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

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Notes from UNAC Conference

Former Georgia Congresswoman Cynthia McKinney spoke during the final session of the UNAC conference in New Jersey today

I am on the train heading back north to Boston - should get home before midnight.  The UNAC conference, which drew about 400 people, was a real delight, I'm glad to have been there.

There were some fantastic speakers and I took extensive notes.  I'll just put them below, not in any particular order, there was so much ground covered.  The bottom line is that this event brought together Black, Hispanic, Muslim, Middle Eastern, African, Ukrainian, European, and White progressive activists.  People were all connecting the dots making the case that none of us are going anywhere unless and until we find ways to support one another.  In my career as an activist I've attended many conferences and I can say without hesitation that this was one of the best.

The Black Lives Matter uprising was on the minds of most of the speakers and their key point was "find ways to support the rising black youth movement".  Speaker after speaker effectively made the case that there is indeed a war going on here at home in America - a war against youth of color.  If you miss that then you are missing the essential issue of our time.

  • ISIS is the US's Frankenstein just like the Taliban was in Afghanistan
  • Courts in Ukraine are not independent - masked neo-Nazis come to courts where peaceful activists are on trial for their protests against Kiev regime and they intimidate the judges
  • 54% of US domestic military bases are located across the south
  • 57% of black people live in the south
  • We are all equal, there are no bigs, there are no smalls
  • If we don't get it, shut it down
  • Shut down capitalism at the point of production like Longshoreman do in northern California
  • US Africa Command (AfriCom) headquarters is located in Stuttgart, Germany - no African nation has yet been willing to host the command
  • China becoming key player in Africa - generally not interfering with internal affairs of African nations instead focusing on infrastructure development projects like roads, schools, hospitals that the host nation requests in exchange for resources
  • The US and France bring militarization and instability to Africa
  • There has been some Chinese migration into Africa that has caused some tensions
  • Big US--China competition for resources on African continent
  • US State Department sends hip-hop artists to tour Africa to put a happy face before young Africans, many of whom are then brought to Washington and are run through the dollar mill
  • Israel is involved in military operations and covert training in Africa.  During days of apartheid in South Africa Israel was heavily involved in helping arm and train the white regime.
  • Colonization of Africa was the historic linchpin of imperialism - began with Europeans running the slave trade
  • 1960 was known as year of Africa as 17 states got their independence
  • AfriCom currently operating in dozens of states and Obama has increased funding for their military operations throughout Africa
  • Nigeria has the largest economy on the African continent
  • One out of every five slaves were brought to the US from the Congo region
  • Congo was given to King Leopold II of Belgium in 1885 as a personal possession.  Extraction of rubber and ivory made the king more than $1 billion
  • 10-15 million Congolese lost their lives in that resource extraction process
  • Congo's uranium played a central role in the development of the US atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki
  • US spent more money on covert action against Congo than any other country after they gained their independence under Patrice Lumumba. Within twelve weeks of Congolese independence in 1960, Lumumba's government was deposed in a coup by the US, Belgium and the UK.  The United Nations, which Lumumba had asked to come to the Congo, did not intervene to save him. In fact the UN helped block Lumumba's outreach to his people for support.
  •  The CIA determined that if "Congo was lost" then all of Africa would be lost to true independence
  • Between 1996-2007 at least six million people were killed in Congo
  • Bill Clinton's (1998) "Entebbe Summit for Peace and Prosperity: Joint Declaration of Principles" was a neo-liberal program to create "a new breed of African leaders" that turned out to be sociopaths who commit crimes that are cleansed by the US on the international level
  • Obama has continued these basic African policies.  Soon after elected he shipped weapons to Rawada under AfriCom
  • USAID, National Endowment for Democracy and other US "soft power" institutions co-opt labor unions, NGO's and other grassroots organizations in order to blunt the revolutionary youth in Africa
  • Congolese saying: When you dine with the devil, dine with a long fork
  • Pentagon is the biggest user of petro-chemical products and has the largest carbon bootprint on the planet.  The US demanded that the Pentagon be exempted from the Kyoto climate change protocols
  • The cost of the Iraq war was enough to pay for dealing with climate change by reordering the planet toward sustainable energy
  • Fracking - for each gallon of oil extracted more than one gallon of waste water is generated
  • Obama signed the 'European Reassurance Initiative' at the cost of $985 million to fund Pentagon airfield "infrastructure and improvements" for US-NATO war planes in Bulgaria, Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland and Romania.
  • US-NATO military "capacity building" near the Russian border illustrates the game of hardball that Washington and Brussels are playing.  They are putting a loaded gun to Putin's head - the threat is being made to either submit or face expanded war and chaos similar to what has already been unleashed in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and beyond
  • The US corporate oligarchy thought they had Moscow safely in the bag back in the early 1990's.  Washington does not like to be denied and thus is willing to face a nuclear war with Russia in order to finish the job of corporate consolidation
  • There is a 20% difference in prison rates between Black and white people across the US
  • Capitalism in its decline has brought the war home to the American people
  • The US is now 57th in education amongst the world's nations
  • The US is #1 in prison population and military spending in the world
  • The whole damn system is to blame
  • We can't call it the US anymore because the country belongs to the corporate oligarchy
  • Gentrification of cities is a global problem and militarization is based on pushing poor people out so those with more money can move in
  • Black and White is not the issue - it's Blue (cops) and Black
  • There are 10,000 intelligence agents spying on Muslims across the US
  • We will build a broad alliance of various movements to defeat racism
  • Thanks to UNAC for creating the space to bring all these movements together
  • We have to start where Martin Luther King Jr. left off by connecting the war at home with the wars abroad
  • Racism is always structural
  • Baltimore reflects what happens when young people empower themselves
  • The American way of war - unlimited, targets civilians - now seeing it here at home enforced by a brutal police occupation
  • Former Baltimore mayor, and Maryland governor, Martin O'Malley (now likely running for Democratic nomination for president) in one year arrested one-sixth of the Baltimore population. He was the initiator of much of the aggressive policing now at issue in Baltimore
  • US police increasingly being trained by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF).  It's Palestine in the US
  • It's time to talk about the war culture across the US that demands relentless propaganda in order to flourish
  • We need more Cop Watch teams in our communities.  We are living under a system that legally kills Black and Brown men, women, and children
  • A first-year third grade teacher in Orange, New Jersey during Black History Month did a series on civil rights leaders who are less well known.  She used a mild Mumia Abu-Jamal quote and when it became known that he was gravely ill in prison her students wanted to write letters to him sending their love.  The teacher was suspended from the school when word got out about the letters.  Fox News covered the story and New Jersey police organizations demanded her firing.  Hearings are now being held to determine her future.  Parents have turned out on her behalf.  By trying to get the teacher fired police are taking control of public school curriculum
  • The new anti-war movement is the Black Lives Matter uprising
  • Underling causes of black youth uprisings are economic and global.  It's part of the war against youth of the world - particularly youth of color
  • The American empire is crumbling before our very eyes.  If 'Black Lives Matter' are the words then Ferguson and Baltimore are the words made flesh
  • It was the Palestinian people who tweeted the youth in Ferguson and told them how to deal with the tear gas
  • Where is your body at?  Are you willing to put your body on the line to protect black children?
  • We don't need allies, we need freedom fighters
  • There has to be something else better than this.  We must love each other to do this work


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