Thursday, August 30, 2018

Howie Hawkins: Give Me Real Socialism - But What Does it Look Like in Reality?

NYS Green Party candidate Howie Hawkins lays out a great case against capitalism and for socialism with a good explanation of the differences between hard-core socialists and Bernie Sanders, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and other social democrats who the hard left tosses into the same bin as liberals, a dirty word on the hard left, which brands the FDR New Deal as reformist liberalism. Their explanation is that under the current political system, even hard-won gains in the New Deal can be undermined, as we've seen happening even under neo-liberal Dems like Clinton. On the other hand, the socialist paradise as an alternative does not look like it's around the corner. Is a return to New Deal politics a more realistic option?

How to democratize the economy and end the power capitalism exerts over our lives.

funny thing happened on the way to the 2018 election. Socialism broke out!

Or at least a number of Democratic candidates have declared themselves to be socialists. 
On June 26, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez beat the Democratic machine incumbent, Joe Crowley, in a Queens-Bronx Democratic primary for Congress. She won with the support of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and embraced the socialist label. Within days, the Working Families Party-endorsed Democrats for Governor and Lt. Governor, Cynthia Nixon and Jumaane Williams, were saying we, too, are socialists now. Lots of people and mainstream media were asking, what is this democratic socialism?
As someone who came up in the McCarthy and Cold War eras — when the word socialism stopped rather than started conversations — it is a welcome sight to see socialism coming back into mainstream public discourse.
The significant support for Bernie Sanders’ presidential run in 2016 as a democratic socialist got the conversation started. The ranks of socialist groups have swelled in Sanders’ wake, with DSA, in particular, growing from about 5,000 to approximately 47,000 members since Sanders launched his campaign in 2015. DSA elected 15 of its members to local offices nationwide in 2017, eight Democrats and seven independents. In 2018 to date, seven women supported by DSA have won Democratic primaries for Congress and state legislatures in Omaha, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and New York City. 
However, something is notably missing in these candidates’ descriptions of socialism. They are leaving out the distinguishing tenet of the traditional socialist program — the definition of socialism you will find in the dictionary — a democratic economic system based on social ownership of the major means of production. 
It is a good thing that Sanders and other progressives have put socialism back into mainstream political discourse, but what these new socialist Democrats really advocate is New Deal liberalism. They promote redistributive social programs that partially mitigate the inequalities the capitalist economy generates. 
For socialists, social ownership is the basis for economic democracy in both the public and private sectors. Government-owned corporations can be autocratic. They are often set up as “lemon socialism” to cover unprofitable markets or subsidize private profits for privately-owned corporations with below-cost inputs. A cooperative in the private sector is a form of social ownership. Sanders’ “democratic socialism” is indistinguishable from traditional American liberalism. Like liberals, he conflates social ownership with state ownership. Like conservatives, he conflates liberal social programs with socialism.
Liberals contend that their fiscal, monetary and regulatory policies will support better than conservative policies the economic growth and profits that can then be taxed to support social programs. Socialists demand much more. They want to end the dictatorship capitalists exercise over economic resources, workers and work itself. They want to enjoy the full fruits of their labor instead of having owners take a share of the value every worker creates every day at work. With lots of workers and few owners, this wage labor system generates capitalisms’ extreme inequality. Socialists want equitable distribution in the first place, at the point of production, not merely partial redistribution after the fact through social programs.

In an age of environmental crisis and an unfolding climate catastrophe, socialists want to uproot capitalism’s competitive structure because it is driving the blind, relentless growth that is poisoning the environment and depleting natural resources. Socialists want a system of economic democracy and planning to meet the basic economic needs of all on an ecologically sustainable basis.
Socialists also criticize the naive politics of liberalism. Capitalism generates concentrated wealth, which translates into concentrated political power. Liberal social programs are not secure as long as capitalists have the economic and political power. The rollback of New Deal programs in the United States and welfare state programs in Western Europe demonstrate this political reality.
Capitalists buying politicians through campaign contributions is the obvious way they exercise power over the political process. But even if we get full public campaign financing enacted, capitalists’ control over economic resources gives them the power to repeal liberal programs. Capital can strike, too. It can temporarily tank the economy, blame the liberals and force them out of office. 
The new socialist Democrats and traditional socialists who want to democratize the economy through social ownership are united behind immediate demands for social programs like single-payer health care and a job guarantee. But these programs are not secure, if they are even achievable in the first place, so long as capitalism prevails and concentrates economic and political power in the hands of the capitalist elite.
What the approach of entering the Democratic Party has meant historically is socialists have ended up doing the grunt work in campaigns to elect liberals, who, in the absence of an independent left political competitor, have moved steadily to the right since the early 1970s. Now, with candidates and politicians who are liberals calling themselves socialists, the very idea of socialism as a new social system could get lost even more.
If socialism is to advance as a radical alternative to capitalism, socialists will need their own distinct party, program, and identity outside and opposed to the two-capitalist-party system. 
At the beginning of this year, the state committee of the Green Party of New York decided we would campaign as ecological socialists. In previous campaigns, we have put forward socialistic reforms to address problems like the climate crisis, stagnant wages, the bipartisan test-punish-and-privatize school agenda and skyrocketing rent and medical expenses. Now we are campaigning explicitly as socialists, in part, because socialism has become a conversation starter, thanks to the electoral successes of Sanders, Ocasio and others. 
We are promoting public enterprise in several areas: 

  • A public energy system in order to effectively plan the transition to 100 percent clean energy.
  • Public broadband to universalize access, improve affordability and customer service and ensure net neutrality and privacy. 
  • A public bank to lower the costs of credit for public infrastructure, private businesses and consumers and to target investments to meet public needs.
We call for the public bank to have a division devoted to planning, financing and technically assisting the development of worker cooperatives, as the financial institutions at the center of the successful Mondragon cooperatives in Spain have done.
We also call for a state-owned Social Wealth Fund that over time will progressively transform private wealth into public wealth, in which every New Yorker would own an equal share. This Social Wealth Fund would buy into the securities of private corporations and share the returns across the population as citizens dividends and lower taxes on the earned income of wages. 
Our slogan is “Demand more!” 
Yet we should not overestimate how far openness to a discussion of socialism has spread. It is still largely confined to the progressive base that found its broadest expression in the 13.2 million votes Sanders received in 2016. Its strongest expression is among millennials, over half of whom view socialism favorably. Even if most of these people view New Deal liberalism as socialism, having a debate on socialism is half the battle. I don’t think capitalism’s defenders can win that debate.

Teacher Revoilt Spreads to Cities - Seattle teachers and staff vote to authorize a strike — unless a deal is reached by Sept. 5 | The Seattle Times

In addition to the UTLA probably going on strike this fall ..... so this year may be the year of urban teacher revolts -- except here in the UFT.

Seattle teachers and staff vote to authorize a strike — unless a deal is reached by Sept. 5 | The Seattle Times

This year's hectic negotiation season comes at the hands of a major shift in the state's model of paying for public education.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Cuomo's Truth in Debate: Even public unions don't want the right to strike

Wonderful honesty by our governor -- first time I've heard this said other than by critics of the UFT leadership. And despite looking pretty bad at times Nixon did a good job in defending the right to strike with this point -- if the unions don't have public support the strike will fail.

In this light I also want to point to another voice that is for the right to strike: Libertarian Mike Antonucci, who is critical of teacher unions. His answer is not 2 for 1 penalties but to not have make-up days. His assumption being that not getting paid will cause people to cave. Interesting given labor history. I wonder how long people would accept having kids out of school? But then again, how long would the public support a teacher strike if it lasts a long time.

Is There Any Such Thing as an Illegal Teacher Strike? - Teachers from seven school districts in Washington State are on strike, with Seattle on the brink. The news isn’t entirely grim, since Spokane did reach a ... 

School Scope: Shsat Testocracy, More on Socialism, Trump complaints on press - Norm in The WAVE

For Aug. 31, 2018 edition.

School Scope: Shsat Testocracy, More on Socialism, Trump complaints on press
By Norm Scott

There were so many issues to cover this week and I took so long deciding on what to write about I ran out of time. I wanted to continue the series examining the center-left and some of the misunderstandings, especially since after a half century of the sharks circling to bite off your head at the mention of the word it has been safe to go back into the water and talk about socialism. Before I point you to a few articles in the NY Times, let me say that those who equate liberalism and socialism because they are viewed as “left” are absolutely wrong in their assumptions. As they are in equating social democracy and socialists who are Marxists and Leninists and Trotskyists. I don’t have the space here so if interested check out a wiki near you.

The NYT August 26th Sunday Review had this front page item: “The New Socialists: The argument against capitalism isn’t that it makes us poor. It’s that it makes us unfree.” What an interesting twist, arguing that socialism offers more freedom than capitalism. This is about the workers not the bosses, who have a lot of freedom. In our vaunted democracy, exactly how much freedom to employees have? The only protections for workers are unions and they are being pushed into extinction. One of the interesting ideas on the table is to put worker reps on corporate boards – that corporations don’t owe allegiance only to shareholders and the executives at the top. Check it out at:

Shsat is not a dirty word, though the NY Times shat on it
So, what is the Shsat? It is the test used for generations to get into the elite schools here in NYC.
De Blasio has been trying to kill the test as the sole means of admission to these schools. There are a lot of nuances to this story, including the Asian community, which gains a lion share of the positions despite being a relatively low percentage of the population, has strongly objected. Black and Hispanic children have gotten less and less seats as the Asian community has expanded. I would expect the NYT to support the tests but they have been taking a closer look. Read: James B. Stewart’s Should These Tests Get a Failing Grade?

We have mail
Dr. Harold Paez sent a letter to The WAVE on its editorial regarding the Trump criticism of the press and objected strongly. I have always objected to the way the mainstream press covers many issues, especially education which is something I know about. So, yes, there are legitimate reasons to be critical of the press. But Paez’ cries over how poorly Trump is treated made me laugh out loud. And we all could use a good laugh, so thank you doc and keep ‘em coming.

Norm never cries over how Trump is treated at

Monday, August 27, 2018

School Scope: The NY Times Tackles Socialism – Oy! - Norm in The Wave

Published Friday August 24, 2018 -

School Scope: The NY Times Tackles Socialism – Oy!
By Norm Scott

When I read articles or talk to people not attuned to “the left” or “progressivism” I find those who are not on the right are being lumped into the same category of leftist – I even see the NY Times as being branded as “left.” The major media has been mocked as being anti-left by the hard core left since I first came in contact with active leftists in the early 70s. A guy who had become my good friend, after only knowing him for a few months, told me he was a communist and his parents were too – he was what is known as a red diaper baby. I was astounded – I was a classic liberal at the time. Since Stalin, liberals have generally been opposed to communism and socialism because nations who called themselves such had histories of denials of individual rights and suppression of critics. Liberals are savaged by many on the left.

The NY Times has had a recent spate of columns and articles on the Bernie Sanders brand of socialism, known as social democracy. Paul Krugman, far from being a radical leftist, had disparaged Bernie Sanders throughout the 2016 election and beyond. His August 17, 2018 column (Something Not Rotten in Denmark was a reversal of sorts where he examined the state of Denmark, a paragon of social democracy, which had been lumped in on FOX News to Venezuela. Calling that fake news would be a kindness. Krugman gave Denmark a very favorable report. Here’s a small portion:

American politics has been dominated by a crusade against big government; Denmark has embraced an expansive government role, with public spending more than half of G.D.P. American politicians fear talk about redistribution of income from the rich to the less well-off; Denmark engages in such redistribution on a scale unimaginable here. American policy has been increasingly hostile to organized labor, and unions have virtually disappeared from the private sector; two-thirds of Danish workers are unionized.

Apparently the election of Alexandria Ocasio Cortez has galvanized attention for social democrats. I guess Bernie was looked as an old lefty grouch, but when a pretty 28-year old says she is a socialist, the media goes nuts. Chris Cuomo was no less aggressive than his brother in questioning her on CNN and her intelligent response on the costs of health care shut him up. See the video:

Social Democrats are viewed by segments of the radical left as being to the right because they support liberal democracy and multi-party systems and elements of capitalism. Last week I touched on some of the differences between Marxists, Leninists and others with the SDs and I’ve been reading historical works going back to the last half of the 19th century and up to the 1917 Russian Revolution on the differences.

Understanding historical context on almost every issue on the table today is crucial to gaining a deeper understanding. When history and context are ignored or swept under the rug, we are dealing with versions of tainted news. We may disagree on interpretation, but let’s at least have all the facts  - as long as we can agree when a fact is in fact a fact, which in today’s world of “truth not being truth” may be a hard case to prove.

Read Norm’s version of The Truth at

Friday, August 24, 2018

Impeach Trump Over Porn Star Payment While War Criminals Look Like Heros? It's Not Trump Stupid, It's the Politics

Liberals have lost their minds over Trump and, unable to deal honestly or realistically with the politics he represents, are happy to valorize and get in bed with the professional liars in the intelligence agencies... Michael Fiorillo
It’s weird to live in a society in which launching an illegal $2 trillion war based on lies that kills 100s of thousands of people is seen as totally fine & not even an impediment to a high-profile pundit career, but possibly paying $100K hush money to a porn star is impeachable.... David Sirota on Twitter
My wife and I had just seen the Yiddish language version of Fidler... yesterday afternoon at the Jewish Memorial Museum. Lots of food for thought on immigrants, pogroms, authoritarian rule, etc. And later at dinner we talked about the excitement at the possible impeachment of Trump or end to his rule. We both said "Pence, hell no!" He would be more likely to win in 2020 than Trump would. Our best bet is to prop Trump up for as long as we can so we can bring back the Democratic crooks.

Does Trump make Bush and people like John Brennan and drone king and deporter in chief Obama look good? Hell no. Was Hillary and Bill crooks? Hell yes. Underlying some of Trump's lies and attacks are kernels of truth.

Michael Fiorillo posted the Sirota tweet and comments:
Grifters and war criminals of the McResistance... They may bring down Trump, but Trumpismo will remain, and emerge more dangerous in the future, with someone more competent and disciplined...

Liberals have lost their minds over Trump and, unable to deal honestly or realistically with the politics he represents, are happy to valorize and get in bed with the professional liars in the intelligence agencies...

This will not end well...
  Also from Michael: The lesson we refuse to learn about Republican voters --

Thursday, August 23, 2018

Update on Chicago Teachers Union, LA's UTLA Authorize Strike

Past contract negotiations have been about wages and benefits, but the union under Lewis and Sharkey also has emphasized broader issues. Their caucus, called CORE, believes the teachers union should lead in the battle against the privatization of public education.... WBEZ News, Chicago 
I am going to be doing a batch of blogs on the various social justice teacher groups around the nation, not as a fan boy as so many on the left seem to be, but with an eye towards analysis. The three biggest cities - NYC, Chicago and LA all have versions of social justice groups, with the latter in control of the union while MORE in NYC has made little progress and in fact I would say it has gone backwards since its founding in 2012 as an outcome of the victory of CORE in Chicago in 2010. I found this comment interesting:
Lewis and her leadership team became a force by taking on broader social justice issues affecting students, schools, and their members. Since their election in 2010, they have fought for strong, equitable public schools, peaceful neighborhoods, and affordable housing. The CTU’s current leadership says these battles are still of the utmost importance, but they also plan to focus squarely on bread and butter union issues. 
One of the charges in Chicago has been that the leadership was too focused on SJ and not enough on bread and butter, leading to the formation of a caucus called Members First, which will challenge CORE in the upcoming elections. We have had the same discussion in MORE here in NYC which caused so much rancor, it led to people leaving or being pushed out. (More on the MORE divides in upcoming posts.)

I will post updates on Chicago and LA teacher unions. They are of particular interest in that the leaderships of both are social justice oriented. The CTU has been run by the CORE caucus since the 2010 election, an event that inspired teacher groups around the nation to organize local caucuses. MORE in NYC is one such example. With Karen Lewis, a black woman, about to retire, VP Jesse Sharkey, a white male, is expected to take over. In the world of identity politics so dominant on the left/SJ world, this can get sticky. Thus there is some battling going on over who will be the VP and identity politics is playing a role from what I hear. The 2012 strike by the CTU was a sort of shot heard around the world in education activist circles.

In LA, I'm not clear whether there is one controlling caucus or a coalition of progressives. But Alex Caputo-Pearl, also a white male, is a strong and progressive leader and will almost definitely lead them into a strike -- as I write this Diane Ravitch just reported the strike vote was in:
Diane Ravitch's blog: Los Angeles: Teachers Authorize Strike - This just in: ** MEDIA ADVISORY ** FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
First up today is a story about the CTU from WBEZ News with what seems like a fairly honest assessment of where things are with the CTU where there will be an election taking place this spring at the same time there will be one here in NYC. Note this:
Emphasizing wages and benefits, as well as firing up members around contract negotiations, could be a strategic move for a union coming under pressure from all sides. 

Internal and external struggles 

At the moment, there’s an internal struggle in the union about how and when to replace Lewis. Also, Lewis and Sharkey’s leadership team, which faced so little opposition three years ago they didn’t hold an election, looks like it will face a challenge this spring when their term expires. 
The story delves into the finances of the CTU - from one of the CORE founders George Schmidt, who has been on the outs with the CORE and CTU leaders over his reporting, we have heard some questions over expenditures but I don't have the full story at this point.



Uncertain Future For Chicago Teachers Union

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

The Prague Spring and Socialism - Could it Have Lasted?

Could Soviet-style communism be reconciled with the dignity and freedom of the individual? In 1968, the question was put to the test when the leader of Czechoslovakia’s Communist Party, Alexander Dubcek, initiated a project of liberalization that he said would offer “socialism with a human face.” What followed was a rebirth of political and cultural freedom long denied by party leaders loyal to Moscow. The free press flourished, artists and writers spoke their minds, and Mr. Dubcek stunned Moscow by proclaiming that he wanted to create “a free, modern and profoundly humane society.”
A season when hope and optimism were in bloom, it became known as the Prague Spring. But nearly as soon as the movement came to life, it was crushed under the treads of Soviet T-54 tanks.
---50 Years After Prague Spring, Lessons on Freedom (and a Broken Spirit)

Here's another interesting take on socialism in the NY Times that fits my recent theme of: Can socialism with a liberal face actually work? Given the realities of the times, there is no way the Soviets could have allowed it -- we saw 20 years later how quickly the virus spread and tore down the iron curtain in no time.

The article speculates about the liberalization in Czechoslovakia in the spring and summer of 1968 - before the Soviet tanks came. Could Dubcek have ushered in a different version of socialism? Hard to say as long as there was a one party system - the Communist Party. I don't remember if there was even talk of open elections --- I doubt it -- but would have to do more research.

I was a history major and was still going for my masters at Brooklyn College in history at that time and had done some serious work in studying eastern Europe Soviet domination as an undergrad in 1966 under  in my a senior thesis under the guidance of Bela Kiraly, Hungarian revolution fighter against the Soviets in 1956 who was my teacher.

I wrote about an encounter with Kiraly on our visit to Hungry in October 2006 (A Memorable Evening with General Bela Kiraly)
- a coincidence in that we were there a few days before the 50th celebration. He was in his mid-90s and died a few years later.

I certainly remember the hope for the Czech Spring in a year of so many major events. Remember the Democratic convention in Chicago and the election of Nixon a few months later?
......the Soviet-led invasion of Czechoslovakia killed the dreams of the reformers, broke the spirit of a nation and ushered in an era of oppression whose effects are still felt today. Moscow succeeded in restoring the supremacy of the state, but the ultimate cost of victory was high. Perhaps more than any other event during the Cold War, the invasion laid bare for the world to see the totalitarian nature of the Soviet regime.
As the article in the Times points out, hope for some half way liberalization in the Soviet block was dashed. I don't hold that things were totally better when the entire communist block fell -- that free reigning capitalism is better than a liberal and moderated socialist system. And I think current events are proving that unfettered capitalism is ultimately destructive --- actually just think of our former beloved chancellor Joel Klein's  comments about his creative destruction of our school system. How has free-market capitalism as applied to education worked out?

My mom was born in Belarus and came here in 1920 as a 15 year old and my dad's father was from Odessa - and my mom's older and only brother went off to join the Bolsheviks (and they never heard any more from him), so I do have some roots in Eastern Europe.

Sunday, August 19, 2018

Memo From the RTC: A Visit With Renee Taylor and View from Bridge Set Goes Up

RTC members join Renee Taylor after the show

Memo From the RTC: A Visit With Renee Taylor and View from Bridge Set Goes Up
By Norm Scott

Last Sunday, twenty members of the Rockaway Theatre Company family trekked to the theater district to see Renee Taylor’s one woman show, “My Life on a Diet” at the Theatre at St. Clement’s on West 46th St. The connection of the RTC to the 85 year old Renee Taylor, the actor and writer, was cemented when the RTC put on “Lovers and Other Strangers,” last May, the play she wrote with her late husband Joseph Bologna and she attended a performance. Co-director Peggy Page promised Renee she would get a crew of RTCers to come to her show and most of the cast from the RTC production, who had been so delighted when they saw her at their performance, attended. Peggy organized the entire day, even creating Renee Taylor fan club buttons we all wore.

I remembered Renee from when I was a kid staying up late and watching the Jack Paar show in the early 60s when she was a frequent, hilarious and often whacky guest. She was (is) a naturally funny person, not just a comedian, and I used to make sure to watch when she was on. But frankly, from that time until I met her at the RTC, I didn’t pay much attention to her, even when she played Fran Dresser’s mom on “The Nanny.” So I never expected to spend such a delightful hour and a half listening to her tell stories about her life and the amazing cast of characters she befriended (including Marilyn Monroe) over her almost 7 decades in show business. I can truly say this was one of the best experiences I’ve had and I urge readers to get tickets before Renee leaves town.
Peggy Page, John Gileece, Taylor, Susan Jasper

After the show, Taylor came back on stage to meet with the RTC crew and take photos and sign programs and gave us a generous portion of her time. Peggy invited her to join us for dinner just down the block. She said she would try to make it but after doing a performance, most of us figured she would beg off. Thus we headed off to Becco’s on 46th street not expecting to see her again, especially after we were put upstairs – a long flight of stairs. But low and behold, a half hour later she showed up (why didn’t you sit downstairs?) and delighted the people at her table. For all of us it was a memorable day and thanks Peggy for helping to make it possible.

Monday, the next day, I joined Tony Homsey’s RTC construction crew in working on the set for the upcoming Arthur Miller’s “View From the Bridge”, directed by Frank Caiati, which opens Sept. 21
and runs for three weekends. The previous Friday we commenced construction on the elaborate set which required us to build an entire state on top of our regular stage, but tilted, which complex ramps going this way and that. Oy! But by 3 PM on Friday, the basics of the set were up. Another Homsey-led miracle.

Get your tickets at:

Thursday, August 16, 2018

School Scope: Socialism and Confusion

I'm continuing my series of posts in The WAVE trying to sort out "the left" for myself - and maybe others who are as confused as I am. I have begun reading more deeply from current and historical sources to gain more clarity. And I am talking to people on the left. Some of my closest friends lie within the "socialist" spectrum. How can we not have doubts about the problems with capitalism when we see what is going on in this country and others as power and money accumulates in fewer hands? On the other hand, the prediction that as capitalism fails -- or succeeds too well until one person or syndicate owns everything -- it will be followed by a form of socialism which will be a better system for most - seems to be a fantasy especially as we've seen how easy it is for massive numbers of people to be manipulated through propaganda. There are too many examples to name going back to the dawn of civilization where we can see how a small  number of people always seem to gain power under any system. I bet they had many similar problems in the caves.

School Scope: Socialism and Confusion
By Norm Scott
Published in The WAVE, Friday, August 17, 2018

The UFT was founded by social democrats who were members of a party called Social Democrats USA (SDUSA). Albert Shanker and most of the early UFT leadership were members. They were virulent anti-communists who came out of the Trotskyite wing of socialism, which had been the main enemy of Stalinism. In the early 70s’ the almost 100 year old Socialist Party of America split into right and left factions and the UFT was a key player in the right wing faction.

There are so many brands of socialism, when I finish counting on both hands, I have to take my shoes off. When discussing politics with a right winger at a recent dinner, in the midst of disparaging the very idea of socialism, he said the idea of socialism and democracy were contradictory, so how can people call themselves Democratic Socialists? Even among Democrats and people who view themselves as “progressive”, there seems to be confusion about socialism. If you don’t follow the left, you wouldn’t be aware of the differences between Marxists, Marxist-Leninists, Trotskyists, Maoists, and too many more to name here.

Does being a socialist mean you favor Soviet communism, a system that lasted for 75 years and has been viewed as a failure? Consider the past 25 years of post-communist Russia under Putin. A bit more democracy, though basically a one party system under Putin’s control and if you speak too loud you get bumped off. A very nice deal for kleptocrat billionaires who were handed most of the entire state owned industry on the cheap. But most people in Russia would still vote for Putin over the old system - at this point. (Def. of kleptocracy - a form of corrupt government that allows the ruling class to accumulate great wealth and power while neglecting the mass of citizens – sound familiar?)

How about China? Not much democracy but with more than a touch of capitalism, though the state can dictate a lot. China was a massively devastated nation in 1949 when Mao’s revolution began. On the timeline of less than 70 years of history, the outcomes have been impressive, though with great human costs. There were liberalization, but the current leader has been wringing signs of democracy out of the system. Most people in China seem content with a deal that allows them to do well economically. But if that changes, watch out.

Moving on to democratic socialism - a multi-party system, more economic leeway, including various levels of capitalism, though highly regulated to avoid exploitation of the workers – and the consumer. There are often very high tax rates but people do get a lot more for their money, i.e. most of the Scandinavian nations which provide very generous social services. European nations have versions of social democratic parties, but outside Scandinavia they have been struggling of late.

Bernie Sanders identifies himself as a social democrat. Since Trump’s win, the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) has grown tenfold. DSA is a big tent socialist organization, founded in 1982 as a remnant of the old socialist party of Norman Thomas and founder Eugene Debs, who got 6% of the presidential vote in 2012. They are not a political party and do not run candidates under their party banner on separate lines like the Green Party, but back think-alike candidates running in Democratic Party primaries and in the general election. DSA received a lot of main stream press publicity after socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez won her recent primary. Our mayor has jumped on the socialist bandwagon, as has Cuomo primary opponent Cynthia Nixon. In last week’s primary a DSA endorsed Michigan Muslim woman won a primary, which may give DSA endorsees at least two seats in Congress plus other seats in local races.

The very idea has right wingers in a frenzy, a frenzy which even infects many Democrats who despise Bernie Sanders and blame him for Trump’s win. The so-called coming blue wave of victories by Democrats in the 2018 mid-term elections may just include a small wavelet of social democrats.

Norm promotes his own version of kleptocracy at

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

The Pragmatic Left: Critics of the Democratic Party Come in From the Cold, Greens Get the Cold Shoulder - Michelle Goldberg

Greens will sometimes justify these runs as movement-building tools, but they never seem to actually build a movement.... 
The new generation of left-wing activists, by contrast [to the Green Party], is good at self-multiplication. The Democratic Socialists of America [DSA] alone has done more to build left political power since the 2016 election than the Green Party did in the 18 years after Nader helped elect George W. Bush.
In truth, there’s nothing surprising about left-wing candidates losing their primaries. The happy surprise is how many are winning. Unsexy as it sounds, the real story of progressive politics right now is the steady accumulation of victories — some small, some major — thanks to a welcome and unaccustomed outbreak of left-wing pragmatism.
... Michelle Goldberg, The Pragmatic Left Is Winning, NYT, Aug. 9, 2018
I don't always read Michelle Goldberg. She worked for The American Prospect as columnist for The Daily Beast, Slate, and The New York Times. She is a former senior writer for The Nation magazine. Does she carry a grudge against the Greens because Hillary lost?

Her point about the Democratic Socialists of America in contrast to the Green Party, which has built little and wasted resources on national campaigns that could have been used to build grassroots is one I agree with. And I voted Green in a bunch of elections.

I see constant reminders on social media of the DSA's incredible level of activity on so many fronts - the venture into Democratic Party politics is only a sliver.

Goldberg brings some perspective to the move to the left within the Democratic Party and also from critics of the Dem Party on the left of the party that have worked for change outside the Party. Since Trump won many have come to the conclusion that changing the Dem Party is the only pragmatic way to effect change from below at the grass roots.

The left has been ineffective at working at the grass roots - my feeling is that many leftists are theorists and unable to talk to people outside their bubbles - nor do they really want to despite the essence of socialism is organizing the working class. Most leftists have eschewed the American political system as hopelessly corrupt and a waste of time. But given the alternatives, over the past year we have seen people begin to change their minds -- and I may be one of them.

Not unexpected, given Goldberg's politics and political connections to the progressive wing of the Dems, is her take-down of the Green Party, which has been competing with the Dems and all too often being the reason Republicans have won. See the recent race in Ohio where a Trump endorsee won by a sliver due to the Green Party vote of .05 per cent

Did Democrats lose Ohio election because of spoiler Green Party candidate who says his ancestors were aliens?

And here's more good news for Trump:

Joe Manchik has said he'll continue fighting for votes in the November elections
Manchik: "The people calling me a spoiler are just fools. They think I’m stealing votes from the Democratic Party. Well guess what? They’re stealing votes from me!"
While Greens refute charges that they put George Bush and Trump in power (they say most of their voters would not have voted for Dems anyway), the Greens have faced vilification from center and  from segments of the left that had also been critical of the Dems but have decided to get more involved to force them to the left. Contrast the Greens who compete with the Dem party and the Democratic Socialists, most of whom are critical of the Dem Party but are using the election structures to push it left and are embedding themselves in the roots.

Inside the DSA there is some criticism from segments of the Marxist-Leninist left that this venture is hopeless -- that what is needed is an independent third party.

The Pragmatic Left Is Winning
For once, Democrats are not in disarray.

Monday, August 13, 2018

School Scope: On The Importance of The Wave, Local News, Socialism, Capitalism and More

My column in The Wave this past Friday - August 10, 2018

School Scope: On The Importance of The Wave, Local News, Socialism, Capitalism and More
By Norm Scott

The gutting of the Daily News has raised the issue of the assault on print publications, exacerbated by the Trump tariff on Canadian paper (not an accident) which has raised costs and other assaults on weakening the press with constant attacks financially on their ability to cover news and also attacks on the integrity of the press. Now I too have always been skeptical of the way some of the press covers the news. I assume all coverage has some bias and try to read a balanced variety so I can make my own decisions. But if you watch Fox or read the right wing press it is clear we are living in different universes.

The Daily News story has been viewed as the coming end of local coverage. We are left with the Post which is Fix news and the Times which doesn’t devote major resources to local coverage. Recently we have also heard of smaller local papers under attack. In Maryland a guy with a grudge shot up a local paper’s newsroom, killing five people. In California we hear of a local paper that was bought by its former editor and his wife, both avid Trump and right wing supporters. Fears in that community are that they will be getting a barrage of biased coverage.

Even more local papers have been bought up by chains. Most people who can afford to own a newspaper are generally wealthier than the population in general and thus tend to be more conservative, so coverage of the left and liberal causes, despite the right wing’s branding of the press as biased left, does not get covered adequately.

Independent papers like The Wave are increasingly important to communities like Rockaway and I give them credit for heroically trying to cover the Rockaways as extensively as possible with very limited resources. And for being willing to give people like me the opportunity to offer alternative views from the left. Here’s hoping that our local independent newspaper can maintain its ability to offer us this service that is disappearing from so many places in this nation and around the world.

As I’ve been trying to point out, there are many brands of liberals, Democrats and socialists. Remember, the Democratic Party was the party of slavery and the Dixiecrats ruled the party even in the Franklin Roosevelt years, only going Republican when Lyndon Johnson pushed through the Civil Rights Act in the mid 1960s. There are also many brands of socialists. We think of socialists as communists – the Soviet Union, China, Cuba and even Venezuela. Given that we are seeing mainstream articles and columns even in the NY Times about capitalism and socialism, I will continues to explore these issues in portions of my upcoming summer columns, in addition to resuming education coverage in the fall.

So in this spirit, let me give you a homework assignment for next week: Is a Democratic Socialist Really a Socialist?

Norm does his homework every day at

Sunday, August 12, 2018

Did the DNC Pass a Perez Resolution Reversing Ban on Donations From Fossil Fuel PACs? -- Common Dreams

Just two months after the Democratic National Committee (DNC) was celebrated by environmentalists for banning donations from fossil fuel companies, it voted 30-2 on Friday to adopt a resolution from Chair Tom Perez that critics said effectively reverses the ban and represents "an absolute failure by the DNC."... Common Dreams
A good chunk of the socialist left despises the Democratic Party and believes working within the party is a dead end. Stories like this helps them make a case. I have been tilting back and forth myself -- paint me confused -- which is why I am reading all sides and posting various points of view --- I just don't want to be trapped in a left bubble.
Whenever you think it's safe to jump back into the fight for the Democratic Party you read a story like this. I still think there are not currently any realistic alternatives than to put leftward pressure on the party from below. But despite tilting left, the center is strong with money being a major factor. Changing the party at the top will not be easy -- but from below, maybe. Right now electoral politics is the game and will a blue wave sweep the party and if so how does that play in the nation as a whole?
Oh -- NY Times columnist David Brooks just said on Meet the Press "How will the Democrats manage to screw it up this time because they always do?" Then he said as long as they don't swing too far left -- and he says other than a few places, they haven't. [More about this soon where the NY Times columnist Michelle Goldberg makes the opposite case - that the left is making important inroads.]
Is this a screw up or a smart move? I think making the left enraged will not help the Dems. I mean they can try to snare the more progressive Republicans but this is a short term solution. I just don't see how to bridge the distance between so many disparate points of view even if the uniting factor is despising Trump.

On the other hand, the DNC is claiming it is not a reversal so is this a bit of distorted reporting?
DNC Passes Perez Resolution Reversing Ban on Donations From Fossil Fuel PACs
Published on
Activists immediately denounced the measure, which "also recommits the party to an 'all of the above' energy stance."
Democratic National Committee (DNC) Chair Tom Perez was elected to his current role at a meeting in February of 2017. (Photo: Edward Kimmel/Flickr/cc)

The Huffington Post's Alexander Kaufman tweeted Friday:

UPDATE: resolution passed in a 30-to-2 vote.

from DNC epic: “After hearing concerns from Labor that this was an attack on workers, this resolution acknowledges the generous contributions of workers, including those in energy, who organize and donate to Democratic candidates.”

Read the entire CD story here:

In an email to me, a DNC spokeswoman disputed the characterization in my story, saying "it's not a reversal."
But the resolution opens the door donations from fossil fuel “employers’ political action committees" and nods to “forward-looking employers” that are “powering America’s all-of-the-above energy economy."
  • Molly Kelly, a former New Hampshire state lawmaker running for governor, just put out a statement condemning the DNC resolution.

    Saturday, August 11, 2018

    Examining The Upcoming Teacher Strike in Los Angeles

    UPDATE FROM JACK GERSON: Norm, Mike Antonucci predicts that UTLA will strike in early October. But they have just asked for impasse. Typically impasse is followed by mediation, which in itself can take well over two months After mediation comes PERB Factfinding. Another one to two months. My guess is a strike in about January. Jack Gerson
    Caputo-Pearl and the rest of the UTLA leadership want to regenerate in Los Angeles what teachers did in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona last spring.... Mike Antonucci, EIA, LA School Report
    Solidarity with a potential strike in LA in October will be a key priority for MORE in the fall... Peter Lamphere, MORE listserve
    Posted: 01 Aug 2018 06:38 AM PDT
    The other school employee unions in the Los Angeles Unified School District are settling contracts and going home happy. But not United Teachers Los Angeles. UTLA has wanted an occasion for a strike for two years, and it isn’t going to let anything stand in the way. I think I even know exactly when it will be.
    Get the details at LA School Report.
    Posted: 08 Aug 2018 07:02 AM PDT
    Last week I predicted UTLA will go on strike. This week I predict the authorization will be more than 90%.
    Read why at LA School Report.
    There's a lot of excitement over the potential LA teacher strike, which would bring red state type action to biggest blue state and to the 2nd largest school system in the nation. UTLA leader Alex Caputo-Pearl, whom I first met 9 years ago, is organizing on many levels.

    Mike A. comes at things from an anti-union perspective but does report accurately while also looking to punch as many holes as he can to burst the bubble.

    In the interest of providing wide coverage I will be posting more from Antonucci whose analysis is always interesting.

    Here are two views of the coming strike in Los Angeles. One from the UTLA and the always useful view from the right from Mike Antonucci, who has been writing extensively about the upcoming strike which he predicts will take place in October.