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23.01.2020 – UK – George Monbiot

If defending life on Earth is extremist, we must own that label
(Image by Extinction Rebellion Facebook)

Police say climate groups such as Extinction Rebellion are a ‘threat’. They’d have done the same for the suffragettes and Martin Luther King

It’s not an “error” or an “accident”, as the police now claim. It’s a pattern. First, the Guardian revealed that counter-terrorism police in south-east England have listed Extinction Rebellion (XR) and the youth climate strikes as forms of “ideological extremism”. Then teachers and officials around the country reported that they had been told, in briefings by the anti-radicalisation Prevent programme, to look out for people expressing support for XR and Greenpeace.

Then the Guardian found a Counter Terrorism Policing guide to the signs and symbols used by various groups. Alongside terrorists and violent extremist organisations, the guide listed Greenpeace, XR, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, CND, the Socialist party, Stop the War and other peaceful green and left organisations. Then the newspaper discovered that City of London police had listed XR as a “key threat” in its counter-terrorism assessment.

There’s a long history in the UK of attempts to associate peaceful protest with extremism or terrorism. In 2008, for example, the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) produced a list of “domestic extremists”. Among them was Dr Peter Harbour, a retired physicist and university lecturer, who had committed the cardinal sin of marching and petitioning against an attempt by the energy company npower (then RWE npower) to drain a beautiful local lake and fill it with pulverised fly ash. Acpo sought to smear peace campaigners, Greenpeace and Climate Camp with the same charge.

The police have always protected established power against those who challenge it, regardless of the nature of that challenge. And they have long sought to criminalise peaceful dissent. Part of the reason is ideological: illiberal and undemocratic attitudes infest policing in this country. Part of it is empire-building: if police units can convince the government and the media of imminent threats that only they can contain, they can argue for more funding.

But there’s another reason, which is arguably even more dangerous: the nexus of state and corporate power. All over the world, corporate lobbyists seek to brand opponents of their industries as extremists and terrorists, and some governments and police forces are prepared to listen. A recent article in the Intercept seeks to discover why the US Justice Department and the FBI had put much more effort into chasing mythical “ecoterrorists” than pursuing real, far-right terrorism. A former official explained, “You don’t have a bunch of companies coming forward saying ‘I wish you’d do something about these rightwing extremists’.” By contrast, there is constant corporate pressure to “do something” about environmental campaigners and animal rights activists.

We feel this pressure in the UK. In July, the lobby group Policy Exchange published a report claiming that XR is led by dangerous “extremists”. Policy Exchange is an opaque organisation that refuses to disclose its donors. But an investigation by Vice magazine revealed it has received funding from the power company Drax, the trade association Energy UK and the gas companies E.ON and Cadent.

One of the two authors of the Policy Exchange report, Richard Walton, is a former police commander. A report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission said he would have had a misconduct case to answer had he not retired. The case concerned allegations about his role in the spying by undercover police on the family of the murdered black teenager Stephen Lawrence. The purpose of the spying operation, according to one of the police officers involved, was to seek “disinformation” and “dirt” on the family, and stop their campaign for justice “in its tracks.”

The home secretary, Priti Patel, has defended the inclusion of XR on the police list of extremist ideologies. But it seems to me that people like Patel and Walton pose much greater threats to the nation, the state and our welfare than any green campaigners. Before she became an MP, Patel worked for the company Weber Shandwick, as a lobbyist for British American Tobacco (BAT). One of her tasks was to campaign against the EU tobacco control directive, whose purpose was to protect public health. A BAT memo complained that the Weber Shandwick team as a whole “does not actually feel comfortable or happy working for BAT”. But it was pleased to note that two of its members “seem quite relaxed working with us”. One of them was Patel.

In her previous government role, as secretary of state for international development, Patel held unauthorised and undisclosed meetings with Israeli officials, after which she broached the possibility of her department channelling British aid money through the Israeli army, in the occupied Golan Heights. After she was not candid with the prime minister, Theresa May, about further undisclosed meetings, she was forced to resign. But she was reinstated, in a far more powerful role, by Boris Johnson.

It is hard to think of any successful campaign for democracy, justice or human rights that would not now be classed by police forces and the government as an extremist ideology. Without extremists such as Emmeline Pankhurst, who maintained that “the argument of the broken window pane is the most valuable argument in modern politics”, Patel would not be an MP. Only men with a certain amount of property would be permitted to vote. There would be no access to justice, no rights for workers, no defence against hunger and destitution, no weekends.

In his Letter from Birmingham Jail, Martin Luther King Jr, subjected to smears very similar to those now directed against XR and other environmental groups, noted: “The question is not whether we will be extremists, but what kind of extremists we will be. Will we be extremists for hate or for love? Will we be extremists for the preservation of injustice or for the extension of justice?”

Good citizens cannot meekly accept the death of the living planet. If seeking to defend life on Earth defines us as extremists, we have no choice but to own the label. We are extremists for the extension of justice and the perpetuation of life.

 George Monbiot is a Guardian columnist

Reprinted with kind permission from the author 

21.01.2020 – Extinction Rebellion

This post is also available in: Italian

This is ‘Crude, Divisive, Dangerous’ – Response from Extinction Rebellion to Police’s ‘Run Hide Tell’ poster
(Image by https://rebellion.earth/)

This ‘who’s who’ poster listing of groups in the UK that the police are telling people to ‘Run Hide Tell’ on is totally bonkers. Unfortunately it is not surprising. [1] See Poster here.

The guidance document makes it clear that not all the signs and symbols are of counterterrorism interest. However, if that’s the case, why include them in a counterterrorism document? Anyone who interacts with Greenpeace or UK Uncut is technically a terrorist anyway, according to this document…

This is nothing short of pointing a finger at anyone that thinks differently to ‘business as usual’ – which is taking humanity to its grave – and lumping them all together. The chilling effect is to leave people feeling under scrutiny, watched and pressurised, feeling othered, ashamed or afraid to be open about the things they care about such as the environment and the world around us. In the past few months we’ve seen cases of people being banned from political conferences, asked to keep quiet at work and investigated by employers for speaking out against company policy and taking days off to go on strike.

This labeling of ordinary people – grandparents, doctors, pregnant mothers, bus drivers, rabbis and more – concerned about the environment is deeply concerning and puts them at risk at a time when society needs to come together and face the climate and ecological emergency.

Paul Stephens, Former Detective Sergeant in the Metropolitan Police for 34 years working in people safeguarding, said:  “The police need to be very careful right now. They are acting in ways that influence people politically publishing literature that can deter young people from protesting peacefully to save their own lives!”

George Ferguson CBE – former elected Mayor of Bristol and past President RIBA, said: “It makes my blood boil to see Extinction Rebellion, Greenpeace and other vital climate campaigns being listed together with genuinely hateful extremist organisations. This is outrageous misuse of the Prevent legislation and an assault on our democracy and deeply misleading to schools and young people.”

[1] https://rebellion.earth/wp/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/Counter-terrorism-poster.pdf / https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2020/jan/17/greenpeace-included-with-neo-nazis-on-uk-counter-terror-list

21.01.2020 – US, United States – Democracy Now!

MLK’s Radical Final Years: Civil Rights Leader Was Isolated After Taking On Capitalism & Vietnam War

Fifty years ago this April, Rev. Martin Luther King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. He was just 39 years old. Today we look back at the last three years of King’s life, beginning after President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Despite passage of the monumental legislation, King set his eyes on new battles by launching a Poor People’s Campaign and campaigning to stop the Vietnam War. King’s decision to publicly oppose the war isolated him from many of his closest supporters. We feature clips from a new HBO documentary about King’s last years, titled “King in the Wilderness,” and speak with Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Taylor Branch, who wrote the “America in the King Years” trilogy and is featured in the film, as well as the film’s director Peter Kunhardt and writer Trey Ellis.

AMY GOODMAN: We’re broadcasting from the Sundance Film Festival here in Park City, Utah. Fifty years ago this April, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee. He was just 39 years old. Today we look back at the last three years of King’s life, beginning after President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Despite passage of the monumental legislation, King set his eyes on new battles by launching a Poor People’s Campaign and campaigning to stop the Vietnam War. King’s decision to publicly oppose the war isolated him from many of his closest supporters.

Well, a new HBO documentary about King’s last years has just premiered here at the Sundance Film Festival. It’s titled King in the Wilderness. It will air on HBO in April. I had a chance to sit down this week with the film’s director, longtime documentary filmmaker Peter Kunhardt, as well as two of the film’s executive producers, the writer Trey Ellis and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Taylor Branch, who wrote the America in the King Years trilogy. I began by asking Peter Kunhardt about why he named the film King in the Wilderness.

PETER KUNHARDT: We came up with the title of King in the Wilderness late in the editing of the film. And it was based on the fact that we were overcome by the fact that King was struggling in every possible way during those last three years, trying to find his way as he branched away, or in addition to his work on racism, to work on poverty, to work on moving his movement north to the Northern cities and to oppose the war in Vietnam. And as he did this, his support, that he had enjoyed all during the early part of the civil rights movement, vanished. And he was left with no roadmap. He felt his friends abandoned him. And he was alone and struggling and trying to find his way. And we just felt that the title captured that kind of loneliness that he experienced.

AMY GOODMAN: Trey Ellis, you did a lot of the interviews with these legendary figures, the contemporaries of Dr. Martin Luther King. Talk about the people that you spoke to and this particular period in his life. Of course, Dr. King is a legend, an icon, and people can’t imagine that there was this period where he did feel so alone, felt so vilified.

TREY ELLIS: Yeah. I mean, to me, I want to say first, it was such an amazing experience to talk to these people that were all of my parents’ generation and to talk to Xernona Clayton, who opens our film and said Martin died of a broken heart. It’s really heartbreaking. And then, when I talked to Diane Nash, and she said she happened to know my parents from—at Howard University, and I didn’t know that until I interviewed her. So, it really—my journey of interviewing all these legends was really transformative for me. These are all people that I knew just from books.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about who Diane Nash was.

TREY ELLIS: Right. So, Diane Nash is really one of—I think of her as Wonder Woman a little bit, like the—she’s a legendary civil rights activist, really responsible—Taylor will know more—but for the march to Selma, the voting rights movement in Alabama, the lunch counter movement in Nashville when she was a student at Fisk. But she was also a mother and had to—you know, she had all the problems of being a woman in the movement and being a legend in the movement, where we know who John Lewis is—he’s a congressman and a household name—and Diane Nash should be as famous as him. And hopefully, I think, with—this film might help with that.

AMY GOODMAN: And Diane Nash’s comments about Dr. King and the differences she had with him in those last three years, where she felt the efforts of the civil rights movement should be focused?

TREY ELLIS: Well, she’s still—to this day, she’s still very fiery. And she says this—the idea of the cult of personality, the idea of us, as the people, sort of ceding our sense of agency to one or two leaders, she’s really very much against that. And she speaks pretty eloquently about how we have to find the movement in ourselves, and each of us has to pitch in. And so I think that—and she, being on the ground floor, she knew that there were other people around Dr. King that were also great leaders. And it’s sort of easy for us to sort of outsource our activism to people who are more active than us.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Taylor Branch, let’s talk about those last three years, where Dr. King is moving north. And he would say, at that time, he was never so afraid as he was in Chicago. I mean, for all that he faced in the South, Chicago—

TAYLOR BRANCH: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: —the Northern United States.

TAYLOR BRANCH: Well, within a month of Selma, in 1965, he was saying, “We have to go north.” And the staff, including Diane, did not want him to go, did not want to go north. “We still have work to do in the South.” That’s what she said. But King became more determined. He was reluctant in the early years. He was trying to make the movement climb up. He gets the Nobel Peace Prize. Andy Young said, “We wanted to have chicken dinners and congratulate ourselves for 20 years.” He says, “No, we want to go to Selma.” As soon as Selma was done, he says, “We want to go north to show America that the race issue has never—is not, and never has been, purely Southern.” And the staff didn’t want to go.

Then he—all the staff, except for one person, was against his coming out and making the Riverside Church speech against Vietnam. And none of the staff—the film shows how much staff dissension there was on the Poor People’s Campaign, and then on Memphis. So, there was a downward pull of King in the last years, where he felt compelled to make a witness on things that he didn’t have confidence were going to be big breakthrough moments like “I Have a Dream” or the Civil Rights Act of 1965. So, he’s in the wilderness, and he’s lonely, but he is much more of a leader, almost a possessed leader. “We have to do this.” He even made a speech to his staff saying, “We have to finish. There’s a quote in Revelation: ‘We have to finish on our principles, even if we have very little left.’”

AMY GOODMAN: Can you take us on the trajectory of the Mississippi March—this is after the Selma to Montgomery March, this is James Meredith—and why King decided to join this, through the whole challenge by Stokely Carmichael, who would later become Kwame Ture? Some incredible footage there of them publicly sort of feuding, or it was more a battle of ideas of who should be included in the march. But start with Meredith.

TAYLOR BRANCH: Well, the Meredith March was a watershed in the public perception of the movement. It was the birth of Black Power. Stokely had just taken over the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee from John Lewis. Lewis was ousted because he was too much like Martin Luther King, too steadfast in nonviolence. And when Meredith got shot, Dr. King and Stokely were thrown together in continuing his march through Mississippi.

AMY GOODMAN: And explain what happened to James Meredith.

TAYLOR BRANCH: James Meredith was—had his own solo March Against Fear to try to inspire black Mississippians, who were afraid to go to the courthouse to register to vote after the Voting Rights Act. And he said, “If I can march through Mississippi by myself, then you shouldn’t be afraid to register.” But on the third day out, he was shot by white people who were angry that he was trying to rally black people to vote.

And civil rights leaders, many of whom weren’t—they weren’t consulted about this march, but they felt they had to continue it, because it was so public. And it threw Dr. King together with the new SNCC leader, Stokely. And Stokely said, openly, that he used the fact that all the press came with Dr. King to announce this new doctrine to make the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee not be so much second fiddle. They had always felt Dr. King got all the publicity, and they were spending more time in jail.

And he pronounced this new doctrine: “We want Black Power!” And it mesmerized the media. To this day, I mean, it’s more popular. There are a lot of nonviolent movement veterans who are embarrassed that they were nonviolent, because Black Power became so popular. And Dr. King would argue with Stokely, marching down the road, and there are scenes of that. But then, at night, they would argue.

AMY GOODMAN: With a reporter between them—

TAYLOR BRANCH: With a reporter between them.

AMY GOODMAN: —holding a mic, going back and forth.

TAYLOR BRANCH: Yes.

AMY GOODMAN: And also the inclusion of non-black activists in the movement.

TAYLOR BRANCH: Yes, but—well, yes, they wanted—the march was very integrated, the March Against Fear. Remember, it’s 220-something miles. It went on for almost a month. It’s bigger than the Selma March.

But its significance is that it marks this big transformation between violence and nonviolence, or the opening of a debate. And Stokely would say, “How come we have to be nonviolent? How come America admires nonviolence only in black people, but otherwise they admire John Wayne, you know? And why do we have to do that?” And Dr. King would say, “We don’t. I’m not telling you you have to do it. What I’m telling you is that nonviolence is a leadership doctrine. It’s ahead of America. If we become violent, it’s not that we’re stepping up to be like John Wayne. It’s that we’re stepping back from nonviolence to try to move the country toward reconciliation, toward votes, nonviolence, toward spirituality.”

So they had this big argument about whether the civil rights movement needed to be nonviolent, whether it was—whether it was effective, whether it was principled, and what kind of leadership strategy it was. And that debate dominated the last couple years of Dr. King’s life.

AMY GOODMAN: Historian Taylor Branch, who won the Pulitzer Prize for his book Parting the Waters: America in the King Years, part of his remarkable trilogy, talking about the new HBO documentary King in the Wilderness, which is directed by Peter Kunhardt. We’ll be back with them and the film’s executive producer, Trey Ellis, in a minute, as they talk about King moving to Chicago in 1966 and much more.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “Programmed to Perceive,” Talia Keys, here on Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, as we broadcast from the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah. We’re broadcasting from Park City TV.

We return now to our coverage of the documentary King in the Wilderness, that just premiered here at Sundance. It’s about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s last three years. I spoke this week with filmmaker Peter Kunhardt, as well as two of the film’s executive producers, the writer Trey Ellis, who did many of the interviews, and the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Taylor Branch, who wrote the America in the King Years trilogy. We return to our conversation in a moment, but first an excerpt from the documentary, which is playing right here at Sundance and debuts on HBO in April. This is Harry Belafonte speaking, a dear friend and close confidant of Dr. Martin Luther King.

HARRY BELAFONTE: I do not know that everything that Martin said or did, he was quite prepared for. He had felt that, in many ways, dealing with the South was a more predictable outcome, because in the North the racial hypocrisy was very subverted. It gave the appearance of being not like the South: The South was the center of all evil, and the North was a place of a higher experience. And Dr. King said, no, that’s not the case.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Harry Belafonte, one of the closest confidants of Dr. Martin Luther in the last 10 years of Dr. King’s life, talking about Dr. King moving North. He didn’t just march in Chicago. He moved his family to Chicago, as he particularly took on the issue of housing. Taylor Branch, you’re a veteran civil rights historian. You won the Pulitzer Prize for Parting the Waters. But you, too, were surprised by some of the footage that you saw in—for King in the Wilderness.

TAYLOR BRANCH: Yes, I was surprised by—I wrote, but I didn’t feel as—I wrote in my book that these thousands of white people would come out and throw bricks. And it was women with pocketbooks, and they’d hit people with pocketbooks, and they’d yell and scream. But to write it is different, based on source material, than to see Nazi signs and people yelling and screaming in Chicago. It was a very rough place.

AMY GOODMAN: I mean, the swastikas, the presence of these swastikas.

TAYLOR BRANCH: Yes. There were lots of swastikas and lots of young people involved. Now, on the other side, Dr. King was trying to experiment with nonviolence in the North, and, in many respects, it wassafe. There are no stories, as there were in Memphis, of nonviolence breaking down on the movement side in Chicago. In fact, a number of gang leaders would come up to Dr. King’s apartment and argue with him all night, and a number of gang leaders were in those marches. So, he had the Blackstone Rangers and a number of them in these marches. In some respects, it was the far reaches of the laboratory of who could be nonviolent and whether or not it could work.

But what you get out of the film is you see the other side of it. Dr. King said, “We have to show America that there’s a race problem in the North, because you’d be surprised how many millions of people think that there is no more race problem since we passed the civil rights bill.” And in that one little task, they succeeded admirably. Nobody really argued that there was no racism in the North, after Chicago.

AMY GOODMAN: Wasn’t he hit by a brick in Chicago?

TAYLOR BRANCH: He was hit by a brick on that same march, and once or twice by a rock. Of course, he was struck many times, stabbed. You know, violence had always been close to him his whole life, before Memphis. That wasn’t new. But I think, in Chicago, even what Andy said—down in the South, you would have a couple hundred Klansmen, you’d be scared. But in Chicago, there were thousands of people, and they were enraged, and you could hear them. It was an angry crowd.

AMY GOODMAN: Trey Ellis, let’s talk more about the riots in Chicago, the white Nazi swastika-holding protesters who were going after King. Your interviews done as President Trump took office, and we see Charlottesville this summer, with self-proclaimed Nazis and fascists marching in Virginia. Your thoughts, connecting these two, 50 years apart?

TREY ELLIS: Yeah, it was quite moving and, in some ways, depressing to see how things—how little movement had been—how segregated still much of the country is, and to hear Diane Nash and the other Chicago people talk about the issues of Chicago and the—I mean, I remember, as a kid, talking about, you know, the Nazis marching in Skokie, Illinois, as well. This kind of Northern—that Northern racism really, while I was interviewing these subjects, was really, on the eve of the Trump—you know, Trump had just been inaugurated when I started these interviews—was certainly reverberating in my head in ways that were—that was troubling.

AMY GOODMAN: The inclusion of women, who you don’t often see, in this documentary, when talking about the civil rights movement, can you talk about some of the figures?

TAYLOR BRANCH: It wasn’t “We need to include some women.” It’s “Who are the most important people alive, at various stages,” and they were women. I mean, Dorothy Cotton trained the young black children who did the children’s marches in Birmingham. That was her job. She was a singer. And that was one of the great, watershed moments in the civil rights era, when the dogs and the fire hoses came out. She did that. And Diane Nash, who helped her, then took that reaction and said, “We have to do something to answer these kids that got bombed.” And she designed—and there’s a document—what became the blueprint for the Selma—for the Selma voting rights.

So, these are not just women thrown in there. These are women who were central, but they have been not recognized in their true proportions. Joan Baez, very, very significant in the huge arguments within the movement about whether Vietnam or poverty. Marian Edelman, it was her idea, you know, mediating between Dr. King and Bobby Kennedy, to move into the Poor People’s Campaign. So, these are highly significant women, that I think get their due in this film, and you can feel their significance in the interviews.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about the relationship between LBJ and Dr. King—really significant—and especially LBJ’s alarm, President Johnson’s alarm, as riots are breaking out, uprising, rebellions. Who does he call? He calls Dr. King. And so interesting that you have the audio recordings. What—did you get them from FBI surveillance tapes?

TAYLOR BRANCH: No, those are presidential recordings. So, you have LBJ talking to J. Edgar Hoover, who tells him he’s a faker, Dr. King is a faker, “He’s not for you, he’s against you on Vietnam,” trying to undercut him. You know, just blanket hostility, and you can hear it. But also LBJ talking to Martin Luther King, you know, saying, “This is terrible. What can we do?”

And it was really sad, because in one of the conversations—it was too long to fit in the film—LBJ said, “What we did in Selma, with you mobilizing the public and me being able to give that speech, that’s the way democracy is supposed to work. You know, energized citizen and responsive government, that’s about the best thing that ever happened.” And in that same conversation, they’re talking about Vietnam. And we have that in the film, where you can feel Vietnam pulling them apart and Johnson just being—he said, “My legacy is civil rights, but that’s being threatened by these riots. And I’ve got this war, and my ally, Dr. King, is turning against me on the war.” So, there’s a lot—a lot of passion in those conversations.

AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s talk about Vietnam and how King ended up making this Riverside address, speech, “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam.” I wanted to turn to a clip of Vince Harding, before he died. We had a long conversation with him about the speech and his conversations with Dr. King. The man, Vince Harding, who helped to craft that speech, this is what he had to say.

DR. VINCENT HARDING: Martin was, towards the end of his life, you may remember, by the last years of his life, he was saying that America had to deal with three—what he called triple evils: the evil of racism, the evil of materialism and the evils of militarism. And he saw those three very much connected to each other. …

In a way, Amy, as long as Martin and I knew each other, we were talking about the kinds of things that were involved in that speech. We were talking about the tremendous damage that war does to those who participate in it, to those who are the victims of it, to those who lose tremendous possibilities in their own lives because of it. And we were always talking about what it might mean to try to find creative, nonviolent alternatives to the terrible old-fashionedness of war as a way of solving problems.

And then, when Vietnam began to develop on all of our screens in the 1960s, we talked a great deal about our country’s role and a great deal about the role of those of us who were believers in the way of nonviolent struggle for change and what our responsibility was both as nonviolent believers and as followers of the teachings and the ways of Jesus the Christ. So when Martin was clear with himself that he had to make a major public address on this subject, as fully as he could possibly do it, he was looking for a setting in which that could be done on the grounds of his religious stance particularly. And when clergy and laity against the war in Vietnam invited him to do that at Riverside for the occasion of their gathering in April 1967, it was clear to him that that was the place that he really ought to make the speech or to take the stand in the most public way possible.

AMY GOODMAN: That was Vince Harding, a close ally of Dr. King, who helped to craft that “Beyond Vietnam” speech, or “Why I Oppose the War in Vietnam,” the speech that Dr. King gave at Riverside Church in New York on April 4th, 1967, a year to the day before Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis. Talk about Vince Harding’s role in that speech, Taylor Branch.

TAYLOR BRANCH: Well, Vince Harding was a Mennonite student of nonviolence his whole life, who lived in Atlanta, not far from Dr. King. And when the speech was—when he undertook the speech, for reasons that Trey can explain, it was one of the few that he actually wrote out. He had to have it—a condition of doing this was that they wanted to publicize it and get his views out. They wanted a written version of the speech. Normally—

AMY GOODMAN: That Dr. King wrote out.

TAYLOR BRANCH: Yeah. And normally, Dr. King kind of improvised and winged things. He was like a jazz—but he had to have a formal speech. And he called in a number of people, but, principally, Vince Harding did the first draft of the speech to try to get it right, one moment to speak. And the idea was—the staff didn’t want him to give the speech, but they said, “If you’re going to do it, do it in a way that at least you don’t have—the press will pay attention to it. Don’t do it with a lot of ‘Hey, hey, LBJ, how many kids,’ you know, placards in the background. Don’t do it”—

AMY GOODMAN: “How many kids did you kill today?”

TAYLOR BRANCH: “’How many kids did you kill?’ Don’t—with anything provocative. Do it in a nice setting,” turning to Clergy and Laity Concerned and Dick Fernandez. And Trey interviewed Dick Fernandez about how they went in there. But they were trying to make it as palatable as possible and get the world one chance to listen to his comprehensive argument about the history of Vietnam, about the Vietnamese people, about how they viewed our claims that we were fostering this out of concern for their democratic future. And he crafted this comprehensive speech, and nobody listened to it anyway. They said, “You’re a traitor. You shouldn’t”—it was one of the big disappointments in his life. And—

AMY GOODMAN: And what did King and Vince Harding say?

TAYLOR BRANCH: Next time he saw him—Vince told me that the next time Dr. King saw him in Atlanta, he said, “Vince, you got me really in a lot of trouble, and I’m going to blame you and stuff.” But they survived on gallows humor. And Dr. King was a champion.

AMY GOODMAN: Well, Trey, talk more about the significance of this speech. I want to play another clip, this one of Dr. King himself. So many of the phrases he used became so important later.

REVMARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: I speak as a child of God and brother to the suffering poor of Vietnam. I speak for those whose land is being laid waste, whose homes are being destroyed, whose culture is being subverted. I speak for the poor of America, who are paying the double price of smashed hopes at home and death and corruption in Vietnam. I speak as a citizen of the world, for the world as it stands aghast at the path we have taken. I speak as one who loves America, to the leaders of our own nation: The great initiative in this war is ours; the initiative to stop it must be ours.

As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men, I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they ask, and rightly so, “What about Vietnam?” And they ask if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home. And I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today, my own government.

AMY GOODMAN: So, that’s Dr. King saying that his country, the United States, was the greatest purveyor of violence on Earth. The corporate media, the mainstream media, went after him, from the Times to Time magazine to Life magazine. I have the Life magazine copy still. And they talked about the fact—they said that his speech sounded like a script from Radio Hanoi. They said he had done a disservice to his cause, his country and his people. So, for those young people today who say, “It was easy for King, because everything he did, everyone idolized,” he was slammed.

TREY ELLIS: Yeah, it was fascinating for me. We begin, in the documentary, talking about when he sort of nudged into the idea of global politics, talking to Ambassador Goldberg with Andrew Young. And anytime he would try to say anything except for white Southerners shouldn’t segregate, he was pilloried. So they really tried their best, as Taylor said, to say, “How can we make this strong statement as innocuous, as palatable as possible?”

AMY GOODMAN: And what happens after, a year to the day before he’s assassinated, that speech, is what King says.

TREY ELLIS: Yeah, it’s just amazing, the coincidence that a year to the day after that speech he’s gunned down in Memphis. But the backlash against the speech wasn’t only the media or the white community. It was also Roy Wilkins and the NAACP. All the black clergymen were very concerned. And even inside the SCLC, they were very concerned.

AMY GOODMAN: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference.

TREY ELLIS: The Southern Christian Leadership Conference, which he led, they were concerned. Their money dried up. He had no friends. And that’s when Xernona says—Xernona Clayton, his great adviser, who begins our film, says he died of a broken heart. That’s really one of those great reasons, that everybody seemed to have turned against him, with his turn against the war.

AMY GOODMAN: That’s writer Trey Ellis, executive producer of the new documentary King in the Wilderness. We’ll be back with him, with Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Taylor Branch and the film’s director, Peter Kunhardt, in a minute, talking about King’s last year alive.

[break]

AMY GOODMAN: “Why (The King of Love is Dead)” by Nina Simone. This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman.

King in the Wilderness. That’s the name of a new documentary about the Reverend Martin Luther King’s last three years alive. I spoke this week, here at the Sundance Film Festival, with filmmaker Peter Kunhardt, as well as two of the film’s executive producers, the writer Trey Ellis and the Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Taylor Branch, who wrote the America in the King Years trilogy. The film premiered here at the Sundance Film Festival. I asked Trey Ellis to talk about King’s Poor People Campaign.

TREY ELLIS: Well, so, after the coming out against the war in Vietnam—and he’s really at his lowest point. Some people might say, and Andy Young would say, “You deserve it. If you want to just be—you know, take over Riverside Church and live in the Upper West Side of Manhattan, you know, you deserve it.” Right? He said, no, he still wanted to fight longer.

And the first interview I did was with Marian Wright Edelman. And when she said that—we have her on tape saying, when she came to—when she visited the poor in Mississippi with Bobby Kennedy, and Bobby Kennedy said to her, “Tell King to bring the poor to Washington,” which goes to Taylor’s point about having the public/private, how governance works best, how King and LBJ could work together—when she brought that message to King, she goes into his office, he’s very, very sad. She tells him this idea from Bobby Kennedy and her, and he lights up.

And it’s really—I think he saw this as like this—and he talks about this march on Washington, this Poor People’s Campaign. He really envisioned it as bigger than the “I Have a Dream” speech. He figured this as like this would be all Americans—white, black, Hispanic. All poor people would march on Washington, and real big transformative change. And when you see that it’s—the plans for that march and what could have been in that march cut short by this assassin’s bullet, this murderer’s bullet, it’s really quite heartbreaking.

AMY GOODMAN: Taylor Branch?

TAYLOR BRANCH: One reason that he may have lit up so much is this idea of racism, poverty and war, that you mentioned. He called it the “triple scourge of evil.” Andy Young mentions it in the film. That was not a new idea for Dr. King. It’s the theme of his Nobel Prize lecture, that they are related—racism, poverty and war, the violence of the flesh and violence of the spirit. So, he had done racism. He had done war, in Vietnam. And poverty is equally violent, in his worldview. So, an opportunity to make an explicit witness on the third leg of this, what he called the “ancient triple scourge” of racism, poverty and war, I think, was something that he knew he needed to do to make his message complete, because he had been speaking about this, but he hadn’t been demonstrating on poverty.

AMY GOODMAN: So, let’s move on to Memphis and this—not the final moment of Memphis, but it was in two parts. And again, we’re talking about enormous tension within the SCLC and Dr. King’s closest advisers being concerned about King going to Memphis. He had been invited to stand with the sanitation workers as they tried to unionize.

TAYLOR BRANCH: I will just talk a little bit about the origins of Memphis. The staff—he had—it took, as the film shows, an enormous effort to get the staff behind the Poor People’s Campaign. There were a lot of dissension. Some people said, “If you don’t end the Vietnam War, it doesn’t matter what we do.” And other people said, “We still have segregation in the South and in the North, and we should be on race relations.” So he finally gets them to going on the Poor People’s Campaign and their plans, and then this incident happened in Memphis.

The strike started because two of the sanitation workers were crushed to death in the back of a cylinder garbage truck, when they were not allowed to seek shelter in rainstorms, because they were all black, and their rules did not allow them to seek shelter in any white neighborhood, because it offended white people. And the only place they could find shelter is in the garbage, with the garbage itself. And a broom fell and hit a lever and compacted them, literally crushed them. That’s the origins of “I Am a Man,” meaning they picked that slogan because the whole strike was—it was economic, but it was also just essential dignity. They were being crushed like the garbage that they were picking up, and nobody cared.

AMY GOODMAN: So they carried these signs that said “I Am a Man.”

TAYLOR BRANCH: They carried these signs. And the person that was leading the demonstrations, Jim Lawson, was one of Dr. King’s old mentors in nonviolence. And he calls him and says, “Martin, can you come?” And so, that’s where the—Trey did most of the interviews about Memphis, but that’s where it was. He said, “I have to go to Memphis. If we don’t answer this—yes, it’s a diversion, but it’s from Jim Lawson, and if these people don’t personify what the Poor People’s Campaign is going to be about, nobody does.” So he once again drags his staff to Memphis as a diversion from Poor People’s Campaign.

TREY ELLIS: Yeah, I think it’s—

AMY GOODMAN: So, Trey, take it from there.

TREY ELLIS: Well, I think what’s really amazing about it, we have this—every time that, you know, when he wanted to go north, when he wanted to go against the war, he was getting this pushback from his staff. And then, now there’s such dissent, that they actually—he has a little hunger strike, right? That like he’s just—it’s the first time that, Andy Young will say, that he can’t get through to them. And he just has to do something really extreme, so they will—they will listen to him.

To me, an extraordinary moment is like when he goes to the first Memphis March, and it goes badly, and some people, for some—it’s unclear what all their reasons were, but some people in the back are taking those “I Am a Man” wooden placards and using them to break some windows, or they’re agent provocateurs. Things are happening, and the march is a disaster. I am most impressed by Dr. King when he’s on the film and he says, “Yes, it was terrible, and I should have done a better job organizing this march. I shouldn’t have just jumped in, and sight unseen, into this march.” You never see—there’s not a single politician I’ve ever heard in my life who would admit to that kind of a mistake. And then, when he comes back, he’s really redoubling his efforts to come back next time and make it right.

AMY GOODMAN: Talk about his returning to Atlanta.

TREY ELLIS: Right.

AMY GOODMAN: And I think you have Andy Young, the former mayor of Atlanta, close ally of Dr. King for so many years, saying, “I have never seen Dr. King so angry.” Taylor Branch?

TAYLOR BRANCH: Tension broke out after that march. They went back to Atlanta. And a lot of the staff, who had not wanted to go to Memphis in the first place, thought that they were right: “We shouldn’t have gone to Memphis. Violence broke out there. We told you you shouldn’t do it.” And other people said, “Yes, we should be doing these other things.” And to Dr. King, he was possessed: “We have to show them that—we have to go back and rectify this. We have to show them that nonviolence can work.” And he had some of his staff people saying, “Martin, you can’t assume the burden of making every black person in Memphis adhere to nonviolence. These were young kids who thought they could name a name for themselves by being militant. You can’t impose that.” And he said, “We have to make an effort.” And so, he was possessed to get everybody behind him. And he was mad at them, said, you know, “Don’t tell me you’re for me. You know, I’m out here alone on this.” And so, it was a very, very rare moment. He yelled at all of them. They chased him, tried to—couldn’t find him. He went off and slept one night. And so the staff went to Ralph Abernathy, who got his wife to cook some catfish, and took him to try to talk him back.

Anyway, so they went all—they went back united to Memphis. And that’s where they were when the assassination happened. So they were trying to rectify this error and prove that nonviolence was still pertinent. And they had to get a court order to allow them to vote again. And Andy Young was in court all the last day and comes back—comes back from court, and says Martin hit him with a pillow and that they had a pillow fight like a bunch of 10-year-olds and were laughing.

AMY GOODMAN: Before we go to that pillow fight, one of what Andy Young said was one of the lightest moments he had experienced with King for years, I want to go to the clip of Dr. King the night before he was killed. This was April 3rd, 1968.

REVMARTIN LUTHER KING JR.: Well, I don’t know what will happen now. We’ve got some difficult days ahead. But it really doesn’t matter with me now, because I’ve been to the mountaintop. I don’t mind. Like anybody, I would like to live a long life. Longevity has its place. But I’m not concerned about that now. I just want to do God’s will. And he has allowed me to go up to the mountain. And I’ve looked over, and I’ve seen the promised land. I may not get there with you, but I want you to know tonight that we, as a people, will get to the promised land! So I’m happy tonight. I’m not worried about anything. I’m not fearing any man! Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the lord!

AMY GOODMAN: That’s Dr. King, hours before—the evening before he was assassinated. You interviewed Jesse Jackson, who was at his side at the time of his death, about that speech and what happened in those ensuing hours after it.

TREY ELLIS: Yeah, it was really amazing talking to someone like Jesse Jackson, who you think you know, from—as such a public figure, to get him to really open up in a very personal way and to really tear up about this story. Really, that’s the part of me, as a narrative filmmaker, talking to someone, almost like as a director, trying to put them back into this space that I know is very uncomfortable for them.

So, as he starts telling this story, I don’t know where it’s going first. I see him and Dr. King—he describes Dr. King teasing him about not wearing a tie. And he says, “Oh, I just need an appetite for”—and then he says—and he makes a jump. Jesse Jackson makes a jump. And I just jumped out of my chair. And he describes the bullet severing Dr. King’s tie. And it’s just one of the most harrowing moments of my life, talking to him about that.

AMY GOODMAN: And Jesse Jackson then saying the one thing he knew he needed to do was to call Coretta Scott King.

TREY ELLIS: And then he says, “I had to call Coretta Scott King.” And so, it was just—and this is a young guy, Jesse Jackson, a former football player, big guy. He’s got to do the hardest thing of his life, right? He’s got to call her. And he says, “I just—he got shot in the shoulder.” He said, “I couldn’t tell her. I couldn’t tell her the truth.”

TAYLOR BRANCH: The film shifts, really, to Coretta, in a way, then, and the footage centering around Coretta handling this shock, back in Atlanta, from the house, that we’ve seen Xernona Clayton and other people in the film, where Dr. King left. And it assembles—and Andy Young says, quite forthrightly, “We could not hold the movement together without Dr. King.”

AMY GOODMAN: And the funeral took place in the Ebenezer Baptist Church, the church of Dr. Martin Luther King and his father. You see his father breaking down. Coretta Scott King is stoic as she stands next to the open casket of her husband. Trey?

TREY ELLIS: It’s really one of the most painful moments of the script. But I also want to talk about—it’s one of the most painful moments of the film. But in terms of how progressive Dr. King is—and that’s what’s so sort of pertinent for now—he talks about, in the film, a universal income, how that would be a good idea. He talks about how he wants to internationalize the, you know, anti-poverty and antiwar movements. And he talks about subsidies. He says, “Listen, if it’s for poor people, it’s called ‘welfare.’ If it’s wealthy people, and we put in highways, or the GI Bill, then it’s just called ‘subsidies.’” He’s really—everything he was saying is so prescient. It’s so exactly what we need right now.

AMY GOODMAN: And I wanted to end with Taylor Branch talking about today, this film coming out in the era of Trump, this last year, with the white supremacists, the Nazis marching in Charlottesville, empowered around the country. President Trump, after his “s—hole” comments, talking about African countries and Haiti as “s—hole” countries, the next day he’s extolling the virtues of Dr. Martin Luther King.

TAYLOR BRANCH: Well, I think this film is a great opportunity in two respects. First of all, it shows a side of Dr. King that I think most people not only don’t know, but will find shocking, that he suffered, that he was on these issues toward the end of his life.

But the pertinence is that if we had listened to him and accepted him as a leader on the issues he cared about—racism, poverty and war—we wouldn’t live in a cynical era. A lot of our politics in the last 50 years has been denying the leadership of the civil rights movement, that spread to the women’s issues and to gay rights movements and to all sorts of things. But our politics are cynical because we don’t—Trump is only making explicit what a lot of the anti-government, anti-we-the-people cynicism that’s been pervasive in our society.

And I’m hoping that we’re turning, at the end of this 50-year cycle, so that King’s spirit could join together with Black Lives Matter and the #MeToo movements, because without his discipline to recognize that it’s both spiritual and political—you put one foot in the scripture, one foot in the Constitution—we don’t have the depth to make—to turn it around. But I think it’s very, very topical, because this film is about Dr. King struggling with the issues that our country needs to struggle with now.

 

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

20.01.2020 – Pressenza New York

‘Our Planet Is Seriously Burning and the Adults Keep Letting Us Down’: Ninth Circuit Throws Out Youth Climate Case
The 21 youth plaintiffs in the Juliana vs. United States lawsuit that was thrown out by Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday afternoon. Our Children’s Trust, which represents the plaintiffs in the case, has vowed to appeal the ruling. (Image by Our Children’s Trust, Facebook)

“Seeking to quash this suit, the government bluntly insists that it has the absolute and unreviewable power to destroy the Nation,” wrote Judge Josephine Staton in a scathing dissent opinion. “My colleagues throw up their hands, concluding that this case presents nothing fit for the Judiciary.”

By Jon Queally, staff writer – commondreams.org

In a ruling taken as a devastating blow for climate campaigners worldwide, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in the United States on Friday afternoon threw out a lawsuit brought by 21 youth plaintiffs who accused the U.S. government of failing its constitutional mandate by refusing to act urgently and responsibly to address the existential threat of human-caused global warming.

“This is far from over.” —Julia Olson, Our Children’s Trust The case at issue, Juliana vs. United States, has been seen as a potential landmark case not just domestically but across the globe and while the three-member panel of the 9th Circuit—notably seen as one of the country’s most liberal-minded circuit courts—agreed with the plaintiff’s argument that the U.S. government has operated as a barrier to climate action it concluded the courts were not the appropriate avenue for their complaint.

In the 2-1 majority ruling, written by Circuit Court Judge Andrew Hurwitz, he stated that while the panel was convinced by the narrative set forth in the lawsuit—agreeing the climate crisis has brought the world close to the “eve of destruction” and that “the government’s contribution to climate change is not simply a result of inaction”—it ultimately and “reluctantly concluded that the plaintiffs’ case must be made to the political branches or to the electorate at large.”

Andrea Rodgers, a senior attorney at Our Children’s Trust, the nonprofit backing the youth who filed the lawsuit, described the decision as an “unprecedented and contrary to American principles of justice.”

The Juliana case began in 2015, when a group of young people—aged 11 to 22-years-old at the time—sued the U.S. government for violating their constitutional rights to life, liberty, and property by enacting policies that contributed to the climate crisis.

Kelsey Juliana​, the 23-year-old named as lead  plaintiff in ​the sase, said Friday: “​This isn’t over. Prepare for a petition for review en banc to the 9th Circuit as we refuse to do anything butmove forward and ultimately win. Courts do have an obligation to address issues of constitutional, existential crisis, like climate change.” Juliana asked supporters and allies, to “stay hopeful, stay with us, stay tuned,” and “stay in power.”

While Our Children’s Trust vowed to appeal, members of the broader climate justice movement decried the ruling as a grave injustice.

Alexandria Villaseñor, not a party to the suit but a leading youth climate activist in the U.S., tweeted:

“What is remarkable about this decision, and what will land it in legal textbooks for decades to come, is that the 9th Circuit recognizes the grave realities of the climate crisis and the government’s role in causing climate harms, but immediately abdicates the court’s own responsibility to address and remedy those harms,” said Carroll Muffett, president of the Center for International Environmental Law (CIEL), in response.

Muffet said the panel’s conclusion that the courts have no role to play in addressing the legitimate grievance of the plaintiffs flies in the face of the entire purpose of judicial review.

“For centuries, and emphatically,” Muffett said, “that has been the definition of the role of courts: when plaintiffs are suffering harms to fundamental rights at the hands of other branches of government, addressing those wrongs and protecting plaintiffs’ rights is the essential and inescapable domain of the federal courts.”

“Whether on issues of equality between genders or equality between races,” she added, “courts have a long history of doing precisely what the panel says they cannot do here.”

Ken Kimmell, president of the Union of Concerned Scientists, said the decision only “underscores the climate policy paralysis” that exists in the nation’s governing bodies—from the courts to the White House to Congress and back again.

“In a functional democracy, communities facing catastrophic flooding, heat waves and other climate impacts would be able to press elected officials to comprehensively and effectively cut the emissions of heat-trapping gases and reduce the massive harm that we are experiencing now and will experience in the future,” Kimmell said.

Citing the “blistering” dissenting opinion of District Court Judge Josephine Staton, Kimmell warned that “we live in a time where the government has failed to act—in large part due to fossil fuel industry’s outsized influence—despite overwhelming scientific evidence that delaying action will only lock in more severe climate impacts.”

In her dissent, Staton disagreed strongly with the conclusion of her panel colleagues.

“It is as if an asteroid were barreling toward Earth and the government decided to shut down our only defenses. Seeking to quash this suit, the government bluntly insists that it has the absolute and unreviewable power to destroy the Nation,” Staton wrote. “My colleagues throw up their hands, concluding that this case presents nothing fit for the Judiciary.”

In a statement (pdf), Julia Olson, another attorney with Our Children’s Trust, said, “This is far from over.”

Olson said the group would file a request for an “en banc” hearing by the full Ninth Circuit—a step in the appeals process that would allow a larger selection of the Ninth Circuit, as opposed to the initial three-member panel to consider the case.

CIEL’s Muffett said she looks forward to that prospect.

“Now, the entire Ninth Circuit will have the opportunity to either correct that error and make a history it can be proud of,” Muffett said. “Or replicate it, and spend the decades to come as another grim reminder that courts too often perpetuate injustice rather than confront it.”

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

17.01.2020 – Countercurrents

Russia – A Groundbreaking Powershift?

By Peter Koenig

In groundbreaking news President Putin announced today, 15 January, in his annual address to the Nation, major changes in his government. First, he announced that Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev and his entire cabinet resigned and will eventually be replaced by a new PM and a new cabinet. A timeline was not given. In the meantime, they would carry on with their functions as ‘normal’. Well, how normal can this be for a group of “lame ducks”?

A second important point of Mr. Putin’s speech focused on shifting power away from the Presidency to the Duma, or Parliament. The Duma shall have more power in a better balancing act between the Presidency and the voice of the people, i.e. the Parliament. The possibility of referenda, with people voting, is also foreseen. A move towards more ‘democracy’. Some interpret this as a reaction to western criticism of Russia being a dictatorial state and this move should alleviate Russia from this accusation. I don’t think so. Western accusations are random, when it suits them, never based on facts, but on lies.

For example, the change in government power foresees some changes in the Russian Constitution, but not a rewrite at all, as Mr. Putin stressed. The term-limitation of the Presidency should also not change, no more than two. It appears the “no more than two in a row” – should be amended, and the “in a row” deleted. That would mean, that President Putin would have to leave the Presidency definitely in 2024, when his current term is up. This may be one of those Constitutional areas to be confirmed by the Duma – or not.

But could Mr. Putin become PM and still run Russia from behind the scene? As he did from 2008 – 2012, under then President Dmitry Medvedev. This was not discussed.

When PM Medvedev explained his resignation, he referred to Article 117 of the Russian Constitution, which states that the government can offer its resignation to the president, who, in turn, can either accept or reject it.Mr. Putin, of course, accepted it, thanking PM Medvedev and his Ministers for their good work and service to Russia. Although there was no visible hostility between Putin and Medvedev, this move has most likely been discussed and negotiated months ago.

Mr. Medvedev was offered the post of Deputy Secretary of Russia’s Security Council, a job that first had to be created, according to Mr. Putin. This rank is clearly a few steps down from Prime-Minister. PM Medvedev and President Putin are both members of the United Russia Party, but Medvedev has the reputation of being an Atlantist, meaning, leaning strongly towards the west, western political philosophy. The Russian financial sector is still infiltrated with Atlantists, some may call them Fifth Columnists.

All the while seeking to improve relations with Europe – a logical step – President Putin is adamant to detach from the US-dollar dominated “sanction-prone” economy. And rightly so. Might this explain the departure of PM Medvedev? – As of this morning, there was no mention of a favored replacement as PM. This may take a while. Seemingly no problem, as all the key activities are still covered by the “caretaker” government. The entire change of government was presented as “relaxed”, “no big deal”, a natural process for improving the functioning of the Russian government. Yet, this has never happened in “modern” Russia, in the last 20 years, under Mr. Putin’s leadership.

Duma members interviewed saw it generally as a positive move. They will now have more power, and more responsibility. They will have a say in key appointments, including of the Prime-Minister and his cabinet, while the final decision rests still with the President.

What is important to notice, is that the present “democratization” of the Russian government comes at a time when Mr. Putin’s public approval is still around 70%, a slight drop since his reelection in 2018 with 77%.

The Duma with its new powers, will be asked to look at some aspects of the Constitution (as of yet no details are officially defined) with a view of possibly modifying them. Given Mr. Putin’s high popularity and Russia’s economic and political stability, Russia’s military superiority – despite the constant western interference, or attempted interferences – preserving that stability and continuous economic prosperity is important, i.e. continuity in the Presidency and the Government is crucial. Thus, wouldn’t it be conceivable that the Duma might lift the term-limit for the Presidency altogether?

Although, at this stage much of this is speculation.But assuming that some of the strategy behind this change – the “power equalizing move” – goes in this direction, then the timing is perfect. A new Decade, a new Era. And Putin remains the key player – the one who has made of Russia what she is today – a proud, independent, autonomous nation, that has despite all sanctions and western demonization – not only prevailed, but come out on top brilliantly as a sovereign world super power. – Why would the Russian people want to risk giving up this hard-deserved privilege?


Peter Koenig is an economist and geopolitical analyst. He is also a water resources and environmental specialist. He worked for over 30 years with the World Bank and the World Health Organization around the world in the fields of environment and water. He lectures at universities in the US, Europe and South America. He writes regularly for Global Research; ICH; RT; Sputnik; PressTV; The 21st Century; Greanville Post; Defend Democracy Press, TeleSUR; The Saker Blog, the New Eastern Outlook (NEO); and other internet sites. He is the author of Implosion – An Economic Thriller about War, Environmental Destruction and Corporate Greed – fiction based on facts and on 30 years of World Bank experience around the globe. He is also a co-author of The World Order and Revolution! – Essays from the Resistance.

Peter Koenig is a Research Associate of the Centre for Research on Globalization.

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

17.01.2020 – UNITED NATIONS – Inter Press Service

Is Iraq Now a Virtual “US-Occupied Territory”?
A U.S. soldier stands watch at the Kindi IDP Resettlement Center near Baghdad, Iraq, Nov. 16, 2009. (Image by U.S. Navy Photo)

By Thalif Deen

Pat Buchanan, a senior advisor to three US Presidents and twice candidate for the Republican presidential nomination, once infamously described the United States Congress as “Israeli-occupied territory” -– apparently because of its unrelentingly blind support for the Jewish state.

Never mind post-1967 Gaza, West Bank and the Golan Heights.

And now, with Iraq threatening to “kick out” the US military and the Trump administration refusing to leave the country, is Iraq turning out to be “US occupied territory”?

Last week the Iraqi parliament demanded, in a vote mostly by Shia legislators, that US troops numbering over 5,200 leave Iraq.

But the Trump administration has refused to concede to the demand prompting Iraq to accuse the US of violating sovereign territory and perhaps the UN charter.

Stephen Zunes, Professor of Politics and International Studies at the University of San Francisco who has written extensively on Middle East politics, told IPS: “This is a clear violation of Iraqi sovereignty”.

Having foreign forces within a country’s international border against the wishes of the host government and without a treaty commitment allowing them to be there is in effect a foreign military occupation and would give the Iraqis the legal right to use military force against them, said Zunes who serves as coordinator of the program in Middle Eastern Studies.

Currently, the US has several military bases in Iraq, most of them described as Forwarding Operating Bases (FOB) going back to 2003.

These include Contingency Operating Base (COB), Contingency Operating Site (COS), Combat Outpost (COP), Patrol Base (PB), Outpost, Logistic Base (Log Base), Fire Base (FB), Convoy Support Center (CSC), Logistic Support Area (LSA) and Joint Security Station (JSS).

Perhaps most vital is the Green Zone a 10-square-kilometer (3.9 sq mi) area in central Baghdad, that was the governmental center of the Coalition Provisional Authority during the occupation of Iraq after the American-led 2003 invasion and now remains the center of the US and international presence in the city.

When the Iranians retaliated against the drone-killing of Major General Qassim Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, they hit the US military base Ayn Al Asad in western Iraq with a barrage of missiles last week.

That base hosts the largest number of US troops in Iraq.

And Iraq accused both the US and Iran of violating its national sovereignty with dual military attacks on Iraqi territory.

Since the US invasion of Iraq by the Bush administration in 2003, there have been more than 200,000 civilians who have been killed or injured—an invasion described as Washington’s greatest foreign policy disaster since Vietnam.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration has threatened to impose sanctions on Iraq if it continues to demand US withdrawal from the country.

“If they do ask us to leave, and if we don’t do it on a friendly basis” President Trump was quoted as saying, “we will charge them sanctions, like they’ve never seen before ever. It will make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame.”

The US also argues that its military presence in Iraq is to help Iraqis fight ISIS designated a “terrorist group” by the US State Department.

Norman Solomon, founder and executive director of the Washington-based Institute for Public Accuracy (IPA), a consortium of policy researchers and analysts, told IPS “history shows that respect for Iraqi sovereignty has never figured into the U.S. government’s calculations.”

“Rhetoric has sometimes sounded nice, but the actual policy has revolved around the precept of “might makes right“

What’s happening now is consistent with that policy, sometimes more gracefully implemented with liberal verbiage from the White House, he pointed out.

The latest dynamics involve an approach to geopolitics that reflects a belief in Washington that the United States has the right to work its will on the world as much as feasible, said Solomon, IPA’s coordinator of its ExposeFacts program.

Zunes said Trump’s refusal to consider a withdrawal is not surprising, however.

Republicans, along with some leading Democrats and prominent media pundits, insisted that President Obama should have kept U.S. troops in Iraq beyond the 2011 deadline by which President Bush and the Iraqi government had agreed to complete the withdrawal.

This would have also been illegal. Obama was roundly criticized for his insistence on living up to the agreement and international law.

“It will be interesting to see how Congress and the media react to Trump’s defiance”, said Zunes, who is also senior policy analyst for the Foreign Policy in Focus project of the Institute for Policy Studies .

Asked if there was a possible intervention by the UN, Solomon said what the United Nations can do about such matters is contingent on the extent to which the UN can extricate itself from U.S. veto power and intimidation of governments with political, military and economic blackmail.

“There is little that’s coherent about U.S. policies beyond flagrant self-interest for its extreme arrogance and military-industrial complex”, said Solomon, author of “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death”

Asked about the issue of sovereignty and violation of the UN charter, UN spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told reporters January 13: “ The status… as far as I understand, the status of US forces in Iraq is under a Status of Forces Agreement, which is negotiated bilaterally between Iraq and the United States, and those discussions should take place between the United States and Iraq.”

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

17.01.2020 – Mendoza, Argentina – Ernesto H. De Casas

This post is also available in: SpanishGreek

International celebration in the Mountain

Once again, siloístas, messengers, travelers, meet in the Mendoza mountain; in the usual place of Punta de Vacas, at the crossroads of three mountain ranges. The conference takes place on January 2,3,4,5 and 6, 2020. Where days before the members of the second World March for Peace and nonviolence, have been present.

Now, hundreds of visitors arrive at the historic place where Silo gave his public harangue of May 4, 1969, bypassing the pitfalls of the dictatorship of that time. They come from several places in Argentina and Chile, from Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador, Spain and many other more places of the world. However, this event was also international, by means of current Internet connections. The announcement was “# all connected #” on January 5 at 12 noon local time, and the corresponding time-uses of each country.

It was about making a simultaneous request for world peace, for human, personal and social well-being, for each one and for loved ones. Appealing to the “force of goodness”, to bursts into this uncertain time. The encounter was made and transmitted by Internet from the Park monolith. In a heartfelt silence, the asking was made (1), simultaneously with participants from many Parks. To name a few, Retiro Park in Rio de Janeiro, Caucaia de San Pablo, Colmenar Park in Malaga, Toledo and Navas Park, Borges, Canary Island, in Spain and the Catalan square in San Antoni and in Toulouse, with public participation. Also in Montecillo Park, Bolivia, Ihuanco of Peru, Colombian Union and Hummingbird Parks, in Attigliano Parks, Casa Giorgi of Italy and Mikebuda in Hungary. Also in France, Germany, Rca. Czech and in Parque la Reja, Carcarañá, la Pampa, Chapadmalal, North Patagonia, Bosques, Chaco, the Bulacios and Tortuguitas of Argentina, in the north of Chile at the Chilean Chaka Park, Red Bluf and Hudson Valley, in the USA, in Manila, Bangladesh, and the Crowded celebration at the Park of Study and Reflection Kandhroli in India.

And of course, the asking was made also in a mental and spiritual connection in Small Halls. In Athens, in the Capital of Mexico, in Mendoza City, Buenos Aires as well as in Oakland, USA, Canada, among many others places. In addition to many family homes, and via social media, sharing photos, videos and audios which gave to instant communication a more transcendental meaning and importance.

After the asking we went to the Hall where always we do our Ceremonies; this time we also performed and read the “Recognition Ceremony” with the active participation of the assistants who testify by reading, which is said in some paragraphs: “…We consider the human being as a maximum value over money, the State, religion, models and social systems. We promote freedom of thought. … We consecrate fair resistance against all forms of physical, economic, racial, religious, sexual, psychological and moral violence. And it continues … (2)

Then we were overwhelmed by a great emotion and we gave rise to countless smiling greetings with pleasant demonstrations of friendship, help and experience.

It should be noted that at various times of the day, videos (such as Wings of Intent, Guided experiences) were shown and numerous exchanges took place in the different areas of the Park, such as neighborhood experiences, texts of interest, various activities were discussed, reports from different cities, such as that of the Mission to Guatemala, or that of the Brazilian Hall of Sul de Minas, and thus, at noon, it arrived the celebration of Silo’s birth, occurred on January 6, 1938. At sunset, we went to the Hall where an intense and felt experience with the hands-laying ceremony was held.

Always with a great feeling of gratitude for everything that he has left us to be shared with all humanity, as he would have said with humor “_ Why not give?” Why not give the world something more and better than what he has given us. Such was his philosophy of life, which is present in his texts, his videos, and in his currently valid works, published in books and on Silo.net, of current valid experiences in each and every one of us, plus those that will come…

All this in an attempt to counteract the rise of tension and agitation not only of these times but of these particualr days in which a stream of stupidity transits the heads of many rulers blinded by their desire for excessive power, disdaining the populations that suffer for it . Although the people are, already, actively manifesting in the streets, as France, in Chile, Catalonia, or Iraq and now in the US, opposing the escalation of belligerence.

There is no doubt that the world is at a crossroads, between the non-meaning of violence or the meaning and plenitude of kindness, wisdom and evolutionary intention boosted by Silo.

1) https://silosmessage.net/2018/05/27/the-asking-and-silos-message/

2) http://www.nonviolentspaces.net/?secc=doc&doc=44

14.01.2020 – Waging Nonviolence

How Generation Z is leading the climate movement
#ClimateStrike #NYC 09 2019 (Image by David Andersson)

From the rise of organizations like Zero Hour to Greta Thunberg’s Fridays For Future, the youth climate movement is only just getting started.

By Nick Engelfried

For the first decade and a half of her life, Jamie Margolin was like any other U.S. teen living in the suburbs. She went to school, made friends and got involved in sports. Yet all the while, beneath the surface, lurked the fear of a looming climate catastrophe — one that she felt powerless to stop.

For a while, Margolin was able to keep this fear at bay. Her focus on school and athletics certainly helped. Then came election night 2016, when the protective wall she had built around herself finally began to crumble.

At age 14, Margolin’s political experience was, at that point, limited to just some phone banking for the Clinton campaign. But rather than give in to despair over the election result, she decided it was time to attack head-on the problem that scared her most: climate change.

Soon Margolin found herself volunteering for Plant for the Planet, a youth-based climate advocacy group, which she traveled with to the State Capitol in Olympia to lobby for a climate bill. She testified at hearings, spoke at protests and organized rallies. Still, she dreamed of taking even more powerful actions.

Things came to a head in 2017, as extreme weather events unfolded at home and around the globe. That summer, for the first time in her life, smoke from nearby wildfires palled Seattle’s skies.

“I saw the smoke, then watched Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico,” Margolin said. “I decided I needed to take my activism to the next level.”

She wrote an Instagram post that included this message: “If we have a #YouthMarchonWashington where young people flood the streets and demand climate solutions … we can change the game in the #climatecrisis.”

Responses poured in from friends and from students around the country. Working over email and social media they launched a new youth-led organization called Zero Hour. For maybe the first time, Margolin began feeling she could have the kind of impact she’d dreamed about.

Like Margolin, Andrea Manning grew up hearing about climate change. However, for years she thought the problem seemed remote. When it came up in school the focus was always on ice caps and polar bears. As an African American high schooler living near Atlanta, Georgia, these concerns felt far from Manning’s lived reality.

Then, during her senior year of high school in 2018, a friend asked Manning to help organize a climate march as part of Zero Hour’s first major day of action. Had it been about polar bears, she likely would have passed on the invitation. But when she realized the organization put a strong emphasis on marginalized people, she became intrigued.

“I saw how climate change affects real communities and racial justice,” Manning said. “Zero Hour’s message is about the importance of a livable future, but also people on the frontline being affected by fossil fuel development today.”

Manning was quickly drawn into Zero Hour’s remotely coordinated teenage network, becoming an organizer. The team’s first project was a nationwide day of action that summer on July 21, 2018, which included a march in Washington, D.C. and satellite actions around the country. Manning and her friends pulled off an Atlanta rally that drew 40 people. Small as this first local action may have been, the phenomenon of high schoolers protesting climate change piqued the community’s interest and garnered coverage from news media like the Georgia State Signal.

Meanwhile, young people around the world were drawing inspiration from Zero Hour — most notably Greta Thunberg, then a 15-year-old high school student in Sweden.

Thunberg read about Zero Hour’s day of action online. Then, a month later, she began her Fridays For Future school strike campaign, protesting outside Sweden’s parliament every week. The strike movement spread across Europe and the world, becoming a key part of today’s wave of youth climate activism.

Because so much of the youth climate movement is organized online, events in Seattle, Stockholm, or almost anywhere can have a near instant ripple effect across the globe. Having been inspired by Zero Hour, Thunberg in turn served as an inspiration for many young U.S. climate activists — including, coincidentally, those in the city where Zero Hour got its start.

On Dec. 14, 2018, 12-year-old Ian Price became one of the first students to launch a school strike in the United States. Price had watched Greta Thunberg’s speeches on YouTube, and he decided to start a strike of his own outside Seattle City Hall.

“I’m here because decision-makers like the ones in that building, who have power to make real changes, need to act,” Price said.

By coincidence, on the same Friday Price began his strike, 14-year-old Alexandria Villaseñor of New York City started one of her own outside the U.N. headquarters. Over the next few months, other strike actions started popping up around the country. In many cases, activists like Price and Villaseñor kept lonely vigils for weeks before anyone else joined. But their patience was eventually rewarded.

Fourteen-year-old Zoe Schurman, who was also motivated by Thunberg, began coming to the Seattle strikes a couple months after Price launched them. She had been concerned about climate change for years but wasn’t sure how young people like her could make an impact.

“It was inspiring to see youth my age making waves,” Schurman said. “If older generations aren’t going to be responsible, then in times of crisis youth have to step up and be the adults.”

Now, around 30-50 students and supporters join the Seattle strike every Friday. Like in many other cities, a small core group strikes every week with much larger numbers on occasional days of mass action. One such day was Sept. 20, the kickoff to a week of action when more than 7 million people around the world participated in a Global Climate Strike, timed to coincide with a special U.N. climate summit in New York.

In Seattle, 10,000 people joined a march with strikers like Price and Schurman. Meanwhile, in Atlanta — a more challenging organizing environment because of the region’s conservative politics — a strike organized by Manning and others drew almost 400 participants, 10 times the size of their first Zero Hour action.

While crowd size varied from city to city, the Global Climate Strike included more than 5,000 events spread across 163 countries. This meant that the movement — which began with only a scattering of teenagers — had just led to the planet’s largest-ever demonstration in support of climate action.

Zero Hour Advocacy Director Ethan Wright was one of about 10,000 people rallying outside the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. that day in September. “We were chanting so loud, I could hear our words echo off the U.S. Capitol building,” he said. “Elected officials walked out onto the balcony to see what was going on.”

No sooner was the rally over than Wright, a key player in the D.C. action, was off to his next activist responsibility, hopping on a train to New York with fellow Zero Hour organizer Nadia Nazar. Over the weekend they — along with Margolin and other young activists — participated in a special youth summit ahead of the main U.N. event that began Monday. Sunday evening Wright caught a plane back to the D.C. area, just in time for another week of school at George Mason University, where he is a freshman.

“That’s being a youth organizer,” Wright said with a laugh. “We do all this activism, then I’m like, I have to go home and do my Spanish homework.”

As a white male college student, Wright freely acknowledges he came to climate activism from a place of privilege not shared by many Zero Hour leaders. He also sees the need for those with less privilege to lead the way. “I love how intersectional and women-of-color-based Zero Hour is, and also how centered it is on frontline youth and indigenous peoples. It’s about making real, tangible change — and uplifting the right people as well.”

This intersection between climate justice and human rights concerns has motivated many young activists. Recently, it has even led some to risk arrest.

Pushing the boundaries

Hours before sunrise on Nov. 5, 19-year-old Lydia Stolt chained herself to a ladder on a landing dock at the Port of Vancouver on the Columbia River. Her aim was to prevent a vessel carrying Canada-bound oil pipeline parts from landing. Along with several other activists from Portland Rising Tide and Mosquito Fleet, Stolt was acting in solidarity with indigenous groups fighting projects like the Trans Mountain tar sands pipeline.

“I couldn’t sit by and say I did nothing,” said Stolt, who became a climate activist after spending summers working in Alaska where she saw the retreat of glaciers and impacts on nearby small villages. While emphasizing that she does not speak for indigenous people, Stolt nevertheless said she was motivated to act after meeting Alaska tribal members and making the connection between their fight for survival and those of other indigenous groups opposing fossil fuel pipelines. “We are upholding a mass epidemic of genocide, and I don’t want to be part of that,” she said.

Stolt wasn’t the only student taking their activism to a new level that day. Twenty-two-year-old Kiran Ooman had also chained himself to the pier, partly in hopes that it would inspire more young people to take similar actions. “Honestly, I’d like to see more youth risking arrest and pushing the boundaries,” Ooman said. “At some point we need to escalate.”

Ooman embodies an “all of the above” approach to nonviolent activism. At age 17, he joined 20 other youth plaintiffs in Juliana v. United States, a lawsuit alleging that by not acting on climate change, the U.S. government has failed to protect young people’s rights to life and liberty. Ooman, who is studying social movement theory in college, says legal actions, legislative work, and nonviolent direct action are all necessary. He is encouraged by the growth in youth climate organizing over the last few years.

“When I got into climate activism as a high school senior, everyone else was at least five years older than me,” Ooman said. “It just wasn’t something most kids were interested in, but today they are. Now there’s a whole youth movement.”

That movement is getting thousands of people into the streets through campaigns like the climate strikes, and confronting fossil fuel development directly through action. It’s also taking the push for climate action to the highest levels of international government.

Reaching the halls of power

On Dec. 10, 16-year-old Isabella Fallahi was trying to stage a peaceful protest at a panel where a Shell Oil executive was speaking. Fallahi was at COP25, the latest round of international climate negotiations, in Madrid. She traveled there from her home in Indianapolis, where pollution from coal-burning plants — which contributed to her developing asthma — motivated her to become a climate organizer.

Fallahi and other young activists were planning a silent, peaceful protest against the involvement of polluters like Shell in COP25. However, security guards told them this wasn’t allowed. “They essentially said they would kick us out if we did that,” she said.

Out of respect for the U.N. process, Fallahi and the other youth decided not to hold the protest. But the incident seemed emblematic of how polluters held influence at COP25.

“Nothing could get done because of major polluters like Shell,” Fallahi said. “It’s one thing if they’re participating, but they’re being invited onto panels and into closed-door discussions.” She believes it is largely because of this that COP25 failed to make significant progress on international plans to curb emissions.

Things at COP25 came to a head on Dec. 11, when hundreds of activists led by indigenous youth occupied the main plenary room to demand rich countries pay for damage caused by climate change. A line of security officers forced them out and stripped many activists of the badges that allowed them to enter the conference. International climate group 350.org called it “a crackdown with little precedent at the annual U.N. climate talks.”

Despite the disappointment of COP25, many young activists came away with fresh ideas about how to escalate public pressure on officials. Fallahi is now part of one such effort: a new youth-led campaign to ban polluters from COP26 in 2020. “We don’t want any polluters invited to COP26. It’s time to kick them out.” The youth will also lobby U.N. and national government officials in the lead-up to the talks.

Meanwhile, Zero Hour is training youth ambassadors to give presentations in their communities about the Green New Deal. “We’re helping people understand what the Green New Deal really means and the importance of voting for candidates who support it,” said Andrea Manning, who is working on the project.

Another international day of climate strikes is coming up on the 50th Earth Day in April — one more sign that the youth movement shows no indication of slowing down. This should be no surprise, since according to the Harvard Political Opinion Project over 70 percent of Generation Z see climate change as a problem, with two thirds believing it is “a crisis and demands urgent action.”

“Climate change is connected to everything,” Fallahi said. She wants all young people to realize the importance of getting into the streets, lobbying and — for those who are old enough — voting in the 2020 election. “It’s connected to mass migration, health, and every aspect of society you can possibly think of. There’s no other way to put it.”

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

11.01.2020 – India – Pressenza India

Largest Ever Strike in India Shakes Up Modi Govt
Besides industries, employees in banks, transport, ports, government offices, scheme workers and farmers and rural labourers stopped work.

by Subodh Varma 08 Jan 2020

India woke up on January 8, to witness the largest-ever strike with an estimated 25 crore (250 million) workers, employees, farmers and rural labourers stopping work and hitting the streets to protest against the Modi government’s economic policies and divisive politics.

Reports coming in from various states indicate that the strike was complete in the country’s massive public sector across sectors, such as steel, coal, other mining, defence production, port & dock, oil & natural gas, telecom, power generation, etc. Ancillary industries also were mostly shut.

Besides this, workers in the private sector across engineering, automobile and components, telecom, metals, textiles and garments, power and many other sectors were on strike.

Transport was affected throughout the country as trucks, buses, autorickshaws, taxis were off the roads in most parts while railway workers held protest demonstrations. In many parts, like West Bengal, Bihar, Punjab etc., rail services were blocked by protestors. Protestors clashed with police in several states.

In rural areas, protests and traffic stoppages were seen in nearly 480 districts of the country as lakhs of farmers and agricultural workers, along with non-farm rural workers came out in protest, at the call of AIKSCC, an umbrella platform of over 175 organisations.

Students in over 60 universities and institutions, and their affiliated colleges, too, observed a strike with thousands joining protest marches after boycotting classes.

The protest strike was called by a joint platform of 10 central trade unions. Only one trade union, the Bhartiya Mazdoor Sangh affiliated to Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh refused to participate. However, it’s opting out doesn’t seem to have made any difference to the participation in strike, which was described as “unprecedented”. Support was extended by dozens of independent federations and unions.

A joint platform of 175 farmers and agricultural workers organisations also extended support and called for a simultaneous rural strike. The government had issued a warning to government and public sector employees to not participate in the strike and attend work. But this appears to have been roundly rejected.

Demands of the striking workers/employees include increase in minimum wages, reining in rising prices, policies to curb raging joblessness, rollback of hostile labour law changes, end to public sector sell-off, curbing contract and casual work.

Farmers and agricultural workers are demanding better prices for produce, increase in wages, and complete debt-waiver. Other prominent demands of workers and farmers are withdrawal of the communal citizenship laws (CAA and associated NPR/NRC process), end to attacks on minorities and those protesting against the government, and end to destruction of Constitutional provisions. The trade unions have also condemned recent attacks on students in Jamia Millia Islamia, Jawaharlal Nehru University, Aligarh Muslim University, Jadavpur etc.

The strike and protest actions have acquired a heightened intensity because of the Modi government’s recent moves to ask people to prove their citizenship, with a covert aim of targeting the minority Muslim community. This has led to massive protests throughout the past month and that anger, converging with the economic distress in the country, has found expression in the strike.

ECONOMIC DISTRESS FUELLING ANGER

Over 7.3 crore people, mostly youth, are currently unemployed according to Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy estimates. This is perhaps the largest army of jobless people India has ever seen. The unemployment rate stood at 7.7% in December 2019, while in urban areas, it was even higher at a staggering 8.9%.

Meanwhile, retail prices of wheat have increased by 56%, atta (wheat flour) by 26% and those of rice by 14% in the past one year even as the Modi government was sitting on record stocks of foodgrain, some 567 lakh tonnes in December 2018, up 25% over last year, and more than double the foodgrain stocking norm of 214 lakh tonnes.

Long-standing demands of industrial and agricultural workers for fixing a dignified minimum wage have not been entertained by the government for over four years. In fact, changes in labour laws indicate that the government will allow increase in working hours but let employers fix their own wages by keeping statutory levels low.

There is widespread discontent and anger at the way Modi government has been kowtowing to corporate bigwigs and global corporations, even as it ignores the voices of working people in the country. Not only has it cut corporate taxes and given huge concessions to big industrialists the government has also opened up several sectors to private and even foreign capital, like coal, defence production and railways.

According to data put out by the finance ministry’s department of investment and asset management (DIPAM), the BJP government has sold off Rs.2.97 lakh crore worth of public sector assets in its rule since 2014. If you add the proposed sale of BPCL, CONCOR and SCI, the combined net worth of which is estimated at about Rs.76,000 crore, the total disinvestment done by government reaches Rs.3.73 lakh crore.

In rural areas, wages of agricultural workers have remained virtually stagnant for the past two years despite bumper harvests. Farmers have repeatedly protested and demanded increase in support prices and strengthening of procurement system in order to save them from pauperisation. With over half the country’s farmers indebted, and debt being the primary reason behind unconscionable suicides, the demand for complete debt waiver has also been repeatedly raised. But the Modi government continues to deceive farmers by claiming that it is already giving the needed price levels.

STRUGGLE TO CONTINUE

This is the fourth country-wide strike by workers during Modi’s regime, the earlier three being – September 2, 2015; September 2, 2016 and the two-day strike on January 8-9, 2019. Besides these, several sectoral actions have taken place, including since Modi 2.0 took over: protests by railway workers over corporatisation of several production units; strike by over one lakh workers of 41 ordnance factories; strike by over 6 lakh coal workers against 100% foreign direct investment; strike by bank employees against merger of 10 public sector banks; strike in all refineries, marketing and pipeline workers of BPCL and HPCL against privatisation, etc. Other sectors where actions have taken place include defence, construction and transport.

It is worth noting that since the imposition of neoliberal economic policies on the country began 28 years ago, workers have gone on strike 19 times pushing back several unjust and harsh policies. Similarly, farmers and agricultural workers have carried out massive movements including rallies at Parliament.

In recent years, students in universities have been agitating against fee hikes, throttling of democracy and, of late, against police atrocities. They have also joined or led protests against the Citizenship Amendment Act/National Population Register/National Register of Citizens for the past month.

The momentous strike of January 8, 2020, therefore, represents a convergence of all these streams and holds the promise of even wider struggles in the coming days.

MAHARASHTRA

Workers unity was on display Maharashtra, India’s most industrial state. Almost 26 unions, mainly having the influence in all industrial towns, participating in the strike.

On Wednesday morning, thousands of workers, mainly ASHA workers and bank employees unions, gathered at Azad Maidan in Mumbai.

“We are here to get what is our right. Also, there is a serious issue of inflation. The ASHA and Anganwadi workers are supporting the cause of labours across the country,” said MA Patil, leader of their union.

Private bank employees, too, participated in good numbers during the agitation.

“In the last four years, bank employees have seen one of the worst ever time in their career. That’s why there is anger among the bank employees across the nation,” said Vishwas Utagi, banker and union leader.

Railway employees mainly of car sheds also participated in the strike. This affected the work in Matunga, Kalwa, Kurla car sheds of Central Railway.

BIHAR

Patna: Ignoring bone-chilling cold, thousands of activists of all trade unions, except the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh-affiliated Bharatiya Mazdoor Sangh, supporters of several independent federations, the Left parties workers , student organisations and others, took to the streets since early Wednesday, protesting against the central government’s anti-worker policies.

Train and road services were disrupted for hours as strike supporters halted several trains at different railway stations, blocked tracks roads, including national highways to state highways and roads connecting the district headquarters.

According to officials of railways, strike supporters stopped over a dozen trains including long route express and passenger, in Darbhanga, Patna, Gaya, Jehanabad, Muzaffarpur, Ara railway stations.

Thousands of slogan-shouting activists and workers blocked Dak Bungalow square in the heart of Patna for several hours. Police lathi-charged them and arrested half a dozen of them.

Most of the banks, post offices, life insurance, electricity offices remained closed in Patna and across the state. In Patna, most of auto-rickshaws were off the road in support of the strike.

Similar reports came from Gaya, Jehanabad, Sheikhpura, Bhagalpur, Muzaffarpur, Ara, East Champaran, West Champaran, Samastipur, Madhubani, Darbhanga, Purnia, Kishanganj, Araria, Madhepura, Katihar, Saharsa, Khagaria and Sitamarhi districts where protestors took out big marches and staged dharna by blocking the main thoroughfare for hours that badly hit normal life.

Trade union workers blocked NH 107 in Khagaria district, NH 31 in Khagaria and Begusarai districts and NH 57, NH 83 in Gaya and Jehanabad districts and NH 104 in Madhubani district. State highways were blocked in Nawada, Siwan, Aurangabad, Arwal, districts with the road transport associations and unions supported the strike.

CPI(ML) leader Kunal said the strike was totally successful as it was supported by people who have been affected by joblessness, privatisation, inflation and anti-workers and anti-people policies of Modi led central government.

DELHI NCR

Thousands of workers in Delhi NCR downed tools on Wednesday as part of the nationwide general strike. As a result, production in factories in and around the national capital was brought down to zero.

In the Sahibabad industrial area of Ghaziabad district, production in thousands of small and medium establishments was severely affected. Among those that were hit by the strike were Central Electronics Limited (CEL), a public sector undertaking, whose workers observed a complete shutdown, protesting against the strategic sale of the ‘national asset’.

Similar demands were raised in the factories in north Delhi’s Wazirpur, Narela, Bawana, Jahangirpuri and east Delhi’s Patparganj, Shahdara among others. Rallies were organised, led by the trade unions.

In the Gurugram-Manesar-Bawal industrial belt, workers in hundreds came out on the streets to register their anger. Automobile leaders, namely, Honda and Munjal Showa were brought to a grinding halt.

Here, the contractual workforce constituted the majority among the protesters. It is because as the auto Indian auto industry facing one of the worst crises in 19 years, the contract worker is bearing the maximum brunt of it.

The struggle of the contractual staff in Manesar is being led by the casual workforce of Honda Motorcycle and Scooter India (HMSI), who have been braving the cold and staying put for more than 50 days to protest against the ‘illegal’ retrenchments by the management.

At Shivam Auto Tech, another major name in Manesar, the workers demonstrated outside the plant against the forced “lockdown” by the management.

At ITO, workers affiliated to the unions gathered in support of the general strike, despite the rain in the national capital.

Garments factories operating in Okhla Phase – 1 industrial area mostly stayed away from the strike as these do not have unions.

GUJARAT

About 40,000 employees of Maha Gujarat Bank Employee Association participated in the strike across the state. All India Railwaymen’s Federation, Western Railway Employee Union, Income Tax Employees Federation, Income Tax Gazetted Officers Association (Gujarat Circle), Gujarat Federation of Trade Union (GFTU), Gujarat Majdoor Sangh (GMS), Mazdoor Adhikar Abhiyan (MASA) staged protests and took out rallies at various places.

“The Union government is rushing up the process of privatisation and eyeing the railways. The government could not manage the economy of the country and now they want to sell railways to private parties” said RC Sharma, President of WREU and General Secretary of AIRF.

“This government has been trying to sell land belonging to Railways at prime locations to industrialists,” added Sharma.

Bankers said they were protesting as their salaries had not been revised.

“Closure of public sector banks across the state is concerning and will affect crucial business,” said Janak Rawal, General Secretary of MGBEA.

GFTU took out a rally in Ahmedabad that comprised of workers of Ahmedabad Municipal Corporation, Gujarat Transport Service, Gujarat Industrial Security Force, Employees of Madhya Bhojan, daily wage earners under MnREGA, workers of private companies like Hitachi, Intas, Zydus etc.

(Reports by Amey Tirodkar in Mumbai and Imran Khan in Patna, Ronak in Delhi NRC and Damayantee Dhar in Gujarat)

Reprinted with permission from Newsclick

Link to the Original Article: https://www.newsclick.in/Nationwide-Workers-General-Strike-8-Jan-Modi-Government

An eye for an eye you go blind!!! The World March calls for an immediate stop to the military escalation in the Middle East

09.01.2020 – Rome, Italy – Marcia Mondiale per la Pace e la Nonviolenza

This post is also available in: SpanishItalian

An eye for an eye you go blind!!! The World March calls for an immediate stop to the military escalation in the Middle East

The Italian Promoting Committee of the World March for Peace and Nonviolence expresses concern and outrage at the military escalation that is inflaming the Middle East and calls on the parties to immediately stop all military action.

It is not with weapons that the many problems of the region and the world are solved; we strongly call on international bodies to act firmly to bring all parties within the international rules prohibiting attacks on third territories, indiscriminate killings and reprisals.

We also call on the Italian Government to take decisive and independent action to put an end to hostilities and to ensure in all forms that Italy is not directly or indirectly involved in military operations.

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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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