Socialist gets fired for his political beliefs

(This is old news, as it happened in October of last year but still instructive.)

Michael Italie was a sewing machine operator at Goodwill Industries in Florida, who also ran for mayor of Miami on behalf of the US Socialist Workers Party. A few days after he appeared on a televised debat with the other candidates for mayor, he was sacked:

On Oct. 22, a sewing-machine operator named Michael Italie was fired by Goodwill Industries, the network of nonprofit groups best-known for collecting and selling used clothing and furniture in order to provide job training for the disabled. Among Goodwill’s lesser-known functions is to supply low-cost contract labor to the federal government. Italie’s job was to sew U.S. Navy jackets in Goodwill’s Miami plant. The factory had been humming since Sept. 11; to meet the surging demand for American flags, it had gone on a 24-hour production schedule.

At 5 p.m., half an hour before the conclusion of his 10-and-a-half-hour shift, Italie’s supervisor called him into the personnel office, where he was greeted by the plant’s head of security. “Because of your views of the U.S. government, which are contrary to those of this agency, you are a disruptive force and cannot work here anymore,” he said, according to Italie. “Take your things and go.”

Italie does indeed have a view of the U.S. government that is unconventional, even hostile: As a member of the Socialist Workers Party, he favors creation of a “workers’ and farmers’ government” in the United States along the lines envisioned by Karl Marx, V.I. Lenin, and Leon Trotsky. (The Socialist Workers Party began life in 1928 as a Trotskyist splinter from the Communist Party U.S.A., but over the past 30 years the venerable blood-feud between Leninists and Trotskyites has faded.) “We don’t advocate violence,” Italie told Chatterbox. “Violence is rooted in the capitalist system.” (He really does talk like that.)

According to the above Slate article this politically motivated firing was completely legal. I find that disturbing. In my view employers should never be able to fire their workers for what they do outside work (apart from criminal activities like
theft or rape).

Brendan O’Neill doesn’t get it

Nor does Mick Hume. They both, O’Neill in his weblog and Hume in a Times article complain about how “the left” has responded to the new revelations about the September 11 attacks. The last week or so evidence has come out that the Bush administration may have known about the upcoming attacks, or at least had enough information to know some sort of attack was imminent -why else would Ashcroft have started traveling on chartered jets?

Hume first:

Was September 11 preventable? The answer, of course, is yes. All the Bush administration had to do to
prevent those terrorist attacks was to close down the entire civil airline industry and evacuate all skyscrapers and government buildings (or, better still, empty the cities of New York and Washington). Then it could have rounded up and interned all Muslims and everybody of ‘Middle Eastern appearance’ (including several million US citizens) and launched nuclear missile strikes against Afghanistan, Sudan and anywhere else that might be accused of harbouring Osama bin Laden and his agents. Job done.

Does anybody see the flaw in this? That’s right, it excludes the middle! It’s a common tactic. Juxtapose your own, entirely sensible position with something ridiculous and over the top (for bonus points imply this is what your critics think), make sure everybody knows how ridiculous it is, then declare victory. In this case Mick Hume, ignoring practical measures that could’ve been taken to prevent the attacks, instead pretends that the only choice was between doing nothing or unleashing World War III to stop the terrorists.

However, the prevention of the Millennium bombplot, because one of the bombers was stopped during a routine US border patrol suggests otherwise.

Then Brendan O’Neill jumped on hume’s bandwagon, in an article called the shame of the left:

The shame of the left. At first it was just annoying — all the endless anti-Bush carping about what Bush knew, didn’t know, should have known, and failed to do. Some left- wing websites turned their entire content over to mocking Bush and revelling in the revelations that the administration knew something prior to 11 September. It was annoying because it suggested that the left has become
incapable of developing a decent political alternative, instead jumping on the politics of chance,
rumour and conspiracy.

Then it became more than annoying. By getting bogged down in the ‘Bush knew’ fever sweeping America, the left actually granted Bush a significant moral victory and made it far harder for themselves, or anybody else, to protest against the Bush administration in the future.

[…]

With their demands that Bush do more, more, more, the anti-Bush left have effectively given him carte blanche to clamp down on civil liberties, issue panicky warnings that will heighten people’s sense of fear, and even to intervene abroad in the name of stopping attacks on the USA. The left have argued that ‘precautionary action’ should be the centre of American politics — and Bush might just be happy to take up their offer.

Here O’Neill takes Hume’s portrayal of “the left’s criticism” as fact, using it to castigate them. Again, the middle ground between doing nothing and turning the US into a police state and the rest of the world into a bomb crater is ignored:

How will the left respond when Bush and Blair and their friends in the West decide to bomb Iraq, on the dubious grounds that Saddam Hussein is building weapons of mass destruction with which to threaten the West? The ‘evidence’ for Saddam’s weapons programme may be thin bordering on non-existent, but so were the pre-11 September warnings of a hijacking in America. When Bush says he is bombing Iraq as a precautionary measure to protect America, the left won’t have a leg to stand on.

This is specious arguing at its worst. Hume and O’Neill have taken sensible criticism of the Bush administration, twisted it beyond all recognition and then used this strawman to beat up “the left” with.

I cannot help but think they have an agenda in this. O’Neill and Hume aren’t strangers to each other. Mick Hume is the editor of Spiked Online while Brendan O’Neill is its assistant editor. Spiked Online itself is the reincarnation of the old LM Magazine, previously known as Living Marxism, which disappeared after it lost a libel trial. And both magazines were involved with/part of/published by (the distincitions are unclear) the old Revolutionary Communist Party, which disappeared into its own asshole to re-emerge as the quasi libertarian-socialist Institute of Ideas [1].

Spiked touts itself as a champion of “unorthodox, enlightened thinking” but I’ve always had the nagging feeling they were just another group of establishment pundits. They often seemed to be more interested in slagging of “the left” then in doing much to shake up the established order. In this context, this latest attack on the antiwar left makes sense. It establishes once again their independence, their “freethinking” spirit, without running much risks. It impresses the punters and I bet those two articles will be quoted all over the blogosphere in the next few weeks or so.

[1] This Guardian article has some more detail about the Institute of Ideas. More about Living Marxism can be found in this Weekly Worker article.

Books

I hope y’all have checked out the link to my booklog to the left of this post? Just in cased you hadn’t, I’ve put up new reviews/musings of two books: Poul Anderson’s The Corridors of Time, a science fiction time travel novel and Dutch author Nescio’s classic collection of three novellas. Martin sez, check it out.

Courtesy of the Guardian comes another book review, of China Mieville’s latest fantasy novel, The Scar. Apart from being a fantasy and sf writer, China is also active in politics, having been a candidate in the UK parliamentary elections last year for the Socialist Alliance.

For the Fantastic Metropolis webzine China put together a list
of fifty fantasy & science fiction works that socialists should read, which is probalby also of interest to non socialists. For the Guardian he also put together his top ten of weird fiction.

We Won!

Just came back from the SP election party. As it looks now, we’ve more or less doubled our seats in Parlement, from five seats in 1998 to at least nine, possibly ten now. In Amsterdam we got just short of eleven percent of the votes, which was incredible.

Apart from us, the other big two winners were the Lijst Pim Fortuyn (LPF) who got 26, setting the record for most sears won by a new party in an parlementary election and the CDA, who went from 29 to 43 (!) seats, becoming by far the biggest party, followed by the LPF. The big losers were the three government parties PvdA, from 45 to 23, VVD, from 38 to 23 and D66, from 14 to 8. The other left wing party, Groen Links also lost one seat, going from 11 to 10 seats. Also “losing” big was Leefbaar Nederland, who once were thought to win as much seats as LPF did now, but who now got only two seats, the result of their principled decision to kick Fortuyn out of their party.

So what does this all mean? Is this a move to the right, as television pundits repeated constantly? Or is there more to it?

I think there is. This was not as much a move to the right as it was a punishment of a coalition which managed to lose almost all voter sympathy over the last two years or so. People were sick and tired of Paars, of the way the three coalition partners stifled debate and wanted something new and exciting, something that would break open debate again. At first this was Leefbaar Nederland, but with the entry of Pim Fortuyn, he became the crowbar which forced open Dutch politics. In my opinion, only he was able to do it, because the other alternatives, like CDA were seen as part of the Den haag establishment or like my own party SP and Groen Links, but also the Christenunie too much of a fringe party. There has always been a tradition of new parties doing well in elections when established parties became too arrogant (D66 started out that way) and LPF fitted in nicely. What is new is the margin with which they won, probalby explained by the combination of revulsion of Paars, the charisma of Fortuyn as well as the populistic message he brought of simle answers to complex problems.

It’s tempting to ask what would’ve happened if Fortuyn was still alive. Personally I think his party would’ve become even bigger as I think a lot of people who would’ve voted for him saw what a nitwits the rest of the party were and voted for others. The CDA, the christendemocrats profited from this, picking up Fortuyn voters as did the VVD perhaps, not as much in winning voters from them as in stopping losing voters to them. PvdA otoh and also Groen Links were I think damaged by the witchhunt against the left after Fortuyn’s murder, losing votes to CDA and LPF. For the SP, it mattered less, we stayed mostly out of it. The fact that we nearly doubled is also a sign that it wasn’t just a battle of left versus right wing parties.

I had intended to speculate about possible coalitions now as well but a) it’s late and b) I’m not
entirely sober anymore so I’ll save it till later.

Election Day

It’s finally election day and the polls are predicting that 90% of the twelve million people who can vote, will vote today. Which is an unheard of turnout. The previous two parlimentary elections, in 1994 and 1998 had an turnout of about 78 and 74 percent respectively [1]. According to News Planet at 15:45 42 percent of the voters had already voted, compared to just 38 percent in 1998. This included your humble narrator. I of course voted for the party I’m a member of, the SP and will be at the election party later this evening. How much of a party it will be after everything that happened this week is anybody’s guess.

And the same goes for the results of the election. With Fortuyn’s death it’s uncertain of the people who said they were going to vote for his party will still do so. On the one hand, some people may do so as a sign of respect, of grief and sympathy. On the other, many people are wondering whether voting for the Lijst Pim Fortuyn (LPF) without Pim Fortuyn is a sensible idea. Since Fortuyn’s death, the other LPF parlementary candidates have emerged from the shadows into the full glare of the media and are now seen for what they are.

I posted yesterday about how Peter “chairman-for-a-day” Langendam ranted about the leftie conspiracy against Fortuyn, but his is just the tip of the iceberg. Two other parlementary candidates made even worse remarks:

First there was porn king Eberhard who said the following in an somewhat incoherent
rant [2] about immigration:

“In 2015 is Amsterdam een negroide moslemstad, dan is de laatste oorspronkelijke bewoner neergestoken op de Zeedijk door iemand met een getinte huidskleur”.
(“In 2015 Amsterdam will be a negroid Muslimcity, with the last original inhabitant stabbed on the
Zeedijk by somebody with a tinted skincolour.”)

Then there was the horsebreeder Wiersma, whose views [2] were just as nuanced:

“Het biologisch fenomeen doet zich nu voor dat de meest succesvolle ondersoort bij de mensen;
het europese ras in aantal met rasse schreden achteruit gaat.”
(“The biological phenomenon now occurs that the most succesful human subspecies; the european race declines rapidly in number.”)

Not good for a party already suspected of being a platform for extreme rightwing, even racists views. No wonder both are already chucked out of [2] the party and will leave after the elections.

[1] Source: http://www.sp.nl/nieuws/kamer98/uitslag.stm
[2] Link leads to a Dutch language site