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

I grew up in a military family and joined the Air Force in 1971 during the Vietnam War. It was there that I became a peace activist.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

A VISIT FROM A FRIEND



A story telling friend visited last night for dinner and wood stove sharing afterwards.  James Williamson, from good New England stock, is a very bright man.  He lives in Cambridge, Ma. and frequently drops by Harvard to listen to many speakers who normally represent mainstream views.  James loves to ask long and complex, but pointed, questions and prides himself on getting his face and question on the C-SPAN TV channel. He was on two nights ago and called me to quickly turn the TV on and see him in action.

After talking for a good while we watched a couple episodes of the Netflix produced House of Cards series about the corruption in Washington.  James had not heard of it, MB and I are just new to the show.  (I read that the show has become popular in China.  I can imagine why, show just how corrupt the US government is to blunt some of the corruption charges always aimed at Peking.)

Before James left in a cab at midnight, on icy streets, we both shared our admiration for the Brecht poem that he sent me days ago.  We talked about the life of Brecht, his isolation from his German homeland during WW II (living in Sweden, Finland and Los Angeles.)  He was called before the House Un-American Activities hearings in Washington (talk about corruption!) and asked if he was a communist and who else was as well.  After the war he ended up living in East Germany where he was given a theatre by the state so he could produce his plays.  He obviously had to learn to walk the political tight-rope there to some degree.... but don't we all?

As James was leaving last night I asked him the question that I always ask at least once each visit....what do we do now?  Last night he gave his best answer yet......local work connected to the bigger picture.

Create local media, take on local corporate and/or corrupt institutions, build a movement to convert the military facility in our own community, make sparks fly, make waves, make positive demands, force the local power structure to show themselves and deal with you......have some fun with it and keep the spirit in a good way.

Friday, February 21, 2014

BURDEN OF PROOF

KNOWING THE BACK STORY


In Venezuela the CIA is funding and directing protests against that government - a government the US corporate oligarchy has long wanted to take down.  It's about the oil in Venezuela.  Not all protests are truly on the mark.  Some protests, like in Venezuela, are doing the work of the corporate elite.  It helps us to know the back-story.

The Democracy Now video just below about Ukraine tells a similar tale about the street protests there.  It might look like the Occupy movement in one sense - but in the real world a significant part of the street violence is coming from long-standing fascist forces inside Ukraine that historically sided with Hitler during his attempts to invade the former Soviet Union.

So take a look at the bigger picture for a moment.  NATO military expansion, right up to the border of Russia, along with "missile defense" deployments encircling the Russian Federation, all serve to seriously destabilize the region.  There can be no doubt that corporate dominated governments in the US and Germany are trying to overthrow the Ukrainian government. (They each have their favorite candidate to be the 'new leader' in the Ukraine.  That internal conflict between the US and Europe led to the now famous "Fuck the European Union" comment by Victoria Nuland, Assistant US Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs.)   How would you expect Russia to respond?

This is the Obama project.  Make a serious run to hand Ukraine, Georgia, Venezuela, Libya, Syria and Iran over to the global corporate oligarchy.  It's quite a list.  Obama's task is aided by the fact that legions of liberal Democrats are either afraid or reluctant to oppose his reckless foreign policy.  If George W. Bush was still on the throne those Dems would be in the streets pulling their hair out of their heads.  Many Democrats have proven to be unreliable allies of the peace movement. It's very tragic.

The already severely overburdened peace movement in the US now has an even bigger challenge.  In addition to our work on drones, missile defense, the Asia-Pacific 'pivot', Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, ........ we now have to look up and see the possibility of war between the US and Russia..... and likely civil war in Venezuela. 

I've long heard that the US wants to break Russia into pieces - Balkanize them - like was done by Clinton to Yugoslavia and like has essentially been done to Iraq.  By breaking Russia into pieces, by fomenting chaos inside and along the borders of Russia, the corporate oligarchy makes their play for control of Russian natural gas (they have the world's biggest supply) and large stocks of oil. Look at the map and see how much of the thawing Arctic Ocean Russia borders. The western oil corporations want to drill there too.

This is how world wars get started!  If you back Russia and China into a corner sooner or later they will have to respond. This is just what the military industrial complex wants.  Imagine the profits….. and where would the money come from for a new Cold War with Russia?  Yeah that's right - call it the 'final solution' that ends once and for all social progress back home here in the US of A. 

Time to awaken from the 'American dream world'.

THE REAL STORY ABOUT UKRAINE



A short-lived truce has broken down in Ukraine as street battles have erupted between anti-government protesters and police. Last night the country’s embattled president and the opposition leaders demanding his resignation called for a truce and negotiations to try to resolve Ukraine’s political crisis. But hours later, armed protesters attempted to retake Independence Square, sparking another day of deadly violence. At least 50 people have died since Tuesday in the bloodiest period of Ukraine’s 22-year post-Soviet history.

While President Obama has vowed to "continue to engage all sides," a recently leaked audio recording between two top U.S. officials reveal the Obama administration has been secretly plotting with the opposition. Democracy Now speaks to Stephen Cohen, professor emeritus of Russian studies and politics at New York University and Princeton University. His most recent book, "Soviet Fates and Lost Alternatives: From Stalinism to the New Cold War," is out in paperback. His latest Nation article is "Distorting Russia: How the American Media Misrepresent Putin, Sochi and Ukraine."

Thursday, February 20, 2014

PROCESS OF CONVERSION



A friend here in Bath wrote me this morning and said he and his wife stumbled across this talk last night while channel surfing on TV.  I have no idea where it was playing.  He said his wife, who is now reading my book, named me the "peace bomb" after watching the talk.

The 2006 talk was hosted by the Society for Peace and Social Justice at the Chautauqua Institute in New York. The video ends with bonus coverage of footage of me being interviewed on two different radio shows while at Chautauqua.


NEWS ROUNDUP



Megan Rice, an 84-year-old nun, was sentenced Tuesday to nearly three years in prison for breaking into a nuclear weapons complex and defacing a bunker holding bomb-grade uranium, a demonstration that exposed serious security flaws at the Tennessee plant. Two other peace activists (Michael Walli and Greg Boertje-Obed) who broke into the facility with were sentenced to more than five years in prison, in part because they had much longer histories of non-violent civil disobedience. The Y-12 National Security Complex in Oak Ridge, Tennessee holds the nation's primary supply of bomb-grade uranium and was known as the "Fort Knox of uranium." In her closing statement, Rice asked the judge to sentence her to life in prison, even though sentencing guidelines called for about six years. "Please have no leniency with me," she said. "To remain in prison for the rest of my life would be the greatest gift you could give me." She said the U.S. government was spending too much money on weapons and the military, and she told the judge about the many letters of support she had received, including one from youth in Afghanistan. "This is the next generation and it is for these people that we're willing to give our lives," she said.

  • In a new piece called Myth: China is a Military Threat Retired Royal Navy Commander Robert D. Green from New Zealand writes that "The Chinese correctly see that the greatest US weakness is the Pentagon’s stranglehold on US foreign and domestic policy. With military industry interests in every political constituency, over-powerful lobbyists rebuff any major Pentagon budget cuts. This is slowly but surely bringing the US economy to its knees, and destroying the morale and health, let alone lives, of young Americans."


  • The Los Angeles Times reports:

The Obama administration is making contingency plans to use air bases in Central Asia to conduct drone missile attacks in northwest Pakistan in case the White House is forced to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan at the end of this year, according to U.S. officials. The CIA and the military used an air base in Uzbekistan to conduct drone flights until the U.S. was evicted in 2005, said Brian Glyn Williams, a University of Massachusetts professor and author of the book "Predators: The CIA's Drone War on Al Qaeda." The military also has used a base in Kyrgyzstan to conduct air operations, including moving troops and supplies into Afghanistan. The Pentagon said last fall that it would shift those operations to Romania this summer. Last month, Maj. Gen. Michael K. Nagata, commander of U.S. special operations in the Middle East and Central Asia, visited Tajikistan, which abuts Afghanistan's northern border, for talks on "issues of bilateral security cooperation" and "continued military cooperation," according to a U.S. Embassy statement in Dushanbe, the capital.


In the late 1980s, the leaders of the west promised Soviet General Secretary Mikhail Gorbachev that they would not expand eastward if the Soviet Union pulled out of Eastern Europe and ended the Cold War.  That promise was not kept.  A triumphal West stuck it to the Soviet Union’s  greatly weakened Russian successor, by incorporating the former Warsaw Pact countries into NATO and the EU.  But that was not enough to sate the lust of the neo-liberal triumphalists in search of a new imperium.  Their next move tried to incorporate the Caucasus country of Georgia — a country more a part of Central Asia than of Europe — into the West’s sphere of influence.  That turned out to be a bridge too far; the Russians intervened militarily to put a stop to the lunacy. But events in the Ukraine suggest that stop may have been viewed as a temporary speed bump on the pathway to rolling back Russia’s geography to the years of Ivan the Terrible.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

INSPIRATION FROM INDIA


  • For the third time during recent weeks J. Narayana Rao (3rd from left in brown sweater) has organized another space issues workshop in Nagpur, India where he lives.  Rao is a retired railroad worker and a long-time peace activist.  He's recently created a powerpoint presentation and appears to have first used it at his Feb 18 talk at the National Institute of Social Work. His brief report about the presentation is worth reading:

Today another workshop on “Space For Peace” has been held with the help of Power point presentation in the B.P. National Institute of Social Work, Nagpur, India.  65 post graduate students,7 staff staff members and the Principal Dr. Sanjay Tulankar were present. I explained all the issues involved in the Space for Peace issue like various UN Treaties, Vision for 2020, the USSR entry into the space, danger of weaponisation of space, Space Debris, efforts to avoid an Arms Race in the Space,  Role of Global Network and the ensuing Space for Peace week in October 4-11 2014.

The Principal Dr. Sanjay Tulankar has been so impressed and wanted me to train 5 of the Lecturers of the Institute as resource persons on this issue so that they can visit schools and colleges and talk in the local language i.e Marathi. I have been thrilled with this proposal and agreed to do so. This institute will respond in a big way to observe the Space for Peace Week this year.

J. N. Rao

  • Rao is an inspiration to those of us who know him.  He is not a young man anymore but is a joyful and determined peace worker.  He rides around Nagpur on a scooter.  When MB and I toured India in 2006 it was Rao who organized our two-week visit.  And he worked us hard, sometimes doing 3-4 events per day.  We went to primary schools, colleges, service clubs and more.  Once we both spoke at a general assembly of students.  While the talks were happening MB was folding origami paper cranes and putting them on a table upon the stage where we sat.  After things were over a teacher and swarm of students wanted her to teach them to fold.  So they all sat on a cement door stoop and folding they learned.  I was sitting on another stoop signing class books of the students.  I didn't just want to sign my name so I wrote different small phrases from my talk in each book hoping that if they shared my words with one another it would recycle the key elements of my presentation and better stick in their minds and hearts.  

  • My last time in India Rao took me on an unforgettable trip via train and then van through busy and dangerous mountain roads to Kashmir. We visited Srinagar.  Martial law was declared while we were there and I saw first hand the kind of future the corporate oligarchy is making for all of us around the globe - internal conflict and growing instability.  You can see my blog post from Srinagar here. Below is just a bit from that particular blog.

As I continue to read the book by former Indian Naval Chief, Admiral Vishnu Bhagwat, he makes all this even more clear. One important strategy of corporate globalization he reminds the reader is “balkanization.” They did it in Yugoslavia when they broke apart that socialist country by fueling ethnic conflicts. Bhagwat says the global corporate agenda is now the same everywhere, fuel the rage and divide the people against one another. Then sell weapons and steal natural resources and exploit cheap labor as the people fight one another.

Bhagwat writes:

"Therefore, the big question is whether the Indian military is being nudged to reorient itself to moving away from defending India and Indian interests to such unending, quests as ‘furthering regime changes, democracy, and the smoke-screen, of the global war on terror’, under U.S. auspices."

  • I was moved to put the Bertolt Brecht poem on the blog yesterday after reading it.  (James Williamson who lives in Cambridge, MA sent it to me.) Brecht's words jumped out at me..... the same fears and haunting contradictions of living today.  And he ended it with such human clarity, trying to learn how to be friends with each other - especially at a time when Mr. Big wants to turn us into violent chaos. Reading that poem for me was like taking the wafer at communion.  Yes great spirit I do recommit to trying to be friends with myself and others on our spinning orb.  Please help me stay strong. Amen.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

GIVEN TO ME ON EARTH


Bertolt Brecht (1898–1956)


To those born later


I
Truly I live in dark times!
Frank speech is naïve. A smooth forehead
Suggests insensitivity. The man who laughs
Has simply not yet heard
The terrible news.

What kind of times are these, when
To talk about trees is almost a crime
Because it implies silence about so many horrors?
When the man over there calmly crossing the street
Is already perhaps beyond the reach of his friends
Who are in need?

It’s true that I still earn my daily bread
But, believe me, that’s only an accident. Nothing
I do gives me the right to eat my fill.
By chance I've been spared. (If my luck breaks, I'm lost.)

They say to me: Eat and drink! Be glad you have it!
But how can I eat and drink if I snatch what I eat
From the starving
And my glass of water belongs to someone dying of thirst?
And yet I eat and drink.

I would also like to be wise.
In the old books it says what wisdom is:
To shun the strife of the world and to live out
Your brief time without fear
Also to get along without violence
To return good for evil
Not to fulfill your desires but to forget them
Is accounted wise.
All this I cannot do.
Truly, I live in dark times.

II
I came to the cities in a time of disorder
When hunger reigned.
I came among men in a time of revolt
And I rebelled with them.
So passed my time
Given to me on earth.

I ate my food between battles
I lay down to sleep among murderers
I practiced love carelessly
And I had little patience for nature’s beauty.
So passed my time
Given to me on earth.

All roads led into the mire in my time.
My tongue betrayed me to the butchers.
There was little I could do. But those in power
Sat safer without me: that was my hope.
So passed my time
Given to me on earth.

Our forces were slight. Our goal
Lay far in the distance
Clearly visible, though I myself
Was unlikely to reach it.
So passed my time
Given to me on earth.

III
You who will emerge from the flood
In which we have gone under
Bring to mind
When you speak of our failings
Bring to mind also the dark times
That you have escaped.
Changing countries more often than our shoes,
We went through the class wars, despairing
When there was only injustice, no outrage.
And yet we realized:
Hatred, even of meanness
Contorts the features.
Anger, even against injustice
Makes the voice hoarse. O,
We who wanted to prepare the ground for friendship
Could not ourselves be friendly.
But you, when the time comes at last
When man is helper to man
Think of us
With forbearance.
                                                                    [1940] 

Monday, February 17, 2014

NATIONAL SECURITY LAWS BLIND REAL JUSTICE


Lee Seok-ki, center, greeted supporters last fall outside the South Korean National Assembly in Seoul

A South Korean court today sentenced a left-wing lawmaker to 12 years in prison and six colleagues to shorter terms for allegedly plotting a "pro-North Korea rebellion in the event of a war on the Korean Peninsula".

Prosecutors also asked judges to strip United Progressive Party (UPP) MP Lee Seok-ki of his civic rights for 10 years following his eventual release from prison. The UPP is a small party with only six seats in the National Assembly.

In South Korea it is illegal under the "National Security Law”, which was created by the occupying Japanese WW II imperial Army, to criticize US military bases in that country or to call for reunification between North and South Korea.

Lee Seok-ki has described himself as the victim of a “witch hunt” by South Korea’s spy agency, the National Intelligence Service (NIS). Many believe the NIS is using the show trial to distract the public from overwhelming evidence that the intelligence agency interfered in the last national election in favor of right-wing President Park Geun-hye's "successful" campaign.

President Park is the daughter of former brutal dictator Park Chung-hee. During Park’s iron-fisted rule from 1961 to 1979, dissidents were tortured and sometimes executed on charges of "plotting" against South Korea.  While on my previous trips to South Korea I met many older activists who spent as many as 20-25 years in prison for opposing the Park dictatorship.

Both the past and present Park regimes in Seoul were and are obvious US puppets.

 One blogger described Lee Seok-ki's alleged crime this way:

Lee Seok-ki also described North Korea as a strong nation and South Korea as an American colony. More specifically, he said the United States had controlled Korea by using its two-party political structure to affect a divide-and-rule strategy. He thought American imperialism was falling apart, though, and that as the weakest link in the American imperialist chain, the Korean Peninsula would be the central stage of the global revolution to throw off the American imperialist yoke.

How many activists around the world could be accused of the same so-called crime of naming the US as an imperialist occupying power?  How many activists around the world daily call for the US military bases in their country to be removed? Under the South Korean National Security Law I could be arrested for naming the US an imperial power.

Through the lens of the Jeju Island non-violent Navy base resistance we've seen how the right-wing government of South Korea does the bidding of the US corporate war machine.  The fascist response of the current puppet government in Seoul should make us all aware of the slippery slope we now tread on right here in the US. 

Sunday, February 16, 2014

SUNDAY SONG