, Beachgate,  plundering of the treasury with record giveaways to favored corporations, the protection and rescue of Exxon and the unprecedented low approval ratings to show for it, there is nothing Christie can or will do to help. Referring to his miserable poll ratings Christie said, “Poll numbers matter when you’re running for something….And I don’t care.” He used New Jersey for his personal gain and trashed the Republican Party, but no worries, now its the Democrats turn.

The big money knows the game and former Christie donors have switched to supporting Murphy.

A Republican politician, Chris Brown, is quoted in PoliticoNewJersey as saying:

I can only speak for myself and say that I believe there has been an unholy alliance between Governor Christie and Senator Sweeney, which I don’t believe is in the best interest of the people I represent in Atlantic County or this state….”

Where are the lesser of two evils in New Jersey?

When it came time to attack workers they were one big happy family. As reported in The Nation:

[W]hen Christie launched an aggressive assault on the pensions and health-care benefits of state employees in 2011, he did so with the support of Norcross, DiVincenzo, and other Democratic bosses, whose allies in the Assembly joined the Republican governor to give him the margin he needed to pass the changes despite massive protests outside the State House by the NJEA, the CWA, and other unions.In June of that year, Wisniewski appeared on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show, where he joined her in bemoaning the state of the Democratic Party and added, in regard to the pension-“reform” fiasco: “We fought real hard, but unfortunately there were some Democrats who chose to side with the Republicans on this bill.”

Some Democrats?  Just the most powerful Democrats in the state.

Watch this revealing video of Joseph DiVincenzo, Democratic machine boss of Essex county endorse Chris Christie of Governor.  DiVincenzo took the opportunity to champion Christie’s attacks against workers.  DiVincenzo then accurately praises Shelia Oliver, now Democratic candidate for Lt. Governor, for moving the Christie agenda when Oliver was Speaker of the New Jersey General Assembly.

Joe DiVincenzo is Shelia Oliver’s political mentor and boss on her day job. Machine much?

New Jersey’s supreme Democratic boss is also a long-term ally of Christie. George Norcross and his brothers Phil and Donald have built their careers on the city of Camden. After 30 years of such leadership the people of Camden are desperately poor. and plagued by all the problems extreme poverty includes. Read this scathing critique of Norcorss’s recent attempt to develop Camden.

George Norcross lives a life of luxury greasing Christie’s wheels and hanging out at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago where he can easily toss the $200,000 a year membership fee to rub shoulders with the rich and powerful. Camden gets poverty, crime, violence and silence. Norcross gets caviar, cash and Trump’s company.

The machine bosses decided their narrow interest was far more important than giving the people of New Jersey a real choice. And so we got Chris Christie delivered on a platter by the Democrats themselves. Now its the Democrat’s turn.

And if you think there is no payoff, then tell me why the cash-strapped state government approved a $86 million tax break for an insurance company run by — you guessed it — New Jersey’s most powerful Democrat, George Norcross.

Any complaints from supposed Republican Chris Christie for lining the pockets of the leading Democrat? None. One hand washes the other and the people of New Jersey get the shaft.  And the shaft is coming.

According to the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, New Jersey is ranked 50th, that is dead last, among US states for its fiscal health.  Will Murphy repeat Corzine by making fine sounding promises followed by austerity?

There is only one reason that New Jersey — one of the riches states in the richest country in the history of the world — has budget problems and that, in the end, is the machine.

And Phil “Goldman-Sachs” Murphy has signaled his acceptance and alliance with the machine by appointing tried and true team player Shelia Oliver as his Lt. Governor.  Murphy does not have to run hard. The fix is in and he is way ahead on money and polls.  Why have a ground game when the real game is to marry New Jersey’s old school machine with the most greedy, ruthless players on Wall Street and on Trump’s cabinet: Goldman Sachs.

Machine meets machine, falls in love and we live unhappily ever after.

But, what is broken in Jersey can be fixed in Jersey if we have the courage and vision to restore competition, democracy and basic honestly to politics. This election we are lucky to have a real alternative with the Green Party candidates for governor Seth-Kaper Dale and Lisa Durden.

It’s time to stop voting for the bosses unless we want to be political prisoners for the rest of our lives.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Community Organizing in Philly and New York

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Eight in the series: Organize the White Working Class!

In Hillbilly Nationalists, James Tracy and Amy Sonnie shows the hidden depths of working class resistance and organizing. The pathbreaking work of Chicago’s white workers in JOIN, The Young Patriots and Rising Up Angry,  was soon followed by similar organizing projects in Philadelphia and New York.

October 4th Organization (O4O)

O4O looked to Philly’s revolutionary past for inspiration. On October 4, 1779, rioters broke into food and clothing warehouses to redistribute supplies hoarded by businessmen intent on driving up prices. O4O called for jobs or income and pressured the political machines to give working class communities their fair share of city resources.

The ‘70s were hard times for many American cities including Philadelphia. Too often, white workers retreat to the comforts of white supremacy and racial resentment as compensation for economic misery and stress. O4O provided an alternative to racism with a one-two punch: community and workplace organizing.

Their opponent was a rising star of the New Right: Mayor Frank Rizzo. Rizzo had climbed out of the ranks of the police department and marshaled the insecurities and resentments of Italians, Irish, Poles, and Greeks to scapegoat their conditions on the city’s growing black population.

O4O accepted the white ethnic identity of its community but tried to repurpose it with narratives of resistance, finding examples in European or immigrant history as well as in the rich labor history of interracial solidarity in Philly’s once-booming garment industry.

As with most white working class activism, class was the point of contact, but issues of racism were close behind. The cutting edge of the class/race mix was a unifying issue: police brutality. When a young white man was killed by police without indictment or consequences, organizing began in earnest. The campaign against police brutality stressed common ground with communities of color and mounting spirited demonstrations, some of which were suppressed with violent police attacks on peaceful protesters. The O4O launched the “People’s Bail Project,” an educational effort that reached out to the community with information about their rights with respect to police and the penal system. 1

While there is much to learn from each episode of organizing chronicled by Sonnie and Tracy, O4O is remarkable for its attempt to bridge the gap between community and workplace. O4O was based in Kensington, an old industrialized town known for its poverty and mean streets. O4O members organized in their own workplaces, supported strikes, demonstrated at the unemployed office, reaching directly to the rank and file. By working the border between workplace and community, O4O broadened the horizon of working class resistance. O4O also offered a class analysis of the economic crisis that unions too often failed to deliver. Workplace/community organizing was the best counterpunch to Rizzo’s thinly veiled racist campaign to enlist the support of white workers in his nasty crackdown on hippie-radicals, Black Panthers, and other threats to the social order.

White Lightning

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White Lightning used the direct service model combined with anti-racist, anti-war, and radical politics characteristic of other white working class efforts inspired by the Black Panthers. Based in the Bronx, White Lightning matched community self-help for drug addicts with opposition to the so-called war on drugs, which they rightly understood as a war on the poor.

Like O4O, White Lightning faced the rise of the early new right. In Philly, it was conservative Democrat Rizzo. In New York, it was liberal Republican Nelson D. Rockefeller and his campaign to ramp up incarceration as the answer to drugs.

We now know that the Nixon administration secretly used the war on drugs for political purposes. They wanted a method, acceptable to the political center, that would target the black community and hippies as a flank attack on the civil rights movement and the new left.

White Lightning’s focus on beating drug addiction, providing legal assistance, and fighting for decent housing took them into otherwise conservative neighborhoods. Rather than repeating the New Left’s easy condemnation of white racism, they engaged it. By pushing the direct interest of whites and offering alternative white identities rooted in political resistance, White Lighting hoped to build a bridge to struggling communities of color. That bridge was already under construction. White Lightning worked in coalition with black and latino organizations around health care services for the Bronx including a long and successful struggle to remake Lincoln Hospital from “the butcher shop” into a modern medical facility. 2

While these efforts met with partial success at best, they point a possible way forward for organizers of the working class: multi-racial, multi-sectoral coalition building on one hand and long term organizing among white workers on the other.  That is a daunting task, but who said this would be easy.

Trump’s election and the Democratic collapse shows that the liberal shame and blame, hollowed out identity politics, inverted privilege arguments, and general condescension toward working people is a miserable failure unless your aim is to preserve the existing order. Needless to say, White Lightning organizers were not Democratic Party liberals but revolutionaries that challenged power.

Attack Trump we must. But, to do that best, we should follow the lead of our ancestors: White Lighting, O4O, Standing Up Angry, Young Patriots and JOIN. Let’s create compelling and viable alternatives to white identity, austerity, and corporate power, or the right-wing will.  Organizing is the only way.

Real revolutionaries always contest turf and never abandon their people.


  1. Hillbilly Nationalists, 142
  2. Hillbilly Nationalists, 153
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The Young Patriots, The Original Rainbow Coalition and Rising Up Angry

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Seventh in the Series: Organize the White Working Class!

Young Patriots*

In the late ‘60s and early ‘70s, the social movements crossed over into revolutionary territory. The victories and the failures of the civil rights movement, the intensification of the Vietnam War and anti-war movement, the assassination of MLK, the emergence of a new feminism, the revolt of soldiers and veterans, the stunning militance of the Stonewall rebellion and gay liberation, and the emergence of a mass environmental movement meant that people were moving toward solutions outside of the existing order.

In the white hot heat of the time — as the movement simultaneously approached the revolutionary threshold and the deeply entrenched power of the established order — working-class whites joined with the Black Panthers and Young Lords in the original “Rainbow Coalition.” Inspired by Black Panthers Fred Hampton and Bob Lee, a group of “dislocated hillbillies” with organizing experience in JOIN’s police brutality committee founded the Young Patriots.

Modeling themselves on the Black Panthers, the Young Patriots envisioned two parallel tracks: Serve the people with local programs designed to meet the need of the community and repurpose white nationalist sentiment to revolutionary goals.

While the ideology and iconography of the Young Patriots may seem jarring by today’s cultural standards, remember the immense influence of third world nationalism on virtually all sectors of the American left of the period. The Young Patriots saw Appalachia as a kind of white homeland, an internal colony of the U.S. They adopted the rebel flag in an attempt to transform its meaning.

Imagine young white working class revolutionaries sporting rebel flags and making common cause with the Black Panthers and Young Lords. That is exactly what happened, and that was totally badass. A meeting between Young Patriots and Black Panthers was captured in the documentary American Revolution 2.

Today a reborn Young Patriots Organization and Redneck Revolt, one of the most prominent anti-fascist organizations, are growing rapidly and showing us what patriots and rednecks are really made of.

The story of the Young Patriots so challenges liberal norms of identity politics that it virtually disappeared from historical accounts of the period until Hillbilly Nationalists retold the tale. The Young Patriots attempted something remarkable: the radical transformation of white nationalism and its symbols into the carriers of revolutionary consciousness.

“The south will rise again,” they claimed, “only this time in solidarity with our oppressed brothers and sisters.”[1]  “From historical experience, we know that the people make the meaning of a flag…This time we mean to see that the spirit of rebellion finds and smashes the real enemy rather than our brothers and sister in oppression.”[2]

Like JOIN before them, they saw racism as opposed to the interest of the white working class. William “Preacherman” Fesperman put it this way:

“Let racism become a disease. I’m talking to the white brothers and sisters because I know what it’s done. I know what it’s done to me. I know what it does to people everyday….It’s got to stop, and we’re doing it.”[3]

Despite their high ideals and multi-racial coalition work, the first Young Patriots were a short lived experiment. With their teachers and allies, the Black Panthers and the Young Lords, they were the target of local and national police surveillance and repression by the FBI’s COINTELPRO program. In 1969, Fred Hampton, Chicago’s best know leader of the Panthers and the Rainbow Coalition was assassinated in a pre-dawn raid. The repression worked, and precious organizing energy was consumed on defense and survival.

But if we see the Young Patriots and the original Rainbow Coalition as a failed but inspired attempt to make history — at the high water mark of the last revolution — there remains much to be learned. The struggle of the Young Patriots offers us an essential lesson: revolution requires the transformation, not rejection, of existing cultural traditions. The Young Patriots tried to transform southern white culture.

The Rainbow Coalition also transformed the integrationist strategy of the civil rights movement. “Organizing you own” did not rule out, but instead enhanced, multi-racial work. The original Rainbow Coalition demanded each partner have the confidence and political independence that was only possible when each could first stand alone and strong in their own communities. Under the conditions of self-determination, a true meeting of equals became a practice not just a theory or hope.

Coalition work between distinct racial organizations was another, perhaps more practical, path to the utopian vision of the “beloved community” King envisioned for America’s future.[4]  Maybe integrated organizations underestimated the depth of racism —conscious and unconscious — and wished away racism with the shortcuts of good intentions, superficial outreach, and moral yearnings. The Rainbow Coalition based its unity on sturdier stuff: each group needed independent power as a precondition for a movement that could begin to practice political equality and mutual respect.

Rising Up Angry

Hillbilly Nationalists also tells the story of three other organizing efforts. As the Young Patriots declined a new community organization in Chicago, Rising up Angry, returned to a style more like JOIN but still informed by the radicalism of the Young Patriots.

Rising Up Angry celebrated working class culture and placed culture and consciousness at the forefront. Influenced by the writings of James Forman, Amilcar Cabral, and others and compelled by the practical needs of day-to-day organizing, Angry knew culture mattered and sought to amplify the revolutionary tendencies within existing working class culture.[5]

Angry viewed gang members and street wise “greasers” as potential allies. Angry also saw soldiers and veterans as source of resistance and knew it made sense to honor the warrior while opposing the war. Angry help provide legal counseling for AWOL soldiers and attracted veterans to their organization. In 1972, Angry joined in a national day of coordinated actions “Armed Farces Day” and drew 3,000 to the Chicago demonstration.

Angry ran a health clinic, organized tenants unions, and supported abortion rights, all of which brought women and women’s issues into clearer focus as a mainstay of Angry’s work. As the womens movement accelerated, Angry’s women took leadership roles and led consciousness raising groups with working class women and men.

In the pages of their newspaper and in a short film, Trick Bag, Rising Up Angry took an anti-racist message to their community. Like all the working class projects in Hillbilly Nationalists, Angry went beyond moral politics to argue that racism against people of color weakened working class power and was against the self interest and psychological well-being of white workers. And Angry did not turn away from physical confrontations with the hard-core racists.

Angry combined radical, anti-racist, feminist, and working class identities and interests in a single organization without getting bogged down in endless debate about the “agent of history” or the “primary contradiction.” And they avoided, or at least blunted, the kind of debilitating internal division and splits that chase people away.[6]

Rising Up Angry practiced an early form of what we now call “intersectionality.” But instead of simply seeing how people are divided into distinct sections, they learned that the lines of power that divided people were also paths of resistance along which determined activists could push back. Class was the central organizing principle for Angry’s work, but even the communists who contributed so much to Angry learned that class consciousness would flourish best if not grasped too tightly.

Class rarely stands naked. Instead it is clothed in culture and perceived with the complex and contradictory states of mind that are the hallmarks of human consciousness.


*In addition to the account presented in Hillbilly Nationalist a well argued and well documented article by Patrick King offers a short history of the Young Patriots.

  1. All citations are from Amy Sonnie and James Tracy, Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels, and Black Power: Community Organizing in Radical Times,  74
  2. 75
  3. 75
  4.  90
  5. 128
  6. 125-6
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Jobs or Income Now!: JOIN and White Working Class Leadership

belafonteatjoin

Sixth in the Series: Organize the White Working Class!

Yes, that is Harry Belafonte visiting JOIN in 1965. Peggy Terry is on far right.

JOIN and Emergence of White Working Class Leadership.

Jobs or Income Now (JOIN) was a Chicago community organization started as the brainchild of the SDS’s Economic Research and Action Project (ERAP). In their view, poverty was not the result of individual failing but of political inequality. Since poverty was political, JOIN had to confront the Democratic Party political machines that controlled Chicago.

In their day-to-day work, JOIN came to follow the example of the Black Panthers by combining a service model with consciousness raising. They provided direct assistance to the community on basic issues such as education, health, and housing while teaching about racism, class exploitation and war.

Hillbilly Nationalists tells the story of JOIN through the life of Peggy Terry, its most visionary leader. Terry was a poor southern white woman who had been drawn into the civil rights movement as a volunteer for the Congress of Racial Equality (CORE). Terry’s motivations were noble but at first were limited to moral politics. She viewed her work as a sacrifice to “help black folks get their freedom.”1 Terry thought she had to give up her own interests to help and could see no good from organizing poor whites.

Terry’s transition to working class hero began at the urging of civil rights leaders. When she met Martin Luther King, he asked her about her own exploitation as a poor white woman and how other poor whites might be organized into the civil rights movement. These were things she had not considered. Monroe Sharp, Terry’s comrade in CORE, marched her into the JOIN office. “This is where you belong….You have to know who you are before you ever know who we are,” Sharp said. And so with the guidance of African American leaders, Terry turned to her own community.2

Terry already lived in a working-class neighborhood sometimes called “Hillbilly Harlem.” With JOIN, Terry made the fusion of anti-racism and class interest her work.

JOIN learned that people found the promise of jobs or income too utopian, so they began instead by listening to community members about what they saw as their most pressing needs. Imagine that! What they found led to activism around police brutality, welfare rights, tenants unions, and rent strikes. As they confronted the power of landlords and politicians, they began coalition work with black and latino groups. They offered public education about the ruthless Daly machine that ran Chicago. JOIN used their newspaper to address issues of international importance, including national liberation movements, the anti-war movement, and movements for women’s rights and civil rights.

As elements of the civil rights movement evolved into black power, these white workers found that “organizing your own” made sense. In fact, JOIN was one of the few organization in the U.S. already heading down that path.

By 1967, local leaders asked SDS members and other outside volunteers to leave JOIN. “We believe the time has come for us to turn to our own people, poor and working-class whites, for direction, support, and inspiration, to organize around our own identity, our own interests.”3

But unlike the degraded forms of identity politics now used by the Democratic Party to protect the existing power structure, JOIN’s identity politics — like that of other social movements of the period — was rooted in participatory democracy and an organizing method designed to empower people and challenge power.

In the tradition of Saul Alinsky and Ella Baker, Terry wrote,

“No matter what background a person comes from…the role of the organizer, their primary job is to find people to whom they can pass on their abilities, their skills. The job of an organizer is to organize themselves out of a job.”4

The self-determination and self interest of these poor white people did not imply separatism or racist white nationalism, but just the opposite. JOIN members attended the Poor People’s March and went on to claim a role for working class whites in the struggle against racism and economic exploitation.

Terry addressed a crowd of 50,000 at the June 19, 1968, Solidarity Day rally.

“We, the poor whites of the Unites States, today demand an end to racism, for our own self interest and well being, as well as for the well being of black, brown, and red Americans, who, I repeat, are our natural allies in the struggle for real freedom and real democracy in these, OUR, Unites States of America.”5

Our common cause is freedom, and Terry showed us how to make it real.

Peggy Terry for Vice President

The final episode in the remarkable history of JOIN was its support for the candidacy of Peggy Terry to run as Vice President on the Peace and Freedom Party ticket in 1968. With Black Panther Eldridge Cleaver as Presidential candidate, they sought to take on Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey.

But for Terry, the real work was to contest the candidacy of George Wallace, the segregationist and loud-mouthed racist running for President as an independent. Terry’s audience was the working class whites that Wallace appealed to with a potent mix of economic resentment and racial hatred.  In words that could have been spoken today Terry went after Wallace:

“His “little man” appeal has won over many white workers who are tired of their union’s cooperation with big corporations. But Wallace is not the answer to their problems. He is just another kind of boss.”6

Wallace, who went on to win five southern states, had tapped into the toxic blend of racism and economic misery that has long been part of American history and American demagoguery. It is the same seam of bigotry and resentment that Trump attempted to mine.

The Peace and Freedom Party may not have had the funds, staff, or media coverage necessary to win, but they discovered a truth we dare not ignore. Unless the labor and social movements can create a compelling alternative to racist resentment and class exploitation, the Trumps and Wallaces of the world will find a base among the white working class. JOIN took up the long hard struggle that awaits anyone willing to change the world.

Decades later, JOIN’s history is still a useful and usable past. Organizers with the courage and stamina to engage the white working class should consider the basic insights underlying JOIN’s work as a guide to action.

  • Racism is against the self-interest of the white working class.
  • People of color are natural allies in the struggle for freedom and for economic democracy.
  • The important task of “organizing your own,” should be guided by the ideals of participatory democracy and self-determination.
  • Serve the people.
  • Let the people decide what should be done and at what pace.
  • Organizers can be indispensable as catalysts and facilitators but the people must provide the leadership.

  1. All citations from Amy Sonnie and James Tracy, Hillbilly Nationalists, Urban Race Rebels, and Black Power.  p 20

2. 20

3. 56

4. 56

5. 59

6.62

Posted in American Culture, Martin Luther King, Movement Culture, Organizing Method, Organizing Strategy, Racism, revolutionary strategy, Strategy, Uncategorized, White Privilege, White Supremacy | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment