Tag Archives: Party for Socialism and Liberation

Party for Socialism and Liberation: Capitalism and Seattle’s homeless crisis, revisited

From Liberation News, the official news website of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, April 6th, 2016:

By Doug Vitaly

Since our last article published about  month ago on the crisis of homelessness in Seattle, conditions for homeless people in this city have only worsened. Homelessness and the dearth of affordable housing have continued to skyrocket with no relief in sight. As of the One Night Count in 2016, there are 4,505 homeless people living without shelter in Seattle and the city has done nearly nothing to take responsibility for this disaster in a city teeming with tech money and luxurious loft apartments. As of November 2015, the conditions had become so bad that the mayor of Seattle, Ed Murray, declared the homeless epidemic a state of emergency but this has proven to be little more than a ruse to pass the baton of responsibility to the federal government.

On November 2, 2015, the city of Seattle outlined a $5.3 million plan to address the issue while King County outlined instead a $2 million plan. This money is ostensibly going to be added to Seattle’s already staggeringly high annual spending of $40 million dollars to address this issue.

So, with over $40 million being spent, where is it going? What is it being spent on? It couldn’t possibly be being spent on building safe and reliable housing for the homeless and impoverished in the city because the few shelters that exist are filled, the transitional housing programs are full, and there are still thousands of people sleeping outside.

Just in March of this year, a non-profit called SHARE/WHEEL, which are two wings of one organization, stated that they would be closing 15 overnight shelters due to funding shortages and debt, which is due to the complexity of Seattle’s funding of overnight and tent encampment shelters. The closures left 300 people with no safe refuge to sleep as of March 31. Furthermore, when people are made homeless by the city of Seattle, whether due to rent control being illegal in the state or because of the city’s misappropriation of funds to shelters, they ultimately end up becoming the targets of those who serve and protect the wealthiest citizens.

Since Ed Murray has become the mayor of Seattle, he has authorized more police attacks on homeless people who are simply seeking safety and security than any other mayor in the history of Seattle. This totals 527 individual events where police were encouraged to confiscate, harass, and usually destroy homeless people’s tents by breaking poles or slashing the tarps.  Liberation spoke to a woman who described a situation in which she was only trying to sleep under an overpass and she was kicked awake by Seattle police who yelled at her and told her to move somewhere else.

But where was she to go? Where are the other thousands of homeless people in Seattle to go? This has become so common in this city that one representative from the city of Seattle stated that as soon as one homeless tent encampment is “swept,” another one pops up. Clearly what this means is that all police sweeps do is force-migrate the homeless in Seattle in a never-ending game of cat and mouse to make their lives more hellish. Meanwhile, the system refuses to seek real sustainable solutions like affordable housing and legalizing rent control.

Meanwhile, the Washington State Department of Transportation has declared it is willing to spend $1 million on a prison-style three-tiered wire fence to keep homeless people from tenting in The Jungle, an area under the Interstate in South Seattle where some 400 houseless people try to survive. Simultaneously, WSDOT has stated that none of that money will be allocated to feed, shelter or offer services to the homeless. The agency has stated it will depend on the city of Seattle to do this, which in turn is depending on the federal government to take responsibility.

What the federal government, the city and its departments demonstrate is that they do not have the interests of the working class in mind in any way. Seattle, a so-called progressive city filled with technology giants and task forces for lofty causes, is a city of the rich for the rich. Conditions for the homeless in Seattle are mirrored in cities across the U.S. Working-class people, our friends, families, and loved ones are at risk. Whether it is the threat of eviction due to astronomically high rent or the gun of the police officer once we are forced from our homes and onto the streets, we are just one or two paychecks away from these situations. The capitalist system and its government have proven unable and unwilling to address this crisis. We must end the inequalities manufactured by capitalist society and build a society based on meeting people’s needs.

Party for Socialism and Liberation: Hillary Clinton a die-hard enemy of the poor

The following was published on the official news website of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, Liberation News, on April 4th, 2016:


Originally published in the April 2016 issue of Liberation Newspaper.

Hillary Clinton’s campaign for president revolves around two fundamental messages—she is a tireless “fighter for the middle class” and has the experience necessary to lead the country in a dangerous world. Clinton does indeed have a long record in government, and it is one of unrelenting hostility to workers and the poor.

The Clinton machine was born in Arkansas, where Bill Clinton was elected governor in 1978 and Hillary Clinton became the state’s first lady. She took an active role in politics, and served as the head of the state’s education taskforce that in 1983 pushed one of the first pro-corporate “reform” agendas that has developed into a full-fledged privatization drive today. The Hillary-led commission’s work led to the implementation of standardized testing and anti-union teacher evaluations.

In addition to first lady of Arkansas, among Clinton’s first high-profile positions was a spot on Wal-Mart’s board of directors from 1986 to 1992. The company, one of the largest in the world, is notorious for its low wages, discriminatory hiring and promotion practices, and fanatical opposition to union organizing.

While she pushed the company to hire women as top-level executives, a hollow approach to equality that leaves behind the overwhelming majority of poor and working women, she never spoke out on workers’ rights. John E. Tate, Clinton’s colleague on the Wal-Mart board for four years, has gone on record recalling that “She was not an outspoken person on labor…”

The Clintons were the leaders of the ascendant right wing of the Democratic Party, who sought to distance themselves from the party’s New Deal/Great Society past and embraced the neo-liberal consensus that was being adopted by the ruling class on a global level. When they reached the White House, their attacks on the working class only intensified.

During his 1992 presidential run, Bill Clinton promised to “end welfare as we know it.” As he proceeded to do just that once in office, Hillary Clinton was a vocal supporter, campaigning to build public support for the “reform” with hateful and divisive rhetoric.

Her statements seethed with contempt for the poor. “I’ve advocated tying the welfare payment to certain behavior about being a good parent,” Clinton said in 1997, “You couldn’t get your welfare check if your child wasn’t immunized. You couldn’t get your welfare check if you didn’t participate in a parenting program. You couldn’t get your check if you didn’t show up for student-teacher conferences.”

She stuck by her anti-poor caricatures as a Senator, remarking in 2002 that those kicked off welfare when it was gutted by the Clinton administration were now, “no longer deadbeats—they’re actually out there being productive.”

These attacks on social services led to deep suffering on the part of the most oppressed sectors of the working class. Working class women, especially mothers, were most severely affected as programs virtually disappeared and funding was slashed.

Facing a surging opponent to her left in Bernie Sanders, Clinton’s rhetoric has shifted vastly over the last several months. Still, she cannot bring herself to even give lip service to one of the most important demands being raised by working people across the country: a $15 an hour minimum wage.

While she has supported $15 in some local circumstances, Clinton’s official position remains to ask workers to settle for less—$12 an hour. Far from a progressive champion, she lags behind the people’s movements and urges them to moderate their demands.

More and more people are seeing through Clinton’s false narrative every day, and looking to a whole new system—socialism. Through the growing movement against poverty and inequality, poor and working people can not only win back their lost rights, but seize power from the billionaire class.

Party for Socialism and Liberation: Clinton: Imperialist, not feminist

The following was published at Liberation News, the official newspaper website of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, on April 4th, 2016:

syria maxresdefault

Originally published in the April 2016 issue of Liberation Newspaper. 

The Clinton campaign always points to her years of “foreign policy experience” as proof of her presidential qualifications. But what was that “experience” really? Was she a progressive defender of democracy who sometimes had to make “hard choices,” as she claims?

The people of the Middle East, Haiti, Honduras, and many other countries know better, having been on the other side of Clinton’s “experience.”

In reality, as Secretary of State and U.S. Senator, Clinton served as a cutthroat operator for U.S. imperialist interests, becoming a favorite among military contractors, energy companies, war hawks and even neoconservative strategists from the Bush administration.

From Iraq to Libya to Syria, she was among the most influential voices pushing for war and aggression.

On the campaign trail, Clinton puts on various characters to try and connect with women in particular: from the tender grandmother to the fierce feminist. That is because the vast majority of women will not be able to relate to Clinton’s real record—decades of bombing innocent families, overthrowing sovereign governments, and backing brutal deaths squads—all of which have devastated women’s lives.

Clinton has hardly been alone in all this. She surrounded herself with a foreign policy establishment that is equally criminal. This includes former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, who said “we think the price is worth it” when asked on national television if the death of the 500,000 Iraqi children was an acceptable consequence for U.S. sanctions on Iraq.

Hillary’s war

Libya is now known widely as “Hillary’s war” because of her key role in pushing that intervention—in fact against a more reluctant President Obama and Defense Department. From being the most developed and wealthiest country in Africa, Libya now stands in ruins, completely devastated and divided by NATO bombing and civil war between competing militias.

When Libya’s nationalist head of state Muammar Gadaffi was gruesomely assassinated by U.S.-backed rebels, Clinton was recorded laughing about it. Now ISIS controls a wide swath of Libya’s territory.

Clinton attempted to justify the war against Libya on humanitarian terms. She argued there would be a slaughter of civilians in Libya, but even the Defense Intelligence Agency—the Pentagon’s version of the CIA—did not find evidence that there would be an impending genocide in Libya. Like in her vote for the invasion of Iraq, she ignored the facts when she saw what appeared to be an “easy” opportunity to take out a sovereign government.

Under Libya’s previous nationalist government, polygamy was banned and husbands were forbidden from restricting their wives’ mobility. After the NATO-backed “rebels” took over, the Libyan courts overturned these laws. A new law was passed stating that sexual violence against women is a “crime against a woman’s honor and family,” not the woman as an individual, which reflects a strict interpretation of religious law supported by the new rulers of Libya. Of course, the rule of ISIS and other arch-reactionary religious forces can only be understood as a complete catastrophe for women’s rights.

But the catastrophe for Libyans and the region was immediately deemed a success to be emulated by Clinton and her team. In Syria, she called for active support of the armed opposition, including extreme right-wing religious forces. This effort was closely coordinated with Saudi Arabia, a country where women have virtually no rights at all—but which has donated tremendously to the Clinton Foundation.

Thirteen years after the U.S. invasion, Iraq is still in chaos. Clinton actively supported the war drive and voted for it. The occupation authority and its successors reversed gains in women’s employment and the right to education and health. Over 1 million people died.

Millions have become refugees from Iraq, Libya and Syria as the U.S. divide-and-conquer strategy shredded these states. As social order breaks down, women are targets to an even greater degree for sexual violence, rape, kidnappings and trafficking.

Some bourgeois and liberal feminist organizations are supporting Clinton and claim she is a feminist. In part, this reflects their limited view of feminism—focusing on formal, legal equality between men and women without addressing the system that creates inequality—capitalism.

But the truth is that Clinton is not a feminist of any type. Her lukewarm support of some women’s right causes is just a fig leaf to cover her real program in the service of the country’s ruling elite.

Party for Socialism and Liberation: Capitalist injustice: Coal baron gets wrist slap for killing 29 miners

The following was published on Liberation News, the official newspaper website of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, on April 9th, 2016:

By John McDevitt

Capitalist injustice: Coal baron gets wrist slap for killing 29 miners

On April 4, Don Blankenship, the ex-CEO of Massey Energy Company was sentenced to one year in his role in safety violations that killed 29 miners in the 2010 Upper Big Branch Mine explosion in West Virginia.

Although Blankenship’s intent to not follow safety laws led to the horrifying deaths of 29 miners, that’s not what he was convicted for last December and sentenced for this month. Instead, the state that manages the affairs of the ruling class merely handed out a slap on the wrist, convicting him of conspiring to violate federal mine safety laws. For those unfamiliar with the few laws that serve to keep ruling class circles in line—that’s a misdemeanor charge with a maximum sentence of 1 year in prison.

Compare that to the charges handed out for crimes committed on any street corner in the U.S. in working class or oppressed neighborhoods. Not to mention Blankenship’s crime resulted in the deadliest mine disaster in 40 years.

The court stuck him with a $250,000 fine; however, he was acquitted of two counts of making false statements—charges that would have added 30 more years to his sentence. Remember, Blankenship left Massey Energy with an $86 million retirement package and $10.6 million salary—so this fine is like a parking ticket to him. How could he enjoy such a juicy package from a prison cell?

In addition to the maximum sentence for this misdemeanor, Blankenship was scolded in court. Imagine that. Judge Irene Mistich cut him off from speaking, saying to the capitalist: “You should be someone that we are able to tout as a West Virginia success story.”

The 29 families of those killed in the mine were not allowed to say a word in the court room.

Outside the courtroom in Charleston, WV, Tommy Davis, who lost his brother, son and nephew in the Upper Big Branch mine disaster said “They need harsher penalties for people like that who put greed and money over human life.”

“It should have been a felony,” said Gary Quarles, whose son was among those who died.

Rags to riches storyline unravels

“It’s important to me that everyone knows that I am not guilty of a crime,” exulted Blankenship in the courtroom.

Under capitalism, business decisions that make money, but result in workers’ deaths are, in fact, not a crime. But it points to the larger issue of a “justice” system where profit reigns.

The ruling class touted Blankenship’s local working-class background to promote their narrative of hard work leading one to be the boss of one’s peers someday. The story doesn’t end as they expected.

The tears shed by Blankenship and other ruling class figures are not for the miners who died in the explosion, but for the unraveling of the “false rags to riches” story that about how Blankenship came from the same trailers that line the highways of West Virginia and Kentucky where miners live to make super profits for companies like Massey Energy Company.

In the drive for profit, it doesn’t matter what a capitalist’s parents did to make ends meet—it matters what they do for their shareholders now.

Blankenship worked to break the back of the United Mine Workers Union (UMWU) contracting work to non-union subsidiaries he created to avoid paying pensions or providing for workers’ compensation for one of the most dangerous jobs.

When the UMWU began to picket these unfair labor practices, Blankenship didn’t stand with his school yard buddies, but instead went to Mingo County Judge Spike Maynard who issued an injunction against the union, restricting picketing and fining the collective bargaining unit $200,000—a fine similar to  that which Blankenship is now paying for killing 29 people. Apparently, picketing for workers safety is akin to killing 29 people in the capitalist legal system.

Books, movies and long speeches could begin to scratch the surface of this one capitalist that funded the right wing, promoted the climate change denial, crushed union workers and committed homicide. However, to really win justice for all those who have died in the long history of miners’ struggles against the bosses, the focus must not be on counting up the crimes of the capitalists, but replacing them with a new system in the interest of the people.

Party for Socialism and Liberation: Fighting Trump and the far right

Party for Socialism and Liberation (PSL) logo

The following was published on the Liberation News website, the official publication of the Party for Socialism and Liberation, on March 1st: 

Originally published in the February 2016 issue of Liberation Newspaper.

On the Republican side, the clearest lesson from Iowa and New Hampshire is that ultra-right politics are in full command. Trump and Cruz are leading the field, and the so-called “moderate” candidates are either Tea Partiers themselves or espouse the same program of attacking labor unions, social services, Planned Parenthood and expanding wars in the Middle East.

The Republican program amounts to a full-scale assault on the working class and all regulations that inhibit profit. In order to have a mass appeal it wraps its economic program in the American flag, “conservative values” and unchecked militarism. The Republicans speak to white voters especially of a mythical “golden age” and lament that the U.S. is “in decline.”

While the GOP candidates are individually more diverse than ever, their common narrative is to present the demographic and cultural changes that have taken place in the second half of the 20th century (inclusion of Black people, women, LGBTQ people and immigrants) as the cause of the massive economic instability for previously stable and relatively privileged groups of white people. They present all progressive changes as a conspiracy between Washington elites and “minorities” against “traditional” America.

The top Republican candidates are the ones that 1) best channel this right-wing brew of bigotry and populist anger and; 2) have the smallest connection to the “old” Republican Party before the Tea Party wave.

Understanding Trump and Cruz

Trump’s “make America great again” campaign just boils down the whole Republican approach into a simple slogan. Unlike the Republican establishment, Trump also tries to appeal to U.S.-born workers with a promise to bring back U.S. industry and to defend Social Security and Medicare. The core of his message is racist scapegoating, calling for the deportation of 12 million immigrants and proposing bans on Muslims. He calls to reinforce the U.S. Empire with brute force, torture and bombing.

All throughout Europe, far-right racists and nationalists, from Marine Le Pen in France to Viktor Orban in Hungary, are using the same playbook as Trump to build semi-fascist movements, although still within the framework of bourgeois democracy.

Trump has given a huge boost to white supremacist and militia organizations—the core of homegrown U.S. fascism. His rallies have become hotbeds of racism, where people of color have been repeatedly attacked, and his supporters spew their bigotry with brazen confidence online.

The clear fascist elements of the Trump phenomenon, including the danger it poses to oppressed communities, does not mean that a Trump victory would immediately amount to full-blown fascism, meaning the termination of the democratic rights to assemble, speak out and organize. A Trump presidency would likely spur enormous anti-fascist organizing and struggle from communities of color, the LGBTQ community, defenders of women’s rights, as well as progressive and class-conscious workers.

Glimmers of a new anti-fascist movement have already been seen in the anti-Trump rallies across the country, many of which the PSL has participated in and helped organize.

Cruz has a different social base, but is no less reactionary. Cruz has effectively become the candidate of right-wing evangelical Christians. He combines his extreme reactionary views against women, Muslims, immigrants and the LGBTQ community with his pro-austerity Tea Party credentials, and war-mongering. While Trump has built a kind of cult around himself, with only a superficial organization, Cruz has a whole network of far-right evangelicals that are chomping at the bit to completely seize control of the Republican Party in state legislatures and governorships nationwide.

Only mass social struggle can defeat the far right

Trump Sarasota

Out of either fear or sheer disgust for the far right, many progressive people are looking to a Democratic Party victory to stop the far right.

But to stop right-wing populism, it is important to understand how it has grown. Economic dislocation in the United States has been caused by three decades of nonstop austerity from the ruling class. It has been a bipartisan effort—the Democrats are equally responsible for it. Their goals have been has been to maximize profit and drive the various sectors, strata and identities of the working class into a race to the bottom of the increasingly globalized economy.

This imperialist system has been constructed over time with various types and levels of oppression that exist in addition to class exploitation. Racism is embedded into this country’s economic stratification as well as so many aspects of daily life. This makes the task of uniting the working class all the more difficult, and allows the far right, in the absence of a strong and independent left, to draw in and keep control over large sections of the white working and middle classes.

Class-conscious workers have to combat and expose Trump’s divide-and-conquer campaign. Rather than “make America great again,” Trump in fact wants to lower workers’ wages and preserve the economic inequality that has benefited him and his billionaire friends.

If Sanders were to win the nomination, much of the ruling class—including its “moderate” elements—would unite behind a third-party candidate, like Michael Bloomberg, or the Republican candidate. They could even back a far-right Trump or Cruz, who they currently find embarrassing and loathsome. That is how determined they are to prevent Sanders’ old-school liberalism, not to mention mildly socialist rhetoric, from becoming a powerful political current again. To them, this development would be more dangerous than far-right extremism.

If Clinton were to win, her connections to the political establishment and the banks are so strong that she is more likely to mobilize disgruntled white people to vote against her—and for the Republican Party—than she is to inspire progressive whites and oppressed communities to vote for her. To make matters worse, in such a scenario Sanders has pledged to fold his progressive supporters back into Clinton’s campaign. This would demobilize and demoralize the movement behind him, and hand the populist anger back in the direction of the far right.

In short, the capitalist elections cannot defeat the far right, but are likely to only help the far right grow—as has already happened. The fragmented and chaotic state of both capitalist parties could lead to new political realignments and a protracted period of instability. This means preparing for sharper struggles within the capitalist class, against the far right and in defense of poor and working people.

Class-conscious workers and revolutionaries must not yield to fear and alarmism in the face of increasing polarization and instability. Now is the time to search for new opportunities to increase the contradictions among the ruling class, to build united fronts to advance the class struggle, to fight the far right, and to expose the undemocratic capitalist system for what it really is.

Washington Times: The Socialist Party USA and the Party for Socialism and Liberation have a say on Bernie Sanders

(The following was originally published in the Washington Times. )

As a presidential hopeful, Sen. Bernard Sanders unapologetically describes himself as a “democratic socialist,” prompting much discussion among press and public about the candidate’s political pedigree. But wait. Mr. Sanders has also attracted the attention of some other socialists, like the New York-based Socialist Party USA, where the motto is, “Let’s build a future worthy of our dreams.” They too have a presidential candidate in mind for 2016. That would be Emidio “Mimi” Soltysik, who has a thought or two about Mr. Sanders.

“What I see is a candidate who’s running on the Democratic Party ticket. To me, Sanders sounds more like a progressive Democrat/social Democrat. I don’t see him putting forth a socialist proposal. I’m not seeing him talk about workers owning the means of production. I don’t see imperialism as a part of any socialist platform, period. So I think that there are some very fundamental differences,” Mr. Soltysik recently told The Socialist, the party’s official publication.

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