Pushing back the radical right

As the Republicans have given up any pretense at wanting to govern for all of the population and are in fact busy dismantling the welfare state and civil rights where they can, resistance has been mounting. In North Carolina, where this rightwing agenda has been pushed particularly hard, 80,000 marched in the largest civil rights demonstration since the sixties:

It was a proud day for this Raleigh native. On Saturday, a crowd of riled-up citizens the North Carolina NAACP estimated to be upwards of 80,000—the largest such gathering in the South since the 1965 Selma to Montgomery march—headed to the state capitol to protest the extremist policies of North Carolina’s GOP-controlled legislature.

Black and white, young and old, gay and straight, the people gave voice to a full roster of outrages, from racist attacks on voting rights to the state government’s refusal to expand Medicaid to half a million vulnerable Tar Heels to limitations on women’s reproductive freedom. From a four-year-old girl carrying a sign that read “Nope to Pope!” (referring to Art Pope, the state’s multimillionaire budget director and Koch ally) to the indomitable Rosa Nell Eaton, a 92-year-old veteran of the Civil Rights movement, they were united with one message: “Forward together, not one step back.”

And now the UKIP shipping forecast

Because UKIP councillor David Silvester claimed to know the mind of god, revealing that the floods that hit the UK recently were punishment for the country’s passing of gay marriage laws, it made sense to replace the good old Radio 4 Shipping Forecast with a specialised UKIP version, which is just what Nicholas Pegg did.

There’s also the UKIP Weather Twitter service for those in dangerous areas wanting up to the minute warnings of homosexuality caused floodings.

“I had a feeling of liberation, restored manhood; I had a natural high.”

“I certainly wasn’t afraid. And I wasn’t afraid because I was too angry to be afraid. If I were lucky I would be carted off to jail for a long, long time. And if I were not so lucky, then I would be going back to my campus, in a pine box.”

NPR reports the death of Franklin McCain yesterday, one of four black North Carolina A&T University students who sat down at the segregated lunch counter at the Woolsworth store in Greensboro, North Carolina on February 1, 1960. Franklin McCain, together with Joseph McNeil, Ezell Blair, Jr. (later known as Jibreel Khazan), and David Richmond walked into Woolsworth and sat down at the lunch counter. When they were denied service, they refused to leave and stayed until the store closed early.

That simple protest was the start of a renewed wave of civil rights protests in America, as shown in this NPR timeline and triggered dozens of similar sit-ins in the days after their protest, with a thousands protestors showing up at the Greensboro store on the 6th, when a bomb threat by desegration opponents closed both the Woolworths and a nearby department store.

Though the city of Greensboro has long since embraced Franklin McCain and the other three protestors, originally they were called the A&T Four and it’s not surprising the university library’s page on them still refers to them as this. (This site features a long radio interview with McCain, but you’ll need Realplayer to play it.) Another interview, dating from 1979 is available at the University of North Carolina at Greensboro site.

For more on the sit-ins, the Greensboro Sit-ins: birth of the Civil Rights era website is invaluable. To hear more from Franklin McCain as well as Joseph MacNeil and Jibreel Khazan, the local North Carolina NPR station, WUNC has put up interviews held when the Greensboro’s International Civil Rights Center and Museum was opened in 2010, housed in the same Woolworths building where they’d started it all.

Franklin McCain was active in the civil rights movement for the rest of his life. He graduated from A&T and worked as a chemist in Charlotte, North Carolina until he retired. He was seventytwo.

Nelson Mandela

Poor old Nelson Mandela, not just eulogised by those who had been or would’ve been enthusiastic supporters of the Apartheid state back then, but also having to endure the humiliation of having smarmy fuckers like David Cameron and Tony Blair do so.

That day in 1990 that Mandela came out of prison, hot on the heels of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the ongoing self liberation of Eastern Europe, was the greatest symbol of how much the world had changed, how powerless the old, heavily armed power structures had turned out to be in the face of the people. In the decades since we’ve seen the old guard frantically trying to and mostly succeeding to re-establish their old securities, turning Mandela and others like him from a symbol of revolution into a cuddly father figure of liberal democracy, whose success in overturning an evil regime had no consequences for our own societies. That’s why Blair and Cameron, the same kind of politican that opposed Mandela in the Apartheid era, one the leader of a party that up to his release from prison called him a terrorist, the other a war criminal now feel able to praise Mandela without shame.

Class is not the end all and be all of socialism

Socialism most pernicious problem has never been about how to throw off the yoke of capitalist oppression, but rather how to deal with the thorny issue of intersectionality: race and gender are just as important as class in the lived experiences of people, but don’t have the same theoretical heft in old school socialism. For many socialists these therefore are either threated as secondary oppressions arising from capitalism, or ignored all together Laurie Penney and Richard “Lenny” Seymour nail why both approaches are problematic and real socialists should tackle gender and race head on:

LP: That brings us back to the crux of the question, which is – are we asking too much? Is it a waste of precious time if we demand that a revolution be ‘perfect’ before it begin? That’s the issue that I’ve seen raised time and again when it comes to powerful men within movements and sexism or sexual violence, or to matters of fair representation, often by those seeking to defend or excuse the violence, but not always. If someone is a galvanising figure – like Brand – or an important activist, like Julian Assange, should we then overlook how they behave towards women?

Because of course, there are elements of socialisation at play that make it almost inevitable that powerful men within movements who are attracted to women will have a great many opportunities to abuse that power, especially because those movements so often see themselves as self-governing. One of the biggest problems with the crisis in the SWP was that the victim, W, was offered no support in going to the police with her complaint of rape and assault. The fact that she might have expected better treatment from the Met, with their track record of taking rape less than seriously, than she received at the hands of the Disputes Committee, says a great deal.

I believe that socialism without feminism is no socialism worth having. Clearly we need to be strategising a way to have both pretty damn quickly.

RS: As I see it, the problem was posed most acutely by Occupy. They appealed to the 99 percent, the overwhelming majority of working people against the rich 1 percent. And I sympathise with that: you can’t hope to win unless you bring an overwhelming majority with you, because the Party of Order is too powerful otherwise. And I agree that class is what unites the majority.

But, how do you unify people who are divided not just by nationality, region and prejudice, but by real structural forms of oppression like sexism? The old (white, bourgeois male) answer is to say, “don’t talk about ‘divisive’ issues, ignore them for now, they’re secondary”. They’re merely ‘identity politics’. They’re somehow not as material as class. Judith Butler put her finger on what was wrong with this – what is less material about women wanting to work less, get paid more, not be subject to violence, not be humiliated? And why should class ‘compete’ with race or gender? Aren’t they contiguous? Austerity is a class offensive, but is it a coincidence that cuts to welfare, the social wage, disproportionately affect women and black people? And at any rate, it won’t work: if you try to impose a ‘unity’ that depends on people shutting up, they will just drop out. Gramsci was right: you can build broad alliances, but only if you genuinely incorporate the interests of everyone who is part of that alliance.

So, in place of a unity in which the oppressed preserve a tactful silence, we need a complex unity, a unity-in-difference. This is what ‘intersectionality’ means to me. It is the only strategy that will work. We aren’t asking too much; we’re demanding the bare minimum that is necessary for success.

They want you to beg for your healthcare

Brad DeLong reveals just why southern Republicans don’t like Obamacare:

ATDAS: “You don’t understand the Republicans we have in the South, and in Texas. You know of Northeastern and Left Coast Republicans. Even Midwestern Republicans–especially Bob Dole–actually think that sick and disabled people, even if they are poor, should be able to get the health care that is good for them, without having to beg. That’s not the case with Republicans down in Texas. Republicans in Texas think that if you can’t pay the doctor out of what is in your pocket and from the insurance policy you bought, then you need to go beg at your church. And only after you have begged at your church, and begged sincerely and abjectly enough, might your church find itself paying for you out of Christian charity–the benefit of which is to save their souls, not your body!”

Me: But…

ATDAS: “They don’t like Medicaid. They don’t like Medicaid because it short-circuits this process. You get treated but you don’t have to beg for it. The only reason they vote for Medicaid–and Texas only votes for grinchy Medicaid–is that the rich doctors of Dallas and Houston who contribute so much to the Republican Party think that Medicaid means that they don’t have to dig into the pockets of their practices to support charity care.”

That’s the hidden not so secret behind the Republican/Teaparty hatred of Obamacare (and any other healthcare and social security programmes): they empower people, make them less dependent on their employers or churches for handouts, their betters losing the leverage they have over them. Any form of social security directly threatens the power of the ruling classes, as they provide opportunities for people outside their control. They’d rather see people die unnecessarily than lose that control.

How to pay off $15 million in debt while spending only $400,000

Occupy Wall Street has been buying up cheap debts and forgiven them:

By purchasing the debt at knockdown prices the group has managed to free $14,734,569.87 of personal debt, mainly medical debt, spending only $400,000.

“We thought that the ratio would be about 20 to 1,” said Andrew Ross, a member of Strike Debt and professor of social and cultural analysis at New York University. He said the team initially envisaged raising $50,000, which would have enabled it to buy $1m in debt.

“In fact we’ve been able to buy debt a lot more cheaply than that.”

While the cancelling of debt was one goal of this Rolling Jubilee project, the real goal was education:

“Our purpose in doing this, aside from helping some people along the way – there’s certainly many, many people who are very thankful that their debts are abolished – our primary purpose was to spread information about the workings of this secondary debt market.”

Many people think of a debt something as sacrosanct, something they have to pay off in their entirety, not something that can be negotiated. Just knowing that it can be, can empower a lot of people to do so.


Wendy Davis repurposes pro-life

Wendy Davis announces she’s running for governor of Texas saying she’s pro-life:

“I am pro-life,” she told a University of Texas at Brownsville crowd on Tuesday. “I care about the life of every child: every child that goes to bed hungry, every child that goes to bed without a proper education, every child that goes to bed without being able to be a part of the Texas dream, every woman and man who worry about their children’s future and their ability to provide for that future. I care about life and I have a record of fighting for people above all else.”

Surprise, surprise, the wingnuts don’t like it.