A country that fails to keep its children safe is a failed state / People’s Forum

A vigil for the victims of a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, on Tuesday, May 24, 2022. Photo: Billy Calzada/The San Antonio Express-News via AP

Marking the 212th mass shooting in the US this year alone, at least 21 people, including 19 children, were killed in a shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX. As more details are released around the massacre, people are questioning the role of the police who were present at the school. Customs and Border Protection agents were among the first to respond, and many parents were forced to weigh the risk of deportation when going to see if their child was safe. As massacres continue to take the lives of many, people are coming to the realization that the solution will only come from digging to the root of U.S. violence against its own children. 

People’s Forum, May 27, 2022, https://peoplesforum.org/

“In Defense of Housing” / by Zachary White

Madden and Marcuse’s essential book on the political economy of housing shows how in an alienated capitalist society, affordable/free housing becomes an “underperforming asset” and gentrification and becomes a “business plan.” From the enclosure of the commons in early modern England to the 20th century trend of deregulation, class war dominates the social relations which determine housing.

America made a neoliberal deal with the devil when it began to whittle away New Deal protections for the vulnerable. The rise of the U.S. prison population and the crisis of homelessness are direct results of this ideology of disposability. In Defense of Housing by David Madden and Peter Marcuse points to the commodification, financialization, and deregulation of the global housing system as some of the roots of modern housing insecurity. In Defense of Housing cites social movements, history, economic data, and social theory to advocate a world where “housing is not real estate, but a home.” (p. 218)

Coming from the Portland, Oregon area, homelessness and gentrification are impossible phenomena to ignore. However, these issues seem to bewilder the middle class people I typically engage with. While I think I’ve long known that capitalism and greed are at the heart of the problem, I also fell into the misconception that the issue of homelessness was “complicated.” The sociologist and urban planner who wrote In Defense of Housing are clearly very well-read and smarter than me on this subject, but reading their book has elucidated how simple the housing crisis actually is. This should be the goal of an academics of liberation: to make comprehensible that which is incomprehensible. “When housing units are bought on the assumption that they can be turned into more liquid commodities, displacement is the predictable result.” (p. 43) Identifying the unequal power relations at play, Madden and Marcuse write that the removal of policies which reign in landowners “shifts power towards power towards capital and away from residents—while also, not coincidentally making land more valuable and more amenable to speculation.” They continue, “The commodification of housing is a political project that refuses to acknowledge itself as such.” (p. 47)

While transnational speculation in the form of private equity drives development projects and raises rents, local communities see their wages stagnant or declining. In class with Poor People’s Campaign co-chair Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis, Washington state homeless organizer Rev. Sarah Monroe quoted Isaiah 5:8, “Woe to those who attach house to house and join field to field, until there is no more room, and you alone are a landowner in the midst of the land!” Far from the neoliberal claim that the free market is “efficient” and “rational,” Madden and Marcuse write that “developers routinely engage in land hoarding and other strategies centered on speculation and scarcity.” (p. 48) From the enclosure of the commons in early modern England to the 20th century trend of deregulation, class war dominates the social relations which determine housing. One of the many chilling Henri Lefebvre quotes in the book can be found on page 38: “The Olympians of the new bourgeois aristocracy no longer inhabit. They go from grand hotel to grand hotel, or from castle to castle, commanding a fleet or a country from a yacht.” While increasingly less high-end real estate becomes a “primary residence” and increasingly more becomes a “second home,” luxury housing becomes a currency in itself.

The transformation of housing from dwelling to commodity or status symbol is brought out in the first chapter on commodification, and even deeper in the second chapter on “Residential Alienation.” Madden and Marcuse write, “If something is ‘alienable,’ it is exchangeable. It can be bought and sold. Alienation is thus the precondition of all private property.” (p. 56) This theoretical discussion is a powerful counterpart to the materialist grounding of the book. “Feeling at home” is contrasted with the concept of alienation, which economically forces so many to live in overcrowded, unsafe, and inadequate conditions. In an alienated society, gentrification becomes a “business plan.” Affordable homes become “underperforming assets.” Jesus says foxes have holes, birds have nests, but ben-adam “son of man” children of humanity, live without homes. Homelessness is the ultimate expression of alienation. Humanity was not made for society; society was made for humanity. As Jesus says in Matthew 6, we cannot serve both God and wealth. In the same way, housing cannot serve both humanity and wealth. Madden and Marcuse are clear about what is needed: “More than a simple legal claim, a real right to housing needs to take the form of an ongoing effort to democratize and decommodify housing, and to end the alienation that the existing housing system engenders.”

The demands of the book include the revitalization of public housing, rent control, public ownership of land, limits on speculation, and breaking the monopoly of for-profit developers. Harlem-based Movement for Justice in El Barrio is cited by Madden and Marcuse, “We all share a common enemy and it’s called neoliberalism.” The MJB document continues, “This displacement is created by the greed, ambition, and violence of a global empire of money that seeks to take control of all the land, labor, and life on earth.” (p. 182) Rather than seeing New York City as a “luxury product” like Mayor Bloomberg (p. 181), our neighborhoods must be understood as the lifeblood of our society—havens for the wellbeing of ourselves and our children. If America’s housing system isn’t working for the least of us, it’s not working for any of us. Like access to healthcare, water, clean air, and electricity, housing should not be an opportunity for corporate profiteering, but a human right.

Originally published: Midwestern Marx on May 23, 2022

Zachary White is an M.Div. student at Union Theological Seminary in New York City. From Portland, Oregon, Zac is interested in the history of the  U.S. empire, film, and the Christian liberation traditions which Friedrich Engels traces back to the book of Revelation.

MR Online, May 26, 2022, https://mronline.org/

Abortion in Cuba vs U.S. shows which country is truly democratic / by Calla Walsh

A May Day 2022 rally in La Habana, Cuba

When I connected to wifi for the first time in five days, a notification appeared on my phone announcing that the U.S. Supreme Court had voted to overturn Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 legal decision that makes access to abortion a legal right.

Like most people when they heard the news, I felt shock waves run down my body. It was a draft opinion, but if the consensus holds, abortion will likely become illegal immediately or very quickly in 13 U.S. states.

This is despite the fact that nearly two-thirds–64%–of people in the United States oppose overturning Roe v. Wade.

We were hit by this news in Cuba, the first country in Latin America to legalize abortion, and where abortion and contraceptives are free–as with all healthcare services.

Like the United States, Cuba is currently engaged in a nationwide debate over LGBTQ+, women’s, and reproductive rights. But unlike in the U.S., where these decisions are made by a few unelected Supreme Court theocrats, Cuba’s process is grassroots and democratic.

The U.S. empire would like us to believe that Cuba is an authoritarian dictatorship, because it does not bow down to the laws of neoliberal “democracy.” Yet comparing the debates over reproductive rights in the two countries can help demystify which country is truly democratic.

Socialism enshrines reproductive rights in Cuba

Abortion was first legalized in Cuba in 1936 in cases of rape, risk to the birthgiver’s life, or the possibility of passing on a serious disease to the fetus.

Before the 1959 revolution, Cubans lived through a period of U.S. neocolonialism, and private medical clinics thrived by offering U.S. “health tourists” services like abortion that were not available in the United States.

During this time, Cuba had the second-highest rural infant and maternal death rates in Latin America. Most Cubans had no access to healthcare, especially outside of the capital, La Habana. There was only one rural hospital in the country.

Abortion was effectively only legal for the Cubans who could afford it–a reality we still face in the U.S.. Only with socialism, and the expansion of free healthcare to all, came a full actualization of abortion rights in Cuba.

After the triumph of the revolution in 1959, health outcomes improved immediately. Cuba now has the most doctors per capita in the world. It even has a higher life expectancy and lower maternal mortality rate than the U.S..

Full access to abortion was institutionalized in 1965 on four basic grounds:

it is the woman who decides, it needs to take place at a hospital, it needs to be carried out by expert staff, and it needs to be totally free.

The only criminalization of abortion in Cuba is “when it is done for profit, outside of health institutions, by non-medical staff, or against a woman’s will.”

In the struggle to secure Cuba’s strong abortion laws, as well as other protections like paid maternal leave, one should not underestimate the role played by revolutionary mass organizations like the Cuban Federation of Women (FMC), whose membership includes more than 85% of all eligible Cuban women over 14 years of age.

Along with the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) and the Organs of Popular Power (OPP), mass organizations like the FMC and Cuba Workers Federation (CTC) make up the three main pillars of Cuba’s political system.

In Cuba, I met Dr. Samira Addrey. Born in Ghana, raised in the United States, and recently graduated from the Latin American School of Medicine (ELAM) in Cuba, Addrey is intimately familiar with the radical differences in the Cuban health system.

She now coordinates a scholarship program for students from the U.S. to study at ELAM for free, and subsequently work in underserved communities upon graduation. She explained how reproductive care currently works in Cuba.

“​​Every woman of reproductive age has the right to make the decision that is best for her reproductive health,” Addrey told me. “As soon as a woman reaches the menstrual phase of her life, the family doctor and nurse in her neighborhood classify her within the reproductive age, typically 15 to 49 years approximately.”

“Every factor that could contribute to or take away from good reproductive health for a woman is assessed from the beginning to the end,” she stressed.

Addrey noted that a woman “is entitled to choose contraceptive methods that are appropriate for her health background and encouraged to involve her sexual partner in each consult visit to make sure they understand what good sexual and reproductive health means for a both partners.”

“A woman is afforded a safe abortion for free, done by a medical doctor at any local policlinic or hospital,” she added. “Reproductive health in Cuba is approached as a multifaceted part of every woman’s life.”

| Socialism enshrines reproductive rights in Cuba | MR Online

Thanks to the widespread availability of abortion, and public trust in the health system, the issue is much less stigmatized in Cuba than it is in the U.S., despite the fact that the Caribbean nation is majority Catholic.

Addrey recalled that “numerous times, my OBGYN professors stressed that they prioritized the life of the woman before all else, especially in the case of pregnancies that threatened the life of a mother. For them, it was a no brainer to save a woman’s life if it meant losing a fetus because the woman still had a full life to live even if she may never have a child through her own womb.”

Dailyn Briñas, a Cuban-American who traveled to Cuba with me on the 15th International May Day Brigade, said “very little social consequences” exist in Cuba for people who choose to get abortions, whereas “in the West, women are at times looked down upon or made to feel less if they do.”

The destigmatization of abortion in Cuba is rooted in the revolution’s steadfast commitment to reproductive rights.

People’s democracy and the Cuban families code

Cuba’s constitution, which was revised through a democratic process in 2019, not only guarantees the right to free medical care, but it also enforces gender equality in all aspects of society, including sexual and reproductive rights:

Women and men have equal rights and responsibilities in the economic, political, cultural, occupational, social, and familial domains, as well as in any other domain. The State guarantees that both will be offered the same opportunities and possibilities. The State encourages the holistic development of women and their full social participation. It ensures the exercise of their sexual and reproductive rights, protects them from gender-based violence in all of its forms and in all spaces, and creates the institutional and legal mechanisms to do so.

The U.S. constitution does not mention women at all.

But what might surprise North Americans the most about Cuba’s constitution is the fact that Cubans get to directly participate in the rewriting of the document.

Cuba is currently updating its 1975 Family Code, which codified gender equality into law, into a new Families Code. This process will update the island’s existing regulations on marriage, divorce, adoption, and other family-related regulations, including by legalizing same-sex marriage, expanding the rights of children, allowing assisted pregnancies, fighting gender-based violence, and protecting the elderly.

Minister of Justice Oscar Silvera Martínez described the document as “a transcendental text, which reinforces rights, fulfills and expands rights, and this is inherent to our revolutionary and socialist essence as a society.”

Elaborating on the parts of the bill that pertain to reproductive rights, Dr. Samira Addrey explained, “In Cuba, surrogate mothers who want to help another woman be a mother is also an option. This is consecrated by the new Families Code, and it is important to note that it is entirely prohibited for anyone to charge people for surrogacy.”

In December 2021, the National Assembly of Cuba approved a draft of the Families Code bill to be sent out for popular consultation.

From February to April 2022, more than 6 million Cubans, in more than 79,000 community meetings, participated in debate and discussion of the bill, making around 434,860 proposals, 61.96% of which were favorable.

Even the 1.3 million Cubans living abroad were invited to participate through an online form.

On May 15, Cuba’s National Electoral Council delivered its summary of the national popular consultation to the National Assembly of People’s Power. The drafting commission will now take the 434,860 proposals made by regular Cubans into consideration, delivering a new version of the draft to the National Assembly by June 17.

The version approved by the assembly will then be submitted to a popular referendum for approval by the Cuban people.

This consultative process has long played a key role in Cuban democracy. As political economist Helen Yaffe described in her book “We Are Cuba!“, the “introduction of the new Labour Code in June 2014 followed five months of debate involving 2.8 million workers in nearly 70,000 workplace assemblies and in the CTC, the Ministry of Labour, and the National Assembly. The process led to over 100 amendments to the draft Code.”

Cubans have many ways to engage in democracy, from participating in grassroots consultation, to joining mass organizations, to running for municipal assemblies, provincial assemblies, or the National Assembly as delegates themselves.

Cubans reading printed biographies of candidates in front of a polling station.

“It would be a mistake to think that because the opportunities for participation are on people’s doorsteps, that the issues they become involved in are only of local significance,” emphasized Ph.D. researcher Lauren Collins.

What happens at the hyper-local level in translates directly to the national level, showing just how advanced Cuban democracy is.

Roe v. Wade and the illusion of democracy

Danaka Katovich, an organizer with the peace group CODEPINK, visited Cuba as part of the International People’s Assembly youth delegation. She later wrote,

I was eating dinner with our Cuban hosts when we got word that Roe could soon be overturned. The table went silent. The Americans were scared and the Cubans were afraid on our behalf.

Hearing the news about Roe v. Wade while in revolutionary Cuba put the reactionary decision in a different context.

“It made me wonder what my rights really look like, and if I really have any rights,” said B. “Goddess” Dillard Saunders, an internationalist organizer and May Day brigadista from Minnesota who has had multiple abortions in the U.S..

“If you can just take something away from me with your pen, did I ever have it to begin with?” she asked.

The precariousness of reproductive rights–and all rights–in the United States bears a sharp contrast to life in Cuba, where it would be unimaginable for the government to strip away healthcare from millions of people with a single vote, let alone a vote between nine unelected justices.

The fact that these nine unelected justices can make a major decision that is so clearly opposed by 64% of the population, and only supported by 33%, exposes how hollow U.S. “democracy” is.

Moreover, it would be unimaginable to North Americans for us to participate in community debate and national referendums on our constitution, which has barely changed since it was written by a handful of slaveowners 235 years ago.

But most North Americans are still convinced that we live in a functional democracy, while Cubans live in a totalitarian dictatorship.

Dailyn Briñas, who has lived in both countries, explained that in the U.S., “There exists no democracy, and the elite are the main executioners of laws or regulations,” whereas the “Cuban system is quite the opposite, and it is this attention toward collective action and thought that provides the foundation for their system.”

Take voting access. If the United States is the democracy and Cuba is the dictatorship, why does Cuba regularly have 90% voter turnout rates, while the U.S. has rarely passed 60% in recent presidential election years?

Why does Cuba automatically register all citizens and permanent residents to vote at age 16, while endless voter suppression exists in the U.S.? The list goes on.

The illusion of democracy in the U.S. is multifaceted. Studies show that public opinion in the U.S. has zero influence on policymaking.

The United States is the definition of an oligarchy. Laws are determined by the capitalist elite, who buy elections, influence legislation through the corporate lobby, or sit themselves in Congress, where more than half of the members are millionaires.

On average, a U.S. Senate seat costs $10.5 million, and a House seat $1.7 million.

But even if democracy couldn’t be bought in the U.S., our so-called “democratic institutions” were designed to be fundamentally undemocratic.

The Supreme Court is a prime example. Justices are appointed by the president, who can win the electoral college without a majority of votes.

Supreme Court Justices are approved by the Senate, the world’s “greatest deliberative body,” where 40 people can outvote 60, and mostly white, rural states get disproportionate representation. The Nation reported that, “by 2040, it is projected that 70 percent of the country will be represented by just 30 senators, while the other 70 senators will give voice to the 30 percent.”

Once confirmed, Supreme Court justices serve limitless terms, with power over the lives of 330 million people in their hands.

Another deceitful aspect of U.S. “democracy” is the illusion of choice between the Democratic and Republican parties, which are really two sides of the same imperialist coin.

Democrats have used the Roe v. Wade decision as a rallying cry–and email fundraising subject line–for the 2022 midterm elections, arguing that voting in November is the only way to save abortion rights.

What they fail to mention in their fundraising emails is that they could save Roe right now, by codifying abortion rights into federal law with the current Democratic control of the House of Representatives, Senate, and White House.

A Senate vote this May to try to codify Roe nationwide was blocked, as Democrat Joe Manchin joined all 50 Republican senators in opposing the bill. But Democrats in the Senate, without any Republican votes, could end the filibuster, the undemocratic rule that requires 60 votes, instead of a simple majority, to pass most pieces of legislation.

Like Obama, who promised to codify abortion rights into federal law on the first day of his presidency, then decided they were no longer a legislative priority, Biden and his Democratic Party serve as controlled opposition. They claim to fight for abortion rights while failing to pass an abortion bill every time they have had the ability to do so.

Democrats and Republicans are not fundamentally opposed to each other; they simply have different strategies for how to best maintain U.S. global capitalist hegemony.

| Roe v Wade and the illusion of democracy | MR Online

Cuba may only have one party (which I should note is not an electoral party and it is barred from involvement in the entire electoral process), but within the Communist Party of Cuba–as well as the Organs of Popular Power and mass organizations it has helped build for women, workers, and youth–there is much more room for democratic debate and direct input from the masses than any viable party in the U.S..

Cuba’s democratic structures also cannot be assessed outside of their surrounding conditions: the onslaught of yankee imperialism and global neoliberalism.

Cuban socialism has not been able to develop for a single day not under siege by the U.S. government–through the illegal economic blockade, direct and indirect terrorist interventions, and the continued illegal occupation of Guantánamo Bay.

The Cuban Revolution has survived for over 60 years, in the harshest possible conditions, as countless other revolutions were crushed by U.S. intervention, for a reason.

Only socialism can bring about democratic and reproductive freedom

When I asked Dr. Samira Addrey if she thinks socialism is necessary for the full actualization of reproductive rights for all people, she gave a wholehearted yes.

“The rights of a woman to determine the best course for her reproductive health can never be a commodity nor a question laid in the hands of men,” she said. “Socialism upholds the humanity of women by ensuring that their roles in society be fully respected and protected.”

“Health is a human right and socialism delivers a system where that unalienable right can never be trampled upon by greedy exploitative capitalist machines,” she added.

Having seen the drastic advancements women made through the Cuban Revolution, Dailyn Briñas views socialism as “a transitional point for the eventual goal of universal women’s liberation.”

She maintained, “Reproductive rights are one of the many things that would come with bringing about the collective transformation and destruction of a capitalist global structure.”

With the destruction of capitalism also comes a full realization of democracy. Socialism–the common ownership of production, distribution, and exchange under the political rule of the working class masses–is the most democratic form of society that can now be constructed.

Before the revolution, Cuba was ruled by a series of U.S.-backed dictators–and before that, direct U.S. military rule and Spanish colonialism.

Today, Cuba has a people-powered, consultative, socialist democracy that is centuries ahead of the U.S. in terms of grassroots participation and social achievements.

For many in the United States, it is easier to believe that Cuba is lying about their democratic achievements than to come to terms with the fact that our own government is choosing to deny us those same rights.

How could a country just 90 miles away provide all of its citizens with healthcare, housing, education, and reproductive freedom, free of cost, when we have been told our entire lives that we do not deserve those same achievements, and that they are physically impossible?

It is not a pretty reality to accept, that the U.S. willingly perpetuates violence upon us and the rest of the world every day, but it is better than living in the delusion of imperialist benevolence.

When we all wake up–and we will–we’ll realize how much we have to learn from Cuba.

Originally published: Multipolarista on May 23, 2022

Calla Walsh is an organizer with the Boston-Cuba Solidarity Coalition and board member at Massachusetts Peace Action. In 2022 she traveled to Cuba as part of the 15th International May Day Brigade of Voluntary Work and Solidarity with Cuba.

MR Online, May 25, 2022, https://mronline.org/

In America, There Is Mass Death, Then There Is Nothing / by David Sirota

People become emotional at the City of Uvalde Town Square during a prayer vigil in the wake of a mass shooting at Robb Elementary School on May 24, 2022, in Uvalde, Texas. (Jordan Vonderhaar / Getty Images)

It doesn’t matter how many people are slaughtered. It doesn’t even matter if they’re children, as they were in Texas yesterday. In America, the response to gun violence is nothing.

There are no words. Even typing out this sentence feels ridiculous, pathetic, sickening.

What is there to say that hasn’t been uttered a million times before?

What can possibly be said when nineteen kids and a teacher are dead, days after another mass shooting, and another mass shooting before that, and another . . . and another?

What revelatory phrases or comments or “thoughts and prayers” can be uttered or tapped out on a keyboard or yelled into a microphone when we know from experience how this will almost certainly play out from here?

The massacre.

The press conferences updating the body count.

The official statements and tweets and Facebook posts and floor speeches expressing outrage.

Then more of the same.

The politicians heading to another National Rifle Association conference to scream about freedom.

The television pundits debating what’s politically “realistic” or “beneficial,” as if it’s all a game.

The clickbait ghouls crafting nuclear hot takes to try to get attention for themselves amid the carnage.

The false equivalence journalism insisting that since this horror is the product of so many awful cross currents, it means there is no singular solution . . . which allegedly means the only thing to do is shed some tears, grit your teeth, and bear it.

And then inevitably comes what’s best described as The Nothing.

The inaction.

The distraction.

The filibuster.

And the Supreme Court likely handing down yet another ruling making it even easier to buy even more of the weapons — and issuing that ruling on a case that arose in the same state where a massacre just happened.

And then within a few days or weeks, another slaughter.

Why am I even writing this? What is the fucking point? I don’t have a great answer. Maybe just to try to remain sane — or to at least remember the difference between insanity and sanity.

We know this status quo is insane because we know what sanity is — and we know it because other countries long ago showed us when they faced the same sort of tragedy and responded in a different, more rational way. Those choices didn’t solve everything, but they made some things better.

But in the name of some twisted form of exceptionalism, our society refuses to make those same choices.

Our political system is still OK with this being daily life.

Our country is still willing to be a place where when you drop your kids off at school, you must fear the unthinkable.

Our leaders are still insisting that this is “not who we are” — even as they make clear they are absolutely fine with this being exactly what America continues to be.

Maybe worst of all: on the whole, our nation is still fine with mass violence being political fodder for an unending culture war, rather than a problem to be addressed, confronted, and ultimately halted — or at least reduced.

This — whatever this hellish stasis is — is not even close to normal. Yet it is now the norm. It doesn’t have to be, but it always will be — unless enough of us do everything we can to end it.


Until then, take a few minutes away from the screen you’re reading this on and give your loved ones a hug.

Because in America, you never know if it will be the last one you get to give them.

David Sirota, is an award-winning journalist, and an Oscar-nominated writer who served as the presidential campaign speechwriter for Bernie Sanders.

Jacobin, May 25, 2022, https://jacobinmag.com/

Children, teachers shot dead in Texas at yet another mass shooting / by Mark Gruenberg

People mourn in the wake of the Texas elementary school shooting. | William Luther/AP

WASHINGTON—After the latest gun massacre in a school, this time at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, teachers unions, Democratic President Joe Biden  and gun control groups are again demanding legislative crackdowns on guns.

“Why are we willing to live with this carnage?” an upset Biden, a longtime senatorial crusader for gun control, asked. “Why do we keep letting this happen? Where in God’s name is our backbone?”

The short answer to Biden’s second question: The still-powerful and notorious gun lobby, the National Rifle Association. That key component of the radical right is holding its convention this coming weekend in Houston. Planned speakers include Texas Republican Gov. Greg Abbott and Biden’s Republican Oval Office predecessor, Donald Trump.

The most-vehement statement about the Uvalde slaughter came from Teachers (AFT) President Randi Weingarten. The 18-year-old shooter, Salvador Ramos, bought guns just after his birthday and murdered 19 children and two teachers at Robb Elementary School before a police SWAT team killed him.

“Some things are clear: These are despicable acts of hatred designed to terrorize us all,” said Weingarten, a New York City civics teacher and crusader for much-stricter gun controls. “Buffalo and now Uvalde will join a long list of places that will never be the same. Our hearts are with all of them.

That list includes Parkland, Fla., where Nikolas Cruz, then 19, gunned down three AFT-member teachers and 14 students at the Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School, on Valentine’s Day, 2018, and Newtown, Conn., where another gunman murdered 20 students and six teachers years before.

Newtown’s tragedy gave rise to Everytown for Gun Safety, while the Parkland massacre produced the student-led March For Our Lives. A third shooting, of then-Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., and several constituents during a meet-and-greet in her district, produced a third anti-gun group. All of those groups denounced the murders, mourned the victims and recommitted themselves to the gun control cause.

“Only in America do people go grocery shopping and get mowed down by a shooter with hate in his heart; only in this country are parents not assured their kids will be safe at school,” Weingarten added.

“Gun violence is a cancer, and it’s one that none of us should tolerate for one single moment longer. We have made a choice to let this continue, and we can make a choice to finally do something—do anything—to put a stop to this madness.”

AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler, an Electrical Worker, tweeted, in part: “Gun violence is horrific & preventable and meaningful action is needed now,” without being specific.

“This tragedy once again underscores the very real dangers of a culture in which gun violence has become too much the norm and is too often the first way to resolve an argument or a grievance,” National Education Association President Becky Pringle and Texas State Teachers Association President Ovidia Molina said in a joint statement.

“We pray for the victims and their families, and we once again demand state and federal policymakers take action to keep firearms out of the hands of people who shouldn’t have them, whether that requires enacting new laws or better enforcing our existing laws.”

“It is up to all of us to find solutions that stop the spread of white supremacist politics and ideology that has aided and abetted the violence and bloodshed that have ripped this nation apart. We stand ready to work in coalition and cooperation with others to continue the fight,” National Nurses United President Jean Ross, RN, said after grocery store carnage days before in Buffalo and before the Uvalde massacre. Her union’s RNs see gun violence victims daily.

The Democratic-run House passed several gun control measures earlier in this Congress, but they’re likely to founder in the evenly split Senate, given the roadblock of the filibuster. Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky summed up his party’s attitude by a “thoughts and prayers” tweet with nary a word about gun control legislation.

Police were still investigating Ramos’s motives for the Uvalde massacre. Former close friends of Ramos told reporters that within the last year-plus Ramos had taken a  dark turn towards violence in online postings. They also reported he injured himself, with a knife.

Besides the students and teachers he killed, Ramos wounded others at the school, after wounding his grandmother at her home beforehand. Those victims were flown to hospitals. Several were in serious condition.

Robb’s mass shooting was the second such massacre in fewer than two weeks, following one by an anti-Black gunman at the Buffalo grocery store killing ten people and wounding three.

Senate Democrats split between lamentations about the filibuster roadblock and supporting efforts by Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., to force votes on gun control.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently lamented the fact that Texas was second nationally in the number of guns sold and that California was number one. He called upon Texans to buy more guns and opposes even criminal background checks on buyers. Beto O’Rourke, a supporter of background checks, is running against him in November. | Tony Gutierrez/AP

“The breakdown of the political process has never been clearer. When we can’t even act to keep our own children safe,” an upset Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said. “ Is it worth taking a vote? Even if you don’t have 10 Republicans? Is it worth taking a vote? That’s the part that’s so frustrating.”

Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., who has made gun control a crusade ever since Newtown, is still trying to talk ten of the Senate’s 50 Republicans into backing gun control legislation. But even he admitted to MSNBC that “what’s possible is much smaller than what we need to do to protect kids.”

The Republicans, especially Texans, are another matter. In a recent campaign tweet, Gov. Abbott said he was “EMBARRASSED: Texas #2 in nation for new gun purchases, behind CALIFORNIA. Let’s pick up the pace Texans.” The capital letters are his.

On party-line votes, the Republican-dominated Texas legislature spent much of its recent session enacting bills to remove gun controls in the Lone Star State. And Trump and Abbott will address the NRA convention in Houston. Pro-gun GOP Sen. Ted Cruz reiterated his stand after the Uvalde massacre, but withdrew from a speaking commitment to the NRA. He pleaded “a scheduling conflict.”

Still, the carnage in Texas and the contrasting partisan attitudes to it point out the thin margin gun control backers have in the Democratic-run House—and the complete Republican roadblock in the Senate. That in turn adds yet another issue, along with abortion and worker rights, as reasons to elect progressive candidates this fall.

One hopeful sign: Gun control backers won in Georgia’s Democratic primary on May 25. In an incumbent-versus-incumbent faceoff due to Republican gerrymandering, Democratic Rep, Lucy McBath, who first ran several years ago on a strong gun-control platform after her son was murdered, defeated fellow Democratic Rep. Carolyn Bordeaux, who is more “moderate” on the issue.

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People’s World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

People’s World, May 25, 2022, https://www.peoplesworld.org/

Opinion: The Maine GOP doesn’t care about the lives of trans kids / by Ethan Strimling

Photo: A chalk drawing of the Transgender Pride Flag | MaineTransNet

In case you missed the news last week, the GOP ran one of the most disgusting culture-war ads we have seen in Maine in decades. In a shameless attempt to damage Democratic incumbent Gov. Janet Mills, the Maine Republican Party attacks an elementary school teacher for creating a lesson plan on LGBTQ history, struggles, and acceptance. 

The writing lesson, titled “Freedom Holidays,” is framed around holidays celebrating the freedoms of different groups of Americans: July 4th, freedom from Britain; Junteenth, freedom from enslavement; Women’s Equality Day celebrating the passage of the 19th Amendment. 

The teacher, Kailina Mills, then describes the people behind the acronym LGBTQ. Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual. When she gets to “Transgender,” she explains how some people discover that the gender a doctor gave them at birth may not feel right later in life. She teaches about how LGBTQ Americans were legally discriminated against throughout much of our history and then, on June 26, 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court said that people of the same gender could love and marry whomever they choose. She finishes by assigning the students an essay to write about three LGBTQ activists of their choosing who led the fight for equal rights.

The teacher, in describing why she created the lesson plan, cited a 2020 study that found that gender identity is established by first grade. She said, “Those children and those families deserve to be represented in their school curriculum. Public schools are for everyone and should, therefore, include everyone.” 

The Maine GOP, on the other hand, calls this writing lesson about tolerance and acceptance, “radical” and “wrong for our kids.” They have put thousands of dollars behind their ad shaming the teacher and driving families with LGBTQ kids and their parents back into the closet. 

That same study found that almost all trans people, by first grade, dealt with significant stress around being a different gender than they were prescribed. Eighty-two percent of those questioning their gender consider suicide. Forty percent percent try. Too many are successful.

Shaming teachers from discussing LGBTQ issues and driving trans families into the shadows means more may try to kill themselves.

All so the Maine GOP can raise money and fire up their base in their campaign for the governorship.

Sadly, it must be noted that Governor Mills’ response to the attack was cowardly. Instead of standing up to the bigotry and showing Maine people she will defend our most vulnerable, she caved and voiced support for taking the lesson plan down. 

That said, there is a difference between being a coward in the face of a bully, and being the bully. Especially a bully who is putting the lives of our youth in danger.

Not only do all of Maine’s children deserve to be included in our curriculum, it is literally a matter of life and death. And right now the Maine GOP has chosen death. 

Ethan Strimling served ten years as Mayor and State Senator for Portland, Maine.

Maine Beacon, May 24, 2022, https://mainebeacon.com/

Iraqi Communists raise flag for women’s rights, secular politics / by France 24

Baghdad (AFP) – The Iraqi Communist Party may have seen its red star fade but it hopes to come back by advocating what remain radical ideas in the country: women’s rights and secular politics.

For now the movement with the hammer-and-sickle banner and the peace dove logo — Iraq’s oldest active political party, founded in 1934 — claims only a few thousand members and no deputies in parliament.

The party, which on Sunday marks the May 1 Labour Day, boycotted last October’s election to protest against the country’s “corrupt ethno-sectarian power-sharing system that was installed after the US war and occupation of the country in 2003”.

Iraq’s other parties represent religious and ethnic groups: Shiite Muslims, who by convention hold the prime ministership, Sunnis who take the parliamentary speaker’s post, and Kurds who control the presidency.

Secretary-General of the Central Committee of the Iraqi Communist Party Raed Fahmi, during an interview in the capital Baghdad, on April 9, 2022 Sabah ARAR AFP

The ICP, by contrast, advocates a political system independent of religion — a remote prospect for now in the country of 40 million where Christian and Turkmen minorities also have their own, small parties.

“The rhetoric around the separation of mosque and state in Iraq is still very weak,” said political scientist Marsin Alshamary, with the Middle East Initiative project.

For now political power is concentrated in the majority Shiite camp, split between firebrand cleric Moqtada Sadr’s bloc and a rival alliance of pro-Iran groups, the Coordination Framework.

Iraqi women demonstrate in the capital Baghdad on December 13, 2019 amid wider anti-government protests against corruption, poor public services and a lack of jobs AHMAD AL-RUBAYE AFP/File

“The religious parties that control the country make life hard for women and for young people who want freedom,” said one ICP supporter, Zeinab Aziz, a 53-year-old civil servant.

“The Communist Party is the first to defend women.”

‘Voice for underprivileged’

The ICP may be on the margins now, with only two MPs in the previous parliament, but in Iraq’s turbulent history, it has had its moments of glory.

“The role of women is difficult, but there is progress,” said party chief Raed Fahmi. “We see young people who have a much more open attitude.” Sabah ARAR AFP

In the 1940s and 1950s, it “promoted social justice, anti-imperialism and gave a voice to the underprivileged,” said Tareq Ismael, political scientist at the Canadian University of Calgary.

After the revolution of July 14, 1958 which overthrew the monarchy, Communist support for Abdelkarim Qassem, the country’s first president, was decisive.

The ICP suffered repression in the 1970s under the ruling Baath party of Saddam Hussein, but was reborn in the wake of the US-led invasion and the fall of the dictator.

Today, the ICP has just “a few thousand” members, said party chief Raed Fahmi, 71, down from about 15,000 in the 1960s.

Iraqi anti-government protesters chant and wave a national flag in Baghdad’s Tahrir square on December 22, 2019 calling for an overhaul of a regime they deem corrupt and inefficient SABAH ARAR AFP/File

For now it wants to promote ideas rather than govern, mainly social justice and women’s rights — a challenge in a country where patriarchal and tribal traditions remain strong.

A recent UN report found that “significant barriers persist in Iraq” to gender equality, and the World Bank says women make up only 13 percent of the workforce, one of the lowest rates in the world.

‘The Old Guard’

The Communists want to change that, vowing in a statement “to promote women’s participation and economic empowerment, ensuring their safety and providing protection for them within the family and society”.

A supporter of the Iraqi Communist Party holds up a hammer and sickle cut out, a symbol of communism, during a rally marking Labour Day in the capital Baghdad May 1, 2019 AHMAD AL-RUBAYE AFP/File

“The role of women is difficult, but there is progress,” said Fahmi. “We see young people who have a much more open attitude.”

Progressive ideas around rights and social justice were picked up passionately by a youth-led protest movement that emerged in October 2019, venting their rage against Iraq’s graft-tainted governing elite.

But the ICP failed to make itself heard strongly at the time, remaining mostly engaged with its traditional allies such as trade unions and student associations.

“In many ways, it represents the old guard of civil society,” said Alshamary.

“The culture of the ICP is not keeping up with the political culture of the street.

“And this is a lost opportunity for the ICP, which could easily capitalise on the anti-Islamist wave and position itself as the torchbearer of all that is liberal and secular.”

A recent UN report asserted that “significant barriers persist in Iraq” to gender equality, while the World Bank said women represent only 13 percent of the workforce, one of the lowest rates in the world AHMAD AL-RUBAYE AFP/File

One of the party’s loyal supporters, Abdallah Ghaleb, was hopeful for a bright future for the ICP.

At 22, he said he calls himself a communist “because there is too much corruption and unemployment in Iraq. The Communist Party supports ordinary people.”

© 2022 AFP

France 24, April, 29, 2022, https://www.france24.com/en/

In Memphis, Poor People’s Campaign demands ‘resurrection’ of MLK’s vision / by Mark Gruenberg

Poor People’s Campaign on the march in Memphis. | @unitethepoor via Twitter

MEMPHIS, Tenn.—Wending its way towards its March on Washington on June 18, the new Poor People’s Campaign stopped May 22 in Memphis to demand “resurrection” of causes the late Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., fought for—including workers’ rights.

Speaking literally in front of the site where King was assassinated in April 1968—the Lorraine Motel, now the National Civil Rights Museum—campaign co-chair the Rev. Dr. William Barber II said King’s causes of equality on the job, civil rights, voting rights, and the right to organize are endangered once again.

“We don’t need nostalgia” for Dr. King, “we need a resurrection” of his causes, Barber said. That’s the point of June 18.

One big cause is the right to organize.

Fifty-four years ago, King was aiding the “I Am A Man” sanitation workers who were trying to unionize with AFSCME Local 1733. Now, Kylie Throckmorton, one of seven Memphis Starbucks workers trying to organize a union there, told the crowd of that struggle. The seven are part of a national Starbucks organizing drive aided by Workers United, a Service Employees sector.

“Because I was trying to build a union, my co-workers and I were fired,” said Throckmorton, the second of a group of poor and low-wealth people to speak.

“They would rather have us living on the streets” than recognize the union and pay decent wages, Throckmorton said of Starbucks’s bosses. “You deserve to be safe on the job. You deserve to live comfortably. You deserve to have health care.”

All of that is lacking at Starbucks, workers from coast to coast tell organizers.

The National Labor Relations Board went to federal court in Memphis on May 10 seeking an injunction ordering Starbucks to immediately stop its labor law-breaking and take the seven back.

Barber took up her theme during his remarks, linking it to employer exploitation of “essential” workers during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. “How many of you know some of them?” he asked the crowd of more than 1,000 people gathered in front of the podium in the hotel-turned-museum’s parking lot. People raised their hands.

“How many of you are some of them?” just like the sanitation workers whose cause Dr. King espoused 54 years ago, he asked. More hands went up.

“During COVID, poor people are dying at a rate of two to five times that of others,” he explained. “We need to show America people still have to wait” for social, civil and economic justice “because we haven’t yet done” as a country “what we should do.”

Dr. King, Barber noted, was getting more outspoken about those causes, though he—like the Poor People’s Campaign now—emphasizes non-violence, including non-violent civil disobedience, to raise the profile of its goals and to push leaders to act.

Quoting from the speech Dr. King planned to give but never did, Barber said the U.S. “was on a path to go to hell” until it addresses the underlying problems of systemic racism, poverty, overspending on the U.S. military, poor education, shortage of decent affordable housing and lack of health care for all.

King spoke out for those same causes. For those views, especially his opposition to the Indochina War, Barber noted, King faced ostracism from leaders of his own denomination and even disagreements with colleagues at the Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

Like other Poor People’s Campaign events, most Memphis speakers were poor and low-wealth people, exploited and/or unemployed, and a mix of races. That reflects the bottom-up mass movement of the PPC and its success at getting people to recognize their causes and complaints against an exploitative system are intertwined.

Memphis resident Scottie Fitzgerald described a long-running local campaign against a pipeline whose construction would rip through a working-class, mostly Black neighborhood, all to enrich a private corporation.

“A business group connived with the government to take your land” through eminent domain “for a pipeline that could poison your water?” Barber asked Fitzgerald. “That’s right,” she replied of yet another example of corporate environmental racism.

Shirley Smith, a lifelong resident of Mason, Tenn., a majority-Black town whose prior white leaders took it into bankruptcy, told how the lack of jobs there forced her to take weekend work industrial cleaning in a Nabisco factory—in Chicago, a two-and-a-half-hour one-way drive away.

Then Ford came to Mason to build a plant in Tennessee, which happens to be a Republican-run, and gerrymandered, right-to-work state whose voters will be asked in November to enshrine that anti-union tenet in its constitution. “They (Ford) want to buy up all our land” for their 4,100-acre facility “and people didn’t really have a choice.”

Of the economic elite, Smith added: “They want to take you out of prosperity.”

“In this city, if you are not fighting for change still, you are distorting the legacy” of Dr. King and the civil rights movement, Barber said—a statement that could apply not just to Memphis, but nationwide.

Join the CPUSA’s “500-Strong” Delegation in D.C. on June 18th. Sign up here.

Mark Gruenberg, an award winning journalist, is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People’s World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but a holy terror when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.

People’s World, May 24, 2022, https://peoplesworld.org/

A plot to destroy U.S. democracy is centered in statehouses / by John Wojcik

Pennsylvania Republican state legislator, Doug Mastriano, as he appeared with MAGA supporters the night he won the Republican primary election. Mastriano, now the GOP candidate for governor, is both a 2020 election denier and a strong advocate of giving the Republican-controlled legislature in his state the power to nullify the people’s choice in presidential elections. AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster

Hundreds of GOP state legislators in at least nine states have either already put in place or are now pushing new laws that will make Republican state legislators the decisive factor in who wins elections. The laws allow them to reverse the results of popular votes for president and select their own electors committed to their choice if a Democrat should win their states. The last chance to stop the threat is the 2022 elections currently underway. By 2024, when we vote again in a presidential election, it could be too late.

We already see how GOP state legislators are leading the way in attacks on women’s abortion rights, in purging and banning books from libraries and schools, in drawing gerrymandered district lines that make it impossible for Democrats and minority communities to win elections, in cutting tens of thousands of voters off the rolls, and in cancelling mail voting, ballot drop boxes and other measures to increase voter participation. It is clear that state legislative bodies are now the chief venue used by the GOP to ram their policies down the throats of the majorities of Americans who oppose those policies.

Less noticed, however, is the fact that they have a backup plan to use if all of the above measures fail them. They are passing laws that allow themselves to cancel the results of elections in their states if their candidates don’t win. The very state legislatures intended in the Constitution to help guarantee democracy are, as they were in the days of slavery and Jim Crow, used to cancel democracy.

A look at the recent past serves as prologue to where GOP state legislators are going today.

The New York Times on Sunday noted in a special report that at least 357 sitting Republicans in closely contested battleground states have used the power of their positions to try to overturn the results of the 2020 election. The 357 did this despite there having been no evidence of election fraud in their states.

The motivation was not always loyalty to Trump, who pushed the lie that the election was stolen. They were also aiming to get rid of new features of election practice introduced during the pandemic, including vote by mail, use of drop boxes, and other reforms. Those reforms were allowing the election of too many progressives, in their view. In any case, the idea that the election was stolen and that the small-d democratic reforms enacted in the pandemic must be ended is accepted now by the vast majority of Republican legislators in all the states.

The false stories about rigged elections and fraud motivated them to pass new laws making it more difficult to vote and easier to insert themselves into the process of vote counting by appointing the people responsible for conducting those counts. Their next move was and continues to be passing laws that allow them to become the final arbiter of election results.

Problem faced by the fascists

The problem faced by the fascist lawmakers in the GOP is that they do not yet have all the support they need from governors and secretaries of state. They require that backing in order to carry out their criminal overthrow of the Constitution. They expect that this problem will be solved if their hand-picked candidates for those offices win in the current 2022 election cycle.

They are twisting the meaning of a clause in the Constitution which gives state legislative bodies the responsibility to establish “the times, places and manner of holding elections” into meaning that they have the power to determine who is actually elected.

Donald Trump, of course, is cheering them on in case he decides to run again in 2024. He has admitted that he is backing candidates all over the country who want state legislators to be able to name electors. The threat to democracy by the GOP state legislators goes well beyond Trump, however, and can be with us for a long time if they are not stopped in the 2022 elections underway now.

One area of concern is the need to stop those among the 357 GOP legislators who are now running for higher office under the pledge that they will carry out and even increase the undemocratic laws they support.

Republican state senator Doug Mastriano from Pennsylvania is running for governor of the state. He was the initiator, months before the 2020 election, of a push for an “Election Integrity Commission” which studied election law and came up with the repressive measures now used across the country. He is promising, if he wins in November, to make everyone in the state register to vote all over again, and to back GOP legislators if they decide to overturn a presidential election.

Mark Finchem, a GOP state representative in Arizona, has pushed a theory of “election decertification,” the idea that an election can be decertified after it happens. He is a candidate for secretary of state in Arizona.

Where the fascistic crop of Republican state legislators are focusing their 2022 election efforts is in states like Pennsylvania, Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin, North Carolina, Nevada, and Georgia. In those states secretaries of state, and sometimes governors, acted to block their attack on democracy in 2020.

Again, with past being prologue, it serves to remember what happened January 2, 2021, four days before the House of Representatives was scheduled to meet to carry out its ceremonial duty of certifying the Electoral College votes in favor of Joe Biden. The House Committee examining the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol tells us that on Jan. 2, Trump led a Zoom call with more than 300 GOP state legislators. He pushed for them to change the certified results they had already sent to Congress, pointing to the dubious clause in the Constitution mentioned earlier, a clause they are now reinterpreting into law in their states.

Trump was saying that state legislators, not the courts or Congress, were the key to dismantling democracy in America.

Today, huge numbers of GOP state legislators are acting on that, using what they call the independent state legislators theory, which asserts that state legislatures hold absolute and exclusive power over presidential elections, including the appointment of electors to the Electoral College. The theory has never been affirmed by any court and is rejected by most legal scholars. Wherever it is accepted, or becomes law, it would be an unprecedented cancellation of democracy.

Thus far the fascist GOP state legislators who are taking away so many rights in their states have made their mark on the electoral process by radically changing voting procedures. A total of 54 new laws have been passed since the 2020 election that include restrictions on voting, not just placing limits on mail voting and drop boxes, but registration, the number of polling precincts and where they are located, no accommodation for rural voters, no leeway for delayed mail, outlawing provision of snacks and water (!) to voters standing for hours in long lines, etc.

Texas is one state where a new law gives state legislators the power to reverse the popular vote in presidential elections. When the law was first drafted and circulated it was mistakenly titled “Overturning Elections.” That error was corrected in time for the second draft.

John Wojcik is Editor-in-Chief of People’s World. John Wojcik es editor en jefe de People’s World. He joined the staff as Labor Editor in May 2007 after working as a union meat cutter in northern New Jersey. There, he served as a shop steward and a member of a UFCW contract negotiating committee. In the 1970s and ’80s, he was a political action reporter for the Daily World, this newspaper’s predecessor, and was active in electoral politics in Brooklyn, New York.

People’s World, May 23, 2022, https://peoplesworld.org/

It’s “Now or Never” on Climate Change / by Mel Gurtov

Photo credit: Japan Times

The latest Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) working group report gives us until 2030 to stop global warming at 1.5°C. The report proposes several steps that are vital to achieving that goal. The steps are:

* Coal must be effectively phased out.

* Methane emissions must be reduced by a third.

* More forests must be planted and soils must be preserved.

* The shift to a low-carbon world requires huge new investments, which now are about six times lower than they should be.

All sectors of the global economy, from energy and transport to buildings and food, must change dramatically and rapidly, and new technologies including hydrogen fuel and carbon capture and storage will be needed.

What chance do we have of getting even close to meeting those requirements?

Getting tough with the culprits

Evidently, not much. John Kerry, President Biden’s climate envoy, says we’re on track to see global warming rise to between 2 and 2.7 degrees Celsius in the near future. The IPCC says the same. A basic problem is that no regulatory body exists that can tell individual governments what they should be doing to meet their climate responsibilities. That job is left to an informed public, responsible governments, and especially nongovernmental expert groups to figure out.

For example, how can we bring the fossil fuel industry to heel? Research has shown that the Big Four oil companies—Chevron, Shell, BP, and Exxon-Mobil—are alone responsible for 10 percent of global emissions. The Union of Concerned Scientists tries to answer that question in the Winter 2022 issue of Catalyst. UCS lays out four ways to undo the damage to the environment being caused by the major and lesser oil and gas companies:

1. Compiling evidence of what Big Oil scientists knew and know about climate change that they did or did not choose to disclose to outsiders.

2. Increasing lawsuits against fossil fuel companies at city, county, and state levels for damages to the environment and fraudulent risk statements. (Right now, 29 such suits are in progress.)

3. Calling out Big Oil lobbyists who seek to obstruct Congressional action on climate change.

4. Providing science-based information on the carbon emissions of the major oil companies.

But facts, pressure, and lawsuits have thus far failed to move the Big Four and their friends in legislatures. And even if those folks can be forced to make policy changes, will they be in time to save us from the predicted increase in floods, hurricanes, disease, forest loss, and drought?

Ways forward on the technological side

Proponents of technological tools for fighting climate change think they have an answer. Dave Roberts, a strong voice on clean energy, cites rapid advances in electrification of cars, industry, and buildings as the key to meeting climate change goals. Prices for the technology are coming down very fast, he says:

“The tools for electrification, which are mainly wind and solar power, batteries, and then electrolysis to create green hydrogen, all four of those technologies are on what are called learning curves, which means, every time the deployment, the global deployment of those technologies doubles, their price drops by a predictable amount.”

Four scientists who helped write the IPCC report support Roberts’ prescription, adding that we shouldn’t be so concerned about which energy renewables or which technology will contribute most to offsetting carbon emissions. The main point, the IPCC says, is that:

“For the coming decade, rapidly reducing coal electricity and building extensive wind, solar and storage systems are low-cost strategies in many places, regardless of how much energy might or might not eventually come from renewables. This is because plummeting costs make solar and wind increasingly competitive, and electricity from solar is now the ‘cheapest source of electricity in history’ in some locations, according to the International Energy Agency. Moreover, the costs of batteries and other storage technologies are also declining.”

Indeed, a look at the maps below of reliance on wind and solar energy reveals that Europe is far ahead of the rest of the world, with nine of the top ten countries (led by Denmark at an astounding 52 percent) relying on wind and solar for electricity. Contrast that with the US (13%), China (11%), and India (8%), showing that in terms of population, we have a long way to go before green energy wins out.

A picture containing diagram Description automatically generated

Time is not on our side

A major move in electrification will be helpful, but it will only be a partial response to the climate crisis. For instance, it won’t address all the sources of climate change, such as methane, the most potent greenhouse gas whose principal human-activity source is agriculture.

Furthermore, past experience shows that environmental remedies do not necessarily create trickle-down effects. The poorest countries and the poorest people are most affected and least helped, especially financially, by environmental abuses over which they have no control. Cost estimates on countering climate change run into the trillions of dollars.

Then there are irresponsible governments, such as the Bolsonaro regime in Brazil, which is now engaged in the criminal destruction of the Amazon’s forests and its indigenous people; and China, which has ramped up coal mining. Forest and species loss is very high despite commitments made at COP26 last year.

And let’s not omit irresponsible fossil fuel companies, which only want to talk about increasing production, not alternative energy and conservation. Meantime, in a world of 1.5°C to 2.0°C warming, the IPCC report predicts not just extraordinary damage to world food supplies—perhaps eight percent of the world’s farmland no longer producing food, for example—but also very high death tolls from environmental emergencies. And those predictions predate the Ukraine war, which has caused huge grain losses.

Now or never

One of the many authors of the IPCC report said: “It’s now or never, if we want to limit global warming to 1.5°C Without immediate and deep emissions reductions across all sectors, it will be impossible.”

John Kerry, in a recent interview, was equally realistic, which is to say, putting the best face on a dire situation. He said:

“We’re way behind. And we’re not going to catch up in that period of time. The best thing that we can do at this point is win the battle of getting on track faster. We could be deploying the renewable technology we have today much faster, to a much greater extent and begin to bring down the emissions, notwithstanding Ukraine, notwithstanding the pressure people are feeling about the supply of oil and gas and fossil fuel. Just the transition off of coal or oil to gas will help us meet the goal of this next six to 10 years.”

In a nutshell, if the will and the politics were there, we can get through the climate crisis. But those who have the power to make it so have other plans.

Mel Gurtov is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University, Editor-in-Chief of Asian Perspective, an international affairs quarterly and blogs at In the Human Interest.

Counterpunch, May 24, 2022, https://www.counterpunch.org/