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The Courage of Hopelessness

Democratic Education in the Age of Empire

E. Wayne Ross

The post-911 world is depressing for anyone who values freedom and equality. In the wake the heinous 911 attacks, we have experienced assaults on civil liberties and human rights in the name of protecting freedom. The Patriot Act in the United States significantly expanded the authority of government to enhance surveillance of individual behavior and communication, seize assets, conduct warrantless and secret searches, and detain individuals indefinitely without charge. The "war on terror" has produced horrors such as the extraordinary rendition program (e.g., the case of Maher Arar), the Guantanamo Bay Detainment Camp, U.S. citizens held as "enemy combatants," criminalization of refugees, etc. In a recent MSNBC interview, retired general and former Democratic presidential candidate Wesley Clark even called for the revival of internment camps for "disloyal Americans," advocating for a return to one of the most shameful chapters in American history, the forced relocation and incarceration of Japanese Americans, most of whom were U.S. citizens. Post-911 policy shifts are not limited to the United States. Canada's Anti-terrorism Act of 2015 (aka Bill C-51) follows in the Patriot Act's footsteps, by drastically expanding the definition of "security" originally outlined in Ottawa's 2001 anti-terror law. The bill also lowers the threshold for preventative arrest and detention of citizens; criminalizes speech acts that have no connection to acts of violence; provides new, sweeping powers to police and prosecutors; turns the national intelligence agency, CSIS, into a police force; engages in domestic spying on citizen groups who oppose resource extraction and then turns the information over to the energy industry; allows secret court proceedings to use secret evidence to compile secret no-fly lists; and allows federal courts to limit the Charter rights of Canadian citizens, including the right to return to Canada after traveling abroad. The human, social, environmental, and economic costs of U.S. wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan since 2001 are astronomical.

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Portland Tenants United Leads a New Call for Organizing Against Evictions and Displacement

Shane Burley

"There's no such thing as "no cause" when it comes to a no-cause eviction," said Rosalie Nowak, a Portland renter telling a crowd of hundreds about being evicted only a month after moving in. "There's always a cause. A reason. It's that you, as a renter, have no right to know what the hell is going on. In that case, we as tenants have less rights than someone who is taken to jail. At least they are entitled to know what they are being held for." During the weekend before Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday holiday, cities around the country used it as an opportunity to build on Dr. King's legacy for racial and economic justice. For renters in Portland, Oregon, this meant driving at part of social life that has become scarcely sustainable in recent years: housing. In Portland, like in many other "hip" urban areas like San Francisco's Mission District or Brooklyn in New York, the cost of living has skyrocketed as tech and creative class jobs move in and developers force old communities out. This has caused what local housing non-profit the Community Alliance of Tenants has labeled a "Renter S.O.S.," with a recent Zillow study putting the average cost of a two-bedroom apartment at over $1,500. To find the city affordable according to HUD guidelines, this would mean residents would need to make more than $16.00/hr, while the minimum wage remains at only $9.25. This rental crisis, which has reshaped many urban enclaves through gentrification, has been one of the sparks that has caused a near uprising among the city's most targeted communities. In Portland, the recent Renter's Assemblies, which brought together community organizations and tenants to tell stories of hardship and displacement, gave way to a new call for citywide unionization. That gave birth to Portland Tenants United (PTU), a new project that organized this rally along with organizations like Don't Shoot PDX, the VOZ Worker's Rights Education Project, and the homeless-empowerment project, Right to Dream Too.

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A Long-War Strategy for the Left

William T. Hathaway

As the viciousness of capitalism engulfs ever more of us, our yearnings for change are approaching desperation. The system's current leader, Barack Obama, has shown us that the only change we can believe in is what we ourselves create. To do that, we need to know what is possible in our times and what isn't. The bitter probability is that none of us will see a society in which we'd actually want to live. Even the youngest of us will most likely have to endure an increasingly unpleasant form of capitalism. Despite its recurring crises, this system is still too strong, too adaptable, and has too many supporters in all classes for it to be overthrown any time soon. We're probably not going to be the ones to create a new society. But we can now lay the groundwork for that, first by exposing the hoax that liberal reforms will lead to basic changes. People need to see that the purpose of liberalism is to defuse discontent with promises of the future and thus prevent mass opposition from coalescing. It diverts potentially revolutionary energy into superficial dead ends. Bernie Sanders' "long game" campaign is really only a game similar to that of his reformist predecessor, Dennis Kucinich, designed to keep us in the "big tent" of the Democratic Party. Capitalism, although resilient, is willing to change only in ways that shore it up, so before anything truly different can be built, we have to bring it down. What we are experiencing now is the long war the ruling elite is fighting to maintain its grip on the world. The current phase began with the collapse of Keynesian capitalism, which flourished from the 1950s into the '70s, when the primary consumer market was in the capitalist headquarter countries of North America and Western Europe. Corporations were able to stimulate domestic consumption and quell worker discontent there by acceding to labor's demands for better wages and conditions. That led to a 30-year bubble of improvement for unionized workers, predominantly male and white, that began to collapse in the '80s as capitalism...

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Organize or Die

Never in the History of the World has an Election Destroyed a System of Oppression

Jean Allen and Frank Castro

Vote or Die. That's the dichotomy rap mogul P. Diddy popularized back in 2006 in an effort to marshal the nation's youth to the ballot box on election day. Fast forward two presidential elections later, as the American political machine gears up once again, how does Diddy feel now? In a recent interview at Revolt's music conference the former star spoke plainly about his previous efforts and, in particular, on the issue of voting, saying: "We started Vote or Die, and the whole process was all full of shit. The whole shit is a scam." He went on to add, "At the end of the day, I'm not telling you not to vote… I'm saying be a realist and know that they're motherfucking kicking some bullshit up there." Whether or not he meant to, enmeshed within his response Diddy got to the central question many people have been asking themselves since this election cycle kicked off: If voting is a scam, should we participate in it? Before we tackle that question, we first have to backtrack a little. Because a typical American is not taught that voting is a scam, on the contrary - we are taught about voting in almost religious terms. We are taught that unlike the downtrodden peoples of authoritarian states we have this latent power, a voice or say in the workings of government. That we can control it, and our own fates, by use of the vote. And even if to some extent voting is imperfect, even if it is in fact a two-bit hustle necessitating a choice of "lesser evils," what Malcolm X once called a game of political football, it is still the best possible means of influencing policy and creating change as opposed to any other alternative. This is why it is so crucial, we are told. Any deeper analysis of the vote beyond the sort of "all or nothing" understanding peddled to us reveals it is a laughably limited means of generating change. One day a year (maybe two!) you get to (maybe!) cast a vote for a person who makes policy in your stead. Afterwards, politicians engineered into office theoretically heed the will of voters, but that never happens.

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