Saturday, September 1, 2007

Notes on Anarchism

Noam Chomsky, 1970

A French writer, sympathetic to anarchism, wrote in the 1890s that "anarchism has a broad back, like paper it endures anything"---including, he noted those whose acts are such that "a mortal enemy of anarchism could not have done better."[1] There have been many styles of thought and action that have been referred to as "anarchist." It would be hopeless to try to encompass all of these conflicting tendencies in some general theory or ideology. And even if we proceed to extract from the history of libertarian thought a living, evolving tradition, as Daniel Guérin does in Anarchism, it remains difficult to formulate its doctrines as a specific and determinate theory of society and social change. The anarchist historian Rudolph Rocker, who presents a systematic conception of the development of anarchist thought towards anarchosyndicalism, along lines that bear comparison to Guérins work, puts the matter well when he writes that anarchism is not a fixed, self-enclosed social system but rather a definite trend in the historic development of mankind, which, in contrast with the intellectual guardianship of all clerical and governmental institutions, strives for the free unhindered unfolding of all the individual and social forces in life. Even freedom is only a relative, not an absolute concept, since it tends constantly to become broader and to affect wider circles in more manifold ways. For the anarchist, freedom is not an abstract philosophical concept, but the vital concrete possibility for every human being to bring to full development all the powers, capacities, and talents with which nature has endowed him, and turn them to social account. The less this natural development of man is influenced by ecclesiastical or political guardianship, the more efficient and harmonious will human personality become, the more will it become the measure of the intellectual culture of the society in which it has grown.[2]
One might ask what value there is in studying a "definite trend in the historic development of mankind" that does not articulate a specific and detailed social theory. Indeed, many commentators dismiss anarchism as utopian, formless, primitive, or otherwise incompatible with the realities of a complex society. One might, however, argue rather differently: that at every stage of history our concern must be to dismantle those forms of authority and oppression that survive from an era when they might have been justified in terms of the need for security or survival or economic development, but that now contribute to---rather than alleviate---material and cultural deficit. If so, there will be no doctrine of social change fixed for the present and future, nor even, necessarily, a specific and unchanging concept of the goals towards which social change should tend. Surely our understanding of the nature of man or of the range of viable social forms is so rudimentary that any far-reaching doctrine must be treated with great skepticism, just as skepticism is in order when we hear that "human nature" or "the demands of efficiency" or "the complexity of modern life" requires this or that form of oppression and autocratic rule.

Nevertheless, at a particular time there is every reason to develop, insofar as our understanding permits, a specific realization of this definite trend in the historic development of mankind, appropriate to the tasks of the moment. For Rocker, "the problem that is set for our time is that of freeing man from the curse of economic exploitation and political and social enslavement"; and the method is not the conquest and exercise of state power, nor stultifying parliamentarianism, but rather "to reconstruct the economic life of the peoples from the ground up and build it up in the spirit of Socialism."

But only the producers themselves are fitted for this task, since they are the only value-creating element in society out of which a new future can arise. Theirs must be the task of freeing labor from all the fetters which economic exploitation has fastened on it, of freeing society from all the institutions and procedure of political power, and of opening the way to an alliance of free groups of men and women based on co-operative labor and a planned administration of things in the interest of the community. To prepare the toiling masses in the city and country for this great goal and to bind them together as a militant force is the objective of modern Anarcho-syndicalism, and in this its whole purpose is exhausted. [P. 108]

As a socialist, Rocker would take for granted "that the serious, final, complete liberation of the workers is possible only upon one condition: that of the appropriation of capital, that is, of raw material and all the tools of labor, including land, by the whole body of the workers."[3] As an anarchosyndicalist, he insists, further, that the workers' organizations create "not only the ideas, but also the facts of the future itself" in the prerevolutionary period, that they embody in themselves the structure of the future society---and he looks forward to a social revolution that will dismantle the state apparatus as well as expropriate the expropriators. "What we put in place of the government is industrial organization."

Anarcho-syndicalists are convinced that a Socialist economic order cannot be created by the decrees and statutes of a government, but only by the solidaric collaboration of the workers with hand and brain in each special branch of production; that is, through the taking over of the management of all plants by the producers themselves under such form that the separate groups, plants, and branches of industry are independent members of the general economic organism and systematically carry on production and the distribution of the products in the interest of the community on the basis of free mutual agreements. [p. 94]

Rocker was writing at a moment when such ideas had been put into practice in a dramatic way in the Spanish Revolution. Just prior to the outbreak of the revolution, the anarchosyndicalist economist Diego Abad de Santillan had written: facing the problem of social transformation, the Revolution cannot consider the state as a medium, but must depend on the organization of producers.

We have followed this norm and we find no need for the hypothesis of a superior power to organized labor, in order to establish a new order of things. We would thank anyone to point out to us what function, if any, the State can have in an economic organization, where private property has been abolished and in which parasitism and special privilege have no place. The suppression of the State cannot be a languid affair; it must be the task of the Revolution to finish with the State. Either the Revolution gives social wealth to the producers in which case the producers organize themselves for due collective distribution and the State has nothing to do; or the Revolution does not give social wealth to the producers, in which case the Revolution has been a lie and the State would continue.

Our federal council of economy is not a political power but an economic and administrative regulating power. It receives its orientation from below and operates in accordance with the resolutions of the regional and national assemblies. It is a liaison corps and nothing else.[4]

Engels, in a letter of 1883, expressed his disagreement with this conception as follows:

The anarchists put the thing upside down. They declare that the proletarian revolution must begin by doing away with the political organization of the state....But to destroy it at such a moment would be to destroy the only organism by means of which the victorious proletariat can assert its newly-conquered power, hold down its capitalist adversaries, and carry out that economic revolution of society without which the whole victory must end in a new defeat and a mass slaughter of the workers similar to those after the Paris commune.[5]
In contrast, the anarchists---most eloquently Bakunin---warned of the dangers of the "red bureaucracy," which would prove to be "the most vile and terrible lie that our century has created."[6] The anarchosyndicalist Fernand Pelloutier asked: "Must even the transitory state to which we have to submit necessarily and fatally be a collectivist jail? Can't it consist in a free organization limited exclusively by the needs of production and consumption, all political institutions having disappeared?"[7]

I do not pretend to know the answers to this question. But it seems clear that unless there is, in some form, a positive answer, the chances for a truly democratic revolution that will achieve the humanistic ideals of the left are not great. Martin Buber put the problem succinctly when he wrote: "One cannot in the nature of things expect a little tree that has been turned into a club to put forth leaves."[8] The question of conquest or destruction of state power is what Bakunin regarded as the primary issue dividing him from Marx.[9] In one form or another, the problem has arisen repeatedly in the century since, dividing "libertarian" from "authoritarian" socialists.

Despite Bakunin's warnings about the red bureaucracy, and their fulfillment under Stalin's dictatorship, it would obviously be a gross error in interpreting the debates of a century ago to rely on the claims of contemporary social movements as to their historical origins. In particular, it is perverse to regard Bolshevism as "Marxism in practice." Rather, the left-wing critique of Bolshevism, taking account of the historical circumstances surrounding the Russian Revolution, is far more to the point.[10]

The anti-Bolshevik, left-wing labor movement opposed the Leninists because they did not go far enough in exploiting the Russian upheavals for strictly proletarian ends. They became prisoners of their environment and used the international radical movement to satisfy specifically Russian needs, which soon became synonymous with the needs of the Bolshevik Party-State. The "bourgeois" aspects of the Russian Revolution were now discovered in Bolshevism itself: Leninism was adjudged a part of international social-democracy, differing from the latter only on tactical issues.[11]

If one were to seek a single leading idea within the anarchist tradition, it should, I believe, be that expressed by Bakunin when, in writing on the Paris Commune, he identified himself as follows:

I am a fanatic lover of liberty, considering it as the unique condition under which intelligence, dignity and human happiness can develop and grow; not the purely formal liberty conceded, measured out and regulated by the State, an eternal lie which in reality represents nothing more than the privilege of some founded on the slavery of the rest; not the individualistic, egoistic, shabby, and fictitious liberty extolled by the School of J.-J. Rousseau and other schools of bourgeois liberalism, which considers the would-be rights of all men, represented by the State which limits the rights of each---an idea that leads inevitably to the reduction of the rights of each to zero. No, I mean the only kind of liberty that is worthy of the name, liberty that consists in the full development of all the material, intellectual and moral powers that are latent in each person; liberty that recognizes no restrictions other than those determined by the laws of our own individual nature, which cannot properly be regarded as restrictions since these laws are not imposed by any outside legislator beside or above us, but are immanent and inherent, forming the very basis of our material, intellectual and moral being---they do not limit us but are the real and immediate conditions of our freedom.[12]

These ideas grew out of the Enlightenment; their roots are in Rousseau's Discourse on Inequality, Humboldt's Limits of State Action, Kant's insistence, in his defense of the French Revolution, that freedom is the precondition for acquiring the maturity for freedom, not a gift to be granted when such maturity is achieved. With the development of industrial capitalism, a new and unanticipated system of injustice, it is libertarian socialism that has preserved and extended the radical humanist message of the Enlightenment and the classical liberal ideals that were perverted into an ideology to sustain the emerging social order. In fact, on the very same assumptions that led classical liberalism to oppose the intervention of the state in social life, capitalist social relations are also intolerable. This is clear, for example, from the classic work of Humboldt, The Limits of State Action, which anticipated and perhaps inspired Mill. This classic of liberal thought, completed in 1792, is in its essence profoundly, though prematurely, anticapitalist. Its ideas must be attenuated beyond recognition to be transmuted into an ideology of industrial capitalism.

Humboldt's vision of a society in which social fetters are replaced by social bonds and labor is freely undertaken suggests the early Marx., with his discussion of the "alienation of labor when work is external to the worker...not part of his nature...[so that] he does not fulfill himself in his work but denies himself...[and is] physically exhausted and mentally debased," alienated labor that "casts some of the workers back into a barbarous kind of work and turns others into machines," thus depriving man of his "species character" of "free conscious activity" and "productive life." Similarly, Marx conceives of "a new type of human being who needs his fellow men....[The workers' association becomes] the real constructive effort to create the social texture of future human relations."[13] It is true that classical libertarian thought is opposed to state intervention in social life, as a consequence of deeper assumptions about the human need for liberty, diversity, and free association. On the same assumptions, capitalist relations of production, wage labor, competitiveness, the ideology of "possessive individualism"---all must be regarded as fundamentally antihuman. Libertarian socialism is properly to be regarded as the inheritor of the liberal ideals of the Enlightenment.

Rudolf Rocker describes modern anarchism as "the confluence of the two great currents which during and since the French revolution have found such characteristic expression in the intellectual life of Europe: Socialism and Liberalism." The classical liberal ideals, he argues, were wrecked on the realities of capitalist economic forms. Anarchism is necessarily anticapitalist in that it "opposes the exploitation of man by man." But anarchism also opposes "the dominion of man over man." It insists that "socialism will be free or it will not be at all. In its recognition of this lies the genuine and profound justification for the existence of anarchism."[14] From this point of view, anarchism may be regarded as the libertarian wing of socialism. It is in this spirit that Daniel Guérin has approached the study of anarchism in Anarchism and other works.[15] Guérin quotes Adolph Fischer, who said that "every anarchist is a socialist but not every socialist is necessarily an anarchist." Similarly Bakunin, in his "anarchist manifesto" of 1865, the program of his projected international revolutionary fraternity, laid down the principle that each member must be, to begin with, a socialist.

A consistent anarchist must oppose private ownership of the means of production and the wage slavery which is a component of this system, as incompatible with the principle that labor must be freely undertaken and under the control of the producer. As Marx put it, socialists look forward to a society in which labor will "become not only a means of life, but also the highest want in life,"[16] an impossibility when the worker is driven by external authority or need rather than inner impulse: "no form of wage-labor, even though one may be less obnoxious that another, can do away with the misery of wage-labor itself."[17] A consistent anarchist must oppose not only alienated labor but also the stupefying specialization of labor that takes place when the means for developing production

mutilate the worker into a fragment of a human being, degrade him to become a mere appurtenance of the machine, make his work such a torment that its essential meaning is destroyed; estrange from him the intellectual potentialities of the labor process in very proportion to the extent to which science is incorporated into it as an independent power...[18]

Marx saw this not as an inevitable concomitant of industrialization, but rather as a feature of capitalist relations of production. The society of the future must be concerned to "replace the detail-worker of today...reduced to a mere fragment of a man, by the fully developed individual, fit for a variety of whom the different social functions...are but so many modes of giving free scope to his own natural powers."[19] The prerequisite is the abolition of capital and wage labor as social categories (not to speak of the industrial armies of the "labor state" or the various modern forms of totalitarianism since capitalism). The reduction of man to an appurtenance of the machine, a specialized tool of production, might in principle be overcome, rather than enhanced, with the proper development and use of technology, but not under the conditions of autocratic control of production by those who make man an instrument to serve their ends, overlooking his individual purposes, in Humboldt's phrase.

Anarchosyndicalists sought, even under capitalism, to create "free associations of free producers" that would engage in militant struggle and prepare to take over the organization of production on a democratic basis. These associations would serve as "a practical school of anarchism."[20] If private ownership of the means of production is, in Proudhon's often quoted phrase, merely a form of "theft"---"the exploitation of the weak by the strong"[21]---control of production by a state bureaucracy, no matter how benevolent its intentions, also does not create the conditions under which labor, manual and intellectual, can become the highest want in life. Both, then, must be overcome.

In his attack on the right of private or bureaucratic control over the means of production,, the anarchist takes his stand with those who struggle to bring about "the third and last emancipatory phase of history," the first having made serfs out of slaves, the second having made wage earners out of serfs, and the third which abolishes the proletariat in a final act of liberation that places control over the economy in the hands of free and voluntary associations of producers (Fourier, 1848).[22] The imminent danger to "civilization" was noted by de Tocqueville, also in 1848:

As long as the right of property was the origin and groundwork of many other rights, it was easily defended---or rather it was not attacked; it was then the citadel of society while all the other rights were its outworks; it did not bear the brunt of attack and, indeed, there was no serious attempt to assail it. but today, when the right of property is regarded as the last undestroyed remnant of the aristocratic world, when it alone is left standing, the sole privilege in an equalized society, it is a different matter. Consider what is happening in the hearts of the working-classes, although I admit they are quiet as yet. It is true that they are less inflamed than formerly by political passions properly speaking; but do you not see that their passions, far from being political, have become social? Do you not see that, little by little, ideas and opinions are spreading amongst them which aim not merely at removing such and such laws, such a ministry or such a government, but at breaking up the very foundations of society itself?[23]

The workers of Paris, in 1871, broke the silence, and proceeded

to abolish property, the basis of all civilization! Yes, gentlemen, the Commune intended to abolish that class property which makes the labor of the many the wealth of the few. It aimed at the expropriation of the expropriators. It wanted to make individual property a truth by transforming the means of production, land and capital, now chiefly the means of enslaving and exploiting labor, into mere instruments of free and associated labor.[24]

The Commune, of course, was drowned in blood. The nature of the "civilization" that the workers of Paris sought to overcome in their attack on "the very foundations of society itself" was revealed, once again, when the troops of the Versailles government reconquered Paris from its population. As Marx wrote, bitterly but accurately:

The civilization and justice of bourgeois order comes out in its lurid light whenever the slaves and drudges of that order rise against their masters. Then this civilization and justice stand forth as undisguised savagery and lawless revenge...the infernal deeds of the soldiery reflect the innate spirit of that civilization of which they are the mercenary vindicators....The bourgeoisie of the whole world, which looks complacently upon the wholesale massacre after the battle, is convulsed by horror at the destruction of brick and mortar. [Ibid., pp. 74, 77]

Despite the violent destruction of the Commune, Bakunin wrote that Paris opens a new era, "that of the definitive and complete emancipation of the popular masses and their future true solidarity, across and despite state boundaries...the next revolution of man, international in solidarity, will be the resurrection of Paris"---a revolution that the world still awaits.

The consistent anarchist, then, should be a socialist, but a socialist of a particular sort. He will not only oppose alienated and specialized labor and look forward to the appropriation of capital by the whole body of workers, but he will also insist that this appropriation be direct, not exercised by some elite force acting in the name of the proletariat. He will, in short, oppose

the organization of production by the Government. It means State-socialism, the command of the State officials over production and the command of managers, scientists, shop-officials in the shop....The goal of the working class is liberation from exploitation. This goal is not reached and cannot be reached by a new directing and governing class substituting itself for the bourgeoisie. It is only realized by the workers themselves being master over production.

These remarks are taken from "Five Theses on the Class Struggle" by the left-wing Marxist Anton Pannekoek, one of the outstanding left theorists of the council communist movement. And in fact, radical Marxism merges with anarchist currents.

As a further illustration, consider the following characterization of "revolutionary Socialism":

The revolutionary Socialist denies that State ownership can end in anything other than a bureaucratic despotism. We have seen why the State cannot democratically control industry. Industry can only be democratically owned and controlled by the workers electing directly from their own ranks industrial administrative committees. Socialism will be fundamentally an industrial system; its constituencies will be of an industrial character. Thus those carrying on the social activities and industries of society will be directly represented in the local and central councils of social administration. In this way the powers of such delegates will flow upwards from those carrying on the work and conversant with the needs of the community. When the central administrative industrial committee meets it will represent every phase of social activity. Hence the capitalist political or geographical state will be replaced by the industrial administrative committee of Socialism. The transition from the one social system to the other will be the social revolution. The political State throughout history has meant the government of men by ruling classes; the Republic of Socialism will be the government of industry administered on behalf of the whole community. The former meant the economic and political subjection of the many; the latter will mean the economic freedom of all---it will be, therefore, a true democracy.

This programmatic statement appears in William Paul's The State, its Origins and Functions, written in early 1917---shortly before Lenin's State and Revolution, perhaps his most libertarian work (see note 9). Paul was a member of the Marxist-De Leonist Socialist Labor Party and later one of the founders of the British Communist Party.[25] His critique of state socialism resembles the libertarian doctrine of the anarchists in its principle that since state ownership and management will lead to bureaucratic despotism, the social revolution must replace it by the industrial organization of society with direct workers' control. Many similar statements can be cited.

What is far more important is that these ideas have been realized in spontaneous revolutionary action, for example in Germany and Italy after World War I and in Spain (not only in the agricultural countryside, but also in industrial Barcelona) in 1936. One might argue that some form of council communism is the natural form of revolutionary socialism in an industrial society. It reflects the intuitive understanding that democracy is severely limited when the industrial system is controlled by any form of autocratic elite, whether of owners, managers and technocrats, a "vanguard" party, or a state bureaucracy. Under these conditions of authoritarian domination the classical libertarian ideals developed further by Marx and Bakunin and all true revolutionaries cannot be realized; man will not be free to develop his own potentialities to their fullest, and the producer will remain "a fragment of a human being," degraded, a tool in the productive process directed from above.

The phrase "spontaneous revolutionary action" can be misleading. The anarchosyndicalists, at least, took very seriously Bakunin's remark that the workers' organizations must create "not only the ideas but also the facts of the future itself" in the prerevolutionary period. The accomplishments of the popular revolution in Spain, in particular, were based on the patient work of many years of organization and education, one component of a long tradition of commitment and militancy. The resolutions of the Madrid Congress of June 1931 and the Saragossa Congress in May 1936 foreshadowed in many ways the acts of the revolution, as did the somewhat different ideas sketched by Santillan (see note 4) in his fairly specific account of the social and economic organization to be instituted by the revolution. Guérin writes "The Spanish revolution was relatively mature in the minds of libertarian thinkers, as in the popular consciousness." And workers' organizations existed with the structure, the experience, and the understanding to undertake the task of social reconstruction when, with the Franco coup, the turmoil of early 1936 exploded into social revolution. In his introduction to a collection of documents on collectivization in Spain, the anarchist Augustin Souchy writes:

For many years, the anarchists and the syndicalists of Spain considered their supreme task to be the social transformation of the society. In their assemblies of Syndicates and groups, in their journals, their brochures and books, the problem of the social revolution was discussed incessantly and in a systematic fashion.[26]

All of this lies behind the spontaneous achievements, the constructive work of the Spanish Revolution.

The ideas of libertarian socialism, in the sense described, have been submerged in the industrial societies of the past half-century. The dominant ideologies have been those of state socialism or state capitalism (of increasingly militarized character in the United States, for reasons that are not obscure).[27] But there has been a rekindling of interest in the past few years. The theses I quoted by Anton Pannekoek were taken from a recent pamphlet of a radical French workers' group (Informations Correspondance Ouvrière). The remarks by William Paul on revolutionary socialism are cited in a paper by Walter Kendall given at the National Conference on Workers' Control in Sheffield, England, in March 1969. The workers' control movement has become a significant force in England in the past few years. It has organized several conferences and has produced a substantial pamphlet literature, and counts among its active adherents representatives of some of the most important trade unions. The Amalgamated Engineering and Foundryworkers' Union, for example, has adopted, as official policy, the program of nationalization of basic industries under "workers' control at all levels."[28] On the Continent, there are similar developments. May 1968 of course accelerated the growing interest in council communism and related ideas in France and Germany, as it did in England.

Given the highly conservative cast of our highly ideological society, it is not too surprising that the United States has been relatively untouched by these developments. But that too may change. The erosion of cold-war mythology at least makes it possible to raise these questions in fairly broad circles. If the present wave of repression can be beaten back, if the left can overcome its more suicidal tendencies and build upon what has been accomplished in the past decade, then the problem of how to organize industrial society on truly democratic lines, with democratic control in the workplace and in the community, should become a dominant intellectual issue for those who are alive to the problems of contemporary society, and, as a mass movement for libertarian socialism develops, speculation should proceed to action.

In his manifesto of 1865, Bakunin predicted that one element in the social revolution will be "that intelligent and truly noble part of youth which, though belonging by birth to the privileged classes, in its generous convictions and ardent aspirations, adopts the cause of the people." Perhaps in the rise of the student movement of the 1960s one sees steps towards a fulfillment of this prophecy.

Daniel Guérin has undertaken what he has described as a "process of rehabilitation" of anarchism. He argues, convincingly I believe, that "the constructive ideas of anarchism retain their vitality, that they may, when re-examined and sifted, assist contemporary socialist thought to undertake a new departure...[and] contribute to enriching Marxism."[29]

From the "broad back" of anarchism he has selected for more intensive scrutiny those ideas and actions that can be described as libertarian socialist. This is natural and proper. This framework accommodates the major anarchist spokesmen as well as the mass actions that have been animated by anarchist sentiments and ideals. Guérin is concerned not only with anarchist thought but also with the spontaneous actions of popular revolutionary struggle. He is concerned with social as well as intellectual creativity. Furthermore, he attempts to draw from the constructive achievements of the past lessons that will enrich the theory of social liberation. For those who wish not only to understand the world, but also to change it, this is the proper way to study the history of anarchism.

Guérin describes the anarchism of the nineteenth century as essentially doctrinal, while the twentieth century, for the anarchists, has been a time of "revolutionary practice."[30] Anarchism reflects that judgment. His interpretation of anarchism consciously points toward the future. Arthur Rosenberg once pointed out that popular revolutions characteristically seek to replace "a feudal or centralized authority ruling by force" with some form of communal system which "implies the destruction and disappearance of the old form of State." Such a system will be either socialist or an "extreme form of democracy...[which is] the preliminary condition for Socialism inasmuch as Socialism can only be realized in a world enjoying the highest possible measure of individual freedom." This ideal, he notes, was common to Marx and the anarchists.[31] This natural struggle for liberation runs counter to the prevailing tendency towards centralization in economic and political life.

A century ago Marx wrote that the workers of Paris "felt there was but one alternative---the Commune, or the empire---under whatever name it might reappear."

The empire had ruined them economically by the havoc it made of public wealth, by the wholesale financial swindling it fostered, by the props it lent to the artificially accelerated centralization of capital, and the concomitant expropriation of their own ranks. It had suppressed them politically, it had shocked them morally by its orgies, it had insulted their Voltairianism by handing over the education of their children to the frères Ignorantins, it had revolted their national feeling as Frenchmen by precipitating them headlong into a war which left only one equivalent for the ruins it made---the disappearance of the empire.[32]

The miserable Second Empire "was the only form of government possible at a time when the bourgeoisie had already lost, and the working class had not yet acquired, the faculty of ruling the nation."

It is not very difficult to rephrase these remarks so that they become appropriate to the imperial systems of 1970. The problem of "freeing man from the curse of economic exploitation and political and social enslavement" remains the problem of our time. As long as this is so, the doctrines and the revolutionary practice of libertarian socialism will serve as an inspiration and guide. Read more!

Everyday Anarchism

Read more!

Friday, August 31, 2007

George Bush Doesn't Care About Black People

"New Orleans two years after"
by Greg Palast

[Thurs August 30] “They wanted them poor niggers out of there and they ain’t had no intention to allow it to be reopened to no poor niggers, you know? And that’s just the bottom line.”

It wasn’t a pretty statement. But I wasn’t looking for pretty. I’d taken my investigative team to New Orleans to meet with Malik Rahim. Pretty isn’t Malik’s concern.

We needed an answer to a weird, puzzling and horrific discovery. Among the miles and miles of devastated houses, rubble still there today in New Orleans, we found dry, beautiful homes. But their residents were told by guys dressed like Ninjas wearing “Blackwater” badges: “Try to go into your home and we’ll arrest you.”

These aren’t just any homes. They are the public housing projects of the city; the Lafitte Houses and others. But unlike the cinder block monsters in the Bronx, these public units are beautiful townhouses, with wrought-iron porches and gardens right next to the tony French Quarter.

Raised up on high ground, with floors and walls of concrete, they were some of the only houses left salvageable after the Katrina flood.

Yet, two years later, there’s still bars on the windows, the doors are welded shut and the residents are banned from returning. On the first anniversary of the flood, we were filming this odd scene when I saw a woman on the sidewalk, sobbing. Night was falling. What was wrong?

“They just messing all over us. Putting me out our own house. We come to go back to our own home and when we get there they got the police there putting us out. Oh, no, this is not right. I’m coming here from Texas seeing if I can get my house back. But they said they ain’t letting nobody in. But where we gonna go at?”Patricia Thomas

Idiot me, I asked, “Where are you going to go tonight?”

“That’s what I want to know, Mister. Where I’m going to go - me and my kids?”

With the help of Patricia Thomas, a Lafitte resident, we broke into an apartment. The place was gorgeous. The cereal boxes still dry. This was Patricia’s home. But we decided to get out before we got busted.

I wasn’t naïve. I had a good idea what this scam was all about: 89,000 poor and working class families stuck in Homeland Security’s trailer park gulag while their good homes were guarded against their return by mercenaries. Two decades ago, I worked for the Housing Authority of New Orleans. Even then, the plan was to evict poor folk out of this very valuable real estate. But it took the cover of a hurricane to do it.

Malik’s organization, Common Ground, wouldn’t wait for permission from the federal and local commissars to help folks return. They organized takeovers of public housing by the residents. And, in the face of threats and official displeasure, restored 350 apartments in a destroyed private development on the high ground across the Mississippi in the ward called, “Algiers.” The tenants rebuilt their own homes with their own sweat and their own scraps of cash based on a promise of the landlords to sell Common Ground the property in return for restoring it.

Why, I asked Malik, was there this strange lock-out from public housing?

Malik shook his dreds. “They didn’t want to open it up. They wanted them closed. They wanted them poor niggers out of there.”

For Malik, the emphasis is on “poor.” The racial politics of the Deep South is as ugly as it is in Philadelphia, Pa. But the New Orleans city establishment has no problem with Black folk per se. After all, Mayor Ray Nagin’s parents are African-American.

It’s the Black survivors without the cash that are a problem. So where New Orleans once stood, Mayor Nagin, in connivance with a Bush regime more than happy to keep a quarter million poor folk (i.e. Democrats) out of this swing state, is creating a new city: a tourist town with a French Quarter, loose-spending drunks, hot-sheets hotels and a few Black people to perform the modern version of minstrel shows.

Malik explained, “It’s two cities. You know? There’s the city for the white and the rich. And there’s another city for the poor and Blacks. You know, the city that’s for the white and rich has recovered. They had a Jazz Fest. They had a Mardi Gras. They’re going to have the Saints playing for those who have recovered. But for those who haven’t recovered, there’s nothing.”

So where are they now? The sobbing woman and her kids are gone: back to Texas, or wherever. But they will not be allowed back into Lafitte. Ever.

And Patricia Thomas? Patricia found work sweeping up tourists’ vomit and beer each morning at a French Quarter karaoke joint. Not much pay, no health insurance, of course. A few months ago, Patricia died - in a city bereft of health care. New Orleans has closed all its public hospitals but for one “charity” make-shift emergency ward in an abandoned department store.

And the one bright star, Malik’s housing project? The tenants’ work was done this past December. By Christmastime, they received their eviction notices - and all were carried out of their rebuilt homes by marshals right after the New Year, including a paraplegic resident who’d lived in the Algiers building for decades.

Hurricane recovery is class war by other means. And in this war of the powerful against the powerless, Mr. Bush can rightly land his fighter plane in Louisiana and declare that, unlike the war in Iraq, it is, indeed, “Mission Accomplished.”

Greg Palast has put together a documentary on this issue called Big Easy to Big Empty: How the White House is Still Drowning New Orleans

Here is a clip from it detailing the stories in the above article:

For the full documentary see 1, 2 & 3

I intend to post later and in more depth concerning the FEMA camp and exactly what is going on there. Read more!

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

WHEN I [be]CAME HOME[less]

YouTube description:
WHEN I CAME HOME is a documentary about homeless veterans in America: from those who served in Vietnam to those returning from the current war in Iraq. The film was recently awarded the "NY Loves Film" Best Documentary at the 2006 Tribeca Film Festival. For more information, visit:

Real, Perpetual, Expected, Unfair.
I aim to buy this DVD and start hosting those screenings we've been talking about.

"1/3 of all Iraq Veterans will come home with mental issues"

...yeah, if not cancer. Read more!

Einstein Cheers Us On

"Great spirits have always found violent opposition from mediocre minds. The latter cannot understand it when a man does not thoughtlessly submit to hereditary prejudices but honestly and courageously uses his intelligence."

~Albert Einstein, 20th century physicist, creator of the theory of relativity

Read more!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Gaza Chamber

Gaza: The Auschwitz of our time
by Khalid Amayreh

In 1940, several months after invading Poland in September 1939, the Nazis forced about 500,000 Jews into the Warsaw Ghetto, surrounding it with a high wall. Tens of thousands died from hunger and disease. Eventually, 300,000 were sent to death camps, mainly Treblinka in eastern Poland.

Similarly, Israel is now incarcerating nearly a million and a half helpless Palestinians in the Gaza Strip into a hell similar in nature to the Warsaw Ghetto. The Gaza concentration camp is not only fitted with a wall, but also with every conceivable tool of repression, such as electric fences and watch towers manned by Gestapo-like trigger-happy Jewish soldiers who shoot first and ask questions later.

Moreover, thousands of Israeli soldiers, are surrounding Gaza in a hermetic manner, shooting and killing any Palestinian trying to escape, e.g. enter Israel to search for work or even food.

Palestinian kids survive on bread and tea

Even Palestinian kids playing soccer near the hateful fences, are routinely riddled with bullets or reduced into pieces of human flesh by the "most moral army in the world."

As a result of these genocidal designs, Gazans in the thousands are dying of malnutrition and illness resulting from anemia. Moreover, Children in great numbers are surviving on a meager and totally inadequate diet consisting mainly of bread and tea.

This week, this writer contacted several Gaza families and asked to speak with the kids. The answers I received were truly horrifying. I did speak with 10 kids and was shocked to find out that aseven of the kids told me their diet during the previous week consisted mainly of bread and tea in addition to some tomatoes.

The grown-ups, especially the parents, wouldn't reveal the extent of the unfolding tragedy they are facing. They would only say a terse "al hamdulillah" (thank God). But the tone of their voices tells us that they are in real distress.

The Gaza Strip into the largest detention camp in the world

The harsh blockade of Gaza didn't start in mid June when Hamas took over the small seaside region after defeating and ousting the American-backed Fatah forces led by Muhammed Dahlan and cohorts who had been planning, with American dollars and arms, to murder the Hamas leadership in order to receive a certificate of good conduct from the Bush Administration and Israel.

In fact, Gaza has been effectively under siege since 2000 when the second Palestinian intifada or uprising broke out. Since, then Gazans have been barred from exporting their products and produces.

Moreover, Israel, which has been telling the world that it had ended its occupation of Gaza, still retains full control of the Rafah border crossing with Egypt, thus reducing the Gaza Strip into the largest detention camp in the world.

To make a long story short, Gazans are being pushed into a situation very similar to that which prevailed at the Ghetto Warsaw. They are not allowed to work (unemployment in Gaza stands at more than 70%), they are not allowed to travel abroad, they are not allowed to enter Israel for work, they are not allowed even to go fishing offshore since Israeli gunboats would open fire at any fishing-boat daring to go more than a mile off the shore.

The criminal and draconian measures are meant to further impoverish Gazans to the extent that they won't be able to purchase food.

The declared Israeli goal behind starving and tormenting the people of Gaza is to force them to revolt against the democratically-elected government, led by the Hamas movement, and settle for a quisling-like government that would sell-out Palestinian national rights, including the paramount right of return for Palestinian refugees uprooted from their homes and villages by Jewish gangs in 1948, when Israel was created.

It is believed that up to two thirds of the inhabitants of Gaza are refugees. Hence, the intensive repression and coercion being meted out to these people in order to force them to give up their right to return to their homes and villages in what is now Israel.

It is crystal clear that Israel is steadily but certainly effecting a Nazi-like approach toward the people of the Gaza Strip.

The PR-conscious Israeli government, however, is hoping that the world will not take proactive measures to expose the creeping genocide in Gaza . This is why Israel is allowing limited shipments of food products , such as flour and cooking oil, into Gaza , to avoid a possible international outcry.

However, the supplies are conspicuously meager and don't meet the basic nutritional needs of the vast bulk of Gaza children.

Unfortunately, the United Nations Relief and Work Agency (UNRWA) seems to be conniving and colluding with Israel to keep the unfolding Gaza tragedy as silent as possible.

UNRWA officials do make idle statements from time to time, warning of an impending "humanitarian crisis" in Gaza. However, the UN agency often refrains from "saying it as it is," probably for fear of upsetting the Israelis and the Americans, who apparently don't like to hear words like "starvation, and concentration camps" with regard to the situation in Gaza find their way to the international media.

Israel is undoubtedly the central culprit in this man-made tragedy in Gaza, since it is up to her to allow Gazans to obtain food and export their products and especially their produces to the West Bank. Such a step, which would cost Israel nothing, would help Gazans obtain some meager income to feed their children.

However, Israel, as always, has apparently chosen to be faithful to long traditions of callousness and moral depravity, not unlike the way the Nazis treated their victims.

US administration, Abbas as guilty as Israel

But Israel is not the only guilty party in this tragedy. The US is actually as criminal as Israel, since the Bush administration is urging Israel to keep up the pressure on Gaza.

In fact, American officials keep congratulating their Israeli colleagues on the "success" of the blockade against Gaza. I wonder what kind of politicians are those who enjoy watching children starve to death? Are they human beings or cannibalistic beasts? This question ought to be directed to Condoleezza Rice whose behavior toward the Palestinian people is probably a thousand times worse than the behavior of the worst American white slave masters toward here forefathers.

Maybe it is naive to appeal to Rice's sense of justice and morality since her manifestly criminal record with regard to the Palestinian cause leaves no doubt as to the woman's unethical and evil character.

But if the Bush administration, which has been carrying a holocaust in Iraq, and Israel, which has been effecting ethnic cleansing in Palestine in the name of Jewish nationalism, can be "excused" on the ground that only evil can be expected from evil governments, the Palestinian regime of Mahmoud Abbas has no excuse whatsoever to collude and connive with Israel against the very people it is claiming to serve.

Such behavior, including the tacit and implicit encouragement of Israel to tighten the blockade of Gaza, and keep hundreds of thousands of encircled Gazans hungry and thoroughly tormented, characterizes quislings and agents of a foreign occupation.

Clearly, Abbas and his aides have much to explain to the Palestinian people. They also have much to atone for. This is if they still possess any sense of shame. Read more!

Bye Bye Berty

Embattled Attorney General Resigns
By Steven Lee Myer
The New York Times
Monday 27 August 2007

Waco, Tex. - Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, whose tenure has been marred by controversy and accusations of perjury before Congress, has resigned. A senior administration official said he would announce the decision later this morning in Washington.
Mr. Gonzales, who had rebuffed calls for his resignation, submitted his to President Bush by telephone on Friday, the official said. His decision was not immediately announced, the official added, until after the president invited him and his wife to lunch at his ranch near here.
Mr. Bush has not yet chosen a replacement but will not leave the position open long, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because the resignation had not yet been made public.
Mr. Bush had repeatedly stood by Mr. Gonzales, an old friend and colleague from Texas, even as Mr. Gonzales faced increasing scrutiny for his leadership of the Justice Department, over issues including his role in the dismissals of nine United States attorneys late last year and whether he testified truthfully about the National Security Agency's surveillance programs.
Earlier this month, at a news conference, Mr. Bush dismissed accusations that Mr. Gonzales had stonewalled or misled a congressional inquiry. "We're watching a political exercise," Mr. Bush said. "I mean, this is a man who has testified, he's sent thousands of papers up there. There's no proof of wrong."
Mr. Gonzales's resignation is the latest in a series of high-level departures that has reshaped the end of Mr. Bush's second term. Karl Rove, another of Mr. Bush's close circle of aides from Texas, stepped down two weeks ago.
The official who disclosed the resignation today said that the decision was Mr. Gonzales's and that the president accepted it grudgingly. At the same time, the official acknowledged that the turmoil over Mr. Gonzales had made his continuing as attorney general difficult.
"The unfair treatment that he's been on the receiving end of has been a distraction for the department," the official said.
As recently as Sunday afternoon, Mr. Gonzales was denying through his press spokesman, Brian Roehrkasse, that he intended to leave
Mr. Roehrkasse said Sunday afternoon that he had telephoned Mr. Gonzales about the reports circulating in Washington that a resignation was imminent, "and he said it wasn't true, so I don't know what more I can say."
White House spokesmen also insisted on Sunday that they did not believe that Mr. Gonzales was planning to resign. Aides to senior members of the Senate Judiciary Committee said over the weekend that they had received no suggestion from the administration that Mr. Gonzales intended to resign.
Senator Charles Schumer, the New York Democrat who sits on the committee and has been calling for Mr. Gonzales's resignation for months, said this morning: "It has been a long and difficult struggle, but at last the attorney general has done the right thing and stepped down. For the previous six months, the Justice Department has been virtually nonfunctional, and desperately needs new readership."
Senator Schumer said that "Democrats will not obstruct or impede a nominee who we are confident will put the rule of law above political considerations."

Ahh.. "The wheels are coming off" I read somewhere. Here's to finding news this good and hopeful on a Monday.
Read more!

New 9/11 To Come Before October...?

Market Crash Forecast Suggests New 9/11
Mystery trader bets on huge downturn that could only be preceded by catastrophe
Paul Joseph Watson
Prison Planet
Monday, August 27, 2007

A mystery trader risks losing around $1 billion dollars after placing 245,000 put options on the Dow Jones Eurostoxx 50 index, leading many analysts to speculate that a stock market crash preceded by a new 9/11 style catastrophe could take place within the next month.

The anonymous trader only stands to make money if the market crashes by a third to a half before September 21st, which is when the put options expire. A put option is a financial contract between two parties, the buyer and the writer (seller) of the option, in which the buyer stands to benefit only if the price of the asset falls.

"The sales are being referred to by market traders as "bin Laden trades" because only an event on the scale of 9-11 could make these short-sell options valuable," reports financial blogger Marc Parent. Dow Jones Financial News first reported on the story.

The trader stands to make around $2 billion from their investment should an event trigger a market crash before the third week in September.

Such a cataclysmic jolt could only happen as a result of two factors, China dumping its vast dollar reserves in reaction to the sub-prime mortgage collapse, which it has threatened to do, or a massive terror attack on the same scale or larger than 9/11.

9/11 itself was foreshadowed by unprecedented put options that were placed on United and American Airlines. Though the Securities and Exchange Commission refused to reveal who placed the options, private researchers traced the investments back to the Deutsche Bank owned Banker’s Trust, which was formerly headed by then Executive Director of the CIA, Buzzy Krongard.

Put options on Morgan Stanley and Merrill Lynch, two of the World Trade Center's most prominent occupants, also spiked in the days before 9/11.

News of the suspicious trades is dovetailed by the comments of Former US Treasury secretary Larry Summers yesterday, who told ABC News that the risk of a recession in the U.S. was greater that at any time since 9/11.

If it does, don't say I didn't warn you. Scary though. Unless this is another fear propagated and perpetuated scheme of someone with iffy motives. I'm always a little skeptical these days. Read more!

Agent Orange Encore

Cancer in Iraq Vets Raises Possibility of Toxic Exposure
By Carla McClain
The Arizona Daily Star
Sunday 26 August 2007

After serving in Vietnam nearly 40 years ago - and receiving the Bronze Star for it - the Tucson soldier was called back to active duty in Iraq.
While there, he awoke one morning with a sore throat. Eighteen months later, Army Sgt. James Lauderdale was dead, of a bizarrely aggressive cancer rarely seen by the doctors who tried to treat it.
As a result, his stunned and heartbroken family has joined growing ranks of sickened and dying Iraq war vets and their families who believe exposures to toxic poisons in the war zone are behind their illnesses - mostly cancers, striking the young, taking them down with alarming speed.
The number of these cancers remains undisclosed, with military officials citing patient privacy issues, as well as lack of evidence the cases are linked to conditions in the war zone. The U.S. Congress has ordered a probe of suspect toxins and may soon begin widespread testing of our armed forces.
"He Got So Sick, So Fast"
Jim Lauderdale was 58 when his National Guard unit was deployed to the Iraq-Kuwait border, where he helped transport arriving soldiers and Marines into combat areas.
He was a strong man, say relatives, who can't remember him ever missing a day of work for illness. And he developed a cancer of the mouth, which overwhelmingly strikes smokers, drinkers and tobacco chewers. He was none of those.
"Jim's doctors didn't know why he would get this kind of cancer - they had no answers for us," said his wife, Dixie.
"He got so sick, so fast. We really think it had to be something he was exposed to over there. So many of the soldiers we met with cancer at Walter Reed (Army Medical Center) complained about the polluted air they lived in, the brown water they had to use, the dust they breathed from exploded munitions. It was very toxic."
As a mining engineer, Lauderdale knew exactly what it meant when he saw the thick black smoke pouring nonstop out of the smokestacks that line the Iraq/Kuwait border area where he was stationed for three months in 2005.
"He wrote to me that everyone was complaining about their stinging eyes and sore throats and headaches," Dixie said. "For Jim to say something like that, to complain, was very unusual."
"One of the mothers on the cancer ward had pictures of her son bathing in the brown water," she said. "He died of kidney cancer."
Stationed in roughly the same area as Lauderdale, yet another soldier - now fighting terminal colon cancer - described the scene there, of oil refineries, a cement factory, a chlorine factory and a sulfuric acid factory, all spewing unfiltered and uncontrolled substances into the air.
"One day, we were walking toward the port and they had sulfuric acid exploding out of the stacks. We were covered with it, everything was burning on us, and we had to turn around and get to the medics," said Army Staff Sgt. Frank Valentin, 35.
Not long after, he developed intense rectal pain, which doctors told him for months was hemorrhoids. Finally diagnosed with aggressive colorectal cancer - requiring extensive surgery, resulting in a colostomy bag - he was given fewer than two years to live by his Walter Reed physicians.
He is now a couple of months past that death sentence, but his chemo drugs are starting to fail, and the cancer is eating into his liver and lungs. He spends his days with his wife and three children at their Florida home.
"I don't know how much time I have," he said.
Suspect: Depleted Uranium
None of these soldiers know for sure what's killing them. But they suspect it's a cascade of multiple toxic exposures, coupled with the intense stress of daily life in a war zone weakening their immune systems.
"There's so much pollution from so many sources, your body can't fight what's coming at it," Valentin said. "And you don't eat well or sleep well, ever. That weakens you, too. There's no chance to gather your strength. These are kids 19, 20 and 21 getting all kinds of cancers. The Walter Reed cancer ward is packed full with them."
The prime suspect in all this, in the minds of many victims - and some scientists - is what's known as depleted uranium - the radioactive chemical prized by the military for its ability to penetrate armored vehicles. When munitions explode, the substance hits the air as fine dust, easily inhaled.
Last month, the Iraqi environment minister blamed the tons of the chemical dropped during the war's "shock and awe" campaign for a surge of cancer cases across the country.
However, the Pentagon and U.S. State Department strongly deny this, citing four studies, including one by the World Health Organization, that found levels in war zones not harmful to civilians or soldiers. A U.N. Environmental Program study concurs, but only if spent munitions are cleared away.
Returning solders have said that isn't happening.
"When tanks exploded, I would handle those tanks, and there was DU everywhere," said Valentin. "This is a big issue."
The fierce Iraq winds carry desert sand and dust for miles, said Dixie Lauderdale, who suspects her husband was exposed to at least some depleted uranium. Many vets from the Gulf War blame the chemical used in that conflict for their Gulf War syndrome illnesses.
Congress Orders Study
As the controversy rages, Congress has ordered a comprehensive independent study, due in October, of the health effects of depleted uranium exposure on U.S. soldiers and their children. And a "DU bill" - ordering all members of the U.S. military exposed to it be identified and tested - is working its way through Congress.
"Basically, we want to get ahead of this curve, and not go through the years of painful denial we went through with Agent Orange that was the legacy of Vietnam," said Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., a co-sponsor of the bill.
"We want an independent agency to do independent testing of our soldiers, and find out what's really going on. These incidents of cancer and illness that all of us are hearing about back in our districts are not just anecdotal - there is a pattern here. And yes, I do suspect DU may be at the bottom of it."
What's happening today - growing numbers of sickened soldiers who say they were exposed to it amid firm denials of harm from military brass - almost mirrors the early stages of the Agent Orange aftermath. It took the U.S. military almost two decades to admit the powerful chemical defoliant killed and disabled U.S. troops in the jungles of Vietnam, and to begin compensating them for it.
Doctors Flabbergasted
Whatever it was that struck Jim Lauderdale did a terrifying job of it.
Sent to Walter Reed with oral cancer in April 2005, he underwent his first extensive and disfiguring surgery, removing half his tongue to get to tumors in the mouth and throat. A second surgery followed a month later to clear out more of those areas.
Five months later, another surgery removed a new neck tumor. Then came heavy chemotherapy and radiation.
Shortly after, he had a massive heart attack, undergoing another surgery to place stents in his arteries. Two weeks later, the cancer was back and growing rapidly, forcing a fourth surgery in January 2006.
By this time, much of his neck and shoulder tissue was gone, and doctors tried to reconstruct a tongue, using tissue from his wrist. He couldn't swallow, so was fed through a tube into his stomach.
Just weeks later, four external tumors appeared on his neck - "literally overnight," his wife said. Suffering severe complications from the chemo drugs, Lauderdale endured 39 radiation treatments, waking up one night bleeding profusely through his burned skin. The day after his radiation ended, new external tumors erupted at the edge of the radiation field, flabbergasting his doctors.
"As this aggressive disease grew though chemoradiation, it was determined at this point there was no chance for cure," his oncologist wrote then.
By then, the cancer had spread to his lungs and spine and, most frightening of all, "hundreds and thousands" of tumors were erupting all over his upper body, his wife said.
"The doctors said they'd never seen anything like it - that this happens in only 1 percent of cases," she said. Efforts to contact his doctors at Walter Reed were unsuccessful, but a leading head-and-neck cancer specialist at the Arizona Cancer Center reviewed the course of Lauderdale's disease. "This a a very wrenching case," said Dr. Harinder Garewal. "This is unusually aggressive behavior for an oral cancer. I would agree it happens in only 1 percent of cases."
When oral cancer occurs in nonsmokers and non-drinkers, it tends to be more aggressive, he said. "My feeling is the immune system for some reason can't handle the cancer," he said.
Jim Lauderdale died on July 14, 2006, and was buried in Arlington National Cemetery.
Dixie and their two grown children still feel the raw grief of loss, but not anger, she said.
"But I am convinced something very wrong is happening over there. Is anyone paying attention to this? Is the cancer ward still full?" she asked. "I would hate to see another whole generation affected like this, but I'm very afraid it will be."

Now, are these to be considered casualties of war? Victim's of biological weaponry? Blame the terrorists. Oh wait, that's us. Read more!