Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Bloglet Subscribers, You Are Now Feedblitz Subscribers!

Well what do you know… i just noticed that my “Bloglet” service hasn’t been sending me daily summaries of my Sketchy Thoughts postings, and when checking i found out that some of my subscribers haven’t been receiving theirs either!

Wasn’t 100% sure why, but then i saw on the Bloglet site this note from May 15th about how the service was to be phased out “over the next weeks”… wish i’d seen that a few months ago…

In any case, looked a little further and saw this link to Feedblitz, so… you guessed it, you Bloglet subscribers are now Feedblitz subscribers!

Those of you who subscribed anonymously to Bloglet: i cannot import your addresses to Feedblitz so you will have to subscribe again. You can do so anonymously.

And all you who never subscribed: if you like this Sketchy Thoughts, i encourage you to do so. You will receive the titles of each post i make sent t your email box daily – no more having to check in to see if i have written anything.

I am adding the subscription box to my blog (see the column t the right) and also right here:

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Further Thoughts on Hezbollah

The following from Matthew Lyons, published a few days ago on Three Way Fight blog.

I have a week overflowing with both work and movies, so it may have to wait a few days for me to read this properly and let you know what i hink... but there's so reason for you all to have to wait. Here is what Lyons has to say:

by Matthew Lyons
[This essay was published on Three Way Fight (, 26 August 26, 2006.]

"Defending my enemy's enemy," my attempt at a nuanced discussion of the recent Israel-Lebanon war, has been aired on several blogs and listservs and has gotten a wide range of comments, pro and con. These responses have challenged me to look at several gaps and weaknesses in the original argument as well as places where I just didn't convey my meaning clearly. I offer these follow-up notes in the spirit of continuing discussion and learning. They're organized around three sets of questions.

(Sources are listed at the end of this essay. For the online discussion of "Defending my enemy's enemy" see, August 3 and August 9, 2006;, August 4 and August 6, 2006; and, August 4 and August 16, 2006.)

1. Given that Hezbollah has been the main force defending the Lebanese people against recent Israeli attacks, is it insensitive and out of touch to criticize Hezbollah's politics now? Does this criticism feed passivity and inaction by reinforcing the common view that neither Israel nor Hezbollah deserves our support?

"Defending my enemy's enemy" argues clearly that U.S. activists have a pressing responsibility to defend Hezbollah and the Lebanese people against Israeli aggression, the vastly greater threat. The essay was intended to counter two oversimplifications -- first, the idea that the war was a simple conflict between Good Guys and Bad Guys and, second, the idea that we should denounce Israel and Hezbollah equally. I regret that the essay doesn't present this second point as clearly and forcefully as the first, but it is there. Treating both sides as equally culpable certainly does lead to passivity, which in practice means passively supporting U.S./Israeli aggression.

At the same time, I don't think it's good organizing strategy to paint Hezbollah only in positive terms. Precisely because criticisms of Hezbollah are already widespread, we need to take a clear stand against the U.S. and Israel as the main aggressors while also addressing Hezbollah's political flaws accurately and without demonization. If we want to mobilize protest and resistance, that's a lot less out of touch than telling people their concerns about Hezbollah are either wrong or unimportant.

I hope it's clear that this is not about trying to "dictate" Hezbollah's politics. None of us is in a position to dictate anything to Hezbollah. It's about trying to understand an important political actor and relate to it in an informed and principled way.

2. Given that three-way fight politics is largely rooted in U.S./Canadian/European antifascist activism, is it a helpful framework for understanding Hezbollah or other examples of political Islam in the Middle East?

The idea that there are significant right-wing forces radically opposed to both the left and global capitalist elites doesn't just come from encounters with neonazis. If the concept of right-wing anti-imperialism has relevance anywhere, it's in the Middle East. The Iranian Revolution was a wake-up call for me because it showed how militant, mass-based hostility to U.S. hegemony could take a right-wing form -- and because so much of the U.S. left failed to understand this. Three-way fight politics is an attempt to go beyond old leftist categories because the old categories don't adequately describe political reality today -- including political Islam.

That said, there's plenty of room for applying new categories badly, too. "Defending my enemy's enemy" is pretty vague on exactly how the concept of a "revolutionary right" relates to Islamic political movements, so several caveats are in order. First, as Max argues on his blog "Ideas for Action," political Islam has to be analyzed in the context of Mideast history and politics, not shoe-horned into a North American or Euro-fascist mold. Second, political Islam includes many different kinds of movements, organizations, and ideologies, which relate to the United States, global capital, local elites, etc. in a variety of ways. If "revolutionary" in this context means actively working to overthrow the established political framework, then only some Islamic rightist groups can be labeled revolutionary (and Hezbollah isn't one of them).

Third, like any theoretical model, three-way fight politics is at best a useful approximation of reality. Saying that there are three major political poles doesn't mean all forces can be divided neatly into three camps. We need to be mindful of movements -- such as Hezbollah -- that don't relate to the three poles in a simple or static way. And we need to be willing to rethink our assumptions and categories where they don't make sense.

3. Is it accurate to describe Hezbollah as right wing?

Several people -- including folks sympathetic to my overall argument -- have questioned my description of Hezbollah as right wing. While I still think the label is accurate, the situation is more complex -- and possibly more fluid -- than what I presented before.

There are good reasons to be skeptical about the rightist label. Michael Karadjis is an Australian leftist who has long followed Hezbollah's development and has spent time in Lebanon. In a comment quoted at length on Kersplebedeb's "Sketchy Thoughts" blog, Karadjis argues that it's a big mistake to equate the party's policies with Khomeini-style fundamentalism. In the areas it controls, Karadjis reports, Hezbollah doesn't enforce religious law, doesn't impose special strictures on women but rather allows them to be visible and active, doesn't persecute other ethnic or religious groups, and works with leftists rather than execute them (although Karadjis also cites one scholar's claim that Hezbollah did kill a number of communists during its formative period, in 1984-85).

Several other points bolster this view. Since its first official declaration in 1985, Hezbollah has consistently said that an Islamic state can't be imposed by force, but can be instituted only when a large majority of the people wants it. Hezbollah has promoted dialogue between Lebanon's diverse religious communities and opposes the archaic system that apportions the country's political offices based on religious affiliation. Unlike some Sunni fundamentalist groups, Hezbollah argues that the secularization of society is a much lesser injustice than Israeli occupation.

After interviewing Hezbollah women activists in the 1990s, Maria Holt wrote: "In the view of the women of Hizballah, women are accorded a strong role in society. They are permitted to acquire education, to work, to become leaders, and to have a political input. At the same time, however, a woman must not attempt to usurp the position of men in the society." In Hizballah, "women are still excluded from the centers of power and accorded a status secondary to that of men." (Holt, pp. 187, 189) This assessment is consistent with many right-wing religious movements, as I've discussed elsewhere ("Notes on Women and Right-Wing Movements"), but it's probably fair to say that it's relatively progressive given the larger context. And there's evidence that women's status in Hezbollah has been improving -- in 2005, Hezbollah appointed the first woman to its political council, or politburo, which coordinates the party's committees.

All of this sharply delineates Hezbollah from the cultural totalitarianism of Afghanistan's Taliban or Algeria's Islamic Salvation Front, which has murdered women for not wearing the veil. You can make a good case that those groups represent a new form of clerical fascism, but there's no way Hezbollah can be labeled fascist. Although its militant resistance to Israeli and western intervention has brought it a reputation for extremism, Hezbollah's stance on a range of important issues is strikingly moderate.

But this is not the whole picture. First, although it accepts political pluralism in practice, Hezbollah still advocates an Islamic state, i.e. a theocracy, a policy it considers a religious duty. This state would look a lot like Iran's, which Hezbollah considers the closest thing to a perfect political system anywhere in the world. Naim Qassem, Hezbollah's deputy secretary-general, comments that Iran has "manifested success through its attention to freedoms, respect for opinions divergence, women's rights and the management of state institutions" (Qassem, p. 236). Sounds like the old CP talking about Stalin's Soviet Union.

Hezbollah's ideological bond with Iran's Islamic Republic is far deeper than, say, its alliance with Syria. Hezbollah-controlled areas are plastered with images of Iran's religious/political leaders. In several recent antiwar demonstrations in Europe, according to Workers Left Unity Iran, Hezbollah supporters have clashed with Iranian leftists who raised the slogan "No to imperialist wars; No to Iran's Islamic regime."

Second, Hezbollah is formally subordinate to Iran's supreme authority (originally Ayatollah Khomeini, now his successor, Ayatollah Khamenei), who the party regards as the religious, legal, and political leader of all Muslims worldwide. This doesn't mean that Hezbollah is a puppet of the Iranian government -- it actually exercises a great deal of political autonomy. It does mean that Hezbollah's leaders seek Khamenei's guidance or ruling on major policy questions or when they are deadlocked. Accounts vary as to how often this happens; Amal Saad-Ghorayeb cites Hezbollah's decision to participate in Lebanon's parliamentary elections as one example.

A third reason to call Hezbollah a right-wing organization is that its pragmatic pluralism doesn't apply to everyone. On his "Sketchy Thoughts" blog, Kersplebedeb cites the case of a Lebanese gay man, Nasser Karouni, who sought asylum in the United States. Karouni argued that Hezbollah, which controlled the region where his family lived, considered homosexual sex a capital offense and had persecuted or killed gay friends and acquaintances of his. I would treat this report with a bit of caution: the source article lacks details or any specific dates after 1984, when Hezbollah was still taking shape, and this is the only reference I've found anywhere to Hezbollah's policy regarding homosexuality. (Queer sex could presumably bring the death penalty in Hezbollah's ideal Islamic state, if Iran's penal code is any guide.)

And then there's Jews. In her detailed explication of Hezbollah's political/religious philosophy, Amal Saad-Ghorayeb shows that Nasrulluh, Qassem, and other Hezbollah spokespeople have repeatedly demonized Jews as evil, deceitful, cowardly, violent, and power-hungry. This bigotry is distinct from Hezbollah's charge that Zionism is inherently oppressive (a position I share), although it infuses references to Zionism as "the most dangerous and malicious enemy of humanity" and the like (Saad-Ghorayeb, 142). Several Hezbollah spokespeople, including Nasrulluh, have also claimed that Jews either fabricated or helped to perpetrate the Nazi genocide.

I have to pause here and note that charges of antisemitism are routinely used to demonize Muslims and Arabs and to rationalize Israeli (and U.S.) racism, whose impact on Arab peoples has been vastly more devastating than Arab violence against Israelis. As I wrote before, Hezbollah does not exist to kill Jews and is not continuing Hitler's work. It resists Israeli oppression but also -- because of its underlying right-wing philosophy -- promotes anti-Jewish stereotyping and bigotry. Not more and not less.

How do we put all of this together? Saad-Ghorayeb argues that Hezbollah has pursued a dual strategy, balancing its version of Islamic ideals on the intellectual level with a largely secular programme on the level of practical politics -- a combination she suggests is unstable in the long run. Using different terms, we could say that Hezbollah offers a contradictory mix of radical theocracy and populist nationalism.

Hezbollah's highly skilled leadership has navigated this tension, in part, through strategic shifts. The most dramatic of these took place after the end of the Lebanese civil war in 1990, when Hezbollah moved from revolutionary opposition to the Lebanese political system to a policy of trying to transform it from within. This shift was probably influenced (but not determined) by the rise of a more moderate faction in the Iranian government. Given the explosive nature of Middle East politics, it's quite likely that Hezbollah will go through further changes in the years ahead.

(Matthew Lyons is a writer, parent, and archivist living in Philadelphia. His political writings have focused largely on right-wing politics and, more broadly, the interplay between social movements and systems of oppression. He is the co-author, with Chip Berlet, of Right-Wing Populism in America (Guilford, 2000) and a contributor to the Three Way Fight anti-fascist blog. For details, see his online bibliography at

Aima, Abhinav. "Hizbollah At Crossroads: From the Will of God to the Will of His People." Middle East Studies Program, Ohio University, 2000.
Halliday, Fred. "A Lebanese fragment: two days with Hizbollah." Hamzeh, A. Nizar. "Lebanon's Hizbullah: from Islamic revolution to parliamentary accommodation." Third World Quarterly 14, no. 2 (1993).
Hizballah. "An Open Letter: The Hizballah Program" The Jerusalem Quarterly 48 (Fall 1988). Slightly abridged translation of Hizballah's first public declaration, 1985.
Hizbullah. "The Electoral Program of Hizbullah, 1996."
Holt, Maria, "Lebanese Shi'i Women and Islamism: A Response to War." In Women and War in Lebanon, ed. Lamia Rustum Shehadeh. Gainesville: University Press of Florida, 1999.
Leonard, Arthur S. "Lebanese Asylum Seeker Wins Round." Gay City News, 10 March 2005.
Qassem, Naim. Hizbullah: The Story from Within. Translated by Dalia Khalil. London: Saqi, 2005.
Saad-Ghorayeb, Amal. Hizbu'llah: Politics and Religion. London: Pluto Press, 2002.
Shatz, Adam. "In Search of Hezbollah." The New York Review of Books 51, no. 7 (29 April 2004).
Workers Left Unity Iran. "The anti war movement, Hezbollah and the issue of political freedoms: A Statement from Workers Left Unity Iran" [2006].

Terrors of Bush

Just passing on this link someone sent me to the General Electric Company… just follow the path from the main “Twilight Zone” page to the “Terrors of Bush” (bottom right corner) and you can see some art they did using my International Terrorist stickers.

You can contact the artist here.

(Shockwave plug-in required!)

Monday, August 28, 2006

Sutra Ujurtu (Tomorrow Morning)

SUTRA UJUTRU (TOMORROW MORNING) (PNA) Serbia / 2006 / 35 mm / Colour / 85 min / Dir.: Oleg Novkovic, Cast: Uliks Fehmiu, Nebojsa Glogovac, Nada Sargin, Lazar Ristovski, Ljubomir Bandovic, Radmila Tomovic, Danica Ristovski, Milos Vlalukin, Ana Markovic, Nebojsa Ilic An emigré's return to Belgrade to get married becomes the occasion for several emotionally fraught and alcohol-fuelled reunions in this drama about how you can't really go home again. Certainly not after a 12-year absence.


In most American movies, if the protagonist takes off to make a better life for himself, only to have his girlfriend take up with his best friend… who then commits suicide leaving behind an accusatory video-note…well, you’d be feeling sorry for our main character!

Not so in Sutra Ujurtu, which like so many movies from the Balkans examines how community is threatened by some people’s personal ambition. (I don’t know if it’s just me, or perhaps my choice of movies, but the various films i’ve seen from all these different ex-Eastern Bloc countries all strike me as a variety on this theme... and it’s a theme i like!)

Sutra Ujutru introduces us to Sasha, Ceca, Bure and Mare – four friends … though really that word isn’t strong enough, or complex enough, for what we have here. Rather this is a group bound together as much by what they have been through as by who they are, giving us what they really mean to each other. Family.

We meet these characters through Nele, who used to be one of the gang. Having left the others in Belgrade to pursue a better life in Canada, Nele’s return after twelve years affords us all a way of entering into this foreign world. A point-of-view character, the protagonist, but certainly not a hero at all.

That Nele is ostensibly returning home to get married is really beside the point, except to mark the distance he has traveled (none of his old friends are invited to the wedding, of course!). His unfortunate fiancée is forgotten almost as soon as he hooks up with the old gang, goofing off with the guys he has not seen since his youth.

There are as many angles here as there are characters. The men – Bure and Mare – are jealous of each other, and of each other’s relationships with Bure’s wife Ceca. They numb their pain with alcohol and heroin, acting like thirty year old teenagers. The women do likewise – Ceca less so as she must care for her child, Sasha to the point that she regularly wakes up outside, having passed out after a bender. The women feel pain because of the choices men have made, the men feel pain due to their own insecurities… but really what looms in the background is the threat to their community, to their family, symbolized by Nele’s departure twelve years ago, and by the subsequent suicide of his best friend Sima.

Director Oleg Novkovic does a great job and letting us feel the distance between Nele and his former friends, and the ambivalence each feels about bridging this divide. Truly, without anyone ever saying so, you feel he betrayed them. And he, in his way, feels betrayed, too, as once he left he was truly gone, not even receiving a phone call or letter to let him know of Sima’s death. (“I had to find out about it from some guy in a pub,” he complains.)

Yet bridge it they do, perhaps for Sima’s sake or simply the sake of old times. While the Festival write-up describes this as a story about how you really can’t go home again, i found it striking how Nele did in fact manage to return, grudgingly welcomed back into the circle.

If the four are like family, they are a family embedded in a broader working class community. The sense is there, in a way that is rare in white American stories, that this is the norm, the baseline, not something exotic or in need of explanation but simply the way things are, the way most people live. And, again, in movie after movie from the Balkans, this seems to be the norm.

So why do i like these movies so much?

Well, as i said, they all seem to look at this theme of community resisting, or failing to resist, the pressures to “get ahead” and “be successful.”

In Eastern Europe? Who’da thunk it?

It’s true: there’s something almost too obvious about this reading, of former State socialist societies thrust into the neo-liberal maelstrom churning out these stories of people grasping (with little success) to hold on to what they had. What is striking and perhaps less clichéd is that the “what they had” on display is not free education, healthcare or material security, but rather a sense of community and belonging, guarantees of family solidarity and a shared world. The same kind of community also celebrated in capitalist England, in world-famous cultural products like Coronation Street.

It is the community of the proletariat, not the dictatorship of the proletariat, that is celebrated and defended and mourned here.

The threats to this community can be malicious (movies like Ryna and Mila from Mars) or relatively “benign” (Something Like Happiness, What Iva Recorded) – some involve predators, others simply people “trying to get ahead.” But the tension between nurturing solidarity and pursuing “success” is always front and center. (The only recent American movie like this that springs to mind is the excellent June Bug.) And for each character who does “get ahead” – through securing a promotion, or emigrating, or getting a permit for his small business – there is always one who loses out. More often than not a woman. (Though in Sutra Ujutru this position is shared by both Sima and Sasha.)

Gender plays out in a similar way in all these different films. Now, i realize this could just be my foreign eye – see a bunch of stories from another society and you’ll see what’s simply normal there as being some kind of “theme” or “message” – but there it is all the same. Time and time again, some women are there serving as the foundation for these families and communities. The “good men” in these movies often being those most closely allied with the female characters.

When things go wrong, when men push hardest to get ahead… women are so often the ones to pay the price. And not simply in a job lost or a promotion she doesn’t get, but often in terms of violence and rape and mental distress… indeed, in this way Sutra Ujutru is much “lighter” than many other offerings.

In Sutra Ujutru the men may be useless, but they are mainly benign. Screw-ups and insensitive is the worst you can say. Which is not to say that the women do a much better job of navigating these encounters – Sasha in particular seems to have barely survived life, and jumps into what can only be another destructive episode knowing full well where that will leave her. She and Nele use each other, not so much for sex as to relive their past and recreate what once was. Through this Nele is humanized (he is one of the gang, and he feels things) and also allowed to be a cad all over again, this time for the audience to see.

When this year’s festival rolled around i got tickets to almost every East European movie i could… as much to see if they really are all of a sort as to enjoy them, because over the years i have found they are consistently amongst the most moving and – in a completely implicit, unspoken way – relevant movies i have seen.

With these expectations, Sutra Ujurtu did no disappoint. I’ll let you know about the others as i see them!

Salvador (Puig Antich)

SALVADOR (PUIG ANTICH) (SALVADOR) (PNA) Spain - United Kingdom / 2006 / 35 mm / Colour / 138 min / Dir.: Manuel Huerga In 1974, Salvador Puig Antich, a violent revolutionary, became the last political prisoner to be executed in Spain. This is his story.

Or so says the World Film Festival’s description… already i knew a little bit about Antich, and about the MIL, the autonomist/anarchist group which carried out armed actions in Spain in the early 1970s. Against Franco, but also against capitalism and the State. And so i bought my ticket, and went to the movies…

Having just seen the film, i can say that as a film it is fine, well done, makes you sad. Very sad in fact, and that is clearly the movie-makers’ intent. As drama, i can’t complain.

But as a piece of political history, as a supposedly “non-fiction” account, it fails in those ways that liberal revisionism most often does. Turning the story of a person who was also a revolutionary, and who ended up paying the ultimate price for this… into a simple story of injustice and brutality, pain and incoherence.

It was only after i came home and looked it up on the web that i found the following on the Anarkismo website, written by an anonymous former comrade of Antich’s, and well worth reading:

The Great Swindle: 'This is not the tale of Salvador Puig Antich'

The movie Salvador about the one-time member of the MIL or Thousand (1,000)*, Salvador Puig Antich, executed by garrotte on 2 March 1974 in the Model Prison in Barcelona will shortly be showing in cinemas around the country [Spain].

In these days when there is so much talk about the recovery of historical memory, we are faced here with a brazen manipulation of the very memory which they purport to want to resuscitate through the making and screening of the movie, to which there has been a strange build-up over recent years.

In fact a short while ago we got an appetiser on TV3 in the form of its first program about the Transition. It was dedicated to Salvador Puig Antich and to the MIL. Now comes the main course.

We could scarcely have expected any other outcome, given that the movie is based on a book written by TV3's current director, Francesc Escribano. Though certainly very well written, Cuento atrás [Countdown] is a perfect example of the art of manipulation and lying. This slick, commercial melodrama offers us no explanation of Salvador Puig Antich's actual battle, the reasons why he fought and perished, what he believed in, the process whereby he became radicalised politically and his commitment to the struggle alongside what was then the most radically anti-capitalist strand of the workers' movement. Or his close ties to that movement and its confrontation with the dirigiste [statist] and reformist approach of the PSUC-controlled Workers' Commissions. Not a word is said about the socio-political context that spawned the MIL and likewise its attempts at a revolutionary break with it or, of course, the complicity of the Catalan 'democratic' elements rallied around the 'Asamblea de Catalunya' and its great potential for mobilising the people. The PSUC systematically refused right up until that fateful night to lift a finger to mobilise the populace to save Salvador. They were on the brink of a pact with the Francoists. And thus had to be seen combating these anti-capitalist worker and popular factions whose struggle was geared towards a transformation of society.

Well, as I say, we could scarcely be surprised by the results of this movie. It is all neat and tidy so as to cover up or misrepresent facts that they have no intention of disclosing, facts bearing on the sham transition and the familiar tragic consequences then and now attendant upon this approach [accepting the myth of the 'democratic' transition] by the working class and people of which all are aware. Hardly surprising that they should cover their shame and try to gloss over their guilty consciences.

Mediapro is Europe's second largest audio-visual multinational: a factory churning out most TV products, ads, movies and the like: it wields great control over the media, revising and adapting recent history as suits the authorities and keeping mum about past and present struggles. Mediapro is well in with the 'democratic' institutions – the Generalitat and TV3 – and Manuel Huerga is a specialist in soap operas and the ideal choice for this revisionist and history-manufacturing project. It defies belief that this guy argues that one of the aims of his movie is to denounce the death penalty, when the death penalty was abolished in Spain back in 1978 and after Berlanga and the like produced superb films on the matter years back.

This is not the tale of Salvador Puig AntichWe are served up a slick, commercial soap opera – a rear tear-jerker of a movie. A laughable fictional melodrama, run-of-the-mill stuff. A slick action movie that blinds us to the real history of Salvador and so many others and above all to the whys and wherefores and targets of their struggles. We are shielded from the circumstances, political activity and purposes behind the expropriations and the political and revolutionary awakening that stretches over a lengthy career of struggle. How was the MIL born and for what purpose? Its connections with the workers' movement's most radical struggles. There is no reference to those struggles not even to the final one, in the wake of the execution, when the biggest factories in Barcelona and district shut down and thousands of workers demonstrated, with hundreds arrested on the Ramblas.

We are shown Salvador as some sort of a playboy and his comrades as a gang of ne'er-do-wells with political overtones.

The unbelievable chief warder Jesús IrurreThere is one thing that inspires disbelief and outrage in all of us who have sampled and experienced repression in the Model Prison – the character of prison warder Jesús Irrure.

In the scene where Salvador is being executed, up starts the aforesaid warder to erupt, not once, but twice: 'Sonofabitch! That murdering Franco! Bastard!' And yet, folks, nothing happens to him; he carries on with his career as a prison warder! We have eye-witness testimony as to the sort of repression seen from him in the Model Prison from 1973 to 1978 from several inmates who endured the bullying, humiliation and harassment normally inflicted by him during the night as he wielded his baton. Yet Escribano depicts him in his book as 'a great convert to democracy' and, despite the objections raised, Manuel Huerga's script contains this 'reassuring scene' which plainly fits the theory or sham morality behind his movie like a glove: the Franco regime is on its way out, crumbling under its own weight and even the gaoler is a MIL supporter and against the regime. This sparkling thesis is outweighed by the historical record. This politically-motivated falsehood, insinuating that in the early '70s what was needed was politics and not what we were doing, presents us as unhelpful nutcases. And Salvador, poor lad, a good lad, is our bamboozled and misguided victim. Our way was not the right way. Plainly the message here is: It is OK to do away with those who stand up to the system of exploitation and capitalist domination. No need to be quite that radical. There are, obviously, other political ways of working, the ones we have now and these are not changing and have not changed. The message going out to the young is unmistakable.

In this movie, not only are insignificant anecdotes accorded an inflated prominence and importance, but the true history of anti-capitalist subversion and of day to day lives altered through autonomous practice is covered up. This movie is manipulative and tinkers with the real history which was insulting and terrifying to all of us who, male and female, who fought and lived through those years.


One former member of the MIL, or 1,000, one former comrade of Salvador's, just one among the many.

*MIL (Moviemiento Iberico de Liberacion = Iberian Liberation Movement). The word 'mil' also translates as 'thousand'.

---Translated by Paul Sharkey

Taken from KSL: Bulletin of the Kate Sharpley Library, #46-7, (July 2006) a Puig Antich/ Spanish Revolution/ Iron Column special. Includes:The Great Swindle: 'This is not the tale of Salvador Puig Antich'Puig Antich, 30 Years On by Javier OrtizThirty Years on From the Execution of Salvador Puig Antich His sisters are to try to reopen the trial that led to his being garrotted ,from 'CNT'.No God. No Master.One pound or two dollars, available from:Kate Sharpley Library, BM Hurricane, London, WC1N 3XX orKate Sharpley Library, PMB 820, 2425 Channing Way, Berkeley CA 94704, USA and will be posted at:

--For a protest leaflet, issued by the Local Federation of Anarchist Groups (Barcelona) in March 1974 after the murder of Puig Antich, see KSL bulletin #16. Objectors to the movie Salvador and its message have a site: that contains a lot of MIL-related materials from Tellez and others.

'The Fight For History' which we published in the KSL Bulletin #20 is well worth reading again: 'Official History is the bourgeoisie's history and its mission today is to wreath nationalism, liberal democracy and the market economy in myth so as to have us believe that these are eternal, immutable and immovable.'

Sunday, August 27, 2006

[Reclamation Site] August 25th Update from Hazel Hill

Received this, written by Hazel Hill at the Reclamation Site outside of Caledonia a couple of days ago:

Well, there are a few things that have happened since my last up date. First, the appeal against Justice Marshall's ruling was heard on August 22nd, and the actual appeal was put over until September 25th and 26th. There was a ruling as far as the negotiation process, and the threat of contempt against the Federal and Provincial governments was lifted in order that the negotiations could continue. And for the record, before everyone jumps all over me for the use of the word......'negotiations' in my writings it is strictly intended to mean 'talks'............our Haudenesonne delegation do understand that the land is NOT negotiateable. Ok, thank you for letting me say that. I get just as frustrated over words and i know there is so much concern by the Onkwehonweh people that even using those words will lead us into the trap. While I can't speak for everyone, I believe that the people's eyes are wide open, and that again, nothing that is decided at the main table talks is legal until it goes back to the people and the men and women's council fire for ratification and concensus. That has been understood from the beginning of our relcamation and nothing has changed that fact

Now, as far as the contempt against the people however, and whether Marshall's entire ruling should be stayed, there is a court date set for today, and reason's will be given on what specifics I don't know, but it will be in respect to marshall's ruling of August 8th. The side table dealing with Kanenhstaton got right back to work on the 23rd as scheduled, and the Crown's historian gave an oral presentation on their understanding of some of the transactions with respect to the land, and later in the afternoon a video of Chief Cleveland General was shown which described an understanding that has been handed down from our ancestors with respect to our land, and how it was intended to be protected. For example, when leased for farming, how "plows depth" was always the intended use, as opposed to sales. Six Nations research expert Phil Monture then gave a brief outline of the understanding from Six Nations perspective and showed quite clearly how you can't take a document such as the 1841 surrender, and accept it as verbatum without looking at the rest of the history at the example of this is the fact that Samuel Jarvis who was the superintendent of Indian Affairs at that time, was also a shareholder in the Grand River Navigation Company and that alone was a breach of trust. Ultimately Jarvis was looking after HIS interests alone, and not that of the Six Nations. It was also evident that the only interests that were being protected were that of the white squatters, and not the Six Nations who were the title holders......a comment was made that this practice still continues to this day. Anyway, there is alot of discussions to take place with respect to the lands at Kanenhstaton, and this is not going to happen in a short period of time.

The main table discussion began yesterday and basically the presentation from all of the side table's was given.

The side table which I am involved with, the Archaeology/Improvements is scheduled to resume on Tuesday, August 29th at which time we will hopefully have the walkabout with potential archaeologists, and have interviews take place later on in the afternoon. The goal is to have the archaeological study done as soon as possible to confirm exactly what is/was on the lands at Kanenhstaton. The Education side table is being reviewed to make sure the focus is on communication and education within educational facilities as well as government offices etc., along the Grand River Tract to provide the History of the Six Nations from our perspective and have an on-going dialogue in the hopes of preventing future displays of the racial discrimination that has occurred since the reclamation. The reaction that has been shown is evident of the need to provide this information because many people within Caledonia who might have recently moved into the area, do not have the same understanding and knowledge as the residents who's family's have been here for generations and who understand the land rights of the Six Nations. Another of the side tables is the Consultation side table and unfortunately, i don't have anything to report on that one, other than there are people who are working to ensure that the Haudenesonne are being respected and that any future developments must come through the Six Nations people and our council. Again, another area that will be difficult, but if the willingness and respect is there on the part of the communities and townships along the Grand, then there will be no need for future reclamations to prevent major developments on our land base.

Oh, and rest assured, the focus of the reclamation has not been sidelined by any of these side tables. Some people feel the old divide and conquer tactic is being used to try and break us down through these side tables. We are remaining at Kanenhstaton until the land comes back into the Six Nations name, according to original title and not according to the Indian Act. If the Crown's representatives are honest and forthright in their intentions, we will arrive at that goal through the peaceful process now underway. They were very quick to give Caledonia funding for their so-called losses, (what did it take, 3 months?) and we are only now getting to the real deal as far as the Six Nations are concerned.........the land.(we've only been waiting a couple of hundred years) Money is not an issue. If it was, our people would have taken Ken Hewitt up on his offer when he told one of our men that they (CCA) have an open cheque book from the government, and we could be part of it............what do they have to do to keep their money coming.................keep creating diversions to try and get the world to look at the Onkwehonweh people as the criminals and terrorists they are trying to paint us to be. It is not going to happen. Meantime, the school board is putting up a temporary 8' fence between the school yard and the north side of the site so that the parents will feel that their children are safe when school resumes next week. We have already indicated to the feds and the province that that is their choice. We will continue to make plans as far as Kanenhstaton as we see fit, and whether it be playgrounds, parks, or flower gardens, the choice and action will be taken by the people, and not decided in any meeting. So, i guess in a nutshell that's about it for now. The main table talks will resume on September 11th and in the meantime, the side table's will be working hard to get through all of the paperwork and or responsiblities that arise during these next couple of weeks. I will be doing my best to keep everyone informed as to what is happening and if there are any changes.

In Peace, Light and Love,

Saturday, August 26, 2006


RUIDO (NOISE) (PM) Puerto Rico / 2006 / 35 mm / Colour / 100 min / Dir.: César Rodríguez, Cast: María Coral Otero Soto, José Rafael Álvarez, Blanca Lissette Cruz, Francisco Capó, Teófilo Torres Franchi, a teenaged girl suffering from a rare hearing disorder, is sexually harrassed by the man who suddenly enters her mother's life. She decides to fight back. No holds barred.

That’s what the World Film Festival description says, and that’s what the movie’s about. But it’s also, and even more so, about a teenage girl who is in many ways more mature than either of her parents, yet who is (like so many children) held hostage to their choices. This is one of those stories where – benign or malicious, it matters not one bit – the adults are as good as absent. Or actually, it many ways it would be better if they were absent…

Having read the Festival’s description, i was expecting a straight-up sex abuse story with a vengeful twist. What i saw was both more and less than this, for in Ruido the molestation that protagonist Franchi suffers is really just the final straw, the sign of how bad things have gotten, after her useless father is thrown out by her alcoholic mother. What this movie is far more about is the powerlessness of childhood, the way in which families can play the role of social infrastructure, and what happens when this infrastructure breaks down.

There are no major surprises to this story, or at least none which are essential to the plot. Both the mother and especially the father’s character evolves nicely. What did strike me – and i’m not normally the kind to be wowed by such aesthetic concerns – is the use of sound to convey Franchi’s emotional state. She suffers from “selective attention disorder,” so in stressful situations she will zone out everything except the smallest inconsequential noises. Not only does this fit into the plot and provide the audience with an entire extra dimension of insight into how Franchi is feeling, it also effects the audience in that way that sound does. If you’re one to notice stuff like this, Ruido really does make wonderful use of noise.

Politics? Well, all the politics here are those that are implicit in a family splitting up and mommy hooking up with a child molester. The entire movie takes place in Puerto Rico, but there is no text or subtext about colonialism here, and no explicit anti-patriarchal critique. But in a clear if unspoken way, Ruido shows us a girl confronting her need to rely on her own devices, to take matters into her own hands or else submit to rape, as the adults in her life range from predatory to well-meaning but useless.


Ruido ends abruptly – as matters escalate, Franchi brings things to a head, attacking her abuser with a butter knife. When that fails, she poisons him. This quick resolution, which ends the movie within ten minutes, should have been drawn out way more; it left me thinking “Huh? That’s it?”

I realize i may have been spoiled by the superheroine-style Hard Candy (which i can’t recommend enough, for those who can deal with psychological torture and on-screen castration), but when the description said “no holds barred” i expected to see the rapist suffer some. As i already knew Franchi was going to fight back, the only surprise was that it all took place so quickly and easily. Anti-climatic, in fact.

(Personal admission: when seeing movies like Hard Candy and Lady Vengeance, with rapists tortured and killed on-screen, i have wondered if i was not missing a problematic if not reactionary celebration of sadism as a candy-coated substitute to justice. I have wondered if on a societal level such a reliance on cruel punishments for rape might not encourage patriarchal attitudes and ways of dealing with conflicts, no matter how dramatic or even emotionally gratifying. But then this movie rolls around without any of that over-the-top vengeance, and i’m disappointed…)

Nevertheless, the story of a young girl killing or maiming her abuser is obviously a positive role model. And it is an option that real children do take every year – perhaps not the tens or hundreds of millions of children around the world who are being abused, but certainly hundreds or thousands of them. That’s why it’s such an obvious story-choice, because we know that this happens. Rarely, but really.

Of course in real life when women or children fight back against their abusers, they don’t normally get to ride off happily on their bicycle!

According to USA Today between 200 and 300 parents are killed by their children every year, often teenagers who are striking back against their abusers. (The article also notes how even according to the Just Us system’s own numbers almost one in every two women who kills her male spouse was a victim of abuse – nevertheless 75%-80% of them were convicted… the same rate as female defendants in other homicide and serious felony trials who were not battered.)

If the screenwriter wanted to end things with the abusive stepfather so quickly, then giving a more realistic ending, with at least the hint of a police investigation or some kind of “what happens next” would have worked better. Not only “artistically,” but politically too.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

[Montreal] August 30th Benefit for Sanayeh Relief Centre in Beirut

[please spread the word, forward to lists you are on! s.v.p. circulez!]

QPIRG McGill and Tadamon! present :


Wednesday, August 30 2006
Doors at 9 pm, Performance 10 pm
Club Lambi
4465  blvd. St-Laurent (coin Mont-Royal)
Pay What You Can/Suggested Donation: 5-20$


A Public Service Announcement from Electronic Lebanon
From Beirut to… those who love us : a video by Beirut DC film and cinema collective

Trish Salah

Nayrouz from ASWAT (a Palestinian Gay Woman’s Group) talks about negotiating a queer Arab Identity while resisting occupation and Israeli apartheid.

a member of from Tadamon! reports back from Beirut.

Radical Drag by Osama Bin Thuggin (Condoleza Rice and Dick Cheney like you’ve never seen them before…)

Drag Performance by Farah Abdill and guest

Dj’s Leila P., Dima, Kandis and more laying down beats from Hip Hop to Arab Pop!

*** Translation available (English, French and Arabic) ***
*** Club Lambi is NOT wheel chair accessible ***

For more information click here.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

On gwa hoh weh Gathering In Peace and Unity Within the Nations

You are cordially invited to a gathering for peace and unity among all Nations

Date:  Saturday, September 2, 2006
Time:  10 AM to 6PM
Location: Ottawa Parliament Building, in Ottawa, Ontario Canada
Let all people, concerned with the value of peace and unity, come together this day in front of the Parliament Building in Ottawa, to share and learn from the People of 6Nations.

Through the sharing of culture and history, understanding and unity may be reached. Please join 6Nations and supporters for this day of peace and fellowship.

For more information, please contact:

In Canada:  Jacqueline House-  (905)765-9316

In USA and for Media/Press Contact: Shelley Bluejay Pierce-  (406) 570-0199)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

More on the Quebec Nation

Phebus, a comrade from the North East Federation of Anarchist Communists, made a series of good points regarding by post Quebecistan? I wish… a few days ago, in which i commented on NEFAC’s position of Quebec nationalism.

I’m going to re-post his comments here, and try to answer some of them afterwards. I’ll also try to develop some of the ideas in my original post a little more. Recognizing that a lot of what i am saying is at least partly based on conjecture and “gut feelings,” i hope that comrades who disagree will not feel shy about letting me know. This is written at least as much to provoke others to show me where i am wrong as anything else… and i certainly don’t want to come off as putting forward a “line” on this, as i don’t feel i have the factual grounding to do so at this point.

This is what Phebus had to say:
I liked the article, thanks for writting it. Just a few comments...

/Like i said, on a fundamental level – peu importe 1760 – what we have here is what we have elsewhere on this blood-drenched continent./

Are you really sure about that? Is racism as structural as in the US? When I read about the US theories about race and I compare to the situation in Quebec, I dont see the same thing, especialy outside Montreal. I am not sure the same structural division along race lines exist in Quebec. A relatively recent study asking why Quebec city had an hard time integrating new immigrants found that one of the reason was because the labor intensive jobs usualy taken by immigrants are already filled by white francophones. Further more, there is no unified "white race" in Quebec. White francophones are the vast majority of the workers in the province and their are the majority in all social layers.

We have our own racism in Quebec but saying what we have here is fundamentaly the same as in the US will not help us understand the situation and fight it. The only fundamental level where it is the same is in relation to natives.

/the actual role played by the national movement (...) in elaborating a national class perspective./

I'm not sure I am following you, could you please elaborate?

/Instead, NEFAC adopts a good final position on the national question in Quebec, but bases this on a facile dismissal of anti-colonialism /tout court.

I think you are miss-reading the statement. What we are rejecting is national liberation, not anti-colonialism or anti-imperialism. If that was the case, we would not have taken the pain to try to get an historical analysis of the situation and we would just have wrote a traditional a-historical anti-nationalist anarchist rant. The mere existence of the document is a testimony to the fact that we take anti-colonialism seriously.

Furthermore, we *are* /acknowledging the need to combat national oppression where it exists, i.e. in the First Nations and amongst francophones outside of Quebec/. This is exactly what we are saying when we write: "Along the way, down the path of social revolution, libertarian communism, with its emphasis on federalism and democracy, will offer an opportunity to address the whole range of national questions existing in Canada -- the Quebecois, what's left of the french canadians, the Indigenious and others".

What we do say is that we will concentrate on the social question, wich does not mean that we will ignore all other questions. Like we've explained else where, uniting the working class involves dealing with it's divisions wich means that the working class movement will have to deal head on with issue of racism and patriarcal domination. The only real basis to unite the working class is to organise it around the needs of the most oppressed sectors, wich mean's building an anti-racist and anti-patriarcal class movement.

/What we need to examine – and i’m not pretending to be able to do so here – is the actual meaning and implications of this “correction” of national oppression. Largely, what we can see is the elevation of Quebecois to a position of “equality” with their white North American counterparts (i.e. Quebecois workers “equal” to white English workers, Quebecois petit-bourgeois “equal” to white English petit bourgeois, etc.) – but that this “equality” relies on intensifying the inequality suffered by indigenous people and immigrants./

I think the most significant "implications of this “correction” of national oppression" is the creation of a Quebec (francophone) bourgeoisie and the rise of Quebec from an oppressed nation to a full fledge imperialist power (albeit a small one). In this perspective, the position of "equality" reached by the Quebecois relies more on the mecanism of imperialism then anything else.

As i said, Phebus makes some very good points. Here is what i have to say about them (i’ve left plaintext where he is quoting my original article and have underlined his comments):

/Like i said, on a fundamental level – peu importe 1760 – what we have here is what we have elsewhere on this blood-drenched continent./

Are you really sure about that? Is racism as structural as in the US?

Phebus is correct – what we have here in terms of structural racism is not fundamentally the same as elsewhere. What i had rattling in my head was that in terms of racist oppression that might be encountered on an individual, personal level – “hate crimes,” discrimination, police abuse – people of colour in Quebec are in a similar boat to people of colour elsewhere.

But when looking at the United States – where the economy was largely built by Black people and other racialized “minorities,” where entire cities are majority Black and have been for generations, where one third of the landmass was stolen from Mexico by force of arms, where in a very real way there exists national consciousness in several racialized groups – Phebus is correct that we are looking at a drastically different situation.

But more structural… there i’m not sure. Differently structural, though – definitely, and looking back on my post i can see that i was far too muddled and ambiguous on this. Here in Canada we often smudge what we know of the US to fill in our ignorance about our own societies – and here i think i was guilty of this lazy left habit.

/the actual role played by the national movement (...) in elaborating a national
class perspective./

I'm not sure I am following you, could you please elaborate?

Since World War II, a succession of governments – Liberal, PQ, and even Duplessis’ Union Nationale – were involved in modernizing Quebec, in a slow process and then accelerated process which in real ways has made white Québecois as much “maitres chez nous” as white Americans or white Anglo-Canadians. All that is missing is “complete” State power (though here, remember, what the Quebec provincial government has is far greater than any First Nation, or Puerto Rico, or Hawaii, or to the best of my knowledge any oppressed nation in North America).

An independent State is what nationalists hope will cement these gains – but it is no longer seen as a prerequisite for them. Nor are these gains contested by the francophone federalist mainstream, some of whom (in Quebec) actually oppose independence in part because they consider that Quebec’s national aspirations may be best served by remaining within Confederation, instead of tying to go it alone in Naftaland.

These decades of Québecois empowerment not only benefited the bourgeoisie and the middle class –some important sections of the francophone working class were also lifted up. Not all, but significantly large sections – and especially those layers who are now what some might refer to as the “labour aristocracy.” As it states in the NEFAC position paper:

For example, there is no longer a wage difference between workers from Québec and Ontario employed by the same corporation. Francophones are now present in every economic area and at all levels, from foreman to CEO. Despite some failures, French is now respected as the common language in Québec. Progress has been made in every social area where Québec used to be behind the rest of Canada (to the point of producing envy amongst Anglo-Canadian progressives)

This process does not mean that every Québecois is in the same class. But as this process does benefit some Québecois within different classes, and operates in terms of nationhood, it provides the material basis for some people to put forward “la nation” as a framework for advancing the interests of some Québecois of all classes.

Where i may differ from people in NEFAC (and also the PCR-OC) is that i don’t see these appeals to cross-class national interests as being complete bullshit. For a Québecois worker whose wages and working conditions have improved dramatically over the past fifty years as a result of the same process that has lifted sections of Quebec Inc. to the world stage, a lack of equality will not necessarily translate as a lack of common class interests. Whether or not it does will depend on questions of consciousness and community – the degree to which more fortunate sections of the working class identify with less fortunate sections, or the degree to which they identify with the process of national empowerment which in many ways has delivered real benefits…

This is what i mean by a national class perspective – and it is this more than anything that i see the national movement trying to elaborate and push forward. In other words (to mangle a classical formulation): a cross-class alliance which behaves as a class for itself, and aspires to be an embryonic class in itself to boot…

For this reason i would not formulate things the way Phebus does when he states that “there is no unified ‘white race’ in Quebec.” If by this he means that white people are divided by between Québecois and Anglos, i would agree – but i would argue that the concept of “Québecois nation” as it exists and as the nationalists frame it is looking more and more like whiteness in the Unites States.

I am not saying it is the same – just increasingly similar.

And of course it never will play the same role whiteness did in twentieth century America, because we are no longer at that stage in the game. White workers in the United States are increasingly seeing their own privileges evaporate in the heat of globalization, and so it is unlikely that Québecois will be able to benefit from the kind of “good times” that white workers in the US did under the New Deal. Leaner days are here, indeed.

But where this increasing similarity is relevant is that white Québecois – and most especially nationalists – are liable to resist this globalized capitalism in ways that have more in common with white US workers than with the radical labour movement of the 70s. (Never mind the Patriotes!) Pat Buchanan-style, not Malcolm X-style, if you know what i mean: with an increased openness to racist demagogy and national chauvinism. Even (or perhaps especially) amongst people who admire Che, loathe Bush, and consider themselves to be social-democrats or even “socialists.”

On the margins – like a canary in a coalmine – we can see an early warning of this process played out as the far-right in Quebec went from being overwhelmingly anti-independence in the 1950s to being overwhelmingly pro-independence by the time the last referendum rolled around. Some people, it seems, have not been trapped by their old dogmas…

/Instead, NEFAC adopts a good final position on the national question in Quebec,
but bases this on a facile dismissal of anti-colonialism /tout court.

I think you are miss-reading the statement. What we are rejecting is national
liberation, not anti-colonialism or anti-imperialism. If that was the case, we
would not have taken the pain to try to get an historical analysis of the
situation and we would just have wrote a traditional a-historical
anti-nationalist anarchist rant. The mere existence of the document is a
testimony to the fact that we take anti-colonialism seriously.

Furthermore, we *are* /acknowledging the need to combat national oppression
where it exists, i.e. in the First Nations and amongst francophones outside of
Quebec/. This is exactly what we are saying when we write: "Along the way, down
the path of social revolution, libertarian communism, with its emphasis on
federalism and democracy, will offer an opportunity to address the whole range
of national questions existing in Canada -- the Québecois, what's left of the
french canadians, the Indigenious and others".

I stand corrected. I had indeed misread the document.

I guess a part of why, though, is that it is unclear how this kind of “along the way, down the path” perspective on anti-colonialism plays out in the here and now. Don’t get me wrong: i think the anarchist model of federalism seems much more humane than “to each nation its State” and such. But in the here and now, i don’t think one can support anti-colonialism while dismissing national liberation, because in practice when people act on the former they almost always conceive of it as part of the latter.

For instance: even were some oppressed community to organize with an goal of being a part of an anarchist federation of communities, if national oppression was part of what they were struggling against then i would bet they would view such federalism as a form of national liberation that they were struggling for.

So while i appreciate the correction, i should point out that NEFAC’s position is at least phrased in a less clear way than i would have liked.

I think the most significant "implications of this “correction” of national
oppression" is the creation of a Quebec (francophone) bourgeoisie and the rise
of Quebec from an oppressed nation to a full fledge imperialist power (albeit a
small one). In this perspective, the position of "equality" reached by the
Québecois relies more on the mecanism of imperialism then anything else.

I think Phebus may be right here. But i am not sure.

I think there are probably several factors which have buoyed the economic fortunes of the Québecois compared to what they were forty years ago. Allowing a transformation, as he says, “from an oppressed nation to a full fledged imperialist power.”

A list of what springs to mind:

  1. Through “internal imperialism,” by which i mean the economic development and integration of resources, lands and peoples which exist inside the maps of Quebec we were shown at school. This is one of the foundations of the Quebec economy – Hydro Quebec not only being an economic juggernaut in its own right, but also being the precondition for other important manufacturing industries (i.e. aluminum) which dominate the Quebec economy – and provide some of higher wages available to (predominantly white Québecois and male) workers. I recognize that this process is complex, and involves an alliance with some small (mainly male, neo-colonial, “progressive”) sections within some indigenous nations, and perhaps the word “exploitation” is not as accurate as “dispossession,” as the super-profits are coming less from labour than land and water.

  2. Through “external imperialism” of the kind exemplified by Gildan, Bombardier and the like. While many (including myself) have referred to Quebec as a modern imperialist nation for some time now, i admit that actual discussions of how this benefits the Quebec economy and people of different classes here remain undeveloped, especially amongst those of us on the radical left who should know better. (Or maybe i’m just reading the wrong stuff…)

  3. Actual correction of national oppression. By which i mean filling spaces and taking opportunities left vacant as the English minority in Quebec lost (or, along the 401, abandoned) places in the Quebec economy in the 1970s and early 80s. I would argue that this mostly benefited the middle class, as those anglophones whose departure provided opportunities for francophones tended to be neither bourgeois nor proletarian.

  4. Cutting one’s losses: by which i mean abandoning regions (the Gaspé, for instance) which are not cost-effective. Again, this is not so much exploitation as it is capitalism trying to flush people down the toilet, depriving them of the benefits their cousins in Montreal may take for granted. Either new industries may eventually develop (either along the lines of tourism or Port Cartier SuperMax), or else these areas will likely depopulate with those who stay being reduced to a standard of living well below the national average.

  5. Increased exploitation of immigrants. In Montreal many low wage sectors – in the manufacturing and service industries especially –rely on immigrant labour. Likewise, seasonal labourers in the Eastern Townships come from as far away as Central America and even Africa. And for some time now homecare, childcare and “domestic” workers have increasingly been women from Third World nations, doing necessary work that in previous generations was overwhelmingly carried out by Québecoises. I recognize that this phenomenon varies dramatically from region to region in Quebec, but my impression is that this is an important source of wealth, and increasingly so. For this reason i imagine that as different classes within the Québecois nation struggle against the forces of neo-liberal austerity, there will be more and more exploitation of immigrant labour.

Now in terms of importance, i think #1 and #2 are clearly the most significant factors in the upward mobility of certain sections of the Québecois nation. (Sections which i would say “share a national class interest.”) Especially in terms of the past forty years.

#3 may have had some reality in the 1970s and 80s, and gets some play from some nationalists even today, but i don’t see it as being significant at the moment – if it ever was.

#4 strikes me as a “we’ll see” factor – certainly i think increasing regional disparities play a part in what is happening in Quebec, but i don’t have a good handle on it.

#5 strikes me as having always been relevant (sometimes more, sometimes less) in Quebec, with the most significant change over the past thirty years being that cheap immigrant labour no longer simply benefits “the English bosses,” but increasingly the Québecois middle classes and bourgeoisie. (Like, when in 1970 the FLQ stated “We are with all the immigrant workers in Quebec, and it is alongside them that we want to fight the common enemy: Anglo-American capitalism” i think there was probably some basis for this to be an honest statement – when i hear “progressive nationalists” and labour leaders making such noises today i just think they’re either liars or nuts.)

But in regards to immigrant labour, too, i have too many “gut feelings” and not enough actual knowledge – and this strikes me as a problem not only of myself, but also of the left of which i am a part of.

How does this relate back to the nationalist movement?

Well, obviously there is no unified position on each of these factors, but there are certain areas of broad agreement.

The nationalist movement is almost unanimously in favour of “internal” imperialism, though the details as to how (or even whether) to cut in some Native compradors as junior partners may differ. As to “external” imperialism, there seems to be some verbal left-nationalist opposition, but i don’t see how this can be viable except as a form of hypocrisy – i.e. a modern independent Quebec with a standard of living comparable to the rest of white North America will have to encourage the Gildans and Bombardiers, not insist on “fair trade” or autarchy.

The dispossession of Anglos of course gets cheers from almost all nationalists, but as i stated i believe it is more a myth than a reality, especially now. But it plays well to the crowd, and for that reason a degree of Anglophobia will probably remain part of the common nationalist discourse as long as there is a viable English minority here.

Abandoning regions is something that i believe almost all nationalists oppose doing – it strikes against the essence of a “national” project. Especially as falling white birth rates are coinciding with increasing indigenous populations. Whether this is handled through outright subsidies to members of la nation (for giving birth, for living in certain areas, or however it is explained) or else through capitulation to the dictates of globalized capital i do not know… anyone know which radical left groups have even a toe-hold in les régions?

(Of course, there are also regions where industries may remain viable and the proletariat may remain overwhelmingly Québecois – these will be areas where the radical left should struggle hardest, as here it will be of critical importance whether the idea of “national solidarity” wins out or whether the proletariat here identifies more with the increasingly immigrant and overseas proletariat exploited by the national bourgeoisie.)


So there – again – is a rough idea of where i’m thinking. Less rough than what i wrote a few days ago, and for that i thank Phebus and the other people who let me know what they thought of this.

Please – do let me know what you think!

Saturday, August 19, 2006

Six Nations women lay claim to windmills

This from today’s Hamilton Spectator:

Six Nations women lay claim to windmills
by John Burman
The Hamilton Spectator
(Aug 19, 2006)

Two Six Nations women title holders have laid claim to a $27-million green power wind farm project near Shelburne.  

Kahentinetha Horn, who lives at the Kahnawake reserve near Montreal and another woman from the Akwesasne reserve near Cornwall, have filed what they say is a notice of seizure on behalf of the greater Six Nations population which includes residents of Six Nations of the Grand Reserve near Caledonia.

Traditionally, title to Mohawk land is vested through the women as caretakers of the land for future generations.

The two have also laid claim to an Etobicoke Board of Education outdoor site in Nottawasaga Township as well as the Highway 407 toll expressway at different times recently. None of these sites has been occupied.

Janie Jamieson, spokesperson for the Six Nations Confederacy members occupying the Douglas Creek Estates subdivision property in Caledonia since February, said yesterday the wind farm claim does not originate with local Six Nations but is done on their behalf as part of the North American Six Nations population.

Speaking for herself, Jamieson said she supports the windmill seizure because, as a native mother, she does not wish to see her children have to man barricades and protest to claim what is theirs.

In her seizure announcement, Horn says the private, 45-turbine project by Canadian Hydro Developers Inc., of Calgary, located in Melancthon Township and its planned 88-unit expansion is on native land and therefore the turbines are native property.

The second stage of the project has been undergoing environmental assessment. However the province says that has been put on hold pending the outcome of the land claim.

That's news to Canadian Hydro. CEO John Keating says neither the provincial or federal government has told the company there is a native claim on the land they lease from farmers in the area.

Keating says that because the company leases the land, the turbines would not belong to Six Nations anyway. He said the company has only been told the environmental assessment hearing was pushed up a level because there were 15 letters of concern filed with the Ministry of Environment about the second phase of the project.

None of those were from native groups, he said, adding Canadian Hydro notified all the native groups the federal government had told them to and none objected. He said Six Nations was not on that list.

A spokesman for the Department of Indian Affairs has said no formal claim has been filed on the land.

Keating said it is the company's understanding that the provincial Ministry of Environment is looking for a meeting with Six Nations and he expects the firm will be invited.

"We told everyone we were told to notify about the project about it," he said.

Horn also says Six Nations can take credit for stalling the next phase of the wind farm which was to proceed next year.

Horn, who teaches history at Concordia University in Montreal and is a passionate and prolific contributor to the Mohawk Nation News, says the site is on the Haldimand tract, a strip of land six miles either side of the Grand River from its source to Lake Erie which was granted to the Six Nations people "forever" in 1784 for their service as Allies of the British Crown during The American Revolution.

She says a Mohawk resident of the township called the title holders in January to tell them the windmills are on native land and an objection was filed to an "illegal" incursion," adding that Canada has allowed native land and resources to be stolen through illegal land transfers and fraud, she said.

Now, she said, Canada is "stealing another of our resources, the wind." She said the company invited native representatives to a meeting but the title holders wanted all financial information about the company. It is not known if the meeting took place.

"We say, 'Thanks for the windmills. Now we can sit down and talk about what we're going to give you out of it, if we want to...The windmills are on our property. It's ours. You'll just have to keep your hands off them and talk to us about it."

With files fromSpectator wire services    

Friday, August 18, 2006

Radical Anti-Imperialists Carry Out Second Armed Attack in Quebec

For the second time in two years a group calling itself the Initiatives de Resistance Internationaliste (Initiatives of Internationalist Resistance - IRI) has claimed responsibility for an armed attack within the province of Quebec.

Very little is known about the IRI. In December 2004, just as President Bush visited Ottawa for the first time, the group blew up a hydro tower carrying electricity to the United States. The Radisson-Nicolet-Des Cantons line carries electricity from Hydro Quebec to New England, notably the city of Boston. This attack was effectively suppressed from the media – the group’s communiqué only being published by a small country newspaper, Le Progres de Coaticook – and was not really discussed at all by the left.

While the Quebec Provincial Police’s anti-terrorist unit launched an investigation, there were no arrests made.

Then last week, sometime on the night of the August 10th, the group blew up a car belonging to Carol Montreuil, vice-president of the Canadian Petroleum Products Institute. After having initially concluded that the explosion was the result of an electrical malfunction, the Quebec Provincial Police force ordered an investigation by its anti-terrorism branch when a number of media outlets received an email from a source claiming to be the IRI.

While the media are not suppressing this to the same degree that they did the December 2004 attack, to the best of my knowledge nobody has posted or published the communiqué all the same.

What i have been able to find is the following extract published on the La Presse Affaires website:

We refuse to be reduced to docile consumers to be robbed at will, or to peaceful shareholders who finance an imperialist army.

In their hunger to increase their astronomic profits, the (integrated) oil companies and their agents are free to act as they please with the blessing of their subject States. The rise in gas prices, which is causing all the necessities of life to go up in price, make us vulnerable to their machinations even though we can see what they are doing.

According to other media reports, the IRI’s “Communiqué #2” blames oil companies for holding consumers hostage while making enormous profits, damaging the environment and financing "an imperialist army which is committing barbarous acts" in places such as Iraq.

While communiqués regarding the IRI’s 2004 action were sent to various media outlets, to the best of my knowledge only Le Progres de Coaticook – a small country newspaper in the Eastern Townships – saw fit to share it with their readers. It is thanks to Le Progres that i have been able to translate it and post it below.

It is frustrating that the more recent Communiqué #2 is not available anywhere – hopefully someone will upload it at some point. For all the talk about the internet “making information free,” the media are so tightly controlled that a lot of stories and information are nevertheless getting buried, and to a degree that should not be possible, except that our movements remain woefully undeveloped.

Judging from the statement the IRI released in 2004, this seems to be a group with good politics, trying to tie an opposition to imperialism to regular people’s concerns about the heating bill and environmental damage, all while bringing the struggle to a new level.

What is completely missing from the statement, or from quotes from the subsequent Communiqué #2, is any mention of indigenous people. This is particularly bizarre, as those “natural resources” the group does not want pillaged, and those dams producing all of that electricity, are mainly on Native land.

This strikes me as a major oversight, and while the group does not seem to be nationalist in any way, this is the kind of omission which i do find telling. After all, the Cree Nation is a lot closer than the “noble Iraqi people,” and Quebec and Canadian imperialism are far more directly implicated in the theft of the First Nations’ land and energy resources. So that’s a bit of a pity.

Nevertheless… people standing up and resisting… that can’t be bad news…

Here is the suppressed December 2004 Communiqué from the IRI:

December 4th 2004
Explosives were detonated on a hydro tower on Hydro Quebec’s Radisson-Nicolet des Cantons export line, close to the American border.

With this action we are making clear our refusal to be stand idly by as natural resources are pillaged to enrich the American empire. We are also taking action against our obscene exploitation by Hydro Quebec, to the benefit of private businesses, which benefit from every opportunity offered by imperialism.

We refuse to leave all the weight of resisting on the shoulders of the noble Iraqi people, who are currently being massacred because they present an obstacle to the American control of energy resources, or on the shoulders of the Bolivian peasants who are courageously mobilizing against the pillage of their natural gas resources, at the risk of their lives.

We also refuse to leave it up to the Colombian and Palestinian people to confront the imperial army, whether or not it hides behind a national banner.

Finally, we refuse to leave it up to the American opposition to carry the heavy burden required to struggle against the police state (surveillance, arrests, torture).

In Quebec, satisfying and reinforcing the imperialist ogre is supposed to be our road to salvation, and the increasing electricity exports to the United States which the government wishes to impose on us are supposed to get us there.

But what kind of salvation is it? The kind that consists of repeated hydro price hikes for residential customers? The pillage of our collective natural resources? The atmospheric pollution which is caused by power stations? Or that which all of this allows: juicy contracts, preferential electricity rates for the multinationals, the privatization of water and fiscal bailouts for businesses, all measures which favour the capitalist interests.

This act of sabotage, which the democratic authorities hid from the population when the head dictator was visiting, is our response to the ease with which the State is laughing at the people’s opposition.

So we are in no way another group remote controlled by Washington, we do not have access to the CIA’s training camps, any more than to the Pentagon’s financial generosity.

No, Zarqaoui has not found his way to the mountains of the Eastern Townships.

To the imperialist:
Initiatives de Resistance Internationaliste (IRI)

Quebecistan? I wish...

A Place Amongst Nations: Quebec in the Struggle to Win
poster from the Societe St-Jean Baptiste,
a conservative nationalist group, and a cornerstone of the Quebec national movement today

Last week’s article by Barbara Kay in the right-wing National Post should be clipped and put aside (or saved to hard drive) as a reference for future discussions about Quebec nationhood, racism and the province plays in the English Canadian psyche.

The long and short of Kay’s analysis: the Quebec intelligentsia is left-wing, racist and soft on terrorism.

It is a standard and long-lived claim, repeated now and then (and with much more frequency when a referendum rolls around, of course) – the current catalyst being the presence of several of Quebec’s leading politicians and cultural personalities at the demonstration against Israeli aggression on August 6th.

This picture painted is familiar, in part because it is so easily inverted by some “pro-Quebec” comrades, for whom there is this inspiring story of Quebec being more left-wing and radical than the rest of North America – a version which deftly dismisses any claims of racism as a slur that “the oppressors” make about any oppressed nationality. Just like the Palestinians, for instance.

Indeed, Kay’s article is titled “The rise of Quebecistan” – the idea being there’s a little bit of jihad that could break out here too.

That people on both sides of this national divide manage to make such comparisons with a straight face never ceases to boggle my mind.

Because of course both of these pictures are really inaccurate, even dishonest, and clinging to either is just plain silly. It’s like i joked to a friend after the last referendum – once you get outside of Canada many people end up thinking that an independent Quebec will be transformed into another Cuba… or else a modern day Nazi Germany. Take your pick.

And yet despite their dishonesty both visions persist, obviously reinforcing each other all the while. So much so that at certain times they seem to dominate the official Canadian national disourse.

The bottom line is that Quebec is currently a modern capitalist nation, albeit one without full State powers, “trapped” as it is within the Canadian State structure. Regardless of its own colonization by the British – the process which gave rise to “Canada” itself – modern-day New France has been built on the same process of genocide and dispossession of indigenous people as the rest of Canada, the United States, Israel and so many other settler societies. Likewise, those who hold power in Quebec are – like their American and Anglo-Canadian counterparts – firmly committed to the tenets of bourgeois democracy. Just like George Bush and Stephen Harper.

It’s nothing to be proud about, but also nothing that our friends in Toronto or New York City aren’t already familiar with.

Are there any differences?

Of course: Quebec is a different nation and so it does have its own characteristics.

Most importantly, being a nation “trapped” in another State, Quebec has a nationalist movement which is both enmeshed in important sections of the left (especially the trade union movement) and also in important sections of the State and ruling class. A fact which explains the once-in-a-blue-moon episodes of violence at this that or the other “broad based” demonstration – some anarchist or communist will harass some right-wing nationalist or bourgeois politician, and then the trade union field marshals will try and pound on the radical, and then a scuffle will break out just before the riot cops move in to “restore order.” (Indeed, one important anarchist group in the 90s had its formative moment being violently thrown out of a Mayday parade after they chanted anti-nationalist slogans.)

What is most telling is not the violence or the aftermath, but the fact that we’re all there together in the first place. In this way, nationalism occupies a similar niche in the political world of the left here as social-democracy does in classical marxist stories. (Indeed, regardless of their actual politics most nationalists would probably self-identify as soc-dems.)

This can often give politics a topsy turvey “what’s going on here” feel for people from other places, and it helps to explain why major politicians occasionally show up at demonstrations like the one on August 6th. It also helps to explain why there is a serious weakness around anti-racism and such confused and confusing lines on anti-colonialism in sections of the left here.

For those of us who want to build a radical future here (and everywhere else!) there is a pressing need to see what is actually happening, the real ground we are standing on. That means seeing through the fog and cutting through the bullshit – both the anti-quebecois drivel of the National Post and also the self-congratulatory crap churned out by “our” “progressive” con artists.

So for starters, Quebec as a whole (i.e. not just the left) is very similar to the Rest of Canada in terms of racist oppression. Black and Latino kids get shot by cops for no reason. Members of First Nations continue to resist national oppression – both structural and (more rarely theseadays) military. Muslims get stabbed in the metro or show up to Mosque to find the windows broken by self-styled “anti-terrorist” vigilantes. Public figures make occasional noises about the worrisome low birth rate amongst whites.

Like i said, on a fundamental level – peu importe 1760 – what we have here is what we have elsewhere on this blood-drenched continent. Nothing to be proud about, but again: nothing that our friends in Toronto or New York City shouldn’t already be familiar with.
There are the same issues, the same flash-points, the same need for radical change.

What is specific, and what is of concern to those of us on the left, is that we have to contend with the nationalist movement here. As i already mentioned, this movement plays a similar role as does social democracy elsewhere – meaning it acts as a break on the left, a fifth column within any radical movement it involves itself in – but with the difference that it appeals to people on a national basis. Which in this world can often get translated as an “ethnic” or “racial” basis.

As such, nationalism could play a strategic role in derailing future insurgent movement, bringing it over to the terrain of the far right. A possibility, not a certainty, but one we need to keep our eyes open to. At this point: ephemeral, a side-issue.

Nevertheless: in order to work against such a possibility, and also to ground our own work of building towards radical social change, we need to be able to map our terrain. We need to see what kind of society we are living in, how it got this way, and who benefits and who is hurt by the way things work. An analysis which will obviously have nothing to do with the lies of the Canadian bourgeoisie or the Quebec nationalists.

In this hope – of seeing the truth of the matter – it’s worth checking out a couple of documents produced by the radical left here.

For starters, the North East Federation of Anarchist Communists (a federation which at times seems to be mainly based in Quebec!) have produced an ok position on the “national question” in Quebec. It comes to good conclusions, and does us the service of spelling out why the federation opposes the nationalist movement here. Unfortunately, though, the NEFAC position lacks that zip and zing that a radical vision needs, and occasionally slips into some of the lazy conclusions of the broader left.

For instance: Any discussion of the “national question” in Quebec today should include more talk of the actual role played by the national movement not only in sabotaging radical movements but also in elaborating a national class perspective. This particular class perspective may be “populaire,” but it is the perspective of people who wish to cement their position as equals to “the (white) English” and even “the (white) Americans” within North America, a position which can only be guaranteed by partaking in the same colonialist and racist practices at home and abroad.

Little wonder that this nationalist movement – even, or perhaps especially, as it exists within the left and the labour movement – has found itself time and again opposing the aspirations and rights of Native people and immigrants.

Because that’s what “being a real nation” is all about.

This is a factor which radicals thirty years ago could be excused for not paying attention to, as this ascendant class still suffered clear national oppression, and the future had yet to be written… but today it is such a glaring reality that it needs to be confronted head on.

Instead, NEFAC adopts a good final position on the national question in Quebec, but bases this on a facile dismissal of anti-colonialism tout court. This is an easy out – allowing activists to fall on what they know in their gut is the correct position (i.e. opposing the nationalists) but without having to actually grapple with the specificities of the Quebec situation which make this movement a clear opponent, albeit one which has seduced many who should be our allies.

Nevertheless, i should repeat: the NEFAC paper is a good place to start, and much better than certain sections of the left!

More developed and unambiguous, i would also recommend people check out the relevant chapter in the Revolutionary Communist Party Organizing Committee’s Programme (“Against national oppression! Against nationalism and chauvinism! Fight for absolute equality for all nations and languages!”)

The RCP-OC – a Maoist outfit – have the benefit of being able to draw on a long tradition of opposition to nationalism in Quebec. Indeed, as has been mentioned previously, Maoism has its roots in Quebec in the 1970s amongst those radicals who wanted revolution and opposed nationalism.

While politically the RCP position is better than NEFAC’s – acknowledging the need to combat national oppression where it exists, i.e.  in the First Nations and amongst francophones outside of Quebec – the RCP too pays scant attention to the class changes that have taken place in Quebec over the past fifty years.

Instead, it simply dismisses the nationalist movement as “a ploy to create a fallacious unity between the ruling class and the proletariat.”

While it is true that nationalism has been used as a ploy – “reinforcing class collaboration and for maintaining social peace” - this is only half the story. As i argued above, the nationalist movement is also the expression of a particular upwardly mobile class, which has risen to a position comparable to that of many white Americans and Anglo-Canadians and wishes to cement this with the creation of a separate state structure – following the logic that every “real” nation needs its own State. (in this context one could read “real” as “parasitic”!)

In this regard, NEFAC’s claim that “In the last 30 years, the joint action of the labor movement and a sovereignist party in power corrected the most outrageous forms of national oppression” is more true than the RCP’s that “After more than 30 years of national struggle in Québec, the support of the organized workers' movement to the sovereignist project has only served the interests of the upper class.”

What we need to examine – and i’m not pretending to be able to do so here – is the actual meaning and implications of this “correction” of national oppression. Largely, what we can see is the elevation of Quebecois to a position of “equality” with their white North American counterparts (i.e. Quebecois workers “equal” to white English workers, Quebecois petit-bourgeois “equal” to white English petit bourgeois, etc.) – but that this “equality” relies on intensifying the inequality suffered by indigenous people and immigrants.


The above – true to form – is a sketched out set of my thoughts on this. Kind of scattershot, i know, and certainly different from what i though i would write about when i saw the initial stupid “Quebecistan” article – but i’m giving myself some leeway.

The discussion is superficial, and i know it is also skewed with an incompleteness that (while i am aware of it) i do not know how to fill at the moment. Namely, the gender dimensions of the Quebec nationalist movement, and of national oppression in Quebec and elsewhere in Canada. This is likely not a minor point – not with the heavy relationship between the nationalist and feminist movements in this province, with the feminization of poverty or with the explosion of women’s revolt against the Church which accompanied the birth of the modern nationalist movement forty years ago.

But i don’t have a handle on this, so i have thought better to not blather on about stuff i would just be guessing at.

More study, and more thought, is certainly needed.