Readers’ Views, Nov.-Dec. 2010

From the Nov.-Dec. 2010 issue of News & Letters: the ever-popular

Readers’ Views

FBI RAIDS–AN ATTACK ON ALL OF US

On Sept. 24, teams of FBI agents from the “Joint Terrorism Task Force” served search warrants and grand jury subpoenas on anti-war and solidarity activists in Illinois and Minne-sota. This attack on the First Amend-ment rights of peaceful activists must be opposed and we should stand with them to protect those rights. Although News and Letters may have differences with some of the philosophy expressed by these groups, we consider that these Capitalist State actions represent a drive to intimidate all who would resist this criminal system. An injury to one is an injury to all.

If any activists are confronted with this situation in the future, they should refuse to answer any questions and say that the agents must contact the person’s lawyer and speak with him or her. Contact, if possible, your local chapter of the National Lawyers’ Guild, or a competent local criminal defense attorney.

–Member of the National Lawyers’ Guild, New York City

 

Editor’s note: See our statement on the FBI raids.

 

As African-American activists engaged in the many struggles for social and economic justice and human rights, we are outraged by the recent FBI raids on anti-war activists alleging they have connections to terrorism. We have seen these government attacks on African-American leaders and activists during the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s. Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King, Jr., and members of the Black Panther Party, among others, were assassinated, jailed, beaten and driven into political exile for leading demonstrations and speaking out against racism, U.S. wars and other injustices.

We are further outraged that these raids are happening under the Obama administration, as his election as the first Black president grew out of a history of massive protests against racism and unjust wars.

We know that these attacks, while starting against anti-war activists, are aimed at all activists that organize against the many injustices caused by a system that places profits and domination over human needs. It is time for all struggles against injustice and for human rights, to close ranks against the rapidly growing attack on all democratic rights, that is shaping the direction of U.S. society. They come for the anti-war activists today; and they will come for us tomorrow.

–Black Workers for Justice, Rocky Mount, N.C.


CAPITALISM AND ENVIRONMENT

BP’s Gulf oil spill lays waste to workers, environment” by Franklin Dmitryev (July-Aug. 2010 N&L) puts to rest any questions concerning the relationship of workers and the environment vis-à-vis capitalist production. It clearly discloses the logic of how capital functions in an all-consuming way. At the root of capital’s self-perpetuation is not only the inversion of dead over living labor but also the co-optation of words. No other word has been as greatly inverted as the word “development.” In reality, there can be no development without its opposite aspect: destruction. Capitalist production entails destruction of both workers and the environment.

Marxist-Humanism is the re-appropriation of critical words that capital has co-opted for its misuse. This is part of how philosophy is integral to theorizing a way forward, where the development of society is founded upon humanism inseparable from a harmonious relationship with nature.

–Faruq, Del Norte County, Cal.


The vast destruction caused by Pakistan’s floods is no simple natural disaster. It concentrated several forces, from global warming amping up storms and increasing glacial melting, to Pakistani rulers focusing resources on militarization and repression rather than fortifying infrastructure to protect the people, to U.S. imperialism along with India and China using the country as a pawn in power games, to local and international Islamists making Pakistan a battleground in their drive for power. This nexus of forces shows how broken the global system is, and how the need to meet the challenge of global warming makes urgent the revolutionary establishment of society on totally new foundations.

–Franklin Dmitryev, Chicago


NEW MUMIA ABU-JAMAL TRIAL?

Oral arguments to determine whether Mumia Abu-Jamal will be granted a new trial based on the question of the death penalty will be heard by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit. At 2:00 PM on Nov. 9 in the Ceremonial Courtroom, U.S. Courthouse in Philadelphia, Mumia’s lawyers will finally be able to argue for a new trial. A new trial had once been granted but was later vacated by the U.S. Supreme Court, who ordered another review by the federal court. Mumia is a former member of MOVE and currently on death row for allegedly killing Philadelphia police officer Daniel Faulkner in 1981.

–Mobilization to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal, Oakland, Cal.


GAY RIGHTS

It is no accident that New York Tea Party-blessed gubernatorial candidate Carl Paladino’s anti-Gay speech came one day after news of the brutal attack on three people in the Bronx for being Gay. It shows the true violent, anti-human nature of the counter-revolutionary movement of which the Tea Party is a leading component.

–Alarmed, Illinois


I am proud that a major focus of this year’s nationwide commemorations of National Coming Out Day was remembrances of the young people who have committed suicide, feeling hopeless because of anti-Gay bullying. May the remembrances of Aiyisha Hasaan, the most recent victim, Seth Walsh, and so many other youth move this entire country to help all GLBT youth to be comfortable with themselves and move about unafraid. Thank goodness for the portion of the press that has reported the unbelievable number of recent youth suicides and for people and groups who are organizing, reaching out to LGBT youth to let them know they’re not alone: writer Dan Savage’s “It Gets Better” YouTube project, University of Wisconsin-Madison’s “Stop the Silence” anti-bullying project, and Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) among them.

–Pansexual, Chicago


EDUCATION REFORM?

As an early childhood development specialist, I thought “Waiting for Superman” was rightly criticized for being virulently anti-teacher-union. It is touted as a conversation starter, but it is the wrong conversation. It’s great that the movie recognizes that good teachers are central to a child’s learning. But to then infer that bad schools are caused by bad teachers is wrong. In the last frames of the movie we are told that too many people working on solutions to our bad schools (read: bad unions) are focused on taking care of adults. This sets up a false dichotomy. You can’t have good education for children without taking care of the teachers. Adults and children in the school community must be thought of together or it will not work.

–Beth Sandner, San Francisco Bay Area


“Reform will continue,” proclaimed Michelle Rhee, Chancellor of Washington, D.C., Public Schools, in her resignation statement Oct. 13. Voters in D.C. had ousted Mayor Adrian Fenty, sending a strong message that school reforms, necessary as they are, will not be imposed on the community, nor blamed on teachers and staff.

Evaluation standards for D.C. teachers, IMPACT (www.dcps.dc.gov), reveal a contrary Fenty-Rhee-Obama administration philosophy. Teachers are evaluated on several excellent criteria, but 50% of the rating is based on how much “value” is “added” to the class’s test scores while students are in that teacher’s classroom. Only 10% of a teacher’s evaluation is based on his or her relations with the parents and school community. In fact, the “values” should be reversed. Schools that are alienated from their communities cannot hope to nurture strong, confident students who can benefit from what good teachers provide. Competent, caring teachers do make a difference in student learning. But making teachers accountable for test scores is only an excuse to destroy teaching as a profession and to break the teachers’ unions.

–Retired Teacher, Detroit


LABOR CLASH OVER QUALITY CARE

Amidst all the dirty tricks played by Kaiser and SEIU during the recent union election, the California Nurses’ Association (CNA) also made a corrupt deal with SEIU. In the middle of the election campaign, CNA signed a “non-aggression pact” with SEIU, much in the same way that Stern’s SEIU made a backroom deal with Kaiser, forming their “Labor-Management Partnership” right in the middle of our rank-and-file strikes for quality care. In this general climate of cynicism, it is no wonder that younger workers have resorted to the attitude of “it’s better to have no union than this kind of unionism.” But that attitude is also part of this overall retrogression.

— Kaiser worker, Oakland, Cal.


I’ve been working as a National Union of Healthcare Workers (NUHW) field organizer. I see a disconnect between the ranks and the NUHW staff at staff meetings. I don’t romanticize the leadership of NUHW. The real engines of this fight are the rank and file.

From my experience I grew to have a lot of critiques of the role of unions in the class struggle. But I still feel passionately that rank-and-file workers are organizing for very good, concrete reasons. They are in a struggle with capital, and they understand that. Kaiser is always out to get the most out of their workers. The workers know that, even when their struggle is seized or contained by union leaders like NUHW’s Sal Rosselli or SEIU’s Andy Stern.

–Union Organizer, Oakland, Cal.


This fight between two unions, SEIU and NUHW, over representing healthcare workers is not just about the unions but emblematic of what’s going on in the country. Kaiser is the longest running and most successful HMO in the world. Henry J. Kaiser’s projects were funded by Franklin D. Roosevelt. But what we have now is the result of what the unions won. It’s the legacy of the last Great Depression, not of Kaiser.

–Htun Lin, California


ISRAEL-PALESTINE

Judaism teaches that all human life is sacred. A Jew is allowed to break almost any religious law to save a human life. Why, then, does the Israeli government not seem to care about the lives of Palestinian men, women and children? I believe it is fear and lack of following their own religious beliefs. The Israeli government is very right-wing politically and religiously. In the desire to protect all Jews and fulfill religious dreams of dwelling in all of the land, zealots ignore or perhaps do not believe in the sacredness of Palestinian lives.

Gaza is a real tragedy. The Israeli government is practicing “collective punishment”–from using planes and tanks to not letting in adequate food, medicine and water. These actions are not moral, nor Jewish. As a Jewish Peace and Justice Activist of 50 years, I say step in and end the siege of Gaza!

–Mark, Chicago


MLK’S DREAM TODAY

Aug. 28 there was a Peace, Jobs and Justice March for the anniversary of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s, “I Have a Dream” speech. There were 5,000 people there. It was sponsored by Jesse Jackson and Rainbow PUSH and Bob King, the new UAW President. It honored Dr. King in the right way, not like the Glenn Beck Tea Party rally in Washington.

I went to a march in 1993 down Woodward Avenue, honoring Dr. King’s first visit to Detroit in 1963, before his “I Have a Dream” speech. In 1993 100,000 people marched down Woodward. I was sorry there were only 5,000 people at this year’s march, but it honored the true meaning of Dr. King’s speech. That there were only 5,000 shows how far the retrogression has taken over.

–Dan, Detroit


JUVENILE LIFE WITHOUT PAROLE

A 14-year-old boy, Dakotah Eliason, was sentenced to Juvenile Life Without Parole in Berrien County, Mich., for the murder of his step-grandfather. He called the police on himself and threw himself on the tender mercies of Berrien County prosecutors (seewww.4efren.com). Eliason was thrown into adult court. In Berrien County, prosecutors get their way with juries and judges. Please make a statement against Juvenile Life Without Parole. This sentence on a 14-year-old is regressive and barbaric.

–January, Chicago


TODAY’S CALL FOR A ‘NEW HUMANISM’

John Alan’s review of Philosophy and Revolution in the Sept.-Oct. 2010 N&L is important for our day because of the two aspects it brought out.

First is the African call for a new universal humanism based upon solidarity and cooperation “without any racial or cultural antagonism and without narrow egoism and privilege.” Public acceptance of racism today is clearly exemplified in the opposition to Hispanic immigrants as well as to the building of an Islamic Center–and in the escalating violence being perpetrated on Muslims. The heightened racial tensions in the U.S. benefit ideologists of capital who seek to maintain the status-quo.

Second is the inability of world economies to produce the necessary capital for the development of Africa. At the heart of the present economic crisis is the falling rate of profit, which makes expansive job creation an impossibility.

It has been reported that 15 million people are unemployed in the U.S., and this will remain constant for at least a decade or more. The only way out of the misery of capital relations is to unite theory and practice in working out the development of a new society based upon uniquely humanist principles.

–Incarcerated Revolutionary, California


ON REVOLUTIONARY JOURNALISM

The clear distinction between bourgeois and leftist journalism, and Marxist-Humanism’s revolutionary journalism can be summed up in one word: humanism. The commonality between the bourgeois press and most leftist publications is the mistrust of the masses, which both claim to represent.

The bourgeois press serves as the conveyor of capitalist interest that the masses should humbly adhere to. The leftist publications are primarily a means of disseminating their political line which they want the masses to follow. In both, the masses are reduced to objects–as opposed to being subjects, the actual creators of history. The projection of Marxist-Humanism via revolutionary journalism has human beings at its center. It’s a philosophy that sees a single dialectic that emerges from thought and reality.

Foremost, the paper’s aim is to establish a new relationship between theory and practice, between an organization responsible for the ideas of Marxism and people struggling for freedom. This social practice evolved out of the necessity to break down capitalism’s most monstrous division: the division between mental and manual labor. Creating a unique space for the reflections of various voices to be heard is the ground for establishing new relationships between theory and practice. The ideas of the masses are not devalued when juxtaposed with the ideas of revolutionary theorists.

–Prison journalist, California


A WORD ON UNEMPLOYMENT

My job in publishing was eliminated today. With technological change and outsourcing, the capitalists decided they could not make sufficient profit from my labor. I join more than 30 million of my fellow workers in this ongoing crisis. We need a socialist revolution and we need it now!!

–Unemployed, New York


VOTING VS. ACTION–A DIALOG

Most people think capitalism is the only sustainable system. N&L‘s ideas are not gaining popularity. We had eight years of Republican right-wing rule, then saw the largest “bailout” ever for the capitalists, and the highest unemployment since the Great Depression. Yet the Republicans are making a comeback. Isn’t that mind-boggling?

–Boggled, Los Angeles


Those who voted for Obama and for “change” are discouraged. It is shown by not bothering to vote. But not voting doesn’t mean people are accepting capitalism. Voting never changed anything. Only action by masses of people is effective. We need to look lower and deeper. Workers know what a mess this society is. Whether factory or McDonald’s workers, they know capitalism better than those who consider themselves in a different and special category.

–Retired union organizer, Los Angeles


VOICES FROM WITHIN THE WALLS

There is nothing like N&L covering items pertinent to all, covered nowhere else. Marx was the quintessential Humanist, which is critical because we live in a time and place where de-humanizing is the order of the day. Raya Dunayevskaya was right on the money: “if you have a different principle for life and for science, you will be living a lie.”

There is but one ethical/moral/practical standard for life and science which is an integral part of life. It is necessary for the Left to put the hard fact of life and reality squarely in the face of Glenn Beck and associated right-wing nuts: the original apostles/Christians were not socialists nor Marxists, but hard-core communists of a religious nature. (See St. Peter, Paul, John, Matthew, Luke, Mark and all the rest.) Should the far right-wing fanatics want to destroy communism, they are going to have to burn all the Bibles. That should do the trick.

–Prisoner, Tennessee Colony, Texas


I will be eternally grateful to N&L for the insightful perspective it gives me of events unpolluted with the bias associated with other so-called news outlets. Being one of the underclass, I know first hand the struggles of my class and the daily head wind that confronts us. The prison experience highlights the harshness of the struggles, on which N&L shines a bright light. It is invaluable to those of us behind the lines.

–Prisoner, Crescent City, Cal.


In Milwaukee, the area I’m from, unions show almost total regression. One union has folded at Allen-Bradley (Rockwell International). And the other, at Harley-Davidson, made several concessions from which they will never recover. I have been a prisoner for almost 14 years, so there isn’t much I can do but wince. Hopefully, more people will get to know Marxist-Humanism before it is too late.

–Prisoner,Wisconsin


I love to study about the struggles in this world. What was especially important in the July-August issue was the material calling forsupport of Oscar Grant and his family. In most California prisons, African Americans are treated as second and third class citizens. It is hard for us to reach out to people who can help us bring true problems to light.

–Prisoner, Susanville, Cal.


I came to prison at a very young age, did not know how to read or write, came across a copy of N&L and started to learn how to read. What really opened my eyes was seeing things in a a totally different way. Your paper not only expresses very important issues that people need to know about, but gives us the bare truth. Because I learned how to read and write with you, I consider myself part family with N&L. All of us in here thank you.

–Prisoner, Crescent City, Cal.


Editor’s note: Can you contribute the cost of a subscription ($5 for one year) for prisoners who cannot pay for one themselves?

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