Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Transit Strike in NYC!

I remember sitting in meetings over the past several years talking bout how 'we were going to shut down the city' or how we were going to build support for a 'peoples strike'. Well, all of a sudden we find ourselves (those who live in NYC) in a place where workers have literally shut down major parts of (arguably) the worlds most important city as the Transit Workers Union (TWU - Local 100) officially went on strike at 3am this morning.

Im frustrated personally because im in the middle of a crazy editing period as we are about to go to production with the new issue of Left Turn but i urge everyone who can to get involved in strike support whereever they can. The easiest way to do this is to check out the TWU blog and head to one of the listed strike locations which can be found throughout the five burroughs. People can also check out the discussions on the NYC indymedia website for ways to get involved locally.

This is a historic strike, as the Transit Workers have only gone on strike once (1980) since the enactment of the Taylor Law, which is one of the great pieces of anti-worker legislation that was passed after the first transit workers strike took place in 1966. The defiance of the Taylor Law is a big step for one of the largest and more militant unions in the country and they deserve all of our support in the fight against Bloomberg, Pataki and the corrupt MTA. If this strike is broken by the city it will probably be a long time before we see another labor action of this magnitude. I know its cold outside, but for those who can, please show your support, pass out leaflets, organize solidarity actions, bring coffee and food to the workers outside, whatever makes sense...
WTO protests in Hong Kong

Those of you who have already become regular readers in the short life-span of this blog will have noticed that I have not posted anything in about a week or so. I have been very busy putting the finishing touches on the winter issue of Left Turn magazine, which will be in your hands in about two weeks (if your a subscriber). There are lots of things to catch up on, but i wanted to pass along two articles related to the latest round of WTO (World Trade Organization) talks that have just concluded in Hong Kong. The first is a piece entitled 'Is Market Access the Answer to Poverty?' by Mark Engler which discusses what is at stake in Hong Kong, and outlining a critique of so called 'free market' based solutions to fighting poverty.

The second piece is written by a pair of great long-time activists (and personal friends) David Solnit and Pranjal Tiwari who were on the ground in Hong Kong. The article "Kong Yee Sai Mau: The Battle for Hong Kong" is a detailed, blow by blow account of what took place in the streets over this past week and is a very interesting read.

In a few days after the new issue of the magazine is printed i will be back to normal 'blogging capacity'. Thanks to those who have taken the time to post comments and please do keep em comin'...

Monday, December 12, 2005

No Justice, No Peace!

I recently came across this interesting article entitled:
"No Justice and No Peace: A Critique of Current Social Change Politics" written by Selina Musuta and Darby Hickey and wanted to hear what other people thought of some of the points they bring up. Personally I think these types of articles, written by activists involved in the movement themselves, are really important. I have plenty to say about the article (both where i agree and disagree) but before i share some thoughts, i want to hear from other people! What do folks think? leave a comment (or two)...

Friday, December 09, 2005

Autonomy & Solidarity

For those of you not familiar with the Canadian based Autonomy & Solidarity network go and check out their website, and mission statement. Besides running the website which always has solid articles and analysis pieces, they put out a great 'Journal of Theory and Action' called Upping The Anti. They just finished the second issue which you can order from them by emailing them at: uta_distro@yahoo.ca

While your at it order a few copies of the first issue of Upping the Anti which was excellent, especially their Editorial which is available online as well.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

Chomsky vs. Dershowitz debate on Palestine

On November 29th, Noam Chomsky debated Alan Dershowitz at the John F. Kennedy School of Government in Harvard University. The title of the event was called "Israel and Palestine After Disengagement: Where Do We Go From Here?" Im not sure how Chomsky (nearly 80 years old now) has the energy still to be doing these kind of (what must be really tiring) events, but he pulled it off. For a review of the debate check out this article, but i would really urge folks to see the video at some point if you have time. Im sure most people who are reading this will have a pretty good idea of who Noam Chomsky is, but just in case you wanna brush up you can check out his official website which features archived talks, interviews, articles, videos etc. Also if you have never seen the documentary about his life, go check out the great film 'Manufacturing Consent' on one of these gloomy winter days.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Anti-War Movement (Part II - ANSWER)

If my first run-ins with left sectarian groupings as a young activist was with the ISO (they tend to concentrate on college campuses as part of their recruitment strategy), my second would definitely have to be with ANSWER. For those not familiar with ANSWER and their politics there are two places where you can get more info. First, there is this spoof website (though the facts are all too real) which details ANSWER's connections back to the IAC (International Action Center) and finally to the WWP (Workers World Party). Then just recently journalist Bill Weinberg wrote an incitefull piece for the War Resisters League publication 'The Non-Violent Activist' called: "The politics of the anti-war movement" which outlines what effect a coalition (series of front groups really) like ANSWER has on the larger anti-war movement.

Besides the Stalinist politics, the support of various brutal regimes all over the world (Ramsey Clark, the founder of the IAC is currently on display defending Saddam Hussein), and the way that they undercut other coalitions (like UFPJ) by claiming to speak 'for all muslims and Arabs' -- on an interpersonal level they are also a nightmare to deal with. My two personal experiences involved two of their cadre (several years ago) trying to convince a young student who had come to our teach-in that he should take the bus with them (ANSWER) instead buying a ticket at the event for one of our student buses that we were using as a way to build stronger relationships with local anti-war activists in and around the NYU campus. The second example was several months later (October, 2005) when we reserved (and sold tickets) for 6 busses that ANSWER had rented to go down to a large demo in DC. When we showed up that morning, we realized they did not have the amount of busses that we had paid for. When we went up to their offices to see if more busses were on their way or what the deal was with the 80+ students that were out on the street at 6am with no where to go, they basically shrugged us off and said that we 'should be able to get a refund from them in a few days'. Besides the obvious demoralization this caused for many young activists who worked for over a month to fill up those buses, when i talked to one of our drivers (I boarded a bus because I had signed up as a bus captain) he told me that there were no shortage of busses at his company and that if ANSWER needed more busses they could have easily ordered more as they had several on stand-by.

I encourage folks to read the Weinberg article, which is especially good at pointing out how ANSWER uses 'the race issue' (which we all know is all too real in the mainstream liberal, prodominatly white anti-war movement) and the 'Palestine issue' (also a traditional weakness of the liberal left) as wedge issues that confuse sectors of the larger movement into supporting some of ANSWER's divisive maneuverings. Although some say that the issue of pointing out 'ANSWER's flaws' isnt needed anymore because 'everyone knows', I think its a mistake to assume that. Even if it is just for the historical record this is an article that activists can use in the future for discussions on a variety of topics.

Friday, December 02, 2005

(Radical) Child-Care Network forms in New York City!

I usually dont post local announcements, but this one seems pretty relevant. A few friends of mine here in New York have been involved in getting this Child-Care support project going for a while and below is the official announcement for it! One of the things when we are talking about 'movement building' or 'this or that movement' to keep in mind is 'who are involved in these movements' and perhaps more importantly, 'who would be involved (or more involved)' if our movements were more accessible to people across the board? Anyway please pass this info along to folks, its a great project started by some really solid (young, radical) activists!

***Please Forward***

JOIN US! The NYC Childcare Collective is looking for Volunteers and Advisors!

Poor and working class mothers of color are organizing throughout the NYC area to build a movement for collective liberation. As childcare volunteers, we are organizing to more effectively partner with these efforts. The NYC Childcare Collective is a group of folks who provide childcare on a one-off or ongoing basis to facilitate the participation of low-income mothers of color in the NYC area in building a movement.

Groups that we have worked with in the past include Sista II Sista and the Bushwick Childcare Coop, the La Casita Project of Critical Resistance NYC, the Community Birthing Project, and Sisterfire, INCITE NYC.

If you are interested in volunteering as a childcare provider or if you
can serve as an advisor in building this collective, or if you are a member of a group that has one-off or ongoing childcare needs, please email childcarenyc@gmail.com.

Volunteers, please address the following points in your email:

1. Name and contact info

2. Previous childcare experience
3. Availability in terms of time and location.
4. Language ability and fluency.

5. Communities that you work with.

6. Communities that you identify with.

Thank you for your support!

-NYC Childcare Collective

Anti-War Movement (Part I - personal experiences)

I have been thinking a lot about the anti-war movement these past few weeks. I used to be very involved (pretty much full time) organizing in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq in March of 2003. Recent events have been pushing me to re-think my absence from some of this work. In the meantime, im going to write a few posts about the anti-war movement and my personal role within it and perhaps i can get some feedback from folks on what they are feeling like!

Local Campus Organizing

When I came out of college and moved back in with my parents in New York, i decided to join with the newly forming NYU Peace Coalition. The NYU campus was close to my parents house and in the aftermath of September 11th, 2001 it became a hotspot for campus anti-war organizing. Our meetings balooned to (at times) over 100 people and eventually settled down around 30 student activists. The Peace Coalitions intitial grouping underwent a huge split towards the end of the fall 2001 semester, due mostly to the ISO (International Socialist Organization) and their efforts at trying to bully the group into voting to join a new national student anti-war coalition (NCAN). The background around NCAN is too long to go into here but people will be glad to know that the ISO has finally achieved its goal the second time around with CAN (Campus Anti-War Network) of setting up a national front-group formation.
After the group had dwindled from 30 to about 6 (3 of which were ISO members), the three of us remaining built the group up again from scratch.

City Wide Coalition

In the fall of 2002, when it became clear that the US was looking to (once again) invade Iraq, our group at NYU began to pick up some energy. Check out the cool 'History of the NYU Anti-War Movement' website (designed by another co-editor of Left Turn, Francesca Fiorentini) for a run down of some of our actions. As our group grew and we search for various ways to 'raise the stakes' locally on campus we did a series of militant direct actions that received a lot of news coverage. Over the course of planning out several of these actions some of us because aware of the formation of a new direct action oriented formation in the city called 'No Blood For Oil'. My experiences with NBFO were mixed. We organized some tight actions and had a good strategic frame-work which revolved around targeting the United Nations and registering us (as a part of the growing US anti-war movement) in the international media. We thought this was important, especially as a way to show the world that there was resistance within the US following September 11th, and because the United Nations was playing a central role in the unfolding of the eventual story-line.

National Formation

No Blood For Oil ran out of steam eventually for various reasons (too many of us were arrested multiple times, we were not bringing more people into the work, a few abrasive hyper-masculine personalities in the group, lack of flexibility after the UN focused strategy, lack of support from other direct action elements around the city etc). Still feeling energized from our work at NYU, including several large student walk-outs that we organized, I was still looking to be involved in something larger then our local work at the University. I had heard about the formation of a national coalition called United For Peace (UPJ) which would later turn into United for Peace & Justice (UFPJ). Several large players from past anti-war coalitions and progressive NGOs came together to form UFPJ in October of 2002 and i ended up attending their first meeting in New York in late December. With NYU being on student break and the terrain shifting in terms of the rise of a new national anti-war movement I felt like this would be a good experience for me to get involved with. From January until April I worked as kind of the informal 'student/youth' liason for UFPJ, doing several media appearances for them (including an interesting live interview with Peter Jennings together with Eli Pariser of moveon.org). Whatever conclusions I came up with reflecting on these organizations in the years following 2003, it was a very interesting and informative experience and has helped me understand many of the 'ups and downs' within the 'anti-war movement'. In a later post I will reflect on where i think UFPJ is at currently and some of their specific strengths and weaknesses.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

New Orleans...

I only traveled to New Orleans once in my life, which was this past March for the most recent INCITE! conference. I dont really like to travel and i dont do it very often so when i do i like to stay as long as possible in an effort to justify my fear of flying and getting nervous about all that kind of stuff. In retrospect im thankful that I stayed for an extra week after the conference so that i got to exprience the city for a little while longer.

Of course my stay was made all the more interesting by the fact that my one of my Left Turn co-editors (Jordan Flaherty) lived down there and showed us around all week long. We went to local organizing meetings with people like Malik Rahim, Curtis Muhammad, and Robert King Wilkerson. We visited places like the Backstreet cultural museum, which "displays the essence of African American history and culture through permanent exhibits on Mardi Gras Indians, Traditional Jazz Funerals and Second Line Parades." (the image above this post is of a Mardi Gras Indian, wearing a costume of beads and feathers that likely took him close to a full year to make by hand). I was relieved to hear that the museum, which was located in the historic Treme community, survived the flooding.

Thanksgiving just passed and one of my friends (Una Osato) went down with the Common Ground 'Roadtrip for Relief' crew (hopefully she will let me post some of her reflections on this blog over the next few days) to do some support work for the local residents who are fighting not to be displaced once the city is re-built. Its strange but already im struggling to keep thinking about the importance of New Orleans. We are so trained to 'move on to the next big thing' that we just kind of end up paying attention to things as long as the media does and then its over, only to come up in casual conversation. Im going to re-new my personal efforts to stay on top of whats happening and what if any supportive role i can play. Van Jones recently wrote an interesting piece on the situation titled "Ressurect New Orleans, A Better City Is Possible" which appeared in Yes Magazine. There are a lot of different strategic viewpoints on how to ensure that the native black population will not be replaced by mickey mouse and more downtown hotels. Van mentions the "Green City" model as a possible rebuilding strategy but others question what impact that would have exactly. Either way lets all keep our eyes and ears open and not let this story die in our various 'activist circles'. Congratulations to everyone who went down to the Common Ground clinic for the holidays... that was really encouraging to hear. And remember to keep checking out Jordan's articles at Left Turn.org

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Iraq: A Tipping Point?

This week has definitely brought us the most intense debate around Iraq since the weeks right before the US invasion in March of 2003. War Times just released its most recent month in review entitled "Iraq: Things Fall Apart" which outlines in detail the crisis the Bush adminstration finds itself in. The article starts out:

"Things are coming apart in Iraq. The U.S. occupation is blundering from one crisis to another with no guiding strategy beyond "staying the course" (keeping a permanent military presence in the country). The occupation-fueled Shiite-Sunni conflict is growing in fury, casualties and dangers. The ripple effects of both the occupation/resistance and Sunni/Shiite conflicts are spreading throughout the region. The longstanding effort to cover up U.S. torture and related brutalities has collapsed. Support among the U.S. public for Bush's Iraq policy has plummeted to record lows and several of Washington's few remaining international supporters are jumping ship. Divisions within the U.S. governing elite have turned into open and nasty fights." Read More...

As De La Soul's classic rap album released in the summer of 1996 so eloquently stated "The Stakes Is High" and we all have an important role to play in trying to exacerbate these current divisions into a larger 'crisis of legitimacy' for the administration. Today Bush outlined his "strategy for victory in Iraq", stating that "we will stay as long as neccesary as is needed to complete this mission". Bush has been forced over the past two years to constantly re-define what 'completing this mission' means exactly, especially when referring to the training of the new Iraqi army which has received several large set-backs.

ZNET has been publishing a number of good pieces on Iraq this week including an article by Gilbert Achar and Stephen Shalom today on the 'Strategic Redevelopment' vs. 'Out Now' positions that are being debated among many progressives across the country. Noam Chomsky & Ed Herman (co-authors of the classic book 'manufacturing consent among others) also have a new 'Q&A on the Iraq War' which address some of these same issues. It will be interesting to see how the major segments of the anti-war movement react to these new developments. So far UFPJ & Win Without War have agreed to co-sponsor a Dec 6th day of action around 'national call-ins' to congressional representatives. I wonder, following the successfull September 24th-26th demonstrations in Washington DC, if UFPJ will break out of the 'regular protest schedule' and organize a major demo before their March 20th anniversary date which is so far set as the next large protest.

For the time being lets all find ways to get involved locally and take advantage of this historical moment!

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

The Revolution Will Not Be Funded!

Im excited to announce that we finally have the audio files available on the web for this great event we did back in October on the topic 'The Revolution Will Not Be Funded". The forum which brought out a diverse group of about 60-70 activists from around New York City, was co-organized with Sista ii Sista partly as an issue release event for our special issue of Left Turn magazine on the same topic.

For those of you not familiar with the topic and subsequent debates within various movements, the theme 'The Revolution Will Not Be Funded' was taken from an amazing conference organized by INCITE! in the spring of 2004. In that conference the organizers sought to answer a series of important and overlapping questions including:
  • What is the history of how the non-profit model developed, and what reasons did it develop? How did it impact the direction of social justice organizing?
  • How has funding from foundations impacted the course of social justice movements?
  • How does 501(c)3 status impact social justice organizations' relationship to the state?
  • Are there ways the non-profit model can be used subversively to support more radical visions for social change?
  • What are the alternatives for building viable social justice movements? How do we fund the movement outside the non-profit structure?
  • What models for organizing outside the NGO/non-profit model exist outside the U.S. that may help us?
These are just a few of many questions that were addressed at the INCITE! conference a few years back. For those of you who are interested, I highly recommend you ordering the set of audio recordings from the conference itself which are now available on their website. Its $55 for the entire 5 CD set but its well worth the costs, especially if you can split it with a few local activists and or organizations. I feel like its important to build on each others work and interact with a similar set of questions on a larger level so that we are not constantly re-inventing the wheel or figuring out how to deal with these similar problems in isolation of each other. Conferences are often really boring and not that useful to activists on the ground, but this one was a rare exception, so again if you can go order the CD's!

For a good background article on the topic check out an article written by Andrea del Moral for Lip Magazine earlier this year. As i mentioned earlier we did a whole special section on it in Left Turn #18 and one of the feature articles written by Eric Tang is available online as well. The article is titled "The Non-Profit & The Autonomous Grassroots" and is kind of an overview of the shift towards the Non-Profit model over the past few decades coming out of the social movements of the 60s and early 70s. The article is not so much a wholesale critique of the modern Non-Profit as much as a sober analysis of the central role it plays in the United States context. In other places (Chiapas to name one prominent example), the Non-Profit (termed NGOs in most countries) plays a 'supporting role' to the more radical autonomous movements (In that case obviously the Zapatista uprising) instead of a 'leading role' which again is too often what we have here in the US. The reasons for all of this are complicated but its a fascinating subject which i feel leads you to really think through what kind of organizing your currently involved with and what possibilities arise once you are able to think outside of the 'non-profit industrial complex' box.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Lula, the Workers Party & the Corruption of Hope

This is gonna be a real short post because im kinda out of it following thanksgiving with the family. Ive also been staring at a computer screen for the past 5 hours trying to edit this upcoming (really good) article on UFPJ & The Anti-War Movement for the winter issue of Left Turn magazine. In between eatin mashed potatoes & turkey i came across a back issue of The Nation which had (suprisingly) quite a few good pieces in it. One that caught my eye was a well written article by Hilary Wainwright (Editor of Red Pepper Magazine) called: 'Corruption of Hope in Brazil' which is an overview of the Lula presidency in Brazil and his fall from grace amid corruption scandals... I guess the picture says it all.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Happy Holidays !

We have been saying it since we got there, but its time to get the hell out of Iraq! Actually let me re-phrase that, its time to get out of the entire Middle East. There is of course a big difference, as we have recently seen with all of the fuss around John Murtha's (Democratic Congressman from Pennsylvania) 'Troops Out Now' resolution. As Gilbert Achcar points out:

When Murtha says "redeploy" -- instead of withdraw -- the troops from Iraq, he makes clear that -- despite his rhetoric -- he doesn't want to really bring them home, but to station them in the Middle East. As he told Anderson Cooper of CNN:

"We ... have united the Iraqis against us. And so I'm convinced, once we redeploy to Kuwait or to the surrounding area, that it will be much safer. They won't be able to unify against the United States. And then, if we have to go back in, we can go back in."

Moreover, Murtha's resolution calls for the U.S. to create "a quick-reaction U.S. force and an over-the-horizon presence of U.S. Marines" to be "deployed to the region."

I guess what can you really expect from the Democratic party right? In New York we had to read all about how Hillary Clinton (the next Democratic Party Presidential candidate from all indications) opposed withdrawal of US troops from the region, basically putting her in agreement with Cheney's comments earlier in the week which heavily criticized those starting to raise criticism of the ongoing occupation of Iraq.

Hillary Clinton, more then any other Democratic party member, shows me how non-existent the political 'opposition' in this country really is. A few years ago i participated in a sit-in of her offices when it became clear that she was going to totally disregard the New York anti-war sentiment and vote for Bush's war resolution on the floor of the Senate. Besides the symbollic action, we demanded (and won) a one hour face to face meeting with Ms Clinton herself. After 'expressing our concerns' in various (actually quite articulate) arguments, she told us something that i will never forget. In response to a question about her voting against the interests of her New York constituents she said "You know what... i take all of those things into consideration... but at the end of the day I have to do what i feel is right".

I think that pretty much sums up the US system of so called 'representative democracy' (and why even during certain strategic points in time, im not a big fan of electoral politics). Clinton was 'doing what she felt was the right thing' which was basically thinking ahead to her future 2008 presidential nomination and totally disregarding everything else. On a similar note the action we did that forced the meeting with Clinton taught me a lot about the old IWW (Industrial Workers of the World) slogan "Direct Action Gets the Goods". A few weeks after we met with Clinton i ran into a member of Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, which is a grouping made up of various family members who lost loved ones on September 11th but were not down with the subsequent US militaristic responses. They had been asking Hillary for a meeting for nearly two years without even a reponse...

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Against The Grain Radio Archives!

I love books... I love to go to bookstores, Check out the 'new releases', read the blurbs on the backs - all that good stuff. My problem is, i am a slow ass reader. I cant get through a book unless im really motivated or (which has been the case over the last few years) if im at one of my construction sites where i dont have to do too much and i can make good use of my time. The last book I read cover to cover (and high recommend) was Barbara Ransby's biography of Ella Baker titled Ella Baker and the Black Freedom Movement; A Radical Democratic Vision. One of these days i will get to writing a review of it for the blog, it was pretty inspiring.

Still we know that a large part of becoming radical intellectuals (not to be confused with academics) is that we gotta know our history, we gotta study movements past and present and figure out what other people with similar ideas have been doing over all these years. For us slow readers and those like myself who cant always figure out 'the big words', audio and video are good learning tools. I remember when i started getting active when i was at college and i discovered David Barsamian and his great radio show Alternative Radio. I stumbled on a big box of Alternative Radio recording on ebay and spent my whole senior year listening to speakers like Edward Said, Noam Chomsky, Vandana Shiva, Eqbal Ahmad, Howard Zinn etc. Having moved from New York City to Western Massachusetts and feeling kind of out of place i spent many evenings falling asleep to one or another great talking on a variety of subjects.

Enter a great website called Against The Grain which i only found out about sometime around the summer of 2004 but have visited many times since. Its a radio show which is aired on KPFA (the Bay Area Pacifica affiliate) three times a week, but more importantly its a show thats archived at KPFA so that you dont have to miss a single show. Produced by C.S. Soong and Sasha Lilley, Against The Grain is usually a one hour interview with a series of authors, theorists and activists from around the country, with an occasional taped lecture thrown in the mix. The nice thing is that unlike Alternative Radio, they take it one step further by actually featuring lesser known activists who are actually organizing on the ground and sharing their personal experiences. Although i still love to listen to my man Chomsky break it down once in a while, at this point i get a lot more out of a current 'debate on the feminist or anti-war movement' or an analysis of Hardt and Negri's book Empire (which i cant understand for the life of me but im slowly learning..).

The KPFA archives go back for several years and cover every subject you have ever wondered about. I highly recommend it as background radio while your playing your Playstation game or whatever you do to relax around the house (maybe thats just me?). A few months ago myself and Rayan El-Amine (another editor of Left Turn Magazine) were asked to appear on the show to comment on the situation in Palestine as well as the state of 'The Global Justice Movement'.
France: After the Riots

Another insightfull piece on ZNET by Doug Ireland on the 'post rebellion' period in France. Interesting specifically is the complete paralysis of the so called leftist 'socialist' parties who for the past few weeks have been focusing on who of their personal candidates will run for office in the year 2007 (obviously something much more important). Ireland's analysis has been some of the best online and i really dont have much insight to add. Having lived in Amsterdam for several years growing up i can say that these same tensions are at extremely high levels specifically in Hollands urban centers (Amsterdam, Rotterdam, Den Haag). Basically the Western European powers have had a hard time confronting the fact that the cheap immigrant labor that they 'imported' to do 'the dirty rebuilding work' during the decades following world war II are not happy with their role on the bottom of the socio-economic food chain and daily racism they are confronted with in all of these cities. For more background on the situation specifically in France read this blog's second entry on November 7th.

Monday, November 21, 2005

CIW Campaign continues...

For those not familiar with the CIW (Coalition of Immokalee Workers) and their inspiring campaign around Taco Bell over the past few years which finally culminated in an important victory this past spring check out David Solnit's article: "The New Face of The Global Justice Movement" which was our feature article in Left Turn #17 over the summer.

CIW has outlined its next steps in several recent calls to action, including a campaign they are initiating against McDonald’s. The CIW and the Student Farmworker Alliance campaigns have been primarily effective because of the specific models of organizing they have employed, breaking out of the traditional union organizing model by forming strategic alliances between the farmworkers themselves, their immediate allies, campus groups across the country and a long list of faith based, community based, and peace and justice groupings from around the country.
Looking at the current climate of organized labor organizing today, specifically the complete funk that the AFL-CIO is in (and has been in) for the past several years (decades?), its important that we are seeing a revivial of grass-roots labor activism around the country outside of the national union bureacracy. Obviously this is only a small part of a much larger picture in terms of talking about building strong working class movements in this country, unfortunately the AFL-CIO is still kind of 'the only game in town'.

I remember after September 11th 2001, there was a great shift within many student and youth activist communities from labor solidarity organizing to anti-war activism. This has meant that over the past few years many young activists have not engaged with the labor movement as much as previous generations and more or less feel alienated by the AFL-CIO (unless they need a job out of college which works them 70 hours a week for minimal pay). Campaigns like the ones that CIW has run i think are important just even in the sense that they keep these ideas and tactics alive in young peoples minds when we are talking about real movements that will eventually be able to create broader levels of change.

For those interested in a good article on the debates within the AFL-CIO around the whole split over the summer check out a piece written by Marc Rodrigues called "Urgency for Change: Labor Troubles and the New Unity Partnership" which also tries to address kind of the relationships of new layers of activists toward the larger labor movement.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Counter Recruitment Movement

Thinking strategically about stopping something as big as the US invasion subsequent occupation of Iraq can be a daunting task. You got the people who say "We gotta mobilize... lets get on the bus to DC" (often referred to as the 'liberals'). Then you got the people saying "we gotta take direct action and physically disrupt this war machine... time to lockdown a busy intersection" (often referred to as the "radicals"). And then somewhere in between you have folks who, while recognizing the importance of both the aforementioned tactics, focus on something tangible. Something that is almost a combination of direct action and protest politics, in this case Counter-Recruitment work. Military counter-recruitment work is key for several reasons:
  1. It directly interferes with US war efforts
  2. Often involves reaching out to or supporting those most effected by the War right here in the United States--poor and working class communities of color from the inner cities (specifically African American and Latino), & isolated working class white youth from the suburbs.
  3. Strategically attacks one of the militaries weakest links--the need for new soldiers as the war grows more and more unpopular.
And make no mistake about it, the war is growing more unpopular by the minute. Although I agree with those that don't put too much faith in public opinion polls, it seems like generally across the board people are really turning on the Bush administration, even the other pro-war party (the democrats).

On the local front it was nice to see some of the local anarchists actually get out in the streets and do something strategic and on politcally on point. While there is often a lot of critique eminating those circiles (often correctly) lamenting the fact that liberals are happy to march around in circles, it is rare to actually see folks get involved in some concrete way in the growing anti-occupation movement. As Ali G would say RES-PEK to those who were out there doing their thing... we could use a lot more of it!

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Looking South: Venezuela, Argentina & The New Social Movements

After returning home from a series of frustrating meetings or sub-par 'activist' events here in the city, I often forget how many inspiring things are going on all over the world right now... As organizers living in 'the heart of the empire' i often feel like we think 'its all on us', which can be a dangerous way to think sometimes.

I remember always being fond of this great quote by Noam Chomsky that is featured in the documentary Manufacturing Consent where says (in that specific case talking about Palestine) : "They rely very crucially on a very slim margin for survival thats provided by dissidents and turbulance within the imperial societies...and how large that margin is, is for us to determine..." The quote is of course pointing out the obvious, that what we do here in the US has a great impact on people all over the world. I still think thats a good way to understand the current reality of military power in the world but one has to be carefull not to take away the agency of those that are resisting these policies on a daily basis.

The example of Latin America is so interesting right now because you can argue it is a unique combination of the US being so bogged down in Iraq (itself a combination of primarily the Iraqi resistance and to a lesser extent factors like the anti-war movement in the US and international 'civil society') that is opening up some spaces for the governments of countries like Venezuela and various autonomous social movements across the continent.
John Pilger recently wrote a great article for ZNET on all of this, focusing specifically on Venezuela as the rising 'post-Iraq' enemy of the Bush administration. Just recently Bush was down in Argentina and was met with both huge demonstrations outside of the summit as well as sharp criticism inside the actual meeting, specifically from Hugo Chavez who did not mince words. The real inspiration though comes not from the rowdy demonstrations or the fiery rhetoric from a head of state, but instead from the social experiments and forms of organization that we are seeing in these countries.

Michael Albert, who helped start both South End Press and Z Magazine/ZNET recently took a trip down to both Argentina and Venezuela and wrote some interesting report backs. Both of the pieces are fairly long but well worth the read. Albert who's specific interest lies in studying alternative forms of economic organization brings a lot of insight into these articles through the specific questions he asks of the people and government representatives he meets. Anarchists and anti-authoritarians here in the US are often weary of supporting specifically the Bolivarian revolution in Venezuela but its important that we study what is taking place there because i think we will be able to learn a lot by what happens there in the coming years. I will write more about Venezuela specifically in a later post, im trying to catch up on some reading on the subject. One article i can recommend if you can get your hands on it (it will hopefully be online soon) is one that we ran in Left Turn magazine #17 by Peter Brogan, who wrote an excellent piece looking into the possibilities and openings that the Chavez government was creating through his vision of a 'radical participatory democracy.'

As my man Ali G would say...."You'se betta learn..."

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Boondocks premiere

So im realizing as im going along here that many of my first few posts are kind of 'popular culture' oriented (movies, tv shows, books) while what i would really like to get into at some point is more along the lines of actual 'organizing strategies' but maybe this is just my way of pulling all of you in...

I was really excited when i started seeing all of these Boondocks billboards popping up all over New York City a few weeks back. I never imagined that Aaron McGruder's popular comic book strip would be translated into a nationally televised tv show. Come to find out that Cartoon Network (which airs the show on Sunday nights as part of their 'adult swim block') is spending a record amount of money on Boondocks (According to their people, its the most they have ever spent on one of their animated shows). The first show finally premiered this past sunday and it lived up to the hype. Catch the re-runs if you can but i will leave you with just one scene. The crew (Huey, Riley and Granddad) moves into a (all-white) suburban home and they are invited to a garden party at the major's house. About half an hour into the smooze-fest Huey grabs the open mic and proclaims: "whats up people... just wanted to let you know that Jesus was black, Ronald Reagan was a terrorist, and the Bush administration knew about 9/11..."

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Film Release: Paradise Now

Just seeing the preview for this film in theatres is an experience worth paying $10 for. I remember the chills i felt running down my back when i heard the promo man in the raspy voice say "On the streets of Palestine...". I looked around the packed room and realized what an impact the preview alone must be having on all of those viewers. I have to say i was a little weary after the preview started with the sentence "from the most unlikely place... comes a call for peace..." and then ended with the phrase "Sometimes the best decisions are the ones you dont make...".

But a week later i received some free advance screening tickets and checked it out. The film was amazing. Furthermore it is being nationally distributed through the WarnerBros independent label (of all people) and so we need to go out and support it! Go to the films website and check out if its playing in your city. Like all independent films if it does well in its first few weeks it will open in larger numbers across the country.

Notes From The Global Intifada

A few updates from the Left Turn website team -- We have the Doug Ireland article on France up right now and will hopefully be adding some other content in the coming days. Also for those of you looking for on the ground reporting and analysis from New Orleans, check out our archive of articles by fellow editor Jordan Flaherty as well as the Katrina Resource archive where you can find information on how to support the various grass roots organizations that are working hard to rebuild New Orleans.

We have worked hard to update the website regularly with some of the best content from around the web as well as original pieces written either for the website or Left Turn magazine itself. To give you a sense our past few features have included: "Gentrifying Disaster" a great piece on New Orleans by Mike Davis, "Profit & The Autonomous Grassroots" an article from issue #18 addressing the 'Non-Profit Industrial Complex' (more on that subject in a later post)
by Eric Tang, and "Syria’s Curious Dilemma" by Bassam Haddad re-printed from the excellent magazine Middle East Report. If you are not familiar with Left Turn magazine or have been seeing it around for a while but have yet to subscribe, please do so! In September/October since we released the last issue we have gotten over 80 new subscribers which is by far the most we have ever gotten over such a short time period. Subscriptions also go a long way toward making sure the website continues to be fresh and regularly updated. Finally check out our national events calender which we are trying to build on -- if anyone has any important events that you think would be relevant for us to post please feel free to contact us through the website.

Monday, November 07, 2005


An important new book Letters From Young Activists just came out from Nation Books. I encourage folks to check out the books website and try and attend one of the launch events. Here in New York we have an event tomorrow night at Bluestockings books (a great activist run bookstore in the Lower East Side). Also some of us are organizing an event at NYU on November 17th entitled "To be Young, Black, and Left: Priorities and Possibilities" featuring a few of the books contributers including Kenyon Farrow who is a fellow blogger living in NYC. Details of this event are also posted on their website.


I was going to focus on some local events for my first few posts but stuff has really been popping off in France with widespead rioting now entering their 12th night. Doug Ireland has written an insightful piece, one of the few that have been circulated so far. Check out ZNET for a formatted version of his essay "Why Is France Burning? The Rebellion of a lost generation".

After deciding that I should take advantage of my current state of unemployment by (among other things) starting an online blog, it took me a while to decide on a name. I finally ended up going with 'Ideas For Action' both because i think it fits with what ima try and do with this thing but also because its the title of a great book by long time activist, teacher, and writer Cynthia Kaufman.

My parents actually gave me this book about two years ago when they visited Modern Times bookstore out in San Francisco, one of the few great bookstores still around in the United States that have not been bum-rushed by Mr. Barnes & Nobles and the crew at Amazon (I might write more on this later, but it always saddens me when activists still buy radical books at places like Amazon instead of supporting their local bookstores just because they save a few bucks...we gotta support our idependent bookstores and pubishers!) .

The description of Ideas for Action reads:

"From the Enron scandal to global warming, from the war on terrorism to the war on drugs, a growing number of people are unhappy with the status quo. Yet those genuinely interested in reading about the issues find that few contemporary theorists are seriously committed to accessible, clear writing. Furthermore, the mainstream media rarely represents social movements, and the theories associated with them, without distortion or bias.

Written in an engaging and accessible style, Ideas for Action gives activists the intellectual tools to turn discontent into a plan of action. Exploring a wide range of political traditions—including Marxism, anarchism, anti-imperialism, poststructualism, feminism, critical race theory, and environmentalism—Cynthia Kaufman acknowledges the strengths and weaknesses of a variety of political movements and the ideologies inspired or generated through them.

Kaufman incorporates elements of her own activist experiences, and offers a coherent analysis without pretending to offer "the final word" on complex issues. Instead, she encourages inquiry and further investigation, offering readers the information to orient a critical understanding of the social world and a glimpse of the excitement and rewards of serious intellectual engagement with political ideas.

Ideas for Action examines the work of diverse thinkers such as Adam Smith, Paulo Freire, Stuart Hall, and Grace Lee Boggs. In chapters that cover economics, imperialism, racism, feminism, the environment, authority, nationalism, and the media, Kaufman's insights break the chains of cynicism and lay a foundation for more effective organizing."

Especially for younger activists (she had her own students in mind when she wrote the book) this is a great introductory read both into the world of political theory (which is often too complicated for most of us to understand) and actual activism (she starts off the book by describing what she felt like when she came to her first organzing 'meeting', a feeling i think many of us have shared in common over the years. Anyway its good stuff so without logging on to Amazon try and get your hands on it...