Socialism Art Nature

Sean Larson and Alan Maass report on the days of violence and unrest that led to the fall of Ukraine’s president—and analyze the forces vying to impose their authority.

UKRAINE’S PRESIDENT Viktor Yanukovich appears to have been driven from power after the mass protest movement that has occupied Kiev’s Maidan (Independence Square) since November survived a deadly crackdown last week. In a matter of days, the country’s corrupt and autocratic regime was overwhelmed.

The parliamentary opposition to Yanukovich—dominated by center-right and even far-right parties, backed by the European Union (EU) and U.S. government—is moving quickly to establish its authority, ahead of new elections planned for May. Their goal is to head off any further action from below that might undermine their claim to speak for the uprising—and that might target the country’s elite beyond Yanukovich and his ruling party.

Contrary to this aim, however, the Maidan occupation grew larger over the weekend as masses of people celebrated reports that Yanukovich had fled the capital late Friday night. In scenes reminiscent of insurrections past, demonstrators poured into Yanukovich’s abandoned private estate in Kiev, complete with a luxurious residence, zoo and carefully manicured golf course.

The masses of people who participated in the Maidan movement did not endure months of encampments during a frigid winter and repeated assaults by the regime’s riot police in order for a new political leadership to take charge and preside over the same neoliberal policies that have impoverished ordinary people. Whatever happens now, the memory of how mass resistance forced out a tyranny will stay burned in the minds of Ukrainians.

Nevertheless, at this point, the conservative, pro-Western parties that have claimed leadership of the movement are pressing their advantage.

As a consequence of the upheaval last week, Yulia Tymoshenko, the imprisoned leader of the opposition Fatherland Party, was freed from jail. The Western media showcased a sympathetic image of Tymoshenko, frail from years behind bars and speaking to 50,000 people in Maidan. But more honest reports noted she got a “cool reception” from the occupiers. According to the Wall Street Journal, a volunteer security officer admonished her, saying: “Yulia Vladimirovna, remember who made this revolution.”

Tymoshenko herself is no stranger to political power or corruption—she is a former prime minister, and she became one of the richest people in Ukraine by brokering insider deals in the energy industry. Other leading figures of the former opposition parties have similar backgrounds.

Equally menacing is the high profile of the far right—in the form of both Svoboda, a political party with representatives in parliament that has ties to the British National Party and France’s National Front; and the extra-parliamentary Right Sector, a tightly organized street force that reportedly took the lead in the confrontations with riot police when the crackdown came last week.

The far right doesn’t care about democratic rights or challenging the power of the wealthy oligarchs—any more than Yanukovich did, or the more conventional conservative parties that have taken control in parliament.

 … At the front of the Maidan, leaders of center-right parties dominated the speakers’ platform, and the far right controlled its self-defense units. But a large majority of the rank-and-file participants in the Maidan have legitimate greivances—against the impact of neoliberal capitalism, against state repression and their lack of a political voice, against endemic corruption that ultimately serves to amass more wealth for the oligarchs—which put them at odds with both the mainstream right and the far right.

Building on the basis of these grievances, around the principle of solidarity, offers the hope for confronting both the agenda of a new government led by the mainstream conservative parties and the threat of a further growth in influence for the fascists—and for creating the conditions for the emergence of a future revolutionary movement.


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Is Venezuela burning? A letter from Caracas

Behind the right-wing revolt in Venezuela

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revolutionarysocialism:

Caracas is seeing an uprising of the middle classes and the rich. The working class neighbourhoods remain loyal to the government, but also deeply cynical about the extraordinary corruption of the heirs of Chavez. Mike Gonzalez analyses this contradictory situation:

For over a week now, the world’s press and media have carried images of a Venezuela in flames. Burning buses, angry demonstrations, public buildings under siege. But the pictures are rarely explained or placed in any kind of context and people are left to assume that this one more urban riot, one more youth rebellion against the crisis, like those in Greece and Spain.

The reality is both very different and far more complex. Venezuela, after all, is a society that declared war on neoliberalism fifteen years ago.

Caracas, where this series of events began, is a divided city. Its eastern part is middle class and prosperous; to the west, the population is poorer. The political divide reflects exactly the social division. Leopoldo Lopez, who has been a leader of this new phase of violent opposition to the government of Nicolas Maduro, was mayor of one of the eastern districts. Together with another prominent right wing anti-chavista, Maria Corina Machado, he had issued a call for an open public meeting the previous Sunday to demand the fall of the government. Youth Day, on Wednesday February 12th, provided an opportunity to bring out students to march, demonstrate and occupy the streets.

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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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Hayley Archer and Alex Buckingham report from North Carolina on the Moral Movement that is standing up to the right wing’s political assault.

Tens of thousands of people brought together a variety of social justice concerns in the streets of Raleigh (James Willamor)

SOME 100,000 demonstrators converged on Raleigh, N.C., on February 8, in the largest protest in the South since the 1965 Selma-to-Montgomery march at the height of the civil rights movement.

 … The real power of the revitalized Moral Movement isn’t its connections to the other mainstream political party, but its grassroots strength. Will Bunch, in his blog for Philly.com, described the Moral Movement as an expression of a growing frustration with austerity:

The fierce urgency of now is the real significance of the “Moral Monday” movement. It’s that tens of thousands of people don’t want to wait until the next election cycle…they want their voices heard right now. It’s in some ways an outgrowth of Occupy and other movements built around the recognition that democracy—as it’s practiced in America right now—has failed to help the middle class.

The exciting potential of this Southern wave of protest can’t be overstated. The Moral Movement is spreading to neighboring states—to Georgia and South Carolina. In right-to-work states, teachers are standing up to attacks on education, and low-wage and agricultural workers are also organizing. Among the crowd at the Moral March in Raleigh were doctors, nurses and medical students in lab coats, demonstrating their support for expanding Medicaid. The Moral Movement’s ties to the labor movement—organized and unorganized—will be key.

Above all, the movement’s strength lies in continuing to emphasize solidarity across struggles. Forward together—not one step back!


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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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Translation: Ukraine must open itself up to U.S. economic and political control if it wants aid.

I’m all for the regime in Ukraine reforming away from its corrupt, repressive past, but it is an utterly hypocritical pretext for the US to claim that it only gives foreign aid to “reformed” governments.

What about the billions of dollars that the US annually sends to Saudi Arabia, a country where witchcraft, insulting the monarchy, and homosexuality are still considered crimes for which a person can be executed?! Or the billions of US dollars that go to Israel, which is in open violation of numerous international laws regarding occupation, ethnic cleansing, and land seizure? Or the puppet regime in Afghanistan — which the US all but completely controls — and which is one of the most misogynistic, corrupt, and repressive in the world? Or the billions that it gave to the former Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt for decades right up until the moment it was overthrown in 2011? And on and on …

The fact that the US is trying to exploit the situation in Ukraine in order to position itself as somehow an upholder of democratic and moral virtues around the world is simply nauseating.

As the socialist journalist John Reed explained early in the twentieth century, “Uncle Sam never gives something for nothing. He comes along with a sack stuffed with hay in one hand and a whip in the other. Anyone who accepts Uncle Sam’s promises at face value will find that they must be paid for in sweat and blood.”

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KIEV, Ukraine (AP) A top U.S. diplomat says Washington is willing to consider financial aid to Ukraine as the country struggles through a polarizing political crisis, but only if it undertakes political and economic reforms.

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Hand-painted signs proclaimed “Kids want books” and “Millions for Copley. But Chinatown: No Library.” At one point, the youthful activists stopped, gathered in a circle, and sang Tracy Chapman’s “Talkin’ ’Bout a Revolution.”

The group of 7-year-olds was determined.

 … A group of youthful protesters marched on City Hall to raise awareness of a campaign to bring a public library to Chinatown, which is the only Boston neighborhood without a library branch. “If you read to your child for an hour every night, by the time your child is 5 years old you will have read 900 hours,” said Lonnie Zapata, a second-grader who was one of the featured speakers. The protest was planned and carried out by students at the Young Achievers School in Mattapan, which as part of its curriculum has recently spent time learning about libraries. Upon hearing that Chinatown does not have a public library, organizers said, the students decided to stage the protest.


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WANT TO turn a university into a war zone? Invite Gen. David Petraeus onto campus.

Ever since the general showed up at the City University of New York (CUNY), battles have been raging in hot and cold flashes. As students rattle barricades, the school’s Board of Trustees is maneuvering behind the scenes to quell the revolt, shutting down a popular activist hub and referring dissident collegians to the District Attorney’s office.

At the moment, the war has reached a stalemate, but as one semester ends and another begins, the university with the most diverse student body in the United States remains on the front lines of the future of public education.

If calling CUNY a war zone sounds outlandish, consider the weaponry the school’s public safety officers have at their disposal. A Freedom of Information Act request from a Hunter College student in the late ’90s found that the school was stockpiling tens of thousands of ammunition rounds, including 4,000 hollow-point 9mm bullets. No bullets have been fired so far, though rallies have come to blows.

The trouble started this semester when the school enlisted Petraeus, the disgraced ex-commander of U.S. operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and former CIA chief, to teach a class, "The Coming North American Decades," at its Macaulay Honors College.

Course materials included literature espousing the virtues of hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, but no mention of the general’s ties to Kohlberg Kravis & Roberts, a private equity firm with millions invested in the controversial oil-and-gas extraction method. Yet demonstrations against Petraeus’s presence mainly focused on his role as an architect of U.S. wars abroad—part of an ongoing challenge to what critics describe as the increasing militarization of the university.

The protests quickly turned violent, with police beating students in the streets this September. The confrontation could have ended there, with a cluster of roughed-up students known as the CUNY 6 arraigned on charges that included resisting arrest and rioting. But it didn’t.


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Apparently the toppling of the Lenin statue in Kiev yesterday was the work of several dozen members of Ukraine’s fascist Svoboda Party. (These people are literally open Nazi sympathizers).

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highly suspect …

"The opposition also was getting support from Ukraine’s main television channels, which are owned by the country’s wealthiest businessmen. Instead of largely toeing the government line, the channels have begun to give a greater platform to the protesters.”

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KIEV, Ukraine (AP) Facing huge anti-government demonstrations after spurning a deal with the European Union, Ukraine’s embattled president sought Monday to quell public anger by moving to renew talks with Brussels.

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"My son would be in jail, where is this man? Why isn’t he in jail?" #RenishaMcBride
See http://raniakhalek.com/2013/11/06/black-detroit-woman-shot-to-death-while-seeking-help-in-white-neighborhood-after-car-crash/

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Livestream starting at 6:30PM ET! #readZinn

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Howard Zinn Read-In at Purdue University | LIVE, 5 Nov. 2013

In honor of historian Howard Zinn and all the ordinary people he celebrated in his work, on Tuesday November 5, scholars and activists from across the country will take part in a Read-in of Zinn’s work on the campus of Purdue University and on campuses across the nation. The day marks the birthday of another fighter for social justice — Indiana-born labor activist, Eugene Debs.

The idea for the event was sparked when the Associated Press reported that the current Purdue University President Mitch Daniels, in 2010 as Governor of Indiana, tried to censor and ban Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” from Indiana schools. When the news became a national scandal, many students, faculty, and citizens of Indiana had expressed deep concern over the news that the President of one of our great public universities would have attempted such censorship. ‘The Zinn Read-in Committee’ envisions the event to be a commemoration of academic freedom and a declaration of anti-censorship.

The event will also symbolize the ongoing fightback in the United States against the privatization of public education, attacks on teachers and teachers unions, and the need for real democracy in both schools and curriculum. Zinn’s A People’s History of the United States is an important text for understanding the history of underrepresented populations; the fight for the right to teach this history is never separate from the fight to improve the material lives of students, teachers, minorities and workers around the world.

The Zinn Read-in Committee, encourages support for this event by any means possible.


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NY Top Cop Ray Kelly Booed From Brown Univ. Stage | PopularResistance.Org
Below: A member of the audience speaks before at what was to be a lecture by New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly at Brown’s Taubman Center for Public Policy Tuesday. Kelly spoke for only a minute or so, before being interrupted by protesters inside the lecture hall. He left 20 minutes later without speaking. THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL / STEVE SZYDLOWSKI

NY Top Cop Ray Kelly Booed From Brown Univ. Stage | PopularResistance.Org

Below: A member of the audience speaks before at what was to be a lecture by New York Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly at Brown’s Taubman Center for Public Policy Tuesday. Kelly spoke for only a minute or so, before being interrupted by protesters inside the lecture hall. He left 20 minutes later without speaking. THE PROVIDENCE JOURNAL / STEVE SZYDLOWSKI


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