Making Do in the Belly of the Beast

Thinking Outside the Box by Moving Into One

On a street in Oakland, Calif., a tiny home sits on wheels. The artist Gregory Kloehn, using recycled materials picked up from the streets, made several such homes and gave them to the homeless in the industrial neighborhood near the Port of Oakland.

OCT. 13, 2015 – nytimes.com

OAKLAND, Calif. — This summer, the median rent for a one-bedroom in San Francisco’s cityscape of peaked Victorians soared higher than Manhattan’s, sent skyward by a housing shortage fueled in part by the arrival of droves of newcomers here to mine tech gold.

And so, as the story of such cities goes, the priced-out move outward — in New York City, to Brooklyn and, increasingly, to Queens. For San Franciscans, the rent refuge is here in Oakland, where the rates are increasing as well — so much so that young professionals are living in repurposed shipping containers while the homeless are lugging around coffinlike sleeping boxes on wheels. Continue reading

In the Belly of the Beast, too — Capitalism Sucks

[Once again, reality is a stunning refutation of the claims of the irresistable American Dream, ever-progressing, of US superiority over all others, greatness, a “gold mountain” for migrants running from poverty and oppression elsewhere.   Since most of the statistics cited here come from official sources, which routinely give all such stats a cosmetic “uplifting sheen”, the situation on all fronts is actually many times worse, as the re-proletarianization of the falling middle class becomes the main stream.  — Frontlines ed.]

Sobering New Evidence: at Least Half of Americans are Broke

 

“Happy Monday! S&P 500 now up 10% for year” CNN Money
“Third-quarter U.S. economic growth strongest in 11 years” Reuters
“The U.S. economy is on a tear” —Wall Street Journal

Half of our nation, by all reasonable estimates of human need, is in poverty. The jubilant headlines above speak for people whose view is distorted by growing financial wealth. The argument for a barely surviving half of America has been made before, but important new data is available to strengthen the case.
1. No Money for Unexpected Bills  A recent Bankrate poll found that almost two-thirds of Americans didn’t have savings available to cover a $500 repair bill or a $1,000 emergency room visit.  A related Pew survey concluded that over half of U.S. households have less than one month’s income in readily available savings, and that ALL their savings — including retirement funds — amounted to only about four months of income.  And young adults? A negative savings rate, as reported by the Wall Street Journal. Before the recession their savings rate was a reasonably healthy 5 percent.
2. 40 Percent Collapse in Household Wealth  Over half of Americans have good reason to feel poor. Between 2007 and 2013 median wealth dropped a shocking 40 percent, leaving the poorest half with negative wealth (because of debt), and a full 60% of households owning, in total, about as much as the nation’s 94 richest individuals.  People of color fare the worst, with half of black households owning less than $11,000 in total wealth, and Hispanic households less than $14,000. The median net worth for white households is about $142,000.

Continue reading

New Release “Let Your Motto Be Resistance: A Handbook on Organizing New Afrikan and Oppressed Communities for Self-Defense”

[We have received the following message from the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, announcing and detailing the release of a new organizing manual for community self-defense.  When many reform activists continue to appeal to oppressive institutions to solve the problems of repression and oppression, the manual charts a different path where matters are taken into the hands of the people, both in response to specific attacks they face from government and reactionary aggression, but also in building the struggle to end those oppressive powers once and for all.  Well worthy of study and broad distribution and active organizing, Frontlines offers it here (see link at end of announcement), encouraging responses.  — Frontlines ed.]

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559790_10152641717070627_1177440510_nOppressed peoples and communities can and will only be secure in this country when they are organized to defend themselves against the aggressions of the government and the forces of white supremacy and capitalist exploitation. “Let Your Motto Be Resistance: A Handbook on Organizing New Afrikan and Oppressed Communities for Self-Defense”, is the latest contribution of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) and the Every 36 Hours Campaign that seeks to strengthen organizing initiatives within Black or New Afrikan communities for self-defense, by presenting these initiatives with a comprehensive analytical framework and practical organizing tools to ground and unite them.

As the extrajudicial killing of Kimani Gray and the more than twenty other Black women and men by the police in the first two months of 2013 clearly illustrate, it is imperative that New Afrikan communities get organized and defend ourselves. As the real economy continues to contract, corporations become more vicious and exploitative, our communities are gentrified and displaced, public goods and services continue to be eliminated or privatized, and the national security state continues to grow and become ever more invasive, the attacks on New Afrikan and other oppressed and exploited people are only going to escalate. We must defend ourselves, and we have every right to do so by any means necessary.

“Let Your Motto Be Resistance” draws on the long history of New Afrikan peoples struggle to realize self-determination and defend our persons, our rights and our dignity from the assaults of the oppressive settler-colonial government and the forces of white supremacy. Building on this history “Let Your Motto Be Resistance” provides in summary form a vision of how we can (re)organize our communities from the ground up to defend ourselves and reassert our fundamental human rights to life, dignity, and self-determination. Continue reading

OccupySandy: Grassroots Relief from Disaster Capitalism

by Max Haiven, Dissident Voice,  November 2nd, 2012

For the past two days I’ve been volunteering with grassroots relief efforts in New York City in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. While the storm could have been a lot worse, and while New York is one of the richest cities in one of the richest countries in the world, the storm has swept the veil off of the entrenched inequalities at this city’s core.

In New York, a lot of public housing projects and poor neighborhoods are located on the beaches and shores of this maritime capital, and so have been hit hard. On the eve of a pivotal election, all the politicians and media stooges are eager to show images of action and recovery. But the reality is that you can drive out to any one of a number of neighborhoods and find block upon block of low-income high-rises, full of people and utterly dark. Inside, children, the elderly and the sick suffer with no heat, no clean running water, and no electricity. Relief and support has been slow in coming from the powers that be. And two days after the New York Stock Exchange opened, tens of thousands of poor and working class folks are barely scraping by.

Yet one year after Occupy Wall Street bloomed and was quashed it is at the heart of grassroots relief efforts. Much is already being made of the magic of social media and its capacity to connect donors with needs in the wake of the storm. But there’s a hidden story here. That social media process is enabled and facilitated by dozens of Occupy-trained and tested organizers working 10-16 hour days to get the word out about what’s needed, to coordinate the gathering of materials from multiple city-wide drop points, to organize the sorting and bagging of all those materials, to cook hot meals for blacked-out neighborhoods, and to send teams of volunteers out to areas far and wide to provide food, clothing, blankets, water, toys, diapers, medicine (asthma inhalers and insulin, mostly) and whatever else is needed.

I worked in an OccupySandy-run church kitchen in Sunset Park today and yesterday, and drove around doing pick up and delivery. I talked to a lot of volunteers. Some had been involved in the Occupy encampments a year ago and Occupy organizing since, though many had just admired the movement from afar. We all marveled at the efficiency and determination of those who had cut their teeth in Occupy as they gracefully coordinated the often chaotic volunteer efforts and the rapid flow of people and materials. But we also admired these organizers’ good nature and friendliness, their patience and their adaptability, all hard-won qualities that come from organizing under fire in a non-hierarchical, mindful, and consensus-based movement that’s seen its fair share of crises. No one is “in charge,” yet things get done and needs get met. People’s skills and abilities find outlets. People are at their best, despite everything. Continue reading

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

On the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, displacement of New Orleans’ Black community continues

San Francisco Bay View Newspaper, September 6, 2010

by Jordan Flaherty

 

Sunni Patterson, whose poems and songs voice the soul of New Orleans, was pushed out the city she loves by the racially discriminatory Road Home program that has prevented her from rebuilding the home her family lived in for generations and, as a tenant, by the cost of housing that has risen 63 percent just this year. Now in Houston, she longs to return home, echoing the longing of 75 percent of Black New Orleanians who remain displaced five years after the flood.

Poet Sunni Patterson is one of New Orleans’ most beloved artists. She has performed in nearly every venue in the city, toured the U.S., and frequently appears on television and radio, from Democracy Now to Def Poetry Jam. When she performs her poems in local venues, half the crowd recites the words along with her.

But, like many who grew up here, she was forced to move away from the city she loves. She left as part of a wave of displacement that began with Katrina and still continues to this day. While hers is just one story, it is emblematic of the situation of many African American New Orleanians who no longer feel welcome in the city they were born in. Continue reading

Foreclosure Fraud: Moving to Take Back the Land

Beyond Foreclosure Fraud: Moving to Take Back the Land through Strategic Action

Land and Housing Action Group of the Take Back the Land Movement

Monday, October 18, 2010

According to the New York Times, the Washington Post and other mainstream media, a major story has been uncovered with the expose of the foreclosure fraud crisis, primarily as a result of good journalism and the self-corrective measures of the US legal system.

In fact, almost nothing could be further from the truth. Grassroots organizers and legal advocates throughout the US have been raising issues of foreclosure fraud, predatory lending, and a range of other abuses against working class homeowners and tenants for years (if not decades). What the mainstream media purposefully omits, is the increasing pressure put on the banks, the politicians, and the courts from varied social responders and social movements demanding answers, accountability and change that forced them to pay attention to this issue.

Foreclosure fraud, while no doubt massive in scope and discriminatory in nature, is but a symptom of a deeper structural crisis. The singular focus that the Banks, State’s Attorney Generals, and Congressional leaders are putting on the fraud issue will in no way resolve the crisis.

But, solving the crisis isn’t their aim or objective. Their aims are simple: to stop the bleeding, create an airtight foreclosure closing process, and reinforce the existing system to maintain their interests. If these forces have their way, these will be the sad final outcomes that emerge from the energy generated by this current frenzy. Making sure that these aren’t the outcomes is where forces of progressive social consciousness come in.  Continue reading