By Merle Ratner
I am very saddened at the passing of General Vo Nguyen Giap on Friday! Bac Giap, as he is called as a term of great affection, dedicated his entire life to achieving the national liberation and independence of Vietnam. He led the victory of the Vietnamese people against French colonialism and U.S. imperialism, making Vietnam the first country to achieve decisive victories over colonial and imperialist powers. Bac Giap and President Ho Chi Minh together led the movement for national liberation and socialism which made these victories possible. Developing Marxism Leninism creatively and applying it to the particular conditions of Vietnam, they were able to meld the demands for national independence and ending feudalism and oppression into a powerful and all-sided people’s struggle.
Bac Giap developed a theory and practice of people’s war — an integrated strategy of military, political and diplomatic mobilization of the entire Vietnamese people. This unique comprehensive approach maximized the agency of the Vietnamese masses in achieving their own liberation, mobilizing their grass roots initiative. Some bourgeois press obituaries of General Giap have claimed that he was “ruthless,” willing to lose millions of people to win Vietnam’s independence. Those who write this clearly do not understand Bac Giap or the Vietnamese people! The French colonialists and U.S. imperialists’ scorched earth war against the Vietnamese made the fight for liberation burn in the heart of the people, who were willing to make incredible sacrifices to achieve their liberation. Bac Giap successfully led this movement with great love and respect for those he commanded and his love has been reciprocated. The massive outpouring of people, including many youth, this weekend in the streets of Vietnam to honor Bac Giap underscores how beloved he is in Vietnam, as he is around the world.
After liberation, Bac Giap continued to fight for the development of people’s power and socialism, particularly focusing on the empowerment and advancement of the majority of the population — the peasant community. He has been a consistent voice criticizing corruption and opportunism and advocating for environmentalism. Around the world Bac Giap embodied proletarian internationalism as an inspiration to people struggling for independence, equality and justice
In an interview he gave in 1999 with PBS, Bac Giap summed up some of the lessons which the world has drawn from his life of service to humanity, There is a limit to power. I think the Americans and great superpowers would do well to remember that while their power may be great, it is inevitably limited…. Since the beginning of time, whether in a socialist or a capitalist country, the things you do in the interests of the people stand you in good stead, while those which go against the interest of the people will eventually turn against you. History bears out what I say.
I met Bac Giap and his wife and comrade, Dang Bich Ha, several times over a number of years from the 90′s to 2005. The first time, I was immediately struck by his kindness and his humility. As I shook his hand, somewhat awestruck, he waved his hand and stopped me when I started to say how honored I was to meet him, He said that he had come to hear my thoughts, and the thoughts of our movement, about the situation in Vietnam and the U.S. He asked me to tell him about the communist and left and anti-war movements in the United States, about how people here viewed Vietnam and about what we thought of the current situation of the Vietnamese revolution. He was particularly interested in how young people in the U.S. understood the situation in Vietnam and the about basis for long term friendship and solidarity.
Bac Giap told me that about his research and investigation into the living conditions of the peasants, land use issues and his desire to ensure that they were able to improve their lives and prosper as Vietnam developed. He expressed concern for Vietnam’s workers, saying that in a socialist country, particularly in this stage of development, policies must focus on the well-being of the majority- the workers and peasants.
In a later meeting, we spoke about socialism and about the challenges of political education of youth. Bac Giap was always hopeful, even when acknowledging the contradictions that development brings.
I was also privileged to spend some additional time with his wife, Dang Bich Ha. Bac Ha is a strong revolutionary woman who took part in all the discussions and raised many questions about the communist movement in the U.S. Bac Giap and Bac Ha’s relationship impressed me as an expression of the Vietnamese revolution’s emphasis on the equality of women from the earliest days. It struck me as a marriage of love, equality and respect, with common beliefs as well as lively discussions and even some disagreements!
In my final meeting, General Giap spoke mainly of his activities in the revolution against the French and his work together with President Ho Chi Minh. At that time, he was resting in Do Son at a very modest Army house. His body was becoming frail, but he still managed to climb a flight of stairs to meet with a large group of soldiers who had come to visit bearing flowers and great enthusiasm. With the young soldiers Bac Giap radiated energy and warmth, making everyone feel comfortable. I will always remember Bac Giap, Bac Ha at his side, among that group of young men and women with their eyes shining!
Merle Ratner, former member of the CCDS national coordinating committee, was instrumental in organizing the two CCDS study tours to Vietnam and contributed to the CCDS pamphlet "Vietnam: From National Liberation to 21st Century Socialism." She is a Co-coordinator of the US-based Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign and coordinated an international workshop on Marxist Theory and Practice in the World Today at the Ho Chi Minh Academy in Vietnam. She also has two articles on Vietnam today in the new CCDS book, Vietnam: From National Liberation to 21st Century Socialism
CCDS welcomes the UN resolution on the destruction of chemical weapons in Syria, which was passed unanimously by the Security Council including support from Russia and China and the US, as well as Syria itself. The resolution reduces tension and the possibility of war; implementation may lay the basis for a Geneva conference towards resolution of the Syria crisis, especially with full Syrian participation.
CCDS further calls for the destruction of all chemical weapons in the region, including those held by Israel, and points out there is no mention of the US use of depleted uranium ammunition in Iraq, which is now contributing to elevated cancer rates in the Iraqi population. To ensure peace in the region, all countries need to agree to establish a nuclear weapons free zone, a proposal initiated by Iran and today opposed only by Israel.
The Obama administration’s plan for a military attack on Syria, supported by Israel and Saudi Arabia, was defeated for several reasons: US public opinion opposes a new war, Congress, including neo-isolationists in the Republican party, was reluctant and the British Parliament vetoed UK participation. Russia led international opinion against the war which included all the BRICS countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) with BRICS emerging as a stronger alternative to the US for international leadership. The peace movement surged into action with lobbying andstreet protests. The Obama administration found itself isolated and chose for now to not go it alone in yet another Middle East conflict.
The progressive majority, the peace movement and the left helped stop the attack and win at least a temporary victory; however, with the US keeping "all options on the table," continued vigilance is necessary. Revived negotiations regarding Syria made possible the reestablishment of US communications with Iran at the UN General Assembly. More diplomacy, adherence to UN resolutions and continued democratic demands by the people will improve the overall situation in the Middle East.
August 28, 2013
A US military attack on Syria will only escalate the violence, create more destruction and loss of life, and derail efforts to work with Russia to convene an international peace conference. Such an attack will inflame an already dangerous situation and have unpredictable consequences, possibly leading to a disastrous regional war in the Middle East with US involvement. Such a war also will be a major blow to the progressive majority in our country, bringing a new wave of militarism at home and end efforts to cut the military budget to fund social programs. The solution to the Syrian conflict lies with international negotiations with full Syrian participation to achieve a cease fire and begin a nonviolent political process. A US attack only makes the situation worse and a solution more remote.
The use of chemical weapons is a reprehensible, heinous crime. The US should fully support the independent UN investigation and join with all members of the Security Council, including Russia and China, to fashion an appropriate response according to international law. But it must be noted that the U.S. has no moral ‘high ground’ on this matter. The US is a perpetrator of the “Agent Orange” chemical war against Vietnam, whose people are still suffering from the results, and an enabler of Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons in the Iran-Iraq war. Far from being motivated by humanitarian concerns, U.S policy is rooted in the desire to maintain strategic dominance in the Middle East and secure oil supplies.
CCDS calls for working with United for Peace and Justice, Peace Action and other peace groups to oppose such an attack before it occurs, and if it happens to follow through with actions to prevent further escalation and bring it to an immediate end. Start by putting some heat on your Member of Congress, even if it’s only a phone call or an email.
Student and teachers from the Convention ‘School for Young People’
CCDS 7th Convention Debates Growth
of the Left and the Progressive Majority
in Combating Austerity, War and the Right
[This report was assembled by Carl Davidson, with considerable and valuable help from Cheryl Richards and Ellen Schwartz, our recorders. Others who added a lot were Janet Tucker, Harry Targ, Ted Reich, Pat Fry, Will Emmons, Randy Shannon, Anne Mitchell and Duncan McFarland. Photos by Ted Reich]
Nearly 100 delegates, observers and friends gathered in Pittsburgh, PA for the 7th Convention of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism over the July 18-21, 2013 weekend. The goals of the gathering were to take stock of the political battles since their last convention in 2009, to assess the organization’s strengths, weaknesses and ongoing challenges, and to chart a path of unity and struggle for the upcoming period.
The participants came from all sections of the country: from California to Florida, from Texas to Boston, and many points in between. Almost all were deeply embedded in mass struggles—trade unions and community organizations, women’s groups, civil rights organizations and peace and justice coalitions. Many had also taken part in a variety of independent electoral battles against the GOP and the right, and everyone had been in the streets during the battles against the wars, the Occupy upsurge and for justice in the Trayvon Martin case.
Kicking off the meeting was a “School for Young People.” That innovation started a day before the main sessions of the convention. The presence of 20 young activists—men and women, of several nationalities, fresh from many battles, especially in the South—added a dynamic quality to all the discussions for the entire weekend.
“We appreciated the steps CCDS has made to accept the need for youth leadership in the socialist left and progressive movements,” said Will Emmons of Kentucky. The students saw the school as a “good first start,” and looked forward to more and better efforts in overcoming the intergenerational divide in much of the socialist movement.
The convention itself was organized into five plenary sessions and 16 workshops, with a cultural event and dinner on Saturday evening. It opened for the youth school and other early arrivers Thursday evening with the showing of the new film, “Anne Braden: Southern Patriot,” an inspiring story of the battles of Anne Braden and her husband, Carl Braden of Kentucky, in decades of battles against white supremacy and other fronts in the class struggle across the South. Filmmaker Anne Lewis from Texas was on hand to lead a discussion that followed.
All the convention’s deliberations were organized around a “main resolution,” with the various plenaries and workshops dealing with its different sections. The five plenary topics were 1) assessing the concrete conditions, 2) the terrains of struggle against austerity, 3) the climate change crisis, 4) strategic formations and the progressive majority, and 5) the quest for left unity.
Time of Day: The Opening Plenary on Concrete Conditions
“What time is it?” asked Mildred Williamson, a CCDS national committee member from Chicago, in her remarks opening the first plenary session, which was chaired by Randy Shannon of Western PA. “It’s a time of economic, social, environmental, and racial injustice on steroids.” she continued, “a time of no respect for humanity.” She proceeded to spotlight the full range of current conditions with the lens showing the inter-connection of class, race and gender. “What time is it?” she repeated, “As long as Black and brown lives are thought of and treated as disposable, in a 21st century-three-fifths-of-a-person fashion, it will be impossible to achieve working class power in this country. Economic and social policies are literally destroying Black and brown lives, and simultaneously further weakening working class power…. we must fight with humility and purpose to strengthen and promote radicalized thought and action in the quest for social justice, human rights and working class power. This requires a fresh look at what it means to be ‘Left’ in this phase of capitalism.”
Williamson concluded by posing the most poignant questions to the delegates:
“What is the winning strategy to reduce the number of white working class people from voting against their own class interests, especially since fewer are unionized and fewer live in integrated communities? What will be the winning strategy to achieve left unity – and just what does that mean today? How can we build respect for youth in leadership of social justice movements while still showing simultaneous respect for elders? How do we fully move our thought and action from the multiracial unity ‘slogan’ to normalized, genuine demonstrations of respect for multiple cultures, gender expressions and sexual orientations? These questions–and more tough ones–need answers in order to chart the path forward in the quest for working class power. Let’s work on them at this convention and thereafter.”
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Statement by the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
We all have a stake in the outcome of the power grab and bankruptcy of Detroit. The move to rob pensions from some 30,000 active and retired city workers and the selling off of property owned by the people of Detroit – city parks, public services and works of art at one of the most celebrated museums in the country – is a threat to us all.
The contract between the city and its workers to fund a pension plan is no less valid as contracts between the city and its corporate partners. Bond speculators’ losses should not be covered by workers’ retirement income.
No pension fund in the country will be safe. Next will be Social Security. Using the same rationale – that we can no longer afford to sustain a “greedy” middle class – the basis is laid for the complete shredding of the social contract between capital and labor won in bloody struggles of the last century. The right to income security in old age, health care, civil rights and voting rights, collective bargaining and the promise of a rising standard of living, good housing and education in return for productive labor that creates all wealth is being torn apart.
Democracy hangs in the balance. Republican Gov. Rick Snyder and the Republican-controlled State Legislature refused to follow the will of the people of Michigan who overturned by a 58% margin the law used to take over cities with a so-called Emergency Financial Manager. The patently illegal and unconstitutional measure gives power to EFMs – unelected Czars – to strip mayors and city councils of all authority, including their salaries, tear up union contracts and sell off public assets, services and property at bargain basement prices. Flint, Pontiac, Benton Harbor, Ecorse, Allen Park, Detroit – six cities and three school boards in Michigan – are now under dictatorial EFM rule. All except Allen Park have majority African American populations. These cities are largely former auto manufacturing centers deserted by GM, Ford and Chrysler in pursuit of race-to-the bottom profits. More than half of the 1.5 million African American population of the state are now under rule of an unelected EFM czar.
The Governor and legislature thwarted the public’s will on the EFM referendum at the same time they enacted the anti-union Right-To-Work (for less) law in December, a measure to further weaken unions and drive down wages. This and other reactionary legislation passed over the last several months in Michigan, as in other Republican controlled state governments, has been orchestrated by the corporate funded right-wing ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council.
The banks will be the big winners in bankruptcy. Detroit’s EFM, Kevyn Orr, will guarantee it. His law firm represents the banks that hold Detroit’s debt. The debt figures themselves are politically contrived and exaggerated. The Governor has denied Detroit $220 million in tax revenue-sharing and other funds earmarked in President Obama’s first term stimulus package. Instead, the money was used to balance the state’s budget while blaming city leaders, mainly African American, for budget shortfalls and “mismanagement.” The UBS AG bank – which pled guilty to interest rate-rigging in a U.S. Justice Department lawsuit – lent the city $1.5 billion in 2004 in a predatory scheme, causing two defaults after the 2008 financial meltdown. The defaults triggered debt ratings to plunge and interest rates to rocket.
The city’s tax base has been decimated with the loss of over half of the city’s population due to the auto industry’s near total abandonment of the city. With an unemployment rate in double digits, 50% of young people have no jobs and no prospect of getting one because there is no public transportation out of the city where the jobs are located.
A power grab and theft of this magnitude assumes that the country will not care that a predominantly African American city – the largest black majority city outside of Africa – is plundered. This is a pilot project for finance capital, a test run for every other city and town in the country.
The Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism stands with unions, community and religious organizations, and all the people of Detroit who are fighting back.
We stand with the AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest federation of labor unions, which issued a statement on July 25th calling on President Obama and the Congress to make an immediate financial transfusion to Detroit. Additionally, the AFL-CIO calls on the State of Michigan to give comparable financial support to Detroit, the largest of Michigan’s cities.
In solving the budget crisis, we the people must demand of our President and Congress enactment of legislation to revitalize our urban centers in the interest of the working class, not the banks. In the face of corporate irresponsibility, we must have a government-sponsored jobs program to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure and our urban centers, develop new manufacturing industries to transition to a green, sustainable environment for the future of our children and our planet. We urgently need it for Detroit and for us all.
July 27, 2013
Opening Address to to the 7th CCDS Convention
By Mildred Williamson
What time is it? It’s a time of economic, social, environmental, and racial Injustice on steroids – a time of no respect for humanity.
We face a 9.3% unemployment rate (double or higher for Black people in certain communities); yet bourgeois economists and political pundits still characterize today’s economy as in recovery. Bailed-out megabanks are bigger and more profitable today than prior to the 2007-2008 meltdown. Yet millions of people, including renters, remain devastated by foreclosures, with too little help, or no help from government, or from their lenders. And while the foreclosure tragedy has affected people of very nationality, the impact of foreclosure on black communities has virtually served to wipe out what little “wealth” that had been acquired, basically pushing the income/wealth inequality gap into something not seen in this magnitude since slavery.
In fact, how far can we say we have we come from the “3/5 of a man” Constitutional definition of how Black people should be considered in US society? I say – not far enough, and if there is no sustained, organized struggle–witness the Voter’s Rights Act Supreme Court decision–we will have a more accelerated march backwards, away from making social progress, rather than forward.
As some observers have noted in the aftermath of the Zimmerman trial, Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Michael Vick, served time in prison for organizing dog fights that resulted in death and injury to animals. However, George Zimmerman and countless numbers of official law enforcement officers throughout the US have shot and killed numerous human beings, who happen to be people of color, including unarmed youth, like Trayvon Martin; yet they have not been convicted, served time, lost pay or prestige in their positions of power over our lives.
And lest we not forget: there are hundreds, even thousands of persons incarcerated for crimes they did not commit; and even those with evidence of committing criminal acts, having such a high percentage driven by unjust “war on drugs” laws. These translate into a war on black and brown life, into war on people of color, especially youth. Please note further that many have died in prisons of preventable causes, due to less-than-standard care provided in many cases, by for-profit correctional health care providers.
Public education is crumbling and living wage jobs are scarce, even for many with college educations. The role and proliferation of privatized pre-school, K-12 and proprietary higher education institutions is essentially assuring that working class people with aspirations of improving their lives, will have obstacles that may be insurmountable to overcome, due to profit-making at all costs, trumping everything – even human life.
In Chicago, were it not for the solid labor-community-student-parent coalition built with leadership from the Chicago Teachers Union, local residents and the rest of the nation would not have known about the vicious scheme of Mayor Rahm Emanuel to close more than 100 schools. Through a mass fightback, that number got reduced to less than 50 – still the most school closures in the history of this country. Stay tuned for the outcome of the two lawsuits pending – one based on racial discrimination (80% African American and Latino children affected); and the second based on 30% of students with disabilities and special needs affected by the closings.
What time is it? Ben Jealous (NAACP Executive Director) describes the concerns of many of his young Black friends who stated their uncertainty of living long enough to reach their 21st birthdays and then shares his Grandmother’s response, when asked:
“Our generation of Black Americans was supposed to be the first not to be judged by our race or the color of our skin. Instead, we had come of age to find ourselves the most incarcerated on the planet and most murdered in the country.
“‘Grandma,’ I would ask days later, still searching for understanding: “What happened? How did things turn out like this?”
Her response was the crux of his speech to the 104th NAACP convention this week. He said, she leaned in and spoke softly: “It’s sad but it’s simple: We got what we fought for, but we lost what we had.”
Did we really get all of what we fought for – or was it derailed?
–By the impact of the Smith Act, McCarran Act, Right to Work laws?
–By the blacklisting, imprisonment, deportation and murder of radicals and communists – particularly their purge from labor and other social justice organizations?
–By the assassination of Martin Luther King, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X, Fred Hampton & many others?
–By Deindustrialization and global outsourcing of unionized, living wage, manufacturing jobs?
–By the Nixon-led Southern Strategy, virtually unchecked, followed by the Reagan right wing surge?
–By the war on drugs and mass incarceration?
–By ‘No Child Left Behind’ and ‘Race to the Top?’
–By the Vietnam war, the wars in Iraq/Afghanistan, and the Gulf wars I and II?
Each of these policies and events served a purpose for the ruling class – over time, to weaken or even squash radical thought and action to reach multiracial working class power and refuse to affirm value in Black and brown life and their right to fulfill their human potential.
Though there have been extraordinary victories in the struggle for social justice, ending wars in Vietnam and Iraq, brilliant victories in numerous key elections, some union organizing successes, freedom of many political prisoners, starting with Angela Davis – we still remain challenged by the net to get the intertwining issues of class/race/gender right in our strategy and tactics of struggle on every issue, from jobs to healthcare, immigration, incarceration, the environment and climate change. Our ability to make and sustain social progress critically depends on this. Disciplined, organized, radical leadership is essential to move us forward.
I am encouraged by the recent demonstrations of numerous low-wage workers fighting for a living wage – McDonald’s, Wal-Mart, even Foot Locker workers. Some of these have taken place in Chicago and consider the stories of the protesters: One young Black man at one of the Chicago protests reported that he worked for $10.15/hour at a Nike store in 2008, and over 2 years he got up to $11.17 an hour. Later, the store shut down for renovations; he and his co-workers were laid off. He was called back to work for $10 an hour, which he was still making at the time of the protest which took place this spring – 2013. This is a five-year period of his life. He does not now, nor did he ever make enough money to live on his own – typical of most low wage, retail work.
McDonald’s, just this week developed what they called a financial planning guide for their workers which assumed the average cost for rent was $600 a month and healthcare was $20 a month, in addition to framing the entire context of having a second job in addition to their full time McDonald’s job ($24,000 yearly on average) – to make ends meet. They also suggested that the worker simultaneously should be going to school to gain additional skills. This is insulting to their workforce, at best. It’s a plan that was proposed for workers by a corporation that consistently makes super-profits, even during the recent massive recession, (which is not over for many of us).
What time is it? As long as Black and brown lives are thought of and treated as disposable, in a 21st century-three-fifths-of-a-person fashion, it will be impossible to achieve working class power in this country.
Economic and social policies are literally destroying Black and brown lives, and simultaneously further weakening working class power. Case in point: Former President George W Bush once called a meeting at the White House with members of the Congressional Black Caucus. In an effort to persuade them to support his proposal to virtually privatize Social Security, he shared that the CBC should support this idea because:
Social Security was especially unfair to African Americans. Because their life expectancy was shorter, black workers received an average of $21,000 less in benefits than whites of comparable income levels. He said personal accounts (such as 401k), could be passed along to the next generation, and would go a long way toward reducing that disparity. Source: Decision Points, by Pres. George W. Bush, p.298-299 , Nov 9, 2010
Instead of addressing the socioeconomic determinants of why Black life expectancy is shorter than other groups in the US, then President GW Bush cynically just said to his CBC guests that it is better to just save up on your own into a plan that is beholden to the ups and downs of the stock market. How insulting it must have been for these Congressional leaders to sit there to hear that; just as it remains insulting for John Lewis and all other living participants of the civil rights movement to hear that Supreme Court decision to virtually butcher the Voters Rights Act.
To achieve comprehensive social change that shifts the balance of power toward the working class, rejecting white supremacy–embracing all disenfranchised elements of humanity–is essential. This requires radical, disciplined leadership that is organized in thought and purpose to build a movement anchored by the voice and action of organized and unorganized workers, and marginalized populations. The labor movement has the right slogan – Jobs with Justice. We need both – not either or. Though the labor movement is at its smallest in size, that which remains, must continue and grow its coalition with others for a significant rise in the minimum wage; for massive reinvestment in public education for all; for LGBTQ rights; for the right of women to all aspects of reproductive health and freedom from abuse; for the rights of immigrants; for the right to quality public education, including higher education; for the abolishment of prisons and an overhaul of the criminal justice system – and for ending all modern vestiges of slavery, Jim Crow and genocide in institutions and in human interaction.
Finally, we must fight with humility and purpose to strengthen and promote radicalized thought and action in the quest for social justice, human rights and working class power. This requires a fresh look at what it means to be “Left” in this phase of capitalism. What is the winning strategy to reduce the number of white working class people from voting against their own class interests, especially since fewer are unionized and fewer live in integrated communities? What will be the winning strategy be to achieve left unity – and just what does that mean today? How can we build respect for youth in leadership of social justice movements while still showing simultaneous respect for elders? How do we fully move our thought and action from the multiracial unity “slogan” to normalized, genuine demonstration respect for multiple cultures, gender expressions and sexual orientation? These questions and more tough ones – need answers in order to chart the path forward in the quest for working class power. Let’s work on them at this 7th CCDS Convention, and thereafter
Statement from the CCDS Peace and Solidarity Committee
Sixty years after an armistice ended the fighting in the Korean War, the situation remains tense, abnormal and dangerous on the Korean peninsula. Any military conflict in Korea carries the risk of broadening into a catastrophic war as the US, China, Japan and Russia all have strategic interests in the area. Another major Korean war would mean large increases in US military spending and more austerity and repression at home, as well as great destruction and loss of life. The crisis of March-April 2013 did not lead to a military confrontation; however, since the basic issues have not been addressed, another crisis is at some point likely.
The first source of tension is the US refusal to negotiate a peace treaty with North Korea legally ending the Korean War. Sometimes characterized as inscrutable, North Korea’s prime diplomatic objectives are actually simple and clear: sign a peace treaty with the US, get the sanctions lifted and join the international community as a respected and equal nation. It is US policy that is blocking normalization.
After World War Two, a reunited Korea would surely have chosen the popular Kim Il Sung as president since Kim had been the national leader of the Korean resistance to the Japanese occupation. Kim Il Sung, however, was also leader of the Korean Communist Party and thus unacceptable to the US, which blocked reunification. In the 1990s, North Korea participated in discussions to suspend its nuclear program in return for economic aid and movement towards recognition. In 2001, however, the Bush administration labelled Pyongyang as one of the "axis of evil" and showed in Iraq what that meant. North Korea then restarted its nuclear program and moved to further development of a nuclear weapon and long range missiles. The simulated nuclear bombing runs of US B-52s and stealth bombers practicing over South Korea only justifies in North Korean eyes their need for nuclear weapons and a powerful military.
As the world’s military superpower, far more powerful than North Korea, the US should take the initiative to reduce militarization and tensions rather than conducting provocative military exercises with South Korean forces. However, partly as a result of the Obama administration’s "pivot" to Asia/Pacific, the US has been strengthening its military presence in East Asia, including working with Japan to strengthen anti-missile defense systems. This has encouraged rightist Japanese prime minister Abe to suggest altering the Japanese pacifist constitution to allow for a stronger Japanese military presence, further inflaming tensions.
China has proposed restarting the six-party talks to energize the diplomatic process. The Chinese are North Korea’s long standing ally; China wants a denuclearized Korean peninsula and calls for reduction of US/South Korea joint military exercises and an end to provocative language. This would create a better environment for talks and reconciliation and benefit the Korean people as well as peace. China also wants closer consultation with North Korea.
CCDS urges that people contact the president and Congress to demand the US agree to negotiate a peace treaty with North Korea and stop its campaign of pressure and regime change. Talks among equal partners are the only way to improve the situation in Korea. Activists should call for cutting the military budget by the US withdrawing troops and pulling back from its growing forward position in the Asia/Pacific region.
April 25, 2013
Statement of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
The Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism shares in the grief of the people of Venezuela, Latin America and freedom loving people throughout the world in the loss of Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez. Below is a statement from CCDS.
HUGO CHAVEZ REKINDLED RESISTANCE TO NEOLIBERAL GLOBALIZATION
Neoliberal Globalization: The Latest Phase of Imperialism
After the rise in oil prices brought on by crises in the 1970s the industrial capitalist giants led by the United States pressured poor countries to shift from state-directed to so-called “market economies.” The G7 countries – the United States, Japan, Britain, France, Italy, West Germany, and Canada – launched a campaign to demand that countries of the Global South downsize their governments, deregulate and privatize their economies, and shift from producing goods and services for domestic consumers to exports. These policies, known as the “neo-liberal policy agenda” or the “Washington consensus” were promoted by the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the World Trade Organization., and international bankers and CEOs of the major multinational corporations.
These policies were a disaster for the vast majority of humankind. In Latin America, there was over 80 percent economic growth between 1960 and 1980, before the neo-liberal policies went into effect and only 9 percent growth from 1980 to 2000. For almost all countries of the Western Hemisphere economic inequality dramatically increased and the percentages of the people living in poverty rose.
By the dawn of the 21st century about 1/4 of Latin Americans lived in poverty (less than $2 a day). Statistics indicated a direct relationship between productivity growth and the percentage of the population living in poverty; productivity and poverty increased at the same time. In addition, the work that most Latin Americans did significantly changed. From 1950 to 1990 there was a 29 percent decline of those who worked in agriculture, a modest 5 percent increase in industrial work, and a 23 percent increase in service sector employment. In the 1990s, it was estimated that almost all job creation was in the so-called “informal sector.” That is, most new job seekers were engaged in street markets, drug dealing, prostitution, unregulated sweatshops in small facilities or people’s homes, or other low-paying, unregulated work.
Despite the dramatic decline in the quality of life experienced throughout Latin America, since the 1980s, the G7 countries, the international economic organizations, and the private banks and corporations continued to promote neo-liberalism through strident rules involving borrowing and inequitable trade agreements. However, over the last decade, resistance to neo-liberalism increased dramatically inspired by Hugo Chavez’s vision of a 21st century socialism.
Resistance to Neoliberalism Spreads: Venezuela Takes the Lead
The latest stage of protest against neo-liberalism was reflected in a massive transformation of politics in Latin America. In a series of elections throughout the region beginning in Venezuela, candidates and parties were elected to office opposing neo-liberalism and “the Washington Consensus.” These included anti-neo-liberal governments elected in Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Chile, Bolivia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Nicaragua, as well as Venezuela. While these regimes varied in their opposition to neo-liberalism, they threatened economic “business as usual” U.S. interests.
The leadership in this movement for change in Latin America came from Venezuela. The Venezuelan story began when its citizens elected a former army officer Hugo Chavez to the presidency in 1998. Chavez launched the “Bolivarian Revolution.” At home it included a new constitution recognizing the rights of all citizens to a job, education, health care, and basic nutrition. Since then literacy and medical campaigns have dramatically transformed the quality of life of the 80 per cent of the population that were poor. Poverty was cut in half in a decade. Local planning councils and Bolivarian Circles empowered the vast majority of Venezuelans to participate in political decision-making. The government encouraged worker managed and owned factories and redistributed 2.2 million hectares of state-owned land to 130,000 peasant families and cooperatives to revitalize agriculture.
Under the leadership of Chavez, Venezuela made agreements with her neighbors, to trade oil for products that they produce. Thousands of Cuban doctors have been working in Venezuela in exchange for valuable oil. In addition, Chavez worked to build a South American common market, and with others, began constructing a regional development bank. He initiated similar ties with countries in the Caribbean and Central America. Venezuela became one of the few countries in the world to have used profits from its scarce resources to redistribute wealth, income, and power to an underclass. Chavez began to refer to his policies at home and abroad as building 21st century socialism.
Since Chavez was elected president, the United States worked to undermine and overthrow his regime, including supporting an abortive military coup against him in 2002. The efforts of the United States administrations to isolate Venezuela in the Western Hemisphere and among the countries of the Global South have failed.
Venezuela, under the leadership of Hugo Chavez became a beacon of hope for the dispossessed in his country and among the poor and oppressed throughout Latin America, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East. While his bold challenges to global imperialism will be missed we remain confident that his legacy will continue throughout the region and the world. From Cuba, to Nicaragua, to Chile, to Chiapas, to Venezuela, Bolivia, Ecuador, Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil, the revolution continues. We in the United States stand with you.
Viva Hugo Chavez Siempre!
Historian Mark Solomon looks at the prospects for a new socialist left
By Mark Solomon
Published by Portside March 6, 2013
On February 4, 2010 The Gallop Poll released its latest data on the public’s political attitudes. The headline read: “Socialism Viewed Positively by 36% of Americans.” While the poll did not attempt the daunting task of exploring what a diverse public understood socialism to mean, it nevertheless revealed an unmistakably sympathetic image of a system that had been pilloried for generations by all of capitalism’s dominant instruments of learning and information as well as by its power to suppress and slander socialist ideas and organization.
In sheer numbers, that means a population at the teen- age level and above of tens of millions with a favorable view of socialism.
Why then is the organized socialist movement in the United States so small and so clearly wanting in light of the potential for building its numbers and influence?
That is a crucial question. At every major juncture in the history of the country, radical individuals and organizations in advance of the mainstream have played essential roles in influencing, guiding and consolidating broad currents for social change. In the revolution that birthed this country, radical activists articulated demands from the grass roots for an uncompromising and transforming revolution to crush colonial oppression. Black and white abolitionists fought to make the erasure of slavery the core objective of the Civil War while also linking that struggle to women’s suffrage and trade unionism. A mass Socialist Party in the early 20th century fought for state intervention to combat the ravages of an increasingly exploitative economic system while advancing the vision of a socialist commonwealth. In the Great Depression, the Communist Party and its allies fought the devastations of the crisis – helping to build popular movements to expand democracy, grow industrial unions and defend protections for labor embodied in the historic New Deal.
Small left and socialist organizations in the sixties supported a range of progressive struggles from peace to civil rights to women’s liberation to gay rights and beyond. The limited resources of those groups were effective in galvanizing massive peace demonstrations and in campaigns against racist and sexist oppression. But the Cold War and McCarthyism had eviscerated any hope for a major influential socialist current. Consequently, no large and impacting force existed to extend to the peace movement a coherent anti-imperial analysis that might have contributed to its continuity and readiness to confront the wars of the nineties and the new century. Nor was there a strong socialist organization to contribute to the civil rights struggle by advocating for reform joined to a commitment to deeper social transformation. Had such a current existed, it might have contributed to building a broad protective barrier against the devastating FBI and local police violence against sectors of the movement like the Black Panthers.
There should be little debate today on the left over the need for a strong socialist voice and movement in light of festering economic stagnation, war on the working class, looming environmental catastrophe, a widening chasm between the super-rich and the rest of us, massive joblessness and incarceration savaging African Americans and other oppressed nationalities, crises in health care, housing and education. Such a strong socialist presence could offer a searching analysis of the present situation, help stimulate a broad public debate on short term solutions and formulate a vision of a socialist future that could begin to reach the minds and hearts of the 36 percent who claim to be sympathetic to that vision. Read more of this article »
We in the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism are deeply saddened by the death of Brandon Wallace on January 10th, 2013 and we express our deepest sympathy to his family and friends. Brandon was one of our young leaders with tremendous talents. His passing is a heartbreaking loss. Brandon contributed much to our organization as well as his larger community. He was well loved and respected by many.
Brandon served on the National Coordinating Committee and also helped to produce our newsletter, The Mobilizer, for which he recently did an interview with Marian Gordon about her trip to Palestine. Brandon was our Southern Regional Organizer. He was deeply committed to the local movements in Alabama where he lived.
Fellow young member of CCDS and friend Camille Williamson wrote, "As we reflect upon Brandon’s legacy of work we are reminded that the struggle for social justice is a journey full of passion, commitment, and motivation. And we will always be inspired by Brandon’s contributions to progressive movement-building. Furthermore, we will cherish his eloquent ability to synthesize his thoughts and ideas into a ribbon of poetry for all to share.”
Brandon was an award winning writer and recently published a book of poetry, Shadows and Light. He maintained a blog Julius Speaks which was, as he put it "A collage of personal, political, cultural and historical commentary from the thought of Brandon Wallace." Through his writings and actions he influenced many. He will be greatly missed.
The following is from Brandon’s book Shadows and Light. http://tinyurl.com/b58lvep
By Brandon Wallace
Bermuda Grass in Lincoln Park,
The sound of black musicians on guitar- Earth, Wind, and Fire combining the
elements in a gravitational groove, pulled into the dizzy of a neutron dance.
A lipstick, cherry bright as the light of a smile, red Thunderbird,
the blackenized Barbie turned inside out,
pulled up into the alley, against the crosspatch, metal fence
behind the house with shaved top and delicate cement,
only the slightest bit of grass growing through the cracks
where we played Red Light/ Green Light Red Green Red and Green Lights
flashing, blending together in backgrounds of black and sunshine yellow,
the red appears in pores and freckles in the brightness of the sun
with the distant green tops of trees,
the green of the electric carpet against which I used to rub to feel the current.
Rows of houses, claustrophobically close, creating closeness and warmth,
Coca Cola and Pepsi, in red bottles with white lines,
sprite in green and lemon yellow, juicy fruit and Ronald Reagan,
Jesse Jackson in wool overcoats holding signs,
campaigns for change.
Harold Washington, change,
the color of his suits.
promise and vision.
Brandon Wallace, Presente!
January 14, 2013