NEW BOOK: THE FIGHT AGAINST MONSANTO’S ROUNDUP: THE POLITICS OF PESTICIDES, by Mitchel Cohen, forward by Vandana Shiva

The Fight Against Monsanto’s Roundup
The Politics of Pesticides
Written and edited by Mitchel Cohen
Foreword by Vandana Shiva
A Comprehensive Look at the Worldwide Battle to Defend Ourselves and Our Environment Against the Peddlers of Chemical Poisons
This may be one of the most important books you read this year. We are being poisoned and this book is sounding a well-informed alarm.”

– Eve Ensler, New York Times Bestselling Author

Order your copy HERE

Featuring contributions by

  • Mitchel Cohen
  • Jonathan Latham
  • Sheldon Krimsky
  • Martha Herbert
  • Jay Feldman
  • John Jonik
  • Cathryn Swan
  • Stacy Malkan
  • Robin Falk Esser
  • Brian Tokar
  • Patricia Wood
  • Carolina Cositore
  • Stephanie Seneff
  • Steve Tvedten
  • Beth Youhn, and
  • art by Haideen Anderson.

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To request a review copy or to arrange an interview with the author, please contact:
Hector Carosso / (212) 643-6816 x 277 / hcarosso@skyhorsepublishing.com

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Description:

Chemical poisons have infiltrated all facets of our lives — housing, agriculture, work places, sidewalks, subways, schools, parks, even the air we breathe. More than half a century since Rachel Carson issued Silent Spring — her call-to-arms against the poisoning of our drinking water, food, animals, air, and the natural environment — The Fight Against Monsanto’s Roundup: The Politics of Pesticides takes a fresh look at
the politics underlying the mass use of pesticides and the challenges people around the world are making against Monsanto’s most dangerous creation, glyphosate.

The scientists and activists contributing to The Politics of Pesticides, edited by long-time Green activist Mitchel Cohen, explore not only the dangers of glyphosate — better known as “Roundup” — but the campaign which ended with glyphosate declared as a cancer-causing agent. In an age where banned pesticides are simply replaced with newer and more deadly ones, and where corporations such as Monsanto, Bayer, Dow and DuPont scuttle attempts to regulate the products they manufacture, what is the effective, practical, and philosophical framework for banning glyphosate and other pesticides?

The Fight Against Monsanto’s Roundup: The Politics of Pesticides explores the best strategies for winning the struggle for healthy foods and a clean environment. It takes lessons from activists who have come before, and offers a new, holistic and radical approach that is essential for defending life on this planet and creating for our kids, and for ourselves, a future worth living in.

Order your copy here.
Bulk discounts for anti-pesticides and anti-GMO organizations are available. Write to mitchelcohen@mindspring.com to make arrangements.

Mitchel Cohen coordinates the No Spray Coalition in New York City, which successfully sued the City government over its indiscriminate spraying of toxic pesticides. In 1997, he organized the campaign to rid NYC public schools of milk from cows injected with genetically engineered Bovine Growth Hormone, and in 2001, he ran for Mayor of NYC as one of five Green Party candidates. He was editor of the national newspaper Green Politix, and of the NY State Green Party newspaper. Mitchel edited Red Balloon, the journal of the Red Balloon Collective that he cofounded at SUNY Stony Brook, and chaired WBAI radio’s Local Board. His writings include: The Social Construction of Neurosis, and numerous other pamphlets; What is Direct Action?, a book that draws on personal experiences as well as lessons from Occupy Wall Street; An American in Revolutionary Nicaragua; and two books of poetry, One-Eyed Cat Takes Flight and The Permanent Carnival.

“This may be one of the most important books you read this year. We are being poisoned, and this book is sounding a well-informed alarm. Read it. Get educated and then join the thousands rising up against those who care more for profit than the health of our bodies and our earth.”

– Eve Ensler New York Times best-selling author of I Am An Emotional Creature: The Secret Life Of Girls Around The World, The Vagina Monologues, and In the Body of the World

“Activism and science need one another to stay grounded in reality. Few environmental activists have done more than the poet and science writer Mitchel Cohen to connect with scholars across a multitude of disciplines in his tireless campaign to keep the natural world from turning into a toxic hell. This book, with its remarkably varied group of expert contributors, is both a monument to Cohen’s ongoing efforts and a resource for those who will be inspired by it to join forces with him.”

– Stuart Newman, Ph.D., Professor of Cell Biology and Anatomy, New York Medical College

“This book delivers the goods. Mitchel Cohen and his coauthors have thoroughly and effectively indicted Monsanto, Syngenta, and other Big Food corporations for poisoning our soil, our water, and our genomes.”

Clifford D. Conner, author of A People’s History of Science, and the forthcoming Tragedy of American Science: From Truman to Trump

“The Global Fight Against Monsanto’s Roundup is an absolutely vital book for so many who have been diagnosed with diseases their doctors say were caused by vague “environmental factors. ” Mitchel Cohen explains precisely what are these “environmental factors.” Read it as if your life depended on it, because it does.”

– George Caffentzis, author of No Blood for Oil: Essays on Energy, Class Struggle and War 1998-2016

“Few battles are as important today across the planet as that to free the earth, the seas, and woods from the poisons that companies like Monsanto are pouring in them. The Fight Against Monsanto’s Round up: The Politics of Pesticides is a great resource in that struggle. Read it and give it to all your friends and comrades.”

Silvia Federici, author of Caliban and the Witch

 

The Fight Against Monsanto’s Roundup: The Politics of Pesticides
Written and edited by Mitchel Cohen
Foreword by Vandana Shiva
Skyhorse hardcover, also available as an ebook
On Sale: January 9, 2019 / $24.99
ISBN: 9781510735132

 

Skyhorse Publishing, Inc.
307 West 36th Street, 11th Floor
New York, NY 10018
(212) 643-6816
www.skyhorsepublishing.com

SEASONS GREETINGS FROM FRANCE’S YELLOW VESTS: “WE ARE NOT TIRED”

By Richard Greeman

Montpellier, France, Dec. 29, 2018

“Inform yourselves by Internet. 98% media owned by billionaires.”

Is the Yellow Vest rebellion, now in its seventh week, “petering out?” Such was the near-unanimous pronouncement of the mainstream media, when I returned home to Montpellier, France, eager to participate and to observe first-hand this popular insurrection which I had been afraid of missing.

I needn’t have worried. By nine o’clock last Saturday morning (Dec. 22), hundreds of Yellow Vest demonstrators were gathering for a peaceful march to the Préfecture (local seat of government) chanting “We’re not tired” and carrying placards reading “We are not casseurs (vandals) or pyromaniacs. Peaceful.” The mood was bon enfant (“jolly”) with demonstrators en famille including the children and old folks in wheelchairs. Marching ten abreast, they filled the rue de la Loge, but when they arrived at the Préfecture, the police, apparently taunted by some radicals in the crowd, let loose with teargas, injuring children. Then all hell broke loose and continued all day, with marches, countermarches and gas in the air.

This indiscriminate use of gas was typical of the government’s tactic of preventing mass peaceful demonstrations by provoking violence and spreading fear. For example, “black block” casseurs and rock throwers have been identified as under-cover policemen by eyewitness and on videos. This was apparently the case last Saturday at the Montpellier Préfecture.

DIRECT DEMOCRACY

Meanwhile, my wife and I were out with the Yellow Vests at the main roundabout into Montpellier, where two thirds of the passing drivers were displaying yellow vests, giving the high-sign, or honking their approval. So much for the Yellow Vests decline in popularity. The sign we were handed shows the word “Republic” crossed out and replaced by “Direct Democracy. The Divorce is Consummated.” Then: “Inform yourselves by Internet. 99% media owned by billionaires.” (see attached photo). At the same time, we were getting regular cellphone reports from downtown of tear-gassing continuing all day, capped by the triumphal arrival of more than 80 Yellow Vest motorcyclists who took over the main square as evening fell.

Similar actions, on a larger scale, were taking place in Paris, where, in a successful ruse, the Yellow Vest Facebook page convinced the police that they were going to attack the royal chateau out at Versailles, where hundreds CRS riot police were moved. In fact, the Yellow Vests organized a last-minuet, fast-moving wildcat march that began in Montmartre, snaked through the capital ahead of the police, and was only stopped at Macron’s Elysée Palace, heavily invested by the “forces of order.” At the very same time, the National Assembly in Paris was hastily approving a “Yellow Vest Law” designed to recognize their protesters’ grievances and embarrass President Macron, a number of whose party members voted with the majority. A measure of the President’s popularity.

SMALLER NUMBERS

To be sure, the Yellow Vest demonstrations in Paris and the provinces yesterday and last Saturday (Dec. 15) were smaller than the previous four Saturdays. The reasons for this decline are obvious: 1. Massive police violence 2. The concessions already won from President Macron (who had vowed never to make any), 3.The shocking Dec. 11 terrorist killings in Strasbourg, 4. The pro-government bias of the media, and 5. Winter vacation (sacred in France). So I’m not sure this decline in numbers means the movement is “petering out” – as the talking heads in mainstream media keep proclaiming with undisguised relief.

In any case, one thing is certain. The French establishment, nonplussed by an incomprehensible leaderless movement which refuses to be co-opted back into the system, has reacted crudely with an onslaught of violence and lies. Although partly successful, these repressive tactics have also backfired in a serious way, depriving the French political class, already weak and divided, of its legitimacy and threatening its hegemony. Let’s take a closer look at this campaign of state repression and establishment propaganda.

VIOLENCE

The unprecedented violence unleashed by the “forces of order” over the previous five Saturday gatherings, invisible in the mainstream media, has been taking its toll on activists, as videos of police brutality and hideous injuries circulate on YouTube, on alternative new sites like Médiapart, and through the Yellow Vest Facebook pages.

These new tactics, officially named PROJECT FEAR, were explicitly designed to intimidate. So are the harsh sentences imposed on Yellow Vest demonstrators arrested as casseurs (vandals) for as little as possessing bike helmets, gas masks, and ski goggles considered “evidence” of “conspiracy” and “intention to attack the forces of order.” These items are now so common, that the local Bricorama (“Home Depot”) strategically displays ski goggles right next to yellow emergency vests, yet such demonstrators are routinely herded straight from the street into Room 24, a 24-hour emergency courtroom where they are sent to jail after summary trials.

From the very beginning of the movement on Nov. 27, Yellow Vests have been systematically repressed by the government through massive use of tear gas, flash bombs, pepper spray, water canons and police truncheons. In a report published on Friday, Human Rights Watch said that France’s “crowd-control methods maim people,” pointing to cases where protesters were wounded by rubber projectiles and tear gas grenades. At the same time, the mainstream media systematically played up vandalism against property (windows broken, cars burned) during demonstrations – while failing to expose indiscriminate police brutality and the many serious injuries including the murder of an 80 year old Arab woman hit in the head with a flashball while attempting to shutter her balcony windows. Here are some gruesome pictures and videos which you may not want to look at showing what happens when police are licensed to deliberately aim their flashball and gas grenades at people’s faces.

Given the demographics of the more than 3,000 people arrested thus far, few fit the stereotype of young, black-clad casseurs (vandals) and fascists, whom the government and media blame for the violence. Many of them, provincials, had in fact come out to protest (and gone to Paris) for the first time in their lives. The Yellow Vests I have seen here in Montpellier appeared mostly middle-aged. They, and their Parisian counterparts, don’t look a bit like the typical black block “anarchists” who are visible on countless videos and who somehow never seem to get arrested – although some have been filmed climbing aboard police vehicles.

This contradiction might be one explanation for why, despite all attempts to castigate them as “perpetrators of unacceptable violence,” the government’s and media’s ongoing rhetoric about security has been quite ineffective. Indeed, it has mainly succeeded in de-legitimizing their authors. The contrast between official reports and those of eyewitnesses and videos on Facebook is too glaring. The narrative is always about demonstrators violently “attacking police,” however not a single injured policeman has been seen on T.V.

Having seen French CRS riot squad Robocops from close up, it seems to me demonstrators fighting with them (like we did with their ill-equipped predecessor in ’68) would be like ragged peasants with clubs going up against knights in full armor.

Macron’s militarized state over-reaction to a mass political demonstration breaks with a long tradition of tolerance for muscled demonstrations by rowdy angry farmers and militant labor unions. A tolerance Macron, in speeches, has blamed for the failure of previous governments to pass needed pro-business counter-reforms.

LIES: THE MONARCH ADDRESSES HIS PEOPLE

On Monday evening Dec. 10, after a month of silence in the face of massive rejection of his neoliberal policies and arrogant, condescending personality, Macron finally went on TV with a lame pre-recorded speech combining threats and concessions. The “Jupiterian” President began by blaming all the violence on the protesters (“we have all seen them attacking the police”) and threatening them with severe punishment (“no indulgence”) if they persist. For the Yellow Vests, this was throwing gasoline on the fire, as everyone who had participated in the protests or had seen the horrendous videos of the systematic police mayhem deliberately unleashed by Macron knew he was lying.

“The President of the rich” then went on to admit that the protesters may have had a legitimate point. “We” (the royal “we”?) “may have forgotten the single mother struggling to make ends meet” and the other little people. Macron then condescended to propose “a national conversation, which I will coordinate,” including even local mayors, about the social/economic crisis. He also made few economic concessions. These included rescinding his new taxes on social security retirement for some retirees with very low incomes, elimination of taxes on paid overtime, a call on businesses to voluntarily give a year-end bonus to their employees, and a year-end 100€ ( $115) raisse in the minimum wage.

On closer examination by the Yellow Vests, this “raise” turned out to be “smoke and mirrors.” First, it applied to only some low-wage workers. Second, it was not really a raise in the hourly wage, but in fact a government bonus to encourage “active” workers, which did not include benefits and was to be paid for out of the workers’ taxes, essential moving money from one pocket to another. “Don’t give us words, give us figures” one Yellow Vest told me, infuriated at being taken for a fool (con).

In his address, the monarchical President pointedly refused to pronounce the words “Yellow Vests” and “ecology” or to re-establish the Tax on Great Fortunes to pay for these concessions. Macron’s offer of crumbs from the table of the rich was immediately rejected as “too little, too late’ by the Yellow Vests, who continued calling for Macron’s resignation and a bottom-up reorganization of French democracy.

THE STRASBOURG KILLINGS

Concerning Macron’s speech to the nation, Susan Ram suggests that

“two elements merit particular concern. Firstly, his inclusion of the phrase “laïcité bousculée” (‘secularism buffeted or overturned’) in his analysis of the ills of current French society. Secondly, his reference to the ‘profound identity’ of the nation and the need, in this context, to ‘tackle’ the question of immigration. Both comments seem suggestive of an effort to inject racist and xenophobic themes into the Yellow Vest movement, the better to divide it while simultaneously making it appear that the state is listening to right-wing grievances.

Indeed, from the beginning the Yellow Vests, given their origins in la France Profonde (middle France) have been smeared by the media (and rejected by much of the Left) as right-wing and racist, despite videos showing them forcefully ejecting members of LePen’s National Front from their march.

Events in Strasbourg just a day after Macron’s opened up further opportunities for divisive propaganda. As Ram continues:

“The killing of four people, and injuring of a dozen or so others, by a lone radicalized Islamist gunman at the city’s popular Christmas market predictably became grist to state efforts to undermine and divide the Yellow Vest uprising. A sequence of senior government ministers and regional officials called on protestors to call a halt, optimistically invoking the ‘exhaustion’ of the security forces as an argument likely to melt the hearts of Yellow Vests subjected to baton charges, tear gas, rubber bullets and more. The education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, expressed his horror at “vile” social media posts suggesting the government had exaggerated (or worse) the Strasbourg attack in order to deflect attention away from the protest movement. On cue, the mainstream media plunged into a smear-the-protestors feeding frenzy.”

THE WINTER HOLIDAYS

Workaholic U.S. readers may have difficulty taking in the seriousness of holidays in this country, which mandates five full weeks of vacation per year, where family ties remain strong enough so that children are routinely sent to their grandparents for the Winter holiday, where train reservations are all booked up months in advance and where no place is farther than four hours from Paris.

The first paid vacations were won by the French workers at the end of the 1936 national wave of sit-in strikes, and newsreels of the departures that August of Parisian worker families who had never seen the sea are part of the national narrative. Impending summer vacations were also partly responsible for the eventual collapse of the inspiring May-June 1968 student-worker rebellion. The French police have taken advantage of this factor forcibly remove the makeshift shelters and barbeques that had been a convivial feature of the Yellow Vest presence at roundabouts and toll-booths. Yet there were still a few Yellow Vests at the main roundabout here in Montpellier on Christmas eve, and a downtown rally announced for this Saturday, Dec. 29, came off peacefully, although there was gas elsewhere. Meanwhile, Yellow Vests descended onto the tracks at the Montpellier railroad station and blocked trains.

WHY FRANCE’S ‘SILENT MAJORITY’ IS MAD AS HELL

Like all the spontaneous mass uprisings that dot French history going back to Feudal times, the Yellow Vest revolt was initially provoked by unfair taxes. Spurning all established political parties, and unions, the Yellow Vests got organized on social media and acted locally. The broadcast media, although highly critical, spread the news nationally, and the movement spread across France, blocking intersections, filtering motorists, allowing free passage at highway tollbooths, and gathering to demonstrate, more and more numerous and militant, on successive Saturdays.

Why Saturdays? “I can’t go on strike,” explains one woman. “I’m raising three kids alone. My job, that’s all I have left. Coming on Saturdays is the only way for me to show my anger.” Women – receptionists, hostesses, nurses-aids, teachers – are present in unusually large numbers in these crowds, and they are angry about a lot more than the tax on Diesel. Like Trump, Macron has showered corporations and millionaires with huge tax cuts, creating a hole in the budget which he has compensated by cuts in public services (hospitals, schools, transit, police) and by tax increases for ordinary people (up to 40% of their income), large numbers of whom are struggling hard to make ends meet and going into debt.

This anger has been building since last Spring, the 50thanniversary of the 1968 worker-student uprising, but was frustrated when Macron won the stand-off with labor over his neo-liberal, pro-business counter-reforms. This labor defeat was facilitated by the leadership of the Confédération générale du travail (CGT) and other unions, who played the same negative role in the 1968 sell-out to de Gaulle. Although workers have been active in the Yellow Vest movement, which fights for traditional labor goals like higher minimum wage, public services, etc. the French labor leaders have shunned them as petty-bourgeois potential fascists. These union bureaucrats see the Yellow Vests, accurately, as competitors and a threat to their own hegemonic status as official representatives of the workers, especially after Macron’s “concessions.”

On Dec. 6, in direct response to an appeal for calm from Macron, the leaders of the CGT and all the other labor federations except for Solidarité signed a Déclaration of solidarity — not with the injured and arrested demonstrators, but with the Macron government as the representative of the peaceful republican order! In return for what many have described as a “betrayal,” these professional negotiators accepted Macron’s invitation to “resume the social dialogue” — that is to sit at the table with him and negotiate more “give backs” of workers’ rights. The next day, contradicting themselves, the CGT’s Martinez and the other union leaders called for a national labor demonstration on Fri. Dec 14 covering the same basic economic demands as the Yellow Vests but not on the same day, Saturday Dec 15.

Needless to say, only a few stalwarts came out for Martinez’s much touted demonstration. Yet clearly, only with the active participation of France’s organized workers can this broad popular movement succeed — for example through a general strike — in bringing the capitalist class to its knees and founding a new social order.

WHAT NEXT?

So apparently the Yellow Vest movement is not exactly “petering out.” After six weeks of daily roadblocks and disruptions in every corner of France, and after six (now seven) successive mass demonstrations of hundreds of thousands in Paris and the provinces, violently repressed, this spontaneous, self-organized rebellion, coordinated via social media, is still seriously challenging the political and economic order in France.

Not only has this rebellion persisted despite unprecedented police brutality, media misrepresentation, and rejection by labor union officials, it has retained its grass-roots popularity and deepened its goals – from an initial rejection of a tax increase on Diesel fuel to explicit rejection of the established political/economic system and to near-unanimous call for the resignation of Macron and the creation of a new kind of democracy via referendum or constitutional convention.

Moreover, the French students have joined the uprising, protesting Macron’s introduction of anti-democratic selection in college admissions, with 170 high schools disrupted in answer to the “Black Tuesday” appeal by their union. There has also been a revival of strikes and protests among civil servants, nurses and educators, all inspired by the Yellow Vests’ success in wringing concessions from Macron, whose onslaught of pro-business, neo-liberal counter-reforms organized labor, hamstrung by its collaborationist leaders, failed to stop last Spring. The apparent rift with the ecological movement has been breached as demonstrations from the two movements combined in action under the slogan “End of the Month/End of the World: Same Cause/Same Enemy.” Likewise, marchers from the feminist “End Violence Against Women” have been honored and welcome by the Yellow Vests.

Meanwhile, the epidemic of Yellow Vest inspired revolts has spread to Belgium, Great Britain, Portugal, Holland, Hungary, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt and beyond, recalling the Internet-propagated contagion of the 2011 Arab Spring and “Occupy” movements and even provoking the Egyptian military government to ban the sale of yellow emergency vests. But the numbers are smaller. See video of German Amazon workers wearing yellow vests during their annual Christmas attempt to strike and disrupt the company’s profits during the busiest time of the year in an international effort that includes Polish Amazon workers.

Clearly, to achieve ultimate success this spontaneous, self-organized, uprising of the 99% against the 1% will have to unite internationally as well as to continue to deepen itself, to grow and to mutate – like similar popular movements in the history of France from the Jacqueries of the Middle Age through the Sans-culottes of 1789, the social-republicans of 1848, the Communards of 1871. Armed with social media on which to coordinate mass actions and to debate goals and methods from the local to the national and international levels, there is no technical reason why this self-organized insurrection cannot surpass the uncoordinated movements of 2011 and take root everywhere. So far, as far as France is concerned, the missing political elements are the full participation of the industrial working class and of the North African and African immigrant population, which have not yet showed up en masse.

Only the future will tell how far this movement will go, but already its achievements are impressive and permanent.

  1. The Yellow Vests have succeeded in unmasking and discrediting Macron, the neo-liberal wunderkind who was supposed to Thatcherize France and is now so hated that the remaining years of his mandate are in question.
  2. The Yellow Vests have also unmasked and discredited the mass media, particularly television networks, which had supposedly hypnotized the ignorant masses who now see them as corrupt, overpaid propagandists for the billionaire class.
  3. The Yellow Vests have also succeeded – wonder of wonders! – in unmasking and discrediting the hegemonic myth of representative “democracy” with its unrepresentative “political class” of professional politicians of right left and center. These genies can never again be put back in the bottle.

Amazing achievements for a movement that is only seven weeks old and still growing. The hegemony of the French ruling classes is hanging by slender threads of increasingly counter-productive violence and lies. The French popular masses, already famous for their anger and cynicism, are furious at being taken for fools by their betters and joyful at feeling their own strength and solidarity. No one knows where all this will end.

A Joyful 2019 to all!


Richard Greeman is an activist who was in Paris in the late ’50s and a member of the legendary revolutionary group Socialisme ou Barbarie, with Castoriadis and Lyotard. He is based in Montpellier, and is best known for his translations of the Franco-Russian novelist and revolutionary, Victor Serge.

MICHAEL MOORE’S FILM “FAHRENHEIT 11/9”

Michael Moore’s latest film, Fahrenheit 11/9, is about Trump — but not only! It includes footage I hadn’t seen before shaming Obama, Bill Clinton, and the Democrats as well as the odious fascists (are there any other kinds, or is “odious” unnecessary as a modifyer of “fascist”?) now running the U.S. executive branch.

I’ve read a number of posts that imply the film is somewhat confused, lacks structural integrity, and is really 3 separate films in one.

So I just wanted to say, this film is incredible, GO TO SEE IT! It is insightful, inciteful, and incendiary. It’s just simply great, moving, and you’ll learn new stuff from it (or at least re-remember the stuff you once knew and forgot).

My only problem with it is the same as other socialist commentators pointed out — it looks to the new wave of candidates in the Democratic party as hope for the future. Michael doesn’t (thankfully) portray them as the only hope, but still … He does spend time on the teachers’ strike and other working class movements, they get important coverage here. But the new wave of candidates are already making politically expedient (opportunist) decisions. But that’s a small criticism of where Michael Moore is somewhat naively putting his hopes … (we’re all grasping for any straw we can get, though, these days!).

The film also leaves out lots of issues that could have used some truthtelling, really important ones (global climate change, Haiti, lots of others), but then the film is more about the political process in this country rather than examining individual issues, save for a few. And those scenes of a truly wretched Obama — whom Michael supported, while ridiculing the Green Party and other third party candidates — are surprising and revelatory; you’ll probably say, “Wow, I didn’t know about that, why did he do that?!” Those images will stay with you a long long long time.

So will the statistics from various polls about what the American people actually believe. More than 2/3rds support progressive and even socialist proposals on any number of issues — wow!

It’s just a great film. The images from the Democratic convention, where votes went to Hillary Clinton even though those states voted for Bernie Sanders are also powerful, maddening, and ultimately very sad. Michael Moore sees the Democratic Party betrayals as having paved the way for Trump, which is very true.

Bring your kids, and your neighbor’s kids, to see this film — watch it together! A real neighborhood anti-fascist moment! Organize!

WHY I HATE THANKSGIVING

I posted this a year ago — and what an eventful year it was, both politically as well as personally. I’m reposting this even though the heroic occupation at Standing Rock has come to an end. This Thanksgiving, a number of Occupyers are facing absurd prison sentences, and the pipeline people were protesting is already leaking as feared. – Mitchel, November 18, 2017

PREFACE TO the 2016 EDITION of ‘WHY I HATE THANKSGIVING”

STANDING WITH STANDING ROCK WATER PROTECTORS

Thanksgiving 2016 – The long genocide of descendants of the original inhabitants of the corner of the planet we today call the United States of America proceeds unabated. And so, therefore, continues the resistance.

At Standing Rock in spirit. Yoko Ono and John Lennon join Native people at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, 1973.

At Standing Rock in spirit. Yoko Ono and John Lennon join Native people at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, 1973.


The fight to preserve the earth’s water and allow it to run naturally through the veins of the planet is an extension of the resistance of the colonial period of U.S. history. The earth-destroyers today use pipelines, hydro-fracking and genetic engineering (and now apparently water cannons and experimental sonic weapons) where they once used the Gatling gun. In some places (like Israel’s control of Palestinian’s water supply) they use both.

Continue reading »

AN AMERICAN IN REVOLUTIONARY NICARAGUA – A new book by Mitchel Cohen

NICARAGUA

AN AMERICAN IN REVOLUTIONARY NICARAGUA, A NEW BOOK  BY MITCHEL COHEN (Click HERE to order)

Black & White photos, $11
Full Color photos, $65

From the Introduction by David L. Wilson

Mitchel Cohen’s memoir gets across the feel of those hopeful days of the Nicaraguan revolution in the 1980s – as well as the sights, sounds, and smells. He captures the combination of excitement and trepidation U.S. leftists felt as they prepared to leave, along with the roadblocks: from relatives who thought Nicaragua was inhabited by cannibals to the DC-based left bureaucrats who apparently didn’t consider Mitchel respectable enough to join their brigades. Mitchel notes the inventiveness of “ordinary” Nicaraguans as they improvised solutions to everyday problems amid war and poverty – in the mental health clinic he visited, for example. And he highlights one of the most important benefits of the trip: the way experiences there challenged the assumptions that North Americans had brought with them. For a few years it was possible to get on a plane and see what happens when a country’s people take control of their own lives – and to imagine what it would be like if we did the same here. – David L. Wilson

DICK GREGORY, RIP

FILE – In this July 21, 2012 file photo, comedian and activist Dick Gregory poses for a portrait during the PBS TCA Press Tour in Beverly Hills, Calif. Gregory, the comedian and activist and who broke racial barriers in the 1960s and used his humor to spread messages of social justice and nutritional health, has died. He was 84. Gregory died late Saturday, Aug. 19, 2017, in Washington, D.C. after being hospitalized for about a week, his son Christian Gregory told The Associated Press. He had suffered a severe bacterial infection. (Photo by Matt Sayles – Invision)

Dick Gregory spoke at SUNY Stony Brook in early 1966 — and inspired a gymnasium full of radicals. He riffed on the assassination of John F. Kennedy, firing salvo after salvo into the void, challenging the thousands of students there to put our bodies on the line for civil rights and against the war in Vietnam, all done with scathing (for us) humor. He hated Lyndon Johnson: “Too bad Lyndon Johnson isn’t the pope,” he exclaimed in a zinger that has always stayed with me, “that way we’d only have to kiss his ring.” At the time I, just turned 17, couldn’t believe anyone could actually oppose the war so forcefully and publicly.

He also quoted by heart from the Declaration of Independence:

… when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

I used that quote when I was resisting the draft, as did thousands of others — we certainly would never have read it in the same way as it rolled off of Dick’s tongue, stopping and stressing the word “duty” over and over again.

Another old Stony Brook friend, Bob Marcus, recalls that Dick Gregory told us, “If we all give up cigarettes until the war is over, the tobacco industry will end the war, really fast.” He understood.

Dick Gregory was incredible, always something to say about our situations, our lives, and always with such sharp slashing sarcasm. Our paths crossed many times. In Chicago ’68, when Mayor Daley‘s police banned the antiwar march on the amphitheater where the soon-to-become-infamous Democratic Party convention was taking place, Dick Gregory invited the 4,000 of us to his house, which was on the other side of the police barricades en route to the convention hall, “for bar-b-q.” And Dick led the march. My dad Abe Cohen, an ex-Marine in World War II who drove us to Chicago carrying with him his medal for heroism awarded by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt — and who, in an anti-war tirade told his sons, “You’ll go into the military over my dead body” — said “Let’s join Dick Gregory for dinner!” The cops tear-gassed and beat the shit out of us.

A few years later, Dick, along with the brilliant Mark Lane (who died last year) continued to challenge the official story of the Kennedy Assassination. Dick released photos that the corporate media was sitting on, of the so-called “bums” in Dallas on that fateful day in 1963 — among them, E. Howard Hunt, CIA agent, and two others (Sturgis, aka Fiorini, and one other who would later become involved in Watergate — the CIA hit squad). Red Balloon and a few other underground papers published them on our front page, breaking the media white-out of the CIA’s role in the assassination. Both Mark Lane and Dick Gregory came to speak at Stony Brook again, and again made a huge and radicalizing impact on our lives.

Many memories of Dick Gregory, who challenged way ahead of time the way officialdom framed every single issue … including that of nutrition, health, and diet. In 1992, it was Dick Gregory who pointed out that — “What a coincidence!” — the path of the burning down of buildings in the Los Angeles rebellion “just happened” to follow the route of the planned subway system, which needed to acquire those properties. Go figure!

Years later, yes it’s true, Dick was involved with Pacifica Radio as well, and served on one of the national boards.

So very sorry, of course, to learn of Dick Gregory’s passing, so grateful that our paths crossed when they did. I do have a few of his early records — probably unnecessary now in the YouTube era but still, I’ll be dusting them off and getting the needle into the right groove, there’s something special and fitting about hearing Dick, again, at 33-1/3rd rpm with all the scratches and bumps instead of on YouTube, what it meant at the time to play his records in the mid-1960s, where only one person on the campus would have it, and crowds would gather to listen to the one phonograph in G-dorm lobby (just as we did with Tom Lehrer‘s albums), and find ourselves charged up and laughing down to the cafeteria.

Here’s to Dick Gregory. I drink a green juice to you, Dick, and a great big and bigger thank you for helping us find the revolutionary meaning in our lives and for being so damn funny about it, amidst all the pain, killing, and brutality ….

Also, give a listen to this where Dick Gregory in 2008 apologizes to Bill Clinton, “our first Black president”.

Mitchel Cohen

ANTI-COMMUNIST WITCH HUNT BY NYC BOARD OF EDUCATION AT PARK SLOPE (BROOKLYN) HIGH SCHOOL

In a throwback to the height of the red-scare witchhunts of the 1950s, the NYC Board of Education has dusted off Sen. Joe McCarthy’s anti-Communist playbook and is charging the principal, assistant principal, several teachers, and a teaching assistant at the Park Slope Collegiate public high school in Brooklyn, with “communist organizing”.

Click HERE to hear Mitchel Cohen’s  report.

High School principal Jill Bloomberg, interviewed by Mitchel Cohen for WBAI / Pacifica radio

High School principal Jill Bloomberg, interviewed by Mitchel Cohen for WBAI / Pacifica radio. 
                                                                                              Photo by Cathryn Swan.

On Tuesday June 27, 2017, a large group of parents, students, professionals and community supporters rallied in support of their principal, Jill Bloomberg, and the others who are being interrogated by Mayor de Blasio‘s Board of Education, in front of what used to be called John Jay High School, a beautiful WPA-era building facing Park Slope’s 7th Avenue, which now is home to four high schools in the same building.

WBAI radio’s Mitchel Cohen interviewed those under the new inquisition at the picket line in front of the Park Slope high school and filed this report, which aired on WBAI’s Morning Show a week later (thanks to the knowledgeable work of Michael G. Haskins and Pam Brown).

PROFILES OF PROTEST – AUDIO SEGMENTS HIGHLIGHT OPPOSITION TO U.S. GOVERNMENT POLICIES

Audio reports “from the field” by Mitchel Cohen

Mitchel Cohen at Immigrant Rights Rally, Washington Square Park, NYC. January 26, 2017. Cohen is pictured in the middle left with beard. Photo by Stan Costanza, NY Daily News.

From newly launched audio series “Profiles of Protest and Resistance by writer and reporter Mitchel Cohen.

PROFILES OF PROTEST #8 (Click HERE)

Mitchel Cohen interviews former U.S. Army medic in Somalia Sarah Mess, about her current peace activism and the effects of anti-Malaria drug Lariam on her and many other veterans.

President George H.W. Bush deployed U.S. military troops to Somalia in 1992. President Bill Clinton maintained their presence, and even used the offices of an oil corporation in Mogudishu to headquarter U.S. troops in Africa.

One of those solidiers was Sarah Mess.

Here, Sarah describes the effects of being forced to take an anti-malaria pill, Lariam. A number of male soldiers returning from U.S. wars in Somalia, Iraq and Afghanistan ended up murdering their wives. Many others suffer from the harrowing psychological effects of the drug.

Listen to hear Sarah tell her riveting story, in her own words.

PROFILES OF PROTEST #7 (Click Here)

Rally at Brooklyn Boro Hall culminating general strike of Yemeni bodega owners, which shut down many small stores in the Atlantic Avenue area of Brooklyn on February 2, 2017.

PROFILES OF PROTEST #6 (Click Here)

14 minutes. Mitchel Cohen reports from a protest of more than 1,000 people who marched on Senator Charles Schumer’s apartment in Park Slope, Brooklyn, Tuesday night, condemning Schumer’s votes in favor of 3 of Trump’s cabinet appointments, and demanding that Sen. Schumer and other Democrats “join the resistance” and stop placating the Trump administration and Wall Street.

PROFILES OF PROTEST #5 (Click Here)

12 minutes – Participants in the “No Hate, No Fear, Refugees are Welcome Here!” rally and march of 18,000 people in New York City Sunday, January 29, 2017, beginning in Battery Park.

PROFILES OF PROTEST #4 (Click Here)

Part 4 captures unique highlights and interviews from the spirited immigrant rally at Washington Square Park (January 25th), attended by over 3,000 people, including singer-songwriter Stephan Said. If you weren’t there, you will feel like you were; if you were, hear from others in the crowd!

 

PROFILES OF PROTEST #1 (Click Here)

3:24 minutes  A wonderful 3 minute piece interviewing a couple of 90-year-olds at the women’s march in NYC.

PROFILES OF PROTEST #2 (Click Here)

This one sketches 3 women at the gigantic Women’s march on January 21, 2017. Just 1:24 minutes ….

PROFILES OF PROTEST #3 (Click Here)

From the streets of NYC’s inauguration night protest, as thousands marched from Foley Square down to Trump’s building on Wall Street.

PRE ELECTION ANTI-WAR RALLY

PRE ELECTION ANTI-WAR RALLY

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 5th 1 PM

BROOKLYN BORO HALL STEPS

209 Joralemon St., Bklyn Heights

March to Hillary Clinton’s Campaign Headquarters

Endorsers (still forming): Brooklyn Greens/Green Party Veterans for Peace-NYC, Chapter 34

World Can’t Wait Popular Resistance U.S. Peace Council Friends of Brad Will

Center for Global Justice World Beyond War The Nuclear Resister

Syphilis vs. Gonorrhea

Clinton vs. Trump: Syphilis vs. Gonorrhea.

Donald Trump belches a line that emboldens a racist movement. But his policies — to the extent he has any — in reality would be less destructive than Hillary Clinton‘s, especially when it comes to U.S. foreign policy.

As one writer — Ralph Lopez — commented,

“Trump is like having the boorish, racist uncle at the family reunion but Hillary is like having a convicted mass murderer in the room.”

Clinton HAS TO turn Trump into the AntiChrist to terrify voters sufficiently so that they throw aside their good sense and their revulsion at HER history, in order to get them to vote for her.

Trump and Clinton deserve each other. We the people deserve something better.

And now, we see that instead of dealing with the substance of the emails released — and these are just the tip of the iceberg, with a lot more to come — the Clinton kleptocracy is trying divert the issue into “blaming” it all on Russia’s supposed stealing of the DNC’s emails.

Ummm, question: Wasn’t this exactly what the Repubs were attacking Clinton for doing, for using her personal email accounts to address national business under the supposition that doing so made it easier for a foreign power to hack?

So how come the DNC is now accusing Russia — falsely, at that — with hacking their insecure, revolting emails against Bernie Sanders? Did Russia write those emails? Is the DNC admitting to using unsecured servers, too?

Remember Watergate? It started with President Richard Nixon‘s henchmen trying to break into the Democratic Party headquarters to steal back the bugs they planted in trying to obtain the Dems’ playbook (i.e., today’s emails!). It was the coverup that propelled Watergate into the national spotlight and not the break-in itself, as stupid as that was. Will the similar framework play out here, but on a much larger scale? Will Hillary go to war with Russia, as she seems intent on doing (as opposed to Trump) in order to cover-up the phony charges she and the other Dem honchos are leveling at Russia?

As much as I hated Nixon, the movement forced him to do all sorts of progressive things against his instincts: The creation of the Environmental Protection Agency, Clean Water Act, Clean Air Act, supporter of Guaranteed Minimum Income payments, recognition of China ….. even as he bombed the hell out of Vietnam and Cambodia. He was every bit as despicable, racist and anti-Semitic as Trump in his statements — maybe more so. But in terms of economic and environmental policy he was forced to be the most liberal president of the last 50 years, and the ruling class had to get rid of Nixon; they latched onto Watergate in order to do it.

In ’68 and ’72 we faced a very similar framing of the choices before us as we’re faced with today. The “Clean for Gene” McCarthy movement in ’68 paralleled today’s Bernie Sanders campaign. With more and more people refusing to vote for the evil of two lessers, and with fear being the driving force the Democrats are using to propel folks to vote for Clinton (who is this generation’s Hubert Humphrey, a disgusting political insider, but Clinton is much worse), I’ll be voting for Jill Stein and the Greens. Jill most likely won’t win, and even if she did it would require a mass revolutionary movement to empower the Green Party to make the changes we need. But Jill’s campaign is an expression of the social and ecological movements she — and we — come out of and continue to be involved in. Can you say the same for Clinton or Trump?

Don’t vote for “Clump”. Time to exit the Dems — DemExit — for those still hoping against hope to reform either of the twin corporate parties. They are both poison (with Hillary being a proponent not only of fracking and war with Russia, but also of Monsanto and the genetic engineering of agriculture).

The real debate is the capitalist system vs. the immune system. Let’s stand together with Jill Stein and the Greens on the side of the immune system.

THE SELLING OF NYC’S PUBLIC LIBRARIES

It started under Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who put so much of New York City’s public space up for sale …. er, “development”.

Whether it was community gardens, the City’s water supply under Rudy Giuliani, public hospitals, parks, housing, public radio, prisons, or public libraries, NYC’s 3-term billionaire Mayor prettified the theft of public resources by calling it “public-private partnerships”. The Manhattan Institute — a reactionary “think tank” shaping public policy — presented “partnerships” as its preferred model, enabling the privatization of all sorts of publicly owned projects under the guise of “improving” them.

And so went the Donnell Library, the 2nd biggest library in the NY Public Library system with — prior to 2008, when it was shut down and slated for demolition — 300,000 books and heavy-duty research facilities. As the Committee to Save the NY Public Library wrote in 2012:

The Donnell Library appears to be a model for how the NYPL plans to “transform” libraries (including the Mid-Manhattan), selling off the real-estate and shrinking them into much smaller spaces designed for socializing rather than learning.

The much-loved Donnell was an oasis of light and air, and featured an exceptional children’s library along with outstanding foreign language and audio-visual collections.  It was sold to developers for a pittance and demolished in 2009.  As [NY Times architectural critic Michael] Kimmelman writes,

Across West 53rd Street from MoMA, the Donnell Library Center, a long-shuttered branch of the New York Public Library, is scheduled to reopen late next year at the same spot but in the bowels of a new luxury hotel, at a third of its former size, with wide bleacher seating and steps as the main feature.

“More like a cultural space, which is about gathering people, giving people the opportunity to encounter each other,” is how the library’s architect, Enrique Norten, describes the plan.

It’s all the same flimflam: flexible spaces to accommodate to-be-named programming, the logic of real estate developers hiding behind the magical thinking of those who claim cultural foresight. It almost never works.

When the old Donnell — now renamed the 53rd St. Library — re-opened last week down the block from the new Museum of Modern Art, it was a shell of its former shelf, to coin a phrase. The library was now in the two basement floors of a giant luxury tower. As Citizens Defending Libraries puts it:

•     The former Donnell held at least 300,000 books when the NYPL closed it (that’s by the NYPL’s own admission, we think it once held many more). The “replacement” has 20,000 books.

•    The former Donnell was 97,000 square feet. The “replacement,” just over one-quarter that, 28,000 square feet.

•    The former Donnell was five stories above ground, much of it newly renovated, like the new teen center and state of the art media center. It also had a marvelous new below ground auditorium. The “replacement,” is largely underground and largely book-less. The “replacement” has no media center, no teen center, no equivalent auditorium.

•    The children’s room is in the basement of the “replacement,” not so the old Donnell.

The City is reported to have been paid either $59 million (the original figure) or $67 million (a new figure, reflecting some fancy footwork and bookkeeping) for the rights to knock down the old library and build their luxury condo. The penthouse is now on the market for $54+ million alone, and apartments on the upper floors are going for $23 million, each.

I looked around the new library and was struck by the relative absence of books, lack of “stacks”, and the sterility of the children’s reading room.

Here’s a report I filed on the re-opening after 8 years of the Donnell Library, and the protest outside of it.

 

And, as I said, this “public-private partnership” has now become the model for all library improvements throughout the City. A big fight is underway in Brooklyn Heights, where Bloomberg’s scheme is now being driven by Mayor Bill deBlasio. Brooklyn’s second most popular library (containing a major business library and other research facilities) has been stripped of all its books and only a fierce movement among library defenders stands between the historic structure and the wrecking ball, with the Sunset Park library and others to follow suit.

Here is the seventh in an ongoing series of reports in which I trace the sale of the Brooklyn Heights library and the burgeoning scandal. In this segment I interview Marilyn Berkon of Citizens Defending Libraries. The group has requested that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara investigate Hudson Inc. and its CEO, David Kramer’s, “pay to play” donations to Mayor deBlasio’s slush fund in exchange for winning the bid on the Brooklyn Heights public library property. The report aired June 28, 2016 on WBAI radio‘s Morning Show co-hosted by Michael G. Haskins and Pam Brown.

 

• Report #1: City Council Subcommittee hearing, by Mitchel Cohen, November 18, 2015.

Report #2: Interview with City Council member Steve Levin About Selling off the Libraries, by Mitchel Cohen, November 30, 2015. This includes Steve Levin’s denial that a compromise deal was in the offing. It also include the story (activism and Domino project related) he met his wife.

Report #3: Gathering Outside Councilman Steve Levin’s Office evening BEFORE the City Council vote, by Mitchel Cohen, December 9, 2015. This includes a street performance of Judy Gorman’s Library Song.

Report #4: on Citizens Defending Libraries Gathering AFTER the City Council vote, by Mitchel Cohen, December 10, 2015. This includes Councilman Mark Treyger explaining councilmen votes, Norman Savitt’s testimony before the City Council, and discussion of Stephen Levin sellout of community.

Report #5: WBAI News: In the news tonight the New York City Council agrees to sell of the Brooklyn Heights Library, Linda Perry anchor, Mitchel Cohen reporting, December 16, 2015 (Library story starts at: 3:24) This segment includes Councilman Steve Levin being confronted in the City Hall rotunda over his betrayal of the community and the lack of transparency he promoted.

Report #6: Press conference at Brooklyn Boro Hall, Mitchel Cohen, March 1, 2016.

Report #7: interview with Marilyn Berkon of Citizens Defending Libraries. The group has requested that U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara investigate Hudson Inc.’s “pay to play” Brooklyn Heights public library sale. The report aired June 28, 2016 on WBAI radio‘s Morning Show co-hosted by Michael G. Haskins and Pam Brown.

Report #8: Report from the re-opening of the 53rd St. Library (formerly the Donnell library), and the protest outside of it, including Councilman Jimmy Van Bramer; vice-chair of the Committee to Save the NY Public Library Theodor Gruenwald; economist Keat Foong, of Citizens Defending Libraries; and Marty Rajendron, of the Raging Grannies.

Report #9: Interview with economist Lynne Ellsworth, award-winning preservationist who calls it “hogwash” that the City says it has nowhere else to turn for needed funds except to real estate developers. In conversation with Mitchel Cohen, June 11th, 2016.

WBAI “The Morning Show”:  Michael G. Haskins Interviews Citizens Defending Libraries Co-Founders Michael D. D. White and Carolyn E. McIntyre, January 7, 2016 (interview, the last 1/2 hour about 3/4ths through the two hour show was broadcast at 7:30 AM). Jillian Jonas helped in arranging this interview.

WBAI “The Morning Show”:  Michael G. Haskins Interviews Citizens Defending Libraries Co-Founders Michael D. D. White and Carolyn E. McIntyre, June 17, 2016 (interview, the last 1/2 hour about 3/4ths through the two hour show was broadcast at 7:30 AM).  (Link to downloadable file.) Hear about the latest NYPL for sale, the so-called Donnell “replacement,” litigation, the federal criminal investigation, how NYS Attorney General Eric Schneiderman should be taking action to save the public from the loss of the Brooklyn Heights and other libraries. Jillian Jonas helped in arranging this interview.

• WBAI “Behind The News with Nellie Bailey”:  Selling NYC Libraries With Michael D. D. White of Citizens Defending Libraries and Laurie Frey of Love Brooklyn Libraries!, Wednesday, March 9, 2016 5:00 pm.  (This is a full one-hour interview after the vote of Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and the Brooklyn Borough Board.)

Nellie Hester Bailey on right, Laurie Frey of Love Brooklyn Libraries! on left

 

LEFT FORUM 2016

CLICK HERE TO HEAR THE PANEL MITCHEL ORGANIZED AT THE 2016 LEFT FORUM IN NYC, with panelists: Margaret Stevens, Ann Snitow, Irene Javors, Jack Shalom (dialectical magic – video!), Mitchel Cohen, and Debbie Despina Sophia Stamos. Also invited, Sister Dragonfly, was unable to attend.

A TALK IN HAVANA

Mural - cover to pamphlet

Giant mural at University of Havana in support of Occupy Wall Street. Details list hundreds of corporations and their profits for the year.

A talk by Mitchel Cohen at the “Seminar on Socialist Renewal and the Capitalist Crisis – A Cuban-North American Exchange”, Havana, Cuba: June 16-30, 2013

in association with the Center for Global Justice, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, and the Radical Philosophy Association

Mitchel Cohen’s poem about Cuba, “The Unrepentant Bather (90 Miles Out)”, opened the talk and was brilliantly translated into Spanish by Karell Acosta, University of Havana

This talk is dedicated to our comrade and teacher

TITO GERASSI, from Cuba Pamphlet

John “Tito” Gerassi

July 12, 1931 – July 26, 2012
always a true friend of the Cuban revolution

You can hear Mitchel’s radio interview with Tito Gerassi HERE:

 

THE UNREPENTANT BATHER (90 MILES OUT)

My love swims alone
in an ocean of sharks
circling to starboard
circling to bow
waiting their moment
off guard, stroke falters
gnashing their teeth
flexing their jaws
wearing the defenses down

Swim for your life, sweetheart,
Swim for your life!
Don’t give up an inch,
Don’t fall for the trap!
The sharks are all circling
’Round History’s bones
You swim there alone
Under attack

My love swims alone
paradoxically dreams
of lush old-growth forests
& crystalline streams
but industry dangles
“development’s” lures
gnashing their teeth
flexing their jaws
baiting the bloodlash
of “Progress”

Swim for your life, Cuba
Swim for your life!
Don’t give up an inch,
Don’t fall for the trap!
The sharks are all circling
’Round History’s bones
You swim there alone
Under attack
Swim faster
Keep swimming
Keep swimming

–––––––––––––

SOUTH AFRICAN FREEDOM FIGHTER STEVE BIKO observed: “The most potent weapon in the hands of the oppressor is the mind of the oppressed.” Nowhere do those sentiments apply more than they do to Cuba during the special period of the 1990s and 2000s -– a time that was extremely harrowing for all Cubans. But the people of Cuba refused to consider themselves victims. They responded creatively. They formed new and ecologically innovative projects that might otherwise have never gotten the chance, for unless it is disrupted, the hegemony of the capitalist industrial model of dev­elopment plagues even countries aspiring to socialism.

Who would have thought 40 years ago that Fidel Castro, in his old-age, would become a stirring spokesperson for the global environmental movement, of all things? Yet, here’s Fidel:

“Should we expect that densely populated countries such as China, India, Indonesia, will have as many automobiles in proportion to their population as North Am­erica and Western Europe?”

He answers his own question:

“Well, it’s necessary: The expansion of capital requires it. It’s also impossible; the earth cannot sustain it.”

Here’s Fidel again, this time in 1990 evaluating the effects in Cuba of the imported Eastern European machinery:

“Let’s speak clearly once and for all … We Cubans don’t export garbage. But often what we get back in trade is junk! No one else in the world buys Bulgarian forklifts. They are such garbage, only we bought them. How many hundreds, thousands of them stand idle in our warehouses? The Hungarian buses … pollute the city with fumes and poison everyone around. Who knows how many people have died from the fumes of those buses just because they put in a defective fuel pump? On top of it all, those buses have a two-speed Czech transmission that alone wastes 30 percent of the fuel! Oh, how happy I am to speak with such openness! [Fidel said.] It’s been difficult to talk about these things in the past, but thanks to these new circumstances we have been relieved of our previous compromises.”

Much of that honest evaluation and many of the ecological advances emerging from it entailed what at first were experienced as enormous sacrifices by the Cuban people. Over time, however, they became NOT sacrifices but a badge of national pride, a striving by an entire people for something greater, and a rejecting of the notion that the “good life” must be based on the mass production and accumulation of commodities and the consequent massive consumption of Nature.

This was an ideological advance. It was no small feat achieved by the Cuban revolution, even if in the beginning of the Special Period it was the result of making a virtue of necessity. Cuba’s example provided, and continues to provide, a revolutionary eco-socialist impulse inspiring many throughout the world to think about what we’d like to see in a new and humane society, how we should treat each other, animals and Nature. How can we or­gan­ize our lives so that we deepen our consciousness and com­mitment to each other and take action for social justice and for saving this god-forsaken planet?

Let me state my conclusions here, just so these points don’t get lost.

  1. We, friends of the Cuban Revolution, need to oppose gen­etic engineering of agriculture, which is fundamentally a mechanism of colonization of the living cell. Through gen­etic engineering capitalist relations re-emerge, even in an aspiring socialist country like Cuba.
  2. We need to refuse to accept, and to reframe, what is promulgated as “The Good Life.”
  3. We need to train ourselves in how to think and plan holistically.
  4. We need to stop fetishizing science and technology. They are not neutral. They do not stand apart from the class struggle. They are not our saviors. They are dripping with the ideology of the dominant capitalist framework of the societies in which they develop. To say that they are “ideology free” is itself part of that dominant ideology!
  5. We need to reframe THE WAY we raise and fight for is­sues, so that we can create institutions that begin to im­ple­ment solutions through our own direct action, even as we make appeals to the system to do “this or that” for us. We then fight to defend those liberated zones, and we strive to expand them until they become the new society in embryo.
  6. To do all that, we need to practice how to bring out the ecological dimension that is buried in every issue. We may need to actively search for it, but it is there. Make it visible. Take action.

  *   *   *

A SPECTER IS HAUNTING THIS PLANET – the specter of biological devastation and ecological catastrophe. It is ravaging all the ecosystems sustaining life. Butterflies, frogs, bees, redwood forests – whole familiar and essential species are in sudden danger of being wiped out by pesticides and chemical agriculture, pollution, petrochemical emissions, wastes and radiation from nuclear power plants – all fueling global climate change – and genetically engineered crops. Mechanisms for propagation – even seeds! – are coming under the private own­ership of a tiny number of very large agro-chemical corporations bent on extending their control over land – and water – and monopolizing the world’s food supply by altering the repro­duc­tive capacities of entire species.

In the U.S., this colonization is legitimized by new Enclosure Acts similar to those of centuries ago, a legal fiction codifying the shameless orgy of capitalist profit and conquest. Here’s Fidel, once again, sharply criticizing the use of the world’s available land for monocropping plants for biofuels and the resulting elimination of the world’s forests, which Fidel termed “The inter­nationalization of genocide.”

Indeed! In the last 50 years, fully 80 percent of the world’s forests have been chopped down. One Cuban scientist told me that “trees are nice to have, but they are a secondary concern when we are talking about the needs of people, which come first” – a surprisingly un-dialectical view. Forests prevent floods; they maintain healthy soil; they defuse hurricanes and detoxify drinking water. They oxygenate the air; they serve as habitats for thousands of species. In the U.S., less than 5 percent of the old-growth forests remain. In Argentina and Brazil, huge swaths of primeval rainforest are being cut down and the land mono­cropped with genetically engineered soy for animal feed and biofuels exported to the United States, Japan, China and Europe. In Indonesia, millions of acres of forest have been burned for palm oil production, mining and cattle grazing. In Mexico the Lacan­dona forest – the home of the ancient Mayan people and the Zapatista rebellion – is under siege by international paper com­panies as much as by federal troops. Under Clinton and Gore more trees were clearcut in the U.S. than by any of their predecessors in recent history – COMBINED!

The destruction of forests is one of the most notorious contributors to global climate change and the pending ecocide of this planet. The NY Times cuts down 60,000 trees per week to publish its Sunday paper. Don’t expect the Times to stray too far from its mantra of corporate “rights”.

Remember, por favor, there is no ‘Planet B’! No more the once magnificent old growth forests; no more the pristine drinking water, healthy soils, non-mutated frogs, pollinating bees, seas teeming with fish – the entire North Atlantic has been “fished out,” if you can even call what industrial trawlers do these days “fishing,” scraping miles of giant steel mesh weighing 15 tons each through the most ancient and protected parts of the world’s oceans, sweeping up everything in their path. And, as we know, the polar ice caps are melting, which is already causing the oceans to rise by many meters, and threatening to wipe out not only Greenland, but New York City and Havana within the next two decades!

One hundred and sixty years ago, the 24-year-old editor of Cologne’s Reinische Zeitung wrote forceful editorials in defense of the forest against privatization, and in favor of the rights of peasants to collect dead wood from the forest floor – lands that had been unrestricted by law and used in common for millennia. The editor – Karl Marx – railed against the state’s jack-booted storm­troopers’ expropriation of the Commons. Marx named that ex­pro­priation “primitive accumulation.” He exposed the system’s legal­ization of such plunder as part and parcel of the emerging cap­i­tal­ist class’ attempts to increase its control of the State. He pointed out that by 1842, 85 percent of all prosecutions in the Rhineland dealt with a new crime: the “theft” of dead wood lying on the ground, which the State applied only to peasants while allowing wealthy businessmen and corporations to strip whole forests with impunity. It was Marx, especially, who explained how such “en­closures” came to receive acceptance socially and sanction in law.

KARL MARX IN HIS STUDY - for pamphlet

30-year-old Karl Marx in the offices of The Neue Rheinische Zeitung: Organ der Demokratie (“New Rhenish Newspaper: Organ of Democracy”), a German daily newspaper he published between June 1, 1848 and May 19 1849.

How did it happen that people allowed public lands and early machinery to be privatized and re-shaped to serve the needs of capital? Why didn’t people revolt? (Well they did, according to Silvia Federici, in her great book Caliban and the Witch: Women, the Body and Primitive Accumulation.) We can ask the same questions today: How did our once-public universities, hospitals, beaches, libraries, drinking water, parks and even prisons in the United States suddenly become privatized? Private mercenary armies now make up a large percentage of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan; the water tables are so polluted that drinking water is now sold in plastic bottles, their sources owned by the world’s largest corporations, and the plastic wastes have accumulated in the Pacific Ocean forming a floating plastic island five times the size of Cuba!

It is worth remembering that Marx’s critique of capitalism started with his denunciation of the cutting down of forests for private profit, the enclosure of lands used in common, and the State’s criminalization of peasants taking dead wood for heating and cooking. Ecological justice was central to Marx’s outlook from his earliest writings. Today, Marx would be railing against indus­tri­al agriculture and especially the use of genetically engineered crops.

But since his death in 1883 and until very recently, Marx’s followers for the most part have ignored his writings on the environment and ecological justice, which were based on his for­mulation of the twin sources of value – the exploitation of Labor and the expropriation of Nature. The Communist parties have, contra Marx, repeatedly called for developing the instruments of production at any cost, rarely analyzing the vastly destructive role played by the expropriation of Nature (a primitive accumulation which is ongoing, at all times) in the production of wealth and in the reproduction of the capitalist system, which was central to Marx’s analysis of capitalist accumulation, as most tersely pre­sen­ted in The Critique of the Gotha Programme. In omitting or min­i­mi­z­ing the expropriation of nature, Marxists have allowed cap­i­tal­ism’s – and “actually existing Socialism’s” – ravaging of the envi­ronment through its industrial form of production to go unchallenged.

Along with the industrial form of production comes the following: the drudgery of the assembly line and office; the inferno of rotten relationships and rancid dreams; the privatization of ev­erything and twisting of everybody into things to be bought and sold; the reproduction and consolidation of patriarchy, hierarchy, domination and exploitation; the subjugation of Nature (and of the Nature within – our very chromosomes and cells!) to the exi­gen­cies of production and the market; the exploitation of natural and human resources; the irreversible destruction of the environment and the planet – all are embedded in industrial technology as such. Industrial technology reproduces the social conditions and ideol­o­gy of the capitalist system even under Socialism. And we, who are raised in those same conditions have become dependent on them; we can barely conceive of how to reorganize society to satisfy hu­man needs in any other way. Steeped as we are in cap­i­talist and patriarchal ideology, industrial production seems to us most “nat­ural”. Our longing for what constitutes “Pro­gress” and “the good life” is shackled to industrial production, its products, and its cap­italist integuments. Those who try to uproot those as­sumptions are smeared as quaint “throwbacks” to an earlier time or, should their challenges take root, as “Luddites” and then dismissed.

Contrary to the popular misconception, the Luddites of 1811 did NOT oppose the use of tools or machinery. They organized across England hammers in hand to dismember that new form of technology that broke up and colonized their communities – the centralized giant looms owned by a few wealthy owners. In France, they threw “sabots” (wooden shoes) into the gears (and hence the term “sabotage”). The Grow or Die system physically crushed the Luddites and other mass movements, and then obliterated memory of their heroic example from the history texts. The new technologies and the commodities produced through their use embody an ensemble of social relations that do not stand outside of the history of exploitation, organization of production, class relations, hierarchies of domination and control, the desecration of the natural environment, and destruction of the Commons. Industrial production based on the assembly line and now the genetic engineering of agriculture are technologies of colonization of both Labor and Nature, no matter the kind of system utilizing them.

We Leftists must reject the “factory form” of production altogether. The Cuban revolution had begun to envision new ways for producing the things humans need and desire, but that could only be made possible when we stop measuring “progress” through a striving for “efficiency” – at least an “efficiency” as measured through capitalist criteria. Where, for example, are all of those supposedly “inefficient” bicycles that had daily flooded the streets of Havana in the ’90s, streets that are choking, once again, on the exhaust of GM and Ford dinosaurs of the 1950s? The charms of the old cars fade quickly when we consider that they exacerbate asthma, cause lung cancer, and increase infant mortality and health costs to society as a whole – costs that the capitalist model excludes from its measure of “efficiency”. Regardless of which class owns and controls the means of production, capitalism’s shaping of “progress” and “the good life” will inevitably end up undermining the forces of socialism and ravaging the planet.

So now, let’s get back to that “bloodlash of ‘Progress’ ” and alternatives to it.

Cuba could become the world leader in global ecology, organic agriculture, and alternative and sustainable solar energy. Even in the far more impoverished and chaotic Haitian country­side Solar Energy powers whole communities. Why not in Cuba? With planning, Cuba could become the exemplar of what socialist revolution could mean in practice. It could present not only “health care for all” but, in addition, an expansive view of comple­mentary or holistic medicine freed from the biases of Western technological and pharmaceutical models. Imagine thousands of visitors flocking to Cuba to learn ecologically sound planning, farming, diet and health!

But for that to happen, the Revolution must reach deeply into that well of its most precious waters – the creativity, high political consciousness and humor of its people – that is, its Socialism! Cubans would take pride in being the first western country to reject the industrial model of science & ecology, and in leading the charge to saving the planet. That is what socialism must become. Socialists must reject that bloodlash of ‘progress’ that whips all who stray back into the neoliberal model, with its technological quick-fix “solutions” like the so-called “Green Revolution” and Genetic Engineering. We must create a new Internationale of those who exert their self-determination as a people, as anti-imperialists, and as Eco-Warriors in defense of this planet. More than ever, the choice comes down to this: The Capitalist System vs. the Immune System – for the entire planet!

Cuba has begun experimenting with the genetic engineering of agriculture. We’ve heard mixed reports about how far along that is and what the process will be in determining Cuba’s future in that regard. Socialists should not have to ask – but I guess we still need to do so – whether manufacturing living plants to withstand huge amounts of pesticides and herbicides, or turning every cell in a stalk of corn into a mini-pesticide factory that sterilizes the soil of nutrients and life and that won’t wash off, is something that socialists should applaud, regardless of whether it would increase yield – and it doesn’t even do that when all factors are considered. Please remember, we are no longer talking about the customary technologies that at least in theory could be re-called, like a car, if a flaw is discovered. Once a genetically modified organism is re­leased into the wild it cannot be taken back. It’s too late. It’s out there reproducing on its own. And, through drift, it pollutes the land and colonizes the local plants and natural environment.

Agro-Ecologists Fernando Funes Aguilar, Miguel Altieri, and Fernando R. Funes-Monzote convincingly show that newly avail­able financial and material resources … “are for the most part be­ing used to implement specialized conventional, large-scale monoculture” in Cuba. They write that “such industrial agricul­ture for export is dependent on genetically engineered corn and soy, heavy use of pesticides and herbicides, and centralized mono­cropping requiring the use of large machinery, non-organic fertilizer, and heavy use of water.”

In fact, in 2011 the pesticide manufacturer “Juan Rodriguez Gomez” IN HAVANA, produced around 100,000 liters of the herbicide Glyphosate, according to Funes. Glyphosate is the main ingredient in Monsanto’s RoundUp, a toxic herbicide suspected by Greenpeace of causing cancer and nerve disorders, and is especially dangerous for children.

Will the drive for much-needed investments let the devil out of Pandora’s box and overrun the socialist potential in Cuba’s eco­nomic and ecologically sound policies? We need to follow Fidel’s lead here and think more carefully about our acceptance of such capitalist technologies as genetic engineering and nuclear power.

I invite our comrades in the Cuban government and the Cuban people to put an end to this deadly experiment with genetic engin­eering and a return to chemical agriculture before it goes any fur­ther, and before it becomes too late to reverse course, and to pub­li­cize that position at the U.N. and throughout Latin America. Im­ag­ine the powerful shot-in-the-arm to the global movement against GMOs, should Cuba join it and provide it with socialist leadership!

Cuba, POR FAVOR, stop the experimentation with genetically engineered crops and seeds now!

I close with two excerpts from poems, the first by the great Nicaraguan poet Ernesto Cardenal:

“Nothing ever comes to the sleeper but a dream.”

And the second by Percy Bysshe Shelley:

“Rise like lions after slumber
In Unvanquishable number
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in Sleep have fallen on you
Ye are many, they are few.”

* * *

Following the talk, Mitchel circulated the following Open Letter, and asked for signatures:

AN OPEN LETTER TO THE CUBAN PEOPLE AGAINST GENETIC ENGINEERING OF AGRICULTURE

We, the undersigned friends of the Cuban revolution visiting Havana and participating in the Encuentro of “Socialist Reno­va­tion and Capitalist Crisis,” are deeply concerned with the pro­posed introduction of genetically modified agriculture to Cuba.

We recognize that unlike other technologies, once a genetically engineered organism is released into the wild, it will be difficult to recall. The engineered genes will drift, invade other plants and reproduce on their own, transforming indigenous plants in ways that are not known, unplanned, and potentially dangerous to human health and to Cuba’s sensitive ecological balance.

We oppose the genetic engineering of agriculture in our own countries and we urge a full and public discussion of this issue in Cuba, hopefully leading to Cuba’s complete rejection of gen­et­ic­al­ly engineered agricultural technology.

Mitchel Cohen
Green Party, and WBAI Radio
Brooklyn, New York

Nancy Cain
Sierra Club
Oklahoma City, Oklahoma

Beth Youhn
BACLT
Oakland, California

Larry Udell
West Chester University
Poenixville, Pennsylvania

Eduardo Mendieta
Stony Brook University
E. Setauket, New York

MarxLenin P. Valdes
Universidad de la Habana
La Habana, Cuba

David Schweikert
Loyola University
Chicago, Illinois

Gene Vanderport
Socialist Forum
Urbana, Illinois

Peter Ranis
City College of NY Graduate Center
New York City, New York

Frank Marshalek
Indiana University
Bloomington, Indiana

Vicki Legion
American Federation of Teachers
San Francisco, California

Yodenis Guirola
University of Barcelona
Barcelona, Spain/Sta Clara, Cuba

Chris Kinder
Labor Action to Free Mumia Abu-Jamal
Oakland, California

Zoila Fajardo
Universidad de la Habana
Habana, Cuba

William Crossman
Cuban 5 Committee
Oakland, California

Rita L. Moneia Fernandez
Medico Master C.P.
Universidad de la Habana
Habana, Cuba

Orlando Cruz Capote
Institute Filosofia
Universidad de la Habana
Habana, Cuba

* Names of organizations are for identification purposes only. The indivi­d­ual signing the open letter is self-iden­ti­fying as a member of that organization, but that should not be taken to imply that the organization itself has neces­sarily taken a position on this issue.

REMEMBERING DAN BERRIGAN

“Dan Berrigan was a moral giant and the closest thing we have in our society to a prophet.”  – Jeremy Scahill

Mitchel Cohen writes: I was standing in the back of the jam-packed, magnificent Church of St. Francis Xavier on W. 16th St. in Manhattan Friday for the funeral and “sending off” of liberation theology Catholic priest, poet and anti-war hero Dan Berrigan, when the entire church — following the choir’s lead — broke into Schiller’s “Ode to Joy” from Beethoven’s 9th. Spine-chilling and beautiful. As Dan Berrigan’s casket was carried slowly through the church and out into the waiting hearse,  people broke the protocol and cheered and roared appreciation of a wonderful and meaningful life. Ohhhhh …….

  • AUDIO from last few minutes of Dan Berrigan’s funeral by Mitchel Cohen. Click HERE.
  • Jeremy Scahill — author of Blackwater and Dirty Wars — remembers his times and inspirations with Dan Berrigan and the love of ice cream. From great coverage by Democracy Now! Click HERE.
  • Amy Goodman, Frida Berrigan, Bill Quigley, “Dan Berrigan: A Moral Giant” on Democracy Now! Click HERE.

From Jeremy Scahill’s interview on Democracy Now!

In 1981, on CNN, Chris Wallace says to Dan Berrigan, basically, “Well, you used to be famous, but nobody really pays much attention to what you do these days.” Meanwhile, a year earlier, Dan and his colleagues had gone into this nuclear plant at the General Electric factory in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, and hammered on Mark 12A warheads, starting the Plowshares Movement, which became global. But Dan’s response to Chris Wallace was just classic Dan Berrigan and also just sort of stunning in its simple brilliance. He said, “Well, you know, we don’t view our conscience as being tethered to the other end of a television cord.”

ENDORSING BERNIE SANDERS IN THE DEMOCRATIC PRIMARY

OUTRAGED NYC VOTERS AT THE BOARD OF ELECTIONS

Please Listen to this report:

 

I am not a Democrat, I’m an enrolled Green, and I hope Bernie Sanders accepts Green Party presidential candidate Jill Stein’s offer to run an independent campaign with her on the Green Party line. Jill Stein has even offered to run as Vice-Presidential candidate and Bernie could run for President as a Green.

In New York, Greens and other independents were not permitted to vote in the Democratic Party primary. Which is, in my view, as it should be, despite others’ calls for “Open Primaries.” We wouldn’t want hordes of corporate Democrats or Republicans swarming into the Green Party primary and taking over the Greens, right?

Still, as a Green, I made an exception and helped campaign for Bernie Sanders. It’s not often that I’d done that — in fact, I have never before campaigned for a Democrat for president. Well, at least not since Eugene McCarthy in 1968. But this campaign is so critical in raising …. not just socialism (democratic, of course), or peace, or justice, or environmental issues, but just plain old human decency in the face of lunatics and fascists (and I include Hillary Clinton in that camp. I believe she is even more dangerous than Donald Trump who is awful but not as awful as Cruz).

Below are some audio clips of interviews I’ve done for WBAI covering various election events.

Clip #1: April 14, 2016 I inadvertently stumbled into a bar in Brooklyn, corner of Cortelyou Rd. and Coney Island Avenue. Sign in the window said “Watch the debate here”. Inside the small bar, over 70 people — mostly young — screamed at the TV, interjected comments continuously, and if there was a Hillary Clinton supporter in there at the start there weren’t any by the end.


 

Clip #2: April 13, 2016Walking at talking with Marxist economist Rick Wolff following the giant Sanders rally in Washington Square Park, April 13th 2016.


 

Clip #3: April 13, 2016 — Bernie Sanders’ speech to 50,000 people in and around Washington Square Park in Greenwich Village, NYC.


 

Clip #4: April 10, 2016. On the blustery boardwalk at Coney Island, waiting for the Sanders rally. I met a man — an immigrant from Russia — who is an enrolled Republican with a very interesting story and an open mind.


 

Clip #5: April 7, 2016 — Haitian activists waiting in line to hear Bernie Sanders speak at his old homestead in Flatbush, near Kings Highway. They have quite a lot to say about Hillary Clinton and her despicable role in Haiti.


 

Clip #6: April 7, 2016 — Rev. Paul Patrick, on line to hear Bernie Sanders in Flatbush. This was broadcast on the WBAI Evening News.

 
Clip #7: April 7, 2016 — Jewish 11 & 12-year-olds in Flatbush supporting Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump.

 
Clip #8: April 7, 2016 — Former Brooklyn College professor Nancy Romer talks about building a movement, at the Sanders speech in Flatbush.

 
Clip #9: April 7, 2016 — French journalist at Sanders rally in Flatbush puts in a plug for WBAI radio.