Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

Texas Longhorns with newborn calf in Bluebonnets

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Alan Maki

Alan Maki
Doing research at the LBJ Library in Austin, Texas

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

It's time to claim our Peace Dividend

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

We need to beat swords into plowshares.

A program for real change...


What we need is a "21st Century Full Employment Act for Peace and Prosperity" which would make it a mandatory requirement that the president and Congress attain and maintain full employment.

"Voting is easy and marginally useful, but it is a poor substitute for democracy, which requires direct action by concerned citizens"

- Ben Franklin

Let's talk...

Let's talk...

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Why liberals, progressives and the left need to break free of the Democratic Party and how we might accomplish this...

Two articles (read them below or click on their links) more than any others I have read recently--- one in the Christian Science Monitor, the other in the New York Times--- clearly demonstrate the need to initiate and organize a working class based labor party in the United States which will take on the thoroughly reactionary, warmongering and anti-labor policies of Barack Obama, the Democrats and the thoroughly corrupt and incompetent "leaders" of organized labor who are content holding up the tails of a bunch of dumb donkeys.

Failing to seek solutions outside of the Democratic Party will continue to result in the only opposition to Obama coming from the Republicans and other right-wing groups when a full and complete criticism from the left is fully warranted and required.

There is no problem making the needed criticisms from inside the Democratic Party but this isn't being done.

Moves are underway to build the Peace and Freedom Party into a national political party.

In my opinion, this initiative to build the Peace and Freedom Party--- presently based in California--- deserves a good hard look by liberals, progressives and the left.

A very good and viable third party alternative capable of seriously challenging the Democrats and Republicans could result if this national effort is based upon a firm progressive foundation like what we had here in Minnesota with the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party that elected two socialist Governors (Floyd B. Olson and Elmer Benson) and Communist John Bernard to the U.S. Congress along with many Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party candidates being elected to the Minnesota State House and Senate and many local offices... from township and county public officials to city councils... with Floyd B. Olson having been given serious consideration as a possible socialist candidate to challenge Franklin Roosevelt for the presidency(unfortunately Olson suffered an untimely death in succumbing to cancer).

Should the Peace and Freedom Party take up the working class struggle along the lines of the highly successful Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party--- liberals, progressives and the left along with the working class could very well find a permanent political home once and for all in the United States.

In my opinion, liberals, progressives and the left--- especially the working class--- should be looking to creating some kind of political "form" to challenge Obama and the Democrats from the left in state houses and in Congress by insisting on changing the priorities in this country to focusing on the needs of people instead of wars and Wall Street profits.

One organizational form we might want to explore using to challenge Barack Obama and his Wall Street crowd is some kind of "people's lobby."

Building a strong "people's lobby" to challenge Obama and the power of Wall Street by demanding an end to the imperialist wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan and insisting on the complete reordering of this country's priorities, away from war and military spending and redirected toward meeting the needs of the people.

For instance, we need to be asking why the United States needs over 800 military bases on foreign soil; when, what we really need is 800 public health care centers spread out across the United States providing free comprehensive and basic universal health care to everyone.

A "people's lobby" could challenge the power of the corporations in the streets and in the state houses and in Congress as we put together and build a real progressive alternative to this two-party trap we are stuck in as the Wall Street parasites and vultures pick us clean.

The two articles below clearly demonstrate why we can't trust Obama and the Democrats or their accomplices in organized labor and the Democratic Party controlled and manipulated segment of the anti-war movement.

Most working people and the majority of the American people hold views completely at odds with the Democratic Party and Obama (and these people have clearly rejected the Republicans); the problem is we are not organized to make our voices heard let alone make decisions.

How is it that living in a democracy the majority of the people have no voice and are without any political power capable of making decisions? Lack of organization. Needless fighting amongst ourselves. We can no longer afford the "luxury" of disunity based upon petty differences because the problems we confront are far to severe.

Building an alternative political party, be it the Peace and Freedom Party or some other formation, will require uniting all those who are suffering problems; problems first inflicted by the Republicans and now exacerbated by Barack Obama and the Democrats who have been chosen by Wall Street to implement Wall Street's dirty agenda of wars and poverty from which the coupon clippers of the military-financial-industrial complex profit.

Without organizational forms that have as their purposes to educate and unite people in bringing us all into militant struggle against the power of Wall Street, we are will remain trapped as our standard of living quickly erodes and people die in senseless wars.

We need to challenge these imperialist wars along with the increasing military madness and insanity that robs humanity of the wealth we need to create a society where people live in harmony with nature--- our first priority needs to be taking us off the road to perdition as capitalism crashes; capitalism is on the skids to oblivion... socialism is the only alternative.

We need to be clear that peace is not the same thing as Obama's distorted and perverted view of "peace" which consists of the United States military's successful ending the opposition to occupation; this is not justice--- and the successful occupation of a sovereign nation is in no way the equivalent of peace. Killing and beating down the opposition to the imperialist war in Iraq is not peace.

It is time to part company with those who view the wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan as appropriate and just. These are imperialist wars that are no more just than the war in Iraq or Israel's attempt to grab through illegal settlements all the land it can steal from the Palestinian people.

U.S. financial and other assistance to the Israeli killing machine is just as wrong as the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. We can put the resources to much better use solving the problems of working people right here in the United States.

There are many issues which bring honest and sincere liberals, progressives and the left together and if we put our heads together taking into consideration all the problems we have to resolve we should be able to challenge the Democrats and Republicans along with any other reactionary, pro-war racist parties coming along.

Allowing those pro-war "liberals" and class collaborationist, non-struggle union "leaders" to dominate our movements and politics in this country under the guise that Barack Obama "deserves a chance" or that "we need to be careful in how we approach Obama if we want to work with him" is ridiculous... the guy is nothing but a flim-flam man chosen by Wall Street in an effort to thwart the development of a people's challenge to Wall Street's power and control.

The success of the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party was achieved when working people with liberal, progressive and left ideas came together to try to solve the problems created as a direct result of Wall Street's greedy drive for profits--- Like now, Wall Street made the economic mess of the 1930's and expected working people to suffer as problems were resolved at the expense of working people--- today, in the same way and progressive traditions of the Minnesota Farmer-Labor Party, we must tell Wall Street things are not going to work the way these greedy vultures and parasites intend.

Let's consider pulling together some kind of "people's lobby" as part or our effort to form and organize a political party capable of challenging the wealthy few for power.

Working people create all wealth; as a result, working people are entitled to establish a political agenda aimed at making the world a better place for everyone to live.

Wars and profits for the few are not the way to go; we are now at war and in this economic mess because for too long we have not challenged the present way of doing things.

These pro-war "liberals" do not represent us; they are not the voices of the legitimate peace movement--- neither do these labor fakers who fear to struggle for justice represent most working people.

We need to build the organizations required to give our voices for peace and social & economic justice a real hearing and we shouldn't be afraid of offending a creep like Barack Obama who sits in silence as the Israeli killing machine piles dead Palestinian children like cord wood and does nothing to stop foreclosures and evictions as a bunch of crooks are allowed to profit from the problems they created.

Let's "bundle" our problems together along with a package of solutions and come together in some kind of "people's lobby" which will serve as a solid base from which to build a real people's alternative to this two-party fiasco passing itself off as the world's greatest bastion of democracy when nothing of the kind is true.

Education. Organization. Unity. Action.

Something to think about...

Alan L. Maki

Antiwar activists split over Obama's Afghanistan policy
Lawmakers and others who were against the Iraq war generally support the president. But they worry about another 'quagmire.'


By Gail Russell Chaddock | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
from the April 4, 2009 edition

Washington - The anti-war movement that helped elect Candidate Obama is in the early throes of a debate over whether to ramp up again – this time, over President Obama's plans to step up US engagement in Afghanistan.

For many activists – on and off Capitol Hill – it's a tough call. It's early in a new administration, they say. Even opponents of the troop buildup in Afghanistan say that they like and still trust this president. They want to give him time.

They also like much of what they're hearing from the Obama White House.

Instead of the go-it-alone, "cowboy diplomacy" of the Bush years, Obama pushes concepts like "shared responsibility" and "civilian effort," they say.

But Obama's decision to send another 21,000 troops to Afghanistan to help stabilize "the most dangerous place in the world," as he calls it, is shifting some anti-war activists into (reluctant) opposition. It's also forcing some members of Congress to explain to voters why they opposed a troop buildup in Iraq but now support one in Afghanistan.

"This could be a one-way ticket to a quagmire," says former US Rep. Tom Andrews (D) of Maine, national director of the Win Without War coalition.

"Sometimes less is more. In the case of Afghanistan and Pakistan, the deployment of US troops can be a source of instability, not stability," he says. "These are very real concerns that we have, and we want to articulate them in a respectful way."

Since President Obama's announcement of a new strategy in Afghanistan last month, Win Without War and other groups have been trying to revive a dialogue on the war. They're especially urging members of Congress and the news media to get back to the business of vigorous criticism and oversight.

The anti-war movement shifted into low gear after Obama's election. Funding and staffing for most groups dropped, in some cases precipitously. Code Pink activists – a highly visible presence at war hearings and protests in the Bush years – have shifted their target from war to Wall Street.

Some elements of the anti-Iraq War coalition think that the buildup in Afghanistan is warranted, even essential.

"Americans have more business in Afghanistan than they ever did in Iraq, Bosnia, Lebanon, Somalia, Panama, or Grenada," says Jon Soltz, chairman and cofounder of VoteVets.org, which rallied veterans against the war in Iraq in the Bush years.

The reason the US is in Afghanistan is that we were attacked, he adds. "As someone who fought in Iraq, I don't think people are as ready to give up on President Obama as they were on George Bush. I'm biased to think that we give this president a chance."

On Capitol Hill, the once-robust Out of Iraq Caucus has also been largely silent on the troop buildup in Afghanistan. Members say they're still working to find common ground.

"We're not there yet," says Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D) of California, a cofounder together with Reps. Barbara Lee (D) and Maxine Waters (D), both of California.

Meanwhile, the Out of Iraq Caucus will be sponsoring forums to help educate members. "History makes it clear that the Afghan people do not look kindly on foreign armies," Rep. Woolsey said in a floor speech on March 30.

"I am also concerned about the cost of sending more troops, the cost in both lives and treasure. It will require a 60 percent increase in military spending at a time when our economy right here at home is suffering so badly," she said. "Now is the time to pause to consider whether there are other alternatives to sending our troops to Afghanistan."

United in opposition to the war in Iraq, liberal Democrats – many of whom have yet to state publicly their view on the buildup – are breaking out more nuanced positions on the war in Afghanistan. Some favor it; some oppose it. All want the president to be successful, and they say it's too early for a confrontation on the policy.

"He's moving away from a military-only protocol that was the hallmark of the Bush years – to the degree that Bush and Cheney were interested in Afghanistan at all – in favor of a community-based, civilian-based, civil society-based policy," says Rep. Neil Abercrombie (D) of Hawaii, a member of the Out of Iraq Caucus.

"Whether or not that succeeds obviously is something that is still open, but it won't be from lack of effort on the president's part," he says.

Another caucus member, Rep. Jim McDermott (D) of Washington, who opposes the buildup, worries that the president may yet be drawn into a mainly military approach to the conflict.

"Those of us who lived through Vietnam are very upset with what's going on [in Afghanistan]," he says. "All of us want him to succeed, desperately want him to succeed. But we worry that as John Kennedy got wrapped up by those guys that sent him to the Bay of Pigs, he'll listen to the guys who say: 'Mr. President, you want to look good, don't you? You don't want to look like a quitter or a loser or weak?'"

But even before they confront the president, Democrats are confronting concerns at home about the new direction of the war in Afghanistan.

Rep. Paul Hodes (D) of New Hampshire, who campaigned against the war in Iraq, saw the first anti-war protests of the Obama administration last month in his hometown of Concord. Even though the protests are small, he says he needs to explain his stance to voters, and the situation is "difficult and complex."

"I opposed the war in Iraq because it was not merely a diversion from the effort that we need to make to battle terrorism, not merely because it was sold on false premises, but because it made us less safe and secure as a country and a world," he says.

"I have long believed that our efforts needed to be directed to Pakistan and Afghanistan in a coherent way with a comprehensive strategy that does not rely on military force alone," he adds.

New Hampshire peace activists planning vigils in Nashua, Concord, and Durham next week to protest the buildup in Afghanistan say they expect to meet with their congressional delegation on the issue.

"We're very concerned that the president announced the increase in troops even before having a coherent plan in place," says Anne Miller, executive director of Peace Action of New Hampshire, which claims some 3,000 members statewide.

"We're still not clear what this plan will accomplish, what benchmarks are, what a win would look like," she adds. "We have colleagues that just got back from Kabul and not one Afghani they spoke to thought that having more troops there would make a difference."

For the most part, Americans aren't focused on the war in Afghanistan, pollsters say. Wall Street and the economy are much bigger concerns, but that's beginning to shift, too.

"There's polling data showing a higher percentage of those saying that the war in Afghanistan has not been worth it," says pollster John Zogby of Zogby International.

"Americans like their wars to be won and short. But President Obama is still getting some slack, as far as the public is concerned," he adds.

As candidate, Obama clearly signaled his intent as president to withdraw US forces from Iraq to refocus energies on the war in Afghanistan. That clarity helps give credibility to the steps he's taking now, say Congress watchers.

"You've got a lot of antiwar liberals who said he didn't really mean that – that he's just talking that way to look tough. What we're learning is that, like many things he's doing on the domestic front, he's doing what he said," says Norman Ornstein a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

"He's got a year – and the protests will start before that," he adds. "If it looks like we're bogged down and lot of Americans are dying, we're in a different situation."

In America, Labor Has an Unusually Long Fuse


Published: April 4, 2009

The workers and other protesters who gathered en masse at the Group of 20 summit meeting last week in London were continuing a time-honored European tradition of taking their grievances into the streets.

Two weeks earlier, more than a million workers in France demonstrated against layoffs and the government’s handling of the economic crisis, and in the last month alone, French workers took their bosses hostage four times in various labor disputes. When General Motors recently announced huge job cuts worldwide, 15,000 workers demonstrated at the company’s German headquarters.

But in the United States, where G.M. plans its biggest layoffs, union members have seemed passive in comparison. They may yell at the television news, but that’s about all. Unlike their European counterparts, American workers have largely stayed off the streets, even as unemployment soars and companies cut wages and benefits.

The country of Mother Jones, John L. Lewis and Walter Reuther certainly has had a rich and sometimes militant history of labor protest — from the Homestead Steel Works strike against Andrew Carnegie in 1892 to the auto workers’ sit-down strikes of the 1930s and the 67-day walkout by 400,000 G.M. workers in 1970.

But in recent decades, American workers have increasingly steered clear of such militancy, for reasons that range from fear of having their jobs shipped overseas to their self-image as full-fledged members of the middle class, with all its trappings and aspirations.

David Kennedy, a Stanford historian and author of “Freedom From Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945,” says that America’s individualist streak is a major reason for this reluctance to take to the streets. Citing a 1940 study by the social psychologist Mirra Komarovsky, he said her interviews of the Depression-era unemployed found “the psychological reaction was to feel guilty and ashamed, that they had failed personally.”

Taken together, guilt, shame and individualism undercut any impulse to collective action, then as now, Professor Kennedy said. Noting that Americans felt stunned and desperately insecure during the Depression’s early years, he wrote: “What struck most observers, and mystified them, was the eerie docility of the American people, their stoic passivity as the Depression grindstone rolled over them.”

By the mid-1930s, though, worker protests increased in number and militancy. They were fueled by the then-powerful Communist and Socialist Parties and frustrations over continuing deprivation. Workers also felt that they had President Roosevelt’s blessing for collective action because he signed the Wagner Act in 1935, giving workers the right to unionize.

“Remember, at that time, you had Hoovervilles and 25 percent unemployment,” said Daniel Bell, a professor emeritus of sociology at Harvard. “Many people felt that capitalism was finished.”

General strikes paralyzed San Francisco and Minneapolis, and a six-week sit-down strike at a G.M. plant in Flint, Mich., pressured the company into recognizing the United Automobile Workers. In the decade’s ugliest showdown, a 1937 strike against Republic Steel in Chicago, 10 protesters were shot to death. That militancy helped build a powerful labor movement, which represented 35 percent of the nation’s workers by the 1950s and helped create the world’s largest and richest middle class.

Today, American workers, even those earning $20,000 a year, tend to view themselves as part of an upwardly mobile middle class. In contrast, European workers often still see themselves as proletarians in an enduring class struggle.

And American labor leaders, once up-from-the-street rabble-rousers, now often work hand-in-hand with C.E.O.’s to improve corporate competitiveness to protect jobs and pensions, and try to sideline activists who support a hard line.

“You have a general diminution of union leadership that was focused on defending workers by any means necessary,” said Jerry Tucker, a longtime U.A.W. militant. “The message from the union leadership nowadays often is, ‘We don’t have any choice, we have to go down this concessionary road to see if we can do damage control,’ ” he said.

In the case of the Detroit automakers, a strike might not only hasten their demise but infuriate many Americans who already view auto workers as overpaid. It might also make Washington less receptive to a bailout.

Labor’s aggressiveness has also been sapped by its declining numbers. Unions represent just 7.4 percent of private-sector workers today.

Unions have also grown more cautious as management has become more aggressive. A watershed came in 1981 when the nation’s air traffic controllers engaged in an illegal strike. President Reagan quickly fired the 11,500 striking traffic controllers, hired replacements and soon got the airports running. After that confrontation, labor’s willingness to strike shrank markedly.

American workers still occasionally vent their anger in protests and strikes. There were demonstrations against the A.I.G. bonuses, for instance, and workers staged a sit-down strike in December when their factory in Chicago was closed. But the numbers tell the story: Last year, American unions engaged in 159 work stoppages, down from 1,352 in 1981, according to the Bureau of National Affairs, a publisher of legal and regulatory news.

Michael Kazin, a historian at Georgetown University, said that while demonstrations remain a vital outlet for the European left, for Americans “the Internet now somehow serves as the main outlet” with angry blogs and mass e-mailing.

Left-leaning workers and unions that might be most prone to stage protests during today’s economic crisis are often the ones most enthusiastic about President Obama and his efforts to revive the economy, help unions and enact universal health coverage. Instead of taking to the streets last fall to protest the gathering economic crisis under President Bush, many workers and unions campaigned for Mr. Obama.

Leo Gerard, president of the United Steelworkers, said there were smarter things to do than demonstrating against layoffs — for instance, pushing Congress and the states to make sure the stimulus plan creates the maximum number of jobs in the United States.

“I actually believe that Americans believe in their political system more than workers do in other parts of the world,” Mr. Gerard said. He said large labor demonstrations are often warranted in Canada and European countries to pressure parliamentary leaders. Demonstrations are less needed in the United States, he said, because often all that is needed is some expert lobbying in Washington to line up the support of a half-dozen senators.

Professor Kennedy saw another reason that today’s young workers and young people were protesting less than in decades past. “This generation,” he said, has “ found more effective ways to change the world. It’s signed up for political campaigns, and it’s not waiting for things to get so desperate that they feel forced to take to the streets.”

Obviously, the New York Times is trying to establish a position for labor which fits in well with Wall Street's plans to squeeze everything out of the working class. Workers should read what Steven Greenhouse has been writing and will continue to write aimed at establishing a thoroughly docile and class collaborationist position for labor writing under the guise of "objectivity:"