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31.08.2017 – Charlottesville, VA David Swanson

Charlottesville’s Past That Isn’t Even
Protesters gather in Charlottesville on August 12, 2017. (Image by Dunning/Flickr Creative Commons)

Here in Charlottesville, Virginia, I like to point out that the rallies of racists are mostly imported from out of state. It’s tempting to relax comfortably on that assertion, and to reflect on how our great lord and master Thomas Jefferson owned people with more reluctance and inner turmoil than Barack Obama bombing a foreign country or Donald Trump mouthing kind or coherent phrases from a teleprompter.

Reality is a little more troubling. Jefferson was a vicious and heartless profiteer and racist who was into slavery for the money and the benefits. UVA had ties to the KKK in the 1920s when the racist war monuments were put up in segregated parks by a wealthy resident. Jim Crow ruled until the Civil Rights movement and has been dying hard. Most people, including the mayor, didn’t come around to favoring taking the statues down until after the deadly rally.

Now Charlottesville’s tragedy has helped many other places take down the sort of statues that still stand in Charlottesville, albeit now covered in black tarps. But Charlottesville and UVA have been leaders on these issues in other ways that one doesn’t hear much about. Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains is illuminating, and criticisms of parts of the book, which I am in no position to judge, do not touch on some central points.

The right-wing anti-government movement that has created things like unregulated “development” in Houston, the defunding of preparation for hurricanes, free rein to destroy the earth’s climate for war and profit, and the bizarre cultural understanding in which we simply accept that we must fund disaster relief ourselves as the government is too busy funding wars and billionaires — all of this has deep roots in an institute of economists now based at George Mason University but originally created at the University of Virginia in 1956 in response to school integration. And those economists’ teachings have deep roots in the thinking of leading advocates for slavery.

James McGill Buchanan created at UVA an economics department funded by Charles Koch and dedicated to expanding the power of the wealthy to hoard more wealth, and to reducing the power of the masses to influence government. John C. Calhoun, proponent of slavery extraordinaire, was the grandfather of the deceptive ideology advanced. In Calhoun’s thinking, taxing a slave owner was an abuse and exploitation, whereas owning someone as a slave was simply the exercising of liberty. Similarly, taxing an oil CEO is tyranny in today’s libertarian understanding, whereas letting people drown in a flood is just right and proper.

Making this twisted line of thought presentable as a quantifiable science overseen by experts has been the work of decades of deliberation and deception. Yet slavery has not been made presentable again, and opposition to public spending on human needs grew out of slavery — arose in fact only in areas that practiced slavery. Buchanan and others did not set out to win over the public, but to mislead the public into supporting policies that would have little backing if properly understood.

Massive resistance was not massive, de-funding is not reform, and the right to work is not a right.

Virginians did not rise up en mass and compel their representative government to shut down all the schools rather than integrate them. Rather, state politicians elected by a corrupt system imposed a shutdown in the face of significant popular resistance to it.

The economist schemers knew that shutting down schools was unpopular, so began the ongoing effort to sell the de-funding of schools as school reform, innovation, experimentation, choice, and so forth. They would push the same lies about Social Security and healthcare.

In 1974, Charles Koch set up his own foundation and held its first event here in Charlottesville with Buchanan as featured speaker. Buchanan and his ilk went on pushing for more wealth consolidation and de-democratization, to “save capitalism from democracy.” Buchanan offered Augusto Pinochet guidance on how to entrench elite rule in Chilean institutions, and sought the same in the U.S., working toward the “removal of the sacrosanct status assigned to majority rule.”

Tyler Cowen, who would later succeed Buchanan and who now leads the Mercatus Center at George Mason University, says that in the future people will be “expected to fend for themselves much more than they do now.” The U.S. will be “some version of Texas — and then some.”

You’re welcome, world.

29.08.2017 Waging Nonviolence

Why Nazis are so afraid of these clowns
The Finnish group “Loldiers of Odin” formed to protest the anti-immigrant Soldiers of Odin. (Image by Lordies of Odin via Waging Nonviolence)

By August 25, 2017

Trolls chanted in the streets the day of a planned neo-Nazi rally in the small ski town of Whitefish, Montana earlier this year. But they were not the trolls that residents had been expecting — namely, white supremacists from around the country, who had been harassing the town’s Jewish community with death threats.

These trolls wore bright blue wigs and brandished signs that read “Trolls Against Trolls” and “Fascists Fear Fun,” cheerfully lining the route where the neo-Nazi march had been slated to take place. Due to poor organizing and the failure to obtain proper permits, the demonstration had fallen through, leading to what the counter-protesters gleefully deemed a “Sieg Fail.” So, locals held their own counter-event, gathering together to share matzo ball soup and celebrate the town’s unity, which — with a dose of humor and a denunciation of hatred — had successfully weathered a right-wing anti-Semitic “troll storm” and strengthened the community as a whole.

Using humor and irony to undermine white supremacy dates back to the days of the Third Reich, from jokes and cartoons employed by Norwegians against the Nazi occupation to “The Great Dictator” speech by Charlie Chaplin. In recent years, humor has continued to be used as a tactic to undermine Nazi ideology, particularly in the unlikely form of clowns — troupes of brightly-dressed activists who show up to neo-Nazi gatherings and make a public mockery of the messages these groups promote. It puts white supremacists in a dilemma in which their own use of violence will seem unwarranted, and their machismo image is tainted by the comedic performance by their opponent. Humor de-escalates their rallies, turning what could become a violent confrontation into a big joke.

Satirical imitation was used in Olympia, Washington in 2005 when a dozen members of the National Socialist Movement paraded around the state capitol to recruit members for the coming “race war.” They were met with clowns mimicking the “Seig Heil” salute and goose-stepping in a public mockery that drew attention away from the Nazi demonstration and undermined their image to would-be supporters.

In 2007, the group Anti Racist Action staged a full-fledged clown performance at a neo-Nazi rally in Knoxville, Tennessee. The clowns feigned confusion at demonstrators’ cries of “White power!” and called back, “White flour?” as they threw fistfulls of flour into the air.

“White power!” the neo-Nazi group shouted, and the clowns pretended they finally understood their mistake. “Oh, white flowers!” they cried out, handing white flowers to passersby, including some of the neo-Nazis themselves.

“White power!” they yelled again. “Tight shower?” the clowns called back, holding a shower head in the air and crowding together in a ridiculous attempt to follow the directions of the white supremacist group.

They tried once more: “White power!” And the female clowns exclaimed, as though they finally understood, “Wife power!” raising letters in the air to spell out the words and hoisting the male clowns in the air, running around and carrying them in their arms.

The clowns stole the show, and continued parading through the streets with the police smiling happily at their sides while the neo-Nazi group called off their demonstration several hours early. This action inspired clowns in Charlotte, North Carolina to also yell “Wife power!” at a white supremacist rally. They also held signs that said “Dwight Power!” next to photos of the NBA player Dwight Howard.

Anti-Nazi clowning can also turn into a wider community event, bringing local people together in solidarity and fun. A recent New York Times editorial highlighted an “involuntary walk-a-thon” in Wunsiedel, Germany, organized in response to an annual neo-Nazi march. The organizers drew chalk markers on the pavement marking the starting point, halfway point and finish line. Local residents and businesses pledged to donate 10 euros for every meter the white supremacists marched to a group called EXIT Deutschland, which is dedicated to helping people leave right-wing extremist groups.

People came out to cheer the marchers the day of the event, flanking the route with signs that read “If only the Fuhrer knew!” and “Mein Mamph!” ( or “My Munch”) by a table of bananas offered to the walkers. This turned the marchers into involuntary supporters against their own cause, and brought the community together in unity to counter the messages of white supremacy.

Other European cities have employed clowns to counter anti-immigrant groups. For example, the “Loldiers of Odin” formed in Finland to counter a citizen patrol called Soldiers of Odin. The clowns danced around the streets the same nights that the patrols went out in the community, bringing acrobat hoops and a hobby horse. They also danced around the “soldiers” while playing in the snow. Their actions countered right-wing propaganda of making the streets “safer” from immigrants by bringing humor and silliness to their actions.

Clowning as a tactic of creative resistance was first developed by a group of U.K. activists who started the Clandestine Insurgent Rebel Clown Army, or CIRCA, in 2003. Mixing slapstick humor and improv theater with civil disobedience, the group had — at its height —over 150 trained clowns in Edinburgh, and their tactics were adopted by activists across Europe and the United States.

Humor has wide-reaching potential beyond clowning in countering neo-Nazis. It can be employed in the form of a serenade, like the sousaphonist who played his instrument to a crowd of Confederate flag-wielding marchers in Columbia, South Carolina. There’s also the parody song “Tiki Torch Nazis,” written and performed by a couple from San Francisco, that went viral after Charlottesville and hilariously undermines the serious image neo-Nazis strive to present. Meanwhile, in the United Kingdom, a group called the English Disco Lovers, or EDL, uses its acronym along with dance music and 1970’s style wigs to subvert public gatherings of the racist English Defense League.

To build on past successes of anti-Nazi clowning, activists and local organizers can draw on the creativity of the community to devise actions and events that mock white supremacist ideology and those who support it. This could be done in the form of a carnivalesque “Fascist Fair,” complete with a dunk tank and jousting match. It could take the form of dressing up in costumes that satirize the labels white supremacists have given counter-protesters, like vermin or Communists. Events can draw in various local groups, from marching bands to theater troupes to intramural sports teams so that resistance to white supremacy becomes a community expression of solidarity, like in Whitefish, Montana.

Counter-demonstrations can employ a tactic called détournement, or culture jamming, to draw on existing cultural symbols that resonate with a wider audience. This could involve staging a humorous match in which one side represents neo-Nazis dressed as Death Eaters from Harry Potter, and the other side represents Gryffindor, or the Avengers, or Wonder Woman and the Amazon warriors. Their marches can be accompanied by a mass choir drowning out their chants with refrains of “You’re So Vain” or JoJo’s “Leave (Get Out).” They could also be met with “Flash Mobs Against Fascist Mobs.” The street where the march is planned could be covered in rainbow paint and glitter that will coat the bottoms of their shoes.

Beyond the marches themselves, clowning can undermine Confederate statues and symbols when their removal would lead to an escalation of violence, as activist David Swanson has suggested. Dressing up Confederate statues as clowns or jokers with signs like “You must be joking!” mocks the statue itself and undercuts the veneration of historical figures who represent the country’s legacy of slavery.

Other creative tactics can be used to counter neo-Nazi propaganda with less direct confrontation. Activists around the world have turned Nazi graffiti into art, like the #PaintBack campaign transforming Swastika’s into cartoon animals.

These actions not only deflate the macho image of neo-Nazis to their own supporters — which is strengthened by violent confrontation — but they also engage the community in planning fun collective actions to counter hate and intolerance. Humorous counter-demonstrations unleash a storm of creativity, as activists and local groups collaborate to design creative actions together. In the end, the actions bring communities together against hate speech. Since humor and clowning can incorporate so many community members — children and the elderly, musicians and athletes, politicians and school teachers — they draw everyone into a joyful, silly expression of solidarity. That’s something a band of tiki torch-wielding neo-Nazis don’t stand a change against.

28.08.2017 Pressenza London

This post is also available in: Spanish

London is cloaking environmental racism in respectability – but Zambian villagers are fighting back
(Image by FoilVedanta via openDemocracy)

By Amy Hall 3 August 2017 for openDemocracy

Zambian villagers await a landmark judgement that could help hold British companies to account for their actions abroad.

Over 1,800 people from farming and fishing communities near Chingola, Zambia are waiting to hear if they can make a claim for damages in the English courts against UK mining company Vedanta Resources and its subsidiary Konkola Copper Mines (KCM).

A decision from London’s Court of Appeal is expected by the end of the summer. If the villagers are successful, it could become easier in future for multinational companies based in the UK to be held to account for alleged human rights and environmental abuses in other countries.

Hundreds of people living near Chingola were hospitalised due to water contamination from sulphuric acid and other chemicals from a KCM-owned mine in 2006.

“We have no water source apart from the river and it’s totally polluted,” villager Leo Chikopela told campaign group Foil Vedanta. “Most of us are very weak and have constant stomach pains. When we bathe using this water our skin itches.”

Local people have also reported deaths after their relatives drank from a local river.

The villagers were previously awarded compensation in the Zambian High Court, but KCM appealed. In 2015 the Supreme Court upheld the guilty verdict but removed the compensation. Vedanta argues that it does not have a duty of care to claimants potentially polluted by the activity of its subsidiary, KCM. Lawyers for the villagers argue that taking the case to the UK is the only way the villagers will get justice.

Vedanta’s track record on the environment and human rights is questionable. It was excluded from Norwegian Pension Fund investments due to an “unacceptable risk” that the company will “cause or contribute to severe environmental damage and serious or systematic human rights violations.”

Mining companies control key mineral resources across the world, and have impacted on land based communities and indigenous peoples through associated forced evictions, pollution, and violence in or near mine areas. Often local people see little of the profits, despite the exploitation of their mineral rich land and the environmental and health consequences.

“The environmental racism of copper mining companies, and the impunity they enjoyed during Rhodes’ British South African Company era is continuing to haunt Zambia through the colonial legacy issues of KCM/Vedanta,” said Samarendra Das from Foil Vedanta.

London is a key investment hub for extractive/mining industries. Major lobbyists the International Council on Mining and Metals (ICMM) are based there, as is metals price fixing mechanism the London Metal Exchange, and precious metals trader, the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA). Many multinational mining companies also maintain links with London through trading on the London Stock Exchange which offers them a ‘cloak of respectability’.

“Being listed on the London Stock Exchange offers companies an explicit air of credibility, because the LSX presents itself as providing strict oversight around who gets a listing and who doesn’t,” explains Liam Barrington-Bush, former Communications Worker at the London Mining Network. “In practice there is not a lot of scrutiny that these companies have to undergo, in terms of anything ethical, environmental or social, to get themselves listed.”

While London-based and -listed companies are benefiting from the natural resources of far flung countries – at the expensive of local people – they are not always paying what they should for the privilege.

A 2016 War on Want report titled The New Colonialism (pdf), showed that 101 London Stock Exchange listed companies had mining operations in 37 sub-Saharan African countries, collectively controlling over $1 trillion worth of Africa’s oil, gold, diamonds, coal and platinum. Of the 101 companies, 25 of them were incorporated in tax havens.

While companies are making money from Africa’s resources, the continent is losing it. In 2015 Africa received nearly $162 billion in aid, loans, foreign investment and remittances, but lost $203 billion thanks to multinational corporations, debt payments, tax dodging and the costs imposed by climate change. In other words, the rest of the world received over $41 billion a year from African countries – money that could have been spent on basic needs such as healthcare and education.

Vedanta has been accused of tax dodging in the past through under-pricing copper sold through KCM in order to pay less tax in Zambia.

As the Vedanta AGM takes place in London on Monday 14 August, a Global Day of Action against will take place – with events in Zambia, India and the UK – putting further pressure on Vedanta over the Zambia case and other communities affected by pollution, human rights abuses and tax evasion around the world.

About the author

Amy Hall is a freelance journalist based in Brighton and a columnist for openDemocracyUK, writing about the environment, democracy, corporate power and the British state in the wake of Brexit

27.08.2017 – Barcelona, Spain Raquel Paricio

This post is also available in: Spanish, Greek

Barcelona’s transferential demonstration: “We are not afraid”

A massive demonstration of around half a million people with the slogan “We are not afraid” took place in Barcelona on the 27th of August, following on from the terrorist attacks of the 17th of August in Barcelona and Cambrils, but it was tainted by protests, demands and strange things that go beyond the events themselves.

The protests, targeting the warmongering policies that form the backdrop to the terrorist attacks, reduced the tension on what could have been something islamophobic; an assault on a religion, culture or country which is blamed and attacked.  But no!  Catalan society didn’t allow itself to fall into this trap: it isn’t a religion’s fault, but rather policies at the service of militarism and related directly to the globalisation of fear.  The information circulating among those participating blamed people like King Felipe VI who sell weapons to Saudi Arabia.

The whistles of disapproval towards the representatives of the Royal Family and certain politicians resonated along the length of Passeig de Gracia and Plaza Catalunya during the demonstration.  This very rejection of the king’s presence was the driving force behind the 170 associations and platforms in the fields of human rights and others which organised the demonstration that, although a joint demonstration, was convened one hour earlier and under the slogan “Your policies, Our dead” and to which people were invited to go dressed in blue.

The demands of “no to terror and fear” and to defend every human being regardless of their beliefs can be added to the numerous acts of solidarity with the Muslim community and the support of all those who have offered their work in the aftermath of the attacks.

But this was also a strange demonstration.  It wasn’t a demonstration like previous ones.  Thousands of red and yellow roses were distributed among the participants; roses that people were invited to give away as a symbol of gratitude because protest and demands weren’t the only driving forces behind it.  This demonstration has shown how a transferential action such as hugging, gratitude and a display of emotion has the power to erase all cultural differences.  The protagonists weren’t the politicians, but rather the people.

Ten days on since the attacks, Catalan society is responding in an unpredictable way: love has surpassed hate.  The victims aren’t just those the van crashed into, but also the attackers themselves (we could say murderers), who dead or alive, are the consequence of an irrational society.  “We lost 8 children from Ripoll,” said one of the neighbours who couldn’t believe that those children, young people between 17 and 20 years old, could have committed such an atrocity.  We won’t go into this now, but it’s worth mentioning, that those young men, those murdered killers, have the right to be judged like any other human being should be, under a law that isn’t about punishment and revenge, but is instead integrating.  But this will no longer be possible in the case of those who are dead.

It was also a strange demonstration because in that effusive love, the security services, until now so blamed by the same sector of society that approves of “no to fear”, became accomplices of the citizens; heroes to be thanked, hugged and applauded.

But if there’s anything to be taken away from this, looking ahead to what direction these events and responses could take in in the future, it’s that society knows that Muslims aren’t the cause, and that Catalan society will not be silenced by the hatred and fear that arms traders and warmongers try to transmit.  Because we screamed it out loud, “We are not afraid!”

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26.08.2017 Gabriela Amaya

This post is also available in: Spanish, Greek

The Stockholm syndrome affecting a good part of humanity

Working for little reward to have others enrich themselves, even in situations of slavery, and to do so convinced that this is normal and it makes us worthy, is a clear indicator of suffering from Stockholm Syndrome.

Stockholm Syndrome is a disease suffered by those who identify with their oppressors, sympathising with the cause of those who cause them harm and preferring not to flee from when they could do so, while moving away from those who can help them.

The term Stockholm Syndrome was coined in 1973 in Stockholm (Sweden), when one of the hostages during a robbery to a bank preferred to stay next to their captor instead of going with the police. Today, this term is used for cases of abduction, gender abuse, within companies and in a few more cases.

The specialists in the subject say that this is a temporary pathological phenomenon. In the case that we are going to study today, unfortunately, it is a phenomenon that has been maintained over centuries and whose root and symptoms pass from generation to generation. Now, we are faced with the possibility of healing from it, of freeing ourselves from this Biblical curse, given the socioeconomic circumstances of the historical moment that we happen to live in.

We speak of a type of Stockholm Syndrome that Humanity has been suffering from for many centuries and which, as in most mental diseases, is not recognised by the patient. We refer to the value we give to employment as the element or means that allows us to live or survive, that gives us dignity, that liberates us and that can make us happy, with all the consequences that this entails.

When talking about employment, we mean paid work. And we will use the term ’employment’ intentionally to differentiate it from work, which encompasses almost every activity of the human being.

And why do we talk about Stockholm Syndrome when we talk about paid work? This is the question that we will try to explain in this short writing.

We have taken ownership of the discourse of those who enslave us

Imagine for a moment that we can ascend in space and observe our planet and its habits. How do we explain that a few people accumulate wealth and more wealth and the vast majority of us work voluntarily so that those few continue to accumulate it thanks to our efforts? How is it possible that the great majority of the population assumes that this wealth, which belongs to everyone, since it corresponds to natural resources or the historical accumulation by thousands of generations, has become the property of those few?

They will tell us that millions of people are happy with their work, that others are not so much but are forced to do it … The truth is that it is a habitual question, when two individuals get to know each other, “What do you do?” And the other answers “I’m a bricklayer, a journalist, a greengrocer, unemployed, retired …”. We assume that our “essence” is given by our profession. The value of employment has reached such a degree.

This is a problem to say the least. Not only because in this society to develop a profession or another gives you power depending on the prestige and money to which it is associated, but also because it is accepted by a large majority that what dignifies the human being is employment, as noted above . Of course, this discourse orchestrated by those who hold power – after having usurped it from the social whole – was and is still necessary for the current system to be maintained.

How we have made ours the discourse of the powerful

In order to maintain it over time, it was necessary to do something other than simply imposing it by force, as it probably happened in the early moments of this form of relationship between human beings.

More important elements were needed. We will comment on some that operate today:

1.- A myth that is rooted in the deepest beliefs of individuals and societies, a myth that is usually religious. In this particular case, we find that at the base of this myth in our Western culture, and that has been forced upon the rest of the planet in many cases, it is clear when the Bible says “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread”.

Whether the defenders of certain ideologies like it or not, this myth is at the base of our culture and it is supported by both liberals and Marxists, men and women who call themselves right or left wingers, believers or agnostics … We are all affected by the myth and the mental form that accompanies it.

2. But politicians are also needed to serve the interests of the great economic powers.

3. And a media that help build, defend and feed the discourse that maintains this state of affairs.

There will be no more full employment

This situation is becoming untenable. Full employment no longer exists and it will never do. Millions of jobs are disappearing replaced by machines, something that, as we know, generates every day more wealth. From a different perspective it seems to us deeply positive and encouraging.

Back to our subject, what do millions and millions of human beings whose value depends on their employment do, if they lack it or it does not give them acceptable living conditions? What happens is that every day we find that the unrest is becoming widespread, that personal and social tensions increase, that the future closes for millions of people and that those affected develop physical and mental diseases, leading to suicide in some cases, In addition to a long list of negative consequences.

It is paradoxical – of course – that when the wealth on the planet would allow the entire population to live in decent conditions, a “crisis” appears and this justifies that more and more people are left without employment or the one they had becomes devalued and  poorly paid, whilst a minority’s wealth increases exponentially.

Answers to the present moment

Faced with this scenario in which there is no future in the medium and long term no matter how much it is said and believed otherwise, different answers are given.

Some European governments, for example, have chosen to legislate more blatantly in favour of large corporations by lowering taxes, whilst raising them for the rest of the population, eliminating in passing fundamental rights related to freedom of expression or assembly, whilst cutting down basic rights such as education, health, pensions … by privatising these services or by cutting their budgets.

On the other hand, the traditional left continues to defend full employment as the only solution. Something that is not going to happen, but probably they do not see another way out because they also suffer from this type of Stockholm Syndrome or, if they realise, they prefer not to express it because its mode of operation would plummet.

Now, for a few decades (although it comes from further away) and especially in recent years a good number of people and groups defend, among other measures, a universal and unconditional basic income for each person.

We will take this proposal as an example to get out of the unsustainable situation in which we are, because today it is in the limelight and because it would be a measure that could respond to the situation of systemic poverty, while it would be a first step in the direction of redistributing wealth which, as we said at the beginning, belongs to everyone.

But, oh surprise! The majority of the population does not agree with the implementation of this measure, probably because they only have access to manipulated information, but the fact is the current disagreement with its application. It is important to clarify that a good part of this population is at the same time a victim of technological development, of the much talked about crisis, of the robbery of its resources, etc.

“Would it be good to give money to someone for doing nothing? To feed you lazy bones!?” They wonder, “where will the money be coming from?” They ask themselves, repeating the discourse of the powerful, of those who accumulate wealth without being employed in anything other than doing this, of those who exploit and violate them.

We insist that we are setting this example because it allows us to see clearly how a great majority of the population has taken the “abuser’s or exploiter’s” discourse and sees other victims like themselves as their enemies (for example, immigrants).

We will not enter into the whole process of how we got here, how property that belonged to all or no one became privatised. We only wanted to talk about this disease that still affects the majority of the population and the importance of the myth, which continues to feed from the hands of politicians, legislators, opinion formers … those who work to keep this vertical and violent system, along with the media, that perform better every day the role of means of propaganda in favour of the powerful.

Today more than ever, it is vital to claim the humanist vision about the human being, a vision that explains that a human being has value just for the fact of having been born, and that no value may be placed over their life and freedom.

Conclusions: there exists the real possibility of the human being’s liberation

  “They do not yet understand that the machine is the saviour of humanity, the god who shall redeem man from the sordidae artes and from working for hire, the god who shall give him leisure and liberty”, wrote Paul Lafargue in 1883.

Because there will be no more full employment, on the one hand, and because we are facing the historical possibility of liberating ourselves from work as an element of control and slavery, on the other, it is fundamental that we question our beliefs about the subject, the look we have toward ourselves and towards others, and the fear of poverty, demanding that the wealth of everyone be redistributed, which would allow the whole of humanity to live in dignified living conditions.

Let us stop making the discourse of the powerful, that there is no wealth and that it is normal for them to rob us and enslave us. Let us rid ourselves of this disease that we have fed for centuries without realising it. Today there is the real possibility of freeing ourselves.

For this, we can start by claiming a universal and unconditional basic income, among many other measures.

Bibliographic references:

About Stockholm Syndrome
About universal basic income:


On the questioning of employment:

The right to be lazy. Paul Lafargue. 1882.


Translated from Spanish by Silvia Swinden


26.08.2017 – New York City Amy Goodman

This post is also available in: Spanish

The Endless War in Afghanistan Just Got Longer
(Image by Democracy Now!)

We have two presidents in the United States: The “real Donald Trump” and “teleprompter Trump.” Real Trump speaks, and tweets, his mind. Teleprompter Trump reads speeches prepared for him, delivered in a strained manner that has been likened to a hostage video. Both have been on full display lately, from his rants asserting moral equivalence between neo-Nazis and anti-fascist activists who gathered to oppose them, to attacking the media and threatening to shut down the government if he doesn’t get his border wall.

But it was his teleprompter address last Monday, when President Trump promised that the war in Afghanistan — the longest war in U.S. history — would continue, that might have been the most frightening of all, ensuring more suffering and death for U.S. service members and Afghan civilians alike.

“Vile and disgusting fear-based demagoguery,” was the reaction of Matthew Hoh, speaking on the “Democracy Now!” news hour. “I’m greatly saddened because there was nothing in that speech besides the prospect of more killing.”

Hoh is a combat veteran, a former Marine company commander who fought in Iraq. He then worked in the U.S. State Department in Afghanistan, resigning from the position in September 2009. In his four-page resignation letter, Hoh wrote: “I fail to see the value or the worth in continued U.S. casualties or expenditures of resources in support of the Afghan government in what is, truly, a 35-year-old civil war. … I do not believe any military force has ever been tasked with such a complex, opaque and Sisyphean mission as the U.S. military has received in Afghanistan.”

Donald Trump long advocated for a U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. In October 2011, he tweeted: “It is time to get out of Afghanistan. We are building roads and schools for people that hate us. It is not in our national interests.” In January 2013, in a rare admission of agreement with then-President Barack Obama, he tweeted: “I agree with Pres. Obama on Afghanistan. We should have a speedy withdrawal. Why should we keep wasting our money — rebuild the U.S.!” Then, in 2016, he won the Electoral College and, despite losing the national popular vote by 3 million votes, became president.

“Shortly after my inauguration, I directed Secretary of Defense Mattis and my national security team to undertake a comprehensive review of all strategic options in Afghanistan and South Asia,” teleprompter Trump said Monday at his speech delivered at Fort Myer, right next door to Arlington National Cemetery. Trump’s senior circle in the White House has been winnowed down to his family members and his generals: chief of staff Gen. John Kelly, Secretary of Defense Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis, and national security adviser Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster. After a weekend sequestered at Camp David with these and other military advisers, Trump announced in his Fort Myer address his commitment of thousands more troops and tens of billions more taxpayer dollars to the war in Afghanistan.

Kathy Kelly, like Matthew Hoh, has extensive experience in Afghanistan, as a peace activist with Voices for Creative Nonviolence, twice nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize. She agrees with Hoh that the U.S.-supported government in Kabul has collapsed and isn’t providing any security against the various Afghan warlords.

“The United States is one among many warlords right now,” she explained on “Democracy Now!” “It’s certainly the heaviest-armed warlord with the most access to funding, but it’s not the case that the United States has been shoring up some kind of governance that’s been advantageous to people in Afghanistan.”

The New York Times recently reported that President Trump is being informally advised on Afghanistan by billionaire financier Stephen Feinberg, who owns the military contractor DynCorp, and that Trump may be pursuing U.S. control of Afghanistan’s untapped mineral wealth, worth an estimated $1 trillion. Kathy Kelly responds: “Afghanistan is a country that needs to be able to feed its people, not sending them down into the dungeons and mines to work as serfs. To restore that agricultural infrastructure would require reseeding the orchards, cleaning out the irrigation systems, replenishing the flocks. It would require weening people off of the opium trade. Those are things that could be done.”

President Trump should spend the weekend at Camp David with peace activists, as well as with Afghan civilians, who know their country and its suffering better than anyone. Given what we’ve learned about Donald Trump in his first seven months as president — whether the real Trump or the teleprompter man — we can assume such a gathering is not in the script.

The original article can be found on our partner’s website here

This post is also available in: Italian

As Syria war tightens, US and Russia military hotlines humming

Even as tensions between the United States and Russia fester, there is one surprising place where their military-to-military contacts are quietly weathering the storm: Syria.

It has been four months since US President Donald Trump ordered cruise missile strikes against a Syrian airfield after an alleged chemical weapons attack.

In June, the US military shot down a Syrian fighter aircraft, the first US downing of a manned jet since 1999, and also shot down two Iranian-made drones that threatened US-led coalition forces.

All the while, US and Russian military officials have been regularly communicating, US officials told Reuters. Some of the contacts are helping draw a line on the map that separates US- and Russian-backed forces waging parallel campaigns on Syria’s shrinking battlefields.

There is also a telephone hotline linking the former Cold War foes’ air operations centers. US officials told Reuters that there now are about 10 to 12 calls a day on the hotline, helping keep US and Russian warplanes apart as they support different fighters on the ground.

That is no small task, given the complexities of Syria’s civil war. Moscow backs the Syrian government, which also is aided by Iran and Lebanon’s Hezbollah as it claws back territory from Syrian rebels and Daesh fighters.

The US military is backing a collection of Kurdish and Arab forces focusing their firepower against Daesh, part of a strategy to collapse the group’s self-declared “caliphate” in Syria and Iraq.

Reuters was given rare access to the US Air Force’s hotline station, inside the Qatar-based Combined Air Operations Area, last week, including meeting two Russian linguists, both native speakers, who serve as the US interface for conversations with Russian commanders.

While the conversations are not easy, contacts between the two sides have remained resilient, senior US commanders said.

“The reality is we’ve worked through some very hard problems and, in general, we have found a way to maintain the deconfliction line (that separates US and Russian areas of operation) and found a way to continue our mission,” Lieutenant General Jeffrey Harrigian, the top US Air Force commander in the Middle East, said in an interview.

As both sides scramble to capture what is left of Daesh’s caliphate, the risk of accidental contacts is growing.

“We have to negotiate, and sometimes the phone calls are tense. Because for us, this is about protecting ourselves, our coalition partners and destroying the enemy,” Harrigian said, without commenting on the volume of calls.

The risks of miscalculation came into full view in June, when the United States shot down a Syrian Su-22 jet that was preparing to fire on US-backed forces on the ground.

US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said those were not the only aircraft in the area. As the incident unfolded, two Russian fighter jets looked on from above and a American F-22 stealth aircraft kept watch from an even higher altitude, they told Reuters.

After the incident, Moscow publicly warned it would consider any planes flying west of the Euphrates River to be targets. But the US military kept flying in the area, and kept talking with Russia.

“The Russians have been nothing but professional, cordial and disciplined,” Army Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend, the Iraq-based commander of the US-led coalition, told Reuters.

In Syria, US-backed forces are now consumed with the battle to capture Daesh’s former capital of Raqqa. More than half the city has been retaken from Daesh.

Officials said talks were underway to extend a demarcation line that has been separating US- and Russian-backed fighters on the ground as fighting pushes toward Daesh’s last major Syrian stronghold, the Deir al-Zor region.

The line runs in an irregular arc from a point southwest of Tabqa east to a point on the Euphrates River and then down along the Euphrates River in the direction of Deir al-Zor, they said.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, during a visit to Jordan this week, said the line was important as US- and Russian-backed forces come in closer proximity of each other.

“We do not do that (communication) with the (Syrian) regime. It is with the Russians, is who we’re dealing with,” Mattis said.

“We continue those procedures right on down the Euphrates River Valley.”

Bisected by the Euphrates River, Deir al-Zor and its oil resources are critical to the Syrian state.

The province is largely in the hands of Daesh, but has become a priority for pro-Syrian forces. It also is in the crosshairs of the US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

SDF spokesman Talal Silo told Reuters last week that there would be an SDF campaign towards Deir al-Zor “in the near future,” though the SDF was still deciding whether it would be delayed until Raqqa was fully taken from Daesh.

The original article can be found on our partner’s website here

24.08.2017 – Washington, D.C David Swanson

The Peace Monument the United States Needs

Washington, D.C., needs a three-dimensional, sculptural Guernica dedicated to and with explanatory information about the victims of U.S. bombings in over 30 countries that the United States has bombed.

And it needs such a monument to the victims of wars now, to help move the country away from war. We can’t wait to create the monument after having achieved a society willing to make room for it among the war-glorification monstrosities gobbling up more and more space in the U.S. capital.

With land unavailable for peace in the land of war temples, the obvious solution is a rooftop. The Methodist Building across from the Capitol and the Supreme Court, or the nearby FCNL building, or any other prominent building with a roof could radically alter the DC skyline and worldview.

Bureacratic hurdles would have to be cleared, height kept below that of the Capitol dome, etc. But a rooftop could make a monument more visible, not less. An external elevator could take people close-up to view, learn more, and photograph.

A plan to build such a monument would allow a design competition that could attract major artists, which in turn could attract major donations sufficient to fund the project.

While we’re paying attention to the problem of Confederate monuments, we might expand our concern to include the monuments to every other side of every other war, and every participant glorified in D.C. statuary. As powerful, or moreso, than ripping them all down, would be to add a peace monument to the mix.

The original article can be found on our partner’s website here


22.08.2017 Democracy Now!

This post is also available in: Italian, Greek

University of Texas in Austin Removes 3 Confederate Monuments
(Image by Democracy Now!)

In the United States, Confederate statues continue to fall amid nationwide protests against white supremacy and the monuments celebrating the U.S. legacy of slavery and racism.

The University of Texas at Austin has removed three statues of Confederate leaders. In an email to students, the university president wrote “We do not choose our history, but we choose what we honor and celebrate on our campus.”

The University of Houston has announced it will rename a dormitory now called “Calhoun Lofts.” Former Vice President John C. Calhoun was of the most prominent pro-slavery figures in U.S. history.

21.08.2017 Democracy

This post is also available in: Italian

Tens of Thousands March Against White Supremacy in Boston & Other U.S. Cities
(Image by Democracy Now!)

Massive protests against white supremacy spread across the United States over the weekend, as tens of thousands of people took to the streets from coast to coast to condemn violent white nationalist groups and to call for the removal of Confederate monuments and other statues memorializing slavery and racism. In downtown Boston, 40,000 people poured into the streets around the Boston Common to protest a planned so-called “free speech rally” by white nationalists. The flood of counterprotesters so overwhelmed the white nationalist rally that aerial photos show only a handful of the extremists even showed up, and that they spent the day huddled in a gazebo on the Boston Common. This is one of the 40,000 counterprotesters.

Bq. Protester: “There are so many groups that are marginalized in our community, people of color, women, people of many gender expressions, and we need to stand together and say that’s not okay. As a country we have a right to free speech. That’s part of why we exist as a country. But there’s a difference to me between hateful speech and free speech. A lot of what the separatists are saying is hateful speech, and that’s not okay. We’re based on love as a country.”

President Trump first condemned the 40,000 people marching against white supremacy in Boston, tweeting, “Looks like many anti-police agitators in Boston. Police are looking tough and smart! Thank you.” Trump then twice attempted to tweet something positive about the protests, but both times had to delete his tweets after he confused “heel”—as in to obey—and “heal”—as in recover—tweeting, “Our country has been divided for decades. Sometimes you need protest in order to heel, & we will heel, & be stronger than ever before.”

Trump finally spelled the whole tweet correctly on the third try.

Many commented that Trump’s error was a curious slip, given that former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had famously used the word “heel”—spelled H-E-E-L—in her now-infamous 1996 comments in which she called Black youth “super-predators” and said, “We have to bring them to heel.”

Tens of thousands more protesters took to the streets of other U.S. cities over the weekend, a week after one person was killed and dozens more wounded by white supremacists and neo-Nazis at a protest in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the plan to remove a statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. On Saturday, thousands rallied at City Hall in Dallas, Texas, to call for the removal of the city’s three Confederate monuments. Overnight on Friday, someone spray-painted the word “Nazis” onto the Dallas statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee.

Thousands more marched Saturday in New Orleans to demand the removal of Confederate monuments, while hundreds gathered to protest white supremacy in Houston; Memphis; Atlanta; Laguna Beach, California; and Durham, North Carolina. This is North Carolina NAACP President William Barber.

Bq. William Barber: “You can’t just denounce what happened in Charlottesville, you’ve got to denounce what happened before Charlottesville that made the people emboldened enough to go to Charlottesville.”

In Virginia, residents are demanding the name of Confederate General Stonewall Jackson be removed from a high school in Prince William County. This is Ryan Sawyers of the Prince William County School Board.

Bq. Ryan Sawyers: “To me it’s very simple. A guy that gave his life, quite literally, to the enslavement of a race to prevent them from all sorts of things, including an education, should not have a school named after him.”

In New York City, members of the group Black Youth Project 100 rallied on Friday to demand the removal of a statue of James Marion Sims, a white doctor who is known as the “father of gynecology” after he experimented on enslaved Black women, without using anesthesia, in order to develop his surgical techniques. Activists are calling for the statue to be removed and replaced by a statue of three women—Anarcha, Betsey and Lucy—who were forced to suffer Sims’s medical experiments.

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Dietrich Bonhoeffer

We must act and dare the appropiateness and not whatever comes to our mind not floating in the likelihood but grasp the reality as brave as we can be freedom lies in action not in the absence of mind obedience knows the essence of good and satisfies it, freedom dares to act and returns God the ultimate judgment of what is right and what is wrong, Obedience performs blindly but Freedom is wide awake Freedom wants to know why, Obedience has its hands tied, Freedom is inventive obedient man respects God’s commands and by virtu of his Freedom, he creats new commands. Both Obedience and Freedom come true in responsability (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

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