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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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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

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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Why Israel is losing the battle in the world’s trade unions

Text of my presentation at Limmud, University of Warwick, 29 December 2014


My name is Eric Lee and I’m speaking to you tonight on behalf of TULIP – Trade Unions Linking Israel and Palestine.

TULIP was founded about 5 years ago and in its founding statement, signed by three very prominent trade union leaders in the UK, the USA and Australia, we said:

“At the moment, the opponents of a two-state solution are on the offensive, working hard to promote their destructive agenda of boycotts and sanctions targetting Israel. It’s time for trade unionists in all countries to go on the offensive ourselves, to challenge the apologists for Hamas and Hizbollah in the labour movement.”

To learn more about TULIP I strongly recommend you visit our website – www.tuliponline.org – and join our mailing list there.

In tonight’s talk, I want to discuss three things –

  • What is happening in the world’s trade unions with regard to Israel
  • Why I think this is happening
  • And finally, what we can do to reverse this trend

Continue reading

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They shall not pass!

demo

This is the speech I gave today in Trafalgar Square at the demonstration in support of Kobane — part of an international day of action.


Comrades and friends, brothers and sisters, good afternoon.

I have been asked to speak with you today about the support trade unions are showing for the heroic people of Kobane.

We are all inspired by the steadfast resistance shown by the people of Kobane, men and women, working people like ourselves.

We must be clear about our language here: Islamic State is a fascist organization and the fighters in Kobane are on the front lines of the fight against fascism in our time.

They are fighting with great heroism and determination and I am confident that they will win.

This is a fight that the international trade union movement needs to support.

It is our fight too.

erickobaneBut we are not doing enough.

The British and international trade union movements have the moral responsibility to come to the defense of the heroic fighters in Kobane.

In the past, the trade union movement has known what it needs to do.

Eight decades ago, when fascists were besieging Madrid, trade unionists were on the front lines — literally — in the fight. The entire international working class movement, Communists and Socialists alike, were inspired by the slogan “No pasaran!” — “They shall not pass!”

Today it is the responsibility of trade unionists to once again throw our full support behind a people standing up to a fascist onslaught.

It is not enough to issue a press release.

It is not enough to pass a resolution in a trade union branch.

Comrades and friends, brothers and sisters, we must do more.

The TUC must take the lead and mobilize British workers in acts of solidarity, including bringing thousands of them into the streets to rallies like this one.

The International Trade Union Confederation and the global union federations must do the same at global level.

In the 1930s, we were not strong enough and we were unable to stop the fascists from taking Madrid.

That victory for Franco, Hitler and Mussolini must not be repeated today.

Kobane must not be allowed to fall.

They shall not pass! No pasaran!

Two months without a mobile phone

It’s now been two months since I published my blog “Why I’m throwing my mobile phone away“.  I thought this might be a good time for an update.

Since I wrote the article, I have been using my iPod Touch as a phone, mostly using free wifi in my home, office and outdoors, sometimes using a Huawei Mobile Wifi device with a GiffGaff SIM card thrown in.  (This creates a Wifi zone whereever I happen to be.)

I can receive the occasional rare phone call on my incoming Skype number, and text messages (also rare) are received by the Huawei device, and I can view them via a web interface on the iPod Touch.  I can send SMS messages the same way.

The main things I use a smartphone for — checking emails, updating my todo list, checking things like news and weather, reading e-books using the Kindle reader, listening to music on Spotify or iTunes, checking for cinema times in Flixster, syncing my FitBit, etc. — I do without difficulty on the iPod Touch.  I don’t need an iPhone for any of this.

The experiment, so far, has been a success.

So now a word about costs.  Previously I was paying on average £58 a month for all my mobile telecoms costs.

The iPod Touch cost more than I planned on, as I needed to get the 32 GB version for £249 — £50 more than I would have paid for the 16GB version.  Why pay extra?  Not for the extra gigabytes, but for the additional camera, which I learned did not come on the 16 GB version.

I got the Huawei Mobile Wifi device on eBay for £35.50.

So I spent £284.50 on hardware — but sold my old Samsung Galaxy Note for £110.  So the total investment in hardware was just £174.50.

The Skype online number for the occasional incoming phone call costs £3.35 per month.  I may get rid of this as I hardly ever use it, and anyway it’s not a contract.  I can cancel at any time.

To use the Huawei Mobile Wifi (mostly on busses, to check news and emails) I took a GiffGaff SIM card for data only.  This is costing me £5 a month for 500 MB of data.  In addition, I had to do a one-off top-up of £10 to allow me to send and receive SMS messages.

So in addition to the £174.50 for hardware, in the first two months I’ve spent £20 on Giffgaff and £6.70 on Skype.  Assuming I continue with this, over the first two years, my total expenses should be  £388.25 all told.  This is just £16.17 per month.  By year three, this will drop to probably just £5 a month, if I chuck the Skype number.

This is considerably less than I would have paid for any iPhone plan offered by any UK carrier.

For example, Carphone Warehouse is currently promoting the iPhone 5C for £49 plus £23.99 per month.

That offer is for an 8GB model (my iPod Touch is 32 GB) with 500 UK minutes and 500 MB of data (the same amount of data that I’m getting from GiffGaff for £5 per month).  The carrier is EE.  Over 2 years, that would cost £634.76 — more than 63% more than what I am paying now.

It’s a savings of nearly £250 in the first two years.

The savings will grow even more after the first two years.

I’m not missing a “proper” smartphone at all, and while my experience may not be similar to others (I do, for example, have access to wifi at home and at work), surely others are also overpaying for devices that may not be necessary.

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Fighting anti-semitism the old fashioned way: I send an actual letter to Facebook

stampAs I reported a couple of days ago, Facebook is hosting a page that promotes the “blood libel” against Jews in breach of its own Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) and, probably, British and European law.

My attempts to complain using their online system failed.

So today I’m trying something new: I’ve sent them a letter.

By post.

With a stamp on it.

I promise to report back if they respond …

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