FOR 2005-2006: A PHILOSOPHIC DIRECTION
It was important to see you stress in the Draft Perspectives (see July-August 2005 N&L) that today's freedom movements have to oppose ALL forms of terrorism and religious fundamentalism in the course of projecting a comprehensive alternative to the capitalist system. It is completely right to stress the philosophical void that paved the way to religious fundamentalism, which targets the rights of women, gays and youth to control their bodies and minds because it wrongly views such rights as causing the dissolution of family, community, and other social bonds when it is the logic of capital that promotes their dissolution. What needs stressing more is the deadly logic of capital as it was described in what I consider the brilliant column by Htun Lin on "Planned deaths from medical cutbacks" in the May-June issue of N&L. It illustrates the horrific nature of a society in which value-production, surplus value-production and profit dominate at the expense of human beings. That column could be a starting point for a pamphlet by N&L on what value-production means for humanity in this age.
I would love to see some pamphlets written by those emerging opposition groups you mention. It's tough to support something that isn't known about, like the budding independent labor movement in Iraq. I consider myself very "with it" but find it impossible to keep up with all the political developments around the world. Please consider making information about these global groups more readily available. I think you should do the same with the theory and practice of Marxist-Humanism. As a serious anarchist prison abolition propagandist, I try to make material readily available and explained in an understandable manner. Those looking for intense intellectualization can plod through the heavy theory and analyses somewhere else. A huge task of revolutionary teachers is supporting emerging groups of resisters. Helping them articulate and organize their initiatives gives credence to our politics and is an integral part of developing solidarity.
--Anthony Rayson, Indiana
I fear for "Iraq's small but growing labor movement." Their task would be tough enough in that part of the world, dealing with the reactionary Ba'athist and fundamentalist "resistance." In addition, they have the U.S. presence hampering reconstruction efforts and its military functioning as anti-labor goon squads if Iraqi workers get too militant.
--Working Stiff, North Carolina
I totally agree with the Perspectives concerning the bankruptcy of liberalism. The structure of U.S. capitalism since the 1970s makes it impossible to implement a liberal agenda of any sort. They have no power and can have none, given the nature of restructured capitalism. Katrina proves it. It wasn't just Bush that fell down but also the Democrats in Congress who didn't push for greater infrastructure investment. Even if a Democrat ends up as president in 2008 he will implement a Republican/Conservative agenda, just like Clinton did.
I am not so sure that it can be said leftists and rightists ended up on the same side in the rejection of the EU Constitution in the Netherlands and France. I see the "No" in both countries more as a reaction to the regime of the respective administrations, which are cutting wages, social benefits and medical care and are worsening the conditions of housing, labouring and environment. It is a signal of people feeling themselves socially insecure. It is clear that a simple no-saying will not be a step forward to liberation, for people have to learn that their respective administrations are connected with the development of world capitalism, the way in which they are alienated as human beings in capitalist society.
The last three issues of N&L have been exceptional, from March/April to July/August that included the phenomenal "Draft for Marxist-Humanist Perspectives." Perhaps because of the increased amount of attention paid to Marx's labor theory of value in the various articles, or maybe the change to a bimonthly, there seems to be a greater sense of purpose to N&L. Josh Skolnik made a profound statement in "Is Marx's view of socialism relevant": "What Marxists of both the soviet and Western varieties have dogmatically done to Hegel, they have, by extension, also done to Marx, thereby failing to understand his method by pushing off into the distance the very standpoint of the future society that necessarily grounds his specific critique of the present." Is being grounded in the future society what I'm sensing in Marxist-Humanism?
--D.H., North Carolina
Your "Draft for Marxist-Humanist Perspectives, 2005-2006" presents a most formidable challenge, if not an utterly daunting task, even to an accomplished theoretical-political economist. It is too bad a Nobel Prize was not established in this crucial area of human endeavor.
With the exception of the refusal of the vanguard party to commit suicide or wither away, it has been emphatically demonstrated that historical and dialectical materialism are absolutely valid revolutionary tools. Perhaps the greatest hindrance in transitioning from one set of social relations to another resides in the specialization in social, political and economic spheres. To monopolize the ownership of the means of production is qualitatively different from monopolizing or oligopolizing the political apparatus, the military-industrial-technological complex, the labor aristocracy, or the educational curriculum. But they all tend toward the concentration of power in the hands of a few to the detriment of the many.
--C. Thomas, Arizona
I would like to ask your help for my older son, Rodney Brown (prison ID# 32279) who was to be up for parole in late July 2005. A few weeks prior to this date while he was at work in the prison a guard went to his work site and pushed him. Rodney hugged him to prevent the guard from hitting him. Another guard assumed Rodney was attacking the first guard, called for help, peppersprayed him in the face and handcuffed him. Rodney was then placed in the SHU. I have received many letters from other inmates who saw everything that happened. They told me the guard who pushed Rodney is known for harassing other inmates.
Rodney has kept a clean record for five years and is a counselor for new inmates. He was being highly recommended for parole by the supervisors of that program, but the parole hearing has now been put off for a year and his record is no longer clean. No supervisors or other inmates were allowed to testify at Rodney's hearing on this incident. The guard involved has now been transferred out. Rodney, who is still in the SHU, is appealing this decision.
We are asking you to write to the Warden, asking why Rodney is still in the SHU and appealing to him to hear other witnesses and speak to the supervisors who worked with Rodney for a long time. The warden's name is Robert Hernandez, 480 Alta Road, San Diego, CA 92179. Thank you for helping my son.
--Georgiana Williams, Los Angeles
At the end of Susan Van Gelder's "Reader's View" in the July-August issue on Peter Hudis' essay, "Marx's Humanism and the Fight for a New Ecology," she challenges us to respond to environmental issues on this 50th anniversary of N&L. I thought I was moderately clever concerning the environment about ten years ago. As Marx teaches us, everything in capitalist society relates back to the point of production. So I surmised that if the environment at the point of capitalist production was destructive, that would manifest itself in the environment of our planet. I came to realize I wasn't all that clever when I read the Marxist-Humanist pamphlet, THE REVOLUTIONARY JOURNALISM OF FELIX MARTIN, and found what had been an article by that auto worker in the April 1976 issue of N&L, called "Kentucky Coal Disasters Throw Light on Deadly Working Conditions Everywhere." Here is what he wrote on the environment: "The workplace, whether in the mines, in auto, or in many other places where we labor, is unhealthy. New reports keep coming out relating different cancers to where people have worked. I believe that there is a link between the callous disregard of the environment in which women and men spend a third or more of their day, and the pollution of everything around us."
--Felix Martin Fan, Colorado
The top-down engineered "dispute" inside the AFL-CIO top structure, which resulted in a splintering off of a new coalition called "change to win" amount to much-ado about nothing. It maintains the status-quo as much as their top-down "Partnerships with management" maintain their collaboration with capital, while maintaining their bi-lateral opposition to the rank and file. The "earthshaking" news of the split is barely registering a big zero on the Richter scale of the rank and file in my shop. Workers are more concerned about their health and welfare on and off the job. The nurses' and teachers' grassroots campaign against Schwarzenneger's war-plans is making more of a difference than any high-minded unity of purpose engineered by the high and mighty labor leaders. That's true whether it's about worker's comp, or social-security, or pension funds, or nurse to patient and teacher to pupil ratios. In the end, it's not necessarily which issues concern us; it's how the rank and file confront the issues very differently than those at the top, who at best only "manage" instead of confronting them.
--Former union steward, San Francisco
Buried beneath the mountain of stories about the thousands trapped inside the superdome was the story of how 13,000 Oakland East Bay hopefuls-- mostly women and minorities--lined up for days to have a chance, any chance, at the thousand or so jobs being offered by a brand new Wal-Mart being built there. It was not as spectacular as the scene of 20,000 trapped by Katrina, but it nevertheless represents just as much a casualty-toll of economic refugees caused by capital's everyday "business as usual" devastation.
--Worker, East Bay
It seems to me that if this country is to have any sort of future worth elating it is bound up with specific, on point struggles, such as the big win by the Florida Farm Workers over Yum! Brands/Taco Bell, as reported in N&L. The only place a dedicated capitalist feels any pain is in his/her wallet. Twenty-first century politicians and too-long-lived political parties are not going to do anything for the American people, just for themselves and big corporations. We have to do for ourselves or it will not get done.
The Florida farmworkers showed what could be accomplished with liberation theology/Marxist-Humanist/independent workers, all together in a unified concert. It was and is a specific scenario that bears repeating and repeating. Who should be next? Caterpillar? Wal-Mart is watching.
--Robert Zani, Texas
It's a sad day when a section of the U.S. anti-war movement sponsors a tour by George Galloway, the British MP who denounced the U.S. Senate over the Iraq war. Galloway repeatedly applauded Saddam Hussein's brutal regime, despite its genocidal policies, and earned over one million dollars by raising funds for Iraqi children that ended up in his family's pocket. He's also a sexist who denounces abortion rights and ridicules the feminist movement. This is the person that the ISO is now touring around the country to enlighten us to what's wrong with Bush? No wonder the anti-war movement is having so much trouble connecting with the anti-war sentiment of the U.S. public.
--Anti-war activist, Chicago
I continue to closely watch the shortcomings of the "anti-war" movement which continues with all the stupidities that it revealed over Yugoslavia. One can only describe this movement as anti-American. It really doesn't have much other perspective.
Cindy Sheehan clearly acted as a lightning rod for deep anti-war feelings that had been growing below the surface for some time. Now for the first time the polls show that the majority of Americans are not only opposed to the war but to what they see as Bushism at home, as Katrina exposed it. What is significant to me is that the sharp repudiation of the Republican agenda has not meant an increase in approval of the Democrats. The question is what it could mean in the search for a completely different alternative to capitalism.
In "Environmental Day Solidarity" (July-August N&L), I referred to Miho Kim as a "Japanese woman of Korean descent." She is not a Japanese woman. She is a third-generation Korean woman born and raised in Japan. Koreans are not allowed to be citizens of Japan, no matter how many generations preceded them. Because she failed to obtain an exit permit after a trip to Japan to visit her family, she has lost her status as a resident of Japan. Now she is eligible only for a visitor's visa which entitles her to a maximum of 90 days, and prohibits her from getting a job. The prohibition is especially troubling because, as the eldest child, she is responsible for the family's well-being.
--David Mizuno 'Oto, California
The Sept. 24 Washington, D.C. march against the war was an encouraging sign of a peace movement finding its legs again. The mass movement that existed before the U.S. invaded Iraq had been weakened by its disappointment at not stopping the war and then desiccated by letting itself be heavily involved in the "Anybody but Bush" campaign. In recent months, however, the movement has been changing, together with the multiclass, multiracial, counter-recruitment movement that aims to reduce military recruitment and to build resistance to recruiters in the schools. Iraq Veterans Against the War, Military Families Against the War, and the Camp Casey Movement sparked by Cindy Sheehan have transformed the movement into one composed of all ages and based in the broadly-defined working class.
Sept. 24 made this visible. Between 150,000 and 300,000 people came to Washington, D.C., to march. The marchers contained many young people, union members, Vietnam Vets, and members of soldiers’ families (as well as scattered Iraq War vets). Although the crowd in the areas I saw was heavily white, there were many Blacks and Latinos present. For example, I saw large and spirited primarily-minority contingents from Transport Workers Union Local 100 (New York City) and from the Service Employees International Union.
There was at least one terrifying but eerie symbol--a line of marchers walking one by one along the side of the main march carrying a clothesline that must have been a significant part of a mile long, with a picture of a dead U.S. soldier every foot or two. Unlike my local peace group, people at the march generally did not carry signs memorializing the Iraqi dead by name, date, and age.
The signs were mainly anti-war and anti-Bush, with a smattering of references to New Orleans. Socialist group members were present, and one or two had organized sound speakers, but were mainly carrying signs that were anti-war or displayed connections between the war and the Katrina disaster. One group called for a Dec. 1 day to stay at home. Its members seemed young, and seemed to get some interest from marchers--but the crowd did not seem (yet?) to be taking the suggestion for even a one-day general strike seriously. The mood was angry, determined, and in some ways hopeful. This movement still lacks any philosophy of revolution, but discussions and thoughts are beginning the process that might head in that direction.
--Sam Friedman, New York
When Jesse Jackson reported on the non-response of FEMA, the National Guard, and the Red Cross, I felt this was "ethnic cleansing" on the part of the Bush administration, which inherited Nixon's "Benign Neglect" policy of racism, since presented as a "Color Blind" society. The so-called relief effort that eventually got underway looked more like a national experiment in martial law management, combined with total media management by the unofficial Ministry of Propaganda.
Among the scores turned away by government officials from helping the victims of Hurricane Katrina were hundreds of volunteers from animal welfare organizations across the country. For many of the poor and elderly in New Orleans their pets were the only "family" they had, and they refused to evacuate, fearing the worst for their beloved companions. One of the most moving scenes of rescue I saw was a national guardsman driving a tank looking for abandoned animals and a dog leaping from a second story window to swim for its life in the toxic stew below toward its rescuer. Pets don't care how much money you have in your bank account. They give so much love and ask for such little in return. I think the profound question they have also asked the Bush administration in this disaster is "What does it mean to be human?"
--Dog Lover, Illinois
Danielle Metz of New Orleans is serving two life sentences in Dublin, California, because her husband was accused of conspiracy to distribute five kilos of cocaine and she didn't know enough to tell the DEA. Just before Katrina hit, Danielle's sister went to New Orleans to get her children to safety. She found such a need that she got her church to send three buses and convinced 131 people to come with her to the Bay Area.
California Coalition for Women Prisoners' Director, Yvonne Cooks, appealed for help for these people. There was a tremendous response. I put up a sign in our apartment building and neighbors responded magnificently. When the two women who were driving a van with the donations came by, one of them commented, "I feel like we're conducting on the underground railroad."
--Urszula Wislanka, Oakland
The South is the poorest region of the country and the economic impact will be hardest there. Hundreds of thousands of refugees were fleeing for their lives to neighboring states of Mississippi, Tennessee, Arkansas, Texas, Alabama and Georgia. Memphis alone within the first week had thousands upon thousands of refugees. Healthcare for Tennessee citizens is in the process of being gutted. What does it mean for people who come with almost nothing, not even knowing when they'll be allowed back to their homes? The overcrowded emergency rooms are overwhelmed even under normal circumstances. With many local economies in deep economic crises, this may show any state its future should something unexpected befall it.
--Brown Douglas, Memphis
Charges have been made in the NEW YORKER MAGAZINE by Seymour Hersh that the Bush administration initiated a top-secret covert program to funnel funds and other aid to candidates in the Jan. 30 Iraqi elections who were favored by the White House. This included, allegedly, possible ballot-stuffing and other means of controlling vote totals. As I see it, the Right has stolen two elections here and is now shown to have attempted the same in Iraq.
The Right evidently supports democracy only as long as the outcome is predetermined. This explains why they hate it so much when they cannot control the direction it takes. We should recall that these are many of the same people who waged an illegal war against Nicaragua's democratically-elected government back in the '80s, and stood by while forces the first George Bush set in motion to topple the Hussein regime in 1991 were slaughtered by Hussein's forces. Any democratic force beyond the control of corporate America will be crushed. The past is full of examples of this history.
--Anti-war activist, Louisiana
This Nov. 18-20 you are needed at the gates of Fort Benning, Georgia. As soon as the early summer of 2006, Congress will vote on whether or not they should close the School of the Americas, now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation or WHINSEC.
This is the moment to make our stand to say NO to torture, NO to violence, and YES to a different world we are building. For information visit www.soaw.org or call 202-234-3440. BE AT FORT BENNING NOV. 18-20.
--SOA Watch, Washington, D.C.
Published by News and Letters Committees