December 28, 2013

“Uh-Oh, Instead of Defeating Us They Made Us Defiant” by Ajamu Dillahunt

Local 1199 members came from New York to be arrested, and at least 1,000 teachers mobilized for the final Monday. Photo: Ajamu Dillahunt.
Local 1199 members came from New York to be arrested, and at least 1,000 teachers mobilized for the final Monday. Photo: Ajamu Dillahunt.

Since April North Carolina has made national and international news with a remarkable social movement that has gathered thousands to protest, with nearly 1,000 arrests for civil disobedience.
The Forward Together Movement, led by the North Carolina NAACP, showed up at the General Assembly in Raleigh for 13 consecutive Mondays while the Republican/Tea Party-controlled legislature was in session.
Although 17 clergy members made up the first wave of arrestees, the activists who formed the backbone of the actions were part of the six-year-old, NAACP-led HKonJ Coalition (Historic Thousands on Jones St.—site of the legislature), which had mobilized thousands to the Capitol every February for a 14-point progressive agenda.
It includes civil rights, labor, environmental, and other social and economic justice groups. With each Moral Monday, more groups and thousands of individuals joined the ranks.

The Attacks

The laws passed this session were more than familiar austerity measures. They were ideologically driven measures meant to shrink government and give free rein to the private sector. At their center was a vicious racism.
Some lowlights (there’s a lot more):
  • 170,000 cut from federal unemployment support; cuts in amount and length of state unemployment benefits
  • federal Medicaid funds rejected, leaving 500,000 uninsured
  • cuts to education funding, loss of thousands of teacher and teaching assistant positions
  • overregulation, forcing closure, of women’s health clinics that also provided reproductive services
  • lower tax rates for the wealthy
  • repeal of the Racial Justice Act, which allowed inmates to challenge their death sentences when race played a role in their sentencing
  • the most restrictive voter suppression act in the country.

Each week displayed a different theme. After a rally, those who intended to risk arrest and their supporters entered the legislative building and stood outside the Senate chambers singing, chanting, and praying. When they refused to disperse, they were arrested.
The NAACP leads the Forward Together Movement, but has mobilized thousands of white middle-class residents in addition to its historic Black constituency. Those who filled the grounds outside the General Assembly and those who entered the building to be arrested were majority white, as is the state as a whole.

Unions On Board

United Electrical Workers Local 150, a pre-majority union for public employees, and Black Workers for Justice, a 32-year-old organization dedicated to workplace and community organizing, put out the call for a labor delegation and theme for the third Monday.
UE, BWFJ, the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, and postal union members showed up wearing yellow wristbands. Ten were among the 47 arrested that day.
State AFL-CIO top leaders and staff attended the early mobilizations, but it was not until the eighth Monday, after the NC AFL-CIO board voted to mobilize, that member unions turned out. State Fed Secretary-Treasurer MaryBe McMillan was a speaker, along with UE 150 President Angaza Laughinghouse.
The North Carolina Association of Educators (NCAE), an NEA affiliate, was also late to the game. Political advisors had urged the union to remain cautious and quiet in dealing with legislators and the growing movement—in spite of pending cuts to teacher and teaching assistant positions, threats to tenure, the elimination of higher pay for master’s degrees, proposals for merit pay, and the introduction of school vouchers.
NCAE President Rodney Ellis was finally arrested in the twelfth wave and mobilized at least 1,000 teachers for the final action. Rank-and-file teachers and retirees report that members were ready to fight from the very beginning.
Perhaps the biggest scandal was the behavior of the State Employees Association of North Carolina, a Service Employees (SEIU) affiliate. Director Dana Cope denounced the protests. INDY Week quoted Cope, “If you want to move a progressive cause forward right now, what that takes is being at the table. Moral Mondays is just creating a spectacle.”
In one Tweet, Cope said, “we think it unwise to break the law & overburden fellow public employees. Prefer sit down/talk policy.” And in response to a conservative blogger he tweeted that he could not “control crazy people @1199 SEIU from coming in and acting against us.”
It is rumored that Cope told the predominantly Black and Latino union members of 1199 in New York City who were invited to join the protest to “keep their Yankee asses out of North Carolina.” Eleven 1199 members did become Moral Monday arrestees, however.
In any case, organizers took advantage of the large number of potential allies. OUR Walmart and the SEIU-initiated Fast Food Workers campaign were on hand to educate and recruit.
Organizers for the Southern Workers’ Assembly, which attempts to bring together union and non-union workers across the South, had a regular presence. The NCAE has even begun to relate to the Assembly.
Teacher activist Bryan Proffitt said canvassing at Moral Mondays helped recruit to a rank-and-file social justice caucus he is helping build. “There were so many school workers there, and they had pre-identified themselves as activists and potential activists,” he said.

Who’s The War On?

Often the legislative changes were framed as an assault on all the people of North Carolina. But the July verdict in George Zimmerman’s trial for shooting Trayvon Martin seemed to boost Black participation, after local rallies protesting the verdict.
During one protest, veteran BWFJ member Rukiya Dillahunt was chided by a white participant for holding a sign saying “Stop the War on Black America.” The person felt it should say “and white Americans.”
“I put her in check,” said Dillahunt, “by laying out the high Black unemployment rates, mass incarceration, and the ‘school-to-prison pipeline’ we face.”
The next week, white protesters requested and carried several hundred of the same signs, along with Justice for Trayvon signs.
NAACP leader Rev. William Barber expressed the movement’s outcome best: “Uh-oh, instead of defeating us they made us defiant.” He said right-wing leaders had inspired unity and fire in young people.
At the thirteenth and last Moral Monday, as the legislative session ended, Barber told the crowd of thousands, “Here we are, all races, all colors, all sexualities, all communities, all incomes”—summing up the coalition that had developed on the ground.

Getting Each Other’s Issues

Proffitt’s take-away is that “Moral Mondays allowed everyone to walk away with a keener understanding of the ways that their lives and issues related.
“By being on the mall together, workers and women’s rights activists understood each other’s issues better. Environmentalists heard, relentlessly, about why the attacks on voting rights were so devastating.”
Now activists across the country are asking about the Moral Monday movement, hoping to duplicate its energy and politics. Georgia activists are planning their own Moral Monday campaign, and a Moral Monday protest in Chicago greeted ALEC, the incubator of right-wing legislation.
Local Moral Mondays have been held in four North Carolina cities, and another was held at the governor’s mansion September 16 against restrictions on youth voting and severe cuts to education.
Intensified voter registration drives are underway, aiming at both local and 2014 statewide elections—coupled with a call for local Peoples’ Assemblies, mobilization, and civil disobedience aimed at elected officials in their home districts.

Ajamu Dillahunt is a retired Raleigh Area Local Postal Workers president, a member of the Black Workers for Justice Coordinating Committee, and a former Labor Notes Policy Committee member.
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“Uh-Oh, Instead of Defeating Us They Made Us Defiant”

December 27, 2013

Stephen Cohen On The Ukraine And The Letter the NYT Refused To Print

On November 20, The New York Times published an editorial urging—or perhaps warning—Ukraine to resist "Moscow's bullying" and sign an association agreement with the European Union. The editorial was in the spirit of virtually all US media coverage of Ukraine's "strategic decision" and "civilizational choice"—its last chance for democracy and economic prosperity and the West's best hope to stop Putin's attempt, as then Secretary of State Hillary Clinton misrepresented his Eurasian Customs Union, "to re-Sovietize the region." All this is another example of the US media's generally one-dimensional and ideological coverage of post-Soviet developments in Russia and other former Soviet republics since 1992. Not surprisingly, when the Ukrainian leadership announced its decision last week against signing the agreement with the European Union, US media commentators, with no factual analysis in mind and egg on their collective face, could only again rage over Putin's "bullying."
The New York Times declined to print my letter pointing out the lack of objective analysis in its editorial. It is posted below.
To the editors:
According to a New York Times editorial,  "The Cold War should be over, " but "not, it appears, for Mr. Putin," who is trying to keep former Soviet republics, particularly Ukraine, from signing binding economic agreements with the European Union. This is the one-eyed axiom of the US political -media establishment, passing for analysis, when it comes to Putin  and to U.S. -Russian relations:
Washington and its European allies ended the cold war nearly 22 years ago, but Putin continues to wage it.
But have the U.S. and Europe really done nothing to provoke Putin's reactions? During these years,  who, for example, expanded the West's cold-war military organization, NATO, to Russia's borders, and still covets Ukraine and Georgia as members; bombed or invaded three of Russia's international partners (Yugoslavia, Iraq and Libya) and now threatens a fourth (Iran); and is currently ringing Russia with missile-defense installations? And then there is the editorial's venerable Cold War double standard: "Europe's use of trade leverage ... is constructive and reasonable"; but when Putin uses similar carrots—financial loans, discounted energy supplies, access to markets—to persuade Ukraine to join instead his fledgling Eurasian Customs Union, those are "attempts to bludgeon."
Evidently, the Times is unwilling see what the Kremlin sees: the US-led West 's two-decade march toward Russia—political, military, economic—with Ukraine as the biggest prize of all, as its American and European proponents readily acknowledge. Moreover, independent  editorial analysis would ask whether signing with Europe is really in Ukraine's best interests. Ukraine is not "economically robust" but near  default. Will  crisis-ridden Europe bail it out with tens of billions of dollars? Will Ukrainian goods flourish on Western markets? Will Europe open its arms to migrant Ukrainian workers?
Not a word about any of this or about the real issue: the West's ongoing campaign to move the new cold-war divide further East, to the heart of Slavic civilization. Nothing could be more de-stabilizing or more detrimental to the real security of Europe or America.

On the John Batchelor Show, Russian studies professor and Nation contributor Stephen Cohen criticizes the American media’s coverage of ongoing protests in Ukraine.


December 26, 2013

Stop the Attacks on Labor’s Democratic and Human Rights: Drop the Charges Against Moral Monday Labor Rights Arrestee Saladin Muhammad!

Saladin Muhammad

Tell North Carolina’s Governor, Legislature and District courts and Pres. Obama to stop attacks on the constitutional and international human right to protest!!

Please click on this link to sign petition:

The opening trial for the 940 North Carolina Moral Mondays Campaign arrestees started with the case of Saladin Muhammad, a long-time North Carolina and U.S. national labor and social justice activist, on Oct. 4, 2013, in the N.C. District Court, where he was found guilty by a judge for trespassing, disorderly conduct and violating rules of the General Assembly while peacefully protesting with others on government property.

Muhammad was arrested on May 13, 2013, with 48 others protesting at the N.C. State Legislature against the anti-worker and racist laws that were being proposed and enacted as part of a national corporate-financed campaign to eliminate vital social programs and basic democratic rights that have been won by labor, the Black Freedom Movement (often referred to as the Civil Rights Movement) and other social movements over the past 100 or so years.

Muhammad, a founding member of Black Workers For Justice, led the organizing as an organizer of the national United Electrical Workers Union (UE) that formed the North Carolina Public Service Workers Union-UE Local 150, which has been a leader in the campaign to repeal the N.C. state ban on collective bargaining rights for public sector workers. That included getting a ruling from a complaint filed with the United Nations International Labor Organization (ILO) finding North Carolina and the U.S. out of compliance with international laws and treaties by its denial of public sector workers’ collective bargaining rights. Despite the ILO ruling, North Carolina and the U.S. have refused to comply with the U.N. agency ruling.

The North Carolina legislature is now pushing to enact its anti-labor, right-to-work law as an amendment to the N.C. State Constitution, banning the right to collective bargaining for public sector workers, which would prevent private sector workers from using card check in efforts to form unions. This right-wing push to deny labor rights as a constitutional provision raises the urgency of the need to build a powerful statewide, South-wide and national campaign for labor/workers rights to protest and organize.

Worker Speak-Outs were organized in several North Carolina cities by the Southern Workers Assembly, an initiative led by UE Local 150 that brought together rank-and-file workers and leaders to talk about the conditions facing workers on the job which are being shaped by the legislative climate. Many workers stated that the anti-worker climate is increasing management’s abuse of power against basic worker and labor rights on the job.

As active participants in the Moral Mondays Campaign, UE 150 and Black Workers For Justice, which are close allies, invited rank-and-file workers and leaders from other unions and worker organizations to be part of the first Moral Mondays labor rights delegation to protest against the attacks on labor and worker rights at the N.C. General Assembly.

As North Carolina is a target state for corporate-financed, right-wing movements and organizations like the Tea Party and the American Legislative Exchange Council for modeling anti-democratic legislation for other states throughout the country, and especially in the South where industries are relocating in large numbers. We believe that the state of North Carolina started with the Muhammad case to send a strong message that rank-and-file labor social movement activism demanding labor rights and other democratic rights will not be tolerated.

Dr. King’s last demonstration in Memphis, Tenn., in support of the right to collective bargaining for Sanitation workers, points out that when the right of workers to organize and mobilize power in movements and campaigns like Moral Mondays for civil, democratic and human rights for working-class and poor people, especially the most oppressed in the case of Black workers, workers of color and women, the courts, the anti-democratic forces in all levels of government, and the most extreme elements promoting racial hatred and divisions among the people will make every possible effort to defeat this converging movement of democratic people’s power.
Prohibiting the right to protest against the General Assembly is an attack on an international human right and the U.S. Constitutional Rights of Freedom of Speech, Freedom of Assembly and Freedom of Association to voice grievances against injustices and violations against all human rights carried out by the government and corporations. Exercising the right to protest was core to Black people, labor and other social movements winning voting, labor and other social and political rights.

Muhammad’s case is part of the struggle for labor to mobilize its power to protest and shape public opinion and to defend against attacks on and to fight for the advancement of labor and all human rights. Muhammad’s appeal of the guilty ruling is a fight against criminalizing labor’s right to mobilize the rank and file in protest.

We feel that Muhammad’s case should be used to help build a national and international rank-and-file and human rights movement campaign in defense of the right of labor and social movements to actively protest against government and corporate attacks and denial of human rights. It is important for labor and rank-and-file workers to be in the forefront of this campaign, as it represents a fundamental aspect of mobilizing labor and peoples’ power to defend and fight for advances in democratic rights and radical changes that address the needs of the majority of the people, not just the corporations and the rich.

Sign online petitions and send letters to the N.C. governor, President Obama and the N.C. District Court demanding that the charges be dropped against Saladin Muhammad and all of the Moral Mondays arrestees.
  • End the legislative attacks on labor and worker rights
  • Apply the ruling of the ILO by repealing the ban on public sector collective bargaining.
  • Carry out of the AFL-CIO 2013 national convention resolution to organize labor in the South.
  • Set up union and community meetings for labor rights’ arrestees to speak and help spread the struggle.
  • Wear yellow wristbands as an act of solidarity with the struggles for labor rights in North Carolina.
We call on unions, worker organizations and all organizations and networks committed to labor and human rights to sign on as endorsers of this Campaign to Drop the Charges against Saladin Muhammad and All Moral Mondays Campaign Arrestees and stop the criminalizing of the right to protest by sending contact information and resolutions that can be publicly posted on Southern Workers Assembly literature, websites, etc., to

In societies and systems where the majority of the people must work to earn a decent standard of living to support themselves, their families and communities, their engagement in protests to make changes that improve conditions of workers at all levels of society is a human right. In the Spirit of Moral Mondays and Its First Rank-and-File Labor Delegation: Forward Together, Not One Step Back!

You can download this SWA statement and distribute it at union meetings, workplaces and in your community.

December 18, 2013

Community Rights Meeting in Salem, Oregon

Coming up in Salem soon:
A meeting to explore the potential of capturing and re-asserting our individual sovereign rights as a way to impede corporate ravages. The Community Rights movement has had some successes in this battle. If you are concerned about corporations dictating the conditions of life under which we live, you will be encouraged by this meeting.
WHEN: Saturday December 21st, 2013;10:00 AM
WHERE: Ike Box Coffee Shop, 299 Cottage St. NE., Salem, OR 97301


December 14, 2013

Honduras: A Setback For Women's Rights

by Laura Carlsen

Honduras went into its general elections in a state of high tension. The country has come out of the Nov. 24 vote with tensions even higher.
A lot was at stake. The nation hasn’t had a truly democratic process to select a president since the election of former president Manuel Zelaya in 2005. Since Zelaya was kidnapped in a coup d’état on June 28, 2009, the coup regime has governed the nation with an iron hand through the period of the de facto regime and later a one-sided election organized by coup leaders and boycotted by democratic forces. As a result of four and a half years of coup rule, political polarization meets economic inequality in the nation to form a volatile mix of desperation and repression.
Human rights & democracy, from a gender perspective
The Supreme Electoral Tribunal reports the final count in Honduras’ presidential race at 36.89 percent for ruling National Party candidate Juan Orlando Hernandez and 28.78 percent for Xiomara Castro of the recently formed Liberty and New Foundations Party (LIBRE). This a major upset considering most polls showed Castro in the lead up to just weeks before the vote.
But the process is not over. Opposition parties, including LIBRE and the new Anti-Corruption Party, are demanding a fair recount and review. As students hit the streets in protests over alleged fraud, the post-electoral climate is marked by conflict and uncertainty.
Shortly before the elections, an international group of journalists and human rights defenders joined with Honduran women activists to travel to Honduras to monitor respect for human rights, and in particular women’s human rights. We had good cause to be concerned. At least nine women human rights defenders have been assassinated under the coup and post-coup regimes, with 119 attacks registered in 2012 by the Mesoamerican Women Human Rights Defenders Initiative. Femicides have skyrocketed to 258% in a context of both general and targeted violence. We feared increased violence in the run-up to the elections.
The premise is that human rights cannot be supported in a non-democratic society and democracy cannot develop in a climate of human rights violations, such as Honduras’. The International Observatory of Women’s Human Rights and Resistancefound that neither fared well in the recent elections. As more than 90 observers fanned out throughout the country to report on the process and accompany women’s organizations, we found coercive conditions surrounding voting and serious doubts regarding the process and results.
Although the elections were carried out in relative calm and with a high turnout, the night before Maria Amparo Pineda Duarte, a human rights defender and campesinoleader of Cantarranas in the Francisco Morazán Department, was murdered alongside fellow organizer and opposition member, Julio Araujo. The double murder of political targets sent an ominous signal.
Our mission, like many others, identified numerous violations of democratic principles. The first and most widespread was vote buying. In one polling place we visited in Tegucigalpa, we spoke with a young woman in tears. She had been discovered photographing her vote and been expelled. She showed us a text message offering her employment for voting for the National Party candidate and explained that she was unemployed and had no source of income. Many observers reported similar incidents, including cash payments right outside polling places.
In a country where 80 percent of the population lives in poverty and 65 percent are indigent, it’s easy to manipulate need. In the days leading up to the elections, the National Party delivered thousands of “benefits cards” to impoverished voters. The back of the card identified the holder as a party supporter.
Another major problem regarded the voter lists. Many voters who appeared as dead on the lists were refused their right to vote. Other reports showed that at some stations, the “dead” were allowed to vote and real voters were rejected for other reasons.
The Honduran army by law is charged with guarding polling places and transporting election materials. The armed forces are closely tied to the coup political factions, especially the National Party. Their presence in the ballot boxes was reported as a factor of intimidation. As one LGBT activist told us, “The 2009 elections were held at the point of a bayonet and these are the same.” Certainly, the presence of armed soldiers looked intimidating to us, and given the very recent history of the military coup and more distant history of military dictatorships the imagery to Hondurans must be even more powerful.
The official delegations of the European Union and the Organization of American States (OAS) reported that the elections were transparent. When we witnessed the vote counting, with most parties and many observers present, the process indeed appeared straightforward and this coincided with reports from other delegations. Honduran ballots are hand-counted at thousands of polling places, tallied and scanned in to the authorities.
Where the discrepancies have emerged, according to opposition parties, is in the transmission of results. LIBRE presented complaints that hundreds of tally sheets registered by the Tribunal do not match the results counted at the voting place. This part of the process was invisible to most, if not all, foreign observers.
Now both Hernandez and Castro claim victory.  The two contending candidates personify the political poles of the country. Hernandez was president of the Congress that opened the door wide to transnational corporations, ceding lands long held by indigenous and campesino inhabitants, consolidated the power of the official party over political institutions, and reversed historic—although modest—advances in women’s rights and wealth distribution. He calls himself the candidate of militarization, promising a “soldier on every street corner” and has said repeatedly that he will do “anything necessary” to bring security to the nation, despite that in many cases security forces themselves—under the command of his party—have been identified as the perpetrators of violent acts and rights violations against the population. Hernandez was the driving force behind the creation of a new and largely unsupervised Military Police.
The National Party came to power in the elections organized by the coup regime, elections so questioned that the government led by the proclaimed winner Porfirio Lobo was not recognized by the OAS until nearly two years later, as a result of an agreement with ousted president Zelaya. The United States government promoted and supported the boycotted 2009 elections and the Lobo government from the outset.
Xiomara Castro became a prominent public figure in the resistance when her husband, Manuel Zelaya, was kidnapped and then trapped in the Brazilian Embassy during the coup regime. She supports a constitutional assembly, the popular demand that detonated the coup, and demilitarization of civil life. Many members of the resistance to the coup joined the new party and supported her candidacy, following a major debate within their ranks. For most feminists, the fact that Xiomara is a woman was less important than her political platform and commitment to women’s issues. There, they generally found more room to advance their causes than with a conservative National Party candidate.
While the elections cracked open the traditional two-party system with nine parties participating, which means that whoever is the victor has a weak mandate of barely a third of the vote. The National Congress—where PN has 48 representatives, LIBRE 37, the Liberal Party 27 and the new Anti-Corruption Party 13, along with a handful of others—will have to be the scene of political deals to function at all.
* * *
What’s in play in these elections is not just the person and the party that will govern the next four years but the future of one of the most violent and impoverished nations on earth. For women, who often bear the brunt of trying to feed families, defend their homes and lands from forced displacement, and stand up for human rights, the scenarios do not look bright.
Under the regime of Porfirio Lobo, repression grew and by 2013 more than 200 opposition members had been assassinated. Poverty, militarization, violence and violence against women also grew.
Since the coup, Honduras has gone through a period of resistance and repression.Campesinos, workers, feminists, students, indigenous and citizen organizations and LGBT groups kept up resistance in the streets in defense of democracy every day for months. While the coup against the elected president Zelaya became a model for the international rightwing against progressive governments, the resistance also became a model for the world, demonstrating a capacity for continuous mobilization, and civic valor, and combining in an unprecedented way demands for gender justice and women’s rights with the demand for a return to democracy.
The new regime severed the solidarity agreements Honduras had with the Venezuelan government under ALBA and consolidated control by the elite. Extreme poverty increased 26 percent during Lobo’s term. The government and private sector launched an offensive against the land and resources of indigenous andcampesino communities and urban barrios, where their refusal to give up led to violent attacks against them. The government initiated radical new strategies of land grabs such as the “model cities” program that cedes sovereignty of entire regions to transnational corporations. It offered massive concessions for mining, water, energy and other resources and has not been implanted anywhere else in the world.
Fights to defend resources and territories have been met with violent crackdowns by private security personnel and allied state security forces, and by the criminalization of grassroots leaders. Berta Caceres, leader of the Civic Council of Popular and indigenous organizations of Honduras (COPINH) and a leading figure in the defense of land and women’s rights, is one of a growing number of movement leaders arrested on trumped up charges and facing prosecution.
The ruling elite that has so far come out triumphant in the elections has major interests riding on maintaining control. Political control means more economic gains—for them at least.
Honduras also has geopolitical and economic significance to the U.S. government and transnationals, especially because since 2009 it represents the opportunity to implant new strategies of resource and land access. As happened when Honduras became a staging ground for the cold war, it now plays the role of pilot project for a new phase of corporate looting. Since the coup, an experiment began that seeks to deliver resources to international investors at whatever social cost and often at the point of a gun. The US government, having orchestrated the coup leaders’ continued hold on power by promoting the 2009 elections without reinstating the constitutional order first, has consolidated and expanded its military presence in Honduras.
The main vehicles have been the expansion of the base at Soto Cano and military-police operations in the name of the drug war.  The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) and other militarized forces have spread throughout the country, resulting in human rights violations and even massacres, such as the Ahuas case—a DEA operation in which four native Honduras including two pregnant women and two minors were shot from a State Department helicopter; the joint military Operation “Martillo“ has been extended indefinitely.
What next for women’s rights and grassroots organization?
The result of the vote is still in doubt and protesters have hit the streets, to be met with tear gas and billy clubs. Among members of grassroots organizations, the elections have provoked some soul-searching regarding the use of elections and political parties to express democratic aspirations.
As in other movements, among Honduran women’s organization opinions are divided. Many had doubts about investing the hopes for social change in the electoral process. They also were wary of politicians and parties—even with a candidate who came out of the resistance although not out of grassroots movements. The Honduran party system has a long history of negotiating interests from above.
Some also doubted whether the right would accept an adverse outcome, arguing that the right didn’t stage a coup d’état just to give up power in elections. Many viewed the belief in the elections as a way to remove the forces of the coup from power as naive. On the other hand, others saw the elections as a viable way to break the power of the right and advance the agenda of social movements, especially the constitutional assembly and defense of land and rights.
Current scenarios look bleak for movements in the short term. The first is that the Electoral Tribunal and other institutions, stacked by the right in power and supported by shadow powers, sponsor a full recount that favors the center left and subsequently recognize that result. This is extremely unlikely. The vote difference of more than 200,000 does not anticipate a reversal under any circumstances.
A second scenario would be the negotiation of power quotas within Congress and the cabinet between the ruling party, LIBRE under the leadership of former president Zelaya, and other parties that have filed complaints. The Anti-Corruption Party and Liberal Party already seem to be involved in this kind of negotiation and LIBRE leaders could join in. In this scenario, LIBRE in alliance with other parties could become a counterweight to the ruling party in Congress enough to make it difficult to govern for the new president and even perhaps block some of the most controversial measures. It could, however, leave grassroots movements out in the cold.
Another scenario is that the combination of repression, attrition and internal division causes opposition demonstrations to wind down, as the Tribunal throws out complaints of fraud and irregularities banking on support from rightwing institutions and the international community. In this case, the new government may not even have to negotiate concessions to opposing forces and the more centric forces in the system will simply align with the rulers.
In any of these scenarios, the movement comes out weakened and disappointed, at least in the short term. Juan Orlando Hernandez’s proposals to reinforce the use of armed forces in police tasks, to weaken labor rights and conditions, and to cede territory and resources to transnational investment spell more trouble and violence for human rights defenders. His religious fundamentalism, as seen election night when he dedicated his electoral triumph to “God, who names and removes all leaders in office” means more attacks on women’s rights and the LGBT community, and the continued power of the church in a state that is rapidly losing its secular standing.
The results of the elections create a military and transnational dictatorship that leaves us with a negative outlook for the defense of human rights and greater vulnerability for women human rights defenders,” stated Daysi Flores of the Honduran Network of Women Human Rights Defenders and JASS Mesoamerica.
Gilda Rivera of the Center for Women’s Rights noted a need for the movement to retrench and do some honest assessment. “The social and popular movement must break out of its isolation, link up more and define its resistance strategies, but we also have to recognize that the social and popular movement and women within it have few resources and there are real weaknesses in leadership.”
Faced with these complexities, although grassroots movements will continue to press for clean election results, many urge going back to where they came from—the streets, the barrios, the villages and the communities.
Berta Caceres told us shortly after the elections, “What we have to do in this country is to keep up the fight, reinforce all our strategies of emancipation, decolonization… convinced that we have to save this country from this project of capitalist death, and that we—men and women—are the ones who have to do it.”
She added, “Yes, people are discouraged but we have to learn our lessons and move on to build new foundations for the country with renewed energy and new proposals.”
Women human rights defenders see heightened risks in this new phase in Honduras’ tragic yet inspiring history. But they clearly have no intention of quitting.
As dangers mount and political forces realign, the international community must be even more vigilant and concerned about Honduras.

Laura Carlsen is director of the CIP Americas Program This article was originally published in two parts by Just Associates (JASS)

Submitted By blanco

December 13, 2013

Nelson Mandela's Legacy

For Socialist Action
 On Dec. 10, dignitaries from around the world made a pilgrimage to Johannesburg to pay respects to Nelson Mandela, who died five days earlier at the age of 95.
U.S. President Obama was one of the visiting heads of state who took full advantage of the photo opportunity that the occasion afforded. At a time when the imperialist nations are engaged in a headlong competition to further humble and exploit the African continent, Obama saw fit to hail Mandela as a “liberator” and advised the young people of Africa to “make his life’s work your own.”
Obama chose to neglect the fact that for years the government that he represents in Washington had collaborated with South Africa’s apartheid regime in acts of repression against Mandela, his African National Congress (ANC), and other Black liberation organizations. The CIA gave information to South African authorities in 1962 that helped them to capture Mandela and send him to prison for over 27 years. And Mandela remained on the U.S. “terrorist” watch list until 2008.
People around the world revere Nelson Mandela for his courage and quiet wisdom. And they revere him, as they do Martin Luther King, for his dream of “a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities.” But the element of Mandela’s character that Obama and other imperialist leaders—and the compliant big-business media—have chosen to highlight is his so-called ability to forgive the oppressors of South Africa’s Black population. That quality is the one that they call on the youth of Africa to emulate.
Unfortunately, history shows that Mandela and the ANC went beyond mere moral “forgiveness” toward the oppressors, and instead fell into the trap of offering them deep political and social concessions—an escalating process that ultimately betrayed apartheid’s victims. The shell of apartheid was dismantled, but the core of the exploitive social system was allowed to remain.
South Africa today displays one of the steepest divisions between wealth and poverty in the world. Since the ANC first formed the government, almost 20 years ago, the number of people living in poverty has risen. While the number of millionaires in the country has doubled in that period, so has the number of people earning less than a dollar a day. The average white family earns six times what Black families earn.
Joblessness has also risen. According to Goldman Sachs, as many as 35 percent are unemployed, when people who have given up looking for work are factored in. This rises to 70 percent among Black youth. Millions live in shacks—often without electricity, sanitation, or water—and generally in segregated townships in which Black people continue to be further subdivided by apartheid-era racial categories (African, coloured, Indian). And at the same time, even some shack cities have been wantonly demolished by ANC governmental authorities, leaving the inhabitants homeless. This has spurred a new movement of people protesting in the streets with banners that cry, “Give us back our land!” as in the days of apartheid.
Meanwhile, a layer of billionaire capitalists, residing in suburban mansions behind locked gates, scoop up the lion’s share of the country’s mining and industrial wealth in private profits. Most of these super-rich, as during apartheid, are white—with a handful of Black capitalists newly added to their number.
Mandela, South Africa’s first Black president, had the authority and prestige to mobilize the country in a true emergency campaign to eliminate poverty. This could have been accomplished by carrying out revolutionary measures aimed at completely transforming the capitalist social system, and remaking it in the interests of working people and the poor. Instead, he and his comrades in the African National Congress settled for accommodations with big capital, in vain hopes that the proceeds of capitalist growth would trickle down to the masses.
As University of Capetown Professor Robert Schrire put it (as cited in Bloomberg Businessweek): Nelson Mandela “recognized that for the poor to prosper, the rich had to feel they had a future in this country.” And true to design, the rich were greatly mollified, as giant multinational corporations swept into the country—often to gobble up weaker South African enterprises. But the poor benefited only minimally, and the unemployment checks that many workers received from the state hardly made up for the jobs they had lost.
Mandela played the central role in formulating the initial agreements between the liberation movement and the apartheid regime. At first, talks were carried out in secret—even when Mandela was still in prison. Later, the process was formalized in the CODESA (Convention for a Democratic South Africa) conferences of 1991-92. Joe Slovo of the South African Communist Party is credited at CODESA with offering the key compromise of a “sunset clause,” which guaranteed that a white-Black coalition capitalist government would remain in power for at least five years.
In the midst of these negotiations, in June 1992, I visited South Africa as a reporter for Socialist Action newspaper. The ANC had been legalized two years earlier, and its national offices now filled the skyscraper office building in Johannesburg that had once served the Shell Oil corporation. It appeared evident to me that the leaders of the ANC whom I met, and their legions of clerks and secretaries, no longer saw themselves as part of a popular liberation movement but instead had their eyes on portfolios in the upcoming coalition government.
I wrote at the time: “With the establishment of a transitional government, the [F.W.] de Klerk regime expects to give up very little in return for what it will gain. South Africa’s rulers hope to take their place once again as full members of the capitalist ‘family of nations,’ with full international trading rights. They also hope for a relatively placid domestic situation, with non-political American-style trade unions and a toothless opposition willing to participate in a parliamentary debating society.
“From the government’s point of view, a major—if not the major—purpose of the negotiations process is to co-opt a segment of the Black leadership, to pull them into compliance with the dictates of the ruling circles, and thus to demobilize the mass movement and trade unions.”
Negotiations, regulatory commissions, and even a share of governmental power were the “carrot” that the apartheid regime offered the ANC and its allies in that period. The “stick” was a wave of vigilante massacres carried out mainly by the breakaway Inkatha Freedom Party, but supported behind the scenes by government security forces. In response to the violence and to perceived inaction by government negotiators, the ANC and major trade unions seemingly made a shift toward militancy by undertaking what they termed the Mass Action campaign. A general strike was called to address the continuing epidemic of job lay-offs and the need for a “living wage.”
Nelson Mandela expressed the major intent of the Mass Action campaign from the point of view of the ANC leadership. It was being organized primarily, he said, as a source of pressure “to break the deadlock” in CODESA negotiations. But Newsweek described the purpose even more bluntly in its July 27, 1992, issue: “In an effort to catch up with rising militancy in the ranks, [the ANC’s] leaders have escalated their rhetoric—while at the same time sending the government conciliatory messages.”
In any case, the Mass Action campaign did not last long; soon ANC and union leaders sought to cool things down by offering even more concessions. A year later, when former ANC guerrilla leader and current head of the Communist Party Chris Hani was murdered, Nelson Mandela intervened to stem angry protests; in his address to the nation on the issue, he said that the current crisis demanded that national elections not be put off any further.
In 1994, the African National Congress received a majority vote in the new National Assembly. Nelson Mandela formed a “national unity government,” giving former apartheid head of state de Klerk the post of second deputy vice president. From that time, a series of neoliberal reform programs ensued that bowed deeper and deeper to the demands of big corporate interests. In a guarantee to the international banks, for example, Mandela and his government agreed to continue paying the “apartheid debt,” which was owed for items that included military supplies and prisons that the previous white government had used to repress the Black masses.
Andrew Ross Sorkin, business columnist for The New York Times, provided details (Dec. 9, 2013) of how Mandela was persuaded to forsake the vague calls of the ANC’s founding document, the Freedom Charter, to nationalize the mines, banks, and monopoly industries—and to instead choose the path of unfettered capitalism. “The story of Mr. Mandela’s evolving economic view is eye-opening: It happened in January 1992 during a trip to Davos, Switzerland, for the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum. Mr. Mandela was persuaded to support an economic framework for South Africa based on capitalism and globalization after a series of conversations with other world leaders.
“‘They changed my views altogether,’ Mr. Mandela told Anthony Sampson, his friend and the author of Mandela: The Authorized Biography. ‘I came home to say: “Chaps, we have to choose. We either keep nationalization and get no investment, or we modify our own attitude and get investment.’” …
“[A]s the five-day conference of high-level speed-dating wore on, Mr. Mandela soon decided he needed to reconsider his long-held views: ‘Madiba then had some very interesting meetings with the leaders of the Communist Parties of China and Vietnam,’ Mr. [Tito] Mboweni wrote, using Mr. Mandela’s clan name. ‘They told him frankly as follows: “We are currently striving to privatize state enterprises and invite private enterprise into our economies. We are Communist Party governments, and you are a leader of a national liberation movement. Why are you talking about nationalization?”’”
Ronnie Kasrils, former intelligence minister in the ANC government and a long-time member of the Communist Party, told “Democracy Now!” that once Mandela had made up his mind on the rapprochement with big business, he remained firm with it, and was instrumental in convincing the “left wing” of the ANC—which Kasrils identified with the Communist Party—to go along.
“There was no real debate or argument about this,” said Kasrils. But that should be no surprise. The South African Communist Party, trained by the representatives of Joseph Stalin, had long been urging the liberation movement to restrain its activity and limit its demands, under the misapprehension that working-class rule and socialism would not be “on the table” for many decades.
Kasrils justified Mandela’s pro-capitalist policies to Democracy Now! listeners by expressing the view that he had no other alternative under the extreme conditions of the day, with attacks from what was called the “third force” (undercover police, Afrikaner white nationalists, Inkatha, etc.): “We could have had a civil war at the time. There could have been enormous bloodshed!” Kasrils, like Mandela and the ANC, had no confidence that mass mobilizations could effectively counter the “third force” death squads. But lasting success in such a campaign would have required leadership and a program that could rally the oppressed masses in an unstoppable movement for social liberation and working-class political power.
Nevertheless, Kasrils conceded, “This is where I say our Faustian pact or bargain stems from. … we push the economic issues onto that back burner, and they successively become distant, so that nationalization, command of the hearts of the economy, this becomes a no-no. And once that sets in, and you get the gates open for a nouveau comprador bourgeoisie to come to the fore, junior partners of big capital and the corporates and the international connections, then we embrace the neoliberal economy of the world today, with all its corruption, with its cronyism, as its patronage.”
Today, the ANC reeks with cronyism and corruption. The selfish mentality of many in the organization’s top leadership is symbolized by Cyril Ramaphosa, deputy president of the ANC and former leader of the National Union of Mineworkers, who has become a multi-billionaire capitalist, with investments in platinum mining. To their shame, Ramaphosa and the current ANC leadership abetted and then tried to cover up the horrible police massacre of protesting platinum miners at Marikana in 2012.
At the Dec. 10 memorial rally for Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, the crowd booed each time that the image of South African President Jacob Zuma appeared on the big screen. It was left to his deputy, billionaire Ramaphosa, to attempt to hush them, exclaiming, “We should show the same level of discipline as Madiba [Mandela] exuded!” It is an ugly  fact, however, that part of Mandela’s legacy is Zuma, Ramaphosa, and their like—former radical activists who have now grown fat and cynical.

As struggles for jobs, living wages, and land continue to unfold in South Africa—struggles of the Black masses against their capitalist oppressors—the ANC and the government it leads will be forced again and again to take sides. If it continues to sabotage the liberation movement and to line up with its enemies, we can expect that the masses will elect to follow one road that Nelson Mandela laid out for them long ago, in one of his true statements of political wisdom. In his speech to the COSATU national trade-union conference of 1993, Mandela told the assembly, “If the ANC does to you what the apartheid government did to you, then you must do to the ANC what you did to the apartheid government.”

December 5, 2013

OHIO: Independent Labor Party Elects Two Dozen City Councilors After Democrat Sell Out

Union Teacher Joshua Thornberry teaches his son about what it means to be a candidate for the Independent Labor Party

Union-dense Lorain County, Ohio, is now home to an independent labor slate of two dozen newly elected city councilors—recruited and run by the central labor council there. All labor’s candidates had strong showings last month, and all but two were elected.
“This was a step we took reluctantly,” said Lorain County AFL-CIO President Harry Williamson. “When the leaders of the [Democratic] Party just took us for granted and tried to roll over the rights of working people here, we had to stand up.”
A series of disputes between organized labor and the Democratic leadership led the labor council and its allies to recruit and run their own slate in this Democratic stronghold, home of Ohio’s largest steel and auto facilities.
‘The Final Straw’
The unions had worked for years to build a labor-community partnership that resulted in a Lorain city Project Labor Agreement (PLA), which required that city contracts be staffed by at least 75 percent local and 9 percent minority workers, and unionized during the period of the project.
But Mayor Chase Ritenauer pushed the city council to repeal it in May 2013—just two months after its passage.
“It took us three years to negotiate this historic agreement,” said Joe Thayer, marketing director of the Sheet Metal Workers Union, “and it took them three days to kill it!”
The city council voted 8-2 in favor of the repeal. It was reported that an estimated $29.6 million in city road and water projects were soon to be awarded.
“Before we had the PLA, Lorain regularly hired contractors from outside the city and county,” said Rick Lucente, councilman and Steelworkers member, who voted no on repeal. “Repealing the PLA is taking work away from people here and revenue away from our city.”
The next big fight was over a contract dispute involving the Teamsters and the city. Mayor Ritenauer, with some of the council members, borrowed city trucks from nearby Elyria—another Democratic stronghold—and actually worked on the trucks to try to break the sanitation workers’ strike.
“That was the final straw,” according to Williamson. “You just plain do not cross a picket line and scab! There has to be a line in the sand.”
Teacher Beats Commerce Captain
Most of the anti-labor incumbents delayed filing their candidacy papers in order to prevent any challenges in this year’s Democratic primary. So the labor council decided to run its own slate of two dozen candidates, mostly union members, for city council seats in the towns of Lorain, Amherst, Avon, and Avon Lake.
Union teacher and newly elected Eighth Ward Council member Josh Thornsberry triumphed over incumbent Frank DeTillio, who is also president of the Lorain County Chamber of Commerce. “This is just a first step,” Thornsberry told the council, “but we will be taking many together in the future.”
The union crowd at the council meeting, some in “Independent Labor Party” shirts the council had ordered for the campaign, greeted the victorious candidates with loud cheers and optimism. The council has ordered more shirts to supplement the 500 used during the campaign.
“We didn’t pick this fight, but we had to finish it,” said Thayer. “We need to build stronger alliances, work with more friends. Even if we put our issues on a back burner to help and fight for our friends in the communities, we need to keep reaching out and show that our interests are the same as others’. If we do that, then we’ll grow.”
The Lorain central labor council is a wide federation, including unions both in and out of the AFL-CIO. A local immigrant rights organization is slated to affiliate, and a student-labor group at nearby Oberlin College will be brought on board, too. Over the years the council has often fought alongside community forces—including defeating a Walmart coming in, working against racist attacks, and working for minority hiring.
‘We Can Elect Our Own’
In an angry letter, Lorain County Democratic Party Chair Tony Giardini called for Democratic union leaders to resign from their party posts as precinct captains.
The meeting decided not to publicly reply, but to offer to buy a table at the upcoming Party dinner and give all proceeds to Matt Lundy, a progressive Democratic state representative now running for the only GOP-held county commissioner position.
“Running independent wasn’t our first choice, but hopefully this can help bring the Democratic leaders to their senses,” said Machinist Art Thomas. “If not, we’ve shown them that we can work with our friends and elect our own!”
Bruce Bostick is now Ohio state coordinator for the Alliance of Retired Americans and the Steelworkers Organization of Active Retirees and was a delegate to the Lorain County central labor council for more than 30 years.

December 4, 2013

A message for the brown kids

Q Wideman
This is for the brown kids.

This is for the free and reduced breakfast club.

This is for my loudmouth fistfighters.

My under-the-covers-reading all-nighters.

My late-shift-working in-class nappers.

My back-of-the-classroom rappers.

My mother-tongue-speaking back-talkers.

My always-finding-death-threats in their lockers.

My always-late-to-class little sibling caretakers.

My smartass saggy-pants troublemakers.

My brown genderqueer hip-switchers.

My test-anxiety-prone class-skippers.

My outside-agitator walkout organizers.

This is for my never-meant-to survivors.

In kindergarten, I already knew not to go anywhere unless I was sure there wouldn’t be a check-in.

I was always too chicken to speak to the men with guns on their hips.

And slurs in their snarling lips and I didn’t even go

to a school where they met me at the door.

So I’m gonna try to compute just how much more afraid I’d be today if the
first school club I was introduced to
was a billy club.

I’ll try to raise the number of panic attacks I’ve had this year to the power of
pepper spray, taser, glocks, handcuffs and a badge.

I’ll try to multiply my fear by the number of kids who look like me who had their faces slammed into pavement last semester.

And I know I haven’t been good at math since I was told I was a poor tester.

But something about the trauma of going to school under occupation seems
to add up to walking out
with less capacity to trust
than we walked in with.

To fear and resistance to authority.

To hyperactivity and needing to get free.

Critical Thinking Question: Why were the millions of dollars Wake County [N.C.] spent on police station contracts and security guards somehow easier to budget than even half the recommended number of counselors?

Answer: Because our minds are worth more to them terrified than understood.

See, our schools might look like prisons, but the bars aren’t for keeping us in; they’re for pushing us out.

Our schools are factories producing marketable products,
not making good citizens, but punishing manufactured misconduct.

There are more of my people incarcerated today than there were slaves in 1850 and black students in Wake County account for 60% of suspensions because their definition of defiance is “looking kinda shifty.”

Schools claim to be invested in teaching critical thinking but from us brown kids, asking questions equals dissension which leads to detention, suspension, and apprehension by state henchmen with the intention to arrest.

So ask us again why we don’t feel like participating in class discussion.

We dare you.

Ask us why we’d rather spend 90 minutes in a bathroom stall or wandering empty halls than in your classrooms.

We know that when we ask questions
we scare you.

You thought you were ready for us.

You’d already bought us jumpsuits
instead of graduation gowns.

You’d even opened up a whole new prison
by shutting some arts programs down.

You thought you were ready for us.

Us brown kids?

We’re ready for you, too

We are:
Healing our black eyes in
peer mediation sessions

Channeling Laila Ali in
Second Round Boxing lessons

We are:
Staying up all night reading
Michelle Alexander’s The New Jim Crow,
comprehending all kinds of things we were
never supposed to know.

We are:
Working the late shift paying bills
to stay alive,
even though we know we were never
meant to survive.

We are:
Rapping about restorative justice
and letting our spirits soar,
spittin’ about the day when Central Prison
is no more.

We are:
standing together, from AP English
to ISS to alternative schools to
Central Prison.

We are:
teaching you a lesson, and this time
you’re gonna have to listen to us,
the brown kids,
the kids from the back of the bus.

by Q Wideman