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Ruby Dee – brilliant actor, inspiring activist

first_imgThe great actor and political activist Ruby Dee died at the age of 91 on June 11. She had been married to Ossie Davis, another amazing actor and social activist, for almost 60 years, until his death in February 2005.Dee and Davis achieved a powerful collaboration on stage, screen and in the struggle. Broadway marquees dimmed their lights on June 13 in tribute to Dee, as they did for Davis following his death.Following her graduation from Hunter College in New York City, Dee performed on stage in productions by the American Negro Theater, located in the Harlem branch of the New York Public Library, as well as on Broadway in the early 1940s.She played the sister of Sidney Poitier’s character in the ground-breaking 1950 anti-racist film “No Way Out,” which also starred Richard Widmark.Her first major role on Broadway was in the 1959 stage production of playwright Lorraine Hansberry’s award-winning “A Raisin in the Sun,” opposite Poitier. The story, about a Black family in Chicago who face racism when they attempt to move into an all-white neighborhood, is currently on Broadway starring Denzel Washington. The talented actor Sophie Okonedo, who recently won a Tony award playing the role originated by Dee, recognized her as one of her heroes.When the great African-American singer and actor Audra McDonald won her record-breaking sixth Tony award this year for playing Billie Holiday, she also paid homage to Ruby Dee in her acceptance speech.Dee met Davis, her future spouse, during the 1946 Broadway production of “Jeb.” She, Davis and many other pioneering African-American actors, female and male, faced decades-long racial barriers, especially in Hollywood films. It wasn’t until the 2007 film “American Gangster” — after almost a 60-year acting career — that Dee garnered her one and only Academy Award nomination. Davis was never nominated for an Oscar.This year marks the 25th anniversary of Spike Lee’s powerful film, “Do the Right Thing,” about racism in Brooklyn, which included unforgettable characters played by Dee and Davis.A lifetime of activismThe various acting roles played by Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis reflected their radical political views against racism, war and anti-communist hysteria, which they never compromised. They were close friends of the legendary singer Paul Robeson, who was targeted by the McCarthyite witch hunt in the 1950s, especially after he performed in the Soviet Union and other socialist countries and also spoke out against imperialism and racism. Dee and Davis also publicly opposed the 1953 executions of Ethel Rosenberg and Julius Rosenberg, accused of spying for the Soviet Union.During the Civil Rights and Black Liberation movements, Dee and Davis formed close relationships with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcolm X. In fact, Davis gave the eulogy at Malcolm’s funeral. Both Dee and Davis helped co-facilitate the rally at the historic 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, which brought out 250,000 people.Dee signed the call for International Peace for Cuba rallies in the early 1990s in opposition to the U.S. blockade.Both Dee and Davis were active in the Free Mumia Abu-Jamal movement. They both spoke at the 1,000-strong Dec. 9, 2000, “International Day of Solidarity with Mumia” rally at Mother AME Zion Church in Harlem. In 2009, Dee was one of many prominent individuals who demanded a federal civil rights investigation to expose the constitutional violations against Mumia that led to his 1982 first-degree murder conviction. Mumia had interviewed Dee and Davis in 1980.Mumia stated in his Feb. 7, 2005, prisonradio.org audio column following Davis’s death that “for most young people, perhaps the grizzled old guy in Spike Lee’s movie, “Do the Right Thing,” sparks memories. In the flick, Davis plays Da Mayor, a street figure who pines for the attention of his love interest, played by Ruby Dee. This very role reflects the essence of what Davis and Dee have done for generations now: taken rather ordinary roles and imbued them with grace and dignity, a reflection of how they touched the lives of millions of ordinary people by reflecting the best that is within them.”Ruby Dee and Ossie Davis were one of a kind, brilliant actors who consistently stood in solidarity with the workers and oppressed of the world. They will always remain outstanding examples for artists and non-artists alike.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

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Brooklyn, N.Y.: No library cuts!

first_imgWW photo: Anne PrudenAt the Brooklyn Central Library at Grand Army Plaza, librarians protested cuts in jobs and services in the New York Public Library system on Sept. 16. As several branch libraries in the Brooklyn area face closure, protesters say the main library will have to cope with increased pressure for services without an increase in funding and jobs there. After rallying outside the library, the protesters moved inside for a confrontation with the library’s board at one of their meetings. See citizensdefendinglibraries.blogspot.com.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

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Venezuelan government stops U.S.-backed coup attempt

first_imgPresident Nicolás Maduro on election day in April 2013.Ever since Comandante Hugo Chavez became president of Venezuela in 1998 and the Bolivarian Revolution began, there has been no time that the opposition — supported and, to a large extent, led by the United States — has stopped trying to overturn the revolutionary process. It is a story repeated many times in Latin America — so much so that there’s a joke that “the U.S. is the only country where there are no coups because there is no Yankee embassy there.”The latest attempted coup aimed at Venezuela was revealed this past Feb.12, when Youth Day is commemorated, just a year after the start of violent street demonstrations known as guarimbas. The right-wing opposition used these street actions in an attempt to overthrow the government of President Nicolas Maduro. They killed 43 people and injured hundreds. This Feb. 12 Maduro told the people his government had dismantled another attack. He released details about recently discovered plans and the role of the U.S. government.According to President Maduro, the coup was to unfold in three phases: The first would be the publication of the “Program of the Transitional Government” in print, followed by the second phase, an attack with a Tucano fighter plane on the president’s Miraflores Palace and more than a dozen other places, including government departments and the central station of Telesur, the Bolivarian media organization. The third phase would be the publication of a “video of a general who had confessed and been convicted of a coup last year, who would report that a military force had revolted against President Nicolas Maduro and had overthrown him.” (Telesur, Feb. 12)Diligent work by Bolivarian government intelligence officials, combined with the loyalty of young army officers, succeeded in dismantling the planned coup. The evidence obtained, including guns, computers, etc., along with confessions of some detained officers, leave no doubt about the details of the plan, its authors and its financing. Some of those involved, including military aviation officers, are in the hands of the courts, which continue the investigation.Involved in the coup attempt are such right-wing assembly members as Julio Borges, a deputy to the National Assembly from the right-wing party Primero Justicia; 17 active military officers who had already obtained visas from the U.S. State Department; plus retired officers such as Major General Maximiliano Hernández, who is now incarcerated; businessman Parsifal D’Sola; Maria Corina Machado, a known oppositionist who receives funding from the U.S. Agency for International Development; Leopoldo Lopez, in prison now for promoting violent guarimbas in 2014; and others.The latter two people, together with the metropolitan mayor of Caracas, Antonio Ledezma, signed on Feb. 11 the “Call for Venezuelans to a National Agreement for the Transition,” a program aimed at reversing the gains of the Bolivarian Revolution and restoring neoliberalism to Venezuela, including the “insertion” of the country in international organizations like the International Monetary Fund.U.S. role in attempted coupOn Feb. 14, President Maduro announced on Telesur: “We’re just about to capture the person who brought the script that the officers were to read, which a counselor of the Embassy of the United States edited.” Maduro assured the people that all those captured have admitted their role, and so far the authorities already know “how much money was paid in dollars and where the money came from.”An article published  Feb. 14 on aporrea.org, headlined “Blackwater USA appears to own the Tucano aircraft that was to be used to bomb Caracas and overthrow Maduro,” reports that the plane “would be provided by a private U.S. security contractor that obtained the aircraft in order to train pilots.”Beside granting visas to the coup officers, the U.S. showed its role in Venezuela with the White House statement about its “National Security Strategy” of February 2015, which leaves no doubt of the U.S. government’s position: “We are with the citizens where democracy is at risk, as in Venezuela.”The Bolivarian people respondThis latest attempted coup and U.S. intervention have sparked a wave of indignation and solidarity throughout the world. Governments of the countries that are members of the progressive regional organizations ALBA (Bolivanian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America), UNASUR (Union of South American Nations), CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) and MERCOSUR (Common Market of the South), and popular movements worldwide have spoken out in support of the Venezuelan government and the Bolivarian people. Many organizations have simply sent photos showing signs that read: “Je suis Telesur.” (I am Telesur).But it is in Venezuela itself where support for the government has been crucial. The Bolivarian youth, leftist political parties such as the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, the Communist Party of Venezuela, Patria Para Todos, the Movement of Rural Women, the Social Movement of African Descendants and others have taken to the streets and have made public statements supporting the government and opposing U.S. intervention.On Feb. 15, Workers World spoke with Juan Contreras, the deputy to the National Assembly for the Simón Bolívar Coodination (CSB). Based in the historic January 23 neighborhood in Caracas, CSB represents the aspirations of Venezuela’s poor people.Contreras mentioned three factors that are strangling Venezuela’s economy: low oil prices, food smuggled from Venezuela to neighboring countries, and the economic war by merchants who try to hide food in the distribution chain to cause famine among the people. Together they have aroused a great mobilization of the people. Contreras said, “The only way to curb the pretensions of the unpatriotic sectors led by this rotten bourgeoisie who follows a script provided from the North has been the mobilization.”So far, despite U.S. support, the bourgeoisie has not triumphed thanks to two important keys of the Bolivarian process, Contreras continued. “One is readiness of the people for change, and second, the civilian-military unity that at this time has put the brakes on those who want to take power by the easy route through a coup, a violent solution and by destabilizing. Sectors of the Venezuelan bourgeoisie and the U.S. empire have both attempted these ploys.”Contreras ended with a call for solidarity. To the people of the U.S., he requested that they “know the reality of the Venezuelan people, who are determined to build another world, another society that we have said is the Bolivarian Revolution, the Bolivarian socialism. And we are building it in peace and we want to continue building it in peace. Do not be deceived by your government nor by these large international corporations that blatantly lie about the reality of Venezuela.”The Venezuelan Bolivarian process is a living process, and as such it is dialectical. This is a continuous struggle that needs the solidarity of all peoples.The public declaration by the Simón Bolívar Coordination about the coup attempt ends with the following paragraph: “We call on our comrades, friends and brothers in the struggle to redouble our connections with our people mobilized on the street to confront any attempt to destabilize the government we elected to lead the Bolivarian process; in addition, we will work to expose and correct errors such as corruption, impunity and making the process bureaucratic — scourges that make the task easier for the enemies of the people.” It is signed by the Simón Bolívar Coordination: “Libertarian, Revolutionary, in Solidarity, Indigenous, Popular and Socialist.”FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

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Denver DA clears officers in shooting of Jessica Hernandez

first_imgJessica HernandezOn June 5, Denver District Attorney Mitch Morrissey announced that he had cleared officers Gabriel Jordan and Daniel Green in the January shooting of Jessica Hernandez, 17. Morrissey apparently hoped the late Friday announcement would delay the news reaching the community.The DA concluded that criminal charges were unjustified. He said the officers were “reasonably fearful of their lives” and that “responding with deadly force was justified.” No one was surprised since this DA has never charged a police officer in a duty-related killing in 23 years.Here is the story as pieced together from the Denver news blog westword.com and conversations with Hernandez’s family:In January, five teenage women who had been drinking and smoking were in an alley sleeping in a stolen car. The police moved in screaming, “Get out of the car!” Visibility was poor and the windows were fogged.Jessica Hernandez, who was the driver, started to get out of the car and then closed the door.  Eight shots rang out. Hernandez, a Latina woman whom friends called Jessie, was hit with three bullets.In the panic of the moment the car moved. The police say the car came at them. The officer stated he pushed his hand out and “bounced” off the car. The car did not hit him.When police fired, their shots did not strike the front windshield but rather pierced the side windows.  Three bullets struck Hernandez, killing her, and another wounded one of the four passengers. All the bullets went in the side window, indicating that the officer was not firing from in front of the car. The car may have moved after Hernandez had been shot.Police themselves create a grave danger if they shoot into moving cars when they are not being shot at.Others shot by policeThere were four shootings by police in the seven months prior to and including Hernandez’s death. Another unarmed young person of color, Ryan Ronquillo, 20, was  killed in his car by a hail of 12 police bullets in July 2014. Three others were seriously injured in the other shootings.In the past, the police have often claimed that a car is a “loaded weapon.” On June 9, the police announced a change in policy and police will no longer be permitted to shoot into moving cars unless shot at. They can no longer consider a car as a weapon. They will just have to get out of the way as a first response. (Denver Post, June 9)For months there have been community protests against the excessive force used by the Denver police. Petitions were gathered to demand a federal investigation. Memorials and fundraisers were held to help pay for Hernandez’s burial, support for her family and legal expenses.DA Morrissey has told the family and the public that Hernandez would not have died if she had “simply complied with lawful police orders.” (Denver Post, June 6) Blaming the victim of a police murder for her own death is a common practice by police in order to justify their crimes and avoid responsibility for their acts.An attorney for Hernandez’s family, Qusair Mohamedbhai, said the officers were too quick to use deadly force. “Jessie and her friends were placed in danger by Denver police officers’ decision to employ unnecessary deadly force as a matter of first resort.” (abcnews.com, June 5)The American Civil Liberties Union also expressed dismay in a statement to the June 6 Denver Post at the predictable pattern of DA Morrissey in refusing to bring charges against the officers. The ACLU said there was a “serious conflict of interest” since Morrissey has not filed a single indictment of a killer police officer in over two decades.The ACLU is currently calling again for the U.S. Department of Justice to investigate not only Hernandez’s killing but “the pattern and practice of using excessive force and violating the civil rights of Denver residents.”Other important issues regarding Hernandez being Latina and identifying as “queer” are thought to have intensified police feelings when dealing with the car of five young women. The officers stated they initially thought they saw a “male” — Hernandez has short cropped hair — who started to get out of the car and then jumped back in.Family to pursue justiceThe June 6 Denver Post reported that the family was “disappointed but not surprised” about the DA’s ruling since “Morrissey is a guardian of the Denver Police Department and officers only have to claim that they feared for their lives to justify a shooting. … The family will seek lawful means for justice and change within Denver and throughout the nation.”Many individuals and groups support the family. The Colorado Latino Forum was outraged. According to the Denver Post, Lisa Calderon, co-chair of the Denver Latino Forum, said, “We are sickened and saddened by the decision to exonerate the officers, but we are not surprised.”Supporters of Hernandez say that an outside investigation must take place due to the close relationship of the DA’s office with the police. Since the police and the DA’s office are both parts of the state repressive apparatus, the community must continue to unite and mobilize to demand justice.Still, stopping the police from wantonly shooting into cars is a small victory and could have saved the lives of Jessica Hernandez and Ryan Ronquillo. Their lives mattered!FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

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Syria and ISIS: Some anti-imperialist observations and analysis

first_imgThis article was submitted to Workers World by U.S. political prisoner Jaan Laaman.With the mid-November ISIS-claimed terrorist attacks in Paris, and even more since the California shootings, there has been a constant stream of reports, official government statements and politicians’ remarks about ISIS and the war against Syria. There have also been reports of French, U.S., Russian and Syrian government air bombing raids on ISIS targets in Syria. In the U.S. corporate news media, many of these reports and most of the analyses have been driven and limited by ideology and are often incorrect.  This weak reporting and outright misinformation is created to fit the U.S. government line on what is going on in Syria and with ISIS, also called the Islamic State. The fact is that ISIS, Al Qaeda and other reactionary forces have mostly maintained, and in some areas even strengthened, their presence in parts of Iraq and Syria.Why are the U.S. government and its major allies seemingly unable to contain and limit these al-Qaeda-like groups and their increasing attacks on people outside the Middle East?  From where, and how did these groups first spring up?  It is important to trace some of this history, in order to more clearly see what might be more effective in stopping these attacks and terrorism.  And to be clear, by terrorism, I am using the actual definition of the term, that is, the indiscriminate use of violence against civilians in order to pressure the government and ruling powers.Allow me to go back and begin with Al Qaeda. Osama bin Laden pulled Al Qaeda together in the 1980s in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan to fight the then-Soviet-Union-supported secular and progressive government of President Najibullah in Afghanistan.  At that time, the U.S. government, completely caught up in Cold War anti-Soviet Union ideology, created the most expensive CIA operation in history.  The U.S. government supplied huge amounts of weapons and money to Al Qaeda, groups with a similar ideology and warlord groups fighting the progressive Afghan government. Readers might remember, or could easily find, the rather famous photos of Ronald Reagan meeting with some of bin Laden’s top lieutenants at the White House.  At that time President Reagan called these forces “freedom fighters,” not terrorists, even though they were killing people in Afghanistan in the same manner as people were killed recently in Paris and San Bernardino.Bush dragged U.S. into Iraq invasionOnce the Soviets withdrew from Afghanistan, Al Qaeda turned its sights on the United States. Eighteen months after the 9/11 attacks, then-President George W. Bush pushed and dragged the U.S. into invading and occupying Iraq.The lies and fabrications Bush and his government used to justify the war against Iraq are now well known. There were no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.  There also was no Al Qaeda in Iraq, under the secular and nationalist Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein.  There were no bombs going off in Iraq, nobody was getting their head cut off, there was no warfare between various Iraqi communities and cities. In fact, Iraq had a middle-class level of lifestyle.  Women went to school and work, were doctors, professionals and served in government positions.  Iraq had a lot of oil and sold it on the world market.  President Saddam Hussein’s government was sometimes labeled authoritarian and maybe rightly so.  But there were no active or known terrorist groups in Iraq until the United States invaded that country, overthrew its legitimate government and imposed a 10-plus-year occupation.During the years-long U.S. military occupation of Iraq, Al Qaeda in Iraq came into existence, expanded and later part of it morphed into ISIS.  During this same period, other groups sprang up in the Sunni communities, along with some large and well-armed Shiite militias.  When the U.S. finally withdrew its army from Iraq, these armed sectarian groups, territorial and religiously based militias and terrorist organizations, took increasing control of parts of Iraq.In 2011, the U.S., NATO, Qatar and other oil kingdoms launched an air war against Libya and its long-standing official government led by Muammar Gaddafi.  Under the pretext of protecting Libyan people, these countries bombed and attacked the secular nationalist state of Libya. The country of Libya, like Iraq, was also rich in oil and gas.  Libya readily sold its oil and gas, at market prices, to all buyers.  Gaddafi made sure the Libyan people shared in the country’s wealth.  Libya had the highest Human Development Index ranking in all of Africa.Libya was also a firm and long-time supporter of national liberation and freedom struggles, from Ireland to Palestine, South Africa and more.  Like Saddam Hussein and Iraq, Gaddafi and Libya were long on the enemies list of U.S. imperialism.Since the death of Gaddafi and the overthrow of his government, Libya has not had a functioning national government.  There is ongoing war and conflict; reactionary sectarian forces, including Al Qaeda and ISIS, have established themselves in parts of Libya. They have carried out terrorist attacks against Egyptians working in Libya, as well as against many Libyans.  Four years after the U.S.-led war overthrew the Gaddafi government, the Libyan state and government has disintegrated.  There is no central government, competing forces control sections of Libya and ISIS and Al Qaeda are openly active.After the U.S.-led effort that overthrew the government of Libya, the U.S. turned its sights on Syria.  Like pre-invasion Iraq and Libya, Syria is an independent secular nationalist state.  Syria long had a well-functioning government and civil society.Syria is composed of many religious and ethnic communities.  The largest group is Sunni Muslims.  There are also large minorities of Alawite (Shiite-related) Muslims, Christians, Yazidis, Kurds and Armenians.  Syria, for years, has also been the home of a large number of displaced Palestinians who have had to flee Israeli wars and occupations, and for a shorter time was home to over a million Iraqi refugees.  While Syria has been close to various upheavals, including the U.S. invasion of Iraq, several Israeli wars and civil war in Lebanon, throughout this time it has remained a functioning state, with law, commerce and relative stability.Many decades ago, the previous president, Hafez al-Assad, was faced with a Sunni uprising in the city of Hama led by the Muslim Brotherhood.  The Syrian army and security agencies forcefully put down this rebellion.  For the past 40 years Syria has been a country where people of all religions and ethnic groups co-existed.  Nobody was getting their heads cut off, no churches or mosques were being bombed.  Damascus and other cities were thriving centers of business.  Women were not restricted in education, business or employment.  As already mentioned, Syria hosted large communities of Palestinian and Iraqi refugees.  Elections are routinely held and Bashar al-Assad, an Alawite Muslim, is the elected president. The Syrian government has always been very strict about not allowing sectarian or religious violence. The U.S. has often labeled the Assad government as authoritarian. There also are some Syrian exile groups who are critical of the Assad government.  But up until about four years ago, Syria was a functioning, successful, multi-religious and multi-ethnic country.As an anti-imperialist and a life-long revolutionary activist, I totally recognize the right of all oppressed and exploited people to speak out and struggle for justice. This includes the right, and when necessary the need, to demand and fight for change against the government and system.  Ultimately, all people have the right to change and overthrow a system that oppresses and exploits them.There is a big difference between a people’s right to a freedom struggle against what they see as their oppressive government, and foreign powers and imperialist states interfering in the internal affairs and struggles within a sovereign country.  The U.S., Turkey, Saudi Arabia and others have no legal or moral right to demand the overthrow and removal of President Assad and the Syrian government.  Nor do they have any moral or legal right to arm, train, pay for and advocate the overthrow of the legally constituted government of Syria.  This is just naked aggression and imperialist domination of a small independent nation by the major imperialist power in the world — U.S. imperialism.During the past five decades, the secular nationalist government of Syria, like Saddam Hussein in Iraq and Muammar Gaddafi in Libya, has been viewed as an obstacle and enemy by the U.S. government for its policies in the Middle East. Syria has been a steadfast opponent of Israeli expansionism and a firm supporter of the Palestinian people.  It has refused to sell out the Palestinian people and their struggle for nationhood, or to accept dictates from the U.S. government.  Syria has long had friendly relations with Russia and previously with the Soviet Union.  All this has permanently placed the Syrian government in Washington’s crosshairs.Starting December 2010 street protests flared up in the Middle East. By February 2011, two U.S. allied governments — that of Hosni Mubarak in Egypt and the government in Tunisia — were overthrown by huge rallies of people.  Some months later there were demonstrations in Syria, too.  They weren’t huge or nationwide, but many people did protest.  Some of these demonstrations were met with police repression.  Very soon after the police crackdown, well-armed attacks sprang up in some Sunni areas. It has been documented that millions in money, arms and even training was going to these rebel forces in Syria.Most of this aid, especially from Saudi Arabia and Turkey, went to extremist sectarian forces, especially Al Nusra and ISIS. Turkey kept an open border for foreign fighters to travel into Syria. This is how the Syrian war developed and even today continues to exist, a civil war imposed from outside.ISIS imposed on SyriaThere was no ISIS in Syria until U.S. and West European imperialism, Saudi and other Persian Gulf oil kingdoms, and Turkey began supporting and supplying the forces that have now seized territory in Syria. In the past year the U.S. and some other countries have begun bombing ISIS targets in Syria and Iraq.  Damage has certainly been done, but ISIS and Al Nusra remain in place.  Kurdish forces and in some sectors Syrian government forces, with assistance from Hezbollah units from Lebanon, have successfully pushed ISIS out of a few areas and contained them in other locations.Some months ago Russia joined this fight against ISIS and other similar organizations in Syria.  Russia announced and advanced its plan to support and join with the Syrian government and its armed forces, against the reactionary sectarian and other anti-government rebels.  By all accounts, the major rebel forces are all sectarian reactionaries — ISIS and Al Nusra being the largest organizations.  The Russian strategy understands that aerial bombing alone will not defeat the anti-government forces.  There have to be land forces to fight, take ground and hold areas. From an anti-imperialist perspective, we can see that Russia’s direct support of the Syrian government is not only international solidarity, but Russia is acting in its own material interests.  The fall of the Syrian government would mean the loss of Russia’s main long-time ally in the region. Further, the spread of ISIS activities would put Russia’s internal security at greater risk. The Russian strategy to support and add to the military strength of the Syrian government and its armed forces is a realistic strategy that can defeat ISIS and the other jihadi groups.Even now, as ISIS expands terrorist attacks beyond Syria and Iraq, the U.S. government is still calling for the removal of the Syrian president and his government.  Imagine how many more people would be dead if the Syrian government had fallen four years ago, when the U.S. first began demanding and working for the overthrow of President Assad?  Imagine what all of Syria would look like today if there were no Syrian government?  Syria would look like Libya, but even worse, because there would be a lot more dead Kurds, Christians, Alawites, Armenians, Palestinians, Yazidis.The United States has no legal or moral right to demand the overthrow of the Syrian government or president.  The U.S. has even less right to fund, arm and train Syrian or mercenary forces to try to overthrow the legitimate Syrian government. The U.S. has no right to invade or occupy Syria and we, people in the U.S., have to be extremely clear that we do not want the U.S. government to invade Syria, to send any U.S. troops into Syria.  Actually, even the U.S. aerial bombing of ISIS targets in Syria is illegal by international law.  The U.S. should work with and coordinate with the Syrian government — if it is interested in having U.S. aid — in any bombing raids it conducts within that country.Syria is a sovereign nation.  Whether the U.S. government likes its president or not, violating the sovereignty of a country, whether sending warplanes on bombing raids or landing an invading army, is a violation of international law, is an act of war.The government of the United States has consciously and/or unwittingly helped create the conditions for the rise of organizations that today it calls “armed jihadi terrorists.”  Specifically, the U.S. government and its wars and invasions — in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and now in Syria — have led to Al Qaeda and ISIS.Superpowers and empires, throughout history, believe they can manipulate and control events and even countries. Sometimes they create or facilitate the rise of forces that they lose control over or that turn against them.  In recent history, in the 21st century, a clear case can be made that the political managers of the U.S. state/empire (elected and appointed government leaders) have made many mistakes and created wars and other situations that they lost control of, or that led to results that have been harmful to U.S. government and corporate interests, let alone to the people of the U.S.  And of course, it is always the U.S. public who pays for the wars, in money and blood, even though the people have very little input and control over what the government does in our name. It is important that we the U.S. people, become more familiar with the real facts and realities in Syria and the Middle East.Jaan Laaman is a long-held political prisoner and editor of 4strugglemag.org, which is a major voice of political prisoners in the U.S.  He can be directly contacted at: Jaan Laaman (10372-016), USP Tucson, P.O. Box 24550, Tucson, AZ 85734.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

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U.S. Out of Syria

first_imgThe city of Aleppo in Syria has been liberated from reactionary fighters — those supported by the U.S., Qatar, Saudi Arabia and others — who had taken over the city by deadly violence some four years ago.Most of the forces the Syrian Army was up against, like the al-Nusra Front, had been characterized as “terrorist” by the U.S. itself just a couple of years ago. Yet somehow, the powerful Western media have now managed to convince a lot of people that the liberation of Aleppo from these forces of extreme reaction was a terrible thing and that the government of Syria should be hated for it.This issue of Workers World has several articles rebutting that false conception. Our view is based, first and foremost, on the recognition that the United States is an imperialist country that has used violence for more than a century to grab and exploit huge areas of the world.Most of those oppressed in this way have been people of color. White supremacy has always played a big part in “justifying” colonial and imperial expansion.When the U.S. CIA, as early as 1979, first supplied and trained what would become the Taliban to fight a secular revolutionary government in Afghanistan, the excuse was anti-communism. The excuses for the costly and destructive wars the U.S. has waged since then in Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Syria have varied from needing to eliminate “weapons of mass destruction” to their leaders being “brutal dictators” whose overthrow would be a “humanitarian” intervention. Those excuses have all been lies.The suffering now in Aleppo has its roots in U.S. imperialist machination and destabilization. It’s time to end the phony “humanitarian” interventions conceived by Wall Street and executed by the military-industrial complex. Peace for Syria means U.S. hands off!FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

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As U.S. rockets hit Syria, corporate media start loving warmaker Trump

first_imgWithin a day of the U.S. missile strike on Syria, five major U.S. newspapers — the New York Times, the Washington Post, USA Today, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Daily News — published a total of 18 opinion pieces in support of Trump’s action and zero in opposition, according to a Fairness & Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) article on April 7.Up to that point, all these corporate daily newspapers had regularly published articles critical of Trump’s actions. However, after Trump ordered a missile attack on Syria, the monopoly press quickly fell into line and praised him.Television news followed the same pattern as the press.Anyone around and paying attention at the opening of wars against Vietnam, Iraq (twice), Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Libya, will remember that the corporate media gave exactly the same type of unanimous support for U.S. attacks, whatever the pretext.The Pentagon — which now has four generals in Trump’s gang — launched 59 cruise missiles at a Syrian Army facility in the Homs province. According to the governor of Homs, at least seven civilians were killed and nine were wounded.Trump ordered the missile launch on April 6. He claimed it was because of an alleged Syrian government-led chemical attack a couple of days before.The U.S. missiles were launched without investigation or proof. Only groups like the White Helmets, an al-Qaida-affiliated, pro-U.S. intervention propaganda firm (tinyurl.com/m48792r) and the so-called Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a major pro-interventionist operation run by one individual in Britain, claimed they had witnesses.Capitalist media reveal their class interestsThe racist, warmongering propaganda campaign against Russia, Iran and Syria has been central, not only to the corporate media, but also to the “anti-Trump” rhetoric of liberal and pseudo-left-wing media outlets since the Democratic National Committee originally blamed the Russian government for costing Hillary Clinton the election.The alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian army, just like the accusations of Russian influences, has been parroted by the capitalist press without any hint of substantiation or independent verification. Included in the pro-interventionist media are renewed calls for the Trump administration to implement a “no-fly zone.”While these media outlets may have opposed Trump’s previous actions in rhetoric and even intention, they remain essential propaganda organs for the ruling class, including the Democratic Party and the neoliberal wing of Wall Street. Their “opposition” to Trump is a desperate effort to save the Democratic Party and dying capitalism; it has nothing to do with anti-racism or anti-imperialism.From the beginning of Trump’s campaign, the Democrats and the anti-Trump corporate media have attacked Trump from the right, calling him too critical of NATO, too soft on Putin. The truth is, no matter who is in the White House, U.S. imperialism will continue to orient toward wars of conquest. Trump’s “anti-war” populist rhetoric was demagogy to drum up support for his reactionary agenda.Now that Trump has openly attacked the Syrian government and Bashar al-Assad, Trump’s ruling-class “opposition” calls him “real president material” and all the bourgeois media march in lockstep with the war drive.FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

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‘Honor in the Ghetto’

first_imgBobby Seale and Huey Newton — Black Panther Party founders.panther menthey weren’t scaredof no police dogs.they didn’t bow to no pigsand wooden batons.no fear of fire hosessilver bullets and steel cuffsthey were different.those negroes looked like men.like BLACK MENwho knew exactlywhere they came from.like BLACK MENwho knew exactlywhere they came fromand didn’t take no shit.from nobody.from nobody.old black wall streetwe don’t ownthe convenience storesin the ghetto.we don’t ownthe smoke shopsnail salonsand beauty supply spots.we own the churchesthe good wordand dreams deferred.we own the painpoverty and crimeagainst each other.we own thenickels and dimesthat allow othersto own us.we don’t owna goddamn thinghere anymore.black wall streethas now become brooklynharlem, u street.merely a shellof their old selves.gone.merely a shellof their old selves.gone.coup d’étatthere can be no peaceuntil every childhas a hot mealthere can be no treatiesuntil we sit downand negotiate the revolution.not one hostageshall be releaseduntil you hang thosepolicemen.until those judgesmayors and corrupt officialsare all buriedalive.Copyright © 2017 by Lamont Lilly. All rights reserved.Lamont LillyLamont Lilly was the 2016 Workers World Party U.S. vice presidential candidate. In 2015 he was an Indy Week “Citizen Award” winner for his activism and journalism. The selections presented are from his forthcoming book of poetry, Honor in the Ghetto. Contact the writer at [email protected]re thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

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On the picket line

first_imgWorkers at a Christmas tree farm in North Carolina.N.C. Christmas tree workers stop Scrooge wage theftWhen we light up Christmas trees, we don’t think about the workers who plant and harvest them. In North Carolina they’re Mexican migrants who face harsh working conditions and intimidation in the fields. While the 2016 Christmas tree industry generated $2.04 billion, according to the National Christmas Tree Association (Telesur, Dec. 25), none of these gains went to the workers. Instead, Scrooge bosses abused and stole from them.During spring planting, the owners of Hart-T-Tree farm in Grassy Creek exposed workers to hazardous chemicals. Herbicides were sprayed while the men worked nearby, a violation of chemical guidelines mandating a 10-day waiting period after application. Workers became sick, suffering from headaches, dizziness, vomiting and diarrhea. During the harvest, instead of transporting workers in trucks, the bosses forced them to ride on top of a tractor bed filled with shifting trees down winding mountain roads, which led to fractured arms and bruised ribs.But once the owners began deducting rent, electric and gas from their pay — illegal under the H-2A visa “guest worker” program — the workers contacted the Farm Labor Organizing Committee, which represents 10,000 H-2A workers in the state. FLOC discovered the bosses had shorted workers’ wages, paying them $9 an hour, when the collective bargaining agreement of the N.C. Growers Association stipulated a minimum of $11.27. With FLOC’s help, the workers filed a grievance and won; $330,000 in stolen wages was returned to 54 Hart-T-Tree workers.“A settlement of this nature being reached and paid out in a matter of a few weeks is unheard of in agriculture,” said Justin Flores, FLOC vice president. As one worker told Payday Report, “We gotta organize; this is the hardest work out there. We’re human beings, too.” (Dec. 18)CWA wins precedent-setting protections for trans workersThe Communication Workers announced Dec. 21 that over 21,000 AT&T wireless retail workers have reached a precedent-setting tentative agreement. In addition to curbing outsourcing and raising pay, it provides the widest-reaching protections for transgender workers in any telecom industry contract. The agreement includes the first-ever enforceable protections against discrimination based on gender identity in 16 states with no statewide nondiscrimination law covering that category. The agreement also outlines a clear process for redressing discrimination through the union grievance and arbitration process across 36 states covered by CWA’s bargaining unit.“This contract shines a light on the union power to drive progress,” stated Dennis G. Trainor, vice president of CWA District One. “Let this be a signal to opponents of LGBTQ equality, who are nearly always opponents of workers’ rights too: We stand strong together and will tear down all obstacles to full equality.”CWA’s hard-fought agreement with AT&T, on which workers will vote Jan. 12, also provides 10.1 percent pay raises over the four-year contract; by its end the workers will make on average $19.20/hour. Over the last 11 months, the workers held rallies and picket lines in 36 states and Washington, D.C., dramatizing their fight with a 3-day strike in May.FDNY civilian workforce files discrimination suitA multi-million-dollar federal class-action lawsuit was filed Dec. 1 by seven plaintiffs against the city of New York alleging the Fire Department systematically discriminates against African-American workers in its civilian workforce and Emergency Medical Service. Based on a 2016 complaint to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission charging discriminatory practices, the suit alleges that the FDNY continues to resist hiring African Americans, asserting it “remains one of the least-diverse municipal agencies not only in New York City but in the nation.” Black FDNY firefighters settled a discrimination lawsuit three years ago.This lawsuit claims FDNY leadership hasn’t adopted practices to reduce or stop discrimination; Black workers are not promoted to decision-making jobs and are not compensated as much as other employees; and City Hall has failed to control FDNY practices. Among their demands, the plaintiffs want the court to appoint an outside monitor to audit compensation for five or more years. (Amsterdam News, Dec. 14)Chicago hotel workers win ‘Hands Off, Pants On’ ordinanceWith millions of women testifying to sexual harassment or assault through #MeToo, women in UNITE HERE are leading the demand for justice against gender-based harassment inside their workplaces. Housekeepers in UNITE HERE Local 23 in Chicago just won a new city ordinance called “Hands Off, Pants On” mandating a safe workplace for women working in hotel rooms. (dclabor.org, Dec. 11)FacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more

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Remembering Rosa Parks on the anniversary of her birth

first_imgWhen I was three years old in 1955, my parents lived in Montgomery, Ala. They attended the Dexter Avenue Baptist Church, where they heard the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. preach every Sunday. That church would eventually become an historic organizing center for one of the most important struggles of the 20th century when a tired, but brave African American seamstress refused to give up her seat to a white man on a segregated bus on Dec. 1, 1955.   Rosa Parks at the time of her arrest, 1955Under Jim Crow laws, any white person could demand that a Black person sit in the back of a bus if they were occupying seats in the front.  The seamstress’s name was Rosa Parks, who was also a secretary for the local NAACP. Her arrest helped to ignite a powerful mass movement in Montgomery.  Dr. King may have been the face of this movement but make no mistake, the organizational backbone of this struggle was mainly led by Black women.   Black people organized a grassroots boycott against riding segregated buses that lasted exactly one year. Black people who had cars, like my parents, volunteered to drive carless Black people to work early in the morning and pick them up from work in the late afternoon/early evening. The boycott was successful in not only defeating the segregated bus ordinance but helping to launch the decades-long Civil Rights Movement.   Rosa Parks was born Feb. 4, 1913, and died Oct. 24, 2005. Even before taking her heroic stance in Montgomery, Parks helped to launch a national campaign to bring about attention and justice for the late Recy Taylor, a Black woman abducted and sexually assaulted by six white men in Henry County, Ala., in 1944. None of these white supremacists were ever charged with this unspeakable atrocity.   Rosa Parks was also a trailblazer for the modern-day Black Lives Matter movement, when she and her spouse, Raymond Parks, joined the worldwide campaign to free the Scottsboro Brothers, who were nine Alabama Black youth wrongfully accused of raping two white women in 1931.  For all of her sacrifices to the struggle as a Black woman, Rosa Parks rightfully earned the title – “mother of the Civil Rights Movement”.Tweet the writer at: @mmashcatFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thisFacebookTwitterWhatsAppEmailPrintMoreShare thislast_img read more