Before Stonewall: Queer liberation’s Communist Party roots / by C. J. Atkins

Harry Hay in the 1930s, photographed by LeRoy Robbins / San Francisco Public Library | ‘Vote Communist’ poster, 1928 / CPUSA Archives | Mattachine Society demonstrators. / AP

The modern movement for queer liberation—or gay liberation to use the as-yet less inclusive terminology of the 1960s and ’70s—wouldn’t exist without the Communist Party USA.

That might sound like a big claim to make, but it was Communist ideology and political strategy that provided the theoretical and practical architecture of the earliest effort to win gay equality in the United States—the Mattachine Society, a group whose ideas underpinned all the struggles and victories in the country that have been won over the past half century. Without them, there would no doubt have been a movement for queer equality in one form or another, as there were already stirrings elsewhere prior to Mattachine, especially in Europe. But without Mattachine, the movement that emerged would likely have looked a lot different than it does now.

The Stonewall Rebellion is generally (and rightly) regarded as the moment when the fight for gay rights broke out into the mainstream, led by Black and brown trans women and drag queens in New York City. Credit is certainly due for figures like Marsha P. Johnson, Sylvia Rivera, and others who first had the courage to fight back against police repression that hot June night in 1969.

But even before Stonewall—and before the radical organizations that would follow, like the Gay Liberation Front, ACT UP, and Queer Nation—there were the Mattachine Society and Harry Hay. Mattachine, one of the first groups to attempt to politically organize gay men and lesbians, was established over the course of 1948 to 1950, a period of resurgent conservative power and suburban-inspired social conformity in U.S. culture. And Harry Hay was the Communist who combined theory and practice to bring it into reality.

“Are you now or have you ever been a homosexual?”

Harry Hay came of age as a gay man when the notion of a gay identity barely existed; as Hay himself would often say, gay people didn’t even have a word for themselves yet. Homosexuals and “deviants” of whatever variety still understood themselves as sexually addicted, biologically defective, and mentally “handicapped.” The self-hatred and inward-focused slut-shaming ran deep.

Hay was also a Communist—at a time when first fascism and then Red Scare McCarthyism made possessing left-wing allegiances dangerous. Hay had been politicized early in life by interactions with old Wobblies from the Industrial Workers of the World and during his work among migrant farm workers as a young man, but he became truly radicalized after a pair of galvanizing experiences in 1934. Witnessing police violence against mothers of starving children who were protesting against the disposal of milk to protect market prices during the Great Depression, Hay instinctively picked up a brick and hurled it at a cop, striking him in the temple. He had to flee and found unexpected protection in the home of a Los Angeles drag queen named Clarabelle.

Now politically active, that same summer Hay traveled to San Francisco to organize solidarity efforts for the General Strike of maritime workers that had shut down the West Coast ports. There, he saw National Guard soldiers fire on the picket lines, killing two workers on the spot, and felt bullets fly past his own head. Thousands attended the fallen workers’ funerals. Hay would later say, “You couldn’t have been a part of that and not have your life completely changed.”

A throng of over 10,000 unemployed join in a ‘hunger march’ at the Los Angeles Plaza Historic District to listen to Communist Party speakers in the 1930s. Harry Hay was radicalized in California at this time and joined the CPUSA. | AP

For Harry Hay, that change resulted in his joining the Communist Party in 1938. He was introduced to the CPUSA by his lover, actor Will Geer (known to later generations as Grandpa on the TV series The Waltons). Over time, Hay’s involvement with the party and its various campaigns against fascism and in support of labor and what was then called Negro equality grew to become full-time devotions. He was employed for many years as an educator in the Communist Party’s political schools and community labor education associations; cultural work and the Communist-led folk music scene were other areas to which Hay devoted himself.

Never faltering in his commitment, Hay remained in the party until he felt compelled to engineer his own “honorable discharge” in 1951 so as to protect the party from any FBI security risks due to his homosexuality. By this time, he had undergone an awakening of his own sexual identity and knew there could be no going back into the closet; the “brotherhood” which he now acknowledged also demanded his loyalty. Local party leaders in California didn’t want him to go, but official CPUSA policy at the time and for decades after still saw homosexuality as a sign of the social degeneration of late-stage capitalism and as a serious blackmail risk. Even as late as 1977, the party was still calling homosexuality an “unhealthy and unnatural” aberration that was “non-productive and non-creative biologically.”

As for the situation in the 1950s, it turned out Hay was right about the potential for government manipulation; in 1955 he was summoned to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee about his Marxist proclivities. Investigators perhaps hoped that fear of being exposed as a homosexual would prompt Hay to turn on his old comrades; instead he shot back, “I’m not in the habit of confiding in stool pigeons or their buddies on this committee.”

The Spark

Sen. Joe McCarthy once joked, “If you want to be against me, you have to be either a communist or a cocksucker.” Harry Hay was both. But rather than letting his being gay and a Red become liabilities, Hay combined them and set the stage for a social and sexual revolution.

For decades, the work of Hay and Mattachine Society remained largely unknown, a brief episode in gay history. Thanks to the work of researchers like Stuart Timmons and Will Roscoe, authors respectively of The Trouble with Harry Hay and Radically Gay, much of the story of Hay and Mattachine has been rescued from dusty boxes and locked filing cabinets. And the broad outlines of Hay’s life and the basic aspects of his work founding Mattachine have been previously presented in the pages of People’s World by historian Norman Markowitz.

The importance of the Communist Party USA to the tale was never downplayed by either Timmons or Roscoe, nor by Markowitz, but the centrality of Marxism and the CPUSA’s Popular Front strategy in this earliest effort at queer liberation has often been downplayed by other commentators who “discover” Harry Hay. His work is a part of LGBTQ history and Communist history that neither queers nor Communists have sufficiently acknowledged.

Historical Materialism and the “Cultural Minority” thesis

The idea for a group to specifically organize gays to fight for their acceptance by society was first broached by Hay in 1948 in the form of a “Bachelors for Wallace” caucus within the Progressive Party campaign of Henry Wallace. Though it didn’t go very far, the effort eventually morphed into Bachelors Anonymous (modeled on Alcoholics Anonymous—note the addiction and medicalization connotations) and then the Mattachine Society.

Hay had trouble convincing many in his circles that an advocacy group for people who were “that way” was even possible. Post-war reaction was setting in and progressive politics in general were under attack; what Hay was proposing was even more subversive, but he felt compelled to start organizing anyway. “I knew the government was going to look for a new enemy, a new scapegoat,” he said. Those scapegoats were Communists and queers.

Members of the Mattachine Society in a rare group photograph at a 1952 Christmas party. Pictured: Harry Hay (upper left), then from left to right, Konrad Stevens, Dale Jennings, Rudi Gernreich, Stan Witt, Bob Hull, Chuck Rowland (in glasses), Paul Bernard. | James Gruber / Fair Use / Wikimedia Commons

If Mattachine was going to get off the ground, the training they’d received in the party told Hay and the few organizers he managed to gather that they needed a theoretical foundation on which to build. Chuck Rowland, another former CP member, told author Stuart Timmons, “With my Communist background, I knew I could not work in a group without a theory. I said, ‘All right, Harry, what is our theory?’”

Hay’s years as a Marxist educator provided him the answer. “We are an oppressed minority culture,” he told Rowland. Thus was born what became known as the “Cultural Minority” thesis. Still lacking a proper vocabulary, Hay initially referred to this oppressed culture as the “Androgynous Minority.”

The notion of gays as an oppressed minority culture was a takeoff from the Marxist analysis of the oppression of African Americans and other groups as “national minorities,” a concept with a long pedigree in Marxism-Leninism but which was particularly stressed after the Sixth Congress of the Communist International in 1928. In the ultra-revolutionary days of the 1920s and ’30s, this meant U.S. Communists advocated for the “right of self-determination” for African Americans in the “Black Belt” where they constituted a majority, up to and including the right to secede from the United States and form a new nation.

The inspiration of the Cultural Minority thesis as Hay formulated it was, in retrospect, an ironic one: Soviet leader Joseph Stalin, the man largely responsible for re-criminalizing homosexuality in the USSR after the liberating early years that followed the Russian Revolution.

As a teacher in CPUSA schools, Hay had regularly used Stalin’s text Marxism and the National Question as part of his curriculum. In the book, which was counted among the Communist classics at the time, Stalin defined a “nation” as “a historically-evolved, stable community of language, territory, economic life, and psychological make-up manifested in a community of culture.”

Stalin’s definition wasn’t an easy fit for the situation facing African Americans—there was no distinct Black national economy and no one yet recognized a Black linguistic vernacular—so American Communists adjusted the theorization to account for the reality that existed in their own country. African Americans were a national minority concentrated in a geographical area which possessed their own culture forged in struggle against oppression—two out of Stalin’s four criteria.

It was this aspect of the theory that Hay extended and developed as a means for understanding the oppression of homosexuals—he analyzed them as a group sharing a culture and a language (of sorts). “I felt we had two of the four…so clearly we were a social minority,” he later said. The publication of the famed Kinsey Report in 1948, which found that 37% of men in the U.S. had had a same-sex experience at some point in life and that 10% were exclusively homosexual, convinced Hay there were millions of people who could potentially be organized.

Chuck Rowland would say in the 1980s that by “culture,” the former Communists in Mattachine had meant “a body of language, feelings, thinking, and experiences” shared in common.

Stalin’s ‘Marxism and the National Question,’ 1942 edition from International Publishers.

Being a historical materialist though, Hay sought out evidence for the Cultural Minority thesis and found it in both the unexpected commonalities of experience that were shared by Mattachine discussion group participants and in the historical examples of Native American “two spirited” persons and European “fool” traditions. It wasn’t so much individual sexual practices that he focused on in his studies, but rather on social institutions that had tolerated, made use of, or even fostered a distinct identity in pre-capitalist times for persons that might be seen as occupying some third space between man and woman. The Two Spirits and “fools” were defined not by the sex they had or whom they had it with, according to Hay. Rather, they played particular roles in sustaining certain cultural practices and as repositories of knowledge.

He presented his findings in “The Homosexual and History,” which attempted a dialectical study of the role that those who fell outside socially accepted gender and sex roles had played in the past—and could play in the present and future. Drawing on Marxism’s focus on the overthrow of matriarchy and the onset of male domination as part of the division of labor and the rise of private property, Hay argued that the origins of the oppression of the homosexual was closely linked with the oppression of women. In other words, it was intertwined with the rise of capitalism.

The advance of agriculture and technology meant surplus wealth could now be produced and accumulated, transitioning eventually into private property. The breakdown of communal society and the rise of the male-centered patriarchal family unit—and the consequent growth of religious and other ideas to support this new economic arrangement—conspired to squash any liberal attitudes that might have existed toward sex and gender expression. The raising of children was also no longer a communal affair, but rather the task of the family unit and a source of exploitable labor. Homosexual relations produced no children, and thus the regulation of such behavior arose in tandem with the regulation of female sexuality and labor.

Hay’s theorization was still incomplete, but it would be further refined and bolstered by later radical gay activists. Bob McCubbin’s 1976 study, The Gay Question: A Marxist Appraisal, which was put out by the left-wing Workers World Party, remains a touchstone historical document that followed in the Harry Hay tradition.

With an examination of the historical roots of homosexual oppression at least partially begun, Hay gave particular attention to the issues of shared culture and language among homophiles, the word coined by Mattachine to refer to this community in formation. He wrote:

“The Homophile common psychological make-up manifests itself in a community of culture so phenomenologically remarkable that it transcends the mechanical barriers of formal language by creating an international behavioral language of its own, in addition to sharing the pedestrian language of each parental community. To be sure, the communities of culture differ in detail from one national community to another. But they are enough alike that no one need be a helpless stranger whatever the port of call.”

Essentially, what he meant was that gay people will always find and recognize one another no matter where they are in the world because they shared a language expressed through behavior, particularly body language. Scholar Will Roscoe wrote of what Hay called the “eye-lock,” saying, “There’s simply no mistaking another gay man when he returns your gaze without a blink.” Later generations would refer to “gaydar.”

Rowland, again playing the Engels to Hay’s Marx, put the theorist’s ideas into a readily digestible and actionable form. He told a 1953 Mattachine convention: “We must disenthrall ourselves of the idea that we differ only in our sexual directions and that all we want or need in life is to be free to seek the expression of our sexual desires as we see fit.”  He said that “the heterosexual mores of the dominant culture have excluded us,” and as a result, “we have developed differently than other cultural groups.” Rowland concluded that homosexuals had to develop “a new pride—a pride in belonging, a pride in participating in the cultural growth and social achievements of the homosexual minority.”

In developing the Cultural Minority thesis, Hay and his Mattachine comrades were setting the example from which all future radical LGBTQ politics and Pride movements would emerge. From that point on, there would of course be setbacks, reversals, and internal battles, but, in the words of Timmons, the Cultural Minority thesis became “the implicit mode of self-understanding and community organization of Lesbian/Gay communities wherever they exist,” even if its Marxist roots typically went unacknowledged.

Strategy: The Popular Front and the unity of oppressed peoples

Just as Hay drew from his CPUSA experience in establishing the theoretical basis of a gay liberation movement, he did the same when formulating the Mattachine Society’s political strategy. Gay politics, from their beginning, were popular front politics.

Known as “the people’s front” in the U.S., the popular front strategy had been adopted by Communists around the world in the 1930s to combat the rise of fascism. At its core is the idea of broad-based coalition politics, formulated around a couple of key strategic questions. First, it asks what goal, if won, can change the relationship of forces and open up the possibility for advance. Second, it sets out who are the main opponents and possible allies in the struggle to achieve that goal. This means determining who has the self-interest to fight for the goal and assessing their organization, consciousness, and capacity to join in the fight.

People’s Front against fascism: A phalanx of police officers charge into anti-Nazi protesters organized by the Communist Party in Los Angeles, Calif., Aug. 7, 1938. | AP

The popular front represented Communists’ abandonment of sectarian and doctrinaire “go-it-alone” dogmas which had held that only the organized working class was needed to overturn capitalism and that nothing less than total revolution would do. Racism and other problems would disappear after socialism was won; the class struggle would settle such questions. Instead, with the popular front, the party promoted the notion that change could be won in the here and now through the united efforts of workers, oppressed groups, and anyone who had an interest in stopping the descent into reactionary politics and fighting racism and division. It was the way to alter the balance of forces and open the path to progress.

Hay carried the popular front with him into Mattachine. He saw homosexuals as a distinct cultural minority, but believed that their social advance rested on building alliances and finding shared interests with others oppressed under patriarchal capitalism.

“We are essentially a group of individuals that have been forced together by society. Society attacks the Homosexuals for their non-conformity in sexual desire and objects completely on the basis of this one characteristic. This attitude would change if society could see the positive side and realize the potential ability to offer a worthwhile contribution,” he told a Mattachine group in 1951. 

In the 1930s and ’40s, the popular front established a legacy that extended well beyond the bounds of the Communist Party. The building of coalitions of workers, women, African Americans, Chicanos, youth, immigrants, and eventually the LGBTQ community and others became the standard strategy for progressive change and left-wing electoral politics in the United States, a situation that still prevails to this day.

The tactics and organizing principles of the popular front were also imported into Mattachine. The group was organized much like the broad-based coalition front groups that the Communists had initiated and led in the 1930s. The Los Angeles Anti-Nazi League has been cited as an inspiration for Mattachine, for example. And although some scholars recognize the Freemasons when they look at the structure and social service goals of Mattachine, it is actually more reminiscent of the International Workers Order—a fraternal aid society led by CP members.

Left: Harry Hay in the 1980s / NYPL; Right: A Communist Party USA poster from the Rainbow Coalition years of the 1980s. | People’s World Archive

Mattachine’s internal system of tiered levels of responsibility and authority showed hints of democratic centralism, the organizing principle of communist parties. There were also provisions for aboveground and illegal structures—a lesson learned from intense periods of anti-communist repression. The group set itself three missions: unify, educate, and lead; Hay essentially saw Mattachine as a vanguard that would raise the consciousness of oppressed homosexuals and move them to action—not that different from what Communist Parties sought to do for the working class generally.

The document “Mattachine Society Missions and Purposes” was in some respects the homosexual equivalent of Lenin’s What is to Be Done?, the pamphlet which laid out the principles for a “party of a new type.” In his document, Hay wrote:

“It is not sufficient for an oppressed minority like the homosexuals merely to be conscious of belonging to a minority collective when…that collective is neither socially organic in its directions and activities…. It is necessary that the more far-seeing and socially conscious homosexuals provide leadership to the whole mass of social deviants…. Once unification and education have progressed, it becomes imperative…to push into the realm of political action.”

The linking of gay equality to other progressive causes was also a priority for the Mattachine founders. The group’s very first action was gathering signatures for a peace petition against the Korean War at a gay beach in California.

In the early Mattachine Society, then, we find a group of small-c communist gays who were attempting to organize their emerging community along the lines of a rudimentary Marxist analysis of their oppression and with the tools learned in the fight against fascism. Even though circumstances and prejudices did not allow them to be in the Communist Party proper, Hay, Rowland, and other Mattachine activists were doing communist work and attempting to link up the homosexual cultural minority with others who were oppressed by capitalism and had an interest in fighting it.

Forever a comrade

The groundbreaking role of Mattachine in theorizing gay identity was lost in the fog of, first, anti-communism and, later, the pressures for queer people to assimilate to the standards and social structures of the straight world. As McCarthyite repression intensified, Hay and other radicals were pushed out of Mattachine by anti-communist elements and political moderates within.

They worried that the Marxism of Hay would tarnish their ability to win the toleration of socially conservative heterosexual society. Revolutionary notions of sexual liberation and an overturning of patriarchal gender roles wasn’t on the agenda for these timid assimilationists. By the time of Stonewall in 1969, Mattachine was largely seen as a conservative force, sometimes even as a brake on progress. It dressed its gays in suits and ties and its lesbians in dresses and high heels, looking down on the multiracial and working class trans women and drag queens of the street—the “wretched of the earth” in the words of the old Communist anthem, The Internationale.

Hay went on to found other groups to fight the assimilationist trend, and he continued challenging taboos over the decades. He was also an eager advocate of efforts overcome the male-centered focus of the early movement, supporting lesbians, bisexuals, trans persons, and others as they expanded the boundaries of queer liberation to account for the intersectionality of race, gender, and sexuality.

But Harry never left behind the Marxism he had learned in the Communist Party USA nor the commitment to a post-capitalist world that the party forged in him. According to Timmons, Hay watched the advance of perestroika and economic reform in the Soviet Union in the 1980s with great hope, but he was saddened by those who wanted to throw out scientific socialism along with the USSR.

Harry Hay, left, brushes the cheek of his partner John Burnside with his hand, July 19, 2002, at their home in San Francisco. Hay died three months later. | Ben Margot / AP

“Marxism needs to be revised,” he said in 1990, “based on new scientific knowledge, particularly of human behavior…. The underlying methodology will be proved sound.” The science of dialectical and historical materialism that he had studied and taught in the CPUSA remained at the core of his analysis of society.

When leaving the party in 1951, Hay had expressed the hope that “one of these fine days…maybe we can all come back together again,” but it wasn’t to be. It was only in 2001, just before Hay’s death, that the CPUSA made an official conversion to openly supporting LGBTQ equality.

Today, the party is a committed fighter in the struggle for queer liberation, with many LGBTQ persons playing key roles among its leadership and membership. It has become a part of the fight for what Harry Hay called the “heroic objective” of the movement way back in 1950: “liberating one of our largest minorities from the solitary confinement of social persecution and civil insecurity…and guaranteeing them the basic and protected right to enter the front ranks of self-respecting citizenship, recognized and honored as socially contributive individuals.”

As with so many movements of the oppressed around the world, the theoretical and strategic roots of the queer movement are, at least in part, products of the Marxist tradition. It is a rich science which tells us that the oppression of LGBTQ persons will continue to exist as long as the material conditions inhibiting true freedom prevail. And it tells us that achieving full sexual liberation will require winning political, economic, and social liberation for all peoples—it will require socialism.

A printed pamphlet version of this article is available from the Communist Party USA.

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People’s World. C.J. Atkins es el editor gerente de People’s World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People’s World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.

People’s World, June 24, 2021,

PRIDE 2022: A season of celebration, a season of struggle / by C.J. Atkins

Reclaiming Pride: Queer liberation, not rainbow capitalism. | Leandro Justen / via Reclaim Pride Coalition

After a pandemic-enforced two-year hiatus in many parts of the world, Pride is back this summer. Pageants, parties, and parades are in full swing once more, putting the vibrancy and diversity of the LGBTQ community front and center. From longtime gay sanctuaries like San Francisco to small towns like Seward, Alaska—population 3,000 and hosting its first-ever Pride parade this year—the community and its supporters are out on the streets embracing one another again.

Also back is the phenomenon of “corporate pride.” Almost every big company imaginable now slaps a rainbow across its logo on social media every June. There are exceptions, of course. Like Chick-Fil-A. One of the fried chicken firm’s franchisees recently tweeted out “priDEMONth,” a Christian fundamentalist take on “Pride month.” Or oil giant Exxon Mobil, where executives still ban LGBTQ employees from flying the Pride flag at company facilities. Or the dozens of other major corporations and thousands of small businesses that deny their queer employees equal rights, protections, and benefits.

As for the corporations that do participate, however, the multi-colored marketing blitz is surely a sign of our community’s growing normalization, but it’s right to remain skeptical of big business motives. Especially when retailers proceed to peddle merchandise bearing generic themes like “Love wins” in the hope of scoring some pink dollars while remaining just inoffensive enough to avoid catching the attention of the enforcers of heterosexist norms.

Left: Gay Liberation Front members marching on Times Square, Fall 1969. | Diana Davies / NYPL. Right: The illuminated Stonewall Inn sign. | Wikimedia Commons

A welcome antidote to this capitalist co-optation, though, is the long tradition of Pride as protest, which is gathering fresh recognition and support thanks to groups like the Reclaim Pride Coalition.

For generations, queers had to fight just to exist and be seen, let alone be welcomed or celebrated. As an old button slogan goes, “The first pride was a riot,” and indeed it was. Stonewall 1969, the protest widely seen as launching the modern queer liberation movement, was an uprising against racist and homophobic police repression in New York City—led by trans women of color. (By June 2024, visitors will be able to learn about this uprising at the new Stonewall National Monument Visitor Center being opened by the National Parks Service.)

When coronavirus canceled most of the official festivals and corporate sponsorships in 2020 and 2021, the movement to return Pride to its protest roots garnered more of the spotlight it’s been denied for years. A part of the growing progressive and left consciousness sweeping the nation and a companion to other people’s movements like Black Lives Matter, the fight for women’s lives, and others, this trend has put the call for “Queer liberation, not rainbow capitalism” into wide circulation.

With the victory of marriage equality in 2015, too many upper-income and (especially) white gays and lesbians concluded the struggle was over and directed their political donations accordingly. Long-overdue court rulings against discrimination on the job and in housing, while certainly welcomed, reinforced the notion that the community could hit the cruise control button.

Of course, the struggle never ended for working-class queers, queers of color, and particularly the trans community. In reality, it didn’t end for those upper-income professional types among us, either.

A quick survey of the political landscape right now confirms that. Though corporate pride may have taken a break during the pandemic, the Republican apparatus of hate and division remained highly active.

  • An avalanche of anti-trans legislation is pouring out of Republican-controlled statehouses across the country. Over 300 bills targeting trans athletes, gender-neutral or non-binary restroom facilities, health and gender-affirming care for trans youth, gender-accurate IDs, and more are in various stages of the legislative process, with some having already become law.
  • Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill, the homophobic equivalent of the right wing’s racist crusade against Critical Race Theory, is prompting copycat efforts in several states. It bans even letting schoolchildren know that LGBTQ people exist and is the kind of legislation that paves the way for the suffering of LGBTQ kids and violence for years to come.
  • In the face of an epidemic of gun violence and mass shootings, the GOP in Texas thinks it’s more important to keep young people out of drag shows than gun shows. It’s a diversion tactic to keep the focus off the Republican-gun manufacturer-NRA triple axis turning the nation’s schools and streets into killing fields in pursuit of profit.
  • The Supreme Court’s ruling to throw out Roe v. Wade directly impacts queer women, non-binary people, and transgender men who need the abortion providers and reproductive health clinics that will shutter as a result of the ruling. Further, it puts many other LGBTQ rights in jeopardy that rest on Roe’s protections of privacy and personal autonomy. As Kierra Johnson, director of the LGBTQ Task Force, recently said, “There’s so much about LGBTQ liberation and reproductive justice that connects us…and connect our movements. The foundation of our movements were built on sexual freedom.” And now Justice Clarence Thomas admits that the overturning of Roe will allow the Court to next target marriage equality and gay sex.
  • On top of these political and legislative assaults, there’s also the open and direct violence targeting the LGBTQ community, such as the white supremacist band of fascists in Idaho who were stopped just before attacking a Pride parade or the Texas pastor who wants to round up every gay person in America and shoot them in the back of the head.

For all these reasons and more, it’s important to keep in mind that Pride is a season of celebration but also a season of struggle. When the parades are over, we have to keep our marching shoes on because we are in the midst of a many-sided fight that will determine whether not just our community, but indeed our country and our world, progress or sink backward.

Jose Rodriguez, of Orlando, center, walks with the Equality Florida group at the Stonewall Pride Parade, Saturday, June 18, 2022, during Pride Month in Wilton Manors, Fla. The state of Florida has become a central arena of the resistance to Republican homophobic and transphobic policies. | Lynne Sladky / AP

The November elections have the potential to shift the balance of forces in Congress, breaking the Republican filibuster in the Senate and sidelining renegade Democrats like Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Stopping the right-wing’s blockade in Washington would open the pathway for passing key priorities for LGBTQ people and all working people in our country like the Equality Act, the Build Back Better Act, the PRO Act, and making abortion rights permanent and irreversible.

And with at least 104 LGBTQ people running for Congress in races across the country, there are even more reasons to vote.

The LGBTQ community has never known a moment when it wasn’t struggling, and the current period is no different. It’s time to act up and fight back, just like previous generations.

March now, love now, vote now.

As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article reflects the opinions of its author.

Related Stories:

Stonewall anniversary: Rainbow capitalism or LGBTQ liberation?

Republicans prepare transphobic offensive for 2022 elections

Before Stonewall: Queer liberation’s Communist Party roots

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People’s World. C.J. Atkins es el editor gerente de People’s World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left. In addition to his work at People’s World, C.J. currently serves as the Deputy Executive Director of ProudPolitics.

People’s World, June 24, 2022,

The Supreme Court’s Gun Ruling Yesterday Shows It Isn’t Pro-Life / An Interview with Adam Winkler

A protester holds up a sign during a rally against gun violence outside the US Capitol on June 6, 2022 in Washington, DC. (Drew Angerer / Getty Images)

The Supreme Court isn’t pro-life — yesterday, it struck down a New York State law limiting who can carry concealed handguns in public, a ruling that could invalidate most gun control laws throughout the country. The court doesn’t care about mass death

Interview by David Sirota

The Supreme Court on Thursday struck down a New York state law limiting who can carry concealed handguns in public, a ruling that could invalidate most gun control laws throughout the country.

Critics say the court’s decision in New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v. Bruen will likely increase gun violence, and comes one month after a mass shooting in Buffalo, New York, in which a white supremacist drove two hundred miles to specifically kill black people in a grocery store.

Authored by Justice Clarence Thomas, the ruling creates an onerous new standard for whether gun control measures are constitutional.

“To justify its regulation, the government may not simply posit that the regulation promotes an important interest,” Thomas wrote. “Rather, the government must demonstrate that the regulation is consistent with this nation’s historical tradition of firearm regulation. Only if a firearm regulation is consistent with this nation’s historical tradition may a court conclude that the individual’s conduct falls outside the Second Amendment’s ‘unqualified command.’”

According to UCLA law professor Adam Winkler, one of the country’s top experts on gun laws, the ruling could affect a new bipartisan gun safety bill that the Senate passed on Thursday. That bill would encourage states to implement so-called “red flag” laws, which allow firearms to be temporarily confiscated from those who are deemed to be a risk to themselves or others. It would also close the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” a gap in federal law that allows some domestic abusers to keep their weapons.

“The Court’s Second Amendment ruling calls into question key parts of the Senate gun bill,” Winkler tweeted after the decision came down. “Thomas says only gun regulations consistent with historical regulation of guns are permissible. Red flag laws, however, are a modern invention. So too bans on domestic abusers.”

Earlier this week, the Lever’s David Sirota spoke with Winkler, author of Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America, about the New York State Rifle case and the state of US gun laws. Below is an abridged version of their discussion; stay tuned for next week’s Lever Time podcast episode to hear the entire conversation.


Before we get to the current Supreme Court case, just lay out for us where we are at this moment when it comes to how the current Supreme Court looks at gun laws in America.


Well, it’s significant that the Second Amendment had never been authoritatively interpreted by the Supreme Court to protect an individual’s right to have a firearm until 2008. In fact, for most of that time, when the court did rule on Second Amendment cases, the Court said it was only about protecting a well-regulated militia from federal interference.

But in 2008, in a case called DC v. Heller, the Supreme Court said that the Second Amendment does protect an individual right to bear arms, and struck down a law banning handguns in Washington, DC. But the court didn’t provide much other guidance as to the scope of the right to bear arms, such as whether it allowed people to have military-style assault rifles or whether states could restrict concealed carry.

In the fourteen years since Heller, there’s been just a tidal wave of litigation in the federal courts challenging any number of federal gun laws and the court seemed to stay out of it, until Donald Trump had his three appointees to the Supreme Court. And that changed everything.

The court now has a big case out of New York [New York State Rifle] on concealed carry. And we’re expecting a ruling any day now. In that case, most people predict that the court is going to broadly interpret the Second Amendment to say you have a right to carry guns in public, and I think it may make it harder to defend almost any kind of gun law.


What’s the explanation for how much the court itself has shifted? Is it just individual appointees, or was there a movement specifically to put judges on the court that had a different view of guns?


The truth is, the Second Amendment is like every other constitutional provision we have, which means it is a reflection of an evolving and living society and the impact of social movements. And there’s been a real movement to change how the Second Amendment is interpreted in the courts and elsewhere. Donald Trump got elected in part by promising to elect judges that were going to broadly read the Second Amendment. That worked for him, he got elected, and then he appointed those justices. And now they’re going to do that work.

So constitutional law does not exist in a vacuum. It exists in a political environment. And we the people in America have decided we want gun rights. The Supreme Court’s reflecting that, I think.


Can you talk about how gun politics have shifted, and why and how it changed into a partisan issue?


Well, I think gun politics in America were transformed overnight. And I don’t say that to be hyperbolic.

There was a rising movement for gun owners who wanted to have guns for personal protection in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was, like our own era, a time of social disruption and the feeling that maybe people were insecure. And there were very high crime rates at the time as well.

The leadership of the NRA [National Rifle Association] at the time was pretty moderate. They were opposed to a lot of gun control laws, but the leadership hatched a plan to move to Colorado Springs to refocus the organization away from political activity and toward recreational sports, hunting, and conservation.

This really angered a group of hardliners in the membership. And at the annual membership meeting in 1977 in Cincinnati, these hardliners staged a coup of the NRA, where they used the rules of order to elect a whole new board of directors.

Literally when the sun rose the next day, the NRA had been transformed. And the new directors were all committed to political advocacy, fighting gun control, and being much more politically assertive. And that group became an active part of the coalition that led to Ronald Reagan being elected president in 1980, and has since become an even stronger part of the Republican conservative coalition.


Tell us what the New York State Rifle case really is about, and explain how the Supreme Court gets to deregulate guns under the banner of a Second Amendment that says that arms effectively are supposed to be well-regulated.


Most states allow you to carry a concealed firearm if you have a permit — and a growing number of states don’t even require a permit. New York is one of eight states that say you can only carry a gun with a permit. And to get a permit, you have to show that you have some unusual and particularly strong reasons to carry a gun, like you’re being stalked, you’ve been threatened, or you carry a tremendous amount of cash or jewelry with you.

What this case does is question whether that’s a violation of the Second Amendment to so heavily restrict access to concealed carry permits. And the Supreme Court seems almost certain, based on the oral arguments, to say that, yes, the Second Amendment is violated by New York’s rule. The court is probably going to say you can have some training and objective requirements before you let people carry a gun on the street, but you have to provide some mechanism for people to be able to defend themselves.

This will be a great expansion of the Second Amendment. In over two hundred years of history, the Supreme Court has never said that. We’ve had restrictions on concealed carry, like New York’s, for well over one hundred years. In fact, up until the 1980s, most states had exactly the law that New York has today.

But again, that political movement to change America’s gun laws has been affected by the NRA, since they have led a nationwide effort, going state by state, to loosen gun laws. And now they’re going to go after the few remaining holdouts with this Supreme Court case.

I think that spells trouble for the gun safety movement’s agenda on a lot of issues. I think bans on military-style rifles and on high-capacity magazines will likely be called into question in the coming years.


Are we going to get to a place where the court is basically going to say that there is no line, that you can’t regulate weapons or guns based on how powerful they are? I mean, is that a legitimate thing that may actually happen?


I think what the court is going to say is that only those arms that are in common use for lawful purposes by the citizenry already are constitutionally protected. I think the court would easily say that things like shoulder-launch missiles or nuclear weapons or hand grenades, or even machine guns, are not in common use, they’re not commonly owned by law-abiding people.

The difficulty about this test is it means that if there is a political stalemate, and you can’t get regulation for some amount of years, gun owners can just go out and buy all those weapons, and then all of a sudden they become in common use. That’s basically what’s happening with military-style assault rifles. The gun owners have just gone out and bought tens of millions of these firearms since the end of the federal assault weapons ban in 2004, and now they’re in common use.

And we might see this with 3D-printed guns. It may be that if 3D-printed guns are something that Congress were to regulate or prohibit today, then they wouldn’t be in common use. But if we wait twenty years, then maybe they are in common use, and then they’re constitutionally protected.


As somebody who’s studied this so much, do you really legitimately think that there is a future in America being as heavily armed a country as we are? Can we be this heavily armed, and also have a “normal” rate of gun deaths, as it relates to other countries?


I don’t think we can get down to the levels of gun violence that they have in England or Japan or other countries that don’t have such ready access to guns. That’s just not realistic. But we can reduce our numbers. And that should be our goal in the meantime.

The guns are here to stay. There’s just too many of them, the political movement in favor of them is too strong. The NRA is always talking about people coming in and confiscating your guns. We could never get all the guns if we wanted to. So I think we have to focus on reducing gun violence and doing what we can in a bad situation.

Adam Winkler is a professor of constitutional law at the UCLA School of Law. He is the author of We the Corporations: How American Businesses Won Their Civil Rights.

David Sirota is editor-at-large at Jacobin. He edits the Lever and previously served as a senior adviser and speechwriter on Bernie Sanders’s 2020 presidential campaign.

Jacobin, June 24, 2022,

‘Dangerous and chilling:’ Maine advocates decry Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe / by Evan Popp

Photo: Sen. Susan Collins meets with Justice Brett Kavanaugh ahead of his confirmation to the U.S. Supreme Court. | Zach Gibson, Getty Images

In a decision by a conservative majority largely appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote, the U.S. Supreme Court on Friday struck down Roe v. Wade, invalidating the constitutional protection to an abortion in a decision that immediately puts reproductive rights at risk in 26 Republican-led states.

The ruling was 6-3, with conservative justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Brett Kavanaugh, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett upholding a Mississippi law that would prevent most abortions after 15 weeks while also outright overturning the 1973 Roe decision that enshrined abortion rights into law. Chief Justice John Roberts filed a separate opinion concurring in the judgment to uphold the Mississippi statute. 

Kavanaugh, Gorsuch, Barrett, Roberts and Alito were all appointed by presidents who originally won the White House despite losing the popular vote. 

The court’s three liberals, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, issued a blistering dissent of the radical conservative court’s opinion. “With sorrow — for this Court, but more, for the many millions of American women who have today lost a fundamental constitutional protection — we dissent,” Breyer wrote. 

The ruling comes after a draft opinion leaked in May showed a majority of justices were prepared to overturn abortion rights enshrined in Roe v. Wade. That draft opinion generated outrage, but the ultimate outcome of the case remained unchanged. 

‘A fundamental assault on women’s rights’ 

Abortion rights in many conservative-led states are likely to be immediately curbed following the decision. 

In Maine, though, lawmakers have codified abortion into state law, meaning it is still legal following the ruling. However, the entire state legislature and the Blaine House are up for grabs in November’s election and the Maine Republican Party and GOP gubernatorial nominee Paul LePage are hostile to abortion rights, putting reproductive health care at risk if the former governor and a Republican majority are elected in November. 

Current Democratic Gov. Janet Mills is a supporter of abortion and decried the Supreme Court ruling in a statement Friday. 

“This decision is a fundamental assault on women’s rights and on reproductive freedom that will do nothing to stop abortion. In fact, it will only make abortion less safe and jeopardize the lives of women across the nation,” Mills said. “In Maine, I will defend the right to reproductive health care with everything I have, and I pledge to the people of Maine that, so long as I am governor, my veto pen will stand in the way of any effort to undermine, rollback, or outright eliminate the right to safe and legal abortion in Maine.”

Others around the state also condemned the court’s ruling. 

“By overturning Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court has now officially given politicians permission to control what we do with our bodies, deciding that we can no longer be trusted to determine the course for our own lives,” said Nicole Clegg, vice president of public affairs at Planned Parenthood Maine Action Fund. “This dangerous and chilling decision will have devastating consequences across the country, forcing people to travel hundreds, sometimes thousands, of miles for care or remain pregnant.”

Clegg emphasized that abortion is still legal in Maine but noted the threat that LePage and Republicans in the state pose to reproductive health rights. She added that despite the actions of a reactionary Supreme Court, support for legal abortion remains strong around the country, with about 80% of people in favor.

Those in need of abortion-related health care can go to or call Planned Parenthood of Northern New England at 1-866-476-1321 to book an appointment, Clegg said.

In response the decision, Clegg said the group is organizing a march tonight at 5:15 p.m. in support of abortion rights. The rally will start at Lincoln Park in Portland and continue to City Hall, where there will be speakers. In addition, Maine’s three abortion providers — Planned Parenthood, Maine Family Planning and the Mabel Wadsworth Center — will be holding an online forum June 25 at 6:30 p.m. to provide an opportunity for community members to respond to the ruling. 

“The impacts of this decision will fall hardest on people who already face discriminatory obstacles to health care — particularly Black, Indigenous, and other people of color, people with disabilities, people in rural areas, young people, undocumented people, and those having difficulty making ends meet,” a spokesperson for Maine Family Planning wrote in an email.  

“The right to abortion should be protected at the national level and not left to the states. But with this decision, Maine people must lift their voices together and declare emphatically that we will not be rolling back rights here in Maine,” the organization added. 

Others around the state also weighed in on the decision, with the ACLU of Maine calling the ruling shameful and emphasizing the need to safeguard the right to an abortion in the state. Maine Democratic Socialists of America criticized the ruling as well and wrote on Twitter that the group will be holding a rally at Portland’s Monument Square at 2 p.m. on June 26, where people can hear from “abortion recipients, providers, and organizers, connect with attendees and form networks of support and action.” 

Collins under fire after ruling

Following the decision, advocates directed ire at Maine Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who purports to support abortion rights but has helped block attempts to codify reproductive health care into law in the face of the Supreme Court case challenging Roe

Collins also famously cast a pivotal vote in favor of Kavanaugh, who was accused of sexual assault and who many feared would rule against abortion rights. In defending her vote for Kavanaugh, Collins repeatedly claimed that the judge — along with Gorsuch, who she also voted to confirm — would respect precedent set by Roe v. Wade and not vote to overturn it. On Friday, however, Kavanaugh and Gorsuch both voted to strip the constitutional protection to an abortion. 

When the draft opinion was leaked in May, advocates expressed frustration that they had repeatedly warned Collins about what voting for Kavanaugh and Gorsuch would mean for abortion rights. “Susan Collins told American women to trust her to protect Roe. She lied,” read the headline of one opinion piece published by the Daily Beast.  

Following Friday’s ruling, Collins told reporters that the decision was “inconsistent with what Justices Gorsuch and Kavanaugh said in their testimony and their meetings with me, where they both were insistent on the importance of supporting long-standing precedents that the country has relied upon.” The Maine Republican added that the court’s ruling overturning abortion “is a sudden and radical jolt to the country that will lead to political chaos, anger, and a further loss of confidence in our government.”

However, the group Mainers for Accountable Leadership argued that by voting for Kavanaugh and Gorsuch after reproductive health advocates begged her to oppose them, Collins chose a path that helped lead to Friday’s decision. 

“Senator Collins, the overturning of Roe and Casey is your legacy,” the group tweeted. “While you call yourself a trailblazing woman you have used that power to take away a woman’s bodily autonomy. That’s enabling patriarchal and misogynistic systems. We will never forget.” 

The Maine Democratic Party also criticized the senator, arguing that Collins’ vote for Kavanaugh and “other virulently anti-choice justices” in part paved the way for abortion rights to be overturned.  

Others in the state’s congressional delegation weighed in on Friday’s ruling as well. U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree called the decision catastrophic and said it represents “the culmination of a decades-long effort by Republican extremists to install anti-choice justices on a high court that routinely overrules Congress and the public’s will with impunity.” 

In his statement, Sen. Angus King said the decision was “infuriating” but “unfortunately not a surprise.” He said the goal of overturning abortion rights through the Supreme Court was made explicit by Trump and was a large reason for why — in contrast with Collins — he voted against confirming Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. 

“This ruling goes against the wishes of the majority of Americans, and lays a terrifying groundwork for this court to unravel many other hard-earned civil rights in the years ahead,” King said. 

Evan Popp studied journalism at Ithaca College and interned at the Progressive magazine, ThinkProgress and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. He then worked for the Santa Fe New Mexican newspaper before joining Beacon. Evan can be reached at evan(at)

Maine Beacon, June 24, 2022,

The anatomy of inflation / by Jack Rasmus

Whether the Fed can succeed in taming inflation and do so without precipitating a recession remains to be seen but is highly unlikely.

The focus of the U.S. media and economists for the past several months has been increasingly on inflation. In recent weeks, however, U.S. policymakers awoke as well to the realization that inflation is chronic, firmly embedded, and growing threat to the immediate future of the U.S. economy.

A qualitative ‘threshold of awareness’ was reached this past week when the U.S. central bank, the Federal Reserve, accelerated its pace of rate hikes by 75 basis points—purportedly to bring the rate of price hikes under control. Whether the Fed can succeed in taming inflation and do so without precipitating a recession remains to be seen but is highly unlikely. Taming inflation without provoking a recession is thus the central economic question for the remainder of 2022.

Clearly some think this is possible—i.e. that further rate hikes will moderate the pace of inflation without driving the real economy into recession and result in what is called a ‘soft landing’. Clearly the Fed and the Biden administration believe that will happen. But a growing chorus of even mainstream economists and bank research departments don’t think so. Almost daily new forecasts by global banks and analysts appear indicating recession is more than 50-50 likely—and arriving sooner in late 2022 than in 2023.

This article concludes unequivocally that today’s Fed monetary policy of escalating interest rates is not capable of reducing inflation while avoiding recession—any more than similar Fed rate hikes in 1980-81 did. And this time rate hikes will not need to rise as high as in 1980-81 before they trip the economy into another bona fide recession.

As of June 2022 the Fed raised its benchmark federal funds interest rate to a high end range of 1.75%. It plans to double that at least by the end of 2022, to a 3.5% to 4% range. But the U.S. economy is already nearly stagnant and signs are growing it is becoming even weaker. As this writer has argued since the fall of 2021, a Fed rate to 4% or more will almost certainly mean a ‘hard landing’, i.e. recession. Moreover, it will not reduce inflation that much either. Prices will not slow appreciably until the U.S. is actually well into a recession. That means a condition called stagflation, a contracting real economy amidst rising prices and an economic scenario not seen in the U.S. since the late 1970s. Stagflation has already arrived if one considers the almost flat U.S. economy in the first half of 2022; and it will deepen once recession begins in the second half.

To understand why inflation won’t abate much in 2022, and why recession will occur sometime before the current year’s end, it is necessary first to understand the Anatomy of Inflation (i.e. structure and evolution) that has emerged over the past year. That anatomy, or structure, of inflation shows its current causes are not responsive to Fed rate hikes in either the short or even intermediate term of the next twelve months.

It is necessary to understand why monetary policy in the form of Fed rate hikes will not dampen inflation much before recession occurs—as well as why those same rate hikes will have a greater effect on precipitating a recession long before the Fed can bring the inflation rate down to its long run historic target of only 2%.

The Anatomy of U.S. Inflation: 2021-22

After rising moderately around 4% annual rate when the U.S. economy first opened in the spring of 2021, it is important to note the pace of consumer prices remained virtually steady for the following four months throughout the summer of 2020, at around 5.5%. (Bureau of Labor Statistics New Release, May 11, 2022, Chart 2). That pace began to rise steadily every month only after late August 2021.

Beginning last September 2021 U.S. Inflation not only began accelerating but has since become embedded and chronic. Even U.S. policy elites can no longer deny it. Earlier in 2022 Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen opined publicly that U.S. inflation would be ‘short lived and temporary’. In June she then recanted and apologized for the inaccurate prediction. And this past week admitted that inflation is now ‘locked in’ for the remainder of 2022.

What then are the reasons and evidence inflation has become permanent and chronic—at least until recession sets in?

There’s no doubt that Demand, due to the reopening of the U.S. economy after the worst of Covid in March-April 2021 contributed to the emergence of inflation last spring-summer 2021. But excess Demand is not the primary explanation for it. Demand for goods and services rose during April-May 2021 as workers returned to their jobs and wage incomes grew. However, the record shows after rising modestly in April-May 2021, consumer prices leveled off throughout the summer of 2021, June to August 2021, at just over 5%. It remained steady thereafter at that level for those months as the economy continued to re-open.

The surge in prices at a faster pace only began in the late summer, around August-September. That price escalation coincided with rising problems in Supply chains—both in the form of global imports to the U.S. as well as domestic U.S. supply issues associated with goods transport, warehousing, and skilled labor access. In short, as the U.S. economy attempted to reopen global supply chains were still broken and, domestically, U.S. Product and Labor markets were severely wounded by the impact of Covid events of March 2020 through March 2021.

Conservative politicians, business interests, and their wing of the mainstream media nonetheless claimed at the time—and mostly still maintain today—that it was the too generous, excess income support from the American Relief Plan (ARP) social safety net programs passed by Congress in March 2021, and their predecessor programs a year before, that was responsible for excess Demand in mid-2021 and thus the escalating inflation that followed after September of that year.

But even U.S. government data don’t support that view. The ARP authorized only $800 billion spending in the entire next twelve months. The 3rd quarter—the first full quarter when ARP program spending hit the economy and when prices began their accelerations around August—saw probably no more than $200 billion from ARP programs entering the economy. The supplemental income checks had already been distributed and mostly spent in the 2nd quarter. What remained in the 3rd of any magnitude were supplemental unemployment benefits, modest rental assistance, and the child care subsidies for median and low income families introduced that July. $200 billion injection was probably high as well. Certainly not all the $200 billion income injected was actually spent that quarter. (As economists admit, consumers’ marginal propensity to spend added income is always less than ‘one’—i.e. they don’t immediately spend it all). $150 billion or so was probably actually spent. That $150 billion compares to a 3rd quarter overall GDP of more than $5 trillion! There’s no way an economy that size could result in the price acceleration that began at that time from an injection of $150 billion on more than $5 trillion.

Moreover, $150 billion may be too high an estimate as well. Much of the ARP stimulus was cut off significantly by early September, the last month of the 3rd quarter: for example, supplemental unemployment benefits provided previously for 10 million workers was ended, along with rental assistance, the Payroll Protection Plan grants for small businesses, and other lesser injections.

In short, to the extent Demand contributed to the rise in prices in both the 2nd and 3rd quarters, that Demand effect is explainable far more by the continued reopening of the economy rather than attributable to the income support programs of the American Rescue Plan that amounted to no more than $100-$150 billion throughout the entire 3rd quarter when prices began to accelerate. So much for arguments that workers were too flush with income from jobs they were returning to and the government over-generous ARP income programs! The data just don’t support the view it was Demand and government spending Demand in particular that was responsible for the onset of escalating prices last September 2021.

The more likely explanation behind escalating prices in late summer 2021 was global supply chain bottlenecks, especially involving goods imports from Asia and China in particular. In August-September it was mostly goods prices driving inflation. Consumer spending on services again was just emerging. A problem with Supply chains was corporations around the world had shuttered their operations during the worst of Covid, allowing workers and suppliers to drift away. When the economy began to reopen in the summer of 2021, many of these workers and suppliers were not available. That was especially true with global container and other shipping companies. There just weren’t enough ships available to deliver goods from Asia to North America. What shipping was available was initially dedicated to transport between Asia countries first. In addition, USA West Coast ports had a similar problem: the ports were short of traditional workers and transport. Not only port workers but independent truckers that carried the freight from the Los Angeles port, for example, to inland central warehouses. And from those mega-warehouses to regional warehouses from which goods are then distributed to companies’ storage and stores. Like the trucker shortage, there was an insufficient return of workers to warehouses as well. A similar, somewhat lesser labor shortage problem existed with railway workers. In other words, domestic U.S. supply chains were still broken—along with global supply.

As inflation rose and the public was increasingly aware of it, corporations with monopolistic power (i.e. where four or five or fewer companies produced 80% or more of the product or service in the economy) manipulated and took advantage of that public awareness of rising inflation in order to raise their prices—even when their respective industry was not experiencing supply chain issues.

A good example is the U.S. oil corporations that didn’t have a supply problem at all at the time and still don’t. U.S. oil corps were capable then, as now, of raising their output of oil in the U.S. (i.e. supply) by at least 2 million more barrels/day. They chose instead to leave that oil in the ground, not to expand production at U.S. refineries, and refused to reopen many of the drilling wells they had capped during the worst of the preceding 2020-21.

In the months preceding the onset of Covid shutdowns in March 2021 U.S. oil corps were producing more than 13 million barrels per day; by fall 2021 they were producing barely 11 million per day (and still are). Nevertheless, U.S. oil corporations raised their prices faster than perhaps any other industry. By the fourth quarter 2021 energy prices were rising at 34.2% annual rate, according to the U.S. GDP accounts (U.S. Bureau of National Economics, NIPA Table 2.3.7).

With prices now surging after September 2021 the important new factor also driving prices was thus neither supply nor demand related. It was price manipulation by U.S. corporations with market power to do so. And it was not just oil corporations, although they were responsible for more than half of the price index surge at the time—and still are. Other food processing corporations, airlines, utilities, and so forth with monopolistic power did so as well. This political (market power) cause, combined with Demand and Supply forces, after August resulted in yet a further surge of prices through the remainder of 2021.

Beginning in 2022 further forces also began to determine the U.S. Anatomy of Inflation:

Commencing March 2022, added and overlaid onto 2021 inflation drivers was U.S. and EU sanctions on Russia commodities, which were especially critical as the global economy was still in the process of trying to reopen and restore and heal Covid shattered global supply chains.

Russia supplies 20% to 30% of many key global commodities—including oil, gas and nuclear fuel processing in the energy sector. But also industrial metals commodities like nickel, palladium, aluminum and other resources required for auto, steel and other goods manufacturing in the U.S. and EU. Also agricultural commodities like 30% of the world’s wheat; 20% of global corn production used in production of animal feed; 75% of critical vegetable oils like sunflowers; and 75% potash fertilizer—to name the more important.

Even before U.S./EU sanctions on these key Russian commodities began affecting actual supply, global financial commodities futures market speculators began driving up commodity inflation in anticipation of the sanctions eventually taking effect. Speculators were quickly followed by global shipping companies that jacked up their prices before actual sanctions. They were joined in turn by shipping insurance companies. All along the commodities supply chain, capitalists in sectors capable of exploiting the coming sanctions-driven shortages began manipulating prices in anticipation. Physical shortages from sanctions thereafter began to have a further impact late in 2nd quarter 2022 as war in Ukraine intensified and sanctions were implemented. The speculators, shippers and insurers thereafter added further price increases to the general sanctions effect.

When U.S. Treasury Secretary Yellen voiced her prediction earlier in 2022 that inflation would be temporary she no doubt did so based on the erroneous assumptions that somehow the global and domestic supply chain problems of late summer 2021 would be resolved in 2022, and corporate price gouging that overlaid supply chain issues would also somehow abate. She clearly did not factor in to her inflation prediction the very significant effect of war and sanctions.

President Biden called the now further escalation of prices in spring 2022 as ‘Putin’s Inflation’. That claim might be laid on shortages of some agricultural products directly disrupted in Ukraine war zones, but can’t be laid on global energy prices which were virtually all from within Russia’s economy not Ukraine’s. Thus to the extent inflation is due to rising energy prices—which accounts for more than half the total price rise at the consumer level—it is more attributable to Biden’s sanctions and thus is ‘Biden’s Inflation’ rather than Putin’s.

By the 2nd quarter 2022 all the above combined forces driving inflation (i.e. moderate Demand, global & domestic broken Supply chains, widespread corporate price gouging, oil, energy & commodities prices) converged to produce an embedded, chronic, and continued rise of inflation.

For the period for which latest prices are available, March-May, consumer prices (CPI Index) have been rising at a steady 8.5% rate while producer prices that eventually feed into consumer prices have been rising at an even faster rate of 10-11% for the three months. Furthermore, pressure on producer prices (that feed into consumer prices) may accelerate even that 10-11% current producer price hike average. For example, the most recent Producer Price Index released for May shows the category of ‘Intermediate’ goods and services prices are rising even faster. Intermediate processed goods (e.g. steel) have been rising at a 21.6% annual rate over the past year, while intermediate unprocessed goods (e.g. natural gas) have risen at a 39.7% annual rate.

Supply chain and Demand forces of the past year, May 2021 through May 2022, will likely continue driving prices at similar rates through this summer 2022 and likely the rest of the year as well. There appears no end in sight, for example, for the Ukraine war and the Sanctions on Russia which continue to tighten. Price gouging in these commodities impacted by war and sanctions will certainly continue as will the general phenomenon of monopolistic corporations price gouging. Commodity futures financial speculators will continue to speculate; shipping companies continue to manipulate price to their advantage; and insurers continue to hike their rates on bulk commodity shipping worldwide.

In addition, new forces are also emerging this summer 2022 that will contribute still further to chronic inflation throughout the rest of 2022 and possibly even further beyond.

One such new factor is rising Unit Labor Costs for businesses, which many will try to pass through to consumers this summer and beyond. Unit labor costs (ULCs) are determined by productivity change for businesses and/or wages. If wages rise, ULCs rise; similarly if productivity falls, ULCs rise. While wages appear to be moderately rising in nominal terms, productivity is falling precipitously. The most recent data on productivity trends in the U.S. indicate productivity collapsing at the fastest rate since data was first gathered in 1947. That’s because business investment is stalling in the face of growing economic uncertainty about inflation as well as likely recession. Wage rise contribution to rising ULCs is on average modest, as Fed chair Jerome Powell has admitted. Wage pressures are mostly skewed to the high end of the labor force where highly skilled professionals are ‘job hopping’ to realize wage income gains of 18% on average; meanwhile, low paid service workers’ wages are also rising some as many have refused to return to work at the U.S. minimum wage of only $7.25/hr which hasn’t changed since 2009. Service businesses have had to offer more. But the great middle of the U.S. labor force is not experiencing wage gains to any significant extent. Thus the ‘average’ wage hikes, as moderate as they are, do not account for the rising ULCs which businesses will soon, if not already, begin to ‘pass on’ to consumers in higher prices for the remainder of 2022. Treasury Secretary Yellen herself now admits inflation will continue high throughout 2022—no doubt in part reflecting the new forces adding to inflation pressure.

Another emerging factor of growing importance to the continuation of inflation trends throughout 2022 is the now emerging ‘inflationary expectations’ effect. Cited by Fed chair, Jerome Powell, in his most recent press conference following the Fed’s latest interest rate announcement, Powell referred to the recent University of Michigan consumer survey showing inflationary expectations now definitely emerging as well.

As inflation continues to rise, inflationary expectations mean consumers will purchase early, or even items they had not planned to buy, in order to avoid future price hikes. That means another Demand force that adds to the general anatomy of inflation, just as falling productivity and higher ULCs represent an additional Supply force contributing to future price hikes.

In short, now entering the mix of causes in 2022 are inflationary expectations, falling productivity driving up ULCs and cost pass-through to consumers, and the growing pressures on commodity inflation due to the Ukraine war and sanctions on Russia.

When all these emerging 2022 factors are added to the 2021 economy reopening and Supply chain causes of inflation—as well as the continuing corporate price gouging—the broader picture that appears reveals multiple causes of inflation—many of which mutually feed back on the other; some political, some unrelated to market supply or demand, and none of which appear to be moderating significantly. In fact, corporate price gouging, manipulation of commodities markets by speculators, Ukraine war, and sanctions on Russia all represent contributions to inflation that may well accelerate over the next six months.

Stagflation May Have Already Arrived

Stagflation is generally defined as inflation amidst stagnate growth of the real economy. That is already upon us in its first phase: U.S. GDP for the 1st quarter of 2022 recorded a decline of -1.5% while the Atlanta Federal Reserve bank’s ‘shadow’ GDP estimates zero GDP (0.0%) growth for the current April-June 2nd quarter! Should the Atlanta Fed’s forecast prove accurate, that’s stagnation at best. And if the 2nd quarter actually contracts, then it represents a yet deeper phase of Stagflation.

Just as mainstream economists and media debated for months whether current inflation was chronic or temporary, the same pundits now debate whether stagflation will soon occur when in fact it’s actually already arrived. (see Larry Summers’ latest pontification to the business media where he warns of stagflation around the corner when it’s already turned it).

The next phase of stagflation coming late 2022 and early 2023 will reflect the contraction of the real economy—i.e. a recession. GDP won’t simply stagnate with no growth, but decline. Indeed, recession is already damn close if we are to believe the Atlanta Fed’s 2nd quarter GDP forecast and the various early economic indicators now appearing. Stagflation may already be here, as the 1st quarter U.S. GDP -1.5% contraction is followed by another contraction—not just zero growth—in the current 2nd quarter. Two consecutive quarters of contraction define what’s called a ‘technical recession’. Actual definition of a recession is left to the National Bureau of Economic Analysis, NBER, economists to call. They always wait months after the fact to make their call. But ‘technical recessions’ almost always result in NBER declarations subsequently of actual recession. And the U.S. economy is clearly on the cusp of a technical recession at minimum.

Biden’s Empty Inflation Solutions

Biden’s various solutions to date are more public relations events designed to make it appear something is being done instead of actions that directly address the problem of embedded and chronic U.S. inflation.

Biden’s proposed solutions include getting U.S. oil corporations and other global producers of oil to raise their output; somehow convincing countries who agree with U.S. sanctions in Russia to enforce a ‘cap’ on the price of oil worldwide; reducing tariffs on imports from China to the U.S.; offsetting the price of energy productions for U.S. consumers by lowering the price of other consumer goods; increasing competition among U.S. monopolistic corporations by subsidizing new competitors to enter their industries; introducing a federal gas tax suspension.

Despite Biden’s railing against the oil companies, shipping companies, and other obvious price gougers, it’s been all talk and no action. All his proposals have not been implemented to date. They’ve been either just ideas raised with no actual executive or legislative proposals. Or they’ve already been rejected by Congress. Or, even if implemented, will be ‘gamed’ and absorbed by corporations with little net impact on consumer prices. Or will produce insufficient additional global output of oil, gas, and energy products to dampen energy price escalation much.

Biden’s strategy has been to ‘talk the talk’ without the walk, as the saying goes.

The only actual solution the administration has quietly agreed upon, but dares not admit publicly, is to have the Fed precipitate a recession by means of its record level of rapid interest rate hikes over this summer 2022 now in progress. And as they say, ‘that train has left the station’. It’s a done deal. Biden’s ‘solution’ is to have the Fed precipitate a recession.

Enter the Federal Reserve

The Fed itself has already decided on recession! Moreover, it’s a policy template that’s been employed before.

The origins of the coming recession appear very much like the 1981-82 recession. At that time the Fed also precipitated a recession by aggressively hiking interest rates with the objective of ‘Demand destruction’ as it is called. In other words, then as now, the strategy was to make households’ and workers’ pay by destroying wage incomes by means of layoffs, for what was essentially at the time a Supply caused inflation associated with rising global oil access destruction by OPEC and middle east oil producers.

At 75 basis points Fed rates are already rising at a pace not seen since 1994. !981-82 rate hikes were even more aggressive. However, as this writer has argued, the global economy is more fragile and interconnected today than it was in 1980-81 when the Fed raised rates to 15% and more. Today’s global capitalist economy won’t sustain rate hikes even a third of that 15% before contracting sharply.

It is more likely than not that the Fed will continue raising interest rates at the 75 basis points when it next meets in July, and possibly the same in the subsequent meeting. At 4% for its benchmark federal funds rate (not at 1.75%) the economic damn will crack. It won’t even get to the one-third of 1982 level, the 5%.

Why the economy will slide into recession well before the 5% rate level was discussed by this writer in 2017 in the book, ‘Central Bankers at the End of Their Ropes: Monetary Policy and the Coming Depression’, Clarity Press.

In the sequel to this essay, why the U.S. real economy is quite fragile today is addressed including most recent evidence of a weakening U.S. real economy. Also addressed is why Fed federal funds rate increases to 4% or more will precipitate a serious U.S. recession sooner rather than later, and, not least, why Fed rate hikes of that magnitude will likely have severe negative impacts on financial asset markets as well, provoking serious liquidity and even insolvency crises in the global capitalist financial system.

Should financial asset contraction occur along with a contraction of the real economy, then the 2022 recession will almost certainly deepen in 2023. And in that case the economic crisis will appear more like 2008-10 as well as 1981-82. Or perhaps a merging of the two recession dynamics into one.

Jack Rasmus is author of the recently published book, ‘The Scourge of Neoliberalism: US Economic Policy from Reagan to Trump’, Clarity Press, 2020.

L.A. Progressive, June 21, 2022,

Opinion: Remembering Operation Bagration: When the Red Army Decapitated the Nazi Front / by Adolph Reed Jr.

The Soviet Union’s Red Army entered Bucharest, Romania to cheering crowds on August 31, 1944. (Photo: Sovfoto/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)

Not only did the Soviet Union bear the most extreme brunt of the horrors of World War II; it also was without question the most central force in the Nazis’ defeat.

Eighty-one years ago, in the early summer of 1941, Nazi Germany launched Operation Barbarossa, attacking the Soviet Union along a massive front at the height of World War II. 

Drunk on barely contested victories sweeping eastward through Poland and Czechoslovakia and then westward through France, which seemed to reinforce convictions of Aryan racial superiority, the Nazi war machine rushed toward Moscow, feeding Hitler’s hopes to capture the Kremlin by Christmas and rid the world of “the Judaeo-Bolshevik threat” and subordinate or liquidate racially inferior Slavs on the way to replicating—in a radically telescoped way—the U.S. government’s “pacification” and re-peopling of the North American continent in the centuries previous. 

Nazi occupation—consistent with the regime’s exterminist ideology and program—murdered and brutalized staggering numbers of Soviet citizens, on a barely imaginable scale of calculated atrocity. The Soviet Red Army, taken by surprise and in disarray in the face of the scale and speed of the assault, also sustained staggering losses of both personnel and equipment as well as territory. 

Within two and a half months, the Wehrmacht was encroaching on Moscow. As the end of 1941 approached, however, Red Army resistance stiffened and repulsed the Germans, dealing them their first defeats of the war. After an intense, nearly six-month pitched battle, the Red Army routed the Wehrmacht at Stalingrad and began to turn the tide of the war. Victory in the massive tank battle at Kursk and liberation of Leningrad from a siege of more than two years that took an incredible toll on the civilian population set the stage for a massive Soviet offensive.

So this date also marks the initiation, seventy-eight years ago, of Operation Bagration, the massive Red Army offensive that swept the Germans out of Soviet territory, drove them back across eastern Europe, and culminated in the final destruction of fascism, as illustrated dramatically when the Soviet flag was raised above the Reichstag building in May of 1945. 

There are two takeaways from this history I want to stress. One is a nearly aesthetic appreciation of how the world moves by contradiction. Destruction of Bolshevism internationally and of aggressive working-class opposition domestically was a fundamental objective of the Nazis and other fascist movements and of the elements that financed and cultivated them on both sides of the Atlantic. 

For the Nazis in particular destruction of the Soviet Union was pivotal to their twisted racialist politics. And, not unlike on a much smaller scale, at least so far, the MAGA fantasy of “the pedophile Democratic elite” today provides a scapegoat no one might reasonably defend and thus facilitates the misdirection that is always central to a politics of scapegoating, construction of the fantasy of the “Jew/Jew-Bolshevik-Jew banker” and cosmopolite/Jew and Jew/Slav subhuman did the same for Hitler’s National Socialism. 

Once upper-class German reactionaries helped the Nazis come to power, the exterminism of the Final Solution and an invasion of the Soviet Union were as close to foreordained as actual history can be. And the practical reasons that made the Soviet Union such a threat to both fascists and the capitalist classes they served are precisely what would enable the collective organization that sealed the Germans’ fate after their initial months of success in 1941. (This brings to mind the similar irony, also pleasing in a sort of aesthetic way, that antebellum Democrats’ great victory in engineering and winning the Mexican War in 1848, which largely reflected concern to expand slavery, became the basis for slavery’s destruction less than twenty years later.)

The second takeaway is more prosaic. Not only did the Soviet Union bear the most extreme brunt of the war’s horrors; it also was without question the most central force in the Nazis’ defeat. That’s why, for example, my father—who was in the Normandy invasion and detested the D-Day anniversary in addition to all that “greatest generation” crap—always said that if his generation should get props for something, it should be Social Security and the CIO. He would comment acerbically that if it hadn’t been for the Red Army, the war may have had a very different outcome. He also never stopped remarking, practically even on his deathbed, on the hypocrisy that he was sent to fight the racist Nazis in a racially segregated U.S. Army.

Anyway, in the spirit of celebrating holidays, feel free to take a moment to commemorate Operation Bagration and its outcome. 

Adolph Reed Jr. is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at the University of Pennsylvania and an Organizer for Medicare for All-South Carolina.

Common Dreams, June 22, 2022,

Ecuadorians continue to resist as national strike enters second week / by Tanya Wadhwa

Since June 13, hundreds of thousands of Ecuadorians have been mobilizing across the country as a part of an indefinite national strike against the right-wing government of President Guillermo Lasso and his regressive economic policies. Photo: Alexander Crespo

Defying the state of emergency, enduring brutal police and military repression, hundreds of thousands of Ecuadorians continue to remain on the streets against neoliberalism

Since June 13, hundreds of thousands of Ecuadorians have been mobilizing across the country as a part of an indefinite national strike against the right-wing government of President Guillermo Lasso and his regressive economic policies. Photo: Alexander Crespo

Since June 13, hundreds of thousands of Ecuadorians have been mobilizing across the country as a part of an indefinite national strike against the right-wing government of President Guillermo Lasso and his anti-people economic policies. The strike was called for by various Indigenous, peasant and social organizations, with a set of ten demands that address the most urgent needs of the majority of Ecuador’s population.

Their demands include: reduction and freeze of fuel prices; employment opportunities and labor guarantees; an end to privatization of public companies; price control policies for essential products; greater budget for public education and health sectors; an end to drug trafficking, kidnappings and violence; protection for people against banking and finance sectors; fair prices for their farm products; ban on mining and oil exploitation activities in Indigenous territories; and respect for the 21 collective rights of Indigenous peoples and nationalities.

The Lasso administration has been responding to these demands with brutal repression. Since last Monday, the police and military officials have been repressing the demonstrators with pellets, tear gas and water cannons. According to the Alliance for Human Rights Organization, an Ecuadorian NGO, between June 13 and 19, state security forces committed 39 types of human rights violations against citizens participating in the national strike, detained 79 and injured 55 people, in addition to killing an 18-year-old Indigenous boy.


On Saturday, June 18, President Lasso declared a state of emergency in the Pichincha, Cotopaxi and Imbabura provinces, where protests had been the strongest, increasing the militarization of the provinces and suspending various Constitutional rights.

On Sunday, June 19, the national police occupied the the Benjamin Carrion Cultural Center in the capital Quito to use its facilities as a base to house the policemen who came from other provinces to contain the social protests. Hours before the police takeover, the officials of the State Attorney General’s Office raided the center, arguing that they had received an anonymous complaint, according to which protesters were storing explosives there. The authorities, however, found nothing.

The forceful takeover and the raid received widespread rejection from human rights organizations and opposition leaders. Several leaders said that the center was targeted because during the October 2019 national strike, it provided humanitarian shelter to citizens in response to the excessive police repression by the government of former president Lenin Moreno.

“It is with great sadness that I have to say that culture has died today. Tyranny, darkness, and terror have won over life, joy, diversity, and plurality. Today, terror is settling on the most important cultural institution in the country. The last time the House of Culture was controlled by the police was 46 years ago during the dictatorship. Now we are in a dictatorship. This house of freedom of thought has fallen into the hands of terror,” lamented Fernando Cerón, President of the center.

On Monday, June 20, President Lasso, continuing his policies of repression and criminalization of social protests, extended the state of emergency to six provinces: Pichincha, Imbabura, Cotopaxi, Chimborazo, Tungurahua and Pastaza.


Nevertheless, defying the state of emergency and enduring brutal police and military repression, hundreds of thousands continue to remain on the streets against neoliberalism.

The Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities of Ecuador (CONAIE), one of the main organizers of the strike, assured that the strike would continue until their demands were accepted.

According to CONAIE, Indigenous communities have been maintaining roadblocks in at least 16 of the 24 provinces of the country since last Monday. On the eighth day of the strike, CONAIE reported that Indigenous people from all parts of the country had been arriving in Quito to press for their demands.

CONAIE condemned that the demonstrations and roadblocks had been attacked by the security forces as well as right-wing extremist mobs, who unleashed attacks on women, children, and senior citizens. The confederation also criticized the state of emergency and repression.

“The decree of the state of emergency limits rights and confronts the people against the people. As of the 8th day of the national strike, 81 detentions, 52 injuries, 4 serious injuries, 11 with impacts on the eyes and face, 1 death were registered,” stated CONAIE.

“In a state of law and democracy, human rights are not violated, nor is violence, police and military repression legitimized,” stressed the confederation. “In a rule of law, the right to protest is guaranteed, the life and integrity of social leaders, human rights defenders are not threatened, and racism, discrimination and xenophobia are not promoted,” it added.

Actions taken by the opposition

The opposition sectors also condemned the Lasso government for resorting to repression and violence instead of dialogue to deal with the situation. On June 21, the opposition-controlled National Assembly, with 81 of the 137 votes, approved a resolution urging the government to dialogue with the Indigenous organizations and other sectors. Through the resolution, the unicameral congress also called on organizations such as the UN, the Red Cross and the Catholic Church to attend the negotiations and propose mechanisms to solve the crisis.

Tanya Wadhwa is a journalist, writer, translator, and Spanish language expert.

People’s Dispatch, June 21, 2022,

The Beating Heart of the US Labor Movement Was at Labor Notes / by Alex N. Press

The Labor Notes conference was held June 17–19, 2022, in Rosemont, Illinois. (Chris Brooks / Twitter)

This past weekend, 4,000 labor militants gathered near Chicago for the Labor Notes conference. Amazon and Starbucks workers, teachers, Teamsters, Bernie Sanders — Labor Notes is a mosaic that brought the labor and leftist upsurge under one roof.

At around midnight on Saturday, June 18, music broke out in the lobby of the Hyatt Regency O’Hare in Rosemont, Illinois. Sitting at the piano near the hotel’s main entrance was Otis Price, a member of Amalgamated Transit Union (ATU) Local 689. Between classics — “Lean on Me” was especially popular with union militants who began gathering around the piano — Price played a song he had written in 2019, when he and 120 of his fellow workers went on strike at the Cinder Bed Bus Garage in Washington, DC.

As Price played “Don’t Play With My Money,” his infectiously catchy strike anthem, passersby stopped to join in the spontaneous celebration. John Deere strikersGeneral Motors strikers, and Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) members belted out Price’s chorus. At one point, an Amazon worker from Bessemer, Alabama, freestyled over the music. Later, members of the Amazon Labor Union (ALU) from Staten Island stopped by, with ALU president Chris Smalls leading a chant timed to Price’s song (“Who shuts shit down? / We shut shit down / Who runs this town? / We run this town”).

It was a scene that could only have taken place at this year’s Labor Notes conference.

There was no guarantee that the conference would become a home for workers forming new unions at companies like Amazon or Starbucks. But that such people showed up to a hotel complex near Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport in huge numbers is a testament to the relationships Labor Notes has built, and a vindication of its unwillingness to bend its vision of rank-and-file-led, militant, democratic unionism to the tough, concession-ridden decades of organized labor’s steady decline that followed its founding in 1979. For many of those new to the labor movement and those who have been in it for decades, there was simply nowhere more important to be last weekend.

Building Power on the Job

Labor Notes is the creation of rank-and-file labor militants. It’s part publishing, part organizing project. As its tagline goes, Labor Notes is “the voice of union activists who want to put the movement back in the labor movement.” It publishes both a print paper and online articles as well as books and pamphlets, with an emphasis on reports by workers themselves on fights in which they are engaged.

The goal is to build up workers’ ability to win power on the job — see, for instance, Labor Notes’ long-running “Steward’s Corner” column, which offers practical advice on how to turn grievance handling into a tool for building shop-floor union power.

The publication feeds into the organizing, connecting and building relationships with rank-and-file workers who are leading struggles — to unionize, to strike, to reform their unions — in hopes of better cohering the militant, democratic wing of the labor movement.

“A publication was needed that, while critical of contemporary union leadership, saw its main task as educating, connecting, and animating a layer of labor activists whose main task was to build effective rank-and-file unions capable of fighting the boss on a sustained basis,” wrote labor historian Nelson Lichtenstein in a reflection on Labor Notes. The recently deceased Mike Parker, one of the project’s founders, recalled he and his comrades feeling that if socialists were to have any influence, “we had to create a lake to swim in.”

Toward that end, in addition to running organizing trainings, Labor Notes hosts a biennial conference (though, thanks to the pandemic, this year’s conference was the first since 2018). While the last conference had its own hopeful feeling, full as it was of teachers who had recently engaged in a “red state revolt” of strikes and others who would shortly go on to do so, this weekend’s conference raised that energy to a fever pitch.

The most noticeable changes were the size of this year’s gathering —  staff capped registration at four thousand people, the upper limit of the hotel’s capacity — and the average age of attendees, which seemed to have dropped by a decade or two since the last conference, a reflection of surging interest in labor organizing among young people, most visibly those at Starbucks and Amazon.

Regarding those two corporations, leading worker-organizers showed up in force. Around fifty members of Starbucks Workers United, which now boasts 164 unionized corporate-owned stores across the United States (the number rises almost daily), were present. Many of these workers had only met one another over Zoom, during sessions in which workers from unionized stores taught those preparing to unionize, which made the Chicago gathering critical for building the type of solidarity necessary to withstand Starbucks’s aggressive union-busting campaign.

Amazon Labor Union president Chris Smalls (center) taking a photo with Munib Sajjad and Aminah Sheikh at the 2022 Labor Notes conference. (Munib Sajjad / Twitter)

Amazon workers were at Labor Notes as well, where they spent hours sharing experiences and debating strategies, of which there are real differences across organizations. Attendees included workers from JFK8, which has unionized with the ALU; BHM1, the Bessemer fulfillment center that is organizing with the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU); workers at Amazon’s delivery stations, many of them members of Amazonians United, a network of shop-floor organizers engaged in a type of minority unionism; and RDU1, a fulfillment center in Garner, North Carolina, where workers have begun an organizing drive as Carolina Amazonians United for Solidarity and Empowerment (CAUSE).

Other Amazon workers who have not yet launched public organizing drives were present too, as were Amazon workers from Canada, Germany, and Poland; the delegation from the latter country included Magda Malinowska, who Amazon fired last year after she spoke up about concerns regarding a coworker’s death in her warehouse.

Inextricable from the focus on organizing Amazon was that on next summer’s contract expiration at the United Parcel Service (UPS). Some 340,000 Teamsters are covered by that agreement, which makes it the largest private-sector contract in the country. Newly elected Teamsters international president Sean O’Brien broke from the James P. Hoffa regime over the former president’s handling of the negotiations in 2018. O’Brien ran for the presidency on a platform that included undoing the concessions at UPS that were undemocratically forced through by Hoffa, pledging to lead drivers out on strike should it prove necessary.

Were that to happen — and the heated, excited conversations over the weekend suggest there is a real chance that it will — it would be the largest strike in the country since the last one at UPS in 1997.

O’Brien spoke at this year’s Labor Notes — a notable development given the project’s ties to the Teamsters for a Democratic Union (TDU), a long-standing reform effort to democratize the 1.2 million-member union. TDU allied with O’Brien’s slate and continues working closely with him as the union prepares to launch its UPS contract campaign. Speaking alongside the likes of Bernie Sanders, the ALU’s Smalls, CTU president Stacy Davis Gates, and Michelle Eisen — a Starbucks worker from the Elmwood store in Buffalo, New York, which was the first to unionize — O’Brien emphasized the topic of striking UPS.

Bernie Sanders speaks at the 2022 Labor Notes conference. (Labor Notes / Facebook)

“We’re going to put that company on its knees if that’s what needs to happen,” said O’Brien at the Friday evening plenary. “We’re going to get grimy, and we’re going to get gritty. We have to sacrifice — there are going to have to be some sacrifices — and we’re going to have to be a little bit creative and a little bit powerful, and some people, like corporate America and politicians, need to feel a little pain.”

O’Brien’s rhetoric had the Labor Notes crowd on its feet several times during his speech. Which only made what followed an even more surreal scene: the ALU’s Smalls came out, finishing his speech with a “Fuck Jeff Bezos!” chant (complete with middle fingers in the air); then, Senator Bernie Sanders took the stage. The room roared, and “Run, Bernie, run!” chants rang out.

Sanders’s appearance was significant both because the conference rarely features elected officials, instead emphasizing bottom-up rank-and-file organizing as the path to transforming society (though Sanders himself spoke at the 1993 conference), and because some of the leading organizers in new union drives cite Sanders’s 2020 presidential run as a crucial politicizing moment. When that campaign wound down, they directed their energy toward organizing their workplaces.

Labor Renewal How-to

How to organize Amazon? How to win a UPS contract that gets rid of the lower-paid tier of drivers? How to build on reform efforts not only within the Teamsters, but in the United Auto Workers (UAW), where the Unite All Workers for Democracy (UAWD) movement won a one member, one vote reform last year? How do International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) members and railroad workers organize with Teamsters and Amazon employees as logistics workers, and what would it take to forward a political program around climate change, which is already affecting their respective workplaces?

What of the public sector, where teachers are building on their recent strike wave but teaching has been transformed by the pandemic? And low-wage service-sector workers, not only at Starbucks, but at restaurants, and delivery workers too (Los Deliveristas Unidos, an organization of New York City’s app-based delivery workers, were well-represented in Chicago): how do they combat gigification and organize workplaces still largely seen as unorganizable?

This range of questions makes Labor Notes less a unified conference than a series of overlapping ones, with workers in particular sectors devoting much of their time to hashing out the tasks at hand. Some are big-picture issues: What will higher-ed workers do to reverse adjunctification? Others are smaller: How do the leaders of every local in this union stay connected after we leave this conference? How do I talk to my coworker who is in the higher-paid tier of our contract about why we should go on strike to get rid of the lower-paid one? All are consequential.

It’s a major lift to get workers to Labor Notes. Time must be set aside, use of resources must be justified. As such, the conference emphasizes workshops on practical skills and knowledge regarding workplace organizing and union democracy, though more historical panels would’ve been a useful addition to the program given the importance of educating workers new to the movement about its past.

Participants at this year’s Labor Notes conference. (T. Rosario Local804 / Twitter)

But beyond the nuts and bolts, there is the conference’s role as a physical space for workers to connect with their counterparts across the country and around the world, getting reenergized to recommit to the hard work that comprises life in a labor movement that is fractured, weakened, and still under sustained attack.

There is no substitute for spending time in the same place to build the solidarity required for such organizing, and there is nowhere but Labor Notes to provide that opportunity at such a large scale.

“It’s Not Going to Be Staff”

On Saturday evening in one of the Hyatt’s conference rooms, the Emergency Workplace Organizing Committee (EWOC), a joint project of Democratic Socialists of America (DSA) and the United Electrical, Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE), organized a fundraiser. The project formed during the pandemic and is growing into a real force that helps workers do the early stage organizing required to withstand management intimidation; EWOC has already had a hand in some of the new union campaigns that have won NLRB elections over the past year.

‘How do we turn the moment we’re in into a labor upsurge in this country?’ he asked. ‘It’s not going to be staff who do that.’

At the fundraiser, UE director of organization Mark Meinster outlined the context shaping the conference.

“How do we turn the moment we’re in into a labor upsurge in this country?” he asked:

It’s not going to be staff who do that; there simply aren’t enough paid staff anyway. It’s going to be left, political, committed people who want to see militant trade unionism, who want to see real worker organization, who want to see workers fighting back in their workplace.

Meinster’s question — how to translate an upsurge in energy into an uptick in unionization, how to transform staid unions into fighting forces for working-class power, how to change the world — hung over the weekend. The stakes could not be higher, and the sobriety among attendees, many of whom have known more defeats than victories, suggests an awareness that if we are to accomplish those goals, this year’s conference will have been a part of the story.

As I was leaving the Hyatt on Sunday, I spotted a few members of the ALU’s organizing committee sitting in the sunshine. Most of them were flying back to New York that evening, but they said that they might be heading to another state soon. An Amazon warehouse was ready to push forward on an organizing drive, and one of its workers had been at the conference and sought their support. Explained one of the ALU organizers, “They’re ready.”

Alex N. Press is a staff writer at Jacobin. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, Vox, the Nation, and n+1, among other places.

Jacobin, June 22, 2022,

150,000 bring Poor People’s Campaign demands to D.C.: “We won’t be silent” / by Mark Gruenberg

Members of the Communist Party contingent at the Poor People’s Campaign mass mobilization in Washington, June 18.

WASHINGTON—Demanding an “end to policy murder” that slams poor and low-wealth people, Poor People’s Campaign Co-Chair the Rev. William Barber II and more than 150,000 allies took to the streets of the nation’s capital in a mass rally Saturday.

Their goal: Massive changes in federal policy away from enriching the rich, corporations, and the capitalist class and towards ending the plight of the nation’s 140-million-plus poor and low-wealth people.

Attendees, including a large contingent from the Service Employees and members of other unions, insisted lawmakers and Democratic President Joe Biden redirect federal money away from war and toward domestic needs, raise the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour, strengthen workers’ rights, and battle against systemic racism, among other goals.

Poor People’s Campaign Co-chair Rev. William Barber speaks to a crowd of  150,000 in Washington, D.C., on Saturday, June 18. | @unitethepoor via Twitter

As a handwritten sign carried by Madeline Stanczak read: “$7.25 an hour x 40 hours a week = less than $20,000 a year. Livable for who?” At age 14, she said, she earned even less. “I didn’t know I was being screwed,” she told a reporter.  The current federal minimum, $7.25, hasn’t risen since 2009.

Marchers and leaders laid the blame for refusing to act for the poor and for workers at the feet of the corporate class and their political minions, especially in the evenly split U.S. Senate. Barber singled out the entire Republican caucus plus renegade Sens. Kyrsten Sinema, D-Ariz., and Joe Manchin, D-W. Va.

Blacks, whites, and Latinos/Latinas all “are suffering from poverty due to bad tax policies, the war economy, and religious nationalism,” among other scourges, Barber added. In opposition to those ills, “This is what moral fusion politics looks like,” he said.

“As long as the Chamber of Commerce and 49 (actually 50) Republicans and two Democrats deny people a living wage, and as long as they keep asking ‘How much will it cost to do it?’ rather than ‘How much will it cost not to do it?’, then we will not be silent,” Barber said.

Added Service Employees President Mary Kay Henry: “Workers—especially frontline, low-paid workers of color—are speaking up. It’s past time they’re respected, protected, and paid.”

The marchers and the Poor People’s Campaign also demand the passage of laws to preserve and strengthen voting rights while concentrating on extra aid to poor and low-wealth people of every race, creed, and heritage. Another hand-drawn sign declared: “Jim Crow must go.”

And a large banner had a message for the right-wing majority on the U.S. Supreme Court, too: “Overturn Roe? HELL, NO!” The justices are expected to eliminate the constitutional right to an abortion, disproportionately hurting poor women and women of color, by the end of this court’s term.

The Communist Party USA and the Young Communist League endorsed the Poor People’s Campaign’s goals. Including D.C.-area and out-of-town groups, the Communist contingent numbered approximately 500 people. With their red flags and banners waving in the sun, they stood out among the rally crowd.

But the campaign won’t stop on June 18, Barber declared to the gathered masses, which stretched for blocks, curb-to-curb, down Pennsylvania Avenue. Now it’s on through November’s election and beyond, marching and educating voters against economic and political repression.

“We are resolved not to stop until we no longer have to fight,” Barber stated. “We are the Poor People’s Campaign, and we won’t be silenced anymore.”

The campaigners and their leaders realize the struggle will not be easy, given the political, corporate, and financial might arrayed for the oppressive status quo. The rich and powerful “want nothing more than to stop this kind of movement,” campaign co-chair Rev. Dr. Liz Theoharis said.

“It’s why they spend so much time and money trying to deny the right to vote, why they attack protesters, spread lies meant to narrow our vision and limit our aspirations, divide us up by issue, region, race, gender, and sexual orientation, immigration status, political party.

“But we’re here, we’re poor, we aren’t going anywhere, we have come together, and we will stay together. We will transform this nation from the bottom up.”

Many marchers had individual stories to tell. Besides the CPUSA-YCL brigade, their numbers included large contingents from the Service Employees, plus Communications Workers members campaigning for the right to unionize at Maximus call centers in the South.

“When I was 14 years old, I began working in agriculture” for a conglomerate, said Luke Jacobson of Toledo, Ohio. That conglomerate was Dow Chemical, which also makes Agent Orange, he noted—the dangerous defoliant of the U.S.’ wars in Vietnam and Southeast Asia.

To try to find something better, Jacobson said he now works for a small chain of smoke shops. And he’s applying for a job at Amazon, despite its vast record of mistreating workers and keeping them poor. So is his colleague Jacob Neidt, who’s had only one employer so far in his life: Low-paying FedEx.

“People tell me they’re working four days a week for 10 hours a day” or more at Amazon added Jacobson. Its HR people “make it all sound nice and pretty. They’re lying.”

Amazon Labor Union organizer Justine Medina said in an informal talk that the company’s latest gambit—after the union won a vote at  Staten Island’s JFK8 warehouse—is to call in a worker for a two-hour shift, forcing two-hour commutes each way. If the worker misses the call, it’s noted on the record.

The contingent of the Communist Party USA and Young Communist League, estimated at over 500 people, was easily visible among the crowd with their bright red flags and banners. | Taylor Dorrell

“We started an organization, the Bronx Support Committee For The Homeless, to feed the homeless on the subway trains,” explained Susan DiRaimo, a Teachers Union (AFT) member from New York. They became known for their “midnight run” for meeting the homeless on the last run of the IRT’s Broadway-Seventh Avenue line to 242nd Street in Riverdale.

They ran a temporary overnight shelter, too, for 15 years, “until the Parks and Recreation Department said ‘no.’”

“Policy violence is devastating to New York,” one speaker explained on a video beamed between speeches from the podium. It affects “2.4 million kids” and is “undermining our neighbors’ rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” she added, quoting the Declaration of Independence.

Rural poverty is a major issue, too, said Mark Froemke, chair of Minnesota’s West Area Central Labor Council, which also covers North Dakota. “It’s like Charles Dickens’ Tale Of Two Cities.

“In the smaller towns, wages are low, there are no benefits, and everybody’s having trouble saving. Issues such as housing and child care are crushing the working class. Minnesota’s done a good job on all of them, but cross the Red River” west into Republican-dominated North Dakota “and they’re not being dealt with.”

Decent affordable housing and federal child care subsidies are among the domestic programs the Poor People’s Campaign demands funding for, too. They’re also in Democratic President Biden’s Build Back Better bill, to expand and improve the frayed U.S. social safety net. The Chamber of Commerce, the Republicans, and the two renegade Democratic senators have prevented even debate on the BBB.

Union members in lower-rung jobs struggle, too. DiRaimo, a member of Teachers (AFT) Local 2334 at the City University of New York, said that after decades of supporting staff jobs, she still makes only $40,000 yearly. That’s not enough to live on in the Big Apple, and there’s “a two-tiered pay system at CUNY, too.” She actually made more per hour as a nurse, but that was a temp job.

“We don’t get” health care “benefits to cover the whole family,” just her, DiRaimo said. “And some adjuncts (non-tenured faculty) have to get food stamps to live on” during the school year “and live in their cars during the summer.” They don’t get paid then.

The AFL-CIO agrees with the campaign’s analysis. “We all know that we should not have to be here. We should have to join together in the streets and march to end poverty because poverty is a failure,” said its Secretary-Treasurer Fred Redmond, days after the federation’s four-day convention.

“It’s a failure of the system and not of the people. Being poor is not a failure. Being poor is not a crime. The crime is in accepting a system that allows for poverty. Poverty exists because we allow it to exist.”

Attendees at the D.C. mobilization. | @unitethepoor via Twitter

Barber reiterated the campaign’s demand for a face-to-face White House meeting between poor and low-wealth people and Biden. So far, the White House has been silent, though staffers have occasionally met with campaign leaders.

“I know the phones work and emails work. We demand a White House poverty summit with President Biden, to allow this administration to meet with a delegation of poor and low wealth people, religious leaders, and economists—now!” he said.

So the campaign and its allies will hold politicians’ feet to the electoral fire unless they move fast and forcefully to help solve the problems bedeviling poor and low-wage people in the U.S.

“We are here today fighting for every worker, fighting for unions for all, and a government that works for all. Our votes this November are not a show of support. They are a demand. And we demand that every corporation and every elected official hear us,” Service Employees President Mary Kay Henry said.

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). El galardonado periodista Mark Gruenberg es el director de la oficina de People’s World en Washington, D.C. 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, June 21, 2022,

“Fight poverty, not the poor!”: Thousands rally in Washington DC / by Tanupriya Singh

Photo: AP

Labor unions, civil society and religious groups joined the Poor People’s Campaign on June 18 to demand justice and redressal for the 140 million people in the US facing poverty and growing insecurity

The Poor People’s Campaign organized a massive rally in Washington DC on June 18. Photo: Rev. Dr. William J. Barber II/Twitter

Thousands of people gathered in the US capital of Washington DC on June 18 to participate in the ‘Poor People’s and Low-Wage Workers’ Assembly and Moral March on Washington and to the Polls’. The action was organized by the Poor People’s Campaign (PPC) to address a broad range of interconnected issues affecting the country’s 140 million poor and low wealth people– including access to health care and housing, systemic racism, the climate crisis, and rising militarism.

The PPC was joined by labor unions, religious organizations, and several climate action, human rights, and civil society groups. The rally took place over 50 years since the PPC was first founded and organized by civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, shortly before his assassination.

Speaking before the gathering on Saturday, Reverend Dr. Bernice A. King stated, “54 years ago my father launched the Poor People’s Campaign to revolutionize the economic landscape of our nation. Unfortunately Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. did not live long enough to see it come to fruition.”

“However, on June 19th, 1968 my mother Coretta Scott King was here in the nation’s capital,” King proclaimed, “to deliver a very powerful message on poverty…she made the appeal that poverty is not only a longstanding evil of this nation, but an actual act of violence against the dignity, livelihood, and humanity of its citizens.”

Poor in the US under attack

Before COVID-19, according to the PPC, an estimated 250,000 people died each year in the US from poverty and inequality. The pandemic exacerbated existing social and economic inequalities, with deadly consequences for already marginalized and vulnerable communities. In a report released in April, the PPC found that people in poorer counties died at a rate upto five times higher than their counterparts in wealthier counties.

“We know this can’t be simply explained by way of vaccination results, its related to the discrimination in our policy towards poor and low-wealth people,” said Reverend Dr. William J. Barber II, the co-chair of the Campaign. Counties classified as the poorest in the report had more than half of their population in poverty, and people of color were over-represented. The rates of people without insurance were twice as high as compared to the counties with the highest median incomes.

“The regressive policies that produce 140 million poor and low wealth people are not benign. They are forms of policy murder,” added Barber. It is important to note that this figure includes 43% of all adults, 52% of children, and 73% of women in the US.

Prior to the pandemic, 28 million adults in the US did not have health insurance. An additional 9 million people lost insurance after losing their jobs due to COVID-19. The drastic extent to which the lack of health insurance impacted the lives of people during COVID-19 was quantified in a recent study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences USA. Researchers found that from the beginning of the pandemic until March 2022, universal health care could have saved the lives of 338,000 people from COVID-19 alone.

52 million people in the US, especially in the Southern states, are working for less than $15 an hour. Meanwhile, in May, the price of a gallon of gas exceeded the federal minimum wage in several areas. Fed up with government inaction and corporate greed at a time when working conditions were quite literally life threatening, workers across the US led a historic wave of strike actions and protests in 2021.

Millions across the US are also facing housing insecurity, at a time when states are pushing to criminalize homelessness. Rents are also rising sharply amid a 40 year peak in inflation. A US Census Household Pulse Survey found that 8.8 million people were behind on rent payments from April 27 to May 9, 2022. Once again, people of color and low income households are particularly vulnerable.

Before the pandemic, 53 cents of every federal discretionary dollar was diverted towards the military, and only 15 cents were put towards anti-poverty programs. According to anti-war grassroots organization CODEPINK, since the start of the pandemic, the US government’s expenditure on nuclear weapons has been 7.5 times higher than its support for global medical needs.

Photo: CODEPINK/Twitter

Now is not the time for silence!

“Such is the time now for a mass moral meeting in the streets…we can’t be silent anymore!,” stated Rev. Barber. “This is a movement until children are protected, until sick folk are healed, until low wage workers are paid, until immigrants are treated fairly, until affordable housing is provided, until the atmosphere, the land, and the water are protected,” he added.

Speakers also highlighted other pressing issues including racism within the criminal justice system, the curtailing of reproductive health care and abortion rights, and the ongoing theft and destruction of Indigenous lands.

In the face of the rising attack on the poor and working class masses across the US, the Poor People’s Campaign has also called for the implementation of a Third Reconstruction Agenda, following the First Reconstruction after the Civil War and the Second Reconstruction during the civil rights movement. On May 20th, the PPC joined lawmakers Pramila Jayapal and Barbara Lee as they presented the ‘Third Reconstruction: Fully Addressing Poverty and Low Wages From the Bottom Up’ congressional resolution.

“It reflects an omnibus vision to restructure our society from the bottom up, recognizing that in order to build a true Third Reconstruction, we must simultaneously deal with the interlocking injustices of systemic racism, poverty, ecological devastation and the denial of health care, militarism, and the distorted moral narrative of religious nationalism that blames the poor instead of the systems that cause poverty,” stated the PPC.

The Campaign has also focused its efforts on mobilizing poor and low wealth people against voter suppression, including attacks on the Voting Rights Act. According to the PPC, poor and low-income people account for one third of the electorate. Almost 20 states across the US passed laws in 2021 to curtail voting rights in one form another, affecting an estimated 55 million people.

Ahead of the mid-term elections in November, the PPC has put forth a series of demands, including that Congress publicly acknowledge “the reality and pain of 140 million poor and low wealth people,” and that it commit to creating and supporting legislation that reflects the Third Reconstruction Agenda. It has also called upon President Joe Biden to host a White House Poverty Summit and to commit to an Executive Action Plan to Eliminate Poverty in 2022.

The PPC has also announced another mass mobilization in Washington DC in September, to join 5,000 poor and low wealth people and religious leaders along with 100 economists in “nonviolent moral direction action.” It has also launched a 143-day countrywide effort to register and educate poor and low-income communities to vote in every election for candidates who will commit to a Third Reconstruction Agenda.

People’s Dispatch, June 20, 2022,