Alan Gross was tracked by Cuban authorities since 2004 and traveled there at least five times in 2009 to set up sophisticated wireless Internet networks, according to a leaked court filing. The document gives blow-by-blow descriptions of his work with Cuban Jewish communities to establish independent, satellite-based wireless networks in synagogues in three cities. It alleges he recruited US citizens as “mules” to help him bring restricted telecommunications equipment to the island. It cites files recovered from a seized memory stick that talked about “communicating securely in repressive environments” and mentioned “political activists who operate in non-permissive environments.” It also said Gross told users of the wireless networks he set up not to use their last names in their email addresses. – AP Report
Gross’s employer DAI “operates with US democracy-promotion funds.” It received $382,491,550.13 from USAID in 2010.
The Department of State and its destabilizing agency USAID project interventionist operations attempting to use the Internet as an instrument of infiltration and intelligence within Cuban national territory
This has been confirmed on the Cuba Money Project website by U.S. journalist and investigator Tracey Eaton, who published a document identified with these U.S. special service agencies, dated January 11, 2011, which reveals how “ideas” are being solicited from non-governmental organizations and specialized businesses interested in carrying out projects related to the use of the Internet “in Cuba and in other nations.”
The document was published shortly before the trial in Havana of U.S. citizen Alan Philip Gross, working under contract for USAID, for his illegal activities.
Proposals could be submitted through February 7. “The Department of State has not specified – and surely, it won’t – what organizations will implement these projects,” writes Eaton, a former correspondent in Havana for the Dallas Morning News.
Budgets that range from $500,000 to eight million are available for these projects, for a total which could reach $30 million, according to her study.
Moreover, the money comes from the 2010 federal budget and not the next year’s.
The Department of State, in a clarification which appears to refer directly to the Alan Gross case or previous intelligence operations, details that the eligible organizations must “have experience of working in hostile environments.”
The focus of these operations, called web-based circumvention technology, is precisely to avoid and disrupt the usual systems of detection (firewalls and filters) used to protect computers from multiple forms of illicit activity on the web, established by legislation in all countries.
The strategy includes a “training program” to develop a “network of instructors” who would undertake operations with “threatened organizations.” Read: organizations operating illegally.
The organizations and businesses invited to submit proposals must be able to “train bloggers, citizen-journalists and civic organizations” and promote the use of new communication person-to-person technologies and “social networks.”
The program even suggests a “defense fund” for activists with legal problems related to hacking and “cyber-intrusion.”
In addition to Cuba, the request for proposals refers to China, Mayanmar, Iran, Russia and Venezuela, all countries which have refused to submit to U.S. domination, utilizing the usual rhetoric about “helping digital activists” – a well-known strategy for recruiting agents and informants practiced by U.S. intelligence services.
“This document contains exactly what Secretary of State Hillary Clinton recently said in a specialized magazine,” according to the U.S. journalist and professor in her revealing investigation.
* Traducido por Granma Internacional
Hamas spokesperson and Palestinian parliamentarian Mushir al-Masri in 2010. (Mohammed Asad/APA images)
Three Hamas politicians made a rare visit to Europe this week.
A delegation of members of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) travelled to Switzerland to attend a meeting of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU). It was the first time since the 2006 PLC elections that Hamas members undertook an official visit to a European country.
The delegation — led by PLC member and Hamas spokesperson Mushir al-Masri — left the Gaza Strip through the Rafah crossing, and continued their journey via Egypt. Al-Masri also heads an international committee for the defense of the PLC members who are held in Israeli jails.
The IPU Committee on the Human Rights of Parliamentarians met in Geneva on 14 January to discuss parliamentarians under threat. The IPU collected information about lawmakers who face death threats, are subjected to harassment, or are unable to carry out their parliamentary mandate without hindrance and invited the delegation from Gaza to clarify the situation of the Palestinian lawmakers.
Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman reacted furiously to the IPU invitation to the PLC members from Gaza, according to the news agency AFP (“Israel furious as Hamas attends global parliamentary forum,” 16 January 2011).
The Swiss-Israeli Association added that the invitation represented “an insult to democratic values and human rights that represent the spirit of Geneva.” Since 1957 the association has “promoted friendship” with the State of Israel and supports cultural, academic and social exchange with Israel.
But Anders Johnsson, the IPU President, warded off the attacks. He told the website Swissinfo that “the IPU doesn’t deal with Hamas, but the IPU committee deals with the rights of members of parliament, whoever they are” (“Hamas visit to Switzerland sparks outcry,” 19 January 2012).
Swiss defend invitation
A Swiss foreign ministry spokeswoman Carole Waelti told the same website that “Switzerland, as host of the organization, is obliged to facilitate the entry of people officially invited by the organization.” Waelti added that Switzerland has regular contacts with Hamas.
Switzerland does not belong to the European Union, which refuses to deal with Hamas and has placed the political party on its list of terrorist organizations.
Meanwhile, the Swiss envoy to the Middle East, Jean-Daniel Ruch, met Hamas leader Khaled Meshaal in Cairo on 18 January to discuss the possibility of dialogue between Europe and Hamas (“Hamas chief Meshaal meets Swiss envoy in Cairo,” AFP, 19 January 2012).
Mushir Al-Masri told AFP that the talks “come within the framework of the Hamas political bureau’s contacts with some European parties and its policy of openness towards the Europeans.”
After the capture of an Israeli soldier in Gaza in 2006, Israel arrested eight ministers and 26 PLC members of the Hamas-affiliated Change and Reform Bloc.
Israel did not oppose the participation of any Palestinian blocs in the 2006 PLC elections. Yet one year after the elections, Israel declared the Change and Reform bloc illegal. Since then PLC members with the party have been accused of “membership,” “activity” and “holding a position” in an “unauthorized association” (Addameer page on Palestinian Legislative Council Members).
At its meeting, the IPU committee on human rights examined 70 cases in 37 countries, including those of the 23 Palestinian parliamentarians who are held without charge in administrative detention in Israeli jails. Twenty of the detained parliamentarians are members of the Change and Reform Bloc.
While each administrative detention order lasts for as much as six months, the Israeli authorities frequently renew the orders, therefore resulting in the PLC members being unable to carry out their legislative and oversight functions. The IPU Committee has called upon the Israeli authorities to abandon the practice of detaining elected representatives.
Following its participation in the IPU meeting, the Hamas delegation paid a visit to the Swiss national parliament in Bern.
“We also met with the Red Cross in Geneva, the vice-mayor of Geneva and with Islamic organizations in different cantons,” al-Masri told The Electronic Intifada. “The event in Geneva was the best attended.”
Al-Masri was referring to an event organized by the human rights group Droit pour Tous (Rights for All) to commemorate the anniversary of Operation Cast Lead, Israel’s attack on Gaza in late 2008 and early 2009. The event, hosted by the University of Geneva, was attended by approximately 500 persons.
“Don’t always follow the US”
In a fully-packed lecture hall, al-Masri recalled the devastation that was wreaked during the Gaza attacks.
“All persons who were complicit in the war crimes committed in Gaza should be taken to court,” he said. “Although the pro-Israel lobby has tried to jeopardize our visit to Geneva, we are here to tell you about our suffering under the siege of Gaza. We are here to defend the rights of the Palestinian people living in Gaza and in the West Bank, to defend the rights of all the political prisoners and to defend the rights of the Palestinians who live outside Palestine.”
Al-Masri called on European states to be just and impartial and not always to follow the United States.
“The European Union made a mistake by adding Hamas to its terrorist list. Hamas was elected by the people. The European countries should apply international law. Our ultimate goal is to obtain our freedom by all means. No matter the strength of our occupier, justice will win. ”
A Socialist Party member of the Swiss national parliament, Carlo Sommaruga, told the audience that “it does not make sense to bury one’s head in the sand. Hamas won the majority at the 2006 elections and then the movement and the Palestinian people were marginalized by the United States and Europe — a policy that has brought us nowhere.”
Sommaruga expressed his support for the Palestinian-led campaign for boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) against Israel.
“I was an activist against the racist apartheid regime in South Africa,” he said. “We boycotted products, wanted to end financial relations and called for a cultural boycott. We have to do the same today. Every person has a responsibility. Everyone can participate in the BDS movement.”
The Change and Reform Bloc delegation was able to visit Switzerland because the Swiss authorities did not give in to pressure from Israel and pro-Israel forces in Switzerland. The IPU Committee called on Israel to end its practices that obstruct PLC members from carrying out their parliamentary mandate.
Time will tell if other governments in Europe support the call of the IPU by pressuring Israel to end the oppression of Palestinian parliamentarians.
Adri Nieuwhof is a consultant and human rights advocate based in Switzerland.
Are threats encouraging physical attacks?
Open incitement against Arab Members of Knesset has reached new heights, following the publication of a photograph showing MK Haneen Zoabi meeting with Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC) speaker Aziz Dweik in the West Bank (the latter was detained by Israeli occupation forces yesterday).
A subsequent report that two other MKs have previously met with Dweik has only intensified the threats being issued by fellow Knesset Members. Here is a selection of them:
“It’s time to disqualify Balad and end this charade. Elected public officials cannot be allowed to legitimize terrorists who target Israeli citizens.”
MK Alex Miller (Yisrael Beiteinu)
“She is a traitor and should be tried as such.”
MK Uri Ariel (National Union)
“Zoabi has long since forgotten who her public is – she has abandoned them from preliminary action on behalf of various terror groups.”
MK Yoel Hasson (Kadima)
“If the Arab Knesset members sanctify shahids so much, they should become (shahids) themselves…The time has come for Arab Knesset members to realize their place.”
MK Miri Regev (Likud)
“If Israel is a life-affirming state, it must immediately remove the fifth column from the Knesset.”
MK Tzipi Hotovely (Likud)
“The Arab MKs are competing who is the greatest traitor and terrorist sponsor while using the weakness of the legal system. The Attorney General must take a firm hand and put an end to the parade of MKs spitting in the State’s face and protect Israel and the Knesset from the terror sponsors amongst us.”
MK Yariv Levin (Likud), Knesset House Committee chair
The attacks have also been focused on calls for the Arab MKs – and the Balad and United Arab List parties – to be excluded from the Knesset. MK Alex Miller put this most strikingly, saying (among other things): “Whoever is not faithful to the state should not enjoy its fruits”.
None of this is surprising. In recent times, Balad MK Said Naffaa has been indicted for his trip to Syria with religious leaders, while at the end of December, Likud MK Danny Danon was reportedly preparing legislation intended to expel Haneen Zoabi, who he described as a “fifth column” whose place is next to “terrorists”.
These attacks, along with articles in the media like the op-ed calling Zoabi a “clear and present danger” to Israel’s “national security”, are furthering an atmosphere where elected members of Israel’s Palestinian minority are surely at risk of physical harm (on top of their political activities being rendered illegitimate).
But as Israel advocacy groups never tire of repeating – ‘Of course Israel is a democracy – we even have Arabs in the Knesset!’
AL-KHALIL — Speaker of the Palestinian Legislative Council (PLC), Dr. Aziz Dweik, said on Friday that his arrest by the IOF aimed at stopping Palestinian reconciliation and to continue to disable the PLC.
Dr. Dweik added, in a letter he sent with his lawyer from the Ofer military prison, that the IOF arrested him to stop the PLC convening in early February as was planned.
He called on PA President Mahmoud Abbas to call the PLC to convene and to open it for West Bank members of the PLC to discuss the occupation’s breaches against representatives of the Palestinian people and take necessary measures.
The PA in Ramallah kept the PLC gates closed since the split between Fatah and Hamas took place and it was hoped that as the reconciliation starts taking effect the PLC will be able to function as normal as possible despite the fact that over 20 lawmakers are jailed by the Israeli occupation.
Dr. Dweik was detained on Thursday evening by IOF troops at the Jaba’ roadblock near Ramallah while on his way with his family to his home in al-Khalil.
Here is a list of Congressional politicians in favor of the bill known as SOPA and PIPA and the amounts of money they received from the SOPA backers who bought their favor in voting yes for both bills.
The Winners are:
Money Received from Pipa Sponsors:
Sen. Charles Schumer [D, NY] $864,265
Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] $665,420
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand [D, NY] $556,525
Sen. Barbara Boxer [D, CA] $544,424
Sen. Patrick Leahy [D, VT] $416,250 (head sponsor of pipa btw)
Sen. Michael Bennet [D, CO] $347,406
Sen. Roy Blunt [R, MO] $341,700
Sen. Robert Portman [R, OH] $337,525
Sen. Richard Burr [R, NC] $275,950
Sen. Patty Murray [D, WA] $272,750
Money Received from Sopa Sponsors:
Sen. Harry Reid [D, NV] $3,502,624
Sen. Charles Schumer [D, NY] $2,648,770
Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand [D, NY] $2,080,651
Sen. Barbara Boxer [D, CA] $1,431,843
Sen. Scott Brown [R, MA] $1,364,872
Sen. Robert Portman [R, OH] $1,363,009
Sen. Patrick Toomey [R, PA] $1,291,744
Sen. Michael Bennet [D, CO] $1,019,172
Sen. Mark Kirk [R, IL] $911,296
Sen. Patrick Leahy [D, VT] $905,310
As George Orwell so eloquently stated, “Truth is the first casualty of war.” Indeed, lying is absolutely necessary to the ability of countries such as the U.S. aiming to wage unprovoked war upon other countries – the worst form of human rights crime as recognized by the Nuremberg Tribunal which noted that it is “the supreme international crime differing only from other war crimes in that it contains within itself the accumulated evil of the whole.” Given that the U.S. is currently attempting to wage actual war, as well as to carry out acts of war (such as embargos or other forms of economic strangulation), against numerous countries, one is subject to a constant barrage of lies from the U.S. government to justify such acts.
In light of the foregoing, I thought it was important to set forth some truths (though, of course, not an exhaustive list) which undermine the U.S.’s cause for war throughout the world.
1. Gaddafi Troops Did Not Engage In Mass Rapes.
One of the big lies of 2011 (though hard to believe on its face) was that told by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton about Libya as a means to justify regime change in that country – a goal not authorized by either the U.S. Congress or the UN. Thus, with a straight face, Ms. Clinton told the press that Gaddafi was passing out Viagra to his troops so they could go out and rape dissidents en masse, and that the troops were indeed engaging in mass rapes. Of course, the compliant media was more than happy to spread such outlandish accusations. What the press was more reluctant to do was to publish Amnesty International’s later report that there was absolutely no factual support for these accusations. As Amnesty International reported, “Not only have we not met any victims, but we have not even met any persons who have met victims.”
2. The NATO-backed Libyan Rebels Have Committed Egregious Human Rights Abuses. Ironically, the NATO-supported rebels themselves did engage in verifiable acts of rape against civilians, as well as the targeted arrests, displacements and disappearance of black Africans (as opposed to Arabs) living in Libya. The most notorious such case was the military assault on the black African town of Tawarga in which the rebels emptied the entire town of its 10,000 residents, forced them into a refugee camp and then burned down the refugee camp. The rebels justified their racist attacks on black Africans upon the claim that they were serving as mercenaries for Gaddafi. This claim also proved to have no factual basis, but again, this did not stop the press from reporting it over and over.
3. The U.S. Has Been Involved In Violent Attacks In Iran for Years.
Hillary Clinton told another big whopper this past week when she adamantly denied “any United States involvement in any kind of act of violence inside Iran.” Indeed, the U.S. has been supporting terrorist attacks within Iran for years. As Seymour Hirsch reported as far back as 2008 in a New Yorker piece, the U.S. has been supporting the terrorist group “Mujahideen-e-Khalq, known in the West as the M.E.K” for some time. As Hirsch noted, “The M.E.K. has been on the State Department’s terrorist list for more than a decade, yet in recent years the group has received arms and intelligence, directly or indirectly, from the United States.” In addition, as Hirsch related back in 2008, the U.S. has been supporting “The Kurdish party, PJAK, which has . . . has been operating against Iran from bases in northern Iraq for at least three years.”
4. The U.S. Was An Enemy of Democracy & Human Rights In Iran for Over a Quarter of a Century.
While the U.S. points to provocative acts committed by Iran since its revolution in 1979 to justify the continued vilification of that country, what it wants you to forget is that the conflict with Iran began in 1953 and was started by the U.S. itself. Thus, in 1953, the U.S. instigated a coup against the democratically-elected president of Iran, Dr. Mohammad Mosaddegh (whose crime was to nationalize British oil companies), and replaced him with the despotic Shaw who ruled Iran for the next 26 years. The Shaw ruled Iran through his brutal and torturous Savak – the secret police force which was created by and funded by the U.S. until the 1979 Iranian revolution. In short, Iran has a lot to be angry with the U.S. about.
5. The U.S. Began The Conflict in Afghanistan That Helped Spawn al Qaeda.
While one would believe from the press that the Soviet Union ignited the conflict in Afghanistan by invading that country in 1979, and that the U.S. reacted by supporting covert operations by the Mujahidin – the Mujahidin, who counted Osama bin Laden as one of its leaders, later becoming the nucleus of al Qaida – this is not true. Indeed, the reverse was true. Such covert operations were started by the U.S. before the Soviet Union invaded, and in fact were designed to draw the Soviets into a “Vietnam-like quagmire.” U.S. National Security Adviser Zbignew Brzezinski admitted this later, stating in an interview: “That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day the Soviets officially crossed the border I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam War. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupported by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet Empire.”
6. The Worst Human Rights Abusers in the Western Hemisphere Are U.S. Allies
While the U.S. government and press constantly vilify Venezuela, Cuba and Nicaragua by criticizing their human rights policies, allies of the U.S. in the region are by far the worst abusers of human rights. The country with the worst human rights situation in the Americas is Colombia, which also happens to be the U.S.’s number one ally in the Hemisphere and one of the top recipients of U.S. military aid in the world. Colombia’s human rights record is horrendous from top to bottom. Thus, largely because of the forced displacement carried out by the Colombian military and its paramilitary (death squad) allies, Colombia has the largest internally displaced population in the world at over 5 million; Colombia has around 7500 people in prison who can be characterized as political prisoners or prisoners of conscience (compared to the one hundred or so such prisoners which Cuba’s harshest critics allege it has); the paramilitary allies of the Colombian government have killed around 150,000 civilians since the mid-1990’s and have disappeared around 50,000 civilians. In terms of government violence against its own people, close U.S. ally and military recipient Mexico currently runs second to Colombia with about 47,000 civilians killed in the so-called “drug war” being run jointly by the U.S. and Mexico. However, the country that historically tops all of these countries for anti-civilian violence is Guatemala whose U.S.-sponsored military dictatorship (a dictatorship installed by the U.S. back in 1954) killed around 200,000 civilians, mostly Mayan Indians, during the civil war in the 1980’s and 1990’s. This is relevant because the new President of Guatemala, Otto Perez Molina, was a general during this period, was personally responsible for egregious human rights abuses against civilians, and, of course, was supported by the U.S. in his recent candidacy.
7. Cuba Has Played One of the Greatest Humanitarian Roles in the World, Especially given its small size and scant resources.
While the U.S. continues to paint Cuba as some member of an imaginary “axis of evil” in the world, Cuba has given selflessly of itself to better the world even despite the U.S.-imposed embargo which has brought the Cuban economy to a near breaking point. Cuba has sent more doctors throughout the world to minister to the poor than even the World Health Organization. In Haiti, Cuba’s medical aid through its doctors, who were on the ground years before the earthquake of 2010, has been critical in fighting the outbreak in cholera in that country. Even the New York Timesrecently acknowledged this in a November 7, 2011 article entitled, “In Haiti’s Cholera Fight, Cuba Takes Lead Role.” This is contrasted to the U.S. which, despite its puffery, has done little to aid Haiti with medical or humanitarian assistance after the earthquake, and instead sent about 14,000 troops to repress the restless population.
One could of course go on, but this at least gives a flavor of how the world is not as the U.S. and its media mouthpieces portray it. The U.S. is not the “world’s policeman” or the spreader of democracy and human rights that it claims to be. Rather, it has done much more to undermine democracy, human rights and even stability, than it has done to promote these conditions. This is a critical reality to keep in mind as the U.S. tries to start the next war based upon lies, usually premised on false claims that it is trying to protect human rights. Of course, if past is prologue, the U.S. will be allegedly attempting to promote human rights through the greatest violation of human rights a state can commit – the invasion of another country.
Daniel Kovalik is a labor and human rights lawyer living in Pittsburgh. He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, forthcoming from AK Press.
200 protestors intended to gather outside the courthouse as part of a nationwide demonstration by the campaign, which is planned to be held in front of more than 120 federal courthouses on Friday. The rallies have been organized by a group named Move to Amend.
On Thursday, US District Judge Lewis Kaplan rejected the lawsuit filed by Occupy the Courts, saying the space was not a public gathering place.
However, the demonstrators say they will turn out for the rally in surrounding streets, which are not federal property, as well as a nearby park.
Move to Amend proposes a Constitutional Amendment that ends the ‘judicial fiction of corporate Constitutional rights.’
Organizers say the nationwide rallies are aimed at denouncing a 2010 Supreme Court decision that made it easier for corporations to spend money in election campaigns.
They say the decision works against the ’99 percent’ of Americans, who are distinguished from the 1 percent in possession of the greatest portion of the nation’s wealth, asserting that it robs the latter group of all chances of a fair judgment against the power and influence of the former.
Occupy the Courts is an extension of Occupy Wall Street movement that emerged on September 17, 2011 against high-level corruption in the US and corporate influence on the country’s politics.
Power concedes nothing without a demand
– Frederick Douglass
Occupy Wall Street (OWS), giving vent to the pent up anger of the 99%, has inspired the people in the United States and other parts of the world to expose capitalism for what it is: a profit-driven system that tends to enrich and empower a tiny minority at the expense of everyone else. The movement has successfully shown how the two-party machine of the US politico-electoral system has increasingly become a charade, as the moneyed 1% is essentially in charge of the government. Regardless of its shortcomings and how it would evolve henceforth, the movement’s achievements have already been truly historical, as it signifies an auspicious awakening of the people and a new spirit to fight the injustice.
Despite these glorious achievements, however, OWS does not seem to be growing. The initial excitement and novelty of the movement has dissipated, and the public has become almost indifferent to watching commando-like police raids and evictions of protesters from most of their encampments. Many of its potential allies such as larger numbers of working people seem to be taking a wait-and-see stance toward it.
Several nationwide polls clearly indicate that the movement has stalled. While polling results need to be viewed with caution, they cannot be ignored either, as their findings are by and large consistent. Three major polls (conducted by Gallup/USA Today, Public Policy Polling, and The Pew Research Group) uniformly show that while the Americans’ overall view of the movement and their support of its goals have since mid-October remained largely unchanged, or even slightly improved, they have grown more critical (and less supportive) of its tactics, of the way the protests are being conducted. The Gallup/USA Today poll also showed that “most Americans [are] taking a neutral stance toward” the movement.
How is this to be explained? Why aren’t more of the 99% joining the movement? And why has support for protest actions of the Occupiers declined?
An obvious reason for the fading of support for Occupy demonstrations is the carefully calculated use of excessive power and presence of the police force, designed to frighten or discourage ambivalent spectators who may contemplate joining the protestors. Another equally obvious factor is the corporate media that, in collusion with politicians, tend to drive a wedge between the protestors and their potential allies among the wider working population.
More fundamental reasons for the flattening of support for the Occupy movement’s tactics, however, could be detected in the shortcomings of the movement itself. Three major weaknesses are (1) vagueness of demands and lack of a program for change, (2) lack of or insufficient mobilization of broader working people, and (3) aversion to building an alternative political organization of the 99% to the two-party machine of the 1%.
VAGUENESS OF DEMANDS AND LACK OF A PROGRAM FOR CHANGE
OWS has done a wonderful job in exposing the unjust and corrupting nature of the capitalist system. But it has not done as good a job in explaining or calling attention to an agenda for change. Its Declaration of Occupation catalogues a list of more than 25 grievances, ranging from inequality to bank bail outs to illegal house foreclosures to unemployment and job outsourcing, but, beyond general calls for justice and equality, it refuses to make specific demands. Exposing inequality, injustice and corruption is, of course, necessary—but not sufficient. More importantly is what to do about these corrosive maladies of capitalism. How can they be cured or rectified? What demands are to be made or what political steps are to be taken in order to change the status quo in favor of the 99%?
I am aware of the OWS’s rationale for shying away from making specific demands: “concrete demands tend to narrow the movement’s focus and limit its ideals and goals; focusing on specific demands is tantamount to focusing on trees while losing sight of the forest; or demands may balkanize the 99% and diffuse their energy as they tend toward the least common denominator.” In an article titled “Occupy Wall Street won’t be pigeonholed,” Professor Nicolaus Mills of Sarah Lawrence College argues, for example, “The refusal of Occupy Wall Street to tie itself down with an agenda that can be debated piecemeal is one of its great strengths. The decision allows Occupy Wall Street to remain a cri de Coeur [an impassioned cry] for all who believe they have lost ground over the last decade” .
Another example of this line of reasoning reads as follows: “Occupy Wall Street has left open a space for us all to feel we are a part of the movement. If the demands were already set, many of us might feel outside—that there wasn’t a place for us, that we couldn’t dream about our issue, that we had to stay on message. . . . Occupy Wall Street feels exciting in part because it doesn’t force us to choose, to prioritize” .
I understand the Occupiers’ concern when they argue that focusing on specific issues as rallying points may whittle down their broader and bigger ideals such as fighting for democracy, justice and equality. I also realize why they may argue, “Why bother with the branches when you could go for the roots of the tree.”
But, as Shamus Cooke aptly puts it, “any tree-removal worker will tell you [that] the tree comes first, then the roots.” Far-reaching goals such as “democracy now,” or essential grievances such as “banks got bailed out, we got sold out,” may sound loftier and more important than specific demands such as “save Social Security,” or “affordable healthcare.” But they are not as useful or as effective in mobilizing the people, escalating the struggle toward palpable/achievable results and, therefore, maintaining the movement. Again, as Cooke puts it, “although a general anti-1% sentiment sounds appealing to the 99%, a struggle to win worker-friendly demands can help pull these people into the streets” .
Furthermore, the argument that having a political agenda for change, or making specific demands, may “balkanize” the 99% and diffuse its energy is unwarranted. Demanding “Medicare for all” or “save Social Security,” for example, are bound to resonate with the overwhelming majority of the 99% and unite them all into a powerful fighting force in pursuit of achieving these goals.
Likewise, demanding “no budget cuts, no layoffs, jobs for all,” is certain to echo loudly with the working people, and further expand the fighting coalition against the 1%. A critically important natural ally of the Occupy movement, without whose participation no meaningful change could be brought about, is the working class. Although individual workers or unions have occasionally participated in the Occupy protests, the overwhelming majority of the working Americans seem to have taken a position on the fence; apparently torn between the Occupy movement, on the one hand, and the labor bureaucrats, in collusion with the Democratic Party, on the other.
So far, the movement has not done enough to begin to cut the umbilical cord that has traditionally tied the rank-and-file of the US labor to the Democratic Party and its allies in the labor bureaucracy. True, Occupy did have a number of auspicious joint actions with labor unions and college students, as in the case of shutting down the Port of Oakland, or the case of support for public education in California. Such promising instances of Occupy-labor alliance, however, remain sporadic, few and far between.
Only through specific demands such as “jobs for all” can OWS woo away the hitherto ambivalent mass of labor ranks from the corrupt union chiefs and the movement-wrecking Democratic Party. If OWS mobilizes around issues that resonate with the working majority, labor ranks and, therefore, unions will follow as they would be left without much of a choice. The resulting Labor/Occupy alliance would constitute an irresistible force of change in favor of the 99%.
Perhaps it would be instructive to recall historical evidence indicating that major social revolutions such as the French revolution (1789), the Russian/Bolshevik revolution (1917), the Spanish revolution (the 1930s), and the Chinese revolution (1949) were all precipitated and won by a few simple demands (like bread, peace and land) that resonated with the majority of the people. Likewise, the New Deal reforms in the United States and Social-Democratic reforms in Europe resulted from a few seemingly modest demands such jobs and economic security that galvanized and united the people against the ruling class, thereby effecting positive change in favor of the public.
Demands such as “Medicare for all,” “jobs for all,” or “save Social Security” are obviously unifying and strengthening causes for the Occupy movement, not “balkanizing” and “weakening,” as many Occupiers seem to think. More importantly, in the absence of such concrete, winnable demands it would become increasing more difficult to sustain the movement on the basis of general grievances, or lofty but amorphous ideals.
LACK OR INSUFFICIENT MOBILIZATION OF THE WORKING PEOPLE
Another weakness of the Occupy movement is that it has not made a concerted effort to reach out and mobilize the working people, especially the organized labor, which has sporadically engaged in protest actions around key demands related to job protection, but frequently hamstrung by many of the class collaborationist union leaders. Working class is, of course, not limited to the so-called “blue-collar” workers; it also includes vast layers of “professionals” or “white-collar” workers. The uniquely significant role of the working people lies not merely in their numbers; more importantly, in their critically important economic role as producers of the wealth of nations. Not only do they run factories, but also transportation and communication networks, schools and hospitals, food and entertainment industries . . . in short, the economy.
As long as they keep producing goods and services, and thus running the economy, no symbolic occupation (by groups of dedicated radicals) of Wall Street premises, of major banks, or of politicians’ offices would force the 1% to pay attention to the needs of the 99%. Agitating and organizing the working people around specific issues takes time and patience; but there are simply no short-cuts around it.
“Escalating the Occupy Movement without having engaged working people with their most pressing issues will amount to strangling it (imagine a battlefield where the cavalry charges and the infantry stays put, unable to back-up those mounting the advance). The real organizing still needs to be done, but the activists’ impatience is fast becoming a threat. This weakness has its roots in the left’s inability to link their ‘more radical’ ideas to the needs and current consciousness of the broader population. . . . This impatience pushes some activists to create change ‘now’—the urge to harvest the crops without having first plowed and sown the field. Working people soon get dismissed as being ‘not radical enough,’ and the most progressive participants become further isolated. No social movement can survive with this dynamic; in fact, many have died from this disease” .
The Occupy movement, too, seems to be in danger of being plagued by “this disease.” This is clearly reflected in the findings of the polls mentioned above, which show stable or increasing support for the goals of the Occupy movement but decreasing support of its tactics, or protest actions. Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling makes this point clear in the following words: “I don’t think the bad poll numbers for Occupy Wall Street reflect Americans being unconcerned with wealth inequality. . . . I don’t think any of that has changed – what the downturn in Occupy Wall Street’s image suggests is that voters are seeing the movement as more about the ‘Occupy’ than the ‘Wall Street.’ The controversy over the protests is starting to drown out the actual message” .
So far, only a small fraction of the of the 99% (the most radical, largely young, student and media/computer savvy) has been directly engaged in the Occupy movement; the rest could be won over or turned away depending on how the movement relates to them, and their specific needs, not on how much or how loudly it condemns the woes and wickedness of capitalism in general.
RELUCTANCE TO ORGANIZE AND COORDINATE NATIONALLY
Not only does the Occupy movement need to put forth specific demands and connect or communicate with the working people around such demands, it also needs to become better organized. While Occupiers have organized many successful protest actions in various venues around the nation, overall the movement remains very much disjointed and uncoordinated. To grow, to become sustainable and to transform the status quo, a social movement needs to be organized on a national level. Smaller numbers of dedicated activists, working on different social issues in various times and places are, of course, important. But the collective impact of massive nationwide actions against the 1% would be much more effective than the sum total of “autonomous” local actions.
The history of labor struggles to achieve a modicum of workers’ rights could be instructive here. In their negotiations with employers many local unions lost to the bosses because they were not supported by other unions. By contrast, local unions that enjoyed the support of other unions experienced higher rates of success in their collective bargaining with employers. Working people would feel truly powerful only when their fights for peace and social justice are coordinated in a collective national front against the 1%.
I am not unmindful of the movement’s wariness of “organization”—lest it should lead to centralization and bureaucratization of power. This is a legitimate concern. But there is such a thing as being too cautious. We can no longer afford not to use automobiles out of fear of auto accidents; we must drive carefully, and not allow drunkards to sit at the wheel. The solution to the problem of centralization of power is not doing away with organization; it is guarding against it through democratic means and “appropriate” checks and balances.
Decentralization does not necessarily mean “democracy,” just as centralization does not necessarily mean authoritarianism. The Occupy movement needs (and can have) both organization and leaders without losing democratic operations. Furthermore, claiming that the Occupy movement has no leaders, and that major decisions within the movement are made collectively is not altogether true. “Leaders exist within Occupy regardless of intentions; saying that Occupy is a “leaderless movement” does not make it so. The inevitable leaders of Occupy are those who dedicate their time to the movement, organize events, are spokespeople, those who help set agendas for meetings or actions, those who set up and run web pages, etc. In reality there already exists a spectrum of leadership that is essential to keeping the movement functioning” .
Surely, individual occupiers can utter any slogan or make any demand they wish to, but they can do so only as expressions of their personal opinions. But when it comes to issues or proposals to be approved or sponsored by the General Assembly, such issues are carefully screened by the influential members of the movement. For example, many a time proposals by individual members or Working Groups to make specific demands have been rejected by the General Assembly. Here is an example from New York: on December 18, 2011, the “Demands Working Group” proposed the following demand to the New York City General Assembly:
“JOBS FOR ALL—A Massive Public Works and Public Service Program:
“We demand a democratically-controlled public works and public service program, with direct government employment, to create 25 million new jobs at good union wages. The new jobs will go to meeting the needs of the 99%, including education, healthcare, housing, mass transit, and clean energy. The program will be funded by raising taxes on the rich and corporations and by ending all U.S. wars. Employment in the program will be open to all, regardless of immigration status or criminal record” .
The Proposal did not pass the General Assembly!
An obvious inconsistency can be detected between the Occupy movement’s goals and ideals, on the one hand, and the ways or tactics to achieve those objectives, on the other. For example, the movement has worked hard to show that President Obama and the Democratic Party are as beholden to the interests of the 1% as their Republican counterparts, which means that the 99% should not waste their energies to reform the Democratic Party, or their votes to elect its candidates. But then it refuses to organize an independent political organization, or put up alternative candidates to the Republican and Democratic candidates, thereby leaving the 99% with no alternative candidates to vote for.
The Occupiers argue that instead of building a third political party, developing an independent agenda for change, and putting up alternative candidates, they would put pressure on the Democratic and Republican politicians to bring about change in favor of the public. But why would these politicians, whose election/reelection is bankrolled by the 1%, and are therefore beholden to the interests of their benefactors, feel pressure from the Occupiers when their comfortable positions are not threatened by alternative candidates of the 99%?
Furthermore, smaller groups of autonomous local protesters would be easier targets for police raids and imprisonment than massive numbers on a national level. The often repeated cliché that there is power in numbers is as relevant here as in any other context. The Occupiers’ optimistic view that uncoordinated, independent local protests and occupations can effect change within the existing political structure seems to overlook the fact that the ruling 1% does not take class struggle lightly. As one observer of the commando-like police raids of the Occupiers’ camps has aptly put it, “The repression by the state provides its own answer to all those who claim that the rights of the working class can be secured through the existing political system” .
Divide and rule is a well-known policy of oppressive powers. By voluntarily remaining divided, OWS is inadvertently making this insidious policy of oppressors less onerous. Evidence shows that, in deciding to raid and evict an encampment, the police and politicians often base their decisions on the numbers and the level of popularity that the Occupiers have with the broader population, especially with the people who live in the immediate vicinity of an encampment. They often bide their time, hold off their storming raids and brutal evictions until such moments when they see that the number of campers and/or their supporters is dwindling. Reflecting on this experience, an observer has written: “Although the police deserve total blame for their tactics, Occupiers must out-flank them with a political strategy that leans towards organizing massive events, so that the police’s power is muted and the media cannot portray Occupy as a minority of extremist activists playing cat and mouse with the police” .
WHAT NEXT (AFTER THE ENCAMPMENTS)?
The Occupy movement seems to be at a crossroads. It may continue with the self-imposed policy of “no leadership,” “no program,” “no organization”; limit itself to sporadic protest and occupation activities around general goals such as peace, democracy and social justice—and quite likely witness its gradual decline. Or it could grow and become a true vehicle for meaningful changes in favor of the 99% by making specific winnable demands, by communicating with and organizing the broader layers of the working people around such demands, and by building a nationwide political organization of, by and for the 99% with its own candidates for public office.
 Nicolaus Mills, “Occupy Wall Street Won’t be Pigeonholed”: http://www.cnn.com/2011/10/26/opinion/mills-occupy-sds/index.html
 Stephanie Luce, “More Observations from Occupy Wall St.”: http://www.solidarity-us.org/current/node/3406
 Shamus Cooke, “Occupy Movement Needs a Good Fight”: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=viewArticle&code=COO20111106&articleId=27509
 Tom Jensen, “Occupy Wall Street Favor Fading”: http://www.publicpolicypolling.com/main/2011/11/occupy-wall-street-favor-fading.html
 Shamus Cooke, “Theory and Practice in the Occupy Movement”: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=28596
 “Proposal for Sunday, 12/18, General Assembly: Jobs for All – Demands Working Group”: http://www.nycga.net/2011/12/18/proposal-for-saturday-1217-general-assemblyjobs-for-all-demands-working-group/
 Joseph Kishore, “Occupy Wall Street movement at a crossroads”: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2011/oct2011/pers-o26.shtml
 Shamus Cooke, “Reform vs. Revolution Within Occupy”: http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=28196
The editor of The Hill, a newspaper exclusively covering Congress, said that Congress was not going to do very much in 2012, except for “the big bill” which is extending the payroll tax cut and unemployment compensation, which expire in late February. That two month extension will likely reignite the fight between Democrats and Republicans that flared last month.
In 2012, Congress, the editor implied, would be busy electioneering. That is, the Senators and Representatives will be busy raising money from commercial interests so they can keep their jobs. There won’t be much time to change anything about misallocated public budgets, unfair tax rules, undeclared costly wars, and job-depleting trade policies that, if fixed, would increase employment and public investment.
So this year, Congress will spend well over $3 billion on its own expenses to do nothing of significance other than shift more debt to individual taxpayers by depleting the social security payroll tax by over $100 billion so both parties can say they enacted a tax cut! That is what the Democrats in Congress and the President call a significant accomplishment.
Will someone call a psychiatrist? This is a Congress that is beyond dysfunctional. It is an obstacle to progress in America, a graveyard for both democracy and justice. No wonder a new Washington Post-ABC news poll found an all time high of 84 percent of Americans disapprove of the job Congress is doing.
Both Republicans and Democrats say they want to reduce the deficit. But they are avoiding, in varying degrees, doing this in any way that would discomfort the rich and powerful. One would think that, especially in an election year, the following legislative agenda would be very popular with the voters.
First, restore the taxes on the rich that George W. Bush cut ten years ago which expanded the deficit. So clueless are the Democrats that they have not learned to use the word “restore” instead of the Republican word “increase” when talking about taxes that were previously cut for the millionaires and billionaires.
Second, collect unpaid taxes. The IRS estimates that $385 billion of tax revenues are not collected yearly. If the IRS budget increased and more people were hired, every dollar it spent would return $200 from tax evaders, including corporations and the wealthy. When taxes are not collected, the large majority of honest taxpayers are left with the unfair consequences. Imagine that money being applied to jobs that repair our crumbling public works.
Third, end the outrageous corporate loopholes that allow profitable large corporations to pay just half of the statutory tax rate of thirty-five percent. More than a few pay less than five percent and many pay zero on major profits. During a recent three year period, according to the Citizens for Tax Justice, a dozen major corporations such as Verizon and Honeywell paid no taxes on many billions of profits, and the legendary tax escapee, General Electric, managed to pay zero and even receive billions in benefits from the U.S. Treasury.
Fourth, do what most U.S. soldiers in the field have believed should have been done years ago–get out of Afghanistan and Iraq and nearby countries like Kuwait where thousands of U.S. soldiers based in Iraq have moved.
Fifth, to increase consumer demand, which creates jobs, raise the federal minimum wage from the present level of $7.25–which is $2.75 less than it was way back in 1968, adjusted for inflation–to $10 per hour. Businesses who keep raising prices and executive salaries (eg. Walmart and McDonalds) since 1968 should be reminded of their windfall in that period.
In addition, President Obama can urge mutual and pension funds and individual shareholders to demand higher dividends from companies like EMC, Google, Apple, Cisco, Oracle and others firms hoarding two trillion dollars in cash as if this money was the corporate bosses’, not the owner-shareholders. More dividends, more consumer demand, more jobs.
Want to know why Congress doesn’t make such popular and prudent decisions for the American people? Because the people are not objecting to all the power that their Congressional representatives and their corporate allies have sucked away from them. Because the people are not putting teeth and time into the “sovereignty of the people” expressed in the preamble to our Constitution which begins with “We the people,” not “We the corporation.”
So citizens, it’s your choice. If you don’t demand a say day after day, you’ll continue to pay day after day.
By the way, the Congressional switchboard number is 202-224-3121.
1968 vs. 2012
For the Left, the big news of the New Hampsire primary has been greeted with an embarrassed silence. For there the progressive wing of the Democratic Party, for example “Progressive” Democrats of America, failed completely to put forward a candidate for peace. This failure was not unexpected since the candidate of the progressives was and is Barack Obama who is out-Bushing Bush in the war and empire department. Nor did the wing of the progressive peace movement not formally associated with the Democratic Party raise its voice in any discernible way in New Hampshire. Here is a primary which is carefully watched in a state small enough so that a grassroots effort can have a genuine effect and reverse the tide of war as happened in 1968 and 1952. Where were UFPJ, Veterans for Peace, Peace Action, Code Pink? Missing in action. What an abject failure, a profound indictment of what is called the “Peace and Justice” movement.
Lenin once remarked that each generation comes to socialism in its own way. It might also be said that each generation comes to oppose war and Empire in its own way. For the present generation of 20 and 30 somethings, libertarian philosophy is the vehicle to oppose war, as was evident in the New Hampshire primary. In part they chose Libertarianism, but in part Libertarianism chose them since the progressives have largely abandoned anti-interventionism, preferring instead Obama’s “humanitarian” imperialism. Many in fact are pro-war when you scratch the surface.
How different this was from 1968 when the young went “clean for Gene,” tromping around for Senator Eugene McCarthy in the snows of New Hampshire. Disgusted with inhumanity of the imperialist war on Vietnam and threatened with the draft, they took up the cause of McCarthy, the only one willing to challenge Johnson. (Not widely known is that George McGovern, somewhat to the left of McCarthy, refused, as did Bobby Kennedy, another saint for the Progressives, brother of and adviser to the president who ratcheted up that war in the early 60s.) With a close second in New Hampshire, McCarthy and his volunteers brought Johnson low and ended his war presidency. It was a reprise of the 1952 NH primary in which Estes Kefauver with his trademark coonskin cap bested Harry Truman, now lionized by the Democrats but widely reviled at the time for the war in Korea which claimed at least a million Asian and about 50,000 American souls. By 2012 the hold of the Democratic Party on the so-called Peace and Justice movement is so complete that no one dared challenge Obama.
Whose vote were the young libertarians able to deliver to their candidate, Ron Paul? That is another largely unreported story. The votes for Ron Paul came strongly not only from the under 40 set but among those earning under $50,000. In contrast Romney, a carbon copy of Obama on all major questions took the over $100,000 crowd and the older voters. “Proletariat Votes Libertarian” or “Proletariat Votes for Paul” are headlines which the progressives might find enlightening. At the least the Progressives might have joined Ron Paul’s antiwar, civil Libertarian effort, but they did not because, you see, Ron Paul unlike Obama is not a “progressive,” and the “struggle for peace and justice cannot be separated.” (I have noticed, however, that progressives these days from Occupy Wall Street to the Recall Walker effort find it quite easy to leave out questions of peace in the “struggle for justice.” MLK Jr. would be ashamed of them for that; but it is most convenient for Obama’s re-election campaign.)
As one who was on the ground in New Hampshire in the days leading up to the primary, I was intrigued by the characteristics of the volunteers themselves. It was not an elite crew; not a single Ivy Leaguer amongst them did I find – usually from state universities or colleges. Holding signs at one poll I visited was a 40 year old painter who had three or four employees, a young woman who ran a graphic design business and another young woman, a divorced 37 year old lawyer with a 10 year old child. I would characterize this group as either working class or small businessmen and women. This is precisely the group that Progressives should be trying to organize and represent. In that regard the Progressive movement has been a dismal failure over the last three decades; and in fact has generally proved quite hostile to small businesspeople and their culture.
On a personal note going to NH this time was a dream deferred. In 1968 when others went “Clean for Gene,” I had a schedule that demanded I work every day, every other night and every other weekend. Never did I imagine that all these decades later the antiwar action would be on the Republican side. It appears that the “progressive” Left, not a genuine left or radical formation anyway, has lost a generation of activists with its subservience to Obama and its lack of spine. One begins to wonder about the entire Progressive movement. Perhaps when a genuine Left wing movement reemerges, it should give up on the very name “progressive”– or again to borrow a phrase from Lenin, “take off the soiled shirt.”
John V. Walsh can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.