Progressive Calendar 04.19.08
From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)
Date: Sat, 19 Apr 2008 20:01:52 -0700 (PDT)
            P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R    04.19.08

1. Earth day          4.20 12:15pm
2. Stillwater vigil   4.20 1pm
3. Racial justice     4.20 2pm
4. Amnesty Intl       4.20 3pm
5. Single-payer docs  4.20 3pm
6. Pint counter pint  4.20 4pm
7. Larry Long concert 4.20 4pm
8. Full moon walk     4.20 7pm
9. KFAI/Indian        4.20 7pm

10. Peace walk        4.21 6pm RiverFalls WI
11. Iran/film         4.21 6:30pm
12. Landmine/dinner   4.21 6:30pm
13. Internet safety   4.21 7pm
14. Broderick/poems   4.21 7:30pm

15. Cynthia McKinney - Earth Day celebration
16. James Petras     - Venezuela: democracy, socialism and imperialism pt2

--------1 of 16--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com>
Subject: Earth day 4.20 12:15pm

Sunday, 4/20, 12:15 to 2 pm, Earth Day special program with Peace and
Justice Forum with Dennis Ormseth and Ingrid Vick talking about global
warming and Wanda Copeland talking about the metro clean energy resource
team project, $7 for lunch, Central Lutheran Church, 3rd Ave and 12th St,
Mpls.  dhilden [at] comcast.net or 612-825-1581.


--------2 of 16--------

From: scot b <earthmannow [at] comcast.net>
Subject: Stillwater vigil 4.20 1pm

A weekly Vigil for Peace Every Sunday, at the Stillwater bridge from 1- 2
p.m.  Come after Church or after brunch ! All are invited to join in song
and witness to the human desire for peace in our world. Signs need to be
positive.  Sponsored by the St. Croix Valley Peacemakers.

If you have a United Nations flag or a United States flag please bring it.
Be sure to dress for the weather . For more information go to
<http://www.stcroixvalleypeacemakers.com/>http://www.stcroixvalleypeacemakers.com/

For more information you could call 651 275 0247 or 651 999 - 9560


--------3 of 16--------

From: Lonnie Ellis <ellis.lonnie [at] gmail.com>
Subject: Racial justice 4.20 2pm

ISAIAH event: Summit on Racial Justice and a Healthy St. Paul. The event
will feature leaders in ISAIAH laying out our vision for a large crowd
including Mayor Coleman, St. Paul legislators and city council members.
Mayor Coleman will make a statement on reforming the city to enforce human
rights laws in contracting and affirmative action. Other issues to be
discussed include Central Corridor and Health.

Sunday, 4/20, 2 to 4 pm.
Mount Olivet Baptist Church
451 W. Central Ave
St Paul

Lonnie Ellis Director of Social Justice Ministry St. Thomas More Catholic
Community o: 651-227-7669 ext. 310 c: 612-205-5184


--------4 of 16--------

From: Gabe Ormsby <gabeo [at] bitstream.net>
Subject: Amnesty Intl 4.20 3pm

GROUP 37 APRIL MEETING REMINDER: SUNDAY, APRIL 20 - 3 TO 5 P.M.
Join us for our regular meeting on Sunday, April 20th, from 3:00 to 5:00
p.m.

Our presenter this month will be Linda Harris, Amnesty International
Country Specialist for South Africa and Minnesota State Coordinator for
the Friends of the World Food Program. After receiving her undergrad
degree from the University of Minnesota in 2002, Linda was a Peace Corps
Volunteer in South Africa. There, she worked in a rural hospital on
Voluntary Counseling and Testing for HIV and AIDS. After leaving South
Africa, she went to Paraguay and worked with Amnesty on the Stop Violence
Against Women Campaign. She received her Masters from the Monterey
Institute of International Studies in Human Rights, with a focus on the
interrelationship of gender-based violence and HIV and AIDS. She moved
back to Minneapolis a year and a half ago and now works on public policy
for HOME Line, a nonprofit that advocates for affordable housing and
homelessness needs, in addition to her role as the South Africa Country
Specialist for Amnesty International and the Minnesota State Coordinat or
for the Friends of the World Food Program.

At our meeting, Linda will be speaking primarily about her work with the
Friends of the World Food Program. Her presentation will begin promptly at
3:00.

In our second hour, we will share actions on human rights cases around the
world and get updates on the work of our sub-groups.

All are welcome at the meeting, and refreshments will be provided.

Location: Center for Victims of Torture, 717 E. River Rd. SE, Minneapolis
(corner of E. River Rd. and Oak St.). Park on street or in the small lot
behind the center (the Center is a house set back on a large lawn).
A map and directions are available on-line:
http://www.twincitiesamnesty.org/meetings.html


--------5 of 16--------

From: Don Pylkkanen <don [at] coact.org>
Subject: Single-payer docs 4.20 3pm

Most U.S. physicians now favor single-payer universal health care,
according to a recent national survey, which will be discussed by two PNHP
doctors on Air America this Sunday.

A recent national survey showing a majority of doctors favoring
single-payer universal health care will be discussed by two physicians on
Air America's Of the People, AM 950, this Sunday afternoon, April 20, 3
PM.

The physicians, who are members of Physicians for a National Health
Program- MN, will explain why the survey helps to justify enactment of the
Minnesota Health Act to create a single-payer health plan for all
Minnesotans.  The physicians group is a member organization of the
Minnesota Universal Health Care Coalition.

The broadcast is twelfth in a series on the Coalition's campaign for the
Health Act, co-authored by 57 legislators.  Subsequent series broadcasts
will continue on following Sundays.  Stay tuned and tell friends to listen
in.

Host James Mayer will get in as much phone time with callers as possible.
Call 952-946-6205.

You can also stream the program, as long as you can put in a MN zip code,
by going to HYPERLINK "http://www.airamericaminnesota.com/listen";
\nhttp://www.airamericaminnesota.com/listen


--------6 of 16--------

From: TDunnwald <tom [at] dunnwald.com>
Subject: Pint counter pint 4.20 4pm

Looking for a few good debaters and anyone else interested in helping out
with a monthly debate series

Join us at 4 p.m. on Sunday the 20th at the 331 Club, 13th and University
to finish plans for a series of issues debates on Second Sundays at the
331.  Tom at 612-245-9048 for further info.


--------7 of 16--------

From: Larry Olds <larryolds [at] comcast.net>
Subject: Larry Long concert 4.20 4pm

Some of you may know Larry Long from his years of movement work, not only
locally, but across the nation and the world (he just sent me this
announcement from Turkey), some may have been introduced to him at the
2007 PTO conference when he received the 2007 Award for Contribution of
Music in the Struggles for Justice and Peace.  In any case he is a local
treasure. 

Join us to hear him at the next Sunday afternoon.
Larry Long Earth Day Concert
First Universalist Church 3400 Dupont Avenue Minneapolis, Mn.
Sun, April 20, 2008 4 PM


--------8 of 16--------

From: "wamm [at] mtn.org" <wamm [at] mtn.org>
Subject: Full moon walk 4.20 7pm

Mississippi Gorge Full Moon Walk Around the Coldwater Area

Sunday, April 20, 7:00 p.m. Minnehaha Park, 54th Street South, Minneapolis
(South End of the Pay Parking Lot). Walk across the Minnehaha (Veterans
Administration) gorge bridge to the Mississippi River overlooking the Ford
dam. This beautiful walk will show the tops of the trees starting to leaf
and the Mississippi Gorge. "Rockhound" Alan Olson will be commenting on
the geology of the 451-million year old Mississippi bluff throughout the
walk. The 9-mile gorge from the confluence of the Mississippi and
Minnesota rivers upstream to the Falls of St. Anthony is the only true
river gorge on the entire 2,350-miles of the Mississippi River. The gorge
is 1,273-feet deep, filled with glacial debris. The walk is just over 1.5
miles. April's moon is called the Wind or Geese Egg Laying moon.
Traditional group howl! FFI: Visit <www.friendsofcoldwater.org>.


--------9 of 16--------

From: Chris Spotted Eagle <chris [at] spottedeagle.org>
Subject: KFAI/Indian 4.20 7pm

KFAI¹s Indian Uprising for April 20, 2008 from 7:00 - 8:00 p.m. CDT #262

Human Rights refers to the supposed "basic rights and freedoms to which
all humans are entitled." Examples of rights and freedoms which are often
thought of as human rights include civil and political rights, such as the
right to life and liberty, freedom of expression, and equality before the
law; and social, cultural and economic rights, including the right to
participate in culture, the right to food, the right to work, and the
right to education.

"All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are
endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a
spirit of brotherhood." ­­ Article 1 of the United Nations Universal
Declaration of Human Rights

Source, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Human_rights#cite_note-1

Congressman Alcee Hastings recently introduced House Resolution (H. Res.)
1055 recognizing the International Convention on the Elimination of All
Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) and calling on the United States to
meet its commitments to the treaty.  Resolution attached.

Guests:

Amalia Anderson (Latina), Steering Committee, Minnesota Chapter of the
National Lawyers Guild; Project Director, Main Street Project and
Co-Director of The Raíces Project, Minneapolis

Tovah Flygare (Davis Welsh clan), Steering Committee, Minnesota Chapter of
the National Lawyers Guild and Research Director of Minneapolis-based
Labor Community Services nonprofit, Working Partnerships, Inc.

William Means (Oglala Lakota), board member, International Indian Treaty
Council and Executive Director, Minnesota's Opportunities Industrialization
Center State Council

Indian Uprising a one-hour radio Public & Cultural Affairs program
relevant to Native Indigenous people, broadcast each Sunday at 7:00 p.m.
CDT over KFAI 90.3 FM Minneapolis and 106.7 FM St. Paul.  Producer and
host is volunteer Chris Spotted Eagle. To receive or stop getting
announcements, message Chris to radio [at] spottedeagle.org

For internet listening, visit www.kfai.org, click Play under ON AIR NOW or
for listening later via their archives, click PROGRAMS & SCHEDULE > Indian
Uprising > STREAM.  Programs are archived only for two weeks.


--------10 of 16--------

From: Nancy Holden <d.n.holden [at] comcast.net>
Subject: Peace walk 4.21 6pm RiverFalls WI

River Falls Peace and Justice Walkers. We meet every Monday from 6-7 pm on
the UWRF campus at Cascade Ave. and 2nd Street, immediately across from
"Journey" House. We walk through the downtown of River Falls. Contact:
d.n.holden [at] comcast.net.

Douglas H Holden 1004 Morgan Road River Falls, Wisconsin 54022


--------11 of 16--------

From: "wamm [at] mtn.org" <wamm [at] mtn.org>
Subject: Iran/film 4.21 6:30pm

WAMM Third Monday Movie and Discussion: "Bam 6.6"

Monday, April 21, 6:30 p.m. St. Joan of Arc Church, Hospitality Hall, 4537
Third Avenue South, Minneapolis. "Bam 6.6" is the story of the human
condition. The film weaves together stories of survival, loss, and
healing, as we explore the humanity of the Iranian people through the
prism of the devastating 2003 earthquake that struck at the heart of Bam,
an ancient Iranian village. The subjects come from different walks of life
- a Jewish-American woman, an American businessman, and the Iranian
residents of Bam. Through their experiences, viewers will witness how a
natural disaster can overcome religious and political barriers, dispel
stereotypes, and unite disparate members of the human family. Free and
open to the public. Sponsored by: the WAMM Third Monday Movies Committee.
FFI: Call WAMM, 612-827-5364.


--------12 of 16--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com>
Subject: Landmine/dinner 4.21 6:30pm

Monday, 4/21, 6:30 to 9 pm, Minnesota's Night of a Thousand Dinners to
benefit landmine clearance in Afghanistan, dinner for $30 ($15 tax
deductible for landmine removal), DaAfghan Restaurant, 929 W 80th St,
Bloomington.  Info from M Jay Shahidi, mjshahidiusa [at] aol.com or
612-328-1913.


-------13 of 16--------

From: Jonathan Barrentine <jonathan [at] e-democracy.org>
Subject: Internet safety 4.21 7pm

Our upcoming workshop will cover the basics of internet safety, including
protecting your computer, your personal information and your children.
This is a great workshop, so I hope to see many of you there.  Also, the
two meetings I mentioned last week have been moved: the SPED-Outreach
meeting is now April 28, and the Digital Inclusion Roundtable will not be
taking place till next month.  Finally, our May-June workshop series is
beginning soon; this time, we're running it as an eight-session class,
rather than a bunch of individual workshops, so if you know someone who
would benefit from our full curriculum, this would be a great time to
suggest that they start attending.  Keep reading for more information on
this and other topics.

INTERNET SAFETY

If you spend any time online (so that's all of you), or have kids who do,
come to our Internet Safety workshop this on Monday, April 21.  It will
feature discussions of protective software, avoiding scams, and being
"street smart" online.  This workshop is essential for anyone who owns a
computer with an internet connection, uses email, or has ever wondered
about how to stay safe while using sites like MySpace or Craigslist.  A
draft outline of topics that may be covered in this workshop is available
at http://pages.e-democracy.org/Internet_Safety

Internet Safety
FREE WORKSHOP

Monday, April 21th
7:00 - 8:30 PM
Rondo Community Outreach Library 461 North Dale University & Dale, St.
Paul

As always, the workshop is free, all are welcome to attend, and no
registration is needed.


--------14 of 16--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at] hotmail.com>
Subject: Broderick/poems 4.21 7:30pm

Monday, 4/21, 7:30 pm, Richard Broderick reads poems about the war and
other topics along with poet Diane Jarvenpa, Magers & Quinn, 3038 Hennepin
Ave S, Mpls.  612-822-4611.


--------15 of 16--------


Hello all!  I was invited to deliver an Earth Day message to the students at
Cal State Northridge.  I hope you enjoy my remarks:
Cynthia McKinney
Earth Day Celebration
California State University, Northridge
April 15, 2008

I would like to thank the students at Cal State University, Northridge for
inviting me to speak on campus today.  I have just returned from an
exciting trip to Mexico City and I'd like to share some of my observations
with you this afternoon.

First of all, it is important to note and ask the question why is it that
the corporate press are not even touching the events playing out right now
in the capital city of our neighbor to the south and their importance to
us? Had I not actually been there myself, I would be hard pressed to
convince any audience that events of this magnitude were actually taking
place anywhere in the world, let alone in a country as important and close
to us as Mexico.

A quick review of today's press shows us that we are currently being
titillated by news of sex tapes featuring Marilyn Monroe and another such
tape featuring an unnamed British Royal.  The top of the news hour greets
us with information of an intemperate statement made by a former
television executive about a current Presidential candidate; video is
plentiful of the contorted Presidential theatrics around the Olympic Games
Opening Ceremony in Beijing.  We were treated today to the visual of the
Pope descending from the Alitalia jet.  But, while we have more television
stations that feed us 24-hour news, we are less informed.  We have more
and more political pundits feeding us, what Fred Hampton described as
"explanations that don't explain, answers that don't answer, and
conclusions that don't conclude."

CNN even tells us in a feature story who suffers as a result of a choice
made by our policy makers to emphasize ethanol as a preferred method of
weaning a hulking, overfed economy off its petroleum-based consumption
habit.  But they forgot the other half of that equation:  who's winning?
And it's the "who's winning" part that is just about always the key piece
of information, that could guide us, especially when the choices of our
elected leadership diverge from the core values of the voters who elected
them.

And yet, as we speak, the Mexican Senate Chamber has been occupied.  The
massive rally held today has probably just ended, and some of the
opposition Members of the Mexican Congress are inside the building on the
dais and have announced a hunger strike.  Days ago, one of the leading
papers in Mexico City had a photo of the Chamber of Deputies of the
Mexican Congress with an unfurled banner covering the Speaker's Rostrum,
proclaiming the Chamber "Closed."  The banner was hung by elected Members
of the Mexican Congress who constitute the Frente Amplio Progresista that
has dared to draw a line in the sand against U.S.-inspired legislation
just introduced to allow foreign corporate ownership of PEMEX, Mexico's
state-owned oil company.

Mexican women are energized around the idea of nation.  The idea of
patria. I wrote my Master's Thesis on the "Idea of Nation."  And to see
the women, in their t-shirts and kerchiefs, so committed to their country,
their nation, their identity.  To them, that's Mexico's oil, natural gas,
electricity, land, and water and it ought to be used by the Mexican people
first and foremost for their own national development.  But sadly, it's
the public policy emanating from Washington, D.C. that threatens that.

But to tell that story accurately, would also require that the U.S.
corporate press expose why this citizen outrage exists in the first place.
And to tell that story, they would have to expose the fact of a stolen
Presidential election, where a private U.S., Georgia, corporation,
possibly played a role in stripping citizens of their right to vote and
have their votes counted.  Well, while that might sound like what happened
in the United States, centering in Florida, in the U.S. 2000 Presidential
election, I'm really talking about the 2006 Mexican Presidential election
in which the popular candidate didn't win because all the votes weren't
counted.

According to Greg Palast, the U.S. corporation involved in the Mexican
move was none other than that now infamous Georgia-based company:
Choicepoint. We know that in Florida, Choicepoint, then doing business as
DataBase Technologies, constructed an illegal convicted felons list of
some 94,000 names, many of whom were neither convicted nor felons.  But if
your name appeared on that list, you were stopped from voting.  Greg
Palast tells us that for most of the names on that list, their only crime
was "Voting While Black."

Under a special "counter-terrorism" contract, the U.S. FBI obtained
Mexican and Venezuelan voter files.  Palast learned later in his
investigation that the U.S. government had obtained, through Choicepont,
voter files of all the countries that have progressive Presidents.  Many
Mexicans went to the polls to vote for their President, only to find that
their names had been scrubbed from the voter list, and they were not
allowed to vote.  So now, not only in the United States, but in Mexico,
too, one can show up to vote and not be sure that that vote was counted,
or worse, one can show up duly registered to vote, and not even be allowed
to vote.

I guess this is the way we allow our country to now export democracy.

Unlike in the United States in 2000, Mexico City was shut down for 5
months when Lopez Obrador, Mexico's Al Gore, refused to concede and
instead, formed a shadow government.

The issue in the 2006 Mexican election was privatization of Mexico's oil;
it is the riveting issue taking place in Mexican politics today.
Teachers on strike at the same time as the Presidential elections in
Oaxaca, one of the poorest states in Mexico, began their political
movement as a call for increased teacher salaries and against
privatization of schools.  Due to heavy-handed tactics used by the
government against the teachers, tens of thousands of citizens joined them
and took over the central city area of that state.  Today, after Mexico
has added teachers and those who support teachers to its growing ranks of
"political prisoners," teachers are still protesting their conditions, the
reprisals taken against them for striking, and now, the teachers' union is
a committed part of the national mobilization against privatization of
PEMEX.

I was invited to participate in the Second Continental Workers Conference.
The first meeting was held in La Paz, Bolivia.  And so, people from all
over Mexico and eight different countries told of their struggles, their
hopes, their ideals, their values, their patriotism, their desire for
peace - no more war.

Representatives from Chiapas, another one of Mexico's poorest states, told
us of the indigenous struggle for land and self-determination, the
low-intensity warfare waged against them, and how now they, too, count
themselves a part of the national mobilization against PEMEX
privatization. While I was there, mine workers had taken over the mines,
and so, could only send a handful of inspiring representatives.  They are
pressing for the right to unionize, denied to them by the Government.
And the mine workers are a part of the solid front forming in Mexico to
protect this powerful idea of nation.

I participated in one of the many rallies organized by opponents of the
government's plan to offer up Mexico's patrimony to the insatiable
multiple U.S. addictions.  One woman removed her brigadista t-shirt and
gave it to me - proud that a citizen of the United States came to stand
with them.

Today's front page of La Jornada says that the women, who marched 10,000
strong on the day that I was there, have renewed their protests and civil
disobedience.  The threat of violence and bloodshed is very real.

Now, why should this massive social, political, and economic upheaval in
Mexico, aside from its human rights implications, be important to us up
here in the United States?

Because the sad truth of the matter is that, in many respects, it is our
military and economic policies that are causing it.  Of course, I
recognize that all the way back to the practice of Manifest Destiny and
the declaration of the Monroe Doctrine, U.S. policy decisions have at
times sent shock waves to places outside our borders.  You could say that
the modern version of that is NAFTA.

In 1993, the Democratic majority in the United States Congress supported
then-President Bill Clinton's push for passage of the North American Free
Trade Agreement.  The stated purpose of the legislation was to remove
barriers to trade and investment that existed in North America.  The
propaganda had it that the objective was to lift all boats, in Canada, the
United States, and Mexico through trade and investment.  The result is the
stripping away and transfer of Mexico's patrimony in terms of their
natural and human resources.  And the Mexican people are taking a stand
against it. They are taking the same stand that the little people in
Haiti, Venezuela, Brazil, Chile, Bolivia, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and
Argentina have taken.  With the power of the vote, the people of these
countries dared to believe that they could peacefully defeat the colossus
to the north.  And they did.

And so, in a way, now, I guess I understand why the corporate press can't
tell you and me the truth about the valiant stand for dignity that's going
on in Mexico, because to truly cover the story, they'd have to uncover and
point out some inconvenient truths.

One of those inconvenient truths particularly meaningful to me:  There
comes a time when silence is betrayal.

We, the little - and yet so powerful - people in this country have been
way too silent for way too long on all the issues that mean so much.

Dr. King also said that our lives begin to end the day we become silent
about the things that matter.

On one of my early days in Congress, I was late for a vote.  I looked up
on the board and only saw green votes; I presumed that the vote was a
non-controversial item on the calendar.  Since I was among the last to
vote, there was no time to inquire.  I pressed my green button.
Afterwards, I learned that the vote might have been what others would have
called an "easy" yes vote, but for my conscience it was a no vote.  Later
that night, my heart sank as I watched the news.  One man of 78 years was
so angered by that vote that he threw stones.  Only thing, he had a heart
attack throwing stones, and died.

My heart sank.  I felt personally responsible for that man's death and
vowed that I would never cast what they call easy votes, again.  My one
vote would not have changed the outcome of the tally on the resolution.
But my one vote would have been true to my values and my ideals that
everyone is entitled to human rights that are to be respected.

I got into trouble often after that, because I recognized my
responsibility to read the legislation, think analytically, question
critically, and vote independently.

That was while I was in Congress.  But now that I'm not, does that mean
that the responsibility is gone?  No.

I happened to vote against NAFTA, and I'm glad for that.  But imagine if
the all the voters in the entire United States understood that something
as simple as a vote in a federal election might determine who lives and
who dies in another country.  Imagine, if we in the United States were as
certain of the possibility of peaceful change through the vote as were the
people of Haiti, Mexico - despite having their election stolen from them,
Venezuela, and the rest.  Then we would vote Members of Congress out of
office who support Plan Colombia.  We would vote Members of Congress out
of office who support Plan Mexico - which like its Colombian counterpart,
is the military answer to the cry of the people for dignity,
self-determination, and that idea of patria.  We would not vote for any
political party that did not have as its agenda extending the same respect
and love of life to all others as we reserve for ourselves.

And so I come to the additional meaning of Earth Day, today.  I met people
in Mexico City who are willing to die in this struggle - but they
shouldn't have to because the United States wants their oil.  Let us
express our respect for the planet that sustains us by first showing love
to our brothers and sisters beside us.  We voters in the United States do
have as much power as the voters in all those other countries.  All we
have to do is believe in ourselves and use it.

Finally, I'd like to recognize the role of student activists in promoting
change.  Of course, it was high school students who faced the water hoses
and the dogs in the civil rights movement.  It was the university students
who faced the riot gear and the bullets in the anti-war movement.  The
current anti-globalization, pro-peace rallies are all organized and led by
young people.  Keep it up and don't ever give in.

Remember that Bobby Kennedy always said "Some men dreams of things that
are and say why, I dream of things that never were and say why not."

Thank you.


--------16 of 16--------

Venezuela: Democracy, Socialism and Imperialism  pt2
by James Petras / April 18th, 2008

                 Politics: The Chavistas Strike Back

During the latter half of 2007, in the run-up to the referendum, and early
2008, the right-wing offensive (aided by the ultra-left) took hold and put
the government on the defensive. Early March 2008, the pro-Chavez forces
regrouped and launched a new political party: the Venezuelan United
Socialist Party (PSUV) at a national convention in Maracaibo. In response
to the defeat of the referendum, President Chavez called on his supporters
to engage in a "Three R's Campaign": Review, Rectify and Re-launch. This
initiative has led to the election of new party leaders, a decline in old
guard paternalistic bosses in the leadership of the PSUV, a rejection of
sectarianism toward other pro-Chavez parties and a revitalization of grass
roots activism.16 The party is intended to oversee the mobilization of the
Chavez supporters and to educate and organize potential working and
lower-middle-class constituents. The party is mandated to evaluate,
criticize and correct the implementation of policies by local officials
and engage the mass social movements in common struggle. To succeed the
party must organize local popular power to counter-act corrupt
Chavez-affiliated as well as opposition policy-makers, press local demands
and initiatives, counter right-wing infiltration of neighborhoods by
Colombian and local terrorists and turn out the vote at election time.

For the PSUV to succeed as a political organization it needs to take power
away from the local clientalistic political machines built around some of
the state, regional and municipal level Chavista officials. It needs to
overcome the tendency to appoint leaders and candidates from above and to
deepen rank and file control over decisions and leaders.16 Even during the
founding congress of the PSUV several delegations criticized the process
of electing the national leadership - for neglecting popular
representation and overloading it with much criticized political
officials.17

Active communal councils under democratic control have been effective in
giving voice and representation to a large number of urban and poor
neighborhoods. They have secured popular loyalty and support wherever they
have delivered needed services and led struggles against incompetent or
recalcitrant Chavista officials.

Violence, crime and personal insecurity are major issues for most poor and
lower middle-class supporters of the Chavez government and the police are
viewed as ineffective reducing crime and securing their neighborhoods and
as, at times, complicit with the gangsters.18 Proposals by the government
for greater cooperation between neighborhood committees and the police in
identifying criminals have had little effect. This is in part because
police have shown little interest in developing on-the-ground, day-by-day
relations in the poorer barrios, which they tend to view as "criminal
breeding grounds".

Armed gangs controlling the poor neighborhoods commit most of the crime.
Local residents fear retaliation if they cooperate or worse, they think
that the police are complicit with the criminals. Even more seriously
reports from reliable intelligence sources have identified large-scale
infiltration of Colombian death squad narco traffickers who combine drugs
peddling and right-wing organizing, posing a double threat to local and
national security. While the government has taken notice of the general
problem of individual insecurity and the specific problem of
narco-political infiltration, no national plan of action has yet been put
into practice, apart from periodic routine round-ups of low-level common
criminals.19

Venezuela should learn from the example of Cuba, which has had successful
crime fighting and anti-terrorist programs for decades organized around a
tight network of local "committees to defend the revolution" and backed by
a politically trained rapid action internal security force and an
efficient judiciary. Individual security and political freedom depends on
the collective knowledge of crime groups' infiltration and the courage of
local committees and individuals. Their cooperation requires trust in the
integrity, respect and political loyalty of the internal security forces.
Their intelligence, evidence collection and testimony depend on the
protection of local citizens by the internal security forces against
gangster retaliation.

A new type of "police official" needs to be created who does not view the
neighborhood and its committees as hostile territory - they must live and
identify with the people they are paid to protect. To be effective at the
local level, the Chavez government must display exemplary behavior at the
national level: It must prosecute and jail criminals and not grant amnesty
or give light sentences to coup-makers and economic saboteurs, as Chavez
did in early 2008. The failure of the current Attorney General to pursue
the murderers of her predecessor, Attorney General Danilo Anderson, was
not only a shameful act but set an example of incompetent and feeble law
enforcement which does not create confidence in the will of the state to
fight political assassins.20

"Popular power" will only become meaningful to the mass of the poor when
they feel secure enough to walk their streets without assaults and
intimidation, when the gangs no longer break into homes and local stores,
and when armed narco-traffickers no longer flaunt the law. In Venezuela,
the struggle against the oligarchs, George Bush and Colombia's Uribe
begins with a community-based war against local criminals, including a
comprehensive tactical sweep of known criminal gangs followed by exemplary
punishment for those convicted of terrorizing the residents. This is one
way to make the government respected at the grass roots level and to
re-assert and make operative the term popular sovereignty. In every barrio
today, it is not only the "right wing NGO's", which challenge Chavez'
authority, it is the armed criminal elements, increasingly linked with
reactionary political groups. To successfully confront the external
threats, it is incumbent on the government to defeat the gangsters and
narco-traffickers that represent a real obstacle to mass mobilization in
time of a national emergency, like a new coup attempt.

Failures by some middle level Chavez officials to ensure security and
resolve local problems have eroded popular support for political
incumbents. The majority of local residents, popular leaders and activists
still voice support for President Chavez even as they are critical of the
"people around him", "his advisers", and "the opportunists".21 How this
will play out in the November election is not totally clear. But unless
fundamental changes take place in candidates and policies, it is likely
that the opposition will increase their current minimal representation in
state and municipal governments.

           Social and Cultural Advances and Contradictions

Venezuela, under the leadership of President Chavez, has made
unprecedented social and cultural changes benefiting the broad majority of
the urban and rural poor, and working and lower middle classes. Nine new
Bolivarian universities and dozens of technical schools have been
established with over 200,000 students.22 Over 2.5 million books,
pamphlets and journals have been published by the new state-financed
publishing houses, including novels, technical books, poetry, history,
social research, natural sciences, medical and scientific texts.23 Two
major television studios and communitarian-based TV stations provide
international, national and local news coverage that challenges opposition
and US-based (CNN) anti-government propaganda. A major news daily, Vea,
and several monthly and weekly magazines debate and promote pro-Chavez
politics.24 Several government-funded missions, composed of tens of
thousands of young volunteers, have reduced urban and (to a lesser degree)
rural illiteracy, extended health coverage, while increasing local
participation and organization in the urban "ranchos" or shantytowns.
Major cultural events, including musical, theater and dance groups
regularly perform in working class neighborhoods. The Ministry of Culture
and Popular Power has initiated a vast number of overseas and local
programs involving the Caribbean and Latin American countries.25 Sports
programs, with the aid of Cuban trainers, have received large scale
government funding for physical infrastructure (gymnasiums, playing
fields, uniforms and professional trainers) and have vastly increased the
number of athletes among the urban poor. Major funding to defend and
promote indigenous and Afro-Venezuelan culture is in the works, and some
movement to "affirmative action" is envisioned, though cultural
representation in fields other than sports, music and dance is still quite
limited. There is no question that Venezuela is going through a "Cultural
Revolution" - reconstructing and recovering its popular, historical and
nationalist roots buried below the frivolous and imitative artifacts of a
century of culturally colonized oligarchs and their middle-class
followers.

               Cultural Contradictions and Challenges

While the Venezuelan cultural reformation has made a massive impact in
raising educational and cultural levels, it has not yet decisively
displaced the cultural hegemony of the bourgeoisie and US imperialism. The
latter still holds sway over the vast majority of the upper and affluent
middle-class professionals, Central University academics and students, and
important sectors of the public and especially private professional groups
(doctors, lawyers, publicists, engineers etc). Despite substantial pay
increases and additional stipends, these middle-class professionals still
cling to their reactionary beliefs in a fit of "status panic".

President Chavez, speaking at the first graduating class of the new,
inclusive (open admission) Venezuelan Bolivarian University, cited a
doctoral thesis which found that 94% of students at the tax-payer funded
elite "public" university, Venezuelan Central University (UCV), were from
the upper and middle class, while 99% of the students at the private Simon
Bolivar University (SBU) were from the same privileged classes. What was
especially disturbing was the increasingly exclusive and privileged nature
of the UCV and SBU; in 1981 the UCV enrolled 21% from the lower classes
compared to 6.5% in 2000; the SBU went from 13% to 1% in the same period.
To open higher education to the working class, the poor and the peasants,
the Chavez government has begun the construction of 29 public
universities, upgrading 29 vocational-technical schools into Polytechnic
Universities, and increasing the number of full scholarships from 6,000 to
10,000.

While the vast number of lower-class neighborhoods and individuals have
benefited from state health, educational and cultural programs, popular
education in creating collective solidarity and class consciousness still
has had a limited impact. Some individuals from the lower class who had
set up economic cooperatives were either incapable of operating them or
absconded with state funds. Similar theft and corruption afflicted some of
the "missions", where poor accounting practices facilitated waste and
losses. Populist paternalism and official negligence (and corruption)
weakened the effort to create a new nationalist class-consciousness linked
to a new popular hegemony. On the other hand, President Chavez'
intervention in nationalizing the steel industry during the labor-capital
dispute heightened class-consciousness and factory worker identification
with the Venezuelan road to socialism.

Over the past 5 years the state-financed television programs have greatly
improved in terms of their professionalism and programming. They still
have not fully overcome the continued hegemonic hold of the bourgeois
media over sectors of the popular majority. In terms of entertainment and
breaking news coverage, especially during the run-up and the day of the
December 2, 2007 referendum, the bourgeois media dominated public
attention due, in large part, to the absence of pro-government media
coverage.

One of the least effective pro-government print media is the daily
newspaper Vea, which is read by few people because of its poor news
reporting (big headlines, no content) and mediocre columns and essays. The
Minister of Culture and Popular Power told me that substantial changes
would soon take place.26 The wide reaching cultural programs have improved
cultural levels but has not led to the growth of mass Chavista cultural
movements. Less than 10% of the students at the Central University of
Venezuela (UCV) are active members of Chavista student movements or
affiliated organizations (according to a Chavista student leader), despite
significant improvements in university salaries and facilities.27
Apparently family and class identification takes precedence over cultural
egalitarianism. The vast majority of students and professors at the UCV
are apolitical, indifferent or into strictly vocational training and
individual mobility. An active minority supports opposition groups; some
are linked to US universities and CIA-funded "leadership training"
programs while small Trotskyist, Maoist and other sects agitate against
the government.

The emergence of the autonomous pro-Chavez communal councils, linked to
the Ministry of Culture and Popular Power, is probably the most effective
counter-hegemonic movement. The political and social activities of party
activists and leaders of the PSUV can succeed in creating a new class
consciousness so long as they involve the masses in solving their own
practical problems and assume local responsibility for their actions.
Chavista cadres, which act paternally, create patron-client consciousness
vulnerable to quick switches to oligarchic-client relations. The key
contradiction in the cultural reformation is in the "middle class"
Chavista configuration which carries over its paternal orientation in
implementing its class conscious programs to the popular classes.

There is a great need for recruitment and education of young local cadres
from the barrios, who speak the language of the people and have the class
bonds to integrate the masses into a nationalist and socialist
cultural-social program. The government's cultural and popular power
movement is a formidable force but it faces tenacious opposition from the
virulent and disreputable mass media aligned with the oligarchy. As the
Venezuelan process moves toward egalitarian socialist values, it faces the
more subtle but more insidious opposition of middle-class students,
professors and professionals who in the name of "liberal democracy" and
"pluralism" seek to destroy cultural class solidarity. In other words, we
have a struggle between the progressive minority from the middle class in
the government against the majority of reactionary liberal middle-class
individuals embedded in academic institutions and in the community-based
NGO's. Only by gaining the support of the people outside the middle class,
that is, the radical and exploited popular classes, can the cultural
reformists in the Culture Ministry create a dominant popular hegemony.

  Social Change: the Struggle of Popular Social Movements versus the
                  Reactionary Middle-Class Movements

To discuss the highly polarized social confrontation between the
pro-Chavez popular movements and the US-backed oligarch-supported
middle-class movements, it is important to contextualize the social,
political and economic relations, which preceded the ascendancy of the
Chavez government. The United States was the key determinant of the
economic conditions and the principle point of reference of Venezuela's
oligarchy and middle class. US-Venezuelan relations were based on US
hegemony in all spheres - from oil to consumerism, from sports to life
style, from bank accounts to marriage partners. The role models and life
styles of the Venezuelan middle class were found in the upscale Miami
suburbs, shopping malls, condos and financial services. The affluent
classes were upper-class consumers; they never possessed a national
entrepreneurial vocation.

The oil contracts between US and European firms and the PDVSA were among
the most lucrative and favorable joint ventures in the world. They
included negligible tax and royalty payments and long term contracts to
exploit one of the biggest petroleum sites in the world (the Orinoco "tar
belt"). The entire executive leadership of what was formally described as
a "state enterprise" was heavily engaged in dubious overseas investments
with heavy overhead costs, which disguised what was really executive
pillage and extensive cost overruns, that is, massive sustained
corruption.28 From the senior oil executives, the pillaged oil wealth
flowed to the upper middle class, lawyers, consultants, publicists, media
and conglomerate directors, a small army of upscale boutique retailers,
real estate speculators and their political retainers and their entourage
among middle level employees, accountants, military officials, police
chiefs and subsidized academic advisers. All of these "beneficiaries" of
the oil pillage banked their money in US banks, especially in Miami, or
invested it in US banks, bonds and real estate. In a word, Venezuela was a
model case of a rentier-bureaucratic ruling class profoundly integrated
into the US circuits of petroleum-investment-finance. Systematically,
culturally and ideologically they saw themselves as subordinate players in
the US "free trade-free market" scheme of things. Chavez' assertions of
sovereignty and his policies re-nationalizing Venezuelan resources were
seen as direct threats to the upper middle class' essential ties to the
US, and to their visions of a "Miami" life style.

This deep subordinated integration and the colonized middle-class values
and interests that accompanied it, was deeply shaken by the crash in the
Venezuelan economy throughout the 1980's and 1990's. Emigration and
relative impoverishment of a wide swath of pubic employees, professionals
and previously better-paid workers seemed to "radicalize" them or create
widespread malaise. The profound downward mobility of the impoverished
working class and lower middle class, as well as professionals, led to the
discredit of the endemically corrupt leaders of the two major political
parties, mass urban riots, strikes and public support for an aborted
Chavez-led military uprising (1992). These events led to his subsequent
election (1998) and the approval of the referendum authorizing the writing
of a new, more profoundly democratic constitution. Yet the middle-class
rebellion and even protest vote in favor of Chavez, was not accompanied by
any change in political ideology or basic values. They saw Chavez as a
stepladder to overcome their diminished status, and paradoxically, to
refinance their "Miami" life-style, and gain access to the US consumer
market.

Time and circumstance would demonstrate that when push came to shove, in
November 2001-April 2002, when the US confronted and was complicit in the
short-lived, but failed coup, the bulk of the middle class backed the
US-Venezuelan elite.29 The US-backed coup was a direct response to
President Chavez' refusal to support the White House-Zionist orchestrated
"War on Terror". Chavez declared, "You don't fight terror with terror" in
answer to President Bush's post-September 11, 2001 call to arms against
Afghanistan. This affirmed Chavez' principled defense of the rights of
self-determination and his unwavering stand against colonial wars. US
Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs, Mark Grossman personally
led an unsuccessful mission to Caracas in the fall of 2001 to pressure
Chavez to back down.30 Chavez was the only president in the world prepared
to stand up to the new militarist Bush doctrine and thus was designated an
enemy. Even worse, from the point of view of the Bush Administration,
President Chavez' nationalist policies represented an alternative in Latin
America at a time (2000-2003) when mass insurrections, popular uprisings
and the collapse of pro-US client rulers (Argentina, Ecuador and Bolivia)
were constant front-page news.

In the run-up to the April 2002 coup, the policies of the Chavez
government were extremely friendly to what are reputed to be "middle
class" values and interests - in terms of democratic freedoms, incremental
socio-economic reforms, orthodox fiscal policies and respect for foreign
and national property holdings and capitalist labor relations. There were
no objective material reasons for the middle classes or even the economic
oligarchy to support the coup except for the fact that their status,
consumerist dreams, life style and economic investments were closely
linked with the United States. In a word, the US exercised near complete
hegemony over the Venezuelan upper and middle classes. As a result, its
policies and its global interests became identified as "the interests" of
the wealthy Venezuelans. Venezuelan elite identification with US policy
was so strong that it compelled them to back a violent coup against their
own democratically elected government. The Caracas ruling class supported
the imposition of an ephemeral US-backed dictatorial political regime and
an agenda, which, if fully implemented, would have reduced their access to
oil revenues, and the trade and socio-economic benefits they had enjoyed
under Chavez. The brief coup-junta proposed to withdraw from OPEC,
weakening Venezuela's bargaining position with the US and EU, expel over
20,000 Cuban physicians, nurses, dentists and other health workers who
were providing services to over 2 million low income Venezuelans without
receiving any reciprocal compensation from Washington. 31

The economic elite and the middle class's second attempt to overthrow
President Chavez began in December 2002 with a bosses and oil executive
lockout. This lasted until February 2003 and cost over $10 billion dollars
in lost revenues, wages, salaries and profits.6 Many Venezuelan
businessmen and women committed economic suicide in their zeal to destroy
Chavez; unable to meet loan and rent payments, they went bankrupt. Over
15,000 executives and professionals at the PDVSA, who actively promoted
the strike and, in a fit of elite "Luddite" folly, sabotaged the entire
computerized oil production process, were fired. The principal pro-US and
long-time CIA-funded trade-union confederation suffered a double defeat
for their participation in the attempted coup and lockout, becoming an
empty bureaucratic shell. The upper and middle classes ultimately became
political and social losers in their failed attempts to recover their
"privileged status" and retain their "special relation" with the US. While
the privileged classes saw themselves as "downwardly mobile" (an image
which did not correspond with the reality of their new wealth, especially
during the commodity boom of 2004-2008), their frustrations and
resentments festered and produced grotesque fantasies of their being ruled
by a "brutal communist dictator". In fact, under Chavez' presidency (after
2003), they have enjoyed a rising standard of living, a mixed economy,
bountiful consumer imports and were constantly entertained by the most
creatively hysterical, rabidly anti-government private media in the entire
hemisphere. The media propaganda fed their delusions of oppression. The
hardcore, privileged middle-class minority came out of their violent
struggle against Chavez depleted of their military allies. Many of their
leaders from the business associations and moribund trade-union apparatus
were briefly imprisoned, in exile or out of a job.

On the other hand, the pro-Chavez mass supporters who took to the streets
in their millions and restored him to the Presidency and the workers who
played a major role in putting the oil industry back in production and the
factories back to work, provided the basis for the creation of new mass
popular movements. Chavez never forgot their support during the emergency.
One of the reasons he cited for nationalizing the steel industry was the
support of the steel workers in smashing the bosses' lockout and keeping
the factories in operation.

Venezuela is one of the few countries where both the Left and the Right
have built mass social movements with the capacity to mobilize large
numbers of people. It is also the country where these movements have
passed through intense cyclical volatility. The tendency has been for
organizations to emerge out of mass struggle with great promise and then
fade after a "great event" only to be replaced by another organized
"movement", which, in turn, retains some activists but fails to
consolidate its mass base. In effect, what has been occurring is largely
sequential movements based on pre-existing class commitments which respond
in moments of national crises and then return to everyday "local
activities" around family survival, consumer spending, home and
neighborhood improvements. While this cycle of mobilization "ebb and flow"
is common everywhere, what is striking in Venezuela is the degree of
engagement and withdrawal: the mass outpouring and the limited number of
continuing activists.

Looking at the big picture over the past decade of President Chavez's
rule, there is no question that civil society activity is richer, more
varied and expressive than during any other government in the last sixty
years.

Starting from the popular democratic restoration movement that ousted the
short-lived military-civilian junta and returned Chavez to power, local
community based movements proliferated throughout the ranchos (slums) of
the big cities, especially in Caracas. With the bosses lockout and actual
sabotage, the factory and oil field workers and a loyal minority of
technicians took the lead in the restoration of production and defeating
the US-backed executive elite. The direct action committees became the
nuclei for the formation of communal councils, the launching of a new
labor confederation (UNT), and new "electoral battalions", which
decisively defeated a referendum to oust Chavez. From these "defensive
organizations" sprang the idea (from the government) to organize
production cooperatives and self-governing neighborhood councils to
by-pass established regional and local officials. Peasant organizing grew
and successfully pressured for the implementation of the land reform law
of 2001. As the Left organized, the Right also turned to its "normal
institutional base" - FEDECAMARAS (the big business association), the
cattle and large landowner organizations, the retailers and private
professionals in the Chambers of Commerce and toward neighborhood
organizations in the up-scale neighborhoods of the elite centered in
Altimar and elsewhere. After suffering several demoralizing defeats, the
Right increasingly turned its attention toward US funding and training
from NGO's, like SUMATE, to penetrate lower-class barrios and exploit
discontent and frustrations among the middle-class university students
whose street demonstrations became detonators of wider conflicts.32

The Chavistas consolidated their organizational presence with health
clinics, subsidized food stores and coops and educational programs. The
Right consolidated its hold over the major "prestigious" universities and
private high schools. Both competed in trying to gain the allegiance of
important sectors of the less politicized, sometimes religious low-income
informal workers and higher paid unionized workers - both focused on
immediate income issues. The Chavistas secured nearly 50% of the vote
among the voters in a radical referendum spelling out a transition to
socialism, losing by 1%. The right wing capitalized on the abstention of 3
million, mostly pro-Chavez, voters to defeat the referendum.33

The right wing, via violence and sustained disinvestment in the country
has polarized Venezuela despite nearly double-digit sustained growth over
a 5 year period. This basic contradiction reflects the fact that the
"socialist project" of the government takes place in the socio-economic
framework in which big capitalists control almost all the banking,
financing, distribution, manufacturing, transport and service enterprises
against the gas-oil-telecom, electricity, steel, cement and social service
sectors of the government. In April 2008, Chavez launched a major
offensive to reverse this adverse correlation of economic power in favor
of the working classes by expropriating 27 sugar plantations, food
distribution networks, meat packing chains, as well as the major cement
and steel complexes.

In 2008 Chavez recognized that the populace mobilized "from below" was
stymied by the "commands" issued by the economic elite "from above".
Whether it is food distribution or production, job creation or
informal/contingent employment, funding small farmers or speculative
landlords trading in bonds or financing oil derivative plants - all of
these strategic economic decisions which affect class relations, class
organization, class struggle and class consciousness were in the hands of
the mortal enemies of the Chavez government and its mass base. By directly
attacking these crucial areas affecting everyday life, Chavez is
revitalizing and sustaining mass popular organization. Otherwise, to
remain subject to elite economic sabotage and disinvestment is to
demoralize and alienate the popular classes from their natural gravitation
to the Chavez government.

notes

16. .Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela: Herramiento de Masas in
Gestin., Rebelion, March 25, 2008. # #

17. Interview in Caracas with PSUV delegates, March 1, 2008. #

18. Interviews and meetings of neighborhood delegates of Communal
Councils, February 29, 2008. #

19. Interview with Minister of the Interior Ramon Rodriguez Chacun, La
Jornada, March 31, 2008. #

20. Interview with Communal Councils, February 29, 2008. According to a
poll by the respected polling group, Barometro, in early April 2008, 66.5%
of Venezuelans approved Chavez presidency. #

21. Commentaries from Communal Council delegates and peasant activists in
Caracas, .Popular Power Meeting. at the Ministry of Culture and Popular
Power. February 29, 2008. #

22. Interview with Carmen Boqueron, Ministry of Culture, February 25,
2008. #

23. Interview with Miquel Marquez, President Editorial El Perro y la Rana,
State Publishing House, March 5, 2008. #

24. See La Plena Voz, Memrias, Poltica Exterior y Soberania, among other
magazines. #

25. Interview with Carmen Boquern, February 26, 2008. #

26. Interview with Minister of Culture, March 1, 2008. #

27. Interview February 29, 2008. Even at the new Bolivarian Universities,
only a minority of working class students are involved in political
activities, most concentrate on their studies and future job prospects.
However among active students at the new universities, the great majority
are pro-Chavez. #

28. From the beginning of the first nationalization in 1976 under
President Carlos Andres Perez, the fundamental question was
.nationalization for whom?. In the 1970.s to the re-privatizations, the
answer was the wealthy elites. See James Petras, Morris Morley and Steven
Smith, The Nationalization fof Venezuelan Oil, (New York Praeger Press.
1977). #

29. Eva Golinger.s detailed documentary study based on files secured from
the US Government through the Freedom of Information Act which provide
ample evidence of US intervention. #

30. Interview with Venezuelan Presidential adviser, Paris, November 2001.
#

31. www.rebelion.org, April 13, 2002. #

32. Eva Golinger, The Chavez Code: Cracking US Intervention in Venezuela
(Havana: Cuba Book Institute 2005). Golinger provides extensive
documentation of US financing of the self-styled NGO.s through AID and NED
(National Endowment for Democracy, a government conduit for destabilizing
regimes critical of the US). #

33. For a more detailed analysis, see James Petras .El referendo
Venezolano: analisis y epilogo., www.rebellion.org, Dec 17, 2007. #

This article was posted on Friday, April 18th, 2008 at 5:05 am and is
filed under Colombia, Culture, Democracy, Human Rights, Imperialism,
Labor, Socialism, South America, Venezuela. Send to a friend


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