Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Glucksmann supports Sarkozy

It's just not a surprise - why expect anything else?

French thinkers abandon 'archaic' Royal
By Henry Samuel in Paris
Last Updated: 1:16am GMT 19/02/2007

Daily Telegraph

Battle-lines are being drawn in the salons of Paris' Left Bank after several eminent philosophers did the unthinkable and publicly disavowed the Socialist presidential candidate Ségolène Royal in favour of "la droite".

France's traditionally Left-wing intellectual elite has been ablaze since one of its leading members, the former Maoist André Glucksmann, wrote an article in Le Monde entitled: "Why I choose Nicolas Sarkozy."

Jean-Paul Sartre will no doubt be turning in his grave, but Mr Glucksmann, who co-founded the influential New Philosophy movement in the 1970s, said that the Right-wing interior minister is the only candidate who represents France's tradition of anti-totalitarian humanism — "the France of the heart".

Conscious that his backing of Mr Sarkozy would earn him many enemies, he described the Left as fatally out of touch and "marinating in its own narcissism".

On the other hand, Mr Sarkozy — who is favourite to win the April and May elections — represented "movement versus conservatism" and a break with an old Right "used to hiding behind grand pontificating concepts".

Other thinkers have been equally outspoken about the state of the Socialists.
Alain Finkielkraut, a teacher at the prestigious Ecole Polytechnique who has a radio show on the highbrow France Culture station, described Miss Royal as "manifestly incompetent".

"I can only observe that the Socialist party is in a coma," he said, going on to condemn a Socialist tract which depicted Mr Sarkozy as an "American neo-conservative with a French passport" as a "slip into fascism".
He said he was toying with voting for centrist UDF candidate, François Bayrou — also an author and doctor of literature who has won over a string of "intellos". France's highest profile media philosopher, Bernard-Henri Lévy, refused to back a candidate, arguing that the role of intellectuals was to ask questions not express preferences.

However, he declared himself "circumspect and perplexed" by Miss Royal. "She is at a crossroads. There are two possible destinies," he added. "Either she can be the Tony Blair of French socialism and break the taboos, or she goes back to building the archaic old machinery."

Miss Royal's manifesto launch has done nothing to stem her flagging ratings. One survey on Saturday showed her losing to Mr Sarkozy by a 10 per cent margin in a second round head-to-head contest. But she will have taken heart from another poll suggesting that 79 per cent of voters think that everything is still to play for.
Miss Royal stated yesterday that she would reshuffle her campaign team later this week. "A denser, better structured team is needed," she said.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Wallerstein on the fuite en avant

Commentary No. 203, Feb. 15, 2007
"Bush's Headlong Rush Into Iran?"

The French have an expression fuite en avant, which the dictionaries translate as "headlong rush." But the translation loses the real meaning. A fuite en avant is something one does when one is in a losing situation, and one hopes to salvage it by doing more of the same or worse, thereby creating a situation in which one hopes people will feel they have to support you. Is this what Bush intends to do in Iran?

We know two things about the Bush regime. Its position in Iraq is impossible and is now very widely contested even in the United States. The call for withdrawal grows daily and coming from everywhere. And we know that, since 2001, the neo-cons and Cheney have been pushing for a military attack on Iran with the objective of regime change. So, this could be the moment.

The United States has sent its fleet into the region, and placed an admiral known for his competence in sea-air attacks in charge. The United States is issuing statements virtually daily about alleged Iranian misdeeds. In short, the United States is saber-rattling. Furthermore, a very large number of people seem to take this very seriously. Three of the highest-ranking retired United States military have publicly warned against the folly of attacking Iran. So has Zbigniew Brzezinski, who scarcely qualifies as a dove. So have countless politicians and diplomats from around the world. But Cheney has made it clear that the United States government will do what it pleases, no matter how many the opponents, or who they are.

Will anyone support the United States in such an adventure? Very few indeed. Not the United States Congress, although Bush and Cheney may be counting on the fact that it is harder for the Democrats to oppose them on Iran than on Iraq. They will have the support of the Israeli government. And they seem to be counting on the support of the Saudis. But this is to misunderstand the Saudi position. The Saudis are of course concerned to limit Iranian pretensions to hegemony in the region as well as to contain the possibilities of Shia militancy in Sunni-dominated states, and first of all in Saudi Arabia. But the Saudis also have made it clear that a military attack on Iran will harm rather than help Saudi political objectives. Saudi active mediation of the Hamas-Fatah dispute in Palestine indicates they are seeking to distance themselves clearly from United States strategy in the Middle East. And in Europe even the British are voicing their distaste for the idea of an attack on Iran.

So, let us suppose that, despite all this, Bush and Cheney decide to make their headlong rush into war, their fuite en avant to try to salvage their disastrous situation. What would happen, and why would they do this? What would happen seems clear. An air attack on Iran will not achieve the objective of dismantling the Iranian nuclear program, although it may damage it. Sending in troops, if the United States could find any to send in, would lead to a very high United States death toll. The Iranian government would be strengthened politically - at home and throughout the Islamic world. The Russians and the Chinese would de facto support Iran.

And worst of all for the United States, those in Iraq it considers its closest allies would start calling quite vociferously for the United States' immediate withdrawal from Iraq. Former Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari has already started down this road. Nobody in Iraq, nobody, wants the United States to attack Iran, and nobody emotionally sides with the United States on this question.

Now Cheney is an intelligent politician, and he can see all this, I think. If so, why would he be pushing nonetheless for war? Could we entertain the idea that creating an even greater disaster for the United States seems to him the best option available for achieving his real political objectives?

Cheney (and Bush) know that they will control the United States government only for two more years. After that, they don't know who will be in power, but they have every reason to doubt it will be their clones. The last thing they want is a peaceful transfer of power to anyone who might dismantle what they have constructed and try, even try, to move the United States back to where it was - domestically and internationally - in the Nixon to Clinton years.

They are looking forward to increasing, not decreasing, internal strife in the United States. They are looking forward to further dismantlement of the civil liberties framework, one that was never perfect but did afford some constraints on governmental power. They are looking forward to further regression in the arena of social rights. They are looking forward to a darker United States in a darker world.

Can anyone stop them? Possibly. There is the now widespread and quite vocal resistance within the armed forces. For the first time in my lifetime, I have seen speculation in the press about a military coup. I doubt it would occur, but the very speculation shows how extensive are the misgivings. And there is the resistance of the politicians who are essentially for the most part moderate centrists whose major concern is to keep their elected positions and who blow with their constituents' wind. Will this be enough? It is hard to tell, but we shall see more clearly in the next two to three months.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Target Iran?

Target Iran: US able to strike in the spring
Despite denials, Pentagon plans for possible attack on nuclear sites are well advanced
Ewen MacAskill in Washington
Saturday February 10, 2007
The Guardian

US preparations for an air strike against Iran are at an advanced stage, in spite of repeated public denials by the Bush administration, according to informed sources in Washington.
The present military build-up in the Gulf would allow the US to mount an attack by the spring. But the sources said that if there was an attack, it was more likely next year, just before Mr Bush leaves office.

Neo-conservatives, particularly at the Washington-based American Enterprise Institute, are urging Mr Bush to open a new front against Iran. So too is the vice-president, Dick Cheney. The state department and the Pentagon are opposed, as are Democratic congressmen and the overwhelming majority of Republicans. The sources said Mr Bush had not yet made a decision. The Bush administration insists the military build-up is not offensive but aimed at containing Iran and forcing it to make diplomatic concessions. The aim is to persuade Tehran to curb its suspect nuclear weapons programme and abandon ambitions for regional expansion.

Rest of stury here.

Sam Gindin on the current opportuntity

A lengthy piece by the Canadian socialist Sam Gindin - I got this from the very good MRZine and they got it from Gindin's own Socialist Project's e-mail journal The Bullet.

'Is the Big Ship America Sinking?Contradictions and Openings' by Sam Gindin

There's something happening
What it is ain't exactly clear
(Buffalo Springfield, 1966)

Are we in the midst of a momentous turn in world politics? Donald Rumsfeld has been shuffled out of the Pentagon. Daniel Ortega, Washington's nemesis from the Sandinista Revolution of the late 1970s, is back as President of Nicaragua. Hugo Chavez has been triumphantly re-elected, and Bolivia and Ecuador also have new left-populist presidents. U.S.-led neoliberalism is scrambling in Latin America; the U.S. state seems to be in the throes of a full retreat in Iraq; and, in its look ahead to the year 2007, The Economist is warning of the dangers of an "authority deficit" at the level of nation states, international institutions, and the role of "the superpower." The US economy is slowing down; Europe's economy is speeding up; and China, having quadrupled its output over the past 15 years, is becoming more confident and assertive internationally. The fall of the U.S. dollar has been imminent for some time, but now the talk is of its decline turning into a chaotic rout. And suddenly everyone is an environmentalist, with the Bush Administration being the main force against the Kyoto climate change protocols.

What next? With the Bush neo-conservatives on the defensive, will a new common sense emerge? Will the broad left regain its confidence and move to overturning three decades of increased inequality, erosion of social rights, and corrosion of substantive democracy? Will this also extend to challenging corporate power? Will Bush's humiliation in Iraq spill into Canadian debates over the war in Afghanistan and drag Harper down along with his imperial friend? Will the new reality in Iraq force the U.S. and Israel towards some substantive compromise with Palestinians? Will the turmoil within the American empire provide space for the populist experiments taking place in Latin America -- experiments that might inspire a more radical activism in our own countries?

An Unraveling Empire?
It is tempting to identify, in all of the above observations and questions, signs of the unraveling of the American empire. But to argue that the American economy may be on its last legs substitutes wishful thinking for sober analysis. The American economy retains a remarkable capacity to adjust to change (with great costs, of course, to American workers). American military power has limits but it remains the greatest military power the world has ever seen, and its coercive potential and reach should not be underestimated. Shifts are occurring among the hierarchy of capitalist states and regions -- the dramatic rise of Asia and the development of the European Union being the most obvious and important -- but American leadership in the making of global capitalism continues.

There are other reasons for caution. Empires aren't toppled by falling exchange rates. The U.S. dollar fell by 44% relative to the G-10 countries between February 1985 and October 1987.
Although there was a recession in the early 1990s, this was followed by the great American 1990s economic boom. Empires do not collapse from particular defeats either. Vietnam defeated the U.S. in the 1970s, but a main priority of Vietnam today is to deepen its participation in American-led globalization. The American economy is clearly not focused on addressing popular needs, but that is not what matters to capital's successful survival. For American capital, the more important development is that US after-tax profits as a share of GDP are at their highest since 1929.

The U.S. is losing manufacturing jobs at an alarming rate: the number of manufacturing jobs in the U.S. is today below where it was fifty years ago, and as a share of total jobs, manufacturing employment is today less than half of what it was then. Yet because of the high productivity of the remaining workers, manufacturing production is not disappearing: the volume of manufactured goods produced in the U.S. has increased six-fold since 1950. Remarkably, given the decline in manufacturing jobs, manufacturing production has maintained its share of the American economy's real (after adjustments for price inflation) output. The U.S. continues to generate half the research and development done amongst the G-7 leading capitalist economies. According to the U.S. National Science Foundation, the American share of the global production of high-tech goods, in spite of all the outsourcing and the imports, actually increased from 25% a quarter of a century ago to 42% in 2003. It is certainly true that high-tech production in China and South Korea has increased much faster, but they started from a low base (about 1% in each country) and their global share has risen to what is still a fraction of the U.S. levels, at only 9% and 4% respectively.

Even if some U.S. multinational corporations have lost their former overwhelming dominance in certain sectors, others have maintained their strength, as with the aerospace industry, and new ones have flourished, particularly in such high tech sectors as computers, telecommunications, pharmaceuticals, medical equipment, biotechnology, and others. The leadership role of the U.S. is confirmed even as European and Asian companies increase their drive to catch up, or at times even surpass, American manufacturing. In other sectors, the advice and skills they seek is that coming from those with the most experience and expertise in the making of global capitalism, which overwhelmingly means U.S. banks, investment houses, consulting agencies, and law and accounting firms still dominate the financial and services sectors.

A Collapsing Trade Position?
What about the American trade deficit (including a trade deficit even in high tech goods) and the loss of competitiveness this expresses? American exports have in fact been very competitive and increased very significantly. It is the remarkable level of imports that account for the trade deficit. In high tech, for example, American consumers are buying, and American businesses using, more such goods than anyone else does. The result is that the U.S. ends up both producing more and importing more. It should also be noted that American multinationals now sell far more abroad through their affiliates than through exports from the US, so trade data does not give a meaningful measure of American corporate strength.

The U.S. has been able, for over a quarter century now, to import more goods than it exports and pay for this through other countries accumulating American dollars (dollars which are now falling in value). If any other country tried to do the same, it would be disciplined by international financial markets as capitalists would pull out their capital until that country corrected its "overspending." The U.S. can get away with this not just because the dollar is the dominant currency in the world: more important is that global finance is still relatively confident in the American dollar (the dollar remains the "safe haven" in an uncertain world) and the resilience of the American economy. The net result has, essentially, been that a larger share of global labor has been working to supply the US with its needs, and that the US has also captured a disproportionate share of world savings. In this sense, the U.S. has been able to run consistent trade deficits for over a quarter of a century as a sign of relative strength rather than weakness in relationship to other advanced capitalist centers.

The U.S. economy may face a significant degree of instability and uncertainty in the coming period. But a global run on the U.S. dollar is most unlikely because of the way the rest of the world is now structurally interdependent with -- and even directly integrated into -- the American empire. The countries currently holding large dollar reserves, especially China and Japan, hold dollars to keep their own currencies from rising relative to the dollar and so maintain their advantage in exporting to the crucial U.S. market. If they did convert their dollars to another international currency such as the yen or euro, the Japanese and Europeans -- panicking over a competitiveness-destroying rise in their currency -- would immediately turn to buying up dollars, thereby neutralizing the net impact on overall holdings of dollars. More generally, the countries with large holdings of U.S. dollars have come to understand that, given their integration into global capitalism, a crisis for the dollar is a crisis for everyone. This general concern to support the dollar even as it falls, and avoid a collapse of the US economy, reflects the contradictions of success within the American empire, and that structural interdependency has become a significant foundation of the American empire.

A Military Power in Retreat?
The U.S. military impasse -- and potential full retreat -- in Iraq raises the limits to the American empire. The Los Angeles Times (December 3, 2006) reports that the recent trip of top American officials to shore up their Middle East allies found "friends both old and new near a state of panic" fearing that "that the Bush administration may make things worse." But Iraq and the entire Middle East will still have to sell their oil on the world market, and the U.S. will keep receiving it (as it now does from Venezuela in spite of the Bush-Chavez conflict). American oil companies will continue to play a prominent and profitable role in the process (as they still do in Venezuela and Bolivia). Many of the new American military bases established in the Middle East and Central Asia in the course of the "war on terrorism" are likely to remain in place. And an unintended consequence of a less unilateral American state forced into negotiations with Iran may well lead Iran to become more "responsible" and integrated within global capitalism, an outcome not necessarily negative for American interests.

There are also other reasons for a more sober assessment of existing geopolitical alliances and balance of forces. The electoral rejection of neoliberalism in Latin America states, for example, is obviously a great electoral victory for the people in these particular countries and a rejection of neoliberal policies. But these neither yet represent a defeat of neoliberalism as a system of power and capitalist market relations or a fundamental challenge to existing global social relations. In Nicaragua, it is not clear that Ortega any longer represents a challenge to neoliberalism. Argentina has come back into the fold of global capitalism and is actively negotiating the repayment of its defaulted debt. Bolivia and Ecuador face serious limits on how far radical policy agendas in such small countries can be implemented given their international integration and poverty. And even Chavez, for all he has accomplished in Venezuela, has, to date, found it necessary to go slow in challenging private industry and finance. Brazil, with half of Latin America's population, is clearly critical to continental possibilities but Lula has not emerged as a threat to either the Brazilian or global capitalists, and, if anything, his government has served to contain the opposition from below. There is need for a careful calibration of the Latin American struggle against U.S. imperialism and political hegemony and the forces that remain to be defeated.

China raises a different set of issues and cautions with respect to shifting geopolitical forces. Chinese growth, much at the great expense of Chinese peasants and ecology, has indeed been stunning. But China has a long way to go to match the U.S. Its total Gross Domestic Product remains about one-quarter that of the U.S. The top 500 companies in China are still only one-fifth the size of the top 500 U.S. companies. China has relied on foreign direct investment as no other capitalist development transition has ever done. Even as China becomes more technologically sophisticated, its dependence on global technologies, components, and markets is not decreasing, but increasing. Between 1993 and 2003, the share of China's exports produced by foreign-funded enterprises (FFEs) increased from 35% to 79%. The FFE's share of exports of computer equipment rose from 74% to 92% and of electronics and telecom from 45% to 74%. Between 1998 and 2002, FFEs even increased their share of China's domestic consumption of high-tech goods from 32% to 45% (see George J. Gilboy, "The Myth Behind China's Miracle," Foreign Affairs, July/August 2004).

A crucial question is whether Chinese dependence on foreign corporations is just a pragmatic economic strategy that can be modified as China develops, or whether it carries with it a social significance. For example, the foreign dependence affects the making of a Chinese capitalist class, intertwining it with ties to foreign markets and suppliers. That is, the Chinese capitalist class has a developing vested interest, like capitalists elsewhere, in the conditions of global capitalism, as well as the Chinese economic space. This can be partly seen in the major political and economic summit held in December between Chinese and American political and business leaders over the nature of Chinese-American economic ties and their relationship to the global economy. To the extent that such a Chinese capitalist class is in fact emerging, the main global "contradiction" represented by China's growth may consequently not be found in its threat to the U.S., but rather in China's internal class and ecological relations.

There are also specific limits on China's emergence as global political rival in the immediate period. There are some serious potential problems with China's banking system and the unserviced debt that has been mounting; the inflow of speculative "hot money" and China's real estate bubble are becoming more difficult to contain with the Bank of China's main sterilization policy of building up U.S. dollar reserves; an aging population and weak social security structure that is putting pressure to shift resources from private accumulation to public services; an already-existing environmental crisis that will only get worse at present growth rates; and extremes of regional and class inequalities. There is, finally, the critical question of whether the Chinese state can contain the formation of popular forces, above all within the working class, and their growing expectations of workplace rights, material wellbeing, and democracy.

New Openings?
Where then does this leave us? There may be a downturn, strains, and uncertainties, even a degree of quite serious turmoil. Given that neoliberalism has, to some extent, been discredited as a pure policy framework, this may lead to some turn away from neoliberalism's harshest and most messianic policies. As The Economist (November 25, 2006) suggested after the fall 2006 American Congressional elections, rebuilding "America's social contract" may be "a prerequisite for shoring up support for globalization." As well, the Democratic Party most certainly will, in light of the delegitimation of Bush's international policies of unilateralism, be more cautious in its interventions abroad and more sensitive to multilateral incorporation of allies, as has already been evolving with respect to Middle East policies and North Korea. In the absence of sustained social pressures from within the U.S., however, the changes will be limited to a "kinder" (and perhaps more acceptable) capitalist globalization and the more "multilateral" (and perhaps more efficient) imperialism which the Europeans have sought from the U.S.

American capitalism and the American empire continue to have staying power. This is because of the absence of pressure from below. Without effective social resistance, American capital can restructure at the expense of the middle and working classes. Without organized resistance, the "competitiveness" of U.S. firms and the economy becomes the discursive and organizational framework for middle- and working-class discontent. The cracks in the neoliberal architecture of the empire in the military quagmire in Iraq, electoral revolts in Latin America, and the structural American trade deficit and dollar overhang are not the bursting of historic "contradictions" that lead to the crisis that will unravel American geopolitical hegemony. Rather, these are historic "openings" that challenge us to create a new politics that can lead to radical new political alignments. The real issue is not whether "the system" will fall apart, but whether a new kind of left can come together.

In Canada, it is significant that federal anti-scab legislation and a living wage are actually on the parliamentary agenda and that the new leader of the Liberal Party is an avowed "environmentalist." But these positive signs are more a reflection of the Liberals sensing a general and vague unease in the country than any fear of a radicalized and mass left. The question is whether we can build on such openings. Might the present moment be that long-awaited chance to place real economic and social transformation -- with all the difficult (and sometimes uncomfortable) questions of political capacities and organization this implies -- on the agenda once again?

Thursday, February 08, 2007

US Socialist Worker Feb 9th 2007

US Socialist Worker follows up on Jan 27th with this critical piece, better than the bland 'American antiwar movement is growing' type of comment.

WHICH SIDE ARE YOU ON? Why protest matters
By Sharon Smith February 9, 2007 Page 5
HUNDREDS OF thousands of antiwar protesters amassed on the streets of Washington, D.C., on January 27, emboldened by the optimism of an antiwar majority that has finally found its voice.
To be sure, skeptics were quick to point out that members of Congress had vacated their offices for the weekend, as if their physical presence was necessary to notice the throngs of protesters. Other cynics remind us that even the enormous February 15, 2003, antiwar demonstrations failed to halt the U.S. drive to war on Iraq, as if protest is a futile exercise.

It is politically naïve, however, to expect that a single demonstration of any size is enough to persuade the world’s lone military superpower to reverse its bloodthirsty course.

A demonstration is not a protest movement. Such a movement requires an ongoing commitment to grassroots struggle.

The large turnout on January 27 represents the potential to revive the antiwar movement, after an extended period of dormancy. For the last few years, torture at Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo, the invasions of Falluja, massacres of Iraqi civilians and the rising death toll of U.S. troops seemed to demoralize rather than embolden movement activists in the heart of the imperialist beast.

In contrast, many activists returned to their communities invigorated by the experience of January 27, committed to building a struggle to end the war.

Democratic Rep. Henry Waxman discovered this combative mood while addressing a meeting of the Palisades Democratic Club in Los Angeles on January 28. Protesters confronted him with a banner reading “Liberals do not fund occupation” and heckled him while he explained that, despite his alleged opposition to the U.S. occupation of Iraq, he would not commit to de-funding it.

The hecklers appeared dissatisfied with Waxman’s recital of Democratic Party talking points, shouting angrily, “What about the U.S. Constitution?” when he announced his opposition to impeachment proceedings against Bush.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
BUT MOVEMENTS are also based on strategies, and antiwar activists must now decide the most effective strategy for coalescing renewed grassroots opposition into a sustained protest movement. This must include an honest assessment of the very strategies that contributed to the antiwar movement’s malaise for the better part of the last four years.

Author Liza Featherstone commented in The Nation on February 2 that “much of the antiwar movement now agrees that there is no contradiction, or conflict, between chanting in the streets and lobbying in the halls of Congress,” adding, “protests would be meaningless without additional pressure on politicians.”

Featherstone’s argument sounds like the conventional wisdom. Certainly, movements must seek to pressure politicians. The question is how most effectively to do so. United for Peace and Justice (UFPJ), which has helmed U.S. the antiwar movement since 2003, has routinely coupled antiwar protest with lobbying.

It can reasonably be argued, however, that lobbying undermines the potential power of angry protest. Lobbying involves an arduous effort to engage politicians in polite conversation. Protest, while no less arduous, is decidedly less friendly. Occupying a representative’s office is not lobbying.

In a typical memo, UFPJ instructed its 800-strong citizen-lobbyists who swarmed the Capitol during its September 26, 2005, lobby day, “Please take the time to fax (or e-mail) a thank you note to the staff person or Congressperson you met with...You have begun to build a relationship with the office of your Representative and/or Senators--keep it up!”

UFPJ’s strategy is best described as lobbying interrupted by periodic outpourings of mass protest. Eighteen months later and no closer to ending the war, a similar number of activists joined in UFPJ’s lobby day on January 29, as a follow-up to the January 27 protest, in the hopes that Democratic Party majority in Congress would yield more substantial results.

But as Aaron Glantz reported for the Inter Press Service on February 2, “Senior Congressional Democrats are brushing off questions about cutting off funding for the Iraq war, and indicate they will do little to forcefully stop President George W. Bush from sending 21,500 additional U.S. troops to Iraq.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called Bush’s troop surge “the one last chance” that the U.S. will “succeed” in Iraq, while Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid indicated his opposition would be limited to symbolic, bipartisan legislation, rather than de-funding the war.

Presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton did not grace the nation’s Capitol with her presence from January 27-29. She ridiculed de-funding the war as a “soundbite”--from Iowa, where she was busy honing her 2008 campaign machinery.

It is also worth noting that, as Democrats have softened their support for the war on Iraq, they have hardened their stance against Iran--the next likely military target for both the U.S. and Israel.

Presidential hopeful John Edwards--who has scathingly criticized Congress for inaction on the Iraq war from his perch safely outside the Beltway--traveled to Israel on January 22 to rattle his saber at Iran. With fist-thumping emphasis, Edwards declared his commitment “to ensure that Iran never gets nuclear weapons, we need to keep all options on the table, let me reiterate--all options must remain on the table.”

On February 1, Clinton worked the crowd for donations at an American Israel Public Affairs Committee’s dinner, assuring attendees, “Israel and the United States have shared values and an unbreakable bond. Qualities that will be necessary as they stand up to terrorism and Iran.”
At best, UFPJ’s allies in Congress must be described as fair-weather friends. Rep. Jerrold Nadler spoke at UFPJ’s January 27 protest, but quickly turned on the organization, saying he was “very upset” upon learning that UFPJ plans to co-sponsor the U.S. Campaign to End the Israeli Occupation’s call for a June 10-11 Washington mobilization against the “ongoing Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories”--a tepid call, given the scale of Israel’s atrocities.

- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -
THE AGE-old saying “You attract more flies with honey than with vinegar” does not apply to Washington’s entrenched political class, whose campaign coffers depend on a steady influx of corporate dollars.

A Chicago antiwar listserve report described a 20-minute meeting on January 22 between 20 local antiwar activists and Democratic Party powerbroker Rahm Emanuel: “Emanuel refused to take any position on any effort to cut off funding for continuation of the war past the current fiscal year.” The meeting ended abruptly when Emanuel left to catch a flight.

While Democrats have kept antiwar lobbyists at arms’ length since November, they have given a warmer reception to corporate lobbyists. The Los Angeles Times observed on January 22, “Surprising as it might seem in view of the Democrats' public rhetoric, business groups are getting their telephone calls returned. And they're getting plenty of face time with the new House and Senate leaders.”

Back in November, when Pelosi unveiled the Democratic majority’s plans for its first 100 hours, she promised to “roll back the multibillion-dollar subsidies for Big Oil.” When the bill left the House in mid-January, however, it sliced only $5.5 billion from the $32 billion in subsidies and tax breaks oil conglomerates will receive over the next five years--a small price to pay for the profit-soaked industry.

Grassroots activists must decide whether the antiwar movement will seek polite engagement for “face time” with Washington powerbrokers or embark on an admittedly less diplomatic strategy to get in their faces.

The potential clearly exists for the latter. In a little-reported protest on January 27, 2,500 demonstrators shut down a military recruiting center in Seattle, led by the local chapter of Iraq Veterans Against the War.

One observer described, “Community members emerged from houses and joined the march as it snaked through the neighborhood. As the march drew near to the recruiting center the demonstrators began chanting, “Occupation is a crime, Ehren Watada should do no time!” and “You gotta resist, don’t enlist!”

Anger, not diplomacy, points the way forward for the antiwar movement.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007


Alan Woods on PM talking about meeting Hugo Chavez. All framed by a 'you don't meet many Marxists nowadays, but here's one who's made an impression..'

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Wallerstein on the WSF

Commentary No. 202, Feb. 1, 2007
"The World Social Forum: From Defense to Offense"

The World Social Forum (WSF) met in Nairobi, Kenya from January 20-25. The organization, founded as a sort of anti-Davos, has matured and evolved more than even its participants realize. From the beginning, the WSF has been a meeting of a wide range of organizations and movements from around the world who defined themselves as opposed to neo-liberal globalization and imperialism in all its forms. Its slogan has been "another world is possible" and its structure has been that of an open space without officers, spokespeople, or resolutions. The WSF has been against neo-liberal globalization and the term alterglobalists has been coined to define the stance of its proponents - another kind of global structure.

In the first several WSF meetings, beginning in 2001, the emphasis was defensive. Participants, each time more numerous, denounced the defects of the Washington Consensus, the efforts of the World Trade Organization (WTO) to legislate neo-liberalism, the pressures of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on peripheral zones to privatize everything and open frontiers to the free flow of capital, and the aggressive posture of the United States in Iraq and elsewhere.

In this sixth world meeting, this defensive language was much reduced - simply because everyone took it for granted. And these days the United States seems less formidable, the WTO seems deadlocked and basically impotent, the IMF almost forgotten. The New York Times, reporting on this year's Davos meeting, talked of the recognition that there is a "shifting power equation" in the world, that "nobody is really in charge" any more, and that "the very foundations of the multilateral system" have been shaken, "leaving the world short on leadership at a time when it is increasingly vulnerable to catastrophic shocks."

In this chaotic situation, the WSF is presenting a real alternative, and gradually creating a web of networks whose political clout will emerge in the next five to ten years. Participants at the WSF have debated for a long time whether it should continue to be an open forum or should engage in structured, planned political action. Quietly, almost surreptitiously, it became clear at Nairobi that the issue was moot. The participants would do both - leave the WSF as an open space that was inclusive of all those who wanted to transform the existing world-system and, at the same time, permit and encourage those who wanted to organize specific political actions to do so, and to organize to do so at WSF meetings.

The key idea is the creation of networks, which the WSF is singularly equipped to construct at a global level. There is now an effective network of feminists. For the first time, at Nairobi, there was instituted a network of labor struggles (defining the concept of "worker" quite broadly). There is now an ongoing network of activist intellectuals. The network of rural/peasant movements has been reinforced. There is a budding network of those defending alternative sexualities (which permitted Kenyan gay and lesbian movements to affirm a public presence that had been difficult before). There is an anti-war network (immediately concerned with Iraq and the Middle East in general). And there are functional networks on specific arenas of struggle - water rights, the struggle against HIV/AIDS, human rights.

The WSF is also spawning manifestos: the so-called Bamako Appeal, which expounds a whole campaign against capitalism; a feminist manifesto, now in its second draft and continuing to evolve; a labor manifesto which is just being born. There will no doubt be other such manifestos as the WSF continues. The fourth day of the meeting was devoted essentially to meetings of these networks, each of which was deciding what kinds of joint actions it could undertake - in its own name, but within the umbrella of the WSF.

Finally, there was the attention turned to what it means to say "another world." There were serious discussions and debates about what we mean by democracy, who is a worker, what is civil society, what is the role of political parties in the future construction of the world. These discussions define the objectives, and the networks are a large part of the means by which these objectives are to be realized. The discussions, the manifestos, and the networks constitute the offensive posture.

It is not that the WSF is without its internal problems. The tension between some of the larger NGO's (whose headquarters and strength is in the North, and which support the WSF but also show up at Davos) and the more militant social movements (particularly strong in the South but not only) remains real. They come together in the open space, but the more militant organizations control the networks. The WSF sometimes seems like a lumbering tortoise. But in Aesop's fable, the glittering speedy Davos hare lost the race.

by Immanuel Wallerstein