Friday, July 27, 2012

Speaking of Police State America....

This shocking scene was recorded last week in the subway by one of my Occupy/Ocupemos Sunset Park compañeros. The cop claims the kid jumped the turnstyle. This is what "stop and frisk" really means to thousands of thousands of black and latin youth in New York: degrading, frightening, brutal.


Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Welcome to Police State America

Some people are worried about disturbed individuals firing guns into movie theaters. I'm worried about a disturbed government firing guns against unarmed protesters including women and children. If you haven't been following the events in Anaheim, California, you're not looking in the right direction. Watch the above video soon as some versions have been pulled down from the internet as local California forces of repression try to suppress the story. Yes, that is black-clad stormtroopers firing rubber bullets into a crown of families and then setting the dogs after them. Yes, California, post-racial America, 2012.

Protests in Anaheim have been ongoing. Here from a couple days after that first video, well-known liveblogger Tim Pool wanders around Anaheim after a protest. This "dangerous armed (with an iphone) revolutionary" is then... fired on unprovoked and unannounced by the local stormtroopers. Yes, an unarmed member of the press fired on. Yes, California, post-racial America, 2012.

Now you can go back to paying attention to the sideshow freakfest that is the elections. When it's just as bad in 2013, no matter who wins, don't say I didn't warn you.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Remembering The Main Enemy

In the belly of the beast
As the "Arab Spring" continues to challenge the established order in countries across the Middle East, a key question has emerged: given the predatory nature of the United States, what's the proper response when local forces call for "humanitarian" military assistance from American or NATO forces? There's an ongoing debate on left forums in the internet, and I am happy to report that Kasama's Mike Ely has succinctly staked out a position that jibes with my own. This is a response written to a piece by Pham Binh, which originally appeared on The North Star and was reposted on Kasama called "Libya and Syria: When Anti-Imperialism Goes Wrong."

Here is a portion of Mike Ely's article. Read the whole thing at Kasama.

Answer to Pham Binh: Our responsibility to oppose new U.S. crimes, by Mike Ely

Here is one of the most basic and important questions of any revolutionary movement: Do you support the government and this system or don’t you? Do you see what their interests are, and the criminal nature of their actions, or don’t you?

All my life, I have seen how in popular movements the most basic goals are controversial. In ironic ways, it has been controversial to be antiwar in the antiwar movement. It has been controversial to be communist in the communist movement.

So I’m not surprised that someone writes (for audiences of communists, revolutionaries, and socialists) that we should support the U.S. military in its previous attack on Libya, and then even urges pre-support for a not-yet-existent U.S. attack on Iran’s ally government in Syria.
(I  wonder: Is this argument the leftist pre-stage to supporting coming Israeli/U.S. attacks on Iran? And which of Pham’s arguments here can’t be applied there?)
Here is my view in a nutshell:
  • We should not support U.S. military attacks around the world. We should not support U.S. bases, fleets, drones, agents, trainers, commandos or nukes intruding into the lives of people around the world.
  • We should support the isolation, defeat and dismantling of the U.S. military (not its murderous deployment in the troubled spots of empire). “Yankee Go Home!”
  • We should politically expose this military, its purposes, its goals, and its nature — not portray it as a possible force for good.
  • We should not create public opinion for its next possible attacks in the next zone of civil conflicts.
  • We should create public opinion for the future political dismantling of the U.S. military as an institution (and for its systematic removal around the world, break up of its office corps, the destruction of its nukes, the trial and punishment of its leading war criminals). Where the Pentagon stands, we should hope for a salted field of the kind that surrounded ancient Carthage.
I would like to break down parts of Pham’s argument, piece by piece.
Starting with insult for your opponents

Pham  starts by saying
“Reflexive opposition to Uncle Sam’s machinations abroad is generally a good thing. It is a progressive instinct that….”
Since Pham then goes on to reject such opposition, it is worth noting that the phrasing here is loaded. Our opposition to U.S. imperialism is here described as “reflexive,” “instinct” and later as “a broken record.” At one point, he even compares us to dogs salivating on command.

His claim is that consistent opposition to U.S. imperialist actions is unnuanced, mechanical and unthinking, as if we don’t consider specific circumstances, and are just on autopilot following raw gut feelings. And then his own analysis is purported to be, by contrast, thoughtful and engaged with reality.

I think these characterizations are as mistaken as they are rude.
Is it counterrevolutionary to oppose U.S. imperialism?

Pham writes:
“The moment the Syrian and Libyan revolutions demanded imperialist airstrikes and arms to neutralize the military advantage enjoyed by governments over revolutionary peoples, anti-interventionism became counter-revolutionary because it meant opposing aid to the revolution.”
This jumbles everything up.
First, supporting the U.S. government (from here within the U.S.) is counterrevolutionary, because we intend to make a revolution against them.

One of the key tasks of any revolutionary movement is to systematically expose the core institutions, figures and interests that define the existing system. It is an inflexible task. Any movement that is not clear on that cannot and will not ever train forces to make a revolution.

There may be rebellions against established governments in Syria and Libya, and this-or-that group may make tactical decisions of various kinds. But their choice hardly define (for us) what we should say or do in regard to this empire and its military.

We obviously can’t control what political forces do in Libya or Syria (and we are hardly in a position to advise them). But I can tell you that regardless of what anyone says, anywhere in the world, we will oppose U.S. imperialism.

When the German revolutionaries said during World War 1 “The main enemy is here in our own country,” they were saying that their political exposure and activity had to be aimed at the German imperialists –  at the German justifications of war aims, at the German government’s pretenses of democracy and anti-autocracy etc. Why? Because they (the communist revolutionaries in Germany) intended to mobilize forces to overthrow the German Kaiser and the capitalist system in Germany.
People in other countries (say in Russia, or France during World War 1) had other tasks — because (obviously) if a Russian socialist focused mainly on exposing German imperialism’s oppressive nature it would (objectively, in the real world of politics) mean encouraging the Russian war effort and strengthening the Russian Tsar.

We (in our time and place) have a special and distinct task in regard to U.S. imperialism. We are in the belly of this beast, in the heart of the empire — and the demagogic lies of the U.S. government have an especially great influence among the people.

Here in the U.S., too many people believe “The U.S. might not always be good, but it is certainly better than a Saddam, or an Assad, or a Gaddafi, or a Brezhnev, or…..” When the Hillaries and Reagans of this government portray the U.S. as a force for good, and for “democracy,” and for ending torture, and for popular sovereignty of distant peoples, we have a special and ongoing responsibility to expose all that.

There may be times when revolutionaries in distant places may find themselves in tactical alliances with reactionary powers. Mao Zedong in China and Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam took aid from the U.S. in WW2. The Vietnamese took aid from the USSR during their struggle for independence…
But again no decision by anyone anywhere should lead revolutionaries in the U.S. to ally with U.S. imperialism. And history is rich with examples of those who flirted with such pro-imperialist tactics, and the terrible consequences of that.

The illusion that the U.S. military might help the revolution
Pham assumes that the U.S. military intervention is somehow aid for revolutions in Libya and Syria.  This is perhaps the key issue (and key illusion) to discuss  (and I will open that issue here without dealing with it in great depth).

But here is the core reality to confront: The U.S. military is the single largest force of murder and oppression in world history. Its very purpose (its nature and its conscious goal) is to serve, defend and extend U.S. imperialism. When this massive and brutal military enters anywhere, that is done to extend U.S. power (and serve the larger purposes of U.S. state policy and capitalist interests).
Sometimes the U.S. fails in its policy goals. Sometimes its military actions bog down in failure and defeat (thank gawd). But their purpose and intent is always to deepen the U.S. grip on key and strategic parts of the world, to prevent genuine revolution, prevent the rise of non-revolutionary but anti-U.S. forces, to co-opt and intimidate diverse political forces, to force intrusion of U.S. economic interests and so on.

The military entrance of the U.S. imperialists is (objectively and inevitably) the intrusion of American interests and power — and (especially in fragile, undefined and chaotic political situations) they intentionally skew and transform the entire situation.

They encourage pro-U.S. puppet forces to emerge, they corrupt and compromise those who were not previously inclined that way, they attach threads to everything (including debts, trainers, etc) as political-military forces on the ground become dependent (for their day to day survival) on imperialist actions (and therefore inevitably obedient to imperialist demands, or even hints).
We oppose all of that.

We do not want the U.S. empire strengthened. We do not want the U.S. to have a say in who emerges in Syria or Libya or Iran. We do not want them to be able to mascarade as defenders of popular aspirations anywhere.

We need to oppose their practical efforts and politically expose their nature (to anyone we can reach)....

For a decade, the U.S. has been on a rampage (unprecedented since Hitler attacked his neighbors one by one in the late 1930s). This U.S. “war on the world” has focused on the wide swathe of countries from North Africa to Central Asia: Afghanistan, Iraq, Western Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia, Libya, now potentially Syria and Iran. This is all part of a single global strategy that emerged from 9/11 — where Bush and Obama policies have a great deal of overlap.

Do we really need to train the people to look at each of these cases, one by one, and ponder afresh “Is this one good for the people there?”

We should (and do) support popular uprisings against oppressive governments (including in China, Iran, Syria, Libya, Greece, Egypt, etc. etc.) but we should be firm, strategic and consistent in our opposition to U.S. imperialism. (That is our special responsibility for reasons having to do with both our position in the world and our particular task within world history.)...

We are revolutionaries and communists in the belly of the beast. We are people with serious responsibilities and serious intentions.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Sunset Park Rent Strike: Scenes from the Struggle

The first rent strike support flyer
My local Occupy group, Occupy/Ocupemos Sunset Park, has been immersed in a local struggle, a rent strike in a series of buildings on 46th Street in this Brooklyn neighborhood. Here are some of the flyers we've been producing for the actions.

The strike has been receiving terrific media coverage and terrific support from the Occupy network. I will be back in the next few days with a post to detail what's been happening and put the struggle in context.

The first action ended with an impromptu hour-long occupation of state assemblyman Felix Ortiz' office, which was truly awesome. Tonight, see the last flyer below, we're staging a sidewalk sleep-in and people's inspection of the buildings.

This video was taken at the first action; it sums up what was happening at the beginning. Yours truly is interviewed at length toward the end. Enjoy.

A terrific account of the strike with interviews with many of the rent strikers can be found here: "Brooklyn Women Make Their Building Theirs."

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

"The Most Powerful Workers in New York City"

Locked-out Con Ed worker in Brooklyn: "If We Go Out the Lights Go Out!"
On Sunday, July 1, contract negotiations between New York City's electric utility, Consolidated Edison or Con Ed, and its 8,500 unionized workers represented by the Utility Workers Union of America broke down. Even though New York City was entering a heatwave, stressing the electrical grid across the city, the electric company locked out the workers, replacing them in their crucial jobs with a smaller number of managers and bosses. The union for the workers has continued to try to negotiate with the electric company, but they've also been holding daily pickets and solidarity rallies across New York City.

A group of revolutionary organizers calling themselves the New York City Renegades have been agitating among the workers with some of the most powerful worker-focused propaganda I've seen in years. This is a brilliant example of some of the fruits of the Occupy Wall Street movement: class consciousness, solidarity, autonomous community/worker organizing outside the confines of existing organizations, all in convergence with solid revolutionary organizing traditions. The goal of these organizers is to "unite the workers with the 'hood." I met with some of the Renegades in time to pass out some leaflets at a rally of the UWUA workers outside the Con Ed offices on Flatbush Avenue in Brooklyn; I found the gathered workers hungry for solidarity, the leaflets flew out of my hand.

These leaflets are a necessary challenge to the top-down strategies of existing union leadership. Union-busting is a priority strategy of state and local governments, both Republican- and Democratic -led, across the country. The Renegades are arguing that the small minority of working people who are still unionized must unite with those who are not, in order to beat back a fundamental attack on the right of people to organize themselves. A bitter defeat is possible: the unions who still hold sway with public employees desperately need allies.

Here are two of the leaflets distributed by the Renegades to the locked-out Con Ed workers in preparation for organizing a workers and community meeting to plan a course of action.


Con Ed, MTA and healthcare workers are the most powerful workers in the entire city. But they have been defeated by the bosses and politicians in every major labor fight in the last decade. Unless things change quick, more defeats are coming.

The bosses win because they pit the poor and working class public against the workers when the workers resist. In this right over the Con Ed contract, many everyday people see the wages of Con Ed workers as the cause of their high utilities bill, instead of a small taste of what all working class people could win if they stick together. Others consider the lockout a private matter to be handled between Con Ed and its workforce, instead of an issue that affects all New Yorkers. This is a trap set by the bosses and politicians, and it has worked all too well.

The only way to escape this trap is for workers to lead the whole of New York City in a struggle for a better life, including people outside their own workplaces and unions. If MTA workers called a fare strike with free transit for everyone in the city, all poor and working people would immediately support it. If Con Ed workers called for a strike to end stop and frisk and make utilities free, every young person of color in the city would have their back.

If workers provided this kind of leadership, all the crap about young people smoking weed and acting like delinquents would disappear. Young people would show up at picket lines and throw eggs at managers. They would fight the police tooth and nail if scabs were brought in. Instead of beefing with each other and hurting the community, poor and working class youth would direct their anger at the bosses, politicians and police who oppress us all. One million students are on summer vacation right now, with no work and few social programs, waiting to take up this fight.

Will Con Ed workers provide this leadership for New York City? It will require leaving isolated pickets outside Con Ed yards, and doing public actions at drop-in centers and other busy locations across the city. It will require explaining to millions of everyday people what the Con Ed workers are fighting for, and discussing how to fight together against the bosses in the common interest. It will require finding new ways to fight, and taking initiative without waiting for direction from the union leadership.

If free utilities, healthcare, and transport become part of workers' demands, the working class of New York City will unite, and become unstoppable. Then workers will be able to win not only a contract, but a hell of a lot more.

And here's a second, follow-up flyer:


Management is preparing for a long battle with Con Ed workers, and is willing to risk the deaths of New Yorkers and its own management to win. An opponent like this can't be defeated with kid gloves. Con Ed workers need to take their gloves off and beat management to a pulp. But how?

Praying for a blackout to bring Con Ed to its knees is hardly a winning strategy. It's more like the hail mary of people who don't have a plan to win by their own initiative. Rallies are often just glorified pep rallies, and do little to win over the public. The rally on July 5th was like the festivals put on during Roman times. Orgies and spectacles were the order of the day while the rest of the society was collapsing. Right now we have millions in prison, many more in failing schools, and even more with no jobs and no hope of finding them — many Black and Latino. These same people are being told in the Daily News that stubborn workers are the cause of their problems.

There is a lot of big talk about the power of the union. But a lockout tells another story, that management was preparing this for months, getting ready to sucker punch the workers. Where were the union leaders when this was happening? Sitting around, reassuring workers that they were powerful, while sipping margaritas with [NYC mayor] Bloomberg and the ruling class of this city. That's not a winning strategy.

Con Ed workers have a choice: either build a citywide counterattack against the bosses, or submit to a drawn-out, exhausting negotiation process that will probably end in an ass whooping. Tough talk is not enough.

A growing crew of young people is ready, willing and able to join with Con Ed workers. We want to strategize and try out new ways to bring the workers' struggle to millions of everyday New Yorkers. We want to uppercut [Con Ed CEO] Kevin Burke and knock his ass out. Together we can make it happen.

Here's an excerpt from a third flyer calling for a community meeting:


We believe only the rank and file of Local 1-2 can win against Con Ed and lead NYC. The ranks have power, but they have not used it so far. There are only two endings to this struggle: defeat or victory. The next 10 days will determine the next tens years of your life. Won't you wish you gave everything you had to fight against Con Ed?

The point of this meeting is not to tell each other Burke is a jerk, Con Ed is making lots of money, and the unions are under attack. All of us know these things. The purpose of this meeting is so Con Ed Workers, along with community members, can discuss how we can win against Con Ed. We must think, plan, and execute a strategy to defeat Con Ed. We do not have even a second to lose. Management is working its ass off to defeat you. How hard are you willing to think and work to win?

[...] Should we occupy Con Ed HQ, should we march through the streets of Manhattan shutting them down or occupy Brooklyn Bridge? Should we ask the people of NYC to not pay their bills while workers are locked out?... Bring your ideas to the table!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Police Terrorists Raid Leftist Organizers in Seattle

Apartment in Seattle ransacked by SWAT team looking for "anarchist materials"
An apartment used by organizers for Occupy Seattle and the Kasama-affiliated Red Spark Collective was raided early this morning by a SWAT team who broke down the door and used flash grenades to force their way in. Though they arrested nobody, the police terrorists cuffed the residents while they tore the apartment apart, looking for "anarchist materials" and a black hoodie allegedly connected to this year's militant May Day marches in Seattle.

The apartment has been a hub for organizing an upcoming cultural and political festival called "Everything 4 Everyone."

Here's the official Occupy Seattle press statement:

"Early morning, June 10, SWAT police forced their way into the Seattle apartment of several organizers from the Occupy movement. The sleeping individuals, two residents and two visitors, scrambled to put on clothes as they were confronted by officers holding drawn tactical rifles.
The neighbor, Natalio Perez heard the attack from downstairs: “Suddenly we heard a loud crash which was, I guess, them breaking down the door, and then right after I heard what must have been the flash bang grenade and a lot of yelling over a loudspeaker. I heard them go up the stairs and then there was just a lot of crashing and stomping as they tore the place apart.”
After the raid, the residents examined the papers handed them by a detective. One explained: “This warrant notes that they were specifically looking for ‘anarchist materials’—this says to me that it’s an explicitly political thing. That we are not being raided for connection to any crime, but to some political ideology that the police think we have. I was just doing research on the old Pinkerton strikebreaking paramilitaries, so it’s kind of funny, you know, to have that old red scare history burst through my front door at six AM.”
This action targets well known activists from Occupy Seattle who have recently been involved with anti-police brutality organizing, actions against the juvenile detention center and the weekly Food for Everyone free barbecue in the Central District.
“They took basic stuff,” another resident said. “A zip-up sweater, one glove, a blue beanie, a pink scarf. They took a few flyers we had, one from a book release party for a book on Occupy.
This is stuff that would be in the house of any activist or even people who just come to events now and then.”

For ongoing details of this blatant attack on the right of the people to organize, check out updates on Kasama including this account of details. For information on Everything for Everyone, including a link to make donations, click here.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

NYC Gay Pride 2012

Occupride/Occupy Wall Street contingent, gay pride New York City 2012
I wrote a report on this year's gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender pride parade in New York City. It appears on Kasama. Here's a couple pictures I took of the day.

NYPD pens in queer people on Christopher Street