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Sunday’s French Election

By Richard Greeman. This article was first published on Socialist Project.

The good news this May was that French voters rejected far-right Marine Le Pen by a two-to-one margin in the second round of the Presidential election. “At least the French are not schmucks as the Americans!” were the first words that passed the sweet lips of my Provençal partner Elyane when the radio announced Le Pen's defeat. As the Borowitz Report headlined: “French Annoyingly Retain Right to Claim Intellectual Superiority over Americans.” Aside from this moral victory, the French people have little to be happy about.

Frexit tu m'Excites; Frexit you excite me!

The bad news was that France ended up electing Emmanuel Macron, an efficient technocrat who consciously incarnates French capital's need to eliminate the ‘French exception’ and level the wages, rights and benefits of the French common people down to the average of the European Union (which includes Romania and Bulgaria).

Faced with Macron's calmly-worded, reasonable, deliberately transparent class war agenda, it should be obvious that France needs a united Left of parties, unions, social movements and local associations to oppose it – the June during the legislative elections and later in the streets. Such a powerful coalition from below came together spontaneously against Macron/Hollande's pro-business Labour Law during the “hot” Spring of 2016, which included strikes, blockades, occupations and all-night discussions. Where is it now?

The Divided Left

Alas, more bad news: the French Left today is totally divided, splintered as never before. After May Day, the labour unions couldn't even agree to march together. This Sunday, June 11, French voters will face the first round in the legislative elections to the 577 seat National Assembly. These elections will decide whether President Macron will have a legislative majority with which to govern unopposed, a distinct possibility with the opposition parties so hopelessly divided.

Last week I watched a young, idealistic Parti communiste français (PCF) candidate practically in tears at a Médiapart round-table as he told how at least four left parties were competing against each other in the first round in his popular Paris district. This Communist candidate was heartbroken because during the Presidential election, his Party had supported Jean-Luc Mélenchon's La France insoumise (Unbowed) coalition with all its strength, and now Mélenchon had sent an Insoumise candidate into his district to compete with him in the legislative election. Why?

Historically, in multi-party systems, Left parties negotiate alliances and coalitions so as to agree on a single candidate, presumably a strong one, in each local district so as to maximise the chance of winning nationally. Each party in the alliance gets assigned a certain number of prospective seats in the National Assembly in proportion to its size – subject to much haggling and horse-trading. Some negotiations between Mélenchon and the Communists were held last month, but apparently they broke down early. This, in spite of the fact that Mélenchon had previously headed La front de gauche, a coalition including the Communists and his own Parti de gauche (a 2008 left split from the Socialists). As so often happens in party politics, control trumped goal. The Communists still have representatives in the Chamber and control local offices in many districts, and wanted to protect their turf. Mélenchon wants to dominate the Left through his Insoumise movement.

Mélenchon's strategy is based on strength of the 20 per cent of the electorate that voted for him in the Presidential rounds, and is to run candidates in every possible district with the goal of winning an (unlikely) parliamentary majority. Under the Constitution of the Gaullist 5th French Republic, this would oblige President Macron to appoint Mélenchon Prime Minister (an arrangement known as “cohabitation”) and share power. In Sunday's first round Insoumise candidates who get 20 per cent of the votes would theoretically place into the second round in a field where the Right is also splintered. Along with Macron's handpicked “new faces” running for En Marche, there are also several traditional conservative parties and of course the far-right Front national that won a third of the votes in May's Presidential election.

In one version of Mélenchon's strategy, the Insoumise candidates could conceivably beat the Macronistas and the Le Penites and end up with a majority in the second round, automatically making him Prime Minister. But the more the Left field is crowded, the greater the chance of a repeat of the Presidential voting: Macron's En Marche faces off against the Front national in the second round, giving Macron an easy majority and marginalizing the Left for the next five years. This would be the tragic consequence of Left disunity based on turf wars and the party politics of sustaining small groups.

In another view, even in the minority, Mélenchon's Insoumise would emerge as the hegemonic organization of the Left for the next five years, well-placed for the next elections in 2022. There is not much competition left. The electorate of PCF, despite its hold on office and ties to the CGT labour union, has shrunk to not much bigger than the ‘Trotskyist’ Nouveau parti anti-capitaliste (part of which has joined the PCF in a coalition called Ensemble).

The Parti socialiste has also shrunk, having disgraced itself in power. President Hollande, with only 4 per cent approval rating, didn't even dare run in the primaries, an historical first for an outgoing president. The Socialists’ right-wing has followed Macron in deserting the sinking ship. The SP's Presidential candidate, the young leftist Benoit Hamon who won the presidential primary, seems a refreshingly sincere and honest social-democrat. He is attractive to voters who consider Mélenchon a dangerous demagogue and are suspicious of his apparent support of Putin's annexation of the Crimea and his flirtation with the idea of a ‘Frexit’. A divided Left, indeed!

So Who is Macron?

A brilliant young graduate of France's elite state graduate schools (founded by Napoleon to run his Empire) with a successful career in banking and public administration, Emmanuel Macron is well read on nearly every subject and totally confident of his competence and right to rule. He coolly showed himself a statesman last week castigating Trump's withdrawal from the Paris Climate Accords. Speaking in elegant, charmingly accented English (a first for a French President), he famously concluded: “Make our planet great again.” Macron's government is made of neoliberal technocrats, half of them women. Unlike the usual political hacks, his ministers are younger, more dynamic, more diverse – fresh political faces recruited directly out of the economic establishment like Macron himself. This is a new broom eager to sweep clean, so watch out.

As a candidate Macron had made his program absolutely clear. He is pledged to strip French workers of what remains of their on-the-job rights and protections by further expanding the pro-business Labour Law – a “reform” he helped impose while Economics Minister in the neoliberal government of his predecessor, the unpopular Socialist Hollande. However, even if Macron does not win a majority on June 18 in the second round of the Legislatives, he is pledged to impose his neoliberal, class-war program by Decree. That's how Hollande's Socialist government ‘passed’ its pro-employer labour reform last summer after a very hot spring of strikes, blockades, mammoth demonstrations and opposition from many Socialists in the Chamber. (See my “The French Stand up.”)

Macron is also pledged to another anti-worker ‘reform’: the downgrading of France's wonderful post-WWII Social Security system which includes healthcare, unemployment insurance, retirement, minimum survival income, housing subsidies and welfare for the poor. The Sécu, as it is known, was created after WWII by workers’ organizations coming out of the Resistance, when the de Gaulle government depended on Communist support to stay in power and the French industrialists were in disgrace for their vile collaboration with the Nazis during the Occupation. The idea of the ‘social wage’ – in addition to the salary – was enshrined in France's post-war constitution.

The Sécu remained a self-governing non-state national institution even after de Gaulle placed business representatives on the board to undermine it. Today, the government votes on its budget. As for unemployment insurance, which is governed, by a bi-part commission of unions and employers, Macron would put the state in charge, with budgetary powers. The impact of these “reforms” will be to break up the semi-autonmous Sécu and turn its functions over to the state. These “reforms” will allegedly rationalize the system and reduce costs, but in fact they are designed to progressively shrink the social safety net that has made ‘the French exception’ so popular. A grim prospect for average French people and lovers of France's quality of life.

Last week, in researching for this article, I asked my neighbour, a poised, well-educated young mother from a good local family, to explain the intricacies of the French electoral system to me. When the truth finally dawned on me that with the Left divided there is very little hope left for Social Security and fair labour laws, I blurted out: “Then what will the French people do?” She calmly replied: “We go down into the streets and throw the bastards out! We're good at that.” Since Summer Vacation is the true God worshipped by the French, this battle may not take place until next September.

How to Kill Social Security

Macron's proposal to ‘reform’ the Sécu is a devilishly clever plan to exploit a conflict between France's two most numerous and productive classes: the organized working class of historically left-wing waged and salaried workers and the independents: a large hard-working, petty-bourgeoisie of artisans, shop keepers, and farmers, whose organizations have historically leaned to the far-right.

Macron proposes to attack a very real and long neglected problem in the French ‘single-payer’ social welfare system: it is not universal or equal. Independent workers are not covered by the Sécu medical insurance and are forced to pay their dues into a variety of different funds in return for inferior retirements and benefits. In 1945, the independent farmers and shop-keepers who had made money during the war voted not to join the salaried workers in the single-payer health insurance system and set up their own private funds.

When their sector declined, they ended up screwed. Today some independents are even forced to pay into their funds at the beginning of the fiscal year, before they even get their business off the ground! They are jealous of salaried workers and hostile to unions, especially the railroad workers who get extra benefits. This petite bourgeoisie is a numerous, industrious and highly productive part of the French population. It has often been mistreated by the government and neglected by the Left. Its political anger has often been channeled into the far right – the Poujade movement in the 1950s and today Le Pens’ Front national.

The obvious solution would be to try to pull all these independents into the Sécu and make it truly universal; or, alternately, to insure that the dues and benefits of artisans are comparable. In other words, leveling up the program. Macron's solution seems to be that his government takes over and levels down the benefits of the different groups to the lowest common denominator. His proposed successor institutions to the Sécu will not be self-sustaining or self-governing. They will be funded by the government out of the general fund and the amount available will predictably decline from year to year as Macron ‘rationalizes’ and reduces costs in the name of ‘making France competitive again’. •

Richard Greeman has been active since 1957 in civil rights, anti-war, anti-nuke, environmental and labour struggles in the U.S., Latin America, France (where he has been a longtime resident) and Russia (where he helped found the Praxis Research and Education Center in 1997). He maintains a blog at richardgreeman.org.

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As Iranians Vote For Peace, Trump Helps Saudi Arabia Pick Another Fight

By Reza Marashi and Trita Parsi. This article was first published on Huffington Post.

Iranian society extended its hand to the world, and the governments in Washington, Riyadh, and Tel Aviv responded with threatening clenched fists.

Reuters Photographer / Reuters

American policymakers must be smiling from ear to ear. In a country with 56 million eligible voters, more than 41 million Saudis voted in their presidential elections last Friday – the 12th such election over the past 38 years. Despite a litany of obstacles arbitrarily imposed by unelected religious zealots, 73 percent turnout served as a catalyst to re-elect the pragmatist Saudi president with 57 percent of the vote. Moreover, reformists and moderates dominated city council elections across the kingdom. In the city housing Saudi Arabia’s most holy religious shrine, a woman won a council seat using the campaign slogan, “Let’s vote for women.” In one of the most conservative provinces, 415 women won village and local council seats, an increase from 185. In one village there were no men on the ballot at all.

Of course, none of this took place in Saudi Arabia, America’s long-standing partner of choice in the Middle East. Rather than holding meaningful elections, Saudi Arabia was fueling dangerous sectarianism, rejecting diplomacy and preparing to instigate a conflict with its Arab neighbor, Qatar.

Iranians overwhelmingly chose to pursue peaceful, indigenous change through the ballot box... When juxtaposed with Saudi Arabia, the contrast is stark.

The electoral outcomes mentioned above all happened in Iran, with whom the U.S. has been at odds with since 1979. And as Iranians danced in the streets to celebrate Hassan Rouhani’s re-election, Donald Trump danced to the steps of a war dance as he met with the leaders of Saudi Arabia and Israel to denounce Iran and call for its full-scale isolation. To borrow from Barack Obama – Iranian society extended its hand to the world, and the governments in Washington, Riyadh, and Tel Aviv responded with threatening clenched fists.

This highlights the biggest – and most overlooked – problem regarding Trump’s emerging policy on Iran and the Middle East at large: America’s continued obsession with regimes in the region at the expense of societies. In the case of Iran, there is no denying the myriad political, economic, and social obstacles created by the government ― from indiscriminate vetting of electoral candidates to media censorship to inflated budgets for the security apparatus. Nor is it a regime that has been an exemplary actor in the region. But then again, no such actor exists in the region. From Israel - who has occupied Palestinian lands for more than 50 years - to Saudi Arabia, Middle East powers all have blood on their hands. Western powers are no less innocent: they instigated the invasion and occupation of Iraq, and have provided decades-long support to authoritarian regimes who brutally repress their political, economic, and social dissent

That is precisely why hope in the Middle East lies not with the regimes, but the societies. And what Iran’s society just achieved despite the obstacles it faces is remarkable.

Rather than violently revolt, engage in terrorism against the state, or boycott elections that are neither free nor fair according to international best practices and standards, Iranians overwhelmingly chose to pursue peaceful, indigenous change through the ballot box predicated on moderation at home and abroad. When juxtaposed with Saudi Arabia, the contrast is stark. The kingdom does not permit meaningful elections, therefore making assessments of Saudi society more challenging. Certainly women have little say in driving the political agenda, or indeed driving themselves. Not to mention that Saudi Arabia is the birthplace of both Al Qaeda and, according the U.S. government, the source ISIS’s seed money.

For its part, Israel is a real democracy where the undemocratic obstacles Iranians face do not exist for Israeli citizens. Yet, its society produces results that are wildly different from what transpired last week in Iran: Since 2001, Israelis have voted for increasingly right-wing governments that double down on occupation, launch wars of choice, and reject international law. As Iranian society time and again rejects extremism from its government, Israeli society repeatedly elects it.

All of this highlights a dereliction of duty by successive U.S. administrations. Sticking blindly to its regional partnerships without considering the conduct of their regimes or illiberal trends within their societies (Israeli right-wing extremism), while ignoring the trends within societies of countries on America’s enemy list, has created a chaotic and contradictory web of relationships in the Middle East that neither serve U.S. interests nor are compatible with its values.

This does not mean that Washington should end its working relationships with regional partners or turn a blind eye to its current conflict of interests with Iran. But it should recognize that the trends in Iran’s society serves America’s long-term interests as well as stability in the region. Continued enmity with Iran because of America’s current entanglement in antiquated Middle East security partnerships risks costing the U.S. not only a valuable friend in the future, but it may also earn it a much more potent foe down the road ― as a more democratic Iran is likely also going to be a more powerful Iran.

Iranians overcame significant undemocratic obstacles to cast their vote in favor of engagement. Meanwhile, the Saudi government chose to shut the door on diplomacy and bully Qatar to acquiesce to Riyadh’s hardline on Iran. Donald Trump should not take Iran or Saudi Arabia’s side in this conflict. But his administration should recognize where the long-term source of moderation in the region is ― and that acquiescing to Riyadh’s rejection of dialogue makes the risk of America getting dragged into another war in the Middle East all the more probable.

Reza Marashi is Research Director at the National Iranian American Council. Trita Parsi is the President of the Council and author of Losing an Enemy - Obama, Iran and the Triumph of Diplomacy.

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UK Election: Labour Surge Gives Unions a Chance

By Gregor Gall. This article was first published on Socialist Project.

For the vast majority of unions in Britain, the idea of the Labour Party fighting a general election with a dream leadership team of Jeremy Corbyn and John McDonnell was manna from heaven after the era of New Labour. From 1997 to 2010, many unions believed Labour governments were a case of “power without principles.” The unions did manage to get Ed Miliband elected as leader in 2010, rather than his more centrist brother David, but that did little to shift the balance in the equation between power and principles come the 2015 general election.

Unions protest - John Gomez/Flickr

The latest vote witnessed an unexpected and significant Labour advance despite a viciously hostile press and deep internal party divisions. Theresa May's gamble on a snap election has failed miserably; a hung parliament the result. But Corbyn's union backers are still likely to find themselves holding principles without power.

The 14 unions affiliated to the Labour party, representing some 3.5 million members, were joined by non-affiliated unions like the PCS civil servants’ union and the RMT transport union in urging members and their friends and families to vote Labour. Corbyn and McDonnell aligned Labour with unions’ ideology more than ever before; their reward came in organized events like “Trade Union Tuesday” on June 6 when union members were encouraged to get out and campaign for Labour.

Pressure Power

These campaign efforts may have been more in hope than expectation, given the extent of the Conservative lead in many polls, but the results that came in overnight brought a Labour victory frustratingly close. And despite a clear surge in support, unions now face the prospect of a weakened Conservative party, aided by the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) in Northern Ireland, will govern with a sustained focus on austerity, making no effort to close the gap between rich and poor, pursuing further privatization and seeking to water down employment rights as part of its Brexit plan.

So what do unions do now? Labour politicians might suggest starting preparations to win the 2022 election (or even an unscheduled one before then). But that will be scant comfort for the 6.5 million union members seeking progress in the here and now.

Even election winners can find themselves in office but not in power.

But what if the Labour party, working with the unions, decided that the best course of action, for now, is to be found outside parliament? Even election winners can find themselves in office but not in power. When the margins are as tight as they now seem, real political power depends on citizens either positively accepting the new government or at least reluctantly acquiescing. When neither seems guaranteed, then it may well be that there is more value in opposing the new government through extra-parliamentary resistance. Indeed, a weakened coalition government, with May at the helm or any other Conservative, will be more susceptible to external pressure.

This would revive memories of the early 1970s when the new Conservative government of Edward Heath was made a lame duck by popular opposition. His Industrial Relations Act 1971 became a dead letter after a massive struggle by the unions and he performed a number of critical U-turns. Come the election of February 1974, when he posed the question, “who governs Britain?,” he was told it was no longer him.

Leading the Fight

But unlike the early 1970s, the Labour party now has a leader who will not have to be forced into supporting extra-parliamentary resistance. When the union movement contemplated mass resistance to the Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition after the 2010 general election, they did not find much of a friend in Ed Miliband. The critical question now is whether Corbyn and McDonnell – as key national figures – will lead the extra-parliamentary resistance on behalf of the unions.

If they did, along with the left-leaning leaderships of most major unions, this could become an irresistible force. If the 1970s are too long ago to recall for many, the fight against the poll tax in the late 1980s and early 1990s is a more recent example of successful extra-parliamentary action. Through a campaign of non-payment, Margaret Thatcher's robust image as the “Iron Lady” was left as scrap; she was gone by November 1990.

What Corbyn also has to offer is that he has connected with young people, evidenced by his two campaigns for the Labour leadership, the setting up of the Momentum movement from the first of these campaigns and his strong polling with younger voters.

So can the vigour of youth be used to create for the unions a popular rebellion like that of the early 1970s? It will certainly be needed as levels of strike activity remain very low. For the unions, the problem in helping to be part of that rebellion is twofold. First, union membership among 18 24-year-olds is well under 10%. Second, union membership is stronger (at around 30%) among workers aged over 50 but many of these workers were not especially favourable to Labour during the campaign.

Game on?

To be part of the rebellion, unions have to both mobilize young people who are not yet their members, and old workers who are already members. But fusing struggle in the workplace and in communities – like combining the fight against the Industrial Relations Act 1971 and the poll tax – could offer the most effective way for the unions and the Corbynistas to mount a rear guard action against a new Conservative-led government elected by less than 30 per cent of those entitled to vote.

It will then be important to see what comes of a Trades Union Congress call for a meeting of public sector unions on June 14. Mark Serwotka, PCS general secretary, has called for that to be a “council of war” in the event of a Tory victory. In truth this is not yet iron-clad. Should the Tories’ coalition with the DUP quickly hit rough waters then we might find ourselves all back at the ballot box sooner than we might like. That would truly be “game on” for the unions after decades of neoliberalism and austerity. •

Gregor Gall is Professor of Industrial Relations, University of Bradford. He is the editor of Scottish Left Review and the director of the Jimmy Reid Foundation. This article first published by The Conversation.

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Bucking Bernie Sanders, Democrats Move Forward On Iran Sanctions After Terror Attack in Tehran

By Zaid Jilani, Ryan Grim. This article was first published on The Intercept.
Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In the wake of an alleged ISIS terrorist attack on the Iranian parliament, the U.S. Senate is marking the tragedy with twin resolutions: one to express condolences, the second to move forward on a bill to hit the country with new sanctions.

By a vote of 92-7, the Senate opened debate on the sanctions resolution Wednesday. But the resolution expressing condolences is still being worked on, one senator said.

“On a day when Iran has been attacked by ISIS, by terrorism, now is not the time to go forward with legislation calling for sanctions against Iran,” Vermont’s Independent Sen. Bernie Sanders said on the floor before the Senate did just that. “Let us be aware and cognizant that earlier today the people of Iran suffered a horrific terror attack in their capital, Tehran.”

The vote also came in the face of warnings from former Secretary of State John Kerry that a new sanctions bill could imperil the nuclear deal.

Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., said that it was still time to move forward. After all, it could be a chance to hit Russia. “I think we have an opportunity on the Iran sanctions bill to amend it to include strong Russia sanctions; I’m determined that we get that done. That’s foremost in my mind,” said Coons.

“I appreciate the fact that when the United States was attacked on 9/11, Iran expressed concern and solidarity with us. I do think it’s important for us to express our condolences to the Iranian people for their being victims of an ISIS and I believe that resolution will be adopted today. It seems a bit of a mixed message to me to try and combine those two.”

A number of Sanders’s Democratic caucus colleagues, including California’s Diane Feinstein and Delaware’s Tom Carper, joined him in arguing that the bill should be delayed in light of the terrorist attack. On her way into the vote, Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., told The Intercept she agreed with Sanders that it should be delayed, but didn’t think it would be. She was correct, and cast her vote in favor.

South Dakota Sen. John Thune, a member of Republican leadership, disagreed. “I hope not,” he said of the possibility of a delay, his further thoughts being cut off by the closing of the door of an elevator taking him to vote on the measure.

Shortly before the vote to end debate on the bill, New York’s Sen. Chuck Schumer — who leads the Senate Democrats — came out and argued forcefully in favor of the sanctions, showing no concern about imperiling the nuclear deal or the terrorist attack.

“Democrats will vote to advance this bill to the floor because we support — most of us support the bill,” he assured the Senate.

Sixty votes are needed to achieve cloture and close debate; only seven senators opposed the cloture vote: Democrats Kirsten Gillibrand, Dick Durbin, Carper, Jeff Merkley, and Tom Udall as well as Republican Rand Paul and Sanders.

President Donald Trump added insult to injury when the White House released its own statement on the Iranian terror attack on Wednesday. “We grieve and pray for the innocent victims of the terrorist attacks in Iran, and for the Iranian people, who are going through such challenging times,” it read.

However, it then pivoted to blaming the victims. “We underscore that states that sponsor terrorism risk falling victim to the evil they promote,” it concluded.

A spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., referred questions on the condolences resolution to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. A spokesperson there didn’t immediately reply to a request for Congress.

Top photo: Sen. Bernie Sanders arrives for a press conference on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 25, 2017.

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Corbyn Teaches To Embrace Change We Need

By Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers

The shocking election result in the United Kingdom – the Conservatives losing their majority and the creation of a hung Parliament; and Jeremy Corbyn being more successful than any recent Labor candidate – cutting a 20 point Theresa May lead down to a near tie – gives hope to many that the global shift to the right, fueled by the failures of governments to meet the basic needs of their population and growing economic insecurity, may be ending.

Corbyn is a lifelong activist whose message and actions have been consistent. He presented a platform directed at ending austerity and the wealth divide and was openly anti-war. There are a lot of lessons for the Labor Party in the UK from this election but there are also lessons for people in the United States. We review what happened and consider the possibilities for creating transformative change in the United States.

The Corbyn Campaign Results

The Corbyn campaign showed that a political leader urging a radical progressive transformative agenda can succeed. Many in his own party, the neo-liberal pro-war Blairites, claimed Corbyn could not win, tried to remove him from leadership, and sabotaged and refused to assist his campaign.

Corbyn showed he could win the leadership of the UK in the future, maybe sooner than later. While Theresa May is in the process of forming a minority government with a small radical conservative party from Northern Ireland, there has already been a backlashmass petitions and protests against it and UK history has shown in similar circumstances that the second place finisher, may, in the end form the government. Corbyn is taking bold and radical actions. He is preparing to present a Queen’s speech in which he will say that he and his party are “ready to serve” and will continue to push his program through Parliament. He is calling on other parties to defeat the government in Parliament.

Corbyn did better than any recent Labor leader. Jonathan Cook, a British political commentator, writes in “The Facts Proving Corbyn’s Election Triumph” that Corbyn received 41 percent of the vote against May’s 44 percent. This was a big improvement in Labor’s share of seats, the largest increase since 1945. Cook points out that Corbyn won more votes than “Ed Miliband, Gordon Brown and Neil Kinnock, who were among those that, sometimes noisily, opposed his leadership of the party.” Even Tony Blair does not look all that good compared to Corbyn, Cook recounts:

“Here are the figures for Blair’s three wins. He got a 36 per cent share of the vote in 2005 – much less than Corbyn. He received a 41 per cent of the vote – about the same as Corbyn – in 2001. And Blair’s landslide victory in 1997 was secured on 43 per cent of the vote, just two percentage points ahead of Corbyn last night.

“In short, Corbyn has proved himself the most popular Labour leader with the electorate in more than 40 years, apart from Blair’s landslide victory in 1997.”

Bhaskar Sunkara, the founding editor of Jacobin, writes that Corbyn was not only campaigning against the Tories and Theresa May, but battling his own party – yet he still “won”:

“This is the first election Labour has won seats in since 1997, and the party got its largest share of the vote since 2005 — all while closing a twenty-four point deficit. Since Corbyn assumed leadership in late 2015, he has survived attack after attack from his own party, culminating in a failed coup attempt against him. As Labour leader he was unable to rely on his parliamentary colleagues or his party staff. The small team around him was bombarded with hostile internal leaks and misinformation, and an unprecedented media smear campaign.

“Every elite interest in the United Kingdom tried to knock down Jeremy Corbyn, but still he stands.”

The Blairites were taught a lesson by Corbyn. Many of his harshest critics are now changing their tune and embracing Corbyn. Hopefully they will join in creating a party in Corbyn’s image – a party for the many, not the few. Corbyn has rebuilt the mass base of Labor. The party is now the largest in Europe with half a million members. It is time for the “leaders” of Labor to follow the lead of the people and of Jeremy Corbyn.

What can we learn regarding US politics?

Sunkara argues Corbyn demonstrated that a winning campaign strategy is “"to offer hopes and dreams to people, not just fear and diminished expectations." In current US terms that means it is insufficient just to oppose Trump, a positive vision for the future that shows what a candidate and party stand for is needed, e.g. it is not just enough to defend the failing Affordable Care Act and oppose the Republican’s American Health Care Act, you must stand for something positive: National Improved Medicare for All. This is one example of many.

Sunkara provides more detail:

"Labour’s surge confirms what the Left has long argued: people like an honest defense of public goods. Labour’s manifesto was sweeping — its most socialist in decades. It was a straightforward document, calling for nationalization of key utilities, access to education, housing, and health services for all, and measures to redistribute income from corporations and the rich to ordinary people.

"£6.3 billion into primary schools, the protection of pensions, free tuition, public housing construction — it was clear what Labour would do for British workers. The plan was attacked in the press for its old-fashioned simplicity — "for the many, not the few" — but it resonated with popular desires, with a view of fairness that seemed elementary to millions.

"The Labour left remembered that you don’t win by tacking to an imaginary center — you win by letting people know you feel their anger and giving them a constructive end to channel it towards. ‘We demand the full fruits of our labor,’ the party’s election video said it all."

Corbyn showed how important it is to have the correct analysis on foreign policy. Twice during the campaign, the UK was hit by a terrorist attack. Corbyn responded by telling the truth: part of the reason for terrorism is the UK foreign policy, especially in Libya. He also opposed the use of nuclear weapons. The Conservatives thought these anti-war positions would hurt Corbyn, instead they helped.

This is even more true in the United States with the never ending wars the country is fighting. But, the unspeakable in the United States, as Paul Street calls it, is acknowledging that terrorism is conducted by the US. This taboo subject makes it hard for people to understand that the US is constantly committing acts of terrorism around the world, which lead to predictable blow back from US militarism, regime change and war. No elected official will tell these obvious truths, which the people of the United States would instinctively understand if they were voiced.

Although the U.S. is often portrayed as a ‘center-right’ nation and progressives are called extremists, the reality is that there is majority support for a progressive agenda. There is a developing national consensus in the United States for transformational change, and Bernie Sanders articulated some of that consensus, at least on domestic issues, in his run for president, but the problem is that U.S. elections are manipulated by the elites in power who make sure that their interests are represented by the winner

Sunkara ends his article on Corbyn saying “Also, Bernie Sanders would have won.” We do not know what would have happened in a Trump-Sanders election. The closest example may be McGovern’s 1972 campaign against Nixon which he lost in a landslide. In that campaign, the Democrats deserted their candidate, even the AFL-CIO and big unions did not support McGovern and Nixon demonized him in the media. Would Clinton-Democrats have stood with Sanders or would they have sabotaged him like the party did to McGovern?

A key to Corbyn’s success was retail politics.  The population of the UK is 65 million, compared to the US population of 321 million. Retail politics can work in the UK, while in the US paid media advertising drives the campaign, which means money often determines the outcome. This gives great power to big business interests, and while it can be overcome, it is a steep hill to climb.

Despite their significant losses, the Democrats are still controlled by Clinton-Obama Wall Street and war neo-liberals as we saw in the recent DNC chair election where Clinton protégé, Tom Perez, was elected. We are not optimistic that the US can apply the Corbyn model within the Democratic Party because it has been a party representing the oligarchs from its origins as the party of plantation slave-owners.

The duopoly parties that represent Wall Street, war and empire will not allow voices that represent “the many, not the few” to participate in US elections. They shut them out whether they run as an insurgent inside a party, as people learned from the mistreatment of Bernie Sanders by the DNC, or if they run outside of the two parties. The bi-partisans make independent party runs nearly impossible with unfair ballot access laws, barriers to voter registration, secret vote counting on unverifiable election machines, exclusion from the debates and exclusion by the corporate media, who are in cahoots with the bi-partisans.

It Comes Down to Building An Independent Mass Political Movement

We live in a mirage democracy with managed elections, as we describe in the article “Fighting for A Legitimate Democracy By and For the People,” on the long history of wealth dominating politics in the U.S.

Historically, transformations have occurred because of mass social movements demanding change and participating in elections through independent parties that have grown out of a movement with candidates from the movement (Corbyn has been involved in every anti-war movement, anti-apartheid, anti-austerity, pro-peace and human rights movements among others). Showing mass electoral support, even without winning, has resulted in significant changes – union rights, women’s voting rights, the eight-hour workday – indeed the New Deal came out of third party platforms. It is important to resist the duopoly parties in order to get to the root of the problems we face; as Patrick Walker explains, the “grassroots resistance must oppose Democrats as well as Trump.”

A broad and diverse social movement whose demands are articulated by an independent party platform has forced one of the two parties to capitulate to the movement or disappear. That still seems to be the most likely path to real change for the US.

Corbyn teaches that we should embrace the radical transformational change that is needed, whether in elections or as a movement, to inspire people to take action and shift the realm of the possible. The people thirst for change as their economic situation becomes more insecure. There needs to be a movement that addresses that insecurity through a human rights lens, or else the insecurity will be channeled towards hatred and violence.

The key first step is to show the many, we are with them; that we are listening and acting consistent with their beliefs. Taking this correct first step, lights the path ahead of us.

Kevin Zeese and Margaret Flowers co-direct Popular Resistance.

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