View of Antarctica and the Southern Ocean with tip of Africa visible. Composite NASA image from the Scientific Visualization Studio for the International Polar Year 2005.
View of Antarctica from low orbit if the ice cap was removed. Created with Bedmap2 by the British Antarctic Survey with NASA’s ICESat and Operation IceBridge, 2013.
We live in the midst of a time of transition. Now is a time of final endings and new beginnings. We live during a time of great volatility, destruction, and fear, yet also one vibrant with dynamic and revolutionary possibilities. Together we experience the ending of the Modern Age as global capitalism breaks down and global climate disruption accelerates. New energy sources and technologies begin to emerge as the old dinosaurs of coal and oil still roar. Marx, Engels, Trotsky, and others are being rediscovered upon the centenary of the Russian Revolution as more information is uncovered to discover what actually occurred and not the slander and falsehoods portrayed as “history.” Socialism, basically the expansion of democracy into all areas of life, is in a process of rebirth and renewal. At the same time our scientists discover more and more stars and planets likely to support life, humanity experiences more UFO and ET phenomena than ever before.
More and more whistleblowers dare to come forth to disclose what they know. These people include not only everyday folks, but top scientists and engineers, astronauts and pilots, military officers and intelligence agents, corporate CEOs, and high government officials. They are all credible people in their own right regardless if one agrees or disagrees with their individual politics and religions. Our fellow Humans who risk all for the truth face ridicule, harassment, loss of jobs, dismissal, threats to families, and in some cases what appears to be murder disguised as suicides or accidents.
Yet incredibly the mainstream mass media behaves as if these people are stupid and insane. Mainstream academia, beholden to corporate overlords and bureaucratic tyrants, remains too terrified and astonishingly ignorant to address these challenging subjects. Thus the people who most need to pull their heads up out of their smartfoneholes won’t even look at these life-changing issues. They will instead debunk these matters even when confronted with clear evidence governments deliberately created and engaged in debunking and smear campaigns during the height of the Cold War to distract the public from the enormity of the truth.
It is vital we human beings continue to awaken from old patterns of self-destruction to build new political and economic systems. We can do better than the horrors we visit upon each other and ourselves. We must ascend our current and prehistoric limitations.
We must support the establishment of a Constitutional, Democratic Socialist World Republic.
Creating a Democratic Socialist World Parliament with all representatives subject to recall in a participatory republic is a primary step in this direction.
Silent are the many Class War dead buried beneath the myths of Camelot
Watching Jackie felt like eating jagged broken glass thru my eyes as if eyeballs were little, bloody mouths wired directly into my brains. The movie is intense, jarring, and rich with excellent and challenging performances. The assassination of President John F. Kennedy in Texas six days before Thanksgiving 1963 was a sucker punch to the American gut.
One could quibble about actress Natalie Portman’s attempt at Jacqueline Lee Bouvier Kennedy’s accent, but her harrowing performance rivets and horrifies. Portman becomes Jackie with such wrenching intensity it’s as if we’re invading the former First Lady’s privacy. The film portrays the Journalist, played by Billy Crudup, as an unnamed man but understood to be Theodore H. White, a historian and journalist turned propagandist and Camelot mythmaker.
The movie is in part a portrayal of a woman’s grief and shock at the public murder of her husband while at the pinnacle of their power. The film also, less convincingly but nevertheless disturbingly, illuminates the collusion between the chain-smoking former First Lady and the Journalist to control the public narrative and secure the myth of the American Camelot as “truth.” In its own unique way, Jackie reflects the legacy of Greek tragedy and Shakespearean drama enmeshed with blood and brains in the way of American movies.
What makes this collusion even more bizarre was Jackie’s sterilization of her dead husband’s true legacy. To his credit, JFK was in many ways a traitor to his class of wealthy, bourgeoisie capitalists, and this article addresses this further down. Jackie Kennedy, however, fought, plotted, connived, and strategized to elevated JFK to the lofty, neo-feudal status of Camelot. A powerful and determined person, she was also relentless and ferocious as she grabbed the helm of history.Continue reading “Jackie Screams in Silence” »
No flash in the pan protests! Sustained demonstrations are required.
Building Massive Resistance against Trump and the Alt-Right helps build a Democratic Socialist world.
Major demonstrations are being planned across the United States of America over these two days to protest the inauguration of Donald Trump as President and Mike Pence as Vice-President. Other marches and rallies in solidarity with this insurrection are planned in other cities around the world. These protests, even in the midst of winter, are expected to be huge. Already over 25,000 people took to the streets of New York City on the Thursday before Inauguration Day to demonstrate against Trump-Pence and their ugly and dangerously stupid agenda.
It would be naïve to think all these vigorous acts of defiance, resistance, unity, and courage will have much immediate effect. And with today’s technologies at our fingertips with social media, anything is possible. Even more naïve, however, is to believe we can simply pack up and go home and plop down as if OK, look how LOUD we showed Trump-Pence and the Alt-Right we roared! No. This is a long fight shaping up. We must be prepared for a long, long struggle!
Know, too, when we on the Left fight, we win in the end. To fight and win, however, we must come together to educate and organize ourselves to fight effectively.
Consider examples in American history of what efforts activists took to win. Let’s look at our own history. Struggle takes time, and the more we fight we win. Perseverance is key. The Civil Rights Movement lasted from the early 1950s all the way thru the 60s into the mid-1970s. Significant high points were the Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 followed 10 years later by the passage of the Civil Rights Act in 1964. Then the Voting Rights Act and the Immigration and National Services Act passed in 1965, and the Fair Housing Act in 1968.
The anti-Vietnam War movement began protesting in 1964 and grew so vigorous President Lyndon Johnson of the Democrats was compelled to withdraw from seeking reelection in March 1968. These anti-war demonstrations also compelled the next President, Republican Richard Nixon, to withdraw U.S. forces from the Vietnam War in March 1973. These civil rights and anti-war protests merged with other movements as resistance to Nixon exploded yet again during the Watergate crisis. Nixon resigned the American presidency in August of 1974. The labor and environmental movements are other classic examples of struggles taking years to manifest a string of powerful successes.
Six Videos, the Petition, and our Stories…and it’s not over
Note this article with its compilation of videos is not marketed or sold for profit nor is anything in this article being marketed and sold for profit. This article and the videos within may be freely shared as long as various sources and authorship are acknowledged.
“There is one word missing. One word that makes all the difference. This word is ‘organized’. That is: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, ORGANIZED citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” It speaks to the power of people mobilization; the power of true change that starts from the bottom wing…there is a growing, if naïve belief that all you need is a lot of passion, a lot of commitment, a lot of good intentions and lots of mavericks, rebels, disruptors, contrarians and challengers and, alas, change will happen. It won’t.” – Activist Leandro Herrero of Spain on the necessity for activists to organize.
A workers’ revolt brewed within REI since at least 2015. Matters came to a head in July 2016 as workers rose up openly in nonviolent direct action. Among their issues at stake were demands for a living wage, for secure scheduling, and for democratic representation via a union. These demands burst open the heart of the matter to reveal whether the REI Co-op would be a truly cooperative business. Or a lie.
This is our story as a brief summary from my perspective. This is a small part of our big story. Indeed, the record of this peaceful uprising may even be your story. Much work remains to be done by we the working people. In the beginning, actions will be led by small numbers of people determined to organize and act in such a way, as the late, great anthropologist Margaret Meade liked to point out, as to change the world. They may be resisted at first by those who insist these leaders not speak for them but say, “some few individuals.” Progress cannot be stayed. Even the most peaceful revolution has setbacks and is set upon by cynics and automatic critics as well as often ignored by the apathetic and the resigned. It is OK to feel afraid, and let us move forward anyway even if scared. Don’t let fear stop us, but do let it keep us alert and on top of our game. Our revolt had repercussions benefiting many workers, although success wasn’t as widespread as initially believed.
One can trace this revolt back to the influences of the 2011 Wisconsin Insurrection followed by the Occupy Uprisings of 2011-2012. These struggles were followed by the successful Fight for $15 an hour minimum wage struggles of 2014-2016, an uprising sparked by Alaska Airline employees in SeaTac, Washington, and which spread across the country in the form of fast food strikes and other direct actions organized with assistance from Socialist Alternative and allies in the labor union movement such as SEIU.
More directly related to REI, however, were the 2014 demonstrations against sweatshop labor in making products for The North Face and against REI’s partnership with The North Face. The anti-sweatshop protests were small but loud, nationwide, and even erupted in other countries. A nationwide student labor union known as the United Students Against Sweatshops or USAS (http://usas.org) organized these demonstrations at REI and TNF stores.
Sweatshop labor is slave labor where capitalists leveraged deeply indebted people into perpetual debt bondage and exploited children with their tiny hands and fingers. Such vulnerable people were beaten, fed little, worked with little rest or sleep, sexually violated, kept terrified, and generally traumatized. People died and were maimed in these slave factories. The problem afflicts many companies as human slavery and trafficking is a worldwide wicked problem.
Patagonia and Apple were among the few to take vigorous action to tackle this problem, but the capitalist imperative to exploit resources and cheap labor for short-term profits, socio-cultural normalization, and political power makes cleaning up this mess self-defeating. The North Face, owned by VF Corporation in Greensboro, North Carolina, was one of the worst offenders. Only in 2015 did VFC and TNF start addressing sustainability and green energy issues, but still has not addressed its use of sweatshop labor.
More workers in America and more workers in other nation-states such as Bangladesh are beginning to understand this is an international issue, indeed an international working class issue. Thus an issue that demands we workers hold the capitalist class accountable as we further organize a new mass movement of the Left across the working and middle classes to build a planetary Democratic Socialist society.
Below is the first of six videos here and is from United Students Against Sweatshops. It is a part of REI history we must remember and Corporate Headquarters wants us to forget. REI HQ preferred instead to distract people’s attention by ramping up its efforts to market the petty bourgeois abomination known as “glamping.”
Before REI workers launched their own petition for real change after so many were fired in late 2015, there was an earlier petition demanding “REI, Drop North Face Sweatshops!” I signed it on Monday 2 January 2017. I am ashamed to confess I was unaware of this petition until recently and didn’t realize the true nature of the anti-North Face protests back in 2014. In 2014 I was still emerging from almost two years of being homeless or semi-homeless and ill with severe depression and a cluster of autoimmune conditions. That’s no excuse, of course, and I share to give one a sense of what I experienced. As I alluded to earlier, these struggles of solidarity for justice, equality, and liberty for working class people are far from over.
Max Silva, an REI Member, initiated the anti-sweatshop Petition for USAS with Moveon.org back in 2014. It still continues to gather signatures. Move On is financed in large part by billionaire George Soros. While I am no fan of Soros and his capitalist manipulations of geopolitics and unaware activists to fund his faction of squabbling plutocrats, Move On still charges hard as an activist NGO.
This accelerated worker and member discontent within the Co-op. The first phase of the 2015-2016 REI workers revolt culminated on the 11th of July 2016. A small group of retail workers from across the United States, although mostly from the West Coast, showed up in Seattle to go public en masse before the media. These workers were desperate, afraid, and courageous. I know as I was one of them. My coworkers and I were scared we would lose everything, and we didn’t have much left to lose as our wages and hours were so low and random. The possibility of getting fired and losing what little we had left terrified us. We stood up anyway. We workers took a stand.
We did so with the support of Councilor Kshama Sawant of the Seattle City Council and the dynamic staff of her office. We did so with the determined support of Socialist Alternative and UFCW 21. We did so with the support of many Members of the REI Co-op, and we did so with the support of larger numbers of our co-workers from all across the company who felt they had to stay discreet or anonymous but who informed us privately they were still with us.
We REI Coworkers had many, many even conflicting demands. In just a few meetings we distilled them into three primary ones. Most of our demands were met. One primary demand was not. There remains the lack of some form of organized, internal democratic representation of the workers to management. There are several different ways towards building a workers’ democracy. One way is thru a union. Another is thru cooperative ownership of the company as a true cooperative business with democratic deliberation and planning. Or a hybrid of the two. Cooperative worker ownership and/or unionization defends hard-won gains, sustains the network, and advocates for greater democracy. Clearly this struggle isn’t new but is as old as the exploited standing up to those who exploit them. Our struggles are far from over for democratic socialist representation is THE most important battle to win.
Back in the Civil Rights struggles of the 1950s and 1960s Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., came to recognize there can’t be any political democracy without having economic democracy and one can’t have capitalism without war. He came to champion democratic socialism. King was assassinated in April 1968 while in Memphis, Tennessee. He’d traveled there to support striking sanitation workers and their new union. The next five videos, however, demonstrate what’s possible when people from across the working classes come together to move what many thought were immovable mountains, especially REI, the mythic icon of the American Pacific Northwest and the Great Outdoors. Continue reading “Videos and Stories from the Unfinished Struggle for Workers’ Rights at REI” »
The term, “locker room talk” doesn’t excuse anything. What many don’t get is locker room talk is another expression of rape culture. What many more don’t get is rape culture arises from capitalism.
Rape culture is so deeply embedded in patriarchal society many people aren’t even conscious and aware of its existence. Even some women dismiss locker room talk with shrugs as, “just what guys do, right?” Locker room talk is verbal violence, and verbal violence, for those still waking up to our cultural mess, is violence committed with spoken language. It’s often amplified with body language and facial expressions. Verbal violence spills over into written language where direct use of such insults may be criminalized as deadly threats, slander, and libel. When such violence is sexual, however, it’s often dismissed with eye rolls and shrugs or ignored. People who do use locker rooms are also fed up as what Trump calls “locker room talk” isn’t the norm in their locker rooms.
Donald Trump brushed off recently leaked recordings of his sexist, disgusting, and abusive comments towards women and girls as “just locker room talk.” He was called on it during the second presidential debate of this nightmarish campaign by debate co-moderator Anderson Cooper of CNN. Trump’s words were deeply disrespectful, so deeply disrespectful as to be unconscious of morals and ethics. His language described how he exploited his wealth and fame to force women to kiss and hug him. The billionaire in a fit of excited infantilism called for men to “grab” women by their genitals. Trump’s language was violent enough for others to characterize his speech as the verbal equivalent of “sexual assault.” His words are indeed violent. Trump’s talk is rape talk.
Hungry. Sun blazing in my eyes. Making me squint as my belly growled low like a dog guarding a slab of meat. Hadn’t eaten since yesterday. Felt ravenous after I spent too much of the morning in the hospital being poked, pierced, measured, and explored by fantastic doctors and their curious assistants. Prodded me like a damn bug followed by quick pecks on their computers. Felt as if I was a giant insect splayed out and peeled apart in an enormous Petri dish by mad scientists and clever kids. Who behaved as if any moment they would hobble over and slather weird baby food goo all over me to see what monsters might grow. Ahhh, yes, call me…Petri Dish Man! BAM! BAM! BAM! DON’T BAN THE PETRI DISH MAN! ran thru my head over and over, tho I dared not tell anyone at the time, as it felt so strange.
Brought back memories of being in the Battle of Seattle during the so-called Anti-Globalization Revolts, and memories of being in Occupy Seattle and Occupy Olympia. Yes, even brought back memories of being homeless during the Great Global Recession after rich, capitalist pundits declared it long over. Despite being such a proficiently medically inspected man, however, I felt grateful for Obamacare’s ACA here in Washington State. Thank goodness it covered what my employer’s private health insurance plan wouldn’t cover. I shake my head funny too, as it seemed plain old common sense for 21st Century America, indeed all of Planet Earth, to have an integrated single-payer universal health care system, a democratic economic system, a socialist system.
Thus satiated on clarity of vision, I ventured hungrily into The Dish, a funky Seattle café, for a belated breakfast. Call it brunch. Time was 11:30 am. It’s a lively little café in my neighborhood. I currently live in a small, quasi-cooperative household below the landlord’s family in a house uprooted from the I-5 Corridor running north and south across the States between Canada and Mexico. The house sits beneath three immense Western redcedar trees in the Tangletown-Latona part of Green Lake up in the middle of North Seattle. At least till the rent rockets up. Only my second visit to this cafe, too. Rarely eat out anymore. Now it’s a treat! The place was abuzz, too.
Two staffers had called in sick, however, leaving the business understaffed. Only two other people were out front serving including one new worker who admitted she didn’t know how to work anything quite yet. But they were game and smiled anyway. Big, welcoming smiles, too. They bustled in and out among crowded customers, and the one cook in back paced himself as he had to. The warm smells of cooked food swirled with exuberant colors intoxicated yours truly Petri Dish Man.
The ghost of a homeless guy watched everything right over the lip of his big orange coffee cup. He was so invisible it as was if I couldn’t see him but nevertheless still sense his presence. I felt the color of his large, tattered coat fade charcoal and gray. Was his bright orange cup just a reflection of the Sun upon a glass bowl of slivered fruit? No, he wasn’t there, just a coat and a cup and the ghost of a man who gave up everything precious but his dignity and curiosity.
Does anyone reading this take Donald Trump seriously? Do you take Donald Trump seriously? It’s so easy to dismiss his pompous and bombastic rhetoric, shallow of substance, yet cleverly spun to hook into the emotions of frustrated and enraged people. Trump is a master showman. He’s as shameless and as tricksterish as P.T. Barnum and as bellicose and banal as Mike Tyson. He ripped off and trademarked Ronald Reagan’s slogan, “Let’s make America great again.” His followers don’t care, however, as it reminds them of a nostalgic past when White men thought they ruled the world.
For the rest of us, however, as dismayed as so many of us are with the Clinton Democrats as well as the fractious Republicans, Archcapitalist Trump and the Alt-Right presents us with an opportunity. It’s beyond time to rebuild the Left. We must find new ways to build a united front between labor and environmentalists, between indigenous tribal activists and social justice advocates, between scientists and the spiritual, between military veterans and peace advocates, for Black Lives Matter and predominantly White revolutionary Socialist groups. It’s an opportunity to build new mass movements of the Left for a major new political party to challenge the Dem-Rep Duopoly. This is an opportunity to raise working class consciousness and help organize working and middle class people for a new mass working class party of the 99% to spearhead the transition from Finance Capitalism to Democratic Socialism and away from Fascism.
Let us remember a famous book, well written yet choked with racist rants and fantastical declarations. Adolf Hitler wrote out exactly in Mein Kampf what motivated him and what he intended to do. Few took him seriously, and he was dismissed as a buffoon. Hitler went on to win democratic elections in the German Weimar Republic. He consolidated and expanded his power including leveraging false flag events such as the burning of the Reichstag. Having conquered Germany, he then moved forward in his attempt to conquer the world.
Trump is no Hitler. Not even close. Adolf Hitler was an anomaly, and Nazism is extreme tyranny. Trump much more resembles Fascist bully Benito Mussolini with their mutual love of show and pomp. Mussolini lusted for power, glory, and fame. He appreciated drama for its entertainment value as well as for its psycho-propaganda usefulness. So, too, does Trump. One who seeks power, glory, and fame can never have enough of them. As Hitler did, however, Trump wrote a modestly bestselling book in which he combined his belief systems and world view with personal memoir. The Art of the Deal, written with lots of help from Tony Schwartz, came out in 1987.
While his advice is focused on capitalist business and not politics, the book encapsulates Trump’s world view and how he approaches everything. Life is for action, and successful action is all about leveraging assets and liabilities to secure the best deal. Those with the best deals win the contest. Making winning deals and managing the results gave Trump his singular life purpose and he applies it to all areas of a life for action. Such an approach naturally fed into an addiction for more power, glory, and fame.
Mussolini, however, followed a clear ideology as a Fascist Party dictator, Il Duce, The Leader. Portraying himself as a fearless strongman and demagogue, Mussolini leveraged both the capitalist petty bourgeoisie and disaffected workers to establish a Far-Right wing Empire. Trump, by comparison, doesn’t adhere to any one ideology. He seems to view ideologies as tools in toolbox to pull any one out from as he saw fit to accomplish whatever he wanted to achieve. If anything was ideological, it was Trump’s belief making deals, especially business deals, gets stuff done. Thus deal making is both show and pomp as well as melodramatic artistry. Hence, The Art of the Deal.
The Donald is a uniquely American phenomenon. He represents the dark side of American Exceptionalism. He is the epitome of Ayn Rand’s Romantic Fascist supermen. Ayn Rand herself disdained the masses as “human parasites” and considered William Edward Hickman, a serial killer who dismembered girls and called himself The Fox, her hero.
Both Rand and Hickman are twisted products of American Exceptionalism, the kind the politicians and cheerleaders of empire refuse to even acknowledge. American Exceptionalism is the watered down U.S. version of White racism and European colonial imperialism with the latter’s emphasis upon the White Man’s burden, Protestant Christianity with its Calvinist work ethic, and fantasies of Manifest Destiny as some kind of Divine Right of Empire. It’s a belief America is inherently superior to all other nation-states, was and is chosen by God as the Chosen People for the New World.
Arising out of American Exceptionalist belief systems, Rand is the Immigrant, which is ironic as The Donald and his bellicose herd are militant anti-immigrants. Rand was born into a Russian Jewish family in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) and during her early 20s immigrated to America. The Fox was as American as the Bush and Clintons. Hickman was born in Arkansas, grew up between Texas and Missouri, and spent the rest of his short life in California.
Both The Immigrant and The Fox were Exceptional Americans. From “the Dark Side,” yes, but as such they are not anomalies but as perversely normal as apple pie and guns. As such they fed the mad, crazy ugliness that captivates, hypnotizes, antagonizes, numbs, dumbs down, and distracts the mainstream public from any clear sense of unity and purpose. The lack of such vital clarity plays a significant factor in the low mass consciousness of the American working class.
Ayn Rand praises her psychopathic, slaughterhouse pedophile with language devoid of all empathy, of all sympathy, other than cold abstract admiration for her Satanic, rightwing godman:
Sometimes the fate of the world hinges on how a seemingly local crisis is resolved or escalates. So it is with Greece.
Greece and Europa, and yes, the world is at yet another unsteady crossroads. We look at the Grexit Crisis within the context of the Bigger Picture here in this article. The outcome of today’s Grexit Crisis may plunge us further into recession and depression, or begin to turn things around for the working class everywhere. The Grexit Crisis may trip us closer into a nuclear world war, which, seriously, already looms far closer than many realize or most want to think. Or in a much more preferable outcome so rearrange the balance of military and geopolitical power as to make such a conflagration unlikely. The European Union could fracture, as seems likely, as it is primarily a non-democratic financial treaty organization, or draw itself together into a truly democratic political federation where the working classes assert more socialist power.
The leaders of the European Union, under pressure from the Troika, today gave Greece and its Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras five more days to submit another set of proposals. The Troika demanded the new proposals be worded as if the Greek government is, ironically, responsible to save the Eurozone from financial catastrophe and possible economic collapse. It’s as if those political puppets of the capitalist plutocrats are crying, “Save us by further enriching the banksters who engineered this damn mess in the first place!”
The creditors of the Troika composed of the European Central Bank (ECB), the International Monetary Fund, and the European Commission (EC as the executive body of the EU), demand repayment and greater austerity from a nation unable to do either. The Troika has manipulated and exploited Greece and sucked it dry. If anything, the banksters, those pro-Troika gangsters in business suits, praised as educated standard bearers of capitalism, behave as financial vampires. Anchored in bastions of global financial power, they are determined to uphold the domination of finance capitalism as a form of neo-fascist tyranny over Europa. German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the woman who stared down Vladimir Putin and made him squirm in his chair earlier this year, comes across more and more as another cold-hearted Margaret Thatcher. We are all in a global class war, and the Grexit Crisis is a major battle in our struggle.
Much fear and paranoia has been and continues to be projected out into the mainstream mass media as well as some of the alternative ones. The pro-Troika side fears whatever they do or don’t do with Greece will set a bad example for the rest of the Eurozone. If they bail out Greece, then other nations within the EU will expect something similar. If they kick out one nation, then the others would fear being kicked out in the future, too, including for any hidden purpose with debt burdens as an excuse to cover the real reasons. If Greece exits the Eurozone, thus the Grexit, Greece exits the European Union. How else can the Greeks stay in, as the EU is not a political union of equals but the result of an economic treaty between unequal members?
“Extinction is not something to contemplate. It is something to rebel against.”
— Dr. Helen Caldicott, one of Jim’s heroines.
This is a critically important book. Its message is urgent. Democratic world government is an idea whose time is now. Our species stands at the threshold of global upheaval and possible extinction. A convergence of challenges unique in human history threatens to overwhelm us, and a cooperative worldwide response via a constitutional planetary democracy with a socially responsible economy represents the most effective way to address these issues. First, however, we must choose to create these new human systems for our planet. Jim Stark of Canada has come up with a novel yet simple approach to help us get there.
This book is a rare integration of vision and pragmatism. Jim Stark advocates a grass roots, internet-based Global Referendum along with paper mail-in ballots. The ballot proposition is simple and direct. One votes “Yes” or “No” for “Do you support the creation of a directly-elected, representative, transparent, and democratic world parliament that is authorized to legislate on global issues?” Early polls indicate a majority of people around the world and across many different religions and ethnic groups would vote yes if they could. Nation-state regimes, including the non-democratic United Nations, will also have a choice. They can work together with this movement, or be by-passed. In regions of severe repression, warfare, and socio-political-economic upheaval voting may not be possible. And it is a start. It’s start toward achieving a dream many have had for centuries.
Pope Francis denouncing global violence as “a piecemeal Third World War” at Redipuglia Cemetery where 100,000 Italian soldiers killed in the First World War are buried in Italy near its border with Slovenia, 13 September 2014. Agence France Presse (AFP).
We have been engaged in a nearly continuous but rarely acknowledged war for thirty-five years. It began in 1979, twenty-two years before the terror attacks of 9/11. This war is fought around the globe as a patchwork of campaigns between various factions of multiple and shifting alliances. Even Pope Francis recognized this odd and gruesome conflict as a “piecemeal third world war.” Although the combat is small in scale, it has at least two characteristics of a world war: 1) the sheer number of nation-states, stateless-nations, and non-state groups engaged, and 2) fighting and bombing on every continent save Antarctica.
This war has also been called the Middle East’s version of Europe’s Thirty Years’ War (1618-1648) and the Hundred Years’ War (1337-1453) due to its widespread, confusing, and desultory patterns of overlapping conflicts and aims. Yet this war is barely recognizable as one long war. Even fewer see the direct relationships between the capitalist system and warfare. The more people see and openly acknowledge we have been in an ongoing war for at least 35 years, the greater we experience a long, overdue change of perspective. The sooner more and more people recognize this long war and numerous others are driven largely by capitalism with its systemic exploitation of ethnic and religious divisions to better access and control natural resources and transportation routes, the sooner we develop strategies to end war. A deep shift in perspective may shift how we approach and resolve this conflict. First we need to see what we are doing.
Two days after the People’s Climate March in 2,200-2,500 cities across the planet and the morning after airstrikes and cruise missile attacks on homes and buildings destroyed by the United States, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain, and the United Arab Emirates in Syria with France and the U.K., already in Iraq, planning to join Dutch forces in the Syrian campaign against the Islamic State, 24 September 2014.
HUMAN-CAUSED POLLUTION, DRAMATICALLY WORSENED BY CAPITALISM, CONSISTENTLY EXCEEDS POLLUTION FROM VOLCANIC ERUPTIONS TO CAUSE SEVERE CLIMATE CHANGE INCLUDING GLACIER MELT, GLOBAL WARMING, SUPERSTORMS WITH EXTREME WEATHER AND TEMPERATURE OSCILLATIONS, AND TUNDRA THAW WITH MASSIVE METHANE RELEASE AND REVIVAL OF LONG-FROZEN PREHISTORIC MICROORGANISMS
West Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier melts into Earth’s Southern Ocean.
Antarctica and Greenland
“Remember the front page of The Seattle Times one day last week, a week ago last Monday?” I asked the other participants in the room as I held up a copy from 12 May 2014. The lead article was adorned with a dramatic photograph of West Antarctica’s Thwaites Glacier melting in slow yet accelerating collapse into the Southern Ocean. The image was beautiful. Huge. The photo made this crisis feel Leviathan. It felt personal. Still does. For me seeing this news report was my “Oh Shit!” moment, my big “Oh Shit!” moment.
This crisis, this moment also presents an opportunity for those of us on the Revolutionary Left. We’ve been engaged in struggles to unify the working classes and others among the 99% to build a Democratic Socialist civilization atop the wreckage of our Capitalist system for a long time. This is now our time, and it will stay our time but only if we make it so. Climate change will not wait. Capitalism will not wait as it continues to bind the world into an iron net of digital tyranny and financial despotism. The logical conclusion of Capitalism is globalized Fascism and self-destruction as what’s left of our biosphere is ruined in the desperate scramble for anything to eat, steal, sell, or blame. The twin disasters of Capitalism and climate change seem slow and twisting. Yet they accelerate toward one disaster after another. Neither crisis will wait for anyone or for anything.
The United Nations Intergovernmental Panel of Climate Change, the UN IPCC, released a new and disturbing report earlier this Spring of 2014. It firmly established the primacy of anthropogenic or human-made causes of climate change over other factors. The scientists involved drove home climate change is a long-term problem with a severe impact upon our biosphere. Indeed, there will be multiple severe effects. This likely will produce unexpected surprises. Perhaps the surprises won’t be as dramatic as a world war or an extreme climate yo-yo but something more subtle such as the resurrection of dormant prehistoric bacteria and viruses released from thawing tundra.
Scientists earlier this year discovered giant viruses reanimating out in the Siberian tundra. The world is warming up. The Arctic tundra is thawing out. Methane gas is escaping from the permafrost. Frozen mammoth specimens are found in spectacular condition. And the largest known viruses, so far, are reviving. The most recent one is an enormous Siberian Pithovirus 30,000 years old. These giant viruses are still alive. They’re infecting and killing the local amoeba population. Scientists consider it easily probable other prehistoric pathogens, frozen alive for tens of thousands of years, may escape as temperatures rise to cause pandemics of deadly diseases among contemporary humans, livestock, and crops as well as wild plants and animals.
Giant 30,000 year old amoeba-killing Pithovirus from Siberia. Image by Julia Baroli & Chantal Abergel, IGS, CNRS/AMU, 05 March 2014.
We are vulnerable as a species. Adaptation and preparation will prove crucial although exhausting. We’ll encounter limits as we run out of options. Most importantly, however, is we move forward with great speed and urgency to implement significant, indeed revolutionary changes. We do not have much time. We do, however, have choices and proven strategies.
A Democratic Socialist alternative, for example, will allow our species to establish a common front to address this Capitalist-induced destruction of our planet. We must first build such a unified front. Here in Seattle, those of us in the Socialist Alternative are positioned to provide leadership and inspiration to working people during this time of worldwide climate disruption. A majority of citizens recently elected Kshama Sawant, a teacher, economist, and activist in the Socialist Alternative, to the Seattle City Council in 2013 over a long-entrenched Democrat. Together with other labor activists we successfully spearheaded a rough and tumble drive to raise the minimum working wage to $15.00 an hour.
Numerous other groups are active as well in the struggle for our environment. Most of them are focused on singular issues such as stopping the coal and oil trains, tackling fracking, reducing carbon dioxide emissions, cleaning up polluted areas, and transitioning away from fossil fuels to green renewables. There has been a patchwork of local and regional successes, but many have been reduced under repeated onslaughts of Big Business as Capitalists seek to deepen their grip on our society. The Corporatocracy is relentless in its pursuit of resources to fuel its expansion of power. We’re focused, however, on local-global economic and labor issues. Yet climate change won’t wait for workers to wake up and take charge of our economy. Nor will the Capitalists in power wait for us workers to rise up. Earth’s environmental crises, however, won’t wait, not for anyone. Within the past year we Democratic Socialists achieved remarkable successes locally. We’ve been driving hard in a most difficult struggle to improve the lives of workers and their families. Economic and environmental issues are mutually intertwined. Will we take this opportunity?
Look at the picture of those melting glaciers in West Antarctica again.
James Yungel of the NASA team captured the photo. The “collapse of massive portions of the Antarctic ice sheet” appeared “inevitable.” Indeed, the speed of melting and collapse with rising seas is faster than initially feared. The epic disaster unfolding across our southernmost continent was deemed “unstoppable.” Mother Jones even shouted, “Holy Shit!”
This calamity is global. It was visible. You can see it all around without the immediate drama of human beings with their towns and cities ravaged by wars and earthquakes. Yet it could conceivably help bring an end to the current global civilization humans have built here on Earth. The melting West Antarctic ice sheets reinforce the idea global climate change, including global warming, is really global climate disruption.
Earlier this month I posted a link on one of my social media sites to an essay I wrote the night before, “Yes, $15 an hour minimum wage, NOW!” Among the people who responded along a spectrum between yes and no were two from my native state of Virginia. Let’s call one of them Brigid, which, of course, is not her real name. Brigid, a progressive liberal more radical than many and as mellow as a Summer pond at twilight, expressed concern about us activists moving too fast to raise the minimum wage. She thought proponents for $15 now would be wise to slow down and take more time. After all, why rush it and mess it up for all of us?
More captivating, however, was a wrenching inquiry from a friend of mine back East. He was a small business owner who ran a small but bustling bakery and café. My friend, let’s call him Isaac, declared raising the minimum wage up to $15 an hour “would put” him “out of business in one month.” Unless, he said, he jacked up his prices. I could hear him as he pounded his fist upon the countertop as he continued. “The socialist-workers rights-stick-it-to-the-man person in me loves it, but I am the man here. This seriously would break me,” he wrote. “Why do this if prices just rise in concert with pay?”
Are our leaders mad? Are they deliberately setting the stage for a series of interlocking wars and economic collapses? All to look like accidents? Our leaders’ heartless mistakes of opportunity may indeed wipe out millions, even billions. For what? Are they are prepared to absorb extreme costs as the price to pay for extreme victory? Or are our leaders clueless? Are they just fucking stupid? Reacting with military precision directed with sloppy, nationalistic stupidity to converging crises overwhelming common sense, good judgment, and cooperative intelligence? And what the hell are We the People gonna do? Are we going to just read about it in a tweet the next day after half the world blows up? “Good morning! 1/2 earth blown up…the end looks better n movies & cool, i can still tweet!”
Violence, nonviolence, and civil disobedience are tools in the great struggle against tyranny and oppression. They have been used in the great class war against the Global Financial and Political Elites. They still are. These tools are strategies and tactics based upon values and principles. Violence and nonviolence are no more anything else than the term Global War on Terrorism is rife with misnomers. Terror is a feeling. It’s an immediate physiological response to a reactive emotion. Flight or fight or freeze and still piss your pants. Terrorism is a tactic in crime and war. It’s been pointed out repeatedly one cannot wage a military campaign against tactics. Instead, one does so with strategies and tactics against enemies using terror as a tactic.
Many of us confuse nonviolence with being a rigid “thing.” Growing numbers of people continue to feel inspired by the fierce stands Mahatma Gandhi and the Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr., took for nonviolence. Ironically, both were murdered almost 20 years apart during periods of violent civil strife. Their deaths sparked even greater outbreaks of violence.
Even so, many people view nonviolence as an inviolate colonnade of pillars holding up temples of peace as if such abstractions of mind existed out in the physical world. Nonviolence, a tool, has come to be regarded as religious doctrine by many people. Instead of a tactic, however, it’s another invisible but real, to them, flying buttress supporting the invisible architecture of an abstract cathedral. By doing so, these believers in the holiness of this abstract tool risk bringing everything they stand for collapsing down upon them in bloody ruin.
The proponents of nonviolence, upholding Gandhi and King and even Buddha and Jesus, often dismiss or suppress any challenge to nonviolence. Who would dare question nonviolence? I imagine the Global Elites and the security and intelligence apparatus under their control appreciate being the only ones to dispense violence while not receiving any in turn. Nonviolence helps keeps them in power.
Don’t make any abstraction of mind so rigid an ideology it cripples effective action. It doesn’t matter if it’s politics, religion, economics, or tradition. Those nouns, those words stand for concepts with definitions held within the abstract mind. Which means we make it all up in our heads and call it “real.” If enough people agree yes, it’s real indeed, and then we label it “consensual reality.” And so we go, as brilliantly collapsed as ever. All abstractions are tools.
The most effective toolboxes have a modest variety of choices. It is the same during resistance against oppression and struggles for justice, equality, and liberty. We struggle against the class war of the financial elites, against institutionalized racism, corporatism, sexism, corruption, and fascism. We struggle for social, environmental, and economic justice. We struggle for power. Aye, we struggle for the power to determine our own lives together.
Up Close and Uncompromising! The front of one of the famous Red T-Shirts worn by volunteers for Kshama Sawant’s Socialist Alternative Campaign for Seattle City Council, Position 2, the 5th of November 2013. Photo by William Dudley Bass.
Those who argue against raising the minimum wage do not get it. The naysayers spin broken webs of economic facts and figures rooted not in the reality of our natural environment but inside the charts and computer algorithms of a virtual world divorced from physical reality. It’s not about the money. I want to stand up and shout, “It’s not about the money; it’s about people! Real live human beings!”
I really want to jump up and yell, “It’s not about money, you insert language most foul!” Such verbal intensity, however deliciously vulgar, would just rile up the troll militias, so I won’t cuss here. It’s challenging enough to feel compassion and empathy for my fellow human beings, including those who exhibit cruelty and heartless stupidity. No matter. We all suffer. Everyone single one of us experiences suffering. Life is Struggle.
The working classes get life is a struggle. So do artists and small business owners. So do the unemployed, the underemployed, the homeless, the foreclosed, the laid off, the poorly paid, the uneducated, the overeducated, students deep in debt, the hungry, the sick, the pissed off. Reformers understand action is better than indulging in cynicism, apathy, and do-nothingism. Revolutionaries understand reform only goes so far before it dead ends in a mirage. Struggle serves to move the working classes from enduring ever more suffering to survive to rising up to stand in their power and thrive.
During these bleak but exciting times I volunteered for Kshama Sawant’s openly Socialist campaign for Seattle City Council. I joined with other veterans of the Occupy Uprisings from the Green Party of Seattle and the Seattle branches of the Socialist Alternatives to serve to get her elected. Other Socialist Alternatives ran strong campaigns elsewhere, especially Ty Moore in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
It proved a tight race. Still counting ballots days after the Election. We rocked the city and made waves across the nation. Ripples were felt around the world. It was an astonishing experience. A small, highly disciplined organization raised well over $110,000 and marshaled over 300 volunteers, many of them part-time volunteers such as myself. What helped us stand out in addition to our red t-shirts was our uncompromising stand for a $15.00 an hour minimum wage.
Hey, guess what, folks? It turns out the leaders of the United States don’t even know exactly how many American and Allied military bases exist. Furthermore, the number of wars the so-called, unofficial but still real Euro-American Global Empire is engaged in does not match the official count. Because there are more violent military and intelligence operations occurring simultaneously than Empire wants to admit. When Special Forces engage in covert hostilities behind enemy lines of a state or quasi-state we are not technically at war with, or when the CIA fires drone missiles into countries that we’re also not technically at war with, isn’t that “war?”
There are two ways the great, borderless superpower of today behaves in a similar fashion to empires of old.
During the height of many large, polyglot empires from the Roman to the Mongol to the British, the imperial Center, i.e. the homeland realms, were often in a state of prolonged peace. Except, of course, for an occasional civil war for control of the state. The majority of the population enjoyed the illusion of a peaceful world of trade and commerce free of war. What they actually meant, however, were their cities and countryside were free from invasion.
The far-flung borders and colonies of these empires, however, were often in a state of chronic warfare. These conflicts included tribal wars, local ethnic rebellions, and frontier guerrilla wars. There were unique situations where off and on border wars raged between large empires without either committing fully to what would have been a Phyrric victory. Ancient History buffs may note one case in particular, the Roman-Parthian Wars. A Modern example would be the American-Soviet Cold War, although the Soviet Empire collapsed at the end of it.
Today, the dominant region of the Euro-American Global Empire is called “the United States Homeland.” “Homeland” is a post-9/11 term that recalls a time not all that long ago when the Nazis emphasized Germany as “the Fatherland.” The Soviet Communists did the same with Russia as “the Motherland.” The focus has shifted from American liberties and protecting Constitutional rights to enforcing Homeland Security with domestic surveillance and militarization. The militaristic and ultranationalist “feel” these terms evoke is quiet different from the peaceful, loving reverence many feel for “Mother Earth and Father Sky” for example.
The second similarity is the vast number of military garrisons empires establish to maintain control of far-flung regions, whether it is political control, to promote and protect certain religions and corporations, to defend against enemies, to hold territory, or to allow for safe commerce to flow. These imperial frontiers and colonies were dotted with numerous forts, castles, and other fortifications. The First and Second World Wars destroyed the concept of “forts.” Now they are called “bases.” Forts became something preteen boys built back in the bushes from which to lob rocks and sticks at one another.