The People–Not the System–will solve the Problem of White Supremacist Murders

The Zimmerman Verdict is a Reflection of the Times.   WE CHARGE GENOCIDE!

The People Must ORGANIZE!

Statement by Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, July 13, 2013

Trayvon Martin was never going to get justice from a courtroom of the United States government. Justice for Trayvon and for the hundreds of other Black women, men, and children executed by someone employed or protected by the US government on a daily basis will only come from our people and the power we are able to wield through the strength of our organization and the resolve of our will. Zimmerman was only put on trial because todos con una misma direcciónmillions of our people took to the streets in early 2012 and threatened to disrupt the system. The trial was a means to divert our energies and return things to the status quo.

Obama’s statement that a “a jury has spoken” encouraging what he called, “calm reflection”, is just another effort to lure Black people to sleep and keep us accepting the status quo. The status quo of white supremacy has never and will never work for Black people.  As W.E.B. DuBois stated, “a system cannot fail those who it was never meant to protect.” White supremacy and the systems that support and reinforce it like capitalism, colonialism, and patriarchy must be defeated and dismantled. We must always keep this in mind and be prepared in concrete, organized ways to ensure that there will be no peace if there is no justice. Now is the time for direct action in the form of organized Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) campaigns that disrupt the status quo systems of the US government through massive non-compliant resistance.

We must also be clear that the Zimmerman verdict is a reflection of the times. 17-year old Trayvon Martin was the 31st Black person executed by someone employed or protected by the state in 2012. As we demonstrated in Operation Ghetto Storm, 313 Black women, men, and children were executed without trials by the police, security guards or certified “neighborhood watchmen” in 2012. These extrajudicial killings have by no means stopped or slowed down, as witnessed by the execution of Kimani Gray and dozens more Black people in the first six months of 2013. With the Zimmerman verdict justifying and setting new precedent for the disposal of Black life, we should expect the number of extrajudicial killings to increase. It is now more imperative than ever for us to strengthen the organization of our communities and defend ourselves. Continue reading

The More Effective Evil: The Impact of Barack Obama’s Presidency on the Black Community


YourWorldNewsFilms
May 11, 2013
(Documentary) This important documentary features some of the progressive and fearless voices of African/Black people who have insisted on speaking out against the destructive polices (foreign and domestic) of US President, Barack Obama. This documentary details Obama’s record as a war mongering president whose policies have cost the lives of countless civilians in places like Libya, Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan and Afghanistan. Please watch this documentary with your full attention and share it in places of worship, community centers and with your loved ones and friends. Lets the film be a force for ending imperialism and starting peace., justice and equality.

Oakland: Hundreds of Immigrants, Children, and Supporters to join May 1 Rally, Demand Dignity for their Families

Oakland– Immigrant workers, children, and community members will converge in Fruitvale Plaza on Wednesday for a vibrant May Day march demanding swift action to expand rights for all immigrants and their families.

may_1

The May 1 festivities will feature colorful banners, lively speakers, along with musical and theatrical performances. Following the kick-off rally in Fruitvale BART Plaza, hundreds of immigrant rights supporters will march to Mi Pueblo to stage a picket calling for justice for the grocery store’s workers who were threatened with I-9 audits and deportation after trying to organize a union.   The diverse coalition will then continue to Josie de la Cruz Park for a festive closing rally.

WHAT:     May 1 Rally and March for Immigrant Rights

WHEN AND WHERE:

3:00pm        Opening rally at Fruitvale Plaza (Near BART)

4:00pm        March begins

4:30pm        Rally at Mi Pueblo

5:00pm        Continue march to Josie de la Cruz Park

6:00pm       Closing rally at Josie de la Cruz Park

              

WHO: Oakland Sin Fronteras, a coalition of immigrant workers, students, labor unions, and faith and community groups.

 

Judge Tashima (WW2 ethnic Japanese internment camp victim) upholds Arizona ban on Chicana/o studies

The long history of US racial oppression is challenged by ethnic studies in schools. Such critical studies are now illegal in Arizona

The history of US racial oppression is exposed and challenged by ethnic studies in schools. Such critical studies are now illegal in Arizona

Arizona on our mindsRacism Legalized

by Rodolfo F. Acuña,  March 18, 2013

U.S. Circuit Judge A. Wallace Tashima has made his decision to uphold disparate treatment of Mexican Americans, and the constitutionality of HB 2281. The purpose of this law was to destroy Tucson Unified School District’s Mexican American Studies Program. In doing so, Tashima returned us to the times of Joseph McCarty.

The Arizona law broadly banned courses that promote the overthrow of the U.S. government, foster racial resentment, were designed for students of a particular ethnic group or that advocated ethnic solidarity.

The penalty if Tucson did not comply was that the district would lose 10 percent of its annual funding — some $14 million over a fiscal year.

Tashima ruled that the plaintiffs “failed to show the law was too vague, broad or discriminatory, or that it violated students’ first amendment rights.” On the positive side, he held that courses made-to-serve students of a particular ethnic group were not unconstitutional, which seems to imply that it is alright to ban ethnic studies programs.

building chicanaThe ruling raised more questions than it answered. The judge’s legal reasoning and wording was not consistent with his previous decisions, and it left me with the feeling that it had been written by law clerks and that the decision was not properly vetted by Tashima who has been more precise in previous rulings. A survivor of the Japanese internment camps, he had been expected to be sensitive to the rampant racism in Arizona.

Tashima noted that Attorney General Tom Horne’s anti-Mexican American Studies ardor bordered on discriminatory conduct, saying that Horne’s “single-minded focus on terminating the MAS (Mexican-American Studies) program” raised concerns.

Then Tashima engaged in mental gymnastics: “Although some aspects of the record may be viewed to spark suspicion that the Latino population has been improperly targeted, on the whole, the evidence indicates that Defendants targeted the MAS program, not Latino students, teachers or community members who participated in the program.” This conclusion is mind boggling.

This wrongheaded logic would condone the bombing of a village as long as the villagers were not targeted. 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

Pennsylvania: McDonald’s Guest Workers Stage Surprise Strike

Josh Eidelson, The Nation, March 6, 2013


A McDonald’s store in the Philippines. (Flickr)

Alleging unpaid wages and repeated retaliation, McDonald’s workers in central Pennsylvania launched a surprise strike at 11 this morning. The strikers are student guest workers from Latin America and Asia, brought to the United States under the controversial J-1 cultural exchange visa program. Their employer is one of the thousands of McDonald’s franchisees with whom the company contracts to run its ubiquitous stores.

“We are afraid,” striker Jorge Victor Rios told The Nation prior to the work stoppage. “But we are trying to overcome our fear.”

The McDonald’s corporation did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The J-1 visa program is officially intended to promote educational and cultural exchange. But advocates allege that J-1, like the other guest worker programs that collectively bring hundreds of thousands of workers in and out of the United States each year, is rife with abuse. The National Guestworker Alliance (NGA), the organization spearheading today’s strike, charges that such programs—whose future is intimately tied up with the fate of comprehensive immigration reform—offer ample opportunities for employers to intimidate workers, suppress organizing and drive down labor standards.

“McDonald’s is just the latest in a long line of corporations that have hijacked the US guest worker program to get cheap, exploitable labor, and that’s what the students are,” NGA Executive Director Saket Soni told The Nation. “The conditions are horrific, but have become the norm for guest workers.”

The workers are striking over what they charge are rampant abuses at their stores in Harrisburg and nearby Lemoyne and Camp Hill. According to NGA, the visiting students each paid $3,000 or more for the chance to come and work, and were promised full-time employment; most received only a handful of hours a week, while others worked shifts as long as twenty-five hours straight, without being paid overtime. “Their employer is also their landlord,” said Soni. “They’re earning sub-minimum wages, and then paying it back in rent” to share a room with up to seven co-workers. “Their weekly net pay is actually sometimes brought as low as zero.”

“We are living in [a] basement,” said Rios, “cramped together, with no divisions, in bunkbeds which are meant for children.” Continue reading

MXGM Statement – Dorner, Racism, and State Repression

https://revolutionaryfrontlines.files.wordpress.com/2013/02/208144_10150149509647960_7458036_n.jpg?w=300The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) maintains that regardless of what one may think of Christopher Dorner and the rights or wrongs of his actions, we want to call attention to the truth’s stated in Dorner’s manifesto regarding the pervasiveness of racism in the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD).

As many historians and commentators have pointed out since the release of Dorner’s manifesto, the LAPD is a notoriously racist institution. The Ramparts Division scandal of the late 1990’s is one recent reminder of how racist and corrupt the institution is, and to what extent the judiciary and other branches and institutions of the US government support its actions.

We should be clear that the LAPD is not an aberration or an exception to the rule. Racism is endemic to all law enforcement agencies in the United States, and is part and parcel of the foundations of the United States government, its historic mission, and its systemic functioning. What Mr. Dorner’s manifesto call into question is the degree to which racism is blatantly ignored, reasoned away, and legitimized in this society. This is further evidenced by the fact that William J. Bratton, the innovator of the infamously racist “stop and frisk” policies and tactics, who was the Chief of Police in Los Angeles when Mr. Dorner filed his complaints and was subsequently fired, has been hired by the city of Oakland (which is currently under Federal receivership for its racist conduct) to reportedly “clean it up”. Continue reading

Throwing Light on the Dark Side of Dorner’s Rampage

by LINN WASHINGTON, JR., thiscantbehappening, February 12, 2013

wikimedia

On September 10, 2012 the Los Angeles Times published an article with the headline: “LAPD to hold meetings on use of force policies.”

Top Los Angeles police officials announced those community meetings to counter growing criticism about videoed brutality incidents involving LA police officers in the preceding months, that article noted.

On November 24, 2012 The Daily Beast posted an article with the headline: “In Los Angeles, Questions of Police Brutality Dog LAPD” reporting abuse incidents by officers of that department placed under federal oversight between 2001 and 2009 after repeated brutality and corruption scandals.

Over two months after that Daily Beast posting about LAPD brutality a fired LAPD officer unleashed a murderous rampage as revenge against his claimed unfair firing by the LAPD. Continue reading

When did “the land of the free” become a “police state”?

[The capitalist rulers of the USA have long claimed the country to be the fountain of democracy, brotherhood and freedom.  But along the way, the victims of the US’ rampant and violent growth have wondered “what in the world are they talking about?”

  • When the colonists and later the pilgrims arrived, their force hurled against the indigenous was certainly repressive.
  • When African people were kidnapped and brutally enslaved, and their exploitation enforced by the lash and the gun, this was not brotherhood at work.
  • When the US developed police forces to round up fugitive Africans, this was a police state.
  • When half of Mexico was seized, and turned into half of the USA instead, and the people were turned into illegal aliens, they were subjected to a police state.
  • When workers rose up to loosen the chains of their exploitation, and were shot down or jailed or executed, this was certainly a police state at work.
  • When Chinese were criminalized and banned, was this the brotherhood so proclaimed?
  • When Mexican-American citizens were rounded up, and blamed for the Great Depression of the 30’s, and hundreds of thousands were deported, this expulsion was characteristic of a police state action.
  • When Jim Crow enforced white supremacist rule with noose and whip and gun, with official badges worn or with the embrace or encouragement of officialdom, this was the police state at work.
  • When Japanese-Americans were rounded up and imprisoned, for the crime of being Japanese, this was surely a police state action.
  • When reformers and radicals and communists were banned from culture and schools and work, and many were jailed, was this an expression of the “land of the free?”
  • When people rose for civil rights and Black liberation, countless were beaten, jailed, and killed.  Many remain imprisoned today.  The face of a police state was seen by millions.
  • When the largest mass imprisonment program in the world as been expanded, largely against black and brown people, this speaks eloquently to the nature of US society.
  • And today, surveillance of Arabs and Muslims, black and brown youth, anti-war, environmental, women’s rights, and other political activists and opponents, and now electronic, social networking and drone surveillance continues to expand this repressive police state into every aspect of public and private life.

Some argue that one brutal or oppressive tool, or another, began this process.  Some of the earlier forms did not bother some people so much.  And some have been part of a privileged elite or so-called “middle class” which has enjoyed many of the “democratic” fruits obtained from an exploitative and oppressive system.  When do you think “the police state” truly has begun?  — Frontlines ed.]

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The coming drone attack on America

Drones on domestic surveillance duties are already deployed by police and corporations. In time, they will likely be weaponised

guardian.co.uk, Friday 21 December 2012

military drone spy

[By 2020, it is estimated that as many as 30,000 drones will be in use in US domestic airspace. Photograph: US navy/Reuters]

People often ask me, in terms of my argument about “ten steps” that mark the descent to a police state or closed society, at what stage we are. I am sorry to say that with the importation of what will be tens of thousands of drones, by both US military and by commercial interests, into US airspace, with a specific mandate to engage in surveillance and with the capacity for weaponization – which is due to begin in earnest at the start of the new year – it means that the police state is now officially here.

In February of this year, Congress passed the FAA Reauthorization Act, with its provision to deploy fleets of drones domestically. Jennifer Lynch, an attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, notes that this followed a major lobbying effort, “a huge push by […] the defense sector” to promote the use of drones in American skies: 30,000 of them are expected to be in use by 2020, some as small as hummingbirds – meaning that you won’t necessarily see them, tracking your meeting with your fellow-activists, with your accountant or your congressman, or filming your cruising the bars or your assignation with your lover, as its video-gathering whirs. 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

Statement by DRUM (Desis Rising Up and Moving) on Wisconsin Gurudwara Shootings‏

Unity and Accountability in the Wake of the Wisconsin Gurudwara Shootings

The members of DRUM-Desis Rising Up & Moving express our deepest sympathy and solidarity with our sisters and brothers of the Sikh community after Sunday’s shootings in the Oak Creek Gurudwara in Wisconsin. The shootings have been followed closely by an arson that burned down a mosque in Joplin, Missouri.

While the shootings have shocked us all, it is unfortunately part of a history of targeting of communities of color that all too often goes unchecked and remains rooted in a national climate bolstered by state policies. This climate of racism and intolerance targeting Sikhs, South Asians, Muslims, Arabs, and Middle Easterners, particularly since 9/11, has been fueled by frequent media distortions, governmental policies of racial and religious profiling, and the rise in hate groups. Yet, the media and public discourse mistakenly puts the Sikh and other religions on the hot seat rather than the vast network of organized hate groups whose impacts have been severe-from attacks on Sikhs and Muslims to crafting of anti-people of color and anti-immigrant legislation like SB1070 in Arizona.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has stated that it had been monitoring the alleged gunman, Wade Michael Page, for over 10 years for his ties to white supremacist groups, attempts to purchase weapons from them, and use of violent lyrics about murdering Jews, black people, gay people, and other communities of color, through his membership in racist skinhead bands. Since the use of racial and religious profiling by law enforcement agencies focuses on identity as a marker of threat, rather than actual acts, (leading to the broad profiling of communities of color, religious minorities, and activist groups), organized white supremacist and hate groups remain largely unchecked. In 2009, when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) put out a report on the dangers of right-wing extremism in the US, it received severe backlash from many conservative policy makers. As a result of the criticism, the DHS dismantled and cut funding for the intelligence team that monitored such threats. Continue reading

Police killings in USA: “Anaheim, Everywhere”

by nancy a heitzeg

In the aftermath of Anaheim — that anti-thesis of Disneyland – we will add the names of Manuel Diaz and Joel Acevedo to that endless list of those struck down by “extra-judicial killings by police, security guards or self-appointed law enforcers.”

Diaz is just the latest in a long line of police shootings of unarmed people of color. His name has come to symbolize the ongoing struggle against police violence in poor black and brown communities, for which authorities are almost never held to account. In Anaheim, where tension between police and the Latino community has been building for years, Diaz is the match that lit the fire which has spread throughout the city.

His shooting sparked an immediate protest by area residents who demanded answers from police. When some in the crowd allegedly hurled bottles and rocks at officers, police responded by shooting rubber bullets and pepper spray and releasing (apparently by accident) a K-9 attack dog into the crowd of mostly parents and small children. The chaos was captured on video by a KCAL news crew showing screaming mothers and fathers shielding their children in horror.
The following day a second Latino man, 21-year-old Joel Acevedo, was shot and killed by Anaheim police, who said Acevedo was shot after firing at police during a foot chase.

We say the names to honor the dead and the living — but their individual stories whatever their power, tell a collective tale as well. That is the story of unchecked — no routinized, normalized. even glorified – systemic structural violence targeting communities of color.

Lethal Police Violence and Communities of Color
While local state and Federal law enforcement agencies keep absolutely accurate records of the number of police officers killed or assaulted in the line of duty (typically less than 60 killed per year), there is no comparable systematic accounting of the number of citizens killed by police each year.

This data is not nationally gathered or reported, The task is left to individual researchers to cobble together local and state – level data (much of which has removed racial identifiers) and report what police only seem to be concerned about in light of potential litigation, Anywhere from 350 to 400 civilians are killed by police each year — an average of one per day. This number is certainly an undercount since it is based on police shootings and does not include deaths by choke-holds, hog-ties, tasers, reactions to chemical sprays or injuries sustained in beatings. 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

Dispatch From Detention: A Rare Look Inside Our ‘Humane’ Immigration Jails

[Photo: Paul J. Richards/Getty Images]

by Seth Freed Wessler, Color Lines

Wednesday, January 4 2012

Sam Kitching, a soft-spoken, round old man dressed in civilian clothes who works for the Sheriff’s department at the Baker County Jail put his hand on my shoulder and, addressing me as “young man,” said, “It’s very important that you be careful in there. They might have AIDS and might try to grab your hand and push something into it.”

“AIDS?” I ask.

“They could,” he said. “These men can be dangerous.”

A younger man dressed in a tight, dark green Sheriff’s uniform unlatched the door into one of the pods that holds several dozen federal immigration detainees.

Mostly Latino and black and all dressed in orange jump suits, unzipped with the arms tied around waists, the men stood or sat at metal tables in groups of four or five in the three-sided concrete room.

“Zip up,” the guard yelled as the door opened.

The detainees pulled the jumpers up over their shoulders and I followed the guard, Kitching and a young Legal Aid attorney named Karen Winston into the pod. A man stood on a grated walkway in front of one of the two-bed jail cells where the detainees eat, sleep, bathe and go to the bathroom. The rest of the men were below in the concrete room where they pass all their time—there’s only one hour of recreation time in an enclosed gravel yard.

“Hey, Honduras, get down here,” Kitching yelled to the man on the platform, who walked down the grated metal stairs and joined three other Latino men talking in a corner.

“That’s what I do sometimes,” Kitching explained to me. “I call them by their country. For some reason if they’ve been here a while, I can remember their country.”

Winston, a recent law school graduate, works long days in the south Florida jail defending some of the close to 250 immigration detainees held there. On this Friday morning, she’d driven from Jacksonville, the closest city, to conduct a “know your rights” training for as many of the detainees as possible. She noted the training name is misleading, since detainees don’t have many rights to know of. Continue reading

And the Farmworkers are Still Poor

A Book Review by Michael Yates

Friday, 30 December 2011

Trampling Out the Vintage: Cesar Chavez and the Two Souls of the United Farm Workers (Verso, 2011)

Frank Bardacke labored over this book for fifteen years. We can be grateful that he didn’t give up. This is the best history ever written of the United Farm Workers (UFW) and Cesar Chavez. Trampling out the Vintage explains better than any other book how the UFW under Chavez’s leadership became in the 1960s and 1970s one of the most remarkable and successful unions in U.S. history but then crashed and burned so breathtakingly fast that by the end of the 1980s it had pretty much disappeared from the fields. Bardacke relies on primary sources—letters, interviews, personal papers, archives, newspaper accounts, court and police records, his own considerable experiences as a farm laborer (He spent six seasons in the fields between 1971 and 1979. A minor political conflict with the union during the 1979 lettuce strike led to his blacklisting by both the growers and the union, and this forced him to take up other employment). In the main, he lets the record speak for itself, avoiding the apologetics or the rancor we typically find in books, articles, and reviews about the UFW and Chavez.

Several things set Bardacke’s history apart from everything that preceded it. First, he pays attention to the farm workers themselves, to their organizing history, the nature of their work, and the changes that have taken place in their industry. His descriptions of the skilled, difficult, and body-destroying work of harvesting lettuce, celery, broccoli, asparagus, and lemons are among the most moving and beautifully written parts of the book. They help to foreground the author’s demonstration that the organization of farm workers did not spring suddenly from the will of Cesar Chavez. As Bardacke shows with scores of examples, agricultural workers have been doing battle with their employers for nearly one hundred years. Their skills, the short time the growers have to get crops harvested, and the self-organization of the workers, especially those who toiled as part of tightly-knit teams, all combined to create a sense of potential power, power that became reality when conditions were propitious.

Second, Bardacke delves into Cesar Chavez’s life in more depth than anyone ever has, giving him insights that are critical to an explanation of the historical trajectory of the UFW. Unlike most of the union’s members, Chavez’s parents owned a small farm and suffered sharp downward social and economic mobility when they lost it in 1939 and had to work in the fields. The anger he felt because of this was not the same as that experienced by another UFW stalwart and founder, Gilbert Padilla, who was born into a farmworker family, worked in the fields as a young child, and learned class consciousness as he lived his life. Padilla had a natural affinity with the workers that Chavez never had, and he was not nearly as anticommunist as was Cesar. Chavez also identified more as a Mexican-American (a Chicano) than as a Mexican. The first workers in the UFW were settled vineyard laborers and not migrants. Chavez had a lifelong antipathy for the unsettled Mexicans who soon enough comprised the majority of California’s farmworkers.

Cesar Chavez was also a devout and conservative Catholic. He embraced both the “social action” philosophy of Pope Leo XIII, which recognized certain rights of working people, and the strictly hierarchical structure of the Church. Under the tutelage of Saul Alinsky and Fred Ross, Chavez was able to blend his Catholicism with Alinsky’s community organizing techniques to become a master organizer, first in community action groups and then in his union. He came to believe with Alinsky and Ross that organizing could be taught and that the organizer was the critical actor in all efforts to build political power. At first, he also accepted the Alinsky position that the organizer had to be a disinterested outsider, who, once an organizational structure had been built, moved on to the next assignment. However, when his superior organizing skills helped build a core farm labor organization, he decided to remain as both the organizer and the leader. He thought that he could be both the disinterested organizing outsider and the insider running the union. As might be expected, this proved untenable. An outsider might be able to assess a situation objectively and offer useful advice and criticism to the insider. But when the two roles are combined in the same person, problems are bound to arise. Chavez, as an insider, could run the union, and Chavez, as an outsider, could criticize too. But when he began to identify the union with himself, who else inside the union could criticize him?

Most writers and commentators who have attempted to explicate the UFW’s history have argued that there was a sharp change in Chavez’s behavior after the union’s failure to win a referendum that would have built funding for the 1975 California Agricultural Labor Relations Act into the state’s constitution. Bardacke’s analysis of Chavez’s life, however, shows that there was a consistency to what Chavez did throughout his tenure as UFW president.

Third, Bardacke situates the union in the social, economic, and political flux of the period, from the first astounding union victories of the 1960s and 1970s, to the national and state shift to the right in the 1980s, when the union began its precipitous decline. The main factors here were the War in Vietnam and the crisis of liberalism this engendered, and the attack by mainstream unions on both the antiwar left and their own dissident rank-and-file. Chavez was the last great hope of the liberals who saw themselves as champions of the poor but who could not tolerate war protesters, militant and radical Black and Chicano civil rights activists, or workers who chafed at the boundaries enforced by liberal but autocratic union leaders. Chavez used his charisma, his leadership skills, and his Catholicism to build a fanatically dedicated band of volunteers (including hundreds of farmworkers who traveled thousands of miles to tell the nation their stories of misery and exploitation) and staffpersons that took liberal America by storm. People boycotted grapes; they gave money; they came to California to volunteer for La Causa. It wasn’t only the workers to whom Cesar Chavez gave hope. Continue reading