Open Threads

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ISH

ISH

"The dawn is no longer beyond our reach." — Tomás Borge

Posted by on in News & Analysis

The following report on the recent anti-Semitic murders in Kansas City is reposted from Scission, a blog published by a Kansas City radical.

Something is seething on the right wing in the United States. If the gunman behind these shootings represents a minority far-right fringe element that still openly identifies with expressly Nazi ideology and symbolism, it should be evident that actual far-right ideas have been gaining currency and acceptability across a broader swath of the population. There is a radicalization process happening on the right in the context of the right despairing over the electoral process, becoming embittered by the Republican establishment, convinced the country is slipping away permanently. As Republican politicians toy with populist appeals framing the Democrats as a ruling elite serving a population of entitled "takers" abusing the hard work of productive (white) citizens, it's certainly possible that the millions of right-wing Americans who are consuming those right-wing talking points could crystallize into a real far right militant movement.

As communists, I think we have to be extraordinarily careful not to fall into the trap of thinking that the Democrats or the malleable laws of capitalist civil society are any kind of first line of defense against this potential right-wing upsurge. The right wing is organizing and getting out its ideas; we need to be doing the same thing. And the ideas we should be getting out shouldn't be about defending a fragile, corrupt system with less interest and ability than ever in protecting or defending oppressed people; the ideas we should be talking about are how we can build a new revolutionary alternative.—ISH

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Posted by on in International

This statement was released by BAYAN-USA, Bagong Alyansang Makabayan (New Patriotic Alliance), on March 25, 2014 in the aftermath of the arrest of the Filipino communist leadership. Solidarity demonstrations are being organized including one in New York City on March 28.

BS Aquino: Sabotaging Peace to Support Imperialist War

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Posted by on in International

 

The Kasama Project has received this Interview with Benny Wenda (pictured below), West Papua independence leader, Founder of Free West Papua Campaign, and Chairman of Demmak (The Koteka Tribal Assembly). It was conducted by Italian journalist Mattia Gallo.

West Papua is currently a part of Indonesia. Given decades of genocide and repression in Indonesia it is not surprising that this struggle of indigenous people is little-known outside the region.—ISH

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Posted by on in Culture

By ISH

When people start talking about radical or political music, I'm always surprised how the topic of conversation rarely moves outside the genres of hardcore head-banging punk or earnest sing-along folk. Sometimes talk moves on to the well-worn populism of mass-appeal pop-rock, the Springsteen/Mellencamp/Fleetwood Mac tunes so beloved by bourgeois politicians trying to put something over on voters, and there's the counterpoint of classic hip-hop with its righteous anger against cops and sometimes problematic derision of women and gays.

Without disparaging any of these rich genres of music, I want to recommend some really great and really radical tunes from genre-busting urban musicians who sometimes defy easy categorization but whose visionary art is something that revolutionaries can really embrace.

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Posted by on in Race & Liberation

Last year lifelong revolutionary Chokwe Lumumba was elected mayor of Jackson, Mississippi, a majority African-American city in the heart of the American south. His election was part of a long-term plan for "self-determination, participatory democracy and economic justice." Now in the aftermath of his sudden and tragic passing, organizers are discussing how to carry on his legacy, and how to continue the radical social efforts projected by the Jackson Plan. Below, Jaisal Noor of radical news outlet The Real News interviews Kali Akuno and Glen Ford about the upcoming Jackson Rising Conference that was scheduled before Lumumba's death. —ISH

 

After Late Mayor Lumumba is Laid to Rest, What’s Next for Jackson, Mississippi?

Kali Akuno and Glen Ford discuss the significance of the upcoming 'Jackson Rising: The New Economies Conference'

KALI AKUNO and GLEN FORD, interviewed by JAISAL NOOR, THE REAL NEWS, March 18, 2014

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Posted by on in News & Analysis

“Going into the woods to fight Jewry and other filth...”

Ukraine: The Sovereignty Argument, and the Real Problem of Fascism

 

By GARY LEUPP, Originally appeared in Counterpunch, March 10, 2014

The two most important questions shaping the discussion of events in Ukraine should, in my opinion, be:

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Where does the revolutionary spark come from? How do some people come to transcend and challenge the crushing oppressions of the world? International Women's Day (IWD) has something to teach us. If the political theoreticians of the radical movements of the 19th and early 20th century were mostly men, it was radical women, close to the grinding brutality and poverty of industrialism's golden age, who encapsulated the personal rage and determination needed to transform suffering and oppression into resistance. It was female anarchist Emma Goldman who said succinctly and straightforwardly, "Ask for work. If they don't give you work, ask for bread. If they do not give you work or bread, then take bread.”

b2ap3_thumbnail_women-workers_opt.jpgThe IWD holiday was first carved out as a day for working women to celebrate their mutual solidarity and empowerment back in 1908, by striking women workers in Chicago. A few short years later in 1914, the world socialist movement adopted March 8 as a political holiday to demand political and social rights for women. The ideals of that socialist movement were promptly tested as the world plunged into war and much of the socialist movement betrayed internationalism, but brave women kept the holiday alive.

And then by 1917, this simple holiday showed its revolutionary potential: A women's day demonstration in Russia for peace and bread (shown above right) turned into a mass strike which quickly became the February Revolution that overthrew the centuries-old rule of the Tsars. Revolutionaries had been organizing against the Tsars for decades with increasing mass success. But it took a demonstration of women workers, of mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, lovers, making an urgent heartfelt plea for an end to death and hunger that captured the mass imagination and changed the once unthinkable into the possible.

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International Women's Day is a global event. For over a century women around the world have taken to the streets to protest, to resist, to take matters into their own hands. In today's occupied Palestine, a small demonstration of Palestinian women against a notorious checkpoint was attacked by Israeli forces. These brave women inspire us with their determination to directly face overwhelming odds and superior military force.—ISH

 

Israeli forces attack West Bank women's day march

from ALAKHBAR ENGLISH, March 8, 2014

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Posted by on in Race & Liberation

By MIKE ELY

Chokwe Lumumba has died. The news just reached me, and has generated great feelings of sadness and loss. We do not yet know the causes, but will watch and listen for that news.

Chokwe Lumumba was a lifelong revolutionary -- a communist-inspired and Black nationalist leader -- encircled by the organized networks of the New Afrikan Peoples Organization (NAPO) and the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM).

Chokwe embraced a defined revolutionary strategy for Black independence early, and then pursued it throughout his life.

At his death, he was the newly elected mayor of Jackson, Mississippi -- a revolutionary winning by a landslide in this African American heartland, in the middle of the surrounding white racist heartland.

We will now never know what he would have done with that post, that pulpit, to affect the liberation politics of Black people, and of us all.

In a time when so few revolutionary voices are heard on the stage of visible politics, we are robbed of his. And the loss is real.

Chokwe is gone. this determined figure from the  generation first stirred by the great civil rights movement, then hardened by the great Black Liberation struggle, and finally tempered by long years in the wilderness of America.

Who will rise to take their place? Who will step now forward? And under what banners? Who will learn the lessons, avoid the mistakes, and standing on shoulders like these reach even higher?  

 

If the fires burning all over the world teach us anything, it is that the world is not a simple place. It's natural to respond to pictures of mass mobilizations of people filling the streets and fighting authority with a sense of admiration. But if history teaches us anything, it is that protest is not a tool of the left exclusively: when the need arises the right wing at home and abroad have seized the moment and sent its supporters into the streets, claiming the moral authority of popular resistance.

Nowhere is this clearer than in today's Venezuela. As noted authority on Venezuela's Bolivarian revolution George Ciccariello-Maher writes below in The Nation, contrary to what a host of liberal commentators suggest, what's happening in today's Venezuela is not a popular uprising but an effort by the forces of reaction to bring the momentum of Venezuela's revolution to a grinding halt. One doesn't have to give a blank check of approval to the Maduro government to understand this crucial dynamic: the revolutionary process that swept Hugo Chavez, Maduro's predecessor, to power in actual complex reality must be defended against the forces of capitalist and middle-class reaction. One doesn't have to look much further back in history than Allende's Chile in the early 1970s to see how an alliance of a resentful business class, a mass fascist movement, an untransformed military, and the barely hidden hand of US imperialism conspired to manipulate popular opinion and, under the guise of protesting an alleged lack of democracy, economic crisis and instability, and the authority of a left-wing government, mass reactionary protests paved the way for a brutal military coup that smashed the left for a generation.

This is one of the real dangers today in Venezuela. The right wing protesters are attempting to manipulate popular opinion in their favor. But if they get their way and the Bolivarian revolution is undone — as incomplete as it may be —the result will be catastrophe for the poor and working people of Venezuela. —ISH

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Posted by on in News & Analysis

Something is happening out there, still.

Mass protests have been sweeping the world for four years now, country to country, region to region. In most of these places the protests aren't simple or easy to explain: there are complex forces on all sides. In Ukraine, fierce protests resulting in pitched battles with police turn out to be riddled with neo-nazis; in Thailand, middle-class urban protesters have been challenging the rule of a millionaire family elected to power by an impoverished majority. In Egypt, the biggest protests ever swept harsh military rule back into power. But from Europe to Asia to Latin America, new mass protests keep cropping up. There's a tangible sense of uncertainty about the future.

But one thing should be clear: this is a world of people deeply unsatisfied with the status quo. Systems are broken, social contracts failing.

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“What Clinton and Obama have done is weaponize gay rights in the service of neocolonialism.”

By ISH

Gay people in African countries have long confronted existential challenges. But now old laws that criminalize homosexual behavior are being supplemented with harsh penalties and new laws designed to push gay people back into the shadows. This massive wave of repression is being led by local demagogues and visiting American missionaries. But underneath it all, decades of neocolonial exploitation and blatant imperialist hypocrisy have created a perfect storm of terror for gay Africans.

We celebrate the fact that Uganda is a no go zone for the gay people. Let them die like cockroaches and insects with no purpose. We praise the lord that our leaders are put them in their places;- graveyards, cells, prisons and out of Uganda. Yeessssssssssssssssssss this is it, we shall get them.” —a Ugandan supporter of anti-gay legislation, on Facebook

After being stalled for several years and having undergone various revisions, Uganda's parliament made headlines in December by finally passing a deeply repressive bill against gays and lesbians. While the death penalty clause was removed from what was originally referred to as the "Kill the Gays Bill," it sets penalties including life imprisonment for “aggravated homosexuality,” and also criminalizes the failure to turn in known homosexuals for their behavior. According to the Guardian, “Homosexuality was already illegal in Uganda under a colonial-era law that criminalised sexual acts 'against the order of nature,' but the Ugandan politician who wrote the new law argued that tough new legislation was needed because gay people from the west threatened to destroy Ugandan families and were allegedly 'recruiting' Ugandan children into gay lifestyles.”

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Posted by on in Culture

Leftists in the United States sometimes despair over the fact that the masses of people seem to be completely ignoring them. But maybe that's a distorted picture: maybe it's the left that is ignoring the masses of people. If you look at a summary of the 2012 elections, the voting-age population of the U.S. is said to be just under 241 million people. Well over 3 million of these people are excluded from voting by laws that prevent prisoners and released felons from voting. Another 8% of of this population are noncitizens and also inelligible. Only 130 million people, or 53% of the people, voted for president. So when we ponder the illusions that the U.S. population has in the system, we're actually looking at a very slight majority of the population, and ignoring the millions who don't play the game. That means 47% of the people ignored, sat out, were barred from, or perhaps didn't even see, the two-year clown-car filled electoral circus that preceeded the elections. So perhaps our conventional wisdom about who the proletariat is and what it is up to right now could really use some work.

Back in 1918, Russian revolutionary V.I. Lenin wrote, "America has become one of the foremost countries in regard to the depth of the abyss which lies between the handful of arrogant multimillionaires who wallow in filth and luxury, and the millions of working people who constantly live on the verge of pauperism." This seems truer than ever today.

African-American writer D. Watkins, shown in the photo above on the streets of East Baltimore, wrote the following piece for Salon, sharing with his readers a sobering view of American reality. It should be a call for leftists, for communists, to re-evaluate the bubbles in which we live, to refocus our vision on what our world really looks like. —ISH

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The Sochi Olympics are about to begin, and the eyes of the world are on Vladimir Putin's Russia. Sochi is located in southern Russia in the foothills of the Caucasus mountains: a region seething with national conflict. Even over twenty years after the fall of the Soviet Union, nationally oppressed people like the Chechens are still struggling against Russian authority, causing many to fear acts of terrorism or, perhaps more likely, heavy-handed repressive countermeasures.

But Russia is also the scene of a rising tide of anti-gay violence and government repression. As the article from Human Rights Watch below notes, a 2013 law now criminalizes certain types of LGBT organizing by putting limits on what can be openly said or publicized. Social media may be abuzz with a story about Sochi authorities planning to kill all the stray dogs in town before the Olympics get underway, but the real story is how Sochi mayor Anatoly Pakhomov told the BBC that there are "no gays living in Sochi." One has to wonder whether the gay population of Sochi views that statement as a threat.

A number of European and American LGBT groups have urged a boycott of the Sochi Olympics, or of its corporate sponsors, in the face of all this repression. It remains to be seen how openly gay foreign athletes or visitors will be treated during the games. But when the games are over, it's very clear that Russian gays and lesbians are facing a very serious existential threat. —ISH

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Posted by on in Environment

A rare snowfall this week across parts of the southern United States resulted in regional paralysis. As Rebecca Burns writes below in Politico, Atlanta children were forced to spend the night in schoolbuses, cars were abandoned on icy streets, and regular life was disrupted. Wags compared the similarity, shown above, between the scene of a weather-related exodus on a clogged Atlanta highway and the opening shot of the television zombie serial "The Walking Dead."

Years of changing, erratic weather across the country have raised the concerns of many. People are clearly upset and frustrated. There have even been a rash of (easily disproved) conspiracy theories about burning snow. But as with Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Sandy, the extreme weather is colliding with the failure of the ability of capitalist America to provide for public safety: Burns argues clearly "this fiasco is manmade from start to finish." —ISH

 

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Posted by on in Culture

Pete Seeger, who died this week at age 94, was such a major cultural influence on the left, we thought we should run various appreciations and critiques of his life, work, and significance. Kasama has already run one brief critique of the meaning of Peter Seeger, "On Pete Seeger and the Purpose of Hammers," and the information-filled obituary from the New York Times. Here is a remembrance by music journalist Dave Marsh, from Counterpunch. The photo above shows Seeger with his wife Toshi, who preceded him in death last year. We hope to run further critical examinations of his legacy in the future. —ISH

 

A Golden Thread, A Needle:
What It Means to Lose Pete Seeger

by DAVE MARSH, Counterpunch, Jan. 31, 2014

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The BDS (Boycott-Divestment-Sanctions) movement seeks to isolate the apartheid state of Israel by raising consciousness and cutting off international funds. It has steadily been gaining significant support, and chalking up a number of divestment victories. Like a similar movement against apartheid South Africa in the 1980s, the movement seeks to identify products tied to the Israeli state as targets for boycott, and urges institutions — especially nonprofits like universities — to break their financial and cultural ties to Israel. Since a huge number of U.S. institutions have deep connections to the Israeli establishment, this is a significant challenge.

In one of these recent victories, the American Studies Association voted in December to uphold an academic boycott of the state of Israel. But now, as Al-Jazeera reports below, the state senate of New York has passed a bill seeking to penalize any state-funded group that signs on to the boycott of apartheid Israel. Not surprisingly, the legislation was opposed by only four state senators, all Democrats. According to Alex Kane in Mondoweiss, "The measure prohibits colleges and universities from spending taxpayer funds on academic groups that support boycotting Israel. While the measure applies to any academic organization that boycotts countries where the New York Board of Regents has chartered a school, the focus is on Israel."

The bipartisan vote in New York state once again reveals the deadly connection that unites both liberal and conservative capitalist politicians in the U.S. with the racist Israeli state. This development occurs right on top of the revelation that newly-installed and self-avowedly progressive New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio met secretly with AIPAC, an agent of the Israeli state in U.S. politics, to assure lobbyists for Israel that defending Israel is part of his job description: "There is a philosophical grounding to my belief in Israel and it is my belief, it is our obligation, to defend Israel...City Hall will always be open to AIPAC. When you need me to stand by you in Washington or anywhere, I will answer the call and I’ll answer it happily ’cause that’s my job."

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Posted by on in Culture

Here is a pretty thorough obituary of Pete Seeger, from the New York Times to complement my critical essay which appears here.—ISH

Pete Seeger, Songwriter and Champion of Folk Music, Dies at 94

By

 

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Tagged in: culture Music obituary

Posted by on in Culture

Crossposted from my personal blog The Cahokian.—ISH

If I had a hammer,
I'd hammer in the morning
I'd hammer in the evening,
All over this land

I'd hammer out danger,
I'd hammer out a warning,
I'd hammer out love between my brothers and my sisters,
All over this land.

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Posted by on in Theory

The following article was written by Canadian communist JMP on his blog M-L-M Mayhem. There is considerable and obvious frustration on the North American left at the general failure of the left to attract a mass following. Along with evergreen calls for left unity along fuzzily expressed and conceived political lines, there is usually an exhortation to recalibrate a message with more mass appeal, since "the masses are not ready for revolution." Here Moufawad-Paul nails this failure of imagination:

"Interestingly enough, such an axiom is endorsed by the bourgeoisie: the masses do not want revolution, they want bourgeois democracy, they are perfectly integrated in the order of bourgeois democracy....Those leftists who take this position, though, end up acting as guardians of bourgeois order because they are forced to explain away the revolutionary action of the masses when it emerges."

This starts to get at a central flaw of much "left unity" sentiment: what do we win if we end up with the unity of bad, watered-down, social-democratic "left" politics? Unity is not enough: addressing the inadequacies of our movement must involve fixing our eyes on that communist horizon and reconceiving actually revolutionary ways to bring that dawn closer. —ISH

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