|Progressive Calendar 05.09.09||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)|
|Date: Sat, 9 May 2009 13:02:35 -0700 (PDT)|
P R O G R E S S I V E C A L E N D A R 05.09.09 ed under the weather the last 36 hours 1. Northtown vigil 5.09 2pm 2. Venezuela 5.09 3pm 3. Somali voices 5.09 4/5:30pm 4. Palestine/Indians 5.09 9pm 5. Stillwater vigil 5.10 1pm 6. Mothers day/peace 5.10 2pm 7. RNC 8 defense 5.10 3:30pm 8. Dia de las Madres 5.10 5pm 9. Jeffrey StClair - Damage continues from Amchitka nuke blasts 10. Serge Halimi - In praise of revolutions --------1 of 10-------- From: Vanka485 [at] aol.com Subject: Northtown vigil 5.09 2pm Peace vigil at Northtown (Old Hwy 10 & University Av), every Saturday 2-3pm --------2 of 10-------- From: Socialist Appeal Subject: Venezuela 5.09 3pm Contacts: John Peterson (651) 373-7609 Josh Lucker (618) 691-8277 wil [at] socialistappeal.org Venezuela Nationalizes Cargill Plant May 9th, 2009 @ 3:00pm Mayday Bookstore 301 Cedar Ave S. Minneapolis, MN Venezuela recently expropriated a rice processing plant owned by Cargill, a multinational food giant based in the Twin Cities. Come to Mayday Books to hear John Peterson, National Secretary of the Hands Off Venezuela Campaign, speak on what this means for workers in Venezuela and in the U.S. --------3 of 10-------- From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at] mtn.org> Subject: Somali voices 5.09 4/5:30pm "Voices from Somali Minnesotans: A Community Response" Saturday, May 9, 4:00 to 5:30 p.m. (Somali Session), 5:30 to 8:00 p.m. (English Session) Minneapolis Convention Center, Room 101, 1301 Second Avenue South, Minneapolis. Speakers will address current targeting, scapegoating and persecution of the Somali community in Twin Cities. Over the past six months, as a national task force investigates missing Somali youth, members of the Somali community have reported being stopped on the streets and in the malls, Somali businesses have been raided, students have been approached by federal agents in campus libraries, community leaders have been denied boarding passes without due process, agents have talked their way into homes without warrants, non-English-speaking Somalis have been interviewed without translators, agents in unmarked cars have staked out in front of Somali mosques, informants have allegedly been sent inside the mosques. This is an opportunity to understand what is happening to the Somali community here and to stand with them when under racist, targeted attacks by government authorities. Open to public. Co-Sponsored by: United Somali Movement, Somali Youth Network Council (SYNC), Somali Family and Children Services, Somali Youth Action of Minnesota, Somali Action Alliance, United Somali Diaspora, Somali Leadership Council, Somali American Community, World Peace Organization, African Community Center, Students Against Violence Project, Somali Contact Group, Somali Student Association-University of Minnesota Chapter, Muslim Student Association-Augsburg College Chapter, Abubakar As-Saddique Islamic Center (AAIC), Islamic Dawah Institute, Al-Ihsan Islamic Center, Khaled Ibn Waleed Mosque, Karmel Plaza Business Association, Eden Prairie Islamic Center, Daruasalam Cultural Center, Antiwar Committee, Council on American-Islamic Relation-Minnesota Chapter (CAIR-MN), and WAMM. FFI: Call Hindia Ali, 612-423-0106 or email voicesfromsomaliminnesotans [at] gmail.com. --------4 of 10-------- From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at] riseup.net> Subject: Palestine/Indians 5.09 9pm Maying Minneapolis Television Network (MTN) viewers: "Our World In Depth" cablecasts on MTN Channel 17 on Saturdays at 9pm and Tuesdays at 8am, after DemocracyNow! Households with basic cable may watch. Sat 5/9, 9pm and Tues, 5/12, 8am Parallel Injustices: American Indians and Palestinians At an amazing gathering, for the first time in Minnesota, Native Americans and Palestinians publicly shared their respective experiences of dispossession of their land and genocide of their people. Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) National Director Nihad Awad and American Indian Movement (AIM) leader Clyde Bellecourt speak at Augsburg College. April 2009. --------5 of 10-------- From: scot b <earthmannow [at] comcast.net> Subject: Stillwater vigil 5.10 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 --------6 of 10-------- From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at] mtn.org> Subject: MothersDay/peace 5.10 2pm Mother's Day for Peace Sunday, May 10, 2:00 p.m. Lyndale Park Peace Garden, 4124 Roseway Road (Northeast of Lake Harriet by the Rose Garden), Minneapolis. The third annual Mother's Day for Peace event will feature music, poetry, story-telling and crane-making. This year troubadour Larry Long, who prepared a song to sing at Pete Seeger's 90th birthday party at Madison Square Garden, will perform. Julia Ward Howe's 1870 proposal for, the original Mother's Day, a national day of peace will be read. Origami paper to fold a peace crane will be available. The event is free and open to all. Sponsored by: the Friends of the Peace Garden Project. Endorsed by: WAMM. FFI: Call 952-922-0308 or email msphncc [at] gmail.com . --------7 of 10-------- From: info [at] rnc8.org Subject: RNC 8 Defense 5.10 3:30pm This is just a friendly reminder that we have our monthly meeting of the RNC 8 Defense Committee: Sunday, May 10th at 3:30 Walker Church 3104 16th Ave S, Minneapolis Lots of things are going on with the case. Let's come together to figure out how to capture and build on the momentum of recent supportive media and Mayday positive vibes. On that note, check out pictures from the RNC 8 and supporters in the Heart of the Beast Mayday parade soon, plus announcements of upcoming events, at www.RNC8.org. Stay righteous! --------8 of 10-------- From: "[ISO-8859-1] Marco Dávila" <maidaca85 [at] GMAIL.COM> Subject: Dia de las Madres 5.10 5pm The FMLN-Minnesota and Mujeres en Liderazgo want to invite you to celebrate Mother's Day. We are celebrating El Dia de las Madres-Mother's Day. Bethany Church (2511 East Franklin Avenue, Minneapolis). 5pm - 8pm Sunday May 10 There will be poetry, performances, food, raffles, a lot of gifts, AND A LOT --------9 of 10-------- 40 Years After America's Biggest Nuclear Blast, the Damage Continues Echoes of Amchitka By JEFFREY ST. CLAIR CounterPunch May 8-10, 2009 Amchitka Island sits at the midway point on the great arc of Alaska's Aleutian Islands, less than 900 miles across the Bering Sea from the coast of Russia. Amchitka, a spongy landscape of maritime tundra, is one of the most southerly of the Aleutians. The island's relatively temperate climate has made it one of the Arctic's most valuable bird sanctuaries, a critical staging ground for more than 100 migratory species, as well as home to walruses, sea otters and sea lions. Off the coast of Amchitka is a thriving fishery of salmon, pollock, haddock and halibut. All of these values were recognized early on. In 1913, Amchitka was designated as a national wildlife refuge by President William Howard Taft. But these ecological wonders were swept aside in the early '60s when the Pentagon and the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) went on the lookout for a new place to blow up H-bombs. Thirty years ago, Amchitka was the site of three large underground nuclear tests, including the most powerful nuclear explosion ever detonated by the United States. The aftershocks of those blasts are still being felt. Despite claims by the AEC and the Pentagon that the test sites would safely contain the radiation released by the blasts for thousands of years, independent research by Greenpeace and newly released documents from the Department of Energy (DOE) show that the Amchitka tests began to leak almost immediately. Highly radioactive elements and gasses, such as tritium, americium-241 and plutonium, poured out of the collapsed test shafts, leached into the groundwater and worked their way into ponds, creeks and the Bering Sea. At the same time, thousands of Amchitka laborers and Aleuts living on nearby islands were put in harm's way. Dozens have died of radiation-linked cancers. The response of the federal government to these disturbing findings has been almost as troublesome as the circumstances surrounding the tests themselves: a consistent pattern of indifference, denial and cover-up continues even today. There were several factors behind the selection of Amchitka as a test site. One most certainly was the proximity to the Soviet Union. These explosions were meant to send a message. Indeed, the tests were designed to calibrate the performance of the Spartan anti-ballistic missile, built to take out the Soviet nuclear arsenal. Publicly, however, the rationale offered by the AEC and the Defense Department was simply that Amchitka was a remote, and therefore safe, testing ground. "The site was selectedand I underscore the pointbecause of the virtually zero likelihood of any damage," claimed James Schlesinger, then chairman of the AEC. What Schlesinger and his cohorts overlooked was the remarkable culture of the Aleuts. Amchitka may have been remote from the continental United States, but for nearly 10,000 years it had been the home of the Aleuts. Indeed, anthropologists believe the islands around Amchitka may be the oldest continuously inhabited area in North America. The Aleuts left Amchitka in the 1880s after Russian fur traders had wiped out the sea otter population, but they continued to inhabit nearby islands and relied on the waters near Amchitka for subsistence. The Aleuts raised forceful objections to the tests, pointing to the risk of radiation leaks, earthquakes and tsunamis that might overwhelm their coastal villages. These concerns were never addressed by the federal government. In fact, the Aleuts were never consulted about the possible dangers at all. In 1965, the Long Shot test exploded an 80 kiloton bomb. The $10 million test, the first one supervised by the Pentagon and not the AEC, was really a trial run for bigger things to come. But small as it was, there were immediate problems. Despite claims by the Pentagon that the test site would not leak, radioactive tritium and krypton-85 began to seep into freshwater lakes almost instantly. But evidence of radioactivity, collected by Defense Department scientists only three months after the test, was kept secret for five years. The bomb site continues to spill toxins into the environment. In 1993, EPA researchers detected high levels of tritium in groundwater samples taken near the test site. The contamination from Long Shot didn't deter the Pentagon bomb-testers. In 1969, the AEC drilled a hole 4,000 feet deep into the rock of Amchitka and set off the Milrow nuclear test. The one megaton blast was 10 times as powerful as Long Shot. The AEC called it a "calibration test" designed to see if Amchitka could withstand a much larger test. The evidence should have convinced them of their dangerous folly. The blast triggered a string of small earthquakes and several massive landslides; knocked water from ponds, rivers and lakes more than 50 feet into the air; and, according to government accounts, "turned the surrounding sea to froth." A year later, the AEC and the Pentagon announced their plans for the Cannikin nuclear test. At five megatons, Cannikin was to be the biggest underground nuclear explosion ever conducted by the United States. The blast would be 385 times as powerful as the bomb dropped on Hiroshima. Cannikin became a rallying point for native groups, anti-war and anti-nuke activists, and the nascent environmental movement. Indeed, it was opposition to Cannikin by Canadian and American greens, who tried to disrupt the test by taking boats near the island, that sparked the birth of Greenpeace. A lawsuit was filed in federal court, charging that the test violated the Limited Test Ban Treaty and the newly enacted National Environmental Policy Act. In a 4 to 3 decision, the Supreme Court refused to halt the test. What the Court didn't know, however, was that six federal agencies, including the departments of State and Interior, and the fledgling EPA, had lodged serious objections to the Cannikin test, ranging from environmental and health concerns to legal and diplomatic problems. Nixon issued an executive order to keep the comments from being released. These documents, known as the Cannikin Papers, came to symbolize the continuing pattern of secrecy and cover-up that typified the nation's nuclear testing program. Even so, five hours after the ruling was handed down on Nov. 6, 1971, the AEC and the Pentagon pulled the switch, detonating the Cannikin bomb. In an effort to calm growing public opposition, AEC chief Schlesinger dismissed environmental protesters and the Aleuts as doomsayers, taking his family with him to watch the test. "It's fun for the kids and my wife is delighted to get away from the house for awhile," he quipped. With the Schlesingers looking on, the Cannikin bomb, a 300-foot-long device implanted in a mile-deep hole under Cannikin lake, exploded with the force of an earthquake registering 7.0 on the Richter Scale. The shock of the blast scooped a mile-wide, 60-foot-deep subsidence crater in the ground over the test site and triggered massive rockfalls. The immediate ecological damage from the blast was staggering. Nearly 1,000 sea otters, a species once hunted to near extinction, were killedtheir skulls crushed by the shockwaves of the explosion. Other marine mammals died when their eyes were blown out of their sockets or when their lungs ruptured. Thousands of birds also perished, their spines snapped and their legs pushed through their bodies. (Neither the Pentagon nor the Fish and Wildlife Service has ever studied the long-term ecological consequences of the Amchitka explosions.) Most worrisome was that a large volume of water from White Alice Creek vanished after the blast. The disappearance of the creek was more than a sign of Cannikin's horrific power. It was also an indication that the project had gone terribly wrong; the blast ruptured the crust of the earth, sucking the creek into a brand new aquifer, a radioactive one. In the months following the explosion, blood and urine samples were taken from Aleuts living in the village of Adak on a nearby island. The samples were shown to have abnormally high levels of tritium and cesium-137, both known carcinogens. Despite these alarming findings, the feds never went back to Adak to conduct follow-up medical studies. The Aleuts, who continue their seafaring lifestyle, are particularly vulnerable to radiation-contaminated fish and marine mammals, and radiation that might spread through the Bering Sea, plants and iceflows. But the Aleuts weren't the only ones exposed to Cannikin's radioactive wrath. More than 1,500 workers who helped build the test sites, operate the bomb tests and clean up afterward were also put at risk. The AEC never conducted medical studies on any of these laborers. When the Alaska District Council of Laborers of the AFL-CIO, began looking into the matter in the early '90s, the DOE claimed that none of the workers had been exposed to radiation. They later were forced to admit that exposure records and dosimeter badges had been lost. In 1996, two Greenpeace researchers, Pam Miller and Norm Buske, returned to Amchitka. Buske, a physicist, collected water and plant samples from various sites on the island. Despite claims by the DOE that the radiation would be contained, the samples taken by Buske revealed the presence of plutonium and americium-241 in freshwater plants at the edge of the Bering Sea. In other words, Cannikin continues to leak. Both of these radioactive elements are extremely toxic and have half-lives of hundreds of years. In part because of the report issued by Miller and Buske, a new sense of urgency was lent to the claims of laborers who said they had become sick after working at the Amchitka nuclear site. In 1998, the union commissioned a study by Rosalie Bertell, a former consultant to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (which replaced the AEC). Bertell found that hundreds of Amchitka workers were exposed to ionizing radiation at five times the level then recognized as hazardous. However, the research is complicated by the fact that many of the records from the Amchitka blast remain classified and others were simply tossed away. "The loss of worker exposure records, or the failure to keep such records, was inexcusable," Bertell says. One of the driving forces behind the effort to seek justice for the Amchitka workers and the Aleuts is Beverley Aleck. Her husband Nick helped drill the mile-deep pit for the Cannikin test; four years later, he died of myelogenous leukemia, a type of cancer associated with radiation exposure. Aleck, an Aleut, has waged a multi-year battle with the DOE to open the records and to begin a health monitoring program for the Amchitka workers. For more than four decades promised health surveys of the Amchitka workers have languished without funding. Will the victims of the Amchitka blasts ever get justice? Don't count on it. For starters, the Aleuts and Amchitka workers are specifically excluded by the Radiation Exposure Compensation Act from receiving medical assistance, death benefits or financial compensation. There is a move to amend this legal loophole, but even that wouldn't mean the workers and Aleuts would be treated fairly. The DOE has tried repeatedly to stiff arm other cases by either dismissing the link between radiation exposure and cancer or, when that fails, invoking a "sovereignty" doctrine, which claims the agency is immune from civil lawsuits. Dr. Paul Seligman, former deputy assistant secretary of the DOE's Office of Health Studies, writes it off as the price of the Cold War. "These were hazardous operations," Seligman says. "The hazards were well understood, but the priorities at the time were weapons production and the defense of the nation." At a time when the mainstream press and Republican politicians are howling over lax security at nuclear weapons sites and Chinese espionage, a more dangerous betrayal of trust is the withholding of test data from the American public. China may use the Los Alamos secrets to upgrade its tiny nuclear arsenal, but the Amchitka explosions already have imperiled a thriving marine ecosystem and caused dozens of lethal cancers. The continuing cover-up and manipulation of information by the DOE not only denies justice to the victims of Amchitka, but indicates that those living near other DOE sites may be at great risk. "DOE management of the U.S. nuclear weapons complex is of the old school in which bad news is hidden," says Pamela Miller, now executive director of Alaska Community Action on Toxics. "This conflicts with sound risk management and makes the entire system inherently risky. The overwhelming threat is of an unanticipated catastrophe." Jeffrey St. Clair is the author of Been Brown So Long It Looked Like Green to Me: the Politics of Nature and Grand Theft Pentagon. His newest book, Born Under a Bad Sky, is just out from AK Press / CounterPunch books. He can be reached at: sitka [at] comcast.net. [Don't let Exel and the soulless nuke developers put up more nuke stations in MN - threatened this session at the MN Leg - ed] --------10 of 10-------- "We Lost All the Battles, But We Had the Best Songs" In Praise of Revolutions By SERGE HALIMI CounterPunch May 8-10, 2009 Two hundred and twenty years may have passed since 1789, but there's still life in the French Revolution. During the bicentenary commemorations, though, Franois Mitterrand had extended an invitation to Margaret Thatcher and Joseph Mobutu to check it was dead and buried. The anniversary year also saw the fall of the Berlin Wall, prompting Francis Fukuyama to announce the "end of history"; in other words, the neoliberal domination of the world would last forever, the so-called revolutionary parenthesis opened in 1789 had closed for good. But the current crisis in capitalism is now challenging the legitimacy of ruling oligarchies. The air has become lighter - or heavier, depending on your viewpoint. Le Figaro, for example, referred to "these intellectuals and artists who call for revolt' and lamented: "Franois Furet [the French historian] seems to have been mistaken: the French revolution isn't over". Like many others, however, Furet had spared no effort to dispel the memory of it. In the past, the Revolution was taken to be the expression of a historical necessity (Marx), of a "new era of history" (Goethe) or of an epic which began with the soldiers of the Year II celebrated in a poem by Victor Hugo: "magnificent barefoot men marching on a dazzled world". All we are allowed to see now is the blood on the Revolution's hands. From Rousseau to Mao, an egalitarian, terrorist, virtuous utopia is said to have trampled on individual liberties and given birth to the cold monster of the totalitarian state. And then "democracy" got its act together and won the day: cheerful, peaceful, free-market. It too is the heir of revolutions, but of a different sort - English or American style, more political than social, decaffeinated. A king was beheaded across the Channel too, of course. But the English aristocracy put up less resistance than in France, so the bourgeoisie there felt no need to make an alliance with the people to establish its domination. Among the privileged classes, a model without the barefoot or sans-culottes had more appeal and seemed less dangerous than the alternative. So Laurence Parisot, head of the French employers' union, wasn't betraying the trust of her members in telling the Financial Times: "I love French history, but I don't like the Revolution very much. It was an act of extreme violence from which we are still suffering. It forced each one of us to be in a camp". She added: "We don't practice [democracy] as successfully as in England". The polarization of society inherent in the notion of "being in a camp" is unwelcome because instead we all ought to be showing our solidarity with our employer, our boss or his brand - while still knowing our place. For in the eyes of those who aren't among its fans, the main charge against the revolution isn't its violence - sadly an all too common phenomenon in history - but something infinitely rarer: the upheaval of the social order which occurs when the proletariat and the affluent go to war. In 1988, George H. W. Bush, looking for a knock-out argument to floor his Democrat opponent, Michael Dukakis, came up with this: "Wer'e not going to be divided by class. You see, I think that's for European democracies or something else. It isn't for the United States of America". Class. Just think how horrifying such an accusation must be in the US! To the extent that 20 years later, at the moment when the US economy seems to be imposing sacrifices as inequitable as the profits that preceded them, the present incumbent in the White House judged it imperative to forestall popular anger thus: "One of the most important lessons to learn from this crisis is that our economy only works if we recognize that we're all in this together, that we all have responsibilities to each other and to our country. We can't afford to demonise every investor or entrepreneur who seeks to make a profit". Whatever ultra rightwing Republicans are claiming, Barack Obama is not about to start any revolution. "Revolution is first of all a rupture. Anyone who cannot accept that rupture with the established order, with capitalist society, cannot be a member of the Socialist Party". Those were the words of Franois Mitterrand in 1971. Since then, the conditions for membership have become less draconian, since they don't put off either the IMF's director general Dominique Strauss-Kahn, or its head, Pascal Lamy. The idea of revolution has ebbed elsewhere too, even in the most radical groups. But the Right has made the word its own (evidently it still contains some seeds of hope), and has turned it into a synonym for the rolling back or destruction of social security gains made - or wrenched - from the established order. Everyday acts of violence Even so, a charge levelled against major revolutions is they were violent. Exception is taken to the massacre of the Swiss Guard during the storming of the Tuileries in August 1792, to that of the Russian royal family in July 1918 in Ekaterinburg and to the liquidation of Chiang Kai-Shek's officers when the Communists took power in China in 1949. But if you object to those, then you shouldn't ignore the famines of the Ancien Rgime, which happened against a background of balls at Versailles and of tithes demanded by priests; or the hundreds of peaceful demonstrators massacred by Nicholas II's troops in St Petersburg on Bloody Sunday in 1905; or the revolutionaries in Canton and Shanghai thrown alive into the boilers of locomotives in 1927. Not to mention the everyday acts of violence which were part of the social order the revolutionaries sought to overthrow. The story of the revolutionaries who were burned alive hasn't just affected those with an interest in China; it's also known to the millions who have read Andr Malraux's novel, La Condition humaine. For decades the greatest writers and artists made common cause with the workers' movement to celebrate revolutions and the glorious future. In doing so, it is true, they underestimated the downside, the tragedies and the chilly dawns (with their political police, personality cults, labour camps and executions). For 30 years, by contrast, those are the only consequences of revolution which have been spoken about; in fact it's the recommended course of action for those who want to succeed at university, in the press - or the Acadmie Franaise. "Revolution inevitably means an irruption of violence," explains Academic Max Gallo. "Our societies are extremely fragile. The major responsibility of those who have a public platform is to guard against this irruption". For his part, Furet reckoned that any attempt at radical transformation was totalitarian or terrorist, that "the idea of another society has become almost inconceivable". His conclusion is that "we are condemned to live in the world that we live in". It's not hard to imagine that such a destiny fits in with the expectations of his readers, who are generally protected from life's storms by a pleasant existence of dinners and debates. There are many other examples of the phobia of revolutions and its corollary - the legitimization of conservatism - besides Gallo and Furet, such as the media, including the cinema. For 30 years, television has been keen to show that the only alternative to liberal democracy is scheming tyrannical regimes. And so the attention given to the German-Soviet pact assumes much greater importance than other unnatural alliances, such as the Munich Agreement or Adolf Hitler's handshake with Neville Chamberlain. At the very least, the Nazi and the conservative shared a common hatred of popular fronts. And the same class fear inspired the aristocrats of Ferrara and the ironmasters of the Ruhr when they enabled Mussolini and the Third Reich to come to power. But is it still permissible to point that out? If so, then we can go further still. While brilliantly explaining why he rejected a Soviet-style revolution, no less a figure than Lon Blum, France's first Socialist prime minister, reflected on the limits of a social transformation which had universal suffrage as its only talisman: "We are not certain," he warned in 1924, "that the representatives and leaders of society today won't themselves depart from the law at the moment when their essential principles appear too seriously threatened". A requirement for revolution Since then there has been no shortage of just this sort of transgression; from Franco's pronunciamento in 1936 to Pinochet's coup d'tat in 1973, not forgetting the overthrow of Mossadegh in Iran in 1953. Blum underlined moreover that "the Republic has never been proclaimed by virtue of a legal vote according to constitutional rules. It was established through the will of the people who rose up against the existing laws". Universal suffrage, which is now invoked as a way of ruling out other forms of collective action (including public service strikes, which are compared to hostage taking), has become the alpha and omega of all public action. The questions Blum posed about it have scarcely dated at all: "Is it a true reality today? Don't the influences of the boss and the landowner bear down on the electors with the pressure of the power of money and the press? Is every elector free of the suffrage he expresses, free through the culture of his thought, free through the independence of his person? And in order to liberate him, isn't a revolution precisely what's required?". In three European countries - the Netherlands, France and Ireland - the "no" vote defied the combined pressures of the bosses, the power of money and the press. For that very reason, it was disregarded. "We lost all the battles, but we had the best songs". This view from a Spanish republican fighter seeking refuge in France after Franco's victory sums up the problem of conservatives and their insistent message of submission. Simply put, revolutions leave an indelible mark on history and human consciousness, even when they fail and even when they are later dishonoured. They embody a moment when fate rises up and the people have the upper hand. This gives them their universal resonance. Each in its way the mutineers of the Potemkin, the survivors of the Long March, the barbudos ("bearded ones") of Cuba's Sierra Maestra - echoes the actions of the soldiers of the Year II; that suggested to British historian Eric Hobsbawm that "the French Revolution demonstrated the power of the common people in a manner that no subsequent government has ever allowed itself to forget - if only in the form of untrained, improvised, conscript armies, defeating the conjunction of the finest and most experienced troops of the old regimes." But it isn't just about memory: modern political vocabulary and half the legal systems in the world were inspired by the code invented by the Revolution. And anyone who thinks about the support for the Third World of the 1960s may wonder if a part of its popularity in Europe comes from the feeling of both recognition and gratitude which it gave rise to. The revolutionary, egalitarian, liberating Enlightenment ideal seemed to be reborn in the South, in part thanks to the Vietnamese, Algerians, Chinese and Chileans who had learned their lessons from Europe. The Empire grew cumbersome, former colonies took up the baton and the revolution continued. The situation today is different. The emancipation of China and India and their self-assertion on the world stage may give rise to some curiosity and sympathy, but they don't refer back to any universal hope linked to equality, the rights of the oppressed, an alternative model for development or the desire to prevent conservative restorations based on knowledge and social graces. Revolutions remain rare If the international interest in Latin America is greater, that's because its political orientation is both democratic and social. A sector of the European left has spent 20 years justifying the priority it gives to the wishes of the middle classes by coming up with theories about the end of the "revolutionary parenthesis" and the end of the political significance of working classes. Venezuela and Bolivia's leaders are, by contrast, remobilizing these people by proving that their lot is being taken into account and their destiny is not sealed - in short, the struggle goes on. However desirable they may be, revolutions remain rare. They require simultaneously: a broad mass of dissatisfied people who are prepared to act; a state whose legitimacy and authority are challenged by some of its usual supporters (as a result of economic incompetence, mismanagement of the military or crippling internal divisions); and finally, pre-existing radical ideas that question the social order and which, though they may be held only by a tiny minority to begin with, are capable of attracting all those whose loyalty to the old order has crumbled. The US historian Victoria Bonnell studied the workers of Moscow and St Petersburg on the eve of the First World War. As this is the only instance of this social group being a major player in a "successful" revolution, her conclusion is worth quoting: "What distinguishes revolutionary consciousness is the conviction that grievances can be redressed only by a transformation of the existing institutions and arrangements, by the establishment of an alternative form of social and political organization". In other words, this consciousness doesn't appear spontaneously without some pre-existing political mobilisation and intellectual ferment. This being so, the demands of social movements are primarily defensive - as can be seen at the moment. They aim to re-establish a social contract which they believe to have been broken by the bosses, landowners, bankers and governments. Food, work, shelter, education, prospects: not (yet) a glorious future but "a vision of the present stripped of its most painful aspects". It is only later, when the inability of those in power to fulfil the obligations which legitimate their power and privileges becomes apparent that the question is sometimes asked outside militant circles: "whether kings, capitalists, priests, generals, bureaucrats, etc, serve any useful social purpose at all". At this point, it is possible to talk of revolution. The transition from one stage to another may occur quickly - in two years in 1789, a few months in 1917 - or may never happen. For nearly two centuries, millions of political and union activists, historians and sociologists have been examining the critical variables: is the ruling class divided and demoralized? Is its machinery of repression intact? Are the social forces that seek change organised and capable of mutual action? Nowhere have these studies been more abundant that in the US, where it is often a case of understanding revolutions and conceding all that they have achieved, the better to avert them. The reliability of these studies has been patchy. In 1977, for example, there was concern about the "ungovernability" of capitalist societies. And the question of why the USSR was so stable also arose. There was no shortage of available explanations: the preference of the Soviet leadership and people for order and stability; collective socialization which consolidated the values of the regime; the non-cumulative nature of problems to be tackled, allowing the party room for maneuver; good economic results; the USSR's status as a great power and so on. The Yale political scientist Samuel Huntington, who was already immensely famous, concluded this roster of corroborating signs: "None of the challenges which are identified in the future appear to be qualitatively different from those the Soviet system has demonstrated the ability to deal with in the past" And the rest, as they say, is history. Serge Halimi is the director of Le Monde Diplomatique. His article appears in the May, English language edition of the monthly Le Monde Diplomatique, to be found at mondediplo.com. This text appears by agreement with Le Monde Diplomatique. CounterPunch features two or three articles from LMD every month. [Revolution may be the only way to clean the sticky scum off the top of society. How else might we end all our wars, or get single payer? Not thru "representative government", as we see today. -ed] ------------------------------------------------------------------------------- - David Shove shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu rhymes with clove Progressive Calendar over 2225 subscribers as of 12.19.02 please send all messages in plain text no attachments vote third party for president for congress now and forever Socialism YES Capitalism NO To GO DIRECTLY to an item, eg --------8 of x-------- do a find on --8
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