Socialism Art Nature
Neo-Nazis roam the streets of America killing people; meanwhile police forces and the Feds are spying on Muslim Student Associations and Occupy activists.

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On the “seasons” of resistance, repression, and political economy

Perhaps what we are seeing in Ukraine, Syria, Venezuela, etc., is the age-old response that the various ruling classes of the world powers resort to when confronted with increasingly-widespread waves of mass protest and rebellion against their rule [e.g., Arab Spring, Occupy, general strikes in Europe, etc]: Exploit genuine popular grievances against conditions in neighboring and/or rival countries — especially those that happen to be either more unstable, isolated, or vulnerable — in order to foment generalized civil strife, discord, and dissolution. In a word, divide and conquer.

As against the mass unity, solidarity, democracy, and liberation which were the hallmarks of the year 2010-11, the ruling classes of the world have given us the violence, repression, distortion, and social fracturing of 2013-4.

Thoughts?


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Since I arrived in the San Francisco Bay Area in 1991, I’ve listened and read many stories about the disability rights movement and the 1977 historic sit-in at the Federal Building in San Francisco to get the government to pass strong regulations to implement Section 504 of the Rehabilitation Act when I worked at many nonprofits for people with disabilities on both sides of the Bay. At that time all the way to today, names were thrown around like Ed Roberts, Judy Heumann and so many more, but my ears perked up when the story was told how the Black Panther Party got involved – with people like Brad Lomax, Chuck Johnson, Gary Norris Gray, Don Galloway, Johnnie Lacy, Brigardo Groves, Ron Washington and Dennis Billups – because they looked like me, Black and disabled.

Brad Lomax, his brother Glenn 051274

Although there have been articles and chapters here and there by academic scholars, there hasn’t been a book or an in depth, detailed account of not only the Black Panthers’ involvement beyond serving food to the protesters but the work of Black disabled activists during and after the 504 sit-in in 1977. Some relatives that I contacted of Black disabled activists who gave their sweat, words and heart to the sit-in were so deeply hurt by the white leadership at that time that till this day they can’t talk about it.

When will the healing begin? It takes openness and relationships over time to build up the trust for a chance to tell it like it is. Yes, even for me, my fence has been up when it comes to the local disability rights movement, and I wasn’t even at the nearly month-long Section 504 sit-in, which demanded strong implementation of Section 504, the first federal civil rights protection for people with disabilities.

However, now, in my late 40s, I’ve come to realize that we must take advantage of opportunities to start this healing process, knowing that not one grant funded event can completely heal these open wounds, but it can be a building block institutionally – and more importantly personally and community-wide – to tell our stories. That is why I’m involved with the upcoming exhibit, “Patient No More! People with Disabilities Securing Civil Rights,” about the historic 504 sit-in at the Federal Building and what happened after.

“Patient No More!” is a project with a local focus that centers upon the many and varied individual stories of 504 still to be told. Created by the Longmore Institute on Disability at San Francisco State University, there will be a website, an exhibit at the Ed Roberts campus opening in the summer of 2015, a traveling version and a program of events once the exhibit is open. The main focus will be new video and oral histories by many of those who have never been given the opportunity to tell their stories before.

The 1970s were different times, and activism was everywhere. Several members of the Black Panther Party were in the protest for the full 26 days and also went to Washington with the group who lobbied President Carter and other politicians. Many church groups, activist organizations and informal coalitions gave food, time and help, and they are the core of the story, as much as the people inside the protest.

“Patient No More!” is a project with a local focus that centers upon the many and varied individual stories of 504 still to be told.

I might be taking a risk, but I hope the Black community in the Bay Area will share their stories of that time to finally tell the full story of our key involvement in the 504 sit-in and what came out of it that helped the Black disabled community and the Black community, covering all sides of the story – racism, ableism, a sense of accomplishment, self-pride, empowerment, frustrations etc.


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James Robertson analyzes the sources of the explosive protests against corruption, privatization and repression that are shaking every part of a divided country.

BOSNIA IS burning. Over the past several days, tens of thousands of workers, students and citizens have taken to the streets across Bosnia and Herzegovina to call for the resignations of local and federal governments.

In one of the largest and most confident displays of civil resistance since the civil war of the early 1990s, demonstrators occupied streets and town squares; confronted riot police armed with batons, rubber bullets, tear gas and attack dogs; and destroyed the headquarters of local governments and the largest political parties.

The wave of protests, which are still expanding, have tapped deep into the contempt many in Bosnia feel towards the country’s political class and have directed it into demands for a new form of government focused on reversing the trend of deindustrialization, economic collapse and unemployment.

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THE PROTESTS began on February 5 in the northern industrial town of Tuzla after a group of around 3,000 workers and their supporters occupied the streets surrounding the cantonal government to protest the privatization of local companies. According to reports, the demonstration turned violent after police deployed attack dogs, tear gas and indiscriminate beatings in an effort to disperse the crowd.

The following day, clashes erupted again as several thousand more citizens took to the streets to confront police and voice their support for the workers’ demands. The government’s resignation was added to the list of demands.

Public anger reached a new high on Friday 7 when demonstrators broke through police lines and ransacked the local government building, smashing computer monitors, throwing documents to the cheering crowds below and setting the structure ablaze. The same day, the local government resigned.

Far from disavowing the violence of the crowd, the workers of Tuzla defended it in their public statement—and said that the resignation of the government is only the first step in a much wider transformation of Bosnian society:

Accumulated anger and rage are the causes of aggressive behavior. The attitude of the authorities has created the conditions for anger and rage to escalate. Now, in this new situation, we wish to direct the anger and rage into the building of a productive and useful system of government.

The statement went on to outline several aims, including reversing the process of privatization, guaranteeing the rights of laid-off workers, forming a new government whose members should be subject to public scrutiny and who come from outside the existing political class, and leveling the salary of government employees to those of industrial workers.

Reacting to events in Tuzla, mass protests quickly spread to other regional centers in Bosnia and Herzegovina—Bihac, Zenica, Mostar and Sarajevo, as well as smaller towns throughout the country. These demonstrations displayed the same willingness to confront police, target the political elite and demand the formation of a new government whose key responsibility should be social and economic justice for the whole population.

In Sarajevo, thousands have occupied the central squares, fighting with police and attacking government buildings. In Mostar, a city still physically divided by the battle lines of the civil war, Croat and Bosniak Muslim protesters came together to attack the offices of their respective political parties. In the industrial town of Zenica, protesters set the local government headquarters ablaze.

While the Bosnian government, the international media and U.S. and European Union spokespeople have condemned the violence, the protesters are united in their defense of what they argue is a justifiable expression of anger. As a recent graffiti tag puts it: “He who sows hunger, reaps rage!”

On February 8, protesters gathered once again to begin to repair the destruction from the violence the day before. According to one protester quoted in the Independent: “Now we’ll clean up this mess, like we’ll clean up the politicians who made this happen.” …


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This piece is very clarifying in terms of cutting through the propaganda issuing from the both the U.S. corporate media and the Russian state media.

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word.

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Kshama Sawant told Boeing machinists her idea of a radical option, should their jobs be moved out of state: “The workers should take over the factories, and shut down Boeing’s profit-making machine,” Sawant announced to a cheering crowd of union supporters in Seattle’s Westlake Park Monday night.


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 … IN THINKING about these questions, I’ll always remember an Occupy march I was on a few years ago.

We were going across the Brooklyn Bridge (the pedestrian part, not the car part), and marching at a slow pace, with no chanting. I was with a number of International Socialist Organization comrades, and all of us felt like the march was a dud. It was very low energy, and had the pointless route of crossing the bridge and then dispersing in Brooklyn, which hadn’t been decided democratically at all. We felt dispirited.

However, when we began talking to people around us, we discovered that they felt they were on an incredible march, one that showed how much support the movement had and really energized them. Those of us hoping for a more rambunctious and democratic march had missed what the march was actually doing for the people we wanted to be talking to.


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The debate over tactics for revolutionary socialists in general, and the united front in particular, which has been addressed in a recent letter by M.B. (http://socialistworker.org/2013/08/21/limitations-of-the-united-front), is an important one.

First of all, I want to state that I think M.B.’s piece is a thoughtful and important contribution. With that said, I want to raise some counter-arguments for consideration, which can hopefully sharpen things.

I, for one, do not fully understand the implications of what is being argued, viz., those who are critical of the supposed over-reliance of certain socialist organizations — in this case, the International Socialist Organization (ISO) — on the united front tactic.

In Boston, for instance, our branch of the ISO has actually established relations with the local chapter of the NAACP in organizing for the coming March on Washington. Likewise with other local liberal groups in our previous organizing around Trayvon Martin. In these circumstances, the united front has proved a useful way to engage in struggle with broader layers of people.

It would appear that the ISO in Texas, to point to another example, recently navigated the deeply inspiring “People’s Filibuster” of anti-abortion legislation, alongside groups like Planned Parenthood and others affiliated to the Democratic Party, by making recourse to lessons offered by the united front. (See http://www.nytimes.com/2013/06/28/us/after-a-senate-filibuster-all-over-but-the-shouting.html).

The united front — as I see it — is not a dogma, but merely an insight into the ways in which we can relate to liberals and liberal organizations around us in such a way as to unite with them around basic demands and points of action, while retaining our own independent profile, criticisms, and line of march.

But perhaps the debate is less about the tactic, per se, but more about political perspectives. That is, that the united front is no longer desirable (if applicable), because liberal organizations in the U.S. today are categorically all part of the problem, and thus cannot (and should not) be united with on any basis.

This seems to be what M.B. is speaking to when they write, “It’s also not clear that every march is a form of struggle that actually has the potential to radicalize people. I suspect that large, hierarchical national marches may leave people feeling disempowered and eventually uninterested in collective struggle just as often as they radicalize people.”

If so, then I think this is a gravely mistaken and excessively static view of the world. It takes a one-sided snapshot of the specific conditions and balance of forces which may obtain at a given moment and then extends them immutably into the future.

For instance, looking at the recent growth of environmental activism, of which the liberal writer and activist Bill McKibben has played a significant role, it’s worth remembering that just 4 short years ago, McKibben was an outspoken supporter of Obama. (http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/10/15/1026616/-A-disgusted-Bill-McKibben-s-scathing-message-to-Obama-on-his-upcoming-Keystone-XL-decision). Yet most recently, McKibben has been organizing protests against Obama’s environmental policies.

The point is, people change. Even liberals change. Their overall ideologies might not, but their tactics and politics can. McKibben is not going to lead a movement to end capitalism, which is of course what is ultimately required to save the planet.

But insofar as McKibben moves people generally in a direction which advances struggle and political consciousness, we should support and take full advantage of that, while nonetheless voicing our own independent politics, criticisms, etc., on what it will ultimately take to end climate change. This includes trying to win people to understand the inability of all bourgeois politics and bourgeois society as a whole to provide satisfactory answers to these questions.

Now, none of this is to say that we as socialists should never engage in any activity unless we can get liberal groups to do so alongside of us. Far from it.

But the fact is that liberals and liberalism have proven to be flexible, resilient, and powerful creatures throughout the history of capitalism. And we simply cannot end capitalism without engaging with this phenomenon. This means that we too need to be flexible and resilient in our relations with liberalism (as frustrating as it can oftentimes be) if we are to supersede this whole rotten order.

Finally, for further relevant reading, I would suggest people (re)visit the perhaps unfortunately titled, yet eminently insightful work by the Russian revolutionary, V.I. Lenin, “Left-Wing Communism: An Infantile Disorder.” (Excellently summarized at http://isreview.org/issues/37/infantile.shtml).

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The second major landmark of the new disability rights movement was the formation of the group, Disabled In Action (DIA) in New York City, in 1970. Like the independent living centers, DIA sought autonomy for disabled people, but was more explicitly political and organized confrontational protests against discriminatory laws, attitudes, and institutions.

Out of and alongside these two organizations flowed countless springs of disability rights awareness, activism, and organization. This all played a fundamental role in changing the way that society—and most importantly, disabled people themselves—viewed the question of disability. This transformation is best expressed in the articulation of what has come to be known as the social model of disability. In sum, this model explains disability oppression as a phenomenon which limits the self-determination and life opportunities of people with impairments, and which arises primarily from social and political—rather than medical or personal—factors.

In other words, it is not the existence of a physical or mental impairment itself which diminishes one’s life, but rather the systemic unemployment, poverty, discrimination, segregation, etc., imposed upon people with impairments by an inaccessible and unaccommodating society. As Judy Heumann, founder of DIA, put it, “Disability only becomes a tragedy for me when society fails to provide the things we need to lead our lives—job opportunities or barrier-free buildings, for example. It is not a tragedy to me that I’m living in a wheelchair.”1

The disability rights movement of today can trace its immediate lineage—directly or indirectly—to these 1960s-era progenitors. Yet, it is possible to look even further back in US history to the Depression era of the 1930s, to see the very first emergence of a self-conscious movement for disability rights, organized by disabled people themselves, and promoting a view which closely foreshadows that of the social model.

It goes without saying that the Great Depression that began in 1929 had a devastating impact on the lives of all American workers, with official unemployment rates skyrocketing to 25 percent. But for disabled people the economic crisis hit even harder. One study found that 44 percent of deaf workers who had been employed prior to the crash had lost their jobs by 1935. The overall unemployment rate for disabled people was probably upwards of 80 percent, translating into crushing levels of poverty.2

Finding employment had been extremely difficult for disabled workers even in times of economic prosperity. Industrial capitalism had come to develop a tendency to discard all those whose labor was deemed insufficiently productive or too costly in relation to the amount of profit they could create for an employer.

The years leading up to and during the Great Depression saw a veritable explosion in the popularity of eugenicist ideas among the political, medical, and economic elite of the United States. These ideas posited all disabled people as so much worthless refuse to be cast aside in the “survival of the fittest” struggle that was free-market capitalism. As a consequence, millions of disabled people were subjected to forced institutionalization, sterilization, and/or death at the hands of both private and public officials.

Yet for all its nightmarish features, the 1930s were also marked by a great upsurge in working-class radicalism and resistance against exploitation and oppression. Strikes, occupations, sitdowns, pickets, and demonstrations for jobs, welfare relief, and against evictions, and for many other reasons became commonplace. Millions of workers formed labor unions to protect and extend their rights. Notably, the American Communist Party (CP) also grew during this period into a substantial force on the US left. It ballooned to a membership of approximately eighty thousand, with hundreds of thousands more passing through its ranks.

As a consequence of all this turmoil and struggle, the administration of Franklin Roosevelt had begun implementation of its New Deal program in the mid-1930s. A centerpiece of the New Deal was the creation of millions of federal jobs through the Works Progress Administration (WPA), inaugurated in January of 1935.

Yet even the WPA—as important a victory as it was for the working class—proved to be woefully limited in its scope. Among other flaws, state and federal WPA regulations barred disabled jobseekers from enjoying any of the program’s benefits, categorizing such individuals as “unemployable.” WPA advertisements underlined this point by explicitly stating that “only able-bodied American job-seekers” need apply.

To make matters worse, two additional pieces of New Deal legislation, following on the heels of the WPA, further codified federal discrimination against disabled people. The Social Security Act of August 1935 specifically defined “disability” as “inability to engage in substantial gainful work,” thus precluding anyone receiving any disability insurance from obtaining employment. The Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938, which established a national minimum wage, exempted workers with disabilities from the law’s coverage, thus giving official sanction to the common practice of employing disabled people in “sheltered workshops” where they were paid a mere pittance for their labor.

For one particular group of disabled workers living in New York City, such blatant discrimination on the part of the putatively progressive Roosevelt administration was simply too much to endure passively. On May 29, 1935, six of these individuals presented at the local office of the Emergency Relief Bureau (ERB) and demanded equal access to jobs under the new federal relief program. When told they did not qualify, being “unemployable,” they demanded to speak with the ERB director, Oswald Knauth. When Knauth refused, they began a sit-in right then and there, initiating an indefinite occupation of the ERB office.3

CONTINUED »


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Katie Walters reports from the occupation of the Florida state Capitol in Tallahassee, where activists are demanding that lawmakers pass the Trayvon Martin Act.

AS DAY Two of the occupation of the Florida state Capitol drew to a close on July 17, activists from the Dream Defenders were calling on Gov. Rick Scott to call a special legislative session to examine the criminal justice system, including repeal of the “Stand Your Ground” law that protects racist murderers like George Zimmerman. The demonstration continued for a third day as this article was prepared for publication.

The Dream Defenders, an anti-racism group of Black and Brown youths, was founded last year after the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Fla.

On July 16, at 10 a.m., Dream Defenders chapters and supporters from all over Florida showed up at the Capitol in Tallahassee, with more than 100 people pouring into the lobby. As they headed toward the governor’s office, they chanted, “Whose world is this? The world is ours! Whose state is this? The state is ours!”

Once they were in the governor’s office, the Dream Defenders read their list of demands. The list was read again every hour, on the hour, during the occupation:

The Dream Defenders demand:
— Fully repeal Stand Your Ground;
— Require law enforcement agencies to develop written policies defining and prohibiting racial profiling;
— Mandate law enforcement training on racial profiling;
— Repeal zero-tolerance policies in schools;
— Issue civil citations for first misdemeanor offenses for minors;
— Promote restorative justice programs for youth.

We call on Gov. Scott and the Florida legislature to pass these policies as the state’s Trayvon Martin Act. Together, we are united in ensuring Trayvon’s unjust death was not for nothing. Our anger in the face of gross injustice has led us to take action, but it is the love of our people, our community that pushes us forward. We will remain here, standing OUR ground, for Trayvon, for justice, until our demands are met.

"We are here today to demand justice for the Trayvon Martin case. We are at the Florida state Capitol, in Rick Scott’s office, and we plan on staying the night to get our demands met," said Daniel Agnew from the Dream Defenders Communications Team.

The Dream Defenders are organizing against racism on many fronts, linking issues like poverty, the school to prison pipeline, immigration and racial profiling. They see these issues as interconnected and part of the systematic oppression of people of color in this country.

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What you can do

Visit the Dream Defenders website for more information on how to show your support. Sign a petition in support of the Trayvon Martin Act.


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Trayvon Martin supporters occupy office of Florida Governor Rick Scott

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Political activists protesting the not guilty verdict in the George Zimmerman murder trial began a sit-in Tuesday in Florida Gov. Rick Scott’s office, vowing not to leave until the governor returns to Tallahassee and addresses their concerns.

The protesters, a group of students known as the Dream Defenders, filled the governor’s office at the Capitol, saying they want a special session of the Legislature to address Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, which was passed in 2005.

More than 75 people packed into Scott’s outer office and chanted, “Justice for Trayvon.”  In a video posted to YouTube, protesters could be seen holding signs and saying in unison, “The world is ours.”


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 The 147 Companies That Control Everything - Forbes
Three systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich have taken a database listing 37 million companies and investors worldwide and analyzed all 43,060 transnational corporations and share ownerships linking them. They built a model of who owns what and what their revenues are and mapped the whole edifice of economic power.
They discovered that global corporate control has a distinct bow-tie shape, with a dominant core of 147 firms radiating out from the middle. Each of these 147 own interlocking stakes of one another and together they control 40% of the wealth in the network. A total of 737 control 80% of it all. The top 20 are at the bottom of the post. This is, say the paper’s authors, the first map of the structure of global corporate control.

The 147 Companies That Control Everything - Forbes

Three systems theorists at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich have taken a database listing 37 million companies and investors worldwide and analyzed all 43,060 transnational corporations and share ownerships linking them. They built a model of who owns what and what their revenues are and mapped the whole edifice of economic power.

They discovered that global corporate control has a distinct bow-tie shape, with a dominant core of 147 firms radiating out from the middle. Each of these 147 own interlocking stakes of one another and together they control 40% of the wealth in the network. A total of 737 control 80% of it all. The top 20 are at the bottom of the post. This is, say the paper’s authors, the first map of the structure of global corporate control.


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The Wall Street Journal calls for fascist dictatorship in Egypt. Yes, let’s imprison, torture, and kill thousands so that U.S. corporations can profit.

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