Tuesday, November 24, 2009

New PM Press Books Just In!

A bunch of beautiful new books for your reading pleasure, from my pals at PM Press... all available from leftwingbooks.net:

The Story of CrassThe Story of Crass

Crass was the anarcho-punk face of a revolutionary movement founded by radical thinkers and artists Penny Rimbaud, Gee Vaucher and Steve Ignorant.
price: $20.00 (US)
Click here to order or for more information.

The Left Left BehindThe Left Left Behind

Sardonic and merciless, this satire of the entire apocalyptic enterprise provides a humorous and timely interpretation of the bestselling Left Behind series
price: $12.00 (US)
Click here to order or for more information.

The Lucky StrikeThe Lucky Strike

This astounding alternate history tale presents a dramatic encounter with destiny wrapped around the terrifying question of what might have happened if the fateful bomber flight over Hiroshima had gone a bit differently.
price: $12.00 (US)
Click here to order or for more information.

Girls Are Not Chicks Coloring BookGirls Are Not Chicks Coloring Book

Girls Are Not Chicks is a subversive and playful way to examine how pervasive gender stereotypes are in every aspect of our lives.
price: $10.00 (US)
Click here to order or for more information.

Diario De Oaxaca: A Sketchbook Journal of Two Years in MexicoDiario De Oaxaca: A Sketchbook Journal of Two Years in Mexico

Painting a vivid, personal portrait of social and political upheaval in Oaxaca, Mexico, this unique memoir employs comics, bilingual essays, photos, and sketches to chronicle the events that unfolded around a teachers' strike and led to a 7-month uprising
price: $29.95 (US)
Click here to order or for more information.

Paper Politics: Socially Engaged Printmaking TodayPaper Politics: Socially Engaged Printmaking Today

This major collection of contemporary politically engaged printmaking showcases art that uses themes of social justice and global equity to engage community members in conversation.
price: $24.95 (US)
Click here to order or for more information.

My Baby Rides the Short Bus: The Unabashedly Human Experience of Raising Kids with DisabilitiesMy Baby Rides the Short Bus: The Unabashedly Human Experience of Raising Kids with Disabilities

Featuring works by �alternative� parents who have attempted to move away from mainstream thought--or remove its influence altogether--this anthology, taken as a whole, carefully considers the implications of parenting while raising children with disabilit
price: $20.00 (US)
Click here to order or for more information.

For All the People: Uncovering the Hidden History of Cooperation, Cooperative Movements, and Communalism in AmericaFor All the People: Uncovering the Hidden History of Cooperation, Cooperative Movements, and Communalism in America

Seeking to reclaim a history that has remained largely ignored by most historians, this dramatic and stirring account examines American cooperative movements for social change that have been all but erased from collective memory.
price: $28.95 (US)
Click here to order or for more information.

Lonely Hearts KillerLonely Hearts Killer

The first English translation of a powerhouse novel, by award-winning author Tomoyuki Hoshino.
price: $15.95 (US)
Click here to order or for more information.

Direct Action: An Ethnography Suffled How it Gush: A North American Anarchist in the Balkans An Issue Of Justice: Origins Of The Israel/Palestine Conflict Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism My First Time: A Collection of First Punk Show Stories
For more new titles, visit leftwingbooks.net!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Venezuela's Hugo Chavez defends 'Carlos the Jackal', Idi Amin and Others

Left-populist Hugo Chavez lines up behind right-wing "anti-imperialists" past and present: BBC News - Venezuela's Hugo Chavez defends 'Carlos the Jackal'

Robert King & Terry Kupers: The Psychological Impact of Imprisonment

Monday, November 16, 2009

Gilbert Achcar: Why Holocaust Denial Is on the Rise in the Arab World

The following from Gilbert Achcar:

What pushes Arabs to deny the existence of the Holocaust? How and why does Israel continue to instrumentalize the memory of the destruction of European Jewry? What was the attitude of Arab intellectuals during the Second World War? Why does Ahmadinejad incessantly brandish the denial weapon while Hamas and Hezbollah turn away from it? Mediapart published an exclusive extract from the book, "Les Arabes et la Shoah" [The Arabs and the Holocaust] (éditions Actes Sud/Sindbad, 2009), that came out Wednesday, October 14. [Metropolitan Books will be releasing an English version of the book in April 2010.]

The result of an unprecedented labor, the work of political scientist Gilbert Achcar -- professor at London University's School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) -- reviews over a century of history from the birth of Zionism to last winter's Israeli offensive against Gaza. Although he gives prominence to the political impasse constituted by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, he indicates "new links" that today exist between Jews and Arabs. An Interview.

Pierre Puchot: Gilbert Achcar, your book's subtitle is: "The Israeli-Arab War of Narratives." What do you mean?

Gilbert Achcar: It's about the war that opposes two entirely symmetrical visions of the origins of the conflict. Specifically, I refer here to the notion of "narrative" as the recitation of history as developed by post-modernism. The Israeli narrative describes an Israel that emerges as a reaction to anti-Semitism, beside the "Biblical rights" invoked by religious Zionists. And its justification by European anti-Semitism is extended to Arabs, who are presented as accomplices to this paroxysm of anti-Semitism that was Nazism -- which would legitimate the birth of the State of Israel on lands conquered from the population of Arab descent. That's why the Israeli narrative insists to such a degree on Amin al-Husseini, this character, blown up out of all proportion, who became the ex-grand mufti of Jerusalem.

On the Arab side, the most rational narrative -- later we'll mention the denialist escalations that are on the rise at present -- may perhaps be summarized in these terms, "We had nothing to do with the Shoah. Anti-Semitism is not an established tradition for us, but a European phenomenon. Zionism is a colonial movement that really took off in Palestine under the British colonial mandate, even though there were earlier instances. In consequence, it's a colonial implantation in the Arab world, on the model of what was seen in South Africa and elsewhere." It's the war between these two narratives that I explore in this book.

Is there a dominant Arab reading of the Shoah? In what respects is it specific and how does it differ from those in Europe or the United States?

There's not a single Arab interpretation of the Shoah, just as there isn't a single European reading either, even though there's certainly more homogeneity in the perception of the Holocaust in Europe. However, even that is recent, since, as you know, the Shoah was not a very current theme in European news and education during the two decades that followed the end of the Second World War.

In the Arab world, the situation is far more diversified. That is chiefly the result of the existence of a great variety of political regimes in the Arab countries, with very different ideological legitimatizations. Similarly, very diverse -- and even broadly antithetical -- ideological currents traverse Arab public opinion.

In these last few years, there has been an escalation in the brutality of Israeli military operations -- which have gone from being wars that Israel could present as defensive to wars that could no longer be presented that way at all -- beginning with the invasion of Lebanon in 1982. That has been accompanied by an intensification of hatred in the Israeli-Arab conflict, notably because of the fate reserved for the Palestinians of the territories occupied since 1967.

In the face of growing criticism of Israel, including in the West, since 1982 especially, we have seen that state systematically resort to instrumentalization of the memory of the Shoah, beginning no later than the Eichmann trial in 1960. And that instrumentalization arouses, on the "opposing side," a knee-jerk reaction that sometimes goes so far as to deny the Holocaust. The best indicator of this reactive quality is the fact that the Arab population which has received the widest education on the memory of the Shoah, the population of Arab citizens of Israel, has been prone to an absolutely striking explosion of denial these last few years.

To my mind, that very clearly illustrates the fact that denial in these cases corresponds more to a "gut reaction" out of political rancor, than to a true denial of the Shoah as is seen in Europe or the United States, where the deniers spend their time devising historical theories that don't stand up to refute the existence of the gas chambers, etc.

Another indication of this difference is that within the Arab world where denial is riding high, there's not a single author who has produced anything original on that theme. All the Arab deniers do is pick up theories produced in the West.

The political instrumentalization of denial as formulated by Ahmadinejad today was not used before in the Arab world, in the time of Nasser, for example. What does this development tell us?

The Islamic fundamentalism that has developed over the most recent decades, from the perspective of the Israeli-Arab conflict, carries an essentialist vision, even though it is not anti-Semitic in the strict racial sense of the term. It's a vision that picks up the anti-Judaism that may be found in the Abrahamic religions that followed Judaism: Christianity and Islam. Those elements present in Islam are going to be pointed out to facilitate a convergence between this ideologically extreme current and Western denial.

What elements of Islam allow the realization of this anti-Judaism?

There are criticisms of Judaism within Islam and echoes of the conflict that arose between the Prophet of Islam and the Jewish tribes on the Arab peninsula. But it's a contradictory background: we find anti-Christian and anti-Jewish statements in Islamic scripture. But at the same time, Christians and Jews are considered "people of the book" and may in consequence enjoy privileged treatment compared to other populations in the countries Islam conquered, populations which were forced to convert. The people of the book were not forced to convert and their religions were considered legitimate. Consequently, there is tension between these two contradictory dispositions.

I show in my book how the man who may be considered the main founder of modern Islamic fundamentalism, Rachid Rida, switched from a pro-Jewish attitude due to anti-Christianity -- especially during the Dreyfus Affair, when he denounced anti-Judaism in Europe -- to an attitude that, towards the end of the 1920's, began to repeat an anti-Semitic discourse of Western inspiration, including the big Nazi anti-Semitic narrative attributing all kinds of things to the Jews in continuity with the fake Russian "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," including responsibility for the First World War. Then we see a graft occur between certain Western anti-Semitic discourse and Islamic fundamentalism which veers in that direction on this question because of what was happening in Palestine. Before the conflict turned ugly in Palestine, this same Rachid Rida tried to dialogue with representatives of the Zionist movement to convince them to form an alliance between Jews and Muslims to confront the Christian West as a colonial power. From that anti-colonialism that determines anti-Westernism, they were to move on to anti-Zionism, which, in the case of a fundamentalist religious mentality, combined very easily with anti-Semitism.

With that said, the signs of anti-Judaism that one finds in Islam, one finds a hundredfold in Christianity, and in Catholicism in particular, with the idea of the Jews as deicides, the Jews responsible for the death of Jesus, the son of God. This anti-Jewish charge contained in Christianity has, moreover, resulted in a persecution of the Jews in the history of the West incomparably worse than was the case in Islamic countries. We have seen, for example, how Jews of the Iberian Peninsula, fleeing the Christian Reconquista and the Inquisition, found refuge in the Muslim world, in North Africa, Turkey and elsewhere.

How have Hezbollah and Hamas used this rising tendency towards denial for political ends?

Rachid Rida's discourse, integral to their ideologies, was present from the outset in Hamas and Hezbollah. Much more, by the way, in Hamas, which is an emanation of the Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine. The founder of the Brotherhood, Hassan El-Banna, was largely inspired by Rachid Rida.

In the case of Hezbollah, the discourse is presented through the slant of what was to come from political Iran: in Shiite fundamentalism originally, there is no source for an anti-Judaic dimension comparable to the one developed by Rida. It was to be elaborated along with the Iranian regime's opposition to the West, to the United States and to Israel.

That said, what distinguishes Hamas as well as Hezbollah is that they're mass movements, and, as such, they have a pragmatic dimension. As much as it suits Ahmadinejad to perform denialist one-upsmanship for reasons of state policy, these movements have to a large extent reduced the anti-Semitic discourse they previously expressed and which proved to be counter-productive.

What I understand from your book is that Holocaust denial has become a political instrument per se in the Middle East, whether one chooses to use it or not. How was this instrument integral to the political foundation of the Palestinian movement, especially with respect to the PLO?

The PLO, ever since the armed Palestinian organizations got the upper hand within it after 1967, very quickly came to understand that anti-Semitic discourse is bad in itself and altogether contrary to the interests of the struggle of the Palestinian people. Hence the insistence on the distinction to be made between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, which was the issue in a political battle within the Palestinian movement.

Conversely, what are the mechanisms of what you call the "positive" instrumentalization of the Shoah, as it emanates from Israel?

What may be the legitimatizations for the State of Israel? I'm not talking about questioning its existence, but about examining the legitimatizations that it gives itself. One has to confess that, apart from religious Zionists, the Biblical legitimatization convinces very few people! As for the justification that we find in secular Zionism as expressed most notably by Theodore Herzl, it's a justification that does not take into account what is actually there where the "State of the Jews" is going to be created. The only justification he gives for that state is anti-Semitism in the West. He doesn't concern himself with what's already over there. Moreover, we know that at the outset the Zionist movement occasionally had very intense debates about the possible location for the Zionist state. Therefore, for the Zionist movement, it was a matter of inserting itself within a colonial undertaking and we find references to colonialism in Herzl's book, including the idea of embodying a rampart of civilization against barbarism.

Colonial ideology having expired globally, it was necessary to find an alternative legitimatization: that's when the instrumentalization of the Shoah began to intensify, especially from the beginning of the 1960's with the Eichmann trial. Excellent work has already been done on this subject, particularly that of Tom Segev. It's an absolutely remarkable work on the manner in which, within Israel itself, the question of the Shoah was to suddenly emerge and change character. The relationship to the Holocaust was to change from a relationship of contempt for the survivors to claiming that memory as a legitimatization for the State. Moreover, as a narrative, this legitimatization has been highly effective in the West on several levels, including in the relations maintained between Israel and the Federal Republic of Germany at a time when the German administration was stuffed with former Nazis. People frequently obscure the absolutely significant role Germany played in strengthening the State of Israel, notably by the reparations Bonn dispensed, not to the victims of Nazism, to the survivors of the genocide, but to the State of Israel presented as the survivors' state. Consequently, this legitimatization of the State of Israel was to appear over time as a very high-value political instrument for that State, an instrument that today is overexploited.

The memory of the Shoah is invoked to counter every criticism. At times, this has reached the level of the grotesque as when Prime Minister Begin made his famous answer to Ronald Reagan during the siege of Beirut: Begin compared Arafat to Hitler then, at the very moment when it was the Israeli Army besieging Beirut and while many Israelis and other observers were instead finding parallels with the Warsaw Ghetto.

Does the parallel between the Nakba and the Shoah exist in the Middle East? In what respect does it reveal possible political developments?

At that level, there are two different aspects: the one that we've talked about, the war over the instrumentalization of the Holocaust, and there is what you could call the local version of competition between victims: "My tragedy is more important than yours." On the Palestinian side, one may often read statements that assert that the fate of the Palestinian people has been worse than that of the Jews under Nazism. These are obviously altogether outrageous and absurd exaggerations, but we can easily understand what drives them. Moreover, we find this victims' competition with respect to the Shoah in the case of other historical tragedies such as the Armenian genocide, for example.

At the same time, it is good to listen to former Knesset Speaker Avraham Burg's remarks. He says out loud: "We are guilty of denying the genocides and the tragedies of others." Confronted with a situation, where, in Israel, they deny the Nakba -- and where it required the appearance of those who are called the "New Historians" and of post-Zionism for the official discourse of Nakba denial to be strongly questioned -- there is not only a development of Holocaust denial on the Arab side, but also an escalation in their claims about the scope and the drama of their own tragedy. That can often lead to contradictory statements: on the one hand, Holocaust denial, a minimization of the crimes of Nazism, and, on the other hand, a discourse accusing Israel of reproducing the crimes of Nazism ... It's perfectly clear that it's not logic that holds sway. It's an ideological war that proceeds more through feelings and passions than through rational discourse.

In your conclusion, you present a rather optimistic analysis: "The progress made between Arabs and Israelis is significant when one considers the virtual impossibility of communication between them in the first decades following the Nakba."

This progress has, in part, been a product of the PLO, which opened the way to a more rational attitude vis-à-vis the Shoah, the State of Israel and Israelis on the Arab side.

Connections between Arabs and Jews exist today and in the end must favor recognition of the Holocaust and of the Nakba. Israelis' recognition of the latter is more difficult because it implies recognition of their own responsibility, with the direct implications you can imagine, and which would lead to an attitude radically opposed to that of Israeli governments up to now. Yet that recognition of the Nakba by Israel is today an indispensable step towards achieving a true settlement of this conflict that has gone on for too long.

[Translation: by Truthout French Language Editor Leslie Thatcher, with the permission of Medipart.]

Video Footage from Censored UMass Talk

Part One

you can watch the video via youtube, and then afterwards the next one should come up as an option - or you can continue down in this blogpost though that may be hard on computers with slow connections

Part Two

Part Three

Part Four

Part Five

Part Six

Part Seven

Part Eight

Part Nine

Q&A Part One

Q&A Part Two

Q&A Part Three

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Crass: There is no authority but yourself...

heard about this video earlier tday, haven't checked it out yet bt thought some of you might be interested...

Cops Protest Our Movement (big surprise)

The following piece by Amber Eastman Black appeared in the Northampton Media as a follow-up to the censored Ray Luc Levasseur talk last Thursday:

Levasseur Forum Inspires Police Protest
Participants and audience members at a Thursday night forum held at the Isenberg School of Management at UMass entitled “The Great Western Massachusetts Sedition Trial: Twenty Years Later” encountered satellite news trucks from across the region, bomb-sniffing dogs, and hundreds of members of law enforcement and their supporters standing vigil with protest signs emblazoned with slogans such as “UMass Supports Terrorism Recruitment.”

The dramatic scene climaxed a week of twists and turns in what was originally planned as the closing event of the UMass Libraries’ annual “Colloquium on Social Change” at which Ray Luc Levasseur was scheduled to speak.

Levasseur, one of of the Ohio 7, was a leader of the United Freedom Front, a radical group active in the Northeast in the 1970s and 80s. Levasseur served 18 years of a 45-year prison sentence for his role in a series of bombings which were described by Elizabeth Fink, one of last night’s panelists and an attorney for members of the Ohio 7, as “acts of sabotage.”

Fink differentiated sabotage from terrorism, which she said is legally defined as “random acts of violence against a civilian population.” Fink stated that “Terrorism never works; violence never works,” and remarked that acts committed by members of the UFF were “stupid.”

The focus of last night’s protests outside the event was the 1981 killing of New Jersey state trooper Philip Lamonaco by Thomas Manning, also a member of the UFF. Manning remains in prison for that crime, which he committed during a traffic stop. Levasseur was not on the scene of the trooper’s shooting, nor charged in connection with it.

The trooper’s widow, Donna Lamonaco, and law enforcement comrades in attendance maintain that Levasseur is a terrorist who should be held responsible for Manning’s death.

When police groups protested to Governor Deval Patrick and the UMass administration a week ago about Levasseur’s planned appearance, the UMass Libraries cancelled the event.

Levasseur had been scheduled to discuss the Springfield-based 1989 10-month sedition and racketeering trial in which he and other Ohio 7 members were defendants. Neither Levasseur nor his co-defendants were found guilty of any charges at that trial, in which Levasseur represented himself.

In response to protests from UMass alumni, students, faculty, and others who demanded that the University “honor academic freedom and free speech,” several other campus departments stepped into the breach to sponsor and relocate the event.

Shortly before the program was scheduled to occur, the U.S. Parole Commission reversed course from its earlier decision to grant Levasseur permission to attend, and forbade him to travel to Massachusetts for the event—a change of position which Massachusetts Fraternal Order of Police, through President Arnie Larson, took credit for having influenced.

Event organizers responded by assembling a panel that included attorneys from the sedition trial, two members of the trial’s jury, and Levasseur’s former wife, Pat Levasseur, who in the 1980’s served three years and four months of a five-year sentence for harboring her husband as a fugitive.

Pat Levasseur described how the milieu in which she came of age influenced her. She described growing up in a town with a racist climate within a patriotic family that included a father who had been a World War II veteran and a brother who had served in Vietnam. She recounted being deeply affected by the killings of Martin Luther King, Jr., Robert Kennedy, and Kent State students, and believing that the U.S. government was lying “when Nixon told us the war [in Vietnam] was over and it wasn’t.”

“We got angry,” she said, “and we got educated.” According to Pat Levasser, this anger led members of the UFF to carry out illegal acts intended to protest and disrupt U.S. government and corporate support for both apartheid in South Africa and corrupt governments in Latin America.

Pat Levasseur acknowledged there were “lots of mistakes in judgment. You could fill a book or two at least.” When asked specifically about whether she felt sympathy for the family of the NJ state trooper, she replied, “Of course. It’s tragic. I’m sorry it happened.”

In the wake of widespread and volatile on-line discussions and irate and hostile calls and emails reportedly received by UMass event organizers in the week leading up to the program, the more than 200 audience members listened attentively and remained civil throughout the 90-minute event. People who had hoped to hear the talk were turned away peacefully when the auditorium reached capacity as the event neared starting time.

During her statements, sedition trial juror Barbara Hubbard (a remedial reading teacher in South Hadley at the time she was selected), recalled the judge giving instructions to her group. “Do not do violence to your conscience,” she quoted him as saying.

Both groups—those who protested the event as a travesty and an insult, and those who endorsed it on grounds of free speech and academic freedom—seemed to want to stake claim to this principle at Thursday night’s forum.

Friday, November 13, 2009

[Toronto] Thursday November 19: Upping the Anti Launch Party

On November 19th, join UPPING THE ANTI

and DJs Saira Chhibber and Nik Red
as we celebrate the launch of


Thursday November 19, 8pm
The Concord Cafe
(937 Bloor Street West)

-- DJs Saira Chhibber and Nik Red --
-- Raffle, Dancing, Politics, Fun --

Admission: $10 (includes new issue).
No one turned away for lack of funds.
Subscribers get in free.


- Interview with Eli Clare on disability and trans activism

- Interview with Sherene Razack on Casting Out: The Eviction of Muslims from Western Law and Politics

- Chris Hurl and Kevin Walby on the Canadian Union of Students, 1965-69

- Ben Saifer on campus Palestine solidarity activism and Israel-advocacy "dialogue" initiatives

- Kate Milley on anti-Native organizing and the "Caledonia Crisis"

- Roundtable retrospective on the tenth anniversary of anti-WTO mobilizations in Seattle, 1999

- Roundtable on anti-Olympics organizing

- And More...

For more information, email uppingtheanti@gmail.com
or visit www.uppingtheanti.org

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

GOP, Democrats and U.S. Parole Commission United to Gag Ray Luc Levasseur!

The day started out with good news: a combination of comrades and liberal supporters of academic freedom and freedom of speech had stood up to the right-wing campaign against Ray Luc Levasseur. These folks had taken a stand in the small university town of Amherst, Mass., organizing an event where Levasseur - the former political prisoner who spent twenty years in prison (eighteen years in solitary) for resisting imperialist crimes - could speak on the subject of "The Great Western Massachusetts Sedition Trial: Twenty Years Later". This was after an alliance of cops and right-wing media hacks had had the university administration cancel the talk just last Thursday.

Ray Luc Levasseur is a Vietnam veteran, a former organizer for Vietnam Veterans Against The War, and a revolutionary communist. He was a political prisoner from 1984 to 2004 - twenty years, eighteen of them in solitary - accused of membership in the Sam Melville/Jonathan Jackson Unit and United Freedom Front, two anti-imperialist organizations that carried out armed attacks in the 1970s and 80s in solidarity with national liberation struggles in the U.S. and internationally against apartheid in South Africa, U.S. intervention in Central America and in support of Puerto Rican independence.

Given his track record as a committed opponent of U.S. crimes, it is no wonder that the swine have lined up to try and silence him. At first it was police associations - i.e. the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, Fraternal Order of Police, etc. - and then Mass. governor Deval Patrick chimed in. That's when the university caved, canceling Levasseur's appearance at Fifth Annual Colloquium on Social Change.

But yesterday it was announced that several progressive groups and faculty members concerned about freedom of speech announced an alternate event, to be held at UMass' School of Management, sponsored by a half-dozen academic departments.

This wonderful initiative has pushed the state to take an aggressive stance opposing Levasseur's right to speak. Deval Patrick - a Democrat, and Massachusetts first Black governor - condemned the talk again: "I am more than a little disappointed about this invitation having been extended," Patrick said at a State House news conference. "I fully get the point and respect the idea of free speech. But I think it is a reflection of profound insensitivity to continue to try and have this former terrorist on the campus."

This was followed with a bipartisan motion - passed 33-1 - condemning the planned talk.

Then, late this afternoon, the state played its trump card: the U.S. Parole Commission weighed in, officially denying Levasseur the right to leave Maine in order to attend the Massachusetts event.

Through such a blatant act of political censorship, the Parole Commission has shown itself for what it is - the repressive arm of the state charged with controlling and regimenting survivors of the u.s. prison system. And by adopting such an aggressive posture, the state has created a teaching opportunity for us, a moment where we can intervene and show that this kind of gagging is not exceptional, it is in fact simply one of the top goals of the prison system.

(Indeed, we have seen something much worst for the past several years, as the Parole Commission and the same right-wing police associations have intervened to keep political prisoner Veronza Bowers held in prison for years after his mandatory release date, purely because of his political history as a Black Panther.)

Comrades in Amherst - and of course Ray Luc himself - deserve our gratitude and support for resisting the state's attempt to decide how our movements can communicate. The state has adopted an aggressively repressive stance - if this is not resisted it could further chill the movement on u.s. campuses - but if it is resisted we can turn their arrogance into a vulnerability.

If you're in the Amherst area you are encouraged to attend the event (sadly, without Ray Luc), which will nonetheless take place on Thursday November 12 at 7:15 p.m. at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in School of Management Room 137. Participants will include sedition trial defendant Pat Levasseur, members of the 1989 Springfield sedition trial legal defense team, and a juror from the trial.

For more information contact sedition.trial@gmail.com

Also, people should check out various prison writings by Ray Luc Levasseur, available on the Letters from Exile website.

Defying Right-Wing Smear Campaign, Ray Luc Levasseur to Speak at UMass!

From friends involved in organizing to bring Ray Luc Levasseur to Amherst, Mass.:
November 10, 2009

For Immediate Release

A talk and forum on “The Great Western Massachusetts Sedition Trial: Twenty Years Later” will be held on Thursday November 12 at 7:15 p.m. at the University of Massachusetts Amherst in School of Management Room 137. Participants will include Ray Luc Levasseur and members of the 1989 Springfield sedition trial defense team.

The sponsoring UMass departments and organizations do so because of their commitment to free speech and academic freedom.

Sponsoring departments include:
  • Communication Department*
  • Economics Department
  • History Department
  • Department of Languages, Literatures, and Culture
  • Social Thought and Political Economy Program
  • Sociology Department
  • Sociology Graduate Student Association
  • Student Government Association Executive
  • Women, Gender, Sexuality Studies Program

The event is also sponsored by the following non-profit community organizations, foundations, and businesses: the Rosenberg Fund for Children, Food for Thought Books, Vermont Action for Political Prisoners, and the Massachusetts Foundation for the Humanities.

Several UMass departments have added their support to this event in the name of protecting the cherished American values of freedom of speech and academic freedom, which they believed to be threatened by the decision to cancel the event under pressure from a variety of outside organizations. Sponsors’ support for this event should in no way be construed as an endorsement of Levasseur, his political beliefs, or any of his past activities.

For further information, contact sedition.trial@gmail.com.

*In the service of instructing student reporters, the Journalism Program in the Department of Communication does not sponsor political guests and is not co-hosting Levasseur's visit to UMass.

At the same time, worth mentioning that a facebook page has been set up, entitled "Let Ray Have His Say", to protest the event's cancellation. Please join if you are interested.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mark your calendars!: Montreal Anarchist Bookfair (May 29 & 30, 2010)

The 2010 Montreal Anarchist Bookfair will take place on the weekend of May 29-30 at the CEDA (2515 Delisle, metro Lionel Groulx). Please note, the next Bookfair will take place over two days (ie. there will be tabling on BOTH days). As well, please note that the Bookfair is taking place later in May than in previous years.

In the coming weeks and months, we will be sending more updates and callouts on this list, with more information, but for now we wanted to inform everyone about the dates and locations of next year's Bookfair (our second decade!).

-- The Montreal Anarchist Bookfair Collective

-> Our announcements list:
->Our facebook group:

Friday, November 06, 2009

University of Massachussetts Bows to Right-Wing hysteria

Bowing to pressure from the New Jersey Fraternal Order of Police, the Boston Police Patrolmen's Union, and assorted right-wing gutter journalists, and the Governor of Massachusetts, the University of Massachusetts has caved, pulling the plug on a talk by Ray Luc Levasseur that was to take place next week.

Ray Luc Levasseur is a revolutionary comrade, but as you all know words are cheap, and saying that about the man does not explain the fuss about this event. Until you realize that Levasseur not only talked the talk, he also walked the walk. As he has wroitten elsewhere:
In 1967 I did a tour of duty in Vietnam where I was deeply affected by the devastation of the war on the Vietnamese people and their country. In 1968 I began my first political activism with the Southern Student Organizing Committee in Tennessee. Our work centered on bringing an end to the war, supporting the formation of labor unions, and support work for Black liberation. Police repression ensued, and from 1969 through 1971 I spent most of my time in segregation cells of the Tennessee State Penitentiary. When released in 1971 I became a state organizer for Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW). In 1973 I left VVAW and began working with prisoners, ex-prisoners, and their families. I became an organizer with a [Maine] community-based group called SCAR (Statewide Correctional Alliance for Reform)… In 1974 I was involved with the formation of the Red Star North bookstore, which also operated a free books-to-prisoners program. In late 1974 I went underground became of my commitment to building a revolutionary movement that could grow, sustain, and defend itself at each stage of its development. In 1974 police repression had reached intolerable levels.

In 1984 I was captured by agents of the federal government [along with others in a case that became known as the Ohio 7]. In 1985 I was tried and convicted of bombings against U.S. military facilities, military contractors, and corporations doing business in South Africa. I received a 45-year sentence. In 1986, I was indicted with seven others for seditious conspiracy and RICO (Racketeering Influenced Corrupt Organizations). The indictment charged me with membership in the Sam Melville-Jonathan Jackson Unit and the United Freedom Front. These groups carried out a series of actions from 1976 through 1984 in support of Puerto Rican Independence; freedom struggles in Southern Africa; ‘for the Sufferers—the Homeless—the Unemployed—the Hungry—the Imprisoned—those who die in the streets of amerikkka;’ and in opposition to U.S. war crimes in Central America. In what became the longest sedition trial in the history of the U.S., I was acquitted of seditious conspiracy. The jury deadlocked on the rico charges and the government was forced to dismiss them. Following our victory in this trial, I was sent directly to the control unit at Marion, Illinois. In 1995 I was transferred to the government’s highest security prison—Administrative Maximum, Florence, Colorado. I stayed there until 1999, when I was transferred to U.S. Penitentiary, Atlanta.
What many of us only learned following his capture was than Ray Luc is an eloquent writer. His text "Until All Are Free" was turned into a booklet by anarchists in the UK, and became one of the most widely read resistance texts in the 80s anarchist scene. (More of his writings are available online here.)

Ray Luc was finally released in 2004 - by that time he had spent twenty years in prison, fifteen of them in solitary.

Next week's talk had been organized in the framework of the Fifth Annual Colloquium on Social Change, sponsored by UMass Amherst Libraries’ Department of Special Collections and University Archives (SCUA), Food for Thought books, Vermont Action for Political Prisoners, the Rosenberg Fund for Children and the Massachusetts ACLU. The goal of the conference was "to examine how ideas about social justice have shaped American lives with speakers who represent distinctly different radical challenges to American society."

In a series of events reminiscent of the silencing (not!) of Ward Churchill, right-wing media activists combined with political pressure and police lobbying led the University to announce today that they were canceling the event.

It remains to be seen how local activists will respond to this; an email from one organizer does indicate that there may be plans to hold an alternative event, hopefully during the same time slot as the originally planned lecture; possibly a panel discussion on Academic Freedom in the Post-911 era.

Stay tuned for more on this (hopefully).

Tuesday, November 03, 2009

[November 5th] Who's the Terrorist? Criminalization of social movements & the anti-terrorism crusade


Criminalization of social movements & the anti-terrorism crusade

Thursday, November 5th 6:30 pm at
Pavillon J-A-DeSève (DS) UQAM,
Rm DS-1580
320 Sainte-Catherine street E.

As state-sponsored crimes are being increasingly normalized on a global scale, and national security is taking precedence over individual and collective rights, the media often plays a critical role in constructing public opinion by not distinguishing between popular resistance and terrorism. Organizing for social, environmental and human rights is portrayed as engaging in criminal acts, and terrorism. As part of a Canadian tour, a member of the Political Prisoners Solidarity Committee of Colombia, will join Montreal groups - PASC, Tadamon!, Indigenous Solidarity Committee, Certain Days, and the People’s Commission Network - in a public discussion about the consequences that the "War on Terror" security policies and practices have on social movements.
  • What impact does the anti-terrorism discourse have on our organizations and the communities in which we work?
  • How can social and political organizations resist the injustices perpetuated by repressive regimes in Palestine and Colombia?
  • Why do Canadian intelligence agencies identify indigenous organizations as potential terrorist threats when they defend their inherent right to self-determination?
  • How does the “War on Terror” discourse serve to justify the implementation of laws which threaten fundamental rights and sanction racial and political profiling?
  • How does the 'Witch Hunt', carried out by the West in the name of combating terrorism, justify and normalize practices of state-sponsored terrorism such as torture?

Event organized by:
  • Le Projet Accompagnement Solidarité Colombie (Project Accompaniment and Solidarity Colombia) - PASC – is a Montreal-based collective that is working to build a network of direct solidarity with social organizations and peasant communities defending their rights to land, life, self-determination, justice and dignity. INFO : www.pasc.ca
  • Tadamon! (Arabic for “solidarity”), is a Montreal-based collective which works in solidarity with struggles for self-determination, equality and justice in the ‘Middle East’ and in diaspora communities in Montreal and beyond. INFO : http://www.tadamon.ca
  • The Indigenous Solidarity Committee We work in direct solidarity with indigenous organizers and communities fighting for land, freedom and self-determination, from an anti-colonial and anti-capitalist perspective. INFO: indigenoussolidaritymontreal@gmail.com
  • The People’s Commission Network is a Montreal network monitoring and opposing the “national security agenda”. The network is a space for individuals and groups who face oppression in the name of “national security” - such as indigenous people, immigrants, racialized communities, radical political organizations, labour unions - and their allies, to form alliances, share information, and coordinate strategies to defend their full rights and dignity.
  • Certain Days: Freedom for Political Prisoners Calendar. The calendar is a joint fundraising and educational project between outside organizers in Montreal and Toronto, and three political prisoners being held in maximum-security prisons in New York State and California: David Gilbert, Robert Seth Hayes and Herman Bell. We work from an anti-imperialist,anti-racist, anti-capitalist, feminist, queer and trans positive position. INFO : www.certaindays.org

Pennsylvania Charges Dropped Against Elliot Madison and Michael Wallschlager

"Tortuga" is the name of the collective house where Elliot Madison and Michael Wallschlager live. Madison and Wallschlager are the two anarchists who were arrested at the G20 protests in Pittsburgh in September, accused of using twitter to help demonstrators avoid the cops. Following their arrest, Tortuga was raided by the Joint Terrorism Task Force, seizing boxes of personal belongings - computers, passports, even stuffed animals.

This just out on the Friends of Tortuga blog:

In the face of a PR nightmare, Pennsylvania authorities have withdrawn all charges against two members of Tortuga accused of using Twitter to aid protesters at the G20 summit in Pittsburgh. At a hearing today, instead of oral arguments regarding a defense motion to unseal the secret 18-page affidavit authorizing the arrests of Elliott Madison and Michael Wallschlager at a motel just outside of Pittsburgh, the prosecution immediately moved to withdraw all charges against the two before the defense had a chance to argue its case. Although clear from the beginning that these charges were absurd based on the State’s very own laws, our housemates were incarcerated for 36 hours, had their van towed and belongings confiscated, and one house member was given $30,000 in straight bail.

The District Attorney and his spokesperson were at pains to explain why the State would drop all charges against these dangerous twitterists and of course, refused to admit that these charges were unconstitutional and a heavy-handed attempt to scare anarchists and others from protesting in ways unsanctioned by the government. Instead, the prosecution says they decided that pursuing the charges “would be unwise” after consulting other law enforcement agencies and because of other pending investigations. The secret affidavit authorizing the arrests in Pennsylvania is set to become public on Nov. 23rd. We imagine the Pennsylvania State Police will seek an extension to keep this document sealed—perhaps in order to hide the flimsiness of their secret evidence? However, no matter the reason, we will fight to unseal this document and we will not let the State hide behind sealed evidence, obscure innuendo, and other traditional tactics used by secret police.

Though it is a victory that all the charges against our two housemates were dropped in Pennsylvania, we cannot forget that there is still a mysterious grand jury and other “ongoing investigations” out there. While we may be free from criminal proceedings now, we are still under the threat of future charges/indictments. What these might be, when they might happen, and what cause the State has is, of course, secret. Although our only option is to wait and see, we refuse to let them go about their business ruining our lives in peace and quiet and will continue fighting them every step of the way.

For more information and updates, please go to friendsoftortuga.wordspress.com

H1N1 Vaccinations: Some Thoughts from an ICU Nurse-Comrade

Received this email from Scott Weinstein, a friend of mine who is an ICU nurse, and thought it worth sharing for the light (as opposed to just heat) that it shines on the question of the H1N1 vaccine:

This mail is unsolicited, so you may trash it or read it. I am NOT a flu expert, so take my thoughts with skepticism, which you should do with any health advice from someone who is not well educated in the subject. I am an intensive care RN and have been studying on my own the flu and vaccination debate for a month now, and want to share my thoughts that may tamper the emotions and claims on the debate. This month at work on my ICU, two patients had H1N1. Both had other high risk factors. The elderly lady did fine. The 23 year old died. That is not statistically significant, but It forced me to examine this flu more seriously than I have with previous flues.

I am agnostic on the issue, except that my bullshit meter has been in the red-zone for a while, and I desire a more cold-blooded analysis and less dogma.

There are three major problems with the H1N1 flu and vaccination program.
  1. People are getting hysterical that there is not enough vaccines to go around.
  2. People are getting hysterical that the the vaccines are more deadly than the flu.
  3. Accurate information seems harder to access than sensational information.
Not surprisingly, there media has sensationalized the problem, and there is a strong odor of conspiracy-theory.

In the middle are those of us who are confused.

People like me in the health care field have to deal with a lot of complexity and unknowns, in a short amount of time, with potentially deadly results.

The US public health agency, the Center for Disease Control CDC is poor when it comes to releasing easy to understand statistics, but they are issuing advice and guidelines, and seem to have the most information compiled from scientists and medical professionals around the U.S. on the subject. I quote them because it is easy, and they have a lot of public health stats. Should we trust them? Well, they are the government, but they are not the people who vote for war, or gave the job of fixing the economy to the bankers who ruined it for the rest of us.

There are four questions that we need to know

1. Who are at most risk of serious illness or death from the H1N1 flu?
We know it is people who are: pregnant, immunocompromised, have asthma, cardiovascular disease, arthritis, diabetes, or obese.. Healthy people with good immune systems are obviously less at risk for the flu, (or any other illness). Except healthy pregnant women and healthy kids are more at risk for serious H1N1 complications than with the regular seasonal flu.

These last three questions wont be known until later, or until after this flu season is over.

2. What percentage of UN-VACCINATED people will get seriously ill or die from the H1N1 flu?
3. What percentage of VACCINATED people will get seriously ill or die from the H1N1 flu?
4. What percentage of VACCINATED people will get seriously ill or die from the H1N1 vaccine?

"CDC estimated that about 36,000 people died of seasonal flu-related causes each year, on average, during the 1990s in the United States."

They report that the seasonal flu vaccine is about 30-90% effective (depending on your other risk factors) in preventing serious illness and death. But they don't have current stats on H1N1 because the vaccination program just got started.

In the worst year for serious illness and deaths from a flu vaccine, 1976, 532 vaccinated people for H1N1 out of 40 million, got Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) in the US. 32 died. Only 13 people contracted and one person died from the H1N1 flu! The U.S. shut down the vaccination program and paid out $millions to the GBS victims.

As of Oct. 24, the CDC reports there are 114 confirmed pediatric deaths in the U.S. from H1N1 and (this web page may be updated weekly). Ignoring the H1N1 effects from April through August, the CDC reports from August 30th - October 24th, 530 flu deaths, and 2,916 pneumonia and flu syndrome-based deaths. The flu is H1N1.

The U.S. H1N1 vaccines do not contain adjuvants like aluminum, for political reasons. Adjuvants supposedly make the vaccine more effective. The Canadian and European vaccines do. A very small study inspired by neuro problems of American Gulf War soldiers, injected the common aluminum hydroxide and the sqalene adjuvants in about 43 mice. It found that aluminum hydroxide adjuvant increased the risk of neuodamage by up to 23% (1). The number of mice tested is way too small to draw a conclusion, other than this might warrant a much larger study. It is also a perfect example against killing animals for studies like these: Why not study people who got the adjuvants? That should be easy because millions do each year. So we could look at a large sample of people who got flu vaccines with the adjuvants, and a large sample of people who got the flu vaccine without adjuvants, and a large sample of people who didn't get a vaccine or adjuvants and see if any group has more neuro deficits or damage. I know, people will say the study would be flawed because Americans didn't get the adjuvants, and so many are brain damaged anyway, but we can control for that.

There have been studies to figure out what part of the vaccine caused GBS in 1976. They are inconclusive according to the CDC. Could it have been the adjuvants, the preparation, the medium, the killed virus or the attenuated virus? Anyway, they predict the new H1N1 vaccine in the US will be a lot safer. Will it be? I can't say for sure, but I assume that the public health experts do NOT want to get burned again by issuing a deadly vaccine. Not only will it cost them their jobs, but it will seriously destroy any confidence the public has in public health efforts.

Lots of problematic internet articles pass my way to prove that the vaccines are harmful. First I look to see if the article is based on statistical research of a good sample size, or is it based on anecdotes, stories or individual examples. I would never base a serious decision solely on anecdotal 'evidence'. I would never solely base a decision only from any person, doctor or pharmaceutical corporation that stood to profit by me following their advice. Although I have serious criticisms of the western medical-industrial-complex, many natural or alternative health practitioners are as unscrupulous, greedy or dogmatic as the Western medical industry they criticize. Dogma is an incurable epidemic I fear.

One interesting source of science geek news and views on the flu & epidemiology is: http://scienceblogs.com/effectmeasure/

There is one troubling aspect of the H1N1 virus that reminds me of the HIV virus. The HIV virus causes AIDS by hijacking the person's immune system, and turning it against them. With H1N1, we are reading about a hypothesis that the reason young healthy people are getting sicker and sometimes dying at a higher rate than they would for the regular seasonal flu, is that much of the lung damage in life-threatening flu infections is caused by a “cytokine storm,” the inflammatory overreaction of the body’s immune system to invasion by the virus that can happen with healthy people.

So, given the knowns and the unknowns, should someone get the flu vaccine?
I personally have never been vaccinated for the flu until I was forced to for H1N1 as a condition for keeping my job.

My simple answer is that if they fall in a high risk category, they should certainly consider it. If they are exposed to the public inside closed spaces and their sneezing and coughing, they should consider it.

Of course, people should wash their hands, cover their cough, and stay home if they have flu-like symptoms.

Finally, people should always pursue a healthy lifestyle and lessen their health risk factors, regardless what illness they are concerned about.

Best wishes and stay healthy!

Footnote (1): Aluminum hydroxide injections lead to motor deficits and motor
neuron degeneration
Christopher A. Shaw, Michael S. Petrik c
Contents lists available at ScienceDirect
Journal of Inorganic Biochemistry
journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/jinorgbio

Monday, November 02, 2009

Celebrate Thirty Years of Freedom for Assata Shakur!

In 1979, fearing that I would be murdered in prison and knowing that I would never receive any justice, I was liberated from prison, aided by committed comrades who understood the depths of the injustices in my case and who were also extremely fearful for my life.
-Assata Shakur

Thirty years ago today three individuals signed in as visitors to see Assata Shakur, who was at that time a prisoner of war, framed by the United States government as part of its vendetta against the Black Liberation Movement.

Only thing was, these “visitors” had other plans… they managed to smuggle in guns, took some guards hostage and managed to break Assata out of jail. Comrades were waiting in a car not far away, and they all made it away.

One of the finest operations ever carried out by "our side" in North America, if you ask me…

None of the guards were harmed, and despite a massive FBI manhunt Shakur managed to disappear without a trace. It was five years later – in 1984 – that Assata made a public statement, letting us know that she was living in Cuba, working on a masters degree in political science, writing her autobiography, and raising her daughter.

As it states in Assata's short biography in Let Freedom Ring:

In May 1973, while Assata and two companions were traveling on the New Jersey Turnpike, state police spotted and identified them as people they believed to be members of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army, and proceeded to ambush them. When the smoke cleared, one police officer and one of Assata’s companions, Zayd Shakur, lay dead. Assata, shot with her hands in the air and dragged from the car, lay wounded. Only belatedly taken to the hospital, Assata was then chained to her bed, tortured, and questioned while injured. In fact, she never received adequate medical attention even though she had a broken clavicle and a paralyzed arm. Nonetheless, she was quickly jailed, prosecuted, and incarcerated over the next few years for the series of trumped up cases. In five separate trials, and with majority-white juries, where charges were not dismissed due to lack of evidence, she was repeatedly found not guilty of charges ranging from bank robbery to murder. As the manager of one bank said at trial, “She is just not the one who robbed my bank.” In the final trial in 1977, where she was charged with the Turnpike killings, she was found guilty by an all-white jury. This, even though forensic evidence taken that day showed that she had not fired a weapon. She was sentenced to life plus 33 years in prison. (Sundiata Acoli was tried separately, convicted of killing the policeman, and sentenced to life plus 30 years.)

Sadly, several comrades - Marilyn Buck, Mutulu Shakur and Sekou Odinga and Silvia Baraldini – were arrested in the years following Assata's liberation, and charged with having participated in the action (amongst other things). All but Baraldini remain behind bars today. Black Liberation Army martyr Kuwasi Balagoon – who died of AIDS while in prison in 1986 – was also said to have been a member of the Black Liberation Army unit that participated in the action.

For years the US government has had a bounty on Assata's head - $150,000 for the forcible return of this remarkable woman, this "twentieth century escaped slave". In May of 2005 the federal government upped the bounty, now offering one million dollars for anyone who might kidnap and her and return her to her to the US plantation. All of which, it must be said, is as much about the broader trend towards repression within the United States and that country's war of attrition against Cuba as it is about Assata herself.

As Assata herself has explained:

I am a 20th-century escaped slave. Because of government persecution, I was left with no other choice than to flee from the political repression, racism, and violence that dominate the U.S. government’s policy toward people of color. I am an ex-political prisoner, and I have been living in exile in Cuba since 1984.

I have been a political activist most of my life, and although the U.S. government has done everything in its power to criminalize me, I am not a criminal, nor have I ever been one. In the 1960s, I participated in various struggles: the Black liberation movement, the student rights movement, and the movement to end the war in Vietnam. I joined the Black Panther Party. By 1969 the Black Panther Party had become the number one organization targeted by the fbi’s cointelpro program. Because the Black Panther Party demanded the total liberation of Black people, J. Edgar Hoover called it the ‘greatest threat to the internal security of the country’ and vowed to destroy it and its leaders and activists.

For more information about Assata Shakur – including information about ordering her autobiography Assata – please visit the Assata Shakur Page on the Kersplebedeb Site.

For more information about Kuwasi Balagoon, including information about the incredible book A Soldier’s Story, check out the Kuwasi Balagoon Memorial Page.

For more information about political prisoners and prisoners of war in the United States, check out the Kersplebedeb PP/POW Page.

Assata, Kuwasi Balagoon: A Soldier's Story, and Let Freedom Ring are all available from leftwingbooks.net: