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Authoritarian Leftists | Kill the Cop in Your Head

The Anarchist Library

1996

by Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin

Video: Police Brutality and Black Sellout Organizations | Published on Aug 14, 2014

 

It’s difficult to know where to begin with this open letter to the various European-american leftist (Marxist-Leninist and Marxist-Leninist-Maoist, in particular) groups within the United States. I have many issues with many groups; some general, some very specific. The way in which this is presented may seem scattered at first, but I encourage all of you to read and consider carefully what I have written in its entirety before you pass any judgments.

It was V.I. Lenin who said, “take from each national culture only its democratic and socialist elements; we take them only and absolutely in opposition to the bourgeois culture and bourgeois nationalism of each nation”. It could be argued that Lenin’s statement in the current Amerikkkan context is in fact a racialist position; who is he (or the Bolsheviks themselves) to “take” anyone or pass judgment on anyone; particularly since the privileges of having white skin are a predominant factor within the context of amerikkkan-style oppression. This limited privilege in capitalist society is a prime factor in the creation and maintenance of bourgeois ideology in the minds of many whites of various classes in the US and elsewhere on the globe.

When have legitimate struggles or movements for national and class liberation had to “ask permission” from some eurocentric intellectual “authority” who may have seen starvation and brutality, but has never experienced it himself? Where there is repression, there is resistance… period. Self-defense is a basic human right that we as Black people have exercised time and time again, both violent and non-violent; a dialectical and historical reality that has kept many of us alive up to this point.

Assuming that this was not Lenin’s intent, and assuming that you all truly uphold worldwide socialism/communism, then the question must be asked: Why is it that each and every white dominated/white-led “vanguard” in the United States has in fact done the exact opposite of what Lenin Proclaims/recommends when it comes to interacting with blacks and other people of color?

Have any of you actually sat down and seriously thought about why there are so few of us in your organizations; and at the same time why non-white socialist/communist formations, particularly in the Black community, are so small and isolated? I have a few ideas…

I. A fundamentally incorrect analysis of the role of the white left in the last thirty years of civil rights to Black liberation struggle…

By most accounts, groups such as the Black Panther Party, the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, the League of Revolutionary Black Workers, American Indian Movement, and the Puerto Rican Independence Movement “set the standard” for not only communities of color but also for revolutionary elements in the white community.

All of the above groups were ruthlessly crushed; their members imprisoned or killed. Very few white left groups at the time fought back against the onslaught of COINTELPRO by supporting these groups, with the exception of the smaller, armed underground cells. In fact, many groups such as the Progressive Labor Party and the Revolutionary Union (now known as the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA) saw the repression of groups they admired, and at the same time despised, as an opportunity to assert their own version of “vanguard leadership” on our population.

What they failed to recognize (and what many of you generally still fail to recognize) is that “vanguard leadership” is developed, it doesn’t just “magically” happen through preachy, dogmatic assertions, nor does it fall from the sky. Instead of working with the smaller autonomous formations, to help facilitate the growth of Black (and white) self-organization (the “vanguard” leadership of the Black masses themselves and all others, nurtured through grassroots social/political alliances rooted in principle), they instead sought to either take them over or divide their memberships against each other until the group or groups were liquidated. These parasitic and paternalistic practices continue to this day.

The only reason any kind of principled unity existed prior to large-scale repression is because Black-led formations had no illusions about white radicals or their politics; and had no problems with kicking the living shit out of them if they started acting stupid. Notice also that the majority of white radicals who were down with real struggle and real organizations, and were actually trusted and respected by our people, are either still active… or still in prison!

II. The white left’s concept of “the vanguard party”…

Such arrogance on the part of the white left is part and parcel to your vanguardist ideas and practice. Rather than seeking principled partnerships with non-white persons and groups, you instead seek converts to your party’s particular brand of rigid political theology under the guise of “unity”. It makes sense that most of you speak of “Black/white unity” and “sharp struggle against racism” in such vague terms, and with such uncertainty in your voices; or with an overexaggerated forcefulness that seems contrived.

Another argument against vanguardist tendencies in individuals or amongst groups is the creation of sectarianism and organizational cultism between groups and within groups. Karl Marx himself fought tirelessly against sectarianism within the working class movement of 19th century Europe. He was also a staunch fighter against those who attempted to push his persona to an almost god-like status, declaring once in frustration “I assure you, sir, I am no Marxist”. It could be argued from this viewpoint that the “vanguardist” white left in the US today is generally ,by a definition rooted in the day to day practice of Marx himself, anti-Marx; and by proxy, anti-revolutionary.

Like your average small business, the various self-proclaimed “vanguards” compete against each other as well against the people themselves (both white and non-white); accusing each other of provacteurism, opportunism, and/or possessing “the incorrect line” when in fact most (if not all) are provacateurs, opportunists, and fundamentally incorrect.

The nature of capitalist competition demands that such methods and tactics be utilized to the fullest in order to “win” in the business world; the white left has in fact adapted these methods and tactics to their own brand of organizing, actively re-inventing and re-enforcing the very social, political, and economic relations you claim to be against; succeeding in undermining the very basic foundations of your overall theory and all variants of that theory.

Or is this phenomenon part and parcel to your theory? In volume four of the collected works of V.I. Lenin, Lenin himself states up front that “socialism is state-capitalism”. Are you all just blindly following a a dated, foreign “blueprint” that is vastly out of context to begin with; with no real understanding of its workings?

At the same time, it could be observed that you folks are merely products of your environment; reflective of the alienated and hostile communities and families from which many of you emerge. American society has taught you the tenets of “survival of the fittest” and “rugged individualism”, and you swallowed those doctrines like your mother’s milk.

Because the white left refuses to combat and reject reactionary tendencies in their (your) own heads and amongst themselves (yourselves), and because they (you) refuse to see how white culture is rooted firmly in capitalism and imperialism; refusing to reject it beyond superficial culture appropriations (i.e.-Native american “dream catchers” hanging from the rear-view mirrors of your vehicles, wearing Adidas or Nikes with fat laces and over-sized Levis jeans or Dickies slacks worn “LA sag” style, crude attempts to “fit-in” by exaggerated, insulting over-use of the latest slang term(s) from “da hood”, etc), you in fact re-invent racist and authoritarian social relations as the final product of your so-called “revolutionary theory”; what I call Left-wing white supremacy.

This tragic dilemma is compounded by, and finds some of its initial roots in, your generally ahistorical and wishful “analysis” of Black/white relations in the US; and rigid, dogmatic definitions of “scientific socialism” or “revolutionary communism”, based in a eurocentric context. Thus, we are expected to embrace these “socialist” values of the settler/conqueror culture, rather than the “traditional amerikkkan values” of your reactionary opponents; as if we do not possess our own “socialist” values, rooted in our own daily and cultural realities! Wasn’t the Black Panther Party “socialist”? What about the Underground Railroad; our ancestors (and yes, even some of yours) were practicing “mutual aid” back when most European revolutionary theorists were still talking about it like it was a lofty, far away ideal!

One extreme example of this previously mentioned wishful thinking in place of a true analysis on the historical and current political dynamics particular to this country is an article by Joseph Green entitled “Anarchism and the Market Place, which appeared in the newsletter “Communist Voice” (Vol #1, Issue #4, September 15, 1995).

In it he asserts that anarchism is nothing more than small-scale operations run by individuals that will inevitably lead to the re-introduction of economic exploitation. He also claims that “it fails because its failure to understand the relation of freedom to mass activity mirrors the capitalist ideology of each person for their self.” He then offers up a vague “plan of action”; that the workers must rely on “class organization and all-round mass struggle”. In addition, he argues for the centralization of all means of production.

Clearly, Green’s political ideology is in fact a theology. First, anarchism was practiced in mass scale most recently in Spain from 1936–39. By most accounts (including Marxist-Leninist), the Spanish working class organizations such as the CNT (National Confederation of Labor) and the FAI (Federation of Anarchists of Iberia) seized true direct workers power and in fact kept people alive during a massive civil war.

Their main failure was on a military, and partially on an ideological level: (1.) They didn’t carry out a protracted fight against the fascist Falange with the attitude of driving them off the face of the planet. (2.) They underestimated the treachery of their Marxist-Leninist “allies” (and even some of their anarchist “allies”), who later sided with the liberal government to destroy the anarchist collectives. Some CNT members even joined the government in the name of a “united front against fascism”. And (3.), they hadn’t spent enough time really developing their networks outside the country in the event they needed weapons, supplies, or a place to seek refuge quickly.

Besides leaving out those important facts, Green also omits that today the majority of prisoner support groups in the US are anarchist run or influenced. He also leaves out that anarchists are generally the most supportive and involved in grassroots issues such as homelessness, police brutality, Klan/Nazi activity, Native sovereignty issues, [physical] defense of womens health clinics, sexual assault prevention, animal rights, environmentalism, and free speech issues.

Green later attacks “supporters of capitalist realism on one hand and anarchist dreamers on the other”. What he fails to understand is that the movement will be influenced mostly by those who do practical work around day to day struggles, not by those who spout empty rhetoric with no basis in reality because they themselves (like Green) are fundamentally incapable of practicing what they preach. Any theory which cannot, at the very least, be demonstrated in miniature scale (with the current reality of the economically, socially, and militarily imposed limitations of capitalist/white supremacist society taken in to consideration) in daily life is not even worth serious discussion because it is rigid dogma of the worst kind.

Even if he could “show and prove”, his proposed system is doomed to repeat the cannibalistic practices of Josef Stalin or Pol Pot. While state planning can accelerate economic growth no one from Lenin, to Mao, to Green himself has truly dealt with the power relationship between the working class and the middle-class “revolutionaries” who seize state power “on the behalf” of the latter. How can one use the organizing methods of the European bourgeoisie, “[hierarchal] party building” and “seizing state power” and not expect this method of organizing people to not take on the reactionary characteristics of what it supposedly seeks to eliminate? Then there’s the question of asserting ones authoritarian will upon others (the usual recruitment tactics of the white left attempting to attract Black members).

At one point in the article Green claims that anarchistic social relations take on the oppressive characteristics of the capitalist ideology their rooted in. Really? What about the capitalist characteristics of know-it-all ahistorical white “radicals” who can just as effectively assert capitalistic, oppressive social relations when utilizing a top-down party structure (especially when it’s utilized against minority populations)? What about the re-assertion of patriarchy (or actual physical and mental abuse) in interpersonal relationships; especially when an organizational structure allows for, and in fact rewards, oppressive social relationships?

What is the qualitative difference between a party bureaucrat who uses his position to steal from the people (in addition to living a neo-bourgeois lifestyle; privilege derived from one’s official position and justified by other party members who do the same. And, potentially, derived from the color of his skin in the amerikkkan context) and a collective member who steals from the local community? One major difference is that the bureaucrat can only be removed by the party, the people (once again) have no real voice in the matter (unless the people themselves take up arms and dislodge the bureaucrat and his party); the collective member can recieve a swift punishment rooted in the true working class traditions, culture, and values of the working class themselves, rather than that which is interpreted for them by so- called “professional revolutionaries” with no real ties to that particular community. This is a very important, yet very basic, concept for the white left to consider when working with non- white workers (who, by the way, are the true “vanguard” in the US; Black workers in particular. Check the your history, especially the last thirty years of it.); i.e.- direct community control.

This demand has become more central over the last thirty years as we have seen the creation of a Black elite of liberal and conservative (negrosie) puppets for the white power structure to speak through to the people, the few who were allowed to succeed because they took up the ideology of the oppressor. But, they too have become increasingly powerless as the shift to the right in the various branches of the state and federal government has quickly, and easily, “checked” what little political power they had. Also, we do not have direct control over neighborhood institutions as capitalists, let alone as workers; at least white workers have a means of production they could potentially seize. Small “mom and pop” restaurants and stores or federally funded health clinics and social services in the ‘hood hardly count as “Black capitalist” enterprises, nor are any of these things particularly “liberating” in and of themselves.

But white radicals, the white left of the US in particular, have a hard time dealing with the reality that Black people have always managed to survive, despite the worst or best intentions of the majority population. We will continue to survive without you and can make our revolution without you (or against you) if necessary; don’t tell us about “protracted struggle”, the daily lives of non-white workers are testimony to the true meaning of protracted struggle, both in the US and globally. Your inability or unwillingness to accept the fact that our struggle is parallel to yours, but at the same time very specific, and will be finished successfully when we as a people, as working-class Blacks on the North American continent, decide that we have achieved full freedom (as defined by our history, our culture, our needs, our desires, our personal experiences, and our political idea(s)) is by far the primary reason why the white left is so weak in this country.

In addition, this sinking garbage scow of american leftism is dragging other liberating political vessels down with it, particularly the smaller, anti-authoritarian factions within the white settler nation itself and the few [non-dogmatic and non- ritualistic] individuals within todays Marxist-Leninist parties who sincerely wish to get away from the old, tired historical revisionism of their particular “revolutionary” party.

This seemingly “fixed position”, along with many other fixed positions in their “thought”, help to reveal the white left’s profound isolation and alienation from the Black community as a whole and its activists. Yet, many of them would continue to wholeheartedly, and retardedly, assert that they’re part of the community simply because they live in a Black neighborhood or their party headquarters is located there.

The white left’s isolation and alienation was revealed even more profoundly in the criticisms of the Million Man March on Washington. In the end, the majority of the white leftist critics wound up tailing the most backward elements of the Republican Party; some going as far as to echo the very same words of Senate majority leader Bob Dole, who commented on the day after the march that “ You can’t separate the message from the messenger.” Others parroted the words of House majority leader Newt Gingrich, who had the nerve to ask “where did our leadership go wrong?”

Since when were we expected to follow the “leadership” of white amerikkka; the right, left, or center without some type of brutal coercion? Where is the advantage for us in “following” any of them anywhere? What have any of them done for us lately? Where is the “better” leadership example of any of the hierarchical political tendencies (of any class or ideology) in the US and who do they benefit exclusively and explicitly? None of you were particularly interested in us before we rebelled violently in 1992, why the sudden interest? What do you want from us this time?

Few, if any, of the major pro-revolution left-wing newspapers in the US gave an accurate account of the march. Many of them claimed that only the Black petit-bourgeoisie were in attendance. All of them claimed that women were “forbidden” to be there, despite the widely reported fact that our sisters were there in large numbers.

“MIM Notes” (and the Maoist Internationalist Movement itself) to their credit recognize that white workers are NOT the “vanguard” class: yet because they themselves are so profoundly alienated from the Black community on this side of the prison walls they had to rely on information from mainstream press accounts courtesy of the Washington Post. And rightfully alienated they are; who in their right mind actually believes that a small, “secret” cult of white campus radicals can (or should) “lead” the masses of non-white people to their/our freedom? Whatever those people are smoking, I don’t want any! I do have to say, however, that MIM is indeed the least dogma addicted of the entire white left milieu that I’ve encountered; but dogma addicted nonetheless.

I helped organize in the Seattle area for the Million Man March. The strong, Black women I met had every intention of going. None of the men even considered stopping them, let alone suggesting that they not go. Sure, the NOI passed on Minister Farrakhan’s message that it was a “men only” march, but it was barely discussed and generally ignored.

The Million Man March local organizing committees (l.o.c.’s) gave the various Black left factions a forum to present ideas and concepts to entire sections of our population who were not familiar with “Marxism”, “anarchism”, “Kwame Nkrumah”, “George Jackson”, “The Ten-Point Program”, “class struggle”, etc.

It also afforded us the opportunity to begin engaging the some of the members of the local NOI chapter in class-based ideological struggle along with participating community people. Of course, it was impossible for the white left to know any of this; more proof of their profound isolation and alienation. At the time, despite our own minor ideological differences, we agreed on one point: it was none of your business or the business of the rest of the white population. When we organize amongst our own, we consider it a “family matter”. When we have conflicts, that is also a “family matter”. Again, it is none of your business unless we tell you differently. How would you like it if we butted in on a heated family argument you were having with a loved one and started telling you what to think and what to do?

This brings me to two issues that have bothered me since January, 1996. Both comments were made to me by a member of Radical Women at the International Socialist Organization’s conference at the University of Washington. The first statement was: “I don’t recognize Black people as a ‘nation’ like I do Native people.”

My first thought was “who the fuck are you to pass judgment upon a general self-definition that is rooted in our collective suffering throughout the history of this country?”

She might as well join up with the right-wing Holocaust revisionists; for this is precisely what she is practicing, the denial of the Black holocaust from 1555 to the present (along a parallel denial, by proxy, of the genocide against other non- white nations within the US). Our nationalism emerged as a defense against [your] white racism. The difference between revolutionary Black nationalists (like Huey P. Newton and the Black Panther Party) and cultural nationalists (like Farrakhan and the Nation of Islam) is that we see our nationalism as a specific tool to defend ourselves from groups and individuals like this ignorant person, not as an exclusive or single means for liberation.

We recognize that we will have to attack bourgeois elements amongst our people just as vigorously as we fight against white supremacists (“left”, “center”, or “right”). The difference is that our bourgeoisie (what I refer to as the “negrosie”) is only powerful within the community; they have no power against the white power structure without us, nor do they have power generally without the blessing of the white power structure itself. Our task, then, is to unite them with us against a common enemy while at the same time explicitly undermining (and eventually eliminating) their inherently reactionary influence.

The second stupidity to pass her lips concerned our support of Black-owned businesses. I pointed out to her that if she had in fact studied her Marxism-Leninism, she would see that their existence goes hand-in-glove with Marx’s theory that revolution could only ensue once capitalism was fully developed. She came back with the criticism, “Well, you’ll be waiting a long time for that to happen”.

Once again, had she actually studied Marxism-Leninism she would know that Lenin and the Bolsheviks also had to deal with this same question. Russia’s economy was predominantly agricultural, and its bourgeois class was small. They decided to go with the mood and sentiments of the peasantry and industrial workers at that particular moment in history;..seize the means of production and distribution anyway!

Who says we wouldn’t do the same? The participants of the LA rebellion (and others), despite their lack of training in “radical ‘left-wing’ political theory” (besides being predominantly Black, Latino, or poor white trash in Amerikkka), got it half right; they seized the means of distribution, distributed the products of their [collective] labor, and then burned the facilities to the ground. Yes, there were many problems with the events of 1992, but they did show our potential for future progress.

Black autonomists ultimately reject vanguardism because as the white left [as well as elements of the Black revolutionary movement] has demonstrated, it erodes and eventually destroys the fragile ties that hold together the necessary principled partnerships between groups and individuals that are needed to accomplish the numerous tasks associated with fighting back successfully and building a strong, diverse, and viable revolutionary movement.

The majority of the white left is largely disliked, disrespected, and not trusted by our people because they fail miserably on this point. How can you claim to be a “socialist” when you are in fact anti-social? How do you all distinguish yourselves from the majority of your people in concrete, practical, and principled terms?

III. Zero (0) support of non-white left factions by the white left.

I’ve always found this particularly disturbing; you all want our help, but do not want to help us. You want to march shoulder to shoulder with us against the government and its supporters, but do not want us to have a solid political or material foundation of our own to not only win the fight against the white supremacist state but to also re-build our communities on our own behalf in our own likeness(es).

Let white Marxists provide unconditional (no strings attached) material support for non-white factions whose ideology runs parallel to theirs, and let white anarchist factions provide unconditional (again, no strings attached) material support for factions in communities of color who have parallel ideologies and goals. Obviously, the one “string” that can never be avoided is that of harsh economic reality; if you don’t have the funds, you can’t do it. That’s fair and logical, but if you’re paying these exorbitant amounts for projects and events that amount to little more than ideological masturbation and organizational cultism while we do practical work out of pocket or on a tiny budget amongst our own, it seems to me that a healthy dose of criticism/self-criticism and reassessment of priorities is in order on the part of you “professional revolutionaries” of the white left.

If the white left “vanguards” are unwilling to materially support practical work by non-white revolutionary factions, then you have no business showing your faces in our neighborhoods. If you “marxist missionaries” insist on coming into our neighborhoods preaching the “gospel” of Marx, Lenin, Mao, etc, the least you could do is “pay” us for our trouble. You certainly haven’t offered us much else that’s useful.

To their credit, the white anarchists and anti-authoritarian leftists have been generally supportive of the Black struggle by comparison; Black Autonomy and related projects in particular. Matter of fact, back in October of 1994 in an act of mutual aid and solidarity the Philadelphia branch of the Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) printed the very first issue of Black Autonomy (1,000 copies) for free. One of their members actually got a little upset when I asked how much we owed them for the print job. In return (and in line with our class interests), we allied ourselves with the Philly branch and others in a struggle within the IWW against the more conservative “armchair revolutionary/historical society” elements within its national administrative body.

Former political prisoner, SNCC member, Black Panther, and Black autonomist (anarchist) Lorenzo Kom’boa Ervin credits the hard work of anarchist groups in Europe and non-vanguardist Marxist and anarchist factions in the US for assisting him in a successful campaign for early release from prison after 13 years of incarceration.

In no way do we expect you or anyone else to bankroll us; what I am offering is one suggestion to those of you who sincerely want to help; and a challenge to those who in fact seek to “play god” with our lives while spouting empty, meaningless rhetoric about “freedom”, “justice”, “class struggle”, and “solidarity”. To those people I ask: Do you have ideas, or do ideas have you? Actually, a better question might be: do you think at all?

IV. Bourgeois pseudo-analysis of race and class.

It only makes sense that the white left’s analysis of race and class in amerikkka would be so erroneous when you’re so quick to jump up and pass judgment on everyone else about this or that, but deathly afraid of real self-criticism at the individual or collective level; opting instead to use tool(s) of self- criticism as a means to reaffirm old, tired ideas that were barely thought out to begin with or by dodging real self-criticism altogether by dogmatically accusing your critics of “red- baiting”. Clearly, it is you who “red-bait” yourselves; as the old saying goes, “Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones!” Action talks, bullshit walks!

Some of the more backward sections of the white left still push that old tired line “gay, straight, Black, white, same struggle-same fight!” Nothing can be further from the truth. Sure, we are all faced with the same “main enemy”: the racist, authoritarian state and its supporters; but unlike white males (straight or gay) and with some minor parallels to the experiences of white women, our oppression begins at birth. This is a commonality that we share with Native people, Hispanics, Pacific Islanders, and Asians.

As we grow up, we go from being “cute” in the eyes of the larger society, to being considered “dangerous” by the time we’re teenagers. As this point is driven home to us day in and day out in various social settings and circumstances some of us decide, in frustration to give the white folks what they want to believe; we become predatory. This dynamic is played out in ghettos, barrios, chinatowns, and reservations across the country. Even those of us who choose not to engage in criminal activity, or aren’t forced into it, have to live under this stigma. In addition, we as individuals are still viewed as “objects” and our community as a “monolith”.

We then enter the work force…that is, if there are any jobs available. It is there that we learn that our people and other non-whites are “last hired, first fired”, that our white co-workers are generally afraid of us or view as “competition”, and that management is watching us even more closely than other workers, while at the same time fueling petty squabbles and competition between us and other non-white workers. Those of us who are fortunate enough to land a union job soon find out that the unions are soft on racism in the workplace. This only makes sense as we learn later on that unions in the US are running dogs of capitalism and apologists for management, despite their “militant” rhetoric.

Most unionized workers are white, reflective of the majority of unionized labor in the US; who constitute a mere 13% of the total labor force. This is why it is silly for the white left to prattle on and on about the labor “movement” and about how so many of our people are joining unions. That’s no consolation to us when Black unemployment hovers at 35% nationally; many of those brothers and sisters living in places were “permanent unemployment” is the rule rather than the exception, and many more who find work at non-union “dead end” service industry jobs. One out of three of our people is caught up somewhere within the US criminal “justice” system: in jail, in prison, on parole, on work-release, awaiting trial, etc as a direct result.

In addition, many white workers are supportive of racist Republican politicians, such as presidential candidate Pat Buchanan, who promises to protect their jobs at the expense of non-white workers and immigrants. What is the white left or the union movement doing about all of that?

It shouldn’t be surprising that the white left still preaches a largely economist viewpoint when it comes to workers generally, and workers of color in particular. This view is further evidence of not only your own deviation from Marx, but also from Lenin, by your own varied (yet similar) definitions.

Lenin recognized why the majority of Russian revolutionaries of his time put forward an economist position: “In Russia,…the yoke of autocracy appears at first glance to obliterate all distinction between the Social Democrats organization and workers’ association, since all workers associations and all study circles are prohibited; and since the principle manifestation and weapon of the workers’ economic struggle, the strike, is regarded as a criminal (and sometimes even as a political) offense.”

In this country, the distinction between the trade unions and revolutionary organizations is abundantly clear (even if some groups like the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) still fail to make the distinction themselves) and the primary contradiction within the working class is that of racial stratification as a class weapon of the bourgeoisie and capitalists against the working class as a whole.

Yet, the white Left (along with the rest of the white working class) fails to see its collaborationist role in this process. And this goes right back to what I said earlier in this writing about the need for a serious historical and cultural critique amongst all white people (and not just the settler nation’s left-wing factions) that goes beyond superficial culture appropriations or lofty, dogmatic proclamations of how committed you and your party is to “racial equality”. To even consider oneself “white” or to call oneself “white” is an argument FOR race and class oppression; look at the history of the US and see who first erected these terms “white” and “Black”, and why they were created in the first place.

I remember last summer, around the fourth of July, I had a member of the local SWP try to tell me that the American War of Independence was “progressive”. Progressive for whom? Tell us the truth, who were the primary beneficiaries of the American Revolution? You know the answer, we all do; only a total, unrepentant reactionary would lie to the people, especially on this point.

Howard Zinn, in his work “A People’s History of the United States”, points out how early 20th century historian Charles Beard found that of the fifty-five men who gathered in Philadelphia in 1787 to draw up the US Constitution “a majority of them were lawyers by profession, that most were men of wealth, in land, in slaves, manufacturing, or shipping; that half of them had money loaned out at interest, and that forty of the fifty- five held government bonds, according to records of the [US] Treasury Department. Thus, Beard found that most of the makers of the Constitution had some direct economic interest in establishing a strong federal government: the manufacturers needed protective tariffs; the moneylenders wanted to stop the use of paper money to pay off debts; the land speculators wanted protection as they invaded Indian lands; slave-owners needed federal security against slave revolts and runaways; bondholders wanted a government able to raise money by nationwide taxation, to pay off those bonds.

Four groups, Beard noted, were not represented in the Constitutional Convention: slaves, indentured servants, women, men without property. And so the Constitution did not reflect the interests of those groups.” (Zinn, pg.90)

Come to terms with your white skin privilege (and the ideology and attitude(s) this privilege breeds) and then figure out how to combat that dynamic as part of your fight against the state and its supporters. Your continued backwardness is a sad commentary when we uncover historical evidence which shows that even before the turn of the century some of your own ancestors within the white working class were beginning to take the first small steps towards a greater understanding of their social role as the white servants of capital. A white shoemaker in 1848 wrote:

“…we are nothing but a standing army that keeps three million of our brethren in bondage… Living under the shade of Bunker Hill monument, demanding in the name of humanity, our right, and withholding those rights from others because their skin is black! Is it any wonder that God in his righteous anger has punished us by forcing us to drink the bitter cup of degradation.” (Zinn, pg.222)

We can even look to the historical evidence of Lenin’s time. Prior to the publishing of Lenin’s “On Imperialism”, W.E.B. DuBois wrote an article for the May, 1915 edition of the Atlantic Monthly titled “The African Roots of War” in which he vividly describes how both rich and poor whites benefit from the super- exploitation of non-white people:

“Yes, the average citizen of England, France, Germany, the United States, had a higher standard of living than before. But: ‘Whence comes this new wealth?’…It comes primarily from the darker nations of the world-Asia and Africa, South and Central America, the West Indies, and the islands of the South Seas. It is no longer simply the merchant prince, or the aristocratic monopoly, or even the employing class that is exploiting the world: it is the nation, a new democratic nation composed of united capital and labor.” (Zinn)

Yet, the self-titled “anti-racists” of the left continue on with their infantile fixation on the Klan, Nazis, and right-wing militias. Groups that they say they are against, but in fact demonstrate a tolerance for in practice. Standing around chanting empty slogans in front of a line of police separating demonstrators from the nazis in a “peaceful demonstration” is contradiction in its purest form; both the police and the fascists must be mercilessly destroyed! As the Spanish anarchist Buenaventura Durruti proclaimed back in 1936 “Fascism is not to be debated, it is to be smashed!” There is no room for compromise or dialogue, except for asking them for a last meal request and choice of execution method before we pass sentence; and even that is arbitrary!

True, tactical considerations must be examined, but if we can’t get at them then and there, there is no “rule” that says we can’t follow them and hit them when they least expect it; except for the “rule” of the wanna-be rulers of the Marxist-Leninist white left “vanguard(s)” who only see the fascists as competition in their struggle to see which set of “empire builders” will lord over us; the “good” whites who regulate us to the amerikkkan left plantation of “the glorious workers state”, or the “bad” whites who work us as slaves until half-dead and then laugh as our worn out carcasses are thrown into ovens, cut up for “scientific purposes”, or hung from lamp posts and trees. You people have yet to show me the qualitative difference(s) between a Klan/Nazi- style white supremacist dictatorship and your concept of a “dictatorship of the proletariat” in the context of this particular country and its notorious history. So far, all I have seen from you all is arrogance in coalitions, petty games of political one-upmanship, and ideological/tactical rigidity.

Let’s pretend for a minute that one of the various wanna-be vanguards actually seizes political power. In everyone of your programs, from the program of the RCP, USA to even smaller, lesser known groups there is usually a line somewhere in there about your particular party holding the key levers of state power within a “dictatorship of the proletariat”. Have any of you actually considered what that sounds like to a community without real power? Does this mean that we as Black people are going to have fight and die a second time under your dictatorship in order to have equal access to employment, housing, schools, colleges, public office, party status, our own personal lives generally?

Look at our history; over one hundred years after the Emancipation Proclamation (the 1960’s) we were still dying for the right to vote, for the right to protest peacefully, for the right to live in peace and prosperity within the context of white domination and capitalism. Today, after all of that, it is clear that the masses of our people are still largely powerless; we stayed powerless even as public schools were being desegregated and more of our elites were being elected to Congress and other positions. The same racist, authoritarian state that stripped us of our humanity was now asserting itself as our first line of defense of those hard-won concessions in the form of federal troops and FBI “observers” (who watched as we were beaten, raped, and/or killed) sent to enforce The Civil Rights Act of 1968 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

As we have seen since that time, what the white power structure grants, it can (and will) take away; we can point to recent US Supreme Court decisions around voter redistricting as one part of our evidence. We can also look to the problem of mail and publication censorship in the US prison system (state and federal) that has come back to haunt us since the landmark 1960’s first amendment legal challenge to the state of New York that was won by political prisoner and Black/Puerto Rican anarchist Martin Sostre. And then there’s the attacks on a prisoners’ right to sue a prison official, employee, or institution being made by the House and Senate. Give us one good reason to believe that you people will be any different than these previous and current “benevolent” leaders and political institutions if by some fluke or miracle you folks stumble into state power?

No “guarantees” against counter-revolution or revisionism within your “revolutionary” party/government you say? There are two: the guns, ammunition, organization, solidarity, political consciousness, and continuous vigilance of the masses of non- white people and the truly sympathetic, conscious anti-authoritarian few amongst your population; or a successful grassroots- based revolution that is rooted in anti-authoritarian political ideas that are culturally relevant to each ethnicity of the poor and working class population in the US. Judging by the general attitudes and theories expressed by your members and leadership, we can be rest assured that it is virtually guaranteed that the spirit of ‘Jim Crow’ can and will flourish within a white-led Marxist-Leninist “proletarian dictatorship” in the US. It’s clear to me why you all ramble on and on about the revolutions of China, Russia, Vietnam, Cuba, etc; they provide convenient cover for you all (read: escapism) to avoid a serious examination of the faults in your current analysis as well as in the historical analysis of the last thirty years of struggle in the US.

These are the only conclusions that can be drawn when you all are so obviously hostile to the idea of doing the hard work of confronting your own individual racist and reactionary tendencies. When your own fellow white activists attempted to put together an “Anti-Racism Workshop” for members of the Seattle Mumia Defense Committee, many of you pledged your support (in the form of the usual dogmatic, vague, and arguably baseless rhetorical proclamations of “solidarity” and “commitment to racial equality”) and then proceeded to not show up. Only the two initial organizers within the SMDC and two coalition members (neither affiliated with any political party) were there. Make no mistake, I have no illusions about white people confronting their own racism; but I do support their honest attempts at doing so. Here we have a situation in which an ideological leap amongst the white left in Seattle may have been initiated; yet, the all- knowing, all-seeing “revolutionary vanguard(s)” of the white left were too busy spending that particular weekend picking the lent out of their belly buttons. Are we saving our belly-button lent for the potential shortages of food that occur during and shortly after the revolution [is corrupted by the mis-leadership of your particular rigid, dogmatic, authoritarian party]?

V. The bottom line is this: Self-determination!

For most white leftists, this means that we as Black people are demanding our own separate nation-state. Some of our revolutionary factions do advocate such a position. Black Autonomists, however, reject nation-statism [For more on that, refer to page 15 of any copy of Black Autonomy newspaper].

Regardless of whether or not the Black masses opt for a separate homeland on this continent or in Africa, we will be respected as subjects of history and not as objects that the state, its supporters, or the white left decides what to do with.

The answer to “the Black question” is simple: It is not a question; we are people, you will deal with us as such or we will fight you and the rest of the white settler nation…by any and all means necessary! We will not be cowed or dominated by anyone ever again!

Too many times in the course of American (and world) history have our people fought and died for the dream of true freedom, only to have it turn into the nightmare of continued oppression. If the end result of a working-class revolution in the United States is the continued domination of non-white people by white “revolutionary leaders” and a Left-wing [white supremacist] government, then we will make another revolution until any and all perpetrators and supporters of that type of social-political relationship are defeated or dead! Any and all means are completely justifiable in order to prevent the defeat of our revolution and the re-introduction of white supremacy. We will not put up with another 400+ years of oppression; and I’m sure our Native and Hispanic brothers and sisters won’t tolerate another 500+ years of the same ol’ shit.

Ultimately, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”; that’s the main reason I decided to publish this, as yet another humble contribution to the self-education of our people. The second reason is to, hopefully, inspire the white left to re-examine your current practices and beliefs as part of your process of self-education; assuming that you all in fact practice self-education.

Reject the traditions of your ancestors and learn from their mistakes; or reject your potential allies in communities of color. The choice is yours…

“It is a commentary on the fundamentally racist nature of this society that the concept of group strength for black people must be articulated, not to mention defended. No other group would submit to being led by others. Italians do not run the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith. Irish do not chair Christopher Columbus Societies. Yet when black people call for black-run and all-black organizations, they are immediately classed in a category with the Ku Klux Klan.”
-Kwame Toure (Stokely Carmichael), Black Power; Vintage Press, 1965.

For Further Reading

“Black Autonomy, A Newspaper of Anarchism and Black Revolution” Vol. #1, issues #1-#5; Vol. #2, issues #1-#3. 1994–1996.

Bookchin, Murray “Post-Scarcity Anarchism” Ramparts Press, 1971.

Ervin, Lorenzo Kom’boa “Anarchism and the Black Revolution and Other Essays” Monkeywrench Press, 1994

Jackson, Greg “Mythology of A White-Led ‘Vanguard’: A Critical Look at the Revolutionary Communist Party, USA” Black Autonomy staff, 1996.

Mohammed, Kimathi “Organization and Spontaneity: The Theory of the Vanguard Party and its Application to the Black Movement in the US Today” Marcus Garvey Institute, 1974.

Sakai, J. “Settlers: Mythology of the White Proletariat”

Zhenhua, Zhai “Red Flower of China” Soho Press, 1992.

Zinn, Howard “A People’s History of the United States” Harper- Perrenial, Revised 1995.

 

Source: Retrieved on 15 November 2011 from www.iww.org
Notes: Pamphlet produced by the staff of Black Autonomy, A Newspaper of Anarchism and Black Revolution. First printing, April 1996.

FLASHBACK: Democracy Now! Show Funder Censors Anti-War Journalist John Pilger

Where’s the Change?

July 9, 2011

By Bob Feldman

LannanLogo

According to the Lannan Foundation’s Form 990 financial filing for 2008, Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now! Productions was given three grants, totaling $375,000, by the Lannan Foundation. And that same year the Lannan Foundation also gave three grants, totaling $545,000, to The Nation/Nation Institute alternative left media group and three grants, totaling $475,000, to Foundation for National Progress/Mother Jones magazine.

But the Lannan Foundation apparently doesn’t want to allow anti-war journalists who criticize the Democratic Obama Administration’s failure to end the endless U.S. military intervention in Iraq-Afghanistan-Pakistan-Libya-Yemen-Somalia to speak too freely in the United States these days, as indicated by Australian anti-war journalist and anti-war filmmaker John Pilger’s recent experience with Democracy Now!‘s foundation funder. In an article, titled “The Strange Silence of Liberal America,” that was recently posted on the Global Research site, Pilger wrote the following about how the Lannan Foundation apparently operates these days:

“The Lannan Foundation in Santa Fe, New Mexico, believes in free speech. The foundation’s website says it is `dedicated to cultural freedom, diversity and creativity’. Authors, film-makers, poets make their way to a sanctum of liberalism bankrolled by the billionaire Patrick Lannan in the tradition of Rockefeller and Ford.

“Lannan also awards `grants’ to America’s liberal media, such as Free Speech TV, the Foundation for National Progress (publisher of the magazine Mother Jones), the Nation Institute and the TV and radio programme Democracy Now! In Britain, Lannan has been a supporter of the Martha Gellhorn Prize for Journalism, of which I am one of the judges. In 2008, Patrick Lannan personally supported the presidential campaign of Barack Obama. According to the Santa Fe New Mexican, he is `devoted’ to Obama.

“On 15 June, I was due in Santa Fe, having been invited to share a platform with the distinguished American journalist David Barsamian. The foundation was also to host the US premiere of my new film, The War You Don’t See, which investigates the false image-making of war-makers, especially Obama.

“I was about to leave for Santa Fe when I received an email from the Lannan official organising my visit. The tone was incredulous. `Something has come up,’ she wrote. Patrick Lannan had called her and ordered all my events to be cancelled. `I have no idea what this is all about,’ she wrote.

“Baffled, I asked that the premiere of my film be allowed to go ahead as the US distribution largely depended on it. She repeated that `all’ my events were cancelled, `and this includes the screening of your film’. On the Lannan website `cancelled’ appeared across a picture of me. There was no explanation. None of my phone calls was returned, nor subsequent emails answered. A Kafka world of not-knowing descended.

“The silence lasted a week until, under pressure from local media, the foundation put out a brief statement that too few tickets had been sold to make my visit `viable’ and that `the Foundation regrets that the reason fr the cancellation was not explained to Mr. Pilger or to the public at the time the decision was made’. Doubts were cast by a robust editorial in the Santa Fe New Mexican, The paper, which has long played a prominent role in promoting Lannan events, disclosed that my visit had been cancelled before the main advertising and previews were published. A full-page interview with me had to be hurriedly pulled. `Pilger and Barsamian could have expected closer to a packed 820-seat Lensic [arts centre].’

“The manager of The Screen, the Santa Fe cinema that had been rented for the premiere, was called late at night and told to kill all his online promotion for my film, but took it upon himself to re-schedule the film for 23 June. It was a sell-out, with many people turned away. The idea that there was no public interest was demonstrably not true.

“Theories? There are many, but nothing is proven. For me, it is all reminiscent of the long shadows cast during the cold war. `Something is going to surface,’ said Barsamian. `They can’t keep the lid on this.’

“My talk on 15 June was to have been about the collusion of American liberalism in a permanent state of war and the demise of cherished freedoms, such as the right to call government to account. In the United States, as in Britain, serious dissent – free speech — has been substantially criminalised. Obama, the black liberal, the PC exemplar, the marketing dream is as much a warmonger as George W. Bush. His score is six wars. Never in US history has a president prosecuted as many whistle-blowers; yet this truth-telling, this exercise of true citizenship, is at the heart of America’s constitutional first amendment. Obama’s greatest achievement is having seduced, co-opted and silenced much of liberal opinion in the United States, including the anti-war movement.

“The reaction to the Lannan ban has been illuminating. The brave, like the great whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg, were appalled and said so. Similarly, many ordinary Americans called into radio stations and have written to me, recognising a symptom of far greater suppression. But some exalted liberal voices have been affronted that I dared whisper the word, censorship, about such a beacon of `cultural freedom’. The embarrassment of those who wish to point both ways is palpable. Others have pulled down the shutters and said nothing. Given their patron’s ruthless show of power, it is understandable. For them, the Russian dissident poet Yevgeny Yevtushenko once wrote, `When truth is replaced by silence, the silence is a lie.’

“The War You Don’t See” is available on www.johnpilger.com

(Not surprisingly, neither The Nation, Democracy Now! nor Mother Jones magazine has apparently provided its readers, listeners or viewers with much information about either the historic or current business activities of Lannan family members or about which transnational corporate stocks are contained in the investment portfolio of the Lannan Foundation. Yet, according to its Form 990 financial filing, on December 31, 2008 the Lannan Foundation owned $942,000 worth of Microsoft stock, $953,683 of Disney Company stock, $1,267,640 worth of Wells Fargo stock, $1,389,789 worth of Coca-Cola Company stock, $1,580,982 worth of Wal-Mart stock and $44,145 worth of Goldman Sachs stock.–bf)

 

Indigenous Cultural Survival: A Matter of Human Rights

Intercontinental Cry

March 20, 2015

by Jay Taber

The Lummi Indian tribe (Lhaq’temish in Coast Salish language) originally owned much of the San Juan Islands (Washington state) and surrounding waters. They and neighboring tribes in British Columbia shared the Salish Sea, one of the richest marine estuaries in the world. Subsequently confined to a reservation on the mainland, Lummi Nation — which boasts the largest indigenous fishing fleet in the U.S. — has been targeted for destruction by three of America’s largest corporations: Peabody Energy, SSA Marine (SSA), and Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad (BNSF). As Sandy Robson notes in her award-winning expose What Would Corporations Do? Native American Rights and the Gateway Pacific Terminal, these corporations will stop at nothing to get what they want.

In The Line is Drawn, Robson chronicles the conflict between SSA Marine subsidiary Gateway Pacific Terminal (GPT) and Lummi Nation, including close financial ties between GPT and Whatcom Tea Party leaders, who throughout 2012, 2013, and 2014 recruited and promoted Citizens Equal Rights Alliance (CERA) — the “Ku Klux Klan of Indian Country” — on KGMI radio programs. Those ties — exposed by Robson in January 2014 — led to a SLAPP suit threat in February 2014 by GPT PR spokesman Craig Cole.

Most recently, the GPT consortium launched a divide-and-conquer campaign against Lummi Nation, by posing the Crow tribe of Montana as an innocent victim of the conflict, when in reality the Crow tribe is in bed with coal companies. Oddly, no one in mainstream media has questioned why the Crow should have any say about Lummi efforts to protect their economy and sacred sites at Cherry Point. As Winona LaDuke observes, Dirty Coal & Clean Fishing don’t mix. As Lummi Nation tribal council chair Tim Ballew remarked in a link at Robson’s article A Sovereign Nation Stands Tall, “Our treaty rights are not for sale”.

Since paying $1.6 million in penalties and fees for illegally bulldozing a registered Native American archaeological site at Cherry Point in 2011, SSA and its public relations firm (Edelman PR) have tried everything under the sun to defeat Lummi Nation’s resistance to turning their treaty fishing area into a carbon corridor for exporting coal and oil to Asia. Wall Street v. Coast Salish is a battle between Big Coal and Big Oil on one side, the Affiliated Tribes of Northwest Indians, Coast Salish First Nations, and Lummi Nation on the other.

Having funded two Tea Party-led Political Action Committees (PACs) to launder electoral campaign donations from the GPT consortium — that includes Peabody, SSA, and BNSF — GPT PR firms and front groups are now promoting the notion that Lummi Nation is unreasonable in its rejection of what would be the largest coal export facility in North America, in the heart of its treaty-guaranteed fishing area. This “usual and accustomed” fishing area, adjacent to the ancient Lummi village and burial ground at Cherry Point, supports treaty and non-treaty harvests of Dungeness crab, halibut, and salmon. As Ballew stated in a Lummi press release, “We have a sacred obligation to protect this location.”

Expanded export of Alberta Tar Sands bitumen, Bakken Shale crude, and Powder River Basin coal through ports on the Salish Sea would vastly increase the odds of a Superspill in the San Juan and Gulf Islands. Preventing that likely catastrophe has brought environmental organizations, churches and tribes together. As GPT doubles down on promoting interracial discord, the carbon corridor conflict demands that we listen to The Voice Within.

When fossil fuel corporations engage in Capitalizing on Fear to destroy the basis of indigenous cultural survival, it becomes a matter of human rights. Given the deceitful and malicious GPT track record toward Lummi Nation, one has to ask why the Washington State Human Rights Commission has so far taken a pass. In fairness, they might be confused, thanks in no small part to Edelman and Cole.

 

Avaaz: Manufacturing Consent for Wars Since 2011

Wall of Controversy

March 20, 2015

By James Boswell

 

 

Four years ago I received an email from the internet campaign group Avaaz which read:

“Together, we’ve sent 450,000 emails to the UN Security Council, “overwhelming” the Council President and helping to win targeted sanctions and a justice process for the Libyan people. Now, to stop the bloodshed, we need a massive outcry for a no-fly zone.” [Bold as in the original.]

Of course, that no-fly zone was Nato’s justification for a war – “no-fly zone” means war. So the bloodshed wasn’t about to be stopped, it was about to begin in earnest:

The foreign media has largely ceased to cover Libya because it rightly believes it is too dangerous for journalists to go there. Yet I remember a moment in the early summer of 2011 in the frontline south of Benghazi when there were more reporters and camera crews present than there were rebel militiamen. Cameramen used to ask fellow foreign journalists to move aside when they were filming so that this did not become too apparent. In reality, Gaddafi’s overthrow was very much Nato’s doing, with Libyan militiamen mopping up.

Executing regime change in Libya cost the lives of an estimated 20,000 people: but this was only the immediate death toll, and as a civil war rages on, the final figure keeps rising, indefinitely and seemingly inexorably. And the number of victims will go on rising for so long as there is lawlessness and chaos in a country now completely overrun with terrorists and warlords. So what was started with a “no-fly zone” is ending with a hell on earth: abandon hope all ye who enter here.

Given their unpardonable role in instigating this entirely avoidable human catastrophe, does it come as any surprise when, with “mission accomplished”, the media chose to turn its back on the carnage in Libya? Patrick Cockburn, who wrote the article from which the above quote is taken, has been a rare exception to the rule. A journalist who was not so quick to swallow the official line, he has since been committed to telling the bigger story, which includes the falsity of Nato’s original justifications for air strikes:

Human rights organisations have had a much better record in Libya than the media since the start of the uprising in 2011. They discovered that there was no evidence for several highly publicised atrocities supposedly carried out by Gaddafi’s forces that were used to fuel popular support for the air war in the US, Britain, France and elsewhere. These included the story of the mass rape of women by Gaddafi’s troops that Amnesty International exposed as being without foundation. The uniformed bodies of government soldiers were described by rebel spokesmen as being men shot because they were about to defect to the opposition. Video film showed the soldiers still alive as rebel prisoners so it must have been the rebels who had executed them and put the blame on the government.

So here is a pattern that repeats with uncanny consistency, and with the mainstream media’s failure to discover and report on the truth also recurring with near parallel regularity. We had the ‘Babies out of incubators’ story in Kuwait, and then those WMDs in Iraq that, as Bush Jnr joked, “have got to be here somewhere”, to offer just two very well-established prior instances of the kinds of lies that have taken us to war.

Patrick Cockburn continues:

Foreign governments and media alike have good reason to forget what they said and did in Libya in 2011, because the aftermath of the overthrow of Gaddafi has been so appalling. The extent of the calamity is made clear by two reports on the present state of the country, one by Amnesty International called “Libya: Rule of the gun – abductions, torture and other militia abuses in western Libya” and a second by Human Rights Watch, focusing on the east of the country, called “Libya: Assassinations May Be Crimes Against Humanity”.1

Click here to read Patrick Cockburn’s full article published last November.

But accusations do not stop even at the deplorable roles played by “foreign governments and media alike”, but apply to all of the various warmongering parties at that time, and one of the groups we must also point the finger to is Avaaz. For it was Avaaz, more than any other campaign group, who pushed alongside Nato in their call for the “no-fly zone” which got the whole war going. To reiterate, since it is vitally important that this is understood, a “no-fly zone” always and without exception means war:

Clearly a no-fly zone makes foreign intervention sound rather humanitarian – putting the emphasis on stopping bombing, even though it could well lead to an escalation of violence.

No wonder, too, that it is rapidly becoming a key call of hawks on both sides of the Atlantic. The military hierarchy, with their budgets threatened by government cuts, surely cannot believe their luck – those who usually oppose wars are openly campaigning for more military involvement.2

So wrote John Hilary in an excellent article entitled “Internet activists should be careful what they wish for in Libya” published on the cusp of “intervention”.

In response, Ben Wikler, a campaign director at Avaaz, posted a comment that included the following remarks:

Would imposing a no-fly zone lead to a full-blown international war? No-fly zones can mean a range of different things.

Wikler is wrong and Hilary correct: “no-fly zones” always mean war. And as a consequence, those at Avaaz like Ben Wikler now have blood on their hands – and yet are unrepentant.

Yes, as with most others who were directly or indirectly culpable, “foreign governments and media alike”, it seems Avaaz too are suffering from collective amnesia. Not only have they forgotten the terrible consequences of imposing a “no-fly zone” on Libya, but they also seem to have forgotten their own deliberate efforts when it came to bolstering public support for that “bloody and calamitous” (to use Cockburn’s words) “foreign intervention” (to use the weasel euphemisms of Nato and the West). Because instead of reflecting upon the failings of Nato’s air campaign four years ago, and without offering the slightest murmur of apology for backing it (not that apologies help at all), Avaaz are now calling upon their supporters to forget our murderous blundering of the recent past, with calls for the same action all over again… this time in Syria.

It was yesterday when I received the latest email from Avaaz. Don’t worry, I’m not a supporter (although the simple fact I receive their emails means by their own definition, I am presumably counted one), but after Libya I chose to remain on their mailing list simply to keep an eye on what they were doing. And (not for the first or the second time) they are selling us on more war:

The Syrian air force just dropped chlorine gas bombs on children. Their little bodies gasped for air on hospital stretchers as medics held back tears, and watched as they suffocated to death.

But today there is a chance to stop these barrel bomb murders with a targeted No Fly Zone.

The US, Turkey, UK, France and others are right now seriously considering a safe zone in Northern Syria. Advisers close to President Obama support it, but he is worried he won’t have public support. That’s where we come in.

Let’s tell him we don’t want a world that just watches as a dictator drops chemical weapons on families in the night. We want action.

One humanitarian worker said ‘I wish the world could see what I have seen with my eyes. It breaks your heart forever.’ Let’s show that the world cares — sign to support a life-saving No Fly Zone

Obviously, I am not supplying the link for this latest call to arms: “a[nother] life-saving No Fly Zone”.

After Avaaz called for war against Libya back in 2011, I wrote a restrained article. But I was too polite. When they called for war again following the sarin gas attack on Ghouta, I hesitated again and looked into the facts. They didn’t stack up (as I explained at length in another post). But nor did I damn Avaaz on that occasion, as I ought to have done, when with Libya already ablaze they set up a campaign like this (sorry that it’s hard to read):

Since that time it has become evident to the world (at least the one outside the Avaaz office) that it has been Syrian forces who have most successfully fought back against Islamist extremists (al-Qaeda, but now more often called ISIS) who not only use poison gas to murder their enemies and spread fear, but methods so barbaric and depraved – public mass beheadings, crucifixions and even cannibalism – that you wonder which century we are living in. But Avaaz push the blame for all of this killing back on to the Assad regime, just as the West (whose close allies continue to back the so-called “rebels”) have also tried to do. And Avaaz are now saying (once again) that escalating the conflict is the way to save the people of Syria – so don’t worry if it spreads the infection now called ISIS – more love bombs are the preferred Avaaz solution for every complex political situation:

“Today, Gadhafi is dead, and the Libyan people have their first chance for democratic, accountable governance in decades…. American casualties were zero. Insurgent fighters and the vast majority of the population have cheered the victory as liberation, and courageous Syrians who face daily threats of death for standing up to their own repressive regime have taken comfort in Gadhafi’s fall. These accomplishments are no small feats for those who care about human dignity, democracy, and stability….

Progressives often demand action in the face of abject human suffering, but we know from recent history that in some situations moral condemnation, economic sanctions, or ex-post tribunals don’t save lives. Only force does.”

These are the self-congratulatory words of Tom Perriello, the co-founder of Avaaz, writing in late 2012. And he finishes the same piece:

We must realize that force is only one element of a coherent national security strategy and foreign policy. We must accept the reality—whether or not one accepts its merits—that other nations are more likely to perceive our motives to be self-interested than values-based. But in a world where egregious atrocities and grave threats exist, and where Kosovo and Libya have changed our sense of what’s now possible, the development of this next generation of power can be seen as a historically unique opportunity to reduce human suffering. 3

Independent investigative journalist, Cory Morningstar, who has probed very deeply into the organization says, “Make no mistake – this is the ideology at the helm of Avaaz.org.”

As she explains:

Tom Perriello is a long-time collaborator with Ricken Patel. Together, they co-founded Avaaz.org, Res Publica and FaithfulAmerica.org.

Perriello is a former U.S. Representative (represented the 5th District of Virginia from 2008 to 2010) and a founding member of the House Majority Leader’s National Security Working Group.

Perriello was also co-founder of Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good. He worked for Reverend Dr. James Forbes on “prophetic justice” principles. Many of these organizations were created with the intent of creating a broad-based “religious left” movement. […]

Despite the carefully crafted language and images that tug at your emotions, such NGOs were created for and exist for one primary purpose – to protect and further American policy and interests, under the guise of philanthropy and humanitarianism.

As Cory Morningstar also points out:

In December 2011, Perriello disclosed that he served as special adviser to the international war crimes prosecutor and has spent extensive time in 2011 in Egypt and the Middle East researching the Arab Spring. Therefore, based on this disclosure alone, there can be no doubt that the deliberate strategy being advanced by Avaaz cannot be based upon any type of ignorance or naïveté. 4

“It breaks your heart forever.” That was the heading under which yesterday’s email arrived and the way it signed off went as follows: “With hope, John, Mais, Nick, Alice, Rewan, Wissam, Ricken and the rest of the Avaaz team”. And this is how they come again with further ploys to prick your conscience. So do please remember before you click on their pastel-coloured links or forward those ‘messages’ to your own friends, how they beat the drums to war on two earlier occasions. In 2013, when they last called for the bombing of Syria (but the war party were halted in their mission), and in 2011 when they first aided Nato’s grand deception and helped to bring unremitting horrors to the innocent people of Libya. Keep in mind too, how lacking in guilt they have been in light of their own imploring role during the run up to the full “shock and awe” display over Tripoli.

Because John, Mais, Nick, Alice, Rewan, Wissam, Ricken and the rest… are really not our friends. They are humanitarian hawks, who are in the business of manufacturing consent for every Nato “intervention”. Indeed, I would like to ask John, Mais, Nick, Alice, Rewan, Wissam, Ricken and the rest, in good faith, just how do you sleep at night?

Click here to read a thorough examination of Avaaz put together by independent investigative journalist Cory Morningstar.

*

Additional:

Here is an open letter I constructed in Summer 2012, but then decided not to post:

Dear Ricken, Eli and the whole Avaaz team,

By your own rather loose definition, I have been a member of Avaaz now for several years. In other words I responded to one of your campaigns many moons ago, and have never subsequently withdrawn my name from your mailing list. I believe that under your own terms, I am thus one of the many millions of your ‘members’. You presume that all those like me who are ‘in the Avaaz community’ support your various campaigns simply because we are on your contact list, although in my own case, this is absolutely not the case. I have ceased to support any of the Avaaz campaigns since you pushed for a ‘no-fly zone’ over Libya, and from this time on, have kept up with your campaign messages simply to keep an eye on you. I vowed never again to sign any of your petitions on the grounds that I do not wish to be a supporter of any organisation that backs an aggressive and expansionist war.

The most common criticism of Avaaz, and other internet campaign groups, is that it encourages ‘slacktivism’, which is indeed a very valid concern:

Sites such as Avaaz, suggested Micah White in the Guardian last year, often only deal with middle-of-the-road causes, to the exclusion of niche interests: “They are the Walmart of activism . . . and silence underfunded radical voices.” More infamously, internet theorist Evgeny Morozov has called the likes of Avaaz “Slacktivists”, claiming that they encourage previously tenacious activists to become lazy and complacent.

There’s also the issue of breadth. Clicktivist websites often cover a range of issues that have little thematic or geographical relation to each other, which leaves them open to accusations of dilettantism.

Click here to read Patrick Kingsey’s full article in the Guardian.

Ricken Patel’s response to Kingsley is to point to their campaign against Murdoch’s takeover of BSkyB:

“Our activism played a critical role in delaying the BskyB deal until the recent scandal was able to kill it,” Avaaz‘s founder, New York-based Ricken Patel, tells me via Skype. 5

So is this really the best example Avaaz has to offer? Since the BSkyB deal would undoubtedly have been stymied for all sorts of other reasons, not least of which were the various phone hacking scandals, and most shockingly, in the hacking of murdered schoolgirl Milly Dowler’s phone. This more than anything killed off the Murdoch bid for BSkyB.

We might also give a little grudging credit to Business Secretary Vince Cable, who in late 2010 revealed privately to undercover reporters that he was ‘declaring war’ on Rupert Murdoch. This caused such a storm that Tory leader David Cameron came out against Cable, describing his comments as “totally unacceptable and inappropriate”, whilst Labour leader Ed Miliband immediately followed suite saying that he would have gone further and sacked Cable 6. In any case, Murdoch was coming under attack from many fronts (including, as shown by Cable’s example, a maverick offensive from inside the government), and so there were already growing calls for a review of the BskyB deal. As it turns out, the deal itself was seriously compromised by a conflict of interests involving Ofcom Chairman Colette Bowe, not that this widely reported – I wrote a post on it just before the deal suddenly collapsed. In fact, I had tried in vain to get a number of politicians to look into this aspect of the case, but none at all even bothered to reply. The story the media were telling quickly moved on, and so the role of Ofcom remains more or less unscrutinised.

But I have a far bigger problem with Avaaz than simply the matter of its lack of effectiveness. Since even if Avaaz has achieved nothing concrete whatsoever, which might well be the case, its growing prominence as a campaign group is undoubtedly helping to frame the protest agenda. Picking and choosing what are and aren’t important issues is dilettantism, yes, and also, potentially at least, “the manufacturing of dissent”. Avaaz‘s defence is that it is an independent body – oh, really?

Co-founder and Director of Avaaz, Ricken Patel said in 2011 “We have no ideology per se. Our mission is to close the gap between the world we have and the world most people everywhere want. Idealists of the world unite!”

“No ideology per se”? So what then are we to make of your association with another organisation called Res Publica, of which Patel is a fellow, and Eli Pariser has also been a member of the Advisor Board.

Res Publica (US) is described by wikipedia as “a US organization promoting ‘good governance, civic virtue and deliberative democracy.’”, though there is no article on the group itself, and nor, for that matter, any entry on Ricken Patel himself. If I visit the Res Publica website, however, the link I immediately find takes me straight to George Soros’ Open Democracy group and also the International Crisis Group of which Soros is again a member of the Executive Committee. The International Crisis Group that gets such glowing endorsements from peace-loving individuals as (and here I quote directly from the website):

President Bill Clinton (‘in the most troubled corners of the world, the eyes, the ears and the conscience of the global community’); successive U.S. Secretaries of State (Condoleezza Rice: ‘a widely respected and influential organisation’, Colin Powell: ‘a mirror for the conscience of the world’ and Madeleine Albright: ‘a full-service conflict prevention organisation’); and former U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, the late Richard Holbrooke (‘a brilliant idea… beautifully implemented’ with reports like CrisisWatch ‘better than anything I saw in government’).

Whilst according to Res Publica‘s own website Ricken Patel has himself “consulted for the International Crisis Group, the United Nations, the Rockefeller Foundation, the Gates Foundation…”

To cut to the quick then, Avaaz claims to independence are simply a sham. Whether foundation funded or not, you are undeniably foundation affiliated. Which brings me to your recent campaigns.

In a letter which I received on Wednesday 11th January, you wrote, typically vaingloriously, about the significance of Avaaz in bringing about and supporting the uprisings of Arab Spring:

Across the Arab world, people power has toppled dictator after dictator, and our amazing Avaaz community has been at the heart of these struggles for democracy, breaking the media blackouts imposed by corrupt leaders, empowering citizen journalists, providing vital emergency relief to communities under siege, and helping protect hundreds of activists and their families from regime thugs.

When all that I can actually recall is some jumping on the bandwagon and your support for the ‘shock and awe’ assault that we saw lighting up the skies over Tripoli. Gaddafi was ousted, of course, much as Saddam Hussein had been by the Bush administration, and likewise, the country remains in chaos. But does the removal of any dictator justify the killing of an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 people in the first months of the Libyan war – these figures according to Cherif Bassiouni, who led a U.N. Human Rights Council mission to Tripoli and rebel-held areas in late April. 7 Figures that officially rose to 25,000 people killed and 60,000 injured, after the attacks on Gaddafi’s besieged hometown of Sirte. 8 The true overall casualties of the Libyan war remain unknown, as they do in Iraq, although a conservative estimate is that around 30,000 people lost their lives. Avaaz, since you called for this, you must wash some of that blood from your own hands.

Now you are calling for ‘action’ against Syria, on the basis this time of your own report which finds that “crimes against humanity were committed by high-level members of the Assad regime”. Now, let me say that I do not in the least doubt that the Assad regime is involved in the secret detainment and torture of its opponents. The terrible truth is that such human rights abuses are routinely carried out all across the Middle East, and in many places on behalf or in collusion with Western security services such as the CIA. Back in September 2010, PolitiFact.com wrote about the Obama administration’s record on so-called “extraordinary renditions” [from wikipedia with footnote preserved]:

The administration has announced new procedural safeguards concerning individuals who are sent to foreign countries. President Obama also promised to shut down the CIA-run “black sites,” and there seems to be anecdotal evidence that extreme renditions are not happening, at least not as much as they did during the Bush administration. Still, human rights groups say that these safeguards are inadequate and that the DOJ Task Force recommendations still allow the U.S. to send individuals to foreign countries.[158]

Whilst back in April 2009, on the basis of what he had witnessed in Uzbekistan, former British Ambassador to Uzbekistan from August 2002 to October 2004, Craig Murray, gave evidence to the Joint Committee on Human Rights “UN Convention against torture: allegations of complicity in torture”. In answers to questions, he explained to the committee how the UK government disguises its complicity and that he believed it has, in effect, helped to create “a market for torture”:

If I may refer to the documents on waterboarding and other torture techniques released recently in the United States on the orders of President Obama, if we are continuing to receive, as we are, all the intelligence reports put out by the CIA we are complicit in a huge amount of torture. I was seeing just a little corner in Uzbekistan. [p. 73]

I think the essence of the government’s position is that if you receive intelligence material from people who torture, be it CIA waterboarding, or torture by the Uzbek authorities or anywhere else, you can do so ad infinitum knowing that it may come from torture and you are still not complicit. [bottom p. 74]

Their position remains the one outlined by Sir Michael Wood, and it was put to me that if we receive intelligence from torture we were not complicit as long as we did not do the torture ourselves or encouraged it. I argue that we are creating a market for torture and that there were pay-offs to the Uzbeks for their intelligence co-operation and pay-offs to other countries for that torture. I think that a market for torture is a worthwhile concept in discussing the government’s attitude. [p. 75]

The government do not volunteer the fact that they very happily accept this information. I make it absolutely plain that I am talking of hundreds of pieces of intelligence every year that have come from hundreds of people who suffer the most vicious torture. We are talking about people screaming in agony in cells and our government’s willingness to accept the fruits of that in the form of hundreds of such reports every year. I want the Joint committee to be absolutely plain about that. [bot p.75] 9

Click here to watch all of parts of Craig Murray’s testimony.

Here is the introduction to Amnesty International‘s Report from last year:

Over 100 suspects in security-related offences were detained in 2010. The legal status and conditions of imprisonment of thousands of security detainees arrested in previous years, including prisoners of conscience, remained shrouded in secrecy. At least two detainees died in custody, possibly as a result of torture, and new information came to light about methods of torture and other ill-treatment used against security detainees. Cruel, inhuman and degrading punishments, particularly flogging, continued to be imposed and carried out. Women and girls remained subject to discrimination and violence, with some cases receiving wide media attention. Both Christians and Muslims were arrested for expressing their religious beliefs.

But not for Syria – for Saudi Arabia report-2011.

And it continues:

Saudi Arabian forces involved in a conflict in northern Yemen carried out attacks that appeared to be indiscriminate or disproportionate and to have caused civilian deaths and injuries in violation of international humanitarian law. Foreign migrant workers were exploited and abused by their employers. The authorities violated the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers. At least 27 prisoners were executed, markedly fewer than in the two preceding years.

Further down we read that:

At least 140 prisoners were under sentence of death, including some sentenced for offences not involving violence, such as apostasy and sorcery.

Not that Amnesty‘s report on Syria report-2011 is any less deplorable:

The authorities remained intolerant of dissent. Those who criticized the government, including human rights defenders, faced arrest and imprisonment after unfair trials, and bans from travelling abroad. Some were prisoners of conscience. Human rights NGOs and opposition political parties were denied legal authorization. State forces and the police continued to commit torture and other ill-treatment with impunity, and there were at least eight suspicious deaths in custody. The government failed to clarify the fate of 49 prisoners missing since a violent incident in 2008 at Saydnaya Military Prison, and took no steps to account for thousands of victims of enforced disappearances in earlier years. Women were subject to discrimination and gender-based violence; at least 22 people, mostly women, were victims of so-called honour killings. Members of the Kurdish minority continued to be denied equal access to economic, social and cultural rights. At least 17 people were executed, including a woman alleged to be a victim of physical and sexual abuse.

Please correct me, but so far as I’m aware, Avaaz have been entirely silent in their condemnation of the human rights violations of either Uzbekistan and Saudi Arabia (two countries that maintain very close ties with the US). Silent too when Saudi forces brutally cracked down on the Arab Spring protests in neighbouring Bahrain. So one could be forgiven for thinking that when Avaaz picks and chooses its fights, those it takes up are, if not always in the geo-strategic interests of the United States, then certainly never against those interests.

Back to your call for action against Syria and the letter continues:

We all had hoped that the Arab League’s monitoring mission could stop the violence, but they have been compromised and discredited. Despite witnessing Assad’s snipers first-hand, the monitors have just extended their observation period without a call for urgent action. This is allowing countries like Russia, China and India to stall the United Nations from taking action, while the regime’s pathetic defense for its despicable acts has been that it is fighting a terrorist insurgency, not a peaceful democracy movement.

Well, I’m not sure that anyone was expecting much from the Arab League, but can you really justify what you are saying here? That the violence now taking place in Syria is against an entirely “peaceful democracy movement” and that Syria is in no way facing a terrorist insurgency. Not that such an insurgency is entirely unjustified; after all one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. But that both sides are involved in atrocities, since both sides are evidently armed and the rebels are undeniably backed by militant Islamist groups.

Making statements such as “allowing countries like Russia, China and India to stall the United Nations from taking action”, directly implies that these foreign powers are simply protecting their own selfish interests (which is, of course, true), whereas the US is intent only on defending freedom and human rights. Such a gross oversimplification and plain nonsense.

So far, I note, Avaaz have not called for direct ‘military intervention’ in Syria, unlike in the shameful case of Libya. But given the timing of this latest announcement and on the basis of past form, I’m expecting petitions for what amounts to war (such as the ‘no-fly zone’ over Libya) will follow soon enough.

And so to your latest campaign, which I received by email on Tuesday 10th April. It begins:

Dear Friends,

Today is a big day for Avaaz. If you join in, Avaaz might just move from having a small team of 40 campaigners to having 40,000!!

Then goes on to explain how the reach of Avaaz will be broadened by encouraging everyone to write their own campaign petitions:

So, to unlock all the incredible potential of our community to change the world, we’ve developed our website tools and website to allow any Avaazer to instantly start their *own* online petitions, tell friends, and win campaigns.

The site just went live – will you give it a try? Think of a petition you’d like to start on any issue – something impacting your local community, some bad behaviour by a distant corporation, or a global cause that you think other Avaaz members would care about. If your petition takes off, it may become an Avaaz campaign – either to members in your area, or even to the whole world!

On the face of it, you are offering a way for everyone to be involved. But 40,000 petitions…? Is this really going to change the world? I have an idea that maybe just five or six might serve the purpose better – here are my suggestions for four:

  • a call for those responsible within the Bush administration and beyond to be charged with war crimes for deliberately leading us into an illegal war with Iraq
  • the criminal prosecution for crimes against humanity of George W Bush and others who have publicly admitted to their approval of the use of torture
  • the repeal of NDAA 2012 and the rolling back of the unconstitutional US Patriot and Homeland Security Acts
  • a criminal investigation into the rampant financial fraud that created the current global debt crisis

So consider me a member of the team once more. I’m putting those four campaigns out there. Or at least I would have before I’d read your ‘Terms of Use’. For it concerns me that “In order to further the mission of this site or the mission of Avaaz, we may use, copy, distribute or disclose this material to other parties” but you do not then go on to outline who those ‘other parties’ might be. And you say you will “Remove or refuse to post any User Contributions for any or no reason. This is a decision Avaaz will strive to make fairly, but ultimately it is a decision that is solely up to Avaaz to make.”

Since you reserve the right to “remove or refuse to post” without making a clear statement of your rules and without any commitment to providing justification for such censorship, I see little reason in bothering to try. Doubtless others will attempt to build campaigns on your platform for actions regarding the very serious issues I have outlined above, and should they achieve this, then I will try to lend support to those campaigns. Alternatively, should I fail to come across campaigns formed around these and related issues, I will presume, rightly or wrongly (this is “a decision that is solely up to me to make”), that Avaaz prefers not to support such initiatives. Either way, I will not holding my breath.

*

1 From an article entitled “The West is silent as Libya falls into the abyss” written by Patrick Cockburn, published by The Independent on November 2, 2014. http://www.independent.co.uk/voices/comment/the-west-is-silent-as-libya-falls-into-the-abyss-9833489.html

2 From an article entitled “Internet activists should be careful what they wish for in Libya” written by John Hillary, published in the Guardian on March 10, 2011. http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2011/mar/10/internet-activists-libya-no-fly-zone

3 From an article entitled “Humanitarian Intervention: Recognizing When, and Why, It Can Succeed” written by Tom Perriello, published in Issue #23 Democracy Journal in Winter 2012. http://www.democracyjournal.org/23/humanitarian-intervention-recognizing-when-and-why-it-can-succeed.php?page=all

4 From an article entitled “Imperialist Pimps of Militarism, Protectors of the Oligarchy, Trusted Facilitators of War”, Part II, Section I, written by Cory Morningstar, published September 24, 2012. Another extract reads:

The 12 January 2012 RSVP event “Reframing U.S. Strategy in a Turbulent World: American Spring?” featured speakers from Charles Kupchan of the Council on Foreign Relations, Rosa Brooks of the New America Foundation, and none other than Tom Perriello, CEO of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Perriello advanced his “ideology” during this lecture.

http://theartofannihilation.com/imperialist-pimps-of-militarism-protectors-of-the-oligarchy-trusted-facilitators-of-war-part-ii-section-i/

5 From an article entitled “Avaaz: activism or ‘slacktivism’?” written by Patrick Kingsley, published in the Guardian on July 20, 2011. http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/jul/20/avaaz-activism-slactivism-clicktivism

6 From an article entitled “Vince Cable to stay on as Business Secretary” published by BBC news on December 21, 2010. http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12053656

7 From an article entitled “Up to 15,000 killed in Libya war: U.N. Right expert” reported by Reuters on June 9. 2011. http://www.reuters.com/article/2011/06/09/us-libya-un-deaths-idUSTRE7584UY20110609

8 From an article entitled “Residents flee Gaddafi hometown”, written by Rory Mulholland and Jay Deshmukh, published in the Sydney Morning Herald on October 3, 2011. http://news.smh.com.au/breaking-news-world/residents-flee-gaddafi-hometown-20111003-1l49x.html

9 From the uncorrected transcript of oral evidence given to the Joint Committee on Human Rights “UN Convention against torture: allegations of complicity in torture” on April 28, 2009. http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/jt200809/jtselect/jtrights/152/152.pdf

Please note that when I originally posted the article the link was to a different version of the document, but it turns out that the old link (below) has now expired. For this reason I have altered the page references in accordance with the new document.

https://docs.google.com/viewer?a=v&q=cache:nogix7L1-kIJ:www.craigmurray.org.uk/Uncorrected%2520Transcript%252028%2520April%252009.doc+craig+murray+evidence+parliamentary+slect+commitee&hl=en&pid=bl&srcid=ADGEESjfCqyleDnk_maooZDF7iGJ5MC68Lb9zNDi5PCH8_9PwlwCybyXYiCD-A1E-O_j9Z5XgnOsKsvguvirw4jqJW9zjuor_secSn7aw_X1JIxHxjLw0CZON7vwOcfitFM1bB8MOsaO&sig=AHIEtbScxyI2eTh3HF2MA_yGyeAcyTsoiQ

[James Boswell was born in Shrewsbury in 1967. In 1986 he moved to London to study Physics at Imperial College, and then moved again in 1989, this time to Sheffield, where his research on comets culminated in a PhD awarded in 1994. Having been settled in Sheffield ever since, he is currently a Physics lecturer at the Sheffield International College.]

 

 

Beyond MLK

The New Inquiry

January 20, 2015

By Lorenzo Raymond

memorialMLK

“Basically your ministers are not people who go in for decisions on the part of people, I don’t know whether you realize it or not…they had been looked upon as saviors.” – Ella Baker

“King was assigned to us by the white power structure, and we took him.” – John Alfred Willams

LBJ and the repressionThe legend of Martin Luther King Jr. looms larger than usual this winter, even though it’s every January that we celebrate his birthday. One reason, obviously, is that there‘s a new Hollywood film out about him, which, while snubbed by the Oscars, has been embraced at the White House. The other reason is that the wave of black resistance sweeping the country today is often characterized as “a new civil rights movement,” and King—we are told—was the supreme leader of the civil rights movement.

However unfair the Oscar snub (whatever its faults, the film is a hell of a lot better, both historically and cinematically, than American Sniper) the most interesting argument so far about Ava DuVernay’s Selma remains the controversy over the relationship between King and President Lyndon Baines Johnson. Former LBJ advisor Joseph Califano has publicly argued that King and Johnson were not at odds during the Selma campaign as the movie depicts, but that the African-American leader followed Johnson’s encouragement to nonviolently dramatize the obstacles that blacks had to voting in the South. The filmmaker shot back that this was “offensive to SNCC, SCLC and black citizens who made it so.” (the acronyms refer to civil rights organizations the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee, and the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, respectively). But Califano’s assertion has gained traction because there‘s more than a grain of truth in it.

“King: And it’s very interesting, Mr. President, to notice that the only states that you didn’t carry in the South, the five Southern states, have less than 40 percent of the Negroes registered to vote. It’s very interesting to notice. And I think a professor at the University of Texas, in a recent article, brought this out very clearly. So it demonstrates that it’s so important to get Negroes registered to vote in large numbers in the South.” – Johnson Conversation with Martin Luther King on Jan 15, 1965, tape WH6501.04DuVernay distorts the record here in order to avoid one of the great problems of Martin Luther King’s career: his compromised position in relation to the white power structure. Califano may have jumped the shark when he wrote that “Selma was LBJ’s idea” but he hinted at a deeper truth—that the whole idea of Martin Luther King as “the Moses of his people” was largely established and maintained by members of the white elite. In January 1957, when King had only been an activist for a year and a half, he was contacted by Clare Booth Luce, conservative mogul of the Time-Life empire, and offered a cover story. According to King biographer Taylor Branch, Luce rescued King from a state of “helplessness”. In the aftermath of the famous bus boycott and its apparent victory, the City of Montgomery had shut down all bus lines after the Ku Klux Klan began shooting at black passengers, and commenced to enact a whole new wave of segregation laws—an early manifestation of the Dixiecrats’ “Massive Resistance” campaign which blocked King’s nonviolent movement throughout the late fifties. Luce, who was also US Ambassador to Italy, was explicit that she wanted to show off King to a skeptical global public who doubted that there was hope for racial equality in America. The Time article, meanwhile, was explicit that what it liked most about King was his pacifism and moderation; The reverend was “no radical,” they gushed: “he avoids the excesses of radicalism.” MLK’s first visit to the White House took place later that year. In its aftermath, King’s host, Vice-President Richard Nixon, approvingly told President Eisenhower that Dr. King was “not a man who believes in violent and retaliatory pro-Negro actions.” As King’s friend, the black journalist Louis Lomax once acknowledged, “certain white men and events would make the choice for King to become as famous as he did.”

Nelson Rockefeller’s support for MLK, Rockefeller’s work with Kissinger and the Missile Gap. See alsoThe American Right has become notorious in recent years for mythologizing King as a one-dimensional conservative. But it won’t do for the Left to offer up their own whitewash, painting him as a lifelong opponent of the ruling class when he was anything but. Before the fifties were over, Nelson Rockefeller emerged as one of MLK’s primary sponsors. Rockefeller is often depicted as a progressive, but his major project of the time was escalating the Cold War by promoting the fiction of a “missile gap” between the US and the Soviet Union. His principle agent for spreading this hysteria was a Harvard political scientist named Henry Kissinger. Nelson Rockefeller’s support for MLK, Rockefeller’s work with Kissinger and the Missile Gap. See also It tells us a great deal about the hegemony of elite money over both the respectable Left and the respectable Right that Dr. King and Dr. Kissinger had the same benefactor. As Timothy Tyson demonstrated in his classic book Radio Free Dixie, Rockefeller and King worked in concert to suppress the radical but popular North Carolina leader Robert F. Williams, who advocated for armed self-defense against the KKK. King once claimed that Governor Rockefeller had ‘‘a real grasp and understanding of what the Negro revolution is all about, and a commitment to its goals,’’ but given that Rockefeller would go on to order the worst state massacre of African-Americans in US history at Attica (“a beautiful operation” Rockefeller told Richard Nixon later), and to create some of the most racist drug laws in the country, this was not one of King’s wiser political insights.

Clayborne Carson on MLK’s reluctance toward civil disobedience.The truth is that King’s turn to radicalism was hard won. “In some ways,” Michael Eric Dyson has written, “King’s change was even more startling and consequential than Malcolm X’s…what is little appreciated is how…an element of Malcolm’s thinking got its hooks into King.” Pre-1965, King was a public supporter of US foreign policy and capitalism who preferred to rely on traditional political maneuvers, even as he supposedly represented a movement built on direct action (King scholar Clayborne Carson notes that the reverend did not initiate the bus boycott, the sit-ins, or the Freedom Rides, and only participated in them reluctantly). Clayborne Carson on MLK’s reluctance toward civil disobedience Post-1965, King gradually evolved into a relentless public opponent of American imperialism and avarice who was prepared to personally defy federal injunctions.

“…his antiwar activity was motivated as much by moral and political pressure from key black colleagues as by conscience and commitment to nonviolence…” -Michael Eric Dyson, I May Not Get There With You, p.51-56How did this come about? Principally through the pressure put on King by militant activists associated with SNCC. When SNCC demanded an unconditional withdrawal from Vietnam in January 1966, King suggested a conditional ceasefire—but came around to SNCC’s position a few months later. When SNCC began calling for the election of black officials who were independent of the Democratic Party, King called for the election of more blacks within the Party—but the following year considered an independent campaign himself. “…his antiwar activity was motivated as much by moral and political pressure from key black colleagues as by conscience and commitment to nonviolence…” -Michael Eric Dyson, I May Not Get There With You, p.51-56 When SNCC declared the ghettos were internal colonies that should be granted community control, King rejected this and began campaigning for open housing in white neighborhoods to thin out the ghetto—but then came around to publicly considering “[self-] segregation as a temporary way-station to a truly integrated society.”

LBJ conversation with King, August 20, 1965, Tape WH6508.07Leftists often laud King this time of year for his anti-imperialist statements, epitomized in the classic 1967 speech “Beyond Vietnam”. But a conversation with LBJ illustrates King’s agonizing reluctance on this cause prior to SNCC’s pressure. By 1965, two American pacifists, Alice Herz and Norman Morrison, had already perished setting themselves on fire to protest the war, yet King’s criticism of US aggression in Vietnam remained, in Michael Dyson’s words “a modest proposal” for negotiated settlement. Talking privately with Johnson, King seemed apologetic even for that. In an August 1965 phone call, LBJ pleads the victim (“…if they’ll quit tearing up our roads and our highways and quit taking over our camps and bombing our planes and destroying them, well, we’ll quit the next day…”) and then the Domino Theory (“If I pulled out… I think that we’d immediately trigger a situation in Thailand that would be just as bad as it is in Vietnam. I think we’d be right back to the Philippines with problems. I think the Germans would be scared to death…”) King responds with praise for “the breadth of your concern” in Vietnam which “represents true leadership and true greatness.”LBJ conversation with King, August 20, 1965, Tape WH6508.07 Lobbying is a dirty job. Dyson notes that this “vicious double-bind effectively silenced King’s opposition to the war” during its first wave of escalation.

Ultimately, King embodied a kind of neutral zone that the power structure and the radical grassroots kept trying to push toward their respective goalposts. He once acknowledged that “I have to be militant enough to satisfy the militant, yet I have to keep enough discipline in the movement to satisfy white supporters,” and even admitted at the end of his life that the entire “black church has often been a tail-light rather than a headlight” in the movement. Selma builds up MLK as a decisive leader and strategist, but he was more often a follower and a figurehead.

Although DuVernay claims to defend the honor of the SNCC militants, it is she who paints an offensive portrait of them. When SNCC leader James Forman criticizes King’s media grandstanding and dependence on whites in the film, it’s portrayed as the competitive chest-thumping of a bitter young upstart . Yet in reality, the first person to raise this critique wasn’t some insecure man-child, but an experienced black woman who’d been organizing her people since King was in diapers. Ella Baker was a veteran NAACP organizer who mentored Rosa Parks, and went on to work under MLK in the late fifties. She found him to be an out-of-touch narcissist who was more interested in promoting his book than promoting voter registration. When she left to help found SNCC in 1960, she warned the students about the phenomenon of the “charismatic leader…It usually means the media made him, and the media may undo him…such a person gets to the point of believing that he is the movement.” Militant deviation from King also arose from SNCC leader Gloria Richardson, another mature woman with a grassroots constituency. King originally refused to aid her working-class chapter in Cambridge, Maryland unless he was paid $3000 for speaking, but later invited himself to town after rioting broke out in 1963. Richardson told him that her campaign was going fine (it turned out to be one of the most successful of the period) and that him and his aristocratic style were obsolete in Cambridge.

In 1966 Alabama elections, John Lewis did not support the independent primary of the Lowndes County Freedom Organization with the rest of SNCC, instead joining King in campaigning for Democrat candidate Richmond Flowers. He also refused to join the SNCC boycott of meetings with LBJ. Both were major factors in his being deposed from his Chair. (Branch, At Canaan’s Edge, 460-467)That isn’t to say that men like James Forman were never incendiary, just that they were fired-up with a purpose. After King made a secret agreement with the White House on March 9 to halt the second Selma march (which the foremost historian of the campaign, Gary May, calls “King’s lowest moment as a leader”) Forman led students in a uncompromising sister campaign at Montgomery that broke away from nonviolence, and declared that “If we can’t sit at the table of democracy, we’ll knock the fucking legs off!” This was a risky move given that black riots had swept the Northeast the previous summer, and an armed civil rights militia, the Deacons for Defense and Justice, was beginning to sweep the South. But it was only at this point that Lyndon Johnson introduced the voting rights bill to Congress and sent federal troops to Alabama to intervene between police and protesters. Needless to say, King’s backroom deal and Forman’s bold leadership aren’t included in the movie. (Another SNCC leader, John Lewis, is depicted favorably in the film, but only because he’s a loyalist to King and LBJ. In 1966, he would lose his chair in SNCC due to his devotion to the Democratic Party, a loyalty which has since served him well in his 30 year Congressional career.) In 1966 Alabama elections, John Lewis did not support the independent primary of the Lowndes County Freedom Organization with the rest of SNCC, instead joining King in campaigning for Democrat candidate Richmond Flowers. He also refused to join the SNCC boycott of meetings with LBJ. Both were major factors in his being deposed from his Chair. (Branch, At Canaan’s Edge, 460-467)

These historical distortions aren’t just academic: they affect how we view militancy and moderation today. If activists and supporters aren’t aware of the contribution that rowdy non-nonviolent marches made to the campaign, they might instead chalk it up to King’s horse-trading, and thus submit to elite calls for tighter leadership and a cooling-off period—a course that would undermine the crucial momentum of the movement. (Selma producer Oprah Winfrey has said it’s precisely her intention to divert protesters into King’s “strategic” model.) If they come to associate the archetype of the well-funded, well-connected leader with strategic wisdom, they may find themselves embracing the next faux messianic figure who emerges to channel revolutionary energies into reformism, despite the fact that decades of liberal church leadership have brought real losses to the black community, including rollback of the Voting Rights Act.

Claims that Selma’s success somehow breaks the mold of Hollywood depictions of black struggle are dubious at best. That the filmmakers are women of color doesn’t change the fact that the film is fundamentally a King biopic that entrenches the Great Man theory of history. Meanwhile, commenters have noted that the most memorable sequences of the film feature white racists brutalizing helpless black bodies. “History as a horror movie” wrote The Washington Post approvingly, going on to compare the film to 12 Years a Slave. As Azealia Banks said in her trenchant, courageous interview about racism last month, “It’s really upsetting…that they’re still making movies like 12 Years a Slave. I don’t want to see no more fucking white people whipping black people in movies.”

The post-Ferguson movement is making 21st century history with its overall refusal of accommodation and martyrdom. Yet the historical narrative Selma reproduces threatens to paper over the necessary divisions among today’s protesters with a romanticized view of a “black united front” that never quite was. Lecturing the young militants, one liberal leader recently claimed that for all their “different ideas,” King and SNCC ultimately “came together to dialogue.” She doesn’t mention that this dialogue usually began with the moderate leader apologizing for “the betrayal of my own silences” (to use King’s words in “Beyond Vietnam”). Al Sharpton has been called out by activists repeatedly for his riot-shaming and victim-blaming, yet rather than apologizing, the great patriarch has tried to bad-jacket them as “provocateurs.” But the street kids made this movement. If any false messiah tries to push them away from the table, they should borrow a page from SNCC, and knock the fucking legs off.

 

 

[Lorenzo Raymond is an independent historian and educator living in New York City.]

Privatizing Political Power

Public Good Project

March 16, 2015

by Jay Taber

billionairesmeeting

As anyone who follows news from the U.S. Department of Justice knows, Bill Gates is an adherent of monopoly capitalism. His empire, built on privatizing public information and technology, reflects his belief in plutocracy.

Like earlier captains of industry — who used public investment to privatize political power — Gates has harnessed his fortune to evangelize on behalf of privatizing schools, prisons, and plantations. His investments in social engineering have made it possible for Gates to largely avoid public censure.

Gates and Buffett

Along with his close friend Warren Buffett, Gates is now making money shipping Tar Sands bitumen and Bakken Shale crude via tank cars on Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad (owned by Buffett) and Canadian National Railway, of which Gates is the largest shareholder.

 

[As an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal, Jay Taber has assisted indigenous peoples seeking justice at the European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations. Since 1994, he has served as creative director at Public Good Project.]

Avaaz: Mercenaries as Missionaries

Public Good

by Jay Taber

war-3up

Peace Bomb by Brian Stauffer

Wall Street NGOs, like the oil tycoon front group 350, pose a formidable challenge to indigenous peoples survival. By co-opting climate activists and deceiving them into supporting Wall Street’s agenda, NGOs like 350 and Avaaz undermine indigenous sovereignty and human rights.

As reported by Cory Morningstar in 350: Agent Saboteur, this Trojan horse — created by the Clinton Foundation and Rockefeller Brothers Fund, and fueled by Warren Buffett’s NoVo — hijacked the climate change movement from the outset. As noted in Social Capitalists: Wall Street’s Progressive Partners, the fraud is exposed by following the money.

In Avaaz: the World’s Most Powerful NGO, social engineering by the Democratic Party (MoveOn, 1Sky, Avaaz, Ceres, Purpose, 350) is shown to include both short and long cons, that consolidate Wall Street control of institutions, markets and NGOs. These mercenaries as missionaries, in turn, shape global society, using foundations as intermediaries.

 

[As an associate scholar of the Center for World Indigenous Studies and a contributing editor of Fourth World Journal, Jay Taber has assisted indigenous peoples seeking justice at the European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations. Since 1994, he has served as creative director at Public Good Project.]

Garden Variety Environmentalism

The Band-Aid Wing of the Green Growth Economy

Counterpunch

Weekend Edition March 13-15, 2015

by MICHAEL DONNELLY

“The environmental movement needs shaming at this point.”

– Denise Boggs

It was 60+ degrees and sunny – had been for weeks – in western  Oregon, as I arrived in Eugene for  the annual Public Interest Environmental Law Conference (PIELC) at the University of Oregon Law School – the planet’s oldest such conference. The conference, attended by over 3000 attorneys, activists, wonks and government officials, is put on by law students at the UofO. Other students from other top environmental law schools (Lewis and Clark, Vermont Law …) also pitch in organizing and moderating panel discussions. The organizers did a remarkable job juggling speakers, attendees and all the little things necessary.

While suffering from a bigger than usual allergy attack brought on by many types of trees and flowering plants budding out at the same time; I, as usual, perused the conference brochure for panels and Keynote addresses that would take on the big eco-threats of the day.

Out of over 200 panel presentations and twelve Keynote speakers, there were  1) three panels on citizen  activism (two at the same time); 2) one panel on Consumption; 3) one panel on Population; 4) one on the “false solution” of “Green” Energy;…and NONE at all on Biomass/Biofuels! Not at all promising.

The first sign that PIELC was headed down the rabbit hole was the Fund for Wild Nature’s panel presenting the Grassroots Activist of the Year Award. A grand total of five people attended as Arlene Montgomery was honored. Us five heard inspiring tales of how she and the two other women panelists have carried on with great success against all odds and little money.

I found it quite an irony that the award was presented by Doug Bevington, author of the “Rebirth of Environmentalism,” in which he wrote that the was the model for grassroots activism in the 21st Century.  No one from the high-budget, big green litigation shop was there at the grassroots panel, though CBD staffers dominated the conference overall, appearing on five times as many panels as any other group. CBD has perfected the suing to get endangered species listings and garnering millions in Attorneys Fees in the process. Yet, rarely is there any critical habitat set aside in these listing victories – rendering them hollow, at best.

And, with the abject failure of the Clinton Option 9 Northwest Forest Plan to save the Northern Spotted Owl, there is deafening silence from CBD and the rest of the professional Endangered Species listings camp on an overdue Upgrade Petition for the owls, as Endangered, rather than the current more mild Threatened Status would result in real set asides – likely ALL old growth habitat remaining (8% of original, at best), if not all national forest lands in owl habitat – and the funders and Democrats will have none of that. The owls have no chance.

In a way, Bevington sadly was right. CBD is a new model, not of grassroots activism by any means; but of how to become an undemocratic, well-compensated big green outfit masquerading as a citizen membership group quicker than any predecessors.

Fossil Fuel Addicts against Fossil Fuels

From there, I went to the Friday noon Keynote address. The speakers on the agenda were Bill McKibben; writer Gary Nabhan, from something called the W.K. Kellogg Endowed Chair in Sustainable Food Systems at the University of Arizona; and Cyril Scott, suspended President of the Rosebud Lakota Sioux Tribal Council (Scott, the main speaker I wanted to see, was unable to attend given serious intra-tribal hubbub after he called the multinational TransCanada’s effort to build the Keystone XL Pipeline across tribal lands, “An Act of War.” He was coming to rally support… the well-established way grassroots victories always have come about – organize around the issue; seek allies and find a legal team when necessary.)

Bill McKibben appeared via video, to grumblings from some in the crowd who wanted to see him in person. Amy Goodman also a came in for the same lame criticism, while I found their video instead of flying in to the conference on Wings of Tar Sands the appropriate thing to do. McKibben, looking a tad under the weather, riffed on the conference slogan “Changing Currents” while saying little of substance. He ended his short presentation with a plea to “buy more solar panels” and a flippant “See you in jail.”

McKibben was followed by Nabhan who gave a homily to Collaboration. He blithely used that false Einstein quote on the definition of insanity without any irony. He used it as a cudgel to beat those who would rather Resist than work in partnership with Gaia-destroying industries. He praised “Collaboration” efforts between farmers, ranchers and consumer activists and claimed a great victory in getting citizens in the Midwest to plant milkweed alongside their tomatoes in their gardens! He never once mentioned why the iconic North America insect, the Monarch Butterfly, has seen its milkweed breeding habitat disappear in the first place. The words “Ethanol” and “Monsanto” were never spoken.

Shenna Fortner, a Vermont Law School student who will work this summer as a legal clerk with Rappold Law Office, which serves as the lead counsel for the Rosebud Sioux in their efforts to oppose the South Dakota permit of the Keystone XL, then came on and explained that Cyril Scott was unable to attend. She gave a recap of the KXL issue and told people how they can comment on the required Public Utilities Commission hearing on the pipeline proposal that is scheduled for May 5th. Fortner also spoke of the long-standing tipi action camps that have been set up by the grandmothers at the entrance points of the proposed pipelines. Send comments to: puc@state.sd.us or PUC, 500 E. Capitol Ave., Pierre, SD 57501. For more info on how to donate or otherwise help, contact: Faith Spotted Eagle, Ihanktonwan Protect the Sacred: (605)481-0416 or theIndigenous Environmental Network, PO Box 485 Bemidji, MN 56619

Rodney King Environmentalism

Nabhan, unfortunately, was not the sole presenter who had a “can’t we all get along/say nothing bad about the perps/we will cleverly wiggle our way out of it” worldview. An underlying “current” of the conference was that “wild” and “Wilderness” are no longer viable concepts. The future was all about geo-engineering schemes – the garden milkweeds were part of a pattern. I’ve always been astonished that the greens so eagerly embraced the very term “Collaboration” given its (rather recent) sordid history, but it IS the appropriate idiom.

One major green growth area is climate compensation legislation/litigation. Two separate panels were on Who Should Pay for Climate Change?  They were all about demonizing fossil fuel companies (“major GHG polluters”) and ways to shake loose compensation from them. To me that is akin to demonizing the pusher who provides one’s addictions, while never once looking at one’s own responsibility. Personal consumption driving Climate Change is off the table. McKibben has said, “Personal consumption doesn’t matter.”

At a presentation on another pipeline, a CBD staffer lamented the attention paid to the KXL instead of his own project. While his put out motivation was jealousy, he had a point. While the entire “movement” has been distracted by the KXL effort, ALL the necessary pipes and more have been constructed and it has been very hard to draw attention to other proposed pipelines. The competition for Foundation grants is fierce…no can’t-we-all-get-along on that front. Vast numbers are paid to work on the KXL, coal exports, land use, natural gas exports, other pipelines…these are the growth sectors the budding lawyers are steered to. Follow the Money, as usual.

The underlying causes are ignored or given little attention. After all, how could you have such conferences w/o massive carbon use? – Jet fuel is the number one end use of the Tar Sands, but you’ll never hear that at such an event.

PIELC does get credit for trying to limit its footprint – in addition to having more video presentations, you won’t see a raft of used paper coffee cups overflowing trash bins – they are banned. And, while I question the efficacy, one can make a Carbon Offset donation to the great group Friends of Trees, who have planted close to a million urban trees in Oregon. Speaking of uses of trees, a glance at the school bookstore’s Law School annex display table showed ten books being promoted. Five were indistinguishable books on Climate; each had “Forward by Bill McKibben” on the cover.

When whatever it is hits the fan, it is not redistributed evenly

The best thing about PIELC is its commitment to Indigenous peoples. Native lands have paid an inordinate price for our energy addiction – in addition to the pipelines, there are uranium mines, coal mines, coal plants, Biomass schemes, etc. all across Indian Country. Oregon just approved Tax Credits (of course) for Biomass schemes on all the state’s nine federally recognized tribes’ lands.

The most talked about Keynote this year was delivered by Xiuhtezcatl Roske-Martinez, a 14-year-old activist from Boulder CO. He is the Youth Director of Earth Guardians, a musician with his brother Itzcuahtli, a speaker at the RIo+20 United Nations Summit… and he has been concerned and active over Climate Change since he was six. The guy is a powerhouse.

coaltrainChip and oil train parked on the tracks at the University of Oregon.

I took a break and went down by the river to enjoy some sun – Eugene has a wonderful greenway along the river with bike paths on either side that run for miles. On the way back, the path runs under a railroad overpass. Sitting on the tracks was train loaded with dozens of cars full of wood chips and tankers full of Bakken shale oil – headed for the export docks. (Here was a direct action opportunity right outside the conference!) A few conference panels were on the oil and gas exports, yet none on the ground-up-forest ones.

I was getting more and more depressed. The grumbling from grassroots activists was getting loud. My mood changed when I ran into my good buddy Calvin Hecocta. Calvin is a Klamath elder and spiritual leader. He was our Northwest chair of the American Indian Movement (AIM) back in the day. And, he was instrumental in the saving of the Opal Creek and Breitenbush Ancient Forests. I could go on and on singing praises to Calvin; suffice to say, he is one of the great ones.

Friday night is the annual Indigenous Peoples Reception at the Many Nations Longhouse. The Law School is unique in that is has a beautiful student Longhouse out back and has a long-standing working relationship with the Longhouse and the tribes. Panel discussions on Native issues are held at the Longhouse during this and other conferences.

The dinner of salmon, fry bread and other foods prepared by Native cooks was overflowing and a wonderful time. My mood got better.

Dancing on the Ruins

“You know I don’t lead you and you know I don’t feed you no lies. And it’s not up to me to tell you what you see through your eyes.”

– Jackson Browne

PIELC also is the occasion of the annual Earth First! OutLAW Bash. In a scene out of Mad Max, about 500 by-and-large younger, non- attorney activists gathered in a dilapidated industrial zone of old warehouses, kilns, yards of industrial debris – old log trucks, firetrucks, logs, rusting beams, cracked cement everywhere… music and kegs and the always entertaining effigy of some industrial insult to be burned are the highlights. This year it was a mock-up of the huge fracked Natural Gas export plant planned for Coos Bay, Oregon…with attendant thousands of miles of new pipelines. (I learned a lesson – never stand in a tight crowd behind anyone in a power wheelchair, especially if there is a big fire with fireworks shooting off randomly!)

As a naked pyramid and dancers appeared around the fire with a big moon in the clear sky, I couldn’t help but hear Casey Neill’s “Dancing on the Ruins” in my head. This is the eyes-open community that always has been and always will be on the front lines – the activists who show up, paid only by a clear Gaian conscience and great camaraderie. While Derrick Jensen wrote and three different PIELC  speakers I heard paraphrase “When hope dies; action begins;” I have to note that it is through collective action that there is any hope of hope.

The Elephant in the Boiler Room

I didn’t stay up too late as I wanted to attend the sole panel on Consumption that was held at the early hour of 9am. It was put on by the wonky folks from the PolicyInteractive Research group that has interviewed thousands of people worldwide on environmental values. A case study of 16 low-carbon lifestyle people in the Eugene area was presented – the why and how they live such lives. A larger study was presented on just why pro-environmental values do NOT translate into pro-environment behavior.

It was very informative and telling. 88% of us claim pro-environment values, but few live them. (The average annual American Carbon Output is 19.7 tons – what is optimistically projected to be “sustainable” worldwide is 4.5 tons per capita.) Why don’t we walk our talk? The research shows that the disconnect is the result of a combination of:

Denial – No problem, it doesn’t exist; nothing really matters, we are unimportant, love for the moment; the problem is beyond our ability to solve; I’m already doing my part (likely without much effect) – “I bought the Prius, what more do you want me to do? -; and, I’m working on something more important.

We heard of a sociology professor who wrote a book on Climate Change concluding that “the problem is beyond our ability to solve.” And we heard of another UofO professor – a Climate Change professor – who commutes from Portland, over 100 miles away – in a high-end German auto!

A friend recently posted on Facebook about feeling guilty about her carbon use and asked if others felt the same. The responses were 90%, “No way. I deserve it” or some other variance of the blind, New Agey “abundance” rationale.

Robin Quirke of PolicyInteractive noted, if we don’t walk our talk, how can we expect to convince governments and society at large to change behaviors and policies? What I call “Al Gore Syndrome.”

Her colleague Tom Bowerman noted that he and partner live in a 700 square foot house and have a monthly electric bill of around $10. They have a car they drive 3000 miles a year and do not fly. His personal footprint was around the 4.5 tons and he felt he could and would lower it without and real sacrifice. Tom talked about flying and its huge carbon cost. Basically, flying somewhere on a full plane spews the same amount of carbon per capita as one person driving an SUV the same distance. He called the back-and-forth flying far-flung First World family members do as a matter of course, “Love Miles.”

The sole other panel that looked at consumption and population was put on by CBD’s Population and Sustainability wing. CBD, in addition to distributing millions of free condoms with packaging tying it to species loss, seeks to break the taboo on talking about population in green circles. 7.3 billion Clever Apes consuming a finite planet is anything but “Sustainable” – by far THE most common word found in Panel titles.

Return of the Clan Mothers

sheenaShenna Fortner and Cedar Gilette.

The highlight of the conference for me was the “canceled” panel on Indigenous Resistance to the KXL. With President Scott unable to attend, it was called off. But, over 70 people showed up anyway and it turned into a circle discussion (not the usual school lecture model by any means) on those perverse impacts on Native lands due to our energy addiction and consumer lifestyle.  Shenna Fortner chaired it and started things off with a summary of the Rosebud Resistance to the Keystone XL and how one can plug in and help.

Cedar Gillette, another Vermont Law student and tribal member from North Dakota, gave a powerful presentation on the human costs of the “man camps” associated with the fracking boom in the Bakken shale oil formations that underlie her nation. A staggering litany of domestic abuse, alcohol-fueled rampages brought some of the human costs associated with our energy addiction into focus.

Good Shield spoke of the Buffalo Field Campaign – the longest continuous non-violent civil disobedience encampment in the nation. The BFC seeks to end the horrific slaughter of hundreds of Yellowstone Bison that is carried out annually at the behest of the cattle industry.

And, Calvin Hecocta spoke from the heart about what has been lost. He (and others) talked about the days of the Clan Mothers. The highly-respected elder women of each clan would set about correcting anyone’s behaviors that worked against the common good. And tellingly, they also chose the leaders of the men’s councils. Calvin was chosen by the Clan Mothers at a young age to speak for the land, the birds, the mammals, the trees…and he does it well. He spoke to how all this degradation has occurred on men’s watch and it is time again to look to the grandmothers for leadership.

With all the “logical” thinking and presentations going on all around, Calvin and others’ perspective was a breath of fresh air. There were few dry eyes in the room – from Native women elders to young, white students…all were deeply touched. While the spontaneity was a big part of it, I’d still suggest that such a gathering be an integral part of ANY green gathering.

The Biomassacre

While the many efforts against bad forest logging practices, GMO foods, fracking, pipelines, water, plastics, Indigenous survival, etc. are all well and good and necessary, little analysis can be found on the efficacy of already tried solutions, much less proposed ones.  And, thus, the biggest elephant is the Renewable Energy Portfolios which require that a certain percentage (usually 25%) of the retail electricity in a state’s grid come from “renewables” by 2025.

Just as Nabhan studiously avoided the real reason for the Monarchs’ decline (First Worlders burning corn in their SUVs), the entire “green” movement elides the other failures of “renewable” energy. McKibben et al. can pimp all the solar panels they want, but that does nothing to stop Climate chaos while Biofuels (monarch, et al.) and Biomass (forests) add to it. (Not to mention, solar panels – like wind towers – are carbon-based.)

After hundreds of millions in subsidies (and blighted landscapes, roasted birds, etc.) the last eight years, wind and solar combined feed less than 5% into the grid (and there is evidence that even that 5% is not useable energy – useless without concurrent steam-generated Baseload power stabilizing the grid) we’re left with laws requiring 25% by ten years from now.

And the major way the 25% will be met is with Biomass – the burning of forests for energy – the oldest (and dirtiest – 1.5x as polluting as burning coal) energy source of humankind. While some panels dealt with the across-the-board proposed increases in logging on public lands, the end game of Biomass is rarely mentioned. While Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR though he lives in NY!) proposes “thinning” 9 million acres of eastern Oregon public forests, he and Oregon’s former governor helped arrange billions in loans for new Biomass plants to consume the “thinning.” Ex-Gov. John Kitzhaber even sold of 1500 acres of a state forest to a Biomass company! Kitzhaber was ultimately brought down by the sordid crony capitalism/influence peddling side of the “Green” Growth Economy. Pacific Gas and Electric’s (PGE) Boardman Coal Plant is Oregon’s biggest carbon polluter and it is on schedule to be converted from coal to Biomass by 2020.

Just this week, The Oregonian reported that ex-Gov. John Kitzhaber’s forest adviser was the private owner of a timber consulting firm that benefited from Biomass deals Kitzhaber was selling State Forests and providing the Tax Credits to feed…plans the adviser was paid $400,000 by the State to develop! To her credit, new Governor Kate Brown immediately ended the contract with the adviser.

Forests in the Amazon, the US Southeast and British Columbia are being turned into chips/pellets and exported to Europe where they are burned for electrons and the countries burning them preposterously get Carbon Credits for it which are then used to off-set the emissions from coal plants! Every day, one sees false memes overselling German solar energy; yet, never a mention of Germany’s Biomass energy use (expected to comprise  2/3rds of Germany’s “renewable” energy by 2020) and increased coal use.

CBD is one of the many “green” groups that promote Biomass under the disproven rubric of thinning the forest to make them more fire-proof! CBD has helped plan the largest timber sale in Southwest history. They are hardly alone – Oregon Mild, errr, Wild signed on to Wyden’s plan and staffers appeared in a widely-disseminated photo with the senator  and timber execs announcing their collaboration. One Oregon Wild staffer wrote a tortured defense of it (that has since been scrubbed from their website). McKibben is also a top promoter of his Middlebury Vermont college’s biomass plant.

I’ll go so far as to say that Biomass is a greater threat to planetary life than Climate Change! Already we have copious evidence of entire civilizations going under due to deforestation. What could possibly go wrong at planetary scale this time?

Somehow people have come to believe that being an environmental groupie is equivalent to being an activist. It’s not!”

–Denise Boggs

Ultimately PIELC is a Job Fair for eco-law students. It is not the more activist entity is started out as. In those days, grassroots activists, like Cyril Scott and allies, identified an issue and set up resistance to it. When needed, legal teams were assembled to carry out the paperwork resistance. Now, it is inverted with high-paid pro-Democrat foundation agents dictating eco-policy and even what issues are on the radar and fundable. It has devolved into a multi-billion dollars per year growth industry run by big foundations (whose wealth came/comes mostly from energy production), lawyers and Democratic Party factotums. Many “green” groups have annual budgets in the tens of millions – The Nature Conservancy alone (one of the proponents of Biomass) has over $20 billion in assets while dogged grassroots activists show up whether paid or not, often getting undermined (or their efforts fund-raised upon) by the big greens.

The problem with having a “movement” lead by a professional class who collectively are a combination of General McClellans and Marshal Petains is that you get either hubris-ridden ineptness (paid to pull punches) or proud collaborators calling the shots and driving off the activists necessary to carry any issue to true victory. This top down mindset ultimately ends with: promoting, rather than opposing Biomass/Biofuel schemes; eliding consumption and population; failure to walk the talk… and planting milkweeds-in-a-garden being the only “victories.”

During the course of the job fair, some 800 species went extinct. The professional Green Growth industry is a dead end.  It’s way past time to walk the talk. There are NO Law Jobs on a Dead Planet.

 

[MICHAEL DONNELLY lives in Salem, OR. He was plaintiff in the first successful Ancient Forest lawsuit. He can be reached at Pahtoo@aol.com]

 

WATCH: Imperialism and Anti-Imperialism, by Stephanie McMillan

Published on Mar 7, 2015

This is a brief, general definition of imperialism, plus an argument for building a strong anti-imperialist mass movement, and what that means. For more information and depth, please visit koleksyon-inip.org.

For TRANSCRIPTION please see: http://stephaniemcmillan.org/2015/03/07/imperialism-anti-imperialism/

A Message to Marketforces.org.au on Divestment & Direct Action

We Suspect Silence

October 31, 2014

by empathiser

MF-and-350-logos-bw

 

Below is the message I provided today with my 1 star Facebook review of Market Forces, the Australian divestment campaign group who work closely with 350.org, Lock the Gate Alliance, and Greenpeace.

“Is this what has become of activism? Eliciting cheers for too-big-to-fail banks with continuing and massive fossil fuel investment? I once worked beside you guys, we’ve both been labelled extremist. Divestment is a disease vector carrying with it the promise of a shinier business-as-usual. You are engaged in a program incubated and conceived by petro dollar rich elites. They want us to stay consumers, but for us to feel as if the world is changing for the better. Divestment is crowding out the air space for coverage of direct action. This is happening everyday on BigGreen social media. The same radical direct non violent action that all BigGreen leaders call for is being overshadowed by a content and messaging imperative.”

A friend called my reviews of green groups using the star rating functionality “social media arbitrage” after I discovered that Greenpeace Australia Pacific had removed their star rating functionality following my comments. Star ratings can’t be removed if they don’t breech standards, if you really don’t want the public to see a comment you have to remove the functionality altogether which is what Greenpeace Australia Pacific did.

Big greens like Greenpeace and 350.org don’t like to engage in discourse. They are happy to have Kumi Naidoo and Bill McKibben declare that it’s time for civil disobedience and then preside over a bunch of well promoted proof-of-concept actions, but when it comes to frontline action they are fundamentally exploitative. If you don’t believe me you just have to compare the social media feeds between Frontline Action on Coal and their alliance partners. BigGreen have caved in to main stream media’s dislike of content from the frontline where people are materially slowing the progress of mining.

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One of the very many Market Forces Facebook memes. Some of these have congratulated HSBC, CitiBank, Deutsche Bank, JP Morgan Chase, Barclays, Morgan Stanley, Credit Agricole, and so on.