Readers’ Views (Jan.-Feb. 2011)

From the Jan.-Feb. 2011 issue of News & Letters:

Readers’ Views

THE OPPOSITE OF WAR IS NOT PEACE BUT REVOLUTION

Your Statement, “War threat over Korea,” issued on your website on Dec. 9 had it just right! “The continuing threat of war on the Korean Peninsula underscores the urgency of the Marxist-Humanist perspective that the opposite of war is not peace but revolution.”

And you had it right that “Obama’s diplomatic plans to defuse the situation began and ended with leaning on China to rein in North Korea, revealing that Obama had no plan at all.” But most of all, you had it right that “this is a time when global crises are so profound that a relatively minor incident raises the specter of nuclear annihilation.”

The only real future that state-capitalism, in all it forms, has in store for humanity is “endless wars and immiseration.” The only meaningful opposition to that is, indeed, “a revolutionary uprooting of the old and the creation of a new human society.”

–Marxist-Humanist, Chicago


When I look at Arizona today–not just the recent terrible shooting but the total climate of repression and racism–it makes me think that Arizona has become what Mississippi represented as the Civil Rights Movement began in the 1950s and ’60s. We need an even more profound civil rights/human rights movement today to roll back what is happening–and certainly not only in Arizona.

–Veteran of the civil rights movement, California


I agree with N&L that the right-wing Republicans and the Teabagger thugs are counter-revolutionary. They say the Constitution is being violated but they don’t say how. When they say they want to “take back the country” do they mean lynching and women back in the kitchen? Their “ideal past” was filled with racism and women held back in a form of servitude.

The far Right seems interested only in lower taxes and the complete failure of Obama and the Democrats. Do we really want to let them kill off all progressive legislation, get rid of Medicare, social security, unemployment insurance and our other rights? We have to fight to keep our rights and values in place.

–Mark, a Patriot for Peace and Justice, Chicago


TEABAGGERS AND RISING FASCISM

As a person of color, I immediately identified with two recent articles by Gerry Emmett in N&L: “The new white supremacist U.S.” and “Rising fascism grounded in American racism.” Racist fanaticism is a fundamental aspect of this country’s founding. The Southern delegation at the Continental Congress had the section aiming at the abolition of slavery expunged from the Declaration of Independence. The recent manifestations of newer forms of racist tendencies represent a continuity of an old reality of North American society.

Efforts to totally uproot America’s racist tendencies can be facilitated by projection of the philosophy of Marxist-Humanism. The philosophic viewpoint is needed to unmask the economic uncertainty. Exposing the true reality of capitalism, its law of motion that breeds accumulation of wealth at one end and abject poverty at the other, will make it possible to finally bridge the gulf that has divided humanity and bring us together on a shared commonality.

–Faruq, Pelican Bay, Cal.


RAYA DUNAYEVSKAYA’S MARXIST-HUMANISM

Now that the centenary of Raya Dunayevskaya (1910-2010) is over, it seems to me one part of her character and philosophy was not dealt with adequately. She was not a Hope Seller. Certainly some of her merit and greatness rests on that fact. She innately understood, as did Marx, that basically humans make their own hope. She never stooped to selling hope, while this country has been inundated with sleazy hope-sellers. Thank you, Raya. Hope is the ultimate merchandise and snake oil is capitalism’s finest product.

–Robert Zani, Tennessee Colonly, Texas


For Raya Dunayevskaya, nothing was ever separated from anything else, with all pointing to the need for revolution. She saw what Marx meant in writing that “Time is the place for human development.” In her writing there is an insistence on the past and present reaching for the future. The shock of recognition when we deal with history is that it presses upon us the need for revolution until we arrive at a new way of life.

–Dawn, California


One of the significant aspects of Raya Dunayevskaya’s American Civilization on Trial is how she made the distinction between the established literary writers and the Abolitionists. The literary writers, by virtue of their narrow vision, tended to attribute changes in societal development to the government’s administrative policies, whereas the stalwarts of the Abolitionist Movement became the unified voice of the actual mass movement of slaves fleeing their Southern bondage to Northern freedom. By their constant contact with the slaves, the Abolitionists discovered the human source for the reconstruction of society. Dunayevskaya’s drawing this out serves to reinforce the point she made in her other writings, that a theorist cannot write out of his/her head, because real theory grows out of the activity of masses in motion. She saw it as the duty of the theorist to not only see the duality in mass practice which is a form of theory, but also to give assistance by articulating the theory while simultaneously demonstrating the inseparability of practice to theory and theory to practice.

–Prisoner, Crescent City, Cal.


SINGLE-PAYER MEDICARE

A nationwide organization of doctors issued a statement on Jan. 7, rejecting calls by Republican leaders to repeal the new health law and saying that the enactment of a single-payer Medicare-for-all program was the only way to assure high quality, comprehensive care to all Americans and rein in skyrocketing healthcare costs.

I had thought all the doctors who believed in the single-payer concept had died with my father several decades ago. He complained then that Kaiser treated people like things. Where have we heard about that concept before? He was one of the early followers of Raya Dunayevskaya’s Marxist-Humanism.

–Judy, Los Angeles


COMING HORRORS REVIEW?

N&L provides a national review of coming horrors, like the article in the November-December issue on the “Superheroes in Honeywell lockout.” You are accurately describing where we are headed with increasing speed. Years ago, when I was growing up, parents would tell their children “Eat all your food, people in China are starving.” Now people in China can tell their kids, “Eat all your food. Children in America are hungry and homeless.”

–Prisoner, Texas


GAY LIBERATION STRUGGLES

It was shameful how the Smithsonian Institution caved in to the Right by removing David Wojnarowicz’ classic short film “A Fire in My Belly” from its exhibit on Gay history. Congressional Republicans Erik Cantor and John Boehner threatened their funding. In this case it would have been worth the fight. I was happy to see that many other museums, including three here in Chicago, were taking up the slack by exhibiting the film. If anything, it is more powerful now, when the face of AIDS has changed–AIDS is now disproportionately affecting Blacks and Latinos, and so this racist society begins to forget.

–Tim Finnigan, Chicago


It’s a proud time in Illinois with both of its legislative houses passing a civil unions bill that will be guaranteed to have Gov. Quinn’s signature! Applause for the legislators who voted “Yea” for it. Its provisions for the LGBTPQI and straight communities are limited compared to a federal equal marriage bill, but it’s in the direction of liberation.

Liberation would mean all the benefits currently granted to married couples would be granted to consenting adults in committed relationships no matter how many people are involved and to all parents. If we truly treasure the precious children, let’s keep marching in that direction!

–Pansexual, Chicago


FIGHTING SHARIA LAW

To mark International Human Rights Day on Dec. 11, One Law for All held an all day conference on Apostasy, Sharia Law and Human Rights at Conway Hall, London.

The urgent cases of Pakistani Asia Bibi, who has received a death sentence for blasphemy; Palestinian Waleed Al-Husseini, arrested for criticizing Islam; and campaigners in Iran charged with “enmity against God,” were highlighted. The conference unanimously demanded their unconditional and immediate release.

Rounding off the event was a play “Masculine Law” by Ghazi Rabihavi which demonstrated how Sharia laws subjugate women and endanger the welfare of children. The conference was dedicated to preventing the stoning of Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani in Iran.

–Maryam Namazie, London, England


SOUTH KOREAN LABOR APPEAL

On Dec. 3 of last year, the prosecutor in the Seoul Central District Court demanded prison terms of five to seven years for eight members of the Socialist Workers’ Alliance of Korea (SWLK), a revolutionary socialist group. These activists in the Korean working-class movement were indicted under South Korea’s notorious National Security Law (passed in 1948 and theoretically still stipulating the death penalty for “pro-North” activities). The eight militants of the SWLK, who as internationalists advocate working-class revolution in both Koreas, were accused of no specific crime except being socialists, but in reality the indictment resulted from their intervention in several strikes and movements going back to 2007.

It is not impossible that a barrage of e-mail protests to Judge Hyung Doo Kim of the Seoul Central District Court will help reduce or obviate the pending sentences. Let Judge Kim know your feelings in your own words about this crackdown on “thought crime” by writing to swlk@jinbo.net

Please distribute this appeal as widely as possible. Messages in languages other than English are welcome. For more details on this case, contact me at lrgoldner@gmail.com

–Loren Goldner


OBAMA AND THE GOP RIGHT

I read your excellent editorial “Capital on Strike” (Sept.-Oct. 2010 N&L). It was elegantly, persuasively and clearly written. But there was one item that I would characterize as a half-truth: “The Republican Right agenda…is to cut Social Security and Medicare.” This is, of course, a correct analysis but only tells us half the story. The other half is that this is an agenda that is shared by the Democratic Party as well. Sure, the GOP will more boldly raise the issue. Yet it will be the Dems that will carry the day and drive the crucial nails into the coffin, “reluctantly” bowing to the pressure of the Republicans.

The pressure that Democratic leadership responds to is only in the direction of the Right; in the direction of dismantling the entitlements of the popular classes. The Progressive Caucus is the largest in Congress, but Obama has found little cause to make any concessions to them. Rather, concessions have been all in the direction of the so-called progressives delivering their constituency to the Right while attacking the Left.

–Reader, Bay Area


One of the points Senator Bernie Sanders made in his eight to nine hour filibuster against the Republican/Obama tax break for the richest Americans is that the USA has the most poverty in the industrial world. That’s a major reason why we have the most people of any country in prison.

–Basho, Los Angeles


FOR BEN EPSTEIN (1918 – 2010)

A memorial for Ben Epstein on Oct. 24 at the Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library in Oakland celebrated a long, rich life as a Marxist, psychologist and father. I didn’t get to know Ben until he was already in his late 80s but the circumstances were remarkable. At that age and with great intellectual capacity, Ben put out a call for a group to read and discuss the whole of Hegel’s Science of Logic. He felt Marxists needed to study Hegel straight in order to comprehend Marx’s roots there. A roomful of people responded but only a handful completed that journey over a year later. We had, as might be expected, somewhat sharp differences at times, but we became friends. His daughter said his memorial was at the library because of the importance Ben attached to the Hegel study held there.

–Ron Kelch, California


ENVIRONMENTAL STRUGGLES CONTINUE

Hazel Johnson, one of the most important fighters against environmental racism in the U.S., died Jan. 12. She began organizing in 1979 with other African-American residents of the Altgeld Gardens public housing project on the South Side of Chicago. Initially, they were seeking proper maintenance of their homes.

Her organization, People for Community Recovery (www.peopleforcommunityrecovery.org), is still active today with Cheryl Johnson, Hazel’s daughter, as Executive Director. Hazel learned that her community was surrounded by polluting industries and waste sites, and had been built on top of a landfill. She called it a toxic doughnut and became an environmental justice activist before the phrase was invented.

For the rest of her life, she never stopped fighting for the people of Altgeld Gardens and every community around the world whose health is under attack by polluting companies and complicit governments. (See “Environmental Justice Wake-up Call,” Aug.-Sept. 1995 N&L.) She pointed out that poor people of color were most affected. Last year she fell ill and received the kind of low-quality healthcare the poor in our country so often receive. We need more fighters like Hazel Johnson. The struggle continues!

–Franklin Dmitryev, Chicago


After only a day and a half, there were nearly 1,000 signatories to a coalition letter thanking Gov. Cuomo for his “continuation” of the executive order for further environmental review of hydraulic fracturing (fracking). We are not out of the thicket yet, but things appear to be getting brighter.

–Walter Hang, Ithaca, N.Y.


The flooding in January that killed over 600 in Brazil, while floods in Australia devastated an area the size of France plus Germany, forcefully brought into the new year the message that scientists released at the same time: 2010 was the wettest year on record, and one of the hottest. Even insurance companies are commenting that the recent surge in “natural” disasters–making 2010 also the most disaster-filled year–can only be explained by global warming. We are witnessing effects that will get worse if humanity doesn’t get a handle on climate change. The fact that so many people in power only want to deny it and push off action is a sign of a system that feels its coming end in its bones. Let’s make sure it’s the end of capitalism, not of human civilization.

–Environmental activist, Southern California


OUR CRIMINAL INJUSTICE SYSTEM

Javan Deloney seeks release from over 20 years in prison. His “confession” was forced with torture. On Jan. 6, Cook County Presiding Judge Paul P. Biebel was to render his decision to assign a special prosecutor for Deloney. After more than an hour and 45 minute delay, Biebel allowed an assistant Cook County States Attorney to make a delaying motion in response to Deloney’s petition. Biebel accepted the motion and ruled to reserve his decision until Jan. 20.

As a former torture victim, I am outraged that Biebel delayed this case until Jan. 20, clearly knowing that Jon Burge would be sentenced on that exact same date. (See “Forum: Stop the Culture of Torture,” Nov.-Dec. 2010 N&L.) As a former torture victim, I remain shocked by the leeway that judges provide the Cook County State’s Attorney office, knowing that this office should not be assigned these cases. Mr. Deloney, and all victims tortured under Burge’s leadership, deserve hearings on their claims of torture based on evidence from the Special Prosecutor’s report released in July 2006. It found that tortures were an “epidemic” at Police Station areas two and three and “systematic” under Burge’s command.

–Mark A. Clements, Wrongful Conviction Coordinator, Chicago Alliance against Racist and Political Repression


On Jan. 11, the Illinois State Senate passed a bill to end the death penalty in Illinois. If Governor Quinn signs the bill, it will be law. (It has already been passed by the House.) This represents decades, if not more than 100 years, of work by people from all walks of life who see the death penalty as barbaric. I, for one, cannot imagine that it is OK for the state to take a person in its custody, who is in a completely helpless position before enormous power, and put that person to death. Most people don’t know that on the death certificate of an executed person the cause of death is listed as Homicide.

–January, Chicago


MAURITIUS: FREE CHAGOS!

Late last year Lalit (a left party in Mauritius) held the International Conference on Diego Garcia and Chagos in Mauritius. The UK split the Chagos Islands in the middle of the Indian Ocean from the country of Mauritius in 1965 and the native population was forced out to make way for the U.S. military base on Diego Garcia. The conference recalled street battles won against the Riot Unit, victorious court cases when Chagossian and Lalit women were on trial for illegal demonstrations, and the 2004 Peace Flotilla to Diego Garcia.

Lalit thanked News and Letters and several other groups for their messages to the conference. Strong opposition was voiced to the “Marine Protected Area” declared by the UK. A Wikileaked U.S. cable from May 2009 quoted UK Foreign Office official Colin Roberts saying, “former inhabitants would find it difficult, if not impossible, to pursue their claim for resettlement on the islands if the entire Chagos Archipelago were a marine reserve.” Conferees agreed to continue a unified struggle for closing down the U.S. base, dismantling the British colony of the islands, and assuring the right of return for all Chagossians.

–Solidarity activist, Illinois


VOICES FROM BEHIND THE WALLS

I am presently held in a High Security/closed custody wing, locked down 24/7, with zero movement for prisoners.

Everything that comes into the pod that is readable is passed from cell to cell.

Your paper has sparked many debates and flat-out arguments about what’s good for the workers, what’s good for the country, and how the government has pretty much abandoned the worker (the backbone of its revenue) and the people.

Thank you for keeping us informed about issues the mainstream papers skip over, or openly refuse to print. As long as prison industry (slave labor) exists, the worker is in danger of being imprisoned simply for the purposes of production.

–Prisoner, Amarillo, Texas


The struggle is an ongoing process. It never ends. Our education never stops. As we grow and develop and transform ourselves into whatever we are to become, the question that most demands an answer is: Did you learn anything?

I hope to soon contribute to your pages and share a few of the things I’ve learned in the struggle. It never ends.

–Prisoner, Bennettsville, S.C.


What a publication! We who are in the belly of the beast get equal treatment. Your paper sheds some light on the capitalist thinking of our country. Keep up the good work. The devil is mad. You serve a purpose. Be strong.

–Prisoner, Gatesville, TX

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