State Surveillance: The Late Capitalist Crack Down on Dissent

Okay, so you all know, from being forced to read 1984 in high school, about the horrors of a totalitarian state that monitors your every move, right? The old saying of “Big Brother Is Watching“ was a consolidation of the paranoia inculcated in people who were forced to live under a highly repressive state. Now we read that in school for many reasons, but a major reason was propaganda: because when you closed that book, you were supposed to feel relieved, and you might even have felt a slight upsurge of patriotism! The class discussion that followed surely involved discourse about freedom and liberty and democracy, the favorite buzzwords of the US Empire, and virtually everyone in class implicitly believed that we were safe from that sort of repression here in the United States.

Ah, the naivete’ of childhood! How romantic! How ignorant!

Well my friends, as we’ve discussed many times on this podcast, this country has always been an authoritarian state. It has always been totalitarian and repressive and violent. Maybe not in the suburbs and in the boardrooms, but definitely in poor communities and in communities of color, and certainly in any other country that doesn’t toe the imperial-capitalist line. And when we talk about totalitarianism, we should always remember that while we have only 5% of the world’s population in the United States, we have 25% of the world’s prisoners. The fact that anyone can still call this shithole country “the land of the free” with a straight face is as absurd as it is a testament to the power of propaganda and social conditioning.

However, the violence and totalitarian nature of our society has always been hidden from view, obscured by popular culture. As Guy Debord argues in his book The Society of the Spectacle, reality in our society is mediated by images and abstract concepts. We are not in touch with how things actually are, we are only in touch with a spectacular representation of how things are. And that representation is always an illusion. An illusion meant to pacify us and to lure us into a sedated acquiescence so that the ruling class can continue dominating every corner of the planet without us getting in their way. Now this isn’t done in some conspiratorial way. There is no fucking illuminati who sit in some secret room and plan all of this out. Folks who fall prey to such conspiratorial thinking are alienated, lost, confused neoliberal subjects who find a sort of pathetic comfort in false knowledge. No, these things are an organic result of the internal logic of capitalism. They are systematic, institutional, and operate above the level of any group of plotting individuals. The ruling class itself, as Marx argued over 150 years ago, is often bitterly divided, at odds, factionalized, etc., unable to cohere into a conspiratorial cadre who run the world. And of course, its worth noting, that these conspiracy theories are all rooted in deep anti-semitism that is inherently reactionary. And while these Alex Jones types use a lot of different words to describe the people they think run the planet, the word “jew” is always lurking just below the surface. We should remember that, and call that shit out whenever we come across it.

But I digress! The point of all of this is to lead into this brand new story that I want to inform you all about. One of the tricks of repressive governments is to create such an atmosphere of paranoia that they don’t need to monitor every individual directly, instead individuals end up monitoring one another. In Newark NJ this month, the police department have implemented a monitoring system, almost exactly like Project Green Light in Detroit which bones covered a few weeks ago, where hundreds of cameras are going up in neighborhoods. They have already installed 62, and by the end of this year, they will have put up 300 more. These cameras are on 24-7, monitoring everything and everyone one at all times. But here is the kicker: There are not some paid group of people sitting behind those cameras watching you, that would be inefficient. Instead, anyone with an email address can log into the Newark Police Department website, create an account, and within seconds can have access to any camera they want to. There is no application process. There are no requirements. Literally all you need is an email address and an internet connection, and you can become one of thousands of little Big Brothers; watching your neighbors every move, and reporting anything you think looks suspicious directly to the police! Is that two friends exchanging CDs, or is that a drug deal? Better call the cops! Is that a couple laughing together, or is that a domestic dispute? Better call the cops, just to make sure! Is the black kid with a hoodie just walking home from the store, or is that a dangerous thug looking for his next victim? Fuck it, call the cops!

Now, a couple important points need to be made here:

1) As we’ve covered countless times on this podcast, and as literally every single one of you knows very well, the cops do not solve anything. They are cowards and criminals. They kill people of color with no accountability, they shoot family pets, beat up disabled people, sexually assault women. Calling the cops is almost always an escalation of a situation. And this new camera system will definitely result in more calls to the cops, and that means more cops being involved in more situations, which is never a good thing.

2) If I asked you to guess which part of Newark these cameras were going up in, where would you guess? The wealthier neighborhoods or the poor neighborhoods? The predominantly white neighborhoods, or the predominantly black and brown neighborhoods? Well, I don’t even have to fucking say it. You know exactly where they are going.

3) Since anyone can tap into these cameras, anyone can call the cops based on anything. Its not just people who live in the neighborhood, and who might know the people they are seeing on the screen, that have access to these things. Any busybody with time to kill can access them. And who do you think are the sort of people who are most likely to take advantage of this? Do you think its young people with a lot of friends and hobbies? Do you think its progress or leftist organizations and individuals? Or do you think it will disproportionately be the same sort of nosy, racist, often retired old white people who sit at home and watch fox news all day? Will it be the Bretts’ and Bones’ of the world that will be monitoring these communities, or will it be the George Zimmerman’s of the world? We all know the answer to that…

4) Lastly, this is happening at the same time that Amazon is pitching its facial recognition software to police departments around the country. So while, in places like Newark and Detroit, the cameras might not have that specific ability yet, the moment that that technology becomes available, the infrastructure will already be there, and the programs will simply need to be upgraded. In a very real way, they are laying the groundwork for a monitoring grid that will only become increasingly sharpened and precise. And when we do hit the streets in protest of whatever new crimes are being committed by our government in the very near future, they will be able to find out where we are and who we are at any given moment. And when you look at the J-20 charges, for example, and you see the lengths that the State is willing to go when they have us in their grasp, the prospect of cameras with facial recognition software on every block becomes even more nefarious. They are building an apparatus of repression that will be, and already is being, weaponized against marginalized communities and, importantly, against dissent.

They are preparing for chaos in the streets. Are you?

So, as neoliberal late capitalism hits its global limits, and as the logic and momentum of capitalism force the ruling class and its political representatives to resort to increasingly violent and repressive measures to protect its continued existence, these sorts of programs will become ubiquitous. But unlike the stories we read as children, the transition will not be stark. It won’t happen overnight. It won’t be sudden, and most people won’t even know it’s happening at all. Rather, it’s the slow, incremental creep of repressive laws, mechanisms, and monitoring systems that are ALREADY being rolled out that, like vines wrapping themselves around a statue over the course of years, will eventually come to coil around our own soft fleshy necks and squeeze… and at that point, it may be too late.

You see, we are already living in the prologue to 1984, it just happens to be 2018…


My May Day Rally Speech, 2018

On this May Day I want to remind all of us of the honorable tradition that we stand firmly in. A tradition of regular people, always poor and working class, standing up against monsters of all kinds. This holiday that we call May Day was forged right here in America; forged atop stolen land by those who were brutally oppressed and exploited by the very class structure that tore its way through this land; rooted in genocide, built by slavery, and maintained through endless imperialism. From the first time colonizers touched foot on the shores of this New World, there has been resistance from the our indigenous brothers and sisters who, for millennia, called this land home. From the first time slave masters operationalized capitalist logic by kidnapping Africans from their homes and bringing them here to profit off their forced labor, there has been resistance from our African brothers and sister who stood up and rebelled against their oppressors. From the first time Chinese and Latinx people were imported by capitalists to build railroads and grow food in horrific conditions for little to no pay, immigrants of all stripes have resisted their exploitation and fought for basic human dignity and fair pay. From the first time women were subjugated to second class citizen status in a brutal patriarchal order which viewed them as the property of men, women have organized and fought back against gendered violence and oppression. And, from the earliest days of industrial capitalism, where working people of all stripes, including children, were mercilessly used, grinded to dust by toil, and thrown away by the owning class who viewed them as nothing more than mere commodities, the proletariat have armed and defended themselves and shed blood, often times their own, in the name of liberation.

It is this struggle, this lineage, and this tradition that we all stand in and that we honor today. And lets talk about today! Today, the three richest American men own more wealth than the bottom 50% of Americans *Combined*. Today, over 50 million Americans live below the poverty line, struggling to keep a roof over their head, food in their bellies, and medicine in the cabinet. Today, 25% of the worlds prisoners, an astounding 1/4th of all people locked in cages on Planet Earth, are locked in cages here in the United States of America. Today, the environment is being systematically destroyed in the zealous pursuit of profit at all costs as our children’s futures are sacrificed on the altar of endless growth. Today, trillions upon trillions of our tax dollars are funneled away from social programs like healthcare and education and into the pockets of arms manufacturers who produce weapons and bombs that are dropped on the heads of innocent human beings across the planet.

The struggles of our ancestors, who created this holiday we are celebrating right now by spilling their blood in the name of better wages, better working conditions, and a better life for their families, continues to this day. We are not trying to start a class war, how could we? Class war has already been raging for centuries. We are already in it; and the ruling class, the capitalist class, the owning class, what we Marxists call The Bourgeoisie, have been winning. We are merely standing up, as poor and working people, and defending ourselves in a class war that explodes all around us every single day.

We want a better world, a more equal world. A world where systematic oppression, injustice, exploitation, and endless war are tossed into the dustbin of history, and where every human being can live a life worth living. A life where their physical material needs, as well as their mental and emotional needs, are systematically met by society, not sneered at and neglected.

Our rulers want us to believe that there is no alternative. That this is the best we can do as a society and as a species; just like Kings and Queens of the past told their subjects that their role as rulers was ordained by God, and that nothing could be done about it. But we reject this cynicism and defeatism. We reject the lies of our masters who live lives of unimaginable luxury and comfort on the back of the international working class.

A better world is possible. A world where people of all colors, all religions, all genders, all ethnicities, and all orientations can come together in cooperation and solidarity and build a sustainable, egalitarian world.

It is true that our flag is red with the blood of our martyrs. It is true that our society is burdened by the weight of dead generations. It is true that the forces of fascist reaction and neoliberal exploitation are on the move, looking to divide us so that we can more easily be crushed. But when I look out at all of you today, and when I think of the hundreds of thousands of similar rallies being held all over the planet as I speak, my heart swells with hope and optimism. This system, and the vampires perched atop its unjust hierarchies of wealth and power, cannot last forever. And with every blow they strike against us, with every pound of pressure used to push their boots further into our throats, and with every cynical attempt to confuse and pacify us with their ideological conditioning, we are roused out of our sleep a little bit more.

Lets live lives of meaning. Lets engage in the struggle for liberation. Lets fight back against those who want nothing more than for us to go to our meaningless jobs everyday obediently, who want us to consume their shitty plastic products endlessly, and who want us, when we’ve exhausted our bodies and minds working for them, to fall silently into our graves and hand over our children to their domination in the process.

We have nothing to lose but our chains.
Solidarity to all oppressed people.

Big Pharma Price Fixing, Criminal Collusion, and the Failure of Capitalism

Here is a story I bet you haven’t heard about: recently a conspiracy has been uncovered, one that impacts peoples basic healthcare, and one that highlights, with obscene clarity, the irredeemable incentive system embedded inside capitalism.

Forty-five states and the Department of Justice are suing generic drug maker companies for colluding with one another to rig the bidding process whereby pharmacies decide which company to purchase generic drugs from. The lawsuit alleges that “the companies would work out in advance who would get the lowest price and then the other competitors would put in what they call a cover bid”. These so-called “cover bids” are a way to give the illusion of competitive bidding while, behind the scenes, the companies work out a deal on setting prices, dividing up customers, and staging the bids such that they appear to be making these transactions in a transparent and open marketplace.

The result of this devious and criminal scheming among powerful companies is that average people see a significant increase in their health insurance premiums and their copays, and what little social safety nets we have for the poor and the elderly, Medicare and Medicaid, were forced to overspend dramatically on the drugs. These programs, of course, are tax payer funded, meaning even if you haven’t spent money on premiums or copays in the last 5 to 10 years (which is highly unlikely), your tax dollars still went to line the pockets of criminal corporations.

So far, two executives from Heritage Pharmaceuticals have pleaded guilty to antitrust crimes and are revealing information to prosecutors. Among the revelations unveiled thus far, is the fact that the two executives helped rig prices on a common antibiotic which shot the price of that antibiotic up 8,000 percent. Yes, 8 THOUSAND percent. Imagine a single parent who has a sick child who can barely afford rent and groceries having to pay 8 thousand percent more money for a necessary medication while being clueless to the fact that they are being literally robbed to enrich some of the richest, greediest fucking scumbags on the planet.

But antibiotic medicine is just the tip of the iceberg; the information coming out from the investigation implicates countless other drugs whose prices were also artificially inflated, ranging from diabetes medicine to heart medicine to antidepressants to anti-fungal medication. The full spectrum of these crimes is still being uncovered, but the investigation is also pointing to drug distribution companies, of which there are only three or four large ones, as well; meaning this criminal scheme almost certainly extends well beyond generic drug makers to implicate the entire supply and distribution chain.

But here is the kicker that I want all of you to understand: even if all of this is uncovered, and these companies are found guilty of this horrendous crime, none of them will go to jail. The companies in question will merely have to pay a settlement to the groups and people effected. Now, for those groups and individuals, that’s a nice monetary win, but with companies that make such extreme profits, these settlement pay-outs won’t sink them. They will be right back in their cushy office chairs finding new ways to rob people in no time.
These are the real criminals of our society. These are the people who ruin lives for profit. These are powerful institutions with war-chests of profits who can afford to take these risks because when the house of cards inevitably collapses, and they are found guilty, they never have to worry about being locked in a cage. No, that sort of barbaric punishment is reserved for poor and working people who sell drugs on the street to make ends meet, not the gigantic corporations who sell drugs on the market to make profit.
There are two America’s, and two Justice Systems: one for the rich and powerful, and one for the rest of us.

Beyond that, it’s also an absolute shattering of the absurd capitalist apologia which wants to assert that competition drives down prices and that the free market is the best way to organize and distribute goods and necessities. The last thing these corporations want is competition, and when you get a handful of them together, not unlike getting a handful of Mafia bosses together, they will collude and scheme and divvy up the market amongst themselves to their mutual benefit. These corporations, driven entirely by the incessant thirst for profits at all costs, realize it makes much more sense for all of them to come together and rig the bidding process so that prices across the board go up then it does for them to compete to drive prices down. So I’m sorry, all you little capitalist sycophantic fucks, but just because capitalism looks good on paper doesn’t mean it works in practice…

And finally, it’s worth saying this again and again: get these fucking corporate vampires the fuck out of our healthcare system. Healthcare is a human right, it is not a commodity. People should have access to treatment and medicine regardless of how much money they make, and no one should be able to profit off of human suffering. Socialized healthcare and socialized medicine is the only way to truly stop this criminal bullshit once and for all. And I dream fondly of a day when these corporate executives are stripped of every last penny they have, robbed of their companies and everything they’ve built on the broken down backs of poor and working people, and subjected to the real revolutionary justice they fucking deserve.

Mass Shootings and Gun Control: Building A Leftist Approach

In the wake of yet another mass shooting, our society is once again abuzz with talk of guns, gun control, and how we can prevent these events from happening in the future. These discussions, especially when they occur online or on cable news, are nauseatingly over-simplified and all nuance is extracted from the conversation in favor of absurd false dichotomies and partisan rhetoric. This puts leftists in odd positions. I’ve seen my fellow comrades fall prey to these false dichotomies as well, and some of the rhetoric I hear coming from the left is indistinguishable from rhetoric coming from the far right. That’s a big problem. If we are going to defend gun ownership for the working class and for marginalized communities, we need to do it in a way that clearly differentiates us from both the liberal center and the reactionary right. Therefore, I am going to spend time going through the nuance and complexity of these issues in hopes of clarifying what a principled leftist stand could look like. Not everyone listening is going to agree with everything I say, and that is fine. But by introducing nuance into this discussion, and attempting to parse out the complexities involved, I hope to at least move the ball forward on what should be a uniquely revolutionary left wing perspective on guns, mass shootings, and how we should think about them.

First and foremost, we need to be extremely clear on what causes mass shootings in our society. When we fail to give a structural, materialist, and radical critique of the *causes* of such events, we help facilitate and perpetuate the shallowness of liberal and conservative analysis. For example, when someone says that music, film and video games are responsible for violence in our society, they are conflating causes and effects and therefore they are offering up a weak, highly confused, obscurantist surface level analysis, and we, as revolutionary leftists, have a responsibility to push back against it. Mass shootings, like violence in music, movies and games, are all *manifestations* of a violent culture. They are all *effects* of a violent and alienating system, not *causes*. When people blame these things for gun violence, they are blaming symptoms for causing other symptoms; and that obscures the fact that all of the violence in our popular culture are effects, not causes, of a much deeper disease in our society and collective psyche. We live in a liberal capitalist society that is rooted in bourgeois individualism; this society atomizes us into individual consumers and workers, and in the process it strips us of any sense of collective belonging or community. This deeply alienates us from ourselves, our community, and our environment because it is absolutely antithetical to our nature as social apes. We evolved for hundreds of thousands of years in tight-knit tribes or villages; it is wired into our DNA to be embedded inside strong, resilient communities that share the burden of life, that have one another’s backs, that take care of the weakest members of the collective, and that form deep bonds not only between families and friends, but between all members of the community. So it is absurdly ironic that defenders of this system so often rely on arguments about capitalism being exclusively conducive to human nature while things like socialism and anarchism are framed as being against our human nature. There are very few claims as empirically incorrect as this claim. Regardless of what your views on human nature are, if they are at all rooted in science and anthropology, as they should be, the notion that free market capitalism is conducive to our nature as human beings is patently laughable. Nothing is more alien to us, as social apes who evolved as we did, than the sort of societies and social relations that arise out of capitalist economies; Karl Marx was making this argument over a century and half ago. Nothing is natural about slums, about homelessness, about infinite growth, about our relationship to nature, about commodity fetishism, about wage labor, and about consumerism.

These things are as incompatible to our nature as one can possibly imagine. So when we begin to see huge patterns of anti-social, sociopathic mass violence like we have seen in this country in the form of mass shootings, what we are seeing is the human psyche cracking under the pressures of a society that is deeply sick and thoroughly irreconcilable with an anthropological conception of what makes human beings flourish. This psychological splintering and social alienation is then funneled through violent and abusive right-wing ideologies, and what comes out the other side is something we’ve all seen a million times in this society: indiscriminate male violence. We should never stop making this point, and we should direct conversations about what causes mass shootings in this direction anytime we get the chance to.

Beyond the evolutionary analysis, we have to look at our country and its history. This is a country literally founded on genocide and slavery and colonialism. This is a country mired in mass violence, from its bloody roots to the furthest extensions of its macabre branches. Not only was the United States established in bloodshed, it actively and presently perpetuates itself through brutal violence, both at home and abroad. From cops murdering black children, to drones blowing up wedding parties, to nuclear bombs dropped on the heads of innocent Japanese toddlers and mothers, to murderous coups funded and orchestrated by the CIA all over the world, to the very economic system which lies at its core and pushes people to sleep in gutters and under bridges, this country is dripping from head to toe, and out of every pore, with the blood of innocent human beings. Is it any wonder that it so routinely vomits up mass shooters? Of course not. Any so-called analysis which wants to focus on something as fucking absurd as video games to explain this shit is fucking embarrassing, and we should ridicule it mercilessly every goddamn time we hear it, or anything like it, propped up as if it were some sort of deep, penetrating insight. The reason that liberals and conservatives wont, and perhaps literally cant, see the deeper causes at play is because their very ideologies are manifestations of the same base system that gives rise to the violence in the first place. To point the finger at the deeper, structural diseases of our society would be to point the finger at themselves and the system they prop up. So they will never do it. It’s our responsibility to make sure we do.

Now, let’s turn from the problems to the solutions. How should we as leftists think about and frame possible solutions to these issues? Well, clearly, we want to create a new society that, at least in the ways I described above, is the complete opposite of the society we have now. But in the meantime people are dying, and we have to figure out ways to address it inside the horrific confines of the system we are currently forced to live and operate in. First and foremost, we have to distance ourselves from right wing rhetoric in as clear and stark a way as possible. So even when we are defending our rights to own guns, we have to constantly be showing how reactionaries get it wrong, and a big part of that is ruthlessly attacking the NRA constantly. The NRA is not some grassroots movement dedicated to protecting all of our rights to gun ownership. It is a thoroughly reactionary organization, organized and funded by arms manufacturers, with the primary goal of keeping profits as high as possible for gun companies. As an organization, they are dedicated to upholding whiteness and reactionary politics aimed at marginalizing poor people and people of color. The NRA is a perfect manifestation of reactionary politics and capitalist depravity. They literally profit off of bloodshed and chaos. The more scared you are, the more racist you are, the more you feel as if your country is being taken over by “Others”, the more likely you are to buy guns. And that is why the NRA is dedicated to keeping our society as chaotic and steeped in the blood of innocent children as possible. Just look at their primary solution to the problem of school shootings, which Trump has been parroting like a good little stooge every chance he gets: arming teachers. Now, I could go on for days talking about how teachers are underpaid and overworked, how disgusting it is that the solution from the right is to have teachers pick up yet another burden, and how arming teachers and installing metal detectors only blur the ever-thinning line between school and prison; but the main point here is that the NRA, and the gun companies who are behind it, would profit off this. Teachers being armed would mean more guns being sold, and that’s the bottom line. That is why Trump is so obsessed with this talking point, and that is why every time the NRA talks about possible solutions to mass shootings, it always involves more guns being in more hands. It’s all about profit, baby. Pure, unadulterated, blood-soaked profit. Never stop screaming this fact at the top of your lungs. Fuck the NRA.

Let’s turn now to liberals. What are the solutions being thrown around in the liberal and centrist circles of the country? Well, the conversation in liberal circles is certainly more sophisticated than the conversations in reactionary circles, but that’s a damn low bar. The liberal solutions are exactly what we would expect them to be: lets make more laws! Now, in my opinion, this isn’t all bad. I think we make a big mistake as leftists if we refuse to entertain any sort of policy reforms that could save lives. I am a father of two children, and an uncle to 4 nieces and nephews; all of whom I love dearly and most of whom are school aged. The other day, my 7 year old nephew was crying before school, and my sister heard him so she went over and asked him what was wrong, and what he said brought tears to my eyes. He said: “I am scared to go to school mommy. Im so scared to die.” Now if that doesn’t break your fucking heart, you either don’t have any kids in your life or you don’t have a pulse. As sick and depraved as our society is, when little innocent children are forced to think like this, its truly gone beyond the pale. And Ill say it right now: the right for any of our children to live and get a safe education trumps the right for some 19 year old asshole white supremacist to get a fucking gun. If that strikes you as controversial, I don’t know what to tell you. But Ill go to war to make sure my kids are safe. Having said that, though, I am also a gun owner and someone who believes that as long as fascists have guns, as long as pigs have guns, as long as every dumbass with a MAGA hat has guns, I’m going to have guns and Im going to defend my family and my community by any means necessary. And I will fight any law that tries to take that right away from me. On one of our most recent episodes of Revolutionary Left Radio, I talked to the anarchist organizer and longtime armed antifascist Scott Crow about community armed self-defense and about gun control laws. Scott said something really important; he said: “When it comes to laws we must always remember that they are reactionary, bureaucratic, arbitrary, and selectively enforced”, and I couldn’t agree with that more. So if we are going to make any laws surrounding any aspect of gun control, we have to keep this firmly in mind. And as long as we are talking about laws, we have to also remember that broad laws aimed at eradicating social ills are almost always used as pretexts to invade, attack, and occupy vulnerable and marginalized communities. If certain guns get banned, the US government has shown that it’s not going to focus its energy on right-wing militias and fascist groups, they will focus their energies on minority communities and left wing movements that actually challenge the status quo and the hierarchies of class, gender, and race that hold it in place. You cannot legislate away social problems like this; the root causes are much too deep. That’s not to say no policy reforms can be helpful; I think we can do meaningful things with common sense regulations. But we always have to keep in mind how this government and its agencies operate *in practice* instead of holding onto some ideal of how they could operate in theory. Think of drug laws: cops are not breaking down the doors to suburban homes and corporate board rooms looking for drugs (even though drugs are used at the same general rates across race and class); instead they use drug laws as a pretext to infiltrate and attack poor and working class communities; especially poor and working communities of color, to get black and brown folks into prison so that they can then profit off their labor and keep these communities thoroughly occupied and in check. Gun laws will be used the EXACT same way. And we should never stop reminding liberals of this.

So, with all of this in our minds, what should we as leftists do? Should we oppose any and all gun control laws, and align ourselves with the likes of Trump and the NRA? Hell no. Should we push for sweeping laws aimed at taking guns out of the hands of poor and working people, leaving pigs, fascists, and the US government at an even larger advantage? Hell no.
We should articulate a position wholly different from both. We should support certain reforms and we should oppose others. We should stake out ground that challenges narratives on both the right and the center. This means constantly deepening the analysis with regards to what causes these problems. This means drawing clear distinctions between ourselves as revolutionary leftists and all other positions. And yes, this means putting forward a different set of possible reforms while always embedding those policy proposals in a deeper context which asserts that the only real solution to mass shootings, and the underlying social ills that give rise to them so routinely, is a radically different society.

So here are some policy reforms that I came up with that would meet the requirements of everything I just said. Now, these are not perfect, and I am totally open to constructive criticism regarding them. The goal here is simply to get us started thinking and talking about what a left wing approach to these problems should look like. Because as long as we have to live in this horrific system, we should take clear, concrete positions that help reduce the amount of suffering it causes. So here they are:

1) Anyone with a documented history of domestic violence, stalking, sexual assault, or any sort of abuse towards women or children, will be prevented from owning weapons. This must be applied evenly across race and class. Most mass shooters have some of this in their background. (Closing loop holes that allow people to by-pass background checks is essential to this)

2) Expanding healthcare to a Medicare For All structure, on the way to a nationalized universal healthcare system, with robust sectors dedicated to mental health treatment regardless of one’s income. The effects of alienation on people often manifest as mental illness. I am NOT saying that mass shootings are caused by mental illness. But as someone who has suffered enormously from anxiety, and has been hospitalized for clinical depression, I don’t think its controversial to suggest that alienation causes a lot psychological problems for many of us, and a healthcare system which understands this and is accessible can only be beneficial.

3) Anyone under the age of 25 who purchases a gun should be forced to partake in formal training conducted by vetted guides trained in identifying people who are at risk for violent behavior. This would give necessary training to young people, and create another protection against young men who want to shoot up schools. Many mass shootings, especially school shootings, are conducted by white men in their late teens and early 20s and loads of evidence in neuroscience suggest that the pre-frontal cortex, the part of the brain which regulates impulse control and is involved with weighing long term consequences against short term actions, among many other things, does not fully develop until around age 25. So this has scientific foundations and empirical legitimacy; it’s not merely arbitrary.

4) Penalties for parents whose children use their weapons to assault and murder other people. Parents should be held to a very high standard regarding keeping their guns out of their children’s hands. As a parent who owns high powered weaponry, it is a primary concern for me to not only educate my children on guns, but to make damn sure they don’t have access to them.

5) Implementing harsh penalties against the FBI and specific FBI agents who are alerted about a possible threat but refuse to investigate, if that threat goes on to kill innocent people. The FBI was alerted about this latest killer, and there was plenty of evidence to support the claim. Yet they did nothing. The FBI should be held accountable for their failures. This does not mean the FBI can harass or infringe on anyone’s rights. It simply means they will be held accountable when they fail to do their job. Even though our long term goal is to abolish the FBI, in the meantime this sort of policy would have the fortunate side effect of making them take right wing extremism far more seriously than they do, since the vast majority of mass shootings in this country are carried out by right-wing, white men.

6) Anyone involved in Far Right wing groups which advocate for the forced removal of other human beings from society and/or which advocates for any form of genocide, will not be allowed to purchase a gun. Moreover, Nazi and White Supremacist groups should be officially and formally labeled as terrorist organizations akin to ISIS. The far right is the only political formation in our society over the past half century which routinely and consistently throws up mass shooters. This makes them a unique segment of the population worthy of disarming.

7) Disarm the Police. Even though, again, our long term goal is prison abolition and the abolition of police, as long as we are stuck with them, we should equip them only with non-lethal weaponry. They never actually stop mass shootings anyway. During the most recent school shooting, 4 armed police on the scene during the shooting cowered behind barricades outside, while the shooter was inside murdering children and teachers. So if all they do is either kill innocent, unarmed people OR cower behind cover when push comes to shove, then what the fuck do they need guns for?

8) End corporate lobbying by groups like the NRA, and sever the economic and political ties between the NRA and gun manufacturers. Its not right that those who profit off the selling of weapons can have an exaggerated influence on our political system. The NRA is merely the mouthpiece of gun companies meant to keep profits up. They serve no socially beneficial role and have a disproportionate amount of influence in congress. If the NRA refuses to abide by anti-lobbying laws, they are to be dismantled as an organization. If they want to advocate for gun rights, they can do so without economic and political connections to companies who profit off slaughter.

So there it is. This is not meant to be exhaustive, and I am sure there is plenty to critique here. But everything I’ve said in this long monologue should at least be genuinely engaged with, and thought about deeply and critically by all of us. We have to be involved in these crucial social movements, we have to offer concrete solutions to social problems, and we have to offer a vision of a better world to people who are sick of this shit. We cannot stand back and let the reactionaries and liberals dominate the conversation.

The Black Panther Party

Authors of “When Theory Meets Practice: The Black Panther Party’s Brief but Unignorable Four Years in Boston”, Prasanna Rajaskearan and Joe Tache join Brett to discuss the history and philosophy of The Black Panther Party. 

Topics include: Malcolm X, black nationalism, Marxism, the Rainbow Coalition, the Boston chapter of the BPP, the FBI, Maoism, Huey Newton, Fred Hampton, Angela Davis, feminism in the party, and much, much more.

Our guests can be found on twitter: @pvrajasekaran and @thejoetache 



Outro Music: “Police State” by Dead Prez off the album “Lets Get Free”

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Intro Music by The String-Bo String Duo. You can listen and support their music here:
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Episode 2: GOP Tax Bill, Net Neutrality, Police Brutality, and The Informal Anarchist Federation

On episode two of The Guillotine, Dr. Bones from the Conjure House and Brett from Revolutionary Left Radio discuss the new GOP tax bill, the FCC decision to dismantle Net Neutrality, the murder of Daniel Shaver and the acquittal of Phillip Brailsford, and the Santiago Maldonado Cell of the Informal Anarchist Federation.

We also take live calls from listeners. 



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The Dismantling of Net Neutrality and the Socialist Solution

We are all upset and outraged at the recent dismantling of Net Neutrality; however, it’s essential to understand the broader context within which this attack on the internet is taking place. As neoliberal late capitalism spirals the drain and continues to devour everything in its path, there will be an intensified effort to dismantle and privatize what we call the “commons”: places and resources and institutions that are meant to be accessible to the general public regardless of the amount of money one happens to have in their bank account. This attack on the internet is an attack on the very idea that some things should be free and open to everyone and not privatized and sold back to us at inflated prices in order to increase the profit margins of a handful of already extremely rich and powerful corporations. If we zoom out a bit, we can see this vampiric attack on the commons in many other areas: for example, the Trump administration recently issued an executive order dramatically shrinking the size of two national monuments in Utah, reducing the acreage of protected public land by 80% in one case in order to open them up to drilling by oil and gas companies. From healthcare to prisons to education, we are facing a corporate onslaught from all angles, and working people are being robbed, beaten down, and tossed aside at every turn.

This disgusting excuse for political system has also begun dropping even the *pretense* of democracy and representative republicanism. Over 80% of Americans were opposed to the dismantling of Net Neutrality, and getting 80% of Americans to agree on anything these days is damn near impossible. Additionally, our two “choices” for president, Clinton and Trump, each had Disapproval ratings in the 60-70% range *during the campaign*. And finally, this new GOP tax bill which seeks to transfer 1.5 Trillion dollars away from working Americans and into the pockets of the already extremely rich has only a 30% approval rating from the general population. Yet despite these clear numbers, Net Neutrality was gutted, Trump and Clinton were our choices, and this horrifically cruel GOP tax bill is almost certainly going to be passed into law. We do not live in anything even resembling a democracy, and getting to choose every few years between a handful of representatives of the ruling class doesn’t change that. We live in the Dictatorship of the bourgeoisie, of the capitalist class. They don’t give a fuck what you and I think, they will do whatever they want to do, and we are expected to sit down, shut up, and take it…

But I do not want us merely to despair; if they want a fight, they will get one. And with every sociopathic policy move they make, they stir more and more of us into action. Karl Marx once said that capitalism produces its own gravediggers, and here we all are, with nothing but shovels and plenty of dirt… we weren’t born to bend the knee, we were born to knock off crowns from atop the heads of kings.

And when it comes to the internet, the liberal solution of net neutrality has failed to hold up. Now its time for a socialist solution: if the internet infrastructure is a neutral public carrier of data, then it should be publicly owned by the cities. The internet is a utility, and in this modern world, if you don’t have equal and free access to it, you are at a material disadvantage. Net Neutrality was great, but it wasn’t enough. The internet belongs in the hands of the people; it should be a public utility and access to it should be a protected right. After all, public spending built the internet, capitalists merely sold it back to us at a premium. Its time to get the corporate vampires completely out of the equation and bring the internet under democratic, collective control. That should be our goal, and every move we make in this fight, that goal should be held firmly in our minds. And its not some utopian idea either, its precisely what happened in Chattanooga Tennessee. That mid-sized city, not at all unlike our own, was fed up with private corporation’s inability to provide low cost, high speed access to the internet, so they did it themselves. Now the internet in Chattanooga is democratically owned by the people of that city, costs have gone down, and internet speeds skyrocketed past the speeds offered by the big private corporations.

This fight is just beginning, and as long as we have capitalism, we will have to keep fighting these battles off and on indefinitely. In fact, the very idea of destroying net neutrality in the first place would be inconceivable in a democratic society run by and for regular working people. *Only* in a system where the super rich and private corporations have wildly disproportionate power and influence would this ever even be an issue in the first place. But the single biggest blow we could hit them with would be to respond to this assault on the commons by wrenching their greedy, blood stained fingers off our internet and taking back what is rightfully ours. In order to do this, we have to organize here in Omaha, put massive pressure on our local representatives, and normalize this idea within our social circles as well as online. Let people know that a better way of doing things is a possibility, and then fight like hell to make it a reality.

We live in an uncertain time; the 21st century is perhaps the largest and most important crossroads in the history of our species. The class war is being intensified on every front and from every direction. What we need now more than ever is a national working class movement that can rise to the challenges of our time and fight back against the blood-soaked corporate and imperialist monsters who wish to plunder and loot every corner of this planet.

Time is running out, and our choice, in the words of the great revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg, is clearer today than its ever been: Socialism or Barbarism.