trade-unionist

Trump And The Lessons of History

While of course it’s tempting to dismiss Donald Trump as nothing more than a buffoon and a cartoon caricature of the worst excesses of American capitalism, it wouldn’t be wise. Things are starting to get ugly in US politics, or maybe he’s just making an ugliness that’s always been there harder to ignore.

Getting on for a century ago, in the 1920′s, Hitler’s ‘Brownshirts’ were a key factor in his rise to power. They were the bully-boys he used to silence protest at his public speeches and rallies, because he was by no means universally liked or regarded as the answer to Germany’s very real problems. They were ready to attack and beat anyone perceived as a threat to their leader. They broke up opposition rallies. They saw themselves as ‘patriots’. They vilified and terrorized jews, trades-unionists, homosexuals, and other races. They hated and feared anyone who was different. If you protested at a Hitler rally you risked being silenced by the fists and boots of Brownshirt thugs.

That was then and this is now. In Birmingham, Alabama, in the USA, at a Donald Trump rally, black activist Mercutio Southall Jr, was beaten and choked by Trump supporters for protesting what he saw as their leaders racism (here). Mr Trump later said on TV’s ‘Fox and  Friends’ that Mr Southall probably deserved what he got, adding .. “Maybe he should have been roughed up.” It came as no surprise to Mr Southall when Birmingham police refused to bring charges against the people who attacked the protesters because, as he said, “I was being choked right in front of a Birmingham Police officer and all he did was try to stop me from hitting the man who was choking me.”

Violence at a political event like this would be shocking even if it were a completely isolated incident but, unfortunately, it’s not. Verbal and physical violence at Trump rallies, especially directed at protesters of color, is becoming routine. Another recent rally took a violent turn when attendees shoved and spat on immigration advocates. The following week, Trump supporters were filmed dragging and kicking an immigration activist while others chanted “U-S-A! U-S-A!” Trump’s response to these incidents has been to confine reporters at his rallies to pens in order to prevent them doing their job properly.

In a massive field of Republican presidential wannabees, bickering and squabbling like children as they try to outdo each other in how heartless and selfish they can be towards the poor and minorities and how ‘tough’ they can appear, Trump stands out like a malignant colossus. He goes straight for the jugular. He says the unsayable. He knows no boundaries of good taste or truth. He understands how to plug right into the backward, bigoted prejudices of the Republican faithful.

America in 2016 may be many things, but one thing it is very definitely not is a post-racial society. It is a country still characterized by racial inequality and made uneasy by brooding racial tension. A nation which still self-segregates and where research suggests that 75% of whites have ‘entirely white social networks without any minority presence.’ Michael Moore said with some truth that “In a country born of racial genocide, the issue of race is still an open wound on the American soul. We haven’t dealt with it.“

Trump knows this. He isn’t a fool. He is a smart, amoral political operator with a monster ego who knows his target audience. Power is his goal and to get it he is willing to use racial hatred and the bogey-man of ‘terrorism’ to fearmonger without caring about any consequences beyond his own immediate political advantage. Contrary to what some, understandably alarmed by his extreme rhetoric, have called him he is not a ‘Hitler’ and those who follow him aren’t ‘Nazi’s’ (not all of them anyway). Obviously there is no direct, point-for-point correspondence between the rise of Hitler and the rise of Donald Trump, their beliefs, or their aims. But there are worrying echoes of the past in what’s happening.

History offers lessons to those willing to learn. We know that the beast always lurks just beneath our thin veneer of civilization. We know how easy it is to stir up the very worst in human nature. We know where child-like faith in self-proclaimed ‘strong leaders’ can end. We know how easily people surrender real freedoms for false promises of ‘security’. We know what happens when we make scapegoats of race or religion. We know how dangerous it is to torment people with fear and fabricated terrors until they lash out at anyone they see as ‘different’. It’s all there in the history books and we know it doesn’t end well.

Donald Trump and the rest of the far-right who have hijacked the Republican party are playing with fire. If America hasn’t learned the lessons of history, innocent people are going to get burned.

Internet Writer

UK General Election 2015: It’s Tomorrow!

Election day is tomorrow, Thursday 7th May, and polls will be open 7am-10pm. If you join the queue at 10pm you will still be able to vote. (x)

The location of your polling station is on your poll card, which you should have received in the post. You don’t need to take this with you to vote. (x)  If you are unsure about anything, contact your local election authorities as soon as possible. (Enter your postcode into the purple box for localised contact details.)

FAQs: (x)

BBC party-by-party policy guide: (x)

BBC live election feed: (x)

Something that’s come up a lot is the need to organise deindustrialised communities to help them not only not fall for the racist bigotry of Trumpism, but to win concessions and empowerment for one of the most neglected and ruined sections of the working class. This is often seen as quite hard, especially given that the tradition of the organised left and working class in both Britain and America is a trade unionist one - how can workers strike back against capital when they are without work, when they are now surplus to capital’s requirements? For that reason I think it’s worth looking at the Piquetero (Picketer) movement in Argentina, another country severely affected by deindustrialisation and the consequences that follow for trade union organising. These were (and are) community based unions of unemployed workers whose primary tactic was blockading motorways and transport hubs - if workers can’t disrupt the production of capital, they can still disrupt the flow of capital. These groups, organised around the demand of “work, dignity, and social change,” were highly effective at winning new welfare benefits and work programmes from the government. We’re seeing a revival of roadblock tactics by oppressed communities in BLM on both sides of the Atlantic - we need to see it happening in working class communities too imo

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

—  Martin Niemöller
First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—
and there was no one left to speak for me.
—  Martin Niemöller

Our 5th Annual March for Choice, takes place on Saturday the 24th of September, assembling at the Garden of Remembrance on Parnell Square from 1.30pm, before we march to Dáil Éireann at 2pm.

The theme of our March this year is ‘Rise and Repeal’ a comment on the failure of our Republic to fulfil the promise of equality made in 1916.

100 years ago, the signatories of the Irish proclamation declared a land of “equal rights and equal opportunities” for all its citizens, but this Republic has failed to live up to their ideals. Until recently, our women revolutionaries – who fought and died alongside their male counterparts – were erased from history; quite literally in the case of Elizabeth O’Farrell, a trained midwife, suffragist and trade unionist. This ‘airbrushing’ continues to this day – the parallels between Nurse O’Farrell’s photograph, and the removal of Maser’s Repeal the 8th mural are clear to see.

We have been fighting for equal rights and equal opportunities since the birth of our conservative Catholic nation. 

We have made some progress; we have won the right to marry and divorce our partners irrespective of their gender; we have won the right to use contraceptives so that we may exercise a limited control over our reproductive lives, but in 2016, 100 years on, the equality promised in the proclamation hasn’t been realised. Women, trans men and non-binary people who may need to access abortion in Ireland, North and South, still don’t have the right to choose.

The Easter Rising sought Sovereignty and self determination for Ireland. Today, we seek the same control over our own bodies. No longer will the Irish State force us to self-administer health care by taking abortion pills (risking a fourteen year jail term), or spend thousands of euro travelling secretly to England. This year we, the women of Ireland, with the support of all those who care about equality and human rights, are self administering our independence.

We are tired of the delay tactics being used by successive governments who bury their heads in the sand, ignoring the urgent need and desire for change. We are tired of being told to wait – tired of being told we need a ‘calm and measured debate’ while our contributions to this debate are silenced or belittled. We are tired of seeing our sisters in the North criminalised for taking medicine which is legal in the rest of the UK, and is on the World Health Organisation’s list of essential medicines. We are afraid of what Britain’s exit from the EU will mean for our sisters living in Ireland who are not citizens. We are tired of hearing of horrific case after horrific case while yet another EU body or court tell us our laws go against international human rights standards. Women’s rights are Human Rights. There can be no freedom without Women’s freedom.

Enough blood has been spilled, enough women have died unwillingly. No more death, no more silence, no more shame. This is our Rising!

Rise, and Repeal the 8th!

Spread this like wildfire! RSVP to the event on Facebook!

If people choose to ignore what’s happening in the world around them, fine. that’s up to them. but there’s a rather famous poem on a similar note that i think they should be made aware of, if it’d make any difference;

First they came for the communists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn’t speak out because I wasn’t a Jew.

Then they came for me
and there was no one left to speak out for me.

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I remained silent;
I wasn’t a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

—  Martin Niemöller 
What “President Trump” Means For My Family

Let’s try an exercise. Read this quotation.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

Now replace the proper nouns in that quotation with ones you might be more aware of: Muslims, Gays, Women, Immigrants, Disabled.

The quote was taken from lectures by Pastor Martin Niemöller in the wake of Adolf Hitler’s rise to power. He admitted his own antisemitism led to apathy as the dictator began collecting up his neighbors and countrymen.

I’ll say that again. His neighbors and countrymen.

All of the groups I listed have been targeted in speeches and proposed policies by president-elect Donald Trump and vice president-elect Mike Pence. All of the groups I listed are your neighbors and countrymen.

When my boys woke to discover Trump had won the election, they asked what will happen. I said, “We make our voices heard at the highest levels of government. We work hard to protect the people we care about and the rights of Americans and those who seek to become Americans.” Our neighbors and countrymen.

So I will show my boys that we must engage with leaders who disagree that all citizens should have equal rights. We must show them that we all deserve safety and respect. And if those leaders will not listen, we must shame and ridicule them. And if they feel no shame, we must fight them. Because they very ideals that make America a beacon of hope and promise are in very real danger of crumbling, not just within my boys’ lifetime, but within their childhood. 

So whether you voted for Trump or not, when his promises begin to materialize and they come for your neighbors and countrymen, I will join you as you stand against them. Because history shows us that after our neighbors and countrymen are gone, the tyrants come for us, for our children.

And who then will speak out for you?

If you did not fit in with the ideal citizen, the Nazi liked label you. At a glance they could see your “flaws” by using a clever system of identification. Each group was identified by an ever present triangle sewn to the breast of their clothing. If you think about the GOP rhetoric today and all the people they are against, it doesn’t seem all too unfamiliar than the list below:

Pink - Gay men
Red - Political (trade unionists, socialists, social democrats, communists)
Green - Criminal
Blue - Immigrant
Purple - Religious Minority (mostly Jehova’s Witnesses)
Black - Undesireables (lesbians, Roma women, mentally ill, addicts, vagrants, pacifists, prostitutes)
Brown - Roma men

The pink triangle has special significance to me as a transwoman. On November 11, 1933, the Hamburg City Administration asked the Head of Police to “pay special attention to transvestites” and to “deliver them to the concentration camps.”. In 1938 the Institute of Forensic Medicine recommended that the “phenomena of transvestism” be “exterminated from public life.” However, for the most part Nazis made little distinction between trans people and cis queer men and women. Trans women who were sent to concentration camps wore inverted pink triangles along with cis men. And trans men wore inverted black triangles with cis women.

So forgive me if my rage starts to show when I hear that trans students in Wisconsin are required to wear green bracelets to identify them as trans to the staff and students. http://thinkprogress.org/education/2016/07/20/3800220/trans-students-file-federal-suits/

So many people have been making parallels between Nazi Germany and the United States today. I’ve always been quick to dismiss such claims, but today, it is blindingly obvious that fascism has taken hold in this country.

Fight it. Fight it always. Always challenge hate.

#alwayschallengehate #girlslikeus #transisbeautiful (at Brentwood, Tennessee)

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First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

—  Martin Niemöller

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a communist; 

Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a socialist; 

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a trade unionist; 

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew; 

Then they came for the Catholics, and I did not speak out - because I was a Protestant;

Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak out for me.

- Martin Niemöller

#ukraine #venezuela

First they came for the Jews
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for the Communists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a Communist.
Then they came for the trade unionists
and I did not speak out
because I was not a trade unionist.
Then they came for me
and there was no one left
to speak out for me.
—  Pastor Martin Niemöller

First they came for the socialists,
and I did not speak out -
because I was not a socialist.

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I did not speak out -
because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for the Jews,
and I did not speak out -
because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me -
and there was no one left
to speak for me.

— 

Martin Niemoller, a German theologian and paster who was an early Nazi supporter but was later imprisoned for opposing Hitler’s regime.

We need to let our voices be heard in opposition to the killing of Christians. We cannot wait. Whether we are activists or not, normally, we need to speak up. Our silence is speaking volumes. I am haunted by something we saw at the Holocaust Museum this summer. If we are slow to speak or to action, it is often too late.

This is something my mother wrote early this morning. ISIS is killing the people we love. The people we love are dying!

They’re dying.

They’re DYING.

Is that not enough for anyone? I am broken inside because I’m a young man trying to get people to speak up, and while some of you are, I am stricken by the silence. The media barely touched the issue until ISIS killed one of their own.

If we don’t speak out now, we will ALL lose someone.

Are we really going to be silent in a futile effort to be politically correct

I’m using my voice to speak out while I still can. Will you? To the Muslims who are so careful to differentiate from ISIS and their killings, I ask simply - where are your voices? If you’re on our side, and you are equally upset about what’s going on, let the world know it.

This could become a modern day holocaust - it’s the same type of crime, the same type of genocide. People are being killed simply for disagreeing with someone else’s beliefs. Sound familiar?

Speaking out doesn’t mean hatred. It doesn’t mean our words have to be hateful! Courage is not hatred, and if we’re going to talk about generalization - that’s one of the biggest generalizations I’ve seen, and it’s wrong.

There’s a time to be silent about an issue. This is not that time. Enough is enough.

Share this post with #WeAreN #EnoughIsEnough and #StopISIS and join the cause. If the media isn’t going to help us, use social media - share this everywhere! Our silence is speaking volumes more than our words ever could, and it’s time we open our mouths and say something. Reblog. Share the cause. It might save a life.

Sign the petition. 

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.
Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
— 

Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) 

Holocaust Memorial Day 

Tuesday, 27 January, 2015

5

Do you remember that evening when you had asked about the women of my family? Proud to have a story worth telling, I had talked about Sita, my mother’s mother, a freedom fighter and a trade unionist, loving mother to five children, and a thrifty homemaker. Sita when she died in 1974 was “Mata-ji”, respected Mother, to all in her town.

“Why are some women chosen to become mothers to many, and not others,” you had asked. “Is there a price that they have to pay in return?” Your questions had made me think some more. Someone once said that memories contain the map of identity. In this marble temple, the fractured memory of Sita, yet subsumed in the son-bearing, nurturing, and virtuous body of Bharat Mata–Mother India, the Hindu mother of Hindu sons. She is Sanskrit, and she is Hindi. She is the source, chaste and pure. 

Erased from her body are all markers of desire, passion, and longing that as a mortal woman Sita must have felt. Covered over are the wounds inflicted upon her for being born woman in an upper-caste Hindu family.

Turning to you I had asked curiously about your own grandmother. You had replied, “My grandmother was also called Mata-ji by some, yet she would find no place in this great temple.”

That same evening I had talked about my grandmother’s struggles to attend high school, the first for any girl in her family. The main hurdle was that the road to school led through the tawaifs’ quarters. Interrupting me with a sudden bitter tone in your voice, you had said, “How could the daughter of a respectable Hindu family be allowed to walk through an area where women wallowed in depravity, obscenity, and disease?”

Always on the margins of respectable society, the tawaif, now seen through the filters of Victorian morality, becomes a prostitute; bearer of everything foreign, including the Urdu language. The regeneration of Hindu society demanded that the tawaif be removed, physically from the proximity of respectable areas, and culturally from music itself. 

You tell me a story of a time and place far away, where a mission was launched to rescue music from the baneful influence of Muslim musicians and tawaifs. The respectable men of town began a very successful mission to put a stop to the practice of inviting courtesans on festive and other occasions to perform in Hindu homes. From the uncharacteristic sharpness of your tone, I had a sense there is more to this tale than what you have just shared. But I am almost hesitant to ask. The history that has made me the woman I am, stands confronted by the histories you relentlessly unravel now. 

You talk about you grandmother, the once powerful Chaudrahin or leader of the now beleaguered tawaif community in Benaras. Attracted by Gandhi’s inclusive call to Hindus and Muslims, men and women, to join the national movement, she had organized a very unusual meeting of courtesans in 1921. Presided by a framed photograph of Gandhi, the meeting passed a resolution to weed out obscenity in music and to promote nationalism by singing patriotic songs at all occasions.

The irony of this meeting is not lost to you. You are aware of Gandhi’s outburst against what he termed ‘the obscene manifesto of a group of tawaifs in Barisal’. Their crime: they had organized to help the poor, nurse the sick, and support the cause of Gandhi's Satyagraha. Gandhi declined to recognize them as Congress workers, or even accept their donations unless they gave up their unworthy profession which made them worse than thieves. While thieves merely stole material possessions, these women stole virtue.

Worst however was yet to come. Barred from performing on the radio till Nehru intervened, many tawaifs like your grandmother immersed their instruments into the Ganga and stopped singing altogether. Others got married in a desperate bid for social acceptance. 

And so, as a nation marched towards freedom, a group of women whose private lives became public scandal, fell off the map. You tell me about the day your grandmother was summoned to the local police station when a zealous young Indian state decided to suppress immoral trafficking by cleansing entire localities of their original inhabitants: prostitutes and tawaifs. 

That day, your grandmother decided to leave forever, the city that had been home. 

First they came

First they came for the Communists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me

Pastor Martin Niemoller