August 30, 2012

Facing Grand Jury Intimidation: Fear, Silence and Solidarity

Thursday, 30 August 2012

By Natasha Lennard, Truthout |

We've seen some pretty bold anti-authoritarian actions across the country in the last month. Police vehicles were vandalized in San Francisco, Oakland, Illinois and Milwaukee. Anarchist redecorators visited courthouses, police substations, sports car dealerships and more. Banners dropped in New York, Atlanta, Vancouver, Seattle and elsewhere echoed their graffitied sentiments: "Fuck Grand Juries"; "Solidarity with Northwest Anarchists." Boldest of all, however (and the inspiration underpinning this spate), has been the action from a small group of anarchists in the Pacific Northwest: silence.

Two Portland-based activists, Leah-Lynn Plante and Dennison Williams, publicly announced late last month that they had been subpoenaed to appear in front of a federal grand jury in Seattle and that they would refuse to cooperate. During a grand jury hearing on August 2, Plante did just this - offering her name and birthdate only - and has been summoned to return for another hearing on August 30, where she again intends to say nothing. Meanwhile, it is believed a handful of other activists are fighting to quash subpoenas served to them with the shared intention of noncooperation.

Grand juries are among the blackest boxes in the federal judiciary system. Given their highly secretive nature, few people within - or outside - activist circles know what it means to be called to a grand jury and what it takes to resist.

"Our passion for freedom is stronger than their state prisons," Williams announced in a statement on behalf of himself and Plante about their intention to resist the grand jury, referencing the fact that by merely staying silent, the two could face considerable jail time, despite facing no criminal charges.

The Seattle grand jury subpoenas were served in late July, when the FBI and a Joint Terrorist Task Force conducted a series of raids on activist homes and squats in Portland, Olympia and Seattle with warrants seeking out computers, phones, black clothing and "anarchist literature." The FBI has stated only that the grand jury pertains to "violent crime," but it is believed to relate to property damage in Seattle during this year's May Day protests. The relatively small scale of the property destruction - a handful of spraypainted cars, slashed tires and smashed windows at a downtown Starbucks, Niketown, Wells Fargo and American Apparel store - in comparison to the cost of the police and FBI investigations points to the likelihood that the raids and grand juries have been widely dubbed a witch hunt, understood by commentators and activists alike as an attempt to intimidate, deter and undermine anarchists in the Northwest and beyond.

Will Potter, author of "Green is the New Red," who has long covered the state persecution of environmental activists and anarchists, noted in a recent interview with The Dissenter, "I think what's most indicative of what's going on though is that specific call for agents to seize 'anarchist literature' as some kind of evidence of potential illegal activity." He added that the convening of a grand jury is "especially troubling because grand juries have been used historically against social movements as tools of fishing expeditions, and they're used to seek out information about people's politics and their political associations."

Ironically, however, the purported purpose of a federal grand jury is to act as "a safeguard to the accused from the improper motivations of government"- to protect the accused from prosecutorial overreach. A jury of between 16 and 23 civilians hears evidence from a given investigation brought by a prosecutor (the US attorney) in the form of documents, recordings and witnesses, and decides whether there are grounds to move forward with an indictment. However, the grand jury process has been long and regularly used as a form of political repression. According to Heidi Boghosian, director of the National Lawyers Guild (the NLG is a group with a long history of advising grand jury resisters), "abuse of grand juries includes attempts to gather intelligence or information otherwise not easily obtained by the FBI." As such, the grand jury process has been used to probe and intimidate activist groups of various stripes, from the Puerto Rican Independence Movement last century, to black liberationists, environmentalists and anarchists.

For the grand jury resisters themselves, the time during which a grand jury sits (typically 18 months) is a harrowing one. As the NLG's Boghosian explained: "If someone receives a grand jury subpoena and decides not to cooperate, that person may be held in civil contempt. There is a chance that the individual may be jailed or imprisoned for the length of the grand jury in an effort to coerce the person to cooperate."

"It's actually lawful for the prosecution to hold an individual in order to coerce cooperation, but unlawful to hold the person as a form of punishment," said Boghosian. "In addition to facing civil contempt, in some instances a non-cooperator may face criminal contempt charges."

For example, in 2009, Utah-based animal rights activist Jordan Halliday spent jail time for civil contempt and was sentenced to 10 months in prison for criminal contempt for his effusive noncooperation with a grand jury. And many resisters who were not jailed nonetheless recount traumatic experiences.

"I thought I was doomed. I had nightmares, night sweats, turned heavily to drinking and drugs," said a 23-year-old anarchist who refused to cooperate with a grand jury in 2009 in New York, which reportedly convened in regard to the placement of an incendiary device in a metropolitan area believed to be connected to anti-war activism. The young man, who requested to remain anonymous, remembers feeling "helpless," believing that at any point, he could be put in jail for his political silence.

However, he equally recalls the comfort he felt in learning that support committees - people he did not even know - were forming and organizing solidarity actions for him. "People having each other's back - it's one thing we do have," he said.

And indeed, statements and acts of solidarity with the Northwest resisters have been numerous and widespread. "Part of the purpose of grand juries seems to be to isolate people from a network of support, the support that puts them in a stronger place to resist," said Kristian Williams, a member of the Committee Against Political Repression, which formed in support of the grand jury resisters.

"Solidarity actions and support also communicate to the state that people are paying attention to how the situation is being handled. Knowing that there is public opposition - not just a small group of friends outside a courtroom, but people all around the country - hopefully raises the political cost for the US attorney to continue this repression," he added. Hundreds of people have already put in calls to the US attorney to express opposition to the treatment of Northwest anarchists, while over 350 organizations have signed on to a petition of opposition put out by the Committee Against Political Repression. Meanwhile, as mentioned above, banner drops, graffiti and other acts have been dedicated to the grand jury resisters in the past month. A national day of action has been called for August 30 to coincide with Plante's second hearing.

For the New York-based resister, his act of political silence not only affirmed certain ideas about solidarity, but served as striking proof of personal resolve: "In a strange way, you show yourself something important when you resist a grand jury. The things you say, the things you believe, you find yourself actually acting upon them, even though you know it could cost you a chunk of your life."

"It has a very powerful effect on yourself," he said.

It is a sentiment seemingly understood by the anarchists in the Northwest as they begin their grand jury resistance ordeals. While inviting solidarity and support in their public statement, Plante and Dennison added, "You can show your solidarity by refusing to co-operate with any police force and encouraging your friends and families to do the same."

August 29, 2012

No papers no fear riders - 'sin papeles y sin miedo'

Community organizing works.
-----Español abajo-----

Yesterday four no papers no fear riders, two of whom are undocumented, were arrested in civil disobedience protesting the Knox County Sheriff. For months, Sheriff JJ Jones has refused to meet with the migrant community but regularly meets with ICE in an attempt to bring the federal deportation program known as 287(g) to Knoxville, Tennessee.

Can You Donate for the last two weeks of the No Papers No Fear Ride for Justice?

Maria Huerta, one of the arrested riders, is a 65 year old domestic worker with Mujeres Unidas y Activas. She's not eligible for deferred action but is just as deserving of relief. Alejandro, who is 19 years old is the youngest rider. He was also arrested with Maria even though he also ran a great risk since he is already in deportation proceedings (he spent 30 days in detention even after charges were dropped!)

Immediately after their arrest, we flooded the Sheriff's office and ICE's headquarters in DC with calls demanding that the arrestees be released and that no deportation proceedings should be taken against them.

An hour later, three of the four were released with citations. While Alejandro was being transferred between police stations and the Sheriff's jail, Maria, Maricela, and Fran led a march through downtown with banners: Knoxville no se raja / Knoxville won't back down.

With everyone spreading the word and attention growing, they released Alejandro around 10pm last night.

Alejandro with his grandfather

Because of who they were: their age, their situation, neither knew what would happen after being arrested. But they did it because they wanted the Sheriff to know that he cannot ignore the migrant community, that if he won't come to us, we will certainly arrive to see him. They were willing to take that risk in order to be part of the change necessary in Knoxville.

For undocumented people, a run-in with police is a risk we face every day. It's one of our greatest fears because it could result in us being torn apart from our families and our homes. But that's not what happened to Maria and Alejandro yesterday.

What was the difference?

They came out publicly as undocumented, with no fear, and as part of an organized community. It's another example that when we lose our fear, they lose their power.

It's been a month-long journey of proving that over and over again. We have less than two weeks left to go.

Would you donate to the ride to keep us going and to make sure we have the legal funds necessary for when we take action?

Thank you for all your support.

the No Papers No Fear Riders

PS. If you missed it yesterday you can see the videos of why we took action and see us in the streets at


Con una comunidad organizada, ganamos.

Ayer cuatro viajeros del bus 'sin papeles y sin miedo', dos de los cuales son indocumentados, fueron arrestados durante un acto de desobediencia civil protestando en contra del Sheriff del condado de Knox en Tennessee. Durante meses el Sheriff JJ Jones ha rechazado reunirse con la comunidad migrante, sin embargo se sigue reuniendo con ICE tratando de traer el programa federal de deportación conocido como la 287(g) a Knoxville, Tennessee.

María Huerta, de 65 años de edad, es una trabajadora doméstica y miembro de Mujeres Unidas y Activas. Ella, obviamente, no es elegible para la acción diferida, pero es igualmente merecedora de un tipo de acción diferida. Alejandro, de 19 años, nuestro viajero más joven, se enfrentó a las autoridades a pesar de ya encontrarse en proceso de deportación (después de haber pasado treinta días en un centro de detención a pesar de que los cargos relacionados con su detención fueron retirados!).

Inmediatamente después de sus arrestos, inundamos la oficina del Sheriff y la sede de ICE en Washington DC con llamadas exigiendo que los detenidos sean liberados y que ninguna medida de deportación sea tomada en su contra.

Una hora más tarde, tres de los cuatro arrestados fueron liberados con tan sólo una citación. Mientras Alejandro estaba siendo transferido de la estación de policía a la cárcel del Sheriff, María, Maricela y Fran encabezaban una marcha en el centro de la ciudad con grandes pancartas que leían: "Knoxville No Se Raja / Knoxville No Dará Marcha Atrás".

Con todo el mundo corriendo la voz y con una creciente alerta, finalmente liberaron a Alejandro alrededor de las 10 de la noche. Debido a sus circunstancias peculiares: su edad, su situación, ninguno de ellos sabía con exactitud cual sería su destino después de ser arrestados. Pero lo hicieron porque querían que el Sheriff supiera que ya no puede seguir ignorando a la comunidad migrante, y que si él no nos quiere visitar, entonces nosotros llegaremos a visitarlo. Los viajeros estaban dispuestos a correr el riesgo con el fin de ser parte del cambio que se necesita en Knoxville.

Para personas indocumentadas un encuentro con la policía es un riesgo que tomamos todos los días. Es uno de nuestros más grandes temores, ya que podría resultar en la separación de nuestras familias y de nuestros hogares. Pero eso no es lo que les sucedió a María y a Alejandro ayer.

¿Cuál fue la diferencia?

Ellos salieron públicamente como indocumentados, sin miedo, y como parte de una comunidad organizada. Este es otro ejemplo de que cuando nosotros perdemos el miedo, ellos pierden su poder.

Este concepto ha sido probado una y otra vez a lo largo de este viaje de casi un mes de duración. Ya sólo nos quedan menos de dos semanas.

¿Consideraría hacer una donación para que podamos continuar este esfuerzo teniendo los fondos legales necesarios para cuando tomemos este tipo de acciones?

Muchas gracias por todo su apoyo

Los viajeros de Sin Papeles y Sin Miedo.

PS. Si se lo perdió ayer, puede ver los videos de por qué tomamos acción y vernos en las calles en


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Oregonians show Solidarity with No Papers No Fear Ride for Justice

What: 10:30 am Rally, 11am Press Conference and 11:30 am Coming out of the Shadows Action

When: Thursday 30th

Where: In front of the ICE court building (101 SW 5th Ave. Downtown Portland)

PLEASE, join us, your participating in this action is critical

The No Papers No Fear Ride for Justice is a national delegation of undocumented people and allies that left Phoenix, Arizona on the anniversary of the state's implementation of SB 1070, July 29th, and is travelling across the country to rally the migrant community to overcome fear and organize to challenge anti-immigrant policies. They are undocumented from all over the country and who continue to face threats of deportation, harassment, and death while simply looking for a better life in the only nation many of them know and call home.

The “Coming Out of the Shadows” actions were started by the Oregon Dream Activists (ODA) as a part of the National Immigrant Youth Alliance Network. This action will have testimonials from directly impacted individuals and their cases. Something that ODA is working on locally demanding ICE to implement president Obama’s discretion in low priority cases and stop deporting innocent young people and their families. We’ll have a report from the young people that were detained in May Day.

JWJ is working with the ACT network to stop ICE-Police collaborations in Multnomah County; this federal program is making our communities unsafe and afraid of police. We together worked on a County resolution that recognized this danger and threat to our community’s safety and pressures ICE to implement prosecutorial discretion.  At the same time it is important to continue working with the Sheriff on how to stop honoring ICE detainers in the County jail, something the Sheriff has the discretionary power to do.

For more info call 503 236-5573

August 28, 2012

Venezuelan communist talks about struggle for socialism

By Jim McIlroy

August 14, 2012 -- Green Left Weekly -- Carolus Wimmer, a longstanding member of the Latin American Parliament and international relations secretary of the Communist Party of Venezuela, spoke at a Sydney forum on Latin America in revolt on August 11, part of a national speaking tour sponsored by the Communist Party of Australia. During his Australian tour, he also addressed meetings in Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide.

At the Sydney forum, Wimmer took up the question, “What progress has been made toward socialism by the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela?” He said Latin America is still dominated by US imperialism, supported by Britain and Europe. He described the Bolivarian Revolution, which began in Venezuela in 1999, as “an anti-imperialist struggle, with the goal of anti-capitalism and socialism”.

He said:

After the eventual failure of the US-backed right-wing coup of 2002, the Venezuelan people learned they had to be ready to fight to defend the revolution. After the coup, the people realised they had to fight against capitalism, for socialism.

At present, we do not have socialism in Venezuela, capitalism still exists. The challenge now is to find new ways to give more power to the people: to build socialism not as a copy of the past, but with our own forms. We need not just representative democracy, but participatory democracy. New popular organisations, communal councils, have been formed. Socialist workers' councils in the factories are developing.

In the last 10 years since the failed coup, there has been considerable progress. Free education and health care have advanced, poverty is still significant, but reduced. There are training schools for the youth, increases in wages and pensions for all.

The next big step is for President [Hugo] Chavez to win re-election on October 7. Chavez has enormous popular support, but there has been serious foreign interference in the process, especially by the US.

Chavez has signed a commitment to recognise the result of the presidential election, whereas the right-wing candidate Capriles Radonski has refused to sign. This opens up the possibility of opposition violence after the election.

Wimmer said the Communist Party of Venezuela is “a party of the working class. It is not part of the government at present, and reserves the right to criticise. But with independence also comes the need to take responsibility."

In this complex situation, we are working with the government and the revolution. The Communist Party of Venezuela and the mass party of Chavez, the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, are two parties united in coordinating a victory for President Chavez.

The Great Patriotic Pole, in support of Chavez, includes seven parties, trade unions, and women's and youth organisations. On the other side, the opposition counter-revolution, has the backing of the right-wing media, the international media and the church, who all condemn Chavez and the revolution.

Overall, I am optimistic for Venezuela and Latin America. There is increasing integration through ALBA (the Bolivarian Alternative for Latin America) and other bodies. There is rising solidarity with Cuba and the rest of Latin America.
We can win this fight against capitalism; we can win this struggle for socialism. We have learnt the necessity for international solidarity. The enemy is strong, so we need the greatest unity possible. And international solidarity works in both directions, so assists all of us.

To see the video done by GreenLeft TV go here.

Portland event: children left orphaned by our broken immigration system

Join Causa Oregon tomorrow (Wednesday, August 29th) as we host a gathering in Portland of American children left orphaned by our broken immigration system. During the event, stories of U.S. citizen children whose parents have been deported or detained will be shared along with information about the social and economic consequences of enforcement-only immigration policies on families.

Please bring a Black & White Photograph of your loved one who has been separated from your family or is facing separation because of deportation.

August 29, 2012 @ 5:30pm
Orphaned by Deportation: An American Story
St. Michael and All Angels Episcopal Church
1704 NE 43rd Ave.
Portland, Oregon

This event is being coordinated nationally with the Latin American Coalition in Charlotte, North Carolina and Colorlines. More on the Latin American Coalition event can be found here:

The U.S. has deported 46,000 Parents with Citizen Kids in Just Six Months. The rising number of parental deportations has corresponded with an overall increase in immigration enforcement under the Obama administration; in fiscal year 2011, a record 397,000 people were deported.

New data, released to the Applied Research Center in September, reveals that more than 22 percent of all people deported in the first half of this year were parents of citizen kids. If rates of parental deportation remain steady in the year to come, The number of children of non-citizens placed in the U.S. child welfare system will no doubt rise.

FROM ZZ'S BLOG: Death by a Thousand Cuts…

Many liberal and even radical economists have raised the prospect of a “double-dip recession.” By the phrase “double-dip,” they refer to a repeat of the sharp downturn in growth experienced by most countries in 2008-2009. The possibility of a recurrence, a violent contraction of economic activity, looms over the global economy as it stumbles and falters away from the shock of three years ago.

Since the capitalist economy has yet to expel the profound contradictions that produced the shock, the possibility of another sharp downturn cannot be ruled out.
However, an even worse outcome likely lurks ahead. Indeed, the economic diagnosis is so dire that a dramatic downturn might be welcomed in some circles as a release of the enormous pressures that impinge on the world’s economies. Such a downturn, destroying real and nominal wealth, consolidating productive means, and tragically devastating of living standards, might buy capitalism some breathing room and force policy makers to rethink their road map going forward.

Clearly, economists and politicians learned little or nothing from the 2008-2009 drama. In spite of the much acclaimed “death” of neo-liberalism celebrated in the depths of crisis by liberals like Paul Krugman and Robert Reich, the pre-crisis ideology of market sovereignty, minimal government, and monetary tune-up still reigns supreme. What policy makers have learned is to encourage Central Banks to administer a preemptive monetary transfusion at the first sign of a downturn. While this has yet to stem the bleeding, it has kept the patient from bleeding to death.

Instead of the feared “double dip” recession, we may instead experience something far worse: a grinding slowdown, an intractable stagnation, a kind of economic death from a thousand cuts.

Where the economic watchdogs were caught unawares in 2008, confident that capitalism would continue to show resilience and growth, policy makers are wary today of a similar “Lehman” moment, where markets seize, confidence plunges, and fear grips all economic activity. Thus, the chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, stands vigilantly at the gate intently looking for any economic interloper, though with no guarantee that he has the weapons to contain it. This vigilance is particularly acute in an election year, when no economic czar wants to be perceived as influencing the election outcome.

Read more here.

Oregon Working Families Party Nominations

We are happy to announce that forty-seven candidates have received the WFP nomination. Our members cross-nominated Democrats, Republicans, a Green, and a WFP candidate for Attorney General.

Our 2012 Nominations –


Congressional District 1 – Suzanne Bonamici
Congressional District 2 – Joyce Segers
Congressional District 3 – Peter Defazio


Secretary of State – Kate Brown
Treasurer – Ted Wheeler
Attorney General - Ashlee Albies
Labor Commissioner – Brad Avakian*
(* This is an endorsement, not a cross-nomination)

State Senate

Senate District 5 – Arnie Roblan
Senate District 9 – Steve Frank
Senate District 12 – Brian Boquist
Senate District 21 – Diane Rosenbaum
Senate District 23 – Jackie Dingfelder
Senate District 25 – Laurie Monnes Anderson
Senate District 27 – Geri Hauser

State House

House District 1 – Jim Klahr
House District 5 – Peter Buckley
House District 8 – Paul Holvey
House District 10 – David Gomberg
House District 11 – Phil Barnhart
House District 12 – John Lively
House District 13 – Nancy Nathanson
House District 14 – Val Hoyle
House District 17 – Richard Harisay
House District 21 – Brian Clem
House District 23 – Alex Polikoff
House District 24 – Kathy Campbell
House District 26 – Wynne Wakkila
House District 28 – Jeff Barker
House District 29 – Ben Unger
House District 35 – Margaret Doherty
House District 36 – Jennifer Williamson
House District 37 – Carl Hosticka
House District 38 – Chris Garrett
House District 40 – Brent Barton
House District 41 – Carolyn Tomei
House District 42 – Jules Bailey
House District 43 – Lew Fredrick
House District 44 – Tina Kotek
House District 45 – Michael Dembrow
House District 46 – Alissa Keny-Guyer
House District 47 – Jessica Vega Pederson
House District 48 – Jeff Reardon
House District 49 – Chris Gorsek
House District 51 – Shemia Fagan
House District 52 – Peter Nordbye
House District 54 – Nathan Hovekamp
House District 55 – John Huddle
House District 58 – Bob Jenson

No Papers No Fear - Ride for Justice

No Papers No Fear - Ride for Justice     

Don't let no papers no fear riders be deported for speaking out

Twitter! Facebook!


Today No Papers No Fear Riders were arrested in Knoxville for coming out at the Sheriff's Office.

[Donate for their bail]

Since the winter Sheriff JJ Jones has sought to get a 287(g) agreement that would convert his Knox County jail into an even larger deportation machine.  For months, the local community has marched and petitioned and asked for dialogue only to be ignored by the Sheriff.  Even media has been locked out from any information.

And so, our oldest and youngest riders, Maria Huerta (65) and Alejandro Guizar (19) alongside two more people from Knoxville, Maricela Lou (52) and Frances Ashely (65), performed civil disobedience with a banner that says "No Papers No Fear" outside the Sheriff's office because the migrant community will not be ignored.

Please Call ICE and tell them not to pursue cases against any of the No Papers No Fear arrestees in Knoxville.

Call Sheriff JJ Jones and to tell him not to turn the arrestees over to ICE if they get holds placed on them.

And Sign the Petition to Keep them Out of Deportation Proceedings

Community leaders deserve relief not deportation no matter what age they are.

Maria Huerta says, "Even at 65 I am not scared to spend a night in jail if this means that my experience is known and my voice is heard.”

Alejandro Guizar is a 19 year old Tennessean. At the press conference he explained, “We have tried to meet with the Sheriff for the last 6 months with no response. So now we are coming to him. He'll have to make a decision. Will he turn us over to immigration or will he recognize our dignity as human beings?”

Sign the petition to keep them out of deportation proceedings

The risk riders took today is one that undocumented immigrants face every day, the difference is that when undocumented people come out publicly, we're part of an organized community. It will be up to us to make sure the government use's its discretion and treats them with the respect they deserve.

Call 865-971-3901 and tell him not to turn the No Papers No Fear arrestees over to ICE.

Suggested Script: My name is ____, and I am calling from ____ in support of. They were arrested while exercising their constitutional rights and protesting wrongful immigration policies. Please use your discretion and do not turn them over to immigration authorities.


Suggested Script: Suggested Script: My mane is ____, and I am calling from ____ in support of . They were arrested while exercising their right to free speech and protesting wrongful immigration policies. Please use your discretion and do not place them in deportation proceedings.

Please Donate $20 toward their bail fund so we can get them back with our community as quickly as possible.

Thank you for your support,

No Papers No Fear Riders

August 27, 2012

New video details ALEC connection to education

Over the past year, AFT-Oregon has produced a series of Fed News articles focused on the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC). ALEC was created in the 1970s by conservative political activists to develop “model” legislation that can be carried back by ALEC Legislator-members to introduce and push in their state legislatures.

Check out the following video produced by Brave New Films which details ALEC’s connection to education.

ALEC, until recent exposure of its internal workings, programs and agenda, worked under the slogan of “Limited Government, Free Markets, Federalism,” in funneling legislation into the state capitals through its member-legislators. Its funding comes from corporations, foundations and individual legislators, some, such as from Wisconsin, using public funds to pay their membership.

More on the Marikana Massacre---Can't you hear the thunder? by Jay Naidoo

Daily Maverick
22 August 2012 (South Africa)

The headlines scream 'Marikana Massacre'; 'Killing Fields of Rustenburg'. Radio and TV Talk shows and social media all display the anger and expose the psyche of a nation badly wounded. The bloodiest security operation since the end of apartheid has left us shocked and asking what went wrong? The reality is, many things went wrong. Way too many things went wrong, for way too long now.

When I think of Marikana, I am reminded of Frantz Fanon in Wretched of the Earth: “Come, then, comrades; it would be as well to decide at once to change our ways. We must shake off the heavy darkness in which we were plunged, and leave it behind. The new day which is already at hand must find us firm, prudent and resolute.”

As a union organiser in the ’80s, I knew that taking workers out on strike on a legitimate wage demand is not an uphill battle. Taking workers back to work after a failed strike is the ultimate test for any union leader. Now is the time for calm heads to prevail.

The Judicial Commission of Enquiry appointed by President Zuma will hopefully present all the facts. It is the right decision. But it will take painstaking commitment on all sides to rebuild the trust that has been shattered. And that involves us all as citizens. There is not going to be a simple solution. This is a complex dispute that is at its very essence a microcosm of South African society.

Today a community struggles to recover from a bloody confrontation that has left the crumpled bodies of 44 citizens lying in the veld, seen starkly in our lounges and across the world. It has split brother from brother and left a community divided and volatile. This is the real trial of leadership on all sides. It is a tinderbox. We do not need demagoguery that stirs explosive emotions or to engage in finger-pointing that adds fuel to the fire.

The critical question is how could this have happened in 2012, 18 years into our democracy and the centenary commemoration of the ANC’s struggle for social justice and human dignity?

The answer simply is that there has been a massive failure of leadership on all sides. The critical question is why we did not act earlier on this festering dispute that today the nation mourns?

There is growing ferment in our land. The people in our townships, rural areas and squatter camps are bitter that democracy has not delivered the fruits that they see a tiny elite enjoying. Our leaders across the spectrum are not talking to our people, they are not working with them systematically to solve their problems, in providing the hope that one day, even in their children’s lives, things will be better.

All they see is the obscenity of shocking wealth and the chasm of inequality growing. The platinum mines they toil in, for a pittance, yield a precious metal that makes exorbitant jewellery that adorns the necks of the affluent and catalytic converters for the expensive cars the middle classes drive. The workers live in hovels, in informal squatter camps, surrounded by poverty and without basic services. All they experience is a political arrogance of leaders who more often than not enrich themselves at the expense the people. They are angry and restless.

A narrow law and order approach will not work in this depressing context. There is genuine anger out there that needs a political solution. I am aghast at the rapid rate at which our government had militarized the security forces and the creeping stranglehold of securocrats within the state. I wonder why our police intelligence failed so miserably to avert a disaster that threatens the country’s economic prospects. Are the securocrats in the state so occupied in searching for imaginary enemies in NGOs and civil society organisations and with passing “Secrecy Laws” that they missed one of biggest crises to face our democracy? There are important choices to be made by the government, but hard questions must first be asked. What are our priorities? What is the root cause of conflict in our society? These may be tough questions, but they are also unavoidable.

Inter-union rivalry is part of the problem. Lonmin management has recognised the Association of Mineworkers and Construction Union (Amcu), which claims between 20% and 30% of the workforce, for dealing with shop floor issues affecting their membership; but they have fanned the rivalry by only giving recognition to the dominant unions, the National Union of Miners (NUM) and Solidarity, in official wage bargaining structures.

When you recognise a union but exclude it from the collective bargaining negotiations around the core issue of wages, you have a recipe for disaster.

The leadership of NUM and Cosatu need to address why so many mineworkers chose a different union and why they lost confidence in a Cosatu affiliate.

I have been in many places where I am personally told: “Comrade, we do not see union organisers. We don’t know what is happening in our union. Our leaders are too involved in politics and we do not get the services and education we did in the past.”

Have we lost touch with our members? After all, these workers were seasoned unionists who have fought many battles, yet they consciously joined an alternative union. We will need some brutal self-assessment here.

Collective bargaining is the cornerstone of our democracy. I believe it was the prototype of the political negotiations that laid the basis of our democracy. The battles fought by hardened antagonists who faced each other across a negotiating table that recognised the alternative to negotiations was a “scorched earth”. As trade unionists, we knew all the negotiating tactics: strikes, go-slows and lockouts and compromises. When industrial disputes spilled into the streets we united to find solutions and face the heat of angry workers.

Putting this collective bargaining machinery at risk will be a severe blow to our democracy. We cannot afford a free-for-all in such a fragile stage of our democracy.

Rustenburg is not a homogenous community. The growth of the platinum belt created an opportunity to develop the new non-racial towns of the future. Instead, all we see is the mushrooming of informal settlements, racial divisions and the spatial planning of our apartheid past. As job seekers flooded in from all over the country the competition over scarce resources was inevitable. We ignored the festering discontent in the bosom of our economy.

And linked to that, Lonmin, a company with its head in the sand, was woefully oblivious to the conditions its workers lived under. It is a reminder to corporate leaders that social stability must be part of the mainstream business agenda. It cannot be written off as a responsibility of the local government and political leaders. It’s not good enough to tick off the neat box of social corporate responsibility or say “I pay my taxes and this is not my job.”

Lonmin was more intent in the early stages on accusing workers of an illegal strike. When the massacre left 34 workers dead and 78 injured, its executives vanished, refused to meet the workers and then started issuing ultimatums for workers to return or face disciplinary action. Callous mine management, in their plush boardrooms in luxury London headquarters, are the face of rapacious capitalism. Their only preoccupation is the all-important production target of 750,000 saleable ounces of platinum that will be missed due to the closure of the Marikana mine. It is an attitude that will only stoke the anger in our communities.

And to us, horrified citizens, will we ever know the names of the dead workers and police officers? Who are they, what were their aspirations, how many children and dependents do they leave behind? Have we become so inured to endemic violence that it does not matter anymore?

They are statistics. Alongside the 15-million South Africans who are only saved from starvation because of social grant. Do we care that almost half our population lives in poverty or that that single mineworker probably supports eight people on a take-home minimum wage? According to Labour Force Survey figures, 60% of all workers earn less than R2,500 a month. Many of these workers are the sole income earners in their households.

These are statistics those of us living in the cosy bubbles of walled security suburbs like Sandton ignore at our peril.

The problems at Marikana were further compounded by the fact today many of these workers are sub-contracted. It has all the features of the heinous migrant labour system. Workers families are as invisible as they were in the Bantustan labour reservoirs of the past.

We had a foretaste of this dispute at Impala Platinum last year. The pay hikes granted to rock drill operators there sparked a similar demand at Lonmin. What did it teach us? There has to be a change of heart and business strategy in the mining sector.

I have often heard notable analysts complain of the high cost of labour. I don’t know which universe they live in. But how can you justify company executives and directors earn up to 250 times as much a rock driller? (Bloomberg Businessweek reported that Lonmin’s CEO, Ian Farmer was paid R15 million in 2011.)

Just as Marikana is a wake-up call for Cosatu, so it is for business and the ANC. Our democracy needs a strong union movement independent of political parties and business interests. But too much of Cosatu’s time is occupied debating the upcoming ANC leadership contest. The coming Cosatu Congress will be a watershed, where political divisions in the movement may herald the death knell of an independent labour movement that can represent the interests of the poor and marginalised.

Cosatu need to return to its founding principles of serving its members or Marikana will become the start of a downward spiral.

The Northwest province is ruled by the ANC, which also controls the bulk of the seats in the Rustenburg municipality. The platinum miners are the bedrock of the ANC support. The broken promises and the brazen corruption affect them directly. Criminal tenderpreneurs are flourishing in their midst. Most local authorities are dysfunctional. There is a deep-seated anger growing in the Northwest. There is a deep-seated anger growing in the country. And yet the leaders are not at the coal face. People feel robbed of their voices and powerless.

In the absence of strong, legitimate political organisation in the communities, they see violence as the only language their leaders will listen to. It’s is a vicious cycle that sees our people burning down any institution representing the state, whether a school, a library or a public building.

My hope is that the president will take us into his confidence. I know it hurts you deeply that the blood of our fellow citizens has been needlessly spilled. My desire is that the road to Mangaung should be shaped by the lessons of the road from Marikana. Our people, Mr President, are exhausted by the excuses given by our leaders. They want solutions and not more task teams, policy statements and conferences. They want action that improves the day-to-day lives, that delivers water and textbooks to schools, ARVs and medicines to our clinics.

I, like the majority of South Africans, have more questions than answers. But we must engage in a healthy open and frank debate. The alternative is too ghastly to contemplate. DM

Jay Naidoo is founding General Secretary of Cosatu, former Minister in Mandela Government and Chair of a GAIN a Global Foundation Fighting malnutrition in the World. You can also visit his Facebook Page or

What's New With HEM

From SEIU Local 503:

After months of pushing PEBB to make the HEM an incentive-based program, this is what PEBB is announcing for 2013:

• PEBB members will have a choice to enroll in the HEM during open enrollment (October 1-31) and must complete their Health Risk Assessment between Sept. 1-Oct. 31 of this year to be eligible to participate. (If you’re a Kaiser member and took the risk assessment this year between Feb. 13, 2012, and Sept. 1, 2012, you won’t need to take the assessment again for 2013).

• HEM participants will receive a monthly taxable amount of $17.50 per employee or $35 if it’s both an employee and their spouse or domestic partner participating. This incentive payment will begin in January 2013. We view this as a positive change that our many member voices brought about.

• Non-HEM participants will no longer pay a surcharge. Instead, non-participants will see an increased deductible of $100 per person up to a maximum family amount of $300. If one adult in the partnership participates in the HEM and the other does not, PEBB will still consider them non-participants and charge the increased deductible. All SEIU HEM committee members, as well as our PEBB board members, have spoken strongly against this punitive aspect of the HEM. Unfortunately, the management representatives on the PEBB board defeated efforts to eliminate this punitive approach.

• PEBB listened to our recommendation to offer HEM participants more options for meeting the HEM requirements in 2013. While completing two e-lessons prior to the 2014 open enrollment remains a choice, there are now many more options to engage people in health.

See the complete list here:

We do not yet know how members will be asked to track and report these activities. PEBB is continuing to work on this aspect with Kaiser and Providence, and we will communicate this information as we learn it.

On evaluating the HEM, a team from Providence Center for Outcomes Research & Education (CORE) has been charged with this process led by Dr. Bill Wright, a senior research scientist. In our most recent HEM Joint Labor/Management Committee meeting, he laid out the need for the evaluation to be comprehensive – to look at what matters to all PEBB members like cost savings and changes in health. A second principle of the evaluation is to evaluate in a way that allows PEBB to move forward.

We think this second principle is critical. We know too well that a poorly communicated change to our health plans that included a punitive surcharge got us started on the wrong foot. We discussed how it was critical that this evaluation include both HEM participants and non-participants in order to uncover information PEBB can learn from. We hope a comprehensive analysis will lead to PEBB’s not repeating past mistakes. If at some point you are contacted for an interview, we encourage you to give your feedback.

You can also reach us (your SEIU HEM committee representatives) at

In unity,

Keary DeBeck, DOJ, Salem
Nat Elder, WOU, Monmouth
Sabrina Freewynn, OHA, Portland
Wednesday Martin, DHS, Roseburg
Shaun Parkman, Alternate, OHA, Portland
Siobhan Martin, Staff Advisor

Sixth Annual JWJ and VOZ Solidarity Salsa Party

When: Saturday, September 22nd  from 7pm to 11pm
Where: at the SEIU 503 Dance Hall, 6401 SE Foster Rd.

Door opens at 6:30pm, dance lessons at 7:00pm, informational tables, food and drinks, silent auction and much more!

For the past six years Jobs with Justice and Voz Workers Rights Education Project have joined together to host the Solidarity Salsa Party to bring together individuals that are a part of and support both of our organizations to build relationships, through dancing, fun and fundraising.

We need your help to celebrate and continue supporting the struggle for Immigrant and worker’s rights the work of both Voz and JwJ and to ensure the success of this event to raise badly needed funds to keep us going.

You can help by:

-          Buying and helping to sell tickets (they are $ 15 each)

-          Becoming a sponsor, buying the $150 package (includes your name in outreach materials, web, recognition at the event and 10 tickets)

-          Spreading the word and announcing it in your newsletter or bulletin and inviting your friends and family

-          Volunteering the day of the party
-          Donating food

Buy get tickets online today, please click here to buy it

Thank you for all your support!!!

For more information or to donate food or volunteer contact JWJ at: or 503 236-5573

PCASC News & Events August 27, 2012

News and Events for Mon, Aug 27th, 2012

Want to help shape the future of PCASC and build a strong organization for the important work we do? We are looking for new board members. Please contact for more information.

PCASC Internships! Interested in lending your skills to the movement? Check out the PCASC internships and apply today!


Tues, Aug 28th
Worldwide Echo in Support of the Zapatistas
7pm at Friends’ Meeting House, 4312 SE Stark St
Come learn about the history of profound pain, hope, and inspiration that is the Zapatista movement. We will be showing a video made by the people of San Marcos, discussing the history of the movement and hearing about the experiences of Human Rights Observers who have worked in Zapatista communities. Details here.

Wed, Aug 29th
Fair Trade Chocolate & Northwest Beer Fest
7pm at Equal Exchange, 1033 SE Main
An ORFTC fundraiser and volunteer recognition celebration that brings you all the fun of Equal Exchange chocolates, Oregon craft beers and the world's most kick-ass trade justice activists. RSVP here.

Thurs, Aug 30th
Stand in Solidarity with the Grand Jury Resisters
12:30 - 3:30pm at the Federal Court House (1000 SW 3rd Ave)
Details below

Wed, Sept 5th
PCASC General Meeting
7-9pm @ 2249 E Burnside
solidarity * education * action

Mon, Oct 8th
November delegation down to Honduras, with the option of going to Georgia to SOA Watch Vigil. Details here.
More details at

Solidarity with Grand Jury Resisters

National Call In Day - August 29th

We are asking for people to call the US Attorney again this Wednesday, August 29th. Call Jenny Durkan at (800) 797-6722 and leave a message with the person who answers the phone. Last call in day, they tried to send people to a voicemail box. If they attempt to do that, tell whoever you are talking to that you would like to leave a message with them and not a voicemail.

An example of what you might say:

“Hi. I am Jolene Seaside. I am calling about the grand jury being impaneled in Seattle tomorrow, August 30th. This case clearly shows that the FBI and government are persecuting political dissent in our country. It is despicable that US attorney and the government are harassing and intimating this group of people for their political beliefs. I demand that the grand jury and investigation be ended immediately, that the governments repression of social movements stop, and that any items seized in the raids be returned. Thank you for taking my comments.”

When you call the U.S Attorney's office, please let them know that you are speaking for yourself and not the individuals resisting the grand jury subpoenas. Be aware of how the things you say will impact the people you are trying to help. If you make a call, please email us ( and let us know how what kind of response you got from the Attorney's office.

August 30th @ the Federal Court House
1000 SW 3rd Ave - 12:30 - 3:30pm

A federal grand jury has convened in Seattle and already 4 people in the Pacific Northwest have been subpoenaed to testify against their comrades, after local anarchists' doors were kicked in at 6am in coordinated FBI raids. The FBI employed batter
ing rams, flash-bang grenades and semi-automatic weapons. Two of the subpoenaed live in Portland and have boldly refused to cooperate with the grand jury, potentially facing jail time for doing so. Grand juries have been used by the state to attack social movements. They are a weapon of oppression. The grand jury again meets in Seattle on Friday, August 30th.

For more information about the grand jury investigation please visit the Committee Against Political Repression's website:

Come out on 8/30 to show resistance to the FBI's repression and to let our friends know that we support them in these difficult times. Help us to create a culture of resistance by showing solidarity with those who have their backs against the wall. They will not defeat us. Together we are strong. Details here.

If you have materials that you can contribute for making picket signs, please contact


Belo Monte Dam Suspended by Brazilian Appeals Court
Marketing Consent: A Journey into the Public Relations Underside of Canada’s Mining Sector in Latin America

No silver medal: Mexican farmers battle Canadian mine for control of their land
‘Yo Soy 132′ Mexican student movement looks to the future
U.S.-Funded War in El Salvador Casts Shadow over Romney/Ryan Campaign

Latin Americans defy U.S., back Ecuador on WikiLeaks asylum

News as we get it at

How to plug-in to PCASC

“If you have come here to help me, then you are wasting your time…But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”- lila watson

PCASC is a democratic, volunteer led and run organization with just two half- time staff people. From stuffing envelopes to taking a lead role in organizing a protest, PCASC has a place for you. Please take a moment to fill out our volunteer survey so we can help plug you into PCASC’s work!

August 22, 2012


This is an interesting article but one thing that Louis leaves out is the reflection on the Pussy Riot trial by Gennady Zyuganov, 1st Secretary of the Communist Party Of The Russian Federation:
"Of course you can’t separate the trial from the overall situation in the country. Personally here’s my view: I would have taken a good belt, whipped them, and send them to their kids and parents. This would be an administrative punishment. And I would tell them that they shouldn’t engage in such blasphemy and disgraceful behavior."

Going All the Way With Pussy Riot
Hating Russian Orthodoxy
by Louis Proyect

Given the sharp divide on the left between those who consider the BRIC (Brazil, Russia, India, and China) governments to be the first line of defense against Western imperialism and those who take the sides of the victims of such governments even when the U.S. State Department takes up their cause as well, it should not come as a surprise that the Pussy Riot trial has become a litmus test. Support for Pussy Riot is a sign that you are catching Christopher Hitchens flu or worse.

As one of the highest-profile defenders of BRIC counter-hegemony, Global Research could be relied upon to take the side of the Russian prosecutors. Tony Cartalucci reminded his readers  that stiff prison sentences have been meted out in the West for holocaust denial so why all the fuss? Of course, a more appropriate response might have been to question all laws against free speech whether in the West or in Russia. Meanwhile Information Clearing House, a website with a similar orientation, has a piece by “The Saker” that views support for the young punk rocker/anarchists as little more than religious intolerance:

The sad truth is that the West’s support for Pussy Riot is, in reality, nothing more than yet another expression of its rabid hatred for anything Russian or Russian Orthodox.  And if that means erecting a small group of sexually dysfunctional women into a banner for freedom, so be it! (emphasis in the original)

I am not sure where “The Saker” got the idea that they were sexually dysfunctional, a term redolent more of Kinsey than Kissinger, but the idea of rallying around a beleaguered Russian Orthodox Church was a bit hard for me to swallow. Maybe I am behind the times, but if I took a word association test the first word that would come to mind after “Russian Orthodox Church” would be “Rasputin”. Since the grip of such malevolent figures on Russian society ended in 1917, one has to wonder why the left is in the business of defending the church against blasphemers. I could not help but be reminded of a quip made to me by a Soviet émigré that I worked with years ago, a fellow who greatly admired Ronald Reagan: “The Communists were very bad but the best thing they ever did was suppress organized religion.” He made sure to be clear that this included the synagogues, the faith of his fathers. As someone forced in the 1950s to learn Hebrew (or at least to sound out the words) and to pray to a god one did not believe in, I imagine that I would have envied my 12-year-old Russian contemporaries.

Also of interest is the call to stand up for anything “Russian” or “Russian Orthodox” against its enemies, wedding as it were the Russian flag to the cross of the orthodoxy. Elements of the Western left, always on the leading edge when it comes to Diderot’s injunction that “Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest”, somehow makes an exception for traditional family values when they are held by the Russian equivalent of Pat Robertson.

At first blush it might seem puzzling why Pussy Riot would stage an action in an Orthodox Church if their main target were Putin. What has been the role of the church? The American left protests Catholic opposition to gay rights and backs the right of women to control their own body, and increasingly takes a stand against the rabbinical blessings for Israeli brutality but what are the stakes for the Russian left?
It is also necessary to examine Putin’s connections to Russian Orthodoxy since the church was at one time seen as a tool of Western interests. Ever the nationalist, wouldn’t Putin have kept the church at arm’s length? As recently as January 2005 Aleksei II, the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church, took a stand against Putin’s widening powers at a time when protests had been erupting all across Russia similar to those held last year.

Fred Weir, the canny co-author with David Kotz of “Revolution from above: the demise of the Soviet system” and now the Russian correspondent for the Christian Science Monitor, told its readers on November 14, 2007 that the ties between church and state ran deep no matter the Patriarch’s reprimand:

The Orthodox Church has been – and remains – closely linked to the Russian state. Even before the Bolsheviks nationalized all its property and took full control over the priesthood, the church acted as the main ideological support for Russian czars. And since the fall of communism, Russian leaders have sometimes turned to the church, which has baptized some 60 percent of Russians, to boost their legitimacy.

Though President Vladimir Putin has frequently stressed that Russia remains a secular state, he and other state leaders prominently take part in Orthodox festivals and he is often seen in company with the patriarch, the head of the Orthodox Church. In a press conference on the reunification earlier this year of the US-based Russian Orthodox Church Abroad with the mother church in Moscow, Putin equated Russia’s “traditional faiths” with its nuclear missile shield as “components that strengthen Russian statehood and create necessary preconditions for internal and external security of the country.”

Anticipating the prosecution against Pussy Riot, the church and the state joined hands in April of 2008 to silence Mikhail Zlatkovsky, a satirical cartoonist who had represented Aleksei II in a less than flattering manner. While one should always refrain—unlike “The Saker”–from characterizing one’s political adversaries as sexually dysfunctional, one might smile at another of Zlatkovsky’s cartoons: “In one Putin sketch, he is portrayed as a young king on his wedding day, marrying a woman called Federation (the Russian Federation). Egged on by cronies and advisers, he takes Russia into his bedroom but finds himself impotent and does not know what to do with his bride.”

In October 2007, Aleksei II attended a conference of church leaders in Strasbourg to put forward a rather novel interpretation of homosexuality. He dubbed it a “distortion of the human personality like kleptomania.” With respect to a gay rights parade in Moscow, he condemned it as advertising for immoral behavior and asked: “Why don’t we have advertising for kleptomania?”

Despite his affinity for the kind of idiocy heard from Pat Robertson, Aleksei II’s interests collided with those of Protestant missions in Russia. If Yeltsin symbolized unrestrained penetration of the Russian economy by foreign multinationals, the onslaught of Western sects in the immediate post-Soviet period represented the same phenomenon on a spiritual level. In order to consolidate a strong state, Putin had to make the Russian Orthodoxy a state religion. In April 2008, Putin starting to clamp down on the sects in a manner similar to what happened to NGO’s around the same time as Clifford Levy reported in the April 24, 2008 N.Y. Times:

The church’s hostility toward Protestant groups, many of which are based in the United States or have large followings there, is tinged with the same anti-Western sentiment often voiced by Mr. Putin and other senior officials.

The government’s antipathy also seems to stem in part from the Kremlin’s wariness toward independent organizations that are not allied with the government.

Now, of course, if your primary interest is in seeing Russian nationalism flourish, this kind of “anti-Western” campaign might be worth supporting, especially if you are skeptical that any alternative to the current system can exist. Back in the early 1990s, they had a term for this. It was called TINA, meaning “there is no alternative to capitalism”. If socialism is a lost cause, why not settle for second-best, which for some apparently is a Russian strongman and a church that likens being gay to kleptomania?

For those of us with a Quixotic bent, there might be an attraction to Pussy Riot that will never be understood by Tony Cartalucci or “The Staker”. Like us, the punk rockers will settle for nothing less than the abolition of private property whether the stars-and-stripes or the Russian flag sanctifies it. Despite the groundswell of support for the right of punk rockers to say what they want and where they want to say it, there is at least one Russian sophisticated enough to understand what they truly represent. In an op-ed piece that appeared in the International Herald Tribune, Vadim Nitikin should have made the case for backing Pussy Riot even as he was trying to warn off the kind of people who own the IHT, the N.Y. Times or the Washington Post:

Anyone who has bothered to see them beyond their relevance as anti-Kremlin proxies will know that these young people are as contemptuous of capitalism as they are of Putinism. They are targeting not just Russian authoritarianism, but, in Tolokonnikova’s words, the entire “corporate state system.” And that applies to the West as much as to Russia itself. It includes many of the fawning foreign media conglomerates covering the trial, like Murdoch’s News Corp., and even such darlings of the anti-Putin “liberal opposition” establishment as the businessman and anti-corruption campaigner Aleksei Navalny.

Pussy Riot’s fans in the West need to understand that their heroes’ dissent will not stop at Putin; neither will it stop if and when Russia becomes a “normal” liberal democracy. Because what Pussy Riot wants is something that is equally terrifying, provocative and threatening to the established order in both Russia and the West (and has been from time immemorial): freedom from patriarchy, capitalism, religion, conventional morality, inequality and the entire corporate state system. We should only support these brave women if we, too, are brave enough to go all the way.

Yes, let us be brave enough to go all the way, just as these three young women have been.

August 21, 2012

Behind the South Africa Mineworkers Massacre

by Jean Damu
POV - Point of View

The recent South African mineworkers massacre in which scores were shot and killed had its origins in long disgraced trade union organizing tactics but that in no way absolves the police and mine owners from being held in accountable.

There is blood and blame enough to cover both sides of the barricades, enough in fact that the regional leadership of the immensely influential South African Communist Party has called for the arrest of the leaders of the breakaway mine workers union which they assert foment violence wherever they appear.

Before addressing the issues confronting the unions it should be made clear that the police are going to have a very difficult time convincing anyone they shot in self-defense. There are numerous videos showing police forces standing in front of their vehicles, not behind them for protection, as they fired into crowds of protesting miners. That simple fact alone belies police protests of innocence.

Furthermore a leading South African political personality informs us that a dangerous trend within South Africa has been the militarizing of private security firms, many of them hired by the mining establishments. These security guards, he says, are brought within the framework of the national police, given armor and automatic weapons but very little training. This creates a situation in which there is great distance between the local police and the authorities to whom they should be responsible. If this is the case one can safely assume despite claims by regional and national police authorities their troops were acting in self-defense, likely authorities don't really know what happened and won't know until an investigation is completed.

Further, SACP provincial secretary Mododa Sambatha, was quick to point an accusatory finger toward the breakaway mine workers union, the Association of Mine Workers and
Construction Unions (AMCU).

Sambatha called for the establishment of a presidential commission to investigate the "violent nature and anarchy associated with AMCU wherever it establishes itself."

These charges relate to several other incidents in earlier organizing campaigns where workers and police had been killed. In fact just days before the Aug. 16 massacre two policemen were hacked to death my machete wielding AMCU members.

"Workers must desist any temptation to mobilize them against NUM (National Union of Mineworkers) or to mobilize them to attack each other," Sambatha said.

What are the origins of such horrible organizing conditions where workers are attacking each and in turn attacking police?

Currently there are two unions organizing and representing mineworkers in South Africa-the long established NUM that played a leading role in the movement for national liberation and the more recently formed AMCU, that many uninformed consider to be the more radical, but in fact are anything but radical.

Significantly (and this is significant) when leaders of AMCU made application for official government recognition and were asked "What is the main difference between yourselves and NUM?" AMCU leaders declared themselves to be "apolitical and anti-communist."

This is an amazing admission because it is a physical impossibility to be apolitical and anti-communist. It's like saying you love to walk but don't believe in motion. It's a nonsensical physical and emotional contradiction, but is a first step on the short road to disaster.

With the creation of AMCU the long, long discredited tactic of "dual unionism" appeared.

Essentially dual unionism is parallel organizing tactics of one union against another within the same industry and workplace.

With the possible exception of the breakup of the AFL-CIO in recent years dual unionism was last seen in the US more than 70 years ago and today is outlawed in many countries. It creates division within the ranks of labor, is the scourge of workers everywhere but is the sweet music of milk and honey to the bosses.

At the Marikana mines in Rustenburg, approximately 60 miles north of Johannesburg, NUM had recently concluded contract negotiations but AMCU members were dissatisfied, they wanted more; in fact AMCU leaders encouraged them to demand a nearly 110% increase in their wages.

Did the workers deserve such an outrageous increase? Of course they did, but that's never the issue, especially under capitalism. Within a trade union situation the question always is, what can we reasonably expect to gain without actually going to war? A strike is the closest thing that exists to warfare without actually being warfare and even then loss of life is not unusual.

In the case of the mine workers massacre the great crime on the part of AMCU leaders was calling a wildcat strike, an unauthorized strike, in which they represented less than a quarter of the 28,000 Marikana workers.

Furthermore many AMCU members were armed with spears and machetes, not to attack the police necessarily but rather NUM members according to president Frans Baleni. "Our members have been attacked, and that can- not be said to be rivalry or clashes, it is pure criminality," he said.

In his now infamous declaration AMCU president Joseph Mathunjwa demagogically declared to the assembled masses, "We will die here if necessary."

Really? People should die over a disputed pay increase? He didn't die. American workers who haven't had a real pay increase In nearly 40 years would find that a curious concept.

Exasperatingly and dangerously, following the shootings, expelled ANC Youth League leader Julius Malema travelled to scene of the bloodbath and called on mine workers to
continue to volunteer to be killed-all in the name of the justifiable pay increase.

Here it is necessary to focus some light on the AMCU leaders and the political baggage of NUM.

Mathunjwa and AMCU leader Steve Kholekilethe are former NUM members who were expelled from NUM for "anarchism" and who then moved on the form AMCU.

AMCU leaders can rightly be considered the ideological brothers of the anarchists within the US Occupy movement who wear masks over their faces, throw trash cans through store windows and set buildings on fire. The only difference between those who set buildings on fire and those who encourage workers to arm themselves and make unreasonable wage demands is the scale of collateral damage.

But here is the real danger for the workers movement. If the mine owners were to actually grant the wage increases it would further encourage violent tactics on the part of AMCU members and set conditions for an even greater crackdown in the future.

There is no way out for a labor movement that resorts to violence unless revolutionary conditions are at hand.

But this is not say rank and file members do not have grievances with NUM. Many are frustrated and disillusioned when rank and file union members are not allowed to run for office, for example, or when NUM officials are seen to abandon workers struggles and join South Africa's emerging black bourgeoisie.

Former NUM leader Cyril Ramaphosa is the key case in point. Ramaphosa built NUM into a major fighting force against apartheid, but once apartheid ended Ramaphosa left politics and became one of South Africa's leading investment movers. He heads the Shanduka investments group, sits on the board of Coca-Cola and gives a whole new dimension to the disparaging term "entrepreneurial trade unionism," or the practice of creating trade unions in order to make money, commonly observed in Nigeria years ago. Today Ramaphosa is one of South Africa's wealthiest citizens but still claims to be a socialist.

More recently NUM president Baleni has been under fire for increasing his monthly pay package northward of R100,000 per month. That's more than $8,000 per month, a seemingly outrageous amount of money for the leader of a union whose members were killed demanding an increase of pay from $649/ month to $1250.

But none of the NUM's political baggage can justify the creation of a dual union.

Consider a case closer to home.

In the 1980's the hotel workers union in the US was one of the nation's most corrupt labor organizations and Secretary- Treasurer John F. Gibson was sent to prison. At the very next international convention delegates voted to pay "poor old Gibby" $100,000 for the rest of his life.

Radicals and progressives within the union never dreamed of organizing a new union. They went about the strenuous work of organizing from within. Today the new hotel workers union is among the most militant defenders of workers' rights and wages within private sector industry.

That is the correct road for union organizing and reform.

We will have to wait to see what all the commission findings report and who will held accountable for the massacre. But one thing is for sure. As long as dual unionism is allowed to exist within the mining industry, or anywhere else in South Africa for that matter, more violence is sure to follow.

[Jean Damu organized the Bay Area Trade Union Conference in Solidarity with South African Trade Unions. It was the only instance in the US when trade unions met to discuss South Africa. The conference was keynoted by John Gaetsewe, secretary general of SACTU (South African Conference of Trade Unions) the forerunner to the current umbrella labor group COSATU (Conference of South African Trade Unions.)

The National Association of Letter Carriers Convention

Picked up from Communities and Postal Workers United:


Our 68th Biennial Convention was arguably the most democratically-run NALC Convention in history. The mutual respect shown by President Rolando and the almost 6500 delegates was genuine and needed. For the NALC president pulled no punches about the real, though manufactured, unprecedented crisis that the U.S.P.S. is facing. He correctly raised that, “the battle for the Postal Service is part of a larger war on workers. We intend to keep fighting, not just for ourselves, but for all workers---public and private.”

Alas, this strategic view was not upheld throughout the Convention. An opposite strategy was presented by Ron Bloom, vice president of U.S. investment banking at Lazard. Tellingly, Wall Street’s Bloom was silent about Wall Street’s drive for private profit --- the main force behind the PMG/Congress effort to dismantle and destroy this public treasure so that the entire trillion dollar postal industry will fall into private capitalist hands. While he recounted how the Postmaster General and Congress are opposed to saving the postal service, Bloom refused to expose the profit motive behind their “strange” behavior.

Accordingly, Bloom never mentioned any workers other than letter carriers (no other postal workers, no other AFL-CIO unions, no other international unions --- our Convention declared solidarity with them anyway). Bloom never mentioned the people of this country who still cherish their public postal service. He made it seem that NALC is facing imminent postal destruction all alone. On this basis Bloom drew Wall Street’s conclusion that we the NALC need to surrender and make “shared sacrifice.”
Ironically, worker sacrifice of wages, benefits and working conditions will only make the USPS an even more irresistible privatization plum for Wall Street greed! Indeed, the 1970 strike, celebrated on the Convention’s last day, teaches us not to surrender but to fight back!

In Solidarity,
Richard Koritz

A Democratically-run Convention---But Where do we go from here?!
By Richard Koritz, Area 4 Rep

On Monday, July 23rd, the 68th Biennial Convention of the National Association of Letter Carriers opened in Minneapolis, Minnesota. President Fred Rolando pulled no punches about the real, though manufactured, crisis that the U.S.P.S. is facing. Even more impressively, directing his second convention as President with an even more open hand and fraternal spirit than his first, the NALC president reminded the delegates right away that we had the responsibility to provide direction for the union in the two years between now and the next convention.

And the delegates responded well to the respect being shown to them. One dramatic vote occurred when a branch president from Texas tried to praise Rolando to the skies and turn over all the convention’s decision-making discussion and authority to the NALC president. As I began to speak in opposition to this resolution, there was an audible gasp in the convention hall. But President Rolando handled the issue extremely fairly. And the delegates impressively rejected this motion, keeping their own elected responsibilities in their own hands. With the video cameras respectfully focused on each speaker from the floor as well as those at the podium, this was arguably the most democratically-run NALC Convention in history.

In his opening, President Rolando invoked the legacy of the truck driver-led Minneapolis General Strike of 1934. Communication Workers of America (CWA) President Larry Cohen deepened the history lesson by adding the fact that in 1934 the powerful San Francisco General Strike and a General Strike in Toledo, Ohio had preceded the Minneapolis General Strike. Indeed, these general strikes helped pave the way to the founding of the Congress of Industrial Organization (CIO) in 1935 which provided the U.S. labor movement with the crusading spirit and militant and democratic organization it needed to successfully fight Wall Street in the difficult years of the Great Depression. Standing on this rich labor history, the CWA President’s theme was, “We Stand Up, We Fight Back!”

Keeping with this theme, in a video shown on Wednesday reviewing the legislative and political battles of the past two years and the ones ahead, Brother Rolando pointed out that, “The battle for the Postal Service is part of a larger war on workers. We intend to keep fighting, not just for ourselves, but for all workers---public and private.”

Among the positive convention-related activities that reflected this fighting spirit were: about five hundred delegates’ solidarity action with Verizon workers and CWA members in the streets of downtown Minneapolis, when only 150 had been called for, the presence and militant speech of CWA President Cohen, as well as speeches by AFL-CIO’s Richard Trumka and National Postal Mail Handlers Union President John Hegarty, Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) President Denis Lemelin, Ruben Cortina of UNI-Americas, regional arm of UNI-Global Union, and other union leaders who pledged their solidarity with NALC and the cause of saving the public postal service in the USA.

CUPW President Lemelin, speaking for all Canadian postal workers, explained that, we need “to be sure that protecting our members, protecting our jobs, is protecting the postal service and is protecting our future… Postal workers in Canada have formed alliances with other groups to harness strong public support for their cause to protect Canada Post.” The CUPW President, after expressing his union’s appreciation for NALC support over the years, ended his speech by leading our Convention in his union’s cheer: So-so-so-solidarite! UNI-America’s Cortina summed it up, “If we mobilize and we have strong unions, nothing can stop us.”

In line with this militant spirit, a general resolution submitted by NALC Branch 630 of Greensboro, entitled, “Call for a large national rally and march of postal workers and their allies” that had originally been disapproved by the Executive Council was turned into one of approval and passed by the Convention delegates on the basis of cooperation between President Rolando and myself (with the prior approval of the rest of branch 630’s delegation).

Even more significantly, a San Francisco, CA Branch 214 resolution to “Build a powerful nationwide movement to save the people’s Post Office” was approved by the Executive Council and passed by the Convention delegates. It resolved: “That the NALC, working together with the other postal unions, encourage the formation, in cities and towns throughout the country, of Community/Labor Coalitions to Save Postal Jobs and Services--- to build a powerful nationwide movement to defeat privatization, maintain living-wage jobs, expand postal services, and save the Post Office as a public entity operating in the public interest.”

To implement this resolution, a group of NALC activists from various parts of the country where community/postal labor groups to Save the USPS have been established, including here in Greensboro, NC, held two evening meetings during the Convention week, (with national leadership cooperation in obtaining the meeting rooms and announcing the events). We shared experiences and are attempting to expand the number of such coalition efforts. (See

Unfortunately, this strategic view seemed to get lost over the course of the convention week. In accord with the “conventional wisdom” of so many labor leaders in the weak and defensive U.S. labor movement of today, tied as they are through the Democratic Party to the Wall Street rulers of this country, the NALC leadership recommended an endorsement of a sitting President who is on record as a proponent of eliminating Saturday delivery (which would be the beginning of the end of the USPS) and presented one of Wall Street’s own sharks as a guru who might provide a solution to the current postal crisis.

Thus, Ron Bloom, vice president of U.S. investment banking at Lazard, presented a strategy in opposition to the pro-union, pro-worker strategy projected above by CUPW President Lemelin, CWA President Cohen and NALC President Rolando himself. While he recounted how the Postmaster General and Congress are opposed to saving the postal service, Wall Street’s Bloom refused to expose the profit motive behind their otherwise “strange” behavior. Bloom was silent about Wall Street’s drive for private profit --- the main force behind the PMG/Congress effort to dismantle and destroy this public treasure so that the entire trillion dollar per year postal industry will fall into private capitalist hands.

Accordingly, Bloom never ever mentioned any workers other than letter carriers (no other postal workers, no other AFL-CIO unions, no other international unions --- our Convention declared solidarity with them anyway). Bloom never ever mentioned the people of this country who still cherish their public postal service who are crucial to a successful defense of the public postal service and its one half million union workers. He made it seem that NALC is facing imminent postal destruction all alone, without any friends and allies. On this basis Bloom drew Wall Street’s conclusion that we the NALC need to surrender and make so-called “shared sacrifice.”

Ironically, worker sacrifice of wages, benefits and working conditions will only make the USPS an even more irresistible privatization plum for Wall Street greed! The real path to the salvation of the public postal service and its half million decent union jobs lies through rejecting the defeatist message of Wall Street’s Ron Bloom and seriously embarking on the difficult path laid out at the beginning and at the end of the 68th Biennial NALC Convention.

By a vote of the Anaheim Convention in 2010, the marvelous documentary produced by NALC in commemoration of the fortieth anniversary of the 1970 postal strike, was shown once again on the 2012 Minneapolis Convention’s last day. As President Emeritus Sombrotto expressed it, this historic strike led by NALC rank and file members and other postal workers against “the most powerful government on earth” resulted in letter carriers and all postal workers and their unions achieving a real backbone and the opportunity for a dignified and decent life. Now, forty-two years later, NALC members and all postal workers are still standing on the shoulders of those brave strikers. The clear history lesson for NALC and all postal unionists of today is not to surrender but to fight back!

Solidarity Forever!

Invitation to join the Honduras Human Rights Primary Elections Accompaniment Delegation – Nov. 18, 2012

Sponsored by the Honduras Solidarity Network

LIBRE, the party of the National Front for Popular Resistance (FNRP), is holding primary elections for President and National Assembly on Sunday, Nov. 18, 2012. The FNRP is the organization uniting labor, teachers, students, campesino, Afro-Honduran, and indigenous groups, LGBT, artists, and former Liberal party members in opposition to the June 28, 2009 coup and the illegitimate government of Porfirio Lobo spawned by the coup. The FNRP created LIBRE to attempt to return democracy through the ballot box in national elections to be held in November 2013. Two LIBRE pre-candidates have already been assassinated. The FNRP has asked for international human rights accompaniment on its primary voting day of November 18, 2012 to help achieve a peaceful voting day and to document human rights abuses if they occur.

The Honduras Solidarity Network is offering two options for human rights accompaniment delegates for the LIBRE primary elections:

1. A 10 day delegation Nov 12-21 -- $850
2. A 4 day delegation Nov. 16-19 -- $300

Both delegations include transportation to and from the airport and within Honduras, three meals a day, double occupancy hotel, meetings, and translation. Both delegations will include spending Nov. 18 at polling places in small teams. (If you don’t speak Spanish, you will be teamed with those who do.) The longer delegation will include many more meetings with groups that are part of the FNRP and a trip into the countryside to meet with campesino groups struggling to recover land stolen from them by large landowners.

Honduras is a country where violence against Hondurans -- especially those struggling for a return to democracy or for land and basic human rights – is met with government inaction and impunity for the perpetrators. No international observers have so far been harmed. Due to the state of lawlessness in the country, the delegation schedule will be subject to change if the need arises for us to document specific human rights violations. Prospective delegates should be flexible physically and emotionally.

For more information and an application contact: