Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Dissolving the Right-Wing "Left"

Revolution must NOT be directed toward the seizure of power, but the dissolution of it. Marx continually stressed the preconditions for freedom as economic ones and he declared that the "ultimate goal" would be a stateless society, however, one must not forget that right-wing Marxism (a.ka. Leninism) smuggles in intensely authoritarian methods and institutions for advancing economic development.

Mikhail Bakunin adamantly disagreed with Karl Marx about the historical role of the state. While Marx believed the state's historical role to be "progressive" and that centralization was an advance over localism and regionalism, Bakunin correctly understood a federalist structure that embraced localism and regionalism to be the most direct means through which the individual would control his/her life. "These seemingly abstract theoretical differences between Marx and Bakunin lead to opposing conclusions of a very concrete and political nature. For Marx, whose concept of freedom is vitiated by preconditions and abstractions, the immediate goal of the revolution is to seize political power and replace the bourgeois state by a highly centralized 'proletarian' dictatorship. The poletariat must thus organize a mass centralized political party and use every means, including parlimentary and electoral methods, to enlarge its control over society...A revolutionary group that turns into a political party, structuring itself along hierarchical lines and participating in elections, Bakunin warns, will eventually abandon its revolutionary goals. It will become denatured by the needs of political life and finally become coopted by the very society it seeks to overthrow." The historical record of these highly centralized "dictatorships of the proletariat," has continually proved Bakunin to be prophetic.

The immediate goal of the revolution for Bakunin, however, is to "extend the individual's control over his/her own life" by dissolving power. The revolutionary movement must reflect the society it is trying to create. So if it sets as its "ultimate goal" a stateless society as Marx claimed should be the aim of communism, it must maintain itself as such throughout its revolutionary trajectory. Working away from the center and returning direct/participatory powers at the local level must be the goal: i.e. federalism.

"If the movement is to avoid turning into an end in itself, into another state, complete conformity must exist between its means and ends, between form and content." "If people are to achieve freedom, if they are to be revolutionized by the revolution, they must make the revolution themselves, not under the tutelege of an all-knowing political party." Bakunin appreciated that a "revolutionary movement was needed to catalyze revolutionary posibilities." He suggested the movement be organized into small groups of dedicated "brothers who single-mindedly pursue the task of fomenting the revolution."

Yet another black mark on the historical record for Marxism (Leninism) is its criminal treachery and deceit in the most advanced, large-scale social revolution the world has ever witnessed: the Spanish Revolution. The anarchist revolution of Spain challenged every popular notion of a libertarian society as an unworkable utopia. Unfortunately, due to the criminal treachery of socialists and communists alike, in league with the major powers of the world, Spain (and the rest of the world) was denied an historical human right. On the other hand, I guess we can continue to marvel at the accuracy of Bakunin's predictions about right-wing Marxism's betrayal of the revolution.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


The Sun Never Says

Even after all this time
the sun never says to the earth,

"You owe me."

Look what happens with a love like that,

It lights up the whole sky.

As yet, I don't believe in God... but I do believe in my family.

Yesterday my mom, 64 years old, broke her tibia and fell down the last four steps of the staircase she was descending. My dad rushed her to the hospital were she had to undergo an immediate surgery to put a pin in her leg. Thankfully, she wasn't hurt worse.

The news reached our family and the response was not surprising at all. My twin sister called off her Thanksgiving plans. She and her husband loaded their van with their family of six, his tools and in the late of evening headed from Montana to Colorado on a 13-hour journey. They stayed in Jackson Hole just to wake up this morning and drive into Steamboat Springs, Colorado where my parents were working to fix up the building that was the home to our family business for years.

They will arrive and my sister will immediately go to work to make a Thanksgiving dinner for my mom, dad and her family. Her husband will spend the next three days of his Thanksgiving break doing construction with my dad. Then he'll load up his kids and drive them back for school on Monday morning. My twin will stay in Steamboat until my mom can travel and then take her back to Montana to take care of her until she can use her crutches.

Next week, my older sister will take her youngest son, 17, with her to Steamboat from Idaho to work on the building until all of the work is finished so my dad can come home to Montana. My parents' sole source of income is tied up in that building and with it in disrepair, their livelihood is very fragile.

Just a month earlier, this same big sister--in an act of total unselfishness--bought plane tickets for five of us: my older brother, his wife and daughter, my fiancee and me. She did this so that we could attend an uncle's funeral in San Diego. This sister is anything but financially secure, yet she didn't hesitate to make possible our family's gathering for this solemn occasion.

This family of mine is not without a history of conflict and pain, but what is amazing is that through the years we've worked hard to resolve and forgive each other for our missteps and mistakes. Most of all, this family has shown its true colors when we've most needed each other.

Gandhi once said that:

"Life will not be a pyramid with the apex sustained by the bottom. But it will be an oceanic circle whose centre will be the individual always ready to perish for the village, the latter ready to preish for the circle of villages, until at last the whole becomes one life composed of individuals...the outermost circumference will not wield power to crush the inner circle but will give strength to all within and derive its strength from it."

My strength to struggle for peace and justice, and risk my livelihood para la causa is derived in every way from my family. For me, it's definitely worth the pain to reach across the fire and make my relationships work. It's worth it to forgive. It's worth it to distinguish my true needs from my desires, and then to let go of as many of my cravings as possible. I will remember that to be "right" I often label others "wrong": I will work to let go of the desire to be right. I will try to remember that the consequences of my actions are the very ground upon which I stand: I will try to stop actions that cause others to suffer. Today especially, I give thanks to my family for all its grace.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 13, 2006

Deja Furniture

It may be time to seriously consider joining Gregrandgar in returning to the "natural." I'm in the process of moving and I can hardly believe the amount of crap I have re-accumulated in just four short years.

Four years ago, alone in my house, wife vamoosed for a saner existence, I realized it was time to make some serious changes. A journey began that I know see as an eternal and ontological one. I sold nearly all I owned (I had to keep some of my clothes and my kitchen supplies as chef), but I let most of it go.

The twisted twist of fate began at the very moment I sold my things. A young woman I was rapidly falling for keep coming around my house buying up all my possessions. Guess what? We're getting married just four years later! I barely stopped living with the very things I wanted so desperately to escape. I was going for minimalism and ended up right back where I started. I want the woman, not the crap. It's starting to feel like a Borgesian labyrinth.

Tomorrow, I will move my/her things one more time to one more new "home." The best I can do is get rid of things every time I move. Maybe I should move more often?

Friday, November 10, 2006

bob marley

This is what put the "Bob" in "Che Bob." This man was amazing!
Silvio Rodriguez - Ojalá (mano a mano)

Listen to the audience serenade Silvio.

The Yes Men
Flurry Of V's - V For Vendetta

No comment!

Missoula, Montana

I wonder what other U.S. cities can claim to be as politically pivotal as Missoula, Montana?

Missoula gave the U.S. Senate to the Democrats on a platter. Voter turnout in Missoula was over 70%, and it was this town that voted overwhelmingly for Jon Tester! Jon Tester and Jim Webb (newly elected Senator from Virginia) were in the deciding races that gave control of the Senate to the Democrats. Appropriately, this is a country of political apathy with voter turnouts usually hovering around 40%, but not in Missoula (original home to the Wobblies "free-speech fights"). In Missoula, one can find an over-educated/under-employed population that turns out 3000 people for a Day of the Dead parade in the cold, dark of the night to watch floats walk by that include protestors denouncing the U.S.'s history of violent intervention in Latin America! Our congressional delegation is smart to move their headquarters to Helena, Great Falls or Billings where they will not have to face the protests in front of their offices. In Missoula, one can attend a rally called "Dump Bush!" with 5,000 angry citizens. Missoula passes every educational mill levy. Missoula is currently trying to adopt a Sweat-free Community resolution thereby making the city purchase sweatfree products only! Ahhh Missoula, take a bow!

With only 900,000 people in this state, each and every vote carries tremendous power. Montana's U.S. Senator-elect, Jon Tester, was elected with only 198,302 votes and only won by a margin of roughly 2,800. In Virginia's tight senatorial race, Jim Webb with 1,172,671 votes won by a margin of 7,000 votes.

Montana is a Red State despite the fact that we've now got a Democratic Governor and two Democratic Senators. Missoula, however, is a relatively progressive pocket in this state. This is due in no small part to the presence of the University of Montana, a reputedly progressive university. It is often chided and ridiculed for its progressive politics around the state. With its university in hand, Missoula is thus known endearingly as that "damned hippy town!" Considering the results this town has produced by delivering to American politics a new face with a 70% voter turnout, I'd have to say the old notion that "marijuana breeds apathy" has been turned on its head.

Speaking of marijuana, Missoula passed an initiative that may prove it deserves much of its reputation. By a relatively comfortable margin, Initiative 2 was passed by Missoula voters on election day. This initiative makes enforcing marijuana offenses against adults the lowest priority for Missoula County law enforcement. Appropriately, Missoula voters understood the need for law enforcement to focus on serious crimes instead of the massive amount of energy it has focused on arresting marijuana users. Over the last couple of years, marijuana arrests in Missoula County have skyrocketed while cases of robbery and rape have gone unsolved. The reason for this disproportionate enforcement can be explained politically. By focusing on marijuana crimes county law enforcement can have high arrest rates and appear to be doing their job. Unfortunately, serious crimes have been committed in this town and remained unsolved. Missoula voters saw through the politics and took measures into their own hands.

"The world is full of bastards, the number increasing rapidly the further one gets from Missoula, Montana." --Norman Maclean

Saturday, November 04, 2006


With elections fast approaching in Nicaragua, the US is MIGHTILY concerned that their old nemisis, Daniel Ortega, appears to be in a position to clinch the victory. So , in an act of such blatant hypocricy one has to wonder what these fools are smoking, the usual assortment of conservative congressmen, state department lackeys and pundits are directly interfering in the sovereign internal workings of a countries democratic process. They are intimidating and threatening the voters of Nicaragua through various low down and underhanded means including a threat to block the remittances sent home to families in Nicaragua by members living and working in the States. Remittances play a large role in the economy of this impoverished nation, a further injustice who's structural underpinnings lie in capitalist exploitation and for which I would need another page and a half to rant about.

Suffice to say, when somebody like Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez DARES to express support for a candidate in, say, the Peruvian elections, the US oligarchy goes ballistic with charges of "meddling". The "democracy" the US supports is the kind where our handpicked technocrat wins, something like the purple fingered farce in Iraq. The kind of democracy we punish is the kind where less-than neoliberal or War on Terror-friendly candidates come out on top...think Hamas victory in Palestine.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Statement of Concern

To the Federal Government of Mexico,

CAJA (Community Action for Justice in the Americas), a Latin American solidarity group from Missoula, Montana, U.S.A., wishes to publicly express its concern about indications coming from Mexico that a violent intervention will take place in the political conflict that is occurring in the state of Oaxaca. We strongly urge that a path of nonviolence through dialogue and restraint be sought.

We have been informed of the possibility of an armed-intervention in Oaxaca against the striking teachers and the APPO (Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca). We fear that if these forces were to enter Oaxaca to end the conflict that they will only escalate violence and result in further tragedy. In addition, there is a media campaign being carried out by the Oaxacan state government on national TV, which intends to criminalize the social movement and justify its call for the entry of federal forces. We denounce the media’s efforts and we maintain that a violent response is not the solution to this conflict.

Furthermore, we believe that a violent response to the conflict represents a serious violation of international accords on the defense of human rights and a departure from the democratic process that Mexican society has struggled to construct. A violent response will only serve to promote the systematic violation of human rights in Oaxaca. Various other national and international institutions have also expressed their concern sending urgent actions and recommendations that your government show restraint.

Therefore, we strongly reject any use of violence as a resolution to this conflict. It is in the hands of the Federal Government of Mexico to respond to the people of Oaxaca, and the APPO—to whom we give our full support—through dialogue and a complete respect for human rights.


Community Action for Justice in the Americas

More Victims of War

"Sometimes when you take a life it is funny. Watching a human body instantly become lifeless and tumble awkwardly in the heat of battle is a stress reliever; knowing that you eliminated the enemy (before he elimiated you) and watch him disgracefully land head over heels. Killing is what we as the US military are trained to do, whether you like it or not - that's just the facts. Why else have a military?" --posted by Killed Anyone Lately?

I read through this exchange and was very disturbed. As I read the comments I was overwhelmed with grief that these soldiers are so stripped of their humanity. I am not at all “glad” that they are wired so. I’m not at all glad that they are able to kill. The American war machine has made killing an easier thing to do, and it says that at least its soldiers are ready when it’s necessary. Well, what happens when it’s not necessary, like when they’ve come home to their families? I’d prefer that they were like anyone else, i.e. reluctant to kill, afraid to kill. Yes, we’d be an ineffective army, but I’d prefer that we weren’t so good at killing. For one, I still don’t believe this country has ever fought a “necessary” war like we’ve been taught to believe. World War II was way too full of contradictions and pretexts to be so easily billed as an “honorable” war. If you haven’t read Howard Zinn’s work on WWII, please take a look.

To me, one of the tragic victims of these wars is the soldier him/herself. Look at what they are capable of feeling, thinking and doing! It’s horrifying! These soldiers are completely blind to the causes of wars, and have very little capacity for doubting the merits of the wars they are fighting. One of the reasons they so quickly and vehemently defend their acts as “necessary” is an automatic defense mechanism against the cosmic guilt they must feel for committing these acts! They have these ready-made, fabricated responses all cued up and ready to spew: “we’re protecting your asses!”, “we’re protecting your rights to free speech!”, “we’re taking the fight to them, so they won’t bring it home to you!”, and on and on… They need to believe these lies so that they can manage the internal psychological war they are fighting. They hate it when people like myself say: “it’s not your war, this is a class war and you’re killing your brothers and sisters!” Or, “you’re not protecting freedom; you’re fighting a rich man’s war over resources!”

These soldiers so deeply identify with these wars because they have to! They have to in order to combat the guilt they feel when they recognize that their sacrifices or their killing was all for the power and wealth of the rich man who continues to control their lives even after the war is over! If my job description was, “protector of freedom…may require killing some innocent people, but that is the price of freedom,” what do you think I’m going to say to people who oppose war? Of course, I’m going to be defensive, even perhaps violent! Unless I’m willing to face massive shame and guilt and admit that I’d been foolishly or unwittingly duped into believing that my nightmare existence was necessary, I think I’d do every thing I could to continue the illusion! Fortunately, it doesn’t have to come down to a soldier’s individual guilt or complicity. That soldier had been indoctrinated, even brainwashed, into believing the nightmare to be true and could do little to resist it. I feel a great deal of compassion for the soldiers of war! They are victims of the worst kind. Not only do they suffer the internal contradictions of knowing something is amiss in what they are doing, they must take the memory of their acts with them for eternity.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

How to Resist




Resist corporate corruption and support local industries by creating local communities committed to social and economic justice. Communities across the U.S. are passing binding Sweatfree resolutions. In my own community (Missoula, MT), an amazing organization, CAJA (Community Action for Justice in the Americas: www.caja.org), is finding wide support for a Sweatfree Community Campaign. If you like, you can read about Sweatfree communities at: www.sweatfree.org

Another simple thing one can do is to support local farmers' markets. You know: Buy Fresh/Buy Local. These kinds of actions are neither frivolous nor superficial. Through buying our food from local farmers (Missoula's farmers' market has grown into a hugely popular cultural event!) one is also conserving massive amounts wasted energy in the transportation/storage costs implied in our food system. Simply planting one's own garden in any green space in our community can become a revolutionary act. Take back our public space with community gardens—even in urban settings—and we are resisting the corporatization of our world. Local farmers (who are largely Hmong, Hudderite, Hispanic, and Russian minorities) are benefiting from this local action.

Set up local "free-schools." Very little money is needed, just a belief in unfettered community education. Anarchist Spain once ran free-schools with the idea of encouraging self-reliance, critical consciousness, as well as community and personal development. Young idealistic students set up the Missoula Free School with these very same beliefs.

Foster direct democracy by promoting community organizing. Encourage neighborhood groups to demand a role in local decision making. Take back local governments that were hijacked by conservative elites in our communities. For example, look at local school boards that are being manhandled by conservative bankers, lawyers, and business owners. Replace them with citizens from the growing poor class. When all else fails, encourage local level communities to take direct action to affect change.

Finally, one of the best ways to tie education, organization and emancipation together is through radical union participation. We must get people to organize themselves through their daily work. Unions like the Industrial Workers of the World still exist. Organizing all workers into One Big Union is still a practice: making an injury to one an injury to all. Only when the working class controls the means of production will they begin to be "free."

A lucid example of the genuinely positive effects of a general strike, took place in a most recent event in Chile. The high school students in that country were able to rally together the largest mass mobilization since Pinochet to their cause. Joining them in the general strike were their teachers, administrators, educational experts, labor unions, churches and other social stakeholders. As a result, they won a voice in the decision-making process for the reform of that country's educational policy in a relatively short time period (three months).

Calling the system "evil" is not enough! Educating our fellow community members of the benefits to supporting local business is tantamount to resisting corporate capitalism. The most recent E. Coli scare is a great point of departure for this kind of education. Why not encourage local communities to take direct control of their lives, especially control of our most basic needs: i.e. food, housing, and labor. Can't we imagine an organized group of local farmers benefiting from the protection of an educated local community that demanded their local products in lieu of the heavily subsidized Agribusiness products that are genetically modifying, chemically processed and unsafe?

Paulo Freire, Pedagogy of the Oppressed, suggested posing problems for communities to solve and making education an informal process. This means that we engage in dialogical learning rather than the transmission of “facts.” Instead of having “teachers/leaders” educate the masses from on high, the oppressed can only become aware of their oppressor through action that is informed and linked to certain values. Creating the “time and space” for a community to dialogue about its problems is the key. As mentioned above, these spaces—where praxis is linked to education—are local: farmers’ markets, neighborhood circles, free schools, unions, etc.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

"America" is Not Evil

The U.S. is definitely dysfunctional! However, I can't go so far as to use the word "evil." What a tricky word! In particular, it seems precarious to try to personify "America" by qualifying it as "sick" or "evil." I cringe at the thought of the potential faces one puts on the idea of "America" when personifying it--especially when one holds it to be "evil."

For one thing, I am an American. I am not proud of my government. I disdain patriotism. Likewise, I loath its symbols and myths that misdirect and misinform. I do not, and will likely never, say the Pledge of Allegiance. I am a teacher, and I would never teach my students with the objective of making them patriots. I teach them to think critically of their reality. I teach them to assess their own crimes, misdeeds, etc. and to take responsibility for them. I teach them to set for themselves higher standards then they set for others. I teach them to see the interconnection of our entire globe.

However, that said, I am quite proud of many aspects of American culture and history. For example, I am proud of my fellow workers that have suffered –yet struggled against—the wrath of the employing class throughout American history. I am proud of the struggles of oppressed races, genders and sexual orientations. Therefore, if I were asked to personify "America" and put a face on it, I suppose I'd opt for the working class, American Indians, etc. Quite clearly, this face should not be seen as "evil" or "sick."

One of the things I respect about Fidel Castro--despite some obvious flaws--is that he has always been clear to distinguish between "America" and the "U.S. Government." Hugo Chavez seems to be embracing a similar pattern. This is important when discussing this North American empire. As a member of the working class, I see quite clearly that I have nothing in common with the employing class. Since the U.S. Government is beholden to the elite employing class, it represents as much of an obstacle to achieving true freedom and dignity to the American working class as it does to the working class around the world. Therefore, my common ground is with the global working class, the poor, the oppressed, etc.

On another level, "America" as an identifier is additionally tricky because it includes North America, Central America and South America. Perhaps we should reclaim the understanding that we are all Americans. Por eso, me gusta como actualmente el mundo hispano-parlante se está distinguiendo a los habitantes del imperio como "estadounidenses" en vez de "americanos." Todos somos americanos: peruanos, guatemaltecos, mexicanos, canadienses, etc. Al mismo tiempo, cuando uno quiere destacar un aspecto negativo, o un comportamiento feo ("malo" o "enfermo") cometido por unos estadounidenses, uno debe agruparles como "yanquis." No soy ni "yanqui" ni “gringo” ni “gabacho,” pero sí soy americano al mismo tiempo que soy un estadounidense…y sí hablo español. [Translation: "For that matter, I like how the contemporary Spanish-speaking world distinguishes the inhabitants of the empire as "United Statesians" instead of "Americans." We are all Americans: Peruvians, Guatemalans, Mexicans, Canadians, etc. At the same time, if one wants to highlight a negative aspect or some ugly behavior ("evil" or "sick") committed by a "United Statesian," one should call that person a "Yankee." I am not a "yankee," nor a "gringo," nor a "gabacho," but I am an American as well as a "United Statesian"...and yes, I speak Spanish."]

I do not believe “America” is something “to be got rid of." The U.S. government, perhaps! But better yet, let’s look at the system that precedes the thinking that one might—for lack of a better word—call “sick.” If there exists a system—a superstructure—that pervades every aspect of our lives (Mexican, Angolan, and American alike) especially the formulation of our thinking, what hope is there that we will ever “get rid of” any of the dysfunctional effects by calling them “evil.” It isn’t the effects that are “evil” or even dysfunctional, but the cause. That cause is a system that divides, oppresses, and has an insatiable appetite for profit over people. That system is capitalism. It isn’t the “Americanization” of the world one should fear, but the “Coca-Cola-ization” or “McDonaldsization” of the world! Resist branding by corporations! Resist corporate globalization! Resist capitalism! Resist orthodoxies como el fin de la historia!

Monday, October 09, 2006

Direct Action

Yet another example of how direct action through mass mobilization can lead to a more democratic process took place in Latin America this year. This time it was in Chile. The honeymoon for the "first-ever woman elected president" Michelle Bachelet ended in April of 2006 as Chileans "organiz[ed] against market-based education" (International Socialist Review, Sept. 2006), which Bachelet showed no signs of ending. It's odd that Bachelet was reluctant to reform the educational system that her once arch-enemy, Pinochet, established as means for providing huge profits to private industry. However, where Bachelet seemed complacent, the students seemed more than willing to motivate Bachelet to action!

Not too long ago, I remember being struck by many progressives' enthusiasm for Bachelet despite her unabashed support for neoliberal economics through free trade agreements. Sure, she was knowingly elected as a "social democrat" that promised that in Chile "la Alegria ya viene" ("happiness is on the way"). While several improvements may have taken place, including the end of "senator-for-life" appoinments, the immense wealth generated by Chile's copper is still not reaching its poor. One of the notable area's of Chilean society not receiving any benefit from Chile's copper wealth was education. The reaction should therefore not be surprising.

What has ensued is a mass mobilization unwitnessed in Chile since Pinochet. Most of the protests and marches have been led by student/parent/teacher groups. Some have actually led to takeovers of school buildings. There has been repression and arrests of students, but this has only lended itself to the continued rise in numbers protesting the government's repressive actions. "Among the students' short term demands were free bus fare and the waiving of the university admissions test (PSU) fee, while the longer term demands included: the abolition of the Organic Constitutional Law on Teaching (LOCE), the end to municipalization of subsidized education, a reform to the Full-time School Day policy (JEC) and a quality education for all" (Wikipedia: "2006 student protests in Chile").

Since April, 2006 nation-wide mobilization and protest had grown. Students were joined by parents, teachers, administrators as well as other trade unions. As the movement grew so did the police repression. The Minister of Education, Martin Zilic, continually refused to meet with the students further provoking their protestations. President Bachelet had to take notice of the growing protests. Finally, in response to school-takeovers, Bachelet began to sound like a man that was once responsible for her own capture and torture: Pinochet. Bachelet said: "Let me be crystal clear. What we have witnessed over recent weeks is unacceptable. I will not tolerate acts of vandalism or intimidation. I will apply the full force of the law."

On June 5, 2006 an estimated 900,000 students assembled for a national strike. This was the largest mobilization since 1972! The students are not buying Bachelet's bill of goods who has told the students there is no money. A student was quick to point out that for the "price of just one of the seventeen F-16 jets she bought for the armed forces this year is enough to cover all or our demands."

The movement forced the president to concede to create an advisory committee. While the students pointed out that the committee should consist of "students, teachers, school administrators, education experts and other social stakeholders...[and that] half of them should be determined by the student assembly," the government explained that the president was free to decide who would be included. Six of the 73 members of the committee are high school students. With the formation of this committee, the students agreed to end the strike, return to school and continue negotiating for the end of the LOCE, a notorious legacy of Pinochet and neoliberal economics.

To me, the most important lesson learned from our Chilean brothers and sisters is the effect of direct action as a means for achieving change when the representative deomcratic system seems to represent/favor mostly the interests of the polictical and economic elite. Watching the changes in Bolivia, Venezuela, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, Brazil, et. al. is inspiring. As long as the U.S. is tied up in Iraq, it seems that there may be too many fires for our government to put out. Recent events in Oaxaca, Mexico are yet another example of popular resistance led by teachers. Que viva los maestros y los estudiantes!

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Who Can Afford Life?

What a truly dysfunctional society we have created that tells us that some lives are worth more than others. Only those that can afford a safe car, car seats, side-collision airbags, reinforced steel, etc., etc… “Larger, heavier cars with poor ratings may easily produce better results than smaller cars with good ratings” (safecarguide.com). But who can afford the heavier cars? For that matter, how many poor families in poor states like Montana—which happen to have very high traffic fatality rates—can afford a new car with basic safety features at all? Besides, even if you’re lucky to be in one of the safest small vehicles, you will still not survive a collision with Richie Rich’s Hummer.

What does a poor family choose to do as winter nears and they have to decide whether or not to buy much needed new tires to make their cars safer or to take their sick children to the doctor during flu season? The fact is money doesn’t go far enough and millions of American families are forced to make decisions that one should not be forced to make.

Health care is but one of many factors in the widening gap of haves and have nots. Fewer and fewer Americans can afford the best medical care. The rest are left to decide whether or not they should tough out preventable and curable illnesses. Disclaimers, caveats and loopholes make many group medical plans (HMOs, etc.) dangerously deceiving to unsuspecting and ignorant policyholders. In some cases, specific procedures that are necessary for survival are seen as “elective,” such as some organ transplant surgeries. Millions of Americans depend on their employee insurance to protect them and their families, yet are completely unaware of exactly what their insurance affords them. Besides, the out-of-pocket expenses make insurance a less-than-effective means for sound health care. Again, the “unaffordability” of health care determines that only a select group of people are worthy of care.

It is striking to think of the political platform of many American politicians and their supporters that claim to be against abortion, calling themselves “pro-life.” In many cases, these same politicians are the ones that are against socialized medicine—a system of medical care that nearly all of the first-world countries employ. Not coincidentally, first-world countries with socialized medicine have much better overall public health and health care. What on earth are we waiting for? A “pro-lifer” seems to be telling the world that they are “pro-life” only up until the point that the person is born, then afterwards…not so much!

Money buys one the means of production, influence, power, safe cars (that kill the people in the little cars), best lawyers, best education, best houses, best cars, best health care, best food, luxury items, best clothing, best vacations, and on and on…those without money, well…I guess you can join the rich man’s army and fight their wars.

The sickness of capitalism is further highlighted in “terminator seeds.” Terminator Technology, a brainchild of the monstrosity known as Monsanto, was designed as a means for restricting the natural process of seed regeneration, thereby forcing farmers to purchase their seeds each year from, you guessed it: Monsanto and Co. To me, very few modern business practices more eloquently express the incompatibility of a capitalist system and the natural order. A company thinks up a way to create an everlasting monopolistic dependency by modifying the most basic processes of life: life itself. The process creates seeds that are sterile so that they can not regenerate. Perhaps this is capitalism at its worst, but innumerable cases such as Monsanto abound, and they only serve to add more evidence of its “anti-life” by-products.

Capitalism cannot be reformed, nor would an informed and aware populace wish to reform it. Since the world is divided into a capitalist class and a working class, the work must be to continue to point out to the working class the absurdity and “anti-life” nature of capitalism. We must be made more and more aware of the oppressor. This work involves highlighting the fundamental disparity between capitalism and democracy. Theses two concepts have been too closely linked and they should be clearly demarcated through education.

The Wobblies, IWW, in Butte, Montana from 1905-1920 believed that the raising of the social consciousness and the overall education of the working class was a natural process of direct action. They believed that true revolutionaries would lead the revolution through direct action and the working class that participated in these actions were learning of the actual power, inherent rights and dignity they had when they acted.

Perhaps many once believed that the feudal system was inevitable, immutable and eternal. Yet a quick glance through history reminds us that there is a definite trend towards libertarian socialism. Long live the social revolution!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

The Superbowl of Fascism

Italian philosopher Giovanni Gentile described "fascism" in an entry in the Encyclopedia Italiana as such: "Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power." (Although Gentile should be properly credited with this original definition of "fascism", Benito Mussolini would later strike Gentile's name and add his own). Bearing in mind this definition, what do the terrorists in Afghanistan have to do with "fascism"? They are neither a state nor corporation. On the other hand, what can be said about those fighting the terrorists? Is there a trend of the "merging of corporate and state power" in the U.S.?

Score after definition #1: American fascists-1, Islamofascists-0

According to Wikipedia, the definition of fascism should include other important distinctions: "Fascism is a radical political ideology that combines elements of corporatism, authoritarianism, nationalism, militarism, anti-anarchism, anti-communism, and anti-liberalism." Again, the question stands: what similarities are there between trends in this country and this definition of fascism? Does "militarism" apply? "Nationalism"? "Corporatism"? How about something as simple as "anti-liberalism"? Also included under this definition, we begin to see some the characteristics of fundamentalist Muslims as well.

Score after definition #2: American fascists-7, Islamofascists-6

Returning to history, in 1944, Vice President Henry A. Wallace, described a "fascist" as "one whose lust for money or power is combined with such an intesity of intolerance toward those of other races, parties, classes, religions, cultures, regions or nations as to make him ruthless in his use of deceit or violence to attain his ends." In this case, perhaps many Americans leaders and CEOs could fall under this definition as easily as the terrorists they claim to hate. I remember hearing a therapist once say something about "
projection"... Could it be that American fascists (or Islamic Fundamentalists) are full of self-hatred for falling below their own basic standards of humanity and attributing their own unacceptable behavior to another? Here I am giving both groups the benefit of the doubt, granting them human status and wishing they could be extricated from their denial. Unfortuanately, the result of this denial is the incredibly inhumane treatment of oneself and others.

Score after definition #3: American fascists-17, Islamofascists-15

Wallace continues: "The supreme god of a fascist, to which his ends are directed, may be money or power; may be a race or a class; may be a military, clique or an economic group; or may be a culture, religion, or a political party." It's interesting that Wallace invoked a religious concept to describe a fascist's blind obedience, since in the case of both "American fascists" and "Islamic fascists" a central element of their ideologies of hate is a religion: Christianity and Islam. Tragically, neither group seems rational in their understanding of the central messages of their "messiahs": PEACE! A closer examination of this portion of Wallace's definition is instructive for an evaluation of current American fascists since his definition includes a dogmatic worship for institutions beyond religion, such as a "political party," or a "military," or a "culture."

Score after definition #4: American fascists-27, Islamofascists-23

(In the case of "culture", much more could be said, however, it is worth noting that neither fundamentalist Christians nor fundamentalist Muslims are reflecting the central tenets of their religions, but instead the distorted morality of their cultures. Too many Christians are unable to reconcile their capitalist lifestyles with the more benevolent message of Christ. Similarly, a harsh culture of theocratic rule that conveniently imposes a highly deterministic interpretation of the Koran on its followers in order to maintain power, have stifled a good deal of secular humanist growth in the Islamic world.)

Wallace also points out and gives distinction to a type of American fascist as someone who would not necessarily resort to violence, but instead: "[h]is method is to poison the channels of public information. With a fascist the problem is never how best to present the truth to the public but how best to use the news to deceive the public into giving the fascist and his group more money or more power." Perhaps this portion of the definition is more easily located with the American fascists since they overwhelmingly control access to information, but a dearth of divergent viewpoints in the Muslim world lends itself to concept of controling "truth."

Final Score in the Superbowl of Fascism: American fascists-30, Islamofascists-25

Sadly, the toll of modern day "fascism", if that is what it should even be called, is obviously tragic. More important to me than the thought of who is being more fascist, is that as an American, I am obligated to prevent the crimes of my country--full stop--.

The Rise of American Fascism

Project for the Old American Century

Henry A. Wallace's The Danger of American Fascism

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

It's Not Ours to Destroy

In light of the on-going misinformation emanating from the Middle East, I implore you to find information and evidence contradicting prevailing attitudes towards this crisis that exists in abundance, but that is almost completely ignored by our media. If one were to watch any of our major news networks ranging from Fox News to CNN, one would get the impression that Israel is defending itself. This is a very convenient misimpression for the Israeli, U.S. and British governments. On the other hand, this is most inconvenient if one is Lebanese or Palestinian. The asymmetry of death and destruction in the region (“
More than 200 Lebanese, most of them civilians, and 24 Israelis have been killed in the fighting”/ “Lebanese civilians are being killed by savage aerial bombardment from at least 2,000 sorties by Israeli war planes.”) is strangely analogous to the asymmetry of media coverage. No one seems to be reporting anything but politically deterministic positions. Politicians, right in step with the media, are also clamoring for solidarity with Israel, including Senators Joe Biden and Hilary Clinton…solidarity with a country that is raining down hell and fury on the innocent people of Palestine and in Lebanon with complete impunity.

A small amount of research would yield far different results and explain why the international community is condemning the actions of Israel. Perhaps by learning that this most recent phase was actually begun around the beginning of June as Israelis fired missiles and killed 9 Palestinians in Gaza, or perhaps we should know that an Israeli soldier was “captured” (not “kidnapped”) in response to an actual “kidnapping” of a doctor and his son by Israeli soldiers on June 24. The reporting on the “capture” of Corporal Gilad Shalit is well reported and therefore stirring sympathy. Conveniently, or inconveniently depending on one’s point of view, the “kidnapping” of the doctor and his son is unreported. This “kidnapping,” after all is a war crime, as is the killing of the 9 Palestinians back in beginning of June. Conveniently then—for the Israeli government—no one cares to report on these crimes. Just like no one wants to—or perhaps, is “allowed to”—report on the actual chain of events and extremely disproportional “response” by Israel against Lebanon.

So please, don’t allow the media to shape your opinion. As Americans we are funding these tragic deaths (there is no such thing as an “Israeli gunship”, MADE IN USA!). We owe it to the innocent/non-collateral victims of violent self-proclaimed masters throughout the world to stop this killing machine. We must remember a truism, which is that we must first concern ourselves with our own crimes. We can and must stop our government from funding this tragedy. We must denounce the media for its role in this crime. Be brave to speak the truth, even with loved ones, as there are definitely healthy and positive ways to speak to ill-conceived notions. Remind our friends and family that America is not the world and that there must be resounding reasons why the U.S., Israel, Marshall Islands and Britain vote alone on U.N. resolutions that pass unanimously each year (170 to 4) condemning Israeli behavior in the region, or condemning U.S. behavior towards Cuba (171 to 3, as even Britain disdains the Cuban Embargo).

In a world of diminishing safety and security (due to our own actions), we grow reactive and reactionary. Our choices as consumers, our pursuit of convenience and wealth, our choices…our choices… What kind of thought goes into our choices? One American Indian perspective that I shared with my students this year was that we are borrowing our world from our grandchildren and great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren ad infinitum. Well, I’ve tried to make up an analogy of loaning someone something you covet only to have it returned destroyed and useless, but there is nothing that can compare to the precious gift that is Mother Earth and human life. Words fail to describe the power of the choices we are making for future generations. We must act now to stop war everywhere. We must stop our government from selling arms and ammunition to foreign governments. We must disarm our own country immediately. We must remove the capacity of destruction from human hands and we must start with our own. We must also act today to end our assault on Mother Earth. Today, I ride my bike. Tomorrow, I walk.





Friday, June 16, 2006

Rascism and Demagoguery in the Governor's Mansion

Dear Gov. Schweitzer and other "bashers",

What would be wrong with calling Governor Schweitzer a "dictator"? Would it be harmful? Would it be politically-incorrect? Would it simply be inaccurate? Or would it sound ludicrous, possibly driven by ideology or irrational prejudice?

On two separate occasions, Governor Brian Schweitzer (D-MT) called Hugo Chavez a dictator. In a 60 Minutes interview with Lesley Stahl, Schweitzer said: "'Why wouldn’t we create an economic engine that will take us into the next century, and let those sheiks and dictators and rats and crooks from all over the world boil in their own oil?' Schweitzer has called them rats and crooks and hasn't held back on bit. 'Hugo Chavez, the Saudi royal family, the leaders of Iran,' he said. 'How about the countries that end with 'stan'? Nigeria? You tell me. Sheiks, rats, crooks, dictators, sure.'"

Calling Hugo Chavez a "dictator" is harmful, irresponsible and deserves our strongest condemnation! Hugo Chavez has been DEMOCRATICALLY-elected three times (one was a recall referendum). Each of these elections were observed by myriad election observers from around the world.

The Organization of American States and the Carter Center held a joint press conference proceeding the recall election. OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria and Nobel Peace Prize winner and former U.S. President Jimmy Carter declared: "electoral observation mission's members had found no element of fraud in the process." In fact, several observers commented that the elections in Venezuela were much more legitimate than those in the U.S. (Florida 2000/Ohio 2004).

Interestingly, what people admire about Chavez and Schweitzer is their tough talk. However, a rational analysis of their rhetoric would bare extremely different results. For one, a rational observer would see that Chavez bothered to check his facts before commenting, while Gov. Schweitzer's comments would be an impassioned appeal to the prejudices and emotions of uninformed and frightened mass of Americans seeking order and security. The latter's comments more accurately describe the behavior of a dictator!

Gov. Brian Schweitzer clearly cannot mean what he has said on more than one occasion about Hugo Chavez, so we must disregard his comments. The reason he and others cannot have meant what they said is because of the level of deep rascism that it would require to hold this belief. By lumping Hugo Chavez, his majority supporters, the millions of Arab and Muslim people, or anyone who might oppose being treated as cogs in a machine that serves a miniscule minority into one group as "the sheikhs, the dictators, the rats and crooks around the world who are bent on destroying our way of life," is a textbook definition of rascism. This attitude conveniently ignores fact. To find the sheikhs, dictators, rats and crooks one need not look any further than the buried mirror that conveniently denies and defies honest self-reflection!

The overwhelming majority of people in Venezuela support Chavez (approval rating of Chavez is higher than Schweitzer's: 70%). National pride in that country is based in revolutionary missions that are serving a country's essential needs. Hugo Chavez has led a charge to feed, house, educate and medically treat its people. Hugo Chavez has criticized American foreign policy and stood up to ignorance and irrationality in a time of extreme rascism and global crises. Billions of people that suffer the effects of environmental devastation, smash-and-grab mentalities from imperial countries, and a rascist misunderstanding of their situation have found a powerful voice in Hugo Chavez.

Monday, April 10, 2006

Ending Isolation and New Beginnings

"The greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world he didn't exist."
--Verbal Kent in the film The Usual Suspects

Corporations have had similar success. These private tyrannies have been able to rape the world with very little effective resistance, especially in the country which harbors these criminal institutions. Alexis de Tocqueville warned us in Democracy in America that he knew of
"no country in which there is so little independence of mind and real freedom of discussion as in America." However, the unchecked and unqualified belief we Americans have in our democracy makes us much less aware of the oppressive institutions. We are effectively rendered powerless beyond an occassional trip to the ballot box.

I do find hope however, even if that hope is something that will likely need to be imported. Venezuelans are inspiring. When President Hugo Chavez was temporarily removed from office by a U.S.-backed coup d'etat, and Venezuelans had no leadership that was further hampered by a complete communication blackout, they spontaneously took to the streets despite vicious and brutal police repression. It was as though the collective consciousness of Venezuelans banded them together in solidarity and said, "Let's not allow this coup. Let's take our country back!" And that is exactly what they did. Without any leadership or central organization the people of Venezuela took their country back and resisted tyranny.

This kind of grassroots consciousness gives hope to the idea that the Bolivarian Revolution is much bigger than just one man. It gives hope that what really stands in the way of taking measures into our own hands is ourselves. Though the obstacle of forfeiting our material comforts and facing the most powerful institutions in the world is nothing to take lightly, it is worth considering the old adage of Karl Marx: "We have nothing to lose but our chains."

So if you're ready and would like to join me, let's start a revolution. Let's start creating our own security and order from within. Let's reassure each other that the constitutive tension we feel from being so dependent on everyone around us even though we know nothing about each other (both of which are effects of capitalism and the modern society: atomized yet interdependent) can be changed by taking our lives back and connecting. Join a social justice group or start your own. Whatever you do, get connected. Get to know the people in your community so we can stop fearing the people upon whom depend for all kinds of unknown reasons. Let's talk about issues and stop allowing the institutional terror that is isolating us to take control. We must stop fundamentalists and reactionaries from driving the collective consciousness of this nation towards greater fear and isolation. Let's unplug from the media, advertisers, fundamentalist clerics (Christian, Muslims, et. al.), government, and public education. Let's stop speaking truth to power and start speaking truth to each other! The revolution starts now!!!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

"Why do they hate us?"

President Bush and the power elites know the true answer to the question “Why do the hate us?” They know, for instance, that it is their very existence, self-serving over-indulgence, mass murder and policies of hate that have brought on the wrath of the world population. In order to avoid a correlation being made between the suffering/oppression abroad and that closer to home, the elite has depended on its most important institutions (education, religion, media, et. al.) to perpetuate a myth that Americans are “one nation, under god, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” Nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact, the working class of this country shares nothing but benign intent in common with the ruling class. Therefore, it must be a prime directive of American politics to clearly differentiate between the American working class and the rest of the world’s poor, colonial working class. The elite must seek to prevent Americans from empathizing—despite its basis in reality—with Muslims, Cubans, Colombians, Venezuelans, Vietnamese, Indians, Haitians, and Africans that have suffered imperial brutality for centuries. This way, those that “hate us” will not become Americans.

What do any of us share in common with the world’s powerful elite that is meaningful? For instance, I can’t use patriotism to buy food. I cannot pay for my medical bills with the “American Dream.” I cannot own a home with the Pledge of Allegiance. I cannot stop the most violent nation in the world from killing more innocent people with the “Melting Pot”, let alone the U.S. Constitution. (Hell, no one can stop the president from breaking the law these days!) Do we share their values? There is a pathetic manufactured perception that the American masses are “just like” their political and economic elite. However, evidence does not bring to bare this reality. Economically, this country’s inequality is a human rights violation. How can the wealthiest nation in the history of the world let its own people starve, live without homes, or equal access to health care? To deliberately perpetuate a class system, by refusing to end the cycles of poverty, and institutional, individual and social racism, this country’s elite—through its actions not its words—is loudly pronouncing just how much it appreciates the masses.

Taking for granted the uncommon ground we, the working class of the world, occupy—one that is morally high and righteous—and they, the ruling elite, occupy—one that is morally bereft and cruel, I would like to posit this: why do they hate us? That is, why do the elite hate us, not the other way around? They hate us because we control their future. We can refuse to do their work. We can refuse to fight their wars. We can refuse to shine their shoes. We can and must refuse to perpetuate their lies and myths.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Socialism Will Smash the Capitalist World-Economy

While it is necessary for a socialist economy to be run for the benefit of the vast majority of the people rather than for a small aristocratic, plutocratic, or capitalist class in order for it to be considered “socialist”, its use of markets is not “unsocialistic”. In fact, socialist economies must adhere to the laws of the market as much as any other economy without being capitalistic. Therefore, a socialist economy can operate without contradiction or the risk of undermining its principles within the global market economy. It should therefore be understood that Venezuela’s exploitation of its only comparative economic advantage—oil—in the global capitalist markets is not a contradiction of principles. It would, however, lack socialist principles if the wealth generated from its oil failed to benefit the majority of its people. Most importantly, socialist countries such as Venezuela—unavoidably intertwined in the modern world-economy which is capitalist—must look to export its ideas above all else and help lead the systemic destruction of global capitalism. Backed by the momentum of Venezuela, global access to information and destabilizing societies across the world, socialism has reached an historical turning point and it must lead the way in shaping a more socially just and democratic world.

Capitalism and the World-Economy

One possible way to better understand socialism is to distinguish it from the capitalist system that dominates the world-economy. A capitalist economy gives priority to the endless accumulation of capital. However, if we say that a system “gives priority” to such endless accumulation, it means that there exist structural mechanisms by which those who act with “other motivations” are penalized in some way, and are eventually eliminated from the social scene, whereas those who act with the “appropriate motivations” are rewarded and, if successful, enriched.

According to economist and historian, Immanuel Wallerstein:

World-economy and a capitalist system go together. Since world-economies lack the unifying cement of an overall political structure or a homogenous culture, what holds them together is the efficacy of the division of labor. Historically, the only world-economy to have survived for a long time has been the modern world-system, and that is because the capitalist system took root and became consolidated as its defining feature.

Fortunately, the biggest weakness of the capitalist system is that it cannot exist within any framework except that of a world-economy. A world-economy with so many strikingly conflictive interests is too tumultuous for capitalism’s long-term survival, especially considering the explosion of readily-available and accessible information that is reaching more people in more manifold ways. Capitalism demands a very special relationship between its capitalists and the holders of political power. If the latter are too strong, their interests will override those of the economic producers, and the endless accumulation of capital will cease to be a priority. So what would this mean for capitalism if political power were held by an increasing number of people, the working class, or a “rogue” nation such as Venezuela? Another weakness of capitalists it that they require not only a large market but they also need a multiplicity of states that are willing to work in favor of “their interests”. This means that capitalists must work incessantly and exert massive efforts to maintain “their interests”. So how do capitalists ensure their future?


Even in the modern world of mass information, households still serve as the primary socializing agencies. They seek to teach us knowledge of and respect for the social rules by which we are “supposed” to abide. They are of course seconded by state agencies such as schools and armies as well as by religious institutions and the media. But none of these come close to the family in actual impact. What however determines how the households will socialize in their members? Largely the way in which the secondary institutions frame the issues for the households demonstrates exactly how to socialize one’s family members. It also cannot be understated the how defenseless overworked and fractured families are to the effects of oppressive secondary institutions.

Of course, the powers that be in a social system always hope that socialization results in the acceptance of the very real hierarchies that are the product of the system. They also hope that socialization results in the internalization of the myths, the rhetoric, and the theorizing of the system. Although this does happen rather comprehensively in highly nationalistic countries such as the U.S., it never fully takes root (thanks to dialectical dissonance). On the other hand, there are some families that socialize their members to be rebellious, critical-thinking and self-reliant. To be sure, up to a point even such antisystemic socialization can be useful to the system by offering an outlet for restless spirits as long as the overall system is in relative harmony. In such cases, it is predictable that such anti-establishment socializations will have only a limited impact on the overall system. However, when the historical system comes into structural crisis (viz. 1960s) suddenly such antisystemic socializations can play a profoundly unsettling role for the system.

There is little question that across the globe today, people are more fully aware of the political issues that affect their personal lives then at any time in the past. They are more aware, more willing to struggle for their rights, more skeptical of the rhetoric of the powerful. More importantly, one not need look any further than Venezuela to see the effects of political power that is shifting into the hands of the masses. Venezuela’s example is a serious threat to the global capitalist system and this can best be observed in the extent to which corporate forces and secondary institutions are going to prevent there being genuine political democracy. As a socialist revolution, Venezuela’s Bolivarian Revolution could be the source of a paradigmatic shift away from a world-economy that “gives priority” to the endless accumulation of wealth.

One must remember that history is not at its end, and that every time elites have claimed some “golden era” which was reflected in their satisfaction with the status quo, events followed shortly after that highlighted the ridiculousness of those claims. Remember the decades that followed the “Roaring 20s” or the 1950s? Perhaps more salient to this discussion, can we all recall the victory dances of 1990s when grand pronouncements were made that socialism was forever dead, and capitalism has proven its superiority? So as we get closer to a point when the majority of the world is vastly more aware of the oppressive power structures and the capitalist system that is rushing us towards destruction, perhaps we will be able to think in terms of building a political economy based on systems of cooperation, equality, self-government, and individual freedom.