MLK: “Capitalism has out-lived its usefulness”

Source:  People’s World
January 18 2018

MLK: “There’s something wrong with capitalism”

Racist violence and economic injustice were among the problems Dr. Martin Luther King laid at capitalism’s doorstep. Here, King looks at a glass door of his rented beach cottage in St. Augustine, Fla. that was shot into by someone unknown on June 5, 1964. | Jim Kerlin / AP

 

Throughout his life, Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. spoke often and with vision about the nature of capitalism and the kind of changes needed to replace it. The following quotes reflect some of King’s key thoughts on the subject. The power of his words speaks as much to the present day as they did to the turbulent times he witnessed.

“I imagine you already know that I am much more socialistic in my economic theory than capitalistic… [Capitalism] started out with a noble and high motive… but like most human systems it fell victim to the very thing it was revolting against. So today, capitalism has out-lived its usefulness.” – Letter to Coretta Scott, July 18, 1952.

“In a sense, you could say we’re involved in the class struggle.” – Quote to New York Times reporter, José Igelsias, 1968.

“And one day we must ask the question, ‘Why are there forty million poor people in America?’ And when you begin to ask that question, you are raising questions about the economic system, about a broader distribution of wealth. When you ask that question, you begin to question the capitalistic economy. And I’m simply saying that more and more, we’ve got to begin to ask questions about the whole society…” – Speech to Southern Christian Leadership Conference Atlanta, Georgia, August 16, 1967.

“Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all God’s children.” – Speech to the Negro American Labor Council, 1961.

“We must recognize that we can’t solve our problem now until there is a radical redistribution of economic and political power…. This means a revolution of values and other things. We must see now that the evils of racism, economic exploitation, and militarism are all tied together… you can’t really get rid of one without getting rid of the others… the whole structure of American life must be changed. America is a hypocritical nation and [we] must put [our] own house in order.”- Report to SCLC Staff, May 1967.

“The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism.” – Speech to SCLC Board, March 30, 1967.

Dr. King speaks in Atlanta in 1960. | AP

“I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective—the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed matter: the guaranteed income… The curse of poverty has no justification in our age. It is socially as cruel and blind as the practice of cannibalism at the dawn of civilization when men ate each other because they had not yet learned to take food from the soil or to consume the abundant animal life around them. The time has come for us to civilize ourselves by the total, direct and immediate abolition of poverty.” – Where do We Go from Here?, 1967.

“You can’t talk about solving the economic problem of the Negro without talking about billions of dollars. You can’t talk about ending the slums without first saying profit must be taken out of slums. You’re really tampering and getting on dangerous ground because you are messing with folk then. You are messing with captains of industry. Now this means that we are treading in difficult water because it really means that we are saying that something is wrong with capitalism.” – Speech to his staff, 1966.

“[W]e are saying that something is wrong … with capitalism…. There must be better distribution of wealth and maybe America must move toward a democratic socialism.” – Speech to his staff, 1966.

“If America does not use her vast resources of wealth to end poverty and make it possible for all of God’s children to have the basic necessities of life, she too will go to hell.” –  Speech at Bishop Charles Mason Temple of the Church of God in Christ in support of the Memphis sanitation workers’ strike on March 18, 1968, two weeks before he was assassinated.

MLK Global

The Bolshevik Revolution’s Pioneering Gains for Women

Source:  TeleSUR
November 6 2017

russian women demonstrate 1917.jpgThe women’s demonstration for bread, land and peace on March 8, 1917 in Petrograd was the beginning of the end of Tsarist Russia. | Photo: Wikimedia Commons

The first worker’s state in the world would never have materialized without the steely, militant determination of women.

“Bread!” was the first call to order. “Down with the tsar!” the next. Soon, cries of “Down with the war!” drowned the streets.

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The women workers of Petrograd — then the capital of Russia — roamed through town on the cold morning of Feb. 23, 1917, throwing sticks, stones and snowballs at factory windows, urging their male counterparts to join their clamor. By the end of the day, 100,000 people were out in the streets on strike.

On the sixth International Working Women’s Day, women workers set the course of history: the strike in the juggernaut of the Russian empire would go on to topple the tsar forever, sparking the revolutions that would eventually give rise to the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics.

The socialist October Revolution — also known as the Bolshevik Revolution — that would follow February’s fervor set in motion by the demands of working women, would, in turn, bring about massive gains for a society steeped in patriarchy and a semi-feudal order.

Women in Tsarist Russia

In Tsarist Russia — one of the largest empires in human history that spanned nearly two centuries — women were little more than the property of men.

The Russian Orthodox church had a hold in the country, preserving a culture of staunch conservatism. Men were legally allowed to beat their wives. Women also had no right to unrestricted movement, obliged to follow their husbands wherever they went.

They were allowed to work only with their husband’s consent. Education was massively restricted, with only about 13.1 percent of Russian women being literate in 1897.

Divorce, granted in only exceptional cases, put women through a humiliating interrogation process by police and judges and was essentially restricted to wealthy women.

Abortion was banned, and women were not allowed to vote or hold public office.

As capitalism developed in Russia between 1896 and 1899, it spurred women out of the home for the first time — but also increased their workload. Girls as young as 12 years old, or even younger, toiled away in factories, working 18 hour days for meager pay. At home, they were expected to help with household chores.

Vladimir Lenin, the leader of the Bolshevik Revolution, wrote about this contradication, observing that “it is indisputable that the capitalist factory places these categories of the working population in particularly hard conditions, and that for them it is particularly necessary to regulate and shorten the working day, to guarantee hygienic conditions of labor, etc.

But endeavors completely to ban the work of women and juveniles in industry, or to maintain the patriarchal manner of life that ruled out such work, would be reactionary and utopian.”

The textile and metal industries soon saw masses of women workers join, who quickly formed the majority of workers in these factories. This was to have a profound impact on how the revolution unfolded.

The Bolsheviks counter petty-bourgeois feminists

The women’s struggle emerged in 1889, through the social democratic movement. Study circles were set up by Mikhail Ivanovich Brusnyev, that at its roots were based on Marxist ideas and had the goal of a socialist revolution. By 1890, these circles were teeming with women workers, with some 20 existing across Russia.

Five years later, the various social democratic circles merged to form the Union of Struggle, the forerunner to the Russian Social Democratic Labor Party. Among its 17 founding members were four women, including Nadezhda Konstantinovna Krupskaya, Lenin’s partner.

While the “woman question” was on the program of all Russian opposition parties by that point, it was the Bolsheviks that would take on uniting the working class not only on national divisions, but the gender divide as well. It was the Bolsheviks too that would immediately implement all demands from working women after taking power in 1917.

The turn of the century saw mass unrest in Tsarist Russia, which ultimately transpired into the 1905 Russian Revolution, where women participated in great numbers. That year, more than 50 Soviets — effectively, regional people’s councils, made up of peasants, workers and soldiers — sprang up, with women revolutionaries assigned some of the most dangerous tasks.

One cotton weaving factory, Kashintsev, elected more women than men to the Soviet: 7 out of 8 members.

After the 1905 Revolution, the Bolsheviks worked to win women and organize them within the ranks of their party. Their efforts prevailed: at the Social Democratic Labor Party’s Fifth Congress in 1907, the Bolsheviks had five women delegates for every woman Menshevik delegate, which was the other, more moderate faction of the party.

Despite this, the Bolsheviks came under attack by petty-bourgeois feminists for failing to care about women’s issues. Well outside the labor movement, the primary concern of this group was women’s right to education — meaning, they were only addressing a tiny group of women in Russia at the time.

As the Bolsheviks rejected the petty-bourgeois feminists’ claims that women’s liberation could be fought without socialism, Lenin reiterated the importance of abolishing class oppression alongside the struggle for democratic demands.

“Marxists know that democracy does not abolish class oppression, but only makes the class struggle clearer, broader, more open and sharper; and this is what we want. The more complete freedom of divorce is, the clearer will it be to the woman that the source of her ‘domestic slavery’ is not the lack of rights, but capitalism,” he wrote in 1916. “The more democratic the system of government is, the clearer it will be to the workers that the root of the evil is not the lack of rights, but capitalism.”

Clara Zetkin, the German Marxist that first called for International Working Women’s Day, also spoke out firmly against “bourgeois feminism.”

“The proletarian woman ends up in the proletarian camp, the bourgeois woman in the bourgeois camp. We must not let ourselves be fooled by Socialist trends in the bourgeois women’s movement which last only as long as bourgeois women feel oppressed,” she warned.

These warnings rang true: the lack of class perspective within the petty-bourgeois feminist movement led them to support World War I, believing that once men were off to fight, women could play a greater role in society.

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It was the Bolsheviks who opposed the war, calling it a war by imperialists and capitalists at the expense of the working masses. It was also women Bolsheviks who rallied and persuaded the soldiers stationed in Petrograd to join the movement. Many soon left their posts and joined the Bolshevik ranks.

bolshevik woman 1923 magazine.jpgA 1923 edition of the Soviet women’s Bolshevik magazine Rabotnitsa.
| Photo: Wikimedia Commons

In 1914 the Bolsheviks began a journal aimed at working women, called “Rabotnitsa,” or “Women Workers.” With the first edition published on International Working Women’s Day of that year, seven more were issued before the Tsarist government clamped down on the publication.

Women and revolution

After the February Revolution of 1917, the Provisional Government came to power, toppling Tsar Nicholas II and ending the Russian empire

As time passed and the people’s demands for “Peace, Bread and Land” were not met, the Bolsheviks grew in popularity, as they called for the overthrow of the bourgeois Provisional Government.

More organizing was needed, and women workers were a key element of this process. They not only participated in strikes and demonstrations but also were a part of the armed defense of the revolution, dying alongside men of the Red Guards, the armed wing of the Bolsheviks.

Bolshevik women, in the months leading up to the October Revolution, took part in all activities: speaking at public meetings, distributing leaflets, transporting weapons, and providing care for the wounded.

In this fervor, the Bolsheviks began publishing “Rabotnitsa” again, with Krupskaya and many other women workers from Petrograd on the editorial board.

Lenin, during this time, wrote many articles about the importance of calling women workers to fight for socialism.

The pioneering advances for women under the Bolsheviks

Finally, on Oct. 25, 1917, the armed masses belonging to the Petrograd Soviet, which had been won over to socialist revolution by the Bolsheviks, occupied all public buildings, stormed the Winter Palace and arrested the Provisional Government members.

The Bolsheviks immediately set out ensuring equality between men and women. Just four days after taking power, they introduced the 8-hour working day, advancing possibilities for women, especially working-class women, to take part in politics.

Soon, the restriction on women’s freedom was removed. Women were given equal right to own land.

The church and state were also separated, marking one of the most profound shifts in women’s right: women were given free access to abortion, making Russia the first country in the world to grant this legal right.

Marriage also now took place with equal consent, and divorce was made as easy as possible for both parties.

The concept of illegitimate children was abolished, allowing all children to be treated equally. Paid maternity leave was granted both before and after birth, while night work for pregnant women and women who had just given birth was prohibited. In addition, special maternity wards were set up.

Alexandra Kollontai.gif

Alexandra Kollontai

Long before women would be granted the right to vote in capitalist countries such as the U.K., the United States, Sweden or France, women in Russia could vote by 1917.

Aleksandra Kollontai also became the world’s first woman minister when she was appointed People’s Commissar of Social Welfare shortly after the October Revolution.

The advances in women’s rights and equality ushered in by the Bolshevik Revolution also came part in parcel with advances in rights for other oppressed groups as well. In 1918, a decree was passed abolishing all pre-revolutionary Tsarist laws. The 1922 Criminal Code, for example, decriminalized homosexuality.

“The present sexual legislation in the Soviet Union is the work of the October Revolution,” the Bolshevik Grigorii Batkis, Director of the Institute for Social Hygiene, said at the time.

In November 1918, a series of small women’s conferences culminated in the first All-Russian Congress of Working Women.

During the conference, many new women joined the Bolshevik Party, as well as the women militias, “The Red Sisters,” to actively fight the counter-revolutionary forces known as the White Army, who had the backing of foreign governments.

The women’s department of the Secretariat of the Central Committee of the Bolsheviks, who had since changed their name to the Russian Communist Party, organized women in the factories and villages into the party.

The Zhenotdel, as the women’s department was known, soon launched a magazine, “Komitska,” with Krupskaya as editor. By 1927, over 18 different women’s magazines were published with a circulation of 386,000, focused on women’s liberation and socialism.

Thanks to the Zhenotdel, women’s membership in the party doubled by 1932, with women making up 15.9 percent, compared to just 8 percent a decade earlier.

”No party or revolution in the world has ever dreamed of striking so deep at the roots of the oppression and inequality of women as the Soviet, Bolshevik revolution is doing,” Lenin observed in 1921. “Over here, in Soviet Russia, no trace is left of any inequality between men and women under the law. The Soviet power has eliminated all there was of the especially disgusting, base and hypocritical inequality in the laws on marriage and the family and inequality in respect of children.”

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“This is only the first step in the liberation of woman. But none of the bourgeois republics, including the most democratic, has dared to take even this first step,” he added.

In 1922, with the creation of the USSR, the Soviet government sought to socialize housework. This was done by creating things such as public nurseries, kindergartens, kitchens and public laundries. The idea was to reduce household labor to a minimum, allowing women the freedom to pursue waged work, education and enjoy leisure time on par with men.

Long after the Bolshevik Revolution, the difference in women’s conditions was staggering. Compared to Tsarist times, life expectancy doubled by the 1970s, from 30 to nearly 74. Infant mortality was also reduced by 90 percent in that time period. Women soared in education, with only 10 percent enrolled in secondary school in 1926 to 97 percent by 1958.

From the first study circles at the turn of the century to the women-led uprising that incited the February Revolution, to the thousands of Bolshevik women who fought on behalf of the working class, the first worker’s state in the world would never have become a reality without the steely, militant determination of women.

Argentine Students Occupy Schools Against Education Reform

Source:  TeleSUR
September 14 2017

students occupy schools argentinaStudents in Argentina protest government plans to reform
high school education. | Photo: Reuters

Five new schools have joined a two-week-long protest against President Mauricio Macri’s education reforms.

Dozens of Argentine students have occupied five high schools in Buenos Aires in a show of protest against education reforms proposed by the government of President Mauricio Macri.

RELATED:  Argentina Public Universities Launch Largest Strike in 12 Years

The five schools include the National School of Buenos Aires near the Casa Rosada Presidential Palace, Nicolas Avellaneda in Palermo, Rodolfo Walsh in Villa Pueyrredon, Normal 8 in San Cristobal and Garcia Lorca in La Paternal.

Thus far, students have taken over 25 public high schools.

Among the most unpopular education reforms include a measure forcing students to work for private companies as unpaid interns.

The reforms “present a series of rules that undermine our education,” said Maximiliano Suen, a representative of the Coordination of High School Students. Suen is one of many student activists organizing the occupations.

Suen added that the unpaid internship program interferes with the ability of students to focus on their education.

Protests against the “High Schools of the Future” reforms began two weeks ago, when students demanded a meeting with Argentine Minister of Education Soledad Acuña.

“But she has already said that she is not going to meet with busy schools,” Suen said.

The students also announced that they will march on the anniversary of the “Night of the Pencils,” when high school students were kidnapped and killed on Sept. 16, 1976, as they protested education reforms during the military dictatorship era.

Some 84,845 students are part of Buenos Aires’ high school education system, which includes 143 schools.

“A Call to Action Against Slavery”—We’re About to See the Largest Prison Strikes in US History

Reblogged from  Moorbey’z Blog

August 13 2016

by  Jeremy Galloway

a call to action against slavery.jpg

A series of coordinated work stoppages and hunger strikes

On September 9, a series of coordinated work stoppages and hunger strikes will take place at prisons across the country. Organized by a coalition of prisoner rights, labor, and racial justice groups, the strikes will include prisoners from at least 20 states—making this the largest effort to organize incarcerated people in US history.

The actions will represent a powerful, long-awaited blow against the status quo in what has become the most incarcerated nation on earth. A challenge to mass incarceration and the prison-industrial complex in general, the strikes will focus specifically on the widespread exploitation of incarcerated workers—what the Incarcerated Workers Organizing Committee (IWOC) describes as “a call to action against slavery in America.”

45 years since the Attica prison uprising

The chosen date will mark 45 years since the Attica prison uprising (pictured above), the bloodiest and most notorious US prison conflict. The 1971 rebellion—which involved 1,300 prisoners and lasted five days—and the state’s brutal response claimed the lives of dozens of prisoners and guards. The events left a lasting scar, but have inspired a new generation among today’s much larger incarcerated population.

Tomorrow (August 10), information campaigns, speaking events, and solidarity demonstrations will take place in Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, Texas, Virginia, Wisconsin, Oklahoma, Missouri, Illinois, Minnesota, California and elsewhere.

The organizing coalition includes The Ordinary People Society (TOPS),Free Alabama Movement (FAM), Free Virginia MovementFree Ohio MovementFree Mississippi MovementNew Underground Railroad Movement (CA), Formerly Incarcerated, Convicted People, and Families Movement (FICPFM), and IWOC—which has chapters across the country and with which I’ve been involved for several years.

A national conference September 9 – 10

FICPFM has scheduled a national conference September 9-10 to coincide with the main strikes, which have also been endorsed by the National Lawyers Guild.

These widespread and coordinated actions haven’t happened overnight; they’re the result of years of struggle by people on both sides of the prison walls. Significantly, it’s incarcerated people who are taking the reins in organizing the strikes this time around—despite intimidation by the state.

If history is an indicator, the state will do all it can to limit media coverage. So organizers inside and outside are organizing communication via YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. The “revolution” may not be televised, but these strikes will be accessible in real-time via social media, despite prison officials’ efforts to keep them hidden.

Leaning on History and Technology

Organizing incarcerated people on such a large scale is unprecedented for a reason. As recently as 2009, during my two-year stay with the Georgia Department of Corrections, simply talking about unions was unthinkable for fear of retaliation and isolation.

Now, not only are incarcerated workers in Georgia and across the country talking about fighting back against an unjust system—they’re actually doing it.

Many of us involved with organizing this wave of strikes weren’t even born when Attica happened. But we do have the twin resources of plenty of history to learn from and modern communications—especially mobile phones and social media—to lean on as we seek to shape resistance.

The assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X

Attica happened at a time when, like today, racial tensions and conflict between police and people of color and poor people were high. In 1971, the Civil Rights Movement and the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X were fresh in the public mind, and the government was systematically targeting and eliminating leaders of more militant groups like the Black Panthers.

From 200,000 to over 1.5 million

Three months before the Attica Uprising, President Richard Nixon had declared his War on Drugs. The combined US state and federal prison population then hovered below 200,000 people.

Through the Reagan and Clinton years—which ramped up the drug war and introduced mandatory minimum sentencing—until today, that number ballooned to over 1.5 million. In total, over 2.2 million people now behind bars—in jail, prison, immigration detention, or youth detention—on any given day.

This makes the United States the world’s number one prison state and massively raises the stakes for organized resistance. Millions of people’s lives and freedom are on the line.

Earlier Uprisings and the Long March to Reform

The few improvements we’ve seen to the US incarceration system have been painfully slow in coming—and they frequently occur only after resistance from inside or public pressure from outside, like the 2009 Rockefeller drug law reforms

The Attica uprising led to sweeping changes in New York’s penal system, but many of the particpants’ grievances remain problems today. The demands of recent prison strikers strongly echo Attica’s Manifesto of Demands and the earlier demands of inmates at Folsom in California: basic medical care; fair pay for work; an end to abuse and brutality by prison staff; fair decisions by parole boards; sanitary living conditions; and adequate and nutritious meals.

When the women fought back

One of the clearest, and least known, examples of prison workers striking to improve conditions came from North Carolina Correctional Institute for Women (NCCIW) in 1975, four years after Attica. Incarcerated women there staged a sit-in strike against conditions at the state’s only prison laundry facility.

Their nonviolent protest was met with force by prison guards, who corralled them into a gymnasium and assaulted them. The women fought back, triggering the state to send in 100 guards from other prisons to quell the uprising. The prison resumed normal operations four days after the strike began, but the prison laundry was closed shortly after the incident. [1. & 2.]

Vital lessons

The NCCIW strike, the Attica Uprising, and the Lucasville, Ohio prison rebellion of 1993—the only major prison uprising in the US to be resolved peacefully— provide vital lessons for prisoners and their allies on the outside.

Siddique Abdullah Hassan, who participated in the Lucasville uprising and remains incarcerated, was recently interviewed by IWOC members. He expressed the need for solid support from the outside during prisoner resistance:

“[I]t is a sad commentary on our part, meaning both those people behind enemy lines and on the outside who are activists. When people step up to the plate and fight in a righteous cause, I think that we should not leave those people for dead.”

2010: A Flashpoint in Georgia

The wave of hunger strikes and work stoppages that have built up to the September 9 coalition began in December 2010, when inmates at six Georgia prisons refused to report for meals and work assignments.

Since almost all the work that allows Georgia’s prison system to function comes from unpaid inmate labor—cooking meals, maintaining facilities, picking up trash, repairing storm damage, and doing other work for county government that would otherwise be filled by members of the community (many incarcerated workers work alongside workers from the free world), even building new prisons and handling administrative tasks for prison officials—the strike made an immediate and lasting impact.

The strikers’ demands were simple and familiar. So was the State’s response. The Georgia Department of Corrections reacted by shutting off water and electricity to the strikers’ living quarters. Most of them quickly succumbed to these harsh measures, but a handful dug in and continue to resist.

State retaliation

The state retaliated against 37 inmates who were identified as organizers with extreme isolation and punishment.

Prison guards at Smith State Prison in South Georgia were captured on film brutally beating Kelvin Stevenson and Miguel Jackson with hammers [caution: graphic violence]. In what prisoners say is a long-running practice, the two men were isolated from public view and denied visits from family members and legal counsel until their wounds healed.

Three Georgia corrections officers were convicted in 2014 for an earlier beating, but justice continues to elude Jackson, Stevenson and their families. The Georgia Department of Corrections responded to the beatings by asking Google to censor the YouTube video.

Four of the original Georgia strikers, now under close security, staged another hunger strike in 2015. This time their only demand was that their security level be reconsidered, per state policy.

The Rising Tide

The Southeast, which incarcerates more of its residents than any other US region, has been a focal point of prison organizing.

Inspired by the actions of their Georgia neighbors, incarcerated workers and supporters in Alabama began organizing work stoppages and hunger strikes of their own under the banner Free Alabama Movement (FAM). Since its inception, FAM has organized for a flurry of work stoppages and minor uprisings at St. Clair, Holman and Staton Correctional Facilities in 20142015 and earlier this year.

FAM organizers explain in this YouTube video why they’re organizing incarcerated workers:

“They [Alabama Dept. of Corrections] not gonna make this man go to school if he needs a GED. They’re not gonna make him get a skill or trade. They’re not gonna make him do the things that will help him be successful when [he] gets back to the streets. They gonna make him work for them and provide free labor. And that’s where Free Alabama Movement comes in.”

Using their labor power

FAM developed a manifesto called “Let the Crops Rot in the Fields,” which lays out a framework that’s spread to prisons across the country. Instead of relying on support from the outside or passive actions like hunger strikes, incarcerated workers are utilizing the most powerful tool they have: their labor.

Incarcerated workers are paid pennies an hour—or not at all in Georgia and Texas—for often-backbreaking labor that keeps prisons operating and benefits the state and, increasingly, private corporations.

If they refuse or are unable to work, inmates say they’re subject to punishment, including “isolation, restraint positions, stripping off our clothes and investigating our bodies as though we are animals.”

The Alabama Freedom Bill & the Re-Entry Pipeline

FAM is also working within the system to enact legislation geared toward improving conditions for incarcerated people in Alabama. They recently presented the Alabama Freedom Bill, which would expand access to education, rehabilitation, and reentry services—services which are already supposed to exist on paper, but rarely do in practice.

Pastor Kenneth Glasgow, a formerly incarcerated person whose organization, The Ordinary People’s Society (TOPS), was a critical player in the early resistance in Georgia and Alabama, says: “They created the School-to-Prison Pipeline, we want to flip that and organize a Re-entry Pipeline.”

Considering the barriers to employmenteducation and housing created by a criminal record, reentry services are vital, yet the state rarely gives them priority—if they provide them at all.

An Alternative to the Silence of Mainstream Unions 

At a time of high tension, this coalition finds itself at a critical intersection of racial, structural and economic oppression.

Mainstream unions have been largely silent on the issue of inmate labor. In fact, major unions like American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), Service Employees International Union(SEIU), American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE), and theTeamsters represent corrections officers and police across the country—placing them in direct conflict with prison workers and the most marginalized people in our society.

These unions frequently fight to keep prisons open, even when their members are guaranteed work elsewhere. This effectively puts them in the same boat as private prison companies like Corrections Corporation of America and GEO Group, whose contracts often contain quotas which require a certain percentage of beds remain filled.

IWOC currently counts about 1,000 incarcerated members, a number which continues to grow as September 9 approaches. This  makes it the largest area of organizing within Industrial Workers of the World—a labor union controlled directly by workers which operates outside the mainstream union model.

Building connections between workers behind bars and in the free world

Most, though not all incarcerated people have committed crimes—or at least, what are considered “crimes” under our current system. But they often do so out of necessity, sometimes to support drug problems where treatment or harm reduction services don’t exist and, too often, to support families or just survive in a system which discriminates by race, gender, sexuality and economic status, and robs anyone with a criminal record of opportunities.

Incarcerated workers are still workers, regardless of criminal records. Other than by ending or massively reducing incarceration itself, it is only by building connections between workers behind bars and in the free world that will we begin to reform a system that feeds on human suffering.

Which path to pursue as a nation?

September 9 could be the most powerful call in over a generation to reform—or dismantle—a system that IWOC organizer and Ohio prisonerSean Swain calls a “third world colony” within the US and a “canary in the coal mine.” Conditions in prison today foreshadow what workers on the outside might face in the future, because the oppression inside is merely an amplified version of the oppression faced by poor people everywhere. In this way and others, this issue impacts all working people, not just those living in prison.

Most incarcerated people will be released one day. Do we want people who are bitter, humiliated, lacking work skills and education, desperate just to put food on the table and at great risk of reoffending living next door?

Or do we want people who can work, who have ties to their communities, have maintained relationships with loved ones, and who have a vested interest in helping build stronger, more socially and economically just communities when they return home?

If we succeed in making the US pay attention to the events of September 9, it might just help the country decide which of those paths to pursue.

References:

  1. The New York Times, “Women Inmates Battle Guards in North Carolina,” June 17, 1975.
  2. Dixie Be Damned: 300 Years of Insurrection in the American South, “On the 1975 Revolt at the North Carolina Correctional Center for Women,” Neal Shirley and Saralee Stafford

source: http://theinfluence.org/a-call-to-action-against-slavery-why-were-about-to-see-the-largest-prison-strikes-in-us-history/

Haiti 101 Years After US Invasion, Still Resisting Domination

Source:  TeleSUR
By: Justin Podur

The U.S. presidential candidates can be looked at from the perspective of Haiti. One candidate has an extensive record there. The other has some historical parallels.

demonstrators march in haiti jan 2016.jpgDemonstrators march during a protest in Port-au-Prince, January 2016. | Photo: AFP

The U.S. invaded and occupied Haiti 101 years ago today, and remained there for 19 years. Accomplishments of the occupation include raiding the Haitian National Bank, re-instituting slave labor, establishing the hated National Guard, and getting a 25-year contract for the U.S. corporation, United Fruit.

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There was a pretext for the invasion—the assassination of Haiti’s president in 1915. But to understand the event, which has lessons to draw from a century later, it is necessary to look more closely at the invader than the invaded.

The U.S. is still the determining voice in Haiti’s politics and economy

In 2016, the United States is living through a presidential campaign with a candidate willing to exploit racism and pander to anti-immigrant sentiment. Police are killing Black people in cities across the U.S.

Having drawn down troop levels in its two big wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S. still runs airsrikes and drone strikes in the region and covert actions all over the world. The U.S. is still the determining voice in Haiti’s politics and economy. In other words, 101 years after its invasion of Haiti, the U.S. retains two features: violent racial inequality and empire.

The U.S. presidential candidates can be looked at from the perspective of Haiti. One candidate has an extensive record there. The other has some historical parallels.

The Clintons have treated Haiti as a family business

The Clintons have treated Haiti as a family business. In 2010, after an earthquake devastated the country, the Clinton Foundation was among the horde of non-governmental organizations that stepped up their role in the, still unfinished, rebuilding phase. Haiti’s social sector had already been taken over by NGOs and its streets—since the 2004 U.S.-led coup and occupation—were patrolled by United Nations troops.

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The Clinton Foundation received pledges of hundreds of millions of dollars in development aid to rebuild Haiti. The crown jewel of the Foundation’s work: the disappointing Caracol Industrial Park, opened in 2012, which promised and failed to expand Haiti’s low-wage garment-processing industry, long a source of foreign profits and little internal development.

Hillary Clinton’s interventions

Hillary Clinton made her own interventions into Haitian politics as secretary of state. At a key moment in Haiti post-earthquake politics, Clinton’s state department threw its weight behind presidential candidate Michel Martelly.

His electoral legitimacy was dubious and his presidency led the country to a constitutional crisis when people mobilized against another stolen election in 2015. That crisis is still ongoing, and will no doubt provide pretexts for the next U.S. intervention.

Woodrow Wilson

To try to imagine the impact of Trump on Haiti, one need only look back a century. As Trump continues his seemingly unstoppable march to the White House, he is compared to Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi and other populist buffoon-politicians. Woodrow Wilson, the invader of Haiti in 1915, may be a better example of the damage a president can.

When Woodrow Wilson became president, he set about doing what today would be called “Making America Great Again.” Decades had passed since the U.S. Civil War. The post-war Reconstruction involved efforts to desegregate cities and government workplaces and make a place for newly-freed Black people.

Strengthening racial apartheid in the U.S.

Wilson reversed these efforts, strengthening racial apartheid in the U.S. His administration made sure there were separate bathrooms in federal government offices.

Although Trump is unlikely to re-introduce segregation, something else happened under Woodrow Wilson’s rule that is relevant in this context: white vigilante violence and lynchings spiked.

Wilson created a permissive environment for such atrocities. First elected in 1912, Wilson only got around to making a statement against organized white violence—called “mob violence” or “race riots”—in mid-1917.

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When more riots broke out in 1919, this time designed to suppress the democratic impulses of Black soldiers returning from WWI, the NAACP implored Wilson to make a a statement. But it was Wilson, himself, who had restricted Black soldiers to non-combat roles during the war.

In foreign policy, Donald Trump’s pronouncements have been predictably incoherent and uninformed. But Woodrow Wilson’s presidency suggests that domestic policies of racism will not be confined to the domestic arena.

Wilson sent U.S. troops all over Latin America

Wilson sent U.S. troops all over Latin America—Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, Panama, Nicaragua and of course, Haiti—which may have gotten the worst of it all. Racist wrath has been a constant in Haiti’s history since it won its independence in a slave revolt, and Wilson unleashed that wrath on the island during the 1915-1934 occupation. Chomsky’s “Year 501″ gives a flavor for what U.S. occupiers were thinking and doing:

“Secretary of State William Jennings Bryan, found the Haitian elite rather amusing: ‘Dear me, think of it, Niggers speaking French,'” he remarked. The effective ruler of Haiti, Marine Colonel L.W.T. Waller, who arrived fresh from appalling atrocities in the conquest of the Philippines, was not amused: “they are real nigger and no mistake … real nigs beneath the surface,” he said, rejecting any negotiations or other “bowing and scraping to these coons,” particularly the educated Haitians for whom this bloodthirsty lout had a special hatred.

Assistant Secretary of the Navy Franklin Delano Roosevelt, while never approaching the racist fanaticism and thuggery of his distant relative Theodore Roosevelt, shared the feelings of his colleagues. On a visit to occupied Haiti in 1917, he recorded in his diary a comment by his traveling companion, who later became the Occupation’s leading civilian official.

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$1,500 at auction in New Orleans in 1860

Fascinated by the Haitian Minister of Agriculture, he “couldn’t help saying to myself,” he told FDR, “that man would have brought $1,500 at auction in New Orleans in 1860 for stud purposes.”

“‘Roosevelt appears to have relished the story,” (Hans) Schmidt notes, “and retold it to American Minister Norman Armour when he visited Haiti as President in 1934.”

Chomsky conclude this section of horrifically racist quotes from the U.S. elite about Haiti with a warning, “The element of racism in policy formation should not be discounted, to the present day.”

Nor should Haitian resistance.

Charlemagne Peralte

Charlemagne Peralte Haiti.jpgThe U.S. occupation of 1915-1934 faced a rebellion led by Charlemagne Peralte. Marines assassinated him and circulated a photograph of him crucified. Rather than intimidating Haitians, the photo enraged them and cemented Charlemagne Peralte’s place as a national hero.

If Haitians had a say in the U.S. presidential election, a case could be made for the devil-you-know of Clinton rather than the risk of a new Woodrow Wilson in Trump. But subjects of the empire can’t vote, only citizens. The U.S. tried to set the tone of master 101 years ago.

But people still resist.

Stop Foreign Intervention in Africa (STOPFIIA) Conference

Source:  Rising Continent
February 28, 2015

Stop Foreign Intervention in Africa (STOPFIIA) conference at SOAS on 26/02/15

stopfiia-5STOPFIIA organising group arranged a conference that was held at the School of Oriental and African Studies on Thursday 26/02/2015 in LONDON.

Organizers see foreign intervention in Africa as all the actions taken by foreign powers in Africa which are harmful to Africa and Africans and which are intended to secure the interests of those foreign powers.

This does not only take a military form. It is also economic and as result, African countries have been suffering from foreign control of their key economic resources and Western economic prescriptions.

Not one IMF success story in Africa

These economic policies have been in the form of IMF and World Bank programmes, otherwise known as “Structural Adjustment Programmes” or “Suffering African People” for the last 40 years. Yet, there is not one African success story of such economic intervention under the guise of such IMF and World Bank dictates.

stopfiia 6Intervention in Africa also occurs on the cultural and intellectual level

Intervention in Africa also occurs on the cultural and intellectual level by which foreign ideas, theories, perspectives and paradigms are often consciously and unconsciously imposed on the African continent. This is cultural imperialism from which Africans have yet to free their minds.

Stop Foreign Intervention in Africa, are activists who are opposed to foreign intervention in Africa

Ideas and suggestions of participants to the mentioned conference include:

1) A campaign to make companies pay reparations

Make a campaign to make companies (like Barclays Bank) involved in operations that are exploiting the DRCongo’s resources and exacerbating the loss of African lives and sexual violence against African women, pay reparations to the Congolese people; provide funding for the treatment and rehabilitation of victims. Similarly, Shell and other culpable corporations can be made to pay reparations to Nigerians for its environmental destruction of the Niger Delta. Etc.

stopfiia 72) A campaign for African unity-adoption of a Pan-African identity among all Africans

Make a campaign for African unity, to override the tribalism, barriers and ethnic divisions among Africans so we can encourage adoption of a PAN AFRICAN IDENTITY among all Africans.

stopfiia-23) Unity around fighting imperialism from a socialist Pan Africanist perspective

Unite around the issue of fighting imperialism, as imperialism is the real issue. The fight is against the imperialist capitalist international order. It is the capitalist world that creates the widening gap between the super-rich and the rest of the world. We fight from a socialist Pan-Africanist perspective.

stopfiia 84) A self-serving elite

Our exploitation is being facilitated by self-serving elite. Without a clear ideology we go nowhere and socialism is the consensus ideological basis to operate from.

stopfiia-35) Focus on the basic needs of the majority of Africans

Focus on campaigns that will meet the basic needs of Africans and African resource management for the benefit of the people. For instance 2/3rd of Africa is rural and yet only 10% of Africa’s investment is into agriculture. We can make a campaign for African governments to change this. What is Africa to be? Is its model of progress/development to be agriculturally based (and rural), industrialised (and urban), etc.?

stopfiia-12 6) A campaign to boycott purchase of drugs from pharmaceutical companies – promote indigenous herbal medicine

We must not lose ordinary people with difficult language. Ensure to focus on easy, tangible solutions or actions. Campaign to boycott purchase of drugs from pharmaceutical companies, and promote African indigenous herbal medicine.

stopfiia 17) Target actions against those companies harming Africa where we are based

Target action against Britain and British companies, since this is where we (participants and organizers of the conference) are based and Britain’s intervention in African is particularly detrimental to our continent. Make an awareness campaign to educate people on the fact that intervention is detrimental (many of the public believe intervention is beneficial to Africa).

8) Develop a campaign to educate and inform

Make information campaigns to educate on: What does it mean to be intervened? Campaign to expose the role of the elite that are corrupt, facilitate the intervention by foreign interests, and are unable / unwilling to protect their own citizens (as in case of Nigerian military against Boko Haram). A petition is a good means of informing and raising awareness and discussion of the issues. The anti-war campaign has to be connected with.

Qatar: Conditions of migrant workers are slave-like, FIFA silent

UCATT_logo

Construction union UCATT slammed FIFA yesterday for once again ignoring the plight of migrant workers in Qatar after a task force announced that the tournament should be moved to the winter.

To move the tournament to November would get around playing in the summer heat but the decision ignored the two million migrant workers who are being forced to work six days a week in temperatures that reach 55 degrees.

The condition of workers are like slaves

The conditions of workers are slave like, wages are often withheld from workers for months on end and pay can be as low as 56p an hour.

And under Qatar’s kafala system, their passports are removed and they cannot leave the country without their employers permission.

Over 1,400 construction workers from India and Nepal have died

Since the World Cup was questionably handed to Qatar in 2010, over 1,400 construction workers from India and Nepal have died and the total death rate of all migrant workers is likely far higher.

England, UK . 25.9.2013. Brighton . Labour Party Conference.UCATT general secretary Steve Murphy (photo) said: “Once again FIFA have chosen to worry about the health of footballers and not the health of the workers building what will be a blood-stained World Cup.”

The best of the bad options

Football Association chair Greg Dyke said the best option would have been to move the tournament away from Qatar but said the new proposal was “the best of the bad options.

“I have said from the start we cannot possibly play in the summer in Qatar, it would be ridiculous to play then.

“The best option would be to not hold it in Qatar but we are now beyond that so November/December would seem to be the best of the bad options.

“It will clearly disrupt the whole football calendar as it means club football stopping at the end of October.

“You might be able to keep the disruption to one season if you start earlier and end later but it’s going to be tough — and unnecessary because we would not be doing this if FIFA had done their work properly.”

UEFA failed to address the treatment of migrant workers

UEFA released a statement which supported the task force’s recommendation but again failed to address the treatment of migrant workers.

It said: “UEFA believes that — for the benefits of players and fans — the event should be played in winter and now awaits the final decision from the Fifa executive committee meeting.

“UEFA sees no major issues in rescheduling its competitions for the 2022/23 season, should the 2022 FIFA World Cup proposal be approved by the FIFA executive committee and UEFA acknowledges that the competition may be shortened and thus that the release period of players be reduced.”

Source:  FIFA Decision Ignores Migrant Workers Morning Star