Category Archives: Activism

A Radical Call To Action  

A radical call to action has never been more vital than today, as the abomination of capitalism known as neoliberalism tears apart society from stem to stern, continuing the grand experiment that originated under the watchful eyes and vision of aristocratic plantation-owners like Washington and Jefferson as wealthy patriots.

In honor of their hard fought war to avoid taxation as much as possible, Trump retroactively honored them with a gigantic tax cut for their distant namesakes, the wealthy.

Lo and behold, he has hardened the battle lines between them (1%) versus us (99%). Will the lines be crossed and how so?

The Trump tax cut for corporations and rich individuals drops a trillion-and-a-half ($1.5T) out of the hands of federal tax collectors, helping to sustain a $1trillion unsustainable deficit that makes Democrat deficits look like small potatoes. “Instead of trickling down to workers, the 2017 tax cuts have largely served to line the pockets of already wealthy investors—further increasing inequality—with little to show for it.”1

Meanwhile, assuming Trump gets away scot-free with his impeachment proceedings, he’ll likely use that miscarriage of justice to enhance his standing among easily swayed impressionable voters as well as solidifying his overt ownership of dumbed-down members of Congress. It’s mind numbing and would be comical if not for the tragedy that’s unfolding.

Forthwith, it’s time to sharpen swords, as the onset of full-dress authoritarianism by the least qualified president in history is sure to ensue, aka: fascism in full living color. The previews are over.

A radical call to action, similar to the 60s, may be the country’s only salvation. In that regard, a guidebook to what ails society is a requirement so that radical fighters thoroughly understand why, who, and what they’re fighting.

Fortunately, there is a good radical textbook already in publication. It explains what eco warriors encounter during the late stages of capitalism, like today. It just so happens that’s the underlying footnote on almost every page of The Big Heat: Earth on the Brink (AK Press, 2018.)

It’s a wonderful tome filled with eyewitness events, brass tacks explanations of rampant ecological damage, and it explains how humanity and the planet have become incompatible largely because of wrong politics and upside down economics that wreak havoc for the great majority of people that purportedly live in a democracy, as a rank odor drifts by.

Meanwhile, and of utmost importance, the prescient words of Jeffrey St. Clair and Joshua Frank, co-authors of The Big Heat:

The world may be changing faster than humans can properly grasp which only means we must alter our perspective and change our tactics to defend it. In short, it’s time to get radical. (pg.2)

The Big Heat comprehensively, very comprehensively, covers the anthropogenic footprint, from loss of wolf habitat – stupid humans trampling landscape – oceans without fish – and lots more but most importantly it’s a Full Monty exposure of America’s insanity politics. As for one example of one among many: “Pesticides, Neoliberalism and the Politics of Acceptable Death.” (pg. 183)

Really?  “Acceptable Death”

But, first to start at the start, the initial article, “The Wolf at Trout Creek” finds co-author Jeffrey St. Clair on a field trip in Yellowstone National Park, or thereabouts, to observe bison and wolves. Along the way, he accidentally (of course, it’s accidental) plunges down a mossy cliff at “a waterfall in the Absaroka Mountains, ripping the nail off my big toe.” (pg. 8)

That article includes the fate of one of the most important animals (the wolf) for maintaining healthy ecosystems. And, sorrowfully, it includes mention of the state of Idaho granting 6,000 hunting licenses to gun down, in cold blood, “an allotment” of 220 wolves. How could they miss?

Not only that, but with so many trigger-happy guys/gals out and about, it’s a wonder they don’t shoot and kill each other (shades of Dick Cheney) They probably do kill somebody but we’ll never, tongue in cheek, hear about it, Evidently, wolf eradication is a big political draw in the great state of Idaho.

The Big Heat, inclusive of 387 pages and 50 stand alone articles, is an exposé of the detrimental impact of the neoliberal brand of capitalism, as, time and again, it feasts upon ruination of federal rules and regulations which impede corporate profits, even if only by a slight margin.

Indeed, the book brings to surface, for all to see, some behind scenes maneuvers initiated by powerful lobbyists to upend safeguards for all of the citizenry, which, one would think, could also impact their own families (the lobbyists). But, then again, when playing in the big rough and tumble playground of payoff politics, money talks, people get hurt, who cares?

For example, in the article: “Pesticides, Neoliberalism, and the Politics of Acceptable Death” (Pg. 183-188) the food and chemical industries lobbied hard for decades to remove the Delaney Clause, which served to block carcinogens in processed foods ever since the 1950s, but that blockade was removed by Congress in 1996, signed by President Clinton.

With the Delaney Clause dead on the floor of Congress, some 80 pesticides that were about to be outlawed as carcinogens now remain in use. (Pg. 184)

The shock value of that one simple sentence speaks volumes.

It should be noted The Big Heat isn’t the only one to take note of harmful alterations to federal regulations, especially regarding food safety. According to the irrepressibly brilliant Donella Meadows (The Limits to Growth – a classic):

It’s probably just as well that the clear, brave language of Delaney no longer stands to deceive us into thinking that our food supply is risk-free.  How much risk there really is, no one knows. (Donella Meadows, Farewell to the Delaney Amendment, Sustainability Institute, 1996)

Really! “How much risk there really is, no one knows.” Hmm.

Meanwhile, back to St. Clair/Frank for more on toxic stuff: According to Dr. Joseph Weissman, professor of medicine at UCLA, cancer killed 3 out of every 100 Americans in 1900 but nowadays it’s 33 out of every 100.

Weissman reckons that a fair slice of this explosion in cancer mortality can be laid at the door of petro-chemicals, particularly those used by the food industry. (Pg. 183)

Then, does that mean that Americans are consuming cancer-causing foods, which, over time, alter or destroy human cells? Well, for starters:

The average apple and peach has eight different pesticides embedded in it. Grapes have six and celery five. Children get as much as 35 percent of their likely lifetime dose of such toxins by the time they are five. (Pg. 185)

After all, toxins accumulate in the body over time before striking hard at tissues, and such, otherwise known as human organs, blood, and bone.  Along those lines, here’s proof that something is horribly wrong: According to a Rand Corporation 2017 study (Chronic Conditions in America: Price and Prevalence) nearly 150 million Americans are living with at least one chronic condition of which 100 million have two or more chronic conditions.

Meaning, nearly fifty percent (50%) of Americans (whew!) live with at least one chronic condition, like diabetes, high blood pressure, Alzheimer’s, high cholesterol, arthritis, Parkinson’s, and heart disease. Sound familiar? Almost every family in America has at least one family member with a chronic condition.

Is that normal, to be expected, or is something somewhere somehow horribly wrong?

Rand calculates that, over time, it’ll translate into more than $1 trillion per year in overall health care costs. Then, what of universal health care? It’ll soon become an absolute necessity. Alternatively, millions will suffer and then, of course, they’ll die while suffering even more.

The Big Heat is an important book. It exposes disasters that ricochet straight out of neoliberalism dicta like bolts of lightning. And, it humanizes the importance of fighting back. It brings to light individual heroes who sacrifice their own safety to benefit society at large, yet mainstream news and governmental officials inevitably label these real American heroes as terrorists or criminals. That’s one more sign that something is horribly wrong.

“On the Front Lines of the Climate Change Movement: Mike Roselle Draws a Line” brings to light society’s stupid treatment of eco heroes. (pg. 295) Roselle, a co-founder of Earth First, stood up to mountain top coal removal. After all, somebody had to stand up to such a deadly, putrid business that was responsible in December 2008 for a major spill of more than 500 million gallons of highly toxic coal ash into the Tennessee River, 40 times larger than the Exxon Valdez in Alaska. The total costs for toxic water of downstream cities and assorted environmental costs are still not known to this day.

Because Mike Roselle stood up to the coal interests, a Fox TV affiliate aired a story about him, labeling Roselle:

An eco terrorist… tomorrow night don’t miss the ‘Roselle Report’ when we’ll take a closer look at how this man’s radical methods of protest may put lives at stake in West Virginia. (pg. 295)

In Fox News’ view: The man standing nose-to-nose to stop a caterpillar tractor from razing a mountaintop is a dangerous terrorist.

The Big Heat is a treasure trove built upon blood, sweat, and tears, compiling years of hard work and astute research to help people better understand a bastardized psycho-socio-politico-economic system; i.e., neoliberalism, which is kinda like an outer space soulless alien devoid of humanity taking control over the planet.

The most critical portion of The Big Heat is found on pages 373-377, the “Epilogue, The End of Illusion”. It nails down the overriding issue, exposing the illusion of “hope…  hope is the enemy. The antidote is action.”

After all “hope” and “groupie protests” are dead-enders to nowhere.

Then, what is a radical call to action?

Here’s what it’s not: It is not marching a couple of times a year; it is not typing your name on a MoveOn petition; it is not a selfie with a celebrity protesting fracking in front of the governor’s mansion.

Action is standing arm-in-arm before water cannons and government snipers on the frozen plains of North Dakota… hanging from a fragile perch 150-feet up in Douglas fir tree in an ancient forest grove slated for clear-cutting…chaining yourself to a fracking rig… or camping out in the blast zone at a Mountain Top Removal site in the hills of West Virgina…Action is stopping bad shit from going down. (pg. 374)

The time for one-off protests is over. They don’t work. And, most likely none of them work, one-off or not.

If they did work, especially when consideration is given to the number of global climate change rallies and demonstrations worldwide these past few years, then CO2 would not be continuing at ever-faster rates (setting new record levels in 2019) blanketing the atmosphere, where it stays for at least 100 years. That’s the problem.

Earth’s sister planet Venus’ atmosphere is 96.5% CO2 by volume. Its temperature is 864F.

Carbon counts!

  1. “Trump’s Corporate Tax Cut Is Not Trickling Down”, Center for American Progress, September 26, 2019.

The World Demands US Out Of The Middle East

The world is saying no to war with Iran and US out of the Middle East. Hundreds of protests were held in the United States and around the world on Saturday with a unified voice of “No War.” These protests are in solidarity with massive protests in Iraq calling for the US to get out where it is now an occupying force as the government has asked it to leave.

These protests and the uprising over the US remaining in Iraq are not being covered in the US corporate media. Millions of people participated in the memorials for General Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes after the US assassinated them. Now, millions have protested the refusal of the US to leave Iraq. The Pentagon knows the reality is that US troops in Iraq are at increasing risk every day the US stays in that sovereign nation.

The warnings have been sent. i24 News reports that up to five missiles struck near the US Embassy in Baghdad today. “Sunday’s attack was the second night in a row that the Green Zone was hit and the 15th time over the last two months that US installations have been targeted.”

The Pentagon will need to tell President Trump that he has two choices to protect US troops. The first choice is to abide by the law and the demands of the Iraqi government by leaving Iraq. The second choice is to escalate and bring in tens of thousands of more troops as well as anti-missile systems. Iran showed the US that even when they warned them they would be attacking a base with several hours’ notice so personnel could leave, the US military was unable to stop the Iranian missiles. Iran has also shown that it can shoot down US drones over the Strait of Hormuz.

The US needs to leave Iraq and the Middle East and stop threatening Iran or it risks spending hundreds of billions of dollars and risking the lives of US troops. All this for oil that President Trump says the US does not need. In this era when the fossil fuel economy must come to an end, it is time for the US to get out of the Middle East.

Iraqi people gather in the capital Baghdad for a “million-strong” march to demand an end to the presence of US forces in their country (Press TV)

Massive Protests in Iraq Demand the US Leave

Telesur reports:

According to estimates of the Iraqi police commander Jaafar Al-Batat, over 1 million people Thursday demanded the departure of U.S. troops from Iraq with a march in Baghdad, which was convened by cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr three weeks after the murder of Iran’s General Qasem Soleimani.

The message of the protest was very clear from the signs and actions of the protesters.  Banners included “No, No to the U.S. and Yes to Iraqi sovereignty,” “The willingness of free nations is stronger than the U.S. aggression,” and “Global terrorism is made in the U.S.” Another sign sent a very clear message “To the Families of American soldiers Insist on the Withdrawal of Your Sons from Our Country, or Prepare their Coffins.” [Emphasis in Original] Protesters carried burned images of Donald Trump, others raised photos of the US president’s face crossed out with a red “X”. On the speaker’s stage, a large sign read, “Get Out America.”

Shia Cleric, Muqtada al-Sadr, who helped organize the protest said, regarding the demand of the government that the US leave Iraq, “If the U.S. meets these demands, then it is not an aggressor country” but the US will become a “hostile country” if it fails to do so. Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani, the highest Shiite religious authority in Iraq said, “the need to respect the sovereignty of Iraq, the independence of its political decision, and its territorial unity.”

The Prime Minister and the Parliament called for US troops to leave Iraq. In a telephone call, Prime Minister Abdel Mahdi told Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to prepare to leave Iraq. Article 24 of the agreement between the US and Iraq regarding troops states that the “US recognizes the sovereign right of the government of Iraq to request the departure of the US forces from Iraq any time.”  Pompeo gave a foolish answer, turning the US into an occupying force by saying, “The US shall not withdraw from Iraq” but inconsistently said it “respects its sovereignty and decisions.” President Trump threatened Iraq saying he would impose “sanctions like they’ve never seen before” and “its Central Bank account held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York with $35 billion could be shut down.” US Ambassador to Iraq Mathew Tueller delivered to Iraqi officials a copy of all the possible US sanctions Iraq could face.

Take Action: Join The International Days Of Action Against Sanctions And Economic War, March 13 – 15, 2020

These responses led to mass protests. The threat to US troops is very real. Sources in Prime Minister Mahdi’s office said the US is “bringing war upon itself and transforming Iraq into a battlefield” if it fails to leave. He warns, “The US will be faced with strong and legitimate popular armed resistance.”

The current conflict needs to be viewed in the context of Iraq being devastated by US actions. The Clinton administration sanctions killed 500,000 children, and the US invasion and occupation, which followed in 2003, resulted in the deaths of over one million Iraqis. More recently, the US tried to extort Iraq by demanding half its oil profits in exchange for damages the US war caused. When the Prime Minister turned to China for assistance instead, Trump threatened Iraq. The Iraqi people have had enough of US intervention. It is time for the United States to leave.

No War With Iran, January 25, from East Bay DSA Twitter

The World Joins Opposition To War With Iran, Calls For US Out of The Middle East

On January 25, a Global Day of Protest was called in solidarity with the people of Iraq and Iran. There were protests in more than 210 cities in 22 countries. The protest was organized by numerous antiwar organizations including the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC), the ANSWER Coalition, CODE PINK, Black Alliance for Peace, the International Action Center, Popular Resistance and many more.

UNAC pointed out that Iran has been a victim of US aggression since the 1953 coup against the democratically-elected president Mohammed Mossadegh. This was followed by the brutal rule of the US-supported Shah of Iran until the 1979 Iranian Revolution. Sanctions were immediately imposed on Iran and from 1980-1988 the US fueled the Iran-Iraq war, which killed more than one million people. In 1988, the US shot down an Iranian civilian passenger plane, killing more than 290 Iranian civilians, for which the US has still not apologized for or explained. The US has imposed escalating crippling sanctions that have devastated Iran’s economy and the lives of its citizens. Trump’s unilateral withdrawal from the nuclear agreement has led to even more sanctions. Donald Trump’s order to assassinate General Soleimani was the culmination of his campaign of “maximum pressure” against the Islamic Republic of Iran supported by both Democrats and Republicans.

Register now for the United National Antiwar Conference, “Rise Against Militarism, Racism and the Climate Crisis” in New York City from February 21 to 23.

CODEPINK sent an open letter to the people of Iran expressing that the people of the United States are “horrified by the actions of our government to provoke a war…” and apologizing for the reckless actions of President Trump. They expressed opposition to the withdrawal of the United States from the nuclear agreement, the maximum-pressure campaign and the assassination of General Soleimani writing, “Poll after poll reveals that the American people do not want a war with Iran. We want to end the Middle East wars that the U.S. has engaged in for far too long.”

This weekend’s massive protests were the second protests since the US reignited the risk of war in Iraq and war against Iran. One day after the January 3 assassination of Qassem Soleimani, the renewed antiwar movement called for protests and thousands of protesters rallied in more than 82 cities in 38 states involving tens of thousands of people.

The world is saying, “US out of the Middle East and no war on Iran”, and governments are also siding with Iran to end US hegemony. There are many countries coming to the side of Iran, perhaps most important are the Chinese-Iranian economic agreements, which have undermined US sanctions and integrated Iran into a Chinese-led Eurasian Belt and Road Initiative. The US deems this an imminent threat. In 2016, Iranian President Hassan Rohani announced during a visit from China’s President Xi Jinping that Iran and China had created a $600 billion dollar, 25-year political and trade alliance.

The military alliance developing between China, Russia, and Iran is another major threat to US domination. Iran, China, and Russia held joint naval drills in the Gulf of Oman, a “normal military exchange” that reflected the nations’ “will and capabilities to jointly maintain world peace and maritime security,” just days before the murder of Soleimani.

China and Russia have been critical to multiple countries under economic attack and military threats by the United States. This includes Iran, Iraq, Syria, Libya, North Korea, Venezuela, Nicaragua, Bolivia, and many others. A new balance of power is developing. The US peace movement needs to understand these realities and join a global movement against US imperialism.

Join us at this important conference against US imperialism. The World Peace Council and the Coalition Against U.S. Foreign Military Bases are organizing a 2-day international conference titled “Confronting Imperialism’s War Machine — The Global Struggle for Peace, Social Justice, National Sovereignty and the Environment,” on March 28-29, 2020, in Larnaca, Cyprus. Register here.

Getting Out of the US War Quagmires in the Middle East

The United States needs to reverse course after decades of mistakes, destruction, chaos and death in the Middle East. The US is not welcome in the region and will face increasing costs if it stays.

Foreign Minister Javad Zarif sent a biting tweet to Donald Trump where he urged him to act on facts, not FOX news headlines and linked to an interview with Der Spiegel highlighting a small portion:

DER SPIEGEL: Do you rule out the possibility of negotiations with the U.S. following Soleimani’s murder?

Zarif: No, I never rule out the possibility that people will change their approach and recognize the realities. For us, it doesn’t matter who is sitting in the White House. What matters is how they behave. The Trump administration can correct its past, lift the sanctions and come back to the negotiating table. We’re still at the negotiating table. They’re the ones who left. The U.S. has inflicted great harm on the Iranian people. The day will come when they will have to compensate for that. We have a lot of patience.

Conflict resolution expert Diane Perlman sees hope in the potential for ratcheting down conflicts between the US and Iran and Iraq. The proportional response by Iran for the assassination of General Soleimani, and the non-escalation by President Trump to that response are positive signs. Donald Trump has said the Middle East wars have cost trillions of dollars for no useful purpose. Iran does not want war. Iraq does not want its nation used as a battlefield. The US public and peace movement want our troops out. The nations of the world do not want another protracted Middle East war. She points out that de-escalation could “address different fundamental needs for each party.” The US leaving Iraq is a “potentially elegant solution” especially when the “unthinkable alternative” is escalation and more war.

We must continue to demand that the US follow the rule of law, respect the sovereignty of other nations, end the illegal coercive economic measures and get our bases and troops out of other countries. We urge you to participate in the upcoming events such as the day of action against sanctions and the conferences in New York and Cyprus.

Ending Militarization Of Our Communities

From Stop The Militarization of Police Facebook page

In recent weeks Popular Resistance has focused on the escalation of US militarism around the world, especially in the Middle East with the assassination of General Soleimani, US troops staying in Syria to take their oil and the US refusing to leave Iraq despite being asked to leave. The US is in the midst of a potential escalation toward full-scale war in the Middle East once again.

However, militarism abroad is mirrored by militarism at home, especially in poor, black and brown communities. There is a long history of attacks on these communities. Now, the Department of Justice’s new Operation Relentless Pursuit threatens seven cities with more militarized police who view people in these communities as the enemy. This escalation of the war at home must be stopped and people are offering positive alternatives to militarization.

Join us at the conference of the United National Antiwar Coalition,
“Rise Against Militarism, Racism and the Climate Crisis Building Power Together”
February 21, 22, 23, at the People’s Forum in New York City

Trump Administration’s ‘Relentless Pursuit’ Will Ignite New Era Of Mass Incarceration

The US Department of Justice announced a new $71 million program, Operation Relentless Pursuit, which will escalate law enforcement in seven cities focusing on poor, black and brown communities. In addition to increased spending, the DOJ will bring enforcement personnel from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobaccos, and Firearms, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the FBI, and US Marshals to Albuquerque, Baltimore, Cleveland, Detroit, Kansas City, Memphis, and Milwaukee.

These types of federal enforcement programs have a long history dating back to the Law Enforcement Assistance Administration that existed from 1968 to 1982, to the Weed and Seed program that began in 1997 under the Clinton Administration with $28.5 million and continues today. There are numerous similar programs and federal-state law enforcement task forces. They have resulted in increased arrests and mass incarceration without investing in communities or solving the root causes of crime.

In the graph below, the Sentencing Project shows how the number of people in prison in the United States took off starting in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Mass incarceration is a direct result of changes in policy governing law enforcement and the judicial system such as the war on drugs and mandatory minimums for sentencing. It is also driven by the privatization of prisons. Prison corporations sign contracts with governments that guarantee a certain level of occupancy creating an obligation by the state to incarcerate people.

More Police In Communities Means More Deaths

The United States is the “greatest purveyor of violence,” as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said, both abroad and at home. Just as the US openly killed the foreign military leader of a country we are not at war with, in the US, police brazenly kill on average more than 1,000 people per year or about three people per day. Black men are three times more likely to be killed by police than white men. Latino men’s risk of being killed by police is about 40 percent higher than the risk faced by white men. Men are 10 times more likely to be killed by police than women. Racial inequality in risk extends across gender.

In fact, the total number of civilians killed by police in the United States greatly surpasses the number of US troops killed in Afghanistan and Iraq where 39 soldiers were killed in 2019 and 48 in 2018.  China, whose population is 4.5 times the size of the United States, recorded 3 killings by law enforcement officers in 2018 and 2019 combined. Police in the US kills citizens at over 70 times the rate of other first-world nations.

Many people in heavily-policed communities do not feel safer when they see police in their neighborhoods. Too many feel like the police are an occupying force that gets away with murder. The violence of police leading to the death of civilians has become more widely known and understood as people developed the ability to report them through social media. Well-known killings such as Mike Brown in Ferguson, MO, Eric Garner in New York City, Freddie Gray in Baltimore, MD and so many others have resulted in large nationwide protests.

In response, residents of some cities have elected prosecutors who seek to control police violence but they are running up against a system that thwarts their efforts. The Circuit Attorney in St. Louis, Kimberly Gardener, is suing the city, the police union and others using a law designed for the KKK for a “racist conspiracy to stop her from doing her job.” She is being attacked personally and her efforts to hold people accountable and reopen corrupt convictions are being blocked. In many cities where prosecutors are trying to reform the system, police unions are retaliating against them.

Ending Police Violence

Communities are organizing to rein in abuse by police. There is a growing campaign for community control of the police in which residents would decide who polices their communities and how they do so. They would be able to fire police who are abusive, racist or violent and make sure police are trained to ‘protect and serve.’ People are seeking to put in place  Civilian Police Accountability Councils that give broad powers to a democratically-elected council. This would replace the charade of civilian police review boards, which are appointed and often do more to protect the police than to hold them accountable.

There are many solutions to police violence. The Police Use of Force Project proposes common-sense limits on the use of force that are proven to reduce violence. These include requiring officers to de-escalate situations, prohibiting officers from choking or strangling civilians, requiring officers to intervene to stop excessive force by another officer, restricting officers from shooting at moving vehicles, developing a continuum of force that limits the types of force and weapons used, requiring the exhaustion of all reasonable alternatives to deadly force, requiring police to give a verbal warning before shooting and requiring officers to report each time they use or threaten the use of force.

The project finds that these basic procedures are not widely used and that “the average police department would have 54 percent fewer killings and a police department with none of these policies currently in place would have 72 percent fewer killings by implementing all eight of these policies.” They also find those police departments with these policies have less likelihood of police being killed, assaulted or sustaining an injury. Restricting police violence has not lead to an increase in violent crime.

Invest in the Poor, Not Police, and End the Drug War

Jacqueline Luqman, whom we interviewed on Clearing the FOG, points to basic solutions that would reduce crime by investing in poor communities instead of investing in more police. In our city, Baltimore, the police receive more resources from the city government than the health department and schools combined. Luqman says:

There are some pretty common-sense responses. Provide people jobs. Stop taking people’s homes. Make sure that people have affordable places to live. Increase the number of truly affordable housing and provide some type of tax benefit for working people so that they can keep their homes. Definitely invest in public schools. Provide resources and programs for kids and recreation centers. Restore the recreation centers that were closed especially in places, like Baltimore. Provide subsidized mental health treatment and substance abuse treatment for people who need it. If we do those things, crime will go down.

Listen to our interview about Operation Relentless Pursuit with Jacqueline Luqman here:

New Federal Police Surge Targets Poor And Black Communities.

Luqman highlights that another driving force in crime is the illegality of drugs. Drug use has been treated as a police issue for many decades, resulting in mass arrests and mass incarceration with a racially disproportionate impact on black and brown communities. Police are not equipped to solve the health and social problems of drug abuse.

Rather than continuing to use the same mistaken policies, the US needs a new approach to drug issues. So far eleven states have legalized adult use of marijuana and prosecutors in some cities are no longer prosecuting low-level marijuana offenders. The Atlanta Police Department is disbanding its special Narcotics Unit and reassigning officers to other units to address violent crime. Homicides in Atlanta for 2019 were up 9 percent over 2018, and 19 percent over 2017.

In addition to refocusing police resources on violent crime, positive programs to deal with drug abuse are needed. The US needs to move from zero tolerance and mass arrests to harm reduction programs that use a public health approach to reduce the damage from drug abuse. There is a wide range of harm reduction programs that reduce deaths from drugs, the spread of disease and crime.

Legal access to heroin or public injection facilities as well as controlled access to heroin have had dramatic impacts on crime and health. Studies conducted in six countries – Switzerland, the Netherlands, Spain, Germany,  Canada, and England – show many positive benefits. These programs have reduced crime related to the acquisition of drugs, reduced drug markets, and public drug use, lowered the cost of health care and criminal justice as well as promoted employment and family life. Where people can purchase legal heroin for 10 percent of the cost of illegal heroin, it resulted in a 50 percent reduction in crime for those in the program as well as reductions of homelessness, unemployment and drug use.  As a result of people stabilizing their lives and forming positive relationships, people stopped their heroin use so this approach is now called Heroin Assisted Treatment.

With the United States imprisoning almost twenty-five percent of all people imprisoned in the world, even though we only have 5% of the world’s population, it is time to demand these commonsense, effective and humane approaches. Programs such as Operation Relentless Pursuit pour more money into a failed approach that terrorizes oppressed communities, breaks families apart and murders residents. We need to recognize that a country that recklessly murders people abroad will do the same at home. We need to end all wars by investing in programs that provide for people’s basic necessities instead of investing in programs that are designed to kill.

Trump Prosecutors Make Move to Ensure that Embassy Protectors are Convicted

As the trial approaches, the lawyers for the Trump Administration’s prosecution of the four Venezuelan Embassy Protectors who were arrested last May are asking the court to make sure the jury is kept ignorant about the facts and circumstances surrounding the actions of the protectors.

In a recently filed motion by government lawyers, state prosecutors are seeking to severely restrict what can be discussed during the trial scheduled for February 11, 2020. Judge Beryl Howell will hear arguments on the motion at the pre-trial hearing on January 29.

What does the prosecution want to repress? Everything that might give the defenders the ability to challenge the state’s case.

The prosecutors do not want jurors to know that Nicolas Maduro is the democratically-elected president of Venezuela. They also do not want the illegitimacy of the failed coup leader Juan Guaido to be known to the jurors as the eviction and arrest of the four was based on the direction of a fake ambassador, Carlos Vecchio, who is wanted for violent crimes in Venezuela and is allied with Guaido.

The Trump prosecutors do not want the jury to know that the Embassy Protectors were inside the embassy with the permission of the elected government of Venezuela that is recognized under Venezuelan law and by the United Nations.

And, they do not want the Vienna Convention discussed so jurors are unaware that the United States violated international law when police entered the embassy to arrest the four who remained inside.

The parties will also discuss voir dire; i.e., the questions that will be used to pick the jury and ensure they are not biased, as well as jury instructions, which the court will read to the jurors before they deliberate.

The government’s motion in limine, if approved by the judge, would leave the jury wearing a blindfold, unaware of the facts, context or why the Embassy Protectors were in the embassy. This will ensure the desired outcome of the state which is to convict the defenders and make them a model for how the state intends to deal with challenges to its illegal policies.

The jurors will also not be told that the protectors were under siege, surrounded by a pro-coup mob that was working with the police, threatening the protectors and blocking food from going into the embassy. And, they will not know the government had the electricity and water turned off in the embassy.

While there were negotiations between the US and Venezuela for a mutual protecting power agreement during the final days of the embassy protection, the jurors will not be told that the negotiations were occurring and that they would have resulted in Switzerland protecting the US embassy in Caracas and Turkey protecting the Venezuelan embassy in DC. The embassy protectors told the police they would leave voluntarily when that agreement was reached. The day before the four were arrested, Samuel Moncada, the Venezuelan ambassador to the UN, held a press conference where he discussed the negotiations for a protecting power agreement and said the Embassy Protectors were in the embassy with Venezuela’s permission.

The government is also urging the court not to allow the four to explain they were exercising their rights under the First Amendment to political expression and criticizing the US government for their continuing efforts to force the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Venezuela.

If Judge Howell grants the Trump government’s motion, it will leave the Embassy Protectors virtually defenseless. The government wants the prosecution to be about three things (1) the four were in the embassy, (2) they were given a notice of eviction by the police, and (3) they refused to leave.

The judge has thus far shown she leans toward the government’s narrow view of the case and does not want the questionable legality of the state’s order to vacate the embassy and its clearly illegal entry into the embassy and arrest of the defenders as part of the trial. When the motion for discovery was argued, the judge ruled against the Embassy Protectors regarding documents and other materials related to some of the above issues. See this article we wrote at the time: Embassy Protectors Are Being Denied Their Right To A Fair Trial.

For more information on the prosecution, this page provides background on the case: Frequently Asked Questions.

You can also show support for the Embassy Protectors by supporting our demand to drop charges against the defenders on the home page of Embassy Protectors Defense Committee‘s web site.

  • We are still raising money for the defenders legal defense (Donate here).
  • There will be an international day of action on January 22nd (Click Here for More Information)
  • You can also attend one of the events of the defenders upcoming January tour on the East Coast if you are in the area.
  • We are asking the public to attend the trial in Washington, DC, which begins on February 11.

In this period of normalized illegality and attempts at intimidation, we shall not allow the state to move against these courageous activists without resistance from our movements. While today it is the defenders tomorrow it could be any of us.

Reckless US Actions Fire Up The Antiwar Movement

The reckless and dangerous act of war committed by Donald Trump and the Pentagon in killing Major General Qasem Soleimani of Iran and the Iraqi leader of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, has brought the conflict in the Middle East (aka West Asia) to a new level. The conflagration of war is growing with the United States making this direct attack on a top Iranian official in violation of Iraqi sovereignty.

As expected, the corporate media and many politicians are spreading lies to justify the murders and further aggression towards Iran. It is important for us to understand the facts so we can respond to this misinformation and avoid being lied into yet another war.

Fortunately, there was a rapid response in the United States with actions in more than 82 cities in 38 states involving tens of thousands of people to protest more war on Iran. [See our message to Iran here.] It is imperative, and the ingredients are in place for it, that the antiwar movement grows exponentially very quickly and becomes a major force in 2020. The combination of opposition to never-ending, always-expanding wars, hatred of Donald Trump, the 2020 election year and pent up frustration over massive military spending can create a movement more dangerous to Trump than the toothless Democratic Party impeachment.

January 4 march in Washington, DC. Shawn Thew/EPA/EFE.

The Assassination of Soleimani was Based on Falsehoods

As expected, corporate media in the US is pushing lies to rationalize the crimes committed by the US. In reality, the justifications used by the US for the assassination were false. The primary claim used to justify the attack is that Soleimani was planning imminent attacks on US forces. In fact, Moon of Alabama reports that Soleimani was not planing any “imminent attacks” on the US or its interests in Iraq. In no way was Soleimani a legitimate target for a US attack.

Moon of Alabama writes:

The Quds force [which Soleimani led] is the external arm of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps. Soleimani was responsible for all relations between Iran and political and militant movements outside of Iran…. He was the man responsible for, and successful in, defeating the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria. In 2015, Soleimani traveled to Moscow and convinced Russia to intervene in Syria. His support for the Houthi in Yemen enabled them to withstand the Saudi attackers.

In all these instances, Soleimani was standing up against US imperialism. These actions made him a target of the US military establishment and a hero in Iran and allied nations.

There have been vague claims that Soleimani killed a US contractor, but this is in doubt. As Scott Ritter writes:

There are several problems with this narrative, first and foremost being that the bases bombed were reportedly more than 500 kilometers removed from the military base where the civilian contractor had been killed. The Iraqi units housed at the bombed facilities, including Khaitab Hezbollah, were engaged, reportedly, in active combat operations against ISIS remnants operating in both Iraq and Syria. This calls into question whether they would be involved in an attack against an American target. In fact, given the recent resurgence of ISIS, it is entirely possible that ISIS was responsible for the attack on the U.S. base, creating a scenario where the U.S. served as the de facto air force for ISIS by striking Iraqi forces engaged in anti-ISIS combat operations.

Following the alleged killing of this unnamed US contractor, the US military bombed members of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU) killing dozens and wounding about 50 people. In response to this outrageous action – imagine a Chinese contractor being killed in the US and China responds by bombing our domestic military bases – Iraqis stormed the US Embassy in Baghdad. The assassination of Soleimani was apparently in response to the protests at the embassy.

Prior to these events, Iraqis had been protesting their government and were divided over the US and Iran’s involvement in the country. However, now the country is united against the United States and the Parliament voted to expel the US from the country. Before that vote, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi told the Parliament he was scheduled to meet with Soleimani a day after his arrival to receive a letter from Iran in response to a de-escalation offer Saudi Arabia had made. The US assassinated Soleimani shortly after his arrival at the Baghdad civilian airport and before the letter could be delivered.

Iranians march in the southwestern city of Ahvaz to pay homage to top general Qassem Soleimani (Hossein Mersadi/fars news)

The Fallout

The United States has been waging a war of “maximum pressure” on Iran throughout the past year to no avail. Iran has been measured in its responses to the US withdrawal from the nuclear agreement, increased illegal unilateral coercive measures (aka sanctions), threats of attack and false accusations against Iran. This assassination is a new level of criminality and recklessness. General Soleimani was loved and revered in Iran and throughout the region. Since his murder, Iranians and Iraqis have poured into the streets to mourn him and al-Muhandis and to call for action.

Iran has promised, “forceful revenge” but Iran is not seeking a war with the US. Unlike the US’ action, which doesn’t seem to be thought through, Iran will be deliberate to achieve strategic objectives. While rapid escalation is possible, more likely is a long-term careful response by Iran. An asymmetrical response, which is the strategy put in place by Soleimani, is the most likely. Iran’s control of the Strait of Hormuz, where one-third of the world’s oil passes, could choke the world’s oil supply resulting in increased prices that risk a recession in the US and globally. Already, oil prices are rising.

Iran can act diplomatically to further isolate the United States. Scott Ritter writes:

The diplomatic missions Suleimani may have been undertaking at the time of his death centered on gaining regional support for pressuring the United States to withdraw from both Syria and Iraq. Of the two, Iraq was, and is, the highest priority, if for no other reason that there can be no sustained US military presence in Syria without the existence of a major US military presence in Iraq.

The 16,000 people working at the massive US embassy in Baghdad could also be forced out of Iraq. Muqtada al-Sadr has already said in a letter that Iraq should go further and shut down the US embassy. The State Department has ordered all US citizens to leave Iraq.

Brigadier General Hossein Dehghan, Iran’s former defense minister and current military adviser to Ayatollah Khamenei, says Iran is not seeking war with the United States and will only target military sites. There are also military targets in the region that could be attacked by Iranian allies including those of the US and its allies such as Israel.  General Gholamali Abuhamzeh, the commander of the Revolutionary Guards, said: “Some 35 US targets in the region, as well as Tel Aviv, are within our reach.”

An escalation of the situation could occur no matter what Iran does because of actions by the United States. Yesterday, President Trump was threatening to bomb 52 targets in Iran, including historic sites. Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif wrote in response that “Targeting cultural sites is a WAR CRIME.” Zarif sent letters to both the UN Security Council and the UN to condemn the US’ actions. 

The US announced it is sending 3,500 more troops from the 82nd Airborne Division to Iraq, adding to the 5,000 already there, at the same time that the Iraqi Parliament, Premier, and Prime Minister have called for the US to leave Iraq. The US will either leave voluntarily or it will remain as an illegal occupying force. And Iran just announced that it is leaving the nuclear agreement. Although Iran has not stated an intention of building nuclear weapons, leaving the agreement opens that door.

US Out of Iraq

Iran’s first goal of removing the US from Iraq, Syria and the Middle East was advanced on Sunday when the Iraqi Parliament voted to expel the US military from the country. Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi described the murders as “a political assassination” and urged “for the sake of our national sovereignty” that Iraq establish a timetable for the exit of US troops.

Shia PMU groups have already declared they will do whatever they can to evict the US military from Iraqi soil. The US killed their leaders and comrades so they will take action independent of Iran. Moqtada al-Sadr, the Shia cleric who commands millions of followers in Iraq, has given orders to reactivate his military to force the US out. Millions of people in Iraq joined processions remembering Soleimani and al-Muhandis. These Iraqis will be ready to take action to force the US to leave if the US does not abide by the Iraqi government’s request.

An unfortunate outcome of the US’ actions is that not only have very effective leaders in the fight against ISIS been killed, but the Iraqi PMU is now diverting its efforts away from stopping ISIS to focus on US troops. This is one more reason why the US needs to leave Iraq, and ideally the whole Middle East. US foreign policy over the past decades has brought instability to the region and made the world more insecure. It’s time for people in the United States to increase our calls for the US to get out of Iraq and the whole Middle East.

Anti-war activists march in Washington DC on Jan 4 in reaction to Trump’s assassination of General Soleimani and commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes.

Our Next Steps

The mobilizations across the country yesterday were large and energetic. Many youth and new faces showed up. The messages were clear about opposition to more war on Iran and sanctions, demanding the US get out of the Middle East and calling out the bipartisan war machine. The root causes of capitalism and imperialism were also condemned. In 2020, we can build a people’s peace movement that cannot be ignored.

Congress returns to Washington, DC on Tuesday. We need to send a clear message upon their return that there must not be any more aggression on Iran and that the Authorization for the Use of Military Force must be repealed immediately. Click here to call Congress. You can also call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121. We need to pressure all members of Congress and candidates to speak out against the war on Iran.

We will also need to continue educating ourselves and members of our communities to counter the lies being told in the media. All wars are based on lies and we must be able to recognize them when we hear them. Sharing articles on social media, writing letters to the editor and holding teach-ins and public forums in your communities can counter the corporate media claims.

And we will need to continue to protest in the streets. There will be more calls for days of action, but you can also organize your own. Find a highly-trafficked location such as a transit center or a public square and hold regular vigils to show your opposition. Hold a protest at your member of Congress’ office. If you are more ambitious, you can organize disruptive actions. Have a sit-in at your local weapons producer’s office, for example.

These reckless actions by the US military create dangerous and uncertain times, but it is also an opportunity to demand significant changes to US foreign policy. The US is losing imperial power and cannot continue to be a bully that violates international law. It is time to transform from domination to being a cooperative member of the world community. It is time to put in place a peace economy that creates economic security at home and abroad. The US is a young nation that has much to learn from more mature civilizations like Iran if we can only stop misbehaving long enough to listen.

We are the Majority

Over the last decade, a national consensus has developed for a progressive left agenda on the economy, social services, the climate crisis and ending wars but the movement has not yet built the power to make that a reality. The next decade will be ripe with opportunities for transformational change due to a combination of expanding popular movements as well as escalating crisis situations.

Positive change will only occur if these movements evolve into an organized popular movement that truly represents the people’s interests against the elites. The movement must protect the planet at this critical time of climate crisis against the profiteering of the planet-plundering capitalist class. We must stand against continued militarism, bloated and wasteful weapons spending, military conflict and regime change imperialism.

The movement must be clear about which side we are on, the people’s side, put forward a vision of a future that draws the masses — including members of the power structure — and be organized to fight for our vision.

People have the power; protest in Ferguson City Hall in 2014.

We Have Built National Consensus

Since the Occupy-era of 2011, the movement has grown, not disappeared as many in the media would lead you to believe. People have been working more deeply on multiple fronts of struggle building national consensus.  Below we review some key issues where consensus has been achieved but where we still need to build the power to enact change.

Reducing Inequality

The Occupy Movement highlighted the 99 percent vs. the 1 percent. It was a class war, out in the open, with the people fighting back for the first time in decades. The US has become one of the most unequal societies in history resulting in movements against inequality growing. There is now support for taxing the wealthy with Gallup data showing that 62 percent of people in the US say “upper-income people” pay too little in taxes. Further, 69 percent say that corporations are paying too little in taxes. Other polling shows that over three-quarters of US workers believe that CEOs make too much and that about the same percentage of all people (74 percent) say that CEOs are overpaid.

The support for progressive policies confronting inequality is expressed not only in the campaigns of Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren but even Joe Biden, a corporate centrist Democrat, has had to at least rhetorically agree, saying: “Economic inequality is pulling this country apart. We need stronger labor laws and a tax code that rewards a middle class that’s been cut out of decades of economic growth — not just the wealthy, who have gotten too many tax breaks for too long.” And, Donald Trump won the election in part by playing to the economic insecurity of working people, unfair corporate trade and against the elites in DC.

Despite this, over the last decade, the wealthy have benefitted under Democrats and Republicans, while the workers have struggled. Donald Trump and the Republicans have put in place the most regressive tax policy in US history. Last year, ninety-one Fortune 500 Companies paid $0.00 in federal income taxes.  Over the last decade, the 400 wealthiest people’s fortunes doubled while tax rates dropped. This has led to the unjust reality that the 400 richest US families paid a lower tax rate than working people. When looked at through a racial prism, inequality is worse than it was in 1979, when it was already a crisis. This is not just Trump, the wealthiest have not paid their fair share in decades. For workers, a so-called booming economy has meant more bad jobs and a faster race to the bottom.

In the last year, the world’s 500 richest people gained $1.2 trillion in wealth. Sam Pizzigati writes if we confronted inequality and put in place policies like Japan, the third wealthiest country in the world, the median net worth of people in the US “would triple, from $66,000 to $199,000.” We need to build political power to create a more fair economy. The Next Systems project highlights some of the places where that is happening.

Nurses, doctors, and medical students demonstrated outside the annual meeting of the American Medical Association in Chicago on Saturday, demanding the group “get out of the way” in the fight for a Medicare for All program. (Photo: National Nurses United/Twitter)

Putting in Place Improved Medicare for All

Another issue that has popular political support and is a top concern of people is the crisis in US healthcare. National Improved Medicare for all has transformative potential that will shrink inequality and cut poverty by 20 percent while providing high-quality healthcare to everyone.

The scam of the Affordable Care Act formalized an unequal health system, giving names to inequality — platinum, gold, silver, and bronze plans — while giving hundreds of billions of dollars in subsidies to the corrupt insurance industry and allowing pharmaceuticals and hospitals to charge exorbitant prices. Although the power structure has tried to confuse the issue, polls show majority support for ‘Medicare for All’ even when they say it will replace private plans. No poll accurately describes improved Medicare for all as cutting healthcare costs for people or says that people will never lose their healthcare again, instead, the media and bi-partisan insurance-funded politicians spew false information. Improved Medicare for all has gone from a pipe dream to mainstream as the movement has made the issue a litmus test for their presidential nomination with 84 percent of Democratic voters saying it is a priority issue.

No matter who is elected, the improved Medicare for all movement will need to continue to build its power. The insurance industry and others who profit from the status quo are resisting change in a classic battle of corporate money vs. the people. The single-payer movement has a strategy to win and has successfully turned attacks against those who oppose us. If we continue to organize, Medicare for all has the potential to become an unstoppable political issue.

WASHINGTON, DC – JUNE 1: A replica of a clock is seen at Lafayette Square as people gathered to protest President Trump announcement that U.S. will pull out of the Paris climate agreement on Thursday, June 1, 2017 in Washington, D.C. (Photo by Salwan Georges/The Washington Post via Getty Images)

Confronting the Climate Crisis

The last decade was the Earth’s hottest ever, marked by extreme storms, and deadly wildfires. Thousands of scientists have been issuing emergency warnings about irreversible changes as they see tipping points are approaching with frightening prospects, especially for those who are young and will live through escalating storms, floods, droughts, fires and more.  Youth rank responding to the climate crisis as the most vital issue of our times.

Despite this, the staggering failure of political leadership continues as we saw at the most recent UN climate meeting. The crisis emanates from the US where two-thirds of new oil and gas is produced. Failed bi-partisan US leadership on the climate crisis makes resistance imperative. People have been responding in the US and globally with escalating protests including days of action involving the largest protests ever involving more than six million people. Now we need to move from protest to power.

Responding to the climate crisis requires major transformations in the US economy as multiple sectors — energy, transportation, housing, manufacturing, agriculture, banking, among others — will have to transition. There is a growing understanding of what needs to be done with the most detailed plan coming from Green candidate, Howie Hawkins’ ecosocialist Green New Deal. Last week, Stanford researchers put forward Green New Deal plans for 143 countries. Here are ten immediate steps for the next president.

We need to defeat the illusion that corporations and corporate governance can solve the climate crisis. Once again, it is a battle of the people vs. corporate power. To save the planet we must overcome the ruling elites.

Ending Militarism

US militarism is exacerbating the climate crisis. While we can’t confront climate change while lavishly funding the Pentagon that is not the only reason to end US militarism.  The recent release of the Afghan Papers showed us that the longest war in US history, Afghanistan, has been a lie. Pentagon spending, now over 60 percent of discretionary spending, has been escalating for decades and most recently a record bi-partisan Pentagon budget was passed while the people were distracted with impeachment.

The US military is planning a war with ChinaNATO is looking for new enemies to justify its existence and the US is expanding its weapons race to outer space. While human needs go unmet and underfunded, the military is given a blank check despite failing its only financial audit.

It is not only wars and militarism that must be dismantled, but the US foreign policy of domination and empire must come to an end. This includes regime change campaigns as currently being attempted in Venezuela, Iran, and Bolivia, and recent years in Nicaragua, Ukraine, and Syria. The illegal use of unilateral coercive measures, which the US calls sanctions but which are another form of war, kill tens of thousands annually.

US empire is failing. It has resulted in militarized police and led to racist police killings. The movement to end war is growing and having victories like stopping the Trump military parade but we need to put forward a vision for a peace economy that ends the era of global military bases. A better jobs program than the military is putting in place a Green New Deal, building urgently needed housing, remaking infrastructure and providing for human needs. The era of wasteful spending on a bloated and unnecessary military must come to an end.

An Era of Transformation is Upon Us

These are just some of the issues where consensus is being achieved and where change is urgently needed. Crises are resulting in movement building over the resurgence of racism, racist mass incarceration and drug wars as well as police violence in black and brown communities, the mistreatment of workers leading to record days on strike, the crises in homelessness, poverty and housing, deep student debt, environmental degradation beyond the climate crisis, and the crisis in US democracy, are some others.

One could look at today and be depressed at seeing no opportunity for change. In reality, these crises are opportunities for transformational changes to build a better world for ourselves and future generations. This contradiction is highlighted in a recent dialogue between long-time activist George Lakey and a young organizer Yotam Marom. Marom had a hard time accepting Lakey’s claim that “There’s no other time I’d rather be alive.” Lakey explains why we are in a better position than movements were in the 60s and 70s to make deeper transformational change. He sees current polarization as an opportunity, as well as the issues discussed in this article, the state of the movement, training available to activists and how crises will force change. Of course, there is no guarantee regarding our success but there is potential — potential we can realize.

We are building toward being a movement that can make transformational changes over the next decade. There are opportunities to organize in our communities, connect with others throughout the country and around the world. The potential of a movement of movements linking issues that seem unrelated is being realized. We are building solidarity from person-to-person across movements and across borders. Together we can build the power to create a new world.

Bernie Songs and Revolution-Making

I’ve been writing these Future Hope columns for 20 years, and several times I’ve quoted James Connolly, Irish labor, socialist and independence leader over a hundred years ago, on the importance of singing:

No revolutionary movement is complete without its poetical expression. If such a movement has caught hold of the imagination of the masses they will seek a vent in song for the aspirations, the fears and the hopes, the loves and the hatreds engendered by the struggle. Until the movement is marked by the joyous, defiant, singing of revolutionary songs, it lacks one of the most distinctive marks of a popular revolutionary movement, it is the dogma of a few, and not the faith of the multitude.

This profoundly important insight of Connolly’s was published in Dublin, Ireland in1907 in an introduction to Revolutionary Songs.

I have no idea if Bernie Sanders has much of a singing voice. My guess is probably not. But his speaking voice, his words, his speeches, as well as his heart and soul and passion for justice, have inspired some creative, moving, powerful songs already, and I am sure there are more to come.1

I remember the anti-war movement during the Vietnam war, and I’ve learned about the civil rights movement in the 50s and 60s, and I know that music and song were part of both of them. For the civil rights movement in particular, though, my understanding of history is that singing was an essential ingredient of the major victories won by the movement in 1964 and 1965 with the passage of the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, passed because of the irresistible force of a powerful, massive, singing, broadly-based, morally-driven movement.

Bruce Hartford, deeply involved as a young person in the civil rights movement in Mississippi and Alabama in 1965 and 1966, said this about the importance of singing in his valuable book, Troublemaker:

“Sometimes I’m asked, how did we endure? And what kept us going? My answer is — freedom songs and freedom singing. Freedom songs and freedom singing were our most effective nonviolent weapon, and the songs and the singing were the psychic threads that bound us into a tapestry of purpose, solidarity, courage, and hope. The songs spread our message. The songs bonded us together. The songs elevated our courage. The songs shielded us from hate. The songs forged our discipline. The songs protected us from danger. And it was the songs that kept us sane…

Song was one of our most powerful and effective organizing tools. All human communities are riven with divisions – personal, social, religious, cultural, class, gender, age, sexual-orientation and of course race. Building unity across these many divides is hard. Really hard. Rich and poor, elite and ‘no account,’ don’t mingle easily. Individuals might be at odds with other individuals. Someone from one race or culture may feel unwelcome or out of place in settings dominated by a different race or culture. Singing our songs helped break those barriers down.

Over the last year I’ve become part of the Solidarity Singers, a group sponsored by the NJ Industrial Union Council made up of grassroots people who sing all over New Jersey at rallies and demonstrations and events. The music of most of our songs comes from the civil rights movement, while the words are updated to be relevant for the present. Without question, I have seen how this singing, these songs, have done some of the things which Bruce Hartford wrote of in Troublemaker.

I haven’t really looked, but my guess is that there’s no other Presidential campaign that has inspired what the Bernie campaign is inspiring song-wise. In addition to all of the many other reasons why this campaign is surging, this may end up being one of the most important. Let’s sing, sisters and brothers, let’s sing!

  1. Here are links to five of them: https://youtu.be/LyzSAHCE88I
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zD3xY4zCP7E
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BX216znrtP0
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r5W3fbfHYgg
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOCz9ytXbwY.

Art in a changing climate

A refugee is someone who survived and who can create the future.

Amela Koluder

Climate change does not respect border; it does not respect who you are — rich and poor, small and big. Therefore, this is what we call ‘global challenges,’ which require global solidarity.

Ban Ki-moon

There are myriad reasons why people set down roots along the Oregon Coast: “the ocean,” “the air,” “the laid-back lifestyle,” “the small town feel of the towns,” “no rat race,” “the geological and ecological beauty.”

For others, like First Nations cultures (Coastal Salish), or Nehalem, their roots were set down thousands of years ago, tied to land, sky, forest and the power of place.

Now, enter the term “envirogee” — derived from both “environment” and “refugee” — a displaced individual who has been forced to migrate because of environmental devastation. Some call themselves “climate refugees.”

191220_oct_Anja Albosta IMG_6788.jpg

For Anja Albosta, and her spouse, Mark, relocating to Waldport is much more than a geographic upheaval.

In 2018 my husband and I left our home in the Yosemite area due to drought, the die-off of millions of ponderosa pines and fire evacuations three years running. The last year driving out through flames on both sides of the road. We then relocated to the beautiful coast of Oregon.

I’m in their nice home overlooking Alsea during the slack tide. Sand bars ripple under the big bridge joining two portions of the coastline over the precarious sand spits and intertidal zone that make this both a dramatic place to live, and precarious (think ocean surge vis-à-vis a tsunami).

They spent time researching places, using a climate change or global warming lens as part of their search. For them, the last time fires hit their neck of the woods, North Fork (31 miles from the south entrance to Yosemite National Park), they had all their important papers in containers as they evacuated.

The hardy Ponderosa pines in their former ecosystem were dropping like flies — creating a huge tinder box for tens of thousands of acres, putting home, roads and human and animal life in danger.

To be more specific — There are two and a half million dead trees within the 131,000-acre national park. Dead trees are a natural occurrence, but the higher number of dead ones now are attributed to warmer temperatures, drying periods, pine bark beetles. Climate has changed dramatically.

For Mark and Anja, after 20 years living in the area, they have the long view of how that ecosystem is degrading and at risk due to the results of climate change.

Enter the Beachhead of the Siuslaw National Forest

I met Anja a few months ago at Pacific Sourdough, where she had been working for around five months staffing the front counter and now also making some of those yeasty delicacies for which the Waldport bakery is known.

My SOP is learning about the various communities on the coast and digging deep into people’s lives quickly since I have been on the Central Oregon Coast barely one year. Big mouth, big heart, big ideas: I go head-first into this life with my background in radical politics, radical education, radical sustainability and journalism. I like people.

Not all my subjects are in line with my radical (rooted) politics or my deep systems thinking (the colluding negative forces of consumption/war/financialization/oppression/cultural genocide/environmental destruction/capitalism) approach to why things are a mess for not just the USA, but more importantly for the oppressed — second and third world (pejoratives by first worlders, but radically important descriptors to revolutionaries).

It was clear to me both the owner of the bakery, Katie, and the artist, Anja, were willing to riff about plastics in the ocean, acidification of the Pacific and the ragged state of American governance. In the end, though, Anja is a believer in America and Western Culture, whereas I know that America (North America) and Western Culture are pathogens against all sanity and sustainable cultures and lives and communities.

Note that this piece first appeared in the lifestyle rag, Oregon Coast Today, a gig for which I gain a few shekels for these feature columns — Deep Dive • Go beneath the surface with Paul Haeder

We swapped cards, and Anja’s piqued my interest — she’s an artist with a background in interior design. Artist-plus-envirogee- plus-world traveler makes for good fodder for my people profiles.

191220_oct_Sargassum by Anja Albost.jpg

Tranquility (sort of) in their hillside house overlooking the Pacific

I’m in the house Mark and Anja bought from the proceeds of selling their self-designed custom-built airy home with two-story view windows (eventually, a view made up of gray, brown charred trees) sited at the edge of the Yosemite National Park, which was made famous by photographer Ansel Adams, President Teddy Roosevelt and John Muir, father of the Sierra Club.

She tells me Mark’s carpentry skills and both of their sweat equity turned the outdated and dysfunctional home into a wide-open floor plan with amazing built-in shelves and classy handmade doors and frames, as well as a new kitchen.

Anja’s paintings not only adorn all the walls — even the laundry room has three large acrylics hanging next above the laundry items — but she has many leaning up on walls that serve as a dining area a-la-painting studio.

Art for Art’s Sake

Anja’s youthful years include growing up in Germany and Switzerland, then Santa Barbara. She ended up back in Switzerland as an interior designer. “I had a fancy job, money, two months off each year for a vacation. But I wasn’t being fulfilled.”

That life changed when she was in her early 30s, propelling her to Yosemite for some outdoor adventure. She met Mark, who was rock climbing and asked Anja if she wanted to try her hand at climbing escarpments and the famous Half Dome.

Most of the rock now exposed in the park is granitic, having been formed 210 to 80 million years ago as igneous diapirs six miles below the surface. “Tis-sa-ack,” an Ahwahnechee phrase for Cleft Rock, is Half Dome’s pre-white man name.

She tells me that “coming to Yosemite changed my life.” In more ways than just her marital status, that is clear. Mark was a mountaineering guide in the park, and Anja threw in hard and fast as a painter while working 40 miles away in Fresno as an interior designer for clients who demanded style, panache and quality craftsmanship.

Her art from the Yosemite years is up in their house — broad horizons, silhouetted landscapes, with those rock features that Yosemite is known for. She tells me that much of the oil and water color creations ran parallel with the work she did as an interior designer — paintings that “went well” with various home settings.

On her website, her work is categorized as such — design; commissions and commercial art; watercolors, oils; mixed media.

For people living on the Coast, and others in our “green” Cascadia-Pacific Northwest, her latest evolution in her work really puts tread to the pavement when it comes to “statement art”:

From 2016 to the present, her art “has revolved around ‘balance’ and ‘the passing of time.’” Her art cuts into new emotional and societal space, for both the viewer and artist herself, reflecting her 52-years on Earth as an artist in transition. Succinctly, we might say she is looking for deeper meaning, a sense of purpose and creative inspiration — “climate, politics, religion, my own life.”

Climate Fight Should be Fight Again Capitalism

I go way back to the 1970s fighting against Sonora desert razing and scraping, against the shrimp bottom trawlers in the Sea of Cortez and the reckless, cyanide-laced explosive bait for such vermin as coyotes, puma, kit foxes, coatimundi.

I understand the long-view of how decimated the environment has become, due to rapacious capitalism and consumerism addiction. I never had much hope for humanity.

Anja sees the world from several lenses — one is hopeful as she plumbs the ideas of someone like Steven Pinker (psychologist, author of The Better Angles of Our Nature). The other lens is tied to youth and purpose, possibly hope, in the form of Swedish activist Greta Thurnberg. That third eye, so to speak, is occluded with darkness and impending catastrophe as Anja holds close to the research and writing of Elizabeth Kolbert (author of The Sixth Extinction and Field Notes from a Catastrophe, as well as Cataclysm Has Arrived: Man’s Inhumanity to Nature).

Anja galvanizes herself into that rarefied arena of being obsessed with painting —

I am an artist. I think at some point in my life I got to a place where it isn’t a choice for me. It is what I am and do.

That obsession isn’t without pitfalls, of which Anja is completely aware — tough to make a living selling paintings without a huge marketing push, and possibly a huge West Coast (LA, SF) or East Coast (NY, Boston) presence.

“I have other degrees [she tells me she is a self-taught artist from way back, in her teens] but at the end of the day I would paint.” For her, there are a thousand paintings in her head. She’s always thinking about images and color.

“I believe things are better. Women have the vote all over the world. Religion is shrinking. People are up in arms about this new attack on women’s reproductive rights, Planned Parenthood. We have all this gender awareness.”

Mixing Oils with Politics

Many in my artistic field — fiction — believe story has to flow from the common dramas of human compunction. I have had arguments with some telling me it is verboten to insert politics or a spin of political positioning in fiction.

We all have these universal stories set as conflicts, a sort of heuristic that defines how stories have always been told: man (woman) against self; man (woman) against man (woman); man/woman against culture/society; man/woman against god/religion; man/woman against nature.

For me, I add man/woman against science; and then, this new one, man/woman against Artificial Intelligence.

Interestingly, the climate change debate is political, psychological, cultural, economic, environmental and spiritual. For many now, like Greta, a collective trauma has set in. Many in my camp, however, have always questioned the fascist aspects of Capitalism holding sway over our personal, cultural, environmental lives. My cadre are also worried about climate fascism on all sides — a white Swedish teen — Greta with her Hulu special, Time magazine person of the year award, and fawning — lecturing the world on her idea of what should and should not be done in regards to climate we rebuff.

Anja sees the world in a type of collective cognitive dissonance. Anja understands that she comes from that privileged global group — white middle class American. She says she constantly thinks about how much pain and suffering will unfold in countries with less resources, less wealth and who are positioned on the front lines of extreme climate change effects.

Truly, though, when I look at Anja’s art, I see that vision of one woman who has traveled the planet emotionally, philosophically, creatively and intellectually. The art is influenced by artists such as Frida Kahlo and Georgia O’Keefe. The recent mixed media drive she is exploring is both passion and obsession, fear and darkness. She goes through hundreds of magazines like New Yorker, National Geographic, Scientific American and others — and then starts cutting out images. Her canvases can be part black and white sketches of her own, swirls of vibrant colors, dark silhouettes of trees and then this collage treatment rendering images or words not always recognizable.

We the viewer have to provide context to what she is doing in each work.

Collage, montage, mixed media, found materials and objects she incorporates, and Anja’s work is in the same league as Kurt Schwitters and Hannah Höch.

Putting my thumb on her work stylistically is challenging. California-based collage artist Eugenia Loli has some of the same techniques, but Anja is a true painter, whose canvases blend the collage with hyper evocative colors and transformed shapes from nature.

A fellow like Alexis Rockman, who has been imbuing climate change in his art since 1994, is also somewhat in the same vein as Anja. For Rockman, he uses his position as an artist “to visualize these things that were very abstract and remote in terms of people’s life span and comprehension.”

Again, Anja’s art is in its own league, tied to very specific issues of our current political, cultural and environmental zeitgeist, and when she shows me each of her works, her explication is as potent as the imagery by itself.

We talk about how to get her work “out there” — possibly in libraries, schools, restaurants, rather than this shoe-string, consignment sort of kitschy and retread art world for which she is competing.

Timelessness and Timeliness

There is a real urgency, real or perceived, in the climate change debate. My cadre is worried more about poverty, resource theft, subjugation of entire countries and areas of the globe to this thuggery of parasitic or disaster capitalism.

In any case, Anja’s art is of “the now,” emerging in tandem with the 24/7 news and attention span cycles of modern Western culture.

She’s 52, and we live in a time where her art once she has passed on will not be eliciting some miracle of resurgent interest . . . or that hidden gem producing millions in sales the art world still vaunts.

The culture she lives and works in is tied to planned and perceived obsolescence, and her work is actually beautiful, evocative and infused with those hidden or obvious images from magazine cutouts. He technique is to blend and then push a seamlessness into the entire canvas, where the viewer sometimes can’t figure out where her dense but light-filled vine-like shapes end and the National Geographic image of the giraffes begin.

Each art piece is also galvanized to “the telling” of the piece: how and why Anja conjures up the shapes and creates architectonics while also pointing out the subtle placement of magazine clips. Each piece is a story upon a story, relaying a complex overlay of where we are at now in this country’s and in the globe’s history.

Her most recent piece, “Sargassum,” reflects this globe as water planet, and while the cover of Kolbert’s Pulitzer Prize winning book The Sixth Extinction is floating in the sea, with a tether like tentacle, this piece is vibrant, evocative and something any individual or business should consider for display.

We talk about getting those magnificent explanations she does so well down on paper, and then having a piece like Sargassum anchored by the text, giving this mixed media art-form yet another dimension — words. Or a poem . . . or song lyrics.

“Galapagos Monsters;” “Alice — Looking Through Time;” “Let Girls Learn;” “Acquiescent;” “Betrayed;” and other titles are just the tip of the melting iceberg in Anja Albosta’s work. Try her out by going to her website, and then place yourself in the story unfolding in a world that without any doubt is challenged more and more daily with those cascading issues of injustice toward child-man-woman-mountain-animal-sea-lake-jungle-air-soil.

Luckily, Anja’s spouse, Mark, was willing to cross that hallowed ground of personal space — husband-wife relationship — and that of the art observer-aficionado. Here’s his take on Anja’s artwork:

Paul Haeder: What do you like about Anja’s work?

Mark Albosta: Anja’s art operates on several levels simultaneously for me. On the surface, the visual impact (color choices, images, shapes etc.). Then it pulls me in deeper to understand what the message is she is conveying, and finally I have my own interpretation or lasting effect that stays with me.

PH:  What role do you think artists — both Anja and you, as a musician — have in their communities?

MA: I have observed and think artists shape communities by revealing and delivering concepts to people that are only arrived at by doing the work as an artist. Expressing from the inside outward instead of engaging in the world from the surface. That translates outward to the community.

PH: What surprises you about Anja’s work?

MA:  Her originality in every piece. She is never at a loss for new ideas.

PH:  Define her work — her style, her final products/creations.

MA: Question 1 answers much of this but I will try and elaborate. Her style to me is of a dichotomy. Elegance and chaos. It is always present, similar to the world around us. There is a tense correlation to society and nature in her art but it is still easy to appreciate/immerse myself into every piece. The end result is passion.

 

Time #9 ~ Do You Know What You Are? ~ 18x24 ~ 2019

Art in a Few Hundred Words

All’s fair in love and art when looking at the artwork and intellectual and creative ethos of Anja Albosta. Her goal is getting her artwork out there, so to speak, and we can see that at age 52, in terms of chronological time, Anja has many good and inspiring years left. For me as a writer, this story will be read in the newspaper (part one) and then some will pick it up in the ether, reading the full-length people profile on line.

Anja’s art, however, if placed into environments where people can contemplate it, look at it, and discuss the meta-cognitive value of what she is paining/saying, well, that might be ephemeral too, but many more could be inspired by her art to move into some place of understanding or healing.

I’ll let her words speak for her. Her website can lead interested people into an entire world of depth, whimsy, provocation and beauty.

Paul:  What would you say your life philosophy is in as many words as you care to express?

Anja:  Stay balanced in an ever-changing world. Express myself as myself as best I can with the awareness that we are all always influenced by the world around us.

Find enough down time in our busy world to integrate events within myself. Feel, see, be able to truly listen when needed, to nature around me, people, sift through news and events and be authentic.

PH: Postmodernism looks at busting out of grand theories and concepts of art. What would you call your art given many in and out of the art world seem to be interested in movements, styles, expressive ideology in the artist’s own words?

AA: My paintings at this time, perhaps since 2015/16 have become a ouroboros of sorts, events happen and I create, at the same time I create and see events differently because of it.

Not sure what to call my art; labels help put anything in context. Yet I am not trying to fit in nor trying to be especially innovative. My paintings are just that, my process, my expression at this moment of my life. “Process Painting” comes as close to a label as I can think of perhaps.

PH: This is a foundational question that maybe I didn’t ask in so many words: what does your art mean to you?

AA:  It helps me balance all the cognitive dissonance in my own life, the worlds, past childhood events. In some strange way my art is everything to me, and yet how can that be true, it is just paint and bits of paper on canvas.

If I had no artistic expression, I would be lost, but if I only had art, I would be very isolated and lonely.

PH: What role does the artist have in society?

AA: Many artists have been recorders of history. Otto Dix, Kandinsky, Toulouse- Lautrec, Kate Greenaway. Recording their emotions of an era as well as actual events.

Current art and so many artists bring people together, social gatherings, ideas, philosophizing over the human conundrum of our best and worst. Art, music, innovative food, creating depth for the heart and soul that corporate consumerism can’t.

PH: What do you like about your work?

AA: It always feels like my art is an adventure, brings me completely into the flow of the moment.

My art is interesting to me as I work on it, consumes me at times over the weeks or months the oils dry and the painting is ready for the next layer of depth and expression. My work is what I want to do with my time. But I struggle with it too, question myself, then I paint again, hours pass and time is lost.

PH:  Are you ever surprised by your work?

AA:  Yes. I am continually surprised by my paintings. Creativity is organic for me. I read books and articles, see images and process in the moment.

Integrating the cognitive dissonance in the world around me. Always I find I have brought together opposites. Life and death, beauty and destruction, now and the past, humans and animals. Light and dark. Politics, religion, human choices. Questions, always questions … not so many answers.

•••

Women Politicals:  Still Defiant

As Australian activist John Pilger recounts his visit to the world’s most abused US/UK political prisoner, Julian Assange, he gives us the brutal details of how the friends and families of political prisoners also face punishment, gauntlets, humiliation.  And he tells of the terrible conditions and terrible treatment meted out to Assange, and the weakened, vulnerable state in which he finds his friend.  But as he was leaving, Pilger looked back to see Julian Assange sitting with a raised fist in the air.  Not beaten.  Still defiant.

The women political prisoners I’ve written about recently are also still defiant—in spite of the terrible treatment they too have endured.  An update of their status shows some of them joyful with a (very) long-awaited release from prison, others still unjustly incarcerated, and one from whom no one has heard in a long time.  They’re all still defiant, non-compliant women—jailed and punished for fighting against the plentiful injustices of the US of A.

On October 24, 79-year-old Elizabeth McAlister was convicted of three felony counts and one misdemeanor.  In jail since her arrest in April,  2018, she now faces 20 years in prison.  McAlister wrote that she resists the American Empire’s nuclear weapons because she had the “absurd conviction” that she could “make some impact on slowing if not ending the mad rush to the devastation of our magnificent planet.”  The indomitable former nun Elizabeth McAlister does the work of the Plowshares movement which has tried to slow the march toward the destruction of the planet.  As I wrote earlier, since its beginnings in Reagan-era 1980, women have always been an integral part of the movement to bring sanity to the world and end the government/corporate/military nuclear arms juggernaut.  Early pioneers like Sister Anne Montgomery and Molly Rush led the way as political prisoners of the Empire, and numerous women, many of them nuns, followed, inspired to give themselves to try to save the world.

Elizabeth McAlister was joined by Martha Hennesy and Clare Brady, with four other activists, as they entered the Kings Bay, Georgia, naval base, to bear witness to the evils of nuclear war.  Their lawyers mounted a defense based on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, arguing that the nuclear resisters acted from  ”privacy of conscience rooted in their faith,” but the judge dismissed that out of hand.  Protecting the military and its property trumps everything.  The jurors heard nothing of the evils of nuclear war and how McAlister and company acted because of their faith and their conscience.  She acted because she is compelled to bear witness, to defy the evils of the American Empire.  McAlister acted as a moral, ethical citizen, and therefore will be caged as a political prisoner.

And then there is woman political Aafia Siddiqui, the Pakistani-born Boston graduate student whose crime was to be caught up in the insanity of America’s post 9/11 anti-Muslim hysteria.  She has now served 17 years of her 86-year sentence.  She was convicted of assaulting American soldiers in Afghanistan.  She was mistakenly accused of anti-American Muslim activism initially, but once labeled a “terrorist,” she had no chance of escaping the Empire’s punishment.  Siddiqui was “disappeared” in Pakistan, beaten, and tortured.  She was dumped near an American base in Afghanistan, where she was set up to “attack” American soldiers, who in reality, attacked her, shooting her grievously in the stomach.  At her New York trial, she was obviously a broken woman, just a disposable symbolic terrorist female.  She appealed to Pakistani prime minister Imram Khan a year ago to get her out of prison.  She told him she had been kidnapped and jailed illegally.  She does not accept her cruel sentence.  To date, Khan has not responded.  Siddiqui’s sister Dr. Fawzia Siddiqui said in late September that the family has no more access, even phone access, with Aafia.  They have not seen her in three years.  Pakistani consul visits have ceased.  Siddiqui still has popular support in Pakistan, but that is not sufficient apparently for Khan to seek justice for her.  She lost her freedom under presidents Bush and Obama, and it appears unlikely she will regain it under Trump’s watch.

In July of last year I wrote about the unyielding warrior Red Fawn Fallis.  She was sentenced last January to three years in prison and three years probation for “civil disorder” and possession of a firearm—both charges arrived at after she was set up.  What she was guilty of was fighting to protect her people and the Earth from the greedy, poisonous plunder of corporate/government/military assaults.  Fallis was a strictly nonviolent medic and leader at the Standing Rock demonstrations, who was attacked by military police, brutalized, like many of her fellow female water protecters, who were assaulted and strip-searched.  Videos clearly show Oglala Sioux Red Fawn Fallis tackled and pinned by officers in October 2016. But she was charged with the “civil disorder” of attacking the police, just as Aafia Siddiqui was charged with assaulting soldiers in Afghanistan.  This is a typical ploy in a militarized police state, where the victim is blamed for attacking her attacker.  Initially Fallis was caged at Carswell in Texas—Carswell serves to house violent “terrorists” such as herself.  Siddiqui is enjoying Carswell hospitality for her incarceration.

Red Fawn was moved to the Federal Correctional Institute in Dublin, California in July.  This is an improvement for her—her family planned to visit her there at the end of last month.  She takes classes in baking and gardening, and can even sometimes participate in the tradition of the sweat lodge.  But she told her sister that she keeps to herself “since there are fights daily” and she does not want “to put herself at risk.”  Like her fellow Puerto-Rican and Native-American women politicals, Red Fawn Fallis considers herself a war captive.  She says she will remain strong, a woman defiantly fighting for freedom from American colonizers.

As I wrote last May, the American police state retaliates aggressively against black people who challenge that state, who expose and oppose violent police brutality against blacks.  Ask Colin Kaepernick what happens to your livelihood when you protest police brutality in a sports forum saturated with a police/corporate/military presence.  Ask women of Black Lives Matter, like Jasmine Richards, jailed for facing off against police killings, or consider what happened to Sandra Bland of BLM, herself killed in a Texas jail cell.  The Rev. Joy Powell has written about being “raped, railroaded and bamboozled” by the police.  And she was.  Suffering rape and abuse in jail, after a drug conviction as a youth, she was left traumatized and with what she calls PTSD.   Her activism culminated in her fight versus a violent police force.  After her persistent, defiant protest against police brutality in the black people in Rochester, NY, she found herself back in prison.  Joy Powell is now in solitary at Bedford Hills, having twice been framed for serious crimes.

In 2011 Rev. Powell was convicted of murder, a crime she could not have committed based on the evidence.  She got 25 years to life.  A digital anarchist community organized a “phone blast” for Powell last October.  Her prison life has not improved over time.  She says she suffers from racism, sexual harassment, a lack of medical treatment, and has to live in very unsanitary conditions.  She has said that she is only guilty of “standing up for Equality and Justice for all.”  She had no idea how much of a threat she could present, “until I began to speak out against police brutality.”  Rev. Powell fought a system of police brutality and legal injustice, and has suffered harsh punishment meted out by that same system.

Unfair legal treatment for black women is hardly new.  Women of Philadelphia MOVE organization were jailed in the 70s after a mammoth police/military operation against their “black militancy”—a belief of John Africa in communal living and fighting “the system.”  When that operation involved the killing of a police officer—probably by friendly fire—the authorities served up 100-year sentences for Debbie, Janine, Janet and Merle Africa, all followers of John Africa.  Merle died in jail.  Debbie Africa was out in June 2018, but Janine Phillips Africa and Janet Holloway Africa remained in jail until May of this year (leaving three MOVE members still inside).  Upon her release, Janine Africa said police abuse is as bad now as in the 70s, and “more visible” now:  “people shot down in the street in the back right in plain view on camera.”  Not an improvement.

At a press conference after their release, Janine and Janet Africa talked about being in “the hole” (solitary confinement) for three years, of a guard punching Janet in the chest, knocking her across the cell, of guards taking their clothes, keeping the lights always on, and of not feeding them.  But Janet and Janine were clearly elated to be free—and vowed to work to get the other MOVE political prisoners out.  Janine Africa urged people to keep on fighting:  “The power of the people is a mighty force.”  Ramona Africa, a survivor of the police bombings, said at the press conference that MOVE women were treated “especially badly” in prison.  Guards thought they could break the women: “They don’t see them as strong. ” But they found out MOVE women were strong.  Ramona Africa is shown in a photo from the MOVE conference, clearly frail; she’s been fighting illness.  She is raising her right fist.

For more information, see my book Women Politicals in America, and for the most recent information, or to get involved, please visit the individual women’s website or Facebook site.

French Unions and Yellow Vests Converge: December 5 General Strike

MONTPELLIER, France — On the eve of an “unlimited” (open-ended) General Strike called for today, more and more unions and protest groups are pledging join in.

Two things are unusual about this strike. The first is that it is open-ended, rather than the usual one-day ritualistic protest marches, and it may be prolonged from day to day by workers’ assemblies as long as necessary. The second is that the Yellow Vests, the self-organized, horizontal, social movement that sprung up spontaneously just over a year ago and is still popular despite severe repression, have decided to converge with the strike.

Just as surprising, Philippe Martinez, Secretary General of CGT, France’s largest union federation, who had originally spurned the Yellow Vests, immediately welcomed them, making for a heady mix. For the union leaders, who try to control their followers tightly, the Yellow Vests are like a loose canon on the deck of a ship. Who knows what may result?

The nation-wide strike was originally proposed by the CGT’s Martinez, in response to the Macron Governments’ proposed neoliberal “reform” of the France retirement system. Macron’s reform would essentially gut France’s solidarity-based retirement system. Even more than U.S. Social Security, which even Trump and the Republicans don’t dare touch, retirement over here is a sacred cow. It was established at the end of WWII when the Resistance and the Communists were influential and the business class was in bad odor, having collaborated with the Nazis. Under Macron’s proposed new ‘point’ system, many will lose up to 30% according to estimates, and future governments could arbitrarily decide how much money each point is worth!

The Camel’s Back

This latest, and most sweeping of Macron’s two years’ string of neo-liberal attacks on social welfare may prove to be the straw that breaks the camel’s back; and camels are dangerously irascible animals known to bite or kick their masters to death when mistreated.

The French were already in an angry mood in the Spring of 2018 when Macron started pushing through his reforms, but they were disappointed when the CGT and other union leaders imposed only stop-and-go, limited, local strikes and failed utterly to counter-attack. It was on the grave of those defeats that the spontaneous Yellow Vest movements sprung up like mushrooms all over France last November, supported by over 70% of the French.

Although justifiably suspicious of unions, especially of the union leaders, the Yellow Vests, after suffering a year of police brutality and prejudiced media coverage, came around to the need for convergence. Thus, at our fourth national Assembly of Assemblies on Nov. 3, we voted to join and “be at the heart” of the Dec. 5 movement in the hope that “a defeat for the government would open the road to other victories for our camp.”

Will the union leaders like Martinez stay the course? If they try to settle with Macron piecemeal and divide the movement as they have in the past, will the workers’ assemblies be able to stop them? Will the strike over retirement benefits develop along broad social revolutionary lines like similar horizontal movements in South America, the Middle East and elsewhere? Will these international movements finally connect, as the Yellow Vests’ Assembly of Assembly proposed when it dedicated our first anniversary to social movements around the world?

The following leaflet, developed by the Yellow Vests of Uzès and Montpellier, expresses the hopes and fears of the Yellow Vests on the eve of this open-ended struggle: “One for all and all for one!”

For the past two years, a government of the rich has been imposing “reforms” designed to deprive the French people of all the advantages won by several generations of workers. For the past two years, Macron, “President of the rich,” following the rules laid down by the European Union of bankers and in defiance of the people, has been using police-state methods to increase the inequality of an already unequal society for the benefit of his Stock Market cronies through tax advantages and privatizations.

Today, by attacking their retirements, this would-be Jupiter has succeeded in uniting the French people – against him! United, we have the power to make him withdraw his so called “reform” of our pensions. That’s obvious. But we must not stop there. We must stick together and make use of our united strength to impose all our demands: wages, unemployment benefits, public services, hospitals, schools, agricultural lands, ecological justice, fiscal justice….

Macron has sowed the wind. On December 5 he will harvest the whirlwind: An Unlimited General Strike to take back our France

Don’t let them divide us! Let no branch, no trade, no sector return to work until everyone’s demands have been satisfied. Let us stick together, for we all depend on one another. Leave no one behind!

· The nurses and doctors of the emergency rooms and hospitals are struggling for all of us. They are demanding more beds, more personnel, more materials and of course decent salaries and breaks. They just made a pact with the firefighters: a fine example of solidarity between respected professionals. These are the people who look after us when we are most vulnerable. Should we leave them behind?

· Working women earn only 4/5 of the wages of men doing the same work, and they do 4/5 of the unpaid labor of homemaking, cooking and child-rearing. They are the true basis of civilization, yet many women are beaten, murdered, raped or trafficked in France – all too often with impunity. They are asking for justice. Should we leave them behind?

· The majority of working people have long been financially insecure. Even when they work full time or do extra jobs. Although the productivity of their labor and the profits of their bosses have not stopped increasing, the men and women who create this wealth live in fear of the end of the month, in permanent worry of unemployment, anxious about their employers closing shop and moving to poor countries where labor is cheaper. The workers are fighting for decent wages and stable employment. Should we leave them behind?

· Students and teachers are demanding less over-crowded classrooms, aids and assistance for handicapped and special students, the right to participate in developing curricula that correspond to the needs of the young and not to the demands of employers. They are our children. Should we leave them behind?

· Small farmers work hard to feed us and get back only 2-3% of the price their produce sells for at Carrefour. Young people who want to raise organic crops and develop permaculture are unable to find agricultural lands to buy or rent, while real-estate speculators are paving over fertile soils. On the other hand, our government is subsidizing big land-owners and agro-businesses who stuff us with chemicals and Frankenfoods. Obesity is on the rise. The French peasantry, the salt of the earth, is in crisis. Should we leave them behind?

· Macron wants to privatize the French National Railways (SNCF) for the benefit of his cronies, who have already taken over the National Highway System which we had already paid for tenfold. Today, trains are more and more expensive and less and less on time. The government is closing smaller stations, isolating the people in the countryside and forcing everyone to buy cars. The railway workers are defending these public goods on which we all depend. Yet Macron calls them “privileged.” The government has already reduced their rolling personnel to one (!) per train. Since September, the railway staff have been using their legal right to stop trains in case of public danger – without asking management or their union leaders for permission. Should we leave them behind?

· The planet is on the brink of climate catastrophe, while the government goes on subsidizing the oil, coal and chemical companies that are raking in billions. We must immediately cut these gifts to the rich and use that money for ecological purposes, for example helping the inhabitants of Rouen who have been poisoned by industry. Should we leave them behind?

· Immigrants and ethnic minorities do the most grueling work in France without enjoying the rights of citizens, while French imperialist companies are getting richer pillaging their native lands and making them unlivable. They are being discriminated, deported, brutally repressed by the police. They are demanding liberty, equality and fraternity. Should we leave them behind?

· The Yellow Vests come from all these underprivileged and exploited groups. They are the glue that holds all these elements together in the struggle. For more than a year they have been brutally repressed while fighting for dignity, fiscal justice, equality and participatory democracy. They have kept Macron on the defensive at great cost. Should we leave them behind?

An Injury to One is an Injury to All!

A general strike is not handed down by the heads of labor Federations, but decided from below, by the rank-and-file, in assemblies, on roundabouts, in neighborhoods, factories, hospitals and public services, including all those excluded from the “labor market” – the unemployed, semi-employed, handicapped, homeless and other workers with or without documents. Experience shows strikes by separate trades called by unions alone are doomed to failure.

The general strike will be decided on by the women and men who are fighting for a decent living against social injustice and climate chaos. By the women and men who are standing up against racism and xenophobia in every sector of society. In brief, by those who are fed up living dreary lives, filled with worries for tomorrow, without desirable perspectives for themselves and their children. So, beginning Dec. 5, let us join together in solidarity with each other and throw all our strength into the struggle.

Let us stick together to the end. Let no sector defect. The strike will end when everyone is satisfied. If we all pitch in together, the strike will not have to last long. Our demands are reasonable. If Monsieur Macron can’t fulfill them, he could be replaced by someone more reasonable. So could the system that puts profits before the well-being of the people and the planet!

Like the representatives of the Third Estate in 1789, let us swear an oath not to separate until we have all had satisfaction.

Block Everything! Change Everything!
Unlimited General Strike! Unlimited General Dream !1

  1. Pun on Grève (strike) and Rêve (dream)