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Quebec Students Ignite the Popular Imagination May 3, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Education, Quebec.
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By Stefan Christoff, rabble.ca | Report

Thursday, 03 May 2012 09:32

(Photo: Robin Dumont / Flickr)

Vibrant nightly protests over the past week in downtown Montréal, in solidarity with the Quebec student strike, are sparking global attention. As the Quebec-wide strike continues – it has now been going for over 11 weeks – a new energy is apparent in the city.

All across the city spotting the symbolic red square patches is easy; on any city bus or métro car patches are proudly pinned on jackets or backpacks.

Despite repeated incidents of police brutality, strikingly hostile mainstream media coverage and a sustained refusal by the Quebec Liberal government to negotiate in good faith, popular support and energy toward the strike is growing. Beyond surveys, or poll numbers, the Quebec student strike is historic in nature, a sustained mass protest movement creating political space to debate not only rising tuition fees but also fundamental questions of social justice.

A clear shift is occurring on the streets, as protests are now expanding to highlight environmental justice and the growing economic inequities in Quebec at a time of austerity-driven economics.

Today in Quebec the earning gap between the wealthy and the rest sits at a 30-year high, according to a recent study by Institut de recherche et d’informations socio-economiques. Economic injustice in Quebec is increasingly a focus of student protests and the upcoming May Day protests will illuminate points of unity between striking students and larger social movements on the streets.

Last week Aveos airline maintenance workers in Montréal, fired last month without due process, joined with striking students in a morning protest outside a shareholders meeting of Air Canada in downtown Montreal. On the streets, la Confédération des syndicats nationaux (CSN), a major union federation in Québec with a history of strong links to grassroots activism, has consistently joined striking students on the street.

In Québec the student strike is igniting the popular imagination.

Recent night protests have been starting at Émilie-Gamelin square, close to Université du Québec à Montréal (UQAM), taking to the streets for hours on end, as many join the protests spontaneously as the protest weaves throughout downtown Montreal districts. As the night protest moves the size grows, tens of thousands marching in the cool spring air, waving red flags in the rain. The student strike is crossing many political barriers at a rapid speed and turning into a social movement.

Despite the growing protests, the movement does face incredible challenges, beyond just the usual cynical commentators across the mainstream media in Quebec and Canada.

Police repression has at times been extreme, with hundreds of students arrested and disturbing physical violence by police toward the protest movement. On the streets police often launch flash bang grenades. To take just one example, last week in Montreal one of these grenades exploded over a night demonstration, unleashing toxic CS gas on the protest.

Montreal police use the flash bang weapon, made by Defense Technologies, a subsidiary of the world’s second largest arms manufacturer, BAE Systems, despite the obvious danger to student protesters. Striking student Francis Grenier suffered a serious eye injury in early March due to an explosion close to the eye while playing harmonica and is still recovering.

Unity within the student movement is another major challenge, the more institutional Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec (FEUQ) and Fédération étudiante collégiale du Québec (FECQ) are consistently facing divide and conquer offers by the Québec government pushing to exclude the protest-driven Coalition large de l’association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (CLASSE) from any negotiations. Despite a history of division in previous student mobilizations, the major student unions today are remaining strongly united in this mobilization to halt tuition hikes in Quebec.

Calls for a broader social strike, an effort to transfer the energy of student protests into larger struggles for social justice is strongly backed by CLASSE, a network of student unions that supports direct action and openly rejects the capitalist economic system.

Over recent years CLASSE has actively supported anti-poverty struggles in Quebec and international solidarity campaigns like the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement in solidarity with Palestine.

Protests will continue in Quebec over the next days, from May Day to the upcoming Liberal Party general council meeting, scheduled to take place later this week. The Liberals have in fact announced they are moving their meeting from Montreal to Victoriaville, due to fears of mass protest.

As the momentum of the Quebec student strike continues to grow, with nearly 180 000 students remaining on strike, many open questions ring out beyond Québec.

Can the Quebec student movement, clearly a collective struggle against austerity-driven economics, spark or inspire broader mass struggles for social justice in Canada?

Stefan Christoff

Stefan Christoff is a Montreal-based writer, musician and community activist who contributes to rabble.ca. You can find Stefan at http://www.twitter.com/spirodon/

 

Grandparents, Unite! Your Grandchildren’s Future is at Stake January 13, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Occupy Wall Street Movement.
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Published on Wednesday, January 11, 2012 by CommonDreams.org

“What are these grandmas and grandpas demanding? “Equitable taxation of the 1%; regulation of the banks; arrests of the perpetrators of the economic collapse;  depersonalization of the corporations;  an end to US wars. The list of interconnected problems is overwhelming.”
  by Sally and Bill McCoy

“Your grandchildren’s future is at stake. Your courageous voices, actions, and sanity are needed to defend their dreams and their right to a full and happy life. Join us and help draw attention to the institutions and injustices which are eroding our neighborhoods, our cities, our nation, the international community, and the ecology of our world. The time to speak out and act is now! Our visibility is essential to helping raise the hopes and consciousness of our community. We urge all grandparents to stand up for the future generations and for those who are presently vulnerable to the collapse of our democracy and our rights.

 

This call to action was sent out last Summer in Rochester, NY by the ‘Band of Rebels’, a small group of grandparents who could no longer sit in their rocking chairs watching the deterioration of the underpinnings of civilization. Since late July the ‘rebels’ have picketed banks every week and joined the eruption of protests initiated by various local groups, including Occupy Rochester.

Every week, more and more grandparents have joined the ‘Rebels’. Local union members have joined the picket lines. The Occupy Rochester youth have also participated as well as members of other organizations. We are now urging grandchildren as well as grandparents to join us (since everyone is a grandchild). Other communities in the Rochester area have contacted us for help forming their own bands of rebels. A ‘band’ in Wayne County to the east of us is picketing weekly in Newark.

The national media has attempted to paint a negative and false image of the Occupy Wall Street movement which has swept across the country by suggesting that it is made up of scruffy, unemployed youth who lack direction and leadership. How about a companion movement of scruffy, unemployed senior citizens who can be just as determined and whose objectives are identical to those brave and creative younger people?

Our grandchildren are facing a future which will be lived in the rubble of our broken democracy and our misguided empire. We advocate: equitable taxation of the 1%; regulation of the banks; arrests of the perpetrators of the economic collapse; depersonalization of the corporations; an end to U.S. wars. The list of interconnected problems is overwhelming. Everyone needs universal health care, employment, affordable education, affordable housing, freedom from discrimination and democracy. The list of roadblocks to the obvious solutions is short. Greed, misinformation, and fear manufactured by the corporate powers.

In addition, our grandchildren are facing the disastrous effects of human interference with the earth’s natural balance of the biosphere. Despite the fact that since the early 1700s scientists have been warning that humans are causing permanent damage to the environment which effects climate and all forms of life, there is still widespread denial that life on our planet is in serious trouble.

The concerns that have triggered the current world protests affect people of all generations and it is clear that those between the young and the old are also beginning to head for the streets. The outcry is being heard all over the world. The protests in Madison, Wisconsin this past year motivated our local response and the Occupy Wall Street movement cemented our resolve to make ourselves heard. We encourage grandparents and grandchildren across the country to join in the fight to rescue the future.

There are 39 million Americans over the age of 65, 13% of the population. We urge grandparents everywhere to participate in the protection of all grandchildren. Hang on to your torches. Light a few more torches. Take back our democracy, our communities and our country, and our planet.

Sally (74) and Bill (72) McCoy are members of ‘Band of Rebels‘ in Rochester, New York.  A retired teacher and engineer, they have  8 children, 20 grandchildren, and 4 great grandchildren.  They have been activists since the civil rights movement.

Grief, Love and Politics: Jack Layton’s Last Letter Calls Forth the Best in Us September 1, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada.
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Published on Thursday, September 1, 2011 by Rabble.ca

 

I don’t think anyone could have fathomed the scale of the remarkable outpouring of emotion and grieving that has swept across Canada since last week’s announcement of the death of Jack Layton.

 

What explains this extraordinary week, in which one person’s death seems to have become such a significant moment in the life of this country?

In part, it is Jack’s story and the themes it contains with which we are hardwired to connect. The love story with Olivia; the story of a political underdog exceeding all expectations; and, of course, the story of a heroic journey cut short just as the improbable victory came within sight. The astute John Doyle noted the echoes of Terry Fox — a tale of daring and selfless virtue absorbed by Canadians from childhood — and his tragic, premature end.

There are other reasons Jack Layton’s death hit so hard and impacted such a breadth of people. One factor was that last letter from Jack, written just two days before he died, which appeared in the inboxes and social media feeds of a country right in the midst of our grief and shock on the day he passed away. Reading Jack’s last testament — simple, yet profound and eloquent — multiplied the impact on both our hearts and minds.

The letter made a series of very deliberate, political points, wrapped up in a personal and emotional appeal for readers to take action for a better world motivated by hope, optimism and love.

Jack’s final message and the reaction to his death rankled some conservatives; unsurprisingly it was Christie Blatchford who spewed bile in the National Post, openly expressing what some others on the Right had the good sense merely to whisper amongst themselves.

Essentially, her objections were that Jack’s letter contained political content and purpose; that the media and other public figures were showing respect and expressing fondness for him on the day that he died; and, most of all, that the public response was so big and overwhelming. (Andrew Coyne, the ubiquitous conservative pundit, subtly implied his own, similar critique of the letter on CBC’s The National on Monday, later tweeting that he felt Blatchford made some valid points: “@acoyne I don’t disagree with a lot of what Christie Blatchford wrote. I’m just not inclined to judge things quite so harshly…”)

That Jack’s letter was political cannot really be any surprise whatsoever. He lived politics something pretty close to 24/7. Besides, surely just about everyone has the right to the last words of their own choosing — even jurisdictions that still practice the barbarism of capital punishment routinely offer the damned a choice over their last meal and the freedom to express a final message.

Progressive or radical political leaders, quite naturally, tend to feel the need to rally their forces one last time. After all, almost by definition the committed reformer or revolutionary leaves this life with work still left unfinished. Dying members of the wealthy elite, or political defenders of the status quo, probably feel less urgency to use their last breaths to issue manifestos. (On our side, perhaps the simplest and most famous final injunction came from labour radical Joe Hill — “Don’t mourn, organize!”)

Jack’s final letter was no call to the barricades, but it did feature more stirring and idealistic language than any widely read Canadian political tract in recent memory. I hope that’s part of why it has resonated. That would give reactionaries like Blatchford good cause to be worried. The spread of a politics that calls forth the best in all of us, and that dares to imagine changing the world, would greatly devalue her rhetorical currency of fear and loathing.

Blatchford’s other complaint — that people were being respectful, or even reverential, on the day of Jack’s death — is laughable. It amounts to lamenting that her fellow humans were acting human when they could have been joining her unseemly grave dance. (It’s also utterly contemptible for the sheer hypocrisy, given the endless maudlin “tributes” to fallen Canadian soldiers — and never Afghan civilians — Blatchford has written to buttress her pro-war positions.)

Personally, whether it’s a family member or a friend or just a prominent public person, I reserve the absolute right to remember and celebrate the best of someone when they pass away (exceptions made for outright moral or political monsters). You know, because life is short, we are all flawed and contradictory, never send to know for whom the bell tolls… and so forth.

That’s why these past few days I’ve been thinking about and sharing my memories of the good political fights that Jack Layton fought and the movements for social justice to which he contributed.

I’ve disagreed with plenty of things said — or, as often, not said — and done by the NDP under Layton’s leadership, including serious recent disappointments. This is not the time to dwell on and rehash these matters, though of course in the longer-term full and critical analyses of Layton’s tenure as NDP leader should be made and debated.

These criticisms were not so much about an individual and his choices, but rather about a political system stacked in favour of the interests of the rich and powerful. It’s a system with tools aplenty to take the edge off of sincere reformers, and in which frank talk of anti-capitalism, Canadian imperialism or genuine systemic change is almost entirely verboten.

The mainstream media acts as a limiter of possibilities in our current political set-up. Witness, for instance, the Globe and Mail editorial on Jack’s death. While respectful and even laudatory, the editors take pains to praise his “moderate” approach in recent years as federal NDP leader, supposedly in contrast to his “fairly hard-left” stance while a Toronto city councillor.

Now, I’ve seen the amazing pictures of the messages chalked outside Toronto’s City Hall. And I’m not in Toronto to check each and every one of them, but I’m guessing no one has kneeled down to scrawl in orange, “Thanks for being a political moderate.”

Who says we should be moderate in sharing our love, hope and optimism? Who says we should be moderate in fighting oppression, bigotry and injustice? There would be a lot less mourning this week if Jack Layton had been moderate in advocating for AIDS victims, moderate in demanding action on homelessness, or moderate in pushing ahead for gay marriage and equal rights for all.

I dare say that much of the impact of Jack’s death is a result of a public perception that he was in fact bordering on immoderate when it came to advocating for social justice, and that despite the political system he worked within he remained an authentic and sincere person.

To take just two more contemporary examples, it makes absolutely no sense to advocate moderation in curtailing the tar sands to fight climate change or in working to stop the wars being fought over control of energy and other resources.

What it will take to tackle these and other dire problems is passion, determination and political courage — hopefully some of this can manifest within the NDP in the years ahead, but much of it will by necessity be driven by social movement activists outside the fetters of the current electoral set-up.

If we are going to tackle the crises of inequality and environmental destruction caused by global capitalism, I submit that our politics really must be a collective expression of our better selves — solidarity, infused with heavy doses of hope, optimism and love.

Across this land, as the tears dry up, Jack’s letter and the best of his legacy should help point us to new horizons and inspire new generations of activists to step forward.

For that we can only say: thank you and farewell, Jack.

© 2011 Rabble.ca

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Derrick O'Keefe

Derrick O’Keefe is a writer, editor and social justice activist in Vancouver, BC. Derrick is the co-chair of the Vancouver StopWar Coalition and the Canadian Peace Alliance, the country’s largest network of anti-war groups. He is the co-writer of Afghan MP Malalai Joya’s political memoir, A Woman Among Warlords: The Extraordinary Story of an Afghan Who Dared to Raise Her Voice, and the author of a forthcoming Verso book on Michael Ignatieff. Derrick served as rabble.ca’s editor from 2007 to 2009. Topics covered on this blog will include the war in Afghanistan and foreign policy, Canadian politics, media analysis, climate justice and ecology. You can follow him at http://twitter.com/derrickokeefe.

Canadian Progressive Leader Jack Layton’s Final Letter August 22, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada.
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Roger’s note:

To Olivia, Mike and Sarah I offer my deepest condolences on your and our incalculable loss.  I had
the privilege of knowing, befriending and working side by side with Jack for several decades.  He was one of the most
kind hearted, generous, and dedicated individuals I have ever known.  He leaves behind a legacy of which we can all
be proud.  He was not only a great Canadian, but a great Human Being.   It is hard to believe he is no longer with us. 
He will be greatly missed, but thousands who were inspired by his spirit and courage will continue the struggle for social justice that was so dear to
his heart.

I first knew of Jackback in the 1980s when I heard him giving lectures on the radio (CJRT, Ryerson, if I remember correctly) on municipal government.

 

Jack was, among other things, a polished auctioneer, and both before and during his life in
government, was the major attraction at the 519 Church Street Community
Centre’s annual fundraising auction. We had this shtick, I would enter the back
of the auditorium, raise my hand and say, “Hi, Jack,” and he would
respond with “Sold!,” and I was stuck with whatever was on the block
at that moment.

 

We served together on both City and Metro Council, and it was Jack’s Health Department report on the
deadly emissions from the Commissioner Street Incinerator that was crucial in
my first campaign in Toronto’s Ward 7. Jack seconded my motion on Council that
effected the closure of that enormous polluter within six months of my being elected.

 

I have known over the years many individuals like Jack, who went from community activism to electoral
politics and government. The vast majority, I am sorry to say, get seduced by
the power and prestige, enjoy the privileges and ego polishing of being a
member of the Club (which includes all three political parties), and gradually
lose their community roots and commitments. This was not so for Jack. I was far
to the left of Jack Layton and didn’t always agree with his compromises, but I
can honestly say that he never lost sight of the community to which he owed his
support, and for that he always had my trust and respect as he did of the communities that elected him with huge majorities.

 

Jack Layton, the man,was one of the most decent, generous, dedicated, transparent, and hard working
individuals that I have had the privilege to know in my lifetime.  He will be sadly missed
both as a leader and a human being.

 

In thinking of our loss of Jack, I am reminded of the last words of that great humanitarian and
activist, Joe Hill: “don’t mourn, organize.” I am mourning the loss
of Jack as a friend, but I thing that Jack’s deepest desire for us now would be
to continue with the work ahead of us to bring social justice to Canada.

Published on Monday, August 22, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

“Let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.”

TORONTO — The leader of Canada’s socialist New Democratic Party, Jack Layton, died Monday of cancer at his Toronto home, his family said. He was 61.

“We deeply regret to inform you that the Honorable Jack Layton, leader of the New Democratic Party of Canada, passed away at 4:45 a.m. today,” a statement from his wife, Olivia Chow, and his children, Sarah and Michael said.

It was known he had undergone treatment for prostate cancer last year, but on July 25, a pale, drawn and thin-voiced Layton announced the cancer had metastasized and he was temporarily stepping away from the party’s leadership while he underwent treatment.

Layton was born in Montreal on July 18, 1950, to a political family whose history dates back to Canada’s founding in 1867.

TORONTO — Text of a letter from Jack Layton to Canadians:

August 20, 2011

Toronto, Ontario

Dear Friends,

Tens of thousands of Canadians have written to me in recent weeks to wish me well. I want to thank each and every one of you for your thoughtful, inspiring and often beautiful notes, cards and gifts. Your spirit and love have lit up my home, my spirit, and my determination.

Unfortunately my treatment has not worked out as I hoped. So I am giving this letter to my partner Olivia to share with you in the circumstance in which I cannot continue.

I recommend that Hull-Aylmer MP Nycole Turmel continue her work as our interim leader until a permanent successor is elected.

I recommend the party hold a leadership vote as early as possible in the New Year, on approximately the same timelines as in 2003, so that our new leader has ample time to reconsolidate our team, renew our party and our program, and move forward towards the next election.

A few additional thoughts:

To other Canadians who are on journeys to defeat cancer and to live their lives, I say this: please don’t be discouraged that my own journey hasn’t gone as well as I had hoped. You must not lose your own hope. Treatments and therapies have never been better in the face of this disease. You have every reason to be optimistic, determined, and focused on the future. My only other advice is to cherish every moment with those you love at every stage of your journey, as I have done this summer.

To the members of my party: we’ve done remarkable things together in the past eight years. It has been a privilege to lead the New Democratic Party and I am most grateful for your confidence, your support, and the endless hours of volunteer commitment you have devoted to our cause. There will be those who will try to persuade you to give up our cause. But that cause is much bigger than any one leader. Answer them by recommitting with energy and determination to our work. Remember our proud history of social justice, universal health care, public pensions and making sure no one is left behind. Let’s continue to move forward. Let’s demonstrate in everything we do in the four years before us that we are ready to serve our beloved Canada as its next government.

To the members of our parliamentary caucus: I have been privileged to work with each and every one of you. Our caucus meetings were always the highlight of my week. It has been my role to ask a great deal from you. And now I am going to do so again. Canadians will be closely watching you in the months to come. Colleagues, I know you will make the tens of thousands of members of our party proud of you by demonstrating the same seamless teamwork and solidarity that has earned us the confidence of millions of Canadians in the recent election.

To my fellow Quebecers: On May 2nd, you made an historic decision. You decided that the way to replace Canada’s Conservative federal government with something better was by working together in partnership with progressive-minded Canadians across the country. You made the right decision then; it is still the right decision today; and it will be the right decision right through to the next election, when we will succeed, together. You have elected a superb team of New Democrats to Parliament. They are going to be doing remarkable things in the years to come to make this country better for us all.

To young Canadians: All my life I have worked to make things better. Hope and optimism have defined my political career, and I continue to be hopeful and optimistic about Canada. Young people have been a great source of inspiration for me. I have met and talked with so many of you about your dreams, your frustrations, and your ideas for change. More and more, you are engaging in politics because you want to change things for the better. Many of you have placed your trust in our party. As my time in political life draws to a close I want to share with you my belief in your power to change this country and this world. There are great challenges before you, from the overwhelming nature of climate change to the unfairness of an economy that excludes so many from our collective wealth, and the changes necessary to build a more inclusive and generous Canada. I believe in you. Your energy, your vision, your passion for justice are exactly what this country needs today. You need to be at the heart of our economy, our political life, and our plans for the present and the future.

And finally, to all Canadians: Canada is a great country, one of the hopes of the world. We can be a better one — a country of greater equality, justice, and opportunity. We can build a prosperous economy and a society that shares its benefits more fairly. We can look after our seniors. We can offer better futures for our children. We can do our part to save the world’s environment. We can restore our good name in the world. We can do all of these things because we finally have a party system at the national level where there are real choices; where your vote matters; where working for change can actually bring about change. In the months and years to come, New Democrats will put a compelling new alternative to you. My colleagues in our party are an impressive, committed team. Give them a careful hearing; consider the alternatives; and consider that we can be a better, fairer, more equal country by working together. Don’t let them tell you it can’t be done.

My friends, love is better than anger. Hope is better than fear. Optimism is better than despair. So let us be loving, hopeful and optimistic. And we’ll change the world.

All my very best,

Jack Layton

Daniel Berrigan: A Lifetime of Peace Activism May 9, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Peace, Religion, War, War on Terror.
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Published on Monday, May 9, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

 
by Deena Guzder

Jingoistic crowds erupted with frat-boy glee shortly after President Barack Obama announced the extrajudicial assassination of Osama Bin Laden earlier this month. After all, America’s public enemy Numero Uno — our own veritable Darth Vadar – had lost what the mainstream media depicts as a Manichean battle ten years in the making.  The lone voices in the wilderness that dared to point out the covert operation violated elementary norms of international law were quickly dismissed as “fanatics”. 

According to prevailing wisdom in the United States today, the best way to eradicate the world of a hateful ideology is by deploying 80 commandos on the home of an unarmed suspect and murdering him on the spot.  Yet, we already see the entirely predictable consequences of the Osama bin Laden raid.  In Portland, Maine, a mosque was defaced just hours after the news broke of bin Laden’s death. The graffiti read, “Osama Today, Islam tomorow” [sic].  Less than a week later, any misconception that the so-called Global War on Terror was winding down was dispelled when a drone attack killed at least eight people in Pakistan’s North Waziristan.  Meanwhile Secretary of State Hillary Clinton disingenuously conflated al-Qaeda with the Taliban and, with bellicose bravado, declared the U.S. would continue its war in Afghanistan. And, in Pakistan, hundreds of Jamaat-ud-Dawa activists prayed in Karachi for their new martyr: Osama bin Laden. 
 
Many great minds have questioned the logic of retributive violence, but perhaps none as persistently and unwaveringly as Father Daniel Berrigan. Today, the lifelong social justice activist and renegade Jesuit priest turns 90 years old. At a time when self-proclaimed Christian politicians espouse a Tea Party-inspired theology of xenophobia and vengeance, Berrigan is a rare soul that continues tirelessly opposing violence in its many forms.  Along with his late brother Phillip, he has publicly opposed aid to alleged anti-Communist forces in Southeast Asia, the use of American forces in Grenada, the installation of Pershing missiles in West Germany, aid to the Contras in Nicaragua, intervention in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion, the Cold War, and the Gulf War.  Berrigan also vocally opposed the U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.[1]  For Berrigan, Christianity is a counter-cultural practice directly at odds with the prevailing national culture of retributive justice. Arrested more times than he can count — but “fewer than I should have been,” Berrigan says — he has spent over half a century digging mock graves on the Pentagon’s front lawn, pouring vials of his own blood on Capitol Hill, vandalizing army airplanes, hammering on nuclear nosecones, turning his back on judges during his sentencing hearings, staging hunger strikes in prisons, undergoing strip searches for educating his fellow inmates, and standing in court on charges ranging from “criminal mischief” to “destruction of government property” to, most egregiously, “failure to quit.” [2]  Berrigan fears moral suicide over physical death and regards moral autonomy as more liberating than physical freedom. 
Last year, after badgering members of the Catholic Worker community across the country, I tracked down America’s most famous living priest. When I arrived at Berrigan’s Lower West Side friary in Manhattan, I half expected to find a Bible-toting warrior, but on that clement morning, I walked into the friary’s cozy hallway to find a slightly hunched elderly man with a meek smile and skin crinkled like aluminum foil. Greeting me with the softest, gentlest “hello” that I’ve heard since my first day at Montessori school, Father Berrigan clasped my hand and led me into his tastefully decorated office. The walls of his office showcased posters of freedom fighters such as Mahatma Gandhi, a child’s drawing of a circus clown, and framed quilts of butterflies. Among his impressive collection of books are volumes by his longtime heroes: Dorothy Day, Martin Luther King Jr., and Thomas Merton. Just shy of his ninetieth birthday, Berrigan spoke with me for an hour and a half, patiently answering my many questions and stopping only twice or so to cough.
 
Berrigan told me of surviving a Depression-era boyhood, an abusive father, and countless wars to emerge with a startlingly simple message: stop the violence. If Berrigan had lived during slavery, he would have fought with the abolitionists, but he would not have joined John Brown in leading violent slave insurrections. Even at the height of his Vietnam antiwar activism–or, as his detractors would say, the height of his arrogance–Berrigan never condoned violence. A tape-recorded message to the Weatherman Underground, attributed to Berrigan in 1971, pleads with the militant group to return to nonviolence, warning,: “No principle is worth the sacrifice of a single human being.”
 
In a world still wracked by violence, Berrigan’s peace testimony remains largely unheard and his pacifist views are too often dismissed as naïve.  As we celebrate his lifelong commitment to social justice activism on his birthday, may we remember his startlingly clear message that violence is not the answer even when it’s seems most tempting and most justified.  As Berrigan and so many others have noted, our convictions matter most when they’re tested on the crucible of life — not when they are easy, safe, and fashionable. If we believe in a world in which international law triumphs over unilateral action; mercy triumphs over vengeance; and clemency over sacrifice then Berrigan’s lifelong testimony teaches us that there are no exceptions.  

Notes:
[1] Joe Sabia, “The Cornell Catholic Community is in Crisis” Cornell Daily Sun. September 23, 2003

[2] For more see Gary Smith, “Peace Warriors,” The Washington Post Magazine, June 5, 1988, W22. June 5, 1988. 

 

Deena Guzder

Deena Guzder is an independent journalist who has reported on human rights issues across the globe. She is the author of Divine Rebels (Chicago Review Press 2011), which includes a profile of Daniel Berrigan. Please visit her website: www.DeenaGuzder.com

Peace Movement Under Attack by US Government September 26, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Civil Liberties, Peace, War.
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(Roger’s note: I have been waiting for this to happen.  I knew that it would only be a matter of time before the phony “war on terror” would be used to silence and repress opposition at home.  It has occurred to me that the Military Commissions Act and the effective abandonment of habeas corpus would give the government new and powerful weapons to attack the peace movement along with any other serious opposition to US military expansionism.

 

This was supposed to have been a Cheney/Bush thing, and the election of Obama was supposed to have reversed the trend.  How naïve to have believed this.  Obama has actually reinforced the federal government’s ability to act with impunity in the violation of civil liberties with its defence of states’ secrets and phony national security.

 

We have entered a new era of McCarthyism.  The association of legitimate non-violent protest with “terrorism” is uncannily reminiscent of the association of the civil rights and anti-Vietnam War era protest with Communism.  

 

It is classic red baiting.  It is déjà vu all over again.)

UNITED NATIONAL ANTIWAR COMMITTEE

http://www.nationalpeaceconference.org

UNAC, P.O. Box 123, Delmar, NY 12054; Ph. 518-281-1968

 or 518-227-6947  UNACpeace@gmail.com

 

Antiwar movement under attack!

Defend victims of FBI/government raids, seizures and subpoenas!

–     Statement and  Call to Action

 

   On the morning of Sept. 24, FBI agents armed with Grand Jury subpoenas raided the homes of several antiwar and social justice activists in Minnesota, Michigan and Illinois. As we write reports are coming in that FBI agents have been contacting other activists in Wisconsin, North Carolina and California.

Among those subpoenaed and/or whose organizations are under attack are supporters of the United National Antiwar Committee (UNAC). They attended our founding July 23-25, 2010, Albany, New York founding national conference of 800 activists from 35 states. The UNAC conference approved a 28-point Action Plan culminating in bi-coastal San Francisco/New York mass demonstrations demanding that the U.S. government immediately withdraw of all U.S. troops, mercenaries and war contractors from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Other conference –approved demands were  “End U.S. aid to Israel – military, economic and diplomatic. End U.S. support to the Israeli Occupation of Palestine and the siege of Gaza!”

Using the pretext of investigating “terrorism,” and with “possibly providing material aid to terrorists,” the FBI agents – 20 in the Twin Cities and 12 in Chicago – were armed with search and seizure warrants signed by U.S. Magistrate Judges and/or representatives  of the U.S. Attorney’s office. They seized computers, cell phones, political leaflets and other printed materials.  In Minnesota agents worked for 12 hours confiscating material including 30 boxes of literature, photographs of Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X and pictures drawn by their children.

The individuals targeted included leaders of organizations like the Minneapolis Antiwar Committee, whose office was raided, the Palestine Solidarity Group, the Colombia Action Network and the Freedom Road Socialist Organization.

The activists were ordered to appear before Grand Juries in various cities investigating criminal activity and possible association  with  “terrorist” organizations. The earliest subpoena dates were October 5 and 7.

The FBI also has also served or harassed activists in North Carolina and Wisconsin as part of the same “investigation.”

The government’s subpoenas “commanded” the recipients to bring with them to the Grand Jury proceedings:

“(1) all pictures and videos relating to any trip to Colombia, Jordan, Syria, the Palestinian Territories, or Israel;

(2) all items relating to any trip to Colombia, Jordan, Syria, the Palestinian Territories, or Israel; 

(3) all correspondence, including but not limited to emails and letters, with anyone residing in Colombia, Jordan, Syria, the Palestinian Territories,  or Israel;

(4) all records of any payment provided directly or indirectly to Hatem Abudayyeh, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (“PFLP”) or the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (“FARC”);

(5) all records of any telephonic or electronic communications with anyone in Colombia, Jordan, Syria, the Palestinian Territories, or Israel; and

(6) any item related to any support provided to any designated terrorist organization, including the PFLP or the FARC.”

All those subpoenaed have refused to discuss their political work and views with FBI agents, as is their right. They have publicly denounced these raids as an attempt by the government to intimidate and repress opposition to U.S. wars of intervention and occupation.

The United National Antiwar Committee denounces the government’s raids, seizures and subpoena as an attack on the entire antiwar movement and all organizations seeking social justice and an end to U.S. wars of intervention around the world. We stand in full solidarity with all those who now face government persecution and possible imprisonment.

The United National Antiwar Committee demands:

• Stop the repression against anti-war and international solidarity activists.

• Immediately return all confiscated materials: computers, cell phones, papers, documents, etc. 

End the Grand Jury proceedings and FBI raids against all anti-war activists.

We call on all antiwar and social justice organization across the country to organize protest demonstrations in the coming days at Federal Buildings or FBI offices.

  

Demonstrations have already been called in the following cities:

 Minneapolis MN, Mon: 4:30, FBI Office Monday, 111 Washington Ave. S.

Chicago, IL, Monday: 4:30 FBI Building, 2111 W. Roosevelt Rd.

NYC, Tues. 4:30 to 6pm Federal Building, 26 Federal Plaza,

Newark, NJ Tues 5 to 6pm Federal Building Broad Street

Washington DC, Tues 4:30 – 5:30 FBI Building 935 Pennsylvania Ave NW.

Detroit MI Tuesday 4:30 McNamara Federal Building

Buffalo, NY 4:30 at FBI Building – Corner of So. Elmwood Ave. & Niagara St.

Durham NC on Monday, 12 noon Federal Building, 323 E Chapel Hill St

Raleigh NC. Tuesday 9 am. Federal Building, 310 New Bern Ave

Asheville, NC Tuesday

Atlanta, GA, Tues Noon, FBI Building

Gainesville, FL on Monday, 4:30 PM at FBI Building

Salt Lake City, Utah, 9 AM on Monday at Federal Building

Albany, NY, 5 – 6 PM, Wednesday at the Federal Buildkng

Add your voice to denounce the attacks on antiwar and social justice activists. Call the U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder at 202-353-1555 or write an email to: AskDOJ@usdoj.gov.

Send copies of all communications to UNAC at the above email address. Affiliate your organization to UNAC now! Join our National Coordinating Committee of antiwar and social justice organizations across the county to immediately end all U.S. wars, interventions. Trillions for jobs, education and human needs not war!

Joe Lombardo and Marilyn Levin,

Co-coordinators, United National Antiwar Committee

War Crimes against Women: A Private Hell May 16, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Human Rights, War, Women.
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Published on Sunday, May 16, 2010by Laura Carlsen

Gender justice is an unfamiliar term to most people. Many assume it is merely a feminine (and therefore diminutive) form of justice, created by adding an awkward adjective to an abstract ideal.

But thanks to years of documenting gender-based crimes, pressure from women’s movements, testimony from victims and legal arguments, there is now a body of jurisprudence and a history of movements that define gender justice and promote it internationally. At an historic conference in April, organized by the Women’s Initiative for Gender Justice (WIGJ) and the Nobel Women’s Initiative, fifty women gathered in a Mexican beach town to evaluate the progress of gender justice and set forth a three-year work agenda.

I had the good fortune and tremendous responsibility of being among the luchadoras -women who struggle-charged with beginning this task. Participants made a collective promise to work closely with organizations back home and with the International Criminal Court and other bodies to end gender-based crimes in armed conflict and attain justice.

No small task. In a place as orienting as the edge of the Pacific Ocean, I often found myself disoriented by the enormity of it. I was part of a world linked by common values, but fragmented by hundreds of seemingly senseless wars-each with a political complexity and historical intransigence that defied solutions. The room filled with the stories of how women from diverse cultures, rich in resistance but plagued by discrimination and traditions of gender violence, seek peace and justice in equally diverse ways.

Some are immersed in internationally recognized conflict situations, others in peace processes, and others in rebuilding post-conflict societies. The law provides some framework, albeit insufficient, for their demands for punishment and reparations for gender-based crimes. They are learning to use those legal tools.

But many of us from Latin America came from countries where conflict situations are not internationally recognized; peace in Honduras and Colombia has been restored, we are told, even as murder, displacement and crimes against women continue on a daily basis. Mexico’s growing violence against women in the context of the drug war and impunity is the dirt that is routinely swept under the political rug. We grappled with questions of where we fit into the international legal system, how we could build movements to stop gender-based crimes in low-level local conflicts, how a stronger gender perspective could help fend off the growing militarism that marks our lives.

Some women spoke the language of the courtroom and explained the international instruments that have been developed to document and punish gender-based war crimes. Other women talked of grassroots organizing tactics and how to build peace movements that take women’s demands and realities into account. Their experiences combined provided a broad and complex range of strategies. They reflected what Brigid Inder of WIGJ called “the tension between the punitive formal justice model and the more comprehensive and complex agenda for what we call transformative justice, where the finding of guilt or innocence is accompanied by efforts to transform both communal and gender relations.”

Common themes soon emerged. Testimonies from brave women revealed that within the hell of war lies a private hell. The hell of sexual violence-an inner circle shielded from scrutiny by the socially imposed shame of its victims and the willful ignorance of legal and political systems.

Our Latin American perspective required us to interpret from a framework of recognized conflict with an applicable body of international law, to a continent of emerging threats including the drug war and local battles over natural resources. The thread that united our experiences was the role of women as the leaders of social justice movements and the victims of conflict.

The sands beneath our feet shifted during the conference. Not when the tide rolled over during early morning walks on the beach-although those moments were also an important part of forging a common commitment-but when we heard survivors´ stories and statistics like these, from Joan Chittister:

* At the turn of the 20th century, 5% of war casualties were civilians
* In World War I, 15% were civilians
* In World War II, the figure leapt to a 65% civilian death toll, as whole cities were bombed
* By the mid-nineties, 75% of war deaths were civilians
* Today, 90% of the human war toll are civilians-the majority women and children

Forget the complaints of “collateral damage”. As military leaders brag that modern technology has produced the most accurate weapons in history, during war strikes in places like Iraq or Afghanistan, women and children die.

They are not the collateral damage-they are the targets.

When finally, through the efforts of women like those at the Dialogue, international agencies produce some statistics on rape and other forms of sexual violence in conflict situations, the figures are so staggering, the stories so shockingly brutal, that all attempts to explain away the phenomenon as the acts of a few rogue soldiers or part of the pillage of war fall away. Rape is a calculated weapon of war. It decimates communities, destroys families, spreads disease and leaves deep physical and psychological scars. That is the purpose.

No geographic region has a corner on barbarity when it comes to gender-based crimes. For example, women reported sex crimes and violence by paramilitary and military forces against displaced populations in Burma, Colombia and Sudan.

Many speakers noted that the use of women’s bodies as both the spoils and the battlefields of war appears to be on the rise. In some cases, women organizers for peace and justice have made progress, such as the fight against land mines and for peace in Northern Ireland, but new and terrible challenges have emerged in unexpected points of the planet, like Honduras. The opportunity to compare notes, to learn what works, what doesn’t work, who are allies and who are enemies gave renewed commitment and shared knowledge to women peace organizers who girthed themselves to return home to local battles.

Gender Justice is now an international issue

The International Criminal Court as a Tool of Gender Justice

The timing of the Dialogue responded to an immediate challenge: in early June the Assembly of State Parties will hold a 10-year Review Conference of the International Criminal Court. In addition, the year marks the fifteenth anniversary of the Beijing World Conference on Women, the tenth anniversary of the UN Security Council resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security, and the dawn of a new “gender architecture” within the UN to promote women’s rights. As the organizers explained, “This is an opportune moment to reflect on the progress and work of the ICC, the possibilities embodied in the Rome Statute for the accountability of conflict-related crimes, and the responsibilities of the United Nations for the deterrence and resolution of armed conflicts, women’s global citizenship and gender-inclusive international justice.”

The ICC is currently hearing cases from four armed conflicts-Uganda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic and Sudan-and all include charges of gender-based crimes. It has provided a forum to seek justice and to create public awareness of these crimes and has launched innovative projects, including the ICC Trust Fund for Victims. For women involved in giving testimonies-women and girls who live with the scars of war-time rapes and mutilations-the work of the court may be far away but the concept of justice that it seeks to provide is at the core of their daily lives.

The ICC takes a case when national systems of justice will not or do not function. It can be a blow against impunity. It is easy to think of impunity as a sin of omission. The hand not raised in protest appears genteel alongside the hand stained with the blood of the victim. And yet we learned from the testimonies of women on the frontlines of the battle for gender justice that impunity not only perpetrates crimes against women, it teaches generation after generation how to continue the practice.

Dialogue members noted that the international system offers both opportunities and limitations. Joanne Sandler of UNIFEM warned that Resolutions are not always proof of resolve. Since the Security Council issued Resolution 1325, there have been 24 formal peace processes. Women have been only 10% of the negotiators and 2% of the signatories. Worse yet, she said, there doesn’t seem to be progress. More formal mechanisms are needed to assure compliance with gender policies. Without permanent pressure from women organizers and experts, legal advances could remain a dead letter.

From the Courts to the Streets and Back Again

Gender-based crimes require responses in three areas: Prevention, protection and reparation. Experts working in the international legal system noted that prevention, the most important of all, is given fewer resources because it does not have measurable benchmarks. How do you measure the number of lives not nearly destroyed by horrors we can scarcely imagine? Participants agreed that although bureaucrats have yet to come up with a formula, prevention should be our ultimate goal.

To prevent sex crimes requires nothing short of a revolution in cultural, political and social norms. This group has demonstrated its willingness to step up to the task. The Nobel Women’s Initiative was founded by six women Nobel Prize winners who refused to rest on their laurels. Then there is Yanar Mohammed of Iraq, who went out into a Baghdad street to speak on International Woman’s Day in a bullet-proof vest, following numerous death threats, and then went on to denounce the rape of women in detention centers and sex trafficking, and create a vibrant cultural movement for youth.

Or Gilda Rivera, who was kidnapped and beaten during Honduras´ dirty wars of the eighties, then saw the nightmare return when a military coup d’état took over her country in June of 2009. It would be enough to drive anyone into exile or retreat. It drove Gilda into the streets of Tegucigalpa. Every morning she marched against the coup and every afternoon organized with Feminists in Resistance to protect women and document the crimes against them.

Too often the cry is not heard. Deputy Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, in a taped message, called rape “the silent crime against communities.” Then she immediately questioned the terminology, asking “Is rape really silent?” Women scream, yet far too often no one hears. Just sharing stories was a sort of catharsis for women who see far too much suffering in their work and lives. The Dialogue provided a forum to cry out to a gathering that will not only hear, but act.

What to do faced with such a daunting challenge?

The question was on the table, and since this was an action-oriented gathering there was no escaping it. The International Gender Justice Dialogue sketched out ideas for the coming years in three areas: peace talks and implementation, justice and jurisprudence and communications. Dialogue members came up with lists of tactics, hints, strategies and challenges for the coming years, from Nobel Laureate Jody Williams´ creative messaging in the successful campaign to ban land mines, to lawyers´ advice on using the court.

But the key message was just one: Don’t give up. Ever.

As I write this, we have just received word that human rights defender Bety Cariño was murdered by paramilitary forces in the Mexican state of Oaxaca. She was part of a humanitarian aid caravan and is the third woman murdered in the conflict in this region recently. Bety wasn’t necessarily singled out as a woman, but it’s no coincidence that she was one. The same concerns and qualities that make it imperative for women to be among the peace negotiators and the leaders in social reconstruction and justice proceedings are the qualities that led Bety to become a defender of grassroots movements and to be carrying aid to an autonomous indigenous community when she was shot to death.

Bety´s assassination, the recruitment of girl soldiers in the DRC, rape in Sudan all are issues of gender justice. Jody William points out that that doesn’t mean they are “women’s issues.”

Gender justice is not a subcategory of social justice; it’s an essential component.

This article was originally published by Open Democracy.

Copyright © Fluxxus Digital Limited 2010

Laura Carlsen (lcarlsen(at)ciponline.org) is director of the Americas Policy Program (www.americaspolicy.org) in Mexico City, where she has been an analyst and writer for two decades. She is also a Foreign Policy In Focus columnist.

Howard Zinn: A Public Intellectual Who Mattered January 28, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in Uncategorized.
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Thursday 28 January 2010

by: Henry A. Giroux, t r u t h o u t | Op-Edphoto
(Illustration: Jared Rodriguez / t r u t h o u t)

In 1977 I took my first job in higher education at Boston University. One reason I went there was because Howard Zinn was teaching there at the time. As a high school teacher, Howard’s book, “Vietnam: the Logic of Withdrawal,” published in 1968, had a profound effect on me. Not only was it infused with a passion and sense of commitment that I admired as a high school teacher and tried to internalize as part of my own pedagogy, but it captured something about the passion, sense of commitment and respect for solidarity that came out of Howard’s working-class background. It offered me a language, history and politics that allowed me to engage critically and articulate my opposition to the war that was raging at the time.

I grew up in Providence, Rhode Island, and rarely met or read any working-class intellectuals. After reading James Baldwin, hearing William Kunstler and Stanley Aronowitz give talks, I caught a glimpse of what it meant to occupy such a fragile, contradictory and often scorned location. But reading Howard gave me the theoretical tools to understand more clearly how the mix of biography, cultural capital and class location could be finely honed into a viable and laudable politics.

Later, as I got to know Howard personally, I was able to fill in the details about his working-class background and his intellectual development. We had grown up in similar neighborhoods, shared a similar cultural capital and we both probably learned more from the streets than we had ever learned in formal schooling. There was something about Howard’s fearlessness, his courage, his willingness to risk not just his academic position, but also his life, that marked him as special – untainted by the often corrupting privileges of class entitlement.

Before I arrived in Boston to begin teaching at Boston University, Howard was a mythic figure for me and I was anxious to meet him in real life. How I first encountered him was perfectly suited to the myth. While walking to my first class, as I was nearing the university, filled with the trepidation of teaching a classroom of students, I caught my fist glimpse of Howard. He was standing on a box with a bullhorn in front of the Martin Luther King memorial giving a talk calling for opposition and resistance to the Vietnam War. The image so perfectly matched my own understanding of Howard that I remember thinking to myself, this has to be the perfect introduction to such a heroic figure.

Soon afterwards, I wrote him a note and rather sheepishly asked if we could meet. He got back to me in a day; we went out to lunch soon afterwards, and a friendship developed that lasted over 30 years. While teaching at Boston University, I often accompanied Howard when he went to high schools to talk about his published work or his plays. I sat in on many of his lectures and even taught one of his graduate courses. He loved talking to students and they were equally attracted to him. His pedagogy was dynamic, directive, focused, laced with humor and always open to dialog and interpretation. He was a magnificent teacher, who shredded all notions of the classroom as a place that was as uninteresting as it was often irrelevant to larger social concerns. He urged his students not just to learn from history, but to use it as a resource to sharpen their intellectual prowess and hone their civic responsibilities.

Howard refused to separate what he taught in the university classroom, or any forum for that matter, from the most important problems and issues facing the larger society. But he never demanded that students follow his own actions; he simply provided a model of what a combination of knowledge, teaching and social commitment meant. Central to Howard’s pedagogy was the belief that teaching students how to critically understand a text or any other form of knowledge was not enough. They also had to engage such knowledge as part of a broader engagement with matters of civic agency and social responsibility. How they did that was up to them, but, most importantly, they had to link what they learned to a self-reflective understanding of their own responsibility as engaged individuals and social actors.

He offered students a range of options. He wasn’t interested in molding students in the manner of Pygmalion, but in giving them the widest possible set of choices and knowledge necessary for them to view what they learned as an act of freedom and empowerment. There is a certain poetry in his pedagogical style and scholarship and it is captured in his belief that one can take a position without standing still. He captured this sentiment well in a comment he made in his autobiography, “You Can’t Be Neutral on a Moving Train.” He wrote:

“From the start, my teaching was infused with my own history. I would try to be fair to other points of view, but I wanted more than ‘objectivity'; I wanted students to leave my classes not just better informed, but more prepared to relinquish the safety of silence, more prepared to speak up, to act against injustice wherever they saw it. This, of course, was a recipe for trouble.”

In fact, Howard was under constant attack by John Silber, then president of Boston University, because of his scholarship and teaching. One expression of that attack took the form of freezing Howard’s salary for years.

Howard loved watching independent and Hollywood films and he and I and Roz [Howard’s wife] saw many films together while I was in Boston. I remember how we quarreled over “Last Tango in Paris.” I loved the film, but he disagreed. But Howard disagreed in a way that was persuasive and instructive. He listened, stood his ground, and, if he was wrong, often said something like, “O.K., you got a point,” always accompanied by that broad and wonderful smile.

What was so moving and unmistakable about Howard was his humility, his willingness to listen, his refusal of all orthodoxies and his sense of respect for others. I remember once when he was leading a faculty strike at BU in the late 1970s and I mentioned to him that too few people had shown up. He looked at me and made it very clear that what should be acknowledged is that some people did show up and that was a beginning. He rightly put me in my place that day – a lesson I never forgot.

Howard was no soppy optimist, but someone who believed that human beings, in the face of injustice and with the necessary knowledge, were willing to resist, organize and collectively struggle. Howard led the committee organized to fight my firing by Silber. We lost that battle, but Howard was a source of deep comfort and friendship for me during a time when I had given up hope. I later learned that Silber, the notorious right-wing enemy of Howard and anyone else on the left, had included me on a top-ten list of blacklisted academics at BU. Hearing that I shared that list with Howard was a proud moment for me. But Howard occupied a special place in Silber’s list of enemies, and he once falsely accused Howard of arson, a charge he was later forced to retract once the charge was leaked to the press.

Howard was one of the few intellectuals I have met who took education seriously. He embraced it as both necessary for creating an informed citizenry and because he rightly felt it was crucial to the very nature of politics and human dignity. He was a deeply committed scholar and intellectual for whom the line between politics and life, teaching and civic commitment collapsed into each other.

Howard never allowed himself to be seduced either by threats, the seductions of fame or the need to tone down his position for the standard bearers of the new illiteracy that now populates the mainstream media. As an intellectual for the public, he was a model of dignity, engagement and civic commitment. He believed that addressing human suffering and social issues mattered, and he never flinched from that belief. His commitment to justice and the voices of those expunged from the official narratives of power are evident in such works as his monumental and best-known book, “A People’s History of the United States,” but it was also evident in many of his other works, talks, interviews and the wide scope of public interventions that marked his long and productive life. Howard provided a model of what it meant to be an engaged scholar, who was deeply committed to sustaining public values and a civic life in ways that linked theory, history and politics to the everyday needs and language that informed everyday life. He never hid behind a firewall of jargon, refused to substitute irony for civic courage and disdained the assumption that working-class and oppressed people were incapable of governing themselves.

Unlike so many public relations intellectuals today, I never heard him interview himself while talking to others. Everything he talked about often pointed to larger social issues, and all the while, he completely rejected any vestige of political and moral purity. His lack of rigidity coupled with his warmness and humor often threw people off, especially those on the left and right who seem to pride themselves on their often zombie-like stoicism. But, then again, Howard was not a child of privilege. He had a working-class sensibility, though hardly romanticized, and sympathy for the less privileged in society along with those whose voices had been kept out of the official narratives as well as a deeply felt commitment to solidarity, justice, dialogue and hope. And it was precisely this great sense of dignity and generosity in his politics and life that often moved people who shared his company privately or publicly. A few days before his death, he sent me an email commenting on something I had written for Truthout about zombie politics. (It astonishes me that this will have been the last correspondence. Even at my age, the encouragement and support of this man, this towering figure in my life, meant such a great deal.) His response captures something so enduring and moving about his spirit. He wrote:

“Henry, we are in a situation where mild rebuke, even critiques we consider ‘radical’ are not sufficient. (Frederick Douglass’ speech on the Fourth of July in 1852, thunderously angry, comes close to what is needed). Raising the temperature of our language, our indignation, is what you are doing and what is needed. I recall that Sartre, close to death, was asked: ‘What do you regret?’ He answered: ‘I wasn’t radical enough.'”

I suspect that Howard would have said the same thing about himself. And maybe no one can ever be radical enough, but Howard came close to that ideal in his work, life and politics. Howard’s death is especially poignant for me because I think the formative culture that produced intellectuals like him is gone. He leaves an enormous gap in the lives of many thousands of people who knew him and were touched by the reality of the embodied and deeply felt politics he offered to all of us. I will miss him, his emails, his work, his smile and his endearing presence. Of course, he would frown on such a sentiment, and with a smile would more than likely say, “do more than mourn, organize.” Of course, he would be right, but maybe we can do both.

Editor’s Note: Howard Zinn and Henry A. Giroux not only shared a long personal friendship but also many professional and political connections. Henry A. Giroux recently joined the Truthout Board of Directors. Howard Zinn was a member of Truthout’s Board of Advisors and his comments and suggestions about our work will be greatly missed by all of us. to/vh

Howard Zinn: The Historian Who Made History January 28, 2010

Posted by rogerhollander in History, Revolution.
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Published on Thursday, January 28, 2010 by The Nationby Dave Zirin

Howard Zinn, my hero, teacher, and friend died of a heart attack on Wednesday at the age of 87. With his death, we lose a man who did nothing less than rewrite the narrative of the United States. We lose a historian who also made history.

Anyone who believes that the United States is immune to radical politics never attended a lecture by Howard Zinn. The rooms would be packed to the rafters, as entire families, black, white and brown, would arrive to hear their own history made humorous as well as heroic. “What matters is not who’s sitting in the White House. What matters is who’s sitting in!” he would say with a mischievous grin. After this casual suggestion of civil disobedience, the crowd would burst into laughter and applause.

Only Howard could pull that off because he was entirely authentic. When he spoke against poverty it was from the perspective of someone who had to work in the shipyards during the Great Depression. When he spoke against war, it was from the perspective of someone who flew as a bombardier during World War II, and was forever changed by the experience. When he spoke against racism it was from the perspective of someone who taught at Spelman College during the civil rights movement and was arrested sitting in with his students.

And of course, when he spoke about history, it was from the perspective of having written A People’s History of the United States, a book that has sold more than two million copies and changed the lives of countless people. Count me among them. When I was 17 and picked up a dog-eared copy of Zinn’s book, I thought history was about learning that the Magna Carta was signed in 1215. I couldn’t tell you what the Magna Carta was, but I knew it was signed in 1215. Howard took this history of great men in powdered wigs and turned it on its pompous head.

In Howard’s book, the central actors were the runaway slaves, the labor radicals, the masses and the misfits. It was history writ by Robin Hood, speaking to a desire so many share: to actually make history instead of being history’s victim. His book came alive in December with the debut of The People Speak on the History Channel as actors, musicians, and poets, brought Zinn’s book alive.

Howard was asked once whether his praise of dissent and protest was divisive. He answered beautifully: “Yes, dissent and protest are divisive, but in a good way, because they represent accurately the real divisions in society. Those divisions exist – the rich, the poor – whether there is dissent or not, but when there is no dissent, there is no change. The dissent has the possibility not of ending the division in society, but of changing the reality of the division. Changing the balance of power on behalf of the poor and the oppressed.”

Words like this made Howard my hero. I never thought we would also become friends. But through our mutual cohort, Anthony Arnove, Howard read my sports writing and then gave his blessing to a book project we called A People’s History of Sports in the United States.

We also did a series of meetings together where I would interview Howard on stage. Even at 87, he still had his sharp wit, strong voice, and matinee-idol white hair. But his body had become frail. Despite this physical weakness, Howard would stay and sign hundreds of books until his hand would shake with the effort.

At our event in Madison, Wisconsin, Howard issued a challenge to the audience. He said, “Our job as citizens is to honestly assess what Obama is doing. Not measured just against Bush, because against Bush, everybody looks good. But look honestly at what Obama’s doing and act as engaged and vigorous citizens.”

He also had no fear to express his political convictions loudly and proudly. I asked him about the prospects today for radical politics and he said,

“Let’s talk about socialism. … I think it’s very important to bring back the idea of socialism into the national discussion to where it was at the turn of the [last] century before the Soviet Union gave it a bad name. Socialism had a good name in this country. Socialism had Eugene Debs. It had Clarence Darrow. It had Mother Jones. It had Emma Goldman. It had several million people reading socialist newspapers around the country… Socialism basically said, hey, let’s have a kinder, gentler society. Let’s share things. Let’s have an economic system that produces things not because they’re profitable for some corporation, but produces things that people need. People should not be retreating from the word socialism because you have to go beyond capitalism.”

Howard Zinn taught millions of us a simple lesson: Agitate. Agitate. Agitate. But never lose your sense of humor in the process. It’s a beautiful legacy and however much it hurts to lose him, we should strive to build on Howard’s work and go out and make some history.

© 2010 The Nation

Dave Zirin is the author of Welcome to the Terrordome: the Pain Politics and Promise of Sports (Haymarket) and the newly published A People’s History of Sports in the United States (The New Press). and his writing has appeared in the Los Angeles Times, Sports Illustrated.com, New York Newsday and The Progressive. He is the host of XM Radio’s Edge of Sports Radio. Contact him at edgeofsports@gmail.com.

Bogus Honduran Elections Today: Hypocrites Washington, Costa Rica, Panama, Perú, Colombia & Israel the only nations to recognize the illegal elections November 29, 2009

Posted by rogerhollander in Foreign Policy, Honduras, Latin America.
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By Eva Golinger
The Chavez Code
Sunday, Nov 29, 2009

 

“What are we going to do, sit for four years and just condemn the coup?” a senior U.S. official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told reporters in Washington.

The true divides in Latin America – between justice and injustice, democracy and dictatorship, human rights and corporate rights, people’s power and imperial domination – have never been more visible than today. People’s movements throughout the region to revolutionize corrupt, unequal systems that have isolated and excluded the vast majority in Latin American nations, are successfully taking power democratically and building new models of economic and social justice.

Venezuela, Bolivia, Nicaragua and Ecuador are the vanguard of these movements, with other nations such as Uruguay and Argentina moving at a slower pace towards change. The region has historically been plagued by brutal US intervention, seeking at all costs to dominate the natural and strategic resources contained in this vast, abundant territory. With the exception of the defiant Cuban Revolution, Washington achieved control over puppet regimes placed throughout Latin America by the end of the twentieth century. When Hugo Chávez won the presidency in 1998 and the Bolivarian Revolution began to root, the balance of power and imperial control over the region started to weaken. Eight years of Bush/Cheney brought coup d’etats back to the region, in Venezuela in 2002 against President Chávez and Haiti in 2004 against President Aristide. The former was defeated by a mass popular uprising, the latter succeeded in ousting a president no longer convenient to Washington’s interests.

Despite the Bush administration’s efforts to neutralize the spread of revolution in Latin America through coups, economic sabotages, media warfare, psychological operations, electoral interventions and an increasing military presence, nations right across the border such as Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala elected leftist-leaning presidents. Latin American integration solidified with UNASUR (the union of South American nations) and ALBA (the Bolivarian Alliance of the Americas), and Washington’s grip on power began to slip away. Henry Kissinger said in the seventies, “if we can’t control Latin America, how can we dominate the world?” This imperial vision is more evident today than ever before.

Obama’s presence in the White House was erroneously viewed by many in the region as a sign of an end to US aggression in the world, and especially here, in Latin America. At least, many believed, Obama would downscale the growing tensions with its neighbors to the south. In fact, he himself, the new president of the United States, made allusion to such changes. But now, the Obama administration’s “Smart Power” strategy has been unmasked. The handshakes, smiles, gifts and promises of “no intervention” and “a new era” made by President Obama himself to leaders of Latin American nations last Spring at the Summit of the Americas meeting in Trinidad have unraveled and turned into cynical gestures of hypocrisy. When Obama came to power, Washington’s reputation in the region was at an all-time low. The meager attempts to “change” the North-South relationship in the Americas have made things worse and reaffirmed that Kissinger’s vision of control over this region is a state policy, irrespective of party affiliation or public discourse.

Washington’s role in the coup in Honduras against President Zelaya has been evident from day one. The continual funding of coup leaders, the US military presence at the Soto Cano base in Honduras, the ongoing meetings between State Department officials and the US Ambassador in Honduras, Hugo Llorens, with coup leaders, and the cynical attempts to force “mediation” and “negotiation” between the coup leaders and the legitimate government of Honduras, have provided clear evidence of Washington’s intentions to consolidate this new form of “smart coup”. The Obama administration’s initial public insistence on Zelaya’s legitimacy as president of Honduras quickly faded after the first weeks of the coup. Calls for “restitution of democratic and constitutional order” became weak whispers repeated by the monotone voices of State Department spokesmen.

The imposition of Costan Rican president Oscar Arias – a staunch ally of neoliberalism and imperialism -to “mediate” the negotiation ordered by Washington between coup leaders and President Zelaya was a circus. At the time, it was apparent that Washington was engaging in a “buying time” strategy, pandering to the coup leaders while publicly “working” to resolve the conflict in Honduras. Arias’ insincerity and complicity in the coup was evident from the very morning of Zelaya’s violent kidnapping and forced exile.

The Pentagon, State Department and CIA officials present on the Soto Cano base, which is controlled by Washington, arranged for Zelaya’s transport to Costa Rica. Arias had subserviently agreed to refuge the illegally ousted president and to not detain those who kidnapped him and piloted the plane that – in violation of international law – landed in Costa Rican territority. Today, Oscar Arias has called on all nations to “recognize” the illegal and illegitimate elections occurring in Honduras. Why not? he says, if there is no fraud or irregularity, “why not recognize the newly elected president?” The State Department and even President Obama himself have said the same thing, and are calling on all nations – pressuring – to recognize a regime that will be elected under a dictatorship. Seems that fraud and irregularity are already present, considering that today, no democracy exists in Honduras that would permit proper conditions for an electoral process. Not to mention that the State Department admitted to funding the elections and campaigns in Honduras weeks ago. And the “international observers” sent to witness and provide “credibility” to the illegal process are all agencies and agents of empire.

The International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute, both agencies created to filter funding from USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) to political parties abroad in order to promote US agenda, not only funded those groups involved in the Honduran coup, but now are “observing” the elections. Terrorist groups such as UnoAmerica, led by Venezuelan coup leader Alejando Peña Esclusa, have also sent “observers” to Honduras. Miami-Cuban terrorist and criminal Adolfo Franco, former USAID director, is another “heavyweight” on the list of electoral observers in Honduras today.

But the Organization of American States (OAS) and Carter Center, hardly “leftist” entities, have condemned the electoral process as illegitimate and refused to send observers. So have the United Nations and the European Union, as well as UNASUR and ALBA. Washington stands alone, with its right-wing puppet states in Colombia, Panamá, Perú, Costa Rica and Israel, as the only nations to have publicly indicated recognition of the electoral process in Honduras and the future regime. A high-level State Department official cynically declared to the Washington Post, “What are we going to do, sit for four years and just condemn the coup?” Well, Washington has sat for 50 years and refused to recognize the Cuban government. But that’s because the Cuban government is not convenient for Washington. The Honduran dictatorship is.

The Honduran resistance movement is boycotting the elections, calling on people to abstain from participating in an illegal process. The streets of Honduras have been taken over by thousands of military forces, under control of the coup regime and the Pentagon. With advanced weapons technology from Israel, the coup regime is prepared to massively repress and brutalize any who attempt to resist the electoral process. We must remain vigilant and stand with the people of Honduras in the face of the immense danger surrounding them. Today’s elections are a second coup d’etat against the Honduran people, this time openly designed, promoted, funded and supported by Washington. Whatever the result, no justice will be brought to Honduras until Washington’s intervention ceases.

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