Thursday, September 30, 2010

Activists Refuse to Back Down: Denounce FBI Raids, Grand Jury Repression

Activists refuse to back down

Denounce FBI raids, grand jury repression

By Sara Flounders
Published Sep 29, 2010 9:21 PM

Anti-war, anti-racist and left political activists in the United
States have responded with unprecedented energy and outrage against nationally coordinated FBI raids on the homes of well-respected political organizers. Within 72 hours of the Sept. 24 raids, protest demonstrations were held or scheduled in 32 cities across the country.

Activists have established a Committee to Stop FBI Repression to
coordinate the opposition to the FBI attacks. Dozens of organizations,
local, regional and national, have condemned the FBI raids, including
the San Francisco Labor Council.

This latest instance of state repression began early Sept. 24 as FBI
agents armed with grand jury subpoenas raided the homes of several
anti-war and social justice activists in Minnesota, Michigan and

Organizers believe the Oct. 5, 7, 12 and 19 grand jury subpoena dates
will become dates to mobilize the entire progressive political
movement. They expect the demand to stop the subpoenas and “No to the grand jury investigation” to become slogans of a national movement that can stop this dangerous precedent.

That same day FBI agents “visited” activists’ homes in California,
Milwaukee, Michigan and North Carolina demanding immediate
cooperation. When activists refused to speak with them, the FBI
threatened to talk to employers and landlords, and also subpoena the

The targets of this “raid against terrorism” included leaders of the
Minneapolis Antiwar Committee, whose office was raided; the Palestine Solidarity Group; the Colombia Action Network; the National Committee to Free Ricardo Palmera (a Colombian political prisoner held in the U.S.); Students for a Democratic Society; and the Freedom Road Socialist Organization.

Though their homes and lives had just been turned upside down, all
those targeted had a calm and determined response. They refused to
speak to the FBI. Faced with spurious charges of providing material
aid to “terrorists,” they reaffirmed their right to organize
opposition to U.S. wars and to build solidarity with the struggles of
people around the world who are resisting occupation and dictatorship.

These organizers’ reactions helped to mobilize a strong response to
these police tactics intended to intimidate and demoralize the
movement. Even as the FBI was seizing computers, files, cameras,
passports, e-mails and mailing lists, neighbors came out in support
while others came to film. Scanned copies of the search warrants and
subpoenas were soon available on IndyMedia sites and videos of the
raid were posted on YouTube.

Hundreds came to an emergency rally in Minneapolis that same evening, and supporters held press conferences the following day in
Minneapolis, Milwaukee and Chicago.

Who should resist this attack?

The rapid and broad response from the progressive movement shows that many are aware of the need to join the resistance. Even a quick scan of the sweeping nature of the search warrant and the subpoena clearly shows that any opponent of U.S. wars should join the protests. This includes those organizations and individuals who participated in or supported a convoy or flotilla or a solidarity delegation to besieged
and blocked Gaza, or a delegation to blockaded Cuba, or those who
attended a conference or meeting with international representatives of
peoples’ movements throughout Latin America.

The FBI confiscated all paper circulation lists, e-mail lists, cell
phones and electronic equipment. The broadest movement should resist this attempt to shut down the ability and means to communicate.

The subpoenas to appear before a grand jury demand all items, all
correspondence, all documents and all phone records related to
so-called “foreign terrorist organizations, including FARC of
Colombia, PFLP of Palestine and Hezbollah in Lebanon, all pictures,
videos and travel documents to Colombia, Lebanon, Jordan, Syria,

A united fightback can stop this effort to shut down the movement that
is sweeping U.S. college campuses today to boycott, divest and
sanction Israel and build solidarity with Palestine, and the movement
in solidarity with the political change sweeping Latin America.

It is encouraging that all the major anti-war coalitions have joined
to oppose these FBI attacks. Now, as opposition grows to the
protracted wars in Iraq and Afghanistan — wars that have provoked
dissention within the ruling political and military bodies because
U.S. imperialism is facing a debacle — the government moves to wall
off people in the U.S. from any knowledge, information or exchanges
with people of the world. The movement is saying it won’t let this

Past raids and repression

The U.S. ruling class and state have used raids, entrapments, roundups and grand jury subpoenas throughout U.S. history to undermine many social movements. They were combined with anti-Communist ideology during the 1920s Palmer Raids and the 1950s McCarthyite period. The FBI also targeted the leaders of the Civil Rights Movement, such as the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.

The COINTELPRO effort — which also tried to disrupt the movements in solidarity with Central American peoples in the 1980s — carried out a special terror campaign against the Black Panther Party and other
Black liberation organizations and other groups in the Latino/a and
Native struggles in the late 1960s and 1970s. Since 2001 the now
monstrous “Homeland Security” apparatus has been used to criminalize, entrap and demonize Muslim people.

The U.S. State Department has spuriously labeled as “terrorist” the
popularly elected and legitimate governments in Gaza and Nepal and the mass-based Hezbollah organization in Lebanon. Opposition to the
longest war in U.S. history is being labeled sympathy with the Taliban
and al-Qaida, as is any contact with the government of Iran or the
people’s movement in Pakistan. Contact with Cuba and Iran, Sudan and North Korea is also sanctioned and blockaded.

All the more reason that all those who want these movements to
continue should unite to stop the latest sign of growing government
repression. On the very day of the raids, the National Lawyers Guild
issued at their national convention in New Orleans an important report
entitled, “The Policing of Political Speech: Constraints on Mass
Dissent in the U.S.”

The NLG report dealt with the very issues of the raids: guilt by
association, stigmatizing activists as “terrorists,” pre-event arrests
and raids of independent media and activists, and the use of grand
juries for information gathering.

The raids came only four days after a scathing report by the
Department of Justice inspector general that soundly criticized the
FBI for targeting domestic groups such as Greenpeace and the Thomas Merton Center from 2002 to 2006.

The majority of those who have been targeted by these new FBI raids
had participated in anti-war protests at the 2008 Republican National
Convention in St. Paul, Minn., which resulted in hundreds of beatings
and arrests. After a long legal struggle, the government had to drop
almost all the fabricated charges.

Two activists subpoenaed from Minneapolis, Jess Sundin and Mick Kelly, were key organizers of the Sept. 2008 RNC protests. Both recently spoke at a news conference to announce plans for organized mass protests if Minneapolis is elected to hold the 2012 Democratic
National Convention.

“This is really about trying to intimidate the anti-war movement, and
we won’t be silenced,” said anti-war activist Stephanie Weiner, whose
home was raided.

Steff Yorek, another activist targeted, called the searches “an
outrageous fishing expedition. ... Activists have the right not to
speak with the FBI and are encouraged to politely refuse.”

The FBI also subpoenaed Tom Burke, who is involved in humanitarian
solidarity work with labor and popular movements in Colombia. Burke
explained: “The government hopes to use a grand jury to frame up
activists. The goal of these raids is to harass and try to intimidate
the movement against U.S. wars and occupations, and those who oppose U.S. support for repressive regimes.” (quotes from

This sweeping attack on all constitutional rights is taking place
under the Barack Obama administration, which came into office with
promises to end the wars and open a new era of dialogue and openness.

On taking office President Obama made few changes in the Bush Justice Department, replacing only a few of the top personnel and keeping much of the racist, right-wing apparatus intact. A Bush appointee, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, heads the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, where the grand jury that has issued the subpoenas is seated.

Under the cover provided by Attorney General Eric Holder, this
repressive agency has had an ever-freer hand, for example, to go after
Black elected officials with all manner of spurious charges of
corruption. Preventive detention and outrageous entrapment and
frame-ups of Muslims have accelerated along with the continued
campaign to execute Mumia Abu-Jamal.

Regardless of the political changes on top, the capitalist state
exists to repress the political movements that fight in the interests
of the working class. Every struggle for political rights comes up
against this repressive apparatus.

To quote the unanimously passed San Francisco Labor Council
resolution: “The nationally coordinated dawn raids and fishing
expedition mark a new and dangerous chapter in the protracted assault
on the First Amendment rights of every union fighter, solidarity
activist or anti-war campaigner.”

The Committee to Stop FBI Repression has three demands that will help to focus the national effort:

1. Stop the repression against trade union, anti-war and international
solidarity activists.

2. Immediately return all confiscated materials: computers, cell
phones, papers, documents, personal belongings, etc.

3. End the grand jury proceedings and FBI raids against trade union,
anti-war and international solidarity activists.

The committee’s advice to activists is: Keep on alert! Know your
rights! Don’t talk to the FBI!

Flounders is co-director of the International Action Center, which has
organized protests and a petition campaign — — to defend the activists.
Articles copyright 1995-2010 Workers World. Verbatim copying and
distribution of this entire article is permitted in any medium without
royalty provided this notice is preserved.

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Attempted Coup In Ecuador: President Correa Denounces Action of Elements Within Police and Military

Ecuador in turmoil as president denounces 'coup attempt'

By Alexander Martinez

QUITO — Ecuador was plunged into political crisis Thursday as troops seized the country's main airport and stormed the Congress building in what President Rafael Correa denounced as an attempted coup.

About 150 renegade troops seized a runway at Ecuador's international airport in the capital of the South American nation, as dozens of police protested on the streets against a new law which would strip them of some pay bonuses.

Dozens of police units took over government buildings in the country's other two main cities, Guayaquil and Cuenca, and Foreign Minister Ricardo Pitino blamed the insurrection on "sectors aiming to overthrow the government."

The uprising occurred as Correa was in the hospital recovering from an operation on his knee, and the president said he was seeking refuge in the building fearing for his life.

"It is a coup attempt led by the opposition and certain sections of the armed forces and the police," Correa told local television.

"Whatever happens to me I want to express my love for my family and my homeland."

Correa charged some police had tried to storm his hospital room Thursday.

The Ecuadoran leader has vowed he will not bow in face of the protests, as the army chief threw his weight behind the Ecuadoran leader and vowed to restore order.

"No, I will not step back, if they want to seize the barracks, if they want to leave the citizens defenseless and betray their mission," Correa said earlier in a speech to soldiers from Quito's main regiment.

The largest demonstrations erupted in Quito where tear gas was used to try to disperse the crowds.

"The troops united will never be defeated," the demonstrators chanted, with some calling on the troops to join in the demonstrations.

But army chief Ernesto Gonzalez on Thursday threw his full support behind Correa, who was said to be considering dissolving Congress and holding snap elections to resolve the political crisis.

"We live in a state which is governed by laws, and we are subordinate to the highest authority which is the president of the republic," Gonzalez told a press conference.

"We will take whatever appropriate action the government decides on," he added.

Police chief Freddy Martinez also rushed to the scene of the demonstrations to call for calm, but was met with a hostile reception.

The leftist Correa was re-elected last year to a second term as president of the country of some 14.5 million people, which is bordered by Colombia and Peru.

International election observers at the time criticized Correa's "dominant" media presence in the run up to the vote, which they said had damaged the poll's fairness.

Since first coming to power in 2006, Correa has proven controversial because of his close ties to regional leftists like Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

The US-educated economist took a tough stance with investors and refused to repay foreign debt, in moves welcomed by supporters who blamed the effects of the economic crisis on foreign liberalism.

Correa had nearly two years left of his current term, but a new constitution approved in 2008 let him bid to start over again.

Correa promised to pursue popular social programs funded by oil wealth in the OPEC nation where 38 percent of the population lives below the poverty line.

His reelection was seen as giving some stability to the world's top banana exporter that has seen three of its previous presidents --between 1996 and 2006 -- ousted before the end of their terms.

Peru's Garcia says to shut Ecuador border due unrest

3:15pm EDT

LIMA (Reuters) - Peruvian President Alan Garcia said he was ordering the immediate closure of the border with neighboring Ecuador, where unrest erupted on Thursday with troops taking control of the main airport.

In confused and chaotic scenes in Quito, scores of soldiers swarmed over the landing strip of the international airport and President Rafael Correa accused rivals of seeking a coup and said he was considering dissolving Congress.

"I'm going to order that our borders are closed right now and that all trade on the northern border is halted until President Correa's authority is duly restored and resolved," Garcia said.

Garcia said foreign ministers from across South America would try to travel to Ecuador in a bid to resolve the conflict.

He also proposed a meeting of the regional ministers near to the border with Ecuador if they cannot make it into Ecuador.

(Reporting by Patricia Velez; Writing by Helen Popper, Editing by Sandra Maler)

Published on Thursday, September 30, 2010

Obama Administration Should Oppose Any Attempted Coup in Ecuador: CEPR Co-Director

by Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR)

Washington, D.C. - There are currently reports of a possible attempted coup d'etat underway in Ecuador. There have been violent protests by police and some elements of the military, reports that President Correa has been injured, and reports that the air force has closed down a number of airports.

The Organization of American States will convene an emergency meeting at 2:30 Eastern Standard Time in Washington D.C., to consider the situation.

Mark Weisbrot, Co-Director of the Center For Economic and Policy Research, called upon President Obama to state unequivocally that the United States will not recognize any government other than the democratically elected government of President Rafael Correa.

Weisbrot noted that the White House statement of June 28, 2009, in response to the military coup in Honduras, did not make any such assertion, and in fact did not even condemn the coup.

"These types of statements are very important, in that the people who are trying to overthrow a democratic government are looking for signs of whether a coup government will be recognized by the United States. The first White House statement last year in response to the Honduran military coup sent the wrong signal at a crucial moment."

At the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad in April 2009, President Obama stated: "I just want to make absolutely clear that I am absolutely opposed and condemn any efforts at violent overthrows of democratically elected governments, wherever it happens in the hemisphere.

"This is an important time for President Obama to live up to this commitment," said Weisbrot.

Ecuador's president, claiming coup attempt, 'won't relent'

By Arthur Brice, CNN

The president was led away in a gas mask after police lobbed tear gas at him

"This is treason to the country," says President Rafael Correa

A crowd jostled the president, who tried to calm the situation

Protesting police say government canceled bonuses and promotions

(CNN) -- Ecuador teetered on the verge of a government collapse Thursday, as national police took to the streets of Quito, the capital, and attacked the president over what they say was the cancellation of bonuses and promotions.

"This is a coup attempt," President Rafael Correa said in a TV interview a couple of hours after police lobbed tear gas at him.

Correa, who was forced to flee to a nearby hospital, said police were trying to get at him.

"They're trying to get into my room, maybe to attack me. I don't know," he said in a telephone interview with the state-run Ecuador TV. "But, forget it. I won't relent. If something happens to me, remember my infinite love for my country, and to my family I say that I will love them anywhere I end up."

A broadcast by the government's Ecuador TV showed mobs on the streets and clouds of black smoke coming from burning tires and garbage. Sporadic looting was reported.

Correa had taken to the streets to try to calm the situation but was soon surrounded and jostled by a crowd and forced to flee after the tear gas incident. Some of those shoving him were police officers in full gear.

Video from CNN affiliate Teleamazonas show a hunched-over Correa being led away as he covered his face with a gas mask. Correa, who recently underwent knee surgery, leaned on a crutch with his left arm.

A news photograph later showed him lying on a stretcher.

A government helicopter had tried to evacuate him but was unable to land.

He went on the air from a hospital a couple of hours later to denounce what he called a cowardly attack.

"They fired gas on us -- on the president of the republic," Correa said on the Ecuador TV telephone interview. "This is treason to the country, treason to their president."

Foreign Minister Ricardo Patino led a large and boisterous pro-government rally at the Carondelet Palace, the president's home. He urged the crowd to take to the streets to peacefully "reject this coup" and "to rescue our president."

Said Patino, "We are not afraid of anyone."

Analysts pointed to the government's precariousness.

"This is the most serious protest that the government of Rafael Correa has faced," analyst Eduardo Gamarra told CNN en Espanol.

Rank-and-file police took over their headquarters, Ecuador TV said.

There also were reports that the military had taken control of their bases and the airport.

Government officials tried to quell the rebellion, insisting that the security forces had been misinformed and warning that the nation's democracy was in danger.

"I want to tell the country there has been an attempt at a coup," said Gabriel Rivera of the Country Accord Party.

"This is a Machiavellian plan organized by sectors of the right," Rivera said on Ecuador TV.

Miguel Carvajal, the minister for interior security, said there was no threat to salaries or benefits. He blamed the reports of the benefit cuts on a massive disinformation campaign.

"He who says that is lying," Carvajal said.

"We call on the citizens. We call on the armed forces. We call on other governments to defend our democratic institutions," he said.

A police spokesman went on the air on Teleamazonas to dispute the government's allegations, saying that the security forces were in fact supporting Correa.

"Fellow officers who hear me nationally, stop this action," said the spokesman, identified only as Sgt. Mejia. "Don't close the streets. Return to the streets to work."

The disturbances occurred as Correa threatened to dissolve the national assembly over a dispute about several laws, including public service and education.

Angry police said they were overworked and underpaid.

"We work 14 hours a day," a uniformed officer said on Ecuador TV. "We are the ones who never protest."

Said another: "One hour without police. Let's see what happens."

Diego Borja, director of the central bank, went on the air to urge calm and for people to take care.

"The police are not protecting the people. They are protesting," he said. "There could be problems."

He also sought to prevent a run on deposits.

"The money is safe," he said. "But be careful if making large withdrawals."

CNN's Rafael Romo contributed to this report.

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Unrest in Ecuador shuts airport

Ecuador president accuses opposition of staging a coup as soldiers shut the capital's main airport and storm Congress

Al Jazeera
Last Modified: 30 Sep 2010 18:57 GMT

Unrest has erupted in Ecuador on Thursday with soldiers taking control of the main airport, police protesting in the streets and looting in the capital while the president considered dissolving a deadlocked Congress.

President Rafael Correa denounced what he called "a coup attempt." Unconfirmed reports said the he was hospitalised due to the effects of tear gas.

In confused and chaotic scenes in Quito, scores of soldiers took over the landing strip of the international airport, discontinuing flights.

Witnesses said there was looting in Quito and in the city of Guayaquil, and that many workers and school students were being sent home.

Elsewhere in Quito, uniformed police burned tires in protest at a proposal to cut their bonuses.

The Opec-member country of 14 million people has a long history of political instability. Street protests toppled three presidents during economic turmoil in the decade before Correa took power.

Members of Correa's own left-wing party are blocking legislative proposals aimed at cutting state costs, prompting him to mull disbanding Congress, a move that would let him rule by decree until new elections, one of his ministers said.

'Not a popular mobilisation'

Ernesto Gonzalez, head of the armed forces, said that troops remained loyal to Correa. "We are in a state of law. We are loyal to the maximum authority, which is the president," he told reporters.

Ricardo Patino, the foreign minister played down the severity of the protests. "This is not a popular mobilisation, it is not a popular uprising, it is an uprising by the police who are ill-informed," he told TV network Telesur.

Diego Borja, the central bank chief, called for calm and urged Ecuadoreans not to withdraw money from banks.

Ecuador's two-year-old constitution allows the president to declare a political impasse that could dissolve Congress until a new presidential and parliamentary elections can be held.

The measure would, however, have to be approved by the Constitutional Court to take effect.

"This a scenario that nobody would want, but it is a possibility when the conditions for change do not exist," Doris Solis, the policy minister, said after meeting Correa and other senior officials late on Wednesday.

"A decision still has not been made," she told reporters.

"Lawmakers in our coalition have the obligation to be coherent with our project for change."

Political in-fighting

More than half of the 124-member Congress are officially allied with Correa, but the president has blasted lawmakers from his own Country Alliance party for not going along with his proposals for shrinking the country's bureaucracy.

Police in the cities of Quito and Guayaquil protested at their headquarters. Officers in Guayaquil blocked some roads leading to the coastal city, Ecuador's most populous.

"Respect our rights," uniformed officers shouted.

Correa, a US trained economist, was first elected in 2006 promising a "citizens' revolution" aimed at increasing state control of Ecuador's natural resources and fighting what he calls the country's corrupt elite.

His government alienated international capital markets when it defaulted on $3.2 billion in global bonds two years ago.

Correa, an ally of Hugo Chavez, the Venezuela's socialist president, declared the debt "illegitimate."

Cash has been tight since then as the country relies on multilateral loans and bilateral lending to meet its international financing obligations.

Once in power, Correa backed the rewriting of the constitution to tilt the balance of power toward the executive.

He easily won re-election under the new constitution in 2009, and he is allowed to stand again in 2013.

Source: Agencies

30 September 2010
Last updated at 14:42 ET

Ecuador's President Correa denounces 'coup attempt'

Mr Correa was forced to flee a protest at a barracks when tear gas was fired by angry troops

Ecuador's president has denounced a "coup attempt" after mass protests by members of the security forces against his government's austerity programme.

After being forced to flee a rally at a barracks in Quito, Rafael Correa said "the opposition and sections of the armed forces and police" were to blame.

Mr Correa said they would have to kill him first to achieve their goals.

On Wednesday, Congress passed a law ending bonuses and other benefits for civil servants, including the military.

But members of Mr Correa's left-wing party have threatened to block proposals to shrink the bureaucracy, prompting him to consider disbanding Congress and ruling by decree until new elections.

Such a move would have to be approved by the Constitutional Court.

Airport closed

On Thursday morning, members of the armed forces and police angry at the austerity measures occupied several barracks and set up road blocks across Ecuador to demand they be abandoned by the government.

Television stations showed images of police setting tyres on fire in the streets of Quito, Guayaquil and other cities.

In a speech to soldiers from Quito's main regiment, President Correa said: "If you want to kill the president, here he is. Kill him, if you want to. Kill him if you are brave enough.

"If you want to seize the barracks, if you want to leave citizens undefended, if you want to betray the mission of the police force, go ahead. But this government will do what has to be done. This president will not take a step back."

However, Mr Correa was forced to flee the barracks wearing a gas mask shortly afterwards when tear gas was fired by the protesters.

The president was later treated for the effects of the gas at a police hospital, from where he told local media that he had been "attacked".

"They threw tear gas at us. One exploded near my face. It stunned me and my wife for a few seconds, probably minutes," he said.

"It is a coup attempt led by the opposition and certain sections of the armed forces and the police," he said. "Whatever happens to me I want to express my love for my family and my homeland."

Meanwhile, about 300 air force personnel and soldiers took control of the runway at Mariscal Sucre International Airport, causing flights to be grounded.

The protesters carried signs demanding the government give more respect to the military over benefits, witnesses told the Reuters news agency.

The US embassy said Guayaquil's airport was also closed.

Despite the unrest, the head of Armed Forces Joint Command, Gen Luis Ernesto Gonzalez Villarreal, said the troops remained loyal.

"We live in a state which is governed by laws, and we are subordinate to the highest authority which is the president of the republic," he said.

"We will take whatever appropriate action the government decides on."

The country's central bank chief, Diego Borja, meanwhile urged its citizens not to withdraw money from the country's banks amid reports of looting. Many schools and business were also closed because of the unrest.

One BBC News website reader in Guayaquil said three of the city's banks had been robbed, and described Ecuador as a "disaster zone".

"We don't know what will happen," he said. "There are no law enforcement agencies working. You can't go out in the streets."

The US state department said it was "closely monitoring" the situation.

Ecuador has a history of political instability. Protests toppled three presidents during economic turmoil in the decade before Mr Correa, a 47-year-old US-trained economist, took power in 2007.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

First Nation Says: Oil Companies Shall Not Pass

First Nation says: Oil companies shall not pass

By G. Dunkel
Published Sep 26, 2010 8:45 PM

From British Columbia to Quebec, from Canada to the United States to the United Kingdom, a movement inspired by the resistance of the Unist’ot’en of the Wet’suwet’en First Nation people to an oil pipeline proposed by the pipeline giant Enbridge is gaining momentum.

Enbridge has a long history of pipeline spills, including one of a million gallons of crude oil into the Kalamazoo River in Michigan in July.

Oil extracted from tar sands is the most expensive, polluting oil in commercial production. The proposed pipeline would move 525,000 barrels of oil a day. It would cross 785 watercourses, fragment wildlife habitat and impact fragile salmon fisheries.

The Wet’suwet’en/Unist’ot’en First Nations Environmental Action Camp was built early in 2010 on traditional lands in central British Columbia. The camp is located on the path the oil companies have picked to take oil from the tar sands of Alberta to a port on the northern coast of British Columbia.

But the Wet’Suwet’En didn’t just build a camp. To inaugurate it, they invited members of nearby communities, the Indigenous Environmental Network, the Council of Canadians and others to spend five days connecting with the land and discussing strategies and tactics to protect it.

As one of their leaders told the Canadian progressive web site, “The Action Camp was devised to draw in more of our clans’ membership to learn of peaceful means to protect their lands and waters, and to unite nations in their opposition to the tar sands giga-project.”

On July 16 a rally was called in Smithers, B.C., to gather together all the people opposed to the pipeline. On Sept. 8 hundreds rallied in Prince George, the main commercial center in northern British Columbia, and also in Vancouver, calling on the government to deny the permit Enbridge needed.

The same day the rallies in British Columbia were taking place, a crowd greeted House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in Ottawa. She had come there to meet with politicians and executives promoting tar sands.

In August many Wet’suwet’en community members made the long trip to Fort McMurray in northern Alberta, ground zero of tar sands exploitation, for the first Healing Walk held there. Over 150 people took part in the 8-mile trek through the heart of Canada’s largest industrial devastation, calling for healing the land, water, skies and animals that try to live amidst this pollution.

Members of the tar sands-impacted communities took part in the protests at the G-20 in Toronto, the U.S. Social Forum in Detroit and a 16-day Climate Camp outside of Montreal. Two activists from northern British Columbia even managed to make their way to the Climate Camp in the United Kingdom.
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Detroit Council Lowers AFSCME Pay 10%

September 29, 2010

Detroit council lowers AFSCME pay 10%

Union leaders call action illegal, plan to sue city

The Detroit News

Detroit --Mayor Dave Bing scored a major victory Tuesday when the City Council voted to impose a contract with a 10 percent pay cut on the city's largest union.

But Bing's year-plus battle with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees may not be over. Leaders of the union, which represents 3,250 of the city's 13,000 employees, plan to file a lawsuit.

They contend the city is illegally imposing the contract, which came after negotiations broke down and an independent fact-finder agreed with most of the city's positions.

"Michigan law supports us in our position," said Catherine Phillips, a lead negotiator for AFSCME, whose members include clerks and Water Department employees.

"This administration has refused to compromise in any of its positions with AFSCME. We understand about the city's deficit. But they are running from the fact they have just put people at (beneath) the poverty level."

The council's 5-3 vote shows that politics has changed in Detroit, and city officials aren't scared of a political backlash from unions, said political consultant Eric Foster.

"At one time, if you were the mayor, you did not go after AFSCME's political power," Foster said. "The mayor took a fiscally prudent position with political risks and stuck to his guns." The contract is similar to ones inked with 34 of the city's 48 bargaining units and includes 10 percent wage cuts through 26 furlough days for three years and numerous benefit cuts, such as health care and vacation time. Bing has said AFSCME's unwillingness to agree to pay cuts has cost the city about $500,000 a month.

Council President Charles Pugh, President Pro Tem Gary Brown, Kenneth Cockrel Jr., Saunteel Jenkins and James Tate voted to impose the contract, while JoAnn Watson, Brenda Jones and Andre Spivey dissented. Kwame Kenyatta is on a medical leave.

Detroit News Staff Writer Christine MacDonald contributed.

Pan-African News Wire Letter Demanding Justice for Targeted Anti-War Activists

To: President Barack Obama, U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder

cc: Vice President Biden, DOJ Inspector General Fine, the Senate and House Judiciary Committees, Congressional Leaders, the Congressional Black Caucus, U.N. Secy Gen Ban, and members of the media

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

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

** End the grand jury proceedings against anti-war activists.

I am writing to demand justice and an end to the FBI's continued
harassment of antiwar and international solidarity activists,
activists who are guilty of no crime but opposition to U.S. foreign
policy. On Friday, September 24, 2010 the FBI raided seven houses and an office in Chicago and Minneapolis. The FBI served subpoenas to testify before a federal grand jury to eleven activists in Illinois, Minnesota, and Michigan.

The FBI also attempted to intimidate activists in California, Wisconsin and North Carolina. This is not the action of a lone prosecutor. The raids were coordinated nationally, spanned several cities, and many other activists have been visited and personally threatened by the FBI.

The FBI confiscated computers, email and mailing lists, cell phones ,
cameras, videos, books, and passports. This is a dangerous attack on the constitutional rights of free speech of every social justice,
antiwar and human rights activist and organization in the U.S. today.
The right to speak, meet and write opinions is guaranteed under the

This suppression of civil rights is aimed at those who dedicate their
time and energy to supporting the struggles of the Palestinian and
Colombian peoples against U.S. funded occupation and war. Grand Jury subpoenas investigating material support of terrorism are being used to silence highly respected and well known human rights activists. This is a dangerous national effort to shut down growing opposition to U.S. wars. It cannot be allowed.

The FBI and the Grand Jury are threatening courageous individuals who have written and spoken publicly to broaden understanding of social justice issues of war and occupation. The activists are involved with many groups, including: the Twin Cities Anti-War Committee, the Palestine Solidarity Group, the Colombia Action Network, Students for a Democratic Society, and Freedom Road Socialist Organization. These activists came together with many others to organize the 2008 anti-war marches on the Republican National Convention in St. Paul.

The FBI and the U.S. government must end this campaign of intimidation against anti-war and international solidarity activists. I am outraged at this disrespect of democratic rights. I ask that you intervene immediately to:

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

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

** End the grand jury proceedings against anti-war activists.

Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

Detroit Is 4th Hardest Hit City In Great Recession

September 29, 2010

Detroit is 4th hardest hit city in Great Recession

The Detroit News

Detroit -- More than a third of the city's residents lived in poverty in 2009, a dramatic increase from a quarter in 2000. The median income, meanwhile, fell to $26,098, a 31.3 percent drop from $38,009 in 2000.

That ranks Detroit fourth nationwide among communities most adversely affected.

Councilman Andre Spivey said the numbers show the city must refocus energies on bringing business to the city. Without jobs, residents will leave for work and remaining residents will continue to suffer through foreclosures, he said.

"It's almost like the perfect storm," Spivey said.

"We need to be very aggressive in soliciting businesses to come here."

"There can be no excuses."

Council President Charles Pugh agreed, saying that city officials need to look beyond putting out the daily fires -- such as balancing the budget and contract negotiations -- and lure new companies to Detroit.

"This needs to be a warning signal," Pugh said. "You can't survive on that. An individual can barely survive on $26,000 let alone a family. That's unconscionable."

At St. Frances Cabrini Clinic on Porter Street, each chair in the waiting room is filled on mornings and afternoons. The clinic provides free doctor visits and prescription drugs to indigent patients, many of whom are currently ineligible for Medicaid.

"They had jobs, they owned homes," said Sister Mary Ellen Howard, executive director of the clinic. "They call up very apologetic.""> (313) 222-2019

Michigan Sees Sharpest Income Plunge in Nation

September 29, 2010

Michigan sees sharpest income plunge in nation

The Detroit News

For most families in Michigan, the long-running recession has meant a simple, unrelenting truth: living with less. And census data released on Tuesday shows how much less -- the state's median household income fell by more than $12,000 over the last decade -- the equivalent of trimming $1,000 from a family's monthly budget.

The drop was stunning in both its size and its singularity: No other state came close to losing the estimated 21.3 percent of its median income between 2000 and 2009, and no state endured the 6.5 percent drop seen from 2008 to 2009.

"When you ask about what have we cut, it's what haven't we cut," said Carrie Brickner, 45, a Metro Detroit freelance television producer. Her family's income bottomed out in 2009 after her husband, Steve, 54, an electrician, got laid off in December 2008. He hasn't had steady work since.

Census data from the 2009 American Community Survey also showed the crushing losses of the auto industry helped to stoke a rise in poverty that was unmatched in the nation. The percentage of the population living below the poverty line -- estimated at $22,000 for a family of four -- hit 16.2 percent in 2009, up nearly 6 percentage points since 2000.

Dana Johnson, chief economist for Comerica Bank, thinks the scope of the income losses alters how we view the economic carnage. He no longer says Michigan was in a one-state recession.

"Michigan was in a one-state depression, it lasted so long," he said.

For the Brickners, the income loss has been felt by them and those they used to help. Carrie Brickner said vacations are out -- unless you count the eight weeks her husband spent in the family camper while he worked as a temporary electrician in West Virginia -- and the family of three is living on $50 a week in groceries. But what hurts most, she said, is their newfound inability to be charitable.

"We took care of other people," she said. "We've lost that ability."

Johnson and others believe Michigan may have hit the bottom. Since soaring to a peak of 14.9 percent in March, the jobless rate fell to 12.9 percent in August. Realtors have expressed hope that the housing market is recovering, and Johnson said economic indicators show steady improvement.

Nationwide, median household income was down 2.9 percent from 2008 and 6.6 percent from 2000.

Liz Boyd, spokeswoman for Gov. Jennifer Granholm, said the income drops were "not surprising" given the loss of nearly 1 million jobs over the decade, many in the auto industry.

Granholm, speaking Tuesday at a conference on manufacturing in Washington, D.C., said Michigan was creating more than 60,000 new jobs through green programs -- many partially funded by federal grants.

She said the census report is why she is working to expand the state's economy.

"It's all auto and manufacturing related and exactly why we're trying to do what we're trying to do to diversify," Granholm said

A sustainable recovery will require a radical change in the state's economy, said Boyd, Johnson and Kurt Metzger, director of Data Driven Detroit, a nonprofit agency analyzing and collecting data to help city leaders better plan for the future. And the revamped economy will need to rely on industries more heavily tied to higher education.

Most states with higher incomes have more educated work forces. For Michigan, it's high-paying, lower-skill manufacturing jobs that obscured the need to create knowledge-based economies, Metzger said. Ranked 16th in income in 2000, the state had plummeted to 35th by 2009, now nearly matching its rank in terms of higher education.

"Our income did not represent the tie between income and education," he said. "We got away with murder."

Additional Facts

The information in this story is gleaned from the Census Bureau's 2009 American Community Survey (ACS), an annual survey of 3 million households that provides a social, demographic and economic snapshot of the nation. It is different from the 2010 decennial Census taken this year that will provide population numbers for the nation. The first set of that data will be released by the end of the year.

In addition to providing information on states, the ACS provides insights into all geographies -- cities and counties -- with more than 65,000 people.

Dr. Hajo Sani: Literary Giant Of Our Time

Dr. Hajo Sani: Literary Giant Of Our Time

Sunday, 26 September 2010 04:11
Nigeria Leadership

Dr. Hajo Sani OON is an excellent woman and silent achiever in every sense of the word. An educationist, author and policy analyst of a rare style, she served as the second minister of the Federal Ministry of Women Affairs and Social Development from 1997 to 1998. After her national assignment, she founded Women and National Development (WAND), an NGO that focuses on the education of the girl- child as antidote to the numerous problems and obstacles facing women, and was elected Secretary General of the West African Women Association (WAWA) , in 2003. She joined the Society for Family Health (SFH) in 2003, the largest NGO focusing on public Health issues in Nigeria in 2003. In this interview, she bares her mind on the issue of girl child education and her new book to be launched.

Tell us about your educational background?

I had a humble beginning with sound educational background, very rare privilege for the girl-child coming from my part of the country. I enjoyed the parenthood of my parents that brought me up, Alhaji Umaru Maina- Danmalikin Mubi Emirate and Hajia Zainab Maina a prominent woman leader in Nigeria. Till today, they remain strong pillars in my life. My father was very protective about my spending long years in school before getting married. But destiny played a part; I got married early and continued with my education to a very high level. I started my education in Unguwan Sarki Primary school, Kaduna to class six. In 1970, we were transferred to Ankpa in the old Kwara State (now Kogi State) where I completed my primary education in a Roman Catholic Mission School. My secondary education was also in a famous mission school, Ochaja Secondary School still in Kogi State-Igalaland. All my childhood friends are from there and we are still very close and relate well! One of them, Mrs Abeni Ilona from Idah has remained close to me from our first day in the college. In fact, we are more of sisters now. Yes! I still understand Igala, that's my childhood gift. I feel nostalgic.

To be married and educated is a matter of determination on one's part and spousal understanding and support on the other. In this century, women all over the world are doing well in all spheres of development. What is required is the enabling environment to excel to contribute more to national development.

What challenges did you face while growing up?

You call them challenges but I call it fun! In life every person is faced with challenges in one form or the other depending on the circumstances. For me, I had a humble and eventful upbringing. One of those I recall with nostalgia was combining motherhood with my studies which prevented me from enjoying the social aspect of university life like most of my contemporaries. It is amazing to remember such moments and the success that accompanied. In as much as I missed a lot, I got equivalent rewards. For example, I missed the funs and university social life enjoyed by my friends. But whenever I see my children, I feel blessed for having them early. It was a worthy sacrifice.

As an educationist, what is your assessment of the Nigerian literary scene?

Unlike the view hawked in certain quarters on this issue, I don't share in the view that Nigerian literature is going down. To me, new writers now are writing better works than their predecessors. Why people are still valorizing the canon is because we are used to them. But, to me, we have wonderful set of (especially) novelists and poets in Nigeria now. The only setback is that people are not reading most of them due to promotional and marketing impediments. Once the publishers begin to do what they are supposed to do, the writers will be widely read and appreciated more.

What experience have you had in the course of your current book?

A world of difference: In this project more than anyone else, I have had the privilege of tapping very closely professional guidance of a lot of Nigerians who are at top places whom ordinarily, I didn't think of ever meeting them in this life. It's a great experience. You know, the topic of this new book is something no one has researched into, so it is difficult to come by information easily. For me, it is a challenge and I took the bull by the horns.

Talking about your book, what is it all about?

You see, it is on record that the first ladies at various administrations have created one Empowerment Programmes or the other world over particularly in Nigeria. Having undertaken an academic work on the same theme at a doctorate degree, she deemed it necessary to write and share the knowledge on the subject matter.

All over the world, there is relatively absence of information and documentation on First Ladies as abundant as such materials for the president. Part of the problem can be attributed to lack of scholarly interest in the wives of presidents and largely problem of omission of women in the pages of history.

Women and hence First Ladies are diverse and some with their activities are more likely than others to contribute to policy agenda and work solutions to societal issues and problems especially those concerning women.

First Ladyship and Empowerment Programmes in Nigeria is an effort to contribute to the move to formalise the study of First Ladies and analysis of existing literatures that create informed ideas about empowerment programmes by First Ladies in Nigeria.

Do you forsee a scenario where Nigeria would have a female president like Liberia has?

Nigerian women are very resourceful; determined and committed to the course of the nation but lack goodwill from the men. The political atmosphere is very tight and the men are very slow towards giving space in politics for women to go up! However, the women in leadership positions are striving hard and exhibiting such qualities that eventually will make it possible for power to come to us. However, sincerely speaking, I think it will take a while. In comparative analysis, women in Nigeria face more challenges politically than those in Liberia, the scenario is different. In Nigeria, there are credible women with such potentials to climb the number one seat but the ladder is still steep. It will only take a while but I believe it will happen. To achieve that, women need to come together, strategize and form a critical mass. I strongly believe that one day; a woman will lead this country and when it happens, the nation will attain the highest level of development.

What is your opinion on girl-child education?

I am so passionate about the issue of the girl child education because talking how important education is to women is talking about me. As an educationist, I grew in the teaching career in an exclusive girls' school and saw in these young girls the dreams and aspirations of future women leaders. The educational system should open up more opportunities for the girl-child to excel through a gender friendly policies. Implementation of policies on increase on enrolment, retention and withdrawal of the girl- child for whatever reasons should be taken seriously.

To contribute in this area, I established an NGO called Women And National Development (WAND) in 2001. The focus of WAND is supporting girls' education based on policy thrust: Education for Greater Participation. WAND has implemented a number of projects such as preparatory classes for certificate examination for girls, payment of examination fees, provision of uniforms, books and donation of teaching aids to female schools etc.

You have also authored various outstanding publications, can you mention them?

My interest in writing stemmed from that of reading. I read a lot on fiction, history, current affairs, and books of different religions, everything on paper. I engage in a number of literary works, presentation of papers, produce journals and edit magazines. While in GGSS Dutse, I set up a literary society that produced the best school magazine: The Flash. In 2001, my first published book, 'Women and National Development- The Way Forward' was presented to the public. The NERDC of Federal Ministry of Education assessed and recommended it for use in higher institutions. It is also being used in two universities of Ohio and Illinois in the United States for African Studies. For me, this is a great achievement which has encouraged me to write more. I hope to present two other books soon. The first one is titled; First Ladyship and Empowerment Programmes in Nigeria which actually is a by-product of an academic work. Women and Leadership is the second book. I also co-authored many books on education. One was edited by resource unit of University of Jos, on Gender Mainstreaming in Higher Education.

The main thrust of my writing is to make women's work and achievements visible because with visibility comes power!

What parting shot will you like to give to those who see you as their role model?

I always advise the younger generation not to hurry in life. Slow and steady make for a long journey. To achieve that requires humility, commitment, determination and focus. Always aspire to be change agents to contribute your quota to national development.

Nigeria's Crude Oil Exports May Slide in November

Nigeria’s crude oil exports may slide in November

Wednesday, 29 September 2010 00:00
Nigeria Guardian
By Obiora Aduba

NIGERIA may export about 2.07 million barrels per day (bpd) of crude oil in November, down slightly from about 2.13 million bpd in October, according to trade sources, citing preliminary loading schedules.

A total of 70 full or part cargoes of the nation’s crude oil is expected to load in November, down from 76 cargoes in October, the sources said.

The biggest export stream will again be for benchmark at Qua Iboe, which will load 11 full cargoes of 950,000 barrels each, compared with 12 cargoes in October, but the decline at Qua Iboe will be balanced by an increase in exports of Bonny Light, which will load nine cargoes, the highest level since early 2008.

The source also stated that Bonny Light output would average 285,000 bpd in November, up from 245,000 bpd planned in October and below 130,000 bpd earlier this year, due to repairs to sabotage oil facilities in the Niger Delta region.

Bonny Light production peaked at nearly 500,000 bpd in 2005, when it accounted for nearly a fifth of the total crude output as production of the gasoline-rich crude has long been hampered by militant sabotage of pipelines and platforms in the Delta region.

Nigerian crude exports have risen fairly steadily this year from between 1.90 million and 1.95 million bpd in the first four months to an average of more than 2.10 million so far in the second half of the year.

This puts Nigeria well above its agreed production target of 1.67 million bpd as a member of the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), a target it has exceeded since February 2009, according to data.

Trade sources explained that Nigerian crude oil exports could even be higher in the next six months if Exxon is able to fully restore Qua Iboe output, which reached 380,000 bpd earlier this year.

“Nigerian crude oil grades have been coming under pressure as exports have increased,” said a West African crude trader based in Europe. “There is no shortage of Nigerian and it looks as if supplies will increase if anything.”

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Detroit Emergency Demonstration Against FBI Raids Targeting Anti-War Activists, Tues., September 28, 4:30pm

For Immediate Release

Emergency Demonstration Against FBI Raids on the Homes and Offices of Anti-War Activists in Minneapolis and Chicago

Tuesday, Sept. 28, 4:30 PM
McNamara Federal Building
477 Michigan at Cass, downtown Detroit

Contact: 313.671.3715

Stop the Raids!: End U.S. Militarism and Home and Abroad

Michigan Emergency Committee Against War and Injustice (MECAWI) joins the International Action Center in condemning the FBI raids on anti-war and solidarity activists' homes on Friday, Sept. 24, and supports the right of all social justice activists to defend the
rights of workers here at home and be in solidarity with those around
the world resisting occupation and military dictatorship. We stand in
solidarity with the raided activists and demand the Obama
Administration cease its curtailing of civil rights and civil

Black Workers For Justice Condemns FBI Raids Against Anti-War Activists

They Come for the Anti-War Activists Today; They Come for Us Tomorrow!

As African American activists engaged in the many struggles for social and economic justice and human rights, we are outraged by the recent FBI raids on anti-war activists in several U.S. cities, alleging they have connections to terrorism.

We’ve seen these FBI and government raids and attacks on African American leaders and activists during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Medger Evers, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and members of the Black Panther Party, among others, were assassinated, jailed, beaten and driven into political exile for leading demonstrations and speaking out against racism, U.S. wars and other injustices

We are further outraged that these raids are happening under the Obama administration, as his election as the first Black U.S. President, grew out of a history of massive protests against racism and unjust wars.

Those who profit from these wars and U.S. support for oppressive governments like Israel and Colombia hope that by having a Black President, it will discourage African Americans from speaking out in protest against these raids, and against attacks on other social justice fighters. Dr. King said that during times like these, “We must break our silence!”

We know full well, that these attacks, while starting against antiwar activists, are aimed at all activists that organize and mobilize against the many injustices caused by a system that places profits and domination over human needs.

It’s time for all struggles against injustice and for human rights in the U.S. and internationally, to close ranks against these attacks, and against the rapidly growing attack on all democratic rights, that is shaping the direction of U.S. society. They come for the anti-war activists today; and they will come for us tomorrow. Stop the raids!

Black Workers For Justice
P.O. Box 1863 Rocky Mount, NC 27802

San Francisco Labor Council Condemns FBI Raids Against Anti-War Activists in the United States

San Francisco Labor Council Resolution

[Note: The following resolution -- submitted by David Welsh, NALC 214, and Alan Benjamin, OPEIU 3 -- was adopted unanimously by the SFLC Delegates' Meeting on Sept. 27, 2010.]

Condemn FBI Raids on Trade Union, Anti-War and Solidarity Activists

Whereas, early morning Sept. 24 in coordinated raids, FBI agents entered eight homes and offices of trade union and anti-war activists in Minneapolis and Chicago, confiscating crates full of computers, books, documents, notebooks, cell phones, passports, children's drawings, photos of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, videos and personal belongings. The FBI also raided offices of the Twin Cities Anti-war Committee, seizing computers; handed out subpoenas to testify before a federal Grand Jury to 11 activists in Illinois, Minnesota and Michigan; and paid harassment visits to others in Wisconsin, California and North Carolina; and

Whereas, one target of the raid was the home of Joe Iosbaker, chief steward and executive board member of SEIU Local 73 in Chicago, where he has led struggles at the University of Illinois for employee rights and pay equity. Brother Iosbaker told the Democracy Now radio/TV program that FBI agents "systematically [went] through every room, our basement, our attic, our children's rooms, and pored through not just all of our papers, but our music collection, our children's artwork, my son's poetry journal from high school -- everything." He and his wife, a Palestine solidarity activist, were both issued subpoenas. The earliest subpoena dates are October 5 and 7; and

Whereas, the majority of those targeted by the FBI raids had participated in anti-war protests at the 2008 Republican National Convention in St. Paul MN, which resulted in hundreds of beatings and arrests [with almost all charges subsequently dropped]. Many of those targeted in the 9/24 raids were involved in humanitarian solidarity work with labor and popular movements in Colombia --"the most dangerous place in the world to be a trade unionist"-- whose US-funded government has been condemned by the AFL-CIO and internationally for the systematic assassination of hundreds of trade unionists; and

Whereas, the nationally coordinated dawn raids and fishing expedition marks a new and dangerous chapter in the protracted assault on the First Amendment rights of every union fighter, solidarity activist or anti-war campaigner, which began with 9/11 and the USA Patriot Act. The raids came only 4 days after a scathing report by the Department of Justice Inspector General that soundly criticized the FBI for targeting domestic groups such as Greenpeace and the Thomas Merton Center from 2002-06. In 2008, according to a 300-page report obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, the FBI trailed a group of students in Iowa City to parks, libraries, bars and restaurants, and went through their trash. This time the FBI is using the pretext of investigating "terrorism" in an attempt to intimidate activists.

Therefore be it resolved, that the San Francisco Labor Council denounce the Sept. 24th FBI raids on the homes and offices of trade union, solidarity and anti-war activists in Minneapolis, Chicago and elsewhere; the confiscation of computers and personal belongings; and the issuance of Grand Jury subpoenas. This has all the earmarks of a fishing expedition. The FBI raids are reminiscent of the Palmer Raids, McCarthy hearings, J. Edgar Hoover, and COINTELPRO, and mark a new and dangerous chapter in the protracted assault on the First Amendment rights of every union fighter, international solidarity activist or anti-war campaigner, which began with 9/11 and the USA Patriot Act;

And be it further resolved, that this Council make the following demands:

1. Stop the repression against trade union, anti-war and international solidarity activists.
2. Immediately return all confiscated materials: computers, cell phones, papers, documents, personal belongings, etc.
3. End the Grand Jury proceedings and FBI raids against trade union, anti-war and international solidarity activists;

And be it further resolved, that this Council participate in the ongoing movement to defend our civil rights and civil liberties from FBI infringement; forward this resolution to Bay Area labor councils, California Labor Federation, Change to Win and AFL-CIO; and call on these organizations at all levels to similarly condemn the witch hunt;

And be it finally resolved, that this Council urge the AFL-CIO to ensure that denunciation of the FBI raids is featured from the speakers' platform at the October 2, 2010 One Nation march in Washington, DC, possibly by inviting one of those targeted by the raids, for example the SEIU chief steward whose home was raided, to speak at the rally.

African-American Farmers Continue Struggle to Win Compensation

African-American Farmers Continue Struggle to Win Compensation

Protests in Washington, D.C. prompts new Senate bill to address discrimination

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

A march led by African-American farmers on September 27 in Washington, D.C. represented the continuation of a series of activities during the month that highlighted the failure of the United States Senate to pass legislation that would grant $1.15 billion in funds to plaintiffs in a discrimination lawsuit that dates back to the 1990s. Even though the Department of Agriculture had agreed to settle the suit, known as the “Pigford Case,” most farmers were denied claims by the federal government bureaucracy.

In 2009, the Obama administration agreed to include funding for settling outstanding claims by thousands of African-American farmers in the annual budget. However, despite the fact that the House of Representatives passed the bill, the Senate excluded the appropriations that were tacked on to defense spending legislation.

John Boyd, President of the National Black Farmers Association, had been in Washington for more than a week driving a tractor called “Justice.” He had visited the Senate where he urged members to pass legislation that would grant compensation for decades of discrimination by the USDA.

Boyd said that “It’s discrimination. It’s about justice. Black farmers have not been getting justice.” (NNPA, September 27)

Marching alongside Boyd and other farmers were members of the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) who included the former Chairwoman Maxine Waters of California, Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas and current leader Barbara Lee of California as well. Waters said that “I was pleased to join my friend John Boyd of the National Black Farmers Association, and many Black farmers and their families and friends to urge the Senate to fund the $1.15 billion settlement owed to these hard working Americans.” (NNPA, September 27)

Waters went on to say that “I have been working on this issue for almost 15 years, as Chairwoman of the Congressional Black Caucus in the late ‘90s, I worked closely with my CBC colleagues to urge then-Attorney General Janet Reno to waive the statute of limitations so that farmers could redress decades of financial and racial discrimination with the Department of Justice.” (NNPA, September 27)

At the news conference after the march, Senators Kay Hagan of North Carolina and Blanche Lincoln of Arkansas, who is chair of the Agricultural Committee, stood next to Boyd saying that they would introduce a standalone bill with Sen. Mary Landrieu of Louisiana to provide funding for the $1.15 billion settlement.

Hagan said at the news conference that “We’re working together to send this language to the President as quickly as possible because our Black farmers have waited too long. We want to ensure Black farmers in our country finally receive the justice they deserve.” (NNPA, September 27)

In another appeal from the Network of Black Farm Groups and Advocates dated September 24, Heather Gray, the Director of Communications for the Federation of Southern Cooperatives/Land Assistance Fund, stated that “we are attempting to reach out to as many organizations as possible to sign-on to a letter demanding action from the Senate.” (, September 26)

The letter received by the Senate on September 27 said that “We, the organizations listed below, join the Network of Black Farm Groups in demanding immediate action by the Senate in passage of legislation to fund the Black farmer settlement (known as Pigford v. Vilsack) Black farmers in the case have waited for more than a decade for a resolution of their cases. This is far too long.” (Letter to Senate, September 24)

Some of the groups listed in the network include the Arkansas Land and Farm Development Corporation, Black Farmers and Agriculturalists Association, Land Loss Prevention Project, Oklahoma Black Historical Research Project, Rural Advancement Fund, among others. In addition, there were numerous support organizations listed as signatories to the letter including the NAACP, National Farmers Union, the Malcolm X Center for Self-Determination, The Rural Library Project, Inc. and a host of other groups from around the United States.

Standalone Bill Demanded

In previous efforts to win compensation in the Pigford II Case, appropriations for settlements were attached to other legislation. African-American farmers are demanding that any new effort should be channeled through separate and specific legislation designed to award claims.

John Boyd stated recently that “I am calling for a cloture vote on a stand-alone black farmers’ bill. While there are lots of very important causes, the black farmers know that unless this bill is considered on its own merits other bills that have nothing to do with this issue—including the Cobell Native American trust fund case—may keep it from passing.” (Indian Country Today, September 27)

Boyd continued by pointing out that “Black farmers are dying, in fact another farmer active in the movement died this past week, and I can’t let politicians use other issues as excuses not to vote on justice for Black farmers.” Plaintiffs in the Cobell case have not received any compensation either despite the fact that the Obama administration supported a $3.4 billion proposal.

Thousands of Cobell plaintiffs would receive $1,000-2,000 in payments, amounts that their representatives argued are far too small to compensate Native Americans for over a century of the Interior Department’s misuse and exploitation of their lands. Dennis Gingold, the lawyer for the Native American plaintiffs in the Cobell case, said that “The Black Caucus is unhappy that Pigford II was stripped from tax extenders, and it will oppose any supplemental war appropriations bill unless Pigford is on it.” (Indian Country Today, September 27)

Nonetheless, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada favors keeping the two lawsuit settlements conjoined saying “Many American Indians have been waiting; some have died waiting, for this settlement to be funded by the Congress. I support passing settlement funding that pays the plaintiffs in both the Pigford II and Cobell settlements.” (Indian Country Today, September 27)

Whether the two cases are settled separately or together, the amounts of compensation in question can in no way ameliorate the Native and African peoples for their centuries-long suffering as a result of forced removals, enslavement and national discrimination. All oppressed nations in the U.S. have a right to reparations and complete self-determination.

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Meets Activists, Journalists

Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Meets Activists, Journalists in New York

Over 100 people address Islamic Republic leader on conditions inside the U.S.

By Abayomi Azikiwe
Editor, Pan-African News Wire

NEW YORK—Over 100 activists and journalists from various organizations, religious groups and media outlets attended a gathering with Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad at the Warwick Hotel in New York City on September 21. The leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran was in the city to attend the annual United Nations General Assembly.

Some of the individuals and organizations in attendance included former U.S. Congresswoman and Green Party presidential candidate for 2008 Cynthia McKinney of Georgia, poet and activist Amiri Baraka, MOVE Minister of Information Ramona Africa, International Action Center Co-Director Sara Flounders, Ardeshir and Eleanor Ommani, co-founders of the American-Iranian Friendship Committee, Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Million Worker March Movement organizer Brenda Stokely, Shafeah M’balia of the Black Workers for Justice, Phil Wilayto of the Virginia Defenders for Freedom, Justice and Equality, Larry Holmes of the Bailout the People Movement, Don DeBar of, Ryme Katkhouda of the People’s Media Center among others.

During the course of the evening guests enjoyed an Iranian-style dinner and were later ushered into a conference room where representatives from various organizations spoke on the plight of people inside the United States during the current period. Issues involving the displacement of African-Americans in the aftermath of the Hurricane Katrina, the burgeoning prison-industrial-complex, the conditions facing political prisoners, the crisis in U.S.-Iranian relations and the overall economic crisis dominated the discussion.

After an hour-and-a-half of speeches from 22 individuals, President Ahmadinejad then addressed the guests for approximately forty-five minutes. His remarks touched on the international struggle for peace and justice saying that “trying to build peace is the most important and comprehensive struggle that mankind can have.”

The president also stated that “Those who are opposed to justice are a few, a minority. He reiterated his main point during an earlier address before the General Assembly saying that “It seems to me that one of the main factors in discrimination, and war, and injustice, is the capitalist system. The foundation of the capitalist system is based on superiority, hegemony, and the violation of the rights of others. You can see they start wars to fill up their pockets.”

Ahmadinejad’s United Nations address earlier in the day attracted international attention as a result of his strong criticism of world capitalism. Although he spoke to the oppressive character of capitalism, he placed strong emphasis on religious principles in his general world outlook.

The Iranian president stated that “It is my firm belief that in the new millennium, we need to revert to the divine mindset based on the justice-seeking nature of mankind, and on the monotheistic world view. The discriminatory order of capitalism and the hegemonic approaches are facing defeat.” (Associated Press, September 22)

Although the corporate media uses every opportunity to criticize the Iranian government in regard to its human rights record, during the same week that President Ahmadinejad visited New York, the state of Virginia carried out an execution of a mentally disabled woman Teresa Lewis. This execution through lethal injection proceeded despite outcries from human rights organizations both inside the United States and abroad.

Iran Enhances Relations With the African Continent

One week prior to the convening of the United Nations General Assembly in New York, the Islamic Republic hosted a forum on African-Iranian relations. Leaders from various African states gathered in Tehran on September 14 where serious discussions were held on ways to enhance economic cooperation.

President Ahmadinejad in an address to the Iran-Africa Forum said that “We are ready to welcome our brothers and sisters for an African Union summit in Tehran. We have the honor to declare that we are ready to share all our experiences and power with Africa to build the future.” (Fars News Agency, September 14)

During the two-day conference in Iran there were four working committees established that examined ways to build relations in the areas of health and medication, industries and mines, politics and trade and economics.

Malawian President Bingu wa Mutharika, who is the current chair of the African Union, said at the gathering that “The relations between Iran and Africa will grow remarkably in the next five years and many Iranians are due to establish a large number of industries in Africa.” (Fars News Agency, September 14)

In regard to U.S.-Iran relations there has been virtually no improvement since the ascendancy of the Obama administration. Even though President Obama had hinted at a willingness to re-open dialogue with Iran, U.S. State Department officials have continued with threats and accusations in regard to the middle-eastern nation’s nuclear technology program as well as its ongoing support for the Palestine struggle for national liberation.

The Iranian masses rose up in 1979 and overthrew the U.S.-backed regime headed by the Shah. The Shah had been installed after the Central Intelligence Agency had engineered a coup against the Iranian nationalist leader Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953 when he had announced plans to nationalize the country’s oil industry.

C.I.A. Steps Up Drone Attacks in Pakistan to Thwart Taliban

September 27, 2010

C.I.A. Steps Up Drone Attacks in Pakistan to Thwart Taliban

New York Times

WASHINGTON — The C.I.A. has drastically increased its bombing campaign in the mountains of Pakistan in recent weeks, American officials said. The strikes are part of an effort by military and intelligence operatives to try to cripple the Taliban in a stronghold being used to plan attacks against American troops in Afghanistan.

As part of its covert war in the region, the C.I.A. has launched 20 attacks with armed drone aircraft thus far in September, the most ever during a single month, and more than twice the number in a typical month. This expanded air campaign comes as top officials are racing to stem the rise of American casualties before the Obama administration’s comprehensive review of its Afghanistan strategy set for December. American and European officials are also evaluating reports of possible terrorist plots in the West from militants based in Pakistan.

The strikes also reflect mounting frustration both in Afghanistan and the United States that Pakistan’s government has not been aggressive enough in dislodging militants from their bases in the country’s western mountains. In particular, the officials said, the Americans believe the Pakistanis are unlikely to launch military operations inside North Waziristan, a haven for Taliban and Qaeda operatives that has long been used as a base for attacks against troops in Afghanistan.

Beyond the C.I.A. drone strikes, the war in the region is escalating in other ways. In recent days, American military helicopters have launched three airstrikes into Pakistan that military officials estimate killed more than 50 people suspected of being members of the militant group known as the Haqqani network, which is responsible for a spate of deadly attacks against American troops.

Such air raids by the military remain rare, and officials in Kabul said Monday that the helicopters entered Pakistani airspace on only one of the three raids, and acted in self-defense after militants fired rockets at an allied base just across the border in Afghanistan. At the same time, the strikes point to a new willingness by military officials to expand the boundaries of the campaign against the Taliban and Haqqani network — and to an acute concern in military and intelligence circles about the limited time to attack Taliban strongholds while American “surge” forces are in Afghanistan.

Pakistani officials have angrily criticized the helicopter attacks, saying that NATO’s mandate in Afghanistan does not extend across the border in Pakistan.

As evidence of the growing frustration of American officials, Gen. David H. Petraeus, the top American commander in Afghanistan, has recently issued veiled warnings to top Pakistani commanders that the United States could launch unilateral ground operations in the tribal areas should Pakistan refuse to dismantle the militant networks in North Waziristan, according to American officials.

“Petraeus wants to turn up the heat on the safe havens,” said one senior administration official, explaining the sharp increase in drone strikes. “He has pointed out to the Pakistanis that they could do more.”

Special Operations commanders have also been updating plans for cross-border raids, which would require approval from President Obama. For now, officials said, it remains unlikely that the United States would make good on such threats to send American troops over the border, given the potential blowback inside Pakistan, an ally.

But that could change, they said, if Pakistan-based militants were successful in carrying out a terrorist attack on American soil. American and European intelligence officials in recent days have spoken publicly about growing evidence that militants may be planning a large-scale attack in Europe, and have bolstered security at a number of European airports and railway stations.

“We are all seeing increased activity by a more diverse set of groups and a more diverse set of threats,” said Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano before a Senate panel last week.

The senior administration official said the strikes were intended not only to attack Taliban and Haqqani fighters, but also to disrupt any plots directed from or supported by extremists in Pakistan’s tribal areas that were aimed at targets in Europe. “The goal is to suppress or disrupt that activity,” the official said.

The 20 C.I.A. drone attacks in September represent the most intense bombardment by the spy agency since January, when the C.I.A. carried out 11 strikes after a suicide bomber killed seven agency operatives at a remote base in eastern Afghanistan.

According to one Pakistani intelligence official, the recent drone attacks have not killed any senior Taliban or Qaeda leaders. Many senior operatives have already fled North Waziristan, he said, to escape the C.I.A. drone campaign.

Over all the spy agency has carried out 74 drone attacks this year, according to the Web site The Long War Journal, which tracks the strikes. A vast majority of the attacks — which usually involve several drones firing multiple missiles or bombs — have taken place in North Waziristan.

The Obama administration has enthusiastically embraced the C.I.A.’s drone program, an ambitious and historically unusual war campaign by American spies. According to The Long War Journal, the spy agency in 2009 and 2010 has launched nearly four times as many attacks as it did during the final year of the Bush administration.

One American official said that the recent strikes had been aimed at several groups, including the Haqqani network, Al Qaeda and the Pakistani Taliban. The United States, he said, hopes to “keep the pressure on as long as we can.”

But the C.I.A.’s campaign has also raised concerns that the drone strikes are fueling anger in the Muslim world. The man who attempted to detonate a truck filled with explosives in Times Square told a judge that the C.I.A. drone campaign was one of the factors that led him to attack the United States.

In a meeting with reporters on Monday, General Petraeus indicated that it was new intelligence gathering technology that helped NATO forces locate the militants killed by the helicopter raids against militants in Pakistan.

In particular, he said, the military has expanded its fleet of reconnaissance blimps that can hover over hide-outs thought to belong to the Taliban in eastern and southern Afghanistan.

The intelligence technology, General Petraeus said, has also enabled the expanded campaign of raids by Special Operations commandos against Taliban operatives in those areas.

Rod Nordland and Alissa J. Rubin contributed reporting from Kabul, Afghanistan, and Ismail Khan from Peshawar, Pakistan.

Capitalism The Real Problem

Capitalism the real problem

By Stephen Gowans
Reprinted From the Zimbabwe Herald

"THE search for scapegoats has started," observes German magazine editor Michael Naumann, alluding to growing anti-immigrant sentiment throughout Europe.

The Swedes "elected an anti-immigrant party to Parliament for the first time, and the French are busy repatriating Roma" while "Germans continue to debate a best-selling book blaming Muslim immigrants for ‘dumbing down society’." (

Complaints are heard in England that England is no longer for the English, while a paroxysm of Islamophobia marks a US campaign to block a Ground Zero mosque, which is neither a mosque nor at Ground Zero.

Naumann’s point is taken, but he misses the reality. The search hasn’t just begun, it’s complete.

These days, the paradigm for scapegoating is provided by the Nazis’ blaming Jews for the ills of the inter-war years, a period of intense capitalist crisis. The parallel is the latest crisis, with its mass unemployment, insecurity, stagnant and shrinking incomes, and in some places, fiscal austerity.

The real blame lies with capitalism — a system whose internal dynamics regularly produce wrenching downturns, making life uncertain, challenging and sometimes cold, bleak and humiliating for countless millions.

How many people 50 years of age and older live, either without hope of ever again finding work, or in fear they’ll lose their jobs and never work again? How many young people have failed to land a first job, or are forced to navigate an uncertain world of low-paying, part-time, contract or temporary positions? How many are working harder, for less? In times of crisis the desperate, the humiliated, the frightened, look for an explanation for their situation.

They don’t have to look far. The far right has a ready answer — that immigrants are stealing our jobs and freeloading on social services. The first part has a ring of truth to it. Governments, after all, do use immigration policy to manage labor market flexibility, a euphemism for a pool of employees large enough to meet capital’s current demand for labor with a reserve army of job seekers left over.

The reserve army — eager to take the place of those who already have work — maintains downward pressure on wages and keeps those with jobs in line. Without keen competition for employment, the price of labor would rise, eating into profits, possibly so much that capitalists would no longer invest, and the system would come to a halt.

Labour market flexibility, then, is necessary to the smooth functioning of the system. But because people compete for jobs, any measure which increases the intensity of competition is hostile to their interests. It limits their bargaining power and increases the chances someone else will get the job they hold or want.

In the competition of all against all, those who bear the greatest burden are the workers who fill the ranks of the reserve army, or go from one low-paying job to another, denied any form of economic security. It’s easy for them to blame their plight on the immigrants they see working in jobs they want (though regularly in jobs they would disdain to hold), because it is often with them they compete.

It’s true, they also compete against people of the same ethnicity, color and national origin, but don’t hold them to blame. But differences in skin colour, accents, cultural practices and religion facilitate the creation of in-group-out-group divisions, making it easy to mark out the competition.

At the same time, the non-immigrant working poor often live side by side with newly arrived immigrants, some of whom have no work, and get by on welfare payments and sometimes criminal activity.

Their presence is a source of confusion and resentment to the working poor, who question the wisdom of their governments’ accepting new immigrants — whose upkeep can be subsidised in part by the working poors’ taxes — at a time of economic downturn.

Crises, you would think, would provide opportunities to transcend the capitalist system.

At these times the system’s problems are encountered the most acutely and therefore the motivation to overcome them ought to be greatest, but crises paradoxically have often led to the rise of far right parties and anti-immigrant sentiment. The reason why is two-fold: The far right’s seemingly plausible explanation for the insecurity many people are forced to bear; and the left.

When the left provides a compelling alternative explanation and mobilises mass energy around it and thereby threatens to take power, charismatic far right leaders are provided with money to rally public support for a nationalist cause and vie with the left for power. When the left fails to offer a compelling alternative explanation, the far right movement remains limited, poorly organised, and largely spontaneous; it’s not needed to protect the system from challenge, and so is left in its inchoate state.

The far right isn’t pressed into service and built up as a major force unless the left is strong.

The dominant left response to the recent rise of xenophobic sentiment has been moral suasion and anti-racism demonstrations, a strategy that possibly owes more to satisfying the psychological needs of the practitioners than concern over efficacy.

It fails to attack the root cause of the disease, trying to suppress the symptoms instead.

Campaigns of anti-racism offer their practitioners cathartic opportunities to express moral indignation (which may be the underlying motivation for carrying them out), but their effectiveness is questionable unless accompanied by an assault on the root causes. The recent wave of anti-immigrant sentiment didn’t arise in a vacuum. Its momentum comes from economic crisis, and if one wants to mobilise the energy that far right explanations attract, a credible solution must be offered to the critical underlying problem: economic insecurity.

Against the far right’s explanation that immigration is the cause of joblessness, the left could point out that insecurity is caused by the failure — indeed refusal — of capitalism to offer secure employment to all; that the solution is to transcend the capitalist system; and that where it has been transcended in the past, secure employment has been made available to all, along with guaranteed healthcare, security in old age, subsidised housing, free education, and a raft of other mass-oriented reforms.

There is no freeloading in a socialist society. Work is an obligation.

But at the same time, employment is guaranteed. Against the pseudo-explanation: immigration is the cause of your problems, must be counterpoised an accurate explanation: capitalism is the cause of your problems; it can’t — won’t — guarantee a secure life for all; socialism can.

The problem is that much of the left, even that part of it that traces its origins to revolutionary Marxism, has given up on both revolution and socialism, defined here as production for use (not profits), governed by a plan (not markets), and carried out in publicly owned (not private) enterprises.

Socialism in contemporary usage has come to refer to a mixed economy presided over by an elected government that calls itself socialist. Production is governed by markets, much of the economy remains in private hands, the commanding heights of the economy are brought gradually under public control, and the exploitation of man by man is accepted as necessary, desirable, and the key to efficiency.

But markets — which almost everyone now thinks are an unavoidable necessity — inescapably mean recurrent economic crises, unemployment, and inequality. In other words, socialism, as it is defined by 21st century socialists, offers no solution to the economic insecurity that regularly flares up and drives the insecure into the arms of far right campaigns to scapegoat immigrants and foment xenophobia.

Sweden, often celebrated as a social democratic paragon and held out as an attractive alternative to Marxist-Leninist-style socialism, has proved no less vulnerable to outbreaks of recession-induced xenophobia than bastions of neo-liberalism have. And that’s because 20th century social democracy and its equivalent, 21st century socialism, don’t transcend capitalism, but embrace it, and therefore accept its destructiveness (in crops, products, factories, and gainful employment eliminated during regular downturns), inefficiencies (capitalism regularly operates below capacity and well below during downturns), wars (to pry open closed markets and secure new investment opportunities) and blighted lives.

No one in Germany "is predicting the rise of a successful right-wing party," remarks New York Times reporter Michael Slackman, "but that is because the main ingredient is missing: a charismatic leader to rally the public. With such a leader, and some financial support, the prospect could take on a life . . ." Perhaps. But there is also one other ingredient missing: a compelling left alternative explanation of people’s distress. Without one, there’s no need to find, and provide financing to, a charismatic right-wing leader to transform a spontaneously arising, minority, anti-immigrant movement into a mass movement capable of vying for power to do what far right mass movements have been historically mobilised to do: block the rise of a revolutionary left movement.

That the rise of a far right demagogue is unlikely can perhaps be looked at as a good thing (and in one sense it is), but in another sense it is far from good, for it means capitalism is safe, despite what one might think about capitalism’s current tribulations creating an opportunity for change. The opportunity may exist, but who is there to seize it?

It used to be that the role of a revolutionary Marxist party was to set forth an alternative explanation to the dominant ideology, one that would supply an essential ingredient to the project of transcending capitalism at a time of crisis. People’s troubles with unemployment, under-employment and poverty, it would be explained, are systemic, not personal or immigrant-related; they are remediable, not inevitable.

Freedom from the ills of capitalism, it would be shown, is possible and realistically achievable through collective action. Nationalism, xenophobia and social democracy would be revealed to be pseudo-solutions, offering the illusion of change but no real redress of capitalism’s ills. No longer. Nowadays, everyone has shifted to the right. Liberals are conservatives, social democrats are liberals, and communists are social democrats, if not liberals in practice with a vaguely radical rhetoric.

With a void having opened up in the space once filled by alternative left explanations, the current capitalist crisis is proving to be a fertile ground for the growth of far right pseudo-explanations of what are properly systemic problems. With the left having embraced markets, and thereby all that markets imply (regular crises, unemployment and inequality), it no longer has a solution to offer for market-induced plights. Having capitulated, it has reduced itself to the role of uttering pious expressions of benevolence.

Many people who were once communists drew strength from the knowledge that communism represented a mass movement. Perhaps it remained marginal (or more aptly, suppressed) in their own country, but it had been embraced by a substantial fraction of the world’s people and seemed to be getting stronger. With the demise of communism in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, and China’s journey down the capitalist road, all that changed.

Now, really-existing socialism had all but disappeared, hanging on, sort of, in a few outposts: Cuba, where parts of the socialist model had to be dismantled to survive, and North Korea, where the Juche philosophy supplanted formal adherence to Marxism-Leninism. Communism now seemed largely discredited, and to cling to it, was to mark oneself as peripheral and locked in the past.

Desperate to reconnect to a mass movement, many embraced the only mass working class movement they could find, which in many Western countries, was social democracy. But the corruption that had led the Bolsheviks to break away from social democracy to form the communist movement in 1917 had intensified, and by the time the Soviet Union was dismantled, social democracy had nothing anymore to do with socialism; it had become capitalism with a friendly face, and at times, not so friendly.

In Marx’s and Engel’s day, there were periods when a meeting of every socialist in Europe could have been easily held in a mid-sized hall. Until 1917, the Bolsheviks — whose ideas and organisational forms would eventually guide the economic and political organisation of a majority of the world’s population — remained a political party of limited significance without a mass following. The need to be connected to a popular movement — and the practice of linking up with a cause on the basis of its popularity and not the ideas and aims that inspire it — would have led many latter day communists to shun Marx, Engels and the Bolsheviks had they been contemporaries.

One reason Marxism-Leninism commands little authority nowadays is that it seems to have been rejected by its practitioners.

Glasnost and Perestroika and the eventual dismantling of communism in the Soviet Union, followed by communism’s collapse in Eastern Europe, and the turn to capitalism in China and Vietnam, appear to be admissions that Marxism-Leninism doesn’t work and that capitalism is both inevitable and the end of history.

Cuba’s recent decision to expand its private sector by cutting loose 500,000 state employees — and Fidel Castro’s remark to Atlantic journalist Jeffrey Goldberg that "The Cuban model doesn’t even work for us any more" — seems to underscore the point. All this, however, misses a few significant points.

First, communism arose under inauspicious circumstances. It took root where capitalism was weak, and therefore without the strength to smother the infant in its cradle. In 1917, Russia’s Tsarist ruling class was demoralised by war and the capitalist class too small, weak and disorganised to put down revolutions in March and October.

But capitalism being too weak to block the rise of revolution meant that the revolution would have to take hold in a country where the working class was small and the industrial base — necessary to progress toward a communist society of plenty — was rudimentary at best.

Lenin believed his revolution would spark working class revolutions in Germany and elsewhere in Western Europe, and that the working class in those countries would come to the Bolshevik’s aid, providing the necessary capital Russia would need to build its own socialist society.

He judged wrong. While the Kaiser’s rule was overthrown in Germany, the Social Democrats — who disagreed with Bolshevik’s revolutionary methods and refused to break decisively with capitalism and its rulers — came to power.

Revolutions elsewhere were stillborn or not in the cards. After a period of waiting, the Bolsheviks realised that if socialism were to come to Russia, they would either have to first shepherd the country through a long period of capitalist development, actively intervene in Western Europe to foment revolutions there, or undergo a programme of rapid industrialisation and forced agricultural collectivisation at home.

After a period of conflict about which path to pursue, the Bolsheviks decided to build socialism in one country. This decision was reinforced by the expectation that the capitalist powers would attack the Soviet Union within a decade, and that an industrial base was urgently needed to build a modern military for self-defence.

Second, communism had not a moment’s rest from attempts by the capitalist countries to destroy it. Blockades, sanctions, trade embargoes, sabotage, subversion, diplomatic isolation, military intervention, war (both hot and cold) and ideological warfare were pressed into service with the aim rolling back — and ultimately destroying — communism.

The chances of communism surviving the onslaught were far from sanguine.

Attributing the demise of really-existing socialism to internal failings, and ignoring seven decades of efforts to exterminate the communist challenge — a practice of both the right and left — is a peculiar form of blindness. As William Blum observes: "It’s as if the Wright brothers’ first experiments with flying machines all failed because the automobile interests sabotaged each test flight. And then the good and god-fearing folk of the world looked upon these catastrophes, nodded their heads wisely, and intoned solemnly: Humankind shall never fly."

Third, it wasn’t because communist countries rejected markets that they failed. It was because they backed off of Marxist-Leninist principles, and conciliated with capitalism, that they collapsed.

Poland, for example, ran into trouble because it failed to collectivise agriculture and provided implacable enemies of socialism, including the Catholic Church, space to operate.

Rather than using agricultural surpluses to pay for industrialisation, Polish communists subsidised food prices and emphasised light industry and the production of consumer goods and foot the bill by borrowing heavily from Western banks. Burdened with debt, the government was eventually forced to allow Western banks to dictate economic policy. The banks demanded the government remove its food subsidies to pay interest on its debt.

This led to spikes in food prices, sparking strikes and ultimately the development of a working class strike movement.

The strike movement was hijacked by anti-socialist ideologues linked to the Catholic Church and the CIA who eventually managed to force the government to step down when it became clear that the Soviet Union, under the leadership of Mikhail Gorbachev, would not intervene.

Stephen Gowans is a Canadian writer and political activist resident in Ottawa. This article is reproduced from

Gorbachev was dismantling the Marxist-Leninist basis of the Soviet state and experimenting with market mechanisms in response to a slow-down in the Soviet economy. The slow-down had a number of causes. The Soviets had been forced to adopt a policy of self-sufficiency to protect the country from the possibility of imperialist countries manoeuvring to strangle it economically by cutting off its access to vital raw materials. This led to a situation where the Soviets paid more to extract some raw materials internally than they would have paid had they imported them. Another factor was an increase in raw materials costs. As easy to reach mines were depleted, deeper mine shafts had to be dug, and longer distances had to be travelled to reach new mines.

Planning had its own problems. Enterprises hung on to employees to ensure they had sufficient staff to meet planned production targets. This led to over-staffing, and to the less than efficient deployment of manpower. The Soviet commitment to full employment also meant that retrofitting factories—in order that they could continue in operation with layoffs avoided—was favored over building new factories based on new technology. As a result, the industrial base became a patchwork of new grafted onto old.

At the same time, the need to keep pace with NATO put a severe strain on the Soviet economy. Despite its rapid growth, the Soviet economy was still much smaller than that of the United States. To come anywhere close to matching NATO expenditures, the Soviets had to allocate a crushingly large percentage of their GDP to the military. Although necessary for self-defense, this was wasteful, since it diverted resources away from the productive investments that were needed to raise living standards. US cold warriors figured that if they could stall the growth of the Soviet economy by locking the Soviet Union into an arms race, they could weaken attachment to Marxism-Leninism, both among the Soviet citizenry and in the Kremlin. With living standards failing to converge on those of the advanced capitalist countries, Eastern Bloc populations might sour on the socialist model and look longingly to the West. At the same time, it might occur to Soviet leaders that their only hope was to compromise on Marxism-Leninism and open up the Soviet economy to market mechanisms and the world capitalist economy.

There were other strains. In order to win allies and expand socialism to other countries, the Soviets shipped aid to countries and movements struggling to free themselves from colonialism. Most of these countries were desperately poor, and profited from transfers and subsidies from the Soviet Union, while returning little in exchange. For example, the Soviets bought Cuban sugar and nickel at above world prices, getting little in return from Cuba. Cuban military intervention in southern Africa on behalf of the liberation movements there–ultimately paid for by the Soviet Union–and the intervention in Afghanistan on behalf of a modernizing and secular revolutionary government, put further strain on the Soviet economy. In the end, Gorbachev decided to pull troops out of Afghanistan, cut Cuba loose, and not intervene to protect Warsaw Pact allies from counter-revolutionary movements. He also moved the Soviet Union toward a Scandinavian-style social democracy. Far from invigorating the Soviet economy, the attempt to make over the USSR pushed the economy into collapse. As the economy imploded, the economies linked to it through the socialist community fell like dominos. By embracing capitalist methods, Gorbachev had turned a set of manageable problems into a catastrophe. Communism’s collapse was not due to public ownership, central planning, and production for use, but the abandonment of socialist practices in favour of markets and capitalist methods. The problem wasn’t that there was too much socialism; there was too little.

The capitalist class in imperialist countries is a formidable enemy. Except for the period of the Great Depression and the chaotic aftermath of the two world wars, it has not been weakened, demoralized and disorganized—a condition that would need to prevail if revolutions were to come about. What’s more, both world wars led to a stronger, more confident, and assertive class rule based in US finance and industry. The opportunities for Marxist-Leninists to lead new revolutions were, therefore, limited. At the same time, the space for socialist countries to develop was systematically impeded by a United States immeasurably strengthened by WWII, whose rulers committed themselves to wiping the communist foe from the face of the earth, a campaign that carries on today in efforts to bring down the Cuban and North Korean systems. (By comparison, the Soviet Union was immeasurably weakened by the same war.) That the communist movement should be bloodied, bruised and knocked to the mat should come as no surprise. The opponent was formidable. But does that mean the towel must be thrown in? It would appear that for communists who were accustomed to being linked to mass movements, the answer is yes. But the movement of revolutionary socialists has been tiny and peripheral before. Had there not been a core of revolutionaries who remained dedicated to Marxist-Leninist principles and refused to sacrifice fundamental principles for immediate gains and popularity, the first attempt at building socialism would never have come off. Capitalist crises and war are inevitable and recurrent. Opportunities for transcending capitalism and liberating mankind from its scourges are therefore, inevitable and recurrent as well. When they arrive, a Marxist party capable of offering an explanation of people’s unhappiness, showing that another way is realistically achievable, and revealing the pseudo-solutions of nationalism, religion and social democracy to be dead-ends, can lead a renewed attempt to move humanity forward

Stephen Gowans is a Canadian writer and political activist resident in Ottawa. This article is reproduced from