Capitalism: It’s the boot on your neck that charges by the hour! This week we have the an astroturf campaign to take money away from helping the homeless, a neighboring county that can’t wait to lick billionaire boots, a non-profit working against its workers, fascists marching through the streets, and we blaspheme against Reddit’s favorite living god. Enter the Hellhole …
Adventures in Astroturf and Alliteration
One of the dispiriting things about the forces of capital is just how much dang capital they control. Rarely do we see as great a mobilization of this stunning reserve as when their political power (and profits) are threatened. What adds an element of comedy to the otherwise tragic is the attempt by elites to appear as representatives of the people: hence the term astroturfing, for phony grassroots action. Like astroturf, their organizing might appear to be natural from afar, but up close will leave you with blisters and little rubber bits in your socks – metaphorically, of course.
We’re dubiously blessed this week with two parallel (and not unrelated) astroturfing campaigns, both courtesy of your friends and ours*: the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce. The first campaign manifested as a series of Facebook ads. The ads appeared to be linked to the same movement that opposed the recent Employee Hours Tax on the grounds that it suggested that unhoused people were humans, targeting Councilmember Mike O’Brien and the rest of the City Council and calling to “Make It Better.” Though its vacuous slogan might not give much away, the campaign’s talking points around taxation and homelessness do. After a false start that talked a lot about Russia for some reason, the Stranger managed to dig up the campaign’s sponsors. Or rather, a representative from the Chamber simply emailed to take credit for the ad.
When Russians do it to American voters? Not okay. When Seattle residents do it to each other? Totally fine. https://t.co/YrgkAQtfK2
— Eli Sanders (@elijsanders) May 22, 2018
There’s got to be a better way to frame this discussion, huh?
Speaking of mass mobilization of reactionary business interests, a referendum campaign to repeal the Employee Hours Tax has sprung fully-formed and fully-funded from the aching head of the Chamber. In perhaps the biggest not-at-all-a-coincidence of this week’s news, the campaign was originally set to kick off at at Fremont Brewing, owned by Sara Nelson – the Chamber of Commerce’s also-ran candidate who was knocked out of the 2016 Position 8 primary by progressive democrat Teresa Mosqueda and democratic socialist Jon Grant. Nelson, who happens to live in the same district as Mike O’Brien, was just one supporter among titans as a $300,000 war chest was quickly assembled to ensure that big business’ boots remain thoroughly licked. With the Chamber mounting a counter-offensive against a City Council not nearly pro-business enough for their liking (though still quite a bit too pro-business for us here at the Hellhole), the 2019 election seems to already have begun. Anti-EHT hired guns have already hit the streets with petitions in tow, so make sure to report them to Working Washington if you see them.
* The authors of the Hellhole would like to clarify that the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce is not our friends. They did not come to our birthday party and have never once helped us move, even when we bought pizza.
You’ll Like Tacoma
Let’s take a brief jaunt away from the land of the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce to visit our neighbors at the Tacoma-Pierce County Chamber of Commerce! Despite also facing mounting housing and homelessness crises, Pierce County has resolved to counter Seattle’s new tax by offering a credit to businesses of the exact same amount. The credit, which can be applied against the same Business and Occupation tax that funds it, gives $275 for each new living-wage job created.
This sign and slogan attempted to draw interest from visitors during Seattle’s Alaska-Yukon-Pacific Exposition, now re-purposed to draw interest from capital.
Naturally, the campaign has drawn significant media attention, just as Amazon’s search for a second headquarters did. Both should illustrate the shortcoming of localized programs – capital is mobile, but labor is not. We see this at every level, from municipal taxes, to state and federal labor laws, to international sanctions against states defying the World Trade Organization or International Monetary Fund. The EHT may have been a useful stopgap and a demonstration of political will, but much larger measures will be required to impart lasting change.
The Difference Between Socialism And Liberalism
Planned Parenthood has been a very vocal organization in opposition to the waves of anti-choice and anti-women’s health movements that have been further emboldened in recent times. Their healthcare work is extremely important and Seattle DSA stands by the right to reproductive freedom and the care it requires. This is why it is so extremely disappointing to see them turning to Trump’s Labor Board to crush unionization in Colorado.
Institutional power in a capitalist system, even one providing for human necessities, will still be corrupted to protect the system that it is a part of.
Planned Parenthood: stop fighting the worker’s rights to unionize for a better deal. As socialists, we must fight until healthcare and reproductive freedom is treated as the human right that they are instead of something dominated by any private powers.
Whose Streets? Our Streets!
Fascism, it seems, never sleeps; luckily, there’s always folks around who are ready to stand opposed to it. On Sunday afternoon, right-wing organization Patriot Prayer held an open-carry rally in downtown Seattle. Originally their plan was to gather in Westlake Park, but soon members of the Party for Socialism and Liberation along with the Freedom Socialist Party organized a counter rally across the street, leading Patriot Prayer to move their event several blocks away to Stewart and Westlake. PSL and FSP held their ground, and turned their counter-rally into a statement of resistance against a would-be fascist takeover.
Days after the Santa Fe high school shooting, U.S. Senate candidate Joey Gibson and his far-right group, Patriot Prayer, is holding an open carry rally at Westlake. About two dozen supporters are here. pic.twitter.com/1lUUm0Uyau
— Steven Hsieh (@stevenjhsieh) May 20, 2018
After about two hours of rallying on both sides, Patriot Prayer began a small march through downtown along a route that brought them through Westlake Park, right in front of the counter-rally. Cops held the line and after about 30 seconds the fascists retreated.
Uncreative Patriot Prayer cowards chanting "USA!" while we hold our ground pic.twitter.com/NdAGAq2pfg
— Rainier Red ? (@Rainier_Red) May 21, 2018
As the counter-rally wrapped up, there was a shared sense of both pride and unease. A speaker commended the group for standing up to fascism, but reminded everyone present of both the existential danger of fascism in America (and by extension the need for everyone to continually stand against it) but also the very immediate threat of Patriot Prayer members attacking individuals as they walked back to their cars or bus stops.
Let's all make sure local media does their job by disclosing the links between the head tax repeal initiative, the targeted harassment campaigns of Safe Seattle and white supremacist street violence, ok? pic.twitter.com/00wSXaTFNw
— Brett Hamil (@BrettHamil) May 24, 2018
That fascists threaten us physically while simultaneously organizing against us politically is no coincidence. But at least last Sunday the right-wing cowards received a reminder that they’re far from owning this town, and the people of Seattle are ready to stand against them wherever they appear.
Libertarian Billionaire ? Space Jesus ? is a Tool ?
The Hellhole is especially wrought with Class Enemies this week, so we’ll keep it succinct: Elon Musk is just another billionaire tool ?. Musk and his companies have a smug anti-worker agenda with a long track record that includes:
- Paying autoworkers far less than the industry average
- Hating on workers while condescendingly promising a “rollercoaster” and “frozen yogurt”
- Pervasive sexual harassment, discrimination and retaliation
- Sky-high, crazy workplace injury rates
- Intimidation, illegal surveillance and coercion
- Wage theft
- Mass layoffs to avoid paying bonuses
- Union busting
- Hiding workplace injuries from regulators
Musk is lame, his fanboys are worse, and the only way billionaires like him will ever help humanity is by inspiring an epic party ? when we overthrow them. See you there!
Come hang out with your comrades, fellow travelers, and assorted radicals & malcontents this Sunday afternoon at Seattle DSA’s Spring Socialist Sunday Social! Join us at Optimism Brewing on Capitol Hill from 3-7pm.
? Get involved with Seattle Democratic Socialists of America ?
Hellhole is written by members of the Seattle DSA communications team. Unless expressly stated, Dispatches do not necessarily reflect the views of Seattle DSA as an organization or its leadership.