July 3, 2019

Philosopher Srecko Horvat on the Yugoslav Fight Against Fascism and th...

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Philosopher Srecko Horvat discusses the historical lessons we can learn from the guerrilla struggle against fascism waged by the Partisans in Yugoslavia during World War II. Horvat also talks about the recent surge in extreme right-wing political forces in Europe and what that trend and Julian Assange’s case mean for the future of democracy.

We aired an excerpt of this interview on Intercepted. What follows is the audio and transcript of the entire conversation. Intercepted is going on hiatus for the summer and will return with new episodes in September 2019.

Jeremy Scahill: This is Intercepted.

[Music interlude.]

JS: I’m Jeremy Scahill coming to you from the offices of The Intercept in New York City and this is a special bonus episode of Intercepted.

Donald Trump has encouraged a new sort of alliance in the world, an alliance of fascists, authoritarians, dictators. It’s striking to contrast this emerging global coalition of thug-ery to a movement formed out of the rubble of World War II. It was known as the Non-Aligned Movement. Marshal Josip Broz Tito of Yugoslavia and the Indian Prime Minister Nehru along with Nasser of Egypt forged an alliance of nations that had agreed not to place themselves under the ideology or control of the two major emerging empires in the world at the time: the United States and the Soviet Union. In 1961, in Belgrade, the movement was officially formed and it included most nations of Asia and Africa as well as Latin American countries and others in the global south.

Among the most central figures in the creation of this movement was Tito of Yugoslavia. During World War II, he led a guerilla struggle against fascism under the banner of the Partisans. Their slogan “Death to fascism. Free people.” The Partisans came from across the Balkans and they successfully defeated both the Italian fascists and the Nazis. This struggle ultimately led to the unification of six territories under the banner of Yugoslavia. As president of this new country, Tito had to strike a balance between a Soviet Union that was enraged that Yugoslavia did not agree to be placed behind the Iron Curtain and a United States that was increasingly imperial in its global outlook.

Marshal Tito was famous for standing up to Stalin as well as Winston Churchill and the United States. And the country that he built was an incredible experiment in alternative ways of organizing society. Yugoslavia embraced the centrality of workers to the health of society and implemented socially owned factories. It emphasized national unity and respect for the diversity of its people and geography.

That Yugoslavia was crushed in the 1990s, in a brutally murderous civil war where extreme nationalists engaged in historical revisionism and the promotion of ethnocentric spheres of power. The Serbian leader Slobodan Miloševic and the Croat Franjo Tudjman both carried out murderous ethnic cleansing campaigns of mass slaughter and displacement. Much of the killing took place in the multi-ethnic republic of Bosnia which had the largest population of Muslims in Yugoslavia.

There’s much that we can learn from the struggle of the Partisans, the society that they sought to build and the horrifying end to the story of Yugoslavia. These lessons resonate strongly in our current moment in history.

Joining me now to talk about all of this, the philosopher and author Srecko Horvat. He is the author of “What Does Europe Want?: The Union and its Discontents” — which he wrote with Slavoj Žižek — “Welcome to the Desert of Post-Socialism,” as well as “The Radicality of Love.” With Yanis Varoufakis, he is one of the founders of the Democracy in Europe Movement. His latest book is “Poetry From the Future: Why a Global Liberation Movement is Our Civilization’s Last Chance.”

Srecko Horvat welcome to this bonus episode of Intercepted.

Srecko Horvat: Thanks for having me here.

JS: So, I want to ask you first, in a very big picture sense, you know, we in the United States, of course, have been following the rise of Donald Trump. And every time he tweets, or sneezes, or whatever, it becomes a big news story, but in Europe there have been sort of parallel movements that have been either rising to power or threatening to take power that seem to share a lot in common with Donald Trump and his world vision. Just for people who don’t follow it closely what has been happening around Europe with the kind of re-ascension of hard right or neo-fascistic movements?

SH: Well, I would first say that what we can witness in Europe today is that it’s not only that we have a rise of the hard right-wing, or as you called it, fascist movements and populists leaders who are already in power such as Matteo Salvini in Italy for instance, who doesn’t allow the refugees to sail into the Italian ports for instance, or Viktor Orbán who is in power in Hungary. You know, the one who is famous for saying that it’s finished with democracy and that we are living in the era of so-called “i-liberal democracy.” And then of course you also have different right-wing leaders such as the recent scandal in Austria with Strache which means that Europe is really shifting towards this right-wing, not only ideology, but reality.

But since you mentioned Donald Trump and that they are similar to Trump, I would say yes, they’re similar to Trump even if you take for instance, Umberto Eco’s work, the famous Italian writer, but also, a very interesting semiotician and political thinker who has written a very short text called “Ur-Fascism” where he names several characteristics of fascism and one among them is fear of strangers. The other one is misogyny, and then you have other characteristics which he places as you know, the original fascism. And if you take these characteristics for instance, and apply it to Trump, to Salvini, to Bolsonaro, to other leaders all across the world, you will see that the situation actual today is really resembling this kind of Ur-Fascism.

But what is important to say, because at this moment, Trump is in the U.K., visiting the U.K. Angela Merkel as you probably know delivered a speech at Harvard very recently. And what is the connection between this? I think what the liberals usually do, this kind of naive interpretation of the rise of the right-wing populist, is that they almost present it as if the right-wing ideology in reality fell from the sky. But Merkel at Harvard, you’ve probably seen in which way also the liberal media was writing about it: “Oh, finally a European leader who will teach Trump, you know, that we have to tear down the walls and so on.” But do you know where Angela Merkel was just a few weeks ago?

She visited Croatia the country where I come from, which was part of Yugoslavia. And she visited Croatia just before the European elections. And before the European elections, she held a speech rejecting, where she was talking about rejecting nationalism. And she held the speech at the political rally of the conservative Croatian party, which is very deep into historical revisionism also some problems on the border with refugees and so on. And while she was speaking about rejecting nationalism by actually de facto supporting nationalism.

And I think this is the problem, even when Angela Merkel speaks at Harvard, that we have to reject nationalism. What she did and what the political center did in Europe during the last years is that they actually created the monsters, you know. They were creating the fertile ground for the creation of Salvini, Orbán, Sebastian Kurz. In what way? By imposing austerity, for instance, new depths on the periphery of the European Union. Your listeners probably still remember the example of Greece and the 2015 Oxi referendum. And there is a parallel to the United States as well. Donald Trump didn’t fall from the sky. I think the liberal class in the U.S. really has to pose itself a very serious question: Where did Donald Trump actually come from?

JS: You’re, of course, talking about Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, she’s been on the cover of Time Magazine in the U.S., people have compared her here in the U.S. to Hillary Clinton that she’s the responsible adult on the world scene. And as you say, she’s the one that’s going to sort of stand up or issue corrective measures against Donald Trump.

But I want to go back to you talking about her visit to Croatia. Srecko, one of the things that I’ve noticed over the past several years, and I’ve done a lot of traveling around the former Yugoslavia, including in Croatia, is that I’ve noticed that there’s been this move since the Yugoslav Civil War —the disintegration war of Yugoslavia—to tear down all of these anti-fascist monuments throughout the country in Croatia.

And they’re starting to be replaced with monuments that purport to be in honor of the victims of communism. And they often have sort of a Christian biblical overtones to them, but they’re also blowing up the names of people who fought and died to repel either the Italian fascist, or the Nazis from Germany. And there’s this massive historical revisionism going on right now in Croatia. And we can talk about other former republics of Yugoslavia. But given that you’re from Croatia, I just want to ask you about this erasing of history and then presenting a factually inaccurate new version of history in the form of monuments replacing those to the anti-fascist struggle.

SH: It’s a very good question, and I’m glad that you asked it. And I know that you traveled a lot through former Yugoslavia and even during the war, and people usually don’t understand on the one hand, the importance of the Yugoslav historical sequence and the experience of real existing socialism. Even Jeremy Hunt, the foreign secretary of U.K. when he visited Slovenia — which was one of the republics of Yugoslavia — at the press conference in front of the other Slovenian leaders, he even said that Slovenia was a Soviet vassal state. And you probably also know in the U.S. that Donald Trump even claimed that Yugoslavia fell apart in the Baltic, not in the Balkans. So you can see there is you know, a lot of confusion, even about geography, even if Melania comes from Slovenia— Actually, I don’t know how many people in the U.S. know that Slovenia was part of Yugoslavia.

JS: One of the hosts of an MSNBC show in the U.S., Joy-Ann Reid said it was — She’s from Soviet Yugoslavia.

SH: That’s precisely what’s happening all the time. Even when they present me they say, “Oh, he’s a philosopher from Soviet Yugoslavia.” Which brings us directly into, back to your question, because I think the Yugoslav experience was really special precisely because it wasn’t Soviet. You know, the creation of real existing socialism happened after Tito had a break with Stalin and didn’t want to follow the rules of the Comintern. What you had to come back to your question in the ’90s, after the collapse of Yugoslavia is really this erasure of history, which happened in different ways in different republics of Yugoslavia.

In Croatia, unfortunately, on the one hand, it took the form that they were really kicking out, dropping out books from schools connected to Marx to Engels and so on, but also to Dostoevsky, or Tolstoy. Most of the books I have today at my home library, were saved by the gypsies, sold in flea markets, and so on, and I bought it, and so on. But one even more, I would say traumatic consequence was the destruction of anti-fascist monuments. More than thousands of the monuments were destroyed in Croatia, which was really a deliberate move to erase the history of the Partisan struggle and well, I would say, a big modernization project, which happened here in Yugoslavia.

This situation is, I would say, not just specific for Croatia. It’s very interesting to see that this kind of historical revisionism, which is actually turning the defeated in the Second World War into those who succeeded to win, which is of course, false, but you can see that this trend is actually happening in many post communist countries. If you go to Poland, if you go to Hungary, like in Hungary, the György Lukács archive was closed, which I think is a big scandal. Then in Poland, of course, you have this rise of the conservative Christian forces connected to abortion and so on. In the same way as in the United States, you have this kind of science fiction Handmaid’s Tale going reality, in Poland, in the U.S., in these countries as well. And basically my conclusion of this is, why is this historical revisionism flourishing so much precisely in post-communist countries?

I would say precisely because the so-called transition period, as they call it in academic circles, transition meaning the transition from communism to capitalism didn’t succeed. It didn’t succeed because if you look at these countries — Croatia, Serbia, not to mention Bosnia, or Kosovo — you will see that these countries are semi-dependent peripheries of the European Union, which are in a kind of colonial situation with German, French, Italian companies basically owning all the companies, which were previously state-owned, the infrastructure, from banks to posts, and so on.

And then the question is really whether you have any kind of sovereignty. And if you don’t really have any kind of sovereignty, which is the case not only in these countries, but you’ve seen it with a series of experiences in Greece, if you don’t have real sovereignty, then the solution is very often historical revisionism which means building up a kind of identity in the sense of America first, Croatia first, whatever first. But this kind of fake identity of national identity, which I think in the 21st century is a very problematic idea given that the very concept of sovereignty will completely change in the next decades.

JS: I was recently in Belgrade, in Serbia and the Prime Minister of Serbia Aleksandar Vucic was Slobodan Miloševic’s information minister during the late 1990s and during the bombing of Yugoslavia over Kosovo. You have now Serbia trying to figure out which way it’s going to orient itself. Russia has increased its investment in Serbia. You also have the Emirates coming in to Serbia. Then you have Croatia, which is a kind of neo-liberal rump member of the European Union. And it seems as though in the areas of the former Yugoslavia, you have very similar dynamics that occurred in other European countries during the fall of Yugoslavia, where they’re kind of trying to figure out who the patron is going to be. And then Bosnia just continues to be punished economically as a people and is really in horrible economic shape and Bosnians have almost no opportunity. It used to be in Croatia, you would see a lot of Bosnians working in Croatia. Now that Croatia is an EU member, you see that less and less but talk about the landscape of these countries of the former Yugoslavia and the geopolitical games that are being played.

SH: I would say that the Balkans and ex-Yugoslavia this part of Europe is geopolitically becoming one of the most interesting, I would say, places for those who just follow it. But for those who live here, the situation is becoming very worrying, I would say, because you can see different trends in different countries. And of course, now we have new borders. Some countries are part of the European Union such as Slovenia, Croatia, then, you know, the European Union sends the Frontex, which is the army dealing with refugees and protecting outer borders. So it’s sending Frontex between Croatia and Bosnia, which then is creating an even bigger divide.

But what I find most interesting is Serbia. I spent a lot of time in Serbia, have many friends there, visit it very often. In Serbia, you can see in which way, you can see the failure of the European Union, on the one hand. Failure in the sense that the European Union is not anymore so attractive to accessing countries were 10 years ago, I think everyone in Serbia would have been keen to enter the European Union. If you go there today, there is no enthusiasm for it anymore. Instead of that, as you said, you have Russian capital, Russian influence.

Vladimir Putin recently, last year visited Belgrade. There were 100,000 people waiting for him, which was, of course, a theater show by Vucic, who basically paid the people, paid them bus tickets from villages in Serbia, and so on and sandwiches, literally like that to come to Belgrade. So, you can imagine what kind of dire situation the population of Serbia lives in these villages because they usually don’t have an opportunity even to come to Belgrade. But Putin did this for a very particular reason, which is called Nord Stream. So Nord Stream in the sense that you can see that Europe is in the middle of a new energy battle between the United States and Russia. You know, who will provide the natural gas to Europe? Will it be the Russians or will it be the U.S.? And you will see also in Germany, I was living the last two months in Germany. I followed the debate there. There is a big debate also about precisely the same question.

So, coming back to Serbia. So on the one hand, you can see Russia’s influence, which is connected to natural gas. On the other hand, Belgrade as a city is completely changing. It’s turning into a new Dubai. You have skyscrapers. You have the United Arab Emirates building these completely senseless, ugly projects in Belgrade. And then, of course, you have China. And then speaking about China, it becomes really interesting in which way, China is actually using the failure and utter incompetence of European foreign policy because there is no such thing as European foreign policy as you can see. On the one hand you have Angela Merkel giving a speech at Harvard, criticizing Trump, although she didn’t name him by name, but we know. And on the other hand, you have the royal family in London, greeting Trump as in a bad sort of Terry Gilliam, Brazil movie or something like that.

So Europe’s incompetence when it comes to foreign policy has created an open field in the Balkans for different geopolitical interests. With China it’s interesting that I would say, this is one of the biggest infrastructure projects of the early 21st century, the One Belt One Road project, building this speed railway from China to Europe. We should go a step back. In which way Europe’s foreign policy but also economic policy actually created the possibility for China to move in this big way into Europe, building the infrastructure.

And if you go back to Greece to 2015, which was quite an important momentum, because 61 percent of the Greek population voted “oxi” [no] at the referendum. They voted against austerity measures, which were imposed by European institutions, the European Central Bank, and others, which is this official line of Europe: you know that, you need more austerity, you need to sell off your public assets —your airports, your ports. And then what happened is, of course, that the Greek Syriza government was forced to sell the Port of Piraeus in Greece, which is one of the most strategic ports in the Mediterranean Sea, to the Chinese company called COSCO.

And the Chinese — that was 2015 — the Chinese in the meantime, of course, if you look at the map, if you can visualize the map, so you have Greece a bit down there. What they want to do now is by ships, they will transport the goods, and they’re already doing it directly to the port of Piraeus, then the railway will go up to Macedonia, then it will go to Bulgaria to Serbia. The Chinese Prime Minister was in Serbia last year, and they made an agreement together with Vucic and Viktor Orban, which means they’re now already in a project, I think, of building a new railway, from Belgrade to Budapest —

JS: And what are the consequences of this railway that China is laying down in the aftermath of the implosion of the Greek economy or the forced implosion of the Greek economy?

SH: Well, I think the consequences are really big. I mean, already now, today, it’s impossible to avoid Chinese products anywhere. But what they will do is what they realized, what China realized is that the transport of products by ships is just too slow. And then sometimes you also have the problem with the Somali pirates and so on. I don’t know whether they’re still active, but it’s just too slow. And time is money as the mantra of capitalism says, and they realize that if they are able to transport the products from Beijing to let’s say, Hamburg in two weeks, it will actually bring them to an even bigger geopolitical power. What it means for the Balkans and for the future of European Union, I will put it like this: Why isn’t it Europe itself, which is investing into big infrastructure projects? Why isn’t Europe building railway trains? Did you know that China builds every year more fast train railway tracks than Germany has altogether? You know

JS: We have none in the United States, Srecko. We don’t have any high speed trains in this country.

SH: Yeah, but you have, you will have Hyperloop and all this shit. I mean, I’m joking. But yeah, I know, it sounds as a European complaining to you who don’t have it. But let me tell you an anecdote. One year ago, or during this time, the trip from Zagreb to Belgrade by train is now taking around seven or eight hours. It is like 350-400 kilometers. And according to the data I found, this same trip during the Austrian-Hungarian monarchy, which was, you know, a lot of time ago, took less time than today. So you can see that the infrastructure is completely devastated. It’s devastated, of course, because of corruption, because of austerity and so on.

And for a Chinese train, this trip will take one hour, probably, but there is a problem, of course. You know, there is a problem that the constructs which the Chinese makes is that basically, these railway tracks, as far as I know, maybe I’m wrong, will not be used so much for passenger travels, but mainly for the transport of goods.

But to come back to Europe, you know, what you can detect here with all this what we have talked about, Serbia in this situation, Croatia in this situation, not to mention, you know, Austria, what’s happening there. There will be snap elections in September. There are now snap elections in Greece, with New Democracy rising this month. You can see that Europe is in a deep crisis. Europe is and it’s not just, you know, this kind of identity crisis, I think it’s a serious internal crisis and a serious geopolitical crisis. And while Europe is in this crisis, not being able to find a common political path, which will it will follow, and which it should follow. It is losing the ground, I would say, to other players to China, Russia, Arabs, and so on, and even the U.S. You can see it with Trump’s visit to the U.K.

So, you have a Europe which is not united anymore. You have a Europe, which is actually giving away its own infrastructure instead of investing in the infrastructure. You have a Europe which is maybe from the American point of view, Europe still looks like Paris in the movies, Rome and all this kind of utopian bullshit about Europe. But the situation here is actually very worrying. And what happens in Europe will have deep consequences on the U.S. on and on, as it always had on the rest of the world. Don’t forget that two world wars started in Europe, that in the 90s, we had the breakup of Yugoslavia, which also, as we can see now has also consequences on the rest of Europe.

JS: Of course, you had a Serbian guy, Gavrilo Princip, who is, you know, history states, ultimately, his assassination attempt on the Archduke Franz Ferdinand and his concubine, was the inciting event for World War I and then of course, you also have Yugoslavia popping up in a very serious historically significant way in World War II. And part of why I wanted to talk to you is because you have this new book out “Poetry From the Future” which I highly recommend people pick up and read. And in it you talk about the significance of what became known as the Partisans establishing a new society and joining together these six republics into this country, Yugoslavia.

And you write, “Instead of being victims of their historical circumstances, the Yugoslav people took control of them and turned them to their own advantage. From the mountains of Bosnia, Herzegovina and Montenegro through the woods of Slovenia, Croatia and Serbia, and finally on the Island of Vis, fighting a guerrilla war against outnumbered Nazis and fascists including the local collaborators, the Ustaše and Chetniks. The Partisans succeeded not only in liberating the Yugoslav territory, but in establishing a new society based on the revolutionary struggle.” Before we talk about that building post-war, explain for people that don’t know this history the significance of Josip Broz Tito, known as Marshal Tito, and the Partisan forces that successfully defeated the Nazis and the Italian fascists.

SH: It’s a great question and I think the whole Yugoslav experimental experience has so many lessons for our situation today. So let me first say that I’m definitely not someone who is nostalgic. I’m someone who is very critical, at the same time of the Yugoslav experience for different reasons we can talk about. At the same time, I think, precisely this historical sequence from the second World War is so important today, because it shows several things. First of all, in order to understand it better, you have to imagine a map of Europe with the red color, and the red color represents the Nazis who occupied countries. And if you look at Europe in the ’40s, beginning of ’40s, for instance, of the last century, you will see that most of Europe is red. Not red in the sense of communism, but it is occupied by the Nazis.

And ex-Yugoslavia, at that time, it was Yugoslavia, but not socialist yet, was occupied as well. You had puppet regimes in Croatia. You had collaborators in Serbia and in this situation, there was a communist guerrilla movement. Basically, it was really a guerrilla movement, even before the guerrilla movements in Latin America, and so on. Because the terrain in Yugoslavia is full of mountains, rivers, islands, and so on. And the Yugoslav Partisans led by Tito and many others, also women, was actually the only resistance movement I would say in Europe. We had resistance movements as we know, resistance in France. We had the Greek resistance movement and so on but I would say the Yugoslav Partisans are the only ones which succeeded to use the situation of war and total occupation in order to create a social revolution, you know. It wasn’t just, oh, we came out of the war and then everything has to change so that everything can stay the same, as Lampedusa would say.

Here, it wasn’t like that. It wasn’t just a continuation of a liberal kind of system. It was an attempt to radically transform the society. And you mentioned Gavrilo Princip, who was the one who shot at Franz Ferdinand. People say he’s the one responsible for the first world war. Well, during the time when Gavrilo Princip left, this is the beginning of the 20th century. At that time, 95 percent of the Bosnian population Gavrilo Princip came from — I mean he was there — 95 percent of the population in Bosnia were illiterate.

Now, the situation is completely the opposite. You know, because of the modernization project of Yugoslavia, which was you know, building highways, building architecture, you know, in MoMA, the museum in New York recently had an exhibition, a really good one called Concrete Utopia, about Yugoslav architecture. And it’s really sad that here in Croatia, in Serbia, and so on these fantastic buildings which look like science fiction, are devastated, ruined, no one really cares. And then you have the Museum of Modern Art in New York, which is showing us what kind of architecture we had. So it was architecture, it was a modernization project, which included all spheres of the life.

And well, I could talk more about it, but let me just say that if there are three lessons of the Yugoslav experience, I would say the first one — three lessons for our dark, dystopian times today — the first lesson is anti-fascism and in which way you can actually lead a successful struggle against fascism. Here it is also important to name all the negotiations which took place between Tito and Fitzroy Maclean — on the one hand who was the true inspiration for the character of James Bond, and who was fighting together with the Partisans from Bosnia to the Island of Vis — and Winston Churchill whom I don’t find the most positive character in history. But, and that’s a big lesson I would say, Winston Churchill realized that the only way to win the second World War is to make an alliance even with those whom he despised the most, namely the communists, but he did it because for strategic reasons.

And I think this is, you know, a failure today where you can see that the liberal establishment, the so-called political center is very afraid of alliances with the left. Instead of having alliances with the left, they’re doing everything in order to diminish the left. Yugoslavia is a good lesson, I would say, to show that if we really want to get out of this today’s very dangerous geopolitical situation, we will need some new alliances, even if they are just tactical.

The second lesson — so, the first lesson is anti-fascism and which way to defeat fascism. The second lesson is self-management. This is why I’m really so annoyed when all these people talk about Soviet Yugoslavia. The main difference was really what Tito did in 1948, is that when he broke with Stalin and the Comintern, is that he introduced the project of self-management which in practice well, it didn’t really function but the idea was good. The idea was that the surplus value of the work done by workers wouldn’t go, you know, to the managers and to the bankers and so on but would go back and they could decide on their future. So, it’s not just democracy. It was supposed to be economic democracy.

For different reasons that didn’t succeed. We can talk about it as well but I think today it’s a very important idea as well where you know, a manager in a company as CEO has 400 or 1,000 times bigger salary than a worker in the same company and this is what started with Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Regan, this trend in the ’70s and so on.

JS: Before you go to the third, I just want to also just share one fact that I’ve always found incredible about the story of Yugoslavia and that is that when Yugoslavia existed and they were experimenting with socially-owned property, the most common way that workers got a home in Yugoslavia was through their work. In the same way that Americans are dependent on employers for healthcare, which is a bad system, in Yugoslavia, the way that most people graduated from living with their parents, you know, with their young families to their own apartment is that they would earn an apartment through their labor. And that was the most common way that people were obtaining a place to live, right?

SH: Yes, thanks for this because I think it’s becoming also a relevant topic today. You know, I just came back from Berlin and in Berlin, there have, like in all European cities, there is a huge housing crisis, which is on the one hand, the consequence of monopoly capitalism. You know, big companies buying a lot of flats in a city and then the prices are rising and on the other side, it’s a consequence of so-called platform capitalism which means Airbnb-ization of everything. Which you know to put it very simple, it means that if a student from a small Croatian or Spanish village wants to come to Barcelona or to Zagreb, the price, everyone, it’s very difficult to find even a flat to live in the center of the city because it’s much more profitable to rent an apartment to Airbnb and that’s a big problem.

In Berlin, they had such a problem that one company that’s very recent, one company succeeded to own more than 3,000 flats in Berlin and it completely changed the whole market of housing in Berlin. Because if you have 3,000 flats, basically, you’re the one who can decide on the prices. It’s called monopoly capitalism. In Yugoslavia, and like that we had social housing. Not only that it might surprise you because it will sound as fake news as if I invented it just now but come to the Croatian Coast, you will know, you’ve been to the Croatian Coast. You will see even hotels where the workers would go for vacation which was part of their contract.

JS: Part of what I think is so fascinating, to give the concrete examples that we’re talking about here is because it’s such a foreign concept to people in the United States, but last summer I was in a small village on the Adriatic Coast outside of the city of Zadar and I saw this abandoned, what looked like a series of really nice bungalows and it’s going to be razed to the ground and there’s going to be some high rise condos or a hotel put there probably with Turkish money. A lot of Turkish companies are now investing on the Adriatic coast. But what it was under Yugoslavia were summer bungalows for postal workers from all around Yugoslavia. They had a right to go there on vacation every year and it was a series of bungalows just for postal workers to take their time off.

SH: Yeah, but that’s precisely that’s the fascinating thing. I think most of the people who are listening to us now will think that we came from a communist past, you know, this kind of propaganda department, but it is not. You know, you go to the I mean, I don’t know whether it’s open but the Concrete Utopia exhibition at the Museum of Modern Art in New York also shows these hotels as bungalows, and so on. And besides just giving all these people, the workers the opportunity to go for vacation on the coast, you know, it also I think, was very important for the diversity and exchange between the different countries of Yugoslavia, because I think really, you know, Europe had or still has this program of Erasmus, which is mainly for students who then get a scholarship to travel around Europe. But I think what we need today is a kind of universal Erasmus, you know. What if for instance, a British postal worker could go to Croatia and the Croatian postal worker could go to London and there will be an organized system of exchanges and so on? I would say that you would immediately see the downfall of right-wing populism and so on because most of the people just don’t travel that’s a big problem.

Of course, with climate change and the climate crisis, we could also pose other questions whether people should travel so much. You mentioned tourism. A big problem for these countries of the periphery of the European Union — Spain, Portugal, Greece, Croatia included— is tourism. Why is it a problem? It’s a problem because — I’ll give you just the figures for Croatia — Croatia and Malta are the two top countries in the world when it comes to the share of GDP for tourism. For Croatia, I think it’s over 18 percent now which means that basically you have an economy which is completely dependent on tourism.

And you know, when you are completely dependent on tourism, then you are also dependent on the weather, for instance or if some geopolitical situation changes or you have a terrorist attack as in Tunisia for instance, everything can change and then there is no 18 percent of the GDP anymore and there is no industry anymore because we don’t have any industry anymore after the so-called period of transition from communism to capitalism. This is a big problem.

It’s like a semi-colonial situation in which we are here today and not to mention also the climate costs in which way it is ruining the coast, in which way it is ruining small communities, which were dependent on fishing, for instance. Now, they’re dependent on Airbnb.

JS: You know, when Woody Guthrie wrote and would sing, “This land is your land,” you know, every American knows at least part of that song because it’s used in you know, commercials, and it’s become part of pop culture. But if you dig down into the other verses of it, he has a line where he talks about a sign on the side of the road and one side said private property. And the other side of it was blank. And he says that that land was made for you and me meaning, you know, he was taking a stand against the notion of private property. And in Croatia right now, one of the biggest political issues is what you’re talking about that you have this dependence on tourism, you have this gorgeous coastal territory and it is. It’s remarkable. Anyone who’s been to Croatia will tell you it’s absolutely stunningly gorgeous. And what is being —

SH: Don’t mention that. Even more people will come —

JS: The flip side of this is that of the staples of the former Yugoslavia was the notion that the coastline belongs to no one. It belongs to everyone. And yes, you had government corruption including under Tito and you had private islands and all of that but in general, the coastal areas of Yugoslavia were considered common property that anyone could use. And now, you have these huge hotel conglomerates, you have foreign investors coming in. And they’re saying no, we want to be able to have a private beach, because the current law would allow anyone to go even to a five star resort’s so-called private beach, and they can say, I have a right to put my towel next to your fancy chairs. I can sit on this beach because it belongs to the people. Well now, that may change and it’s for the exact reasons you’re talking about. It’s the privatization. It’s the dependence on tourism and then it’s very aggressive foreign investors working with corrupt Croatian business people to backdoor privatize the coast that belongs to the people.

SH: Yes, you described it as it is. I would say it’s even a bit worse. That, yes, certainly you have a privatization of the coast. I mean we already had this trend. You know, the first things which were privatized after the, just during actually, the breakup of Yugoslavia were for instance water sources. Coca-Cola bought several water sources in Bosnia and Croatia and so on, in the ’90s when the war was still going on, which was really this kind of shock doctrine — what Naomi Klein talks about, in the sense that you have a situation of a shock of a war and then basically you sell off, the corrupt Croatian politicians together with the corrupt Western politicians make deals to sell off the natural resources.

And this, what is happening now to the coast is a logical consequence of it. But why I’m saying it’s even worse, it’s even worse because precisely in Croatia, you can see all the problems of global capitalism. On the one hand, you know, we are happy that we are now connected to the world and so on. But all these EasyJet flights, this EasyJet culture and so on is not only contributing to the climate crisis, and I think actually, people should travel more by train, but there is no functioning train system in Croatia because Europe didn’t or Croatia didn’t invest in it and so on. So we are opening again the same problems we have.

But it’s not only EasyJet. I don’t know, you notice probably that recently, Croatia also became a set for big Hollywood movies. Like when I was in Dubrovnik recently, and there are so many Chinese and also American tourists. Basically, Dubrovnik is a fascinating city. It’s history is even more fascinating.

JS: No, no, no, it’s just King’s Landing. There’s no history. It’s just King’s Landing, man.

SH: Yeah, Game of Thrones. And, you know, and everyone just recognizes this. And if you go to the Island of Vis, it is an island, which recently became the set for the famous Mamma Mia movie. And, you know, OK, you could say this is making Croatia even more popular, which will be good because the local people will then rent their apartments and so on. But it’s really, it’s a sort of, I would say, you know, that movie called Idiocracy, you know, where people watch a movie, and then they will go there and then they will say, oh, King’s Landing, you know. No, it’s not just the King’s Landing, actually, it has a much more important and much more fascinating history than the Game of Thrones.

But you can see that these countries are kind of, even in that way, in the visual representation, it’s again, becoming a sort of colony or just a set of for a movie. And that’s bad, of course, I mean, it’s bad for the local culture. I’m not saying we have to retreat and go back to the local culture. I’m not so naive. I don’t believe in it. But yes, habits are being lost. Local languages are being lost, not to mention the rising skyrocketing prices of properties in cities such as Dubrovnik or others on the coast, precisely because of a Hollywood movie, and so on.

And then if you go to Dubrovnik or any other Croatian touristic city in the winter, you will find no people in the center of the city. There, the cities are basically dead, even split and so on. Because most of the people are just doing tourism. No one lives there anymore in the center. It’s like Venice, for instance, take Venice, take the recent accident which happened with a big cruiser in Venice. I mean, it’s disgusting. You know, the human civilization is really ruining itself. I’m not against tourism. I’m not saying that people shouldn’t travel. I think they should travel much more precisely to meet other cultures. And some people also need vacation from time to time. But I think we have to radically rethink global tourism and what it means and in which way it could be more sustainable, how it can be connected to a Green New Deal, to massive investment into public infrastructure—trains, other sorts of transport. There is so much to be done when it comes to tourism.

JS: I know we need to get to your third lesson that we can take from this but the reason that I’m drilling down and people may think “Oh, these guys are just talking in the weeds,” is because I think you cited my colleague and friend Naomi Klein, and her writing in the “Shock Doctrine.” And of course, much of what she’s doing now is focused on the climate catastrophe that we are facing in this world. And I think that in these neoliberal states that converted from socialism or communism into whatever it is now that you have multinational banks. You have powerful Western countries imposing austerity measures, etc, on smaller countries that are new members of the non-communist club, is that you also have climate disaster in Croatia in the form of these either wildfires or fires that are started by somebody who threw a cigarette out and there is no effective response and people are kind of left to maybe the state is going to send planes or helicopters to put out our fire or maybe we need to hire private individuals to do this?

I mean, this is the reality that we are now facing also in parts of the United States in California where people have to hire or have insurance through private companies that if my house is on fire, I’m going to have a private fire force that’s going to make sure to put out my fire first, rather than wait for 911 dispatchers to send out a fire truck. So, explain how climate is affecting Croatia and then it’s compounded by the kind of implosion of state services or the disappearance of it and the move toward privatized disaster response.

SH: The example from California which you gave is excellent because it proves that Margaret Thatcher’s mantra is completely right today, unfortunately. You know when Margaret Thatcher said that famously, that there is no such thing as society, only individuals. And you can see it in California and other countries and so on where more and more you have a private sector which will basically just help the rich people. I mean it’s simple as that.

When it comes to Europe what you can see connected to the climate crisis is it’s not just wildfires, for instance. Croatia, for instance, and the Croatian Coast and islands has a big problem with plastics and the waste. Which it goes like this, you know, I come every year to a certain island in Croatia and if I come in the spring, the beaches are full of plastic. And then me and local friends — and I’m coming to the lesson also of one of the lessons of Yugoslavia, I would say — me and my friends go there on the beach, we clean the beach, and so on. And the very next day the plastic comes back.

If you look from where the products come half of them are Albanian, and others are French or German —French or German medical equipment, for instance. And then you ask yourself, “OK, why is there Albanian, French and German garbage on Croatian islands?” And then you have to come to the source of this problem. And the source is that, on the one hand, Albania after the collapse of the communist regime there, doesn’t really have a sustainable waste management system. On the other hand —and here we come to a more global problem— the rich countries of the European Union including Germany, France, and so on are basically sending a lot of waste including medical equipment to Albania. And then following sea currents, the waste from Albania, together with Albanian waste and from Western Europe comes to the Croatian islands.

And what is then the lesson of Yugoslavia? The lesson is that even if I clean the beach every fucking day, the next day the plastics will come. Even if there is no plastics on the beaches, we are all already eating microplastics, you know. Scientists have found microplastics from the Swiss Alps to the Antarctic.

So, there is no way out in that way and the only way out is and this is one of the lessons of Yugoslavia, which has to be rethought seriously, is the Non-Aligned Movement namely that was the movement of the 20th century which was founded by Nehru, Tito, and Nasser with the basic idea that the countries of the global south have to cooperate together. Of course, it was a situation of the Cold War where the main reason for the foundation of the Non-Aligned Movement was that you don’t join Soviet Russia and you don’t join the United States, but you actually try to create a genuine third option and I think we need that more and more today.
You’ve seen probably in the news recently that Malaysia was sending back the waste which the Western countries were sending to Malaysia. I think that’s a very good thing and it also shows, because I follow the debate in the United States. I respect Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez a lot. Although, I think she should speak much more about Chelsea Manning and Julian Assange but that’s another topic. But what she’s doing and I think that’s really good is really to push forward the Green New Deal.

But what is also important with the Green New Deal, which is basically very often forgotten — like now here after the European elections, everyone is talking about the so-called green wave, you know, the Green Party did very well, and so on. This is proof that Europe is going in a better direction. Well, I’m old enough, though, I’m not so old. But I’m old enough to remember that the Green Party supported the war in Afghanistan, and so on, and they didn’t really do much things for the so-called green transition in Germany.

So, the lesson of this is that even with Malaysia or the waste which is coming to Albania and then to Croatia, the lesson is that there is no Green New Deal only in one country and that the Green New Deal has to be not only social but anti-capitalist or more precisely post-capitalist. So you cannot have a green New Deal just in Germany, which is now exporting the diesel cars to the periphery of the European Union to Hungary, which is the second country in the world of premature deaths because of air pollution.

So, you know, you could imagine the kind of world which resembles the science fiction from China now, which I think is one of the best, you know, most interesting science fiction where you have a world which is basically divided. You have countries where people enjoy beautiful air, you know, sand and so on beaches, and you have countries which are literally, literally drowning in garbage. And I think that’s so important with the Green New Deal because I see two dangers for the Green New Deal. One danger for the Green New Deal is that it might soon become a sort of new green capitalism, you know, that capitalism will realize, well, maybe it’s better to turn to solar panels and so on. It’s already realizing it.

JS: This was the Barack Obama sort of idea about the Green New Deal was sort of green capitalism.

SH: Yeah, I mean, you see it now even The Greens in Germany. What else is it? I mean, it’s the same I would say, and that’s a big danger. And capitalism is already working on co-optation and making profits out of it. And the other fear I have is that you’ve seen it, for instance, with Le Pen recently during the European elections is something what we should call eco-fascism. And it’s not something completely new, if you go back to Hitler — to Hitler’s Germany —and if you look at the photos, you will see for instance, Eva Brown who was his mistress, doing yoga on a beautiful lake and then all the ideology was a kind of return to the you know, blut und boden [blood and soil.]

And you can see it today as well that this is precisely the fascists who are also using their — OK, they’re not talking about the Green New Deal, but they are also speaking about the return to the nature and so on, which is a very, very dangerous trend, I would say. So, these are the two dangers for the Green New Deal.

And I think the lesson of the Non-Aligned Movement from the 20th century, which was founded by the Tito, Nehru, Nasser, and many countries joined is that instead of following, let’s say the Western countries, which are the countries which are most responsible for the climate crisis, the global south should build new ways of cooperation. And it should send its garbage back to the Western countries.

JS: Yeah, I want to talk a little bit more about the Non-Aligned Movement because I think it’s such an important history, particularly for young people to study. You know, you mentioned Nehru, Nasser, and Tito but ultimately dozens and dozens of countries joined together to declare: We are not under the Soviet Union and we are not under the American empire capitalistic program.

And they tried to carve out their own third way, and then you had these liberation movements from around Asia and Africa joining together with Yugoslavia, with India, with Egypt and other countries to say we don’t want to participate in what you’re now calling this Cold War. We want to build an alternative model for how societies can interact with each other and organize. And in fact, Malcolm X talked about the Non-Aligned Movement in some of his speeches and the Bandung Conference in the mid-1950s.

And now all of these nations came together and realized that neither the Soviet Union nor the United States were going to solve the world’s problems and that the disempowered or the economic global south countries needed to join together to create a third way so that they wouldn’t be economically dependent on these two opposing empires, but also so that they could forge their own moral, social, and justice-oriented visions of how the world should be organized.

SH: I would say, yes, we definitely need something similar today, although the problem is that the whole situation changed of course. We are not in a Cold war anymore. We don’t have, you know, this kind of a polar world where on the one hand you have the United States, on the other hand, you have Soviet Russia —

JS: Have you watch television in the United States lately? Because that’s all they talk about is how we have this new Cold War and the Bolsheviks are coming to steal our elections.

SH: Yeah, I didn’t, but I’ve seen — but that, you can also see that it’s not just the Bolsheviks, it’s also the Chinese, you know. It’s not just the Russians anymore with the trade war with the Chinese. So, even if you watch television, you will see that there are different players now. So I would say it also reflects the fact that we live in a multicentric world, which is kind of different, but yeah, the propaganda and the ideology is very similar to the Cold War, you know.

Although it’s much more dangerous, because today, you know, it’s not just about seizing the means of production. I would say today, it’s about seizing the memes of production. You can see that this propaganda is much more successful, because of technology and memes, on the one hand, which is, you know, this creation of images for a very short attention span, and pretty popular, as you have seen with Bolsonaro, for instance, and the role of What’s App. And on the other hand, you have a sort of pre-programming of politics, like with the case of Cambridge Analytica, for instance, and Facebook showed.

So, that’s very dangerous, but precisely in this kind of situation, you need a sort of new global liberation movement, which would learn the lessons of the Non-Aligned Movement. What was successful and what were the failures? Because the Non-Aligned Movement nominally still exists today and well, how often do you hear about it? It tells a lot.

I would say one of the problems and one thing which we have to really rethink is that the Non-Aligned Movement consisted only of nation-states that was the 20th century. I think even if you have today everywhere the retreat to the nation-state, America first, Hungary first, Somalia first, whatever, I think the nation-state as a concept given the trend towards an even bigger climate crisis, might be a concept from the past.

What do I mean by that? If you have rising sea levels, if according to the — I think, it was even the World Bank. If according to their statistics, by 2050, you will have hundreds of millions of refugees mainly from the global South trying to come to Europe, then the very concept of the nation-state has to change. The very concept of sovereignty has to change and we will need more global cooperation, you know.

I don’t know if you recently watched, so I don’t watch U.S. television, unfortunately. I would love to watch it. I love to watch ideology and deconstruct it. But I’ve been recently watching Chinese science fiction and on Netflix, I don’t know if I can mention them. But they’ve been doing some good stuff as well, not only will Alfonso Cuarón’s Roma, which appeared there. But recently, a Chinese blockbuster science fiction movie appeared on Netflix. And it’s amazing, actually, whatever you think about the quality and the narrative, and so on. But the story is actually very interesting, very unusual, where you know, you have a situation in which the sun is turning into a red giant, so that the whole world has to unite. They form a sort of world government, you know, this old Emmanuel Kant’s idea that the candidates, the states would come together and create a world government. To create a world government —sounds completely crazy what I will say now — they install 10,000 motors on the back of the planet of Earth, and then they try to bring planet Earth out of its orbit towards a new sun. And, you know, OK, it’s science fiction, but couldn’t have imagined that — You know, I think we cannot even imagine what might be happening because of the climate crisis.

For instance, take the Arctic, take the melting ice, which is now making true what Fredric Jameson said, you know, that it’s possible to imagine everything, even the end of the world but not the end of capitalism. So, you know, you can imagine the end of the world. Ice is melting and so on but capitalism will go on.

Last year, Donald Trump gave the permission for the drilling of the Arctic. You’ve seen also that NATO had one of its biggest — I was just there in Norway at that time. So, I remember it. It had the biggest military exercises precisely in the Arctic. So, there is a big interest for that area and you can see that the climate crisis will create new routes not only for transport of goods but also for the exploitation of fossil fuels. Or take for instance, permafrost. Not many people speak about permafrost, but with disappearing permafrost, it might be even more dangerous than with climate change. And we cannot even predict what might happen because of that.

So, if you have these trends, if you have hundreds of millions of refugees in the next two or three decades coming to the U.S. or to Europe and so on, I think we will need a kind of global cooperation which never existed yet in the history of humanity, I would say, because you will also need to use for instance the army, you know, not to lead wars, you know, but to help people, you know, to provide routes to save them and so on. And unfortunately, I see that we are already going in that direction. Unless we are able to create a global community which would be a result of a global liberation movement and a sort of new realigned movement, I would say, which would be realigned against capitalism, against exploitation of natural resources, against the commodification of humans, their emotions and free will —what is happening with technology —unless we succeed to create this global movement and global society, which would be the first truly global society, I’m afraid that by 2050, we will see a world which would really resemble Chinese science fiction in the worst way.

JS: I want to end by asking you about where we should look for hope. You write, “What we need more than ever today is hope without optimism. This is the only path from resistance to liberation.” Explain what you mean.

SH: I would say optimism in the same way, pessimism is a very dangerous concept. Because if you’re a pessimist, then you don’t even have the will to wake up, and you know, to be active in society. Optimism is also dangerous because it promises false hopes. And that’s why I think we need hope, without optimism. Hope, I think for the 21st century is the most crucial concept, I would say. Hope in the sense that I think the progressives around the world have to stop just criticizing capitalism, the rise of right-wing populism, authoritarianism, and so on and they have to offer not only hope, but a vision of a society in which we want to live, you know, to really go in the direction to imagine things which are unimaginable.

For instance, let me give you a completely crazy idea which could be done tomorrow morning, if there was a global government. Of course, it cannot be done tomorrow morning because to arrive to sort of global government, we need a lot of time. And then there is a question because I have an anarchist past as well, whether you want the government or not, that’s not important. But let’s imagine that we succeed to create the kind of system of redistribution of international flights on the global level, because we know that international flights are contributing to the rising levels of CO2 and to the climate crisis. So couldn’t we imagine, for instance, or work on this kind of program that, well, if you want to fly, you can fly twice a year, for instance? I know that many people who fly to Bilderberg these days wouldn’t be happy about this particularly.

But then if you don’t want to fly, you can, for instance, you could imagine a sort of market where you could sell your flight to someone else who wants to fly. Although I don’t think that the market is a good solution we’ve seen it with air pollution as well, in which way you can then just outsource it. But I think we have to imagine, you know, the Green New Deal, I think, as long as it remains anti-capitalist and post-capitalist is a means of not only imagining, but creating this kind of future with the hope, you know, why wouldn’t we travel more by trains than by cars? I mean, if you go to the United States, every time I come to the United States, I’m immediately depressed as soon as I leave the airport, when I come to the highway, and I’ll see so many bloody cars. And when you see that, in every car there is one single person, you know, instead of four people inside of it, for instance, or instead of having trains.

This is — how to say it? It’s an offense for human rationality that we still drive all these cars, I would say, you know. And a future which is coming with the automation and technological advancement will basically, you know, what’s happening to the truck drivers in the United States, that 3.5 million of them in the next decade or two, will lose their jobs. I don’t think that the solution then is, you know, to go back into this kind of green capitalism or something, but to really create new means of transport, which would be at the same time public and not privately owned.

You know, you could even go so far to say that what Elon Musk is doing with Tesla forcing the other competitors on the market to deploy also this technology and to go into electric cars is actually, it might be good. Although, I might criticize Elon Musk for many, many things, as many people do. But it might be good because you could imagine, and that’s something Yanis Varoufakis gave me that idea while we were talking, unfortunately, in a car in Germany, during the electoral campaign we had a few weeks ago. And then he said, but imagine a future where basically, a government could nationalize all these electric cars which will then exist in five years.

I know nationalization and expropriation is not really something which is popular, but why wouldn’t we imagine an electric, 100 percent clean public transport which is not owned, you know, this kind of stupid situation where humans really look like those actors in the movie, Idiocracy, you know. One person, one car, fossil fuels, and just driving around, not even driving. I mean, if you looked at the U.S. highways, people are not even driving. They’re just standing and sitting, you know, in these stupid cars, and they have to own the car. Why do they have to own the car? Well, it’s capitalist ideology, because for all these decades, they were convincing us that you are a successful man or woman if you own a car, if you own a house, if you own, if you buy, buy, buy, and use the same shitty products.

JS: So, as we know Julian Assange, one of the founders of WikiLeaks, is now in British prison. We understand that his health is deteriorating. He was moved to the Belmar Medical Ward. He is facing 17 espionage counts in the United States right now. The U.S. is demanding his extradition. This is very clearly a war against all publishers not just Assange. And at the same time, Chelsea Manning is once again, in jail for refusing to give testimony in the grand jury proceedings that led to these new indictments under the Espionage Act of Julian Assange. You and Ai Weiwei and other international figures have been protesting against the, first, the arrest of Assange, now the imprisonment of Assange and the facing of these espionage charges. Why are you taking time out of your life to protest the treatment of Julian Assange?

SH: Because he took the time out of his life to fight for us. And when I say to fight for us to fight for the very possibility to have information. To have information, what the most powerful governments or secret organizations or companies are doing in the world, from the war in Afghanistan to the war in Iraq. Wouldn’t it be great that, for instance, now with all these tensions with Iran someone would leak actually what the Pentagon and what Bolton and Pompeo and all these white male warriors are actually plotting against Iran? And what WikiLeaks did is that for the first time in modern history, it created a system where you can protect those courageous whistle blowers like Edward Snowden, Chelsea Manning, and others who would then publish this information and it would be available to all of us. Precisely in this world of fake news and memes and this situation which truth doesn’t matter anymore. I found already the arbitrary detention at the Ecuadorian Embassy a big scandal for Western democracies.

I visited Julian quite often at the Ecuadorian Embassy and the scene when you would enter the Ecuadorian Embassy at Knightsbridge in London tells you everything that is wrong with today’s world. You know, he was basically for seven years arbitrarily detained in a very small space of the Ecuadorian embassy. Before you enter the Ecuadorian embassy, you will see this most luxurious shopping center called Harrods. You would see Ferraris, Lamborghinis, just in front of the Ecuadorian embassy with Saudi Arabian plates. You will see that, you know, a publisher was already for seven years basically imprisoned. He got a political asylum by the former courageous Ecuadorian government, unlike the current one, which is selling off Julian for loans with the IMF and so on. And that was already a scandal. What is happening now, I think, it’s an even bigger scandal because democracy in the West is dying if someone like Julian Assange is in prison.

And I found, Jeremy Hunt, what he recently said about Julian Assange that he could have walked out anytime I find, I mean, I find Jeremy Hunt the worst foreign secretary in the history of U.K. Not only because he called Slovenia a vassal state, and he obviously doesn’t know even geography or history compared to leaders such as Churchill, and so on, who at least had an understanding of geography and geopolitics, but also his stance over Julian Assange. What you can see what is happening today is that all these governments, Ecuador, now even U.K., they are meeting with John Bolton, with Pompeo, with the U.S. officials who want Julian Assange to be extradited to the United States as soon as possible.

And why is this dangerous? If that happens, I think, to even speak about democracy anymore will be impossible because there is no democracy without the freedom of speech. There is no democracy without the First Amendment in the U.S. There is no democracy without the freedom of press. And there is no democracy if you don’t have the ability to check the information, to have information, what is happening on a daily level, not only in foreign countries, such as Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, but in your own country.

How deeply for instance, the Democratic Party was corrupted? And instead of having Bernie Sanders as a candidate, they’d chosen Hillary Clinton and Hillary Clinton was making fun of Trump thinking that Trump was the best candidate because he stands no chance. I mean, this was revealed by WikiLeaks, not to mention also the revelations about the role of one of the most powerful global corporations Google in the U.S. elections, or what for instance, Palantir is doing now with the detention camps for children, wouldn’t it be great that we have an organization which would publish all this information which is still secret?

So, if the extradition of Julian Assange happens, I think it will be impossible to speak about democracy anymore. Many other people, including journalists, might end up in prison as well. And this is not happening in China. This is not happening in Russia. This is happening in the center of European civilization, in London. It’s happening in Europe. And I think this is the biggest scandal of the early 21st century. The very fact that someone who didn’t kill anyone is kept in a prison with mass murderers, with terrorists and other people basically 23 hours in his cell.

JS: Well, Srecko Horvat, I want to thank you very much for all the work that you’ve done and continue to do and thanks for being with us here on Intercepted.

SH: Thank you a lot and I also want to thank you for all the work which Intercepted is doing. It’s very important. Not only in the United States but also for Europe to have this kind of media which we miss more than ever.

JS: Srecko Horvat is a philosopher and poet from Croatia in the former Yugoslavia. He’s the author of “What Does Europe Want?: The Union and its Discontents” as well as, “Welcome to the Desert of Post-Socialism,” and “The Radicality of Love.” With Yanis Varoufakis, he is one of the founders of the Democracy in Europe Movement. His latest book is “Poetry From the Future: Why a Global Liberation Movement is Our Civilization’s Last Chance.”

And that does it for this special bonus episode of Intercepted. You can follow us on Twitter. Our handle is @intercepted. If you like what we do, support this show by going to theintercept.com/join and become a sustaining member. Intercepted is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept. Our lead producer is Jack D’Isidoro. Our producer is Laura Flynn. Elise Swain is our associate producer and graphic designer. Our executive producer is Leital Molad. Betsy Reed is editor in chief of The Intercept. Rick Kwan mixed the show. Transcription for this program is done by Nuria Marquez Martinez. Our music, as always, was composed by DJ Spooky. Until next time, I’m Jeremy Scahill.

The post Philosopher Srecko Horvat on the Yugoslav Fight Against Fascism and the Rising Right-Wing Political Forces in Europe appeared first on The Intercept.

June 26, 2019

Whitewashing History: America’s Racist Legacy From Slavery to the Wa...

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While Donald Trump is busy threatening millions with deportation, he takes a moment to weigh in on the debate over reparations and doesn’t “see it happening.” This week on Intercepted: The House Judiciary Committee holds a historic hearing discussing the lingering effects of slavery and what reparations might look like. Rutgers professor and co-host of the Uncivil podcast Chenjerai Kumanyika argues that demands for reparations should include challenging the driving forces behind slavery: capitalism and imperialism. The Intercept’s Ryan Devereaux gives an update on the trial for humanitarian aid worker Scott Warren and discusses the dehumanization that has allowed the war on immigrants to continue for decades. Artist and musician Nakhane reflects on growing up queer in South Africa and talks about their new record, “You Will Not Die.”

This is our last episode of the season. Intercepted is going on hiatus for the summer and will return with new episodes in September 2019.

Transcript coming soon.

The post Whitewashing History: America’s Racist Legacy From Slavery to the War on Immigrants appeared first on The Intercept.

June 19, 2019

Donald Trump, Iran, and the Gulf of Tonkin Redux

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Powerful forces within the Trump administration appear intent on war against Iran. This week on Intercepted: As the U.S. accuses Iran of attacking civilian ships while offering scant evidence, grave historical parallels are emerging with the Gulf of Tonkin incidents in 1964 that were manipulated to justify Lyndon Johnson’s dramatic escalation of the war in Vietnam. California Democrat Rep. Ro Khanna is preparing legislation aimed at stopping an attack on Iran and he says he would not put it past National Security Adviser John Bolton to manipulate evidence. Journalist Negar Mortazavi of The Independent analyzes what war with Iran would look like and exposes the State Department’s funding of propaganda operations against Iran. Democracy Now! host Amy Goodman talks about the parallels with the build up to the Iraq invasion of 2003 and shares stories from her early life as a journalist.

Transcript coming soon.

The post Donald Trump, Iran, and the Gulf of Tonkin Redux appeared first on The Intercept.

June 12, 2019

Running for Justice: The Public Defenders Looking to Transform the Rol...

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An explosive leak of internal communications among powerful politicians in Brazil could bring Lula his freedom. This week on Intercepted: In a bombshell series of reports, The Intercept Brasil has revealed dirty tricks used in the prosecution of the leftist former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on corruption charges and improper coordination among prosecutors and judges. Glenn Greenwald discusses the documents in the leaked archive and what this means for Trump ally Jair Bolsonaro. While the 2020 horserace dominates the headlines, local elections for district attorney could have major ramifications for disadvantaged and targeted communities. Tiffany Cabán, a queer Latina public defender from Queens, New York, talks about her battle with the Democratic Party machine in her bid to become a prosecutor opposed to the carceral state. Chesa Boudin, whose parents were sentenced to lengthy prison terms when he was 14-months-old, is trying to overhaul San Francisco’s justice system and radically change the relationship between cops and the DA. He talks about his family story and why he wants to move from public defender to prosecutor. As paramilitary forces carry out a massacre against non-violent protesters in Sudan, we get a report from filmmaker Hajooj Kuka who was wounded in the raid in Khartoum last week. And we hear the music of Sudanese-American Ahmed Gallab, the lead singer-songwriter of the band Sinkane, and his experience of monitoring the major developments in his home country.

Transcript coming soon.

The post Running for Justice: The Public Defenders Looking to Transform the Role of District Attorney appeared first on The Intercept.

June 5, 2019

Criminalizing Freedom: The Attacks on Abortion Rights and Free Speech ...

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Lies, lies, and more over the top lies to demonize abortion. This week on Intercepted: Fanatical opponents of a woman’s right to choose are pushing to criminalize abortion and women’s healthcare providers. Historian Johanna Schoen, Rutgers professor and author, talks about when abortion was illegal and the history of coercive policies from forced sterilization to blocking access to sex education, birth control, and abortions. Whistleblower Reality Winner has spent more than two years in prison for allegedly leaking a top-secret NSA document on Russian cyber attacks on software used in some U.S. voting systems. Her mother, Billie Winner-Davis, describes her daughter’s prison conditions and makes the case for why she should be freed. As Donald Trump wraps up his state visit to the United Kingdom, we speak with philosopher and activist Srecko Horvat about the historical lessons we can learn from the guerrilla struggle against fascism waged by the Partizans in Yugoslavia during World War II, as well as the recent surge in extreme right-wing political forces in Europe.

Transcript coming soon.

The post Criminalizing Freedom: The Attacks on Abortion Rights and Free Speech in the Age of Trump appeared first on The Intercept.

June 2, 2019

“We’ve Got People:” Ryan Grim on the Democratic Party, Nancy Pel...

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As Democrats continue to debate whether to initiate an impeachment inquiry, Trump seems to be going nuts from the Democrats’ continuing probe into his possible obstruction of justice, corruption, abuse of power. The Intercept’s Ryan Grim explains Nancy Pelosi’s rise to power within the Democratic Party, her political origins, and what her possible end game strategy is for Trump. Grim also weighs in on the large 2020 Democratic candidate field and talks about his new book, “We’ve Got People: From Jesse Jackson to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the End of Big Money and the Rise of a Movement.”

Jeremy Scahill: This is Intercepted.

[Music interlude.]

JS: I’m Jeremy Scahill, coming to you from the offices of The Intercept in New York City. And this is a special bonus episode of Intercepted.

JS: There is a very mild, collegial debate brewing among Democrats in Congress: to impeach or not. Calls are mounting for the opening of an impeachment inquiry and the effort now has the support of at least one Republican congressman, Justin Amash, the libertarian politician from Michigan.

Justin Amash: Nonetheless we have a job to do and I think we owe it to the American people to represent them, to ensure that the people we have in office are doing the right thing, are of good character, aren’t violating the public trust.

JS: Nancy Pelosi, the House speaker, has not shown any sign that she will back such a move imminently and she appears to be opting for a tactic of trying to drive Trump insane. She said this to reporters last week:

Nancy Pelosi: We do believe that it’s important to follow the facts. We believe that no one is above the law, including the President of the United States, and we believe that the President of the United States is engaged in a cover-up, in a cover-up. And that was the nature of the meeting.

JS: Trump then staged his massive tantrum and put on a performance of calling off a meeting with congressional Democrats about infrastructure and marching out to the Rose Garden to denounce the Mueller investigation and Nancy Pelosi, in general.

DJT: I just saw that Nancy Pelosi just before our meeting made a statement that we believe that the President of the United States is engaged in a cover-up. Well, it turns out, I’m the most — and I think most of you would agree to this — I’m the most transparent president probably in the history of this country.

JS: Trump seems to be going nuts from the Democrats’ continuing probe into his possible obstruction of justice, corruption, abuse of power. And regarding Pelosi, the right-wing and Trump backers hit back. A doctored video featuring a slowed-down Nancy Pelosi went viral on social media. Rudy Giuliani and Trump himself shared that altered video. Trump also called Pelosi, “a mess” and Pelosi tweeted back, “When the ‘extremely stable genius’ starts acting more presidential, I’ll be happy to work with him on infrastructure, trade and other issues.”

Nancy Pelosi is, of course, the top Democrat in Congress. She is the House Speaker, third in line to the presidency. Despite Trump controlling the White House and the GOP with a firm grip on the Senate, Nancy Pelosi is incredibly powerful, and it’s important to understand who she is, how she rose to power, and what her endgame strategy with Trump might look like.

To discuss this, and the current state of the Democratic Party, I’m joined by my colleague Ryan Grim, The Intercept’s DC bureau chief. Ryan has a new book out this week that provides an essential in-depth context for the political landscape that we’re in now. It is called “We’ve Got People: From Jesse Jackson to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the End of Big Money and the Rise of a Movement.”

JS: Ryan Grim, welcome back to Intercepted.

Ryan Grim: It’s good to be here.

JS: Congrats on the book.

RG: Thank you.

JS: Clearly Nancy Pelosi is in the news a lot lately and is going to continue to be in the news around this issue of impeachment and then her clearly getting under Trump’s skin by saying that he’s engaged in a cover-up. For people that don’t know much about Nancy Pelosi — and you cover this in the book as you kind of trace the modern history of the Democratic party — what is the Nancy Pelosi story? How did she end up where she is in the third most powerful position in the U.S. government?

RG: It’s been fun to watch this precise moment because it’s such an encapsulation of her career and not just who she is but like who her entire generation is. And so, she herself has a fascinating background. She was raised by a kind of mob-connected Congressman/Mayor of Baltimore. So, she learned, actual brass knuckles politics from a very early age then moved out west. And so, she has this like fighting, like actual fighting liberal sensibility that’s quite rare. She turned out to have an extraordinary ability to raise money. And so while she was raising five children, she was also acting as a fundraiser for the party and kind of, working her way up through the party ranks in the 1970s and 1980s and she —

JS: She wasn’t in an elected position at that point?

RG: Right, she actually ran for DNC chair at one point and barely lost to the guy who replaced Ted Kennedy in the Senate in a weird coincidence. But no she had not run for any elected office. She was a very much behind the scenes fundraiser/operative and she became very close with a guy named Phil Burton who was also known as a fighting liberal.

He was a guy who, he died early. He died in 1983 but if he had lived, he would’ve kind of changed the course of Democratic history. He was the kind of guy who was not only progressive but wanted to punch you in the face and also, was all about raising a ton of money and screwing Republicans. He basically invented gerrymandering in California and screwed Republicans out of a ton of districts there. Essentially, Pelosi is Burton’s Lieutenant, kind of, an enforcer and a fundraiser back home. He dies in 1983. His wife takes over for him and serves four years. She then dies. On her deathbed, she endorses Nancy Pelosi to take her seat. So, now there’s a special election in 1987. Her top opponent is the vice chair of the DSA, Democratic Socialists of America. Openly gay man running on basically: Reagan is ignoring the AIDS epidemic.

JS: What is the position that Pelosi’s running for at this point?

RG: Congress.

JS: This is her first run for a House seat?

RG: First run for any elected office and she’s running to replace kind of, her mentor and then her mentor’s wife. And so it’s a real establishment versus insurgent race. Nancy Pelosi likes to say that she’s from the Bay Area and so she understands the left. That’s true in the sense that she beat the left to win her seat. It’s not that she organized support among the left, but she barely won. If they were using the current top two system, I think she would have lost her first seat and there would be no Nancy Pelosi.

But she wins in 1987. She joins Steny Hoyer who’d been there for a while already and a class of Democrats who came in in the late 70s and 80s, just as the party was ending. And in 1980, not only did you have Ronald Reagan elected and have him re-elected in 1984, but in ’80, a whole slew of liberal lions who’d been running for president just four years earlier, who’d been serving five, six terms, famous people at the time like Birch Bayh, Frank Church all upset by these upstart, insurgent Republicans.

And so, you’ve got this rise of the new right. Newt Gingrich elected in ’78 and then Reagan in ’80 and it teaches people like Pelosi that liberalism is going to cost them elections, that if they let the country know how progressive they are, then there’s going to be a backlash. And they learned that lesson over and over throughout the ’80s as Reagan kept pounding them.

They still controlled the House of Representatives, even though they lost the Senate and the White House. And so, what they did is say, “We’ve got the House, let’s go to the banks. Let’s go to corporate America and say look, we’re not necessarily doing a lot for you, but we control the House. So, you’ll pay up.” And that was the way that they figured that they were going to be able to match Republicans.

JS: When you say pay up, are you talking about campaign contributions?

RG: Right, because prior to 1980, big money was not as much of a thing in politics, they had labor support. They had some corporate money and some wealthy donor money, but it wasn’t anywhere near the scale that we have today. And so, they pivoted after 1980 to say — they diagnosed their 1980 problem as Republicans outspent us and outmaneuvered us. So, we need to match them dollar-for-dollar and to do that, we need to use our position in the House of Representatives and extract money from industry. That leads in an obvious direction. It reshaped the party and it ended up with the party of Bill Clinton and the party that we have today.

But as you watch Nancy Pelosi trying to navigate Trump, all she’s thinking about is the Reagan era. If she says that she’s for impeachment, if she says she’s for Medicare for all, if she says she’s for a Green New Deal, that the country is going to recoil at their progressivism and they’re going to be thrown out.

JS: Is it entirely that or is it that Pelosi believes in the policies that she’s worked for her entire career? That she isn’t as progressive as somebody who says “Oh, I’m from San Francisco. I understand the left.”

RG: Right, I mean there is that because she was the right wing candidate in that primary so there absolutely is that. But at the same time, once you’ve been acting out a certain way for 30 or 40 years, the question of what you actually believe becomes impossible to disentangle. It almost doesn’t matter. She’s been doing this since then and whether, what exists in the recesses of her heart, is immaterial really.

JS: So Pelosi gets elected in this special election that you’re describing where her opponent was a Democratic Socialist of America and she barely wins that race. How does she then ascend within the party to any kind of a leadership position?

RG: Well, she had the same abilities that her predecessor Phil Burton had, an incredible vote counter and a tremendous fundraiser. And so, because there was so much emphasis by ’87 on fundraising, she just raised an extraordinary amount of money and would distribute it to colleagues. And because she was also tactically proficient within the caucus, she was able to carve out a place for herself. By 2001, Dick Gephardt is washing out of his career finally and she ends up replacing him around that time to become minority leader. And so, she’s minority leader in 2002, 2004. When they finally take over in 2006, she’s well positioned and nobody can challenge her by then.

JS: And she becomes the first elected speaker of the House that was a woman.

RG: Right.

JS: So, as Pelosi and other Democrats are shifting the party in some ways toward big money, toward Wall Street and then Pelosi ends up in this position where she’s minority leader and then ultimately becomes speaker of the House. When you talk about her ability to count votes — for the lay people among us, myself included — explain exactly what that means. Because you hear it now every day on cable that oh, Pelosi is this expert, she’s great with the whip. She’s good with the vote count. What does that mean just to ordinary folks?

RG: And like I said her mentor had it too. And presumably her father, as well. But it means understanding exactly what the other person needs and is also afraid of. And so, it also means having a tactile feel for the district that somebody represents and understanding that a swing district in Iowa is not a swing district in Southern California, or it’s not one in Central Pennsylvania. And just having that knowledge and that ability to listen to that other person and be transactional in what you can offer them, stick by those promises, deliver on them, and if somebody screws you to remember it.

People will tell stories like there’ll be 40 freshmen in a meeting and she’ll go around the room and will point to each one of them and say, “You screwed me on that motion to recommit last Tuesday. I don’t ever want to see it happen again. You hit me on April 3rd with this in committee.” She knows if you voted the wrong way in a committee hearing. And part of that is just this work ethic where she’s putting in these absurd 16, 18-hour days which people have been talking about her and other people like her who just have this kind of maniacal drive.

And so, you combine all those different things and you just don’t want to cross her. I was actually talking to somebody just yesterday about a fight that she’d had with somebody else and his own boss said something like you don’t want to get on the other end of the steely gaze of Pelosi. Like, she just has this like raw kind of power that she’s holding in reserve.

JS: She’s extremely powerful.

RG: Right.

JS: I mean, she’s one of the most powerful people in this country without question.

RG: But then when you see her at a press conference, you’re like how is this possible? She can’t put a sentence together. You got a glimpse of it in her, in that one televised meeting with Trump where she kind of shut him down over the wall. It was six months ago or so. You kind of saw that like inside Pelosi coming out with the cameras on her. But that’s basically what it means — a willingness to destroy somebody and an ability to reward somebody and knowing what the reward is that that person wants and kind of an amorality about the whole thing, not getting hung up on whether what you’re doing is right or wrong.

JS: Talk about Pelosi during the Bush/Cheney era because Pelosi was the subject of a lot of protest and anger from the left for a number of reasons. Whether it’s the Patriot Act or the authorization for the use of military force or saying we’re taking impeachment off the table when it came to Bush. What was her role and how did she function during the eight years of Bush/Cheney?

JS: Right, so she’s always been — she’s carried the San Francisco flag in the sense of being broadly anti-war, voted against the Iraq War. But otherwis,e she was deeply hawkish in private meeting with Bush administration national security officials. When they described to her what waterboarding was like and what they’re doing, she would say, “Well, what else can you do?” Not, wait, this appears criminal. What are you doing? But what more can you do? She was like a lot of Democrats both personally shaken by 9/11 and filled with this like “we’re going to get them” sense of revenge, but also that the fear that they had that they were going to be rejected as too liberal was exacerbated after 9/11. They felt like oh God, now they’re really going to think we’re we’re too liberal because not only are we tax and spenders but we’re weak on defense too.

Because we’ve been at war now for so many years, I think people in our our generation and younger don’t recognize how kind of traumatized that older generation is by the charge that they’re weak on defense, that they’re weak on the military. It would almost be nice if we could say that about Democrats today. It’s no longer remotely true. But that was what Pelosi was was reacting to. That’s why you had so many Democrats that voted for the Iraq War and people like her who supported the AUMF, who supported rendition and all these other war crimes that the Bush administration was participating in which then enabled the Obama administration to continue them.

JS: Let’s talk about the eight years of Bill Clinton and how that impacted the arc of the Democratic Party in terms of a historical analysis. What was the impact of Clintonism on the Democratic party?

RG: Vanquishing the Rainbow Coalition in 1988, Jesse Jackson following Harold Washington before him organized this grassroots movement to say “Look, you don’t have, you don’t need big money. You don’t need to try to get back these Reagan Democrats. What you need to do is expand the electorate, go out and register new voters, confront this rise of the new right with a new left.”

JS: If you’re listening and you have never watched the convention speeches of Jesse Jackson when he was running for president, it’s an incredible moment in U.S. history and you really can see in the passion and the drenched in sweat. But what he was saying and the vision that Jesse Jackson had about multiculturalism and needing to grapple with race and sexual orientation, I mean, he was way ahead of the curve and he lost to the big establishment Democrats and that system churned out Bill Clinton and the response to Reagan and Bush ultimately was a pretty conservative Southern governor in Bill Clinton.

RG: And what people don’t realize because it’s gone down the memory hole, was that Jackson very nearly won. And I write about this in the book —

JS: The Democratic primary?

RG: Yeah, very nearly won the Democratic primary and then he’s running against George H.W. Bush which, who knows? It’s hard to conceive of but who knows? It came very close and the Democratic party had a complete apoplectic meltdown when it appeared like he actually might seize the nomination.

JS: You’re talking about in ’88?

RG: ’88. So, instead, they went with the electable Michael Dukakis. That then opens the way for these new Democrats, Bill Clinton. And Bill Clinton’s famous Sister Souljah moment which this is summer of 1992 where he basically dredges up an obscure rapper. She hadn’t ever been above I think 82 on Billboard.

JS: She follows me on Twitter, Ryan, and has praised my Blackwater book.

RG: [Laughs.] She’s great now and she’s an author and an interesting person. At the time, I think she was like 17.

JS: Yeah, she was a young rapper and this was at the moment too when you had the rise of NWA and other so-called gangster rap that then the Joe Liebermans of the world, the Tipper Gores of the world talked about how this is what’s really destroying white American society is these gangster rappers.

RG: And so, Clinton famously calls her out, compares her to David Duke actually. And what’s important is where he did it. This was at the Rainbow Coalition Conference with Jesse Jackson right there on stage. And so, I think that part has also been missed too that it was not just a signal to Reagan Democrats that he’s like willing to take on these black people who were dominating the Democratic party. It was also a signal to Jesse Jackson and to the kind of, left in the Democratic party. “This is my party now. I’m doing this at your conference.” Jackson demanded an apology from him and he never got it. And that was his way of saying “This is my party now.” People also forget Clinton won with 43 percent of the vote because Ross Perot was in as a third party candidate. So, it’s not like this new Democratic centrism was some resounding success.

And that more than anything else has become a rallying cry for today’s left, that says “Look, if you actually won with this pragmatism, what you call pragmatism, then OK. Then we can have a conversation. If this centrism, if this compromising approach was actually keeping the fascists out of the gates, keeping the barbarians from raping and pillaging the village, then OK, that’s a plausible argument to make but it’s not. You got 43 percent with Bill Clinton. You lost to Bush. The one time you took a chance and nominated the unelectable person, Barack Obama, he wins twice. He then pivots to center and loses a thousand seats and we end up with Trump. So the pragmatism isn’t very pragmatic. And so, the new generation which did not experience the trauma of losing to Newt Gingrich and Ronald Reagan doesn’t have the fear of the Republican party that the Pelosi’s of the world have.

JS: Right, Clinton wins in the ’92 election and then as you indicate in the midterms then there’s this sweeping so-called Republican revolution that brings Newt Gingrich to the position of being speaker of the House and at the same time you had Bill Clinton and the Democrats adopting very right-wing policies on drugs, on crime you can, I think, argue on race, on all of these things and very hawkish militaristic policies.

But I want to zero in on the Crime Bill and the so-called war on drugs under Bill Clinton because it comes up quite often now because of Joe Biden being a sponsor of the Crime Bill. And then Kamala Harris, really bringing this up a lot and trying to reform her own image because people will say “Oh, Kamala Harris is a cop.” She’s now trying to attack Biden from the left on the Crime Bill while pushing aside the concerns about her own role in the criminal justice system in this country. But for people that don’t have a living memory of it or weren’t around then, explain Clinton’s Crime Bill, race policies, war on drugs.

RG: Right, crime was an actual problem. It was a problem all across the country and partly or significantly because of the hollowing out of the manufacturing industry and the middle class and working classes that Reagan and the deregulating Democrats brought about in the ’80s. So, you do have a bottoming out and you do have a surge in crime and so a response to that, also a response to the Civil Rights Movement, is just getting tougher and tougher and tougher. And there was no political lever to push in the other direction and so, in both primaries, Democratic and Republican, the candidate who could say that they were tougher on crime was the one who was going to win and so it just keeps getting ratcheted up and up and up. Bill Clinton famously calls for a hundred thousand new cops on the street and gets a standing ovation for that.

And that’s a cornerstone of the ’94 Crime Bill. The idea is to just jack up sentences, mandatory minimums, three strikes and you’re out. Lumping together a bunch of different things so, if you sell weed but you also own a gun, then that becomes a violent crime. The sentence is exponentially greater. So, you wind up then throughout the ’90s with crime rates falling yet the prison population soaring. So, you’re like wait a minute, how are there fewer crimes being committed but yet more and more and more people are in prison? And one of the answers that people are in prison for these extremely long sentences. And so, starting in the early 1980s, you just have practically a straight diagonal line up and you go from fewer than half a million prisoners to well over two million.

JS: And then, on the issue of welfare reform, I mean, I’m originally from Wisconsin, at the time the Crime Bill was implemented, I was a student in Wisconsin and I remember Tommy Thompson was the governor at the time, a Republican and he had implemented sweeping so-called welfare reform that was essentially, when you boil it down to it, it was forcing people to choose between having a job where they can’t make enough money to live or accepting state aid and then having to live your life essentially in a police state that is constantly monitoring every expense that you make. This whole notion that in order to get welfare, you have to work was a Tommy Thompson idea that then Bill Clinton more or less nationalized with his omnibus welfare reform package. That was, I mean, it was largely written by Republicans, but it was Bill Clinton who was championing it, shepherding it.

RG: Yeah. And welfare got racialized. Reagan helped very much help do that. When people talk about Democrats going to the center, that’s a euphemism for them distancing themselves from black people and from the Civil Rights era. That’s essentially what they’re talking about. And this was a huge part of that. This was Clinton’s way of saying “Look, that promise that I made on the Rainbow Coalition stage when I called out Sister Souljah, I’m delivering on that right now. I told you I would stick it to them.” He was running for re-election and his advisors told him, you sign welfare reform and you’re basically guaranteed to get re-election. Wendell Primus who was a top HHS official at the time resigned in protest over it. He’s now one of Pelosi’s top aides. And you had a couple others in the White House who resigned, who said this is going to increase poverty and increase child poverty. More or less, it has.

And it has an illogic that says if you’ve received benefits for five years, that’s it regardless of need. And like you said it puts all these draconian work requirements on it. Now welfare itself did need to be reformed because it had a gross kind of, police surveillance aspect to it to where you’d have government agents like raiding your house to try to find out if there was a man living in the house who might be benefiting from this $500 a month that you’re getting. So, it was —

JS: Oh, you still have that in Section 8 housing.

[Crosstalk.]

JS: I have friends who are housing lawyers and it’s like they’re still doing that. But yes —

[Crosstalk.]

RG: — Not to valorize or glamorize the original welfare program but it’s better than what it was turned into.

JS: I want to talk a bit before we get to the current situation of the Democratic party about Barack Obama’s impact becoming the not just the president, but the leader for those eight years of the Democratic party. Obama launched his campaign and I think, he wanted to give the impression that he was the anti-war candidate, but in reality the speech that he gave in Chicago in October of 2002, which really launched his national political aspirations and campaign was a very carefully crafted speech with lots of ifs and thens in terms of the position. He famously said I’m not against all wars, I’m against dumb wars, stupid wars and essentially making a tactical argument against the Iraq War.

And I often think of that as kind of a metaphor for how Obama governed. He would telegraph one thing and sort of, there would be this perception people would place onto the canvas of Obama, what they wanted to think he was but in reality, he always if you really took his words at their value, was saying I’m not a leftist and I actually am, would be a sort of, moderate Republican of the 90s. That was more or less how Obama, he wasn’t lying or being disingenuous. He was telegraphing exactly who he was. The sense I had was that people wanted to place onto him an identity that Obama himself never even claimed but he did craft his identity — I mean political identity — in such a way that a lot of things were open to interpretation. It was like the sophisticated smart version of Trump saying we’ll see what happens. Obama would allow people to think he was this thing but in reality, he was a pretty right-wing Democrat.

RG: Right. And it very much helped him that he was running against Hillary Clinton too.

JS: In that ’08 primary, yeah.

RG: In that ’08 primary because she voted for the war without the caveats of it being a dumb war. And so, Obama was like you said, he was able to kind of fashion himself as an anti-war candidate even though in the district that he represented back in Chicago anyway, there was no other position for —

JS: When he was in the state government.

RG: For an official to have, that’s an anti-war, rich liberal area like those. They’re not supporting the invasion. But yeah, that’s exactly right and so he runs against Hillary Clinton 2007, 2008 and against her, he does appear — You already want to believe, liberals wanted to believe that he was one of them. He must be. He’s a great writer. He went to Harvard. He was a community organizer. I think that was a huge selling point to a lot of people. He must be a lefty. He’s out there in the streets organizing.

And so then, you just look at it through that prism, then you see him getting attacked by Mark Penn, Hillary Clinton’s adviser, as un-American and it’s easy to start defending him against all of these unfair attacks. And so, then you wind up with this massive, inspired grassroots army of millions of people ready to transform politics. And he could have brought that army with him into Washington with the sky falling, Wall Street completely collapsing, the economy on the brink. People were talking about the end of the Republican party like what’s going to be the new party that takes its place? It was that low of a moment for them and they signaled right away before he was even sworn in that they were going to oppose him on everything across the board and that was going to be their play.

And still, he shut down the grassroots army, basically folded up what was called OFA, Organizing for America, put it onto the DNC and mothballed the thing. And ordered all the outside groups under threat of them getting their donors called by Rahm Emanuel or Jim Messina to also stop pressuring Republicans and stop pressuring Blue Dogs because he’s got this. He and Rahm are going to like work it out. They’re gonna sit down with Susan Collins. They’re going to figure this thing out. And if you push, it’s only going to cause problems for the Blue Dogs in the midterms. So, just let us handle this. And of course, all those Blue Dogs lost anyway which goes back to the idea that the pragmatism isn’t actually that pragmatic either.

JS: Rahm Emanuel was much more vicious toward left Democrats than he ever was toward the Republicans.

RG: It’s the only time that that legendary ruthlessness is actually deployed in any effective way.

JS: Oh, I remember early on — I don’t remember if it was the first defense authorization bill but early on in Obama’s time as president there was a movement among progressive Democrats to try to hold up defense spending and Rahm — I believe it was your reporting at the time — but Rahm Emanuel is the guy that goes over basically with the baton to start hitting the kneecaps of left wing, the handful of left-wingers that actually exist in the Democratic party.

RG: Right, whenever there would be a peep from the progressive side, they’d either be called into the White House or Rahm would go down. I write about this in the book Rahm would go down to Capitol Hill and break some kneecaps. When the Blue Dogs —

JS: These are the openly kind of right-wing Democrats?

RG: Right wing, kind of the, yeah, the descendants of the Southern Dixiecrats. When they would complain, Rahm would come down to the Capitol say what do you need, boys? You know, what can I do for you?

JS: Can I massage your knee?

RG: Is your knee OK?

JS: Wait a minute, is that Bernie Sanders? Baton! Oh, hello right-wing Democrat, can I just massage the knee a little bit?

RG: And the results matter because they’d say “Well, this stimulus is too big. We want 150 billion taken out of it.” Boom, there goes like one and a half points worth of unemployment that you could have pulled off of the economy and Rahm’s like get it done. Joe Lieberman doesn’t like the way that the public option sounds. Rahm Emanuel’s — get it done. Take it out, get it done. So, his toughness was exclusively reserved for the left. And anytime anybody on the right or the center had any problems, he easily would just meet them almost as if he was fine to do exactly what they were asking.

JS: So, then in 2016, we had it boiling down to Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. And I don’t want to spend too much time on 2016 for all sorts of reasons but in part, because we’ve also discussed it quite a bit on the show. But one part of 2016 I wanted to ask you about and that is when we talk about the documents, John Podesta’s emails, DNC emails. I don’t want to make this about WikiLeaks right now. What did those documents show that Hillary Clinton’s campaign was doing toward Bernie Sanders and his campaign?

RG: Not a lot, right? I mean they were, I mean, the Clinton campaign was infuriated by the Sanders campaign and felt that it was undignified that she was even having to deal with this socialist from Vermont.

JS: Or anyone for that matter.

RG: Or anyone.

JS: This was a coronation. This was not a primary. This was meant to be a very long coronation and Sanders got in the way of that.

RG: Right, then they started clearing the field as early as right after the 2012 election. All of the women in the Senate except for Warren signed a letter saying “Run, Hillary, run and don’t anybody else run against her.” And Sanders didn’t want to run like he was trying to get Warren to run. He was hoping somebody else would run just so that there could be some competing ideas put out in the primary. So, when nobody would and he eventually was like “Ok, fine I’ll do this. Somebody’s got to make the argument.” But he was very clear from the beginning, he was not trying to win out of the gate. That was sort of an accident, that Clinton was so unpopular, and his ideas were so popular that he almost got to her.

Probably the most damaging thing that came out of there were the Goldman Sachs speeches, speech transcripts. And I didn’t think it would seriously work but I had reached out to the campaign at some point in 2015, I think it was Karen Finney. I said, look, these speeches are going to come out at some point, leak them to me. I’ll do the story right now and I’ll light you guys up because I’m sure it’s ridiculous whatever she said to Goldman Sachs. It’s gonna come out like get it out, get it out now and give it to me. And she’s like ha, no, we’re not going to release these to anybody ever.

In hindsight, they should have taken my helpful advice at that time and put them out in 2015 because then when they finally did come out because WikiLeaks forced them out. Now it’s close to the election and you have the fact of the private speeches married with the years-long effort to keep them private which just imbues them with suspicion which is warranted. And then she comes out and says, I think in a debate, “Look, you say some things privately and you say different things publicly. That’s how this works.” Like oh, I can’t believe you just said that. Well yeah, we were aware that that’s how you operate. But it’s amazing to hear you say it out loud.

And so, it just, it really, she already had the impression that she’d say whatever she wanted to get elected. There was already the impression that she was too close to Wall Street and to wealthy interests. And then that just underlined it for everybody. It was something that you could just understand in one sentence. $700,000, speaking to Goldman Sachs.

JS: Coming out of the 2016 election — I mean, this may be an oversimplification. You can put whatever nuance you want in this but it does seem like there is a very clear split in the Democratic Party right now where on the one hand, you have the Hillary Clinton wing of the Democratic Party and then on the other hand, you have I mean, you could say the Bernie Sanders wing but really it’s more of a left front that is, sort of, arguing against the Pelosi/Clinton/Obama worldview and trying to do things differently. You have what is it now? Twenty-four people running for the Democratic nomination? Give a kind of overview in the context of the 2020 election of where the Democratic party is today and what are the dynamics within it?

RG: Right, it’s sort of the wing that was represented by Jesse Jackson and then was vanquished throughout much of the 90s and it kind of rises again sort of accidentally through Howard Dean. Howard Dean was not that progressive of a candidate but again, he kind of appeared like it next to everybody else. He was the only candidate who was running on opposition to the Iraq War and because he was from Vermont, people felt like “Oh well, he must be pretty liberal.” And he’s a doctor who talked about universal health care. So, it was check, check, check for a lot of progressives. And so, the blogosphere was just getting going then. Move On was just getting the ability to raise big amounts of money online.

And so, all of a sudden he has a well-funded and organized campaign which falls apart at the very end. Everybody talks about his scream. But actually, if you remember this the thing that undid him was he said something like he didn’t want Saddam Hussein executed. I think there was some comment around Saddam Hussein and the entire Democratic primary electorate was like oh, he’s going to get beat by Bush. Bush is too tough. We’re gonna be too weak and they went into their shells and they’re like “Let’s do John Kerry.” They can’t question his military credentials. But all of the learning and organizing that had gone on around the Dean campaign then fueled other campaigns in 2006 and then also the Obama campaign and it flows into Occupy.

JS: Just one note before you go on with that, one just bookend on Howard Dean. He then goes on to be head of the Democratic National Committee and has just steadily moved himself even further and further and further to the right. He’s taken money from the MEK group that’s agitating for regime change in Iran and had been for many years an officially designated terror organization by the State Department. And Howard Dean helped lobby against that and he’s now just basically a right-wing Democrat attack dog going after anyone on the left of the Democratic party.

RG: He’s a gun for hire.

JS: Yeah, he’s a gun for hire. He’s a Lanny Davis that has managed to get elected to office before but yeah, I mean, he’s in that camp of people.

RG: Right, but the people that tried to get him elected those were actual lefties.    

JS: Oh, for sure. I mean, I remember covering him in New Hampshire and elsewhere and it was the same thing you saw with Obama that people were projecting onto Howard Dean everything that they want in a candidate and it’s like the evidence isn’t really there. I mean Howard Dean had promoted the idea that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. When I asked him about that at an event in New Hampshire, he said well I said that because somebody in the Clinton team had told me that. Oh well, that really gives you confidence that this is a guy who’s gonna be sifting and winnowing through the intelligence. But in any case, so then we get to 2016. Trump wins the Electoral College defeating Hillary Clinton and you were about to talk more about the big picture of the Democratic Party as it exists today.

RG: Yeah, and what Dean and then to a degree Obama and then Bernie Sanders did is that they created an alternative kind of funding structure. Obama did both. He had a huge small dollar operation and also tons of money from Wall Street and other places. But Obama showed that you could raise an extraordinary amount of money online for a presidential campaign, which was the kind of the promise of the Dean campaign back in ’03. And then Bernie Sanders kind of actualized that and then you see what’s happened in 2020 with the DNC even leaning into it saying everybody needs to have 65,000 small donors to get on the stage.

When we were kids, every quarter, the candidates would brag about how much money they had raised, who their bundlers were, the names of the lobbyists that were bundling money for them and that was a mark of seriousness. That doesn’t happen anymore. They hide that. They don’t publicize who their bundlers are —

JS: Well, Joe Biden is kind of shamelessly sailing toward big money.

RG: Right, yes because he can’t raise small money and the knock on him had been that he was so lazy that he was doing all this pro-corporate work for free basically and that he wasn’t going to be able to raise big money and so he has internalized that. So, he’s like “No, look I really can. These companies will, they will pay. These rich people do like me.”

JS: It’s kind of like political viagra. It’s like “Oh OK, I’ll just go and take the big money.”

RG: Otherwise, the candidates just say, my average donation was this small. I have this many small donors to show that they have this broad base of support and what that’s done is it’s set up an alternative kind of, funding structure for the rival wing of the party.

Jesse Jackson didn’t really have that. There wasn’t an efficient way for people to say, “Wow, Jesse Jackson. We’re almost 40 primaries in and he’s neck and neck for the nomination. I want to give him $30.” There was mail, but there wasn’t really a way for people to express their support for people in the way there is now where you can just tap your phone every time Bernie Sanders gets attacked and you want to fight back. Alright here, take another of my five dollars. And so, that has really changed the calculation and since it was a weird accident that they started taking big money in the first place, it means it’s not part of the DNA, like the party is not built only to take big money. The party could be taken over by small donors.

JS: How do you — I would leave it to you to decide which ones we talk about right now because you’re in the weeds on this stuff and cover it all the time. But I do want to get some thoughts about a variety of candidates from you. Do you want to start with —

RG: Sure.

JS: Who do you wanna start with?

RG: Doesn’t matter.

JS: All right, Elizabeth Warren.

RG: I mean, Elizabeth Warren, people left her for dead. And they ridiculed her for —

JS: Because of her DNA test.

RG: — The DNA stuff and the campaign’s idea was, “This is going to suck. We’re going to do it now, December, October.” October, they did it so that by the middle of 2019, we can focus more on her campaign and get this Pocahontas thing behind us. And they have doubled in the polls. She’s — The idea of like putting out ideas seems to be working. And it’s not necessarily chipping away at Bernie’s support. You’re seeing Bernie rise as well. If every gain that Warren made was at the expense of Bernie, then it’d be kind of like a zero-sum game for the left and that meant they were just gonna get wiped out eventually. But they both are rising.

JS: Why is it that when you turn on almost any news program now that are talking about this, they’re just talking about how Biden is pulling away. Like what’s going on? They’re like Biden’s pulling ahead. Constantly on CNN, I hear Biden’s pulling ahead. Biden’s widening this lead.

JS: It comes from this basic mental error that people were making that was OK, yes Biden’s polling at 35 percent right now. But when he gets in, he’s going to collapse. And so, he got in and then three days later he hadn’t collapsed. And so everybody’s like oh, we must have been wrong. We were sure he was going to collapse. He didn’t collapse in three days. So, therefore, he’s going to surge and pull away with it. But like the idea that that 35 percent, most of whom are barely paying attention to the election, were going to change their mind within a week of him officially announcing, of that 35 percent, what percent do you think even know that he transitioned from saying he was thinking about running to actually running? Probably not a ton of them. People are not following it close enough.

JS: But what I’m getting at though is that you see this and you see it from a lot of like Hillary camp people online that Biden is just crushing it in the polls. And I’m asking you like what is that all about?

RG: Well, it worked for Hillary. The argument for Hillary was inevitability and electability. And so, you should support her because she’s going to win. And it’s circular. And so, you have to keep saying it. It’s like a balloon that you just have to keep blowing air into otherwise it just sinks. So, that’s really what it is. Because Biden doesn’t have anything else that he’s selling to the Democratic primary electorate other than that “I’m going to win this and then I’m going to beat Trump and I’ll beat him up behind the gym.”

JS: Is the conduct of Joe Biden during the Anita Hill confirmation going to continue to be a problem for him?

RG: Yeah, it is a problem for him. A lot of people remember how badly he handled that and his inability to actually apologize for it means that it’ll just keep coming up. The way that Hillary Clinton you remember was dogged for months being asked to apologize for her vote for the Iraq War and she just wouldn’t do it. If she would just do it then, you can at least move on. Might not help with a lot of people but at least it ends that conversation. But Biden has said he’s never made a mistake in his life. He said I don’t regret anything I’ve ever done is what he says. And so, he goes around defending the Crime Bill. He’s not somebody who’s like I was wrong. The party was wrong at the time. I was doing what I thought was right. I’ve seen the light and this is how we should be doing this now. He says I’ve always been progressive. I’ve always done the right thing and that forces him to defend things that nobody thinks are the right thing anymore.

JS: What about Kamala Harris?

RG: So, I think she benefits from I don’t know if it’s racism or just ignorance on the part of a lot of the press that say Kamala Harris is black, therefore black people will vote for her. It’s kind of a gross oversimplification. And so, she’s actually gonna end up suffering from that in this sense. Like as it becomes clear that that’s not the case, the press is going to say wait a minute, we thought that all black people would support her because she’s black and that’s not happening so there must be something wrong with her candidacy. Well no, that wasn’t, that shouldn’t be the expectation to begin with.

The thing that she’s also lacking is kind of a why. Like why is she running for president? What’s her vision for the country? Because she doesn’t have the obvious — and this is racist also — she doesn’t have the “I’m electable and I can beat Trump.” Because in this country electable and I can beat Trump means I’m a white guy. So, she doesn’t have that. And she also doesn’t have a Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders style, this is my vision for how the country should be governed and transformed. So, you’re left with a well, what? What what’s going on here?

And so, when you’re talked about as a top tier candidate but you continue to hover under 10 percent that chips away at your sheen of kind of, inevitability or electability. She certainly, she gets talked about all the time as vice president for if it’s Joe Biden or something like that. And she has, I’m sure, a big career ahead of her. But what exactly the path is, remains unclear. You’d have to have Biden collapse and her to kind of take over the Biden lane for the Hillary Clinton type aides.

JS: I mean, all politics is performance at some level but I do think that both Elizabeth Warren and Kamala Harris are remarkably good lawmakers when it comes to interrogating hostile witnesses. And obviously, Kamala Harris spent a lot of time in law enforcement and as a prosecutor and I personally think it would be utterly fascinating to watch Kamala Harris debate Donald Trump and to see how she would meticulously prepare for that. It’s like in many movies, the prosecutors are the good guys —

RG: It would be interesting if she would say, “there are a lot of people out there that need to be prosecuted. And I have the skills to prosecute those people. We have been letting elites get away with criminal behavior for far too long” and try to use it that way. But she does the same thing with Biden where she says she was a progressive prosecutor which isn’t true. She ran against progressive prosecutors. She was stridently a tough on crime prosecutor. And so rather than kind of owning up to that and saying I was wrong. Times have changed because I don’t believe she does believe she’s wrong which is, that’s totally her right. But that’s why she can’t get to that place.

JS: Why is Beto O’Rourke still in the race? I mean, you write about the incredible success of his failed bid for Senate. But it was an impressive campaign and he came close to pulling off something that that I think almost no one thought could happen prior to that race. But why is he still hanging around? It doesn’t seem like there’s this huge Beto wave nationally.

RG: Well, he enjoys it.

JS: Oh, good. That’s why we run for president now?

RG: When he said — Yeah, got nothing else to do.

JS: I mean, his position that he staked out at that CNN town hall on health care. It’s like, I think a lot of people were just like he doesn’t even have that. You know, why are we here? Why do we have to listen to Beto O’Rourke’s ideas about America?

RG: Yeah and when he famously said in that Vanity Fair article that he was born to be in this. He didn’t mean born to be president. What he meant is he just loves campaigning. He loves going around and talking to people. He did it for two years in Texas and he was bored immediately afterwards and he hit the road again.

JS: It’s like he’s forcing us all to go and report on his Phish tour. He’s just, he’s jamming’ with the didgeridoo with the band and, “Oh yeah, and by the way, I’m also running for president.”

RG: But yeah, so he — The problem is he, I think he believed that he had a much better chance of winning than he did. And as a result of that he discarded the tactics that he had used in his Senate campaign, discarded the actual Bernie people who had organized his Texas Senate campaign and replaced them with Obama people. The very ones who had actively shut down OFA like the officials who were overseeing that project of shutting down his grassroots army. They shut down Beto’s grassroots army believing that Biden wasn’t really serious and that the kind of Obama world of establishment figures would wind up getting behind Beto and he’d be lifted to victory because nobody else was a kind of, they could conceivably see as winning the nomination.

And so he stopped fighting for it. And like you said, he drifted away from Medicare for all. He abandoned his kind of organizing approach that he’d been taking. And it turned out that he was not in the position that he thought he was in. And so, now he’s down to, way down closer to zero.

JS: What about the Hawaii congressperson Tulsi Gabbard, who’s a Iraq War veteran, has come under fire for previous positions on everything ranging from gay rights to expressing support for extremist Hindu politicians and institutions to more recently, the fact that she went to Syria and met with Bashar al Assad and has been very, very opposed to any U.S. military action aimed at unseating Assad. And our colleague Glenn Greenwald recently did a long sit down interview with her where he brought up some of these critiques but the way that she is handled when she goes on major TV networks primarily on CNN, it’s extremely hostile and the way that she’s interviewed seems intent on defending the good name of imperial America. And that’s how it’s presented. But what’s going on with that campaign?

RG: She’s badly undermined by Sanders’ presence in the campaign. She rose to national prominence at the end of the campaign by quitting the DNC and endorsing Bernie which, might not be proper to point out, happened long after the campaign was over. If you date the kind of, end of the Sanders campaign in April or May or so, it’s nice that Tulsi went public with her dissatisfaction with how the DNC handled that and endorsed Bernie, but it didn’t do him any good at that point. It did her an enormous amount of good and all of the Sanders goodwill kind of drifted over to her. If he hadn’t run, she’d have a core of supporters that would be out organizing for her. But her reason to be in is less clear with him in because they agree on — I mean, she certainly makes a bigger deal out of anti-imperialism than he does but they agree on that issue. So, at that point like well, what are you bringing to the campaign that Sanders isn’t since Sanders is kind of the one that brought you to the campaign in the first place?

JS: Well, I mean she would probably say that she was a combat veteran, that she’s a woman, that she represents a much younger generation in politics.

RG: She has far more right to run — well, everyone has a right to run — she has just far more reason to run than at least a dozen of these dudes for the reasons that you mentioned but her lane was always going to be on the progressive side and with Bernie and Warren taking it all up, it’s just really hard to see.

JS: What about what’s going on now with the Bernie Sanders campaign? It’s not a case at this point certainly, that he’s just running away with it and that there is any inevitability to it in part because of Biden being in the race. But I see it more as you have Sanders and Warren and then a handful of other people that are sort of to the left of the Pelosi Democratic Party and then, you have the massive Clinton/Pelosi machine that will produce somebody and that they believe that that person is going to have the nomination and we don’t know who that is at this point. It looks like Biden is the anointed one but who knows what happens but what’s going on with Bernie Sanders given that there’s a field of 24 people? There is Elizabeth Warren. There is Tulsi Gabbard. Is it operating the way it did in 2016? Is he running a successful fundraising operation? Is he going up in the polls?

RG: I think he’s running a much better campaign in 2020 just functionally, operationally than he was in 2016. It’s a much more professional campaign and it’s much more bottom-up, organizer-driven whereas in 2016, for all of its revolutionary talk, it was fairly traditional in the sense that they were raising money — now, not the traditional way — but they were raising money to fund a field program and go up on TV in early states. Like that was, now, their message was different but the strategy was the same. Right now, they’re running a very distributed campaign where they’re trying to empower their organizers all over the country to organize in places where they don’t have paid field staff. They’re raising money at an even faster clip than they did in 2016.

He is ticking up in the polls but the psyche of the Democratic primary voter plays into this in a disturbing way in the sense that they just can’t, a lot of voters can’t convince themselves that a Democratic socialist is “electable.” And so, his 40 plus percent that he got in 2016 relied on some protest vote against Clinton. He was the alternative. O’Malley was just not doing it as the alternative. And some protests against the system and some who were voting for him because they thought he could win and would be president. But by no means was that 100 percent of his base and so the ones that weren’t in that base are now out shopping around for other candidates.

If he can pull off a win in Iowa — that’s the thing about being unelectable. If you show yourself to be electable, it changes everything. Barack Obama’s numbers among black voters before Iowa were in the single digits because they quite reasonably said this country’s not going to elect Barack Obama so I’m not going to waste my vote on somebody that they’re not going to elect. When Obama won Iowa, overnight in the black community, his numbers went from single digits to well into the majority and within weeks, he’d sewed up the black vote. When it became clear actually, these corn-fed kids out in Iowa voted for this guy, he could actually win.

So, if Sanders can win in Iowa and then can win in New Hampshire, the aura of winning can create the impression of electability and the aura of losing — let’s say Biden loses those — it damages the impression of his own electability and so, that really is the only way that I see something like that turning around. Maybe you have a Warren and Ocasio-Cortez getting in behind him at a key moment around that time and creating kind of, a new sense of inevitability around a Sanders presidency. But it’s really threading a needle but he would have to do something about that impression that he can’t win.

JS: But the open hostility toward Bernie Sanders that continues or even is increasing in some quarters of the Democratic party is real. I mean, there is this just fierce hatred for Bernie Sanders in certain sectors of the Democratic party. If Sanders does win the Democratic nomination, what happens to all those extremely angry people who seem to think that Sanders is worse than Donald Trump in some ways? What happens then in the Democratic party?

RG: Right, does somebody like Howard Schultz run just to spoil it for Democrats at that point and get five percent and throw it to Trump? That’s the risk with that. And that’s the threat like, that’s kind of the point.

JS: I don’t think Howard Schultz’s own staff would vote for him. I mean, I’m talking about like are these people even going to vote for Bernie Sanders? Are they going to write in Hillary Clinton?

RG: Well, the good news for Democrats or for Bernie supporters would be that they almost all live in Washington or New York. And so, they don’t live in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania. Those are the key states that are going to swing the presidential election. And so, whatever Nicole Wallace wants to do, she can do. But the question of can Bernie win those three key states is what decides whether or not he can beat Trump. And if you talk to Republicans, interestingly, Republicans who know those states well, they believe that Bernie is a major threat in a state like, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin because not only does he galvanize the Democratic base support, but he does appeal to the kind of angry independents who just want to cast a screw you vote. They can just as happily cast it for Bernie Sanders as they can for Trump. And so, Republicans ironically, are more convinced of Sanders’ electability in those states than Democrats are.

JS: Ryan Grim, congrats again on the book and thanks for being with us.

RG: Always a pleasure.

JS: Ryan Grim is The Intercept’s Washington DC bureau chief. His new book, from Strong Arm Press, is called “We’ve Got People: From Jesse Jackson to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the End of Big Money and the Rise of a Movement.”

The post “We’ve Got People:” Ryan Grim on the Democratic Party, Nancy Pelosi, and 2020 Campaign appeared first on The Intercept.

May 29, 2019

Prosecuting Julian Assange for Espionage is a Coup Attempt Against the...

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The Trump administration’s prosecution of Julian Assange is an all out assault on freedom of speech. This week on Intercepted: For the first time in U.S. history, the government is criminally prosecuting a publisher for printing truthful information. Whether Assange is extradited or not, this case casts a dangerous cloud over aggressive national security reporting and means criminalizing journalism is on the table. Jameel Jaffer, director of the Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University and former top lawyer at the ACLU, analyzes the indictment and explains why he believes this case represents a grave threat to a free press. As Democrats continue to debate whether to initiate an impeachment inquiry against Trump, Nancy Pelosi seems to be getting under The Donald’s skin. The Intercept’s Ryan Grim explains Pelosi’s rise to power within the Democratic Party, her political origins and what her possible end game strategy is for Donald Trump. Grim also discusses his new book “We’ve Got People: From Jesse Jackson to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the End of Big Money and the Rise of a Movement.”

Transcript coming soon.

The post Prosecuting Julian Assange for Espionage is a Coup Attempt Against the First Amendment appeared first on The Intercept.

May 22, 2019

Authoritarians Like Us: Trump Targets Iran as Brazil’s Bolsonaro Rew...

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The Trump administration is waging a propaganda campaign aimed at war against Iran. This week on Intercepted: National Security Adviser John Bolton is more powerful than ever and is obsessed with regime change in Tehran. His boss is threatening to bring the “end of Iran” as some news outlets help spread the administration’s unveiled attempt to gin up a Gulf of Tonkin-style justification for war. Iranian author and analyst Hooman Majd explains how we got here and how Iran’s leaders view the Trump administration. Trump loves to talk about locking up his political opponents and with William Barr as his attorney general, it may not be unthinkable. That is precisely what the former President of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, is charging happened to him. Lula, the once popular leftist president of Brazil, is serving a 12-year prison sentence on corruption charges. But, in an exclusive prison interview with The Intercept’s Glenn Greenwald, Lula says his prosecution was an attempt to destroy him and the Workers Party he built. Greenwald discusses his interview and plays highlights of his conversation with Lula.

Transcript coming soon.

The post Authoritarians Like Us: Trump Targets Iran as Brazil’s Bolsonaro Rewards Prosecutor Who Jailed Lula appeared first on The Intercept.

May 15, 2019

The Espionage Axe: Donald Trump and the War Against a Free Press...

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Another alleged whistleblower has been charged with espionage. This week on Intercepted: Donald Trump is set to shatter Barack Obama’s record of prosecuting journalistic sources under the 1917 Espionage Act. Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, talks about the weaponization of this law for use in stopping investigative journalism and the case of Air Force veteran Daniel Hale, who is facing 50 years in prison. Jeremy Scahill tells the story of the prosecution of Socialist leader Eugene Debs in 1918 and its echoes in the modern era. Organizer Bill Fletcher Jr. discusses the Trump administration’s intensifying military threats against Iran, the ongoing coup attempt in Venezuela and offers strategic thoughts on how to view the 2020 Democratic primary field. The anti-choice movement is making its most intense push to abolish Roe v. Wade in years and with Trump’s new Supreme Court justices, the threat could become reality. Dr. Krystal Redman, executive director of SPARK Reproductive Justice Now in Georgia, talks about the spate of new laws being implemented in several states that seek to criminalize abortion and women’s health care providers.

Transcript coming soon.

The post The Espionage Axe: Donald Trump and the War Against a Free Press appeared first on The Intercept.

May 8, 2019

Everywhere Is War: The American Threat to Iran, Venezuela, and Women...

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John Bolton threatens Iran with “unrelenting force” as Benjamin Netanyahu unleashes a new assault on Gaza. This week on Intercepted: As the U.S. moves a strike group and bombers near Iran, The Intercept’s Murtaza Hussain discusses Trump’s motley crew of regime change warriors, what war with Iran would look like, and the strategy behind the economic sanctions. At nearly 90 years old, former Senator Mike Gravel may be the oldest candidate for president, but he also has the dankest social media memes. Gravel discusses his insurgent run for the Democratic nomination led by his campaign volunteers who are teenagers. Gravel lays out his plan to cut the military budget in half, halt military aid to Saudi Arabia and Israel, and to take U.S. hands off Venezuela. Gravel, who played a key role in ending the military draft during Vietnam, also tells the legendary story of how he entered the Pentagon Papers into the Congressional record. Anti-choice groups are mobilizing in an effort to get an abortion case before the U.S. Supreme Court in an effort to crush Roe v Wade. The Intercept’s Jordan Smith talks about her latest reporting. In honor of the 100th anniversary of Pete Seeger’s birth, we hear some never before released recordings and talk with Jeff Place, the curator and senior archivist of The Smithsonian Folkways Collection’s career-spanning anthology of Seeger’s work.

Transcript coming soon.

The post Everywhere Is War: The American Threat to Iran, Venezuela, and Women appeared first on The Intercept.

May 1, 2019

Shadow Players: Erik Prince, Julian Assange, and the Bizarre World of ...

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Prince of perjury? This week on Intercepted: Blackwater founder Erik Prince is facing a possible criminal probe into allegations that he lied in Congressional testimony about his trip as a Trump emissary to the Seychelles where he met with a powerful Russian tycoon close to Vladimir Putin. The Intercept’s editor-in-chief Betsy Reed, investigative journalist Matthew Cole, and national security editor Vanessa Gezari discuss how Prince went from exile in the United Arab Emirates to a shadow player in Trump world. Wikileaks founder Julian Assange was snatched from the Ecuadorean embassy in London and now faces extradition to the U.S., as whistleblower Chelsea Manning finishes her second month in jail for refusing to testify before a Grand Jury. At the heart of this case is the bi-partisan weaponization of the Espionage Act in an effort to assault whistleblowers and journalism. Famed Pentagon Papers lawyer James Goodale, former counsel to the New York Times, discusses the dangerous precedent the prosecution of Assange would set and criticizes “establishment” media outlets for not speaking out. War reporter Dahr Jamail, who reported inside Fallujah during the first U.S. siege, has now deployed to the frontlines of the war to save the climate. He reads from his new book, ”The End of Ice: Bearing Witness and Finding Meaning in the Path of Climate Disruption.”

Transcript coming soon.

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April 10, 2019

Immoral Compass

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The purge continues within the Trump administration over border and immigration policy as Trump floats getting rid of asylum judges. This week on Intercepted: Ryan Grim, the Washington DC bureau chief of The Intercept, discusses the departure of Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Neilsen and the historic War Powers Resolution vote that just passed Congress. It would cut off all funds to Saudi Arabia for the scorched earth bombing campaign in Yemen. Also, Ryan and Jeremy Scahill discuss the pending release of some version of the Mueller report and what it might contain. Investigative reporter Aura Bogado, of Reveal, discusses the Trump administration’s current immigration policies, the ongoing family separations and Bernie Sanders rejection of the concept of “open borders.” The Intercept’s Micah Lee discusses the bizarre case of the Chinese national who talked her way onto Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort with a bunch of cash, USB drives with malware and some counter surveillance equipment. Lee reviews some of the possible scenarios as to what she could have done if she was not caught. Two Catholic Worker peace activists explain why they snuck onto a US military base, poured their own blood and attempted to deliver an indictment of President Trump. Carmen Trotta of the New York Catholic Worker and Martha Hennessy, the granddaughter of Dorothy Day, discuss their legal strategy, why they acted, and the history of the Plowshares movement. They and their five co-defendants could face up to 25 years in prison. Jeremy talks about his time at the Catholic Worker in the 1990s and his family connections to that movement.

Transcript coming soon.

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