Wednesday, December 26, 2007

LABOR and immigration

Labor and Immigration: Looking Beyond the Elections

Right-wing politicians are trying to fan the flames of passion over immigration during the current election campaign. So far they have met with mixed success, but as the election nears and the Right becomes more desperate, we can expect their efforts to intensify and the flames to grow higher. How should labor respond?

The importance of immigration as a campaign issue varies from region to region and from constituency to constituency. Nationally, just 15% of those surveyed in December in a Los Angeles Times/Bloomberg poll list immigration as a “top priority” in the coming election, and only 27% list it as “one of the most pressing problems facing the country”, but 81% think it is an “important” issue. The two parties are running true to form. Republican candidates, trolling for votes among the nativist wing of the party, are vying to see who can promise the longest and the highest wall along the Mexican border and the most vicious law enforcement in the rest of the country. Democrats, unsure of where key parts of their base stand and unwilling to stick their necks out, are scrambling for cover with rhetoric about the need for “comprehensive” immigration reform. This duck and cover approach is reflected in replies to a question about immigration and the election posed by the New Republic in November to five prominent Democratic “strategists and consultants” likely to play a key role in the upcoming election.

The press conveniently divides the debate between those candidates who believe in “enforcement only” approaches and those who believe in “enforcement and a road to citizenship”. It is assumed that everyone believes in “border security”. Other approaches are pushed from mainstream media.

Gone are the hopeful days of two years ago when millions were in the streets demanding immigration reform and amnesty for the undocumented. Instead a Pew Research poll released last week shows that, “just over half of all Hispanic adults in the US worry that they, a family member or a close friend could be deported…..” And, “nearly two-thirds say the failure of Congress to enact an immigration reform bill has made life more difficult for all Latinos.”

The immigration issue plays itself out at all levels of government. A second Pew Research report identifies forty-six states where 194 immigrant related bills were enacted in 2007—triple the number from 2006. New laws “…. (r)estricting the rights or benefits of illegal immigrants outnumbered law benefitting them by a 2 to 1 ratio, although roughly half did not deal specifically with illegal immigration.” The most restrictive laws have been passed in states in the South and West that have not traditionally had large immigrant populations but which have seen a big spike in new immigrants during the last decade. Arizona, for instance, has passed a law that will suspend the business licenses of any firm convicted of knowingly hiring undocumented workers after a first offense and permanently revoke the license after a second offense. “January First!”—the date the law comes into effect—has become a rallying crying for the anti-immigrant groups like the Minutemen vigilantes.

Things are better in those states and regions that have long been magnets for immigrants like California, Illinois, and the Northeast. Although the strength of anti-immigrant sentiment was evident even in New York , with its rich immigrant tradition, where Governor Elliot Spitzer was forced to abandon his plans to allow undocumented residents to obtain drivers license.

For labor, immigration is a critical issue. Many unions have staked their future on organizing workers in industries with large numbers of immigrants. While the US labor movement can be rightly proud of its stand in favor of immigrant rights, it has yet to generate a genuine worker friendly approach to immigration reform. Instead, the immigration debate has been framed by others and the legislative alternatives proposed have not been worker friendly.

Now labor risks a situation in which part of its membership is demanding the deportation of another part of its membership. In the absence of proposals that address the real needs of both immigrants and non-immigrants, union members, like other Americans, are confused. Anyone who has attended union or community meetings in which immigration issues have been raised has heard the refrains: “I’m not against legal immigration; it’s the illegal immigrants that I object to. Why should people be able to break the law? We should not reward law breaking. We need to stop illegal immigration now. ” And, “It’s the big corporations that benefit from illegal workers, they use illegal immigrants to drive down wages, it’s good for corporate profits.” Indeed, union organizers tell us that in some parts of the country these attitudes—and worse—are becoming more common. Often organizers avoid talking about immigration with native workers at all costs.

Another poll released last week by New American Media, an association of ethnic media organizations, shows that it’s not just white people that worry about immigrants. Fifty-one per cent of African Americans think that Hispanic immigrants are taking jobs and political power from African Americans.

The LA Times/Bloomberg poll reflects the confusion people feel about immigration. One-third of those polled favor barring undocumented immigrants from access to any public services from emergency rooms to public schools. But over 60% favored a route to citizenship to undocumented workers already in the country. This confused ambivalence is reflected in a follow-up interview with a respondent in Rhode Island who said, “I don’t know what the answer [to immigration reform] is, but I don’t think the candidates know what the answer is either”.

We agree. We have argued that genuine comprehensive immigration reform will not emerge out of the legislative process. Politicians are not up to the task. Reforms must be crafted on the outside by labor and civil society organizations in both the US and the sending countries and then promoted by aggressive campaigns. Why is labor movement central to this process? First, because trade unions are the socially recognized institutions to represent the economic interests of workers and immigration is at heart an economic issue. Immigrants come to the US to work. They affect labor markets and impact the economy as a whole. Yes, there are important cultural and social overtones, but in the United States these become less prominent when work is plentiful. Second, because the labor movement has millions of members from all walks of life and with all types of immigration status, giving it a unique role to play in the debate. In addition many union members maintain ties to their country of origin—an important asset in creating a genuinely comprehensive solution.

The coming elections are likely to further degrade the debate on immigration; rational voices will need to speak up to stem the tide against misinformation and reaction. But labor and civil society organizations should not simply be on the defensive: they should also begin to fashion new reform policies and the campaigns needed to get those policies enacted when the elections are over and immigration once more return as a legislative issue. As the US economy slips into recession, and jobs become even scarcer, the immigration debate could get even uglier. The time to act is now.

A debate can be reconstituted around 5 principles:

Protect the most vulnerable. Immigration reform advocates must demand an end to workplace raids and amnesty for those already in the country. Rational debate cannot take place with authorities ready to storm the plant gates. The widespread notion that undocumented immigrants are law breakers in an otherwise law abiding society and that they should be subjected to immigration raids and not be rewarded with permanent residence is dishonest at best. The US immigration system has been, for a very long time, fundamentally based on active and passive law breaking by businesses looking for cheap labor; governments at all levels that have looked the other way in their own procurement policies and often tolerated labor rights abuses against undocumented workers; ordinary middle and working class people who hire undocumented service providers to clean, paint, provide child care, or cut their grass; and, consumers who demand cheap prices and good service from restaurants and retailers. To single out the most vulnerable links in this chain of illegality—undocumented immigrants and their families—is inherently unfair. By pursuing harsh policies the government pushes undocumented workers further underground where they can be even more exploited to the detriment of all workers.

Broaden the movement. The immigrant rights movement has done a fine job of organizing within the immigrant community, but that is not where the immediate problem lies. The immigrant community lacks the social power to force change on its own. It needs help. Support for genuine reform must be built in the non-immigrant community. Attention must be paid to the concerns of non-immigrant workers worried about declining wages and job loss. Labor has the capacity to reach out to the broader public with a public education program and a reform plan that addresses the concerns of all workers.

Develop non punitive regulations. Regulating the flow of immigrants is a legitimate task of government. But regulation must rely on non-punitive measures. It’s time to stop pandering to the enforcement only crowd beginning with the myth that US borders can be sealed. Effectively sealing the border would require a massive attack on civil liberties and unacceptable economic, political, and environmental costs in the US and abroad. The border between the US and Mexico is the most militarized border between two friendly countries in the world. That has not slowed the flow of immigrants. It has made the crossing more dangerous and more expensive by pushing people into remote desert areas. The cost in human terms has been high: according to official statistics—which probably understate the death count—more than 10 times as many people have died trying to cross the US-Mexican border in the past 10 years, than in the nearly 3 decades history of the Berlin Wall. Instead of being shot, immigrants have died in the deserts of the Southwest of exposure and thirst.

Create a hemispheric discussion. People leave their countries of origin in search of work. For instance, policies supported by the US—like NAFTA—have displaced millions of Mexican peasants and workers unable to compete against productive US agriculture and industrial production. The giant sucking sound that NAFTA created was not jobs going south but workers coming north. Any comprehensive reform will have to involve both the US and the sending countries. Jobs and social programs need to be created in the sending countries so that people do not have to leave their communities. There are some fresh winds of political change in Latin America and its time to work for hemispheric policies to keep people home. And a change of governments in Washington could make a new dialogue possible.

Look for mutually beneficial compromises. A comprehensive reform program to regulate the flow of immigrants will require a compromises between established and immigrant workers and employers and between politicians in the US and the sending countries. But unions and civil society organization can frame the terms of these compromises if they take action now and seek out the common interests of the constituencies involved. The alternative to taking action now will be a repeat of what happened during the immigration debate in 2007: all of the alternatives presented to the Congress will be bad.


Posted on December 20, 2007 in Global Unionism, International Labor Standards, Migration, New Global Strategies, The Global Economy | Per

Sunday, December 23, 2007

United Nations + Bolivia

U.N. declaration becomes law of the land in Bolivia
© Indian Country Today December 10, 2007. All Rights Reserved

AP Photo /Juan Karita -- Bolivia's President Evo Morales, right, greeted an indigenous leader. Surrounded by cheering Native leaders and other representatives, Morales announced the passage of National Law 3760, legislation that is an exact copy of the United Nation's recently passed Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, Nov. 7 in the Government Palace.
LA PAZ, Bolivia - On Nov. 7, in the Government Palace of Bolivia and surrounded by cheering Native leaders and other representatives, President Evo Morales announced the passage of National Law 3760 or the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, legislation that is an exact copy of the United Nation's recently passed Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples.

The original declaration contains 46 articles and allows Native peoples the right to preserve their respective political, social, economic, juridical and cultural institutions. It also assures their rights to full participation in the political, cultural, economic and social spheres of their countries, and recognizes their rights to self-determination.

Bolivia is the first country in the world to adopt the declaration as national law.

Morales noted, in his speech at the event, that only 40 years ago Quechua, Aymara and other Native people from the eastern part of the country were not allowed to enter the Government Palace, nor were they allowed to walk on the sidewalks in certain important cities.

''We have advanced, we are in the palace, and now we are in the important cities although still in some cities they do not allow us to visit the business fairs,'' Morales asserted, adding that some groups still ''treat us like animals.''

''That is the past for indigenous people in Bolivia and also for Latin America,'' he said. ''I feel we have progressed. I feel that this exploited, humiliated and offended indigenous movement has organized to move forward, and we are not only working for the indigenous movement, but for all Bolivian men and Bolivian women.''

Hundreds of Native Bolivians, including representatives of all 36 different indigenous ethnicities and Afro-Bolivian leaders, were on hand to celebrate the announcement and provide vocal support to Morales. Along with the Bolivians were other Native dignitaries such as Gloria Batzin, a Mayan Guatemalan who offered a ''cordial and fraternal greeting'' to the president on behalf of indigenous peoples from 16 Latin American countries including Aymara, Quechua, Nahuatl, Mapuche, Kuna Yala, Miskito, Arahuaco, Garifuna, Yanacona, Maya Sakapulteka (Batzin's ethnicity) and Maya Kakchikel, among others.

''I want to ask all of you to unite our forces to promote and circulate these laws so that other countries may know the legal basis that is fundamental to our existence, and that we may know the rights that help us as indigenous peoples,'' Batzin stated.

Morales also addressed the themes of rights and responsibilities.

''From the passage of this declaration,'' Morales continued, ''I feel that the indigenous movement has gone from one of resistance to one of power, but not sectarian, personal, individual or regional power, but to create a power that, at it's core, is a way of living in a community ... it is the power of resolving problems equally for all, not only in Bolivia but in the entire world.

''I feel that the United Nations is giving us a mandate, our mandate,'' he asserted, ''... to defend life and work for all; we have that responsibility. The indigenous movement is not vengeful, it's not going to take vengeance on anything; we only want our rights to be respected.''

Along with the support demonstrated by various members of the audience, Morales announced that the United Nations had sent the Bolivian Congress a letter of congratulations for passing the declaration into national law and that ''this declaration is without a doubt an advance for humanity.''

Rick Kearns is a freelance writer, poet and teacher of Boricua heritage who focuses on indigenous issues in Latin America.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Fighting the anti immigrant movement

Executive Summary: Fighting the Anti-Immigrant Movement in the States

Purpose of this Strategy Memo: With the rise of anti-immigrant rhetoric and attacks, immigration will inevitably be a major issue in state legislatures in the 2008 session. The goal of this strategy document is to provide an outline of strategies and resources that state legislative leaders and advocates can use to challenge the anti-immigrant movements in their states.

Changing the Narrative on Immigration Politics: Even as anti-immigrant policies have been enacted in a number of states, other states have also been enacting smart, humane policies that raises living standards for all workers, undocumented and native worker alike, while encouraging maximum integration of new immigrants into our communities. State leaders and advocates can use smart policy campaigns to change the public debate on immigration both at the state level and nationally.

Launching the State Immigration Project: Working with allied labor, civil rights, religious, and community organizations, the Progressive States Network is launching the State Immigration Project, which will support state legislative leaders and advocates in challenging the rising anti-immigrant movement at the state level. The goal will be to defeat bad legislation and pass humane immigration legislation where possible, but also to create opportunities to highlight the positive contributions of immigrants to our states. These policy campaigns will emphasize those issues that evoke the many positive feelings the public has about immigrants, a counterbalance to the negative "wedge" messaging of the anti-immigrant rightwing. The campaign overall will have a five-part strategy:

Emphasize the political costs of anti-immigrant political positions and the long-term political gains from humane, inclusive immigration politics
Stress the facts that counter anti-immigrant lies
Promote policies that overcome anti-immigrant "wedge" politics and helps to unite progressive constituencies.
Emphasize the issues that divide even many conservative voters from anti-immigrant advocates
Generate national messaging on the positive steps being taken by states on the immigration issue
Making Immigration a Winning Issue- The Political Case Against Anti-Immigrant Politics: The reality is that globalization is driving economic changes, including immigration, that cause fear and uncertainty for many voters. If progressives promote economic policies that address the broader economic needs of working families, all polling shows that there is no majority for punitive measures against undocumented immigrants. And given the rapid expansion of legal immigrants voting in US elections, including the doubling of the Latino electorate from 7.5 million voters in 2000 to an estimated 14 million voters in 2008, there is no political leadership future for politicians who promote punitive policies against new immigrants and alienate this growing bloc of voters.

Smart State Policy to Deflect Anti-Immigrant Attacks: Progressive leaders need to promote policies that will highlight that those leading the anti-immigrant charge are actually against the interests of working families of all races and immigrant status. Key progressive immigration strategies include:

Wage Enforcement as Immigration Policy: Much of the anger at immigrants derives from fears that sweatshops and sub-minimum wage labor will undermine wage standards. Punishing employers who violate wage laws will politically unite all workers, immigrant and native alike, and actually strengthen the progressive political base. If wage enforcement bills end up being attached to anti-immigrant bills, many in the business lobby will break their current alliances with anti-immigrant politicians.
Encouraging Immigrant Integration and Naturalization: Progressives need to emphasize that all available evidence shows that most are eager to become full members of our communities if given a chance. highlight policies that help all immigrants better integrate, which will unite the interests of legal and undocumented immigrants along with the members of their communities who are already voting citizens.
Immigrants and Public Benefits: While state leaders and advocates need to highlight the studies that show that undocumented immigrants actually pay more in taxes than they use in public benefits, they also need to demand studies of the lost benefits to citizens and the costs to taxpayers from onerous anti-immigrant enforcement rules. Progressive leaders should also demand that the federal government, which receives billions in taxes paid by undocumented workers, share those revenues with states to expand services for communities with heavy immigrant populations.
Voting Reform versus "Voter ID" Attacks: Despite the complete lack of evidence that non-citizens have illegally voted in US elections, progressives need to challenge the voter ID requirements that are disenfranchising many legal voters. While voter ID laws need to be defeated, the other part of progressive mobilization should be demanding that voting be made easier, through reforms like same day registration and voting by mail, for people who do overcome these new barriers to proving their legal right to vote.
Immigrant Outreach as Public Safety and Anti-Terror Policy: Most law enforcement groups recognize that it is harder to protect victims of crime when millions of people living in our communities are fearful of talking to the police when they see a crime or are a victim of one. Progressive leaders can highlight this reality by promoting policies that protect undocumented immigrant victims and witnesses of crime when they contact the police and encourage community policing efforts involving undocumented immigrant communities.
Strengthening Progressive Alliances and Finding New Conservative Allies on the Immigration Issue: Beyond individual policy options, advocates and elected leaders need to emphasize that the coalition in support of humane policies involving new immigrants is diverse and cuts into even many seemingly conservative communities. Elected leaders can build on traditional support from many African-American leaders to labor unions to forge alliances with forward-looking business leaders and religious leaders, including many evangelicals, who recognize that smart, humane immigration policies for our communities is a source of both moral and social strength.

Conclusion- Moral Immigration Politics is Smart Politics: As this strategy memo outlines, moral immigration politics are also smart politics in the long-term, since the present coalition for humane immigration policy is rapidly being joined by new citizens who are unlikely to forgive politicians who vote wrong in the coming legislative session. Ultimately, there is no political future for the politicians leading the drive to enact anti-immigrant laws, while those elected leaders who step up with intelligent, humane policies will be the long-term political winners of the current debate.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Hunter Bear; guide to activism


We have been doing a little reorganization of our massive and very heavily visited Lair of Hunterbear website -- during which the Site itself remains completely open and functional. We launched it at the beginning of 2000 and, since we had for several months [latter 1999] a "freebee" predecessor -- "Red Wobbly." we can say that our website world is now well into its ninth year. Initially, its primary purpose was to deal with the harassment and collateral dimensions levied, usually very surreptitiously, by a range of folks -- sometimes reaching back into many years indeed -- who, for whatever reason or reasons, threw poisonous darts and tried to implant knives in our back. [There is an old Native saying, "When you fish for trout, expect to be bitten by mosquitoes." To that I would add, certain kinds of snakes.]

For a trenchant discussion of some of that, see our consistently updated webpage, Duel In The Shadows:

But almost immediately after its hatch, we began adding all sorts of advocacy and informational feathers -- and we have gone far, far beyond our original purposes.

I should also add that both Eldri and myself and our entire family count our wealth in the truly vast number of fine friends we have accumulated over many, many decades.

Basically what we've done in our somewhat website reorganization -- still on-going -- is to list the titles of slightly over 100 selected pages in the upper part of our Directory/Index

Those pages -- as with virtually all of our several hundred website pages -- involve almost completely my own personal experience, observation, and analysis.

And these are the primary subject areas: Organizing approaches and techniques and strategies, Native Americans and Native rights, militant labor, civil rights and civil liberties, American West. There is some personal background and just a little on Systemic Lupus. Practically all of this -- as is the case with the entire website -- comes from my half century of involvement in social justice activism. [I have made no effort at this point to group these 100 plus pages into subject categories -- but the respective titles are clear and explicit,

After those pages, you will encounter this Notice:


And there is a great deal more indeed in just the same genre down below!

Our website is powered by a major server and contains full Norton protection as of 2008.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Lou Dobbs and immigration

The Lou Dobbs Phenomenon

By José LaLuz

José LaLuz is currently employed by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees. He is a Vice Chair of DSA. This is a transcription of a presentation given at the Young Democratic Socialists Winter Conference on February 18, 2007.

I wanted to put a number of things on the table for the purposes of our conversation.

This being a nation of immigrants—in fact all of us our ancestors came from different shores—what explains that in a nation of immigrants we are witnessing one of the fiercest anti-immigrant xenophobic offensives in the history of this nation. What explains that?

The other thing is, if in fact the economy of this country is integrating with the economy of other nations in the hemisphere, particularly our neighbor to the south (Mexico), and our neighbor to the north (Canada), making possible the acceleration of the movement of capital, of goods and labor and other resources, how come the question of the movement of people has not been a part of that process? What explains that? This North American Free Trade Agreement or the hemispheric agreement that we know this administration and previous administrations wanted to negotiate. What explains that?

And finally, what explains the vacillations of organized labor and the Democratic Party with regards to the question of immigration, which I dare suggest, next to the question of war and peace, is the single most important issue of justice facing progressive men and women in this country? What explains the vacillation of well-known progressives in the Democratic Party and in the trade union movement with regards to this question? So I wanted to put that on the table and suggest some action.

One has to do with what I call the Lou Dobbs phenomenon. How many of you occasionally watch this man on CNN? I find it repugnant, but I have to watch it, because to me it signals something extremely dangerous. And let me explain what I mean. I decided to go first hand and witness first hand the work of these people that are referred to as “the Minutemen”—you know, you’ve heard of them, right? At the time I was working as a deputy director of organizing for the AFL-CIO, and one of my tasks was in fact to help shape an immigrant organizing strategy. So I figured, you know, why are most unions shy—and I’m being generous actually—when it comes to the question of organizing immigrant men and women. So I figured maybe this had something to do with the climate, the political climate of the nation. So I went to the state of Arizona. I got to Phoenix and drove all the way to the border, and as I was getting closer to the border I began to detect a lot of movement of people that were wearing this military garb, you know, similar to the one you wear in Iraq or Afghanistan. But in addition to wearing the military garb and the camouflage, some of them were actually packing guns. And they were parading back and forth, you know, this thing called the border. Which, if you look at it, it’s hard to figure where the hell is the border. Right? What is in fact the border? So I asked some questions of the folks that were with me, and they said “José, you look like you’re getting a little excited, and we didn’t come here to get into any trouble.” I mean, so I am actually witnessing some of these so-called Minutemen chasing some people, who later turn out to be undocumented immigrants. And things were getting out of hand. Because I was told that all these people were there to do was to monitor things, just to witness things, but they were getting into the action. And so much to my surprise, not far from where this was actually happening, there was a group of cameramen from CNN, and they happened to be from this program called The Lou Dobbs—whatever the hell the name is—Hour, right? And so I said, I have got to see what the hell is going on—what is this? And there was somebody, a young woman actually, interviewing one of the Minutemen that had just been involved in the altercation, in the capturing of some of the undocumented immigrants. And the woman was saying, well, what just happened? “Well, we are defending our nation’s integrity from the threat of terrorism and you know our national security is at risk…” And the interview progressed. I couldn’t help but to feel that this man was made to feel like a hero. And in fact a major network was rewarding the behavior of a vigilante. A vigilante that had decided that he of all people was more patriotic than anybody else and was going to enforce the laws that could not be enforced by the people who are commissioned to enforce them, meaning the Border Patrol.

Had that been an isolated incident, I would have dismissed it. But not far from here in Long Island there were things happening—in fact all over this state, which is nothing but the inheritor of immigrants! I mean, somebody came from Italy, from Poland, from Ireland, right, from Europe, from Southeast Asia, from Africa…I mean, some people came here in chains. They had no option. They were enslaved; they were brought here in chains. And others came here because of wars, because of this phenomenon called colonialism. Because of the phenomenon of empire, which is the other serious challenge that we’re facing in this nation today. The impulse to restore empire. So, then, I’m saying, Oh, my goodness! No wonder Democrats and organized labor are shy about this. The images of the people who are doing the so-called right thing are none other than those of the Minutemen. They are the heroes of this story. The people who are persecuting the immigrants are the heroes. I saw the same thing in Long Island. The TV went there to interview some people, and goodness, what’s going on?

What makes Lou Dobbs so dangerous? Well, Lou Dobbs is particularly dangerous because his discourse, his speech happens to appeal to whom? To the so-called displaced workers and the middle class. It’s right-wing populism. You don’t have to go far in history to discover where this flourished—in a country called Italy, in a country called Germany. Who were the people in the Nazi movement? Who were the people in the Fascist movement? Working men and women. The so-called “trapped middle class.” And so Lou Dobbs has a phenomenal appeal. And even the trade union leaders do not dare take him on. Democrats go to his program, and they don’t dare take this man on. And I think that explains that even politicians that have been ardent advocates of freedom and justice and equality are so afraid of speaking out on this issue. But that’s the explanation. I mean, something is brewing and something is happening in the underground. Right? That is moving people in a very serious and frightening direction.

Remember, it was only two and a half years ago that we could not say a fucking thing against the war. Remember the Dixie Chicks? When they spoke out? I mean it seemed like the whole goddamn world was coming down on them. I mean anybody on the street against the war—Oh my God! A crime has been committed! Frightening, in the country that is supposed to be the most democratic country on the face of the earth, people could not speak their mind on the question of war and peace.

Now things have changed. Dramatically. We have a so-called new majority in Congress, which in fact was elected to do what? To get us out of the god-damned war! And they’re still struggling with that one. So you wonder if they will be able to tackle this question of immigration. I dare suggest that there is a long, hard struggle ahead of us. But you know the most promising thing that happened? That thousands upon thousands upon thousands of the so-called invisible people mobilized themselves, and they said, I am not a criminal. I am a human being. And they showed it with their presence, by taking the streets. And that was one of the most powerful developments in the recent history of this nation, to witness the so-called invisible people coming out from restaurants, off the construction sites, everywhere. You know, in Los Angeles it was almost a million men and women, afraid that they could be rounded up and deported, but they were there with their families. That was so powerful. I’ve not witnessed anything like that. And you know, the response has been a most incredible backlash. Because of all this legislation, Gael García Bernal, the Mexican actor who played Che Guevara, said recently that the wall that was built at the border is a monument to stupidity. He was absolutely right. It does not solve anything. A wall is going to put a stop to immigration? My goodness. Has anybody learned anything from years of history? I mean, the question is: how do we develop trade and development policies that allow people south of the border and in other parts of the world to develop their own economies? And that cannot be done at gunpoint, by pretending that we are going to impose democracy in a country called Iraq.

Democracy at gunpoint? Can you imagine? And the cost. The cost is thousands upon thousands of men and women from working families and poor families in this country. Not to mention the thousands of men and women who are dying in Iraq, and the question is: is the world safer today? I dare suggest absolutely not. I mean, if there is an army of occupation in my country, this country, I will be one of the first people fighting against the occupation army. And that is what’s happening in Iraq. People are fighting against an occupation army. And so I saw Lou Dobbs saying “Oh my god! the Mexicans that are crossing the borders could perhaps be terrorists!” and so they are connected to those people in the Middle East. And those are the connections that are made sometimes in an open way, sometimes in a more sublime sophisticated way. But those are very serious threats that we face, and I do not see anything more important for a young socialist, for an old socialist, and for a middle-aged socialist than fighting against the war and fighting for the rights of men and women who happen to be crossing borders. Thank you.

jason schulman is

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Chavez and Venezuela

Venezuela's Constitutional Reform Fails (For Now)

By Justin Podur
ZNet Commentary

ZNet - December 04, 2007

The Constitutional Reform referendum in Venezuela has
failed, and Chavez, unlike the Venezuelan opposition,
gracefully accepted the defeat. The best outcome would
have been a slim victory for the "Si" side, and the
loss will have negative regional and global
consequences. Colombia's President Uribe, backed by the
US, had days before destroyed a humanitarian accord
that Chavez had been trying to broker between
Colombia's government and the FARC guerrillas. The US
is in the process of negotiating a free trade deal with
Peru. Canada, serving US foreign policy as it often
does, is trying to get the US a free trade deal with
Colombia through the back door, by negotiating one for
itself. In all this, progressive forces and politicians
in place in countries like Ecuador, Bolivia, and
Brazil, have looked to Venezuela for political
direction and support. The referendum outcome will help
the US to isolate these forces.

But, as Chavez himself said, the battle is not over and
there are some good things that can come out of this.

The referendum results: "No" got 50.7% (4 504 351),
"Yes" got 49.2% (4 159 392) votes. Abstention was very
high, at 44.11%. These are from El Tiempo, the
Colombian newspaper, and they come from when there were
97% of the votes counted.

Note how very close things were. The normal split in
previous years, including the 2004 referendum, has been
about 5 million voting with Chavez and about 3.5
million voting against. In this referendum, about 500
000 voters switched and voted against Chavez. Last
year's presidential election, which Chavez won with 63%
of voters, had only 30% abstention. Many who had voted
with Chavez voted abstained, and some voted against.

The usual fear tactics and dirty tactics were used by
the opposition and the Americans. The spread of
disinformation, from the notion that Chavez was going
to ban miniskirts to Chavez was going to take your
firstborn, was pervasive. There were small-scale
capital strikes, threats of a new coup, and other
abuses. But the Bolivarians had defeated those tactics
in the past and many of them had already been exposed
by a much stronger Bolivarian media strategy than ever

What good can come of it? One of the best things that
could happen in Venezuela, as unlikely as it is, is
that it could make socialism, popular participation,
and democracy seem like normal things, normal options
for a society to choose - if not for elites or for the
US, for Venezuelan and Latin American peoples. Instead,
every time there is an electoral process, there is
polarization, a sense that the whole revolutionary
project is in the balance, the whole future is in the
balance and imperialist violence is hanging overhead,
and that voting against Chavez is to side with these
reactionary imperialist forces. If, instead, this vote
could be seen the way Chavez is presenting it, as a
defeat of a specific proposal "for now" (one of his
famous phrases), in the context of an ongoing process,
that would be a very good thing.

There are two related weaknesses in Venezuela's
revolution. The first is the absence of highly visible
leaders with a national television profile and ideas of
their own, that are in Chavez's league, that are a part
of the revolutionary process, but that might have
slightly different proposals or strategic ideas. This
is something that revolutions have always had a hard
time producing - it always seems to focus on a single

The second problem is the difficulty, again largely
created by the US and imperialism, in having a space
for dissent within the revolutionary process. Oh, it is
true that the Bolivarians are incredibly tolerant of
the opposition, allowing speech and acts against the
government that would not be tolerated in the US or
Canada. Much harder though, and unclear how to
accomplish, is for there to be debate within the
movement about specific proposals without one side or
the other having to go over to the opposition. In a
context where the opposition has some 3.5 million
voters, plus tremendous media power, foreign financing,
and ultimately military backing, that is very hard to
do. But this referendum outcome could help. It could
actually split the opposition voters, by showing that
Chavez isn't a dictator and is willing to accept a
democratic result, something the opposition has been
unwilling to do.

The other reason not to despair over this defeat is
because of the weaknesses of the referendum itself. The
most important flaw was that it was an "omnibus"
referendum, in which voters had to accept or reject the
whole package. Some parts of this package were exciting
- other parts were less so.

There were three issues in the referendum that
concerned me, and if they had been presented by
themselves I would have voted against them. These were
the removal of term limits, (which are a relatively
minor issue, given the many jurisdictions in the world
that don't have them), the increased presidential
powers to appoint and remove officials, and the 7-year
terms (both which I would vote against as much because
they could be used against the Bolivarians in future -
who wants to be stuck with an empowered reactionary
regime for 7 years?). From increased social welfare to
the creation of popular power, there was much that was
very good and exciting in the constitutional reforms,
but how can we know that the 500,000 or so that
switched didn't switch on these three issues? Support
for the Bolivarian process could well be deeper than
support for this referendum, and potential support for
it is even greater (given the high abstention rates and
the outcome of the last presidential election). We've
always known that the Bolivarians were the more
democratic of Venezuela's two sides. Accepting this
defeat and carrying on with the process is bound to
demonstrate this to many.

[Justin Podur covered the 2004 recall referendum for
ZNet from Venezuela and writes on Colombia-Venezuela
issues. He is based in Toronto and can be reached at]

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Venezuela student demonstration

ZNet | Venezuela

Massive Student Demonstration In Support Of Reforms

by Kiraz Janicke; ; November 26, 2007
Caracas -- In a massive demonstration that dwarfed violent opposition student protests two weeks ago against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's proposed constitutional reforms, more than 50,000 students marched in favor of the reforms in Caracas on Thursday. The rally on the 'Day of the Students,' also commemorated 50 years since the student uprising on October 21 1957 that culminated in the downfall of dictator Marcos Parez Jimanez on 23 of January 1958.
Students gathered in Plaza Venezuela at 10 am where Cesar Trompiz, a student leader from the Bolivarian University of Venezuela, announced that the aim of the march was to say, "Yes to the reforms, yes to the revolution and yes to President Chavez."

The march was festive and peaceful as it wound its way through the streets of Caracas. Students danced and sang "Yes, Yes, Yes to the reforms!" and "Yes, Yes, Yes - the hour of the people, the hour of the poor!' Supporters also waved flags and posters from high-rise apartment blocks, and workers on a construction site in La Candelaria downed tools and cheered and danced salsa on the scaffolding as the students went by. An incident where an opposition supporter hung a 'No' sign out the window of an office building was met with laughter and chants of 'They will not return' in a reference to the old political parties that governed Venezuela prior to Chavez.

Three thousand students also joined the march from the School of Social Work in the Central University of Venezuela (UCV), where on November 7, opposition students had trapped 123 Chavista students for several hours, threatening to lynch them, throwing rocks and chairs, smashing windows and attempting to set fire to the building.

Thousands of high school students also marched in support of a reform that would lower the voting age to 16, which Trompiz explained was a proposal introduced by the student movement, "and another reason to celebrate."

The march finally arrived at Miraflores at 5pm where students flooded the grounds of the presidential palace and waited to hear from President Chavez, just returned from a six-day tour of Europe and the Middle East.

Referring to the student uprising in 1957 Chavez said, "In the 50s the students rose up against the president, but today they are in Miraflores with the president because this government belongs to you all, this power belongs not to Chavez, but to the people, the students..."

"Here is the demonstration that the Venezuelan students are with the revolution... here a solid revolutionary student movement has been born. This is essential, you students are the fuel of the revolution," Chavez added.

Some people go around saying Chavez wants more power with the reform, he said, "but what I want is to give more power to the republic, a new equation of power, of popular power, strengthening political parties and social movements."

The reforms are for the future, and are necessary to deepen the transition to socialism, Chavez explained. "One-day I will have to leave the presidential palace," he said to cries of protest, however he assured, he was confident that there were many capable people that could take over from him.

Paraphrasing a popular anti-imperialist chant at student demonstrations across Latin America -'those who don't jump are Yankees'- he concluded his speech saying "those who don't jump are escualidos" (a term coined by Chavez when he referred to the opposition as being "philosophically and morally squalid"), as Urdaneta Avenue was filled with tens of thousands of jumping students.

The reforms will enshrine the right to free university education in the constitution and proposed changes to article 109 will also give students and workers voting parity with academic staff for elections of university authorities. Hector Sosa, a student from the Bolivarian University of Venezuela told that these had been "the dreams of Venezuelan students for generations."

Sosa also said that the reforms are necessary to strengthen popular power through the creation of worker, student, campesino, and communal councils.

For Adriana Castillo, a student from the National Experimental University of the Armed Forces, the march signified the rebirth of the Venezuelan student movement, which she explained to, had historically been very radical and left wing, but throughout the 1990's had shifted to the right as universities restricted access and became more elite.

Emilio Negran, president of the Bolivarian Union of Students argued that in reality more than 90% of students support the constitutional reform but the opposition refuses to recognize the 700,000 students in the education missions, and the municipal Bolivarian universities created since 2003. A far smaller demonstration of opposition students also took place in Plaza Brian in the middle class suburb of Chacao, where newly elected president of the UCV student union, Ricardo Sanchez argued that the reforms which will allow Chavez to stand for reelction will lead to "Cuban-style dictatorship." He also called for opposition students to march to Miraflores next Monday.

Monday, November 26, 2007


Expanding the Fight for Economic Justice: Immigration, Foreign Policy and Worker's Rights

After a full year of YDS' Immigrant Rights Project, it is clear that our work to promote immigrant rights is necessary and important. The compromise immigration proposal in Congress this summer (while supported by many immigrant rights advocates, particularly those with an inside-the-beltway relationship with institutions of power) was rejected by many other immigrants and their allies, including the Young Democratic Socialists. We believe that the proposed bill compromised far too much and would have created, among other things, an even more unbalanced economic relationship between capitalist institutions and everyday people, both here and abroad, than currently exists. This outweighs the fact that most political analysis believe that the Democratic Party will not take up the issue of immigrant rights for several years, even if they win the White House and maintain their power in Congress.

If YDS believed in a primarily electoral path to justice, we would simply pursue a new national project. However, as socialists committed to true democratic politics, we believe that the fight for reforms is as much about empowering, positioning and preparing working people for the next fight as it is about winning any particular election or enacting needed legislation. It's about organizing! The right knows this, and indeed the compromise bill emboldened a vocal right wing grassroots such as the Minutemen. The Right wing base, led by the reactionary media outlets and commentators such as Lou Dobbs and hard right elected officials, will continue to demonize immigrants and lay the groundwork for punitive local policies.

This drumbeat for deportation compliments Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids across the country, which have dramatically increased in the last year and targeted workplaces where workers have demanded better working conditions or wages. The Right's rhetoric demonizes immigrant women, justifies the separation of parents without papers from their American children, and blames immigrants for wasting public resources in schools and hospitals. Such rhetoric ignores the facts that 1) undocumented immigrants pay billions more into Social Security and Medicare than they take out and 2) immigrants collectively pay more in taxes than they consume[1]. Now that capital's primary goal of a massive new guest worker program failed through the compromise bill, corporate interests are likely to push for this and other policies through individual legislation. Immigrant communities terrorized by ICE attacks on their workplaces, their homes, and even the shopping centers they frequent are fighting back, but they need solidarity from allies now more than ever.[2]

Our role as democratic socialists is thus to organize our communities to side with progressive forces on immigration. The time is now to fight back against the scapegoating of immigrant workers. Our job as socialists is to educate our peers about the true culprit behind economic insecurity and depressed wages: the capitalist system of exploitation. The Young Democratic Socialists nationally and locally must mobilize young people to support the rights of all workers, undocumented or not. This is especially important for chapters outside of major immigrant communities. We must be the allies of immigrants where their voices are often neglected. In addition, it is up to socialists to argue that as long as capitalism is the dominant global economic system, and capital flows across borders without regulation, migration will be a fact of life and immigrant workers will be simultaneously exploited and blamed for native workers' economic woes.

For these reasons, YDS will carry over our Immigrant Rights Project into another year. In our first year, YDS discussion groups explored the economic, racial and other aspects of this issue, and YDSers mobilized for Mayday protests and other events. In our second year, we hope to reflect on lessons learned and build on our experiences to have an even stronger national project that every YDS local supports and actively carries out. YDS must use the Immigrant Rights Project as a method to unify our voice, build alliances, and create a greater presence for ourselves on the Left.
YDS is Young Democratic Socialists.
1) Working with National Youth and Student Peace Coalition partners on Immigrant Rights. Immigrant Rights one of six issues in the NYSPC's "Youth Agenda."

o Volunteer (or fundraise) for a state or local pro-immigrant initiative (or against an anti one)
o Offer solidarity to a day laborer center in case they need people to help them monitor Minutemen or other anti-immigrant activity
o Volunteer at (or fundraise for) an immigrant worker center
o Organize a counter-demonstration when the Minutemen come through town
o Table or hold a study break and have students write letters to their elected officials or make calls to politicians? offices
o Build a coalition and campaign to get your campus to cancel their contract with Burger King (national campaigns)
o Support the workers or workers? union on your campus, since many are often immigrants
o Invite a moderate Democrat to speak on campus and grill them on their immigration stance (co-sponsor with Democrats)

Public Socialist Education

o Hold interactive workshops at a teach-in
o Screen a pro-immigrant movie like "El Norte", "The Letter", or "Farmingville" with discussion afterwards
o Host an educational speaker for the campus community (a policy expert on immigration or global capitalism, for example, or an immigrant worker)
Internal Political Education

o Have everyone in the chapter write letters to the editor in response to a specific article, then send them in at the same time so there's more chance one will get printed
o Hold a series of discussion meetings with readings (this can be turned into a public socialist education project as well, with discussion meetings publicly advertised in advance).

Friday, November 23, 2007

Immigrants organizing

Conference News and Updates November 21, 2007
Dear Friend of NNIRR,

As we witness ever worsening treatment of immigrants and a trampling of human rights in this country, we as a movement of immigrant rights activists are preparing for an inspiring and timely conference in Houston this January: Claiming our Rights, Envisioning our Future: COMMUNITIES ORGANIZING FOR JUSTICE. We have several important announcements and resources to share with you in this newsletter. All of the links included in this email can be found on our website at:

Queridas compañeras y compañeros de la Red Nacional,

Mientras vemos que el tratamiento de comunidades inmigrantes empeora y los Derechos humanos son pisoteados en este país, nosotras y nosotros como un movimiento por los derechos de las y los inmigrantes estamos preparándonos para una conferencia inspiradora y a tiempo en Houston este Enero que viene: Reclamando nuestros derechos, Forjando nuestro futuro: COMUNIDADES ORGANIZANDO POR LA JUSTICIA. Aquí les enviamos varios anuncios y recursos importantes para compartir con ustedes en este boletín. Todo los links incluídos en este correo electrónico están en nuestro sitio de web en:

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Mexico holding political prisoners

Mexico holding 500 political prisoners, says rights body
Brazil Sun
Thursday 22nd November, 2007

More than 500 political prisoners are in jails across Mexico without access to their legal rights, according to an NGO, Spanish news agency EFE reported Thursday.

The independent group called the Decade Against Impunity Solidarity Network (RSD) released a report Wednesday, mentioning in details false charges, use of torture to force confession and denial of civil and legal rights to political detainees.

It said that many social and political activists have been imprisoned in Mexico, some of them awaiting trial. The prisoners are being denied their rights because of the lengthy judicial process, the RSD report said.

'Mexico is going through difficult times because grassroots movements are being criminalized,' activist Ericka Zamora said while presenting the study.

She said the Mexican government has stopped accusing political prisoners of crimes such as rebellion, conspiracy and sedition, and now charges them with terrorism, kidnapping, organised crime, homicide, illegal use of land or water and drug trafficking, among other offences.

'Social struggle and defending human rights in the country have become high-risk activities because of constant threats of arrest and harassment of grassroots activists,' Zamora said.

The report highlighted, for example, the case of two indigenous Nahua people who have been detained for 22 months in the Gulf coast state of Veracruz on charges of organised crime and committing terrorist acts.

The RSD said the men, who are yet to stand trial, were innocent but were jailed because they were brothers of a suspected member of the small EPR guerrilla group.

Samuel Ruiz, the Catholic bishop emeritus of the southeastern state of Chiapas, who was present at the presentation of the report, said that in the majority of the cases there was 'a groundless accusation and the defendant is forced to confess through repression, oppression and torture.'

Meanwhile, the director of the Miguel Agustin Pro Juarez Centre for Human Rights, Luis Arriaga, criticised the government of rightist President Felipe Calderon for ignoring the recommendations of organisations like the United Nations regarding the protection of human rights.

Calderon has been criticised by various sectors, including the state-funded, autonomous National Human Rights Commission, for deploying the military to combat violent drug gangs.

These actions have given rise to accusations of unlawful killing, rape and other abuses on the part of the soldiers, he said.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Latin American economics:
The Nation
November 26, 2007

Latin America's Shock Resistance

By Naomi Klein

In less than two years, the lease on the largest and
most important US military base in Latin America will
run out. The base is in Manta, Ecuador, and Rafael
Correa, the country's leftist president, has pronounced
that he will renew the lease "on one condition: that
they let us put a base in Miami--an Ecuadorean base. If
there is no problem having foreign soldiers on a
country's soil, surely they'll let us have an
Ecuadorean base in the United States."

Since an Ecuadorean military outpost in South Beach is
a long shot, it is very likely that the Manta base,
which serves as a staging area for the "war on drugs,"
will soon shut down. Correa's defiant stand is not, as
some have claimed, about anti-Americanism. Rather, it
is part of a broad range of measures being taken by
Latin American governments to make the continent less
vulnerable to externally provoked crises and shocks.

This is a crucial development because for the past
thirty-five years in Latin America, such shocks from
outside have served to create the political conditions
required to justify the imposition of "shock therapy"--
the constellation of corporate-friendly "emergency"
economic measures like large-scale privatizations and
deep cuts to social spending that debilitate the state
in the name of free markets. In one of his most
influential essays, the late economist Milton Friedman
articulated contemporary capitalism's core tactical
nostrum, what I call the shock doctrine. He observed
that "only a crisis--actual or perceived--produces real
change. When that crisis occurs, the actions that are
taken depend on the ideas that are lying around."

Latin America has always been the prime laboratory for
this doctrine. Friedman first learned how to exploit a
large-scale crisis in the mid-1970s, when he advised
Chilean dictator Gen. Augusto Pinochet. Not only were
Chileans in a state of shock following Pinochet's
violent overthrow of Socialist President Salvador
Allende; the country was also reeling from severe
hyperinflation. Friedman advised Pinochet to impose a
rapid-fire transformation of the economy--tax cuts,
free trade, privatized services, cuts to social
spending and deregulation. It was the most extreme
capitalist makeover ever attempted, and it became known
as a Chicago School revolution, since so many of
Pinochet's top aides and ministers had studied under
Friedman at the University of Chicago. A similar
process was under way in Uruguay and Brazil, also with
the help of University of Chicago graduates and
professors, and a few years later, in Argentina. These
economic shock therapy programs were facilitated by far
less metaphorical shocks--performed in the region's
many torture cells, often by US-trained soldiers and
police, and directed against those activists who were
deemed most likely to stand in the way of the economic

In the 1980s and '90s, as dictatorships gave way to
fragile democracies, Latin America did not escape the
shock doctrine. Instead, new shocks prepared the ground
for another round of shock therapy--the "debt shock" of
the early '80s, followed by a wave of hyperinflation as
well as sudden drops in the prices of commodities on
which economies depended.

In Latin America today, however, new crises are being
repelled and old shocks are wearing off--a combination
of trends that is making the continent not only more
resilient in the face of change but also a model for a
future far more resistant to the shock doctrine.

When Milton Friedman died last year, the global quest
for unfettered capitalism he helped launch in Chile
three decades earlier found itself in disarray. The
obituaries heaped praise on him, but many were imbued
with a sense of fear that Friedman's death marked the
end of an era. In Canada's National Post, Terence
Corcoran, one of Friedman's most devoted disciples,
wondered whether the global movement the economist had
inspired could carry on. "As the last great lion of
free market economics, Friedman leaves a void ...There
is no one alive today of equal stature. Will the
principles Friedman fought for and articulated survive
over the long term without a new generation of solid,
charismatic and able intellectual leadership? Hard to

It certainly seemed unlikely. Friedman's intellectual
heirs in the United States--the think-tank neocons who
used the crisis of September 11 to launch a booming
economy in privatized warfare and "homeland security"--
were at the lowest point in their history. The
movement's political pinnacle had been the Republicans'
takeover of the US Congress in 1994; just nine days
before Friedman's death, they lost it again to a
Democratic majority. The three key issues that
contributed to the Republican defeat in the 2006
midterm elections were political corruption, the
mismanagement of the Iraq War and the perception, best
articulated by Jim Webb, a winning Democratic candidate
for the US Senate, that the country had drifted "toward
a class-based system, the likes of which we have not
seen since the nineteenth century."

Nowhere, however, was the economic project in deeper
crisis than where it had started: Latin America.
Washington has always regarded democratic socialism as
a greater challenge than totalitarian Communism, which
was easy to vilify and made for a handy enemy. In the
1960s and '70s, the favored tactic for dealing with the
inconvenient popularity of economic nationalism and
democratic socialism was to try to equate them with
Stalinism, deliberately blurring the clear differences
between the worldviews. A stark example of this
strategy comes from the early days of the Chicago
crusade, deep inside the declassified Chile documents.
Despite the CIA-funded propaganda campaign painting
Allende as a Soviet-style dictator, Washington's real
concerns about the Allende victory were relayed by
Henry Kissinger in a 1970 memo to Nixon: "The example
of a successful elected Marxist government in Chile
would surely have an impact on--and even precedent
value for--other parts of the world, especially in
Italy; the imitative spread of similar phenomena
elsewhere would in turn significantly affect the world
balance and our own position in it." In other words,
Allende needed to be taken out before his democratic
third way spread.

But the dream Allende represented was never defeated.
It was temporarily silenced, pushed under the surface
by fear. Which is why, as Latin America now emerges
from its decades of shock, the old ideas are bubbling
back up--along with the "imitative spread" Kissinger so

By 2001 the shift had become impossible to ignore. In
the mid-'70s, Argentina's legendary investigative
journalist Rodolfo Walsh had regarded the ascendancy of
Chicago School economics under junta rule as a setback,
not a lasting defeat, for the left. The terror tactics
used by the military had put his country into a state
of shock, but Walsh knew that shock, by its very
nature, is a temporary state. Before he was gunned down
by Argentine security agents on the streets of Buenos
Aires in 1977, Walsh estimated that it would take
twenty to thirty years until the effects of the terror
receded and Argentines regained their footing, courage
and confidence, ready once again to fight for economic
and social equality. It was in 2001, twenty-four years
later, that Argentina erupted in protest against IMF-
prescribed austerity measures and then proceeded to
force out five presidents in only three weeks.

"The dictatorship just ended!" people declared at the
time. They meant that it had taken seventeen years of
democracy for the legacy of terror to fade--just as
Walsh had predicted.

In the years since, that renewed courage has spread to
other former shock labs in the region. And as people
shed the collective fear that was first instilled with
tanks and cattle prods, with sudden flights of capital
and brutal cutbacks, many are demanding more democracy
and more control over markets. These demands represent
the greatest threat to Friedman's legacy because they
challenge his central claim: that capitalism and
freedom are part of the same indivisible project.

The staunchest opponents of neoliberal economics in
Latin America have been winning election after
election. Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez, running on
a platform of "Twenty-First-Century Socialism," was re-
elected in 2006 for a third term with 63 percent of the
vote. Despite attempts by the Bush Administration to
paint Venezuela as a pseudo-democracy, a poll that year
found 57 percent of Venezuelans happy with the state of
their democracy, an approval rating on the continent
second only to Uruguay's, where the left-wing coalition
party Frente Amplio had been elected to government and
where a series of referendums had blocked major
privatizations. In other words, in the two Latin
American states where voting had resulted in real
challenges to the Washington Consensus, citizens had
renewed their faith in the power of democracy to
improve their lives.

Ever since the Argentine collapse in 2001, opposition
to privatization has become the defining issue of the
continent, able to make governments and break them; by
late 2006, it was practically creating a domino effect.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was re-elected as president
of Brazil largely because he turned the vote into a
referendum on privatization. His opponent, from the
party responsible for Brazil's major sell-offs in the
'90s, resorted to dressing up like a socialist NASCAR
driver, wearing a jacket and baseball hat covered in
logos from the public companies that had not yet been
sold. Voters weren't persuaded, and Lula got 61 percent
of the vote. Shortly afterward in Nicaragua, Daniel
Ortega, former head of the Sandinistas, made the
country's frequent blackouts the center of his winning
campaign; the sale of the national electricity company
to the Spanish firm Unión Fenosa after Hurricane Mitch,
he asserted, was the source of the problem. "Who
brought Unian Fenosa to this country?" he bellowed.
"The government of the rich did, those who are in the
service of barbarian capitalism."

In November 2006, Ecuador's presidential elections
turned into a similar ideological battleground. Rafael
Correa, a 43-year-old left-wing economist, won the vote
against Alvaro Noboa, a banana tycoon and one of the
richest men in the country. With Twisted Sister's
"We're Not Gonna Take It" as his official campaign
song, Correa called for the country "to overcome all
the fallacies of neoliberalism." When he won, the new
president of Ecuador declared himself "no fan of Milton
Friedman." By then, Bolivian President Evo Morales was
already approaching the end of his first year in
office. After sending in the army to take back the gas
fields from "plunder" by multinationals, he moved on to
nationalize parts of the mining sector. That year in
Chile, under the leadership of President Michelle
Bachelet--who had been a prisoner under Pinochet--high
school students staged a wave of militant protests
against the two-tiered educational system introduced by
the Chicago Boys. The country's copper miners soon
followed with strikes of their own.

In December 2006, a month after Friedman's death, Latin
America's leaders gathered for a historic summit in
Bolivia, held in the city of Cochabamba, where a
popular uprising against water privatization had forced
Bechtel out of the country several years earlier.
Morales began the proceedings with a vow to close "the
open veins of Latin America." It was a reference to
Eduardo Galeano's book Open Veins of Latin America:
Five Centuries of the Pillage of a Continent, a lyrical
accounting of the violent plunder that had turned a
rich continent into a poor one. The book was published
in 1971, two years before Allende was overthrown for
daring to try to close those open veins by
nationalizing his country's copper mines. That event
ushered in a new era of furious pillage, during which
the structures built by the continent's
developmentalist movements were sacked, stripped and
sold off.

Today Latin Americans are picking up the project that
was so brutally interrupted all those years ago. Many
of the policies cropping up are familiar:
nationalization of key sectors of the economy, land
reform, major investments in education, literacy and
healthcare. These are not revolutionary ideas, but in
their unapologetic vision of a government that helps
reach for equality, they are certainly a rebuke to
Friedman's 1975 assertion in a letter to Pinochet that
"the major error, in my opinion, believe that it
is possible to do good with other people's money."

Though clearly drawing on a long rebellious history,
Latin America's contemporary movements are not direct
replicas of their predecessors. Of all the differences,
the most striking is an acute awareness of the need for
protection from the shocks that worked in the past--the
coups, the foreign shock therapists, the US-trained
torturers, as well as the debt shocks and currency
collapses. Latin America's mass movements, which have
powered the wave of election victories for left-wing
candidates, are learning how to build shock absorbers
into their organizing models. They are, for example,
less centralized than in the '60s, making it harder to
demobilize whole movements by eliminating a few
leaders. Despite the overwhelming cult of personality
surrounding Chavez, and his controversial moves to
centralize power at the state level, the progressive
networks in Venezuela are at the same time highly
decentralized, with power dispersed at the grassroots
and community levels, through thousands of neighborhood
councils and co-ops. In Bolivia, the indigenous
people's movements that put Morales in office function
similarly and have made it clear that Morales does not
have their unconditional support: the barrios will back
him as long as he stays true to his democratic mandate,
and not a moment longer. This kind of network approach
is what allowed Chavez to survive the 2002 coup
attempt: when their revolution was threatened, his
supporters poured down from the shantytowns surrounding
Caracas to demand his reinstatement, a kind of popular
mobilization that did not happen during the coups of
the '70s.

Latin America's new leaders are also taking bold
measures to block any future US-backed coups that could
attempt to undermine their democratic victories. Chávez
has let it be known that if an extremist right-wing
element in Bolivia's Santa Cruz province makes good on
its threats against Morales's government, Venezuelan
troops will help defend Bolivia's democracy. Meanwhile,
the governments of Venezuela, Costa Rica, Argentina,
Uruguay and Bolivia have all announced that they will
no longer send students to the School of the Americas
(now called the Western Hemisphere Institute for
Security Cooperation)--the infamous police and military
training center in Fort Benning, Georgia, where so many
of the continent's notorious killers learned the latest
in "counterterrorism" techniques, then promptly
directed them against farmers in El Salvador and auto
workers in Argentina. Ecuador, in addition to closing
the US military base, also looks set to cut its ties
with the school. It's hard to overstate the importance
of these developments. If the US military loses its
bases and training programs, its power to inflict
shocks on the continent will be greatly eroded.

The new leaders in Latin America are also becoming
better prepared for the kinds of shocks produced by
volatile markets. One of the most destabilizing forces
of recent decades has been the speed with which capital
can pick up and move, or how a sudden drop in commodity
prices can devastate an entire agricultural sector. But
in much of Latin America these shocks have already
happened, leaving behind ghostly industrial suburbs and
huge stretches of fallow farmland. The task of the
region's new left, therefore, has become a matter of
taking the detritus of globalization and putting it
back to work. In Brazil, the phenomenon is best seen in
the million and a half farmers of the Landless Peoples
Movement (MST), who have formed hundreds of
cooperatives to reclaim unused land. In Argentina, it
is clearest in the movement of "recovered companies,"
200 bankrupt businesses that have been resuscitated by
their workers, who have turned them into democratically
run cooperatives. For the cooperatives, there is no
fear of facing an economic shock of investors leaving,
because the investors have already left.

Chavez has made the cooperatives in Venezuela a top
political priority, giving them first refusal on
government contracts and offering them economic
incentives to trade with one another. By 2006 there
were roughly 100,000 cooperatives in the country,
employing more than 700,000 workers. Many are pieces of
state infrastructure--toll booths, highway maintenance,
health clinics--handed over to the communities to run.
It's a reverse of the logic of government outsourcing:
rather than auctioning off pieces of the state to large
corporations and losing democratic control, the people
who use the resources are given the power to manage
them, creating, at least in theory, both jobs and more
responsive public services. Chavez's many critics have
derided these initiatives as handouts and unfair
subsidies, of course. Yet in an era when Halliburton
treats the US government as its personal ATM for six
years, withdraws upward of $20 billion in Iraq
contracts alone, refuses to hire local workers either
on the Gulf Coast or in Iraq, then expresses its
gratitude to US taxpayers by moving its corporate
headquarters to Dubai (with all the attendant tax and
legal benefits), Chavez's direct subsidies to regular
people look significantly less radical.

Latin America's most significant protection from future
shocks (and therefore from the shock doctrine) flows
from the continent's emerging independence from
Washington's institutions, the result of greater
integration among regional governments. The Bolivian
Alternative for the Americas (ALBA) is the continent's
retort to the Free Trade Area of the Americas, the now-
buried corporatist dream of a free-trade zone
stretching from Alaska to Tierra del Fuego. Though ALBA
is still in its early stages, Emir Sader, a Brazil-
based sociologist, describes its promise as "a perfect
example of genuinely fair trade: each country provides
what it is best placed to produce, in return for what
it most needs, independent of global market prices." So
Bolivia provides gas at stable discounted prices;
Venezuela offers heavily subsidized oil to poorer
countries and shares expertise in developing reserves;
and Cuba sends thousands of doctors to deliver free
healthcare all over the continent, while training
students from other countries at its medical schools.

This is a very different model from the kind of
academic exchange that began at the University of
Chicago in the mid-'50s, when hundreds of Latin
American students learned a single rigid ideology and
were sent home to impose it with uniformity across the
continent. The major benefit is that ALBA is
essentially a barter system in which countries decide
for themselves what any given commodity or service is
worth rather than letting traders in New York, Chicago
or London set the prices for them. That makes trade
less vulnerable to the kind of sudden price
fluctuations that have hurt Latin American economies
before. Surrounded by turbulent financial waters, Latin
America is creating a zone of relative economic calm
and predictability, a feat presumed impossible in the
globalization era.

When one country does face a financial shortfall, this
increased integration means that it does not
necessarily need to turn to the IMF or the US Treasury
for a bailout. That's fortunate because the 2006 US
National Security Strategy makes it clear that for
Washington, the shock doctrine is still very much
alive: "If crises occur, the IMF's response must
reinforce each country's responsibility for its own
economic choices," the document states. "A refocused
IMF will strengthen market institutions and market
discipline over financial decisions." This kind of
"market discipline" can only be enforced if governments
actually go to Washington for help. As former IMF
deputy managing director Stanley Fischer explained
during the Asian financial crisis, the lender can help
only if it is asked, "but when [a country is] out of
money, it hasn't got many places to turn." That is no
longer the case. Thanks to high oil prices, Venezuela
has emerged as a major lender to other developing
countries, allowing them to do an end run around
Washington. Even more significant, this December will
mark the launch of a regional alternative to the
Washington financial institutions, a "Bank of the
South" that will make loans to member countries and
promote economic integration among them.

Now that they can turn elsewhere for help, governments
throughout the region are shunning the IMF, with
dramatic consequences. Brazil, so long shackled to
Washington by its enormous debt, is refusing to enter
into a new agreement with the fund. Venezuela is
considering withdrawing from the IMF and the World
Bank, and even Argentina, Washington's former "model
pupil," has been part of the trend. In his 2007 State
of the Union address, President Nastor Kirchner (since
succeeded by his wife, Christina) said that the
country's foreign creditors had told him, "'You must
have an agreement with the International Fund to be
able to pay the debt.' We say to them, 'Sirs, we are
sovereign. We want to pay the debt, but no way in hell
are we going to make an agreement again with the IMF.'"
As a result, the IMF, supremely powerful in the 1980s
and '90s, is no longer a force on the continent. In
2005 Latin America made up 80 percent of the IMF's
total lending portfolio; the continent now represents
just 1 percent--a sea change in only two years.

The transformation reaches beyond Latin America. In
just three years, the IMF's worldwide lending portfolio
had shrunk from $81 billion to $11.8 billion, with
almost all of that going to Turkey. The IMF, a pariah
in countries where it has treated crises as profit-
making opportunities, is withering away.

The World Bank faces an equally precarious future. In
April Correa revealed that he had suspended all loans
from the Bank and declared the institution's
representative in Ecuador persona non grata--an
extraordinary step. Two years earlier, Correa
explained, the World Bank had used a $100 million loan
to defeat economic legislation that would have
redistributed oil revenues to the country's poor.
"Ecuador is a sovereign country, and we will not stand
for extortion from this international bureaucracy," he
said. Meanwhile, Evo Morales announced that Bolivia
would quit the World Bank's arbitration court, the body
that allows multinational corporations to sue national
governments for measures that cost them profits. "The
governments of Latin America, and I think the world,
never win the cases. The multinationals always win,"
Morales said.

When Paul Wolfowitz was forced to resign as president
of the World Bank in May, it was clear that the
institution needed to take desperate measures to rescue
itself from its profound crisis of credibility. In the
midst of the Wolfowitz affair, the Financial Times
reported that when World Bank managers dispensed advice
in the developing world, "they were now laughed at."
Add the collapse of the World Trade Organization talks
in 2006 (prompting declarations that "globalization is
dead"), and it appears that the three main institutions
responsible for imposing the Chicago School ideology
under the guise of economic inevitability are at risk
of extinction.

It stands to reason that the revolt against
neoliberalism would be in its most advanced stage in
Latin America. As inhabitants of the first shock lab,
Latin Americans have had the most time to recover their
bearings, to understand how shock politics work. This
understanding is crucial for a new politics adapted to
our shocking times. Any strategy based on exploiting
the window of opportunity opened by a traumatic shock--
the central tenet of the shock doctrine--relies heavily
on the element of surprise. A state of shock is, by
definition, a moment when there is a gap between fast-
moving events and the information that exists to
explain them. Yet as soon as we have a new narrative
that offers a perspective on the shocking events, we
become reoriented and the world begins to make sense

Once the mechanics of the shock doctrine are deeply and
collectively understood, whole communities become
harder to take by surprise, more difficult to confuse--

Naomi Klein is the author of "No Logo: Taking Aim at
the Brand Bullies" and "Fences and Windows: Dispatches
From the Front Lines of the Globalization Debate." (c)
2007 Independent Media Institute. All rights reserved.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Barack Obama by Michael Eric Dyson

This article can be found on the web at

Barack Obama


[from the November 26, 2007 issue]

If the Democratic presidential primary were held today in your state, whom would you support? Cast your vote in the Nation Poll.

Ever since he thundered into our collective consciousness with an electrifying speech before the 2004 Democratic National Convention, Barack Obama has breathed new life into American politics. He has revived the hope of millions that their elected leaders would dare to dream outside the rigid categories and earthbound aspirations that hold too many politicians captive. Though his written word sings and his spoken word soars on the wings of renewed faith in the democratic process--and how we need such renewal in an ugly age of despotic indifference to freedom's true creed--Obama's eyes are fixed on what we can make together of our national future.

For a clue to what makes Obama stick and tick, one need look no further than his training in the trenches of community organizing. As Ronald Reagan practiced what Vice President George Bush would call "voodoo economics"--supply-side theories wrapped in tax cuts for the wealthy--Obama exited the Ivy League corridors of Columbia University in 1983 and, after a brief and unsatisfying stint on Wall Street, headed straight for the 'hood. On the South Side of Chicago, he worked with a church-based group that sought to speak to poverty by understanding the language of its painful expression in crime and high unemployment. Obama rolled up his sleeves--something he was used to in satisfying his basketball jones on the courts of many a concrete jungle--and applied elbow grease and hard thinking to the persistent ills and unjust plight of the poor. Such practical training in relieving the burdens of the beleaguered will stand him in good stead as leader of the free world--as the poignant memory of the most afflicted replays in his mind.

Young Obama soon learned the limits of local remedies, however, and imagined how law and politics might help him positively change the lives of the vulnerable at the national level. While Reagan spread skepticism about government as a political mantra, Obama's hopeful--but far from naïve--belief in the political process sent him to Harvard Law School in the late '80s, with a round-trip ticket back to Chicago, where he served as an Illinois State Senator for eight years before entering the US Senate in 2004.

If Obama's community organizing and work in the Illinois Senate--especially his bipartisan efforts to earn families across the state more than $100 million in tax cuts, his advocacy of legislation in support of early childhood education and his opposition to racial profiling--offer a glimpse into his political pedigree, so does his stay in the US Senate. Obama has fought for disability pay for veterans, worked to boost the nonproliferation of deadly weapons and advocated the use of alternative fuels to cure our national addiction to oil. He has spoken out against the vicious indifference of the Bush Administration to the poor--and to political competence--in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, and he has rallied against genocide in Darfur. Long before it was popular, he stood against the war in Iraq as a futile gesture of American empire that would do little to beat back the threat of terror. Sadly, he has been proved prophetic.

If Obama's credentials for the highest office in the land have been gained in the give-and-take of community organizing and power politics, his belief in the American people--a reflection, in part, of the profound belief they have invested in him--derives from his molding in the crucible of various cultures, colors and communities. Obama's multiracial roots and multicultural experiences are not a liability; instead, they offer him an edge in the national effort to overcome the poisonous divisions that plague the American soul. His fascinating mix of race and culture shows up in lively fashion--including his love for the upper reaches of Abraham Lincoln's emancipating political vision, as well as his compassion for the black boys and girls stuck on the lowest rung of the ladder of upward mobility. That he is aware of race without being its prisoner--that he is rooted in, but not restricted by, his blackness--challenges orthodoxies and playbooks on all sides of the racial divide and debate. But it also makes him curiously effective in the necessary pledge to overcome our racial malaise by working to deny it the upper hand in restoring our national kinship.

Barack Obama has come closer than any figure in recent history to obeying a direct call of the people to the brutal and bloody fields of political mission. His visionary response to that call gives great hope that he can galvanize our nation with the payoff of his political rhetoric: a substantive embrace of true democracy fed by justice--one that balances liberty with responsibility. It is ultimately the hard political lessons he has learned, and the edifying wisdom he has earned--and is willing to share--that make Obama an authentic American. He is our best hope to tie together the fraying strands of our political will into a powerful and productive vision of national destiny.

Other Essays in This Series:
John Nichols for Joseph Biden
Ellen Chesler for Hillary Clinton
Katherine S. Newman for John Edwards
Bruce Shapiro for Christopher Dodd
Richard Kim for Mike Gravel
Gore Vidal for Dennis Kucinich
Rocky Anderson for Bill Richardson

Monday, November 12, 2007

Women's Leadership opportunity

Call for Applications Women's Leadership Scholarship 2008-2009

We are writing to you to inform you about a funding opportunity for women pursuing non-doctoral level graduate education. The Women's Leadership Scholarship (WLS) (formerly the Native Leadership Scholarship) program creates educational opportunities for women who are grassroots leaders, organizers and activists from the Global South and/or from indigenous groups. WLS invests in women's leadership by supporting non-doctoral graduate education in human rights, sustainable development, and public health.

Pre-applications for the 2008-09 academic year are due March 14, 2008. For more information please visit (in English, Spanish and French), where you will find a more complete description of the Scholarship guidelines and eligibility requirements. Please distribute this message widely.


Laura Mapp, Program Manager
Women's Leadership Scholarship
Channel Foundation
603 Stewart St., Suite 415
Seattle, WA 98101
tel: (00)1-206-621-5447
fax: (00)1-206-621-2664

Activism in the South and the Jena 6

Combating Racism in the South: UCA and the Jena 6
October 9th, 2007 Activism

Although I’ve been in the South for over two years now, there are still some things that perplex me. It certainly isn’t the fairy tale underworld I’d envisioned as a child - one in which I was likely to get lynched by toothless grizzlies for being brown. There’s a positive vibe at first glance. People seem warm, open and mild-mannered; more so than in my native California anyway. Although I’ve found very little racism directed at me, it quietly lingers in a very tense but often unnoticed way.

The segregation in the South, often spoken of as self-imposed, seems to stem from the education system, in which students are taught that racism is a legendary beast of the past. Yet the black community seems to be much poorer than its counterparts within the white community, and this builds certain resentment. The poor white communities, meanwhile, often retain the most outspoken version of racist Southern culture. (I remember feeling extremely awkward at having been outside my house with a friend as his father hollered, “Boy, that nigger sure got his ass whooped, didn’t he?” well within earshot of our black neighbor across the street, much to my embarrassment.)

People who recognize that racism persists are quick to blame others rather than themselves. The blacks blame the whites for their ignorance and audacity to pretend away the very real problem of racism. The poor whites blame the blacks for taking advantage of their ancestors’ slavery. Meanwhile, the middle class whites consider the blacks to be antisocial bullies. Interestingly, these subjects rarely come out in everyday conversation, yet it seems that every day somebody is eager to speak to me of them.

I believe this to be because of my non-enemy color. In California, there are all different colors in large numbers. In Arkansas, it is almost entirely a sea of black and white, with a few scatterings of brown and yellow here and there, though notably of late; the number of Latinos has increased. Still, the problem of racism has, throughout the history of the South, been two-dimensional. Sure, the Ku Klux Klan hated the Catholics and Jews, and Louisiana persecuted a large Italian immigrant community during the turn of the last century, but the very real and remembered problem is the black and white one. It seems to have translated, in my case, into a view that as long as I am not the color of the ‘bad guy’, I might love to hear what the ‘good guy’ has to say. That interesting position of brown guy in the middle has led me, almost accidentally, to a position as a key anti-racist activist at the University of Central Arkansas.

The revelations began during the Jena Six actions. I began by showing up at NAACP meetings and working on a plan of action with their chapter leader and two coalition coordinators. Together with the Demand Justice panel at UCA, and signed on by the Young Democrats and Students for the Propagation of Black Culture, we coordinated not only a carpooling to Jena on September 20th, but also a walkout and a march here on campus.

Our plans did not go smoothly. We originally planned the walkout to go in concordance with the beginning of the trial of Mychal Bell. It was decided that students standing in solidarity with the Jena Six ought to walk out of their classes (normally ending at 9:15 that day) from 8:50 to 9:00. From there, the three of us in charge (UCA NAACP president Patrick Jacob, UCA NAACP chaplain DeKevious Wilson and myself, all of whom were actually planning to go to Jena rather than stay on to oversee the UCA actions) arranged for the students to gather around the large flagpole at UCA for a silent prayer in honor of the Jena Six. In order for this to happen smoothly and peacefully, I e-mailed the deans and heads of departments to alert them to the fact that there would be a walkout. We hoped that in this way, the chance of miscommunication and disrespect would be greatly diminished. We also planned for the march to take place during our “X-period”, an hour when there is no class at all. On Monday, the 17th, the NAACP organized a table in our student center to educate students about the Jena Six and our planned activities.

But as soon as the staff was onto us, it seemed we were in for a battle. First, my girlfriend noticed that a few days after the e-mail, a career fair was announced, and it was to take place on September 20th during X-period. I had a feeling it was deliberate, but I couldn’t be sure. On Monday, the 17th, we ran into more troubles. I received a call from Patrick Jacob who indicated that “there’s some kind of conflict and I think its BS.” I met with him and walked into the office, where DeKevious Wilson and an early middle-aged black lady awaited us.

The lady offered us candy bars and sodas and went on to tell us that UCA had planned and paid dearly for a civil rights activist from the ’60s to come and speak in the student center during X-period on Thursday and that it would be a good idea for us to reschedule our activities. This outraged all of us - Thursday was the day of action and Thursday it would be. She then asked us if we could do our march at night. I said, “Absolutely not. Why wait for the time when nobody’s at school to try to let them know?” She replied, “Maybe we can coordinate our actions together. After all, they’re celebrating the same thing, you know, the 50th anniversary [of the Little Rock Nine] and all.” I retorted, “No, you celebrate the past all you want. We’re working on the present and the future. The Jena Six story just proves that the civil rights movement is anything but a thing of the past.”

Nonetheless, after two missed class periods and a long series of discussion, first with this lady, then with another black lady (the head of minority services) we came to an uneasy, tentative agreement. As much as Patrick and I pressed for the speaker to stand with us in the name of civil rights, this was impossible because rumor had it he was an elderly gentleman who wouldn’t want to march. We offered a golf cart that our UCA Police Department escort could provide. The minority service people still didn’t like that idea. They kept using their need for professionalism and careful handling of the situation for every refutation of our sensible ideas. So the tentative agreement came down to a likelihood that the march would be shortened (which didn’t sit right with any of the three activists in that office), but with one stipulation. In addition to the candy bars and sodas, we had received invitations to a luncheon an hour before the march with the school president, the guest speaker and several other ridiculously overpaid bigwigs. Patrick and I had to decline since we would be in Jena, but DeKevious, all of a sudden unable to go because of an art project, accepted the invitation. It was decided that DeKevious would speak to this gentleman to see if he would like to march with us and we left it at that.

And so it came to pass that while the entourage of local YDSers, NAACP representatives, Demand Justice panelists and so on marched through the streets of Jena, a well-publicized series of actions took place at UCA as well. Victoria Vela, our current secretary/treasurer, contacted the media, which covered the actions as did our school newspaper. The school newspaper article, written by a friend of mine, showed a picture of Dekevious leading the march of over 100 people. This made me swell with pride. Upon reading the article, I found that the march had indeed been shortened, and that from the end of the march, the students filed into the student center to hear the guest speaker. That was all I knew until yesterday, when I ran into Carmesha Martin, UCA NAACP coalitions coordinator. I asked her how the on-campus actions went and she responded positively; but when I asked her about the speaker, she informed me, “Chachi, you would have been MAD! He was an old white dude talking all slow and boring. Everybody was moving toward the back while he was still talking! Man, it was…I ain’t even gonna say.” I asked if he had spoken of the Jena Six. She said, “Yeah, he said, ‘Uhhh…you know…there was some…uh…white kids…and they jumped a black kid…and that’s not good,’” and she rolled her eyes in disgust.

Upon further research I’ve found that career services and minority services are quite close at this school and though I still can’t prove anything, I believe that this was an attempt by our school to curb our enthusiasm for activism. Now this may be out of an overt racism, but I think it’s more out of fear, thanks to the neo-racism of the South. It’s evolved from “They’re not even people” to “Too many of them at once are scary and they might kill people”. I wish I could have showed them what Jena looked like on that day. I surfed through a crowd of tens of thousands, and by many accounts the population was 98% black. The demonstration was peaceful and jubilant. Non-blacks were greatly respected and thanked for taking part in the march and the struggle. The atmosphere was lighthearted and festive and people were helping each other out. Sure, there was anger and passion, but well directed, not at all that stereotypical angry mob of gold-toothed thugs tearing all the buildings and residents to smithereens.

Meanwhile, our YDS chapter now contains a few dedicated black students that give all indication of being leaders that are here to stay. Also, it’s now become quite common to see a few non-black faces at NAACP meetings here. It’s a small step, but it helps. If our great leaders, of many colors, can work hand-in-hand locally, we may just be able to start something beautiful on a grander scale. Yesterday, three representatives from our chapter spoke to our new student government - a white female, a Latino male and a black male. This was not even planned, but the diversity in our activist circles here in Arkansas is finally beginning to grow.

Noel “Chachi” Camara is an activist from San Francisco who studies global politics and history. He sits on the YDS National Coordinating Committee.

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