Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Stop the Attacks on Pres. Aristide and Haitian Democracy

With thanks to the Alliance for Global Justice. The ongoing struggle in Haiti has not received the attention from the US left that it deserves. This article is reprinted from their website. Please check it out.

Former President of Haiti Jean-Bertrand Aristide is bing targeted for harassment by the government of current President Michel Martelly. The US supported Martelly regime is pursuing trumped up charges of corruption against Aristide in an attempt to further intimidate Haiti's pro-democracy movement. Pres. Aristide was overthrown in a 2004 coup that was organized and coordinated with US government funding via the International Republican Institute and its partners in the National Endowment for Democracy (NED). The NED is a US Congress created and funded organization that tries to manipulate the electoral affairs of foreign governments.
CLICK HERE to email a sample letter (or write your own!) to the Haitian Embassy and the Western Hemisphere Bureau of the US State Department.


Stop The Attacks On Former Haitian President Jean-Bertrand Aristide and the Lavalas Movement

An Urgent Call from Haiti Action Committee

On August 13, the Haitian government summoned former President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to court on corruption charges. This summons is part of a chilling pattern of repression aimed at destroying Aristide’s political party, Fanmi Lavalas, as the country approaches new legislative elections. We denounce it in the strongest possible terms.

 On March 18, 2011, tens of thousands of people followed President Aristide’s car as it drove from the airport to his home, following his return from seven years of forced exile. They then climbed over the walls into the courtyard of the Aristides’ residence to continue an emotional and heart-felt greeting for Haiti’s first democratically elected president, overthrown in a U.S.-orchestrated coup in 2004. In his speech at the airport, President Aristide focused on education and the importance of inclusion for all Haitians in the process of restoring democracy.

Since his return, President Aristide has done exactly what he promised to do – reopen the University of the Aristide Foundation (UNIFA). On September 26, 2011 the Medical School once again opened its doors. Today, there are over 900 students studying medicine, nursing and law at a University whose mission is to provide higher education to all sectors of Haitian society, not just the children of the rich.

 And yet, in spite of this powerful and important work, Aristide and other Lavalas leaders and activists remain the target of government harassment and attack. This is not surprising; after all, the Haitian government of Michel Martelly came to power after elections with a historically low turnout in which Fanmi Lavalas, Haiti’s most popular political party, was banned from participation.

Martelly has embraced Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier, the former Haitian dictator. Human rights organizations estimate that the Duvaliers – “Papa Doc” and “Baby Doc” – were responsible for the deaths of over 30,000 Haitian citizens during their 29-year rule. While Duvalier now lives freely in Haiti and was honored by Martelly at the January 1st 2014 Haitian Independence Day celebrations, President Aristide and the democratic movement are under assault.

For over a decade, U.S. and Haitian authorities have periodically threatened President Aristide with indictment and “tried” him in the pages of a compliant media. None of these charges has stuck, for the simple reason that they are all lies. This is the third time since his return in 2011 that Haitian authorities have trumpeted charges against President Aristide. Each time, after sensational headlines, the cases were unceremoniously shelved after an initial hearing and interview, before President Aristide could even challenge the accusations.

 The politicized nature of the charges is further evidenced by the history of the judge in the case, Lamarre Bélizaire. The Port-au-Prince Bar Association has suspended Bélizaire for ten years from the practice of law (the suspension to begin once he steps down as judge) for using the court to persecute opponents of the Martelly regime. This latest summons is one more example of a government determined to derail any opposition.

 Each time these charges are trotted out, the goal is to defame Aristide, weaken Lavalas and endanger the vital educational work that he has led since his return. Haiti’s grassroots movement knows that each new rumored indictment is part of a campaign to intimidate and silence them. When President Aristide was last called to court, thousands of people surrounded the courthouse, chanting: “If they call our brother, they call all of us.” Yesterday, once again, people took to the streets to show him their support.
We echo their voices. Enough is enough. It is time for education, health care, and democratic development in Haiti, not a resurgence of political repression. We call on the Haitian government to withdraw this warrant.
Sent by Haiti Action Committee

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Marikana, Gaza, Ferguson: 'You should think of them always as armed' ::

By Richard Pithouse · 18 Aug 2014

In colonial wars the occupying power invariably reaches a point where it has to acknowledge that its true enemy is not a minority - devil worshipers, communists, fanatics or terrorists - subject to external and evil manipulation, but the people as a whole. Once this point is reached every colonised person is taken as a potential combatant and the neighbourhood and the home are cast as legitimate sites of combat.

This is the moment when liberal paternalism breaks down.

From its first stirrings liberalism has often managed the contradiction between this reality and its affirmation of liberty by limiting its reach in both spatial and racial terms. The rules that were understood to apply in England or France were not applied on the slave plantations of America or the Caribbean or, more recently, during the colonial wars in Kenya or Algeria. The same is true in Gaza today.

Picture credit: A protester in in Ferguson, Missouri courtesy Bilde.

But as Aimé Césaire argued in 1955, in an essay first published in Paris, colonialism has a ‘boomerang effect’ – what is done over there will eventually be done at home, usually to a group of people that has been raced out of the count of who is taken as an authentic citizen with full rights to presence. On the 17th of October 1961, as the Algerian war against French colonialism was coming to an end, thousands of Algerians, between thirty and forty thousand men, women and children, dressed in their best clothes, marched in Paris in protest at a curfew on Algerians. Before the march Maurice Papon, the chief of police who had been a collaborator with the Nazis during the Second World War, informed his officers that “Even if the Algerians are not armed, you should think of them always as armed.”

The marchers were met with a savage police attack. People were thrown into the Seine, some dead, others bloodied but still alive. Some were taken to the police headquarters and beaten to the death in the courtyard. Others were taken to sport stadiums and left to die without medical attention. For years there was simply no discussion of this in France. One result of this long silence is that the exact number of people murdered by the police on that day is not clear. Credible estimates range up to 200.

Colonial powers have always shared what they have learnt about oppression. Some of the people that tortured for apartheid learnt their skills from the French who had made torture a routine feature of their attempt to contain resistance to colonialism in Algerian. Colonised people have also always shared their knowledge about how to resist oppression. In 1962 Nelson Mandela went to newly independent Algeria to be trained as a soldier.

From the eighteenth century it was, perhaps more than anyone else, sailors who spread revolt from port to port. In 1804 African slaves won their freedom in Haiti. For years later slaves, ripped from around the world and thrown together in Cape Town, unfurled the banner of revolt in Cape Town. The docks in Cape Town would remain a site of subversive exchange until at least the early twentieth century when sailors bought anarchist, communist and Garveyist ideas into dialogue with more local experiences and ideas sparking the emergence of the Industrial and Commercial workers’ Union, which, as it spread from Cape Town, through the Eastern Cape to Durban and as far as what are now the independent states of Namibia, Zimbabwe and Zambia, became at various points, a trade union, a peasant movement and a shack dwellers’ movement.

Today the zones where enduring colonial power relations take their most extreme forms, places like Palestine and Haiti, are not solely sites of egregious oppression. They are also laboratories where new modes of oppression are tested. The Brazilian soldiers that were part of the United Nations occupation of Haiti and played a part in crushing the movement for democracy and justice in the shack settlements of Port-au-Prince returned home to occupy the favelas in Rio. The Israeli state sells the technologies it has tested in Palestine, and it and consultants linked to it train police officers, soldiers and private security companies from other countries. The lessons learnt in Gaza will be shared with the with the security apparatus from Johannesburg to Paris and New York as old forms of domination are modernised.

When the overwhelmingly white police department in Ferguson, Missouri, some of whom are Israeli trained, responded to protest at their murder of Michael Brown, an unarmed black teenager, they brought in equipment first used in the Iraq war. The images that rushed around the world showed what can only be understood as a mode of policing rooted in contemporary forms of imperial and colonial power in the Middle East, as well as the long history of state violence against black people in the United States. Unsurprisingly people in Gaza started sending advice to people in Ferguson via twitter about how to deal with stun grenades, tear gas and all the rest. Messages of support were sent from Gaza to Ferguson.

In our own country it cannot be denied that our own police, equipped in part from Israel, approach some of our fellow citizens as if they were the enemy in a colonial war. Nobody who has seen the footage of the Marikana massacre, or an eviction at the Marikana Land Occupation in Durban, can have any doubt about this. And as in Gaza, or Ferguson, the evident coloniality of some forms of contemporary state power is not simply a matter of the subordination of social questions to a military logic. Just as the same water cannons are used in Gaza, Port-au-Prince and Ferguson, as well as the shack lands of Brazil and South Africa, so too are the same ideological operations are repeated, albeit with different key words, around the world. The person who is always treated as if they are armed, whose life counts for nothing, whose home has no sanctity, is a terrorist in Gaza, a gangster or a criminal in Port-au-Prince, Ferguson, Rio or Durban. In Gaza the people are conflated with Hamas, in Port-au-Prince its Aristide and Lavalas. Here it’s the third force.

The impunity of the Israeli state, like the impunity of the American state, like the impunity with which our own state increasingly uses murder, and legitimates the use of murder as a tool of social control, must be smashed. The militarization of social questions must be smashed everywhere. If not what is done in Haiti will continue to boomerang into Brazil. It will continue to become part of the standard mechanisms to police the urban poor from Bombay to Johannesburg. What is done in Palestine will boomerang into the suburbs of Paris, the ghettos of the United States and the places where striking workers gather, and the dispossessed occupy land, in our own country.
Dr. Pithouse teaches politics at Rhodes University.
Should you wish to republish this SACSIS article, please attribute the author and cite The South African Civil Society Information Service as its source.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Protests erupt in Missouri after another police murder

Posted on by Jamala Rogers, from the Freedom Road Socialist Org website:
Protestors in Ferguson confront police with hands raised to show they are unarmed. Michael Brown was shot and killed while doing the same.
Protestors in Ferguson confront police with hands raised to show they are unarmed. Michael Brown was shot and killed while doing the same.
Evidence is still being collected and facts sifted through as I write but what we are absolutely clear on is that a black, unarmed teen was murdered by a Ferguson cop yesterday. Ferguson is a one of many municipalities that make up St. Louis County in Missouri.

Michael Brown was visiting his grandmother at the Canfield Green apartment complex when the tragedy occurred. Details are sketchy but most eye-witnesses tell the same sad story: When accosted by the Ferguson police, Mike raised his hands to show that he was unarmed. Shots ranged out. He raised his hands again to show “compliance” and police fired again, killing him.

This cold-blooded murder of a black youth created instant rage. The word went out through social media and crowds began to gather demanding justice. Multiple police departments were deployed in response, armed with M16s as armored trucks rumbled down neighborhood streets. Community organizers from the Organization for Black Struggle and other groups rushed to the scene to support the family and residents, prepared to give leadership if necessary.

The scenario of young, black men being gunned down in America is nothing new. Not long ago, Carey Ball had a similar encounter with the St. Louis Police Department; he was shot 25 times with his arms up. It’s part of a strategy of racist repression in the urban centers where the sight of black people in general (remember Renisha McBride) and black men in particular, signal fear and danger.
Another march in Ferguson protesting Michael Brown's murder
Another march in Ferguson protesting Michael Brown’s murder.

There are a series of protests and vigils planned in response to the police murder but communities are weary of appealing to the entities that are responsible for or which uphold state violence—police departments, the FBI, the Justice Department, etc. It’s time to craft a more sophisticated approach to police violence that is proactive and impactful.

Sunday, August 3, 2014

A Bill to Get the Labor Movement Back on Offense

Representatives Keith Ellison and John Lewis plan to introduce a bill Wednesday that would make labor organizing a basic freedom no different than freedom from racial discrimination. The legislation would amend the National Labor Relations Act to include protections found under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to include labor organizing as a fundamental right.
George Zornick
July 28, 2014
Public sector workers rallying in solidarity with Wisconsin workers outside Los Angeles City Hall
AP Photo/Jason Redmond

For years, the American labor movement has been on the defensive as it has become harder and harder for workers to join or maintain a union. But some House Democrats are planning a dramatic counter-offensive: a bill that would make union organizing a civil right.

Representatives Keith Ellison and John Lewis plan to introduce a bill Wednesday that would make labor organizing a basic freedom no different than freedom from racial discrimination. That sounds like a nice talking point—but this isn’t just another messaging bill.

The Ellison-Lewis legislation would amend the National Labor Relations Act to include protections found under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act to include labor organizing as a fundamental right. That would give workers a broader range of legal options if they feel discriminated against for trying to form a union.

Currently, their only redress is through a grievance with the National Labor Relations Board—an important process, but one that workers and labor analysts frequently criticize as both too slow and often too lenient on offending employers.
If the NLRA were amended, however, after 180 days a worker could take his or her labor complaint from the NLRB to a federal court. This is how the law works now for civil rights complaints, which gives workers the option, after 180 days, to step outside the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission process.

Then, workers would have sole discretion on whether to push a complaint, as opposed to relying on a decision by the NLRB on whether to forge ahead. Workers could also move the process along much faster than the NLRB handles complaints, which can often take years.

Ellison told The Nation that the legislation would also help workers recover more money—the NLRB will award back pay to a grieved worker minus whatever they earned while awaiting a decision, which can often amount to basically nothing. “[The NLRB] remedy, though useful and very important, and nothing in our legislation changes that, that remedy is considered slow and somewhat inadequate. For some of these union-busting law firms, [they] will say ‘so do it and we’ll just pay.’”
Ellison said he believes the labor movement needs to get back on the offensive. “With the Supreme Court in here, and what they just did in Harris v. Quinn and all the things they wrote about Abood, it’s insane to hope for the best,” he said, referring to the recent decision involving non-union public workers and their fee arrangements with unions. “I mean this Supreme Court is openly hostile to racial justice and worker justice simultaneously. So we better be moving out on both fronts.”

Ellison told MSNBC, which first reported the bill, that he got the idea from a book by Century Foundation fellows Richard Kahlenberg and Moshe Marvit, titled Why Union Organizing Should Be a Civil Right. They argue that the First Amendment’s right to free association should clearly include one of the most crucial forms of association—banding together to push back against unfair treatment from employers.
Marvit told The Nation he thinks treating labor organizing as a civil right is not only constitutionally appropriate but also much more appealing to the general public. “Civil rights is something that Americans really understand, and has a legitimacy that is sort of beyond reproach,” he said. “So when you put it in civil rights terms, it’s something that really speaks to people.” (In the interest of full disclosure, Marvit has written for The Nation in the past.)

“Frankly, I think Republicans have been saying it on the other side. That’s been the message of the National Right to Work Committee for sixty years, that workers have a civil right not to join a union,” Marvit continued. “And I think that’s been a successful argument for them. It taps into this notion of your freedom to choose.”

The Nation has learned that when Ellison and Lewis introduce the bill on Wednesday morning, they will boast eleven other original co-sponsors: Representatives Jerrold Nadler, John Conyers, Marcia Fudge, Barbara Lee, Mark Takano, Rush Holt, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Karen Bass, Danny Davis, Albio Sires and Janice Hahn. All of the co-sponsors are Democrats.

Major unions will also be on board. Both the AFL-CIO and the Change to Win coalition will back the bill, along with The United Food and Commercial Workers and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.
Joseph Geevarghese, deputy director of Change to Win, told The Nation that his union was joining the push “because union organizing has been maligned. Unions have been maligned in our society. There is a value in re-defining what all of these tens of thousands of brave workers are doing as, “We have a fundamental right to stand up and speak out about injustice in this country.’”