Political Prisoner Jaan Laaman asked that this Statement on the Death of Richard Williams be passed along, so please feel free to forward this…
It is with great sorrow and loss that I need to let people know of the death of my dear comrade, long held political prisoner Richard Williams. Richard's liver failed and he passed on Dec. 7th, 2005, in a federal prison in North Carolina.
Richard Williams, who turned 58 only last month, was a life long anti-imperialist and socialist, one of the Ohio 7 who had been in captivity since 1984. Richard was a peace and justice activist, a revolutionary and a freedom fighter. He was the people's soldier, a friend and an ally of the poor and oppressed, of the working class around the world.
As a young man Richard was inspired by the life and words of Che Guevara, and in his own life he became a true example of proletarian internationalism.
Everyone is invited to post their remembrances and condolences about Richard Williams on 4strugglemag's discussion board - www.4strugglemag.org. The next issue, No. 6 out in February, will feature material on Richard and his life.
Ohio 7 anti-imperialist political prisoner
Dec. 11, 2005
Friday, December 30, 2005
Political Prisoner Jaan Laaman asked that this Statement on the Death of Richard Williams be passed along, so please feel free to forward this…
Sunday, December 25, 2005
I have not had a lot of time to post lately, but i would like to recommend you all check out some of the recent posts about New Orleans and Hurricane Katrina at the Hysterial Blackness blog – FIND THE SUBTEXT(s): "Immigrants find opportunity in ruined New Orleans" and "The Subject impossible to Rape".
Categories: disasters, other-blogs, racism, sexism, united-states, violence-against-women
at 11:45 AM
Friday, December 23, 2005
“I was raped by metro security!”
That is the first line on the piece of paper i saw posted on the inside of a metro carriage two days ago, on my way home from Christmas shopping. In fact, as i looked around, i saw that whomever had posted it had put up a half-dozen such posters in that carriage alone. (Seeing as there were so many, i took one off the wall which i scanned - see above.)
And as the metro continued on its way, i saw similar posters had been taped up in some of the stations we passed through…
The complete poster (spelling mistakes intact) reads as follows:
I WAS RAPED BY THE METRO SECURITY!
I was sexually assaulted several times by the metro police during the late 80’s and 90’s at the Berri QUAM Metro Station!
They covered it up!
I was under the age of 18.
They lied in court to throw me in jail.
They said in was a raciest in court so the prisoners would attack me!
They did it to me so many times that nobody would believe me!
Still there is no justice!
Be warned the Metro Security is corrupt & they are still working!
What to make of this?
I have seen the metro police beat a guy – with their billy clubs – so viciously that a crowd formed around them, shouting/pleading for them to stop. I have seen them drag a Black teenager out into the snow for having shouted “Jah Live!” to some friends on Christmas Eve - according to the guards, his behaviour indicated that he was on drugs! (In each of these cases they then called the “real police” who came and arrested the victim.) I have seen them trying to stare down teenagers who looked the “wrong way.” And I have seen them cruising young women – sometimes quite aggressively.
Suffice to say that i was not surprised when back in 2002 one of the guys arrested in relation to a child prostitution ring in Montreal turned out to be a metro security guard.
In fact, i believe the only reason that people have not been dying at their hands is that they don’t have guns. (This situation may change as many security guards are now to be recycled into police, who are going to be patrolling the metros with guns...)
So the allegation being made by our anonymous posterer – that metro security raped him or her repeatedly – certainly falls within the realm of possibility, in my opinion.
What do you think?
Categories: metro, montreal, police, violence-against-women
at 11:21 AM
Solidarity Statement of Jericho Movement for Recognition and Amnesty for U.S. Held Political Prisoners
The following solidarity statement from the Jericho Movement popped in my Inbox a couple of days ago, and i thought it was worth posting here:
Solidarity Statement of Jericho Movement for Recognition and Amnesty for U.S. Held Political Prisoners
4th International Symposium Against Isolation,
Paris, France, December 16-19, 2005
My name is Efia Nwangaza, I, along with Herman Ferguson, a former political prisoner and exile, chair the Jericho amnesty movement for recognition and freedom of U.S. held political prisoners, prisoners of war, and exiles. I have been a revolutionary and human rights advocate for more than 45 years; first as a young Christian missionary, then as a student organizer with the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee (SNCC) in the southern U.S. civil rights movement, later with Amnesty International (AI-USA) and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement for Self-Determination, and now as a practicing attorney. The Jericho Movement, founded in 1998, is the official national political prisoner organized voice and representative of U.S. political prisoners, prisoners of war, and exiles.
We thank the organizers of the Fourth International Symposium Against Isolation for their invitation and this opportunity to tell the world about the more than one hundred political prisoners held in U.S. prisons since the 1970s. The United States has held these prisoners longer than the 27 years that apartheid South Africa held Nelson Mandela, for the very same reasons South Africa held Mandela. The U.S. government has held some of our political prisoners up to 35 and 40 years, Marshall Eddie Conway and Ruchell Magee, respectively.
Most U.S. political prisoners, prisoners of war, and exiles are the survivors of the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) unlawful counter-intelligence program (COINTELPRO); today’s “war on terrorism,” excused and codified in the repressive so-called “USA Patriot Act.” COINTELPRO, like its predecessors, was designed to contain, control, criminalize and crush activists in the U.S. civil and human rights/liberation struggles of Africans born in the United States (Blacks, African Americans), Latinos, Chicanos, Puerto Ricans, anti-imperialists and Native Americans.
However, these stalwarts of the 60s and 70s not only fought for freedom at home and provided support for the masses of people; but, in solidarity with the peoples of the world, they said “Hell No!” to the U.S. war on Vietnam - the Iraq, Afghanistan, Palestine, and Haiti wars and occupations of their day. We bring their greetings and the greetings of the U.S. celebrants of the December 3rd, 2005 International Day of Solidarity with Political Prisoners and Prisoners of War; called for by former Philippine political prisoner, Donato Continente, to promote a united worldwide amnesty approach. We hope a single world day of solidarity can soon be broadly agreed upon and universally celebrated.
In 2003, the American Friends Service Committee’s Criminal Justice Programs’ Prison Watch Project’s briefing paper entitled, “The Prison Inside the Prison: Control Units, Supermax Prisons, and Devices of Torture,” noted that the first U.S. uses of isolation and sensory deprivation were in the 1960s. It was a behavior modification technique against prisoners involved in the prisoner’s rights movement, a byproduct of the 1960s U.S. civil and human rights movement. The prisoners were “Islamic militants, jailhouse lawyers, ‘ethnic gangs,’ and political activists.”
In the 1970s the struggle for human rights intensified, both on the streets and inside the prisons. COINTELPRO, the FBI’s unlawful attack on U.S. civil/human rights and independence movements, sent Black Panthers, Black Liberation Army, American Indian Movement, Puerto Rican Independentistas, and North American anti-imperialists into open hostilities with the U.S. government and into the underground. The rise and arrest of Black Party members and other such formations increased the politicization and agitation by prisoners. The brilliant and charismatic revolutionary prison educator and organizer, George Jackson, was murdered in a California Control Unit (Adjustment Center) following an unsuccessful heroic attempt to liberate him by his younger brother, Jonathan Jackson. Men of all races rebelled against inhumane treatment at New York’s Attica State Prison and were slaughtered with helicopter gunfire and swat teams. In 1978, U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Andrew Young, acknowledged the existence of U.S. political prisoners at the UN.
The United States is the world’s first country to operate entire prisons on a permanent isolation and lock down scheme. It has been cited by the UN Human Rights Commission for violations of the Convention Against Torture and the UN Standard Minimums for the Treatment of Prisoners; long before Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo.
In 1972, at the Marion (Illinois) Federal Penitentiary, the U.S. government established one of its first control units. It was followed by others in the states of New Jersey and Massachusetts. By 1985, there were about six, forty-five by 1997, and now, in every state of the United States of America, there are 2 or more sensory deprivation and isolation prisons or sections of prisons.
In 1988, the U.S. Bureau of Prisons was court ordered to remove Silvia Baraldini, Susan Rosenberg, and Alejandrina Torres from a subterranean sensory deprivation isolation unit in the basement of the Lexington (Kentucky) Federal Prison; see the documentary, “Through the Wire.” The court acknowledged that their internment was political. Their case highlighted routine sexual abuse and medical neglect in U.S. prisons as well as the onset of isolation and sensory deprivation on women.
According to Human Rights Watch, by 2002 more than 20,000 prisoners, over 2% of the United States’ 2.2 million prison population, are held in long term isolation; political and non-political, adults and children alike. Twenty-three hours a day, with one shower per week, they are held in sound proof or white noise cells about the size of a parking space for a car. With privatization, for-profit prisons, a person may NEVER leave her/his cell, everything, including delivery of meals, is controlled by a single guard in a central booth flipping switches. The only human contact the internee may have is removal or return to the cage if s/he fails to comply with orders.
Today, despite the known psychological and physical destruction caused by extended isolation and sensory deprivation, political exile Assata Shakur’s co-defendant, Sundiata Acoli, a mathematician, painter, and former Black Panther has been held by the State of New Jersey, and jailhouse lawyer and prisoner of conscience, Ruchell Magee, by the State of California, in isolation and sensory deprivation for 30 years. Former Black Panther Russell Shoatz, repeatedly denied proper and timely medical care, is 20 years in the State of Pennsylvania’s supermax prison, along with famed journalist Mumia Abu Jamal on its death row.
While these men have survived due to strong personal commitment and outside support, the mentally ill, retarded, learning disabled and illiterate who largely populate U.S. prisons, and often put in isolation for punishment, have not fared so well. They succumb to complete mental and physical break downs.
Others, also suffering from lack of adequate community, educational or lawful employment opportunities, may be labeled a “gang” member, harassed on the streets and isolated in “security threat units” once incarcerated. While in isolation they are subject to humiliating body cavity searches by guards of the opposite sex, forced to wear demeaning garments, physically assaulted by guards with fire hoses, bound in restraint belts, chairs or beds for long periods of time in painful positions, shocked with cattle prods now called taser guns and stun belts of 50,000 electrical volts, sprayed in the face, eyes, mouth with pepper spray or tear gas, smothered in urine soaked pillowcases on their heads, forced baths causing 3rd degree burns over the body. People of color are more likely to receive this kind of treatment than white prisoners.
Now, like the 1960s and 70s, George Bush’s Attorney General, Alberto Gonzales, local and national law enforcement, and the Fraternal Order of Police have joined forces to set upon us and to hunt down old soldiers missed in the earlier battle; framing and sentencing to Life without possibility of parole of Imam Jamil Al-Amin (fka H. Rap Brown) and jailing Kamau Sadiki, the grand jury witch hunts and fishing expeditions that hounded Sister Janet Cyrils to her grave and recently jailed former Black Panthers Harold Taylor, Hank Jones, Richard Brown and Ray Boudreaux. Others now in the system, such as Tom Manning and Oscar Lopez Rivera, are shuttled to far off super max sensory deprivation prisons in the middle of the night. Medical neglect is used as a weapon; as in the cases of Russell Maroon Shoatz’ prostate cancer tests, Robert Seth Hayes’ diabetic black outs, and Leonard Peliter’s ongoing medical problems. Mandatory parole is denied to exemplary prisoners, such as Veronza Bowers, Jr.. Lawyers who serve the people are criminalized, such as Lynn Stewart, Chokwe Lumumba. The $1 million bounty on the head of Assata Shakur (fka Joanne Chesmard) is designed to reduce us all to snitches.
Still others are being held on excessive sentences and parole denial: Jalil Muntaquin, architect of the 1998 march on Washington, African AIDS Orphans School Supply Project, and felony re-enfranchisement litigation. Dr. Mutulu Shakur, Black Liberation Army healthcare activist pioneered the use of acupuncture in drug rehabilitation, environmentalists Debbie Sims Africa and other MOVE members who survived Philadelphia's relentless onslaughts and its 1985 neighborhood bombing massacre. Mathematician Sundiata Acoli, women's rights activist Marilyn Buck. We moan the martyred Richards Williams, Filiberto Ojeda Rios, Albert "Nuh" Washington, and Merle Austin Africa. We pine for the companionship of exiled Assata Shakur, Nehanda Abiodun and others. It is our shame that we have people who invested their youth and dedicated their lives to our communities, who are now growing old, dying in prison and far away from friends and families.
The Jericho Movement demands the immediate recognition, amnesty, and release of all political prisoners and prisoners of war locked up in or exiled from the United States of America. It is committed to gaining full political recognition, legal amnesty and social freedom for political prisoners despite the United States government’s continued denial of their existence and their proper status by criminalization. Each political prisoner was incarcerated because of his/her political beliefs and work to eliminate indecent housing, lack of adequate medical care and nutrition, to ensure quality education, to stop police brutality and to stop the murder of people organizing for independence and liberation. Each is entitled to our best possible efforts to decriminalize and rehumanized them in the minds of the people and to build the movement to protect and bring them home now!
EFIA NWANGAZA, NATIONAL CO-CHAIR
The Jericho Movement for Recognition and Freedom of U.S. Political Prisoners
FSD 10193 Greenville, SC 29603 USA
National Jericho Movement
P.O. Box 340084
Jamaica, NY 11434
Categories: prison, repression, revolution, united-states
at 10:20 AM
Robert Seth Hayes is a Black Panther Party/Black Liberation Army prisoner of war, who has been held behind bars for more than a quarter century. The following is a message he has written about who he is and where he’s at.
(For more information about Seth you can check out the Robert “Seth” Hayes page on Kersplebedeb and also on Sumoud.)
Statement from Robert Seth Hayes
Revolutionary greetings, comrades, loved ones and supporters of freedom worldwide. I am Robert Seth Hayes, an African-American freedom fighter. An incarcerated political prisoner and a prisoner of war for over 32 years.
My career as a freedom fighter began with my moral upbringing. This came from diligent elders who taught by example and both guided and shaped my reasoning as I grew. As a result of this I am the reasoning person before you who is both a strong advocate for freedom and a lover of the environment.
My education blossomed through the Vietnam war and the politics unleashed from it. As a foot soldier in the United States Army, I returned home with complex understandings. I had served honorably in Vietnam, yet I felt the war was wrong. I participated in the war, yet now I condemned it. What caused these feelings of rejection at such a stage in my life? Like so many others, I found myself struggling with past traditions and indoctrination. I was determined to gain answers.
I started by talking with others known to me since childhood. Family and friends were helpful, but only to a small degree. Everyone was genuinely glad I'd returned home safe but felt I needed only to merge back into mainstream society to regain wholeness. I often heard the comment "you could be a police officer with your military training." However, what they fail to reason out was that they were telling me, "you could be a police officer having been trained to kill so well." An offer I flatly refused as inhumane and inoperable in my thinking.
In my travels, I came upon members of the Black Panther Party. Here was a group of men and women, dedicated to community empowerment without apologies to anyone. Dedicated people who shunned oppression. Fighters for change who were determined to scale back aggressive and oppressive tactics seen throughout their lifetimes. Disciplined members who worked towards scientific solutions to major problems. In short, fighters willing to take on corporate ownership of government in order to help empower the working class and help usher in a more humane society. Members who resoundingly rejected the aggressive and murderous class of individuals we saw forming and directing society.
Such was my beginning in the fight for justice, freedom, unity, peace and love within the borders of America.
Since my incarceration, I've learned much and deeply appreciate the many comrades and friends I've come to know over the years. People like Teddy Jah Heath, (now deceased) who was a staunch freedom fighter whose vision, like my own was worth fighting for till life ended. Cardell Blood Sheard, a teacher and worker, who helped reshape political participation and awareness inside many New York State prisons. Where he walked, others learned. Eddie Ellis, Dhoruba Ben Wahid. Sistah Safiya Buhkari, and Sistah Safiya Bandele. Educators, contributors, pathfinders and loved ones. The list is endless and each day others are added to it. If I have earned any recognition over the years, it is because of them and folks like Tom K., Lise K. and Tynan J.. Queen Mother Moore and Winne Mandela. Many are the heroes and heroines that have shifted the balance of knowledge towards the hands of humanity. Susan Tipograph, Meg and Matt of R-N-B.
Onward and onward the names are increased, and suffice it to be said that there remains endless room for others.
I act to tell you of my beginnings and fruitfulness since then. To declare out loud that I am me because of their and my undying support and contributions. In words uttered before: "If in the event I am not soon released, I will maintain a commitment to struggle till liberation or death comes to embrace me. For this struggle, I do commit, to free the land and its inhabitants."
Ours is both an arduous and humane struggle. Let's pull together, and build to win.
A Luta Continua' (The Struggle Continues)....
Robert Seth Hayes BPP/BLA PP/POW 2005
Robert “Seth” Hayes #79A2280
Wende Corr. Facility
P.O. Box 1187
(3622 Wende Road)
Alden, New York
Categories: black-liberation-movement, prison, united-states
at 10:03 AM
Wednesday, December 21, 2005
The Sojourner Truth Organization was one of the more interesting Marxist-Leninist-Maoist organizations in the 1970s. Based mainly in Chicago, it was sympathetic to working class self-organization (as opposed to purely party- or union-initiated organization) and drew heavily on the ideas of West Indian Marxist C.L.R. James, as well as Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci. Although it’s leading members came from the ranks of the CPUSA - and its Stalinist post-1956 split-off, the Provisional Organizing Committee for a M-L Party - STO was one of the main developments from SDS and the Sixties student movement. It was one of those Marxist-Leninist organizations that prioritized combating white skin privilege, and saw breaking white workers from racism as being a key task for North American revolutionaries.
For this reason, i was interested when i received an email letting me know that there is now a new website specifically devoted to archiving STO literature, with the eventual goal of making a complete library of STO works available to everyone on the internet. The site is up at http://www.sojournertruth.net/ - enjoy!
Categories: anti-racism, history, maoism, united-states
at 10:40 AM
Saturday, December 17, 2005
The revolutionary white right in North America is built on two beliefs: that white people form an objective biological group superior to all others, and that as a collectivity whites are in a state of perpetual competition with all others. The Hobbesian vision of nature, in which all are at war with all, is brought to a different level where “races,” not individuals, vie in permanent and total conflict.
These “facts” do not sit well with a third dogma held by the revolutionary white right, namely that whites are an oppressed and exploited group, who have gotten the raw end of the deal and suffer from “reverse discrimination” in almost all aspects of American life. This third tenet, the myth of the oppressed white man, was largely underdeveloped a hundred years ago. The U.S. power structure had a far more ambiguous relationship to groups like the Klan back then, and fascism – which is a radical and revolutionary movement from the right – had yet to enter the game. Whites not only benefited from the structural oppression of Blacks, but they had no compunction in admitting this and insisting that this was the way things were supposed to be.
Things have changed over the past century, and today the myth of the oppressed white man is one of the white right’s favourite sales pitches.
All of which sits uneasily together. After all, if whites are superior to other races, how did these others manage to get the upper hand? If nobody disputes that whites used to be in charge, how did these superior rulers lose their grip? It all kind of goes against that “survival of the fittest” bs they’re so into…
Under neo-colonialism the less powerful whites lose some of the privileges they were previously guaranteed. The class interests of a growing number of white people diverge more and more from those of the ruling class. The revolutionary right, not the left, is the most dynamic force organizing amongst downwardly-mobile whites. As the ruling class and the racist right move further apart, the question as to how the supposedly superior white man could be losing more and more ground becomes more and more pressing.
There is a need for a worthy opponent in the conscious racist’s mental universe. An ideology based on ethnic pedigree needs a racial villain. A white racist ideology, in a white supremacist society where the far right remains oppositional, and has a downwardly mobile class perspective, needs an elusive opponent, one who can wear a disguise and hide their origins.
Enter the Jews.
Reading their literature, it becomes clear that in the eyes of North American fascists, Jews are enemy #1. This did not use to be the case – prior to the 1970s Blacks were the racist right’s chief enemy. With the triumph of neo-colonialism as a world strategy of the ruling class, and the subsequent formal decolonization of two thirds of the planet, anti-Semitism came to the fore. This process saw the rise of clearly oppositional phenomena like the bonehead movement amongst white working class youth and the nazification of the racist right, officially acknowledged by the Klan as the dawn of a new era (the so-called “Fifth Era” of the KKK).
Today the grandchildren of European immigrants who may themselves have been the targets of nativist hostility can be found within the ranks of the revolutionary white right, and are just as eager to identify with the myth of the oppressed white man as their WASP comrades. These whites identify Jews as the bad pseudo-white guys, the ones responsible for the new harsher realities of the neo-colonial age, the loss of yesterday’s white pride and the fall from white grace.
Unlike anti-Catholic, anti-Irish, anti-Slavic and other racisms which used to be trumpeted by the far right, but which have melted away as these groups have been integrated into the mainstream of white America, anti-Semitism within the far right has increased as Jews have become more closely integrated into white America. To use the concept i put forward in my previous post on ideological racism: as popular anti-Semitism has decreased and any structural anti-Semitism has disappeared, ideological anti-Semitism has become more and more important within the ranks of the revolutionary right-wing.
In the world of the revolutionary right, Jews are not just another ethnic group. As spelled out by Hitler in a very different context, Jews are an evil master race to rival the good “Aryan” master race. They are literally the anti-Aryans. Actually gentile bad guys ranging from Mikail Gorbachev to Queen Elizabeth to Bill Gates are “outed” as being Jewish. Even Adolf Hitler has been accused of being Jewish by Christian Identity stalwart Jack Mohr, which of course got Mohr accused of being Jewish by other Identity groups, for as the Christian Separatist Church Society puts it: “it is common knowledge among Christians that the straight nosed Jew is the first one to call the hook nosed Jews the real Jews in an attempt to conceal his own identity.”
In the theories of the revolutionary right, Jews emerge as a plasticene ethnic group. Disquieting evidence that racist theories do not hold water – i.e. a white power structure NOT looking after the white masses, a society where power is in the hands of an absolute minority of super-rich white people who are not oppressed, an absolute majority of white people who remain indifferent or hostile to the revolutionary racists’ agenda – all of this is explained away by use of the Jewish trump card. The white power structure and super-rich are transformed into a Jewish ruling class which is screwing the white masses, using “straight nosed Jews” to lead astray even those who have recognized their enemy in the “hook nosed Jew.”
There have been other equally flexible and reality-defying devices used by the far right. Specifically, theories surrounding the Freemasons, the Illuminati, the Jesuits, and more recently the Reptilian/Draconian extra-terrestrials, also known as the “greys,” all seem ludicrous unless you actually accept the premise that they are true, at which point they become both irrefutable and essential to understanding everything in human history and contemporary events. These conspiracy theories are all shaped by the questions of their day, for like true plasticene they fill whatever mold they are pushed into. Coming out of a specific intellectual tradition, that of European reaction and then fascism, they build upon each other, and their different aspects are interchangeable. This explains how certain members of the Patriot movement could “abandon” anti-Semitism (which previously explained everything) while keeping their entire worldview intact: the name they gave to their plasticene changed from “Jews” to “Illuminati” or “Bilderbergers,” but the plasticene remained the same.
These conspiracy theories answer questions that the rational parts of far right ideology cannot, and as such their logic and details can only be explained by these shortcomings, not by surveying any historical evidence or using normal means of logical deduction. That’s why conspiracy theories, while amusing (who didn’t like the X-Files?), are such an unsound basis for any coherent or rational analysis.
As a plasticene ethnic group, there are no limits to how useful “the Jews” can be to those who adopt anti-Semitism as an ideological device. In a country like Poland, with a Jewish population of only 10,000 in 1990, anti-Semitism remains a key element to far right groups. Even in Japan, with a Jewish population of 600 and no significant historical Jewish presence or history of anti-Semitism, conspiracy theories about Jews have been adopted by many fascist and far right groups. As one J.P. Sartre put it many years ago, “If the Jew did not exit, the Anti-Semite would invent him.”
Given these precedents, it seems likely that anti-Semitism will continue regardless of any historical events unrelated to the far right itself. Even the complete extermination of every last Jew would not staunch this wound, for the belief in “Jewish conspiracies” would still make at least as much sense as current UFO conspiracies, which obviously bear no relationship to the actual population of Martians!
Likewise, it is ludicrous to suggest that any resolution to the problem of Zionist crimes being committed in Palestine would cause the far right to reject anti-Semitism. Like, since when was the far right so opposed to colonialism and the oppression of Arabs? While the fascists may oppose Israel, they do so despite Zionist atrocities, which if anything approximate those which the fascists dream of inflicting on “their own” subject peoples. Indeed, principled left opposition to Israel is based largely on the same values which lead us to reject fascist solutions; and non-Jewish fascist support for Israel – extremely rare as it may be – is predicated on this approval of ethnic slaughter.
I might even go so far as to say that the revolutionary white right pretends to be pro-Palestinian because Jews are overwhelmingly pro-Zionist today, but were Jews to overwhelmingly reject Zionism the radical right would most likely start holding “Solidarity with Israel” marches!
What do you think?
Categories: anti-semitism, fascism, racism
Friday, December 16, 2005
I have been thinking about racism and anti-fascist activism recently. I have about five Word documents going with various thoughts about this, so i hope to be able to make them semi-coherent and post them over the next little while. At the moment, they’re pretty incoherent, but i’m hoping that by posting this first one, and hopefully getting some feedback, the ideas will come together…
“Normal” racisms, in our day and age, have various dimensions. According to most observers they can be separated into two species: personal prejudice and structural oppression.
Personal prejudice is easy enough for everyone to pick up on, as it’s the most open and explicit form the cancer takes. From jokes and stereotypes which degrade, pigeonhole or simply make ludicrous this ethnic group or the other, to angry klansmen vowing to “kill the mud people,” you figure you’ll know it when you see it.
Structural oppression is a more sophisticated thing, and in the age of Colin Powell and Condoleeza Rice it’s granted a degree of camouflage. Not enough to make it invisible, but enough so that if you really don’t want to see it you can pretend you don’t. Plausible deniability. But you really have to have some gall to pretend – i mean, just look at Hurricane Katrina and New Orleans: that was not (for the most part) “personal prejudice,” that was structural racism. That is why lobotomized commentators on CNN had so much trouble with the deal about “Is it because they’re Black or is it because they’re poor?”
Even without Katrina, the economic symptoms of structural racism in the USA are obvious – a Black unemployment rate twice that of whites, a Black poverty rate three times as high, and a median Black family income $17,000 less per year than for the vaunted whites – never mind the fact that this 12% of the U.S. population accounts for 48% of the prison population and 42% of those living on death row.
The mechanisms of structural oppression can exist in the complete absence of personal prejudice, that’s what it means to say that this setup is structural. It is a system of social stratification which reproduces itself from one day to the next, and will continue to do so as long as nobody figures out how to short-circuit it. In fact, for many middle and upper class people, the absence of personal prejudice merely serves of obfuscate structural oppression, to confuse the issue and allow con-artists to look you in the eye and swear they’re not racist, so you have nothing to complain about.
Structural racism and personal prejudice are both serious problems. While the former may have a higher body count, and may in some ways be responsible for the latter, they are both worth struggling against. I say this in disagreement with those of my comrades who feel all energies must be used against structural racism, and in equal disagreement with those right-wing anti-racists who feel the problem begins and ends with personal attitudes.
Finally, I would like to suggest that there is also a third, often-overlooked, strain of racism. Potentially separate from personal feelings, and independent from actual social structure, i refer to this third strain as “ideological racism.”
Unlike structural racism and personal prejudice, ideological racism is not very visible today, though it has deep roots within mainstream science and history, and is often fueled by personal animus.
Ideological racism is most significant in terms of the revolutionary right, for it is their banner. Clearly, the role of racism in groups like the Ku Klux Klan, the Church of the Creator and their ilk, goes far beyond personal prejudice, regardless of what may motivate their freshest recruits. A look at their literature shows that racism serves a similar purpose for these groups as patriarchy does for the women’s movement and class does for classical Marxism. It may, amongst other things, motivate personal prejudice and (to the degree that their political activities bear fruit) it may lead to heightened structural oppression, but its true value for these movements is that it serves as a guide to all of human history, a philosophical blueprint for how people should treat each other, for sexual relations and musical tastes and religious beliefs. It is their principle contradiction, the mental glue that holds their movement together, the theoretical underpinning of their worldview. Thus, debates within these circles as to whether to worship Jesus Christ the Christian or Odin and Thor of Norse mythology, whether to tolerate or eradicate homosexuals, to support global U.S. hegemony or oppose it, and so on ad nauseum, refer to the mythologies of race as the basis for each position.
This is not to say that racial “facts” determine the course of the radical right; the advantage to letting a pseudoscience guide one’s movement is that even more so that the Bible, Talmud or Koran, everything can be interpreted any way you want. I would argue that class interests, a patriarchal agenda and personal prejudice determine the political trajectory of the revolutionary right, but to try and understand this without appreciating the role of racist ideology is to willfully ignore the matrix within which these factors are played out; it would be much like trying to explain the Iraqi Resistance or the Vatican without any reference to Islam or Roman Catholicism.
Ideological racism is almost a litmus test to see who would surpass the limits of what Canadian sociologist Stanley Barrett termed the fringe right, passing into what he called the “radical right.” (i prefer the term “revolutionary right”: these people definitely want a revolution, but i don’t feel they are very radical at all.) Even when it is not essential to a group, it often serves as a reliable marker of how “radical” a revolutionary right-wing organization is.
I point this out because a few years back i was involved in a very acrimonious dispute with some folks, a dispute that led me (slowly) to think this out. At the time, i was told that if a form of racism did not exist as structural racism, then it did not really exist. Structural racism – i.e. the embedding of racist dynamics within the economy or State – was to be the defining characteristic of all racism, and (logically) the limit to our anti-racism.
I would argue that ideological racism carries the seeds of structural racism and personal prejudice. To the degree that the revolutionary right fails, then these seeds won’t grow, and as unrealized potential will amount to nothing. But to the degree that the revolutionary right succeeds, these seeds will grow into new mechanisms of racist oppression. So ideological racism is a threat. Not simply because some fuck-up who has just finished reading propaganda from the National Socialist Movement may be dangerous if you bump into them in a dark alley, but more importantly because it has the potential to create new mechanisms of racist oppression.
To sum up, i would argue that ideological racism also constitutes an aspect of contemporary racism, and as such it underlines the need for an anti-racism without limits.
Categories: anti-fascism, fascism, racism
Thursday, December 15, 2005
Democracy Now! Tuesday, December 13th, 2005
We hear Stanley Tookie Williams in his own words, speaking in one his last interviews, recorded just hours before his death. He appeared on Pacifica Radio station WBAI's Wake Up Call. In the interview, Williams says he would like to be remembered for his redemptive transition: "Redemption. I can say it no better than that. That's how I would like the world to remember me. That's what I would like my legacy to be remembered as." Stanley Tookie Williams, interviewed on Pacifica Radio station WBAI on Monday by Wake-Up Call producer Kat Aaron.
Wakeup Call's full interview with Stanely Tookie Williams
AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to Stanley Tookie Williams in his own words, hours before he was executed, recorded at WBAI, Pacifica Radio, on "Wakeup Call," an interview that he did with WBAI's Kat Aaron, as she asked him for his thoughts as he faced what turned out to be the last day of his life.
STANLEY TOOKIE WILLIAMS: Well, I feel good, and my redemption signs, I got up this morning, I cleansed myself, I prayed, I exercised, and now I'm talking to you -- or prior to talking to you, I was talking to my mother. Of course, she is quite encouraging, spiritual, and so am I. And my lack of fear of this barbaric methodology of death, I rely upon my faith. It has nothing to do with machismo, with manhood, or with some pseudo former gang street code. This is pure faith, and predicated on my redemption. So, therefore, I just stand strong and continue to tell you, your audience and the world that I am innocent and, yes, I have been a wretched person, but I have redeemed myself. And I say to you and all those who can listen and will listen that redemption is tailor-made for the wretched, and that's what I used to be. So, I can answer one more before I go.
KAT AARON: There are millions of people all around the country and, indeed, the world who are standing in support of you and doing everything that they can to ensure that your life is spared. How would you like the world to imagine your legacy, one that we all hope does not begin tomorrow, but begins in many years from today?
STANLEY TOOKIE WILLIAMS: I appreciate you making that statement. But I have been asked the same query not too long ago, and I said just one word, just one word can sum it up [inaudible] in a nutshell, and that is: redemption. I can say it no better than that. That's what I would like the world to remember me. That's how I would like my legacy to be remembered as: a redemptive transition, something that I believe is not exclusive just for the so-called sanctimonious, the elitists. And it doesn't -- is not predicated on color or race or social stratum or one's religious background. It's accessible for everybody. That's the beauty about it. And whether others choose to believe that I have redeemed myself or not, I worry not, because I know and God knows, and you can believe that all of the youths that I continue to help, they know, too. So with that, I am grateful. So I thank you for the opportunity, and I say to you and everyone else, god bless. So take care.
AMY GOODMAN: Stanley Tookie Williams, speaking on WBAI, Pacifica Radio, to Kat Aaron hours before he was executed by the State of California. He died 12:35 a.m. this morning, Pacific time.
Categories: death-penalty, other-blogs, united-states
at 10:44 AM
Monday, December 12, 2005
Quoting from California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger’s decision to deny clemency to Stanley “Tookie” Williams:
The dedication of Williams’ book “Life in Prison” casts significant doubt on his personal redemption. This book was published in 1998, several years after Williams’ claimed redemptive experience. Specifically, the book is dedicated to “Nelson Mandela, Angela Davis, Malcolm X, Assata Shakur, Geronimo Ji Jaga Pratt, Ramona Africa, John Africa, Leonard Peltier, Dhoruba Al-Mujahid, George Jackson, Mumia Abu-Jamal, and the countless other men, women, and youths who have to endure the hellish oppression of living behind bars.” The mix of individuals on this list is curious. Most have violent pasts and some have been convicted of committing heinous murders, including the killing of law enforcement.One can read the Terminator’s complete statement here.
But the inclusion of George Jackson on this list defies reason and is a significant indicator that Williams is not reformed and that he still sees violence and lawlessness as a legitimate means to address societal problems.
Categories: death-penalty, racism, repression, schwarzenegger, united-states
at 5:55 PM
Statewide Rallies and Vigils Against the Scheduled Execution of Stanley Tookie Williams Today and Tonight
Here is a list of vigils, demonstrations and rallies across the United States, to protest the impending murder of Stanley “Tookie” Williams at the hands of the State. From http://www.savetookie.org/
San Francisco/San Quentin, CA
Walk for Abolition
The Walk For Abolition begins at the Palace of Legion of Honor in San Francisco at 7am and ends at the gates of San Quentin Prison (around 6pm).
You can join the whole walk of 25 miles, or you can join it in progress at specified mile markers en route, or you can show your support and talk with us at our designated rest stops. We walk peacefully as a large group over the Golden Gate Bridge and through Marin County to San Quentin. Back up van and cars are available to carry backpacks, ferry people back to designated parking and public transport sites and give respite to walkers that are tired.
For Further information on the walk and to volunteer as back-up drivers, please contact Rev. Lyle Grosjean : (510) 895-8203 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org. On the day of the walk, please call 510-368-3368.
->6:45am, Palace of the Legion of Honor, in Lincoln Park, 100 34th Ave, San Francisco, 94122. Walk leaves promptly at 7 am.
->8:00am, South End of Golden Gate Bridge.
->8:55am, North End of Golden Gate Bridge.
->10:40am, Head of Bay Trail in Sausalito leading to Mill Valley
->11:45am, Miller Avenue and Camino Alto for lunch and demonstration with members of Mill Valley Seniors for Peace.
->2:30pm, St. Sebastian Church, 373 Bon Air Road, Greenbrae. Rest Stop. Drinks provided.
->3:15pm, St. Paul’s Church, 1123 Court Street, San Rafael. Rest Stop. Refreshments provided.
->6:00pm, East Gate of San Quentin Prison
Join The Save Stan "Tookie" Williams Campaign, and The Armstrong
(Romero) Family, in Our Quest for Justice and Ending Official
Brutality, Torture, and Murder in America
Block Party Protest Colorado State Capital 15th and Colfax
Monday December 12, 2005, 3:00pm-6:00pm
Keynote Speakers: Ernesto Vigil (Crusade for Justice), Ward Churchill
(American Indian Movement), and Ramona Africa (MOVE)
For more information, or to volunteer, contact Earl Armstrong (303)
208-9138, Shareef Aleem (720) 436-7606, or Steve Nash (720) 309-1418
Protest for Stan
At 4:30 pm at Federal Plaza (Dearborn and Monroe). Sponsored by the Campaign
to End the Death Penalty, call 773-955-4841 for more information.
4:30 pm-start time
Rally will continue into the early evening
U.S. Justice Department
950 Pennsylvania Ave. NW
( Pennsylvania Ave. Between 9th and 10th Streets)
Metro Center, Federal Triangle or Archives Metro Stations
For info or to endorse this emergency action, call 301-801-7616 or email email@example.com
RALLY AT 6:00 P.M. December 12
WESTWOOD FEDERAL BUILDING
11000 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA 90024 (Corner of Veteran) MARCH AT 8:30 P.M. to ST. Thomas the Apostle CHURCH for a VIGIL (10750 Ohio Avenue,Los Angeles, CA 90024)
VIGIL FROM 11PM to 12:30AM December 12
State Capitol Building
11th & L Streets
Vigil begins at 5:30 PM December 12 in front of St. John's Cathedral
Mariposa & R Streets, in downtown Fresno
Vigil at St. Catherine of Alexandria Catholic Church
Brockton & Arlington
Riverside, CA 92506
Time: 9:00pm, December 12
Circle of Orange
Chapman and Glassell Streets
5 PM – 12:15 AM, December 12
City of Orange
Panel Discussion on the death penalty from the Jewish Perspective
8 - 10 PM , December 12
Congregation Kol Shofar
215 Blackfield Drive
Vigil Against the Death Penalty!
All Saints Church
132 N. Euclid Avenue
8:30-10:00 PM, December 12
St. Matthias Parish
1685 Cordilleras Ave. Redwood City ,CA
Ecumenical Service from 7-9pm, December 12
4 PM, December 12
Vigil in support of Williams' life, on the eve of his scheduled execution.
Bring candles, signs, and warm clothing.
Some participants may choose to carpool to San Quentin.
Corner of El Camino and Embarcadero Streets
Palo Alto, CA
Mission San Luis Rey
4070 Mission Ave.
9:00 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
Participants are invited to bring readings to share with the group.
Silent Candlelight Prayer Vigil
Children's Park - Downtown
Begins at 7pm, December 12
Hall of Justice
330 West Broadway
San Diego, CA 92101
3:45pm - 7pm, December 12
March from the Mission Church in Santa Clara University
Starting at 4:00PM, December 12
End at the Cathedral in Market Street, San Jose
AN EVENING OF PRAYER TO END THE DEATH PENALTY
Holy Family Church
1501 Fremont Ave.
South Pasadena,CA 91030
Begins at: 8:30 pm, December 12
Opening prayer, Presentation of the play "Prison of the Mind" and discussion to follow the play
For more information call the church at 626-799-8908
SILENT CANDLELIGHT VIGIL
Ventura County Government Center
Corner of Telephone Rd. and Victoria Ave.
Monday, December 12, 8:00 p.m. - 12:30 a.m.
Bring candles, warm clothing,
Contacts: DavidHoward@aol.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
Peace In The Hood and The Task Force for Community
Mobilization will sponsor a "Save the Peace Maker" rally and vigil at Cleveland City Hall on December 12 at 5:30 p.m. Contact: RStandiford9@aol.com
Categories: death-penalty, protest, united-states
at 5:46 PM
Schwarzenegger denies clemency for Williams
From the San Francisco Chronicle
by Mark Martin, Chronicle Staff Writer
Monday, December 12, 2005 Sacramento, 12:41 p.m. -- Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger rejected Stanley "Tookie" Williams' plea for clemency Monday, setting the stage for a midnight execution of the four-time murderer who became an anti-gang crusader from Death Row. After mulling over the decision for weeks and meeting with prosecutors and Williams' lawyers last Thursday, Schwarzenegger said in a written statement that "clemency cases are always difficult and this one is no exception. "After studying the evidence, searching the history, listening to the arguments and wrestling with the profound consequences, I could find no justification for granting clemency. The facts do not justify overturning the jury's verdict or the decisions of the courts in this case."
Barring any last minute, longshot legal appeal, Williams will be given a lethal injection at 12:01 a.m. Tuesday. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals also denied a petition for a stay of execution. Convicted in 1981 for four shotgun murders during two robberies, Williams was the co-founder of the Crips street gang. In the last decade, however, Williams has published eight children's books warning against gangs and violence and has attempted to broker truces between gangs from his San Quentin State Prison cell.
Williams' clemency bid has garnered worldwide attention, and the governor's office has reported a major uptick and phone calls and letters on the issue in recent weeks.
Categories: death-penalty, schwarzenegger, united-states
at 5:31 PM
Saturday, December 10, 2005
Political prisoner Richard Williams passed away on Wednesday, December 7th. He had spent over twenty years behind bars for having taken up arms against the U.S. government in the 1980s, as part of the United Freedom Front.
It is a disgrace that any person die in prison… but it is a disgrace particular to our movement that we are so ineffectual that people from within our movement, people who can serve as role models for our movement, people who have risked their lives for the causes that we too profess to believe it… it s a disgrace particular to our movement that we have not been able to do more to support these people.
For more on this i recommend you read Walidah’s blog entry.
Categories: prison, revolution, united-states, unofficial-death-penalty
at 8:48 PM
Brooklyn activist faces life in prison on 16-count arson indictment; Is $1 million in bail enough?
By Jed Brandt
[this forwarded my way by Break the Chains]
BROOKLYN, N.Y. -- Federal marshals arrested six environmental activists in a series of coordinated raids in four states yesterday, Dec. 8, in apparent response to a string of arsons in Oregon and Washington attributed to the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), including simultaneous attacks in 2001 at the University of Washington's Urban Horticulture Center and the Jefferson Poplar Farms in Clatskanie, Oregon.
Daniel McGowan, 31, was arrested in New York City while working at WomensLaw.org, an advocacy organization that provides legal information for victims of domestic violence. He was held overnight, and brought before a judge in the Brooklyn Federal Court to determine whether he would be released on bail pending his arraignment and trial in Eugene, Oregon. The hearing is currently adjourned until Friday, Dec. 9 at 2 pm, while the judge will review a surveillance recording that an arresting detective alleges demonstrates McGowan is a flight risk.
McGowan is better known to the New York media as Jamie Moran, a pen name he used to protect his private life while acting as a rowdy spokesperson for anti-Bush protesters in the lead-up to the 2004 Republican National Convention (RNC). Several stories were written about his good-humored activism in Rolling Stone and the New York Times, as well as The Indypendent. "Jamie," as many New York activists came to know McGowan, was always ready to encourage others to stand up for what they thought was right.
Outspoken with his anti-authoritarian politics, McGowan challenged NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly and the Daily News rumor machine on their claims of a violent "anarchist menace" that was supposed to rain chaos on the city. McGowan's good humor and total rejection of the institutions of government were plain-stated and heartfelt.
Despite all the pre-RNC fear-mongering, the main anarchist contributions to the historic anti-Bush protests were a bike ride, housing out-of-town activists and a day of entirely non-violent protests with 1,800 arrests. Almost all the charges were eventually dismissed as baseless and a civil suit against the city is still pending, but police repression throughout the convention was justified by the blanket of fear that they themselves had spread.
Fast forward to today...
McGowan is under a 16-count indictment related to his alleged involvement in the 2001 Poplar Farms arson, and a separate incident earlier in the same year at the offices of a lumber company. Federal prosecutors are further alleging that he is a member of the Earth Liberation Front (ELF), a decentralized direct-action movement responsible for over $100 million in damages to urban "sprawl" developments and SUV dealerships. The ELF has made the top of the FBI's list of domestic threats. McGowan faces mandatory minimum sentences of 30 years each on two major charges, which, if pressed to trial, threaten a life sentence. Stanislas Meyerhoff, 28, was also charged in the tree farm fire and is being held in Virginia. According to the Dept. of Justice, he also faces life in prison. Additional arrests and raids happened in Prescott, Arizona and Springfield Oregon in related cases. McGowan and Meyerhoff are facing the most severe sentences for non-violent sabotage in United States history.
McGowan totally denies any involvement with arson, and denies membership in the ELF. This reporter has no information about Meyterhoff beyond what has appeared in the media and on the DoJ's website.
One activist familiar with government prosecutions directed at the militant wing of the animal rights movement, present at the Brooklyn Federal Courthouse, noted that prosecutors routinely "throw the book" at defendants during pre-trial motions in order to deny bail to the accused and spread panic among the like-minded, but that the most serious charges often can't be backed up and are dropped once trial proceeds.
In recent months, he has worked to popularize the case of Jeffrey "Free" Luers, an alleged member of the Earth Liberation Front who was sentenced to over 20 years in prison for a fire at an SUV dealership that destroyed several vehicles. It wasn't just environmentalists outraged at the 20 year sentence, and the Luers case is widely seen as a travesty of justice, but McGowan's activism in spreading the word about Luers may have contributed to the government's interest in him.
National Lawyers Guild attorney Martin Stolar is representing the defense in his New York court appearances.
Stolar informed the presiding judge that McGowan's father, a retired police officer, mother and sisters were all willing to put their homes and co-ops up for bail -- worth up to an estimated $1,000,000 -- and that McGowan was confident of an acquittal, the wet-behind-the-ears prosecutor went into the audience benches to consult with a white-haired man who turned out to be the federal prosecutor responsible for Eugene, Ore. After whispering for a few minutes, the prosecutor spoke with a Eugene detective working on the case, who is also deputized as a federal marshal and asserted that the detective had heard "recordings" of the defendant saying he had been "hiding out" in Canada several years back, though not necessarily in relation to any particular event, or from any particular governmental entity. The recording was not a phone tap, but had been made at a location in "northern Manhattan" in 2005. Considering this alleged recording made by an undisclosed source and the severity of the charges, the judge said that she was inclined to deny bail.
Stolar immediately noted that this had not been introduced into the hearing before bail was offered, and that this was hearsay. Following this, the detective took the stand under oath saying that he heard McGowan say he had been "hiding out," or that he "hid" in Canada. During the time he is alleged to have been hiding, there were no charges pending or warrants outstanding against him. For his part, McGowan said that he was on a vacation in Canada and has lived openly in Eugene and New York, as well as taking trips to Canada.
On cross-examination, Stolar asked the detective if the recording was made by a "cooperating witness." The prosecution objected and the judge sustained the objection. The source of the recording remains unknown. The prosecutor said that more information on the recording could not be shared in court because this is an ongoing investigation, with further arrests pending. Stolar noted that this alleged recording could have been of anyone, and insisted that before the judge deny bail, that she should at least hear the recording to verify that the detective had testified truthfully. The detective said that the recording was in his hotel room, and noting the lateness of the day, adjourned the hearing until 2 p.m. tomorrow (Friday, Dec. 9).
The prosecution also insisted that defense council not be allowed to hear the recording, as it would compromise the ongoing investigation of this 5-year old case. Speaking outside the courthouse, Stolar was optimistic that if the recording is inconsistent with the detective's testimony, the chance of bail being granted was "better than what it was." Whether McGowan is released on bail or not, the next venue for arraignment and possible trial will be in Eugene, Oregon.
Aside from two dozen supporters and friends, McGowan's immediate family, girlfriend and co-workers were in attendance. Many were shocked at the severity of the charges, with co-workers saying that he is the "nice guy who cracks everyone up" at the job. McGowan's girlfriend was visibly distraught, having come home to their apartment and finding it torn apart by police and her partner facing life in prison.
Supporters of McGowan gathered at a nearby diner after the hearing to discuss the events.
From the Department of Justice's announcement of the nationally coordinated raids:
"These indictments and arrests were the result of a nine year investigation of numerous arsons in the Northwest and other states. In many of the fires the Animal Liberation Front (ALF) and Earth Liberation Front (ELF) claimed responsibility. Participating in the extensive investigation were the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms & Explosives (ATF), the Eugene Police Department, the Portland Police Bureau, the Oregon State Police, the U.S. Forest Service, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Oregon Department of Justice and the Lane County Sheriff's Office. The investigation is continuing."
Categories: elf, other-blogs, repression, united-states
at 5:32 PM
Amongst my many personal vices is a subscription to Workers Vanguard, publication of the ever-so-highly-caffeinated Spartacist League. Although clearly out of wack with my idea of sanity on some questions, their newspaper is nevertheless one of the more informative and educational publications of the sectarian left, with regular in-depth articles about revolutionary history and political economy around the world.
What follows is a letter dated November 1st that was published in the November 11th issue of their paper that i received at the beginning of December (Canada Post, don’t you love it?), and have been meaning to scan-and-post ever since.
For those of you interested in learning more about New Orleans & Hurricane Katrina, check out my somewhat-dated Hurricane Katrina webpage of resources and articles, and also be sure to take a gander at what some radicals have been doing at what the Common Ground Collective has been up to – Common Ground is a radical disaster relief initiative of the sort that should be studied and copied as the need arises!
I am a New Orleans evacuee recently returned, and a WV [Workers Vanguard – the Spart newspaper] supporter. I greatly appreciated the first WV article on Katrina, the “man-made disaster,” and await resumption of mail or Internet to read more. Here is what I am seeing since my return.
The feds, state and local authorities, having first attempted negligent homicide against the 20 percent of the city population with no car to evacuate in, are now seeking to prevent their return. The racist codewords of the day are “permanently reduced population” and “changed demographic.” You can read it in the bourgeois press and hear it on the street. The powers that be want a smaller, more affluent and whiter town post-Katrini.
The black poor and working class are being told “don’t come back,” by means of closing the public hospitals, public schools, public housing, libraries, parks and keeping them closed. The old jobs are wiped out, and the new jobs are going to out-of-staters. The blackest parts of town are denied utilities or are outright closed off at gun point.
Right now the part of town being repopulated is the strip of land along the Mississippi River, the 20 percent of town that has electricity and commerce. It includes Audubon Park, Tulane, Uptown, the Garden District, Central Business District and the French Quarter. These mostly well-to-do areas were protected from flooding by the old earthen levees dating to the 1700s.
The other 80 percent of the city flooded when the concrete walls of the modern-made canals broke due to faulty design and engineering. This included my neighborhood Gentilly, Mid-City, Lakeview and the overwhelmingly black New Orleans East and Lower 9th Ward. These areas are still without power and are largely uninhabited. Homeowners have begun to go into all but the 9th Ward during daylight hours to haul their belongings to the curb, knock out all the walls, and begin rebuilding their flooded homes.
The Lower 9th Ward is closed off by the National Guard. It is, or was, virtually all poor and black, mostly working poor such as city employees, dock workers, hotel workers. Fats Domino was rescued from the floodwaters there and lost everything in his home.
9th Ward residents were the last to be allowed back in to “Look and Leave.” The first ones in made the horrific discovery of the decomposed remains of 21 elderly loved ones, missed in the house-to-house sweep. After that, access was supervised, and now only 20-minute bus tours of the area are permitted.
The City peremptorily and prematurely condemned Charity Hospital, a huge and solid structure built in the l930s, not out of safety concerns but to eliminate healthcare to the poor and discourage their return. In the process, two medical schools and a Level One Trauma Center are gone. State legislators seek to move Charity out of N.O. Meanwhile Charity and LSU have set up a valiant little Tent City outside the shuttered University Hospital, serving 100 patients a day.
The local and state School Boards have closed the N.O. public schools for the school year, effectively preventing the return of all the families attached to those children. Only union-busting “charter schools” that cater to the well-off are being permitted to open. The state School Board President said they certainly do not plan to re-open the “failing schools,” which were all the rest. By contrast, the harder-hit St. Bernard Parish public schools are opening in November.
All the public housing projects, flooded or not, are closed. HANO, the Housing Authority of N.O., is paying to rent “shuttering devices” at an incredible $55 per month per door and $22 per month per window to keep the residents out.
The City of N.O. has laid off most city employees and closed all the neighborhood parks and libraries indefinitely, except for Algiers on the West Bank.
A quarter of a million jobs disappeared in September, fully 40 percent of the local workforce. Employers have notified the State of additional planned layoffs. Locals are shut out of the massive work of debris collection, demolition and rebuilding. Less than one-half of one percent of the initial contracts went to Louisiana companies: the rest went to Halliburton and those with ties to the Bush Administration. Halliburton and friends brought in an initial workforce from out of state, apparently 99 percent white... and without health insurance. Which I know because they are showing up at the hospital where I work. The sub-subcontractors have since brought in Latino crews which has caused the black Democratic mayor to worry aloud about “being overrun by Mexicans,” and led Democratic State Senator Mary Landrieu to call in the INS to deport undocumented workers from the Belle Chasse Naval Center. In historically under-unionized Louisiana, there has never been a clearer case for the need to unionize and unite workers of all races and nationalities.
There is a massive shortage of housing stock for both laborers and returning residents. Contractors and crews got little cooperation from local authorities and are squatting in massive encampments in City Park and empty lots everywhere. There is to this date not one occupied FEMA trailer in use in all of Orleans Parish.
Cops are enforcing the message that black residents better stay away. A tee-totalling 64-year-old black retired schoolteacher back to check on his 9th Ward home was beaten bloody and senseless and arrested outside his French Quarter hotel by NOPD who then menaced the TV camera man and reporter who recorded the incident. A middle-aged black female friend of mine, also back to check on her home, told me she is leaving the city for good because she cannot enter a store or place of business without being treated like a probable looter.
That was the line from the bourgeois state immediately after the storm. The prostitute bourgeois press duly repeated the lies as fact for four fateful days: namely that there was nobody in New Orleans to save but criminals and looters, and you couldn’t go in there because you’d get shot.
Red Cross trucks and fleets of rescue vehicles were stopped by the feds and barred from entering the city while vulnerable elderly and ill died awaiting rescue, including those in hospitals.
Only after enough movie stars, Wal Mart trucks and TV camera men got in and showed the scenes of poor and elderly, mothers and children begging to be saved did the tide turn.
After all was said and done the “criminal takeover” turned out to be a racist lie, and no one has apologized or retracted it.
The real looters were the cops. NOPD officers stole every last Cadillac and Corvette from a downtown dealership in a widely witnessed example.
New Orleans is a key port city and transportation hub which cannot be abandoned, moved, or reduced to a Disneyland version of the French Quarter. Black people are literally the backbone, guts and heart of New Orleans. People love this city for its Afro-Caribbean-Creole-Latin charm, reflected everywhere: in the architecture, food, music and culture of “laissez les bon temps rouler.” You cannot keep out the black port workers, laborers, musicians, chefs, oil workers, hospital and hospitality industry workers and still have a city.
A bitter joke made the rounds here:
What is Bush’s position on Roe versus Wade? Answer: he doesn’t care how people get out of New Orleans. The hurricane of the century blew down most of this town, revealing the vicious hostility of the ruling class toward the poor, the black and the working class. Truly a socialist revolution is needed to put the working class in power. It’s a matter of life and death.
1 November 2005
Categories: disasters, racism, trotskyism, united-states
at 3:48 PM
Caliban and the Witch
Women the Body and Primitive Accumulation
(Sylvia Federici, Autonomedia 2004)
(for information on Upping the Anti please visit the Autonomy and Solidarity website.)If you are just joining us, you may prefer to start with the First Installment which you can view here.(The second and third parts can be viewed here.)
Please also note that the entire review is now up on the Kersplebedeb website in html and pdf format!
In the final chapter of Caliban and the Witch, Federici makes her most ambitious claim, that the Witch-Hunt was not just a European phenomenon, but also stretched across the Americas as conquistadors and pilgrims sought to break indigenous women’s power here. Relying on research by Irene Silverblatt and Luciano Parinetto, Federici argues that the colonization of the “New” World in many ways mirrored the proletarianization and housewifization that confronted men and women in Europe. Here too, women had the most to lose, often having enjoyed greater status and power here than their counterparts in Europe. Here too, the new colonial economy required a division be engineered between indigenous men and women. Finally, here too the hunting of witches served to “instill terror, destroy collective resistance, silence entire communities, and turn their members against each other.” So by hunting witches the colonists “targeted both the practitioners of the old religion and the instigators of anti-colonial revolt, while attempting to redefine ‘the spheres of activity in which indigenous women could participate.’”
It is here that Federici’s argument becomes less convincing. Silverblatt and Parinetto both seem to limit their studies to the colonization of modern-day Peru and Mexico by Spain – not a wide enough sample to draw any kind of solid conclusions about the experience of the victims of colonialism around the world. Research on colonialism in what is today Eastern Canada reveals that patriarchal divisions were indeed introduced into indigenous society by the fur trade and Christian missionaries, and that this did require the specific subjugation of indigenous women… but witch-hunting was not involved.
One assumes that a worldwide survey would find many other places where witch hunting either played a different role, or else where it has been absent altogether from the colonial experience. This is especially important, for in an off-hand way Federici implies that witch-hunting in modern-day Africa and Brazil is essentially of a kind with the European Witch-Hunt, the result of neo-colonial exploitation – perhaps, but the point is in no way proven.
More problematic, Federici’s analysis of colonialism seems inconsistent and underdeveloped (the chapter is the shortest in the book, only 25 pages). One suspects that this may be related to her ambiguity regarding divisions within the working class. To give just one example of the poles between which she seems torn, at one point we are told that proletarian misery in Europe “only lessened to the degree that the super-exploitation of workers had been exported, through the institutionalization of slavery, at first, and later through the continuing expansion of colonial domination” … and yet later on we are told that “like the Conquest, the slave trade was an epochal misfortune for European workers” because it strengthened the hand of the bourgeoisie.
The end result is that even the most obvious specificities of colonialism (beyond super-exploitation) are glossed over, giving the impression that indigenous peoples are different from the European proletariat only insofar as they may be more or less successful in resisting capitalist rule. Genocide itself is subsumed into the relationship between capital and labour, as when the annihilation of indigenous nations – which is described as a Holocaust – is explained as “work, disease and disciplinary punishments” killing two thirds of the indigenous population. It is a painful fit to try and stuff the extermination of entire peoples into that box.
Noting this, one wonders about the virtual absence of Jews and Moslems from Federici’s account. It has been established that relations between Christendom and these groups were also thoroughly gendered. Pogroms, the crusades, legal codes which proscribed the death penalty for any Christian woman found guilty of miscegenation, the oversexualized Christian stereotypes about Jews, the use of rape in warfare… all of this is mentioned only in passing, if at all. Agreeing with Federici’s observation that primitive accumulation necessitates the accumulation of hierarchies within the proletariat, one is left wondering how the imposition of hierarchies of “race” played out in the European subcontinent.
Taking It From Here
Caliban and the Witch is a fascinating book. With broad strokes, it sketches a picture of the anti-capitalist struggle in Europe which is both informative and inspiring.
A careful reading not only reveals much about “primitive accumulation,” but exposes a structural link to violence against women. It is a book that helps lay the foundation for a movement that will be at the same time anti-colonialist, anti-patriarchal and anti-capitalist. It also brings much needed clarity to the question of the “mind-body split,” a question which seems to have the potential to integrate the struggles of trans-people, the otherly abled, the anti-psych movement and others within an anti-capitalist framework.
In other words, this book should be read and debated by all people who struggle for human liberation.
That said, on the question of colonialism and divisions between different sections of the working class, Federici is at times inconsistent. While it in no way diminishes what is good about Caliban and the Witch, this book should not stand alone. As I have already noted, the larger story told here is not new, and without providing an exhaustive list I would strongly suggest people also check out Maria Mies’ Patriarchy and Accumulation on a World Scale, Butch Lee’s The Military Strategy of Women and Children, and the growing body of literature examining how capitalism either uses or introduces patriarchy to those societies it colonizes. J. Sakai’s Settlers: Mythology of the White Proletariat (which does not deal with gender), and Butch Lee and Red Rover’s Night-Vision: Illuminating War and Class on the Neo-Colonial Terrain (which does deal with gender) are also worth reading for the light they shine on the question of how classes are made and unmade, and the role of parasitism and opportunism (which capitalism tells us to call “ambition”) in this process.
Despite some weaknesses, Caliban and the Witch promises to become a classic, and this is a good thing. By showing how men’s struggles against women have been necessary for developing more advanced forms of exploitation, Federici provides us with the evidence necessary to draw our own conclusions about class and class collaboration. She also gives us a both terrifying and empowering vantage point from which to understand not only our history but also our future.
Throughout the world, countries devastated by neo-colonialism have experienced the growth of men’s movements that aim at rolling back the gains women made during the anti-colonial revolutions (that they are doing this while trumpeting the anti-colonial rhetoric of thirty years ago should not fool us). Like the Witch-Hunt, we are told that this is due to cultural backwardness and surviving feudal traditions, and yet upon looking closer here too we see that what is going on seems without precedent, cut from new cloth, modern and capitalistic. This is the most important place to apply what Federici teaches (if at times despite herself): that the rise of ambitious male classes depends on the intense patriarchal subjugation of “their” women.
It is only by remembering this, by facing the hard truths of our present and our past, that we can move beyond following in the footsteps of this men’s movement or that, and perhaps finally reconstitute a resistance movement that tolerates no hierarchy and accepts no exploitation, demanding at a minimum liberation for all.
41] Irene Silverblat’ Moon, Sun and Witches and Luciano Parinetto’s Streghe e Potere [back to text]
42] Federici p. 220 [back to text]
43] Federici p. 231. The quote is from Silverblatt, p. 174 [back to text]
44] See Devens, Carol Countering Colonization: Native American Women and Great Lakes Missions, 1630-1900 (University of California Press 1992). [back to text]
45] Federici, p. 83. [back to text]
46] Federici, p. 105. [back to text]
47] Federici, pp. 65-66. [back to text]
48] See for instance Pei-Mun Tsang, James and subRosa, Yes Species (SubRosa Books 2005) pp. 49-59. Available for download
on the internet at http://www.refugia.net/yes/yes_06useless.pdf
[back to text]
Categories: autonomous-marxism, book-review, caliban-and-the-witch, colonialism, history, imperialism, feminism, violence-against-women, women
December 3, 2005
I vehemently oppose the killing machine that is called “the death penalty.” It is part and parcel of a more than 200 year historic national desire to perpetrate the killing of Black people - and Black men in particular. I can only hope and pray that Governor Schwarzenegger will extend his thinking about Stanley “Tookie” Williams’ case beyond his political “habitat.”
As we know, Stanley “Tookie” Williams was just 17 years old when he co-founded the notorious gang “the Crips” in 1971. After an early life of crime, he was convicted in a strangely administered 1981 court case for killing four people in a robbery. After his conviction, for a time he furthered his gangster behaviors behind bars. His having been reprimanded to solitary confinement guided him through a spiritual awakening that gave birth to Stanley “Tookie” Williams – the total man. With that, I would say not only the Governor, but all who deliberate his case should focus first on the facts from that 1981 courtroom drama - and then upon the magic Mr. Williams made beyond his strange and questionable conviction.
THE CASE: Apparently, circumstantial evidence along with several witnesses who were facing a mound of felony charges (including fraud, rape, murder and mutilation) were the crux of the prosecution’s case against “Tookie” Williams. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals stated in a September, 2002 ruling that witnesses in Mr. Williams case had soiled backgrounds and “incentives to lie, in order to obtain leniency from the state in either charging or sentencing.”
Unidentifiable fingerprints at the scene were never attributed to Stanley “Tookie” Williams. A bloody boot-print near the victims was never identified. A shotgun shell found at that crime-scene was in fact from a gun purchased by Tookie Williams. But, police found the gun under the bed of a husband and wife who were themselves facing felony insurance fraud charges, and were under investigation for murdering their crime partner.
A primary witness at Williams’ trial, who served in a prison cell next to “Tookie” Williams’ cell, testified he confessed to him in prison. But 20 years after Mr. Williams conviction, it was revealed that a Los Angeles police officer left a copy of the Williams primary police file in that felon’s cell for “overnight study.” In exchange for his testimony he was given a lesser sentence of his own. Surviving family members of the victims in the case have opposed his clemency request, insisting Mr. Williams never apologized for the killing of their loved ones. But, the facts suggest a strong possibility Mr. Williams is as stone-cold not-guilty as he says he is – and would have nothing for which to apologize - outside of his general life of crime for which he has paid dearly and given much.
THE TOTAL MAN: Clear about his charge, and accepting his White-man-ufactured fate, Mr. Williams launched an impassioned intellectual crusade to save as many inner-city youth as he could from crime, gangs, drugs and other self-destructive behaviors. He metamorphosized to author nine (9) children’s books about optioning out of gang mentalities. A Williams book “Life in Prison” was awarded two national honors, including one from the American Library Association. His writings have been used and reused in schools, libraries, correctional facilities and in criminal “justice” systems the world over. He has been the face and voice of anti-gang public service announcements aired across the country – and in 2001 he was nominated for a Nobel Prize.
A group of Nobel Laureates and actors, from Bishop Desmond Tutu, to Danny Glover, Anjelica Huston, Noah Wyle, and former New York governor Mario Cuomo have called upon Governor Schwarzenegger to "affirm the human capacity for personal transformation and reinforce the meaning of hope for young people everywhere." Actor, singer extraordinaire Jamie Fox, rapper man Snoop Dogg and others with skill and utter passion have advocated for clemency for Mr. Williams.
So here we have a gentleman, Stanley “Tookie” Williams who may have been prosecuted by a demon, fingered by people who had compelling reasons to lie, and convicted with evidence that either showed the unlikelihood of his involvement or pointed to the involvement of others. Yet, he has summoned from within a way to both create and inspire the young and the old on an international scale. I would just think in particularly pious conservative circles, Mr. Tookie Williams would present the perfect picture of their dictation of the world – the transformation of our lives in order to live like their interpretation of Jesus.
Their support of Mr. Williams would require them to accommodate real world information and incredibly well deserved second chances. Note, Stanley “Tookie” Williams’ 1981 prosecutor manipulated and removed every Black person on his jury, leaving him with an all-White jury to deliberate his case. Then, in a last ditch effort to send race-coded messaging to these all White jurors, he compared Mr. Williams to a “Bengal tiger in the San Diego zoo,” saying South Central Los Angeles, a predominantly Black community, was equivalent to the natural “habitat” in which Mr. Williams would “behave like a Bengal tiger.”
With that, typically unyielding conservatives and others would also have to reassign their compassions for extinct man-eating sharks, tusk-rich elephants, dying off frogs and abandoned puppies everywhere to save the life of a Nobel Prize-nominated tiger of a peacemaker, author, humanitarian and total man, Stanley “Tookie” Williams.
Terry Howcott is a Master of Social Work, Lecturer, Activist, Thinker, and Writer. She resides in Detroit, MI and can be reached at Terrylynnh@yahoo.com
Categories: death-penalty, other-blogs, prison, racism, united-states
at 10:15 AM