By Randy Shannon
The situation in the Ukraine is cause for concern. An additional cause for concern is the deliberate distortion and misrepresentation of events there by the US media. And this is a situation that calls for Americans to study some history really quickly.
What seems to have happened based on the US media is that a “revolution” against a brutal thieving government by democracy loving people has taken place. And the Russians are trying to “violate” the territorial integrity of the Ukraine.
What really happened is that Nazi sympathizers, Nationalistic, anti-Semitic, and anti-Russian forces long nurtured by the CIA and elites in the West took over a west Ukrainian city, broke into its armory and used the weapons to overthrow the Constitutional government. The President fled the capital and the country. The far right government immediately eliminated the Russian language as an official language of the state and sent armed militia into the Crimea to take over the security forces. The mayor of the capital of the Crimea and the President asked Russia to defend the regional government and the Russian people in the Ukraine.
A bit of history. The Ukraine Republic was created in 1954. The western Ukraine bordering on Europe was part of the Axis Powers during WW2. The eastern Ukraine was part of Russia. The Crimea was part of Russia. Russia agreed to cede Crimea and eastern Ukraine to make the Soviet Socialist Republic of Ukraine. The regions ceded by Russia were mostly populated by Russians, and minority Ukrainians and Tartars. Russians were guaranteed their civil and human rights in the new Soviet Socialist Republic.
The usurper government consists of a coalition of fascist, nationalists, and far rightists backed by the US and European allies. Two of the main fascist groups are the OUN (Organization of Ukrainian Nationalists) and the Svoboda Party (Social-National Party of Ukraine). The name Social-National Party of Ukraine is an intentional reference to Adolph Hitler’s National Socialist Party. The major social and cultural character of these fascist forces is hatred of Russia, Russian people, and the Russian language. The wealthy Ukrainians in the western part are descendants of the defeated Axis Powers. They have not accepted the defeat of fascism and feed this revanchist sentiment by blaming not Hitler, but Russia for their defeat. These revanchists have been nurtured by the CIA and similar forces in Europe.
The fascist-nationalist coalition has moved quickly to capture Ukraine in order to impose their economic dominance of the region. This serves two ends, first to immediately displace Russian economic interests in favor of their US patron. Also it furthers the objective of encirclement and subjugation of Russia and China by the US. The second objective was clearly mapped out by Zbigniev Brzezinski in his 1998 manual “The Grand Chessboard.” The Ukraine figures prominently in this strategy of conquest. As an aside, Pres. Obama, who must be one of the most well-read Presidents, made an interesting comment last week: "And our approach as the United States is not to see these as some Cold War chessboard in which we’re in competition with Russia."
Based on this history it is eminently logical that the Russians living in Ukraine fear for their civil rights, if not possible violence. After all, the fascist coup was heavily armed and killed numerous police. And it is to be expected that since Russian had handed them over to Ukraine under previous peaceful conditions, that these Russians would now look to their former homeland to protect them. As an ancient culture and very old nation, Russia will act to uphold the rights and lives of its citizens, especially after having sacrificed 12 million people in WW2 to defeat the parents of today’s Ukrainian fascists. The Russian occupation of Crimea and eastern Ukraine is the only choice available now that powerful western corporations and secret agents have backed a fascist coup.
These forces are now demanding that the US and European governments support and help consolidate the coup government. As in the 1930’s anti-Russian forces are being armed, encouraged, and legitimized. The American people should demand that the threats stop and that the coup be denounced, and the coup government boycotted.
The Obama administration should call for a restitution of the Constitution of the Ukraine. The February 20th agreement between the Ukrainian government and the right wing opposition should be restored. The President of Ukraine should return to Kiev with his life protected. The elections scheduled by the fascists in May should be cancelled and the regularly scheduled elections at the end of the year reinstated.
Randy Shannon is a CCDS bational committee member. A Statement by CCDS will be forthcoming.
Pete Seeger in Greenwood, Mississippi, 1963
FROM PEGGY SEEGER: “As most of you will know by now, my beloved brother Pete died peacefully, surrounded by close family members, at the Presbyterian Hospital (Columbia), New York City, on January 27th at 9:17 pm. His daughter Tinya, who had been caring for him for some time, was lovingly holding his hand. I was still in mid-air making a frantic attempt to get there from New Zealand. I arrived four hours too late. I take solace from our last phone calls where much was said but unspoken. I know many of you will be saddened by Pete’s death but we must remember that he led a very full and productive life. He leaves a prodigious body of work for us to enjoy, a legacy the enormity of which will continue to grow. He touched so many people’s lives, from children to the golden oldies like myself. As for me, I have lost the last person who has known me from birth and who has always been there for me. I cannot express how heavy losing Pete lies with me. My thanks to all for your kind and thoughtful condolences.
FROM CARL DAVIDSON: CCDS leader Jay Schaffner composed this summary of Pete’s life for his 80th birthday, and Pete only added more in this tradition in his last years, Even as his voice weakened, his message and spirit were strong to the end. We all knew that at the age of 94, this day was coming. Still the news pierced all of our hearts with dismay. Let us stand at attention and raise a fist in salute. A great man has passed, one who touched all of our lives, and will continue to do so.
I Remember Pete Seeger – A Tribute on his 80th Birthday
Pete Seeger – People’s Troubadour, Folk Singer, Clarion for Civil Rights, Labor and Peace, Pioneering Environmentalist, Socialist
Remarks of Jay Schaffner at Evening to Honor Pete Seeger on his 80th Birthsay- Nov. 12, 1999
Brothers and Sisters
I am very happy to welcome you to tonight’s program on behalf of the New York Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. It is a real treat to be here to be able to learn from and celebrate with Pete Seeger on his 80th birthday. I guess I should let people in on a little secret – growing up as a child of the 1960s, as a product of the 1950s, of that breed now known as “Red Diaper” babies, I was weaned on the music of Pete Seeger and the Weavers.
Obviously many of you here tonight have also been weaned, sung to and joined in song with one of our country’s unique national treasurers. That’s how Pete Seeger was described a few years ago when he was awarded the Kennedy Center honors. Years after being denied the opportunity to perform on national television, years after the only concert venue that would book Pete were union halls like that of 1199, now the nation was awarding one of its highest cultural salutations to Pete.
But we are honoring Pete for another reason tonight. We are honoring Pete as an individual who fought the good fight, who walked the picket lines, who sang at the rallies, who went south to finish the second American revolution, who early on was one of those we could count on in the fight to end the war in Vietnam, to win the freedom of Angela Davis, or in support of Cesar Chavez and the United Farmworkers.
We are honoring Pete because he has continued to believe in that dirty word: that dangerous word, and I am not referring to the new national debate on are you now or have you ever been a liberal. Pete has hung in there; Pete is still, heaven forbid, a socialist. We in the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism are pleased to be able to count Pete and Toshi as our members, as activists who on the eve of the millennium still believe in the possibility of a better world. They still believe in a world free of exploitation, discrimination, racism, sexism, genocide, war and environmental destruction.
In honoring Pete, we are honoring a fine tradition. - A tradition of rebellion, radicalism and revolution. Over two hundred years ago, the revolutionaries of their day decided that things needed to change. These revolutionaries dumped the King’s tea in the Boston harbor, and the American Revolution was born. They built their own revolutionary organization, and they came up with a unique name, the Committees of Correspondence. Our country was built on such rebellion and radicalism.
Our revolution was unfinished. African Americans were held in bondage, women were denied the vote, and only men who owned property were initially franchised. But radicals struggled and persevered. In the first place was the valiant struggle of those enslaved, and their allies the abolitionists, who were initially called crazy, then radicals, then revolutionaries, and then it was a mass movement to end slavery. The bloodiest war in our nation’s history was required to end slavery, to finish the American revolution. We can thank Pete, and Paul Robeson, and Huddy Leadbetter and Malvina Reynolds for forever keeping that drive for equality in our country’s songs. Generation after generation has been brought up singing Go Down Moses and We Shall Overcome.
The Pete’s, and the Paul’s, the Woody’s and the Florence Reese’s took their side with their working brothers and sisters during the 1930s, 40s and 50s, and in Pete’s case, into the 60s, 70s, 80s and 90s. There wasn’t a picket line, that wasn’t loud, shouting and singing. They knew how to picket. There weren’t any Taft-Hartley or Landrum-Griffin laws that prevented solidarity labor picket lines and secondary boycotts.
Then it was my generation’s turn. We traveled south, answering the call of the southern civil rights movement, answering the call of the generations before, those pre-mature fighters against lynching and legal segregation, the communists, socialists, radicals and revolutionaries of their days. The old SNYC, the Southern Negro Youth Congress gave rise to the new SNCC, the Student Non-Violent Coordinating Committee. And they were joined by the troubadours of their day, including the ever- young Pete.
Years later, one of the earliest advocates for the freedom of Angela Davis was Pete Seeger. And today, Pete is in the front ranks of those calling for a new trial for Mumia Abu-Jamal. Almost thirty years ago, Angela Davis was on trial for her life. The people’s movement at that time said that if we could win an end to Angela’s solitary confinement, if we could win bail, if we could get Angela to actively participate in her own defense, if we could build such a mass movement, then we could win in the jury of public opinion, political presence, and the actual trial jury.
We in the CCDS are joining today with our members like Pete, like Angela, in fighting for a new trial for our brother Mumia Abu-Jamal. We are saying this brother must not die! We are demanding a new fair trial, a trial that is not filled with tainted evidence. We feel that in such a trial, that we can overcome, that we can win. We feel that such a momentum, such a victory can impact on hate crimes, can be a brake against police terror, and will be a real repudiation of the Klan. We ask you here to join with us in carrying the message of saving the life of our brother to all corners. They said in the past that it couldn’t be done, and we showed them, let’s do it again.
We in the CCDS, feel that there has to be a better way. Mumia is on death row, and the industrial polluters of our country run free. Thousands of children in our country don’t have enough to eat, don’t have decent health care, yet the insurance companies continue to rake in billions. In today’s world, one individual is richer than most nations in the world, and for those of us who do not use Macs, Bill Gates not only has run rough-shod over the competition, but has most of us who use computers, at his mercy, with unstable Windows.
With the end of the cold war, why is our nation’s military budget larger than ever? Why did our Senate refuse to sign onto the call for nuclear disarmament? Why has our country supported the dictatorships in Indonesia, the Philippines, apartheid South Africa, Pinochet’s Chile, Guatemala, Serbia, and Franco’s? Is there a real need for the rich to get continuously richer, and the poor, poorer. Why can’t we have an increase in the minimum wage to $6.15; why can’t future increases be tied to increases in the cost of living index, why can’t we have a living wage? The answer is blowing in the wind.
Yes, brothers and sisters, there has to be a better way. For some few capitalism is working, but not for the overwhelming majority of others. Call it what you want, but I know of no word that describes an alternative to capitalism other than socialism.
You may ask, what kind of socialism? What are your models? And I and members of the CCDS will honestly answer, we don’t know what forms it will take, but this clearly isn’t working. We will say, let’s work together, let’s talk together, let’s debate together, let’s struggle together, and as we do, we will find our way, the way to socialism in the new century.
Our models… we don’t have any, and many of us feel there never were any models, since every country and situation are different from others. We will chart our path as we struggle, the so-called models of the past were in fact distortions of socialism.
What we can say is: If you want to join this struggle with others, if we want to learn from past generations of radicals, revolutionaries, socialists and communists, then we should all want to work together. Join us, let’s work together, together we can struggle and win.
Our struggles, and our childrens’ and their childrens’ struggles will make our revolution. Thank you,
[Jay Schaffner has been an activist since the 60s in Chicago, when he was a member of the W.E.B. DuBois Clubs and Students for a Democratic Society, then helping to found the Young Workers Liberation League, and later becoming part of it's national leadership. He helped form and was part of the New York and national leadership of the Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism in the 90s. He became a staff organizer for the musicians union, Local 802, AFM, later being elected to its executive board, even though he was not a professional musician himself. He helped develop and found Portside in 2000, and now retired, he continues as one of the moderators of Portside.]
State of the Union: Obama Pulled His Best Punches
By Carl Davidson and Harry Targ
Progressive America Rising
In the lead-up to President Obama’s speech Chris Hayes, MSNBC host, presented a segment on the national mobilization of low wage workers in 2013. He described courageous work stoppages by fast food workers, campaigns by public employees, particularly health care and home care workers, and how seemingly isolated pockets of protest spread like wild fire across the nation.
This, Hayes suggested, stimulated progressive groups, selected Congresspersons, and visible pundits such as Robert Reich and Paul Krugman to reemphasize the economic crisis the American working class is facing, particularly youth, people of color, women, and older workers. Hayes suggested that we are on the verge of a new mass movement and that Obama would capture the spirit of this movement in his State of the Union address.
President Obama took the podium a little after 9 pm Eastern Standard Time and presented a State of the Union address that referred to income inequality, the need for immigration reform, creating jobs by renovating the transportation infrastructure, and reducing greenhouse case emissions to forestall climate change.
Specific resolutions and demands were articulated. He did announce that he would use his executive authority to require that the minimum wage of companies with government contracts be raised to $10.10 an hour. He urged Congress, states, and municipalities to follow and raise their minimum wages as well.
He recommended the creation of a new program that would allow workers who do not have pensions to invest in a government created pension fund, similar to 401Ks.
He praised growing government business partnerships and collaboration with colleges and universities to extend job training, make college more affordable, and create a 21st century work force that he claimed could fill the jobs that are not being filled now. Read more of this article »
The Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism are deeply saddened by the news that Amiri Baraka will no longer be in our midst. He leaves the world a rich, deep body of revolutionary work as poet, activist, writer and mentor to many.
In 2006, Amiri keynoted an evening of culture, politics and youth at the CCDS 5th national convention in Chicago. He spoke passionately about the role of art and culture in affecting social change.
Pictured with Amiri above are other panelists who also spoke – Sam Lewis of the Elastic Arts Foundation and SW Youth Collaborative, and Andrei Mills of the University of Hip Hop.
Following is a remembrance of Amiri Baraka posted to the CCDS member list serve by Keith Joseph.
In Memory of Amiri Baraka: The First, The Last, The Only Poet Laureate of New Jersey!
In April of 1994 I attended a speech given by Amiri Baraka at the Douglass College Student Center; my life changed dramatically. He said, “We are here to tell you that there is still a revolutionary movement in the United States.” I became Baraka’s student, what used to be called a disciple. He knew the things that I wanted to know, he said the things that I wanted to say, he did the things that I wanted to do. I listened carefully to everything he said and read everything he wrote. When I met Amiri he was in his sixties. He was hunched over and gray bearded, but wiry and quick witted– always with a can of Lite beer from Miller. I, along with many others, worked with him on the revolutionary newspaper Unity & Struggle throughout the 90’s.
During this time, Amiri churned out political essays and political programs that have never been correctly gathered, organized or published. They were photocopies passed around among those in the local movement. Essays that are truly avant-garde: deep expressions of what is happening NOW. A wild mix of Marxism-Leninism, the Afro-American tradition, and modernist poetry, essays with titles like: “Revolutionary Democracy needs an Anti-Imperialist Cultural Revolution,” “The International Business of Jazz and the Need for Cooperative and Collective Self-Development of an International People’s Culture.” Essays describing the future RAZOR project – “Revolutionary Art for Revolutionary Culture,” essays describing organizations to sustain the creation of Jazz, essays describing the relation of urban institutions to revolutionary politics, essays describing the building of revolutionary organization and movement in the United States, along with cultural criticism and agit-prop poetry like: A Modest Proposal for Guiliani’s Disposal in 41 Verses which are also Curses. Baraka’s writings dazzle because he never allows his thinking to be constricted by the formality of language. Instead he forces the language to bend to the will of his thinking. He is an innovator of necessity. He isn’t an avant-garde writer for the sake of being avant-garde. The content of his thinking requires the formal innovations of his literary style.
Hopefully whoever the forces are that care about Baraka’s political legacy can work together to organize this stuff, and put it out as something like: “The Collected Political Writings of Amiri Baraka.”
Amiri often pointed out that as a Black Nationalist he had a much easier time getting his work published then when he began to call for working people of all races to fight capitalism together. Indeed, Baraka’s mature work as a Marxist is little known. The LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka Reader edited by William J. Harris includes a “Third World Marxist Period” but the work included is confined to the mid-eighties and a few poems from the early nineties. Baraka remained prolific until the end of his life. A huge body of work remains little known. Even ostensible allies played games around the publication of his later works and important book length analysis like Jessie Jackson and Black People remain unknown and of limited availability. So this is a call to gather and publish all of this stray work (I am working on a list of what I have and I hope others will do the same).
So much of what is coming out about Baraka around his passing is about his style or form. They say he was “offensive” or “controversial,” his legacy was “contradictory.” This obviously misses the point. I want to point out the crucial lessons I took from Baraka’s later work in the hopes that it will be intriguing enough to create some demand for original.
First, the objective of revolutionary struggle is taking power. Taking power is not an event in the future. We organize to take power today wherever we can touch it, “Wherever you can put your hands on it.” School boards, PTA’s, city councils, little leagues, public library’s, student governments, tenants associations, trade unions etc . Revolution is this process of taking power not a distant event. This is the process of creating “dual power” an idea that Baraka developed from Lenin — the power of working people existing and growing side by side with the power of capital until the former can defeat the latter. We take power by any means necessary. Baraka pointed out over that the promise of democracy is the Achilles heel of capitalism. A promise it cannot deliver but a promise we should insist on and here electoral politics are a crucial tool. Amiri’s son Ras Baraka is currently running for Mayor of Newark, NJ. The election of Ras Baraka as mayor of Newark was a long standing goal of Amiri’s efforts. A victory for Ras Baraka in Newark would also be a victory for the majority of people of Newark and fitting tribute to Amiri. Socialists have also won important elections recently in Seattle and Florida. Baraka actively encouraged this type of struggle.
Amiri insisted that we understand the Russian and Chinese revolutions correctly. They were democratic revolutions. In the parlance of Marxism, they were the bourgeois democratic stage of the revolution. This understanding was the basis for Baraka’s insistence on the centrality of the struggle of oppressed nations in general and the Afro-American nation in particular in the United States. Baraka was critical of Manning Marable’s book on Malcolm X for this reason. Baraka understood Malcolm X to have gone through a transformation similar to his own — a clarification of the enemy more so than a change of basic tasks. In other words, because of slavery, because of Jim Crow, because of the continuation of “separate but equal” and because of mass incarceration of Afro-American people the democratic revolution in the United States was and is incomplete. The relation of Black people to the United States is still the basic political question informing the history and politics of the country. It was the question struggled over during the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the writing of the Constitution, the Civil War—it is the central issue of U.S history. So, the struggle for Afro-American self-determination, equality and democracy remains the cutting edge of the revolutionary struggle whether you are a Black Nationalist or a Marxist-Leninist as Baraka would become. The difference is a better understanding of allies and the enemy.
Baraka further developed the idea of self-determination for oppressed nations. Self-determination was not simply the question of should a land area secede from the U.S. but rather “what should be the relationship of the Afro-American people to the United States.” A question for Black people to debate and decide for themselves.
Baraka often quoted Lenin’s essay “Two Tactics of Social Democracy in the Democratic Revolution. “
Baraka was particular inspired by Lenin’s idea of an alternate superstructure –a form of dual power. Restaurants, bars, bowling alleys, summer camps, cultural organizations linked to the revolutionary movement. Baraka led this effort by example. Amiri and his wife Amina opened their home for meetings and cultural events regularly. Kimako’s Blues was the name of the coffee house/cultural event held monthly in the Baraka’s basement. These events are among the fondest memories I have: food, poetry, and music often of the most outstanding quality in the most intimate setting. There are videos of these events out there. We need to collect them and make them widely available!
The last thing I learned from Baraka was not found in any essay. It was his example. Only those who never knew him would call him “offensive” or “controversial. “ He was accessible, generous, and warm. He loved to laugh and was always quick with a joke. Indeed, he highly prized humor. He always encouraged the younger generation. He lived his commitment to human freedom and dignity eschewing fame and fortune for the daily grind of organizing for revolution. When the horse piss started flying around his poem, “Somebody Blew Up America” and calls for him to resign as poet laureate came from opportunist politicians Baraka wrote “I will not apologize, I will not resign.” Because he was so uncompromising on principle his enemies could not defeat him they had to abolish the post of poet laureate. Thus Amiri Baraka is rightfully and forever the first, last and only poet laureate of New Jersey!
Long Live the indomitable spirit of Amiri Baraka!
The world is engaged in an unprecedented global celebration of the life of Nelson Mandela. Little-known information about his life is coming to light for the first time.
For us on the global Left, we approach the celebration of the revered freedom fighter’s life from a somewhat different perspective from what is appearing on television screens around the world.
Nelson Mandela was the first to say that the South African liberation struggle was led collectively. The decades-long alliance of the African National Congress, the South African Communist Party, and the South African trade union movement – most recently, the Congress of South African Trade Unions — worked together inside the country in urban centers and rural villages, in exile around the world, and in an armed struggle led by Umkhonto we Sizwe, over many years. While there are many reasons why Mandela came to represent the leadership of this alliance, tens of thousands of women and men collectively brought the South African National Democratic Revolution to the breakthrough of the first democratic election of 1994.
Nelson Mandela was unwavering – against severe pressure from the apartheid forces, the United States, and others — in his unwillingness to renounce his and the ANC’s association with the South African Communist Party and its leaders such as Chris Hani and Joe Slovo. His personal friendships with Communist leaders lasted for the rest of their lives.
At this time, information comes to light that Mandela was maintained on the United States’ "Terrorist Watch List" as late as 2008. A campaign has been launched to open the files of the Central Intelligence Agency concerning Mandela and his activities during the 1960s prior to his imprisonment.
CCDS demands the full truth be told about the relationship between the US Government and the apartheid regime’s suppression of the South African liberation movement.
CCDS continues to hope for the ongoing deepening of struggles for democracy and economic equality in the the U.S. in South Africa and across the globe. This is a difficult period for the people of South Africa, millions of whom face dire poverty, unemployment, illness – particularly HIV-AIDS – and racial and gender oppression almost twenty years after political democracy was won. The example of Nelson Mandela’s "ethical core" – as some have termed it — must remain alive in every nation and people’s movement and is needed now, more than ever.
Viva Nelson Mandela, Viva!
National Executive Committee, Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism
United States, Dec 12, 2013
[Thanks to Marilyn Albert in preparing this. A CCDS leader and a trade unionist, she was an International Observer of the 1994 election in South Africa and worked with the COSATU health care union in South Africa for about a year during 1996-97.]
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