Capitol Disobedience

Capitol buildings are citadels of power.

Their ornateness and their discongruity from the neighborhoods that surround them tends to engender equal parts awe and hatred, and this is by design. They could also be a place, however, where the working class captures the attention of those who have long ignored their voices. A place where we make democracy something tangible, something real. However, there are few moments in our political process that crystallize the limits that are placed on popular participation in our government than the public comment period of legislative hearings.

Unionism Must Be Internationalist Or It Is Bullshit

This past Tuesday, Harley-Davidson announced that it was closing its plant in Kansas City, Missouri.

It’s regrettably a common occurrence these days. During the Obama to Trump transition, much was made about a deal cut by Trump to save jobs at the Carrier plant in Indianapolis, Indiana. Sadly for the workers there, it was a pack of lies and called as much by Chuck Jones, president of USW Local 1999 and the union that the workers of the Carrier plant were members of, from the very start. None of these plant closings are novel. They’ve been happening since the 1970s as capital controls dropped along with trade barriers, allowing multinational corporations to move work to places where wages are low, workplace safety is nonexistent, and effective unions do not have the right to exist.

The Harley plant closure is especially a bitter pill to swallow, given that the company had been doing relatively well until recently. The reasons given for the plant closure (and the laying off of eight hundred workers) was a drop in net income caused largely by a 6.7% decline in sales last year. The ineffectual wad of centrist nonsense known as #TheResistance also seized on a statement blaming some of the earnings drop on changes caused by Trump’s tax cuts. It’s also a blow to scandal-wracked Governor of Missouri Eric Greitens. After his blackmailing of a woman he had an extramarital affair with came to light, a major plant closing is a wound his political career can ill-afford.

But there is another dimension to this that did not get reported in any of the coverage of this story that’s upending the lives of eight hundred workers. Back in September, the International Association of Machinists and United Steelworkers ended their labor-management partnership with Harley-Davidson over the company’s plan to build a plant in Thailand. The partnership agreement, two decades old and praised as a model by some, is the latest iteration of the ‘jointness’ trend first pioneered by UAW and General Motors in the 1980s. Focusing on collaboration and co-determination and informed by the European works council approach, these kinds of labor-management partnerships inevitably break down when the company wants to do something that will screw over its workers’ ability to organize, like it has here.

So while eight hundred workers will have their lives upended in Missouri, Harley-Davidson will plow ahead in standing up a brand new plant in Thailand. But why might they do that?

Your #Resistance Is Bullshit

Michael Wolff’s alleged exploration of the Trump administration, Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House, is now a best-seller. The most explosive claims documented by Wolff center around the dysfunctional personality of Donald Trump and a band of political characters that seem to treat him with kid gloves. They tell him what he wants to hear to his face to hold onto their paychecks while jeering behind closed doors, making him out to be a deadheaded emperor with no clothes.

Donald Trump, who is often found tweeting at the break of dawn after clearly having watched a stream of Fox News clips, is currently being assessed by the public, or—more specifically—his mental health is being assessed and has been called into question on numerous occasions. This accusation has incensed him to such a degree that it has driven him into describing himself as “a very stable genius”. So not only is Trump a national embarrassment, but he’s become senile and incapable of doing his job.

But that isn’t the story here.

This is all absurd theater, a frivolity that serves no purpose and creates no substantive answer to what must be done not only about Donald Trump. Moreover, it creates no substantive answer about what must be done to stop the whole ideological and political process that has created and fostered him, his class, and those who hang on his every word.

The Black Belt’s Revenge

(This was co-written by Douglas and Bryan.)

It came down to turnout, much as it always does.

1.3 million people voted in Alabama tonight, a turnout of over 50% in an off-year election. Black voters especially overperformed, turning their hands against Roy Moore, a man who said the last time America was great was before the Civil War (and an sexual predator to boot…seems like revanchist politics and predatory behavior is co-morbid). This has resulted in making Doug Jones, a prosecutor previously best known for successfully prosecuting Klan murderers, Senator from Alabama.

When Moore was last on the ballot, in 2012, he very narrowly defeated Bob Vance, Jr. to retake his seat as Chief Justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court. The Black Belt, named as much for the Black people who had been enslaved on plantations before the Civil War as much as the rich soil those plantations were situated on, was a wall across the state that ultimately broke Roy Moore’s dream of becoming Senator. The county-by-county turnout of that 2012 election largely matches the pattern seen in tonight’s election, with three exceptions: Lee County (home of Auburn University) and Talladega County went from supporting Moore in 2012 to opposing him, and Pike County ended up doing the opposite.

Other major communities in Alabama also turned out in force: Tuscaloosa went for Senator-elect Jones by seventeen points. Huntsville did much the same. Montgomery, Mobile, and Birmingham all went for Jones, and it was turnout in those communities that put Moore away tonight, now hopefully for good.

On Practical Political Education

For a lot of socialist groups, political education has a tendency to linger on abstracts.

This is something of an unfair stereotype, as plenty of socialist formations expand what they teach their members and supporters beyond the usual list of Lenin, Marx, Engels, Mao, and interpretations of the above. Inevitably, though, all socialists have to reckon with the legacy of Marx and the soaring achievements and miserable failures of the Soviet Union and these political education efforts return to reading Capital, or The Little Red Book, or The State and Revolution. Most groups structured along democratic centralist lines in the US have a new member vetting process and an intensive political education program that involves reading some or all of those thinkers.

This is not to say any of these books are unimportant, or the ideas in them lack vitality in the current times, or even that the kind of thorough political education that groups other than DSA engage in are bad. They absolutely are not. They are merely a different political approach that the one DSA uses, the difference being largely created by DSA’s looser and more open organizational structure and the political inexperience of your average new DSA member when compared to the average new member candidate for a democratic centralist group.

Class Struggle With a Stack of Pancakes.

In 2012 a federal lawsuit was filed against the restaurant chain IHOP and franchisee, Anthraper Investments Inc. on behalf of four Arab, Muslim managers in Texas, all of whom were fired in 2010. This lawsuit alleged in part that their terminations were unlawful and discriminatory in nature, and came after the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) found that their accusations had merit—not only had these men faced discriminatory harassment at work based on their race, and religion, there were witnesses, and corroborating evidence, determining that there was “reasonable cause to believe that…Arabs were discriminatorily harassed and discharged based on national origin.”

One of the most revealing incidents came during an employee meeting, during which Larry Hawker, hired to replace one of the fired managers, told IHOP workers that, “Arab men treat women poorly and with disrespect. We’re going to let these people go and have new faces coming in.” Prior to this event, and before their respective terminations, the district manager would be emailed warnings in time for the anniversary of the September 11th attacks, asking that Arab and Muslim employees “lay low”.

The CEO of this specific IHOP chain, John Anthraper, even referred to Muslims waiting to break their fasts during Ramadan as “dogs”, and would complain that any work related incidents that occurred at one of his stores came about as a result of the district manager hiring “those fucking Arab friends” of his. And so, these four men sought damages for employment discrimination under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, Section 1981 of the Civil Rights Act of 1991, and the Texas Labor Code.

One of these men—the man whose face would be plastered across countless publications and television screens as the story and subsequent backlash went viral—was my father.

The Readjustment

(This is co-written by Douglas and Bryan.)

Roy Moore is terrible. He has been terrible for years, and the scope of terrible that he brings to American society just greatly expanded this week.

It is easy to run a campaign as “not Roy Moore”; all that takes is a measure of compassion, humility, empathy for those who are less fortunate, and not ‘dating’ fourteen year olds as a man in your thirties. Judging from his statewide television ads, Alabama’s Democratic nominee for the U.S. Senate — Doug Jones — seems content to meet that bare minimum standard.

There is lots of talk of “bipartisanship” and “working across the aisle”, which must sound great to people who have been living in some crag-based domicile for the last decade or so. The ads also play on his background as the federal attorney that put the surviving co-conspirators of Dynamite Bob Chambliss in jail for the rest of their natural lives, and urge “unity”. But unity with who? Republicans? The same conservatives who agitated racial animus to their political benefit until it blew up in their faces? The people in the Evangelical Church who are more than willing to blame the women who have come forward against Roy Moore? What iteration of that unity would benefit Alabama’s most vulnerable?

There is a resolution to this horrible situation out there, and its seeds can be found in Virginia.