You are here

D2. Socialism

Justice for Tyre Nichols! Solidarity against police murder!

Tempest Magazine - Mon, 01/30/2023 - 17:47

The horrifying video released Friday showing five Memphis police officers severely beating a defenseless and compliant Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, on January 7 has once again exposed the brutal racism of police murder.

We at Tempest stand with his family and the communities impacted by his death. We are in solidarity with the ongoing movement for Black Lives against racist killer cops.

Nichols’ murder comes in the wake of a record year of police killings. The Guardian reports that in 2022, law enforcement killed at least 1,176 people—roughly 100 people per month. Most of those killings—more than 70 percent—occurred during routine, non-threatening police encounters. In more than 30 percent of cases, the person killed was fleeing for their life—as was the case with Nichols. While making up only 13 percent of the U.S. population, Black people constituted 24 percent of those killed by police. Black people are three times more likely to be killed by police than white people.

Like every person murdered by police, however, Tyre Nichols was much more than another name, more than another statistic. He was a father to a four-year-old son and a FedEx worker. His mother, Row Vaughn Wells, was extremely close to her son. He had moved from Sacramento to Memphis to be near her, they shared a home there with his stepfather, and he had a tattoo of her name on his arm. He enjoyed skateboarding and photography. (You can find some of his work here.) NPR published a video—a beautiful and heartbreaking counterpoint to the police video—of Nichols riding a skateboard in the sunshine, jumping stairs, curbs, and walls while making elaborate turns.

On the night of January 7, police pulled Nichols over and dragged him violently from his car. All five police officers at the scene weighed over 200 pounds in comparison to Nichols, who, despite his considerable height of 6’3”, weighed less than 150 pounds. (He was living with Crohn’s disease.) Nichols fled on foot toward his mother’s house after the police Tasered him. Police caught him and threw him to the ground even as he protested that he was complying with their orders to lie down. Crying for his mother, he was kicked, punched, and beaten with a baton until he was bleeding, immobile, and in shock.

Emergency workers were slow to arrive. The New York Times reports that medics stood by passively and even walked away as Nichols writhed in pain for six minutes and 40 seconds. 23 minutes passed before a stretcher arrived on the scene. Nichols died in the hospital three days later.

“It just never stops. There was a movement and uproar across the globe, and we’re still having more killings.”

Protests have erupted across the country, in Memphis, Milwaukee, Oakland, Phoenix, Baltimore, Dallas, Los Angeles, York, Atlanta, Boston, San Francisco, Portland, and elsewhere. Everywhere, protesters have raised signs and chants calling not only for an end to police killings but also for the defunding and abolition of the police.

Ironically—but not surprisingly—police in riot gear faced off Friday night with protestors in Los Angeles. They were honoring not only Nichols but also Keenan Anderson, who was murdered this month after L.A. police pinned him to the ground and Tasered him at least six times over a period of 42 seconds.

The five officers who murdered Tyre Nichols have been fired and charged with second-degree murder, along with six other felonies, and a sixth officer has also been suspended. The emergency medical workers who delayed care for Nichols have been suspended.

The cops who beat Tyre Nichols were members of a predatory strike team called Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in our Neighborhoods, or SCORPION, which has since been dismantled. Such task forces, modeled on the 1970s STRESS (Stop the Robberies, Enjoy Safe Streets) unit in Detroit, are deployed to intensify the crackdown on Black people and the poor to assuage the anxieties of business owners and justify inequality.

All of the officers who beat Tyre Nichols are Black, which might explain the rapidity with which they were dismissed and charged and the sudden disbanding of the task force. One can imagine that, if the officers had been white, they might not have faced such sudden—or any—punishment.

The situation is not one in which a few “bad cops” are out of control. SCORPION was created on the initiative of police chief Cerlyn Davis, who instructed the unit to crack down even on minor offenses and ramp up “all-out” policing in poor neighborhoods.

Even when police forces are racially diverse, they still fulfill the functions of surveilling, targeting, and killing of Black people. The scapegoating and murder of Black men by police buttresses an inhumane set of priorities by which police funding increases while resources for public welfare are cut. The brutal racism of policing in U.S. cities justifies inequality and austerity as we enter a likely economic recession.

Protesting the murder of George Floyd. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.

The 2020 murder of George Floyd led to mass uprisings for racial justice and against police murder. Yet, with the backing of pro-cop Democratic mayors, police budgets across the country have increased, including in Los Angeles, where the police department funding has increased by $250 million since 2020. In New York City, Mayor Eric Adams is pushing to reduce city spending by three percent in 2023 and 4.75 percent in 2024 and 2025. Adams’ plan would shrink the expansion of free preschool programs across the city in order to save $284 million in fiscal years 2025 and 2026.

Amid the local protests in Memphis following George Floyd’s murder in 2020, Democratic mayor Jim Strickland released a statement on June 10 that read in part, “I’m opposed to defunding our police department. I believe cutting funding from the Memphis Police Department is unwise. And frankly, it’s out of touch with the majority of city residents.” In 2017, the Memphis police budget was 38 percent of the total city budget; a year after George Floyd’s murder, it was 40 percent.

This inhumane set of priorities is evident in another instance of police murder. On January 18, police shot and killed a nonviolent protester in Atlanta, Georgia, queer environmentalist Manuel “Tortuguita” Esteban Paez Terán. Terán and other activists were challenging what is being called “Cop City,” officials plan to build a 90-million-dollar police training center there, destroying 85 acres of forest.

This is the context of the police murder of Tyre Nichols, who died on January 10. Just ten days later, President Biden made the following tellingly reactionary comments:

When it comes to public safety—when it comes to public safety, we know the answer is not to defund the police. It’s to retrain some police. It’s to make sure we know exactly what’s happening. But it’s not to defund the police. They need more funding, and they need ancillary help as well.

Calling for more police funding, Biden has proposed an “American Rescue Plan” that includes $350 billion to local and state governments “to make communities safer.” In a sickening move, Biden invited Nichols’ family to the State of the Union Address.

This “plan” and Biden’s remarks are affronts to justice and decency. The police murder of Tyre Nichols—and that of Keenan Anderson and the hundreds of other Black people killed by the police—requires a renewed uprising against racist police murders. Bianca Austin, aunt of police victim Breonna Taylor, expressed this urgency: “It just never stops. There was a movement and uproar across the globe, and we’re still having more killings.”

None of the issues raised by the 2020 rebellion against police murder has been resolved. Derecka Parnell, writing for the Guardian, notes that the beating of Tyre Nichols happened even when reforms like body cameras were in place.

There is an urgent need for ongoing protests raising the demand to defund—and, ultimately, abolish—the police. In response to the video of police beating Nichols, a Portland activist posted a message reading, “EVERY SINGLE MURDER caused by police should ignite within us a rage that is unstoppable. This will ignite a whole new uprising. And it should.”

You can support Nichols’ family by donating to the Tyre Nichols Memorial Fund.

Featured Image Credit:Photo by Beck1999 modified by Tempest.

Categories: D2. Socialism

‘Say his name!’ Police murder of Tyre Nichols sparks outrage

Socialist Resurgence - Mon, 01/30/2023 - 15:53
By JOHN LESLIE On Jan. 7, Memphis police from the so-called SCORPION Unit (Street Crimes Operation to Restore Peace in Our Neighborhoods) pulled Tyre Nichols, 29, over for an alleged traffic violation. The video released by the Memphis police shows that in the initial encounter, the cops are aggressively shouting, “Get out of the fuck […]
Categories: D2. Socialism

Looking Back at 1983

Editor’s note: This year marks the fortieth anniversary of the founding of the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights (IREHR). As part of our celebration of this milestone, each month we’ll look back at different chapters in the unique history of the organization, share personal stories, and dig deep into the archives. One of IREHR’s founders, Leonard Zeskind, gives us our first installment.- DB

 

 

Looking Back at 1983

By Leonard Zeskind

The Institute for Research & Education on Human Rights was founded forty years ago by a small group of people who saw danger on the near horizon and wanted everyone to prepare to meet it head-on. In all honesty, our small group of volunteers initially formed the organization to get a non-profit mailing permit for a periodical we published out of our own pockets, called The Hammer. At the time, we had no idea that IREHR would be around for four decades.

Across the country, white supremacists were organizing and growing. Racist, anti-Semitic, and bigoted violence blossomed hard. We had watched the white supremacist of the 1950s try and preserve Jim Crow. Then, five anti-Klan activists were murdered in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1979. Now they wanted to destroy democracy and revolutionize society. And while a fight-back was being waged, a broader, deeper investigation of white supremacists was needed.

So, we did what we could.

Even before we officially became IREHR, we were conducting meaningful research. In 1982, we were researching paramilitarism in Missouri and Kansas when we uncovered a survivalist expo held at the Kansas City convention center. The Liberty Lobby, by then the largest anti-Semitic organization on the far right, had a booth. They distributed Spotlight tabloids, which had a subscription rate of about 300,000 at the time. The Covenant, Sword, and Arm of the Lord (CSA) also had a booth promoting a manual for its survivalist school down in the Ozarks. (The group was eventually shut down when the FBI rounded up members of The Order in 1985.) The media treated the expo as a trade show. We covered it in the first issue of our magazine for what it was: a white supremacist paramilitary recruiting exhibition.

The second issue, published in February 1983, had an article on a cult, The Way, and its international campus in Emporia, Kansas. In addition to the old-style far-right invective against Jews and Catholics, its libraries and classrooms carried Holocaust-denial books “for balance,” they said. Community members wanted to know the extent of the problem, so we found out.

We researched a split in the leadership of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan. David Duke led this Klan group in the 1970s. It had grown quickly and had strong second-rank leadership. Duke quit the leadership top spot in 1980 and appointed his Alabama state leader, Don Black, to the post. But by 1983, Black was in prison for his plot to invade the island nation of Dominica. One leadership faction, including Thom Robb of Arkansas, was angling for more power. This was important news. So we covered it.

We also did stories in the magazine on Nazi war criminals receiving justice, incidents of bigotry-motivated violence, and the Christian Identity movement, which provided a theological justification for racism and anti-Semitism.

We were investigating, doing research, for facts that were beyond the naked eye. We knew that white supremacists felt no compunction about telling the truth. We knew that certain organizations had plans to kill Black people, Jews, Mexicans, Asians, gays and lesbians, and those of us who opposed them. But they did not talk about it on street corners. They complained about the lack of “white rights” but wanted “white power.”  They had to be exposed.

That is what the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights has been doing since Day One. To do that, we dug up data. Real facts. Not phony baloney.

In 1983, we incorporated, applied for, and received 501(c)3 non-profit status. With help from a special grant, we raised enough money to pay for mailing the magazine to over a thousand people and some newsstands in New York City and elsewhere.

As our work spread through the magazine’s distribution, we began to hear from other groups and individuals looking to know more about growing white supremacist activity and how to respond. We realized we needed to adapt to these changes quickly.

In our next installment exploring IREHR’s first forty years, we’ll look at how we rose to meet the challenge of the farm crisis and the advance of the Posse Comitatus.

Stay tuned.

 

We need your help to keep IREHR alive and thriving for years to come. Consider a tax-deductible contribution today. 

DONATE TODAY

The post Looking Back at 1983 appeared first on Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights.

Categories: D2. Socialism

Oath Keepers Second Seditious Conspiracy Trial Finds Four Guilty

Two years after the infamous January 6, 2021 invasion of Capitol Hill by Trump-supporting bigots, the second trial of four Oath Keeper militia members ended in verdicts of guilt for seditious conspiracy.  In the first trial, Oath Keepers boss Stewart Rhodes and Florida bigwig Kelly Megs were convicted of seditious conspiracy, and three members escaped the ultimate verdict, although they did not go completely free.

Joseph Minuta, an Oath Keeper from New Jersey; Joseph Hackett, an Oath Keepers recruiter from Florida; David Moerschel from Florida; and Edward Vallejo, an Arizona-based member of a “Quick Response Team” who sat in Virginia hotel during the Capitol riot, were all convicted of seditious conspiracy. All four were also convicted of “obstructing Congress.”

Edward Vallejo bring bins into a Virginia Comfort Inn on January 6, 2021 (left) and attends the Crossroads Gun Show in Phoenix in December 2021 (right) (Source: Homefront Battle Buddies)

Brian Ulrich from Georgia and Joshua James from Alabama pled guilty to seditious conspiracy charges in April 2022.

Prior to the verdicts, the Oath Keepers 38,000 members had spread its militia message throughout the gunners and far right movement.  The National Rifle Association added an Oath Keepers member, Donald Bradway, to its Board of Directors in August 2021.  Indeed, 70 Oath Keepers members are NRA-certified firearms instructors, according to Rolling Stone magazine.   The ADL found that there were 373 Oath Keepers who were active in law enforcement, 117 active military members and 81 who were pubic officials or running for office in 2020.

What will happen to them? A few may decide that their self-possessed conservativism has led them into an outfit whose leadership was anything but lawful and wanted change, not conservation. More might go over to organizations like the Constitutional Sheriffs and Police Officers Association, in an attempt to maintain the façade of constitutional obligation.   And others might go to one of the many explicitly white nationalist shops.  The end result will likely be a growth and further radicalization of the white-world.

In the end, the string of defeats in the courts has definitely weakened the Oath Keepers and will possibly hurt the Proud Boys.  But the broader far right, led in part by explicitly white nationalist organizations and individuals, has continued to grow.  For example, at the time of the Oath Keepers verdict, Nick Fuentes, a white nationalist known for his leadership of the annual America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC) created a Twitter account. Within less than a day he had 130,000 followers, before he was shut down again for spewing antisemitism.  Nevertheless, the number and that speed is larger and faster than at any point in the last 40 years.

The momentum built by this movement will not abate on its own. They must be fought by everyone, not just the courts!

The post Oath Keepers Second Seditious Conspiracy Trial Finds Four Guilty appeared first on Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights.

Categories: D2. Socialism

This recession is an ambush

Tempest Magazine - Sun, 01/29/2023 - 15:21

The U.S. labor movement made important steps forward in 2022, with inspiring campaigns and a level of strike activity that continues to rise, along with the formation of new unions.

The numbers don’t add up to a strike wave, but many big companies are grappling with high-profile union campaigns with important strikes continuing to be waged.

These developments have alarmed the establishment, but perhaps more alarming have been the actions of the non-organized working class. Low-wage workers continue to flex their muscles with a confidence that is connected to their high demand in the labor market. But instead of organizing new unions, many are simply leaving for higher wages elsewhere, where an epidemic of “job switching” has challenged the dominance of employers over their workers.

The combined effect of organized and unorganized workers has put corporations on the defensive for the first time in forty years. These companies spent decades creating a capitalist hellscape for employees, but the chickens have come home to roost in the form of new unions, job switching, or dropping out of the workforce entirely.

The capitalists have declared a crisis

The U.S. establishment clearly understands it is facing a serious labor crisis, not only because of the above reasons but a deeper problem: a massive labor shortage. The issue is multifaceted, though a key driver is demographic shifts, where the baby boom generation is retiring but is not being replaced by the birth rates of younger generations. An economic report on workplace trends predicts that between 2026 and 2036 the U.S. workforce will shrink by 3.2 percent.

Fewer workers overall means that each worker is worth more, and a labor market that favors workers is a national emergency for corporations, since higher wages mean lower profits—and profit is the motor force of capitalism.

Photo by Mike Mozart.

Across the country, “help wanted” signs have become permanent features even as the de facto minimum wage has soared beyond $15 in many cities, while $15 is increasingly becoming codified into law across the country.

Of course, if companies had less hellish work environments—or better benefits packages— they’d have no problems attracting workers, but this is precisely the problem, and corporations have a solution.

The plan isn’t to create a more worker-friendly U.S. capitalism. Quite the contrary. The plan is to do what the establishment has done for forty years, only this time with more brutality. It appears the big employers are ready to do whatever it takes to re-discipline the working class into submission, to accept an even lower standard of living with an even more soul-crushing work life.

Many tactics are being used to boost the labor force, all intended to drive down wages:
slashing unemployment benefits, clamoring for more immigrants, cutting of other safety net programs, etc., but the fundamental problem—wages—is being targeted directly by the highest levels of government with bipartisan support.

An increasing chorus of establishment voices is demanding that wages be driven down, which are now being blamed for inflation in general. This is despite the operation of several other major drivers of inflation, such as supply-chain disruptions (many of them related to the pandemic), as well as shortages of energy, food, and fertilizer (in part due to Russia’s war on Ukraine). Despite the fact that these problems are basic and obvious, the establishment seems to think that attacking wages is the solution. Bloomberg sheepishly commented that “There’s a perverse element to cheering for weaker wage growth, which is generally associated with a soft labor market and higher unemployment.”

The combined effect of organized and unorganized workers has put corporations on the defensive for the first time in forty years.

The former director of Obama’s National Economic Council, Larry Summers, has been hawkish in his very public campaigning for the Federal Reserve to drop the niceties and attack wages. In a recent candid interview, Summers bragged that the Fed had finally adopted his viewpoint, saying: “My view continues to be you don’t get inflation down to 2 percent without getting wage inflation substantially down, and you don’t get wage inflation substantially down without meaningful slack [unemployment] in the labor market…”

Summers added that the Fed finally recognizes that developments in the labor market should be the “super-core measure of inflation.”

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has been obsessed with the labor market for nearly a year, with a focus on driving down wages via higher unemployment. His solution to the pro-worker, “overheated labor market” is to trigger a recession, which he is doing by driving up interest rates.

In a recent speech to the establishment-hardened Brookings Institute, Powell focused exclusively on inflation’s connection to the labor market, where he made clear that to attack inflation meant that wages must be lowered. Using his always-technocratic language, Powell was still clear about his intentions: “Because wages make up the largest cost in delivering these services, the labor market holds the key to understanding inflation in this [service sector] category.” The service sector is the biggest sector of the U.S. economy.

The coming recession means class war

Jerome Powell has compared his actions on several occasions to former Fed Chairman Paul Volker, who famously triggered a major recession that Reagan used to attack unions. By using Volker as his inspiration, Powell is also implying that there is an important political component needed to accompany the Fed’s actions to assist in lowering wages—union busting.

The Federal Reserve doesn’t lower wages automatically, but shifts the labor market to offer more favorable terrain for employers to conduct anti-worker operations. Just like Reagan used Volker’s high interest rates to bludgeon unions—as part of Reagan’s “fight against inflation”—a very similar situation has emerged today, with Biden doing his best Reagan impression.

The anti-union offensive has already begun, with 2022 showcasing a wave of union-busting unseen since the Reagan era. Many large corporations—most notably Amazon and Starbucks—brazenly broke labor laws with zero real consequences. Democrats and Republicans alike have looked the other way during this crime spree, which corporations have correctly interpreted to mean they have a blank check to bust unions.

Photo by Joe Piette.

The Left and the broader labor movement have been slow to react to the significance of this union busting, which promises to accelerate in conditions of recession. If labor doesn’t become more aggressive soon, 2023 will be a historic year of conquest for corporations.

The now-emerging recession promises to have big impacts on the important union contract negotiations set to happen across the country, where workers’ desires to catch up with inflation will collide with the corporations’ obsession to keep their labor costs low during recessionary conditions.

These contracts will thus be hard fought. Many won’t be winnable using non-militant methods, because larger political and economic forces have united in an open conspiracy against organized labor.

For example, the key moment of 2022 that foreshadowed the joint actions of employers and the government against workers—aside from political inaction during a union-busting wave—was the defeat of the rail workers’ strike, which had tremendous implications for the threats facing unions in the recession.

The significance of the rail worker betrayal

The potential rail strike was a major political test for both the establishment and the labor movement. The outcome was a key victory for the establishment.

Labor’s defeat was significant for many reasons, all amplified by the timing: the Fed pushing the economy into recession; employers experiencing a labor shortage; the actions of organized and unorganized workers facing an intensified employer assault—class relations were verging on the precipice.

The end result is that corporations have momentum on their side when entering a recession while the labor movement grapples with a demoralizing defeat that has repercussions for other unions. Part of this demoralization is a lack of a solution going forward; there was no big rallying cry when labor “discovered” that the Democratic President and Democrats in Congress were union busters—and now there is no inspiring community campaign or political direction as the labor movement enters recession conditions, surrounded by bipartisan union busters.

The rail strike betrayal by key labor and Left leaders was also significant, as weakness invites aggression, which can only encourage Corporate America’s recession attack plan.

This may seem dramatic to some, but national union conflicts reverberate and are thus watched closely. Many minimized the PATCO union defeat initially—since Reagan had only attacked one union—but the Fed-created economic context ensured that PATCO was a starting pistol for corporate aggressiveness, who had been chomping at the bit.

Similarly, the defeat of the rail workers occurred in the context of the bipartisan support for the Fed’s goal of lowering wages and, like PATCO, a broader desire of Corporate America to readjust labor relations into a more profitable dynamic amid a labor shortage.

Today’s establishment is dramatically shifting its economic policies away from the long period of cheap money that began after the 2008 Great Recession. The Fed’s new direction means that the era of cheap money has ended, but the ruling class refuses to accept that the era of cheap labor is over. For forty years, U.S. corporations have profited from cheap labor, and they plan to fight like hell to keep it.

If the rail workers had won a national strike, it would have inspired millions of workers to do the same at a key moment. It seems the corporations understood the importance of this more than many labor leaders.

Union leaders crumpled during the rail fight

The rail strike betrayal by key labor and Left leaders was also significant, as weakness invites aggression, which can only encourage Corporate America’s recession attack plan.

The union leaders of the various railway unions obviously failed their members, since they signed onto a horrible tentative agreement—that the workers rejected—and later surrendered the battle without firing a shot. The broader labor movement also failed miserably.

For example, the head of the AFL-CIO, Liz Shuler, said nothing about the Democrat’s strikebreaking. Most other top union leaders were equally silent, perhaps hoping their cowardice might spare them the Democrats’ ax.

Hours after Biden signed the strikebreaking law, he entered an IBEW local [electrician’s union] for a photo op. Instead of being spat on, he was given a standing ovation.

Teamster President Sean O’Brien has been equally awful (two rail unions are affiliated with the Teamsters). Known for his militant speeches, O’Brien’s toughness in the rail strike seemed limited to militant lobbying. But after Congress voted to prevent the strike, O’Brien threw in the towel and pressured other rail workers to do the same. According to Joe Allen’s excellent article: “O’Brien and [Vice President] Zuckerman welcomed the presidential intervention and then told their two affiliated rail unions to accept the shitty deal. O’Brien personally attended the Teamsters BLET [rail workers] convention and told the delegates to stop whining and talking to outsiders.”

[Teamster President] O’Brien’s wimpy role in the rail strike implies that UPS workers will need rank and file pressure to make any potential strike winnable.

O’Brien issued no rallying cry for the rail workers and had nothing negative to say about the Democrats’ strikebreaking, choosing instead to focus his fire on the Republicans (though Democrats last year controlled Congress and the presidency). O’Brien has since spoken positively of the Biden administration. Apparently there are no hard feelings.

The actions of the Teamster leadership should be a warning to the Teamster workers at UPS, who are bargaining a national contract this year, which many predict may erupt into a strike similar to the famous 1997 UPS strike. O’Brien’s wimpy role in the rail strike implies that UPS workers will need rank and file pressure to make any potential strike winnable.

Ultimately, the betrayal of the rail workers proved that key union leaders are completely incapable of dealing with quickly-moving events. The recession is a trap set for the labor movement, and union leaders have signaled that they’re ready to blindly march their members into it.

Repairing labor’s Achilles heel

Union leaders flunked their rail test because of weak spines and bad politics: The close ties between the top layer of the union bureaucracy and the Democrats led to the betrayal of the rail workers, which has caused broader demoralization in the labor movement.

In an article about the rail workers, Cosmonaut wrote:

Rather than utilizing solidarity and strike, the natural weapon of the working class, rail union leadership had instead put their faith in the President and the Democratic Party to deliver a good contract. This faith was bolstered by the broader leadership of the trade union movement who chose not to mobilize mass action in solidarity with railroad workers, but instead to push illusions in the sick leave measure passing.

Having any faith in Biden was beyond naive, but such political stupidity shows no signs of stopping, especially since labor leaders have apparently learned nothing from the fiasco, ensuring that similar tragedies will unfold in the near future.

A similar political crisis is happening to the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), whose core political strategy is based on working within the union-busting Democratic Party.
DSA’s already-faltering political vision has been shattered by the rail worker incident, since even DSA-member elected politicians lined up to break the strike.

Budget deficits on the city and state level will again result in attacks on healthcare, pensions, and wages.

DSA is consequently facing aimlessness at a time real strategy is demanded. The organization simply cannot go on like this without internal fracturing, which has seemingly already begun. If the upcoming DSA convention cannot make an enormous course correction, remaining Leftists will strongly consider heading toward the exit.

The strikebreaking showed that the Democratic Party is united in its anti-unionism after years of shifting allegiances away from labor in favor of the wealthy. This anti-labor unity quickly trickles down to Democratic governors and mayors, who are preparing their own anti-union attacks as part of their recession plans: Budget deficits on the city and state level will again result in attacks on healthcare, pensions, and wages.

Public sector unions remain the labor movement’s strongest section, but many have been internally weakened by the Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME, which shrank the budget of many unions. The coming recession will be a key stress test for these unions, some of which will likely buckle under the pressure while others will be strengthened by militantly defending themselves.

The above political dynamic has once again inspired calls on the Left for an independent labor-based workers’ party. This obvious solution has created a counter-chorus from the liberal-left who are determined to stifle this solution.

The first step in creating a workers’ party is for the Left to unite around demanding that it be created, and to continuously agitate and organize around this demand, rather than agreeing “in theory” about a workers’ party while “in practice” staying welded to the Democrats.

The establishment has a plan for this recession; the labor movement needs a plan, too.

To test the labor party waters, an initial conference of progressive unions and activists could be organized to discuss the political need and strategy towards realizing a labor party. If such a conference is well attended and enthusiastic, the participants would be encouraged to take the next steps.

Steps toward building a workers’ party need to be taken in conjunction with creating an action plan against inflation and recession, where unions and community groups come together to mobilize in favor of a program capable of defending and expanding working class power in a time of crisis. A good example of such a campaign is “Enough is Enough” in Britain, which calls for real wage increases and for taxing the rich to provide adequate food, energy, and housing. Such a campaign could have broad appeal, and those who also advocate forming an independent workers’ party could gain some hearing within it. If an action campaign can win some successes through workers’ own efforts, it could boost their confidence to join a Left call for political independence from the Democrats.

In order to survive the emerging phase of recession and anti-unionism, labor leaders must discuss what’s at stake with their members. As it stands now the recession will be a shock to millions of workers even though the Fed has been planning it for well over a year.

The establishment has a plan for this recession; the labor movement needs a plan, too. If the broader working class is punished by the recession without a loud and visible labor movement campaigning for pro-worker, socialist solutions, we will inevitably get anti-worker, capitalist solutions to an economic crisis that is only just beginning.

Featured Image Credit: Alachua County; modifed by Tempest.

Categories: D2. Socialism

Georgia governor calls ‘state of emergency’ to halt Cop City protests

Socialist Resurgence - Fri, 01/27/2023 - 10:18
By ERWIN FREED On Thurs., Jan. 26, Georgia Governor Brian Kemp declared a “state of emergency” directly targeted at ending protests to stop Cop City and calling for Justice for Tortuguita—a Weelaunee Forest Defender murdered by police officers last week. The declaration was made unilaterally by executive order. During a “state of emergency,” the governor […]
Categories: D2. Socialism

Making sense of the Ukraine war

Tempest Magazine - Thu, 01/26/2023 - 23:34

Several years ago, I was sitting in a Lower Manhattan café with a friend, the journalist Arun Gupta, lamenting the state of the Left and how so many ostensible leftists had become little more than cheerleaders for reactionary politics. While downing mediocre coffee and an overpriced salad bar lunch, I listened as Arun made an incisive observation: “In the U.S., the Left has never been close to power. But even powerless, the Left has had influence through correct political analysis. The Left has shaped politics by being right.” And as I thought about it, Arun had a great point. Whether it was the labor movement, civil rights movement, the anti–Vietnam-War movement, the feminist movement, the environmental movement, or the anti-nukes movement, all were propelled into the mainstream of U.S. political life by the Left.

And so there is a tradition that we on the Left in the United States—the diseased heart of the imperial “West”—have an obligation to uphold. Our job is not to cosplay as Little Kissingers studying the global chessboard and basing our political views on the positioning of non-Western pieces. Instead, our responsibility is to discern what is real and to defend and propagate that truth in the service of internationalism and liberation from capitalist and imperialist oppression.

Our job is to help others understand violence: who is perpetrating aggression, who is victimized, and how we can stop it. Our job is to make sense of the senseless.

With that principle in mind, the new book War in Ukraine: Making Sense of a Senseless Conflict by Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies (of the antiwar group CODEPINK) fails on every level. It offers a myopic view of Russia’s war in Ukraine that sees the entirety of the conflict through the lens of U.S.-NATO aggression without making even a perfunctory attempt to engage with the many other critical aspects of the war: oligarch rivalries, capital accumulation, imperial revanchism, anti-communism, resource extraction, and more.

The book makes no effort to understand Ukrainian perspectives beyond casting the entire society as nameless and faceless pawns of U.S. imperialism. Similarly, the authors don’t bother to engage with any Russian perspectives—except those of Vladimir Putin—let alone provide a materialist analysis of Russian society, economy, or political institutions. It makes little mention of the events leading up to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in early 2022, save for those that involve NATO, omitting Russia’s military intervention in Kazakhstan in January 2022 to crush a worker uprising. The authors studiously avoid even a superficial analysis of the nature of the so-called People’s Republics of Donetsk and Luhansk, how the situation came to be, or the players involved.

In fact, Benjamin and Davies ignore all the critical elements of this ghastly and criminal war apart from the wrongs of the United States and NATO. And even with respect to NATO, the authors fail to capture the complexity of its role since the end of the Soviet Union, carefully sidestepping the inconvenient examples of NATO-Russia collaboration.

It is distressing to see leaders of one of the most prominent antiwar organizations in the United States, in effect, upholding Putin’s left flank, offering up hollow condemnations of the Kremlin while using its propaganda to badly misinform the public about the nature of a war that has already shaken the global capitalist system and has the potential to end human civilization.

With that in mind, I offer this review for those interested in a serious analysis of the war and its attendant complexities, one that jettisons the fundamentally flawed framework of Benjamin and Davies and instead maintains an internationalist, anti-colonial, and authentic anti-imperialist perspective.

A Critical Look at U.S./NATO-Russia Relations

Benjamin and Davies are at their strongest when highlighting the vicious U.S.-NATO war machine, which sends arms and soldiers across the planet for military exercises, military interventions, and, of course, profits. The book provides an adequate, though uneven, introduction to the insidious role of NATO throughout the post-Soviet period, including most importantly highlighting how the U.S.-led military alliance expanded to include much of the former Soviet bloc. However, as with everything in this book, the analysis is partial and ignores many of the critical elements of the NATO-Russia relationship.

Reading Benjamin and Davies one could easily reach the conclusion that Russia and NATO have been locked in a conflict since at least 2007, if not 1991, as NATO crept its way to Russia’s border, thus presenting Russia with an “existential threat.” That aligns them with Putin, who has made the same point countless times, including in his oft-quoted 2007 speech in Munich. Conveniently, however, both Benjamin and Davies, like Putin, ignore the fact that Russia was a critical NATO partner for much of the last 20 years.

Benjamin and Davies, like Putin, ignore the fact that Russia was a critical NATO partner for much of the last 20 years

Take, for instance, the fact that Russia hosted a NATO base inside its borders for many years, and that it was a critical linchpin of NATO’s imperial infrastructure allowing the U.S. and its “NATO allies and partners” to rain death and destruction on Afghanistan for twenty-plus years. Sounds a bit odd for a country that allegedly views NATO as an existential threat. In fact, as the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute noted, “Russia was the second largest supplier of major arms to the Afghan armed forces in the period [2001–2020], accounting for 14 per cent of imports, by volume. All of these deliveries took place between 2002 and 2014.”

Let us recall that Russia steadfastly refused to use its UN Security Council veto to prevent the NATO-led destruction of Libya, an egregious war crime carried out by the United States, United Kingdom, France, and other powers. At the time, Russia had no significant qualms with NATO’s crime against humanity, with then-President Dmitry Medvedev—a placeholder for Putin due to constitutional term limits—saying that Russia did not veto Resolution 1973, which authorized the intervention, “for the simple reason that [Russia does] not consider the resolution in question wrong. [The resolution] reflects [Russia’s] understanding of events in Libya too, but not completely.” So much for “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” school of realpolitik.

Map from 2012 showing NATO’s logistical supply routes, including the Northern Distribution Networks through Russia, during the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan. Graphic from Third Way Think Tank.

And, in perhaps the most distasteful of ironies, Benjamin and Davies, like some segments of the Left, allow Putin’s iteration of Bush-era neoconservative imperialism to go entirely unnoticed. How hard would it have been to point out, as I did in CounterPunch within the first two weeks of the war, that Putin was following the Bush-Cheney playbook? A little Azov Bandera Nazis in place of al-Qaeda terrorists, a few Ukrainian biolabs and a non-existent nuclear weapons program in place of “Saddam’s Weapons of Mass Destruction,” make a nice little neocon war.

Don’t take my word for it. Here’s Putin in his now infamous speech just before officially ordering the invasion:

If Ukraine acquires weapons of mass destruction, the situation in the world and in Europe will drastically change, especially for us, for Russia. We cannot but react to this real danger, all the more so since, let me repeat, Ukraine’s Western patrons may help it acquire these weapons to create yet another threat to our country.

Like a cheaply made Russian knockoff of a carcinogenic Western consumer product, Putin attempts to replicate the worst of U.S. imperialism and adapt it to his own needs. While such cynicism is to be expected from the undisputed leader of the global far right, the credulity of some on the Left, including Benjamin and Davies, toward Putin’s words is unacceptable.

About that Putin Speech…

It is interesting to note that Benjamin and Davies quote liberally from numerous Putin speeches, including the now infamous February 21, 2022, address to the Russian people in which he formally announced the invasion. And yet the authors studiously ignore all of it save for the bits about NATO. I wonder why?

Could it be because in the same speech, Putin made very clear that the war was about righting a historic wrong perpetrated by the dastardly Vladimir Lenin and those insidious Bolsheviks with their crazy ideas about the right of nations to self-determination? Could it be because Putin quite openly declares the conflict to be neocolonial in nature? Don’t believe me. Here’s Putin:

I would like to emphasize again that Ukraine is not just a neighboring country for us. It is an inalienable part of our own history, culture, and spiritual space. … Since time immemorial, the people living in the southwest of what has historically been Russian land have called themselves Russians and Orthodox Christians. … So, I will start with the fact that modern Ukraine was entirely created by Russia or, to be more precise, by Bolshevik, Communist Russia. …

This process started practically right after the 1917 revolution, and Lenin and his associates did it in a way that was extremely harsh on Russi—by separating, severing what is historically Russian land. Nobody asked the millions of people living there what they thought…When it comes to the historical destiny of Russia and its peoples, Lenin’s principles of state development were not just a mistake; they were worse than a mistake, as the saying goes. This became patently clear after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991… Soviet Ukraine is the result of the Bolsheviks’ policy and can be rightfully called “Vladimir Lenin’s Ukraine.”

And today the “grateful progeny” has overturned monuments to Lenin in Ukraine. They call it decommunization. You want decommunization? Very well, this suits us just fine. But why stop halfway? We are ready to show what real decommunization would mean for Ukraine.

What Putin’s address reveals, and what Benjamin and Davies go to great lengths to ignore, is the fact that this war is, at its root, an imperial, revanchist, neocolonial war. From regarding much of Ukraine as “historically Russian land” to identifying it with Orthodox Christianity, Putin is quite openly declaring that Ukraine does not, in fact, have a right to exist. Or, to the extent that it does, it is exclusively Catholic, Western Ukraine, with the rest of the country belonging to Russia and Orthodoxy.

What do you call a war that has as its explicit goal the erasure of an entire nation? Supremacist? Genocidal? Colonial? Take your pick. Benjamin and Davies prefer to call it “self-defense.” Or to just not comment at all.

What Putin’s [February 21, 2022] address reveals, and what Benjamin and Davies go to great lengths to ignore, is the fact that this war is, at its root, an imperial, revanchist, neocolonial war…Putin is quite openly declaring that Ukraine does not, in fact, have a right to exist.

Seen from this perspective, perhaps we can finally “make sense” of Russia’s “senseless” criminal attacks on civilian infrastructure, such as Ukraine’s energy system, which Amnesty International, along with every other human rights body, describes as war crimes. Similarly, one can understand why Putin seems so cavalier about holding Europe’s biggest nuclear plant hostage, risking a catastrophic nuclear accident, since it would most acutely affect Ukrainians, who don’t really matter anyway. Likewise, we now can understand the attacks on Ukraine’s cultural institutions, including art and science museums, because a nation that has no right to exist surely has no right to its own unique culture. For Putin, Ukrainian culture is a figment of the Bolshevik imagination. (I’ve written about this erasure of Ukrainian identity elsewhere.) And, naturally, a people who do not exist have no rights.

Benjamin/Davies and Putin Agree: Ukrainians (Mostly) Don’t Exist

One of the most stunningly asinine aspects of the book is the fact that it completely ignores Ukrainian society, Ukrainian voices, and Ukrainian perspectives. There is a grand total of one Ukrainian activist cited in the book, despite the fact that every day on both traditional and social media there are countless Ukrainians from all political persuasions active on every front of this war.

The sole Ukrainian voice belongs to Yurii Sheliazhenko, a pacifist and war resister. While one can certainly respect a person’s decision to be a pacifist, it raises the question of why this was the only voice included in the book.

Benjamin and Davies could certainly have spoken with the comrades of Maksym Boutkevytch, the antifascist, anarchist, and human rights defender who co-founded the “Without Borders” project, and who since June has been a prisoner of the Russians, who dishonestly claim he’s a “Nazi.” Benjamin and Davies would have had no difficulty speaking with Taras Bilous, a Ukrainian socialist historian, editor of Commons: Journal of Social Criticism, and an activist with the left-wing Social Movement. Or Dmytro Mrachnyk, a political activist, journalist, and tattoo artist turned soldier who participated in the liberation of Kharkiv and who has seen frontline combat since the Russian invasion began. Or journalist turned soldier Yevgeny Leshan. Or, until this past Fall, Yuriy Samoilenko, the head of the antifascist football hooligan crew Hoods Hoods Klan, who became an officer in the Ukrainian Army and was killed in combat. Or members of the Solidarity Collectives, which has organized medical aid and foreign medical volunteers in places on the frontlines like Bakhmut where the reality of Russian aggression is inescapable.

So, what’s the difference between those Ukrainians listed above (and many others not mentioned) and Benjamin and Davies’ preferred Ukrainian voice? Resistance. For Benjamin and Davies, the only Ukrainian worth talking to is one who does not resist Russia’s aggression.

Russia is Putin, Putin is Russia

Another inexcusable omission in the book is the complete absence of any Russian voices and analysis of Russian society and domestic issues that may have motivated Putin’s invasion. One gets the impression from Benjamin and Davies that Russia can be reduced to Putin and his ideas about the West, the world, and Russia’s place within it. How else is one to interpret the complete lack of any Russian perspectives? The authors mention in passing the repression by the Putin regime, the suppression and outright criminalization of independent media, and other measures taken by the Kremlin, but conveniently they do not seek analysis from Russian experts.

Had they bothered to do so, they would have discovered a wide range of factors complicating the simple, myopic Russia vs. NATO narrative that is the lifeblood of the book. For instance, they could have spoken with renowned historian, sociologist, and author Boris Kagarlitsky, whom I interviewed in September 2022 about the political, economic, and social factors behind the invasion. Benjamin and Davies might have been surprised to hear Kagarlitsky explain that, while it’s self-evident that NATO expansion was imperialist, it’s also true that much of the U.S. motivation was rooted not in targeting Russia but in absorbing the post-Soviet militaries of Eastern Europe into NATO (along with their hardware) in order to use them in far-flung operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere. Poland and Ukraine rank fourth and fifth in combat deaths in Iraq, for example.

As Kagarlitsky noted, “The eastward expansion of NATO was part of Western imperialist policies…but up to at least 2014 it had very little to do with Russia. It was much more about Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, and maybe China to some extent.” Kagarlitsky explains:

[NATO expansion] is one side of the coin. And the other side is Russian sub-imperialism. Russian elites accumulated enormous quantities of hard currency throughout the Putin era, and this is a very typical crisis of overaccumulation as described by Rosa Luxemburg… the Russian elite accumulated much more capital than it could use and invest inside its own country…this accumulation by both the state and private sector was enormous and led to a specific type of expansionism because Russian corporations were interested in taking over companies, and especially resources, of former Soviet Republics; Ukraine was of special interest but also Moldova, Kazakhstan, etc. And here you have a classic capitalist-imperialist conflict between competitors [as] Western capital and corporations were moving into the same markets.

Perhaps such an analysis might have proven useful in making sense of this senseless conflict?

The “People’s Republics” of Donetsk and Luhansk: A Fairy Tale

In what is a running theme of War in Ukraine, the authors spend many pages detailing the events of 2014 and the establishment of the “People’s Republics” without ever asking any of the key questions: Who created them? How? What is daily life like there?
Indeed, an uninitiated reader would be hard-pressed to identify anything about the “People’s Republics” from the book other than some vague explanation about “anti-coup” uprisings that led to their creation. Benjamin and Davies write:

On April 7 [2014], anti-coup protesters in Donetsk stormed a government building, declared the formation of the Donetsk People’s Republic (DPR) and announced a referendum on independence from Ukraine to take place on May 11. Luhansk followed suit on April 27, declaring the Luhansk People’s Republic (LPR) and announcing a referendum for the same day as Donetsk.

And that’s it. What Benjamin and Davies omit is that nearly all significant early leaders of the “People’s Republics” were Russian-backed intelligence operatives and/or fascists with deep connections to the Russian state and fascist tendencies within it. For brevity, we’ll highlight just a few.

Igor Girkin (aka Strelkov), a Russian FSB (Federal Security Service) colonel, was an early leader of one of the primary paramilitaries involved in fomenting the conflict in Donbas. Girkin admitted as much himself when he brazenly boasted about creating the war, stating, “If our unit had not crossed the border, everything would have ended as it did in Kharkiv and in Odesa.” One would think that a book written by leaders of a prominent antiwar organization would perhaps have included such relevant information about how the war actually began.

Pavel Gubarev rose to prominence in the early days of protests in Donetsk, leading anti-Maidan rallies, the seizure of government buildings, and eventually appointing himself the first “People’s Governor.” Gubarev spent formative years as a member of Russian Nation Unity (RNE), a far-right, neo-Nazi group where he participated in training camps, and internalized a Russian imperial revanchist politics aligned with Alexander Dugin, the influential Russian fascist ideologue and political operator. Konstantin Skorkin, a Russian journalist specializing in Ukrainian politics, noted that Gubarev is understood to have been connected to, and financed by, Russian fascist oligarch Konstantin Malofeyev, who is both Dugin’s patron and was named in a federal indictment as one of the “main sources of financing for Russians promoting separatism in Crimea.”

Malofeyev, Dugin, and Gubarev are all unreconstructed imperial revanchists who see the Russian-fomented war in Donbas as an opportunity to re-establish “Novorossiya,” the Russian imperial name for the region. Dugin himself is on record saying that the goal in Donbas was not incorporation into the Russian Federation but “restoration of the old Russian Empire.”

Andrey Purgin is another of the early instigators of the conflict. He founded the “Donetsk Republic” in 2005 in direct response to the Orange Revolution of 2004, which brought the pro-western Viktor Yuschenko to power. Like Gubarev, Purgin was also connected to Dugin and Malofeyev, with activists of his organization having been trained in Dugin’s International Eurasian Movement camps. Also, like Gubarev, Purgin was sidelined by the end of 2014 in favor of more reliable United Russia party apparatchiks like Alexander Zakharchenko (succeeded by current Donetsk warlord Denis Pushilin).

But aside from the “activists” on the ground doing Russia’s bidding in fomenting the war on Donbas, there was also pro-Russian neo-Nazi infiltration of the region that helped spark what became called a “civil war.” Among those groups were the Russian Imperial Movement (RIM), described by Stanford University’s Center for International Security and Cooperation as

An extreme-right, white supremacist militant organization based in St. Petersburg, Russia [which] promotes ethnic Russian nationalism, advocates the restoration of Russia’s tsarist regime, and seeks to fuel white supremacy extremism in the West. RIM maintains contacts with neo-Nazi and white supremacist groups across Europe and the United States…Members of RIM’s armed wing, the Imperial Legion, have fought alongside pro-Russian separatists in eastern Ukraine and been involved in conflicts in Libya and Syria. In addition to its ultra-nationalist beliefs, RIM is known for its anti-Semitic and anti-Ukrainian views.

RIM was joined by Task Force Rusich, a Russian neo-Nazi mercenary outfit understood to be a cadre of the infamous Wagner Group. Task Force Rusich was especially brutal in summer 2014 when it was deployed to Donbas at the peak of the fighting that year.

I could go on and on naming all the individuals, groups, and oligarchs that are never even mentioned in a book purporting to make sense of a senseless war, but this is not a full catalog of all the players or the innumerable human rights abuses occurring in Donbas every day. Rather, it is an attempt to ask a fundamental question of both Benjamin and Davies as well as others parroting Russia’s talking points about Donbas: Why didn’t they bother to study the war before forming their political position on the issue?

Similarly, why didn’t Benjamin and Davies examine the financial flows to and from Donbas? Had they done so they might have discovered a company called VneshTorgServis, which is headed by a Putin ally and former governor of Irkutsk region, Vladimir Pashkov. The company was established to take control of seized Ukrainian factories and funnel the revenues, resources, and capital goods into the pockets of Kremlin-connected insiders. Some of the factories seized by Russia’s proxies and turned into money-makers for Russia’s oligarchs and elite include Donetsksteel Iron and Steel Works, Yenakiieve and Makiivka Iron and Steel Works, Yenakiieve Coke and Chemicals Plant, Yasinovka Coke Plant, Makiivkoks, and Khartsyzsk Tube Works.

Why Understanding the War Matters So Much

Were this a simple disagreement among U.S. leftists, I would never have bothered to critique this book. But how we understand the nature of this war directly informs how we develop a sound leftist position on it and how we rebuild our international movement.

Reading Benjamin and Davies leaves one with the simple, straightforward analysis, dominant in some corners of the Left, that this is an easily understood proxy war between NATO and Russia. Seen through this distorted lens, one could understand why some on the Left call for an end to the war via “peace negotiations” (and dismembering of Ukraine) and oppose sending vital weapons to those fighting the Russian invaders.

[O]pposing Ukraine’s right to defend itself and eject its invaders is an abandonment of every principle of internationalism, solidarity, and anti-colonial and, anti-imperialist politics.

However, a serious examination of the war and its many dimensions leads to the very different conclusion that Ukraine has been invaded by an aggressive sub-imperial state, which also happens to be the traditional colonial power in the region, and that resistance to such aggression is not only justified, but a prerequisite for the survival of the people of Ukraine and the defense of their right to self-determination. In fact, such an analysis leads to the logical conclusion that opposing Ukraine’s right to defend itself and eject its invaders is an abandonment of every principle of internationalism, solidarity, and anti-colonial and anti-imperialist politics.

Some Concluding Thoughts

While I don’t know Davies, it is truly a shame to see Benjamin, whose work I’ve often found valuable and whom I’ve hosted on my podcast, degrade herself with such an embarrassing distortion of an extremely complex and exceedingly dangerous war.

Benjamin and Davies, like Noam Chomsky and Katrina vanden Heuvel (who contributed the preface to this book), are correct that the threat of nuclear war still looms over everything happening in Ukraine, and everyone globally should be concerned about that. They are also correct that U.S.-NATO imperialism is critical to understanding the invasion. Unfortunately, the book they’ve produced misinforms more than it informs and distorts more than it clarifies.

Benjamin and Davies have done a tremendous disservice to the people of Ukraine resisting an invasion, the people of Russia living under (especially those resisting) a criminal regime, and the international Left as a whole. And in so doing, they provide left cover for Putin’s war machine. Echoing Gupta, even if the Left in the United States lacks effective power at the moment, we must at the very least provide a serious analysis, based on historical truths as well as current political realities. Anything less fails all those suffering under the guns of imperial aggressors—in this case, the forces led by Vladimir Putin.

Featured Image credit: Wikimedia Commons; modified by Tempest.

Categories: D2. Socialism

Peru on the Brink: Jan. 28 online forum

Socialist Resurgence - Wed, 01/25/2023 - 15:06
Peru on the Brink: Class Struggle in the Andes Saturday, Jan. 28, 10 a.m. Pacific / 1 p.m. Eastern Register here for the Zoom link The Peruvian masses have taken to the streets. They have continued to battle the forces of capitalism and repression in their country since early December, when the traditional right-wing parties […]
Categories: D2. Socialism

Reflecting on 50 years after the passage of Roe v. Wade

Socialist Resurgence - Tue, 01/24/2023 - 20:57
By DOLORES UNDERWOOD Jan. 22, 2023, was to have marked the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision Roe v. Wade. Instead, reproductive rights activists mobilized across the country to demand bodily autonomy for all after the landmark case had been overturned last June. A national march in Madison, Wis., organized by the Madison Abortion […]
Categories: D2. Socialism

Cop murder on the production line

Tempest Magazine - Tue, 01/24/2023 - 06:46

Chiewelthap Mariar, a 26-year old Sudanese immigrant meatpacking worker at the Seaboard Foods plant in Guymon, Oklahoma, was murdered on the evening of January 9 by local police while at his job. He was tased and shot while at his workstation, and management kept the line running up until his death. The next day, the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation (OSBI) announced that they were investigating this “officer-involved shooting” and released a statement with their understanding of the events. The United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) District Union Local 2 called for a federal investigation into the death of Mariar.

Specific details of the incident remain cloudy. According to the OSBI, Guymon police answered a call at 8:19 pm on January 9 “in reference to an agitated and disgruntled employee.” It’s unclear why Seaboard management called the police in this matter. According to Kristen Kinsella, a former Seaboard employee who spoke to me for this story, witnesses say that Mariar was showing signs of needing psychological help that day. But there are no set procedures for dealing with psychological issues among employees, and Kinsella told me that management has a track record of ignoring complaints of workers’ behavior. Moreover, according to David Alvarez, a maintenance worker who was at the plant that day, Mariar’s mother works at the same factory and was not notified of anything amiss until his body was at the hospital.

Alvarez tells me that Mariar had been fired by a supervisor but had been told by HR to complete his shift. He apparently bumped into the supervisor, whom Alvarez calls “a real cocky guy,” in the hallway, which led to his calling the cops. Whatever happened, when the police arrived, they confronted Mariar at his workstation. It’s very rare in most companies for law enforcement to be called directly to the shop floor, and Kinsella tells me that this has only happened when an employee has been incapacitated or is putting another employee in serious danger. There are no reports that he was threatening anyone at the time.

The OSBI reports that the situation escalated once Mariar “produced a knife and began advancing on officers.” At this point, “officers attempted to de-escalate the situation before eventually deploying a taser. The taser was unsuccessful and Mariar continued advancing on officers at which point an officer fired his service weapon striking Mariar.” Mariar was then “transported to the hospital where he was pronounced deceased.”

According to Alvarez, who took a video of the event, the knife in question was a band cutter, an extremely common tool in meatpacking plants. While a band cutter can be used as a weapon, it is hard to understand why police felt the need to tase Mariar, why that wasn’t sufficient, and why they then resorted to deadly force. In Alvarez’s video, the cops do not appear to be de-escalating, while Mariar appears distressed but not threatening. The OSBI statement claims he was “pronounced deceased” at the hospital, but Alvarez says that he was dead on the plant floor. Mariar’s union, UFCW District Union Local 2, has called for “an immediate federal investigation” of what it calls a “horrific incident by Guymon City Police.” In the union’s statement, its president Martin Rosas says that “the local police did not take sufficient measures to protect [its] members and this worker- brandishing their weapons and ultimately taking the life of a 26-year-old young man who had his whole life before him.”

Mariar’s mother works at the same factory and was not notified of anything amiss until his body was at the hospital.

Many stories have been written about how immigration, mainly driven by meatpacking jobs, has transformed small towns across the Midwest and Great Plains since the 1980s. But while a city like Guymon, which is more than 70 percent non-white and 33 percent foreign-born according to latest census data, is no longer a rarity in the region, immigrants have found it hard to change the underlying power structure. Guymon’s city council is majority white, and Oklahoma is 64 percent white overall. A 2020 article in the Texas Tribune profiling nearby Dumas, Texas, puts it bluntly: “Political and social wealth remain largely centered in a white power structure deeply settled in the southern Great Plains.”

This power structure has often brought with it extreme racism, most notably in the case of former U.S. Representative and white nationalist Steve King. This racism was, in fact, found in Guymon back in 2020 by The Oklahoman, which reported that many residents blamed a spike in COVID to “the people at the plant” due to their “crowded housing,” poor hygiene, and lack of social distancing. An Associated Press report from the same time period quoted South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts, and Wisconsin Supreme Court Chief Justice Patience Roggensack as expressing similar sentiments.

Meanwhile, the actual conditions at meatpacking plants were dire. In Guymon alone, six workers died of COVID, and UFCW District Union Local 2 filed an OSHA complaint after finding workers “crowded together nearly shoulder to shoulder,” and eating meals together in crowded cafeterias with no social distancing. Kinsella told me that, during the height of COVID, Seaboard Foods instituted bonuses for perfect attendance, basically encouraging workers to come to work sick. And while over 40 percent of the plant had tested positive for COVID by Spring of 2021, only one percent of those cases were reported to OSHA.

Investigate Midwest found a rampant neglect and underreporting of workplace injuries at Seaboard Foods in a report from Fall 2021. Among the many current and former employees interviewed for the article was Melissa Bailey, an immigrant from Jamaica. Bailey complained of widespread racism at the plant, detailing incidents such as being accused of stealing from the cafeteria and being told to dig through the trash to recover a cracked face shield she had thrown away. This treatment extended to supervisors, she alleged, including one who called her a “troublemaker” for slipping and falling, and another who called her illiterate.

According to Kinsella, racism against Black workers is widespread among Seaboard supervisors. The company regularly brings in Black workers from Mississippi, whom she heard being referred to as “lazy, or aggressive,” or unwilling to work. Whenever problems arose on the line, Black workers were targeted for blame first. Kinsella says that, during her time as a steward, workers from Mississippi would regularly complain to her about this and she personally witnessed instances where a Black worker was singled out for blame among a whole group of workers doing something improperly. Alvarez says that the supervisor who fired Mariar and called the police on him “sure does target the Black community.”

Chiewelthap Mariar represents another name in the countless number of African immigrants killed by the police in recent years.

It is this track record of racism and negligence around COVID, workplace injuries, and mental health that leads Kinsella to place the primary blame for Mariar’s death upon the company. Alvarez likewise blames Seaboard for its poor training of supervisors, who are given free rein in the plant.

Seaboard is definitely acting like it has something to hide. In Alvarez’s video, there are employees visibly working during the incident. In fact, Alvarez tells me, after the shooting the company put plastic sheeting over the crime scene and told the workers to continue until the end of the shift. Before they did this, though, supervisors gathered the workers who had witnessed the shooting and told them that Mariar had been threatening the police with a knife. The next day, Seaboard Foods had all witnesses sign prefilled statements. When Alvarez refused to, objecting to the statement claiming Mariar had a knife, the company fired him. While there are other workers who witnessed the incident, and there were many videos floating around on Snapchat locally the night of the shooting, none are talking. And although there are security cameras all over the plant floor, Alvarez tells me a supervisor he is friendly with claims that they were erased the next day.

Like Deng Manyoun, Patrick Lyola, Kokou Christopher Fiafonou, and many others, Chiewelthap Mariar represents another name in the countless number of African immigrants killed by the police in recent years. One can add to this the outrageous COVID death toll of the primarily immigrant meatpacking workforce, as well as the industry’s long track record of negligence around workplace injuries. Mariar was only 26 years old and had left Sudan to build a better life for himself and his family. His death leaves another shameful mark upon this country.

Featured Image credit: video by David Alvarez via Twitter; modified by Tempest.

Categories: D2. Socialism

Interview with a young socialist in China

Socialist Resurgence - Mon, 01/23/2023 - 15:17
Ji Hengge is a young revolutionary communist on the Chinese mainland who uses a pseudonym for security reasons. We interviewed him in mid-January and asked him to talk about the contradictions of the Chinese government’s shift from a COVID zero strategy to openness over the past three years and its impact on the grassroots peoples, […]
Categories: D2. Socialism

Resisting war and repression in Putin’s Russia

Tempest Magazine - Sun, 01/22/2023 - 17:22

Ashley Smith: Russian activists have called for international days of action from January 19 through 24, 2023 to demand the release of political prisoners jailed by Putin’s regime. Who are some of the prisoners and why have they been incarcerated?

Ivan Ovsyannikov: There is more political repression today than I can remember.  According to the human rights project OVD-info, over 20,000 people were detained at protests last year (eight times more than in 2020). Four hundred anti-war activists face criminal charges; 120 of them are in prison or under house arrest. Therefore, when we mention some of the names of political prisoners, this is not an exhaustive list, but only selected examples, chosen largely at random.

Those that the Russian Socialist Movement (RSM) mentioned in its call for solidarity represent a section of the left-wing community, which (like Russian civil society as a whole) is being systematically destroyed by the authorities. Arrested in April, Kirill Ukraintsev is a well-known leftist video blogger and leader of the Kurier trade union, which defends the interests of one of the most precarious groups of workers – delivery workers.

The formal reason for his arrest was his participation in peaceful protests of workers prohibited by the authorities. The real reason is the attempts (fortunately, so far unsuccessful) to break the resistance of the couriers and send a signal to the trade union movement that strikes during the war are unacceptable.

Democratic socialist Mikhail Lobanov is probably the best-known opposition politician still in Russia. In 2021, Lobanov—a mathematician and trade union activist—rose to prominence with a landslide victory in Moscow’s Duma elections (which was stolen by scandalous vote-rigging). Last year, Lobanov organized an electoral platform called Nomination, which supported anti-war urban activists during municipal elections in the capital.

Since then, Lobanov was arrested several times over his position, the last time shortly before the new year. During his time in jail, he was beaten. A few days ago, Lobanov was released, but we fear for his fate. In the Russian context, these arrests send a clear signal—”leave the country, or you will go to jail for a long time.”

Alexandra Skochilenko is a St. Petersburg artist and feminist who was arrested in the spring for replacing price tags in shops with anti-war leaflets. Now she faces a long prison term for “spreading false information about the army.” Skochilenko is a symbol of peaceful protest, which in today’s Russia has become almost as dangerous as militant actions, such as arson of military registration and enlistment offices.

The defendants in the so-called “Tyumen case” are several anarchists accused by the authorities of preparing terrorist attacks. According to investigators, the young people were going to blow up military registration and enlistment offices, police stations, and railroad tracks that transport weapons to Ukraine. There is no real evidence of this, except for testimony obtained under torture. The Tyumen case is just one example of government acts of repression against young anarchists in different cities of the country in recent years (e.g., the Network case, the case of the Kan teenagers, and many others).

We have chosen to highlight these cases in part because far less is known about left-wing Russian political prisoners in the world than figures such as Alexei Navalny (whom we, of course, also demand be released). Among other things, we hope that information about this repression will compel leftists abroad to take a firmer stand against Putin’s regime and its war in Ukraine.

AS: You yourself recently fled the country to avoid political persecution. What are the conditions like for political dissent? How have people managed to continue organizing in these conditions?

IO: I would like to say that the protest movement in Russia is growing despite all the repression, but, unfortunately, this is not the case. Before the war, protesting was already extremely risky, but activists could feel relatively safe as long as they didn’t break the unspoken rules (which were constantly tightened). Today you can be arrested or fired for any, even veiled, criticism of the war or other manifestation of disloyalty.

Sometimes there is no real reason for this. For example, many St. Petersburg feminists (in particular, my wife, Valeria) were detained for several days on suspicion of “telephone terrorism.” This charge was completely invented by the police to isolate potential protesters on the eve of important anniversaries for the regime. For example, Valeria was arrested a couple of days before Putin’s birthday.

Even with non-political protests (for example, in defense of city squares or labor rights), today most are in the form of appeals to the authorities, because it has become impossible to go out into the streets—no matter the issue or slogan. Any act of dissent will be crushed.

However, the resistance continues, although we have not seen street rallies in recent months. Anti-war activists run Telegram channels, distribute leaflets, make graffiti, and help political prisoners. Some trade unionists continue to organize and even carry out collective action. For example, in December, the Kurier trade union staged an impressive inter-regional strike. Individual daredevils set fire to military registration and enlistment offices. Over the past year, there were about a hundred such cases.

[T]he resistance continues, although we have not seen street rallies in recent months. Anti-war activists run Telegram channels, distribute leaflets, make graffiti, and help political prisoners. Some trade unionists continue to organize and even carry out collective action.

AS: Putin’s imperialist invasion of Ukraine has failed badly. To salvage the situation he has shuffled generals, launched state terrorist attacks on civilian targets in Ukraine, and attempted to consolidate his hold on eastern and southeastern Ukraine. There are indications that he will launch an offensive, possibly from Belorussia, in another attempt to take the country. What is Putin’s strategy now?

IO: I am not a military expert. In addition, after February 24, the rationality of Putin and his entourage, their ability to think strategically, is not very apparent. Nevertheless, I am sure that in the coming months we will see another escalation of hostilities, a new series of attacks against civilians, and a new wave of mobilizations in Russia.

Putin cannot turn back. A military defeat would almost certainly mean the collapse of his regime. Ukraine will never agree to the seizure of its territories, and (if Western countries supply it with enough weapons) it has every chance to win them back. Therefore, there is little hope of any retreat or concessions by Putin, which would be  preconditions for any negotiated settlement.

AS: Putin recently mobilized hundreds of thousands to bolster his occupying forces in Ukraine. What impact did that mobilization have on people and political consciousness? Will he mobilize more people either to maintain the occupation or launch a new offensive? What impact would another mobilization have on people’s attitudes toward the war?

IO: As I said, a new wave of mobilization will almost certainly come. As for public sentiments, it is difficult to speak about them with certainty. Polls, especially those that ask people directly about their attitudes toward the war, are misleading. As a rule, Russians are afraid to talk to researchers about “the special military operation” or Putin. The vast majority refuse to communicate with interviewers, others avoid politically sensitive topics, and still, others lie. After the announcement of mobilization, many young men simply did not pick up the phone from an unfamiliar number.

According to polling companies independent of the state, about 30 percent of Russians can be classified as opponents of the war, and about 50 percent as supporters. However, it is not entirely clear what these figures mean. Many who supported the war, yearn for an early peace on any terms. Many of those who are anti-war have given up and stopped doing anything.

I believe that after February, Russian society is in shock, confusion, depression, and depoliticization (which the Putin regime has supported for decades). These conditions hinder self-organization even more effectively than fear of reprisals.

Society’s response to mobilization was all sorts of forms of individual sabotage. Hundreds of thousands of people fled the country in October-November, most to neighboring countries such as Georgia, Kazakhstan, and Turkey that did not require visas for entry. Many of those who do not have this opportunity hide in the countryside and have left their home address to live with friends or acquaintances.

Those who have been mobilized quite often rebel, demanding better material support or sufficient training periods. Although these protests are not anti-war, they are likely to undermine army discipline and, under certain conditions, can turn into something more. It is difficult to say anything definite about the number of deserters and “refuseniks,” since only a small part of such cases gets into the media. However, there are many such stories.

Does all this testify to the growth of political consciousness? Honestly, it is difficult to say.

AS: What are economic and political conditions like for people in Russia today? Are these conditions changing people’s consciousness about the war? How solid is Putin’s popular base?

IO: Conditions are bad for increasing numbers of people. Inflation, a shortage of certain imported goods, the exit of many Western companies, and the general decline in the Russian economy due to sanctions have had an enormous impact. It is especially difficult for the families of those mobilized. They have lost their loved ones and breadwinners. However, the mobilization and mass exodus of specialists somewhat relieved the situation in the labor market. Jobs have increased, especially in the military industry.

I do not believe that a worsening economic situation will lead to an uprising on its own. Russians adapt well to crises. The “hungry [19]90s,” when the population survived at the expense of handicrafts and summer cottages, demonstrated this.

However, with the combination of defeats at the front, an increase in the death toll, and splits at the top of the regime and among oligarchs, a revolutionary situation could develop. That is exactly what happened in the 1980s, when the unpopular war in Afghanistan, economic problems, and Gorbachev’s belated reforms led to the collapse of the USSR.

AS: What are the prospects for the resistance against Putin in Russia as well as in Belarus?

IO: I think, as has happened more than once in Russian history, military defeat will be a catalyst for change. If it happens, the process can develop according to Lenin’s classic formula: the ruling class cannot rule in the old way, and the working classes cannot  live in the old way. The splits and conflicts among the elites will be combined with the rise of the protest movement and, probably, separatist actions in the national republics. I am sure that Lukashenko’s regime will fall on the same day when power in Russia is shaken.

AS: What positions should the international Left adopt on Russia’s imperialist war, NATO, and Ukraine?

The international Left must realize that Putin’s victory would be a victory for far-right political forces and regimes around the world. Contrary to the opinion of those “pacifists” who oppose military assistance to Ukraine, giving in to the aggressor would lead to the normalization of territorial seizures and new wars of aggression around the world.

IO: NATO, of course, is evil. But it should be remembered that in this case, Putin’s Russia, not NATO, is the aggressor. The international Left must realize that Putin’s victory would be a victory for far-right political forces and regimes around the world. Contrary to the opinion of those “pacifists” who oppose military assistance to Ukraine, giving in to the aggressor would lead to the normalization of territorial seizures and new wars of aggression around the world.

In addition, Putin’s victory would mean the perpetuation of slavery for the peoples of Ukraine, Russia, Belarus, and other post-Soviet countries in the orbit of Russian imperialism. It would also preserve the barbaric model of oligarchic capitalism based on record social inequality, corruption, and hydrocarbon trade that we have in Russia.

In analyzing the situation, the Left must draw on the tradition of anti-fascist solidarity in the fight against tyranny. This means uncompromising support for Ukraine, as well as the Belarusian and Russian liberation movements.

Categories: D2. Socialism

After murderous cop raid, support grows for Atlanta forest defenders

Socialist Resurgence - Sat, 01/21/2023 - 09:50
By ERWIN FREED “Cop City is incredibly unpopular already. We’re very popular. We’re cool.” [Tortuguita] laughed as they said that last bit, but, without a doubt, the movement has succeeded in painting the forest defenders as a scrappy, idealistic David battling a heartless, moneyed Goliath. “We get a lot of support from people who live […]
Categories: D2. Socialism

Atlanta police kill forest defender

Socialist Resurgence - Sat, 01/21/2023 - 09:43
By JOHN JOSEPH On the morning of Jan. 18, heavily armed members of the Dekalb Police, Atlanta Police, and Georgia State Patrol raided the encampments and tree-sits of those who have been occupying the Weelaunee (South Atlanta) forest, activists who have become known colloquially as forest defenders. The raid resulted in multiple arrests, but most […]
Categories: D2. Socialism

UAW members reject ‘final offer,’ CNH strike continues into 8th month

Socialist Resurgence - Fri, 01/20/2023 - 15:34
By ERNIE GOTTA Two weeks ago, United Auto Worker (UAW) union members of Local 180 and Local 807 rejected for a second time an offer from CNH Industrial, instead deciding to continue an eight-month-long strike. The second offer—which CNH said was their “last, final, and best” offer—gave wage increases of between 28% to 38% over […]
Categories: D2. Socialism

IREHR in The Hill: “American democracy is dodging bullets” – January 20, 2023

IREHR’s report, Breaching the Mainstream, was cited in The Hill;

Author Rachel Kleinfeld writes, “The Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights found that 10 percent of all state lawmakers and 21 percent of Republicans were part of extremist groups on social media.”

Read more here

The post IREHR in The Hill: “American democracy is dodging bullets” – January 20, 2023 appeared first on Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights.

Categories: D2. Socialism

Racism has no borders

Tempest Magazine - Thu, 01/19/2023 - 23:30

The uprising sparked by the 2020 police murder of George Floyd inspired calls for racial justice around the world. Internationally, protesters stood in solidarity against police brutality and anti-Black racism in the U.S., as well as highlighting systemic racism in their own countries.

On August 30, 2021, Roger Wilhelm, a 37-year-old Black man–known to friends and family as “Nzoy”–was killed by police in Morges, Switzerland. Nzoy was having a psychological episode when he got off a train in an unfamiliar city, prompting someone to call the police. The police claimed that Nzoy had approached them with a knife, but eyewitnesses contradicted their account, saying that Nzoy may have been holding a rock. Meanwhile, video of the incident showed that four officers confronted Nzoy as he was praying, drew their guns, and shot him three times. The police then handcuffed Nzoy as he lay on the ground; they did nothing for four minutes until a passerby called an ambulance.

Members of Nzoy’s family, along with activists in Switzerland, organized protests in Zurich, Lausanne, and other parts of Switzerland in the aftermath of the killing and on the anniversary of Nzoy’s death last year, using the hashtag #Justice4Nzoy. These demonstrations have also drawn attention to the problem of police brutality and racism in Switzerland more broadly: as of April 2022, Nzoy was the fourth Black man in five years to be killed by police in the Swiss canton of Vaud, where Morges is located.

Tempest members William Gifis and Haley Pessin talked to Evelyn Wilhelm, who is Nzoy’s sister and runs the campaign to win justice for her brother.

How you can help:

Please donate to the Justice 4 Nzoy GoFundMe page to help Nzoy’s family cover legal costs and other fees associated with the investigation into his death.

You can also visit https://justice4nzoy.org/ and follow @justice4nzoy on Instagram for updates on the campaign.

(Content warning: The interview quotes racists’ use of the “n-word.”)

Haley Pessin

: Can you start by telling us a little bit about Nzoy? Tell us a bit about your brother.

Evelyn Wilhelm

: My brother was a loving person. He loved people, he was outgoing, happy, and friendly to everybody. He always had a smile on his face. He was
a very loving character.

HP

: What I saw on the campaign website and Instagram is that music and his religion were very important to him.

EW

: Yes. He was very blessed with talent, playing with words. He loved music, hip-hop was his passion, especially Tupac was his hero. And yes, he was a strong believer. He gained his faith from believing in God.

HP

: I know this is difficult, but could you tell us about the time after your brother was killed by police on August 30, 2021? Is there anything important you think that people should know about what happened?

EW

: He was there on the railway. He prayed. He was not feeling well. He had a crisis. I think he was feeling very, very bad because he took the train to Geneva.
He said, “I have family in Geneva. I want to go to Geneva. I want to meet some people.” And then, on the next train back to Zurich, he got off in Morges. He also had friends in Lausanne, which is just a little closer to Zurich. It wouldn’t have happened there. It’s more of a multicultural place. I can’t tell you why he got off in Morges–an hour later, two hours later, he would’ve been in Zurich, where people could have understood him, where he had friends, where he could go to, where he could cry.

His mentor is a priest and he could go there and get help in any kind of way. Why did he get off in Morges? We don’t know, but he must have been very, very disturbed.

HP

: And my understanding is that the police were called by a rail worker because he was on the tracks.

EW

: Yes, he was hiding on the rails between trains. He was hiding, finding his peace. and he was praying.

The rail workers called the police and told them that a disturbed man was there on the railway. And they came and killed him.

HP

: I also remember you told us that there was a discrepancy between the police report, which said that they had immediately assisted your brother after he was shot, but in fact, that was not true.

EW

: In their first major press release, they said that they had immediately helped him after they shot him. But then in the videos, one saw that they didn’t help him; they handcuffed him after they shot him. And then they kind of controlled him as if he had a weapon, with their feet.

That process took four minutes. They didn’t do anything. Four minutes. After one minute, the woman police officer handcuffed him, and then four minutes later, a random person who was a nurse on their way home came and gave him a heart (cardiac) massage.

And then they started to move him. They moved his body with their feet.

HP

: Wow, that’s so dehumanizing.

EW

: Totally. No respect for anything. At that time, my brother was dying. I can’t tell you how it was to see that the first time. It was like when they shoot an animal.

Protestors carry a large banner at a demonstration in Geneva, Switzerland last year calling on “Stopping Police Violence” in both French and German with the names of four Black men (Herve, Lamine, Mike, and Nzoy) who have been killed in recent years by Swiss police. Photo Credit: Justice4Nzoy.

HP

: You also told us that when the police finally did call in to say that they’d killed someone, the very first thing they said was that they killed “a man of color.” That was all they said.

EW

: Yes. This police officer called the police. He said, in French, that he had shot “un homme de couleur,” a man of color. They didn’t say where he was injured or if he was still breathing. Just, “un homme de couleur.”

And then afterward in their court hearings, they said, oh, they’re color blind. I mean, this is just laughable. And the prosecutor asked this police officer, did you say that? And the police officer said, “I don’t know any more.” And he got away with it!

William Gifis

: It is my understanding that In Europe, police do not normally carry guns. Is it normal for the police to carry guns in Switzerland?

EW

: No. In some areas, or some cantons, they have different laws. For example in Zurich where we lived, they have tasers. In the canton where my brother was killed, they had dum-dums, those bullets that explode in the body, which makes medical efforts to rescue you very difficult.

HP

: You’ve shared that your brother was aware of the danger of the police and concerned enough that he would always carry his Swiss passport with him.

EW

: Racial profiling is a huge issue. He always made sure his passport was in good order. I remember that when it was expiring, he was totally nervous. He went on Sunday to the emergency place where you can get a passport quickly, which costs much more. So he always had a current passport in his pocket, always.

Afterward, the press said that he was a Swiss citizen, proven by his passport.

His dad is Swiss and his mom is South African. After apartheid, you could actually apply for a South African passport, which he never did. He always kept his Swiss passport. He was born in Switzerland.
There was a time when he was stopped by a police officer in Zurich and then he showed his passport and the police officer there said, “Oh! I’m sure you stole your passport.” So that was always kind of an issue.

HP

: And because the police questioned the validity of his citizenship, he was concerned enough to carry the passport. Is that something that a lot of men in Switzerland, men of color or people of color, do?

EW

: Yes. After the death of my brother, I realized that lots of Black men in Switzerland have this problem.

In women’s cases, it’s more the sexualization of Black women, which comes up, like “Oh, you are exotic” or assuming you’re a sex worker. For men, it’s always this kind of criminalization: You’re a drug dealer, a thief. They are afraid of Black men.

WG

: Even an act of praying is perceived differently when it’s a Black man praying versus a white man praying.

EW

: Exactly. And everybody realized that he was not in good shape mentally. And then the police officers came running with their guns in their hands, trapping him. I mean, already that says everything about the situation when it comes to Black men.

HP

: Can you tell us what the reaction was in Switzerland following your brother’s death?

EW

: I must say the reaction of the people was very, very poor. Nothing. Of course, we immediately said that if he had been white he would still be alive. Which is a clear fact. Look at all of those examples. They did not even try to save him. He was dying right there on the rail. Morges has a hospital. Why didn’t he die at the hospital, as a human?

He died right there in front of everybody. Yes, another Black person died and Switzerland is kind of covering itself and no one took an interest.

HP

: So it wasn’t seen widely as an instance of racism in Switzerland?

EW

: No. No.

If he had been white he would still be alive. Which is a clear fact. Look at all of those examples. They did not even try to save him. He was dying right there on the rail. Morges has a hospital. Why didn’t he die at the hospital, as a human?

WG

: And this was the fourth person of color who has been killed by police in the last five years in Switzerland.

EW

: Yes, exactly. Four. Four in the last five years. Switzerland doesn’t see that they have a structural racism problem.

They deny it from top to bottom. ”Ah, no, no, it’s not like that.” But how much more can you say? The police called the ambulance saying it was a man of color without mentioning how he got hurt. I mean, this is proof enough. I thought that people would be touched and say they don’t want to have police officers like that. Somehow they just swallowed it.

There was a protest [shortly after Nzoy’s death], but it was small.

WG

: In the U.S., local media will often operate as public spokespeople for the police. Whatever the story is, they’ll basically rerun the police’s story as if it’s an article of fact in the news. What has the reaction of the press and elected officials been like?

EW

: So there was one article in the press that called this a suicide by cop, that he wanted to kill himself that way, which is [absurd]. And they discussed the police having tasers, not guns. They recommended that the police officer be given mental help and hoped he is not hurt. And we lost our loved one. No, sorry. No, sorry. They said, the police were the victims and my brother was the murderer. And it was the other way around. He did not kill or attack anyone.

HP

: In the U.S. there’s a pretty big conversation happening about the intersection of mental health and police racism, because here, people who are mentally ill are significantly more likely to be killed by the police. And the issue is, who do you call when you’re having a mental health crisis?

EW

: I guess it’s the same thing in Switzerland as in the U.S. You call the police, and that’s a very, very big mistake. You have to call an ambulance. The police are not taught to deal with mental illness. They don’t have this education. It is interesting that last weekend I went to a forum and met a paramedic assistant who said they were trained to deal with those kinds of issues. She said they were trained to calm people down.

Society has to learn that when someone is in trouble not to call the police. The role of the police is not to save somebody. The paramedic assistant said that if they had gotten there first, “your brother would still be alive, because we know how to calm people down.

If the police come, the situation gets out of control. When facing people with mental illness they start to panic. Then things get out of control. So we have to educate people: Don’t ever call the police first. Call the paramedics first, and they will decide if they need the police to calm the person down or not. Never, ever call the police.

WG

: I can just speak from personal experience, as someone with mental illness myself, that when I’m having a bad day or having panic attacks or anxiety, to be confronted by the police in that situation is the completely worst thing possible at that moment. And people with mental illness are more likely to be a victim of a crime than they are to be a perpetrator of a crime.And as Haley stated earlier are more likely to be killed by the police. And so insisting that we should call the police only reinforces that people with mental illness are a threat, that we are dangerous.

EW

: You can just have a bad day, but that’s not a crime. You didn’t do anything. So why do the police have to be called in this kind of scenario? As a society, we have to rethink the role of the police. It hasn’t changed. It’s always the Wild West. And although society is changing, the institution of the police is not changing.

 

A protestor holding a sign in English asking an important question at a demonstration in Lausanne, Switzerland last spring. Photo credit: Justice4Nzoy.

HP

: I want to switch gears a little bit. You said that the response has not been what you wanted it to be or what it should have been, but there is a Justice for Nzoy campaign. I wondered if you could speak to who’s involved in that. What groups have been active and what is the campaign demanding in terms of justice for your brother?

EW

: Justice in Switzerland is a little bit difficult because the police and the prosecutors are working in the same space. So to get justice is a very long fight. In three other cases that are still open, it has taken ten years. It goes mostly to the European Supreme Court and that can take ten years.

In my brother’s case, you see that the police officer didn’t help him for four minutes after they shot him, which was a criminal act.

And the prosecutor denied it and called witnesses who said, “We couldn’t do anything.” The police and the prosecutors are working very closely together, so for us, for the victims, the families, it’s very, very hard to get justice.

If you go to those courts it is a money question. And the more money you have the farther you can go. Otherwise, you have to wait. The Nzoy campaign has to show that this Swiss system is functioning, and that we actually have to work on that. It’s not about justice; it’s about who has the money to survive these ten years. We are now at one-and-a-half years. This is not easy.

As a family, you think, with justice, you can heal. But this is not actually what happens. I heard about other families in Europe, for example, there is one case of a police killing when they held the victim’s body for an autopsy for six months. For six months. How then can you move on?

When it comes to police violence, clocks are moving slower and differently. But there are organizations in Zurich and Geneva who are fighting for justice for Nzoy. We are building it up to last for the next ten years.

HP

: Can you just explain a little more about the ten years?

EW

: We don’t know that for sure. It’s just the experience of the other cases. For example, there is the case of Herve Mandundu [a 27-year-old Black man who also suffered from mental health issues] in Bex, Switzerland. We have the same lawyer. He died, and his case has already been going on for four years. And then it went to court. He was shot in his house. He was a young boy shot in his house. He had been experimenting with drugs in his own house, and the police came and shot him. He was a boy. The police came and shot him and one of the officers got a better job. This case is at four years.

Cases start in the Supreme Court and then go to three other courts: the supreme court, the superior court, and then go to three other courts in Switzerland. And then you have the last chance of the European court. This process from beginning to end takes 10 years because the prosecutor and police are working so closely together. Otherwise, it would be three. I think that after three years we will go to court and they will say it was self-defense. The police officer can go. Of course, we can’t accept this. We’ll take it to the next step. And this way will take us ten years.

HP

: And to be able to go to each level, you need to be able to pay for it.

EW

: Exactly. Exactly. That’s the point.

If you are on the top level, Swiss law says that because you had two chances to prove that the courts were right, you now have to pay for everything yourself. And if you don’t have money, you get the lawyer paid by the state, and so on. But past a certain level, you have to pay all by yourself.

For example, the prosecutor is bringing up experts like the head of police HR who excused the police because of their training, so of course it’s not in our favor. We don’t see it like that. So we have to bring our own experts and for these experts, we have to pay. We have to raise a lot of money in order to hire these experts.

WG

: And, of course, the wealthier you are, the less likely you are to be killed by the police. It’s poor families that are the ones who carry this burden.

EW

: Yes. And there are other families living in Africa. They are foreigners. How will they have the chance to build a campaign?

We are privileged because I know how it works. I’m living here, but for my other half of the family in Africa, how could they do that?

WG

: And you can speak the languages and you were educated in Switzerland.

EW

: Exactly.

The process happens in the French part of Switzerland, and we are living in the German part of Switzerland. Already we have language barriers. The whole process is in French.
You would have to study French in school for years. It’s not your mother tongue and then you have to follow this all. It’s a different language. It’s not required in schools.

HP

: So there are all of these barriers.

EW

: Exactly. It was the same thing when the police came onto the scene, my brother was speaking to them in English. One worker said that he was speaking a language nobody understood. He told the railroad worker, “Go away, leave me alone.” He was speaking English. So he was pushed into that corner of, “He’s a foreigner. We don’t understand him.”

When it comes to police violence, clocks are moving slower and differently. But there are organizations in Zurich and Geneva who are fighting for justice for Nzoy. We are building it up to last for the next ten years.

WG

: And has there been any kind of push or conversation about reforming the system or getting a more independent investigative process?

EW

: No. Well, there is an organization called Border Forensics, and this is something very, very new. They do their own investigation on the case. We just know nothing beyond what the media has, and the information we get is very poor. And, as I said, the prosecutor is not interested in getting more video material or whatever because he wants to close the case. It was six o’clock in the evening and people were filming the scene with their cell phones.

And the media as well. I contacted the media, for example, 20 Minutes Romandie [a French-Language news outlet]. They have video material that is not in the file of the prosecutor. And I wanted it, and they said they couldn’t give it to me because they have to protect their sources.

So the media has more material than the case itself. They wouldn’t give it to me. They kind of put pressure on me. 20 Minutes Romandie then said that we could discuss it further if I gave an interview. It was a high-pressure situation. But then they did kind of a trailer overviewing the year, and the shooting of my brother was in that. They used it, but they can’t give it to me as a family member to see what happened.
HP: I wanted to ask you about some of the protests, because there have been some very important protests. And I think, importantly, they’ve been in different parts of Switzerland, in the French-speaking part, in the German-speaking part. And one of the moments that I thought was very powerful last year was a video where there was this big crowd and everyone took a knee for four minutes to represent the time that police left Nzoy without medical assistance.

This was very similar to some of the massive protests we saw in the U.S. around George Floyd, and even before that. Do you see connections happening between these racial justice protests internationally? Are you finding ways to build solidarity?

EW

: Yes, I think we are on the way to building solidarity. I think that it’s different for the U.S. When it comes to what’s happening in Europe, it takes a long while until it gets outside of Europe. We are not used to those kinds of protests, and somehow maybe we still have to learn how to protest. George Floyd’s story was all over and we protested.

The protests here are smaller. And it was always easier to point to others outside of Europe than to look at what happened in Europe itself and, kind of, clean our own carpets first.

WG

: To that broader point, Switzerland has developed an international reputation as this kind of neutral, impartial country when it comes to international relations. The end of wars is negotiated in Switzerland. Treaties on human rights are negotiated in Switzerland. Rules of war are negotiated there. How does it square with a recent UN report that pointed to what you have been discussing about their structural racism? How does that square with the reputation that Switzerland has built internationally?

EW

: Exactly. This is something that Switzerland doesn’t want to have, which they totally deny. Officially, they say that there are just a few cases when it comes to racism, but, it’s not a few cases. Racial profiling, racism in Switzerland, is really a huge, huge topic when it comes to people who are affected by it.

We are affected on a daily basis, and Switzerland denies that. They say that we are too sensitive. We are crazy. We are just a small group who experienced that. They say that we have to integrate more. How can you integrate more if you are born here, speak the language, and have a job?

There is a limit to integration, but they are always putting it this way: You have to integrate more, and you have to be more accepting of society. It’s your fault. You experience racism in Switzerland, and it’s your fault.

HP

: One thing that makes me think of is, whenever there’s a police killing, when we talk about police racism, that’s usually the tip of the iceberg in terms of how racist the society is. Can you talk a little bit about the laws in Switzerland around hate speech and racism?

EW

: It’s ridiculous. I was affected by racism in my working space. I wanted to report it. And they said, “Listen, you can’t report it because it was private.” It was in a working environment. Actually, it was a U.S. company I was working for, and I could only report it to the company. I could not go to the police because they won’t take it as racial harassment if it’s not in public. If somebody on the street, let’s say on the railway station, shouts at me, then I can go to the police if I am a victim and say, that happened to me. Otherwise, there is no chance. It has to be public and there have to have witnesses.

On the first of August, it’s like the 4th of July in the U.S., Swiss Nationality Day. And there, I went to the spot where Switzerland actually was built. It was a nightmare. There’s a friend of mine, a Black woman. She’s from Kenya originally, but has been in Switzerland for 13 years. And she sang there. And I heard—I don’t know, but I was traumatized afterward—I don’t know how many times I heard “nigger” there. “There’s so many niggers. So many niggers.”

Of course, she invited all her friends. People commented, “So many niggers in this place. We never saw niggers there, niggers there.” And this was public, during the day. It’s just normal.

And then we have a lot of traditional things. We have a sweet called Mohrenköpfe. And this word is the German name for “nigger.” So you have these sweets called, “Nigger Heads,” and people were protesting. Black people were protesting: “No, this is racism.” And the traditionalists came to say, “No, this is culture. We have to keep it.”

So when it comes to racism in Europe, it’s a very, very difficult topic. To say, “Oh, okay, we had those colonized issues and statements, and now we have to change.” It’s always like, “I know this is our culture, but it’s not the culture to be a racist in the next generation.” We can learn from that. But there as well, especially, Switzerland is very, very picky when it comes to changing the names of streets named for colonial generals. “It’s a culture we have to keep.” Whatever it is.

This is something that Switzerland doesn’t want to have, which they totally deny. Officially, they say that there are just a few cases when it comes to racism, but, it’s not a few cases. Racial profiling, racism in Switzerland, is really a huge, huge topic when it comes to people who are affected by it.

WG

: Are there people in Switzerland who deflect charges of racism saying it’s not as bad as it is in other countries like the United States? That kind of deflection exists, too, in the United States, where people in the north will say it’s better in the north than it is in the southern United States or it’s better in the city.

EW

: Exactly. They kind of push racism out of their life. “It’s not so bad in our area, and I’m not racist.” But they are still using those kinds of terms. They are going to the shops and ordering more of what we call “chocolate apes.”

And they always say, yeah, if you are integrating yourself, then you don’t have a problem with racism. And this is just not true. You have a problem with racism every time, even though I speak Swiss German fluently. Every time I enter a room with people who don’t know me, they start to speak high German because they think I’m not fluent in the language.

So it’s like English slang, I speak fluent slang because I was born here and raised here, and then you speak to me in English like a school child. And this happens to me in every place, every day.

Also, when it comes to racism, people don’t help each other. You know, they don’t say, ah, I saw that and this is not how it should go. They just walk away and you are alone there. And probably they think, oh, if she would’ve been more integrated, she wouldn’t have that problem. They always find an excuse.

HP

: I have one more question on that. This is a very long process. What do you think it will take to start to build that solidarity so that you can continue this campaign and keep it in the public eye? And what do you think it will take to win, and how can people outside of Switzerland support this campaign?

EW

: Honestly, I think we will win when we have the money. If we have the cash, I think then we have a chance to win, then we have a chance to fight. We can get experts and so on. It’s a money thing.

To keep the campaign going, I have no idea, to be honest. I think about how I can keep the topic visible for ten years. We are living as well in a fast world. News from yesterday is not anymore. For the moment, Nzoy’s case is the last of a person in Switzerland who died out of police violence.

When will be the next one? Those kinds of questions really, really worry me when I think about the future, or, how can I win justice for my brother. Those kinds of questions already worry me. How can I do this?

For sure it’s helpful to have eyes from outside of Switzerland to watch what we do. Switzerland usually does things when it gets uncomfortable for them; then they start to clean up their things. The pressure has to come from outside Switzerland.

Nzoy poses for a picture wearing a shirt of his musical hero, U.S. born rapper Tupac Shakur (also known as 2Pac and Makaveli). Photo credit: Justice4Nzoy.

WG

: Discuss the position this puts you in. It’s almost like a full-time job to have to advocate for justice, to raise money, and so on. How does it allow you to take the time you need to grieve the loss of your brother?

EW

: I don’t have any time for that. I ask myself, how long can I keep this up? I could not afford to take time off of work. I really had to work. And yes, we had those demonstrations, and money came in, and now it’s actually that we are in a little bit of a position where we have some cash. Now it comes back to me. It’s the second year and it goes on and nothing happens.

Now somehow I feel more sadness and ask myself the question, how should I do that? But if I don’t know what happened to my brother, how can I mourn? How can I let it go? How can I accept that he’s dead? How?

These are difficult questions for me, for his friends, and for his family. When we fight for justice, when we get justice, we can heal. And now somehow I feel we will not get the justice we want. Or in ten years.

And the state portrays the police officer as a victim. He’s getting support from doctors. He has to overcome this tragic day. But we don’t get that. We are left alone and we have to deal alone with how we manage to get over this.

HP

: Are you in touch with the other family members who’ve lost people?

EW

: No. No. This kind of network does not exist. Why? I don’t know, maybe it’s the struggle to keep your daily life, just to survive. It doesn’t allow you to build this network. We don’t have this kind of network here. But, for example, in France, they have it, they work together, they support their families, and so on. Here, absolutely not.

It’s very sad, because you don’t know how to go, where to go. You have no idea. I have built this experience, we have built this experience. I hope it won’t be needed, but we would tell the next family, the first half year is–you can’t breathe. You can’t. You can’t. It’s a shock.

It’s still a shock even now, but after half a year, you start breathing again. You start kind of feeling yourself again, where you are, how you were before. I never thought I would have to bury my younger brother. This was his job. Okay? I’m the older one, so it would’ve never crossed my mind. Never, ever. And then I had to decide how to bury him. Oh, no, no, no. And to make decisions about the case, what lawyer, da, da, da. This was just a nightmare. We made many mistakes by not knowing, because nobody said we have to do it this way or that way.

What I can say now is while I’m talking to others who have the same experience of police brutality, it’s just everywhere the same. I can just, you know, take out and change the names, right? But how they act and react in every country is the same. So, George Floyd in Switzerland would’ve been treated the same way as in the U.S., and the media would have been the same way.

It’s nothing specific to any country. It’s just all over the same, how they deal with the situations. If I had known that, I could have moved maybe better. I don’t know.

We were left alone. And now after one year, actually, we can say we are gathering a network of support from people around, who I really appreciate, who help, who will say the fight will go on; it doesn’t have to end if I have a heart attack tomorrow that nobody will fight for Nzoy again.

It has to be a community issue. The community has to say, Hey, we don’t want to have that. We don’t want to live in a world where police kill Black people, especially Black men. This is pure and simple. Stop killing Black people. And this Afro-phobic society. This, we can’t change alone. White people have to as well say, let them live. It’s the only thing we want.

We have to fight this and stand for this together. It’s wherever we are. We just have to hold hands and fight this together. It has gone on too long.

Why can’t we have a secure life? Racism in general has to be fought as a unity. We can change everything. Why can’t we change racism? We can heal cancer. Why can’t we heal this cancer?

HP

: I think what you said about the international piece is really important. The more we can make this work internationally, the stronger we will be. Because you’re right: Police racism is everywhere. It’s a global problem. If you come to Switzerland and you have a bad day and you are in Morges, it could have happened to you as well, right?

WG

: Yes. You don’t get to leave your Blackness behind in your home country.

EW

: But this is a thing that we have to discuss as well, globally. In the U.S., a whole country of many people, there are also threats. And what does that do to you, knowing that? My brother felt hunted. He said, listen, they want to kill me. They want to kill me. And they did. And his reaction to it was just self-defense.

He was hunted by the police because of how he looked. Of course, it wasn’t in his imagination in the end. Actually, it was true. It wasn’t a fantasy. It was reality, as well.

He had a bad day, a very bad day, but his feeling about what was going on was real.

HP

: Because the threat that he was afraid of was actually a legitimate threat. Even for people who have not gone through what you are going through, and I can’t imagine what that is like, I think that for every Black person, if you have family members, especially like me with my younger Black cousins, my fear is always that this could happen to them, right?

That’s why we fight so hard, because we know so clearly this could be any of us. It feels like it’s someone we know.

EW

: My brother always wanted to come to the U.S. He was like, I want to go to California. I said, no, you are not going there. In the last few months, he asked, let me have my holidays in California. And I was like, no, no, you stay here. Here, you are safe. It’s your hometown. You are not going anywhere. The government told us, you are safe here.

It’s not like they told us it would be. You know, for example, when the murder of George Floyd happened, in Switzerland, the reaction was, we are so happy that we don’t have that here.

And by the time George Floyd died, we already had three victims in the same canton, but nobody was crying about those victims. Everybody was going to the street about George Floyd and the American story, which was tragic. But what happened here, was pushed away. The media pushed it away as well. And the media can be really, really powerful in how cases go.

WG

: I think it’s important for white people to listen first to the story you are sharing. Generally, white people take two approaches. We either are racist and don’t care, or we care and we feel like we need to fix it ourselves, and we need to solve it on behalf of you, on behalf of Black people. There’s a kind of white savior mentality that can exist. That in its own right works in its own way in kind of dehumanizing and lowering you, and lowering people of color, making them less equal.

EW

: I think solidarity is most important. White people should reflect on themselves and their own racism.

A lot of white people think, oh, well, I’m not racist at all. But in their daily reactions and actions, they have racist behavior. To reflect on and see that, I think that’s the next step, which somehow has to come. It’s a reflection thing, maybe also a training thing.

My brother always said, during the night, I have problems walking alone as a man. And I said, no, but you are so humble. But then he said, yeah, but you know me. He felt that white people were afraid of him, especially in the dark. Maybe people have to be trained not to be afraid of Black people in the dark.

This is a social issue, for which we all have to work together. This is something that we have to somehow do as a society. This has to be about feelings, about how you feel about other people. And this feeling has to somehow change.

How you can help:

Please donate to the Justice 4 Nzoy GoFundMe page to help Nzoy’s family cover legal costs and other fees associated with the investigation into his death.

You can also visit https://justice4nzoy.org/ and follow @justice4nzoy on Instagram for updates on the campaign.

Featured Image credit: Justice for Nzoy; modified by Tempest.

Categories: D2. Socialism

Report from the Front: Rally in Pilsen

Tempest Magazine - Thu, 01/19/2023 - 23:14

On January 14 I attended a rally to tax Amazon in my Chicago neighborhood of Pilsen. The rally was sponsored by 25th Ward alderperson Byron Sigcho-Lopez, one of the DSA electeds, and Socialist Alternative. At the last minute, the rally was expanded to include supporters of food vendors in Pilsen and Little Village, a neighboring Latino community, who have been repeatedly preyed upon by criminal gangs in the early morning hours.

Byron plans to introduce his Tax Amazon ordinance in the Chicago City Council on January 18. According to Socialist Alternative, the tax would target “Chicago’s biggest businesses and is estimated to raise more than half a billion dollars a year to fund public education, permanently-affordable social housing, violence prevention programs, and mental health programs.” It is modeled on Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant and Socialist Alternative’s successful tax initiative in Seattle a few years ago.

Poster for the tax-Amazon campaign advertising an earlier rally with Chicago Alderman Byron Sichgo-Lopez and Seattle Councilperson Kshama Sawant. Photo from Alderman Byron Sigcho Lopez for the 25th Ward via Facebook.

About 100 people attended the rally and march that followed. A few things stood out. Many of the people who came to the rally, including media workers, came to primarily support the vendors. A much smaller number showed up to support the Tax Amazon initiative. While most people who spoke were vendors and supporters, a few, including Byron and Socialist Alternative’s Stephen Thompson, spoke about the Amazon Tax.

In this election year in Chicago, Mayor Lori Lightfoot and all fifty alderpersons are up for reelection. Whether the Tax Amazon ordinance will make it through committee and be put up to vote remains to be seen. Crime and taxes are huge issues right now. Property tax increases have hit working-class homeowners very hard, especially in Pilsen and Little Village. Pilsen has been transformed by gentrification for two decades now, and the property tax increases are likely to force many long-term residents to sell and move.

Byron was elected in 2019 in a small but important wave of election victories in several Chicago wards. Dubbed “Red Chicago,” it led to the formation of a largely dysfunctional Socialist Caucus and an accommodation to the Democratic political establishment in city politics, as I discussed in a previous article for Tempest. Byron’s record is better than most of the DSA electeds but not completely solid. He voted, for example, to retain the current threshold for issuing speeding tickets that disproportionately penalizes Black and Latino drivers.

Socialist Alternative has had a long working relationship with Byron. Sawant, for example, publicly endorsed Byron for reelection and spoke at one of his fundraisers. Byron also publicly welcomed Socialist Alternative’s endorsement, a rarity among DSA electeds. The Socialist Alternative branch had about twenty people at the rally. It struck me as a pretty healthy branch from this one encounter, but they have taken some positions, particularly in the Chicago Teachers Union that were wrong, like supporting the REAL Caucus in the last union election.

Byron has earned powerful political enemies, including Lightfoot, who targeted him in a screaming match in the City Council last year over the casino vote. He is also opposed by Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, the mayoral candidate and sitting congressman embroiled in an embarrassing crypto-currency scandal with con artist Sam Bankman-Fried. Byron had faced two challengers: Aida Flores, who pretty clearly is fronting for real estate interests, anti-teacher union foundations, and waste management companies, and Danny Montes, a Chicago Fire Department EMT, who has struck me as a Trump-like candidate. Fire Department politics in Chicago is a nightmare. Montes dropped out of the race on January 14th and endorsed Flores.

Caption: Flyer for the January 14, 2023 rally. Photo courtesy of the author.

Byron, a long time community activist with the Pilsen Alliance, victory in the election 2019 with 29 percent of the vote, was greatly helped by the self-immolation of his predecessor, Danny Solis, whose biggest crime in the eyes of most alderpersons was wearing a wire for the Fed for two years. It’s unclear who is going to win the ward election, but Byron has done a pretty good job at putting himself on the right side of the most issues—much to the annoyance of the Chicago police. Several off-duty Chicago cops went undercover to one of Byron’s community meetings last year, and heckled a longtime neighborhood activist who spoke about police violence.

Categories: D2. Socialism

IREHR in the Inlander: “A string of attacks on Pacific Northwest power stations reignites concerns about grid security” – January 19, 2023

IREHR’s Executive Director, Devin Burghart, was quoted in Inlander;

Author Nate Sanford writes, “Since at least the 1970s, neo-Nazi extremists have fantasized about widespread blackouts causing chaos and societal collapse — a breakdown of American society that ushers in a new era of White dominance, Burghart says.”

Sanford continues, “In religious terms, it’s comparable to a period of Great Tribulations or a second coming. It’s a common trope not just limited to neo-Nazis, Burghart says.”

“Extremists will also talk about taking out the food supply, banking system or water facilities in an effort to ignite societal collapse, Burghart says” writes Sanford.

“It’s the maximum bang for the lowest amount of risk,” Burghart says

“We certainly are at a much higher level than I remember seeing in a long time,” Burghart says.

Read more here

The post IREHR in the Inlander: “A string of attacks on Pacific Northwest power stations reignites concerns about grid security” – January 19, 2023 appeared first on Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights.

Categories: D2. Socialism

Peru: The second wave of uprisings aims for Boluarte’s head

Socialist Resurgence - Thu, 01/19/2023 - 08:25
By SIMON LAZARA, PST PERU As in every second wave that occurs in long battles—such as the one in Peru against the regime now headed by Boluarte—it is also more radical, decisive and, unfortunately, bloody. And it will not have a positive outcome without the defeat of the regime. Jan. 9 was a bloody day […]
Categories: D2. Socialism

Pages

The Fine Print I:

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are not the official position of the IWW (or even the IWW’s EUC) unless otherwise indicated and do not necessarily represent the views of anyone but the author’s, nor should it be assumed that any of these authors automatically support the IWW or endorse any of its positions.

Further: the inclusion of a link on our site (other than the link to the main IWW site) does not imply endorsement by or an alliance with the IWW. These sites have been chosen by our members due to their perceived relevance to the IWW EUC and are included here for informational purposes only. If you have any suggestions or comments on any of the links included (or not included) above, please contact us.

The Fine Print II:

Fair Use Notice: The material on this site is provided for educational and informational purposes. It may contain copyrighted material the use of which has not always been specifically authorized by the copyright owner. It is being made available in an effort to advance the understanding of scientific, environmental, economic, social justice and human rights issues etc.

It is believed that this constitutes a 'fair use' of any such copyrighted material as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107, the material on this site is distributed without profit to those who have an interest in using the included information for research and educational purposes. If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond 'fair use', you must obtain permission from the copyright owner. The information on this site does not constitute legal or technical advice.