Grasping the Lessons of a Year of Struggle

The Lessons of 2011: Transcending the Old, Fostering the New, and Settling Outstanding Accounts

Kali Akuno, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement

Friday, February 24, 2012

The militant working class struggles of 2011 – from the strikes and occupation in Wisconsin, to the countless demonstrations against Wall Street Banks,  the direct action and broad resistance to the Keystone Pipeline, to housing occupations throughout the country, to the defeat of regressive anti-Union legislation in Ohio, to the (inter)national explosion of the Occupy Movement – demonstrated the critical fact that the multi-national working class contained in the United States can stop the” shock doctrine”  measures being imposed upon it by transnational capital and the neo-liberal state.

The initial returns on these struggles are not insubstantial. Just two months into 2012, we have witnessed ILWU Local 21 coming to an agreement with transnational conglomerate EGT/Bunge in large part due to the impact of the Port Shut Down actions in Seattle, Portland, Oakland, and Los Angeles on December 12, 2011 and the threat of mass industrial action in Longview by the Occupy Movement allied with the Million Worker March Movement and militant rank and file members of the ILWU. Inspired by the Occupy Movement, the mass action in Oakland on November 2, 2001 and coast wide actions of December 12, Truck drivers in California and Washington State took independent organizing and industrial action to win wage and safety concessions from employers and potential legislation in Washington State that that will enable the Truckers to unionize.  The victory in Longview halts the concerted drive to destroy the ILWU and further weaken organized labor and the pending Washington State legislation could potentially reverse decades of circumvention of the Wagner Act and provide an opening for sectors (and with it oppressed peoples) historically excluded from its protections.

None of this would be possible without the militant mass action of the multi-national working class, both unionized and non-unionized, acting in open defiance of the rules of engagement established between organized labor, capital, and the state in the 1930’s with the New Deal. As the power struggle between capital and the working class intensifies over whom and how the economic crisis will be resolved, the working class would do well to recall the lessons of 2011 and build on them. In addition to reaffirming the lesson that the working class must rely on militant mass action – that is strikes, occupations, blockades, general strikes and other forms of industrial action – as a primary means of exerting its own will and power, several other critical lessons we believe must be affirmed. These lessons include:

  1. That in order to halt and over turn the slide of the labor unions, the unions must wage struggle beyond the confines of the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) and/or the Wagner Act framework.
  2. That mass action will only be successful if it pulls in and engages broad sectors of the working class, particularly critical sectors of the 89% of the multi-national working class that is not unionized, and directly addresses their issues and demands.
  3. That new forms of working class organization must be constructed capable of organizing workers as a self-conscious class that encompasses and incorporates the broad diversity of its totality as differentiated by race, nationality, gender, sexuality, and legal status.
  4. That the multi-national working class must build, maintain, and exert its political independence from the Democrats (and Republicans), and not rely on electoral politics and processes (such as the recall efforts in Wisconsin that worked to negate mass action) to exercise its power, realize its demands, and build the society it envisions.
  5. That the struggle for equity and economic democracy necessitates struggling to reclaim and redefine as much public space as possible – particularly the Ports given their strategic importance to the distribution of the necessary goods that sustain life – in order to rebuild the “commons” and exert democratic control over various processes of social production and exchange.
  6. That the decolonization of the entity presently known as the United States national state is fundamental to the social and material liberation of the multi-national working class, particularly its subjected and colonized sectors, i.e. Indigenous Nations, New Afrikans (Black people), Xicanos, Puerto Ricans, and Native Hawaiians.

However, it should be noted that the struggles of 2011 and the lessons gleamed from them did not come out of nowhere. Continue reading

Out of the public eye, China cracks down on another protesting village

Tom Lasseter – McClatchy Newspapers, February 26, 2012

PANHE, China — The old woman walked over to the door and peeked out from behind a blue curtain, looking slowly from one side of the street to other. She muttered to those huddled in the room behind her, “the police will come.”

The men, who’d been talking about officials stealing their land in Panhe, fell quiet. They knew what a visit would mean — threats, beatings and then getting dragged off by the police.

In December, a high-profile standoff between residents and Communist Party bosses in a fishing village named Wukan, about 450 miles southwest of Panhe, ended peacefully. That case had some observers wondering if Chinese officials had changed the way they dealt with the intertwined problems of land rights and corruption.

What happened here suggests otherwise. Continue reading

Syria Crisis: Hamas Ditches Assad

[In a move that indicates both the declining prospects for the Syrian Assad regime, as well as the growing role of the Saudi regime in post-Mubarak Arab alignments, Hamas–which is also busily retooling its relations with the Fatah forces and the Palestine Authority as a whole–has made a significant break in relations with Syria, Hezbollah, and Iran.  This deserves some close attention.  The revolutionary  currents in the Arab world, while not invested in any of these organized and governmental forces, will find in these shifts some openings for their own initiatives, because the controllers of political life on all sides are off balance.  In every crisis, opportunities will surface–for those who dare to cast away illusions, rely on the masses, and seize the time. — Frontlines ed.]

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By Omar Fahmy and Nidal al-Mughrabi, Reuters

CAIRO/GAZA, Feb 24  – Leaders of the Palestinian Islamist movement Hamas turned publicly against their long-time ally President Bashar al-Assad of Syria on Friday, endorsing the revolt aimed at overthrowing his dynastic rule.

The policy shift deprives Assad of one of his few remaining Sunni Muslim supporters in the Arab world and deepens his international isolation. It was announced in Hamas speeches at Friday prayers in Cairo and a rally in the Gaza Strip.

Hamas went public after nearly a year of equivocating as Assad’s army, largely led by fellow members of the president’s Alawite sect, has crushed mainly Sunni protesters and rebels.

In a Middle East split along sectarian lines between Shi’ite and Sunni Islam, the public abandonment of Assad casts immediate questions over Hamas’s future ties with its principal backer Iran, which has stuck by its ally Assad, as well as with Iran’s fellow Shi’ite allies in Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement. Continue reading

As police stalk and harass Muslims, notorious and shameful traditions of ethnic profiling abound

[Ethnic and racial profiling has always been a central feature of US economics, politics, culture, and forceful repression.  From Africans on slave plantations, to American Indian wars and displacement, to the “Chinese Exclusion Act” the pattern is unbroken.  80 years ago this month, 500,000 Mexicans and US-born Chicana/o citizens were deported to Mexico, in a series of “El Repatriado” deportations of, eventually, nearly two million–after being falsely blamed for “taking American jobs” during the collapse of the capitalist economy known as The Great Depression.  70 years ago, 120,000 Japanese Americans were rounded up and placed in concentration camps after being falsely accused of loyalty to the Japanese Emperor during WW2.  Now, adding to these and many such reprehensible traditions, Islamophobia has become a feature which the police state is boasting about, as it destroys the human rights of privacy, speech, and association of millions of Muslims now subjected to hostile surveillance and stalking–amidst false claims of inherent Muslim criminality and terror.  — Frontlines ed.]

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Demonstration in New York, November 2011

NYPD Defends Tactics Over Mosque Spying; Records Reveal New Details On Muslim Surveillance

By ADAM GOLDMAN and MATT APUZZO, Huffington Post, 02/24/12

NEW YORK — The New York Police Department targeted Muslim mosques with tactics normally reserved for criminal organizations, according to newly obtained police documents that showed police collecting the license plates of worshippers, monitoring them on surveillance cameras and cataloging sermons through a network of informants.

The documents, obtained by The Associated Press, have come to light as the NYPD fends off criticism of its monitoring of Muslim student groups and its cataloging of mosques and Muslim businesses in nearby Newark, N.J.

The NYPD’s spokesman, Paul Browne, forcefully defended the legality of those efforts Thursday, telling reporters that its officers may go wherever the public goes and collect intelligence, even outside city limits.

The new documents, prepared for Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly, show how the NYPD’s roster of paid informants monitored conversations and sermons inside mosques. The records offer the first glimpse of what those informants, known informally as “mosque crawlers,” gleaned from inside the houses of worship. Continue reading

A Year After: The February 20 Protest Movement in Morocco

A February 20 Movement protest in Marrakech, Morocco

Feb 21 2012

by Mohamed Daadaoui
On the one-year anniversary of the February 20 protest movement in Morocco, (henceforth referred to as Feb. 20), the kingdom boasts relatively meager political progress. Despite the much-vaunted reforms and constitutional changes, Morocco has reinvigorated its state edifice, managed to outmaneuver an inexperienced Feb. 20 protest movement, and engaged in a crackdown on freedom of the press and speech. In the last couple of weeks, the regime has arrested three Moroccans for crimes against his majesty’s person and “defaming Morocco’s sacred values.” In a country where the monarch is inviolable, the use of cartoons depicting the king is considered an outrage to a symbol of the country.

More importantly, a year after the initial mass protests, we need to assess the record of the movement in terms of appeal and success in Morocco. The Feb. 20 movement has undoubtedly sparked a national discussion for institutional changes, but fell short in exercising enough pressure for deeper structural changes to both the political system dominated by the king, and a system of crony-capitalism that has for decades crippled the national economy. The new constitution is an impressive exercise in state management of dissent. Groundbreaking only in its style and cosmetic in terms of real effective change, the constitution allows for greater executive power for the Prime Minister, but falls short in tackling the vast discretionary powers of the monarchy.

The constitution does not address aspects of direly needed reforms. Kleptocracy and nepotism are endemic in the Moroccan administration and economy. No matter how inchoate institutional reforms are, they have to be complemented with stringent, implementable guarantees against abuse of power, corruption, and inequality of the laws. Individual freedom and liberty of the press are guaranteed in the constitution, but have to be safeguarded from the arbitrary abuses of the state. The result is the same maladies of yesteryear: a regime suffering from institutional schizophrenia, promoting inconsequential reforms, and tightening its grip on power and individual freedom.  Continue reading

Occupy for Prisoners National Day of Action: Next Steps!

Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity, February 2012
Dear Friends, 

Occupy San Quentin demonstration on February 20, 2012

As you know on February 20th, over a dozen rallies and demonstrations were held throughout the US for a “National Occupy Day in Support of Prisoners,” including in the San Francisco Bay Area, Los Angeles, Austin, Denver, Baltimore, Philadelphia and New York.

At Occupy San Quentin in California, despite the prison administration’s attempts to close off access to the protest, over 700 people gathered at the prison’s East Gate to hear statements from prisoners and family and community members of prisoners, former prisoners, and people directly affected by the prison industrial complex speak out against the destructive impacts of imprisonment.

Many prisoners sent words of encouragement and vision to be read at the actions. Prisoners in Ohio State Prison went on hunger strike in solidarity with the national day in support of prisoners. Prisoners in the Security Housing Unit at Corcoran State Prison wrote a statement of solidarity and have raised 10 demands for the Occupy Movement. The N.C.T.T (NARN Collective Think Tank) at Corcoran SHU, a group of prisoners who participated in the CA hunger strike in the summer and fall and have been writing reports and statements about prisoners’ struggles inside, writes:

You champion us all with your ideas and the courage of your convictions, just as we continue to support you with our sacrifices and insight. It is now time to take the movement to its next evolution and ultimately to its inevitable conclusion: victorious revolutionary change.

 

Some of the San Quentin 6, formerly incarcerated San Quentin prisoners--friends and comrades of George Jackson, who had been accused of rebellion when he was murdered by prison guards in 1971--spoke to the demonstration on 2/20/12.

Your greatest power lies in your unity and cooperation and ultimately your organizational ability. The power of the people far surpasses all the repressive violence of the Babylons attacking you/us or the wealth of the 1 percent, who will stop at nothing to silence us all.

This is a protracted struggle; there will be no 90-day revolution here. Victory will require sacrifice, tenacity and competent strategic insight. The question you must ask is, Are you prepared to do what is necessary to win this struggle? If you answer in the affirmative, commit to victory and accept no other alternative. The people, as we are, are with you. Until we win or don’t lose, our love and solidarity to all those who love freedom and fear only failures.


Read the full letter, including ten demands for the Occupy Movement from the NCTT at Corcoran SHU here.

Let’s make these words come alive and show active support for prisoners!

TAKE ACTION TODAY !
150,000 Calls in Support of Prisoners
Support the CA Hunger Strike & Call, Email & Write CA Legislators TODAY!

Prisoner Hunger Strike Solidarity is calling for hunger strike supporters to jam the CA legislature’s communication with overwhelming support for the hunger strike.

Visit our blog for sample phone & email scripts, as well as an open letter you can send in or fax, and flyers to pass out at Occupy’s National Day in Support of Prisoners and other events. Continue reading

India: Chhattisgarh police face another charge of custodial death

Deccan Herald, Wednesday 22 February 2012

Raipur, Feb 20, 2012 (IANS)

Police deny allegation, open to inquiry

A 25-year-old man who died in police custody here was a victim of excessive torture, his father alleged on Monday and sought an independent probe.

Chhattisgarh Police, however, denied the charge and said they were open to magisterial inquiry.

Bhagwat Daharia, father of Santosh Daharia, claimed his son was arrested on February 14 on the charge of kidnapping a minor girl, and was excessively tortured at Kharora police station, some 30 kilometre from here. As a result, his son died, the villager said.

According to him, the police did not inform Santosh’s relatives about his death. Kharora police station personnel, however, denied that the young man was tortured.

Santosh, a police official said, was sent to the state’s Central Jail, and then admitted to Raipur’s Dr Bhimrao Ambedkar Government Hospital on Saturday as he complained of “some health problem” and was vomiting.

“He was not tortured. The charges against us are baseless. We are open to magisterial inquiry,” Kharora police station chief P K Pathak said. But Pathak did not explain why he did now allow relatives to meet Santosh when he was in custody at Kharora police station.

‘Not allowed to meet’

Bhagwat alleged that he and his relatives were repeatedly disallowed by policemen at Kharora police station and also at the Raipur Central Jail to meet or see Santosh even after they learnt of his death.

I H Khan, additional superintendent of police (Raipur rural), said, “We are collecting details of what exactly happened to the accused. We are surely looking into complaints of the relatives very seriously.”

The custodial deaths in Chhattisgarh, mainly in forested areas of Maoist hotbed, are common as are allegations that police pick up youths from villages, brand them as Maoists and torture them routinely.