Saturday, January 16, 2010

Why Fidel Wins Over Rush and Robertson, Hands Down

Photo: Young Haitian Doctor Being Trained in Cuba

The Lesson of Haiti:

Reflections of

Fidel Castro

Two days ago, at almost six o'clock in the evening Cuban time and when, given its geographical location, night had already fallen in Haiti, television stations began to broadcast the news that a violent earthquake -- measuring 7.3 on the Richter scale--had severely struck Port-au-Prince. The seismic phenomenon originated from a tectonic fault located in the sea just 15 kilometers from the Haitian capital, a city where 80% of the population inhabit fragile homes built of adobe and mud.

The news continued almost without interruption for hours. There was no footage, but it was confirmed that many public buildings, hospitals, schools and more solidly-constructed facilities were reported collapsed. I have read that an earthquake of the magnitude of 7.3 is equivalent to the energy released by an explosion of 400,000 tons of TNT.

Tragic descriptions were transmitted. Wounded people in the streets were crying out for medical help, surrounded by ruins under which their relatives were buried. No one, however, was able to broadcast a single image for several hours.

The news took all of us by surprise. Many of us have frequently heard about hurricanes and severe flooding in Haiti, but were not aware of the fact that this neighboring country ran the risk of a massive earthquake. It has come to light on this occasion that 200 years ago, a massive earthquake similarly affected this city, which would have been the home of just a few thousand inhabitants at that time.

At midnight, there was still no mention of an approximate figure in terms of victims. High-ranking United Nations officials and several heads of government discussed the moving events and announced that they would send emergency brigades to help. Given that MINUSTAH (United Stabilization Mission in Haiti) troops are deployed there-- UN forces from various countries-- some defense ministers were talking about possible casualties among their personnel.

It was only yesterday, Wednesday morning, when the sad news began to arrive of enormous human losses among the population, and even institutions such as the United Nations mentioned that some of their buildings in that country had collapsed, a word that does not say anything in itself but could mean a lot.

For hours, increasingly more traumatic news continued to arrive about the situation in this sister nation. Figures related to the number of fatal victims were discussed, which fluctuated, according to various versions, between 30,000 and 100,000. The images are devastating; it is evident that the catastrophic event has been given widespread coverage around the world, and many governments, sincerely moved by the disaster, are making efforts to cooperate according to their resources.

The tragedy has genuinely moved a significant number of people, particularly those in which that quality is innate. But perhaps very few of them have stopped to consider why Haiti is such a poor country. Why does almost 50% of its population depend on family remittances sent from abroad? Why not analyze the realities that led Haiti to its current situation and this enormous suffering as well?

The most curious aspect of this story is that no one has said a single word to recall the fact that Haiti was the first country in which 400,000 Africans, enslaved and trafficked by Europeans, rose up against 30,000 white slave masters on the sugar and coffee plantations, thus undertaking the first great social revolution in our hemisphere.

Pages of insurmountable glory were written there. Napoleon’s most eminent general was defeated there. Haiti is the net product of colonialism and imperialism, of more than one century of the employment of its human resources in the toughest forms of work, of military interventions and the extraction of its natural resources.

This historic oversight would not be so serious if it were not for the real fact that Haiti constitutes the disgrace of our era, in a world where the exploitation and pillage of the vast majority of the planet’s inhabitants prevails.

Billions of people in Latin American, Africa and Asia are suffering similar shortages although perhaps not to such a degree as in the case of Haiti.

Situations like that of that country should not exist in any part of the planet, where tens of thousands of cities and towns abound in similar or worse conditions, by virtue of an unjust international economic and political order imposed on the world. The world population is not only threatened by natural disasters such as that of Haiti, which is a just a pallid shadow of what could take place in the planet as a result of climate change, which really was the object of ridicule, derision, and deception in Copenhagen.

It is only just to say to all the countries and institutions that have lost citizens or personnel because of the natural disaster in Haiti: we do not doubt that in this case, the greatest effort will be made to save human lives and alleviate the pain of this long-suffering people. We cannot blame them for the natural phenomenon that has taken place there, even if we do not agree with the policy adopted with Haiti.

But I have to express the opinion that it is now time to look for real and lasting solutions for that sister nation.

In the field of healthcare and other areas, Cuba--despite being a poor and blockaded country-- has been cooperating with the Haitian people for many years. Around 400 doctors and healthcare experts are offering their services free of charge to the Haitian people. Our doctors are working every day in 227 of the country’s 337 communes. On the other hand, at least 400 young Haitians have trained as doctors in our homeland. They will now work with the reinforcement brigade which traveled there yesterday to save lives in this critical situation. Thus, without any special effort being made, up to 1,000 doctors and healthcare experts can be mobilized, almost all of whom are already there willing to cooperate with any other state that wishes to save the lives of the Haitian people and rehabilitate the injured.

Another significant number of young Haitians are currently studying medicine in Cuba.

We are also cooperating with the Haitian people in other areas within our reach. However, there can be no other form of cooperation worthy of being described as such than fighting in the field of ideas and political action in order to put an end to the limitless tragedy suffered by a large number of nations such as Haiti.

The head of our medical brigade reported: "The situation is difficult, but we have already started saving lives." He made that statement in a succinct message hours after his arrival yesterday in Port-au-Prince with additional medical reinforcements.

Later that night, he reported that Cuban doctors and ELAM’s Haitian graduates were being deployed throughout the country. They had already seen more than 1,000 patients in Port-au-Prince, immediately establishing and putting into operation a hospital that had not collapsed and using field hospitals where necessary. They were preparing to swiftly set up other centers for emergency care. We feel a wholesome pride for the cooperation that, in these tragic instances, Cuba doctors and young Haitian doctors who trained in Cuba are offering our brothers and sisters in Haiti!

Fidel Castro Ruz January 14, 2009 8:25 p.m. Translated by Granma International

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Sunday, January 10, 2010

Coalition-Building 101 - Liberals and the Left

What's Required 

for Left-Liberal 

Alliances and 

Mass Movements

By Carl Davidson
Keep On Keepin' On

Even though it was a call for a center-left coalition of sorts, Harold Meyerson's  Jan. 6 Washington Post article, run on Portside, pressed all my hot buttons.

The title alone, with its question-begging blind spot, 'Without a movement, progressives can't aid Obama's agenda,' set me off: there's substantive parts of "Obama's agenda", such as the current Afghan war escalation, that are outright reactionary and not deserving of 'aid' from anyone, least of all progressives. In fact, we need to be mobilizing against them.

Meyerson is probably speaking for more than himself.  I'd guess he's fairly typical of a good number of Beltway liberals who have been wringing their hands recently over their inability to get more grassroots passion stirred up and into the streets over a range of measures that are part of the White House agenda.

So when he started describing how FDR enjoyed critical support from a powerful labor movement and a significant left in the Communist and Socialist Parties, and lamenting that Obama lacks something similar, I just shook my head and groaned. Since the end of World War Two, these guys have been doing everything in their power to disparage, dismiss, distrust and otherwise sow disdain for the socialist left. To our credit, we gave tit for tat over the years, and persisted in keeping a relevant left alive, as best as we could,  and kept ourselves fully engaged in the building of mass and progressive movements.

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Freeing Ourselves from Our Prisons

One of my favorite Einstein quotes for the new decade:

'A human being is a part of a whole, called by us 'universe', a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.' Read more!

Friday, January 01, 2010

New Year Greeting: Getting Ready for 2010


carl-sign Obama, the Democrats

and the months ahead

By Carl Davidson

BEAVER COUNTY, PA -- I've been hearing from too many left activists who are simply fed up with the Democrats and want to leave the electoral arena -- and just when the battles there are getting really interesting, even if we don't have prospects of major victories. To my way of thinking, our present task is to deepen the divisions there, not walk away from them.

The sooner we stop thinking of the "Democratic Party" as if it were a single entity, the better off we will be. That's why "Democrat control of Congress" is an illusion. The GOP Blue Dog faction in the Democratic Party combined with the regular GOP make it at least a draw. That's why everything positive gets gutted and turned into its opposite.
The progressive majority's forces are pretty much limited to the Progressive Caucus, the Black Caucus and the Latino Caucus, and not even all of them. We are a minority force in those upper spheres, not an emerging majority like we are at the base. We can grow to a larger minority in Congress, but to get a true majority, we'd likely have to split both major parties, and we are not close to having that strength yet.

Otherwise, we are mainly limited to passing things where there is a deep divide in finance capital and other big capital at the top, and where one side of it becomes an indirect ally. That may be shaping up on the Afghan war.
But small and medium-sized capital, as well as some larger sectors of productive capital, have yet to stand up to finance capital on HR 676 even though it's in their interest to do so. We'll just have to continue our "long march through the institutions" to get it. A carbon tax, immigration reform, and EFCA are going to be even more difficult.

At this point, we have two interconnected mass democratic tasks. Building the left-progressive pole inside and outside the Dems with groups like PDA and other independent forums, and dividing the GOP right to smash the Teabaggers and their allies. Neither is easy, but starting with a clear head helps a lot.

Here in Beaver County in western Pennsylvania we have about 200 or so PDA people and another few dozen Beaver County Peace Links activists. Almost all are blue collar workers or retirees. We, in this sense, are the active antiwar forces here, as well as the active left-progressive side of the spectrum among the unions and a few other groups.
There isn't much else, save for the Tom Merton Center, the religious-liberal-green-anarchist bunch in nearby Pittburgh. Together with the unions, they pulled out 10,000 for the G20. We took part in it as best as we could. All told, about 6,000 of the 10,000 were from the wider Pittsburgh region and the nearby campuses. That's our activist core viewed more widely.

Nonetheless a majority of our county, and certainly a majority of Dem voters, are critical of the wars -- but they have yet to take any action other than voting. It's our task to find the activities they will take up, like coming to a vigil or attending an antiwar educational, or even just honking their horns at our weekly vigils.

For the Healthcare not Warfare Afghan war protests here a few weeks ago, we got out about 60 people in the rain and cold. Not bad, considering. At least half those attending were wearing their union jackets. Besides us, the speakers were union folks and local Dem officials, plus Tim Carpenter from PDA. The speeches pushed and warned Obama, but didn't attack him personally. They told him what he had to do in order to succeed.
If we didn't take this approach, working with local Dems, I'd guess we could get out less than 10 people, if anyone bothered at all.

Our next project is to make use of Bob Greenwald's Rethink Afghanistan from Brave New Films. One of our allies showed it last month at a college in the next county. Plus finding ways to work with the Steelworkers on their new collaborative with the Mondragon Coops.

If you think our strategy is reducible to "supporting Obama," you don't understand it. To be precise, our strategy here is to aim the main blow at low-road neoliberal finance capital and its right wing populist allies, allying with high road neoKeynesian initiatives at the top, while developing the left-center coalition among labor, minorities, women and youth at the base.

We do that in the form of expanding our PDA group; it's platform is Out Now, HR 676, Green Jobs, the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA), Carbon Tax and Debt Relief. Within that, among the advanced, a few of us do revolutionary socialist education that targets neo-Keynesianism as well. We work with Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism, and that way we grow CCDS in size, too.

That's the political and class substance of it. Where Obama stands, and where we stand in relation to him, depends on the ebb and flow. We oppose him where he's wrong, support him where he's right, and defend him versus the racist onslaughts of the right.

So yes, I'm suggesting that people elsewhere do likewise -- although I'm well aware that conditions vary, and adjustments are required.

If one of the left antiwar coalitions thinks they can pull off a march on DC, we'll probably rent a bus or two, fill them, and go to it. If we do, we'll try to network horizontally with others like ourselves, perhaps even meet after the march for a confab of some sort.

But we are not interested in wasting energy or resources getting into national pissing matches and intrigues over slogans and speakers. We'll simply bring the slogans that make sense to us. But in the end, the antiwar forces need to be reoriented and rebuilt at the base, in alliance with the growth in class struggle activity around the economy.
That's what we're doing, and have been doing for some time. Other approaches may point to the future as well, and I'm wide open to hearing about them.

Carl Davidson became widely known in the American left as a national officer of SDS (1966-68), as a writer and editor of the New Left newsweekly The Guardian, and as a leader of the anti-Vietnam war movement. In later years, he took up the study of the social impact of technology and the revolutions in communication and high-tech production. Together with Jerry Harris, he is the author of CyberRadicalism: A New Left for a Global Age.

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Most recently Carl worked as webmaster for Progressives for Obama, an independent left-progressive voice in the campaign (now renamed as Progressive America Rising). He is also a leader in the U.S. socialist movement, serving as a national co-chair of Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism. A longtime resident of Chicago, he recently moved back to the Western Pennsylvania milltowns where he was born and his family resides.

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