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Resisting Imperialism and the Illegal War on Syria

By Eugene V Dabs

    On April Shane Em6th, 2017, the Trump regime launched 60 cruise missiles into Syria. The strike followed questionable accusations that Assad had directed the use of chemical weapons on civilians. Interestingly enough, the barbaric assault came a mere hours after Hillary Clinton publically expressed her continued support for regime change in Syria. The architect of the destruction of Libyan civil society, Hillary Clinton is no stranger to the imperialist policies that the Democrats march lock-step with Republicans on.

For anyone who was alive for the media circus surrounding Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass direction, it’s hard not to be reminded of our nation’s long history of spilling blood on false pretenses. In fact, we are still involved in the war in Iraq. Since 2003, the so-called “war on terror” has spread from Iraq and Afghanistan to Pakistan, Libya, Sudan, Yemen, Somalia and now, of course, Syria.  Where is the media outrage over the US/Saudi-airstrike-caused famine, whereby hundreds of thousands of Yemenis are starving to death? Where is the media outrage in Libya, where slave auctions are held daily?

               The Syrian airstrikes mark a shift in policy. Since 2011, the USA has merely armed, funded and trained fundamentalist Islamist groups like Al-Nusra, and others loyal to the Free Syrian Army as proxies. They seek to depose the secular, Russia-backed government of Assad and replace it with a Muslim Brotherhood-style religious autocracy. Like our support for Osama bin laden in the 80’s against the Soviet-backed secular government of Afghanistan, this support is all about undermining Russian influence and expanding the tentacles of the global US Military and economic empire.

Any suggestion that the current war is a ‘humanitarian’ one on behalf of the Syrian people is lying to themselves. If that were the case, we would not have destabilized Iraq leading to the deaths of more than 1 million civilians and engineering a refugee crisis in Syria, the likes of which the modern world has not seen since World War 2.

We are at a major crossroads. The anti-Vietnam war movement of the 60’s and 70’s was the thread that brought together so many disparate social and political movements and contributed to the massive success of the Civil Rights movement.  Similarly, the disparate social justice movements of today, such as Black Lives Matter, the LGBT movement, the Women’s movement, and the Environmental movement also need a common banner to rally behind. Only together can we hope to overcome this monopoly stage of capitalism.

         That is why at noon on Sunday, April 9th, around 50 protestors convened on crowded Lake Eola Park in Downtown Orlando, in an emergency anti-war protest and march. Organized by members of the ANSWER coalition, the Party for Socialism and Liberation, the UCF student group Knights for Socialism and the Orlando Workers League, the march was very successful in initiating a dialogue amongst members of the community. All eyes were on the activists as they garnered attention from all ends of the political spectrum. Many supporters of the Trump regime shouted and swore their disapproval, while church-goers leaving their Palm Sunday mass greeted the protestors with affection and peace signs.

When asked why they had assembled to protest, one organizer exclaimed “It is all too similar to the buildup to Iraq. We don’t have all the information, we already killed civilians, including children, in that strike, and no military solution can bring about the kinds of changes necessary for the region to be palatable to western sensibilities and cultural norms, nor should they have to be. In short, you can’t bomb people into seeing it your way and any further military action by the United States will be used as a recruiting tool for ISIS. They have already taken advantage of the chaos we created with one strike and moved in on the areas surrounding the airstrip. War in our time is always indiscriminate, a war on the most vulnerable sectors of society. We consistently kill more civilians than intended targets and then wonder why people are willing to follow any group who promises vengeance on the west. The point of whether this was Assad or not is irrelevant, at this point, he stands between a stable Syria and allowing it to fall into the hands of ISIS. That is the choice we face in reality with regard to Syria.

Another commented “We stand against all imperialist wars. war is for the bankers, the billionaires, and the ruling class politicians. It’s not for our class, the working class. This war is killing people here by depriving them of basic needs and it’s killing people in Syria with the terrorism of illegal war.”

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New Slaves: Mass Incarceration in the United States of America

By: Eugene Dabsfreedom

There is a disturbing problem in the United States criminal justice system. International human rights laws dictate that the aim of all penal systems should be that of rehabilitation, yet the number of people in prison in the United States has quadrupled since 1980. Despite making up only 5% of the global population, the USA incarcerates almost 25% of the world’s prison population. The skyrocketing rates at which we imprison our citizens cannot be separated from the problem’s roots in slavery and racial discrimination if we are to create a truly just legal system for the future.

As of 2013, more Than 2 million people are imprisoned in the United States. If you broaden the definition of correctional supervision to include those on probation and house arrest the figure balloons to nearly 7 million.  Even at the height of Stalin’s reign, official Soviet archives indicate that there was only 1.6 million people in the Gulags, a per capita rate only slightly higher than our own. (History of Stalin’s Gulag)

The root of our modern criminal justice system is in slavery. Despite outlawing slavery, the 13th amendment makes an exception for use as penal punishment. This lead to harsh racial discrimination throughout reconstruction and the Jim Crowe era that kept black Americans second class citizens all the way up until the civil rights movement.  Miraculously, the mass movement led by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and others gave all US citizens full equality in the eyes of the law, no matter their religion, ethnicity or beliefs. Sadly, I fear that if Dr King had lived to see what was to come at the end of the 20th century, he would be quite disappointed that his dream had not been actualized. Beginning as early as 1968, aides in the Nixon administration have testified that the war on drugs was devised specifically as a way of neutralizing the threat of “blacks and hippies” that the government perceived in the Leftist Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam war movements.

The war on drugs caused the number of people in prison to rise out of control. The harmful effects of marijuana were deliberately exaggerated. Despite being chemically the same drug, powdered cocaine and crack cocaine were given different sentences, with the lesser being given to cocaine, the more expensive and traditionally White person drug.  Throughout the war on drugs, black people have been incarcerated at a rate 10 times higher than whites, despite using drugs at the same rate. (ACLU)

In the Reagan, Bush and Clinton eras, the number of people in prison eventually surpassed 2 million people as the turn of the millennia approached. The Crime bill of 1994 and Clinton’s “3-strikes you’re out” policy meant thousands of completely non-violent drug offenders in the United States have life sentences.

But all is not lost. The problems of mass incarceration are being brought to the forefront for the first time. Marijuana is being fully recreationally legalized in numerous states in a domino effect that is likely to culminate in the nationwide legalization of cannabis, medical or otherwise. After that, it is reasonable to assume that we will follow in the footsteps of more progressive nations that have fully decriminalized, though not fully legalized, all narcotic drugs. The question remains: Will we allow a multi-billion dollar industry to spring up out of seeming thin air, making mostly white people rich, while millions of black Americans are in prison for cultivating the exact same plant? If we are to create a more perfect society, with equality and justice for all, then the answer to this question must be no. In the majority of states, those who have been convicted of a felony lose their right to vote permanently. How can we call ourselves a true democracy when we relegate so much of our population to second-class citizenship in the name of archaic and draconian laws of a bygone era?

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Workplace Dynamics in the NBA: A Lesson For Every Fan

By: Slumpito Andreddti

The New Year has finally arrived, the weather has reached its cold wintry nadir and as happens every year, mid-June the National Basketball Association has started to heat up. For millions of NBA fanboys like myself, the six month period which begins with the highly anticipated Christmas Day games between the leading league heavyweights and ends with the NBA finals in mid-June, is the best half of the year. No longer will we have to struggle through the ugly adolescent phase of the season, wincing at each team’s growing pains as the rookies and newly acquired players struggle to find their place in the pecking order. After December 25th, team chemistry will start to form, rivalries will start to boil and bubble and personalities will start clashing. For the NBA fan, this means that there will be a constant source entertainment, be it from LeBron’s latest chase-down block,  Draymond Green’s constant temper tantrums or Swaggy P’s wildly inconsistent play. All of this is a much-needed cushion to rest our heads on after toiling and slogging for crumbs, be it at work or school. While the average viewer is well versed in the nuances of the game, be it Steph Curry’s pure stroke from distance or Kyrie Irving’s immaculate dexterity with the ball, we could learn considerably from the workplace dynamics between the players and the owners.

The labor interests of NBA players are represented by the NBA Players Association, the oldest labor union of the four major sporting leagues in the US and Canada. The NBAPA was formed in 1954 through the initiative of Boston Celtics legend Bob Cousy, and was officially recognized by the league in 1964 after threatening to go on strike before the first televised All-Star game. Through the efforts of the Players Association, NBA players have earned many workplace victories, such as a minimum salary for all players ($543,471), a solid pension plan, and revenue sharing deal where the players collect 50% of all the money brought in by the league. The revenue sharing clause is actually a downgrade from years past, where players collected 57% of the revenue brought in by the league. This is especially unfair, considering that the league would be worthless without the labor of the players; nobody would want to watch empty arenas with glib rich dudes living out their fantasies (really the only things the owners provide). However, behavior like this is to be expected from the owners; they didn’t get rich by being generous, they did so by leveraging their wealth to add to their already enormous fortunes.

All of the above is a huge contrast to the working conditions of the average NBA viewer or moreover, the average American worker. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unionization rate in the American workforce stands at 11%, a stark contrast to the 1950’s, where 35% of the workforce was in a union. When Americans who came up during World War 2 and the 1950’s fondly reminisce about the abundance of well-paying jobs, jobs that allowed a single earner (usually the husband ) to provide for the entire family, this was the result of union militancy during the Depression and the early 1940’s. In fact, a study by the non-partisan Economic Policy Institute has shown a link between the decrease in unionization in the American workforce and wage stagnation. This isn’t to say that the 1950’s were perfect; discrimination against African-Americans was legal and socially encouraged throughout much of the country, it was still taboo for women to assert themselves as equals in society, homosexuality and sodomy were still illegal, which forced countless LGBTQ Americans to live in the shadows. However, it is still possible to take the lessons from the past as well as the present and apply them to the future. After years of dormancy, there has been a resurgence of militancy in the US labor movement, be it the Fight for $15 movement led by fast food workers throughout the country, National Nurses United union, which has been active fighting for the working conditions of nurses as well as showing solidarity with other struggles, airport workers in Chicago fighting for better wages and the Chicago Teachers Union, which has been nationally prominent since their strike in 2012. All of this points to a deep human desire to have a dignified existence, to be more than obedient workers subject to the beck and call of the boss, to have a say in how the fruits reaped by their hard work are distributed. There’s a common feeling of hopelessness and despair among those who belong to my generation, commonly known as the Millennial generation. This has to do with lots uncertainty, highlighted by this study that predicts Millennials will be the first generation to earn less than their parents. To combat this hopelessness, our generation will have to buck the cliche “pull yourself up by the bootstraps” spiel that has been force fed to us for countless years and look to NBA players and striking fast food workers for inspiration for being militant in our demands in the workplace.

While negotiating for higher wages and better working conditions could be a good start, the next logical step in removing the hierarchy between bosses and workers would be in removing the bosses altogether and having workplaces managed by those who labor in them. This might sound far-fetched in most cases, with most workers struggling to get by in their day-to-day lives, but the NBA is one organization where this could be possible. The average player makes $2.5 million a year, enough money to cushion them for unemployment compared to the average American. If all players past and present pooled their resources to create a parallel league with the coordination of the NBAPA, there could be a league organized by players and for players, democratically managed and without the dependence on old rich guys living out their fantasies vicariously through their employees. Obviously, something this drastic could not happen easily; there are billions of dollars at stake for NBA owners, network television companies, basketball gear manufacturers, sports drinks manufacturers and so on. Furthermore, with millions of dollars on the line, many players would be tempted to break solidarity and not give up their status for an uncertain future. Yet the fact remains that the NBA is a highly profitable entity solely because of the high-flying athletic brilliance of its players. If the players maintain true solidarity and set up a better league, this could provide inspiration for millions of NBA fans throughout America if not the world to take an active role in demanding how their labor is used.

Originally Published Saturday, January 7, 2017

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The Collapse of the Third Way

With Trump now at the head of the executive branch, Democrats are left to pick up the ashes of their party. Democrats managed to lose an unprecedented amount of elections nationwide under Obama, ceding over 900 state legislature seats, 14 senators, 69 House seats, and 9 governorships since 2009. The Democratic Party may go down in history as one of the most inept political parties of our time, repeatedly failing to propose left-wing policies or even form solid political strategies.

Continue reading “The Collapse of the Third Way”

How can you fix a system made to be broken?

          There is a lot of talk across the United States about the attack on voter rights. In many states across the country, restrictive voter ID laws have been passed under the guise of protecting American democracy from fraud. Polling locations in many states were reduced in not only quantity but also quality, with fewer hours and less days open. Millions of age-eligible Americans cannot vote due to a targeted and destructive justice system, with several states making it impossible for felons to ever vote in an election. For the vast majority of America’s history, voting rights have been restricted and barricaded to all those that were not white, wealthy men. Just because our current system is better than what it was, does not mean the system will ever be good.

            America’s founders intended voting to always be left to those they considered worthy of it. It was only natural, in their eyes, to reserve the right to vote to only white, land owning men because the society they perpetuated meant that only white wealthy men could possibly be properly educated. It took hundreds of years of fighting against inaccessible education standards for women, minorities, and the poor for the ruling elites to allow for their participation in the system. Even then, the capitalist class must be assured of their dominance and retaining of power. To do so, they have continually perpetuated a system that maximizes voter apathy and makes it difficult for the working class to stay civically engaged. This is not only done by closing polling locations, making voter ID laws, and restricting felons from the right to vote. It is also done by one of the inherent aspects of capitalism; wage slavery.

            Wage slavery, the idea that because of the worker’s need to survive off of a meagerly portioned out salary they are, for all intents and purposes, a slave. General thought of slavery usually goes back to the days of chattel slavery in America. While without any doubt a much more vicious form of slavery, wage slavery is still very real. Workers in a capitalist system are considered wage slaves due to the necessity of work and wages for their survival. Despite the implied “freedom” workers have by pursuing different jobs and opportunities, the capitalist system maximizes risk on the end of the worker’s. Does one really have the freedom to choose their treatment by an employer when they risk losing the source of income to provide for themselves and their family? The capitalists stand to lose very little, especially in a poorly organized country like the USA, due to the ease they can replace an employee.

            Wage slavery’s effect on politics is easy to surmise. Do the risk of losing their employment, workers are apprehensive to lobby publicly or privately for what they believe in. This alienation from civic participation contributes to the working class apathy we see. There is too much risk for the laborer in a capitalist system to enact genuine change, and the choices they do have in elections can never satisfy what the working people need in turn. The capitalist class will, as long as capitalism exists, work to make democracy the playground of those who can afford to participate.

By SoFlo Socialist