Thursday, July 31, 2008

America fucked up

"A new poll out Thursday indicates that fewer than a quarter of Americans think things are going well in the country."
Meanwhile
Suicide is becoming an increasingly popular response to debt... According to the Los Angeles Times, lawyers in the audience backed him up, "describing clients who showed up at their offices with cyanide, or threatened, 'If you don't help me, I've got a gun in my car.'"

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

My Corpus Grows

SleptOn magazine just published an article I wrote a few weeks back on Afghanistan. They attributed it to the World Socialist Website instead of Socialist Worker, but cheers nonetheless for the publicity.

The Way Backwards for the Antiwar Movement

Justin Raimondo (like Max Dunbar), is not worth my time. But I'm a grad student and it's summer, so time isn't exactly a scarce commodity at this point. Lowest hanging fruit is sometimes the tastiest and all that.

Raimondo, a writer for antiwar.com, recently posted an article arguing that the Leninist notion of imperialism is a primary factor in the confusion and disorientation of the Left today. He makes a number of claims about the Left's analysis which deserve rebutting.

The central pivot point of his article is the following paragraph:

"This idea that the captains of industry – Big Oil, in particular – represent "the ruling class" is a myth, and a curiously old-fashioned one at that. Private industry has long played a subordinate role in the American power structure: far more powerful is the administrative-managerial class, which has had a firm grip on the levers of power since the New Deal and has only strengthened its hand since. "
First of all, the notion that US ruling class strategy is dominated by the interests of Big Oil is, at best, crudely Marxist. It's not an analysis put forward by any of the most reputable venues of Marxist analysis. You won't find it in International Socialist Review, International Socialism, the World Socialist Website, Socialistworker.org or Historical Materialism. In fact, most of those have polemicized against the view that the war can be attributed to a certain sector of the ruling class. That said, Big Oil has, of course, benefitted greatly from the war.

Oil is crucial to understanding the war, but not simply in the vulgar sense that the US wants to steal Iraqi oil or make its own energy corporations super-profitable. Oil is, quite simply, the most important commodity in the world today, and whoever controls oil has a great deal of power. If the US ruling class does succeed in controlling Iraqi oil and projecting US force over the entire region, it will have gained tremendous power (a word Raimondo apparently thinks is forbidden in the Marxist lexicon, as the opposition between it and profits structures his argument).

Raimondo's argument about who constitutes the American ruling class is equally mistaken. At the most basic level, he ignores the vast revolving door between "the captains of industry"and the "administrative managerial class." Condoleezza Rice was head of Chevron's committe on public policy, as well as on the boards of Carnegie, Hewlett Packard, and others. Dick Cheney was CEO of Halliburton. Stephen Johnson, head of the Environmental Protection Agency, was head of Covance, a billion dollar clinical testing company. George W. Bush himself was a senior partner or officer in a number of energy corporations before entering into public service. The Secretary of Commerce, Carl Miguel Gutierrez, is former chairman of the board and CEO of Kellogg's. Andrew Card, Bush's former chief of staff, was president and CEO of the American Automobile Manufacturer's Association. I realize this list is a bit gratuitous, but I think it's worth emphasizing the tremendous interpenetration of the state and the "captains of industry" that has always existed under capitalism.

Beyond this most surface level of influence, the state also has to respond to ruling class demands given the latter's control over the ideological means of production: the media. Newspaper owners are bona fide members of the ruling class, and they can control what news gets produced and who it favors. The press offensive against the Republicans in the fall of 2006 was no accident, but a calculated move to install a more competent party into power.

Finally, there's the historical role of the state, which has always been to organize violence on behalf of the ruling class.

Raimondo brings up a number of other points which are easily dispatched. He relies heavily on the hoary myth of the Israel lobby to explain why the US is in Iraq if the ruling class is so subordinate. Of the many demolitions of this myth out there, Allen Ruff and Sherry Wolf's are my favorites. He also insinuates that the Trotskyist youth of several prominent neocons is somehow relevant. Gary Leupp points out that Raimondo's own political history has some less savory characters.

Raimondo's whole polemic is directed against the idea that war with Iran is unlikely because it is against ruling class interests. Because ruling class interests don't dictate foreign policy ("power" does), you can't use them to predict foreign policy. QED. What Raimondo steadfastly ignores (besides, apparently, everything the left has ever written on imperialism), is how the entire US ruling class does want to tame Iran. Socialist Worker recently provided a good overview of the divisions between carrots and sticks in US-Iran policy. An abstract lust for power cannot explain what's going on in the world today.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

IDF shoots nine-year old in the forehead

Another day in the life of "the world's most moral army."

Friday, July 25, 2008

Socialism 2008: Brian Jones on Martin Luther King's last struggle

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Iraq Gets Banned From the Summer Olympics

Apparently Iraq has just been kicked out of the upcoming Summer Olympics in Beijing because of 'government interference in sports.' This means that the Iraq soccer team, the reigning Asian Football Confederation champions, will not be able to compete. Are you kidding me? Clearly the IOC is ignoring the constant intervention of the US INTERVENTION in Iraqi sports eg the murderous occupation. Why isn't the US being banned for the same reason? Can anyone say the Mitchell Report, aka an evisceration of due process and blacklisting of many athletes by Congress (not to mention a smoke screen for their continued funding of the failing occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan)? I can't wait to hear what Dave Zirin has to say about this at Edge of Sports if he can get a few minutes rest from being spied on by the government.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Adolph Reed on Obama

Adolph Reed is, in the words of my advisor, a smart cat. His collection Class Notes, one of my first introductions to modern Marxist polemic, contains brilliant chapters on the rise of Louis Farrakhan, the myth of "blackantisemitism" (one word), and above all, his devastating critique of the ebony tower, "What Are the Drums Saying Booker?" Of late I've been lamenting his failure to produce anything noteworthy on the Obama phenomenon. His only contribution to the debate that I'd seen before today was an essay for the Progressive (sic) "Obama No," for which the sole point of substance is that Obama is an opportunist (not exactly a surprising thing to accuse a politician of).

Today, however, I checked the Black Agenda Report and found that my dolor over Reed's lack of output could now end. He's posted a very long essay on Obama that goes right for the jugular. It's masterful in how it situates Obama within the larger retreat of the organized Left. My favorite passage is below (on Obama being praised for being "politically unorthodox" with his Father's Day speech):

this is the "Obama we want to see more of," the one who takes positions that are "unorthodox" and "not politically safe." Since when has it been unorthodox or unsafe politically to malign black poor people in public? Who the fuck has been doing anything else for at least twenty years?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Brian Jones on "Obama and Personal Responsibility"

From Socialist Worker:

Whose responsibility?

Barack Obama's calls for Blacks to focus on "personal responsibility" ought to be the subject of a genuine debate, not a media-driven uproar about the caught-on-tape words of Rev. Jesse Jackson.

IN SEVERAL high-profile speeches, Barack Obama has gone out of his way to chastise Black fathers in particular and call for Black people in general to focus on personal responsibility.

Columnist: Brian Jones

Brian Jones Brian Jones is a teacher, actor and activist in New York City, and a frequent contributor to the International Socialist Review. For years, he performed in Howard Zinn's play Marx in Soho, and he has lent his voice to readings and recordings of the book Voices of a People’s History of the United States.

The full implications of that phrase, "personal responsibility," ought to be the subject of an intense debate. There ought to be a more serious discussion about the state of Black America and the causes of that state. Unfortunately, since Obama's former pastor dared to speak on the subject and was roundly denounced for embarrassing The Candidate, there has been an absence of public figures willing to disagree on camera.

So in place of a real debate, we get a bizarre, profane utterance of disagreement, available to the public only because a microphone was on that was presumed to be switched off. Yes, I'm referring to none other than Rev. Jesse Jackson Sr.'s caught-on-tape grumble that Obama is "talking down to Blacks," and that he wanted to do violence to the man's genitalia.

This stupid slip (if you can call it that) only serves to undermine any actual criticism of Obama's increasingly conservative talking points and makes it easy for those who want to stifle the discussion, or even just defend Obama's position, to paint any criticism as personalistic--the result of the Old Guard's jealousy of the New.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

THE OTHER day I opened my email inbox to find an open letter to Jackson, written by Najee Ali. Ali is executive director of a national civil rights organization, Project Islamic H.O.P.E. I knew something of Najee, having marched with him on several demonstrations when I lived Los Angeles. So I was disappointed to read this vitriolic letter, which spares no effort to smear Jackson and staunchly defends Obama's line.

Rev. Jesse Jackson and Barack Obama

Ali says he speaks for himself and a "growing number of African Americans" for whom Jackson's comments are the "last straw." And, not surprisingly, he throws in the reverend's face the accusation that Jackson is "jealous that Obama has eclipsed you and both your campaigns for the Democratic nomination by actually preparing to win it as the 2008 presumptive nominee."

Ali attacks Jackson as an opportunist and "ambulance chaser," and points out that back in 1968, he appeared on TV one day after Dr. Martin Luther King's murder with his mentor's blood still smeared on his shirt. True enough--but does that serve to clarify the question of whether Obama is talking down to black people?

Ali joins in Obama's criticism of Black fathers, taking aim at Jackson as a father:

Obama's recent comments about Black fathers not abandoning their children and accepting moral responsibility in our lives is a lesson you apparently needed to learn when you were younger. If you had, it may not have caused you to cheat on your wife and father a child out of wedlock with a former staffer.

Maybe that's what really bothered you about Obama's message to the church that Black fathers should be responsible for their children; you certainly haven't been.

But even if Jackson was the world's greatest dad, something tells me he would still be in Ali's crosshairs. Ali couldn't attack Jeremiah Wright's moral credentials when Wright spoke out about racism in America, but that didn't stop him joining the tell-Wright-to-shut-up bandwagon. "Wright needs to realize," Ali wrote last April, "that if Obama can win the nomination and presidency, he has the ability to give hope to change and improve the whole world. This is why I hope someone can make the call and tell Rev. Wright to sit down and shut up!"

Actually, what Wright had to say was important and needs to be said louder in America: that for the vast majority of black people, structural barriers still exist.

Jackson's gaffe has, for a time, made it easier to portray this as a "mindset mired in the past." But just two years ago, Hurricane Katrina temporarily silenced Bill Cosby's blame-the-victim routine. Who failed to maintain the levies? Who was slow to mobilize the rescue? Only the coldest hearts dared to blame New Orleans' poor for their predicament.

Today, the mortgage crisis ought to be Exhibit A for the counter-Cosby argument. Here, we have, according to some estimates, the single greatest destruction of Black wealth in a single stroke. The effects of this (and other countless social crises we've faced) on families are fairly predictable, but can hardly be counted as "personal" failings.

For too long, progressive voices have been all too willing to shut up for Democratic Party candidates. The silence of the antiwar movement during John Kerry's presidential bid is one of the most horrendous examples. But when we shut up, it just makes the right wing voices louder. That's how we end up in a lose-lose situation, even if "our" candidates win.

Shutting up on matters of principle may be good strategy for politicians, but it's death for movements. Martin Luther King, facing similar pressures, actually went one step further, saying, "A time comes when silence is betrayal."

When King dared to speak against the Vietnam War, many of his allies in the civil rights movement attacked him. The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (King's own organization!) issued a statement disassociating itself from his antiwar position. The NAACP's Roy Wilkins said, "Civil rights groups do not have enough information on Vietnam, or on foreign policy, to make it their cause."

King's real sin? Embarrassing the Democratic president, Lyndon Johnson. Whitney Young of the Urban League put it plainly: "Johnson needs a consensus. If we are not with him on Vietnam, then he is not going to be with us on civil rights."

What has been particularly refreshing about this election cycle is the willingness of progressives to openly criticize Obama from the left. Actually, tens of thousands of Obama supporters have banded together on his Web site to challenge their candidate for voting to protect the telecommunications companies that participated in Bush's domestic spying program. They refused to shut up--that's a good thing!

Ali admits that Obama is "not above reproach. He is a politician and is fair game to be fairly criticized by you or anyone else. But to personally attack Obama is crossing the line."

But in truth, Ali doesn't disagree with Obama's emphasis on personal responsibility. "Obama is not talking down to Black people; he wants you and other deadbeat dads to spend time and care for your children properly," he writes. "The destruction of the Black family and absentee fathers is a major problem in our community. It's a problem that King spoke out and fought against. Forty years after King's murder, I can see why King didn't trust you. If you can't and won't sincerely help Obama in this historic run, then at least stop attacking him."

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -

ALI'S ATTITUDE that Obama is saying the right thing probably reflects the views of a lot of people, many Blacks included. After all, where on TV or any other part of the media can you hear any other explanation for the state of Black America besides the personal responsibility angle? We've been bombarded with these conservative ideas for the last 40 years.

The idea that the pathological Black family--not poverty or racism--is the source of Black problems became the unofficial line of the U.S. government in the mid-1960s. The Black movement had put the establishment on the defensive, arguing that the situation of Black people was a social responsibility.

Unable to continue to claim that Blacks were genetically inferior, politicians started promoting the idea that Black people were culturally inferior. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a liberal Democrat who became a darling of the Nixon administration, first made this argument in what became known as the "Moynihan Report."

The right wing loved his logic--why fund public services or anti-poverty programs or desegregate the schools if the real problem is poor Blacks themselves? Moynihan, like Nixon, saw the Black movement as a threat to law and order. He worried that the social movements were hurting the morale of the military forces in Vietnam and lamented the "erosion of the authority of the institutions of American society" in general.

The whole idea of refocusing attention away from social responsibility and toward personal responsibility was a conscious strategy promoted by the enemies of the civil rights movement. Cleverly, the excuse for rolling back the gains of the movement was dressed up in language that sounded like genuine concern for black people.

King also talked about the state of Black families. But he saw the agenda behind Moynihan's line of thinking. In an often over-looked book, Where Do We Go From Here? he warned:

As public awareness of the predicament of the Negro family increases, there will be danger and opportunity. The opportunity will be to deal fully rather than haphazardly with the problem as a whole--to see it as a social catastrophe brought on by long years of brutality and oppression and to meet it as other disasters are met, with an adequacy of resources. The danger will be that the problems will be attributed to innate Negro weaknesses and used to justify further neglect and to rationalize continued oppression.

I can't think of a better way to summarize the conservative obsession with promoting "personal responsibility" in all facets of life (education, health care, housing) than that it has been "used to justify further neglect and to rationalize continued oppression."

Obama's candidacy has raised the hopes of millions of people who are looking for real change. Even so, progressives must resist the pressure to hold their tongues. In the end, history isn't made by politicians, but by movements. And movements need to know the truth.

King, as much a product of the civil rights movement as a leader of it, had an idea of the kinds of changes we need. Forty years ago, he wrote:

If the society changes its concepts by placing responsibility on its system, not on the individual, and guarantees secure employment or a minimum income, dignity will come within reach of all.

His voice, and others like it, needs to be louder.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

The Gaza-ization of Baghdad


In the middle of the night, US and Iraqi engineers enclosed an entire neighborhood in Baghdad in order to suffocate the Mahdi Army . The parallel to Israel's collective punishment of the Palestinians was lost on no one as one resident painted "Rafah Crossing Welcomes You" on the 12 foot high concrete barrier.

Just How Stupid is Glenn Beck?


In Glenn Beck's column on CNN today he writes about "What's Right with America." I'm not sure if he forgot to submit this in time for the Fourth or what, but whatever the case may be he lists a few things:

What's right with America? How about the way we educate our children. Sure, I complain a lot about left-wing professors and how some wealthy private universities hoard their billions while charging obscene amounts for tuition, but the truth is that our universities are always ranked among the best in the world.

Students aren't fleeing America to go to college in Japan, India, or China -- it's the other way around. We open our colleges and universities to more than 80,000 foreign professors, scholars and educators a year and we have more students in college right now than those three countries combined.

Right. And American students are lucky enough to graduate with an average student debt of 19,500 dollars. Let's not get started on the shape of our public schools below the college level.

What's right with America? Our world-class universities don't require you to have an elite family name or Rockefeller-type wealth to get in. We don't care about your race, gender or nationality. You just have to be smart enough and work hard for it. What a concept, huh?

Being smart and working hard are not necessarily requirements for going to a world class university.

What's right with America? How about the way we treat the less fortunate? With no help from our government, Americans gave a record $306 billion to charities last year alone. We give twice as much as the next closest country and, relative to the size of our economies, we give 1,000 percent more than the French.

Well yes, Americans do donate more. Probably because they see homelessness all around them, and food banks are desperate for donations.

What's right with America? It's not just the wealthy who are generous. Two-thirds of American families making under $100,000 a year give to charity. Compassion is ingrained in our culture like no other.

What's right with America? How about our supposedly third-world health care system? We spend more on health care per person than Switzerland, Germany, Canada, or any other country you can think of. Do we still have problems? Absolutely, but don't fall for "the grass is greener" crowd; every country has health care problems.

Every country doesn't have health care problems like these.

What's right with America? We love our country. World Values Survey found that 77 percent of Americans are very proud of their nationality. That puts us in a first place tie with the Irish. Australia was next and no one else was really even close.

I'll let Bill Hicks take this one.




Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Little Soul for Y'All

Let it Be - Carol Woods and Timothy T. Mitchum


American Skin (41 Shots) - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band


Blowin' in the Wind - Sam Cooke

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Ethiopian and American War Crimes in Somalia

Mike Whitney has a great piece on Counterpunch on the American-backed Ethiopian occupation of Somalia. I'll post some excerpts.

As the struggle continues, the humanitarian situation has gone from bad to worse. At least 2.6 million Somalis are now facing famine due to acute food shortages spurred by a prolonged drought, violence and high inflation. UN monitors have warned that the figure could hit exceed 3.5 million by the end of 2008. The UN Security Council has helped facilitate the violence by failing to condemn US support for Ethiopia's invasion and by promising to send peacekeepers to mop up after fighting ends. They've shown no interest in stopping the bloodshed or threatening sanctions against the aggressors. The UNSC has become little more than an accomplice in Bush's rampages.

The western media has stubbornly refused to report on the rising death-toll in Somalia, choosing instead to focus all of their attention on America's "villain du jour", Robert Mugabe.

The real motives behind the invasion were oil and geopolitics. According to most estimates 30 per cent of America's oil will come from Africa in the next ten years. Bush's new warlord-friends in the Transitional Federal Government (TFG) have already indicated that they are ready to pass a new oil law that will encourage foreign oil companies to return to Somalia. The same oil giants that are now lining up in Iraq will soon be making their way to Somalia as well.

Mumia Abu-Jamal on Ralph Nader

'Stuff White People Like' is Reactionary Trash

If you're an even moderately internet savvy American these days, you will doubtless have been told by some friend of the hilarious new site "Stuff White People Like"(SWPL). A collection of short encyclopedia style entries on various things adored by the white man, ranging from sweaters to organic food to religions their parents don't belong to, the site is basically a big send up of urban liberal multiculturalism (a lifestyle which doubtless deserves some critique).

White people love this site. I've been notified of it by at least 6 or 7 different white friends. It seems that being able to take a joke about themselves is something white folks also love. I'll be the first to admit that the satire on the site is quite funny.

However, if one actually spends any time going through the list, what jumps out time and time again are little kernels of reaction. Take, for example, entry number 62: Knowing What's Best for Poor People. It goes through how white people spend a good portion of their day worrying about poor people and how they shop at Wal-Mart instead of Whole Foods. It ends with a classically reactionary bit of filth scraped off of Rush Limbaugh's microphone:

"But it is ESSENTIAL that you reassert that poor people do not make decisions based on free will. That news could crush white people and their hope for the future."
As it is in Limbaugh-land, poor folks are poor for the choices they make, not because food prices are skyrocketing, there are no new jobs, and decent health insurance is little more than a mirage.

Entry number 94: Free Healthcare, strikes a tone similarly reminiscent of a certain obese pill-popping waste of our planet's resources. Boldly going where no Republican has gone before, the author argues that European health care isn't as good as Americans think, and then takes some potshots at Michael Moore. He concludes:
"Though their passion for national health care runs deep, it is important to remember that white people are most in favor of it when they are healthy. They love the idea of everyone have equal access to the resources that will keep them alive, that is until they have to wait in line for an MRI."
Perhaps Mr. Lander would like to talk to these white folks about national health care. They had good old American style health insurance (you know, the kind where you don't have to wait in line) when their daughter was diagnosed with a stomach disorder that would require her to have a feeding tube the rest of her life. A treatment available in Massachusets was shown to remove the need for a tube, but their insurer, United Health Care, would have nothing of it. Fortunately, a campaign by activists around the country forced UHC to reverse their decision. While arsewipes like Lander disparage Moore, without his movie it's unlikely that the Griggs' case would have received the attention it did.

I could go on listing examples of how reactionary this site is, but I think it's more valuable to pursue a discussion of what actually is wrong with liberal multiculturalism as practiced by Lander's targets.

To begin with, let's clarify the terms. By liberal multiculturalism, I refer to that ideology which is officially against racism, sexism, homophobia, classism, ageism, etc. Often encapsulated in the phrase "social justice," this ideology has become the official one of the American academy in the last decade. Every major university today has an Office of Multicultural Initiatives of its equivalent. Though the institutionalization of multiculturalism is undoubtedly a fruit of the victories of the sixties and seventies, the degree of its incorporation into the primary capitalist institutions for the production of knowledge and reproduction of the labor force hints at the limits to its emancipatory potential.

These limits are evident in the specific characteristics of liberal multiculturalism which distinguish it from other counter-hegemonic ideologies such as nationalism or Marxism. The most important of these, in my opinion, is the tremendous degree to which liberal multiculturalism is marked by commodity fetishism. Marx argues that under capitalism, the commodities produced by workers "reflect the social characteristics of men's own labour as objective characteristics of the products of labour themselves, as the socio-natural properties of these things." (Capital Vol 1 165). Trade becomes not a relationship between people exchanging things, but a relationship between commodities. Social relationships between people become relationships between things. This pervasive thingification (a word common to both Dr. Martin Luther King Jr and Georg Lukacs, primary theorist of commodity fetishism) even covers workers themselves, whose position in capitalist society is determined above all by their sale of the only commodity they possess: their labor power, or ability to work. Even though workers are exploited as a collective class by the capitalist class, their very class position imposes an atomization. As "creative agency becomes a 'thing' to be bought and sold like other things" (Mieville 22), people's relations with each other reflect the relationships of commodities to one another: a relationship of discrete objects existing in formal equality. (To be sure, commodity fetishism is not the only atomizing force in capitalist society. It will, however, be my focus here.)

The fetishism I've just described is evident everywhere in liberal multiculturalism. As in SWPL's satire of white people loving to shop at Whole Foods, commodities become the bearers of social relationships. My place in society is determined not by my relationship to other people, but to the commodities I consume. A working class person is reactionary for shopping at Wal-Mart, while a police chief is progressive for shopping at a Co-op. One becomes multicultural by consuming commodities marked by Otherness (sushi anyone?). Actual positions in social relations don't matter.

Such an ideology is intensely surface level, rejecting any attempt at grasping the social totality in favor of a brief glance at someone's shopping list. Additionally, this consumptionist framework happily takes on many of the bourgeois myths about our society, such as everyone having the social power to "vote with their dollars."

Commodity fetishism also marks liberal multiculturalism's approach to race. Take one influential example, Peggy McIntosh's essay "White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack" (available on a college syllabus near you). McIntosh effectively reduces questions of racial oppression to their most atomized level. She describes how she has had to learn to think of herself "as an oppressor, as an unfairly advantaged person, or as a participant in a damaged culture." Leaving aside the tremendous conflation of categories involved in this clause, let's examine for a moment the claim that Prof. McIntosh is indeed an oppressor. While I know little about the woman personally, I find it implausible that she has the social power to determine whether America's Black gulag continues (indeed, if she had such power, she would undoubtedly exercise it). While she does mention structural aspects to oppression (housing, the police, etc), by systematically conflating these with claims that white people must realize their dominance McIntosh effectively reduces such structural factors to the product of individual white folks' actions.

For good measure, McIntosh also throws in commodity consumption as a measure of social power: "I can cho[o]se blemish cover or bandages in "flesh" color and have them more or less match my skin." To be sure, on one level commodity consumption surely is an indicator of social power; the rich, after all, can consume many more commodities than the poor. And the lack of bandaids for people of color is a reflection of racism in our society. However, white people's ability to buy bandaids that match their skin color is hardly indicative of their social power. Bill Clinton and the kid who delivers my pizza might buy the same bandages, but that hardly means they hold equivalent social positions. Though commodity consumption is a marker of social power, to truly understand its dynamics ("the riddle," as Marx says) one must dig deeper into the social relationships which constitute a commodity producing society.

Though the account here is far from complete, I think it's on surer footing than some other Left critiques of multiculturalism I've seen, specifically Slavoj Zizek's. It's certainly on better footing than the reactionary garbage on SWPL (though not as funny, I'll admit). Agree? Disagree? Holler back in the comments.

References:

Marx, Capital, Vol 1. (Penguin edition).

China Mieville "The Conspiracy of Architecture: Notes on a Modern Anxiety." Historical Materialism Vol. 2 No. 1 1998.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Speaking of Fuck tha Police

19 LAPD officers are facing disciplinary actions for brutalizing immigrant rights protesters last May Day.

Here's the very disturbing video of the police attacking:

Mark Steele: Live in NYC

Amiri Baraka Visits Madison

Prodigious Marxist poet, dramatist, writer and activist Amiri Baraka came to speak at UW-Madison Monday night. Invited by a hip hop/spoken word group, Baraka spoke about that challenges that face young people committed to changing the world with lessons from the past and poems that were very insightful and inspiring, not to mention hilarious - "There are some negroes that are as backwards as Rush Limbaugh. Well, almost." He emphatically challenged 'identity politics' and whiteness theory, a huge hurdle for multiracial organizing today by explaining how Black mayors haven't improved the lives of millions of working and poor Blacks - for instance in his hometown of Newark. Additionally, he pointed out how H. Rap Brown was convicted by a jury of 9 Black people and 3 whites.

Despite his published condemnation of those on the Left that would criticize Obama as a pro-imperialist and business-as-usual Democrat, Baraka emphasized the need for organization and politics for a movement that would bring about the changes we want to see. He argued for study circles within movements and that those who haven't read the Souls of Black Folk aren't intellectuals. Without saying it so directly, Baraka was arguing quite strongly for the need of an organization capable of being the 'memory of the class', with knowledge of previous struggles - victories and defeats - in order to orient the fights of today. Another important point I believe Baraka made quite subtly, given that the event he spoke at was a spoken word/hip hop forum, was that while music - particularly the Black music tradition - is important for understanding the changes in society and culture in the past and can play that role in the present, art alone cannot change society. This is not to say that rap and music are incapable of supplementing struggles and exposing the crimes that capitalism carries out daily, but is an important to know that to really force Obama to bring the troops home now, give us universal health care and create jobs struggle and organization are a must.

Here is a video of Baraka's infamous - read: amazing - poem that he composed and delivered soon after the events of September 11 entitled "Who Blew Up America"


MADD Funny Prank on the Pigs

Dallas-Ft Worth teen delivers cops a goodie bag of LSD laced brownies.

New York Times: Rich People Are So Fucked Up Even Their Shrinks Can't Save Them

“It used to be that my patients were the children of the rich: inheritors, people who suffered from the neglect of jet-setting parents or from the fear that no matter what they did, they would never measure up to their father’s accomplishments,” he recalled. “Now I see so many young people — people in their 30s and 40s — who’ve made the money themselves.”

Dr. Stone said those two kinds of patients tended to have different problems: “In my experience, there was a high incidence of depression in the people who were born rich. And by contrast, the people today who are making a fortune are so often narcissistic in a way that excludes depression.”

Monday, July 7, 2008

Callinicos on the Rational Mugabe

Alex Callinicos has a very good article on Socialist Worker UK pointing out the rationality behind Mugabe's strategy. He argues:

The calculation of Mugabe and his cronies seems to be twofold. First, they believe that the Zimbabwean people have been bled dry by economic collapse and mass repression – and so are incapable of mounting a successful insurrection.

Secondly, Mugabe is counting on his allies in the rest of the region – notably President Thabo Mbeki of South Africa – to block external intervention. Neither of these assumptions are foolish – it’s silly to fall in with the British media portrayal of Mugabe as an irrational madman.

Strangely enough Mugabe’s thinking mirrors that of Ian Smith, who gloated back in 1971, “We have the happiest Africans in the world.” Smith believed that he could survive as long as the apartheid regime in South Africa backed him.

Support Striking Namibian Workers Against Israeli Diamond Magnate

Via jews sans frontieres:

Support Striking Namibian Workers at Lev Leviev Diamonds!
Protest Firing Threats, Abusive Managers

Adalah-NY: The Coalition for Justice in the Middle East,
Congress of South African Trade Unions (COSATU),
Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign National Committee (BNC)
July 5, 2008

Management at Lev Leviev Diamond Polishing Company (LLD) in Windhoek, Namibia is threatening to fire 153 diamond polishers who have been on strike since June 19th protesting abusive managers as well as overdue job appraisals, promotions, wages and outstanding overtime pay. The company, owned by Israeli billionaire Lev Leviev, whose companies are already a target of global condemnation for building Israeli settlements in the West Bank in violation of international law, has suspended the 153 strikers and is threatening to begin disciplinary hearings to fire them, claiming the strike is illegal.

Growing global solidarity reaches from Palestine to Southern Africa and the US targeting Lev Leviev’s human rights abuses and war crimes.

Adalah-NY, COSATU and the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) urge unions, supporters of human rights, and all other social justice groups to send messages of protest to LLD management, demanding that the strikers not be fired and that their demands be met (addresses and phone numbers to send messages to are below).

Namibia:

In Namibia, the workers started their labor action on June 19, setting up a round-the-clock protest camp a few hundred yards from the factory gates. Among the workers’ demands is the removal of LLD Namibia’s general manager Mike Nesongano. Workers have documented a range of hostile actions by Nesongano, including use of abusive language, disregard of labor law, threatening workers, unfair dismissals, unequal treatment and having a demoralizing attitude towards his workforce. The employees also accuse Nesongano of poor administration and favoring European administrators brought in by Leviev. They also point to intimidation by the company’s lawyer at meetings between workers and management.

Diamond polishers at LLD earn Namibian $450 (US$56) a month, after deductions. This corresponds to less than two U.S. dollars a day, the figure most commonly used by international agencies to define the global poverty line.

LLD has a history of exploiting its workers. In 2006 the company, which only offered its workers temporary status, tried to force workers to sign contracts stating that they would not be paid until they reached certain production quotas. Only the workers’ struggle forced them to nullify the contracts.

LLD's Managing Director, K. Kapwanga, refuses engagement with the workers on fair terms. He has publicly threatened that "[t]he relevant employees will be issued with notices to appear before a disciplinary hearing committee, upon which if found guilty they may face severe penalties and possible dismissal." Enraged by the threat, workers have announced that they will boycott the disciplinary hearings, and have threatened to disrupt the operations of the company should the company fail to heed their demands.

Palestine:

Lev Leviev got his start by supporting Apartheid in South Africa, and reaping profits from that regime's diamond industry. Today his support is directed at Israeli apartheid where the profits are no less handsome. His construction companies build settlements that steal water and key agricultural areas from Palestinians, carve up Palestinian areas of the West Bank into isolated enclaves, and cut off Jerusalem from the West Bank. His most recent settlement construction projects - Mattityahu East in Modi’in Illit, Zufim, Maale Adumim and Har Homa - are central to Israel’s efforts to seize control of and annex strategic areas of the West Bank.

The people of Jayyous, the Palestinian town on whose lands the Zufim settlement is built, have addressed the world calling for a boycott of Lev Leviev because his settlement activities on the properties annexed by Israel's Apartheid Wall destroy their land and livelihoods. As one Jayyous farmer has put it: “85% of our people were farmers working in their fields or tending cattle. Today only 45 out of 3800 people can reach their lands and provide for the livelihoods of their families. Out of the 8,050 people from Jayyous, 3,250 already live abroad. Those of us who have stayed must struggle daily to defend our lands and rights.”

Adalah-NY, the Coalition for Justice in the Middle East (www.adalahny.org), in cooperation with the Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Campaign National Committee (BNC), a wide coalition of the largest Palestinian mass organizations, trade unions, networks and organizations, has been campaigning against Lev Leviev’s companies for their building of Israeli settlements in the West Bank in violation of international law, as well as his abuses of workers and communities from Angola to New York City. The BNC is the body set up by Palestinian civil society to coordinate the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaign launched in July 2005 with the initial endorsement of over 170 Palestinian organizations. One fruit of the campaign initiated by Adalah-NY has been UNICEF’s announcement on June 20th it would no longer accept donations from Leviev, which followed a similar decision by Oxfam International.

Angola:

In Angola, New York Magazine reported in 2007 that “A security company contracted by Leviev was accused this year by a local human-rights monitor of participating in practices of ‘humiliation, whipping, torture, sexual abuse, and, in some cases, assassinations.’”

New York:

At the Apthorp building in Manhattan, 50% owned by Leviev's company Africa-Israel, 88 tenants protected by rent-regulation laws are threatened with losing their apartments as Leviev and the smaller shareholders convert it into an expensive condominium building.

Adalah-NY, the BNC and COSATU urge unions, supporters of human rights for Palestinians, and all other social justice groups to send messages of protest to LLD management, demanding that the strikers not be fired and that their demands be met (addresses and phone numbers to send messages to are below).

Send messages of support for the strikers at LLD Polishing Company in Namibia to:
K. Kapwanga, Managing Director, LLD
Tel.: +26 461 386 150
Fax: +26461 249 253
Cell: +264811 247 249

Send copies of your messages to:
Mineworkers Union of Namibia at \n This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it "> mun@mweb.com.naThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
and to Adalah-NY at: \n This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it "> info@adalahny.orgThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
For more information, contact Adalah-NY at: \n This e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it "> info@adalahny.orgThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it

Notes:

1. Statement of the Mine Workers Union of Namibia:

Secretary General Joseph Hengari of the strikers’ union, the Mine Workers Union of Namibia (MUN), told the press: "We propose that before discussing the appraisals, promotions and basic salary issues, the company respond to all allegations levelled against Nesongano."

Mathew Mtembi, Chairman of the NUM local at the plant, told the New Era: “’We are here because these people did not solve our problems. We want feedback on our demands,’ referring to the 16-point agenda they gave to management a day before the commencement of the strike.” Mtembi added that if the suspensions are withdrawn they will return to work, “but will not go anywhere near their duty stations if the company does not solve their problems, amongst others better labour conditions, allowances and better salaries.”

2. Statement by COSATU on July 4 says in its initial paragraph

“The Congress of South African Trade Unions pledges its support for the 153 diamond polishers employed by the Lev Leviev Diamond (LLD) Polishing Company in Windhoek, Namibia, who have been on strike since June 19th to protest abusive managers as well as job appraisals and promotions, wages and outstanding overtime.” (The Congress of South African Trade Unions was founded in 1985. Since then COSATU has been in the forefront of the struggle for democracy and workers' rights. Today it represents over two million workers.)

3. The BNC:

The BNC is a wide coalition of the largest Palestinian mass organizations, trade unions, networks and organizations, including:

  • Council of National and Islamic Forces in Palestine
  • General Union of Palestinian Workers
  • Palestinian General Federation of Trade Unions
  • Palestinian NGO Network (PNGO)
  • Federation of Independent Trade Unions
  • Union of Arab Community Based Associations (ITTIJAH)
  • Palestine Right of Return Coalition
  • Occupied Palestine and Golan Heights Initiative
  • General Union of Palestinian Women
  • Union of Palestinian Farmers
  • Grassroots Palestinian Anti-Apartheid Wall Campaign (STW)
  • Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel (PACBI)
  • National Committee to Commemorate the Nakba
  • Civic Coalition for the Defense of Palestinian Rights in Jerusalem (CCDPRJ)

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Bono Buds with Helms

Yet another disgusting display by Bono:

... Bono called Helms a "good friend" and took him out to dinner and brought the Senator and his staff to a U2 concert as his special guests. Bono the anti-poverty crusader dismissed as "cynics" anyone who didn't see the value in a rock star working with Helms, who did as much as any other single person to increase the world's growing gap between rich and poor. Maybe that's why Bono, who legally avoids paying taxes to help the Irish poor by putting his money in a Dutch tax shelter, liked Helms so much.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Rate of Exploitation: Gooooing Up!

Google has announced they are nearly doubling the cost of their employee childcare program - from $33,000 to $57,000 a year. Responding to the flood of employee complaints over the rate hike (the reporter describes some parents weeping openly), Google co-founder Sergey Brin said he had no sympathy at all for the parents, and was tired of his employees feeling so entitled. Brin holds 13.6 billion dollars in shares of Google, and has a net worth of 18 billion (meaning with his shares he could pay for child care for 230,000 employees). This hike in rates amounts to a massive spike in the rate of exploitation for Google employees, who have effectively just had a thirty thousand dollar wage cut.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Death of a Bigot

"His opposition to Communism defined his foreign policy views. He took a dim view of many arms control treaties, opposed Fidel Castro at every turn, and supported the contras in Nicaragua as well as the right-wing government of El Salvador. He opposed the Panama Canal treaties that President Jimmy Carter pushed through a reluctant Senate in 1977."

"I'm not going to put a lesbian in a position like that," he said in a newspaper interview at the time. "If you want to call me a bigot, fine."

Alright Jesse, your wish is granted.

A despicable 4th of July gift

Not that the 4th is a typical gift giving holiday, but the Pentagon decided to take the initiative.
The US Government to the troops: Happy Independence Day, your tours are extended!

I think there's a special level in hell for those who do things like this.

What to the slave is the Fourth of July?

But, such is not the state of the case. I say it with a sad sense of the disparity between us. I am not included within the pale of this glorious anniversary! Your high independence only reveals the immeasurable distance between us. The blessings in which you, this day, rejoice, are not enjoyed in common. The rich inheritance of justice, liberty, prosperity and independence, bequeathed by your fathers, is shared by you, not by me. The sunlight that brought life and healing to you, has brought stripes and death to me. This Fourth [of] July is yours, not mine. You may rejoice, I must mourn. To drag a man in fetters into the grand illuminated temple of liberty, and call upon him to join you in joyous anthems, were inhuman mockery and sacrilegious irony. Do you mean, citizens, to mock me, by asking me to speak to-day? If so, there is a parallel to your conduct. And let me warn you that it is dangerous to copy the example of a nation whose crimes, lowering up to heaven, were thrown down by the breath of the Almighty, burying that nation in irrecoverable ruin! I can to-day take up the plaintive lament of a peeled and woe-smitten people!...
Fellow-citizens; above your national, tumultuous joy, I hear the mournful wail of millions! whose chains, heavy and grievous yesterday, are, to-day, rendered more intolerable by the jubilee shouts that reach them. If I do forget, if I do not faithfully remember those bleeding children of sorrow this day, "may my right hand forget her cunning, and may my tongue cleave to the roof of my mouth!" To forget them, to pass lightly over their wrongs, and to chime in with the popular theme, would be treason most scandalous and shocking, and would make me a reproach before God and the world. My subject, then fellow-citizens, is AMERICAN SLAVERY. I shall see, this day, and its popular characteristics, from the slave’s point of view. Standing, there, identified with the American bondman, making his wrongs mine, I do not hesitate to declare, with all my soul, that the character and conduct of this nation never looked blacker to me than on this 4th of July! Whether we turn to the declarations of the past, or to the professions of the present, the conduct of the nation seems equally hideous and revolting. America is false to the past, false to the present, and solemnly binds herself to be false to the future. Standing with God and the crushed and bleeding slave on this occasion, I will, in the name of humanity which is outraged, in the name of liberty which is fettered, in the name of the constitution and the Bible, which are disregarded and trampled upon, dare to call in question and to denounce, with all the emphasis I can command, everything that serves to perpetuate slavery-the great sin and shame of America! "I will not equivocate; I will not excuse;" I will use the severest language I can command; and yet not one word shall escape me that any man, whose judgment is not blinded by prejudice, or who is not at heart a slaveholder, shall not confess to be right and just....
Allow me to say, in conclusion, notwithstanding the dark picture I have this day presented of the state of the nation, I do not despair of this country. There are forces in operation, which must inevitably work The downfall of slavery. "The arm of the Lord is not shortened," and the doom of slavery is certain. I, therefore, leave off where I began, with hope. While drawing encouragement from the Declaration of Independence, the great principles it contains, and the genius of American Institutions, my spirit is also cheered by the obvious tendencies of the age. Nations do not now stand in the same relation to each other that they did ages ago. No nation can now shut itself up from the surrounding world, and trot round in the same old path of its fathers without interference. The time was when such could be done. Long established customs of hurtful character could formerly fence themselves in, and do their evil work with social impunity. Knowledge was then confined and enjoyed by the privileged few, and the multitude walked on in mental darkness. But a change has now come over the affairs of mankind. Walled cities and empires have become unfashionable. The arm of commerce has borne away the gates of the strong city. Intelligence is penetrating the darkest corners of the globe. It makes its pathway over and under the sea, as well as on the earth. Wind, steam, and lightning are its chartered agents. Oceans no longer divide, but link nations together. From Boston to London is now a holiday excursion. Space is comparatively annihilated. Thoughts expressed on one side of the Atlantic are, distinctly heard on the other. The far off and almost fabulous Pacific rolls in grandeur at our feet. The Celestial Empire, the mystery of ages, is being solved. The fiat of the Almighty, "Let there be Light," has not yet spent its force. No abuse, no outrage whether in taste, sport or avarice, can now hide itself from the all-pervading light. The iron shoe, and crippled foot of China must be seen, in contrast with nature. Africa must rise and put on her yet unwoven garment.


One of the most inspiring and powerful speeches in US history.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Eight People of Color Killed by Chicago Police in Two Weeks

From Socialist Worker. As one Chicago resident said, referring to the CPD, "There are serial killers loose on the streets of Chicago."

Bankrupting Black America

The Nation is carrying an absolutely brilliant article by Kai Wright on how the mortgage crisis (it seems like we have a lot of crises these days, doesn't it?) is affecting Black America. It's a painful article in many ways, detailing the tremendous transfer of wealth taking place from the Black community to various banks and investors (estimated by United for a Fair Economy to be between 164 and 213 billion dollars). What I appreciated most about the article was his utter demolition of the myth of the "predatory borrower" bandied about by Michelle Malkin and other running dogs of Wall Street. Wright shows that:

-More than half of all subprime loans were finances of existing home loans.

-More than half of all refinance loans to African Americans were subprime.

-Among low-income Black borrowers, 62% of loans were subprime, more than double the rate for low-income white borrowers.

Thus the mortgage crisis doesn't stem from the efforts of the greedy poor to live beyond their means in a million dollar mansion they knew they couldn't afford, but from people who needed a little extra cash to get by and were told their house would be a safe investment. Wright details how one family, struggling to put a daughter through college, was cold-called by a mortgage agent who offered to refinance at a much lower rate. This is predatory lending, red in tooth and claw.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Intervention in Zimbabwe: Humanitarian and Otherwise

Taking a cue from Lenin, I've decided to throw in my two cents on the subject of "interventions," specifically as the subject applies to Zimbabwe and that country's current crisis. Calls for humanitarian intervention by the west in Zimbabwe have, predictably, been multiplying like drosophila on ecstasy. Sir Ronald Sanders of the BBC, for example, argues that while the Bush administration has "made the world understandably wary of intervention," the international community should intervene "when any government turns upon its populace to maintain itself in power." Sanders is particularly representative of the current strain of interventionism on the market today, which prides itself on its criticism of (some) US imperialism. "Out of Iraq and into Darfur" was once the rallying cry of this crowd (before they got sued for artificially inflating the deaths in the Sudan to make their case.) Noticeably lacking from Sir Sanders' critique of US imperialism is any mention of the wonderfully multilateral intervention in Afghanistan, which has turned that country into such a bloodbath that not even the New York Times can now refer to it as "the good war."

Sanders and his ilk act as if the "international community" is currently engaging the Zimbabwean crisis with nothing but harsh-sounding phrases. The interventionists are quick to lament the role of sovereignty in international law, which supposedly prevents the UN and other groups from stepping in and solving problems like Zimbabwe's. Unfortunately, imperial powers have never respected the sovereignty of weaker states, and, in Zimbabwe, are part of the problem.

Take Sanders' own Great Britain, for example. As James Fiorentino points out in Socialist Worker, British banks have been investing heavily in Zimbabwe, extending credit to members of Mugabe's inner circle. Additionally, the British mining company Rio Tinto has been heavily involved in the diamond industry in Zimbabwe. Far from asking his government to intervene, Sanders should demand that his countrymen get the hell out.

The United States, unsurprisingly, has even dirtier hands. The Zimbabwe Democracy and Economic Recovery Act of 2001 has worked to strangle the country's economy, reducing average aid per HIV infected person to $10, from a regional average of $100. To fill the gap left by this evacuation of state aid, NGOs (often from the United States) have filled the void, in the process gaining an undue hegemony in Zimbabwean politics (a consequence I'll return to later.) Leo Zeilig, in a brilliant article in International Socialism, has drawn attention to the impact NGO's have had on the opposition party, the MDC.

Other, smaller imperial powers have also gotten involved. Amongst the coverage in the bourgeois press, South Africa's Thabo Mbeki has come under substantial criticism for the life raft he has thrown the ZANU-PF. Less attention has been paid to South Africa's economic role in Zimbabwe, which includes SA mining heavyweight Impala's substantial platinum operations, as well as Anglo American's newly announced $400 million dollar project. While these companies wish for a more stable investment climate, they fear any substantial agitation will bring about the nationalization of their investments. China has also been a major player in Zimbabwe, recently shipping over a million rounds of ammunition to the Mugabe regime. Far being neglected by the West, Zimbabwe is, in Zeilig's words, "a hive for regional and international capital."

These interventions by the international community in Zimbabwe demonstrate the complete lack of humanitarian motives. Indeed, there is simply no reason to believe that a Zimbabwean government backed by the larger powers would be any more progressive than Mugabe's. As Stephen Zunes demonstrates, the United States is only too happy to back African dictators with abysmal human rights records in "Swaziland, Congo, Cameroun, Togo, Chad, Cote d’Ivoire, Rwanda, Gabon, Egypt, and Tunisia." Zunes draws particular attention to the US support for Teodoro Obiang Nguema Mbasogo, dictator of Equatorial Guinea. Obiang has been in power longer than Mugabe (29 years), maintaining himself through elections which even the State Department describes as "marred by extensive fraud and intimidation." Equatorial Guinea has a despicable human rights record. Members of the minority Bubi ethnic group are persecuted, and the political opposition is subject to wholesale terror. Most Guineans live on less than two dollars a day, and half of all children under five are malnourished. Obiang, meanwhile, has assets over $1 billion and two houses in Maryland. Given that Obiang has allowed US oil corporations, in the IMF's words, “by far the most generous tax and profit-sharing provisions in the region," Condoleeza Rice predicted that “this relationship will continue to grow in friendship and cooperation." Washington would be only too happy to have an Obiang style leader arise in Zimbabwe.

None of this, however, should be taken to suggest that Zimbabwe's problems are wholly external in making. The ZANU-PF has pursued a strategy aptly described by Zeilig as a "schizophrenic mix of state capitalism and neoliberalism." As the government has rushed to cut subsidies and privative sectors of the economy, it has also embarked on a plan of land seizure from white landowners which has served primarily to enrich an African capitalist class, as well has making noises about nationalization of foreign companies. Such a strategy has done nothing to bring economic advancement to ordinary Zimbabweans, undermining the regime's popular support and forcing Mugabe to rely more and more on authoritarian violence to maintain his rule.

The opposition sparked by economic depredation and political violence has its own problems. The opposition MDC, while arising out of a massive working class resistance in 1996-98, has today become, in the words of one of its own MPs, "“really fat and thick…it is almost a party of the rich." As Western NGOs have rushed to embrace the opposition, the MDC found itself with access to a massive inflow of funds that effectively welded the organization structurally and ideologically to the agenda of the NGOs, which is basically apolitical developmentalism. Today, the MDC is advised by both the free-market CATO institute and the International Republican Institute.

The way forward for Zimbabwe isn't with the NGOs, but rather with the events that inspired the formation of MDC. Described by Zielig as Zimbabwe's intifada, the uprising of everyone from housewives to civil servants was in reaction to the structural adjustments embraced by the ZANU-PF in the nineties. Out of this, the Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions founded the Movement for Democratic Change in 1999. Though bloated with bureaucracy and Western funds today, the MDC still carries the hopes of ordinary Zimbabweans who remember the uprising of ten years ago.

We've seen a repeat of this working class opposition to Mugabe on a smaller scale recently with the Chinese arms I referred to earlier. In April, when the ship carrying the weapons docked in South Africa, the South African trade unions refused to unload the arms, forcing the vessel to attempt to unload in Mozambique and Namibia, where it met similar fates. In Angola, dockworkers maintained watch to prevent anyone from attempting to unload the arms. This kind of working class solidarity is the key to bringing relief to Zimbabwe. The duty of those of us in oppressor countries like the United States and Great Britain is not to hold up our bleeding hearts for the suffering Africans, but to stand in solidarity with actions like these while pressuring our own governments to keep their bloody hands off.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

New Comments Policy


"Indeed, the sermons which… the Mensheviks and Socialist Revolutionaries preach express their true nature: "The revolution has gone too far. What you are saying now we have been saying all the time, permit us to say it again." But we say in reply: "Permit us to put you before a firing squad for saying that. Either you refrain from expressing your views, or, if you insist on expressing your political views publicly in the present circumstances, when our position is far more difficult than it was when the whiteguards were directly attacking us, then you will have only yourselves to blame if we treat you as the worst and most pernicious whiteguard elements." - Lenin, "Political Report of the Central Committee of the R.C.R (B.), 27 March [1922]

Maryland Corrections Officers Allow Lynching of Inmate

On Sunday, 19-year-old Ronnie White was strangled to death in his solitary cell in a Maryland County Prison. The County Chief Executive declared that the death was a case of vigilante justice. The only people with access to his cell were corrections officers who must have either killed White themselves or allowed someone in to murder him. Despite the Executives report, no officer has been suspended or charged though the FBI has become involved.

White was taken into custody last week (and put into solitary confinement!) in connection with a hit and run that killed a police officer. However, White had not been charged nor even been taken to court. I guess things have changed since the Jim Crow era: instead of allowing mobs to take inmates out of their cells to murder them, now the cops just leave the door unlocked. This is another disgusting example of the brutal, racist nature of the criminal justice system where corrections officers and cops are above the law.

*Update: Phil Gaspers on "The toll of the Racist Injustice System" which includes a discussion of how Blacks are much more likely to be held before being charged than whites, a key component of Ronnie White's murder.