Thursday, 18 November 2010

Gay service(wo)men in the US army

An exchange that took place on the Marxmail list :

I cant' believe that you guys are still fooling around with whether gay
people should be allowed to serve in the US Army.
The answer is of course YES.
Gay soldiers should be allowed to get hit by Kalashinkov (or M-16) fire.
What makes them cleverer than heterosexuals, Blacks, women, Irish,
Indians, Asians, and any other recognized group that has enlisted ?
Homosexuals are just as capable of slaughter when commanded to do so.

Mark Lause wrote :
"participation in the military, among other reasons,is often the best chance
the poor have of getting anywhere different in this society. It's the key to
an education, to a decent job, to the kind of future that some may well be taking
for granted."

No, I beg to disagree. Willingly choosing to kill people when ordered to do so by
the state can never be excused, even though it brings short-term money in.
And all those soldiers will NOT get a "decent job and diplomas" when they come back. That is a lie.
They will not get the equivalent of the GI Bill of 1945 enabling them to go to college for free. That is a lie.
They will return with nothing to show for killing 60,000 to 120,000 civilians in Irak (give or take).

Whether an external threat or an internal threat, the Army will always
do its duty as loyal servant to those who yield power (privileges).

It is the basic hierarchical structure of the armed forces we object to.
I mean we, Libertarian Marxists, not we, "anything goes" Marxists.

The Army is a harmful institution that is purposefully disjointed from
the people, and purposefully entrusted with powerful weapons to subdue
the people.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Mid-term elections in the US


Who will win the next elections is synonymous with who will betray the working class's hopes and aspirations ?

The answer is : those who seek power above and over the working class.

To encourage the working class to vote for them is to participate in reinforcing the apathy of the working class by telling workers that they count for nothing and that their role is simply to "vote right" (no pun intended).

Working class consciousness is always battered and ridiculed, as the question arises for whom to vote ?
For him ! For her ! For them ! Vote against conservatism !
The social relationships that characterize the commodity mode of production breed passivity and resignation.
The day workers renounce representative democracy will be the day they take charge of running their own lives.
Control over one's life and working conditions is much more than casting a vote in favour of one group of people intent on harvesting surplus value.
It can only be achieved through One Big Union, and I may add, a union based on self-management and which eschews "representative democracy".

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Reflections on the situation in France

It's not time for a post-mortem just yet, but the protest movement in
France is winding down.

"Only" 2 million people took to the streets on Thursday, as opposed to 3.5
million two weeks ago. 

The bosses are still in a state of shock though. They revealed on Wednesday
that for the last two weeks, 50% of French industry had been halted
because of a lack of raw materials and fuel. Today, Thursday, 25% of
factories were still "experiencing major production delays and were
unable to keep shipment deadlines, causing even more losses through
contract-clause related penalties". As many trade unionists
commented :"when they start talking about losses, that means we are on
the verge of winning".

And strikes are still ongoing in most French refineries. Despite
Government propaganda that announced that five out of twelve refineries
were now running, it appears that this is yet another lie. Seven
refineries are on strike until Saturday, two refineries are shut down
and in a state of lock out, three refineries voted to resume work (after
management offered them a pay increase and the payment of all their days
of strike) but are unable to process anything as the pipelines from the
oil terminals in the ports of Marseille and Le Havre are still blocked
by striking dockers. So actually, not a single litre of petrol is coming
out of any of the twelve refineries right now.

But the mood is undeniably pessimistic, especially after the betrayal of
the CFDT and certain segments of the CGT. The CFDT has accepted to meet
the bosses to discuss "unemployment and wages". A clear indication that
the time has come for a sell-out (sigh, another one).

As I said, the time for forensic examination of living labour has not
yet come. However, analyses (plural of analysis, just checking) of the
10/10 events are beginning to circulate.

Some characteristics of the "pension revolt" have been pointed out by
most commentators on the left :
- strikers were from "old heavy-industry" : railways, steel workers,
auto workers, transport, energy or "intellectual workers" : teachers,
health workers, bank employees, students. That is, workers employed in
businesses with over 50 employees. People working in small (under 50
employees) businesses just couldn't organize. Neither could workers
working in shopping malls, supermarkerts, telemarketing, services, etc.
(commerce, services and information technologies industries).
Wherever casualization of the working force was most prominent, people
COULD NOT AFFORD (in their own words) to strike, because they feared for
their livelihoods.
- this situation led to what "Mouvement Communiste" in their analysis of
the French strikes (published in France and in English on Libcom.org)
called "strike by proxy schizophrenia". Instead of going on strike
themselves, 2/3rds of the working class applauded while a minority went
on strike. "Strike by proxy is a great danger for the working class".
There are many points in "Mouvement Communiste"'s paper that I, and many
workers on the road blocks, find debatable. They are far too pessimistic and
tend to impose their own brand of Autonomous Marxism on a complex situation.
- It was always clear that "pension reform" was just one of the reasons
why people went on strike anyway. Actually, most workers talked about
feelings of rage and frustration, feelings of powerlessness in the face
of a Leviathan that any spark would ignite.
-The union bureaucracy and left-wing parties (especially the NPA and
LEft Party) initially played a major role in organizing the general
strike. However, the movement rapidly became truly inter-sectorial and
saw workers from very different industries unite in collectively
blocking the economy. In every city and neighbourhood, workers began
blocking fuel depots and major highways leading to industrial parks.
This will remain one of the highlights of 10/10. From the very
beginning, it was all about shutting down production and consumption and
hitting the bourgeoisie hard, and all those who participated were
conscious of the need to bring the country to a standstill and happy to
see production stop and Capitalist profits decline (be it for 17 days).
-In many cities (Perpignan, Rennes, some Paris "arrondissements"),
though not in my hometown, General Meetings of all striking workers were
convened daily and organized road blocks and many other protests. These
protests included (depending on the region): toll-free highways during
the mid-term vacations, collecting refuse with the help of striking
garbage collectors and dumping it in front of the homes of leading
business people, university cafeteria workers providing free meals for
students, shutting down of tax office buildings  (which surprisingly
turned out to be quite unpopular, people late in paying their taxes were
close to panic when they heard that they couldn't enter the tax office
buildings), etc.
- A very considerable amount of money was collected all over the country
to support the striking refinery workers. Again, "strike by proxy" as
some would say.
- However, the "General Meetings of all striking workers" did not
include some sectors of heavy industry who were highly unionized and
where the union bureaucracy scorned such initiatives preferring to let
"the unions do their job of co-ordinating protests". In most cities,
including my own "heavy industry red redoubt", unions simply did not
care for the idea of "Workers' councils". Nonetheless, striking workers
from different industries quickly came to befriend each other, exchanged
e-mails, cell phone numbers and facebook pages. Even "Mouvement
Communiste" admits that "these inter-sector contacts will serve in the
future".
- The Union bureaucracy predictably "betrayed" the movement. The funny
thing is, all the workers I talked to were fully expecting this and
showed no surprise when the CFDT offered a truce.
"They always do that. They've been doing that for forty years. 
Urge people to go on strike, wave red flags and then negotiate with the
bosses. But who gives a damn about the union bureaucrats ? It's not
about them, is it ? At least we're fighting and that's all that counts.
Won't be a revolution, but it might be the only chance we will get for a
long time to show them what we think. So we can't be too picky, see what
I mean ?" was the sentiment I got again and again from auto workers,
truckers and railway workers.

So I don't think workers and students were really "fooled" by the union
bureaucracies, because they knew exactly what to expect from the
beginning. Even young workers in their 20s. 

The fact is that despite all the rejoicing, it was felt that there was
an iron weight weighing on the working class : people need a paycheck
and a majority of the working class is angry but just doesn't believe
that change is possible.
A worker on his way home from work
stopped to chat with us at a road block. He told us : : "The supervisor
came to the workshop. He saw we were all kind of idle because no
deliveries had come in for three days. He said to me : 'Go out with one
of the truck and try and get some supplies from the storage facility'. I
said to him : 'Excuse me sir, but I'm not a strike-breaker. If you send
me out, I'll just stop the truck on the highway and join the strikers,
so you'd better give me something else to do'. And I think it's a bloody
shame. It's a shame that we didn't go out on strike in my factory, it's
a shame that the oil workers are striking for the rest of us, whereas we
should all of us be out demonstrating. You know ... So I know this
movement won't succeed. Because most of us are just too afraid to
strike..."

And you know what, I don't find this statement pessimistic. Working
class consciousness in France has received a tremendous boost from the
events from October 11th onwards. All the arrogant journalists from
Liberation, TF1, Le Monde, etc. have been forced to recognize that
something has changed in France, although on the surface nothing has
changed. Events didn't unfold in the Senate, they unfolded on the
streets. 
So now what ? Of course, Unions have vowed "to continue the protests"
but at the same time, they are talking about engaging in talks with
business leaders on "a broad range of issues including unemployment,
youth and pay".
New (or rather old) forms of protest have emerged : blocking the
economy, hitting the bourgeoisie's wallet, inter-sectorial solidarity.
This time, workers didn't just block their own work places : they went
out and collectively helped block the whole production and consumption
system. The government contend this is a sign of weakness on the part of
the working class ("unions are no longer capable of calling for a real
general strike, they just call out the most radical elements from
different sectors to block the economy. It is a case of increased
radicalism compensating for a fall in the number of unionized workers
over the last twenty years").
But it could also be regarded as a sign of strength, especially given
the fact that for 17 days, 71% of the working class approved of blocking
the economy according to polls.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

In Belgium, Unions block Fuel Depots in solidarity with French strikers !

Great news ! On Tuesday 26 October, Belgium trade unions started blocking fuel depots in Belgium in a show of solidarity with French strikers.
Exasperated by the fact that Belgium fuel depots have been used extensively over
the weekend to re-supply French service stations on the other side of the border, the FGBT (Federation Generale Belge du Travail) is preventing tank trucks from entering the depots of Feluy and Tertre in central Belgium.
"Sarkozy is threatening the right of French workers to strike by forcing strikers
 to work against their will. He is also trying to break workers' solidarity by sending tank trucks to fill up with petrol in Belgium." a Belgium trade unionist told Le Monde (see the article here)

Monday, October 25th : blockades in my hometown

Here are a few pictures taken yesterday(october 25th) in my hometown. Strikers (auto workers, truckers, teachers, students, railway workers) blocking the entrance to the industrial park and the fuel depot.




Monday, 25 October 2010

The current Class Struggle in France


What happened on Friday at Grandpuits is unprecedented in the recent history of industrial relations in France.
Refinery workers rounded up by the paramilitary police and FORCED to return to work under a so-called "sate of national emergency" law is not only unconstitutional, it is also an indication that the class struggle has reached new heights in Europe.
The news from Granpuits has shoked and angered union members throughout France.
And the rifts between unions on what to do next have not prevented them from calling for more strikes, even after the bill on pensions becomes law on Wednesday, October 27th.
Even the reformist unions, like the CFDT and UNSA, acknowledge that they are under strong pressure from the rank and file to pursue the strikes.
Outraged by what happened at Grandpuits, the workers from 9 other French refineries have extended the strike by at least another week, fuel depots are being re-blocked as soon as the riot police leave them and there is every indication that this mass movement is set to last. The objective of disrupting the economy to put pressure on bosses is the unifying strategy of strikers all over the country. They understand that in the class war, production is the key to disrupting the normal profits of the Capitalists. They openly seek to prevent the accumulation cycle of Capital from taking place in the sphere of production and realization by the most efficient means possible.

The strikes are taking their toll in terms of wages lost (in the railway and energy sectors for example), particularly as real purchasing power has been declining steadily over the last twenty years. Therefore, and quite naturally, workers are turning to direct action and "sabotage" tactics that can profoundly disrupt the economy while organizing "rolling strikes" in which they participate some days and not others.
Again, the movement as it now stands can last for some time, and the bosses are very worried. They are complaining that production is stopped at many factories due to shortages of raw materials and fuel. Le Monde's characterization of the protests as "a long-lasting, peaceful social guerrilla" is not far from the truth.
Workers are determined to stand up to the government's bullying, and are returning to all the old favorites of solidarity strikes, strike funds, direct action, sabotage, revolving strikes, etc. And workers from all sectors are acting together, are systematically manning picket lines together, are supporting each other... The union leaderships have no choice, for the time being, than go with the flow. But there is little doubt among many strikers that they will try and reach a settlement with the government at the earliest opportunity.

The government itself is also taking up a hardline position in the class war. The authoritarian leanings of the present government are becoming clearer by the day. After drastically increasing police powers,  deporting gypsies, imposing severe restrictions on the right to strike (the so-called "minimal service" laws), they are now using "state of emergency" decrees to force strikers back to work. And even though a judge declared the requisition of strikers unconstitutional on Friday, the government simply went on with the requisitions, knowing that the strikers will have to wait until Monday to get an injunction from a judge suspending the government decree. This has very serious implications.

The pension reform revolt (which everybody knows is about the redistribution of wealth and not only the retirement age) is an important moment in France and Europe. 








 

Saturday, 23 October 2010

From my hometown in France : Videos and updates on the strikes

On Tuesday, October 19th, the junior High School of Val d'Huisne, in my hometown, was burnt down to the ground by persons unknown, and the action then blamed on strikers.
The authorities had been meaning to shut down this school for the last two years in the name of budget cuts, but thanks to teachers and parents, it had remained open for the students from the working class "Sablons" neighbourhood.
The school burned all night despite the best efforts of fire-fighters. Incendiary devices were found in the rubble. Now, nothing is left.


video


 On Thursay October 21st, numerous road blocks put in place by municipal workers, students, auto workers, railway workers, nurses, teachers, and many others. Only trucks and buses are blocked, drivers returning home from work are allowed to pass. Many honk  to signify their support.

video

On Friday, strikers (auto workers, truckers, teachers, railway workers, manufacturing workers) manage to force their way into the local council (Conseil General) meeting in my hometown. They are greeted with applauses by French Communist Party and Socialist Party mayors and Members of Parliament.
The strikers heckle Fabienne Labrette-Ménager, right-wing MP from a local constituency, who has just introduced a private parliament member's bill which would authorize police to arrest "strikers who disrupt traffic".
The strikers : "Shame ! Shame !"
Fabienne Labrette-Ménager : "I'm not ashamed ! You're preventing honest, hard-working people from going to work...And you're increasing the number of unemployed people through your actions."
The strikers : "How many unemployed people do you know ? It's surprising you would mingle with such lowly people !"
Fabienne Labrette-Ménager : "Well, I used to be the head of the Manpower private employment agency !"
Applause from workers "Bravo ! bravo ! Making money from those desperate for a job ! Well done !"
video

On Thursay, strikers address the riot police who are preventing them from blocking the Arnages fuel depot over a loud-speaker :
"ATTENTION RIOT-POLICE, PARAMILITARIES AND MEMBERS OF THE ARMED FORCES ! THIS IS A HEALTH AND SAFETY ANNOUNCEMENT ON BEHALF OF THE HOSPITAL WORKERS AND SOCIAL WORKERS ! BEWARE OF  THE SIGNS OF WORK-RELATED STRESS ! FEELING THE WORK YOU ARE DOING BRINGS NO PERSONAL FULFILLMENT ? PRESSURE FROM SUPERVISORS ? INABILITY TO COMMUNICATE WITH OTHERS ? INCREASED ALCOHOL CONSUMPTION TO HELP YOU COPE ? ALL THOSE ARE WARNING SIGNS OF WORK-RELATED STRESS AND DEPRESSION. DO NOT OVERLOOK THESE SYMPTOMS ! PLEASE COME AND TALK TO HEALTH CARE PROFESSIONALS IN THE PICKET LINE WHO WILL LISTEN AND HELP YOU."

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Strikes in France

I’m exhausted.
I’ve spent the last three days going from road block to road block, together with teachers, railroad workers, truckers, nurses, etc.
So far, in our sector, we’ve managed the feat of keeping the Arnages oil depot totally closed since Friday 4 AM !
As a result, all the petrol stations in a radius of 70 kms are closed, completely out of gas.
I slept 4 hours on Friday night, 6 hours on Saturday, 2 on Monday … Today, we got the main Teachers’ Union to call on all striking teachers to come and help block all the remaining fuel depots.
The police can’t intervene, because the truckers have established road blocks on the major roads leading to the oil depot.
What is incredible is that despite the fact that there is no more oil available, and therefore that people are blocked at home, a resounding 71% of the population approves of the strike (according to today’s opinion polls).
The movement is set to last at least another week. I spent the whole of Sunday night with transport (railway and truckers) workers playing cards and drinking beer. It was quite cold (2°C) around 4 AM, but the railroad workers brought several truck-loads of “palettes” (empty wooden containers) and we lit a might bonfire.
Striking workers from the neighbouring  Renault factory brought firecrackers and we spent the wee hours of the morning lighting them.
Workers are determined to fight until the bitter end. Workers who chose not to go on strike are being encouraged to donate part of their salary to the workers of the most “strategic” sectors, especialy the Donges raffinery.
Personally, this is my 6th day of Strike. An open-ended strike that might not be the best way of going about things, the consensus now being that “revolving” strikes (15% of the workforce on strike on a given day) would enable us to hold out longer.
The support from “ordinary people” is astounding. When we block a freeway, drivers often honk to support us, give us money, hand us daily newspapers, even though we are effectively blocking them.
I’ve decided to stay on strike for a further three days but to spend more time with my family, which is also what the union is advocating. Some comrades have spent 4 days without going home and the union is worried this may cause trouble with spouses,who are forced to look after the kids, which would further undermine our resolve.
All 12 French oil refineries are on strike until next Friday. Many depots are blocked. Half the trains in France are blocked (including in major railroad nodes).
Truckers have blocked the roads leading to the main production areas, and factories cannot function because they lack raw material and pieces (they don’t have any stocks of materials stored because they believe storage costs money).
Anyway, the mood is indescribable. Workers from every sector are united and determined, and for the first time, many workers can chat with people employed in other industries knowing that they share a common goal.
The only problem is, it will be hard, very hard to go back to work. But thanks to the government, people are prepared to remain on strike until next week. Then we’ll see.
It’s a general strike and a lot of ordinary workers I’ve talked to are determined not to resume work until the retirement age is brought back to 60.
Some problems remain, even though A LOT, a great, great deal, has been accomplished since last Tuesday.
1) There is a call for an indefinite strike on the part of many unions.
2) The union membership is demanding support from the union bureaucracy which is forced to yield
3) Public opinion overwhelmingly supports the strike
4) The economic impact of the blockade is being increasingly felt by the bosses, who are now uncertain whether to follow the government or call for a truce.
5) the strike has bread true comradeship between workers of very different sectors, and the blur/white-collar worker gap is slowly being bridged.
6) despite the loss of wages, the determination of workers is still extremely strong, BECAUSE they can actually see that although they are loosing money, so are the bosses.
negative points :
1) the government has declared a state of emergency and is threatening to impose prison sentences on “those who seek to destroy the country”. Of course, nobody takes those threats seriously, but still…
2) agents provocateurs are burning down public buildings and then blaming this on strikers.
3) the government is trying to appear as “the restorer of order” and is increasingly accusing the unions of “undemocratic behaviour, because picket lines prevent those who wish to go to work from doing so”.
4) tensions are rising between the union rank and file and the union leadership. There are rumours that the leadership is ready for a “sell-out”.
5) left-wing political parties are telling people that going on strike is well and good, but voting for a “socialist” candidate in the 2012 presidential election is the only way forward. Yeah ! A “socialist” government, just like in Greece !
I’ve lost a fourth of my monthly salary so far, have had my car window smashed by people unknown, but am feeling very happy by the way ordinary people have decided enough was enough.
I suppose I should get ready for a rude awakening.

Monday, 18 October 2010

Aux non-grévistes dans l'EN


Mais bien sûre ceux qui manifestent n'ont pas compris quelle est leur
place. C'est un comble que ceux qui, dans l'ordre des choses, sont sensé
travailler, se taire et appliquer les directives des dirigeants, se
permettent de ne pas travailler et de ne pas se taire. Mais c'est
n'importe quoi , voyons ! C'est même très grave !

C'est notre rôle de continuer à travailler, de permettre aux autres de
travailler, de ne pas encourager les propos insensés et utopistes sur
une retraite à 60 ans, de rappeler aux élèves qu'ils n'ont pas à bloquer
les lycées car la réforme de la retraite ne les concerne absolument pas
(après tout, il leur faudra attendre... euh ... 2050 ? 2060 ? 2070 ?
cette satanée espérance de vie ne fait que s'allonger !).

Trêve de plaisanteries, l'idée que des enseignants se prononcent pour ou
contre un blocage de lycée lors d'un mouvement inter-professionel de
grêve reconductible d'une telle ampleur, c'est tout simplement une idée
du "retour à l'ordre". Et comme dans tous les "retours à l'ordre" (après
1936, après 1945, après 1968, après 1995), on essaie de manipuler "la
majorité silencieuse" contre les "débordements". Si en 1936 nos
grands-parents y avaient cédé, nous n'aurions pas les congés payés. Si
en 1945 nos parents y avaient cédé, nous n'aurions pas la sécu. Le
retour à l'ordre, "voulu par la majorité prise en otage par les
grévistes", c'est justement le déni de l'expression du mécontentement
populaire au profit des puissants.

Sunday, 3 October 2010

God, Materialism and the Bible

First posted on Marxmail.
 
The old testament contains many, many strata, written at very different 
stages, in extremely varied circumstances. It is a complex document that 
cannot be easily resumed as "the triumph of private property and 
patriarchy".
In fact, at its core, there is a certain tilting of the Old Testament 
towards pastoralism, visible in the importance given to sheep and the 
fact that Jews had to pay "compensation" for the lives of their sons by 
sacrificing lambs (redemption through lamb sacrifice) "in exchange" for 
a son :

Exodus 13:2 "Consecrate to me every firstborn male. The first offspring 
of every womb among the Israelites belongs to me, whether man or animal.

And every first male thou shalt redeem with a lamb; and if thou wilt not 
redeem it, then thou shalt break his neck: and all the firstborn of man 
among thy children shalt thou redeem.

and it came to pass, when Pharaoh would hardly let us go, that the LORD 
slew all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man, 
and the firstborn of beast: therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all that 
openeth the matrix, being males; but all the firstborn of my children I 
redeem.
"

Hence the tradition of redeeming a male son with the sacrifice of a 
lamb, which in modern judaism is merely symbolical.

This equivalence between lamb and first male son is thus deeply present 
in Judaism and by extension Christianity ("Jesus is the lamb of God sent 
to reddeem through his blood the sins of mankind").. It goes back to 
very old practices among the pastoral tribes that would later be 
amalgamted within the so-called "Israelites".

Of course, the Old Testament then goes on to give a spurious 
"explanation" for such practices through the imaginary history of the 
flight from Egypt, a narrative that provides an explanation for daubing 
the door of the dwelling with lamb-blood (to ward of the spirit of the 
Lord who comes looking for the first-born child), celebrating PAssover 
(bitter herbs, lambs business, because of the great hast to escape the 
PAhroah's army) and quite a few other, otherwise "unexplainable" 
elements in Jewish folklore (ritual cleanliness for example).

The Old Testament thus contains a lot of evidence regarding the original 
nature of the various "Jewish" tribes that came to Palestine from the 
2nd millenium BC onward : they were pastoralists, whose mythology was 
overwhelmingly centered around sheep-rearing and for whom the 
lamb-conception season (easter) was of primordial importance. No triumph 
of agriculture, but a very slow, and begrudging transition from pastoral 
nomadism to settled cultivation.

The redeeming through a  lamb instead of the sacrifice of a  human babe, 
the symbolical equivalence of lamb and male chile, the notion of 
sacrifice (remember Isaac) is common to many pastoralist societies 
around the globe. That it left an imprint so profound (through the idea 
of "redemption" and eventually to that of Christ's "sacrifice") in later 
re-writings of the Old Testament myths (6th to 3rd century BC, when the 
inhabitants of Palestine were agriculturists and no longer nomads), is 
proof enough of the persistence of Pastoral and nomadic motives in the OT.

So I wouldn't say that the OT is the triumph of Private property over 
Pastoralism (which is quite Patriarchal by the way, the head of the 
family being in complete control !), but rather the re-interpretation, 
over several centuries, of Palestinian mythology and it's re-fitting 
into an agriculturist society. Two millenia of lamb/first-born son 
redemption (equivalence) symbolism still stubbornly refusing to adapt to 
new conditions. Right into the 1century BC (or 20th century AD for that 
matter). What more proof do you need that mythological/symbolical 
structures are incredibly resistant to change, and persist long after 
the mode of production that gave rise to them has ceesed to exist. The 
old concepts they contain are still operative, even though the actual 
content has long-ago vanished. And are still capable of being 
incorporated (even create) new beliefs.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Dissemination of false information

On Sept 18th, Louis Proyect (see his blog here) wrote on Marxmail:
The fact is that despite Castro's errors 
on one thing or another, he is still the most ethical and humane world 
leader. Just look at his latest article on the Roma:
My reply to Marxmail, which Louis moderates :
Yes, Fidel is one of the most ethical leaders in history, isn't he ?

Sending 30 000 people to re-education camps, internationally opposing a
world-wide moratorium on the death penalty, decreeing that "the total
fusion of State and society" must be achieved through the MNIR (Police),
placing CDR spies at every level of society, that's ethical, that's
Socialist.

In Cuba, opposition to Fidel is simply outlawed by the constitution.

According to article 144 of the Penal Code (desacato), you can be sent
to prison for 3 months for "disrepect" if you verbally slander or insult
the dignity of an official of the Communist Party.

According to article 208 (asociation ilicita), you can get sent to
prison for up to a year for participating in a meeting that has not been
authorized.

According to article 103 ("propaganda enemiga"), you can get sent to
prison for 8 years for verbally disseminating "ennemy propaganda", the
exact definition of which is voluntarily not provided (so that it can be
used as a "catch all" repressive law). 

According to article 115 (crime of difusión de falsas informaciones
contra la paz internacional, or "dissemination of false information
against international peace."), anyone who spreads "false news with the
aim of putting in danger the prestige of the Cuban State" can be
imprisoned for up to four years.

Articles 72-90, which define the crime of peligrosidad, or
"dangerousness." These articles come under the heading, "The Dangerous
Status and Security Measures," a section of the Penal Code under which
someone can be sentenced for up to four years in prison on the grounds
that the authorities believe the individual has a "special proclivity"
to commit crimes, even though he or she might not have actually
committed a crime. These articles broadly define "dangerous" people as
those who act in a manner that contradicts "morality", "are lazy" or
"engage in anti-social behavior." 

Fidel's Cuba is the most ethical place imaginable. Despite those nasty
reports by former political prisoners that describe the daily beatings,
starvation rations and despair in the re-education camps. Why, people
who disseminate such lies should be imprisoned for "dissemination of
false information with the aim of putting in danger the prestige of
Cuba". 
Yes, Cuba is an example of workers' emancipation. Reports that the
corrupt nomenklatura control workers through fear and violence are again
ill-informed. We all know, and it is the common perception on this list,
that the Cuban revolution should be defended for it is a place where
Socialism is strong and vibrant. 

I don't want to be unsubbed from this list (although it's better than a
stint in prison), so I will go-along with the general sentiment
regarding Cuba, and post no more "enemy propaganda" and "false
information with the aim of putting in danger the prestige of Cuba". 
 
Presidio Prison, where up to 8 000 Cuban dissidents were imprisoned in the 60s. It was a "model prison" built on a panoptical design under Batista.
 

Workers' rights in Cuba

The Cuban authorities only recognise a single national trade union
centre, the Confederación de Trabajadores Cubanos (CTC), heavily
controlled by the State and the Communist Party which appoints its
leaders. Membership is compulsory for all workers. Before a worker can
be hired they have to sign a contract in which they promise to support
the Communist Party and all its representatives. The government explicitly
prohibits independent trade unions.

There still is no freedom of association and the right to strike is
still not recognised in law. Six of the seven independent trade union
leaders sentenced to lengthy terms in 2003 remained in prison.

Workers who initiate cat strikes have been sentenced to up to seven
years in prison. The Cuban government is ferocious in its repression on
grassroots movements and independant (non government sanctioned) unions.

Violations of unions' rights are well-documented, you can find a
depressing list of all the crackdowns by the cuban authorities on
workplace organizing at numerous websites. See for example the 
UNHCR 2010 Annual Survey of violations of trade union rights - Cuba
 
Now for some sarcasm directed at those that maintain that "we must defend the Cuban
Revolution in the face of US Imperialism".
Of course, their answer is that we must understand that the Cuban government has no other
option but to violently supress strikes : it's just one of the prices to
pay in order to resist US imperialism. Those advocating the right to
strike are just silly Utopians with no understanding of the historical
circumstances.  Given the historical development of Cuba, strikes are
counter-revolutionary. Things are what they are because things are what
they are.Class antagonism cannot take the form of strikes in Cuba
because class antagonism is in the process of disappearing in Cuba,
because Cuba is led by Socialists because everybody says so. 
Again, things are what they are because things are what they
are. QED.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Autumn of the Driveler

On the Marxmail list, Louis Proyect posted an article from Counterpunch (September 17 - 19, 2010) by Alexander Cockburn entitled Autumn of the Driveler.
If President Raúl Castro wants to defend Cuba’s record on human
rights, all he needs to do point to the fact that his brother has
not been deposed from his formal position as First Secretary of
the Communist Party, and carted off to an isolation ward in the
Casa de Dementes, Havana’s psychiatric hospital. Instead he has
unstinted access to the state radio and the newspaper Granma.

In both of these media Castro, now 84, has spouted a steady stream
of drivel. Memorable among these forays intonutdom was his outburst of
conspiracism on the sixth anniversary of the Trade Center/Pentagon
attacks with the whole slab of nonsense read out by a Cuban
television presenter.
Castro claimed that the Pentagon was hit by a rocket, not a plane,
because no traces were found of its passengers. "Only a projectile
could have created the geometrically round orifice created by the
alleged airplane," according to Fidel. "We were deceived as well
as the rest of the planet's inhabitants." All nonsense of course.
There were remains of the passengers on the plane that hit the
Pentagon, in the form of teeth and other bits traced through DNA.
Hundreds of people saw the plane -- people who know the difference
between a plane and a cruise missile. The wreckage of the plane
was hauled out from the site
.
 Of course Fidel never showed any sign of mental instability or paranoia 
prior to his 80th birthday.
He was just a guy who enjoyed 6-hour long speeches in which "Fidel 
connects to the people in a way much more profound than democracy. He is 
the Cuban people. They respond to his every word with shouts, with 
cries, with drumming, with dancing, with the thousand expressions of the 
Cuban psyche. Truely Fidel is the Cuban people and the Cuban people is 
Fidel" (Che Guevara)
His long TV appearences would tell people how their island was 
constantly under attack (true enough), how they had to beware of 
saboteurs (true enough) and how mistakes had been made , how socialism 
could not be rushed, and why they had to help make next year's zaffra 
(sugar cane harvest) the biggest ever.
He was just a guy who believed that Khrutshev had made the biggest 
mistake (true enough, it cost him his job) in his life by not forcing 
the US exclusion zone on nuclear missiles. "They  the Soviets] must 
press on the button first, goddamit ! The first nuclear strike 
guarantees a win. So what if the world is reduced to ashes. From these 
ashes socialism will be born. It is the shame I cannot live with, not 
the nuclear war !" (Castro in 1962)

Anyway, Raul is still as sane as you or me (well maybe not you and me, 
given that we are for the emancipation of the working class) so it's 
natural that he should be in charge.

By the way, talking of conspiracy theories, how exactly did Cienfuegos 
meet his untimely demise ?
A Havana worker and one of the first leaders of the Cuban revolution, he 
was, as well as one of Che's friends, the son of Spanish Anarchists who 
had fled Spain. His politics were Marxist with "Libertarian 
leanings". He vehemently opposed the rapid infiltration of Communist 
elements in positions of power following the Cuban revolution. 
 He died in "an airplane accident" in 1959. Since the late 1990s, many 
new elements have come out implicating Fidel in the mysterious 
disappearence of "a great son of the revolution".
 
Camilo Cienfuegos