The Commonwealth Network In Practice

Last time, I wrote out a model around which the Left could organize cooperative enterprises into a more coherent base upon which to build more powerful, more confrontational politics.

One thing I didn’t do is address how the commonwealth network could remedy historic iniquities, or how it would be able to defend the gains it makes. I didn’t discuss how a commonwealth network could be formed and expanded.

All of these are topics that need to be addressed if this model can ever be put into place.

The Commonwealth Network: A Theory And Model For Political Production

One of the fundamental problems preventing the American left from growing is a lack of political-economic infrastructure.

This has been one of the premises that Douglas and I have organized our writing about labor around. Be it a call for a second assault against the bosses in the South or an idea to defragment the labor movement and finish off the last vestiges of craft unionism in the US, we have sought to suggest actions that build working class power sustainably. While it is easy to propose strategies of disruptive protests, it is far harder to actually implement those ideas. Disruptive protests faces down brutal violence from the police, which frequently causes job loss and eviction through the arrest of those brave enough to participate.

And this is before we say anything about the basic miseries of life under the current system. Affording medical care, shelter, food, and other necessities is increasingly difficult as the prices of these basic fundamentals of life go up and wages do not. The life of the working class has grown increasingly tenuous, dependent on low-wage work for predatory employers like McDonald’s and Walmart that provide their workers little opportunity to live lives of dignity and security.

At the same time, the model of collective bargaining through exclusive representation has broken down beyond repair. The strike has been defanged through bad legal precedent. Attempts to revive its use have seen some success at shifting public policy but not in building power over the long term. There are some good proposals out there to address the glaring problems with labor law, but any push to fix this iniquity in law will require a system of political logistics to back it up.

Any political approach that is going to be successful in this environment will have to meet the material needs of the working class and encourage the expansion of working class power. The good news is that the seeds of such an approach already exist.

Kia Ora! A critical assessment of Jacindamania

(This is a guest post by Olivier Jutel, lecturer of journalism at the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji. You can find him on Twitter at @OJutel.)

For those looking for an escape from Trump’s America, New Zealand appears to be a choice destination to ride out the catastrophe, with historic achievements like the first welfare state, a robust anti-nuclear movement successfully staring down the United States, and the Waitangi tribunal that monitors the government’s progress on keeping its obligations to the Maori.

Yet, fantasies born out of one’s own political desperation do not tend to hold up well under scrutiny.

It is telling that misanthropist billionaire vampire and Trump supporter Peter Thiel became a citizen of New Zealand, indulging in equal parts his Lord Of The Rings fantasies and bunker style apocalypticism. The role New Zealand plays in the dreams of the rich was recently captured in a Forbes column featuring cataclysmic projections of sea level rises and land reclamation. The author states, “New Zealand will grow in size…will quickly become the glory land, and ultimately become one of the safest areas in the entire world.”

uture map of Australia and New Zealand by Gordon Scallion
Hey, I wonder if Glenn Beck has been advising his followers to buy farmland in New Zealand?

Who Are You Actually Fighting For?

I was a teenager when I first felt this shiver so deep that it made my blood run cold.

I still remember his face, and what he told me after I grabbed his hands as forcefully as I could, and moved them away from my breasts. “What, are you a lesbian?”, he laughed. His friends smirked as a rage quickly swelled up inside me. Yet all I could muster was a balled up fist, and clenched teeth. I would fight myself each day for months, asking why I hadn’t been brave enough to excise every tooth from his face. I’d go through these same battles as I grew older, and one day I realised that all the harassment, and violent assaults began dictating not only how I behaved but what I thought of myself and my humanity.

There is no way to describe what it feels like to know that once the totality of what you’ve endured leaves your lips you’ll be forever changed in someone else’s eyes, even those of your loved ones, and comrades. It is now out in the world, and the consequences are beyond your control.

A Statement In Solidarity With George Ciccariello-Maher

Sometimes, the takes are such drool-dribbling nonsense that it is hard to craft a response. But for the likes of Zaid Jilani — and in defense of Dr. George Ciccariello-Maher — it is worth the effort to try.

Jilani’s piece is a mess from beginning to end. From claiming that it was a student who gave up their seat in first-class to a soldier — it was, in fact, an older businessman — to the notion that George’s call for “the spirit of John Brown to visit upon North Charleston” was a call for “vigilante mass murder”, the piece is a masterclass in lacking basic reading comprehension.

(This is to say nothing of the citations Jilani uses from websites like The College Fix, which has both structural and financial ties to Betsy DeVos and her coterie of right-wing anti-public education causes.)

Lies, Damn Lies, and Fake News

The first thing you notice about the newly-launched Free Telegraph is its politics. But then, with headlines like, “Vice President Mike Pence To Campaign For GOP Gubernatorial Nominee Ed Gillespie In Virginia”, and. “Leaked Memo Shows Rhode Island Dem Gov Gina Raimondo More Focused On PR Than Leading The State”, it does not particularly stand out from the panoply of conservative news media that has populated the internet in the era birthed by the Drudge Report and whelped by Fox News.

No different, that is, except for one thing: the site is funded by the Republican Governors Association, a 527 organization — so named after the section of the tax code that governs its existence — dedicated to the promotion and election of Republican gubernatorial candidates across the United States. This might not have been much of a problem, except that the website did not initially list its affiliation, only making it visible once it became clear that the Associated Press was going to run a story about the site’s true origins.

Such a story might seem strange, but the war over what constitutes “news” or “newsworthiness” is one that has raged for years.

Between Ta-Nehisi Coates And Us

Something I have always said about Ronald Reagan is that his “greatness” depended largely on the haplessness of his opponents. Whether it was a fading Gov. Pat Brown, whom Reagan defeated in a nearly one million vote landslide in the 1966 California gubernatorial election, or former Vice President Walter Mondale, whose 1984 annihilation by Reagan is unlikely to be repeated by any presidential candidate, the Gipper had a talent for drawing the weakest opponents as he blazed his path through American political history.

If the incoherent balderdash that the New York Times published from Thomas Chatterton Williams is any indication, Ta-Nehisi Coates has much of the same kind of luck.

Williams places his piece within the German concept of sonderweg, the notion that the German people traveled a particular path on the road from a collection of nation-states to the democracy that it would eventually become. While this was seen as a positive thing prior to World War I — in that Germany did not experience the kinds of sociopolitical upheavals that, say, characterized France’s transition from monarchy to republic to empire and back again — the rise and fall of the Third Reich transformed this historiography into a profoundly negative inquiry with a simple question: what prompted Germany’s turn towards fascism? It is hard to disagree that such a discussion casts a pall over German life as a whole since the war, as the debates around the rise of far-right formations such as PEGIDA and the Alternative For Germany party continue to  show.

Williams argues that Coates is at the helm of such a push in the United States, except that the all-encompassing issue is white supremacy. It is from here, however, that Williams’s argument goes terribly awry.