Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Chokwe Lumumba : A Revolutionary Leader

by Bhaskar Sunkara,
Chokwe Lumumba’s dilemma was simple: how to be a revolutionary in a decidedly non-revolutionary Mississippi.
It was a mission that seemed bound to alienate and polarize, even long before he became mayor of Jackson, home to a state capitol building flying a defiant Confederate battle flag and a city hall built by slave labor.
But when I went to Jackson to profile the newly elected Lumumba last year and in my conversations with Mississippians throughout this year, I was shocked at how hard it was to find someone who didn’t like him. Economic populists like Rickey Cole, chairman of the state Democratic Party, and his staff were keen to show solidarity with Jackson’s new administration. They talked about Lumumba’s honor and integrity, whatever their political differences. After his death, Cole called the mayor, “A man by the people, of the people, and for the people.”

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Young people and the immigration struggle

Two Fronts, One Cause: Next Steps in Immigration Reform
Alma Lopez, an activist in Sacramento, was a co-presenter with  Duane Campbell at an immigration workshop at the DSA national convention, held in Oakland in October 2013. Here, Campbell talks to her about young people and immigrant activism.
DC:  What do you think has been the effect of immigrant rights activism on young people?

AL: Students and young people have been playing a major role, along with immigrant community members. In Sacramento, our group has been working with people in northern and southern California who have been arrested in protests against ICE [Immigration and Customs Enforcement] and deportations.  
The civil disobedience and the arrests have played a vital role in telling the community and the general public how important it is to keep families together and to come up with a policy that is fair and just for everybody.
DC: How has your own viewpoint developed as you participated in the immigrants’ rights movement?
AL: I have seen that there are many groups with different perspectives. I've had to rethink my position on how to advocate for people and I’ve concluded that educating and empowering people is the best way, rather than me trying to tell people what should be the best position.
These families have to be the ones making the decisions about goals, strategies, and tactics.  Once you include the people who are being affected, then the legislators will have to reconsider what they are proposing, and develop something that is much better, something that is fair for the people already here.
We in Sacramento are planning a couple of acts of civil disobedience (CD) in the near future to tell the public how very important this issue of immigration is. I think that CD is a powerful way to educate the people.  If we do it properly, we can frame the message in such a way that even the folks who are anti-immigrant understand.
DC: Some advocates, such as the folks in the Fast for Families in Washington, made the point that they are talking with very broad segments of the population, they are building the broadest possible coalition.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Mexican March Against Nafta

Photoessay by David Bacon
Truthout Photoessay, 2-13-14

Part One - Teachers and Electrical Workers March

On Friday, January 31, two huge marches took place in Mexico City to oppose the corporate reforms of Mexico's economy and politics, on the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement. Marchers opposed especially the most recent reforms -- the privatization of the oil and electrical industry, the introduction of U.S.-style standardized testing and attacks on teachers, and the labor law reform that will weaken unions and give employers the right to hire temporary and contingent workers.

Teachers in the National Coordinadora of Education Workers (CNTE) and members of the Mexican Electrical Workers (SME) marched in the morning. The unions of the National Union of Workers (UNT) and their allies marched in the afternoon. The morning march included about 2000 participants, including hundreds of teachers from Oaxaca, who have been camping out since the beginning of the school year in a planton in the Plaza de la Republica. The afternoon march included tens of thousands of people.

The division reflected the participation in the afternoon march of large contingents of the Party of the Democratic Revolution, the most left of Mexico's three major parties. The UNT invited Cuauhtemoc Cardenas to be the march and rally's sole speaker. Cardenas is the son of Lazaro Cardenas, Mexican President in the 1930s who expropriated the property of U.S. oil companies and nationalized the industry. Cuauhtemoc Cardenas ran for president twice, and was denied victory by massive fraud in 1988. He then helped organize the Party of the Democratic Revolution, which he formally leads.

Cardenas invited the participation of the PRD in the march. Teachers and the SME then withdrew to organize their own march, because the PRD deputies in the Mexican Chamber of Deputies had supported the education reform, and failed to oppose strongly the energy reform. In addition, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, former Mexico City mayor and the PRD's presidential candidate in the last two elections, registered a new party, MORENA, the day before the march. Lopez Obrador announced that it would not run joint election campaigns with the PRD, and did not participate in the afternoon march.

While the internal problems of the progressive movements Mexico are an obstacle to the growth of an effective movement to oppose corporate globalization, many advances have been made in the last 20 years in which the North American Free Trade Agreement has been in effect. The left governs Mexico City and several states, although the PRD has deep internal divisions and many people are leaving to join MORENA.

At the time NAFTA went into effect in 1994, solidarity between Mexican, U.S. and Canadian unions and popular movements hardly existed. Today solidarity networks share a common political perspective and are capable, at their best, of organizing mass actions that express the rejection of the free trade model by a majority of people in each country. The two marches in Mexico City coincided with simultaneous marches and demonstrations in many cities throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Binational organizations exist today as well, coordinating opposition. The Indigenous Front of Binational Organizations (FIOB) organized marches and rallies a few days later in Oaxaca, Baja California and California. "We oppose the structural reforms of energy, education, finance and politics, because they respond to the needs of transnational corporations and harm indigenous and marginalized people," said FIOB binational coordinator Bernardo Ramirez. "We reject as well the mining concessions and the privatization of public services and industries, such as water, education and electricity. They are robbing Mexicans of their national wealth, and condemning a majority to poverty, and with it, forced migration."

A striking teacher walking through the teachers' encampment, or planton, in the Plaza de la Republica. Leftwing teachers, members of the National Coordinadora of Education Workers, have been living here in protest of the education reform that would impose standardized testing, like that in the U.S. The Region Mixteca is part of the state of Oaxaca, which has the largest union of radical teachers in the country.

A striking teacher from the state of Guerrero wears a red star on his cap, as he walks behind the banner in the teachers' march against education reform on the 20th anniversary of the North American Free Trade Agreement.

A teacher from the state of Guerrero holds a banner with the face of Lucio Cabañas, who led a guerrilla struggle against the Mexican government in the 1960s and 1970s. Cabañas was a teacher, and a founder of the Party of the Poor. Radical teachers in Guerrero and other states look up to him as a hero because he organized poor farmers in the countryside to fight against the oppression of the government and landlords.

Teachers from Miahuatlan, a municipio in Oaxaca, march carrying a sign identifying the region they're from, and saying "Not One Step Backwards." Are they happy because it's a pleasant day for the march, or because they believe in what they're marching for?

The march of teachers and fired electrical workers turns from the Reforma onto the street leading down to the Zocalo. In the most luxurious hotels in Mexico City government officials and corporate executives meet and make the decisions and polices that the marchers are protesting. To the wealthy, these marchers are upsetting the natural order of the world they control.

Young teachers from Oaxaca hold a banner announcing their support for their counter reform program, PTEO, which their union has designed as an alternative to the government education reform that their march is protesting. They call the government plan "poison" because it threatens to take social consciousness and the love of teaching out of the schools.

As teachers march around him, a young boy pushes a cart up the street, loaded with goods for a sidewalk stall. Thousands of boys like him start work very young to support their families, and stop going to school. Behind the marchers rises the luxurious Hotel Melia, which towers over the dome of the monument to the Revolution that promised to favor the poor over the rich.

A masked young man carries a handmade sign saying, "Rebellion is life, Submission is death." He and members of the Red and Black band of anarchists march in support of the teachers and electrical workers. Others of this group carry signs accusing the subway system of robbing workers and the poor. Mexico has a long history of anarchist movements going back over a century.

The broken-down van of the Mexican Electrical Workers Union (SME) drives in front of the banner held by fired union members. In the window is a sign supporting the presidential campaign of Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), who was a progressive mayor of Mexico City. Forty four thousand workers were fired when the federal government dissolved the state-owned power company for the city, as a prelude to passing a constitutional amendment allowing it to be privatized.

Behind the march of the teachers and electrical workers come the city workers with brooms and trash cans to sweep the streets, and remove all traces that the marchers had passed by only minutes before.

(Part Two - National Union of Workers March, follows in a separate message.)

Interviews with David Bacon about his new book, The Right to Stay Home:

Book TV: A presentation of the ideas in The Right to Stay Home at the CUNY Graduate Center

KPFK - Uprisings with Sonali Kohatkar

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

What a Future Latino Majority Holds for California

What a Future Latino Majority Holds for California?
 An historic population shift is approaching, either we continue with
the unnacceptable status quo or we consciously direct this change
toward a positive future...continue reading   

Jimmy Franco Sr.         

Thursday, February 06, 2014

The University- Bastion of White Supremacy : Rodolfo Acuña

Rodolfo F. Acuña

Chicana/o and ethnic studies department at California State Universities at Los Angeles is under siege. Led by the administrations and faculty bodies at these institutions, the goal is to cut access of the ethnic studies programs to general education. GE is important because it is the monopoly board that allocates the Boardwalks and other academe properties to programs. It tells students what knowledge the university believes is necessary and rewards students for taking favored courses.

At Cal State LA, there are not many freebies for Chicana/o studies on the board other than to Go to Jail. The academe like the greater society has a hierarchy composed of a pope (the president), a provost (cardinal), deans (bishops) and priests (faculty). They control the university, and like society they are white. Very few people of color are admitted to these elite circles.
Editor note: At CSU-Sacramento the President is Hispanic and the Dean of the College of Education is African American.  At the same time see the demise of Bilingual Ed Dept. ( which was the base for Chicano Studies in Education)

At Cal State Northridge, Latino enrollment approaches 40 percent. Yet there is only one high ranking Latino administrator. Seventy-five to 80 percent of the academic departments on campus do not have a single professor of Mexican American extraction, although over 50 percent of the university’s service area is Latino.

Monday, February 03, 2014

Inequality and Education Gap

A Growing Income Gap Results in More Educational Inequality

It is easier to build strong children than repair broken men.
-Frederick Douglass
It has now been 50 years since the War on Poverty began under President Johnson.
(ed. note. Initiated by socialist Michael Harrington) Many positive safety net programs were created by the government during that period such as Head Start, food stamps and Medicare and they played an essential role in reducing the level of poverty. However, there have also been many political groups and harmful economic policies enacted that have worked to undermine these efforts. From the 1970′s to the present a negative economic
President Johnson talking to unemployed workers who his War on Poverty helped to retrain.(click to expand)
President Johnson talking to unemployed workers who his War on Poverty helped to retrain.(click to expand)
trend has been developing that is creating an unequal distribution of wealth within our society that continues to deepen. This corrosive trend has resulted in a growth of income inequality and reduced social services for the middle and working classes which has had the direct effect of drastically increasing the number of families now living below the poverty line. There are currently about 46 million people existing in poverty throughout the country and this includes 16 million children of which about 12 million are Latino and African-American.