After the Mid-Terms, Then What?

    Getting some miles away from the United States and filtering reality through the news, an emerging political scenario where the Republicans hold the Senate, the Democrats take over the House, and Trump owns the Supreme Court lock-stock-and-barrel seems to have almost acquired the stamp of certainty. Let’s say all of this comes to pass, then what? Nirvana, hardly! More likely, desolation row.

The reports include some very good news. Huge separation in the polls among many groups of women, up to 20% in some cases. Significant majority of the general public support for change in Congress, though whether or not they are distributed where the races matter, many of which are in rural, exurban areas, is another question. Let’s please remember that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by way, way over 2.5 million, and that didn’t slow the train by a single second. Reports of surges in voter registration among minorities and young people, more likely Democratic voters, in states as disparate as Pennsylvania and Georgia are very encouraging.

Trump, unsurprisingly, wants the mid-term election to be all about him and a referendum on his presidency. The Democrats seem to want that as well. Anytime that both sides want to use such a strategy to motivate their base to vote, we have an absolute guarantee of a donnybrook. Win, lose, or draw, we can bet on even more polarization raging between now and 2020.

But, let’s stick to the point about the mid-terms and see how all of this plays out as the cleaners sweep up the last crumbs and both sides declare victory over a split Congress. Trump would declare victory at Custer’s Last Stand or the Alamo, even if he had to leave it on a note pinned to his body. McConnell in control of the Senate will still prove to be a major rock in any road forward, while continuing his court packing. The House will convene one investigation after another and there will be huge fights on budgets and other matters that requite cooperation assuring more headlines about conflict, but not necessarily more proof of able governance. Meanwhile the candidate circus will come to every town as Trump campaigns for a coronation and the Democrats try to winnow their lists, maybe keeping in mind who can beat Trump and who cannot, and maybe ignoring that altogether.

After the mid-term surge, will women feel safer and more heard? No. Will the devastating attacks on workers’ rights, the environment, deregulation, healthcare, education, and economic security end? No.

Will the attack on immigrants recede? No, in fact the Republicans are signaling that they want to make “the wall” first order of business. There is discussion of yet more children separation as well.

Will there be impeachment? Of course not. Will Trump stop being Trump, absolutely not!

So, what will be the program? Trust in some still unknown savior and save your anger and activity for the general election in two years.

Is that the best we can hope for? Without moving from anger to organization, from lame leaders to mass action, then yes, I’m afraid so.

It’s not enough!

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VioMe

mural

Athens      Perhaps nothing so epitomizes the “crisis” in Greece, as it is universally called, than the VioMe, a former metallurgical factory in the industrial district not far from the airport.  In 2011, when the full brunt of the economic collapse hit the country and the Greek owner of the plant suddenly shut the factory down, the workers took over and occupied the factory to protect their jobs and in outrage that they were left holding the bag and owed back wages.  At the time of the occupation, the fact that the workers were the primary creditor made it impossible to evict them, though in the “new” Greece seven years later that issue has now become contentious.

health clinic

While I was in Thessaloniki my visit overlapped a festival being held on the grounds of the factory.  I toured the location and visited with many participants along with my newfound friends. Banners commemorating the occupation had been hung for the festival.  Murals had been completed or were in progress.  Space had been set aside in the cavernous vastness of the factory for large and small workshops and discussions about any number of topics from the political situation currently to the promises and potential of cooperatives, like VioMe.  There were booths and stalls assembled along the runway between buildings where local producers and some other cooperatives and artisans were displaying their goods from jewelry to wine to potatoes.   There was of course a coffee and tea stand.  The fire was lit for barbecuing skewers of meat and sausage.  Stages and sound systems were being set up for a final concert later in the evening of my visit on the last night of the festival.  People milled around, taking it all in.  There was a good spirit.

workshop

I visited a workshop run by Omnia.tv, an investigative journalism organization based in Athens and Thessaloniki.  They had dug deep into police attacks on youth.  Like similar web-based news sites in the US and elsewhere, they were stepping into issues where larger papers had deserted the field.  I talked to reporters with the public television station who were covering the festival.  I was impressed with their commitment to keeping the story alive.

 

The workforce had gone as low as eight, but had now somewhat rebounded to twenty.  Unable to repeat the prior production regime, now the factory produced high quality soaps, dish washing liquid and other bio-hygiene cleaning products sold throughout Greece and in some neighboring countries.  I had heard of this operation originally in Sofia, Bulgaria earlier in the year.  Talking to various people around the event, enthusiasm for the project was mixed with concern.  The crowds were not as large as they had been in the past.  There was no defeatism, but the continuing crisis had worn down both activists and workers who worried about next steps and sustainability.

Part of the objective of the festival turned out to be to raise some funds to support worker defense in coming court cases where the previous owner and the banks were now challenging VioMe.  Banks in the new political economy of Greece had now displaced workers as the primary debt holders, endangering the future of VioMe.  They were accused of taking equipment illegally.

Workers have responded similarly in other crises.  Factory takeovers were common around Buenos Aires during the financial issues there also triggered by debt.  These are valiant struggles to align priorities with people rather than profits, but the very nature of these fights makes the odds long without a rethinking of people as the first order of every business.

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