Readers’ Views, September-October 2013, Part I

From the September-October 2013 issue of News & Letters:

Readers’ Views (Part 1)

OUR HISTORIC MOMENT AT THE CROSSROADS OF WORLD REVOLT

The story on “Turkey, Syria and Iran at crossroads of world revolt” (July-Aug. N&L) deftly wove those mass movements together by letting the free expression of mass creativity speak for itself. A whole host of reactionary players have taken the stage with deadly instruments and rhetoric that tries to drown the masses out. In light of the new situation in Egypt, a most prescient line is on the pull of this counter-revolution on many who “have written off the masses’ creativity and tenacity.”

Reader

Northern California

***

June 22 in Turkey: police stopped a crowd gathering at the plaza, but the crowd just pushed its way through and liberated the main street Istiklal! It had been revealed that the police water cannon vehicles are manufactured by two ruling party parliamentarians! People are stopping and controlling the ambulances because earlier they found that the police transport tear gas by hiding it inside them. People are shouting and booing the police: “Police, sell doughnuts but at least live with honor!”

Five hundred people raided a famous ice cream parlor because they closed their doors to people when the police attacked them days earlier. That day, people came to the plaza with carnations because when a woman offered a carnation to the police they responded by gassing her. More than 100,000 people filled the plaza.

Revolutionary from Turkey

In exile

***

The ideas in the lead are made more urgent and more profound by recent developments. Unrest is not as confinable as the powers that be keep trying to define it. The revolts are a worldwide continuation of Arab Spring. Egypt is now challenging the rush to stability.

Activist

Oakland

***

“Turkey, Syria and Iran” views the situation in those countries, not only as the latest facts, but through the lens of what is new in this historic moment. Much of what I’ve read from the Left does not have a rudder like that to view these events. They bring out interesting facts, may or may not highlight the right events, but what is needed is to structure your analysis around the philosophic comprehension of events and not let the events be the wind that blows your sails in whatever direction it may be going.

Concerned

Chicago

***

International Antiwar Assemblies were held Aug. 3-4. Workers, students and others in the meetings renewed their resolve to advance the fight against “wars and poverty” internationally. They were greatly encouraged by your warmest messages. We the Executive Committee for the Assemblies express heartfelt thanks for your solidarity.

The struggle is ongoing in Okinawa, Japan, in which a million people live and 11% of whose territory is occupied by the U.S. military. We are struggling against the U.S.’s tilt-rotor ‘Ospreys,’ notorious for accidents. It is to be deployed at a base in a densely populated area. On Aug. 3, Zengakuren-affiliated students started an action with militant workers, including a sit-in to block passage to a base gate. On Aug. 4, a U.S. military helicopter crashed into a hill on the Island, causing a forest fire and threatening residents. People’s anger is seething. The U.S. and Japanese governments decided on “a temporary postponement” of the Osprey deployment. People’s protest is growing day by day, and the deployment has stopped.

Masao Yoshida

Japan

ONE NATION UNDER BRUTALITY

In Spanish Harlem: a Mexican woman is selling drinks to hot customers, another has a jewelry display, a man offers “Jobs, right now” to young people and another sells health insurance.

Suddenly there is a commotion in the subway station entry. A big white man in a sports shirt is dragging a Black man down the steps, punching as he goes. Someone yells, “Stop or I’ll call the cops!” The white man yells back, “I am a cop,” and disappears into the station.

Everyone is stunned. But why? It is just more police brutality in a poor New York neighborhood. A squad car roars up and cops jump out like a murder is in progress. Minutes later, one young Black man, cuffed, is marched up the steps and put into the car. A second later, another young Black man, cuffed, again with a cop on each arm, is also marched up the steps and put in the squad car.

Who is he? Who knows? Maybe he said something to one of New York’s “Finest.” Maybe he was too interested in what was going down. In the Bronx, people filming “stop-and-frisk” with cell phones have been arrested. Isn’t it time that we stopped being spectators and got serious about making a revolution that will end all this once and for all?

Eyewitness to brutality

New York

***

A few weeks ago, I was watching live coverage of the L.A. Trayvon Martin demonstration. A TV station had a reporter in a helicopter “interpreting” every move by the crowd, no matter how innocuous, as being threatening and violent. For example, the demonstrators walked past a fire truck and the reporter said, “Oh! There’s a fire truck! They sometimes go after them!” Somebody got into a car and she said, “Look! Are they stealing that car?” On and on like that.

“They” and “them.” Wild in the streets. The racism was palpable and went unquestioned. In a sense it was everything you needed to know about the verdict, about this country, being shoved right in your face.

Seething at racism

Chicago

***

Too many racists would rather protect a murderer than provide justice. U.S. “justice” assures that a Black boy has no honor, innocence, value, and no contributions to make.

Another tragedy is the inability to remove racism from law enforcement. Sanford County’s treatment of Trayvon echoes the classic “no prosecution” postures that police, local prosecutors, and judges take. This too painfully familiar pattern was established by white vigilante groups, deputies, and private persons who had an appetite for lynching.

Following Trayvon’s murder, a legion of white donors lined up to contribute to Zimmerman’s defense. They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to support him and provided him one of the best defense lawyers money could buy.

Ibrahim

Bay Area

***

In the shadow of the historic Schomburg Library for Black Culture and the Harlem Hospital, the Harlem Book Fair celebrated its 15th anniversary. During the day, thousands, defying the heat, wandered through the exhibits and listened to music that ranged from African drumming to modern jazz. I distributed News & Letters, with our website statement on the Trayvon Martin travesty of justice. When I told people of the statement, lots of youth took a copy. One man told me that he hadn’t realized that America was still such a racist country until the verdict came in. A young person told me, “We all feel like targets here,” even in New York City.

Michael Gilbert

New York City

DETROIT CRISIS

At the same time that the city of Detroit declares bankruptcy, the Willow Run Bomber Plant—the birthplace of the legend of “Rosie the Riveter,” located just outside Detroit—is proposed for demolition. Known to baby boomers as “The Motor City,” to an earlier generation Detroit achieved the honorific title of “The Arsenal of Democracy” during World War II. Now it is all being torn down.

Socialist

Battle Creek, Mich.

***

It is unclear whether the Detroit bankruptcy will be allowed to proceed. Emergency manager Kevyn Orr was required to negotiate in good faith with the city’s creditors. He has done little in that respect except offering less than 10% of the amount owed to unsecured creditors and the unfunded portion of workers’ pension funds. Orr claims $3.5 billion of Detroit’s debt is underfunded pension obligations. The funds for retired employees asked a circuit judge to stop the bankruptcy on the grounds that it violates the Michigan State Constitution. It requires full funding of pensions. While the circuit judge ordered the City of Detroit to withdraw its bankruptcy petition, this was undone by the Michigan Court of Appeals.

Observer

Flint, Mich.

WOMEN UNDER ATTACK

The Right wing is attacking Planned Parenthood and forcing women to have invasive ultrasounds with a vaginal probe. They make doctors tell patients things that aren’t true and withhold information from women, for instance if there is something wrong with the fetus. While some doctors are wonderful, as a whole the profession has been pretty dismal—although they did come out against those laws in Texas. Women are going to have to get out in the streets.

Woman labor organizer

Los Angeles

***

A few weeks ago I was waiting in downtown Chicago for a ride when I found myself surrounded by horrible, blown-up pictures of what was claimed to be aborted fetuses. I had walked into a so-called “pro-life” demonstration. How did they get these pictures? Did these people invade the privacy of a woman’s abortion to get them? I was more disgusted by the anti-abortion fanatics than I was by the pictures. The attacks on our right to abortion represent a wave of hatred toward women’s bodies and an assault on our minds. Only by uprooting this society can we find a pathway to a new one.

Disability rights activist

Chicago

SPORTS SECTION?

I found Artemis’s glorification of race car driver Danica Patrick in the March-April 2013 “Women WorldWide” as some sort of “feminist” hero extremely disconcerting. There is nothing feminist or humanist about burning fossil fuels for any reason; and driving a “race” car is not a sport, NASCAR’s allegations notwithstanding.

Rand W. Gould

Michigan

***

Your paper helps in many different ways by letting me know what to expect in the world. I love the paper because it really shows how other people around the world are up against it in more ways than one. The paper is fine like it is and all you need to add is sports.

Prisoner

Los Angeles, Calif.

PANOPTICON

A panopticon is an 18th century prison design where the cells are in a circle and the “watcher” in the center. The design allows a watchman to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) inmates of an institution and they can’t tell whether they are watched or not. The panopticon was intended for “penitentiaries” where people could arrive at penitence for their crimes. But, it merely drove them crazy.

Today technology renders such a building unnecessary. Even George Orwell in the 1940s foresaw TV monitors watching every move of the citizen. And you know that your “meta-” data is available to whoever might want to watch. So you have to watch yourself, right? You don’t want the metadata to be searched, so be sure you don’t do anything “wrong.”

But the number of things to do wrong is logarithmically increased in prison. There you may be accused and convicted without trial. In fact, you don’t have to do anything wrong. You may just be a color a guard doesn’t like. Not Black, brown or poor? Still, you better watch yourself. Maybe I shouldn’t send this into News & Letters. It’s OK though. I’m not giving my right name.

Are you going crazy yet?

January

Chicago

SAVVAS MATSAS NEEDS YOUR HELP AGAINST GREEK FASCISTS

Savvas Matsas, a Greek philosopher, literary critic, Biblical scholar and leader of the Marxist Workers Revolutionary Party (EEK), stands charged with “defaming” the Greek neo-Nazi party, Golden Dawn, “inciting violence” against them, and “disturbing the peace.” His case goes to trial on Sept. 3. The evidence for “defamation” seems to be that he called them “criminals”; for the charge of “inciting violence” that he appealed for a fight against fascism; and for the charge of “disturbing the peace” that he wrote a tract calling for a demonstration against them.

The Golden Dawn party is conducting a virulent campaign against Savvas, whom they’ve called “an agent of the international Jewish conspiracy against the Greek nation who is trying to provoke a civil war in order to establish a Jewish-Bolshevik regime.” Sound familiar?

As outrageous as the charges against Savvas, is that Greece’s conservative Government, which has several Cabinet members whose origins lie in the extreme right, should consider such legally protected behavior as worthy of judicial action. This may even be the first time that any country that pretends to be a democracy has made opposition to fascism into a crime. If it succeeds in Greece, it won’t be the last.

Savvas has called for letters that support his “right” to fight fascism in all the ways listed in the charges be sent to him as soon as possible. Even one line will do. Letters are already beginning to flood in from Greece and several other countries. We have a chance to make a difference—for Savvas, perhaps for Greece, and maybe even for ourselves. Take a moment and write, and then forward this appeal to all your contacts who take the fight against fascism (and the state’s protection, bordering on open support, of the fascists in its midst) as seriously as Savvas does. Savvas’ email address is: savvasmatsas@gmail.com

Bertell Ollman

Department of Politics, NYU

***

Editor’s note: On Sept. 4, after press time, an Athens court acquitted Savvas Matsas and Konstantinos Moutzouris on all charges.

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