Sunday, September 30, 2007

Bush Gets "Hot" on Global Warming

First the good news. The President of the United States, you know who
until January 2009, has intimated that global warming does exist instead
of trying to figuratively and literally dig up any and every scientific
source that castes doubt on the issue. At least sort of. At the
conclusion of an international conference here of the sixteen major
carbon gas emitting nations(the U.S. is unfortunately a very strong
first today, as it has been for many decades), Bush stated that those
nations which emit the most greenhouse gasses should set goals to remove
reduce those emissions. But(here is the rub or the smoke and mirrors)
he set no goals himself and restated his administration's strong
opposition to mandatory targets to cap dangerous carbon dioxide emissions.

The press reported that the sixteen nations in attendance were very much
less than impressed, applauding only when the Bush said that the U.S.
would participate(not necessarily support) UN actions to advance
international cooperation on the issue. He also left the meeting very
quickly, and the delegates questioned about his comments, diplomats
after all, went out of their way to say as little as possible that was
negative, which meant that they said very little, except that the U.S.
had given its position and there wasn't any thing new in it. Ed
Markey, a prominent progressive Democrat from Massachusetts who chairs
the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming
made what was both the most serious and humorous comment on the Bush
speech when he said "my fear is that the president has set aspirational
goals that are really procrastinational."

There are a number of bottom lines here for progressives. The United
Nations is committed to negotiating a global agreement which will
replace and hopefully upgrade the present quite limited Kyoto Accord
when its provisions largely end in five years. The U.S. under the Bush
administration never joined the Kyoto Accord(the administration has
avoided it as if it were an Anthrax letter addressed to the White
House) so no one really takes Bush's statement about working with the
United Nations seriously. Bush's lofty comments about the need to set
long range goals combined with opposition to all international action to
set such goals reminds me a little of Adlai Stevenson's response when
Dwight Eisenhower, whom he was running against for president in 1952,
said that he was a liberal on social questions like education (that
would get Ike in a lot of trouble with Bush's buddies today) and a
conservative on fiscal questions. Stevenson said that this was like
saying you believed that your were in favor of everyone attending good
schools but you were against voting the funds to establish and maintain
such schools.

The reality is that global warming is the most acute ecological problem
that humanity faces today--a problem which, if it is addressed with the
pious wishes and de facto do nothing attitude of the Bush
administration, can have a devastating effect on human development in
the future, wreaking havoc with agriculture, life in coastal and low
lying areas, and producing in the poor countries particularly death and
destruction greater than all of the wars of modern history.

This global problem must be addressed globally and only the United
Nations can serve as the mediator and coordinator of global actions. A
global effort will require a high level of international cooperation to
mobilize scientific and technological institutions from universities to
governments to non governmental organizations and for that matter
private corporations to overcome the crisis. Actually, in the U.S.
which, despite a generation of anti-public sector policies which has
produced aculture of cutbacks, continues to have the largest system of
higher education in the world, states like New Jersey and universities
like my own, Rutgers/The State University of New Jersey, are mobilizing
both theoretical and applied resources to contribute to the solution to
the problem of global warming. But such initiatives need substantial
support if they are to succeed and lead to bigger and better policies,
that is, larger cooperative efforts with projects in other countries
which eventually can link up and serve as the foundation for a real
global solution to global warming.

John Ashton, an adviser on these issues for the British
government(Bush's faithful ally in his quixotic foreign policy
initiatives) said in response to the president's comments about "smart
technologies" as a solution to the crisis, that "smart technology
requires government and investment. We could have another 20 years of
talking about talking. We need to start deciding about doing "

* Actually, the distinguished environmental scientist and socialist
activist Barry Commoner made these points decades ago in such
works as _Science and Survival(1966)_ _The Poverty of Power:
Energy and the Economic Crisis_ (1976) and most recently _Making
Peace with the Planet_(1990) Ronald Reagan's victory in 1980 was
a major setback to the development of a global policy that would
"make peace with the planet." Whatever limited gains have been
made in the tradition of the Kyoto Accord in the context of a
much broader and popularly supported environmental movement
through the world have been treated with disinterest if not
contempt by the Bush administration, which, as it has in most
other areas, has been as much a disaster for the whole planet and
all of its people as it has been for the American people. But it
is the American people who must end right-wing Republican control
over the national government in 2008 before one can speak
seriously about a U.S. policy on global warming specifically and
ecological issues generally. That should be for progressives the
first goal for political action on questions of workers rights,
civil rights, peace, the global environment, since without it
progress in all other areas will continue to be stifle
* Norman Markowitz

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Texas and the Death Penalty

By Norman Markowitz

The right-wing Republican controlled Texas state government is planning to go ahead with executions by lethal injection on an "individual basis" after the Texas Supreme Court stayed on execution by lethal injection in order to examine the issue more fully. In 1972, the Supreme Court in effect ended the death penalty in the U.S. for a short period of time. In 1976, a more conservative court gave states the right to institute the death penalty (many have, some like Massachusetts have not, and the use of the death penalty and its actual implementation varies greatly among the states with Texas having long been a leader in both death penalty verdicts and executions).

The death penalty has been abolished in most of the developed world, where its elimination is seen as a benchmark of civilization in a first world country. Thanks to progressive activists, death penalty moratoriums have been established in a number of major states and, except among its rightist advocates, the death penalty is very much in decline today after rising massively in the 1980s and 1990s (at one point, George W. Bush, as governor of Texas in the 1990s, set the record for state executions one year and then broke his own record in a following year).

But even if one excepts that states have the right to institute the death penalty, which the Supreme Court established in 1976, do governors and attorneys general of states have the "right" to ignore their own state Supreme Courts and execute whom they want?

All of this reminds me of Andrew Jackson's famous comment as president, when the Supreme Court overturned the trial and death penalty of a Native American by the state of Georgia because the incident for which he was tried took place on Native American land protected by treaty with the U.S. government on which Georgia had no jurisdiction--"John Marshall (the Chief Justice at the time) has made his decision. Now let him enforce it." The Native American was of course executed and Jackson's act continues to be a stain on the national honor of the Republic.

The Texas government is saying to its state Supreme Court essentially what Andrew Jackson did so long ago. The death penalty must be abolished nationally if the U.S. is gain respect in the world community and right-wing Republicans like those who control Texas today can and must be defeated politically through the nation if words like progress, justice, democracy, and civilization itself are to have any meaning.

Cuba's Municipal Elections: Millions Turn Out

More than 7 million voters in Cuba participated in nominations for municipal delegates, a process that has just concluded with 37,328 citizens proposed for voters’ ballots in the upcoming October 21 elections.

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British PM Gordon Brown and Echoes of Colonialism

Two years ago, when Gordon Brown unleashed his campaign to slip into 10 Downing Street, he said that "the days of Britain having to apologise for its colonial history are over."

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Japan: Communists Address Key Electoral and Political Issues

The JCP is strongly opposed to Japan ’s continued assistance to the retaliatory war primarily because waging a retaliatory war in dealing with terrorism is fundamentally wrong.

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Canadian Communists Condemn Racist Campaign Around "Voting Rights"

In a statement released several days before the Sept. 17 byelections in Quebec, the Communist Party of Canada expressed its "deep dismay at the attempts to whip up racism and xenophobia around the rights of veiled Muslim women to vote."

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The Credit Crisis: Result of a Neo-liberal, Imperialist Trajectory

August’s financial crisis originated in the United States from the practices of its private financial institutions. These firms have made a heavy entry into the credit sector in recent years, in the housing market but also in consumables, secured by residential mortgages.

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Thursday, September 27, 2007

Bloomberg and the EEOC

A new item today deserves mention for those interested in New York and national politics. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, established forty three years ago through the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the most important Civil Rights Act of the 20th century, has filed a gender discrimination suit against Bloomberg L.P., the "supercorporation" (a term some scholars use today what used to be called monopolies or trusts) founded by billionaire New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.

The suit accuses the company, which has 9,000 employees, of discriminating against pregnant women by " decreasing their pay, demoting them, diminishing their job opportunities, and excluding them from employment opportunities" (that is pretty heavy discrimination). When one realizes that the EEOC under the Bush administration has usually been more interested in protecting the rights of firms accused of discrimination than advancing suits, this even becomes more interesting. Bloomberg's comment that "you will have to talk to Bloomberg L.P....I haven't worked there, as you know, in an awful long time" appears a bit disingenuous, particularly given press reports that he controls seventy percent of the firm's stock.

Bloomberg formally "left" the Republican party to explore possibilities of an "independent" run for the presidency ala H. Ross Perot (like Perot, he could afford to finance his own campaign). Previously, he "left" the Democrats to spend his money to elect himself Mayor as a Republican when Guiliani left office.

While it is possible that the suit might have some Bush administration political agenda behind it, (doing some political damage to Bloomberg so he won't take away votes from a Republican presidential candidiae in 2008) it does highlight the absence of effective protection for female workers both under labor law and really civil rights law in the U.S. The suit claims that women who are pregnant or had just become mothers were replaced by males in less senior position, removed from participation in managerial meetings and subject to stereotyping about their abilities to do their jobs because of their family and caregiver responsibilities." Women workers in the U.S. don't have paid parental leave under law. While these workers were not unionized the "human resources" department of the firm did nothing about their complaints.

Although male blue collar workers are often stereotyped as representing the most important bastion of male chauvinism in the U.S. as part of a larger anti-working class bias which permeates mass media, it has been my observation that individuals in the very high paying "non-professional" professions, that it, "financial services" (selling stocks and bonds, etc) middle and upper corporate management, advertising and public relations, foster a culture of male chauvinism to limit the advance of women into positions which are both very lucrative and tenuous. In the capitalist jungle, there is a perpetual war of all against all and male chauvinism is just another way to get a competitive advantage.

Of course, new and expanded Civil Rights legislation and the passage of an Equal Rights Constitutional Amendment, along with parental leave legislation that would put the U.S. at near the top of the developed nations instead of at the bottom, as it is today, offer solutions to the problem that the suit against Bloomberg L.P.

Removing Bloomberg from office and replacing him him with a Mayor who would undertake progressive policies in regard to housing, public transportation,and the outrageously high New York City cost of living that his and a number of his predecessors pro business, pro landlord policies have produced would go a long way to addressing the problems of the people of New York City.

Norman Markovitz

Moe Fishman Memorial

To PA online readers,

I am forwarding this memorial tribute to Moe Fishman whose life of struggle for labor, peace and social justice is I am sure known to many of our readers. I plan to be there and I hope as many of our readers who can make it will make it.

Norman Markowitz

Moe Fishman Presente! Join us to honor the life and enduring contribution of Moe Fishman, the voice of the Veterans of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Music, speakers, memories, inspiration, and refreshments. All are
invited. Feel free to bring copies of memorabilia, photographs, letters, poetry, to add to a timeline banner of Moe's life.

Saturday, November 10, 10:30 am.
Judson Memorial Church
55 Washington Square South
NY, NY 10012
Accessible entrance on Thompson Street.

Info: 212 989 8624

Iraqi Women Refugees

To PA online readers,

A colleague has sent me these important documentaries on Iraqi refugee women whose plight has been buried in mass media.

Norman Markowitz (Desperate and Alone: Iraqi Refugees in Jordan: Overview) (The Health Care Crisis for Iraqi Refugee Women and Youth) (Desperate and Alone: Iraqi Refugees in Jordan: Violence against Women)

Jena Six and the Struggle for Equal Justice Under the Law

It was one of the most awesome demonstrations I’ve ever been to, and I’ve been to many. Partly because it was so huge and in such a small town. I would estimate there were around 50,000 people there.

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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Ahmadinejad at Columbia and Robber Baron Retro: The News of the Day

Mass media is replete with the usual fragments of nonsense and sense today. Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the viciously reactionary president of the Islamic Republic of Iran (an "Islamic Republican" so to speak) spoke at Columbia University, talked like a reactionary politician talks, and was greeted with mass protests which he and his government richly deserved. But one should remember that his government is the longterm product of
the CIA directed coup against the liberal nationalist government of Mossadegh in 1953 because that government had nationalized Iranian oil, the brutal U.S. supported and armed dictatorship of the Shah which followed for twenty-five years and finally the Reagan administration supported war of the Saddam Hussein Baath dictatorship in Iraq against the clerical regime in Iran- a bloody war which lasted eight years and enabled the most reactionary elements of the clergy led revolution of 1978 to consolidate their power over the Iranian people. Those who are interested in really fighting Ahmadinejad and the reactionary clerical power structure which stands behind him should be looking to Iranian trade unionists, student leaders, the Iranian left and particularly the Tudeh (Communist) Party of Iran which has struggled to free the Iranian people from both the Shah's brutal regime and the present clerical regime for more than half a century. These are really the only groups which have represented in a serious way "freedom" and "democracy" in Iran's modern history.

There was one aside to Ahmadinejad's political nonsense (he really sounded, if one could close ones eyes and forget the cultural differences, like a Republican presidential candidate trying to win a primary in Mississippi) and that was both outrageous and in its own way hilarious. Not his statement that as a "scholar" one must keep an open mind on the history of the Holocaust. First he is not a scholar in any way in terms of having professional training and degrees that anyone not under his political thumb would recognize. Second, the history of fascist directed genocide against Jewish people, Roma people, various non-Jewish people of Slavic nationalities (of which Serbians are the most important example) during the second world is a serious topic of historical analysis in terms of its causes and consequences, why and how it happened and what might have been done to prevent or at the very least limit it. That it happened is as much a fact as the earth traveling around the sun(which clerical forces sought to suppress centuries ago).

But I have gone off on a tangent, a pretty big one even for me. What I was talking about was Ahmadinejad's statement that there are no homosexuals in Iran.(And his implication, which the media for the most part has not picked up, that the freedom that women enjoy in developed countries, both capitalist, socialist, and "former socialist," is connected to the existence of male homosexuals in those countries). While that statement is an assertion that no one who is not under Ahmadinejad's thumb politically could take seriously (actually, "scholarly research" by serious people suggests that societies which repress sexuality in both males and females and also actively segregate males and females, e.g;. the clerical regime in Iran, have large numbers of people who inhabit a world sexual dysfunction and psychological suffering, both heterosexual and homosexual, both male and female) what is hilarious about it is that the rightwing media which finds its convenient to denounce Ahmadinejad and support potential war preparations against Iran (which would of course be a disaster of monumental proportions for the people of the U.S. and Iran) was denouncing him for his statements, expressing sympathy for the persecution of gays in Iran (which they have never done to my knowledge where gays were concerned in the U.S) that is, showing a little "compassionate conservatism." Not one voice praising Ahmadinejad for his invoking of the deity and stating that "God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve," the sort of thing the right-wing considers a popular argument in the U.S. and with which Ahmadinejad would certainly agree.

But the big story to me anyway concerns the release of an Interior Department study showing that the Bush administration has "mismanaged" in a massive way the collection of billions of dollars of royalties and other funds due to the federal government from private oil and other companies exploiting public lands. Most Americans don't know that this country of "free enterprise and rugged individualism" was built in the 19th century by "government handouts" of millions of acres of public lands to railroad companies, mining companies, and other corporations. Laws like the Homestead Act (a revolutionary land redistribution act passed during the Civil War when the Southern slaveholders were not around to block it) became the source of great corruption and swindles over the decades as phony land claims were filed to enable corporate groups and speculators to control land and natural resource. The territories of the Native Americans "administered" by the Bureau of Indian Affairs, became the source of spectacular corruption. Rightwing Republican propaganda aimed at "privatizing" public resources became stood behind scandals like the Teapot Dome "leasing" of oil reserves in Wyoming to private oil companies (with huge bribes to the Secretary of the Interior) and the attempted sale of TVA installations to the Dixon-Yates in the 1950s(there the discovery of possible bribes killed the deal).

The report, which is essentially an in house report and a probable serious underestimation, states that there has been a "profound failure" in the monitoring of payments from oil and natural gas companies to the federal government. It "suggests" that the agency in charge of the monitoring, the Minerals Management Service was quite friendly with the companies that it was collecting its bills from (oh, if only ordinary people had such a relationship to the collection agents of utility companies) and that critics were often afraid to raise the issue for fear of inter agency retaliation.

In effect, the agency was way behind in billing the companies (because of "inadequate" computer resources) and its directors concluded that it would be a "hardship" to impose penalties under the law to companies that had systematically underpaid their bills (somehow, other bill collection agencies, not to mention the IRS, are not known for such a generous view of things).

The specific charges concern statements by auditors that senior officials of the agencies blocked their reports concerning companies extensive underpayments, which led the auditors (who actions are heroic under these conditions) to file lawsuits against the companies involved. One senior auditor, Bobby L Maxwell, lost his job with the Department after he filed a suit against Andarko Petroleum, one of the two dozen firms involved. Last January, a federal jury in Denver found that Maxwell had told the truth and that Andarko had "underpaid" by 7.5 million dollars.

Although Maxwell had support form his local supervisor in Denver, the Washington central bureaucracy actively opposed him (anyone with experience in large bureaucratic institutions like public university--I can attest to that--shouldn't be surprised the lower levels of administration knowledgeable about events will often take decent positions that central administrators reverse because it goes against their ideological or economic interests) Their statements, accusing the auditors of either ignorance or simply disagreeing with Washington's decisions are classic expressions of the arrogance of power combined in this case with a sort of pride in what are corrupt practices.

In the past, meaning the 19th century, the 1920s, such actions were often the result of both right-wing ideology(people in power in regulatory agencies who hated regulation and loved the companies they were supposed to regulate, turning a blind eye to all kinds of swindles) and simple bribery. In the case of the Bush administration, it is probably true that there is less overt bribery because, as the historian Richard Hofstadter once wrote about another very right-wing president on domestic economic policy, Grover Cleveland, he gave to the vested interests out of heart-felt conviction what others gave only for a price (meaning you don't have to bribe people in the Bush administration to act as shills for oil companies: they will do it as a matter of principle).

What is needed of course is a government, at the very least like the New Deal government of the 1930s, which will begin to "act and act now" as FDR often said, to undue the damage of decades, to bring leadership into government which will encourage the honest people at the lower echeleons to enforce existing laws, provide them with the resources to do an effective job, and most of all create new legislation that will regulate and tax corporations and the rich in the interests of the working class and the American people as a whole.

Norman Markowitz

S-CHIP Veto: The Millstone Around Bush's Neck

But whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.

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Naomi Klein on "Disaster Capitalism"

This article is a review of Naomi Klein’s important article in the October 2007 issue of Harper’s Magazine (“Disaster Capitalism: The new economy of catastrophe”) based on her new book, The Shock Doctrine.

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Why We Can’t Just Walk Past Jena

The other day while playing with my remote control, I stumbled onto the “Andy Griffith Show.” This was the later Griffith years, the colorized broadcasts. Opie had to have been around 12.

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Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Dems Blast Bush Hypocrisy Around Veto Threat of S-CHIP

In a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives today (9-25), Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) urged passage of the State Children's Health Insurance Program (S-CHIP) reauthorization bill and accused President Bush and Republican opponents of the bill of hypocrisy.

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How Many Days of the Iraq War Will Pay for Children's Health Care

Chart credit: The Gavel

GM Autoworkers Strike Against Sending Jobs Overseas

After General Motors refused to agree to keep new car production and jobs in the US as part of the 2007 auto negotiations with the United Auto Workers (UAW) earlier this week, the union called a national strike of 73,000 autoworkers at 80 General Motors plants in the US.

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The Third World in the 20th Century: Interview with Vijay Prashad

There are many origins for this book. One of them was that I grew up in a period when the Third World Movement was beginning to fall apart. That was in the 1970s, when my lingering interest, you might even call it my obsession, with the early years of the Third World Project began.

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Jena Six Case Exposes Right-wing Media Double Standard

Tens of thousands of people marched in Jena, Louisiana last Thursday to protest the arrest and trial of six African American high school students who allegedly fought with white students after some white students hung nooses in a tree on the grounds of Jena High School.

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Monday, September 24, 2007

UAW Launches Strike at GM 70 Years after Victory at Flint that Changed US Labor History

By Norman Markowitz

The United Automobile Workers Union has launched a national strike against General Motors, the first national UAW strike sense 1970, when the number of auto workers in the U.S. was much greater than it is today and before the destructive effects of cold war military spending and corporate arrogance and stupidity led the U.S. industry to lose the enormous lead that it had developed in automobile production and sales globally.

GM, which is still by far the leading automobile producer in the U.S. and the second leading automobile producer in the world after Toyota (although today much of its productive capacity is outside the U.S) has referred to the strike as the most important in a generation. The UAW leadership has responded by condemning GM's continued demands for worker "givebacks" while it finds ways to provide its executives with bonuses, "stock options." and various other payouts and payoffs that greatly inflate their income.

In early 1937, UAW organizers led primarily by CPUSA activists launched the sitdown strike against GM's Flint factory complex which changed U.S. labor history. The strike resulted in a far-reaching victory by the UAW which led to union recognition and inspired victories and settlements at U.S. Steel and in many basic industries through the country. The strike was won and it remains the greatest victory won by the U.S. labor movement in its history. Immediately after WWII, the number of workers in trade unions had grown from less than 10% of the work force in 1933 to around 33% by 1947, the year the cold war inspired anti-Communist and anti-labor Taft-Hartley Act both blocked further labor gains and set the stage for later losses, especially in the Reagan-Bush era of extensive export of capital abroad by firms like GM, forced "givebacks," union busting with the assistance of open anti-labor governments.

UAW president Ron Gettelfinger started the strike, in my opinion, on a wrong foot when he said "This is not what we wanted. Nobody wins a strike." Besides being a dubious way to rally workers and pro labor citizens to support the union, the statement really isn't true. While strikes hurt both workers and employers economically and the monetary losses are not often made up quickly, (and sometimes not made up at all) they are either won, as was true of the Flint Strike of 1937 and the Ford Motor Company Strike of 1941 or lost, as was true of the Great Railroad Strike of 1877, the Pullman Strike of 1894, the Great Strike of 1919. Some strikes, like Flint in 1937 are of particular strategic importance.

This national strike can result in a victory that will show the viability of a national union to defend its workers today from a U.S. based global corporation that, when the Flint Strike was won in 1937, was the largest private corporation on earth. The UAW and other U.S. corporations have in recent years taken steps to develop international industry labor solidarity, which is central to any longterm victory over General Motors, Toyota, Ford, Nissan, and similar firms in many industries. But strikes are fought nationally and must be won nationally.

The press notes that the UAW has an extensive strike fund and other resources which put it in a good position materially to carry out a national strike That is all to the good and the UAW will need both support and solidarity from U.S. and non-U.S. workers if it is to win this strike and make that victory an important one in the revival of American labor. To do that it will need militant leadership in directing the strike and also in educating both American workers and workers abroad to the importance of a labor victory for them.

When the UAW won the Flint strike in 1937 it was both an industrial union as against a craft union and an example of "social unionism" in that it involved itself in larger political, social, and community struggles (supporting progressive legislation, opposing racism at home and fascism abroad) as against the prevailing AFL "business unionism" which stayed clear of any political question not directly related to immediate collective bargaining issues and supported any politician who would give it what it wanted on those issues, however reactionary he might be on anything and everything else.

That industrial unionism and social unionism was, with these leadership of Communist and other left activists and the help of a sympathetic New Deal government, what enable the U.S. labor movement to increase its its membership by nearly five times between 1933 and 1947. A UAW victory today would help energize the labor movement to move forward, elect a progressive pro labor government in 2008 that would offer it assistance in its organizing drives and other struggles, and begin to unionize millions of non-union workers in the contemporary work force. That is the challenge labor faces today and the UAW Strike can and hopefully will be a successful step in labor's meeting that challenge.


MAO: A LIFE by Philip Short, New York, Henry Holt and Company, 2000. 782pp. [Part 10]
Reviewed by Thomas Riggins

This is an important work and the editor's blog is a good place to discuss it as a preliminary to a review article for PA. Over the next few weeks I will be making entries one chapter at a time (there are sixteen). Comments are invited, especially from anyone who has read the book and wants to critique my take on a chapter, but anyone is welcome to comment.

Chapter 11 "Yan'an Interlude: the Philosopher is King"

In the summer of 1937 the leadership of the CPC had settled down in its new HQ at Yan'an in Shensi province. Here it would remain for the next ten years. Short tells us that "the myth of 'the Yan'an Way'" [i.e., the type of communist theory that Mao developed there] along with the Long March would become "one of the most enduring emblems of the system [Mao] was to create." He had two major tasks, according to Short. First, he had to build up his power as a leader and, second, he had to develop his own version of Marxist thought, or least put his "personal stamp" on Marxist theory.

There doesn't seem to be anything objectionable in Mao's theoretical work at this time, as reported by Short. Back in 1925 "he had called for 'an ideology produced in Chinese conditions'." This appears to be a reasonable demand. In 1935, at Wayaobu he got the PB to support a flexible sort of Marxism to be applied "to 'specific, concrete Chinese conditions', and condemned 'leftist dogmatism', meaning slavish adherence to Moscow's ideas." Again, this seems quite sound.

In early 1936 he maintained the CPC ought to, in his words, "run things by itself, and have faith in its own abilities." Short writes that he declared "Soviet and Chinese policies coincided... 'only where the interests of the Chinese masses coincide with the interests of the Russian masses.'" There should not, I think, be a contradiction between the two interests.

Later in the Fall of 1936 in "Problems of Strategy in China's Revolutionary War," he maintained that mechanically copying the Soviet experience ("cutting the feet to fit the shoes") would lead to defeat. Short says Mao, by "affirming the primacy of indigenous experience" was "consciously laying the groundwork for the idea of Marxism in a national form." Even so, dialectics should tell us that there is no necessary contradiction between internationalism and nationalism within the communist movement.

Short gives Mao credit for breaking "new ground" by "arguing that the particular and the general were 'interconnected and inseparable', which later provided a theoretical basis for contending that general Marxist principles must always exist in a particular national form."

At this time his two famous essays "On Practice" and "On Contradiction" were also written. "On Practice" can be "summed up in the aphorism, 'Practice is the criterion of truth'." This is nothing new, it goes back to Engels at least.

In "On Contradiction" he argued "it was necessary in any given situation to determine what was the principal contradiction, and which was its principal aspect." [In practice this has proved very difficult to do!]

Short thinks that Mao "cut loose from Stalinist orthodoxy" when he maintained that the superstructure can independently also react on the economic base and the productive forces and is not totally determined by them. Mao said, "In general, the material determines the mental. [But] we also, and indeed must, recognize the operation of mental on material things." But this is perfectly orthodox and can be found in Marx and Engels, especially in some of their letters.

1937 wasn't just spent on philosophy. Political and military battles were also being fought. Wang Ming, the Soviet trained leader, was pushing Stalin's line that the Japanese must be opposed by CPC unity with the GMD. Mao's view was that cooperation was possible without co-optation but Wang and other Soviet trained members of the PB were not concerned with the problem of co-optation. They seemed to favor unity at any cost.

Meanwhile the Japanese invasion continued unabated. Mao now wrote two works (1938) that have become classics. He argued in his "Problems of Strategy in Guerilla War' that when a small powerful nation attacks a weak large one, then most of the territory of the weak nation will be overrun. This was the case with Japan and China.

Just the opposite is happening in Iraq. There a powerful large nation has invaded a weak little nation (a specialty of the US military which only seems able to win against countries the size of Panama or smaller) but it controls almost nothing outside of the Green Zone, a few streets, sometimes, in Baghdad and some out lying sparsely populated areas. It is, in fact, bogged down.

This can be explained by the theory put forth by Mao in his second work: "On Protracted War" in which he said the fight against the invader would be long and difficult but, as Short put it, Mao thought the "people's determination to fight for their homes, their culture and their land would ultimately prevail." In did in China, as we know, and also in Vietnam, and appears to be succeeding in Iraq as well.

Both the Japanese, and now the US, seem covered by this quote from Mao's work:

The so-called theory that 'weapons decide everything' [is]
...onesided... Weapons are an important factor in war, but,
not the decisive factor; it is people, not things, that are de-
decisive. The contest of strength is not only a contest of
military and economic power, but also a contest of human
power and morale...

Wang Ming, again angling for power, rejected Mao's tactics. This split the PB down the middle. The issue was the defense of Wuhan from Japanese attack. Mao wanted to disperse to the countryside because he thought the city could not be held. Wang Ming wanted to hold the city and called on the population to defend it. However, the struggle between Wang and Mao would soon be over and Mao would be the winner. A Comintern statement in September 1938 settled the issue: "in order to resolve the problem of unifying the Party leadership, the [CPC] leadership should have
Mao Zedong as its centre." It was signed by Dimitrov. Wuhan fell to the Japanese the next month.

The Sixth Plenum of the CPC was also held at this time. Mao gave several speeches, quoted by Short. The following are, I think, particularly interesting ideas that Mao put forth:

"[The] sinification of Marxism-- that is to say, making sure that its every manifestation has an indubitably Chinese character-- is a problem which the whole Party must understand and solve without delay." [The Party is still working on this one!]

"Every communist must grasp this truth: 'Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.' ... We are advocates of the abolition of war ... but war can only be abolished through war. In order to get rid of the gun, it is necessary to take up the gun."

Does that sound Orwellian? Or is it dialectics? Mao, Short says, understood the world by means of "reasoning by opposites, analysing the innate contradictions which, in his words, 'determine the life of all things and push their development forwards.'" Mao was also trying to reconcile Marxist dialectical thinking with some traditional forms of Chinese philosophy.

In November of 1938, due to increased attacks from the Japanese, Mao et al moved to the caves at Yangjialing some three miles to the north of Yan'an. It was at this time he also married the last of his wives-- Jiang Qing.
Over the next few years the struggle against the influence of Wang Ming intensified. This struggle became known as the Yan'an Rectification Campaign. This campaign was to inculcate the notion that Marxism must be adapted to Chinese reality, failure to do was labeled as "Subjectivism." "By the time it ended," Short says, "Mao would no longer be the first among equals. He would be the one man who decided all-- a demiurge, set on a pedestal, towering above his nominal colleagues, beyond institutional control."

This is a bit too much. No one is that powerful without the support of, and the ultimate possibility of, "institutional control." If Mao had too much power it speaks of the backward social conditions in China at the time, the lack of a democratic culture, and the difficulties of a two pronged attack on the Party coming from the GMD and the Japanese.[Similar conditions explain Stalin's power as well.] The CPC intrusted Mao with so much authority because his policies had proved to be correct where others claiming leadership had failed miserably. Short himself says that by 1941 under Mao's guidance the Party was prospering, while under the guidance of Wang Ming and his faction "it had come to the brink of destruction."

Mao also had the right idea in this 1941 campaign, i.e., to rectify subjectivism by fighting wrong ideas, not the people holding the ideas. That is, to fight the sin not the sinner. Mao was for "curing the sickness to save the patient" not "the harsh struggle and merciless blows" of the past.
Good intentions, but not always lived up to.

Mao was against "book learning" Marxism. He stressed the importance of being able to read and practically apply Marxism-Leninism to the concrete conditions of China. Reading Marxist books and reciting "every sentence from memory" of Marx, Engels, Lenin and Stalin was worthless. Its too bad he didn't remember this before the Little Red Book was disseminated!

"We have some comrades who have a malady," he wrote, "namely that they take foreign countries as the centre and act like phonographs, mechanically swallowing whole foreign things and transporting them to China." This is still a problem. Many Maoist sects today do just this, mechanically applying the ideas of Mao, which were in large measure historically conditioned by time as well as place (i.e., mid 20th century China), to the problems of the world today. This also goes for Trots still living in 1917 Russia.

An important issue arises out of the Rectification Campaign. In the past the CPC had used fear and repression to make sure its line was adhered to.
Mao realized that this was an incorrect policy for Marxists. As Short puts it, Mao adopted Confucius view of "the force of virtuous example" as the proper way to influence people to follow the party line. "The masses are the real heroes," Mao wrote.

This contrasted with Confucius who said the mass of the people "may be made to follow a course of action, but they may not be made to understand it." The dialectic between these two views explains a lot of the turmoil and violence ot revolutions.

"All correct leadership," Mao wrote, "is necessarily 'from the masses, to the masses.' This means : take the ideas of the masses [raw, unfiltered?] [and] then through study, turn them into concentrated and systematic ideas, then go to the masses and propagate and explain these ideas until the masses embrace them as their own, hold fast to them and ... test [their] correctness in action ."

Lenin thought that the ideals of socialism had to be imported into the masses from the outside. This agrees with Confucius. But he also thought the masses could understand them as well. Mao agrees with this ["through study", etc.]. Whence the Gulag? Either large segments of the masses have failed to understand and embrace the imported ideas (Stalin) or the party has failed to propagate and explain properly (Mao). But in practice both Mao and Stalin fell back on the "enemy agents and class enemies" explanation. This was the serpent in the garden of Marxism: only for Marxists the Fall was the result of not eating the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

The case of Wang Shiwei is instructive. The Rectification Campaign called for inner party debate to correct problems. Wang, all the evidence shows that he was loyal party member, wrote a satire about the privileges that party leaders had (better food, etc.,). This was a very popular essay,but the leadership didn't appreciate it. Wang ended up denounced as a GMD spy and he and his supporters imprisoned. Also 40,000 members were expelled from the party and thousands were tortured and made to confess that they were enemy agents. It was all a farce. Mao's theories may have been correct but the "people" turned out to mean "the leaders." This may be the fate of revolutions in historically underdeveloped regions.

Wang was an intellectual and there was a great deal of hatred towards his "class" among the leadership with a peasant background. Mao ordered no killing this time around (not wanting a repeat of the AB-tuan fiasco of 1930). Mao ordered that Wang not be freed and not be killed. He stayed in jail from 1942 until 1947. In 1947 the communists left Yan'an. Before they left the local leader, He Long, had Wang killed with an ax. Revolution is not a tea party.

History is so unpredictable. As Short points out, in 1943 Chiang Kai-shek brought out his book, "China's Destiny". The author, seeing himself as the true ruler of China, didn't have a chapter about his ending up only ruling Formosa (Taiwan.) The same year Stalin abolished the Comintern (to please his allies in W.W. II). This meant that the CPC was now an independent party. This year also gave birth to the term "Mao Zedong Thought" and to Mao's "Selected Works." Mao's personality cult was also growing, evidenced by the song "The East is Red":

The East is Red, the sun rises.
In China a Mao Zedong is born.
He seeks the people's happiness.
He is the people's Great Saviour.

It would have been impossible, I believe, while Lenin was alive, for such a song about the leader to have been circulated in the Soviet Union.

Short tells that by 1944 W.W.II was nearing its end-- Italy was out of it and Germany and Japan were in retreat before the Soviets and Americans respectively. On July 22 of that year "the first and last overt attempt (until the early 1970s) to establish official lines of communications with the Chinese communists took place." This when the "Dixie Mission" began with the landing of a US plane at Yan'an.

The purpose of the mission was to broker an agreement between the GMD and the CPC. The CPC was willing to cooperate and be moderate. Mao had already put forth the ideals for a "New Democracy" stating that the "immediate goal was nor Soviet-style communism, but a mixed economy." Mao even thought about dropping the word "communist" because he said, "it might be more appropriate to call ourselves a Democratic Party." This was because he thought that, as Short says, "the United States was 'the suitable country' to aid China's modernization."

Stalin, by the way, had earlier told the US that the Chinese were "margarine communists"-- a view he held as he doubted the CPC represented real communism and he doubted that Mao's views were "orthodox." Short says his opinions also "fitted well with his efforts to further a" peace accord between the GMD and CPC.

Meanwhile, at Yalta the US and the USSR decided China should be a "buffer" between their two spheres of influence-- the Pacific Ocean on the one hand, and North-East Asia on the other. This is what Short says, ( two "dominated" areas) but if China is a "buffer" what is left of "North-East Asia"-- just territory that is already part of the Soviet Union in the first place (plus Korea). So Stalin is really putting China as a "buffer" between the USSR and the growing American Pacific "Empire" which will be centered in Japan. The real point, however, is that the Dixie Mission was put into play because Stalin agreed not to give any aid to the CPC in its fight with the GMD. This was all before the USSR declared war on Japan.

The CPC agreed to try and work things out peacefully with the GMD, but Mao was skeptical about Chiang's real sincerity. He might have been taking Oliver Cromwell's advice: "Trust in God but keep your powder dry."

On August 9, 1945 the USSR declared war on Japan. Zhu De ordered all the Red Army forces to take the surrender of Japanese forces who tendered it. Chiang, however, demanded that the Japanese should only surrender to GMD forces. Mao and the CPC naturally called upon Stalin for some support against Chiang's position.

What happened next caught the CPC off guard. On the 15th of August, just a few hours before the surrender of Japan, Molotov and the GMD "signed a treaty of alliance." Stalin, Mao thought, not for the first time, had stabbed the CPC in the back with respect to the GMD. The CPC had been sold out, says Short, "for Russia's national interests." Those two A bombs on Japan may have had something to do with it.

By November the Civil War was waging again, due to the GMD's unquenchble desire to get rid of the CPC, and with US backing. Stalin was now worried about his relations with the US, Short says, and decided to try and make a good impression on Washington.

The Soviet Union now told the CPC it "must withdraw from all major cities and communications routes within a week." In north China where there was now a Russian military presence, Peng Zhen, the CPC leader in the area was told by a Russian commander, Short quotes him,"If you do not leave we will use tanks to drive you out." Communists that were trying to stop the advance of the GMD forces by sapping the rail lines were told they would be disarmed by the Russians if they did not stop. The Sino-Soviet split may have its origins a little earlier than the 1960s it seems.

Peng Zhen was furious: "The army of one Communist Party," he said, "using tanks to drive out the army of another? Things like this have never happened before." They would happen again-- most notably when the Chinese Army in the 1970s actually attacked the Vietnamese (and was repelled). Russian tanks were also used against the Hungarians and the Czechs. They who sow the wind shall reap the whirlwind. But this time there was nothing the CPC could do. They obeyed the Russians.

Mao was stuck. The USSR-Chiang Treaty blocked the war to overthrow the GMD while the GMD could still attack the CPC and left him trying to get approval for actions the Soviets did not want to support. What to do?

President Truman to the rescue! The US Congress did not want to get involved in a Chinese civil war and wanted Truman to withdraw. Congress had grit in those days and Presidents were concerned about following the Constitution. Truman's new policy was to halt the hostilities between the CPC and the GMD and to get the Soviets out of Manchuria (which they occupied after the Japanese surrender.)

Under US pressure a ceasefire between the GMD and CPC was signed on 1-10-1946. The Soviets had agreed to turn over their areas in Manchuria to the Chinese government's troops and Chiang called a political conference of all the Chinese parties to work out future policies. But things didn't go Chiang's way. The Communists, moderate GMD elements, and other liberal groups had a majority and Chiang lost control of the conference. The conference then proposed a coalition government with the CPC , in which the GMD could have no more than 50% of the ministers, and an elected national assembly. Hmmmm. Communists and Capitalists working together as equals for the good of the people. Not possible! One side has got to outflank the other.

Mao, however, was happy and said that "a new era of peace and democracy has arrived." He rebuked the comrades who doubted that oil and water could mix. Mao gave a banquet and toasted Truman for contributing to "Chinese-American friendship."

It is interesting to note how Mao appeared to an AP reporter who was present, John Roderick. Roderick thought Mao had "an air of self-confidence and authority just short of arrogance" and gave an impression of leadership "which must have emanated from men like Alexander the Great, Napoleon and Lenin." He forgot Caesar.

Meanwhile, Chiang had no intention of sharing power with the CPC. The Cold War had begun, Churchill had given his "Iron Curtain" rant in Fulton, Missouri and Chiang persuaded Truman that the GMD must expand its territory to prevent a Communist takeover. The GMD attacked and the civil war was on again.

By the spring of 1947 the GMD forces were closing in on Yan'an and Mao and his forces had to flee. But Mao wasn't worried. They could have Yan'an he said and then quoted Confucius (The Analects): " 'If a thing comes to me, and I give nothing in return, that is contrary to propriety.' We will give Chiang Yan'an. He will give us China."

Congress Confronts Bush on Children's Health Care

Congressional Democrats and even some Republicans expressed anger last week over President Bush's threat to veto a bill that would fund the State Children's health insurance program, or S-CHIP, for another five years.

The Washington Post reported that Republican Sens. Orrin Hatch and Gordon Smith responded by promising to vote to override any veto. Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), who was a co-sponsor of the bill, described Bush's veto threat as not "constructive."

The bill that would expand the popular SCHIP program passed in the US Senate with 68 votes back in July.

In fact, most state governors of both parties support expansion of the program. Few state legislators of either party have called for a veto. This bill, while not adequate to stem the health care crisis in which, according to a study released by Families USA, saw almost 90 million people without health care coverage in 2005 and 2006, is a good first step .

Children's health should transcend partisan lines.

For his part, President Bush accused both Republicans and Democrats of passing the children's health insurance program bill to "score political points." Imagine that. Making sure children can go to the doctor and the dentist is a political ploy.

After Bush led his congressional Republican allies into the political wilderness of Iraq, he is now demanding they toe his line on children's health care.

The program expires on September 30th.

Former Bush Admin. Diplomat Calls for Justice for the Cuban Five

In a post at The Havana Note, former chief of staff for former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson (ret.), wrote an interesting item.

read more | digg story

Congress Set to Pass Anti-discrimination Bill

Congress is expected to vote on the Employment Non-discrimination Act or ENDA this week. This bill would outlaw discrimination in the workplace against gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender individuals.

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Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Case of the Jena Six and Racism in the US

After the collapse of the slave power in the South at the end of the Civil War in 1865, a struggle in the former Confederate states to establish citizenship rights for the former slaves and in effect democratize the region was carried forward.

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We Have Nothing But Fear Itself

A Roseland, Indiana, city council member orders police to remove a fellow city council member. The police escort him out, shove him down on his face and pound his head. Onlookers either cheer, do nothing, joke, behave as if all were normal, or yell at others to let the police do their jobs.

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Saturday, September 22, 2007


by Thomas Riggins

Clive James' "Cultural Amnesia: Notes in the margin of my time" is 896 pages long and made up of 106 essays ranging over the cultural and historical debris of the 20th century. It is reviewed by Adam Bresnick in the TLS for 9-14-2007.

In a busy world with zillions of books should you invest your time in reading this gigantic tome? If the review is any indication of the contents of the book I would say both yes and no. It depends on your intellectual commitments. Clive is supposedly a "humanist" and opposes the hoary and meaningless abstraction of "totalitarianism." He appears, from the review, to be merely a conservative pro-imperialist intellectual snob. If you like that kind of writing this is the book for you.

You will learn that "Soviet communism and Nazi fascism are obverse sides of the same murderous coin." History doesn't appear to be one of James' strong points. He should read Isaac Deutscher's "Stalin" to find out the differences between a system dedicated to war, conquest and genocide and one that ended up brutal and backwards due to trying to improve the world without the material and moral means of doing so. The Catholic Church produced both St. Francis and Torquemada. The Soviet system produced its share of both but the Nazi's were Torquemada down the line.

James writes the following idiotic observation (based on reading cold war hacks such as Raymond Aron), "The liberal believes in the permanence of humanity's imperfection; he resigns himself to a regime in which the good will be the result of numberless actions, and never the result of conscious choice." So, I won't join the Society for the Abolition of Slavery because I would be making a conscious choice and should rather rely on the numberless actions, presumedly of "good" masters, to bring about some improvements in the imperfection of humanity. James may have a great "style" but he has a sponge for a brain.

Even Bresnick, who approves of the book and this way of thinking is forced to admit that "Jamie's literary and musical sensibility may be problematically conservative" [tastewise that is] and that sometimes he "gets carried away with himself [phrase making]" and also at times it is difficult "to take James seriously" (he seems not to have understood "Paradise Lost").

All in all this seems to be a book by a gifted stylist and intellectual narcissist
whose understanding of the world is warped by ruling class cold war ideology masquerading as a profound understanding of reality. Don't waste your time on this one.

Book Review: The People's State: East German Society from Hitler to Honecker

Fulbrook paints a complicated picture of a society in flux, struggling to develop and provide opportunity. She methodically details the real life situations of most East Germans - who for the most part were content with their lives - while truthfully acknowledging the short comings within East German society.

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Friday, September 21, 2007

The Jena Six and De Facto Racism

Slavery existed in North America from 1619 in British colonial America to 1865 with the confederate government's collapse, the confederate military leaders surrender, and the passage of the thirteenth amendment to the U.S. Constitution abolishing slavery. In the former confederate states, a struggle to establish citizenship rights for the former slaves and in effect democratize the region was then carried forward only to be beaten back in the last decades of the nineteenth century by a combination of white racist terrorism instigated largely by the slaveholder and allied Southern ruling groups who had supported the Confederacy and the "acceptance" by the federal government, the federal Judiciary, and particularly Supreme Court of what became by the beginning of the twentieth century a white supremacy dictatorship which segregated blacks in schools, and all other public accommodations, public transportation, lunch counters, bathrooms, drinking fountains, etc while denying the overwhelming majority of Blacks the right to vote, serve on juries, belong to police forces, or practice the rights enjoyed by citizens of virtually any state, including many dictatorships not based on a series of racist laws and policies.

This brutal system, an advance only in its relationship to slavery, was overturned by the struggles of the Civil Rights movement which in the 1960s led to to the Civil Rights Acts which abolished "legal" segregation in public accommodations, restored the right to vote and all of the civil rights that are attendant upon it to Blacks, and revived the struggle to democratize the Southern states, which historically had served as both the "solid South" of segregation and, through the Democratic party until the 1960s, the principle ally of conservative Republicans in mobilizing a "conservative coalition" in Congress and national politics generally to fight the advance of organized labor and the passage of progressive social legislation. Just as 1865 saw the end of slavery but not the end of a system of racist oppression, tyranny and terror in the former Confederate states, the Civil Rights Acts of 1964 and 1965 heralded the end of de jure segregation and disenfranchisement in the Southern states, but not the end of institutional racism there or in the larger society.

Today successors to the segregationist White Supremacy Solid South have become a mainstay in the right-wing dominated Republican party, providing that party with both a large bloc of Senators and Congressman and also of electoral votes in presidential elections. While African Americans have not yet lost the Civil Rights they won in the 1960s (and I am not saying that they are going to in the foreseeable future) the Solid South today is a region where the Right has a kind of "home field advantage" rooted in its historical foundation of slavery and segregation (both of which were systems to control labor) and the superstructure of White Racism which overlay that foundation. The South today is where justice is most harsh and unequal, where the death penalty is most likely to be both instituted and executed, where income and education remains on a regional basis lower than the rest of the country and the religious right is most influential in a direct way in politics. This is the context in which the story of the Jena Six, which today is producing mass protest and demonstrations which even the quiescent mass news media are highlighting, should be understood.

The following analysis of events is based on my reading of the federal investigation directed by U.S. Attorney Donald Washington which has been made public, although some of my conclusions are different from
Washington in the investigation.

Jena is a small overwhelmingly White town in Louisiana. In August 2006, a freshman African American student asked the principal of Jena High school for "permission" to sit under a shade tree that was "de facto" reserved for white students. When the principal told him anyone could sit where they wanted, he and a group of African American friends sat under the tree. The next day, there were three nooses hanging from the tree, an act which was a both a crude threat and a sort of celebration of lynch law as a way to keep Blacks in their place. When the principal learned the identity of the three white students who had done this, he recommended their expulsion from school. The local board of education and school superintendent quickly over-ruled the principal. The superintendent added ignorance to injury when he was quoted as saying that the act was merely a "prank" not a "threat against anybody."

The incident provoked a series of fights between African American and white students which the principal sought unsuccessfully defuse at a school assembly in late September. At the assembly, the local District Attorney, J. Reed Walters, invited to speak by the principal, made the situation much worse by warning the students that if they didn't stop fighting over the incident which he called an "innocent prank," "with one stroke of my pen, I could make your life disappear."

While Black students claim today that he was looking at them and he and school officials have denied this, that is really beside the point. Such threats might make sense on the old Dragnet television program, or in authoritarian fantasies as solutions to problems, but in reality they only inflame situations.

As the semester continued, Black students asked to address the school assembly on the noose incident but were denied that right by the Board of Education on the ground that the issue was settled. Fights continued. On November 30, 2006, the main high school building was gutted in an arson fire and white and Black students traded charges blaming each other. By early December there were escalating incidents, one on December 1 at a student party where a group of black students, including Robert Bailey, were told that they could not attend, leading to a fight where Bailey claimed he had been hit in the head with a beer bottle, another on December 2 where Bailey and a group of his friends clashed with a white student from the party the previous night who got a shotgun from his pickup truck and brandished it (there are conflicting stories about who was the aggressor in this incident, but the fact that the high school student could be driving around with a shotgun in a pickup truck and that in itself would not be an issue is a commentary on both the South and other regions of the country where conservatives have reduced the bill of rights to the right to bear arms). Bailey, who seized th weapon was charged with "theft of a firearm," robbery, and disturbing the peace. The white student who brandished the weapon (in self defense he contended) was charged with nothing.

On December 4, 2006, a white student, Justin Barker, was attacked and brutally beaten by a group of Black students. Robert Bailey was one of the students. There were reports (believed widely by Black students and
later denied by Barker) that Barker had been boasting that Bailey had been beaten up in the fight at the party and that this was an act of revenge for the earlier incident. There is debate and disagreement over the extent of Barker's injuries, but no doubt that he was brutally beaten.

What then happens is worthy of the old segregationist South. The district attorney, who had previously said "with one stroke of my pen, I can make your life disappear," initially charged five African American students with assault and then changed the charge to attempted second degree murder, which could bring with it a fifty year prison sentence and which, from my reading, there was absolutely no evidence to support. On June 27, 2007, one of the students, Mychal Bell, a juvenile who had a previous criminal record, was brought to trial and
convicted of aggravated second degree battery (which requires assault with a deadly weapon). District Attorney Walters contended that Bell's Tennis Shoes, with which he kicked Barker, constituted such a weapon.
Bell was also tried as an adult.

Last Week, on September 14, 2007, Bell's conviction was thrown out by a Louisiana Appeals Court judge on the ground that he should have been tried as a juvenile. District Attorney Walters is appealing the decision. As I write this article, a hearing is being held whether bail should be set for Bell's release. Bell is still in jail and if the conviction stands could be sentenced to as much as twenty-two years in jail. Yesterday, the day that Bell was initially scheduled to be sentenced, a rally of more than 10,000 people was held in Jena to protest this return of Jim Crow justice.

Justice demands that the Jena Six be freed from the major criminal charges hanging over them, that they and the whites whose hanging of nooses at the shade tree, physical assaults against the Black students at the party, brandishing a shotgun, and other acts be given fair punishment for their transgressions. Justice in my opinion also calls for some disciplinary action against the District Attorney whose attempted second degree murder and "reduced " aggravated assault charges (which still hang over the other students who are yet to be
tried) in no way fit the crime.

It is interesting to note that the District Attorney who launched a prosecution of Duke University Lacrosse players based on charges later dropped from an African American women that she was assaulted by them
at a fraternity party has seen his professional career shattered and faces prosecution in a case which filled both sports talk radio and television and the usual rightwing media propagandists which great outrage. For the propagandists of the rightwing power structure, the events at Duke (and I am not saying that the Lacrosse players were not the victims of a serious injustice) are examples of "political correctness" and "liberal bias."

For these same people, the nooses were a harmless prank, the constitution gives teen-agers the right to have shotguns in pickup trucks, and the Jena Six, who show the rest of us that there is no such thing as institutional "reverse racism" but world of institutional and ideological racism which is routinely swept under the rug, don't deserve to be mentioned.

George Bush said he was "saddened" by the events at Jena High but that was all he said. His father when he was president said, as I remember, that he was "saddened" by the Rodney King riots, but that was pretty
much all he said. I am outraged by the events in Jena and so should all Americans who believe in equal justice under law. They show us how which ground we have to regain in the struggle against racism in the U.S., which is indivisible from the struggle for democracy.

Norman Markowitz

Tasks of Working-Class Governments under the Socialist-oriented Market Econ

Questions about the problems and prospects of socialist-oriented market economies are bound up with our understanding of the proper tasks of the proletarian state. A fundamental concern is whether markets are compatible with the political supremacy of the working class.

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Thursday, September 20, 2007

Inifinte Island: Contemporary Caribbean Art

Brooklyn Museum

"Infinite Island:  Contemporary Caribbean Art"

The first major exhibition of Contemporary Caribben Art opened at the Brooklyn Museum today, September 20, 2007.

Forty-five established and emerging artists, who work both in the Caribbean, are presenting multiple perspectives in exploring the history of the region.   These include:  painting, sculpture, photography, prints and drawings, video.

A highlight of the exhibition are two presentations, one photos and the other a very interesting video, of the struggle to free Vieques, Puerto Rico fromthe U.S. Navy.   Jennifer Allora and Guillermo Calzadilta were responsible for these works of art.

Jorge Pineda from the Domican Republic presented when "Mambru went to war."   In this anti-war presentation twelve figures of young people carrying guns.   This is a very powerful presentation.

Ebony Grace Patterson from Jamaica, who spoke at a forum before the opening, exhibited her very powerful female forms paintings.

The one major limitation of the exhibition was a painting by a Cuban artist decrying the racism that he says continues in Cuba.   This was also the only presentation from the Cuban experience.      This presentation was completely out of place given the overall progressive direction of every other presentation.

But, even with that shortcoming, Brooklyn Museum exhibition is well worth attending.

Eric Greene


Schwarzenegger, a "Social Democrat"?

As someone who has in the past called Arnold Schwarzenegger many things, from a poor man's version of Karl Marx portrayal of Napoleon III in the 18th Brumaire to a poor man's Ronald Reagan (Ronnie, whatever his other faults did have more dramatic range and could pronounce California correctly when he was governor) I must say that I was taken somewhat aback by Schwarzenegger's current campaign to enact universal health care legislation in California. Perhaps I had underestimated the star of Conan the Barbarian, Terminator I, II, III, Kindergarden Cop and Twins? Certainly others had, beginning with his pumping iron days.

Of course, political reactionaries have at times in history advanced progressive ideas for their own purposes. Although I have usually thought of another German speaking politician of the right when I think of Schwarzenegger (his dad joined the Nazi party in 1936 in Austria two years before Hitler's annexation of the country), I remembered Otto Von Bismarck, the German "Iron Chancellor" of the 1880s who with one hand outlawed the Social Democratic Party and with another enacted the first state social insurance legislation in history (trying to steal the Social Democrats thunder and defuse the class struggle). Schwarzenegger doesn't have that much of a class struggle politics to worry about from the Democrats, but it may have dawned on him, unlike his fellow Republicans, that state social insurance policies increase labor productivity and also increase purchasing power by reducing out of pocket health care expenses for employees and employers for insurance premiums.

But then I checked out the details of the plan. (Bismarck's in the 1880s were very limited also, compared to what the SPD was advocating.) The devil is in the details, as they say and there is a lot of devil in Schwarzenegger's details universal coverage with a $5,000 deductible and a maximum $7,500 out of pocket expenses per person and $10,000 per family.

There are over six million people in California who have no coverage and most of them, I assume are low income. Such out of pocket expenses would be devastating to low income people, although one can
argue that something is better than nothing, which sadly is the way that many Americans have come to see things since the Reagan reaction lowered collective expectations while expanding illusions of individual wealth.

Schwarzenegger has gotten the Chamber of Commerce in California to support his plan and is trying to work out deals with the Democratic majority in the legislature, who have their own policies. If I were the the Democrats I would get on board in the fight for the comprehensive health care legislation that Representative John Conyers has introduced under the heading of Medicare for All. It is much closer to the health care that Arnold Schwarzenegger in Austria in the 1950s and 1960s and most Britons and Europeans have enjoyed for half a century or more, although Otto Von Bismarck never would have supported it in the 19th century and Schwarzenegger won't in the 21st century. It is the sort of national legislation that is necessary to solve a health care crisis that is both a national problem and a national disgrace.

Norman Markowitz

Real Life in the USA

The US ranks 49th in the world in literacy.

According to the World Health Organization, the US ranks 37th in the world in health care, and 54th in fairness of its health care system.

The US is one of only two industrialized countries that does not provide universal health care. (The other being South Africa.)

18,000 people die in the US unnecessarily each year due to the lack of health care.

Among the wealthiest developed countries, the US ranks second to last in childhood poverty.

12 million families have difficulty feeding themselves.

The US ranks 41st among all countries for infant mortality.

900,000 children were abused or neglected in 2002, the last year the data for this statistic was collected.

For other equally disturbing data about life in the USA, see:

So what are you going to do about it?

The People's Democratic Revolution and the Transition to Socialism

A question in progressive circles comes up from time to time, and that is "is socialism inevitable?" That is not the question that this essay will attempt answer, except with the general answer that socialism will be the next era of human history.

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Australian Prime Minister John Howard on the Edge

Howard has certainly lost the plot. Maybe its those adverse polls that keep on rolling out dismal numbers for the Coalition. Maybe the old clichés don’t work any more. Maybe people are just sick of being lectured to and have switched off.

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September 21: International Day of Peace

Peace is one of humanity’s most precious needs. It is also the UN’s highest calling. It defines our mission. It drives our discourse. And it draws together all of our world wide work, from peacekeeping and preventive diplomacy to promoting human rights and development.

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Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Bush's Petraeus PR Gambit Not Making it on Main Street

According to a USA Today/Gallup poll released today, more people view the Iraq war as a mistake since General Petraeus reported to Congress that everything is A-OK in Iraq and since Bush announced plans for a long-term occupation of Iraq and pretended as though everything in Iraq is fine.

Petraeus also failed to convince people that staying the course in Iraq is the right thing to do.

Additionally, with statistically irrelevant shifts, about the same number of people view the surge, the main subject of the Bush PR campaign of last week, as having little or negative effects.

What Bush ignored is that the occupation is the main source of sectarian conflict and that a humanitarian crisis already exists in Iraq. According to various UN organizations, humanitarian groups, and media reports:

* 8 million Iraqis require emergency aid
* About one-fourth of Iraqi children are malnourished
* 5 million Iraqis depend on the country's food rationing system; only 3 million have reliable access to it
* 3 to 4 million Iraqis are internally or internationally displaced
* 80% of Iraqis lack effective sanitation
* 70% lack sanitary water
* 50% unemployment
* 12,000 doctors have left Iraq due to the violence

But Bush's PR campaign wasn't really about convincing Americans that the war is going fine. It was about strong-arming Republicans in Congress to not vote with Democrats who want to change course or set a timetable for bringing the troops home.

That goal may have been achieved. And with it, Bush just may have convinced a bunch of Republicans to toe the line at the expense of their jobs in the 2008 elections. No wonder so many of them are retiring these days.

George Packer's "Planning for Defeat": An Analysis of a Plea for Occupation

The journalist George Packer has an article ("Planning for Defeat") about the situation in Iraq in the September 17, 2007 issue of The New Yorker. It is very informative, but unfortunately, veers from reportage into advocacy.

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Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Video: Interviews at the Founding of the ITUC

This video is produced by PA contributing writer Vittorio Longhi

The Housing Crisis and the Economic Impact

Political Affairs #37 - The Housing Crisis and the Economic Impact

Millions of working families face foreclosures on their homes. How will this crisis impact the economy? What are some immediate solutions, and what does this crisis say about the current condition of capitalism? We devote the entire episode to a recent interview with Communist Party economics commission chair Art Perlo.

New Cholera Cases in Northern Iraq, says Health Ministry

The number of suspected cholera cases in northern Iraq continues to rise, but the outbreak has so far been limited to three provinces, a Health Ministry official said on 15 September.

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Additional Coverage:

Political Affairs Radio #36 - Bush and Congress Prepare to Battle Over Iraq

Ahead of the infamous Petraeus report, General James Jones reports to Congress and urges a reduction of the US "footprint" in Iraq; US leaders react to the Osama Bin Laden tape; Senators investigate the Crandall Canyon Mining collapse; and we talk with scholar Vijay Prashad about his recent book The Darker Nations.

Political Affairs Radio #29 - Ending the Iraq War

Discussion with PA science editor and peace activist Prasad Venugopal about recent developments in the struggle to end the war.

Productivity of Labor and Nonmaterial Commodities

My hope is that a re-examination of some aspects of accepted, and often unquestioned, definitions of the terms working class and productive versus unproductive labor will give a sharper focus to current political decisions.

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Six Years Since 9/11 Vividly Prove ‘War on Terror’ has Failed

Six years have passed since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States in 2001. Soon after the 9-11 attacks, the U.S. Bush administration started a “retaliatory war” against Afghanistan ostensibly to exercise the right of self-defense.

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Monday, September 17, 2007

Forward: Fremantle: We turn up the heat--An Update and a Victory

To PA blog readers

I thought that I would forward this good news from London and personally thank all PA online readers who joined in the solidarity campaign,

Norman Markowitz

A little more than a week ago, the Fremantle Trust tried to close down LabourStart by threatening our internet service provider (ISP), claiming that it was hosting "potentially libellous" material. We're pleased to report that after thinking about it for three or four days, our ISP realized that our online campaign was not libellous and informed us that it could be back online. (This was picked up by the media <>
and labelled a "web campaign victory.")

In the meanwhile, we didn't sit around waiting -- we moved the whole campaign
over a web server in Australia (at a considerable expense of time and money), and that is where it is staying.

And we've turned up the heat on Fremantle. If you search on Google for the term 'Fremantle' you're likely to see our ad in the upper right corner of the page. (Or not -- Google won't show it every time.) Our ad has now been shown nearly *152,000* times -- that's tens of thousands of people who have seen a loud and clear message which reads "/Fremantle - Stop bullying, start talking. Barnet care workers deserve more./"
In the last week, since Fremantle tried to silence us, another 4,000 of you have sent off messages to its chief executive, Carole Sawyers. With over 12,000 messages now in her inbox, we've broken all records for a LabourStart online campaign.

Sawyers has written to some of you presenting Fremantle's case, and had this to say about our online campaign:

"I can honestly say that we have not bullied or intimidated Labourstart into removing the content about Fremantle. I sent a polite email request to Mr Lee asking that he remove it; informing him that the information was inaccurate, misleading and *potentially libellous*. I copied this information to Labourstart's ISP, who requested them to remove the information pending further investigation."

Think about that for a minute. She "copied this information" (which was untrue) to our ISP, knowing what English libel laws are like, knowing full well that the ISP would almost certainly order us to take down the campaign rather than risk facing a legal action. This was not an attempt to *persuade* LabourStart, politely or otherwise. It was a blatant attempt to *stifle dissent*, to shut down criticism of an employer so used to bullying its workers that it doesn't realize what it is up against here.

This week, the workers at Fremantle are going on strike once again, and will be coming to the company headquarters to protest. They are not alone. They go there knowing that they have the backing not only of their union, Unison, and of the British trade union movement, but of tens of thousands of organized workers around the world.They have asked me to convey their thanks to all of you.

Eric Lee

Global Warming and Sea Levels

A recent report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a group of leading atmospheric scientists, forecasts a global sea level rise of between seven and 23 inches by 2100.

Listen to an interview with PA contributing writer Mar Brodine on the dialectics of climate change and the importance of changing the system:

Gabcast! Political Affairs #33 - Which Side Are You On? Miners, Iraq, and Global Climate Change

We talk about the Crandall Canyon Mine collapse in Utah and some national antiwar activities leading up to the White House's September Iraq progress report. We'll also talk with PA contributing writer Marc Brodine about global climate change.

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Friday, September 14, 2007

Iraqi Civilian Death Toll May Top 1 Million

Two recent estimates put the total number of Iraqi deaths due to the war at over 1 million. uses the estimate made by the British journal The Lancet in 2006 of over 600,000 as a starting point and then uses estimates from the media to project forward. It estimates total deaths at 1.044 million.

A new survey of Iraqi households, as reported in the Los Angeles Times, by ORB, a British polling agency, uses a statistical projection as well to estimate that as many as 1.2 million Iraqi civilians have been killed in the war.

Because no accurate record of civilian deaths has been kept by the Iraqi government or the US military occupation forces, these estimates are the best statistics so far. That the data has been collected independently and has arrived at similar figures suggests that the estimates have merit as fairly accurate.

The outrageous number of over 1 million deaths combined with the ongoing humanitarian crisis Iraqis face as a result of the occupation indicate that far from saving Iraq form an evil tyrant, the US has imposed a far worse life on the Iraqi people. Is this what democracy looks like?

Bush Calls for Long-Term Occupation of Iraq

The debate over the Iraq war is heating up again. This past week, General David Petraeus and Ambassador Ryan Crocker delivered what most observers described as unsatisfying and even "dodgy," to quote one military instructor at the Naval War College, reports to Congress on the situation in Iraq.

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Thursday, September 13, 2007


Thomas Riggins

Unless Obama changes his position on Iraq, I think the answer is, at present, No! This is why I think so.

The New York Times reports (9-13-07) that while Obama wants to withdraw COMBAT brigades by the end of 2008 he wants to leave some forces behind "to strike at terrorists, train Iraqi soldiers and protect American interests."

But to strike at terrorists will require leaving combat troops in Iraq so this is really not a withdrawal but merely a troop reduction and a continued occupation disguised as a withdrawal.

We all know what "protect American interests" means. It means protect the imperialist corporate interests of the major war industries that are making super profits out of the occupation and the oil interests who want to privatize as much as possible of the Iraqi reserves (the much ballyhooed new oil law benchmark pushed by Bush AND the congress).

"What's at stake," Obama says, "is bigger than this war: its our global leadership." Is this not a confession that the goal of US imperial hegemony is part of Obama's outlook?

Its true that according to recent polls 56% of the American public agree with Obama and that only 20% favor complete withdrawal. Its also true that Obama would be better than any likely Republican as president. But progressives cannot, I believe, support continued occupation of Iraq, nor a program based on protecting the interests of US imperialism in the region. A program that can only lead to more and bigger disasters for the American people in the long run.

Obama supporters should struggle with him to improve his position on an Iraqi withdrawal. In the meantime, I think progressives, at this time, should be supporting the Kucinich campaign as a educational pressure tool to move the front runners to the left.

We should also be supportive, on the issue of Iraq, with the position of Gov. Bill Richardson who favors complete withdrawal and said, with respect to Obama's position, "Leaving behind tens of thousands of troops in Iraq for an indefinite amount of time is nothing new. [Obama's] plan is inadequate and does not end the war."

Finally, I think my position is more consistent than not with the following quote from the Iraqi Communist Party:

"A national consensus is emerging in Iraq, among the major political forces, that there should be a clearly defined objective timetable for a speedy withdrawal of the occupying forces, linked to rebuilding the Iraqi armed forces. Up to now, Bush has adamantly refused to be committed to such a timetable, obviously preferring an open-ended military presence and occupation. While an immediate withdrawal is widely seen by Iraqis as not feasible, it is increasingly not acceptable to have an open-ended foreign military presence, especially with the evident responsibility of the Americans for certain aspects of the deteriorating security situation."

Based on this, it might be a feasible position for Obama to call for the UN to take over the training of the Iraqi forces and for all (except for Marine guards at the embassy) US troops to be out of Iraq as soon as possible on a timetable proposed by the Iraqi government and the progressive people's forces represented by the CPI and its allies. While this would be a great advance for Obama, the slogan of the US peace movement should remain "Out Now!"