Tuesday, August 29, 2006

HUD to Reopen Public Housing in New Orleans

Read this amazing press release, and then follow the link. We need much more direct action like what these people are doing.

In a bold reversal of policy, the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) announced today that they will reopen public housing in New Orleans and embark on a bold new plan to help former residents get back home.

At The Gulf Coast Reconstruction & Hurricane Preparedness Summit, organized by Equity International (http://www.katrinareconstruction.org), HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson admitted that the agency has been headed down the wrong path
for the last year.

"Our charter, here at HUD, is to ensure access to affordable housing for those who need it the most. This past year in New Orleans, I am ashamed to say that we have clearly failed to do this," said Jackson.

The Yes Men prank HUD re: NOLA Public Housing! Yes!!!! Oh, yes!!!

Sunday, August 27, 2006

The Rose and Fist

The rose and fist as a symbol of progress:

In the classic rose and fist representation, red symbolizes the blood spilt by workers the world over in the fight for their emancipation and was directly inherited from the red banner flown at the Paris Commune, the original and hitherto base symbol of the workers' cause. After the 1886 Haymarket Massacre, socialists and trade unionists began wearing red roses or carnations on their lapels to show solidarity with the eight labour leaders who had been convicted of inciting to riot. Four of them were hanged. After this, a red rose was often worn during May Day marches and other socialist events. After World War II the red rose became widely adopted as a symbol of socialism. (adapted from thesocialistring.com).

The rose and the fist is used as a symbol of many Socialist and Social Democratic parties in Europe, including for instance the Socialist Party of France and the Rose in the Fist Party (Rosa nel Pugno) of Italy. In the UK the Socialist Party also uses the rose as a symbol.

Personally, and I think many of my comrades would agree, I preffer the scarlet banner. However, since I also like gardening the fist and rose could have a dual meaning.

Also of interest (to American readers) - the Fist And Rose Tendency of the SPUSA has a blog - check it out: http://fistandrose.blogspot.com/

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Challenging Capitalist Chow

Slow Food, Good Food: The Fuel of a United Working Class.

In the Devil’s Garden: Sinful History of Forbidden Food by Stewart Lee Allen, the author examines food taboos throughout history, organizing chapters by the seven deadly sins. Among other topics*, Allen discusses the tendency of a ruling or conquering class to create or reject the proletariat’s eating habits, and rigidly enforce those decisions, in order to maintain the status quo.

In the “Gluttony” chapter, Allen writes:

The practice of criminalizing foods that engender laziness first appeared in the legal code of the seventh-century B.C. Spartan civilization. The Spartans did everything they could to make dinner pure hell. Meals were served in communal mess halls and in portions designed to leave citizens hungry. Their national dish was deliberately revolting “black broth,” made of pork stock, blood vinegar, and salt. Citizens whose generous paunches suggested covert snacking were thrown out of the country. Foreign ambassadors who dined with undue elegance were also expelled. The idea behind this madness, according to Plutarch, was to stop citizens from “spending their lives … laid on costly couches at splendid tables, delivering themselves up to the hands of their tradesmen and cooks, who fatten them in corners like greedy brutes.” The code’s creator, Lycurgus, took his creed so seriously he actually starved himself to death.

It’s a notion that recurs regularly throughout Western history. The nineteenth-century English almost banned the potato for fear it would turn its working class into fornicating hobos [as Allen later points out, the potato also allowed the Irish to grow as a populace, threatening the "British land barrons who controlled Ireland." – Ed.], just as the French aristocrats outlawed soft white bread to ensure a hardy peasantry [and to clearly separate the haves from the have-nots – Ed.]. Modern America has raised this technique to technological perfection; consider, for example, “convenience foods” such as Oscar Meyer’s infamous Sack of Sauce in a Can of Meat and premade chocolate sundaes designed so that the microwave melts the sauce but leaves the ice cream intact. TV dinners. McDonald’s. Despite the technological differences between Modern America and Sparta, the principle of using diet to create an ideal working class is identical. Where the Spartans banished citizens who enjoyed eating, modern American just pays them less – about 7 percent among female workers. Both today’s fast-food outlets and Spartan mess halls are/were designed to discourage lingering over dinner and eliminate the need for people to “waste” their time cooking for the family. And, like the Spartans’ legendarily bad food, many of these convenience foods are so unpleasant they make even work look good. They’re also immensely profitable for the corporation who produce them. Perfect: American workers now pay more money for worse food so they can hurry back to jobs they hate.

You’re here for the Socialism, but bear with me for a moment. Think back to the last time you ate a fast-food French fry: did it taste as good as you imagined it might? Probably not, yet that Platonic French fry ideal keeps us going back for more. If you’re over the age of 18, your meal probably left you with a fast food hang-over: that feeling of a lead balloon sitting in the pit of your stomach, tinged with a mouth-craving for more salty, sweet, and greasy food. If you read Fast Food Nation, or even the South Beach Diet, you know that after eating such food, the body’s blood sugar rapidly rises, then precipitously drops, creating cyclical cravings. (The aroma will get you, too.)

Now, here’s the Socialism: it’s hard to think about the quality of your life, let alone start to do something about it via political change, when you’re mired in thoughts of triple-cheeseburgers and dealing with the health complications resulting from a diet of shakes and fried chicken nuggets. A number of foodie blogs espouse the Slow Food movement from a culinary standpoint. But Slow Food should also be embraced by Socialists (and other progressives) on political grounds. The creation of a good meal, using local, quality ingrediants followed by the sensual pleasure of eating such a meal not only supports local farmers and small businesses, not only provides better nourishment for the body and soul, but allows diners to time to think and talk: necessary elements in changing a power structure.

Tonight, do your body, mind, and politics a favor: cook up good meal. Bon appétit.
*Such as the possible reference to Louis XIV’s proclivity toward anal sex with his mistress, Madame du Barry, via her use of “chocolate.” Writes Allen:

When du Barry was repeatedly attacked for using chocolate to around unnatural passions in her lovers, it’s worth remembering that Europeans had originally called chocolate cacao but had changed the name because cacao too closely resembled the word caca, slang for feces. So when French libelles like 1878’s La Comtesse du Barry report that du Barry pulls chocolate out of her rove and ‘the decadent Parisians go crazy with a Roman orgy,’ one can reasonably wonder if this is a discreet reference to some form of anal sex. That is, after all, one of the classical Roman/Greek orgies were celebrated for back then.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Foreign Chains Around Us

A British "journalist" of the tabloid rag The Sun called it a "brutally anti-British film". That was reason enough for me to see Ken Loach's film, The Wind That Shakes The Barley, set in Ireland 1919-23 during the Tan war against the British and the subsequent Irish Civil War. Watch it. Watch it now. Seriously, turn off your computer and roam the streets until you can find a cinema prepared to show it.

Okay, those expected an entirely historically accurate representation of the conflict will be disappointed. Although I'd question using movies to learn history in the first place...

As anyone who has read Ernie O'Malley's On Another Man's Wound and The Singing Flame, on which, I've been told, the film is (very broadly) based, or indeed who has any knowledge of the period, will know, half of the Irish Republican Army were not, in fact, a bunch of raving revolutionary Socialists. The politics of Ireland at the time have been crudely revised by Loach, on account of the director's own, leftish inclinations. Not that it isn't immensely enjoyable to watch Liam Cunningham, playing the trade unionist Dan, recite these words of James Connolly to cellmate Damien (Cillian Murphy):

"If you remove the English army tomorrow and hoist the green flag over Dublin Castle, unless you set about the organisation of the Socialist Republic your efforts would be in vain. England would still rule you. She would rule you through her capitalists, through her landlords, through her financiers, through the whole array of commercial and individualist institutions she has planted in this country and watered with the tears of our mothers and the blood of our martyrs."

Not everyday you see that at the movies.

No, the main selling-point of the film - other than the sheer fun of watching something determined to upset the traditional version of history - is its concentration of the role of British imperialism in Ireland, and the way in which established institutions and the middle classes were exploited by the British Government to undermine and destroy any radical potential of the Irish nationalist movement. Ken Loach has also referred to the film's rather good timing, considering the devastation into which imperialism is plunging the world:
"I don’t need to spell it out, but the wars that we have seen, the occupations that we see throughout the world - people finally cannot turn away from that... Maybe if we start telling the truth about the past, we can start telling the truth about the present."
In short, it's better than watching Snakes On A Plane.

On a final, somewhat humorous note, if you manage to get to watch it, look out for some of the Loach-isms, including: the IRA guerrillas politely warning some Irish police officers to stop their repressive activities, the 'baddies' having no women amongst them and all wearing uniforms (and the 'goodies' who sell out turning in their ragged clothes for some nice uniforms themselves), and the pro-Treaty officer who has a striking similarity to Joseph Goebbels.

See here and here for good reviews of the film.

“Twas hard the woeful words to frame
To break the ties that bound us
But harder still to bear the shame
Of foreign chains around us.”

Monday, August 21, 2006

It's All Gone Wrong

I just saw this on the Alliance for Workers' Liberty site:
The Venezuelan National Guard has repressed a group of striking workers belonging to the UNT in Carabobo state, according to reports on the Aporrea website.

Workers at Alfarería Internacional (International Pottery) had their three-week-old strike broken up on 10 August by the National Guard. Two days before, seven members of the union’s executive were arrested.

Workers are members of the Unión de Trabajadores Procesadores de la Arcilla, Similares y Conexos del Estado Carabobo (Utpasca), part of the National Union of Workers (UNT), the new independent union federation in Venezuela.

The company had introduced 30 scabs to try to break the strike.

Although information is sketchy, it is at least clear that the Venezuelan military has used force to back employers against unionised and militant workers. The UNT in Carabobo is calling for solidarity.

Perhaps Chávez should heed the warning of his hero Simón Bolívar – damned is the soldier that uses force against the people.

If this is true, it is a worrying development.

Richard Gott, author of the excellent Hugo Chávez and the Bolivarian Revolution, said the following during an interview published on the Venezuela Information Centre: "[Chavez is] not particularly interested in trade unions themselves becoming a significant force." Uh oh.

Gonzalo Gomez, editor of the left-wing Aporrea website, has voiced concern about the potential obstacles to the revolutionary process in Venezuela before. According to the Hands Off Venezuela campaign, "He also said that the Venezuelan government was a popular government but not a government of the workers and the people yet because the bosses were still sacking workers." Does anything more need to be said?

Unfortunately, yes. Too many people overlook the fact that the movement in Venezuela is bigger than Chavez, however impressive and welcome his government's record. The UNT has a far more radical track-record, for instance over demands for factory occupations and workers' control. It is the duty of all Socialists to support them, even when it is inconvenient.

Edit: It seems there is a precedent for this anti-union business. The Venezuelan vice-minister for energy, also the president of a private electricity company, is preparing to break a strike with scab labour - the Chavez government is allegedly content to suppress industrial disputes in the run-up to the presidential election.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Funky Zarathustra

Lebanese blogger Sarah just linked to FoOL and covers the events in Lebanon. Current post excerpt:
I came across several excerpts of Nasrallah's speech in English which were taken out of context. I've attempted a balanced translation below, followed by some notes.

The speech
His speech began by congratulating the Lebanese for what he said was a historic and heroic victory, "without exaggeration". He also saluted the "martyrs" of the party, the army, journalists, civilians...He then described the magnitude of the destruction as the worst Lebanon has witnessed in all its brushes with the Israeli army. He attributed this to an Israeli weakness. Nasrallah also remembered to thank all the sects, parties and families who housed the refugees and supported them. He also promised to pay compensation to the owners of 15000 homes lost completely.


Nasrallah, I find it hard to acknowledge, also raises a good point regarding the Sheb'a farms and the detainees. It is disappointing a better deal was not brokered which would have left HA with no excuse to remain armed.

But, I disagree with the [assertion] that HA can defend us from Israeli threat. It did not allow their forces a victory but they also did not win--they simply didn't lose. Lebanon lost.


Funky Zarathustra: Nasrallah's speech lost in translation (hero or villain?)
A Nitche and a "Lost in Translation" reference all on one blog! I guess you could say it is the uberblog. Kudos.



Having sold my house today (yippie!) I thought it was safe, from a purely selfish perspective, to repost this, originally from 03-Jun-2006:

I'm sitting here in Geneva at 1:42 AM listening to a bunch of drunken elite @$holes outside my house as they celebrate their college reunion (I live in a very small city in upstate New York which, for the past 150 yrs has had a primary industry consisting of the production of elites). The location of my home and it's condition when I purchased it have given me a wonderful opportunity to experience some of the worst aspects of the material conditions of capital firsthand. Frankly, without this experience I truly believe that I would not have become a Socialist.

Currently, my wife and I are in the process of selling our house. This will allow us to escape the problems we face as we confront the petty bourgeoisie on a daily basis and instead officially join their ranks by moving to a "decent" neighborhood. I am certainly conflicted about all of this but sanction the direction in which we are moving. My primary complaint is that we have fought to maintain our basic civil rights in our current home and have been beaten by the forces of the bourgeoisie, thus being forced to move.

BUT, browsing the net I came across a wonderful article describing a rally in Cuba on May Day 2002. Over 7 million people participated consciously. For me, this is highly encouraging. An excerpt:
More than seven million of Cuba's 11 million people joined in gigantic celebrations on May Day, the largest mobilization ever in the island's history. In Havana alone, 1.2 million rallied. Cuba's May Day demonstrations were the biggest in the world honoring workers on this May first workers' holiday.
Seven million. Whereas I have a few idoits making my life miserable. I have to look at this and understand that the mass of people, when given the opportunity to choose a socialist class conciousness, are able to work together to achieve a collective responsibility to their fellow man and a higher moral standard.

Seven million. There is yet hope for mankind!

Cuba May Day

Thursday, August 10, 2006

More Hot Trot

I couldn't resist! Waxed and taxed in Le France. Maybe Alizee will be her running mate. Read on:
THE French taboo over politicians' private lives has crumbled further with the publication of photographs of Segolene Royal, the left-wing favourite to succeed President Jacques Chirac next spring, on the beach in her bikini.

Ms Royal, who is 53 next month and favourite to win the Socialist nomination later this year, is unlikely to suffer from the flattering first pictures to be published of a female politician in minimal attire.

"She looks like a star on holiday," said the daily Le Parisien in a gushing report on what it called a "sulphurous" breach of privacy.

The Australian: Socialist In a Bikini

Hot Trot

A bit of fun on the lighter side of things, God knows we need it.

The word is, Tommy Sheridan, recent leader of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) has a hot wife. Recently having come through an orgie scandal, Sheridan is not only unscathed but now a minor celebrity, thanks in no small part to his wife. One way or the other, I think we can all agree that Tommy is a stud.

The Times (UK) reports:
Most witnesses trogged into court looking like ugly Trots, but Gail Sheridan looked hot to trot. It is just a little ironic that while her husband is a hard-left socialist, she enters stage right looking less Karl Marx than Karl Lagerfeld.

Tommy Sheridan won a libel action against the News of the World — owned by the same company as this paper — after it accused him of enjoying orgies. His win owed much to Gail’s bravura trial performance. Her every leggy step said: why would my man swing when he can stay on the straight and narrow with me?

Thus crackled a glorious snatch of high summer when nipple clamps and PVC fetish uniforms fleetingly replaced the hammer and sickle as the symbols of socialism; rarely has the nation been quite so entertained, or as educated.

Tommy was astute to put Gail on the stand: ever since the case of Jeff Archer, who was also accused of wandering, this has been clear: a wife is helpful to winning such fights. Mary Archer swung it when the judge declared her “fragrant”. Gail was more: she was foxy. Lady Archer was lampooned later when it emerged Jeff had strayed. Gail, by contrast, stands vindicated as police investigate if 20-odd defence witnesses committed perjury.

It might be thought that socialists aren’t really meant to have wives bestowed with all Gail’s natural riches, but there have always been two schools of socialism: Engels enjoyed champagne, Marx didn’t. HG Wells couldn’t get enough of shagging, George Bernard Shaw could.

The Times: Foxy Gail Shows the Glamorous Face of Socialism

The Real Sides of the Conflict in the Middle East

From Commie Curmudgeon:

The three sources that I’m quoting below are very different in many ways, but they all seem to be echoing the same general idea, one which I hope will spread a little more over the Internet and well beyond it. That idea, to me, amounts to a truthful perspective on the conflict in the Middle East (not so easy to find) and points to the only effective way of opposing or even stopping these atrocities.

From Turn the World Upside Down:

...[T]he two sides in the conflict raging now in Palestine, Israel and Lebanon are:

#1. Ordinary people of all religions and ethnic groups in Palestine/ Israel/ Lebanon who want to live in peace with one another as equals (the opposite of Zionism's Jewish privilege and apartheid). This is the vast majority of people of all ethnic and religious persuasions.

#2. Those who are, or want to be, ruling upper classes, who want inequality, and who want to control ordinary people by setting them against each other along religious/ racial/ ethnic lines as mutual mortal enemies.

From Maxims and Reflections:

People will throw off this shit, nationalities and religions and all the other stickers we put on each other's kids saying it's okay to kill them, and we'll realize that there's only one enemy, the killers. The killers secure our allegiance by pretending to be enemies to each other. But the killers are playing on one team and we are playing on the other and we are losing.

And from the International Communist Current:

If all of capitalism’s peace plans are doomed to fail, what alternative is there to the imperialist disorder that dooms them? Certainly not the various nationalist/religious gangs which claim to be "resisting" imperialism in Palestine, Iraq or Afghanistan - Hamas, the PLO, Hizbollah, al Qaida… They too are entirely caught up in the logic of imperialism, whether striking out on their own or lining up directly with existing capitalist states. Their aims - whether the establishment of new national states or the dream of a pan-Middle East Islamic Caliphate - can only come about through imperialist war; and their methods - which always involve the indiscriminate massacre of the civilian population - are precisely those of the states they claim to be opposing.

The only opposition to imperialism is the resistance of the working class against exploitation, because this alone can grow into an open struggle [against] the capitalist system, a struggle to replace this dying system of profit and war with a society geared towards human need. Because the exploited everywhere have the same interests, the class struggle is international and has no interest in allying with one state against another. Its methods are directly opposed to the aggravation of hatred between ethnic or national groups, because it needs to rally together the proletarians of all nations in a common fight against capital and the state.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

We Feel Fine

This is about the coolest farking thing I've seen on the internet yet!


Tommy Sheridan Wins Defamation Case

Comrade Tommy Sheridan—who has been subject to lies, smears and innuendo—has won his defamation case against the News of the Screws.

In a statement, outside the court, comrade Sheridan said:
Today's verdict proves working class people can differentiate the truth from the muck.

The working class people on the jury have done a service to the people of Scotland and delivered a message to the standard of journalism the News of the World represents.

They are liars and we have proved they are liars [*].
[*] BBC transciption error corrected.

Drink Soaked Trotskyite: Sheridan Overcomes

Friday, August 04, 2006

Map of Israeli Aggression in Lebanon

Nearly every city and village and Lebanon has been bombed in the last few weeks. Over 900 dead. Who are the terrorists again?

Updates on the Aggression Against Lebanon

Demand Change

The Nation's "Moral Compass" section this week has an inspiring story from a 99 year old American activist, Elsie Fox. An excerpt:
I was a young woman living in Seattle during the Depression of the Thirties. I saw the Crash. I saw the banks close and people losing their jobs and being evicted from their houses. I saw industry stop. I saw the country stop. I saw people go hungry! I saw fear. Fear of hunger is almost as bad as hunger itself. I saw people go without health care. I saw racial discrimination among black people, immigrants, women, and the elderly. I saw unfair labor practices. Does all this sound familiar? President Hoover told us that the benefits of big business would trickle down to the people. Sound familiar?

And what did we, the people, do?

We, the people, marched from one end of this country to the other to demand change.


That's the way it happened, folks. We did it then; you can do it now!

The Nation: Take Back Our Country
As socialists, activists and progressives we do well to continue to hearken to Elsie's call. Despite the forces arrayed against us today, we must remember that the same forces were in power and just as strong generations ago and they were defeated, at least for a time, and can be defeated again. The fact that reactionaries continues to resurface proves the need for permanent revolution - a revolution both political and personal which fights for democracy, egalitarianism and equality.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

The Yellow Beast

What if this happened in 2004?

An estimated 1.2 million people poured into Mexico City's central square in another show of force by backers of leftist Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador who want a recount in the July 2 election that gave a narrow victory to conservative Felipe Calderon.

Sydney Morning Herald: 1.2m Now That's a Protest

Mass protests and legal challenges continue to undermine the already tenuous legitmacy of Calderon's claim to victory. Perhaps we will see the rightful victory of ALMO afterall. In other news, the Zapitistas call for a revolutionary overthrow of the entire system as the only way to achieve true social change for the benifit of the proletariat.