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Reading I.F. Stone on Earth Day: Why We Still Won’t Get Anywhere Unless We Connect the Dots April 24, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Environment, Revolution.
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Roger’s note: I love it (actually I hate it) the way left radicals (including one as honest and forthright as I.F. Stone, a giant in the field of radical journalism) will basically lead us up to it, but will not use the R word.  There are reasons for this which I understand, foremost of which is the series of failed 20th century revolutions, beginning with the Soviet Union.  Unfortunately, “connect the dots” is a totally inadequate substitute for a genuine call to action.  Karl Marx was a radical journalist.  He wrote for European journals and the New York Daily Tribune.  Failed revolutions resulted from external aggressions and a failure to understand Marx, not the opposite.  In today’s North American academic, political, and corporate dominated media world, advocating revolution borders on the suicidal.  Nevertheless, critical analysis points in no other direction.

In his speech near the end, Stone says: “Until we have a leadership willing to make the enormous changes …”  Only the willfully blind can believe that the “leadership,” bought lock, stock and barrel by the military industrial complex, will ever be “willing” to make fundamental changes.  That will only come from below.

Nonetheless, kudos to Naomi Klein and to dear departed Izzy Stone for at least pointing in the right direction.

 

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(Photo: elycefeliz/cc/flickr)

One week ago, I was honoured to receive an “Izzy Award” for “outstanding achievement in independent media and journalism.” The annual award, which this year also went to David Sirota for his groundbreaking investigations into political corruption in the U.S. pension system, is named after the great muckraker I.F. Stone (“Izzy” to his friends).

In past years, the award has gone to people who do a far better job of embodying the legacy of Stone’s investigative reporting than I (Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill among them). But as I said at the ceremony at Ithaca College, I doubt the judges have given the honour to anyone whose grandparents would have been more thrilled. Without fail, my late grandfather Philip Klein would read I.F. Stone’s Weekly to my late grandmother Annie while she knitted some new creation.

In preparation for the ceremony, I read some of Stone’s environmental writing, and came across a piece that seems very worth sharing today. It’s the speech he gave on April 22, 1970—the very first Earth Day. Never one to mince words, Stone’s speech was titled “Con Games.”

Picture the scene: it’s the Sylvan Theater on the grounds of the National Monument in Washington, D.C. Millions have participated in Earth Day events across the country and thousands are now gathered on the National Mall to listen to music (including Pete Seeger and Phil Ochs) and hear rally speeches from political heavyweights.

It is in this joyous and self-congratulatory atmosphere that a curmudgeonly I.F. Stone, by now a full-fledged icon on the left, takes the stage. And he unapologetically rains on the parade, accusing Earth Day of providing cover for escalating war and calling for a movement willing to demand “enormous changes—psychological, military, and bureaucratic—to end the existing world system, a system of hatred, of anarchy, of murder, of war and pollution.”

Not everything about the speech stands the test of time (as we now know, the threats posed by pollution are far more dire than mere “litter”). But what Stone saw clearly, and what bears repeating four and half decades later, is that the ecological movement will get nowhere if it fails to connect the dots with other overlapping crises facing our society, from racism to militarism to inequality. Stone wasn’t saying that pollution was irrelevant—simply that it “is not going to be solved in isolation.”

Amen to that. So on this Earth Day, let’s hear it for Izzy, and for all the others willing to crash the most comfortable parties.

I.F. Stone, “Con Games,” speech delivered at Sylvan Theater, Washington, D.C., April 22, 1970

In the ancient world, the Caesars did it with bread and circuses. And tonight, I’m afraid, is the first time that our Caesars have learned to do it with rock and roll, and idealism, and noninflammatory social issues. In some ways, I’m sorry to say, we here tonight are being conned. This has many of the aspects of a beautiful snow job. The country is slipping into a wider war in southeast Asia, and we’re talking about litterbugs. The secretary of defense, on Monday, made a speech to the Associated Press sabotaging the SALT talks, presenting a completely false picture of the world balance of power, ending what little hope we had of progress in those talks, preparing the way for a bigger, more expensive arms race at the expensive of mankind, and we’re talking as if we needed more wastebaskets.

The divisions of white and black in this country are getting to the point where they threaten our future, and we’re talking about pollution. And it’s not that pollution is not an important subject, but if the Nixon administration feels so deeply about it, why don’t they do something substantial about it?

One important thing about this town is that you can never take very seriously what the officials say. They’re the prisoners of a vast bureaucracy. Much of what they say is merely rationalization of their lack of momentum. But in particular, the president said, and I think quite rightfully and quite truthfully, that in the next ten years it’s now or never for the air we breathe and the water we drink. And then, after making that speech, he put in a budget in which 52 cents out of every general revenue dollar goes to the military, and barely four-tenths of one cent goes to air and water pollution. And that’s a real con game. And that’s a real snow job.

We are spending, on new weapons systems alone, more than ten times as much, in this coming fiscal year, in the Nixon budget, than we’re going to spend on air and water. We’re spending a billion dollars more a year on space than all our expenditure on natural resources. The priorities of this government are lunatic—absolutely lunatic. And we’re not going to save the air we breathe and the water we drink without very many fundamental changes in governmental policy and governmental structure.

Before I came down here tonight, I heard a TV announcer say with great satisfaction that he hadn’t heard a word said about Vietnam all day. Well, I’m going to say a word about Vietnam. We’re not going to be able to save our air and our water, and the resources of our country, for our children and our grandchildren, until we end the militarization of our society, until we bring to an end the effort of American imperialism to rule the world and to waste our resources and our honor and our kids on a futile and murderous and insane task.

The problem of pollution is not going to be solved in isolation. The basic and most important pollution problem that we have to deal with is to prevent the pollution of the atmosphere of free discussion by the Nixon-Agnew-Mitchell administration. A society can only progress and deal with its evils if it is prepared to allow the widest measure of free speech, including free speech for radicals who are completely opposed to the basis of that society. Any society allows you to agree with the government. A free society allows you to disagree fundamentally. And it takes a lot of disagreement, and a lot of hollering and a lot of demonstration, to shake any establishment out of its accustomed ways. And the main menace to the solution of these problems is an administration that thinks they will go away if they just put a few radicals in jail.

The problems are enormous. The source of pollution is man. And man’s technology. And the enormous institutions he has built up that make him a prisoner. And somehow we’ve got to shake loose. And the biggest menace—the institution that ties us down most—that wastes our substance—that threatens to waste more of our youth—is that great big, five-sided building across the Potomac—the Pentagon. They are preparing to do to us at home what they tried to do in Vietnam.

Only this week, General Wheeler, the retiring chairman of the joint chiefs of staff, gave an interview to U.S. News and World Report in which he said that criticism of the military was due to a Communist plot. This is an effort of the military to revive McCarthyism, to preserve its enormous power and privileges in our society. And until its power is broken, until the military is reduced sharply in size, we’re not going to be able to solve these problems.

You know, there is no use talking about Earth Day unless we are prepared to make these fundamental changes. Everybody’s talking about Earth Day, and it comes out of the mouths of so many hypocrites it turns your stomach. What kind of an Earth Day can we celebrate in a country that is spending so much of its money to destroy the Earth? How can we talk of reverence for life when we’re spending so much on our enemy, our genius, our money, and our youth on building up new means of destroying life?

What’s the use of talking about the pollution of air and water when we live under a precarious balance of terror which can, in an hour’s time, make the entire Northern Hemisphere of our planet unlivable? There’s no use talking about Earth Day until we begin to think like Earthmen. Not as Americans and Russians, not as blacks and whites, not as Jews and Arabs, but as fellow travelers on a tiny planet in an infinite universe. All that we can muster of kindness, of compassion, of patience, of thoughtfulness, is necessary if this tiny planet of ours is not to go down to destruction. Until we have a leadership willing to make the enormous changes—psychological, military, and bureaucratic—to end the existing world system, a system of hatred, of anarchy, of murder, of war and pollution, there is no use talking about buying more wastebaskets or spending a couple of hundred million dollars on the Missouri River. If we do not challenge these fundamental causes of peril, we will be conned by the establishment while basic decisions are being made over which we have very little control, though they endanger everything on which our future and the world’s depend.

Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist, author, and syndicated columnist. Her new book, This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs the Climate (Simon & Schuster, 2014), has just been published. Her previous books include the international best-sellers,  The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism and No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies.   To read all her writing visit www.naomiklein.org. Follow her on Twitter: @NaomiAKlein.

How to Stop Capitalism in its Tracks January 12, 2015

Posted by rogerhollander in Capitalism, Marx and Marxism, Revolution.
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Roger’s note: it is, of course, a good thing that criticism of the capitalist economy has broken even into the mainstream.  And on the political left trashing capitalism has become pretty much the in thing.  Nevertheless, a critical understanding of what capitalism (or, for that matter, what capital is) is a rare occurrence, even in the so-called progressive Blogosphere.  Since the deepening of the word wide crises (war, economic disparity, environmental disaster, etc.) has become more and more evident, and because everyone knows that we live in a capitalist world (private, state and mixed), it takes no great leap of logic to realize there is something very much wrong with capitalism.

But what is almost universally lacking in analysis is a rigorous and historical understanding of what capitalist economy is, much less an understanding of the revolutionary nature of the struggle to go beyond capitalism, and even much less a philosophic context that takes into account the very nature of human existence and the notion of human freedom.  I am no great revolutionary scholar, but what I have learned I have learned through a lifetime of participation in the struggles for social, political and economic justice and informed by a study of capitalism via the writings of and organization formed by the founder of Marxism Humanism in North America, Raya Dunayevskaya (www.newsandletters.org).

The work of Stephanie McMillan, of which I became aware from the article below, is a welcome exception to the usual analyses of capitalism from the left, which tend to be either disappointingly reformist or corrupted by a nihilist and defeatist attitude, largely a result of the gross failures of the various 20th Century Marxist revolutions. 

When she became aware of flagrant injustice and felt the need to take action, McMillan was advised in essence to work “within the system,” to lobby and write letters to politicians.  She soon became aware of the futility of such a strategy and began to dig further.  Like most of us who have benefited by North American education and economic prosperity and who live relatively comfortable middle class lives, the truths that we discover when we are serious about investigating are difficult to adopt, “inconvenient,” if you will (for me, I was hit over the head with this reality as a 20 year old university student spending a summer in various Latin American countries).  It implies a break with a world view that has always served as an emotional safety net; that is, the notion that if we follow the rules and work hard at uncovering and exposing injustice, then our democracy has the capacity to adjust and correct.  The problem, of course, is that it doesn’t have that capacity because democracy in a capitalist economy is more symbolic than real, and it only serves to mask the deeper source of injustice.  We are left with no choice.  We either abandon our comfort zone in a revolutionary way, or we consciously or unconsciously rationalize a reformist strategy (Communism didn’t work, so we can only try to reform capitalism), one that is doomed from the beginning to fail, the kind of failure of imagination for which William Blake coined the phrase “mind forged manacles”.

My only criticism of McMillan, from what I have read in this article, is her use of the first person plural (we, our) in such a way that implies that those who come to a better understanding of the problem are the ones who are going to have to resolve it.  Naturally, activist philosophers are essential to revolutionary struggles, but the subjects of revolution are the various classes of oppressed peoples, and without them no amount of intellectual acuity or vanguard “leadership,” can lead to meaningful change; rather the notion of Praxis, the intertwining of thought and action.

One cannot deny how bleak things seem.  But the essential truth is not that there is no other option than cancerous capitalism, rather there is no other option than its destruction and replacement with a humanistic and democratic form of socialism.

Oscar Wilde wrote, “The cynic knows the price of everything and the value of nothing.”  He was discussing a personality type, but in doing so he came close, if unwittingly, to encapsulating the very essence of capitalism.

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Cartoonist and Journalist Stephanie McMillan Provides a User-Friendly Guide

by MARK HAND

If capitalism keeps chugging along, we’re all in big trouble. That’s the prognosis of Stephanie McMillan, an award-winning political cartoonist and author of the new book, Capitalism Must Die! A Basic Introduction to Capitalism: What It Is, Why It Sucks, and How to Crush It.

The most urgent reason to stop capitalism in its tracks, according to McMillan, is its prominent role in harming the planet. Capitalism possesses an inherent growth imperative. This means that the normal functioning of capitalism is causing water shortages, ailing oceans, destroyed forests and ruined topsoil.

But even if an ecological catastrophe weren’t upon us, capitalism would still need to be dismantled because it’s based on exploitation, McMillan said in an interview. “There’s no reason why the social result of production needs to be in private hands and that only a few people should own what everybody produces,” she said.

McMillan uses her book to introduce and popularize basic concepts of revolutionary theory. “I wanted to provide something that was accessible to people, that people wouldn’t be afraid to pick up,” she said. But once they pick it up, readers will find a “doorway into deeper levels of theory because we always need to learn more about the system,” she explained.

Overturning capitalism, according to McMillan, will require getting as many people as possible — liberals, socialists, communists, anarchists, environmentalists and unlabeled people — on the anti-capitalist bandwagon. And once they’re aboard, the goal will be to educate them on the complex and long history of capitalism.

A serious weakness among activists in movements for social change has been a lack of understanding of the true nature of the system they live under. Instead of naming capitalism as the problem, McMillan writes, activists often use vague populist terms like “the 1%,” “the rich,” “banksters,” or “greedy corporations.” But the problem runs much deeper than the corruption of any particular individual or institution, according to McMillan. “It lies in the structural foundation of the entire way of life that currently dominates the globe,” she writes.

“Capitalism Must Die!” also serves as a guide to fighting back because, according to McMillan, now is a better time than ever to get organized. “Capitalism is in a huge crisis,” she said. “We need to understand how it works and what the nature of the crisis is and the nature of the different moments that it passes through so that we can identify its vulnerabilities and weaknesses.”

Something will inevitably happen to capitalism as the crisis deepens. “It will probably have to restructure itself and it could become fascism or it could lead to a civil war between the representatives of different factions of capital or some horrible things that don’t actually improve anything,” she said in the interview. “Or we can organize and get rid of them.”

Indeed, McMillan hopes people will use what they learn from the book to organize in their communities, workplaces and schools. “Theoretical clarity for its own sake is pointless intellectualism; instead, it should be a guide for action,” she writes.

CapitalismMustDie coverThere Is No Alternative

After decades of neoliberal supremacy, critiques of capitalism have sneaked into mainstream debates, with Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century and Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs. the Climate as notable examples. Both authors, however, approach capitalism from a reformist stance and hold up social democratic versions of capitalism in Western Europe as viable alternatives.

McMillan doesn’t believe Western European capitalist models — the ones that offer stronger social safety nets and more enlightened views on environmental issues — are worth defending. Capitalism, in whatever form, is inherently destructive because it converts the natural world into commodities. And it’s inherently exploitative because profit always comes from the exploitation of workers. “It doesn’t matter if you give them healthcare or a higher salary; you’re still exploiting them for private gain,” she said.

While still exploitative, Europe’s form of capitalism may in fact be less harsh than in the U.S. because the rising capitalist class in Europe had to deal with a feudal class. “They had to make some concessions to the masses in order to get their system in place,” she said in the interview. “Whereas in the U.S., they came over here and slaughtered everyone and took the land. There was no concession made. There was no feudal class that they had to fight against or deal with.”

Even with the publication of the books by Piketty and Klein, the supremacy of capitalism still remains unquestioned in the mainstream media. “It’s the framework that everything else exists within. The debate has to be inside that framework. Nothing can exist outside. It’s like what Margaret Thatcher said, ‘There is no alternative,’” explained McMillan. “It’s hard for people to imagine that there could be any alternative. People think, ‘I guess this is all there is. This is the only way humans can behave.’ Capitalism is naturalized.”

Right now, the level of political consciousness within the working class is very low. And that didn’t happen by chance. “That is by design and it’s by indoctrination and conditioning,” she said. “But it is a problem that we have to deal with.” The capitalists and their representatives in government are adept at finding new ways to squash and tamp down threats to their control. “We have to keep evolving our tactics as well,” she added.

The Occupy movement provided a glimpse at what’s possible. It made people realize they can rise up and take collective action. “It was very inspiring to people for that reason,” McMillan said. “There was a broad base of support for something like that. So many people got involved so quickly and there was so much discontent. It made people feel good that they weren’t alone and it showed the potential of what could happen.”

But Occupy also was a learning experience. “It showed the weakness and the need to be stronger. If we’re actually going to go up against the system, it can’t just be a spontaneous gathering of a bunch of people. It has to be organized — planned and strategic,” she emphasized.

It’s Our Only Shot

McMillan knows that eradicating capitalism is a long shot. “But I feel like it’s our only shot. The reason that I keep doing it is because there’s nothing else — the only other alternative is to give up and die or accept things the way they are and end up in a worse situation,” she said.

Anybody who really understands what’s going on cannot stand idle, according to McMillan. “It’s our historical responsibility,” she insists. “It’s a matter of human dignity.”

Accepting things the way they are would mean allowing 10 million children under the age of five to die annually because, under the normal functioning of global capitalism, it’s not profitable to save them, she writes in the book, citing a study by the nonprofit group Save the Children. It would mean continuing to accept racism, which has always been central to capitalism’s expansion and has been used to excuse the ultra-violent policies — from genocide of indigenous people to slavery and now the “war on terror” — that serve the accumulation of capital, she explains.

McMillan understood what’s going on when she was in high school and a relative urged her to read Jonathan Schell’s Fate of the Earth, a 1982 book about the destruction of life on Earth from nuclear war. She was reluctant to read the book. “I instinctively knew that if I read it, then I would have to then deal with the horrible issues that were going to be in there. I didn’t want to disrupt my comfortable existence. I understood that I would have to do a lot of hard things,” she remembered.

But the relative kept prodding her: “You’ve got to read this. It’s the biggest issue. Reagan is going to destroy the world. We can’t let this happen and you have to read this.” McMillan eventually relented and opened the book. As she expected, it was horrifying and upsetting. She realized humans couldn’t go on living with the possibility of nuclear war hanging over their heads, which seemed very possible at the time.

McMillan started going to meetings with peace and justice activists in her native South Florida. They would tell her to write letters to her congressperson, write letters to the editor of local newspapers and sign petitions. Even as a newcomer to political activism, McMillan knew these steps were not going to be sufficient. “And I would ask, ‘Is there anything else?’ and they would say, ‘No, that’s it.’”

But then McMillan met a guy wearing a purple hat who was talking about revolution. He was standing outside a screening of a movie about nuclear war. “It was like a light bulb, ‘We could actually have a revolution now.’ I thought it was just a historical thing that happened in the past, like the Declaration of Independence,” she recalled. “I didn’t know we could have another one.”

The guy with the purple hat gave McMillan a copy of a newspaper filled with words she didn’t understand: the proletariat, the bourgeoisie. “I came home really excited and told my dad, ‘I think I’m a communist! This is going to solve everything,’” she recalled. “And he pounded his fist on the table and he goes, ‘What’s the labor theory of value.’ And I said, ‘I don’t know.’ And he said, ‘How can you call yourself a communist if you don’t even know what the labor theory of value is, one of its basic concepts?’”

McMillan immersed herself in study and quickly learned that the labor theory of value means that the exchange value of a product is based on the socially necessary amount of labor power — measured in time — that is generally required to produce it. But under capitalism, one of the key ingredients is surplus value. And under capitalism, the buyer of labor power — the capitalist — appropriates the surplus value generated in the process of commodity production.

You Can’t Be Neutral

Mastering political theory is tough enough. But putting it into action is even harder. Along with decades of organizing and activism, McMillan has worked as a cartoonist, drawing the popular daily comic strip Minimum Security and the weekly editorial cartoon Code Green, where she seeks to propagate her ideas through crafty drawings and funny dialog. She has received numerous awards for her cartoons, the most notable being the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award for Editorial Cartoonists in 2012.

As a working journalist, McMillan has learned that reporting is never objective. “There is no such thing. It’s never neutral. It’s never non-partisan. If somebody is involved in an issue and they acknowledge it in the article — you know where they are coming from — then it actually has more credibility because they have a deeper level of understanding of the issue because when you just dropping into something like a tourist, you can’t really understand it deeply,” she explained in the interview.

Many of the journalists who reported on the Occupy movement, for example, were unfamiliar with it. “They just observed the surface, the spectacle. They didn’t know all the dynamics. They didn’t know all the people, all the different political trends, all the different tendencies within it. They’re just reduced to describing the surface imagery,” she recalled.

McMillan also has written several books with political and environmental themes such as “As the World Burns: 50 Simple Things You Can Do to Stay in Denial” and “The Beginning of the American Fall.” Since the publication of “Capitalism Must Die!”, people have told McMillan that the book brought them clarity and a comprehensive understanding of capitalism. They also appreciated how the cartoons helped to make the concepts clearer.

Going forward, McMillan believes anti-capitalists will need to work with liberals and reformists, even if it often can be an exercise in frustration. Anti-capitalist organizations should only engage in common work with reformists, though, when they are organized enough to insist that their politics are represented, she writes.

If and when anti-capitalist groups make headway, the dominant class will respond with ever-increasing violence and, as it has repeatedly shown, will not hesitate at committing massacres on any scale using what McMillan describes as the “capitalists’ accumulated forces of lies, wealth and arms.”

“But we are potentially stronger than them,” McMillan writes. “We outnumber them, and we have right on our side.”

Mark Hand covers energy issues. You can reach him at markhand13@gmail.com , or follow him on Twitter at @MarkFHand.

 

Nelson Mandela, Free Market Capitalism and the South African Crisis December 28, 2013

Posted by rogerhollander in Africa, South Africa.
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Roger’s note:

“Ronnie Kasrils, former minister in ANC governments, a member of the ANC executive and a leader of Umkonto weSizwe recently wrote (The Guardian, June 23, 2013) that the decision against nationalization was a “Faustian bargain” with the white world that sold out the South African poor.

Naomi Klein in her book The Shock Doctrine suggests the bargain was that in return for the ANC turning against The Freedom Charter and nationalization, the West would make Mandela a living saint.”

If you want more than that feel-good notion of Nelson Mandela as a champion of non-violent (i.e non. revolutionary) change, then read the article below.  Although I believe the author mistakes nationalization  for socialism, the article does give a credible analysis of why the South African masses, post-Apartheid, still live in miserable poverty.  Nationalization may be a necessary step towards socialism, but it is not sufficient.  Genuine socialism is not where the government rather than private interests are the owners of production.  Such as that exists in Vietnam and China and is functionally speaking nothing more than state capitalism.  Single party vanguards such as existed in the former Soviet Union and in China and Vietnam today by nature devolve into state tyranny over labor in order to maximize profit.  Genuine democratic socialism demands direct worker control over production, but that is another and much longer story.

 


by Anthony Monteiro

The veil must be lifted from the deliberations and machinations that led Nelson Mandela and the African National Congress to discard the people’s Freedom Charter in favor of an accommodation with white capital, in the early Nineties. Why, at South Africa’s most critical juncture, did the ANC make a pact with the Devil? And why did they keep it?

 

“The decision against nationalization has left the people worse off than when Mandela was elected in 1994.”Why and when did Mandela change his mind about nationalization of the wealth of South Africa? And what have been the results? I find the mainstream media’s accounts, citing Mandela’s claim that he changed his mind at Davos, Switzerland, in 1992 implausible. More troubling is why when Mandela and the ANC led government saw things going so badly for the people they didn’t change course? These questions arise as we try to make sense of Mandela’s legacy. This is especially important in light of the catastrophic crisis of poverty, hunger, unemployment, education and health care besetting the South African people. The decision against nationalization has left the people worse off than when Mandela was elected in 1994. White economic privilege remains the same, and their wealth exponentially increased, a tiny, rich and mostly parasitic black bourgeoisie and a black middle class have been created. For 90 percent of the African population things have not improved.

The New York Times reported on December 10 that Nelson Mandela’s change of thinking occurred at Davos, Switzerland, at the World Economic Forum (the annual meeting of the major bankers, capitalist, entrepreneurs, celebrities, politicians and intellectuals tied to the neo liberal globalist model of the world economy) in January 1992. Tito Mboweni, a former governor of the South African Reserve Bank (that nation’s Central Bank), who accompanied Mandela to Davos, says when Mandela and the ANC delegation arrived Mandela had a speech written by the ANC that focused on nationalization. Mboweni says “we discussed this at some length and decided that its content was inappropriate for a Davos audience.” Mboweni drafts another speech that was friendly to the Davos crowd. The speech was vague and filled with clichés and platitudes and assured the audience that they had nothing to fear from Mandela or the ANC.

In a letter to the Sunday Independent last January Mboweni says it was meetings with representatives of the Communist parties of China and Vietnam that changed Madiba’s mind completely. According to Mboweni the Chinese and Vietnamese told Mandela “We are currently striving to privatize state enterprises and invite private enterprise into our economies. We are Communists Party governments, and you are a leader of a national liberation movement. Why are you talking about nationalization?” According to Anthony Sampson, the author of Mandela: The Authorized Biography, Mandela told him “They changed my views altogether. I came home to say: ‘Chaps we have to choose. We either keep nationalization and get no investment, or we modify our own attitude and get investment.’”

”The path to Mandela’s radical change of mind involved more than conversations during a five-day meeting in Davos in 1992.”

It is obvious that the ANC, the South African national liberation struggle and the nation as a whole were at a critical juncture. They were faced with problems of consolidating political power and moving the nation towards economic emancipation. On the other side, the white regime and its backers in the West were concerned with making concessions to black South Africans that would not disturb western corporate control of this mineral rich and strategically located economy. However I find the accounts of Mr. Sampson and Mr. Mboweni implausible. In other words, the path to Mandela’s radical change of mind involved more than conversations during a five-day meeting in Davos in 1992.

The first question is about the representatives of China and Vietnam. Both nations in 1992 were at different levels of economic development. Vietnam was still in the social and economic reconstruction phase after 25 years of war against foreign aggression. China was a socialist economy that twelve years earlier had entered upon a path of reform within its socialist economy. China at that time had about 80 to 90% of the strategic parts of its economy under state control. Vietnam was similar with the state controlling economic reconstruction. Even today close to 70% of China’s economy is under state control. The most technologically dynamic and profitable sector of the Chinese economy is the state, or nationalized sector. The facts are that China and Vietnam are heavily state dominated economies and each says the objective of their economic planning is to build advanced socialism. Even if we accept that the Chinese and Vietnamese representatives at Davos said what Mboweni says, the next question is who were they and did they represent the official positions of their governments? If we accept the mainstream media’s accounts, they must have been saying, “do as we say, not as we do.” Of course this would have been an instance of unbelievable bad faith, even cynicism. But on this matter, rather than looking to the Chinese and Vietnamese delegates, I think we should question Mr. Mboweni ‘s and Mr. Sampson’s account.

The second point is that when Mandela emerges from prison two of his and the ANC’s most important allies were Cuba and Libya, two nations whose economies were heavily nationalized. Why did Mandela not consult Fidel Castro and Muammar Gadaffi among others to get a more complete view on how well nationalization was working or not working in their nations?

”The decisions made by Mandela and the ANC thwarted a robust transition and allowed the old system to remain pretty much intact.”

The third point, any nation emerging from a long period of civil war and national liberation, experiencing a radical transfer of power, necessarily goes through a period of transition. It is ludicrous to think that sober minds, especially those with the training of most of the ANC, could underestimate a transition where something like a New Deal for the people, including a jobs and infrastructure programs, an anti-poverty crusade, health care, housing and political education, would not be considered necessary. No clear thinking person could have imagined an overnight great leap forward from a ravaged apartheid economy to an advanced socialist one. There would be a transition period of at least a decade where the groundwork would be laid for a new democratic and socialist economy. The forms of this transition would have many layers, even ambiguities, but its direction would be firmly established and based on the Freedom Charter and its call for nationalization. The decisions made by Mandela and the ANC thwarted a robust transition and allowed the old system to remain pretty much intact and thereby recklessly undermined the future of South Africa.

The more plausible scenario, from my perspective, is that Mandela and a small circle around him, long before Davos, perhaps in the last year or so of Mandela’s imprisonment, cut a deal. As we know Mandela entered into secret talks with the white regime before being released. These talks were kept secret from the ANC leadership. There were others in and outside of the ANC who were involved in secret talks about the economy well before 1990. By the time Mandela is released an agreement had been reached with the regime against nationalization. The question for Mandela and those in the ANC who supported him, was to get an appropriate time and place for Mandela to announce his change of position. There had to also be a plausible explanation of why such a drastic change. The Davos story fulfills both requirements, an appropriate place and a plausible story.

The fact that Mr. Mboweni, a free market capitalist, accompanied Mandela to Davos and had such power that he was allowed to trash the ANC speech and substitute for it his own, should raise further troubling questions about the behind scenes operations among the ANC elite. Why weren’t other views present in the ANC delegation at Davos? Or were they dismissed as “too radical” even before Davos?

”By the time Mandela is released an agreement had been reached with the regime against nationalization.”

Not long after the Davos announcement the ANC (or the free market and neo liberal elements within the ANC) announced that the first black government would assume the entire debt of the white regime. A sum of close to $25 billion. The ANC took an IMF loan to pay the debt, which came with severe strings attached that protected white control of the post apartheid economy. (see my article in BAR Dec 11 2013 for a further discussion of this). Mandela’s claim that he was turned around at Davos is questionable and his turn against the Freedom Charter and the aspirations of the masses of South Africa (who cherished the Freedom Charter as their manifesto of freedom and reflective of their freedom aspirations) is problematic.

Winnie Mandela has said repeatedly that when Mandela emerged from prison he was not the same man. She says his revolutionary resolve was different. What she probably meant is his change of heart on economic policy and his willingness to, as she saw it, make unnecessary compromises with white South Africans and Western interests. Ronnie Kasrils, former minister in ANC governments, a member of the ANC executive and a leader of Umkonto weSizwe recently wrote (The Guardian, June 23, 2013) that the decision against nationalization was a “Faustian bargain” with the white world that sold out the South African poor. Naomi Klein in her book The Shock Doctrine suggests the bargain was that in return for the ANC turning against The Freedom Charter and nationalization, the West would make Mandela a living saint.

In my BAR article “Nelson Mandela, The Contradictions of his Life and Legacies” I argue there are four stages in Mandela’s life. The fourth is 1990 to 2013. This is the most contradictory in terms of his previous revolutionary activity. However, it is as significant to understanding his legacy and life as the previous ones are. The burning question is in power what did he and his ANC colleagues do to liberate the nation from economic apartheid and foreign corporate control. At this point the answer is in power the ANC failed. The problem is not important only to South Africans or Africans, but for how humanity, especially its impoverished and destitute majority, imagines the future world and how we fight for it.

Anthony Monteiro is a professor of African American Studies at Temple University. He can be contacted at tmon@comcast.net.

As Chief Spence Starves, Canadians Awaken from Idleness and Remember Their Roots December 25, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, First Nations.
Tags: , , , , , , , , ,
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Published on Monday, December 24, 2012 by the Globe & Mail

  by  Naomi Klein

I woke up just past midnight with a bolt. My six-month-old son was crying. He has a cold – the second of his short life–and his blocked nose frightens him. I was about to get up when he started snoring again. I, on the other hand, was wide awake.

chief-strike

Attawapiskat Chief Theresa Spence, shown in December, 2011. (Sean Kilpatrick /THE CANADIAN PRESS)

A single thought entered my head: Chief Theresa Spence is hungry. Actually it wasn’t a thought. It was a feeling. The feeling of hunger. Lying in my dark room, I pictured the chief of the Attawapiskat First Nation lying on a pile of blankets in her teepee across from Parliament Hill, entering day 14 of her hunger strike.

I had of course been following Chief Spence’s protest and her demand to meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper to discuss the plight of her people and his demolition of treaty rights through omnibus legislation. I had worried about her. Supported her. Helped circulate the petitions. But now, before the distancing filters of light and reason had a chance to intervene, I felt her. The determination behind her hunger. The radicality of choosing this time of year, a time of so much stuffing – mouths, birds, stockings – to say: I am hungry. My people are hungry. So many people are hungry and homeless. Your new laws will only lead to more of this misery. Can we talk about it like human beings?

Lying there, I imagined another resolve too – Prime Minister Harper’s. Telling himself: I will not meet with her. I will not cave in to her. I will not be forced to do anything.

Mr. Harper may relent, scared of the political fallout from letting this great leader die. I dearly hope he does. I want Chief Spence to eat. But I won’t soon forget this clash between these two very different kinds of resolve, one so sealed off, closed in; the other cracked wide open, a conduit for the pain of the world.

But Chief Spence’s hunger is not just speaking to Mr. Harper. It is also speaking to all of us, telling us that the time for bitching and moaning is over. Now is the time to act, to stand strong and unbending for the people, places and principles that we love.

This message is a potent gift. So is the Idle No More movement – its name at once a firm commitment to the future, while at the same time a gentle self-criticism of the past. We did sit idly by, but no more.

The greatest blessing of all, however, is indigenous sovereignty itself. It is the huge stretches of this country that have never been ceded by war or treaty. It is the treaties signed and still recognized by our courts. If Canadians have a chance of stopping Mr. Harper’s planet-trashing plans, it will be because these legally binding rights – backed up by mass movements, court challenges, and direct action will stand in his way. All Canadians should offer our deepest thanks that our indigenous brothers and sisters have protected their land rights for all these generations, refusing to turn them into one-off payments, no matter how badly they were needed. These are the rights Mr. Harper is trying to extinguish now.

During this season of light and magic, something truly magical is spreading. There are round dances by the dollar stores. There are drums drowning out muzak in shopping malls. There are eagle feathers upstaging the fake Santas. The people whose land our founders stole and whose culture they tried to stamp out are rising up, hungry for justice. Canada’s roots are showing. And these roots will make us all stand stronger.

© 2012 Naomi Klein

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Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist and syndicated columnist and the author of the international and New York Times bestseller The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, now out in paperback. Her earlier books include the international best-seller, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies (which has just been re-published in a special 10th Anniversary Edition); and the collection Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate (2002). To read all her latest writing visit www.naomiklein.org. You can follow her on Twitter: @NaomiAKlein.

I am cut and pasting my comments from a like article just to give readers an idea of what entailed here.

What the Government has proposed is to allow the concept of “private property rights” onto Reserve lands. What they claim is that by doing so they will “Create wealth”.

What will really happen is a small group of natives will be granted title to the lands and then be able to sell the land off to developers. This is Capitalism at work where one small group gets rich and the rest get nothing.

By converting it into “Private Property” the land that could not be sold because it owned by the tribe as a whole, the land suddenly acquires “monetary value” under the capitalist system and this is pointed to as proof that they create wealth.

That the tribe in the future might have no land base at all because the “wealth creators” sold it all off for personal gain to someone wanting to build ski lodges or condo’s is of no concern to the Government. (Added to that allowing the corporation to then pollute the land they now own at will thus removing all those treaty impediments to more tar sand development or pipeline construction)

No clearer example exists.

Private property is theft.

  • ceti

    NAFTA did that to the indigenous communities of Mexico. Harper’s stealth final solution for Aboriginal peoples dovetails well with his authoritarianism, corporatism, neo-conservativism and arch-Zionism. It is all part of the one big nasty ideology of 21st century fascism as a North American response to the 21st century socialism of South America (where incidentally, the poorest, most exploited heart of the American continent is again beating strong due to the efforts of the Morales government with the support of Chavez and Correa).

  • Deborah R. Martin

    Love Canada’s First Nations! Believe in Canada, the native one. http://www.MillionaireProjects…

  • giovannalepore

    When a concept exists which claims the very Earth is a commodity to be exploited and commodified all other crimes follow. What madness to think that that which we did not create somehow can belong to some particular individual when the reverse is true: People belong to the Earth and not the other way around. Western thinking is dangerous in its immaturity.

  • George Washington

    Thank you for your excellent insights.

  • rtdrury

    No, private property is not theft.  Allowing an elite few to own most/all property IS THEFT.  Liberalism teaches us to blame “things” instead of blaming elites and their rotten egos and evil intentions.  Liberals serve master this way. It’s very likely that the optimum system consists of private property on a very small scale, to allow for owning specialized tools for creative work.  But strong limits on how far that can go.  Likewise, elitism is needed in the sense that certain highly productive “fountainheads” can benefit the society as a whole, but again, strong limits on how far that can go.  In other words, keep the human ego on a VERY short leash.  But don’t blame the idea, don’t blame the tool, don’t blame the system.  Blame the sociopath elites with their rotten egos and evil intentions.

     

  • Gabriele Drozdowski

    rtdrury – you seem to have missed the point.  Individual land ownership is a large part of the cause of the problem, as it divides people, and encourages only caring about their small portion, whereas communal land ownership encourages larger scale thinking (i.e. seven generations ahead), the health of not just one parcel, but the local environment.  Yes, people still can have their own houses and land, but if individuals degrade the land or abuse it, the community as a whole can address this.  A fragmented populace of individual owners is powerless to stop the destruction by the Elite, as it is clear that the courts or justice systems often get corrupted as well.

  • Mary McCurnin

    .

  • glen taves

    We’re Idle No More empirePie  Dec 22cnd, 2012

    We’re Idle no more we’ve been conned too many times before so I’ll say it once more we’re idle no no more

    we’ve been conned by the right we’ve been conned by the left we’ve been rounded up poisoned and left bereft

    Now corporate Harper has a new plan for us we’re all under the bus with this omnibus bill to poison our water for short term gain for they’ve sold our soul to the corporate store

    they have pallets of cash a forty five thousand million dollar stash for a first strike jet we don’t need for an empire that don’t lead the apple pie empire of bad seed

    we’ve been conned by the right, left and middle too we’ve been rounded up poisoned and left bereft so Join hands in a circle of strength

    dance to the east dance to the west

    dance to the south dance to the north

    for we’re Idle no more for we’re Idle no more for we’re Idle no more

  • Qimountain

    I nominate Chief Spence for the Nobel Peace prize on behalf of Mother Earth. Hell, if Obama can get the award, why not a authentic hero?

  • galen066

    Here’s a hint for those of you who are not living in Canada who post on CD, about Stevie harper: He’s a psychopath.

    Harper will let Chief Spence starve herself to death. And he won’t give a tin-plated damn. He refuses to listen to anyone who is not either: A) a Corporate bagman, or B) a boot-licking sycophant. He has all but openly mocked Chief Spence as being a manipulative cry-baby.

    Harper has a long and well documented history of being possessed of a virulent, violent bias and racist view of Canada’s native peoples, pretty much along the lines of “Damn, dirty drunken injuns oughta just go and die.”

  • theoldgoat

    Intercontinental Cry is compiling videos and links that speak to the conversation about and to better understand history, the intense actions by corporations and government around the world to cut off indigenous rights to their traditional lands, culture, ways of being, stewardwship of resources and future generations right to determine their own sustainable models of development.

    http://www.commondreams.org/vi…

  • Gabriele Drozdowski

    Yes, Intercontinental Cry is a great resource for documentation on indigenous lands and rights abuses happening across the globe.

  • scrufmuffin

    This episode would do as a  a new chapter in an updated, “Shock Doctrine”; right in line with  the usual neo-con tricks so well documented. This scheme sounds exactly like what happened to Russia under Boris Yeltsin”s privatization policies with the help and advice of US neo-con advisors, who also became very rich. The result was seven billionaire oligarchs and the the Russian poverty rate hitting 50 % as Russia’s immense socialized resources and enterprises were sold off at below bargain rates and the economy collapsed.  Credit Bill Clinton for that one, he sent the “experts”;  Milton Freeman  and the Chicago School strike again. See Janine Wedel, The Shadow Elite for a thorough description.

  • pdxpress

    Portland is with you

    http://www.oregonlive.com/port…

  • HenryWallace2012

    Good story, gal! Love Canada’s First Nations! Believe in Canada, the native one.

  • HenryWallace2012

    Naomi Klein does and I do. Just let’s do it and have a better world starting with Canada. In the USA we can believe in our First and founding people.

  • wildcarrots

    Why should anyone believe in Canada’s first nations?

  • Gabriele Drozdowski

    Idiot.

  • Gabriele Drozdowski

    Lack of, or under education about indigenous people is a serious flaw in our Western society.  The conquering nations have worked hard at keeping it that way.

  • wildcarrots

    Gabriele. Henry Wallace responds to most indigenous issues with the same response, ” I believe in  america or canada the native one.”  It was a reasonable question, why do you believe in the native america, as in why do you always say that without ever saying why.  Yes, that lack of education works both ways.

  • galen066

    Well that and cultural and actual genocide of Canada’s natives…

  • Suspiria_de_profundis

    I am afraid the day the Cultural Genocide of Our First nations people will be complete is when their lands and tribal holdings turned into “private property” that can be bought and sold.

    Aurora borealis The icy sky at night Paddles cut the water In a long and hurried flight From the white man to the fields of green And the homeland we’ve never seen.

    They killed us in our tepee And they cut our women down They might have left some babies Cryin’ on the ground But the firesticks and the wagons come And the night falls on the setting sun.

    They massacred the buffalo Kitty corner from the bank The taxis run across my feet And my eyes have turned to blanks In my little box at the top of the stairs With my Indian rug and a pipe to share.

    I wish a was a trapper I would give thousand pelts To sleep with Pocahontas And find out how she felt In the mornin’ on the fields of green In the homeland we’ve never seen.

    And maybe Marlon Brando Will be there by the fire We’ll sit and talk of Hollywood And the good things there for hire And the Astrodome and the first tepee Marlon Brando, Pocahontas and me Marlon Brando, Pocahontas and me Pocahontas.

    (Neil Young)

  • wildcarrots

    And how about you, how do you stand in solidarity with Native people?

  • giovannalepore

    In the midst of despair a ray of hope: The indigenous peoples of our common home planet are on the rise and if any peoples exist who understand what needs doing it is them. Solidarity!

  • rtdrury

    Actually fasting is healthy, up to around 30 days.  Do your body good, whack the franken-food industry, and scare the politicians all in one fell swoop.

     

  • galen066

    There is a MASSIVE difference between fasting (which means limited *intake* of food) and a Hunger Strike (which is voluntarily starving yourself to death if necessary to make a point).

    Spence is on a Hunger Strike, and I have the very bad feeling she is going to become Harper’s ‘Bobby Sands’.

  • David

    When is the last time you fasted for 30 days?  What were the benefits?

  • HenryWallace2012

    Try hung parlament procedure which would have prevented the Con servatives from getting into government in the first place. Virtually every other parliamentary system has it. It works.

  • galen066

    Too bad Harper views Parliamentary procedure as an impediment to the looting of the nation’s economy and resources.

  • JoeTWallace

    You’ll want to get started.

  • itsthethird

    Happy Holidays a simple truth:

    When we negate the ego (world) we negate the world pain, suffering, oppression etc…and heal ourselves and the world.

  • JoeTWallace

    Best wishes to indigenous peoples and their common-sense ethic of stewardship and sustainability.

  • disqus_7ONuyIuYuR

    Stephen Harper was elected with 38% of the vote because Canada has two strong parties (plus the Green Party, which elected  its first member of parliament) to the left of Harper, which split the vote.  The only answer is to change to a proportional, or at least an instant-runoff, system.

  • Yunzer

    Or, not even anything that fancy.  Just require regular runoffs in every riding that didn’t get a 50%+1.  This would have prevented the current Canadian govt.

  • HenryWallace2012

    I firmly believe Canada will throw out the Con servative or Tories at the next federal election.

  • frigate

    I don’t understand how after our Bushite catastrophe and other conservative disasters worldwide, Canadians could have voted for a conservative Prime Minister.

  • Mary McCurnin

    Maybe the election was hacked and stolen. In my gut I feel this has been going on for decaded in the USA.

  • frigate

    it seems that the only way conservatives can win is to steal elections.

  • hamster99

    “Conservatives”. What a ridiculous name for people who only want to conserve the right to destroy everything in the name of profit.

  • Rich Smith

    They used to be called reactionary.   Words are potentially so powerful yet rarely used to reflect that power.  Call it as you see it rather than using words that others foist upon you.

  • galen066

    There is a growing amount of evidence that the last Federal Canadian election was tampered with in favor of Harper.

  • Shizel

    I woke up the other night hungry. I ate something and went to go sleep. But, something was gnawing at me. I knew enough people didn’t care enough to stop Harper and I wished I was wrong. It’s not the beginning, it’s the end. This single protest won’t be the spark. Yawn! And if it were, it would be too little too late even if we did miraculously stop the Canadian tar sands… too skeptical to believe… z-z-z-z…

  • wildcarrots

    wow, you are very brave to accept your fate, but one day you will still have to stand up.

  • Shizel

    No, I’m afraid standing up never goes as planned. It will cause Canadians to split as never before. It won’t be pretty.

  • David

    I’d rather it not be pretty and be right, than be uglier yet in silence.

  • wildcarrots

    That is a good reply.  Some day we will all have to stand up and that will be a good day.

  • windship

    First Nations have a ten thousand year history in Canada, which is a Crown Confederation less than 150 years old. Canada is a Royal Occupation with far less historical legitimacy than Israel’s. Is Queen Elizabeth staying up at night worrying about Chief Spence? Or will she make the usual Royal Proclamation from the gilded tower: “Let them eat cake!”

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In Quebec It’s Official: Mass Movement Leads to Victory for Students September 22, 2012

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Economic Crisis, Education, Quebec.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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Published on Friday, September 21, 2012 by Common Dreams

Naomi Klein: ‘This is why radical movements are mercilessly mocked. They can win.’

  – Common Dreams staff

Students protesting the rise in tuition fees demonstrate in Montreal Saturday, April 14, 2012. (Graham Hughes/THE CANADIAN PRESS)

After a year of revolt which became known as the “Maple Spring”—including massive street protests that received global attention—university students across Quebec were celebrating victory on Thursday night following the announcement from newly elected Premier Pauline Marois that the government was cancelling the proposed tuition hike that led to the student uprising and nullifying the contentious Bill 78 law which was introduced to curb the powerful protests.

“It’s a total victory!” said Martine Desjardins, president of the Fédération étudiante universitaire du Québec, which is the largest student association with about 125,000 students. “It’s a new era of collaboration instead of confrontation.”

“Together we’ve written a chapter in the history of Quebec,” she added. “It’s a triumph of justice and equity.”

Well-known Canadian author and activist Naomi Klein, responded to the news by tweeting:

This is why radical movements are mercilessly mocked. They can win. “It’s official: Quebec tuition hikes are history”

oncampus.macleans.ca/education/2012…

And, “Bravo to the striking students,” tweeted Gabriel Nadeau-Dubois, a spokesperson for the Coalition large de l’association pour une solidarité syndicale étudiante (CLASSE) during the most tumultous and pitched episodes of the student mobilization, in French:

Victoire étudiante! Bravo aux grévistes ! “@LP_LaPresse: La hausse des droits de scolarité annulée, la loi 12 abrogée bit.ly/SbBSse

Marois’ announcement followed her very first cabinet meeting and was a fulfillment of promises she made during her recent campaign against the former premier, Jean Charest.  For his part, Charest became the prime target of ire for students during their fight against the tuition hikes and following the passage of Bill 78, which he signed. The most odious sections of Bill 78, which later became Law 12, will be nullified by decree, said Marois.

The Montreal Gazette reports:

Whichever side of the debate you were on, there was no denying the significance of the moment. Marois, who was criticized by the Liberals for wearing a symbolic red square in solidarity with students for much of the conflict, made a promise to cancel the tuition increase — and she moved quickly to fulfill that commitment.

Students, who organized countless marches and clanged pots and never wavered from their goal of keeping education accessible with a tuition freeze, seemed at last to have triumphed definitively.

The various student groups, which range from the more radical CLASSE to the less strident FEUQ, do not share all the same political goals or tactics, but it is unquestionable that their shared movement helped lead to the downfall of the Charest government, paved the path for Marois victory, and culminated in yesterday’s victory.

As CBC News reports:

“It’s certain that we were very present[…] during the election to make sure that Charest, who was elected with a weak majority vote in 2008, was not reelected,” said Desjardins.

Another more militant student association, CLASSE — the Coalition Large des Association pour une Solidarite Syndicale Étudiante — has as its central mandate a goal to keep fighting for free tuition. But Desjardins said FEUQ plans a calmer approach on pressure tactics.

Desjardins said she does not believe CLASSE’s campaign for free tuition will negatively impact the FEUQ’s plans. She pointed out that both groups had clearly outlined their differences during the student crisis.

The FEUQ president also said a consensus between the government and all student associations is possible.

White House to Be Encircled by Tar Sands Activists on Sunday November 4, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Canada, Energy, Environment.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,
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 Bryan Farrell

Waging Nonviolence/NewsAnalysis
Published: Friday 4 November 2011
 
“Not only will they be coming back to the White House, but this time they’ll be encircling it.”

A lot has happened since 65 people (including myself) were arrested in front of the White House on August 20th to protest a planned 1,400-mile pipeline carrying tar sands oil from Canada to the Texas Gulf Coast. For starters, over a thousand more people from across the country were arrested in the subsequent two weeks, including big names like NASA climate scientist James Hansen, author Naomi Klein and actress Daryl Hannah. Support from high places soon followed, from the New York Times editorial page to nine Nobel Peace Laureates.

Momentum kept rolling throughout September with protests popping up at Obama campaign events and an impressive day of civil disobedience where over 200 people were arrested on Parliament Hill in Ottawa. As attention continued to swirl around an issue that had only weeks prior been known by environmentalists and people living along the proposed pipeline route, cracks within government began to emerge.

By early October emails emerged detailing a scandalous relationship between State Department employees and a former Hillary Clinton presidential campaign leader turned pipeline lobbyist. The New York Times called this discovery a “flouting of environmental law.” Not long thereafter, 20 members of Congress and three high-ranking senators expressed “serious concerns” about the pipeline and the State Department’s tainted approval process

Continuing its reckless behavior, the State Department announced this week that it had lost tens of thousands of public comments on the pipeline and won’t say how the remaining will be handled. Perhaps this level of inaction and the negative press that followed led President Obama to step forward on Tuesday and assume full ownership of the ultimate decision on the Keystone XL pipeline. He even went as far as to downplay the importance of jobs the pipeline might bring, saying, “I think folks in Nebraska, like all across the country, aren’t going to say to themselves, “We’ll take a few thousand jobs if it means that our kids are potentially drinking water that would damage their health …”

Author Bill McKibben, de-facto leader of the Tar Sands Action movement, called Obama’s first comments on the pipeline a major turning point:

“Only a day ago the President’s press secretary said the State Department would make the call. Now, it’s very good to see the President taking full ownership of this decision and indicating that the environment will be the top priority going forward.

Of course, it’s not just people in Nebraska that are upset about this project. People from all 50 states were arrested in Washington this August protesting the pipeline and they will be coming back to the White House this Sunday because this pipeline is also a conduit for climate change.”

Not only will they be coming back to the White House, but this time they’ll be encircling it. Over 4,000 people have signed up to show the president, as the organizers put it, that “he has the support needed to reject the pipeline – and that there will be real consequences if he doesn’t.

According to Reuters, President Obama’s advisers are already worried that approval of the pipeline could cost him political support from Democrats in 2012.

Senior officials at the White House and Obama’s Chicago campaign headquarters have fielded complaints from supporters who are unhappy about TransCanada Corp’s plan to build a massive pipeline to transport crude from Alberta to Texas, sources familiar with the situation said.

The concerns could contribute to a delay in the approval process for the Keystone XL pipeline just as the 2012 presidential campaign heats up.

This is a good sign, but obviously for anyone involved in the campaign, anything short of a rejection will be unacceptable. As environmental activist Tim DeChristopher noted in a letter from prison last week, there’s another way to look at Sunday’s action: “It’s an opportunity to meet the people you will be linking hands with in front of a bulldozer if Obama actually signs off on this misguided pipeline.”

If you can be in Washington DC on Sunday sign up to take part in what will undoubtedly be a momentous day. Here are the details, according to the Tar Sands Action website:

We will meet at the center fountain of Lafayette Square Park. The rally begins at 2 PM, with a little bit of live music starting at 1:30.

The rally will be MC’d by Bill McKibben, featuring speakers from across the movement to stop the pipeline. After the rally, we’ll receive direction on how to get in to position around the White House. We have a team of over 100 monitors and marshals ready to make sure everything goes smoothly.

After we surround the White House, we’ll head back to the park, and hopefully wrap up just as the sun sets at 5:30.

Occupy Wall Street: The Most Important Thing in the World Now October 7, 2011

Posted by rogerhollander in Democracy, Economic Crisis, Revolution.
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,
3 comments
Published on Friday, October 7, 2011 by The Occupied Wall Street Journal

 

  by  Naomi Klein

I was honored to be invited to speak at Occupy Wall Street on Thursday night. Since amplification is (disgracefully) banned, and everything I say will have to be repeated by hundreds of people so others can hear (a k a “the human microphone”), what I actually say at Liberty Plaza will have to be very short. With that in mind, here is the longer, uncut version of the speech.

I love you.

And I didn’t just say that so that hundreds of you would shout “I love you” back, though that is obviously a bonus feature of the human microphone. Say unto others what you would have them say unto you, only way louder.

Yesterday, one of the speakers at the labor rally said: “We found each other.” That sentiment captures the beauty of what is being created here. A wide-open space (as well as an idea so big it can’t be contained by any space) for all the people who want a better world to find each other. We are so grateful.

If there is one thing I know, it is that the 1 percent loves a crisis. When people are panicked and desperate and no one seems to know what to do, that is the ideal time to push through their wish list of pro-corporate policies: privatizing education and social security, slashing public services, getting rid of the last constraints on corporate power. Amidst the economic crisis, this is happening the world over.

And there is only one thing that can block this tactic, and fortunately, it’s a very big thing: the 99 percent. And that 99 percent is taking to the streets from Madison to Madrid to say “No. We will not pay for your crisis.”

That slogan began in Italy in 2008. It ricocheted to Greece and France and Ireland and finally it has made its way to the square mile where the crisis began.

“Why are they protesting?” ask the baffled pundits on TV. Meanwhile, the rest of the world asks: “What took you so long?” “We’ve been wondering when you were going to show up.” And most of all: “Welcome.”

Many people have drawn parallels between Occupy Wall Street and the so-called anti-globalization protests that came to world attention in Seattle in 1999. That was the last time a global, youth-led, decentralized movement took direct aim at corporate power. And I am proud to have been part of what we called “the movement of movements.”

But there are important differences too. For instance, we chose summits as our targets: the World Trade Organization, the International Monetary Fund, the G8. Summits are transient by their nature, they only last a week. That made us transient too. We’d appear, grab world headlines, then disappear. And in the frenzy of hyper patriotism and militarism that followed the 9/11 attacks, it was easy to sweep us away completely, at least in North America.

Occupy Wall Street, on the other hand, has chosen a fixed target. And you have put no end date on your presence here. This is wise. Only when you stay put can you grow roots. This is crucial. It is a fact of the information age that too many movements spring up like beautiful flowers but quickly die off. It’s because they don’t have roots. And they don’t have long term plans for how they are going to sustain themselves. So when storms come, they get washed away.

Being horizontal and deeply democratic is wonderful. But these principles are compatible with the hard work of building structures and institutions that are sturdy enough to weather the storms ahead. I have great faith that this will happen.

Something else this movement is doing right: You have committed yourselves to non-violence. You have refused to give the media the images of broken windows and street fights it craves so desperately. And that tremendous discipline has meant that, again and again, the story has been the disgraceful and unprovoked police brutality. Which we saw more of just last night. Meanwhile, support for this movement grows and grows. More wisdom.

But the biggest difference a decade makes is that in 1999, we were taking on capitalism at the peak of a frenzied economic boom. Unemployment was low, stock portfolios were bulging. The media was drunk on easy money. Back then it was all about start-ups, not shutdowns.

We pointed out that the deregulation behind the frenzy came at a price. It was damaging to labor standards. It was damaging to environmental standards. Corporations were becoming more powerful than governments and that was damaging to our democracies. But to be honest with you, while the good times rolled, taking on an economic system based on greed was a tough sell, at least in rich countries.

Ten years later, it seems as if there aren’t any more rich countries. Just a whole lot of rich people. People who got rich looting the public wealth and exhausting natural resources around the world.

The point is, today everyone can see that the system is deeply unjust and careening out of control. Unfettered greed has trashed the global economy. And it is trashing the natural world as well. We are overfishing our oceans, polluting our water with fracking and deepwater drilling, turning to the dirtiest forms of energy on the planet, like the Alberta tar sands. And the atmosphere cannot absorb the amount of carbon we are putting into it, creating dangerous warming. The new normal is serial disasters: economic and ecological.

These are the facts on the ground. They are so blatant, so obvious, that it is a lot easier to connect with the public than it was in 1999, and to build the movement quickly.

We all know, or at least sense, that the world is upside down: we act as if there is no end to what is actually finite—fossil fuels and the atmospheric space to absorb their emissions. And we act as if there are strict and immovable limits to what is actually bountiful—the financial resources to build the kind of society we need.

The task of our time is to turn this around: to challenge this false scarcity. To insist that we can afford to build a decent, inclusive society—while at the same time, respect the real limits to what the earth can take.

What climate change means is that we have to do this on a deadline. This time our movement cannot get distracted, divided, burned out or swept away by events. This time we have to succeed. And I’m not talking about regulating the banks and increasing taxes on the rich, though that’s important.

I am talking about changing the underlying values that govern our society. That is hard to fit into a single media-friendly demand, and it’s also hard to figure out how to do it. But it is no less urgent for being difficult.

That is what I see happening in this square. In the way you are feeding each other, keeping each other warm, sharing information freely and proving health care, meditation classes and empowerment training. My favorite sign here says, “I care about you.” In a culture that trains people to avoid each other’s gaze, to say, “Let them die,” that is a deeply radical statement.

A few final thoughts. In this great struggle, here are some things that don’t matter.

§ What we wear.

§ Whether we shake our fists or make peace signs.

§ Whether we can fit our dreams for a better world into a media soundbite.

And here are a few things that do matter.

§ Our courage.

§ Our moral compass.

§ How we treat each other.

We have picked a fight with the most powerful economic and political forces on the planet. That’s frightening. And as this movement grows from strength to strength, it will get more frightening. Always be aware that there will be a temptation to shift to smaller targets—like, say, the person sitting next to you at this meeting. After all, that is a battle that’s easier to win.

Don’t give in to the temptation. I’m not saying don’t call each other on shit. But this time, let’s treat each other as if we plan to work side by side in struggle for many, many years to come. Because the task before will demand nothing less.

Let’s treat this beautiful movement as if it is most important thing in the world. Because it is. It really is.

Copyright © 2011 Naomi Klein

 

Naomi Klein

Naomi Klein is an award-winning journalist and syndicated columnist and the author of the international and New York Times bestseller The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, now out in paperback. Her earlier books include the international best-seller, No Logo: Taking Aim at the Brand Bullies (which has just been re-published in a special 10th Anniversary Edition); and the collection Fences and Windows: Dispatches from the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate (2002). To read all her latest writing visit www.naomiklein.org. You can follow her on Twitter: @NaomiAKlein.

Author Naomi Klein arrested in oilsands protest September 3, 2011

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Demonstrators, including Canadian activist Naomi Klein (fouth from left), hold up signs in front of the White House in Washington, Friday, Sept. 2, 2011, to protest the Keystone XL Pipeline project in the US, and the Tar Sands Development in Alberta Canada.
Mitch Potter, Toronto Star, September 3, 2011

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WASHINGTON—More than 1,000 people have been busted at the gates of the White House the past two weeks, as the most ambitious of climate protests against Canadian oil comes to a head.

Toronto author and activist Naomi Klein was not planning to be among them. Support the cause? Sure. Speak to the anti-tarsands faithful? Absolutely. But to actually get arrested?

No, Klein and the other Canadian protesters in Washington agreed — that is a stand best left to their U.S. counterparts, who need not worry whether such close encounters with law enforcement will hamper their ability to cross borders in the future.

Yet there was Klein on Friday, being led away by police in the latest harvest of detainees after a last-second decision to put her liberty on the line in opposition to the controversial Keystone XL pipeline.

Two weeks ago, when the rolling protests began, the detentions lasted two full days. But the sheer volume of arrests — Klein was among 166 taken away Friday — has forced DC authorities to accelerate processing. Barely two hours after she was taken away, Klein was let go. Like everyone else, she was cited for “failure to obey.”

“I wasn’t planning to get arrested,” Klein told the Star minutes after she was sprung.

“It was a last-minute decision. I was sitting there with several indigenous leaders from Canada. And when it became clear they intended to stay where they were and expose themselves to arrest, well . . .” She did the same.

For Klein, it was a first-ever arrest. “I write. And I’m an activist. But I’m not a chanter, not a marcher. I’ve never been arrested before.

“But that’s what’s been happened for two weeks. Climate scientists, landowners, a wide range of people who all feel this same sense of urgency. The feeling is that we can’t just talk about the stakes on Twitter and leave it at that. If we mean what we say then we have to act like it.”

Klein is unsure yet whether the bust will come back haunt her in future cross-border travels. For now, her speedy release means she will be free to fulfill plans to address Saturday’s campaign-ending protest in Lafayette Park opposite the White House.

The overarching question in D.C., however, is whether the cause is already lost.

Though no final decision on the $7 billion TransCanada pipeline is expected for 90 days, all the body language emanating from the Obama administration suggests minds are made up and the project to nearly double the American intact of carbon-intensive Alberta bitumen is a go.

Last week the U.S. State Department gave the strongest endorsement yet of the plan to build the metre-wide steel straw from Alberta to Texas in its final environmental assessment.

U.S. Energy Secretary Steve Chu, in a subsequent interview, framed the issue as “not perfect, but it’s a trade-off.

“It’s certainly true that having Canada as a supplier for our oil is much more comforting than to have other countries supply our oil,” Chu said.

And Friday, Team Obama was hastily retreating on another key environmental policy, instructing the Environmental Protection Agency to delay plans to tighten ozone standards. The Sierra Club, among others, denounced the decision as a gift to “coal and oil polluters.”

Many longtime interpreters of Washington’s political tea leaves suggest the final political considerations for Keystone XL come down to jobs. A $7 billion, shovel-ready project here and now, for a President whose future likely depends on how Americans are working in November, 2012, when Obama comes up for re-election.

The political risks for Obama are vast, insofar as many of those arrested these past two weeks are among his truest believers — the young, grassroots activists who help lift him to power in 2008, fully expecting an administration that would follow through on its promise to wean the country off fossil fuels.

One of them, Courtney Hight, acknowledged her discomfort in an interview with the Star. The Floridian activist was “one of the first boots on the ground for Obama,” dedicated three years of her life as his campaign’s Youth Vote Director. She went on to join the White House Council on Environmental Quality before shifting back to activism as co-director of the Energy Action Coalition.

She was arrested Thursday, outside the front door of the President she thought agreed with her.

“It feels inherently weird and uncomfortable for me to do something remotely critical of this president,” Hight told the Star after her release.

“But I feel ownership over his current position. I am disappointed he is not being stronger, although it is understandable given the continuing attacks he is facing,” said Hight.

“We need old Barack Obama to rise above the politics and just barrel through. And so getting arrested, if that is what it takes, is meant to remind him of the things he once believed — things I think he still believes — that inspired millions of young people to support him.”

None are ready to concede defeat on Keystone XL. As Klein says, if the pro-tarsands lobby was “100 per cent convinced the deal is done they would not be blanketing the U.S. TV networks with ads trying to sell this thing to the public.”

But Klein observed that if Obama ultimately approves Keystone XL, part of the fallout will be to free the broader climate movement from the illusion that “there is a saviour in the White House who just needs to be awakened to come to the rescue.”

The protests against Keystone XL, says Klein, are simply one facet of a broader, multi-pronged campaign targeting the industry through multiple pressure points, from consumer campaigns to boycotts to agitating individual corporations to commit to avoiding tarsands oil.

“Powerful movements are built on strategy, not saviours. So if it turns out that Obama approves this pipeline, the movement is not going to crawl away, it’s going to change strategy,” she said.

“It will be healthy for people to know there isn’t a saviour in the White House. We have to build the movement we want. And the strategy can’t be trying wake up one person.”

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‘No Tar Sands’: Margot Kidder Marches on Washington August 20, 2011

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Published on Friday, August 19, 2011 by the Toronto Star

  by Martin Knelman

Margot Kidder became Hollywood’s most famous Canadian by playing Lois Lane in four Superman movies.

Actor Christopher Reeve, as Superman, and Margot Kidder, as Lois Lane, appear in a scene from the 1978 movie ‘Superman. But later, when she was orchestrating a comeback after a series of disasters, she took on a gig doing the voice of a character named Earth Mother in the cartoon show Captain Planet.

Among the lines she delivered: “Hold on, Planeteer, I hate to interrupt your eco-argument, but there’s a nuclear waste spill on the ocean.”

Next week Kidder will be playing Earth Mother for real — doing whatever it takes to get herself arrested in front of the White House while trying to persuade Barack Obama not to sign a deal allowing a new pipeline carrying oil from the Alberta tar sands to Texas.

One of her partners in crime is another celebrated Canadian-born actress and dear old friend, Tantoo Cardinal, an Aboriginal from northern Alberta.

Theirs will be only two faces among the thousands taking part in a large-scale protest, but they will bring a bit of showbiz glitter to the event while showing there are Canadians as well as Americans appalled by the horrifying danger of spreading poison from Alberta all over North America.

(A number of other prominent Canadians are also involved in the protest, including Naomi Klein.)

“This is not just about oil,” Kidder explained this week in a phone interview from her home in Montana. “It’s about climate change and irreversible damage to the environment.”

These days, at 62, Kidder works occasionally, doing such acting gigs as her appearance a year ago at Toronto’s Panasonic Theater in Nora Ephron’s Love, Loss and What I Wore.

But most of the time, she lives quietly, simply and happily in Montana, close to her daughter and grandchildren.

Being at the center of the Hollywood circus may be a distant memory, but Kidder still has the ebullient spirit, charmingly goofy smile and twangy voice that made her a popular favorite.

And she’s still the fearless adventurer and reckless maverick who was born in Yellowknife and grew up in northern mining camps, the daughter of a rambunctious mining engineer from Texas known as Happy Kidder.

Her old friend Norman Jewison, who cast her in her first Hollywood movie in the 1960s, recalls that even back then, “she was a woman of causes, passionate and not afraid to stand her ground.”

That has not changed. Though she has been a U.S. resident for decades, Kidder has proudly held onto her Canadian citizenship. But she became a dual citizen so that she could vote against George W. Bush in 2004 — and so she could take part in protests against the Iraq war without being at risk of deportation.

“Tantoo and I are both northern Canadian babies who believe that the North is a beautiful place worth saving.

“The tar sands have caused a lot of damage already in Alberta, where a lot of people have a weird new kind of cancer. The kind of oil being extracted is thick and corrosive, like molasses, and it has to be pumped at a high heat, emitting poisonous carbon.”

There is already one pipeline running from Alberta to Texas, and there have been disturbing leaks. According to Kidder, the proposed new pipeline would destroy the freshwater rivers and other natural wonders of Montana, because it’s bound to leak.

“We already have experts who warn that if the tar sands industry is allowed to expand and build another pipeline, the damages will be irreversible and the long-term consequences horrendous,” warns Kidder. “In fact this is the most serious climate changer we have on the planet.”

So why are political leaders in Ottawa and Washington in favour of expanding the tar sands?

“In his 2008 campaign, Obama made a promise to stand up to oil companies and Wall Street,” says Kidder, “but now he is being pressed to sign this agreement between now and November, and those who worked for Obama are so discouraged. A lot of people are dismayed that democracy is losing out to huge corporations that contribute billions to political campaigns.”

Kidder and other demonstrators hope to persuade Obama to stand up to the oil companies and refuse to sign the pipeline deal. In the process of making the point, she expects to land in a Washington jail, if only briefly.

As for Canada, she laments: “Stephen Harper is more interested in short-term profit than long-term consequences. But I have two beautiful grandchildren, and I would like them to live on a beautiful planet.”

© 2011 Toronto Star

Environmental Leaders Call for Civil Disobedience to Stop the Keystone XL Pipeline June 23, 2011

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Published on Thursday, June 23, 2011 by CommonDreams.org

  by Naomi Klein, Wendell Berry, Maude Barlow, Bill McKibben and Others

Dear Friends,

This will be a slightly longer letter than common for the internet age—it’s serious stuff.

The short version is we want you to consider doing something hard: coming to Washington in the hottest and stickiest weeks of the summer and engaging in civil disobedience that will likely get you arrested.

The full version goes like this:

As you know, the planet is steadily warming: 2010 was the warmest year on record, and we’ve seen the resulting chaos in almost every corner of the earth.A coalition of clean energy advocates march from the Canadian Embassy to the White House to condemn a proposed pipeline that would bring tar sands oil, allegedly toxic, from Canada to the United States, in Washington D.C. in July 2010. (Photo: ZUMA Press)

And as you also know, our democracy is increasingly controlled by special interests interested only in their short-term profit.

These two trends collide this summer in Washington, where the State Department and the White House have to decide whether to grant a  certificate of ‘national interest’ to some of the biggest fossil fuel players on earth. These corporations want to build the so-called ‘Keystone XL Pipeline’ from Canada’s tar sands to Texas refineries.

To call this project a horror is serious understatement. The tar sands have wrecked huge parts of Alberta, disrupting ways of life in indigenous communities—First Nations communities in Canada, and tribes along the pipeline route in the U.S. have demanded the destruction cease. The pipeline crosses crucial areas like the Oglalla Aquifer where a spill would be disastrous—and though the pipeline companies insist they are using ‘state of the art’ technologies that should leak only once every 7 years, the precursor pipeline and its pumping stations have leaked a dozen times in the past year. These  local impacts alone would be cause enough to block such a plan. But the Keystone Pipeline would also be a fifteen hundred mile fuse to the biggest carbon bomb on the continent, a way to make it easier and faster to trigger the final overheating of our planet, the one place to which we are all indigenous.

How much carbon lies in the recoverable tar sands of Alberta? A recent calculation from some of our foremost scientists puts the figure at about 200 parts per million.  Even with the new pipeline they won’t be able to burn that much overnight—but each development like this makes it easier to get more oil out.  As the climatologist Jim Hansen (one of the signatories to this letter) explained, if we have any chance of getting back to a stable climate “the principal requirement is that coal emissions must be phased out by 2030 and unconventional fossil fuels, such as tar sands, must be left in the ground.” In other words, he added, “if the tar sands are thrown into the mix it is essentially game over.” The Keystone pipeline is an essential part of the game. “Unless we get increased market access, like with Keystone XL, we’re going to be stuck,” said Ralph Glass, an economist and vice-president at AJM Petroleum Consultants in Calgary, told a Canadian newspaper last week.

Given all that, you’d suspect that there’s no way the Obama administration would ever permit this pipeline. But in the last few months the president has signed pieces of paper opening much of Alaska to oil drilling, and permitting coal-mining on federal land in Wyoming that will produce as much CO2 as 300 power plants operating at full bore.

And Secretary of State Clinton has already said she’s ‘inclined’ to recommend the pipeline go forward. Partly it’s because of the political commotion over high gas prices, though more tar sands oil would do nothing to change that picture. But it’s also because of intense pressure from industry. TransCanada Pipeline, the company behind Keystone, has hired as its chief lobbyist for the project a man named Paul Elliott, who served as deputy national director of Clinton’s presidential campaign. Meanwhile, the US Chamber of Commerce—a bigger funder of political campaigns than the RNC and DNC combined—has demanded that the administration “move quickly to approve the Keystone XL pipeline,” which is not so surprising—they’ve also told the U.S. EPA that if the planet warms that will be okay because humans can ‘adapt their physiology’ to cope. The Koch Brothers, needless to say, are also backing the plan, and may reap huge profits from it.

So we’re pretty sure that without serious pressure the Keystone Pipeline will get its permit from Washington.  A wonderful coalition of environmental groups has built a strong campaign across the continent—from Cree and Dene indigenous leaders to Nebraska farmers, they’ve spoken out strongly against the destruction of their land. We need to join them, and to say even if our own homes won’t be crossed by this pipeline, our joint home—the earth—will be wrecked by the carbon that pours down it.

And we need to say something else, too: it’s time to stop letting corporate power make the most important decisions our planet faces.

We don’t have the money to compete with those corporations, but we do have our bodies, and beginning in mid August many of us will use them. We will, each day through Labor Day, march on the White House, risking arrest with our trespass. We will do it in dignified fashion, demonstrating that in this case we are the conservatives, and that our foes—who would change the composition of the atmosphere are dangerous radicals. Come dressed as if for a business meeting—this is, in fact, serious business. And another sartorial tip—if you wore an Obama button during the 2008 campaign, why not wear it again? We very much still want to believe in the promise of that young Senator who told us that with his election the ‘rise of the oceans would begin to slow and the planet start to heal.’ We don’t understand what combination of bureaucratic obstinacy and insider dealing has derailed those efforts, but we remember his request that his supporters continue on after the election to pressure the government for change. We’ll do what we can.

And one more thing: we don’t want college kids to be the only cannon fodder in this fight. They’ve led the way so far on climate change—10,000 came to DC for the Powershift gathering earlier this spring. They’ve marched this month in West Virginia to protest mountaintop removal; Tim DeChristopher faces sentencing this summer in Utah for his creative protest.  Now it’s time for people who’ve spent their lives pouring carbon into the atmosphere (and whose careers won’t be as damaged by an arrest record) to step up too. Most of us signing this letter are veterans of this work, and we think it’s past time for elders to behave like elders. One thing we don’t want is a smash up: if you can’t control your passions, this action is not for you.

This won’t be a one-shot day of action. We plan for it to continue for several weeks, to the date in September when by law the administration can either grant or deny the permit for the pipeline. Not all of us can actually get arrested—half the signatories to this letter live in Canada, and might well find our entry into the U.S. barred. But we will be making plans for sympathy demonstrations outside Canadian consulates in the U.S., and U.S. consulates in Canada—the decision-makers need to know they’re being watched.

Winning this battle won’t save the climate. But losing it will mean the chances of runaway climate change go way up—that we’ll endure an endless future of the floods and droughts we’ve seen this year. And we’re fighting for the political future too—for the premise that we should make decisions based on science and reason, not political connection.  You have to start somewhere, and this is where we choose to begin.

If you think you might want to be a part of this action, we need you to sign up here. As plans solidify in the next few weeks we’ll be in touch with you to arrange nonviolence training; our colleagues at a variety of environmental and democracy campaigns will be coordinating the actual arrangements.

We know we’re asking a lot. You should think long and hard on it, and pray if you’re the praying type. But to us, it’s as much privilege as burden to get to join this fight in the most serious possible way. We hope you’ll join us.

Maude Barlow
Wendell Berry
Tom Goldtooth
Danny Glover
James Hansen
Wes Jackson
Naomi Klein
Bill McKibben
George Poitras
David Suzuki
Gus Speth

p.s.—Please pass this letter on to anyone else you think might be interested. We realize that what we’re asking isn’t easy, and we’re very grateful that you’re willing even to consider it.

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