Organizing Notes

Bruce Gagnon is coordinator of the Global Network Against Weapons & Nuclear Power in Space. He offers his own reflections on organizing and the state of America's declining empire....

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Location: Bath, Maine, United States

Saturday, July 12, 2008

HISTORY MADE TODAY IN CHICAGO

The Greens chose Cynthia McKinney on the first ballot today in Chicago to be the party presidential nominee. Cynthia then nominated Rosa Clemente to be her running mate who was quickly approved by near unanimous acclaim.

Born and raised in the South Bronx she is a graduate of the University of Albany and Cornell University. Clemente is a highly regarded commentator, political activist, community organizer, Hip-Hop activist, and independent reporter.

Chuck D of Public Enemy says that Clemente "is one of this generations' most important political voices and community organizers."

In her acceptance speech McKinney defined winning as setting a goal to garner 5% of the national vote which would give the Green Party major party status on the national level. McKinney made it clear that her run for president is all about building an alternative to the two war parties. The corporate parties have to flip-flop on the issues she said "because they have to appear to agree" with our progressive values while they then do the bidding of the corporations who pay their freight.

Maine delegates gave McKinney the 5th most votes of any state during the first round of balloting. Only New York, Illinois, California, and Wisconsin gave her more presidential delegate votes.

Ralph Nader came in a distant second in the presidential balloting which indicated that while people still respect him, his day of gaining the ballot lines via the Green Party across the nation are over. At this point McKinney will be on the ballot in at least 25 states across the nation next November . Greens in other states are still attempting to cross the enormously difficult ballot status barriers that keep the Republicans and Democrats from being challenged.

Just after the nomination process concluded 2004 Green Party presidential candidate David Cobb made a rousing introduction speech of McKinney. It was Cobb, and the Green Party, that challenged the well-documented vote fraud in Ohio in 2004 that put Bush in the White House again. While John Kerry, and the Democratic Party, violated their promise to "fight for every vote" it fell to the Greens to file the legal challenge to protect disenfranchised voters in Ohio.

Before McKinney's acceptance speech, a video was played on the huge screen above the stage in the Chicago Symphony Center with John Lennon singing his song "Power to the People." McKinney has adopted that slogan as her campaign theme and it brought tears to me eyes to see her dancing on the stage during the Lennon song.

I felt that it was a moment of liberation for McKinney and the Green Party. McKinney was free of the restraints that come from being a "good" Democratic Party elected official where you are expected to toe the party line and not challenge the party orthodoxy. Now McKinney is free to be herself - to speak truth to power as she so effectively does. In fact on the podium, as McKinney spoke, was a sign that read TRUTH.

With the nomination of McKinney and Clemente the Green Party is now free to become the real radical alternative party that it should be - radical in the sense of "getting to the roots" of the issues at hand and building the political base to make the needed changes. The Green Party took a huge step today in the creation of a multi-ethnic party with leadership from black and Latino communities. This is a must as we look at the coming demographic changes in America. There will be no progressive movement in America without active leadership from people of color working alongside of progressive white activists.

To say the least it was refreshing.

I've been a McKinney watcher for years as she was one of the key voices in the Congress who time and again spoke on behalf of "the people". McKinney has been run out of office twice by the power structure and vilified by the corporate media for having the audacity to speak against war and corporate domination. I am sure her nomination will be greeted with scorn by the corporate masters.

For me today was a revolutionary moment. Since working on the Jesse Jackson presidential campaign in 1984, and seeing the hope of a "Rainbow coalition" whither away, I've thirsted for the coming together of the movements. Today's event clearly indicated the enormous possibilities that exist for revolutionary peace, social justice, and ecological organizing in the U.S. if people are willing to step into this historic moment.

The change we all long for will not come from the Democratic Party. A new positive and earth shaking train has just left the station. The question remains will people who see themselves as progressive have the wisdom to get on-board and not be left behind sorting through the crumbs left behind by the corporate parties.

Friday, July 11, 2008

CHICAGO AIN'T BAD

I don't like big cities much any more but I must say that Chicago is quite a nice place. There are alot of trees, people have been very friendly and helpful, and the neighborhoods have a real character to them. The elevated subway as the feel of a beach boardwalk.

Several of us from Maine who took the train to get here are staying in a hostel. The Green Party convention is being held downtown in the fancy Palmer Hotel. I did two workshops today and had a good number of folks in each one. Musician friend Tom Neilson played a song to start each workshop - one of them he just wrote for the occasion.

A debate was held this evening amongst the four Green Party candidates for president. Cynthia McKinney really stood out and her previous experience in Congress showed as did her strength and straight forwardness. The votes will be taken on Saturday for the nomination. McKinney is expected to carry the nomination. The party seems pretty unified.

No signs of fights or major contention so far.

It is quite refreshing to be in an environment where there is total agreement that Obama is tacking toward the right and ain't swinging back. No one here to say that we just have to swallow hard and vote for the "necessary evil."

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

TOAST TO A NEW ARMS RACE

Condi Rice clinks glasses with Czech Foreign Affairs Minister, Karel Schwarzenberg, in Prague yesterday as they signed the agreement to deploy the U.S. Star Wars radar in the Czech Republic.

Five thousand people were on the streets yesterday in Prague protesting the plan that will certainly be the match to light a new arms race between Russia and the U.S. in Europe. The Russians were not at all happy with the announcement which they know is a key component of the U.S. first-strike system now being put in place near their borders. (Imagine how the U.S. would be reacting if Russian "missile defense" systems were now being deployed in Canada and Mexico.)

The radar agreement must next be ratified by the Czech Parliament which is evenly divided on the issue. The Green Party, with four seats in the ruling conservative government alliance, will essentially have the deciding vote. Last we heard the Greens were split 2-2 on the question which could very well ensure passage.

With that in mind I am sitting in the Boston Amtrak station waiting for my train to Chicago. I will be doing two workshops on space issues at the Green Party convention which begins on Thursday and runs through the weekend. I will be sure to mention the sad reality of the Czech Greens complicity in the radar controversy.

Activists in the Czech Republic, who have organized an impressive campaign of opposition to the radar deployment, vow to continue on and are now organizing a Europe-wide conference in Prague later this month to further their resistance.

Mary Beth was planning to attend the Chicago convention as well but has to remain in Boston as one of her relatives is near death and the family is now standing vigil by her side.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

IT SHOULD NOT BE SO

I interviewed Herb Hoffman this morning at a coffee shop in Brunswick about his Independent campaign for the U.S. Senate seat representing Maine. Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Rep. Tom Allen (D-ME) are the other candidates in Maine for that seat.

I've previously reported on this blog that the Maine Democratic Party has challenged Hoffman's 4,000 signatures that he was required to gather to get his name on the ballot. After witnessing the Maine Secretary of State deny the Dems challenge and give Hoffman the go-ahead to be on the ballot, the Democratic Party has now appealed that ruling to the Maine Law Court. Herb told me that the court will hear the case this Thursday and I can't imagine the court not honoring the decision by the Secretary of State to authorize ballot status for Hoffman. Portland Attorney John Branson is representing Herb pro bono to defend his right to be on the ballot in November. John is a long-time highly respected Democratic Party activist in Maine - but he is also a peace activist and an honest man.

I asked Herb why the Dems were working so hard to put him through so many hoops. His response included these points:

  • The Dems wish to bleed him financially
  • They are trying to intimidate him
  • They want to tie him up in court so he won't have any time to campaign

Herb said, "I think they have made a strategic error. I could never have gotten the kind of media coverage that I have if they had not challenged my ballot status."

Herb told me that over the past few months Tom Allen had been working hard to get him to drop out of the race. Several times Rep. Allen, and members of his staff, have called Hoffman supporters and urged them to convince Herb to quit the campaign. In one case, Tom Allen called a mutual friend of both men and tried to get this person to talk Herb into not filing his petitions with the state. When it was clear that this strategy was not working, the Democrats began to play hard ball by challenging the validity of the signatures.

Tom Allen also requested a couple of times that Herb meet with him personally at his Portland office. While there Rep. Allen admitted to Herb that he had not listened closely enough to the concerns of Maine's anti-war community. He offered Herb a position in his campaign if he would quit the race, re-register as a Democrat, and become his "bridge" to the peace community. Herb declined the offer.

This is a fascinating story to me because it fully illustrates how politicians take voters in the peace community for granted. In the case of Tom Allen he has played the peace community like a fiddle for years - always promising that "I am almost there" on issues like cutting funding for the Iraq occupation at the very time that he kept voting for war appropriations over and over again. It was only in the last two votes that he has finally begun to vote against war funding as it became clear that he would probably lose the Senate race.

Just recently Tom Allen decided to co-sponsor the Iran resolution in the House of Representatives that gives Bush the authority to put a military blockade around Iran which would clearly be the first-step in a likely U.S. attack. When a woman recently challenged Rep. Allen on this at one of his campaign appearances he denied being in favor of a military blockade.

When I was a kid in grade school we were taught that America had the greatest democracy in the world. We were told that we were better than the rest of the world because people in our country were free to stand for election and not suffer intimidation and reprisals like we see in totalitarian countries. All of these "freedoms" were enshrined, we were taught, in our Constitution - the greatest document in the history of the world.

Today, as people try to practice real democracy in America, we learn it is a different story. Those with money and power want to keep it. People who wish to challenge the existing two-party monopoly, which has a strangle hold on our nation, are given one hurdle after the other to jump over.

It should not be so. Put all the names on the ballot and let the public decide who wins. That is the way democracy is supposed to work.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

CORRUPTION AND THE UNSPEAKABLE

Condi Rice lands in the Czech Republic early this coming week to sign the agreement between the U.S. and the Czech government to allow the Star Wars radar deployment there. In recent days, throughout Europe, activists have been holding vigils at U.S. and Czech embassies to protest the deployment. The Polish side of the "missile defense" deployments, once a slam dunk for Bush, has now fallen on hard times. The growing anti-Star Wars fever in Europe is having an impact.

I finished the book JFK and the Unspeakable while on the train ride home from Florida. This is a must read book....you must get it, read it, and tell others about it. It's like reading history, a mystery story, and a moral lesson all in one. I will have to write more about it soon.

Mary Beth and I get back on the train this coming Wednesday for a trip to Chicago where we will each be doing workshops at the national Green Party Convention. It will also be exciting to witness the presidential nomination of Cynthia McKinney, former Democratic party congresswoman from Atlanta, Georgia. On my free time I will be volunteering for her campaign. If you have not yet watched her award winning documentary video called American Blackout about the stolen elections of 2000 and 2004 then you should see it and share it with others.

Speaking of Democrats and elections, the controversy here in Maine is heating up as Rep Tom Allen (D-ME) continues to get the Maine Democratic party to try to keep Independent candidate Herb Hoffman off the ballot. Allen is running for the U.S. Senate seat now held by Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) and Hoffman has successfully collected over 4,000 signatures to get himself on the ballot in that race. The Dems though contested Hoffman's signatures claiming they were invalid but state authorities ruled they were acceptable. Fearing electoral competition the Dems have now challenged the state ruling and are taking the matter to court in their attempt to block the electoral process. The Dems are showing Maine voters how they can play the same corrupt games to subvert free and fair elections that the Republicans are famous for.

While on the way home from Florida, changing trains in New York City, I picked up the Washington Post newspaper and had to laugh (and cry) when I read the front page headline Obama May Consider Slowing Iraq Withdrawal. It's starting to be like a joke - each day lately Obama has been backing away from an earlier campaign position as he swings hard to the right. But his backing away from Iraq, supposedly his signature issue, underlies the reality that Obama is proving to be like any other political hack. Maybe when he says he is for change he means that he promises to change his positions to match those of John McCain.

Try to stay sane as you watch all this nonsense develop.