Bulletin N° 230


22 April 2006
Grenoble, France

Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
We have heard much in the past few days on the crisis of democracy and the search for effective tactics to secure "human rights" from the corporate takeover of public institutions.

The managerial revolution we are undergoing today, gives evidence to a new degree of authoritarianism, reducing humanity to an abstract class of bovine consumers, at best, and too often simply to a surplus population, irrelevant to the pursuit of private profits.

Professor Bertell Ollman, in his classic study,
Dialectical Investigations, has observed that the negation of negations is one of the fundamental abstractions in analytical social research. This tool often reveals how momentary periods of reaction appear, as temporary returns to previous formations, before something new and more permanent materializes. Thus, for example, during the French Revolution spokespeople of the new ideology of Liberty, Equality, Fraternity adopted for themselves the names of ancient Roman orators. Or, a century earlier, how the 17th-century freedom of speech movement during the Puritan Revolution in England was led by fundamentalist Christian groups, like the Ranters, the Diggers, and the Levelers, all of whom claimed that Jesus Christ had authorized these egalitarian militants to act in the name of Justice and bring heaven to earth.

How to recognize a revolution is the subject of our bulletin this week. In the six items below, we share with you the reflections of academics and activists on this question of democracy and revolution today.

Item A. is an invaluable series of seven volumes of documentation, The September 11th Sourcebooks, published by the National Security Archives, a non-government organization formed in Washington D.C. by a group of highly competent scholars who are devoted to classifying and cataloging newly released government documents each day, in order to make them easily available to the public. (This fundamental right to public information is now under threat of government censorship and must be defended.)

Item B. is a communication from San Diego community organizer, Monty Kroopkin, who has been working with the March 25 Coalition that is organizing the General Strike and National Boycott for May Day 2006, against labor discrimination in cooperation with the Peace and Freedom Movement.

Item C. is an article by John Pilger on the continued assault against democracy in Great Britain . Nowhere is Hannah Arendt's famous description of German capitalism in the 1930s better illustrated today --
"The banality of evil" in everyday life-- than in contemporary England.

Item D. is another illustration of the limits of democracy in post-colonial India , where American transnational corporations have penetrated and successfully exploited the divided society in order to extract higher profits from the employed sector of the population.

Item E. is a description sent to us by CEIMSA associate Dr. Elisabeth Chamorand on the revolt inside the Coca Cola bottling company, which some have accused of human rights violations, including the murder of their own employees.

And finally, item F. is an essay by Michael Albert in which he tries to come to terms with the idea of revolution, and the implications of recognizing revolutionary change -for better or for worse- when it confronts you.

Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
Université Stendhal-Grenoble III
Grenoble, France

from NSA :
22 April 2006



From: mkroopkin@juno.com
Date: Wed, 19 Apr 2006 05:43:01 GMT
Subject: May 1 flyers for the movement to reclaim democracy in the United States.

For everyone not  in LA, the generic flyer (pdf attached and web lilnk below) is ready to use in your area.

The May 1 "A Day Without Immigrant" Mobilization Flyers is Ready!

Download the Flyer!

For LA May 1 March: Spanish   English   Chinese

Generic flyer
(You can add your local May 1 info at the bottom space)

Spanish      English     Chinese

Endorse the May 1 General Strike >>
Click Here    

List of Endorsers

Join the May 1 Planning List! >> Click Here

Please Donate to the May 1 Organizing >> Donate

Local May 1 Events      To Post Your Event >> Click Here

"El Gran Paro Americano 2006" "The Great American Boycott 2006"
"Un dia sin immigrante"  "A day without an immigrant"

Nationwide Immigrant General Strike Wear White T-Shirt at May 1!

http://www.NoHR4437.org     http://www.ImmigrantSolidarity.org

Toll-Free: (800)598-6379

National Immigrant Solidarity Network
No Immigrant Bashing! Support Immigrant Rights!

webpage: http://www.ImmigrantSolidarity.org
New York: (212)330-8172
Los Angeles: (213)403-0131
Washington D.C.: (202)544-9355

from : John Pilger
April 15, 2006

Continuing Quiet Death Of Democracy
By John Pilger

People ask: Can this be happening in Britain ? Surely not. A centuries-old democratic constitution cannot be swept away. Basic human rights cannot be made abstract Those who once comforted themselves that a Labour government would never commit such an epic crime in Iraq might now abandon a last delusion, that their freedom is inviolable. If they knew.

The dying of freedom in Britain is not news. The pirouettes of ambition of of the prime minister and his political twin, the treasurer, are news, though of minimal public interest. Looking back to the 1930s when social democracies were distracted and powerful cliques imposed their totalitarian ways by stealth and silence, the warning is clear. The Legislative and Regulatory Reform Bill has already passed its second parliamentary reading without interest to most Labour MPs and court journalists; yet it is utterly totalitarian in scope.

Presented by the government as a simple measure for streamlining de-regulation, or "getting rid of red tape", the only red tape it will actually remove is that of parliamentary scrutiny of government legislation, including this remarkable bill. It will mean that the government can secretly change the Parliament Act and the constitution and laws can be struck down by decree from Downing Street. Blair has demonstrated his taste for absolute power in his abuse of the royal prerogative, which he has used to bypass parliament in going to war and in dismissing landmark High Court judgements, such as that which declared illegal the expulsion of the entire population of the Chagos islands, now the site of an American military base. The new bill marks the end of true parliamentary democracy; in its effect, it is as significant as the US Congress last year abandoning the bill of rights.

Those who fail to hear these steps on the road to dictatorship should look at the government's plans for ID cards, described in its manifesto as "voluntary". They will be compulsory and worse. An ID card will be different from a driving licence or passport. It will be connected to a database called the NIR (National Identity Register), where your personal details will be stored. These will include your fingerprints, a scan of your iris, your residence status and unlimited other details about your life. If you fail to keep an appointment to be photographed and fingerprinted, you can be fined up to £2,500.

Every place that sells alcohol or cigarettes, every post office, every pharmacy and every bank will have an NIR terminal where you can be asked to "prove who you are". Each time you swipe it, a record is made at the NIR. This means that the government will know every time you withdraw more than £99 from your bank account. Restaurants and off-licences (liquor stores) will demand that the card is swiped so that they are indemnified from prosecution. Private business will have full access to the NIR. If you apply for a job, your card will have to be swiped. If you want a London Undergound Oyster card, or a supermarket loyalty card, or a telephone line or a mobile phone or an internet account, your card will have to be swiped. In other words, there will be a record of your movements, your phone records and shopping habits, even the kind of medication you take. These databases, which can be stored in a device the size of a hand, will be sold to third parties without you knowing. The ID card will not be your property and the Home Secretary will have the right to revoke or suspend it at any time without explanation. This would prevent you drawing money from a bank. ID cards will not stop or deter terrorists, as Home Secretary Charles Clarke has now admitted; the Madrid bombers all carried ID. On 26 March, the government silenced the last parliamentary opposition to the cards when it ruled that the House of Lords could no longer block legislation contained in a party's manifesto. The Blair clique does not debate. Like the zealot in Downing Street, its "sincere belief" in its own veracity is quite enough. When the London School of Economics published a long study that effectively demolished the government's case for the cards. Charles Clarke abused it for feeding a "media scare campaign". This is the same minister who attended every cabinet meeting at which Blair's lies over his decision to invade Iraq were clear.

This government was re-elected with the support of barely a fifth of those eligible to vote: the second lowest since the franchise. Whatever respectability the famous suits in television studios try to give him, Blair is demonstrably discredited as a liar and war criminal. Like the constitution-hijacking bill now reaching its final stages, and the criminalising of peaceful protest, ID cards are designed to control the lives of ordinary citizens (as well as enrich the new Labour-favoured companies that will build the computer systems). A small, determined, and profoundly undemocratic group is killing freedom in Britain , just as it has killed literally in Iraq . That is the news. "The kaleidoscope has been shaken," said Blair at the 2001 Labour Party conference. "The pieces are in flux. Soon they will settle again. Before they do, let us re-order this world around us."

John Pilger's new book, Freedom Next Time, will be published in June by Bantam Press

from : Radha D'Souza
April 17, 2006

March 8 in the World's Largest Democracy
By Radha D'Souza

We have a certificate now. One that matters most these days. None other than George W himself has certified that India is the largest democracy and one with a good track record at that. There is a smugness these days in India 's metropolises where "globalization" has turned cities into shopping malls; where English language opens small windows to the world of call centers and off-shore job contracts. Here, Bush's certificate brings comfort and increased hopes of more H1B visas to work in the US .

In the rural hinterlands of India however, democracy is largely uncertified and wears a very different face as a national gathering of Adivasi women pointed out. Nearly one thousand Adivasi women gathered for a two day seminar on the theme of "Adivasi Women: Situation and Struggles" in Ranchi, the capital of the newly formed state of Jharkhand, on 17-18 March 2006.

Adivasis, literally First Nation Peoples, the indigenous peoples of India , constitute 840 million (8.4 crores) of India 's population of one billion. They form the third largest indigenous population in any country after Myanmar and Mexico . Since colonial times the Adivasi populations of India have faced the brunt of "modernization". Forcible appropriation of land, forests and water resources have left the vast majority of the populations out of depths with their sense of dignity and self, and always at the bottom of government statistics on social indices such as health, education, employment and the like.

Their dispossession from land and resources continues to remain the other face of modernization, globalization and development. In May 2002 the federal Ministry of Environment and Forests issued a circular to all states directing them to remove all "encroachers" resulting in large scale displacement of indigenous populations from their traditional lands. The displacements continue to this day. Due to widespread protests the present UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government introduced the Scheduled Tribes and Forest-Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill 2005.

The Bill presumes the state has "proprietary rights" over forests and purports to grant indulgences to the indigenous peoples. Earlier the right wing NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government introduced the draft National policy on Tribals (indigenous peoples). The policy endorsed displacement in "public interest" and advocated assimilation of Adivasis which means effectively derecognizing their special status as indigenous peoples. It is ironical, to say the least, that the "original people of the land", the Adivasis, become "encroachers" in the world's largest democracy.

Women form a big part of the tribal economy as well as politics. Since colonial times, Adivasi women have been in the forefront of the struggles against colonialism. In the post-Independence era they have been at the forefront of the struggles against land evictions due to mega infrastructure projects, deforestation, dams and development. In the mines and factories where they are forced to seek work to eek out a living, Adivasi women have been in the forefront of struggles against economic and sexual exploitation by labour contractors.

What makes the national seminar in Ranchi earlier this month significant is the fact that it is the first time in many decades that Adivasi women from several states of India gathered for a women's seminar as members of women's organizations. Besides Jharkhand the host state, Adivasi women's organizations from Bihar, Orissa, Assam , Chattisgarh, Madhya Pradesh, Kerala, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh participated in the seminar. Cries of "Jal, jungle, zameen kiska hai? Hamaara hai! hamaara hai!" ("These waters, forests, land - to whom do they belong? They belong to us! They belong to us!") followed accounts from state after state of national and international companies evicting them from land to set up factories and mines, of starvation deaths and sale of girls, of forced labour and sexual exploitation.

"Why did you not hold this conference ten days earlier on March 8? It would have been so much more appropriate", I asked a leading organizer, an Adivasi woman in her mid-twenties.

"Oh! They [the police] never let us hold March 8 celebrations. As there were people coming from far away places, from different states, we did not want them to get caught up with the cops, and we did not want them to be sent back. If people travel three days to come to a seminar we felt they should be able to participate in one", she said very matter-of-factly.

As far as she was concerned democracy was a cat-and-mouse game and women had to become adept in playing the game. Indeed the police did not stay away from the seminar altogether. The organizers of the national seminar had planned to end the seminar with a public meeting in the city on the same theme of the status and struggles of Adivasi women in the country. As the public meeting was underway news started to filter in. Four to five hundred women coming from Bokaro (another city further away) were stopped outside Ranchi at a place called Jaredi where fourteen people were arrested and the rest sent back.

On 17 March four buses were stopped at Balumath in Palamu district carrying people headed for the public meeting and told to return back. On 18 March 100 odd women from Lateha station nearby were stopped from proceeding to the public meeting. Four to five women who made their way to Ranchi bus station were arrested, their money stolen and later released. They made their way to the public meeting eventually. Some of these incidents were reported in the local vernacular newspapers.

The women's organizations know very well how democracy works in the rural hinterlands of the vast Indian subcontinent. Delegates from the state of Bihar reported that their organizations worked in rural areas for most of the year, but for several years now on 8 March they have tried to organize a public meeting in the state capital. They do not always succeed. This year too on 8 March 2006 the Nari Mukti Sanghatna (Women's Liberation Organization) a rural organization of women, organized a public meeting in Patna the state capital.

Two days before, on 6 March, the police arrested fourteen main organizers on charges of breaches of peace as they went around mobilizing people to come to the public meeting in Patna. With the key organizers in police custody, the meeting could not take place as planned. People who turned up found themselves without the organizers and speakers. They turned the gathering into a rally against the arrests instead, and went around the city in a procession. Last year too the Nari Mukti Sanghatna (Women's Liberation Organization) in Jharkhand was prevented from holding public meetings on 8 March. Not without reasons.

Two months ago on 2 January 2006 a large demonstration of indigenous people protested against the construction of a steel plant by Tata Steel at Kalinganagar in the state of Orissa, for an estimated production of six million tones of steel. Tata Steel is one of India 's leading steel manufacturer and the house of Tatas one of India 's leading industrial houses. The police opened fire killing twelve people. The incident sparked an outpouring of pent up anger against forced displacement. Hundreds gathered from for the cremation of the dead people from the region including the neighboring states of Jharkhand and Chattisgarh. An economic blockade was imposed on the steel city of Rourkela and Adivasis demanded the return of surplus land taken by the Rourkela Steel Plant fifty years ago. They occupied the Howrah-Mumbai railway track connecting India 's two largest cities: Kolkotta and Mumbai.

Globalization brings in its wake new fears of people especially in a democracy of the kind in India , based as it is on land grabbing, resource grabbing and squeezing labour. Adivasis form a disproportionately large part of the population displaced by economic development. Forty percent of people displaced by projects are Adivasis. It is estimated that since economic liberalization in 1991 ten million people have been displaced and that a further ten million will be displaced in the coming ten years. History bears testimony to the fact that people never go down quietly. The police and the state they administer know this. Hence every meeting, every protest march has the potential to "breach peace".

"People say a woman's place is in her home. How I wish this was true. How can we be at home when our home is constantly uprooted?" An Adivasi woman delegate at the seminar asked.

"Hear the call of 8 March"Come out to fight for your liberation"To break the chains of oppression"To bring a new dawn"Women's liberation is our aim"And Socialism, our goal"The songs of women filled the seminar hall.

"Why are Adivasi women claiming 8 March in this manner? Your struggles are the same as before. Why under the banner of women's organizations?" I asked another woman organizer from Andhra Pradesh. Within social and political movements of Adivasis the question of an independent women's organization has always been a contentious one.

"Many people have asked us the same question" she replied and went on to explain: "We challenge many traditional practices and laws against women. For example we actively support her right to marry a person of her choice, to marry outside the community, the right of widows to remarry, equal property rights. We oppose practices like child marriage and victimization of women for alleged witchcraft. We had big campaigns against alcoholism and domestic violence. They say forming an autonomous women's organization divides the Adivasi community. It causes splits in the movement against displacement and in the fight against land sharks and corporations. They say the fight against imperialism is more important and women's issues must be shelved in the larger interest of unity of the struggle against imperialism. Tensions arise between men and women as a result they say. For this reason for many years although Adivasi women were in the forefront of the struggles against economic exploitation and oppression, they never claimed 8 March and did not have strong women's movements. We think it is wrong to condone one wrong to fight another."

Many delegates referred to the need to struggle on two fronts: within the community and against the state. "Only by making the communities strong internally can we fight the enemies outside" another woman argued. "And how can we build strong communities if our men are victims of alcoholism? If they have no sense of their self-worth or dignity?" she asked.

Strangely, the logic of her argument at the level of national politics is not very different from the Iranian women's in international politics. (See "8 March Comes to Europe" March 28, 2006 Z-Net Commentaries). Like the Iranian women, by framing the question the way they have, the Adivasi women too raise the question of the meaning of true democracy. It is forgotten too easily that democracy is about freedom and freedom is not a formal rule but a real state of being. For the Adivasi women this state of freedom is summed in the rhyme:

"Kaam karega wo khayega (those who works shall eat)

"Lootnewala jayega (those who loot shall be out)

"Naya zamaana ayega (a new era will come without doubt)"

Such a concept of democracy is very far removed from the city-girls in call centers. But for now, they are happy that George W has given India a certificate of good conduct as the world's largest democracy.

from Elisabeth Chamorand :
April 13, 2006

The Case Against Coke

    By Michael Blanding

    The ballroom at the Hotel du Pont in Wilmington, Delaware, is the picture of opulence. Paintings of Greek gods and goddesses peer down from the walls, lit by two crystal chandeliers the size of Mini Coopers. It's here in April that the Coca-Cola Company will hold its stockholders' meeting, an annual exercise designed to boost the confidence of investors. If the meeting is anything like last year's, however, it may do the opposite.

    As stockholders filed into the room in April 2005, news hadn't been good for Coke, which has steadily lost market share to rivals. Investors were eager for reassurance from CEO Neville Isdell, a patrician Irishman who had recently assumed the top job. Few in the room, however, were prepared for what happened next. As Isdell stood at the podium, two long lines formed at the microphones. When he opened the floor, the first to speak was Ray Rogers, a veteran union organizer and head of the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke. "I want to know what [Coke is] going to do to regain the trust and credibility in order to stop the growing movement worldwide ... banning Coke products," boomed the 62-year-old.

    That was just the beginning of a ninety-minute slugfest that the Financial Times later said "felt more like a student protest rally" than a stockholders' meeting. One after another, students, labor activists and environmentalists blasted Coke's international human rights record. Many focused on Colombia , where Coke has been accused of conspiring with paramilitary death squads to torture and kill union activists. Others highlighted India , where Coke has allegedly polluted and depleted water supplies. Still others called the company to task for causing obesity through aggressive marketing to children.

    In the past two years the Coke campaign has grown into the largest anticorporate movement since the campaign against Nike for sweatshop abuses. Around the world, dozens of unions and more than twenty universities have banned Coke from their facilities, while activists have dogged the company from World Cup events in London to the Winter Olympics in Torino. More than just the re-emergence of the corporate boycott, however, the fight against Coke is a leap forward in international cooperation. Coke, with its red-and-white swoosh recognizable everywhere from Beijing to Baghdad, is perhaps the quintessential symbol of the US-dominated global economy. The fight to hold it accountable has, in turn, broadly connected issues across continents to become a truly globalized grassroots movement.

    Coke shrugs off the protests as coming from a "small segment of the student population," says Ed Potter, the company's director of global labor relations. "What I see are largely well-meaning attempts to put a spotlight on some reprehensible things - but which are unrelated to our workplaces." Nevertheless, Coke has fought back with ads on TV and in student newspapers, part of a mammoth advertising budget that has increased 30 percent in the past two years, to a staggering $2.4 billion. However, as evidence against the company mounts ahead of this year's annual stockholders' meeting, so does the pressure for Coke to address its growing international image of exploitation and brutality.

    On the morning of December 5, 1996, union leader Isidro Segundo Gil was standing at the gate of the Coca-Cola bottling plant in Carepa, Colombia , when two paramilitaries drove up on a motorcycle and shot him dead. A week later, unionists say, paramilitaries lined up all the workers inside the plant and forced them to sign a letter resigning from the beverage union SINALTRAINAL, spelling the end of the union at the plant.

    Violence against union members is a fact of life in Colombia , where nearly 4,000 have been killed by paramilitaries in the past two decades. But Gil's murder was different, say his union brothers; two months earlier, they observed the plant manager meeting with a paramilitary commander in the company cafeteria. And just a week before he was killed Gil had been negotiating with the company over a new contract. Workers see these events as an example of the collusion of bottling executives with the paramilitaries. "From the beginning, Coca-Cola took a stand to not only eliminate the union but to destroy its workers," said SINALTRAINAL president Javier Correa in a recent speaking appearance in the United States .

    Nor was Gil's murder a unique occurrence, says Correa. In all, eight union members and a friendly plant manager were killed between 1989 and 2002. Even today, union leaders routinely receive death threats and attempts on their lives. In 2003 paramilitaries kidnapped and tortured the 15-year-old son of one union leader and killed the brother-in-law of SINALTRAINAL's vice president. This past January, says Correa, managers at the Coca-Cola plant in Bogotá attempted to get workers to sign a statement saying Coke did not violate human rights; a week later the leader of the union received a death threat against himself and his family.

    "Coke has a long history of being a virulently antiunion company," says Lesley Gill, an anthropology professor at American University who has twice been to Colombia to document the violence. "It has been calculated and targeted, and it usually takes place during periods of contract negotiations." A 2004 investigation directed by New York City Councilman Hiram Monserrate documented 179 "major human rights violations" against Coke workers, along with numerous allegations that "paramilitary violence against workers was done with the knowledge of and likely under the direction of company managers." The violence has taken a toll on the union. In the past decade, SINALTRAINAL's Coke membership has fallen from about 1,400 to less than 400.

    Coca-Cola representatives deny involvement of the company or its bottling partners, contending that the murders are a byproduct of the country's civil war. In response, the company touts the security measures it offers union leaders, including loans for home security systems and reassignment for those in danger. Furthermore, Coke points out that it has been exonerated in several cases in Colombian courts. However, charging those courts as ineffective - only five paramilitaries have been found guilty of murder, despite 4,000 killings - SINALTRAINAL reached out in 2001 to the International Labor Rights Fund, a Washington-based solidarity organization. Using a US law called the Alien Tort Claims Act, the ILRF and the United Steelworkers filed suit against Coke and its bottlers in Miami later that year. In 2003 a judge ruled that Coca-Cola couldn't be held responsible for the actions of its bottlers and dropped it from the case, even while allowing the case against the bottlers to go forward. ILRF lawyer Terry Collingsworth finds that decision preposterous, noting that Coke has ownership shares in its Colombian bottlers and highly detailed bottling agreements. "I'm 100 percent sure that if Coca-Cola in Atlanta ordered them to change their uniform color from red to blue, they would do it," says Collingsworth. "They could stop these activities in a minute."

    While the ILRF has appealed the decision, procedural rules require it to wait until the case against the bottlers is over before the case against Coke can be taken up again - a process that could take years. "We needed to figure out a way that Coke sees delay as bad," says Collingsworth. In 2003 SINALTRAINAL put out a call for an international boycott of Coke products. At the same time, the ILRF contacted Ray Rogers, head of Corporate Campaign, Inc., an organization that consults with unions to win contracts through unorthodox methods. Over the past three decades, Rogers has forced concessions from a dozen companies - including American Airlines, Campbell's Soup and New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority - not through strikes or negotiations but through an aggressive strategy of publicly embarrassing anyone associated with his targets.

    Rogers immediately saw Coke's weakness: its brand. "They are right at the top of the worst companies in the world, and yet they've created an image like they are American pie," he says. "When people think of Coca-Cola, they should think about great hardship and despair for people and communities around the world." From the beginning, Rogers appropriated Coke's trademark red script to make the Killer Coke logo, and tweaked its advertising campaign with slogans like "The Drink That Represses" and "Murder - It's the Real Thing." He made a dramatic first appearance at a Coke annual meeting two years ago, when police wrestled Rogers away from the mike and forcibly dragged him out of the hall.

    Early on, Rogers rejected SINALTRAINAL's call for a consumer boycott of Coke products, fearing it would be ineffective and might alienate unions working with Coke. He focused on "cutting out markets" by going after larger institutional ties. He convinced several unions, including the American Postal Workers, several large locals of the Service Employees International, and UNISON, the largest union in Britain, to ban Coke from their facilities and functions, and he induced pension-fund managers, including the City of New York, to pass resolutions threatening to withdraw hundreds of millions in Coke stock investments unless Coke investigated the Colombia abuses. He persuaded not only the SEIU but the largest US union of Coke's own employees, the Teamsters, to pass a resolution in support of the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke and to speak out at last year's annual meeting (the Teamsters stopped short of banning Coke from their own facilities). "It's horrendous what we're hearing," says David Laughton, secretary-treasurer of the union's beverage division. "The company's lack of action is having a ripple effect all over the country in school and college, and that means reductions in jobs for us. It's time for them to wake up and admit their errors."

    The campaign's greatest success has come at colleges and universities. Rogers set up a website with a step-by-step guide for students looking to convince their institutions to cut multimillion-dollar Coke contracts, and he's traveled to schools to hold rallies and advise students. One by one, more than a dozen schools in the United States , as well as a handful more in Ireland , Italy and Canada , have decided to cut lucrative beverage contracts or otherwise ban Coke from campuses. The effort accelerated after it was joined by United Students Against Sweatshops - one of the main groups behind the Nike boycott of the 1990s - which helped organize its own chapters. Anti-Coke campaigns are now active at some 130 campuses worldwide. "This campaign against Coke has politicized a new generation of students," says Camilo Romero, a national organizer with USAS. "It's something that students feel personally connected to, because it's something they can hold in their hand," says Aviva Chomsky, a professor at Salem State College in Massachusetts, which severed ties two years ago. "It's too easy to say, 'There are so many bad things in the world, I'm just going to concentrate on my own life.' It's the concreteness of this that's appealing."

    While student campaigns have mostly focused on the abuses in Colombia , some have included demands from other countries as well. Few companies have the kind of global reach of Coca-Cola, which has set up a network of bottling partners around the world that allows it to maximize profits by keeping distribution costs down and exploiting lax environmental and labor laws abroad. The first rumblings came from India, where villagers near several Coke bottling plants reported that their wells were dropping, sometimes more than fifty feet; meanwhile, the water they were able to get was tainted by foul-smelling chemicals. Starting in 2002 villagers near Plachimada, in the southern state of Kerala, began a permanent vigil outside the local plant. They finally won an indefinite closure in March 2004, although the case remains an issue in the Kerala High Court.

    Villagers started another vigil, at Mehdiganj in central India , this past March. Escalating protests there and at a third plant, in the desert state of Rajasthan, have ended in police attacks on villagers employing Gandhian tactics of nonviolence, which Amit Srivastava of the India Resource Center (IRC) lays at Coke's feet. "We know the company has the power to stop the police from resorting to violence," he says, "but it has let this go on without saying a word."

    The IRC has been joined in its mission by Corporate Accountability International (CAI), which has attacked Coke on its aggressive push to sell bottled water. "If water becomes a branded product, it's clearly going to undermine the demand and support for publicly managed water systems," says CAI executive director Kathryn Mulvey. "The people who lose out are those who don't have the means to pay top dollar for their water." As a veteran anticorporate campaigner, Mulvey sees the Coke campaign as a new model. "People are taking these abuses that are happening all over the world and bringing them to Coke's headquarters," she says. "Transnational corporations are really surpassing the nation-state as the dominant economic and political institutions. Social change movements need to find ways to come together across borders and strategize."

    The broad attack against the company has been a strength for the campaign, allowing diverse groups to share information and recruit greater numbers at protests, as well as making a more difficult target for counterattacks. "The company can't control it," says Rogers. "They realize they can't get rid of one person or group and hope the thing will die." At the same time, the sheer number of charges against Coke raises the question of how and when the campaign can declare victory. On that score, the different groups are clear about their specific goals. The Campaign to Stop Killer Coke, for example, has adopted seven demands by SINALTRAINAL, which include a human rights policy for bottling companies and compensation for families of slain workers. The campaign in India calls for closure of certain plants, cleanup of others and compensation for affected villagers.

    Many student campaigns have made their top demand an independent investigation into the Colombia abuses. At last year's annual meeting, Coke tried to mollify critics by releasing the results of a company-funded study, which was rejected by students as woefully biased. Still facing the prospect of boycotts at several universities - among them Rutgers, NYU and Michigan - Coke put together a commission of students, school administrators and labor leaders to come up with a protocol for an independent inquiry. "I was honestly hopeful, perhaps naïvely," says USAS's Romero. "It seemed like they were putting this new investment into making things work." From the beginning, however, the company insisted it had a right to be on the commission; even after Coke was booted by the students, it kept putting strictures on the investigation, such as a moratorium on investigating past abuses. The final straw was Coke's insistence that anything uncovered be inadmissible in the court case in Miami, which Collingsworth says is against legal ethics. "We cannot prejudice our clients by agreeing to bury evidence that would support their claims," he wrote in an angry letter to Coke's Ed Potter.

    At around the same time, new evidence of Coke's antilabor tactics emerged in Indonesia , where, according to USAS, workers were intimidated when they attempted to unionize; and in Turkey , where more than 100 union members were fired and then clubbed and tear-gassed by police during a protest. This past November the ILRF filed another lawsuit against Coca-Cola, based on the claims of the Turkish workers. By that point, students had had enough; all but one left the commission.

    With the failure of the investigation commission, administrators at some schools ran out of excuses to keep the Coke contracts. Both NYU and Michigan suspended contracts in December. NYU's status as the country's largest private university earned the campaign national and international press. "We knew if we were to ban Coca-Cola, our statement would resound around the world," says Crystal Yakacki, a recent NYU graduate who helped lead the campaign while she was a student.

    As this year's annual meeting nears, Coke has gone on the offensive, announcing a plan to draft a new set of workplace standards. At the same time, the company has asked the UN's International Labor Organization to perform a workplace evaluation of the Colombia bottling plants. Rogers and Collingsworth have already cried foul, pointing out that Potter has been the US employer representative to the ILO for the past fifteen years. "Either they know something we don't know," says Collingsworth, "or they believe the ILO moves so slowly and bureaucratically that they can delay." In response, Potter claims the organization is so large that no one person can influence it. Regardless, the gambit is having some effect: In April Michigan, citing "the reputation and track record of ILO," rescinded its ban.

    At the Hotel du Pont on April 19, organizers hope to stage a repeat of last year's grilling, with an even larger contingent of activists in attendance. Schools debating Coke contracts this spring include Michigan State, UCLA, the University of Illinois, DePaul and several campuses of the City University of New York. In Britain , the campaign lost a close vote in April to convince the National Union of Students - which represents 750 campuses - to cut a multimillion-pound contract. Many British universities, however, are continuing individual boycotts, as are campuses in Italy , Ireland , Germany and Canada . "This is a moment in history that is very rare, where students have the power to change one of the largest corporations in the world," says Romero. After recent campus victories, momentum seems to be on the side of the campaign. "Coke has a contracting market; we have an expanding market," says Rogers. "I want Coke to come to the realization that there is a lot more for them to lose by continuing to do what they do. They have to be made to do the right thing for the wrong reason."

    Until they do, say activists, the violence against Coke's workers will continue. "It's very difficult for me to convince my family that they have to live with the worries, and that they will one day maybe have to receive bad news," says SINALTRAINAL's Correa. "My kids say that walking with Dad is like walking with a time bomb. But I can't leave this struggle seeing these violations happening all around me. The reality of the situation is that it's better being with a union than without one."

    Michael Blanding is a freelance writer living in Boston. Read more of his writing at MichaelBlanding.com.

from : Michael Albert
April 08, 2006

What Is Revolution?
By Michael Albert

[The editorial board of Birikim (www.birikimdergisi.com.), one of the oldest socialist commentary monthlies of Europe and the Middle East, published in Turkish, asked a number of people to answer the question What is Revolution, for a special edition of the periodical. This was my answer...

By the word revolution many people mean gigantic social conflagration. They have in mind a moment in time, or a brief span. They may have in mind violence. I mean by the word revolution, instead, a change in defining institutions in either of four key spheres of social life: economy, polity, culture, or gender/kinship.

Since revolution as I define it changes defining institutions it both opposes past ways and constructs new ways. What I mean be the term revolution includes opposition, organizing, abolition, and creation.

A revolution could have a cataclysmic moment or a cataclysmic period, but cataclysm isn't in my definition. Cataclysm is not required. There could be violence in a revolution and there certainly would be struggle. But for me these are aspects, not the defining feature.

Revolutionary change could be for the better, I should add, as some people probably take for granted, but reducing oppression or enhancing liberation isn't in my definition, either. Benefit is not required. What is required for a social process to be a revolution, at least as I define the word, is that centrally defining institutional structures in one of four critical spheres of social life fundamentally alter.

This usage is a bit idiosyncratic, I know. I also know that to make it precise I would have to clarify what I mean by all the involved concepts. But short of that, obviously this definition avoids prioritizing one sphere of life over all others. Revolution isn't only economics, or only politics, or only culture, or only kinship. Revolution can be about any one, or all of these spheres of social life. This definition also obviously avoids fetishizing one method of change over all others.

Since I have little space, let me confine further remarks to economics, where I am more versed. And let me highlight the present time, where I actually live. With those constraints, I believe only three economic systems are relevant to thinking about revolution: (1) what we all call capitalism, (2) what I call coordinatorism (but which others call market socialism or centrally planned socialism), and (3) what I call participatory economics. These three systems are fundamentally different in their implications for human behavior. Moving a society from one to any other, in any direction, is to my mind an economic revolution.

Switching from capitalism to market socialism or centrally planned socialism with considerable violence and great struggle along the way achieved an economic revolution, by my definition. But so did switching from market socialism or centrally planned socialism to capitalism, as has occurred quite recently - almost entirely without violence and with very little struggle. Moving from either a coordinator economy or from capitalism to participatory economics would also be an economic revolution, the one that I favor and work for.

About these three economic models:

Capitalism has private ownership of productive assets, corporate divisions of labor, authoritarian decision making, remuneration for property, power, and to a degree output, and markets for allocation.

Coordinatorism eliminates the private ownership of productive assets, retains the authoritarian decision making and corporate division of labor, retains remuneration for power and output but does away with remuneration for property, and either retains markets or replaces markets with central planning.

Participatory economics, or parecon for short, eliminates private ownership or productive assets (or really it eliminates ownership of productive assets at all), replaces corporate divisions of labor with balanced job complexes, replaces authoritarian decision making with self managed workers and consumers councils, remunerates duration, intensity, and onerousness of work and not property, power, or output, and replaces markets (or central planning) with participatory planning.

Each of these three economic types can come with many additional features and with variations, of course, but regarding basic types, I think these three capture modern economic options.

In most countries, therefore, seeking anti capitalist economic revolution means seeking either market or centrally planned socialism - which I call coordinatorism after the roughly twenty percent of the population who monopolizes its empowering positions and serves as this economy's ruling class - or seeking participatory economics, which is classless. I seek revolution of the latter kind. I seek parecon and I reject capitalism as well as both market and centrally planned coordinatorism.

Typically, revolutions, economic or otherwise, wind up where they are structurally aimed to go, whatever contrary rhetoric they may spin about themselves or even deceive themselves with. This refers to all four spheres of social life, but regarding economics we can be pretty explicit about it.

Anti-capitalist movements that embody the logic of coordinatorism and that reflect and manifest the preferences of members of the coordinator class of lawyers, managers, engineers, and other empowered employees, will likely lead to a coordinator economy, when they win revolutionary change.

On the other hand, anti-capitalist movements that embody the logic of parecon and reflect and manifest the preferences of members of the working class, will likely lead to a participatory economy, when they win revolutionary change.

So, about a contemporary anti-capitalist revolutionary movement and its processes, we can sensibly discuss whether its organizational structure and methods of operation and decision making and its general overall logic accord with seeking coordinatorism, on the one hand, or with seeking parecon, on the other hand.

Setting aside the above, many people address the question what is revolution from another direction. They say that revolution rejects reform. This, I think, if taken literally, makes no sense.

A reform is a change in current relations that falls short of overcoming underlying defining structures. A reform is therefore not a revolution. More, reformism, which seeks only reforms and which assumes that at the most basic level there is no alternative to structures that we currently endure, is, in fact, antithetical to revolution. Reformism accepts status quo institutions as permanent. But reforms themselves are not reformism and are not contrary to seeking revolution.

Indeed, quite the contrary, efforts to win modern revolutionary change require building movements that inspire sufficient numbers of members, and arouse sufficient commitment and militancy of members, to enact basic change. But one central technique for building such movements involves trying to win reforms in the present. We have to fight for better conditions, better laws, better income distribution and other improved outcomes of diverse kinds now, short of revolution, both to improve people's lives now, and to amass means for winning greater gains later.

So what makes someone who fights to win reforms revolutionary rather than reformist?

A revolutionary fights for reforms not only to make people's lives better now, but also to awaken new desires, to prepare for pursuing new demands, to foster new organization, to raise new consciousness, and, in general, to be part of a process aimed ultimately at fundamental change.

A revolutionary might often seek the same reforms as a reformist, but a revolutionary will do so with different explanatory language, different exhortation, different organization, and, most important, with a very different attitude about what comes next. The reformist fights to return home and enjoy the fruits of victory. The revolutionary fights so that people might be better off now, but also in order to fight again, and then again, until there is no longer need to fight because the world has been altered.

What beyond seeking revolution defines being a revolutionary?

A revolutionary is what those who favor revolution, when they are most committed and most hopeful, try to embody daily. The modern world has so much compromises and craziness that this isn't easy, even if one sincerely seeks to accomplish it. Revolution is not a lifestyle and not a t-shirt. It isn't something that one turns on and off. It isn't something that one does part time, or periodically, at least not if one is a revolutionary. You can aid revolution part time or periodically, for sure, and that is a very very good thing to do, I believe. But, beyond that, to actually become a revolutionary means, I think, that you always have as one very large component of how you look at things, of how you think about things, and especially of what you decide to do, trying to best contribute to revolution.

So, again, what is revolution?

Revolution is an accumulation of victories won by aroused populations leading to fundamental changes in defining social relations, and it is those achieved changes too, and it is also the process of designing the new relations, and of implementing them, and it is, as well, the process of populations becoming aroused, becoming informed, becoming organized along the way.

Revolution ends old epochs and begins new ones. Revolution can replace poverty with equity, derision with respect, anti-social egoism with solidarity, alienation with community, authoritarianism with self management, homogenization with diversity, patriarchy with feminism, racism with intercommunalism, and the economics of greed and competition with the economics of mutual aid and cooperation.

Revolution is a way of life that people can sensibly adopt if they care about themselves, their families, their friends, their neighbors, their local fellow citizens, and people all over the world.

Revolution is what is on the revolutionary's agenda. It is, indeed, the heart and soul of the revolutionary's agenda. It is what we need in the modern world, for liberty, and probably even for survival.

Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
Université de Grenoble-3
Grenoble, France