When the work is PhD: labor struggles on campus.

To an outsider, the work that a graduate student has to do might seem easy. A bunch of people who get paid to read and write all day, yeah? What could be easier than that?

But the work that graduate students do is extensive: we read; we write; we teach, with all of the grading and outreach work that such a job entails; we are pressured to write on things that “contribute to the literature”, meaning that we must come up with ever more inventive lines of inquiry in our research; engaging such research requires that we do traveling to uncover the mysteries of America’s social, political, and economic history in our nation’s highly fragmented system of archives. In addition to this, students must navigate the politics of each department, making sure that the people on your dissertation committee get on well enough so that infighting does not compromise your ability to produce quality work and graduate.

All of this must be done while keeping an eye on the caps that most departments place on both the money they will give you and the time you have to complete your work. Small wonder that most graduate students spend at least 40 hours a week on their graduate work.

We have not even discussed the health care needs of many graduate students. Depending on the field, anywhere between a third to half of graduate students live with some sort of mental illness. The things needed to ameliorate these illnesses all cost money: psychiatrists, counselors, and medicine if necessary. These ills of the mind can also affect the body, with grad students often experiencing sore throats, muscle aches, stomach aches, and much more around stressful periods in study, such as comprehensive exams and dissertation defenses. Even if you go to the student health center on your campus, taking care of yourself is not necessarily a cheap proposition.

These realities have driven graduate students in the United States to fight for the right to collectively bargain ever since the late 1960s, when the graduate students at the University of Wisconsin in Madison formed the Teaching Assistants’ Association. Today, this fight has spread across the country’s graduate schools like wildfire, with campaigns at Washington, Duke, American University, Yale, Columbia, and the University of Chicago.

They Have Learned Nothing And Forgotten Nothing.

Look, I should be upfront about this: I am not a Democrat — though I was at one point — nor do I think that the Democratic Party is an entity that will ever have the working class’s interest at heart. In a way, the party’s flailing campaign of red-baiting and blame-shifting onto pointless crap that few people give a damn about works as a benefit to socialists who are working to build a politics of equality and liberation. Additionally, I really hate writing response pieces; I would much rather be thinking of ideas that can be put to use as we move forward.

But after reading Susan Bordo’s article in the Guardian — titled “The destruction of Hillary Clinton: sexism, Sanders and the millennial feminists” — I simply could not help myself on this.

Triangulation And Cowardice In North Carolina

(This is a joint post by Bryan and Douglas.)

If this is what a resistance looks like, then we are boned.

In another installment of As The Democrats Negotiate Against Themselves, Gov. Roy Cooper and Democrats in the General Assembly struck a deal that would “repeal” HB2, the infamous “bathroom bill” that has made it into a pariah state for corporate interests ranging from the NCAA and ACC to Google and Wells Fargo. This law was passed in the wake of Charlotte passing an ordinance banning discrimination against trans people as they access public facilities. Born from reaction and playing into the worst impulses present in North Carolina’s electorate, HB2 was a moral abomination of a law, rammed through by a Republican legislature in a special session called by the Republican lieutenant governor and signed by a Republican governor, and the hostility it earned the state across the US was justly earned.

This was the state of play back in December, when the Republican governor who signed HB2, Pat McCrory, grudgingly conceded that he lost a fair election and began turning over power to Roy Cooper, the governor-elect. Cooper, looking for a feather in his cap as he was coming into office, tried to negotiate a compromise between the NC General Assembly (still wholly controlled by the GOP despite a gerrymandered electoral map that has been struck down by federal courts) and the City of Charlotte to repeal HB2 and Charlotte’s anti-discrimination ordinance. Charlotte kept their end of the bargain, the General Assembly did not. This left the people negatively affected by HB2 with none of the protections that years of hard organizing had won in Charlotte and left the state with HB2 still on the books.

This brings us to today, where now-Governor Roy Cooper has signed a ‘repeal’ of HB2. Officially called HB142, it strikes the most egregiously anti-trans parts of the bill, but includes bitter pills. It enjoins any North Carolina municipality from passing another anti-discrimination ordinance for four years. This is notable for two reasons, the main one being that Governor Cooper turned down a similar moratorium in December that would have lasted six months. The second reason is that with the NC General Assembly being firmly in the hands of the Republican Party, it would take one law to make such a moratorium from being four years to being permanent.

There is, however, another reason why HB2 and HB142 are awful, and they have nothing to do with protecting trans people’s right to access public spaces.

The Debut of Roqin’ With The South Lawn!

We are proud to announce the debut of our new political podcast, Roqin’ With The South Lawn. It’s hosted by us and friend of the blog Roqayah Chamseddine, and it’s produced by another friend of the blog Drew Franklin. It’s a twice monthly podcast that will do interviews and discussion about topics relevant to organizing and political mobilization for the Left, mostly from a view that is skeptical of electoral politics. This episode, we discuss antifascist direct action and general strikes.

The next episode, we are bringing Robert Greene on to discuss the history of socialism in the US. The RSS feed can be found here, and we are working on getting the show into the iTunes Music Store and Google Play Music.

Liberals for Trump.

(This is a joint post by Douglas and Cato)

American liberalism is dead. Stop us if you have heard this one before.

Further proof of this can be found in the liberal reaction to the firebombing of an office being rented by the North Carolina Republican Party. In addition to the damage from the fire, graffiti was also written on the side of the building that said “Nazi Republicans get out of town or else”.

Let us remind you that the North Carolina Republican Party has, in the last five years:

  1. Repealed the Racial Justice Act, which allowed people of color who were on the state’s death row to overturn their convictions if it could be shown that race was used as a basis for their punishment.
  2. Tightened restrictions on a woman’s right to choose in numerous ways, including a tripling of the state’s waiting period for an abortion (from 24 to 72 hours) and the requirement that abortion doctors must record a fetus’s “probable gestational age” and send that information to the Department of Health and Human Services.
  3. Shown a disdain for popular protest in the state by having Moral Monday protesters arrested numerous times for protesting in the State Capitol. One lawmaker, State Sen. Thom Goolsby (R-Wilmington), referred to the protests as “Moron Mondays”.
  4. Slashing funding to public higher education to the point that the University of North Carolina System discontinued 46 majors at universities across the state, including the famed Jazz major at North Carolina Central University. Before the cuts, Gov. Pat McCrory (R-NC) stated that, “If you want to take gender studies that’s fine. Go to a private school, and take it. But I don’t want to subsidize that if that’s not going to get someone a job.”
  5. On that last note, that brings us — of course — to the most recent crusade of the North Carolina Republican Party: ensuring that transgender citizens of the Tar Heel State are unable to use the bathroom without fear of harassment or violence. The law, named the anodyne Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act or HB2, also severely weakened employment protections and municipal autonomy for all North Carolinians.

One might think that, given the oft-professed concern for the lives of the marginalized, liberals might give the news out of Orange County little more than a shrug. Surely, no one with any notion of progressive politics would dare to do something like, say, open up a fundraiser to get a new GOP office up-and-running in the final stages of a national election, right? That would be absurd and antithetical to any notion of solidarity with the numerous victims of reactionary and oppressive public policy in North Carolina.

Escapism as Politics: American Liberals and Cultural Consumerism

(This is a joint post by Douglas and Cato)

If there is one thing that you can say about the Bush Administration with absolute certainty, it was absolutely catastrophic for American liberalism.

It began with the closest presidential election in the history of the United States, with George W. Bush “winning” Florida’s crucial electoral votes by just 537 votes. In the face of such a questionable election, liberals decided to direct their ire towards Ralph Nader for having the temerity to participate in a free and democratic election, stating that the 97,000 votes that he received in the state were to blame for handing the Republicans the presidency; more so, apparently, than the 200,000-plus Democrats who voted for Bush in Florida.

The terrorist attacks on September 11th and the resulting wars in Iraq and Afghanistan combined with an increasingly reactionary domestic policy, capped off by aggressively gigantic tax cuts for the wealthy and a Medicare drug plan that was a massive giveaway to drug companies, to put liberals into a defensive crouch. An unprecedented midterm loss in 2002, driven largely by nationalist sentiment stirred up in the wake of 9/11, was compounded by another questionable loss to Bush in 2004. While liberals were able to head off some catastrophes, like defeating Bush’s effort to privatize Social Security immediately after he won re-election, the story of his administration is largely one of traumatizing defeat for liberals in a way that had not happened in modern American politics.

In the face of this kind of demoralizing defeat, liberals sought a surcease to their feelings of loss in media and culture. Two programs, in particular, stick out as enduring symbols of that era of retreat.