Don’t Curse, Organize

Source: Michael Kazin, Dissent, Winter 2017

A cruel irony lurks beneath the debacle of the 2016 election: Donald Trump may have won the roughly 80,000 voters he needed in the Rust Belt at least in part because he vowed to fix a massive problem of twenty-first-century capitalism that the left had propelled into national prominence: economic inequality. The insurgents of Occupy, the fighters for $15, and Bernie Sanders and his young apostles had all drawn the media’s attention to the nagging wage gap, bad trade deals, and lousy, non-union jobs. Barack Obama won reelection in 2012 partly because he stoked this discontent when he ran against a businessman who wrote off nearly half the population of his own country. But last fall, it was Trump, not the uninspiring Democratic nominee, who made an effective, albeit classically demagogic, appeal to white working people to change a system “rigged” against them. “He stoked his base’s fears,” observed Gary Younge in the Guardian; “she failed to give her base hope.”

So how should radicals and liberals resist and help defeat an administration hostile to every principle and policy that makes a decent society possible? Several contributors to this issue offer sharp, sensible views about those burning questions. …. Leftists, in and out of social movements, should instead seize the opportunity that Hillary Clinton’s defeat has given them—by transforming the Democratic Party from inside.

Articles include:
The Fight Ahead:

Tomorrow’s Fight
Jedediah Purdy
Trump has put us where he put his followers all year: frightened, in a besieged place, a country we do not feel we recognize, in need of a champion. Now we all have to be one another’s champions.

Left Foot Forward
Sarah Leonard
….Now that our enemies are in power, what comes next? For starters, if the Democrats stand a chance in the near future, Republicans have conveniently demonstrated for them what they did not believe coming from the left: economic populism works….

The Next Democratic Party
Timothy Shenk
Parties recover from defeat in two ways. They can try to beat the opposition at their own game, or they can try to change the rules of the game. Donald Trump did the latter. Now it’s the Democrats’ turn.

A Call for Sanctuary
Mae Ngai
The American public does not support mass removal of immigrants. And by turning cities and campuses into sanctuaries against raids and deportations, we have the power to stop it.

Prepare For Regime Change, Not Policy Change
N. Turkuler Isiksel
Lessons from the autocrats’ toolkit. …. Confidence in the exceptional resilience of American democracy is particularly misplaced in the face of today’s illiberal populist movements, whose leaders are constantly learning from each other. Trump has a wide variety of tried and tested techniques on which to draw; already, he has vowed to take pages out of Putin’s playbook. Defenders of liberal democracy, too, must learn from each other’s victories and defeats. Below are some hard-earned lessons from countries that have been overrun by the contemporary wave of illiberal democracy. They could be essential for preserving the American republic in the dark years to come…..

A Devil We Know
Robert Greene
Frightening as it is, Trumpism has many precedents in U.S. history—and the social movements of the last century, from the Southern Tenant Farmers Union to ACT UP, offer important lessons for how to fight it.

Texas’s New Ground Game
Michelle Chen
….The Texas Organizing Project (TOP), a gritty grassroots network linking three rapidly browning cities—San Antonio, Dallas, and Houston—has fought and won enough local battles to demonstrate the value of seeding incremental progressive wins on the neighborhood level in order to build a grassroots people’s movement. And they know better than to take anything about Texas for granted. For TOP’s communications director Mary Moreno, giving people a reason to believe voting still makes a difference in a politically predictable state starts with talking about them, not their vote…..

The Future of Work:

Introduction: No Retreat
Sarah Jaffe and Natasha Lewis
….When we sat down to consider the future of work, then, we decided to set aside the debate over whether, how many, and how fast the robots are coming and concentrate on these questions of politics, of power. Which workers have it, and how do they wield it? Whose work is valued, and how much? Who is a member of the working class these days, and how is that likely to change?

And we decided to think big. Though it might be hard to imagine a more dire political reality than the one we currently face, the shock of the recent election shows there is space for new political ideas. The authors in the following pages set out provocations and strategies to win the future we want, and warn of the futures we might get if we lose these fights…..

Thank God It’s Monday
Kate Aronoff
….Reverence for hard work is not simply a decorative gimmick, but core to the WeWork philosophy. The imperative to hustle reflects the way the founders see (and wish to shape) the future of work. Meanwhile, WeWork’s popularity is driven—in part—by the increasing atomization of labor, across income brackets. By offering workers an alternative to days spent alone behind a computer, Neumann and McKelvey discovered they could turn a profit by exploiting one of the defining features of work’s so-called future: isolation….

A Strike Against the New Jim Crow
Janaé Bonsu
(subscription required)
….Last September, inmates around the nation boldly resisted as exploited workers have often done in the past. They staged the largest prison strike in U.S. history. It was organized by the Free Alabama Movement, a group of prisoners and allies, and the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee, a segment of the Industrial Workers of the World…..

Love’s Labor Earned
J.C. Pan
(subscription required)
….To most women today who find themselves exhausted by unwaged, unappreciated emotion work, receiving payment for it probably seems like a pretty delightful idea. Why continue to coddle and counsel men without getting something in return? Why work as therapists without charging therapist rates?….

Learning from the Rank and File: An Interview with Barbara Madeloni
Sarah Jaffe and Barbara Madeloni
On November 8, as the electoral map turned redder and redder, Massachusetts and the surrounding northeastern states began to look like a little blue island. Reliably Democratic in presidential elections even after a Republican took the governor’s office in the state two years ago, Massachusetts was still the site of significant election-night drama, as an initiative that would have drastically expanded the reach of charter schools was on the ballot—and went down, sixty-two to thirty-eight. Barbara Madeloni is the president of the Massachusetts Teachers Association and helped build the No on Two coalition that defeated the initiative. She spoke with Dissent about the lessons from that fight for the future of the labor movement as it prepares for the attacks that will likely come from a Trump administration.

An Economist’s Case for Open Borders
Atossa Araxia Abrahamian
…..Last April, an economist named Branko Milanovic published a proposal to reduce global economic inequality in the Financial Times. The best way to help the world’s poor, he wrote, is to encourage movement of labor and get countries to open up their borders. But of course, that’s easier said than done: many citizens of rich host countries balk at the idea of increased migration. When they imagine foreigners settling down within their borders, they fear that their jobs, their benefits, and their idea of national (and, let’s face it, ethnic) unity will be threatened. The campaigning around the British initiative to leave the EU and Donald Trump’s victory in the U.S. presidential election will endure as the consequences of this talk in action. Milanovic’s suggestion is as follows: what if we make some concessions to these concerns and fears, and formally reduce the rights and benefits foreigners are entitled to, so long as they are welcome to come, work, and get a shot at improving their economic situation, at least for a limited time?….

Bargaining with Silicon Valley
Rebecca Burns
(subscription required)
…..At this rate, it’s unlikely that all of us will be working on online platforms anytime soon. But the defining feature of the gig economy isn’t really that workers accept jobs through an app on their phone: it’s that they work with no benefits, no job security, and no unions. And it’s this model of the future, in which workers are fully fungible, that is being embraced not only by tech acolytes, but also by traditional employers and the broader right. Under the guise of inevitability, a host of tech, business, and anti-union groups appear eager to use the gig economy as a Trojan horse for changes that affect far more workers: privatizing what remains of the social safety net, “modernizing” (read: gutting) key labor laws, and further hobbling unions…..

A Left Vision for Trade
Erik Loomis
(subscription required)
….Both Trump and Clinton explained their objection to the TPP in terms of the very real threat it posed to American jobs. But globalization is not going away, with or without the TPP. So how can we make it fairer?….