STATE OF THE UNION'S GRAVE CONTRADICTIONS
With his "war on terrorism," Bush has so
shifted attention to the international arena that what gets passed over is the
"state of the nation" right here at home, especially in terms of class
and race. Thus, we are supposed to have recovered from a recession, but
unemployment is again going up and the standard of living for working people is
going downhill. More than 40 million are without health care insurance while
those still working have to pay a greater and greater percent of their coverage.
There really has been no increase in union membership despite the labor drives
talked about in the last few years. As for race, 10 years after the Los Angeles
rebellion the conditions of Blacks and Latinos show a continuing wide gap
compared to whites in terms of income, education and health care. The
"state of the union" is full of grave contradictions, but little of it
is seriously discussed.
In the Chicago media we are hearing about a so-called
"ground swell of support" for the Cook County Jail guard who beat one
of the suspects in the Palatine Brown's Chicken massacre. Some don't think he
should be disciplined because of the horrendous nature of the suspect's crime.
Do they think brutality is a one-shot thing? I remember when my brother was in
Cook County. He had a headache and asked for an aspirin. A guard clubbed him
across the head and said, "Now you really have a headache." My brother
could have snapped this fool like a twig but the coward hid behind his
"authority" to brutalize. I think this "ground swell " is
the creation of minor right-wing media figures.
Could it be that the "permanent war" may be an
attempt by the U.S. capitalist class to resolve today's global economic crises
by expanding production of commodities of death? World War II got the U.S. out
of the 1930s' depression and also marked the development of the nuclear bomb.
Millions of human beings paid the price of death while capitalists profited.
Consider how much of the U.S. federal expenditure is military today. There are,
however, a lot of differences between the events of WWII and Bush's permanent
war. Today the threat of nuclear annihilation is a reality. Today, I believe,
the consciousness of the world's people is more anti-war and pro-peaceful
existence than ever before.
President Bush was made aware of information the CIA and
FBI had obtained regarding the suspicious nature of several of the plotters in
the September 11 terrorist act. The public was not made aware of any of this.
Should the 3,000 dead civilians qualify as "collateral damage"
sacrificed in the name of maintaining wartime secret intelligence? It is known
that Churchill did not warn British citizens of an impending Nazi bombing in
order not to reveal to them his ability to crack their code. And some Americans
suspect President Roosevelt chose not to reveal information that forewarned of
the Pearl Harbor attack in order to catalyze America's entry into WWII. During
the Afghan bombing campaign Rumsfeld admitted that civilians "will be
killed...that's the nature of war." Have we Americans now joined the rest
of the world as legitimate "collateral damage" deliberately sacrificed
to protect the interest of some military/strategic goals and secrets?
Worried, Oakland, Cal.
What the pundits are forgetting in the flap about why
the FBI and CIA didn't prevent September 11 is that the entire government
downplayed Al Qaeda because they were so busy presenting the anti-globalization
movement as the main threat, and painting the mainly non-violent activists as
terrorists. The pundits also ignore the book Osama bin Laden: The Forbidden
Truth which quoted the former director of anti-terrorism for the FBI saying that
the State Department, acting on behalf of U.S. and Saudi oil interests,
interfered with FBI efforts to track down Osama bin Laden. Maybe that's why Bush
is so defensive about the whole question.
The economy of the '90s was a bubble economy. But the
Federal and especially state governments made their plans based on expected
revenues from it. Now that the bubble has burst, the budgets are in horrible
trouble. California faces a $25 billion deficit this year. Gov. Davis is talking
about a 60% cut in their already miserable health care budget. In my state,
Oregon, the public schools have already been hit hard, with lots of lay offs. I
am sure lots of the states will face this. And, of course, the Federal budget is
back to its deficits. The states generally can't run deficit budgets and have to
cut services. You can bet it won't be the police and prisons, but the social
Bush's "new world order" is looking more and
more like new world disorder, both at home and abroad. He is so totally obsessed
with his own totalitarian objectives that he seems oblivious to the opposition
growing against him. By now even writers and analysts who were lauding his
"leadership" a few months ago are not only questioning his policies
but warning that they will lead to disaster for America and its people.
THE QUESTION OF DIALECTICS
For those of us who felt we could simply turn our backs
on dialectics for a while, September 11 and the events since then have been a
kick in the head. There cannot be a middle ground in thought. When I sent for
the statement you offered for free in the May issue, on "Confronting
Permanent War and Terrorism: Why the Anti-War Movement needs a Dialectical
Perspective," I worried that it would be something written only for
intellectuals. I could not have been more wrong. What a wonderful statement to
give others! I am excited by the concrete way it lays out the objective
situation in the world within the dialectical process. It put the philosophic
and political together in a way that leaves no doubt as to what is at stake if
we fail to do so.
Single mother, North Carolina
The reviewer of Explorations in Dialectical and Critical
Theory did a fine job in delineating the major points of the collection — not
an easy thing to do. But I felt that one of the most perceptive points he made
was to point out that the essays are concerned with abstract philosophical
conceptions which lack an important concreteness, and then to observe that the
pamphlet should be read in conjunction with News & Letters, which abundantly
provides the concreteness reflecting the philosophy. I certainly agree.
Retired editor, Detroit
I have just read an exciting new work published by
Lexington Books, called The Concept of the Other in Latin American Liberation:
Fusing Emancipatory Philosophic Thought and Social Revolt by Eugene Gogol. He
writes that he aimed to work out "a view of Hegel with Latin American
eyes" and "a view of Latin America with the eyes of the Hegelian
dialectic." If Hegel himself invites the postmodern criticism of his
philosophy as Eurocentric, Gogol follows H.S. Harris in drawing a rigorous
distinction between Hegel's "science of experience" on the one hand,
and his lapses into a Eurocentric "myth of a 'March of the Spirit'" on
the other hand.
This emancipated Hegel, who works out a revolution in
philosophy, is the Hegel who works out the method for the Marxist-Humanist
philosophy of revolution. In this way, Hegel's bourgeois, European
"subject" is transposed to a new continent of thought and revolution,
where the dialectics of freedom begin anew on Latin American soil. With Carter's
visit to Cuba, the failed coup in Venezuela, the crisis in Argentina, and the
Chiapas rebellion, the appearance of this book could not be better timed.
Almost every week the headlines mention some new proof
of global warning like the recent study that concluded this year had the hottest
January-March in a thousand years, or the new giant iceberg that broke off of
Antarctica. An extreme weather event has us wondering whether global warming was
a factor in the heat wave that killed hundreds in India or the floods in the
Midwest. Even though it's seldom possible to prove a single event is caused by
global warming, we do know that the climate system as a whole has been partly
shaped by human actions so no weather can be thought of as strictly natural any
PALESTINE AND ISRAEL
Your May editorial on how "Sharon's brutal invasion
defers peace for a generation" says that 88% of Israeli Jews support an
invasion of the West Bank. It called to mind the way some supporters of Israel's
aggressions insist that the country, surrounded and vastly outnumbered by
hostile Arab states, is only defending itself. History is loaded with examples
of vicious attacks justified in the name of self-defense. Hitler was
"defending" Germany against a Jewish conspiracy. Pinochet murdered
Allende's democracy because it was about to impose a Communist dictatorship.
And, as John Alan pointed out in his column on "Racism and Terror"
(May 2002), police in the U.S. justify their oppression of African Americans
because they are supposedly "ready and able to spring from their
impoverished urban communities to commit crimes against whites." It will
take sharp, uncompromising dialectical thinking to shatter the walls of such
monumental ignorance and prejudice. News & Letters is more vital than ever
in that respect.
While I know that Sharon's unbridled attacks against the
Palestinians demand worldwide condemnation, I felt the May editorial was
somewhat unbalanced. You do correctly condemn the suicidal Palestinian bombers
and I don't mean to imply that the devastation they create is comparable to the
wholesale destruction inflicted by Israel's military forces. But there should
have been more critical denunciation of Arafat, Hamas and the fanatical
fundamentalists as well.
As I write this on May 12, the week has had its measure
of horrors — with Palestinian bombs in Rishon Letsiyon and Beersheba, and the
Israeli army re-invading Tulkarm and enforcing cruel curfews elsewhere. But the
potentially worst scenario seems to have been averted — an Israeli invasion of
Gaza. The results of an attack on the Gaza Strip, one of the most densely
populated regions in the world, with abysmal poverty and already unbearable
living conditions, would dwarf the tragedy of Jenin.
But the most encouraging event of the week was Peace
Now's rally last night in Tel-Aviv, as some 100,000 Israelis turned out to
demand, "Get Out of the Territories Now!" It was the largest rally
since the al-Aqsa Intifada began 20 months ago. Already the media have begun to
minimize it, but it was critical in terms of affecting a broad swath of public
opinion. The occupation can and will be stopped.
Gila Svirsky, Jerusalem, Israel
China achieved a smooth transition from one form of an
overwhelming state-capitalism to a new form of state-capitalism. Capital is
beginning to integrate itself with a group of people related to the political
powers of the state. In this process, the workers have been losing everything
they had. They had been told they "owned" the results of their labor,
collectively and under the name of the state, but the gunfire in Tiananmen
Square in 1989 told them that the state is not really theirs and that the things
they were told they owned were never really owned by them.
Raya Dunayevskaya's analysis of state-capitalism and her
philosophic works deserve attention in Chinese intellectual circles today more
than ever before. But few of them are interested in Marxist analyses of today's
China. These intellectuals are overexcited by the economic achievements of China
in the last ten years and tend to forget what happened in Tiananmen Square.
Nationalism is the main stream of today's intellectual circles just as it has
been for more than a hundred years.
Chinese Scholar, Canada
ENDING DEATH ROW
Last year, when Illinois Gov. Ryan placed a moratorium
on the death penalty, he appointed a special commission to review the sorry
state of the process here. The commission just released its report of almost 100
reforms needed to ensure "fairness" — from videotaping all
confessions obtained by police to providing qualified defense attorneys.
Coincidentally, several anti-death penalty organizations had called for a
demonstration the day after the report was released and barely 100 people
participated. Some people I spoke to about it said, "The death penalty is
dead in Illinois because they'll never be able to implement all those
reforms." I feel it's important to remember that Ryan isn't seeking
re-election and a new governor will be elected in November. If George Bush can
"unsign" an international tribunal agreement to prosecute genocide by
war criminals, a new governor can certainly overturn the current moratorium.
Erica Rae, Chicago
I hope the low turnout at the May 14 March Against the
Death Penalty here doesn't mean people think the movement has already succeeded.
The death penalty was reinstituted here in 1977 as part of the same right-wing
offensive that eventually brought Reagan to power. That offensive brought about
the growth of the prison-industrial complex along with attacks on welfare,
affirmative action, women's and gay rights, and the labor movement. State
violence has deep historic roots. Think of David Walker, Nat Turner, John Brown,
the Haymarket Martyrs, Sacco and Vanzetti—or Mumia Abu-Jamal today—and you
can see how it is woven into the deepest conflicts over race and class in
Abolition sympathizer, Chicago
REMEMBERING A RICH LIFE
We were all shocked and saddened to learn of the passing
of Mary Holmes whose association with us went back to 1977 when she visited
Britain to discuss building Marxist-Humanism here. We held a lot of meetings,
including one with Harry McShane in Newcastle and I have powerful memories of
that. The pamphlet she co-authored, called Working Women for Freedom, was taken
up by a radical distributor here and sold several hundred copies.
Dave Black for the London Corresponding Committee,
Mary was a great teacher and helped me understand quite
a few things. She will be missed not only for her works but for her smile and
Auto worker, Louisiana
What a terrible loss, and she was so young! I didn't
know her personally but very much appreciated her "Our Life and Times"
columns, co-authored with Kevin A. Barry. I didn't realize what a rich life she
had, a life interrupted but not incomplete.
At a time when human life has the possibility of being
extended, it is ironic that she should die so relatively young. Cancer is big
business and we should spend some time reflecting on how little the system cares
for the people it exploits. Perhaps in the tradition of an Irish wake we will
spend time celebrating her inspirational life. We are invited not to mourn but
Pat Duffy, Britain
When you come from another country and are trying to
understand what people are saying at a meeting, it means a great deal to have
someone help you to understand what is going on. That is what Mary did for me
time after time. That is what a real friend does, and it is a rare thing to
Ali Reza, Chicago
Although I met Mary only twice when she visited Toronto
many years ago, I was deeply impressed with her warmth, intelligence, sense of
humor and — above all — her commitment to achieving a world based on human
values. I still remember her stories about participating in the student revolt
at Columbia. I will miss her global reporting and remain inspired by her
While everyone knew Mary as the co-author of "Our
Life and Times" not all were aware of all the other work she accomplished
for Marxist-Humanism over the years. Most recently, it included the painstaking
and Herculean work to which she had devoted the one day each week she was off
her regular job, in order to catalog the thousands of books from Raya
Dunayevskaya's personal library that were donated to the Wayne State University
Archives Library. Her creative organizational work and many contributions to the
pages of N&L are what we are honoring at the same time that we are mourning
our great loss.
Olga Domanski, Chicago
Editor's Note: Along with our thanks for the many other
expressions of sorrow we received on Mary's passing, we wish to thank all those
who honored Mary by sending contributions to N&L to continue her legacy with
DAUGHTER OF PERSIA: REVIEW OF AUTHOR'S LIFE
I attended a discussion and book-signing by Sattareh
Farman Farmaian of her internationally acclaimed book, Daughter of Persia: A
Woman's Journey from her Father's Harem through the Islamic Revolution. The
Video Theater auditorium was filled to capacity as she described how her father
was once a wealthy and powerful prince in Persia/Iran who had married eight
times (but not as in Western culture one at a time). Ms. Farmaian's mother was
the third wife and she was the third of her nine children. Her father had 30
sons and 20 daughters and made sure all were educated. On Fridays he had all the
children present to check on their health and test them on their studies.
Farmiaian recited for us in Farsi one of the poems her
father had her learn. It spoke of human beings all being connected to each other
in one way or another. He died in his 80s under house arrest when World War II
was going full tilt. This was when Farmaian decided to leave Iran. She laughed
at herself for expecting to see the Statue of Liberty when she got by ship to
the port of Los Angeles. She attended Southern California University, later
worked at Hull House in Chicago, returned to Iran to open the School for Social
Work in Teheran, running it for 20 years until the 1979 revolution when she was
imprisoned. Allowed to leave Iran in 1980, she worked for 22 years at UCLA
before retiring. She has only a daughter.
George Wilfrid Smith Jr., Chicago
VOICES FROM WITHIN
The way prisoners' rights are handled is all about control. The hopes and dreams of women in prison are all about seeing and being with our families once again. Family visits mean strengthening the bonds that were broken or weakened by our substance abuse. Once in prison drug offenders are mandated to attend substance abuse programs. They help us regain our value system and our understanding of who we are. They give us the tools we need to repair the broken promises and relationships we left behind. I feel visiting privileges with our families and children give us the opportunity to use these tools given us in those programs. That bonding is a vital part of our returning to society and feeling part of it.
As I continue to read each issue of N&L, I'm becoming more pessimistic about the state of the world. Everything seems to end in violence. What's the point of being right if those in the wrong have the superior might to impose their will on those in the right? Please keep producing the thought-provoking articles that have given me so much insight over the years and thank my donor for me.
Native American prisoner, Texas
Editor's note: Can you donate the price of a sub to our special Donors' Fund which pays for subs requested by prisoners who have no funds of their own?
GLOBAL LABOR FERMENT
You don't have to search for news of labor struggles around the whole world today. Besides the largest general strike in decades reported in the May issue in "Our Life and Times" and the massive labor events shortly after in Germany, the end of May may also see nationwide strikes in key sectors in South Korea. The unions there threaten to strike just days ahead of the start of the World Cup finals, which kicks off in Seoul on May 31. Those strikes would involve thousands of taxi drivers and hospital workers as well as industrial unionists.
And not to be overlooked is what is going on at the University of California medical centers where 8,000 nurses of the UC system plan a one day strike on May 29 if their union can't get a satisfactory contract to replace the one that expired on April 30. What is getting headlines in this situation is the way replacement nurses (read: scabs) are being sought by the San Francisco firm, Healthcare Consulting and Staffing Services, via a web site named www.scab.org, which is offering them $1,000 for a 12-hour shift, plus up to $600 in travel expenses and "deluxe accommodations."
Labor activist, Los Angeles
Published by News and Letters Committees