Joe Visconti: Face of the Duopoly / Chokwe Antar Lumumba Leads an Uprising in the South

by David Samuels
This column appears in the June 1 – 8 edition of the Hartford News.
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PROGRAM ALERT: The podcast of our May 30 show includes an analysis of the tentative concessions agreement between Gov. Dan Malloy and state employee unions.
Community Update
Joe Visconti & the Marketing of Candidates
Last week Republican gubernatorial candidate Joe Visconti was on Facebook, running his big mouth about state employees (I’m a state worker) . My brief exchange with Visconti confirmed what I always thought: Visconti is a corporatist blowhard, who can’t hang in a fact based conversation about policy. Visconti ducked my point about Minnesota Gov. Mark Dayton turning a $6 billion budget deficit into a $1 billion surplus, by increasing the tax rate on individuals earning $150,000 and couples earning $250,000 when filing jointly. He also wouldn’t address my point about CT companies stashing $40 billion in offshore accounts. Like liberals, Visconti suffers from selective outrage. If you visit Visconti’s campaign website, you will see Donald Trump worship, vague assurances about how Visconti and the Republicans will save the state, plenty of Democrat bashing and a fully functioning donation button. What you won’t find is a policy plan, with specific details. Visconti bailed out of our conversation after I corrected his assumption that I was a Democrat, and told him that the Dems and Republicans are the common denominator in this country’s problems. 
Visconti is the face of the political duopoly, asking voters to continue the insane practice of bouncing back and forth between the two major parties, punishing the incumbent party by running to the other when they’re inevitably dissatisfied with the results. Would you use that strategy if you were having a health crisis, and two doctors couldn’t fix the problem? No, you would find another doctor. Quickly… Visconti, who is ripping off Trump’s maverick populist act, is no different from the average poitician: he markets himself like a product. Movies such as A Face in the Crowd starring Andy Griffith have commented on politicians selling themselves with slogans, while avoiding specifics regarding policy.
Visconti, like Gov. Dan Malloy and the other neoliberal Democrats that he ridicules, have zero interest in serving the people. Their constituency is the rich and corporations.There are Democrats like Dayton, Rep. Josh Elliott and Jackson, Mississippi’s next mayor, Chokwe Antar Lumumba, whose policies do actually benefit poor and working class people, but they are a tiny minority. Perhaps that will start to change with the 2018 elections, but the Democrats at their core cannot be reformed. We need an independent, grassroots political movement. The Democrats and Republicans are swimming in corporate money. Their polices reflect this.   
Visconti is currently a fringe candidate because he lacks Trump’s charisma, but is still dangerous because he’s an extremist who emulates Trump’s exploitation of white fear, racism and Islamophobia. Trump’s tweet storm last Sunday did not include one word about Army veteran Sgt. Ricky Best, 53 and Reed College graduate Taliesin Myrddin Namkai Meche, 23, who lost their lives last Friday defending a Muslim girl and her friend from a racist attack by domestic terrorist Jeremy Christian, 35. A third man, 21-year-old Micah Fletcher, suffered minor injuries as he also tried to stop the attack. Trump’s hate speech against Muslims resulted in a spike in hate crimes and the number of hate groups in the U.S. since the 2016 presidential election.
Face the State: Cadillac vs. Bentley
Last Sunday WFSB Face the State co-hosts Susan Raff and Dennis House, two unapologetic corporatists, interviewed insurance broker Jonathan Schulman about state employee concessions. Raff described benefits for the public sector (largest employer of Black people and women) as the “Cadillac plan”. If I have a Cadillac, corporate executives’ benefits are a Bentley dealership. Mother Jones reported on Wall Street executives at AIG Financial Products, Citigroup, Bank of America and other companies who reaped hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses, AFTER they crashed the economy in 2008 and received a taxpayer funded bailout. The real issue is private sector workers getting jerked on their benefits, while their bosses sit on gold toilets. State employees have agreed to concessions twice since 2009.
Schulman supports Hartford filing for bankruptcy; in Detroit this move proved to be catastrophic for city employees, who were threatened with a 26% cut to their pensions, and a windfall for predatory banks. More details in coming weeks.
Colin Kaepernick
The Seattle Seahawks are interested in signing free agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who has been blackballed by the NFL for his national anthem protest. The fact that teams have welcomed players with criminal histories, while shunning Kaepernick speaks for itself. Kaepernick bashers have made the argument that Kaepernick’s 2016 statistics, which compare favorably with Carolina Panthers star QB Cam Newton, were racked up in garbage time playing for a bad team, but the fact that Kaepernick hasn’t at least been offered a job as a backup is ridiculous, and a clear indicator that Kapernick’s protest is the reason.  
Policy Watch
Black Nationalist Chokwe Antar Lumumba Leads a Political Revolution
“On November 9, people across the left woke up and wondered, ‘What do I do now? Under total Republican control, how does one fight for progressive change?’ Kali Akuno, the co-founder of Cooperation Jackson, a workers’ cooperative in Jackson, Mississippi, has been grappling with that question for years, and believes his organization provides a good model for progressives who still want to effect change under President Trump. When Donald Trump was elected, Akuno felt like he could tell the rest of the country: ‘Welcome to Mississippi.’ ”    Peter Moskowitz, The Nation
Gov. Dan Malloy and his fellow neoliberal Democrats in the Connecticut General Assembly will only keep urban areas like Hartford’s North End poor, while they serve the ruling class. Malloy and the Democratic controlled legislature are right now carrying out their yearly attack on the public sector: 4200 state workers face layoffs, if they don’t ratify the tentative concessions agreement between Malloy and state employee unions. State workers have agreed to concessions twice since 2009. While Malloy and his party partner with the GOP to deprive communities of color of jobs and resources, ensuring that poverty and racial wage / wealth disparities continue to grow in Hartford (along with the murder rate), Trump’s victory over Hillary Clinton is proving to be a tipping point. 46 million voters stayed home, because they rightfully saw no difference between the Democrats and Republicans, two wings of the same corporate controlled war party.
Chokwe Antar Lumumba is a Democrat in name only; his policy agenda is everything the Democrats hate. Lumumba is carrying on the work of his father Chokwe Lumumba (a self-described Fannie Lou Hamer Democrat), a Black nationalist who was elected mayor of Jackson in 2013, but died suddenly eight months into his first term. Like his father, Lumumba is partnering with Cooperation Jackson, and ran on a platform of participatory democracy and cooperative economics. Lumumba won the Jackson mayoral primary May 2, easily defeating neoliberal Democrat incumbent Tony Yarber. The June 6 general election is expected to be a formality, as Jackson is a heavily Democratic city. Read on for the Cooperation Jackson policy agenda, which appears on their website. The Community Party will provide updates on the Lumumba administration, which will serve as a model for communities of color nationwide.
Below is a portion of the Cooperation Jackson economic policy plan. The full plan is available at their website.
Cooperation Jackson has crafted its own definition, values and principles of cooperatives and democratic organizations by drawing on the definitions, values and principles of Mondragón and the International Cooperative Alliance that address our vision and context.
A cooperative is an autonomous association of persons united voluntarily to meet their common economic, social, and cultural needs and aspirations through a jointly owned and democratically controlled enterprise.
Co-operatives are based on the values of self-help, self-responsibility, democracy, equality, equity and solidarity. In the tradition of their founders, co-operative members believe in the ethical values of honesty, openness, social responsibility and caring for others.
The cooperative principles are guidelines by which cooperatives put their values into practice.
Voluntary and Open Membership: Cooperatives are voluntary organizations, open to all who agree with the cooperative principles who are able to use its services and willing to accept the responsibilities of membership, without gender, social, racial, political or religious discrimination.
Democratic Member Control: The cooperative system is based upon the equality of member-workers or cooperators. Aside from limited and special circumstances all workers must be members. The cooperative is democratically controlled on the basis of one member, one vote; its governing structures are democratically controlled and are also responsible to the general assembly or other elected body.
Sovereignty of Labor: Labor is the essential transformative facto of society. The cooperatives renounce wage labor, give full power to the owner-workers to control the co-ops, give primacy to workers in distribution of surpluses, and work to extend the cooperative choice to all members of society.
Autonomy and Independence: Cooperatives are autonomous, self-help organizations controlled by their members. If the co-op enters into agreements with other organizations or raises capital from external sources, it is done so based on terms that ensure democratic control by the members and maintains the cooperative’s autonomy.
Instrumental and Subordinated Character of Capital: Capital is basically accumulated labor and a necessary factor in business development and savings. The co-ops pay a just but limited return on capital saved or invested, a return that is not directly tied to the losses or surpluses of the co-ops. Their need for capital shall not impede the principle of open admission, but co-op members must make a substantial, affordable, and equal financial investment in the cooperative. At present, this membership contribution is equal to a year’s salary of the lowest-paid member.
Members’ Economic Participation: Members contribute equally to, and democratically control, the capital of the cooperative. This benefits members based on the proportion of contributed labor or hours worked or the level of business they conduct with the cooperative rather than on the capital invested.
Self-Management: Cooperation involves both collective effort and individual responsibility. Cooperation “is the development of the individual not against others but with others.” Democratic control means participation in management and the ongoing development of the skills needed for self-management. There must be clear information available on the co-op’s operations, systematic training of owner-workers, internal promotion for management positions, and consultations and negotiations with all cooperators in organizational decisions that affect them.
Pay Solidarity: The co-ops will practice both internal and external pay solidarity. Internally, the total pay differential between the lowest and the highest paid member shall not exceed a factor of one to six.
Community Party urban policy paper:
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