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Gender: Female
Hometown: Wisconsin
Current location: Tejas
Member since: Thu Jan 17, 2008, 12:44 PM
Number of posts: 30,714

About Me

The most violent element in society is ignorance. Emma Goldman

Journal Archives

Oh Tannenbaum

As long as America has had Christmas trees, people have used them to tell other people who does and doesn’t matter, celebrating communal joy narrowly, sometimes belligerently, at somebody else’s expense. Let us therefore celebrate the equally venerable tradition of Christmas tree dissent!

December 16, 2015 | by Alison Kinney
Christmas trees have served as political lightning rods for nearly as long as Americans have been decorating them.

In 1937, the Federal Writers’ Project interviewed Junius Quattlebaum, who’d grown up enslaved in South Carolina, about his Christmas memories. He spoke of gathering around the Christmas tree to take his share of the "candy, apples, raisins, and nuts for all de chillum … Christmas morning, marster would call all de slaves to come to de Christmas tree. He made all de chillun set down close to de tree and de grown slaves jined hands and make a circle ’round all … missus would stand in de middle of the de ring and raise her hand and bow her head in silent thanks to God. All de slaves done lak her done".

Frederick Douglass denounced such parties as being “among the most effective means in the hands of the slaveholder in keeping down the spirit of insurrection … These holidays serve as conductors, or safety-valves, to carry off the rebellious spirit of enslaved humanity.” The white South Carolinian William J. Grayson rhapsodized in his 1856 poem “The Hireling and the Slave” about the “smile and bow” and “abundant cheer” of the slave’s Christmas: “No ennui clouds, no coming cares annoy, / Nor wants nor sorrow check the Negro’s joy,” for “In all his master’s joys he claims a part.” Yet for all their paternalism, slave owners betrayed a suspicion that the pleasure in Christmas wasn’t mutual, and that slaves might not be satisfied with raisins: Christmas was the time when white Southerners spread the wildest rumors of slave insurrection, restocked their ammunition, and built hiding places in the woods.

Grayson may well have sympathized with LeAnn Rimes Cibrian, the country singer who upstaged her own performance last year at the lighting of the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree with a tweet: “Wow, riots are sad tonight coming out of a joyous place. #peaceatchristmas #prayersforall.” The “riots” she referred to were the peaceful protests of the non-indictment of the police officer responsible for Eric Garner’s death earlier in 2014.

I’m an atheist, but I love Christmas trees as much as—or probably a lot more than—the next celebrant. After I assembled a new gold and silver tinsel tree in my Brooklyn apartment last December, I never took it down; a year later, it’s dusty but still radiant. I collect souvenir ornaments and Italian nativity figures; I’ve sewn my own tree skirt and stocking and made my own Caga tío, the Catalan hazelnut-pooping Christmas log. I can almost understand the temptation, then, to insulate Christmas trees from politics: to retain the presumably pure, innocent, childlike wonder of Christmas iconography. But as any good folklorist will tell you, Christmas trees in America have always come with tumult: the apocryphal first Christmas trees on U.S. soil were decorated by the Hessian mercenaries the British had hired to kill American insurgents. “We won’t go until we get some!” ...

More here: http://www.theparisreview.org/blog/2015/12/16/oh-tannenbaum/

Just to be Clear (toon)

Free Speech

Campus protesters are being criticized for squelching free speech, but the right wingers leading the attack are really concerned about protecting the right to be a racist.

But this media smear fits a familiar pattern: When Black people raise their voices against oppression, a reason is quickly found to prove how they are being oppressors. Just as Republicans falsely insisted for years that African Americans going to vote were committing voter fraud, now Black students speaking out against racism are accused of silencing others.

They don't want to hear our free speech
December 3, 2015

THE NEW movement against anti-Black racism took another step forward in November when protests burst out on college campuses across the country.

Many of these actions were inspired by the powerful University of Missouri (Mizzou) demonstrations that gained national attention when the football team threated to go on strike unless the university president resigned. But all focused on the impact of institutional racism specific to each campus.

At dozens of rallies, sit-ins and occupations, students talked about being profiled and harassed by campus police, the stress of feeling more like a token of diversity than a fully accepted student, and the lack of support from universities they are putting themselves into decades-long debt just to attend.

This eruption of struggle on campuses is clearly an expression of anger and pain that has simmered away for years beneath the well-maintained surfaces of college life. Yet to many hostile observers, the protests somehow represent the opposite: a suppression of the right to free expression ...

Much more here: http://socialistworker.org/2015/12/03/they-dont-want-to-hear-our-speech

Environmentalism for the Left

From Midwestern farms to pristine suburbs to public acreage, American landscapes are a monument to a history of inequality, hierarchy, and exclusion. And they are informed at every point by moral and political conceptions of the natural world—often undemocratic in origin and effect—whose advocates tended to deny that they were political at all.

An Environmentalism for the Left
Jedediah Purdy ▪ Fall 2015

Although modern environmental politics emerged in the radical ferment of the early 1970s, leftists were suspicious from the outset of its easy mainstream appeal and its elite constituency. The same doubts persist today. The venerable Nature Conservancy’s close partnerships with corporations and focus on “ecosystem services” that can be monetized are just one reminder that environmentalism’s institutional mainstream fits comfortably with neoliberalism. Consumerist appeals to eco-consciousness (think of the local-sourcing policies and the prices of anti-union Whole Foods) suggest that environmentalism is about image and market choices. Despite decades of talk about environmental justice, the movement remains disproportionately white, elite, and motivated by romantic attachment to high mountains, old forests, and charismatic animals. Even treating climate change as an “environmental” question obscures issues of global justice—the ways that the world’s rich are much more responsible for, and less vulnerable to, the problem than the poor.

What would an environmentalism of the left look like?

It would first of all have to change its attitude to “nature.” Environmentalism is the youngest generation of a longer-running politics of nature. This politics pivots on contested visions of nature’s value, humanity’s place in it, and what, in fact, “nature” even is. From the preservationist movement that helped create national parks and wilderness areas to the awareness of ecological interconnection that inspired the anti-pollution laws of the 1970s, the politics of nature has often been democratic and creative in advancing the notion of the living world as part of a human ecology. But the politics of nature has also been an anti-politics, appealing to “nature” to shut down democratic debate ...

Much more here: https://www.dissentmagazine.org/article/after-nature-left-environmentalism-jedediah-purdy

Indigenous Resistance

Indian Resistance and Thanksgiving Declarations

The United States government had signed more than four hundred treaties with Indians and violated every single one.

I speak to you as a Man-a Wampanoag Man….It is with mixed emotions that I stand here to share my thoughts….The Pilgrims had hardly explored the shores of Cape Cod four days before they had robbed the graves of my ancestors, and stolen their corn, wheat, and beans….Our spirit refuses to die. Yesterday we walked the woodland paths and sandy trails. Today we must walk the macadam highways and roads. We are uniting. We’re standing not in our wigwams but in your concrete tent. We stand tall and proud and before too many moons pass we’ll right the wrongs we have allowed to happen to us….

Indian Resistance and Thanksgiving Declarations
Posted on November 17, 2014 by Howard Zinn Website

For a time, the disappearance or amalgamation of the Indians seemed inevitable—only 300,000 were left at the turn of the century, from the original million or more in the area of the United States. But then the population began to grow again, as if a plant left to die refused to do so, began to flourish. By 1960 there were 800,000 Indians, half on reservations, half in towns all over the country.

The autobiographies of Indians show their refusal to be absorbed by the white man’s culture. One wrote:

Oh, yes, I went to the white man’s schools. I learned to read from school books, newspapers, and the Bible. But in time I found that these were not enough. Civilized people depend too much on man-made printed pages. I turn to the Great Spirit’s book which is the whole of his creation….

A Hopi Indian named Sun Chief said:

I had learned many English words and could recite part of the Ten Commandments. I knew how to sleep on a bed, pray to Jesus, comb my hair, eat with a knife and fork, and use a toilet. … I had also learned that a person thinks with his head instead of his heart ...

Much more here: http://howardzinn.org/indian-resistance-thanksgiving-declarations/

Supreme Court and Labor

High court tackles four important cases involving workers, unions
by: Mark Gruenberg
November 20 2015

WASHINGTON (PAI) - From affirmative action to agency fees to whistleblower rights, a spate of worker-oriented cases either wound up before the U.S. Supreme Court in November, or are headed there, with the opposing sides laying out their positions this past month.

And while most of labor focuses on one of the looming conflicts - the agency-fee case Friedrichs vs. California Teachers Association - the others are important, too.

That's because the court, and particularly its five-man Republican-named majority, appears poised to drastically rewrite not just labor law, but working conditions in the U.S.

The class action and worker pay case ...

Details about each of the four cases here: http://peoplesworld.org/high-court-tackles-four-important-cases-involving-workers-unions/

Hitler Wasn't Inevitable - or why to vote for Bernie

It may not be enough, but in my mind it is worth a shot.

Today a great article came up in Jacobin (leftist theory publication which I read regularly) about the rise of Hitler in Germany. It could've gone different ways but we know what ended up happening. This article summarizes the attempts social democrats and some communists made in Germany as the economy failed. Bernie is making the same kind of attempt today (and I'm sure he sees these parallels as well). Let's hope he is more successful.

This is a link to excerpts I've posted in the Socialist Progressives group - http://www.democraticunderground.com/102410448

Hitler Wasn't Inevitable

(note from TBF: History repeats itself. Socialists of varying stripes trying to stop the tide in Germany. If you don't understand the rise of Trump and/or similar personalities, this article lays it out)

Beyond the official proceedings, significant historical questions remain unresolved, raising important discussions on human nature, the role of the Left, and whether progressive movements can overcome racism and other oppressions to fight together. The dominant question, of course, is how something so awful could happen in the first place. How was it possible that the most horrific crime in human history could occur in Germany, the “land of poets and thinkers?”

Hitler’s rise to power was by no means inevitable, but rather the outcome of both specific historical conditions as well as the actions (and inactions) of various social forces. While many conventional histories paint Nazism as a kind of collective German project, what Hitler’s rise to power really illustrates are the very real consequences that socialist strategy can have in a society wracked by economic depression and political polarization.

Hitler Wasn’t Inevitable

The 70th anniversary of the Nuremberg Trials is cause to reflect on the forces that failed to halt Nazism’s rise.
by Marcel Bois ~ 11/25/15

< snipped beginning of article >

The Impact of the 1929 Crisis

Just a few years before Hitler’s takeover in 1933, his National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) remained largely irrelevant. It was only after the stock market crash in 1929 that their vote total jumped from eight hundred thousand in 1928 to over six million in 1930 and 37 percent of the vote in 1932, making them the largest party in parliament.

The backdrop for this rapid growth was of course the ongoing economic crisis eating away at the very foundations of global capitalism. The massive slump in investment caused by the 1929 crash led to a 29 percent decline in global industrial production by 1932. Germany’s industry was particularly hard hit, as it was financed by massive foreign (particularly American) loans, which collapsed as soon as lenders withdrew credit.

As firms large and small went bankrupt across the country, considerable sections of the middle classes were thrown into poverty. The peasantry also suffered as food prices dropped, and workers faced wage cuts averaging 30 percent. By 1933, unemployment had gone from 1.3 million in 1929 to roughly 6 million. Only one-third of workers were employed full time ...

Much more here: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2015/11/nuremberg-trials-hitler-goebbels-himmler-german-communist-social-democrats/

(And a final note: Trotsky got it and sure as hell tried: Appealing to KPD members in the pages of the Militant in 1931, Leon Trotsky summarized the German political situation as follows: If you place a ball on top of a pyramid the slightest impact can cause it to roll down either to the left or to the right. That is the situation approaching with every hour in Germany today. There are forces who would like the ball to roll down towards the Right and break the back of the working class. There are forces who would like the ball to remain at the top. That is a utopia. The ball cannot remain at the top of the pyramid. The Communists want the ball to roll down toward the Left and to break the back of capitalism.)

ETA: Borrowed from n2doc's toons:


"The doors where closing/time hung by a hair/and that child in the arms of my grandparents./The panic was evident/And everything foretold it ... And then the cold arrived/in the middle of a hurtful glacier, an unbelievable stream of warm water: Everyone said no, and Bolivia said yes."

Refugees: That Time Everyone Said 'No' And Bolivia Said 'Yes'
Updated November 22, 201511:42 AM ET
Jasmine Garsd.

"The refugee has got to be checked because, unfortunately, among the refugees there are some spies, as has been found in other countries." It could have been said today about the Syrian refugee crisis, but those words belong to President Franklin Roosevelt, in 1940.

Back then, many of those refugees — Jews fleeing Nazism in Europe — turned to South America instead. But one by one, those countries stopped issuing visas to fleeing Jews. It was no surprise: for years Nazi and fascist ideology had incubated deep in South America.

But away from all oceans and high up in the Andes, one small South American country kept its door open — a country that has had its share of economic problems and that even today is considered part of the developing world.


More here: http://www.npr.org/sections/goatsandsoda/2015/11/22/456694405/refugees-that-time-everyone-said-no-and-bolivia-said-yes

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