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Revolution #63, October 1, 2006
This is how fascism comes—with a show of opposition followed by high-profile compromise, and assurances that all is well.
This is how fascism comes, with quiet streets and everyone going about their business.
This is how fascism comes, oh so democratically.
The new bill submitted to the Senate on September 22—and almost certain to be approved within the week—gives the U.S. president chilling new powers.
Lawyers and legal experts across the country condemned the bill. Many were appalled by the moral and constitutional implications. Even the chief defense counsel for the Defense Department’s Office of Military Commissions, Marine Corps Colonel Dwight Sullivan, said that the bill “methodically strips rights” guaranteed by laws and treaties and appears to be unconstitutional.
To be clear: the U.S. has used torture throughout its history, from Wounded Knee to the Philippines, from Vietnam to El Salvador. What is new here are three things.
First, the use of torture will now be legally codified. No longer will it be winked at, covered up or, on rare occasions, half-heartedly prosecuted. Now it will be perfectly legal, even a moral good. This will inevitably mean that torture will become even more widespread and systematic, and spread from the secret prisons outward.
Second, long-standing constitutional procedures for anyone held in the U.S. legal system—the right to a trial, the right to see the evidence with which you are being accused, the inadmissibility of hearsay and evidence obtained through coercion—are being overturned. This is an immense rupture with the very legal and constitutional foundations of this system. Right now, this “only” applies to the 430 “enemy combatants” held at Guantanamo and the 14,000 other people held in U.S. military prisons abroad. And what logic prevents this next being applied to U.S. citizens as well, if Bush says that they “endanger our safety”?
Third, this aggressive demand that torture be ratified is going along with a renewed theocratic push. “A lot of people in America see this as a confrontation between good and evil, including me,” Bush said on September 12 in an interview session with right-wing commentators and columnists. He went on to claim that his presidency has stirred a “third great [religious] awakening.” As Bush sees it—or at least as he says it—he (and the U.S.) are by definition “good” and, by implication, can do anything they like to the people he deems to be “evil.” If you’re fighting for that view, Bush’s offensive on legalizing torture makes sense.
The political maneuvers accompanying this were both disgusting and ominous. Bush launched this offensive with a high-profile speech on September 6 that not only admitted but bragged about the existence of secret CIA detention centers, filled with people who had been disappeared off the streets of cities around the world. Using the euphemism “alternative procedures” for torture, Bush all but admitted that detainees held in these prisons had been tortured. But he argued that it was all worth it because the tactics had produced valuable intelligence that had “saved American lives.” And then he dared anyone to stop him.
The only takers were Republican senators McCain, Graham, and Warner, and former Secretary of State and U.S. Army General Colin Powell. Their objections were narrow: they worried that this would make the U.S. look bad internationally, and they worried that American soldiers and CIA operatives would be denied the protections of the Geneva Conventions on the basis of “sauce for the goose, sauce for the gander.” Evidently, a week of pressure from Bush and a few cosmetic touch-ups on the legislation did the trick for them.
Actually, Bush and the people around him are hardly unaware that this whole thing will engender hatred for the U.S. around the world. But they have different ends in mind. One, they wish to be feared. By openly acknowledging their use of torture, and by doing so in the most aggressive, blatant, and unapologetic terms possible, they make clear that they will stop at nothing. They aim to sow terror, in other words. Two, they also have an agenda of increasing executive power at the expense of the Congress and the courts. When the Supreme Court dared rule against them on this, they immediately set about ratifying their illegality through Congressional action. Rather than being punished for violating the Constitution, they aimed to politically reward themselves. On both counts, they have succeeded.
As for the Democrats? First they crowed about their brilliant strategy of saying nothing and letting McCain set the terms of debate—if they said nothing, you see, they could not be attacked. Never mind that that brilliant strategy itself legitimized Bush’s view on torture, as well as ceding the right of any opposition to McCain himself. Then, Thursday, Sept. 21, they broke their vow of silence—with approval of the deal. Democratic Senate leader Harry Reid greeted news of the compromise by saying, “Five years after September 11, it is time to make the tough and smart decisions to give the American people the real security they deserve.” Speaking anonymously of the compromise, a House Democratic leadership aide said, “We had really hoped the White House had caved, but it’s looking more and more like the senators [i.e., McCain et al] caved.” With the assumption being that the Democrats would, of course, not step up on their own.
This is how fascism comes. With assurances of security, and quiet streets, and bills moving through Congress, in orderly bi-partisan fashion.
Revolution #63, October 1, 2006
The articles in this issue, taken together, give a picture. From Mexico to Iraq, from Guantanamo to New York, you see an imperialist system, based on international exploitation. On that foundation arises a whole apparatus of military domination, prisons, suppression, enforced ignorance, torture, and death. A system of exploitation and oppression that must end, and can only be ended, by communist revolution.
Right now, the Bush regime sits atop this system. The crimes they have committed—and the ones they are planning to commit—have incurred the righteous anger of people all over the world. But people around the world have not yet seen a force within this country step forward, in a serious and visible way, to challenge this. Absent that, many are drawn either into the dead end of Islamic fundamentalism, which can only lead backward to oppressive archaic social relations, or reformist schemes for a little bit better place under imperialist rule. Neither can lead to liberation; but the idea of a real alternative seems far away for those yearning for something different.
Meanwhile, every week the atrocities of this system and of those running it get worse. Cluster bombs in Lebanon, made in USA. Slaughter on the streets of Baghdad, courtesy Bush-style democratization. Torture, legalized in a most “bi-partisan” way. Further steps along the road to theocracy, and religious warfare from presidents, popes, and mullahs.
What next? U.S. war on Iran? Perhaps even using nuclear weapons?
It’s already in the works.
THIS MUST HALT!
But right now, the political discourse and debate in this country is dominated by the top Democrats and Republicans, and it’s all about “who can better fight the war on terror.” This doesn’t speak to the real interests of the people, and it doesn’t even speak to the felt sentiments of tens of millions around the country. To let it stay at that…to confine oneself to voting for lesser evil…only leads to a deeper circle of hell. Staying in that framework today is complicity.
The discourse and debate must change, radically and urgently. Something different must emerge: a massive force in the streets on October 5, actively demanding that the Bush regime go, and determined to keep fighting until that regime is politically driven out. Such a struggle can politically reverse the deadly momentum of events in the U.S. and worldwide, making known to millions and millions across the planet that there are people right here in the belly of the beast refusing to choose between McWorld/McCrusade and Jihad…people determined to not just “protest as usual” but to drive out this regime…
Bringing forward that force is the urgent next step. Driving out this regime would not only work to stop some of the horrors coming down on people—and the even worse ones being planned; it would also raise people’s sights as to what is possible, it would open up their minds to new ways of thinking and help them get organized to struggle. Massive demonstrations on October 5 in this country would bring joy to people all over the world, and they would draw courage and new ideas from seeing people here standing up against the regime. From our revolutionary point of view, all of these are crucial.
At the same time, many other people and political and social forces, from their point of view, have also thrown in with October 5. They, too, see the urgent need to drive out the Bush regime. They, too, see the importance and the need to sacrifice to bring about the kinds of changes they want and they see October 5 as a critical vehicle for those changes. And out of all this a new and precious “unity in diversity” is beginning to emerge.
But can it be done? Can Bush be driven out? Can October 5 succeed in taking that to a whole new level?
Yes. The real possibility exists to do this. Over the past few weeks, momentum has been growing for the demonstrations planned on October 5. The turnout to the planning meetings on September 7, the publication of the call to Drive Out the Bush Regime in USA Today, the response to the civil disobedience at the United Nations, the actions by people well-known and not known at all…all this and more, much more, show the potential. But that potential still has to be realized, on the 5th itself. And that requires struggle and work.
Truly powerful demonstrations on the 5th can change everything. Truly determined demonstrations, involving tens of thousands at first and growing from there, can politically electrify things literally overnight. Such manifestations could change the discourse into one that is founded on the need to STOP these crimes, and could make the debate turn on how to politically drive out those responsible for them as soon as damn possible—and prevent them from doing even worse! Truly massive demonstrations on the 5th—demonstrations that are not a one-shot deal but a leap in a movement which will stay on the political offensive and really compel the changes that are needed—these can set a whole different dynamic into motion. It can change what everyone has to speak to, and how they have to speak to it—from the bottom to the top of society and back down again.
This sort of thing has happened before. And increasingly, people are hearkening back to the ‘60s, a time when people more and more felt that a century of segregation and racism and a bloody war in Southeast Asia were just not tolerable or acceptable in any way any longer…and when some event within that mix would lead thousands to suddenly change their lives and take great risks, sometimes overnight, and lead millions more to act in mass mobilizations to end those things…and when in so doing those thousands and millions changed the terms and direction of society and gave a glimpse of the possibility of something very much better for humanity. That very hearkening back is also evidence of the potential…and a call to realize it as well.
This regime could be driven out. It is possible. The next major step in doing that looms before us, and it can be taken. It is within reach.
But again—urgent work must be done, now, to transform potential into reality. This paper comes out a little more than a week before October 5. If you are reading this editorial, you must give that week to making October 5 happen. What you do, what you contribute, can be and must be part of making the world change.
What would you give to stop this juggernaut, to turn this society around?
What would you sacrifice?
Start with a week.
Revolution #63, October 1, 2006
Six months ago, the politicians and media promoted the notion that U.S. troop levels in Iraq would be below 100,000 by November, and dip from there.
Not anymore. The head of the military this week proclaimed that the current level of troops in Iraq—147,000—would be needed until at least April. Bush echoed him. And powerful forces within the ruling class have been and are calling for yet more troops to be added.
Senator John McCain, the leading Republican presidential contender for 2008, called for more troops on the NBC TV show Meet the Press on August 20. A few weeks later William Kristol and Rich Lowry—editors of the extreme right-wing magazines The Weekly Standard and National Review—published a joint piece calling on Bush to order “a substantial surge in overall troop levels in Iraq, with the additional forces focused on securing Baghdad.” They said that the current military strategy wasn’t working and “simply requires more manpower.” In support, they cited Harvard Law School’s William Stuntz:
“The territory over which we fight is among the most strategically important in the world. Victory will place the most dangerous regime on the planet, Iran’s fascist theocracy, in serious peril. Defeat will leave that same regime inestimably strengthened. If there is any significant possibility that the presence of more American soldiers on the ground would raise the odds of success, not putting those soldiers on the ground is a crime.”
(Here we must say in passing that Stuntz’ characterization of “the most dangerous regime on the planet” applies to the U.S.—and that the term “fascist theocracy” may very soon become applicable as well. As for the strategic importance of the “territory over which we fight,” that resides in which imperialist power will control the oil fields in that region—that is to say, which slavemaster will own the greatest number of slaves.)
Meanwhile, the Washington Post broke the story on September 11 that Marine intelligence chief Peter Devlin said that Anbar province in Iraq would likely be lost without another U.S. division—10,000 troops—being added. NBC Newsman Jim Miklaszewski reported two days later that “one senior military official” went even further, saying “it would take 50,000–60,000 more U.S. ground forces to secure al-Anbar.” The overall commander of U.S. troops in Iraq shot back that the emphasis would remain on Baghdad, but conceded that more was needed in Anbar. This rare public argument indicates the intensity of the contradiction facing the army and the Bush regime overall.
Others have argued against such an escalation. Why? Because, they say, as it stands now the army simply cannot provide more troops and that, indeed, the current level of commitment is even endangering the army! Replying to Kristol and Lowry, Lawrence J. Korb (an assistant secretary of defense under Reagan) and Peter Ogden said, “Sending more troops to Iraq would, at the moment, threaten to break our nation’s all-volunteer Army and undermine our national security. This is not a risk our country can afford to take.”
The debate has broken out so sharply because the U.S. military situation in Iraq has deteriorated. (The U.S. position in Afghanistan has also deteriorated, but that’s beyond the scope of this article.) The resistance to the U.S. occupation of Iraq has gained ground. At the same time, sectarian warfare between Shia and Sunni forces—with each side’s militia targeting the other’s population—has radically intensified, especially in Baghdad. Fueling that warfare has been the inability of the U.S. to forge a new social and political compact for Iraq that has any support. Different forces in Iraq have radically different views over how to divide its oil wealth (most of which is located in the principally Shia south); how to relate to Iran; how much autonomy should be accorded to the different provinces; how much religious domination there should be of Iraqi civil life; etc. The U.S. has not been able to come up with a political structure that can cohere all that, nor does it currently have the military strength sufficient to prevent the Iraqis themselves from a) resisting the U.S., or b) battling with each other over the character of whatever political structure does eventually come into being.
But it is not the low number of troops alone that stands in the way of U.S. victory. There is struggle within the American military over how to sort out and deal with the two different battles going on—the anti-U.S. insurgency and the civil war between different sections of Iraqi society. These battles are distinct and at the same time related, and this causes tactical and even strategic difficulties for U.S. forces: Are they principally fighting a counter-insurgency? Or are they attempting to contain a civil war—or at least direct it into paths that they, the U.S., find advantageous? Meanwhile, the U.S. troops themselves are becoming even less motivated—all of which is exacerbated by both their growing sense that the Iraqi people hate them and that there is justice in that hatred. Their long tours and the conflicts over strategy at the top add to the stress. At the nub of it is this: the U.S. Army and Marine Corps are imperialist armed forces, oppressing the country they are occupying and made up in large part of troops from the working class and lower middle class whose fundamental interests lie opposed to those of the imperialists. This influences everything from who fights, how they fight, and with what—and some of the problems inherent in that have now emerged into sharp relief.
But the U.S. ruling class does not accept the prospect of defeat in Iraq. It is not that “terrorists would follow us here,” as the commanding officer of the U.S. forces recently claimed and as Bush immediately echoed. No, the real way they see the problem is this: such a defeat would expose the limitations of U.S. military power to rivals of different kinds, and different forces would rush in to fill what they perceived to be a “power vacuum.” Such a defeat would play havoc with the U.S. ruling class aim to dominate the world as an unchallenged and unchallengeable power. They will not tolerate that prospect, and they find it well worth it to slaughter tens of thousands of Iraqis and sacrifice thousands of U.S. soldiers to prevent its realization.
The Democrats for the most part have been unable to agree on a strategy beyond the mealy-mouthed nostrum of “phased redeployment”—which can mean anything, really, depending on the circumstances—and assurances that they are NOT for “cutting and running.” These Democrats don’t “lack ideas”—their ideas are conditioned by the fact that they serve the same system as the Republicans and see things in terms of the interests of that system, and those who run it. (Even Kerry, who calls for setting a date to withdraw, also demanded on September 10 that the U.S. send more troops to Afghanistan, to join the 21,000 already there, and the 19,000 NATO troops with them.) There is no major Democrat with either the desire to simply and clearly state, or the interest in stating, the truth: this war is a criminal enterprise, built upon lies, and designed only to protect the continued ability of a few people at the top of society to dominate and exploit the world and its people.
The imperialists will almost certainly have to find some way to increase the size of the army and to raise U.S. troop levels in Iraq. And here the question of the draft comes in—though hardly any of the principals in this debate mention it. Except, that is, for John Murtha, the Democratic Congressman from Pennsylvania. Murtha publicly broke with the war nearly a year ago, warning that the army was in danger of being broken. Many people who are against the war, but who still believe in the Democratic Party, seized on Murtha as a ray of hope.
On September 6, Murtha said that “we cannot sustain the President’s open-ended, vague and bankrupting war policies indefinitely. He should try less rhetoric and more action. If we are to fight this war with the same sense of dedication and vigor as we did prior wars, we cannot do it without a surge in force.” Murtha then challenged Bush to either change course or reinstitute the draft. While most Democrats won’t openly support the draft, they do echo the call for “shared sacrifice” and “national service,” which creates the ideological underpinnings of a draft.
The charade-like election debate—”phased redeployment” vs “cutting and running”; who can fight the “war on terror” more efficiently—is being used to form a consensus for escalation and, perhaps, the draft. Bringing back the draft would be a highly risky political move for the imperialists. But they, from their angle, are caught between a rock and a hard place. And so we get the rhetoric, to grease the skids. “We” can’t afford to lose. “We” are not for cutting and running. “We” need more troops. “We” should share the burden. Therefore, “we” should have a draft—and you should answer the call to fight in this bloody war, or else go to jail.
And “they”—the Iraqi people—should continue to die by the thousands each month for the greater good of U.S. imperialism.
That horrific imperialist logic must be broken with, resisted, and defeated—and the war it justifies, halted.
Revolution #63, October 1, 2006
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"Mexico: The Political Volcano
In the state of Oaxaca, in southern Mexico, the broad masses of people have stood up in popular revolt to challenge the old order, at a critical juncture in Mexico. While it is not a revolution, what started as a militant teachers' strike that occupied the city center demanding a living wage has become an independent political struggle of the masses with the goal of driving the PRI (Party of the Institutional Revolution) governor, Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, from office.
For close to four months now, teachers and supporters have taken over the zocalo town square in the capital of Oaxaca, shut down highways, blocked government buildings, and taken over radio and television stations.
The police force cannot officially operate—instead, the city is guarded by 1,500 barricades manned by the people, often made of police trucks, buses, and tires that are set on fire when an attack is approaching. Housewives regularly provide bread, atole (a sweet hot drink made of ground maize, milk, cinnamon, and sugar), coffee, and other supplies to the people building and patrolling the barricades as well as the people living in the zocalo encampment. The masses have organized their own patrols to safeguard their communities from police attacks and to resolve contradictions that arise from among the people. A mobile people’s brigade of 200 has closed down and occupied the government buildings.
Ulises Ruiz Ortiz (URO) has been unofficially declared proscrito—exiled and banned—by many masses of people and has kept his whereabouts unknown. State senators declared a neighboring hotel as an alternative headquarters for their government offices, but soon relocated after protestors warned the hotel management that they would “peacefully take over the hotel” if the senators were allowed to meet there. The teachers and students have been joined by campesinos, workers, students, doctors, lawyers, artists, and housewives, along with some shopkeepers, small businessmen, and priests who support the demand that the governor resign. In a society with very traditional customs and gender roles, women have stepped forward within this struggle in very important ways.
The people have a sense of new power as each attempt at government repression has spurred the struggle onward, bringing in wider sections of the people and deepening their resolve. In the past months, the police and other state-sponsored thugs have killed at least 5 people—including an architect who was killed during a police shooting at one of the broadcast stations—and there have been many wounded by gunfire from the police and teargas canisters, countless arrested, and there have been reports of torture and disappearances.
The Teachers’ Strike Becomes a People’s Revolt
On May 15, traditional Teachers’ Day in Mexico, teachers in Oaxaca set up an encampment in the zocalo, demanding higher wages and other educational reforms. They remained there for weeks, insisting that their demands be met. On June 14, URO–backed up by the state legislature made up of PRI, PAN (National Action Party), and PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) representatives—ordered a brutal repression against the teachers’ encampment in the zocalo that had drawn support from people in neighboring communities.
At dawn, while approximately 3,000 teachers and supporters—including families with small children—slept, police in helicopters dropped pepper bombs into the camp. More than 2,000 officers on foot charged into the town square and started beating people with batons and fired tear gas canisters. The police destroyed the encampment and dispersed people from the zocalo, but the people shortly returned with thousands more teachers, students from the local university, and people from the surrounding area who defended themselves from the police with sticks and stones and bravely reclaimed the zocalo.
In the wake of this struggle, the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (APPO)—a coalition of teachers activists, indigenous organizations and a broad cross section of the population of that state–was formed.
Within the APPO and within the larger movement, there is a whole range of “left” political trends, with differing views of what are the causes of the situation the people find themselves in, and how to resolve them. They include anti-capitalist trends, more radical and revolutionary forces, those who want tomake reforms within the existing system, and, importantly, revolutionary communist forces who are fighting for a radically different understanding of what is at the root of the problem and a radically different vision of what the solution is. Although the APPO is a coalition with wide-ranging outlooks, political lines, and ideologies, it has so far been a form that has allowed for a great deal of initiative from the masses to debate and to act—to put out their views to the people of that state, and more broadly.
Fed up with the lies promoted in Oaxaca’s official news sources, thousands of women marched through the streets to the Oaxacan Corporation of Radio and Television on August 1 and took over Channel 9. The women said, “We know that through this media, they misinform the people and never give voice for people to speak the truth about the reality we live in.” They started broadcasting and opened up the airwaves for people to denounce the state government, debate, and inform the public about the APPO movement. News of the movement started being broadcast to the far-flung indigenous communities around the state where often people have been fighting to oust despotic government officials and to protect their forests and land from being taken over by multinational corporations.
For three weeks the people dominated the normally state-controlled airwaves. People spoke of the reality of their lives as they understood it—the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), Plan Puebla Panama (PPP), what people have lost to developers and international paper companies, and the desperate conditions of the masses generally. The Channel 9 broadcast included a documentary videotape of living conditions of Palestinians in the Occupied Territories.
This was too much for the government to tolerate. In the early hours of August 20, a government assault attacked the transmission tower and destroyed the controls, and paramilitaries shot up the whole facility to insure that it could not broadcast. APPO broadcast a message to the people: “Confronted with this panorama of provocation, terror and repression, we make the broadest possible call to the people to concentrate our forces around the single demand to make the tyrant fall and to this end, to reinforce the encampments and the offices taken over.”
On August 22, the state tried to make a major move and regain control of the airwaves. They attacked the antenna, and the people responded. The bells of churches were rung, firecrackers were set off. The barricade in the city center was extended several more blocks. A convoy of 30 armed police vehicles cruised the periphery. The radio station broadcast, “Compañeros, don’t sleep! Detain them.” Barricades of fire, rocks, bricks, tree trunks, tires, and old cars went up all over. “Through the smoke swarmed dozens of silhouettes with rocks in their hands, slingshots, baseball bats, sticks, ax handles. Buses blocked the streets everywhere. The resistance expanded more rapidly than the police forces.” Later that day, the people seized 12 radio stations and at present have consolidated control over two.
There have been also been megamarches of hundreds of thousands to denounce the attacks and demand the immediate resignation of URO.
The rage and breaking point of the Oaxacan people has been brewing for a long time. Oaxaca is one of the poorest and most marginalized states in Mexico, with the largest percentage of the population belonging to indigenous (Indian) groups. Wretched conditions of extreme poverty and malnutrition, unemployment, increasing migration out of the countryside and into the cities—including the U.S.—and the discrimination against the majority indigenous population are deeply embedded in society. NAFTA, the PPP, and “imperialist modernization” have led to investments in maquiladoras, expanding commerce, deforestation, and other ways of taking over natural resources and have ruined countless peasants in the countryside, making survival near impossible.
For the past couple of years, Oaxaca has witnessed some of the bloodiest repressions unleashed against the campesinos, students, and opposition organizations there. Only months after URO took power in December 2004, 250 police surrounded a community in Santiago Xanica during a communal workday and attempted to massacre the peasants by opening fire on 80 people. URO has also repeatedly repressed the struggle of university students against Plan Juarez (which among other things aims to privatize education), with hundreds of police using batons, tear gas, and attack dogs. Only a day before URO took office, there was an assault on the printing presses of El Diario, a newspaper widely distributed in Oaxaca. Months later, the offices of the newspaper were attacked again, and 31 workers were kidnapped. Police harassed people who sell the newspaper and tried to prevent the distribution of the newspaper.
A march of thousands from Oaxaca to Mexico City has just begun, aimed at bringing the struggle to the rest of Mexico and building broader support as well as putting pressure on the Federal Government to intervene on the side of the people who have been demanding that the governor has to go. Demands also include an end to the repression against the movement and its supporters, freedom for all political prisoners, maximum punishment for URO and other functionaries including the murdering police, and a wage increase for Oaxacan teachers.
The Oaxacan state Congress recently drafted a decree addressed to President Vicente Fox, demanding he dispatch federal forces to remove the encampments of protestors in the zocalo, remove the barricades and protestors surrounding the city, and restore “order” to the area. Repression against the APPO and the people of Oaxaca is still a real possibility. In Los Angeles, California marches in solidarity with the Oaxacan people have gone to the Mexican Counsulate to protest government repression. Oaxacan organizations in the U.S. along with others sent a statement to Fox asking him not to send federal forces to repress the movement. Also, a contingent of about 30 activists from Latino rights organizations from the U.S. arrived in Oaxaca to talk with the APPO about the state of the struggle.
There is a lot of behind-the-scenes manuevering on the part of the Mexican rulers who are trying to figure out how to bring this situation of ungovernability in the state of Oaxaca to an end. The challenge for all of the political parties among the rulers is how to diffuse the situation in a way that will gain them political advantage. For example, PRI governors warned Fox and his forces that if they allow the governor of Oaxaca to be brought down as a result of a popular uprising, the position of Felipe Caldéron (the PAN candidate who was officially declared winner of the presidential election) as President could be in danger as well. Caldéron’s opponent, the PRD’s Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), has distanced himself from APPO, apparently not wanting that kind of independent popular uprising to spread, even though forces connected to PRD are undoubtedly involved in APPO.
The heroic rebellion of the people in Oaxaca is bringing to the fore the potential strength of the masses when they rely on their own strength and their creativity in the struggle, and do not subordinate their struggle to any of the electoral parties representing Mexico’s rulers. Societywide, new vistas are opening up and the masses are raising their sights to new ideas and possibilities, including widely debating what kind of future–and what kind of system—people actually need.
This situation is opening the door for the struggle for a new future in all of Mexico, and this is resonating throughout the country, across the U.S./Mexico border, and throughout the world—and this struggle must be supported.
Revolution #63, October 1, 2006
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"Mexico: The Political Volcano
The weekend of Sept 15-16 marked a nodal point in the post-electoral crisis in Mexico. While the PAN (National Action Party) candidate Felipe Calderón was declared the winner by the ruling institutions who are commissioned to decide the outcome of presidential elections, those supporting PRD (Party of the Democratic Revolution) candidate Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) continue to insist that the election is fraught with fraud and is invalid. But the resistance movement that took the form of mass encampments in the heart of Mexico City is now entering a different stage.
Tension built up as the weekend of Independence Day approached, with a great deal of posturing and pressure on all sides. On September 13, the 48-day long blockade—put in place by AMLO to pressure for a vote recount of the presidential elections—was ended. The blockade was reportedly dismantled so as not to interfere with the traditional Independence Day military parade on September 16. Fox had adamantly insisted that he would carry out his function as president to deliver the traditional “Grito”—which commemorates the beginning of Mexico’s War of Indendence from Spain—from the balcony of the National Palace facing the zocalo. AMLO and his PRD party had made plans to carry out their own “Grito” in the zocalo at the same time as Fox At the last minute, Fox was hustled off to Guanajuato, his home state and historical site of the original “Grito,” leaving the Zocalo to AMLO and his supporters. This was the second time in 2 weeks that President Fox was banished from his ceremonial duties due to the actions of the opposition, and the maneuvering of the rulers as a whole.
On Sept 16, after the military had their traditional parade, AMLO presided over the National Democratic Convention (Convención Nacional Democrática, CND) which was held in the zocalo, convened by the Coalition for the Good of Everyone and attended by some 1 million delegates from all over Mexico.
The CND declared AMLO the legitimate president to be sworn in on November 20, and said the majority “rejected the usurpation of the Presidency by Felipe Calderon and refused to recognize him as President.” They also called for “abolishing the rule of privilege.” The CND decided to form an “alternative government,” which will have its own cabinet with a “Secretary of State,” etc. Mexico City will be its base, but it will have a “mobile character.” AMLO proposed a government that will be a “permanent act of civil disobedience against the violation of the people’s will.” AMLO said he will travel around the country to build a “peaceful civic resistance” and possibly organize a referendum to see if the people want to call for a “new constituent assembly that would transform the institutions and reform the Constitution.”
The CND approved a plan for civilian resistance: carry out peaceful protests wherever Calderón shows his face; boycott products and services from companies that financed Calderón’s campaign (Coca-Cola, Kimberly Clark, Banamex, etc.); boycott the media that supported him; organize cultural activities around its demands; organize a national campaign against the declaration of Calderón as president; hold up signs with their demands behind reporters in live media events; call in to radio and TV programs; create a web page; develop a virtual TV station; and launch surprise media events. They also plan to mobilize on Dec 1 to block the inauguration of Calderón as president. But they have made it clear that in no way is the PRD departing from the struggle in the electoral arena as the means for effecting change that they say the country needs.
On the other side of the conflict, the forces–U.S. and Mexican—grouped around Calderón have wasted no time in setting about bringing about the economic “reforms” that they have been pushing for. Their hope is that the election crisis has now been resolved, and that they can now advance their agenda. At a recent Forbes CEO Forum held in Mexico City, organized by U.S. capitalist and former presidential candidate Steve Forbes, business leaders were assembled and plans were discussed to move ahead to “design a new Mexico” which will look for alternatives to “modernize” the energy sector, labor laws, and the fiscal system (taxes) to remove impediments to investment and bring about greater profit growth.
While things have come to a certain resolution through the rulings of the courts, and the temporary diffusion of confrontation in the streets of Mexico City, it is clear that the struggle is far from over. Within the institutions of government, the rulers will continue their struggle to define their program for the nation, but there remains a serious challenge to the legitimacy of the new President, and rebellion at the top led by those forces grouped around the PRD who continue to fight and pressure for their program–intersecting with outpourings of discontent from below.
There is a new situation that can allow for the kind of debate and genuine struggle among the masses about what is the solution to Mexico’s severe economic, political, and social problems. Despite being controlled at the top by AMLO, the resistance in the streets of Mexico City was to a degree in the hands and initiative of the people, and there was much space for debate of all political trends and ideas. People organized reading circles, libraries, works of theater, concerts, painting, writing, poetry, book presentations, debates on all kinds of subjects, movie making, culture activities, and so on. There were marriages, deaths, births—it was a city inside of a city with ten of thousands of residents—with its own security, an organizational structure according to different states and mass organizations, regional kitchens where food was never lacking (for example, every day 100 kilos of tortillas were punctually delivered to the zocalo, three steers were donated from Jalisco, and food and support for all over the country poured in), doctors and nurses organized free clinics at night after work with their own resources, etc. There was little crime within the encampments. All this showed the great potential for the masses running society, and in very creative ways.
In sum, a lot of things have opened up during these intense months of the resistance movement, even though it has been principally under the influence of a ruling class party. What remains to be seen is where those forces and individuals—whose eyes and minds were more opened up and made aware during this juncture—will take things.
Take the 7 Talks Out to the Campuses!
The 7 Talks
by Bob Avakian should be a big part of the campus scene over
the next period. Stickers
all over, cards
in professors’ boxes, classroom raps, boom boxes in common areas
or on literature tables—this should be part of the scene, sparking
debate and discussion, and stimulating the ferment that has to
start happening on a different level and in a different way on
these campuses. If you can get someone to sponsor you in a class
or with a club, great. But if you can’t, you can still set up
on or around a campus, play excerpts of the talks, and engage
people in conversation!
Revolution #63, October 1, 2006
Revolution Interview with Father Luis Barrios
Father Luis Barrios
Luis Barrios arrested in front of U.N. September 19
Photo: Stanley Rogouski
The Rev. Luis Barrios is an associate professor in psychology and ethnic studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, City University of New York, and also an associate priest at St. Mary’s Episcopal Church in Manhattan. In addition, since 1997 he has been a weekly columnist for El Diario La Prensa, one of the oldest Spanish-language newspapers in the U.S. Most of his research is with street organizations, the juvenile criminal justice system, and immigrants rights. Luis is an academic activist, an activist priest, and a community activist. He was born in Puerto Rico. He is a national leader of World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime.
On September 19, Father Barrios was part of a diverse group of 16 arrested in front of the United Nations.
Their statement that day said: “We have come to the United Nations today to engage in non-violent civil disobedience. We demand the war on Iraq end immediately. We oppose any attack on Iran. We declare to the world that President George W. Bush has been found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He does not speak for us.”
While Bush was inside justifying his past war crimes and preparing new ones, out on the streets police were assaulting and jailing Father Barrios for opposing those war crimes. He has now been charged with felony assault on a police officer, resisting arrest, and disorderly conduct.
Father Barrios spoke with Revolution newspaper (revcom.us).
* * * * *
Revolution: You were arrested on September 19 along with a number of other people, in front of the United Nations as George Bush was talking inside. Would you like to tell us why you were there?
Father Luis Barrios: Let me start by saying it is a real pleasure to participate with this interview here.
The first reaction of one of the police officers there was when he became aware that I am a priest. He then told me, “Father what are you doing here? You are not supposed to be here.”
And I answered, “I am a priest. And I am supposed to be here, at the same time that the President of the United States is going to address not only the United Nations, but the whole world. He is going to lie again. And he is going to try to build a fake case to do exactly what he did to Afghanistan, to Iraq: to now jump into Iran. He is going to do some kind of military action against Iran. And he is going to continue doing what he has been doing with Iraq and Afghanistan.”
What we understand is that U.S. imperialism is taking away the resources that belongs to other countries.
So yes, that’s the place. At that particular moment that was the place where we needed to be! And that’s why we organized this civil disobedience. We wanted to go a little more than just having a demonstration and passing out our messages. We wanted to show a little more sacrifice. Because, what people living in Iraq at this moment, in Afghanistan, are experiencing cannot be compared to what we went through here, at that particular moment.
Revolution: Who was there with you that day?
Father Barrios: Different people from different organizations. It was in total 16 people.
One of the persons who really impressed me a lot was Geoff Millard, who is a veteran of the Iraq war. He is only 25 years old, this young man—similar to all these young people who have all these fantasy ideas of going into the army or going to the navy so you can “fight for democracy” or “defend your country.” All this nonsense—they swallow this. And also in addition to that, that it is a “job opportunity.” So he went there with all these fantasies and the Iraq experience was some kind of awakening. That it was not correct what they were doing there, and it was not correct to be in that particular place.
So standing next to this young man, only 25 years old, I was learning so much. The courage and inspiration that we can trust that there are people who really want to do something different to stop George Bush.
We went there to do a civil disobedience—to get arrested in a peaceful demonstration. To make a point. We wanted to “go through the system”—to have our stand documented over something that we understand is correct.
Then things got out of control at that moment, with the NYPD, like always. The way they responded: A whole physical confrontation broke out – NYPD, they don’t know how to talk. This was a peaceful demonstration. We weren’t resisting arrest. But they were pushing, hitting, punching, kicking, you name it, because that is the way they deal with us, the people.
Revolution: Can you talk about your personal perspective on why you are taking the stand you are taking?
Father Barrios: We were trying to pass out this message at exactly the same time the President is talking. Because you have this man standing there to talk to the whole world, like he’s the Messiah, like he’s the hope, that he represents peace with justice, that he represents democracy. And it’s the opposite! This man is, like President Chavez said, he is the devil. He is a threat to humanity. And we said, we want to accuse this man of crimes against humanity, crimes of war, human rights violations, civil rights violations—these are the serious accusations that we presented to him. And at that moment we wanted to get across with the message that we need to bring this man to court so he can respond to the people for all these atrocities that are being committed.
I’m a Christian, I’m a priest. The more I read about Jesus, Jesus was always in the street—not only helping and building solidarity with those people who were in pain, desperate and in need. He was always confronting injustice and those people that produce injustice against the people. He wasn’t just passing by, not wanting to deal with these people. He was always looking and going for a confrontation. He needed to accuse them. He had this capacity of breaking silence. “I’m not going to be part of this silence. I’m going to denounce you. And I’m going to do something against this injustice.” This is the kind of ministry that we understand we are supposed to do.
We have so many religious organizations in this country. But this is not the way they do God’s business. This is how God is expecting that we do it: Take the streets! This is where you find God. You have homeless people. You have child abuse. You have domestic violence. You have people who don’t have something to eat in the richest country in the world. You have police brutality. You have the exploitation of Black people, of Latino people. You have all these attacks on immigrants. What the hell am I going to do inside the building? I need to be in the streets! Are there going to be consequences? Of course there’s going to be consequences. If you challenge those people in power? They’re not going to throw a party so we can celebrate! They are going to go against you. But that’s part of the business. You have to learn how to take the consequences. That’s it. We have a lot of people who really teach us to do this. You had the two opposite sides like Malcolm X and Martin Luther King. You had peaceful demonstrations like Cesar Chavez’s labor movement. You have Mother Jones. You have Ernesto “Che” Guevara. Yes we take the reaction that is coming from those people that we charge.
Revolution: And if people in this country mount such resistance, what kind of impact do you see this having on the world and on events?
Father Barrios: Both for good or for bad, this is what’s going on: This country is dictating all political, economic, religious, socio-cultural patterns for movement. That’s the reality.
If we start moving in that kind of direction, we are going to build some kind of movement here that people are going to say, “That’s good, let’s imitate this kind of movement. We can do this.” We are not saying this is not happening—it is happening. In a lot of places it is invisible because the corporate media do not let us see how most of these actions are going on in the U.S.
We need to create a critical mass in this moment. And we are not going to do this inside the building, we have to be in the street. This is how we are going to do it.
Some people say, “You are not going to toss the President.” That is exactly what they were saying with Richard Nixon. The day before the resignation, Richard Nixon came out on national TV with that stupid smile and said, “I’m not going to resign.” And the next day he was out.
This political pressure put on people is very very important. Now we know!
This man Bush is out of control. And he can’t function when you attack him—he needs to be the one attacking. We know that defensively he doesn’t know how to function. That is how we are going to do it.
European countries are isolated from him. Now you see that a lot of Republicans are also isolated from him. We want to trap him in a corner. The whole regime can change—because it is not that we want his resignation and then going to get the Dick Cheney as president. No. The whole regime can change—and bring them accountable to a criminal court.
Revolution: From your vantage point and experience, speak to us about your vision of the role immigrant people can play in this country.
Father Barrios: The first thing is to recognize that this is a country of immigrants. This is a country where the only people who can tell people “Get out of here this is not your country” are Native Americans. Some of them were so nice that they allowed immigrants to come here. But a lot of them were forced. It was not an invitation, it was an invasion of Europeans here. But now we are here, and we need to find a way to live together. Some people have the approach that “this land belongs to me, and no one else is coming here.” With this they have been building the hate against the people that they call immigrants (when they don’t want to call themselves immigrants now). Immigrant means those people coming in the last 20 or 25 years, and what came before that are no longer immigrants—that’s a very selective way to define the concept.
We’re here, we are not going any place. That is the reality. So you have got to face this reality.
You can close the border—which is a contradiction because this is a capitalist system that needs these undocumented people to do the job that no one else is going to do. That’s painful, but that is the reality. We have two borders. Why are they going to close one border, and keep the other one open?
I believe there is another important issue here with the immigrant movement. One is we need to continually raise political consciousness that we are here and we are not going any place. Two is to find the way to make the connection that nobody just woke up in a particular country—let’s say Colombia, Honduras or El Salvador—and thought, “I don’t have nothing else to do, I’m going to go to the United States.” This is a process. This is a process where you have national governments that respond to the interests of the USA’s government. You have all these so-called free trade agreements that only benefit all these capitalist corporations that deal with the exploitation of people. They create unemployment, they destroy the infrastructural economy of those countries. And the only option they leave the people is immigration into the United States. So you need to understand that in some ways the U.S. government went into these countries and they participated in something that brings people here. If you don’t want people to come here, then we have to develop a serious economy in those countries. Create jobs. Then those people won’t want to come here.
Revolution: What role do you see for immigrant people in the struggle to drive out the Bush regime?
Father Barrios: One is that first they need to be in politics. Sometimes people say “We don’t want to do something against the President, because probably that is going to jeopardize the chance of an amnesty.” They are not going to give you any amnesty! So let’s be clear about that.
The other is this issue that “We are going to vote for the Democrats because they are much better.” It’s the same! This is one political party with two options. These people respond to the interests of the ruling class here. They are not interested in finding a solution to this issue that we call the “immigrant issue.”
Third, that those of us organizing the immigrant movement, we need to understand that we need to connect this with a political movement. This is not just about getting amnesty or papers—this is more serious. You need to get rid of this political system. We need to implement something different.
Where is the connection? African Americans need to see that there is a connection: This is oppression, exclusion, and marginalization. African Americans, Asians, women, gays, and lesbians—every single person needs to see that this fragmentation that is put on the immigrants is not going to work. This is about poor people, working class people, Black people, gay and lesbian, women, Latinos/Latinas—this ruling class, they don’t want you! This is a ruling class that is making a decision—of who is going to be part of their party.
We need to stop them. And we can stop them. But we need to come together.
I also want to say, as a priest, that you have this president who wants to present himself as a Christian. He has his own way of practicing Christianity that is not close to what is in the Bible. He is building this theocratic government. He criticizes Muslims for being fanatics. And you also find a lot of fanaticism among the Israeli government. I’m not saying that every single Jewish person is a fanatic. No. But those people who are in that government, they are fanatics. But Bush doesn’t go against them. And he doesn’t go against all these Christian fanatics (starting with himself). Every single religion has fanatics. Yes, I understand that. Muslims have fanatics. The Jewish religion has fanatics. And also Christians have fanatics. We need to resist them and replace them with people who have the interests of the people. This kind of fanaticism is a distortion of the real body of religions. And if someone really wants to practice the real body of these religions, that person needs to become some kind of revolutionary for peace with justice.
October 5 is a day of mass resistance. We have been calling this The World Can’t Wait—by this name we mean to say that we are people who understand that we can’t wait—we need to get to a different way of doing business, we need to place a government that will respond to the interests of the people, not the corporations, and we need to build peace with justice.
Revolution #63, October 1, 2006
C. Clark Kissinger, convenor of the Bush Crimes Commission, with a copy of the Commission's verdict. (center). September 19 in front of the U.N.
From left to right: Ann Wright, former
US diplomat and judge at the Bush Crimes Commission, Beth Lamont,
representative of the American Humanist Association to the U.N.,
Peter Cobb, Not In Our Name Project, Elaine Brower, World Can't Wait,
Laurie Arbeiter, of the "We Will Not Be Silent Campaign",
Aimara Lin, Not In Our Name Project. September 19 in front of the
Ann Wright, former US diplomat, and judge at
the Bush Crimes Commission
New York City, September 19—As George Bush stepped up to the podium at the UN to deliver his speech to the General Assembly, a group of protesters lined up across the street right in front of the building to declare, before national and international media, “Bush is a war criminal” and “Bush step down.” Organized by the International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes Against Humanity Committed by the Bush Administration (Bush Crimes Commission) and World Can’t Wait—Drive Out the Bush Regime, the protesters were at the UN to serve Bush with the Commission’s verdict of GUILTY. (The Commission’s “‘Verdict and Findings of Fact” is available online in PDF format at bushcommission.org.)
A statement from the protesters said: “We have come to the United Nations today to engage in non-violent civil disobedience. We demand the war on Iraq end immediately. We oppose any attack on Iran. We declare to the world that President George W. Bush has been found guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity. He does not speak for us.
“These crimes must come to a halt. As the Not In Our Name Statement of Conscience (Jan. 2005) said: ‘It is our responsibility to stop the Bush regime from carrying out this disastrous course. We believe history will judge us sharply should we fail to act decisively.’”
According to a report on bushcommission.org, “To shut down this expression of dissent, police arrested 16, and two of the demonstrators were hit with serious bogus charges: Father Luis Barrios, from of St. Mary’s Episcopal Church and a national leader of World Can’t Wait, was charged with assaulting a police officer. Fr. Barrios was actually knocked to the ground by police from behind as he held up his hands saying ‘I am not resisting.’ Geoff Millard, a disabled Iraq war vet and member of the Iraq Vets Against the War, was charged with resisting arrest when he fell down trying to board the police wagon.”
Also arrested were Ann Wright, former U.S. State Department official who resigned in protest of the Iraq war; Elaine Brower, mother of a U.S. Marine stationed in Fallujah and a spokesperson for World Can’t Wait; C. Clark Kissinger, convener of the Bush Crimes Commission; Beth Lamont, the American Humanist Association’s UN representative; and members of Granny Peace Brigade, Peace Action of NY State, Not In Our Name Project, Jewish Students & Youth Against the War, and “We Will Not Be Silent” campaign.
The previous week, on Sept. 13, a delegation from the Bush Crimes Commission delivered the guilty verdict to the White House gates. The protest at the UN was part of the Sept. 19-21 National “Bush Crimes Days.”
Revolution #63, October 1, 2006
A new immigration bill appears to be on hold while Bush focuses on war on Iran and promoting torture and his trials at Guantanamo. But the government is forging ahead with its anti-immigrant moves and militarization of the border. The House just approved—for the second time—a plan to build a 700-mile wall at the U.S.-Mexico border; arrests and deportations of immigrants are rising, and so on. And, as I will get into, these things - attacks on immigrants, and the whole fascist package from Bush - are more closely related than many people realize.
While a single comprehensive immigration “reform”—read “repression”—bill is on hold, the House of Representatives is pushing ahead with anti-immigrant laws, passing three bills just recently. Many of the provisions in the bills passed were contained in the Sensenbrenner bill that sparked the massive demonstrations in the spring. Briefly, if these bills become law, they would, among other things, allow state and local law enforcement authorities to enforce immigration laws and go after the undocumented, meaning all immigrants would face even more forces of government trying to hunt them down and deport them; overturn two Supreme Court decisions that barred the government from imposing what is effectively a life sentence on certain immigrants who have been in prison and have finished serving their sentence; would deny immigrants who have been convicted of a crime and ordered deported the right to appeal their deportation to a judge; would give the Attorney General the ability to designate any group as a “gang,” and then punish an individual for belonging to that group—regardless of whether the individual committed a crime; and on and on.
At the same time, the Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Custom Enforcement (ICE) agency, the old la migra, has unleashed a wave of raids and detentions across the country. They say they are arresting 1,000 people per week. For example, starting over the Labor Day weekend, agents converged on immigrant workers’ homes in Stillmore, Georgia, with guns and bulletproof vests, arresting 120 Mexican immigrants since then. These raids prompted Stillmore mayor Marilyn Slater to say, “This reminds me of what I read about Nazi Germany, the Gestapo coming in and yanking people up.”
In this context, there is a lot of turmoil in the immigrant rights movement. The rallies and marches around Labor Day were much smaller than those in the spring, though tens of thousands came out across the country. People are up against big questions. They marched in their millions, but yet no steps have been taken to give them full rights—instead, the government’s answer is raids, deportations and more repressive legislation. Many immigrant rights groups in the Spring fell into supporting one bill or another that would have created an apartheid multi-tiered stratification of immigrants in which some could obtain papers with a small chance of becoming citizens while many others would forever be “illegal.” But even these bills have been shot down. They and many others who never supported any of these bills are trying to figure out where to go now.
There is ongoing controversy over what was accomplished by the big mass protests, whether it does any good to protest, and how to look at what was accomplished in the big marches and what was not. First of all, these big mass protests accomplished a great deal. Millions of people poured into the streets, refusing to be beaten down and criminalized by the Sensenbrenner bill, gaining a sense of their own strength, and in the process opening the eyes of millions of non-immigrants to the reality of their lives at the bottom of society as well as inspiring millions with their bold determination. Cities were shut down. As someone who until recently lived all my life in Texas, I must say that I was blown away when I read that 500,000 people marched through the streets of Dallas. A lot of people got a glimpse of the power of those who have been criminalized and super-exploited stepping onto the political stage. Many in the progressive movements were energized. In the midst of the marauding by the Bush Regime, immigrants in their millions burst upon the scene to forcefully demonstrate that they were not going to be treated like slaves.
At the same time, many marching in the streets were being told to put their energies into becoming citizens so they could vote, wrap themselves in the U.S. flag, not offend mainstream America, tone down the struggle, put their faith in the Democrats in Congress, and accept one or another of the bills in Congress that would create apartheid-like conditions with the illusory hope of “legalization.” A full-court press was put on people to channel all their energies into the well-worn rut of remaining within the acceptable political boundaries and going nowhere.
Not only has there been the effort to demobilize people—the movement has run head-first up against the determination of the Bush Regime to “radically remake society very quickly, in a fascist way, and for generations to come,” as we say in the Call for the World Can’t Wait, Drive Out the Bush Regime! Back in the spring, there was a lot of talk about this being the new Civil Rights Movement, and a lot of illusions. That is not where the Bush Regime is taking this country. The Bush Regime is not going to somehow give full equality and a better life to immigrants on the one hand while rampaging through the world and this country, torturing, detaining people in secret prison, jailing people indefinitely without charges, imposing a fanatical fundamentalist government in the U.S., eliminating a woman’s right to choose and all the rest. Think about it. It is just not going to happen. Instead, it will be just the opposite, an even more horrific nightmare for immigrants than it is now. There is absolutely no prospect for a better life for immigrants and everyone else in the world as long as the Bush Regime stays in power. For people who are demanding full quality and to be treated with the dignity that all people deserve then that means today getting down with October 5 and driving out the Bush Regime.
October 5th is being built among and taken up by immigrants rights activists. For instance, the March 25 Coalition in Los Angeles, which organized the massive march of one to two million on March 25 and the May 1st “No Work, No School” actions, has endorsed the October 5 Day of Mass Resistance and are organizing for it. In addition, the National Immigrant Solidarity Network at their national conference in DC endorsed October 5 and are calling on people to come out. In San Francisco, the Coalición 1° de mayo (May 1st Coalition), composed of Spanish speaking immigrants, voted to endorse and participate.
A few days ago, “An Open Appeal to Immigrants and the Immigrant Rights Movement from Activists within the Movement and Others - October 5: Bring Your Spirit and Determination Into the Struggle to Drive Out the Bush Regime” began circulating. It was written by several of us from Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, and DC, including people who were in the middle of organizing the Spring outpourings. It is calling for exactly what the title says.
Ads calling for October 5th, some signed by immigrant rights activists, are being placed in Spanish language newspapers in Los Angeles, New Jersey, New York City, and Chicago.
The responses I am hearing from people involved in the immigrants rights movement to taking up October 5th, and driving out the Bush Regime, basically fall into two categories. People who wrote the appeal, the groups endorsing October 5, and others are talking about how the fight for immigrant rights is connected to fighting all the other injustices in society and how this wave of repression is part of the fascist program of the Bush Regime. Some in particular point to the impending attack on Iran and the disaster that will be. There is a certain understanding that immigrants cannot stop this wave of repression against them, they need allies, and that the Bush Regime is the source of this repression against immigrants and everyone else.
Among people who at this moment have not yet thrown in with October 5, I have heard two arguments. One group of people says that this wave of repression against immigrants is not new and correctly point out that the militarization of the border took a big leap under Clinton and the Democrats. They argue that both Republicans and Democrats are responsible for attacking immigrants and there is nothing unique about the Bush Regime. I agree with them that the Democrats have many times led the charge, especially under Clinton. But what I argue is the whole leap being taken with moving all of society in a fascist direction. As we say in the recently written appeal, “Immigrants are in the crosshairs of the Bush Regime. All the bills in Congress and new laws are unacceptable: the Bush guest worker program, the use of military against immigrants inside the US and at the border, ‘show me your papers’ police state, massive detention camps, mandatory detention, biometric identification cards, legalized apartheid, driving people to their death at the border.” Think of what all this will mean for immigrants under conditions of a police state.
A more widespread argument is that October 5 and driving out the Bush Regime is a diversion from fighting for immigrant rights and that we need to focus on that, we do not have the resources to take on any other battles, and our message will be lost. I tell people that, as we say in the World Can’t Wait Call, “We need more than fighting Bush’s outrages one at a time, constantly losing ground to the whole onslaught.” The point I make to people is that in fact all these moves against immigrants are a critical element in the implementation of the fascist program of the Bush Regime. The use of the military in domestic law enforcement like at the border, detention centers, biometric identification cards, indefinite detention without charges, military tribunals, and all the other measures can and will be used against everyone. The Bush Regime is getting over, establishing the precedent for all of this, and building this repressive apparatus in the name of protecting the border and fighting terrorism. This regime is not going to give up these measures against immigrants because these are vital to them if they are going to clamp down and create a police state. Driving out the Bush Regime is not a diversion from fighting for immigrant rights but is instead what is necessary if immigrants are to have any hope of having rights. It is like Pastor Martin Niemoeller said about his experience in Nazi Germany, “First they came for the Communists but I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Communist…,” except in this country they first came for the Muslim, Arab, and South Asian immigrants, and now they are coming for the rest of the immigrants.
As for resources, there is a huge untapped reservoir of tens of millions of people who hate this regime. We need to quickly draw millions of them into this great effort. Think of where we would be if a force of millions of politicized and mobilized people came forth to drive out the Bush Regime. Think of how much further along we would all be in accomplishing our goals for a better world.
Revolution #63, October 1, 2006
The following statement was taken from the World Can’t Wait website (worldcantwait.org):
Immigrants are in the crosshairs of the Bush regime. All the bills in Congress and new laws are unacceptable: the Bush guest worker program, the use of military against immigrants inside the US and at the border, “show me your papers” police state, massive detention camps, mandatory detention, biometric identification cards, legalized apartheid, driving people to their death at the border. THE MEGAMARCHES THIS SPRING SHOWED THE SPIRIT AND DETERMINATION TO STOP THESE ATTACKS. THAT SAME SPIRIT MUST INFUSE THE OUTPOURING ON OCTOBER 5 TO BRING THE CRIMES OF THE BUSH REGIME TO A HALT!
Why? Because we know that, while these measures start with immigrants, they are a threat to everyone. Look at how all this fits into the Bush program:
The Bush crime regime has increased its “war on terror” against everyone in the US, stripping away rights under the Patriot Act and using the war against immigrants as another tool to take away more… criminalizing undocumented immigrants and anyone who offers them aid or assistance.
The Bush crime regime violates international law and the Geneva Convention, justifying torture used against detainees here, in Iraq, and Guantánamo in their illegal and immoral wars.
The Bush crime regime lied to people here and around the world to justify their immoral war against Iraq and is now planning to attack Iran, even threatening to use nuclear weapons. And our children are preyed upon by military recruiters to supply their troops… the world is not safer because of Bush’s “war on terror,” it is has become more dangerous than ever since he launched his war on Iraq.
Everyday the Bush regime moves closer to denying women here and around the world the right to birth control and abortion.
We need more than fighting Bush’s outrages one at a time, constantly losing ground to the whole onslaught. We do not have to stand alone; we must join together against the regime that threatens us all.
There is a way, there is a day! Join us, mobilize to bring family and friends out on October 5, a national day of resistance—no buying, no selling, no work, walking out of school. On October 5, we must bring this to a halt! Drive Out the Bush Regime…Because the World Can’t Wait!
Go to worldcantwait.org or call 866-973-4463.
Fr. Luis Barrios, Associate Professor, John Jay College
of Criminal Justice, World Can’t Wait National Steering Committee, New York,
Jesse Díaz, Jr., March 25 Coalition, UC-Riverside, Los Angeles, CA
Lee Siu Hin, National Coordinator, National Immigrant Solidarity Network, Los Angeles, CA
Travis Morales, World Can’t Wait, Washington, DC
Carlos Pérez, Founder, Mayan Calendar News, Co-Founder, March 10th Movement, Chicago, IL
Revolution #63, October 1, 2006
Interview with torture survivor Carlos Mauricio
In 1983, Carlos Mauricio, a professor at the University of El Salvador, was abducted from his classroom by individuals dressed in civilian clothes who forced him into an unmarked vehicle. Mauricio was detained at the National Police headquarters in San Salvador for approximately a week and a half. During his first week in detention, he was tortured and interrogated in a clandestine torture center at the National Police headquarters as a suspected FMLN (Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front) commander. Mauricio’s captors at the National Police headquarters strung him up with his hands behind his back over his head and repeatedly hit him with a metal bar covered with rubber, inflicting injuries to his face and torso. During the first 2–3 days of detention, he was given no food to eat. He was denied use of a bathroom throughout his confinement in the torture center.
In 2002, Carlos Mauricio, along with two other torture victims, won a $54 million verdict against two retired Salvadoran generals. He has continued to speak out against torture and other human rights abuses. Revolution newspaper talked to him outside Boalt Hall Law School where he joined the protest against Professor Yoo.
Revolution: Can you tell me why you are out here today?
Carlos Mauricio: I am here because I am a torture survivor, so it is very important for me to come and tell people what happened in that horrible experience. I was captured by the Salvadoran army in 1983 and I was tortured for nine nights in a row. It was truly horrible. But the idea of coming here to protest John Yoo is precisely because the legalization of torture in the United States is coming with the idea of torturing U.S. citizens. Torture is carried out now openly abroad. The USA army has been torturing prisoners for many, many years. It was reported in Vietnam, so it is nothing new. But the idea of making torture legal in the United States—because the U.S. Constitution forbids it—is very important if the government wants to carry out torture of U.S. citizens. I am very concerned about that because I do believe the rights of U.S. citizens have been eroded by the administration. You see right now we have disappearances—they are called “extraordinary renditions.” We have clandestine cells being run by the CIA. We have the government of the USA torturing openly in Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. So what is next? Next is here in the United States, openly torturing citizens of the United States. That is my concern. That’s why I want to denounce John Yoo.
I am here because I want to tell the story of what happened to me because I don’t want that story repeated in others. Torture is very, very horrible.
Revolution: Was there evidence that the U.S. was involved in your arrest and torture?
Carlos Mauricio: The USA government was involved in what happened to many Salvadorans and many Latin Americans because the United States trained the torturers at the School of the Americas. If you look at the record of the worst human rights abuses in Latin America, most of them have been trained at the School of the Americas. That’s direct participation by the USA in the torture in Latin America.
Revolution: What do you say to people like Bush who claim that torture is necessary to protect people in the U.S.?
Carlos Mauricio: No. No. No. The situation is this: The USA government, the administration, knows that fear works very well. Torture works very well as a means of repression. The USA government right now has played many cards to bring fears in the United States. One of them is the threat of terrorism, which can be real or not. The point is, torture is not for gathering information. Torture is to bring fear to the people. And the USA government wants to play that card, which so far has not been played in the United States. So the main idea of bringing torture is not for gathering information. Any person involved with intelligence says that torture does not work [as a means of gathering information]. In my particular case I confessed after being tortured horribly for eight nights. I said yes I did it, even though I didn’t do it, because I wanted them to stop torturing me. So the idea of torturing people is not to gather information—the idea of torturing people is to bring fear into the society. And now the U.S. and the Bush administration wants and needs to play that card in the United States.
Revolution #63, October 1, 2006
World Can't Wait demonstrates against torture outside John Yoo's classroom, UC Berkeley, September 19, 2006.
On September 19, as Bush was speaking to the United Nations, UC Berkeley students and activists from the San Francisco Bay Area chapter of World Can’t Wait demonstrated outside the classroom of John Yoo a professor of law at the University of California’s Boalt Hall School of Law.
While at the Justice Department, Yoo wrote a series of memos that developed the legal framework the Bush Regime used to commit torture and expand its use around the world. Yoo’s memos said that in order to be considered torture, acts “must be equivalent in intensity to the pain accompanying serious physical injury, such as organ failure, impairment of bodily function, or even death.” Anything less than that can be authorized by the President, according to Yoo. During a debate with human rights lawyer Doug Cassel in Chicago, Yoo insisted that the President’s right to torture includes the right to crush the testicles of a person’s child (see "John Yoo--Presidential Powers Extend to Ordering Torture of Suspect's Child" by Philip Watts, including link to audio file of the Yoo-Cassell exchange).
Protestors clad in dark hoods and orange jumpsuits reenacted the shocking scenes of torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay against a backdrop of 10 large images depicting torture. The action coincided with a weekly vigil/teach-in held on campus against torture and Professor Yoo, led by Buddhist monk Taigen Leighton.
“I kept getting students saying it’s only two more years,” one student who took part in the protest said. “But look at the last two years: at the attacks on women’s rights, the criminalization of youth and immigrants, what they are doing with the environment, war with Iran is looming. Our rights are being taken away. We don’t have due process. Now they’re at the point where they are legalizing torture. Where are we going to be in two more years? We can’t be complicit. We can’t keep on going to work and to class and acting like this is not happening, and walk to the other side of the sidewalk and not take the flyer because this is real! Its happening to real people and we can’t go along with this anymore.”
Revolution #63, October 1, 2006
Bill Ayers, Distinguished Professor of Education and Senior University Scholar at the University of Illinois at Chicago, returned from summer vacation to find a letter from colleagues he’d worked with for decades. They told him about a conference on progressive education they were planning for the spring, and at the same time informed him that he would not be welcome to it!
Professor Ayers is the author of Teaching Toward Freedom and many other books, anthologies, and essays on progressive education that have appeared in many journals, including Harvard Educational Review, Journal of Teacher Education, Teachers College Record, Rethinking Schools, Nation, and Cambridge Journal of Education. Ayers is also the author of the book Fugitive Days, about his experiences as one of the founders of the ‘60s-’70s group the Weather Underground.
Revolution correspondent Reggie Dylan recently spoke with Bill Ayers about his colleagues’ letter and its larger implications.
Reggie Dylan: Tell us about how you learned that you had been “disinvited” to a conference by your colleagues, and about your initial response.
Bill Ayers: I returned from summer vacation and I had a letter on my desk. The people who wrote the letter were an administrator at a university, a dean, and then a couple of people I knew pretty well, actually. I think I was stunned to get it because what it said in effect was we’re having an important progressive education conference, we count you as one of the important progressive educators in our era. Therefore we feel we owe you an explanation of why you’re not invited. And my first read, I kind of laughed and put it aside. But then as I thought about it I thought… There’s not a single sign of the times, there are many, many signs of the times, and some of them are quite hopeful, some of them are quite exciting, but here’s one of the dismal signs of the times. These guys aren’t just progressive, they’re socialists, and they think of themselves as activists. And yet they feel that in order to have a meeting that will be legitimate, they have to make a decision who to exclude, and they excluded me. And I decided it wasn’t an issue about me in particular. It wasn’t an issue about my personal feelings. And I certainly didn’t feel hurt. But I did feel increasingly agitated about the thinking that went into it. I don’t have it in front of me, but here’s what I remember about being first very, very agitated about.
They said in the body of the letter: we want to position progressive education not as radical, but as familiar and good. Now that just steamed up my ears because if you’re saying you’re a progressive educator… That’s one of the things that’s actually annoyed me for about 40 years of being a progressive educator: the separation of the concept of progressive education from the concept of politics and political change. You can’t separate them…and this is a contradiction, incidentally, that goes all the way back to the beginning of progressive education and really the beginning of the conversations about the relationship between school and society. But John Dewey was one of the brilliant, brilliant writers about what democratic education would look like and was himself an independent socialist. But he never resolved a central contradiction in our work, the contradiction between trying to change the school and being embedded in society that has the exact opposite values culturally and politically and socially from the values you’re trying to build in a classroom. This contradiction is something progressive educators should address, not dodge. So this is what got me going. That’s a short version.
Reggie Dylan: In your letter you say you see great harm for progressive education itself in what’s represented in the approach they’re taking.
Bill Ayers: There’s two things. The first thing is they take the teeth out of the critique. They say we’re presenting progressive education as something nice and familiar. Then you’re not critiquing standardized testing, you’re not critiquing sorting kids, you’re not critiquing the privatization of the public space, you’re not critiquing the attack on teachers and the undoing of the trade union movement. So to me, you’re just saying, I’m giving you progressive education-lite. I don’t see the point in that. That’s one problem
The second problem is not addressing the fact that schools serve society in subtle and overt ways. So every school in every society is a microcosm of, or represents in some sense, that society… Here’s a great example. Sometimes its hard for people to see this inside our own country because these things are so familiar. But go outside our country. If you went to apartheid South Africa and you went into the schools, you would see a white school with 15 kids per class, high-tech, highly educated teachers, peaceful campuses. And you go to the township and you see a classroom of 85 kids, no equipment and no rooms—and that would speak volumes. You could see, even if you knew nothing about apartheid, you would see apartheid represented in the school. One school is preparing kids to run society in the future; one school is preparing kids for the mines and the mills and the prisons.
Well, that’s true of all societies, and it’s as true of ours as any other. Go to the schools in the inner city. Go to the schools in the privileged suburbs and see what you see. To separate progressive education from the savage inequalities of our schools, from the drill and kill, from the sort and punish, it’s like a fantasy world. You’re not changing anything if you don’t address the social inequities out there. And right now, one of the cruelest places we see this is the question of preparing kids for prison, for unemployment, and for war. We see this in big schools, we see this in big urban schools. Where does the military recruit? They don’t recruit in New Trier [upper middle class school in the Chicago suburbs]. They don’t recruit at Andover and Exeter [elite private schools]. They’re not allowed in there. They recruit in DuSable high school and Lawndale high school [mainly Black and poor schools in Chicago]. And that’s unfair.
Reggie Dylan: You are on the David Horowitz list. (Horowitz is a highly placed operative in the service of the Bush regime carrying out an orchestrated attack on dissent and critical thinking in the universities. Bill Ayers is one of the faculty viciously attacked in Horowitz’s book The Professors: The 101 Most Dangerous Academics in America.) Maybe we can step back a bit and talk about the bigger attack on dissent and critical thinking that’s going on in academia in general. What you’re describing is a whole front of this which is really important to be brought into it—what’s going on in the elementary and secondary level. But there has been this whole attack going on in the universities which…
Bill Ayers: I agree with you, it’s not just elementary and high school. And I have a very strong take on it these days. I actually was listening to Berlusconi the other day in Italy. The right-wing bastard that used to run Italy. And Berlusconi said people criticize us because we have so much power. But the truth is we don’t have the schools, and we don’t have the economy. And that’s very much what’s true in America. You know, if you look at a place like Chicago or if you look anywhere around the country, the right wing—it’s not just conservatives, it’s probably the most reactionary cabal of ideologues I’ve ever seen, operating with a very, very clear ideological purpose—control all three branches of the federal government, control many state governments, control the media—the kind of bought priesthood of the media that does nothing but bow down to them and kowtow to them. And yet, if you hear them talk, they’re whining about how little power they have, how marginal they are, how under attack they are. And on the one hand, you could say, oh that’s just demagoguery, those guys are bullshitting. But the truth is they see something that they know that we maybe don’t know so well, and that is their power is tenuous and short-lived. I think the reason we’re going to see the bombing of Iran is because they know that they have a little window here to do all the bad things that they’ve wanted to do, or in their view, to set the conditions for all the things that they would like to struggle for over the next decade. And they are going at their agenda with a fierce single-mindedness. And whether they are thrown out of power, the one public space that still irritates the crap out of them is education. And it is one of the public spaces that’s left to fight about.
So what do we see? We see a whole frontal attack on the very idea of public education. It’s an attack on the idea that there should be a free common public education for all. And we see it in all kinds of subtle and in not-so-subtle forms. Subtle forms like zero tolerance. What’s the point of the zero tolerance in a democracy? In a democratic school system, classroom justice is flexible. But not in an authoritarian society. In an authoritarian society classroom justice is authoritarian. Zero tolerance, right? So there’s that kind of attack. And the obsession with a single-minded standard of standardization. And again, I’m a big fan of standards. But I’m against standardization which I take to be fundamentally anti-democratic. And I’m for standards set by people working in classrooms with one another. And then we see the metaphorical market being held up as the ideal of what the public schools should become. So we see charters and we see vouchers. But behind it all is the idea that it’s a market, that there are consumers and that there are producers, etc.
As far as higher education is concerned, it’s like, anybody who works in higher education like me—and we hear it said this is a bastion of liberal thought and this is where the radicals hang out—we’re like completely stunned. We have no idea what they’re talking about. I mean its true I’m here, but its also true there’s a whole bunch of right-wing colleagues up and down the hallway who promote the status quo and believe in it and so on. And that’s true across the academy. So why are they on the attack? Because it is true people with a critical view can find a place and things to do —and not only things to do, but a public forum from which to have these debates. That’s unacceptable to these hard right-wingers, unacceptable. And so that’s why we’re seeing, in my mind why we’re seeing a wholesale attack on education generally.
On the level of K-12, we’re seeing the attack on the public space. And on the level of higher education, that attack on the public space is an attack on the idea that intellectual freedom has a place. And I think that’s huge, very, very important.
Reggie Dylan: And there’s a connection. Because you have kids coming to college now who have been fed a very narrow understanding of reality, including rooted in fundamentalist religion, rooted in the notion of evolution being a theory and not a fact. And they come to the university and they get challenged with ideas they’ve never heard before. They’re being encouraged to question things in a way they never have before. And to overturn that seems to be the goal of what Horowitz is doing. And you know we were talking about this, Ward Churchill has become a concentration point of that.
Bill Ayers: Well, Ward Churchill is a great example because what I think people, leftists are continually doing with the Ward Churchill case is missing this larger context you and I are talking about and instead kind of parsing, “Well, what did he say and do I agree with it.” What the hell do I care? First of all, there was a thorough study done by a university committee that never should have been set up, and they found a few, a tiny, a handful of instances where he might have borrowed a phrase, but nothing like Doris Kearns-Goodwin [a widely published historian who was found to have plagiarized extensively in one of her books] did, nothing like, you know, the big academics at Harvard have done, like Dershowitz [who has been accused of plagiarism]. And yet somehow he’s held to the standard. And then people on the left again feel like they have to say, well this is part of what Ward says I don’t agree with. What has that got to do with it? He’s being pilloried for his politics, for being a leftist, for being a critic of U.S. imperialism as it relates to Native Americans. How can we as socialists or as communists or as leftists, how can we leave him in the cold and say, well I’m a good leftist because I don’t talk the way Ward talks. I find that appalling. And I would hope that when they come to get Ward, we all link arms and don’t allow it.
Reggie Dylan: And there’s a connection between them going after Ward Churchill and Horowitz’ book, The Professors, which has a hundred professors in it, and the point you make at the end of your letter of, where does this end? You said the attempt to cleanse has no end.
Bill Ayers: It’s not only cowardly, it’s cynical. But it’s suicidal. And by cynical what I mean is that you don’t trust people and so you kind of try to parse out your own little place to have your career as a lefty. And that just makes me sad when it doesn’t make me sick. You have to believe that if you speak the truth, if you speak up and speak the truth as you understand it, and you’re willing to listen and be in dialogue with people, that people can get it. So the cowardliness of not speaking out—we see this in the Democratic Party all the time. Why won’t they speak out against the war? They know better, some of them. But they won’t. And partly because they’re bought into the same system. But even those who know better won’t do it, and the reason is they don’t trust people. And we as revolutionaries have to say that at the end of the day, people will be smart enough, good enough, strong enough to stand up. But why should they do it if we don’t have the courage to do it? And the letter I got was a cowardly letter. Its cynical, it’s cowardly, and it’s slippery.
Revolution #63, October 1, 2006
Israeli Military Attacks and Economic Strangulation
“After the Holocaust, the worst thing that has happened to
Jewish people is the state of Israel.”
On Thursday, September 21, Israeli soldiers shot and killed 3 teenage sheepherders in northern Gaza. They were identified as Zidan Abu Rashid, 16; Ala Abu Dahruj, 16; and Muhammad Masaleh, 15. Israel claims the three were handling a rocket launcher that had recently been used to fire rockets into southern Israeli territory, but the authorities admit that they did not know whether the teenagers they killed are the ones who allegedly fired the rockets. The same day, in the southern Gaza town of Rafah, Israeli troops raided a house and killed Muhammad Abu Maamar, 28, whom they claimed was a “militant,” and Itimad Abu Maamar, a 35-year old woman.
These killings are part of an ongoing Israeli military offensive in Gaza that brings daily attacks on the people from Israeli air and ground forces, including undercover assassination squads. This offensive began in June, after an Israeli soldier was seized in Gaza. Since then, over 240 Palestinians have been killed by Israeli bombs and bullets.
The terror against the people in Gaza is compounded by the total collapse of the economic structure. The economy of Gaza is at a standstill, and “normal” life has become a daily hell for the Palestinian population. Since February of this year, all economic aid that had been provided to the Palestinian Authority (PA) by the United States and by the European Union has been completely cut off. In addition, the Israeli government has cut off all revenues that were supposed to be transferred to the PA according to the Oslo Accords which established the PA in the early 1990s.
The money has been cut off in order to punish the Palestinian people for electing the Islamic fundamentalist group Hamas to lead the PA in January. These funds constitute the vast majority of the money that used to fuel the economy, the governing institutions, and the social services in Gaza.
In June, Israel bombed the only electrical power plant in Gaza, and now electricity is only available about 8 hours a day, and that is erratic. This has also crippled the water supply and communications, and a full-blown crisis in sanitation is looming.
Public health has been decimated. The United Nations World Food Program (WFP) reports that over 70 percent of the 1.4 million people in Gaza are dependent on food aid from the United Nations. The WFP adds that there has been a 14% increase in the numbers of people receiving this aid in 2006 alone. The WFP itself describes its food rationing as “a band aid in an attempt to prevent a further decline of livelihoods and nutrition among the poorest.” (August 28 press release, www.wfp.org)
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), Gaza hospitals report that 20% to 25% of crucial drugs are nearly out of stock. The WHO reported in July that levels of stunted growth among children under the age of 5 rose to 11.4% in Gaza and to 8.8% in the West Bank, a one-third increase since 1996. Iron deficiency anemia affects nearly half of children under 5. Over half of the population in Gaza are children and this crisis threatens to destroy a generation.
Whatever infrastructure did exist has been trampled by Israel. The UN reports that nearly 1,000 acres of agricultural land as well as irrigation pipes and greenhouses have been destroyed. No Palestinian workers have been allowed to cross into Israel to work, and Israel has blockaded the sea, preventing Palestinian fishermen from reaching the necessary fishing areas.
Most of the Palestinians in Gaza live in refugee camps that have been in place since 1948, the year the state of Israel was established on land stolen from the Palestinian people. Many have been forced from the camps into outdoor tents or are being sheltered in schools because of constant missile attacks and military demolition of homes. The density of the population in Gaza is one of the highest in the world. For example, in the Jabalya refugee camp, there are approximately 28,571 people per square mile.
It is important to see that this crisis did not come out of nowhere, or just since the cutoff of funds in February or the military re-invasion and occupation of Gaza in June.
Sara Roy, a political economist at Harvard University, wrote in the November 3, 2005 issue of The London Review of Books:
“There is no doubt that the destruction wrought by Israel over the last five years—the demolition of homes (some 4,600 between 2000 and 2004), schools, roads, factories, workshops, hospitals, mosques and greenhouses, the razing of agricultural fields, the uprooting of trees, the confinement of the population and the denial of access to education and health services as a consequence of Israeli roadblocks and checkpoints—has been ruinous for Palestinians, especially those in the Gaza Strip. But one need only look at the economy of Gaza on the eve of the uprising to realize that the devastation is not recent. By the time the second intifada broke out [in September 2000], Israel’s closure policy had been in force for seven years, leading to unprecedented levels of unemployment and poverty (which would soon be surpassed).
“Yet the closure policy proved so destructive only because the thirty-year process of integrating Gaza’s economy into Israel’s had made the local economy deeply dependent. As a result, when the border was closed in 1993, self-sustainment was no longer possible—the means weren’t there. Decades of expropriation and de-institutionalization had long ago robbed Palestine of its potential for development, ensuring that no viable economic (and hence political) structure could emerge.”
Revolution #63, October 1, 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)
The U.S. Army announced on Sept. 15 that it was charging Lt. Ehren Watada, the first commissioned officer to refuse deployment to Iraq, with an additional charge of conduct unbecoming an officer. Lt. Watada now faces 8 years in prison on charges overwhelmingly arising from public political statements of opposition to the war and the lies of the Bush regime. The latest charge seeks to punish Lt. Watada directly for a speech he made at a Veterans for Peace convention in Seattle on Aug. 12, and in particular for his comment that “to stop an illegal and unjust war, soldiers can choose to stop fighting it.” (See “Iraq War Resister Lt. Watada vs the U.S. Military,” Revolution #60, available online at revcom.us.)
Watada’s lawyer, Eric Seitz, said, “His commander told him when they brought him in, if you continue to speak, we’ll continue to add charges. He’s not doing anything other than saying things he believes to be true, and that we believe are true. This makes it that much clearer that this is just a political prosecution, and that’s really all this case has been about from the beginning” (quoted in “Lt. Watada Faces New Charges,” by Sara Olson).
The military and government are seeking to punish and silence Lt. Watada for telling the truth, for publicly opposing the war and exposing the lies and injustice of the Bush regime in attacking and occupying Iraq, and for suggesting that soldiers can act on their conscience and refuse to fight. They have even threatened him with charges of mutiny and sedition.
This unjust persecution must be opposed and defeated, as part of developing an even broader and more determined opposition to the Iraq war and other crimes of this regime.