Category Archives: Social movements

Bringing our Socialist Baby to Life: History of Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

Part I – Pre-History of Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism

Waking Up

In 2001 Barbara had her awakening to the disasters that capitalism caused. This started as part of the 9/11 events, beginning after the response to the supposed attacks on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. It became immediately clear the US would respond to the attacks with military action against whatever country seemed most vulnerable and had access or proximity to resources, in this case oil. The attacks were supposedly coordinated by al-Qaeda, a radical Islamic group founded by Osama bin Laden and headquartered in Afghanistan. We firmly believed, with documented evidence, that the US attacked Iraq instead even though Iraq had absolutely nothing to do with the attacks. The US wanted control of Iraq because of their large reserves of oil. In fact, they were the second largest oil exporting state at that time.

As soon as the news came of the World Trade Towers being hit, Bruce said that something was fishy. From that time forward Barbara’s political life began. Watching the news was surreal and terrifying. Over and over again, images of the towers collapsing were televised. Talk of war began almost immediately, with George “W” Bush putting the blame on Iraq – with absolutely no proof. What was even more alarming was watching how people reacted to it. So many of them jumped on the bandwagon of war.

Making signs

Shortly after the attack Bruce – who had been a socialist for 30 years – talked Barbara into going to her first demonstration. Together we made signs to bring with us – “No War on Iraq”, “War is not the Answer”. Making the signs was so much fun. We got old cardboard cartons from the grocery stores along with some long lightweight sticks from lumber stores to hold them up. We brainstormed ideas for what to write. Bruce’s signs always had much more content than Barbara’s. Barbara went for the fewer words, the better.

First demonstration

The gathering, or demonstration, was held in Palo Alto, CA, just outside the Stanford University Campus. We had to park our car some distance from the crowd, and Barbara felt self-conscious carrying our signs. A radical political science faculty member, Joel Benin, who was pro-Palestinian, gave an impassioned speech. It was so sane, so true. People around us began chanting and we joined with them – NO WAR – NO WAR. This wasn’t a big demonstration, only a couple of hundred people, but everyone was in agreement that we could see where this drive to war was going, and we wanted to try to stop it. Barbara didn’t fully grasp the full implications of where the US was headed or what would be her involvement in the fight to stop it. Ultimately, that was the beginning of her journey to socialism.

Barbara has already written about much of this in My Journey to Socialism, some of which we’ve quoted here, which began after these attacks. Bruce was so happy to see her waking up.

Attending anti-war demonstrations

We went to anti-war demonstrations in San Francisco and Oakland, chanting “No Blood for Oil”. Many of the demonstrations and meetings were organized by San Francisco ANSWER, an anti-war group formed in San Francisco shortly after 9/11. On March 20, 2003, we marched with tens of thousands of people to protest the war on Iraq that Bush started that very day. We shut down the city. Aside from ANSWER, there seemed to be no large, unified movement to take action against the existing paradigm of US imperialism and capitalism. That is, there was no large movement until the Occupy Wall Street Movement in 2011 which was designed to protest income inequality and the use of influence of money in politics by occupying public spaces.

2004 – 2011 Looking for a Foothold

During this time period, we were searching for the best place for us to fit in and work towards changing the existing capitalist system. We had a book club together, just the two of us. We read and discussed The Best Democracy Money Can Buy by Gregg Palast, Confessions of an Economic Hitman by John Perkins, The powers That Be, and Who Rules America, both by G. William Domhoff. We met every other week on the weekends for 2 hours. This helped to develop Barbara’s understanding of capitalism.

In 2008 the economic crash hit almost everyone.  We each lost ¼ of our savings in our IRA accounts, even though we had our money invested in socially responsible companies. Since this was money we hoped to use to supplement Social Security, this was a very personal wake-up call, not just for us, but for many. Were we witnessing the collapse of capitalism, and its effects on ordinary people?

In 2009 we attended a KPFA townhall meeting. KPFA was our local radio station, representing a mix of New Deal liberals and Social Democrats. They featured people like Amy Goodman, Sasha Lilly, C.S. Soong, and Bonnie Faulkner. At that meeting Bruce spoke about why KPFA is supporting the Democratic Party. When the meeting was over, he was approached by a labor organizer who wanted to start an organization to try to coordinate the public education unions. We stayed with this group for about a year, attending meetings about once a month, but nothing ever came of it, so we left.

Part II – 2011 – 2012 – Turning Point – Occupy

Excitement of General Assemblies:

We were happy to see Occupy San Francisco and Occupy Oakland blossom in October of 2011 which lasted until the spring of 2012. We initially attended assemblies at the amphitheater in Frank Ogawa Plaza, right on the doorstep of Oakland City Hall. In San Francisco they were near the Ferry Building and at the bottom of the financial district.

The General Assembly (GA) meetings in both San Francisco and Oakland were electrifying. There were some extremely skilled facilitators. The GAs met every day and discussed how to regulate the public space that they had occupied and integrate the homeless community, which turned out to be a very difficult task. In San Francisco there were people who rode on a ferry that would stop by and watch the meetings. This was a good way to draw people in. Some of the members of the organizing committee of Occupy led tours around the Occupy camp to combat the propaganda against it.

Shutting Down the Port of Oakland

November 2, 2011, Occupy Oakland coordinated to shut down West Coast ports to make a statement that we would not go back to “business as usual”. The shutdown was a way of protesting the treatment of longshoremen and truck drivers, who were forced to work as independent contractors. They were then fired by port owners EGT and Goldman Sachs for wearing union t-shirts. We marched with 200,000 others from Oscar Grant Plaza to the ports. While the ILWU did not openly support the blockade, the rank and file and many former labor leaders did. Clarence Thomas, secretary/treasurer of the ILWU, was fully committed to this blockade, as he had been for many past blockades. We’ll never forget the power of the first speech we heard from him which began – “I’m Clarence Thomas – the REAL Clarence Thomas”. Jack Heyman, also with the ILWU, was another powerful and persuasive speaker.

The Challenges of the Working Committees

We joined some of the committees, but we noticed there was a real gap in ages in the members. The overwhelming majority of people were in their 20s, with the exception of the Committee for Solidarity with Labor. There were virtually no people in their 30s and 40s and only a handful of people like us in our 50s and 60s. We were both working full time and tried to join committees that would work with our schedules, but the organizers kept changing the days and times of the meetings. It seemed like, at best, most of the Occupy participants worked part-time or might have been upper middle-class people whose schedules were more flexible. The committees were not very solid.

People would float in and out. Any group could start a committee – even conservative committees like those who wanted to work with merchants were allowed. Committees were dissolved without letting the Occupy leadership know so you could join a committee and discover that it no longer existed. We found many of the meetings off-track and with members who didn’t have the basic social skills like asking a person “How are you? How are things going?” They lacked skills for building solidarity with strangers like tracking things a person may have told them and following up with a question like “what’s happening with that project you were working on?” They are skills like showing up to meetings on time and remembering to tell others if a meeting is cancelled. The Occupy movement was the best and the worst of anarchism.

Monday Night Occupy Meetings in the Women’s Building

When the police drove Occupy in SF and Oakland away from Oscar Grant Plaza in Oakland and the area outside the Federal Reserve building in SF the Occupy organizers decided to meet indoors. Speakers were arranged every Monday night to talk on various political and economic topics. On average, 50-75 people attended. We noticed how the cliquishness of Occupy in the public are continued into the events in the Women’s Building in SF. Bruce told Barbara that when he was meeting with the organizers of an economic forum that Barbara was standing by herself. Nobody introduced themselves or tried to introduce themselves. These folks were calling themselves socialists and yet they lacked the most elementary friendliness to others who were on the same page. We decided it was then that we felt we needed to stop trying to join other organizations and start our own.

Part III – History of Socialist PBC

2012 – 2014 Building Political Documents and Our Website

We began to develop our own organizational documents, including a manifesto, mission statement, our attitude towards politics, and developed a political practice. At first that seemed like a lot of work to Barbara, and she also wondered how we would get people to join us. We had many meetings, just the two of us, to hash out the development of our perspective. Our main purpose was to provide a forum for exposing capitalism and spread the word to the public.

In spite of this challenging work, the creation of this site was so much fun. The first area we wanted to cover included telling people who we are and what we’re about. It included our mission statement – which was to become one of many eddies for:

  • “Exposing the predatory, incompetent, and irrational practices of capitalists to direct human social life.
  • Engage in collective political actions that throw a monkey-wrench into and slow down or disrupt the profit-making mechanisms of the system.
  • Weave and expand the fabric of a growing body of workplaces under worker self-management.”

Barbara switched from full-time to part-time work, allowing her more time to work on developing our book clubs that were focused on educating people about the reality of capitalism and the havoc it’s wrecked in the world. From 2012-2014 we tried to do outreach by having in-person book groups.

In April 2014 our first step was to create a website, Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism. Through our Occupy contacts we found a wonderful tech guy named Jeremy who, with our input, created the website that we still have today. Our baby was gestating. It was scary for Barbara to learn how to manage a website. While she had considerable work experience using numerous platforms, managing a website is a whole other ballgame. At a ridiculously low cost, Jeremy built our WordPress site. He patiently showed Barbara the basics and was the best tech teacher we have been able to find since then. He never spoke to her in tech-speak. Sadly, he has disappeared from our lives, even though we’ve tried hard to reach him. Since then, we have struggled to find someone to help us with our site, as well as with social media.

In November 2014 we wrote our first post – titled The Collapse of Capitalism. In it you will see that our economic situation has only gotten worse since then. In addition to all the things we listed, we’re now dealing with the economic fallout of Covid, hyper-inflation, and a rush to war with Russia.

We added a slider at the top of our page that, in addition to The Collapse of Capitalism, included the Personal Impact of Crisis. In that section we asked the question “What caused the crisis?” We gave 4 reasons for this. We then proposed “Making adjustments within the system” asking 6 questions of readers. Finally, we asked the question “Are there alternatives”?

The next section was titled Alternatives to Capitalism. We gave examples of workers’ self-management, workers’ control, and worker cooperatives – all of which currently exist and often are more successful than capitalist businesses.

The next section was titled History of Workers’ Councils so readers could see this is not just an unrealistic pipe dream. There is a 150-year history of worker self-management.

Finally, we included a section titled Local Workplace Democracy that allowed readers to learn about some of the local cooperatives in the US.

On our site we included sections on Our Manifesto, Our Process Politics, Our Mission Statement, Calendar of Radical Events, Submission Guidelines, Films, Books, Our Mythological Story, Our Allies, and Getting Involved.

2014 – 2016 Richard Wolff – Democracy at Work

Around the same time, Richard Wolff, the Marxist political economist, began to give public talks about the crisis in capitalism and workplace democracy as an alternative. In one of our book clubs, we began reading his book, Capitalism Hits the Fan. We attended one of several talks by Wolff and met our soon-to-be comrade, K.J. Noh, who was petitioning for some local cause. We asked him to join our book group and he did, adding an international perspective from his own personal experience of growing up in South Korea. We also discovered he was an extraordinary writer. We cited some of his publications on our site. One of the best was “The Economic Myths of Santa Claus“, published in CounterPunch on Christmas day, 2014.

After a year in our book clubs, which drew between 4 and 6 people, K.J. said to us that the book clubs really were not the way to go in this day and age. He said we needed an electronic presence. He recommended 3 newsletters we could write for and said our focus must be international in order to keep his interest. We followed his suggestions, and our website and FB page likes grew.

We also became involved with Richard Wolff’s Democracy at Work project in 2014. This was an organization developed by Richard Wolff that had chapters in numerous cities and states to support and teach people about the theory and viability of worker cooperatives to combat capitalism by democratizing our workplaces. People were either encouraged to study cooperatives, provide educational forums for cooperatives, or even start a cooperative.

Why We Left Democracy at Work

We discovered that Democracy at Work was very loose in its structure. People like us who were long-time socialists were mixed in with people who neither cared nor knew nothing about socialism, and simply wanted to start a small business. Many of the groups throughout the country were uneven in terms of their commitments and we were disappointed that Rick did not take a firmer stand in directing what we were doing. In fact, the management of these groups was left to someone else, and Rick had very little engagement with the groups.

2016-2022 Coming into Our Own

Social Media Ups and Downs – FB and Twitter

Since Jeremy set up our website, we have had consistent problems finding someone to help us. Jeremy was so good at explaining things clearly, teaching us how to create posts and perspectives, add to our pages and change our images. Since that time – in 2014, Barbara has mostly figured stuff out on her own and has become our house techie. WordPress is not a user-friendly platform and learning how to manage it is not obvious or intuitive. We need a professional, who we’ve only recently found, who can help us navigate that.

Someone who earlier helped us enormously was Sameer, who lived close to us in Oakland. He was also great at explaining things in non-tech speak. However, he’s moved on to bigger and more lucrative projects. We’ve since discovered that it’s very hard for technical experts to be able to communicate to non-experts in an understandable way what they’re trying to do – or trying to teach us to do.

Sameer introduced us to Susan Tenby in 2016 – who was able to help us with our social media. She taught us how to make our Facebook and Twitter pages more visible and appealing. We are so lucky to have found Susan. We were a small, community organization trying to get our message out. When we started working with Susan our visibility was very low. Susan did a comprehensive audit of where our social media stood when we started working with her and helped us track its rapid change. We were not getting a whole lot of attention on our website or through our social media. She gave us a crash course on how to turn that around and in a very short period of time our visibility skyrocketed. Each session with her was packed with techniques and ideas we never would have known about.  She’s also terrific at adapting to each individual’s learning style.

Susan also introduced us to Colleen Nagel, an SEO expert and digital marketing. These terms were completely unfamiliar to us. SEO means Search Engine Optimization and is the process used to optimize a website’s technical configuration, content relevance and link popularity so its pages can become easily searchable, more relevant, and popular, and as a consequence, search engines rank them better. In other words, it’s the process of making a website better for search engines, like Google. We began to understand how to make more sense of our analytics, although we’re still struggling to figure out WHY our followers like some of our posts and tweets better than others.

Where we needed help was in translating the analytics into verbal meaning. The deeper step, after understanding what these numbers mean, was to understand the causal dynamics which produce an increase or decrease in viewers and attention span. The next step was to develop a plan for increasing the number of followers after we were able to analyze what’s actually happened up to then. We never felt that we got that help

All of this cost money, of which we didn’t have a lot. We have never asked for donations or “supporters” for our site. Barbara’s income at that time consisted of a small retirement fund, Social Security, and a modest IRA. Bruce worked as an adjunct faculty member. As he’s written in his article “Capitalist Economic Violence Against Road Scholars: Now You’re Hired, Now You’re Not” his income was never completely stable and, of course, they paid adjuncts at a much lower rate than they paid faculty. In fact, today there are adjuncts who are living in their cars because they can’t afford to pay rent. We simply couldn’t afford to pay what Colleen was charging.

We then moved on to 2 more people whose entire focus was to install SEO optics. While we got some help from this, we found that both of them explained things in tech-speak and were not easy to communicate with.

Finally, we tried working with Liz and her sister. Liz was an editor of one of Bruce’s books and claimed to have some technical skills. But she didn’t have a Mac like we do and was not good at explaining things so that wasn’t much help. Her sister did have a Mac and was good at explaining things but worked full time, had small kids and was erratic in her response time.

Flying High

Between 2014 and 2016 we worked hard on learning how to get our message out through Facebook and Twitter. We learned how to “boost” our articles, Facebook’s language for paying them to promote it. We were able to select what type of audience we were trying to reach and where they were likely to be geographically. As we started to boost articles either we or one of our comrades had written, we began getting a lot more attention on Facebook. Our Facebook boosted posts for our articles ranged from 5,000 to 10,000 readers. A couple of them reached 20,000. Between 2016 and 2019 we were getting about 1,000 page likes a year, reaching thousands of people each week. At that point we had gained a total of 3,400 page likes.

Twitter was much slower to get off the ground. We began to understand the importance of hashtags and which hashtags were more likely to get attention. We also came to see the importance of liking, commenting on and retweeting the tweets of people who were following us. Our followers have increased steadily since we’ve been doing this. However, we still lag behind the attention we were getting on Facebook, and we would like to understand why.

Facebook Attempts to Clip Our Wings

In early 2020 Facebook stopped allowing us to boost our articles. The reason they gave was that since we are posting “political content” we must be registered as a political organization with the IRS. As you can imagine, we did not want to do that. When Facebook first started doing this, we were able to mount arguments that not all of our articles were, in fact, political. Well, of course they were, but not “political” in the way they were framing it. After a while, they simply stopped allowing us to boost them at all, no matter what our argument was. About the same time, we noticed that our typical daily reach (how many people saw the article) was shrinking dramatically. Whereas our daily reach used to be in the thousands, they are now in the hundreds. The same thing has happened with our engagements (how many people actually look at our post or click on a link we’ve provided) Our total page likes have gone from an average of 30 a month to less than 10. That’s because the only people who see our posts are the ones who have already liked our page! Our reach now is about one third of what it used to be. We have read that the same dramatic drop happened to World Socialist Website, The Greanville Post, and many other socialist sites.

Our Work Schedules for PBC

Since the very beginning, we each put in a minimum of 15 hours a week, often more, including Saturdays and Sundays. We have 2-hour weekly meetings to discuss what we’ve done during the week and what we want to do for the coming week. We give ourselves “homework”, then report in on the results of that homework at our weekly meetings. We jokingly call these meetings, our “Central Committee” meetings.

We write almost all of our own articles. After editing them and finding images for them we publish them and then also send them to other websites for publication. We have tried to find other comrades to write articles for publication for us also. We wanted to be able to include authors on our site beyond just the two of us. While we did, in fact, get a few people to write for us, it often required a lot of work on our part to help them frame their work. Of course, we did all editing the articles. We publish an average of one article every three weeks.

For our daily posts, every morning Bruce searches for an article online from a number of trusted sources, that usually focuses on the decay of capitalism. We also want very much to spread the word of the success of worker-owned cooperatives to the public. This lets them see that there is a way to work other than for “the man” and create a new society. He writes a post about the article, finds an image to go with it, and then sends it to Barbara. Barbara edits his post, puts it up on our site and shares it to FB and Twitter. We then share that article to our Facebook groups.

We have been doing all of this every day, every week, every month since we began our electronic outreach. This is a joy for us. We call Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism “our baby”. She’s now almost 10 years old and stable. She will be thriving when we can get the technical and social media support we need. When people ask us if we’re retired, we start laughing. Barbara always says she’s working harder than she ever did, she just doesn’t get paid for it! There are few things we would rather spend our time on than Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism.

Thank you for reading our history, and please consider joining us by reading and sharing our articles and posts. Together we are strong. Together we can change the world.

The post Bringing our Socialist Baby to Life: History of Socialist Planning Beyond Capitalism first appeared on Dissident Voice.

To the Victor Go the Spoils

As you know, I have other gigs, other ways to express ideas, and construct my own analysis in my own life. Experiences turned into philosophy. Or, anti-philosophy to invent self.

This piece is in the local rag, again, Newport, Lincoln County, Oregon. On the coast. (see story/Op-ed below — Newport News Times.)

Yes, the world is a microcosm in places wherever you find yourself, if you are willing to explore how universality is a common thread for most people, excluding the elites and rich and super-rich and sociopaths in those classes as well as down and dirty people born from a bad seed or with the evil encased in DNA. If you are willing to believe that not all humanity and all cultures frame their needs and wants and goals the same, but that we mostly want peace, prosperity, justice and a safe, clean, working world.

You can look at, say, Israel, and see that that apartheid state, that colony, well, the roots are there to apply the same sort of overall logic of oppression and land theft and human subjugation we see in the White United States of America. Imagine, ripping land away from people — Original Peoples — and then creating a policy of civilian (white) patrols and military patrols as part of an eradication policy to rid people of their ancestral land, but to rid the people altogether. Call it Indian Removal, Pacification or Assimulation, but like modern day “Israel,” the policy then was to remove people from being. From a future. From their right to travel freely. The system then got legalized, full of the lies of governments breaking treaties (all of them) to facilitate Manifest Destiny and Expansion for the rich. Those sociopaths I allude to above!

Now, again, more patronizing “month” number 12 to give lip service to Black people of this land. Black History Month now, in a time of right-wing hate of alternative (real) history and overall white disgust for the lives of Blacks now and Blacks then. This month of Netflix Black specials and other lip service fandangos seem like another blip on the screen of this out and out systemic and over hatred of people questioning their place here.

Black Lives Matter — the movement — was better than, well, nothing, and, sure, capitalism and egoism did take it down the ugly road of cooption and Hollywoodization. But. Yes, police are murderers, and so is the military, and then, defacto, we as taxpayers and citizens are part of that murder inc. See-speak-hear-rebuff no evil? Amerikkkaaah.

Then, this concept of wanting a campus with some semblance of “pacification” makes sense in this time of outright bigotry. Cancel Culture is an outgrowth of the fear porn Media have served up. Ivory Tower pencil necks, many of them in the Chosen Few class, they have messed up college, for sure. Bowing to elites, to the professional managerial class, and then fawning the super-stars of Capitalism, well, that’s the new normal for millions.

But throwing out the babies with the bathwater, that is the new normal with blogs, podcasts, YouTube shows, and infinite blathering on Instagram and TikTok lambasting everything tied to liberalism, to socialism, to a new way forward.

If you were to come back from the dead, say, dead in 1957, there would be an amazing schizophrenia buzzing in your head with all of the noise, the digital dimwit traffic, all of it, bombarding you dead sucker each second of the resurrection. To believe universities would not be subject to virtue signaling and cancel culturing, and to believe that snowflake making would not be the outgrowth of this dastardly warring, mean, racist society, that is, if you don’t get cause and effect, the why and how, then you have had to have lived in a toxic bubble of echo after echo of your own malfeasance.

What is good about Black Empowerment and Black History is certainly demonstrated by folks over at Hood Communist and Black Agenda Report, to name just a few. Black Alliance for Peace is another group. But most people do not tie into those sites, those thinkers on those sites.

The problem is that in USA, everything is turned into celebrity fawning or celebrity denigrating. Of course, Whoopi Goldberg is too rich and too stupid to understand what she was attempting to say on that stupid show about the Holocaust not being about race. She gets suspended for two weeks. Bizarre. All of it. The fact I am writing about it!

Of course, we have endless prattling and war mongering from African Americans, who should know what their place has been in the eyes of all administrations, even the one with the mixed race Obama. Blacks do not live in a democracy, and Biden is a racist, and, the systems in this country are against Black empowerment. And, yes, against worker empowerment. Against all people of color and those whites, too.

The U.S. Black Political Class and War

What passes for leadership is always a joke played upon Black people. The high water mark of the CBC being the “conscience of the congress” is long gone. No one can look to them on the issue of Ukraine or anything else. The people must restore the historical Black radical consensus as a matter of survival.  —

“It all makes sense” that in 2022, with the fear porn of billionaires and millionaires holding a thousand axes above our heads, those of us in the 80 Percent Class, with the Holly-Dirt engine of triple lies, with the Media in bed with the Deep-Shallow-Military State, with lab coat-wearing billionaires getting platforms to yammer on and on about universal yearly vaccinations for everything on planet earth; with the world going digital before our very eyes, with privatization on steroids; with a world so confused and dazed it collapses every minute;  and with the gear work of the slick and $2000 an hour racists working their magic to get the masses, the working class, the middle class, all lathered up and hateful against youth, the old, the homeless, BIPOC, educated, uneducated, sick, worn down, poor, all of this and more, as I say, it all makes sense that we are on a collision course of lack of solidarity. Big Time.

Try talking sense to anyone, and the conversation ends up spiraling into a cesspool of, well, Americana Amnesia. Americans the Children. Americans the Red-White-Blue Consumers. Americans the Nanny-Held Citizens. All those Americans Making a Buck Anyway Possible. A Little Bit of Poison in Air-Water-Soil-Food? The price to pay for capitalism. Capitalism with a big C for CANCER.

Remember, mostly, though, this America was created by religious zealots, by profiteers, mercenaries, Christian extremists, racists, superstition peddlers, peddling PR and smear and lies with a sucker is born every minute snake oil and poison gruel for children ethos.

Capitalism is the outgrowth of that theft of land and deployment of slaves to till the land, plant the crops, harvest the cotton, etc., etc.

Black History Month My Ass! We need daily rolling strikes. Shut them down, these planned pandemic psychopaths. Shut down these hoarders, these Bezos Yacht Boys. Shut the Musk Military Magic down. All of them need to be, well, you know, Exterminate All THOSE Brutes!

Black History Month Through the Eye of the Needle 

It’s an adage by P.T. Barnum:  “A sucker is born every minute.” In the USA, there are so many suckers now who don’t know their country’s history. It takes people from other countries to give them our history lessons.

When it comes to the struggles of Latinos, Asians, Native Americans and African-Americans, the racist systems in place – even in 2022 – work to continue making Americans more ignorant.

I’ve been teaching for going on 50 years. I’ve mentored many in community colleges, universities, K12, special programs for gifted and talented, gang intervention projects, refugee centers, military compounds, prisons, and homeless programs.

In a public arena where debate should take place by deploying critical thinking and rhetorical skills, most people who espouse banning books, who have no idea what the history of the USA is through the eyes of minorities or women, and who have no clue about other countries, I find can’t hold onto their prejudices and biases when up against smart, schooled and experienced debaters.

I’ve had many a run-in and debate with racists, sexists, and bigots. One thing they have in common is fear permeated with an undeserved sense of entitlement.

We’ve reached a point in the USA where dumb-downing vis-à-vis superficiality, lack of reading, a disregard for community engagement, and all that poisonous influence of “entertainment” consumed have created a large section of Americans who have zero concept of the power to change.

There is no doubt this country is based on exploitation, land theft, breaking every treaty signed with the First Nations tribes. This is a country that rose to success through slave labor – black slave labor. This is a country determined to expand by hook or by crook through Manifest Destiny and Imperial overreach.

It’s not to say other countries do not have these damning elements to their pasts. The point is, though, Americans are in a paradigm shift of consciousness. Black History Month is just one of many “months” or weeks to rethink bad history, lies and propaganda perpetrated by the dominant race.  Native American Heritage Month and banned book week are two topics I have explored here.

The issue at hand is, of course, February’s Black History Month. The work of researchers, internationally-traveled writers, educators, philosophers, anthropologists and sociologists is solid around this emerging history.

There is no Critical Race Theory conspiracy to denigrate the “white race.”

Paul Robeson — singer, athlete, actor, and, socialist Black man — stated:  “My father was a slave and my people died to build this country and I am going to stay here and have a part of it just like you….  The answer to injustice is not to silence the critic but to end the injustice.”

I consider Black intellectual, Cornel West, a friend, and I’ve marched with him in Seattle during Occupy Seattle. At Green River College, where I taught, we filled an auditorium with people wanting to hear him. I’ve written a story on him.

He’s smart, Christian, ministerial, deep into music, a writer and a public thinker. He is not a fan of Obama, Bush, Biden, Trump or Clinton. I know no person who is an avowed racist, white supremacist, or on a spectrum of angry history-denying white person I have taught and counseled who really could argue themselves out of a paper bag when faced with anti-racists. Think of anti-racists like Angela Davis (writer, Black Panther, educator) or Raoul Peck (filmmaker of HBO’s “Exterminate All the Brutes”) or Gary Howard (“We Can’t Teach What We Don’t Know: White Teachers, Multiracial Schools”).

I’ve been in Gary’s diversity workshops in Tacoma, and I have been in trainings with others, like Brown Eagle with Spokane’s Medicine Wheel Academy. I’ve worked with Winona LaDuke and have been a counselor for African-American ex-New Orleans Saints Toussaint Tyler.

Everywhere I have lived, worked and taught at I’ve found myself in a milieu of learning about other people: people that historians have lied about, that is, those whose ability to be humans and citizens in this country has been systematically thwarted through vicious systems of oppression. List some of them as sundown laws, red lining and overt racism and lynching.

When I taught mostly white students at Gonzaga University, many had never known the story of Emmett Till, the boy who was murdered by racists, and whose body was dumped in a river with a cotton gin fan wrapped around his neck.

His mother had an open casket funeral attended by thousands in Chicago. He was kidnapped, shot and disfigured by white guys because of a “wolf whistle” directed at one of the cracker’s wives. They got off free. However, with so much entitlement, they were paid for a magazine article and admitted to torturing and killing the 14-year-old Emmett August 28, 1955.

The entire world heard about Emmett’s case. His disfigured face was photographed by dozens of journalists. His murder by racist whites in Mississippi kick-started the civil rights movement, even before Rosa Parks refused to sit at the back of the bus.

I was 19 years old when President Ford officially recognized Black History Month in 1976. Plain old white guy Gerald Ford stated he wanted all Americans to “seize the opportunity to honor the too-often neglected accomplishments of Black Americans in every area of endeavor throughout our history.”

This was a no-brainer for me. My old man, in the Army for 32 years, recounted how three of his servicemen were refused food in Kentucky. That eatery then became off-limits for soldiers. There was a big movement to list all other places that refused service to Blacks, Latinos, Asians and Native Americans.

That was before I was born. It’s great to have these celebrations for Blacks’ accomplishments, but really, overlooked and denied now is the price African Americans have paid to reach their aims. Sometimes these struggles to live, work, vote, and excel were set into stone by racist courts, racist businesses, and racist communities.

Change is always in the wind. Let’s hope more Americans get smart sooner than later. People live their histories. Listen to them.

The post To the Victor Go the Spoils first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Renaissance Woman Sylvia Pankhurst: Feminist, Artist, Council Communist, Anti-Imperialist


Why Sylvia Matters

How many of you about to read this have heard of Sylvia Pankhurst? Our guess is, not many. She seems to have fallen through the cracks of socialist and suffragette movement literature. Her mother, Emmeline Pankhurst and sister, Christabel Pankhurst are still looked up to as leaders in the suffragette movement. What is overlooked is the fact that they only supported suffrage for women who had property. This, of course, completely eliminates women in the working class and women who are poor. Sylvia, on the other hand, devoted her life to supporting those women and giving them a voice. We find it ironic that Emmeline and Christabel were considered rebels even though later in life both became pro-war, conservative and religious fundamentalists. However, it was Sylvia who was the true revolutionary. Her name and work should become familiar to all socialists, and especially feminist socialists. Sylvia is an important woman to know about for all women – and men – who want to learn about the history of significant women in the struggle for socialism and women’s equality.

Sylvia lived a life of courage, strength, and conviction. Born in 1882 into an upper middle-class family in Manchester, England, her parents were founding members of the Independent Labor Party. Both Richard and Emmeline Pankhurst were firm supporters of women’s rights. Sylvia grew up attending public talks, demonstrations and surrounded by friends of her parents who were considered radicals.

We learned all this from reading Rachel Holmes’s book Natural Born Rebel: Sylvia Pankhurst.

Political Work

In her long years as a socialist and feminist she never stopped working, whether in the arts or in politics. Her early years until the Russian Revolution were dominated by the Suffrage movement. After the Russian Revolution she devoted herself strictly to socialism and supported the Russian Revolution for the first four years. However, she ultimately split with Lenin over his reinstitution of a partly capitalist economy. Sylvia became associated with the Soviets, or workers’ councils, and advocated for them as political bodies over parliaments. She opposed fascism in both the 1920s and 1930s and supported Ethiopia against both Italian and English imperialism.

Sylvia moved to Bow in the East End of London in 1912 when she was 30, a traditionally working-class neighborhood. It was here that she set up the Women’s Social and Political Union (WSPU). Emmeline and Christabel did not approve. She did many things to support working women and women whose husbands were away at war. She established a café that was free, called Cost Price Restaurant. She also put women to work by organizing a cooperative toy factory. She established The Mother’s Arms, a school for toddlers whose mothers were working. At this school the children were taught according to the Montessori method. When the children arrived in the morning in dirty and torn clothing, they would be given uniforms to wear while their clothes were washed and mended.

Sylvia was extremely imaginative in her strategies and tactics in agitating and organizing as a suffragette. She regularly gave public talks and handed out pamphlets, often on the streets, agitating and encouraging women to fight back against the oppressive system in which they lived. She marched in more demonstrations than she could count. In fact, she said later in life that she didn’t like to go on walks unless they were marches of protest. She constantly outfoxed the police who tried to shut these events down and arrest her, smuggling herself into meetings where she was banned. She hid inside furniture, and impersonated a pregnant woman by stuffing newspapers down her dress. She was full of surprises.

Sylvia was arrested 15 times in her life campaigning for the rights of women. It’s been said that the 19th century – extending into the early 20th century – was the century of the penitentiary. Over one 18-month period she was imprisoned 13 times. This had adverse effects on her health throughout her life. In fact, it’s remarkable that she lived to be 78. The first time Sylvia was arrested, for yelling and causing a ruckus in court in defense of other women being sentenced in 1906, when she was only 24, she was placed in the harshest division, the third division. In the third division the women were denied their own clothing, reading, and writing materials, and were fed rotten food. She endured torture through force-feeding because of her fasting as a means of rebellion. All of this changed her life – physically and politically.

She took part in demonstrations where women were dragged down side streets, beaten up, and sexually assaulted by the police, as they were on Black Friday, November 18, 1910. In 1913 the government passed a bill called Temporary Discharge for Ill Health because they feared that too many women would die, turning the public against them. The suffragettes called this bill “The Cat and Mouse Act”. They were released on the terms that they would be returned to prison when they had regained their strength. However, most of them went to “safe houses” till they were stronger, then promptly returned to militancy. They were awarded medals by other suffragettes when they were released which they wore with pride. Emmeline was never subjected to force-feeding because she was too high-profile among the middle and upper-middle classes. Sylvia was subjected to it repeatedly.

Sylvia had constant fights with her mother and sister over her desire to combine feminism with work in the Labor Party. As a result, she was driven to the margins of the suffragette movement in Britain. The gap between she, her sister and her mother widened when she campaigned against British involvement in World War I. The differences became an abyss when Sylvia supported the Bolsheviks in the Russian Revolution.

As early as 1921, Sylvia understood the dangers of fascism and though her involvement in socialist parties waned, she was a life-long fighter against fascism. During the 1930s she became involved in the cause of Ethiopia and its fight against Italian fascism. She defended Ethiopia against all imperialist stirrings, including that of Great Britain. By the end of 1950s, with her 30-year soulmate Silvio Corio dead and constant harassment from the British government, there wasn’t much left for her in England. She was invited by the Ethiopian emperor Haile Selassie to move to Ethiopia. She spent the last four years of her life there involved in plans for improving their educational and health care systems. She was beloved by Ethiopians and when she died in 1960 she was honored and buried along with all the other Ethiopian fighters against fascism.

Skill in the arts

She was multi-talented in the creative arts. She was a good enough artist to receive a scholarship to the Royal College of Art in 1900.  Her drawings and paintings were rooted in the experience of the working class. She created portraits of workers both on and off the job, as well as of women in prison. She used her skills to design leaflets, posters and banners for up-coming protests and strikes. She was conflicted throughout her life about whether or not to focus on her art or to focus on her political activism. In fact, she managed to incorporate both into her work.

She also wrote plays and as she got older, she wrote mammoth sized books on the suffragette movement as well as the cultural history of Ethiopia. She regularly wrote articles for her own and other publications. The first newsletter she published after she moved to the East End of London was the Women’s Dreadnought, which later became the Worker’s Dreadnought. The tile came from a type of rope with a knot at the end of it that women used to protect themselves from attacks by the police and others during demonstrations.

Personal Life

Sylvia’s father, Richard was a radical lawyer whom she loved dearly and who was a significant influence in her life. Her father gave her a great deal of intellectual support and their home was filled with books along with a revolving door of guests from all kinds of social movements.  He was a suffragette from before Sylvia was born. Her father was an atheist. He led Sylvia to agnosticism through reading and rational argument.  She later became an atheist as well. She met Eleanor Marx, Wilhelm Liebknecht, many revolutionaries, and radicals, and listened to discussions on Fabianism, socialism, and Marxism in their home.

Sylvia’s relationship with her mother and older sister was stormy from early on. She spent many long years trying to gain her mother’s approval despite their deep political differences during and after the Russian Revolution.

Sylvia had two major loves in her life. The first was a long affair with socialist Keir Hardie that lasted for about 15 years. Hardie was committed to staying with his wife, and Sylvia grew impatient with his being on the road constantly and his affairs with other women. They were great political collaborators when they worked together and Hardie looked after her when he was in town. He was probably her greatest political influence. However, she had to keep their love for each other secret from the rest of the world. Her second major love was an Italian anarchist named Silvio Corio. Silvio moved in with her and supported her work during the 30 years they were together. He cooked, did carpentry, and they collaborated in the production of newspapers Sylvia founded and wrote for. They never married but had a child, Richard Pankhurst, born in 1927.

Shortcomings

Sylvia had many of the quirks that are all too typical of socialists. Her eating habits were terrible and erratic until Silvio started cooking. Her clothes were terribly out of date, and she walked around at times with her blouses inside out. She did not have good boundaries and she went to prison too many times for her to not pay for it with her health. In spite of plenty of positive feedback from all those whom she encountered throughout her life, Sylvia wasted way too much time trying to get her mother’s and sister’s approval. We found ourselves hoping for her mother to die so Sylvia would stop obsessing about her. Despite that, she charmed everyone and her house in East London was a popular watering hole for socialists and Pan Africanists. She created in her home a similar atmosphere as her father Richard created for her growing up.

In reading her biography, we realized we have mixed feelings about her. There are obviously things we love about her. We love her move towards socialism and even militancy. Her refusal to remain attached to the original suffragette mantra or votes for middle and upper-middle class women took tremendous courage, particularly as it meant going against what her mother and older sister promoted. She steadfastly rejected the institution of marriage, and while she had two great loves in her life she never married. She was brave to have a child out of wedlock in moralistic Britain in 1927. Her artistic skills and how she used them in the service of promoting issues she valued were considerable. She had the ability to move people and be persuasive with her speeches. Her speech impediment, which made her pronounce her ‘r’s as ‘w’s – she talked about “wevolution” and the “misewies of the industwial worker”, only made her more human and lovable.  She was an excellent, indefatigable writer, and spread the value of socialism and equality in her own publications and those of others. Her relationship with her son, Richard was a strong one, and she led by example, helping him to grow into as much of an activist as she was. She even went on Richard’s honeymoon with his wife Rita (with Rita’s permission). They moved with her to Ethiopia and are all buried in the same sacred place in Ethiopia.

We also were impatient with the amount of time Sylvia spent focusing on the suffragette movement before she moved closer to socialism and anti-militarism. While she supported the working and lower classes, she did not spend time systemically organizing the entire working class, not just women. Even though she knew socialists like Eleanor Marx, Karl Liebknecht,

Alexandra Kollontai, Rosa Luxembourg, and Elizabeth Gurley Flynn she never committed fully to being part of a socialist organization after she lost interest in the Russian Revolution. Instead, she wasted her time dogging the likes of Winston Churchill, writing letters, and sending petitions for change in parliament. What does this have to do with socialism? Britain has consistently proven itself to be extremely conservative and reactionary. Why couldn’t she understand that?

Finally, her insistence on going on hunger strikes, water strikes, even sleep strikes while in prison – all of which ruined her health, was hard to read. This, to us, smacks of martyrdom. We believe that in order to be effective in creating change, the individual must take care of themselves. It’s much more difficult to lead a revolution if you are strong in spirit but weak in flesh.

Quality of the book

Size of the book

Sylvia Pankhurst had a long and eventful life, so it is understandable that her biography would be a big book. What do we mean by big? Between 400-600 pages. Rachel Holmes’ book is 976 pages. There is just too much unnecessary detail, such as the names of every person she engaged with and every event she took part in. One of us had to have her book broken down and bound into 3 separate books so she could more easily hold it.

Jumping around within a single chapter

A second problem is that the chapters don’t stick with simple chronology. For example, a chapter roughly covering the period of 1917-1918 will have references to events that happened ten years before and 10 years after. We were constantly trying to figure out exactly what period the author was describing.

Lack of structure within or across chapters

When we read, we like to see the skeleton of a chapter in the form of subheadings that are clear and not cutesy. In other words, within a 20-page chapter there might be five subheadings. That way, before reading the chapter we tie the subheadings together so we can say to ourselves, “Ah – so this is where this is going”. There was none of that.

We also would have really appreciated a list of her milestones – bullet points of years and events that might cover 3 or 4 pages. Is it too much to ask to be given a map before beginning the journey? We don’t like mysteries. We want to know where we are going to determine if we want to go there at all.

The distribution of focus

We felt there was way too much time spent on the suffragette movement for the first half or more of the book. We also felt there was too much time spent on Sylvia’s relationship with her mother and sister. We found it surprising that the life of Sylvia’s romantic companion of thirty years, Silvio, was given so little time. Lastly, Sylvia’s relationship with socialism was essentially dropped after about 1927. Surely Sylvia has opinions about what became of the Soviet Union. What did she think about the Spanish Civil War and the anarchist collectives and the workers councils in Spain which lasted for 3 years and involved millions of people? Would she not care about worker self-organization which was like the Soviets on a much grander scale? How she might have felt about Khrushchev’s revelations?

In spite of these criticisms Rachel Holmes is a good writer and kept us engaged. We were very happy and pleased to learn about the life of a wonderful heartful revolutionary as Sylvia Pankhurst. She was, indeed, a natural born rebel.

The post Renaissance Woman Sylvia Pankhurst: Feminist, Artist, Council Communist, Anti-Imperialist first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Before and Without Marx

Some peoples possess shamans to explain how the world works. We have charlatan economists and politicians posing as intellectuals who claim to be able to reveal the mystery of running society.

The ideas of Marx did not arise out of thin air but grew from the works of many others before him. But the purpose of this short essay is not to explore his Young Hegelian philosophical roots or to expound on the influence of earlier economists such as Ricardo had on Marx but to focus upon the independent thought that developed within the working class which Marx would incorporate into his own conception of the world around him.

Out of the discontent of the Industrial Revolution arose the Chartist movement. The need for the whole working class to unite in one movement had come to the fore. The Chartists was the first mass political movement of the British working class and effectively Britain’s first civil rights movement. Many unknown and, therefore, unacknowledged workers engaged in the mass struggle for the vote. As the factory and mill owners resisted any rebellion against the dictatorship of capital, certain radicals emphasized the connection between the struggle to win the vote and the class struggle. They also came to understand that this was just a part of a wider and greater international fight for democracy and people’s power.

In his 1839 Labour’s Wrongs and Labour’s Remedy or The Age of Might and the Age of Right, one of  the early Chartist activists, John Francis Bray, writes:

There is wanted, not a mere governmental or particular remedy, but a general remedy – one which will apply to all social wrongs and evils, great and small…they want a remedy for their poverty – they want a remedy for the misery…Knowledge is merely an accumulation of facts; and wisdom is the art of applying such knowledge to its true purpose – the promotion of human happiness.

In the same year as Bray published his book, George Julian Harney was dismissing the policy of appealing to the goodwill of the ruling class, rebuffing any alliances with them. Referring to the effects of the New Poor Law Act on the conditions in the workhouses, he stated:

You see now through the delusions of your enemies. Nearly nine years of ‘liberal’ government have taught you the blessings of middle class sway, blessings exemplified in ‘bastilles’ and ‘water gruel,’ in ‘separation’ and ‘starvation’; in the cells of silent horror and the chains of transportation, in the universal misery of yourselves and the universal profligacy of your oppressors’. 1   .

It was on September 1845, two decades before the First International, the society of Fraternal Democrats was formed, adopting the motto, ‘All men are brethren.’

It was founded by some in the British Chartist movement such as Harney, along with a variety of political exiles from across Europe.

The Fraternal Democrats’ political platform, declared:

We denounce all political and hereditary inequalities and distinctions of castes…that the earth with all its natural productions is the common property of all; we therefore denounce all infractions of this evidently just and natural law, as robbery and usurpation. We declare that the present state of society, which permits idlers and schemers to monopolise the fruits of the earth and the productions of industry, and compels the working classes to labour for inadequate rewards, and even condemns them to social slavery, destitution, and degradation, is essentially unjust.

It made a call for internationalism:

Convinced that national prejudices have been, in all ages, taken advantage of by the people’s oppressors to set them tearing the throats of each other, when they should have been working together for their common good, this society repudiates the term ‘Foreigner,’ no matter by, or to whom applied. Our moral creed is to receive our fellow men, without regard to ‘country,’ as members of one family, the human race; and citizens of one commonwealth – the world.

As Harney explained:

Whatever national differences divide Poles, Russians, Prussians, Hungarians, and Italians, these national differences have not prevented the Russian, Austrian, and Prussian despots uniting together to maintain their tyranny; why, then, cannot countries unite for obtainment of their liberty? The cause of the people in all countries is the same – the cause of Labour, enslaved, and plundered…In each country the tyranny of the few and the slavery of the many are variously developed, but the principle in all is the same. In all countries the men who grow the wheat live on potatoes. The men who rear the cattle do not taste flesh-food. The men who cultivate the vine have only the dregs of its noble juice. The men who make clothing are in rags. The men who build the houses live in hovels. The men who create every necessary comfort and luxury are steeped in misery Working men of all nations, are not your grievances your wrongs, the same? Is not your good cause, then the same also? We may differ as to the means, or different circumstances may render different means necessary but the great end – the veritable emancipation of the human race – must be the one end and aim of all.

It is not any amelioration of the conditions of the most miserable that will satisfy us: it is justice to all that we demand. It is not the mere improvement of the social life of our class that we seek, but the abolition of classes and the destruction of those wicked distinctions which have divided the human race into princes and paupers, landlords and labourers, masters and slaves. It is not any patching and cobbling up of the present system we aspire to accomplish, but the annihilation of the system and the substitution, in its stead, of an order of things in which all shall labour and all enjoy, and the happiness of each guarantee the welfare of the entire community. 2

Another prominent Chartist activist, Ernest Jones gave the Chartist movement a more socialistic direction and he too was committed to the wider international context of the workers’ movement. In The People’s Paper of 17 February 1854, Jones wrote:

Is there a poor and oppressed man in England? Is there a robbed and ruined artisan in France? Well, then, they appertain to one race, one country, one creed, one past, one present, and one future. The same with every nation, every colour, every section of the toiling world. Let them unite. The oppressors of humanity are united, even when they make war. They are united on one point that of keeping the peoples in misery and subjection…Each democracy, singly, may not be strong enough to break its own yoke; but together they give a moral weight, an added strength, that nothing can resist. The alliance of peoples is the more vital now, because their disunion, the rekindling of national antipathies, can alone save tottering royalty from its doom. Kings and oligarchs are playing their last card: we can prevent their game.

In yet another article from the ‘Peoples Paper’, March 3 1855, Jones explained:

Let none misunderstand the tenor of our meeting: we begin to-night no mere crusade against an aristocracy. We are not here to pull one tyranny down, only that another may live the stronger. We are against the tyranny of capital as well. The human race is divided between slaves and masters…Until labour commands capital, instead of capital commanding labour, I care not what political laws you make, what Republic or Monarchy you own – man is a slave.’

Ernest Jones was also the prime mover in assembling what was called, the Labour Parliament. Jones in The People’s Paper for January 7, 1854, wrote:

Every day brings fresh confirmation of the need for a mass movement and the speedy assembling of the Labour Parliament. If it is delayed much longer, every place, Preston included, lost or at the best forced into degrading and weakening compromises…The Cotton Lords, at a ‘Mass Meeting/ of their own, unanimously resolved to support their brother Cotton Lords of Preston and Wigan with the full force of their funds. Under these circumstances it is class against class…It must, therefore, become manifest that unless the working classes fight this battle as a Class, that is, in one universal union by a mass movement, they will be inevitably defeated …The greater the lock-out, the wider the strike movement, the more national becomes the movement –the more of a class struggle it is rendered –and if the working classes once see that they are struck at as a class, their class instinct will be roused and they will rise and act as one man.

The Parliament met on March 6, 1854, at Manchester, attended by some fifty or sixty delegates with the Parliament’s discussions lasting several days. Marx was to comment:

Some future historian will have to record that there existed in the year 1854, two Parliaments: a Parliament at London and a Parliament at Manchester – a Parliament of the rich and a Parliament of the poor – but that men sat only in the Parliament of the men and not in the Parliament of the masters.

Peter McDouall was another significant figure in Chartism who was an advocate of the power of the ordinary worker. He explained:

The Trades are equal to the middle class in talent, far more powerful in means and much more united in action’ and again ‘The agitation for the Charter has afforded one of the greatest examples in modern history of the real might of the labourers. In the conflict millions have appeared on the stage and the mind of the masses has burst from its shell and begun to flourish and expand.’The question of what was to be the next step forward was one of great urgency and on this issue, the Chartists were deeply divided. Many moderates refused to host McDouall’s meetings as he opposed alliances with the middle class.

Past defeats, he judged, could all be attributed to the fact:

Our associations were hastily got up, composed of prodigious numbers, a false idea of strength was wrought up to the highest pitch, thence originated a sense of security which subsequent events proved to be false, and why? Because no real union existed at the bottom.

McDouall’s proposal was to turn to the working class as only it had the necessary potential strength. He believed the Chartists should win over the newly-forming trade unions and use them. However, some of his Chartist critics saw the trade unions not as allies but as rivals, regarding union activity as a diversion, side-tracking people from the real struggle for the franchise.

McDouall was yet another Chartist who recognised the international aspect of their struggle.

Let all who have possessions in India, or all who profit by what you call ‘our Indian possessions’ be off to India, and fight a thousand battles for them as they like… but let them not mock our degradation by asking us, working people to fight alongside them, either for our ‘possessions’ in India, or anywhere else, seeing that we do not possess a single acre of ground, or any other description of property in our own country, much less colonies, or ‘possessions’ in any other, having been robbed of everything we ever earned by the middle and upper classes…On the contrary, we have an interest in prospective loss or ruin of all such ‘possessions’, seeing they are but instruments of power in the hands of our domestic oppressors.

1848 was Europe’s Year of Revolutions and as Marx and Engels released their Communist  Manifesto, McDouall was addressing rallies, spurring people into action. After he spoke in Edinburgh, there were street disturbances with shouts of ‘Vive la Republique’ and ‘Bread and Revolution’.

Many before Marx understood the terrible human impacts of the capitalist system — all the poverty, misery, madness, inequality and its injustice. Socialists, who reject capitalism, follow a similar strategy as those Chartists militants before us and struggle for any improvements even if we know they can disappear overnight. But to stop struggling would only make workers worse off.

  1. London Democrat, April 20, 1839.
  2. George Julian Harney, Red Republican, 1850.
The post Before and Without Marx first appeared on Dissident Voice.

“A Crime Against Humanity”: The “Greenwash Festival” Of COP26

One of the most damning assessments of COP26, the UN climate conference being held in Glasgow, came from Greta Thunberg, the Swedish climate activist:

‘#COP26  has been named the must excluding COP ever.
This is no longer a climate conference.
This is a Global North greenwash festival.
A two week celebration of business as usual and blah blah blah.’

And, indeed, if you scour news reports from COP26 they yield a familiar litany of political rhetoric and weasel words: vows, pledges, promises, commitments, sign up, phase out, green investment, innovation, transition, progress, scaling up, carbon credits, bending the emissions curve, net zero, 2050, 2070.

To quote from King Crimson’s  ‘Elephant Talk‘:

‘Arguments, agreements… articulate announcements…Brouhaha, balderdash, ballyhoo…It’s only talk…cheap talk…double talk.’

Juice Media, the campaign group who ‘make honest Government ads’, exposed the dangerous and misleading nonsense behind ‘Net Zero by 2050’:

‘There’s a huge gap between our promises and where we need to be. We don’t talk about that gap coz that would entail a complex process called “Being Honest”. Being Honest would mean admitting that we’re failing. And we can’t do that coz then we’d have to stop failing. That would mean ending fossil-fuel subsidies and banning all new gas, coal and oil projects.’

The satirical government ad continued:

‘So being honest isn’t an option for us. Which is why we’ve come up with the next best alternative: Net Zero by 2050…which risks setting off irreversible chain reactions beyond our control.’

Nature, the leading science journal, reported last week that top climate scientists – co-authors of a report by the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change – are sceptical that nations will rein in global warming. Moreover:

‘Six in ten of the respondents [climate scientists] said that they expect the world to warm by at least 3 °C by the end of the century, compared with what conditions were like before the Industrial Revolution. That is far beyond the Paris agreement’s goal to limit warming to 1.5-2 °C.’

The news report added:

‘Most of the survey’s respondents – 88% – said they think global warming constitutes a “crisis”, and nearly as many said they expect to see catastrophic impacts of climate change in their lifetimes. Just under half said that global warming has caused them to reconsider major life decisions, such as where to live and whether to have children. More than 60% said that they experience anxiety, grief or other distress because of concerns over climate change.’

‘An Orchestrated PR Scam’

A powerful thread on Twitter by conservationist Stephen Barlow echoed our own experiences and insights from observing climate conferences over three decades:

‘I’m starting to get the impression of COP26 as a contrived stitch up. Where world leaders get to present their inadequate action as fixing the problem. This really is dangerous stuff. You see I remember the 1992 Rio Earth Summit well.’

Barlow expanded:

‘After the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, political leaders, fossil fuel companies and general vested interest gave the impression the problem was fixed, that there was no need for people to turn to green politics, because mainstream politics had fixed the problem.

‘In the following years, in the 1990s, we had oil companies taking out big full page adverts in BBC Wildlife Magazine, National Geographic, etc, saying how they were switching their business model to renewables.

‘Politicians presented all these rosy views of green growth, all sorts of carbon trading schemes and generally giving off the impression that the problem was fixed, and the future was green.’

He rightly concluded:

‘The problem is, unlike the 1992 Rio Earth Summit, where it took nearly 30 years to find out everything we were promised was a scam and it just kept on getting worse – in 30 years time (in fact far less) we are going to be in serious trouble.

‘This is as evil as it gets. This is an orchestrated PR scam to carry on with business as usual. Where various elements like politicians, the mainstream media, billionaires, royalty and vested interests, combine to maintain business as usual, with fraudulent presentation.’

Investigative journalist Nafeez Ahmed, who has repeatedly exposed the reality of UK foreign policy, recently reported that the British government is seeking trade deals with carbon-lobbying countries who have attempted to weaken a scientific assessment report being prepared by the IPCC. The countries include Saudi Arabia and the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, along with Brazil, Argentina, Japan, Norway and India. Indeed, the UK is actively seeking to promote increased fossil fuel production in nearly all those countries, including Saudi Arabia – the world’s second largest oil producer.

Ahmed noted that last month, on the eve of COP26, foreign secretary Liz Truss flew to Saudi Arabia and Qatar to explore a potential trade deal with the six Gulf Cooperation Council countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

He added:

According to the UK Department for International Trade’s Exporting Guide to Saudi Arabia, some of the biggest opportunities for UK investment are in expanding the kingdom’s fossil fuel sector.’

The export guide proudly states:

‘There are significant opportunities in Saudi Arabia’s energy market for UK businesses, especially in oil and natural gas.’

Ahmed continued:

‘Increasing the kingdom’s natural gas production is a particularly lucrative area for UK industry. The DIT notes that Saudi Aramco, the kingdom’s giant oil producer, is exploiting natural gas reserves off the Red Sea coast to support increased domestic demand, which will involve using deep water technologies for drilling below 1,000 metres.’

He summed up:

‘Britain’s intent to ramp up fossil fuel production in partnership with some of the world’s biggest obstructers of climate action raises urgent questions about its role at COP26.’

That is an understatement. Then again, who believes that a corrupt Tory government – led by a shambling, elitist, racist, serial twister of the truth – would ever actually take the serious actions required to tackle the climate emergency?

‘Systematically Corrupted By Vested Interests’

The climate campaign group Insulate Britain, who have blockaded several roads in multiple actions in recent weeks, said:

‘As will become clear after COP26, our government has no intention of taking the necessary action to protect its people. It has broken the social contract – the unwritten agreement in which we agree to obey the government’s laws and in return it will protect us.’

In particular, Insulate Britain:

‘have exposed the government’s refusal to act on home insulation as cowardly and vindictive and their refusal to protect our country and our children from the climate crisis as genocidal and treasonous.’

Those are strong words. But climate campaigners from Extinction Rebellion (XR) also made clear that:

‘Nothing on the table in the run up to COP26 has resembled a compassionate and functional response to the crisis. The Climate and Ecological Emergency is a Crime Against Humanity perpetrated by the rich and powerful, and the COP process is systematically corrupted by vested interests – national, corporate and financial.’

The environmentalist group Global Witness assessed that there are more fossil fuel lobbyists present at COP26 than even the largest delegation from any country. They reported:

‘At least 503 fossil fuel lobbyists, affiliated with some of the world’s biggest polluting oil and gas giants, have been granted access to COP26, flooding the Glasgow conference with corporate influence.’

Moreover, reported Global Witness:

  • If the fossil fuel lobby were a country delegation at COP it would be the largest with 503 delegates – two dozen more than the largest country delegation [Brazil].
  • Over 100 fossil fuel companies are represented at COP with 30 trade associations and membership organisations also present.
  • Fossil fuel lobbyists dwarf the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s official indigenous constituency by around two to one.
  • The fossil fuel lobby at COP is larger than the combined total of the eight delegations from the countries worst affected by climate change in the last two decades – Puerto Rico, Myanmar, Haiti, Philippines, Mozambique, Bahamas, Bangladesh, Pakistan.
  • 27 official country delegations registered fossil fuel lobbyists, including Canada, Russia and Brazil.

On day 1 of the conference, XR had already declared that COP26 was a ‘failure’ and the conference itself ‘a crime against humanity’. XR spokesperson Jon Fuller pointed out the responsibility of the media to:

‘form an analysis of the situation, delving beyond presenting the views of different parties to the reality of what has been achieved and what the consequences are for ordinary people. If they fail to do so they continue to be guilty of the same crimes against humanity as the world leaders who have gathered at 25 previous COPs, claiming progress in spite of a complete failure to stop emissions rising.’

Of course, as Media Lens has demonstrated over the past two decades, the state-corporate media, including BBC News, are indeed complicit in crimes against humanity.

Last year, the BBC took £300,000 in advertising revenue from Saudi Arabia’s national oil company, Aramco. The BBC does not carry advertising in the UK, but it does so abroad where much of its output is supported by commercials.

Jim Waterson, the Guardian’s media editor, reported that:

‘Big fossil fuel companies have spent approximately $660,000 (£483,000) with the BBC on US-focused digital adverts since 2018, according to projections produced by the advertising data firm MediaRadar. Most of this came from the national Saudi oil company – although BP, Exelon and Phillips 66 are among the other fossil fuel business[es] estimated to have spent five-figure sums advertising on the BBC’s digital outlets.’

He added:

‘The real figure for how much the BBC is making from large fossil fuel companies could be much higher when other forms of advertising are taken into account.’

Meanwhile, BBC News programmes and high-profile BBC journalists continue to channel government propaganda on climate, with minimal scrutiny or genuinely countervailing voices. An extended appearance by Greta Thunberg on the Sunday morning Andrew Marr show on 31 October was a rare exception.

More typical was Laura Kuenssberg’s relentless tweeting of government talking points:

‘PM says score in the match btw humanity and climate change is now, 5-2, or 5-3, not 5-1 at half time, which was his assessment a few days ago – if you hate the metaphor, let’s say, progress, but not yet enough’

This tweet from the BBC political editor managed to capture both:

1. the pathetic state of the ‘democracy‘ that ‘elected’ Boris Johnson as Prime Minister.

2. the crass, subservient nature of much of BBC News.

As US journalist Glenn Greenwald once observed:

‘The worst media in the democratic world is the British media, and it’s not even close.

‘I know it’s hard for people in other countries who hate their own media to believe, but whatever you hate about your country’s media, the UK media has in abundance and worse.’

The pathetic state of much of what passes for ‘journalism’ in the UK was summed up by investigative journalist Matt Kennard’s recent observation:

‘The British Journalism Awards [are] sponsored by Starling Bank, Gilead pharma, Google, Ovo Energy. The capture of our political, media and cultural systems by corporations is absolute and the root of problem. Rejecting + replacing corporate media is prerequisite to real democracy.’

And real democracy is a prerequisite for tackling the climate emergency before it threatens to engulf humanity, driving us towards extinction.

The post “A Crime Against Humanity”: The “Greenwash Festival” Of COP26 first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Ten Years Later: Lessons for today from Occupy

It was ten years ago this week that thousands of people from across the country and from different social movements started an occupation of Freedom Plaza in Washington, DC that lasted six months. The action was called “Stop the Machine, Create a New World” to reflect the two-pronged approach of resistance to harmful policies and practices and building positive alternatives. The coalition behind it was the October 2011 Movement, named similarly to movements that arose in Egypt, the January 25 movement, and Spain, the May 15 movement. Popular Resistance was born from that October 2011 coalition.

During the winter and spring of 2011, major protests that occupied public space occurred in countries throughout the Arab world, known as the ‘Arab Spring.’ Occupations also took place in state capitals across the United States, beginning with Madison Wisconsin in February. Most of the protests were focused on opposing austerity measures, worker exploitation and other human rights abuses. The October 2011 protest, which sought to spark an ‘American Autumn,’ also explicitly opposed war – the October 6 start date was chosen to coincide with the beginning of the new austerity budget and the tenth anniversary of the invasion of Afghanistan.

Organizers of the October 2011 coalition began meeting early that year in January to plan a campaign that would challenge the power structure effectively. The traditional tools of democracy were not working to counter growing wealth inequality, austerity and wars. Throughout 2011, the more than 100 organizers from across the nation worked tirelessly to bring groups that worked on different issues together, to plan strategy and logistics and to promote the campaign. In July, the Occupy Wall Street action was announced, and October 2011 organizers participated in that planning too. Nobody knew what the result of our work would be but by that fall, people were holding public space and taking militant action from coast to coast. The Occupy Movement took off.

To mark the tenth anniversary, I spoke with Bill Moyer of the Backbone Campaign (click here for that interview) and Chris Hedges, a noted author and host of On Contact (click here for that interview), about the political and economic environment in 2011 that gave rise to the Occupy Movement, the lessons learned and what is happening now. The Occupy Movement had a tremendous impact that is still being felt today but we continue to face many serious crises.

This is a good time to reflect upon what Occupy/October2011 did right and how that could inform our current organizing. Here are a few of the lessons:

  • Our crises are systemic: The Occupy Movement successfully challenged the idea that our inability to meet our basic needs for health care, housing, education, food, income and more is due to some sort of personal failure. It exposed the fact that our major crises are systemic in nature, rooted in the capitalist economy and the corrupt and anti-democratic political structure that protects the interests of the wealthy elites without regard for people’s needs or protection of the planet. This was a sea change for a brain-washed public that had been taught the US was a place of opportunity if “you just work hard enough.” No longer did people have to feel shame for not having access to health care, for being in debt, losing their homes or living in poverty. Understanding the systemic nature brought people out of isolation to work together to change the system.
  • We are powerful together: Related to the above is that the Occupy Movement showed the power of working in solidarity with each other and recognizing that our issues are connected. Philanthropy for non-profits in the United States is designed to keep people in silos, working on their one particular issue, and competing with each other for resources. The Occupy Movement turned that on its head. The organizers came from a variety of organizations working on different issues who united around general agreement that they faced the same obstacle – the rule of money that puts profit over the human needs. There weren’t any funders or major organizations controlling the coalition. This solidarity scares the power structure.
  • We are leader-full: The Occupy Movement was leader-full, not leaderless. This is a point that Kevin Zeese frequently made in response to the common misconception that there weren’t any leaders. There were no single leaders and decision-making was largely made using consensus. Organizers (leaders) worked to put the structure of the action together but not to control it. They created working groups to provide food, medical care, education, action planning, media, and general assembly facilitation. This created space for people to gather, talk and plan. Organizers, many of whom were experienced activists, mostly stayed in the background.
  • Occupy challenged the white savior complex: The Occupy Movement succeeded in challenging the white savior complex – mostly-white organizations or individuals speaking for people in oppressed communities and the assumption that the oppressed cannot organize and advocate for themselves. People and communities, the ones on the ‘front lines,’ were prioritized to talk about their issues and to lead actions. White activists were encouraged to speak less and listen more. Immediately after Occupy, the Tar Sands Blockade, which was led by indigenous activists, took off. Since then, other indigenous-led campaigns and those for low wage workers and immigrants and against racially-biased police violence and mass incarceration have gained more prominence.
  • We learned new skills: Similarly, the Occupy Movement introduced people to activism and taught them new skills. General assemblies were held at Occupy encampments across the country in which people learned how to listen to each other, discuss issues and make decisions as a group. Hand signals were used so people could express themselves and participate in the assemblies more easily. Occupy practiced a form of participatory democracy. Indeed, a major concept promoted in the Occupy Movement is that we need to practice what we are working to create as we organize. If we aspire to a non-hierarchical society, then we have to practice using non-hierarchical structures. Social movements in the United States have matured since Occupy.
  • We must be independent of the capitalist parties: Despite efforts by a few to funnel the Occupy Movement into the Democratic Party, the movement was not tied to any political party. That independence is critical for success. As soon as a movement becomes subservient to the agenda of a political party, especially one of the oligarchic parties, it excludes people and loses its power. Instead of putting pressure on elected leaders, it becomes a tool for them to maintain power. Of course, there were people from the Occupy Movement who entered electoral politics. That is to be expected from any movement. The best position for a movement is to be feared by the power structure. Members of the ruling class are not our allies.
  • We must save ourselves: People in the United States are manipulated by the power structure into believing that we can elect our way out of this situation. There is no political figure/savior who is going to rescue us from the crises we face, especially in our mirage democracy. Elections are largely distractions from the long term work of movement building. We are the ones who must take action in whatever way we can. Many of us working together as a movement of movements can succeed. To learn more about how movements have an impact, visit the free Popular Resistance School.

Overall, the Occupy Movement has had a huge impact in the United States that will ripple out for years to come. It changed the national dialog on wealth inequality and the corruption in our political system and empowered many people to fight for their rights.

Occupation of public space is a tactic, not a revolution in itself. It was part of a take-off moment when an issue that resonated with many people came to the forefront. Social movements come in phases. The hard work of building on that take-off is where we are now. As the Popular Resistance School teaches, success comes when there is national consensus that there is a problem, the current system can’t solve that problem and that we need something new and when a proportion of the population acts on that national consensus.

While there have been some victories in the past ten years, conditions have continued to deteriorate in the United States. The political elites are failing to address the crises we face such as poverty, debt, the pandemic, the climate crisis and the growing national security state. The Biden administration is continuing many Trump administration policies, as Hedges points out in his recent article, “America’s Fate: Oligarchy or Autocracy.”

Just as they created the conditions for Trump to become President through their neoliberal policies that bailed out Wall Street instead of Main Street, the Democrats and their liberal cheerleaders are continuing to fail to provide real solutions to our many crises. Hedges writes, “The liberal class, fearing autocracy, has thrown in its lot with the oligarchs, discrediting and rendering impotent the causes and issues it claims to champion. The bankruptcy of the liberal class is important, for it effectively turns liberal democratic values into the empty platitudes those who embrace autocracy condemn and despise.”

A movement led by the working class and front line communities that has a vision of what we aspire to create and that is willing to take strategic action is essential. The seeds of that movement are scattered across the country and are blossoming into worker walkouts and strikes and direct action campaigns to stop deportations and fossil fuel infrastructure as well as debt and attacks on our education system. Others are growing into the alternative solutions we require such as worker cooperatives, public banks, food sovereignty, the abolition of police and prisons and more.

The best way to counter the rise of autocracy is to continue to expose injustice and take action to stop it while showing there is another way that will make everyone’s lives better and working to create that. Solidarity is fundamental. We have the power to create tremendous change in the United States if only we have the courage and discipline to use that power effectively. When times are hard, we can remember what Hedges concludes in the article cited above:

If we achieve nothing else in the fight against the oligarchs and the autocrats, we will at least salvage our dignity and integrity.

The post Ten Years Later: Lessons for today from Occupy first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Building Social Solidarity Across National Boundaries

Is it possible to build social solidarity beyond the state?

It’s easy to conclude that it’s not.  In 1915, as national governments produced the shocking carnage of World War I, Ralph Chaplin, an activist in the Industrial Workers of the World, wrote his stirring song, “Solidarity Forever.”  Taken up by unions around the globe, it proclaimed that there was “no power greater anywhere beneath the sun” than international working class solidarity.  But, today, despite Chaplin’s dream of bringing to birth “a new world from the ashes of the old,” the world remains sharply divided by national boundaries—boundaries that are usually quite rigid, policed by armed guards, and ultimately enforced through that traditional national standby, war.

Even so, over the course of modern history, social movements have managed, to a remarkable degree, to form global networks of activists who have transcended nationalism in their ideas and actions.  Starting in the late nineteenth century, there was a remarkable efflorescence of these movements:  the international aid movement; the labor movement; the socialist movement; the peace movement; and the women’s rights movement, among others.  In recent decades, other global movements have emerged, preaching and embodying the same kind of human solidarity—from the environmental movement, to the nuclear disarmament movement, to the campaign against corporate globalization, to the racial justice movement.

Although divided from one another, at times, by their disparate concerns, these transnational humanitarian movements have nevertheless been profoundly subversive of many established ideas and of the established order—an order that has often been devoted to maintenance of special privilege and preservation of the nation state system.  Consequently, these movements have usually found a home on the political Left and have usually triggered a furious backlash on the political Right.

The rise of globally-based social movements appears to have developed out of the growing interconnection of nations, economies, and peoples spawned by increasing world economic, scientific, and technological development, trade, travel, and communications.  This interconnection has meant that war, economic collapse, climate disasters, diseases, corporate exploitation, and other problems are no longer local, but global.  And the solutions, of course, are also global in nature.  Meanwhile, the possibilities for alliances of like-minded people across national boundaries have also grown.

The rise of the worldwide campaign for nuclear disarmament exemplifies these trends.  Beginning in 1945, in the aftermath of the Hiroshima bombing, its sense of urgency was driven by breakthroughs in science and technology that revolutionized war and, thereby, threatened the world with unprecedented disaster.  Furthermore, the movement had little choice but to develop across the confines of national boundaries.  After all, nuclear testing, the nuclear arms race, and the prospect of nuclear annihilation represented global problems that could not be tackled on a national basis.  Eventually, a true peoples’ alliance emerged, uniting activists in East and West against the catastrophic nuclear war plans of their governments.

Much the same approach is true of other global social movements.  Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, for example, play no favorites among nations when they report on human rights abuses around the world.  Individual nations, of course, selectively pick through the findings of these organizations to label their political adversaries (though not their allies) ruthless human rights abusers.  But the underlying reality is that participants in these movements have broken free of allegiances to national governments to uphold a single standard and, thereby, act as genuine world citizens.  The same can be said of activists in climate organizations like Greenpeace and 350.org, anticorporate campaigns, the women’s rights movement, and most other transnational social movements.

Institutions of global governance also foster human solidarity across national borders.  The very existence of such institutions normalizes the idea that people in diverse countries are all part of the human community and, therefore, have a responsibility to one another.  Furthermore, UN Secretaries-General have often served as voices of conscience to the world, deploring warfare, economic inequality, runaway climate disaster, and a host of other global ills.  Conversely, the ability of global institutions to focus public attention upon such matters has deeply disturbed the political Right, which acts whenever it can to undermine the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, the World Health Organization, and other global institutions.

Social movements and institutions of global governance often have a symbiotic relationship.  The United Nations has provided a very useful locus for discussion and action on issues of concern to organizations dealing with women’s rights, environmental protection, human rights, poverty, and other issues, with frequent conferences devoted to these concerns.  Frustrated with the failure of the nuclear powers to divest themselves of nuclear weapons, nuclear disarmament organizations deftly used a series of UN conferences to push through the adoption of the 2017 UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, much to the horror of nuclear-armed states.

Admittedly, the United Nations is a confederation of nations, where the “great powers” often use their disproportionate influence—for example, in the Security Council—to block the adoption of popular global measures that they consider against their “interests.”  But it remains possible to change the rules of the world body, diminishing great power influence and creating a more democratic, effective world federation of nations.  Not surprisingly, there are social movements, such as the World Federalist Movement/Institute for Global Policy and Citizens for Global Solutions, working for these reforms.

Although there are no guarantees that social movements and enhanced global governance will transform our divided, problem-ridden world, we shouldn’t ignore these movements and institutions, either.  Indeed, they should provide us with at least a measure of hope that, someday, human solidarity will prevail, thereby bringing to birth “a new world from the ashes of the old.”

The post Building Social Solidarity Across National Boundaries first appeared on Dissident Voice.

We Are Many:  the Oppressors are not

I remember chatting with a man from Iraq in 2016.  He was driving a taxi in Germany.  I wrote about him in one of my essays:

“Last month, I was chatting with an Iraqi taxi driver in Berlin. My 12 year old son and I took a cab from the Museum for Contemporary Art to our hotel. I couldn’t help but ask the cab driver why he ended up in Berlin. He said it was something to do with the availability of the visa. He stressed that he had to leave because he didn’t like Islam. He said Muslims were killing each other.

I felt very slightly sad because he sounded like he had to say that to prove that he wasn’t a “terrorist”. I told him that it was the US that supported Saddam when it was convenient. Then, the US flipped, changing its policy, as doing so became more convenient. I asked him, Taliban, al Qaeda, ISIS, same old story, no?

Then he said something unexpected. He said it was a “people’s revolution”. “We stood against Saddam”.  He was referring to the first gulf war in 1991. He went on to describe how it didn’t go as people wished, and it brought about the devastating trade embargo, more war, ISIS and so on.  His voice was passionate.  I felt the anger and frustration against war and imperialism that I also feel myself, in his voice.”

The imperial war against countries that defy the US hegemonic imperatives involves a few steps.  The target population is deprived of their basic necessities by economic embargo, trade sanctions, travel restrictions and demonization of its leader.  The society is destabilized by the lack of resources and economic activities.  The opposing forces in the country are generously funded by the empire to build a momentum against the defying “regime” in the name of “revolution,” “democracy,” “freedom”, etc. The communities are divided. The institutions are compromised to serve capital, adding more confusions and predicaments to the population.

Quite often this is sufficient enough to silence those who defy such interventions and it results in an overthrow of the existing order.  The society is transformed to suit the colonial policies concocted by western industries, which result in resource extraction, privatization, financialization, exploitation of cheap labor, construction of US military bases and so on.

Quite a few middle eastern countries have defied such interventions resulting in proxy wars and western military interventions.

That was the war on terror which continues to this day as the US forces are freely employed against the world according to its “war on terror legal framework,” while its measures are still in place as restrictions against our legal rights as well as restrictions at airports and so on.

Many of us raised our voices against the obvious crime of invading other countries, colonizing them and subjugating them.  To my surprise there were people who objected to our assertion saying that if we didn’t invade them, they would have invaded us, they were “terrorists,” and so on.

Enormous profits were generated by this huge public project, war, at the expense of the people in the war torn countries as well as oppressed people in some of the richest countries of the world. No one was held accountable for deaths and destruction.  The war to save people from terrorists was a huge capitalist project to expand the power and wealth of hardened criminals who call themselves politicians, philanthropists, businessmen, intellectuals, patriots, academics, and so on.

The underlining mentality of neocolonial violence is based on prejudice against the peoples of the targeted countries.  Those peoples, who reside within countries governed by “leaders” who have sworn to obey imperial policies, are subjected to tighter measures of exploitation and subjugation in order to serve the interests of the imperial institutions. The predicaments of the subject population—poverty, social unrest, and corruption, which stem from the economic subjugation, justify the mental superiority among westerners, falsely proving the inferiority of the “barbaric” population which must be “assisted” by westerners.  If the leader of a colonized country attempts to amend the unfair situation by implementing policies that serve that country’s own people, the western authority would mobilize policies to remove such an element.  The policies are firmly backed by the prejudice amongst the imperial population. Simple slogans and key words such as “he is killing his own people,” “save the children,” “regime,” “dictatorship” and “genocide” can trigger the colonial mentality as well as the white savior mentality in the imperial population.

Fast forward to 2021 — the era of war on virus. We are experiencing a massive wealth transfer to the rich and powerful, which can be best described by Jeff Bezos thanking his workers and customers for his rocket ride. The cynical exploitative violence inflicted against workers is found in all sectors across the country, creating destruction of small community businesses, massive homelessness, suicide surge, spike in drug related deaths.  Lockdown measures are wreaking havoc in vital social relations, which must now be reorganized.

The virus event has turned the dwindling healthcare system into mask wearing, social distancing and getting injected with extremely lucrative experimental GMO drugs—which are surrounded by  unprecedented numbers of injuries and deaths, far surpassing all combined prior vaccine injury and death reports to the CDC reporting system VAERS.  The lockdown measures and profit oriented measures against the virus further narrowed the capacity of the general healthcare system, resolution in huge numbers of patients without vital care for their urgent conditions. Destroying the healthcare system for the sake of saving lives is only an aspect of the current mobilization.  The education system, which has been under attack for generations by corporate forces, has received a blank check to fire faculties, turn classes into online tutorials, and pursue a new mission to create obedient workers for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. The financial institution has accelerated its herding of the population into the digital realm where people are conditioned, commodified, and exploited as data.  In every industry, a massive restructuring process for profit is occurring in the name of Covid measures.

Now, I understand that respiratory illnesses can be very dangerous.  If you look up articles from pre-Covid time, you find desperate calls from healthcare professionals screaming about the risk of flu epidemics due to the lack of facilities and resources. This has become reality after Covid, as massive death tolls have resulted from nursing home lockdowns.  Profit oriented treatment options have been promoted while effective options were restricted, resulting in yet even more deaths and hospitalizations.  But statistically, all these deaths in the US had not exceeded the range of year to year variation in death rate.  This crucial fact has been observed in various countries.  The Covid situation, if anything, is very much a manmade event. It can not be described as a deadly pandemic comparable to the bubonic plague. This should shatter virus event narratives propped up by “cases“ concocted by unreliable PCR tests—its inaccuracy has been highly criticized by many scientists—including the inventor of the PCR test himself–due to its arbitrary results depending on the degree of amplification in search of the targeted DNA fragments.

The above observation is strictly based on the opinions of numerous healthcare professionals, doctors, and scientists across the globe. At the very least, it must be recognized that there are significant disagreements within the field of science on every aspect of Covid-19, its treatments, and lockdown measures.

However, none of those are examined in a serious manner by the establishment.  In fact, there are many instances of healthcare professionals being disciplined for reporting cases of vaccine injury, speaking against the treatment policies, and questioning the prevelant assumptions regarding the virus.  Healthcare professionals are actively forced to play along with the official Covid narrative.

For the general public the mixed emotions over the contradictions have turned to frustration, and the frustration has turned to anger as if we are stuck in a pressure cooker made with official narratives and structural impediments of lockdowns and forced vaccine injection.  The heat and pressure have broken down the social fabric as our daily routines are dictated by “new normal.”

So many things have happened since last year.  But somehow things don’t seem to fit in right places in our heads.

We mark our sense of time and space with traditional events, daily routines and our common knowledge.  When we lose those, we are left with a series of elements and dynamics without those markers.But alternate markers have been provided by those who have deprived us of the markers.  Our lives are marked with lockdowns, masks and social distancing — the “new normal”.

Now we mark our lives with it.

We are told that there is a deadly disease out there and the only solution is to vaccinate.  Our life and death are determined by one of the largest corporate entities, the medical industrial complex.

Just as the war on terror was described as a “crusade”—legitimizing the twisted religious and cultural superiority of the colonizers, disguising white man’s burden as humanitarian obligation — the war on virus crowns “science” as its guiding force.  However, needless to say, the credibility of the “science” is proportional to the accompanying might of wealth and power—just as the facts of war are bought and sold as “journalism”. Propaganda lies fill the air as those who oppose are marked as “others” who  deserve to be castigated as being outside of the protection of the gated community.

This way of framing—the medical industrial complex—is useful in understanding the dynamics within the capitalist hegemony. However, such an entity is also a part of the media industrial complex, non profit industrial complex, political industrial complex, and, of course, military industrial complex.  In short, our lives are dictated by multiple dynamic forces of oligarchs, orchestrating a “reality” which firmly manifests as a capitalist framework—a cage to condition our lives based on its imperatives.

As the current virus mobilization reframes our society, obliterating existing values, norms and beliefs, the corporate institutions and their owners are consecrated as absolute beings which determine our life and death. This is why decrees legitimated by the “emergency”  are acceptable political means now.  This is why large corporations have gained enormous wealth.  This is why our lives are herded into the digital realm where we are commodified, conditioned to be exploited, and truncated to be stripped of the mystery of life and the unknown.

But where do the anger and frustration go?

The US establishment is well aware of the boiling anger and frustration over the situation.  The momentum of anger is cultivated and it is being shaped to put the people against each other—an old corporate duopoly trick, which has grown steadily as a dynamic tool of social engineering in the US.  The ghosts of the Civil War still determine the means of enslavement, while allowing the ruling class to preside over the theater of “democracy,” “freedom” and “humanity”—a manufactured “reality.”  Individualism, self-determination and a sense of freedom based on the sacrifices of many oppressed people are a privilege only allowed to people with economic security.  This is a part of the reason why the resistance against the Covid lockdown measures encompasses a reactionary element.  In particular, erroneously defining the trajectory as “socialism” or “communism”.  This ironic twist, the capitalist oppression being blamed on the enemy of capitalists, once again reveals the mechanism of the imperial duopoly as well as the expansion of the exploitative violence against a formerly economically secure segment of the population, which will require tighter measures of draconian restrictions.

It is not a coincidence that the red states have embraced the opposing positions while the blue states firmly adhere to the official narratives on vaccines and lockdown measures.  The subject populations are allowed to choose the mode of enslavement, but the slight differences in the choice are big enough to activate colonial hatred toward each other.  The unresolved historical pain, emotion and grudge have found urgent expression against “enemies” among us.  A fight between teeth baring wolves and cunning foxes, as Malcom X would call it, channels the anger and frustration safely within the capitalist framework.  The media, politicians and major institutions carefully instigate conflicts among the people by demonizing opponents over vaccines and lockdown measures, while protecting “pandemic” narratives one way or the other.

Some people might think that things must get worse before it gets better. Things can certainly get worse but it looks like it only means more fragmentation of communities and destabilization of institutions, which allows further erosion of people’s interests by the capitalist domination along with justifications for its draconian measures.  This probably gives a comfortable feeling for those privileged ones in gated communities. This also accompanies the exacerbation of fascist momentum, which always justifies the forces of western imperial hegemony—remember how the Trump phenomenon pushed neoliberal policies, which are embraced by both corporate parties, while justifying anything else to oppose Donald Trump, who was largely perceived as an obvious caricature of the narcissistic failing empire?  The US capitalism moves forward while oscillating left and right within the acceptable spectrum of imperialism.

In short, everything is under control according to those who destroyed the middle eastern countries.  The only difference is that now the target is us.  We are under attack.  Some of us are demonized by the establishment to play the role of scapegoats.  Some of us are praised as heroes saving lives and sacrificing themselves. Our communities are being destroyed to be further consumed by the colonizers of humanity and nature.

The war on virus is meant as a crucial background of destabilization and fear which helps extract huge amount of public spending in the name of saving lives, saving environment and saving people’s livelihoods—which are all under attack by the savagery of the very capitalist domination.   Since the war on virus is largely targeting the public money, we are bombarded with an unprecedented amount of wholesale propaganda narratives, as if we are thrown into the process of corporate electoral process—we are supposed to vote yes to those lucrative capitalist fixes for the capitalist problems by going along with the narratives.  Public outcries against the policies are safely consumed among the populations as people are forced to fight among themselves.

Moreover, the war on virus is meant to be a perpetual war.  Inconceivable “mistakes” will be made, victories would be declared here and there, facts will be revealed when convenient, while much of the facts are distorted to prop up the pretense of this vast protection racket scheme by the oligarchs.  One step forward, and one step backward, our lives swirl within the torturous theater of the “medical crisis,” but the real solution is never to be found within it.  The empire can not lose the war but the empire has no intention of winning the war either, for the winning can destroy the domesticated momentum of the in-fighting among the people, as well as an assortment of “activism” backed by the Non-Profit Industrial Complex, which effectively drives capitalist agendas in the name of “our democracy”.  After all, we are many. The oppressors are not.  The mechanism of the domestication must be kept in place to tame the masses within the feudal hierarchy of money and violence.  Meanwhile, fear, doubt and real threat against our livelihood in the form of economic strangulation continue to force us to swallow the protection racket deal with the criminal enterprise.

Ultimately, the trajectory points to a complete domestication of our species through management of all means of production, its products, and the distribution system.  As the peoples become products themselves with biotech procedures, the social relations within the digital realm seamlessly merge with the fabricated reality, virtually cementing the feudal hierarchy of the absolute power.

As we operate within social media outlets, as we present our identities within their frameworks, and as we are injected with GMO drugs to modify our physical response to the natural world, we have already stepped into a dangerous stage which might very well spell the end of our species as we know it.

What could Iraqis do as they suffered the deadly embargo and invasions?  The question is ours now.  Unfortunately, many of those who stood with the empire are still insisting on fighting the imperial war as we have become the targets of the war, demonizing our community members as enemies, repeating slogans and talking points to justify the imperial restructuring, as our communities fall apart to be devoured by the colonizers.  It is no coincidence that those who oppose the current mobilization are accused of being racists, conspiracy theorists, or fascist worshippers—just as not agreeing with bombing brown people would be accused of letting brown children die by the hand of a “dictator.”

Our real enemy is not the “antivaxxers,” or the gullible people swallowing the corporate propaganda.  The real enemy is the imperial oligarchs who are shaping our society in order to continue their ways of exploitation and subjugation.  They are shaping the capitalist cage to squeeze the last remnants of our imagination and our connection to humanity and nature.  How can we defy the colonization of humanity and nature?  How can we be a part of the resistance against the criminal pyramid scheme which is bound to implode with its destructive nature?  How can we build our ways to be in harmony with ourselves, with each other and with nature?  We are a part of the countless people who have held the dream of such a harmony.  We stand strong with them in solidarity.  We are many. The oppressors are not.

The post We Are Many:  the Oppressors are not first appeared on Dissident Voice.

The Crisis in Tunisia

On July 25, 2021, Tunisian President Kais Saied dismissed Prime Minister Hichem Mechichi, froze the parliament, suspended the legal immunity of parliament members and took control of the general prosecutor’s office. He warned against any armed response to his actions: “Whoever shoots a bullet, the armed forces will respond with bullets.” In the hours after Saied’s announcement, huge crowds gathered in his support in Tunis and other cities, while the military blocked off the parliament and state television station.

The popularity of Saied’s decisions stems from the legitimate anger of Tunisians against their country’s parliament, which has become very unpopular. When the president sacked the health minister after a botched handling of vaccine walk-in centres and ordered the army to take control of the pandemic response, popular protests took place against the government, culminating in the present-day power shifts. These conjunctural changes are embedded in a structural framework which has permanently characterized Tunisia after 2011.

Neoliberalism

On December 17, 2010, Mohamed Bouazizi – a Tunisian street vendor – set himself on fire following yet another instance of harassment and humiliation at the hands of local police and municipal officials.  Within hours of his self-immolation, protests began erupting across the town, rapidly gathering pace and spreading outwards to other urban centres. Bouazizi’s death was long and agonizing; when he finally died on January 4, 2011, the conflagration sparked by his act roared into the national capital. In a matter of days, dictator Ben Ali was forced into exile.

Tunisia’s people did not only oppose the political authoritarianism of the Ali administration, but also the neoliberal policies under his rule which created massive inequality, unemployment and widespread misery. The ruling elites completely ignored the latter dimension, choosing to impose further neoliberalism in the aftermath of the revolution. Tunisia’s current ruling party, the Islamist Ennahda, garnered votes as it had been outlawed under the Ali regime. Many people perceived it as revolutionary.

However, governments led by Ennahda implemented free market reforms in return for loans from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Fuel subsidy cuts, price rises and the dismantlement of public sector hiring synchronized with the enrichment of the bourgeoisie. Now, 10 years after the revolution, the rate of unemployment in Tunisia is nearly 18%. Max Ajl, Bassam Haddad, and Zeinab Abul-Magd note:

The state has absorbed the political effects of mass immiseration, distributing subsidies to popular classes to absorb social unease. Its primary role has been to contain the discontent by the carrot of subsidies and the stick of state violence while serving as a mechanism for increasing integration of Tunisia into the international division of labor: by increasing subjugation to the global law of value through currency devaluation, deepening trade agreements with the EU [European Union], and opening agriculture for foreign investment…Unrest has intensified. The government has become almost entirely a mechanism for ever-continuing accumulation.

Caesarism

Tunisian society – like any other society – is a totality structured in dominance. Among the various structural instances, one instance will have the dominant role: contradictions at other levels will find themselves displaced to this instance (thereby averting a revolutionary rupture) or many contradictions may become condensed in this instance (producing the possibility of a revolutionary rupture). The dominant instance will vary according to the social formation, but in all cases its role is determined – in the last instance – by the economy. In other words, the economy often exercises its effects indirectly by determining the specific efficacy of other instances.

Saied’s victory in the October 2019 presidential election displaced the economic limits of Tunisia’s post-revolutionary system to the level of politics. Disillusioned with the dysfunctional rules of status quo, Tunisians elected someone who sought to portray himself as an anti-politician. Running as an independent and nicknamed “Robocop” for his stern, monotonous character, Saied promised to crack down on corruption among the political class. His anti-corruption discourse steadily morphed into a wide-ranging narrative of anti-systemic populism; a desire for greater power soon made itself felt.

In April 2021, Saied declared, “The president is the supreme commander of the military and civilian armed forces. Let this matter be clear to all Tunisians”. A month later, Middle East Eye revealed the existence of a secret document, in which the president’s advisers invited him to carry out a “constitutional coup”. Thus, from the beginning, Saied’s presidency had the character of what Antonio Gramsci called “Caesarism” – a phenomenon in which an individual breaks the stasis in a socio-economic system by operating as an equilibrating factor between classes, demagogically representing the interests of the subaltern masses. Gramsci elaborates:

[T]he content is the crisis of the ruling class’s hegemony, which occurs either because the ruling class has failed in some major political undertaking for which it has requested, or forcibly extracted, the consent of the broad masses (war, for example), or because huge masses (especially of peasants and petit-bourgeois intellectuals) have passed suddenly from a state of political passivity to a certain activity, and put forward demands which taken together, albeit not organically formulated, add up to a revolution…The traditional ruling class, which has numerous trained cadres, changes men and programmes and, with greater speed than is achieved by the subordinate classes, reabsorbs the control that was slipping from its grasp. Perhaps it may make sacrifices, and expose itself to an uncertain future by demagogic promises; but it retains power, reinforces it for the time being, and uses it to crush its adversary and disperse his leading cadres, who cannot be very numerous or highly trained … When the crisis does not find this organic solution, but that of the charismatic leader, it means that a static equilibrium exists (whose factors may be disparate, but in which the decisive one is the immaturity of the progressive forces); it means that no group, neither the conservatives nor the progressives, has the strength for victory, and that even the conservative group needs a master.

In Tunisia, the hegemonic capacities of the post-2011 historical bloc gradually weakened as a neoliberal orientation came to be eagerly embraced by both Islamist and secularist political forces. The sporadic and inorganic nature of popular movements proved incapable in radically superseding this moribund conjuncture. Hence, Tunisians were gifted with Saied, who overcame the impasse by unleashing the Caesarist logic of delegation to a strongman. His ideological project has ended up with the current events, wherein Tunisians have been demobilized through a reconfiguration of the political arena. What should be the attitude of progressive sectors toward these transformations?

The leftist Workers’ Party of Tunisia (PCT) released a statement on July 26, 2021, condemning Saied’s moves and calling them a violation of the constitution. While acknowledging that the government has led the country into a deep economic crisis, PCT stated that Saied’s actions are not a solution to the problems facing the people as they threaten the country’s young democracy and have “launched a path towards re-establishing the system of absolute autocracy again.” The party has asserted that the way out of the crisis is “the work of the Tunisian people to establish a popular democracy based on the civil state, the power in the hands of the people, with sovereignty over the country’s capacities, resources and independent political decisions, and social justice and equality among all men and women.”

The post The Crisis in Tunisia first appeared on Dissident Voice.

Solidarity with Resistance to Extraction

People the world over are opposing fossil fuel extraction in an incalculable number of ways.  It is now clear that burning fossil fuels threatens millions of Life forms and could be laying the foundation for the extermination of Humanity.  But what about “alternative” energy?  As progressives stand shoulder-to-shoulder with those rejecting fossil fuels and nuclear power, should we despise, ignore, or commend those who challenge the menace to their homes and their communities from solar, wind and hydro-power (dams)?  The Green Party of St. Louis/Gateway Green Alliance gave its answer with unanimous approval of a version of the statement below in May, 2021.

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Global Conflicts Over Fossil Fuels, Nuclear and Alternative Energy

The monumental increase in the use of energy is provoking conflicts across the Earth.  We express our solidarity with those struggling against extraction, including these examples.

Standing Rock, North Dakota.  We stand in solidarity with the on-going Native American protests at Standing Rock in North Dakota protesting environmentally irresponsible and culturally damaging pipelines that transport crude oil extracted from tar sand, destroying their ancestral lands. So-called “clean” and “renewable” energies depend on the climate killer oil for their production.

Ogoni People vs. Shell.  We stand in solidarity with the Movement for Survival of Ogoni People against Shell. The Niger-Delta was devastated and traditional culture weakened by soil, surface and groundwater contamination that makes farming and fishing impossible.  Local communities still seek to receive denied compensation, clean-up, a share of the profits and a say in decision-making.

Coal extraction in India.  We stand in solidarity with the Centre for Policy Research in India as it opposes efforts by Prime Minister Narendra Modi to open 41 new coal mines because burning coal is a major factor in climate change, leads to asthma, premature births, and spreads toxins (including mercury) by air, water and land.

Fracking in Pennsylvania.  We stand in solidarity with the Green Party of Pennsylvania which has opposed fracking since 2008 when it realized that use of volatile chemicals could harm local communities and waterways and contribute to climate instability. Local residents have become ill and major waterways and delicate ecosystems have been damaged.

Nuclear power and Olympic Games.  We stand in solidarity with the No Nukes Action Committee of the Bay Area who are demonstrating against the Olympic Games slated for Tokyo in order to raise awareness of the ongoing disaster of Fukushima nuclear power since nuclear power is deadly and intimately connected with the potential for nuclear war.

Uranium Mining in Africa.  We stand in solidarity with “Solidarity Action for the 21 Villages” in Faléa, Mali against the French multinational COGEMA/Orano. After years of struggle, this NGO defeated a uranium mine through community mobilizing.  Aware of the detrimental effects on health, environment, agricultural land, water sources and cultural heritage, they are still fighting to undo already done infrastructural damage.

Solar arrays in Washington State.  We stand in solidarity with rural Klickitat County, WA residents who are being invaded by industrial solar facilities which would exceed 12,000 acres and undermine wildlife/habitat, ecosystems, ground/water, and food production because solar panels and lithium ion batteries contain carcinogens with no method of disposal or re-cycling and could contribute to wildfires from electrical shortages.

Wind turbines in Broome County NY.  We stand in solidarity with the Broome Tioga Green Party’s fight against industrial wind turbine projects that would increase drilling and mining, dynamite 26 pristine mountain tops, and destroy 120,000 trees while requiring precious minerals and lithium for batteries and being dependent on fossil fuels for their manufacture, maintenance and operation.

Hydro-power in Honduras.  We stand in solidarity with the indigenous Lenca people opposing the Agua Zarca dam on the Gualcarque River in Honduras whose leader Berta Cáceres was murdered for uniting different movements to expose how dams destroy farmland, leave forests bare, disturb ancestral burial sites, and deprive communities of water for crops and livestock.

Lithium mining in Thacker Pass.  We stand in solidarity with activists aiming to stop Lithium Americas’ Thacker Pass open-pit mine (Nevada).  Essential for electronic devices including electric cars, the mine would destroy rare old-growth big sagebrush, harm wildlife including many endangered species and lower the water table. Its operation would require massive fossil fuel use and toxic waste ponds.

Cobalt Extraction in DR Congo.  We stand in solidarity with the child laborers slaving and dying in Democratic Republic of Congo cobalt mines.  Cobalt is an essential ingredient for some of the world’s fastest-growing industries—electric cars and electronic devices. It co-occurs with copper mining, used in construction, machinery, transportation and war technology worldwide.

Child Labour in Democratic Republic of Congo

Most of all, we stand in solidarity with thousands upon thousands of communities across the Earth opposing every form of extraction or transmission for energy which seeks to cover up human health and environmental dangers.

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The version adopted by the Gateway Green Alliance differs only by referring to its organizational name in the text.  If you would like to join those spreading the word regarding the need to challenge all forms of energy extraction because we can provide better lives for every society on Earth by reducing the global production of energy, please contact the author at the email below.

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