Must Listening These Days: Billy Bragg’s “Between The Wars”

In recent weeks, I’ve found myself particularly drawn to articles, discussions, and songs, pertaining to class struggle and the labour movement…Yes, more than the usual.

Why’s that? Well, as we watch Donnie’s horror show unfold in the U.S., a lot of intelligent folks have been arguing, and rightfully so, that the left has not been focusing enough on issues tied to the working class. Well, Bernie did, and did so quite well, but the corporate Dems wanted no part of that.

Anyways, one of the songs that has been receiving a lot of play in my household is Billy Bragg’s “Between the Wars”. If you’re not familiar with the song, then check out the lyrics below, and you’ll understand why:

I was a miner
I was a docker
I was a railway man
Between the wars
I raised a family
In times of austerity
With sweat at the foundry
Between the wars

I paid the union and as times got harder
I looked to the government to help the working man
And they brought prosperity down at the armory
We’re arming for peace, me boys
Between the wars

I kept the faith and I kept voting
Not for the iron fist but for the helping hand
For theirs is a land with a wall around it
And mine is a faith in my fellow man
Theirs is a land of hope and glory
Mine is the green field and the factory floor
Theirs are the skies all dark with bombers
And mine is the peace we know
Between the wars

Call up the craftsmen
Bring me the draftsmen
Build me a path from cradle to grave
And I’ll give my consent
To any government
That does not deny a man a living wage

Photo credit above: Kris Krug / Wikipedia

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So if You Think CNN is “Communist”, You Might be a Moron…

In recent weeks, I’ve tried to do a better job of reading and watching more content outside my “leftist” bubble. In the past, I used to do so quite often, as 1) it’s important to consider other opinions, 2) yes, you could learn something new, and 3) let’s face it, bias knows no boundaries on the political spectrum (I also should give a tip of the hat here to Adam Curtis’s “Hypernormalisation” documentary, which dives deep into the problem of digital bubbles).

Now, as anyone who has a steady diet of news is aware of, the media, namely the corporate media, has been relentlessly attacked by ole Donnie boy and his crew in recent months. The attacks on the media stepped up when multiple women came forth with their well documented accusations, and have continued as a result of  Trump’s alleged ties to Russia. All this has prompted the ‘fake news’bit, which the Tan has been spewing, ad nauseam.

But, if your media diet is restricted to independent or corporate outlets, not of the really right variety, then you might not be aware of some of the current rhetoric regarding THE media…Some folks over yonder, are arguing that CNN, yes, get ready for it, is communist…

Yes, one of the planet’s biggest corporate media outlets, is in fact, not interested about making profits. Nope, they’re actually trying to destroy Trump and the Republican Party, in an effort to finally make the U.S. go red. As in commie red.

Now, unless I missed it, Wolf Blitzer hasn’t called for the abolition of private property, and Anderson Cooper hasn’t been pontificating about the differences between use value and exchange value. Jake Tapper hasn’t been explaining to viewers the finer points of historical materialism, although, it would be pretty awesome if he did.

The reality is that yes, many of the talking heads on CNN have been critical of Trump, and there’s good reason to believe that a lot of the folks at the outlet, are in fact liberal. But, and it’s a big BUT, they’re liberal in the contemporary sense. You know, people who believe in global warming, who have empathy for refugees, and don’t think the plight of America’s working class is the fault of immigrants. In addition, the company’s probably staffed with a lot of people who have gone all in on political correctness.

But, CNN certainly isn’t falling over itself to run stories on how we can end the neoliberal status-quo, by returning power to the citizenry, and establishing democracy in the workplace. By all measurements, CNN is a centrist, and many intellectuals would say, right of center outlet, particularly when it comes to economics. The CNN brass almost certainly isn’t interested in pushing for a world where, say, their compensation drops to just four times that of the average worker…

But the commie line is a tired, very, very played out shot from the right, which speaks more to the stunning ignorance those folks have about socialist theory and the left. Are there any sizeable groups on the left calling for Soviet or Maoist like, authoritarian regimes? Are there any notable, leftist intellectuals doing so? Nope. Quite the opposite. By applying this same logic, one could argue that all pro-capitalists are down with human rights atrocities, imperialism and fascism, since you know, capitalist nations have been guilty of all those.

The sad reality is that the political spectrum has shifted so right, as a result of the neoliberal age, that traditional leftist ideas rarely even enter the conversation. Bernie was a big exception, of course, and the corporate friendly, Democratic powers that be, did their best to shut that down.

So, when some far right clown tells his audience that CNN and global “elites” have a “socialist agenda”, sadly, far too many of them have no idea if its ‘fake news’ or not…

Jill Stein vs. John Oliver….Ugh

Recently there’s been a ton of coverage tied to Hillary’s emails and the allegations brought against Donnie, and how they could could impact the U.S. Presidential election. But, if you’re on the progressive flank (the real one that is; not the neoliberal facade that’s being tugged around by the Clinton campaign) then you may have been following the beef between Jill Stein’s camp and the John Oliver show.

For folks on the left, it’s likely been hard to watch. While Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight” doesn’t float social democratic remedies on a regular basis, and is far from radical, it produces funny, compelling segments, which expose troubling issues that need to be addressed. It’s definitely on my weekly, must see, viewing list.

Recently, however, Oliver took a shot at Green candidate Jill Stein, and if you’re like me, it was hard to watch. For many progressives, Stein’s platform is the only one that promises to challenge and change a grossly unjust and unsustainable status-quo. Particularly since Bernie didn’t win the Democratic nomination. So, when Oliver picked apart Stein’s plan to use quantitative easing to eliminate student debt, it left me, and likely many others, a wee bit uneasy.

Now, even the biggest Green boosters would likely agree that at times, Stein and the team haven’t effectively outlined how QE could be used to help students. In addition, there’s no question that the President would have a massive, political battle on their hands, trying to implement this plan. Especially since the Federal Reserve – an independent body – would need to go along.

But, as others have pointed out since Oliver’s segment (see below), Stein’s plan is possible. Certainly more possible than Donnie’s plans to build a wall across the American border, and have Mexico pay for it, which is the comparison Oliver made. Then, there’s the reality that freeing students of their debt, is precisely the type of progressive change we need to make. Yes, even if the debt would be redistributed throughout the American populace. But hell, no one seems to mind when bills for countless and pointless wars are assigned to the taxpayer right?  Or when corporations are allowed to offshore profits at the expense of the nation’s well being? Or when the public has to pony up for all the ‘externalities’ big industry and corporate interests create.

I’m not writing off Oliver or his show. I still absolutely respect the work he and his staff are doing. But am I disappointed? Ya. I am.  But, I don’t live in a nation where “The Tan” could become my next leader. So, it’s not surprising to see that in the frantic push to avoid this, some unfair smear jobs are taking place.

You can check out Jimmy Dore, and the award winning journalist Robert Scheer’s take on the segment below.

If You Didn’t Read Bernie Sanders’ Op-Ed, You Have Some Homework…

The world is still buzzing and shaking from Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, as leading up the referendum, polls indicated ‘Brexit’ wasn’t going down…Now that it has, corporate talking heads, intellectuals and even your average Joe Sixpack, have been debating and speculating on how this could have happened.

Well, one of the more insightful and compelling responses that’s been offered, came courtesy Mr. Bernie Sanders. Recently the progressive titan wrote an op-ed in the New York Times, which was, well, a must read.

Here is just some of what Sanders had to say:

Surprise, surprise. Workers in Britain, many of whom have seen a decline in their standard of living while the very rich in their country have become much richer, have turned their backs on the European Union and a globalized economy that is failing them and their children.

And it’s not just the British who are suffering. That increasingly globalized economy, established and maintained by the world’s economic elite, is failing people everywhere. Incredibly, the wealthiest 62 people on this planet own as much wealth as the bottom half of the world’s population — around 3.6 billion people. The top 1 percent now owns more wealth than the whole of the bottom 99 percent. The very, very rich enjoy unimaginable luxury while billions of people endure abject poverty, unemployment, and inadequate health care, education, housing and drinking water.

Could this rejection of the current form of the global economy happen in the United States? You bet it could.

During my campaign for the Democratic presidential nomination, I’ve visited 46 states. What I saw and heard on too many occasions were painful realities that the political and media establishment fail even to recognize.

In the last 15 years, nearly 60,000 factories in this country have closed, and more than 4.8 million well-paid manufacturing jobs have disappeared. Much of this is related to disastrous trade agreements that encourage corporations to move to low-wage countries.

Again, it’s mandatory reading, so you should head to the Times to finish the editorial. While we can all debate as to whether Britain should have remained in the EU, in its current form, no one should really be that shocked Brexit has taken place.

People are finally realizing the neoliberal shite has hit the fan, and they’re not having it any longer. Focusing this anger and frustration into progressive developments, however, is the task at hand. One which, Mr. Sanders, has been doing a pretty, pretty, good job of doing.

Bernie Sanders Climbs in California, Let The Sweating Begin at Dem HQ

So, it’s been a few days now since the mainstream / corporate media declared that Hillary Clinton has locked up the Democrat nomination and cruised to a win in California, but hey, was that accurate? Nope.

Now sure, even the biggest Bernie Sanders supporter understands that the likelihood of him winning this thing are very, very slim. But, the important story here is that series of WTF incidents with the voting process continues, and that it’s becoming more and more obvious how desperately pro-status quo interests are trying to gloss over this…Wonder why that might be huh?

In Bernie, you have a candidate who wants to bring serious reform to establishment politics and economics. In Hillary, well, you have the establishment’s number one ally, in terms of current Presidential candidates… Yup, and by no way is that an endorsement of “The Tan”.

Case in point, the Inquisitir recently reported this:

Even though The New York Times declared that Hillary Clinton “secured enough delegates for the Democratic nomination,” and later issued a correction blaming the erroneous statement due to “an editing error,” Hillary Clinton did not actually earn enough delegates to be declared the nominee of the Democratic Party. In fact, contrary to the call by the Associated Press, Clinton also has not actually won California either. There are still millions of ballots that remain uncounted that will indeed be counted as the official canvass progresses, according to the California Secretary of State’s office. As the canvassing got underway, things started to to look up for Bernie Sanders’ supporters.

In Los Angeles County 275,972 Vote-By-Mail, 256,326 Provisional and 24,021 ballots of another form still had to be counted as of Friday afternoon. This totals over 556 thousand ballots in Los Angeles County alone that will be counted, where Clinton’s lead over Sanders is just over 164 thousand votes. Los Angeles County could still go either way.

The votes simply aren’t all accounted for just yet, but they will be.

Please head here to read the rest of the article, as it’s definitely worth a read. After doing so, let the ‘what a fucking joke”-s roll….

 

Robert Reich Hits Homerun in Open Letter to Bernie Sanders

Bernie Sanders and the political revolution he’s helped build is headed to Washington D.C. and then the Democrat Convention, despite the establishment’s machinations to silence the movement. Yes, while it’s hard these days to not stew in silent anger, and or scream in frustration–in light of recent events–Robert Reich has penned an amazing, tear inducing open letter to the Vermont Senator.

Now, some folks have spun Reich’s letter as sort of a ‘thank-you’, send off, but I didn’t view it that way at all. If anything, I think Reich elected to post it, as a reminder to Bernie and his supporters that his movement is far from over. That no matter what happens in the coming weeks, what Mr. Sanders has started will continue. Even if the Democrat brass continues to back its establishment candidate, and refuses to offer substantive challenges to an unjust status-quo.

If you haven’t read Reich’s unforgettable and moving letter to Bernie yet, you can check it out below.

Dear Bernie:
I don’t know what you’re going to do from here on, and I’m not going to advise you. You’ve earned the right to figure out the next steps for your campaign and the movement you have launched.
But let me tell you this: You’ve already succeeded.
At the start they labeled you a “fringe” candidate – a 74-year-old, political Independent, Jewish, self-described democratic socialist, who stood zero chance against the Democratic political establishment, the mainstream media, and the moneyed interests.
Then you won 22 states.
And in almost every state – even in those you lost — you won vast majorities of voters under 30, including a majority of young women and Latinos. And most voters under 45.
You have helped shape the next generation.
You’ve done it without SuperPACs or big money from corporations, Wall Street, and billionaires. You did it with small contributions from millions of us. You’ve shown it can be done without selling your soul or compromising your conviction.
You’ve also inspired millions to get involved in politics — and to fight the most important and basic of all fights on which all else depends: to reclaim our economy and democracy from the moneyed interests.
Your message – about the necessity of single-payer healthcare, free tuition at public universities, a $15 minimum wage, busting up the biggest Wall Street banks, taxing the financial speculation, expanding Social Security, imposing a tax on carbon, and getting big money out of politics – will shape the progressive agenda from here on.
Your courage in taking on the political establishment has emboldened millions of us to stand up and demand our voices be heard.
Regardless of what you decide to do now, you have ignited a movement that will fight onward. We will fight to put more progressives into the House and Senate. We will fight at the state level. We will organize for the 2020 presidential election.
We will not succumb to cynicism. We are in it for the long haul. We will never give up.
Thank you, Bernie.
Bob

Liza Featherstone Throws Truth at False Narrative Hillary’s Stronger Than Bernie on Women’s Issues

Over the preceding months, many Hillary Clinton supporters, and the Secretary’s far reaching political machine, have attempted to frame her as the only Presidential candidate who’s truly concerned with women and LGBT issues. According to this narrative, her main rival for the Democrat nomination, Bernie Sanders, is just an antiquated, one issue candidate who doesn’t represent the ‘broad coalition’ Hillary does…

Well, folks that have closely followed the career of Sanders, and the social democratic ideals he represent, understand that this narrative couldn’t be farther from the truth. Not only has Sanders fought for substantive change, in terms of empowering women and LBGT people, only his campaign represents a real challenge to the unjust and unequal status quo. After all, when you’re tied to corporate interests that punt socioeconomic rights around the globe on a daily basis, are you really all that progressive? Has Donald Trump been known to rant?

Well, recently Verso published False Choices: The Faux Feminism of Hillary Rodham Clinton, which features essays from prominent feminist writers, who have taken issue with the notion Clinton is a “feminist icon.” The good folks at Alternet recently published an excerpt from the book, which in this case, was authored by Liza Featherstone. Here is some of what the accomplished journalist had to say about Clinton, and Sanders:

Senator Bernie Sanders, the only American politician of national stature who calls himself a socialist, is at the time of this writing still running a visible and popular primary challenge to Clinton. He is better than Clinton not only on economic issues, but also on reproductive choice and gay rights. Yet our liberal chattering classes frame the choice between Sanders and Clinton as a choice between democratic socialism and feminism—and the two are assumed to be incompatible. At a feminist bookstore event in late October 2015, Gloria Steinem repeated her enthusiasm for Clinton and noted pityingly that Sanders was an “old-fashioned socialist.” She liked him for it but added, “He’s not my candidate.” Salon’s Amanda Marcotte did her best to portray Bernie Sanders as the favored candidate of creepy misogynists on Reddit, and dubbed his supporters a “he-man woman haters club,” ignoring the thousands of women showing up at his events around the country and the 44 percent of female New Hampshire Democratic primary voters who intended to vote for him, according to a December 2015 poll (just one percentage point behind his far more famous rival).

 

We thus see in Clinton’s campaign a new, troubling era in which feminism, now a proper media subject, is used rhetorically as a cudgel against any sort of left politics which might actually help the vast majority of women. We saw this recently in the UK as well, with the liberal campaign against democratic socialist Jeremy Corbyn in 2015 denouncing him for being little more than an old white man, even though his female challengers were politically far to his right.

 

Why should socialism and feminism be incompatible? This persistent framing shows how horribly both feminism and the left have failed to make the case that for the vast majority of the world’s women, liberation requires socialism, or something much like it.

 

Not all the contributors to this book support Bernie Sanders in his campaign, and almost surely, each of them would find fault with him, especially on foreign policy. But there is no doubt that most women have more to gain even from Sanders’s watered-down social democracy than from the ruthless neoliberalism that Clinton represents. As they compose the majority of college students, women stand to gain immeasurably from making college tuition debt-free, as Sanders advocates, far more than from the tepid tinkering on the issue in Clinton’s platform. Sanders’s attention to living wages and the creation of decently paying jobs and single payer health care, as well as his focus on economic inequality, has the potential to speak to almost everyone, but women especially, since women make up the majority of low-wage workers and head the majority of households below the poverty line. Gender and economic justice are deeply intertwined, and it is embarrassing how easily Americans get distracted from this fact. Sanders’ platform also has plenty to say on gendered matters like abortion rights and equal pay—he even mentions the storied Equal rights Amendment, subject of a decades-long feminist battle for ratification.

Yes indeedy, and here’s hoping more Hillary boosters, particularly those in California, will see the light before that state’s primary goes down.

We highly recommend reading the entire essay here, and  you can pick up the book by heading to Verso.