WHAT IS A POLITICAL CONVENTION FOR IF NOT TO CHOOSE A CANDIDATE?

Hillary Dumpty

The question of what is the purpose of a political convention may seem a trifle simplistic to modern media pundits, but as three generations of teachers—and Democrats—in my family were want to say, there are no stupid questions; just stupid answers.  So to all the politically savvy “experts” in the media and the Democratic political establishment nationwide, I recommend that you seriously consider—or reconsider—your own answer to this question, as well as my own answer below.

Thomas Nast dead elephant and Donkey over cliff
The GOP is a dying beast but can still do great harm; meanwhile, the Democratic Party establishment seems bound and determined to follow Hillary Clinton over the precipice.  Their convention in July is the place to correct their mistake.

For a number of years, the presidential convention has simply been one giant publicity event, a raucous but essentially meaningless cheerleading rally for the pre-anointed candidate of the respective political party.  We now have a prolonged and incredibly expensive process for selecting a presidential candidate, a process which is neither designed to choose the best possible person for the job, nor even the most electable candidate; and if the current Democratic Presidential nominating process is any guide, it is also not reflective of the wishes of the rank and file members of that political party, but the cynical will of a small circle of political bosses and their financial handlers.  

Traditionally, the purpose of a presidential political convention has been to select a candidate; how the candidate was chosen has varied over the years, but in essence the convention was the medium through which this was done.  Caucus, primary or smoke filled room have all been methods for selecting a suitable candidate; but the purpose has always been to choose the best person for the job, not to acquiesce to the political operative most acceptable to the billionaire class.

 

Hurricane image royalty free
The Democratic Party is traveling straight into the Perfect Storm with #CrookedHillary and can’t see it.  Only the nomination of Bernie Sanders can save the day.

Since the late 1970’s, the leadership of the Democratic Party—the party of Jefferson and Jackson, the party of the common man, the working man—has transformed it into a “me too” party, mimicking the Republican Party, perhaps a little less austere and still giving lip service to American workers but in fact undermining them at every turn, but has been gradually abandoning the values of FDR and the New Deal, the very programs and values that had made the Democratic Party the dominant political party for half a century; the programs and policies that had not only reformed a broken economic system, but ushered in an era of unprecedented prosperity for most Americans. 

Mind you, the wealthy also benefited from the economic programs of the New Deal, since we are a consumer economy and the more money American workers have, the more they spend. 

The reverse, however, is not true: giving the wealthy undeserved tax breaks and various “corporate welfare” schemes to not result in wealth trickling down to the American worker.  They never have and never will: Trickle Down economics, or whatever label you rebrand it with, is a proven failure and just a con to rob the middle class of their wealth and transfer it to the top 1%.  What is a billion dollars in political contributions when it will return you in 100 billion in tax breaks, government subsidies and assorted outsourcing and off-shoring schemes?

 

Stuffing-The-Ballot-Box
The only way Hillary has gotten the primary wins she has was by out and out cheating.

 

Bernie Sanders portrays himself as a “Democratic Socialist” and that is fine if he wishes to characterize his solid New Deal derived programs and policies in those terms.  Perhaps all these years the Democratic Party should have been more forthright to the American people about all those “socialistic” programs which created wealth and prosperity in this country.  Those programs, and a strong Union movement, created the record postwar prosperity we enjoyed between 1945 and into the 1970’s.  Perhaps then the Repugnican NeoCons would never have gotten to first base with their vile economic voodoo even in the Republican Party. 

 

Now both the GOP NeoCons and the DINO Democrat NeoLibs are attacking Social Security and Medicare as “entitlement programs” that need to be cut to balance the budget.  Even Ronald Reagan laid it out in simple terms that, while Social Security is technically in the Federal Budget, it DOES NOT contribute to the deficit; it is fully funded by the American people and their employers. YES IT IS AN ENTITLEMENT: YOU ARE ENTITLED TO THAT MONEY BECAUSE YOU PAID INTO IT YOUR ENTIRE WORKING LIFE, NOT THE BILLIONAIRES!  However, every American should be aware that over the years Social Security has been raided by the Republicans and some Dems as a giant slush fund to finance Billionaire tax cuts and otherwise unfunded wars (like Hillary’s Iraq War).  So, no Social Security is not “going broke” but the Billionaires and their Congressional toadies have been stealing from the till and need to put the money back,

Reagan Defending Social Security: reagan

Bernie Sanders Defends Social Security

bernie-sanderssmiling
Why is this man smiling? Guess.

However, to learn what the Repugnicans and the NeoLib Democrats have been doing with your Social Security money, listen to this radio show: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqxMCjZxXYM

 

Hillary Clinton is a DINO—a Democrat In Name Only—and she and her fillandering husband have worked very hard to transform the Democratic Party in the Republican Light Party.  Even many progressives in the party—and they are fewer every year—are largely afraid to cross the Clinton Crime Family or run too strongly against the NeoLiberal lies that the Clinton organization has made the new party dogma.

 

Delacroix Liberty at the Barricades
aux la barricades in July and take the Democratic Party back from the Oligarchs, America.

 

The Democratic Party needs to get back to its roots; nominate Bernie Sanders, move heaven and earth to get money out of politics and push through financial reforms and all the regulations that were put in place after the “free market” bankrupted America.  The only reason these safeguards were removed was because of sheer greed.  During World War II, FDR proposed a Second Bill of Rights, also known as the Economic Bill of Rights.  Call it Socialism if you wish—but bear in mind the Pilgrims and the Puritans were socialists too and they never heard of Karl Marx.  Karl & Abe Book

 

Needless to say, all the phony trade treaties like NAFTA, the TPP and the upcoming TTIP and some 45 or so other scams to benefit multi-national corporations all need to be repealed and renegotiated into FAIR TRADE plans, where corporations are excluded and American workers benefited.  Then, and only then, can this nation come back from the precipice and begin to return to a prosperous and just society.

 

Unless the Democratic Natonal Convention in July does its true duty and nominate Bernie Sanders as their standard bearer, our nation is headed for an even bigger financial collapse than we experienced in 2008.  Hillary Clinton is a large part of the problem—her and the Republican NeoCons—and it is hard to say which would be worse, her or Trunp.  If Hillary is nominated, there is a strong chance the Democratic Party will go down to defeat; if she wins, it is almost certain she will be impeached.  Whatever vestige of Democracy we have is on the verge of disappearance.  The Democratic Convention can reverse this dangerous situation, but not if it nominates the worst candidate they have had since the era of Boss Tweed.

Hillary vs Bernie on Panama Trade Agreement

 

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IF YOU STRIKE ME DOWN….

Bernie Wan Kanobi

After the brazen voting fraud displayed in the New York Primary, it was a foregone conclusion that the Clinton Machine would pull out all the stops to cheat their way to victory on the April 27 “Super Tuesday”  (It seems like Super Tuesdays are becoming more frequent than “Trials of the Century.”). The signs were all there in Pennsylvania that the same criminal behavior Hillary’s minions practiced in the Big Apple would be on display in PA: forged absentee ballots, hacked electronic voting machines, mysteriously purged voter rolls.  Yesterday, one county alone had 900 registered Democrats “missing” on election day; another district had Hillary Clinton handbills on prominent display inside the polling place–that was caught on video–and the poll workers refused to remove the deceptive ads, which were made to look like paper ballots.

hillary_queen_usa

Queen Hillary’s coronation seems virtually assured, at least that is what all the corporate media pundits keep telling us.  In her arrogance, however, Wall Street Hillary, when asked whether she would meet the Sanders people “halfway” and adopt some of their reform agenda, shut down any talk of compromise.  She wants Sen. Sanders to bend the knee and pledge unquestioned allegiance to her and turn over her forces, “for the sake of party loyalty.”

You would think, at the very least, that by now Hillary and her Corporatist lackeys would have grasped what the Sanders Campaign is all about, even if they hated what it stood for.  While we all admire Bernie Sanders for his integrity and honesty, he has not attracted the mass following that he has simply on that alone.  Nor can his popularity be attributed to his charisma or youthful good looks.  No: first and foremost, people have responded to his message of reform and progress.

Bernie Sanders agenda is not just about breaking up the big banks and bringing the Banksters to account for their crimes: but also to create more & better paying  jobs; taking money out of the election process and protecting voting rights; stopping the TPP and repeal the other phony free trade deals that have savaged our economy; universal health care; strengthen and enlarge Social Security; free public university education; rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure; make primary and secondary public education public again and not a “profit center” for corporations; end the “Prison Industrial Complex” and stop imprisoning minority groups for petty infractions of the law; the list goes on and on.  As Bernie has emphasized over and over, this is not about one person or one election.  It is about a fundamental reform of America, a nation which has been ravaged by the bad economics of the GOP and their DINO allies in the Democratic Party ever since the 1980’s.

Occupy Deathstar
Occupy Deathstar Protesters

 

Hillary Clinton’s greed for Corporatist money is only exceeded by her lust for power.  Her and the DINO establishment, who have lost far more elections than they have ever won, cannot fathom, it seems, that Bernie Sanders is running on principles, not for personal gain.  Even if he were to sell out his ideals, simply for some political appointment, his mass movement will not troop along dociley and tow the Corporatist line, as Hillary and the other corrupt Establishment Dems want.

Help Us Bernie-wan

While there are still several primaries to go and it is still important for every reform minded individual to still turn out and vote for Bernie, we all need to recognize that the Sanders candidacy is not the end, but the end of the beginning (as Churchill once put it)!

Mark my words, there is a bitter convention fight looming, not for the nomination, but for the reform planks that Sen. Sanders advocates to be put into the Democratic Platform.

Wall Street Hillary’s backers do not want any genuine reforming of the financial system, or of the corrupt electoral process that they control, not to mention any of the other Progressive planks we so desperately need enacted.  The DINO’s will fight tooth and nail to keep any real and meaningful reform planks out of the platform.  Hillary wants nice sounding nostrums, to be sure; and she will promptly betray even those if elected. But any serious and sincere programs of Progressive reform, reforms that the American electorate could get behind? Oh No, God forbid that her real constituency, the 1% that is in currently in control of both parties, should be offended by the Democratic Party Platform.

Delacroix Liberty at the Barricades
La Lutte Continue!

 

After the Democratic Convention, whatever its outcome, all those who have united behind the banner of Bernie Sanders must realize that the real work, the real struggle, the real campaign, has only just begun.

 

 

 

 

The Empire struck back yesterday.  They will continue to do so all through this electoral year and beyond.  Through all of their evil machinations in BOTH parties, remember, we are a Rebel alliance, not just one man and not just one race.

Bernie_wan_Kenobi
The Rebel Alliance needs YOU!

 

There will be other battles ahead and new Jedi Gekkai of all ages, races, genders and creeds will be needed to succeed.  Perhaps even new political parties will be needed to break the stranglehold that the Corporatists have on on our nation–on the world–and if that is what it takes, that is what it takes.  The Republican Party, which was once a party of social justice and economic reform, was begun by handful of idealists gathering in a one room schoolhouse.

Fighting Bernie

The road is long, the road is hard, but the destination is worth the effort.

Yoda & Darth HILLARY

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Force of Progress be with you.

Pilgrim Communism, Part II

Plymouth Bay Colony Seal
Seal of the Plymouth Bay Colony, showing a colonist planting crops

In our discussion of Pilgrim and Puritan Socialism in our previous essay, we of course simplified what are sometimes nuanced issues, and in this medium we rarely footnote all the sources which relate to a subject.  However, if one looks at various pop articles and secondary sources relating to the subject of early New England socialism, you will find a distinct bias to those articles.  Largely penned by Conservative Christian apologists, they strain to emphasize what a failure these early efforts at communal economic organization were and interpret it as the triumph of Capitalism over Socialism.

 

The_Mayflower_Compact_1620_cph.3g07155
Signing the Mayflower Compact, establishing the organization and rules for the Plymouth Bay Colony, (via Library of Congress)

First off, modern Conservative Christians stand in relation to Christianity in the way National Socialists stand in relation to Socialism—while they may sound the same, in the main it’s in name only.

Another thing to consider is that Capitalism did not exist in the seventeenth century; Capitalism was a by-product of the growth of industrialization, which did not really begin until the late eighteenth century and came to the fore in the nineteenth.  Mercantilism was the dominant economic system of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and even at the beginning seventeenth century England still retained many vestiges of Medieval Manorial economics, such as the open field system.  So, to a certain degree, discussing “Capitalism” versus Puritan socialism is irrelevant and anachronous.  Apparently, some modern Conservative dogmatists feel threatened by the fact that their forefathers were not as ideologically pure as they.

That being said, there were other factors at work, especially in the Plymouth Bay Colony, that I did not go into in part 1.  Not all the colonists on the Mayflower were coming to the New World for religious liberty or enamored of Biblical economic justice; seventeenth century sources refer to “adventurers and planters” and clearly the Congregationalists were not among the “adventurers” in the group.

 

Samoset
The hard times of the early Plymouth settlers were not due to their socialistic economy so much as trying to plant European crops in a climate unsuited to them. Samoset and his tribesmen befriended the settlers and taught them to plant crops better suited to New World conditions.

So, the more secular settlers were of course unhappy about the austere communal (or “communistic”) system initially set up, where all their resources (mostly food) were stored in one communal warehouse and everybody shared work duties according to their ability and resources were shared equally.  To a large extent this austere form of socialistic practice was out of necessity.  The colonists did not land until November of 1620, far too late to plant any crops; many were already suffering from diseases such as scurvy due to the long sea journey and were too sick to pull their own weight as far as work was concerned.  As it was, the settlers had to steal parched corn from the nearby Indians due to lack of food.  Half of the colonists died that first winter; more, maybe all, would have died had they not pooled their resources and instead practiced “rugged individualism.”

Even after the first winter, the colonists tried to plant crops unsuited to the harsh New England climate and it wasn’t until the Native Americans (who most definitely were practicing a form of tribal communism) taught the immigrants how to plant native crops and cultivate them, that the food shortages truly disappeared.

 

It should be noted that Jamestown, which did not practice communism or socialistic economics at all, had an even worse time of it at the start because everybody did try to do their own thing (mainly looking for gold and trying to enslave the local tribesmen) and they were so short of food at one point that they started digging up corpses from the ground and engaged in cannibalism.  That is what “Capitalism” (sic) resulted in.  So, from a comparative viewpoint, the Pilgrims early form of communistic austerity was relatively successful.  However, as their governor, William Bradford, noted, many were far from happy with such a strict economic regimen and after the initial hard times, in 1623 loosened discipline to where land was parceled out to individual families, although ownership was still held in common by the colony as a whole.

 

So, was Pilgrim socialism successful?  The modern ideologues would have you believe it was a failure; but bear in mind the colony had been set up as a proprietary charter from the start and owed money to the financial backers of the colony in England, who expected their investment back within a certain time.  The colony was set up as a communal endeavor from the beginning, with the profits from the colony earmarked to pay back the investors, after which there would be a division of the assets among the colonists.  In fact, despite all the hardships and delays, the Plymouth colonists did pay back the investors, after which there was an equitable division of the assets of the colony among the surviving colonists.  So, while the “socialist experiment” did not continue on, neither was it a failure.

Plymouth storehouse and homes
Replica of early Plymouth storehouse and homes.

 

 

The situation could best be likened to the Lutherans of the Amana Colony of Iowa; they too set up a religious commune, which included both agriculture and manufacturing; eventually they sold the manufacturing rights to a corporation—which is why you can still buy Amana refrigerators to this day.  The Amana commune did not continue, true; but I would hardly call it a failure.  Much the same could be said of the Plymouth Colony and, with somewhat different circumstances, the Puritan’s economic experiment.  Today, about 35 million Americans claim ancestry from the Pilgrims; despite the challenges and hardships, I would say that is something of a success story.

THE FIRST THANKSGIVING & SOCIALISM

Acts 4:34:
“Neither was there any among them that lacked: for as many as were possessors of lands or houses sold them, and brought the prices of the things that were sold”

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It still remains to be seen whether the presidential candidacy of Senator Bernie Sanders in 2016 was just an outlier or the beginning of a major sea-change in American politics.  Regardless, it would be good at this juncture to reflect on Socialism and its role in American history. 

While the history of American Socialism is not exactly a deep secret, most Americans, even academics, have a very poor understanding of what it is and was.  Whatever one may think of it as a political and economic movement, the chances are you are wrong in your assumptions, good or bad.  At best, most know that Bernie Sanders is far from being the first socialist to appear on the American scene; but how far back does Socialist, much less Communist, economic behavior go?

—–Think it was members of the American Communist Party in the 1930’s? They were outspoken, militant and slavishly devoted to Joe Stalin, and most people during the Cold War associated them with disloyalty and treason; but no, they were hardly the first or only ones to advocate some kind of socialist solution.

—–How About the Socialists active during Gilded Age and the early 1900’s?  Well, there were a bunch of folks active in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century; they were instrumental in the early labor movement and as mayors of cities and congressmen they had a spotless reputation for honesty and good government; but no they were not the first.  But when Woodrow Wilson, pseudo-Progressive and friend of the second Klu Klux Klan lied us into World War, the Socialist opposed him and their political rights were brutally and unconstitutionally suppressed, Guess again.

—–How About the Civil War Era, were they the first?  You’re getting warmer.  There were a whole bunch of people who espoused some kind of Socialism and were active in Abolitionism as well. To a man they volunteered to fight for the Union and helped rescue our nation from disunion, disloyalty and slavery; but no, they weren’t the first, not by a longshot.

—–How About the Early decades of the Nineteenth Century, were there Socialists around during the Early Republic?  Yes, there were and in addition to those espousing political ideas, many organized communes were established as bold social and intellectual experiments, reminiscent of the Hippie communes of the 1960’s.  But no, sorry no brass ring; they weren’t the first.

OK.  If you’re still with me, let me clue you in: not only is Socialism as American as apple pie and Thanksgiving Turkey, its origins in America go back to the very English first settlements–assuming, of course, we don’t include Native Americans, who lived successfully lived in communities without private property going back to the Mesolithic Era here.  It was, in fact, the early settlers of New England who first practiced Socialism, folk whom you may know as the Pilgrims.

Actually, there were two groups of early settlers in New England, the ones we call Pilgrims (although they didn’t use that name) and the Puritans; the Plymouth Bay Colony and the Massachusetts Bay Colony respectively.  According to my family’s genealogists we claim ancestors in both groups, although the lineage is a bit convoluted.  Regardless, these early settlers are usually held up as models of the Protestant Work Ethic and cited as positive role models for the Capitalist Way, which is a popular lie you no doubt were told in grammar school.

Protestants they were, and pretty austere ones at that, but they also did something modern Bible thumpers rarely seem to do; they read all the passages of the Bible, not just the ones that were convenient or suited some media evangelist’s get rich quick gospel.  If you get deeply into both the Old and New Testaments, you will find quite a bit there that does not jibe too well with modern notions of Capitalism and big business.  The Bible has things like, oh, a progressive income tax (OT), or, say, passages where it tells you to give all your possessions to the poor and follow Jesus (NT); stuff like that.

Eventually, of course, Mammon won out over Jehovah with the Puritans and they became prosperous smugglers, merchants, manufacturers, whalers, transporters of slaves and assorted other activities that made one filthy rich but are not particularly good for the soul.

If you travel through New England, you will still find at least one vestige of the region’s socialist roots.  Just about every little town or village has a “commons” and, of course, the Boston Commons is well known to residents of Beantown.  Originally, every community’s land was held in “common” and distributed according to the town Elders’ dictates.

Across the state line in New York, the center of town is usually called the village “green” (as in “Tavern on the Green”) which is short for Bowling  Green.  Of course, the Dutch in New Amsterdam were fond of their bowling and would play Nine-Pins in the town square whenever weather allowed while quaffing the product of a nearby inn or tavern.  In Puritan New England, such merriment was strictly forbidden; hard work and prayer substituted for singing, dancing and gaming, although alcohol was still allowed in moderation.

Plymounth Rock
A piece of the Rock–Plymouth Rock

When the Pilgrims first arrived in 1620, they did not have an easy time of it.  They did not arrive off the New England until November of that year, far too late for growing any crops and that first winter nearly half of the 102 colonists died.  Of more interest for our concern was the fact that, at first, everything that the colony produced was pooled together and held in the “common storehouse” at one end of the Plymouth settlement.  This system was in force for the first couple of years, partly out of necessity: the colony was facing starvation for first few seasons, and more indigent immigrants arrived by boat from England, but the extra mouths to feed were not accompanied by enough supplies to provide for them.  The Plymouth colonists at one point were reduced to stealing parched corn from a local Indian tribe to avoid starving.

plymouth-colony-samoset-granger
Local Native American leader Samoset welcomes the arriving English. They return the courtesy by stealing corn, which was nevertheless far better behavior than the Jamestown colonists, who turned to cannibalism.

This communal system did not sit well with some of the more able bodied males in the colony, many of whom had migrated in hopes of making their fortune in the New World and not for religious reasons (they were called “the Strangers” by the more religious) and had no desire to provide for other men’s wives and children.  Governor Bradford and the English backers of the enterprise abolished the system of the common storehouse in 1623 and land was divided among settlers to farm individually.  However, the colony still retained communal title to the land even though it was farmed separately, and all the tools were still held in collectively and doled out as needed.  Moreover, meadowlands for the grazing of livestock were still managed in common, plus fishing, hunting and fowling rights were held in common as well, so the concept of private property and ownership still remained a weak one for some years.

The Puritan by Augustus Saint-Gaudens
The Puritan by Augustus Saint Gauden.  The Puritans were sober, industrious and, in the early days, Socialists.

The story of the early days of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, (begun by the Puritans, a different religious sect than the Congregationalist Pilgrims), was not dissimilar to that of the Plymouth colony, save that they were even more austere and, well, more puritanical. Moreover, the Puritan colony was planned from the start as a theocracy; in theory, not man, but God, ruled the Puritan communities. This Utopian society was intended to be an example to the world–as Governor Winthrop put it, “as a city upon a hill”–and it was to be organized along socialist–albeit Biblical socialist–lines. While initially centrally planned and organized by the Puritan leaders in England, as the colony grew, each new unit was set up as an individual community, semi-autonomous, and socialistic in its economic organization.

Each new township established by the Puritan elders had about six to ten square miles of land, effectively some 30 to 40 thousand acres, and each resident of a township had access to the community’s common pasturage.  There was no particular ideology at work here, however, it was just the best way to organize a Godly community and, in many cases, they were simply continuing the traditional open field system they’d known in the Old Country, itself was a holdover from the middle ages. The main difference was that they were working the fields in common for their own benefit, not for some oppressive lord or noble.

As time went on, and austere virtue began giving way to unelightened self-interest and greed, regulating the fair and proper use of the common lands of the New England communities became more and more bothersome for beleaguered town elders having to discipline those who took more than their fair share.

In the end, the fact that most of the land in New England was ill suited to intensive farming probably had more influence in the breakdown of Puritan agrarian socialism than the economic superiority of “Capitalism” (which didn’t yet exist) or any other economic theory.

Many frugal Yankees found that building ships and transporting goods across the open seas was far more rewarding than the backbreaking work of being a Jabez Stone style farmer in a rock filled field.  Moreover, it became a firm tenet of Puritan belief that material wealth was Jehovah’s way of rewarding the virtuous–and by the end of the seventeenth century, Yankee merchants had become very virtuous indeed.

But while greed ultimately triumphed over virtue in the Puritan heart, it should never be forgotten that the edifice of their later prosperity was firmly rooted in the solid foundations which Puritan Socialism laid.  Indeed, the “City on a Hill” that is America owes far more to early American Socialism in all its forms than most historians and popular pundits are still willing to concede.

Mass Bay Col coin
The Pine tree was the symbol of the Massachusetts Bay Colony. In the end Money triumphed over virtue in Puritan New England.

 

 

 

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