My bibliography for César Chávez & the United Farm Workers … and the Struggle of Farm Workers in the U.S. is here.
My bibliography for César Chávez & the United Farm Workers … and the Struggle of Farm Workers in the U.S. is here.
That's the title of the book by Cathleen Kaveny that was published one year ago this month (Harvard University Press). Professor Kaveny is the Darald and Juliet Libby Professor at Boston College, where she holds a joint appointment (School of Law, Department of Theology).
On Friday, April 7, 1:30-5:00 PM, at the McMullen Museum of Art, 201 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, there will be a program, focused on Professor Kaveny's book, entitled "Prophecy Without Contempt: A Conversation About Religion, Identity, and Exclusion in Our New Political Era". The three speakers are an extraordinarily impressive group: Jonathan Lear, John U. Nef Distinguished Service Professor, Committee on Social Thought and Department of Philosophy, University of Chicago; Charles Taylor, Professor Emeritus, Department of Philosophy, McGill University; and Rowan Williams, 104th Archbishop of Cantebury and Master of Magdalene College, University of Cambridge. Professor Kaveny will respond. The program is presented by The Clough Center for the Study of Constitutional Democracy, Boston College.
I sent the following message to Speaker Ryan this morning.
Dear Mr. Ryan
You try to project yourself as a person of integrity. But your lapdog Chair of the House Intelligence Committee is attempting to obstruct attempts to get at the truth (suggesting there is something to hide). And you declare full confidence in his inept and corrupt actions. You are famously a Catholic, but you mock that description by sponsoring legislation in health care and elsewhere that would rob the poor to help the rich. I am not a constituent in your district, but I will be happy to contribute to your opponent in the next election including the primary.
From The Guardian yesterday:
The South African anti-apartheid activist Ahmed Kathrada, one of Nelson Mandela’s closest colleagues in the struggle against white rule and a fellow Robben Island prisoner, has died aged 87. Kathrada, who was affectionately known by his nickname ‘Kathy,’ was among those jailed alongside Mandela after the Rivonia trial in 1964. The case drew worldwide attention and highlighted the brutal legal system under the apartheid regime. He died in hospital in Johannesburg following a short illness after brain surgery.
Kathrada spent 26 years and three months in prison, 18 of which were on Robben Island. After the end of apartheid, he served from 1994-99 as parliamentary counsellor to President Mandela in the first African National Congress (ANC) government. In recent years he was highly critical of President Jacob Zuma and the ANC government. Nevertheless, the ANC said South Africa had ‘lost a titan.’ ‘His life is a lesson in humility, tolerance, resilience and a steadfast commitment to principle,’ it said in a statement.
* * *
What follows immediately below is from Kathrada’s Wikipedia entry, sans hyperlinks and notes, and lightly edited, including the addition of material (in brackets) from his biography at South African History Online. After that I’ve copied some introductory autobiographical passages from the Prologue to Kathrada’s A Simple Freedom: The Strong Mind of Robben Island—Prisoner No. 468/64 (Lexington, KY: University Press of Kentucky, 2016): 18-20.
“Ahmed Mohamed Kathrada, sometimes known by the nickname ‘Kathy,’ was a South African politician, former political prisoner and anti-apartheid activist. Kathrada’s involvement in the anti-apartheid activities of the African National Congress (ANC) led him to his long-term imprisonment following the Rivonia Trial, in which he was held at Robben Island and Pollsmoor Prison. Following his release in 1990, he was elected to serve as a member of parliament, representing the ANC. [….]
Kathrada was born in the small country town of Schweizer-Reneke in the Western Transvaal, the fourth of six children in a Gujarati Bohra family of South African Indian immigrant parents from Surat, Gujarat.
Due to the policies of the time, he could not be admitted to any of the ‘European’ or ‘African’ schools in the area and thus he had to move to Johannesburg to be educated. Once in Johannesburg, he was influenced by leaders of the Transvaal Indian Congress such as Dr. Yusuf Dadoo, IC Meer, Moulvi and Yusuf Cachalia, and JN Singh. Consequently, he became a political activist at the early age of 12 when he joined the Young Communist League of South Africa, [which found him, in his own words, ‘distributing leaflets and chalking freedom slogans on walls’]. He took part in various activities such as handing out leaflets and performing volunteer work in the individual passive resistance against the Pegging Act in 1941. During World War II, he was involved in the anti-war campaign of the Non-European United Front. He obtained his matric at Johannesburg Indian High.
At the age of 17 he left school to work full-time for the Transvaal Passive Resistance Council in order to work against the Asiatic Land Tenure and Indian Representation Act, commonly referred to as the ‘Ghetto Act,’ which sought to give Indians limited political representation and defined the areas where Indians could live, trade and own land. Kathrada was one of the two thousand volunteers imprisoned as a result of the [‘passive resistance’] campaign [‘of the South African Indian Congress’]; he spent a month in a Durban jail. This was his first jail sentence for civil disobedience. Reportedly, he gave an incorrect age to the police so that he would not be treated as a juvenile, but sent to an adult prison instead. Later, he was elected as secretary-general of the Transvaal Indian Youth Congress.
While Kathrada was a student at the University of the Witwatersrand he was sent as a delegate of the Transvaal Indian Youth Congress to the 3rd World Festival of Youth and Students in East Berlin in 1951. He was elected as the leader of the large multi-racial South African delegation. He remained in Europe in order to attend a congress of the International Union of Students in Warsaw, and finally travelled to Budapest and worked at the headquarters of the World Federation of Democratic Youth for nine months.
As result of the growing co-operation between the African and Indian Congresses in the 1950s, Kathrada came into close contact with African National Congress leaders such as Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, [‘J.B. Marks and other African leaders’]. [‘The signing of the Dadoo-Naicker-Xuma Pact in 1947 [had] strengthened the Alliance, which comprised the ANC and the SAIC. Kathrada worked tirelessly to promote joint action as a leader of the Youth Action Committee, co-ordinating the youth wings of the African, Indian and other Congresses’].
[In 1952, he helped organise the ‘Campaign of Defiance against Unjust laws,’ launched jointly by the ANC and the SAIC. The Defiance Campaign targeted six unjust Apartheid laws, amongst them the Pass Laws, Stock Limitation Regulations, the Group Areas Act, the Separate Representation of Voters Act, the Suppression of Communism Act and the Bantu Authorities Act. The Government was called upon to repeal these laws by 29 February 1952. Failing this, the ANC and the SAIC were to launch a joint campaign of Defiance.
In 1953, Kathrada was elected to the executive of the World Federation of Democratic Youth in absentia, a post he was unable to take up due to restrictions placed on him by the authorities. Kathrada was among a group of twenty officials who were charged with organising the Defiance Campaign jointly organised by the ANC and SAIC (South African Indian Congress). They were given a suspended sentence of nine months with hard labour, which was suspended for two years. In 1954, he was served with banning orders prohibiting him from attending any gatherings and from taking part in the activities of 39 organisations. These bans curtailed his overall participation in politics, but it did not deter him. He was arrested several times for breaking his ‘banning.’
Twenty Congress Alliance leaders of the Defiance Campaign (a series of mass actions involving more than 10,000 protesters) appear in the Johannesburg Magistrates Court on charges of contravening the Suppression of Communism Act, August 26, 1952. Ahmed Kathrada is in the upper row, second from the right.
In 1955, when Indian schools in Johannesburg were moved out of the city to the segregated location of Lenasia, some 22 miles away, he helped organise the Central Indian High School parents’ association. This served as a private school, established to combat the Group Areas Act, and he was duly elected as secretary. In the same year, he helped organise the multi-racial ‘Congress of the People,’ which proclaimed the ‘Freedom Charter,’ a policy document of the Congress Alliance. Kathrada served on the Alliance’s General Purpose Committee.]
He was one of 156 accused in the four-year Treason Trial which lasted from 1956 to 1960. Eventually, all of the accused were found not guilty.
After the ANC and various other anti-apartheid organisations were banned in 1960, Kathrada continued his political activities despite repeated detentions and increasingly severe house arrest measures against him. In order to be free to continue his activities, Kathrada went underground early in 1963. On 11 July 1963, Kathrada was arrested at the South African internal headquarters of Umkhonto we Sizwe (‘The Spear of the Nation’—the military wing of the ANC) in Rivonia, near Johannesburg. Although Kathrada was not a member of Umkhonto we Sizwe, he became one of the accused in the famous Rivonia Trial, which started in October 1963. He was charged with sabotage and attempting to overthrow the government by violent means. The trial ended in June 1964; Kathrada was sentenced to life imprisonment along with Nelson Mandela, Walter Sisulu, Govan Mbeki, Andrew Mlangeni, Billy Nair, Elias Motsoaledi, Raymond Mhlaba and Denis Goldberg.
For the following 18 years, Kathrada was confined to the Robben Island Maximum Security Prison along with most of his Rivonia Trial ‘colleagues.’ In October 1982, he was moved to Pollsmoor Maximum Prison near Cape Town to join others such as Mandela, Sisulu, Mhlaba and Mlangeni who had been moved there a few months before.
While in jail on Robben Island and in Pollsmoor, Kathrada completed Bachelor’s degrees in History/Criminology and Bibliography as well as Honours degrees in History and African Politics through the University of South Africa. (The prison authorities refused to allow him or the other prisoners to pursue postgraduate studies.)
On 15 October 1989 Kathrada, along with Jeff Masemola, Raymond Mhlaba, Billy Nair, Wilton Mkwayi, Andrew Mlangeni, Elias Motsoaledi, Oscar Mpetha, and Walter Sisulu were released from Johannesburg prison. After the unbanning of the ANC in February 1990, Kathrada served on the interim leadership committees of both the ANC and the South African Communist Party. He resigned from the latter position when he was elected to the ANC National Executive Committee in July 1991. During the same year, he was appointed as head of ANC public relations as well as a fellow of the University of the Western Cape’s Mayibuye Centre. Kathrada went on the Hajj pilgrimage to Mecca in 1992.
In the first all-inclusive democratic South African elections in 1994, Kathrada was elected as a member of parliament for the ANC; in September 1994 he was appointed as the political advisor to President Mandela in the newly created post of Parliamentary Counsellor. In June 1999, Kathrada left parliamentary politics. In 1994 and 1995, Kathrada was elected as chairperson of the Robben Island Council. He remained the chairperson of the Robben Island Museum Council. On 27 October 2013, on the island, he launched the International Campaign to Free Marwan Barghouthi and All Palestinian Prisoners.
In addition to receiving the Isitwalandwe Award (the ANC’s highest possible accolade) whilst still in prison, Kathrada has also been awarded four Honorary Doctorates, including the University of Missouri, Michigan State University, and the University of Kentucky.
Kathrada’s life partner was Barbara Hogan, a recent Minister of Public Enterprises. Kathrada died at a medical center in Johannesburg from complications of a cerebral embolism on 28 March 2017, aged 87.”
* * *
On this date in 1969, the first national Chicano youth conference was held in Denver, Colorado by Crusade for Justice, the civil rights organization founded by former boxer Corky Gonzáles. “Rodolfo ’Corky’ Gonzáles (June 18, 1928 – April 12, 2005) was a Mexican American boxer, poet, and political activist. He convened the first-ever Chicano youth conference in March 1969, which was attended by many future Chicano activists and artists. The conference also promulgated the Plan Espiritual de Aztlán, a manifesto demanding self-determination for Chicanos. As an early figure of the movement for the equal rights of Mexican Americans, he is often considered one of the founders of the Chicano Movement.”
According to Carlos Muñoz, Jr.,
“[The conference] brought together for the first time activists from all over the country who were involved in both campus and community politics. The conference was also significant because it brought together young people of all types—students, non-students, militant youth from the street gangs (vatos locos), and ex-convicts (pintos)—to discuss community issues and politics. The majority in attendance, however, were student activists, and most of them were from California. The conference emphasized themes that related to the quest for identity as popularized by Gonzáles and [Luis] Valdez, which were eagerly received by students searching for an ideology for the emerging student movement.
Corky Gonzáles and his followers in Denver had developed the image of the Crusade for Justice as ‘the vanguard’ of the rapidly growing Chicano Power Movement. The Crusade, originally a multi-issue, broad-based civil rights organization oriented toward nonviolence, came to symbolize Chicano self-determination and espoused a strong nationalist ideology that militant youth found extremely attractive. [….]
During the week-long conference, Gonzáles and his followers stressed the need for students and youth to play a revolutionary role in the movement. Conference participants were told that previous generations of students, after completing academic programs and becoming professionals, had abdicated their responsibility to their people, to their familia de La Raza. This abdication of responsibility was attributed to the fact that Mexican American students had been Americanized by the schools, that they had been conditioned to accept the dominant values of American society, particularly individualism, at the expense of their Mexican identity. The result had been the psychological ‘colonization’ of Mexican American youth.”
[….] “During his final year in high school and the subsequent summer, Corky worked hard to save money for a college education. With a keen interest in engineering, Corky entered the University of Denver, but after the first quarter realized that the financial cost was insurmountable. Rodolfo then pursued a career in Boxing. An outstanding amateur national champion Rodolfo became one of the best featherweight (125 lbs.) fighters in the world. Even though Ring Magazine ranked Corky number three in the world, he never got a justly deserved title shot.
In the mid-1960’s, Rodolfo Gonzáles founded an urban civil rights and cultural movement called the Crusade for Justice. Soon he became one of the central leaders in the Chicano movement and a strong proponent of Chicano nationalism. In the late sixties and early seventies, Corky Gonzáles organized and supported high school walkouts, demonstrations against police brutality, and legal cases. He also organized mass demonstrations against the Vietnam War.
In 1968 Gonzáles led a Chicano contingent in the Poor People’s March on Washington, D.C. While there, he issued his ‘Plan of the Barrio’ which called for better housing, education, barrio-owned businesses, and restitution of pueblo lands. He also proposed forming a ‘Congress of Aztlán’ to achieve these goals.
One of the most important roles played by Gonzáles was as an organizer of the Annual Chicano Youth Liberation Conference, an ambitious effort to create greater unity among Chicano youth. These Conferences brought together large numbers of Chicano youth from throughout the United States and provided them with opportunities to express their views on self-determination. The first conference in March 1969 produced a document, “Plan Espiritual de Aztlán,” which developed the concept of ethnic nationalism and self-determination in the struggle for Chicano liberation. The second Chicano Youth Conference in 1970 represented a further refinement in Corky Gonzáles’s efforts toward Chicano self-determination, the formation of the Colorado Raza Unida Party.
During this time Corky and his wife, Geraldine Romero Gonzáles, raised a family of six daughters and two sons…. Corky is proud of his family, especially the twenty-four grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren. Recently celebrating his fifty-sixth wedding anniversary, Corky attributed the closeness and strength of his family to his beloved wife, Geraldine, who has been his most enthusiastic and ardent supporter.
In many ways, Corky Gonzáles has greatly influenced the Chicano movement. His key to liberation for the Chicano community is to develop a strong power base with heavy reliance on nationalism among Chicanos. His contributions as a community organizer, youth leader, political activist, and civil rights advocate have helped to create a new spirit of Chicano unity.” [….]
Today is the 106th anniversary (March 25, 1911) of the fire at the Triangle Waist (often ‘Shirtwaist’) Company in New York City in which 146 garment workers – 123 women and 23 men – died. Most of these workers were young Jewish and Italian immigrant women. “Because the owners had locked the doors to the stairwells and exits – a then-common practice to prevent workers from taking unauthorized breaks and to [ostensibly] reduce theft – many of the workers who could not escape from the burning building simply jumped from the high windows.” The owners of the factory were prosecuted for the fire but won an acquittal, “thanks to the exceptionally effective representation of legendary attorney Max Steuer” (Steve Lubet).
There is a wonderful website with primary and secondary sources and sundry helpful stuff about this industrial disaster at Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations.
Professor Marcia L. McCormick has written a related article well worth your time: “Consensus, Dissensus, and Enforcement: Legal Protection of Working Women from the Time of the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire to Today,” available on SSRN. Here is the abstract:
“The Triangle Shirtwaist Factory tragedy mobilized the labor movement and progressive reformers, and provided part of the political will to enact significant protective health and safety legislation for workers. And while the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory fire has been cited in legal literature as an important event in the movement for workplace safety standards, however, the gendered nature of the tragedy and its place in the development of laws protecting women as women, rather than as beneficiaries of laws protecting all workers, has not been as fully explored. This contribution to the New York University Journal of Legislation and Public Policy's symposium issue dedicated to the 100-year anniversary of the fire seeks to do that.”
“Rose Schneiderman, a garment worker and union organizer, works next to the large pile of material that makes up her day’s assignment. Her experience in sweatshops together with her middle and upper class contacts in the Women’s Trade Union League enabled her to bridge class lines, at least temporarily, and helped stabilize relationships that provided social, political, and economic support during the shirtwaist strike and later.” (Photographer: unknown, ca. 1900)
“AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) is an international direct action advocacy group working to impact the lives of people with AIDS (PWAs) and the AIDS pandemic to bring about legislation, medical research, and treatment and policies to ultimately bring an end to the disease by mitigating loss of health and lives.
ACT UP was effectively formed in March 1987 at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in New York. Larry Kramer was asked to speak as part of a rotating speaker series, and his well-attended speech focused on action to fight AIDS. Kramer spoke out against the Gay Men’s Health Crisis (GMHC), which he perceived as politically impotent. Kramer had co-founded the GMHC but had resigned from its board of directors in 1983. According to Douglas Crimp, Kramer posed a question to the audience: ‘Do we want to start a new organization devoted to political action?’ The answer was ‘a resounding yes.’ Approximately 300 people met two days later to form ACT UP. [….]
On March 24, 1987, 250 ACT UP members demonstrated at Wall Street and Broadway to demand greater access to experimental AIDS drugs and for a coordinated national policy to fight the disease. An Op/Ed article by Larry Kramer published in the New York Times the previous day described some of the issues ACT UP was concerned with. Seventeen ACT UP members were arrested during this civil disobedience.” [....]
March 24, 1977: On this date Rodolfo Jorge Walsh (January 9, 1927 – March 25, 1977) an Argentine writer, journalist and revolutionary of Irish descent, published his “Open Letter from a Writer to the Military Junta” (excerpts from which are below) accusing them of disappearing thousands of Argentines. The next day he was murdered.
“In 1976, in response to censorship imposed by the military dictatorship, Walsh had created ANCLA, (Clandestine News Agency), and the ‘Information Chain,’ a system of hand-to-hand information distribution whose leaflets stated in the heading:
Reproduce this information, circulate it by any means at your disposal: by hand, by machine, by mimeograph, orally. Send copies to your friends: nine out of ten are waiting for them. Millions want to be informed. Terror is based on lack of communication. Break the isolation. Feel again the moral satisfaction of an act of freedom. Defeat the terror. Circulate this information.”
While US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger congratulated Argentina’s military junta for combating the left, stating that in his opinion “the government of Argentina had done an outstanding job in wiping out terrorist forces,” fulfilling Kissinger’s earlier wish for the military junta to stamp out “terrorism.” As Christopher Hitchens wrote in The Trial of Henry Kissinger (New York: Twelve, 2012/first published by Verso, 2002),
“When Kissinger and [Admiral] Guzzetti first met, the number of ‘disappeared’ was estimated at 1,022. By the time Argentina had become an international byword for torture, for anti-Semitism, for death-squads and for the concept of the desaparecido, a minimum of 15,000 victims had been registered by reliable international and local monitors. In 1978, when the situation was notorious, Kissinger (by then out of office) accepted a personal invitation from the dictator General Videla to be his guest during Argentina’s hosting of the soccer World Cup. The former Secretary of State made use of the occasion to lecture the Carter administration for its excessive tenderness concerning human rights. General Videla … has since been imprisoned for life. One of the more specific charges on which he was convicted was the sale of the children of rape victims held in his secret jails. His patron and protector, meanwhile, is enjoying a patriarchal autumn that may still be disturbed … by the memory of what he permitted and indeed encouraged.”
Hitchens also reminds us that Argentina’s “Dirty War” was but one component of Operation Condor, “a machinery of cross-border assassination, abduction, torture and intimidation, coordinated between the secret police forces of Pinochet’s Chile, Stroessner’s Paraguay, Videla’s Argentina, and other regional caudillos.” Among the objectives of this “campaign of political repression and state terror,” “nominally intended to eradicate communist or Soviet influence and ideas,” was the suppression of “active or potential opposition movements against the participating governments’ neoliberal economic policies, which sought to reverse the economic reforms of the previous era.” The U.S. government under several successive presidential administrations provided technical assistance, intelligence information, and military aid to the participating governments in South America: Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Paraguay, Bolivia and Brazil.
* * *
From the “Open Letter:”
“The first anniversary of this Military Junta has brought about a year-end review of government operations in the form of official documents and speeches: what you call good decisions are mistakes, what you acknowledge as mistakes are crimes, and what you have left out entirely are disasters. [….]
Illegitimate since birth, your government could have legitimized itself by reviving the political program that 80 percent of Argentines voted for in the 1973 elections, and that continues to be an objective expression of the people’s will—the only thing that could possibly be denoted by the ‘national being’ that you invoke so often. You have gone instead in the completely opposite direction by returning to the ideas and interests of defeated minority groups, the ones who hold back workforce development, exploit the people, and divide the Nation. This kind of politics can only prevail temporarily by banning political parties, taking control of unions, silencing the press, and introducing Argentine society to the most profound terror it has ever known. [….]
Fifteen thousand missing, ten thousand prisoners, four thousand dead, tens of thousands in exile: these are the raw numbers of this terror.
Since the ordinary jails were filled to the brim, you created virtual concentration camps in the main garrisons of the country which judges, lawyers, journalists, and international observers, are all forbidden to enter. The military secrecy of what goes on inside, which you cite as a requirement for the purposes of investigation, means that the majority of the arrests turn into kidnappings that in turn allow for torture without limits and execution without trial.
The refusal of this Junta to publish the names of the prisoners is, moreover, a cover for the systematic execution of hostages in vacant lots in the early morning, all under the pretext of fabricated combat and imaginary escape attempts.
Extremists who hand out pamphlets in the countryside, graffiti the sidewalks, or pile ten at a time into vehicles that then burst into flames: these are the stereotypes of a screenplay that was written not to be believed, but to buffer against the international reaction to the current executions. Within the country, meanwhile, the screenplay only underscores how intensely the military lashes back in the same places where there has just been guerrilla activity.
Seventy people executed after the Federal Security Agency bombing, fifty-five in response to the blasting of the La Plata Police Department, thirty for the attack on the Ministry of Defense, forty in the New Year’s Massacre following the death of Colonel Castellanos, and nineteen after the explosion that destroyed the Ciudadela precinct, amount to only a portion of the twelve hundred executions in three hundred alleged battles where the opposition came out with zero wounded and zero forces killed in action.
Many of the hostages are union representatives, intellectuals, relatives of guerrillas, unarmed opponents, or people who just look suspicious: they are recipients of a collective guilt that has no place in a civilized justice system and are incapable of influencing the politics that dictate the events they are being punished for. They are killed to balance the number of casualties according to the foreign ‘body-count’ doctrine that the SS used in occupied countries and the invaders used in Vietnam. [….]
These events, which have shaken the conscience of the civilized world, are nonetheless not the ones that have brought the greatest suffering upon the Argentine people, nor are they the worst human rights violations that you have committed. The political economy of the government is the place to look not only for the explanation of your crimes, but also for an even greater atrocity that is leading millions of human beings into certain misery.
Over the course of one year, you have decreased the real wages of workers by 40 percent, reduced their contribution to the national income by 30 percent, and raised the number of hours per day a worker needs to put in to cover his cost of living from six to eighteen, thereby reviving forms of forced labor that cannot even be found in the last remnants of colonialism.
By freezing salaries with the butts of your rifles while prices rise at bayonet point, abolishing every form of collective protest, forbidding internal commissions and assemblies, extending workdays, raising unemployment to a record level of 9 percent and being sure to increase it with three hundred thousand new layoffs, you have brought labor relations back to the beginning of the Industrial Era. And when the workers have wanted to protest, you have called them subversives and kidnapped entire delegations of union representatives who sometimes turned up dead, and other times did not turn up at all.
The results of these policies have been devastating. During this first year of government, consumption of food has decreased by 40 percent, consumption of clothing by more than 50 percent, and the consumption of medicine is practically at zero among the lower class. There are already regions in Greater Buenos Aires where the infant mortality rate is above 30 percent, a figure which places us on par with Rhodesia, Dahomey, or the Guayanas. The incidence of diseases like Summer Diarrhea, parasitosis, and even rabies has climbed to meet world records and has even surpassed them. As if these were desirable and sought-after goals, you have reduced the public health budget to less than a third of military spending, shutting down even the free hospitals while hundreds of doctors, medical professionals, and technicians join the exodus provoked by terror, low wages, or ‘rationalization.’
You only have to walk around Greater Buenos Aires for a few hours before quickly realizing that these policies are turning it into a slum with ten million inhabitants. Cities in semi-darkness; entire neighborhoods with no running water because the monopolies rob them of their groundwater tables; thousands of blocks turned into one big pothole because you only pave military neighborhoods and decorate the Plaza de Mayo; the biggest river in the world is contaminated in all of its beaches because Minister Martinez de Hoz’s associates are sloughing their industrial waste into it, and the only government measure you have taken is to ban people from bathing.
You have not been much wiser it comes to the abstract goals of the economy, which you tend to call ‘the country.’ A decrease in the gross national product of around 3 percent, a foreign debt reaching $600 dollars per inhabitant, an annual inflation rate of 400 percent, a 9 percent increase in the money supply within a single week in December, a low of 13 percent in foreign investment—these are also world records, strange fruit born of cold calculation and severe incompetence.
While all the constructive and protective functions of the state atrophy and dissolve into pure anemia, only one is clearly thriving. One billion eight hundred million dollars—the equivalent of half of Argentina’s exports—have been budgeted for Security and Defense in 1977. That there are four thousand new officer positions in the Federal Police and twelve thousand in the Province of Buenos Aires offering salaries that are double that of an industrial worker and triple that of a school principal—while military wages have secretly increased by 120 percent since February—proves that there is no salary freezing or unemployment in the kingdom of torture and death. This is the only Argentine business where the product is growing and where the price per slain guerrilla is rising faster than the dollar.
Martinez de Hoz’s 1976 policy was similar to the formula prescribed by the IMF that Walsh mentions here. The general idea was to restructure the State’s economic program, cutting down on domestic spending and any State regulation, to allow for growth through the international economy. The old ranchers’ oligarchy (‘oligarquia ganadera’) refers to cattle-ranching families that owned Argentine land and gained high social status starting in the nineteenth century. De Hoz himself came from such a family.
The economic policies of this Junta—which follow the formula of the International Monetary Fund that has been applied indiscriminately to Zaire and Chile, to Uruguay and Indonesia—recognize only the following as beneficiaries: the old ranchers’ oligarchy; the new speculating oligarchy; and a select group of international monopolies headed by ITT, Esso, the automobile industry, US Steel, and Siemens, which Minister Martinez de Hoz and his entire cabinet have personal ties to.
A 722 percent increase in the prices of animal products in 1976 illustrates the scale of a return to oligarchy, launched by Martinez de Hoz, that is consistent with the creed of the Sociedad Rural as stated by its president, Celedonio Pereda: ‘It is very surprising that certain small but active groups keep insisting that food should be affordable.’ [….]
These are the thoughts I wanted to pass on to the members of this Junta on the first anniversary of your ill-fated government, with no hope of being heard, with the certainty of being persecuted, but faithful to the commitment I made a long time ago to bear witness during difficult times.”
Rodolfo Walsh—I.D. 2845022
Buenos Aires, March 24, 1977
I apologize if you have already answered these questions. I can’t stand to watch a hearing in which you spend so much time refusing to answer questions. Could you tell me where in the Constitution it provides that it is to be interpreted according to its original understanding? Does it matter that the Framers kept their proceedings confidential because they did not want their intent to be taken into account? Is it an attractive theory of interpretation that binds us to the views of nineteenth century agrarian white male slave holders? Where in the Constitution is there a developed theory of precedent? Where do you get your theory of precedent? Does it matter that in modern times the overwhelming majority of justices have not been originalists? Were all of these justices not acting like judges? Are you just one of the few with the requisite piety, integrity, and rectitude?
Given that the understanding of the Fourteenth Amendment at the time of its passage was that racial segregation did not violate the Constitution, would you have voted with the majority in Brown v. Board of Education?
Given that the understanding of the Fourteenth Amendment at the time of its passage was that the place of women was in the home and that males were superior to women in intellect, would you have dissented in the line of constitutional cases condemning discrimination against women.
Given that the understanding of freedom of speech from the eighteenth century through the nineteenth century and well into the twentieth century was far less expansive than it is today, would you have dissented in those cases creating the modern doctrine of freedom of speech and press including our “profound national commitment to the principle that debate on public issues should be uninhibited, robust, and wide-open” or would you have adhered to the concept of seditious libel?
Finally, just out of curiosity. You remarked that there was much about the process you did not like. Perhaps there was something missing from the clip I saw, but you then said Justice White’s hearing took only two hours. Do you really think that hearings on an appointment of this magnitude should be limited to a short period of time? Perhaps your view is that the hearing should be short because you do not plan to answer questions. You then observed that Justice White smoked cigarettes during the hearing. Was there a point to that? Really? Maybe you were tired.
“I had a career in identifying absurdity. And I know it when I see it.”
Al Franken’s questioning crystallizes the haughty contempt and condescension Republicans generally and Judge Gorsuch in this instance often have—patriotic populist rhetoric notwithstanding—toward the everyday lives of working people, their “lived experience” as the phenomenologist would say. Gorsuch claims to have “empathy”* for the trucker but, as he forthrightly admits, he refused at the time, and refuses here once more, to imaginatively put himself in the shoes of Alphonse Maddin** on the day in question. See the decision in TransAm Trucking v. Administrative Review Board (2016).
(Click on the video in the link for the full transcript of this portion of the confirmation hearing.)
* “I empathize with him entirely.”
** “I don’t know, I wasn’t in the man’s shoes.” Meaning: I made no attempt to imagine myself in his shoes.
Painting of the Sharpeville massacre, which took place 21 March 1960, Sharpeville, South Africa, currently located in the South African Consulate in London. Godfrey Rubens (painter and photographer)
The shootings at Sharpeville marked a turning point. Not only did it highlight the wanton violence of the oppressors, but it removed any belief of the possibility of making a dent in the system by means of protest politics alone. Following so quickly after the crushing of the Pondo Revolt by purely military action, the Sharpeville and Langa shootings broke the belief that a nonviolent revolution was possible. Furthermore, the mass arrests and detentions that followed the declaration of a State of Emergency, and the holding of thousands of people without trial, destroyed any hope that the legal system could be used to halt police repression. It was evident that the long chain of legal victories in the courts had been broken and that government had finally managed to impose a rule by direct police terror, brooking no hindrance from legal obstacles. It was also clear that the previous decade had been used effectively by the Nationalist Party to remove its White critics from the army, police, and administration and consolidate its hold on all the organs of power. The pockets of opposition among Whites were rendered inactive, although the opposition press was still allowed some room for criticism beneath the heavy blanket of censorship. — Ben Turok, Strategic Problems in South Africa’s Liberation Struggle: A Critical Analysis (Richmond, British Columbia, Canada: LSM [Liberation Support Movement] Information Center/LSM Press, 1974): 39.
In South Africa, March 21st is celebrated as a public holiday, commemorating the Sharpeville massacre and in honor of human rights. What follows is culled from several different sources about the events of that day, including the immediate historical and political background and context, as well as the lessons drawn by leaders of the liberation struggle against apartheid in South Africa. (The embedded hyperlinks at the beginning of several paragraphs provide the specific sources.) I leave the interested reader with a comparatively short list of suggested reading material for understanding the Sharpeville massacre and its varied effects on both National Party government (which ruled continuously from 4 June 1948 until 9 May 1994) and the protracted struggle against apartheid both within and outside South Africa.
* * *
“The Sharpeville massacre … occurred on 21 March 1960, at the police station in the South African township of Sharpeville in Transvaal (today part of Gauteng). After a day of demonstrations against pass laws, a crowd of about 5,000 to 7,000 black protesters went to the police station. The South African Police opened fire on the crowd, killing 69 people [‘and, according to the official inquest, 180 people seriously wounded’]. [‘The vast majority of the victims were shot in the back as they fled the scene, according to the senior district surgeon of Johannesburg who testified before a judicial inquiry.’] Sources disagree as to the behaviour of the crowd; some state that the crowd was peaceful, while others state that the crowd had been hurling stones at the police, and that the shooting started when the crowd started advancing toward the fence around the police station.”
“The eyewitness accounts of the massacre cast significant doubt on the police version of events. One eyewitness reported, ‘There was no warning volley. When the shooting started it did not stop until there was no living thing in the huge compound in front of the police station. The police have claimed they were in desperate danger because the crowd was stoning them. Yet only three policemen were reported to have been hit by stones – and more than 200 Africans were shot down. The police also have said that the crowd was armed with “ferocious weapons,” which littered the compound after they fled. I saw no weapons…. I saw only shoes, hats and a few bicycles left among the bodies.’”
“For many people in the world, in what was fast becoming the age of instant communication, the Sharpeville massacre was the first time they became aware of what sort of government South Africa had. In the West, many people had only vaguely heard of South Africa. Even in Britain, where there was a comparatively large number of people who had visited South Africa or had relatives there, mention of South Africa did not conjure up an image in the mind of the average newspaper-reader much different from that of, say, Australia. Sharpeville changed all that. The South African government was exposed to international view as a ruthless and brutal administration which shot people who claimed what were being conceded in other parts of the world as their fundamental rights. [….] When the police fired on African demonstrators at Sharpeville, the result was worldwide condemnation of South Africa, a loss of business confidence as foreign investors became nervous, and the imposition of a state of emergency by the Pretoria government during which 20,000 people were detained.
The government also took the radical step of banning both the PAC [Pan Africanist Congress] and the ANC [African National Congress] under the terms of a new law, the Unlawful Organisations Act. They were unable to function legally inside South Africa from that date until 2 February 1990, when the Communist Party too was unbanned. Two days before the banning order, Oliver Tambo, a former General–Secretary of the ANC, slipped out of the country to set up an external mission, under orders from the National Executive. His task was to canvass international support. Other ANC leaders went underground inside the country. [….]
Apart from the overwhelming consideration that their organisation was banned in 1960, leaving them no possibility of lawful political action, there were a number of factors compelling both the ANC and Communist Party leaders to contemplate the use of violence. The rest of Africa was receiving its freedom, so they could be sure of support in the newly emerging nations to the north. In Algeria, armed nationalists were nearing the climax of their long and bitter war against France in conditions not dissimilar to those of South Africa. And those ANC leaders who, like Mandela, Sisulu, Tambo, Mbeki and many others, came from the Transkei, were deeply affected by the rural rebellion which broke out there in 1960. Peasant leaders were asking the ANC for guns and the ANC was embarrassed by its inability to satisfy them. Some sources also maintain that the turn to violence, on the part of the Communist Party at least, was motivated by the knowledge that another organisation, the National Committee of Liberation, was making preparations to begin sabotage operations. NCL members, including a former member of the Communist Party, Marty Berman, had approached the Party with a suggestion that the two organisations should work together in a sabotage campaign. The Party refused but, conscious of the danger of being outflanked on its left, determined to start its own campaign of violence.
In the end, the decision to launch a campaign of sabotage was taken on a personal basis as a result of consultations between friends and comrades in mid-1961. That is, it was not a result of a resolution by any organised body of either the ANC or the SACP [South African Communist Party] but only of groups of members meeting informally. In fact, a meeting of the ANC’s National Executive Committee in June 1961debated the question of armed struggle but took no position on it. The National Executive nevertheless gave its blessing to those ANC members who wished to join the new guerrilla organisation whose foundation was being discussed in ANC and Communist Party circles. [….]
The new organisation was dubbed Umkhonto we Sizwe, ‘Spear of the Nation,’ and was known to insiders as MK. It was [largely] autonomous, drawing its membership from both the ANC and the SACP but operationally dependent on neither.”
“In Cape Town, where PAC task forces were used with great effectiveness in mobilizing an African work stoppage after Sharpeville, youthful PAC supporters late revived the idea of executing political ‘jobs.’ Banding into the amorphous reconstruction of the PAC known as Poqo (a shortened version of the Xhosa name for PAC, UmAfrika Poqpo, or ‘Africa alone’), they had, by mid-1963, murdered a handful of whites, some dozen or more African policemen and police informers, and—in a futile effort to stop the implementation of the unpopular government plan for rural ‘Bantu Authorities’—a number of Transkeian chiefs and headmen. Many of the men responsible for these acts were caught, and some were executed. Poqo throughout made no attempt to project any defined set of objectives or ideological principles; it spoke only the language of [Sorelian-like?] action.” (A more nuanced if not sympathetic account of Poqo is found in the Tom Lodge title below)
For further reading and research, please see my bibliography on “South African Liberation Struggles.”
First, for your consideration:
“The current period [this was written in the early 1980s, although it’s even more apt today] … is the first moment since the 1920s in which owners of capital have openly rejected a compromise that involves public influence over investment and the distribution of income. For the first time in several decades, the Right has an historical project of its own: to free accumulation from all the fetters imposed on it by democracy. For the bourgeoisie never completed its revolution.
Just as it freed accumulation from the restraint of the feudal order, the bourgeoisie was forced to subject it to the constraint of popular control exercises through universal suffrage. The combination of private property of the means of production with universal suffrage is a compromise, and this compromise implies that the logic of accumulation is not exclusively the logic of private actors.
What is involved in the current offensive of the Right is not simply a question of taxes, government spending, or even the distribution of income. The plans for relaxing taxation of profits, abolishing environmental controls, eliminating welfare programs, removing government control over product safety and conditions of work, and weakening the labor unions add up to more than the reorientation of the economic policy. They constitute a project for a new society, a bourgeois revolution.” [.…]
Przeworski proceeds to ask: “what kind of society would it be in which accumulation would be free from any form of political control…?” And after informed and intelligent speculation by way of an answer, he forthrightly states that
“All of these changes would represent a reversal of trends that we are accustomed to see as irreversible. Indeed, the picture we drew can be easily obtained by combining the trends of contemporary capitalism described by, say, E.H. Carr or Jürgen Habermas, and reversing them. Economic relations would be depoliticized. Government economic planning would be abandoned. Legitimation would be left to the market. The ‘economic whip’ would be reinstated as the central mechanism of political control.
Is such a society feasible? The Chilean experience demonstrates that it is feasible when accompanied by brutal repression, the destruction of democratic institutions, the liquidation of all forms of politics. At least in Chile—most observers agree—such a restructuring of society could not have succeeded under democratic conditions, without the military dictatorship. But is it feasible without destroying formal democracy, without a ‘Chileanization’ of capitalist democracies?
Where electoral participation has traditionally been high, where working-class parties enjoy electoral support, and where access to the electoral system is relatively open—in most Western European countries—the project of the Right seems doomed to failure under democratic conditions. But in the United States, where about 40 percent of adults never vote, where parties of notables have a duopolistic control over the electoral system, and where the barriers to entry are prohibitive, one must be less sanguine about the prospects.” — Adam Przeworski, Capitalism and Social Democracy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1985: 219-221. [emphasis added]
* * *
Background assumptions firmly in place, I can speak my piece:
Whatever their shortcomings, which only the Left appear to sufficiently appreciate, the “founding fathers” were well read, philosophically adept, and historically literate (by the standards of their day). Instead of asking what Jesus would say or do should he miraculously appear among us, let’s consider what these men would say or do were they to walk our roads and streets:
In lieu of cataloguing the details, it would be safe to imagine they would be aghast, disgusted, nauseous even at the frequency at which their names are collectively invoked by conservatives (and sometimes liberals, at least those who do not want to be in any way associated with ‘the Left’) to ideologically and sanctimoniously legitimate and justify regressive public policy and legislation, policies and laws that are at once politically unimaginative, democratically dangerous, and fundamentally at odds with enhancing the common good (the preference being rather for the private good of privileged classes and strata of a capitalist democracy), a good whose core is articulated in the terms of enhanced public welfare and well-being which, in turn, permits if not encourages individual human flourishing.
Bullshit ideological euphemisms run amok in VP’s marketing (yes, that’s the right word) of the Trump administration’s “health care” legislation:
U.S. Vice President Mike Pence “promoted the administration’s health care plan heavily on Twitter, sending out more than 20 messages from his official account, @VP, with messages such as: “Freedom, personal responsibility and state flexibility—that’s what works, and that’s what our plan will do. #VPinFL”[emphasis added]
This is the same crypto-fascist who repeatedly and erroneously proclaims, like John Boehner before him, that we have “the best healthcare system in the world,” as he did recently in Kentucky: “We’re going to make the best healthcare system in the world even better.”
This list goes a bit beyond “promises and contract theory,” strictly speaking, but where that occurs, the material is thought to have some bearing on the subject. Please let me know of any conspicuous omissions, as I’m relying on this material to revise an introductory essay on promises and contract theory. *
Brian Bix graciously provided a couple of recommendations, as did Steve Shiffrin.
Update: This compilation is now available for preview and/or download at my Academia page.
The way people, particularly young people, live now resembles in its economic instability the situation of the nineteenth century workers and artisans who made the Commune, most of whom spent most of their time not working but looking for work.
After 2011, with the return virtually everywhere of a political strategy grounded in taking up space, seizing places and territories, turning cities — from Istanbul to Madrid, from Montreal to Oakland — into theaters for strategic operations, the Paris Commune has become newly illuminated or visible, it has entered once again into the figurability of the present.
Its forms of political invention have become newly available to us not as lessons but as resources, or as what Andrew Ross, speaking about my book, called “a useable archive.” The Commune becomes the figure for a history, and perhaps of a future, different from the course taken by capitalist modernization, on the one hand, and utilitarian state socialism, on the other. — Kristin Ross
“The Paris Commune was a radical socialist and revolutionary government that ruled Paris from 18 March to 28 May 1871. Following the defeat of Emperor Napoleon III in September 1870, the French Second Empire swiftly collapsed. In its stead rose a Third Republic at war with Prussia, which laid siege to Paris for four months. A hotbed of working-class radicalism, France’s capital was primarily defended during this time by the often politicized and radical troops of the National Guard rather than regular Army troops. In February 1871 Adolphe Thiers, the new chief executive of the French national government, signed an armistice with Prussia that disarmed the Army but not the National Guard.
Soldiers of the Commune’s National Guard killed two French army generals, and the Commune refused to accept the authority of the French government. The regular French Army suppressed the Commune during ‘La semaine sanglante’ (‘The Bloody Week’) beginning on 21 May 1871. Debates over the policies and outcome of the Commune had significant influence on the ideas of Karl Marx, who described it as an example of the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat.’”
As for the notorious locution (at least in the Liberal tradition but often beyond that as well), “dictatorship of the proletariat:”
“After the exhaustive researches of Hal Draper and Richard Hunt we have a fairly clear idea of what Marx meant by that phrase—and what he did not mean by it. As these authors point out, and is clear from Marx’s own writings, dictatorship at his time and in his work did not necessarily mean anything incompatible with democracy. Rather it involved a new form of extra-legality, a political rule in breach of the existing constitution. That violation of a constitution need not involve a violation of democracy is easily shown by using as an example the extreme case in which the existing constitution requires unanimity for constitutional change. If a majority of 95 per cent of the population takes matters in their own hands and set up a new constitution requiring only a two-thirds majority [for constitutional change], they act unconstitutionally but hardly undemocratically. I am not suggesting that constitutional guarantees for should never be respected in a democracy…. My point is simply that there must be some correspondence between how difficult it is to change the constitution and the proportion of citizens who want it to be that difficult to change it. If this correspondence does not obtain, there is some need for a political revolution and a new constituent assembly. [….] The dictatorship of the proletariat, then, is characterized by majority rule, extra-legality, dismantling of the state apparatus and revocability of the representatives.” Jon Elster, Making Sense of Marx (Cambridge University Press, 1985): 447-448
Another and related issue that comes up with regard to Marx’s reflections in the The Civil War in France (1871) follow from his oft-quoted insistence that “the working class cannot simply lay hold on the ready-made state-machinery and wield it for its own purpose. The political instrument of their enslavement cannot serve as the political instrument of their emancipation.” As Elster reminds us, the Critique of the Gotha Programme likewise finds Marx opposed to any “Lassallean attempt to reenlist state aid for the building of socialism.” But this does not exhaust Marx’s thoughts on the use of the state and existing political institutions by workers or would-be socialists, for
“Marx also had to demarcate himself from the anarchists on his left, to steer a middle course between state socialism and the anarchist opposition to all state activities. [In an] article on ‘Political indifferentism’ … he warns against the ideal that any involvement with the state is contrary to the interests of the workers. To prove the falsity of this view, he cites the English Factory Acts as instances of what can be achieved by political means. In his ‘Instructions’ to the Geneva Congress Marx also insists on this idea. In the section dealing with the need for education of working-class children, he first state that under the given circumstances it can only be realized by ‘general laws, enforced by the power of the state.’ He then answers the obvious objection from the left by asserting that ‘in enforcing such laws, the working class do not fortify government power. On the contrary, they transform that power, now used against them, into their own agency.”(Elster: 444-445)
In short, it seems the degree of democratic legitimacy of the state had some bearing on Marx’s views in this respect, as he warned against workers using or relying on existing political institutions “in the authoritarian German and French regimes, but accepted it in the more democratic English system:” “In Germany, Marx was afraid octroyed measures would involve the cooptation of the workers. In France he feared that the state machinery was so strong that, if left in existence, it would end up asserting its own interests and not those of the workers.”(Elster 445) Marx’s attitude toward the state apparatus in democratic countries had thus evolved from an earlier stance in which he was more skeptical about the revolutionary or socialist value of conventional political opposition, his later views entailing even “the possible peaceful transition to socialism,” as evidenced, for example, in “an interview with an American journal in 1871 [in which] he makes a distinction between the countries where the transition to socialism my proceed peacefully and those in which this does not seem possible,” with England and America, and possibly Holland, mentioned as exempla of the former case.
The Paris Commune: Suggested Reading
Larry Tribe and others have begun a blog today (takecareblog.com) devoted to defending the rule of law under Trump. His initial commentary presents a hard hitting synthesis of the problem. See https://takecareblog.com/blog/presidential-bad-faith.
From my Cornell colleague Gerald Torres on his facebook page
It's happening NOW.
The U.S. House of Representatives has introduced Bill 610. This bill will effectively start the school voucher system to be used by children ages 5 to 17, and starts the de-funding process of public schools.
The bill will ELIMINATE the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESSA) of 1965 which is the nation's educational law and provides equal opportunity in education. It is a comprehensive program that covers programs for struggling learners, AP classes, ESL classes, classes for minorities such as Native Americans, Rural Education, Education for the Homeless, School Safety (Gun-Free schools), Monitoring and Compliance and Federal Accountability Programs.
The bill also abolishes the Nutritional Act of 2012 (No Hungry Kids Act) which provides nutritional standards in school breakfast and lunch. For our most vulnerable, this may be the ONLY nutritious food they have in a day.
The bill has no wording whatsoever protecting special needs kids, no mention of IDEA and FAPE.
Some things the Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESSA) of 1965 does for Children with Disabilities:
-ensures access to the general education curriculum
-ensures access to accommodations on assessments
-ensures concepts of Universal Design for Learning
-includes provisions that require local education agencies to provide evidence-based interventions in schools with consistently underperforming subgroups
-requires states in Title I plans to address how they will improve conditions for learning including reducing incidents of bullying and harassment in schools, overuse of discipline practices and reduce the use of aversive behavioral interventions (such as restraints and seclusion).
Please call your representative and ask him/her to vote NO on House Bill 610 (HR 610) introduced by three Republican reps.
Please consider copying and pasting this post (rather than hitting "share" so it isn't limited to the friends we have in common). Thanks for advocating on behalf of ALL our nation's youth and their families.
At Opinio Juris, Kevin Jon Heller brings us news that the Trump administration is “demand[ing] that Cambodia pay back $500 million it owes the US for providing support to Lon Nol’s unpopular regime.” As reported in the Sydney Morning Herald a couple of days ago:
“The debt started out as a US$274 million loan mostly for food supplies to the then US-backed Lon Nol government but has almost doubled over the years as Cambodia refused to enter into a re-payment program.
William Heidt, the US’s ambassador in Phnom Penh, said Cambodia’s failure to pay back the debt puts it in league with Sudan, Somalia and Zimbabwe. ‘To me, Cambodia does not look like a country that should be in arrears … buildings coming up all over the city, foreign investment coming in, government revenue is rapidly rising,’ Mr. Heidt was quoted as saying by the Cambodia Daily.”
Let’s recall some salient and indisputable facts, the first being Nixon’s emphatic instructions to Kissinger during the Vietnam War:
“I want everything that can fly to go in there and crack the hell out of them. There is no limitation on mileage and there is no limitation on budget. Is that clear?”
Then, Kissinger “to his military assistant, Gen. Alexander Haig: ‘He wants a massive bombing campaign in Cambodia. He doesn’t want to hear anything. It’s an order, it’s to be done. Anything that flies on anything that moves.’”
As Mark Selden notes in his chapter on “the American way of war” (beginning with WW II) in Bombing Civilians: a twentieth century history (2009): “Yet the bombing of Cambodia began not with Nixon in 1970 but on October 4, 1965. The records released in 2000 reveal that between October 4, 1965, to August 15 1973, the United States dropped far more ordinance on Cambodia than was previously known” 2,756,942 tons, dropped in 230,516 sorties on 113,716 sites.”
In the words of Professor Heller, “It is difficult to overstate the horrors the US inflicted on Cambodia from the air during the Vietnam War. [….] [The] bombing campaign, along with the US-backed coup against Prince Sihanouk in 1970, is widely credited with helping bring Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge to power, and we know how that turned out — at least 1.7 million Cambodians murdered, an auto-genocide of epic proportions.”
Heller’s discriminate and measured conclusion:
“I have little doubt that Cambodia’s debt to the US is valid under international law. But that does not mean the US has the moral right to demand payment — much less to compare Cambodia to debt scofflaws like Zimbabwe. (How much does the US owe the UN right now? It was almost $3 billion at the end of 2015.) As James Pringle, Reuters bureau chief in Ho Chi Minh City during the Vietnam War, recently wrote in the Cambodia Daily, ‘Cambodia does not owe even a brass farthing to the U.S. for help in destroying its people, its wild animals, its rice fields and forest cover.’”
When I first learned of this report my response was nowhere near as discriminate and measured as Heller’s, believing the bombing of Cambodia to be yet another exemplary instance of a “war crime” under international criminal law during the Vietnam War, that is, a “serious violation[ ] of customary or treaty rules belonging to the corpus of the international humanitarian law of armed conflict (IHL).” Moreover, as I said in a comment to his post, one is at a loss of words when it comes to expressing the depths of moral outrage this attempt at debt collection calls to mind. Insofar as hubris was once thought to result in nemesis (something akin to ‘instant karma’), one can only hope such “divine retribution” awaits those responsible for instigating this action.
See too this bibliography for the Vietnam War.
Below is a substantial excerpt from the Introduction to David A. Cleveland’s Balancing on a Planet: The Future of Food and Agriculture (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 2014). I hope it entices you to read the book, for while I have yet to finish, what I have read thus far and what I’ve peeked at in what’s to come, is very good. In brief—and for what it’s worth—I highly recommend it. Cleveland is Professor of Environmental Studies and Geography at my alma mater, the University of California at Santa Barbara (UCSB), although I’ve never taken a course from him nor do I personally know him. (I have left out the embedded references for the notes.)
“The mainstream industrial agrifood system has been remarkably successful over the long run in increasing food production at a rate faster than population growth, with the promise of continuing to do so in the immediate future. Supporters of this system believe that a globally integrated agrifood system and technological breakthroughs, for example in genetic engineering of crop plants or precision agriculture, are key to providing enough food for the future. Advocates of alternative agrifood systems have a different perspective—they argue that the demand can be lowered via better diets and reduction of waste, and that supply can be increased in more sustainable ways, with ecological agricultural based on traditional methods and more local control. But the issue is far from settled, and it hinges on disagreement over values as well as facts. A major problem from an alternative perspective is that the mainstream agrifood system monopolizes the bulk of research and development resources, leaving little opportunity for developing the kinds of solutions needed to save the planet, nurture communities, and increase human happiness.
Yet, regardless of one’s perspective, there is also shockingly bad news about every element of our agrifood systems—from the contamination of drinking water with agricultural chemicals to the deteriorating nutritional quality of the food supply and of child nutritional status, from the loss of crop genetic resources to loss of prime farmland. It seems that our agrifood system has been going in a direction that is producing at least as many problems as solutions. While those in power have demanded more food and higher yields to maintain and expand their power for millennia, pushing farmers into practices that were environmentally and socially destructive, their effects were mostly localized. Today, however, we have a global system, highly degraded environments, and more than seven billion humans to feed, with one billion of those chronically hungry.
In order to move toward a more desirable future, we need to understand the successes and failures of our and current agrifood systems and how they are linked in time and space. We also need to agree on how to define the future and on how we need to change our current system to get there. [….]
I have two main goals for this book. The first is to encourage critical thinking by explaining the concepts that I think are key to understanding the problems and potential solutions for the challenges facing our agrifood systems. This includes demonstrating how these concepts can be applied to specific situations so that readers can use them to analyze new situations and discuss their findings with others. [….] My second main goal is to demonstrate how I have applied these concepts in my own thinking about agrifood systems; I share what I have concluded about the problems and solutions based on my own research and values. These two goals are synergistic in that if I achieve the first, it means that readers will be able to independently critique my application of the concepts and my conclusions. [….]
Cleveland proceeds to explain why and how critical thinking is essential to the goals of his book, one consequence of which is that he endeavors
“to present as openly as possible [his] own conclusions and assumptions while also standing back and viewing them critically—that is, not becoming too attached to them and remaining open to new data, to alternative interpretations of data, and to appreciating different values. For example, my values include the assumptions that equity of resource access and use for all people is good and that interacting with the biophysical world in ways that maintain high biological and cultural diversity and ecosystem functioning is good, and my analysis of the data leads me to empirical assumptions that anthropogenic climate change is a real and immense threat and that small-scale, resource-poor farmers’ behaviors are often base on insightful and efficacious understanding of their environment and crops. [….]
I have worked with farmers, gardeners, and scientists on research and development projects in northeast Ghana; in the Swabi valley in Pakistan; in the Central Valleys of Oaxaca, Mexico; and in the United States, on the Zuni and Hopi reservations and in Santa Barbara County, California. In addition, I have spent shorter periods of time researching agrifood systems in other places, including Burkina Faso, Egypt, India, Syria, Mali, and China. I have interviewed and collected observational data, in addition to studying the research of others. [….]
One of my central conclusions is that small-scale, traditional, locally oriented, low –external-input agrifood systems are an important resource for the future. Much of the Earth’s remaining cultural and biological diversity is in the care of small-scale farmers. Many of the farmers I have worked with use knowledge and methods passed on through generations to grow locally adapted crop varieties, evaluating and incorporating new ideas from other farming traditions, from extension agents, and from scientists. I have celebrated with them their successful harvests and eaten special foods made from those harvests, rich with history, meaning, and flavor.
These farmers are often proud of what they do and know, and while they seek improvements in their farming and their lives in general, most do not want to abandon those things they value about their way of life. For example, in Oaxaca, Mexico, when farmers were asked as part of our research on crop diversity if they wanted their children to be maize and bean farmers like themselves, 91 percent said ‘yes.’ However, these same farmers see the world changing rapidly from the traditions of the many generations that preceded them—only 47 percent thought their children would actually grow up to be maize and bean farmers.
I have also seen farmers struggle to feed themselves and to understand the forces seemingly beyond their control that make the survival of their agrifood system almost impossible—population growth; environmental degradation; climate change; market fluctuations; privatization of water, land, and other resources; inappropriate development projects; and corrupt and incompetent governments and development organizations at home and abroad. [….]
While I see much potential in small-scale agriculture for solving the world food crises, I am also aware that small-scale farming is often physically and mentally grueling, and that most farmers are not well rewarded for their work. According to one estimate, the more than two billion people living on almost five hundred million small-scale (less than 2-ha) farms in the Third World include half of the world’s undernourished people and the majority living in absolute poverty. In short, I am not a nostalgic romantic. There is no going back to the small-scale agriculture of the past—doing so would neither be neither possible nor desirable. It was often a very hard life, and the world is a different place now, with more than seven billion humans to support. But simply continuing to promote the mainstream agrifood system is not the answer either.
I believe that an important aspect of creating alternatives for the future will be to combine small-scale, traditional agriculture with select aspects of modern, scientific agriculture in ways that provide solutions to the current food crisis—long-term solutions to balancing our biological need for food with our environmental impact in ways that also fulfill our cultural, social, and psychological needs. [….] … [T]here are usually trade-offs between what is possible and our goals for the future, and also between the different goals we have for the future. We need to minimize these trade-offs, to look for ways to make the system work better for everyone. We need to think critically, holistically, systematically, and compassionately. And we need to get to work right away.” [….]
Cross-posted at the Agricultural Law blog
By Philip Bump, The Washington Post, March 7, 2017
“It’s much easier to deal with poverty if you can convince yourself that the impoverished brought it on themselves. Nearly everyone would concur that those who suffer from poverty through no fault of their own deserve support from others, either through nonprofit or public sector assistance. But if they’re poor because of their own bad decisions? They have to fend for themselves.
Coupled with guilt about the struggles of poor Americans, that instinct leads to an awkward place. There’s a psychological reward to looking for reasons that the poor aren’t really poor: It allows you to then more easily leave those less fortunate to their fate. For those disinclined to want the government to spend resources addressing poverty, the same reward is in effect. Drug-testing welfare recipients, stories about those on food stamps splurging on high-cost items, even reports from the Heritage Foundation pointing out that most poor people own televisions — all have the same net effect. To some extent, the poor are responsible for their own poverty, and therefore, it’s less urgent or unnecessary for us to be.
On Tuesday morning, Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) appeared on CNN’s ‘New Day’ program to discuss the Republicans’ proposed alternative to the Affordable Care Act and made a variant on that argument. Asked by host Alisyn Camerota if people would lose coverage under the proposal, Chaffetz responded:
‘We are getting rid of the individual mandate. We are getting rid of those things that people said that they don’t want. And, you know what? Americans have choices. And they’ve got to make a choice. So maybe, rather than getting that new iPhone that they just love and they want to go spend hundreds of dollars on, maybe they should invest that in health care. They’ve got to make those decisions themselves.’
Interestingly, the first part of Chaffetz’s claim was undercut by new polling from CNN itself. With its polling partner ORC, the network found that Americans are split on the mandate that individuals have health coverage. Fifty percent oppose the stipulation and 48 percent favor it. Even 45 percent of Republicans support keeping the mandate, which makes some sense given that that aspect of what we now call Obamacare evolved from a conservative proposal.
But it was Chaffetz’s next statement that curdled social media: ‘Rather than getting that new iPhone … maybe they should invest that in health care.’ Chaffetz doesn’t specifically say ‘the poor should make better choices,’ but the implication is clear. If you have only limited money to spend, you should spend it more wisely.
There are a lot of problems with the choice that Chaffetz presents. For one, an iPhone can be a one-time cost, while health-care spending is recurring. For another, the cost of a new phone pales in comparison to the cost of health care or health insurance. He intentionally uses ‘iPhone’ instead of cellphone, since a new, unsubsidized iPhone is at the pricier end of the cellphone cost scale, at about $700. But a year of health insurance for an individual is over $6,000. Put another way, an iPhone is only slightly more than a month of insurance. And that gap has increased. In 2014, the New York Times pointed out that the costs for consumer goods had decreased over time, while costs for things like health care have risen. [….]
Chaffetz is framing his choice on terms that position the poor as ignorant and wasteful so that he can bolster the case for revamping health care policy. But ‘iPhone’ is a particularly weird foil for that argument. A smartphone is not a luxury, it’s a critical tool of modern society. The newest iPhone isn’t critical, but some smartphone is, particularly in households without Internet access otherwise. Recognizing that necessity, the government provides subsidies for phone and Internet service to those who participate in welfare programs. This, of course, was the much-derided ‘Obamaphone’ program — actually called ‘Lifeline’ — which originated under President Reagan.” [The rest of the article is here.]
* * *
The last paragraph begins to touch upon the topic of relative deprivation, a concept Chaffetz appears either not to know or sufficiently appreciate. An introduction to the notion of relative deprivation (or poverty) is provided here by Amartya Sen:
“As Adam Smith noted, the social capabilities may depend on a person’s relative income vis-à-vis those of others with whom he or she interacts. A person’s ability to be clothed appropriately (or to have other items of consumption good that have some visibility or social use), given the standards of the society in which he or she lives, may be crucial for the capability to mix with others in that society. This relates directly to relative income vis-à-vis the general level of prosperity in that community. A relative deprivation in terms of income can, thus, lead to absolute deprivation in terms of capabilities, and in this sense, the problems of poverty and inequality are closely interlinked. For example, being relatively poor in a rich country can be a great capability handicap, even when one’s absolute income is high by world standards. In a generally opulent country [like the U.S.], more income is needed to buy enough commodities to achieve the same social functioning. This foundational idea relates to a number of contemporary concerns, for example, ‘social exclusion.’”
As Sen goes on to note, with significance for our instant case, and building again on Smith’s insight, “the phenomenon of poverty in rich countries can be better understood through the perspective of relative deprivation.” So, for example [Smith cites the European day-laborer’s need, lest he feel ashamed, to wear a linen shirt while in public space, much like leather shoes had become a ‘necessary of life in England,’ for the ‘poorest creditable person of either sex would be ashamed to appear in public without them.’], in our time and place,
“a person in New York may well suffer from poverty despite having a level of income that would make him immune from poverty in Bangladesh or Ethiopia. This is not only because the capabilities that are taken to be minimally basic tend to change as a country becomes richer, but also because even for the same level of capability, the needed minimal income may itself rise, along with others in the community. For example, in order to take part in the life of the community, or for children to be able to communicate with others in the same school, the bundle of commodities needed may include a telephone [or cellphone!], a television, a car, and so on, in New York, in a way that would not apply in Addis Ababa or in Dhaka… [although we might imagine ‘relative deprivation’ could play a role within these cities as well].” — Amartya Sen, “Conceptualizing and Measuring Poverty,” in David B. Grusky and Ravi Kanbur, eds., Poverty and Inequality (Stanford University Press, 2006): 30-46.
“The earliest Women’s Day observance was held on February 28, 1909, in New York and organized by the Socialist Party of America. On March 8, 1917, in the capital of Russian Empire, Petrograd, a demonstration of women textile workers began, covering the whole city. This was the beginning of the Russian Revolution. Seven days later, the Emperor of Russia Nicholas II abdicated and the provisional Government granted women the right to vote. March 8 was declared a national holiday in the Soviet Russia in 1917. The day was predominantly celebrated by the socialist movement and communist countries until it was adopted in 1975 by the United Nations.”
From The Guardian: Today, women in more than 50 countries “will go on strike from paid and unpaid labour…while millions more will be taking part in direct action on what is set to be one of the most political International Women’s Days in history. [….]
Organisers of the International Women’s Strike have joined forces with coordinators of the Women’s March and hundreds of human rights and women’s campaigners to capitalise on momentum in the movement in the wake of Donald Trump’s election. Up to 2 million people around the world marched for equality in January the day after his inauguration.
The Women’s March – which now has organisers across 200 cities in 80 countries – has called on supporters not to engage in paid or unpaid labour and only spend money in small and female-owned businesses. Recognising that the poor financial situation and rigid work laws mean many will not be able to take part in a physical strike [like my dear wife, who works in a hospital], organisers are urging supporters to wear red [hence the red shoes my wife wore today, despite the fact that, as she said, ‘they don’t go with my outfit’], a colour historically associated with the labour movement, in solidarity. In other countries women will wear black, or different colours, while the focus on issues from femicide to abortion will be decided in each nation.
The International Women’s Strike, meanwhile, is suggesting that women ‘boycott local misogynists,’ stop shopping, go on a sex strike, block roads and streets, and take part in marches or pickets. Women are also encouraged to leave creative and impassioned ‘out of office’ replies, talking about why they are striking.
The strike is partly inspired by the women of Iceland, where in 1975 25,000 women gathered on the streets of Reykjavik and 90% of the female population did not go to work, cook, clean or take care of children.”
On March 6, 1923, the Egyptian Feminist Union is established: “The Egyptian Feminist Union [EFU] was founded at a meeting on 6 March 1923 at the home of activist Huda (or Hoda) Sha‘rawi, who served as its first president until her death in 1947. The Union was affiliated to the International Woman Suffrage Alliance. The EFU published the fortnightly periodical L’Egyptienne from 1925, and from 1937 the journal el-Masreyyah (The Egyptian Woman). The group reformed as a non-profit, non-governmental organization under the same name but with a different goal and team in 2011. The union supported complete independence from the United Kingdom, but like the upper class male leaders of the Wafd Party, promoted European social values and had an essentially secular orientation. The objective of the feminist movement was symbolized by the well publicized gesture of social freedom made by Sha‘rawi and her associate, Saiza Nabrawi, who removed their veils as they stepped off a train at Cairo’s main railway station in 1923. Demands for education reforms by the Egyptian Feminist Union were met in 1925 when the government made primary education compulsory for girls as well as boys, and later in the decade women were admitted to the national university for the first time. The union’s campaign for the reform of family law, however, was unsuccessful.” [edited]
Virgin’s Seed, by Paul Botello, Hazard Ave. at Hammel St., Los Angeles
By Harold Meyerson,* the Los Angeles Times, March 5, 2017
“‘Since election day, children are scared about what might happen to their parents,’ says Angelica Salas, executive director of the Coalition for Humane Immigration Rights of Los Angeles. [CHIRLA] ‘And parents for their children. We fill out at least 10 guardianship letters every day for [undocumented] parents who fear for their [U.S. citizen] kids if they — the parents — are deported.’
Los Angeles has rarely been a more fearful place than it is today. L.A. and Orange counties are home to roughly 1 million immigrants in the country illegally — more than any region except greater New York. That’s not counting the U.S. citizens in mixed-status families — like those American-born children losing sleep at the prospect of losing their mothers and fathers.
Business is off at stores with a predominantly immigrant clientele, Salas says. The possibility of stakeouts by Immigration and Customs Enforcement [ICE] agents has caused thousands of Angelenos to abbreviate their daily rounds.
With the Trump administration eliminating most of the legal distinctions between law-abiding, productive undocumented immigrants and their violent, convicted counterparts, the entire city is facing a test of character. ‘The question before us,’ says Rusty Hicks, who heads the L.A. County Federation of Labor, ‘is how do we make this different from 1942, when Japanese Americans were carted away and no one lifted a finger to help them.’
At CHIRLA, the to-do lists have changed. The organization is now compelled, sometimes hourly, to confirm or deny reports of ICE sweeps. (No, CHIRLA put out the word on the day I interviewed Salas, there aren’t any ICE agents on the platforms at Union Station today.) But its primary mission is to inform immigrants of their rights and help provide counsel if they’re caught up in the government’s deportation machinery.
Through videos and daily live presentations, CHIRLA provides a Know Your Rights seminar. Along with such groups as the American Civil Liberties Union, the National Immigration Law Center and the Labor Federation’s Miguel Contreras Foundation, it has assembled a network of pro bono and “low bono” attorneys to represent immigrants in deportation proceedings. [….]
Los Angeles will be the primary battleground of the fight to resist the deportation of immigrants (all save those convicted of violent felonies). The state government weighed in as far back as last summer, when it raised to $30 million the amount it devotes annually to immigrant legal aid. [….] It’s not as if Californians are clamoring for mass deportations. A USC Dornsife/Los Angeles Times poll from May 2016 showed that 65% of state voters believed that immigrants in the country illegally should be allowed to apply for citizenship, 14% percent thought they should gain legal status but not citizenship and only 16% favored deportation. But President Trump’s budget will greatly expand the number of ICE agents, and many of the new hires inevitably will come here.
What happens to the million among us who lack federal documentation — one-tenth of Los Angeles and more, when factoring in their families — will be determined not just by those immigrants, or by ICE, or by the courts and attorneys, but by Angelenos as a whole.” [….] The entire article is here.
* Harold Meyerson is executive editor of the American Prospect. He is a contributing writer to Opinion.
“The Wall that Speaks, Sings, and Shouts” (La Pared Que Habla, Canta y Grita): Paul Botello with Adalberto Ortiz, Agerardo Herrera, Gustavo Sanchez (2001) Ruben Salazar Park: 3864 Whittier Blvd., East Los Angeles
By Chiraag Bains,* The Marshall Project (non-profit journalism about criminal justice), February 28, 2017
Immigrants may actually bring down crime in areas where they live.
“President Donald Trump campaigned promising a return to ‘law and order.’ Since taking office, he has attempted to fulfill that promise through policies that have been criticized as being thin on substance and out of touch with crime statistics. The president’s approach is misguided for another reason, however: he is targeting immigration as a driver of violent crime when it just might have the opposite effect.
Most recently, Trump’s secretary of homeland security issued memos providing for the expanded use of detention, wide-scale deportation and the immediate design and construction of a southern border wall — all in the name of public safety. To justify such measures, Trump and his supporters point to cases such as that of Kate Steinle, a young woman killed by an undocumented immigrant who already had been deported five times. While stories like Steinle’s are undeniably tragic [and illustrate the hazardous social and political consequences associated with the bias of anchoring, the availability heuristic, and group attribution error], when used this way they obscure rather than illustrate the broader truth regarding immigrants and crime.
A trove of empirical research contradicts the notion that immigrants are the violent criminal horde Trump makes them out to be. In fact, studies consistently show that they commit significantly less crime than native-born Americans, and although the data are difficult to untangle, this appears to be true of both authorized and unauthorized immigrants. Even more, new findings suggest that immigrants may actually cause crime to decline in the areas where they live.
In a study published recently in the Journal of Ethnicity in Criminal Justice, researchers analyzed Census Bureau and Federal Bureau of Investigation crime data across 200 metropolitan areas in every census year from 1970 to 2010. After controlling for age, level of unemployment, labor market structure and other factors, the researchers found a reduction of almost five violent crimes per 100,000 residents for every 1 percent increase in the foreign-born population. Analyses of city- and neighborhood-level data in ‘gateway’ cities such as New York, Chicago, Miami and El Paso have similarly found that violent crime rates — homicide rates in particular — are not higher, but actually lower in areas with more immigrants. This might help explain how violent crime dropped 48 percent over the same period that our undocumented population grew from 3.5 million to 11.2 million.” [….] The rest of this piece is here.
* Chiraag Bains is a senior fellow at Harvard Law School’s Criminal Justice Policy Program and a Leadership in Government fellow with the Open Society Foundation(s). He was a federal prosecutor and senior official at the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division from 2010 to 2017.
Toward Socialism: A preliminary and therefore provisional diagnosis of symptoms—i.e., what ails us—including a brief etiology of the principal causal variable and a proposed therapeutic regimen.
A fairly large number of working class folks who voted for Trump appear to think that populist economic nationalism (granted, this may in some measure be merely a rhetorical smokescreen) and protectionist (or mercantilist) trade policies will perform an economic miracle, bringing about socio-economic security and the realization of middle-class dreams. (Ironically, or not, if one examines the early history of capitalism, protectionist policies and state intervention can—and have—work(ed) for emerging polities dedicated to economic development.) This demonstrates the remarkable effectiveness of being socialized into political and economic ideologies that refuse to historically and analytically conceptualize capitalism in its latest global incarnation. People simply don’t understand (or have succumbed to a colossal state of denial about) the “big-picture” consequences of the frenzied pursuit of profit and the ruthless competition between firms, including the endless search for cheap or cheaper labor markets. They appear to lack a sufficient grasp of the consequences of capital’s unbridled exploitation of technological innovation by way of supplanting (the costs of) labor. The intransigent nature of these ideologies has not prepared them for the increasing frequency of “boom and bust” cycles or periodic general crises that are “natural” to capitalism. The intransigent nature of these ideologies has precluded a grasp of the historic role of organized labor, social democratic parties and Leftist social movements in enhancing the welfare and well-being of the lives of working people, in prompting changes that have mitigated the harshest effects of capitalism, and in acting as the principal collective agents for the melioration of capitalism itself. It is neither an incidental nor an accidental fact that “the dramatic rise in the ratio of profits to wages provides a material foundation for the sharp rise in the overall income inequality” (Anwar Shaikh), for in the absence of a strong and broad coalition of Leftist forces, capital has its way with labor, and the ill-effects reverberate throughout the social order (cf. Göran Therborn’s The Killing Fields of Inequality, 2013).
No U.S. president, whether Democrat or Republican, can play a messianic role in saving us from the mortal sins of contemporary capitalism. Yes, states—or the State—can intervene directly in the balance of power between capital and labor, but when they (or it) systematically intervene on behalf of the former over the latter (with the collusion or collaboration of non-governmental global institutions like the IMF, World Bank, and now, although this may be changing, the WTO) the poor, working people, and those in the middle class will suffer (even neoliberals rely on the power of the State to implement fiscal conservativism and monetarist policies). There is evidence aplenty that this is already occurring with the Trump regime: the inability to see or acknowledge such evidence confirms once more the power of prevailing ideologies (wherein capitalism is ‘the best’ or ‘only’ economic system, the problem being solely which kind of capitalism one prefers). Yet “even in the best welfare states, social expenditures and taxes serve more to redistribute the living standard of labor than to change its average level. As a whole, labor largely pays for its own social benefits” (Anwar Shaikh). In short, the power of states to intervene in the operations of capitalism is severely constrained in a world of deregulated capital markets: states no longer have the same degree of power they once held in the period of “national capitalism” (a term that reminds of the diminished power of Keynesian-inspired states to robustly ‘steer’ the economy and why Claus Offe wrote about the Contradictions of the Welfare State and Disorganized Capitalism). The current round of globalization is a conspicuous “combination of deregulated capital movements, advances in information/communication/transport technologies, and a shift in ideology away from social democracy [as well as the ‘Liberal’ capitalist ideologies that buttress liberal or corporatist welfare policies] and statism towards neoliberalism and libertarianism.” “One consequence of this new phase,” writes Meghnad Desai, “is that the state no longer controls the economy, but is one player (a major one of course) among many. The state has to adapt and adjust to forces which it cannot control but must respond to.”
When working people understandably but myopically lament the effects of capitalist globalization on their lives (all the while failing to appreciate the disastrous effects of such microeconomic policies as deregulation and privatization), they appear to outsiders looking in or those awaiting a seat at the table as a tad self-centered, unabashedly selfish or simply unrealistic insofar as they are forgetting, deliberately ignoring or unintentionally neglecting (a result, in part, of debilitating psychological mechanisms that go hand-in-hand with ideology construction and maintenance) the historic effects of earlier forms of globalization on far more vulnerable and poorer peoples on our planet: “colonization, force, pillage, slavery, slaughter of native [‘indigenous’] peoples, the targeted destruction of potential competitors, and a huge transfer of wealth into the rich countries.” This is not to deny the injustice of having their middle class lives (or the aspirations thereto) cut out from under them, but this means capitalist globalization is reducing “three worlds” to one, as millions around the globe are gaining at the expense of the middle classes in the affluent countries, and even if it is not, to be sure, the “one world” of principled or democratic cosmopolitans. Governments did not plan this, however much they have since capitulated to these economic forces: it is the predictable result of the global consolidation of turbo- and finance-capitalism, of the increasing power of transnational corporations. And while economic globalization has an upside in some parts of the world and has been responsible for a significant reduction in poverty (directly related to the economic downturn in the affluent countries), substantial local, regional, and international inequality persists, indeed, it’s often growing, particularly within countries. Once more with Shaikh: “One could easily well argue that the inequality and lack of democracy on a global scale is abetted by the political institutions and interests of the ‘democracies’ of patrimonial capitalism.” But the power of these institutions and those interests is diminishing, hence the ascendance of xenophobic nationalism, right-wing populism, and fascist authoritarianism, all of which represent in part a frantic and frightening attempt to regain the political powers that made for “national capitalism,” albeit sans any knowledge of the historical sources and sociological context of those powers. It is nostalgic fantasizing for a lost world, and its tenacious grip on mind of the masses (at least some of them) bodes ill for all of us.
The Golden Age of capitalism for the “club of the advanced capitalist countries” is over (and with it, the ‘national capitalism’ that flourished during this period). Looking back with Desai: “The Keynesian quarter-century had indeed been a party. Everything had stayed high—employment, hours worked, vacancies—or grown steadily—income, wealth. The public sector—central government, local government, public enterprises—had grown without causing any problems.”
We may look back, but there’s no turning back. And there is no golden-like age on the horizon, despite the contrary proclivities and desperate yearnings among those of us old enough to be intimately familiar with this history. In other words, Keynesianism, post- or otherwise, is behind us, at least in the long term and globally speaking (it was Keynes, after all, who ‘made capitalism safe for democracy’). The current conditions are, Desai provocatively suggests, “analogous to sailing a ship on high seas. The ship has some machinery for control, but in navigating it, the captain does not control the waves or the wind. These forces can be studied, but they cannot be controlled. The captain who ignores or defies these forces may well run the ship aground or sink altogether.” Put differently, “[c]ycles, with their mania, crashes, and panics” are here to stay, as they undoubtedly “are endemic to capitalism” (Desai). And yet it seems implausible if not reckless to speak of the “imminent collapse” of capitalism, given its staying power through and beyond the duration of these cycles: at present and in the near-term, there are only different types or versions of capitalism, some meaner and some more beneficent than others. One reality North Americans and Europeans are alike compelled to confront, in spite of recalcitrant ideological blinkers or blinders: the current phase of capitalist transformation and entrenchment is truly global. In the words of Desai,
“The influence of capital—either as portfolio finance or as direct investment—the hegemony of financial markets, the increasing penetration of trade, have been experienced by all the worlds: First, Second, and Third. Indeed, this numerical categorization is now otiose. The benefits and costs of capitalism fall symmetrically—though not equally—on all parts of the world. For the first time in two hundred years, the cradle of capitalism—the metropolis, the core—has as much to fear from the rapidity of change as does the periphery.” [emphasis added]
It is this fear that has been canalized by the Right (and projected outward on ‘the Other’), its ideological and political project facilitated by a considerable number of working class voters punch-drunk on a cocktail of denial, self-deception, and wishful thinking. The fears, anxieties and anger of those workers in the (global) metropolis will not be assuaged, let alone overcome with the accelerated privatization of public goods, the deregulation of the finance sector, and the evisceration of remnant unionized workers.
The Republican Party generally and the Trump Administration in particular are shameless in according pride of place to the most perverse of motivations and incentives (these are not the only motivations and incentives common to capitalism) associated with capitalist democracy (in its neoliberal iteration or otherwise) and the visceral and reactionary moods and frustrations of those—of late—economically disenfranchised (while the poor are subject to purely punitive policies). No “public benefits” will follow from such motivations and incentives. But we can predict with some confidence more pain and suffering for the poor, the disenfranchised, the vulnerable, and the working class in this country, that is, those outside the privileged pantheon of a political and economic plutocracy marked by kleptocratic pretensions. A president afflicted with narcissistic megalomania (and a Midas complex), pubescent character traits and authoritarian propensities in conjunction with a dispositional aversion to truth (quickened by a paranoid penchant for conspiracy theories), only amplifies the already alarming degree and scope of danger that characterizes a political climate marked by irrationality and unpredictability and suffused with apocalyptic-like apprehensions.
The Left must exemplify, in theory and praxis, the triune principles and virtues of liberté, égalité, and fraternité. Tenacity, courage, and imagination will likewise be critical in breaking through the authoritarian social-character armor that has been fashioned from the more regressive and aggressive socio-cultural and political materials found in this country’s history: conformism, homophobia, (white and ‘Christian’) ethno-nationalism, militarism, parochialism, racism, sexism, conspicuous consumption and acquisitiveness, unbridled ambition, celebrity worship and fame-seeking, the will to dominate others, in short, the “false consciousness” well-captured in Erich Fromm’s clever locution, “the pathology of normalcy.” We will need to avail ourselves of the best of democratic theory and praxis found in liberal, (democratic and utopian) socialist, anarchist, and communist traditions, taking inspiration from the many men and women who went before us, including those principled communists who fought against apartheid in South Africa or came to power in the Indian state of Kerala or struggled for civil rights and on behalf of organized workers in U.S. history. These traditions are chock full of lessons for fighting the demonic forces of xenophobic nationalism and fascism, the evils incarnate in white supremacy, religious fanaticism and authoritarian populism, indeed any ideology or movement that embodies the perverse logic of doctrines and dogmas that deny the fundamental premises of inherent human dignity and fundamental human rights, that thwart the untrammeled democratic representation of the will of the people consistent with same, or that evidence little or no concern with sustainable living in harmony with the ecological and natural processes on our planet. We will continue to fight the latest iterations of these backward historical forces. There may be periodic setbacks and localized defeats in the progressive realization of emancipatory ends, in the extension of democratic principles and processes beyond electoral politics proper (e.g., in the economic realm), but the purification of a “realist,” statist and right-wing politics, increasingly beholden to fascist or fascist-like sentiment must continue apace, animated by a compassionate combination of reason and passion capable of transforming conventional power politics into something consistent with or at least closer to the kind of life that might be found in the daily round outside the Platonic cave, and thus under the nourishing and warm light of the Good, a life in which gains in global distributive justice mean everyone finds a seat at the bountiful table, a life in which flourishing becomes a real possibility.
— Patrick S. O’Donnell (March 3, 2017)
“A report released Thursday morning by the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) said that undocumented immigrants in the United States contribute around $11.74 billion in state and local taxes. The contributions come from a variety of taxes, including sales, excise, personal income and property taxes.
“Good policy is informed policy,” ITEP director of programs Meg Wiehe said via a press release. ‘Just as the horrendous impact of breaking up families under a mass deportation policy should not be ignored, nor should policymakers overlook the significant contributions undocumented immigrants make to our state and local revenues and the economy.’
‘Keep in mind most state and local taxes are collected from people regardless of citizenship status,’ Wiehe added. ‘Undocumented immigrants, like everyone else, pay sales and excise taxes when they purchase goods and services. They pay property taxes directly on their homes or indirectly as renters. And, many undocumented immigrants also pay state income taxes.’” [….] For the rest of the article, including a link to the report, please see here.
As my Verso Radical Diary informs me, it was on this date in 2002 that workers assumed control of the Zanon tile factory in Argentina, establishing yet another exemplum of a “factory without a boss.”
From the Wikipedia entry, albeit lightly edited and sans links and notes:
FaSinPat, formerly known as Zanon, is a worker-controlled ceramic tile factory in the southern Argentine province of Neuquén, and one of the most prominent in the recovered factory movement of Argentina. The name is short for Fábrica Sin Patrones, which means “Factory without Bosses” in Spanish.
The factory was opened in the early 1980s by Luigi Zanon, when Argentina was ruled by a dictatorship. According to Alejandro López, a representative of the workers’ union, Zanon’s factory was built on public land using public funding from the national and provincial governments, which were never repaid. In the inaugural parade, Luigi Zanon congratulated the military government for ‘keeping Argentina safe for investments,’ in a reference to the Dirty War (the illegal repression of political dissidents). During the 1990s, Zanon grew because of loans from the national and provincial governments; Luigi Zanon was a good friend of both former president Carlos Menem and former governor of Neuquén, Jorge Sobisch.
According to López, the Zanon labour union came under the control of criminal elements that acted in collusion with the factory owners during the 1990s, when Argentine labour laws offered little protection to workers. In 2000, after they had taken back control of the union leadership, Zanon workers started to demand improved working conditions. The increased labour activism led to serious conflict with the factory owner, who started firing workers until he decided for a lockout in 2001 in the hope of hiring a more docile workforce in the future.
Takeover of factory by workers
After the closure of the Zanon factory, workers occupied the abandoned factory in a desperate attempt to keep their jobs. They justified this by the large amount of money they were owed in back pay, the fact that the Zanon factory had been built with public funds, as well as worries about asset stripping. These events occurred in the general context of the turmoil created by the 2001 economic crisis. Following the initial occupation, the workers spent months camping outside of the factory without receiving any wages. Facing an attempted lockout by Zanon’s management, the workers voted on October 2, 2001, to remain in the factory. On March 2, 2002, 240 workers resumed production for the first time without Zanon management supervision.
In the beginning, the takeover was not explicitly resisted by Luigi Zanon. In 2002, the government abandoned the fixed one-to-one peso–dollar parity and decreed the pesificación (‘peso-ification’), the conversion of all bank accounts denominated in dollars into pesos at the official rate. As a result of the changed economic environment, FaSinPat started to be profitable again, and Luigi Zanon attempted to reclaim ownership of the factory. This included legal action and pressure to force the government to evict all of the workers. FaSinPat had also been the target of increasing violence and death threats, such as the kidnapping and torture of a female worker in March 2005.
FaSinPat has been financially successful and able to expand. During four years of operation, over 170 new workers were hired, bringing the total number of workers to 410 by April 2005. Hindering FaSinPat’s profitability is that the worker-controlled factory pays full price for electricity and gas while the previous owner only paid 20%. FaSinPat is the only factory in Neuquén to do so. In eight years the Neuquén Province has not bought any tiles from FaSinPat.
FaSinPat has nurtured its relationship with the surrounding community. From the start, the recovered factory donated tiles to community centers and hospitals and organised cultural activities for the community on its premises. In 2005, FaSinPat voted to build a community health clinic in the impoverished Nueva España neighbourhood. The inhabitants of Nueva España had been demanding such a clinic from the provincial government for two decades; FaSinPat built it in three months. The workers also make monthly donations to soup kitchens and hospitals. Community support has been very important in protecting the recovered factory from the threats it has been subjected to since the takeover.
On August 14, 2009, the provincial legislature voted to expropriate the factory to the Zanon cooperative legally and indefinitely by a count of 26 for and 9 against [emphasis added]. The state also agreed to pay the principal creditors still owed roughly 22 million pesos (around $7 million). Chief amongst these creditors are the World Bank, from whom Luis Zanon took a substantial loan to start the factory, and SACMY, an Italian company that produces ceramics machinery. However, the cooperative has resisted these moves, arguing that these creditors participated in a fraudulent bankruptcy in 2001, and that Zanon himself should be liable for these debts, because the credits went to him personally, and not the plant.
The workers’ contribution to unionism
The FaSinPat workers’ contributions to the development of rank and file unionism (sindicalismo de base) played a major role in their capability to organize among themselves and maintain control of the factory. This style of unionism, which incorporates worker-controlled assemblies and constituting alternative union locals presented a challenge to the dominant organizational structure of powerful unions such as the CGT (General Confederation of Labor), which have a more bureaucratic organization and a tendency to acquiesce to management demands. In 2000, the Zanon workers took over Local 21 of the Sindicato de Obreros y Empleados Ceramistas de Neuquén (SOECN), an affiliate of the national ceramists’ union. The SOCEN’s constitution is grounded on three basic principles: worker’s democracy, class autonomy, and anti-imperialist internationalism. The style of class-conscious unionism employed by the Zanon workers under SOECN represents a break to the traditional form of Peronist unionism in Argentina. Through the SOECN, the workers have supported the Unemployed Workers’ Movement of Neuquén (Movimiento de Trabajadores Desocupados) and have supported the Unemployed Workers’ Union (Union de Trabajadores Desocupados).”
Of course, even before yesterday’s revelations, it was clear that Jeff Sessions should have no role in determining whether Michael Flynn should be prosecuted for violating 18 U.S.C. § 1001 for falsely telling federal agents that he had not discussed sanctions with a Russian Ambassador Kislyak.
A number of reasons have been given not to prosecute. We are told he took his false statement back. I doubt that defense has been uniformly applied.
We are told that the statement was not material to any criminal act. That the Logan Act has not yet founded a prosecution to my mind is no reason for it to lie fallow. Prosecutorial inaction does not erase a criminal statute from the books.
We are told that he could claim that he did not discuss sanctions just the removal of some Russian officials from the country. I would think a jury could decide whether that twisting of language holds up.
Despite the tenuous character of these claims, there is a very good reason not to prosecute Michael Flynn. It’s called the “exculpatory no” doctrine. Suspects ought to be able to deny guilt in or out of court without being subject to a federal felony. Of course, suspects deny guilt when asked if they committed a crime. Indeed, if suspects are silent, their silence can be used against them in court. If the exculpatory no doctrine did not exist, federal agents could and have manufactured crimes. Indeed, that could have been the case here. When Flynn was interviewed, the federal agents already knew he had talked about sanctions with the Ambassador. Asking the question would have been a way of trapping the suspect into a felony.
To its shame, led by Justice Scalia, the Supreme Court held in Brogan v. United States, that suspects could successfully be prosecuted under § 1001 simply for denying to federal agents that they committed a crime. But Brogan permits the Justice Department to prosecute; it does not require it to do so. Fortunately for General Flynn and for the country, the Justice Department adheres to the exculpatory no doctrine: “It is the Department's policy not to charge a Section 1001 violation in situations in which a suspect, during an investigation, merely denies guilt in response to questioning by the government. This policy is to be narrowly construed, however; affirmative, discursive and voluntary statements to Federal criminal investigators would not fall within the policy.” See here.
I am no fan of Michael Flynn, but perhaps his behavior will insure that the Trump law and order (except as applied to Trump and his friends) administration will not change the Justice Department’s wise and humane policy.
“The Kronstadt Commune, called by Paul Avrich ‘a lost revolutionary utopia,’ was established at the very outset of the revolution in 1917 on the island naval base in the Gulf of Finland. Virtually independent from 1917 to 1921 and strongly pro-Bolshevik in the early years, Kronstadt had a population of about 50,000—half of it military personnel (largely sailors of Ukrainian peasant background). Egalitarianism, compensatory justice, equity, and grass-roots democracy took on active meaning in this little republic in the Baltic. Communes of 40-60 people were formed where intellectuals, workers, and sailors of all ages toiled side by side in urban garden plots and were rewarded according to labor or special need. Housing and building space was distributed according to family size. Sailors (who got ‘special’ rations on the mainland) shared their portions equally with all the rest—including Bolshevik prisoners taken during the fighting of 1921! Kronstadt was one of the most vivid utopian socialist experiments to surface in the Revolution.” — Richard Stites, Revolutionary Dreams: Utopian Vision and Experimental Life in the Russian Revolution (New York: Oxford University Press, 1989): 55.
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“Kronstadt is of great historic significance. It sounded the death knell Bolshevism with its Party dictatorship, mad centralization, Tcheka terrorism and bureaucratic castes. It struck into the very heart of Communist autocracy. At the same time it shocked the intelligent and honest minds of Europe and America into a critical examination of Bolshevik theories and practices. It exploded the Bolshevik myth of the Communist State being the ‘Workers’ and Peasants’ Government.’ It proved that the Communist Party dictatorship and the Russian Revolution are opposites, contradictory and mutually exclusive. It demonstrated that the Bolshevik regime is unmitigated tyranny and reaction, and that the Communist State is itself the most potent and dangerous counter-revolution.
Kronstadt fell. But it fell victorious in its idealism and moral purity, its generosity and higher humanity. Kronstadt was superb. It justly prided itself on not having shed the blood of its enemies, the Communists within its midst. It had no executions. The untutored, unpolished sailors, rough in manner and speech, were too noble to follow the Bolshevik example of vengeance: they would not shoot even the hated Commissars. Kronstadt personified the generous, all for-giving spirit of the Slavic soul and the century-old emancipation movement of Russia.
Kronstadt was the first popular and entirely independent attempt at liberation from the yoke of State Socialism—an attempt made directly by the people, by the workers, soldiers and sailors themselves. It was the first step toward the third Revolution which is inevitable and which, let us hope, may bring to long-suffering Russia lasting freedom and peace.” — Alexander Berkman
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“To see the Kronstadt uprising as flowing from the mistakes of War Communism, and to criticize the severity with which the rebels were punished – this is by no means to agree with the anarchists and the social democrats that Kronstadt ‘exposes the fundamentally anti-democratic and totalitarian nature of Bolshevism.’ I think Kronstadt was a bad mistake, but a mistake explained and, to some extent, justified by the terrible social and economic difficulties of those early years of the revolution. (Incidentally, the book which more than any other I have read convinced me of the necessity for many of the stern and undemocratic measures taken by the Bolsheviks in these years was, oddly enough Victor Serge’s L’an Une de la Révolution Russe, a really excellent history which deserves to be issued in an English edition.) It seems to me a serious error to defend Kronstadt – and many other actions taken by the Bolsheviks in those early years – as a normal mode of behavior for a revolutionary party. I am in favor of less defense, less polemicizing against all critics on this subject, and more willingness to examine the whole affair dispassionately and objectively with a view to extracting whatever historical lessons it may hold as to what seems to me to be a key problem for all revolutionaries today: how to maintain the maximum degree of working-class democracy after the revolution has been made.” — Dwight McDonald, “Kronstadt Again,” New International, Vol. 5 - No.10, October 1939: 315-316.
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Quoting from my Verso Radical Diary: “In response to famine and the Bolshevik repression of strikes, a group of sailors, soldiers, and civilians launched the Kronstadt Rebellion against the Soviet government. ‘This unrest shows clearly enough that the party has lost the faith of the working masses.’”—Petropavlovsk Resolution and Demands
The following is from the Wikipedia entry on the rebellion, sans hyperlinks and notes:
“The rebellion originated in Kronstadt, a naval fortress on Kotlin Island in the Gulf of Finland that served as the base of the Russian Baltic Fleet and as a guard post for the approaches to Petrograd, 55 kilometres (34 mi) away. The rebellion was crushed by the Red Army after a 12-day military campaign, resulting in several thousand deaths.
By 1921, the Bolsheviks were winning the Russian Civil War and foreign troops were beginning to withdraw, yet Bolshevik leaders continued to keep tight control of the economy through the policy of War Communism. After years of economic crises caused by World War I and the Russian Civil War, the Bolshevik economy started to collapse. Industrial output had fallen dramatically. It is estimated that the total output of mines and factories in 1921 was 20 percent of the pre-World War I level, with many crucial items suffering an even more drastic decline. Production of cotton, for example, had fallen to 5 percent and iron to 2 percent of the pre-war level, and this coincided with droughts in 1920 and 1921 and the Russian famine of 1921. Discontent grew among the Russian populace, particularly the peasantry, who felt disadvantaged by Communist grain requisitioning (prodrazvyorstka, forced seizure of large portions of the peasants’ grain crop used to feed urban dwellers). They resisted by refusing to till their land. In February 1921, more than 100 peasant uprisings took place. The workers in Petrograd were also involved in a series of strikes, caused by the reduction of bread rations by one third over a ten-day period.
On February 26, delegates from the Kronstadt naval base visited Petrograd to investigate the situation. On February 28, in response to the delegates’ report of heavy-handed Bolshevik repression of strikes in Petrograd, the crews of the battleships Petropavlovsk and Sevastopol held an emergency meeting, which approved a resolution raising 15 demands.