Friday, February 21, 2014

The new blog is ready

Dancing With Imperialism is now live. Make sure to update your blogrolls. I'm sure I will continue to play around with format over the next few weeks, but it's mostly where I want it. If you liked the direction I had taken this blog over the past handful of years, you'll feel plenty comfortable with the new digs. I'll probably continue to publish at a sporadic pace, but think I should be able to commit to about a hundred posts annually.

Friday, February 7, 2014

New Blog Coming Soon

A few months ago, I mentioned that I was thinking of the endgame for this particular blog. Now, the time is almost at hand for the new blog to be launched. Basically, after nearly eleven years, this particular blog is a bit of a sprawling mess, and I've been narrowing my focus considerably over the last few years. The new blog will be more focused on my current interests, and will not have the massive links that plague the current blog. I've also been able to update the interface to be a bit more user-friendly. Once it's ready, I'll give you all the word. I don't know whether I'll keep this one available as a publicly available archive, or simply delete it. That's a decision I'll delay for a while, I suspect. Obviously, I want to respect mutual links to the fullest extent possible - a holdover from my Blogroll Amnesty Day era. More as it develops. Stay tuned.

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Charles Barron Sees the Radical Movement Picking Up Steam

The keynote speaker for the event was Chokwe Lumumba, the Jackson, Mississippi mayor who in September told Al Jazeera: "Nowadays you've got to call yourself a 'change agent' or something, or else you'll make people scared. But I am a revolutionary."

Unlike Charles Barron, Lumumba does wear suits. But his political philosophy grew from the same intellectual root. In fact, the two have known each other for decades. Like Barron, Lumumba first entered the public stage as an activist--he served as vice-president of the Republic of New Afrika, an organization founded in 1968 to promote creating an independent black nation out of several southern states. He eventually channeled his advocacy into law, specializing in criminal defense.

"It's not like a last man standing kind of thing," says Barron. "I see the radical movement picking up a little steam in the electoral arena."

He can rattle off the examples. There's Ras Baraka, the city councilman in Newark and son of poet-activist Amiri Baraka. And then in Detroit, there's JoAnn Watson, the civil rights activist who served on the city council from 2003 to 2013, and Kwame Kenyatta, a councilman from 2005 to 2013. Kenyatta now works on Lumumba's staff.

"I see a resuscitation, a revival of black radicals actually winning seats," says Barron. "Remember in the '60s black radicals didn't win a lot of the electoral seats."

Huey Newton ran for U.S. congress. Bobby Seale ran for mayor of Oakland. Elaine Brown ran for Oakland City Council. Eldridge Cleaver ran for president. Each one lost.

"We maintain that radical spirit," says Barron. "And won elections. I don't know of a time in history that many radicals won seats."


Monday, February 3, 2014

Building the future

- As far as you visited post-soviet countries, has such an experience made an influence on you views?

- I've been particularly struck by the failure of the US, UK, and western Europe to learn from the socialist experiments. It's like there has been a deliberate effort to obliterate the experience of trying to build egalitarian societies. Full fledged capitalism, privatization, and all the theft and impoverishment that result from it was unleashed with no regard to preserving the best attributes of the socialist systems. Both materially and conceptually, these countries have been taken over by capitalism and in the name of democracy. Why the rush? Why the attempt to obliterate history?

I think it was because of capitalism's deep fear of the people, its attempt to buy people off with some quick goodies, divide them from one another, and all before people have time to think about what is going on and undertake new political experiments. To my mind, some of the most important work that needs to be done is compiling histories, testimonies, archives of the socialist experience with an eye toward asking what worked and why? Where did problems arise? Too much of that history was totally distorted by the Cold War.

- Could you wish something to our students and left activists who try to oppose neoliberal capitalism?

- Organize. You are stronger collectively. Draw from the communist legacy. Don't fall for trendy anarchist rhetoric that is just another form of capitalist individualism.

- Can you imagine our world in 10, 20 or 50 years? How do you see it?

- You know, at the beginning of the Bush administration, I was lamenting about how bad things were going to be. I had no idea. Reality has been much worse than I imagined -- Guantanamo Bay prison camp, indefinite detention, torture, a security state, the dramatic increase in inequality, collapse of basic infrastructure. The same with Obama -- I knew he wasn't a liberal or a progressive (much less a communist that the Right accuses him of being). But I didn't think he would be the president of the big banks, the savior of Goldman Sachs and the president to attempt to make cuts in the most popular and successful social program in the US, Social Security. Yet I also didn't foresee Occupy Wall Street, which has been the most exciting development on the US left since 1968.

So it's like things get worse, but new possibilities appear. That's what I expect will continue. Inequality will continue to get worse, yet the left will build a new global communist party stronger and more flexible than anything we've ever seen. Our Communist International will exert a counterpower with which the IMF, European Central Bank, World Bank, and others will have to contend. It will unite workers and non-workers throughout the world and make our collective force felt. To paraphrase Mao, everything will be in chaos, yet the situation will be excellent. 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

When Pete Seeger faced down the House Un-American Activities Committee

You can read the transcript here. Red scares have occurred in our nation's past, and will undoubtedly happen again.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Ron Paul deconstructed

You'll have to click on the picture to make it full-sized. Consider it some apt commentary aimed at those self-styled "leftists" who try to carry water for Ron and Rand Paul as the allegedly only "viable" alternatives to our current sorry political situation. Hold out for the real thing.


Monday, January 20, 2014

Quotable: MLK

In any social revolution there are times when the tailwinds of triumph and fulfillment favor us, and other times when strong headwinds of disappointment and setbacks beat against us relentlessly. We must not permit adverse winds to overwhelm us as we journey across life’s mighty Atlantic; we must be sustained by our engines of courage in spite of the winds. This refusal to be stopped, this “courage to be,” this determination to go on “in spite of” is the hallmark of any great movement.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Some people push back

There is a truism that those in power need us (even if merely to quietly accept our oppression) more than we need them. The fear that we might collectively realize our power leads to all manner of laws aimed at discouraging us from ever organizing - as Spain's right-wing government has attempted recently. Thankfully, people periodically remind their would-be masters who really has the upper hand, and stop traffic in the process. That's no guarantee of immediate success for us, as history is littered with painful examples of failed resistance efforts. But we have had our successes, and will again. Nothing would freak out our own 1% more than an organized Left that could withstand the sorts of crackdowns that usually bring down spontaneous movements. Might be something said for organizing, finding a way to live with each others' theoretical differences where possible, and gaining some tangible power. Just sayin'.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

RIP Amiri Baraka

We have lost one of our literary giants. I suspect many of us will forever associate him with the Beat Era (when he was still known as Leroi Jones), and a few of us will remember his collaborative work with the occasional jazzer, such as Archie Shepp. His work was both confrontational and controversial in all the ways I would grow to admire.

His bio.

A passage of one of his more recent poems.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Don't like the tone? Then you can...

Arthur Silber is back, and has a lot to say about the asymmetrical treatment between those who victimize and those victims who choose to fight back. Whether it's at the interpersonal level, or at the level of empire and its victims, I find it rather striking (after all these years) that the perps and their enablers get indignant when they get even a modicum of payback. Nor is it too terribly surprising that the perps and their enablers rely on such logical fallacies as false equivalence to excuse their own actions and to discredit those who have been targets of their abuse.

No one should be surprised when the violence inherent in the dynamic of interpersonal bullying or the dynamic found in corporate capitalist/imperial exploitation is occasionally met with counterviolence. Hell, a lot of writers who might be described as "Third Worldists" (Frantz Fanon comes most immediately to my mind) were writing about violence and counter-violence over the last few decades. What is striking is how the counterviolence has tended to be in response. One might even say that the victims' tone has been typically rather restrained and civil - perhaps arguably to to a fault. But yeah, this obsession with "tone" is definitely a tool utilized often by our oppressors. They can take a hike.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Paul Mason • Miners Strike 1984. NCB was "crumbling" say Cabinet minutes

Amid the cooled air of a vault at the National Archive I trace my finger across Maggie Thatcher’s handwriting, in the margin of a typewritten note marked Secret. She’s scribbled: “13 RoRo, 1,000 tons a day, 50 lorries a day…”

If you think destroying some of Britain’s most cohesive communities was a great achievement, then these jottings are a token of genius. They reveal Mrs Thatcher engaged in battle micromanagement worthy of a Monty or Wellington.

The documents show the Conservative government was, in the middle of the miners’ strike, facing defeat.

Coal stocks were plummeting and – alongside the miners – the dockers had gone out on strike. So in July 1984, Cabinet documents released today show, the government seriously considered calling in troops to move coal.

They thought, as Conservative policy chief John Redwood put it, the National Coal Board was “crumbling”. In a powerfully worded, single-copy letter Redwood warned Thatcher that the far left was engaged in a revolutionary strategy to “destroy” the government.

The Cabinet had, the minutes show, from the very beginning, pressured police to get tough on the pickets, and complained that local courts were dragging their feet in the process of those arrested.
So what’s new? The miners strike is today depicted as one of those “inevitable” events that history is littered with: a doomed workforce staging a last ditch battle in the face of progress. If you were there – I was – it was more complicated.

At the time the government depicted the conflict as one between miners and the National Coal Board, with the state neutral, simply enforcing the law.

“Violence will not succeed for the police and courts will not bow to it. They are the servants not of government but of the law itself,” Mrs Thatcher said in her Mansion House speech that year.

The documents reveal this was a fiction.
During the first few days of the strike, on 14 March 1984, ministers pressed Home Secretary Leon Brittan to seek Chief Constables to adopt a “more vigorous interpretation of their duties”. A clampdown followed that prevented pickets reaching the working coalfields of Nottinghamshire and Leicestershire in large numbers.

The miners at the time claimed the policing was politicised. The records show it was.

Arthur Scargill, the miners’ leader, was criticised afterwards for beginning a conflict he could never win. So the revelation that he was on the point of winning – or at least achieving a messy compromise – in July 1984 is an important addition to the record.
With the dockers on strike, and the NCB “crumbling”, it took Mr Redwood’s intervention to stiffen the Cabinet’s position. As Mr Redwood put it: you can’t offer a fudged ending by negotiations and at the same time pursue a strategy of defeating the miners through a “war of attrition”.

The Redwood memo frames the dispute in a whole new way: he says the extreme left is mounting an extra-parliamentary challenge, with a “revolutionary strategy”. I asked Mr Redwood whether this language was justified in secret, official advice from the Downing Street policy unit. He said:

“I think that language captured how the government felt about it at the time. It was certainly what the Prime Minister herself believed. And in some of the other documentation I demonstrated there were groups involved in the miners’ strike who had a wider political purpose.

“Of course quite a lot of them decent mineworkers very worried about their jobs, and I understand that but there was another element in this strike as well.”

Everybody knew the stakes were political – miners had effectively brought down Ted Heath’s government ten years before, and union militancy had crippled the Callaghan Labour government in its last months.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

With the right-wingers, some things never change

As Lenin's Tomb reminds us, when it comes to right-wing ravings about immigrants, it is literally same shit, different year.

55th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution

Today also marked the 55th anniversary of the successful Battle of Santa Clara which effectively ended the Batista regime. Castro's forces would take over the capital, Havana, a week later. ¡Hasta la revolución!

Don Durito's Origins

With the 20th anniversary of the Zapatistas' rebellion in Chiapas upon us, I thought it would be interesting to take a look back at the origins of one of the major characters to appear in Zapatista lore: Durito, later known as Don Durito de la Lacandona. In his book, A Poetics of Resistance: The Revolutionary Public Relations of the Zapatista Insurgency, Jeff Conant offers a brief synopsis of this beloved character that is well-worth reading.

Durito originated as a character in a letter Subcomandante Marcos wrote for a child. Durito translates into English as "little tough guy." He is not a "tough guy" in the sense of picking fights and taking on all comers, but rather he is tough in the sense of persevering under adverse conditions. As the character developed, he became self-identified as a knight-errant in the tradition of the classic novel, Don Quixote, and serves to offer both comic relief and serious theoretical exposition. Much of what Don Durito discusses has to do with an approach to neoliberalism, that while arguably not unique to the Zapatistas, has certainly been easily identifiable with them, and is certainly compatible with a variety of leftist analyses of neoliberal capitalism. In a few words, neoliberalism is not in crisis, it is the crisis.

Ultimately, what the character of Don Durito served to do was to allow Marcos to tell a story about not only the situation in Chiapas, but globally, and to do so in a way that was both theoretically sound and entertaining. Regardless of whether we choose to agree or disagree with portions (and perhaps significant portions) of Marcos' theoretical analysis, we would all do well to learn a lesson from Marcos as to how to present our ideas to our specific target audiences.

Today marks the 20th anniversary of the initial Zapatista rebellion. Later this year, we will mark the 20th anniversary of a seemingly insignificant beetle who turned out to possess enormous wisdom.

Happy New Year