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

With a new administration in Washington it will be a challenge to get the 'liberals' to hold Biden-Harris to the few 'progressive promises' they made during their campaign. Biden is bringing back many of Bush & Obama's neo-cons to head his foreign policy. I'll be on this case without hesitation.

Saturday, March 13, 2021

Appeal from Russia: 'A little bit of trust'

 

 

Vladimir Kozin, special advisor to the Russian Presidential Administration on nuclear treaties, nuclear weapons and space technology. A sobering interview, but ever hopeful that sanity will return to the USA. 

Kozin has spoken at Global Network meetings twice before - the first time in Sweden and then in Moscow.  He is a fine, direct and honest man.

Video by Regis Tremblay 

Further evidence that US-NATO are planning something in Ukraine see this article which is from a pro-Ukrainian (US puppet government) website:  Delegation of NATO Allied Land Command arrives in Ukraine

Friday, March 12, 2021

A great new film

 

 

We watched this new film last night via YouTube (had to pay to play). It is a really excellent movie and I highly recommend it.

It's a true story based on the book by a man from Mauritania who was held in Guantanamo, Cuba by the US for about 14 years - never charged, but continually tortured to get a 'confession'.

His legal team stuck with him until he was finally released.

And still today the US holds 40 innocent people in that damn prison. Talk about human rights abuses for the past 19 years at Guantanamo!

It's interesting how the US is always so critical of other nations for abusing human rights but has no shame continuing to lead the world in war making and massive violations of human rights.

This film is a clear picture of the US's fascist ways.

Bruce

The story few ever heard....

 


By S Brian Willson


In 1866, one year after the 13th Amendment was ratified (the amendment that ended slavery), Alabama, Texas, Louisiana, Arkansas, Georgia, Mississippi, Florida, Tennessee, and South Carolina began to lease out convicts for labor (peonage). This made the business of arresting Blacks very lucrative, which is why hundreds of White men were hired by these states as police officers. Their primary responsibility was to search out and arrest Blacks who were in violation of Black Codes. Once arrested, these men, women and children would be leased to plantations where they would harvest cotton, tobacco, sugar cane. Or they would be leased to work at coal mines, or railroad companies. The owners of these businesses would pay the state for every prisoner who worked for them; prison labor.

It is believed that after the passing of the 13th Amendment, more than 800,000 Blacks were part of the system of peonage, or re-enslavement through the prison system. Peonage didn’t end until after World War II began, around 1940.  

This is how it happened.  The 13th Amendment declared that "Neither slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted, shall exist within the United States, or any place subject to their jurisdiction." (Ratified in 1865)

Did you catch that? It says, “neither slavery nor involuntary servitude could occur except as a punishment for a crime". Lawmakers used this phrase to make petty offenses crimes. When Blacks were found guilty of committing these crimes, they were imprisoned and then leased out to the same businesses that lost slaves after the passing of the 13th Amendment. This system of convict labor is called peonage.  

The majority of White Southern farmers and business owners hated the 13th Amendment because it took away slave labor. As a way to appease them, the federal government turned a blind eye when southern states used this clause in the 13th Amendment to establish laws called Black Codes. Here are some examples of Black Codes:

*In Louisiana, it was illegal for a Black man to preach to Black congregations without special permission in writing from the president of the police. If caught, he could be arrested and fined. If he could not pay the fines, which were unbelievably high, he would be forced to work for an individual, or go to jail or prison where he would work until his debt was paid off. 

*If a Black person did not have a job, he or she could be arrested and imprisoned on the charge of vagrancy or loitering.  

*This next Black Code will make you cringe. In South Carolina, if the parent of a Black child was considered vagrant, the judicial system allowed the police and/or other government agencies to “apprentice” the child to an "employer". Males could be held until the age of 21, and females could be held until they were 18. Their owner had the legal right to inflict punishment on the child for disobedience, and to recapture them if they ran away. 

This (peonage) is an example of systemic racism - Racism established and perpetuated by government systems. Slavery was made legal by the U.S. Government. Segregation, Black Codes, Jim Crow and peonage were all made legal by the government, and upheld by the judicial system. 

These acts of racism were built into the system, which is where the term “Systemic Racism” is derived. This is the part of "Black History" that most of us were never told about. 

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Book report: Stories from inside a revolution

 

Sid Engst and Joan Hinton in their early days working on dairy farm in China. As a scientist Joan specialized in helping to develop various technologies to make farm production more efficient while Sid usually directed the dairy operation since he was raised on a dairy farm in upstate New York.

I've just finished what I consider one of the top five most interesting books I've ever read.  I wrote a bit here about the book awhile ago and wanted to share some more.  The book is called Silage Choppers & Snake Spirits: The Lives & Struggles of Two Americans in Modern China.  

It is the story about Joan Hinton (Nuclear physicist who worked on the secret Manhattan Project to build the atomic bomb) and her husband Sid Engst (dairy farmer).  The book is so well written, the author did a great job of story telling about the Chinese revolution, Mao, the Cultural Revolution in the mid-1960's and the eventual counter-revolution under Deng Xiaoping who turned China back toward capitalism. So this story (told thru the lives of these two fascinating Americans) for me was a real page turner. It makes me want to learn even more.  

I start from the fact that virtually everything we know about China (and that period of time) is filtered through US propaganda.  I am always one who wants to cut through the clouds and see the real picture.

So I'm going to share just a couple items from the book - things that moved me and helped me understand China policy a bit better. Joan tells one story about life on the state farm where the workers met in small groups each morning to learn more about politics and also to do 'self criticism' that included being honest and telling about your own mistakes while also criticizing leadership (local and national) with the thought of seeking positive reflection and change.  Here is her memory of one meeting where the farm director led such a discussion:

"I'm glad to have the opportunity to meet with you dairy workers today," he said, opening the meeting. "I don't think I've ever been in a meeting with you people alone. The result has been that your specific problems have always been swallowed up by the many problems of the more numerous farm workers.  My idea for today's meeting would be, if you all agree, for each of you to say whatever it is that's on your mind, so that I and all of us for that matter, can become more familiar with your work and your problems, what specific problems each one of you has, and what if anything is troubling you. In particular, I would suggest you take this opportunity to bring out any suggestions or ideas you may have about the leadership. I would like to add that I hope no one will be bashful.  Only if we bring things out in the open, will they get a chance to be cleared up.  Keeping troubles to ourselves and not letting others know only prevents us from having even the hope of solving it. We should have faith that many minds working together always have more power than a single one alone. Who will be the first to speak?"

Imagine that happening at workplaces across America.  Not likely in most places.  Joan was particularly impressed by the process and went on to share some of Mao's reasoning behind instituting this program to increase the confidence, the power and the local democracy for those who had lived in poverty as virtual slaves to wealthy land owners prior to the revolution. She said this:

I kept thinking of Chairman Mao's teaching: when someone criticizes you, don't try to look for all that is wrong with what they are saying, look for what is right. Even if 90% is wrong, look carefully for that 10% that's right. Analyze it. Think about it. Make it become part of you. Only in this way can you expect to improve.

 

Joan, Sid and their three children, all who were born in China

Certainly that is very good advice that I intend to follow. Another story from the book that really stuck out for me (again reflecting how little we actually know about Chinese history) is the story about Tibet and the Dalai Lama. Joan shared:

[In 1959] the elite CIA-trained Tibetans surrounding the Dalai Lama in the northwestern province of Tibet staged an unsuccessful revolt. India did its part on the advice of the Soviet Union by opening up its doors to the fleeing Tibetans. Zhou Enlai [China's foreign minister] made a trip in the middle of the negotiations to talk to the Dalai Lama himself, to try to convince him to stay and work things out.  He assured the young Lama that the Central government had no intentions of destroying Tibetan culture - but that practices of feudal oppression, slave ownership and serfdom [ in Tibet] had to be abolished. The Dalai Lama developed a respect for Zhou Enlai that he would talk about candidly in the following years, but in the end took the advice of his inner circle and went into exile in India. 

 


Joan and Sid were deeply troubled by the turn of events that led to the demise of socialism in China.  Mao had seen the writing on the wall when he created the Cultural Revolution in his later years to help re-focus the people on the purposes and gains of the revolution.  But by then he was quite ill and near death so the 'capitalist roaders' like Deng Xiaoping did all they could to distract the people and divide them to ensure their own rise to power.  

In 1979 Deng went to Washington to meet with Jimmy Carter (with a stop in Texas where he was given a big cowboy hat) and upon his return to China he famously stated, "Poverty is not socialism. To be rich is glorious!" Joan remarked about this period:

The Cultural Revolution failed because of the ability of the capitalist roaders to whip up factionalism among the people. And in fact, the people are so easily whipped into factionalism. It's the petit bourgeois ideology, which is so strong in all of us: our Achilles' heel. We can't join together to fight the main enemy, because of our own petit bourgeois tendency to become factional. To me, if we can't get over this, it's the one thing that's gonna keep ordinary people from every being able to develop socialism...

In the US it's against the foreign born, it's whites against blacks and so on - all done to divide the working people. The working people fall for it all the time, because we do not have proletarian ideology. We don't think that the working people are one family; we just look at somebody from the other village and think, "they're not our village..." There's no reason on earth for them to hate each other.  All working people get their living from working.

 

Speaking of Deng, Sid put it this way:

I don't think Joan and I ever had any illusions about the "Reform," because as the saying goes, if you know its past and you can understand its present, you know its past and its present and you can predict its future; that's true of Deng...

For me I see so many similarities with what is happening today right here in the USA and around the world where US-NATO (essentially representing western capitalism) do all they can to divide the people in order to keep in control and extract wealth from the public. 

I love to learn, I love history, and most of all I love stories about the lives of others who take extraordinary steps to make much needed changes in our world.  Thus this book was a treasure for me. I learned so much.

Bruce

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

US-NATO preparing war on Russian border


US-NATO directed and supplied Ukrainian government is moving heavy military hardware into Mariupol closer to the Russian western border near the Donbass region (Donetsk and Lugansk). 

Informed speculation is that the Biden administration is planning multiple location attacks. Russia will be forced to respond and then will be further demonized and encircled by a NATO that is the tip-of-the-spear for more war. 

US-NATO playing with fire. Imagine if Russia was doing this along the US's Canadian or Mexican borders.

You won't find any reporting about this on BBC, CNN, MSNBC, NPR, NY Times or Washington Post. I wonder why?

Bruce

Public discourse is dominated by corporate think-tanks

 

 

Journalist Chris Hedges often quotes Dr. Sheldon Wolin.

Wolin speaks about Totalitarian America, in Willits, California at the Willits Methodist Church. 

Wolin was an American political theorist and writer on contemporary politics. Wolin became Professor of Politics, Emeritus, at Princeton University, where he taught from 1973 to 1987.

During a 50-year teaching career Wolin also taught at the University of California, Berkeley, University of California, Santa Cruz, Oberlin College, Oxford University, Cornell University, and University of California, Los Angeles. 

Tuesday, March 09, 2021

a sense of history, a sense of outrage

 

Washington
is not backing off
its evil,
illegal, immoral
and very costly war$
(Biden is soon
to be gone
as the oligarchy
consolidates power,
his usefulness now over)

 
America has little
legitimacy
around the world
thus Mr. Big's use
of the hammer
to enforce empire

Back home
things rapidly
coming apart
at the seams
(human and
infrastructure collapse
right on schedule,
the masses no longer
needed in the coming age of
robotics and AI)

Public
is distracted
by infotainment,
party politics,
divide and conquer,
depression and
resignation,
which always
plays a huge part
in public demobilization.
(But don't misunderstand,
the people
do hear the
train coming....)

 
The mob
(Wall Street/CIA)
runs Dems
and Repubs

Mr. Big
fears
the American people
and terrorizes them
to keep
in control.
 
US-Israel,
Saudi Arabia,
UK,
and often Turkey,
endlessly rampaging
with NATO tagging along,
in utter
subservience

Iran, Russia
and China
are the primary
targets,
while Iraq, Syria, Yemen,
Venezuela, North Korea,
Cuba, Nicaragua
and others remain
on Washington's
shit list
for continual destabilization
and regime change
 
Quite enough
to keep the war machine
churning,
profit$ high,
and greater global instability,
which always breeds
more war.
The vicious cycle
 
It's a sick
and criminal
imperial strategy.
Most American's
sadly plod along,
it is so easy
to do
 
Our predicament,
one hopes,
is obvious,
if we don't stop
this madness
soon
then WW III
will be upon us

You've got to have
a sense of history,
a sense of outrage
and struggle,
and a sense of humor
to get by.

Bruce 

German journalist on Russia & Navalny

 


Dirk Pohlmann is a well-known German journalist, author and former documentary filmmaker of the public TV channels ARD/ZDF and ARTE. 

In the first part of the interview he is answering the question, if it is likely that the Russian government stands behind the attempted murders of Alexei Navalny and Skripal. 

He explains the background story of the agent Novichok, and of Navalny himself, who received special education in the US together with the German Member of the European Parliament Sergey Lagodinsky of the Green party.  

English subtitles are available.

Monday, March 08, 2021

Digging deeper into the Syria issue


 

Pushback on Syria with Aaron Maté who does a deep-dive into the issue.  

He's one of the finest 'alternative' journalists out there today.  You should follow him. 

Read even more alternative thinking about Iraq-Syria here

This is just a short taste of the article:

It’s been almost 10 years since the war in Syria began, and 18 years since the war in Iraq began, and still there seems to be no peace in sight for any of the Arab countries. Biden has been in office in less than two months, but in my opinion, the next four years seem to be rather clear in terms of Washington’s policies towards the West Asia region- the long wars will continue and more blood is to be expected. Bush bombed Iraq, Obama bombed Iraq, Trump bombed Iraq, and now Biden bombs Iraq. For our people, it never matters who or what occupies the White House, the bombings and wars will continue. Iraq has a rather young population, more than 60 percent of the population is under 25 years of age. This means that most Iraqis have known nothing else except the US imposed wars on their homeland. It is a tragedy and a shameful moment in human history where most people in the totally “advanced, civilized, democratic, morally superior” West don’t care about what their despicable governments are doing in Iraq or Syria, because they are stupid Muslim terrorists anyway. This is why Iraq cannot and should not rely on Western public opinion. Resistance is the only way, and the US Empire must be kicked out with force in order for Iraqis to finally have some peace.  

Sunday, March 07, 2021

Turn over at BIW - new generation of workers

 

(This video recorded on October 31, 2015. The occasion was the christening of another Navy Aegis destroyer at Bath Iron Works in Maine. Thanks to Regis Tremblay for the video.)

Yesterday 14 of us gathered first in front of the BIW administration building for another of the Lenten season vigils that will continue every Saturday until April 3.  After some time there we walked single-file toward the West gate where at noon workers pour out on foot during the weekend shift change. In addition, tons of cars and big noisy pick-up trucks roll by in slow moving traffic so they are all captive to the messages on our signs and banners.

MB and I have been doing this since we moved to Maine in 2003 for Lent and Advent, and during other times of year like Keep Space Week and the protests at 'christenings' of new destroyers.  Over the years we seen big changes in the people - many of the original activists who came to these vigils have passed on.  But we've also seen a huge transition in the workers.

 

It used to be that the vast majority of the workers were our age - and they had largely become accustomed to our regular events at the shipyard.  But in the last two years a dramatic change has been underway.  Now most of the workers are young men and women - they have not had much experience seeing activists holding signs outside their work place.  For some of them it is a real challenge.

I change the sign I hold each time as I want to tell a story over the Lenten season vigils which last about two months. One week I held a sign that asked 'Where do these Aegis [destroyers] go?' and another time I've held the two signs (above and below) that focus on climate change.  I notice that many of the younger workers appear to understand the climate issue much better than the older guys.  Likely the young ones learned about climate crisis in their public schools. But for Mainers, BIW is one of the better paying jobs for the working class.  Over the years though I've been told by some of the younger guys that they'd rather be building commuter rail systems or offshore wind turbines.  


 

But some of the young folks who are just seeing us for the first time get angry.  They might come from right-wing backgrounds or just resent anyone challenging their 'new good paying job'.  Just yesterday one guy sitting in his truck was yelling at us for quite awhile. I was across the street from him but did hear the word Iraq come out of his mouth. (You know, 'kill them there so we don't have to kill them here'.) MB tried to talk with him but he was just into yelling and not real conversation.  So some of these young folks will need some time to adjust to us.

As I learned during my time at Travis AFB in California (an airlift base for the war in Vietnam) regular peace protests outside the gate at our base triggered much discussion among the GI's in the barracks, the chow hall, and on our job.  So I am quite confident that our sustained presence at BIW similarly ensures a lively discussion (and/or reflection) amongst some of the workers inside the shipyard. (I went into the Air Force as a young Republican supporter of the war and came out a peacenik - so I know people can change.)

We'll be back out there again next Saturday.

Bruce

Sunday song

 


By  Mistahi Corkill (a carpenter in Ottawa, Canada)

The story goes you’re gonna make it if you try,
And if you don’t may your life waste away ‘cause its your fault

Like the sheen of a rotting fish, The glitter just dazzles,
For everyone who’s filthy rich, A million must suffer,
So start your climb up the money tree, The best slaves are those who think they’re free,

Oh say can you see Rome is Burning, Oh how it burns, Oh feel the burn,

As life unfolds people struggle to make ends meet,
Look around, what you see, the hunger, the homeless, the powerless streets

On your mind the need for change, channel your pain and your rage,
Stand up and link your arms for strength, Shout it out to the police state,
I can’t breathe that’s why I take a knee, We won’t take your new form o’slavery,

Oh say can you see Rome is Burning, Oh how it burns, oh feel the burn,
Oh how it burns, Oh feel the burn

Make no mistake, racism starts with the state,
To divide and rule the working class to keep us broken, not building the new

Lessons of history revealed, Organize or be displaced,
The rulers have no solutions, Only violence, wars and jails,
Stick together and fight for your just claims, Workers united will prevail,

Oh say can you see Rome is over, Oh build the New, Oh build the New!
Oh build the New, Oh build the New!, Oh build the new, Oh build the New!