Subject: ON ILLEGITIMATE & VENAL DEPENDENT POWER HIERARCHIES AND OTHER SOURCES OF DESPOTISM AND OF SOPHISTRY.
1 April 2013
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
One aspect of any study of social movements is to identify “wolves in lamb's clothing”, the faux amis who abound in any movement and who sometimes insinuate themselves into leadership positions, just long enough to subvert the momentum and derail the trajectory of the class conscious masses.
Michael Mann, author of the four-volume study, The Sources of Social Power, identifies in the conclusion of Volume 3 of this work, which is entitled “Global Empires and Revolution, 1890-1945,” the historic efficacy of subversions such as militarism and nationalism.
The dynamics of capitalism and the entry of the masses onstage in the theater of power led to class struggle, revolution, and reform and the achievement of popular national citizenship. However, they also charted terrible hubris, as the self-destructive racism and militarism of Europe culminated in two world wars, devastating the continent, bringing two waves of revolution, murderous regimes, and destruction of the European empires, and the rise of the two imperial successors –the United States and the Soviet Union—the marcher lords of the European periphery. In this half-century, military power changed the world, bloodily fracturing it until the conditions of postwar peace allowed some recovery. (p.458)
Mann goes on to assert that,
class and nation were not the opposite. They grew together, entwined, each encouraging the development of the other. As the grip of state and capitalist bureaucracies tightened on the people, they reacted with insurgent movements. As men from the lower classes, minorities, and women achieved more rights as citizens, this in turn strengthened the nation-state and capitalism. Mass-mobilization warfare contained varied dynamics of class and nation. Both [world] wars increased nationalism, enhancing perceptions of national identity and more aggressive nationalism. Yet as the first war dragged on, perceptions that unequal sacrifices were being made increased class consciousness. For nations whose war experience went well, reformist class consciousness was boosted. This was also so for neutral nations badly affected by the war who also had to sacrifice. Reformers did best where they could form broad alliances between workers, peasants, and middle-class elements. Then they could plausibly claim to lead the people, as Swedish Social Democrats did most strikingly. Thus, class transmuted into nation, shifting the nation a little leftward, but for nations whose war went badly, hostility to the ruling regime increased, as did an aggressive class consciousness. This led to revolutionary explosions, after which the Bolsheviks claimed that the working class was the nation. When the other revolutions failed, reformism flourished for a time. However, it did not last, for these reformers failed to transform class into nation. Indeed, much of the people and the dominant classes alike tired of continuing class conflict and invited fascist and other despots in to end it. In the process, they got a much more aggressive nationalism than they had bargained on. Thus, the dialectic between class and nation continued through this period. (p.463)
Class consciousness is also the subject of the writings of the former African American slave Frederick Douglass, (1818-1895) who won his freedom in 1838. A new edition his book, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave, Written by Himself, was published in 2009, edited by Angela Davis. We see in the thoughts of this working-class intellectual a commitment to ideas, not as vehicles for passing exams and publishing articles to enhance CVs, but rather as weapons for revolutionary struggle, a means by which individuals and social classes can win freedom from the cages which entrapment them, and defend themselves from bourgeois mental constructs such as militarism and nationalism, in order to gain access to new methods of emancipation by asserting their will power within the necessary constraints of collective memory, rational thought, and authentic feelings. Such are the mental activities Fred Douglas employed to emerge out of bondage and to achieve his full humanity. Frederick Douglass is no mean example of this universal trajectory; Franz Fanon is another. [See our discussions of Antonio Damasio’s book, Descartes' Error: Emotion, Reason, and the Human Brain (1994) in CEIMSA Bulletins #348: ‘ON MORAL BLINDNESS & WAR RESISTANCE’, #360: ‘ON NANOWARRIORS AND SOCIAL CLASS STRUGGLE’, #371: ‘ON MORAL BLINDNESS IN THE LABYRINTH OF PAIN AND PLEASURE’,#408: ‘ON BODY HEAT AND THE ETHICS OF "MINDING" ONES OWN BUSINESS’, and, #447: ‘ON THE CARNIVORES OF WAR AND THEIR PARASITICAL ATTACHMENTS’, and #449: ‘ON SMOKE, AND MIRRORS, AND MATERIAL RELATIONSHIPS BENEATH THE VOLCANO’.]
Frederick Douglass, circa 1874
“The whole history of progress of human liberty shows that all concessions yet made to her august claims have been born of earnest struggle. If there is no struggle there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet deprecate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground, they want rain without thunder and lightning, they want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
In the 12 items below we can see how the formation of venal hierarchies have produced cages in which many of us live and which do more harm than good. This is a demonstrable fact in contemporary daily life, where we see around us a disorientation, a confusion, the “quiet lives of desperation” that pass as “social order,” but which really represent a thin veneer hiding the servitude and misery that promises to be the future of us all, unless we begin to think for ourselves and enter into authentic discussions.
Item A. from Mark Crispin Miller, is an article by Robert Perry who is questioning: “Where was Pope Francis during Argentina's "dirty war"?
Item B., sent to us by Professor John Clark of Loyola University of New Orleans, is an article by Goldie Silence first published in FIFTH ESTATE, describing the Neo-McCarthyism witch hunts that appear to be starting in the North-Eastern part of the United States today.
Item C. , from Democracy Now!, is a discussion of class warfare in the United States, where the 1% continues to wage war on the 99%, using their financial advantages and the media stooges who man their illegitimate dependent power hierarchies to serve their masters by disarming the people, as much as possible.
Item D. , from Truth Out, is an article by Noam Chomsky, on the ineluctable trends of Capitalist Growths.
Item E. , from Democracy Now!, is an interview with Mathew Fox on “The Pope’s War: Fascism and the Church.”
Item F. , from Professor Edward S. Herman, is an article on Hugo Chávez's Legacy by Mark Weisbrot.
Item G. , from Michael Tikili, is a report from The Naked 7, “who need your help.”
Item H. , from Mark Crispin Miller, is an article by Dennis J. Bernstein, on the growing social movement against dismantling the US post office.
Item I. , from The Kaiser Report, contains a discussion of Capitalist control of the world’s food supply.
Item J. , from Truthout, is an artcle by Joshua Stephens on Antifascism and Neighborhood Resistance in Athens, Greece.
Item K. , from Change.org, is an invitation to sign the petition to the Japanese Government: “End participation in US and Israel warmongering! "
And finally, we offer readers a naked view of the 'forces of order' and the 'forces of change' outside the gilded cage of bourgeoise intellectual constructs :
Boris Vian- Le déserteur
James Steele: America's mystery man in Iraq
The full length version of 15-month investigation by the Guardian and BBC Arabic reveals how retired US colonel James Steele, a veteran of American proxy wars in El Salvador and Nicaragua, played a key role in training and overseeing US-funded special police commandos who ran a network of torture centres in Iraq
Professor of American Studies
University of Grenoble-3
Director of Research
University of Paris-Nanterre
Center for the Advanced Study of American Institutions and Social Movements
The University of California-San Diego
from Mark Crispin Miller :
Date: 13 March 2013
Subject: Where was Pope Francis during Argentina's "dirty war"?
The U.S. “news” networks bubbled with excitement over the selection of Argentine Cardinal Jorge Bergoglio to be Pope Francis I. But there was silence on the obvious question that should be asked about any senior cleric from Argentina: What was Bergoglio doing during the “dirty war,” writes Robert Parry.
The Dirty War’ Questions for Pope Francis
by Robert Parry
from John Clark :
Date: 4 March 2013
Subject: Inquisition 2012: Northwest federal grand jury targets anarchists.
Inquisition 2012 : Northwest federal grand jury targets anarchists
Activists jailed for their resistance to the attempt to criminalize a philosophy
by Goldie Silence
As of early November, three people were detained in the SeaTac Federal Detention Facility near Seattle because of their refusal to provide a federal grand jury with information about anarchist beliefs and associations.
Federal government prosecutors claim they are investigating violent actions at demonstrations, but the Portland-based Committee Against Political Repression says the extensive surveillance, SWAT raids, and grand jury subpoenas are not simply a response to a few broken windows, but an effort to criminalize the political philosophy of anarchism.
Local activists Matt Duran and Katherine "KteeO" Olejnik are charged with civil contempt for refusing to testify. They, and anyone else subpoenaed by the panel during its term, can be incarcerated until it is dissolved in March 2014, or longer if its term is extended.
This political inquisition went public in July 2012, when several homes in the Pacific Northwest were raided by heavily armed local police SWAT teams, and FBI and Joint Terrorism Task Force agents, using battering rams, flash grenades, and assault rifles. They also exercised search warrants for literature and other items related to anarchist activities, and what government agencies vaguely identify as an "ongoing violent crime investigation."
At the same time, subpoenas were issued for people to testify before a Seattle-based federal grand jury. In September, the jailing of anarchists who refused to cooperate with the nightmarish proceedings began.
All of those subpoenaed so far have bravely declared their resolve to resist the grand jury demands despite the hardships this creates for them, their families, and friends. Leah-Lynn Plante, the third person to resist the grand jury, has vividly discussed the fear and emotional turmoil she experienced from the military-style raid on her home, the exacerbation of previous emotional problems it has caused, and not being able to sleep properly ever since.
Sadly, what the government has been doing in the Northwest is far from an aberration, but an integral part of the normal ongoing state repression of dissenters. Since anarchist activities and ideas are currently receiving so much public attention, and even respect, it is no surprise they are being targeted.
In March 2012, the federal government formed a grand jury in Seattle to investigate political activities. But this only came to public notice in July when homes were invaded. These heavy-handed government moves can be best understood in the context of the past two years of militant protest activities throughout the U.S. In the Pacific Northwest, there have been increasing numbers and intensity of actions in opposition to widespread police brutality and murders, the vicious and degrading prison system, austerity measures, and decreases in public transit service with fare increases, deteriorating educational opportunities, loss of jobs and affordable housing, gentrification, racist and anti-immigrant policies, the crackdown against the #Occupy movement, and the general humiliations of everyday life.
Police attacks with so-called non-lethal weapons, arrests, prolonged court cases, and imprisonment, along with increasingly draconian laws, have not significantly quelled these diverse ongoing protest actions. This is of great concern to those in power, particularly as people focusing on different social issues and approaches have joined together, albeit tentatively and with ongoing debates and disagreements over methods and goals.
The majority of those subpoenaed to testify have so far been anarchists, but the sweep of this attempt at intimidation also includes those who do not consider themselves anarchists or anti-authoritarians.
Federal grand juries have long been used in the U.S. to collect information about individuals and groups involved in social movements and to intimidate people as part of the government's long history of repressing dissent. These bodies consist of 16 to 23 jurors chosen solely by government prosecutors with no procedure for those called to testify or their attorneys to protest the empanelment of any juror based on that person's bias or any other grounds.
The very existence of such panels and what is being investigated are considered to be secret, and those subpoenaed may not even be told the purpose of the hearings. Moreover, there is no limit on the kinds of questions people can be asked including very personal matters, information about friends and acquaintances, as well as political activities.
The context is especially intimidating because the proceedings are held behind closed doors, and neither attorneys of those summoned nor the general public are permitted to attend. No one knows in advance whether or not a grand jury will charge any of those subpoenaed or their associates with crimes.
Over the years, many people subpoenaed before grand juries have refused to testify, risking jail for civil contempt, whether or not the grand jury has eventually decided to charge them with a specific crime. Those who refuse to testify can be held as long as 18 months, and extensions of periods of imprisonment are not unheard of.
In 2010 and 2011 there were militant demonstrations against police brutality and for students' rights in the Northwest. Following these, #Occupy and the West Coast port shutdowns involved many people in actions related to social issues for the first time. And, as the various protests have continued, people have been supporting each other in their increasing militancy.
Moreover, sympathy for, if not active involvement in, targeted vandalism has been on the rise. All of this has led to increasingly militant public demonstrations, including the 2012 May Day demonstrations.
Well before May 1, the international working peoples' day, mayors and police chiefs throughout the country were preparing the public to accept justification for government crackdowns by announcing that they were expecting "anarchist violence" and intending to meet it with strict control measures. The federal grand jury formed last March in Seattle is clearly part of the crackdown.
While it is wrong to conclude that growing militancy is the direct cause of the intensifying government repression, it certainly has been used as justification.
Seattle's liberal/progressive Mayor Mike McGinn strongly reiterated this message immediately before the scheduled May day demonstrations, on April 30. On May 1, McGinn went so far as to declare an emergency situation, claiming anarchists constituted a threat to public safety. As it turned out, what occurred was vandalism against corporate and government property.
Then in July came the raids on homes in Seattle and Olympia, Washington, and Portland, Oregon, along with subpoenas requiring people to testify before the grand jury.
On August 2, only Leah-Lynn Plante appeared at the Federal Courthouse in Seattle. After formally telling the grand jury that she refused to answer their questions, she was temporarily allowed to return home. But, Plante and two others were subpoenaed to appear again in September.
On September 13, the grand jury met again, and this time Plante and Matt Duran appeared, but both refused to testify. Duran was stripped of his right to remain silent by being given immunity from prosecution based on what he might tell the grand jury. He still refused to testify and was charged with civil contempt and held in solitary confinement for almost a month before being moved into the general prison population.
On September 27 another subpoenaed person, Katherine "KteeO" Olejnik appeared and refused to testify. Since, like Duran, she was stripped of her legal rights by being given immunity, she was also charged with civil contempt and incarcerated.
Plante refused to testify for a third time on October 10, and became the third person to be imprisoned for refusing to cooperate. However, on October 17 she appeared before the grand jury and was quietly released. The conditions of her release have not yet been made public.
On October 25, another person, Matthew "Maddy" Pfeiffer was served with a subpoena to appear before the grand jury on November 7. After receiving the subpoena, Maddy joined the others in declaring the intention to not cooperate.
It is clear that the Seattle grand jury's intent is to gather information on anarchists and others for the purpose of further surveillance and repression, as well as to make cooperation between dissenters difficult by creating fear and distrust among those who have participated in protest activities. The grand jury resisters clearly articulate their intention to resist this.
As Olejnik says, "For me choosing to resist a grand jury is about humanity--I cannot and will not say something that could greatly harm a person's life and providing information that could lead to long term incarceration would be doing that."
Labeling those being targeted as "anarchists," even those with long histories of identifying themselves as other than anarchist, does not simply stem from police and FBI ignorance of differences between various political and social perspectives. It enables the government to send the message that cooperating with anarchists, or even possessing and/or reading anarchist literature, is dangerous.
Nevertheless, the raids and grand jury proceedings have had the opposite effect, resulting in over 400 organizations and thousands of individuals expressing their support for and solidarity with those affected, and many actions in solidarity across the U.S. and the world.
For more information: Committee Against Political Repression at nopoliticalrepression.wordpress.com
from Democracy Now ! :
Date: 26 February 2013
Subject: Billionaires for Austerity.
Billionaires for Austerity: With Cuts Looming, Wall Street Roots of "Fix the Debt" Campaign Exposed
from Truth Out :
Date: 7 March 2013
Subject: The continuity of capitalist growth like cancer.
There is much to learn, says Noam Chomsky, from the fact that countries that have driven indigenous populations to extinction or extreme marginalization are racing toward destruction.
Will Capitalism Destroy Civilization?
by Noam Chomsky
from Democracy Now ! :
Date: 28 February 2013
Subject: The Pope’s War: Fascism and the Church.
Fascism in the Church: Ex-Priest on "The Pope’s War," Clergy Abuse and Quelling Liberation Theology
Matthew Fox, author of over two dozen books, most recently, The Pope’s War: Why Ratzinger’s Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved. He is a former Catholic priest who was first stopped from teaching liberation theology and creation spirituality by Cardinal Ratzinger, then expelled from the Dominican Order to which he had belonged for 34 years. He currently serves as an Episcopal priest.
As Pope Benedict XVI steps down today, we turn to a former Catholic priest who was silenced and expelled by the pope, then-Cardinal Ratzinger, in the 1980s. Matthew Fox chronicles his story in the book "The Pope’s War: Why Ratzinger’s Secret Crusade Has Imperiled the Church and How It Can Be Saved." Pope Benedict’s tenure was marked by several scandals, most notably his handling of the widening sexual abuse scandals in the Catholic Church, including allegations that he ignored at least one case of abuse while serving as a cardinal. Documents show that in 1985 he delayed efforts to defrock a priest convicted of molesting children. "I’ll take the pope at his word here when he says he’s tired. I would be tired, too, if I left as much devastation in my wake as he has," Fox says. "I think that the Catholic Church as we know it, the structure of the Vatican, is passé. We’re moving beyond it. And it’s become a viper’s nest. It’s really sick, what’s going on, obviously — the cover-up of the pedophile priests."
Fascism in the Church: Ex-Priest on "The Pope’s War," Clergy Abuse and Quelling Liberation Theology
from Edward S. Herman :
Date: 5 March 2013
Subject: Hugo Chávez's Legacy.
by Mark Weisbrot
El Comandante has left the building
by Pepe Escobar
From Michael Tikili :
Date: 7 March 2013
Subject: Keep the Clothes on Our Backs: the Naked 7 need your help
As you know, the sequester, those automatic across-the-board budget cuts that will kill 36,000 people living with AIDS this year, who would have otherwise survived, have taken effect because Speaker Boehner and Congress decided to protect Wall Street and the wealthiest 1% instead of poor and people living with HIV/AIDS. This will have a devastating direct effect on the global AIDS pandemic.
To stand up against these draconian cuts, members of Health GAP, Queerocracy, ACT UP NY and ACT UP Philly stripped naked in the House Speaker Boehner’s office in the Longworth Building in Washington D.C. on November 27th, 2012, in an act of civil disobedience. Our goal was to expose the “naked truth” about what sequestration cuts will mean to AIDS programs. We must remember that this demonstration was not primarily about nudity, but was intended to be a smart tactic that would bring media attention to these deadly cuts.
We have been told that all seven of us will be found guilty of a misdemeanor. We will have to continue to make trips to DC from NYC, Providence, Tampa and Philadelphia to attend court and potentially perform community service. Our fines will be several hundred dollars each.
We are asking you to do 2 things:
1. Call Senator Reid and demand that he restores cuts to programs that will end AIDS in the FY13 and 14 budget processes. Call him at (202) 224‐3542
2. Please donate here to help with the legal fees of the Naked seven.
Naked Seven Protestor
From Mark Crispin Miler :
Date: 6 March 2013
Subject: The war against the Post Office is a war against the people.
[The U.S. Postal Service, which has bound the nation together since its founding, is under intense pressure to privatize, especially from business rivals and libertarians. But Post Offices represent some of America’s finest examples of public space and common purpose, scholar Gray Brechin tells Dennis J. Bernstein.]
By Dennis J. Bernstein
There is a growing grassroots movement to save the U.S. Postal Service from right-wing Republicans who want to privatize it and turn over its most lucrative pieces to the likes of Fed Ex and United Parcel Service. Fed Ex and privatizing advocates have lobbied Congress to make this happen.
Dennis J, Bernstein spoke with Dr. Gray Brechin, project scholar for the Living New Deal at the University of California, Berkeley. Brechin is engaged in the effort to save the U.S. Post Office as a public trust, as well as the people’s art commissioned as a part of Franklin Roosevelt’s New Deal.
DB: I want to read a little bit from this a piece that you blogged in the middle of last year about this: “Thousands of post offices stand to be converted to condos, restaurants, real estate offices or demolished to cover the Postal Service’s largely manufactured deficit. Those that rely on the Post Office are protesting the disappearance of this still vital public service but few have registered what this fire sale represents to the nation’s architectural and artistic legacy…”
….and I guess that’s the door we’re going to come in Gray Brechin. It’s really one of the remaining peoples’ institutions, if you will. And so maybe you can give us just a little bit of history about how the Post Office evolved and why we need a Post Office when we’ve got the Internet.
GB: Well, I never imagined I’d be getting into Post Office studies but I sort of got sucked into it because in the last ten years I’ve been studying the New Deal. We’ve been inventorying and mapping it and it got me thinking about The Public, in general. Because what I realized is what the New Deal was, it was a huge expansion of the idea of The Public, or if you like, the commonwealth. That is what we all own. And very often — as with the Post Office — it’s what we’ve paid for. What our parents and our grandparents paid for and built.
But it also got me interested in the war against the New Deal, against Franklin Roosevelt, and I realized it’s been going on for thirty to forty years. And it really gained strength under President Reagan who was sort of the anti-Roosevelt, you know. Equally as charismatic but to opposite ends.
And what happened was that these neoliberals, as we now call them, and libertarians began taking over under Reagan. And in 1986 they came up with something called “Starve the Beast.” That came out of the White House. First off, it’s interesting that you would refer to your government as, The Beast. You know that’s a great way to begin distancing people from it, and seeing it as the enemy rather than as us. And Reagan was very good at that. But the idea behind Starve the Beast was that you deliberately bankrupt your government through tax cuts and tax shifts; that is, shifting from progressive to regressive taxes.
You do this over a long period of time, it’s a long march through the institutions and in doing that you can actually get rid of The Public. And you can actually make a very nice profit from doing so as you privatize what was the commons and take it away from the public that paid for and built it. And that’s essentially what’s happening with the Post Office.
I’ll tell you another thing that happened because what’s happening to the Post Office is linked to what’s happening to public education, public parks, etc. In the 1990s, I was teaching geography and I gave a tour of the San Francisco Presidio, which was just being transferred from the Army to the Park Service at that time. And as I was taking the students into a building, one of the new rangers took me aside and said “Watch this very carefully.” He said, “No other national park has been required to turn a profit.” He said, “This is the entering wedge for what they are going to do to the national parks.”
And sure enough, what happened was that the Presidio Trust which is appointed by the President is mostly real estate people. So the Presidio serves as a kind of model for what could happen to the other national parks, particularly if we go off the fiscal cliff and there’s no money to operate them anymore. And that’s essentially what happened to the Post Office. In 2006, the Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act was passed by Congress, a paid Congress I might add, paid by UPS and Fed Ex and Pitney Bowes and other companies.
DB: A very unprofitable Congress. … I don’t think they made much money … but anyway…
GB: They’ve actually been making out like the bandits that they are. Fed Ex is one of the biggest lobbyists and actually gives huge amounts of money to Congress members, and they want the Post Office. They want the profitable business of the Post Office. They are backed up by the right-wing and libertarian think tanks, like the American Enterprise Institute, the Cato Institute, the Independent Institute, the Peter Peterson Foundation. They’ve all done papers about this, and also, by ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, whose dirty fingerprints I see all over that 2006 act, in Congress, that is now poisoning and killing the Postal Service so that they now, not only have to cut services, and everybody’s noticed it, because we’re essentially watching the dismantling of this public service under our very eyes.
But they’re also selling off our real estate, and our art. I say that quite deliberately. It’s not theirs; it’s ours, we all own it, and you should always use the first person plural when speaking about this. It is not theirs. Especially the art, which the Roosevelt administration created, which is unique to the United States.
DB: I do want to take a few minutes to talk about what’s at stake in terms of these structures, the art and what they mean to people in that context.
GB: Well, again, Dennis, I mean that’s how I got into this. Because as I was looking at those buildings I became more and more amazed at their quality. And about how you go into some of these old Post Offices and they uplift you because they have amplitude, they’ve got great spaces, wonderful materials, great craftsmanship. And I found out that’s not accidental.
These are the physical expressions of the federal government across the nation, in every small town, and in cities they become palaces, actually. And the idea behind them was that they would represent for people, that far off Washington, D.C., its integrity and its public service in the case of the Postal Service. … what Ben Franklin, the first Postmaster, set up in 1775 to serve everybody. Too, it was required to provide universal service to bind the nation together and to do it at a very reasonable price. And it’s been doing that quite successfully ever since. But these buildings and the art in them, are unique, they’re beautiful and they’re precious. We can’t afford to lose them.
DB: And, for instance, what’s in them? What is in these Post Offices? When you talk about precious art, that’s not hyperbole. This is extraordinary stuff.
GB: Well, yes, because this is the people’s art gallery. They are most famous for the murals but there are sculptures, too. And these were meant to reflect Americans back to themselves in public spaces. This had never happened before. So Americans could go into their Post Offices — which is often the most public place in their town — and they would see the work that they do. Well, they would also see their history, their legends, etc. But most commonly they’d see their work and it conveyed the dignity of labor, of ranching, farming, mining, fishing, whatever happens to be the local specialty.
But it’s all about work. Now that was important during the Depression, of course, when people didn’t have work, so they wanted to see what gives their lives meaning, that work. And what also has surprised me is how often it is postal workers and I realized that’s to celebrate the sort of everyday heroism of the work that people do to bind the nation together, to communicate with and to serve one another. We don’t think of that. And I didn’t think about it before, about what a miracle the postal system is and the people, the hundreds of thousands of men and women who do that kind of work.
Now I appreciate it enormously and I always thank my postman, because he’s about to get a lot more work, actually, if they eliminate the Saturday delivery, because on Monday he’s going to be having to carry another day of mail, with him if Postmaster General [Patrick] Donahoe gets rid of Saturday delivery. And he’ll be getting to your houses at about eight o’clock at night with a flashlight and looking very, very tired.
DB: Really? And some noted artists, participated in these paintings, as a part of this. For instance, who’s up on the walls?
GB: A lot of the artists are ones that you probably wouldn’t recognize, although they were known in their time.
DB: But the people there will recognize the people in the murals on the walls.
GB: Oh, they’ll see themselves and their surroundings, etc., as I said their myths. … There’s one in Troy, New York, there are wonderful murals of the Legend of Sleepy Hollow, because that’s where Washington Irving hung out, in that area. But some of the artists were quite famous actually. Paul Cadmus, Adolf Gottlieb, etc. My favorite, of course, is Ben Shahn, one of the great social realists of that time.
And the funny thing is, I wrote an article last May for the Living New Deal newsletter and I said specifically that when the Postal Service management found out how much that art is worth, they would sell that too. Well, just a couple of weeks ago, it announced that it’s going to sell the Central Bronx post office. A very large Post Office from the New Deal and it’s got thirteen Ben Shahn murals in it that are probably worth more than the building and the real estate it’s on. Thirteen murals and they show Americans doing their work in factories, with jack hammers, etc. And he was asked about that, and he said he wanted to show people in the Bronx what the kind of work that people all around the United States do, not just there but everywhere else. It’s a celebration of labor.
DB: And I wanted to ask you to talk a little bit about something you mentioned in an earlier interview about friends and historians come to the United States and do a Post Office tour, right? They study history through the Post Office.
GB: Yes. I have friends in Australia who love to come to the U.S. and take road trips so that they can see our Post Offices, because you never know what you are going to run into in these small towns. You’ll often run into a beautiful building and very often art in it. But it’s always a surprise and actually it’s infectious, because I do the same thing now too. Whenever I travel I make sure to visit the small towns, go in … and sometimes my mind is just blown. Like I was recently up in Oregon, I went into Grants Pass and it’s all paneled in the most beautiful, spider-web marble, with bronze trimming, etc.
DB: I’d love to do a tour of interviews of small town post master generals…
GB: Wouldn’t that be wonderful?
DB: We’re talking a little bit about what we’re going to lose and who’s going to lose it. Who gains? And there are specific people who are engaged that we need to know about, right?
GB: Well, yes, there’s a lot to gain. As I said, United Parcel Service, Fed Ex, and Pitney Bowes all want the profitable business from their public rival. And so they were probably backing this unconscionable act in 2006 which is now killing the Post Office, very successfully. I would say that Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe probably has a very cushy job waiting for him at FedEx.
DB: That seems pretty obvious.
GB: Oh, I think so, that’s the old revolving door. But the main thing is the press has shamefully fallen down on this. Basically it has not seen the big picture. It occasionally mentions the 2006 act as the proximate cause of why this is all happening. But it hasn’t noticed something very important, and that’s the real estate. These post offices were designed for the centers of every town and city, because it had to be most accessible, and to serve all the businesses as well as the people in those places. So suddenly, what happens, if all of this goes on the market? Well, it’s been conservatively estimated that the real estate portfolio held by the U.S. Postal Service in trust for us, is worth about $105 billion. And if anybody can get their hands on that they are going to make a very nice profit.
So in July of last year, the Postal Service gave an exclusive contract to a giant real estate company called CBRE. CB. Richard Ellis is a giant company which is part of a holding company owned by billionaire, private equity financier, Richard C. Blum, a regent of the University of California, who has been busy privatizing my university. But he also happens to be married to Senator Dianne Feinstein, probably the most powerful senator in Congress. This is an extraordinary conflict of interest but it’s not uncommon in Senator Feinstein’s history. She’s had many conflicts of interests that the mainstream press has not really investigated. But this is a really stinky one. And so CBRE is busy selling our property, and our art is going with it. It’s kind of a package deal often. And the press hasn’t noticed this at all.
DB: Well, conflict of interest here? You know, what’s Senator Feinstein’s position on saving the Post Office?
GB: Oh, well she says she’s really, sort of, in favor of it. The only paper that’s really reported on this was the little La Jolla Light newspaper because their downtown Post Office with a very fine mural is for sale.
DB: Doesn’t she have a house out there, or something?
GB: That’s one of the few places they don’t have a house. They have about seven or eight, I can’t keep track. These people do very nicely. Indeed, their mansion in San Francisco is just below the Getty’s actually, with a fine view of the Bay. But, yeah, her office said that she was actually trying to help the people in La Jolla save their Post Office and its mural. Well, I can well imagine she was because La Jolla is filled with a lot of very wealthy people who are campaign contributors.
DB: They don’t want to lose their beautiful mural.
GB: No. So she’s been very solicitous to the people of La Jolla. But she hasn’t been to us in Berkeley, or Ukiah, or Canby, Oregon, or the Central Bronx, or all those places. She hasn’t been nearly as solicitous about those Post Offices. As a matter of fact she’s been completely silent on them. And I can understand why.
DB: I do want to conclude this interview by giving you a chance to sort of sum up and say what is at stake, what is the heart of the matter here? What is this battle really about?
GB: Well, the heart of the matter is The Public. Everything in our commonwealth is being stolen from us. I was recently threatened with arrest for trying to go into the Philadelphia main Post Office which I found out had been sold. And I said to the guard, I said “They are taking everything away from us.” And he said, “Yes, I know. Now get out of here.” And I was threatened with arrest and confiscation of my camera. This is what is happening. It is the enclosure of our commons, of everything. And, Dennis, The Public is central to a republic. This is what we allown. When it is all taken away from us, we are all immensely impoverished, and They are immensely enriched.
Only a very, very few people will own everything, and govern us. And we see that example in Dianne Feinstein and her husband who are getting in at the hog trough, in taking away what really belongs to all of us, what our parents paid for, what the artists painted, the sculptors sculpted. We can’t allow this to happen. This belongs to all of us and is central to what America, at its very best, once was. We can’t allow them to steal it from us.
Dennis J. Bernstein is a host of “Flashpoints” on the Pacifica radio network and the author of Special Ed: Voices from a Hidden Classroom. You can access the audio archives at www.flashpoints.net. He can be contacted at email@example.com.
From The Kaiser Report :
Date: 6 March 2013
Subject: More on Capitalist control of food supply.
Report on the Food Monopoly and Expected Deaths it Causes
Pandora’s Lunchbox: Pulling Back the Curtain on How Processed Food Took Over the American Meal
From Truthout :
Date: 3 March 2013
Subject: Antifascism and Neighborhood Resistance in Athens.
Writing the Unwritten Handbook: Antifascism and Neighborhood Resistance in Athens
by Joshua Stephens
Last spring, I was invited to give a handful of talks in Athens and Thessaloniki on the Occupy movement. Not long after I returned to New York City, it was revealed that the Greek neo-Nazi party, Golden Dawn now the country's third-largest, with the electoral backing of half the country's police force had established something of a diplomatic mission, setting up offices in Montreal, Sydney and smack in my backyard in the Queens neighborhood of Astoria. A swift organizing effort kicked off in response, and Golden Dawn backers were promptly stripped of their office space in a local Greek community center, but not before they managed to solicit donations of money and clothing from local businesses "for struggling Greek families." So I returned to Athens to check in with anti-fascist organizers about the work happening in Astoria, and to get feedback about how to better synchronize our efforts.
Even more cartoonish than Golden Dawn's well-publicized, thuggish petulance (both in and outside of parliament) are its attempts to position itself as a salve to Greece's austerity woes at the grassroots level. Free food distribution has been set up in parks a la Food Not Bombs, with the caveat of being "for Greeks only." Despite little evidence of support or participation from medical practitioners (indeed, doctors have collectively refused to withhold treatment from immigrants), the party recently announced its own health project: the laughably titled Doctors With Borders. However little substance there may be to these projects, and however cynical, the public relations effect is real. Golden Dawn markets the notion that its opposition to austerity extends beyond merely scapegoating immigrants, homosexuals and others; the party presents itself as a tangible antidote to the country's suffering and the government's seeming determination to worsen it at the behest of international lenders.
Students of post-WWI Germany likely see little new in Golden Dawn's strategy. Fascism has historically emerged from the splintered beams of economic wreckage and failed states, mobilizing widespread anxieties, circulating a currency of idealized national identity as a buffer against shame and defeat. What's less well-understood in Greece's case is that Golden Dawn has set about this process, in part, by aping efforts on the other end of the political spectrum, dating back to the winter of 2008, when the police murder of 15-year-old Alexandros Grigoropoulos sparked riots across the country.
"On the first day of the uprising, we smashed the police stations," an anarchist in Thessaloniki told me last spring. "On the second, we smashed the banks. On the third, there was nothing left to smash, and we were suddenly faced with the fact that we didn't really know what to do." It seems to have been a widespread frustration. The occupations of academic and political institutions that occurred amidst the uprising gave way to what are called Popular Assemblies in some 70 neighborhoods across Athens.
About half of these are still operating, composed of an often unlikely spectrum of participants. Anarchists, local workers, even municipal employees and officeholders all collaborate off the political grid in democratically administering needs, redistributing available resources and bolstering existing struggles against both austerity and the steady creep of fascism.
Their strategy can be read in a short 1958 article by Colin Ward in the British anarchist journal Freedom, entitled "The Unwritten Handbook": "The choice between libertarian and authoritarian solutions occurs every day and in every way, and the extent to which we choose, or accept... or lack the imagination and inventiveness to discover alternatives to the authoritarian solutions to small problems is the extent to which we are their powerless victims in big affairs." When a round of austerity measures included a new and often unaffordable--property tax in electricity bills, many Greeks saw their power abruptly cut. Popular Assemblies began compiling lists of households without power, ranking them based on vulnerability (age, the presence of infants, etc), and deploying qualified people to restore electricity, illegally.
On a cool April evening in the neighborhood of Peristeri, assembly participants debated models for localizing economic transactions through alternative currencies and non-monetary programs like time-banks. Over drinks following a talk I gave last spring, the bulk of the questions from local anarchists known the world over for bravado and street warfare were about Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) programs, an overwhelmingly liberal phenomena back home, hardly considered political (much less radical). In Greece, however, forging direct relationships with the agricultural sector amounts to a fuck-you to the International Monetary Fund and its threats of import cutoffs, issued to leverage passage of austerity measures.
During my few days on the ground in Athens this trip, I was invited to an anti-fascist march organized by the Popular Assemblies of south Athens. It marked what felt like an expansion of their role into directly confronting Golden Dawn, where the state has proved either unwilling or unable to tread.
"If we don't resist in every neighborhood, they will soon become our prisons" could be heard reverberating off the facades of buildings.
Counting by tens, I estimated roughly a thousand marching from the commercial plaza adjacent to the Dafni Metro, winding through a number of its various neighborhoods before reaching a former military installation occupied and renamed Asyrmatos Greek for "wireless," referring to the towering antennas jutting out of what is now a sizable community garden and community-managed conservatory.
In the adjacent neighborhood of Aghios Dimitrios, where much of the march was organized, the Popular Assembly meets weekly in theatrical space of a local municipal building. On the surface, it appears quite innocuous, as though it's scheduled through an arrangement with the local government. I was surprised to learn that each week's meeting is a sort of micro-occupation; participants simply walk in and seize the space, with zero visible pushback from employees, and no police response. "In 2008 (during the uprising), we seized the building for a month," one local told me. "So, I think that, for them, two hours a week is a bargain."
The oldest Popular Assembly in Athens operates in the neighborhood of Petralona, the site of a recent, widely publicized murder of a Pakistani man at the hands of fascists. When I visited with them last spring, they were opening a kitchen and cafe space for educating people about nutrition and food production, and operating an extensive calendar of peer-led health and mental health events, inspired in part by Mexico's Zapatistas. Today, they operate medical, dental and eye clinics in coordination with other Popular Assemblies, based on non-monetary mutual aid.
As we weaved through commercial corridors and narrow neighborhood arteries last week, all of this seemed to be shifting from a sort of quiet mode of survival into an overt assertion of power. Scattered action commanded the attention of onlookers. Quarter-sheet fliers were tossed into open bus windows, open supermarkets and even into the day's light breeze, scattering like ticker tape. Two masked young women darted out of the crowd periodically, spray-painting a stencil onto walls featuring a sort of close-up frontal image of a boy with his fist forward, reading "The sons of Adolf will receive a red and black punch" (a reference to the colors of the traditional anarchist flag). The smell of fresh spray paint hung in the air, the fire to its smoke appearing on walls, the sides of buses, and a newly favorite target in the country's crisis establishments set up to buy people's gold. These entrepreneurs are referred to as mavragoriters a term coined during Greece's years under Nazi occupation. "They were Greeks, usually friends of or sympathetic to the Nazis, and they took advantage of the crisis and the starvation that existed all over the country," explained a young woman, who asked not to be named. "It reached a point where they were buying houses in exchange for two bottles of olive oil, or quantities of rice."
The subtext of the young woman's description seems the soul of the Popular
Assemblies: dignity. She later pointed me to a communique posted at Indymedia Athens, in which anarchists in the city set about countering the neoliberal mantra heard around the country, and the ethics of the mavragoriters "No job is a shame." The Popular Assemblies appear to operate from the inverse that appears in the communique "Shame is not a job."
Surviving merely to revive histories of foreign occupation or homegrown fascism, for them, is a path without hope.
Joshua Stephens is a board member with the Institute for Anarchist Studies, and has been active in anti-capitalist, international solidarity and worker-cooperative movements across the last two decades. He currently divides his time between the northeastern US and various parts of the Mediterranean.
From Change.org :
Date: 3 March 2013
Subject: La pétition contre la coopération industrielle américano-japonaise pour F35
Invitation to signed the petition "Japanese Government: End participation in US and Israel warmongering! " on Change.org.
It's important. Will you sign it too? Here's the link: