Why Popular Assemblies Sweeping the Country Are Building Blocks of Resistance

Lambert here: Readers know I’m skeptical of #TheResistance branding, since if Neera Tanden is a resistor, how meaningful can it be? Nevertheless, the small-scale assemblies described here — the only numbers I’m seeing are “900 to dozens”– are interesting, not least because they don’t seem to have been infiltrated by monomanaical Clintonite bores ranting about Russia. Of course, take “popular assembly” to an extreme and you have dual sovereignty and parallel government (Gene Sharp Non-Violent Method of Protest and Persuasion #198). The Jacobins did OK with that, until they didn’t; ditto the Bundy family.

By Sarah Lazare, a staff writer for AlterNet. Originally published at Alternet.

“One thing that is very clear under the Trump administration is that we do not have the luxury of remaining in our silos and organizing around individual issues,” Manzoor Cheema, a Raleigh, North Carolina-based organizer with Muslims for Social Justice and Project South, told AlterNet. “Attacks are happening across the board against immigrants, refugees, Muslims, black communities, workers and Jews.”

Cheema is one of countless organizers across the country working to pull off large popular assemblies to empower and connect the communities caught in the crosshairs of this multi-pronged assault. With roots in the U.S. Black Freedom movement, Latin American encuentro and left formations across the globe, such forums appear to be gaining steam, as growing crowds cram into packed community meetings to plot out strategies for resistance. While the issues and tactics may vary, organizers from across the country emphasized to AlterNet that the aim is to fortify independent social movement infrastructure to enable a broader and more effective fightback—and determine the needs of the most-impacted communities during this harrowing political moment.

In Los Angeles alone, at least 10 popular assemblies since November have drawn crowds ranging from 900 to dozens. “We’ve gotten together to discuss the current political moment and to remind folks that they are not alone, and there are other people who will be working and struggling with them,” Armando Carmona, spokesperson for the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, told AlterNet in January. “Out of those assemblies, there have been mobilizations, know your rights workshops and other convenings to discuss neighborhood defense committees.”

These formations are part of a larger ecosystem of resistance to Trumpism that continues to build on a large scale, as millions around the world take to the streets, stage direct actions and use their bodies to resist the ongoing spike in immigration raids. “With this whole political crisis going on, reaction isn’t enough,” said Reed Ingalls, an organizer with the Seattle Neighborhood Action Coalition, one of numerous bodies that has been organizing popular assemblies in districts across the city since election night. “Right now the aim is building support, mutual aid and community power. The basic idea is, let’s start helping people get organized and let’s do it neighborhood by neighborhood, connecting to where people live and connecting to issues they’re facing.”

‘Growing Deeper’

While some popular assemblies are connected to regional organizations like the Atlanta-based Project South, others are springing up independently. “People are building new mechanisms of community power,” David Abud, regional organizer from the National Day Laborer Organizing Network, told AlterNet. “This is coming from an understanding that there will continue to be state violence against our communities. The state isn’t going to be the one to stop that violence coming to us; we are the ones that will be able to stop it.”

For Cheema, whose organizing of People’s Movement Assemblies (PMAs) is informed by Project South, it is critical to create meaningful spaces that center people most impacted by oppression and injustice—an aim that takes significant leg work.

“We have what we call an anchor coalition that launched the PMAs in North Carolina’s triangle area,” he explained. “It was founded on May Day of 2016 by 15 organizations that are led by workers, people of color, latinxs, Muslims and Jews.” Groups in the mix include Black Workers for Justice, Muslims for Social Justice, Jewish Voice for Peace, Fight for 15 and United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers (UE) Local 150.

“Our first assembly in December was led, organized, convened and facilitated by these organizations,” said Cheema, who noted that the PMAs provide translation and free childcare. “We are very particular that the leadership should rest with the communities most impacted by the struggles we’re highlighting. At the same time, the meetings are open and transparent.”

“Out of that meeting, we developed working groups that will sustain the process and maintain the focus of the assembly,” continued Cheema. Since December, the coalition has organized three more PMAs attended by at least 100 people each.

An announcement for a January PMA in Raleigh addresses local and national issues, proclaiming, “Trump has appointed corporate and Wall St. executives and enemies of the working class and oppressed peoples to his cabinet, wealthy elites that hate the very people their departments are designed to safeguard. The right wing in Raleigh is trying to maintain their control of the governor’s office and has made power grabs altering control in many state departments.”

According to Cheema, there is still work to be done to center the people most impacted by these trends. “We recognize that we need to do focused outreach to impacted people, which we call ‘growing deeper.’ At the last PMA we were reflecting on the need to reach people who are impacted but don’t have resources, and might not have transportation.”

“My understanding is that, since Trump, there is a bigger interest in the PMA model to build stronger coalitions and networks across the country,” he added. “But this movement is not geared towards getting Democrats elected. We need independent structures rooted outside political parties in the grassroots, where people hold accountable whoever is in power.”

From Alabama’s Black Belt to Zapatista Autonomous Zones

While the current iteration of Raleigh PMAs may be new, the model stems from deep-seated traditions.

“There is a history here,” said Kali Akuno, the co-director of the Mississippi-based group Cooperation Jackson and an organizer with the nationwide Malcolm X Grassroots Movement. Akuno, who has been organizing popular assemblies in Jackson, underscored that “the history of the mass meetings tradition really goes back to slavery. Here in Mississippi, right after the Civil War, you had these well-organized and planned popular assemblies among formerly enslaved black people to spread information, spread news, try to find family and recreate community. That tradition and memory lived on into the 1950s and 60s, particularly around Freedom Summer.”

Project South looks to mid-1960s Black Freedom organizing in Alabama, led by the Lowndes County Freedom Organization and Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee during Jim Crow. The effort focused in Alabama’s Black Belt, where white plantation owners maintained socio-economic control over black residents, many of whom they employed as sharecroppers. When black residents in Lowndes County began organizing against near-total suppression of the African-American vote, many faced retaliation in the form of evictions from white landowners. Organizers held mass meetings and erected tent cities to house the newly homeless, an infrastructure that lasted two years and included community defense against white supremacist violence.

At the age of 85, Nellie Nelson, a former sharecropper in Lowndes County, told journalist Connor Sheets in 2016, “I was very interested in the mass meetings because I wanted to learn all I could and do all I can because we needed better assistance here in Lowndes County and we needed to get together.”

But organizers also look beyond U.S. borders, including to the Sixth Pan-African Congress Congress held in Tanzania in 1974, as well as the Zapatista Movement for National Liberation, which launched an offensive against the Mexican government and the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994. The Zapatistas, who continue to organize and hold territory in Chiapas, Mexico, built community assemblies into their political tradition from the outset, as a form of self-governance and aotonomy for historically oppressed indigenous communities.

Meanwhile, World Social Forums date back to 2001, when people from across the globe gathered in Brazil to stage an alternative convergence to the World Economic Forum, a gathering of the global capitalist elite. Inspired by the Latin American encuentro, social forums have since been organized locally, regionally, nationally and internationally, including in Iraq, which held its first social forum in 2013 under the banner of “Another Iraq is Possible with Peace, Human Rights, and Social Justice.” Some of the first PMAs in the U.S. took place at such gatherings, including the 2006 Border Social Forum in El Paso, Texas/Ciudad Juarez.

Project South began escalating its efforts to organize Southern Movement Assemblies in the immediate aftermath of the so-called Arab Spring, and the organization cites public assemblies at Tahrir Square as a source of inspiration. Groups at the helm of this resistance in Egypt, including the April 6th movement, today are aggressively persecuted and hunted by the regime of Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, with the backing of the United States. Nonetheless, Project South notes that Tahrir Square constituted an important site of resistance, writing: “The government suspended communications services, but people used other methods and set up medical tents, cultural events and political discussions.”

The 2012 launch of the Southern Freedom Movement was inspired, in part, by the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina on Gulf Coast communities. “After witnessing and experiencing the disaster of Hurricane Katrina and the inability of movement to respond effectively, Southern leaders initiated regional strategies to build stronger infrastructure to ensure capacity to respond to growing crises on every frontline,” writes Project South.

Project South co-directors Stephanie Guilloud and Emery Wright told AlterNet over email that, since 2008, there have been at least 400 People’s Movement Assemblies across the United States. “Organizations across the South facilitate what we call Frontline and Community Assemblies at the local level,” they explained.

“In the lead-up to the sixth Southern Movement Assembly in October of last year, anchor organizations that are part of the Southern Movement Assembly organized a dozen frontline Assemblies across the South, organizing formerly incarcerated people in Alabama, young people in Atlanta, and rural folks across the Black Belt,” Guilloud and Wright continued. “Project South and the other anchor groups expect that number to increase, possibly double, this year. Assemblies will be taking place throughout the summer and early fall.”

‘How Do We Fight Our Way Out of This?’

PMAs have played a critical role in connecting currently and formerly incarcerated people with each other and movements on the outside. In 2011, Montgomery, Alabama, hosted the the Formerly Incarcerated People’s Movement Assembly, described by the Grassroots Global Justice Alliance as a “historic gathering committed to three shared strategies to challenge key areas of the prison industrial complex including discrimination in employment, shackling of women prisoners during labor, and voting disenfranchisement after time served.”

Kenneth Glasgow is an organizer with The Ordinary People Society and the Free Alabama Movement, which is led by incarcerated people and coordinated last September’s national prison strike “to end slavery in America.” He told AlterNet that people across Alabama have continued to organize PMAs “related to the criminal justice system and the drug war.” This includes assemblies led by formerly and currently incarcerated people and their families, which is accomplished via conference calls and going inside prisons.

“We put out questions and get feedback on what we need to address them, when and how,” Glasgow said of the PMA structure. “Once we do that, we are able to do some kind of action. Usually it is some kind of rally, march or protest to address that particular issue. We’ve been to prisons to protest and been in front of the Department of Corrections to hold marches and rallies.”

It was at such a PMA in January that the Free Alabama Movement decided to launch a boycott of Aramark, a leading distributor of food to prisons, and Corizon, a key medical company that profits from prisons. “PMAs work so well because they’re simple,” he said. “People come up with questions. We answer those questions with solutions. Everyone has a buy-in and a tie-in.”

According to Glasgow, who lives in the town of Dothan, Alabama, PMAs across the state and southern region “have grown tremendously since Trump was elected. People are really scared and want to get involved and get engaged.”

The PMAs are gaining steam as people across the country experiment with new formations. Ayako Maruyama and Kenneth Bailey work with the Design Studio for Social Intervention in Boston. Since November, their organization has created a “Social Emergency Response Center,” modeled after natural disaster emergency response centers, but designed to respond to the current political crisis. The space, open to all, provides opportunities for communal food sharing, collective healing, political discussion, political art creation, film screenings, radical library perusing and music. “We need ways to train civil society to address social emergencies as part of our civic practice,” said Bailey.

Akuno underscored that “it is a constant struggle to build popular assemblies, keep them functioning, keep them vibrant, keep them responsive to the issues of the day and keep them from being sectarian vehicles. When done right, when done at its best, I think assemblies are the most profound tools of bottom-up, participatory democracy that holds the interests of the communities, unlike any other vehicle I have ever worked with.”

“Right now they are critical because so many people in our society are socially oriented towards being individuals and being individuated,” he continued. “This breeds an atmosphere and political culture where there is no solidarity. But solidarity is an absolute must right now. An assembly is a practical way to build solidarity and ask questions like, ‘How do we resist, how do we fight our way out of this and what is our program to create the future we want?’”

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About Lambert Strether

Readers, I have had a correspondent characterize my views as realistic cynical. Let me briefly explain them. I believe in universal programs that provide concrete material benefits, especially to the working class. Medicare for All is the prime example, but tuition-free college and a Post Office Bank also fall under this heading. So do a Jobs Guarantee and a Debt Jubilee. Clearly, neither liberal Democrats nor conservative Republicans can deliver on such programs, because the two are different flavors of neoliberalism (“Because markets”). I don’t much care about the “ism” that delivers the benefits, although whichever one does have to put common humanity first, as opposed to markets. Could be a second FDR saving capitalism, democratic socialism leashing and collaring it, or communism razing it. I don’t much care, as long as the benefits are delivered. To me, the key issue — and this is why Medicare for All is always first with me — is the tens of thousands of excess “deaths from despair,” as described by the Case-Deaton study, and other recent studies. That enormous body count makes Medicare for All, at the very least, a moral and strategic imperative. And that level of suffering and organic damage makes the concerns of identity politics — even the worthy fight to help the refugees Bush, Obama, and Clinton’s wars created — bright shiny objects by comparison. Hence my frustration with the news flow — currently in my view the swirling intersection of two, separate Shock Doctrine campaigns, one by the Administration, and the other by out-of-power liberals and their allies in the State and in the press — a news flow that constantly forces me to focus on matters that I regard as of secondary importance to the excess deaths. What kind of political economy is it that halts or even reverses the increases in life expectancy that civilized societies have achieved? I am also very hopeful that the continuing destruction of both party establishments will open the space for voices supporting programs similar to those I have listed; let’s call such voices “the left.” Volatility creates opportunity, especially if the Democrat establishment, which puts markets first and opposes all such programs, isn’t allowed to get back into the saddle. Eyes on the prize! I love the tactical level, and secretly love even the horse race, since I’ve been blogging about it daily for fourteen years, but everything I write has this perspective at the back of it.


  1. BeliTsari

    Wow… Resistance® could be used to SELL liberal yuppies fear & loathing; or round up indenture, intimidate or incarcerate us poors (anybody with a phone or internet access?) Guess trickle down has a whole new meaning? I’d remembered how many folks joked, as David Brock’s trolls baited renegades & dissidents into being banned from lefty blogs, for thought-crimes… before they returned to their normal K Street sock-puppet tropes: Massa now has our registration info, ISP/ DNS (treasonous blather to manipulate freely) our phone’s GPS & cameras?

  2. MartyH

    Let me know how this works out for you. As an avocational undertaking, this is all well and good so long as you have the financial and legal security to pursue it. But that requirement means you’ve already made it … and your “Trump Problem” is that there a lot of people who have not made it and who do not see any path to making it. Attracting them, enlisting them and their vote-power is a challenge for those who do not live and move among them.

    1. Watt4Bob

      It sounds to me as if you are describing the problems facing the DNC and the whole ‘Third-Way’ bunch.

      Attracting them, enlisting them and their vote-power is a challenge for those who do not live and move among them.

      That horse is dead, quit beating it.

      “Them” is not the problem, “We” are the problem, and “We” have got to get our sh*t together, bust out of our identity straight-jackets and get busy building Solidarity.

      This article is not about finding a solution for the problems facing the democratic party, this article is about building Solidarity amongst all the folks abandoned and neglected by the democratic party.

      1. diptherio

        “…get busy building Solidarity.”

        If only we actually understood that word. Unfortunately, except among the very poor, solidarity is mostly a buzz word, not a lived reality. Middle-class and affluent people claim to be concerned about poverty and homelessness while maintaining empty “guest rooms” in their houses and going on European vacations that cost more than most of us make in a year.

        I remember a particular anecdote from my old UU Fellowship that summed up the attitude for me, perfectly. This was some years ago and I was trying to raise some funds for the school in Nepal from a retired pediatrician (and die-hard Dem) one Sunday. I told her about the need of the kids in Nepal, and how I was funding the project by devoting 1/2 of my measly wages to it. She listened, and expressed her support, wished me luck, and then changed the subject to the new plane her husband was buying (“he’s always wanted to get his pilot’s license.”). I kid you not.

        That is, perhaps, an extreme example, but it is, in my experience, sadly common. Even people who claim to be all about “solidarity” will quickly lose their passion for it as soon as it seems that engaging in it might effect their lifestyle or consumption patterns. For those of us at the bottom (or at least for me) it is becoming increasingly clear that no minor fixes or changes around the margins are going to be adequate. We need an entirely new system of living and we need it yesterday. But try building that new system while you’re struggling to pay rent on your sh*tty apartment, and everyone else in your crew is too. It’d be great if some middle-class/affluent folks with some financial resources would help out with the financial resources that we simply do not have…but all you can really hope for is a small contribution, assuming you’ve got your 501(c)3 status so they can write it off their taxes.

        Solidarity is a nice word. Some of us even practice it, among ourselves, but I see, as of right now, zero sign that true solidarity (which means we all commit to sinking or swimming together) across class boundaries exists. The relatively affluent tend to look for something relatively abstract that they can do to feel like they are striking back at the unjust system that has allowed them their wealth. They will make a donation to a homeless shelter — they will not open their home to a homeless family.

        Until that level of solidarity is the norm, and until we in the “movement” hold each other to that standard as a matter of course, I don’t have a whole lot of hope that we’ll see any fundamental changes. We’ll keep focusing on trying to get politicians to stop acting like politicians instead of trying to provide material benefits to people in need (i.e. all of us). Call me a pessimist…

        1. Big Fish

          You were evidently talking to a member of the 1% club in America and you are surprised they didn’t care about kids in Nepal ? Really? I’m guessing they don’t care about the kids 5 miles from their home, let alone Nepal.

          1. diptherio

            Probably more like the 15% club, actually. And as a pediatrician and a “progressive,” I thought for sure she’d be down to throw a couple hundo in the kitty. But no…

            I have worked for some bona fide 1%ers…you are not allowed to speak to them, as a worker…even the 1%er who calls herself “Lama Tsomo” (aka Linda Pritzker)

        2. Deadl E Cheese

          This is why I’m extremely suspicious of any solution that requires sustained material sacrifice at the individual level. Humans, even the oppressed ones (a cynic would say especially the oppressed ones) are ultimately selfish, myopic, and tribal. People who advocate dumb duckspeak like ‘give one of your bedrooms to a homeless or undocumented family’ as a way of building solidarity are dangerously naive and cause more harm than good.

          I rag on electoralism, but I rag on mass mutual aid even more. The only long-term solution is to have a political apparatus that simultaneously forces people to care and uplifts everyone to the desired end state. Sweden is sustainable and expandable as a human project. 70s New Left communes are not. In the short-term, this means bringing back unionism and dismantling the Democratic and Republican Party.

          1. diptherio

            Humans, even the oppressed ones (a cynic would say especially the oppressed ones) are ultimately selfish, myopic, and tribal.

            In my experience, it’s the least oppressed who are also the most selfish. Ask anybody who works for tips.

            And the Swedes, they’ve totes got it all figured out. If only we were more like them…oh wait

            The riots in the Stockholm suburb of Husby has seriously shaken the idyllic world of the Swedes. Some 12,000 residents live in Husby; 85-percent of them have an immigrant background. More than a third of the 20-25 year olds have no job.

            After the last economic crisis in 2008, the Swedish government was forced to implement austerity measures. The economic problems at the time were quickly remedied with reforms, but the financially weaker portion of the population was hit hard. “The government cut unemployment benefits and subsidies for health care, while giving tax breaks to the affluent,” explains Etzold.

            “That led to a growing social divide between rich and poor,” said Almut Möller, from the German Council on Foreign Relations (DGAP), in an interview with DW.

            1. Deadl E Cheese

              In my experience, it’s the least oppressed who are also the most selfish. Ask anybody who works for tips.

              Polls also show that categorically oppressed groups range from indifferent to hostile to people who don’t intersect with their oppression. Shall I pull out polling on white LGBT racism or nonwhite homophobia?

              I’m not saying that privileged people are more empathetic than oppressed people. I claim the exact opposite — despite my paranthetical, I’m not THAT cynical. Nonetheless, I do claim that, ultimately, oppressed people remain but tribal, myopic, selfish toads when judged objectively, even if less so than the privileged people. Like all primates, including the precious Bonobos, when you get down to it. Nothing to do with their oppression, everything to do with being a human.

              Blame biology or God.

              And the Swedes, they’ve totes got it all figured out. If only we were more like them…oh wait

              Yes, social organization can only get so far in taming the tribalistic impulses of human beings. Even social organization that created more material equality than any post-bronze age society in human history.

              Thanks for this incredibly jejune and unhelpful insight.

              1. diptherio

                I do claim that, ultimately, oppressed people remain but tribal, myopic, selfish toads when judged objectively, even if less so than the privileged people

                You, I imagine, are that objective judge. Pray tell, how did you come by your objective perspective? How were you able to extract yourself from your individual perspective and point-of-view in order to gain this objectivity? Also, does it bum you out to know that you are a tribal, myopic, selfish toad (when judged objectively)? That seems a rather one-sided and un-nuanced view to me, but I can’t claim to be objective…

                Thanks for this incredibly jejune and unhelpful insight.

                You are very welcome.

                1. Deadl E Cheese

                  Pray tell, how did you come by your objective perspective?

                  1.) Milgram’s Experiment. This empirically proved that how when inserted into certain systems, individual humans have their morality overridden by authoritarianism. This effect is so strong that I suspect biology rather than social organization to be the culprit.
                  2.) Dunbar’s Number. This number quantifies human selfishness quite nicely.
                  3.) Steve Pinker’s ‘Better Angels of Our Nature’. This book shows that violence, bigotry, and selfishness has been a part of humanity and even primatekind as a whole. Even the pre-agricultural societies that humanists fetishize were much more violent than we dare admit.
                  4.) Systemantics. It’s a cheeky book and it has some analytical problems, but there are two big, BIG threads to this book:
                  4A.) Systems do not scale linearly. A system that works on a small scale will fail in an undetermined fashion when upscaled.
                  4B.) Systems designed to harness weaknesses in human nature work much better than systems designed to harness excellence

                  1. Yves Smith

                    Looks like you have a large case of confirmation bias.

                    1. Milgram’s experiment did not prove what he claimed it proves. See here for details:


                    In particular:

                    In recent years, though, much of the attention has focused less on supporting or discrediting Milgram’s statistics, and more on rethinking his conclusions. With a paper published earlier this month in the British Journal of Social Psychology, Matthew Hollander, a sociology Ph.D. candidate at the University of Wisconsin, is among the most recent to question Milgram’s notion of obedience. After analyzing the conversation patterns from audio recordings of 117 study participants, Hollander found that Milgram’s original classification of his subjects—either obedient or disobedient—failed to capture the true dynamics of the situation. Rather, he argued, people in both categories tried several different forms of protest—those who successfully ended the experiment early were simply better at resisting than the ones that continued shocking.

                    “Research subjects may say things like ‘I can’t do this anymore’ or ‘I’m not going to do this anymore,’” he said, even those who went all the way to 450 volts. “I understand those practices to be a way of trying to stop the experiment in a relatively aggressive, direct, and explicit way.”

                    2. Pinker’s book is hardly definitive. See here for some debunkings. Taleb in particular thinks his statistical work is crap:





                    1. vlade

                      Yves, on the first point I disagree. As somoene who actually lived under totalitarian regime and my parents and grandparents spending most of their lives under varieties of thereof, I can tell you that people saying and people doing are two much diffent things.

                      Thus “trying to stop the experiment in a relatively aggressive, direct, and explicit way” by just talking while they did have freedom to act – and freedom to act w/o any reprisals unlike under totalitarian regimes, is just bollocks.

                      People will say things like these – depending on whether there can be reprisals or not, they will do so in public or private, but very very few people will act on it.

                      So yes, some subjects might have been “reluctantly obedient”, but the point is they still were obedient – and I’ll stress again, when there was zero _real_ consequences for them downing the tools and walking out. Now imagine if there were real consequences – for them, or their families. And the consequences don’t have to be “you’ll be shot” – all it takes is “You’ll never hold a job in this country again, nor will any of your family to the third generation. Oh, and not having a job is a criminal offence”.

            2. fajensen

              According to Swedish logic, society is organized from the top, by the people who knows best. Therefore, everything is organized in the beast possible way.

              Part of that organization is that the nutty and crazy people stays in the ghetto, which were designed for people like them. So, if the immigrants shoot each other to make Rinkeby feel more like the place they claim they ran away from, that is OK because The Plan is that no decent folks get capped on their evening walk and no decent people live in the Ghetto, of course, because The Plan.

              After the Swedish caught neoliberalism hard, it has simply become evil and wrong to question things like whether everything is indeed organized in the best possible way or to question the competences or allegiances of the planners and experts – and it is really, really rude to discuss outcomes. Especially if Donald Trump does it or someone from Sweden does it in front of Donald Trump.

              The reason is that for a neoliberal, the state is simply a business and should run as one.

              If one questions any corner of the state then one damages The Brand, which has a Market Value (price, actually, they always conflate value with price here cause thats what muppets do and muppets are the audience) and Market Values are the only thing important to the pure neoliberal and must rise at all costs.

              I kinda expect that the neoliberal “solution” to all those teenagers shooting each other up will be to somehow set up a market for the organs and “create value” from it.

        3. tongorad

          Even people who claim to be all about “solidarity” will quickly lose their passion for it as soon as it seems that engaging in it might effect their lifestyle or consumption patterns.

          They will make a donation to a homeless shelter — they will not open their home to a homeless family.

          If we view politics as the art of the possible, how do we reach out to people who aren’t Christ-like figures who open their homes to strangers and give up half of their wages to fund schools in 3rd-world countries?

          If we look at earlier labor solidarity movements in the US, there is an appeal to bettering the material conditions of the working class – job security and safety, higher wages, more leisure time, etc, combined with anti-capitalist ideas such as firing the bosses and owning the factories. These things are a direct appeal to people’s self interest, political agency and a better life -via solidarity.

          Many on the Left seem to have lost a sense of history and given up on the idea of demanding better material conditions for workers and transferring power to those who create all value in our society. This is why the Left is dead, imo.

          1. diptherio

            The idea that one need be “Christ-like” to allow someone who needs a place to stay a place to stay is, imho, part of the problem here. It isn’t a super-human act of charity, it’s just human.

            My point is that, as Soren Kierkegaard put it, we have become blinded by an unnatural world-historical consciousness, that does not allow us to see that which is right before our eyes. We don’t do what we might do because it seems so little, so meaningless…so we focus our energies on abstractions, rather than on what we can do practically, now, to improve the world, or someone’s life (spoiler alert: your life will also be improved by focusing on improving the lives of others).

            Of course, we should support and push for things like a Job Guarantee, but in the meantime, and if that doesn’t work, what else are we going to do? What can we do that doesn’t involve convincing politicians to go along with our ideas? We have more resources and more power than we realize. When we focus our energy on fighting the empire, or trying to gain control of it, we get discouraged because we so rarely win. If we focused our energy on doing things that we actually control, we might accomplish something useful.

            That was a big part of why I agreed to the whole school in Nepal thing. Yes, it was a small project that benefited a relatively small number of people, but unlike the political projects I had formerly been involved in, this one didn’t require me to get any politicians on board to make it happen…not that there weren’t plenty of other problems, mind you. But that was a lot of the draw: here’s something you can just do. I’d really like to see more talk along those lines: “what can I do, without anybody else’s permission, that will make the world better for at least one person?” If everybody asked themselves that, and then carried it out…well, things would likely be a lot more interesting.

            1. Deadl E Cheese

              The idea that one need be “Christ-like” to allow someone who needs a place to stay a place to stay is, imho, part of the problem here. It isn’t a super-human act of charity, it’s just human.

              Sorry to cut into your pathos, but within the context of human sociology as a whole, rather than upscaling individual acts of virtue, meaningful material sacrifice is a super-human act of charity.

              Do you think you’re breaking some new ground here? This advocation of mass material sacrifice for the less fortunate has been the underpinning of Christianity and thus the majority of Western civilization for millenia. You might want to ask yourself why this attitude never even came close to taking root outside of fitful, scattered instances of literal super-human charity.

              Me? I claim that humans are selfish, myopic, and tribal. But (at least in the context of economic materialism) rather than bewail our fate or try to deny it, I advocate systems that make mass sacrifice painless as possible. Rather than just uselessly nag people into being better humans and condescendingly lie to their faces about how giving a fourth of their home to a homeless person is ‘not super-human’.

              Of course, we should support and push for things like a Job Guarantee, but in the meantime, and if that doesn’t work, what else are we going to do?

              Keep pushing for it, because while a Job Guarantee might not work, we know that mass sustained mutual aid won’t work. Whining about the incompleteness of the Einsteinian physics model is no excuse for returning to the Aristotlean physical model.

              Westerners have had centuries of this being the default model of human-to-human aid and you don’t have anything to show for it. Get a new model.

              1. Norb

                How does global capitalism work as a viable model? What makes sense to me is that throughout human history, a war has been raging between creditors and debtors. How one defines debt determines the society. The more impersonal, abstract, and removed from actual human relations a debt can be defined, the more room is allowed for exploitation and abuse. Violence can be perpetrated at will.

                The creditor class, the rentiers, are always struggling to make their toll booths as unobtrusive as possible in order to keep their game going. Their game is to live off a free lunch. It is better than owning slaves in that it removes from them entirely the requirement of human relations or responsibility.

                I think diptherio is advocating that people make common cause with each other, taking care of each other directly. I for one agree wholeheartedly. This takes unlearning the social relations constantly conditioned by the existing order and freely giving of oneself. In the end, I think this is inevitable. As the current capitalist system requires less and less of actual humans, people will be forced to form new relations with each other.

                The plan of the creditors is to make these relations as combative as possible. Stoke the fear factor. They are finished if people don’t succumb to the fear mongering.

                In the words of FDR- The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself. No wonder he was hated by the creditors.

                1. Deadl E Cheese

                  I think diptherio is advocating that people make common cause with each other, taking care of each other directly. I for one agree wholeheartedly.

                  Short of societal intervention, humans are only kind at the scale of dozens of people. There’s a reason why this sort of sappy utopianism only happens even in fiction in worlds where all material needs are taken care of (i.e. Star Trek) or society has been reduced to a handful of humans.

                  As the current capitalist system requires less and less of actual humans, people will be forced to form new relations with each other.

                  And I claim that as the current capitalist system destroys the thin threads holding post-agricultural human society together, we will revert back to our old means: selfish, myopic, and above all tribal. Which might work okay (for a given value of okay) for a small tribal national of a few thousand people, but will spell disaster when upsized to the scale of billions or even tens of millions. Expect our paymasters to channel this aggression into increased political atomization and war.

                  1. Norb

                    Taking care of one another is sappy utopianism? Do you believe in human progress at all? I could be wrong, but when the current system starts falling apart, If we are not destroyed by some nuclear insanity, the trend will be to insist on cooperation as a means of survival, not some mad max survival of the fittest slugfest.

                    Multiple tribes attempting to coexist on this planet doesn’t seem very difficult to me. Wars are smaller, fought by mercenaries and drones. Do you really see armed conflict happening in the millions of participants? What fear could motivate such action? Our paymasters are trying to insight more war and destruction, but what if people refuse to fight?

                    Capitalism has created a system of abundance not scarcity. A basic living standard for all is within reach and technically feasible but the failure of the human imagination to grasp that possibility is crime of our age.

                    It takes great effort and resources to keep people in the dark as to the possibilities.

                    1. PhilM

                      The idea that there could be human progress died, for the millionth time, in 1945, when the camps were discovered. Since then, it has died another million times around the world. It is a bellwether idea of post-modernism that human progress is impossible, and maybe even meaningless.

                      Every age has had its notion of human progress. Every nation goes west, goes east, goes to sea, goes to space, goes to the New World, welcomes immigrants, expels immigrants, takes away money from people, lets people accumulate money, and they are always wrong. Some get it wronger than others, but it’s always horrific in retrospect.

                      There is nothing new under the Sun. Ecclesiastes for the win.

              2. Yves Smith

                That is utter horseshit. Charitable gifts as as % of income are highest among the poor, who can’t afford to give at all.

                Economics trains people to be selfish and economic-style selfishness has been institutionalized in the US. The papers and TV are full of it.

                I was in Oz (Sydney, Potts Point to be precise) in a local community meeting about where to put a needle exchange center. Oz has a very high homeownership rate so you can be sure that pretty much everyone their owned their property.

                Many people there argued that the logical place was to locate nearby, because there was a sex district with drug dealing nearby (Kings Cross, very contained and very well policed; I’d go there in the middle of the night and not be at all worried), and there were high priced properties literally one block away from the venues, which included a “suckatorium”).

                The measure, to locate it in the district, barely failed. In the US, it never would have even been considered.

                The bigger point is how much charitable activity there is is very much a function of social norms. In Australia, until not long ago, being a “tall poppy” (rich, a snob, an elitist) was very much frowned upon. In Japan, entrepreneurs are revered for creating employment, not making money. In the post-crisis years, Japanese executives and middle managers took pay cuts, leading to great compression between the wages of new hires and senior employees, to preserve employment, an outcome you would claim could never happen and yet did on a widespread basis. And what about the potlatch? Or people making the ultimate sacrifice, risking life and limb for people outside their families, even strangers?

                1. fajensen

                  Economics trains people to be selfish and economic-style selfishness has been institutionalized in the US. The papers and TV are full of it.

                  Not only economists, there is an ongoing and coordinated effort to dissolve civil society into opposed fragments along tribal lines. In the nordic countries mass immigration was, is, used to achieve this goal.

                  We don’t identify with strangers easily, so it is easier to cut social services and working conditions for all, once it is framed by politicians and media to affect only migrants. The “welfare mum”-narrative work pretty fine here too, only she is not black but muslim.

                  The old “East India Company Population Management Handbook”:

                  – When faced with uniform tribes that may give one trouble with safely extracting all of their resources, import another tribe with values and behavior that will supposedly piss everyone off.

                  – Make sure that the situation will never stabilize by making the worst, most unreasonable, nutters representatives of the majorities on all sides.

                  Now, there is hope in the sense that many people are now seeing this agenda and a resistance is forming up, hence the drive to discredit and remove “alternative” media where, overall, the reasonable people meet up.

                  It would be bad for business and politics if many people figure out that they have goals in common with “muslims” and that the incumbents can indeed be kicked out.

                  The main reason why they hate Donald Trump, IMO, is that people are beginning to think: “Hey, If that orange and crazy guy can do it, then maybe, I might have a shot at replacing that useless rat-fucker who is currently “our” prime minister”. “Or at least give him a good scar.”

                  1. fajensen

                    A Swedish article, in on of the “real” media, with some perspective on what it is like to live in Husby, a “vulnerable area” the Swedish officially non-stigmatisiag words for Ghetto, where the police never has time and everyone are basically abandoned.

                    It is ironic, and must be worrying for The Planners, that both the nationalists and the immigrants agree on kicking migrant career criminals out. They could form up an opposition!


                    Google Translate should get the gist of it.

            2. tongorad

              But that was a lot of the draw: here’s something you can just do. I’d really like to see more talk along those lines: “what can I do, without anybody else’s permission, that will make the world better for at least one person?” If everybody asked themselves that, and then carried it out…well, things would likely be a lot more interesting.

              Such 1000-points-of-light approaches have their limits, yes? Our problems are political and must be solved by politics – we can’t rely on charity.

              1. diptherio

                I don’t say we should abandon politics entirely. I haven’t, quite. And I’m not advocating charity either, although I know that’s probably what it sounds like. I’m advocating solidarity, which binds people together, whereas charity divides into the givers and the receivers. It wasn’t an act of charity when I loaned my sister $300 to cover her rent that one time, or when my buddy let me crash on his couch while I looked for a job. Those were acts of solidarity — acts of people looking out for each other because they feel that they are bound to one another in a powerful and mysterious way — not acts of charity, which are generally performed to make the giver feel good about themselves.

                Do I suggest that people with spare rooms go pick up a random homeless person off the street and move them into their house? No. I do recommend maybe getting to actually know some people who could really use a cheap/free place to live and offering it up to someone who you actually like…that is, assuming you don’t already know people who fit that description which, if you start really looking into it, you’ll likely find out that you do.

                If we, on the left, whether affluent or low/no-income, approached each other more like members of an extended family rather than as haves and have-nots, I do believe we could accomplish a lot more for ourselves than we ever will by trying to take over the system of government created by slave-owners and attempting to make it do the opposite of what it was designed to do (i.e. reign in the power of the elites, rather than deliver power to them). Just my musings, mind you. I’ll probably disagree with myself tomorrow :-)

                1. Norb

                  I think Eugene V. Debs had it right, “While there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.” All else is excuse making. If the human race survives, the level of inequality and injustice present today will be viewed with a sense of wonderment.

                  We are talking about human evolution. If violence is the final arbiter, there will be a LOT less humans on the planet, if at all. And those that survive will have a strong sense of cooperation built into their social system. Working together enables survival.

                  I have to agree with you that the small things are needed more than ever. The current system is over when violence is rejected. It just keeps going because such a small group of people can leverage their impact over the majority, then justify that leverage as somehow being the essence of human nature.

                  They are wrong. Violence and fear is all they have. Faced with the cruelty of the world, sane people seek peace. They must be driven to violence.

                  1. PhilM

                    Beautiful, and utterly naive. As long as there is a spectrum of human personalities that includes the narcissist and the sociopath, violence and its management will be built in to every social structure.

                    Except witters’s book club, I have to add, pre-emptively.

                    1. Norb

                      I am not advocating a world without violence, which is impossible. What is twisted beyond all reasonable measure is the monopoly of violence used by the elite to control the masses. Liberals are hopefully lost in the idea of Gandhi followers getting their heads split open as a means of social change. That hasen’t proved to be too long lasting and who wants to be first in line to test the resolve of the sociopaths currently in change. Just as liberals focus too much on getting arrested as a political statement. It is more a wasted effort.

                      Any social organization needs to concern itself with defense and how to go about doing it. The left has failed in that it did not build on controlling the means of production or forming actual physical communities, something that could be defended, and is worth defending. Ideas and ideology must manifest in physical form.

                      The other aspect of violence is what your economy is actually based on. Currently, violence is the only thing that keeps the current system going. Planned obsolescence is a form of violence. MIIC is the ultimate violence perpetuation machine. Even the current Russia hysteria is based on discrediting any competing social order. Unrelenting creditor power to inflict debt bondage is violence.

                      Strong defensive strategies are needed. Build a community and then defend it. The working class is being abandoned, as a class, they need to realize it is delusion to expect the creditors are looking out for their well being. We are not there yet. We being those of us who need to work for our daily bread.

          2. fajensen

            , how do we reach out to people who aren’t Christ-like figures who open their homes to strangers and give up half of their wages to fund schools in 3rd-world countries?

            Egotism and self interest works also for good if it is clear that consequences / outcomes will affect everyone.

            Does anyone truly want to save, say 20%, in tax and then live in a place where we have to pay for armed security for the children’s school run or where we might get tuberculosis and god only know what else from going to the mall? Does anyone really like to see a beggar on every shop entrance?

            No? We don’t?

            Well, then there has to be some minimum standards on how much Failure one will accept on every level of society, even for the losers and the laggards there must be other options than breaking and entering or taking black market antibiotics.

    2. Deadl E Cheese

      There are two big problems with electoralism, the path prescribed by the liberal elite, as an alternative to popular assemblies:

      1.) The Democratic Party is way in the hole. 2018 is a really rough map that makes winning the Senate all but impossible. Democrats can kick ass up and down the street in that election and still be unable to stop Trump’s agenda. And that’s if they play their cards right. If the Democratic Party does something stupid in 2018 or 2020, like, oh, putting all of their eggs in the Russia and Dangerous Donald baskets and nominating Booker or Cuomo, they’ll further flounder. And then probably go, because they’re liberals, “Our strategy was fine, we were simply unlucky, that’s all! Just wait until the next election!”

      2.) More importantly, the Democratic Party does not represent the public at large. There are plenty of ways we can validate this conclusion: the fact that the GOP vote turnout has remained steady while the Democratic Party’s has been tanking, the party’s deliberate strategy of building from coastal urban enclaves, the fact that shows that the party takes positions (especially on war) well to the right of the base, the fact that the median age of its leadership has since 1996 or so been steadily diverging from the median age of its base, DNC malfeasance shown in the WikiLeaks and the Perez nomination, etc.

      Number 2 is what makes an electoralism-focused strategy really pointless in the short and probably long term. The Democratic Party is hoping that they can use Trump to chase enough scared voters into the booth to fund their MSNBC junkets and Big Pharma sinecures while just doing the bare minimum to distinguish themselves from Republicans.

      But if that’s what happens (and it looks like that without a popular uprising, it’s inevitable, because liberal Democrats are corrupt as fuck) then all that happens is that we’re doing this dance all over again in 2-6 years.

      1. Barni

        The USA has operationally perverted both Liberal and Democracy!
        Liberal democracy was the bringing together of two mutually exclusive ideas.
        Economic liberalism – that enriches the few and impoverishes the many.
        Democracy – that requires the support of the majority.
        Trying to bring two mutually exclusive ideas together just doesn’t work.
        The USA isn’t now and never was a democracy. It is and was from the beginning a kleptocracy with a lot of voting but in which big money always wins. O.K. a loss here and there but when push comes to shove big money always wins and “democracy” defined as the will of the majority always looses.
        Like Bob Dylan said: “Money doesn’t talk, it swears!!!”
        Not only is the American political system not a democracy. It is a republic which by definition is run by elites, think ancient Greece where only elites voted. It is where there is almost total big money and corporate political control of political outcomes, constant wars and military campaigns aided and abetted by elitist corporate medias, Where political power is completely fractured with almost constant elections dominated by big money. I cannot see re-jigging the elitist controlled “Republic” in such a way as to produce democracy. A straight up parliamentary system with one election every 4-5 years is far superior in delivering democratic results and benefits to the vast majority instead of an elitist, fascist corrupt system of government. In the early 1930’s Hitler was the Time/Life “Man of the Year”, American corporations supplied weapons, chemicals and other war materials to Germany principally from South African factories or subsidiary corporations, IBM supplied the computer power which allowed the German fascists to carry out their program of eliminating the Jews, etc.. Wall Street loved the Nazis! In America it is the middle class and workers who are in the poverty cross hairs facilitated by a corruption prone faux democracy in which only financial elites and their minions can prosper and obtain “the good life”. Mussolini created fascism and he defined it as the partnership of corporations and government in such a way that corporations control democratic governments. That is America! A two party system in which corporations and financial elites own both political parties.

    3. Dirk77

      Yes. But that said, I gather the emphasis right now is on building community. The fact that some of the causes are diametrically opposed to each other, or just distracting, will hopefully be worked out later. Hopefully. For example, being for ordinary workers but yet being for immigration. But whether these people can throw off their decades of identity politics indoctrination is an open question. It has been very disturbing lately to listen to the talk of my supposedly liberal friends.

      1. tongorad

        For example, being for ordinary workers but yet being for immigration.

        Why should workers necessarily be pro-immigration? Is immigration an unqualified, hands-down, no-questions-asked social/economic good?

  3. upstater

    Resistance without underlying principles is better defined as futility. Occupy, having economic justice as an amorphous guiding principle took off quickly but soon fell apart. The current “resistance” “movement” seems like a DNC concoction that places nothing of value for the 99% at its center.

    Where is a 21st century Eugene Debs or Lenin when you need him?

    1. Barni

      These “organizations” are funded by virulent anti democrat George Soros, led and organized by Huma Abedin a Muslim woman who was married to disgraced politician Anthony Weiner and was Mrs Clinton’s professional and personal assistant. Positions she must have had her eldest brother’s permission to hold. No Muslim woman could possibly have done this without a male family member’s permission. Her father has said (from Michigan University television).that – “Arab states must police the upholding of Sharia, or Islamic law, and explained why the majority of Muslims view Israel and the Western world in primarily ‘hostile’ terms”.
      Creating social problems in America and disrupting harmonious social conditions could very well be strategies to create conditions under which Sharia would become primary fundamental law in America.
      Saudi Wahabbism is the most extreme Islamic movement whose objective is to convert by force if necessary the world to Islam and Sharia law – by any means including force and violence. Those who resist conversion to radical Islam face beatings, rapes, confiscation of money, property and beheading.

      1. fajensen

        Saudi Wahabbism is the most extreme Islamic movement whose objective is to convert by force if necessary the world to Islam and Sharia law

        …. While being armed and protected by the US of A. With such allies, how can we ever lose?

    1. Norb

      Thanks for the link. Do you think the coop model has a chance to move forward in a big way? It seems business owners today use the language of solidarity and shared responsibility as a controlling method to trap workers into maintaining the current system. The true adversarial nature between owners and workers is masked by cynically exploiting, I believe, the universal human need for belonging and the innate desire to function meaningfully in a group. Risk and reward are not shared equitably, but just enough is done to perpetuate the arrangement.

      Yves made the point some time back that not all individuals are cut out for entrepreneurship, and this is the tripping point. Most individuals are suited only for following- by being lead. It seems a critical mass needs to be reached where capable people create enough organizations to sustain a different culture.

      The problem is cultural. It seems that a more cooperative means of production must be established or the future will be very bleak. The dilemma is where capable people direct their energies. The vast majority of energy is misdirected- or is leading down a dead end.

      1. diptherio

        I do think co-ops have a future. Depends on what you mean by “big way,” though. One of the reasons I’m so into them , both figuratively and literally, is that they address the problem that Yves has pointed out. In a co-op, not everyone needs to be an entrepreneur, just like not everyone needs to be a bookkeeper or an electrician. One of the real beauties of this way of working is that everyone gets to benefit from the skill-set of each. Also, there are some good technical-assistance providers out there specifically for co-ops.

        You are right that the language gets abused, both by corporate management and even by people within the movement itself. There seems to be a lot of people in non-profit land who have picked up on worker co-ops as a great system…for lining their own pockets by claiming to be “experts,” despite having essentially no actual experience…but I digress.

        One thing I think is immensely helpful is the use of decision-making processes designed to be empowering and non-hierarchical. No, not consensus. Sociocracy is the method I’ve become a big fan of lately. It bares much resemblance to Native American ways of deliberation and nips in the bud a lot of the problems of inadvertant sexism, classism, etc. that tend to pop-up and ruin many a lefty organizing attempt.

        Right now I’m working with 7 other people, all of us low-income and only one of us with any financial resources to speak of. What we can do together quite well: make decisions, successfully navigate emotional topics and disagreements, create a product that sells out immediately and a service that people want to hire us for. What we’re not so good at: figuring out which business structure, or combination of structures, is the best for us. Thankfully, there are the above mentioned TA providers.

        1. John Rose

          The book “Dark Money” describes the dark network of the Koch’s that now dominates Washington. They had twelve hundred paid operatives in hundreds of locations that they mobilized to take over the tea party movement and now they are implementing their plans.
          I realize those operatives do the same job as the TA’s you mention, providing organizational technical assistance. That is where the most bang for progressive bucks can come from as well.

  4. BeliTsari

    The Resistance will feed us working class, minority, young (and OLD) newly designated alt left (formerly known as Democrats… the party’s OVER) to Trump’s Oathkeeper Sturmabteilung hordes. They will need somebody to blame Trump’s failures upon. The Terrorist in Chief’s going to foment race war, class war and culture war. They have: the military, media, “law enforcement” and about 60 million heavily armed, wet-brained brainwashed churls.

    1. tongorad

      The Resistance will feed us working class, minority, young (and OLD) newly designated alt left (formerly known as Democrats… the party’s OVER) to Trump’s Oathkeeper Sturmabteilung hordes.

      One sees this a lot recently – the comparison of Trump to Hilter/Nazi Germany. Who exactly are you trying to reach with these statements? Who do you imagine is persuaded by this message?
      This kind of stuff is profoundly shallow, unserious, and ultimately dangerous. I’m not a Trump supporter, but it seems obtuse to try not to understand the conditions that lead for him to be elected. Hint: it’s not that everyone voted for/follows him is a Nazi monster.

      1. Deadl E Cheese

        Well, here’s the thing. The United States has already crossed both now and in the past many of the event horizons that has signified ‘okay, we’re totes fascists now’. The model for modern fascism is Malaysia and Singapore, but how do you get people aware of the danger when the United States already contemptuously outclasses those countries in, say, incarceration rate and the racial wealth gap?

        If the comparison to Nazi Germany seems hyperbolic, keep in mind that you have few other evocative alternatives because there are few other models to compare the US to in potential evil.

        1. BeliTsari

          I think some of the concern (if not the offhanded straw man, above) is a matter of perspective. Some of us work daily with >75% Trump supporters, they are friends, coworkers & longtime colleagues. I’m keenly aware of the disparate views, backgrounds and resistance to agitprop of those voting against one candidate rather than for another. I’d personally cite Falangist, not Nazi or Fascist ideals. But, the neo-Confederate theocratic kleptocracy brags and exhorts stochastic terrorism that Klansmen, cattleman’s posses, militias & company thugs used here before Mussolini, Franco or Hitler were born. Believe me, I’ve never wanted to be wrong more. But they’re buying arms, FLIR scopes, flash suppressors & silencers more than in 2008-2009 and I’m taking Summer off.

          1. BeliTsari

            When Shrub bombed Iraq, I was living with a German who’s mom had been in Bund Deutscher Mädel. I’ve had the great good luck to have learned from African American mates, from rural Georgia and urban Philly, dated & worked for Muslim ethnic-minority women from Inner Mongolia and am a white trash Goyim, living in the UWS: Yep, kimo sabe… I’m plenty shook! https://theintercept.com/2017/03/04/trump-wants-nsa-program-reauthorized-but-wont-tell-congress-how-many-americans-it-spies-on/

        2. tongorad

          I think we’ve got our own history of empire and oppression – we don’t need to look at Nazi germany.
          Such comparisons just smack of self-congratulation and fake gravitas- as if the speaker has finally found the fight of his/her life. The defeat of the evil Nazi Trump and the restoration of the Democratic Party, hooray!
          No thanks. The liberals have proven to be the more effective evil.

          1. Deadl E Cheese

            Really? I think it’s the other way around. People who make that argument (and they have been making it for a loooong time) generally claim that Trump isn’t really a big deal in historical context, that defeating the evil Nazi Trump and restoring the liberal-conservative consensus will barely budge the United States from the moral abyss it’s wallowing it.

            1. Barni

              The Nazi Party – it was a party not an ideology – followed the fascist doctrine. Mussolini, who created fascism, defined it as the partnership of corporations, bankers and government in such a way that the corporate owners (they own the MSM which has been involved in inventing the idea of ‘evil Trump’ and logistically and financially supporting every group of disgruntled citizens whose beef could be targeted on Trump who is not perfect but IS the Wall Street sworn enemy . These MSM/elites created and financially supported ‘protest groups’ with millions of dollars from billionaire fascists like Soros and Koch .
              This is fascism. It sounds like the USA is experiencing social deja vue back to the corrupt 1920’s and 1930’s where fascists used MSM, bankers, and Wall Street to defraud and dispossess the middle class and workers. Trump is the enemy of Wall Street bankers .
              This crew hates Trump because he aims to pry their death grip off of American middle class and workers. The corporate Wall Street fascists fight back by funding and organizing the groups that can organize rowdy groups of individuals that can be promoted and displayed in the MSM on a daily basis to arouse irrational enmity and hatred against their enemy – President Trump.
              Corporations and Wall Street oligarchs are elevating and promoting any person or group that can be used as a club against the biggest threat to their continued political/financial hegemony – Donald Trump.

        3. PhilM

          You have to go back and read something about the Nazis before you carry on this discussion. It is profoundly insulting to everyone and everything from 1918 to 1945 to compare what is happening now in America to what happened then in Europe. It is just nonsense. Sorry, Cheese, but you have to let this one go. The US is just an empire now, no better and no worse than any other: Roman, Mongol, Chinese, British. It’s a good, functional form of government, and it’s what we have, and it is a far cry from the Reich under Hitler, a very, very, very far cry.

          1. Deadl E Cheese

            It is profoundly insulting to everyone and everything from 1918 to 1945 to compare what is happening now in America to what happened then in Europe.

            Don’t get me wrong. We know this line is fruitless, because a bunch of diaper babies get upset at objective evidence that their pwecious country is in the leaderboard of empire atrocity. So we have to soothe their egos with lies and polemics about how we’re not really that bad and that we need to look forward and blah de blah. The backlash from touching the raw nerve of America arrogance isn’t worth anything even approaching honesty, context, or historical comparison.

            But as anyone who does the ‘America is really bad, but is it Nazi Germany bad?’ is already aware, more apposite comparisons (the British Empire; Malaysia; pre-fascist, post-industrial Japan) get yawned off. If you bring up that United States imprisons way more of its people and relatively impoverishes racial underclasses more than actual modern fascist states then you’ll get a blank stare if you’re lucky. So you either have to go big with (only slightly) hyperbolic comparisons or you don’t even bring the subject up.

            1. PhilM

              Yeah well, let’s do facts then: in 1942, the Third Reich had about 180,000 people imprisoned for “normal crimes”; murder, rape, fraud, etc; as well as a few attitude-crimes committed by racially qualified Germans who did not qualify for the concentration camps. (That’s a number I’m taking off the top of my head, where it sits for exactly this use.) In 1942, at the height of the war. That was in a population of about 70 million, or call it 1:350. The US has about 2.2 million in fed/state/local lockups, or 1:145 (that’s a number I had to look up, because I only know the 2 million off the top of my head).

              So we have per capita about 2.5 times as many people in jail. That’s bad, very bad. Very bad.

              And then, by comparison, there’s the fact that from May 1942, to November 1943, Nazi Germany, a nation of 70 millions, gassed and shot 2 million Jews and other “undesirables”; mostly Jews, that year. Not as an act of war, but just as a part of demographic policy.

              Legally, they did this; the government made it a legal (if secret) policy. At the same time, Hitler and Himmler and Heydrich had already agreed that “probably 30 million” Slavs would die in the colonization of the new “Garden of Eden” in Belorus and beyond. And after Heydrich’s assassination in Bohemia, they figured the Czechs could “go East” too, at least when they did not need them in the weapons factories anymore.

              So tell me again how it’s an “only slightly” hyperbolic comparison, our empire to the Third Reich? You are bat**** crazy if you think there’s any comparison between our “war crimes” of the last twenty years, however bad, and anything like what was done by the Third Reich–or for that matter, just by the several hundred men of the Einsatzgruppen. Sure, we kill a lot of people, and a lot of them die simply from accident and stupidity. That’s what empires do. But it is a completely different thing, what happens from Realpolitik, and what happened from Rassenpolitik. There’s not a racist alive today in politics, despite the KKK or anything like it, who holds a candle to the real racists who ran the world only eighty years ago (on all sides, mind you); the great-grandfathers and grandfathers and fathers of everyone in power right now. Calling Trump a racist is a disservice to the word.

              Sometimes, Cheese, I think you get it right. But here, you are out of your depth. So you now have permission to back the off of Nazi Germany comparisons, whatever good you might think they do rhetorically, or you can get happily demoted back to the ranks of the marketers who abuse our understanding of the human experience for fun and profit.

              1. John Rose

                Your comparison of prisoner numbers does not take into account the number of African-Americans in prison and the clear evidence of the institutional racism that put them there. That is a parallel to the Nazi death camps.
                So reconfiguring the numbers of blacks in prison to be in proportion to blacks in the population and then comparing that with the 1942 figure from Germany might make a more valid comparison.
                And, we don’t put them in death camps so the US hasn’t matched the Nazi’s yet.

      2. vlade

        Here’s a fact. In 1933, when Nazis got over 17m votes, there was less than 1mil Nazis (defined as card carrying members).

        17m votes was about 39% of registered voters. That’s more than either Trump or Hilary got as a percentage of registered voters, since only about 55% of them voted in the last US elections (in other words, Trump has mandate of barely a quarter of registered voters in the US).

        So the point in comparing to Nazi Germany isn’t saying that Trump voters are Nazis. To me, the real point is comparing why people voted for Hitler and why people voted for Trump – and the reason is pretty much the same. They felt (and in the US case were, the German case is more arguable as you’d have to go all the way back to peace of Versailles) screwed up – by the elites, by the world etc., and found a strong man who was telling them he’s not one of those screwing them up and will make their lot better. We know how it ended in Germany (although you could argue that the purgatory of WW2 made Germany better in the long run).

        I believe Yves raised it on this blog as early as late 00’s that the situation, if unresolved, can lead to radicalization of the political spectrum. And guess what, it did. In the US, in the UK, in Europe..

        The system we have now is not a democracy (and Athenians would have laughed at us we told them we do), but sort of electable oligocracy, where we can select our oligarchs. But most recently the oligarchs most interested in politics tended to have at least some semblance of feelings of duty, honor etc. The most recent crop (a generation or two) are interested only in money, since money is now the only measure of social worth – otherwise someone like Kardashians would have been laughed out.

        Until our societies figure out how to assign social worth in a better way, no matter of tinkering with electoral system will make much difference (well, unless we’d introduce in so much randomness that the amounts of money that would have to be spent on subverting it both directly and indirectly would become prohibitive).

        1. PhilM

          Fine. You have me, I just have to admit it. We really are just like the Weimar Republic. In so many ways!

          Our way of life, national pride, and hereditary monarchy have just been utterly destroyed by our enemies, who rebuilt the boundaries of our homeland on an overtly racial and nationalist basis. Check.

          Our political institutions are staffed by people who had served the Reich for their entire lives, and hate the new political structure imposed on them by people who were their hereditary foes for 1000 years. Check.

          During the election, the nation was a boyhood away, just fifteen years away, from seeing 7 million men–fifty percent of our army of 13 million men (on a total population of about 70 million)–killed or maimed in the trenches. The survivors, utterly brutalized, were fully prepared to go back for more, if they could only get revenge somehow. Our veteran soldiers were writing odes to the Storm of Steel, the heroism of combat, and our youth was panting to enlist to share their suffering. Check.

          The war, our first as a united empire, was lost, we were being told, not because we were beaten fair and square, but because we were stabbed in the back, due to an internal revolution by people calling themselves Communists, but whom we knew were probably Jews; and the government surrendered the month they were telling us we would shortly win the war. Check.

          We were being compelled by occupying forces to pay huge reparations that drained our economy of its entire productive resources year after year. Check.

          Our economic elite had recently decided to destroy the currency, and with it the entire savings and wealth of the middle class in two years . Check.

          Our understanding of trade unions was that they helped to win the war for our enemies and kill our surviving war heroes in brawls in the streets. Check.

          The Russians, the other enemy of 1000 years, whom we thought we had finally beaten in the war, came roaring back on our eastern marches with a fully militarized and totalitarian society completely opposed to us and our way of life. Check.

          During the elections, the streets were filled, as they had been for ten years, with violent clashes between armed paramilitary militias funded by industrialists on the one hand, and Communists funded by the Soviet Union on the other. Oh, and the man who had commanded our country during its collapse (Hindenburg) was now President again, for some reason; as if George Bush had somehow been called back to run the country during the 2016 election. Check.

          Yeah, our voters had all the same reasons for voting for Trump that the Germans had voting for the Nazis. It was just the same!

          The mind boggles that people casually make these comparisons. It just boggles.

          1. vlade


            Please indicate where did I say that Trump or his voters are Nazis, or that Trump would behave like Hitler did in 1930s.

            The only comparison I made was that both Nazi and US voters felt screwed and thus radicalised – massively. You’ve pointed a number of reasons why Germans felt (rightly or wrongly) screwed.

            If you disagree that a large parts of US population feel screwed, I’m sure I won’t be the only one to like to see why. If you do believe they are screwed, but are not radicalising yet, again, I’d also like to know why.

            I lost family to Nazis, and to extent am lucky to be here as one grandfather survived a concentration camp while the other escaped a squad sent to execute him by minutes. So I don’t do comparisons to Nazis casually.

            1. PhilM

              Contextual argument is not straw-manning. It is the key to historical understanding; so your comment, in failing to show understanding of that, actually compounds your error. You have personal experience, which we can all respect, because we all share, somewhere in our backgrounds, if we go far enough, a similar experience. But that does not mean you have a sophisticated understanding of historical argumentation.

              he only comparison I made was that both Nazi and US voters felt screwed and thus radicalised – massively.

              “Massively.” That’s one area of difference. We have evidently have very different definitions of what it means to be “massively” radicalized. That’s why the context matters — massively. Everyone feels screwed, in every election, and looks for someone to save them: that’s what the Obama-as-Che-Guevara meme was about. Does that make the people who voted for him somehow like Nazi voters? No, of course not, because the context is not Weimar Germany, not even close. “Massive” “radicalization” must means something, and casting a vote in two scheduled constitutional elections, a primary and a general, does not fit that definition, whatever it may end up being.

              Hey, if people feel “massively” radicalized now, living as citizens with benefits in a global hegemon in a state of civil order, a stable economy, running a couple of “manageable wars,” in what would be considered a paradise by almost any modern-world or world-historical definition, then they have a shock coming when things actually do get bad. And if they can take a serious look at Germany between 1918 and 1933, they can see what misfortune really looks like, and possibly how to avoid it, but probably not.

              I’m not saying all is fine and dandy in the US. There is always room for improvement. But the comparisons to the Nazis are just denials of what was a truly horrific reality for them in order to exaggerate what simply is not that bad a reality for us as a society. If you want to compare to Mussolini, and Italian fascism, OK, I’ll go there; Berlusconi, OK; even the French Revolution. But the Nazis, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, these are special cases, and the comparison to our situation does not help understanding; it hurts.

              A contrast, such as what I wrote above, would be more useful, in fact, and in many ways reassuring, and is anything but straw-manning. That is, unless the motivation is simply to stir the pot rhetorically.

              Most people, and this is probably not you, vlade, but it may be, use the Nazis as a touchstone simply because they don’t know any other history. An unfortunate corollary of that ignorance is that they don’t know the history of the Nazis either. Their consequent misuse of historical examples makes a foolishness of their arguments to someone who actually knows things.

  5. Gaylord

    Did the Obama Administration not engage in mass deportations of illegal immigrants, did it not cause mass exodus from MENA countries by its militarism and covert actions, did it not continue the drug war and exacerbate brutal policing by granting military equipment to local agencies, did it not help to perpetrate the financial crime of disgorging wealth from the middle class, and did it not promote destructive energy extraction policies? Where was the organized resistance to those heinous crimes, and why has it suddenly become more urgent? I am suspicious of the motivation here and whether this hysteria is being stoked by powerful interests, even though the Russian bogeyman may not be propped up. The corporate capitalist juggernaut will continue its onslaught aided by both parties and the mass media, regardless of any “resistance,” no matter how well organized, until it collapses. We the masses are powerless to stop it.

    1. Deadl E Cheese

      It’s super-clear at this point that having Trump and La Pen et al break the neoliberal haze was in no way supposed to be Plan A or even Plan B. Obama, followed by Clinton or Kasich or Rubio or Jeb was the plan A. Even if the final destination of the herrenvolk authoritarians is ultimately the same place as the liberals and conservatives want to take us, the actual conductor of this crazy train in fact matters a great deal.

      As Chapo Trap House put it, Obama is the Terminator with its disguise intact, Trump is the same android (the “gleaming skull of capital”) after its flesh has been melted off. An elderly, bullying, anti-intellectual reactionary is just going to have a harder time implementing a permanent racialized police state than a middle-aged, hip, well-spoken, performatively empathetic, upper-middle class black liberal. If you really want to look for a reason why Trump’s deportations and police militarization and warhawkery and financial class gladhanding are getting more scrutiny than Obama’s, I’d blame that rather than assuming that this hysteria is being stoked.

  6. justanotherprogressive

    I keep hoping these populist assemblies will focus on economics instead of social issues but I am always disappointed. If we don’t fix the economic issues, those social issues are detractions. We cannot solve our social issues without fixing the economic issues first.

    Currently the Right and the Democrat “Liberals” have control of that economic conversation. And as long as they keep control, nothing for the rest of us will change. Common Dreams had a great article on how Sweden and Norway took away the power from the 1% – and they didn’t do it wearing pink pussy hats.

    We have many many documentaries on science where complex issues are broken down into simple and entertaining terms. You want to know about black holes? Or Pluto? Or Mars? Or the origins of man? Or the mathematics of gambling? There are many entertaining videos on the subject. Perhaps someone needs to do the same for economics. The current economic documentaries are either written by the neoliberals or they are too esoteric to be interesting for most people (on purpose, no doubt). When people understand that economics is something they CAN understand, perhaps they will also understand that economics is something they can DO something about also.

      1. justanotherprogressive

        Thanks for that link. But it is only one site – we need more and more readily available, like on TV? (Yea, I know we all pride ourselves by how little we watch TV but the facts say different, don’t they? TV is still a major “educator” in this country…..)

  7. Disturbed Voter

    Populism will form a third party unless coopted, as was Occupy, Tea Party and now Resistance. Populism must be coopted by the authorities, and castrated.

    1. Norb

      Populism has always been a double edged sword. It is value neutral- possessing the potential for good and evil. Whatever happens must be directed against the current dominant worldview which is based on greed, exploitation, and violence. This is why sustainability is such a powerful motivator. It models nature and functions as a polar opposite to the existing culture. Protection of life and sustainability must be the focus of opposition movements. Those principles cannot be coopted. You either live by them or not. As resources and the planet are compromised in their regenerative capacities, the fakers and liars will be unmasked.

      Speech and ideas can be coopted, actions cannot. This is also why the elite ultimately resort to violence. When people are committed to action, only death puts an end to opposition. How to deal with the threat of violence has always been the turning point of history. Being able to act effectively before it is too late.

      The reign of the corporate state is the real enemy of the people. A populism that does not recognize that fact is by definition coopted at the start.

      1. Deadl E Cheese


        This overstates the extent to which the Tea Party was a genuine grassroots movement (it was largely astroturfed from the beginning), but it’s the endgame that matters here. As it always does, capitalism turned the movement into a resource to be exploited by the bourgeoisie. All of the usual market forces were at work here: “lawyers and consultants…saw a chance to get rich”, dozens of PACs began competing for activist donations, and by 2014 they were extracting $43m in a single election cycle. Today, the movement’s enthusiasm has been almost completely tapped out: as Politico notes, “just 17 percent of Americans [now] support” it.

        What I find fascinating is how neatly this trend fits into standard Marxist crisis theory – and the implications that directly follow. Once we view political activism itself as a set of resources (mainly labor and donor capital) that can be exploited, it follows directly that capitalism will, with increasingly ruthless efficiency, incorporate popular resistance into its profit model. As long as political resistance emerges in forms that can be commodified, capitalist exploitation will outpace the efficacy of revolution. Victories for the left will always be fleeting at best, and ever subject to co-option and rollback.


        It’s difficult to guess how this contradiction will express itself historically, but I would like to propose a guess. Capitalism survives largely because people still feel like it allows them some degree of control – there is still, even among the left, a sense that we might be able to work through liberal-democratic channels to resist it and regulate it. But inevitably, it will become clear that even our liberal activism is just another racket that gets exploited for the profit and power of the bourgeoisie. It is when people begin to truly feel their powerlessness within liberalism, when they feel that their political agency has been absolutely commodified, that capitalism will run out of exploitable activism. What will take its place is the one kind of activism that capitalism can by definition not exploit: resistance to capitalism itself.

        Note that this was written in August of last year, well before the rise of the #Resistance.

  8. JTMcPhee

    Lambert: Tanden as “resistor?” Unintended pun? A “resistor” being an electrical circuit component that impedes the flow of energy and turns it into random heat?

  9. DakotabornKansan

    Saturday, I attended an Indivisible KC, a non-partisan group which promotes citizen engagement with elected officials, training session whose purpose was to highlight the power of peaceful organizing and demonstrations.

    A lawyer spoke about the protection of unpopular speech, peaceful assembly, and the right to petition government with grievances. She explained the differences between what speech is and what it is not; public and non-public forums; lawful and unlawful assembly; reasonable restrictions in public areas; compelling state and local interests in safety and order and advance notice for police presence; importance of knowing local laws and regulations regarding protest; importance on working with the police; what to do if arrested during a protest.

    Various guest speakers illustrated and explained:

    • How to commit to justice in a way that goes beyond politicians and a single vote
    • How to come together in solidarity to advocate on issues among diverse groups to strengthen the voice of all
    • How to apply pressure to members of the US Congress and state representatives
    • How to stay on top of state level legislation
    • How to provide written and oral testimony for state legislative committee hearings

    Proximity is power. Get involved. Educate yourself. Target state and national legislators. Know who your representatives are and what committees they are on. Make them know who you are. Explain your issues/struggles via phone, email, letter, or in person. By whatever means necessary, track them down. Advocate for your particular cause. Ask questions. Stay in touch. Focus on things you can change. Think long term. Become a learned advocate for justice.

    Vote. Register the young to vote. So few people vote. Only one in five eligible voters voted for Brownback in the last election in Kansas. Yet he won! Why? Low voter turnout. Among Kansas voters 18 to 35, the largest segment of the state’s population, only 14 percent voted, the lowest turnout in the nation amongst that age group. Kansas leads the nation in voter suppression. Why? Kobach’s intensive disenfranchisement organization. An estimated 30,000-40,000 were prevented from voting.

    While there has been a ray of recent brief sunshine in Kansas, with more moderate newly elected Republicans overriding Brownback’s veto of the tax revision bill (160 citizens presented testimony in favor of this bill; only four, all lobbyists, opposed it) and voting for Medicaid expansion, the state of Missouri is becoming more reactionary led by increasingly unhinged leaders. Democrats are now irrelevant after many moderate Democrats lost in the last election.

    The take away message was “Don’t feel powerless!”

    I did not attend a Spirit of America rally celebrating Trump and his administration, which was also held nearby at the same time Saturday.

    Michael Sandel’s lecture “Why Trump? What Now?” Understanding these grievances and creating a politics that can respond to them is the most pressing political challenge of our time.


    1. PhilM

      I hate to be the one to break it to you, but you might as well be telling people to get on the treadmill and talk to the wall for all the good your advice on political involvement will do. Your legislators at the state and national level do not care about your opinion; they are as helpless to make any meaningful change as a anyone else is, much less to respond to something one of their 700,000 “constituents” wants done to “reform the system.”

      They tell you “don’t feel powerless” because they want your attention and your money, the same reason Facebook tells you to “Like” something. It makes about as much difference, too. No, you really are powerless.

        1. PhilM

          That’s an impressive story. I particularly like the parts where it describes how they handled their immigration problems, the huge accumulation of national debt, the puritanical war on drugs that had divided the nations into the “law-abiding” and the “scofflaws,” the history of race slavery and the consequent dramatic divisions along racial lines (especially in Sweden!), and the way both Norway and Sweden coped in managing their global empires while redesigning their domestic civic institutions.

          Ha, ha ha. The comparison has a few, shall we say, “confounding factors.”

          Look, what they did was great, and it was very much what happened in the US under Roosevelt and in World War Two, when tax rates were simply confiscatory over certain income levels, and there could still be a “national purpose.” But those places and times have very little to do with what is happening to the United States now. For better comparisons you might have to go back to the 1780s in France. The US actually looks more like that ancien-regime corporately-organized structure than it does like a “republic”; and much the same dynamics will probably be needed to change things here as occurred there, and that is not something any of us who love our families and our friends should look forward to.

          But let’s keep on trying; it is something to do in all of our spare time. I’m just not get too wrapped around the axle when we fail, as we are bound to; and personally I am going to try to do as little harm as possible trying to “help.”

  10. tony

    Dance puppets dance only for few dollars, dance idiots dance for your peril and our gain, we shall dance to four our gains. The american oligarchy pseudo democracy and its party now have showed its face a real circus.

  11. RBHoughton

    These popular assemblies could be the sharp point of a new American Revolution, this time not against a dictatorial King but a dictatorial Congress.

    We seem to have difficulty maintaining a balance between greedy moneymen who squirrel it all away and society who provide them with the goodies to fill their burrows.

    Its not just the blacks and Hispanics who comprise half the population that want a fair deal; the American dream of entrenching the US vision of society on the world has faltered and looks likely to collapse.

    We could do something about that if we stopped to think about where we want to be in future. But that’s unlikely eh? We’d rather just carry on regardless and blame someone else when its too late.

    For those who recognize the trend of events, befriend your local policemen and the youth in the national guard. That too are part of society and don’t deserve to be thrown under the irresistible force of the juggernaut of mass discontent.

  12. John Rose

    The beginning of this long but enlightening thread had references to solidarity. That is a word we need to revive now that people have forgotten about unions and the demonization they have suffered and therefore the connection that this word has with unions.
    Solidarity is a wonderful experience in family and other small groups. It is much harder to achieve the bigger the group. But it is still the inspiration of many people, in the military, in education, even in many businesses.
    If we start using that word and pointing out how it is already being expressed, we are in position to apply it to any proposal brought forward. “How does this enhance solidarity?” is a question that should never be absent, or silenced. Efforts to silence or distract from it can be called out as anti-democratic and shameful.

  13. artichoke

    It sounds like these people are gathering together like-minded individuals to seek greater knowledge and work together for common good and to help the less fortunate.

    That used to be called “a church”. I am glad these people have rediscovered church and community. And most churches tend to lean a bit left. But they generally seem to believe big government is not the answer to their problems — working together is. They’d hate me for sure if I called them conservatives!

    It could also help if Trump is able to rev up the economy to the point that more of them can get decent jobs. So don’t “resist” too much the guy who is trying to help you.

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