Progressive Calendar 05.15.07
From: David Shove (
Date: Tue, 15 May 2007 03:07:24 -0700 (PDT)
             P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   05.15.07

1. Mumia/KFAI      5.15 11am
2. Picket NWA      5.15 5pm
3. Korten/empire   5.15 5pm
4. Salon/poetry    5.15 6:30pm
5. Bacon/NAFTA     5.15 7pm
6. Spying on us    5.15 9pm
7. KoreanWar/art   5.15-6.02

8. CCHT breakfast  5.16 7:30am
9. Protest Posada  5.16 4:30pm
10. Schools        5.16 6:30pm
11. Sami/Iraq      5.16 7pm
12. Labor films    5.16 7pm
13. Military/abuse 5.16 7:30pm

14. Jennifer Roesch - The Mussolini of Manhattan: Giuliani time
15. James Petras    - Notes on cultural renaissance in a time of barbarism

-------1 of 15--------

From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at]>
Subject: Mumia/KFAI 5.15 11am

May 15th: 11 am on KFAI's "Catalyst:politics & culture", hosted by Lydia
Howell; hear updates about the appeal for political prinsoer and
Pennsylvania death Row dissident journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, whose
incisive commentaries can be hear in the Twin Cities ONLY on KFAI.

"Catalyst" airs Tuesdays, 11am on KFAI Radio, 90.3 fm Mpls 106.7 fm St.
Paul online at All shows archived online for 2 weeks
after broadcast.

-------2 of 15--------

From: Karen Schultz <schulars [at]>
Subject: Picket NWA 5.15 5pm

Northwest Employees Fight for Fairness

Northwest Airlines employees will conduct informational picketing May 15
at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport to demonstrate their
anger over NWA management's manipulation of the bankruptcy court that
awarded lavish double-digit million dollar bonuses for NWA executives
while at the same time forcing 40 percent pay cuts on the rank and file
employees (see below for details).

"Northwest Airlines will not have a successful future if its employees are
angry and demoralized," said Capt. Dave Stevens, chairman of the Northwest
Minneapolis, MN Airlines unit of the Air Line Pilots Association. "It is
unconscionable to yuse employees' pay cuts to provide huge bonuses to the
same executive team that led our company into bankruptcy."

Also joining the fight is the Association of Flight Attendants-CWA
(AFA-CWA) and other NWA employees.

"Northwest is well ahead of their business plan, but they refuse to offer
their own employees, families and communities relief," said Jay Hong, NWA
AFA President, "Instead they want our pain to be the executives' gain.
Enough is enough. Rather than worrying about retaining executives who have
driven this company into bankruptcy, they need to worry about their
employees who have built this company and continue to it."

In August 2006, Northwest Airlines employees collectively began giving
Northwest Airlines management $1.4 billion dollars in annual concessions.
While employees have struggled to adjust their family budgets by over 40
percent relative to their cuts in wages and benefits, Northwest recently
announced that it will reward its "top executives" with $400 million once
the company emerges from bankruptcy. NWA CEO Doug Steenland will alone
receive a $26.6 million bonus.

Northwest Unions Picket Executive Stock Plan
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport (MSP) Lindberg Terminal
Departure Level Across from Ticketing, Parking Garage Side
Tuesday, May 15 from 5:00 pm to 6:30 pm

For more information about the ALPA or the AFA, please visit their
respective websites: and .

CONTACTS: Will Holman (ALPA), 612-840-7749 and Andy Wisbacher (AFA-CWA),

--------3 of 15--------

From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at]>
Subject: Korten/empire 5.15 5pm

St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN 15) viewers:
"Our World In Depth" cablecasts at 5 pm and midnight each Tuesday and 10
am each Wednesday in St. Paul.  All households with basic cable can watch.

5/15 and 5/16 "David Korten: The Great Turning from Empire to Earth
Community".  Presentation by author Korten recorded April '07 in Mpls.

--------4 of 15--------

From: patty <pattypax [at]>
Subject: Salon/poetry 5.15 6:30pm

Tuesday, May 15 , we will read the poems of Martin Espada.  His new
collection is called The Republic of Poetry, but he has several other
books, too.  Try the internet if you can't get any books.  You will be
astounded. He has been described as "the Pablo Neruda of North American

Pax Salons ( ) are held (unless otherwise
noted in advance): Tuesdays, 6:30 to 8:30 pm. Mad Hatter's Tea House, 943
W 7th, St Paul, MN

Salons are free but donations encouraged for program and treats.
Call 651-227-3228 or 651-227-2511 for information.

--------5 of 15--------

From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at]>
Subject: Bacon/NAFTA 5.15 7pm

The Untold Stories series concludes with a presentation by David Bacon,
author of Children of NAFTA, on Tuesday, May 15, at 7 p.m., at the
Metropolitan State University/Dayton's Bluff Branch Library, Ecolab Room,
645 E. Seventh St., Saint Paul.

Children of NAFTA: Labor Wars on the U.S./Mexico Border investigates the
impact of the North American Free Trade Agreement on those who labor in
the agricultural fields and maquiladora factories on the border.
Journalist Bacon paints a powerful portrait of poverty and struggle,
offering a devastating critique of NAFTA in the most pointed and in-depth
examination of border workers published to date.  Bacon is joined by
Javier Morillo, president of SEIU Local 26.

--------6 of 15--------

From: Richard Dechert <ldechert [at]>
Subject: Spying on us 5.15 9pm

On tpt-2, 5/15 at 9-10pm and 5/16 at 3-4am; tpt-17, 5/16 at 9-10pm.

Also Live Discussion: Chat with correspondent Hedrick Smith on 5/16 at
11am ET. For details, see:>.

After 9/11 former Attorney General John Ashcroft says President Bush told
him, "Never let this happen again."  Ashcroft tells FRONTLINE how he
interpreted the president's injunction, "Now not letting something happen
is different from proving something happened.  The old business of the
Justice Department to be able to prosecute the criminal and declare
victory is not good enough when you lose 3,000 people and the criminals
purposefully extinguish themselves in the perpetration of the crime."

In "Spying on the Home Front" this Tuesday, correspondent Hedrick Smith
and producer Rick Young investigate what the new 'prevention' paradigm
means to civil liberties here at home. In one case, the FBI conducted a
data sweep on 250,000 Las Vegas vacationers after receiving a non specific
threat that Al Qaeda was interested in Vegas as a target.

In another case, a curious employee at AT&T in San Francisco learned that
the whole flow of internet traffic in that office was being diverted to
the National Security Agency which had installed a 'black box' in a super
secret room. One expert says that it appears NASA set up these boxes in
10-15 AT&T sites across the country with the ability to intercept about 10
per cent of all internet traffic.

There's much more.  The Government Accounting Office found 50 government
agencies with nearly 200 data mining projects underway. In the age of the
super computer, private companies are amassing vast amounts of data about
all of us. From home mortgages to spending habits, virtual digital
dossiers are being created every day. Correspondent Smith wonders what
happens when the government does this kind of data mining, moving from our
tradition of individualized suspicion, to checking out everybody to find
who are the bad guys.

The former head of counter terrorism for the FBI, Larry Mefford, told
FRONTLINE: "I can give you more security, but I've got to take away some
rights. And so there's a balance."  For a look at how the balance is being
struck today, we hope you will be able to join us Tuesday, but if not,
"Spying on the Home Front" will be up and streaming the day after
broadcast on our Web site, where you'll also find more background on this
story and the opportunity to express your opinion about the report at>.  Louis Wiley, Jr. Executive

[Spying on us is done in the interest of the ruling class, who fears that
someday we may get wise and end their dominion. As always, in every
country in history. -ed]

--------7 of 15--------

From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at]>
Subject: KoreanWar/art 5.15-6.02

Peace artwork
"Rendezvous" (detail) by Aesop Rhim

Intermedia Arts, 2822 Lyndale Ave. S. Minneapolis
Open daily NOON to 5pm

STILL PRESENT PASTS is a unique traveling art and multi-media exhibit that
encourages reflection about the devastation of war for all Americans by
exploring the legacies of the Korean War. Still Present Pasts will feature
local Korean American artists and include a series of educational,
outreach, and artistic events. See for a
complete and updated list of events.

--------8 of 15--------

From: Philip Schaffner <PSchaffner [at]>
Subject: CCHT breakfast 5.16 7:30am

Central Community Housing Trust
CCHT's 2007 Beyond Bricks & Mortar fundraising breakfast will be on May
16, 7:30 - 8:30 a.m. at the Hilton in downtown Minneapolis.

register online: <>

Central Community Housing Trust 1625 Park Ave Minneapolis, MN 55404 (612)

--------9 of 15--------

From: Minnesota Cuba Committee <mncuba [at]>
Subject: Protest Posada 5.16 4:30pm

Protest on Wednesday, May 16, against the release of Luis Posada Carriles!
4:30 - 6:00 -- Federal Courthouse --
3rd Ave. and 4th Street Minneapolis

Luis Posada Carriles is a long-time admitted and convicted terrorist,
trained by the CIA to carry out deadly attacks on Cuba. He is responsible
for the murder of 73 people in the 1976 bombing of a Cuban airliner, and
for Havana hotel bombings in the 1990's that killed an Italian tourist. In
the 1970s, as an official in Venezuela's "intelligence" police, he
tortured and murdered Venezuelan activists. In Panama in 2000, he led a
group of terrorists to try to assassinate Fidel Castro with 33 pounds of
explosives, which if, successful, would have also killed hundreds of
students where Castro was due to speak. In 2005, Posada illegally entered
the United States, and has since been treated with kid gloves by the Bush

On May 8, federal judge Kathleen Cordone dropped all charges against
Posada and he now walks free in Miami. His case was featured on Democracy
Now on May 9 and 10 and was the subject of editorials on May 11 in the LA
Times, the Washington Post and others calling for him to be brought to
justice. (A link to the articles can be found at

Sponsored by Minnesota Cuba Committee, mncuba [at]

--------10 of 15--------

From: umjoe [at]
Subject: Schools 5.16 6:30pm

[SPIF] May 16 super inner city hs principal will speak

Why does the Ohio Dept of Education rated an inner city high school with
no admissions test as "Excellent," the highest of five ranks a public
school can be rated?  Why does the school consistently do better with
inner city African American students than mostly white suburban high
schools?  How does separate young women and young men in academic classes?
How does it partner with a local university and social service agency?
Answers to these and other questions at a free presentation by the
founder/principal of this Cincinnati Public School next WEDNESDAY night,
May 16, 6:30 at the Capril Theatre, 2027 West Broadway, In Minneapolis

The presentation is sponsored by the HOPE Collaboration, a new Twin Cities
group including educators, community members, and political leaders.

For more info, please see attached or call Joe Nathan 612 625-3506

--------11 of 15--------

From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at]>
Subject: Sami/Iraq 5.16 7pm

Iraqi-American Sami Rasouli Wednesday, May 16, 7:00 p.m. Unity
Church-Unitarian, 732 Holly Avenue, St. Paul. FFI: Call Rachel,
651-436-2238 or email <rachel.kaul [at]>.

--------12 of 15--------

From: bkucera [at]
Subject: Labor films 5.16 7pm

Wednesday, May 16: The University of Minnesota Labor Education Service
will screen the final two films in the 2006-2007 Labor & Community Film
Series: Transnational Tradeswomen and Sisters of Philadelphia. The showing
will start at 7 p.m. at the Lakes & Plains Regional Council of Carpenters,
700 Olive St., St. Paul.

Transnational Tradeswomen (62 minutes) is a documentary by former
construction worker Vivian Price that explores the current and historical
roles of women in the construction industry in Asia discovering
several startling facts. Capturing footage that shatters common
stereotypes, Price discovers that women in many parts of Asia have been
doing construction labor for centuries. But conversations with these women
show that development and the resulting mechanization are pushing them out
of the industry. Their stories disturb the notion of "progress" that many
people hold and show how globalization, modernization, education and
technology don't always result in gender equality and the alleviation of
poverty. Celebrating a range of women workers - from a Japanese truck
driver and two young Pakistani women working on a construction site in
Lahore, to a Taiwanese woman who works alongside her husband - this
film deftly probes the connections in their experiences.

Sisters of Philadelphia (11 minutes) is a film produced by and for women
carpenters in Philadelphia. K.S. Haskey, the director, has worked as a
U.B.C.J. carpenter for over 21 years. She highlights the warmth and spirit
that women in the trades bring to their work and to the labor movement
overall. The film showing is co-sponsored with the Lakes & Plains Council
of Carpenters and Women in the Trades.

--------13 of 15--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at]>
Subject: Military/abuse 5.16 7:30pm

Wednesday, 5/16, 7:30 pm, Dr Mic Hunter discusses his book "Honor Betrayed:
Sexual Abuse in the Military," Magers and Quinn Books, 3038 Hennepin Ave S,
Mpls. or 612-822-4611.

--------14 of 15--------

The Mussolini of Manhattan
Giuliani Time
May 14, 2007

With the Bush presidency in a free-fall and Republicans scrambling to find
a candidate with as little connection as possible to the White House,
former New York City Mayor Rudolph Giuliani is back at center stage.

Despised in New York as a lame-duck mayor through much of his second term,
Giuliani today is leading in opinion polls among contenders for the
Republican presidential nomination.

Giuliani's popularity is the result of the September 11 attacks in New
York. That year, Time magazine declared him its "Person of the Year," and
he became known as "America's mayor." He projected an image of a tough but
compassionate leader who would unite New Yorkers and "heal the wounds" of
a traumatized city.

Another aspect of Giuliani's appeal is his carefully nurtured image as a
moderate on social issues - especially gay rights and a woman's right to
choose abortion - an aberration in a Republican Party where the Religious
Right seems to call the shots. This image has been aided by a compliant
media that paints Giuliani as able to reach across partisan lines to
provide leadership in times of crisis.

The reality could not be more different - and Giuliani's reign as mayor of
New York proves it.

* * *
In 1993, Giuliani rode to power on the wave of a racist backlash against
African American Mayor David Dinkins. Once in office, Giuliani was
unapologetic in appealing to racist stereotypes to drive through his
policies. During his time as mayor, Giuliani led a racist war on working
and poor New Yorkers that slashed social services, threw women and
children off welfare, attacked union rights and spurred an epidemic of
police brutality.

Giuliani has made it clear that he intends to carry this "tough on crime"
agenda - now repackaged as "tough on terrorism" - into the presidential

In a recent New Hampshire appearance, he took a page out of Dick Cheney's
book, suggesting that the U.S. would be more vulnerable to a terrorist
attack if the Democrats were elected.

"If one of them gets elected, it sounds to me like we're going on the
defense," he said. "We've got a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq. We're
going to wave the white flag there. We're going to try to cut back on the
Patriot Act. We're going to cut back on electronic surveillance. We're
going to cut back on interrogation. We're going to cut back, cut back, cut
back, and we'll be back in our pre-September 11 mentality of being on

Another carryover from the Giuliani years in New York City is his blatant
appeal to racism. While campaigning in the South, this "social moderate"
defended flying the Confederate flag as an issue of "state's rights" - the
rallying cry of the Jim Crow South 40 years ago.

As for his supposedly liberal credentials on social issues, Giuliani has
shown that he is willing to shift positions to appease a right-wing

For example, while he has long been known as a supporter of abortion
rights, Giuliani recently backed the Supreme Court decision upholding a
federal ban on a late-term abortion procedure misnamed "partial birth
abortion" by the right. Giuliani says that if he were president, he would
appoint "strict constructionist" judges - a phrase that many consider code
for overturning the Roe v. Wade decision that legalized abortion.

* * *
IF ANYONE wants to know what a Giuliani presidency would really look like,
they should go back to his years as mayor of New York during the 1990s.

Giuliani is credited with an urban renewal in NYC that cut crime rates and
revived the economy and tourism. While he did create a Disneyland version
of NYC, complete with a redeveloped Times Square and booming Wall Street,
the reality of what happened to working-class and poor New Yorkers during
his time in office is a much darker story.

Giuliani came to power in the context of a racially divided city. During
his election campaign, he spoke at a police "protest" - in reality, a
drunken brawl of white cops - held on the steps of City Hall against the
establishment of a civilian complaint review board. Complete and
unapologetic support for the NYPD became a hallmark of his tenure.

As soon as he took office, Giuliani announced a "quality of life"
campaign, claiming that by going after small-time offenses, the city would
be able to root out more violent crimes.

The symbol of this campaign was Giuliani's plan to drive "squeegee
men" - homeless people who wiped windshields at traffic stops for
money - from NYC streets. Giuliani's cops went after them with a
ruthlessness that foreshadowed much greater brutality to come. As the
campaign got underway, an off-duty cop shot and killed an unarmed
"squeegee man" - and defended his actions on the basis that the man was a

Treating misdemeanors as equal to more serious crimes meant ratcheting up
the level of violence and repression in poor, minority communities. The
underlying assumption of the new "stop and frisk" policy was that all
Blacks and Latinos were potential criminals. A report by then-Attorney
General Eliot Spitzer found that Latinos were stopped 39 percent more
often than whites under the policy, and Blacks were stopped 23 percent
more often.

The year before Giuliani took office, 720 people were arrested for
misdemeanor marijuana-related offenses; by 2000, the number had jumped to
59,495 - an increase of 4,549 percent. During a 10-month period in 1996,
50,000 people detained on misdemeanors were strip-searched by the
Department of Corrections.

These kinds of aggressive policies gave a green light to the NYPD to
terrorize Black and Latino communities.

When unarmed cousins Anthony Rosario and Hilton Vega were shot in the back
and killed while they lay face down on the floor in 1995, Giuliani called
the officers and congratulated them on their performance. When Anthony's
mother, Margarita Rosario, began organizing in protest, Giuliani told her
that her son died because she was a bad mother.

This attitude was exemplified most starkly when cops tortured and
sodomized Abner Louima in a Brooklyn police station in 1997. Even after
the killing of Amadou Diallo - shot 41 times in the hallway of his
building in 1999 - Giuliani maintained his defense of the police and his
opposition to any kind of reform of the NYPD.

Giuliani and his supporters defended these actions by claiming that "tough
on crime" policies were crucial to a decline in crime statistics. But a
look at the statistics shows that the drop in crime began 36 months before
Giuliani took office - while Dinkins was still mayor. In fact, the 1990s
saw a national reduction in crime, due largely to demographic and economic

* * *
IN REALITY, the dramatic escalation of repression was needed to manage a
city that saw an expansion of economic and social polarization during the
Giuliani era.

Despite the Wall Street boom of the 1990s, living standards for working
class and poor New Yorkers actually declined. By 2000, one in four New
Yorkers lived in poverty - basically the same rate as during the 1989-1992
recession a decade before, and nearly double the national average. That
same year, New York's homeless population reached its highest point since
1989, and the city had a shortfall of 390,000 affordable housing units for
low-income renters.

These statistics were the result of deliberate policies on the part of the
Giuliani administration. Throughout successive budgets, Giuliani cut
funding for municipal employees, schools and other social services, while
cutting taxes for the wealthy and Wall Street.

Some of the most devastating attacks came through Giuliani's restructuring
of the local welfare system.

In one of the most sweeping attacks on recipients, Giuliani converted
welfare offices to "job centers," introduced "workfare" requirements, cut
funding and actively discouraged and prevented poor people from getting
the benefits they were entitled to. In 1994, 27 percent of applicants were
rejected from welfare. By November 1999, 75 percent of job center
applicants and 52 percent of applicants overall were rejected. In the four
years following welfare reform, the food stamp rolls were reduced by 35

These figures weren't the result of recipients moving off welfare into new
jobs. In fact, of the first 5,300 people to enter the city's job search
program, only 265 people were placed.

Instead, people were forced off the rolls and into the Work Experience
Program (WEP) to perform previously unionized jobs at sweatshop wages.
Thus, between 1991 and 1999, the WEP workforce in the Parks Department
grew from 170 to 2,389, while regular Parks employees dropped from 4,285
to 2,101. WEP workers in the Parks Department made $1.80 an hour -
compared to an average wage for Parks employee of $8.65.

At the same time, 13,000 students in the CUNY public education system were
forced out of college and into workfare programs.

Numerous investigations uncovered the cruel methods used to cut the rolls.
At one point, a scandal erupted when it was discovered that welfare
centers were "losing" food stamp applications - thus, making it impossible
for recipients to apply.

Giuliani's treatment of the homeless was equally callous. At one point, he
housed homeless applicants for emergency shelter - including children - in
a former jail. During his administration, spending on affordable housing
was cut by 44 percent, and the creation of apartments for the homeless
declined by 75 percent. At the same time, police conducted aggressive
sweeps to keep the homeless off city streets and out of view.

The real legacy of "Giuliani time" is a city where Wall Street executives
celebrate enormous bonuses with spectacular meals, washed down with trophy
wines - while the poor are increasingly pushed to the margins. A city
whose tourist centers glitter while service cuts leave garbage to
accumulate on the streets of working-class neighborhoods. A city where the
NYPD's thugs in blue continue to terrorize minority communities.

At a time when a majority of Americans believe that the war in Iraq should
end and more money should be spent on vital social services, Giuliani
would represent a return to the heyday of the "Republican Revolution": a
war on the poor that threw women and children into the streets, civil
liberties gutted, and "tough on crime" policies that devastated Black and
Latino communities.

Jennifer Roesch lives in New York. She writes for the Socialist Worker.

--------15 of 15--------

Notes on Cultural Renaissance in a Time of Barbarism
by James Petras / May 13th, 2007


We live in a time of imperial-driven destructive wars in the name of
"democracy," savage exploitation in the name of "emerging world powers,"
massive forced population displacement in the name of "immigration" and
large-scale pillage of natural resources in the name of "free markets". We
live in a time of barbarism and the barbarian elites employ an army of
linguistic and cultural manipulators to justify their conquests.

The great crimes against most of humanity are justified by a corrosive
debasement of language and thought - a deliberate fabrication of
euphemisms, falsehoods and conceptual deceptions. Cultural expressions are
a central determinant in class, national, ethnic and gender relations.
They reflect and are products of political, economic and social power. But
just as power is ultimately a social relation between antagonistic
classes, cultural expressions are also mediated through the lenses,
experiences and interests of the dominant elites and their rebellious

Even as the writers of the barbarous elites have fabricated a linguistic
world of terror, of demons and saviors, of axes of good and evil, of
euphemisms which embellish the crimes against humanity, so have new groups
of writers, artists and collective participants come forth to clarify
reality and elucidate the existential and collective bases for
demystifying the lies and creating a new cultural reality.

In the face of elite barbarism, a cultural renaissance is born.
Revelations of crimes are made through journalistic investigations, plays
and songs. Affirmations of integrity, social solidarity and individual
rejections of the monetary enticements strengthen moral commitment in the
face of ever-present threats, assassinations and official censure.

The great crimes of the imperial powers and their local clients include
the massacres and daily death counts, propaganda, which pronounces every
victim a criminal, and every criminal a savior. The political delinquents
have not, do not and cannot silence, deafen or blind a new generation of
critical intellectuals, poets and artists who speak truth to the people.

There are several themes which are essential in the advancement of the
emerging cultural renaissance and our challenge to the reign of barbarism:
These include the politics of language, conceptual misconceptions and
intellectual courage in everyday life. The great conflict is between the
power of the mass media and collective solidarity, and the false
association of class with high and mass culture.

                      The Politics of Language

The corruption of language is a prescription for complicity in political
crimes. Corruption of language takes the form of euphemisms concocted by
propagandists, transmitted through the mass media, echoed in the pompous
language of academics, judges, and translated into the gutter language of
the sensationalist yellow press. Monstrous crimes against rural
communities perpetuated by the police state are described as
"pacification"; reduction of salaries and social services are described as
"stabilization"; and the elimination of labor legislation protecting
employment from arbitrary firings and weakening of trade unions is
described as "labor flexibilization".

Human rights advocates defending victims of military violence are called
"accomplices of terrorists"; systematic state and paramilitary violence is
called national security; opposition to military and political linkages to
death squads is called terrorism; large scale counter-insurgency plans
designed and funded by foreign imperial powers are labeled measures for
"national salvation".

There is also the pretext of providing a pseudo-scientific neutral
terminology to inhuman acts - destroying thousands of communities and
displacing millions is described as "liquidating subversive elements" and
likened to the extermination of noxious insects.

Euphemisms are a form of collective anesthesia - to tranquilize the
population not directly affected by state violence. The imagery evoked by
euphemisms is always portrayed as benign to obscure the malignant reality.
To "pacify" suggests a "pacifier" and allows a parent to gently calm an
infant and eliminate its irritable cries. "Pacification" of a people means
the opposite: the violent eruption of military forces into a tranquil
community that causes screams of pain and shudders of death.

Stabilization in the mouths of state authorities means to reduce trade and
budget deficits by lowering wages and salaries while retaining subsidies
and tax-exemptions for the ruling class. Stabilization for big business
and the banks means de-stabilization for the working class and the poor:
the loss of health services, increases in the prices of basic commodities
like food and transportation and the loss of employment leading to family
break-ups, children leaving school, single parent homes and rising rates
of suicide and alcoholism.

The dress rehearsal for any political and social transformation is
linguistic clarity - speaking and writing in a language in which words and
concepts evoke the reality we live, especially the differential class
impact of specific policies. The unmasking of euphemisms is not a job for
linguists but for all committed intellectuals and artists.

                       Language and the Left

Too many times the left fails to elucidate the meaning of euphemisms -
resorting to the lazy device of hanging quotation marks around the
targeted phrase. The quotation marks are meant to indicate irony and
criticism or rejection of the euphemism - but they are just as
obscurantist as the euphemism they seek to discredit. For example, many
writers deal with authoritarian or police state regimes which claim to be
democratic by simply putting quotes around "democracy" - as if the quotes
are self-explanatory. The critics fail to take the time and make the
effort to elaborate a more precise term, which captures the cognitive
meaning of the political system. The resort to quotation marks has a long
tradition of abuse on the left, an abuse that serves to undermine the
pedagogical purposes of educating the popular classes and providing a new
and useful political vocabulary.

More recently, especially among intellectuals who have a pretense of
communicating or leading the working class and peasantry, they abuse
popular understanding by swearing. When using "swear words" intellectuals
abdicate their responsibility to widen the vocabulary of the working class
or peasant activists. When workers or peasants resort to swear words, much
depends on the context and tonality to determine meaning. The same swear
word can be a denunciation or a term of affection, depending on the
context. But when there is a political vocabulary that is more precise and
varied, the pseudo-populist intellectual should introduce and define its
meaning instead of pretending to establish rapport on the basis of the
most limited and simplistic level of communication: vulgarity.

The intellectual playing down to the workers and peasants doesn't raise
their understanding; instead it reduces the literacy of the intellectual.

The other side of the coin is the problem of the exoticism of the
intellectual: The use of an unfamiliar, abstract language derived from
highly specialized texts, which fail to connect to the concrete realities
and struggles of the workers and peasants. The task for intellectuals is
to take complex ideas and make them comprehensible - to illustrate ideas
from everyday practice. It is easier to write for other intellectuals than
it is to take the effort of explaining the content and meaning of a
concept to the popular classes. But that is what must be done without
condescension or over-simplification.

          Conceptual Clarity: Between Democracy and Barbarism

Conceptual perversion is the opium of the intellectual apologists of state
terror. What are the concepts, which are most often perverted? What are
the most frequent acts of perversion? How and why do these obscene
activities take place?

The most frequent concepts subject to perversion by state power are
democracy, citizenship (or citizenry), civil society and free elections.

Democracy, as it is used by foreign and domestic apologist of the terror
state, reduces democracy to a set of electoral procedures, competition by
two or more competing parties and legislative and executive institutions
based on the elections. The most essential elements of democracy, the
freedom to speak, organize, assemble and protest are excluded; death
squad, police and military violence resulting in systematic assassination,
kidnapping and disappearances undermine the entire context leading up to
the election. In other words, state terror undermines the political
context for free elections, for competitive parties and critical
candidates. The widespread and intensive use of force and violence in the
run-up to the elections determines the consequences of the elections:
alternation of leaders within the narrow confines of the ruling oligarchy.
Electoral procedures subject to state terror and systematic assassinations
and intimidation are clearly incompatible with any substantive conception
of democracy. The systematic physical elimination of political opponents
and the psychological intimidation of the mass electorate define a police

Associating state terror and political threats with democracy is a gross
perversion of the very foundations of the democratic process: the freedom
to choose to run for office and to pursue alternatives to the existing
system. Some writers refer to death-squad-democracies - states in which
state-promoted death squads condition electoral processes. The irony of
this expression - the linking of opposites is a reminder of George
Orwell's phrase "slavery is democracy". Likewise, some speak of
imperial-democracy to refer to the US in which domestic policy is
democratic while the imperial foreign policy dictates the harsh rules of
violence and dictatorial regimes. These hyphenated terms however are
static conceptions; empire building, especially in periods of defeat and
domestic unrest can lead to the usurpation of dictatorial executive power
- imperial democracy becomes an imperial police state.

Another concept, which has been corrupted by the apologists of state
power, is civil society - namely the social classes, organizations and
associations that are independent of the state. The apologists of state
terror, who call for the defense of civil society, refer only to specific
elite civil organizations and obfuscate their intimate inter-relations
with the police state. Their virtuous civil society excludes the
independent peasant associations and class-oriented trade unions. While
speaking in defense of civil society, they defend the police state engaged
in the assassination of civil society leaders as constituted by
independent jurists, lawyers, peasants, workers, students and others. The
decimation of civil society in the name of civil society describes a state
of barbarism - the barbarous state under the facade of competitive
oligarchic electoral politics.

                  Citizenship and the Barbarous State

The full or partial exercise of civic virtues is a perilous undertaking in
the barbarous state. The record is clear in Colombia: 3 million forcibly
displaced rural citizens, 40,000 citizens killed by the paramilitary and
military, tens of thousands of citizens forced into exile or into hiding.
For many citizens the decision to continue to fully exercise their civic
duties, exercising their social rights to organize civic action and their
political rights to question arbitrary oligarchic rule is fraught with
danger, on a daily basis. For many others, the more prudent citizens, they
choose to operate within the institutional parameters imposed by the
oligarchy, using Aesopian language, to voice their dissent against state
violence. Presidents of barbarous states who publicly denounce citizens
exercising their civic rights are writing a death sentence - usually
exercised by sicario-motorcyclists shooting trade unionists going to work,
human rights lawyers leaving their offices, peasant activists tilling
their fields.

The everyday exercise of civic virtues in a state of barbarism is a heroic
deed. Civility, in the face of death threats emanating from political
leaders with immunity is a virtue that can only be attributed to the
citizen. Civility is not embedded in the political system; it exists
despite and against the barbarian state. Under extreme conditions, civic
consciousness can include non-voting or abstention. These can be
considered meretricious acts particularly where the oligarchs control the
political process and voting only serves to provide a veneer of
pseudo-legitimacy to the barbarians in power. Where political alternatives
emerge, free of oligarchic control, citizens may choose to exercise their
political rights to assemble and collectively decide to break with the
system and apparatus of violence.

              Political Tragedies or Political Criminality?

Many progressive writers and artists, when writing of the lost
potentialities of countries with great human and material richness because
of misrule, speak of political tragedies. This is a serious misconception,
which misconstrues the nature of tragedy and the abuse of political power.
A political tragedy exists, in the classical sense, when well-intentioned
rulers with flawed characters inadvertently commit acts of horror - family
killings - or plunge their countries into devastating wars over slight
pretexts; out of individual pride (hubris).

The barbaric acts of violence of the oligarchic rulers are not the result
of individual flaws; they are products of collective, deliberate,
systematic acts of pillage, exploitation and the usurpation of small
land-owners. The acts of war are against the communities in their realm.
The reasons for war are not personal slights, but the defense of
indefensible privileges, illegitimate power and great concentrations of

The systematic long-term, large-scale violence of a succession of
oligarchic rulers against their citizens and the impoverishment of a
potentially rich country is not a tragedy. It is a political crime, or
more accurately a crime against humanity. When we speak of political
tragedies, let us speak of ancient classical Athens or Shakespeare's
Hamlet, not contemporary Colombia, a state where the narrative is more
akin to the genealogy of the Mafia.

Tragedy speaks to good rulers who through excess pride commit a political
crime. The audience of a tragedy identifies, at least at the beginning
with the ruler and their apparent virtues and benign rule. As the ruler
moves inexorably to their fall, the audience is repulsed by the crime, but
as justice is meted they experience a catharsis - a sense of civic virtue
redeemed, even a feeling that political absolutism, even exercised by a
once virtuous ruler, has been duly punished. A sense of citizen ambiguity
regarding the human condition, even among those occupying the highest
sphere of politics, remains in the public consciousness.

In contrast, contemporary oligarchic rulers begin their tenure in office
as homicidal delinquents. Their very electoral campaigns are plagued with
murder, mayhem and massacres' Upon becoming heads of states, there is no
ambiguity: The Presidents' closest associates are oligarchs, their
Congressional supporters are elected by the illicit funds of
narco-traffickers and the rule is imposed by guns and machetes of paid

Criminal acts of rulership continue in perpetuity with no redeeming
virtues. At no point in time does the audience - the citizens - express
any emotional identification. On the contrary, as the crimes multiply,
their emotional indignation and repudiation grows more intense. With the
system of justice so thoroughly corrupted and the mass media complicit,
the people find no publicly expressive redemption - no sense of justice
emerges because, unlike the Greek or Shakespearean tragedies, there is no
end to the horror. Political criminality that permeates the contemporary
barbarous state will not emerge from an elite redeemer.

                 Colombia: Heroes in Everyday Life

Many are the literary critics and large is the public that looks to
celebrities in film and sports and Nobel Prize winners as their virtual
heroes and heroines. I must confess however that my heroes and heroines
are neither saints nor notables, not even the great critics and
world-renowned intellectuals in the US or Europe.

The most admirable are those Colombians who work steadily with great
energy and purpose in pursuit of the civic virtues of class solidarity
with the victims of the barbarous state and affirm their civic dignity
through their defense of human and social rights. Cultural celebrities and
intellectuals - notables especially in the North - have their world
reputations to protect them from the predator states when they criticize
injustice. For them it is an occasional grand moment - a press conference,
a public meeting, signing a petition. These small acts have meaning and
carry some moral weight.

But, to me, they shrink in stature faced with the everyday acts of courage
and solidarity, which engage trade union activists - beverage and farm
workers, coal miners - and human rights lawyers and professionals in the
face of daily acts of murder and threats of death. There is a great moral
distance between putting your life on the line every minute of the day, as
do Colombian peasants active in their movements, and the academics who
speak from the protection of the ivory towers of prestigious universities
in Europe and North America. The latter actions, because of their
celebrity status, may pressure the barbarous state to release a victim of
torture, and that is not insignificant especially for the individual in
question. The temporary lessening of intimidation provides a moment of
relief but once the celebrities, the Nobel Prize winners turn away to
their other professional pursuits, it is the workers, peasants, the
activists and social movements which have to face the life and death
threats and challenges in their everyday work, in their families and
neighborhoods. Their virtues of solidarity and civility, of militancy and
their consequential beliefs are what inspire me to believe that barbarism
is neither omnipotent nor is it our destiny.

Despite the pompous pronouncements by experts and critics of mass
communication who proclaim the power of the mass media, we know that
millions everywhere defy the media messages. They organize popular
protests, uprisings, general strikes despite the fact that every mass
media is against the mass action. Against the mass conformity of the mass
media, the spirit and traditions of class, family and community solidarity
have been far more successful than the media experts admit. In Venezuela
every major private mass media monopoly denounced President Chavez and
supported a coup against him - and yet he was reinstated in power and
elected three times each time by a larger majority.

The truth is that the barbaric state is vulnerable, tactically powerful
because of money and arms but strategically vulnerable: No institutions,
even those that buttress a police state, can stand in the face of a
sustained cultural and political resistance that exposes its deceptions,
its criminal acts, its corruption and depredations. The President of the
United States and his most loyal client in Latin American can still engage
in mass murder but nobody believes their lies and deceptions: When their
justifications for brutality relies solely on their control of force they
have already lost the political struggle.

To further their political demise and above all to ensure that another
barbarous oligarch does no replace them, a profound cultural revolution
must accompany the rupture with the political past. The passing of
barbarism requires a cultural renaissance; in which the best of art,
language, dance and music is not defined by class boundaries and taboos.

James Petras, a former Professor of Sociology at Binghamton University,
New York, owns a 50-year membership in the class struggle, is an adviser
to the landless and jobless in Brazil and Argentina, and is co-author of
Globalization Unmasked (Zed Books). His latest book is The Power of Israel
in the United States (Clarity Press, 2006). His forthcoming book is Rulers
and Ruled (Bankers, Zionists and Militants (Clarity Press, Atlanta). He
can be reached at: jpetras [at] Read other articles by James,
or visit James's website.

This article was posted on Sunday, May 13th, 2007 at 5:00 am and is filed
under Capitalism and Language. Send to a friend.

[I suggest we practice "humanitarian relocation" on the ruling class by
transporting them to some other planet, before this one dies of warming
caused by the ruling class. Other names for this generous policy are
"Pre-emptive transportation", "leave no ruling class person behind",
"elite habitat outsourcing", "Martian as a second language", and "flight
of (the) fancy". Once they're gone, Earth will at last have a chance to
become a "world without end" - ed]


   - David Shove             shove001 [at]
   rhymes with clove         Progressive Calendar
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