“We have always lived in slums and holes in the wall. We will know how to accommodate ourselves for a while. For you must not forget that we can also build. It is we who built these palaces and cities, here in Spain and America and everywhere. We, the workers. We can build others to take their place. And better ones. We are not in the least afraid of ruins. We are going to inherit the earth; there is not the slightest doubt about that. The bourgeoisie might blast and ruin its own world before it leaves the stage of history. We carry a new world here, in our hearts. That world is growing in this minute.”—Buenaventura Durruti
in response to Pierre van Passen’s claim that the revolution will leave the people “sitting on a pile of ruins”
2011 saw people around the world carrying signs and banners against the domination of the top 1%, denouncing their banks, their corporations, their dictators, their corrupt politicians, and their capitalist system. All these things deserve to be denounced, but we must also critically ask: just how deep are the roots of all this exploitation, looting, and inequality? What will it take to build a free and equal society? It is not just corporations—not even modern capitalism—that must be overcome, it is the rule of market economics. Wage labor, unemployment, treatment of workers as interchangeable parts, useless competition, and the blind necessity of profit are all intrinsic to market economics. What does the market do, exactly? The capitalists praise it as the pinnacle of human endeavor, but it is merely an algorithm for allocating economic resources through price signals. We can do better. In place of capital and its pitiless logic, we can create a 21st-century socialist society which can organize the economy on the basis of human need rather than return on investment, bring even the workplace under grassroots democratic control, and surpass capitalism in productive efficiency. Under capitalism, prices and profits are used to determine the market price (or exchange-value) of goods and services, which are sold as commodities. However, market prices are ultimately only signals that approximate a combination of an item’s value in satisfying some need (technically, its use-value) and its balance of supply and demand at a specific place and time; capitalist firms use them to make investment and production decisions. As Marx and the classical economists showed, labor is the ultimate source of practical value, or use value. Today, this labor theory of value is amply confirmed with statistical evidence. If we know the amount of labor that has gone into an item and into the productive resources used to produce it, we can use its labor content to quantify its use value. This labor content can then serve as a precise and universal basis for economic planning and allocation of resources within the context of a dynamic planning system. In return for so many hours of work, one is entitled to more or less the same number of hours of others’ labor in the form of consumer goods. (These could, of course, be chosen as freely as they are under capitalism; planning does not imply Trabants.) Other end-product goods and services—bridges, firefighting, scientific research—can be allocated on a democratically-planned basis, taking into account the trade-offs involved in choosing between different alternatives. Supply and demand will of course remain material facts of life. Under capitalism they work indirectly, with producers and consumers using price signals and forecasts to decide what to buy and what to build; this is slow and inefficient. Given the known labor content of all goods and services, and information (already kept within capitalist firms) on supply and demand, supply and demand can be mathematically balanced in real time. Thus, a socialist economy can surpass capitalism in efficiency. (The notorious Soviet bread lines were a consequence of a planned economy conceived on an entirely different basis, illogically implemented and operating with grossly insufficient information and technology.) While the computational requirements of an efficient planning system are formidable, capitalism itself has developed the necessary algorithms, computer hardware, and networks. In the 1990s, the socialist economists Cockshott and Cottrell showed that modern computers had finally made economic planning a practical possibility. Of course, increased economic efficiency is not a compelling reason to reconstruct the whole of the economy. The motivation for a socialist economy is precisely the destructive nature of capitalism, and market economics in general. Today, your ability to work is your only productive resource, and you are compelled to sell it as a commodity on the labor market to buy the necessities of life. Work is thus subject to all the fluctuations of any other market commodity, especially given the vast power imbalance in the irreconcilable conflict between employers and workers. The operations of supply and demand lead to forced unemployment, union-busting, jobs at Wal-Mart instead of Ford, and the capitalist imperative to treat workers as interchangeable parts. Yet wage labor—the commodification and market pricing of labor—is crucial to the operation of a market economy; to overcome all this we must do away with markets themselves. Obviously, productive work would still need to be done under socialism, but planning would enable full employment as a matter of policy, and at least relative equality of pay. Most of all, it would make it possible to ensure that everyone’s material needs would be met, simply by establishing this as a constraint of the plan. The logic of the market means that independent, competing enterprises producing commodities for sale are obliged to turn a profit or else face bankruptcy. This imperative for profit operates according to its own laws, as described by Marx: the need for constant growth leading to periodic crises, concentration of capital creating monopolies, the blindness to any considerations except those of profit, and of course the reproduction of class society. The history of capitalist society is the history of these processes. They will remain as long as markets remain, no matter what regulations are put in place, no matter whether corporations are abolished, even if enterprises were run as worker cooperatives or in any other way. (History has already provided ample confirmation of these laws under all kinds of conditions.) After two centuries of market-created crisis and misery, it is time to develop a more tolerable alternative. Moreover, the rule of the market means that the most significant decisions about society’s effort and resources are made by unaccountable executives whose sole responsibility is to maximize quarterly profits. None of us voted for oil drilling in the Gulf or the deindustrialization of Michigan. In fact, it is impossible for markets to account for non-economic side effects, what economists call “externalities” and the rest of us know as the benefits of good schools or the harmful effects of coal plants. Decisions about these fundamentally non-economic factors and the tradeoffs involved can only legitimately be made on a grassroots democratic basis. A planning mechanism makes it possible to make a truly informed decision about, say, decommissioning a coal-fired power plant and the full costs of doing so. There is nothing democratic about such decisions being made by power company executives, by politicians beholden to corporate lobbyists, or even by the power-plant workers themselves. Today we know from environmental science that such decisions have worldwide consequences. Only democratic decision-making in a classless socialist society can bring about true self-rule. Obviously, there are years to go and important struggles to win before the construction of a 21st century socialism is a practical task. However, in order to fully overcome the injustices created by capitalism, we have to critically evaluate all the ideas we inherit from capitalist society. We have to reject its market ideology right along with its ‘free trade,’ its ‘right to work’, and the rest of that stinking heap. Another world is indeed possible.
Land of the Decieved, Home of the Slaves: The New Jim Crow
The United States today, is faced with a plethora of serious issues that affect how we operate from within, our relationships with other countries, and how we view ourselves as a nation. We know that not everything is picture perfect in this country; our history is rocky, fraught with oppression and more importantly, revolution. The people of this country have had to overcome many a hurdle to obtain equal, unalienable rights for everyone. We depend on knowing that in this country, where everyone is free, where the struggles of the Civil Rights Era really did pay off, racism has been banished, and we have been moving forward ever since. What this view refuses to acknowledge however, is that a racial caste system comparable to that of the Jim Crow era is still very much in force. This caste system, not easily recognizable, is hidden behind the ugly, shameful beast that is mass incarceration. The victims this time, unlike the slaves and minstrel show characters before them, carry the heavy label of “criminal.” The mass incarceration of black people in America began with the War on Drugs, officially declared by President Reagan in 1982, a time when most of the population actually did not consider drug use to be a problem. This movement was put in place not so much to address any real drug issues as it was to address issues of race; to put up an appearance of being tough on crime, and put down drug users and dealers that were portrayed by propaganda for the War on Drugs as black. Media about the Drug War featured black crack users and declared the presence of crack a major crisis. The issue of cocaine use however, (a drug that, coincidentally or not, was popular among whites) was hardly pressed. Mandatory minimum sentences, which were harsher for crack than cocaine, were thus imposed on blacks at grossly disproportionate rates than those imposed on whites. These new policies of the War on Drugs were popular among whites who resented black progress, commonly lower-income whites who felt the need to compete with blacks for social standing. Because of this, the War on Drugs and the campaign of being “tough on crime” has yielded tremendous political gain for presidents and administrators since. The “drug crisis” that supposedly has had a choke hold on the nation is in fact primarily an illusion constructed by politicians for their own financial and political benefit, at the expense of the black American identity. As a result of Drug War propaganda, the identity of the criminal in America has become quite synonymous with the identity of the black American. A subconscious racism has been implanted among U.S. citizens, one that would come as quite a surprise to most. In 1995, a survey published in the Journal of Alcohol and Drug Education asked participants to picture a drug user; 95% of the participants pictured this drug user to be black. This is a clear depiction of what damage has been done to the way this nation looks at its citizens. By 2000, Human Rights Watch reported that in several states, blacks made up as much as 90% of total drug offenders sent to prison. These numbers have very little to do with actual criminal behavior. Studies have shown that in general, whites are more likely to commit drug crimes than blacks. Why is it then that so many more black people are facing criminal charges? Why is it that in our court system, which supposedly supports justice, blacks receive harsher sentencing for drug crimes than whites? The answers to these questions are found within the complex web of money and corruption that has become our nation’s government. Police receive federal funding for making drug arrests, which consequently makes drug arrests a priority for police. Other types of crime, such as violent crime, are thus de-emphasized. For police to meet their quotas for drug arrests each month, they abuse consent searches and fudge paperwork. They target poor black areas where citizens are more likely to be outside and who don’t have the monetary resources to protect themselves from false charges. SWAT teams come into these same areas to raid and destroy homes, more often fruitlessly than not, and poor black citizens are taken to courts where the system makes it nearly impossible to get a lawyer. Citizens are thrown into prison where they cannot vote; they are released from prison, forever branded as felons, making it virtually impossible to get decent jobs or receive federal housing aid, or even food stamps. In some states, these released felons still cannot vote or serve jury duty. This picture that has been painted, one of black American citizens being cast out of society, stripped of their right to vote, and discriminated against in employment and housing, is frighteningly all too familiar. However, this time around, it is not technically black people who are being persecuted, but “criminals.” Criminals who happen to be black. No one wants to fight for those who have been demonized by society. No one wants to be on the side of the “bad” people. These factors make the fight for real justice a difficult struggle indeed. It is difficult to say whether or not this country can address all of these problems, especially since it has gotten to a point at which a serious economic shift would be in order. Programs like Affirmative Action are a step in the right direction, but realistically hardly even begin to clean up the mess that has been made and is still in the works. As with any major problem in this world, the first step for those who are serious about solving it lies within education, learning the facts at hand, and most importantly, teaching others.
The information for this article was taken from “The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness,” by Michelle Alexander. It provides a great deal more valuable information than what could be provided here, and is a highly recommended read for those disturbed by this subject.
Occupying The Future: Where the Movement Goes from Here
After almost 4 months of occupation, consensus, and protesting; and after repeated instances of police brutality, tear gas, and over 5,000 arrests; America has a mass movement again. What began with a few hundred protesters in Zuccotti Park has become an uprising capable of changing the foundations of the American political system. We have shut down ports, occupied Times Square, stood toe to toe with police officers and seen them—for the first time in living memory- back down. Where before our society seemed to drive relentlessly onward, independent of our wishes, we have now experienced the feeling of reaching out and seizing control, if only for a moment. We have learned a lesson from our brothers and sisters in the Middle East, Africa and Europe who helped demonstrate the power of a people united against oppression. It seems that we had forgotten what we were capable of; 2011 has reminded us. This is not to say that the fight is over. Indeed, this struggle has just begun. Occupy has suffered major setbacks in the form of coordinated government repression, evictions and arrests. The combination of winter and tear gas has forced them from the streets of most major cities, leading some to claim (or perhaps hope) that the movement is dying. Occupy is indeed in a difficult position, it has run into several limitations in its strategy, and needs to forge a new path if it is to continue to grow. Nonetheless, to think that Occupy will simply evaporate is a delusion of the 1%. The slogan, “You cannot evict an idea,” that greeted the cops attempting to destroy Occupy camps illustrates both the key accomplishment of the movement and the reason it will not disappear in the cold of winter. No matter what the future holds, Occupy has already scored a terrific victory by breaking the taboo of opposing capitalism. A year ago, corporate news outlets and politicians were talking about austerity and the necessity of working class sacrifice. Today, as the American public increasingly begins to leave them behind, they have been forced to address issues of economic justice and social equality. Dramatic shifts like these cannot be undone at a stroke. But if we are to continue this transition, we must progress. So where does Occupy go from here? The three greatest strengths of Occupy are its broad message of economic justice, emphasis on radical democracy, and use of direct action. America, perhaps the wealthiest nation in history, is one of the most unequal industrial societies, with the lowest rates of social mobility in the developed world. Society is polarized into two opposing groups: the minority—the capitalists—who control the wealth and rule the society, and the oppressed working majority. Occupy has brought this contradiction of wealth and poverty into the discussion and built a mass movement to oppose the ruling minority. Until the wealth of our society is distributed more equally among those who create it, economic justice will remain at the center of Occupy’s message. Tactically, radical democracy and direct action are two sides of the same coin. Radical democracy creates a space where people participate directly in making group decisions, while direct action presents a method of enacting these decisions without relying on the bureaucracy of the 1%. Instead of electing a rich person to feign interest in their locality and betray them in Washington, the people opt to create a new democracy truly reflective of their wishes. After decades of attempting to reform a degrading and disempowering system from within, we are now largely refusing to engage with the “accepted channels” for change. This independence must be maintained as the movement moves forward. To endorse a political candidate and fall back into the sinkhole of the two party system is to return once more to the model of politics that has enforced the rule of the 1% for centuries. While building upon these important ideals, we must also avoid fetishizing the individual practices that brought us here. Though the physical occupation of public spaces remains a great rallying point for the movement, it is the ideas of Occupy that have inspired millions. Our movement should judge its own tactics primarily on whether they serve to combat the hegemony of the 1%. If that means occupying a park, great, but we must be open to a variety of methods for reclaiming physical and mental space in our society. Additionally, in judging these tactics we must be willing and able to change them. If aspects of the consensus process begin to hamper the ability of the group to function effectively and democratically, we should feel free to modify them. This movement is about creating a truly democratic and economically just society, and we should not subordinate our goals to a particular process. Finally, there has been talk about the need for Occupy to become more moderate, and engage with the traditional American system to become more relatable. This view, while somewhat understandable, is fundamentally flawed. The demand for moderation appears each time a radical movement emerges, the claim being that in order to gain broad acceptance the radicals must temper their goals and join the accepted political framework. For Occupy to do this would spell the end of the movement. Occupy already enjoys broad public support, becoming more ‘moderate’ and allying with aspects of the traditional political system will ultimately degrade this support. The American public already has a political party that claims to seek “change” and then sells them out to corporate interests. A key part of Occupy’s message is that the US political system has been made the servant of the 1% and no longer reflects the will of the people. To conform to and join this corrupt system in a vain attempt to gain its acceptance would negate a key element of the movement. We may fight individual battles for this or that reform, but the aim of the movement must remain a broad transformation of both the economic system and structure or our society. Instead of seeking merely to improve the conditions of our exploitation, be it with a slightly higher wage or mildly less oppressive legislation, we should struggle to seize control of the economic and political processes which dominate our lives. While we can fight for larger cages, our ultimate aim is and must continue to be their abolition. In a few short months Occupy has cracked capitalism’s monopoly on legitimacy. As the new year dawns, time is on our side; we have at long last seen our chains, we now work to shatter them.
It is not a coincidence that we live in a time of both increasing environmental and economic instability. The same systemic greed that produced the financial disaster created two powerful industries, the fossil fuel industry and industrial agriculture, which are wrecking our planet as well as perpetuating deplorable social conditions. Given the wealth of research available, in addition to several large scale synthesis reports (e.g. Inter Governmental Panel on Climate Change and the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment) which underscore our huge environmental footprint and reliance on nature for health and industry, it is obvious a large paradigm shift is needed in all areas of society to ally with ecological realities. However, the continual assault on even modest environmental protections, the failure of market-based solutions, and magnitude of recent environmental disasters makes a sustainable future for our descendants look uncertain at best. Though resource exploitation has always come at the expense of those living on top of those resources, recent programs purporting to address environmental and social problems may actually be exacerbating them. Given the magnitude of these problems, why is progress towards any real solution always constrained? Here I summarize our environmental and policy landscape, and argue that it is state capitalism that impedes real, just solutions. Increasing global temperatures (1.2-1.4ºF in the past 100 years) and associated changes in patterns of precipitation and extreme weather events are already having a significant effect on our quality of life and industry. As a strong signal emerges from the naturally high variability in weather, there is increasing certainty the rise in major storm and flooding events is influenced by global warming, confirming earlier climate predictions. Recent storm and flooding events in the US are responsible for billions in damages. Higher temperatures may also be lowering wheat and corn yields, driving up their price. In addition, many major world killers such as malaria and diarrheal diseases are highly climate sensitive and have risen in frequency. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimated that by 2004, warming since the 70’s was already causing 140,000 excess deaths a year. Humans also have a profound direct impact on ecosystems through land use, particularly for agriculture. About 40% of the terrestrial surface in composed of agricultural ecosystems. Much of agriculture is highly industrialized using genetically modified organisms, extensive monocultures, and large amounts of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides. This particular model has had grave consequences for ecosystem health and is a threat to long-term sustainability. Heavily irrigated lands have become highly salinized, and at least 40% of croplands may be experiencing soil erosion, reduced fertility, or over-grazing. Land clearing and the use of pesticides have also had a large effect on pollinators (e.g. Honey bee colony collapse). The large amount of fertilizer runoff and clearing of forests and wetlands (important for capturing nutrients) have impacted our waterways and coasts through eutrophication and hypoxic conditions, severely reducing water quality. GMO agriculture has led to the emergence of “super weeds” (e.g herbicide resistant Amaranth palmeri in cotton and soy fields) and pesticide resistant organisms (e.g. bollworms and rootworms). In many places, the use of GMOs has been a social disaster as well as an economic one, for instance in India where policy and market forces have compelled farmers to use them. These farmers are then often trapped in an endless cycle of debt due to factors such as the high cost of supplies (e.g. seeds and herbicides), volatility of global markets, and the poor performance of GM crops. The human outcome of these dire conditions is every 30 minutes an Indian farmer commits suicide, some with the pesticide they indebted themselves to purchase. Presented with such a context and the fact CO2 emissions are now rising faster than the worst case scenario in the IPCC report, the need for strong environmental regulations and alleviating of unjust conditions should be uncontroversial. However, efforts to dismantle current regulations may be accelerating. Even modest proposals by the Obama administration to address climate change have been met with fierce attacks by conservatives and the oil industry. Virtually every institution or law that is concerned with environmental protection has been targeted. The EPA itself received a 16% budget cut which will make enforcement of the clean air and water laws more difficult. The clean air act is estimated to have saved 160,000 lives in 2010 alone. Even after the calamitous gulf oil spill and increased awareness of how common spills are, new pipelines such as the Keystone have been proposed and constructed (recently, popular pressure has put the Keystone on hold). Further big agribusiness, which benefits greatly from large subsidies, is aggressively extending its reach. For example, a Wikileaks cable showed after meeting great resistance to GMO agriculture in Europe, Washington has retaliated , attempting to penalize non-compliant nations. Some market-based programs have been introduced as “solutions” to our environmental and social problems. Though in reality, they do little or serve as thin covers for further resource and human exploitation. Good examples are the emissions trading and REDD+ programs. Emissions trading was advanced as a way to regulate industrial emissions (e.g. CO2 and SO2) by rewarding industries which reduce their output with credits they can sell to more heavily polluting ones. However in practice, heavy polluters are often granted as many free credits as they need to continue polluting and can sell these credits off lucratively. For example, the German utilities group RWE which has done nothing to reduce its emissions but has made 100’s of millions for business as usual. Also loopholes allow big polluters to buy cheap carbon credits from abroad. In the end, these emission trading programs are supplementing fossil fuel use rather than reducing it. The large potential for profits is probably why the organizations most devoted to funding fossil fuel projects (e.g. The World Bank and Tokyo Power) are also eager to setup carbon trading projects. The UN sponsored REDD+ is another program touted as a way to offset carbon emissions, with the added benefits of alleviating deforestation, biodiversity loss, and poverty. It allows polluting industries to buy up carbon offsets from programs in developing nations that set aside land for forest conservation. In reality however, the program is having disastrous consequences for indigenous and rural people and is likely doing nothing for conservation. Dodgy companies and governments are in effect paid money to setup the conservation areas and typically remove local inhabitants by intimidation or force. These organizations often turn a blind eye to industrial logging, while dispossessed peasants have no choice but to populate urban slums or constructed communities. A model for the way REDD may continue to unfold is Chiapas, Mexico. In places in this region people from indigenous communities have been forced off their lands to relocate to “sustainable” rural cities, such as Santiago el Pinar with its brightly colored chipboard shanties. The forced relocation of locals opens up areas for industrial resource exploitation . Many mining concessions have been granted in recent years and much “liberated” territory has been converted over to monocultural plantations for big agribusiness. Of course, the poor dispossessed peasants, stripped of the meddlesome right of self-determination, are a ready source of cheap labor. If we want to understand why positive environmental change is so constrained, we must be bold enough to look at the root of the problem: the fundamental nature of our state capitalist system. The state is the institution in which legal power is vested and, by now, corporations have gained unprecedented control of the political process. This was shown demonstrated most cogently by Thomas Ferguson in his book: “Golden Rule: The Investment Theory of Party of Competition”. The corporate elite compete to control the state via investing in elections. The result is that campaign finance is a good predictor of policy outcome. One of the biggest pieces of supporting evidence for investor control is the 2010 Citizen’s United ruling. Fictional “persons” can now openly purchase elections (rather than using the usual discrete channels), giving them privileges far beyond persons of flesh and blood in our money driven political system. The institutional drive of corporations to increase returns to managers and wealthy investors coupled with their disproportionate influence, explains why we see lavish subsidies, public research funding, and preferential policy for fossil fuel industries and big agribusiness, and why there are sharp constraints on regulation. Though the prospects for a sustainable and just future seem grim, there is reason for great hope. Despite the false perceptions renewable technology cannot work and smaller funding, they are being increasingly deployed around the world. Between 2004 and 2009, the renewable energy generating capacity grew 10-60% for many technologies. Green energy is also a promising economic sector. From 1998-2007 green energy jobs grew 2.5% faster than jobs overall. Mass popular movements of farmers and the general public in places such as Latin America, Europe, and the US are leading to increasing pressure against the big agribusiness model and GMOs (there are currently bans in regions of Europe) and the call for sustainable, biodiversity friendly agriculture. Even the United Nations and Union of Concerned Scientists have recognized the ability of sustainable agriculture to address hunger, poverty, and climate change. Some countries, such as Bolivia and Ecuador have even enshrined rights for nature in their constitutions. Perhaps the best reason for hope lies in the great global uprisings, from the Arab Spring to the American Autumn. Though not explicit in the demands of the global movements, the fight against tyranny and corporate hegemony could lead to opportunities for significant positive and lasting environmental change. A regeneration of democracy could open space for other values to emerge based on community and solidarity, with a long-range view of the world. Environmentalists should ally themselves to these movements, raising awareness of the systemic, corporate drivers of environmental degradation and the importance of fighting for our ecosystems at this critical moment in history. Economic justice is inextricable from environmental justice. Roughly put, domination of the earth’s resources, whether mineral or biological, is another way the 1% harms the 99%. Corporate exploitation of resources has profound environmental and social costs, and even threatens the existence of the system that makes highly asymmetric wealth accumulation possible for the elite. We cannot, however, expect positive change from a system that ruthlessly pursues short-term gain, throwing up barriers to any regulation, effectively externalizing the fate of our species. Understanding this, we are confronted with heavy decisions about who controls our resources, how they are used, and who benefits. We would do well to reflect on the magnitude of the choices before us, for it is unprecedented in the history of life that the actions of one species have such profound implications for the fate of the entire planet and all other species on it. We have an opportunity to absorb these truths into the global struggle and fight, not only for economic prosperity for all, but explicitly for a sustainable prosperity we can pass on with pride to our descendants. Perhaps one of the biggest lessons from the occupy movement is we cannot count on our so called leaders. The hope for a for sustainable and just future lies with us, as it always has.
This December, four bills loomed over the political landscape, and as with all proposed legislation, will be voted on by Congress– and indeed, one already has and passed. The first two of the bills, the PROTECT IP and SOPA acts, are measures to curtail Net Neutrality in favor of corporate bodies and the rich. The third, even more repressive (and is now lawful), is a provision in the new NDAA reauthorization for next year, dealing with civil liberties, which now has been accompanied by the fourth bill HR 3166, which could strip away citizenship. The rapid succession of all three bills is indicative of two things: first, that the upper class is absolutely terrified of a resurgent people’s movement, and second, that it is prepared to destroy the public’s civil liberties to retain its power. The first of the twin internet bills, the Preventing Real Online Threats to Economic Creativity and Theft of Intellectual Property Act (PROTECT IP), is a Senate bill that allows governmental and corporate bodies in the United States to block access to websites that hold illegal copies of software, media, and other copyrighted material. In particular, the bill is focused on censoring US access to these sites that are located abroad. The impact of this bill is that it would be perfectly legal to bar access to any website that held illegal copies of copyrighted material, or was associated with another website that had. URLs, links, and domain names would not work to access these barred sites- only IP addresses. The Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA), a House bill, is a more severe and invasive version of its sister in the Senate. In addition to the ability to bar search engines from finding target sites, this bill explicitly allows court orders by both the US and companies against any person, site, or affiliated site that “enable or facilitate” the access of these illegal materials. Streaming copyrighted movies online would now be a 5-year sentence. I’m not making that up. Effectively, the vast majority of young people would be guilty under the law for this, and you can see the insanity in that. Thankfully, Internet search engines that assist in fighting this horrible set of crimes are given immunity so the remaining part of the population can surf a heavily regulated, US-only, Internet. For the most part, the defenders of these bills (like Sen. Carl Levin) characterize copyrights as “legal rights granted by governments to encourage and reward innovation.” Ignoring the fact that the majority of corporate legal activity these days is in patent trolling rather than the actual protection of these new products, ignoring the fact that these pirated products are downloaded mainly by individuals like you (not a criminal underclass), ignoring the fact that the vast majority of profits from these products are not shared with the workers who created them but with the companies, celebrities, and stockbrokers, and ignoring that the entire system of copyrights has been subverted into a way for companies to entrench power. This is all bullshit: the real meaning of these bills is to allow companies and the US government more control over the Internet, in the name of “protecting innovation” and “business.” In the form letter I received from Senator Levin there was also some lovely panic about pirated unsafe pharmaceuticals being made in third world countries. If you know anything about both the fact that physical drugs are already nearly-impossible to import into the US, and that, well, the chemical synthesis of these pharmaceuticals is very difficult and requires knowledge from inside the company itself, the statement was such a non-sequitur with regards to the real uses of online piracy (movies, entertainment, etc.) that I wondered if the senator thought you could literally download medicine.
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), unlike the others, is usually a routine, yearly budget bill. But in this reauthorization, a new clause (sec. 1031) has been added which explicitly says that the president has the authority to indefinitely detain any suspected terrorists, in this case affiliated with Al-Qaeda (now a handful of militants in Pakistan whose terrorist attacks are carried out by independent fans), regardless of nationality. In addition, the bill makes it clear that all trials of these forever-imprisoned combatants must be in military court. Effectively, any of us could be accused of as terrorists and imprisoned without any hope of a civilian trial. In addition to this, the law has another provision that allows the President to deport citizens to “foreign entities,” presumably so we can torture them by proxy (Egypt and our bases in Somalia have fulfilled this function in the past). The bill was approved 93-7 in the US Senate, passed with flying colors through the house, and was signed “with reservations” by President Obama. The President, in the accompanying signing statement, claimed that though the law is now on the books, he pledged to never use its powers (and instead wait for #45 to abuse it instead). Before this statement, he disagreed with the bill only because he claims he already has the right to indefinitely detain any ‘enemies.’ The last of these bills has not seen much coverage until very recently: HR 3166, introduced by Rep. Dent (R) and Altmire (D), both of Pennsylvania, is indicative of the touching bipartisanship that happens when both parties are threatened by a challenge to their rule. Under the “Alien Expatriation Act,” the grounds for losing American citizenship would be expanded to “engaging in, or purposefully and materially supporting, hostilities against the United States,” where hostilities are defined as “any conflict subject to the laws of war.” In the case that Occupy is formally considered an anti-US organization, anyone involved could be de-naturalized (even those born here!) and indefinitely imprisoned, deported, or worse (the Right has gotten kind of lax on the human rights for foreigners thing). Thankfully for the people in power, the battlefield/homeland line has been eroded culturally and legally, so the ‘hostilities clause’ can be easily applied due to the vague nature of the War on Terror. This bill is technically illegal under the provisions of the 14th amendment, but expect more legislation like this to come. The United States Government is now finally and firmly crystallizing into an agent for the powerful alone. The fact that this bill came after the Occupy Autumn really is no surprise: the London Government has said in releases to its financial districts that Occupy is a terrorist group; what would make DC think any differently? There is ample evidence that Homeland Security conspired with the mayors of New York, Oakland, and many others to simultaneously run this modern-day Bonus Army out of its space, so there must be some view in government of Occupy as a threat. The mechanisms left over from the War on Terror are now being slowly repurposed on US Citizens. This may look like an overstatement, but the rapid introduction of all three bills at the same time, under these circumstances, may be a sign that the collective will of the elite is turning to a darker frame of mind.
Mic Check! Regents we are here to say that you are elected officials. You are accountable to the public that you are privileged to serve. Well the public is here. We are here to tell you that you have failed in this service. There was once affordable public education. Today there is only an expensive commodity. You sell this commodity to wealthy students. To the rest of us you offer a more ominous exchange: an education for a lifetime of student debt. You tell us State de-funding creates difficult challenges. We agree. But you have responded to this challenge by stripping benefits from workers; raising tuition; and decreasing tenure-track positions. You say cut back: we say fight back! You have demonstrated your inability to stand for public education. Your agenda today / represents what you do stand for. You value funding start-ups over students; and you value billions in construction over accessible education. We are demonstrating what we value. We the students the staff and the faculty. We who teach and participate in class; we clean the campus; we fix the buildings; we contribute to public knowledge. We are here to reclaim the University for the public who makes it run. You endeavor to attract the richest and whitest not the best and brightest. You support construction not instruction. We have another vision. Job security and intellectual freedom for faculty and staff; a student body without student debt; and a community that shatters race and class divisions instead of reproducing them. This university claims to be an institution of inclusion and equality. Our vision works for the future when this may be true. Your vision ensures a public forever divided. We reject your vision! But Regents we know that your failure is shared. The State Legislature shares it; the student loan sharks share it; the Governor shares it; the U.S. Congress shares it. The President shares it. When we address you, we address them too. We address you as representatives of a bankrupt system. We, the true motor of the university, will not continue to be passive consumers of a product that should not, cannot, must not be for sale. We reclaim the university as a public space whose true owners are the students, the faculty, the staff, and the community members who make it run. In solidarity with our peers across the country, we struggle for a true public education. We are Occupy U of M and we are the 99 percent!
Occupy Wall Street Firsthand: On the Ground in New York
In the past few weeks we have gone from a generation of apathy the most serious threat to the power structure in the past 3 decades. America has, in many ways, stood up. There are now thousands of protesters in scores of cites both nationally and internationally placing their bodies in the path of the super rich and proclaiming an end to upper class cultural and political hegemony. I went to New York as part of a delegation from Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE) to the National Students for Justice in Palestine conference. While there I had the opportunity to participate in the October 15th Occupy Wall Street protest in Time Square and the general assembly held later that day in Washington Square Park. Both events served to illustrate the strength of the movement, its immense potential, as well as some of its limitations. As per the Occupy Wall Street Facebook event, I and several of my comrades from SAFE arrived in Time Square on Saturday a little after 5. We were uncertain how many people would actually show up, and a little skeptical about our ability to have a block party in Time Square. But as we exited the subway station at 42nd street and turned the corner onto 7th Ave, we were met with crowds of chanting and sign waving protesters jammed up against police barricades.
We began working our way through the crowd chanting along until we made it into the center of the square. The Police, officially there to protect the flow of traffic, had barricaded all of the cross streets from 43rd through 47th, keeping only Broadway open to vehicles. Thousands of people pressed against the police barricades. In the center of the square a large group from Liberty Park were dancing and singing when we arrived, some holding aloft puppets, others gesticulating from a statue’s dais. As we moved through the crowd we ran into a group handing out copies of the Occupied Wall Street Journal. Asking if we could help, we were granted 50 or so copies and we continued on our way handing them out to our fellow protesters. After about a half hour, we were grouped together in a middle area of the crowd when we suddenly heard a loud noise from the front ranks of the protesters along the barricades. Pushing forward I arrived in time to see the main contingent of people from Liberty Park begin arriving along 46th street. Hundreds of people were now streaming into the square, filling it and pushing restlessly against the now vastly outnumbered police line. It seems, realizing their inferior numbers, the police began calling in reinforcements. From one cop every ten feet it became one every three. Mounted police were called in (their horses must have been exceedingly well trained to cope with the flashing lights of the billboards, the noise of the crowd and the claustrophobia of the situation.) followed by motorcycle cops and finally riot police with rings of plastic handcuffs hanging from their belts. The crowd became rowdier as more and more cops appeared, greeting each new wave with shouts of, “Who do you work for?” and, “We are the 99%.” Across the street from me, where the protesters from Liberty Plaza had initially arrived and where the people were most densely packed, the crowd began to push against the barriers. Police attempted to push back, beating the hands gripping the barricades and pulling individuals over the barriers, forcing them to the ground and handcuffing them in the center of the street. The barriers between the two groups began to break apart. Extra officers rushed to fill the hole in their lines swinging billy clubs at arms and shoulders with mounted police steering in to fill the gap, the horse’s hooves forcing the crowd back. The air was electric. The crowd on my side of the street on edge as people watched their fellows beaten and arrested. A young man standing on the side of a lamp post used the human megaphone, his words reverberating out through the crowd finishing with, “…We are here….to tell the world….that we don’t need….all of this,” he said gesturing around him at the opulent billboards. The crowd cheered. Gradually the mood eased, the crowd somewhat cowed by the sheer quantity of police now in the streets. As the tense situation began to dissipate, a member of the Liberty Plaza group again used the human megaphone to announce that there would be a general assembly in Washington Square at 10pm. After another half hour in Time square, I left and headed over to Washington Square, the time now roughly 9:15. Along the way I met many people headed from one protest to the other, heard stories of police assaults, their friends who had been imprisoned, and of the Citi-Bank protesters jailed for attempting to withdraw funds. I arrived in Washington Square to find roughly two thousand people filling a low concrete amphitheater in the middle of the park. At their center was full a mass of dancing protesters, a drum circle and a particularly strong winded trumpet player. At ten a group of people mounted a small raised section in the center of the area and yelled, “Mic Check” and announced through the human megaphone that they would be facilitating the general assembly. The meeting progressed from congratulations on cleaning and defending Liberty Plaza the past Friday, to a discussion of whether to occupy Washington Square. The crowd became a mix of those who wished to stay and those who didn’t think the time was right. Individuals raised their hands and were added to the list to speak. Some called for the movement to grow, to seize the park, saying that students from the surrounding NYU campus would support us. Others cautioned the crowd to go through proper legal channels and obtain a permit, or to come back when the time was more ripe for a fresh occupation.
Throughout each of the speakers, the crowd raised its hands in support (wiggling fingers) and dislike (waggling hands) providing instantaneous feedback to each burst of the human megaphone. Throughout each speaker the crowd listened attentively, digesting and responding to the ideas presented. The decision to stay or not was discussed at length, its supporters gradually losing steam as questions of how many of those present would actually be willing to stay came to light. At 11:30 the police began to surround the park, positioning busses at every entrance and mounted police at the south gate. They announced that they would be enforcing the park’s curfew and that any people left in the park after that time would be subject to arrest. The turning point had been passed, too many people had left to hold the park against mass arrests, the choice now being between leaving and being arrested. I discussed the issue with some of the people I had met, and ultimately we decided that it was not worth getting arrested simply to get arrested. We helped haul food that the Occupiers had brought from Liberty Plaza outside the park and into a waiting vehicle. Ultimately at twelve o’clock only roughly 30 people resolutely remained behind to be arrested by the advancing riot police. As we moved away from the park we met groups of protesters chanting and striding in all different directions, discussing politics, and the relative location of police squads, far from the empty dialogue previously associated with our generation. Though I was at times frustrated by some of the more contradictory elements of the crowd’s message, the central goal remained clear, we were there to resist a system that no longer represents the interests of those it governs. The evening and the movement are best summed up by one of the speakers from the General Assembly in Washington Square, “We should stop calling this an occupation…and call it what it really is…a revolution!.”
The following is one of the premier articles from Diag Dissent, the official blog of Students Allied for Freedom and Equality (SAFE). This blog is a medium through which student activists can engage social justice on campus. For more articles and opinions. check out the blog http://diagdissent.com/
This past summer, I was in Jabalia, Gaza visiting my uncle’s home. It was about 2:15 am, and my 3-year-old cousin, Susu, thought it would be funny to start throwing peaches at me. Meanwhile my mother, brother, sister, uncle, and his wife, were counting down the last minutes until the electricity was supposed to come back on. We had gone 11 hours straight without electricity that day. Suddenly, for the third time during my 2-month-long visit to Palestine, the sound of an explosion rung in the living room. For a second, I thought that the missile had hit our building, but then I remembered the descriptions my friends and family had given me when explosions hit nearby. Shaking walls, shattered glass, and blinding dust were all a part of their vivid recounts, something that not many people around the world have to live through, but all the people of Gaza do. Our building wasn’t hit, but our cores where shook. Although it had happened twice before, this was a sound that I could never get used to. Susu immediately began crying and my uncle ran to him and embraced him in his arms. As he stroked his hair, all he said was “la la yaba” (“no, no, daddy”) until his son stopped crying. My uncle looked at me and shook his head. The only thing I thought to say at that moment was “Don’t be afraid, Susu, it’s going to be okay.” My uncle smiled and put Susu down. “How do you know that, Suha? We don’t have the right to make promises like that anymore. Actually, we never did. We Palestinians don’t have the right to promise our children anything. We can’t promise them college, we can’t promise them bread, we can’t promise them a home, we can’t promise them security, we can’t even promise them life. What kind of fathers and mothers are we? We don’t have the right to be parents. Look what they did to our people, we’re not even a people anymore, we’re just animals. Actually we’d be lucky if we were treated like animals. Why do I have to see my son crying and shaking in fear almost every night? Why can’t I have the peace of mind knowing that my son can someday just have the HOPE of having a happy life, away from missiles, away from bombs, away from this shit that we live in?! I don’t even know why your father lets you come here. Our lives are worthless. The world has forgotten about us. Or they never cared to begin with. The Arabs are shit and America is shit. The whole world is shit! We don’t have anyone but God. And it looks like He’s not on our side either. Do yourself a big favor in the future, don’t ever let your children get a Palestinian citizenship or even come back here. Stay American. At least you’ll be a human being.”
The conversation was interrupted as my uncle’s neighbor shouted to him from outside. He and my uncle tried to get a generator working, knowing that it would be a while until the electricity is restored. My mind drifted back to my life here in the states. I remembered all the protests that I was a part of, the ‘stands in solidarity’, the ‘dialogues and discussions.’ Things I always thought would some day change the atrocious conditions my family was living in. In that brief moment that dragged excruciatingly on, they all seemed so worthless, so hypocritical… There were two lands that I called home, Palestine and the USA. One’s name is imprinted on the F-16’s, the machine guns, the tanks, the tear gas that is used everyday to dehumanize, disillusion, and slaughter my other home. Yet, I still thought that America and the rest of the world would always defend my right to “life, liberty and security of person.” The rights I always thought I had simply because I was human, suddenly became the ones I owned only because I was an American, and that privilege was lifted the moment I stepped foot into the occupied territories of Palestine. That cringing sound of an airplane that would never cause me to flinch in America, now caused my heart to drop as I would pray it wasn’t my last night. Up until that moment, I always felt that I was a victim. After all I had been an Arab-Muslim woman living in America, but in reality, it was the opposite. I was a part of the human race as long as I stood outside of Palestine. I still had a voice, I still had the right to plan and promise, I still had hope, something that my people couldn’t fathom they’d someday own as well. Guilt overtook me as I realized that when I lived in America, I was a part of the ‘they’ my uncle was referring to. I was a part of the ‘they’ that allowed my uncle to become demoralized and dejected. I immediately decided to stop thinking about it and returned to tickling and playing hide and seek with Susu until the night was over. I was uncomfortably comforted by Susu’s innocence, wishing I could be in his shoes, have his views, if only for a little while. We left around 5 a.m. to our apartment in Rimal, still no electricity. Before I went to bed, my dad took our passports in order to reserve us a spot on the Gaza-Rafah border so that we could plan our leave weeks later. When I pulled out my two passports from my dad’s waist bag, I stared at both documents. In one hand I carried what made me a ‘human’ and in the other, the exact opposite. A feeling of hypocrisy, contradiction, and overall confusion overtook me whole. I am a living paradox, two incompatible entities housed within one body. But the truth is, I have yet to grasp what it means to be a Palestinian, an American, and a human being living in the world today. One thing that I have become completely conscious of is that the right to liberty does not apply to every human. The right to life is selective at best, and the right to security of person is a mere façade. I’ve realized that these rights are the standards of select human beings, but not for Palestinians. Not yet. The hope that this may one day be a standard for Susu and his grandkids is a dream too far down the road to be declared a universal standard. For the sake of accuracy, a decree ought to be issued to call it by its true name: ‘The Universal Declaration of Human Rights for everyone, but Palestinians.’
Privilege is a set of benefits bestowed upon members of a society via the society’s hierarchical structure and subsequent laws and norms. Two things should be noted in this definition: that benefits are bestowed, meaning that they come from a source external to the recipient of said benefits, and that privilege is a direct result of social hierarchy and subsequent norms. These two notions are important in noting who is privileged and how they came to be so. Established, institutionalized societal hierarchy determines who is privileged in a given society. As with all social constructions, one cannot “earn” privilege nor “deserve” the privilege one has. Similarly, the non-privileged are not so simply because they have not earned it. Aside from the most extreme cases, in which an action has consequences that result in changes on a societal scale, one’s actions are irrelevant to one’s privilege. The very functioning and underlying ideology of a society is what bestows privilege. Privilege, hierarchy, authority, and inequality are all innately linked, none of them can exist without the others. Hierarchy is a specific structure that denotes inequities. It is, in essence, inequality. For this inequality to have any meaning, there must be tangible real world benefits for those who are in the “above” category of the hierarchy, which those “below” cannot attain, at least not without first rising in the hierarchy. It is these potentially unattainable benefits which make up privilege. Those who have privilege only do so due to the inequalities existing in the society to which they belong as a result of the societal hierarchy. In the United States, and arguably Western society in general, rich, white, male, Christian, able-bodied, heterosexuals are at the top of the hierarchy. While it takes all of these identities to be at the top of the hierarchy, and subsequently have the most privilege, belonging to any of these groups bestows one with a certain amount of privilege. Simultaneously, all those not part of these groups lack privilege in some form. Again, this placement is largely irrelevant to one’s actions. This is important to remember as this often makes privilege invisible, especially to those who have it. It is detrimental for the privileged to be unaware of their beneficial status as they can then begin to mistake their benefits as having come from their own actions. In truth it is how they are perceived by society at large and the subsequent actions taken by society that has shaped their lives. This misunderstanding is concentrated in those who have the most privilege and, by definition, the most power. The combination of power and their inability to perceive their elite statuses in society leads to faulty and fallacious uses of said power. A useful framing scenario is the ongoing legal status of affirmative action. Some opponents claim that affirmative action does not level the playing field, it marginalizes the group that does not benefit from affirmative action. This is not true as affirmative action does not, and cannot, remove the privilege that is bestowed upon the majority group, which necessitated affirmative action in the first place. It merely attempts to reduce the detrimental effects of the lack of privilege upon marginalized groups. Affirmative action cannot change the fact that, in this society, being White carries with it the privilege of having significantly easier access to a primary education that fully prepares one for college, and the money to pay for it if/when one gets accepted. Affirmative action, of any kind, cannot remove the hierarchy and societal norms that make it necessary and as such cannot remove the privilege, or lack there of, which it is mean to counter. Noted linguistics professor and leftist social thinker Noam Chomsky notes, “Responsibility I believe accrues through privilege. People like you and me have an unbelievable amount of privilege and therefore we have a huge amount of responsibility. We live in free societies where we are not afraid of the police; we have extraordinary wealth available to us by global standards. If you have those things, then you have the kind of responsibility that a person does not have if he or she is slaving seventy hours a week to put food on the table; a responsibility at the very least to inform yourself about power. Beyond that, it is a question of whether you believe in moral certainties or not.” This illustrates the real life practical advantages privilege brings and the freedom that it allows, although it bare scratches the surface of the consequences.
Students of the UK Show Another Education Is Possible
It has been one year since 50,000 UK students converged on Central London for a demonstration against rising fees and funding cuts. The November 10th 2010 demonstration was a defining moment for a nascent student movement that has since led the way for resistance to the Tory and Liberal Democrat coalition government. Last week Wednesday, the students returned to central London 10,000 deep and took the Occupy London encampment at St. Paul’s Cathedral as their base camp. The low turnout was attributed to the failure of the National Union of Students (NUS) to officially back the demonstration – it did in 2010 – and police intimidation. Fresh off the London uprisings in August, new London Met chief, Bernard Howard-Hogan introduced ‘total policing, which included the authorization to use rubber bullets on demonstrators (announced the day prior to the demonstration) and the mailing of threatening letters to organizers and participants. On the same day, the national electrician’s union held a day of action in response to a 35% cut in wages. The electricians marched from worksite to worksite calling on fellow workers to join them – successfully shutting down a major rail project. When the electricians tried to join the students the London Met surged ahead to kettle them off with horses and swinging batons. The officers searched the electricians and collected their names and addresses under the authority of controversial section 60 of the Public Order Act. However, a few electricians that slipped passed the shamelessly oppressive British state authorities joined the students at St. Paul to join in chants of ‘We are the 99%’ and ‘Students and Workers Unite and Fight’ This show of unity between workers and students is significant as trade unions and students gear up for the public sector general strike on November 30th. This is the second general strike in the UK this year – 1 million workers walked out of their jobs across on the country on June 30th this year. Organizers anticipate that 2.5 million students and workers to participate this time around. To say that students set the tone for trade unions and working people across the UK is hardly an exaggeration. After the November 10 2010 demonstration, student organizers of the Education Activist Network and the National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts held rally after rally during the winter months – each time turning out more than the last, each facing more police oppression, each time calling on workers to join them. Then, on March 26 of this year, the trade unions responded and the largest crowd since the anti-Iraq War protest of 2003 took to the streets in numbers exceeding 500,000. That students in the UK are leading the reaction to the austerity measures of the coalition government is not surprising. From the 2009-2010 to 2010-2011 academic year, students faced a 9000 USD increase in tuition, in addition to the capping of the number of undergraduates admitted. With the release of the Browne report in 2010 and the more recent HE White Paper it is certain that the current government seeks to dismantle the once affordable system of public education. The students of the UK have rightly called this strategy the Americanization of British Higher Education. The introduction of student loans, for-profit institutions, frivolous capital investment projects and the division of places of learning into first and second tier institutions – the former which only the rich can afford to attend – is precisely the path that American higher education have taken over the last three decades. American observers of the European student often remark with bafflement that the latter responds with such vehemence to ‘modest’ increases in tuition. This is almost always accompanied by an air of condescension as the American observer explains that the choice of a degree is like a choice of a cell phone and the European student must wakeup to the reality of market forces driving higher education. They claim that debt is inevitable, education is not free. Michigan students from the Class of 2010 graduated with an average of $27,828 in student debt, and promptly entered a job market with the highest post college unemployment in decades. The debt ceiling deal saw major cuts to education and an unfavorable restricting of loan repayment. The President told American students he ‘heard them’ when the issue of debilitating student debt was raised by the occupy movement, but he then proceeded to pass off the extension of old and ineffectual policies as bold reform. Sorry, Mr. President, we’ll stay in the streets. The students of the UK (and now Italy, Chile, Puerto Rico and now Canada) have shown us another way. What began as a string of wildcat occupations at the Universities of Sussex and Middlesex in the spring of 2010 has since grown into a full-scale student and worker rebellion. It is time for the American student to consider that, along with another world, another education is possible – one that is meaningful, critical, and free.
The People United: Occupy Wall Street Goes Nationwide
Since the last issue of The Harbinger, the Occupy Wall Street movement has become a national issue. In every major metropolitan area, a “sister occupation” has taken hold in some fashion. The setup of each of the protests is roughly the same: a core group of protesters sets up a visible camp in a public space to provide a constant presence that “occupies,” or reclaims the location for the use of the majority. Larger general assemblies and demonstrations are held on weekends or after work when employed supporters have time to participate. Though there have been severe cases of police brutality in such locations as Boston, on the whole, most of the Occupations, especially those in smaller cities, have had good relations with the police. However, in recent weeks more and more occupations are coming under larger and more violent police intimidation. At the beginning of the protests, the Occupy Wall Street crowd was made primarily of anti-capitalists, libertarians, and the usual protesters that appear at anti-establishment gatherings. However, due to the severity of the Global Recession, other citizens have joined in the protests: not just young anarchists, but middle aged union men, Democrat white collar professionals, and progressive parents. Despite the fact that this is a socialist zine that you’re reading, it is important not to think of the protesters as a bunch of maniacal, radical leftists as the corporate media often tries to portray them: there are many progressives, liberals, libertarians and even conservatives who have joined the movement, and the socialists and anarchists are but one part of a disaffected populace that wants change. All Occupy groups are based on direct democracy, where there are as few representatives as possible and everyone has a direct say in the proceedings. These groups draw from Anarchist consensus methods created to ensure that the majority of a group could not drown out a minority, with each protest determining the rules on their own rather than from some central source. However, most protests do share a number of common characteristics, including particular hand symbols and the now famous “Human Microphone.” The use of hand symbols is so that everyone in the group can hear the current speaker but still respond or object to what they are saying. The “Human Microphone,” though, is a recent development: after the NYPD forbade megaphones at the protest, the Occupiers there developed a system in which the people closest to the speaker would repeat what they said, and would then be repeated again further out. Rather than create a ‘cult-like’ mentality, the Human Microphone allows people as a whole to fully control what is said at any meeting: you don’t repeat what the speaker is saying if you don’t like it, and it makes the listener active in the speech itself. On the whole, there are four major issues that have given rise to the protests. Though all are interconnected and must be solved as a group, each is best understood on its own first. 1.Government is controlled by the rich (the 1% in the OWS vernacular) who use lobbyists, legal bribers, etc. to dictate US law and policy. This makes our laws favor the elite and their profits more than the vast majority. 2.Banks and corporations use these favorable laws to recklessly gamble money and give executives huge bonuses, while shunting all risk onto the populace. We see nothing of these larger profits (adjusted for inflation, average wages have remained relatively flat over the last 25 years– and not just for the working class). 3.This disconnect from both political and economic self-determination has made the USA a country where the voice of the working class and middle class does not matter to the socioeconomic elite– in effect, we have become an elective oligarchy. To prevent the people from realizing this, they use corporate media to divide people on petty social issues and partisan politics. There is a growing feeling of malaise and disconnection from society as a whole in the majority because of this. 4.Also, high unemployment fits in there somewhere. The Occupy movement is, essentially, a rediscovery of each other as political entities outside of corporate or party-authorized social gatherings. As a whole, the majority of the country – the 99% – must find a solution to these problems not dictated to us by the ones who benefit from this status quo. As there are several hundred Occupy demonstrations in the United States alone, a summary of the last month will inevitably be incomplete. However, we will attempt to give a list of notable events and overall trends in the various movements. New York: On October 2, 700 people were arrested for traffic violations while marching across the Brooklyn Bridge. Many of the protesters maintain that they were deliberately redirected towards the bridge by the NYPD, while other observers say there was a communication failure on both sides of the police action. On October 15, 23 people who were closing accounts at CitiBank as a group were detained by the police. There have been unconfirmed reports that there were undercover police who acted as instigators in the incident. On October 16, appx. 6,000 demonstrators marched through Times Square. East Coast: On October 10th, Occupy Boston was deliberately crushed by the city. In a stunning display of police action, the first to be arrested after beatings there were US Veterans. The entire camp was thrown into garbage trucks afterwards. A jar filled with toxic chemicals was thrown into the Occupy Portland (Maine) camp at 4 AM on October 23, though nobody was harmed. The thrower has not been found. On October 24, state and local police refused to do a crackdown on Occupy Albany ordered by Governor Cuomo (D) and the Mayor of Albany. Philadelphia has had one of the more peaceful relationships between the protesters and the police. On November 15th, after a week of national police crackdowns, the Occupy New York camp was raided. in the early hours of the morning police shut down the subways and Brooklyn bridge, gave the protesters 20 minutes to clear out, and then marched into the camp. Protesters have since relocated to Foley park, and remain adamant commitment to the movement. Midwest: Despite some repression by police, Chicago was the first of the protests to successfully march in the financial district. Cincinnati’s occupation initially had major difficulties as there were no publicly owned parks to set up tents in. West Coast: Occupy LA has had one of the most friendly police presences in the country: however, ABC news created a false alarm that clouded October 26. On October 25, Oakland was the first protest to be attacked with rubber bullets, tear gas, and flash/bang grenades. A recent veteran was severely injured in the attacks. The first general, city-wide strike in the United States since 1937 was held in Oakland in response to the police brutality, and in the evening a foreclosed community center was occupied by more radical elements of the protests. They were then attacked by the police. Another veteran was harmed in Oakland by State troopers this week as well. Oakland has been given widespread international attention too: a solidarity protest was held at the American Embassy in Egypt, among many others. South and Southwest: Despite being in the heart of conservative territory, there have been several successful Occupation movements in Texas as well as Arizona. Occupy Atlanta, GA has had a continuous, large, presence since near the beginning of the movement, but is now under threat of expulsion. On November 6 their assembly went to neighborhoods to prevent foreclosures from happening. Occupy Nashville was attacked by SWAT teams on October 28. A curfew law was created by the state legislature that was enforced only on the protesters despite applying to all social gatherings, and judges in the State Courts of Tennessee have suspended it for now. Police have increasingly begun to crack down on protests nationwide, claiming that the settlements are anything from dangerous to unsanitary. The real reason is all too clear, as it has grown, the occupy movement has become a credible threat to the power structure. Now we begin to see more clearly the true nature of the American state, suppressing peaceful protesters to protect the interests of an elite minority. The American government has learned nothing from the Arab spring, and think that they can simply force us back into obedience, but we know that their is no suppressing an idea who’s time has come. For every camp they destroy, let 3 more spring up; for every protester arrested let 10 stand up to take their place. Our time is now.
McCarthyism and Political Repression in the United States
For as long as there have been organized leftist groups in the United States, these movements have been subjected to constant state suppression. Throughout the late nineteenth century, those who fought for social justice and demonstrated and struck for workers’ rights were in a constant state of war with industrial capitalists, their state, and their private mercenaries. Those who questioned inequality and the system that created and perpetuated it, mostly referred to by the mass media as anarchists, were constantly demonized as insane bomb-throwing foreigners who were attempting to destroy civilization. However, those repressive measures were tame compared to the onslaught that was to follow the October Revolution and the ensuing establishment of a proletarian state in the former Russian Empire. In 1918, the US Congress passed the Sedition Act, which criminalized criticizing the constitution, the United States, or its entry into World War I. Ostensibly enacted to protect the war effort from German saboteurs, the Sedition Act was used to imprison many anticapitalist activists, including many members of the Industrial Workers of the World, and the leader of the Socialist Party of America, Eugene V. Debs. In the following years, Attorney General Mitchell Palmer had thousands of radicals and immigrants arrested for their beliefs, hundreds of which were deported back to their home countries or to the Soviet Union. In the same year, thousands of police officers and soldiers were required to put down a general strike of over 60,000 workers in Seattle. And in 1921, the so-called Battle of Blair Mountain saw 10,000 coal miners face the US army in an armed confrontation, which the government and management won in part by using the US Air Force and private planes to drop bombs on their own citizens. All of these actions have by and large remained beyond the scope of US history books, which routinely omit and distort labour’s role in shaping the country. The main example of state repression of leftist movements that most Americans are familiar with is probably the Second Red Scare of the late 1940s and 50s led by Senator Joseph McCarthy. The USSR’s successful testing of a nuclear weapon and the Communist victory in the Chinese Civil War, both in 1949, and set against the backdrop of the beginning of the cold war, sparked a renewed wave of fear and hatred directed at leftists. The US House of Representatives’ Un-American Activities Committee attempted to root out alleged communist subversives inside not only the US government, but also in private and cultural areas such as the movie industry. The FBI, led by Palmer’s protégé J. Edgar Hoover, spied on individuals and infiltrated various organizations that were thought to pose a threat to the government of the United States.These activities were eventually formalized as the Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO), which utilized even more aggressive tactics, including assassinating radical leaders, in particular members of the Black Panther Party. Hundreds of members of the Communist Party of the United States were arrested and tried under a new anti-free speech law, the Smith Act of 1940, which made it a crime to advocate the overthrow of the US government.
Although McCarthy’s power eventually waned, his namesake ideology remains strong even today, as anticommunist sentiment is still inculcated in Americans by our government, school textbooks, and mass media. Most Americans today see “Communism” as an inherently evil thing, even though they often cannot articulate what it is and can even be found to agree with its principles (for example, a 2010 poll found that 42% of Americans believe that the passage, “from each according to his ability, to each according to his needs,” comes from the US Constitution rather than the Communist Manifesto). Today as the capitalist system teeters daily on the edge of collapse, we need radical alternatives more than ever. In this context the leftist movement must work to break through this legacy of repression and distortion to pose real alternatives.
Wallstreet Occupation Week One: Events and Reflections
The actual effect of public protests in modern American politics is a debate that continues in many political circles. On one hand, we have the fact that the Iraq War Protests – the largest protests in the history of the entire world – were ignored, by both politicians and the media. But in contrast, we have the Tea Party’s manufactured populist outrage, which, as good television of crazy people, was covered much more and listened to by conservatives despite the much smaller crowd numbers. And a world away in the Middle East, we see the end result of what should happen when massive protests are ignored and repressed: revolution. Even in Morocco and Jordan, whose monarchies still reign supreme, the will of the people has at least been listened to in a politically-empowering, even if seemingly token, fashion. Of course, we in the First World like to think of ourselves as politically superior, more mature and democratic in how we govern ourselves. And even without factoring in public disconnect from the Middle East, the socioeconomic state of the most powerful nation in the world is extremely different from that of states from Tunisia to Syria. Tahrir Square is not present in the USA, nor will it be for the foreseeable future. However, both the Muslim dictatorships and the First World democracies have a common illness: the global recession. Beginning in late 2008, banks dealing in mortgages and subprime lending (read: lending to people who can’t possibly pay it back) collapsed in a financial crisis that expanded worldwide and affected all areas of the world economy. While an initial resurgence of Keynesian Economics, which is based on government investment to stimulate demand, was seen, it was in many cases conservative in scope and soon replaced by Neoliberal economic doctrine. The key way for a government to revitalize an economy, the Neoliberals think, is to sell off public institutions to private businesses, lower taxes (specifically for the wealthy in practice), and institute “Austerity Programs” that lower funding for public institutions. This conservative response to the crisis has in Europe dragged out or stopped recovery in most cases and has put the Eurozone’s fate in the hands of France and Germany, now unwilling to bail out the economies of the PIIGS (Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece, and Spain, all holding immense sovereign debt to France, Germany, and their citizens already). Numerous protests have occurred over the last 3 years in European countries on these policies, most notably in Greece and Spain. Despite this grim news across the Atlantic, conservatives and short-sighted businesspeople in the US have ardently supported such Austerity programs in the United States, and after 2010 have gotten most of what they wished. After all, Austerity is good for businesses. In light of this, many activists, frustrated at the political deadlock and regression that has caused this recession to directly attack the livelihoods of the vast majority, have started an “Occupation of Wall Street” that began on September 17th, Constitution Day, and will continue for “a few months,” in their own words. Though the group originally planned to camp on Wall St. itself, at the request of the NYPD they moved their sleeping bags to Liberty Plaza Park. The purpose of this protest, as vague as it might be, is to call for a change to corporate influence on government. However, this goal is compounded by the lack of central planning and the chaotic assortment of groups: The protest is made up of Leftist organizations, counterculturals, hipsters, 9-11 Truthers, and the odd group who thinks that the Fed should be abolished in order to save free-market capitalism. In addition to all this, Unions and worker’s rights groups have given support if not full involvement. With all these disparate and oftentimes conflicting groups, the protest has taken on an every-group-for-itself feel at times, though in recent days an attempt has been made to consolidate basic beliefs. Despite these problems, there are some other good sides to these protests. As social media has become even more important to democratic mass action in the past 3 years, this is the first time a major multi-day protest in the US has utilized social networking for such a large undertaking. In addition, this is also not just an event tied only to NYC: multiple sister movements are present in many major US and Canadian cities, as well as in almost cities that hold prominent financial institutions, London, Tokyo, and Stuttgart among them. And whatever the quality of the protesting, major news networks and papers have devoted more than a glance to coverage of the Occupation. And it appears that in the last day, the NYPD have considered them a greater priority, too. After a few days with a handful of minor arrests, the police have suddenly begun a rampant crackdown. Current reports by both protesters over Twitter, the IWW (Industrial Workers of the World), and media have reported that in the last day alone approximately 80 people have been detained and then arrested, one of them an IWW member with a severe concussion that has left them hospitalized. It is currently unknown to the author whether such extreme action as netting and then pepper spraying young women is needed, but evidently the Blue Brotherhood has decided that it is a necessary action to keep the peace. Whatever the case may be, they have suddenly changed the protest’s public perception from that of farce to tragedy. The beginning incoherence of the protests could have been prevented. A protest is not the beginning of the movement; it’s the last thing that happens after months of organization, activism, and community outreach. Without the boring preparation ahead of time, the protest risks having no backing or participation by the common citizens needed to make a protest successful. The second problem is that of organization; while the direct democracy committees exhibited at the protest are admirable, the core point of the movement should have been hammered out long before the protest. This doesn’t imply that there needs to be a ‘Vanguard’ or a single leader- just that the more prominent associated groups should have worked out a common plan before hand. Organization is key for any political movement. However, despite these critiques we at the Harbinger fully support the spirits of both the Wall Street Occupation and its sister protests worldwide, including the upcoming Occupy Lansing movement.
Engineer and executive chairman of Google Eric Schmidt once said, “The Internet is the first thing that humanity has built that humanity doesn’t understand, the largest experiment in anarchy that we have ever had”. While Schmidt likely meant this in a negative connotation, the statement rings true. The Internet is not entirely without regulation by government entities, but compared to the rest of society the amount of authoritative interference in its general operation and the activities of those using the internet is hugely disproportionate its level of use and importance to governments and their institutions, corporate entities, and everyday people. This lack of authority, or at least stringently enforced authority, makes the Internet a place of unparalleled freedom in a world increasingly constrained by the rules, laws, and general wills of those in power. However, the deepest extent of said liberty requires knowledge of computer science and the workings of the Internet that are unknown to the average person, but here is where the true power of the Internet shines, the free, or relatively free, flowing of information. This very same information is readily available to anyone who seeks to find it. One must simply type the correct search phrase into Google to come upon numerous tutorials, ranging from text files to YouTube videos to podcasts of Harvard computer science classes, detailing the vagaries of computer science and the inner workings of the Internet itself. There are few, if any, other stores of so much knowledge that are so easily accessed. It is here in this free exchange of knowledge, information, and opinion that the key to the Internet’s power lays, and by no means does this freedom extend only to computer science. This freedom, in combination with the anonymity provided by the Internet, was initially used mostly by people posting comments on imageboard sites and videos. Soon however people began to see the potential for the absolute free sharing of ideas to challenge entities normally too powerful to so overtly speak out against without some form of retaliation. The lack of government and corporate authority on the Internet equates to a lack, or limitation, of the influence these entities have on the Internet and its users. Under the protection of anonymity provided by usernames and proxies, people can say almost anything they please without having to fear major retaliation. No arrests, no torture, no social exclusion, nothing to fear. Equipped with the right amount of computer savvy any person or group can be virtually equal to any government or corporate entity, with few exceptions. One of the first prominent examples of this was Project Chanology, a massive protest against the Church of Scientology by anonymous internet users, the vast majority of whom were regulars of the imageboard 4Chan. As most of its users posted anonymously, 4Chan had become the prototype for Anonymous. Users frequently acted together anonymously, albeit for pranks, but this ability for people from virtually anywhere in the world to quickly, easily, and anonymously band together for a common cause has been put to new and noteworthy uses. In December 2010, the whistleblower website WikiLeaks, which publishes submissions of secret and classified media from anonymous sources and relies on donations to function, was under intense pressure to cease its activities by the US government. When WikiLeaks ignored the calls or its silence, corporations such as Amazon, PayPal, BankAmerica, PostFinance, MasterCard, and Visa ceased to allow donations to be made to the website. In response, Anonymous, working under the name Operation Payback, launched DDoS attacks against these companies, and the Swedish Prosecution Authority. On December 8th a coordinated DDoS attack brought down the Visa and MasterCard websites. The next day PayPal, whom had also suffered minor shutdowns as a result of Operation Payback, announced that they would release all of the funds that had been collected for WikiLeaks in the account of the Wau Holland Foundation, but would not reactivate the account. On the same day a 16 year old male, an IRC operatior under the screen name Jeroenz0r, was arrested in The Hague, Netherlands in connection with the attacks on MasterCard and PayPal. This was not the only police action taken against suspected members of Operation Payback. In late December the FBI began to raid suspected participants. Nor was this the last actions of the Operation itself. In early 2011 Operation Payback brought down Zimbabwean government sites after the Zimbabwean President’s wife sued a newspaper of 15 million USD for publishing a WikiLeaks document that linked her with the trade of illicit diamonds. On January 27 five males between the ages of 15 and 26 were arrested in early morning raids in the UK on suspicion of involvement. But while authorities may catch a few members of an online group, it is hopeless to attempt to catch them all. over the past few years Anonymous has been largely immune to international repression, actively promoting freedom, especially freedom of speech through online and offline protests and direct action. Anonymous’ direct action most often takes place in the form of hacking the websites of organizations, both government and corporate, that they deems to be oppressive. This act of hacking as a form of direct action has been labeled hacktivism. The very same forces that allow Anon to be such a significant force also apply to hacktivism. Unlike most other forms of political protest, hacktivism can traverse boarders, rarely if ever puts the hacker in immediate danger, has the capacity to allow an individual or small group to make a significant impact, and of course more readily protects one’s anonymity. The actions are limited only by the hacker’s skill and the limits of their software. The most common forms of hacktivism are the defacing of websites, denial of service attacks, and anonymous blogging. Other more complex forms include the creation of software or websites whose specific function or goal is to further freedom. Examples include the WikiLeaks website and the encryption software PGP, which plays a huge part in maintaining the anonymity of internet users. While Anon may currently be at the forefront of hactivist activities, it was not the start of hacktivism. The first documented instance of hacktivism was the defacing of government websites in October of 1989. DOE, HEPNET and SPAN (NASA) connected VMS machines world wide were penetrated by the anti-nuclear WANK worm. WANK stands for Worms Against Nuclear Killers, worms are malicious software that self-replicate and spread inside the target system. The websites had their login screen changed to display:
This political defacement of websites is bears similarity to the spray-painted political messages on buildings. There is some controversy surrounding hacktivism as some link it to cyberterrorism, but one must always remember that what is terrorism to some is freedom to others. Those who raided plantations in the US in the antebellum south with the intention of freeing slaves were considered terrorists by many of at that time, despite such a notion being repulsive to many today. Whether one views Anonymous and its hacktivist activities to be positive or negative, one cannot deny the potential power of such ideas and actions. As government and corporate entities begin to work toward “securing” the Internet and limiting the freedom it now provides, it is best to be skeptical. Be watchful for this being done under the guise of “protecting children” or “keeping your personal information safe”. While there are real risks to the internet, hackers have always shown that government controls inevitably affect the general population more than those the computer savvy individuals they were intended to target. With its immense potential to change the way our democracy functions, to make the internet into yet another realm where we choose control and security over freedom would be a travesty.
Despite the best efforts of authorities the “Arab Spring” has rolled into a People’s Summer. Since the first cracks appeared in the Middle Eastern patchwork of autocratic regimes last December, the people have reinvented the region in a way not thought possible just a year ago. Two governments (Egypt and Tunisia) have fallen, a third (Libya) is desperately fighting a losing battle for supremacy against NATO backed rebels, and eleven other regimes are facing sharp resistance from popular demonstrators. But how has the US responded to this dramatic shift? Far from the soaring rhetoric about freedom and democracy that usually accompanies any US foreign policy, the American government’s approach has been cautious and conservative. The US government’s response to the Arab Spring casts in sharp relief the difference between their supposed ideals and the imperialist attitude which pervades their actions. The Obama administration has waited an exceedingly long time before making statements of support for any of the protesters. Tunisia’s Dictator Ben Alli, an ally in the “War on Terror,” received US support right up until his overthrow. When asked who the US supported in the Tunisian uprising Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke volumes with her statement of, “We can’t take sides.” It was only after the overthrow of Ben Alli had become a fact that the United States voiced open support for the revolutionaries. Similarly in Egypt, a state long on the US payroll (receiving 1.3 billion in military aid annually) the American government was continuing to call for a Mubarak led reform process just five days before Mubarak finally bowed to the will of protesters and began talking of leaving office. As the protests expanded to touch almost every country in the Middle East the United States’ cynical tactics came into ever greater prominence. Gaddafi’s Libya, another US ally in the “War on Terror” under President Bush, had recently fallen out of favor in Washington for demanding a greater share of oil profits from US corporations. After just 8 days of revolt Obama condemned State violence in Libya saying, “The suffering and bloodshed is outrageous and it is unacceptable.” The US has since led a NATO backed intervention on the side of rebel forces. Similarly Syria, a long time enemy of US/Israeli interests in the region and ally of Iran, has faced firm rhetoric and sanctions. Though initially calling for a movement for reform under President Bashar al-Assad, Washington has recently accepted that a lack of popular support has made the Assad’s family’s decades-long rule untenable. In mid August the US joined other world governments in finally condemning the regime and calling on President Bashar al-Assad to resign. However while taking these tougher stances on Libya and Syria, and reluctantly endorsing the Egyptian and Tunisian revolutions after the fact, the US government has also made several key omissions to it’s democracy loving agenda. Most notably in Saudi Arabia, one of the regions most oppressive governments and also a key US ally with massive oil reserves. The Saudis were carefully ignored in Obama’s March 19th speech about the Arab Spring, as were Jordan and the United Arab Emirates (each countries that have supported US hegemony in the region). This policy of selective blindness when it comes to repression has continued up to the present. Each of these countries has faced its own political pressures calling for reform, and have engaged in similar repression seen elsewhere in the region. While Libya’s crack down was “outrageous and unacceptable” Saudi Arabia’s intervention in Bahrain, crushing pro-democracy protesters, was largely ignored. As the US condemned Syria’s killing of protesters, Jordan’s killings have been hardly reported. At some points hailing the democratic spirit of the people, at others calling for patience and faith in despotic regimes with a history of decades of repression, Washington’s position on the Arab spring seems at times contradictory and illogical. In reality what we see today is an imperial power grappling with an empire gone awry. When reality finally forces them to accept that their loyal allies have been overthrown, the US has tried to appear supportive of the revolutionaries. A great example is in Libya, where the the US and its allies have for all intensive purposes chosen the new ruling faction, the National Transitional Council of Libya (TNC). Western powers have dealt exclusively with the TNC and recognized them as the legitimate rulers of Libya, all despite the lack of any real signal that the Libyan people actually endorse their policies. In return the TNC has publicly promised to reward those countries that assisted it, presumably with the oil contracts and strategic military bases that western powers are now cueing up for. By championing pro western elements of the popular forces the US hopes to maintain their hegemony in the region. Indeed, key elements in several of the revolutionary states remain on US payroll, including the Egyptian Military. But while the US attempts to shore up its faltering empire something has fundamentally changed in the consciousness of the people. Dictators that the US has supported for decades are now deposed, and the US and its ally Israel are beginning to find the very people they have for decades helped to oppress attempting to seize power. US domination of the Middle East can not survive an election, as the people of Egypt and Tunisia are making increasingly clear with their overtures towards Palestine and rejections of IMF neo-liberal loans . And so the US is trapped by its own rhetoric: attempting to appear to be the champion of liberty it claims to be, while at every turn trying to roll back the democratic tide that has swept over millions.
Popular Resistance to State and Corporate Repression in Benton Harbor
In March of this year, Governor Rick Snyder signed a law granting expanded powers to emergency managers to take control of city governments and school districts in financial distress.Weeks later, Benton Harbor, a small, predominantly African-American city in Southwest Michigan, was the first city to be taken over under the new law. In April, at the Benton Harbor City Commission’s first meeting after appointment of Emergency Financial Manager Joe Harris, the terms were laid out starkly: Elected city officials are powerless except to call meetings to order, adjourn them, and approve meeting minutes. The Emergency Financial Manager, meanwhile, is empowered to remove elected officials from office at will, disburse all government funding without oversight, sell off government property, and modify or terminate any contract. With this pronouncement, the much-vaunted American ideal of representative democracy was declared null and void in Benton Harbor. The story attracted national attention, including coverage on MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow show. The following week, on April 27, 200 people marched through the streets of Benton Harbor demanding repeal of the Emergency Financial Manager law and a restoration of demcratic rights to Benton Harbor’s citizens. 2 months later, on June 18, the people of Benton Harbor came out in the streets again to commemorate 8 years of government repression and popular resistance. June 16 marked the 8 year anniversary of the Benton Harbor uprising of 2003, in which the US Army was brought in to repress a community outraged by the killing of a youngBlack man, Terrance Shurn, in a police chase. The Terrance “T-Shirt” Shurn Memorial Rally featured live music by several local musicians and speeches by activists including Fred Hampton, Jr., son of the slain Black Panther leader and chairman of the Prisoners of Conscience Committee. The rally was emceed by Rev. Edward Pinkney, who also shared a poem he wrote in honor of Shurn and the people of Benton Harbor. For over a decade, Rev. Pinkney has been a tireless fighter for social and economic justice in Benton Harbor. In 1999, he founded the Black Autonomy Network Community Organization (BANCO), a grassroots community organization that monitored the corrupt political and judicial system in Berrien County and advocated for the oppressed. A month after the uprising of 2003, Rev. Pinkney and BANCO led a nonviolent march of over 200 citizens demanding justice and an end to police brutality in Benton Harbor. In 2005, BANCO organized a recall election against City Commissioner Glenn Yarbrough, who had acted as a mouthpiece for the interests of the Whirlpool Corporation headquartered in the affluent neighboring town of St. Joseph. After the recall election succeeded by a vote of 297 to 246, the local powers that be promptly overturned the people’s will claiming electoral fraud. Rev. Pinkney was arrested and promptly charged with four felony counts and one misdemeanor; after the first trial resulted in a hung jury, Rev. Pinkney was retried in 2007 and convicted by an all white jury (Benton Harbor’s population is 94% Black). The corporate assault on the people of Benton Harbor continued while Rev. Pinkney was shuffled from one prison to another throughout Michigan. Real estate company Cornerstone Alliance, a subsidiary of Whirlpool, used its influence to annex Benton Harbor land to turn into a playground for the wealthy. Meanwhile, fear of reprisal kept most citizens of Benton Harbor silent. Cornerstone and Whirlpool stirred Benton Harbor’s citizens to action again when a plan was announced to steal Jean Klock Park and use the land to build a private golf course and country club. Jean Klock Park had special significance for the people of Benton Harbor; in 1917 John and Carrie Klock willed the lakeside park to the people of Benton Harbor, writing ““It is our wish that the lakefront always be preserved in its natural state and be a playground for the children and a bathing beach for all the people.” In 2010, the opening of the Jack Nicklaus Signature Golf Club was met with a vocal protest by over 100 chanting “Jack Nicklaus go home!” and “Jean Klock Park was deeded to the people!” The passage of the Emergency Financial Manager law dealt one more harsh blow to the people of Benton Harbor. But with this defeat are planted the seeds of a new revolt – Benton Harbor’s citizens are no longer afraid, because they now have nothing left to lose. After years of being ruled by repressive tactics, the uprising of 2003 remains a powerful memory in the people’s consciousness.  http://www.savejeanklockpark.org/  “August 10 Jack Nicklaus Signature golf course demonstration” http://bhbanco.blogspot.com/2010_08_01_arc hive.html
Welcome to another year of the Harbinger. We’ve managed to stay alive and even grow a little stronger, despite the best prayers of conservative FBI informants everywhere. We thought we’d start this semester off with an short explanation of some of the values and ideas that guide us as Anti-Capitalists, allowing us to set right some false assumptions the power structure, and Fox news in particular, has helped cultivate. Our group, The Student Socialist Union is a multi-tendency leftist organization. We embrace the common ideals of Socialism, Communism, and Anarchy in an effort to build a united front against capitalism. The enemy is too strong for us to be caught up in sectarian bickering: only through coordinated action can we hope to seize our future back from those who seek to sell it for a better bottom line. Socialism is not the boogie man that the right likes to build it into, but a centuries old ideology of liberation and equality. It encompasses a wide variety of theories all based around the idea that in this modern age, with the vast wealth that our society produces, there is no longer any need for hunger, homelessness, or major inequalities. We believe that the means of production, that is the factories, land and machinery used to produce commercial goods, should be held in common among the people that work and utilize them. Wealth is created through group action, and should be divided amongst the group, not hoarded by an individual. State Socialism, Communism, and Anarchism are extremely dynamic and varied theories, what follows are mere sketches of the ideas entailed in each. Socialism, as a term is the most general of these ideologies, and has been used to refer to everything from the Labour party in Britain to the Bolsheviks in Revolutionary Russia. The basic idea of socialism is that the majority of the population to take control of government, be it through democratic or revolutionary means, and administer the means of production through the state. This is usually done through a workers party which represents the will of the people, and administers the state in their interests. Socialists governments generally launch a broad platform of educational, medical, housing, and other social programs, also bringing major industries and utilities under the control of the government, and by extension the people. Communists believe in a radical reorganization of society to create a truly democratic way of life. Generally they believe in worker’s control of the means of production; economic democracy, meaning decisions of what and how much to produce are made by the community; and the end of private property. Some communists see socialism as but the first step on the road to a communist society. They see using the state to redistribute wealth and create the structure of the future society: organizing communes and planning the economy. Others believe that communism should be brought about from the grass roots by expropriation, and localized organizations of working people who come together to create national and international economic organizations. Finally, Anarchists believe that inequality and oppression are caused by coercive , force based authority. It is a common misconception that anarchists don’t believe in any sort of organization. This is false. Anarchists believe in voluntary democratic organization who’s decisions are enforced by the community, without professional police or army. They believe the people should overthrow the state without taking power, decentralizing decision making to the local level and administering the economy through trade and regional economic unions. Generally Anarchists seek a communist future without resorting to state authority to create it. It is the goal of our group to find the unities within these ideologies, namely their opposition to capitalist exploitation and sham democracy, belief in worker control of their own lives and jobs, and a more equitable distribution of wealth. We must stand together to oppose the corrupt immoral system of global capital, and fight in concert for a truly better tomorrow.