Wednesday, October 18, 2017

America’s War-Fighting Footprint in Africa

If you want to get some idea why your living standards are declining. Why your public services are being cut. Why you can't afford medical attention or to send your kids to college this is one of the main reasons why.  It is nauseating to hear Trump, Obama, all of them, Democrat or Republican talk about our heroes and the great sacrifice the armed forces are making for freedom you might ask what country is it in Africa that threatens the USA. No country threatens the USA, Iran has not threatened us. Vietnam never threatened us. Yemen, whose people are being slaughtered by a US/Saudi bombing campaign (with the US supplying all the planes and weapons of course) have not threatened the US and neither did Saddam Hussein, the old chum of Reagan, Rumsfeld and co.

It does not show respect to the young working class men and women that, due to an economic draft, join the military by lying to them about why they find themselves sent to faraway places to kill people or be killed themselves. US capitalism has its bases in Africa to protect its corporations doing business there. Exxon, WalMart, Coca Cola to name a few. It has a third of the mineral reserves in the world and two-thirds of the global deposits of diamond. See here for the 8 of the top mining companies in Africa. Whole cities are built around this business. Rio Tinto, one of the largest is Australian/British and has been fighting an Israeli mining company over the plunder. Congo will never have pea e becasue it is rich in minerals. This is what the US troops are there to defend. They are not there to combat Islamic terrorism. US capitalism has no problem with any form of terrorism if its perpetrators split the loot with US corporations.

If a president called my house to tell me how sorry he or she was about my child's death fighting for Wall Street I'd treat it like I do all of those scam calls. The flags, the jets flying over football stadiums, the singing of patriotic songs, it's all a con game. We have to treat the military rank and file with respect as they are different from the brass, the politicians that send them and the media moguls who spew out the propaganda. It is after all, workers that die. But that does not mean we lie to them about why they are there.   Richard Mellor

This was originally published on the Tom Dispatch website and if you want to read Tom's introduction the article is here.
America’s War-Fighting Footprint in Africa
Secret U.S. Military Documents Reveal a Constellation of American Military Bases Across That Continent
By Nick Turse
General Thomas Waldhauser sounded a little uneasy.  “I would just say, they are on the ground.  They are trying to influence the action,” commented the chief of U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM) at a Pentagon press briefing in March, when asked about Russian military personnel operating in North Africa.  “We watch what they do with great concern.”
And Russians aren’t the only foreigners on Waldhauser’s mind.  He’s also wary of a Chinese “military base” being built not far from Camp Lemonnier, a large U.S. facility in the tiny, sun-blasted nation of Djibouti.  “They’ve never had an overseas base, and we’ve never had a base of... a peer competitor as close as this one happens to be,” he said.  “There are some very significant... operational security concerns.”
At that press conference, Waldhauser mentioned still another base, an American one exposed by the Washington Post last October in an article titled, “U.S. has secretly expanded its global network of drone bases to North Africa.”  Five months later, the AFRICOM commander still sounded aggrieved.  “The Washington Post story that said ‘flying from a secret base in Tunisia.’  It’s not a secret base and it’s not our base... We have no intention of establishing a base there.”

Waldhauser’s insistence that the U.S. had no base in Tunisia relied on a technicality, since that foreign airfield clearly functions as an American outpost. For years, AFRICOM has peddled the fiction that Djibouti is the site of its only “base” in Africa. “We continue to maintain one forward operating site on the continent, Camp Lemonnier,” reads the command’s 2017 posture statement.  Spokespeople for the command regularly maintain that any other U.S. outposts are few and transitory -- “expeditionary” in military parlance.

While the U.S. maintains a vast empire of military installations around the world, with huge -- and hard to miss -- complexes throughout Europe and Asia, bases in Africa have been far better hidden.  And if you listened only to AFRICOM officials, you might even assume that the U.S. military’s footprint in Africa will soon be eclipsed by that of the Chinese or the Russians.

Highly classified internal AFRICOM files offer a radically different picture.  A set of previously secret documents, obtained by TomDispatch via the Freedom of Information Act, offers clear evidence of a remarkable, far-ranging, and expanding network of outposts strung across the continent. In official plans for operations in 2015 that were drafted and issued the year before, Africa Command lists 36 U.S. outposts scattered across 24 African countries.  These include low-profile locations -- from Kenya to South Sudan to a shadowy Libyan airfield -- that have never previously been mentioned in published reports.  Today, according to an AFRICOM spokesperson, the number of these sites has actually swelled to 46, including “15 enduring locations.”  The newly disclosed numbers and redacted documents contradict more than a decade’s worth of dissembling by U.S. Africa Command and shed new light on a constellation of bases integral to expanding U.S. military operations on the African continent and in the Middle East.

A map of U.S. military bases -- forward operating sites, cooperative security locations, and contingency locations -- across the African continent in 2014 from declassified AFRICOM planning documents (Nick Turse/TomDispatch).

A Constellation of Bases

AFRICOM failed to respond to repeated requests for further information about the 46 bases, outposts, and staging areas currently dotting the continent.  Nonetheless, the newly disclosed 2015 plans offer unique insights into the wide-ranging network of outposts, a constellation of bases that already provided the U.S. military with unprecedented continental reach.

Those documents divide U.S. bases into three categories: forward operating sites (FOSes), cooperative security locations (CSLs), and contingency locations (CLs).  “In total, [the fiscal year 20]15 proposed posture will be 2 FOSes, 10 CSLs, and 22 CLs” state the documents.  By spring 2015, the number of CSLs had already increased to 11, according to then-AFRICOM chief General David Rodriguez, in order to allow U.S. crisis-response forces to reach potential hot spots in West Africa.  An appendix to the plan, also obtained by TomDispatch, actually lists 23 CLs, not 22.  Another appendix mentions one additional contingency location.

These outposts -- of which forward operating sites are the most permanent and contingency locations the least so -- form the backbone of U.S. military operations on the continent and have been expanding at a rapid rate, particularly since the September 2012 attack on the U.S. Mission in Benghazi, Libya, that killed U.S. Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.  The plans also indicate that the U.S. military regularly juggles locations, shuttering sites and opening others, while upgrading contingency locations to cooperative security locations in response to changing conditions like, according to the documents, “increased threats emanating from the East, North-West, and Central regions” of the continent.

AFRICOM’s 2017 posture statement notes, for example, a recent round of changes to the command’s inventory of posts.  The document explains that the U.S. military “closed five contingency locations and designated seven new contingency locations on the continent due to shifting requirements and identified gaps in our ability to counter threats and support ongoing operations.”  Today, according to AFRICOM spokesman Chuck Prichard, the total number of sites has jumped from the 36 cited in the 2015 plans to 46 -- a network now consisting of two forward operating sites, 13 cooperative security locations, and 31 contingency locations.

Location, Location, Location

AFRICOM’s sprawling network of bases is crucial to its continent-wide strategy of training the militaries of African proxies and allies and conducting a multi-front campaign aimed at combating a disparate and spreading collection of terror groups.  The command’s major areas of effort involve: a shadow war against the militant group al-Shabaab in Somalia (a long-term campaign, ratcheting up in the Trump era, with no end in sight); attempts to contain the endless fallout from the 2011 U.S. and allied military intervention that ousted Libyan dictator Muammar Qaddafi (a long-term effort with no end in sight); the neutralizing of “violent extremist organizations” across northwest Africa, the lands of the Sahel and Maghreb (a long-term effort with no end in sight); the degradation of the Islamist militant group Boko Haram in the Lake Chad Basin nations of Nigeria, Niger, Cameroon, and Chad (a long-term effort -- to the tune of $156 million last year alone in support of regional proxies there -- with no end in sight); countering piracy in the Gulf of Guinea (a long-term effort with no end in sight), and winding down the wildly expensive effort to eliminate Joseph Kony and his murderous Lord’s Resistance Army in Central Africa (both live on, despite a long-term U.S. effort).

The U.S. military’s multiplying outposts are also likely to prove vital to the Trump administration’s expanding wars in the Middle East.  African bases have long been essential, for instance, to Washington’s ongoing shadow war in Yemen, which has seen a significant increase in drone strikes under the Trump administration.  They have also been integral to operations against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, where a substantial (and deadly) uptick in U.S. airpower (and civilian casualties) has been evident in recent months.

In 2015, AFRICOM spokesman Anthony Falvo noted that the command’s “strategic posture and presence are premised on the concept of a tailored, flexible, light footprint that leverages and supports the posture and presence of partners and is supported by expeditionary infrastructure.” The declassified secret documents explicitly state that America’s network of African bases is neither insignificant nor provisional.  “USAFRICOM’s posture requires a network of enduring and non-enduring locations across the continent,” say the 2015 plans.  “A developed network of FOSes, CSLs, and non-enduring CLs in key countries... is necessary to support the command’s operations and engagements.”

According to the files, AFRICOM’s two forward operating sites are Djibouti’s Camp Lemonnier and a base on the United Kingdom’s Ascension Island off the west coast of Africa.  Described as “enduring locations” with a sustained troop presence and “U.S.-owned real property,” they serve as hubs for staging missions across the continent and for supplying the growing network of outposts there.

Lemonnier, the crown jewel of America’s African bases, has expanded from 88 acres to about 600 acres since 2002, and in those years, the number of personnel there has increased exponentially as well. “Camp Lemonnier serves as a hub for multiple operations and security cooperation activities,” reads AFRICOM’s 2017 posture statement.  “This base is essential to U.S. efforts in East Africa and the Arabian Peninsula.”  Indeed, the formerly secret documents note that the base supports “U.S operations in Somalia CT [counterterrorism], Yemen CT, Gulf of Aden (counter-piracy), and a wide range of Security Assistance activities and programs throughout the region.”

In 2015, when he announced the increase in cooperative security locations, then-AFRICOM chief David Rodriguez mentioned Senegal, Ghana, and Gabon as staging areas for the command’s rapid reaction forces.  Last June, outgoing U.S. Army Africa commander Major General Darryl Williams drew attention to a CSL in Uganda and one being set up in Botswana, adding, “We have very austere, lean, lily pads, if you will, all over Africa now.”
CSL Entebbe in Uganda has, for example, long been an important air base for American forces in Africa, serving as a hub for surveillance aircraft.  It also proved integral to Operation Oaken Steel, the July 2016 rapid deployment of troops to the U.S. Embassy in Juba, South Sudan, as that failed state (and failed U.S. nation-building effort) sank into yet more violence.

Libreville, Gabon, is listed in the documents as a “proposed CSL,” but was actually used in 2014 and 2015 as a key base for Operation Echo Casemate, the joint U.S.-French-African military response to unrest in the Central African Republic.

AFRICOM’s 2015 plan also lists cooperative security locations in Accra, Ghana; Gaborone, Botswana; Dakar, Senegal; Douala, Cameroon; Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso; and Mombasa, Kenya.  While officially defined by the military as temporary locales capable of being scaled up for larger operations, any of these CSLs in Africa “may also function as a major logistics hub,” according to the documents.

Contingency Plans 

The formerly secret AFRICOM files note that the command has designated five contingency locations as “semi-permanent,” 13 as “temporary,” and four as “initial.”  These include a number of sites that have never previously been disclosed, including outposts in several countries that were actually at war when the documents were created.  Listed among the CLs, for instance, is one in Juba, the capital of South Sudan, already in the midst of an ongoing civil war in 2014; one in Bangui, the capital of the periodically unstable Central African Republic; and another in Al-Wigh, a Saharan airfield in southern Libya located near that country’s borders with Niger, Chad, and Algeria.
Officially classified as “non-enduring” locations, CLs are nonetheless among the most integral sites for U.S. operations on the continent.  Today, according to AFRICOM’s Prichard, the 31 contingency locations provide “access to support partners, counter threats, and protect U.S. interests in East, North, and West Africa.”

AFRICOM did not provide the specific locations of the current crop of CLs, stating only that they “strive to increase access in crucial areas.” The 2015 plans, however, provide ample detail on the areas that were most important to the command at that time.  One such site is Camp Simba in Manda Bay, Kenya, also mentioned in a 2013 internal Pentagon study on secret drone operations in Somalia and Yemen.  At least two manned surveillance aircraft were based there at the time.

Chabelley Airfield
in Djibouti is also mentioned in AFRICOM’s 2015 plan.  Once a spartan French Foreign Legion post, it has undergone substantial expansion in recent years as U.S. drone operations in that country were moved from Camp Lemonnier to this more remote location.  It soon became a regional hub for unmanned aircraft not just for Africa but also for the Middle East.  By the beginning of October 2015, for example, drones flown from Chabelley had already logged more than 24,000 hours of intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance missions and were also, according to the Air Force, “responsible for the neutralization of 69 enemy fighters, including five high-valued individuals” in the war against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

AFRICOM’s inventory of CLs also includes sites in Nzara, South Sudan; Arlit, Niger; both Bamako and Gao, Mali; Kasenyi, Uganda; Victoria, the capital of the Seychelles; Monrovia, Liberia; Ouassa and Nema, Mauritania; Faya Largeau, Chad; Bujumbura, Burundi; Lakipia, the site of a Kenyan Air Force base; and another Kenyan airfield at Wajir that was upgraded and expanded by the U.S. Navy earlier in this decade, as well as an outpost in Arba Minch, Ethiopia, that was reportedly shuttered in 2015 after nearly five years of operation.

A longtime contingency location in Niamey, the capital of Niger, has seen marked growth in recent years as has a more remote location, a Nigerien military base at Agadez, listed among the “proposed” CSLs in the AFRICOM documents.  The U.S. is, in fact, pouring $100 million into building up the base, according to a 2016 investigation by the Intercept.  N'Djamena, Chad, the site of yet another “proposed CSL,” has actually been used by the U.S. military for years.  Troops and a drone were dispatched there in 2014 to aid in operations against Boko Haram and “base camp facilities” were constructed there, too.

The list of proposed CLs also includes sites in Berbera, a town in the self-declared Republic of Somaliland, and in Mogadishu, the capital of neighboring Somalia (another locale used by American troops for years), as well as the towns of Baidoa and Bosaso.  These or other outposts are likely to play increasingly important roles as the Trump administration ramps up its military activities in Somalia, the long-failed state that saw 18 U.S. personnel killed in the disastrous “Black Hawk Down” mission of 1993.   Last month, for instance, President Trump relaxed rules aimed at preventing civilian casualties when the U.S. conducts drone strikes and commando raids in that country and so laid the foundation for a future escalation of the war against al-Shabaab there.  This month, AFRICOM confirmed that dozens of soldiers from the Army’s 101st Airborne Division, a storied light infantry unit, would be deployed to that same country in order to train local forces to, as a spokesperson put it, “better fight” al-Shabaab.

Many other sites previously identified as U.S. outposts or staging areas are not listed in AFRICOM’s 2015 plans, such as bases in Djema, Sam Ouandja, and Obo in the Central African Republic that were revealed, in recent years, by the Washington Post.  Also missing is a newer drone base in Garoua, Cameroon, not to mention that Tunisian air base where the U.S. has been flying drones, according to AFRICOM’s Waldhauser, for quite some time.”

Some bases may have been shuttered, while others may not yet have been put in service when the documents were produced.  Ultimately, the reasons that these and many other previously identified bases are not included in the redacted secret files are unclear due to AFRICOM’s refusal to offer comment, clarification, or additional information on the locations of its bases. 

Base Desires

“Just as the U.S. pursues strategic interests in Africa, international competitors, including China and Russia, are doing the same,” laments AFRICOM in its 2017 posture statement. “We continue to see international competitors engage with African partners in a manner contrary to the international norms of transparency.”

Since it was established as an independent command in 2008, however, AFRICOM itself has been anything but transparent about its activities on the continent.  The command’s physical footprint may, in fact, have been its most jealously guarded secret.  Today, thanks to AFRICOM’s own internal documents, that secret is out and with AFRICOM’s admission that it currently maintains “15 enduring locations,” the long-peddled fiction of a combatant command with just one base in its area of operations has been laid to rest.

“Because of the size of Africa, because of the time and space and the distances, when it comes to special crisis-response-type activities, we need access in various places on the continent,” said AFRICOM chief Waldhauser during his March press conference.  These “various places” have also been integral to escalating American shadow wars, including a full-scale air campaign against the Islamic State in Libya, dubbed Operation Odyssey Lightning, which ended late last year, and ongoing intelligence-gathering missions and a continued U.S. troop presence in that country; drone assassinations and increased troop deployments in Somalia to counter al-Shabaab; and increasing engagement in a proxy war against Boko Haram militants in the Lake Chad region of Central Africa.  For these and many more barely noticed U.S. military missions, America’s sprawling, ever-expanding network of bases provides the crucial infrastructure for cross-continental combat by U.S. and allied forces, a low-profile support system for war-making in Africa and beyond.

Without its wide-ranging constellation of bases, it would be nearly impossible for the U.S. to carry out ceaseless low-profile military activities across the continent.  As a result, AFRICOM continues to prefer shadows to sunlight.  While the command provided figures on the total number of U.S. military bases, outposts, and staging areas in Africa, its spokespeople failed to respond to repeated requests to provide locations for any of the 46 current sites.  While the whereabouts of the new outposts may still be secret, there’s little doubt as to the trajectory of America’s African footprint, which has increased by 10 locations -- a 28% jump -- in just over two years.

America’s “enduring” African bases “give the United States options in the event of crisis and enable partner capacity building,” according to AFRICOM’s Chuck Prichard.  They have also played a vital role in conflicts from Yemen to Iraq, Nigeria to Somalia.  With the Trump administration escalating its wars in Africa and the Middle East, and the potential for more crises -- from catastrophic famines to spreading wars -- on the horizon, there’s every reason to believe the U.S. military’s footprint on the continent will continue to evolve, expand, and enlarge in the years ahead, outpost by outpost and base by base.

Nick Turse is the managing editor of 
TomDispatch, a fellow at the Nation Institute, and a contributing writer for the Intercept. His latest book, Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead: War and Survival in South Sudan, was a finalist for the 2016 Investigative Reporters and Editors Book Award.  His website is

TomDispatch on Twitter and join us on Facebook. Check out the newest Dispatch Book, John Dower's The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War II, as well as John Feffer's dystopian novel Splinterlands, Nick Turse’s Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, and Tom Engelhardt's Shadow Government: Surveillance, Secret Wars, and a Global Security State in a Single-Superpower World.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Is the Welsh Language about to collapse on the Llŷn Peninsula?

We share this for the interest of our readers. Those who have a keen interest in dialects and minority languages will find it interesting.  It is from the blog, Politics by Rebuttal. Thanks to Rob Jones for sharing it.

Is the Welsh Language about to collapse on the Llŷn Peninsula? 

October 17, 2017

The Llŷn Peninsula, sticking out of North Wales into the   
Irish Sea.  For how much longer will Welsh continue       
to be a living community language here?                             
The Llŷn Peninsula has long since been known as one of the strongest bastions of Welsh Language, Literature and Culture, and  is today among the last areas of Wales where Welsh is still a living community language.  But for how much longer?

Both the 2013 and 2017 School Census data show that around 2/3 of all primary school children on the Llŷn speak Welsh at home.  You might therefore be tempted to think that the situation was safe and stable.  However, a closer look at the individual primary schools shows a very worrying trend.

You probably knew that the resort village of Abersoch was already very anglicised - indeed, many people jokingly refer to it as a seaside colony of North West England - but you may have thought that at least the rest of the peninsula remained a stronghold of the indigenous culture.  Until about a decade or more ago, that was indeed true, but now new enclaves are popping up, and the peninsula's main towns appear to be first in line.   

In 2004, Estyn reported that 64% of children in the primary school in Criccieth spoke Welsh at home.  In 2017, only 42% do.  Little wonder is it then, when it is remarked that English has replaced Welsh as the main language of the playground in that town.  

In Pwllheli, the largest town on the peninsula, that percentage has fallen from 67.9% to 61.8%, and only since 2013, according to School Census Data.  Two years earlier, in 2011, Estyn reported that 'nearly three quarters of pupils' spoke Welsh at Home.  In Porthmadog, on the eastern end of Dwyfor, the figure has fallen from 63.9% to 58.7%, and again, only since 2013.  

In both towns, overall pupil numbers appear to have stayed roughly the same during those four years, yet the number of children from speaking Welsh at home seems to be dropping unbelievably fast in such a short space of time.  In Porthmadog, if the number of pupils speaking Welsh at Home continues to drop by 4 a year, with overall pupil numbers staying roughly constant (as they have since 2013), then said children will be in the minority by 2023.  In Pwllheli, if that trend continues, then children speaking Welsh at Home will be in the minority in that town by 2024.

This is not a pleasant thought - two of Wales's last remaining Welsh-speaking towns are being anglicised, it seems, incredibly fast.  If the Llŷn 's towns do become anglicised, then how long will it be before their hinterlands follow suit?  Already there are rural communities in the Dwyfor area where the demise of Welsh is happening at an even more mind-blowingly rapid rate.  In the primary school in Beddgelert, according to Estyn, the percentage of children from speaking Welsh at Home fell from 50% to 7% between 2005 and 2015, while in Dolbenmaen, just north of Porthmadog, that figure fell from 77.5% in 2013 to 52.3% in 2017.

Anti-Welsh grafitti on the beach at Tudweiliog discovered     
earlier this year.  Are the locals sometimes made to feel         
like foreigners in their own country?                                         
There's no other way of putting it - that is mind-blowingly fast.  'Playground Welsh' appears to be dying a sudden death in areas where it was 'as safe as houses' only a few years ago.  Back in 2011 or 2012, I remember this trip to Aberdaron that we, a group of English holiday makers made, and the joy that we felt when we heard local teenagers with their blackberries speaking Welsh to each other by the beach.  How much longer will this last though?

I refuse to believe that any of this is 'natural', 'inevitable' or 'modern'.  Where else in 21st Century Europe, are minority language communities being eroded quite so fast? On the contrary, the Hungarian-speaking areas of Romania, the Catalan-speaking areas of Spain, and the Swedish-speaking areas of Finland are holding out, just as well, if not better, than in the past.  Don't be fooled into thinking that this is something that the Welsh people, and the people of the Llŷn in particular, have to put up with in this day and age.  As you may have gathered, I say all this as someone who is himself an Englishman.

Trump and McConell: Rats on a Sinking Ship

It's not North Korea that's threatening our way of life. Here's two of the main culprits right at home.

By Richard Mellor
Afscme Local 444, retired

I almost vomit having to look at these two scumbags in the picture above. As a shop steward there were times when more conservative workers would ask me how I could defend a guilty worker. It was easy I would tell them, the bosses always defend their own, so must we. Like my other union activist friends in my workplace, at times we defended workers with drug problems, for lying (never lie to the boss unless you’re absolutely sure you can get away with it, unless getting fired is no big deal to you) for stealing or other infractions of their rules. But overwhelmingy we represented workers who were fighitng back against workplace injustice and prejudice. We were in a struggle for a certain amount of control in the workplace.

I always used to say to workers that you could steal for the rest of your life and not come anywhere near the real thieves. The higher up they go, the more they steal. These two above are vermin.

Trump and McConnell hate each other, but they are uniting to give their rich buddies a lot more money through tax breaks and deregulation as well no doubt. Class solidarity matters to these folks although Trump is a weak link for them on that basis. They will put their differences aside in order to strengthen their hand against working people. Plus, Weinstein, er, I mean Trump, normally the idiot, must see that time is not on his side. His sexual assaults won’t go away. Nor will that rascal Kaepernick. Damn! Even the Germans are catching on.  The predator in chief was assaulted yet again by Peggy Noonan in her latest WSJ column.  It’s clear they're making a case not so much to impeach him but to use Article 25 of the US constitution that he’s unfit to govern is in the air. Noonan is a major bourgeois commentator and it is a bit surprising Trump hasn't gone after her yet.

Noonan has had a long hot summer trying to deal with Trump but it’s clear she’s given up. He’s not capable of governing. Noonan is basically calling for others in Washington to speak out. She questions Trump’s mental competence and quotes Vanity Fair’s Gabe Sherman who spoke to numerous prominent Republicans who tell of, “…a White House in crisis as advisers struggle to contain a president who seems to be increasingly unfocused and consumed by dark moods.” (my added emphasis). Sherman spoke to senior Republicans who claimed  Chief of staff, John Kelly was miserable in his job trying to, “keep Trump from making some sort of disastrous decision.”. We have stressed on this blog that US capitalism is in a political crisis as the two parties that have governed for 150 years are fracturing as that era is coming to an end.  “It’s a shame the White House has become an adult day care center. Someone obviously missed their shift this morning.”, Oklahoma’s Bob Corker tweeted after being called “gutless” and “Liddle Bob Corker.”, in one of Trump’s Tweets. 

And we shouldn’t give Corker any Kudos for speaking out as he has announced he’s not running for re-election. Were he in need of Trump’s support he’d grovel like McConell.

The picture is a reminder to us that these people have no qualms about uniting when it comes to defending their class, their institutions and their system. The Democrats are incapable of providing the working class with a way out. They rallied around Trump with most of them attending his inauguration. We saw the picture of Michelle Obama hugging George W. Bush like he was a cuddly teddy bear rather than a mass murderer and war criminal.The Democrats agree that the working class must pay for the crisis of capitalism, it's just a matter of degree and which section will bear the most burden and increase division most decisively without a social explosion.

When the next recession or slump hits, the political, social and economic crisis of US capitalism will become more acute. The movement of the working class that will be forced to its feet in response will not be smooth, rather confused, with pockets of violence, street battles and steps forward and back. We have discussed in our weekly conference calls the likelihood of a multi candidate or party election cycle in 2020.  We have had this before with the likes of Perot and Jesse Ventura for example, this will occur on the left and the right, similar to Vaclav Havel in Czechoslovakia and Vitautas Landisbergis in Lithuania two academics that rose to prominence after the collapse of Stalinism. A political vacuum can throw up these accidents of history, Trump is an example of it----- a tragic accident indeed.

The reason for the volatile nature of the process of the working class finding its feet in the US and indeed for the rise of the Predator in Chief himself, is the failure of the heads of organized labor to have any presence at all. They refuse to bring to the table the 14 million members of the trade union movement and use this power to draw all sections of the working class in to the struggle. Their role is not passive mind you, quiet as they are, the heads of the building trades had no problem sucking up to Trump and participating in a photo op at the White House. The lawyer Hoffa, the head of the Teamsters, also praised Trump. These conservative bureaucrats never thought for one minute how their women or black dues paying members might feel about this. The labor hierarchy will also find the resolve as they always do, to resist any movement from below that threatens the status quo and the relationship they have built with the ruling class in this country based on labor peace. They have an army of full time staff whose job it is to carry out their agenda.

No serious opposition movement can be built from the ground up within organized labor without recognizing and openly confronting the present leadership and its disastrous policies. As much as we may wish it, the leadership won’ t allow it.

Puerto Rico: when it rains, it pours

by Michael Roberts

When it rains, it pours.  Hurricane Maria hit the island of Puerto Rico off the US mainland leaving the country devastated with no power, no food and water.

Puerto Ricans are US citizens, as the island is officially a ‘US territory’ – in effect,  a colony like the French overseas territories.  But the US mainland authorities did little to help and when they did, it was inadequate.  Power remains lost; homelessness continues and President Trump visited the most well-off part of the island to hand out paper towels – to mop up no doubt!

But even before the hurricane, Puerto Rico’s 3.5m people were in a parlous state.  It had become a graphic example of what capitalism and colonial rule can do in exploiting the resources and people, through distortions of the local economy and corruption of local and foreign institutions. Puerto Rico was faced with bankruptcy even before the hurricane.  By bankruptcy, I mean that the public sector debt of the island had reached astronomical levels, making it impossible for the island government to service the debt and thus facing default on its bonds owned by local and foreign institutions (mainly hedge funds).

How did this come to pass?  Throughout the modern economic history of Puerto Rico, one of the central drivers of its economic growth has been the US tax code. For over 80 years, the US federal government granted various tax incentives to US corporations operating in Puerto Rico. Most recently, beginning in 1976, section 936 of the tax code granted corporations a tax exemption from income originating from ‘US territories’.  US corporations benefited greatly from locating subsidiaries in Puerto Rico – a ‘rich port’ indeed. Income generated by these subsidiaries could be paid to U.S. parents as dividends, which were not subject to corporate income tax.

Puerto Rico thus became a large tax scam for multi-nationals.  The main ‘exporters’ to Puerto Rico were pharma and chemical companies in Ireland, Singapore and Switzerland.  Thus Puerto Rico imported pharmaceutical ingredients from low-tax jurisdictions like Ireland and then exported finished pharmaceuticals to high-tax jurisdictions in Europe and the US.

As top economist Paul Krugman recently noted: “Specifically, PR runs, on paper, a huge trade surplus in pharmaceuticals – $30 billion a year, almost half the island’s GNP. But the pharma surplus is basically a phantom, driven by transfer pricing: pharma subsidiaries in Ireland charge themselves low prices on inputs they buy from their overseas subsidiaries, package them, then charge themselves high prices on the medicine they sell to, yes, their overseas subsidiaries. The result is that measured profits pop up in Puerto Rico – profits that are then paid out in investment income to non-PR residents. So this trade surplus does nothing for PR jobs or income.”

This booming economy raised little tax revenue.  So Puerto Rican governments borrowed to provide public services rather than tax mulit-nationals.  Due to these extensive tax credits and exemptions, Puerto Rico lost out on $250-$500 million a year in revenue. It did this for four decades, encouraged by financial consultants.  Soon it entered the realm of Ponzi-financing, namely, issuing debt to repay older debt, as well as refinancing older debt possessing low interest rates with debt possessing higher interest rates.

Then disaster happened.  In the US, section 936 became increasingly unpopular throughout the early 1990s, as many correctly saw it as a way for large corporations to avoid taxes. Ultimately, in 1996, President Clinton signed legislation that phased out section 936 over a ten year period, leaving it to be fully repealed at the beginning of 2006.

Without section 936, Puerto Rican subsidiaries of U.S. businesses were subject to the same worldwide corporate income tax as other foreign subsidiary.  They fled the island.  Between 1996 and 2006, the US Congress eliminated the tax credits, contributing to the loss of 80,000 jobs on the island and causing its population to shrink and its economy to contract in all but one year since the Great Recession.

At first, the Puerto Rican government tried to make up for the shortfall by issuing bonds. The government was able to issue an unusually large number of bonds, due to dubious underwriting from financial institutions such as Spain’s Santander BankUBS, and Citigroup.  According to a report from Hedge Clippers, Santander issued almost $61 billion in bonds from the Puerto Rican government through subsidiaries that serve as municipal debt underwriters, obtaining $1.1 billion in fees in the process.  Santander officials were also officials of the Puerto Rico’s Government Development Bank.

Thus Santander officials decided whether to issue debt for Puerto Rico and then arranged that Santander should pocket the fees for organising the bond issues!  They also decided that sales tax revenue that should have gone to the government should be siphoned off to COFINA (PR Sales Tax Financing Corporation) bonds, more debt to be issued underwritten by Santander and other banks. They even assigned government employees’ pension contributions to pay for bond issues.

Not coincidentally, 2006 also marked the beginning of a deep recession for Puerto Rico, which has lasted until today.  Between 2000 and 2015, Puerto Rico’s debt rose from 63.2% of GNP to 100.2% of GNP.  Eventually the debt burden became so great that the island was unable to pay interest on the bonds it had issued.

The tax regime remains paralysed.  The Department of Treasury of Puerto Rico is incapable of collecting 44% of the Puerto Rico Sales and Use Tax (or about $900 million).  Public spending is also distorted.  A public teacher’s base salary starts at $24,000 while a legislative advisor starts at $74,000. The government has also been unable to set up a system based on meritocracy, with many employees, particularly executives and administrators, earning large salaries while health workers struggle.

The Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority  (PREPA) provides free electricity to local governments.  The utility had improperly given away $420 million of electricity and that the island’s governments were $300 million delinquent in payments.  As a result, PREPA had no funds to invest in new technology and built up a debt of $9 billion.  In 2012, the Puerto Rico Ports Authority was forced to sell the Luis Muñoz Marín International Airport to private buyers after PREPA threatened to cut off power over unpaid bills.  Last July, PREPA filed for bankruptcy.

The island’s unemployment rate is now 14.8% with a poverty rate of 45%.  But the Puerto Rican authorities have been under pressure from the US government to apply vicious austerity measures. More than 60% of Puerto Rico’s population receives Medicare or Medicaid services but the US has a cap on Medicaid funding for US territories. This has led to a situation where Puerto Rico might typically receive $373 million in federal funding a year, while, for instance, Mississippi receives $3.6 billion.

The austerity programmes imposed on the Puerto Rican governments have meant taxes and fees went up on nearly everything and everyone. Personal income taxes, corporate taxes, sales taxes, sin taxes, and taxes on insurance premiums were hiked or newly imposed. The retirement age for teachers was raised.

As the debt mounted, the US government removed the power of managing and monitoring that debt out of the hands of the Puerto Ricans and put into a new monitoring body, PROMESA (The Financial Oversight and Management Board for Puerto Rico) – a bit like how the EU governments took control of Greek finances and provided with ‘conditionalities’ through the EFSF and ESM.  There is only one Puerto Rican on the PROMESA board.  PROMESA’a main aim to service the debt not restore the economy.  Puerto Rico’s $123 billion liabilities from debt ($74 billion) and unfunded pension obligations ($49 billion) are much larger than the $18 billion Detroit bankruptcy,

What is to be done?  Since it was installed, PROMESA has begun outlining and implementing deep government spending cuts.  There is talk that the government should pay back its bonds before providing essential services to its citizens. Though repayment is still on hold, different classes of bondholders are now locked in a legal dispute about which of them is entitled to the revenue from the island’s sales tax, currently set at 11.5%.

PROMESA wants the Puerto Rican government to maintain a balanced budget for four consecutive years and carry out significant privatisations of state assets. For Puerto Ricans, that could mean austerity measures for the foreseeable future imposed by an unelected body based outside Puerto Rico. As economist Joseph Stiglitz recently put it: “The PROMESA Board was supposed to chart a path to recovery; its plan makes a recovery a virtual impossibility. If the Board’s plan is adopted, Puerto Rico’s people will experience untold suffering. And to what end? The crisis will not be resolved. On the contrary, the debt position will become even more unsustainable.”

And yet the foreign bond holders do not think this is enough and condemn PROMESA for being too weak.  A group of 34 hedge funds that specialize in distressed debt —sometimes referred to as vulture funds—hired economists with an IMF background. Their report called for increased tax collection and a reduction of public spending and wanted public private partnerships and the ‘monetization’ (privatisation) of government-owned buildings and ports.  Another group goes even further.

They called on the US Congress to “consider a tax credit for U.S. multinationals” and the “militarization of the island to provide short to medium [term] security.” They want PROMESA closed down and to be replaced by an “administrator who has broad authority to execute contracts, coordinate with federal agencies and oversee reconstruction.”  The bondholders want more police and the US army to enforce austerity.  “The U.S. military needs to supplement the 15,000 Puerto Rican police officers to maintain law and order”, while at the same introducing tax allowances at 100% of capital expenditures “required to rebuild after Maria or build new factories within a 2-3 year window.”

Another idea is for all the outstanding debt to be incorporated into a ‘super bond’ that would get interest directly from the tax revenues of the Puerto Rican government  This plan would have a designated third party administer an account holding some of the island’s tax collections and those funds would be used to pay holders of the superbond. The existing Puerto Rican bondholders would take a haircut on the value of their current bond holdings.  This is almost an exact replica of the private sector involvement (PSI) deal that was imposed on the Greek government in 2012 that led to a bailout off private bondholders and the shifting of the bulk of debt onto the government books.

Is there any way out for the Puerto Rican people or do they face permanent austerity and misery?  One solution coming from the left is for the US Federal Reserve Bank to buy up all the Puerto Rican bonds at current market value and then not impose any interest payment burden on the island.  This is both useless and utopian at the same time.  Even if it were applied, the debt would remain on the books and its servicing subject to the whim of the Federal Reserve Board (and who knows who the Fed Chair would be next year?).  Moreover, if the Fed offers to pick up the bill, the price of the bonds would rocket, enabling the ‘vulture funds’ to make a killing at the US taxpayers expense.  And it still does nothing to solve the economic problem for the island that created this debt in the first place.  And, second, it is utopian because it ain’t going to happen: the Fed will do nothing.

Clearly, the most effective immediate answer is to cancel the debt.  But that poses its own problems.  First, 40% of the debt is locally held, often by local banks and pension funds that could be bankrupted – so they would have to be brought under the public umbrella.  Second, cancellation would mean immediate confrontation with the US authorities and the hedge funds – which could lead to the closure of PROMESA and the imposition of a US administrator to take over the government.  In other words, cancellation would mean a major political struggle on the island.

And what sort of Puerto Rican economy is needed anyway? The model of a tax haven that encourages multi-nationals to engage in transfer pricing scams has failed to deliver incomes and jobs for those Puerto Ricans who have not left the island.

Puerto Rico was an important hub, in particular, for big pharmaceutical firms like Pfizer, which have kept many of their investments on the island even after ‘936’ was gradually ended.  But Puerto Rico is no longer competitive in areas where 75-80% of expenses come from payroll costs.  Puerto Rico needs to move up into higher-value manufacturing and services.  It has a large number of educated bilingual workers.  There is potential to turn the economy into a modern hi-tech service sector.  But that would require government investment and state-run firms democratically controlled by Puerto Ricans.  It’s the Chinese model, if you like.

Puerto Rico is a small island that was exploited by the US and foreign multi-nationals with citizens’ tax bills siphoned off to pay interest on ever increasing debt, while reducing social welfare – all at the encouragement of foreign investment banks making huge fees for doing so.  Now Puerto Ricans are being asked to keep on paying for the foreseeable future after a decade of recession and cuts in living standards to meet obligations to vulture funds and US institutions.  And the troops will be sent into ensure that!   When it rains, it pours.

‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn!’- Report from 2017 Labour Party Conference

The dangers from the right wing and the state will increase as the re-energized  Labor Party moves from opposition to leading force.  The British capitalist state will undermine a Labor government at all times if one is elected. Socialists in the LP must be prepared to take on the right. Admin.
Carel Buxton, Forest Gate Ward and West Ham CLP

This year’s Labour Party conference was very different from that of 2016. Both years I have attended as a visitor and avidly listened to the debates both in the conference hall and at the fringe events, participated in discussions and heated arguments with delegates and fellow visitors and attended the Momentum organised The World Transformed (TWT) ‘alternative’ conference/festival. This year was different because, for the first time in a very long time, the power of the membership exerted itself and it was a heady feeling after so many years of dominance from the right wing.

1,200 delegates attended, a huge increase on the previous year and said to be the biggest conference in living memory. Most delegates, about two thirds, were Corbynistas. At the 2016 conference the bureaucrats were able to out manoeuvre the left on the conference floor through a better understanding and application, including misapplication, of the party rules.  This often spilled over into shouting matches and acrimony from the conference floor. This year the shouting matches continued but the left was far more successful because we had learned the ropes and had had training in procedures from Momentum. Still it is clear that we have a long way to go yet to fully restore democracy to our party.

Some examples of where the left triumphed over the right: Firstly, the left won the ballot by 71% for the two seats on the National Constitutional Committee, Labour’s key disciplinary committee, electing Emina Ibrahim from Haringey and Anna Dyer, a Glasgow activist. These two Momentum supporter, Emina Ibrahim Vice-Chair of Momentum, decisively beat Rose Burley from Labour First and Kevin Hepwork from Progress. This victory for Corby supporters over the right comes hard on the heels of the victory of Seema Chandwani and Billy Hayes in the election for the Conference Arrangements Committee (CAC). They will have a central role in framing the conference agenda for 2018. The right wing is certainly deflated but far from beaten. Indeed, I am reliably informed that at a Progress fringe meeting their leader ,Richard Angell , lamented the rise of the so called hard left; words echoed by their speakers Stella Creasy and Yvette Cooper.

Secondly, a rule change from the 2016 conference gave delegates the power to ‘reference back’ and this was used by Corbyn supporting delegates to extend democracy in the party. Prior to 2016 delegates could only accept or reject policy from the National Policy Forum. Now delegates can say to the leadership we are only giving you a C+ so go away and come back with better next time. In a debate on Welfare Policy a soft left delegate from ‘Open Labour ‘called for a reference back because LP policy did not include the intention of scrapping all welfare cuts. Momentum immediately supported this unplanned intervention and sent mobile messages around to all Momentum supporting delegates using its M-APP  mobile App calling for them to support this. Crucially Unison also supported the reference back and it was won. The way the conference works is for 50% of the votes go the CLP delegates and a further 50% to affiliated organisations such as the trade unions. Because this intervention was unplanned by the left it illustrates the fight for democracy in the party is not yet concerted or organised enough. There is a huge appetite for socialist ideas in the party. We have a huge membership of about 650,000 members but we have not yet driven the right out.

Whilst the left is dismantling the bureaucratic blockages on democracy we are not a coherent enough force; this is illustrated by the compromise over the so-called McDonnell Amendment. The amendment was a move to reduce the number of Labour MPs needed to nominate candidates in a LP leadership contest and ensure a left winger can get onto the ballot. Originally McDonnell called for 5% of MPs but a deal was struck behind the scenes with the NEC and the threshold was lowered from 15% to 10%. This was greeted with dismay from many of the delegates who felt they could have won the 5% putting the new leadership at odds with the grassroots. This is an interesting turn and shows the membership’s appetite for radical change. A further illustration of the leadership’s top down approach to democratisation has been in the new review of party structures under Katy Clark, Corbyn’s political secretary. Many activists fear this will not go nearly far enough and call for the membership to be able reselect their MPs and recall their MPs, holding them to account. The leadership has refused this and the battle is on.

One of the most heartening aspects to conference itself was the lack of deference shown to those who had been openly disloyal or, at best, lukewarm about Corbyn’s decisive leadership victory in 2016. Both Tom Watson and Saddique Khan were received politely although one delegate followed Watson’s speech with a question to the chair about why he was allocated 5 minutes but actually allowed to speak for over 20 minutes. Khan’s speech was mediocre at best. Contrast this to the standing ovations given to Corbyn, McDonnell, Dennis Skinner, Diane Abbott and to Len McCluskey just for walking on to the stage! It was empowering to hear chants of ‘Oh Jeremy Corbyn’ around the conference hall at almost every opportunity but it’s not enough to just elect the leader. We must campaign in our communities and work hard building Momentum and the Labour Party so we can ensure there is a radical socialist programme for our party. The Manifesto is the best for half a century but it needs to go much further. In fairness, it was written in a matter of a few weeks and, at TWT, I heard both McDonnell and Corbyn explain that they know they have to flesh it out and asked for CLPs and individual members to contribute to this.

While the LP conference played out, another whole new consciousness was being born in The World Transformed. This was the second year running that Momentum organised this splendid festival to galvanise the left. Held over four days in nine different venues across Brighton, TWT was brilliantly organised and drew huge crowds to over 100 meetings around topics ranging from Art and Politics to How to Run a Successful Momentum Group. It was quite usual for hundreds to queue for a couple of hours to hear the well-known speakers. I queued alongside about 800 comrades to hear Jeremy Corby one evening. In the queue with me were all generations and ethnicities and there was an infectious enthusiasm for socialism. It felt like another world was possible and on the verge of being born.

At TWT there was real emphasis was on technology, how to use it to organise and mobilise members. The M-APP was used as an organising tool with frequent updates on events. Speakers such as Owen Jones, George Monbiot and Paul Mason were listened to with enthusiasm but were, at times, out of step with their audience who were often more radical than the speakers. The best contributions were from the floor with workers such as the McDonald strikers and Picturehouse workers giving examples of their struggles. The most exciting meeting of TWT I attended was entitled The Left in Power with speakers, Costas Lapavistas former Syriza MP, Guillame Long, Former Equadorian Foreign Minister and Catarina Principe from Portugal’s Bloco de Esquerda Committee. This meeting focused on what happens once we gain power and drew on experiences of how the ruling class will attempt to sabotage the economy through capital flight for example. This was followed up on the last evening with a Labour Co-ordinating Committee rally with passionate speeches from McDonnell, Matt Wrack FBU, Dave Ward CWU and Ronnie Draper leader of the Baker’s Union. McDonnell explained what steps the ruling class will take to undermine a Corbyn led Labour government and how the leadership have plans to deal with this attack. He was not specific and probably that was wise. The union leaders talked about concerted unified action to bring May’s government down; a general strike in all but name. The audience of about 200 were electrified by the analysis of capitalism and the socialist solutions the speakers put forward.

Momentum have played a central role up to this point in democratisation of the Labour Party. Events such as TWT show they have huge pulling power. Crucially they have shown the way in terms of organisation for the conference and not just with the application of technology but with the training sessions offered to delegates prior to conference and early morning briefing sessions on conference procedures and how to vote. Many delegates were new and Momentum gave them guidance and support to work through the procedural minefield laid out by the bureaucrats. 2017 conference was uplifting and exciting. Now we need to be organised for round two of the battle with the right and reclaim the Labour Party to its grassroots.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The September 22 protests in Sports Opened the Floodgates for Class Struggle Politics

We thank comrade Art Francisco for his article on the tremendous importance of Kaepernick's protest that is exposing the class and racist nature of society and is becoming difficult to put down. It has the potential to expose the class divide even further.  A previous article on our Blog linked the struggle of the NFL players with the 1968 Olympics protest that many young people will be unaware of and that the capitalist class want those of us that remember to forget.

The US athletes have received some support from abroad with the German soccer team Hertha Berlin taking a knee in solidarity. The NFL players protests are becoming an international issue.  And we also wish to point to the refusal of the US trade union leaders to take a strong stand with the NFL players' protests and using their cause, racial injustice, police brutality and now also include a player being denied employment, a member of the NFL players union being denied work, to help mobilize the millions of union members also under assault. FFWP Admin

 Art Francisco
Last year, towards the end of August, Colin Kaepernick drew national attention for choosing to sit during the National Anthem in protest of police brutality. It was around this time, in response to the vicious criticism of bourgeois journalists and pundits, Kaepernick and Eric Reid chose to kneel at every game for the entire football season. In response, Kaepernick was blacklisted.

At the start of the 2017 pre-season, it is said that about 12 players were continuing Kaepernick's style of peaceful protest, to the slight irritation of the capitalists who turned American football into the national sport of US imperialism, replacing baseball. The Superbowl is the most watched event on television with about 172,000 average viewers and $5m/30second for an advert.

The capitalist owners of the big teams, largely supported their fellow capitalist Donald Trump during his election. But on September 20th, while hurricane Maria was making landfall on the colonial island of Puerto Rico, Trump in typical opportunistic fashion lashed out at an Alabama rally against the handful of black NFL protesters. He lashed out against the players as a whole by advocating that the game should be as harsh as it used to be in wake of a new medical study concluding that 110 out of 111 of players brains studied showed signs of CTE, serious brain damage. Pro football players have a 99% chance of getting brain damage and no amount of money is going to repair that. When the players are too broken to play any more after being battered in the modern gladitorial arenas, they will be cut off from NFL healthcare. The average football career is less than four years, with many NFL players retiring young, physically and financially broken. Moreover, there is reason to believe that the pattern of trauma dramatically affects their personalities which may help to explain the common patterns of violence by players. Trump knows all this, but his capitalist callous opportunism drives him.

Trump's disgusting comments came after months of police carnage, racist rallies and incendiary speech. With Trump's latest comments, the annoyance of the #TakeaKnee protests set off like wildfire and became a full blown crisis for the capitalists who own the NFL teams and use the NFL for its extremely lucrative audience for advertisement.

And so the following Sunday on September 22, every single team in the league playing in Sunday morning football joined in protest. Entire teams boycotted the anthem, sat, locked arms or kneeled. Anthem singers kneeled and raised fists. Players raised fists after touchdowns. The first baseball player took a knee. The owners themselves were compelled to accept the mass action and show their opposition to Trump. Racist fans swore against their own teams, the NFL and their favorite players. Racist fans booed, heckled and shouted profanities at the New England Patriots and the Colts as players protested.

Of course, the capitalist owners had little choice but to feign support. Regardless of whether or not they were personally irritated by Trump's arrogant comments telling them what to do, it was in their direct interests to ensure that the players would not turn against them as well. The blacklisting of Kaepernick was already a sore spot for athletes in the NFL and other leagues, but coupled with the recent CTE studies and the racist comments by Trump; if the owners were not careful they could incite a serious player action that wouldn't be satisfied with a protest to the national anthem but an attack on their profits at the start of the football season. For that reason, nearly every capitalist is going into the classic damage control mode of employers before a union action.
German soccer team Hertha Berlin shows solidarity with US Athletes

Even if it meant holding hands with the players on the field in common protest—the capitalists had to do whatever they could to avoid a strike or any escalation. For the past week, the players have continued protests. The owners have replied that they would not punish or retaliate for those protests, but they are still coordinating an effort to turn the unity of the players against the wealthy capitalists into a calls of unity with the wealthy owners themselves despite having opposing interests. Liberal journalist Shuan King obfuscated this fake owner's solidarity by suggesting the owners lack the “courage of their convictions” when it came to standing against racism. The owners however do not have any anti-racist convictions, or pro-player convictions. Their convictions are capitalist convictions, and there is no lack of courage there.

The attempts at de-escalation by the owners may be too little too late. While they may temporarily soften the protests, the genie is already out of the bottle. Colin Kaepernick, the Jackie Robinson of the 21st century has already injected working class politics into a sport that is more holy and sacred to capitalists than any church. How many times have we heard the bourgeois line, “Keep politics out of football” or “Keep politics out of sports?” This of course has never been a possibility, as it is simply meaning to keep only bourgeois politics in sports. This is a part of the sacred compact between the bourgeois media and the owners of the leagues. It is good for the players and the masses to split the capitalists in this way, even if such a split was temporary or for show since ultimately it is a concession. Despite that, we shouldn't forget what side the capitalist owners will always be on—their own side.

It can be no coincidence that Kaepernick was so viciously attacked and blacklisted for more than just taking a knee, or speaking out about police brutality, or speaking in favor of black people in the US. Kaepernick combined his protest with the target of the American bourgeois state itself by choosing to make his protest during the national anthem, which exposed the hypocrisy and lie that the bourgeois state serves everyone of all classes and thus deserves our support and devotion. Even Kaepernick's attempts at remaining respectful in protest were not good enough—and the result is that he is out of the job.

In the bourgeois campaign to de-escalate, the legendary liberal bourgeois sports commentator Bob Costas remarked, "The idea of linking protests, no matter how legitimate the issue you are protesting, directly to the national anthem is not just offensive to the love it or leave it crowd, It actually causes ambivalent feelings, at best, among many people who are sympathetic to the issue, but see the anthem as representing a lot of different things including the country's ideals and aspirations. So, to me, perhaps the most effective thing to do would be to stand for the national anthem, but the second the last note is struck, take a knee."

In an earlier interview, Costas said, “Virtually every player who knelt in the initial stages of this was black, and the initial impetus from it or for it came from Colin Kaepernick and it was about police brutality and mistreatment of African Americans. You can't separate those two things.
Now, if you want to make the point that the national anthem is about something more than the nation's flaws and shortcomings, it's also about its ideals and that people can see some texture to what the national anthem means, and you might prefer that people protest or make their point outside of the national anthem, that's something to be argued.”

This attempt by the bourgeoisie to divorce the attacks on the state from the protests against police brutality should be exposed and resisted. Costas speaks for the most liberal capitalists and liberal NFL owners—who may be willing to let protests slide, but want to see an end to the delegitimizing of their state and their military. In the coming weeks ahead, there will be attempts at watering things down. Costas comments were two-fold, one to preserve the patriotism of the masses to the bourgeois state, but later in his CNN interview he turned his sights to discredit Kaepernick's politics since they contain shreds of working class politics:

“Kaepernick, whether people know it or not, has raised and/or donated millions and millions of dollars to worthy causes. He's walking the walk, he's involved in the community. But Kaepernick himself was an imperfect messenger. He's given to saying things like I don't vote because the oppressor will never let you vote your way out of your oppression. So I guess it doesn't matter to him who wound up being president of the United States. It doesn't matter that when he first knelt Barack Obama was president and now someone who many of his fellow African-Americans and importantly many of his fellow citizens of all races and backgrounds object to. It doesn't matter to him.”
Sometimes what Colin says when he does speak makes it sound as if, and I say this with great respect for his intentions, and for what he has done beyond kneeling on the field. Sometimes he sounded like someone who took one semester from a radical professor when he was a freshman and that's all he knows about the world. “

“So I think it's better that additional voices here from multiple backgrounds weigh in, because Colin Kaepernick, despite what some people want to say, is not the natural heir to Muhammad Ali or Arthur Ashe or to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who continues to be a public intellectual. He's not. He's tried to do a good thing from his heart. I don't know if he's equipped to carry that baton.”
For the bourgeois journalist Bob Costas, Kaepernick's challenge to the legitimacy of the state itself is where he draws the line—but that is what makes his protest so powerful. Like the owners themselves, the liberal and progressive bourgeois journalists are fine supporting a short lived anti-racist protest so long as it doesn't build to challenge the class power of the bourgeoisie.

But aside from Bob Costas, a new kind of liberal bourgeois journalist has emerged over the years the “progressive,” the Shuan Kings, Dave Zirins, Juan Gonzalezes and Amy Goodmans give plenty of words for racial justice, racial equality, an end to police brutality and all kinds of other progressive causes. But they avoid the crucial conclusion that one who is truly concerned with those things must arrive to. There will be no racial justice or any of these other progressive ideas realized to their full most potential until there is first a political revolution against the capitalist class. So we can support Kaepernick, and the players protests, and we can even share the exposure of these liberal journalists—but our duty as Marxists is to expose their limitations which are restricted by the interests of the class they represent!

Expose the capitalists in their entirety.
Expose the state in its entirety.
Expose the bourgeois media in its entirety.