Tuesday, November 10, 2020

Who was behind the organizing that turned Georgia Blue?

Georgia's Blue? What's up with that?

A lot of people are scratching their heads and wondering, how did Georgia wind up Blue in the electoral college maps while Texas, North Carolina and even Florida remained red?

In the end, it was over 120,000 doors
There are undoubtedly many factors to take into account, but at least in Georgia, I believe the difference came from two extraordinary women political leaders who inspired the sort of grass-roots, from below organizing work that leads to permanent change.

One is Stacey Abrams, who everyone has heard of, the Democratic candidate for governor in 2018 who established the New Georgia Project (in its various incarnations).

The other is Adelina Nicholls, who almost no one has heard of, and is the founder and executive director of the Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights (GLAHR). 

Yes, Stacey Abrams is, in a sense, more significant, for her ties are to the much larger Black community. But as we say in GLAHR, "Aquí estamos y nos nos vamos," we're here and we're not leaving, and this year, we Latinos have made ourselves felt. 

I have not an ounce of doubt: we pushed Biden over the top. Yes, we stood on the shoulders of a giant, the Black community, and proudly so, and so we flipped the state from red to blue. 

It is not a question of who deserves more credit, but of what together we can accomplish.

The activist movement associated with GLAHR [GLAHR itself is a 501c(3) non-profit and was not directly involved in many phases of this] targeted suburban Atlanta's two main (until now) Republican-dominated counties for a sustained campaign beginning with voter registration and culminating with dozens of election defender teams at polling places on  November 3. 

For the Latino movement, the central objective of the overall campaign was not the presidential campaign but knocking out the 287G "polimigra" programs which are authorized by the elected sheriffs of the two counties. 

Key in that was defeating the Republican candidates for Sheriff, one an incumbent, the other the chief deputy of the retiring office holder.

In that, GLAHR made an alliance with activists from SONG (Southerners on New Ground), and people activated by the BLM upsurge this summer. 

Because of Covid-19 and my age (I'm 69), my participation has been limited to the streaming show GLAHR folks do every day, otherwise. I've been mostly observing from the sidelines while this has been going on But these activists conducted a year long campaign and in the decisive phase this fall, knocked on 120,000 doors in Cobb and Gwinnett. If you want to see the biggest vote total shifts in Georgia, go look at those two counties and compare them to 2016.

But of tremendous importance to the Latino community, both counties elected candidates for sheriffs that are pledged to stop 287G, the program that creates a direct pipeline to deportation from a county jail where people can be booked for nothing more than a traffic ticket.

Although various Latino groups are claiming they did all sorts of things in Georgia, so many thousands of phone calls and tens of thousands of texts, that  I know of, no one else was on the ground in Georgia knocking on doors and talking to people apart from Stacey Abrams' and Adelina's movements. And if you're questioning the reality of what I'm saying about the Latino activist side of this, on this facebook page you can examine the receipts.

And as for South Georgia, the only group that I know of who also did door-knocking GOTV there were the activists from GLAHR's local "Comités Populares." 

Various reports have highlighted the role played by the campaign against Sheriff Joe Arpaio in Maricopa County (Phoenix & metro area) in leading to this year that state going blue.

But people are not aware that the same idea has been followed in Georgia. Which is, of course, no coincidence. Because many leaders of both the Georgia movement and the Arizona movement are part of Mijente, which grew out of the "not one more" campaign aimed at deporter-in-chief Barack Obama in the last years of his administration. 

Some people say that we in Georgia followed AOC's call for "deep canvassing," going out and actually talking to people, and not just buying ads on TV and sending mailings. Others noted that we've been following what Brazilian Paulo Freire taught more than a half century ago in his book, Pedagogy of the Oppressed.

I hope some day soon some progressive national media will come down to Georgia and present to the country a more complete picture of this extraordinary victory.


Friday, November 6, 2020

The pandemic wins the presidency

As of Friday November 6, at 7:26 PM, 235,988 is the one Trump number no one on CNN can bring themselves to mention.

Coronavirus mass burials, Hart Island, New York, April 2020.
April 2020: Coronavirus mass burials, Hart Island, New York

That's because that's the number of people who couldn't vote for or against Trump because Covid killed them. And there's nothing in John King's Magic Wall that can analyze or contextualize those six digits, only the certainty that in a couple of minutes, they will change to add one or two more to the total.

The media covers the vote count as if the universe was created to contain it, but we are not about the election, the election is about us, and while we've been absorbed by numbers and red and blue splotches on maps, the exponential growth Dr. Fauci warned us about months ago has arrived.

It's not chestnuts that are roasting by this open fire. We're having a holocaust for the Holidays.

Saturday, September 19, 2020

From the archives two decades ago: On Trotskyism, and why I am not a 'Trostskyist'

[The post below is something I wrote two decades ago in reference to a long-forgotten conference dealing with the legacy of Trotskyism. It was written for the Marxism email list, maintained to this day by Unrepentant Marxist Louis Proyect, who together with this writer and many other on that list in those days, had come out of the wreckage of what had been until the 1980s the main Trotskyist group in the United States, the Socialist Workers Party.

[I had been a prominent leader of the SWP for several years before leaving the group in 1985. A few months earlier in the year 2000 I'd become embroiled in a controversy with the SWP over the case of Cuban 6-year-old Elián González, which earned me a two-page centerfold spread denunciation in the May 22, 2000, edition of the paper, which was a gratifying confirmation that the criticism I'd leveled against the SWP cult for denouncing the raid that freed Elián and returned him to his father had struck home.

[Recently there's been a lot of discussion in the DSA around various issues that led me to seek out and re-read this old post. That led me to think it was worth resurrecting although I do not have the time to explain why apart from saying that the underlying issues of the relationship between the actual social movement of working people, political organizations, and ideology or "theory" are present in both cases.

[Unfortunately I also don't have the time to try to make this post more understandable to those who did not live through those times as part of those circles. But I wanted to make it accessible as I started to write an article about current concerns where I wound up making reference to this post.]

*  *  *

Date: Fri, 06 Oct 2000 00:07:19 -0700

I've read with some interest the reports on the conference and related matters.

It seems to me the question that deserves the most thought is the legacy of Trotsky, of Trotskyism, and of the Trotskyist movement. They are not the same thing.

To start with the Trotskyist movement. It seems to me the current of Bolshevik-Leninists that arose in the USSR to fight against the bureaucratic degeneration of the Soviet Union was entirely progressive and historically necessary. It was most of all a fight to rescue and preserve genuine Marxism. I believe Trotsky will be long remembered for this. And his analysis and understanding of the degeneration of the Soviet Union is now part of the ABC's of Marxism.

I think [Argentine socialist] Nestor [Gorojovsky] is right to place the Russian Revolution in the context of the great sweep of revolutions called forth by the development of capitalism in Europe, and the events now going on in Belgrade as quite likely their closing chapter.

I do not believe the Belgrade events close the book on the Trotskyist movement, however, no more than the 1989-1991 capitalist restorationist counterrevolution in  the USSR and Central and Eastern Europe did. I believe the book was closed on the specifically Trotskyist movement as "the" revolutionary movement by the Second World War and its immediate result, the anticolonial revolution, and this was shown in practice in China in 1949, and confirmed again in the 50s in Korea, Vietnam, Cuba and Algeria.

The case of Cuba is particularly definitive because there was no question there but that these were fresh revolutionary currents, totally outside the by-then "traditional" tendencies in the workers and communist movement. There were undoubtedly many individuals who came out of the Trotskyist tradition or who were influenced by it who simply became part of the Cuban revolutionary movement. But those who chose to remain specifically and distinctively Trotskyist became, inevitably and irremediably, a sect.

In fact, the Trotskyist movement had been in a certain sense a sect all along, since the 1930s. I do not mean by this that they were sectarian (though many were) but that they were a strictly ideological formation, with a fully worked out theory and program, and the boundaries of the group were set overwhelmingly by this ideological frontier. A few times various Trotskyist groups began to go beyond being a mere sect formation in the direction of being an expression of the actual movement of social forces, but these remained in all cases, as far as I know, extremely limited and partial developments. In the one case I know best, that of the SWP in the mid-70s, the development was totally unconscious, a byproduct of its "intervention" in the mass movements of those days, and no one in the SWP except perhaps Peter Camejo even had an inkling of what was going on, what it really meant. Even incipient as Peter's tendency towards de-sectification may have been, he was instinctively rejected and pushed outside the party as a foreign organism.

I don't say this lightly, and it may seem to contradict what I said before about the importance of the fight waged by Trotsky and his comrades to preserve genuine revolutionary Marxism. But it was inevitable under the circumstances given the nature of the fight, an ideological one, that it had to be waged precisely by sect-like formations. Engels once said, I think in reference to the American SLP, that even sects can play a positive role during periods of downturn, because they keep alive socialist ideas.  Or to put it in American terms, without DeLeon, there would have been no Debs.

Marx and Engels's Communist League was a very similar formation to the Trotskyist movement, a purely ideological group, a group that largely played a role in the fight over ideas, creating a clear, Marxist pole of attraction in the inchoate communist rebelliousness of the mid-1840s. But it was a consciously anti-sect "sect," a group whose central ideological leaders understood that, at bottom, communism was not a doctrine but a movement, that the role of communists was not to teach the proletariat how to fight but to learn, to draw lessons and generalize them, bring to consciousness the actual existing social tendencies, motion and struggle. That's why in 1848, with the ink on the Manifesto barely dry, the Communists disbanded the Communist League, and Marx, Engels and some of their closest friends set up a daily newspaper instead.

The Communist League was briefly reborn following the defeat of the revolutions of 1848, when it was unclear whether the defeat was for an entire period of merely a momentary setback. When the actual reactionary nature of the new period, based on a vigorous capitalist expansion became clear, Marx, Engels and their closest friends made the conscious decision to wind up the organization. This was the logical, practical result of what they wrote in the Manifesto that the Communists did not have a set of their own sectarian principles by which to shape and mold the proletarian movement. Marx and Engels turned instead to strictly literary and theoretical work.

Similarly, throughout the 1930s and into the 40s, while the largely ideological battle against the Stalinist perversion of Marxism was paramount, the existence of these new "Communist Leagues" seems to me quite justified. But with the emergence of the anticolonial revolution, the right decision, whatever its forms, would have been to do something like what Marx and Engels did when the revolution in Germany broke out in 1848. China proved the Fourth International was not in fact the world party of socialist revolution, and to maintain those structures and groups could only lead to one's isolation from the real movement.

The Cuban Revolution unleashed a powerful wave of radicalization among young people throughout the continent. The emergence of this new generation of fighters posed very sharply and in real life the issue of whether the Trotskyists would become part of the renewed movement or would instead opt to become the church of LDT. Varying currents of the Trotskyist movement were well represented in Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s, and despite lip service and even World Congress resolutions about becoming integrated into the historic current represented by OLAS, no Trotskyist current saw its way clear to doing what Marx and Engels did almost by instinct in 1848, which is to dissolve into the general revolutionary movement.

The reason for this is that large wings of the communist movement have abandoned the viewpoint of the Manifesto on an essential question, the relationship of the communists to the proletariat, the proletarian movement and to other proletarian parties. Lenin is usually blamed for this, although usually it is thought of as "credited" with this and as far as I can tell whether for good or ill, it is a bum rap.

This arose in the 1920s in the Comintern, and has been deepened and hardened since. And it is not even so much a question as to whether what the Comintern did in the first congress or the second congress was the right thing at that time. It is the idea that these are the right things for all times, places and circumstances, that there is some "ideal" form of party organization and mass movement form. This is not Marxism but Platonism, and I think it is totally alien to how Marx and Engels, and, yes, Lenin, approached these questions.

Whether Trotsky would have had the same approach of discarding old, worn-out organizational forms is an interesting question. The comment Nestor quoted about how if W.W.II came out the way it actually did, all the books would have to be rewritten, is certainly suggestive.

This idea of "the Leninist strategy of party building" as the sure-fire formula for revolutionary success, the turning of the Russian experience into a "model," is a mistake. It is an understandable mistake, and one that the new generation of fighters that came up in Latin America in the 60s ALSO made vis-a-vis the Cuban model, but which the Cuban leadership itself eventually came to recognize as a mistake. The reason that Cuban communists do not run guns to guerrilla groups in Latin America today is not that they have abandoned their sympathy, solidarity and support for revolutionary movements throughout the hemisphere, but because they do not believe this is helpful, you can't repeat the Cuban experience, history has proved that, you have to create your own revolutionary tactics and strategy in each country based on the history, the psychological makeup and concrete circumstances of each people.

What was wrong with those Trotskyist currents who tried to become part of the general "Cuba-inspired" movement while retaining their own identity? It was a totally ideological differentiation, not a political one. Communism is a movement, not a doctrine, and if there was to have been a differentiation, it should have been along political lines of cleavage on what was to be done, on the ground, in specific circumstances in a specific country, not ideological ones about who was right in Soviet Russia in 1927.

This insistence on maintaining the Church of Saint Leon led inevitably to countless political mistakes, such as the US SWP's insanely sectarian articles about the "Stalinism" of the Vietnamese comrades and its quite ignorant and arrogant criticisms of the Vietnamese line on the Paris Peace Accords. Similar things can be said about its stance towards Chile, the Allende government and the coup, and if more similar examples are wanted, go to the Militant's web site and look up their articles on Hugo Chávez.

For to maintain a group around the lessons of China in the 1920s and Spain in the 1930s at its core can only makes sense if the issues now are posed in exactly the same way then, so that you could take Trotsky's articles, change a few names, dates and places, and publish it as your analysis of something happening today.

This is why I am not a Trotskyist, and it has, really, nothing to do with how much of what Trotsky wrote I agree with or how important I think his legacy may be. It has to do with Marx and Engels's idea that Communism is not a doctrine, it is a movement. 

That's why when people press me on what sort of Marxist I am, I'm much more likely to say that I'm a fidelista rather than a trotskista, although I agree with Fidel that it's better not to "personalize" these things. But I said fidelismo because fidelismo is the communist movement we've got in the here and now --and, of course, I believe to the marrow of my bones it is genuine 100% real communism, not some fake or perversion. 

If I had lived in Russia in 1917 I hope I would have been a Leninist, or if in the 20s and 30s, a Trotskyist, but as I see things, beginning in the late 1940s, "Trotskyism" as a separate distinct current and organization should have begun to melt into and simply become part of the past of the revolutionary movement, and certainly by the early 60s this was an urgent, pressing, overriding political necessity.

To try to maintain a separate, distinct "Trotskyist"  (or "Maoist" or "Stalinist" or "Leninist" or even, depending on the circumstances, a "Fidelista" or "Marxist" current) cannot but push you in an incorrect political direction, because it puts you in a false position on the relationship between the communist movement and communist theory, and on the relationship between the communists and the working class movement. 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Metro Atlanta DSA crisis deepens #DSASoWhite #DSAEnglishOnly

[This is a Facebook post in a thread initiated by Alexander Hernández, of the Metro Atlanta DSA,  asking people to support his democratic right to have a resolution saying defeating Trump and Trumpism should be the overriding priority for the our DSA chapter discussed and voted on at our next DSA meeting.

[Catie L, of the current executive committee responded that Alexander had had lots of chances to make his resolution more to the liking of our chapter nomenklatura, and (in true beaner/greaser style) Alexander refused to.

[Thus, Katie avers, "The EC isn't blocking anything; they voted to move forward with the voting & resolution committee's recommendation that it not be included on the agenda because it was improper."

[Got that? The EC --executive committee-- "isn't blocking anything" on account of it "moved forward" with the censorship committee (I mean "voting and resolutions committee") recommendation that it not be included in the agenda because it was "improper."

[And the difference between this and what Alexander describes as blocking is ... nothing. nada. zero. zip. Catie says they're not "blocking" his resolution from coming up for a vote. They're merely saying it can't be "included on the agenda because it was improper."

[WHY? Katie explains it in great detail: "As much as I am loathe to recommend folks read 50+ Slack threads, hopping on our chapter Slack and reading the discussion surrounding this will really illuminate the reality of the situation". It sure does. Telling people to go to an internal DSA forum structured in a way that only office workers and professionals have experience with tells me everything I need to know.

[If this were only the first, the second, or the hundredth such incident befell on spics like Alexander or me on the Anglo left in the United States, I might overlook it.

[But as it happens, I'm now headed towards my 70th birthday and after more than a half century of this bullshit, I've had enough. For more details, read through to the end to see what happened to the (supposedly) most widely supported resolution at the last DSA convention, and why I say not just #DSASoWhite but #DSAEnglishOnly.]

*  *  *

Catie, You may be " loathe to recommend folks read 50+ Slack threads," but you can recommend it until you're blue in the face.

I'm not going to discuss this on that corporate abomination Slack. PUBLISH the entire debate in a public space like a blog or a medium message. Maybe I'll read it, but the way I'm feeling right now, I doubt it.

Oh, but it reflects badly on the DSA to air our dirty laundry in public. So fucking be it.

It reflects WORSE on the DSA that you as a member of the local exec say let's go back to the Stalinist cult of secret "internal discussions," only this time through the corporate management control tool Slack.

"Internal" discussions. Been there. Done that. Not doing it any more.

A socialist organization, if it is truly socialist, does not belong to itself or its members. Socialism is the expression of the working class as it has emerged and developed under capitalism. If it were true to its socialist name the DSA and all of us as members would understand INSTINCTIVELY that all DSA business belongs to OUR CLASS, our people, the working people.

We as socialists should be trying to fashion a movement that helps working people come to a point where "they" (we) free ourselves. We do not want condescending saviors to rule us from a judgement hall.

Lenin and his friends, enemies and rivals in the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party NEVER had secret written discussions in private bulletins and publications and it speaks to how profoundly Stalinism (including Trotskyism, which is just the mildest, most equivocal manifestation of Stalinism) completely corrupted the socialist movement in the imperialist countries since the early 1920s.

As for that august body, "The voting & resolutions committee" of Atlanta DSA having given an uppity spic like Alexander a chance to make his resolution more to the liking of some people by providing "options to amend and/or clarify the resolution," f*** them.

ALL I see here is the same thing I've experienced in the white-dominated U.S. socialist movement for half a century. we spics don't follow the rules, we spics are wrong.

I think this is just one more more item in a mountain of evidence that it is not possible to build a real multi-national (multi-ethnic/multi-racial) socialist movement in the United States.

A year ago at the time of the last DSA convention I wrote a resolution which was the resolution that got the most votes of any proposal at the convention. It instructed the incoming National Political Committee of the DSA to orient to the Latinx communities beginning by creating an editorial board to run a Spanish-language web site in the 90 days following the convention. It was specifically approved and sponsored by the Metro atlanta DSA chapter. No-One, here or elsewhere, said word one against it.

The ONLY suggestion was from the comrades of the Socialist Majority caucus who suggested that to take into account complications and unforeseen circumstances, "if possible" (or words to that effect) be added to the 90-day goal.

A year later we are in the middle of a crisis which needs to be recognized as a proletarian pandemic, to a very large degree, meaning, one centered in the industrial working class, people in Amazon warehouses, PPP textile mills, meat processing plants, fruit packing sheds and canneries. Those are major centers of Coronavirus spread, alongside nursing homes and prisons.

The result is that Latinx folks are a little over one sixth of the population but one third of the Covid cases. And when you get down to prime working age populations 20-50, there are more Latinos who've tested positive than the majority nationality, Anglos ("non-Hispanic white"), never mind Blacks, and when you get to schoolchildren, ages 5-17, Latinos are the ABSOLUTE MAJORITY of those who have tested positive for the virus.

There is nothing that could have been more timely, more righteous or more revolutionary than the American socialist movement reaching out to the Spanish-dominant immigrant core of the Latino community. THat is EXACTLY what simply implementing the convention resolution would have led to. That is EXACTLY what the DSA's national leadership refuses to do, even now, months into the pandemic.

But back to Atlanta. If the Metro Atlanta DSA leadership can find the time to figure out the ways to prevent a spic like Alexander from presenting and having his resolution voted on, then my question is:

WHY, in the middle of a pandemic centered in the Latino proletariat haven't you found the time to write a resolution demanding that all members of the National Political Committee resign for having failed to even fake a gesture to implement the MOST supported resolution adopted by the last convention, the one that ORDERED the incoming NPC to orient the DSA to reach out precisely to this layer of the population?

Or what about a resolution calling for a national dues strike against national DSA until and unless the NPC actually OBEYS the MANDATE of the resolution that had the greatest support at the last convention?

Why don't I write it such a resolution, and propose it to the Metro Atlanta DSA?
BECAUSE that is exactly what I did last year, and I remember writing then how tired I was of having to do this, of bearing the burden of the white man's racism, how I wished that for once I didn't need to be the one to tell the biggest socialist group in the country that in a world where their country had the second-largest Spanish-speaking population in the entire fucking world, they couldn't be English-only.

So, sure. A spic like Alexander couldn't bring himself to follow all the rules and accommodate the resolutions committee and HOW DARE HE complain to working people in general instead of keeping it "inside" the socialist family.

But a spic like José did follow all the rules and got Metro Atlanta DSA to endorse and support and got the ENTIRE national DSA to endorse and support and mandate the NPC to act.

And the along came a once-in-a-century pandemic that shows WHY orienting to the most oppressed and exploited layers of the working class is absolutely essential but never mind, we're so full of our "collective power" and "rank and file" strategies that we don't notice that the single most affected sector of the working people don't hear a word the DSA says because the DSA won't speak in a language they understand.

#DSASoWhite

#DSAEnglishOnly

Sunday, June 21, 2020

More than a third of all people who've had coronavirus in the United States are Latinx

More than one third of all people who have tested positive for Coronavirus in the United States are Latinx, according to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control.

Buried deep in the CDC web site are web pages with charts showing that as of June 21, Latinos were 34.3% of those who have tested positive. The figure for Anglos --"non-Hispanic whites," in government lingo-- was 34.8%, barely half a percent higher.

But we "Hispanics" are only 18.3% of the country's population, and Anglos are more than 3 times as many at 60.4%. If you do the math it means that if you're Latinx, you're three and a quarter times more likely to have tested positive for the virus than if you are white.

There has also been a large disparate impact on the African American community. They account for 21.3 percent of cases but only 13.4 percent of the population, which means a Black person was almost three times more likely than a white one to become infected.

The relatively little attention on the disparate impact of Covid-19 on minority communities has been focused overwhelmingly on the Black community and for a very good reason: the best available data has been on the race of the dead. And deaths among Latinos don't seem to be that high -- the latest data (on figure 2a of this CDC web page) shows deaths among Latinos are 18.3%. What you must remember is that 80% or more of the deaths are among those of Medicare age, but only 8% of those over 65 are Latino.

It is in the very youngest demographic --minors-- where we are over-represented, with a quarter of the country's children. And among the children, 54% well over half of those under 18 who have tested positive for the virus are Latinx.


Sunday, May 31, 2020

The DSA's AFROSOC Caucus channels Stalin

The official Afro-Socialist and People of Color caucus of the Democratic Socialists of America succeeded in forcing the cancellation of an online forum co-sponsored by the Lower Manhattan and Philadelphia units of the organization because it didn't like what the speaker was going to say.

That speaker was to be Adolph Reed, a Black Academic, holding forth on "Dangers of Disparity Ideology," which, as best as I understand it, is that the questions of the race (and unstated but implicit, ethnicity/nationality) of Covid-19 victims should be ignored so at to not to obscure the issue of class.

If I can be forgiven for being so old, Reed's theses is the sort of idiocy I've been hearing since I was in high school and sneaking into Students for a Democratic Society meetings at the University of Miami in 1969 where adherents of the Maoist Progressive Labor Party's "Workers-Student Alliance" Caucus sang the praises of the strategy, "Black and white, unite and fight," i.e., putting aside issues of race.

But the truth is that this idea --and especially grey versions of it, not quite so starkly Black-and-white as I painted it above-- have a huge amount of currency in the new socialist movement that has arisen in the United States in the wake of the 2008 financial crash, Occupy Wall Street, Black Lives Matter and Sanders 2016 and 2020.

Yet the statement put out by AFROSOC demanding Reed's scheduled webinar be turned into a debate (with whom? we were never told!) says quite clearly that all the comrades who are inclined to agree with him should be driven out of the DSA: "It is a reactionary and class reductionist form of politics that should have no place in DSA."

Read it again: "should have no place in the DSA." In this way, the statement makes clear no debate was wanted or intended.

Inside the AFROSOC/POC Caucus, the trick that was used to impose this Stalinist notion was to present for a vote two options: demand that the event be cancelled or that it be turned into a debate.

The point was to make it seem like demanding the debate was something other than censoring Reed and preventing him from having his say.

But "demanding a debate" --especially under current Covid-19 circumstances-- the day before an event is not a serious demand.

The word "debate' was just a way of provoking enough of a ruckus so that the event would be cancelled. And the result was that the lead sponsor, a Lower Manhattan DSA branch committee, did cancel it, supposedly because Reed decided to withdraw, some said, but who knows.

So let's not bullshit each other: the effect was exactly what was intended. Reed's viewpoint is simply verboten, not allowed, beyond the pale: "a reactionary and class reductionist form of politics that should have no place in DSA."

This idealist, moralistic way of posing the question, a "form of politics that should have no place in DSA" brings out sharply what it wrong with it: right now, it does, in fact, have a place within the DSA. That is material reality. The actual truth of the DSA as it exists: not a statement of what I wish would be true, but, on the contrary, simply a statement of the facts on the ground.

Let me repeat: it is a fact the those ideas are in the DSA, shared to a greater or lesser degree by many members.  Hence the importance of a real discussion, and even debate, and thus the attraction of the debate demand. The Caucus rejected demanding that the event be cancelled but through the 11th-hour debate demand, in practice, on the ground, in the real world, it led exactly to that outcome: cancellation. That is what was wanted by the instigators: "should have no place in DSA."

But if you really think you can dictate that people abandon their erroneous opinion, you might want to check how far the Catholic Church got with its campaign against the heretical idea that the earth went around the sun instead of the other way around. You can force someone to recant. But it still moves.

It will take time, discussions, and most of all experience in further struggles for those current DSA members who hold ideas like Reed's to discard them. And some never will. Believe me. Been there. Done that. Despite that some --many-- will be excellent socialist militants, in real life, on the ground.

Yet there may come a time when people with such ideas and those of us who reject them might not be able to coexist in a common organization. But the Afrosoc position paper claims that the moment has already arrived:

Efforts like these have proven to be incapable of building a multiracial working class base for socialist politics. More importantly, events like these undermine the organizing work DSA is doing in Black, Indigenous and people of color communities. DSA already gets smeared for being too white (which it is) as if it’s irredeemably white and that only communicates to BIPOC folks that they shouldn’t join DSA. What do these DSA organizers think they’re saying to their BIPOC comrades by hosting this kind of event? How do they think this event is going to help in our efforts at recruiting a more diverse DSA?
This is preposterous. To think some Black or Latinx activist is going to be held back from joining the Metro Atlanta DSA, my chapter, because in New York a committee from one of a half dozen branches held an online forum that promoted supposedly bad ideas to literally handfuls, if not dozens or even a hundred people, is absurd.

On the contrary, I think a group really grappling with these issues both in theory and its activism would prove immensely attractive to young militants. Those are the sorts of issues that hooked me into getting involved in SDS way back when.

But the same can't be said of a group where you suddenly face peremptory demands coming out of the blue to brand as anathema certain ideas and shut down all discussion of them (and with the supposed moral authority of ALL the "people of color" in the organization, even though fewer than 30 actually voted, out of hundreds or perhaps thousands of POC members).

But the issue of why the DSA has not become a more diverse organization is an immediate and pressing one. And I wish I had a comprehensive formula for solving this, but all I have is a very modest grain of sand.

Delegates to our last DSA convention ratified by an overwhelming margin --the highest of any resolution by far-- a text saying the DSA should orient to Latinx communities beginning with establishing a Spanish-language web site with its own editorial board.

Given the weight that the Afrosoc/POC statement on Reed's forum gives to making sure even a local New York online event "is going to help in our efforts at recruiting a more diverse DSA," one would think a body that is supposed to be the primary expression of oppressed minorities in the DSA in general would have assiduously followed, step by step, the efforts made by the national staff and National Political Committee to implement this convention mandate.

Has the Caucus done that? No it has not. And how do I know that? With apologies to Bernie:

I wrote the damn resolution.

The tremendous concern of those who run this DSA grouping for getting people who are not white anglos to the DSA has been absent in this case even though the resolution specified a goal of 90 days, and we've already tripled that.

And this Caucus has not lifted a finger --nay, not even a toenail-- to push for the implementation of this resolution. Shutting down Adolph Reed from having his say under DSA auspices to literally several if not dozens of comrades who mostly would not agree with him anyways was of overriding importance.

Trying to get the DSA to address the tens of millions of people in this country whose primary language is Spanish ... that can wait. Forever.

What this suggests to me is that this DSA Caucus might be vulnerable to being accused of fraud. Despite the claim that it is representative both of Blacks and other "People of Color," in reality Latinos are officially 18% of the U.S. population, by far the largest nationally oppressed group in the United States, but it does not seem to strike the Caucus leaders that their priorities and actions should conform to that reality.

Which raises the obvious question: if this caucus doesn't work, why not organize a Latine caucus? And the answer is that the DSA has been such a catastrophic failure in attracting Latinx people, and in providing vehicles through which a message like this can reach a large percentage of the membership, that trying would likely be a waste of time.

But if that is so, can the DSA really become the organization so many members want it to be, the political expressions of the multinational/racial U.S. working class?

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Official: April jobless was 19.5%, not 14.7% Unofficial: the truth is even worse, 31.6%

It was there, not quite in plain sight, but buried on page 11 of a 14-page FAQ on the impact of the pandemic on the jobs report, which was referenced in a technical note attached to the end of the mind-numbing statistical dump that the Bureau of Labor Statistics issues once a month....

7.5 million were counted as just absent, not unemployed
Basically, the survey takers classified many millions whose work places had shut down as absent but employed (like for example someone on vacation or ill, whether with or without pay). The Bureau of Labor Statistics admits they should have been classified instead as being on temporary layoff. 

It turns out that people being surveyed for the unemployment report are asked whether they were at work during the reference week (the week that includes the 12th day of the month), and if not whether that was because they were laid off, furloughed, on vacation, ill, etc. or absent for some "other reason." People who say they were furloughed or laid off but expect to be called back to the same job are unemployed. Those absent due to vacation, illness or whatever, including "other reason" are still employed.

Those counted as employed but absent for "another reason" jumped from 620,000 in March to 8.1 million in April. After much explicating and analyzing, adding and subtracting, the FAQ admits these are really virus layoffs.

And thus we come to question 14 of the FAQ:  "What would the unemployment rate be if these misclassified workers were included among the unemployed?" (And, yeah, it was in bold in the original.)
If the workers who were recorded as employed but not at work the entire survey reference week had been classified as “unemployed on temporary layoff,” the overall unemployment rate would have been higher than reported....
 If these 7.5 million people were to be considered unemployed on temporary layoff, the number of unemployed people in April (on a not seasonally adjusted basis) would increase by 7.5 million from 22.5 million to 30.0 million.... The resulting unemployment rate for April would be 19.2 percent (not seasonally adjusted), compared with the official estimate of 14.4 percent (not seasonally adjusted). Repeating this exercise ... with the seasonally adjusted estimates ... yields a similar 4.8 percentage point increase in the unemployment rate for April—or 19.5 percent, compared with the official seasonally adjusted rate of 14.7 percent. [Emphasis added]
How can one possibly justify reporting such a colossally flawed statistic? Well, "According to usual practice, the data from the household survey are accepted as recorded. To maintain data integrity, no ad hoc actions are taken to reclassify survey responses."

But even that correction paints a false picture. The government also keeps track of people who have been looking for a job but not in the previous four weeks (2.3 million so called "discouraged" workers), as well as those who have only been hired to work part time but want full time jobs (10.9 million "underemployed").

Together with the officially unemployed, these are included in another unemployment measure, called "U-6".

The April report pegs it at 22.4% using raw figures and 22.8% with the seasonal adjustment. Adding the 7.5 million "misclassified" (their word) brings it up to 27.3% and 27.7%, assuming the seasonal adjustment would also be 0.4%.

And there's still one more problem.
The number of persons not in the labor force who currently want a job, at 9.9 million, nearly doubled in April. These individuals were not counted as unemployed because they were not actively looking for work during the last 4 weeks or were unavailable to take a job.
It is pure sophistry and bad faith to say that in the middle of a pandemic where the government is ordering people to stay at home, shutting down schools and closing businesses and plants, those five million extra people that just showed up aren't obviously people who lost their jobs due to the pandemic.

Especially when the rate of labor force participation and the percentage of the population that has a job both plunged to levels not seen since Richard Nixon was President, as the report itself explains. That pretty much proves that what you've just done is disappeared millions of people from the statistics.

I leave aside the cynicism of saying that people who don't have a job, want one and are wuilling to take one but don't fit the government's definition of "looking for a job" should not count as unemployed.

So here is what we have: 22.5 million officially unemployed in the monthly report. Add to that 7.5 million misclassified, 2.3 million discouraged, 10.9 million underemployed and 9.9 million who want a job but don't count. That's 53.1 million, and works out to 31.6%.