29: #MeToo with Emily Comer, Jen Roesch, Sherry Wolf and Elizabeth Wrigley-Field

This week is all about #MeToo and the tremendous struggle against Kavanaugh. We recorded before the confirmation. We knew that regardless of the outcome, this was a watershed moment for the struggle against sexual violence and all of the deeper questions it raises about the status of women in society. This episode is our attempt to capture the dynamics of this turning point in real time, while also allowing several women — including one of our hosts — to explore what it means to them and the future of the left.

Danny turns the tables and interviews Jen in two segments. In the first, we talk about the experience of watching the Kavanaugh hearings and the process of organizing protests. In the second, we talk about why gender-based violence has become such a central issue and how the new socialist left can become a home for those looking to fight against such violence.

We also talk to Sherry Wolf and Elizabeth Wrigley-Field during the October 4 day of walkouts as they were participating in the Women’s March protest at the Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. They describe the politics of that march and reflect on the future of the movement.

And, finally, we close out our episode with West Virginia strike leader Emily Comer. Emily led a sit-in of 18 survivors at the office of Senator Joe Manchin, a West Virginia Democrat who ended up voting to confirm Kavanaugh. We play you a clip from her phone confrontation with Manchin. We then talk to Emily about the impact of #MeToo on working-class women and how working-class struggles — like the teachers’ rebellion she helped to lead — can fight sexism.

In our intro, we reflected on the first six months of the podcast and announced a fall campaign to try to build our audience and our financial supporters. We announced that we will be offering some thank-you’s to the people who support us through Patreon at https://www.patreon.com/BetterOffRedPod. If you are already a supporter, or if you join us this fall, head over to our Patreon account, and you will see how you can get a choice of one of four free e-books from Haymarket Books. And we hope you can spread the word to friends. Our goal is to reach 100 patrons and increase our audience to 3,000 consistent listens per episode by the end of the year.

Links for this episode:

*Nicole Colson on turning defeat into determination (http://bit.ly/ColsonKavDefeat)

*Danny Katch on why the fight against sexism is just beginning (http://bit.ly/KatchMeToo)

*Jen Roesch, Elizabeth Schulte and Leia Petty on what we learned from #metoo (http://bit.ly/MeTooRoundtable)

*NY Times article on protest led by Emily Comer in WV (http://bit.ly/ComerTimes)

Music and audio for this episode:

Beyoncé, “Sorry”

Lesley Gore, “You Don’t Own Me”

Aretha Franklin, “Respect”

Tacocat, “Men Explain Things To Me”

Staceyann Chin reading Marge Piercy’s “The Low Road”

Tracy Chapman, “Across The Lines”

28: Hadas Thier explains how capitalism doesn’t work

In the opener to episode 26 we discussed the political impact of the Great Recession and promised to soon have a guest to help explain the economic side of the story. We take our promises very seriously, so this week we bring in Hadas Thier, a regular contributor to the International Socialist Review and the author of the forthcoming book A People’s Guide to Capitalism: An Introduction to Marxist Economics.

Hadas breaks down the events that led 10 years ago to the global economic crisis, from the casino capitalist shenanigans on Wall Street to the underlying problems of global overproduction that led so many investors to pour their money (and our pensions) into those Ponzi schemes in the first place.

Hadas also talks to us about why mainstream economists are more interested in promoting capitalism than explaining how it works (and why it doesn’t) and how she decided after years of activism to teach herself economics in the face of the conventional wisdom that it’s too complicated for non-academics—especially non-academic women.

Jen had to miss this episode so for our opener, Eric joined Danny to discuss why the Republicans have been dead set on sticking with Brett Kavanaugh for the Supreme Court despite the mounting number of sexual assault allegations against him (and we also snuck in some sound and a short interview with Kaylin Kaupish from National Women’s Liberation during the New York City protest on October 1 outside the Yale Club). They then moved on to briefly talk about the death of notorious Chicago police torturer John Burge, and the possibility of a major Los Angeles teachers strike in the coming months.

Links for this episode:

· International Socialist Review roundtable on “Where is Capitalism Heading?” featuring Hadas and other writers (http://bit.ly/ISRroundtable)

· Hadas’s article celebrating the 150th anniversary of the publication of Karl Marx’s Capital (http://bit.ly/Capital150years)

· “She speaks for us and we’ll stand with her”: Socialist Worker editorial calling for nationwide protests to stop Kavanaugh’s nomination (http://bit.ly/ProtestKavanaugh)

Music and audio for this episode:

Kaylin Kaupish, National Women’s Liberation, at Stop Kavanaugh march in NYC on October 1

Vic Mensa, “16 Shots”

Sonic Youth, “Youth Against Fascism”

Angelique Kidjo's new cover of The Talking Heads’ "Once in a Lifetime”

Wu-Tang Clan, “C.R.E.A.M.”

Prince, “Act of God”

27: #MeToo vs Kavanaugh; Ashley Dawson on Climate Change and Capitalism

This week we talk to Ashley Dawson about capitalism and climate change. In our intro, we talk about the unfolding and cascading allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh — and what this says about the power of #MeToo.

Ashley Dawson is a professor at the City University of New York and the author of many books, including Extinction: A Radical History and most recently Extreme Cities: The Peril and Promise of Urban Life in the Age of Climate Change. He is working on a new book about energy transition and energy democracy, and he's the founder of the Climate Action Lab.

On the first anniversary of Hurricane Maria, we talked to Ashley about why storms are increasing in frequency and intensity as a result of climate change. We also discuss “climate apartheid” and how race, class and global inequalities shape how the effects of climate change are experienced.

We talk about how Trump’s economic nationalism is fueling right-wing climate change denial — and why liberal, market-oriented solutions do not offer an alternative. Instead, Ashley points to the power of social movements, both in the global South and here in the U.S., to demand real reforms. Ultimately, however, saving the climate will require going beyond capitalism and linking the struggle for the environment to the fight for a socialist society organized on an entirely different basis.

Links for this week’s interview:

• Ashley Dawson’s book, Extreme Cities, discusses why cities are ground zero for climate change and is available from Verso Books (http://bit.ly/ExtremeCities).

• In this Socialist Worker interview, Danny talked to Ashley about his book Extreme Cities and the impacts of flooding and hurricanes in urban areas (http://bit.ly/DawsonSW).

• Socialist Worker had recent coverage of Hurricane Florence’s impact on North Carolina’s poor (http://bit.ly/FlorenceSW) as well as a piece on the recovery and resistance in Puerto Rico a year after Maria (http://bit.ly/PuertoRicoRecoverySW).

Links for this week’s intro:

• Socialist Worker editorial on what the fight against Kavanaugh’s nomination represents (http://bit.ly/KavanaughEditorialSW).

• Nicole Colson on #MeToo vs the Senate (http://bit.ly/MeToovsSenate).

Music and audio for this episode:

The Boy & Sister Alma, “Lizard Eyes” (Dead Sea Captains Remix)

Radiohead, “Creep”

Brett Kavanaugh, "'What happens at Georgetown Prep, stays at Georgetown Prep,” 2015

Lana del Rey, “Ultraviolence”

Beastie Boys, “Time To Build”

The Pixies, “Monkey Gone To Heaven”

Marvin Gaye, “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)”

Talking Heads, “(Nothing But) Flowers”

26: The Great Recession’s legacy; Daphna Thier on Israel’s working class

This week we speak to Daphna Thier on the theme of “What’s the matter with the Israeli working class?” 

That’s the provocative title of Daphna’s new article in the International Socialist Review, and she talks to us about how Israel’s Zionist history and present have prevented the development of any current among its non-Palestinian workers that challenges the country’s racist undemocratic order. 

Daphna is a Brooklyn-based socialist who grew up in Jerusalem, and she talks about the work of Moshe Machover and Akiva Orr, Israeli anti-Zionist socialists who in 1969 argued, as Daphna puts it in her article, “that the Israeli working class has a vested material interest in precisely the same policies that weaken workers in other countries.” 

She then explains her attempt to update the path-breaking analysis of Machover and Orr to cover the changes in Israeli society during the past four decades, when the country embraced anti-worker neoliberal reforms but also became an even more central lynchpin of U.S. imperial domination of the Middle East. 

In our opener, we look back at the global financial crash that began 10 years ago this week with the collapse of Lehman Brothers. We take stock of the enormous ways the Great Recession has changed the world, from the massive increase in economic and racial inequality to the political polarization that is driving the declining influence of centrist parties while both socialists and the far right have seen their forces grow.

Links for this episode:

·     Daphna’s article “What’s the matter with the Israeli working class?” (http://bit.ly/Israelworkers)

·     Zachary Lockman’s vital history, Comrades and Enemies: Arab and Jewish Workers in Palestine, 1906-1948(http://bit.ly/ComradesEnemies)

·     “The Class Character of Israel” by Moshe Machover and Akiva Orr (http://bit.ly/IsraelClassCharacter)

·     Socialist Worker’s 2013 editorial about the financial collapse, “The market meltdown we’re still paying for” (http://bit.ly/TheMarketMeltdown)

Music and audio for this episode: 

The Boy & Sister Alma, “Lizard Eyes”(Dead Sea Captains Remix)

Kid Cudi, “Pursuit Of Happiness”ft. MGMT

Edwin Starr, “War”

Leyla McCalla, “Little Sparrow”

Racquet Club, “New Granada”

25: Attack on Jeremy Corbyn; Justin Akers Chacón on Radicals in the Barrio

This week we bring out a bonus conversation with author and immigrant justice activist Justin Akers Chacón (who talked with us about border politics in episode 18) about his new book Radicals in the Barrio: Magonistas, Socialists, Wobblies, and Communists in the Mexican-American Working Class, published by Haymarket Books. 

Justin is a San Diego-based professor of U.S. History and Chicano Studies. In addition to Radicals in the Barrio, he’s the author of No One is Illegal: Fighting Racism and State Violence on the U.S.-Mexico Border, which he has recently updated and republished with Haymarket.  

Jen was out of town for this conversation, so Lupita Romero (our Episode 4 guest) joined Danny to talk with Justin about the under-appreciated legacy of Mexican and Mexican-American socialists and anarchists in the formation of the U.S. left. Justin talked about the legacy of the Mexican Revolution on both sides of the border, and some of the inspiring victories and devastating defeats of farmworkers, miners and factory workers in the first half of the 20th century, who faced the threat not only of mass firings and police violence but also deportation.

In our opener, we talk about the smear campaign and attacks on Jeremy Corbyn in Britain. Corbyn is the enormously popular leader of the Labour Party and has been responsible for bringing hundreds of thousands of young activists into Labour and helping to revitalize the left. But he is hated and feared by the British establishment and has come under sustained attack. Zionists have attacked him over accusations of anti-Semitism. This week we discuss a turning point in this campaign, one that represents a threat to the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement in solidarity with Palestine.

Links for this week’s interview: 

·     Justin’s new book: Radicals in the Barrio: Magonistas, Socialists, Wobblies, and Communists in the Mexican-American Working Class (http://bit.ly/RadicalsBarrio) 

·     Justin’s updated version of No One is Illegal: Fighting Racism and State Violence on the U.S.-Mexico Border (http://bit.ly/NoOneIllegal)

Links for this week’s opener:

•  Socialist Worker interview with Scottish socialist Neil Davidson about Confronting the lies about Jeremy Corbyn (http://bit.ly/SWDavidson

Music and Audio for this episode

The Boy & Sister Alma, “Lizard Eyes” (Dead Sea Captains Remix)

Narcicyst ft. Shadia Mansour, “Hamdulilah” (Gaza Remix) 

Omar Al-Abdallat, “We Shall Not Be Moved” 

El Teatro Campesino, "El picket sign" (Luis Valdéz) 

El Poder del Norte, “Carabina 30/30” 

La Rondalla Amerindia de Aztlán, "No nos moverán” ("We Shall Not Be Moved") 

Los Fabulosos Cadillacs, “Matador" 

24: Capitalism’s Climate Catastrophe; Marx and Colonialism with Pranav Jani

In a wide-ranging conversation, we talk to Pranav Jani about Marxism and colonialism. Pranav is an associate professor of English at Ohio State University and a long-time activist and organizer with the International Socialist Organization (ISO). Pranav describes his evolution from an apolitical college student to his first encounters with the writings of Marx on India—and how he went beyond a few selected excerpts to a deeper engagement with Marx’s thought and its evolution. We also talk about postcolonial theory, and Pranav explains what insights he gained from that field of study as well as the limitations he ran up against working within it.

Another theme running throughout our interview is the importance of combining activism and theory for Pranav’s understanding of and commitment to socialism. He talks about how it was the anti-colonial revolt against the British that began to shift Marx’s own ideas about India. In Pranav’s own life and political outlook, the importance of struggle is paramount. We talk about his experience as an Indian revolutionary moving from the East Coast to Columbus, Ohio, and what he learned from helping to build a strong presence for the ISO in Ohio.

One of the themes of our discussion about his work in Ohio is a critical examination of some of the punditry about “red-state America” and the 2016 elections. Pranav describes the political picture in central Ohio and the importance of a more nuanced understanding of the working class as well as the socialist commitment to fighting both exploitation and oppression.

In our opener, we talk about a major opus on climate change published recently in the New York Times Magazine, titled "Losing Earth," whose conclusions we deem essentially reactionary. The author, Nathaniel Rich, has compiled a dense history of a decade of climate summits, high-level boardroom meetings and political hearings, but somehow concludes that human nature—and our failure to sacrifice for long-term needs—is to blame for the failure to act to prevent climate catastrophe. We reach a different conclusion: that capitalism is to blame.

Links for our interview with Pranav Jani:
*Pranav developed his ideas on Marxism, revolution and colonialism more deeply for a talk he presented at Socialism 2018. You can listen to the audio at We Are Many: bit.ly/PranavS18

*Pranav also wrote a feature article for Socialist Worker describing in more detail “What the Indian rebels taught Marx” (bit.ly/MarxIndiaSW)

*The International Socialist Review (ISR) review of Vivek Chibber’s book on postcolonialism can be found here: (bit.ly/PranavISR)

Links for our intro on climate catastrophe:
*The NYT Magazine piece on Losing Earth (bit.ly/LosingEarth)

*Naomi Klein had a good rejoinder to this article in the Intercept (bit.ly/KleinLosingEarth), and we engage with her material in this episode as well. We also recommend listening to our interview with Klein in episode 14 of this podcast (bit.ly/Ep14Klein).

Music in this episode

The Boy & Sister Alma, “Lizard Eyes” (Dead Sea Captains Remix)
Radiohead, "Idioteque" 
Beck, "Gamma Ray"
Junoon, “Meri Awaz Suno"
MIA, "Paper Planes"
Karmacy, “Blood Brothers”

23: We love nurses; we hate fascists

This week we interview two badass nurses who are on the cutting edge of one of the most dynamic sectors of the labor movement. Tristin Adie is a nurse practitioner at University of Vermont Medical Center and one of the rank and file leaders of a recent two day strike by members of the Vermont Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals. Elizabeth Lalasz is a nurse at Cook County Hospital in Chicago and a member of National Nurses United who helped organize the #RedforMed solidarity campaign with the Vermont strike.

Tristin and Elizabeth talk to us about the daily pressures facing health care workers who face the crushing daily pressure of being responsible for patients’ lives even as understaffing and budget cuts make it harder to do their jobs, what the collision between providing quality care and the priorities of a for-profit health care system look like from the inside, and why nurses are increasingly turning to unions and strikes.

In our opener, Eric discusses his experience traveling to Berkeley as part of a counter-protest against a far right rally, and Jen talks about her experience the same weekend defending a Planned Parenthood clinic from bigots at a local church.

 

Music in this episode

The Boy & Sister Alma, “Lizard Eyes” (Dead Sea Captains Remix)
Social Distortion, "Don't Drag Me Down"
Elvis Costello, "Night Rally"
Billy Bragg, "Help Save The Youth Of America"
Peggy Lee, "Fever"
Fugazi, "Waiting Room"
Aretha, "Respect"
Rebel Diaz, "Which Side Are You On" (remix)

Special thanks to John Snowden for producing this episode.

22: Kevin Cooper Live From Death Row

This week we interview Kevin Cooper, who has lived for more than three decades on death row in San Quentin prison for a quadruple homicide, despite clear evidence that he was framed by the San Bernadino Country Sherriff’s Department. 

Kevin talks to us about his long fight for freedom--including the darkest moments on February 9, 2004, when he came within four hours of being murdered by the state of California. He was saved that night by a last-minute court decision that was the result of a nationwide campaign of protests and “Live from Death Row” events in which Kevin spoke to thousands of people across the country. 

Listen to this interview and you’ll quickly understand why Kevin Cooper was able to inspire so many people to get involved in the fight for his life and, as he always insists, the life of every single person threatened by the death penalty. Kevin also talks to us about his intellectual and political awakening over the long course of his fight, and in particular the role played by comrades in the Campaign to End the Death Penalty, a group we at Better Off Red worked closely with during those years.

It’s a moving, heartbreaking and inspiring conversation, and it didn’t seem right to follow our usual format of having an opening segment on an unrelated topic. Instead, we begin with a quick introduction to give context about Kevin’s work with the Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

If you like this episode as much as we hope you do, please spread the word to your friends on and offline and consider giving us a review on iTunes so that as many people as possible learn about Kevin Cooper and his case.

As always, if you want to make a financial contribution to help make Better Off Red sustainable, go to www.patreon.com/BetterOffRedPod.

Links for this episode

· Nicholas Kristof’s massive New York Times expose of Kevin’s case (http://bit.ly/KristofCooper)

· Socialist Worker’s 2004 account about the dramatic stay of execution (http://bit.ly/2004stay)

· Kevin’s essay “Occupy Death Row” (http://bit.ly/OccupyDeathRow)

· Visit savekevincooper.org to read Kevin’s essays, see his artwork and learn more about his case.

Music and audio for this episode

The Boy & Sister Alma, “Lizard Eyes” (Dead Sea Captains Remix)

Stevie Wonder, “They Won’t Go When I Go”

Public Enemy, “Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos”

Gil Scott-Heron, “Lady Day And John Coltrane”

The Weeknd, Kendrick Lamar, “Pray For Me”

Bob Marley, “Redemption Song”