Category Archives: Global Labor

Presidential power or “police state”: Trump relies on discredited 1950 case to defend Executive Order

At the heart of the legal battle over the President’s Executive Order banning refugees from Syria and individuals from seven predominantly muslim nations is a claim that his authority to do so should not be subject to judicial review. If his order on its face states that he has found their exclusion to be in the interests of the United States that should end the matter, at least according to DOJ lawyers in the recent State of Washington litigation.

There is a lot that is wrong in this position including its failure to recognize that the powers of a President NOT subject to judicial review are very limited and have almost never included a situation where he orders an Agency like the Department of Homeland Security to exclude aliens. The Administrative Procedures Act gives the courts wide latitude to review Agency actions, a principle rooted in the fact that Agencies are not creations of plenary executive power.

Nonetheless, to bolster a very weak case, the Government relied heavily in their argument in Washington on Knauff v. Shaughnessy, a 1950 Supreme Court case, where the Court upheld the exclusion of a German woman who had married an American soldier on security grounds. The case is considered long discredited (see Louis Henkin, The President and International Law, 80 AJIL 930, 937 n.20) but is trotted out by the DOJ whenever it tries to defend some unilateral exercise of power by the President. The Government doubles down on Knauff in their motion for an emergency stay to the Ninth Circuit.

Paradoxically the Government relies on Knauff while also relying on Kleindienst v. Mandel although the latter case can be said to have rendered the former no longer good law. The Government likes the Mandel case because it states that the standard of review of a Presidential order in immigration cases is very limited – to simply what the DOJ lawyer in the Washington hearing called “facial” validity. But that is at least some kind of review and Knauff stood for the proposition that the President’s power was in this area was, in essence, not subject to review at all!

It is worthwhile then to consider the following excerpt from the dissent in that case (Knauff v. Shaughnessy) by Justice Robert Jackson (whom the DOJ also quotes in another case in their brief):

Security is like liberty, in that many are the crimes committed in its name. The menace to the security of this country, be it great as it may, from this girl’s admission is as nothing compared to the menace to free institutions inherent in procedures of this pattern. In the name of security, the police state justifies its arbitrary oppressions on evidence that is secret, because security might be prejudiced if it were brought to light in hearings. The plea that evidence of guilt must be secret is abhorrent to free men, because it provides a cloak for the malevolent, the misinformed, the meddlesome, and the corrupt to play the role of informer undetected and uncorrected. Cf. In re Oliver, 333 U. S. 257, 333 U. S. 268.

I am sure the officials here have acted from a sense of duty, with full belief in their lawful power, and no doubt upon information which, if it stood the test of trial, would justify the order of exclusion. But not even they know whether it would stand this test. And anyway, as I have said before, personal confidence in the officials involved does not excuse a judge for sanctioning a procedure that is dangerously wrong in principle. Dissent in Bowles v. United States, 319 U. S. 33, 319 U. S. 37.

Congress will have to use more explicit language than any yet cited before I will agree that it has authorized an administrative officer to break up the family of an American citizen or force him to keep his wife by becoming an exile. Likewise, it will have to be much more explicit before I can agree that it authorized a finding of serious misconduct against the wife of an American citizen without notice of charges, evidence of guilt and a chance to meet it.

I should direct the Attorney General either to produce his evidence justifying exclusion or to admit Mrs. Knauff to the country.

Now this is where it gets interesting: J. Jackson two years after this case wrote his most noted opinion in the Steel Seizure case where he outlined what has become the modern test of the legitimacy of presidential power. He was clearly influenced by what he learned in the earlier Knauff case and pointed out that where a President acts alone without congressional support his power it at its lowest ebb. So if the Government wants to take a Knauff based approach to the current Executive Order it is in fact flying in the face of the Steel Seizure approach. Yet the Government also argues that it has the support of a statute – Immigration and Nationality Act! Well, if that is the case then it cannot rely on Knauff! And then it is back at least in the land of Mandel where it must allow courts some minimal right of review and thus it is required to provide some basis for its claim that the order is facially valid (i.e., that it meets the requirement of the INA that the Order is rooted in a valid concern for US interests.)

Of course, I think the APA and other approaches based on due process should be applied and I think the 9th circuit may agree given the blanket nature of the Order, the utter failure to provide any support for the ban and the highly suspicious statements about religion made by the President.

The common link between Steve Bannon and the alt-right – the “socialism of fools”

There is growing concern about the attention being given to far right organizations in the wake of the election of Donald Trump. But there is a good deal of confusion about how such groups are linked to the incoming Trump Administration.

One line of criticism bases itself on the fact that Steve Bannon, a top advisor to Trump who is set to join the new President in the West Wing upon inauguration, made the link clear when he said that his website,, provided a platform for the “alt-right” (a euphemism for anti-semitic, fascist and white supremacist organizations and individuals). Bannon is now distancing himself from that remark and the focus on possible actual organizational links between Bannon and the fascist right is not likely to bear fruit.

Far more important are the ideological connections that are helping to foster a hostile environment since the election.

One key common ideological viewpoint shared by Bannon and the fascist right is their shared interest in and support for the ideas of Julius Evola, a leading intellectual of Italian fascism and an agent of Nazi Germany prior to and during World War II. Evola is not a widely familiar figure now but he deserves much closer attention. During the recent controversial conference sponsored by the National Policy Institute in Washington D.C. – complete with explicit Nazi salutes – the leader of the organization, Richard Spencer, referred to the attendees as “Children of the Sun.” This was an explicit reference to the youthful followers of Evola in fascist Italy. For Evola the sun evokes a notion of a pure culture that is superior to darker lunar cultures.

A more powerful idea of Evola’s intrigues much of the fascist right including Steve Bannon: that is Evola’s “traditionalism.” In comments that Bannon delivered via Skype to a conference held in the Vatican in 2014 he said the following:

“When Vladimir Putin, when you really look at some of the underpinnings of some of his beliefs today, a lot of those come from what I call Eurasianism; he’s got an adviser who harkens back to Julius Evola and different writers of the early 20th century who are really the supporters of what’s called the traditionalist movement, which really eventually metastasized into Italian fascism. A lot of people that are traditionalists are attracted to that.

“One of the reasons is that they believe that at least Putin is standing up for traditional institutions, and he’s trying to do it in a form of nationalism — and I think that people, particularly in certain countries, want to see the sovereignty for their country, they want to see nationalism for their country. They don’t believe in this kind of pan-European Union or they don’t believe in the centralized government in the United States. They’d rather see more of a states-based entity that the founders originally set up where freedoms were controlled at the local level.

“I’m not justifying Vladimir Putin and the kleptocracy that he represents, because he eventually is the state capitalist of kleptocracy. However, we the Judeo-Christian West really have to look at what he’s talking about as far as traditionalism goes — particularly the sense of where it supports the underpinnings of nationalism — and I happen to think that the individual sovereignty of a country is a good thing and a strong thing. I think strong countries and strong nationalist movements in countries make strong neighbors, and that is really the building blocks that built Western Europe and the United States, and I think it’s what can see us forward.”

In a single step Bannon artfully evokes via the concept of “traditionalism” both his support and interest in Evola as well as Vladimir Putin and also explains how he wants to “translate” that concept into the American context via nationalism. Thus, when Bannon now tries to distance himself from the explicitly racist and anti-semitic “alt-right” he does it via the concept of traditionalism-cum-nationalism. And there are no shortage of interviews or videos with Bannon where he goes on ad nauseam about his support for nationalism as against the alleged materialist globalism of Washington and New York elites.

That, in turn, leads to the only slightly more palatable rhetoric of Bannon’s new fuhrer – sorry – leader, Donald Trump. When Trump attacks the New York Times, Saturday Night Live or the cast of Hamilton he is invoking the anti-elitist, anti-cosmopolitan and, most importantly, anti-pluralist themes developed by Bannon since he himself abandoned his own “elitist” career as a Wall Street banker. As his remarks to the Vatican conference demonstrate, these themes are deeply rooted in the fascistic concepts of nationalism and traditionalism – an attempt to return the country to some mythical pre-globalist traditional America – an America that has never existed and cannot ever exist.

Unfortunately that approach struck a chord in the recent election with many unemployed and underemployed Americans who think that Trump can conjure up an economic miracle. Bannon himself has said the Trump era is as exciting as the 1930s – a period of massive industrial expansion in countries like the U.S., in part, but also, of course, in fascist Germany and stalinist Russia.

It is no wonder that the German socialist leader August Bebel referred to anti-semitism as the “socialism of fools.”

Chinese state cracks down on Berkeley labor education effort

A major blow to the idea that there can be engagement with the Chinese state unions as described in the Wall Street Journal.

Another account here:

Chinese state cracks down, but workers keep fighting | REDFLAG.

Sadly, some in the law school world operate under the same illusions as some in our democratic labor movement. See my exchange with NYU professor Rick Hills here and here.

A Fall 2016 seminar on “global tectonics” – call for papers

The theme will be the application of law to the problems created by what I call “global tectonics.” I intend to consider problems like the Ukraine, Boko Haram, Mexican drug violence and more. Students will be reading the globalization and rule of law literature and then examining these trouble spots where global social, political and economic tectonic plates are clashing. They will be asked to consider how or whether legal solutions to these situations are feasible. If you have any ideas for papers or other material for the seminar or would like to present work of your own please let me know. My campus email address is

My review of Human Rights and Transnational Solidarity in Cold War Latin America ed. by Jessica Stites Mor

Misguided approaches to the Cold War and the authoritarian regimes supported by both Washington and Moscow abound. My hope that this volume would do a better job were disappointed.

Human Rights and Transnational Solidarity in Cold War Latin America

Are corporations people, too? A post-Hobby Lobby look back at the history and law

In the wake of the recent Hobby Lobby decision by the US Supreme Court readers may be interested in my earlier take on the corporate personhood debate published on line at Dissent Magazine here.

The hidden history of the Equal Rights Amendment – my newest book, better late than never

thThe Center for Socialist History has just published my book The Hidden History of the Equal Rights Amendment which I had the privilege of co-authoring with the late Hal Draper.

I drafted a new foreword for the book but it is otherwise unchanged from the original ms. which Hal and I finished in the late 1980’s in the wake of the defeat of the ERA. There has been some research on the Amendment since and certainly some important developments with respect to the rights of women but the publisher and I thought it important to retain the argument as it was completed then, more or less contemporaneously with the end of that era of the women’s movement. We did, of course, try to get it published then but ran into roadblocks which I describe briefly in the foreword.

The history we examine in detail is very much in the news today as this essay by Louis Menand in a recent New Yorker suggests. Menand gets some important aspects of the story wrong, however. I have sent the magazine a short letter in response and will wait to see if they print it before laying out my comments here.

Workers play a big role in these global ‘middle-class’ revolutions

Workers play a big role in these global ‘middle-class’ revolutions | Richard Seymour The Guardian.

Wall Street Journal panics in face of Egyptian revolution

No_(2012_film)As the ordinary Egyptian population stood up and said it was no longer willing to follow Iran and other middle eastern countries into the abyss of authoritarian and fundamentalist Islamist politics, the mouthpiece of western arch-conservatism, the editorial board of the Wall Street Journal, was thrown into a panic. In an editorial published, sadly, on our Independence Day, the paper called for the installation of a Pinochet-like General in Egypt.

Either the Journal has been struck by some kind of severe cognitive disorder that allows it to paint over the history of one of the most brutal regimes to have ever ruled or they really mean it. If the former, they owe their readers and the Chilean and Egyptian people an apology and should retract the statement. If the latter, then they are in fact the leading edge of a new fascism emerging here in America. Since I am not a medical professional, I will simply comment on what it means to suggest that fascism is the right outcome in Egypt.

220px-Missing_1982_filmFirst, for any of my younger readers, if you want a taste of what it means to be for a Pinochet then go to iTunes and download this week’s Editors Choice – the film “NO” which recounts the very final stages of the Pinochet regime, after the blood had been washed off the streets. If you have a stronger stomach, then find a copy of the magnificent Battle of Chile, an important long documentary film that includes amazing and disturbing footage of the Allende era and the imposition of the U.S.-backed brutal Pinochet dictatorship, now viewed as a political model for the middle east by such august figures at the Journal as Paul Gigot, Daniel Henninger and the recent Pulitzer winner Bret Stephens. (Stephens, the recent recipient of a Pulitzer, we have encountered before on these pages – it seems he looks for his ideas all over the place and is not always willing to give proper credit.) The Battle is hard to find but you can also look at Missing the fictional account of an American, Charles Horman, who was kidnapped and tortured to death by Pinochet’s thugs.

PinochetHere is a capsule summary of the Pinochet period, though, just so we are all on the same page: 3,000 murdered; 30,000 tortured; political parties outlawed; trade unions smashed; nearly two decades of brutal repression and fear. Two of those killed were blown up by Pinochet’s secret DINA police force on the streets of Washington D.C. The regime was installed with the not very covert support of Henry Kissinger and the Nixon Administration. Pinochet was feted by “Lady” Margaret Thatcher and other right wing thugs in order to burnish their own domestic reactionary politics. Pinochet’s regime was advised by economists trained in the shock therapy politics developed by Milton Friedman at  the University of Chicago.

For brevity’s sake I will spare readers an account of the book burnings carried out by the regime.

Unknown-1Now that we are all up to speed on what one is talking about when one invokes the name of Pinochet, what does it mean that the Journal would react to the unfolding events in Egypt like this? It means, most likely, that American conservatives are in a full blown panic over the popular uprising we have witnessed there in recent days but not only there. It signals broader panic among the Wall Street and D.C. elite over what is known as the Arab Spring, the region wide unfolding of a new democratic era in a part of the world that has for many decades found itself in the grip of what ever great power rivalries were taking hold in Europe, first, and later, in the cold war, between the great US and Russian blocs. For the first time, the region’s own populations are speaking up independently and saying, as the Chileans did to Pinochet, No.

This kind of democratic uprising is, inevitably, messy and volatile. There is, undeniably, also the presence of opportunistic forces that are not democratic, most clearly the Islamists. That makes the situation particularly complex but does not mean that the overall direction is one we should fear or condemn. Chile was able to make a more peaceful transition but only because a pre-existing political culture that had thrived in a long period of relative stability and democracy prior to the Pinochet period was able to survive underground and re-emerge when the regime finally was pushed aside. Egypt, Syria and Libya do not have that luxury, as they have been either under the direct colonial thumb of imperial powers such as Britain or held down by the local thugs representing post-imperial powers for generations.

Since the great powers have invested billions and many decades in creating the authoritarian regimes now being challenged, it appears to the mouthpieces of those same forces, like the Wall Street Journal, that all is chaos. Even “liberal intellectuals” like Harvard’s Noah Feldman are frightened by the disorderly nature of the popular effort to recreate these long repressed societies. He condemned the Egyptian millions as a “mob” as I explained here.

No doubt, when one is threatened with the loss of a significant investment panic is a reasonable enough reaction. But should they really be surprised that the “order” they imposed on the backs of the middle east is now under challenge?

It is a sign of how the world is turning on its axis now that the Journal would go this far. The Egyptian people are to be congratulated for being among the first to put their shoulder to the wheels of history and pushing.

Let’s hope the American people will find the courage to join them. Then the Journal’s editorial writers can join their fascist comrade in arms Pinochet in the ash can of history.

Review & Outlook: After the Coup in Cairo –

Celebrate new year with “Rights and Revolution”



From the back cover:

The victory of the Sandinista Revolution in Nicaragua in 1979 opened up a major new battleground in the Cold War between east and west. That larger conflict caused many to ignore or misjudge the domestic battle for democratic rights carried out by ordinary Nicaraguans, first against the Somoza dictatorship, and then against the Frente Sandinista, which led the Revolution. In Rights and Revolution: The Rise and Fall of Nicaragua’s Sandinista Movement, political scientist and legal scholar Stephen F. Diamond examines the conflict inside Nicaragua from a viewpoint that is critical of the FSLN, which was allied closely with Cuba and the Soviet Union, and of the United States, which formed a proxy army to overthrow the FSLN regime. Such an independent viewpoint yields important and original insights into the complex relationship between authoritarianism and democracy in the developing world.

Rights and Revolution: The Rise and Fall of Nicaragua’s Sandinista Movement: Stephen F. Diamond: 9781600421860: Books.