Oakland’s St. Columba: A Radical Parish Flourishing Through Liberation Theology

Michael Orion Powell

Oakland is a beautiful city. In my honest opinion, it is one of America’s most beautiful and unique cities for many reasons – it and its urban and suburban surrounding areas encapsulate America in a nutshell. Philip K. Dick (himself a Berkeleyan who predicted many of our current social dynamics with his seminal work Man in the High Castle) said himself that the Bay Area was a sort of laboratory for what happens in the broader country.

This is not to say that the East Bay is without its problems. Like all major American cities, poverty is rampant and racial tensions are on full display throughout. You can often see these racial tensions materialize on random BART rides, where white and black riders sometimes trade bitter words with one another. When you get off these tense rides and walk through the city, however, that’s when its beauty starts to show.

Oakland’s Catholic church St. Columba is one of those beauties. I’m not rightly sure that the church would exist in any other environment. The African-American religious experience has been plentiful through American history, including southern Baptist, various Protestant denominations, and the Nation of Islam. St. Columba is a Catholic church very much seeking to serve the black community, while also overtly adopting ideas from Latin America’s liberation theology.

The interior of the church is filled with portraits of the likes of Oscar Romero, Dorothy Day, Cesar Chavez, and Pope John XXIII. During his sermon, Father Kwame Assenyoh will often point to the portraits and proclaim, “these people fought for liberation and peace,” mentioning the word “liberation” over again in describing the gospel.

St. Columba is such a visual experience as a church that I felt like only pictures could really tell its story accurately. Following are some of my favorites of the pictures I took during a recent Sunday service:

Jeff Bezos and the Parasitical Nature of Capitalism

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has a net worth of $90 billion. He was named Fortune magazine’s “businessperson of the year” in 2012. You don’t amass such wealth, and gain such accolades, by being a wonderful human being. You do it off the backs of tens of thousands of desperate workers. You do it by taking advantage of a working-class majority that is forced to sell its labor for whatever scraps they can get in return. You do it through mass exploitation, or as Fortune magazine calls it, “penny-pinching”:

“The penny-pinching [at Amazon] applies to salaries, which are low throughout the 80,000-person-plus organization. ‘We pay very low cash compensation relative to most companies,’ says Bezos. ‘We also have no incentive compensation of any kind. And the reason we don’t is because it is detrimental to teamwork.’

This “very low cash compensation” that Bezos boasts of amounts to around $12 to $15 an hour for most employees in the United States. At full-time hours, a typical Amazon worker brings home about $30,000 a year. According to MIT’s living-wage calculator, the absolute minimum salary required for a person to live in the US is $43,000 (Kentucky). In many parts of the western and northeastern US, the living-wage salary is well over $50,000.

This means that most Amazon workers fall drastically short of being able to live on their salaries. Which means that a good portion of Amazon’s workforce (like Walmart’s) is likely receiving some form of public assistance to merely get by. Which means that not only is Bezos capitalizing off the desperation of workers, he’s doubling down on this desperation by using taxpayer-funded social services to subsidize much of his workforce.

Jeff Bezos is not “extraordinary,” “savvy,” “innovative,” “keen,” or any of the other adjectives that business-people are so often adorned with. He’s a capitalist. Which is to say, he’s a parasite.

#ThisIsCapitalism

On Sensationalism and Centrist Propaganda

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The magazine rack at your local bookstore is a sad indicator of what type of “information” is being disseminated through our dominant consumer culture.

Liberal media refuse to drop the Russiagate story for the same reasons Conservative media refused to drop things like “birtherism” and Benghazi. Not because these narratives are substantial in any real sense, or that they’re “crucial for American democracy,” but because they SELL. They sell because they lure in irrational misconceptions (and, hence, emotions) about the spectacle of American politics.

The fact that there was never a democracy (or “republic”) to be undermined or “besieged” in the first place doesn’t matter when your “information” serves as nothing more than a commodity to be marketed and sold. Sensationalism sells. Supermarket tabloids figured this out long ago. The “news” industry was a late bloomer, but they also figured it out.

The spectacle, and its profit-generating emotional pendulum, will continue long after Trump. And most of us will remain lost in the wilderness, wondering why our constant struggles never subside. Unless we dig deeper… and reach higher.

In solidarity.

Capitalism, the Welfare State, and Social Unrest

There are two main pillars holding up the capitalist system: (1) The welfare state and (2) the police state. The welfare state supplements the inherent unemployment/underemployment experienced by the working class (due to systemic deficiencies), and the police state uses force (or the constant threat of force) to keep this systematically disenfranchised working class in line.

Without these pillars, society under capitalist modes of production would crumble, the capitalist system would be exposed for what it truly is (a racket), and social unrest would surely ignite revolution and/or civil war.

Capitalists and their government cronies have always known this, but are still losing their grip on it. The neoliberal era has created yet another internal contradiction within capitalism, as ever-powerful private interests are pushing back against the welfare state by simply refusing to fund it. And, despite being forced to rely on it, many of us are now hassled and shamed for doing so.

Something must give. The hyper-militarization and empowerment of police forces across the country suggest where this may be headed. Tear down one pillar and strengthen the other?

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/throughbrokenroses/2016/03/11/the-frustration-of-government-assistance/?utm_source=facebook&utm_medium=social&utm_campaign=CathTest&utm_content=PatheosCatholicFB

Fred Perry, Proud Boys, and the Semiotics of Fashion

Anya Simonian

 

Over the past week the Proud Boys, a self-described “Western chauvinist” organization whose members are tired of apologizing for “creating the modern world”, have garnered media attention. Along with the disruption of an Aboriginal ceremony in Halifax by Proud Boy servicemen, the group is gaining notoriety for clashes with anti-fascist (Antifa) activists. Additionally, the Proud Boys have been involved with so-called anti-Sharia rallies . In New York, two Proud Boys and one “Proud Boys Girl” recently parted ways with their employers after their involvement with the alt-right group came to light and a social media campaign demanded the businesses take action. Proud Boys have degrees of membership. To become a “Fourth Degree” Proud Boy, aspiring members take part in “a major fight for the cause.” Founder Gavin McInnes explained: “You get beat up, kick the crap out of an antifa [anti-fascist activists],” to rise through the ranks.

Much Proud Boy media coverage has mentioned, in passing, the group’s “uniform”: a black Fred Perry polo shirt with bright yellow trim. The Washington Post’s recent article, “The alt-right’s Proud Boys love Fred Perry polo shirts. The feeling is not mutual” went further in its attempts to explain why Proud Boys have adopted a shirt that, at first glance, seems best suited for white middle-class dads out for a round of golf or game of tennis, quoting Zoë Beery’s piece in The Outline, ” How Fred Perry Came to Symbolize Hate “. While both articles offer an overview of the shirt’s popularity among Mod and traditional Skinhead subculturists and its eventual cooptation by racist skinheads and neo-Nazis, neither emphasizes the degree to which the brand has long served as a site of political contest between the radical left and the far-right. Since the early 1980s, attempts to associate the brand with right-wing politics have been met with resistance from two main camps: 1.) anti-racist skinheads and 2.) “traditional” (non-racist) skinheads — both of whom refuse to cede the meaning of the Fred Perry brand to the far-right in the same way that one might fight for the liberation of an occupied space.

The word skinhead most often conjures up images of white hooligans, or a particular aesthetic adopted by neo-Nazis. Yet, what it means to be a skinhead has changed over time. Periodizing skinhead culture is challenging but, broadly speaking, it can be broken down into three eras: the middle to late 1960s period of apolitical, multi-racial working class youth; the 1980s period of White Nationalist cooptation of the skinhead aesthetic and overtly anti-racist and left-wing skinhead political responses to that cooptation; and the period from the late 1980s to the present, in which the meaning of the skinhead culture and aesthetic is continually contested.
Skinhead Origins

In the late 1960s, the first skinhead subculturists were born of multiculturalism: the fusion of Jamaican “rude boy” styles and music brought to England by Jamaican immigrants in the post-war years, and the working class culture of the English Mods (short for Modernists) who decked themselves out in fine Italian suits and shoes, listened to American soul, jazz, and R&B, and rode Vespa scooters. Mod women sported miniskirts, flats, and sometimes men’s clothing. Skinhead style emerged in Britain in the late 1960s as a simplified version of the Mod aesthetic that placed greater emphasis on projecting working class masculinity and a love of Jamaican reggae and ska.
Interpretations

Social scientists took note of these subcultures and worked to explain their meaning in relation to a changing post-war Britain. The seminal work on subculture studies to which all later studies pay homage, or attempt to refute, is Resistance Through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-War Britain,edited by Stuart Hall and Tony Jefferson. Published in 1976, Resistance Through Rituals, as well as the Birmingham Center for Contemporary Cultural Studies (CCCS) from which the work emerged, understood youth subculture in Marxian terms as a manifestation of social, political, and economic change. The historical context for the CCCS interpretation was the post-war period of the 1950s that saw the rise of commercial television, age specific schools, and extended education that brought youth together for longer, more isolated periods of time. Adding to these challenges were the recent violence of war and more fatherless children as a result of war deaths. These factors contributed to the making of an isolated, and later unique subculture of resistance.

Drawing from Italian Marxist theorist Antionio Gramsci, a driving foundational assumption of Resistance Through Rituals is that one or more dominant groups in society hold “cultural capital” and subordinate groups or classes find ways to express or challenge their subordinate experience in their own culture. This dominant culture, according to the CCCS, exists solely within the framework of capitalism, whereas the struggle for “cultural capital” becomes a struggle between those with capital versus those who labor. The dominant culture acts as a hegemon and attempts to define and contain all other cultures, giving birth to opposition from less dominant cultures against this cultural hegemony. Although the less dominant culture (i.e. the subculture) enters into resistance against the dominant culture, the subculture is in fact derived from the “parent,” or hegemonic culture, and will inevitably share many of its attributes. For example, working-class culture is considered by the editors of Resistance Through Rituals to be a “parent culture,” yet the youth subcultures that arose from it have their own values, uses of material culture (which are often derived from the parent culture but are re-appropriated and given new meaning), as well as territorial spaces. The Fred Perry represents both an appropriation of the parent culture and a territorial “space” where politics play out.

The editors of Resistance Through Rituals write:

Sub-cultures, then, must first be related to the ‘parent cultures’ of which they are a sub-set. But, subcultures must also be analysed in terms of their relation to the dominant culture – the overall disposition of cultural power in the society as a whole. Thus, we may distinguish respectable, ‘rough’, delinquent and the criminal subcultures within working class culture: but we may also say that, though they differ amongst themselves, they all derive in the first instance from a ‘working class parent culture’: hence, they are all subordinate subcultures, in relation to the dominant middle-class or bourgeois culture. [1]

From this angle, Resistance Through Ritual examines the predecessors of the skinheads — the Mod subculture of the 1960s which, in its most basic terms, consisted of dressing sharp in the latest high fashion (but only wearing particular high fashion brands, often stemming from styles of those involved in organized crime in 1950s and 60s Britain), hairstyles, soul and rock n’ roll music, all-night clubs, riding Vespa scooters, and taking amphetamines. The Mod was all about style, and this sharp style, combined with the “uppers” they took, were cast by the CCCS in terms of opposition to the hippie culture of the day that to many Mods seemed to spell a slow, do-nothing death. This seemingly odd combination of interests was explained in terms of working-class resistance by Dick Hebdige in his contribution to Resistance Through Rituals, “The Meaning of Mod”:

The importance of style to the mods can never be overstressed – Mod was pure, unadulterated STYLE, the essence of style. In order to project style it became necessary first to appropriate the commodity, then to redefine its use and value and finally to relocate its meaning within a totally different context. This pattern, which amounted to the semantic rearrangement of those components of the objective world which the mod style required, was repeated at every level of the mod experience and served to preserve a part at least of the mod’s private dimension against the passive consumer role it seemed in its later phases ready to adopt…

Thus the scooter, a formerly ultra-respectable means of transport was appropriated and converted into a weapon and a symbol of solidarity. Thus pills, medically diagnosed for the treatment of neuroses, were appropriated and used as an end-in-themselves, and the negative evaluations of their capabilities imposed by school and work were substituted by a positive assessment of their personal credentials in the world of play (i.e. the same qualities which were assessed negatively by their daytime controllers – e.g. laziness, arrogance, vanity etc. – were positively defined by themselves and their peers in leisure time). [2]

As mentioned above, the skinheads were born from a combination of Jamaican immigrant “rude boy” culture and Mod subculture. Originating in the middle to late 1960s, the skinheads were of solidly working-class origin and resented authority and social pretensions. The skinhead community developed at a time of worsening conditions for working-class youth, and the CCCS interpreted this subculture as an attempt to recreate a traditional working-class community. Although the skinheads came from the working class, fewer opportunities meant that they almost acted out or performed working-class values rather than lived them. The early skinheads were intensely aware of their self-image and played up their exaggerated working-class style. They wore Doc Marten work boots, suspenders and blue jeans or Levis Sta-Prest jeans as a way to identify with this style and lifestyle in decline. Yet, they coupled this look with Ben Sherman button down dress shirts and Fred Perry tennis shirts — a scaled down Mod look — in an appropriation of neat middle-class style that turned middle-class values on their heads. This tennis shirt, worn by working-class skinheads, became a symbol of solidarity and a new kind of “class.”

At clubs in the evenings the skinheads would often wear suits like those of the Jamaica “rude boys” and dance alongside Jamaicans to Rock Steady and ska music. Anti-racist and traditional skinheads — sometimes dubbed Trojan Skinheads for their love of Trojan Records, producers of Jamaican music — look back on this period as a golden age for their subculture. The phrase “Spirit of 69′” which originated in the 1980s is used by traditional/Trojan skinheads as a reference point for what skinhead culture can and should be about: inclusion, racial harmony, and a multicultural celebration of working class culture. Naturally, the CCCS interpreted skinhead solidarity as an act of resistance to a hegemonic order and its particular characteristics felt by working-class kids coming of age in the post-war years. By the 1970s, however, this variety of the skinhead subculture had largely faded away, but elements of it would be revived, in bastardized form, in the following decade.

Within the early skinhead subculture there had always existed a focus on masculinity, or acting “hard” in order project an “authentic” working-class ethos. This masculinity was expressed in the skinhead interest in soccer and the joining of “firms,” or soccer clubs that rooted for their favorite teams and often used violence against opposing firms. The “firm” was also an expression of the desire to protect territory and, most importantly, an expression of collective solidarity. With the introduction and quick commodification of punk rock in the late 1970s, a second wave of skinheads was born. These skinheads, connected to the punk scene rather than the ska, Rock Steady, or reggae scenes of their predecessors, still aped working-class style while sporting the Fred Perry brand, yet their music was Oi — a more aggressive, simplified version of punk that could never go mainstream. Non-racist bands like Cock Sparrer, The 4-Skins, The Last Resort, Sham69, and The Cockney Rejects led the way.

While this second wave of skinheads was at first largely apolitical, their penchant for soccer hooliganism made them prime recruits for England’s far-right National Front. The Young National Front (YNF) began to recruit second wave skinheads at soccer matches, appealing to skinhead working-class sensibilities by scapegoating immigrants for the decline of the white working class. By 1979, the YNF had established Rock Against Communism, a music festival featuring white nationalist bands. In subsequent years neo-Nazi bands like Skrewdriver would bring hundreds of disaffected youth into the National Front. Along with this came the adoption of a new skinhead aesthetic that included the traditional Fred Perry or Ben Sherman shirt and Doc Marten boots, but added to it a paramilitary edge that included flight jackets, larger boots, more closely cropped hair, and symbols of white nationalism. This bastardization of the aesthetic and its coupling with far-right politics made its way to the United States in the 1980s.

Anti-racist and traditionalist responses to the aesthetic and political hijacking of the original “Spirit of 69′” skinhead subculture were swift. As historian Timothy S. Brown put it:

Reacting against this trend-which they considered a bastardization of the original skinhead style-numbers of skins began to stress the cultivation of the “original” look, making fashion, like music, a litmus test for authenticity. Violators of the proper codes were not skinheads, but “bald punks,” a category to which racists-who, in the eyes of purists, failed completely to understand what the subculture was about-were likely to belong. The connection between right-wing politics and “inauthentic” modes of dress was personified in the figure of the “bone head,” a glue-sniffing, bald-headed supporter of the extreme right, sporting facial tattoos, a union-jack T-shirt, and “the highest boots possible.” Although the emphasis on correct style was not explicitly political, it grew-like insistence on the subculture’s black musical roots-out of a concern with the authentic sources of skinhead identity. As such, it was heavily associated with the attempts of left-wing and so-called “unpolitical” skins to “take back” the subculture from the radical right in the early 1980s. [3]

In an effort to “take back” the subculture and its symbols from the radical right, Skinheads Against Racial Prejudice (SHARP) was founded in New York City in 1987. Although anti-racist skinheads and left-wing anti-racist skinhead bands like England’s The Oppressed had challenged the far right through song and protest, SHARP represented the first attempt to organize skinheads as a multiracial movement against racist, right-wing “boneheads.” SHARP’s logo was, in part, the logo for Trojan Records, producers of the Rock Steady and ska music so beloved by those first wave British skinheads. In fashion, SHARP emphasized a return to the early styles of skinhead dress, and sought to reclaim the Fred Perry brand (among others) as a symbol of multiculturalism, working-class pride, and the early skinhead subculture in general. As SHARP spread throughout Europe its growth, at times, led to violent clashes with white nationalist skinheads. The Oppressed led the charge in Great Britain, performing confrontational Oi music that pitted the group and its followers firmly against their racist opposition. For example, in their simple four chord song “I Don’t Wanna,” singer Roddy Moreno belts:

I don’t need no bigotry

I know where I’m from

I don’t need no racial hate

To help me sing my song

I don’t wanna make a stand

But what else can I do?

I don’t wanna be like you

Don’t wanna fight your race war

Don’t wanna bang your drum

I don’t wanna be like you

Don’t wanna live like scum

The Oppressed associated themselves with groups like Anti-Fascist Action (AFA) and wrote anthems like “The AFA Song” meant to inspire the skinhead left in its fight against the right — a fight that often resulted in street battles between rival skinhead factions in Europe:

We don’t carry shotguns

We don’t carry chains

We only carry hatchets

To bury in your brains

So come on

Let’s go

So come on

Let’s go

A.F.A.

In addition to overtly anti-racist organizations like SHARP, “traditional” or “Trojan” skinheads in the 1980s and 1990s avoided the political question altogether and instead simply decided to live the inclusive values found in the first wave skinhead movement while celebrating working-class pride coupled, at times, with an occasional soft patriotism. Other smaller groups like Red and Anarchist Skinheads (RASH) formed alongside SHARP that added a heavier dose of left-wing politics to SHARP’s anti-racist stance.

Both groups have worn the Fred Perry and both have incorporated the laurel wreath symbol associated with the brand into album covers and traditional and anti-racist skinhead tattoos. The Fred Perry polo then, for them, is an object reclaimed, re-sanctified, and restored to its original meaning.

Throughout the 1990s and 2000s, echoes of these conflicts between left, traditional, and right-wing skinheads continued, though never quite reached the fever pitch the conflict had reached in the 1980s.

As we move further into this period of political and ideological polarization, brought on by capitalist crisis, we are seeing old partisan battles reignite. It is no surprise then that the Proud Boys have adopted such a politically-charged piece of clothing for their unofficial uniform. For those with an insiders’ view of this decades-old culture war, the Proud Boys’ adoption of the Fred Perry polo makes an unequivocal statement: we identify with the far-right uses of this brand. The adoption of the Fred Perry is not lost on Antifa, the Proud Boys’ primary political opponents. Fashion, as one variety of symbol system, projects a clear political orientation for those able to “read” the language of what is signified by the brand. As anthropologist Edward Sapir pointed out: “The chief difficulty of understanding fashion in its apparent vagaries is the lack of exact knowledge of the … symbolisms attaching to forms, colors, textures, postures, and other expressive elements of a given cultures. The difficulty is appreciably increased by the fact that some of the expressive elements tend to have quite different symbolic references in different areas.”

For those who have adopted or who understand the skinhead subculture in all its variegated forms, the Fred Perry, viewed in certain contexts, sends one of three messages: that one espouses white nationalist politics, far-left politics, or that one is a traditional skinhead who celebrates multiculturalism. For those in the latter two camps there has been a long-standing contest to wrest the symbols of the “Spirit of 69′” from the hands of those who would corrupt them. While “ownership” of a brand may seem trivial or ill conceived, this “ownership” embodies a struggle for agency, space, and the dominance of an ideology through appropriation of contested material culture.
Notes

[1] John Clarke, Stuart Hall, Tony Jefferson and Brian Roberts, “Subcultures, Class and Culture,” inResistance Through Rituals: Youth Subcultures in Post-War Britain, ed. Stuart Hall and Tony Jefferson (London: Routledge, 1993), 7.

[2] Ibid, 76.

[3] Timothy S. Brown, “Subcultures, Pop Music and Politics: Skinheads and “Nazi Rock” in England and Germany.” Journal of Social History 38, no. 1 (2004): 157-78.

Against Zombie Intellectualism: On the Chronic Impotency of Public Intellectuals

Derek R. Ford

 

I’ve just read yet another think piece decrying the sad state of affairs in the U.S. and ascribing it to a depoliticized, docile, stupid populous that is “easily seduced.” It came out on June 24, and I read it on June 25, as people took to the streets across the country for Pride (to celebrate it and to push back against pinkwashing). This is just a few days after people across the country took to the streets to protest the acquittal of the cop who murdered Philando Castile. What to explain this disconnect?

The piece I’m referring to is ” Manufactured illiteracy and miseducation: A long process of decline led to President Donald Trump ,” by cultural critic and public intellectual Henry Giroux. It’s one of many articles of its kind, and is exemplary in its general representation of a certain brand of politics. In it, the distinguished professor Giroux mourns for a long-lost “civic culture,” “public life,” for the “foundations of democracy,” and a time before “the corruption of both the truth and politics.” The Trump administration, he admonishes, has “turned its back on education as a public good.” Even more so than formal institutions of school however, we have a wider cultural pedagogy that manufactures ignorance and illiteracy-our inability to see or read the truth:

“Cultural apparatuses that extend from the mainstream media and the diverse platforms of screen culture now function as neoliberal modes of public pedagogy parading as entertainment or truthful news reporting.”

This isn’t just a bias against intellectuals and academics. It’s more: “It is a willful practice and goal used to actively depoliticize people and make them complicit with the political and economic forces that impose misery and suffering upon their lives.”

What we – progressives and the left – need to do is to understand that education can empower people, it can give the people tools to critically understand their lives so that they can overcome their ignorance and complicity, hold power accountable, and transform the world. With the election of Trump, we can’t wait. We need to foster the “ideological and subjective conditions that make individual and collective agency possible.” Once, apparently, this was just “an option,” but now it is “a necessity.”
The people, not intellectuals, make history

What this piece ultimately does is whitewash the long history that has led to this climate. It rests on a triumphalist account of American democracy that is only now under attack. It denies any historical and existing agency that the people have. And it offers no real solutions. I call it “zombie intellectualism” because it feeds off of existing political struggles but serves only to demotivate and demoralize them. We’re all guilty of it from time to time, but the fact that it has become a niche in its own right should be alarming to those of us on the left.

Giroux is right that Trump has been a long time coming. But the decline didn’t begin with Fox News or Facebook. It began in 1492. It began with the genocide of the Indigenous peoples. It accelerated with the Slave trade and the formal institutionalization of white supremacy and slavery. It intensified during each war of colonial and imperial conquest-from the war against the Philippines in the late 19th century to the ongoing war against Syria. The conditions that allowed for the rise of Trump didn’t originate with the neoliberal attack on the public sector in the early 1980s. They are inscribed in the foundations of American democracy .

And yet this history of oppression has equally been a history of resistance. The legacies and fruits of this resistance are what we should be remembering, celebrating, and fighting to strengthen. And resistance is what we have seen since the election of Trump.

I don’t exactly know why radical academics often fail to bring this into the narrative. It may be because of their general disconnection from political struggles and protest movements. But it may also be because academics have had little to do with this narrative. Distinguished professors have never made history strictly through their work as public intellectuals. History has been made by the masses: by organizers, by activists, by everyday people. Sometimes, these people have held professorships, but that has always been incidental.

This is not to brush off the ways that academics with radical politics have been attacked by the right wing, as some bloggers have done . They must be defended. (But it is interesting to note that the ones who are attacked are not propagating liberal myths of American democracy).

This is also not to say that spontaneous resistance is enough, or that there is no role for theory. On the contrary, theory is absolutely crucial. But theory doesn’t come from the universities; it comes from the social movements themselves. Anyone who has helped organize in any way even the smallest of protests or political actions knows that there is no lack of theoretical debate that take place in our movements.

There has never been a time when the truth or politics have been uncorrupted, or pure. And truth has never corresponded with politics in any straightforward manner. If anything, politics is the struggle to produce new truths, new realities, and this is ultimately a struggle over and for power. That’s what we need to focus on building right now: power.

Giroux comes close to admitting this, writing that truth and politics are now corrupted because “much of the American public has become habituated to overstimulation and lives in an ever-accelerating overflow of information and images.” Jodi Dean has dubbed our current era that of “communicative capitalism ,” a merging of capitalism, networked technologies, and democracy that traps us in a reflexive circuit of information and critique. The answer, then, is not more information and more critique. The answer is to organize, to build, to multiply, and to intensify.
Don’t mourn or just write, organize!

I share Giroux’s wish that there was more resistance. But I can’t erase the incredibly hard work of the grassroots organizers and resisters in the U.S. I know the discipline they have and the incredible sacrifices they make. Their labor should be honored, supported, and highlighted.

One current example of this is an initiative called ” The People’s Congress of Resistance .” It’s a campaign uniting radical activists and organizers from a range of struggles, and it will convene at Howard University in Washington, D.C. on September 16-17. The initial conveners are from organizations like the American Indian Movement, the Full Rights for Immigrants Coalition, the Muslim American Alliance, and the Party for Socialism and Liberation. There are people organizing for all 50 states.

Exposing the U.S. congress as the congress of millionaires and billionaires, it is building an alternative congress of the people, a true form of counter-power. If radical academics want to see the organic intellectuals they have read about in theory books, then they should be there. And if anyone wants to not just witness the beauty of the people in motion, but be a part of it, then you should be there.

It will be yet another manifestation of the collective agency of the people.

A Resistance in Name Only: On the Trickery and Complicity of the Democratic Party

Brenan Daniels

 

“We’re soon going to have a one party system.”

– Donald J. Trump

The ‘Resistance’, as opponents to President Trump call themselves, have been busy fighting back against the President’s policies, having recently kicked off a ‘ Resistance Summer ‘ in order to “[counter] the agenda of President Trump and the GOP-led Congress.” However, while they are fighting back, they are having some serious problems information-wise, such as propagating false stories like the House Republicans celebrating the passing of a bill to repeal Obamacare with beer or that rape would be apre-existing condition under this new healthcare bill. There are larger problems, though, primarily with the party they are supporting (the Democrats), and it very well may come back to haunt them in the near future.

Young people who would generally vote Democrat overwhelmingly favored Bernie Sanders , coalescing around his promises to break up the big banks, Medicare for all, and free public college. Despite this, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said of her party : “I have to say we’re capitalist and that’s just the way it is.” This is a major problem when the majority of young Democrats see themselves as socialists .

There is also the problem of the Dems having shown themselves to be a group of liars and cheaters. Currently, the Democratic National Committee is under a class action lawsuit alleging that they stole the Democratic Presidential nomination from Bernie Sanders. Some rather telling information came out, such as the fact that the DNC’s legal representation said that the case should be thrown out on the grounds that “the Party has the freedom to determine its nominees by ‘internal rule,’ not voter interests, and thus the party could have favored a candidate” without breaking any laws. This was later statedmore explicitly :

“We could have voluntarily decided that, ‘ Look, we’re gonna go into back rooms like they used to and smoke cigars and pick the candidate that way ,'” Bruce Spiva, lawyer for the DNC, said during a court hearing in Carol Wilding, et al. v. DNC Services Corp. (emphasis added)

This is undeniable evidence that there are deep-seated problems in the DNC, but there are further problems for the Democratic party itself: Russia.

Democrats seem to be obsessed with accusations of Russia-Trump collusion. This obsession has been reflected by MSNBC host Rachel Maddow, who spent the majority of her time earlier this year focusing on Russia, as well as a recent protest that took place in which people demanded that Trump’s ties to Russia be investigated. This line of thinking continues despite the fact that a number of high level individuals on their own team have flatly denied any such claim. One of these individuals, former Acting CIA Director Michael Morell stated that “On the question of the Trump campaign conspiring with the Russians here, there is smoke, but there is no fire, at all;” and “There’s no little campfire, there’s no little candle, there’s no spark.” Meanwhile, another of these individuals, Dianne Feinstein, had the following exchange with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer:

WOLF BLITZER, CNN: The last time we spoke, Senator, I asked you if you had actually seen evidence of collusion between the Trump campaign and the Russians, and you said to me — and I am quoting you now — you said, ‘not at this time.’ Has anything changed since we spoke last?

SEN. FEINSTEIN: Well, no — no, it hasn’t...

BLITZER: But, I just want to be precise, Senator. In all of the — you have had access from the Intelligence Committee, from the Judiciary Committee, all of the access you have had to very sensitive information, so far you have not seen any evidence of collusion, is that right?

SEN. FEINSTEIN: Well, evidence that would establish that there’s collusion. There are all kinds of rumors around, there are newspaper stories, but that’s not necessarily evidence. (emphasis added)

There is such a dearth of evidence that mainstream organizations such as Bloomberg and even MSNBC’s Chris Hayes are questioning the entire narrative in an attempt to move on.

While the Democratic Party is obsessed with thoughts of Russians, the Republicans are doing actual damage. Case in point: while everyone was obsessing over the recent Comey hearing, the Republicans went and gutted the Dodd Frank Act which “was designed to protect taxpayers by ending wholesale government bailouts of banks and non-bank financial institutions that encouraged indiscriminate lending.” Furthermore, the Democrats have also been on the side of Trump, with many Dems praising him for his airstrike on a Syrian government air base over a questionable chemical weapons attack. (This shouldn’t be surprising given the fact that Hillary Clinton argued for a no fly zone over Syria, which had she been elected could very well have caused a major military engagement with Russia .)

So, why does any of this matter? It is important because it shows that the Democrats are completely fine with, and work to uphold, the status quo. The same status quo that has led us to war and put us on the brink of war numerous times; and the same status quo that seems to have no qualms with engaging in activities that could very well lead to a world war scenario. The ground supporters of the ‘Resistance’ for the Democrats have yet to notice this glaring problem: they are supporting a party that isn’t going to actually do much of anything to combat the major problems that are facing us, and in many cases have pushed to exacerbate them.

On a structural level, both parties are loyal to their corporate owners and push a foreign policy that seeks to confront any nation it sees as a threat to US global hegemony. Both parties also adhere to pro-capitalist neoliberal economic policy that continues to harm the working-class majority, gut the middle class, and enrich the 1%.

If “The Resistance” were real, it would be pushing the Democrats to actually propose policies designed to help working-class people in our daily struggle for living-wage jobs, adequate education, basic necessities, and accessible healthcare. Instead, it has chosen to obsess over Russia and support war, which is why they will likely find themselves “resisting” for another four years.