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Trump and the Flawed Nature of US Democracy: An Interview With Noam Chomsky

6 Jan


Truthout sparks action by revealing systemic injustice and providing a platform for transformative ideas through investigative reporting and analysis.

Trump’s presidential victory exposed to the whole world the flawed nature of the US model of democracy. Beginning January 20, both the country and the world will have to face a political leader with copious conflicts of interest who considers his unpredictable and destructive style to be a leadership asset. In this exclusive interview for Truthout, world-renowned public intellectual Noam Chomsky sheds light on the type of democratic model the US has designed and elaborates on the political import of Trump’s victory for the two major parties, as this new political era begins.

C.J. Polychroniou: Noam, I want to start by asking you to reflect on the following: Trump won the presidential election even though he lost the popular vote. In this context, if “one person, one vote” is a fundamental principle behind every legitimate model of democracy, what type of democracy prevails in the US, and what will it take to undo the anachronism of the Electoral College?




Source: Truthout | Fearless, Independent News and Opinion


Noam Chomsky: The Electoral College was originally supposed to be a deliberative body drawn from educated and privileged elites. It would not necessarily respond to public opinion, which was not highly regarded by the founders, to put it mildly. “The mass of people … seldom judge or determine right,” as Alexander Hamilton put it during the framing of the Constitution, expressing a common elite view. Furthermore, the infamous 3/5th clause ensured the slave states an extra boost, a very significant issue considering their prominent role in the political and economic institutions. As the party system took shape in the 19th century, the Electoral College became a mirror of the state votes, which can give a result quite different from the popular vote because of the first-past-the-post rule — as it did once again in this election. Eliminating the Electoral College would be a good idea, but it’s virtually impossible as the political system is now constituted. It is only one of many factors that contribute to the regressive character of the [US] political system, which, as Seth Ackerman observes in an interesting article in Jacobin magazine, would not pass muster by European standards.

Ackerman focuses on one severe flaw in the US system: the dominance of organizations that are not genuine political parties with public participation but rather elite-run candidate-selection institutions often described, not unrealistically, as the two factions of the single business party that dominates the political system. They have protected themselves from competition by many devices that bar genuine political parties that grow out of free association of participants, as would be the case in a properly functioning democracy. Beyond that there is the overwhelming role of concentrated private and corporate wealth, not just in the presidential campaigns, as has been well documented, particularly by Thomas Ferguson, but also in Congress.

A recent study by Ferguson, Paul Jorgensen and Jie Chen on “How Money Drives US Congressional Elections,” reveals a remarkably close correlation between campaign expenditures and electoral outcomes in Congress over decades. And extensive work in academic political science — particularly by Martin Gilens, Benjamin Page and Larry Bartlett — reveals that most of the population is effectively unrepresented, in that their attitudes and opinions have little or no effect on decisions of the people they vote for, which are pretty much determined by the very top of the income-wealth scale. In the light of such factors as these, the defects of the Electoral College, while real, are of lesser significance.




To what extent is this presidential election a defining moment for Republicans and Democrats alike?

For the eight years of the Obama presidency, the Republican organization has hardly qualified as a political party. A more accurate description was given by the respected political analysts Thomas Mann and Norman Ornstein of the conservative American Enterprise Institute: the party became an “insurgent outlier — ideologically extreme; contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime; scornful of compromise; unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence and science; and dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition.”

Its guiding principle was: Whatever Obama tries to do, we have to block it, but without providing some sensible alternative. The goal was to make the country ungovernable, so that the insurgency could take power. Its infantile antics on the Affordable Care Act are a good illustration: endless votes to repeal it in favor of — nothing. Meanwhile the party has become split between the wealthy and privileged “establishment,” devoted to the interests of their class, and the popular base that was mobilized when the establishment commitments to wealth and privilege became so extreme that it would be impossible to garner votes by presenting them accurately. It was therefore necessary to mobilize sectors that had always existed, but not as an organized political force: a strange amalgam of Christian evangelicals — a huge sector of the American population — nativists, white supremacists, white working and lower middle class victims of the neoliberal policies of the past generation, and others who are fearful and angry, cast aside in the neoliberal economy while they perceive their traditional culture as being under attack. In past primaries, the candidates who rose from the base — Bachmann, Cain, Santorum and the rest — were so extreme that they were anathema to the establishment, who were able to use their ample resources to rid themselves of the plague and choose their favored candidate. The difference in 2016 is that they were unable to do it.

Now the Republican Party faces the task of formulating policies other than “No.” It must find a way to craft policies that will somehow pacify or marginalize the popular base while serving the real constituency of the establishment. It is from this sector that Trump is picking his close associates and cabinet members: not exactly coal miners, iron and steel workers, small business owners, or representatives of the concerns and demands of much of his voting base.

Democrats have to face the fact that for 40 years they have pretty much abandoned whatever commitment they had to working people. It’s quite shocking that Democrats have drifted so far from their modern New Deal origins that some workers are now voting for their class enemy, not for the party of FDR. A return to some form of social democracy should not be impossible, as indicated by the remarkable success of the Sanders campaign, which departed radically from the norm of elections effectively bought by wealth and corporate power. It is important to bear in mind that his “political revolution,” while quite appropriate for the times, would not have much surprised Dwight Eisenhower, another indication of the shift to the right during the neoliberal years.




If the Democratic Party is going to be a constructive force, it will have to develop and commit itself credibly to programs that address the valid concerns of the kind of people who voted for Obama, attracted by his message of “hope and change,” and when disillusioned by the disappearance of hope and the lack of change switched to the con man who declared that he will bring back what they have lost. It will be necessary to face honestly the malaise of much of the country, including people like those in the Louisiana Bayou whom Arlie Hochschild studied with such sensitivity and insight, and surely including the former working class constituency of the Democrats. The malaise is revealed in many ways, not least by the astonishing fact that mortality has increased in the country, something unknown in modern industrial democracies apart from catastrophic events. That’s particularly true among middle-aged whites, mainly traceable to what are sometimes called “diseases of despair” (opioids, alcohol, suicide, etc.). A statistical analysis reported by the Economist found that these health metrics correlate with a remarkable 43 percent of the Republican Party’s gains over the Democrats in the 2016 election, and remain significant and predictive even when controlling for race, education, age, gender, income, marital status, immigration and employment. These are all signs of severe collapse of much of the society, particularly in rural and working class areas. Furthermore, such initiatives have to be undertaken alongside of firm dedication to the rights and needs of those sectors of the population that have historically been denied rights and repressed, often in harsh and brutal ways.

No small task, but not beyond reach, if not by the Democrats, then by some political party replacing them, drawing from popular movements — and through the constant activism of these movements, quite apart from electoral politics.

Much of the rest of the world — with the notable exception of some of Europe’s extreme nationalist and anti-immigrant political leaders — also seems to be rather anxious about Trump’s aims and intents. Isn’t that so?

Trump’s victory was met in Europe with shock and disbelief. The general reaction was captured quite accurately, for instance, on the front cover of Der Spiegel [a major German weekly]. It depicted a caricature of Trump presented as a meteor hurtling toward Earth, mouth open, ready to swallow it up. And the lead headline read “Das Ende Der Welt!” (“The End of the World”). And in small letters below, “as we have known it.” To be sure, there might be some truth to that concern, even if not exactly in the manner in which the artist and the authors who echoed that conception had in mind.




Don’t Mourn – Organize ….Vote In The Streets! The rigged 2 party system holds no future for the 99% a political revolution does.


Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

C.J. Polychroniou is a political economist/political scientist who has taught and worked in universities and research centers in Europe and the United States. His main research interests are in European economic integration, globalization, the political economy of the United States and the deconstruction of neoliberalism’s politico-economic project. He is a regular contributor to Truthout as well as a member of Truthout’s Public Intellectual Project. He has published several books and his articles have appeared in a variety of journals, magazines, newspapers and popular news websites. Many of his publications have been translated into several foreign languages, including Croatian, French, Greek, Italian, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish.

The System is Rigged. Solution? Blow up the System!

17 May


It is rigged by Wall Street, Big Oil, Big Pharma, Big Ag, the military-industrial complex, etc, which own most everyone who runs for president in the two major parties.

To guarantee that only acceptable, bought-and-paid-for candidates survive the primary process, the political party operatives throw up huge roadblocks, ones which require astronomical amounts of money to surmount, assuring that only candidates who have establishment money at their disposal are able to proceed toward the nomination.

Additional safety checks are superdelegates, made of up elected officials, lobbyists, and establishment political hacks, plotting a primary schedule that works to run up victories by well known candidates versus unknown ones, setting convention rules that almost guarantee insurgent candidates can neither win a nomination or control the party platform

The result is that the ultimate winner is always someone they have a hook in.

Their worst nightmares are Trump and Sanders, as they have hooks in neither.

Normally, the electorate cannot be won over by a gadfly leftist or a populist demagogue. This year, however, the electorate is very pissed off, affording traction where such was a political unlikelihood,

A socialist insurgent is close to toppling Hillary and a populist demagogue defeated all the establishment candidates on the Republican side.

The establishment is now in full panic mode, and throwing the kitchen sink at Trump, while praying Sanders stops attacking Hillary.

Charles Koch endorsed Hillary over Trump, signaling the establishment to start circling the wagons around her.

Nearly every candidate who has sucked at the teat of Wall Street is now being yanked into the denunciation of Trump, Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives. Wall Street is collecting its favors.

Yes the system is rigged. And the only way to unrig it is to blow it up, which simply means defeating the system’s candidate.

We must defeat Hillary Clinton.


Source: The System is Rigged. Solution? Blow up the System!






The “System” holds no future for the 99% a Political Revolution does – Progressive News, Books & Blogs –




Author’s Notes:

I am unaware of any other blog with the Armory’s mission of radicalizing the animal movement. I certainly hope I am not alone, and that there are similar sentiments being expressed by comrades unknown to me.

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Feel free to comment. I encourage open discussion and welcome other opinions. I moderate comments because this blog has been attacked by hunters and right wing trolls. I approve comments that are critical as well as those which agree with me. Comments that I will not tolerate are those that are spam, threatening, disrespectful, or which promote animal abuse and cruelty.

MOVING A GENERATION TO THE LEFT! The Afterbern: what’s next for the American left? 

16 May


Only an autonomous, radical organization can make sure that the encounter of struggles in the Sanders campaign develops in a revolutionary direction.

One of the most significant political stories of the year is the meteoric rise of a little-known, 74-year-old, self-proclaimed “democratic socialist” senator from the small state of Vermont. Although he may win many of the remaining contests, it seems extremely unlikely that Bernie Sanders will clinch the Democratic nomination. Nevertheless, his bid for the presidency has dramatically, perhaps irreversibly, changed the political landscape in this country.

At this point, the question for socialists is not whether or not to support Bernie’s campaign, but rather: what do we do now? What, if any political possibilities have emerged, and how can we seize these opportunities to advance revolutionary politics? To answer that, we first need to determine exactly how Bernie has changed the political situation in the United States.

Source: ROAR Magazine by Salar Mohandesi an editor of Viewpoint and a doctoral candidate in History at the University of Pennsylvania.

The Sanders campaign did not emerge from nowhere. All movements exist within wider micro-systems of struggle, and the complex entanglement and overlapping of recent social movements made his campaign possible. Without Occupy, Black Lives Matter, the Fight for $15, the mobilization of teachers and nurses, immigrant movements, and many other struggles, there would never have been a Sanders campaign. Sanders has benefited enormously from the hard work of these earlier struggles. He has tapped into existing networks to raise an army of volunteers. He has, for better or worse, adopted much of the political language of these other movements. No one in these movements foresaw Bernie’s spectacular rise, but they all prepared it.

While Sanders has in some ways channeled these movements, he has not facilitated their “recuperation,” as many socialists originally feared. Instead of defusing and containing radical ideas, his campaign has helped proliferate them. Radical activists, many of whom often appeared antagonistic to both his campaign and the entire electoral process, not only pushed Sanders to the left, but forced him to use his candidacy as a tribune to popularize and combine many pre-existing, seemingly separate demands: a $15 minimum wage, an end to mass incarceration, universal healthcare, free education, de-criminalizing marijuana, legalizing thousands of immigrants, and banning fracking, to name only a few.

These pressures also led Sanders to issue a whole spate of political statements that no presidential candidate would dare to utter in the United States. He publicly denounced the history of American imperialism on national television. He advocated for the rights of Palestinians in a country where almost no one in public office would even use the word “Palestine.” Like the Black Panthers, he has called the police an “occupying army.”

To be sure, most of these ideas are commonplace for most on the far left, and they do not on their own constitute socialism in any recognizable sense of the term. Indeed, Sanders himself is not a socialist. He never refers to the vibrant history of socialist struggles in this country, even though he once made a documentary about Eugene V. Debs. When he does speak of socialism, he points to Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal or modern Denmark. Like all social democrats, he wants a more equitable and robust social welfare state, not the abolition of the capitalist mode of production.




All that said, in proliferating the messages of radical movements, even if articulating them in a social-democratic framework, his campaign has had an undeniable impact on millions of Americans, above all young Americans, who were unfamiliar with such ideas, too afraid to embrace them, or had dismissed them as impossible. A recent Harvard poll showed that young people’s political attitudes have already changed considerably just over the past year, and the polling director, John Della Volpe, has pinpointed Sanders as one of the primary causes. “He’s not moving a party to the left,” he concluded, he’s “moving a generation to the left.”

In addition, Sanders has helped draw lines of demarcation. Although most of his usual targets, such as “billionaires” or “Wall Street,” remain either terribly obvious or hopelessly vague, he has publicly named the “capitalists” as an enemy class, identified “capitalism” as the problem, and advocated “political revolution” as the solution. He has argued, before millions who are only now beginning to seriously think about things like “capitalism,” that problems in this society are not personal or isolated, but systemic, and that the only way forward is to radically and collectively overhaul that system.

On its own, this argument is banal, but the fact that it’s resonating with millions is remarkable. The same Harvard University poll revealed, for example, that 51 percent of Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 do not support capitalism. Of course, it’s not clear what respondents understand by the word “capitalism,” but it’s a very good start, especially in a country like the United States.





At the same time, the completely unexpected success of the Sanders campaign has forced many people, organizations and institutions to drop their veneer of neutrality to savagely attack him. But their assaults, increasingly wild and extreme, have in turn allowed millions of Americans to see them for what they really are.

Although most Americans have not trusted the mainstream media for some time — a recent poll revealed that only 6 percent of Americans have confidence in the press — the media’s overt bias has prompted many people, above all the youth, to politicize their distrust, with many now regarding much of the mainstream media, especially seemingly objective newspapers like theWashington Post or the New York Times, as little more than the propaganda arm of the ruling class. Seemingly progressive and reliable political figures and pundits have now outed themselves as reactionaries. At the same time, the Democratic Party has revealed itself to be one of the most significant impediments to meaningful social change in this country.

Even more important than circulating radical ideas, calling for systematic transformation and revealing enemies, the Sanders campaign has triggered a kind of mass mobilization. Millions of Americans, many of whom have never voted before, are now attending rallies, joining marches, donating to the campaign, making telephone calls, knocking on doors, leading grassroots teams. While commitment to a bourgeois election is in itself no sign of radicalism, it does have the potential to create future opportunities for socialist politics. In mobilizing people, especially younger people, in this way, the campaign has helped connect activists from different movements, draw newcomers into existing political networks, and train a new generation of potential organizers.

Compositionally, these radicalized Sanders supporters are a very diverse group. In many contests, especially open ones, Sanders has split or won the female vote. In fact, although the mainstream media would never make mention of this, Bernie’s strongest support seems to come from young women. In Iowa, for example, 84 percent of women under 30 voted for Sanders. In terms of racial diversity, he remains the favored candidate among Native, Arab and Asian Americans. Nationally, some polls indicate he splits the support of Latin@ voters with Hillary. He won Hawaii, the most diverse state in the country, by a landslide.

The major exception, of course, is older African Americans, and especially older black women. Even if Sanders is favored by many blacks, especially black youth, he consistently wins far fewer votes than Hillary Clinton. The reasons are very complex, and I can only indicate a few elements of an answer here: the destruction of autonomous radical black organizations since the 1970s, the subsequent absorption of blacks into the Democratic Party, the rise of a black bourgeoisie whose quarrel is not with the system but with access to the system, the close connection between the black leadership class and the Democratic Party, the role of the black church, the legacy of Bill Clinton and the power of the Clinton brand, high abstention rates among poor blacks, the fact that in some places one out of four black men are disenfranchised, and the justified fear of racist terror, especially in the South, which led many to vote for the most “electable” candidate.





Another factor might be lack of exposure, or more precisely, differential access to information. A 2014 study found that only 45 percent of senior blacks are internet users and just 30 percent have broadband at home, significantly less than whites with a similar demographic profile. In failing to win the support of many African Americans, especially black workers, the Sanders campaign has highlighted probably the greatest strategic question for all radicals today: determining the political class composition of African Americans at a time when the first black president prepares to leave office.

Bernie’s base is the working class and youth. With a few notable exceptions, most importantly the above-mentioned older black workers, Sanders has successfully pulled together a number of distinct sectors of the US working class: those with college degrees and those without, rural and urban, unionized and non-unionized, white and nonwhite. While many workers — from coal miners to computer programmers, nurses to transportation workers, teachers to fast food workers — have temporarily lined up behind the democratic socialist from Vermont, those under 35 have offered the deepest support, not only casting ballots, but throwing themselves headlong into campaign organizing.

In fact, youth support extends even beyond the working class. Indeed, it seems that age, more than any other factor, determines one’s political proclivities today. In a number of states, for example, over 80 percent of voters under the age of 30 support Sanders. By the same token, the majority distrusts Hillary Clinton. In fact, Clinton’s single most reliable base of support comes from voters over 50. There are a number of reasons why seniors, both black and white, dislike Sanders, even though he’s promised to dramatically expand social security, but I wonder again if lack of connectivity, an inability to navigate the internet, and an over-reliance on mass media — which is strongly biased against Sanders — may play a greater role than is often acknowledged.

This kind of mass political polarization along sharp generational lines has not existed since the 1960s and 1970s. But while the youth mobilization of the 1960s was in part made possible by a self-conscious “youth movement” mediated by music, sex, drugs, consumerism and a belief in the allegedly inherent emancipatory potential of youth, if young people today have banded together around radical ideas, it’s not because of some “youth culture.” It’s because young people lived through an era of fictitious economic growth, then a devastating crisis that dispelled all illusions, leaving them nothing but staggeringly high debt, unemployment, and no future. For them, politics is no fad; it’s become a question of life and death — especially when one recognizes that we are dealing with the first generation to fully recognize the immediacy of ecological disaster, which many are increasingly, and correctly, linking to capitalism.

What we have emerging, then, is a new, diverse cohort of predominantly young people, the majority of whom belong to the working class or a collapsing “middle class,” now open to socialist ideas, clamoring for systematic change, and who are increasingly networked, trained and experienced in organizing. The vast majority of these people are, like Bernie, not socialists in any specific historical sense, but they are willing to fight for major changes. The potential here is enormous, and for this, we have to thank the Sanders campaign — whether or not we like Bernie’s social-democratic politics.





The major question, of course, is what happens next. It’s very possible that these young, politicized Sanders supporters will be incorporated into the Democratic Party. If Bernie wins the nomination, the risks are enormous. But even if he doesn’t, which seems far more likely now, he may produce the same effect if he throws his weight behind Clinton at the Convention in July. Or possibly, if Hillary emerges victorious, she may tap someone like Elizabeth Warren to serve as Vice-President as part of some calculated strategy to win over Bernie’s supporters.

It is also safe to assume that the Democratic Party will itself try to make the most of this opportunity by organizing many of these young people into its ranks. All this highlights the great contradiction of Bernie’s campaign: he would not have reached — and radicalized — such a vast audience if he did not run as a Democrat, but in working within the Democratic Party, he has potentially wedded this new audience to perhaps the greatest counter-revolutionary force in the United States.

It is also possible that this energy will dissipate in the following few months. A Clinton victory — or more accurately a vote against Donald Trump — may demoralize a generation already deeply suspicious of the “rigged” political process. And if by some chance Bernie wins but then fails to realize crucial aspects of his vision, that, too, will result in disillusionment, just as Obama disappointed his supporters (though it should be noted that this did not lead them to drop out of politics, but to rally around Bernie). Instead of empowering young people to overthrow the system, the campaign may ultimately lead many to resign themselves to its inevitability.

These possible outcomes have been discussed before. But nothing is predetermined. The far left can have a hand in how all of this plays out, which leads to a third possibility: uniting all of these new socialists into an autonomous revolutionary organization.

Unfortunately, while there is much talk on the matter, including a “People’s Summit” in Chicago and preparations for a far more radical socialist convergence in July with representatives from many of the existing far-left currents in the United States, radicals have not yet devised a coherent strategy. As it stands, the de facto approach has been for organizations to “recruit” young Sanders supporters — or more precisely, wait for these supporters to magically fall into their lap. To my mind, this seems doomed to failure. Even if existing socialist organizations succeed in funneling some Bernie supporters into their ranks, we can’t move forward by dividing this new mass of politicized young people into tiny groups that have outlived their historical conditions. While they might try to rebrand themselves for the 21st century, inherited organizations do not, and in fact cannot, speak to the needs of a new cycle of struggle.

We need new forms of organization that are appropriate to our historical conjuncture. While we should certainly foster a diverse constellation of organizations for different situations, it’s becoming clear that we need some kind of binding element to link these distinct initiatives, campaigns, struggles and movements. The symbolic figure of Sanders may have tenuously and unevenly drawn different segments together, but only an autonomous, radical organization tailored to present conditions can make sure their encounter not only takes hold, but continues to develop in potentially revolutionary directions.





I therefore suggest that if American radicals really care about making the most of this upsurge, they should consider dissolving their existing formations to create the nucleus of a new kind of organization capable of playing this role. Such a call may seem presumptuous, but let us recall that the most successful organizational forms of the past — that is to say, those organizations most attuned to the needs of their time — themselves emerged from the liquidation, radical recombination and subsequent transformation of the elements of existing groups, networks and collectives.

Normally, I oppose such calls for “Left Unity” since they usually amount to nothing more than purely abstract and rhetorical statements of solidarity between groups with no real connection to mass struggles. But in this case, we are faced with what is in many respects a kind of a mass movement, even if it’s passing under the guise of an election campaign. Most importantly, this movement is intricately intertwined with other vibrant, more militant struggles in which the far-left is in fact closely involved. This radical ecosystem is the condition of possibility for a new organization. Unity will come, therefore, not from any shared ideological platform, but through common struggle.

Our chances for such a qualitative leap are more propitious than they have been in decades. The established political configuration in the United States hasn’t been this vulnerable since the 1970s. The Republican Party is undergoing a profound structural transformation, and Trump’s impending nomination has provoked defections and a potential mutiny. The Democratic Party is being pulled in two directions and may be headed for a contested convention. Record numbers of Americans are leaving both parties — 43 percent now identify as Independents, as opposed to 30 percent as Democrats and only 26 percent as Republican. Across the board tens of millions of Americans are rejecting “establishment politics,” turning to either Trump or Sanders.

We should also be encouraged by the fact that many of these newly radicalized Sanders supporters may already be prepared to break with the logic of the political system — according to one poll, for instance, one third of Sanders supporters say they won’t vote for Clinton in the general election. But without a viable alternative in the form of an organizational presence, we won’t be able to transform this inchoate #BernieOrBust sentiment into revolutionary politics. And if, against all odds, Sanders wins, it is very likely that only a unified, alternative organization embedded in today’s many ongoing struggles can prevent radicalized Sanders supporters from integrating into a fundamentally unreformable Democratic Party. In short, we need an organization to fuse together the millions of enthusiastic people who may otherwise disperse or find themselves subsumed and then disorganized by the state apparatuses.

With such exceptionally high stakes, the far left, usually so minuscule and ineffectual in this country, needs to devise a shared, coherent organizational strategy. Now, more than ever, we need an organization to continue radicalizing newer generations, keep people engaged in contemporary struggles, unite disparate movements, articulate different sectors of the working class, preserve continuity between waves of struggles, fashion a common project, and, above all, seize power — by which I do not mean simply winning a couple seats in Congress as some purely electoral party, but overthrowing capitalism through a mass revolutionary upheaval that unfolds both against and within the state apparatuses.

There hasn’t been this much interest in radical change, nor this much anger against capitalism in the United States since the 1970s. If we, as committed socialists, miss this moment, the future will never forgive us.




The “System” holds no future for the 99% a Political Revolution does – Progressive News, Books & Blogs – fah451bks.wordpress.comfahrenheit-e144138127674444566


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