34: The 2018 midterms and the meaning of life

Lance Selfa comes on the pod this week to discuss what midterms tell us about the state of U.S. politics. In addition to being an associate editor of the International Socialist Review and a frequent contributor to Socialist Worker, Lance is the author of The Democrats: A Critical History, published by Haymarket Books.

Before our conversation with Lance, Eric joins Jen and Danny to respond to a listener’s question about whether socialism can be compatible with religion. We cover lots of ground, including Marx’s famous (and misunderstood) quote about the opium of the masses, the hypocrisy and chauvinism of the so-called “new atheism,” and Danny’s deep discomfort with his mortality.

Links for our interview with Lance Selfa:

• “The Trumpification of American politics”: Lance’s recent article in Socialist Worker (http://bit.ly/Trumpification).

• Alan Maass’s “Six socialist takeaways from Election 2018” (http://bit.ly/6socialisttakes).

• Todd Chretien’s look at discussions among different socialists about the way forward after the midterms (http://bit.ly/aftermidterms).

• Sam Farber’s piece in Jacobin about Donald Trump as a “lumpen capitalist” (http://bit.ly/lumpenTrumpen).

• Lance’s book, The Democrats: A Critical History (http://bit.ly/Selfa).

Links for our opener on religion:

• The Meek and the Militant, Paul Siegel’s classic Marxist analysis of how religion can play both a reactionary and radical political role (bit.ly/MeekMilitant).

• Mike Marqusee’s sharp criticism of neoliberal secularism, “Contending for the living” (http://bit.ly/Marqusee).

• FYI, Danny’s got a chapter called “Is Socialism a Religion” in his book Socialism…Seriously (http://bit.ly/SocSersly)

Music for this episode:

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

Stevie Wonder, “Have A Talk With God”

The Shazam, “Super Tuesday”

Rihanna, “American Oxygen”

Stealers Wheel, “Stuck In The Middle With You”

Death Cab For Cutie, “Good Help (Is Hard To Find)"

33: Solidarity with the caravan; Leandros Fischer on Die Linke’s strategy

This week, we talk to Leandros Fischer of Germany’s Die Linke (The Left Party). In the wake of a wave of refugee migration in 2015, the far right in Germany has made terrifying advances. The Alternative for Germany (AfD) has gained seats in the German Parliament and openly fascist forces have rallied in the streets of Chemnitz. But in the last month we also saw a spectacular demonstration of anti-fascist forces a quarter of a million strong in Berlin.

Leandros explains how Germany’s position as the leader of the European Union, the weakening of labor protections, and the creation of a two-tier, contract-based workforce have all set the stage for a deepening polarization in German politics. He discusses the history of Die Linke, one of the earliest broad-left party projects in Europe, and its current situation and debates. He helps us untangle the debates on the left about the controversial positions taken by Sahra Wagenknecht. He discusses the rise of the right and lays out a strategic vision for how the left can grow in this moment.

In our opener, we are joined by Hector Rivera and Rory Fanning to discuss Trump’s racist hysteria about the migrant caravan and the politics of the border. Hector is a socialist and immigrant rights activist based in Los Angeles and is involved in cross-border solidarity efforts. Rory is a military veteran who recently wrote an essay calling on troops to refuse to obey Trump’s orders to deploy to the border.

Links for our interview with Leandros Fischer:

*Leandros has written frequently for Jacobin about the political debates inside the German left. Here he talks about the rise of the right and how to understand it (http://bit.ly/LeandrosRight). In this article, he discusses the questions surrounding Sahra Wagenknecht (http://bit.ly/LeandrosWagenknecht).

*Socialist Worker recently carried two articles about the advance of the far-right in Germany and the anti-fascist response. In this article, Kathleen Brown describes the street marches of open Nazis in Chemnitz (http://socialistworker.org/2018/09/10/how-can-nazis-be-on-the-march-in-germany). And here, Axel Fair-Schulz discusses how the left should confront the rise of the far right (http://bit.ly/AxelFightRight).

Links for our opener:

*In Socialist Worker, Danny Katch and Khury Petersen-Smith discuss the politics surrounding the migrant caravan and how we can build solidarity (http://bit.ly/SWCaravan)

*In an article for In These Times, Khury Petersen-Smith recounts the history of Germany’s welcoming movement during the refugee crisis of 2015 and talks about how we can apply those lessons to building solidarity with the migrant caravan today.

*Rory Fanning and Spenser Rapone are military veterans who have called on soldiers to defy orders if they are called to the US-Mexico border (http://bit.ly/RorySW)

Music for this episode:

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

Lucius, "Two Of Us On The Run”

Spoon, “Tear It Down”

Egotronic, “Raven gegen Deutschland”

Atari Teenage Riot, “Start The Riot”

Die Ärzte, “Schrei Nach Liebe”

Gastone, “Weihnachtsgans”

32: Right turn in US politics, Aldo Cordeiro Sauda on Bolsonaro’s Brazil

In this week’s episode, we discuss Brazil’s President-elect Jair Bolsonaro with Brazilian socialist Aldo Cordeiro Sauda and U.S.-based socialist Todd Chretien. This weekend, in a terrifying development in international politics, Brazil’s neo-fascist Bolsonaro won the presidential elections. Since that time, the military has paraded openly through the streets, raided universities and raised the prospect of attacks on Brazil’s social movements and oppressed populations.

Recorded just days before the October 28 election, we talk to Aldo and Todd about the background to Bolsonaro’s rise after 14 years of rule by the Workers Party (PT). Aldo identifies the constitutional coup against former President Dilma Rousseff as a turning point in the advance of the far right. We talk about why the ruling class has swung behind Bolsonaro and what the rise to power of a neo-fascist means for the left specifically. We end by talking about the labor and social movements, which still have real organization and power in Brazil, and how to build international solidarity with their struggles.

Aldo Cordeiro Sauda is a journalist and activist in Brazil’s Party of Socialism and Liberation (PSOL). He also covered the Arab Spring for Estado de São Paulo and Folha de São Paulo and is currently a masters candidate in political science at the University of Campinas (UNICAMP).

In our opener, we talk about the hard right turn in U.S. politics since the confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh. This episode was recorded before the horrific massacre of at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, but the trends we identify make clear why such attacks are an inevitable product of this moment. We review the right-wing offensive — from Trump’s transphobic memo to the racist hysteria about the migrant caravan — and discuss how this can co-exist with a potential advance of the Democrats in the midterm elections, but also why that advance will not eliminate the basis for Trumpism.

Links for this episode’s interview on Brazil

*Valério Arcary, a leading member of Resistência, a revolutionary socialist current inside the Party for Socialism and Freedom (PSOL), discusses the factors underlying an assessment of Bolsonaro as a neo-fascist in an article re-published at Socialist Worker (http://bit.ly/ArcarySW)

*Aldo, along with Benjamin Fogel, discusses the role of the military in providing a base of support for Bolsonaro in an article for Jacobin (http://bit.ly/AldoJacobin)

*Socialist Worker reprinted a statement of Resistência following the first round of Brazilian elections that analyzes the threats posed by Bolsonaro and charts a way forward for the left, labor and social movements (http://bit.ly/ResistenciaSW)

*The Intercept has written on the reasons Wall Street is happy about a Bolsonaro victory (http://bit.ly/BrazilWallStreet) and has put together a piece explaining who Bolsonaro is using his own words (http://bit.ly/InterceptBolsonaro)

Links for this episode’s opener on the right turn in US politics

*Nicole Colson discusses how Trump’s hate has unleashed the violence that has targeted Jews, Blacks and migrants in the last week and points to lessons of the anti-fascist movements of the past in an article for Socialist Worker (http://bit.ly/ColsonTrumpHateSW)

*Our co-host Danny wrote a piece for Socialist Worker that assesses the phases of the Trump regime and what the sharpening backlash means for socialists (http://bit.ly/DannyTrumpEra)

*Lance Selfa talks about the Trumpification of American politics and why a blue wave won’t erase the Trump stain in this article for Socialist Worker (http://bit.ly/TrumpificationSW)


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

Gil Scott-Heron, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised”

Chico Buarque, "Apesar de Você”

Caetano Veloso, "Um Comunista”

Elis Regina, "O Bêbado e a Equilibrista”

Jorge Ben Jor, “Zumbi"

31: Building fighting unions at UPS and Delta

The U.S. labor movement is in an interesting place. The strikes of first teachers and now hotel workers are showing the depths of anger among workers about years of disrespect and stagnant wages—and a capacity for self-organization and solidarity that hasn’t been seen for decades in many unions. At same time, the number of workers in unions remains low, the laws and most elected officials are hostile to labor, and too many union leaders have been slow to take up this new fighting spirit. This episode looks at how these dynamics are playing out in a couple of key private-sector companies.

First, labor solidarity activist Flynn Murray joins Danny to talk to UPS drivers and Teamsters Local 804 members Anthony Rosario and Juan Acosta about the movement they’re involved in to reject a concessionary national contract being pushed by the international union. Then we speak with a Delta baggage handler about the potentially historic organizing campaign that he and his fellow baggage handlers are leading to unionize with the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAM).

Links for this episode

UPS links

· Flynn’s September Socialist Worker interview with Anthony, Juan and fellow driver Duquesneson Pierre (http://bit.ly/UPSinterview)

· Article from UPS worker about the fight against the new contract (http://bit.ly/NoBadContract)

· Check out one of the many YouTube videos from UPS worker Tyler Binder as part of the Vote No campaign (http://bit.ly/Tylervideo)

· The story of the historic 1997 UPS strike (http://bit.ly/1997UPSstrike)

· Joe Allen’s The Package King: a Rank and File History of United Parcel Service (http://bit.ly/PackageKing)

Delta links

· Danny’s April Socialist Worker interview with a Delta worker about the union campaign (http://bit.ly/DeltaUnion)

· 2017 article from a Delta worker about why customers and workers should unite against miserable airline conditions (http://bit.ly/TogetherAgainstDelta)

· Report from a Delta worker about the company’s anti-union campaign (http://bit.ly/DeltaPropoganda)

Music and audio

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

Matthew Bistok, “UPS Song: The Man In Brown”

Bob Marley, “Get Up, Stand Up”

Hozier, “Work Song”

The Ramp Rapper, “We Need A Union”

“The Barney Song”

The Beatles, “Hard Day’s Night”

30: Todd St. Hill and Jesse Hagopian on fighting for Black lives in Chicago and beyond

This week we discuss the conviction of Chicago police officer Jason Van Dyke for the murder of 17-year-old Laquan McDonald—the first conviction of a Chicago cop for an on-duty shooting in 50 years. Our two guests are Todd St. Hill, a socialist and anti-racist organizer in Chicago who talks to us about the years of work that laid the basis for this historic conviction, and Seattle public school teacher and activist Jesse Hagopian, who talks about victims of Seattle’s racist police such as Charleena Lyles, and how the Black Lives Matter at School project can bring together the powerful forces of labor and civil rights. 

Links from this episode:

 ·      Todd’s article on the Van Dyke verdict (http://bit.ly/VanDykeguilty)

·      Todd’s article on Chicago violence (http://bit.ly/Rahmgunviolence)

·      How Black Friday protests forced out police chief (http://bit.ly/ChicagoBlackFriday)

·      Mayor 1%, Kari Lyderson’s book on Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel (https://www.haymarketbooks.org/books/459-mayor-1)

·      The Chicago Teachers Union powerful statement on the Van Dyke verdict (http://bit.ly/CTULaquan)

·      Seattle media coverage of the Seattle police pepper spray attack on Jesse  (http://bit.ly/JessePepperSpray)

·      More information on the Black Lives Matter at School week of action (http://bit.ly/BLMatSchool)

And check out Jesse’s two books:

·      More Than a Score: The New Uprising Against High Stakes Testing: (http://bit.ly/MoreThanScore)

·      Teaching for Black Lives (http://bit.ly/TeachingBlackLives)

Audio for this episode:

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

Noname, “Blaxploitation”

Ty Money, “United Center” (video)

Joey Bada$$, “For My People”

Jay Rock, “Win” :30

Blue Scholars, “Commencement Day”

Dr. Martin Luther King in Memphis, Tennessee, speaking the day before his death

James Brown, "Say It Loud, I’m Black and I’m Proud”

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”