Readers’ Views, September-October 2011

From the September-October 2011 issue of News & Letters:

Readers’ Views

Contents:

REVOLUTION AND COUNTER-REVOLUTION: ARAB SPRING AS CROSSROADS IN HISTORY

The West supports any revolution where they benefit from it financially. Libya has oil reserves–much like Iraq–so of course the U.S. is going to support a revolution in that country. That “support” is not for moral purposes–because if that were truly the case then every revolution, big and small, in every country, would receive the same support. That support is based on the capitalist nature of the West and on hopes that any new leadership will be more susceptible to Western graft and corruption (called business) when it comes to that country’s resources.

–African-American revolutionary, Wisconsin


Teenage unemployment is always higher than any other group, but the conditions are so bad now that it has reached 25.5%, the highest number since records on teenage unemployment started to be kept in 1948. That affects about 1.64 million teenagers 16-19 years old. This is about three times the national average of 9.1%. One of the main reasons for this problem is that older workers, many of whom have been unemployed for years, are taking any job available.

–Retiree, Detroit


The article on the Civil War last issue hits close to home. Racism in this society is so horrific I don’t know how people survive it. I have a cousin from the South who is worried about the narrow-mindedness there. She is disappointed in Obama, but can’t talk about it because so many people hate him because of his color. The South is the key to the U.S. South Carolina, where Boeing is going, was one of the last states to have chain gangs.

–Working-class white, Bay Area, Cal.


Gerry Emmett’s lead on the Israeli right-wing connections changed my mind about the Tea Party. I used to think they were just white buffoons. But when the Israeli right wing promotes settlements, calls for death to all liberals, Arabs, etc., its relation to the Tea Party shows how pernicious Tea Party’ers are.

–Disgusted Voter, West Coast


I’m concerned that the Arab Spring becomes a crossroads in history that both defines revolution in motion and the effect that individuals can have on viable change; and which defines how easily a positive moral and philosophical change supported by the masses may become a nightmare, without truly compelling discussion that sparks action about what comes next, after revolution.

History has shown that there has to be a balance, especially in emerging democracies, that allows the radicalism of youth to be transmitted throughout the new doctrines that are created in order to avoid the process of creating a new conservative attitude that is worse than what was overthrown in the first place.

–Student of Marxism, Wisconsin


The lead in the July-August N&L was exciting because it showed the deep connection between the Arab Spring and the Gaza youth who started a new revolution by searching for hope. That spirit pressured the ruling factions of the Palestinians to unite. The Black revolutionary who said the revolution will not be televised expressed the frustration the Black youth felt in inner cities everywhere. And the vision of mass non-violent protest among Palestinian youth has shaken the Israeli rulers.

–Also excited, Northern California


I enjoyed Ron Kelch’s article on “Greece, democracy and the economic crisis” (July-August N&L), with one caveat. I do not think “Obama fervently believes” in anything. I find it entirely likely that he knows full well that capital’s all-pervading need for continual expansion has hit the wall of a finite market–the planet–and it will be capitalist dog eat dog from here on in.

–Observer, Michigan


I disagree with the Editorial headline in the July-August N&L. These are not Obama’s wars. He inherited them and he is carrying on the duties of the office he ran for. I don’t defend Obama on healthcare, and all the other things, but these are not his wars.

–Subscriber, California


The conflicting ways in which the U.S. government is bound up in the crises makes it the time to talk about revolution, not as abstraction, but as what the movements on the ground are raising: what is real democracy. Obama is beholden to a reactionary discourse on the debt, rather than speaking of the relentless class war that is driving it. We need to get beyond the illusions of political freedom and reach for a real freedom, for which there are now new openings.

–Ron Kelch, Oakland


The criminal nature of politics regarding the Aug. 2 deadline for raising the debt limit was playing with the lives of real people. It is time for a revolution of the voters to call the politicians to task and to start demanding a true democracy. To talk about not mailing out Social Security checks, Veteran’s benefits, salaries for troops, etc., meant not caring that people–real people–would not have been able to pay rent, buy food, pay car notes, and would even default on their homes. That is criminal and proves this nation needs a revolutionary overhaul.

–Outraged, Midwest USA


Hillary Clinton urged the Burmese Generals to “take steps to regain the trust of their people.” Who is she kidding? Can we afford to trust a bunch of military thugs who decide to bunker themselves in a “capital” (in exile), and purchase missiles which they intend to use on its dissidents? She concludes with this: “The choice is clear. They can take these steps and gain back the confidence of their people and the trust of the international community or they can continue down the path they’ve been on.”

Isn’t it crystal clear to all but the Obama/Clinton foreign policy team that the Generals will gladly continue to accept the latter option? Especially when Americans and Europeans are willing to look the other way while their trading “partners” (like China, Korea, Japan, Indonesia) continue to also trade with a country that practices slave labor of its ethnic minorities.

–Burmese American, California


We dream together of a better world for all, where individual drive and ambition is focused on society rather than private goals. Where humanity becomes a single living organism. The self becomes all and the all becomes self. Socialism must be established before any of that can come about with a proletarian liberation movement. Under capitalism we face the Crackerjacks who praise piracy, private property, and private wealth at the expense of others. We must first sweep away the old system with revolution. World economic events will swell our ranks to the point where one day revolution will be here.

–Sid Rasmussen, Iowa


The July-August “Woman As Reason” column takes up the Arab Spring, focusing on women. Women have been a crucial dimension to extending the revolution. However, when Terry Moon concludes that the key is independence of the women’s movement, I am not convinced that autonomy is enough to get to full revolution. The question that needs to be answered is what is revolution. It is clearly on the agenda in Egypt when the first act of counter-revolution was the attack on women on March 8.

Instead, now many intellectuals and various tendencies are being put on the stage as “credible” spokespeople for the revolution.

–Urszula Wislanka, Oakland


Gerry Emmett’s reportage and assessment of the Arab Spring vis a vis the Palestinian youth, Greece and Spain was impeccable. We all need a “positive vision of freedom.” And in order to attain one, we should start by redefining “freedom” in human terms, not capital’s.

–Steady Reader, Michigan


KARL MARX AND WILLIAM SHAKESPEARE

It should be noted that 2011 is the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s last full-length play, The Tempest. Nobody was more steeped in Shakespeare than Karl Marx, and he would not have let an occasion like that pass unremarked. According to his daughter Eleanor, “As to Shakespeare, he was the Bible of our house, seldom out of our hands or mouths. By the time I was six, I knew scene upon scene of Shakespeare by heart.”

Marx was also the most Shakespearean of writers and thinkers, and there is a great study still to be written on the many resonances between Marx, Hegel and Shakespeare. Not least of Marx’s references to Shakespeare’s poetry is the great phrase in the Communist Manifesto that describes the impact of the rising bourgeoisie on society: “All that is solid melts into air….”

Or as The Tempest‘s Prospero, whose magic anticipated the new bourgeois order, has it:

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits, and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp’d tow’rs, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve,
And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on; and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.

This still repays endless thought. And Marx’s great Manifesto: “All fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions, are swept away, all new-formed ones become antiquated before they can ossify. All that is solid melts into air, all that is holy is profaned, and man is at last compelled to face with sober senses his real conditions of life and his relations with his kind.”

–Tim Finnigan, Chicago


REMEMBERING CHRISTINA SANTIAGO

Queer rights advocate Christina Santiago was killed when the concert stage collapsed at the Indiana State Fair in August. Ms. Santiago worked tirelessly to better the lives of all Queer people, especially women. She earned her degree in women’s studies and sociology from the University of New York at Albany. In 2006, she began working at Howard Brown Health Center (HBHC) and in 2008 became the Lesbian Community Care Project’s (LCCP) programming manager.

Ms. Santiago helped greatly in expanding health services for HBHC, for which she received the Spirit Award in 2010. She was in the midst of leading HBHC’s new LifeCycle Project to meet the healthcare needs of the entire Queer community. She was also the Programming Chair for Amigas Latinas–which advocates for Latina Lesbians, Bisexual, Transgender and questioning women.

Christina Santiago is already missed and will always be remembered as one of the LGBT community’s “fiercest and brightest warriors,” as said by Amigas Latinas. Donations may be made in her memory at the Amigas Latinas site, http://www.amigaslatinas.org, or donations may be sent for her family’s expenses or for the LCCP to Howard Brown Health Center at 4025 N. Sheridan Rd., Chicago, IL 60613. Seehttp://howardbrown.org/hb_services.asp?id=1900.

–Elise, Chicago


THELONIOUS MONK

Paul Geist captures something important about being human in his review of the documentary “Straight, No Chaser” (July-August N&L). He remarks that Thelonious Monk disliked doing more than two takes because “after that the spirit dissipates as you imitate your own performance.” But record producers pushed for as many takes as needed to achieve the buying public’s perception of “genuine” Thelonious Monk.

Monk probably didn’t mind selling records so long as people caught the spirit of creativity. Otherwise we collapse into imitations of others or of ourselves.

–D.M., Bay Area


CANADA AS ‘CONTESTATAIRE’ SOCIETY

I’m not sure how much Canada has changed with the last federal election. Voters tend to throw out the party in power no matter who it is, so the election of the Conservatives may not mean much real support for them.

The problem is that we remain a “contestataire” society, always fighting over every individual ill without getting anywhere in the broader picture. There are strikes every day with little resolved; people focus their anger on one issue at a time without connecting them, and we move from crisis to crisis to crisis.

Until we have an overall view and a deeper idea, a real understanding of the kind of society we want Canada to be, we will continue to spin our wheels. Nonetheless, the fact that English and French are now finally working together in some ways is encouraging. We’ll see what comes of it.

–Retired dairy farmer, Comté de Berthier, Québec


MAN-MADE DISASTERS: NUCLEAR POWER AND WORLD WAR

I agree with Narihiko Ito in his article on “Fukushima’s man-made disaster” (July-August N&L) that Tokyo Electric Power Co. is completely corrupt, as are promoters of nuclear power all over the world. They, along with the pro-nuclear scientists, have lied to themselves and to us about nuclear power being safe, clean and green. There is no safe way to dispose of nuclear power’s deadly waste with tens of thousands of years of half-life. There is, however, technology to process waste into nuclear bombs.

Everything produced under capitalism, including nuclear power plants, are commodities, and there is a drive to constantly expand the production of more commodities. The only way to abolish that (and eliminate unemployment) is to replace capitalist production with a new society of freely associated workers who will abolish what Marx called the “law of value.” That would be the foundation of a new society of new human relations.

–Japanese American, Los Angeles


Dear comrades,

We send you an Overseas Appeal for the annual Antiwar Assembly in Japan. Japanese working masses are still faced with terrible radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant, as well as enormous damages from the earthquake and tsunami. On the occasion of the annual antiwar meeting, we the Executive Committee call on you to promote an international struggle together with us against the imperialist and other rulers continuing nuclear development for their economic greed and stronger war capabilities.

We ask you to send a message of solidarity, as you have every year since our first Assembly. The 49th International Antiwar Assembly will be held this year on August 7th, between the days of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

–Solidarity, Masao Yoshida for the Executive Committee

Editor’s note: Our solidarity message, which was translated into Japanese and read out at meetings in several cities, began as follows:

News and Letters Committees–the Marxist-Humanist organization founded by Raya Dunayevskaya in the United States 56 years ago–sends our revolutionary greetings…. In calling to your attention our longstanding solidarity with you in the international antiwar struggle, we, once again, are proud to quote our fundamental opposition to imperialist war, established in the Constitution of News and Letters Committees adopted in 1956:

“The age of state-capitalism, whether in its single-party totalitarian form or its parliamentary form, can offer nothing to humanity but the prospect of another war. The advent of nuclear weapons, possessed by all contenders for world power, seriously raises the question of the survival of humanity in the advent of such a struggle. We believe that the working people are the only force in the world today capable of changing present-day society and of evolving the forms and shape of future society.”…


LABOR STRUGGLES IN 2011

As schools open, unprecedented moves against education workers continue to weaken the quality of public education. In New York, 19 “failing” schools have been kept open at the price of 40% of their teachers’ evaluations to be based on student test scores. (Widely known, but too little discussed, is the gross unreliability of measuring teacher performance with test scores.)

And in Detroit, Michigan Public Act 4 of 2011–the new emergency manager law–has been used to modify school employee collective bargaining agreements.

Two separate lawsuits have been filed against the 10% wage cuts and increases in healthcare costs. But why didn’t the Detroit Federation of Teachers and AFSCME Council 25 file one single suit, to prevent management from dividing teachers from other employees? It’s not only the teachers who create a quality education.

–Retired Teacher, Detroit


The 300 foreign exchange students who went on strike to protest their conditions of work and life were working in a Hershey’s warehouse in Palmyra, Penn., and got a real dose of life in the U.S. Not only were their working conditions horrible, including standing all day and lifting heavy boxes, they were also charged a $400 monthly rent fee.

They all had to pay for their visas, as much as $6,000, and were paid at or near the minimum wage, which meant that some of them did not make enough to pay for their visas. So they did what workers all over the world do when working under unbearable conditions–they went on strike. You can bet that some heads will roll for this now international incident.

–Observer, Michigan


There are many concessions in the United Auto Workers current contracts with the auto companies that the rank-and-file autoworkers want to have revoked, but their top priority is the divisive two-tier wage structure. At an autoworkers conference held in Detroit last month, this provision received the most attention and the workers made crystal clear that they knew how poisonous two-tier was and their opposition to it. They are now waiting to see if the union leadership will act on this vital demand.

–Andy Phillips, Detroit


WHY WRITE FOR N&L?

I like writing for N&L because the writing has great company with the content of the publication as a whole. Quite frankly, it is one of the few papers that I read that always has something to say from cover to cover that is both intelligent and informative.

–Robert Taliaferro, Wisconsin


VOICES FROM BEHIND THE BARS

Thanks to News & Letters for covering the Georgia, Ohio, and now the Pelican Bay SHU prisoner protests.

The sad truth is none of us (prisoners or non-prisoners) can ignore the reality of the loss of civil and human rights over the past decade.

What was considered inhuman treatment limited to psychopaths like Hitler’s SS is now defended as official U.S. policy (kidnapping, torture, denial of effective counsel). In fact many of the contract employees for the U.S. military prison system (both official and hidden) are U.S. state and federal prison employees.

The cross-fertilization of the U.S. international torture network with domestic prisons has and will have an impact on the deterioration of the civil and human rights of prisoners and the general U.S. populations alike.

At some point freedom-loving people will need to design a justice system worthy of its name by promoting rehabilitation of citizens, not retribution.

–Prisoner, Texas


I’d like the paper to highlight how the “one party” capitalists pretend to be two parties, one for the rich and one for the poor. Yet the poor keep getting poorer and the rich richer. And the slogan of “lesser of two evils” isn’t human.

–Prisoner, Youngstown, Ohio


I really like the way the paper is put together. My only request is that some sports would be good to include.

–Prisoner, Corcoran, Cal.


TO OUR READERS: Can you donate the price of one sub ($5) for a prisoner who cannot pay for one? It will be shared with many others.

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