Eugene Debs: The First Socialist Candidate for President

American Socialist: The Life and Times of Eugene Debs

Directed by Yale Strom (2018)

Film Review

Many analysts on the left are comparing “socialist” Bernie Sanders’ presidential campaign to that of social Eugene Debs 100 years ago. As portrayed in this film, Debs was very different than I imagined him to be. I had always pictured him as a bookish intellectual.  He was actually more of a populist like Donald Trump

Born in 1855, in 1893, he co-founded the American Railway Union (ARU) and was instrumental in the 1894 Pullman strike involving 250,000 workers across 27 states. In 1895, he was imprisoned for the first time for after the ARU violated a federal injunction ordering strikers back to work. It was during his first imprisonment that a friend introduced him to socialism by giving him a copy of Das Kapital to read.

Following his release, he co-founded the Socialist Party of America. He was their presidential candidate in 1900,1904, 1908, 1912, 1916, and 1920. Rather than focusing on theoretical socialist concepts, his campaigns preached a kind of “liberation theology,”*, focusing on the social precepts (love, cooperation, compassion for the poor) promoted in the New Testament.

In 1904, Debs’ campaign team held massive evangelical-style camp meetings highlighting the plight of Southern tenant farmers.

In 1912, Debs helped found the anarchist-leaning International Workers of the World (IWW), the only union representing women, blacks, tenant farmers, and other low income groups. Bill Haywood, an IWW co-founder, was also a member of the Socialist Party’s executive committee. In 1912, Debs got 1 million votes, which was 6% of the popular vote.

In 1917, there was a split in the Socialist Party, when Woodrow Wilson entered World War I by declaring war on Germany. Debs, who opposed the war, was arrested in 1918 for violating the Espionage Act.** In 1920, he became the first person to run for president from a prison cell, receiving 3.4% of the popular vote.

Inspired by the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, by 1924 most of Debs’ socialist comrades had become communists. In that election, Debs campaigned for Progressive Party candidate Robert LaFollette, who received 5 million votes (17% of the popular vote).


*Liberation theology, prominent throughout Latin American during the 20th century, is a belief system combines Christianity’s social concern for the poor with a drive for oppressed people’s political liberation.

**Among other provisions, the Espionage Act makes it illegal to interfere with armed forced recruitment while the US is at war.

Anyone with a public library card can view this documentary free on Kanopy. Type “Kanopy” and the name of your library into your search engine to register.

 

 

 

Lest We Forget: A Look Back at the 2016 Primaries

The World Today: False Choices – US Primaries 2016

Telesur (2016)

Film Review

This 2016 program was first broadcast the day after Super Tuesday, in which Bernie Sanders was the clear winner in three states. The documentary provides important perspective for the upcoming 2020 primares. In it, British historian and activist Tariq Ali interviews Liza Featherstone, author of False Choices: The Faux Feminism of Hillary Clinton. The latter is a collection of essays by left-leaning feminists.

Featherstone brands Clinton as an “elite” feminist – in contrast to “true” feminists, who are antiwar, anti-imperialist and and anti-racist. Featherstone also brands Gloria Steinem and Madeleine Albright as elite feminists, for publicly belittling young women for supporting Bernie Sanders. A massive backlash would force both women to apologize.

Both and Ali and Featherstone agree on Sanders and Trump being protest candidates against a corrupt political establishment. Neither can see much difference between Clinton and the Bushes, given they all support the same neoconservative wars of empire. Ali highlights Clinton’s deliberate vote seeking among moderate Republicans, abandoning working class voters (eventually labeling them “deplorables”) comprising the traditional Democratic Party base prior to 1980.

Ali also reminds us that Sanders is the first socialist US presidential candidate in over 100 years. He attributes the allure of socialism for US youth to post-Cold War childhood free of constant anti-communist propagandizing. He gives the example of the election of socialist Kshama Savant to the Seattle City Council in 2013 and 2015 (she was just re-elected in November 2019).

Both Ali and Featherstone correctly predict that Trump will win the Republican nomination. They erroneously predict Clinton winning the presidency.

 

The Deep State vs Jeremy Corbyn

This film (released about a week ago) is about the collusion between British intelligence and the mainstream media to block Corbyn from becoming prime minister on December 12 – despite overwhelming public support.

The film begins with vignettes from prominent British and international prominent Jews, such as Noam Chomsky, Bernie Saunders and Norman Finkelstein shredding the outrageous smear (repeatedly echoed by every media outlet, including the BBC) that Corbyn and the Labour Party are viciously antisemitic. As with Bernie Sanders the radical policies Corbyn promotes pose a grave threat to a powerful elite that includes the British banking and arms industry, as well as the pro-Israel lobby abetting the ongoing illegal Israeli occupation of Israel.

British intelligence has been using the mainstream media to peddle disinformation about the Labour Party since 1948, when MI5 faked a document linking them to the Communist Party.

Filmmakers go on to castigate the British media for failing to confront the outright lies expounded by Corbyn’s Conservative and Liberal Democratic opponents. This section includes a clip of one of Boris Johnson’s ministers calling for the UK to replace the National Health Service (NHS) with a US-style system of private insurance. Another clip depicts Corbyn displaying leaked documents from Johnson-Trump trade negotiations that include the  the right of the US to bid on private contracts to run specific NHS services currently run by the British government.*

The film ends by reminding us of the true purpose of rigged political polls (currently showing Johnson with a strong lead) – namely to demoralize Labour supporters and discourage them from coming out to vote. They point to 2017, when Conservatives ended up with a minority government, despite all the polls predicting a strong Tory majority.

*In the week since the film was released, the mainstream media (based on an anonymous source on Reddit) is blaming the Russians for leaking the documents to Corbyn.

 

 

 

2016 Vote Fraud and Sanders’ Landslide

Code Red: Computerized Election Theft and the New American Century

(Election 2016 Edition)

Jonathon Simon

In Code Red, Simon lays out a powerful case that computerized voting machines have opened US elections to large scale fraud and election theft. The book offers an impressive compilation of studies demonstrating exactly how the vote hacking is carried out – both on Direct Recording (DRE) voting machines and optical scanners that count paper ballots. The book also highlights the immense danger of denying access to the public, and more importantly election officials, to voting memory cards, programming code and server logs to verify the validity of American elections. All of this information is declared off-limits by the handful of right-leaning corporations that supply voting equipment to local jurisdictions. On the spurious claim this is proprietary corporate information.

Simon also presents his own extensive research into marked discrepancies between vote counts and voter exit polls over the last 15 years – reminding us that the US State Department uses voter exit polls to verify the legitimacy of overseas elections.

As a Bernie Sanders supporter, I was most interested in the section on the 2016 Democratic primary. Here Simon not only examines discrepancies between the vote count and the original exit polls (before the corporate media massaged the data to bring it in line with the vote count), but serious discrepancies between states that choose candidates via caucus (where ballots must be counted by hand) with demographically similar states that choose candidates via primary elections.

In all but the first two states (Iowa and Nebraska), Sanders didn’t just beat Clinton – he won by a landslide. I confess to my absolute fury on seeing the table below and realizing how thoroughly we were ripped off by the Democratic National Committee and the corporate media.

In The Red Shift, Simon examines every presidential and congressional election since 2002, when computerized voting was first introduced. He finds evidence of a fraudulent “red shift” (ie a hacker-based shift towards the more pro-corporate candidate) in each of them, including the 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012 elections where there were significant Democratic victories.

He also finds evidence of a “red shift” in most gubernatorial and state house elections from 2002 on, including the 2012 recall election of Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker.

People can download a free excerpt from the 2016 Election Edition by registering at Simon’s website: http://codered2014.com/

State Sanders Clinton
Colorado 59.0% 40.3%
Minnesota 61.6% 38.4%
Kansas 67.7% 32.3%
Nebraska 75.1% 42.9%
Maine 64.3% 35.5%
Idaho 78.0% 21.2%
Utah 79.3% 20.3%
Alaska 86.1% 18.4%
Hawaii 69.8% 30.0%
Washington 72.7% 27.1%
Wyoming 55.7% 44.3%
North Dakota 64.2% 25.6%
Average 68.0% 31.4%

Anatomy of Modern Corruption: The Clinton Foundation and the Superdelegates

What Hillary Clinton Really Represents

Empire Files (2016)

Film Review

This early 2016 documentary is a virtual encyclopedia of Clinton family corruption. Based entirely on publicly verifiable information, it reveals how Hillary, especially, has based her political career on supporting legislation that specifically benefits her corporate and foreign donors. It also explores the identity of some of the 700 Democratic “superdelegates” who helped deny Bernie Sanders the Democratic nomination – despite overwhelming support he received from voters.

The Clinton Foundation was founded in 1997 with the alleged purpose of providing humanitarian relief after international disasters. Its real purpose, however, was to engage in “crisis capitalism,” a term coined by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine. Following a disasters, such as the 2001 earthquake in India, the Clinton Foundation would waltz in and create a variety of for-profit projects enabling further exploitation of third world resources and labor by Clinton Foundation donors.

Major donors to the Clinton foundation included Exxon, Walmart, Pfizer, Dow, Monsanto, General Electric (GE), Fox News, the Soros Foundation, Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae. As senator, Clinton rewarded the latter two donors by supporting deregulation that would lead to their bankruptcy in 2008 and a massive taxpayer bailout.

As Secretary of State, Clinton would grant similar favors to Boeing and GE by facilitating overseas sales of their military hardware and to Exxon by heavily promoting the spread of fracking throughout the world.

Countries such as Saudi Arabia, Oman, United Arab Republic and Qatar were also big donors to the Clinton Foundation. In all 181 Clinton Foundation donors lobbied Clinton as Secretary of State and most were successful in getting the policies they advocated enacted.

Many of the 700 superdelegates appointed by the Democratic National Committee (to help ensure their hand picked candidates won the Democratic primary) were also corporate lobbyists hoping to benefit financially from a Clinton presidency: among others, the corporate lobbies represented included the Excel pipeline, the private prison industry, Big Pharma and the four main Wall Street banks (City Group, Morgan Stanley, Goldman Sachs and JP Morgan Chase).

Who Stole the American Dream?

The Heist: Who Stole the American Dream and How We Can Get It Back

Directed by Frances Causey and Donald Goldmacher (2012)

Film Review

The Heist traces the banking regulations Roosevelt enacted during the Great Depression – with the goal of preventing future economic cataclysms – and the systematic dismantling of this regulation that commenced in 1971. The documentary credits this deliberate attack on the financial regulatory system for the 2008 meltdown, the decimation of American unions, the total control of federal government by Wall Street corporations, and the most unequal economic system in the world.

The filmmakers date this orchestrated attack on US financial regulation to the Powell Memo,* which the Chamber of Commerce and Business Roundtable seized on to launch twelve right wing pro-business think tanks (including the CATO Institute, the American Enterprise Institutes and the Heritage Foundation). Funded by six families, these foundations were created with the deliberate aim of capturing business schools and the media with fundamentalist free market ideology. They proceeded to lobby all levels of government for tax cuts on the rich, as well as financing focus groups and psychologists to develop propaganda persuading blue collar workers to vote against their own interests.

In 1980, they succeeded in convincing large numbers of blue collar Democrats to vote for Reagan. In addition to implementing tax cuts for the rich that created the largest federal deficit in US history, Reagan also repealed the Fairness Doctrine,** opening the door to a radio talk show market 90% dominated by right wing talk show hosts like Rush Limbaugh.

Guided by the Powell Memo, right wing Democrat Bill Clinton repealed the Glass Steagall Act,***, deregulated derivatives trading, gutted the Federal Communication Commission’s authority to regulate media monopolies, and sped up the outsourcing of US jobs through the enactment of North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the Global Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (which created the World Trade Organization).

Obama would prove even more pro-business than Clinton, with his refusal to prosecute the banskters he bailed out, his appointment of GE CEO Jeffrey Imelt (a notorious job outsourcer) to head the President’s Council on Jobs and Competitiveness, his promotion of the myth that Social Security is insolvent, his deregulation of private pensions, and his support for the Transpacific Partnership (TPP).

The film features great clips from Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, Paul Craig Roberts and Ross Perot (speaking out against NAFTA during his 1992 presidential campaign).


* The Powell Memo was a memorandum Lewis Powell prepared at the request of the Chamber of Commerce. It remained secret until after his appointment to the Supreme Court. The Powell Memo

** The Fairness Doctrine was a policy of the United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC), introduced in 1949, requiring the holders of broadcast licenses both to present controversial issues of public importance and to do so in a manner that was—in the Commission’s view—honest, equitable, and balanced.

***The GlassSteagall Act, passed by Congress in 1933, protected customers’ deposits by prohibiting commercial banks from engaging in investments. It was enacted as an emergency response to the failure of nearly 5,000 banks during the Great Depression.

 

 

One Million Votes Never Counted in California

Uncounted: The True Story of the California Primary

Directed by Michelle Boley and Taylor Giel (2016)

Film Review

Uncounted is about the nearly one million California voters whose votes weren’t counted in the California primary.

The documentary focuses mainly on poll workers who directly witnessed vote suppression. This took several forms. Most common were voters who were erroneously purged from voting records, long time registered Democrats who were mysteriously switched to Republican (preventing them from voting in the Democratic primary), and voting machines that were pre-set not to count No Party Preference (NPP) or Democratic Crossover votes.

Most of the voters who were denied a vote were young, Hispanic or first time voters – all independent voters who overwhelmingly supported Bernie Sanders. Because most weren’t registered Democrats, they had to request an NPP or Democratic Crossover ballot. If they didn’t spontaneously request them, poll workers were required to give them a provisional ballot (Greg Palast refers to provisional ballots as placebo ballots as they tend not to be counted – see Placebo Ballots: Stealing California from Bernie Using an Old GOP Vote-Snatching Trick). Poll workers were specifically forbidden to ask voters if they wanted an NPP ballot.

When Hillary Clinton claimed victory in California on election night, 40% of the total ballots hadn’t been counted – as they were provisional. In precincts with a lot of student voters, as many as 80% of the ballots were provisional.

The film’s most shocking revelation concerns California’s new law allowing voters to register at their polling place on election day. This law should have totally eliminated the need for provisional ballots. Any voter not appearing on the electoral role could have simply re-registered. For obvious reasons, California’s Secretary of State, an active member of Clinton’s campaign team, has chosen not to implement the law.

Internationally US elections are ranked lowest among all western democracies for fairness and transparency.