What happens in Spain won’t stay in Spain: democracy under attack

Spain hologram protest (QMS Comunicacion:AFP:Getty Images) Apr 20 2015

That PR ditty about “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” has zilch value when it comes to politics & international solidarity. This is an era of collaboration between ruling elites & what happens in one country is likely to happen in others. So the draconian reforms in two pieces of Spanish legislation should be of acute concern to activists everywhere. The proposed reforms to the Criminal Code & the Law on Public Security are a broadside assault on civil liberties including freedom of speech & assembly, due process, immigrant rights, & will introduce new definitions of terrorism that outlaw comments on social media which could be perceived as inciting others to violent acts.

It isn’t irrelevant that a central leader in the Popular Party voting in these “reforms” is a figure from Generalissimo Franco’s regime who should have been prosecuted instead of allowed to run free. What the Citizen Safety Law, denounced as the “Gag Act,” does is criminalize protest at a time when they are increasing in opposition to government austerity measures imposed by the IMF-EU.

The Gag Act (voted in last December & scheduled to go into affect July 1st)) will also legalize immediate expulsion without due process of immigrants & refugees from the North African enclaves of Ceuta & Melilla in violation of international human rights & refugee law. Linking civil liberties to immigration rights might not be the smartest maneuver the Spanish elite ever pulled because the destiny of immigrants is now linked to the future of democracy in Spain rather than pitted against each other. For immigration & human rights activists that makes political organizing much more coordinated because in every way democracy & immigrant rights form an indissoluble nexus. It’s no mere coincidence, for example, that attacks on immigrants (& on Black youth) in the US required shedding the US Bill of Rights. Obama signed the NDAA soon after, allowing indefinite detention of Americans without charges, just cause, or due process.

One form of protest to dramatize the meaning of the Gag Act was organized by a collective of activists from over 100 organizations. Using special technology they produced a virtual hologram protest outside the Spanish parliament in Madrid when under the Gag Act an actual protest would mean a fine of up to 30,000 euros (US$31,800). Organizers of such protests could be fined up to 600,000 euros ($634,100). Not to be daunted by repression & riot cops, in-person protests have been ongoing in over 30 different Spanish cities since the law was passed.

Our fullest solidarity with the democracy movement in Spain. Their struggle has everything to do with democratic rights around the world. May they kick tyranny, austerity, & repression from Iberia to the deepest levels of hell. The anti-fascist slogan of the Spanish Civil War was “No pasarĂ¡n” meaning “They shall not pass.” That is again the battle cry of freedom.

(Photo of holographic protest by QMS Comunicacion/AFP/Getty Images)

Xenophobic violence in South Africa

South Africa immigrants ( Mujahid Safodien:AFP:Getty Images) Apr 20 2015

South Africa, with a population of about 50 million, has an estimated 5 million immigrants from African countries including Somalia, Ethiopia, Zimbabwe & Malawi, & including China & Pakistan. Many own shops or hawk goods on street corners & in markets.

Periodic outbreaks of anti-immigrant violence are attributed to high unemployment, widespread poverty & glaring social inequality. Some report the inequality is the worst in the world even after the end of apartheid but that ignominy is hard to gage in a world increasingly based on massive inequality everywhere. The plunge to the bottom is a competitive race & signals the need to get rid of neoliberalism, the barbaric phase of capitalism.

The recent outbreak of xenophobic violence in several South African cities is linked to inflammatory comments by Goodwill Zwelithini, king of the Zulu nation, & by Edward Zuma, son of South Africa’s president Jacob Zuma, who supported Zwelithini’s comments & attributed the drug trade, gun violence, criminality, & moral decay to immigrants.

Nativist, xenophobic rhetoric & scapegoating immigrants is a divide & conquer strategy used by all regimes to deflect from systemic culpability for inequality & human misery. It may resonate in unique ways in South African society because of the history of apartheid but the only way to turn back the tsunamis of ethnocentrism & social division are to stand against it with power–& that is exactly what progressive forces in South Africa are doing with several protests in defense of immigrants.

The history of immigration policy around the world shows clearly that regimes collaborate in what can loosely be called “theorizing” policies & coordinating practices. In a world with a human history based on human migration, at some point capitalists realized what a useful & malignant purpose whipping up xenophobia could play in maintaining social control. If working people around the world don’t smarten up & defy this social engineering of conflict between us, it will prove our undoing. And the only way to smarten up is to do what South African activists are doing: hit the pavements in large numbers in a massive show of power. United we stand; divided we’re taken out like sitting ducks.

Photo is a tent at a refugee camp for immigrants fleeing the recent wave of violence against them in Primrose, South Africa. We stand in solidarity with them.

(Photo by Mujahid Safodien/AFP/Getty Images)

Immigration to Greece: will SYRIZA choose Frontex or human rights?

Lesbos immigrants ( Angelos Tzortzinis:AFP:Getty Images) Apr 20 2015

Increasingly, from the Mediterranean Sea to the Rio Grande River along the southern US border with Mexico, we are seeing children as the face of immigration. These anxious little ones are in Lesvos, Greece waiting to board a ship to Athens. Since Greece, as the first phalanx of European immigration, sealed up the land border with Turkey by building a barrier wall & enforced patrols, the undocumented fleeing war & poverty have been forced to take the treacherous sea route via the Greek islands.

SYRIZA came to power promising a more humane immigration policy but the European Union (EU) is certainly putting the screws on them to maintain the racist, xenophobic policies of the former regime. If the EU forces Greeks to choose between Frontex & human rights, it provides yet more compelling evidence the EU has outlasted its purpose on this planet.

Dump the EU! Dismantle Frontex! Immigration is a human right! Open the borders!

(Photo by Angelos Tzortzinis/AFP/Getty Images)

More European Union and Frontex mass murder on the Mediterranean Sea

African immigrants in Libya (Yaseen Kanuni for the Guardian) Apr 20 2015

The news that 700 African immigrants who set off from Libya in a rickety fishing boat died in a capsize comes just days after the news that 400 drowned on the same route, considered the most dangerous immigration route in the world. So far this year already 1,600 African immigrants have died on that route. What will it take to charge the European Union (EU) & Frontex (the EU’s border control agency) with criminal negligence & mass murder? Frontex operates a high-tech surveillance system with live satellite imagery & drone surveillance for close-ups & have already reported 500,000 immigrants are in Libya waiting transport to the Italian island of Lampedusa. But they refuse to do search & rescue in defiance of maritime law & instead patrol the European coast to intercept immigrants.

It has to be said without hesitation that this is only allowed to continue because the immigrants are mostly black Africans. If they were white people, the entire world would be up in arms bellowing thunderously like bull elephants for the EU to send boats to get them safely across the Mediterranean. This is where you understand the malignancy, utter social debasement, & political utility of racism.

It is crystal clear the EU will not change its murderous immigration policy without massive opposition across Europe in defense of immigration rights. It is not presumptuous to suggest human rights activists across Europe hit the streets with placards demanding emergency search & rescue off the coast of Libya (& elsewhere) & asylum for every single immigrant.

Immigration is a human right! Granting asylum to refugees is an ancient humanitarian practice the EU cannot be allowed to flip off. Abolish Frontex! Dump the EU! Open the damn borders!

(Photo of immigration detention center in Libya by Yaseen Kanuni for the Guardian)

Palestinian solidarity and the political degeneration of the left

Gaza ( Thomas Coex:AFP:Getty) Apr 18 2015

As Palestinian solidarity grows massive with the economic & cultural boycott of Israel, the small radical groups that used to stand almost alone in defense of Palestine have begun to retreat into the mysticism & kookiness of Zionism. The theoretical & political degeneration of the left is a process not yet sufficiently evaluated. But what do you bet some were just whack-jobs that are only happy when they feel left out? You could call them the happy misfits.

One such character now calls Palestinian solidarity an “antisemitic Arab chauvinist position.” Wow is that a mouthful! And it doesn’t mean a damn thing when you look at the rubble that is Gaza; when you consider Palestinian prisoners, including children, being tortured in the Israeli gulag; when you witness Zionist settlers from all over Kingdom Come building high-rise tenements on Palestinian farm lands in the West Bank. The only thing it signifies is political corruption & shame.

Take a look at this photo of two little girls in Gaza City walking through the Shejaiya neighborhood destroyed by Israeli bombers last summer. According to a UN report Israel killed more Palestinians in 2014 than in any other year since the occupation of the West Bank & Gaza in 1967. Now if you were to describe this carnage would you think “antisemitic Arab chauvinism” or would you have the decency to call it what it is: Israeli ethnic cleansing?

(Photo by Thomas Coex/AFP/Getty)

The invented history of Zionism

PBS is running an interesting biography of the great violinist Jascha Heifetz. They report that in 1926 he embarked on a world tour that took him to the Netherlands, Germany, Hungary, Austria, Monaco, France, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Egypt, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Latvia, & Palestine.

Palestine? Golly, isn’t that curious. And here Zionists say Palestinians are an “invented people.” Who was he performing for in Palestine since Israel didn’t exist until 1948? Did they call the people who lived there Palestinians? Or was it like Israel where the people are Germans, Russians, Americans, & every other nationality under the sun?

Brazil needs a massive housing project; Dilma Rousseff builds Olympic stadiums for the world’s rich

Rio de Janeiro lagoon ( Yasuyoshi Chiba:AFP:Getty) Apr 18 2015

A 120-page document came out of the June 2012 UN conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on sustainable development. For sheer tonnage of affirmations & reaffirmations about eradicating poverty & protecting the environment it just can’t be beat & is only rivaled by the complete mendacity of the damn thing. No one gives more compelling testimony to that than the indigenous peoples of Brazil fighting bare-knuckled neoliberal enterprises stealing their lands, assassinating their leaders, mowing down the rainforest.

Whatever president Dilma Rousseff was in her youth, it is not flattering that she is now called “Iron Lady.” When your sobriquet begs comparison to the detestable Margaret Thatcher, you’re headed in the wrong direction. The only political forces that defend her are supporters of neoliberal plunder & Stalinists who attempted to portray protests against her as fascist. Is it relevant that Stalin is a nom de plume meaning “iron man.”

Brazil has immense environmental & social problems: massive plunder, massive poverty, unemployment, & slums, massive homelessness. It has one of the biggest homeless child populations in the world & has now become the go-to destination for child prostitution. So why the hell is the government sponsoring the 2016 Olympic games to the tune of billions rather than addressing social problems like housing?

In this photo municipal workers are removing dead fish from the Rodrigo de Freitas lagoon in Rio de Janeiro. They’ve removed over 37 tonnes just this week. Fifteen years ago they removed 100 tonnes because the lagoon stinks so damn bad. In 2008-2009, they removed 365 tons of algae. But they haven’t shut down the waste pipes discharging sewage into the canal & sucking the oxygen out of the water, which is causing the fish die-off. The clean-up project will cost US$28 million, a worthy investment considering the lagoon is connected to the Atlantic Ocean & stinks up the city.

They are not cleaning up the lagoon as a result of all their 2012 affirmations but because it will be the venue for Olympic rowing & canoeing events next year. If they could deodorize the lagoon by pouring Chanel #5 or Shalimar into it they would & leave it at that. But even an Olympic gold medal isn’t worth plowing through tonnes of stinking fish bodies, algae, & sewage.

Several reports discuss speculations about the cause of the stench coming off the lagoon. They found a few academics (of the kind who sing for their supper) to claim it goes back 300 years. They leave unexplained how they know that. Other people suggest open sewers draining from favela slums on the hillsides surrounding the lagoon are the problem or that rich condominiums around the lagoon bribe officials to secretly discharge their waste. Don’t you think that out of a $28 million budget they could get an engineer to find those sewage pipes & plug them up or at least find out where they’re coming from?

(Photo by Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP/Getty)

A tribute to the memory of eleven million victims of the Nazi gulag

Zionist manipulation & distortion of the WWII holocaust cannot deter us from taking a moment to honor the memory of the eleven million who suffered & died in the Nazi gulag. The victims included Jews, Roma, Poles, African-Germans, Ukrainians, Slavs, Serbs, LGBTs, the disabled, trade unionists, socialists, anarchists, liberals, & every other kind of dissident, Catholics & Jehovah’s Witnesses.

They were all our sisters & brothers & we honor & acknowledge every one of them. Colonialism & replicating the Nazi matrix in Palestine is not the alternative to such a monstrous crime. Blaming it on German psychology is a political dead-end. We need to understand the reasons for the rise of fascism & no one has better elaborated them than Leon Trotsky who counterposed a political analysis to the mystification of other historians & Zionists.

TV sitcoms and the normalization of women’s degradation

“The Big Bang Theory” is on TV right after evening news at a time when lots of kids are watching. The sitcom is clearly intended for a young audience. I occasionally leave it on while I’m working without paying attention to it. Over the past few months I’ve overheard more than one episode glorifying & making sport of prostitution–introducing young people to the concept of buying women’s sexuality as easily as one buys a video game or CD & normalizing & legitimizing it through humor. Is it any wonder misogyny is still a stinking problem in this society!?

SYRIZA and the struggle for democracy in Greece

Greek protester (Alkis Konstantinidis:Reuters) Apr 17 2015

SYRIZA in Greece typifies one of the great divisions among socialists over whether you can get elected to public office & administer capitalism to get justice & equality & eliminate the barbarisms like war. It’s never worked out historically when the army & police, let alone the economy, were left in capitalist control. Barbarism is the nature of capitalism in its decline. Justice means nothing to them compared to profiteering. The human suffering created doesn’t even register as a concern & comes in handy for racist population control.

SYRIZA doesn’t have a model political program but even if it did they’d be up a creek without a paddle because not just Greek capitalism but the entire international system is poised to destroy & discredit them. That was played out in technicolor in debt negotiations between SYRIZA, the IMF & EU.

This photo of riot cops in Athens going after a protester is a case in point. According to media, the protesters are primarily anarchists against establishing high-security prisons & demanding the release of political prisoners, identified in reports as “terrorists.” Many protesters engaged in the political stock-in-trade of anarchists by burning cars, trash bins, & smashing windows. Such tactics are what make anarchism so attractive to police agents provocateurs & so repellent to the big battalions of social transformation. Without insights from Greek activists it’s not easy to understand the political character of these protests. Are they mobilizations against injustice or are they an orchestrated provocation against SYRIZA? Or are they (more likely) a combination of the two?

It may not be easy to understand the political character of these protests but it’s a breeze to condemn deployment of riot cops using tear gas against protesters. They’re a feature of neoliberal capitalist policing around the world. SYRIZA ought to dismantle them but the likelihood is SYRIZA has no control over the cops whatsoever. Greek capitalists are predatory; they’re not stupid & they hold the reins of state power closely, even if tenuously.

According to the media, there are also 4,000 miners protesting in Athens against SYRIZA’s decision to revoke permits to a mining operation in Skouries on environmental grounds. Some may look at this & say “Well if industrial workers are on the march denouncing SYRIZA, then that settles that. SYRIZA is counterrevolutionary.” But a closer look raises some questions. The mining operation is run by Eldorado Gold Corp., a Canadian mining outfit. They’ve already spent US$400 million in the gold mine project & want to invest another $700 million by 2017 to build a processing plant & develop two mines in the area. The company posted on their website that the decision to revoke permits threatens the creation of 5,000 jobs, but let’s get serious. What concerns them is the $1 billion investment & the obstructions created by environmental concerns, not jobs. So what do you bet they bussed those miners & likely mobilized company personnel for the protests in Athens!?

One promise SYRIZA made in the election campaign was humane treatment of undocumented immigrants, including closing down the detention centers. Frontex & the European Union are closing down the land routes through Turkey into Greece. They expect the Greek government to function as the first phalanx against immigration increasing by land & sea as a result of the conflicts in Syria, Iraq, Gaza, & elsewhere. Will SYRIZA stand up against the right-wing in defense of immigrants? Or will they capitulate?

Truth of the matter is, given the international forces arrayed against it, that SYRIZA doesn’t stand a chance without using its resources to mobilize Greek working people & build international solidarity to oppose neoliberal austerity measures; defend immigrant rights; & not just demand environmental protections from foreign corporations but kick them the hell out of Greece.

(Photo by Alkis Konstantinidis/Reuters)