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Revolution #60, September 10, 2006
5 Years after 9/11
"The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy, but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism.
On August 31, in Salt Lake City, Utah, George W. Bush told a convention of the American Legion—a pro-war organization of veterans—that “If we give up the fight in the streets of Baghdad, we will face the terrorists in the streets of our own cities.” And we are sure to hear, in the days to come, constant invocations of 9/11 to terrify the populace into lining up behind attacks on whoever Bush declares are the latest “bad guys” in the so-called “war on terror.” Before addressing his claim to be keeping Americans safe from terrorism, let’s briefly review what five years of “war on terror” have brought to the world:
So far, the “war on terror” has produced war and occupation of Afghanistan—an occupation so brutal and hated that some sections of people in that country are even rallying behind the dreadful Taliban. Then came the invasion and occupation of Iraq—justified by total lies. The British medical journal Lancet estimates 100,000 civilians have been killed during the U.S. occupation of Iraq. The latest revelation about the Marine massacre at Haditha is that, according to the Washington Post, “The Marine officer who commanded the battalion involved in the Haditha killings last November did not consider the deaths of 24 Iraqis, many of them women and children, unusual and did not initiate an inquiry.” In other words, this massacre was standard operating procedure and didn’t even call for a perfunctory inquiry. The world hasn’t even seen all of the photos documenting the horrors that took place in the U.S.-run torture chamber at Abu Ghraib. And will we ever know how high up the chain of command the responsibility lies for what happened to 14-year-old Abeer Qassim Hamza who was raped and then murdered along with her family by U.S. occupation troops? According to a July 1 Associated Press article, the U.S. troops spent almost a week planning the assault.
On the homefront, Bush has unleashed government snooping into everything from your phone calls and emails to the books you read at the library, declaring himself above any laws that constrain who and how he can spy on people in the U.S. For three years, a U.S. citizen, Jose Padilla, was held in prison as an “enemy combatant,” without charges or trial. The Department of Homeland Security issues constant “elevated security warnings”—the timing of which, as MSNBC’s Keith Olbermann pointed out, coincides with moments when there are awkward scandals, protests, or other things the government wants out of the news and out of people’s minds. And through all this, the Christian fascist edge of the Bush Regime is being strengthened to cohere a section of people around simple-minded lies and a promise of order and stability in their lives. These forces are being pandered to and whipped up, for example, behind demands for imposing Old Testament morality in the form of bans on abortion and gay marriage.
“What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system.”
We need to be clear in understanding all this, that there is no “war on terror.” There is a clash in the world today between U.S. imperialism—and its compulsion to dominate and exploit the world on the one side, and opposition to that in some areas of the world led by reactionary Islamic fundamentalism representing social forces who are not opposed to imperialism, but who do see their interests in conflict, in some ways, with how imperialism is dominating their countries. As Bob Avakian, Chairman of the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA, has put it: “What we see in contention here with Jihad on the one hand and McWorld/McCrusade on the other hand, are historically outmoded strata among colonized and oppressed humanity up against historically outmoded ruling strata of the imperialist system.”
And there is much worse to come, if the crimes of the Bush Regime are not brought to a halt. The logic of where Bush is heading is leading to a war on Iran, very possibly involving a U.S. nuclear attack on that country. That war, as we pointed out last week in this paper, would be both a humanitarian and a political nightmare. Alongside the destruction of human life, it would further polarize the people of the world between Bush’s McCrusade, and Islamic fundamentalist jihad. Unless a different force—one representing the actual interests of the people of the world, steps onto the stage. All this emphasizes the critical need, now, for a real movement to drive out the Bush Regime and put a HALT to its crimes emerging on October 5th—something we will return to at the end of this piece.
This Was Never About Your Safety—And Even If It Was…
Now, back to that bullshit about how all this is keeping you safe. If this whole terrible course Bush led the U.S. into after 9/11 had anything to do with actually protecting the people in this country from terrorist attacks, then why—from the moments after 9/11 to today—has the Bush Regime done nothing but suppress any real investigation into who or what was behind those attacks? In an introduction to the book The New Pearl Harbor by David Ray Griffin, Richard Falk, professor of international law and practice at Princeton, wrote, “There are so many gaping holes in the official accounts of 9/11 that no plausible coherent narrative remains, and until now we have been staggering forward as if the truth about these traumatic events no longer mattered.”
And the Washington Post reported that the staff and some members of the 9/11 Commission (the official group that conducted a so-called “investigation” into the attacks) “concluded that the Pentagon’s initial story of how it reacted to the 2001 terrorist attacks may have been part of a deliberate effort to mislead the commission and the public,” and that “suspicion of wrongdoing ran so deep that the 10-member commission, in a secret meeting at the end of its tenure in summer 2004 debated referring the matter to the Justice Department for criminal investigation.” And why did Bush testify to the official 9/11 Commission (he refused to testify under oath) that he had no idea that there were Al Qaeda cells in the U.S. or that there was any imminent threat, when there is repeated testimony that he was told about the likelihood of an attack and was given a presidential briefing titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the U.S.” on August 6, just a month before September 11? (See accompanying article "911: Cracks in the ‘Official Story’")
The “war on terror,” with its endless war, repression, and torture, is not about making you safe. But even if it was—in some narrow, short-term sense of keeping you safe from angry victims of U.S. wars—then that would be a deal with the devil—aligning with and banking on mass murder and torture to keep you safe. There is much to appreciate and learn from in the statement by Craig Murray, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, who declared at the Bush Crimes Commission hearings that while he didn’t believe torture produced reliable information, even so, “I would personally rather die than have anyone tortured to save my life.”
What Bush Means by “The Terrorists”
In his Salt Lake City speech, Bush lumped together all kinds of forces in “a single movement, a worldwide network of radicals that use terror.” With this logic, the “enemy” can be defined as whoever is in the way of Bush’s agenda. Afghanistan in 2001 was ruled by the Sunni Muslim fundamentalist Taliban. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq was a repressive secular state. Iran was—and is—ruled by Shi’a Muslim theocrats who in 2001 had very hostile relations with both Afghanistan and Iraq. And most of the people who have been officially identified as being involved in the plane hijackings on 9/11 came not from any of these countries, but from Saudi Arabia—a country Bush has consistently (so far) upheld as a model ally in the “war on terror.” In short, the countries on Bush’s hit list had nothing to do with each other and no more documented relationship to what happened on 9/11 than any other country. There was, when Bush attacked Iraq, no connection between that regime and Al Qaeda. Bush’s “terrorist” list is not defined by who is killing civilians with bombs—if it was, the U.S. and its Middle East attack dog Israel would be at the top of the list. What Bush means by the “worldwide network” of “terror” are—mainly (but not only) Islamic fundamentalist forces who pose an obstacle to U.S. domination of the Middle East.
And, in his Salt Lake City speech, Bush even had the gall to yet again invoke the long discredited “weapons of mass destruction” story as an excuse for war on Iraq.
In short, the logic of the “war on terror,” and the list of “axis of evil” states, has nothing to do with threats to the U.S. or what happened on 9/11.
Bringing "Democracy" to the Middle East
A substantial part of Bush's Salt Lake City speech is a celebration of the benefits of bringing U.S.-style (capitalist) democracy to the Middle East.
Bush claimed that "Governments accountable to the voters focus on building roads and schools-not weapons of mass destruction." This from the ruler of a country that let 1800 people die unnecessarily in the immediate wake of Hurricane Katrina, and abandoned hundreds of thousands more, and a country that diverts a good percentage of the world's wealth and resources into building a nuclear arsenal capable of unimaginable destruction.
Bush claimed that "Democracies don't attack each other or threaten the peace." This from the leader of the world's model democracy, and the world's biggest source of war-the country that just backed the invasion of Lebanon by Israel (also a democracy), that invaded and occupied Afghanistan and Iraq, and that has waged rarely interrupted wars of neocolonial and imperialist conquest from the Philippines to Cuba, and in more recent times proxy wars through funded terrorists (like the Nicaraguan Contras) or through massive bombing attacks (as against the former Yugoslavia).
And Bush had the gall to claim that “the Iraqi people have reclaimed the sovereignty of their country,” when the U.S. occupies the country with 140,000 troops.
All this sheds light on a quote from Bob Avakian that we have been featuring in this newspaper:
"The essence of what exists in the U.S. is not democracy, but capitalism-imperialism and political structures to enforce that capitalism-imperialism.
"What the U.S. spreads around the world is not democracy, but imperialism and political structures to enforce that imperialism.”
Iran in the Crosshairs
In many ways Bush’s speech in Salt Lake City led up to setting the stage for the next phase of the “war on terror,” a U.S. attack on Iran. First you buy that this is all about protecting America from the terrorists. Then you buy that if the U.S. doesn’t stop the terrorists in Iraq, you’ll be fighting them in the streets of the U.S. Next step, Iran.
Bush said, “This summer’s crisis in Lebanon has made it clearer than ever that the world now faces a grave threat from the radical regime in Iran. The Iranian regime arms, funds, and advises Hezbollah, which has killed more Americans than any terrorist network except Al Qaeda. The Iranian regime interferes in Iraq by sponsoring terrorists and insurgents, empowering unlawful militias, and supplying components for improvised explosive devices. The Iranian regime denies basic human rights to millions of its people. And the Iranian regime is pursuing nuclear weapons in open defiance of its international obligations.
“We know the death and suffering that Iran’s sponsorship of terrorists has brought, and we can imagine how much worse it would be if Iran were allowed to acquire nuclear weapons. Many nations are working together to solve this problem. The United Nations passed a resolution demanding that Iran suspend its nuclear enrichment activities. Today is the deadline for Iran’s leaders to reply to the reasonable proposal the international community has made. If Iran’s leaders accept this offer and abandon their nuclear weapons ambitions, they can set their country on a better course. Yet, so far, the Iranian regime has responded with further defiance and delay. It is time for Iran to make a choice. We’ve made our choice: We will continue to work closely with our allies to find a diplomatic solution—but there must be consequences for Iran’s defiance, and we must not allow Iran to develop a nuclear weapon.”
In an editorial last week, we exposed how the U.S. is recycling the “WMD” lie they used to justify war on Iraq, and how both Bush and some of the Democrats are pushing intelligence agencies to exaggerate how quickly Iran could produce nuclear weapons to justify a war on Iran that might well involve the use of nuclear bombs by the U.S. And we wrote, “A U.S. attack on Iran may very well involve nuclear weapons, and in any event would take the initial form of a massive bombing attack, with terrible human consequences, and terrible political consequences.” (see “Hidden U.S. Plans for War on Iran: Imminent Danger…and Strategic Stakes,” Revolution #59, available at revcom.us)
Non-Opposition, and Real Opposition to All This
Mainstream media critics of Bush, and the Democratic Party, have complained that Bush’s message that essentially says that “anyone who opposes all this is with the terrorists”—is “politicizing” the “war on terror.” Or, trying to use the “war on terror” to gain an electoral advantage over the Democrats. This misses the point, channels opposition into very harmful directions, and is not what is going on.
What is going on in relation to election season is an expression of the reality that elections aren’t where decisions are made about anything—they are where the terms of things, and the alternatives you are supposed to restrict your thinking to, are defined. In that context, Bush is indeed aiming his 9/11 fearmongering to the elections. But not mainly to get the edge on the Democrats. His 9/11 speeches will define the terms of what is argued over in the elections. Namely: who is toughest in the “war on terror.”
Bush’s lies about WMDs in Iraq? Off the agenda. Lies about Saddam Hussein’s having ties to Al Qaeda? Off the agenda. Orchestrated “negotiations,” “sanctions,” and intelligence findings to prepare for a war—very possibly a nuclear war on Iran? Off the agenda. Illegal, massive spying on Americans? Torture at Guantanamo? Renditions to other countries for torture? All off the agenda. Yes, the Democrats can argue with Bush, but it has to be over who is going to be better at implementing an agenda that is no damn good for the people.
Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean illustrated how this works. In response to Bush’s August 31 speech, what did he do? Call out Bush as a liar? Remind the voting public about the WMD hoax? Sound an alarm on the danger of nuclear war against Iran? Not at all. “You can’t trust Republicans to defend America,” Dean said. “Today we only heard more of the same propaganda from a desperate Bush administration worried more about its party’s political prospects this fall than about how to protect America and fight and win the real war on terror. It’s results that matter, and the Bush White House and its rubber-stamp Republicans in Congress have not produced results when it comes to keeping America safe.” (Chicago Tribune, 9/2/06)
|The outpouring of thousands of people in Salt Lake City, Utah—of all places—to protest Bush, and the sentiments expressed even by the mayor of Salt Lake City, tell you something about the pent-up anger and outrage at the direction this country is moving in-very quickly. That outrage is right, and necessary. But it has to be directed at HALTING the whole package, not misdirected into lining up with the Democrats!|
There is an incredible disconnect between, on the one hand, the position and role of the Democratic Party establishment, and their acceptance of the awful terms (and fighting for their own position within those terms), and, on the other hand, even some elected Democrats, much less the base of the Democratic Party. Listen, for instance, to Rocky Anderson, the mayor of Salt Lake City, speaking to an outpouring of thousands in Salt Lake to protest Bush’s speech:
“No more lies from Condoleezza Rice about whether she and President Bush were advised before 9/11 of the possibility of planes being flown into buildings by terrorists. No more gross incompetence in the office of the Secretary of Defense. No more torture of human beings. No more disregard of the basic human rights enshrined in the Geneva Convention. No more kidnapping of people and sending them off to secret prisons in nations where we can expect they will be tortured. No more unconstitutional wiretapping of Americans. No more proposed amendments to the United States Constitution that would, for the first time, limit fundamental rights and liberties for entire classes of people simply on the basis of sexual orientation…”
Anderson’s perspective, which he raises in this same speech, is that “we hold dear the values upon which our nation was founded.” That is not a perspective that really gets to the source of the problem in this society. This nation was founded on the enslavement of Africans, genocide against the Native Americans, the theft of half of Mexico, and yes—values—that justified those horrors. Those values cannot be the basis for a society that is in the interests of the people of the world, or in this country. But there is much to unite with in the spirit of his speech to protesters when Bush spoke in Salt Lake City. He said, “We won’t be quiet. We will continue to resist the lies, the deception, the outrages of the Bush administration. We will insist that peace be pursued, and that, as a nation, we help those in need. We must break the cycle of hatred, of intolerance, of exploitation. We must pursue peace as vigorously as the Bush administration has pursued war. It’s up to all of us to do our part.”
The outpouring of thousands of people in Salt Lake City, Utah—of all places—to protest Bush, and the sentiments expressed even by the mayor of Salt Lake City, tell you something about the pent-up anger and outrage at the direction this country is moving in—very quickly. That outrage is right, and necessary. But it has to be directed at HALTING the whole package, not misdirected into lining up with the Democrats!
Bush is invoking 9/11 to justify a whole new round of even worse—unimaginablewars, with draconian implications for fascist repression at home. There is a way—one way—that does provide an avenue for people, coming from a very broad range of perspectives, to step forward in their interests. As the new ad from World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime lays out:
“ENDLESS WARS! TORTURE! KATRINA! THEOCRACY! BRING THIS TO A HALT!”
And World Can’t Wait says: “This Regime does not represent us and we will not stop until we drive it out! Walk out of school! Refuse to work! No shopping on Oct 5!
“Come to mass demonstrations across the country and march through the streets calling on millions more to join us in repudiating this criminal regime with the mobilization of massive political opposition!”
A powerful mass movement to drive out the Bush Regime, to bring its crimes to a HALT—a movement that nobody can ignore, can begin to set new terms for the people of the world. Right here, in the heart of the country that is bringing so much death and misery to humanity, a statement can be made to the world that things do not have to be this way, and McWorld and Jihad are not the only two choices.
Nothing less, nothing else, speaks to what the world demands of us.
[More info on connecting with World Can’t Wait.]
Revolution #60, September 10, 2006
On the fifth anniversary of the September 11 attacks and over two years after the release of the 9/11 Commission Report, it is clear that the people still do not know the full story of what happened on September 11, and that the truth is being suppressed.
Last month, the Washington Post reported that the staff and some members of the 9/11 Commission (the official group that conducted a so-called “investigation” into the attacks) “concluded that the Pentagon’s initial story of how it reacted to the 2001 terrorist attacks may have been part of a deliberate effort to mislead the commission and the public,” and that “suspicion of wrongdoing ran so deep that the 10-member commission, in a secret meeting at the end of its tenure in summer 2004 debated referring the matter to the Justice Department for criminal investigation.”
This highlights questions such as why Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)/Air Force procedures for scrambling fighter jets in the event of a hijacking were not followed. David Ray Griffin, a retired Claremont School of Theology professor and the author of two in-depth studies of Sept. 11,* writes that the government has “given three explanations, each of which is contradicted by the others and none of which is a satisfactory explanation” of why U.S. jets failed to intercept any of the hijacked airliners. According to Griffin and others, the military’s various stories, as well as other evidence, point to the possibility that a “stand down” order, commanding U.S. fighters not to strike the airliners, may have been given.
Many other cracks have emerged in the official narrative of 9/11. For example, in the official story, it is taken as an assumption that Al Qaeda, acting without any U.S. government knowledge, staged the attacks of September 11. However, there is evidence of ties between Al Qaeda and other Islamist forces and U.S. intelligence agencies and other pro-U.S. regimes. There is no mention in the government’s 9/11 report that General Mahmoud Ahmad, the head of the Pakistani Intelligence Service (ISI), had ordered $100,000 be sent to Mohammed Atta, alleged to be the head of the 9/11 hijackers, or that General Ahmad met with CIA chief George Tenet the week prior to Sept. 11, 2001.
The U.S. armed and built up Al Qaeda and other similar forces in the 1980s to combat the Soviet Union’s occupation of Afghanistan. But this support did not end with the collapse of the Soviet occupation in 1989. UC Berkeley Professor Emeritus Peter Dale Scott writes, “What is slowly emerging from Al Qaeda activities in Central Asia in the 1990s is the extent to which they have acted in the interests of both American oil companies and the U.S. government.”
Bush refused to testify under oath to the 9/11 Commission and demanded that Vice President Cheney be by his side. He said that he had no idea that there were Al Qaeda cells in the U.S. or that there was any imminent threat, when there is repeated testimony that he was told about the likelihood of an attack and was given a presidential briefing titled “Bin Laden Determined to Strike in the U.S.” on August 6, just a month before September 11. Why did Bush lie? In the months before Sept. 11, why were various warnings by FBI agents in Phoenix, Minneapolis, Chicago, and New York of suspicious activity at flight schools and possible attacks ignored or suppressed?
Much of the way Bush acted on 9/11 is inconsistent with the story of a surprise attack. Why did Bush proceed with a photo-op some 15 minutes after news broke of the crash into the World Trade Center, and why did he stay another 30 minutes, rather than being whisked away by the Secret Service, when the country was supposedly under attack and he would presumably have been a target?
Among many other questions raised by Griffin and other investigators:
On October 7, 2001, the U.S. began a large-scale military attack on the Taliban in Afghanistan. The U.S. claimed that this was because the Taliban was giving support and sheltering Al Qaeda training camps. However, there is a large body of evidence that indicates that a U.S. invasion of Afghanistan had been planned long before September 11, because the Taliban was not cooperating with U.S. plans for a pipeline through the region that would link Caspian oil fields with ports on the Red Sea. For example, according to a BBC report Niaz Naik, a Pakistani diplomat, was told by senior American officials in July 2001 that “military action against Afghanistan would go ahead by the middle of October…before the snows start to fall.”
David Ray Griffin provides some historical context for wars justified by lies. “The United States, like many other countries, has often used deceit to begin wars—for example, the Mexican-American war, with its false claim that Mexico had ‘shed American blood on the American soil,’ the Spanish-American war, with its ‘Remember the Maine’ hoax, the war in the Philippines, with its false claim that the Filipinos fired first, and the Vietnam war, with its Tonkin Gulf hoax. The United States has also sometimes organized false flag terrorist attacks—killing innocent civilians, then blaming the attacks on an enemy country or group, often by planting evidence. We have even done this in allied countries. As Daniele Ganser has shown in his recent book NATO’s Secret Armies, NATO, guided by the CIA and the Pentagon, arranged many such attacks in Western European countries during the Cold War. These attacks were successfully blamed on Communists and other leftists to discredit them in the eyes of the voting public.”
And what about Pearl Harbor itself, where 2,400 people were killed in the Japanese attack? U.S. President Franklin D. Roosevelt and the U.S. War Department knew (despite their claims of surprise) that the Japanese fleet was about to respond with a naval offensive. Secretary of War Henry Stimson wrote in his diary: “When the news first came that Japan had attacked us, my first feeling was of relief that the indecision was over and that a crisis had come in a way which would unite all our people.”
* The New Pearl Harbor—Disturbing Questions About the Bush Administration and 9/11 and The 9/11 Commission Report: Omissions and Distortions. A new book edited by Griffin and Peter Dale Scott, 9/11 and American Empire: Intellectuals Speak Out, is due out in September 2006. back
Revolution #60, September 10, 2006
On Friday, September 1, the army and police surrounded the Congress building in Mexico City and locked down the area around it. They shut down metro stations, and snipers patrolled the rooftops. Soldiers with water cannons stood around miles of steel fence, intimidating the protestors who gathered in the streets and hassling and harassing opposition legislators trying to make their way in.
It was time for Vicente Fox, the president of Mexico, to give his yearly address to the Mexican Congress.
He never did. Opposition legislators seized the podium, waving Mexican flags. Fox left the building, and the government broadcast a recording of the speech, with a video of happy, smiling people. But neither the phony video images nor the threatening insinuations in Fox’s speech could hide the fact that Mexico has erupted in an enormous political crisis, a nation divided in two.
Over the past weeks, millions have taken to the streets, and the army has issued dangerous threats. Many different forces are involved in this, and the outcome is extremely uncertain.
On the one side is Felipe Calderón, the candidate of PAN (National Action Party). Calderón claims to have won the election, and he is backed up by the governmental structure, the army and the U.S. Calderón will almost certainly be officially declared president on September 6. But according to the September 1 National Public Radio business show Marketplace, most people in Mexico now believe Calderón’s election was fraudulent.
On the other side is Andrés Manuel López Obrador—known as AMLO—who is the candidate of PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution). AMLO has called out millions to protest against the government’s refusal to allow a recount. Demonstrations are being called for September 1, amidst rumors of increased military preparations for repression. And specifically, plans are proceeding for a mass National Democratic Convention on September 16, Mexican Independence Day, in the Zocalo in Mexico City, the traditional site of official government celebrations, including a military parade. The purpose of this Convention, according to the Coalición Por el Bien de Todos (Coalition for the Good of All) is to institute a national resistance movement and to debate and decide if this movement will recognize AMLO as President—in effect, refusing to recognize the legitimacy of Calderón.
Like Calderón, AMLO too is backed by sections of the Mexican rulers; at the same time, there are many, many masses who see their interests at stake in this election and who have flooded into political life to contest the outcome. The fissures at the top of Mexican society have created an opening through which mass discontent has begun to burst, in extremely significant ways. How this plays out—including the possibility of this getting beyond the control of the powers-that-be and of the masses increasingly recognizing and fighting for their own interests within this upheaval—could have huge effects in Mexico, in Latin America, in the U.S. and, indeed, in the world as a whole.
The polarization and divisions are sharp and increasingly bitter. This is going on in the midst of, and affecting, much broader tumult in Mexican society. The city of Oaxaca has been virtually shut down by striking teachers and many other people, demanding that the current PRI (Party of the Institutional Revolution) governor Ulises Ruiz step down. In the Distrito Federal (Mexico City), Federal Police have moved in to erect a fence around San Lazaro, the buildings where the Congress meets, backed up by tanks.
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times has demanded that AMLO back down and renounce his plans to “proclaim himself president and establish a parallel ‘people’s government’ on Sept. 16.” In their August 30 editorial, “Coup D’Etat in Mexico?”, the LA Times said that “A coup d’etat is brewing in Mexico…López Obrador’s supporters have shut down much of Mexico City in acts of civil disobedience and they appear intent on making the country ungovernable.” They go on to say that it is time for “democratic voices on the left in Mexico”—they specifically mention Cuauhtémoc Cárdenas of PRD—”to distance themselves from López Obrador’s destructive coup attempt.” These are arrogant words coming from a major U.S. newspaper, which has no business bossing around the Mexican people; more than that, they show the volatility of the situation—and the ways in which the U.S. ruling class perceives its own interests to be very much in danger.
The struggle in Mexico takes place within a volatile international situation. Globalization has accelerated the overnight breakneck changes in how hundreds of millions of people live and work. The U.S. empire is attempting to impose its will as the unchallenged—and unchallengeable—ruler of the imperialist roost, especially through bitter wars of aggression in the Middle East. In Latin America, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, allied with Castro and others, is attempting to counter what they consider the unipolar dominance of the U.S. in the world, and they have tried to build a pole of resistance to the neo-liberal economic policies that have been imposed on countries in Latin America.
This sets the stage for the explosive contradictions in Mexico. The 1994 NAFTA (North American Free Trade Act) has caused extreme dislocations within Mexico itself, driving many more peasants off the land. The strategic oil industry in Mexico is declining in profitability, and there is struggle at the top of Mexican society over what to do about that bulwark of the Mexican economy and government. Foreign companies which once opened up low-wage factories inside Mexico, known as maquiladoras, are now often shutting down in the quest for even lower wages, in places like China. Then there is the question of what to do about the huge numbers of impoverished Mexicans whose interests do not coincide with the programs of “development” being implemented and who in fact are being driven more deeply into poverty and desperation. All these form the economic underpinnings of the current political crisis.
In addition, Mexico is undergoing a transition from the previous PRI-dominated state structure to a multiparty form of rule by the same class forces. But this new form of rule is far from consolidated. As signaled by the election of the PAN candidate Fox in 2000, major changes at the top of Mexican society–among the rulers—have been taking place, and these are being reflected in the struggle to come to agreement over who will be President next. There are differences between PAN and PRD over the role of religion and education and traditional morality, the role of the unions and social welfare measures, and other questions concerning the character of the institutions and broader social relations of society.
And there is the question of what posture the Mexican government will take in relation to the international panorama, and in particular how this will impact the U.S. agenda. All of these are involved in a complex multifaceted way in the current crisis that has emerged in relation to these Presidential elections.
Both Calderón and AMLO are representatives of the Mexican rulers and both are arguing for programs which they believe best serve the interests of the Mexican nation, as viewed through the prism of their class. There is no disagreement between them that the path for Mexico’s development can only proceed and advance by attracting increased imperialist investment to Mexico. Neither can escape—and neither argues that they should try to escape—from the framework of imperialist relations which dominate Mexico. There is, however, sharp disagreement over what particular laws and political structures and social institutions will serve certain changes they view as necessary, and at what pace these laws should be implemented and changes made. And as we have said, the masses are extremely, and righteously, angry over what they see as the theft of the election and the whole direction posed by Calderón.
The Mexican Economy
Very much involved in all this, and in a certain sense at the foundation of it, is the economy. Mexico is under the economic domination of U.S. imperialism, and this is the determining fact of Mexican economic life.To get a sense of the extent of U.S. domination of the Mexican economy, the following recent quote from the U.S. Council on Foreign Relations is very telling: “Mexico understands that its future is inevitably intertwined with its northern neighbor, since from [the U.S.] it obtains two-thirds of its capital flows and virtually all of the 20 to 25 billion dollars in remittances from the migrants. Besides this, it sends to [the U.S.] almost 90% of its exports and more than 80% of the tourists that visit are from the U.S. Mexico cannot tolerate a deep alienation from the U.S.… As a matter of fact, behind the scenes the relation has become even more institutionalized and stable, no matter who occupies the presidency of either country.”
In today’s era of “lean and mean” free market imperialism, capital whisks in and out of countries, and entire regions of the world, searching for the highest profit. Even though Mexico has very low wages relative to the imperialist countries, the pay is much lower in China and other parts of Asia. The capitalists have shut down many factories in Mexico and reinvested the capital involved in Asia. Meanwhile, the price of electricity in Mexico is double that of the price in the U.S., because the plants are inefficient and the labor costs are too high. The Federal Labor Law in Mexico impedes certain forms of foreign investment. Mexico is roiling with struggle and the path (which both candidates advocate) of greater integration with the U.S. market will only further squeeze and uproot the masses of people, and will only heighten their suffering. There is disagreement between Calderón and AMLO over how and what kind of mandate for increased exploitation should be forged, what mix of deception, illusion, and repression will enable the rulers to keep control of the masses, without causing a social explosion that could result in losing the whole thing.
In either case, attracting foreign investment is a cornerstone of the program. But foreign investment promotes neither the all-round development of the economy of the country, nor the welfare of the majority of the people. The growth it promotes is strictly to serve increasing its profitability, and the capitalist development it brings about is based on super-exploitation. There may be industrialization and jobs, but for the masses it will bring on increased suffering and deprivation. Investment capital is not some sort of miracle growth hormone—when capital can more easily move from location to location, what this actually leads to is a contest to offer up the lowest wages, cheapest infrastructure, and worst standards of social and environmental protections—all in order to attract capital. This is not the kind of economy and development that represents the interests of the broad masses of Mexican people. (See “Imperialist Globalization and the Fight for a Different Future: Investment for Whom, Development for Whom?” by Raymond Lotta, Revolutionary Worker #935, December 7, 1997—online at revcom.us.) AMLO’s program, which calls for more imperialist investment, in no way challenges these existing relations. He may make promises to the poor, but how will he fulfill these when they conflict with the need for workers to work for low wages in order to attract and keep industry and capitalist investment in Mexico?
However, on one major strategic economic question there do seem to be real differences with the PAN and with the dominant view in the U.S. ruling class. This revolves around energy policies (both oil and natural gas). Petróleos Mexicanos, (Pemex), is the fifth largest oil company in the world and last year produced record profits (greater than Exxon). Eighty percent of its exports are to the U.S. The energy sector of Mexico is already deeply penetrated by U.S. capital (for example, the profits from the oil industry were directly turned over to the U.S. Treasury in 1994 as collateral for the loan from the U.S. needed to prevent the collapse of the economy during the sharp devaluation of the peso). But as it stands, the Mexican government owns and controls the oil industry, with very tight restrictions on any foreign investment. At the same time, Pemex now pays 60% of its revenue in taxes ($30 billion per year) to the Mexican government; it accounts for more than 40% of the Mexican government’s annual revenues.
But according to the Latin Business Chronicle, international oil experts deem Pemex to be one of the most inefficient oil companies in the world, plagued by inadequate equipment and corrupt unions. Calderón, and the sectors of the Mexican rulers grouped around and backing him, argue for a more thorough and streamlined exploitation of Mexico’s oil. In essence, they demand that Mexico remove the barriers to private/foreign investment (which are currently written into the Mexican Constitution). They want to institute joint production agreements between U.S. capital and Pemex to find new sources and drill for oil. They see this as the key link attracting capital into the further industrialization of Mexico and, together with this, the development of the infrastructure of Mexico. (Mexico has some of the highest telephone rates in the world, and only one-third of the roads are paved; it also must ship its own natural gas to the U.S. and then import it back, in order to supply electricity.) These, not so coincidentally, are all changes favored by the U.S., as they directly serve the U.S. drive for ever greater profits through the ruthless exploitation of the resources and people of the oppressed nations.
A few weeks before the election, the Energy Secretary—a member of the PAN party and Vicente Fox’s government—signaled this intention to investors by publishing a catalog of 817 opportunities for investment in exploration in the continental platform of the Gulf of Mexico. Technically, to carry these out would require the reform of the Constitution, but legal mechanisms have been designed to circumvent it if it proves too politically costly. Mexican businessmen grouped in the Council for Empresarial Coordination (Consejo Coordinador Empresarial [CCE]), recently met with their counterparts in the U.S. to reach a deal in the next two years to permit large Mexican companies to directly buy energy from U.S. companies and to leave the Mexican national electricity system out of the picture entirely.
The sectors of the ruling class grouped around AMLO are vehemently opposed to the privatization of Pemex and the electricity sector. They too see their program bound up with their vision for the future of the country. As the president of Board of Directors of Energy of the National Board of the Industry of Transformation, Gilberto Ortiz, stated: “This is what is at stake because if this petroleum wealth and the possibility that Mexico would be a factor in the energy security of North America ends up being given over to private investors, mainly foreigners, as a country we will lose the historic possibility of having a solid position in the region and the continent.”
AMLO has advanced a plan to maintain Mexican government control of the energy sector. He says that he will integrate the oil and electricity sectors and develop an overall strategic plan for their rational development. He stresses that the Mexican Constitution’s protection of the strategic energy sector must be maintained and advocates the Mexican state (rather than private/foreign investment) give more revenue back to Pemex to invest in building more refineries and petrochemical plants. AMLO claims that this would create the basis to increase exploration for, and development of, more oil and natural gas fields. AMLO’s plan is also ultimately to use Mexico’shuge untapped resources to develop the economy and on that basis negotiate the best terms for Mexico’s subordination to imperialism, especially U.S. imperialism. His difference with Calderón is over how best to maneuver within the framework of imperialist domination, not over whether and how to rupture with it.
Another element in buttressing Mexico’s position within the imperialist framework, especially in relation to other oppressed nations, is bound up with maintaining its stability. Privatizing the energy sector would result in further disarticulation of the Mexican economy and more upheaval in the situation of many of the masses. The Mexican government is very dependent on the revenue from taxing Pemex, and without it the government would be hard pressed to finance social programs, education, and pensions for teachers and other state workers. So the question of how to maintain and enforce “social stability” enters into both side’s calculations—and their disagreements—as we shall see in more detail later.
Mexico’s Role as U.S. Underling
Beyond the direct investment in Mexican oil resources, the U.S. sees Mexico as an important “stabilizing” element in its effort to continue and remake its domination of Latin America. One element of this is the U.S. attempt to integrate the Western Hemisphere into one trade zone, the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Colin Powell (when he was Secretary of State) declared that the purpose of FTAA “is to guarantee North American companies free access without any obstacle or difficulty for our products, services, technology and capital in a territory from the North Pole to Antarctica.”
But the FTAA has been the object of ferocious protest, and even many governments in Latin America are opposed to it. Hugo Chavez in Venezuela is promoting an opposing trade agreement for the hemisphere called ALBA. Venezuela, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, and Chile are forming regional alliances and seeking to broaden their trade beyond the U.S., especially with China and even Iran. From the point of view of U.S. imperialists, this challenge must be met! And Mexico has a role to play in helping the U.S. meet it. In their view, the president of Mexico has a mission to consolidate the U.S. imperialist pole of development in Latin America; he must be the most staunch promoter of free trade, as embodied in NAFTA.
In June 2005, Mexico signed an accord called Alliance for the Security and Prosperity of North America (ASPAN) (Alianza para la Seguridad y la prosperidad para América del Norte) together with Canada and the U.S. The point was made at the time that this accord would be binding on whoever became president of Mexico in the upcoming elections. Included in the “security and prosperity of North America” is guaranteeing the energy needs for the U.S. market, as well as measures toward forging “a common theory of security” to allow U.S. Homeland Security measures to be implemented in Mexico.
The U.S., then, had great interests in the outcome of this election. This was illustrated in an “audition” held in November 2005 in Mexico City, before members of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. All three candidates were asked about whether they would open the energy sector in Mexico, especially the nationalized oil company, Pemex, to U.S. exploitation.
Felipe Calderón received resounding applause when he answered that he is in favor of private investment in Pemex, and of weakening the labor unions. He also received applause when he stated that he supported George Bush’s guest worker program and that he agreed the border needed to be secured or militarized. AMLO said that he would not allow risk capital investment in Pemex—but hastened to add that other sectors would be opened to investment. He emphasized there should be “cooperation for development” between the U.S. and Mexico, which is another way of saying that Mexico would be subordinate to U.S. interests since that is the only kind of “cooperation” that the U.S. will participate in.
Calderón won the audition, but AMLO was granted the role of understudy. Former U.S. Ambassador to Mexico Jeffrey Davidow, who ran the show, told AMLO that “if you win the election, we will support you.” But when AMLO appeared to be the front runner in the election, PAN allied with forces in the U.S. to launch a feverish campaign against AMLO. They contracted election advisers Rob Allyn and Dick Morris—who boast of helping Bush to his fraudulent 2000 and 2004 victories. They developed a media campaign to foment fear among sectors of the upper and middle strata that AMLO is a “leftist” with ties to Chavez and Castro who would bring socialism to Mexico. They claimed that his proposed reforms would cause instability and bring down punishment from the colossus of the north, and/or cause investors to pull out. Calderón charged that any concessions to the poor that AMLO would make would be brought about by taxing the middle class and spread rumors that middle class people would lose their homes. This campaign did have its effect, together with whatever outright fraud was committed.
It would be wrong to reduce the U.S. stance in favor of Calderón only to oil. As noted before, this takes place against a backdrop of the “counter-pole” around Chavez (which includes Cuba as well as the election of Evo Morales in Bolivia). AMLO has not declared himself in the Chavez camp by any means, but the very existence of that camp constitutes a potential wild card in any future U.S.-Mexican disagreement. And while some voices within the U.S. are concerned about the social turmoil if the Mexican economy goes further down the tubes, the dominant imperialist forces from the U.S. seem to be more at ease working with PAN, where they will have tighter control and cooperation on all matters that they deem to be in their interests. At the same time, they tried to keep up an appearance of “not interfering” by not officially endorsing Calderón before the election.
Calderón's Repressive Program
If he succeeds in gaining the office, Calderón is expected to create a climate of repression, religious obscurantism and torture in order to control the rebellious masses and impose further restructuring to attract imperialist investment. And he will definitely enhance the role of the Catholic church in the functioning of society. Calderón opposes abortion and gay marriage, and abortion is expected to be criminalized even in the case of rape and/or incest.
A harbinger of things to come can be seen in PAN-governed states. For instance, in Guanajuato secondary school children are beginning the school year this month without science textbooks. Why? Because the Catholic church objected to their treatment of human sexuality. In Jalisco, the Secretary of Education is distributing materials developed by a religious parents’ organization to try to counteract the effects of independent thinking that might be generated by this same textbook. Fifty organizations in Jalisco are fighting against this science textbook while promoting the revision of the history textbook to glorify the role of the Cristero forces—religious fanatics that carried out an armed struggle against secular government in the 1920s and were very strong in Jalisco. Calderón himself is closely allied with El Yunque, a religious fascist organization, whose members reportedly include the president of the PAN party and former governor of Jalisco, Sergio Ramirez Acuña. (Ramirez Acuña announced his sponsorship of Calderón ‘s candidacy at the same time as he openly called for and personally oversaw the mass arrest and torture of over one hundred anti-globalization protesters in Guadalajara in 2004. He is reportedly being considered for a cabinet position in the Calderón government.)
In the international sphere, Calderón has stated that Mexico should no longer participate in UN resolutions that criticize Israel. In his document “100 Priorities for Government (100 Acciones Prioritarias de Gobierno),” he proposes that the federal police, the immigration police, and customs agency be fused under a central command, and that this new centralized federal police have additional police powers. He also proposes that a Unified Criminal Information System be created that can be accessed by all the police and prosecutors in the nation. While AMLO has carried out his share of repression—including bringing in the fascist Rudolph Giuliani, former New York City mayor, to “consult with” on policing—there is a sense that Calderón signals something even more repressive.
In other words, there is a whole range of questions up for struggle right now in the streets of Mexico. There is the economic dislocation, driving millions off the land and millions more to seek work in the U.S., and the overall desperate situation of increasing millions at the bottom of society—as well as the overall economic polarization in society. There is the way in which the whole history of rigged elections seems to be repeating itself before the eyes of the people—at a time when there is struggle in Mexican society over “the rules of the game.” There is Calderón's attempt to jam traditional values, including the power of the Catholic Church, into society. The people who have poured into the streets by the millions to prevent Calderón from taking power are certainly justified in thinking that radical action is needed—and in taking that action! They are also correct in linking Calderón to an accelerated plan to put Mexico more directly under U.S. domination, with all the horrors the Bush regime will bring if not stopped. As one indigenous Mayaman who traveled from Yucatan to attend the first Zocalo protest put it: “They’re doing to us what they did in the era of Porfirio Diaz. They grabbed on to Mexico and didn’t want to let it go. If we hadn’t started a war, he never would have let go.”
The sentiments of these awakened and activated masses reflect both the recognition that radical change is needed—and the hope and illusion that it can be achieved through electoral means and that AMLO is about bringing that change. Huge expectations have been raised that AMLO will come through with his promises. At the same time, the specter of very radical change has arisen; for instance, at the rally of millions in the Zocalo on July 30, the people chanted “If there’s no solution, there’ll be a revolution.” Turmoil and combativeness are bursting out all over the country, opening up the possibility of real challenges to the programs of all the political parties, and the existing institutions. Once people begin to challenge these institutions, once they have been drawn into political life and struggle—even when it is initiated by forces within the ruling classes–people become open to all kinds of new thinking and new ways of acting. New questions are posed and new answers are urgently sought. The people get a glimpse of their own potential power, as they strain against the framework that the ruling parties and institutions try to put them in. And as that struggle sharpens, it can spread to other people and even exacerbate the conflicts within the ruling class, and strengthen the basis to push forward the whole dynamic toward revolution and fundamental change.
In this sort of situation, it is not always so easy to “put the genie back in the bottle”—not so easy to force the masses back into acceptance of “the way things are.” But that will still require a furious struggle—to not be put “back in the bottle” and to continue pushing things forward. Nobody knows the course things will take in the next days and weeks. But the contradictions in Mexico are very deep and right now they are very sharp. It is certainly in the interests of the masses in Mexico and people around the world for the rejection of the status quo to continue and grow, no matter what AMLO and his leading core decide to do. This is a struggle that people everywhere should support and draw lessons and inspiration from.
Revolution #60, September 10, 2006
Many honest people who want to fight for change have put their faith in the calls for resistance and the militant words of AMLO, and see in him an option for change, or at least as the lesser of two evils. He calls his coalition “For the Good of All, the Poor First.” But who is AMLO and what does he represent?
The PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) has its roots in the PRI (Party of the Institutional Revolution), the party that was formed (under the name of Party of the National Revolution—PNR) in 1929 to consolidate the defeat of the 1910 Mexican revolution and to “institutionalize the revolution.” In fact, PRI represented the landlord and big business capitalist classes, and held power in Mexico for 70 years. Once the regime fell into political crisis, some of the leaders of the PRI formed the PRD, to provide a more democratic-seeming alternative. Most of the leftist parties in Mexico also joined the PRD. Since its creation, the PRD has served the ruling classes as an instrument to control the masses, and channel their revolutionary sentiments into a dead-end electoral path.
AMLO joined the PRI in the mid-1970s after it had been in power for over 40 years and had carried out the massacre of students in Mexico City in 1968, as well as a “dirty war” to crush guerrilla groups and rural resistance. He served as a PRI official for over 10 years before joining the PRD and running for governor of Tabasco. In his presidential campaign, his closest advisors are high-level former PRI officials who served in the regimes of Echeverria (1970-1976), López Portillo (1976-1982), de la Madrid (1982-1988) and Salinas de Gortari (1988-1994) administrations. How can AMLO represent a new order when he is so deeply enmeshed in the old oppressive one?
The masses and popular organizations that support AMLO are doing so because they think that he will stop the devastation to the land and people of Mexico wrought by NAFTA and globalization. But in fact AMLO supports globalization, and expanding maquiladoras through the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). He says that Mexico has to find the way to make globalization work to their advantage and become competitive in the world market. (See “50 compromisos para recuperar el orgullo nacional” at www.lopezobrador.org.mx. This point is found under #25.) He points to China as a positive example of this, where the wages for the workers are four times lower than Mexico—because China has been able to build up development on top of this super-exploitation and invest in other countries, (including Mexico). Many of the maquiladoras (assembly plants), which had come to Mexico to exploit the low-paid workers, have now moved to China where they can pay the workers even less, and where the costs of doing business are cheaper. AMLO proposes to give maquiladoras tax breaks and incentives to attract them back to Mexico. How will this represent the true interests of the workers exploited and worked to death in these maquiladoras—and then cast out when capital moves on to suck the blood of its next victim?
AMLO says that he is against the provision of NAFTA that will flood the country with U.S.-produced corn and beans, since this is the staple food in Mexico. In reality, Mexico has already been flooded with corn and beans from the U.S. for years, and to stop this practice would require overturning NAFTA and free trade. Instead of ending NAFTA, he told the U.S. Chamber of Commerce that he proposes renegotiating certain clauses “using, of course, the mechanisms that are set forth in the treaty itself,” and promoting investment in agriculture for export and agro-industry and “cooperation for development” with the U.S. This type of “development” depends on desperately poor migrant laborers to do the seasonal work on the farms. The owners of these export and agro-industry businesses are a few imperialist corporations, such as Monsanto and Cargill, together with their “business partners” in the big capitalist and landlord classes in Mexico.
For example, in Baja California Sur the farms that export fruits and vegetables to the U.S. are owned in partnership between U.S. corporations and Mexican capitalists. These farms are the “success stories” of NAFTA, and their need for labor has increased five-fold since NAFTA went into effect. They exploit migrant laborer who are trucked in from the indigenous south of Mexico by labor contractors promising good wages and nice living quarters. The indigenous population of Baja California Sur was exterminated in the conquest of Mexico, but now indigenous people speaking at least 7 different languages compose 75% of the labor force on these farms—including thousands of children who work without access to schooling. Very near to the luxury tourist resorts of Cabo San Lucas and La Paz are the slums of migrant workers whose children under 5 years old die of diseases like malaria, cholera, diarrhea, and tuberculosis—diseases that have been wiped out among other sections of the population. How are the interests of these masses represented by either AMLO or Calderón?
AMLO supports a huge development project in southern Mexico which has been fought against for many years by the indigenous people who live in the affected area. The Megaproject of the Isthmus of Tehuantepec is said to be a “detonator of development,” part of Plan Puebla-Panama and the FTAA—a plan which has even been rejected by many governments in Latin America and has been the target of heroic protests. AMLO says that the Isthmus project would “convert the country into a strategic position in the globe.” The Isthmus of Tehuantepec is the narrowest land mass between the Gulf of Mexico ands the Pacific Ocean. Part of this development area would destroy the Chimalapa rainforest which contains a unique mix of animal and plant species found nowhere else in the world and is homeland to five indigenous groups.
The Zoque Indians have lived in the Chimalapa wetlands in Oaxaca, on the border with Chiapas, for 2000 years and have applied a complex plan to preserve the jungle ecosystem. The development project would build an eight-lane superhighway through this jungle area which, together with the Lacandona jungle, is known as “the Lungs of Mexico”—the last of the tropical rainforests in Mexico, 80% of which have already been lost forever. The project is envisioned as replacing the overcrowded Panama Canal, with deep-berth ports on either side of the isthmus, where huge freight ships could dock and the freight containers would be transported overland by railroad or trucks. How can the wanton sacrifice of the Mexican environment, all in the service of capitalist profit, represent the interests of the Mexican masses, or humanity as a whole for that matter?
AMLO says he is for “…the Poor First.” But when he has been in power his program toward these masses has been to criminalize, beat and lock them up. In 2002, while mayor of Mexico City, AMLO contracted the firm of Rudolph Giuliani, ex-mayor of New York, to help Mexico City police apply Guiliani’s so-called “Zero Tolerance” program that had criminalized the poor of New York and given the police a free hand in attacking them. In Mexico City, millions of people survive through street vending, and there are thousands of street orphans. “Zero tolerance” and combating delinquency under AMLO meant arresting street orphans and attacking street vendors. Squadrons of hooded undercover police in unmarked cars patrolled the city to “combat street crime” and “drug dealing,” and many cases of innocent people being kidnapped by these police are documented. AMLO also oversaw the renovation of the Historic Center, bringing in millions of dollars to investors, principally the Mexican multi-millionaire Carlos Slim, who is the fourth wealthiest man in the world, while “cleaning” the area of street vendors and windshield cleaners.
AMLO has repeatedly proven his loyalty to U.S. imperialism and the Mexican ruling class by repressing important social figures and movements that come to the capital to protest government crimes. The Justice Department of Mexico City was in charge of the investigation of the murder of Digna Ochoa, a famous and beloved people’s lawyer who for many years defended peasant ecologists in Guerrero and political prisoners from guerrilla groups. She had received numerous death threats and was murdered in Distrito Federal in 2001. The government of AMLO helped to cover up and protect her murderers by declaring that Digna Ochoa had committed suicide. In 2001, when campesinos from Atenco came to Mexico City to protest the government plan to take their land and build an airport on their land, they were attacked by 150 police; in 2003 when students from 17 rural schools (rurales normales) came to DF to defend education and to protest the closing of a school in Chiapas and the imprisonment of the students who had resisted this closing, they were beaten by the police and 108 of them were arrested. In the spring of 2003, on two occasions when thousands protested the invasion of Iraq in front of the U.S. embassy, the PRD government sent the police out to surround, beat, and arrest the protesters. After a demo of 50,000 people, the police attacked it when it dispersed. They said, “We have orders from above to fuck them up.” How does any of this repression of the people’s right to protest represent the interests of the people?
The people are correct to go into the streets to demand a full recount and to oppose the program represented by Calderón, as well as the repression now being threatened. But as they do this, they also need an alternative that truly represents their interests. And while this article is not a thorough analysis of the PRD/AMLO program, it is thorough enough to say that this is not the alternative that people need. What is needed, urgently, is leadership and a program that do get to the root of the problems resulting from the domination of U.S. imperialism and the classes in Mexico that ally with and serve those interests, and that find revolutionary alternatives that break out of those relations. This is a debate that needs to happen, even as the people forge forward in their resistance.
Revolution #60, September 10, 2006
On September 7, 2006, at 7 p.m., The World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime will hold public meetings “in every city where World Can’t Wait has organization, and in many cities where it doesn’t yet.”
Participants will hear from noted speakers and organizers, and will make bold and necessary plans for October 5th actions aimed at bringing to a halt the crimes and horrors of the Bush Regime.
Worldcantwait.org has a full listing of locations and speakers for the September 7 meetings, which include:
Metropolitan Community Church of New York
446 W 36th St
New York, NY 10018
Take the A/C/E/1/N/R/Q/V/F train to 34th St.
Walk to 36th and then walk west of 9th Ave
Church is on the south side of the street
To contact organizers: 212-969-0772
LGBT Community Center, Rainbow Room, 1800 Market St, (@ Octavia), San Francisco
For information or to get involved call
Daniel Ellsberg, author of The Pentagon Papers
Columbia College, Hokin Hall, 623 S Wabash in the Loop
Call 773-227-2453 or email firstname.lastname@example.org now to find out more.
Immanuel Presbyterian Church,
Downstairs Conference Room, 3300 Wilshire Blvd. at Berendo, just west of Vermont Ave
Speaker: Rev Richard “Meri Ka Ra” Byrd—Krst Unity Center
Trinity United Methodist Church
6512 23rd Avenue Northwest
Ballard, Seattle, Washington 98117
Speaker: Bob Watada, father of Lt. Ehren Watada, who is the first commissioned officer to publicly refuse to be deployed in Iraq’s war and occupation.
Recently, prominent voices have spoken out urging people to get with and organize for World Can’t Wait. They include:
Ralph Nader in CounterPunch, September 2, 2006
“The no-fault-Bush and Cheney have every intention of continuing the loss of the lives of American soldiers and the bloody casualties among Iraqis until they hand the situation in Iraq over to their successors in January 2009. Mr. Bush has said as much a few weeks ago.
“He will never withdraw our troops and close our military bases no matter what the cost to our country and its ignored critical necessities here at home.
“So, taking the lead in full page advertisements in The New York Times is a new group by the name of The World Can’t Wait. They are not waiting for Congress to impeach Bush. They want a mass mobilization to make Bush/Cheney resign. Richard Nixon resigned and Vice President, Spiro Agnew, resigned for causes far less momentous than the crimes of these stubborn recidivists in control of our federal government.”
Gore Vidal on Air America, August 30, 2006
“So you don’t even have to win the election now, actually—all you have to do is rig it. Now this means that the voice of the people—if anyone cares—may never be heard again. Because the machinery can be tampered with, and has been tampered with, with great success. So there we are, and what do you do about them? Well, I think this demonstration they’re planning for October 5th is really to say, well, the sense of the people, since we really don’t have representation by and large, ‘this is our view about these wars.’ Altogether too many Americans are being killed and foreigners who have the ill luck to come our way are also being slaughtered. It’s time it’s stopped.”
Ray McGovern on Air America, September 2, 2006
“On October 5, we hope to raise up the whole country. You see, what happened in Germany they waited till the ‘propitious time,’ and it became too late. And if we know anything from history, we know, as Martin Luther King said once, there is such a thing as too late. There’s quite enough evidence here to convict the president of war crimes and crimes against humanity, but if somebody doesn’t rise up and say that—out loud without any fear or favor—we will be lost. And we can’t depend on the Democrats and the Democratic Party. We need to give them a good boost and get them to speak for the people.”
“The attempt is to do something new and different. Something akin to what the Polish dissidents did to eventually throw down a very unjust and illegal government. The idea is that something extraordinary is needed because these are indeed extraordinary times where the president is acting as though he were king and the other two branches of government seem to be acquiescing in that. There are also hopeful signs but without massive—massive participation—massive demonstration of interest in this whole thing like we had during Vietnam, it’s not going to be easy to turn the tide. Unlike some of my colleagues, I have a lot of hope for what will happen in November and that hope is that—you can fool a certain percentage of the people some of the time—but I have great faith in the basic common sense of the American people. And assuming the voting machines are not fixed as they have been in the past, I have hope that things are going to change. But that hope at the same time gives me great fear of the period of the next two months because God knows what this crowd will come upon as a September or October Surprise. It may begin with Iran.”
Revolution #60, September 10, 2006
Revolution received the following correspondence from someone organizing for World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime mobilizations on October 5th in a housing project in the Midwest:
I think there is a real basis to bring out hundreds from this project on October 5th. First I want to talk about what has been happening since the latest police shooting here, and why I think this is possible. The recent police shooting here has galvanized a lot of people and brought them into action. They shot a young man last month, seriously wounding him, and there were several days of protest. There’s been a number of things that have happened since the shooting that has a favorable (or can have a favorable) impact on bringing people forward from this section.
A dozen or so people came over to watch the Spike Lee film on New Orleans. Most of the people expressed a real desire or interest in driving out the Bush Regime. There is a group of people who have already, in one way or another, begun to build for the 5th. People are getting leaflets out in the community. Some of these people are guys who were into or around “the street life.” They have a lot of connections. Some of these guys are thinking about stuff in a way they weren’t that open to a while back. One guy has a “Wanted for Mass Murder” poster that was in Revolution—of Katrina and the whole Bush crew—up in his window, and he took leaflets to his drug rehab program. Kids want to organize for it in their high schools. And some of the community organizer types, who are tied in with the City and who have had their differences with the RCP at times, do respect the Party, and hate Bush. So this is another group we can involve.
One thing is that I have gotten out 23 copies of Bob Avakian’s new talks here and had some initial discussion with people. One woman I know who listened to it has also encouraged other people to listen to the talk “Why We’re in the Situation We’re in Today…” She tells her friends, “You will learn things you never knew. One thing is that we are still slaves. Everything that is happening to us is part of a government plan.” One of the maintenance men here at the projects left his copy with his sister, and got another one for himself. This other guy who is a cigarette vendor is listening to “Why We’re in the Situation We’re in Today…” Initially he said, “I’m just waiting—I’m all registered and ready to vote…” But agreed, upon discussion (and not that much discussion) that we can’t wait that long. With this other guy, a 17-year-old who is well known for really getting up in the authorities’ face, and is in and out of jail—we listened to a section of Bob Avakian’s talk “Conservatism, Christian Fundamentalism, Liberalism and Paternalism…Bill Cosby and Bill Clinton…Not All ‘Right’ but All Wrong!" First this youth was sitting and listening. Then he got up and stood next to the speaker and was listening even more intently. He said, “What that guy is saying is really true.” He took the CD upstairs to finish listening to it. I think it inspired him.
Another thing that can help is that the relationship between the World Can’t Wait movement nationwide and people in the projects here needs to be developed. People here need to know what is going on not only here in this city around WCW, but around the country. Going to the WCW web site and calling in to the office are very important, but many of the people here, unfortunately, don’t have access to the web. Revolution newspaper is one way, a central way, for people to keep up with what is going on. If we are going to have hundreds from this project out on the streets on the 5th, we need to build organization there. One way of doing this is to develop a chapter of WCW here. Some of the youth have already expressed a desire to take this up in their schools. This can be a way to not only bring forward people from the project, but to reach thousands more. We need to get a whole lot of stickers, flyers and materials to these students to take to school on opening day.
Revolution #60, September 10, 2006
The World Is Flat (Updated and Expanded Edition)
Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2006.
Thomas Friedman’s The World Is Flat has been on The New York Times bestseller list for over a year now. The paperback version will be out soon. The World Is Flat is an undisguised celebration of globalization—chock full of conversations with CEOs like Michael Dell and Bill Gates and politicians like the former president of Mexico, and brimming over with dumbstruck accounts of info-tech gadgetry and tributes to the cutting-edge (read: cut-throat) business models of companies like Wal-Mart.
This is imperialist globalization as seen at the top. This is imperialist globalization from the perspective of those controlling and benefiting at the top.
The World Is Flat has gotten enormous play in the U.S. media and has become the stuff of National Public Radio specials and business school curriculums. But the book is more than clever cheerleading for corporate capitalism in the 21st century. The World Is Flat has an ideological subtext. Friedman’s take-home message is that this “flat world” is the best and only of all possible worlds…and the world that must be sustained and defended.
The incredible hype surrounding this book is understandable given the scale and temerity of Thomas Friedman’s ambition.
We live in a world of enormous inequalities: the rich countries have 20 percent of the world’s people but 80 percent of its gross domestic product (or income), while the 20 percent living in the poorest countries have 3 percent of world income. This is a world that is stalked by disease, malnutrition, and life-destroying poverty: some 2.6 billion people, about 40 percent of the world’s population, live on less than $2 a day, and 850 million suffer from hunger and malnutrition.1 This is a world in which thousands of lives can be mangled by a single computer keystroke taken in electronic trading rooms, as globe-straddling investors shift capital from one profit-opportunity to another.
If we had the capacity to look at planet Earth from above with the aid of an economic and social telescope, we would find a landscape marked by staggeringly high peaks of controlling wealth and power, by vast valleys of exploited and impoverished humanity, by a deep fault-line between rich oppressor and poor oppressed nations, and by cruel geographies of uneven and unequal development. We would see rivers of blood and bone-littered canyons carved out by colonial conquests and annexations, imperialist interventions, two inter-imperialist world wars, and imperialist-sponsored proxy wars in places like Africa.
But seated in the business class of his analytical jetliner, Thomas Friedman does not see these inequalities and horrors. He gazes out at this same world and declares, like a conjuror, that it is flat.
Now when Friedman says the world is flat, what he means is that the world economy is fast becoming a “level playing field” in which opportunities are converging. Friedman’s book is basically a theorization of how this “level playing field” came about, what its implications are, and how it might further develop.
Friedman points to several related factors that have produced his “flat world.” He discusses “networked” production and trade. Companies do less and less “in-house” and on their home shores. They carry on “offshore production” in affiliates and subsidiaries and outsource to subcontractors in many different countries around the world. Friedman alleges that this global dispersion and scattering, this creation and management of “global supply chains,” is bringing down the “vertical” walls (like protectionist policies) of national-states and indeed undermining the dominance of national states.
Another factor he cites: the collapse of the Soviet bloc and the capitalist restructuring of China (along with the further “opening” of India’s economy and other parts of the Third World) have brought huge populations into a single global marketplace.
Most importantly in Friedman’s account: new “technological platforms” associated with computer, Internet, search engine, and wireless technology now allow entrepreneurs and would-be entrepreneurs to enter the global market from anywhere in the world.
According to Friedman, this new globalized economics is “flattening” the world, connecting people to one another in entirely new ways. Central to Friedman’s whole account is that this process of global flattening, as it further develops, will be increasingly driven by individuals. This is a world, as Friedman presents it, of interconnected individuals—collaborating and competing individuals. Those who think big and jump at opportunity will, he says, become winners.
There is so much that is wrong, so much that is missing, from this picture.
1) In Friedman’s “flat-world,” the powerful, monopolistic transnational corporations and banks that dominate world trade and investment have somehow receded into the shadows and unbundled themselves. In fact, the 300 largest capitalist firms in the world control about 25 percent of the world’s productive assets. Of the 500 largest corporations in the world, 95 percent are based in the U.S., Japan, and Europe.2
What Friedman obscures is that in almost every sector of the world economy, huge agglomerations of capital, in alliance and principally in competition with each other, are shaping and dominating new structures of production and management. They are driving the “outsourcing” and “networking,” the ways in which “work flows” are organized, and the sophisticated logistics systems that Friedman sees as “empowering” of individuals. It is these firms that are the “system integrators,” playing suppliers off against each other and squeezing labor costs to the minimum all the way down their “supply chains” as they seek to expand and penetrate markets.
With his template of the (entrepreneurial) individual, Friedman blots out the hierarchies of capitalist class domination and class exploitation. It’s truly amazing. When Friedman talks about the Dell “supply chain,” he takes the reader on a breathless ride through several countries, most in the Third World, as an order is filled and a computer put together—but, strangely, there are no workers, there is no labor, and there is no exploitation.
2) In the “flat world,” there are no imperialist and neocolonial states. Products, services, finance, and ideas just seem to flow effortlessly in Friedman’s increasingly “frictionless” world. Power relations seem to vanish.
In fact, the imperialist nation-state functions as the main support for imperialist capital— which operates on an international level but which remains rooted in distinct national markets. This state support takes the form of subsidies, rescue operations, fiscal and monetary policies, etc., and the guarantee of “law and order.” The imperialist state protects and enforces the global framework within which the process of capitalist accumulation takes place. The state does this through political and diplomatic means (negotiating trade agreements, for instance), by deploying a large arsenal of economic weaponry involving state agencies like the Treasury Department and the Agency for International Development, and through military basing, military pressures, and military interventions.
In the imperialist era, accumulation-which is the production of profit and more profit on the basis of the exploitation of wage labor—proceeds through competition and rivalry: among corporations, banks, financial groups, etc., and, most sharply, among national imperialist states. And in response to strategic necessity and opportunity, imperial powers have at certain historical junctures set out to forcibly recast that global framework.
The United States is certainly the major economic power in the world. But it is not only that. It is a military colossus. It spends some $400 billion a year on military expenditures. It has 700 military bases girdling the globe. It has carried out countless interventions and wars of suppression (such as in Vietnam).
Here it must be said that when Friedman talks about the transformative power of new information-communications technologies, how the global market harnesses all of this, and what he calls the “secret sauce” of America’s open capital markets and flexible labor markets, he is being disingenuous with his readers. Back in 1999, he declared: “The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies is called the United States Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps.”3 This is one of the only true statements Thomas Friedman has ever made. Now he chooses to hide that hidden fist from conceptual view.
Friedman visits Bangalore, the high-tech center in India, where IBM is heavily invested. How does U.S. capital arrive there (or in China for that matter)? And how is it able to operate in an environment favorable to its development? Through the mere workings of an “open global market”? No, U.S. capital passes through the Indian state, which is a dependent client state serving imperialism (although the Indian ruling class has its own regional ambitions). This state guarantees certain wage and labor standards and terms of ownership for foreign capital, as well as the ability of corporations like IBM to repatriate profits back to the home country.
In China, which Friedman regards as a success story of a “flattening world,” the Chinese state has created “export-processing zones” that enable foreign capital to super-exploit Chinese labor—where teenage girls are living in barracks-like conditions and which have gained notoriety as environmental disaster zones in the making.
Throughout the Third World, imperialism structures and props up the neocolonial state: through economic aid, military treaties and assistance, training of technical and administrative personnel, and many other mechanisms. Friedman complains of the state of development and the masses’ hatred towards the West in the Arab world. But he seems to forget that the U.S. government has propped up brutal and oppressive regimes in the Middle East (from the Shah of Iran to the Saudi royal family) to serve its geopolitical interests.
3) In Friedman’s “flat world,” imperialist-led institutions like the International Monetary Fund and World Bank play a minor role. Friedman wants us to believe that “deregulation” and opening of domestic markets to foreign capital and goods, “privatization” of economic activities, and the adoption of “intellectual property rights” standards are all part of an inexorable and natural process of globalizing economics.
In fact, the world that Friedman is hailing would not exist were the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF) not engaged in the brutal restructuring of Third World economies. By the late 1990s, some 90 Third World countries were subjected to IMF “structural adjustment” programs. Many of these countries had to cut subsidies to the poor for basic necessities like tortillas, cooking oil, and health care as conditions for stretching out repayments of loans and getting new loans.
This very real flattening of social protections has been carried out in the name of “market-efficiency” and is designed precisely to make these economies more hospitable to imperialist investment capital.
Friedman’s journey to India is perhaps his masterstroke of imperial tunnel vision. He sings praises to information-technology companies in Bangalore and the MP3-playing programmers who can speak American slang. He would have us believe that this is India’s wave of the future. But what is the larger reality?
Only a miniscule fraction—1.3 million out of India’s working population of 400 million—is employed in the information and business processing industries. This sector is oriented towards the world market and to the U.S. market in particular. It is a kind of enclave that has limited technological linkages to and employment effects on the rest of India’s economy. And at the same time that this information-knowledge sector has prospered (and, yes, some people are doing very well), facilities for primary education have collapsed in large parts of India—as the Indian state has pressed forward with its program of “market reform.”4
Two-thirds of India’s population lives in the countryside. But Friedman has little to say about the plight of tens of millions of India’s farmers and peasants facing the pressures of the imperialist world market and the penetration of Western agro-business. This translates as low crop prices, heavy debts, and the withdrawal of government supports for small farmers. The situation has grown dire. Between 1993 and 2003, 100,000 farmers committed suicide.5 And during India’s “globalizing decade” of the 1990s, food-grain available per Indian fell almost every year.
The World Is Flat is being widely looked to as a comprehensive, highly readable, up-to-the-minute account of seismic economic trends. For this reason alone it would be important to summarize and answer some of its key theses and mystifications. But there is more at stake.
Friedman is writing mainly for the educated middle classes in the U.S. Many of these readers are anxious and concerned about what the U.S. is doing in the world, and to the world. And this is what makes the work especially poisonous.
Friedman is offering people a comforting narrative and rationalization: a deregulated global capitalism is good for the world and self-correcting.
Towards the end of this sprawling 593-page book, Friedman tersely acknowledges that there is still great poverty in the world. But to people concerned about deprivation, mistreatment of workers, and environmental degradation, Friedman shouts a loud “worry not.”
He advertises efforts by Hewlett-Packard to “lead the way” in establishing labor standards in its supply chains. He heaps praise on McDonalds for its efforts to establish environmentally friendly standards for its food suppliers.6 He assures people that open and competitive markets and the initiatives of Bill Gates will solve the problems of world poverty.
But there is more. Friedman offers the balm that the world’s economic interconnectedness will create such wealth and common stakes that violent conflicts will disappear. He calls this the “Dell Theory of Conflict Prevention”: no two countries will go to war if they are both part of the same globalized supply chain. These supply chains, according to Friedman, will make all nations’ economies so locked into and dependent on each other, that they will have no reason to go to war.
Here too, there is so much that is wrong. A supply chain is not a collegial coming together of people in order to share information, technology, and wealth for bettering the world. These chains are built to extract wealth. They are forged and re-forged only insofar as they serve the interests of fiercely competing capitals. Further, these global supply chains, though vast and interconnected, have not merged into a single unit of capital. These chains are part of large, competing agglomerations of capital. They are wielded as weapons in the battle for market share and market control.
And there is more than networked production in the world. Supply chains exist in a geopolitical context. There are contending geoeconomic interests. There are struggles for spheres of geopolitical influence. There is struggle among imperialist states for control over strategic resources. This is part of what is being played out in the Middle East, as the U.S. seeks to establish uncontested hegemony over the region and its oil resources—on which the European and Japanese economies are highly dependent. There is intense jockeying taking place among the major imperialists and regional powers over the Caspian Sea region, home to huge energy reserves.
Cross-country investments and alliances do not obliterate the distinct and contending interests of different national imperialist formations. Just prior to the outbreak of World War 1, there were bourgeois and revisionist Marxist thinkers who were arguing that trade between Germany and England had become too important for the two countries to go to war. (Some years back, Friedman had peddled a similar McDonald’s theory of conflict prevention; as Jeff Faux in a review has pointed out, the war in Yugoslavia, with its many McDonald’s outlets, landed that theory in the dustbin of history.)
What Friedman wants readers to believe is that, left to its own workings and logic, the market imperatives of globalization will lead to progress, wealth, and stability.
But with the optimism also comes grim news. Friedman points to forces out there who oppose what he considers to be the life-enhancing, democratizing, and empowering tide of globalization. He lashes out at the progressive anti-globalization movement, which in the late 1990s and early 2000s galvanized tens of thousands and inspired tens of millions around the world as it exposed and opposed the injustices of imperialist globalization.
Friedman discusses other obstacles to unbridled globalization. But right now, he says, the most dangerous enemy to all the promise held out by his mythic globalization is aggressive Islamic fundamentalism.
He analyzes that these Islamic fundamentalist forces (he calls them “Islamo-Leninists” in order to equate this utterly reactionary movement with communism) are resentful of the dynamism and modernity of globalization, able to marshal the passive support of humiliated populations, and have shown themselves adept and unflinching at using new technologies for evil.
What to do? Friedman declares that the U.S. has to lead the way with its “can-do optimism” and with its strength. There is no world government; so, and this is Friedman’s trump card, the U.S. has to play a special role in preserving the “rules of commerce” and the “norms of behavior.” In short, to U.S. imperialism falls a special superpower responsibility.
Up until May of this year, Thomas Friedman was an ardent advocate of another kind of flattening that is taking place in the world: the Bush regime’s bombing, invasion, and occupation of Iraq. Lately, he seems to have had some reservations about the conduct (not aims) of the U.S. war on Iraq. But in its own perverse way, and against the backdrop of the Bush regime’s “war on the world,” The World Is Flat concentrates a momentous question of our times.
Friedman would have us believe that humanity’s only choice is between imperialist globalization with its advanced technology controlled by and for the benefit of the few, with its sweatshops; with its juggernaut to impose “intellectual property rights” on everything from critical medicines to living organisms; and with its wars…it is either imperialist globalization, or religious fundamentalism, with all that is retrograde and oppressive about that.
Is this the only choice? No, a world without exploitation and oppression, and without ignorance and superstition, a world in which humanity is truly emancipated, is necessary and possible. What stands in the way is the system of world capitalism.
1. Data from United Nations, Human Development Report, 2005. back
2. Data from Medard Gabel and Henry Bruner, Global Inc.: An Atlas of the Multinational Corporation (New York: New Press, 2003). back
3. Thomas Friedman, The New York Times Magazine, March 28, 1999. back
4. Pankjaj Mishra, “The Myth of the New India,” The New York Times, July 6, 2006. back
5. Saritha Rai, “India to Import Wheat After a 6-Year Hiatus,” The New York Times, June 30, 2006. back
6. Friedman lauds McDonald’s partnership with Conservation International (p. 381). For an exposure of this dubious and business-oriented “environmental group,” see Aziz Choudry, “Conservation International: Privatizing Nature, Plundering Biodiversity,” [www.grain.org/seedling]. back
Next—Part 2: What Globalization Is and Isn’t, and Why World Development Is Not Converging
Revolution #60, September 10, 2006
On the one year anniversary of Katrina, a slew of political speeches, articles and editorials delivered a dangerous and insulting lie. It was a message that if anyone wants to “complain” about still being a victim, they should point the finger—not at the government, not at the Bush administration, and not at the system of capitalism—but at themselves.
Let’s look at the political and ideological dimensions of this.
First of all, what has happened to the hundreds of thousands of people the government abandoned in New Orleans, starting on August 29, 2005?
We all heard and saw the horrific pictures, tearful stories and horrifying reports in the immediate days and weeks after Katrina. Whole families wading in chest-high floods. Bodies floating in toxic water. Desperate pleas from scorching rooftops. Thousands of people, mostly Black, packed into a modern-day stadium slave ship. Soldiers and cops pointing guns, beating and killing people trying to survive. Heartless evacuations that separated families.
We saw the way the way White House officials blatantly ignored people’s suffering. How Condi went shopping for shoes. How Cheney was fly fishing. How Bush, when he finally went to New Orleans, five days after the hurricane, viewed the carnage from Air Force One—up where he couldn’t smell the stench of rotting bodies and see the misery of the people.
And what has happened in the year since Katrina? Even a brief summary is enough to indict the Bush administration for continuing the kind of wanton, callous neglect and Jim Crow practices so blatantly on display right after Katrina.
Hurricane Katrina hit land as a Category Four storm and did a lot of damage. But New Orleans was still largely standing when it moved on. It was the failure of the levees that caused 80 percent of the city to be flooded. This is why people drowned, hundreds of thousands had to be evacuated, and so many homes were destroyed.
The tragedy of Hurricane Katrina in which over 1,800 people died, is due to the complete failure of the system and in particular, the Bush Regime. It failed to prepare for such a natural disaster and in fact cut funds for maintenance of the levees—even though it was known that the levees were inadequate. It failed to do anything once it was clearly predicted that a potentially devastating hurricane was coming. And it failed to help people after the levees broke and thousands of people were trapped and whole swaths of the city were destroyed.
Suffering and Neglect Continue
The floods after Katrina destroyed or badly damaged an estimated 160,000 homes in neighborhoods throughout the New Orleans area—with mainly poor and Black areas, like the Ninth Ward, hit the hardest. 43,000 rental units have also been lost due to the storm and rents have increased by 39 percent this past year.
Before Katrina, over 5,000 families lived in public housing in New Orleans; 88% were households headed by women, nearly all African-American. Now, 4,000 families who were evacuated after Katrina are prevented from moving back in. In the face of the worst affordable housing shortage in New Orleans since the end of the Civil War, the federal government plans to bulldoze 5,000 apartments.
Much of the city still remains without electricity, gas and drinkable water. The government has done little, if anything, to clean up the neighborhoods that are now filled with toxic sludge and uninhabitable homes. On August 1, 2006, another Katrina victim was found in her home in New Orleans, buried under debris. The woman was the 28th person found dead since March 2006.
Before Katrina, 56,000 students were enrolled in over 100 public schools in New Orleans. At the end of the school year there were only 12,500. The local school board used to control over 115 schools—they now control four. The majority of the schools now open are charter schools.
The state’s biggest public health care provider, Charity Hospital, remains closed and there are no current plans to reopen it anytime soon. The two-tiered health care system where the uninsured and poor have little access to care has been greatly exacerbated. Some estimates say the city has lost half of its physicians.
There is no hospital at all in the city for psychiatric patients. Many people are experiencing post-traumatic stress—similar to what war survivors go through. The suicide rate has tripled from what it was a year ago but the city has lost half of its psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists and other mental health care workers. Mental health clinics remain closed. The main place for people with mental health problems is now jail and prison.
One million Gulf Coast residents fled or were evacuated because of Katrina. The population of New Orleans pre-Katrina was 485,000. It’s now only about half of this. Before, New Orleans was about two-thirds Black. Most of those evacuated were African-American and many speculate that a “rebuilt New Orleans” will no longer be a “Black city.”
There are over 250,000 people who were displaced after Katrina in Texas; 150,000 are in Houston alone, with 41 percent of these households reporting an income of less than $500 per month. Eighty-one percent are Black, 59 percent are still jobless; many have serious health problems.
The National Guard is now patrolling the streets of New Orleans while politicians and the media demonize the people, acting as if the biggest problem in the city is gangs and crime. All this when the government has done nothing to give people a way to come back, find jobs and live.
Spike Lee’s movie, When the Levees Broke, shows Louisiana Governor Blanco saying, right after Katrina, “We are going to restore law and order… These troops know how to shoot and kill and they are more than willing to do so if necessary and I expect that they will.” There was the Gretna Bridge incident where people tried to get to safety by crossing into Jefferson Parish, but were threatened and blocked by police lined up with shotguns.
And there was Barbara Bush saying, about the people living in horrible conditions in the Houston Astrodome: “What I’m hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all wanna stay in Texas. Everybody is so overwhelmed by the hospitality and so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were under-privileged anyway. This is working very well for them.”
More recently, in one suburb, Sheriff Jack Strain told reporters that he was going to protect his jurisdiction from “thugs” and “trash” migrating from closed public housing projects in New Orleans. He went on to promise that every person who wore “dreadlocks or che-wee hairstyles” could expect to be stopped by law enforcement.
The System at Work
At every point in this story, of how the system has dealt with Katrina, what comes through is how this system is based on the expansion of profit and the protection of capitalist property. How to this system, human lives count for nothing. How racism and the institutions of white supremacy are woven into the very workings of U.S. capitalism and how this is consciously reinforced by those who rule.
The vast majority of all this suffering wasn't and isn’t necessary. Humanity has the ability to take care of the environment, to prepare for natural disasters when they do happen, and to do all this in a cooperative way. But the whole way that things are set up under capitalism means this doesn’t happen.
So now, a year later, tens of thousands are still living in pain, up against a system that sees devastation and dislocation as an opportunity to build a more profitable city and get rid of public housing and the “problem” of poor people.
The Bush Administration isn’t doing the things necessary to really help people move back to New Orleans and rebuild their lives because 1) this isn’t profitable and; 2) NOT doing this is in line with a conscious program for how to deal with certain sections of society.
Katrina revealed the total inability of the capitalist system to meet the needs of the people. And it also revealed the potential for people to do things a different way. Under extremely difficult conditions, people took initiative, stuck together, and found creative ways to try and survive. This was done in spite of and up against all the forces of dog-eat-dog capitalist society. And in this we can see what could be accomplished if society were set up in a whole different way.
A socialist state would have fundamentally different priorities, principles, and methods of organizing society and this would lead to very different results in the event of a disaster: The suffering of the people would be immediately addressed and lessened—not made worse. Profit and the almighty dollar would not be in command and the government would rely on and mobilize the people to solve problems together in every sphere. Scientists would be listened to and mobilized to help educate people to understand things like hurricanes—and in this process learn from the people. There would be broad, public debate and discussion over how to deal with things like hurricanes and how to implement preventative measures; and government money and resources would be allocated to deal with such problems. And the policy of a revolutionary socialist government would be to do away with all the institutions and legacies of national oppression.
Hurricanes and other natural disasters would still pose very serious challenges. But people and society as a whole would be in a fundamentally different situation to deal with this. People all over the country would be immediately organized to figure out how to get food, medicine, aid and transportation to people. Extraordinary measures would be taken to utilize all possible resources in society and the needs of all would be met, with first priority to those most urgently in need—the sick, wounded, and the poor.
Anniversary Ideological Attacks
So, now that we’ve seen all what the government has done and NOT done in the wake of Katrina. Now that we’ve seen the utter and colossal failure of the government to take responsibility for helping the victims of the storm. Now that we’ve seen how the government has not only failed to help people survive, move back and rebuild, but has actually contributed to people’s suffering. Let’s go back to where this article started: the barrage of ideological attacks which blame the people themselves if they have not taken “personal responsibility” for “getting back on their feet.”
In other words, Bill Cosby-type thinking, which blames the poor for the predicament that the system and the government has put them in, is being further developed and enhanced in the official summations of what has happened in the year after Katrina.
There are many, but here are two examples, one subtle, one blatant.
The New York Times ran a several-part series on New Orleans leading up to the anniversary, which in part profiled people moving back and rebuilding. A big message of this was: “Don’t worry—the people who are resourceful and determined are doing OK.” The read-between-the-lines message here being: “Those who are still suffering are lazy, living off government aid, probably into crime and probably Black.”
One article in the series profiles a white middle class couple who own their own company that brings in $50,000 a year. They own two homes so they are able to live in one while they rebuild the other. Another article compares people who fled to Atlanta with those who were evacuated to Houston—at one point saying that differences “date back to the storm itself, and whether people were willing or able to get out of its way.” Under the subhead, “Some Work as Others Wait” we learn that in Houston the mayor has been “pleading with able evacuees to go to work” and that there are more than 5,000 jobs available. But the people evacuated to Houston, who had been employed, had mostly worked at jobs that paid less than $15,000. And these kind of jobs aren’t as abundant in Houston. At the same time, people in Atlanta, many of whom had more professional- type jobs, we are told, “didn’t even bother to ask for help” and “self-navigated.”
The Times compares two different groups of people as if they are in equal situations and have equal opportunities—when in fact they face very different and very UNEQUAL situations and opportunities, which ends up implying that those who made it did so because they are somehow superior, while those who didn’t only have themselves to blame.
In fact, there is a whole range of people who are continuing to suffer—who have been abandoned by the government and are victims of a profit-driven system in which, for instance, companies refuse to pay flood insurance. This includes many middle class people and many white people. Many small businesses have been devastated. And many artists and musicians have been hit hard.
The system and in particular, the Bush administration, has failed to help hundreds of thousands of victims of Katrina. And Black people and poor people are the most severely affected due to the fact that they have less resources and also because of the conscious policies of the government.
Democracy Now! aired a story in which Pamela Lewis told about having guns shoved in her face when she tried to evacuate with her 86-year-old mother. She was relocated to a FEMA trailer park 100 miles away, fenced in by barbed-wire. She is still there and says, “It is a prison set-up. I’ve never been to the bottom of the barrel until I came here.” The trailer park is in a field literally in the middle of nowhere behind an Exxon Oil Refinery. And the only bus available for residents goes only to Wal-Mart. (“Big Easy to Big Empty—The Untold Story of the Drowning of New Orleans,” Greg Palast, August 27, 2006)
Then there is the New York Times September 1 op-ed piece by Juan Williams titled, “Getting Past Katrina.” Williams employs the method of saying something is true because people believe what they have been told is true. He cites a poll that says in the US, two-thirds of Black people and three-quarters of white people believe that too many poor people are overly dependent on government aid. Then Williams asserts that there is good reason for people to hold this belief. And he goes on to argue that it’s pretty simple for people to get out of poverty. He has a basic four step program: finish high school, wait until you’re 20 to get married, wait until you’re married to have children, and take any job.
So here we have the all-too-familiar “pull yourself up by your own bootstraps” message to the hundreds of thousands of poor and Black people whose suffering is so clearly the result of blatant and ongoing government neglect, discrimination and repression.
This “you’re not taking personal responsibility” attack on the masses is a deliberate attempt to evade and direct attention away from social reality and social responsibility, to ignore the real underlying causes and dynamics of why people are in the situation they’re in.
In the talk Conservatism, Christian Fundamentalism, Liberalism and Paternalism…Bill Cosby and Bill Clinton…Not All “Right” but All Wrong!, Bob Avakian speaks to the message that is being pushed by Bill Cosby, Bill Clinton, and others who claim to speak for, or be friends of Black people. This message says that the reason Black people are in the situation they are in is they need to take “personal responsibility” for their lives. But were whole communities abandoned because the people living in them decided to fire themselves, and move all the jobs to places where people could be exploited even more ruthlessly? Did people decide to strip their communities of social services? And, he raises a point that I think is very germane here--that all this dovetails with a larger social and political program that has even genocidal implications for Black people. [The talk Conservatism, Christian Fundamentalism, Liberalism and Paternalism…Bill Cosby and Bill Clinton…Not All “Right” but All Wrong!, is available for download at revcom.us or at bobavakian.net.]
The Bush Regime’s Program for Black People
So, to review what we saw in the wake of Hurricane Katrina:
The people who were crowded into the worst housing and who could not afford to leave were overwhelmingly Black. Thousands of people, mainly Black, were penned into the Superdome like a modern-day slave ship. Black people in New Orleans demonized with lies in the media and their suffering heartlessly dismissed by people highly connected with the Bush Regime and members of the regime itself. Vicious cops and soldiers used force against Black people trying to survive. And now, a year later, the mostly Black people displaced by Katrina are still scattered all over the country, still suffering, still kept from moving back to New Orleans to rebuild their homes and lives.
All this brings into sharp focus the genocidal implications of the Bush Regime’s program for Black people. There is a genocidal element in this package that could easily come to the fore as the situation develops and people have to be very cognizant of that.
Bush is a continuation as well as a perverse extension of the capitalist system. His regime wants to achieve a very different social order in the U.S.—a combination of fascist religious dictatorship at home with an even more aggressive imperialist policy against the world. And as part of that, Bush and powerful Christian fascist forces have been building up a section of preachers within the Black community to be part of a political movement aiming to institute theocracy—a fascist religious dictatorship—over society. These Christian fascists aim to abolish the separation of church and state and want to force all of society to abide by their version of Biblical law. And we saw this at work in New Orleans after Katrina.
One example: What role did Pat Robertson play in relationship to New Orleans? Robertson, a powerful Christian fascist who is among Bush’s top backers, preaches that the prison system, where a million Black people are locked up, should be replaced with an even more vicious setup. He says that these prisoners put “the stain of sin on the land” and he preaches that society should adopt “the biblical model” where “the hard-core, habitual criminal was permanently removed from society through capital punishment.” And then there is William Bennett, a former cabinet official in the Reagan and Bush I administrations, and a major player in the Republican Party, who feels that he can and must float the idea that “if you wanted to reduce crime…you could abort every Black baby in this country.” Through conscious governmental policy as well as through the workings of capitalism, whole sections of Black people are considered “unemployable” people the system has no future for, people the system has no use for and would like to see “disappear.”
This was already the program in effect before Katrina. And so in this light, let’s look at Bush’s order that there be “zero tolerance” for “looters” in New Orleans. Look at Brigadier General Gary Jones, commander of the Louisiana National Guard’s Joint Task Force, who said, “This place is going to look like Little Somalia, we’re going to go out and take this city back. This will be a combat operation to get this city under control.” Look at how the National Guard has been brought in now as a more-or-less permanent occupying force in New Orleans. All this is right in line with the logic and program expressed by Pat Robertson, which is a part of the political, social and ideological program of the Bush Regime. Look at the fact that one of Robertson’s so-called charities was listed by FEMA as one of the top three places where people were supposed to send donations after Katrina!
And look at the recent ACLU report that reveals that when Katrina struck, thousands of prisoners at the Orleans Parish Prison, including juveniles, were abandoned by the authorities—left in locked cells as the flood waters rose.
Look at the Republican Congressman who said that the flood was god’s attempt to get rid of public housing. Look at how the New Orleans chief of police and the media spread lies after Katrina that Black people were raping babies and killing people which incited backward white people to vigilante, Klan-type violence.
All this and the whole list of crimes carried out by the Bush Regime against hundreds of thousands of Black people in the wake of Katrina.
All this has genocidal implications and fits into Bush’s whole agenda and direction into which he is pushing society.
As the Revolution editorial on the anniversary of Katrina said:
“This whole murderous and disastrous course must be reversed, immediately. The people have a verdict to deliver on the crimes that have been and are being carried out by the Bush Regime in New Orleans: guilty of mass murder. And right now, the most powerful way this verdict can be delivered is by going ALL OUT to build for OCTOBER 5TH as a powerful expression on of the people’s determination to BRING THIS TO A HALT and DRIVE OUT THE BUSH REGIME.”
Revolution #60, September 10, 2006
While little, if any, money has been spent to really help the victims of Katrina, there is an astounding amount of profiteering and corruption going on. CorpWatch, a research group which monitors corporations, released a report in August titled “Big, Easy Money: Disaster Profiteering on the American Gulf Coast” which shines a light on the nature of capitalism and the way it operates—the way PROFIT IN COMMAND stands in the way of actually solving the problems of the people. According to CorpWatch, among the key findings in the report are:
“Many of the same ‘disaster profiteers’ and government agencies that mishandled the reconstruction of Afghanistan and Iraq are responsible for the failure of ‘reconstruction’ of the Gulf Coast region. The Army Corps, Bechtel and Halliburton are using the very same ‘contract vehicles’ in the Gulf Coast as they did in Afghanistan and Iraq. These are ‘indefinite delivery, indefinite quantity’ open-ended ‘contingency’ contracts that are being abused by the contractors on the Gulf Coast to squeeze out local companies. These are also ‘cost-plus’ contracts that allow them to collect a profit on everything they spend, which is an incentive to overspend.”
The report reveals how billions of dollars in no-bid FEMA contracts went to Bechtel Corporation, the Shaw Group, CH2M Hill, and Fluor immediately after Katrina hit. And it describes how these companies are all well connected. Riley Bechtel, CEO of Bechtel Corporation, served on President Bush’s Export Council in 2003-2004. A lobbyist for the Shaw Group, Joe Allbaugh, is a former FEMA director and a former campaign manager for President Bush. The president and group chief executive of the International Group at CH2M Hill is Robert Card, who was a Bush appointee as undersecretary of the U.S. Department of Energy until 2004.
The New York Times reported that the single biggest receiver of early Katrina federal contracts was Ashbritt, Inc. of Pompano Beach, Florida, which received over $568 million in contracts for debris removal in Mississippi from Army Corps of Engineers. Ashbritt recently gave $40,000 to the lobbying firm of Barbour, Griffith & Rogers, which had been run by Mississippi Governor and former National GOP Chair Haley Barbour. In 2004, the owners of Ashbritt also contributed over $50,000 to the Republican National Committee.
The CorpWatch report detailed how profits are being made at multiple levels: “AshBritt’s $500 million contract for debris removal amounted to about $23 for every cubic yard of debris removed, according to an NBC News investigation. Ashbritt in turn hired C&B Enterprises, which was paid $9 per cubic yard. That company hired Amlee Transportation, which was paid $8 per cubic yard. Amlee hired Chris Hessler Inc, which received $7 per cubic yard. Hessler, in turn, hired Les Nirdlinger, a debris hauler from New Jersey, who was paid $3 per cubic yard—less than the cost of doing the work.” Another part of the report detailed how FEMA paid three companies nearly $2,500 for each blue tarpaulin used to cover storm-damaged roofs in the worst-hit areas—almost enough to pay for a new roof in many cases. (The tarps were only designed to last 3 months.) A whole line of vultures are making huge profits, just by pushing around some paperwork. All while the masses are suffering and unable to move back into their homes.
Revolution #60, September 10, 2006
The following article is from the World Can’t Wait website (worldcantwait.org).
Report from New Orleans
8/28/06: A report from Jamilah Hoffman, a World Can’t Wait organizer who was in New Orleans for the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
“It is what it is.” That’s a saying that has been going around town and it’s part of what makes New Orleans the “Big Easy.” People are up against a lot and while they know what is going on and want to do something about it, sometimes the enormity of the situation can be too much. People just want to move on.
Hurricane Katrina not only exposed the link between race and class in this country, it also alerted the world to the lengths that this regime will go to implement their program. The statement marking one year after Katrina on the World Can’t Wait website sums it up clearly: This is not government ineptitude, it is the beginning of genocide, colored with racism and excused by religion.
Going into the neighborhoods, especially the 9th and the Lower 9th wards will make you rethink everything you had thought about in the aftermath of the storm. Talking with residents will open your minds about what they went through and are still going through. At the same time, it gives you an understanding of the despair people feel. Yet there is so much potential and possibility to build a movement here that The World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime can be a force to turn that despair into hope.
The message of World Can’t Wait resonates soundly in the African American community because of the racist and genocidal history of Blacks in this country. The reaction of the Bush regime after Katrina hit reinforced this so when we brought the message of this movement out in New Orleans, the responses were entertaining as they were enlightening.
In the Lower 9th ward we ran into two women who were with their children. They had grown up around the block we were standing in, but their homes, if still standing, were devastated. They talked about being in the Superdome for four days. They told us about a woman who was walking around hysterical, looking for her children. She would go to other people’s kids and try to pick them up. Of course everyone thought she was crazy. It was found out that she was in a helicopter and was holding her infant in one hand and her toddler in the other. She was losing her grip when she reached for her child with her other hand and lost them both into the water. The only rescue attempt made was to throw a rope down to the drowning babies.
One woman was in her last trimester and had to walk through water with her two children to the Superdome. Another woman said she used bleach, literally, to get the smell off of her skin. While residents in New Orleans had to risk a helicopter ride, which itself wasn’t guaranteed to be safe or make their way in neck-deep water; in Lebanon, nearly on the other side of the world, the U.S. military airlifted thousands of Americans in a matter of days. The criminal nature of the response from the Bush regime must not be ignored.
These are real people. They had jobs and houses. They had lives. A little girl we spoke to said, after looking up and down the block exasperated, that, “I just don’t recognize it anymore. It’s so sad.” She then told us she wanted some more flyers and that she had some things she would like to say to Bush. We joked that all she needed was a microphone and she told us she was ready. Her mother, whose grandfather had helped to pave the first streets in the 9th ward, who built the home that she lost in the storm, was more weighed down. “Twenty-one years, gone,” she said. “I’ll never forget it.” As it began to thunder around us and her son started to beg his mom to leave, she told us that he’s afraid every time there’s a storm. “The people want to come back,” she said. “They need to pour money into cleaning up the area.” When asked about President Bush coming to New Orleans to mark the anniversary of Katrina, her friend said, “He [Bush] must be trying to get impeached. He says that they’re doing everything to redeem themselves but, whatcha doin?”
We talked to one 65-year-old man who was in the process of rebuilding his home. He was drenched in sweat and while talking to us a friend of his had drove by. She yelled out to him and asked if he was going to the party that night. “Of course,” was his response.
The culture of New Orleans is unique. We stumbled upon a jazz festival and saw people of different races, ages and economic situations all dancing together and listening to some great music. This is the New Orleans that I’m used to. That we’re all used to, and the Bush regime is working to remake this town into a place that does not reflect that culture or the people. Enough is Enough! October 5th, we must all…Bring This to a Halt!
Revolution #60, September 10, 2006
Lt. Ehren Watada, the first U.S. commissioned military officer to refuse deployment in the current Iraq war, at a press conference with members of Iraq Veterans Against the War, Seattle, August 12, 2006. (Photo: Jeff Paterson)
On Aug. 12 Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to refuse deployment to the Iraq war, spoke to 400 people at the national Veterans for Peace (VFP) convention in Seattle.
Charged with “conduct unbecoming an officer,” “contempt toward officials” (specifically Bush), and missing troop movement, Ehren is facing 7 plus years in jail. Just 5 days before a military hearing on his case, he delivered a stirring condemnation of the war and crimes of the Bush regime and called on people to act on their conscience.
Watada said, “Enlisting in the military does not relinquish one’s right to seek the truth—neither does it excuse one from rational thought nor the ability to distinguish between right and wrong. ‘I was only following orders’ is never an excuse.
“The Nuremberg Trials showed America and the world that citizenry as well as soldiers have the unrelinquishable obligation to refuse complicity in war crimes perpetrated by their government. Widespread torture and inhumane treatment of detainees is a war crime. A war of aggression born through an unofficial policy of prevention is a crime against the peace. An occupation violating the very essence of international humanitarian law and sovereignty is a crime against humanity…
“Today I speak with you about a radical idea…to stop an illegal and unjust war, the soldiers can choose to stop fighting it.”
Revolution recently spoke with Ehren’s dad, Bob Watada, who has been on a speaking tour up and down the West Coast. In the Bay Area, Bob spoke at a World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime youth conference. Bob described the growing support for his son—from the ACLU to an interfaith council in Hawaii, United Methodist ministers, the National Japanese American United Methodist Caucus, and West Point Graduates Against the War.
Bob Watada said, “Now, in a strange twist, we have Bush the fascist saying we should go after the ‘Islamic fascists’…You have a president who believes he’s above the law, he tramples all over the Constitution, they wiretap at will…they can torture prisoners at will.”
At the August 17 hearing at Ft. Lewis, Washington, military prosecutors called only one witness to support the charge of “missing troop movement.” Their main evidence was videotapes of Ehren Watada speaking against the war, including his speech at the VFP convention.
The U.S. military is acutely aware of the impact of Lt. Watada’s stand. Time magazine, reporting on the hearing, quoted from his speech—that “to stop an illegal and unjust war, the soldiers can choose to stop fighting it” —and then noted, “That, prosecutors said, is exactly what they most fear.” Time quoted the military prosecutor saying, “It’s just dangerous in our Army to allow that to happen.”
Watada’s lawyer Eric Seitz introduced important testimony from expert witnesses that, in effect, “put the war on trial.” Testifying were international law expert Francis Boyle from the University of Illinois, former U.S. Army Colonel Ann Wright, and former United Nations Assistant Secretary-General Denis Halliday.
The presiding judge at the hearing, Lt. Col. Mark Keith, recommended that Watada be court-martialed on all charges. Keith said Watada’s views are “political questions” and “don’t excuse his refusal to deploy.” But it is precisely Watada’s political views that the Army is attempting to silence and to prosecute him for. (See “Lt. Watada and the Contemptible U.S. Military” in Revolution #54—online at revcom.us)
Keith declared, “As an officer and leader, his refusal to obey a lawful order can not be excused and serves to embolden others to commit the same or similar misconduct… Lt. Watada’s contempt for the President serves to break down the good order and discipline of all military personnel by casting doubt regarding his integrity and leadership attributes while under the stress of combat operations.”
And very ominously, Keith said, “I believe Lt. Watada’s contempt for the President and suggestion that U.S. Soldiers can stop the war simply by refusing to fight, borders on a violation of Article 94.”
“Violation of Article 94”—i.e., mutiny and sedition—are charges that carry a possible death penalty. Keith’s threat is clearly intended as a warning of the heavy consequences for taking the kind of stand Watada has taken.
The final decision on court-martial in Ehren’s case will likely be made in the next couple of weeks by the Commanding General of Ft. Lewis, Lt. Gen. James Dubik. Friends and Family of Lt. Watada (thankyoult.org) is calling on people to phone Dubik at 253-967-0022 to express support for Ehren and opposition to his court-martial, and to mobilize nationwide for a protest near Ft. Lewis leading up to the possible court-martial this fall.
Revolution #60, September 10, 2006
The following is from the International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration (bushcommission.org):
Get Out the Verdict! Frame and Fuel the Discussion!
The Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration will release its final verdict on Wednesday, September 13, 2006.
The final verdict will address the five indictments dealing with the Bush administration’s wars of aggression, illegal detention and torture, destruction of the global environment through global warming, imposition of abstinence-only on AIDS prevention programs in the Third World, and the abandonment of New Orleans before, during and after Hurricane Katrina.
On September 13, the verdict will be formally served on the White House and the Department of Justice, read over the radio across the country, and released in printed form for national distribution.
Following the release of the verdict, the Commission is calling a national “Bush Crimes Day” on Tuesday, September 19. Inspired by the verdict of the Bush Crimes Commission, campuses and communities across the country will organize public events, from teach-ins to street-theater, that draw attention to acts of the Bush administration that, by their scope and nature, shock the conscience of humankind—and bring to the fore our moral and political responsibility to bring these horrific crimes to a halt!
Find out more at:
Revolution #60, September 10, 2006
The following is a correspondence from a reader:
We’ve been communicating with a history/government teacher at an L.A. area high school, and we told him about Bob Avakian’s new talks. He said that the talks sounded very interesting and he wanted to know more about Avakian’s work (he’s been reading the Memoir). He was especially intrigued by “Communism and Jeffersonian Democracy.” He thought that his students would benefit from hearing the talks, so he asked us to come in to do some classroom presentations.
We spoke to three of his history/government classes—two 12th grade classes and one 9th grade class. We did a brief intro drawn from the Revolution editorial about the new talks and played a 7-minute clip from the first talk (“Why We’re in the Situation We’re in Today…And What to Do About It: A Thoroughly Rotten System and the Need for Revolution”)—where he talks about how elections in the U.S. is like a complicated “audition” where candidates try to get approval from a panel of “judges.” (The teacher had been covering elections and voting and wanted us to do something with that theme.) Then the students broke into discussion groups of 2-4. We went to the different groups to listen in and talk with students. After that we had a larger classroom discussions.
While the clip was playing some students were trailing off a bit and others were vigorously taking notes. Many of us have listened to these talks multiple times, but we were a little worried that maybe it was a little jolting to jump in there for the first time for some of these students.
Well, some students got some aspects of it and others a little less—but in the groups the students were discussing what parts they had understood and trying to explain it to others and came up with questions or comments off their discussions. They were wrangling with the material.
In one group the students were trying to understand who the panel of judges is, and a whole lot of wrangling and discussion sprung from that. They were saying that it was corporations or special interest groups or that the people who vote. One student said that he didn’t think it was the voters because they don’t get to decide what they are voting on. Another student said that she thought the system is the panel and the candidates are the representatives that the system is going to decide will represent and look out for what benefits the system. Another student asked why a candidate hasn’t thought about being sneaky and pretending that they are for the system to get elected and then change things up and actually do things that benefit the people and the environment, like end homelessness and poverty. So I asked if they thought the right to eat was something that people should have. They all said of course. Then I asked them, what would happen if people tried to implement this? They all said that people would be arrested for shoplifting and put in jail. That got them going, and they started talking about all the important things that are never up for a vote, like the war in Iraq—all the people got to do was vote for who was going to carry it out. For some, this was the first time that they were looking critically at the electoral process.
In another class a group of Filipino students were trying to figure out that part where Bob Avakian quotes Lenin, saying that people will continue to be the foolish victims of deceit and self-deceit until they see the interests of one class or another behind everything. By this time the teacher was also circulating around the room getting into discussions with the groups. A young Black woman said that there are larger interests going on—that there’s a system that runs things and they’re behind everything because they have to make sure that things go in a way that benefits them. Another student said that maybe the system could change if there were different faces in the government. The young Black woman said that the system and the government are not the same—that the government are the representatives of the system, but that a system is how things are run, like a capitalist system.
One student, a big Megadeth fan, said that he sees so much injustice and that the system is against us but didn’t see the possibility of change. The teacher jumped in and said that each individual must become conscious first and then talk to their friends and people around them about what injustice is and come up with ways to do something about it. He asked the student if he had changed his thinking in the duration of the class—the student said yes. The teacher then said, now imagine you going to your circle of friends and them going out to their circle of friends.
These are just a few of the conversations we had with people. Each class had all kinds of questions about communism, change, democracy, capitalism/imperialism, what’s happening in Lebanon. Towards the end of each class it really got going with the students going back and forth asking each other questions and trying to answer each other’s questions and asking us what we thought.