2016/05/28

US election: Donald Trump rules out US presidential debate with Bernie Sanders

US election: Donald Trump rules out US presidential debate with Bernie Sanders.

US Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump has ruled out a one-on-one debate with second-place Democratic hopeful Bernie Sanders, killing off a potentially high-ratings television spectacle.

The suggested debate would have sidelined likely Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton but given Mr Sanders a huge platform ahead of California's June 7 primary.

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Trump is afraid of Sanders because a debate would show Sanders to be a compelling candidate against him. Sanders is able to articulate policy positions that align with the values of the American voters without being condescending. His ordinariness would contrast strongly with Trump's garishness.

If this debate ran before the California and New Jersey primaries, Democratic voters would probably vote for Sanders over Hillary Clinton. This might even give Sanders a majority in the pledged delegates.

With a majority or close count in pledged delegates, the super-delegates would come under great pressure to choose Sanders. Clinton may still win the Democratic Party nomination because she has managed to give the sanction of the Democratic Party machine from whom the super-delegates are chosen.

If that were the case, then Trump would benefit from the perceived corruption of the Democratic Party nomination process, and may even attract sufficient Sanders supporters to win the Presidental Election.

Agreeing to this debate would be a high-risk strategy for Trump, as:

  • Sanders has to be convincing enough for voters in the remaining primaries to vote for him over Clinton;
  • Sanders has to be damaged enough by Trump so that the super-delegates choose Clinton over him;
  • Sanders' supporters have to remain upset enough to vote for Trump over Clinton.

There are too many moving parts for this to work for Trump successfully.


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2016/05/26

Eric Blanc: Party, class, and Marxism: Did Kautsky advocate 'Leninism'?

Eric Blanc discusses Party, class, and Marxism: Did Kautsky advocate 'Leninism'?.

Experience over the past decades would seem to demonstrate that while non-Marxist broad parties cannot effectively transcend capitalism, projects of building Marxist parties will likely flounder if they are divorced from wider efforts to promote a mass political representation of and for the working-class majority. Socialists today might do well to rediscover Kautsky’s forgotten 1909 contribution and to reconsider its strategic conclusion:

It is not a question as to whether we prefer a small resolute Social-Democratic Party to a big class party with no definite programme … A Socialist organisation of the S.D.P. type is as insufficient by itself as the Labour Party. We must encourage both.

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This would mean that the Socialist Alliance should continue with other parties like the Greens and with groups within the Australian Labour Party on common issues like Workers' Rights, defending Trade Unions, Refugees, Environmental Issues, etc.


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2016/05/13

Salar Mohandesi: The Afterbern: How Bernie Sanders has changed the US and what we do now

Salar Mohandesi writes about The Afterbern: How Bernie Sanders has changed the US and what we do now.

What we have emerging, then, is a new, diverse cohort of predominantly young people, the majority of whom belong to the working class or a collapsing “middle class,” now open to socialist ideas, clamoring for systematic change, and who are increasingly networked, trained, and experienced in organizing. The vast majority of these people are, like Bernie, not socialists in any specific historical sense, but they are willing to fight for major changes. The potential here is enormous, and for this, we have to thank the Sanders campaign, whether or not we like Bernie’s social democratic politics.

The major question, of course, is what happens next. It’s very possible that these young, politicized Sanders supporters will be incorporated into the Democratic Party. If Bernie wins the nomination, the risks are enormous. But even if he doesn’t, which seems far more likely now, he may produce the same effect if he throws his weight behind Clinton at the Convention in July. Or possibly, if Hillary emerges victorious, she may tap someone like Elizabeth Warren to serve as Vice President as part of some calculated strategy to win over Bernie’s supporters. It is also safe to assume that the Democratic Party will itself try to make the most of this opportunity by organizing many of these young people into its ranks. All this highlights the great contradiction of Bernie’s campaign: he would not have reached — and radicalized — such a vast audience if he did not run as a Democrat, but in working within the Democratic Party, he has potentially wedded this new audience to perhaps the greatest counter-revolutionary force in the United States.

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This is normal for the start of a revolutionary process. People want to fix the system from within. When this fails, then they either choose despair or radicalization.

It is significant that people are still relatively radical after seven (7) of Obama's inertia. The desire for change generated by George W Bush was channelled by Barak Obama into a safe Democratic presidency. Obama was successful in limiting the damage from the radical demands of the people.

Our chances for such a qualitative leap are more propitious than they have been in decades. The established political configuration in the United States hasn’t been this vulnerable since the 1970s. The Republican Party is undergoing a profound structural transformation, and Trump’s impending nomination has provoked defections and a potential mutiny. The Democratic Party is being pulled in two directions and may be headed for a contested convention. Record numbers of Americans are leaving both parties ­— 43% now identify as Independents, as opposed to 30% as Democrats and only 26% as Republican. Across the board tens of millions of Americans are rejecting “establishment politics,” turning to either Trump or Sanders.

We should also be encouraged by the fact that many of these newly radicalized Sanders supporters may already be prepared to break with the logic of the political system — according to one poll, for instance, one third of Sanders supporters say they won’t vote for Clinton in the general election. But without a viable alternative in the form of an organizational presence, we won’t be able to transform this inchoate #BernieOrBust sentiment into revolutionary politics. And if, against all odds, Sanders wins, it is very likely that only a unified, alternative organization embedded in today’s many ongoing struggles can prevent radicalized Sanders supporters from integrating into a fundamentally unreformable Democratic Party. In short, we need an organization to fuse together the millions of enthusiastic people who may otherwise disperse or find themselves subsumed and then disorganized by the state apparatuses.

With such exceptionally high stakes, the far left, usually so minuscule and ineffectual in this country, needs to devise a shared, coherent organizational strategy. Now, more than ever, we need an organization to continue radicalizing newer generations, keep people engaged in contemporary struggles, unite disparate movements, articulate different sectors of the working class, preserve continuity between waves of struggles, fashion a common project, and, above all, seize power — by which I do not mean simply winning a couple seats in Congress as some purely electoral party, but overthrowing capitalism through a mass revolutionary upheaval that unfolds both against and within the state apparatuses. There hasn’t been this much interest in radical change, nor this much anger against capitalism in the United States since the 1970s. If we, as committed socialists, miss this moment, the future will never forgive us.

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Co-option by the Democratic Party has been successfully used in the past to defuse radicals. Will it work in future?


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2016/05/12

Jim Casey: Thanks Daily Telegraph, I welcome a debate about the overthrow of capitalism

Jim Casey writes “Thanks Daily Telegraph, I welcome a debate about the overthrow of capitalism”.

As a union leader used to speaking shorthand to comrades, I framed capitalism as an idea that could be overthrown. On reflection, it is something that is more likely to collapse under its own weight — we cannot adhere to a belief that is so obviously unable to make the transition into the future that awaits many of us and all of our children.

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This is a dangerous attitude to have—the collapse of Capitalism would be catastrophic. There would be mass starvation, mass migrations, genocide, reversion to a much more primitive economic system that Socialists called Barbarism.

We cannot simply wait for Capitalism to collapse. We must prepare an alternative economic and associated political system in order to save humanity from disaster.

This is not about a gotcha moment for Rupert Murdoch, it’s about having a national conversation about the kind of economic system we think will work in the challenging times ahead.

Economic policy is developed by communities and national conversations, not individuals or the most powerful elites.

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Casey is being too bland here. Yes, we need a discussion, but about a new economic and political system.


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Doug Enaa Greene: The rise of Marxism in France

Doug Enaa Greene describes The rise of Marxism in France.

Engels recognized the danger of a Boulangist dictatorship as spelling the end not only to the socialist movement in France, but the Third Republic itself. For him, the question was not just how to analyze Boulangism, but how to fight it.

Engels was enraged at the passivity of the POF, writing of the general's ties to royalists and that his threat of war would be used to kill off the workers' movement. Engels warned the socialists not to let their hatred of the radicals and the Republic blind them to the threat of dictatorship.

You will get him all the same, the good Boulanger whom you crave, and the Socialists will be his first victims. For a First Consul has got to be impartial and, for every time he lets the blood of the Stock Exchange, he will place another curb on the proletariat, if only to even things out.[39]

Engels told the workers that the defense of democracy was vital, so vital in fact, that its defense could not be left to the bourgeoisie. Rather the preservation of democratic freedoms needed to be led by the socialists, utilizing revolutionary means.

However, Engels' castigated Lafargue's tailing of Boulanger, warning that it was not the job of socialists to just go along with the tide, even if it appeared momentarily popular, stating that such a course was bankrupt. Rather, socialists needed to take a long-term view and not just follow whatever was popular:

But if we are not to go against the popular current of momentary tomfoolery, what in the name of the devil is our business?[40]

MWhat Engels stressed to Lafargue and Guesde was that the options before them were not simply between the Opportunists and Boulanger, but that there was a third option of independent political action by the working class. He urged the socialists to put up their own candidates, opposed to those of both camps. When the Marxists put up their own candidate in Paris in 1889, Engels hailed it as “at least one step in the right direction by proclaiming the necessity of an independent socialist candidature.”[41] As Engels, reminded Lafargue, “For the past twenty years we have been advocating the formation of a Party that was distinct from and opposed to all bourgeois parties.”[42]

What Engels advocated to the POF, was not renouncing the fight against Boulanger or seeing it as just another inter-bourgeois affair, but that the working class needed to protect democratic freedoms with their own revolutionary means, as opposed to relying on the good graces of the ruling class or the ballot box. And in order to defeat reaction, the working class needs their own flag in the field — an independent political party with its own revolutionary agenda.

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Engels' critique of the POF (French Workers' Party) proved to right as later events revealed:

By the early 1890s, the POF had its first electoral breakthroughs, winning control of several municipal governments and electing Guesde and Lafargue to the Chamber of Deputies. The socialists seemed poised for greater gains in wake of the Panama Corruption scandal, which exposed the underlying bourgeois nature of the Third Republic. However, the POF suffered a serious setback by remaining aloof from the Dreyfus Affair. Guesde believed that the Dreyfus Affair, similar to the Boulanger Crisis, was a feud between two bourgeois factions in which workers had no stake. This time, their neutrality backfired as it became clear that reactionaries, conservatives and royalists were threatening to overthrow the Republic itself. Reformist socialists, such as the great orator Jean Jaures, thus stepped into the breach and rallied to the defense the Republic. Many Guesdists abandoned the movement's neutrality in order to collaborate with bourgeois republicans and reformists in a pact of “Republican Defense“ to defeat reaction.

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As revolutionaries, we can stand aloof from the democratic struggle. Politics is in both the mass movements and the electoral process.


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2016/05/11

Links Magazine: Thinking and voting outside the two-party box: Interview with US Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein

Thinking and voting outside the two-party box: Interview with US Green Party presidential nominee Jill Stein.

We say that not only do we have to bring the revolution to our workplaces, our schools and our streets, but we have to amplify that power in the context of the elections. The elections should not be allowed to silence what's really happening in the struggles that our frontline communities are leading.

Elections need to be used as a megaphone for the struggles for social, climate and racial justice. That's how we've defined the purpose of our campaign from the very start.

At the end of the day, the real engines of change are the social movements, but it's critical that they fight for power in the electoral arena, because that's where you can concretize change.

Just look at the labor movement in the first half of the 20th century. Not only was it alive and well in the streets and in workplaces, but it expressed itself in the voting booth with the Socialist and Communist Parties, and with the Farmer-Labor Parties and the Progressives and Populists. It really fought the battle on all fronts.

In fact, one can argue that the day the labor movement gave up its own political voice—by joining the Democratic Party as part of a New Deal coalition—was the day real progress ended. The third parties lost their agenda and identity inside the Democratic Party, and social and economic justice has been backsliding ever since.

Third parties are not only legitimate, they are absolutely necessary, because they, along with social movements on the ground, create the conditions for real change. So now is the time to gather our courage and stand up—just like the workers at Verizon, the students on the campuses, and the young people in Black Lives Matter.

Now is the time to bring that kind of courage into the voting booth—to forget the lesser evil and fight for the greater good.

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Political parties should be the voice of the social movements. Social movements are not beholden to political parties.

It is the duty of revolutionary parties to gather and preserve the experiences of mass movements so that they can educate future generations of revolutionaries. It is also the responsibility of these parties manage the dialetic between Marxist theory and revolutionary practice arising from these movements.

For an alternative in the coming Australian elections, vote Socialist Alliance.


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2016/05/05

Chris Dillow: The errors of the oppressed

Chris Dillow explores The errors of the oppressed.

It is of course true that one of the great problems for Marxism has been that the working class has not developed the class consciousness that Marx hoped for. But why should other oppressed groups fare any better?

Now, this is NOT to say that such groups should not be heard and should instead be represented by wiser heads such as um, well white male PPE graduates. For one thing, the more privileged have weaker incentives to fight inequality. And for another, they/we too are also prone to cognitive biases: one of the sillier if unintended implications of the “nudge” agenda has been the idea that rulers are free of cognitive error.

Instead, we much distinguish sharply between two questions: “what do you think?” and “what do you know?” It’s the latter that matters. For example, the everyday sexism project has awakened me to the troubles that women face far more than windy feminist theory has done.

Which brings me to the problem. The institutions that might give voice to the lives of the most oppressed — the poor both here and globally; women and gays in backward communities and so on — are to say the least under-developed. One of the symptoms of genuine oppression is that one’s voice is not heard. When this absence is combined with the lack of mechanisms to counter false consciousness, it is small wonder that injustice is perpetuated.

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This is why an alternative media, such as Green Left Weekly, is so important as it allows the voices of the oppressed to be heard.


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Dick Nichols: Greece: vulture creditors jostling for their next feed

Dick Nichols writes that vulture creditors jostling for their next feed in Greece.

The strategy is to increase the pain that the SYRIZA-led government has to inflict on its support base as the price of getting each new tranche of desperately needed funding: in this way, the government will hopefully become so unpopular that the conservative New Democracy can defeat it at the next election, which could be brought on early by the refusal of some SYRIZA MPs to support the next wave of austerity measures.

At the same time the idea of a radical left alternative can be discredited across Europe, especially with a view to undermining the position of anti-austerity forces in the repeat Spanish election due for June 26. If Germany and the IMF reject Tsakalotos' alternative to the creditors' “contingent” cuts package — the commitment to meet deficit targets in case of shortfall but with flexibility for the Greek government to decide how — it will be clear confirmation of their intention to remove SYRIZA from government as soon as politically practicable.

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The brutality imposed on the Greek people is a warning to everyone else that change is not possible within the Capitalist system.

Nonetheless, only six months after its September election win and despite its best efforts, SYRIZA's message looks to be wearing thin. In a context of ongoing social revolt voices expressing concern at growing popular alienation with the government are more and more heard within the radical coalition.

On April 15, according to the Macropolis web site, the “movement of 53”, the most left-leaning of the groupings within SYRIZA and with 11 MPs including Tsakalotos, issued a statement which said that, while SYRIZA had been able to argue convincingly enough at the September poll that it had been forced into signing the third bailout, the memorandum was now increasingly seen as the left coalition’s own program rather than one imposed by Greece’s creditors. The group also criticised slow progress in implementing the parallel program and stressed that much more was needed to maintain the belief of SYRIZA's supporters.

Most tellingly, it said that it disagreed with the opinion of the Tsipras leadership that SYRIZA should try to stay in government at all costs, stating that the government should “fall heroically resisting the internal or external troika rather than humiliatingly at the hands of [Greek] society itself.”

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This is the main problem of a reformist program—all of your efforts are tied to working within the Capitalist system while having minimal power. People should see that the attainment of government power does not lead to a better world. The Capitalists would not allow this.

The conclusion is:

What factors, then, would possibly prevent the German-IMF position from prevailing in the negotiations? As always, the creditors must calculate what the political price of that hard line might be. It might:

  • Deepen the struggle of resistance inside Greece, strengthening forces to the left of SYRIZA and complicating the job of installing a more reliable New Democracy-centred administration;
  • Revive the spectre of Grexit and of euro instability at a time when the European establishment is committed to avoiding Brexit;
  • Provide another example of the brutality of the European Union powers-that-be that would become a factor in the June 26 Spanish election, at which it is not excluded that alliances of Podemos, the United Left and various left nationalist formations could overtake the Spanish Socialist Workers Party (PSOE), setting it down the road to PASOK-like irrelevance; and
  • Even help produce a left-wing government in the Spanish state after June 26, shifting the balance of forces on a European scale and potentially turning debt cancellation from a nice idea into a definite possibility.

All of that adds to Greece's narrow room to manoeuvre against its creditors. Given that, will the SYRIZA-led government resist or succumb to their aggression?

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I agree that only a widening of the left-wing revolt throughout Europe can give relief to the suffering of the Greek people. When the Capitalists see people revolting against their brutality, they begin to consider concessions in order to allow passions to cool.


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2016/04/30

Michael Klare: The Coming World of "Peak Oil Demand," Not "Peak Oil"

Michael Klare writes that The Coming World of "Peak Oil Demand," Not "Peak Oil".

At the beginning of this century, many energy analysts were convinced that we were at the edge of the arrival of “peak oil”; a peak, that is, in the output of petroleum in which planetary reserves would be exhausted long before the demand for oil disappeared, triggering a global economic crisis. As a result of advances in drilling technology, however, the supply of oil has continued to grow, while demand has unexpectedly begun to stall.  This can be traced both to slowing economic growth globally and to an accelerating “green revolution” in which the planet will be transitioning to non-carbon fuel sources. With most nations now committed to measures aimed at reducing emissions of greenhouse gases under the just-signed Paris climate accord, the demand for oil is likely to experience significant declines in the years ahead. In other words, global oil demand will peak long before supplies begin to run low, creating a monumental challenge for the oil-producing countries.

This is no theoretical construct.  It’s reality itself.  Net consumption of oil in the advanced industrialized nations has already dropped from 50 million barrels per day in 2005 to 45 million barrels in 2014. Further declines are in store as strict fuel efficiency standards for the production of new vehicles and other climate-related measures take effect, the price of solar and wind power continues to fall, and other alternative energy sources come on line. While the demand for oil does continue to rise in the developing world, even there it’s not climbing at rates previously taken for granted. With such countries also beginning to impose tougher constraints on carbon emissions, global consumption is expected to reach a peak and begin an inexorable decline. According to experts Thijs Van de Graaf and Aviel Verbruggen, overall world peak demand could be reached as early as 2020.

In such a world, high-cost oil producers will be driven out of the market and the advantage — such as it is — will lie with the lowest-cost ones. Countries that depend on petroleum exports for a large share of their revenues will come under increasing pressure to move away from excessive reliance on oil. This may have been another consideration in the Saudi decision at Doha. In the months leading up to the April meeting, senior Saudi officials dropped hints that they were beginning to plan for a post-petroleum era and that Deputy Crown Prince bin Salman would play a key role in overseeing the transition.

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Overall, this is relatively good news for the environment as less oil consumption means less carbon-dioxide emissions. However, the amount of carbon-dioxide is still far too high to stop the onrush of global warning.

On the geopolitical front, this drop in oil consumption is bad news for the Venezuelan Revolution as there is not enough money to pay for the needed social reforms. This will sharpen the class conflicts there as the wealthy can no longer be tolerated in a contracting economy. The wealthy are banking on the myth that they are better managers of the contracting economy in order to seize power back from the revolution.

In the USA, this oncoming peak in oil demand means the end of the shale oil goldrush and the decline in fracking. Both of these were extremely bad for the environment. Yet, the political establishment was wedded to the idea of energy independence. Ideology is going to collide with reality over this.


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