Bulletin N° 230
Subject : ON CAPITALIST DEMOCRACY, S0CIALIST DEMOCRACY, AND TYRANNY: FROM
THE CENTER FOR THE ADVANCED STUDY OF AMERICAN INSTITUTIONS AND SOCIAL
22 April 2006
Dear Colleagues and Friends of CEIMSA,
We have heard much in the past few days on the crisis of democracy and the search for effective tactics to secure "human rights" from the corporate takeover of public institutions.
The managerial revolution we are undergoing today, gives evidence to a new degree of authoritarianism, reducing humanity to an abstract class of bovine consumers, at best, and too often simply to a surplus population, irrelevant to the pursuit of private profits.
Professor Bertell Ollman, in his classic study,
How to recognize a revolution is the subject of our bulletin this week. In the six items below, we share with you the reflections of academics and activists on this question of democracy and revolution today.
Item A. is an invaluable series of seven volumes of documentation, The September 11th Sourcebooks, published by the National Security Archives, a non-government organization formed in Washington D.C. by a group of highly competent scholars who are devoted to classifying and cataloging newly released government documents each day, in order to make them easily available to the public. (This fundamental right to public information is now under threat of government censorship and must be defended.)
Item B. is a communication from
Item C. is an article by John Pilger on the continued assault against democracy in
Item D. is another illustration of the limits of democracy in post-colonial
Item E. is a description sent to us by CEIMSA associate Dr. Elisabeth Chamorand on the revolt inside the Coca Cola bottling company, which some have accused of human rights violations, including the murder of their own employees.
And finally, item F. is an essay by Michael Albert in which he tries to come to terms with the idea of revolution, and the implications of recognizing revolutionary change -for better or for worse- when it confronts you.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
Université Stendhal-Grenoble III
from NSA :
22 April 2006
Date: Wed, 19 Apr 2006 05:43:01 GMT
Subject: May 1 flyers for the movement to reclaim democracy in the United States.
For everyone not in LA, the generic flyer (pdf attached and web lilnk below) is ready to use in your area.
The May 1 "A Day Without Immigrant" Mobilization Flyers is Ready!
Download the Flyer!
(You can add your local May 1 info at the bottom space)
Endorse the May 1 General Strike >> Click Here
Join the May 1 Planning List! >> Click Here
Please Donate to the May 1 Organizing >> Donate
"El Gran Paro Americano 2006" "The Great American Boycott 2006"
"Un dia sin immigrante" "A day without an immigrant"
Nationwide Immigrant General Strike Wear White T-Shirt at May 1!
National Immigrant Solidarity Network
No Immigrant Bashing! Support Immigrant Rights!
from : John Pilger
April 15, 2006
Quiet Death Of Democracy
By John Pilger
People ask: Can this be happening in
The dying of freedom in
Presented by the government as a simple measure for streamlining de-regulation, or "getting rid of red tape", the only red tape it will actually remove is that of parliamentary scrutiny of government legislation, including this remarkable bill. It will mean that the government can secretly change the Parliament Act and the constitution and laws can be struck down by decree from
Those who fail to hear these steps on the road to dictatorship should look at the government's plans for ID cards, described in its manifesto as "voluntary". They will be compulsory and worse. An ID card will be different from a driving licence or passport. It will be connected to a database called the NIR (National Identity Register), where your personal details will be stored. These will include your fingerprints, a scan of your iris, your residence status and unlimited other details about your life. If you fail to keep an appointment to be photographed and fingerprinted, you can be fined up to £2,500.
Every place that sells alcohol or cigarettes, every post office, every pharmacy and every bank will have an NIR terminal where you can be asked to "prove who you are". Each time you swipe it, a record is made at the NIR. This means that the government will know every time you withdraw more than £99 from your bank account. Restaurants and off-licences (liquor stores) will demand that the card is swiped so that they are indemnified from prosecution. Private business will have full access to the NIR. If you apply for a job, your card will have to be swiped. If you want a London Undergound Oyster card, or a supermarket loyalty card, or a telephone line or a mobile phone or an internet account, your card will have to be swiped. In other words, there will be a record of your movements, your phone records and shopping habits, even the kind of medication you take. These databases, which can be stored in a device the size of a hand, will be sold to third parties without you knowing. The ID card will not be your property and the Home Secretary will have the right to revoke or suspend it at any time without explanation. This would prevent you drawing money from a bank. ID cards will not stop or deter terrorists, as Home Secretary Charles Clarke has now admitted; the
This government was re-elected with the support of barely a fifth of those eligible to vote: the second lowest since the franchise. Whatever respectability the famous suits in television studios try to give him, Blair is demonstrably discredited as a liar and war criminal. Like the constitution-hijacking bill now reaching its final stages, and the criminalising of peaceful protest, ID cards are designed to control the lives of ordinary citizens (as well as enrich the new Labour-favoured companies that will build the computer systems). A small, determined, and profoundly undemocratic group is killing freedom in
John Pilger's new book, Freedom Next Time, will be published in June by Bantam Press
from : Radha D'Souza
April 17, 2006
We have a certificate
now. One that matters most these days. None other than George W himself has
In the rural hinterlands of
Adivasis, literally First Nation Peoples, the indigenous peoples of
Their dispossession from land and resources continues to remain the other face of modernization, globalization and development. In May 2002 the federal Ministry of Environment and Forests issued a circular to all states directing them to remove all "encroachers" resulting in large scale displacement of indigenous populations from their traditional lands. The displacements continue to this day. Due to widespread protests the present UPA (United Progressive Alliance) government introduced the Scheduled Tribes and Forest-Dwellers (Recognition of Forest Rights) Bill 2005.
The Bill presumes the state has "proprietary rights" over forests and purports to grant indulgences to the indigenous peoples. Earlier the right wing NDA (National Democratic Alliance) government introduced the draft National policy on Tribals (indigenous peoples). The policy endorsed displacement in "public interest" and advocated assimilation of Adivasis which means effectively derecognizing their special status as indigenous peoples. It is ironical, to say the least, that the "original people of the land", the Adivasis, become "encroachers" in the world's largest democracy.
Women form a big part of the tribal economy as well as politics. Since colonial times, Adivasi women have been in the forefront of the struggles against colonialism. In the post-Independence era they have been at the forefront of the struggles against land evictions due to mega infrastructure projects, deforestation, dams and development. In the mines and factories where they are forced to seek work to eek out a living, Adivasi women have been in the forefront of struggles against economic and sexual exploitation by labour contractors.
What makes the national seminar in
"Why did you not hold this conference ten days earlier on March 8? It would have been so much more appropriate", I asked a leading organizer, an Adivasi woman in her mid-twenties.
"Oh! They [the police] never let us hold March 8 celebrations. As there were people coming from far away places, from different states, we did not want them to get caught up with the cops, and we did not want them to be sent back. If people travel three days to come to a seminar we felt they should be able to participate in one", she said very matter-of-factly.
As far as she was concerned democracy was a cat-and-mouse game and women had to become adept in playing the game. Indeed the police did not stay away from the seminar altogether. The organizers of the national seminar had planned to end the seminar with a public meeting in the city on the same theme of the status and struggles of Adivasi women in the country. As the public meeting was underway news started to filter in. Four to five hundred women coming from Bokaro (another city further away) were stopped outside Ranchi at a place called Jaredi where fourteen people were arrested and the rest sent back.
On 17 March four buses were stopped at Balumath in Palamu district carrying people headed for the public meeting and told to return back. On 18 March 100 odd women from Lateha station nearby were stopped from proceeding to the public meeting. Four to five women who made their way to
The women's organizations know very well how democracy works in the rural hinterlands of the vast Indian subcontinent. Delegates from the state of
Two days before, on 6 March, the police arrested fourteen main organizers on charges of breaches of peace as they went around mobilizing people to come to the public meeting in Patna. With the key organizers in police custody, the meeting could not take place as planned. People who turned up found themselves without the organizers and speakers. They turned the gathering into a rally against the arrests instead, and went around the city in a procession. Last year too the Nari Mukti Sanghatna (Women's Liberation Organization) in Jharkhand was prevented from holding public meetings on 8 March. Not without reasons.
Two months ago on 2 January
Globalization brings in its wake new fears of people especially in a democracy of the kind in
"People say a woman's place is in her home. How I wish this was true. How can we be at home when our home is constantly uprooted?" An Adivasi woman delegate at the seminar asked.
"Hear the call of 8 March"Come out to fight for your liberation"To break the chains of oppression"To bring a new dawn"Women's liberation is our aim"And Socialism, our goal"The songs of women filled the seminar hall.
"Why are Adivasi women claiming 8 March in this manner? Your struggles are the same as before. Why under the banner of women's organizations?" I asked another woman organizer from Andhra Pradesh. Within social and political movements of Adivasis the question of an independent women's organization has always been a contentious one.
"Many people have asked us the same question" she replied and went on to explain: "We challenge many traditional practices and laws against women. For example we actively support her right to marry a person of her choice, to marry outside the community, the right of widows to remarry, equal property rights. We oppose practices like child marriage and victimization of women for alleged witchcraft. We had big campaigns against alcoholism and domestic violence. They say forming an autonomous women's organization divides the Adivasi community. It causes splits in the movement against displacement and in the fight against land sharks and corporations. They say the fight against imperialism is more important and women's issues must be shelved in the larger interest of unity of the struggle against imperialism. Tensions arise between men and women as a result they say. For this reason for many years although Adivasi women were in the forefront of the struggles against economic exploitation and oppression, they never claimed 8 March and did not have strong women's movements. We think it is wrong to condone one wrong to fight another."
Many delegates referred to the need to struggle on two fronts: within the community and against the state. "Only by making the communities strong internally can we fight the enemies outside" another woman argued. "And how can we build strong communities if our men are victims of alcoholism? If they have no sense of their self-worth or dignity?" she asked.
Strangely, the logic of her argument at the level of national politics is not very different from the Iranian women's in international politics. (See "8 March Comes to
"Kaam karega wo khayega (those who works shall eat)
"Lootnewala jayega (those who loot shall be out)
"Naya zamaana ayega (a new era will come without doubt)"
Such a concept of democracy is very far removed from the city-girls in call centers. But for now, they are happy that George W has given
from Elisabeth Chamorand :
April 13, 2006
The Case Against Coke
By Michael Blanding
ballroom at the Hotel du Pont in
As stockholders filed into the room in April 2005, news hadn't been good for Coke, which has steadily lost market share to rivals. Investors were eager for reassurance from CEO Neville Isdell, a patrician Irishman who had recently assumed the top job. Few in the room, however, were prepared for what happened next. As Isdell stood at the podium, two long lines formed at the microphones. When he opened the floor, the first to speak was Ray Rogers, a veteran union organizer and head of the Campaign to Stop Killer Coke. "I want to know what [Coke is] going to do to regain the trust and credibility in order to stop the growing movement worldwide ... banning Coke products," boomed the 62-year-old.
That was just the beginning of a ninety-minute slugfest that the Financial Times later said "felt more like a student protest rally" than a stockholders' meeting. One after another, students, labor activists and environmentalists blasted Coke's international human rights record. Many focused on
In the past two years the Coke campaign has grown into the largest anticorporate movement since the campaign against Nike for sweatshop abuses. Around the world, dozens of unions and more than twenty universities have banned Coke from their facilities, while activists have dogged the company from World Cup events in
Coke shrugs off the protests as coming from a "small segment of the student population," says Ed Potter, the company's director of global labor relations. "What I see are largely well-meaning attempts to put a spotlight on some reprehensible things - but which are unrelated to our workplaces." Nevertheless, Coke has fought back with ads on TV and in student newspapers, part of a mammoth advertising budget that has increased 30 percent in the past two years, to a staggering $2.4 billion. However, as evidence against the company mounts ahead of this year's annual stockholders' meeting, so does the pressure for Coke to address its growing international image of exploitation and brutality.
On the morning of December 5, 1996, union leader Isidro Segundo Gil was standing at the gate of the Coca-Cola bottling plant in
Violence against union members is a fact of life in
Nor was Gil's murder a unique occurrence, says Correa. In all, eight union members and a friendly plant manager were killed between 1989 and 2002. Even today, union leaders routinely receive death threats and attempts on their lives. In 2003 paramilitaries kidnapped and tortured the 15-year-old son of one union leader and killed the brother-in-law of SINALTRAINAL's vice president. This past January, says Correa, managers at the Coca-Cola plant in Bogotá attempted to get workers to sign a statement saying Coke did not violate human rights; a week later the leader of the union received a death threat against himself and his family.
"Coke has a long history of being a virulently antiunion company," says Lesley Gill, an anthropology professor at
Coca-Cola representatives deny involvement of the company or its bottling partners, contending that the murders are a byproduct of the country's civil war. In response, the company touts the security measures it offers union leaders, including loans for home security systems and reassignment for those in danger. Furthermore, Coke points out that it has been exonerated in several cases in Colombian courts. However, charging those courts as ineffective - only five paramilitaries have been found guilty of murder, despite 4,000 killings - SINALTRAINAL reached out in 2001 to the International Labor Rights Fund, a Washington-based solidarity organization. Using a
While the ILRF has appealed the decision, procedural rules require it to wait until the case against the bottlers is over before the case against Coke can be taken up again - a process that could take years. "We needed to figure out a way that Coke sees delay as bad," says Collingsworth. In 2003 SINALTRAINAL put out a call for an international boycott of Coke products. At the same time, the ILRF contacted Ray Rogers, head of Corporate Campaign, Inc., an organization that consults with unions to win contracts through unorthodox methods. Over the past three decades,
The campaign's greatest success has come at colleges and universities.
While student campaigns have mostly focused on the abuses in
Villagers started another vigil, at Mehdiganj in central
The IRC has been joined in its mission by Corporate Accountability International (CAI), which has attacked Coke on its aggressive push to sell bottled water. "If water becomes a branded product, it's clearly going to undermine the demand and support for publicly managed water systems," says CAI executive director Kathryn Mulvey. "The people who lose out are those who don't have the means to pay top dollar for their water." As a veteran anticorporate campaigner, Mulvey sees the Coke campaign as a new model. "People are taking these abuses that are happening all over the world and bringing them to Coke's headquarters," she says. "Transnational corporations are really surpassing the nation-state as the dominant economic and political institutions. Social change movements need to find ways to come together across borders and strategize."
The broad attack against the company has been a strength for the campaign, allowing diverse groups to share information and recruit greater numbers at protests, as well as making a more difficult target for counterattacks. "The company can't control it," says
Many student campaigns have made their top demand an independent investigation into the
At around the same time, new evidence of Coke's antilabor tactics emerged in
With the failure of the investigation commission, administrators at some schools ran out of excuses to keep the Coke contracts. Both NYU and
As this year's annual meeting nears, Coke has gone on the offensive, announcing a plan to draft a new set of workplace standards. At the same time, the company has asked the UN's International Labor Organization to perform a workplace evaluation of the
At the Hotel du Pont on April 19, organizers hope to stage a repeat of last year's grilling, with an even larger contingent of activists in attendance. Schools debating Coke contracts this spring include
Until they do, say activists, the violence against Coke's workers will continue. "It's very difficult for me to convince my family that they have to live with the worries, and that they will one day maybe have to receive bad news," says SINALTRAINAL's Correa. "My kids say that walking with Dad is like walking with a time bomb. But I can't leave this struggle seeing these violations happening all around me. The reality of the situation is that it's better being with a union than without one."
Michael Blanding is a freelance writer living in
from : Michael Albert
April 08, 2006
What Is Revolution?
By Michael Albert
editorial board of Birikim (www.birikimdergisi.com.),
one of the oldest socialist commentary monthlies of Europe and the
By the word revolution many people mean gigantic social conflagration. They have in mind a moment in time, or a brief span. They may have in mind violence. I mean by the word revolution, instead, a change in defining institutions in either of four key spheres of social life: economy, polity, culture, or gender/kinship.
Since revolution as I define it changes defining institutions it both opposes past ways and constructs new ways. What I mean be the term revolution includes opposition, organizing, abolition, and creation.
A revolution could have a cataclysmic moment or a cataclysmic period, but cataclysm isn't in my definition. Cataclysm is not required. There could be violence in a revolution and there certainly would be struggle. But for me these are aspects, not the defining feature.
Revolutionary change could be for the better, I should add, as some people probably take for granted, but reducing oppression or enhancing liberation isn't in my definition, either. Benefit is not required. What is required for a social process to be a revolution, at least as I define the word, is that centrally defining institutional structures in one of four critical spheres of social life fundamentally alter.
This usage is a bit idiosyncratic, I know. I also know that to make it precise I would have to clarify what I mean by all the involved concepts. But short of that, obviously this definition avoids prioritizing one sphere of life over all others. Revolution isn't only economics, or only politics, or only culture, or only kinship. Revolution can be about any one, or all of these spheres of social life. This definition also obviously avoids fetishizing one method of change over all others.
Since I have little space, let me confine further remarks to economics, where I am more versed. And let me highlight the present time, where I actually live. With those constraints, I believe only three economic systems are relevant to thinking about revolution: (1) what we all call capitalism, (2) what I call coordinatorism (but which others call market socialism or centrally planned socialism), and (3) what I call participatory economics. These three systems are fundamentally different in their implications for human behavior. Moving a society from one to any other, in any direction, is to my mind an economic revolution.
Switching from capitalism to market socialism or centrally planned socialism with considerable violence and great struggle along the way achieved an economic revolution, by my definition. But so did switching from market socialism or centrally planned socialism to capitalism, as has occurred quite recently - almost entirely without violence and with very little struggle. Moving from either a coordinator economy or from capitalism to participatory economics would also be an economic revolution, the one that I favor and work for.
About these three economic models:
Capitalism has private ownership of productive assets, corporate divisions of labor, authoritarian decision making, remuneration for property, power, and to a degree output, and markets for allocation.
Coordinatorism eliminates the private ownership of productive assets, retains the authoritarian decision making and corporate division of labor, retains remuneration for power and output but does away with remuneration for property, and either retains markets or replaces markets with central planning.
Participatory economics, or parecon for short, eliminates private ownership or productive assets (or really it eliminates ownership of productive assets at all), replaces corporate divisions of labor with balanced job complexes, replaces authoritarian decision making with self managed workers and consumers councils, remunerates duration, intensity, and onerousness of work and not property, power, or output, and replaces markets (or central planning) with participatory planning.
Each of these three economic types can come with many additional features and with variations, of course, but regarding basic types, I think these three capture modern economic options.
In most countries, therefore, seeking anti capitalist economic revolution means seeking either market or centrally planned socialism - which I call coordinatorism after the roughly twenty percent of the population who monopolizes its empowering positions and serves as this economy's ruling class - or seeking participatory economics, which is classless. I seek revolution of the latter kind. I seek parecon and I reject capitalism as well as both market and centrally planned coordinatorism.
Typically, revolutions, economic or otherwise, wind up where they are structurally aimed to go, whatever contrary rhetoric they may spin about themselves or even deceive themselves with. This refers to all four spheres of social life, but regarding economics we can be pretty explicit about it.
Anti-capitalist movements that embody the logic of coordinatorism and that reflect and manifest the preferences of members of the coordinator class of lawyers, managers, engineers, and other empowered employees, will likely lead to a coordinator economy, when they win revolutionary change.
On the other hand, anti-capitalist movements that embody the logic of parecon and reflect and manifest the preferences of members of the working class, will likely lead to a participatory economy, when they win revolutionary change.
So, about a contemporary anti-capitalist revolutionary movement and its processes, we can sensibly discuss whether its organizational structure and methods of operation and decision making and its general overall logic accord with seeking coordinatorism, on the one hand, or with seeking parecon, on the other hand.
Setting aside the above, many people address the question what is revolution from another direction. They say that revolution rejects reform. This, I think, if taken literally, makes no sense.
A reform is a change in current relations that falls short of overcoming underlying defining structures. A reform is therefore not a revolution. More, reformism, which seeks only reforms and which assumes that at the most basic level there is no alternative to structures that we currently endure, is, in fact, antithetical to revolution. Reformism accepts status quo institutions as permanent. But reforms themselves are not reformism and are not contrary to seeking revolution.
Indeed, quite the contrary, efforts to win modern revolutionary change require building movements that inspire sufficient numbers of members, and arouse sufficient commitment and militancy of members, to enact basic change. But one central technique for building such movements involves trying to win reforms in the present. We have to fight for better conditions, better laws, better income distribution and other improved outcomes of diverse kinds now, short of revolution, both to improve people's lives now, and to amass means for winning greater gains later.
So what makes someone who fights to win reforms revolutionary rather than reformist?
A revolutionary fights for reforms not only to make people's lives better now, but also to awaken new desires, to prepare for pursuing new demands, to foster new organization, to raise new consciousness, and, in general, to be part of a process aimed ultimately at fundamental change.
A revolutionary might often seek the same reforms as a reformist, but a revolutionary will do so with different explanatory language, different exhortation, different organization, and, most important, with a very different attitude about what comes next. The reformist fights to return home and enjoy the fruits of victory. The revolutionary fights so that people might be better off now, but also in order to fight again, and then again, until there is no longer need to fight because the world has been altered.
What beyond seeking revolution defines being a revolutionary?
A revolutionary is what those who favor revolution, when they are most committed and most hopeful, try to embody daily. The modern world has so much compromises and craziness that this isn't easy, even if one sincerely seeks to accomplish it. Revolution is not a lifestyle and not a t-shirt. It isn't something that one turns on and off. It isn't something that one does part time, or periodically, at least not if one is a revolutionary. You can aid revolution part time or periodically, for sure, and that is a very very good thing to do, I believe. But, beyond that, to actually become a revolutionary means, I think, that you always have as one very large component of how you look at things, of how you think about things, and especially of what you decide to do, trying to best contribute to revolution.
So, again, what is revolution?
Revolution is an accumulation of victories won by aroused populations leading to fundamental changes in defining social relations, and it is those achieved changes too, and it is also the process of designing the new relations, and of implementing them, and it is, as well, the process of populations becoming aroused, becoming informed, becoming organized along the way.
Revolution ends old epochs and begins new ones. Revolution can replace poverty with equity, derision with respect, anti-social egoism with solidarity, alienation with community, authoritarianism with self management, homogenization with diversity, patriarchy with feminism, racism with intercommunalism, and the economics of greed and competition with the economics of mutual aid and cooperation.
Revolution is a way of life that people can sensibly adopt if they care about themselves, their families, their friends, their neighbors, their local fellow citizens, and people all over the world.
Revolution is what is on the revolutionary's agenda. It is, indeed, the heart and soul of the revolutionary's agenda. It is what we need in the modern world, for liberty, and probably even for survival.
Francis McCollum Feeley
Professor of American Studies/
Director of Research
Université de Grenoble-3