Bulletin N°513


19 December 2011
Grenoble, France

Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
"Voluntary Simplicity" and "Consensual Slavery" are medieval concepts that have become fashionable today. We are all encouraged to pick up the sign we've grown accustomed to ignoring at the street corners:


In his book, The Concentrationary Universe, former Buchenwald resident, David Rousset wrote that "the concentration camp, far from being a monstrous denial of civilization, was a possible model for a future civilization." The role of the Kapo was to prevent chaos, and he kept order, peacefully if possible, and by violence, when necessary. Occasionally Kapos revolted and joined the resistance --they were promptly identified and eliminated. (If dumb longevity is the measure of success, then the Pyrenees mountain range is more successful than the Alps, and Francisco Franco (1892-1975) outlived Lenin (1870-1924).

What are we to learn from these facts of life? Perhaps nothing. We want the Kapo to stop brutalizing us and to join us in revolt, but we know he will pay a high price for this decision. In fact it is a choice almost impossible for him to make. . . .

This wretched state of existence is captured by Kropotkin in his understanding to the "tragic" relationship between the revolutionary bourgeoisie and the revolutionary masses during the French Revolution. "'It is not for you,' said the Gironde,

to govern France, you, who are covered with blood of September (1792). The legislators of a rich and industrial empire must regard property as one of the most sacred bases of social order, and the mission of legislating for France cannot be fulfilled by you who preach anarchy, protect plunder and terrify the owners of property. . . . You summon against us all the hired assassins of Paris; we summon against you all the honest folk of Paris.'

   It is the language of the propertied party --le partis des honntes gens-- those who massacred the people of Paris in June 1848 and in 1871, supported  the coup d'tat of Napoleon III, and who are now ready to do it all over again.

   To it the 'Mountain' replied: 'We accuse you of wanting to use your talents for your own advancement only, and not in the interests of Equality. So long as the King permitted your to govern through the ministers you gave him, so long did he seem honest enough for you . . . . Your secret desire has never been to raise France to the glorious destiny of a Republic, but to keep her under a King whose Mayors of the Palace you would yourselves have been.'

   We shall see how just this accusation was when we find Barbaroux in the South and Louvet in Brittany both of them hand in glove with the royalists, and when so many of the Girondins entered into an agreement with les blancs, after they came back to power through the reaction of Thermidor. But let us continue the quotation.

   'You want liberty without equality,' said the 'Mountain,' 'and we desire equality because we cannot conceive liberty without it. You who call yourselves statesmen, you want to organise the Republic for the rich; but we, not pretending to be statesmen, are striving for laws which will lift the poor out of their misery and turn all men, under the state of universal well-being, into happy citizens and ardent defenders of a universally adored republic.'

   Here we see two absolutely differnet conceptions of society; and it was so that the struggle was understood by its contemporaries.

   The Revolution had hitherto confined itself to overthrowing the Kind, without even trying to secure its work by a complete change of the ideas of the nation in a republican direction; it had to stop after its first victory, and leave France to struggle, as best she could, against German, English, Spanish, Italian and Savoyard invaders, supported from within by the partisans of royalty. Or else, the Revolution, after getting rid of the King, had to make at once, without delay, an effort towards 'Equality,'as they then called it --towards 'Communism,' as we should  say now. It must complete the work of abolishing the feudal rights, the work of resorting the land to the communes, the work of nationalizing the soil, while it would recognize the rights of all to the land. It must consolidate the work already so far carried out by the revolted peasantry during those four years , and it would try, with the people's help, 'to raise the poor out of their wretchedness.'It must try to create, if possible, not absolute equality of riches, but a condition of well-being for all --'universal welfare.' And it would do this by forcibly taking the power of Government from the rich, and transferring it to the Communes and the Popular Societies.

   These alternatives suffice to explain the sanguinary struggle which rent asunder the Convention, and with it the whole of France after the downfall of royalty. Everything else is of secondary importance.(The Great French Revolution (1909 & 1989), pp.367-369)


The 6 items offer CEIMSA readers a social context in which to understand the paradigm shift they are experiencing with the worldwide Occupy Movement now released into the atmosphere, a virtual Pandora's Box that will never be closed again.

Item A., from Reader Supported News, is an article by Tom Laskawy on "the bugs that ate Monsanto."

Item B. is an article by Professor Richard Wolff on the "financial and moral bankruptcy" of US financial institutions.

Item C., from San Diego community organizer, Montgomery Kroopkin, is a report on the December 12 West Coast General Strike and its aftermath.

Item D., from Tikkun Magazine editor, Michael Learner, is a message reaching out beyond stereotypes and opportunist manipulations of "identity politics".

Item E., sent to us by Professor Edward Herman, is a review of the writings of New York Times journalist, Thomas Friedman, by Cyril Mychalejko.

Item F., from Dr. Jim O'Brien, is a copy of this week's reading list suggested by members of Historians Against War.

And finally, we offer CEIMSA readers a message from  the days of slavery and near-slavery on the Mississippi River :

by O. Hammerstein

Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies
Director of Research
Universit Stendhal Grenoble 3

from Reader Supported News :
Date: 15 December 2011
Subject: Subject: The Bugs that Ate Monsanto.

Now that 94 percent of the soy and 70 percent of the corn grown in the US are genetically modified, Monsanto - one of the companies that dominates the GMO seed market - might look to some like it's winning. But if we look a little closer, I'd say they're holding on by a thread.

from Richard Wolff :
Date: 14 December 2011
Subject: Lehman Brothers: Financially and Morally Bankrupt.

Consider the irony: governments today impose austerity on the rest of us because 'the markets' demand no less to keep credit flowing to those governments. Behind this dubious abstraction - 'the markets' - hide the chief lenders to governments. Those are the same global banks that received the government bailouts paid for by massive government borrowing since 2007. 'Thieves,' mutter the Occupy Wall Street folk - and who can blame them?

Lehman Brothers: Financially and Morally Bankrupt
by Richard Wolff

from Monty Kroopkin :
Date: 14 December 2011
Subject: some antidote for the corporate news disease

Yesterday, I did some channel surfing to see how the corporate news industry reported the West Coast Ports Blockade action, conducted by the Occupy movement. As I expected, the "news" was mostly about how many were arrested (not how big the protests were), how little effect the protests supposedly had on the ports (instead of how long disruptions went on and how much economic impact it had), and some quotes from port workers against the action. I know it is hard work for our brothers and sisters who work as reporters, hard work finding an oppositional person to quote (per your editor's orders) when most of the port workers you talk to are in favor of the action. And reporters don't actually get paid well for this hard work, because THEIR unions have all been busted years ago already.

So, now I am searching for articles on the internet, that report more about what actually did happen yesterday. If you find any, please send me a link.

The OB Rag, as usual, had a decent "live blog" going on during the day. You can read that at http://obrag.org/?p=51038 (it has links to many other press reports).

Also at the OB Rag (and published several other places) is "An Open Letter from America's Port Truck Drivers on Occupy the Ports" at http://obrag.org/?p=51115 .

The British newspaper, the Guardian, had this report, mostly about what happened in Oakland, at http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/dec/13/port-blockade-occupy-oakland?newsfeed=true

The best "round up" of local reports I've found so far is at http://socialistworker.org/2011/12/13/sending-a-message-at-the-ports

The "DemocracyNow!" evening news broadcast (not available in San Diego, except online) had this report http://www.democracynow.org/2011/12/13/occupy_protesters_join_to_shut_down

LaborNotes magazine has a good article on the "controversy" between top union officials at the ports, on one hand, and the many rank and file union members and Occupy activists, one the other hand, at http://labornotes.org/2011/12/west-coast-port-shutdown-sparks-heated-debate-between-unions-occupy

Occupy Wall Street published this "round up" at its website at http://occupywallst.org/article/watch-live-west-coast-port-shutdown/

The Occupy movement has the "legal" ability to get around the notorious anti-labor law, the Taft-Hartley Act. This is the law that violated international law and our fundamental human right, the right to strike, by making it "illegal" for unions to engage in various "secondary" strikes and boycotts. Sympathy strikes and boycotts, and general strikes, have proved historically to be the most powerful weapons workers can use to make gains against the well-organized and powerful "1 percent". But community groups are not covered by the Taft-Hartley Act. Community groups can do sympathy pickets and boycotts, where unions would face high fines and jail terms for union officers, for endorsing and conducting the same actions.

For this reason, we can expect to see more union officials making "official" statements that they don't support this or that action being done by the Occupy movement, even while they continue to say they support the aims of the Occupy movement. While it would be inspiring to see high union officials willing to do civil disobedience not only of minor laws, like trespassing or "disorderly" conduct, etc., but willing to openly and publicly defy the Taft-Hartley Act, we should not hold our breath waiting to see if any of them have the moral courage to do that.

What we can do instead, is understand that the labor movement has been losing ground, losing membership in unions, losing the fight to improve our standard of living, for decades. Obeying the "boss" laws, especially Taft-Hartley, is one of the main reasons we have been losing ground. Uniting working people into the Occupy movement and using it as the battering ram against the 1 percent, that is what we can do. If we don't end corporate rule of society, we will soon become a society of slaves. This is our fight. This is our movement.

Occupy Everything!
Monty Kroopkin
member, SEIU Local 221 Occupy San Diego Committee

from Tikkun :
Date: 14 December 2011
Subject: Tikkun Daily: Bulldozed Palestinian Homes, The Decline of Capitalism, Torah Commentary, and much more!
Tikkun Daily

Al-Khalayleh, Palestinian village near the settlement of Givaat Zeev, outside of Jerusalem A group of young men are swinging shovels and hammers at the walls of a house their own house.

Miki Kashtan: Starting the Future Today
Dec 07, 2011 06:07 pm | Miki Kashtan

Creating meaningful relationships with the actual people that interact with me I learn that my sphere of influence is almost always larger than I take note of even if it's smaller than my wishes. If I bring to bear, with support and community from others, my vision and its application to the specific moment in which I find myself, then I continually take steps towards this vision. A different future is then born, again and again, in each of my small and meaningful acts.
David Harris-Gershon: Oakland Police Trained Alongside Bahrain Military and Israeli Forces Prior to Violent Occupy Oakland Raid
Dec 04, 2011 12:01 pm | David Harris-Gershon

A month before Occupy Oakland was violently raided by riot police using chemical weapons, rubber bullets and flash grenades a raid which critically injured Iraq war veteran Scott Olsen the Oakland Police Department and the Alameda County Sheriffs Department trained alongside a military unit from Bahrain and an Israeli Border Police unit. The occasion ...
Jill Goldberg: The Art of Revolution: Spoken Word, Video and Performance Art to Change The World: dbi.young
Dec 06, 2011 04:52 pm | Jill Goldberg

D'bi's work is fiery. She stares down issues like racism, sexism, homophobia, colonialism, slavery, and the inequities visited upon the world by capitalism, but perhaps her most enduring theme is love.
Phil Rockstroh: Amid The Architecture Of Declining Capitalism: Memes, Death Genes And Real Estate Schemes
Dec 06, 2011 04:40 pm | Phil Rockstroh

The recent pepper spraying incident at the University of California at Davis represents more than an opportunity to create a cleverly photoshopped, viral meme. The act is part and parcel of a larger collective mindset-a proclivity towards authoritarian overreaction now deeply internalized in daily life in the U.S. To cite only a ...
Rabbi Michael Lerner: What If They Sent in Social Services to Help Occupations Instead of Riot Cops to Bust Heads?
Dec 01, 2011 02:13 pm | Rabbi Michael Lerner

Call Mayor Bloomberg of NYC, Mayor Jean Quan of Oakland, or whoever is your mayor and suggest that they support the Occupy movement by providing encouragement to social workers, teachers, clergy and others to go down to the Occupy encampments and volunteer time and energy to help those who badly need this support!! Cities are cutting ...
Stephen Phelps: Touching Taxes
Dec 08, 2011 08:04 pm | Stephen Phelps

This sermon by Rev. Stephen Phelps, the interim Senior Minister at the Riverside Church in New York, is the first in an ongoing series of sermons by the Reverend. Romans 12: 1-13; Matthew 22: 16-22 Almost 180 years ago, the French citizen Alexis de Tocqueville traveled the new America and later described the character of our people ...
Sally Carless: Global Village School: ESRAs Education Vision in Action
Dec 02, 2011 06:57 pm | Sally Carless

by Sally Carless The Environmental and Social Responsibility Amendment (ESRA) articulates a clear call for a much-needed type of education one that prepares youth to live as socially and environmentally responsible citizens of the world. It defines the kind of education required to provide them with the appropriate scientific, ethical, and behavioral knowledge and skills ...
Torah Commentary: Vayishlach- On Not Blaming the Victim
Dec 06, 2011 06:53 pm | Mark Kirschbaum

...one who is sensitive to these matters cannot help feeling that simply ignoring the most prominently accepted commentator does not heal the added injustice done to Dinah and Leah (injustice one: the actual crime, injustice two: a tradition blaming the victims for the crime). The tradition of using these texts as a proof for the value of modesty is a long one, and it becomes to some degree a third trauma, to all the women who read this, who thus internalize a subtext of personal responsibility for crimes of this sort...
Jeff Pozmantier: Christians United For Israel: Israels Mistaken Embrace
Dec 11, 2011 05:15 pm | Jeff Pozmantier

When so many citizens and governments of so many countries regularly bathe in an anti-Israel bias, why would Israel ever reject a loving embrace? Christians United For Israel (CUFI), founded in 2006, is now the largest pro-Israel (see Israels pro-Israel definition) group anywhere in the known universe and afterlife over 500,000 strong and bountifully multiplying. All committed and loyally ...
Harriet Fraad: Hope is here with the OWS movement
Dec 02, 2011 05:05 pm | Harriet Fraad

Occupy Wall street has inspired a wild level of creativity which comes from hope. Hope is so badly needed in America. For over 20 years, we have been passively enduring capitalist abuse and blaming ourselves for our suffering. Antidepressant pill use has increased 400% in the past 20 years during which the 99% sink ...
Torah Commentary: Perashat Vayetze- Stumbling Forward into the Night
Dec 01, 2011 11:58 pm | Mark Kirschbaum

...The dream will be revealed to be the reality we frequently were able to sense, to be tugging at us from just beneath the everyday, a sense of meaning beneath the cruel and unjust realities of contemporary existence....

from Edward Herman :
Date: 15 December 2011
Subject: A review of the work of Thomas Friedman at the New York Times.

A nice review of a good book on an awful man.
ed herman

McJournalism: The Unbearable Lightness of Thomas Friedman
by Cyril Mychalejko

from Jim O'Brien
Date: 14 December 2011
Subject: Historians Against War Reading List.

1.  There is one more day (today) to sign the on-line petition supporting the resolution against torture that the Chicago City Council will discuss on Thursday, Dec. 15.  Signers of the petition (at http://signon.org/sign/city-of-chicago-resolution) need not be from Chicago.  Last nights message from Margaret Power to the HAW list has already resulted in well over a hundred new signatories.

2.  Through discussions on the H-Net Labor History listserv in late November, a number of historians have started a group called Historians for Occupy, in support of the worldwide movement initiated by Occupy Wall Street.  Sandy Polishuk is the primary coordinator.  The Web site, with sign-up list, is at https://occupyhistoryna.wordpress.com

3.  At the annual American Historical Association convention in Chicago, January 5-8, a special session on the jobs crisis in history has been scheduled for 1:00 - 2:30 Friday afternoon, January 6, chaired by the AHA president.  Jesse Lemisch, one of the invited speakers, will present his proposal for a new Federal Writers Project (see article below).

4.  Priscilla Murolo has asked us to pass along her recommendation of the Egyptian activist Web site No Military Trials for Civilians (http://en.nomiltrials.com).

Links to Recent Articles of Interest

"Washington's Actions on Palestine Don't Differ from Gingrich's Words"
By Juan Cole, Informed Comment blog, posted December 11
The author teaches history at the University of Michigan

"David Montgomery Obituary"
By Eric Foner, The Guardian, posted December 11
The author teaches history at Columbia University

"War on Iran Has Already Begun: Act before It Threatens All of Us"
By Seamas Milne, The Guardian, posted December 7

"Playing with Fire: Obama's Risky Oil Threat to China"
By Michael Klare, TomDispatch.com, posted December 6

"U.S. Budget Cuts and the Next War of Choice"
By Bennett Ramberg, Japan Times, posted December 5

"Israeli Ads against Marriage with American Jews Are Part of a Population War"
By Juan Cole, Informed Comment blog, posted December 3

"Occupy the American Historical Association: Demand a WPA Federal Writers' Project"
By Jesse Lemisch, History News Network, posted November 28
The author is a professor emeritus of history at John Jay College, CUNY

Thanks to Rusti Eisenberg and Rosalyn Baxandall for suggesting items that are included in the above list.  Suggestions can be sent to jimobrien48@gmail.com.