Tuesday, May 25, 2004


In your hands,
a piece of wood becomes a chair
a pile of thread becomes a bolt of cloth
a chunk of ore becomes a steel girder
an empty field becomes a crop of corn.

One of many bodies, no name, no face
you accept the uneven split of wages and profits
reciting the catechism of popular economics.

In your hands
a piece of steel becomes a box of screws
a crop of wheat becomes a loaf of bread
a hunk of clay becomes a set of bowls
a pile of wood becomes a house.

The objects you create stand beside you.
You are smaller in their presence.
They are larger in your presence.

In your hands,
a pile of stones becomes a fireplace,
a load of concrete becomes a sidewalk
a skein of wool becomes a hat,
a nugget of silver becomes a ring.

Some of the money you earn in the uneven exchange
will buy the object you produce
for while in making a car or a chair there is no status
in owning one status is attained.

In your hands,
strength has become weakness.
your creation has become your master,
our history has been rendered over:
granite obscured by a garish coat of red, white and blue.

Why War?

Wars have never been fought for ideals or ideas. Wars are not fought “to end all wars” or “to make the world safe for democracy.” They are fought over natural resources and for economic and political domination and they make a lot of people a lot of money.

Sadaam Hussein was not a good person. That is not why the US invaded Iraq. If the US government were concerned with “evil” it would not be supporting brutal regimes in Turkey or Indonesia. It would not have subverted the governments of Chile or Nicaragua to name a few. It would not have invaded Grenada. It would not have bombed Yugoslavia.

After September 11 the people of the United States had a chance to look closely at and reevaluate our government and it’s foreign and domestic policies. We had a chance to ask ourselves, “Do we want more money for weapons of mass destruction, more young men and women deployed across the world for war and armed “peacekeeping?” Do we re-prioritize in favor of national health care, more money for education, mass transit, more concern for the environmental destruction that is picking up more and more speed, more time to participate in this democracy?”

The majority of people have decided in favor of the latter, but this doesn’t make billions and billions of dollars for the people who make everything from the weapons to the body bags to the K-rations. When we speak about the military budget we should remember that the money taken from the public coffers, money earned by generations of working people, goes to the corporations who make the weapons that kill people and the planet itself. In spite of their patriotism they do not sell to the government at cost.

The Bush organizations “war on terrorism” has already stripped us of the few democratic rights we have. Oh we still have the right to buy several different models of gas guzzling, mega-polluting SUV’s. We still have the right to shop at the Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club of our choice, but not the unionized Shop Rite or Laneco. We still have the right to send our children into the military gambling that they’ll survive long enough to use their GI benefits to further their educations. We still have the right to work until we drop so we can afford housing, healthcare and contaminated food.

What makes a terrorist? Hopelessness and desperation. What makes terrorists target America? Some people say it’s because they are jealous of our “freedom” and our lifestyle. Americans work longer and harder than their counterparts in other industrialized nations. We are more productive as well, but we receive less and less compensation for that achievement. Where does the money go? 40% of the wealth in America is owned by 1% of the people. Our lifestyles reflect this as more and more people work more than one job just to keep their heads above water, retirees are forced to go back to work and even families with 2 full time working parents earn incomes that are below the poverty line. In the meantime the tax dollars we work until May to pay are used to shore up anti-democratic leaders in El Salvador, Turkey, Columbia and Indonesia to name a few. They are used to develop and produce some of the most horrendous weapons of our time-cluster bombs and nuclear waste “bullets” that have brought horrible death and destruction to the people of Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The priorities of the people who manufacture arms, who own oil companies and who already own most of the wealth created in America are not the same as mine. I do not support an invasion of Iraq or any other country.

What To Do

I think we need to raise the issues that are affecting people in their daily lives, keep these issues in the forefront as the military budget drains the public coffers. What are you terrified of more-Al Quaeda or not having food, clothing, shelter, a living wage, access to medical care and decent education? We need to say that we are not human resources; we are human beings. We need to stop accepting the voting booth as our only legitimate means of expression.

I have been extremely depressed since the recent elections. I am beginning to snap out of it because I realized that once again, I allowed myself to have faith in the electoral process. I have not always voted. I used to vote when I felt I needed to for the lesser of 2 evils. I voted for Carter when he lost. I voted for a republican governor in Pennsylvania because she was pro-choice. I felt very bad about that and I really didn’t want to do it. She was for 1 issue that I felt very strongly about and against 99 other ones that I also felt strongly about. Voting is a very unsatisfying experience. It’s like having one lick of lemon ice on a really hot summer day and then being told you can’t have any more.

In 1992, I wrote an article for Regeneration, A Magazine of Left Green Social Thought. The focus of Regeneration 4 was Green Electoral Politics, The 1992 debates. One of the things I said was, “As activists, our primary activity not to educate, but coordinate the … anger and frustration that we all feel; to encourage people to see that we can live in a human way and to point out that the capitalist system is stopping us from saving ourselves and the world. Whether we win or lose a particular struggle, the struggle itself is important because involvement in it is a step away from passivity and isolation and a step toward humanity and community. It’s important for people to stand up and say that our lives matter more than their profits and that a system that recognizes capitalism’s right to profit over our right to live must end. Do people come to that realization through electoral activity?”

I feel the same way today. I think for me the problem is in finding a community. There are faith-based groups and race based groups, student groups. There the Labor Party such as it is. But for people working in a non-union office environment in an industrial park, not religious and with anti-capitalist politics, there’s not much community or hope for one.

I don’t know if anyone saw the article in the January 2002 issue of Monthly Review, “Left Politics in the Age of Transition,” an exchange between Immanuel Wallerstein and the Editor’s of Monthly Review, but Wallerstein said some interesting things.

One of the things he said is “Use defensive electoral tactics…Once we don’t think of obtaining state power as a mode of transforming the world, they (elections) are always a matter of the lesser evil, and the decision of what is the lesser evil has to be made case-by-case and moment-by moment.”

The entire article is very good and I think worth reading for everyone here, but let me just summarize his alternative strategy:
“1. Expand the spirit of Porto Allegre-What is this spirit? The coming together in a non-hierarchical fashion of the world family of antisystemic movements to push for a) intellectual clarity b) militant actions based on popular mobilization that can be seen as immediately useful in people’s lives and c) attempts to argue for long term fundamental changes.
2. Use defensive electoral tactics.
3.Push democratization unceasingly. The most popular demand on the states everywhere is “more”- more education, more health, more guaranteed lifetime income.
4. Make the liberal center fulfill its theoretical preferences. This is otherwise known as forcing the pace of liberalism. The liberal center notably seldom means what it says or practices what it preaches.
5. Make anti-racism the defining measure of democracy. Democracy is about treating all people equally-in terms of power, in terms of distribution, in terms of opportunity for personal fulfillment…Racism is not a secondary issue either on a national or a world scale.
6. Move towards decommodification…instead of turning universities and hospitals into profit making institutions we should be thinking of how we can transform steel factories into non-profit institutions…
7. Remember always that we are living in the era of transition from our existing world system to something different. We should not be taken in by the rhetoric of globalization or the inferences about TINA. Not only do alternatives exist, but the only alternative that doesn’t exist is continuing with our present structure.

…The key problem is lucidity. The forces who wish to change the system so that nothing changes…have money, energy and intelligence at their disposal…only careful analysis will keep us from falling into their many traps.”

Sounds good to me. I just don’t know how and if we can do it. I think it was Ted Glick of IPPN that sent out an e-mail saying that we should hold Town Meetings in every community. This at least gives people a chance to get to know each other and communicate. I suppose we could try to hold town meetings on specific issues that are not necessarily seen as local issues-like healthcare- and see what people think, what the problems are in our area. It’s difficult to do anything that involves regular people though without the local honcho’s getting involved. A few years ago in Allentown some women tried to organize a group of people to discuss what the problems were with the downtown area and local political people were all over the meetings trying to co-opt the issues.

Guernica vs. Terrorism in Spain

This letter is in response to the misuse of Picasso’s Geurnica in the Tuesday March 16th Morning Call. The only relationship the bombing of Geurnica has to the terrorist bombing in Madrid is that perhaps, if the leftist government of Spain in the 1930’s and the spirit of international cooperation that supported it had been allowed to flourish instead of being brutally destroyed with the complicity of “democratic” governments and the Catholic Church, there would not have been a 2004 bombing in Madrid.

The Luftwaffe bombed the town of Guernica in the Basque region of Spain on market day April 26, 1937 in support of the fascist General Franco. For 3 hours, they dropped bombs and strafed the surrounding countryside, killing about 1600 of the towns 5000 men women and children. The outrage of this massacre is what Picasso’s Guernica represents.

The deaths that occurred in Madrid in 2004 were the result of a group of misdirected fundamentalists who do not hold state power. In contrast, with the bombing of Guernica the killing of civilians became a socially and politically acceptable act by governments during World War II, culminating in the horrific atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945. To this day, the brutality of aerial “warfare” continues on a regular basis as we have seen from the use of cluster bombs in Yugoslavia, Afghanistan and Iraq.

The United States government and other major democracies maintained an official non-interventionist position during the Spanish Civil War that resulted in Franco’s forces getting plenty of guns, money and oil eventually ensuring the defeat of the elected leftist government. Before the government fell under the relentless barrage of well-funded fascists, more than 50,000 International Brigade members volunteered to fight for Spanish freedom. They came from Italy, France, Germany, Austria, Poland, the Ukraine, England, Ireland, USSR, Yugoslavia, Scandinavia, Canada, Hungary and of course from the United States. Republican Spain represented hope to people living in poverty and despair through a worldwide economic depression; hope to people who found a chance to fight in Spain against the same fascist enemy that was crushing them at home. Among the many who died there was the first black man to lead an integrated American military force, Oliver Law, a commander in the American Abraham Lincoln Brigade. Upon returning to the United States, survivors were labeled “premature antifascists” because their cause was not tied to nationalism but to internationalism and to the belief that all the people of the world deserve to be free.

A few years ago the Zoellner Arts Center at Lehigh University hosted an exhibit called, Shouts from the Wall Posters and Photographs Brought Home From the War by American Volunteers. The introduction to the exhibit quoted the writer and film maker, John Sayles, “They fought when they didn’t have to fight, fought when it brought no public glory in their home towns, fought to put a lie to the cynicism that keeps people in darkness…for a republic that was mostly a belief in what people could be, in how they could live together…in a time when caring about someone you’ve never met is seen as weakness or treachery how much strength have we taken from the thought of them…”
There are many sources for more information about the Spanish Civil War. One of these is the website of ALBA – The Abraham Lincoln Brigade Archives at www.alba-valb.org.