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Harry Truman, Too, Was a Self-Described Democratic Socialist

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This is from the public papers of U.S. President Harry S. Truman in 1952: “Public Papers, Harry S. Truman, 1945-1953, October 10, 1952” [rail-car campaigning for Adlai Stevenson in N.Y. State to become Truman’s successor, against Dwight Eisenhower]

Socialism is a scare word they have hurled at every advance the people have made in the last 20 years.

Socialism is what they called public power. Socialism is what they called social security.

Socialism is what they called farm price supports.

Socialism is what they called bank deposit insurance.

Socialism is what they called the growth of free and independent labor organizations.

Socialism is their name for almost anything that helps all the people.

When the Republican candidate inscribes the slogan “Down With Socialism” on the banner of his “great crusade,” that is really not what he means at all.

What he really means is, “Down with Progress–down with Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal,” and “down with Harry Truman’s fair Deal.” That is what he means.

Politico headlined on February 24th, “Sanders sends Democratic establishment into panic mode” and reported that “A renewed sense of urgency washed over establishment Democrats, who fear it’s quickly becoming too late to stop Sanders.”

Today’s Democratic Party Establishment — the Clintonites and Obamaites and the supporters of every one of the current crop of Democratic Presidential candidates except for Bernie Sanders — are not in the tradition of Truman, and of his immediate predecessor Franklin Delano Roosevelt, but are instead in the post-Reagan tradition of the Democratic Party, the tradition that was well represented by Bill Clinton when he, for example, created “don’t ask, don’t tell,” and then joined with the Republicans in Congress to abolish FDR’s Glass-Steagall Act and also to allow unregulated trading in investment-derivatives, and generally to deregulate the economy, and to sign into law and promote NAFTA, which expanded U.S. corporate profits at the expense of America’s working-class. His wife wanted also that there would be expanded fracking, just like the Republicans wanted, and she wanted Iraq to be invaded, just like George W. Bush and Dick Cheney did. And the Democratic Establishment nowadays is pushing lots of proposals that the Republican Party had pushed for prior to the Reagan revolution, proposals for unleashing the nation’s mega-corporations and producing enormous wealth-inequality.

Bernie Sanders is the only Democrat who is running in today’s ‘Democratic’ Party Presidential primaries. All of the other candidates in those primaries are warmed-over pre-Reagan Republicans. Only Sanders is running against the Republican ‘Democrats’, who are, basically, spitting on FDR’s grave.

The revolt against Sanders, by the Democratic National Committee, and maybe by its 700+ superdelegates at the upcoming Convention so as to throw its nomination to Elizabeth Warren or one of the other ‘moderate’ ‘Democrats’, is simply the revolt against Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s Democratic Party. It is their revolt against progressivism, and for conservatism, so as to keep today’s Democratic Party, a liberal instead of progressive party. Liberalism blends progressivism and conservatism. The founder of liberalism was the man who had blended conservatism and progressivism, John Locke, about whom John Quiggin has noted, with an honestly that is stunningly rare: “As secretary to the Earl of Shaftesbury, then chancellor of the exchequer, Locke assisted in drafting the Fundamental Constitutions of Carolina. He was secretary to the Council of Trade and Plantations (1673–74) and a member of the Board of Trade (1696–1700), with responsibility for the American colonies. He was a major investor in the English slave trade through the Royal African Company and the Bahama Adventurers company.” This is what today’s Democratic National Committe (DNC) represents — that tradition, of the British aristocracy, even the slave-traders amongst them, not the progressive tradition, which FDR created in the Democratic Party, and which Bernie Sanders calls simply “democratic socialism” and cites Denmark and other Scandinavian countries as being contemporary examples of what has worked well elsewhere that can also work well here. (Although FDR created it in the Democratic Party, he was simply copying and adapting from the best of the European nations; for example, Social Security was instituted in 1935 but already six European nations had it by that time — and what Bernie Sanders is trying to do is in that tradition, of copying and adapting the best from abroad, not just continuing exceptionally bad existing U.S. practices.) 

Today’s DNC, and its ‘Third Way’ mouthpieces (Third Way is now propagandizing against Sanders in South Carolina) are scaremongering against Sanders being a “socialist,” and (as that news-report said) “When Third Way held a meeting in Charleston in June 2019, one of the group’s founders referred to Sanders as an ‘existential threat’ to the future of the Democratic Party.” This is the line that the Democratic Party’s billionaires are now spreading. They’re determined to retain control over the Party, just as the Republican Party’s super-rich have always had control over the Republican Party since the very moment when Abraham Lincoln was assassinated in 1865.

Abraham Lincoln had said:

The insurrection is largely, if not exclusively, a war upon the first principle of popular government — the rights of the people. Conclusive evidence of this is found in the most grave and maturely considered public documents, as well as in the general tone of the insurgents. In those documents we find the abridgement of the existing right of suffrage and the denial to the people of all right to participate in the selection of public officers, except the legislative boldly advocated, with labored arguments to prove that large control of the people in government, is the source of all political evil. Monarchy itself is sometimes hinted at as a possible refuge from the power of the people.

In my present position, I could scarcely be justified were I to omit raising a warning voice against this approach of returning despotism.

It is not needed, nor fitting here, that a general argument should be made in favor of popular institutions; but there is one point, with its connexions, not so hackneyed as most others, to which I ask a brief attention. It is the effort to place capital on an equal footing with, if not above labor, in the structure of government. It is assumed that labor is available only in connexion with capital; that nobody labors unless somebody else, owning capital, somehow by the use of it, induces him to labor. This assumed, it is next considered [Page  52] whether it is best that capital shall hire laborers, and thus induce them to work by their own consent, or buy them, and drive them to it without their consent. Having proceeded so far, it is naturally concluded that all laborers are either hired laborers, or what we call slaves. And further it is assumed that whoever is once a hired laborer, is fixed in that condition for life.

Now, there is no such relation between capital and labor as assumed; nor is there any such thing as a free man being fixed for life in the condition of a hired laborer. Both these assumptions are false, and all inferences from them are groundless.

Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration. Capital has its rights, which are as worthy of protection as any other rights. Nor is it denied that there is, and probably always will be, a relation between labor and capital, producing mutual benefits. The error is in assuming that the whole labor of community exists within that relation. A few men own capital, and that few avoid labor themselves, and, with their capital, hire or buy another few to labor for them. A large majority belong to neither class — neither work for others, nor have others working for them. In most of the southern States, a majority of the whole people of all colors are neither slaves nor masters; while in the northern a large majority are neither hirers nor hired. Men with their families — wives, sons, and daughters — work for themselves, on their farms, in their houses, and in their shops, taking the whole product to themselves, and asking no favors of capital on the one hand, nor of hired laborers or slaves on the other. It is not forgotten that a considerable number of persons mingle their own labor with capital — that is, they labor with their own hands, and also buy or hire others to labor for them; but this is only a mixed, and not a distinct class. No principle stated is disturbed by the existence of this mixed class.

Would the post-Lincoln Republican Party assert any such thing as that “Labor is prior to, and independent of, capital. Capital is only the fruit of labor, and could never have existed if labor had not first existed. Labor is the superior of capital, and deserves much the higher consideration.”?

To anyone who would spout the line of America’s billionaires (either Republican or Democratic ones), Bernie Sanders would, as the Presidential nominee of, and standard-bearer for, a restored progressive Democratic Party, be able to quote both Harry Truman and Abraham Lincoln, in order to expose those persons’ frauds and take the White House away from them and restore it to the people. 

Investigative historian Eric Zuesse is the author, most recently, of They’re Not Even Close: The Democratic vs. Republican Economic Records, 1910-2010

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Transition 2021: How Biden is likely to approach the Middle East

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In terms of foreign policy, the new President of the United States, Joe Biden,is likely to face numerous challenges, especially when it comes to the Middle East because of the disastrous policies of the former President, Donald Trump, in the region. Even in his inauguration speech, Biden made it clear that it was going to be testing time. Some of the challenges that the new administration would be facing includethe nuclear deal with Iran, the ongoing war in Yemen, issues of human rights issues and the current deadlock between Israel and Palestine. There is some possibility that Biden’s foreign policy towards the Middle East would either be a revival of Barack Obama’s former policies or new strategies would be formulated based on the nature of the challenges faced. However, it is certain that Biden will address or undo Trump’s terrible policies in the region. 

The Biden administration’s top foreign policy agenda is the policy towards Iran. The Iran nuclear deal (2015) or JCOPA was considered to be a milestone in multilateral diplomacy that was irresponsibly abandoned by Trump in 2018. Trump’s “maximum pressure campaign” of sanctions against Iran aimed to please the traditional allies as they faced a common enemy in Iran. Biden has promised to return to the 2015 JCPOA agreement, and he would also discuss Iran’s nuclear program and exchange for sanctions relief. In this process, it is expected that Washington might pressure Iran to withdraw its support for regional proxies in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Lebanon and the Palestinian territories. Moreover, the US would also seek to curb Iran’s export of precision guided missiles to her regional allies. Iran though, has already made it clear that these issues would not be discussed in the event of a renegotiated JCPOA. Furthermore, this plan may be complicated by the recent assassination of Iran’s top nuclear scientist, which was not condemned by the White House that Iran blames on Israel. Public outrage had not even subdued at the point due to the assassination of Qasim Sulemani. Currently, the architecture of the Middle Eastern region is even more complex and challenging than it was four years ago butthe fact is that Iran cannot afford military conflict at this point when its economy is already crippling amidst the COVID-19 pandemic along with the sanctions imposed by the US.

Trump administration’s “Israel-first” approach in the region brought severe criticism at the global level. The Abraham Accord, signed in September of last year,which normalized Israel’s relations with UAE & Bahrain, is widely seen as Donald Trump’s most significant foreign policy achievement. This Accord altered the decades long regional perception that Arab-Israel peace could not be achieved without first addressing the issue of statehood for Palestinians. Biden has said that he supports more countries recognizing Israel but at the same time Israel needs to work towards genuine solutions between the two states. Moreover, the new administration at the White House will not show the same tolerance for Israel’s settler expansionism as its predecessor. However, there are certain foreign policies by the Trump administration that the new US leadership does not want to renew. The normalization of Arab-Israel relations is something that enjoys bipartisan support. And also, the shift of the US embassy to Jerusalem seems unlikely to be undone.

The US policy inthe Middle East under the new leadership will be less ideological and would be more based on fundamental principles.  These principles will greatly focus on human rights as some analysts view human rights as the core foreign policy agenda of the Biden administration. Thus, it does not seem not to be good news for the traditional allies of the US including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Israel. There are a variety of issues in addition to the human rights issues: the KSA intervention in Yemen, arms sales to Saudi Arabia, the lingering mistrust, the jailing of activists and Jamall Khashoggi’s murder case, which are creating uncertainties between the Washington and Riyadh. Hence, KSA is going to have a very difficult time with the Biden administration. Similarly, the new administration can also be expected to take a less tolerant view towards Moscow and Ankara because of the extraterritorial activities in the Middle Eastern region.

Certainly, returning to the Iran nuclear dealofficially, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action-will take a longer time to review because of the complexity of the issue and the domestic problems that the US is currently facing. There is also a possibility of a dangerous escalation without a nuclear deal due to Iran’s aims of buildingmilitary scenarios. Therefore, multilateral diplomacy is the best option for regional peace and security, which has been tried in the previous years.Even the JCPOA was a result of such diplomacy. The US ending its support to Saudi Arabia’s war in Yemen might turn away the traditional allies for some time but not permanently due to the common interests in the region. Biden is also likely to alter Trump’s decision to withdraw US forces from the region as it would decrease US influence in the region. The top priority of the US administration in the Middle East would be to try and manage Iran’s problems and to maintain reasonable relations with Israel. Traditional allies of the US in the Middle East were content and supportive of Trump’s policies in the region but they view Biden, not as a President, but Vice President of the Obama Administration. Trump’s bilateral relations were often based on personal ties with the foreign leaders while Biden is expected to adopt a more multilateral approach in engaging with the allies. Still, scholars believe that there would be no fundamental change in the US foreign policy towards the Middle East, especially when it comes to protecting its vested interests in the region.

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Rejoining the UNHRC will be the State Department’s first diplomatic mistake

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As over the last days US Vice President Harris swore in Linda Thomas-Greenfield as the new US Ambassador to the UN, US Secretary of State Blinken announced in parallel that the US is now seeking election to the UN Human Rights Council, in an attempt to rejoin the UN system. But that’s not the right first move back at the UN that the US should be making. And that’s not what the progressive left had in mind when the real left groups put in office the new Biden Administration.

My perspective comes from having worked in the UN human rights system and as a finalist for UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of speech last year – but also as a progressive left voice.

The days when UN engagement defined Democrats vis-a-vis Republicans are over.

Shunning the UN has always been a Republican hallmark but backing and pouring so much funding into an old style, corrupt bureaucracy that has little to do with “diplomacy” is not what the new, awaken progressive left wants either.

Several weeks ago, I made the estimate that the 10bln dollars which the US government pours into the black hole called the UN equals the Covid relief that 16mln struggling American people could be getting now. The Biden Administration’s State Department diplomats have to remember who put them in office.

Democrat centrist diplomats have more in common with the UN in terms of ways, goals, style and world view than they do with the progressive left. Backing the UN means backing the old, corrupt ways, which the real progressive left voted to break last year.

The decision to announce the US’s goal to rejoin the UN Human Rights Council comes in the same week when President Biden finally announced his real stance on the Black Lives Matter ‘defund the police’ goals. Biden, it turns out, unsurprisingly does not support that. That’s not what the progressive left signed up for, either.

The UN institutional funding inertia by the US government does not define the Democratic Party anymore. That’s not what the left voters want. 

The left’s reasons for not embracing the UN and the UN Human Rights Council have little to do with the usual Republican ‘go it alone’ at the international stage.

Yes to diplomacy and multilateralism. No to the corrupt, faceless UN. “International diplomacy” is no longer the same thing as the UN system.

The wave that rose across American political life last year, with so many young black activists and so many people voting for the first time, signaled a big resounding No to old ways and old institutions, which have little concern for the actual needs of the people.

The new US Ambassador to the UN, Thomas-Greenfield, will have the tough job of reforming the UN, and in my opinion, even defunding the UN.

The days when love for the UN defined Democrats are certainly over. It’s time for the Biden Administration to do what it was elected for, which is to not simply go back to the same old, same old corrupt, faceless bureaucratic institutions swimming in money. This is not what we want. The progressive left voted for change and now that also includes the UN.

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U.S. Climate Policy Could Break the Ice with Russia

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Photo: Fiona Paton/ flickr

“In the midst of every crisis, lies great opportunity” — Albert Einstein

Within the climate crisis lies strategic opportunity for the United States. Climate change offers the chance to earn back the good will of allies, to prepare American cities for an urgently needed increase in immigration, and to reinvent U.S.-led institutions that have gone stale. Perhaps most of all, foreign policymakers should remain cognizant of how climate action can help the U.S. navigate relations with the other great powers.

As a recent report from the Center for a New American Security details, synergy between China and Russia is more problematic for U.S. interests than the sum of the challenges that each nation poses individually. Similarly, a recent Atlantic Council publication observed that “allowing Russia to drift fully into China’s strategic embrace over the last decade will go down as the single greatest geostrategic error.” Chinese and Russian interests do currently align on defense, economics, and the degradation of the U.S.-designed world order, but the nature of their alignment does not constitute an alliance.

In characterizing the relationship, this distinction is paramount. For as long as China and Russia remain merely convenient partners, rather than ideologically kindred allies, it is possible to keep these neighbors at arm’s length. To this end, the U.S. must reorient its approach to Russia. It is the Russian perception that world politics are rigged to benefit the U.S. at Russia’s expense that has prompted its support for China.

Russia’s national interests are rooted in the desire for respect. With this in mind, Russia could pull back from synergy with China if a better opportunity to advance these interests presented itself. Ultimately, the ability of the U.S. to offer a mutually acceptable alternative will hinge on two related factors: the Arctic and NATO. Critically, the issue of climate change is central to both of these factors.

In the Arctic, rapid warming removes barriers to resource exploitation, shipping activity, and great power competition. This has drawn many non-Arctic states to the region. Yet, even with China inserting itself as a “Near-Arctic State,” Russia has expressed the need for a hierarchy of regional influence in which the interests of Arctic states are prioritized over non-Arctic states. On this, American and Russian interests align.

Russian distrust of the U.S. complicates matters, however. Arctic military assertiveness from Russia is evidence of its sensitivity to the NATO alliance. In response, U.S. military branches have been releasing strategies for Arctic-specific forward defense. Such militarism is not conducive to improving relations, securing sovereign influence, or addressing climate change. 

In order to limit undue Chinese influence in the region and stabilize its relations with Russia by securing a multilateral agreement that formalizes an Arctic hierarchy, the U.S. will need to alter its foreign policy so that Russia perceives it to be a viable partner. The alteration should be sufficient for reducing friction with Russia’s core interests, but not so extreme that liberal values or American security are put in jeopardy. Such transactional considerations should include fashioning a new climate-positive role for the U.S. in NATO. After all, the permanent physical presence of roughly 76,000 U.S. troops on the European continent not only irks Russia, but this posture is also expensive, carbon-intensive, and perhaps not even the most effective approach to conflict deterrence. 

Indeed, research has shown that rapid deployment of new forces is significantly more likely to stymie aggression. This suggests that the U.S. should reduce its troop levels in Europe by at least 75 percent while bolstering rapid deployment readiness. This would allow the U.S. to simultaneously reduce its military’s fuel demand and greenhouse gas emissions, earn the good will necessary for stronger diplomacy with Russia, and still honor its security commitment to NATO in the event of a crisis. Moreover, the U.S. could then reinvest the potential savings into both Arctic sustainability and NATO’s capacity to manage climate insecurity.

Through the establishment of a bounded Arctic order and the greening of American leadership in NATO, the U.S. can dispel Sino-Russian synergy in the region and help maintain balance between the great powers. Specifically, these actions would both politically distance China from Russia and give the Kremlin substantial reason to begin feeling more optimistic about its relations with the West. To be sure, similar measures will be necessary in other regions to fully assure balance. However, the Arctic is a natural place for the U.S. to begin this endeavor. Usefully, the themes of climate mitigation and adaptation provide a blueprint for what countering Sino-Russian synergy elsewhere ought to generally entail.

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