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Wednesday, June 30, 2010

The U.S. Social Forum was a Great Success!

The United States Social Forum took place in Detroit last week. You may not have heard anything about it because Major Media coverage was on a "need to know" basis. Because it might be hard to miss 20,000 activist with orange wristbands running 'round the city and doing things like dropping banners from buildings, they covered it in Detroit. But if you didn't already known something was going on, they didn't need to tell you. I told the organizers to send out a press release saying 200 tea partiers were having a rally at Cobo Hall.
VFP war economy banner drop at USSF Detoit

There were over a thousand workshops on every aspect of the social justice and human liberation movements. It was very significant that the USSF was held in Detroit because Detroit is truly a torn down city. This was clear to me though I never got out of the downtown area. Even inside the downtown People Mover's 3 mile perimeter, one could see what looked to be bombed out buildings, empty buildings and "for lease" signs are everywhere. I was told that the only reason many of the skyscrapers are still standing is that they can't afford to take them down. Some neighborhood have 100% unemployment. Empty tracks of land, vacant and abandoned buildings are everywhere.This in a city with a strong and well trained workforce with a long history of getting the job done. A long history of unionism and struggle and a rusting industrial might. If ever there was a monument to the failure of capitalism to continue to make good use of the very productive forces which it has created, it is Detroit.

Some of those building are being taken over by squatters and renovated and 1200 farms and community gardens have been setup in the city and they are actually making significant contributions to the people's welfare. But Detroit is only where most U.S. cities are headed. Detroit is ahead of the curve.

Considering the dire straits they find themselves in, the remaining 800 thousand residences of what use to be a city of 2 million seemed to be in very high spirits and very happy to have the USSF come to town. We had the Cobo Hall all to ourselves and it is huge, indeed much of time it seemed we had much of downtown to ourselves. Rush hours with no traffic. Strange! Already I could see that in Detroit, because of the strange circumstances, many of the usual rules were losing their grip. Traffic rules for example, are considered more advisory. One feels like one should wait for a walk sign before crossing the six lane blvd but in as much as the nearest car is still two blocks away and probably won't stop for a red light anyway, so what they hell.

On Friday night I took a cab from the biggest party I've ever been to. When I got to the hotel, 1 am, I ask the cabby 'how much?' He said 'whatever.' Weird, he didn't have the meter running. It was less than 2 miles but I gave him $10. I found myself tipping way too much, my heart goes out to these people.

This 'self-acting' attitude was also alive and well at the forum. For example, I had tried to get a table in the tabling area before I left Los Angeles and was told that I was too late and the tabling area was already filled up. When I finally got to Cobo Hall early Tuesday morning, I saw that the tabling room was this huge hall, not half filled and with a healthy supply of tables stacked on the other side of the room not 200 yards away! About this time Micheal McPhearson came up and told me that the Veterans for Peace [VFP] tent in the pavilion area wasn't working because very few people were getting over there. Iraq Veterans Against the War [IVAW] and Military Families Speak Out [MFSO] were also in this boat. Micheal and I crossed the room and brought back one table and set it in a new row at the end of the existing tables and claimed it for VFP, then we brought back 2 more for IVAW and MFSO and stacked them on end towards the empty end of the hall. We had simply taken matters into our own hands. [What do you expect? We are, after all, Activists!] There we sat, waiting for the conference organizers to either complain or collect our $25.00. They did neither and by the end of the day we were no longer sticking out on the end but in the middle of an 'urban sprawl' created by people that had followed our lead. In addition to the VFP table, were I spent most of my time, Vietnam: American Holocaust was also available at the Committee of Correspondence for Socialism and Democracy [CCDS] table and Freedom Roads Socialist Organization [FRSO] table. It was very well received by the USSF forum visitors and the people of Detroit.

Clay Claiborne & VFP Pres Mike Ferner @ VFP TableSteve of Detroit VFP, IVAW & MFSO TablesSmall corner of USSF Tabling Area
Freedom Road Socialist Organization

Friday, June 11, 2010

Victory is Sweet

Venice, CA, Thursday, June 10, 2010. My home town is still in mourning from the lost of it's favorite son, Dennis Hopper. I saw the freshly painted mural to his life as I went to the polls on Tuesday. So after working on the Marcy Winograd campaign and seeing that and so many other important struggles fall short, it was nice to be able to savor a small community victory on Thursday before the California Coastal Commission.

RIP Dennis Hopper

Let me set the scene for you. Nestled between expensive Santa Monica to the north and trendy Marina Del Rey to the south, the big developers consider Venice Beach one of the last 'undeveloped' beach areas in Southern California. Gentrification is afoot and a necessary part of the plan of these city "leaders" is to rid the area of homeless people, including Venice's long standing community of people living in RVs and other vehicles. Since the actual struggle took place in the Marina Del Rey Hotel, the description someone gave it as a struggle between the 'have nots' and the 'have yachts' really seemed to fit.

One part of their scheme has been to set up Overnight Parking Districts [OPDs]. By establishing permit parking in Venice they hope to stop people from parking on the streets overnight while at the same time creating another revenue stream for the city through permit fees, increased parking fees and increase tickets.

But the City of Los Angeles had a problem. Two problems really. The first problem is that Venice is also an activist community. The second problem is that any changes in parking that may effect beach access must also be approved by the California Coastal Commission. The City tried to get their way before CCC a year ago and failed when the Venice community turned out in large numbers and showed itself to be overwhelmingly opposed to the OPDs. The Commissioners told the City that it was not their job to solve the city's social problems and they thought the change would aversely affect beach access and voted 9 to 1 against. They told the city to try the application of existing laws and new social services to tackle the problem and then come back later if the still thought they needed OPDs.

A year later, this was the rematch. The City of LA has done none of the things the CCC asked them to do but they had work hard to make the CCC change their decision. A new community group, the Venice Stakeholders Association [VSA], sued the city over it and the city quickly settled pending the CCC decision and Assemblyman Ted Lieu introduced a bill in the legislature stripping the CCC of it's power in this matter, All this was put on hold while the matter was put before the CCC again.



Monday there was a community meeting at Venice United Methodist Church and from there dozens of community activist fanned out with fliers about the upcoming CCC meeting. So Thursday morning the hearing room was packed, they set up an overflow room. Nearly a hundred people signed up to speak, again 10 to 1 opposed. Most had blue signs saying 'NO OPD' which we waved above our heads whenever a point we favored was being made. The meeting lasted all day. After lunch, I brought my notebook and got wireless access. Five comments I posted to my Kos I/P diary of the day before were done from the hearing room. Around 5 o'clock the commission got around to voting. With Councilmen Bill Rosenthal, representatives of the LAPD and a rep from the city attorneys office all speaking in favor, threat from the Assembly to take away their power and the added pressure that a negative decision would unravel the out-of-court settlement between the city and the VSA, we all assumed the fix was in.

So we were every pleasantly surprised when the commission voted 6-3 against! It is so nice to see a government body say no to money and power and do what the community wants. As the cheering and celebration subsided, I yelled "Party at the [Venice] Bistro. And that's what many of us did.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Israel's Right to Exist?

The Jews that suffered so at the hands of the Nazis and others had every right to seek refuge in Palestine.

What they had no right to do was to take other people's land by force, a practice which continues to this day. (see below)

They had no right to make the non-Jewish Palestinians second class citizens in their own land.

They have no right to kill a hundred Palestinians for every Israeli killed and call it self-defense.

They had no right to wipe Palestine off the map.

Try finding it on a map now. Like a thief crying 'stop thief', they charge everyone who is against Zionism, which is a particularly virulent form of racism, with wanting to wipe Israel off the map. Funny how people tend to fear most precisely what they have done to others.

Shrinking Palestine

I believe that no state that is based on the supremacy of any single race, religion or ethnic group has a right to exist. South Africa under apartheid had no right to exist. The Southern Confederacy had no right to exist. Nazi Germany had no right to exist. Islamic states have no right to exist. Where's the confusion?

If a Jewish state is okay, how about a White state, a Catholic state, etc? Once you establish a state in the name of a certain people, once you declare this or that partial of Earth in the name this or that people, you necessarily will discriminate or try to remove people already living on that partial of Earth that are not the chosen people and you will create a racist state. Israel cannot be a Jewish state and at the same time be a state in which all people are equal and it is equality that progress demands.

It's not a question of whether the country was the product of a hostile takeover. That is true of all countries if you look back far enough into their history. Even the native Americans that saw their country taken over by Europeans using African labor, had themselves taken the country by force from those that crossed the barrier straits a thousand years before them. The question is what is the basis of this or that state today? And while the U.S., as with most other countries, doesn't practice racial, religious or ethnic equality as good as it should it doesn't declare it is a state for this or that people. In the case of the U.S. and most other countries, we can demand that they live up to their ideas or rhetoric, but what can we to with a Jewish state except demand that it stop being a Jewish state?

In it's infancy Zionist was at best a concession to and acceptance of racism as an unalterable characteristic of human nature. I reject that basic premise.

In 1895 Theodor Herzl, the founder of Zionism wrote:

The Jewish question persists wherever Jews live in appreciable numbers. Wherever it does not exist, it is brought in together with Jewish immigrants. We are naturally drawn into those places where we are not persecuted, and our appearance there gives rise to persecution. This is the case, and will inevitably be so, everywhere, even in highly civilised countries—see, for instance, France—so long as the Jewish question is not solved on the political level. The unfortunate Jews are now carrying the seeds of anti-Semitism into England; they have already introduced it into America.

Note that he seems to blame the Jews for the anti-Semitism. They bring the seeds of anti-Semitism with them so if they go to England or America and face discrimination, it's their own fault. How sick is that? Clearly his idea of a political solution was not to fight for equality but to fight for segregation, abet, self-imposed. He also overlooks the fact that the Jews, particularly secular Jews, were among the most politically advanced people in Europe and so were carrying not only the seeds of their own liberation but that of all people to England and America. That is another reason they weren't welcomed by the powerful, but that is no reason to run away.

That same year he wrote in his diary "I recognized the emptiness and futility of trying to 'combat' anti-Semitism."

He became convinced that European anti-Semitism could never be changed, so what to do? Get a partial of Earth just for the Jews. Here we see the racist nature of Zionism at it's core. It's another application of the corrupt philosophy 'if you can't beat them. join them.', and the terrible treatment of Arabs in Palestine is existentially justified because of the Holocaust in Europe.

There was a similar movement in the United States in the early 1800's to deal with problem of African slaves. The whites of the American Colonization Society were opposed to slavery but also opposed to integrating Blacks into American society, so they created a Black settler state in Africa known as Liberia [which meant liberty] in 1822 and started sending freed slaves back to Africa. Their reasoning was precisely the same as Herzl's. Henry Clay, a big supporter of Liberia said it was necessary because of the "unconquerable prejudice resulting from their color, they never could amalgamate with the free whites of this country." The Black Americans that emigrated to Liberia called it the "Promised Land", suppressed the indigenous Black population and set up the Republic of Liberia on the U.S. model. Well, what was freedom for the relatively affluent Black Americans was certainly not that for the indigenous Blacks and the history of Liberia has been principally one of struggle between this elite minority and the indigenous people ever since. And this in a settler country were colonist and the indigenous people are of the same race and the supremacy of one group isn't written into the constitution.

Clearly Liberia was the wrong solution to the 'problem' of Blacks in America. The right solution is the one we are still struggling with. Discrimination is a problem that must be faced were it exists. Discrimination cannot be dealt with by displacing it to another people even less able to defend themselves and thus duplicating the discrimination elsewhere. And in both the case of Liberia and Israel, the oppressors of the would be settlers were more than happy to help them settle in someone else's land, both so that they could be rid of them and so they could be further exploited as imperialist tools against the indigenous population. Liberia was a willing tools of U.S. Imperialism in Africa as Israel is today.

Yesterday's news:
Israeli Troops Issue 10-day Eviction Orders To Palestinians In Jordan Valley
by Saed Bannoura -
IMEMC News: June 08, 2010

Five Palestinian families in the Jordan Valley, in the eastern part of the
West Bank, received eviction orders from the Israeli military on Sunday,
just days after Israeli settlers set up an illegal outpost on the families'
land and took over a water well in the area. The eviction orders told the
families to vacate their homes and land within ten days so that Israeli
troops could occupy it.

According to a town council member from Atuf, Abdallah Bisharat, the
eviction will render 50 people homeless and, given that the families
receiving the notices are farming families dependent on their land for their
livelihoods. The evictions will be "devastating" for the families in
question.

and the beat[ing] goes on...