For this activist, the battle of Berlin is over

Larry Sanders and Eric Lee at a campaign event in London.
Larry Sanders and Eric Lee at a campaign event in London.

I have just left the Global Convention of Democrats Abroad here in Berlin where I represented Senator Bernie Sanders.

I was not a delegate, or elector, and hold no office in Democrats Abroad. But I was there to ensure that the best possible delegation was elected to represent our political revolution and I’m pleased with the results.

Not only did we manage to get Bernie’s brother Larry Sanders elected to the first position with nearly unanimous support, but we elected a whole team of excellent campaigners and activists. I’m particularly proud of the election of two women, one an old friend (Penny Schantz) and the other who was one of the key volunteers in London for Bernie (Kari Mosleh). I am sorry that of the 211 people who proposed themselves to be Sanders delegates from Democrats Abroad, only 9 will be going to Philadelphia in July to represent our campaign.

Among those 202 disappointed people I now have to count myself. This morning I was defeated in voting to be an alternate.

I won’t go into all the gory detail of what happened, except to say this.

Inside the Sanders Presidential Preference Group which I attended, I saw candidates rise to make their case, talking about themselves, or what they did for the campaign, or their political vision. I did not see people rising to attack other candidates, to question their integrity or make accusations against them.

Except in one case.

Over the course of the last several days, I was repeatedly accused, publicly and in private conversations, from the floor and in the corridors, of the worst possible crime.

That crime was denying the existing leadership of Democrats Abroad, meaning the people who gathered together in Berlin this week, the right to choose the 9 people who would go to represent the 24,000 people who voted for Bernie Sanders in the Global Presidential Primary.

In the Delegate Selection Plan drafted by Democrats Abroad, campaigns are given the right to review the lists of self-nominated candidates, and to submit a shortlist. The campaign is obligated to submit at least two names for every open position so that in the end, the leaders of Democrats Abroad still get a say in the matter.

Instead of submitting the minimum requirement of 18 names, we submitted 34. It goes without saying that many people were disappointed not to be included on that list.

Anticipating that, I wrote to everyone who had submitted their names, explaining what we had done and why.

I’m pleased to say that I received many emails thanking me for my transparency and fairness. I did not hear a single complaint from the self-nominated candidates who were excluded from the shortlist.

That shortlist met the requirement for gender balance, and 60% of the names on it met the affirmative action criteria as well. It included young and old people, Democrats Abroad veterans and people who have never been active in the organization.

Our idea was to ensure that some of the latter group, newcomers who the existing leaders of Democrats Abroad would not know, would go as delegates to Philadelphia. Their chances were increased because of the shortlist.

And as Larry Sanders just told the participants in the convention this morning, that is what is normally done in political organizations, and is particularly needed by insurgent campaigns like ours.

Unfortunately, not everyone in Democrats Abroad shared that view, and some began spreading rumors which had no basis in fact, and which served to cast the campaign in general and me in particular in the worst possible light.

Those attacks began well before we gathered in Berlin and picked up steam over the last few days despite our best efforts to clear the air.

They reached a peak this morning when the time came for the small number of electors who showed up for an early morning session to vote in the final round for an alternate.

I was given an opportunity for speak for one minute, and used it to say what I’d done for the campaign.

The winning candidate also had a minute and used all of it to denounce me for being involved in the creation of a shortlist of candidates.

And in the midst of all this nastiness, several people worked very hard openly and behind the scenes to clear up the rumors and encourage people to vote for me. In particular I want to thank Larry Sanders, Penny Schantz, Travis Mooney, Rob and Sanja Carolina. Your support and friendship have gotten me through a difficult few days.

In the end, the delegation we are sending of Sanders supporters to Philadelphia is a good one and I’m proud to have played a role in ensuring that happened. I’m even more proud of having played a role in mobilizing thousands of people in London and around the world since June 2015, winning a spectacular victory in the Global Presidential Primary in March this year.

I expect to be in Philadelphia for the convention in one capacity or another, and look forward to meeting many of you there.

The old politics may have won a small victory in Berlin this morning. As Bernie Sanders constantly reminds us, it is a rigged system.

But I am confident that we are strong and we are growing, and the political revolution Bernie speaks about is a reality.

The struggle continues.

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The final solution on Sark

This article appears today in the Jewish Chronicle.


One of the most shocking documents on display at Yad Vashem is a typed list prepared by Adolf Eichmann for the Wannsee conference held in January 1942. That meeting sealed the fate of Europe’s Jews, and Eichmann’s research gave a breakdown, country-by-country of the estimated eleven million Jews on the continent. A meticulous bureaucrat, Eichmann didn’t pass over even the smallest Jewish communities, noting the estimated 200 Jews in Albania or the 1,300 in Norway. Every single Jew was noted, each one considered a suitable target for extermination.

Eighteen months earlier, the German army occupied the Channel Islands, the only part of Britain to come under Nazi rule. In Jersey and Guernsey, the German arrested a handful of Jews (whose names and addresses were turned over to them by local authorities) and several of these died in Auschwitz. But the tiny island of Sark, with a population of less than 600, presented a problem. There may have been a single Jew there – or maybe not. The issue preoccupied the German army for several years. Continue reading

Proud to be a Zionist

Mapam campaign poster 1944
Mapam campaign poster 1944

Jeremy Corbyn’s brother recently made headlines by tweeting that “#Zionists cant cope with anyone supporting rights for #Palestine”. That the tweet took place in the context of a heated discussion about how the Labour Party is coping with increasing allegations of anti-Semitism is not the point. The point is that the word “Zionist” has become toxic on the British Left, and I have a problem with this.

On one of the Sunday morning radio shows, Jonathan Freedland was asked about this. He quoted the Israeli author Amos Oz who said that “Zionist” was like a family name. There always needs to be a first name, such as “Religious Zionist” or “Socialist Zionist”. But Freedland himself, when asked, said he’d rather not use the label “Zionist” to describe his own views as it would just cause confusion.

There are really two approaches to dealing with political labels that become toxic. One is to accept reality and abandon them. The other is to be defiant and embrace them. Continue reading

After Wisconsin, can Sanders still win?

This article appears in today’s edition of the Morning Star.


Bernie Sanders’ victory in the Wisconsin Democratic Primary this week is being spun by the mainstream media as “too little, too late”. The consensus among pundits is that Hillary Clinton’s delegate lead is so huge that there is simply no way for the democratic socialist senator from Vermont to catch up.

That has been the case for every single one of Sanders’ recent victories, starting with his wins in Idaho and Utah on 22 March. Those two victories, in two small states, went barely noticed even if they were shocking in their scale. In Idaho, Sanders took 78% of the vote and in Utah he won over 79%. His supporters reacted by donating a staggering amount of money online, making it the third month in a row that Sanders has out-raised Clinton. But the consensus among experts was that he didn’t have a chance. Continue reading

Haufenweise schwarze Schafe

This article appears in this week’s edition of Jungle World.


Die britische Labour Party und ihr neuer Vorsitzender Jeremy Corbyn haben ein Problem mit dem Antisemitismus in den eigenen Reihen. Das wird zwar öffentlich kritisiert, aber ihre politischen Prioritäten liegen anderswo. Continue reading

Trumbo: Stalinists as Victims

Browder.
Earl Browder, American Communist Party leader.

“Trumbo” is a the latest in a series of Hollywood films that looks back nostalgically at the McCarthy era, a time when the good guys were blacklisted writers accused of membership in the Communist Party, and the bad guys were the US government, studio bosses, and right-wing media.

The first of those films was probably “The Way We Were” (1973) starring Barbra Streisand and Robert Redford. Made only a few years after blacklisting had ended, when the Cold War was still raging, it became a template for future films on the subject. The film takes place over several decades, as Streisand and Redford fall in and out of love. In the opening scenes, Streisand plays the very young Katie, a committed activist, and is initially shown as campus leader of the Young Communist League (YCL). Continue reading

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The patriotic traitor

petainThe title of Jonathan Lynn’s new play “The Patriotic Traitor” could refer to either of the play’s two protagonists. One, Marshall Philippe Pétain, betrayed France to the Germans in 1940, while believing all the time that was doing so in order to save the country. The other, his disciple and close friend Charles de Gaulle, was branded a traitor by the Vichy regime and sentenced to death when he fled the country for exile, to take on leadership of the Free French forces.

The play, which just opened at the Park Theatre in Finsbury Park, is a tour de force. The venerable Tom Conti is so good as Pétain that he completely dominates the stage whenever he appears. One wonders if Pétain himself had that same charisma and intelligence. As for de Gaulle, played by Laurence Fox, he comes off as a thoroughly unlikeable character, even if history were to prove him right. Continue reading

After just one primary, Bernie Sanders is the most successful socialist politician in the US in 80 years

genenormandarlingtonbernie128

As someone who enjoys political history and playing around with numbers, here are the vote totals for democratic socialist candidates for US president since 1900, when Eugene Debs first ran. In 1924, the Socialists did not run an independent campaign, and stopped running all together after 1956. Splinter parties, including the Communists, Socialist Labor, Socialist Workers, and the revived Socialist Party after 1980, are not counted and the numbers were always exceptionally low.

In just one primary (New Hampshire) Bernie Sanders has done better than any Socialist candidate since Norman Thomas in 1936.

Counting votes cast in Iowa and Nevada caucuses (not currently available), he’s almost certainly beaten that record.

1900 Debs 87,945
1904 Debs 402,810
1908 Debs 420,852
1912 Debs 901,551 (the best socialist vote ever as a percentage – 6%)
1916 Benson 590,524
1920 Debs 913,693 (the highest ever – running as a federal prisoner)
1928 Thomas 267,478
1932 Thomas 884,885 (a brief Depression-era revival)
1936 Thomas 187,910
1940 Thomas 116,599
1944 Thomas 79,017
1948 Thomas 139,569
1952 Hoopes 20,203
1956 Hoopes 2,044 (after this, the party by 1968 gives up on electoral politics)
2016 Sanders 151,584 (New Hampshire primary only)

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