January 20, 2011
The Communist Party of Turkey declares its solidarity and support to the ongoing popular revolt against the dictatorship of Zain Al‑Abidin Bin Ali and his regime based on unemployment, poverty, political oppression and state terror.
The Communist Party of Turkey stands by the revolt, which calls itself the "intifada of the poor", and the progressive, revolutionary forces leading the movement, and calls all workers, the poor and the progressive forces of Turkey to support the revolt.
The dictatorial practices of the Bin Ali regime are not unique, neither in the world nor in the Middle East and the Arabic world. Unfortunately, regimes based on lawlessness, police and military terror and plunder of the values created by the toiling people cannot be seen as "singular" cases in our world and our region which has been living under the tyranny of imperialism for decades. The rapid outstretch of the flag unfurled by the toiling people of Tunisia against the Bin Ali regime to other countries in the region marks how common the problems are.
In order to maintain its hegemony in all territories, imperialism gives support to many dictators like Bin Ali. Yet, the same imperialism is also shifting its support rapidly whenever such political figures fail to serve its interests further or become a hindrance to its hegemony. It is evident that such imperialist manipulations have played a role in the events ongoing in Tunisia.
In this respect, the revelation of the former commander of general staff Rashed Ammar, receiving instructions minute by minute from the U.S. embassy after the events broke out, is just an example of such manipulation attempts. Likewise, the intrigues to plant a "new" government that will brag about the so‑called "democratization" of the country while pursuing the same pro‑market and Americanist policies with the Bin Ali regime can be seen in this context as well.
However, the "intifada of the poor" has given this game away. The revolt of the people and the struggle of the progressive forces rendered the temporary government obsolete, which hastily strives to hold an election without taking any significant step towards a genuine change, and in which the officers of Bin Ali actively take part. Moreover, the demands and actions of the progressive forces against looting events that are intentionally organized to undermine the legitimacy of the people's movement circumvented the acts of imperialism and the capitalist rule in Tunisia.
In the heart of the events in Tunisia, there lies the deep exploitation and inequality, unemployment and poverty, lawlessness and corruption, political oppression and terror. The consciousness of large masses is not blurred in the sense that all of these causes are valid in the entire region and especially in our country. The Communist Party of Turkey considers standing by the toiling masses of Tunisia as a requirement of challenging the dictatorship of Justice and Development Party that has been established step by step in Turkey; as a requirement of challenging the imperialist hegemony and capitalist rule. Hence, our party calls our working people to support the revolt of the Tunisian people for this cause as well.
We declare our support to the demands of the progressive forces of Tunisia, which can be fully realized only through a change of the social order. We support the demands to immediately prosecute those responsible for the killing of the protestors, to establish a genuinely new and legitimate government composed of the representatives of the workers and the poor, to remove all barriers before the organization of the people.
Long live the intifada of the poor!
Long live socialism!
Communist Party of Turkey - Central Committee
Saturday Jan 22 @ 1:00p
Vancouver Public Library, Robson Side (Robson @ Homer)
Members of the local Tunisian community will be joined by allies and supporters of democracy in Tunisia at a rally this Saturday, January 22, 1pm outside the central branch of the Vancouver Public Library (Robson Street at Homer).
“We will be joining members of the Tunisian Diaspora and other supporters in rallying to support the movement for democracy in Tunisia which has inspired the whole world,” said Dr. Younes Alila, a UBC Professor.
The dictator Ben Ali fled Tunisia last week after sustained mass protests against his decades-long rule. Ben Ali’s family has Canadian connections and investments. In Montreal, rallies have been held outside his son-in-law’s mansion.
“We demand that the Canadian government support democracy in Tunisia, and we are very disappointed that the Canadian government has remained silent throughout weeks of protest, in which nearly 100 innocent people were killed by the dictatorship’s forces of repression,” said Dr. Younes Alila. “If members of Ben Ali’s regime and family seek refuge in Canada, they must be brought to justice for their crimes against the people of Tunisia,” added Alila.
“We must be vigilant to ensure that the interim government meets its promises implement political democracy and to allow elementary human rights like freedom of expression and assembly,” said Dr. Alila.
Members of the local Tunisian community will be joined at Saturday’s rally by members of local peace and human rights organizations.
Emergency march of the democratic camp on Saturday, 15 January in Tel Aviv
By Dov Khenin
Communist Party of Israel
[Member of Knesset for Hadash (Democratic Front for Peace and
Equality), member of the Political Bureau of the Communist Party of
The creation of parliamentary committees for the investigation of
political activities is associated with the name of the Republican
Senator for Wisconsin, Joseph McCarthy, who was active in the US in
the darkest days of the Cold War. McCarthy is infamous for his
initiative, presented in a speech of February 1950, to investigate
government employees for "collaboration with the enemy".
Senator McCarthy was placed at the head of the Sub-Committee of
Investigation. The House Committee for Un-American Activities worked
in parallel. The two committees published a list of hostile
organizations to be investigated. Among these was the American
Lawyers' Guild – charged with anti-Americanism for including black
lawyers in its ranks.
Since it is very difficult to set limits to political investigations,
the committee extended its activities from organizations to people in
film and entertainment. Thus individuals such as Charlie Chaplin,
Berthold Brecht, Leonard Bernstein, Arthur Miller, Orson Welles, Paul
Robeson and Pete Seeger, and many more, were investigated or ordered
The witch-hunt against progressives gripped the Congress for three
years, causing great human misery and social damage. American society
managed to get over the trauma and its heavy social and historical
price. We should learn from this experience. We must not go down this
road and create a parliamentary investigation committee.
Knesset Chairman Reuven Rivlin has also declared his opposition to a
parliamentary investigative committee. On 4 January he said to the
"Politicians do not interrogate politicians on their allegiance and
their ability to perform democracy. A parliamentary investigative
committee can look into matters that are not related to politics,
[but] this is a tribunal of politicians on politicians, this is
The promoters of the committee claim that they are interested in
investigating the finances of left-wing NGOs. But why investigate, if
all donations are already being reported to the Registrar of
Associations? Whoever knows of unreported donations should lodge a
complaint with the police.
But this committee is not being created in order to discover the truth
and prosecute crimes, for the Knesset is not an organ equipped to do
so. This committee has been formed in order to fight acts that are
legal. This is how McCarthyism works.
McCarthyism aims at intimidating people involved in legal acts from
exercising their democratic rights. This is McCarthyism, and this is
what the Likud and Israel Beitenu are suggesting: a lethal injection
The promoters of the committee charge human rights organizations with
"de-legitimizing the State of Israel". But they are in fact the ones
who are de-legitimizing Israel. The committee they intend to create in
the Knesset will become infamous worldwide, where it will be said –
and rightly so – that such things should not be done.
The representatives of the CPI and DFPE in the Knesset have more than
once warned of the slippery slope which leads away from democracy.
Today, with the formation of this McCarthyist investigative committee,
we have moved from slipping into freefall.
In face of the growing danger faced by the democratic space in Israel,
organizations, movements and parties fighting against racism,
McCarthyism and the danger of fascism have decided to march together
in an emergency march of the democratic camp, on Saturday, 15 January
in Tel Aviv. Jews and Arabs of various persuasions will march
together, and declare for all to hear: we shall be a free people only
in a democratic state!
From People's World
"I AM A MAN," the signs proclaimed in large, bold letters. They were held high, proudly and defiantly, by African-American men marching through the streets of Memphis, Tennessee, in the spring of 1968 .
The marchers were striking union members, sanitation workers demanding that the city of Memphis formally recognize their union and thus grant them a voice in determining their wages, hours and working conditions .
Hundreds of supporters joined their daily marches, most notably Martin Luther King Jr. He had been with the 1,300 strikers from the very beginning of their bitter struggle. He had come to Memphis to support them despite threats that he might be killed if he did The struggles of workers for union rights often are considered to be of no great importance. Dr. King knew better. He knew that the right to unionization is one of the most important of civil rights. Virtually his last act was in support of that right, for he was killed by an assassin's bullet on April 4, 1968 as he was preparing to lead strikers in yet another demonstration .
There are, of course, many reasons for honoring him on Martin Luther King Jr. Day Jan. 18. But we shouldn't forget that one of the most important reasons, one that's often overlooked, is Dr. King's championing of the cause of the Memphis strikers and others who sought union recognition .
His assassination brought tremendous public pressure to bear in behalf of the strikers in Memphis. President Lyndon Johnson sent in federal troops to protect them and assigned the Under Secretary of Labor to mediate the dispute. Within two weeks, an agreement was reached that granted strikers the union rights they had demanded .
For the first time, the workers' own representatives could sit across the table from their bosses and negotiate and air their grievances and demands for remedies. They got their first paid holidays and vacations, pensions and health care benefits. They got the right to overtime pay and raises of 38 percent in wages that had been so low ¬ about $1.70 an hour ¬ that 40 percent of the workers had qualified for welfare payments .
They got agreement that promotions would be made strictly on the basis of seniority, without regard to race, assuring the promotion of African Americans to supervisory positions for the first time. The strikers, in fact, got just about everything they had sought during the 65-day walkout .
William Lucy, secretary-treasurer of the strikers' union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, saw Dr. King ³bring tears to the eyes of strikers and their families just by walking into a meeting ... the surge of confidence he inspired in the movement in Memphis." The strikers' victory in Memphis led quickly to union recognition victories by black and white public employees throughout the South and elsewhere. They had passed a major test of union endurance against very heavy odds, prompting a great upsurge of union organizing and militancy among government workers.
As Lucy said, it was "a movement for dignity, for equity, and for access to power and responsibility for all Americans." Anyone doubting that the labor and civil rights movements share those goals need only heed the words of Martin Luther King Jr.: "Our needs are identical with labor's needs: Decent wages, fair working conditions, liveable housing, old-age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children, and respect in the community.... The coalition that can have the greatest impact in the struggle for human dignity here in America is that of the blacks and forces of labor, because their fortunes are so closely intertwined
Dick Meister is a San Francisco-based writer who has covered labor issues for a half-century as a reporter, editor, author and commentator. Contact him through his website, www.dickmeister.com
January 19, 2011
CIA-trained 'terrorist' in US court
Accused of killing 73 in an airline bombing, Luis Posada Carriles charged with immigration violations, not terrorism.
Chris Arsenault Last Modified: 19 Jan 2011 14:12 GMT
El Paso, Texas - Margarita Morales Fernandez couldn't be in court to see the former CIA agent who allegedly killed her father and 72 others aboard a Cuban airplane in one of the world's worst airline attacks before September 11, 2001.
Fernandez and hundreds other victims are carefully watching the trial of former CIA operative Luis Posada Carriles in US federal court.
His 11 charges include perjury for lying to US immigration officials, but terror-related offences are not on the docket.
"It will be 34 years since the terrorist attack that killed my father, but I remember it like it was yesterday, "Fernandez told Al Jazeera in a phone interview from Havana, Cuba. "I don't think this trial takes us closer to justice."
Victims of terrorism
On October 6, 1976 a bomb exploded on Cubana Airlines flight 455, blowing it out of the sky and into the waters off Barbados, killing everyone on board, including Fernandez's father, the captain of Cuba's national fencing team.
Posada, 82, a Cuban-born Venezuelan-citizen, was considered the mastermind— a CIA-trained explosives expert who would stop at nothing in his personal vendetta against Cuban president Fidel Castro. Planned in Venezuela, the attack killed mostly Cuban nationals.
"The terrorist activities of Posada Carriles are part of the [current US court] indictment, but they are not what he is being prosecuted for," said José Pertierra, a Cuban-born Washington lawyer who is representing Venezuela's interest at the trial. "He is only being prosecuted for lying about them [attacks]… to an immigration judge in a naturalisation hearing."
Venezuela jailed Posada for the bombing, but the wily operative escaped from prison disguised as a priest and eventually fled to the US, stopping in other Latin American countries along the way where he continued his anti-Castro activities. Venezuela has repeatedly called for his extradition.
"For many years, the truth has been hidden," Fernandez said. "But I want people to learn that there are a lot of victims of terrorism in Cuba as well as in the US and other countries."
Fury and personal vendetta
To examine the life of Luis Posada Carriles is to re-live the worst periods of the Cold War - and beyond. Angry about Cuba's 1959 revolution, he joined CIA Brigade 2506 in February 1961 to invade the island as part of the ill-fated attack known as the Bay of Pigs, declassified documents reveal.
While Posada himself did not fight at the Bay of Pigs, CIA officials thought he was promising and he joined US army in 1963 at their behest, training at Ft. Benning, Georgia. By 1965, he was a paid CIA operative stationed in Miami.
"The CIA taught us everything," he told The New York Times in 1998. "They taught us explosives, how to kill, bomb trained us in acts of sabotage."
He stayed with the agency in Miami until 1967, and later became a "paid asset" in Venezuela from 1968 to 1976, according to declassified documents.
CIA- trained and well- connected
After the Cuban attack, and his escape from prison, Posada returned to the CIA's payroll in the 1980s, supervising arms shipments to the Contras in Nicaragua as part of what became known as the Iran-Contra affair, a murky scandal where the US government funneled money from arms sales to Iran—its official enemy- to right-wing militias in Nicaragua.
His history with the CIA and other clandestine operations means that Posada "has a lot of secrets to tell and friends in high places in Washington," Pertierra, Venezuela’s lawyer, said in an interview with Al Jazeera outside the court-house.
Cold War history and imagery loomed large during the trial. At one point, a middle-aged man wearing all black clothing, a beret, combat boots and dark glasses, who said he was a member of the Black Panther Party, the iconic 1960s black-rights militant group, walked into the court room. He left soon after, looking bored with the proceedings.
But Posada's crimes are not just a matter for historians, as Fernandez quickly points out. "Since our father died, our family has been so sad," she said.
His attacks continued long after the fall of the Berlin Wall. In 2000, a Panamanian court convicted him of attempting to kill Cuban president Fidel Castro with 200 pounds of dynamite. He was pardoned by the country's outgoing president four years later and set free.
During an interview with the New York Times in 1998, Posada admitted to organising a series of hotel bombings in Cuba a year earlier, injuring 11 people and killing Italian businessman Fabio diCelmo. "We just wanted to make a big scandal so that the tourists don't come anymore," Posada told the newspaper. "The Italian was in the wrong place at the wrong time, but I sleep like a baby."
Understandably after comments like this, Posada's attorneys wouldn't let him speak to media during the trial. The author of the New York Times piece will be called as a witness during the case. Posada has since stated that he mis-spoke in the interview because he is not fluent in English.
Posada, 82, turned up in Miami in 2005 and gave a public news conference, angering some US officials. He claims to have arrived in Miami on a bus, after sneaking into the US by crossing the Rio Grande River from Mexico. He was indicted by a Grand Jury in Texas for unlawfully entering the US in 2005, although the charges were later dismissed.
That year, Venezuela again asked for his extradition. But officials denied extradition to Venezuela or Cuba, stating that Posada could be tortured in those countries.
"The only evidence I have seen of torture in Cuba comes from the US military base at Guantanamo Bay," Pertierra said.
Pertierra, along with officials from the Department of Homeland Security, think the claim that Posada crossed into the US through Texas is preposterous, as the illegal journey across the border is too arduous for a man in his eighties facing health problems.
"I have to ask myself, did he really cross the desert?" Gina Garrett-Jackson, a lawyer for the Department of Homeland Security, said while being questioned in the witness stand during court testimony on Tuesday.
Jackson faced cross-examination by Posada's attorneys, who argued that she involved the Department of Justice and other branches of government in Posada's initial immigration case in order to build a lay the groundwork for criminal charges related his to terrorist activity.
Mastermind of terrorist plots and attacks
Posada had initially presented a claim for political asylum in the US, before his legal team unilaterally withdrew that plan.
Jackson said Posada failed the requirements for political asylum in the US in 2005 due to his conviction for plotting the bombing in Panama and other mis-deeds.
In court, lawyers played audio recordings of the 2005 asylum hearing, when Jackson, who was working for the Department of Homeland Security, questioned Posada.
"This Cuba bombing campaign in 1997 was a very big event, would you agree?" Jackson asked.
"I don’t know, I have no opinion," Posada responded.
A 2006 statement from the US Department of Justice states: "Luis Posada-Carriles is an admitted mastermind of terrorist plots and attacks ... a flight risk … [and] a danger to the community."
But the Justice Department's view does not seem to be shared by other branches of the US government. The incriminating secrets Posada likely posses, tense relations between the US, Cuba and Venezuela and domestic political concerns—the anti-Castro Cuban population in Miami holds national electoral clout far beyond its numbers – mean that extradition or terrorism charges seem unlikely.
"This case illustrates the double face of the US war on terrorism," Pertierra, who represents Venezuelan interests, said as court adjourned for lunch. "You can't pick and choose which terrorists you prosecute and which ones you protect. You can't have first class victims and second class victims; all victims must be mourned equally."
Follow Chris Arsenault On Twitter: @AJEchris
Belo Monte would be a project bigger than the Panama Canal, flooding at least 400,000 acres of rainforest, displacing 40,000 indigenous and local people, and destroying the priceless habitats of countless unique species -- all to create power that could easily be generated through investments in energy efficiency.
Pressure on President Dilma against the dam is rising, the President of Brazil's Environmental Agency just resigned, refusing to issue Belo Monte a construction license and challenging strong political pressure to go forward with this disastrous project. Environmental specialists, indigenous leaders and civil society agree that Belo Monte will be a massive environmental scar in the heart of the Amazon.
Construction could start next month - let's raise the pressure on President Dilma to stop this dam! Sign the petition now, before the bulldozers move in -- it will be delivered to Brasilia!
Many critics have panned Baaria, perhaps because of it's length but more likely, I think, because it stars a communist politician. It won an award at the Venice film festival and I liked it -- but that is for another review.
Renato Guttuso’s Italian-language Wikipedia page says that he was a militant anti-fascist. He chose anti-fascist themes during the Spanish civil-war. He dedicated some of his paintings to Federico Garcia Lorca, brilliant (and gay) poet, spokesperson for the Republic, and killed by fascists in the civil-war.
Under fascist rule, painters did not have the freedom to address pro-people and democratic themes in art. Yet Guttuso bravely did just that in his painting Crocifissione (1941). The work was declared revolutionary and heretical by the powerful Italian Catholic church. In a society where violence and militarism dominated, the painting was a bold statement against the brutality of war. The Vatican went as far as forbidding the religious from looking at the canvas.
After the liberation of Italy he produced many famous works of “social art,” focusing on the poor, peasants, and other working people. He was influenced by socialist realism as well as his colleague and friend, Pablo Picasso; and he engaged in the intense debates on style in critique of much abstract Italian art of his time. He also produced sensuous and erotic paintings.
During the Cold War Guttuso painted on a social backdrop of sharp class struggle. The Italian Communist Party, thrown out of an alliance in government, grew to be one of the largest Communist Parties in capitalist Europe but the left faced sharp political and ideological pressure as well as physical attacks, even assassination attempts of leaders. Washington paid special attention to Italy because of the popular support of the Communists. The CIA’s engagement in Italian politics worked to support big Italian capital, the reactionary side of the Catholic church, as well as the Mafia.
These were political forces that Guttuso dedicated his life to fighting, both in paint and in political discourse. He also became a voice for peace at a time when imperialism’s strategies potentially included the madness of a Third, nuclear, World War.
One of his greatest works in his later life was I funeral di Togliatti (1972, below). Palmiro Togliatti was a resolute anti-fascist and leader of the Italian Communist Party. A million people marched in the streets of Rome for his funeral.
|I funeral di Togliatti (1972)|
We remember your art and your vision, Guttuso.
See more of his paintings: http://www.guttuso.com/
January 18, 2011
By Caneisha Mills
January 13, 2011
Reprinted from Liberation newspaper.
Today, Martin Luther King Jr.’s name has become synonymous with the entire Civil Rights Movement, and that movement has been portrayed as just another chapter in the unfolding story of constant American progress. Unfortunately, he is rarely remembered for his evolving critique of the U.S. economic system, his dedication to uplifting the poor and his view that mass social movements were needed to continue to transform society.
King did not cause the Civil Rights movement. The Montgomery Bus Boycott, Greensboro sit-ins and 1963 March on Washington all would have happened without him. These heroic actions took place because of the mass awakening of the African American people. It was the people, the oppressed workers, rising up against the apartheid South.
The 1940s and 1950s witnessed a large-scale migration and urbanization of African Americans. This corresponded to a breakdown of the traditional sharecropping arrangements that Jim Crow segregation had served and reinforced.
In the north, where African Americans could vote, the growth of urban communities increased their political clout. In the South, this process concentrated new migrants into close-knit communities and led to the growth of independent institutions, such as the large urban churches. This is the context in which Dr. King and the other young pastors of the Southern Christian Leadership Council emerged.
The rapidly expanding movement used non-violent civil disobedience and the language of freedom to put a spotlight on the hypocrisy of the government’s Cold War rhetoric. At a time when the United States projected itself as beacon of democracy and individual liberty, the “Negro problem” became an international issue that demanded reform.
Thanks to a decade of tireless work, sharp confrontations and the physical sacrifices of millions—most of whose names will never be known—the civil rights movement succeeded at dismantling Jim Crow segregation.
The Third American Revolution
To date, there have been three revolutions in the United States—the American Revolution, the U.S. Civil War and the Civil Rights Movement, or what is better termed a Civil Rights Revolution.
The American Revolution was a political revolution that shed the country’s colonial status. While it unleashed some forces from below, it preserved the economic system of chattel slavery and capitalism. The ruling phrase of the time was liberty, but women, African Americans, non-property-owning whites and Native Americans—who were largely slaughtered by pillage, plunder and disease—were excluded from the calls for equality and freedom.
The U.S. Civil War was a social revolution that smashed slavery. Rather than being a purely political transformation, the social and economic relations were overturned in half the country. Slave owners were stripped of their “property,” as African Americans won the basic human dignity to control their own bodies. During the Reconstruction period, from 1867 to 1877, the old slaveocracy was deprived of political power while African Americans became a decisive political force in the South for the first time.
The overthrow of Reconstruction led to the construction of a new Jim Crow segregation system aimed at depriving Blacks of social, economic and political rights, and preventing any sort of unity between Black and white sharecroppers and farmers. It represented a full-scale political counterrevolution, characterized by fascist Klan terror against anyone who crossed the line.
It took the Civil Rights revolution nearly a century after Reconstruction to destroy Jim Crow’s rule and re-establish the full citizenship rights of African Americans.
King’s legacy, distorted by the ruling class
Today, King is remembered primarily for stressing the need for civil rights for Blacks, but he constantly fused the concept of legal equality with the rights of workers and the poor. He frequently pointed to three universal problems in the United States—war, racism and poverty.
He became particularly involved in the sanitation workers strike in Memphis, Tenn., where he was assassinated. At that stage, King was trying to organize a Poor People’s Campaign to address the massive poverty and inequality for all people in the United States.
King’s opposition to the war in Vietnam is often omitted—particularly by those pro-war politicians who like to claim his legacy. King said, “I had to speak out if I was to erase my name from the bombs which fall over South and North Vietnam. The time had come, indeed it was past due, when I had to disavow and disassociate myself from those who, in the name of peace, burn, maim and kill.”
King’s ideas and positions have been stripped of their potency. Officially, he is only remembered for having a dream of a “color-blind” country. In fact, he had an expansive definition of justice for Black people and all poor people, and a vision which would force this country to reckon with and pay for its historic crimes.
Russian revolutionary V.I. Lenin once remarked: “During the lifetime of great revolutionaries, the oppressing classes constantly hounded them, received their theories with the most savage malice, the most furious hatred and the most unscrupulous campaigns of lies and slander. After their death, attempts are made to convert them into harmless icons.” This applies well to Dr. King.
King in context
Some dismiss King for what appear to be moderate tactics. They point to how his leadership was surpassed by the growing radical and militant trends in the late 1960s.
But this often misrepresents or crudely generalizes his political ideas. King was dealing with practical issues of how to build a movement. His critics often fail to account for the difficult odds facing the movement in the South and the Cold War climate in which he emerged, and leave little space for his own political evolution. They forget just how radically the Civil Rights movement shook U.S. society.
In fact, King can be considered revolutionary in his own right, insofar as he led a political revolution in a particular phase, and attempted to push it further.
After the Civil Rights Act was passed, he emphasized how far the country still was from real justice, asking, “What good does it do to sit at the counter when you cannot afford a hamburger?” He was ridiculed for trying to advance the political direction of the movement by calling for more direct action, and dealing directly with economic issues.
If we can digress for a moment to think of today’s anti-war movement, we see how the ANSWER Coalition (Act Now to Stop War and End Racism), for instance, has adjusted its slogans over time according to the political mood and consciousness of the masses.
Right after the Sept. 11 attacks, ANSWER’s main slogan was “War and racism are not the answer,” which today may seem quite moderate, but it was tailored to the context of a repressive, pro-war hysteria and the consciousness of that moment. A little later that slogan became “Stop the War on Iraq Before it Starts!” After the war began, some “anti-war” groups believed occupation troops had an obligation to stay in Iraq; in contrast, ANSWER emphasized, “End the Occupation—Bring All the Troops Home Now.”
The movement against the war in Iraq developed into a movement against the occupations of Iraq, Palestine and imperialism altogether. Based on the real-life experiences of a decade of war, many people now see the war is not tied to a particular political party but instead to a system that makes profit from weapons and is addicted to war.
Brian Becker elaborated on this point in a piece titled “Civil Rights and the U.S. Revolution” (published in the PSL's Socialism and Liberation magazine) when he wrote: “Human consciousness, including political consciousness, is perhaps the most conservative aspect in the historical process. Revolutions don’t start because of the 'advanced consciousness' of the participants who start the revolutionary process. Consciousness changes and grows in the struggle, based on the conditions of life.”
King’s enduring lessons
Dr. King was dangerous to the political establishment because he started to draw the connection between different struggles and unite them against a common enemy. We cannot protest the war in Afghanistan and forget the racist laws directed at the immigrant community; we cannot fight for women’s rights and not speak to the need for full equality for the LGBT community.
Today the struggle against racism is taking a new direction. A new movement exists in the Latino community that is standing up to the country's many immigrant bashers and demanding full rights for immigrants. In the past three years, hundreds of thousands of Latinos have protested the assault on their family and friends. Supporting this movement is honoring King’s legacy.
In King’s famous Drum Major speech, he said he wanted to feed everyone. He did not mean personally or in soup kitchens—he meant fighting poverty at its root. Here in Washington, D.C., the D.C. Council is taking a vote to cancel assistance to anyone who has received aid from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program for more than five years. According to the Washington Post, this will remove 8,000 families from the program. Fighting to expand such social programs is honoring King’s legacy.
The D.C. Council also refers to its budget deficit as a pretext to deny higher wages guaranteed in the newest Teachers Union contract, and institute hiring freeze. Defending public-sector unions is honoring King’s legacy.
When we remember Dr. King, we should remember him not as a speaker at a rally or leader in a demonstration. He was a man attempting to connect the various forms of oppression into a single struggle against social injustice. The only way to remove that injustice is to remove the foundation from which it grows. So let us remember this leader of the Civil Rights Revolution by talking about what it will take to build the next American revolution.
January 17, 2011
Completing the Democratic Revolution in our Continent
The centrality of mass mobilisation and participation for a progressive developmental agenda
Blade Nzimande, General Secretary, South African Communist Party
Speech to the African Left Networking Forum
Cde Chairperson, Co-Convenor Cde Eva Bjorklund, Distinguished participants and guests, our Alliance partners, on behalf of the Central Committee and membership of the South African Communist Party, let me welcome all of you to this historic gathering. Let me also express our appreciation to our fraternal party and ally, the Swedish Left Party, for the continuing solidarity and support, as well as chosen to partner with the SACP and host this Conference in South Africa.
Incidentally we are meeting over the same weekend and same city as the SADC Summit. In addition there are common cross-cutting issues being discussed in the two forums, the question of democracy and development.
There are a number of reasons why this conference is so historic and important. Firstly, it is the first time that we hold a conference of this nature where a number of progressive, left forces from different parts of the world are gathered together to discuss matters of common concern. Secondly, the theme of this conference is so important in that there can be no genuine development of our continent without people's participation in the transformation of their own conditions.
A brief overview on some current global developments
Our conference takes place against the background of the growing reality of the failure of capitalism to address the needs facing humanity. We are gathering at a time when there are huge increases in the prices of, amongst others, food and fuel, and the consequent astronomical rise in the cost of living for millions and millions of working and poor peoples of the world.
As the SACP had predicted last year, the global capitalist system is now enmeshed in a deep-seated and systemic crisis. This does not mean that capitalism is about to be destroyed or destroy itself, or that a socialist future will automatically arise. It does mean, however, that more and more capitalism reveals itself as a barbaric system without answers to the challenges of our time.
There are many dimensions to the current crisis, among them the very high but unsustainable consumption levels in the US which have seen US debt (government, corporate and household) soaring to $48 trillion while US GDP only stands at around $13trillion. It is these levels of indebted consumption that have helped to sustain record levels of Chinese growth and indeed much of global capitalist growth in general. The "American dream" has been built on the myth of everyone becoming a suburban home-owner and car commuter. The housing mortgage crisis in the US and soaring fuel prices are striking at the heart of the dream.
We are living in a period, possibly a relatively long period, in which the US increasingly loses its dominant economic position within the world capitalist system. It has fallen behind in terms of productivity in virtually all sectors, with the notable exception of military weaponry. And therein lies another grave threat to humanity. More and more the US will be inclined to assert its dominance through armed intervention. This is notably the case in regard to energy.
In 1998 shock waves reverberated through US ruling circles when the country began for the first time to import more than 50% of the petroleum it consumed.
At the same time, many analysts and scientists began to confirm what had previously been regarded only as something remote - global oil production was in fact fast approaching a peak. The strategic decision to intensify US military, political and economic hegemony in oil producing regions, particularly the Middle East, was taken.
The September 11 terrorist attacks simply became an excuse for the implementation of a decision already taken - the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq and (possibly a planned attack) on Iran. No less an authority than the former Federal Reserve Bank chairperson, Alan Greenspan has written in his recent memoirs: "I am saddened that it is politically inconvenient to acknowledge what everyone knows: that the Iraq war is largely about oil."
In short the post-1989 capitalist and neo-liberal triumphalism is gone, and we are faced with the stark reality that capitalism and its neo-liberal policies is no solution to the problems facing humanity today.
It is for some of these reasons above that the SACP remains deeply committed to working class international solidarity and the building of a strong, progressive peace movement in the world, opposed to war and plunder of the planet`s resources. It is also for these reasons that the SACP remains committed towards the building of a progressive movement for peace, democracy and socialism on the African continent. That is why this conference is so significant and important as one further platform to build such international solidarity.
The contradictory realities of post-colonial Africa
As the SACP we have argued that the fundamental task facing the African continent is that of taking forward and completing the national democratic revolution (NDR), in all its aspects and dimension. The crisis facing Africa remains its deepening marginalisation and impoverishment within the global imperialist system, the failure over many decades of a variety of elite-based neo-colonial agendas on the one hand, and the degeneration and in several cases the collapse of more radical national democratic revolutions led by former liberation movements on the other.
Our view is that at the heart of revitalising the African revolution is the task of creating the conditions (i.e. the social, economic, democratic, and organisational space and capacity) for the key national democratic protagonists - the working class, the peasantry, the mass of urban and rural marginalized (many of them youth), together with patriotic middle strata in the state and civil society - to become the key motive force of re-radicalisation, not just in theory but in practice.
The SACP has also chosen to pose the question of democracy and development in present day Africa within the context of a situation where many former national liberation and other anti-colonial movements are now in power; and the complexities that have arisen, especially now in the post Cold War era.
Indeed it must be said that the end of colonialism in Africa, with the exception of Western Sahara, has seen many positive developments in our continent, including in many cases improved access by our people to many basic services like education and health, that they were deprived of under colonialism. In many instances there has been significant opening of democratic space. However, there is still a deep systemic crisis on our continent.
It goes without saying that the local defeat of colonialism and neo-colonialism in, for instance, an India, China, Cuba, Vietnam, Nicaragua, Zimbabwe, or South Africa does not mark the end of an anti-imperialist struggle. With the winning of state power (whether by capture, elections, negotiations or some combination of these) comes a new set of challenges, and an intensified imperialist struggle against the new reality. This imperialist struggle is obviously designed to prevent the consolidation and advance of political and socio-economic transformation that will give real substance to the newly won political power.
The imperialist agenda assumes many forms - from aggressive destabilisation campaigns, sanctions, the fomenting of civil war, through to more indirect economic leverage (entrapment in structural adjustment programmes or the comprador seduction of the new political elite.). Obviously there may often be a combination of these, or different strategies might be applied at different times to the same post-independence formation.
Linked to all of this, ideologically, there is a campaign designed to sow demoralisation, you either have to conform to a neo-liberal straight-jacket or you are "bound to fail" as a radical national liberation movement. What this message of "inevitable failure" conceals is, of course, the active and persistent role that imperialist undermining plays in ensuring compliance or failure.
But compliance or failure are not inevitable, and where they occur it always has much to do with the objective and subjective factors at play within post-independence liberation movements and their societies. (And much the same can be said of the 20th century history of communist parties in power). The degree to which the imperialist strategy has leverage on a local situation has a great deal to do with the capacity and character of the national liberation movement itself. Central in this is the role of mass struggles, and the relationship between liberation movements in power and mass organisations.
Let's generalise by way of a relatively common (but not predetermined) trajectory. After independence, the broad national front, once united behind a unifying task of defeating colonialism, shows signs of fragmentation - as different class, regional and ethnic interests emerge, each laying claim to its "share" of the post-independence "dividend". This is particularly noticeable in societies in which the working class is relatively small, or disorganised - with other class strata (the petty bourgeoisie, an emergent comprador elite, or a scattered peasantry) typically lacking the capacity to lead a sustained patriotic struggle. A new governing stratum may be inclined to actively (or unwittingly) demobilise its mass base (the motive forces of the NDR), because of technocratic illusions ("we are in power, we will deliver to citizen-consumers"), or because the new governing elite's class interests might be threatened by ongoing militant peasant, or working class, or urban and rural poor struggles.
Externally or internally-inspired destabilisation might at first legitimately justify the need to close ranks, even to temporarily suspend democratic space - but these measures often have a creeping habit of becoming a permanent state of siege which spuriously justifies crack-downs on rivals within the broad liberation movement, or within one's own party, and the general suppression of popular forces. Politics increasingly becomes the politics of a ruling elite - factional struggles within a ruling party, in which the factions are barely distinguishable from each other in terms of programmatic politics. Politics is about defending or increasing access to state power for self-accumulation and for elite reproduction by way of building a base (usually ethnic or regional) through patronage distribution.
The terrain of serious transformational politics is further neutralised by the fact that the major decisions are made somewhere else (by the IMF, World Bank, Club of Paris, etc) because you have been entrapped in a structural adjustment programme, or because you have willingly implemented your own SAP that it is beyond democratic debate, that is, beyond democratic political debate or engagement or mass involvement.
The motive forces required for an ongoing NDR are reduced to spectators or fans of this or that factional personality, or become disgruntled, marginalized and despairing (and therefore fodder for mobilisation by contras, imperialist funded pseudo-social movements, or banditry).
These are tendencies. They are not written in stone, but they are also familiar to all of us, and clearly here in South Africa, while we have not remotely deteriorated to this extent, we should also not assume that we are immune.
We have noted the inevitable imperialist (and in our case, indigenous monopoly capital) attempts to smash and/or colonise a post-independence National Liberation Movements. And we have noted tendencies within NLMs after independence to become bureaucratic, aloof from a former mass base, to piratise and undermine the coherence of the state, and generally to lose direction.
There is also a third tendency, in many respects a result and a symptom of the above realities. In many post-colonial situations, there are variants of ultra-leftism that paradoxically arrive at the same conclusions as imperialism about the 'fate' of liberation movements in a post colonial context, that they are bound to fail. The main argument of this tendency is that in such liberation movements, the working class has subjugated itself to an "always-already" conservative nationalist agenda, that is always liable to collaboration with imperialism at the expense of the interests of the poor. For these currents, there is an outright rejection of socialist or working class participation in broad national liberation fronts, because, they claim, it is inevitable for working class interests to be submerged in such broad fronts
The SACP has consistently critiqued the three ideological positions - the imperialists' (and their local mouth-pieces') "inevitable failure" , of democratic revolutions and the tendency to "blame all our problems exclusively on imperialism" without a simultaneous internal self-reflection and criticism. We have consistently made this critique, not out of our own 'habits', but because these positions are thoroughly undialectical in engaging the historical realities of national liberation movements, especially after independence. They analyse these developments out of a pre-written script.
We would of course not expect imperialism to have any interest other than to undermine any prospects of revolutionary transformations in the world. The end of the Cold War has not lessened the counter-revolutionary onslaught on revolutionary transformations, but has instead intensified them, albeit less through direct occupation or direct colonial control, but through the imposition of a global neo-liberal order. It will be important that we firmly locate our deliberations at against the background of all these realities.
Indeed many of the former national liberation movements have either changed in form or even substance, but we would argue that the underlying vision of a thorough-going democratic revolution are even more relevant today. These tasks are essentially that of liberating and developing our countries by addressing three deeply interrelated contradictions, those of class, national and gender contradictions.
In many ways the fundamental challenge and crises in our SADC region, and indeed in the African continent as a whole, are that these liberation movements, at best, never completed these tasks or at worst, have turned their backs on them!
But… what is to be completed?
Many 20th century national liberation movements, especially in our Southern African region, were guided and informed by perspectives of liberating our people from the twin evils of economic exploitation and political (colonial) oppression.
It was within the context of the above challenges that, amongst others, the concept and revolutionary practice of a national democratic revolution arose and became part of the lexicon of radical national liberation movements, based on the understanding of the deep interconnectedness between economic exploitation and national oppression. In some cases, some of these liberation movements, proclaimed themselves 'Marxist-Leninist' (eg MPLA, Frelimo and Zanu), even where the conditions for the entire NLM to convert to a socialist formation did not exist.
Most of these liberation movements understood, amongst others, the following:
- That our revolutions sought to address the class, national and gender contradictions in an interrelated manner. Much as these contradictions could not be mechanically collapsed into each other, but they, at the same time, could not be addressed in isolation from each other
- True liberation could not be attained without a re-arrangement of colonial economic relations - a fundamental transformation of the peripheral, or (in South Africa's case) semi-peripheral accumulation path into which they were locked and subordinated.
- That the existence of the Soviet Union provided the necessary support and counter-balance to the US-led imperialist order
- That mass participation was central in the democratic revolution
Liberation movements in power
Ascendancy to power by (former) liberation movements has always posed very complex challenges and problems, which seem to have deepened after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
Indeed some of the former liberation movements on ascending to power quickly consolidated and proceeded to socialism (China, Cuba, Vietnam, etc). Many others unfortunately deteriorated and even disintegrated (eg Indian Congress, ZANU-PF, etc). There seems to be very little in between these experiences, with the partial exception of left mass movements, not so much liberation movements as we have historically understood them, capturing power currently in Latin America- but essentially pursuing a national (and even regional/bolivarian) democratic revolutionary path in which the key motive forces of ongoing struggle are the working class, the peasantry, the urban and rural poor and the progressive middle strata.
The centrality of mass struggle and mass participation
As the SACP we have over the years debated the issue of experiences of liberation movements, especially in our SADC region. Time does not permit a fuller exposition of our analysis, and therefore will just focus on some of these experiences as they relate to the theme of our conference.
- The character of these movements has undergone significant transformation, principally as a result of ascendancy to state power and the emergence of new (typically comprador and/or parasitic) capitalist strata.
- In a number of cases the relationship between these movements and their mass bases has been transformed into an (at best) electoral, rather than a mobilisational and activist, relationship as was the case prior to liberation
- There is a tension and even conflict between the liberation movements and some of their former constituency, and most significantly the trade union movement. In the Zambian case for example the Kaunda government was removed by a trade union led struggle, unions which were an important component of the national liberation movement. Whilst the Zambian case is that of a trade union movement hijacked by pro-imperialist forces to dislodge the liberation movement from power, this should not be generalised as the case in all instances
- The relationship between the movement and its mass base has more or less exclusively become that of the relationship between government and 'citizens'
- There seems to be a tension between being both a ruling party, and at the same time being at the head of mobilisation of the constituent parts of the liberation movement
- There has been general demobilisation of the liberation movement post independence, and in some instance former liberation movements now in power deliberately seeking to weaken mass mobilisation and seek to deal with all else as government.
- In many cases multi-party democracy has not brought about the intended consequences of deepening democracy, but has tended to be an electoral competition between political parties representing different fractions of the elite.
It is for these reasons that this conference and the theme it is addressing is of such fundamental importance for our country, region and continent.
Socialism is the future, build it now
Let me end by very briefly highlighting some of the key organisational features and challenges of our own movement and the SACP in particular.
In our case, we have a decades old alliance that has consciously sought to forge a progressive agenda for development in our country. Our intention also is for this Alliance to seek to lead broader democratic forces and ensure mass participation of our people. Indeed our Alliance has not been without its own problems and challenges, including the very serious challenge of being simultaneously a ruling movement and at the same time continue to mobilise the people; and the challenge of the relationship of the different components of our Alliance to state power. We will further reflect on these matters during our own input in one of the panels.
Immediately after the first democratic elections in 1994, the SACP, at our 9th Congress in 1995, adopted a strategic and programmatic slogan, 'Socialism is the future, build it now'. This was largely informed by the fact that with the new post-1994 conditions in our country, we needed to strategically and practically rethink the link between the national democratic struggle with our longer term objectives of socialism under these conditions.
We re-affirmed the continued relevance of our Alliance, guided by the Freedom Charter and the RDP, but understood that much as the national democratic revolution is not a socialist struggle, it cannot be deepened in our conditions without socialist-oriented measures, without which we will not transform the embedded colonial features of our capitalist accumulation path which continues to reproduce racialised underdevelopment, poverty and inequality.
One way through which we characterised this was that our revolution was encumbered by the same national, gender and class contradictions it sought to address; and that these cannot be addressed in isolation from each other. At the heart of this is the fact that the South African reality is that of a liberation movement that has acquired political power, but economic power still remains firmly in the hands of the same old white capitalist class, with a tiny emergent black stratum of that capitalist class.
Within this context we re-affirmed the centrality of the ANC in leading our democratic revolution after 1994, but at the same time ensuring that we build power of the working class in society and intensifying the struggle against the capitalist system and its market. Whilst we accept that the national democratic revolution has its distinct features and goals, for us it is simultaneously a terrain for the struggle for socialism; whilst not reducing the NDR into a socialist struggle.
A key factor in our strategic thinking continues to be the fact that the working class must be strengthened in order to act as the main and leading motive force in consolidating and deepening the national democratic revolution. The ANC still remains the best force in taking forward the NDR.
As our contribution towards building people's power in the current period, the SACP has committed itself to building working class and mass power in six key sites of power: the state, the economy, the community, the workplace, ideologically and through international solidarity.
With these words we are looking forward to productive engagements at this conference, and learning from each other's experiences. However, it would also be important to come up with some concrete proposals on how we deepen our solidarity and take forward common views that I am sure will emerge out of this gathering.
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