December 31, 2012

What Has Your Anti-War Coalition Done For You Lately, Or in 2012?

United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC) 2012 Activities

In March the Second Annual National Anti-War Conference - 600 people met to set the agenda for 2012.  
The primary objective: to keep the antiwar movement visible and in the streets in this never-ending and expanding wars, austerity and repression.
Program Of Action:  Making the connection between racist, imperialist wars abroad and the assault on working people, especially people of color, at home, while building coalitions founded on the principle that an injury to one is an injury to all.

Activities

Organized and helped to build a People's Summit and a mass demonstration of 15,000 people to protest NATO and the G-8 in Chicago in May.

Rallied for Peace at the Democratic and Republican Conventions and on the 11th Anniversary of the Afghan invasion.

Three of the Admin Committee Members travelled to Pakistan on the anti-drone tour organized by Code Pink and reported back at forums around the country

Organized participation in the rally in NY against NYPD's racist Stop And Frisk policy.

Organized demonstrations to demand non-intervention in Iran, Libya and Syria

Campaigned against civil liberties assault, including Indefinite Detention, targeted assassination and mass incarceration of Black and Latino youth.

There are dangerous times ahead as U.S. and Nato mass on the Turkish border, Iran continues to be a target of the U.S., NATO and Israel.  U.S. backs Israeli land theft and brutality of Palestinians and the U.S. sets its sights on China, North Korea in the Pacific.

In 2013

Opposing Drones will be our focus of our work this coming year.  They are the new weapons of choice for war and domination.  You can contribute to this work by sending a check to:
UNAC
PO Box 123
Delmar, NY 12054

Co-cordinators:
Marilyn Levin
Joe Lombardo

December 23, 2012

PORTLAND: Palestinian Solidarity & Understanding Islam

Tuesday, January 15, 2013, 6:00pm
Roadmap to Apartheid

Smith Memorial
PSU Multicultural Center
1825 SW Broadway

Screening of Roadmap to Apartheid

Sponsored by Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights (SUPER)
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Wednesday, January 16, 2013, 6:30pm
INSIDE ISLAM: What a Billion Muslims Really Think

Presented by The Institute for Christian-Muslim Understanding
St. Mary’s Academy
1615 SW 5th Avenue
Portland, OR 97201

6:30-7:00 Potluck Dinner (please no pork or pork products)
7:00-7:55 Movie
8:00-8:45 Group Discussion

Accessible by public transportation routes including the yellow and green MAX trains, TriMet buses, the Portland Streetcar and C-TRAN buses. There is metered parking and public pay parking nearby.
=============================================

Monday, February 11, 2013, 7:00pm
Beyond Zionism: A New Paradigm for Peace in Palestine

Portland State University
Smith Memorial Student Union, Room 327/328
1825 SW Broadway

Miko Peled is an Israeli writer and activist living in San Diego. His book, The General’s Son: Journey of an Israeli in Palestine, follows the development of the Israeli Palestinian struggle from a national and personal perspective. Pulitzer Price winner Alice Walker described the book as "one of the most hopeful" on the issue.

Peled was born in Jerusalem in 1961. His grandfather, Dr. Avraham Katsnelson, was a Zionist leader and signer of the Israeli Declaration of Independence. His father, Matti Peled, was a young officer in the war of 1948 and a general in the war of 1967 when Israel conquered the West Bank, Gaza, Golan Heights and the Sinai who later called for an end to Israel's occupation of Palestinian territory.

In 1997, the death of Peled's beloved niece Smadar in a suicide bombing propelled Peled onto a journey of discovery. It pushed him to re-examine beliefs he had grown up with as part of the Zionist political-military elite. The journey transformed him into a courageous and visionary activist in the struggle for human rights and a hopeful, lasting peace between Israelis and Palestinians.

Sponsors: Students United for Palestinian Equal Rights (SUPER), Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights (AUPHR), Middle East Studies Center at Portland State University, Jewish Voice for Peace - Portland Chapter, Friends of Sabeel North America, National Lawyers Guild - Portland Chapter, Oregon Physicians for Social Responsibility, Lutherans for Justice in the Holy Land -- A Ministry of Central Lutheran Church, Portland

Postal hunger strike over, victory declared

Communities and Postal Workers United
www.cpwunited.com

Immediate Release
contact: Jamie Partridge 503-752-5112
12/22/2012
Postal hunger strike over, victory declared

Completing the sixth day of their hunger strike to save six day delivery, five postal workers broke their fast and declared a “people’s victory”. “Along with hundreds of thousands of postal workers and our community allies who have been battling for years to save America’s postal service, we were able raise awareness and increase pressure on the decision-makers as they attempted to wrangle back-room deals,” said hunger striker Jamie Partridge, a retired letter carrier from Portland, Oregon. The strikers established an “emergency” encampment on the National Mall Monday, demanding that Congress and the President halt closures and cuts to the U.S. Postal Service.

“The lame duck is still threatening to cripple the postal eagle,” declared Partridge, acknowledging that Congress will reconvene after the Christmas holiday. Six day mail delivery is on the chopping block, according to Representative Darrell Issa, Senator Joe Lieberman and Senator Tom Carper who are engaged in secret postal reform negotiations. One of the hunger strikers, John Dennie, a retired mail handler from New York, was arrested in Issa’s office Thursday for refusing to leave until the Congressman pledged to save six day mail delivery.

Friday afternoon, the postal hunger strikers paraded with a horse and carriage from the Postal Museum, up Pennsylvania Avenue to the White House to celebrate the 237 year history of the postal service and 150 years of Saturday delivery (city free delivery was established 1863). They attempted to deliver a giant postcard calling on Obama to use his veto power to save six day mail delivery. President Obama has twice allowed for cutting to five day delivery in budget proposals. “We helped elect Obama and he owes us,” said Ken Lerch, a local letter carriers union president.

Cutting mail delivery to five days will eliminate 80,000 postal jobs, according to postal unions. The hunger strikers claim the cuts would gut service and send the postal service into a death spiral. “We will not stand by as our beloved postal service is destroyed,” said Tom Dodge, hunger striker, postal worker from Baltimore, and a coordinator of Communities and Postal Workers United (CPWU).

Last June, ten CPWU activists staged a hunger strike declaring that Congress was starving the postal service. The activists claim that a 2006 Congressional mandate, which forces the USPS to prefund retiree health benefits 75 years in advance, is bankrupting the service. Not only would the postal service have been profitable without the mandate, say the strikers, the USPS has also overpaid tens of billions into two pension funds.

“Not the internet, not private competition, not labor costs, not the recession – Congress is responsible for the postal mess” said Kevin Cole, a return hunger striker and postal maintenance worker from California. “Corporate interests, working through their friends in Congress and the Presidency, want to undermine the USPS, bust the unions then privatize it.”

Postmaster General Patrick Donahoe announced in mid-May that he would close half the mail sorting plants in the country and cut hours from 25 – 75% in half the nation’s post offices, over a two year period. Thirteen thousand jobs have already been eliminated and delivery standards relaxed. “Extensive disruption has resulted from these plant closures,” said Dennie. The hunger strikers delivered evidence Friday morning to the Postal Board of Governors documenting the PMG’s criminal delay and obstruction of the mail and calling for his prosecution. The strikers are calling on postal management to suspend cuts and closures and allow Congress to fix the finances by repealing the prefunding mandate and refunding the pension surplus.

December 21, 2012

Holiday Greetings from Leonard Peltier‏

Greeting My friends and Family

I write this to you with mixed feelings today. I cannot stop thinking of the events at the Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Connecticut. If I had the power to change only one event of this past year, to assure that only one thing could be taken back, I would erase the events of that day and see each of those beautiful children come home to their families as if it had never happened. But I cannot change those things and can only live with the knowledge that such things do happen in this world. And I cannot help but be reminded by the violent deaths of those children, of the murders of my own people, children included, on the winterbanks of Wounded Knee Creek, Sand Creek and on the Washita and so many other places. Violence against children or women can never be acceptable to any society.....but it is part of history now and must not be forgotten. We have to work toward a more humane and compassionate society.

My wish list is long and I will not bore you with all of it but I will ask you to add your prayers to mine so that the Oglala people and others who are working so hard to stop the XL Pipeline and protect our Mother Earth will be strong and will feel the much needed support of more and more others going forward. Anyone who looks at the pictures, the evidence, will know at a glance that this is a careless and reckless destruction of our precious natural world. We are the only ones who can say the words out loud. The four legged and the winged beings and the fish that swim are powerless to protect themselves. The very life's blood of our being, the water itself is being poisoned as we speak. We have the technology to change our way of fueling our cars and heating our homes. But it is greed and the thirst for money that keeps us from using this technology. We have to do better. Life itself is at stake for the coming generations.

And I wish for an end to all wars and that we will find a way to move toward a more fair society that allows all people to work and provide for their families. That is the least we can do.

And let me close by asking you to understand my need to express the thoughts and feelings above and get back to the much more positive reason for writing this letter.

I want to wish each of you the warmest of Holiday Greetings and pray that you will have the Happiest and Healthiest of New Years.

I am grateful to all those who came together to drum and sing and play and speak for me in New York City. I have heard that it was a wonderful evening of love and music and that the audience was both multi-cultural and ranged in age from 8 years old to two women from Massachusetts in their 90's. And of course I say Thank You to the ageless Pete Seeger and Harry Belafonte who stayed with this idea and finally made it become reality. And a personal Thank You to all who were there for me. The names are too many to list and I am afraid I might forget someone so I will just offer my thanks for all you.

I am deeply grateful to you and will not forget what you have done for me.

You have given me hope again. It has been twelve years since I have allowed myself to have hope. I like the way it feels, but there is a very long way to fall if it turns out to be unfulfilled hope. I have been here before and the very thought of it is frightening, but I know I have to envision myself walking through the steel doors. I know that is my part of this and I am doing that now.

I am willing and prepared to take that risk and hope that this will be the year that I will get to know freedom again and will get to embrace my family and friends again.

Thank You to all of you who have not forgotten me. Doksha !

Leonard Peltier

Contact:

LPDOC - PO Box 7488 - Fargo, ND 58106
(701) 235-2206 (Phone); (701) 235-5045 (Fax)

December 19, 2012

Victory for animals in Wash. State

This message is from Action for Animals who started the petition "Snohomish County (Wash. State) Council Members: Pass Ordinance No. 12-106 to ban the slaughter of horses."

Thank you so much to everyone who helped to encourage the Snohomish County Council to vote for a ban on horse slaughter.

This morning I had the privilege of attending the hearing, and the council members unanimously voted in favor of the ban on horse slaughter, which will prevent a horse slaughterhouse in the county from reopening. It was truly wonderful to see this ban pass and to see the concern that people had for horses, and I want to now encourage everyone to consider all of the animals who are slaughtered.

When we talk about protecting animals, we often are talking about horses, cats, dogs--animals who we allow to live at our homes and who we have the chance to know and love as individuals--but there are many other animals whose suffering and welfare also deserve consideration.

Whether an animal is a horse or a pig or a cow or a chicken, he or she can experience pain and fear, and a slaughterhouse is a nightmare in which animals see and hear their companions die, where animals are often skinned alive, and where there's no such thing as a humane death. All of these animals deserve better than this. When given the chance, they will play, show love, take care of their babies, bathe in the sun...and they deserve that chance. I implore everyone to use this ban on horse slaughter to challenge our general acceptance of animal slaughter and to realize that if we got to know and love pigs as we do dogs and cows as we do horses, we wouldn't support the slaughter of any animals.

If you're not already, I encourage you to consider becoming vegan, which is a powerful statement of compassion for all of the animals who do not deserve to be slaughtered. You can request a free vegan starter pack -- filled with information, tips, and recipes -- from Action for Animals at www.veganstarterpack.com
 
And to everyone, please remember to always speak out about animal issues. This ban happened because concerned citizens showed a council member how important and urgent the issue of horse slaughter was in the community. We can all inspire actions that will change the world for animals.

Best,
Amanda Schemkes
Vice President
Action for Animals 

WalMart actions in the news



 WalMart actions in the news

WalMart workers strike on Black Friday
1,000 actions supporting Walmart workers and their fight for dignity were held across the United States.

Garment workers killed in Bangladesh sweatshop
112 garment workers in Bangladesh were killed in a factory fire as they worked overtime for U.S. clothing labels and retailers, including Walmart. 


Activists attempt to 'Block the Boat' from WalMart fire in Bangladesh
About sixty activists gathered Monday outside the Port of Newark to protest the arrival of a ship they said carried Walmart goods from Bangladesh. 



Take action:

Solidarity with Bangladeshi garment workers this Saturday, December 22

On Nov. 24, 2012 one hundred and twelve, mostly women, garment workers were killed in Bangladesh sewing garments for WalMart and other US retailers. Like the one hundred and forty-six killed in the Triangle Shirtwaist fire in 1911 in New York City, they died because fire exits and stairwells were chained shut and they couldn’t get out of the burning building.
Both tragedies were caused by corporate greed and illegal working conditions. The Triangle tragedy and the protest that followed resulted in important reforms to protect workers from greedy companies in the US.


Now we need to act and support efforts to hold Walmart responsible for the deaths of the workers in Bangladesh. Walmart played a leading role in blocking efforts to increase safety regulations in Bangladesh.


Please join Interfaith Worker Justice and the Making Change at Walmart coalition for a national day of action to support the workers in Bangladesh and call for Walmart to be held accountable.

and Sign the petition

December 16, 2012

Democrats in Oregon support assault weapons ban

Republicans, how about it?

The Oregonian newspaper reported this today:

While Oregon legislators were in special session Friday, members of a gun-control group circulated through the Capitol and gained 12 co-sponsors for a bill that would ban semi-automatic rifles classified as assault weapons.

All 12 lawmakers are Democrats and all but one -- Rep. Peter Buckley of Ashland -- are from Portland or its inner suburbs.  Ceasefire Oregon began planning for the effort following the Clackamas Town Center shootings, but a press release from the group sent out late Friday said, "All of our work today was conducted under a shadow of shock and profound sorrow as news of the Newtown massacre began to filter in to the legislative offices"

The group said it wants to "ban the sale of military-style assault weapons—weapons whose only purpose is to kill as many people as possible very quickly."  Seven states currently have such laws on the books and a federal law existed from 1994 until Congress allowed it to expire in 2004.

Gun rights groups maintain that assault weapons bans chiefly judge guns based on cosmetic grounds and aren't successful in reducing violence.

Ceasefire Oregon said that Sen. Rod Monroe of Portland and Rep.-elect Jeff Reardon of Portland, both of whom represent districts that cover Clackamas Town Center, were the first to sign on.

The others are: Sens. Ginny Burdick of Portland, Jackie Dingfelder of Portland, Mark Hass of Beaverton, Chip Shields of Portland, and Elizabeth Steiner Hayward of Portland; and Reps. Buckley, Lew Frederick of Portland, Mitch Greenlick of Portland, Tobias Read of Beaverton and Carolyn Tomei of Milwaukie.

--Jeff Mapes

December 14, 2012

Republicans: when will the murders end?

As many others, I am sickened about and in mourning regarding the Connecticut school shooting.  Why are the mass murder shooters so often white males?  How can the Republicans continue to stonewall gun control in the face of these horrible tragedies?  How can anyone be a Republican when it is this party that blocks gun control efforts in the US?  Why don't we protect our children? I am ashamed that in the US, guns are so easy to obtain.

The following is a note from a new teacher in the California public school system:

An intense day at Berkeley High. Such a heart-breaking national tragedy, and it has made me even more certain of having chosen public school teaching as part of my life's work. Grateful to get to spend my days with groups of such beautiful, empathetic, capable, brave and thoughtful young people whose ability to emotionally show up and intellectually break it down is continually beyond inspiring. For me, as an individual, having this "job" simultaneously challenges and nourishes all the parts of myself and my life that I most care about: spirituality, politics, issues of justice, personal growth, sharing of knowledge, curiosity, creativity, transformation, real community, connectedness, intellectualism and love. I feel so incredibly fucking grateful and fortunate.

Today, students' sadness and anger about what happened was palpable, with many of us crying together as students shared all their feelings about the horror of what those families must be feeling. They talked about having kids of their own someday and how scary it would be to love a child so much, the thought of losing them already unimaginable, of little sisters they wanted to run home to and hug, everyone feeling safe enough to openly weep. Also included in our conversation today was their anger and sadness that the reality is that their little cousins, brothers, neighbors, friends and friends' children are regularly murdered violently here in the East Bay, essentially by a pervasive American racism, and thinking internationally, how tens of thousands of people (many of them children) in the Congo have been slaughtered just since Thanksgiving. And yet those deaths, those tragedies do not even remotely inspire such outpouring as for the town of Newtown, Connecticut (which is over 95% white). We talked about the systems of isolation and oppression, the way the media controls us, but ultimately how—each of us—needs to find ways to be in the world that actively create love and beauty, that change damaging systems, and that nourish us in the deepest and most essential ways.

Stop Expansion of Off-Road Vehicle Use at Oregon Dunes

A proposed revision to the 1994 Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area management plan may open additional areas of the dunes to off-road vehicle use.

This would appear to be "mitigation" on behalf of off-roaders for the closure of unauthorized and illegal OHV routes through areas which had been designated for non-motorized use.

Please take a moment to contact Sens. Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, Congressman Peter DeFazio, and Siuslaw National Forest Supervisor Jerry Ingersoll and let them know you are against expanding off-road vehicle areas at Oregon Dunes National Recreation Area.

Sign letter of concern here.

Nike sweetheart tax bill, petition to stop

While the CEOs of Nike make millions a year, and the working class toils for low wages in Nike factories, Oregon is considering the continuation of large tax benefits for Nike.

What follows below is an excerpt from an email from Working Families Party, Oregon; after that is a statement from SEIU 503.

From WFP:

In just one day we have already gathered over 1,000 signatures from literally every corner of the state for our petition opposing the sweetheart tax deal for Nike.  Will you help us get to 1,500?  If we reach our goal in the next 2 hours we will deliver this petition to all the WFP cross-nominated elected officials in the state, letting them know how important this issue is. 

Please sign and share this petition.  Let's keep up the pressure and tell our legislators to put on the brakes on the Nike tax deal. 

In case you needed more reasons to be concerned about the Nike deal that the legislature is considering in a hastily called special session today, consider these clippings from today's Oregonian:
 
Slippery slope
As one could readily predict, now Intel is upset they were left out of the Nike deal. [1]  Also, others in the legislature are trying to expand this program to cover even more businesses. [2]

Secrecy of the deal

The Oregonian reports that only a few legislators knew the details of the Nike plan in advance, and those that did were required to sign a six-page non-disclosure agreement. [3]

Protest growing

This is one of those moments that crystalizes a bigger problem--and people are saying enough! As Susan Barrett, a founder of Oregon Save Our Schools was quoted as saying at a protest rally last night, "It's bad process trying to lock in bad policy." [4]
Again, if we reach our goal of 1500 signatures by noon, we will send this petition to every WFP elected official in the state.  Please sign and share this petition with your friends:
http://signon.org/sign/no-sweetheart-tax-deal

From SEIU:
 SEIU Local 503 provided testimony yesterday expressing our deep concern regarding the legislation around Nike's expansion. The bill would grant the Governor the power to enter into a contract with a corporation to freeze the method (but not the rate) of taxation on the corporation if they substantially increase the size of their Oregon business.

We are very concerned because the process to consider this legislation is absolutely horrible. The four-day process from the release of the bill to the time the legislature is supposed to pass it is outrageous. Further, there are way too many loopholes in the bill. It would be highly suspect to pass a very narrow one-time bill to deal with a one-time situation, but this bill creates sweeping authority for the Governor to enter into long-term agreements on projects that may or may not create permanent living wage jobs with benefits.

Our allies in the legislature are pretty upset. Nike, the Governor, the AFL-CIO, and the building trades have lined up in favor of the legislation on the grounds that Nike's proposed expansion would create a tremendous number of construction jobs. Unemployment among union construction workers remains over 30% in many trades, so they are desperate.

The special session called by the Governor will be presided over by the lame duck legislature -- not the legislature elected in November, so our allies' power is somewhat limited. Our allies feel very boxed in. They want to create jobs and have empathy with unemployed construction workers. But many share our concerns with the content, and the concern about the process is pretty universal. But they feel like if they vote against this bill because of all the problems, they will be tarred as anti-jobs and anti-business. They are striving to improve the bill (read full text here), but many feel strongly that they have been put in a no-win situation. Some feel we need jobs so badly, they will support it. Other legislators want to cater to big business. Still others will feel like they have no good choice.

Some version of this bill is very likely to pass Friday, but our union is on record supporting job creation while attacking this terrible piece of legislation.

 

December 13, 2012

"Fiscal Cliff" Is Like "Austerity Chicken"


By USMAN KHAN YUSUFZAI
As we head into the New Year, Washington is buzzing about the impending “fiscal cliff.” The topic was debated at length between both parties of the ruling class, the Democrats and the Republicans; and for all the wailing and doom-saying during and after the November election, one would think that we are approaching an unavoidable disaster for the American people on the scale of the financial crisis of 2008, or Hurricane Sandy.
The “fiscal cliff” has its origins in the budget-ceiling debacle in 2011. In order to fund the expansion of the security state, the extension of the Bush tax cuts, and the continuation of imperialist wars overseas, President Obama requested an increase in the debt ceiling, allowing the U.S. Treasury to issue more bonds and thus finance government spending in excess of revenue from taxes.
This is ordinary practice; the debt limit has been raised 74 times since March 1962.
In 2011, however, Republicans in the House and Senate refused to authorize a debt-ceiling increase that did not include massive cuts to education, jobs, and other programs that ordinary people rely on. In grand Washington tradition, the solution was the formation of a committee.
The crisis was “resolved” through the passing of the Budget Control Act of 2011, which allowed for a rise in the debt ceiling, but also required that a committee be formed, the Joint Select Committee on the Budget, tasked with eliminating $1.2 trillion dollars from the federal budget. This committee was staffed with legislators from both major parties, and in order to get them to comply, a further provision was included in the bill—if the committee failed to agree on the necessary cuts, what is known as “sequestration” would occur.
This entails automatic cuts to the tune of $500 billion each over 10 years from defense spending and non-defense discretionary spending. (Non-defense discretionary spending is the money, outside of military expenditures, that the government spends from year to year. Included in this is the vast majority of education and other government services, like Head Start, housing assistance, Pell grants, national science research, and the federal highway system).
Of course, the committee did not agree on a single dollar of cuts, and so sequestration, the “fiscal cliff,” is set to go into effect on Jan. 1, 2013.
The most important thing to remember is that this crisis is entirely manufactured. The legislation has no binding effect on future Congresses; the new legislature elected into office in November can simply decide not to enforce sequestration and the problem will be solved. The cuts themselves will do little to assuage the growth of federal debt; non-defense discretionary spending (both parties have insisted that they will resist defense cuts by any means necessary) consists of only 19% of the federal budget and the cuts would have the effect of merely slowing down the growth rate of debt, rather than any meaningful debt reduction.
The greatest driver of debt growth in the United States, besides the ever-expanding military machine, is a health-care system designed to safeguard the profits of the insurance industry. According to the Congressional Budget Office, by 2016, federal spending on health care will outpace discretionary spending in absolute terms.
The quickest solution to the debt crisis, then, would be the immediate institution of a nationalized health-care system that provides for all based on need, rather than a predatory system that siphons off funds from the people and the public treasury to post mind-boggling profits. Instead, the most likely outcome will be a “compromise” in the Obama tradition—token tax increases along with deep cuts to social programs. It would be another step toward European-style austerity, in which the working masses of the world have to own up to the “shared responsibility” of recovering from a crisis imposed on them by the predatory capitalist system.

Rally & People's Budget Assembly! Salem, Ore., 12/14/12

Nike tax break sparks strong reaction
Emergency press conference and rally Friday in Salem
 
The press conference takes place before the legislative session starts at 9:00am. The rally starts at noon.

People's Press Conference
Friday December 14
8:30 am
 
Rally/People's Budget Assembly
Friday December 14
12:00 - Noon
Oregon State Capitol
900 Court Street NE, Salem, Oregon
 
SALEM, OREGON  December 13, 2012—A coalition of labor unions, schools advocates and community organizations will hold a press conference and rally this Friday in response to Governor Kitzhaber’s push for continued Nike tax breaks.  Kitzhaber called for an emergency session to pass legislation that would freeze Nike’s taxes for a period of 5 to 40 years. The governor also asserted that this legislation could translate into tax exemptions for other large corporations.
 
Nike lobbyists were instrumental in getting the Oregon legislature to adopt “single-sales factor” as the formula for calculating their tax obligation.  This formula has already allowed Nike to escape paying millions each year in taxes on its profits.  As noted by Oregon Coalition for Public Policy, Nike likely reduced its tax obligation by over 90 percent when Oregon moved to single-sales factor apportionment.  Nike wants the State of Oregon to guarantee this break for as long as forty years and says it would create 500 to 12,000 jobs.
 
Coalition members oppose this legislation because less revenue into Oregon means major losses for the people of our state. There will be cuts to public services and to jobs for teachers, for infrastructure jobs, libraries, transportation and more. “Why are we giving a multi-billion dollar company a forty year tax break?” says Nicholas Caleb, an attorney who helped organize the rally.  “We have schools closing all around us, libraries cutting their hours, teachers losing their jobs and families in poverty in need of food and healthcare.”  The coalition questions the need for a rushed emergency session and Nike’s promised job creation. “What happens if Nike does not come through with those 500-12,000 jobs?” asks Caleb.

December 12, 2012

David Ravelo And The Fight For Columbia



By W. T. Whitney Jr.

Argentinean political analyst Néstor Nestor Kohan recently opined on the prospect for peace with social justice in Colombia. The war, he said, “began in 1948 with the assassination of Jorge Eliécer Gaitán...although there were earlier killings and genocide against the people...In that war, the popular camp in its different expressions (civilian and political – military)...confronts the dominant native and foreign classes. The official armed forces, the bloodiest and most bellicose of Our America, are led directly by the Pentagon and the U.S. Southern Command.”
On the unlikely chance it’s possible for one person to stand as proxy for the great masses of suffering Colombian people engaged in epic struggle, that would be political prisoner David Ravelo. Of working class origins, Ravelo always lived and worked in gritty, oil-producing Barrancabermeja. The city and resources-rich rural areas around it have long been prey to paramilitary ravages, which Ravelo contested.
David Ravelo’s labors were recognized in 2008 with an award from the Barrancabermeja Catholic Diocese for defending human rights. Yet he’s been in jail since September 14, 2010, and on November 29, he learned he’d been convicted of involvement in a murder. He is sentenced to 18 years in prison.
A nine-person delegation of North Americans concerned about terrible war in Colombia and the U.S. government’s enabling role was in Bogota as the news of Ravelo’s conviction became public. With an eye toward international solidarity, delegation members are intent upon helping build a worldwide campaign for Ravelo’s liberation.
Lawyer Diego Martinez of the Permanent Committee on Human Rights, the group hosting the delegation, accompanied two delegation members on a prison visit on November 29. They observed that when Ravelo learned of his conviction from Martinez, he showed no reaction. Instead he continued reviewing details of his case.

Two jailed paramilitaries testified that Ravelo helped murder Barrancabermeja mayoral candidate David Nuñez Cala in 1991. Their role in the trial earned them sentence reductions as per Colombia’s 2005 Law of Justice and Peace, one of them trading a forty year sentence for eight years.  The judge refused to allow 30 defense witnesses to testify, Ravelo said, adding that she lacks tenure and is thinking of ways her contract might be renewed.

David Ravelo takes hope from very new information: it seems prosecutor William Pacheco Granados in 1991 arranged for the forced disappearance of a youth named Guillermo Hurtado Parra. Consequently Pacheco lost his police lieutenant’s post in Armenia, Quindío.  Under Colombian law, the offense ought to have disqualified him from serving as prosecutor. 
Ravelo also talked about a previous frame-up. In 1993, in the midst of murderous repression of the leftist Patriotic Union (UP) electoral coalition, Ravelo went to jail for two years. In the end authorities had to acknowledge that the FARC group photo with Ravelo off to the side was a fake.
Why then is Ravelo in trouble? His long, highly visible personal battle for human rights, much admired, likely worked to label him as a leftist and regime opponent.  While moving from library aide to economics professor at the local “Cooperative University,” Ravelo had been a student and labor union activist, a journalist who fought privatization of state companies, and an office holder in municipal and departmental governments. David Ravelo led the Municipal Peace Council of Barrancabermeja, the CREDHOES human rights organization, the Social Forum of Barrancabermeja, the Workers’ Space for Human Rights, and the regional section of MOVICE, the National Movement for Victims of State Crimes.  
Additionally, those in charge must view with alarm his 38 – year membership in the Colombian Communist Party (PCC). Since 1991, Ravelo has been a member of the Party’s Central Committee. Although high government officials on occasion do communicate with PCC leaders and the Party is represented in the Colombian Congress, “red-scare” remains a staple of mainstream media portrayal of the Marxist - oriented Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) and has been central to right-wing rhetoric calling for military crackdown and reliance on paramilitaries.  
Perhaps David Ravelo’s real offense was to work for basic change, engage dominant forces, and defend victims. In the late 1980’s and since, fellow UP officeholders and candidates were being killed, as were many Barrancabermeja residents. By 2000 or so, paramilitaries had taken over there and in the surrounding countryside. Groups he was responsible for were indeed defending human rights: the right to survive, the right to be free of criminal violence. Ravelo provoked high-level animosity in 2007 by disseminating a video showing ex - President Uribe socializing with Barrancabermeja paramilitaries.
Judicial persecution of Ravelo has coincided with repression of the new Patriotic March resistance movement, a melding of some 2000 political and social groups launched with the help of the PCC in April 2012. Increasingly, members are being arrested, detained, and, a few, murdered or “disappeared.”  Observers and participants worry about parallels with the UP experience, especially those veteran activists like Ravelo who identify themselves as “survivors of the Patriotic Union genocide.”
In Barrancabermeja, Ravelo’s wife Francia Elena Durán Ortega told delegation members, “He was dedicated to life, was there for everybody.” In tears, daughter Leydi Tatiana Rabelo Gutíerrez described him as “a model father... loyal and dedicated to the struggle for human rights. I have never seen him sad.”  David Ravelo Gutiérrez, who accompanied the delegation, described his father as “a political leader who defended poor people... In 1998-1999 paramilitaries wanted to take over the place. Everyone else was afraid [to show the video] but his father showed it.”
Back in Bogota at the PCC headquarters, Juan Camilo Acevedo of the PCC National Commission on Political Prisoners outlined the role of prisons as tools for criminalizing peaceful protest. They are centers of torture, he stated, and are overcrowded and filthy. Drinkable water and live-saving medical care are often in short supply. Colombia’s prison population, which includes 10,000 political prisoners, has risen 30 percent during President Juan Manuel Santos’ tenure. The U.S. government funded and designed many Colombian prisons.
And not just prisons: As explained by MOVICE lawyer Franklin Castañeda, U. S. money which under its Plan Colombia goes to the Colombian Army and national police, ends up, some of it, in paramilitary hands. Overall, he explained, U. S. Plan Colombia “changed the logic of the situation,” making it “more barbaric.” 
Communist Party Secretary General Jaime Caycedo Turriago told delegation members that the US Southern Command is directing the war on the insurgency and that Colombia’s upper classes are allied to the United States. The Colombian government is quite insecure, he explained. It must cope with gross inequalities in Colombia while democracy spreads in Latin America. And at the current government – FARC peace talks in Havana, the government is challenged by having to end war and at the same time advance democracy and agrarian reform. Insecurity, he suggested, is now driving extreme measures.
Ravelo’s fight for liberation, a tiny part of over-arching struggle over resources and social justice, plays out on a world stage.  Says Jaime Caycedo, “We recognize deepening social clashes everywhere... [T]he world capitalist crisis has bred widespread discontent and will be worsening. Democratic forces must stand up against interventionists.”
David Ravelo, meanwhile, is optimistic. Speaking to Bucaramanga’s Liberal Vanguard newspaper soon after learning of his conviction and sentence, he pointed out that, “[T]here are costs a defender of human rights must pay. I’m not going to be discouraged now…I am going to summon up energy to demonstrate my innocence and show this is all a montage.”
To join the campaign to free David Ravelo contact organizers of the delegation at freedavidravelo@gmail.com or go to www.justiceforcolombia.org. For more information about Ravelo’s case, go to www.pacocol.org and/or www.davidravelolibre.org. For information on Colombian political prisoners, see www.afgj.org, www.traspasolosmuro.net, and/or www.inspp.org

December 11, 2012

Milwaukee, OR: Finding Peace with Justice in Palestine/Israel

Peter Miller speaks on Sunday, Dec. 23 - 11:45 a.m.

Kairos-Milwaukie UCC Church - 4790 SE Logus Road, Milwaukie, OR

Peter Miller is President of Americans United for Palestinian Human Rights. He is currently a co-chair of the US Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation, a national coalition of nearly 350 organizations nationwide. In 2011 he spoke as a representative of global civil society to the United Nations General Assembly at the yearly International Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian people. He has traveled to Israel and Palestine, met with Palestinian and Israeli human rights activists, and witnessed first hand the closures, checkpoints, settlements, and the building of Israel's new system of walls and fences on Palestinian lands. He is a native Oregonian and received a BA in Psychology from Reed College in 1982. He is a retired software engineer. Peter will explore the justice issues contained in the Israel-Palestine conflict toward an understanding of what is needed for peace.

The Power of Example -- a conversation with labor leader Joe Burns

From the interview:

In the past few months, we seem to have seen an upsurge in successful strikes. What is the significance of this?

Clearly we've seen a change in the past couple of months in terms of strike activity increasing. In labor history, workers tend to strike in waves, because the power of example leads other workers to strike. First, with public employees and teachers, the Chicago Teachers Union went on strike. They had overall a very successful outcome. So other teachers unions have decided to strike. Second, you've seen other places where workers are striking to defend themselves, with very aggressive employers demanding concessions. In California, the ILWU is using a strike to defend decades of gains made by workers. The third thing -- and this is a real shift -- is the use of the strike as an organizing tool. That's a big change over what has been happening over the past couple of decades. Fast food and Walmart workers are using the strike as both a tool
of organizing and demanding improvements from employers.

In the past new union organizing has been seen as slowly building on one-on-one discussions, and this is really different because if you look at the history, when we've made real gains it's been when we've shifted to a strike-based model.

How do you think the wave can be expanded?

It's going to have to be expanded, but it's going to be difficult because the rules of the game are so tilted in favor of employers. Employers have a lot of advantages under the system of labor law. What organizers will run up against is that we're going to
have to directly confront what I call the system of labor control -- the set of labor laws that have been put into place to make it difficult to win strikes. For now organizers have been embracing this tactic, so we'll see where it takes us.

To take a historical example: In the 1960s, millions of public workers joined trade unions, and they did it through strikes. Starting with the New York teachers, we saw this incredible strike wave, and that's really how public workers won their unions. This was the power of example, unions refusing to obey unjust labor laws, and it was a grassroots rebellion. And, as I discuss in Reviving the Strike, it was a very similar pattern in the 1930s.

Many of these recent strikes, especially with the fast food and Walmart workers, occurred among what many theorists of labor have labeled the "precariat" -- that is, people doing types of work that tend to have low job security and high turnover, and which are often part-time and subcontracted. For many years, unions avoided organizing these kinds of workers due to the difficulties of organizing such a disparate workforce.

Read the rest of the interview here.

Write To Bradley Manning

From the Free Bradley Manning Facebook page:

Thank you for supporting Bradley Manning! You can write to Bradley at the following address:

Commander, HHC USAG
Attn: PFC Bradley Manning
239 Sheridan Ave, Bldg 417
JBM-HH, VA 22211

Bradley is currently eligible to receive mail from anyone who wishes to write to him. Bradley does receive a good amount of mail from supporters; however, he usually only replies to family and longtime friends.

There are restrictions on what you can send. The military will reject any mail that violates postal regulations or contains obscenity, blackmail, contraband or threats. Additionally:

a) PFC Bradley Manning cannot receive any cash, checks, or money orders. His legal team is responsible for ensuring that Bradley has sufficient funds in his detainee account to purchase items such as stamps, envelopes, toothpaste, etc.

b) Photographs are only accepted if printed on copy paper. A maximum of six (6) pages are allowed. Pictures on photograph weight paper are not allowed.

c) Incoming mail will be returned to the sender if, in the opinion of the confinement facility, falls into any of the following categories: 1) Contains inflammatory material or advocates escape, violence, disorder or assault; 2) Directly or indirectly threatens the security, safety or order of the facility; 3) Contains coded or otherwise undecipherable language that prevents adequate review of the material; 4) Is received with “Postage Due”; or 5) Contains items of contraband (including anything of any material value, including postage stamps or cigarettes).

Additional notes:

JBM is short for Joint Base Myer. HH is short for Henderson Hall–the unit that provides support services for JBM. Bradley has been officially “attached” to this support unit pending court martial. The commander of the unit is responsible forwarding Bradley’s mail appropriately, either to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, or to the DC area confinement facility where he is held during Fort Meade court proceedings. The actual location of Bradley’s DC area confinement remains classified, but members of Bradley’s legal team regularly visit him at this facility. They continue to report that Bradley has no complaints regarding his treatment at this location. As this facility is geographically close to Quantico, Virgina, where Bradley was subjected to torture-like conditions for ten months, this remains a concern of ours.

No more wolf killing in Oregon

From Oregon Wild:

Stop Anti-Wildlife Legislation in 2013 

With its wolf killing program on hold in 2012, Oregon has shown that killing wolves isn't necessary. 

Neighboring states have shown that killing wolves only creates conflict. Though wolf recovery has gotten back on track in Oregon it remains tenuous. 

Most Oregonians value native wildlife, however year after year a small group of special interests have pushed the state to kill endangered wildlife at taxpayer expense and continue to propose legislation that makes it easier to kill wolves. 

Oregon is facing serious challenges. Not being able to kill endangered species isn't one of them. 

Use the form HERE to tell Governor Kitzhaber to stand up for public values and stop anti-wildlife legsislation in 2013.

Foreclosures - Action Alert, New Poster

Message from We are Oregon: 


The foreclosure crisis is complicated and confusing. Sometimes it feels too big to wrap our heads around. That's why we jumped at the chance to partner with the Dill Pickle Club and comic artist Jesse Reklaw to bring foreclosure fighters another resource.

This Saturday we are excited to unveil "Don't Move Out! Foreclosure Resistance in Portland" a fold-out comic poster featuring the stories of three homeowners who are currently resisting foreclosure and eviction.

The poster sheds light on the housing crisis and how families are fighting back by staying in their home and resisting eviction with the help of their community.

On Saturday, December 15th, we will release thousands of the full-color oversized posters 40" x 26" which will be distributed for free to property owners facing evictions, as well as made available in libraries, small businesses and community gathering places.

The poster, which unfolds in a map-style layout, is intricately illustrated by comic artist Jesse Reklaw, and is translated in Spanish on the back. The poster will be available online as a pdf on Dill Pickle Club's website after December 15th. Check our Facebook page for a link.

The piece is funded by a grant from Sappi Fine Paper's Ideas That Matter grant program.
The release event will be held at the home of Alicia Jackson in NE Portland. Jackson, who is featured in the poster, moved back into her home with community support on May 1st of this year, and remains in her home resisting her foreclosure. The event will feature a short program, with talks by the artist, people who are resisting foreclosure and partnering organizations.
Voodoo Donuts and Courier Coffee will provide refreshments.

Join us on Saturday, December 15th, from 1-3pm 523 NE Bryant St., the home of Alicia Jackson.

In Solidarity,
Angela MacWhinnie
We Are Oregon
www.facebook.com/weareoregon
www.twitter.com/weareoregon

December 10, 2012

United for Peace & Justice Action Alert

We faced a crucial moment after the elections four years ago and the antiwar movement lost its step. This time, there must be no pause in the push for peace and justice. At UFPJ we have launched our campaign for Jobs Not Wars and now we face a huge task to keep the imperative to “cut military spending and bring all the troops home now” central to the national debates over the budget. Your support at this moment of opportunity will help ensure that we do not lose momentum in our struggle for peace and justice.
 
There is a mighty struggle being waged over conduct of the war in Afghanistan.  War hawks in the Pentagon are threatening to renege on the commitment to end combat operations in 2014 and keep counter-terrorism forces on the ground on an almost permanent basis. At the same time, the Senate in an amendment to this year’s National Defense Authorization Act has called for accelerated withdrawal of our troops and a letter making similar demands is circulating in the House. We know the overwhelming majority of the American public wants the troops home as soon as possible and all of us in UFPJ must repeat that demand until we prevail!

Please donate as generously as you can to help UFPJ do this vital work. Our work to build opposition to the U.S. war machine must not halt. Bringing our troops home now, caring for them once they are here, and making drastic cuts to future military spending are vital to promoting an economy based on human needs. Your end-of-year support is vital to this work.

Thank you,


The UFPJ Steering Committee


Donations to United for Peace and Justice are tax exempt to the extent permitted by law. The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) is UFPJ's 501(c)3 fiscal sponsor.  If you would like to make a donation by check, please make it payable to "FOR" and write "UFPJ" in the memo line.  Mail to: P.O. Box 607, Times Square Station, New York, NY 10108.

Portland postal fightback media coverage

On local TV:

KPTV - FOX 12


 From the NW Labor Press:

As the Christmas mailing season picks up, postal customers at Portland’s Main Post Office downtown were  greeted Nov. 30 by holiday-themed balloons, streamers and signs decorating the front windows — “Save Santa’s Post Office!” “We Wish You 6-Day Delivery and a Happy New Year” and “Deck the Mails with More Mail Carriers.” Postal “elves” in Santa hats also were there agitating about irregular, late, and after dark delivery in the Portland area.

“Santa’s worried that the lame duck will cripple the postal eagle,” smiled Jamie Partridge, a retired member of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) Branch 82-turned elf. “Just when little Virginias all over the country are depending on the post office to prove there is a Santa, the lame-duck Congress is preparing to gut the service.”

Read the rest of the NW Labor Press article here: http://nwlaborpress.org/2012/12/nalc-6/

The Organizer: 1963 working class movie

The Organizer: Description of a Struggle

By J. Hoberman

An unverifiable, if heartfelt, assertion: For the quarter century between 1945 and 1970 (or from Rome Open City to Fellini Satyricon), the world’s greatest popular cinema was produced in Italy—a realm of glamorous superstars, sensational comedians, and great genre flicks. A half dozen maestros were backed by a remarkably deep bench, including writer-director Mario Monicelli (1915–2010), whose 1963 strike drama I compagni (The Comrades), released in the U.S. as The Organizer, is popular cinema in the best sense.

The son of a political journalist who moved from socialism to anarcho-syndicalism to fascism (briefly) to antifascism, and who also founded Italy’s first film journal, Monicelli is best known for his socially aware tragi­comedies. Still, his oeuvre is not easily synopsized. He directed some sixty films and wrote or cowrote more than seventy over the course of a career that began in 1935 with a precocious 16 mm feature based (like Frank Borzage’s No Greater Glory, 1934) on Ferenc Molnár’s novel The Paul Street Boys and ended seven decades later, when he was ninety-one, with The Roses of the Desert (2006), a comedy about an Italian medical unit sent to Libya in 1940.

Monicelli characterized his first studio features, made in the early fifties and mainly starring the great sad-faced clown Totó, as “neorealist farce”—shot on location and affectionately satirizing the struggles of the urban poor. (“The themes that make one laugh always stem from poverty, hunger, misery, old age, sickness, and death,” the director maintained. “These are the themes that make Italians laugh, anyway.”) With the genially caustic A Hero of Our Times (1955), featuring the young Alberto Sordi as a craven lower-middle-class schemer, and Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958), an enormous international hit, not least in the U.S., Monicelli pioneered what would be called commedia all’italiana—tales of hapless schemers, in Big Deal played against type by matinee idols Vittorio Gassman and Marcello Mastroianni.

However cowardly or amoral, Monicelli’s protagonists are essentially sympathetic in their ineptitude—and their privation. The Great War (1959), cowritten, like Big Deal, with the team of Age-Scarpelli (Agenore Incrocci and Furio Scarpelli), paired Sordi and Gassman as dim-witted crooks dragooned into the Italian Army during World War I. Not simply antimilitarist but antipatriotic, it shared the Golden Lion with Rossellini’s World War II drama Il generale della Rovere at the 1959 Venice Film Festival. The Passionate Thief (1960), with Anna Magnani as a would-be con artist, followed, along with a contribution to the anthology film Boccaccio ’70, a frothy yet piquant comedy about the oppression, sexual and otherwise, of two young factory workers.

Monicelli always had an ambivalent relationship with engaged cinema. One of his last works documented the protests around the 2001 G8 summit in Genoa; late in his life, he thanked Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi “for making me feel young again by joining in protests against him who has all the makings of a modern tyrant.” At the same time, his movies are characterized by a marked skepticism: “I always look at a group of people who want to attempt an enterprise greater than their means. They begin this enterprise, and they fail.” The bumbling burglars and botched heist of Big Deal on Madonna Street offer the purest example of such collective failure. The Organizer, a French-Italian coproduction made soon after Monicelli started his own production company, is a more complex dramatization of defeat.

Inspired, according to its director, by the revolutionary ghosts of Paris’s no longer extant Bastille and set in the slums of late-nineteenth-century Turin, The Organizer accepts what the influential Italian Marxist leader Antonio Gramsci saw as “the challenge of modernity,” namely, “to live without illusions and without becoming disillusioned.” Life is struggle, and to struggle against one’s lot is to flirt with futility. To that end, The Organizer is variously (and, for some, disconcertingly) jaunty, sentimental, comic, and baffling, as Monicelli applies the tonal shifts associated with the French New Wave to a straightforward saga of working-class solidarity. 

Stanley Kauffmann, who reviewed the movie for the New Republic when it opened in the U.S. in May 1964, found The Organizer “very interesting and very odd”—by which he meant anachronistic. Other critics who, like Kauffmann, had lived through the 1930s also saw The Organizer as a peculiar throwback to the socially significant movies of that period. “What prompted Mario Monicelli . . . to make this picture just now?” Kauffmann wondered. Hadn’t the struggle for workers’ rights long since been won?

Kauffmann was likely unaware of the convulsive autoworkers’ strike that had shaken Turin—and Fiat—in 1962, and yet his puzzlement is understandable. Notable for its period detail and Giuseppe Rotunno’s accomplished faux-daguerreotype cinema­tography, The Organizer is not so much a call to action as to recollection—both a historical monument and a taboo-breaking depiction of a specific moment. Monicelli meant to remind contemporary viewers that decent working conditions and wages were gained over time and at considerable cost. The Organizer, which had its Italian premiere at the 35th Congress of the Italian Socialist Party, is, above all, a movie about how difficult it is to organize collective action, set in a period when Italian unions barely existed.

Italy’s first capital after the Risorgimento ended in the 1870s, Turin was in the midst of rapid industrialization during the period of The Organizer, although the film unfolds some years before the growth of the industry that made the city Italy’s Detroit, and a quarter century in advance of the great strikes and occupations of 1920 that so influenced Gramsci. It’s a grim place. Workers rise at 5:30 a.m. to trudge from their overcrowded hovels or prisonlike apartment blocks toward the massive textile factory that squats at their world’s center. As in Metropolis (1927), men exist to serve their machines—the roaring, relentless signifiers of the brutal, fourteen-hour, dawn-to-dusk regime that chews up the workers, literally, in one case.

Populating his densely inhabited film with actual workers, Monicelli was attempting, three years before The Battle of Algiers (1966), to create a sort of neorealist period piece; using a strategy that would subse­quently be seen in Bonnie and Clyde (1967), The Organizer opens with a montage of historical photographs that skillfully segues into contemporary facsimiles. Throughout, Rotunno’s black-and-white cinematography makes evocative use of flat lighting and gray skies to accentuate the sense of soot and smoke. (Because little was left of nineteenth-century Turin, the movie was actually shot in the nearby Piedmontese cities of Cuneo, Fasano, and Savigliano, with the vast factory interior filmed in Zagreb, Yugoslavia.) 

“The past is the present, and the spectator feels as if the film had actually been made in 1895,” wrote Dwight Macdonald, another man of the thirties, who, as Esquire’s film critic, gave The Organizer its best U.S. notice. “The camera work has the bleak, grainy quality of photographs by Jacob Riis,” he noted, a comparison to the author of How the Other Half Lives that was also made by New York Times reviewer Bosley Crowther, who in turn also invoked the novels of Émile Zola (“It has the same feeling for the underprivileged”).

Gathering in the hospital where their maimed comrade has been taken, the largely illiterate workers spontaneously form a committee and plan a job action that proves to be an abject failure. Then, suddenly, half an hour into the movie, a most unlikely messiah hops off the freight train of history and raps at a window of the fetid basement where the workers doze through their evening literacy classes. Indelibly played by Marcello Mastroianni, Professor Giuseppe Sinigaglia is a Chaplinesque conspirator, a hobo in a battered hat and a greasy, threadbare cloak, a stooped fugitive on the run from the police in Milan. In a movie where neither Karl Marx nor any of Italy’s working-class heroes are ever mentioned, Mastroianni’s professor is a stunningly perverse embodi­ment of revolutionary hope.

At once shabby and genteel, timid and brash, idealistic and clumsy, practical and absentminded, this furtively scuttling, hopelessly myopic intellectual may be a professional agitatore, but—part holy fool, part wily picaro—he is hardly the positive hero of a Soviet proletarian drama. (For one thing, he’s no stoic—in one quintessential Monicelli moment, the famished fugitive greedily seizes a sandwich that a worker has left behind and then hands it back, abashed, when the man returns to retrieve it.) And though he has apparently betrayed his class—and also, it would seem, abandoned his family—the proles are not always appreciative of his sacrifice. Suspicious of their would-be organizer, they are frequently divided among themselves, easily intimidated, and readily bamboozled by their bosses.

In some respects, The Organizer is a comedy of uneven development. More stubborn, driven, and successfully manipulative than he initially appears, the professor matures as an organizer, swaying a crowd with his hitherto unsuspected oratorical gifts—if not the power of his logic or his inter­personal savvy. “Why the long faces?” he cries, bursting into the home of a worker accidentally killed during a demonstration and brandishing a newspaper: thanks to the dead man’s martyrdom, the public is now on their side. The mourners are singularly unimpressed.

While the movie’s American title puts the emphasis on the star, the original Italian title stresses a sense of solidarity. So does the movie itself, which is essentially an ensemble piece. “Monicelli has integrated the star into the drama, counterpointing him against the others instead of reducing them to background music,” Macdonald noted. “For considerable periods, we don’t see the organizer at all, and when he does reappear—often materializing with a magical yet quite logical opportuneness—[he is] first among equals, rather than the usual star-dictator.” Recurring deflationary bits of business throughout suggest the futility of individual action: one irate worker confronts his boss, pulls out his knife, and can’t open the clasp; another makes a fiery speech in a dialect that his comrades don’t understand.

Toward the end, Monicelli switches gears, as, sought by the authorities and rejected by those he would lead, the professor lies low, taken in by a good-hearted prostitute (Annie Girardot, the co-pro’s requisite French star). Abruptly, he emerges from hiding to address a mass meeting and, coming into his own as an orator, inspires the workers to occupy the factory. Still, The Organizer has no happy ending. The strikers march singing through the streets as the militia is mobilized; the confused soldiers open fire, an innocent is killed, and the strike is broken. The professor is berated by the workers he led, his glasses are knocked from his face, and he begins searching for them on the ground—a startling metaphor.

And yet, although the movie closes with a long shot of the defeated workers reentering their factory prison, including a child forced to take his older brother’s place at the machines, the mood is not exactly unhappy. The gates close, yet minds have been opened. The Organizer is a historical comedy that demonstrates a very Gramscian formulation (pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will) and a very popular one, to take another Monicelli title: Viva Italia!

A thirty-three-year veteran of the Village Voice and a proud member of United Auto Workers Local 2110, J. Hoberman thanks Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan and Dave Kehr for their help in scaling Mount Monicelli.

DVD