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