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: Brunswick, ME, United States

The collapsing US military & economic empire is making Washington & NATO even more dangerous. US could not beat the Taliban but thinks it can take on China-Russia-Iran...a sign of psychopathology for sure. @BruceKGagnon

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Day in Portland: Trains and Film

MB and I went to Portland today to see the tall sailing ships and a movie.  As we were walking toward the port district we passed by the narrow gauge train museum and went inside to have a look.  I've always loved trains and still have my train set that I got for Christmas in 1959.  In fact I still have the turkey box from our holiday turkey that year that I have kept the train in ever since.  In later years I gave the train to my son Julian but it is still stored in our attic with his baseball cards and other such things.

In 1980 I worked with friend John Hedrick in Orlando, Florida to create the People's Transit Organization that worked to get the city and Orange County to upgrade their public transit.  (Our campaign was successful in getting the community to double its funding for public transit.) I am not fond of cars, nor of super highways, but love the idea of public transportation.  It's better for the environment and better for the public - its a common carrier.

Maybe it was living in Wiesbaden, Germany in the mid 1960's - our apartment in the center of the city was just blocks from the rail station and I used to spend alot of time there - and that experience of seeing what a real national rail system was like must have had a big influence on me.

Needless to say I was fascinated by the museum and I remain a huge advocate for building commuter rail systems as one small way to deal with our addiction to the automobile which is a major contributor to the pollution that has helped bring about climate change.

At one time Maine was connected by passenger rail lines that covered most of the state.  Many small towns still have their train stations standing but sadly the coming of the car destroyed that system.

Following our visit to the museum we continued our walk to the port area, had a late breakfast, and then sat in a park while waiting to go the the movie theater.  We went to see "All Eyez On Me" which tells the true story of prolific rapper, actor, poet and activist Tupac Shakur. The film follows Shakur from his early days in New York City to his evolution into being one of the world's most recognized and influential voices before his assassination at the age of 25. Against all odds, Shakur's raw talent, powerful lyrics and revolutionary spirit propelled him into becoming a cultural icon whose legacy continues to grow.

Tupac's mother was a member of the Black Panthers and during her pregnancy she represented herself in a trial and was found not guilty of the charges.  She brought Tupac up to be a revolutionary. His fame brought him much suffering as he was targeted as an enemy of the state at an early age.  I highly recommend the film.


Must Watch Talk on Congo

Maurice Carney from Friends of the Congo speaking about US Foreign Policy in Congo, the heart of Africa. #UNAC2017

Maurice is Co-Founder and Executive Director of Friends of the Congo. He has traveled widely, leading workshops and teach-ins at universities, community colleges, businesses, faith groups, labor unions, and think tanks. He has provided analysis for media outlets including Pacifica News, Al Jazeera, ABC News, Democracy Now, Real New Network, and Pambazuka News.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

UNAC Panel Presentation on 'Missile Defense'

While at the UNAC national anti-war conference last weekend in Richmond, Virginia.

Thanks to Iraq and Afghanistan veteran Will Griffin at The Peace Report for making the video  available in this format.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

U.S. Navy War Games off Jeju Island

You don't have to understand Korean to watch this short news report about people on Jeju island, South Korea being angry about the port call by a US Aegis destroyer to the new Navy base in Gangjeong village.

The news report shows footage of the Navy war exercises that will be going on between the US, Canada and South Korean navies.  (Imagine all the sea life killed and pollution resulting from these so-called games.)

You also see a bit of the protest at the front gate of the new Navy base.

Practicing Solidarity Here at Home

Larry Hamm speaking at the #UNAC2017 conference, United National Antiwar Coalition, held in Richmond, VA.

Larry is founder and Chairman of the People's Organization For Progress in Newark, NJ. Check them out here

Larry calls for all movements to support one another.

Protect Your Spark Plugs

Veterans For Peace national board member Tarak Kauff from Woodstock, NY joined us in Maine for the Zumwalt destroyer 'christening' civil disobedience in 2016

Many moons ago, while I was working for the Florida Coalition for Peace & Justice, we organized a weekend retreat and our guest speaker was the legendary peace activist Abbie Hoffman.  I recall being blown away by his skill as a strategic thinker and the interaction made me realize how much we often fall for the mainstream media's definition of people - especially those who are in the limelight.  The media had long made Hoffman out to be a jester and a bit of a fool - not to be taken too seriously.  Seeing Abbie in person dispelled all those media-driven false impressions. (Later I read all of Hoffman's books which only confirmed for me his brilliant organizing know-how.)

One expression I will always remember that Hoffman made during our daylong event was his warning to us that we should be sure to "Protect your spark plugs".  He was not talking about auto repair.  In fact he was talking about our peace groups and the need to recognize who our spark plugs are and to make sure we take good care of them.  He did not mean this in an elitist manner but purely in the good sense way that we should know who it is that often energizes us and helps to make our groups move into action.

One such spark plug that I know is Tarak Kauff from VFP.  Tarak has boundless energy (not bad for an old man) and is able to turn ideas into action.  He's got a few rough edges (like most of us humans) but in many ways his roughness is part of his charm.

Tarak had much to do with making the recent VFP anti-war rally and protest in Washington DC happen.  He has been a leader in VFP solidarity trips to South Korea, Okinawa and Palestine during the last couple of years.  He was also heavily involved in organizing VFP's strong presence at Standing Rock in North Dakota last winter.

Tarak puts his heart in gear when he feels outraged at the insanity coming out of the US government.  He feels a sense of personal responsibility and acts on it and his sheer energy draws others who might not have ever thought of acting.

Tarak is a spark plug.


Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Aegis Destroyer Arrives on Jeju Island

Report from Sung-Hee Choi in Gangjeong village on Jeju Island, South Korea:

The USS Dewey Aegis Destroyer (DDG-105) made entry into the Jeju navy base amid people's protest. Facing the three small kayaks [see yellow in photo] in protest to it, a Coast Guard ship was sent to stop the kayaks. Photographer Oum Mun-hee says, in the photos, you can see crews on the ship and even firing from the ship just before its entry to the port.

According to the Yonhap News, there will be 'live-fire naval exercise' in southern waters near Jeju Island joined by the three nations of South Korea, United States and Canada. The article details the Navy's words that 'the three sides plan to hold various drills on interdiction, air defense, anti-submarine operations and ballistic missile detection, along with live-fire training.'

The USS Dewey Aegis destroyer would be the 2nd Aegis destroyer following the USS Stethem's port call on March 25, this year. If the USS Stethem came to the Jeju navy base after its joint exercise with South Korea for a 'friendly exchange' and social service,' the USS Dewey comes here to have a meeting on coming joint exercise which will be from June 23.

Why Canada? The presence of Canada navy here is unusual. But we know that she is a member of NATO and has dispatched its troops of the 3rd largest size after United States and UK during the Korean War, 1950 to 1953.

Reminded with recent bitter disasters on June 9 and June 17 when the US Aegis destroyers clashed respectively with a South Korean fishing ship in the East Sea (east of the Korean peninsula) and Philippine container ship in the east sea of Japan (near Shizuoka prefecture) I wonder whether such reckless war exercise would be really recommended for the US navies. (It is read that the Dewey has accompanied the clashed ship USS Fitzgerald to a port in Japan on June 17.)

We say NO to the entry of the USS Dewey Aegis destroyer to the Jeju navy base!

Stop the South Korea-United States-Canada maritime military exercise!

Photos by Oum Mun-hee (top color photo) and Song Dong-hyo (two black and white photos )


The USS Dewey has unexpectedly left the port due to damage in its equipment. The Dewey canceled its participation in the joint ROK-US-Canada maritime exercise due to unknown equipment damage, which was found after its docking into the Jeju navy base. The Aegis destroyer left the port around 6 pm, 10 hours after its docking at the base on the same day. Jeju media reports though that the joint exercise between South Korea and Canada will be carried out with the arrival of two Canadian convoys on June 22.

Attacks Continue in Donbass

The shelling daily continues in the Donbass (eastern Ukraine) near the Russian border.  Families have been destroyed and driven from their homes by Ukrainian forces trained, equipped and directed by the US-NATO.

These people feel betrayed and forgotten by a world that has largely fallen for the endless demonization of Russia by Washington's warmongers.  Russia has not invaded Ukraine.  It is the US-NATO proxy Army from Kiev that keeps attacking the Donbass region where thousands have been killed - and the killing still goes on.

It is a war crime to attack civilian populations and the US-NATO are responsible for these war crimes being committed against the innocent people of the Donbass.

It breaks my heart - in part because I understand what is coming next.  What is going on now is just the warm up to greater war that Washington-London-Paris-Brussels are trying to set up.  They intend to attempt to break Russia up into pieces (similar to what was done to Yugoslavia and is now being done in Iraq and Syria) - to balkanize Russia and return a servile Yeltsin-type person to power in Moscow who would serve as an agent of the west. 

Of course this arrogant and evil strategy will fail but very well could lead to WW III. 


Remembering Richmond's Slave Trade

At the end of the UNAC national peace conference in Richmond, Virginia this past weekend we marched one mile to Shockoe Bottom which was once the epicenter of the US domestic slave trade.

This action was part of events all over the country to remember Juneteenth.  Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the US.  It marks June 19, 1865, when enslaved people in Texas first learned of the end of the Civil War and the Emancipation Proclamation, issued two-and-a-half years earlier by President Lincoln.

General Gabriel (as fellow slaves called him), the leader of a slave rebellion in 1800, was hung at the burial ground at Shockoe Bottom along with at least 25 others that supported the insurrection. 

Between 1830-1860 Shockoe Bottom was the leading center for domestic slave trading and several hundred thousand slaves that were 'bred in the US' (plantations forced enslaved women and men to produce children for sale) were sold to plantations throughout the deep south. Gabriel's son - who was born in Alabama or Kentucky (when Gabriel's pregnant widow was sold out of state) - was raised like a horse to be a 'stud' and may have been forced to father as many as 30 children most of whom were sold away.

The legal transatlantic importation of slaves ended in 1808 and very quickly the profits and volume of the domestic trade grew and continued to grow to its height in the 1850s, almost unabated even through the Civil War, only ending (in Richmond) on April 2, 1865, when Federal troops arrived.

In recent years Richmond activists have been campaigning to turn Shockoe Bottom into a memorial.  The city has had other plans for the area which have included a baseball field, hotel, shops, and condos.

Ana Edwards local leader of the Sacred Ground Historical Reclamation Project says, "We need to deal with this history. Not only do we then get to honor the people who came before us, but we also get to understand them and ourselves. If we don't bring this history back, Richmond will always struggle through this identity crisis that it has."

Ana Edwards (right) leads the march to Shockoe Bottom carrying a banner with the 1800 slave rebellion cry.  She was joined by Lynetta Thompson (left) past President of the Richmond NAACP.

In 2009, archaeologists found a jail, The Robert Lumpkin Slave Jail in Shockoe Bottom district. It was nicknamed “The Devil’s Half Acre.” It was known as one of the cruelest, most inhumane jails in the country. Lumpkin, a “bully trader” fathered five children with a former slave named Mary who he married and thus left her his property when he died. Mary leased some of the buildings on the site to a northern minister to start a school that later moved and eventually became Virginia Union University.

Our visit to Shockoe Bottom was a great ending to the conference and reminds us all that the legacy of slavery still leaves harsh marks on America's consciousness.  Racism is still alive and flourishing across the land and campaigns like the one to memorialize Shockoe Bottom should be supported now more than ever.


PS Thanks to Ana Edwards for correcting some of my mistakes in the first edition of this post and offering a much broader picture of the history of Shockoe Bottom.

Monday, June 19, 2017

A Cure for Capitalism

Narrated by Richard Wolff.

Wolff is a Professor of Economics Emeritus at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, and Visiting Professor at the New School graduate program in International Affairs in New York.

Wolff’s work challenges the conventional wisdom that capitalism is the ideal framework for the political economy.  More recently, he has concentrated on analyzing the causes and alternative solutions to the global economic crisis.  In 2010, Wolff put his economic theory into action, and co-founded Democracy at Work, a project that aims to build a social movement and society whose workplace is more equitable, sustainable, and democratic.

Over the years, Wolff has written extensively and published many books including Democracy at Work: A Cure for Capitalism, Occupy the Economy: Challenging Capitalism, and Capitalism Hits the Fan: The Global Economic Meltdown and What to Do About It, which was also made into a DVD.

Wolff’s bold and persuasive economic ideas have helped him establish a strong media presence. He writes regularly for The Guardian and, and has been interviewed by Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now!, Al Jazeera English, and National Public Radio. He is also a frequent lecturer at colleges and universities across the country.

Wolff earned his PhD in Economics and MA in History from Yale University, an MA in Economics from Stanford, and a BA in History from Harvard. He lives in New York with his wife, Dr. Harriet Fraad, a psychotherapist.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Stop Moving Here!

Closing Words from Richmond UNAC Confab


Today was the final day of the excellent UNAC national peace conference in Richmond, Virginia.  I thought I'd share some of the words from those who spoke during the last plenary session and from some of the audience who spoke during the final open mic session.

  • Believe in our ability to revive the anti-war movement in this country.  There is war exhaustion amongst the people.  The state is vulnerable and is more dependent on using force domestically and internationally.  (Ajamu Baraka, Black Alliance for Peace)
  • We have to have the discipline and humbleness to tell no lies and claim no easy victories.  Without disciplined search for truth we'll never know what time it is.  The constituency for US imperialism is alot softer than we have thought.  The black political class [elected officials] is now almost universally servile to the war machine.  (Glen Ford, Black Agenda Report)
  • The biggest destroyer of the environment is war.  War divides humanity at the very time we need to unite the world to deal with our serious problems [economic disparity and climate change].  (David Swanson, World Beyond War)
  • US wars are unpredictable.  Is a coup in Venezuela next? Is there going to be an attack on Iran? Sharper and sharper demonization of Russia and China.  The role of demonization in the media is to push war beyond debate. Politicians say these are the lines of discussion and you'd better not step over them. UNAC is made up of several left parties, and other independent groups and activists, who have learned to cooperate.  We need to listen to each other more.  (Sara Flounders, International Action Center)
  • The average person in America carries $7,500 in debt.  The anti-war movement needs to ground its struggles on working class and oppressed communities.  A national general strike would have economic consequences on the ruling elite.  A day of no work or no school could have real economic impact.  (Phil Wilayto, Virginia Defenders)
  • The peace movement will not rise to the level it needs to rise unless it is connected to the black liberation movement.  And the black liberation movement will not rise unless it is connected to the peace movement and other movements for liberation.  Just this week the officer who killed Philando Castile was found not guilty.  Tomorrow in Newark, New Jersey we will have our 73rd consecutive week of protest at the Federal Building against police killings.  2,500 people have been killed by police since Ferguson, Missouri.  This is not police brutality but police terror and murder. If you are a revolutionary you have to fight on all fronts.  We don't just have to run to Washington DC to protest.  We should be having protests in every community across America.  A black liberation movement by itself will not bring down the capitalist and imperialist system.  We need a united people's movement. (Larry Hamm, People's Organization for Progress)
  • Our job is to pull the more moderate forces to the left.  (Kevin Zeese, Popular Resistance)
  • I've been told I have a big mouth.  I take that as a compliment.  If I was quiet just think how much worse everything would be.  (Black elder Queen Nzinga, Richmond, Va)
  • Students are workers.  We need to work to go to school.  We need to divest colleges from war.  (Texas A & M student)
  • Hillary and Bill Clinton worked to keep the wages down in Haiti and interfered in elections there.  (Marty Goodman, Retired transit worker, New York City)
  • The ideas here have invigorated me.  It's really isolating to have to always listen to white academics who don't give a shit about anything.  I'm gonna take what I've learned here back to my school and share it.  (Patrick Anderson, Grad student, Texas A & M)

Sunday Song