Kshama Sawant to deliver Socialist response to State of the Union
January 28, 2014

Tweet your followers, message your friends, and call your neighbors, because Seattle City Council member Kshama Sawant will be delivering tonight’s Socialist response to President Barack Obama’s State of the Union Address!

President Obama is scheduled to start speaking around 6:00 pm (Pacific), with the official GOP response (from WA’s own Representative Cathy McMorris Rodgers!) scheduled to start around 6:45 pm, followed by the Tea Party Caucus response about 20 minutes later. So Sawant will start her Socialist State of the Union around 7:15ish, give or take.

Remember to check out all of The Stranger’s SOTU coverage beginning at 6 pm tonight on Slog and on Twitter, and ending with Sawant’s live address. So much fun!

UPDATE: Turns out Sawant’s address will be streamed from the Seattle Channel’s studios—better video quality for her, fewer bragging rights for us. Ah, well. I’ll update with the new links and embed codes as soon as they are available.

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From the #SawantResponse Facebook eventYou will be able to watch it over at her official Seattle City Council website: http://www.seattle.gov/council/sawant/ We expect to begin between 7:30 and 8pm, more details to come!

Kshama Sawant is the first socialist candidate in 22 years to advance to the general-election ballot for Seattle City Council
August 12, 2013

When was the last time a Seattle City Council candidate argued there was nothing extraordinary about herself? Or volunteered details about her recent arrest? Or freely admitted she expects her opponent to raise more money — by tens of thousands of dollars?

It’s been awhile, if ever, is the safe bet, which is also the answer to yet another question about the curious campaign of Kshama Sawant: When was the last time a socialist advanced to the city’s general-election ballot?

Sawant — who last week did just that by winning more than a third of the vote in a three-candidate primary field for the Position 2 council seat — is not your conventional candidate. And that’s exactly what she’s aiming for.

“There are some things that really set us apart from your-business-as-usual, corporate election campaigns,” said the 40-year-old Seattle Central Community College economics instructor and latest challenger to four-term incumbent Richard Conlin.

“Those campaigns revolve around the single-minded goal of advancing the political career of an individual. Everything else — including the needs of the people — is sacrificed.”

In a recent interview, Sawant largely deflected questions about herself, the individual, to instead focus squarely on the collective — or what she describes as her party’s primary goals: “fighting for social and economic justice.”

“There’s nothing unique about me,” she added. “I don’t want the main ideas of what we’re fighting for to be distracted by my stuff.”

What Sawant did offer, begrudgingly, about her own background were some generalities from an immigrant’s life that helped shape her into the activist she is today.

Born in Pune, India, Sawant largely grew up in Mumbai, formerly known as Bombay, India’s most populous city now with some 20 million residents.

“I grew up in an apolitical family full of doctors and engineers and mathematicians,” she said. “I wasn’t exposed to any particular ideology.”

She earned a graduate degree in computer science. But rather than seeking a well-paid career, Sawant sought answers to deeper social questions that resonated during her formative years, and became more pronounced after she came to America.

“Coming from India, what was striking is that you expect that in the wealthiest country in the history of humanity, there shouldn’t be any poverty; there shouldn’t be any homelessness,” Sawant said. “ … But when I came here, I found it was exactly the opposite.”

Growing divide
The gap between rich and poor — and the social and political constructs that created it — fascinated and appalled her, Sawant said. After obtaining a Ph.D. in economics from North Carolina State University, in 2006 she moved to Seattle, where the social divide became even more stark.

“The vast majority of Seattle people are facing a city that is becoming increasingly unaffordable for them,” she said.

Sawant became active in immigrant-rights causes and with other progressive movements, before finding what would become her political party in 2008.

Formed in Europe in the mid-1980s, Social Alternative is an independent political organization that came to America with the working-class immigrants who supported it. In the 1990s, the group took root in cities with strong labor unions, including New York, Philadelphia and Seattle.

Now active in at least 15 major U.S. cities, the group denounces Republicans and Democrats as the puppets of big business. Its website declares it’s “fighting in our workplaces, communities, and campuses against the exploitation and injustices people face every day.”

In 2011, Socialist Alternative caught fire behind the “Occupy” movement, which articulated the frustrations among the politically and economically disenfranchised who blame corporate America for society’s failures.

Sawant became a key political organizer in Occupy Seattle.

“Our decision to run a candidate in 2012 came out of that experience and the prominence that Kshama played in the whole Occupy movement,” said Philip Locker, Sawant’s political director.

Sawant’s first campaign challenged Democrat state Rep. Jamie Pedersen in the 2012 primary. But she moved on as a write-in candidate to the general election in a different 43rd Legislative District race, against House Speaker Frank Chopp. She lost, taking 29 percent of the vote.

Now, in her second bid for office, Sawant advanced from last week’s primary as the runner-up in the Position 2 council race. She’ll face Conlin, who failed to crack 50 percent against two challengers.

Two decades ago
It has been 22 years since the last socialist advanced to the general election in a Seattle council race, city archivist Scott Cline said. In 1991, Yolanda Alaniz, a Freedom Socialist Party member, faced incumbent Sue Donaldson and lost badly.

Beyond Seattle, Socialist Alternative candidates are running this year in Boston and Minneapolis. But Sawant’s campaigns are hailed by her party as its most successful to date.

Although she touts her campaign results as signs of political momentum, Sawant still lost each race by double-digits.

Sawant has vowed she won’t take money from corporate executives or political-action committees but insists she can mount a legitimate grass-roots campaign against the well-financed Conlin.

Sawant’s campaigning so far has largely taken her to worker-rights rallies and other protests. In late July, deputies arrested her among a group peacefully protesting the eviction of a South Park man from his foreclosed home.

“If I’m elected, I would make my first order of business introducing an ordinance to raise the minimum wage to $15 per hour,” she said. “Others may talk about it, but I’m the only candidate who’s committed to doing it.”

Sawant also said she’d seek to reform the city’s tax system to impose a fee on millionaires that would pay for public transit and would implement rent control.

She vows to “take only the average worker’s salary” — what she estimates at $40,000 — from a council member’s $120,000 of annual pay. The rest would go to social-justice causes, she said.

“It’s a scandal the City Council is paid that much,” she said.

Source

The above video is an interview with Sawant conducted by Bill Bianchi. He speaks with the Seattle city council candidate on her past and present campaigns and the state of party politics, March 24, 2013.

Socialist Kshama Sawant wins 33% - Seattle gives green light to oust Richard Conlin from city hall
August 8, 2013

Seattle voters sent a clear message to an out-of-touch political establishment yesterday that they are fed up with business as usual, and are looking for an alternative to corporate-pandering politicians like Richard Conlin. Kshama Sawant, who was recently written off by The Seattle Times as “too hard left for Seattle,” won a stunning 33% of the vote, a number that will likely rise as late ballots are counted. 

A majority of primary voters voted against 16-year Seattle City Council incumbent, Democrat Richard Conlin, who despite a massive fund-raising advantage and name recognition, received only 49%. Sawant and a second challenger to Conlin, Brian Carver, won the majority of the vote in the City Council Position 2 race. 

“Working people in Seattle have a clear political choice for a change. If you want to fight for an alternative to the status quo, join us in the struggle for a citywide $15/hour minimum wage, a major expansion of public transit by taxing Seattle’s millionaires, increased investment in affordable housing, and implementing rent control,” said Sawant. 

Sawant has earned the endorsements of The Stranger newspaper, four labor unions, and prominent community activists such as Real Change founder Tim Harris. 

Unlike Conlin, Sawant refuses to accept corporate donations. Her grassroots campaign has raised $25,000, predominantly in the form of small donations of $25 or less, and has mobilized over 125 volunteers. “We will make history by raising a grassroots army of over 300 volunteers, and run one of the biggest door knocking campaigns this city has seen to defeat Richard Conlin,” Sawant declared. 

“Conlin has made clear where he stands, with corporations and the elite. By not representing the majority of struggling working people in this city, he has made himself obsolete.” 

Please Support  Campaign: 
1) Donate on-line at www.VoteSawant.org/donate 
2) Like our Facebook page www.facebook.com/VoteSawant 
3) Volunteer at www.votesawant.org/get_involved 
4) Endorse our candidate at www.VoteSawant.org/endorsements 
5) Join Socialist Alternative!

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robert-cunningham

thepeoplesrecord:

These are a few of my favorite “Critics of Capitalism” photoquotes that we have on our Facebook photostream.

I think it’s important to regularly have conversations about capitalism and to contextualize our political problems within the economic-system our political problems exist in, and to really consider the popular criticisms of that economic system.

If criticism of capitalism is something that has been on the periphery of your political education, I can’t stress how important it is to bring it to the center and how helpful Marxism is for theorizing strategy for targeting one of the largest sources of oppression plaguing humanity. 

If you want to learn more, I would search Youtube for Noam Chomsky, Angela Davis, Cornel West, Richard Wolff and Slavoj Zizek videos (alongside the word ‘capitalism’) or read SocialistWorker.org (or a number of similar organizational socialist papers) or browse the video and audio talks at wearemany.org that answer a number of political questions.

-Robert

Stumbled across this old post today. Good quotes. 

Letter to ‘The Nation’ from a young radical
May 25, 2013 

When I was growing up, the dinner table in my household was full of extremes. My immigrant parents encouraged intemperate arguments. Depth of knowledge was no barrier to entry, and only one rule applied: don’t be boring. It was an easy environment in which to loudly proclaim oneself a socialist. 

Things were different at the dinner tables of my childhood friends. Maybe it was because the conversations were kept to reasonable volumes or more cutlery was used, but I found myself wishing for different convictions. The chatter would inevitably turn to politics in conventional terms: Kerry or Bush, liberal or conservative, pre-emptive bombing or targeted sanctions? There was no “none of the above” on the menu. When pressed, I would meekly call myself a socialist, all the while regretting that I couldn’t just utter the word “liberal” instead. 

“Like Sweden?” I would be asked. “No, like the Russian Revolution before its degeneration into Stalinism.” It’s a wonder I was ever invited back. But liberalism—including in the pages of The Nation, save for a few redeeming essays and columns—seemed, even at its best moments, well-intentioned but inadequate. It’s a feeling that I haven’t been able to shake. 

Maybe I wasn’t alone in looking for alternatives. A Pew Research poll from 2011 shows that more Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 have a favorable opinion of socialism than of capitalism. We don’t know exactly what they mean by “socialism,” but it certainly reflects a discontent with what’s on offer in the political mainstream. 

And yet, the decay of liberal reform traditions has been nothing to celebrate. Real wages have stagnated, indebtedness is on the rise, and the deregulatory “free market” revolution has not only fostered massive new disparities in wealth and power but a historic recession. If liberalism once had teeth, that memory has faded. Many in my generation who found voice in the Occupy protests had no knowledge of the way that strong liberal administrations, backed up by vigorous social movements, forced concessions from capital throughout the last century. 

To radicals, the sad state of liberalism comes as no surprise. It represents merely the re-emergence of flaws embedded deeply in its roots, making so much of the social policy that The Nation supports difficult to revive. American liberalism is practically ineffective and analytically inadequate—and a jolt from its left is a prerequisite for its resurgence. 

Liberalism’s original sin lies in its lack of a dynamic theory of power. Much of its discourse is still fixated on an eighteenth-century Enlightenment fantasy of the “Republic of Letters,” which paints politics as a salon discussion between polite people with competing ideas. The best program, when well argued by the wise and well-intentioned, is assumed to prevail in the end. Political action is disconnected, in this worldview, from the bloody entanglement of interests and passions that mark our lived existence. 

Barack Obama’s inclination to sit the health insurance companies down at the table rather than confront them head-on is a useful example of this def iciency at work. You didn’t have to be a Marxist to realize this was a doomed strategy; plenty within the liberal ranks knew it at the time. Liberalism has evolved and incorporated views of politics that were traditionally associated with the socialist movement. But this development happened only under the influence of the left, and now the dominant currents in the liberal movement, especially in the Democratic Party, are forgetting lessons learned from radicals in the past. 

* * *

Some clarifying is in order. “Liberalism” has always been a slippery term, but to the extent that we can assign coherence to the ideology, two main camps of modern American liberalism are identifiable: welfare liberals and technocratic liberals. The former, without the radicals they so often attacked marching at their left, have not adequately moored their efforts to the working class, while the latter naïvely disconnect policy from politics, often with frightening results. 

Welfare liberals remain committed to the New Deal paradigm: equality of opportunity, collective-bargaining rights, an expanded social safety net. They call for higher marginal tax rates, want to restore union density, oppose austerity measures and support the struggles of public sector workers. More inclusive and progressive than their predecessors on social issues, they nevertheless form a continuum with the past. Elements in the Congressional Progressive Caucus, dominant tendencies within labor and much of The Nation’s output are true to this tradition.

For all their admirable qualities, welfare liberals not only fail to account for the welfare state’s crisis in the 1970s; they have struggled to imagine what political forces could return it to its previous dominance. Without strong trade unions and a visible center-left reform movement—linchpins of the New Deal coalition—austerity has been hard to resist as a solution to the current economic crisis. These measures, in turn, have further undermined the social basis for progressive politics in America. 

Unlike its center-left counterparts elsewhere in the developed world, the American reform tradition has battled to enact policy without the benefit of a labor party. Absent such a party and faced with intense corporate resistance, the bulk of the American left has been tied to the Democratic Party, a social liberal, not a social democratic, formation. Workers and trade unions were brought into the big tent, but they were never structurally connected to or put in the vanguard of reform efforts. This lack of agency and of a solid institutional foundation for combating the excesses of capitalism eventually undermined liberal programs to build a more expansive welfare state. 

The practical consequences of this failure are evident. In their 1987 study The American Perception of Class, Reeve Vanneman and Lynn Cannon showed that self-identified working-class voters in the United States, lacking a party like Britain’s Labour, often do not vote. The growth of highly organized, mass-membership political parties was a development of Europe’s late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century labor movements, starting in Germany. That the Democratic Party retains a looser political structure than its counterparts elsewhere finds reflection in its relatively inchoate, and at times contradictory, politics, and the lack of meaningful political action it inspires. 

It is, after all, only a party in the broadest sense of the word. Open to all, the Democratic Party has no ideological requirements for membership. Anyone can register, making it little more than a coalition of social forces in which various groups contest for influence under a common banner. The American left, without a natural base and condemned to support the Democratic “lesser evil,” has traditionally conceded legitimacy to forces governing in the center. 

* * *

It’s no surprise that publications like The Nation, no matter how earnest in their opposition to the worst excesses of the Clinton or Obama administrations, have been prone to paint too many segments of the diverse Democratic Party as good-faith partners with progressives. Case in point: during last year’s labor dispute, in her “Sister Citizen” column [October 8], Melissa Harris-Perry equivocated between the insurgent Chicago Teachers Union and Democratic Mayor Rahm Emanuel. Instead of closing ranks and protecting a vulnerable union during an important fight, she pitied the children stuck “between the leaders and teachers who are supposed to have their best interests at heart but who seem willing to allow this generation to be lost.” There was no deeper analysis of the stakes of the dispute or acknowledgment that the demands of the teachers—geared almost entirely toward student needs—enjoyed high levels of community support. Political conflict itself was painted as regrettable, and perhaps because Emanuel was a prominent Democratic leader, as a kind of fratricide.

But even The Nation’s bravest material has, like welfare liberalism as a whole, struggled to articulate a clear critique of the structures and social forces that have rolled back many of the social gains of the past century. Hence the room for some contributors to make battles over neoliberal education reform seem like the result of mutual intransigence and the clash of personalities rather than a broader class struggle. 

The other half of the liberal scene, technocratic liberals, best embodied by Washington Post columnist Ezra Klein, seem at first glance to have responded to the global social democratic impasse in more sophisticated ways than their peers. In a January piece, “After ‘the end of big government liberalism,’ ” Klein claimed that “the progressive project of building a decent welfare state is giving way to the more technocratic work of financing and managing it. How government is run, more than what exactly it does, seems set to be the main battleground of American politics in coming years.” 

Unlike the welfare liberals with whom they share the same political party, technocratic liberals are less nostalgic for the postwar Fordist compromise between a strong labor movement and growing corporations. They are more apt to advocate reduced government spending and the introduction of markets into previously decommodified spaces—public schools, for instance. It’s a self-consciously “realist” approach to a new historical moment.  

For technocratic liberals, sound policy has become an end in itself. But big policy changes require mobilized political actors. By acquiescing in the conservative consensus on welfare entitlements (largely transformed into “workfare” by President Clinton in 1996) and attacks on teachers disguised as education “reform” (pushed by mainstream Democrats at the local level across the country), the technocrats launch broadsides at the very people who got them elected, eroding the base from which they can enact policy. Even sharply progressive calls, like a recent one from The New York Times in favor of strengthening collective-bargaining rights, are more often than not presented as a wonkish policy program for economic stimulus, to be turned on and off at will, rather than a vehicle for working-class power and long-term progressive advance. 

Socialists would not make this mistake. And neither would conservatives, for that matter. Though there are fierce battles in their party, House Republicans bind themselves to an ideological code, enforcing a set of standards that ironically resemble that of European socialist parties: dues are paid, commitments made explicit and members occasionally expelled. Declarations like Grover Norquist’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” unite conservatives in Congress, while a network of think tanks, political action committees, grassroots activists and organizations at the state level keep them setting the national discourse, even as the demographics continue to skew in the Democratic Party’s favor. 

The basic liberal program—a responsive government and the preservation of key social protections—is far more popular than, say, weakening child labor laws or forcing pregnant women to get transvaginal ultrasounds. But the conservative program is not only “on the agenda,” it is often enacted, and for good reason: the right is generally more confident, more ideologically consistent and better organized than those who oppose it. 

* * *

Somewhat ironically, given the history of violence and repression inflicted on the left throughout its history, the solution to liberalism’s impasse lies in the re-emergence of American radicalism. The prospects are more promising than they may seem at first glance. The present context on the socialist left is one of institutional disarray but critical vibrancy, not unlike the moment that fueled leftist milieus in the early 1960s, when journals like Studies on the Left anticipated the upsurges that were soon to come, but groups like the Socialist Party of America were in terminal decline. Current literary journals like n+1 have taken a turn toward the political through engagement with Occupy Wall Street, while radical thinkers like Vivek Chibber, Doug Henwood and Kathi Weeks are finding broad new audiences for their work. A younger cohort is emerging as well. This generation of Marxist intellectuals is resurrecting debates about the reduction of working time, exploring the significance of new forms of labor, and arguing about the ways a democratic society would harness technological advance to universal material benefit, while avoiding ecological ruin. 

It’s a big mission, but in covering these themes, Jacobin, the magazine I founded in 2010, has garnered a measure of mainstream attention and success that would have been inconceivable even a few years ago. Still, the actual political situation in the country hasn’t caught up to the hype. Ideas don’t mean much without avenues for action. 

Which is to say that the left needs a plan—a plan that must incorporate more moderate allies. American radicalism has had a complex and at times contradictory association with liberalism. At the peak of the socialist movement, leftists fed off liberal victories. Radicals, in turn, have added coherence and punch to every key liberal struggle and advance of the past century. Such a mutually beneficial alliance could be in the works again. The first step is to smash the existing liberal coalition and rebuild it on a radically different basis.

Socialists must urgently show progressives how alien the technocratic liberal worldview is to the goals of welfare-state liberalism—goals held by the rank and file of the liberal movement. The ground can be softened at the intellectual and cultural levels, but a schism will have to be forced through actual struggle. Broad anti-austerity coalitions, particularly those centered at the state and municipal levels like last year’s Chicago Teachers Union strike, point the way toward new coalitions between leftists and liberals committed to defending social goods, especially if that means standing up against pro-corporate members of the Democratic Party like Rahm Emanuel. 

A last bastion of progressive strength, public sector labor unions, will be crucial in these battles, but they will have to adopt new tactics. The teachers union’s commitment to community-wide agitation and social-movement building—a commitment that kept it in the public’s favor—is a model to emulate. And groups like the AFL-CIO’s Working America, which is currently not serving an especially radical purpose, could potentially give labor a tool to circumvent restrictive labor laws and build alliances with unorganized sectors of the population. 

These national campaigns will have local roots. The recent neoliberal turn of Democratic mayoralties, for example, has much to do with their intense budget constraints. But these isolated struggles must be tied to broader campaigns to centralize our welfare system, shifting local and state burdens onto the federal government. Such a change would allow for a deeper development of social protections and allow progressives who are elected to office to govern without having to impose austerity on workers. 

This is just one example of the kind of class politics that has to be reconstituted in America today; surely there are many others. The Next Left’s anti-austerity struggles must be connected to the environmental movement, to the struggle of immigrants for labor and citizenship rights, and even, as unromantic as it sounds, to the needs of middle-class service recipients. Baby boomers are facing retirement without pensions or private savings; they have a stake in defending Social Security. Recent college graduates are saddled with student loans and fear they won’t be able to buy homes or start families. The left must organize around these aspirations and expand its coalition until left-liberalism becomes the dominant force in American politics.

And what then? Socialists aren’t just doctors with remedies for liberalism’s ailments. We’re members of a movement with aspirations distinct from it: a society free from class exploitation, a democracy extended from political spheres to social and economic ones, a world dramatically transformed. This means pushing struggles beyond the limits of liberalism, or even the boundaries of a single nation. It means a pitched battle for supremacy within the broader progressive movement and, at the very least, a golden age of dinner-table political banter.

Read John Nichols on “How Socialists Built America” (May 2, 2011), adapted from his book The “S” Word: A Short History of an American Tradition… Socialism (Verso). 

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Meet The Red Brigade: formed in November 2011 to fight back against a growing number of sexual attacks on women in the city of Lucknow, India

The male tormentor of the young women of the Madiyav slum did not spot the danger until it was too late. One moment he was taunting them with sexual suggestions and provocations; the next they had hold of his arms and legs and had hoisted him into the air.

Then the beating began. Some of the young women lightly used their fists, others took off their shoes and hit him with those. When it was over, they let him limp away to nurse his wounds, certain that he had learned an important lesson: don’t push your luck with the Red Brigade.

Named for their bright red outfits, the Red Brigade was formed in November 2011 as a self-defense group for young women suffering sexual abuse in the northern Indian city of Lucknow, 300 miles south-east of Delhi. Galvanised by the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old medical student in Delhi last December and the nationwide protests that followed against a rising tide of rapes, they are now gaining in confidence.

From a core membership of 15, ranging in age from 11 to 25, they now have more than 100 members with a simple message for the men who have made their lives a misery: they will no longer tolerate being groped, gawped at and worse. Their activities are a lesson in empowerment.

Men who fall foul of the Red Brigade can first expect a visit and a warning. Sometimes the Red Brigade will ask the police to get involved, but if all else fails they take matters into their own hands. Their leader, 25-year-old teacher Usha Vishwakarma, has her own experience of the daily danger faced by many young women in the country. She was just 18 when a fellow teacher tried to rape her. “He grabbed me and put his hands round me and tried to open my belt and trousers,” says Usha, sitting in the bare-brick front room of her small house. “But I was saved by my jeans because they were too tight for him to open, and that gave me a chance to fight, so I kicked him in the sensitive place and pushed him down and ran out of the door.”

No one at the school took her accusations seriously, telling her to forget it and stop causing trouble. The experience left her traumatized and for two years she did nothing. But little by little her confidence came back. In 2009 she set up her own small school for local girls in an outbuilding next to her family home. Yet all around her, she says, she saw more and more young women suffering the same abuse she had faced. And it was threatening to wreck the chances of her young female students.

"Parents were telling girls to stay in their homes so there would be no incidents. They said, ‘if you go to school, boys will be troubling you, so stay home and there will be no sexual violence’," says Vishwakarma. "But we said no, and we decided to form a group to fight for ourselves. We decided we would not just complain; we would take a lead and fight for ourselves." They bought red kameez (shirts) and black salwar (trousers) and began to plan the fightback. “We chose red because it means danger and black for protest,” says Vishwakarma.

There is much to fight back against. “It is in the minds of men that girls are objects and it has been like that always,” says Vishwakarma. “Religion shows women as very powerless and that whoever is strong can do anything.”

They have started martial arts training so that the men do not have a physical advantage over them. Pooja, Vishwakarma’s 18-year-old sister, laughs as she recalls the reaction of the boy they grabbed in the street when his taunts became too much. “We all stopped and turned round and we surrounded him and grabbed his arms and legs and he thought it was a joke, but we were not kidding and four of us lifted him in the air and the others started to hit him with their shoes and fists,” she says.

The rough justice the Red Brigade metes out might seem extreme to western sensibilities, but many Indian women are making it clear that they are no longer prepared to put up with endemic abuse. That much is clear from the crime figures: reports of molestation in Delhi are up 590% year on year and rape reports by 147%. The rape cases have hit tourist numbers, which were down 25% in the first three months of the year – 35% fewer women are travelling to India. The Red Brigade say sexual abuse is a part of daily life for young women like them. They all have stories of abuse, attempted rapes and daily harassment. “This is what happens in India,” says 16-year-old Laxmi, one of Vishwakarma’s lieutenants. “These things happen all the time. All of us know this, so don’t let anyone say otherwise. This is why we have formed the Red Brigade.”

Seventeen-year-old Preeti Verma nods in agreement. Her family are too poor to have a toilet in the house, so she has to go out into the fields, she says. Every time she went out, the man in the neighbouring house threw stones at her to try to scare her into jumping up. “He wanted to see my body,” she says. “I told him: ‘What are you doing? You are shameless, don’t you have a mother and sister in your house?’ But he replied that his mother is for his father, his sister is for her husband and that I was for him.” She told Vishwakarma, and the man received a visit from the Red Brigade and another from the police. She has had no trouble from him since.

"We’ve caught a lot of men recently," says 17-year-old Sufia Hashmi. "I joined up because men always used to pass comments on me and touch my body, but now we beat them the men cannot do anything and they run away. You feel powerful and you feel good."

On the way back to the slum, the rickshaws pass a public park and for a moment these tough young women show themselves for what they really are – children forced to grow up fast. They beg and plead to stop. “Please, please,” they say, their eyes gleaming in excitement. Shrieking gleefully, they race off towards the swings, slides and roundabouts. Later they stroll back through the market, eating ice-creams, heading for their homes. The sun is low in the sky, the shadows long. The men watch sullenly as they pass. No one risks a word.

Source

Saw this on Al Jazeera this morning. I’m sure it’s gone around Tumblr in some form before.

Farmers protest against corporate power plant & corrupt government partnership hits 1000th day
May 17, 2013

“Lathi maar maar ke utha lehale anshan wahe/ daktar sahib soochna pahuchain naye mukhyamantri se bataiye da/ hum aapan zamin na dewai/ hame na chahi kuch tumhara.” (Translated: Police beat protesting farmers and remanded them/ We heard a new CM is coming to hear us/ Tell him we won’t give up our land/ We want nothing from you.)

These defiant lines in a created mix of Bhojpuri and Hindi are few of the many composed and sung by Anarkali (52), over the last three years. Her songs are meant to inspire a few hundred fellow farmers, who sit attentively with their farming tools each day, listening to her after the day’s work. On Friday, they assembled at Kachari village in the Trans-Yamuna region of this district, for the 1000th consecutive day. A maha-panchayat of villages was held to mark the occasion.

Under the Purnvas Kisan Kalyan Sahayta Samiti (PKKSS), these farmers have been protesting the proposed 1980 MW Karchhana power plant. Through songs, slogans and speeches about government corruption & corporate land development, the farmers wish to keep up the momentum for their daily assemblage. “We apprise them of their rights, how the government cheated us. They are encouraged not to fall for bribes or be intimidated by threats. This is not compulsory yet the farmers come daily,” said Raj Bahaur Patel, president, PKKSS.

The project was conceived in 2007 under the Bahujan Samaj Party government and about 2,500 bighas of land was acquired from 2,286 farmers in eight villages — Devari, Kachari, Katka-Medhra, Dehli, Dohlipur, Bagesar, Kachara and Bhitar. However, the project, handed over to an undertaking of Jaypee Group in 2009, could never take off due to consistent protests by farmers over compensation, leaving one farmer murdered by police repression.

Last April, the Allahabad High Court allowed the farmers’ writ petitions and stalled the project. The Court stipulated that farmers who had received compensation for their land should either return the money and take back the land or willingly hand over the land for the project. Around 140 farmers did not accept compensation. Those who did are in no condition to repay the amount, causing an impasse which the administration is struggling to break through. Ever since the initial violence gripped the area, the protests have been peaceful, but the farmers complain they are being intimidated by local goons and officials to give up their land and discontinue the protests.

"We will shoot you and your family. Just let the power plant come up you will be taught a lesson, they tell us," says Sukhdevi, 65, one of the many protesters.

Many of these threats also come from petty politicians, says Mr. Patel. “They approached us for a compromise, first with bribes. When we declined, they have resorted to fear tactics.” Consequently, the farmers have written to the Prime Minister’s Office and the Chief Minister’s Office, listing their apprehensions and demands. Also, in two letters dated August 8, 2012 and October 10, 2012, the farmers mentioned the threats to their lives, while also promising that they were ready to return the compensation but in installments and on their terms.

When Mr. Patel was called in to receive the response on April 15, the special land acquisition officer O.P Singh only inquired about the land possession of each farmer, completely ignoring the threats to the farmers’ lives. The Hindu has a copy of the document.

The farmers have been demanding: restoration of the fertility of their lands, compensation for the loss of farming over the last five years and losses suffered at the hands of police action during protests, an official inquiry into the violence & threats made against them.

Despite Chief Minister Akhilesh Yadav announcing that the government would quash all FIRs filed against protesting farmers, eight criminal cases registered against farmers in Karchhana still stand. The farmers, who also reported that their land was wrongfully claimed to be barren, have filed an RTI into it. However, they have received no response yet.

Unlike previous years, when the farmers abandoned farming on the proposed site, they have engaged in some cultivation this season. Yet they remain fearful of violent retribution by goons and intermediaries. “We live in uncertainty. What if they destroy our crops and start the plant? We cannot afford further losses,” says a farmer.

The proposed land includes a large portion of the common property resources in the villages, like the ponds, rearing grounds, connecting paths and grain storage houses.

Notably, the region is turning into a hot-bed for famers’ protests against power plants. In Bara, while farmers have given up on their demands for higher compensation, they are on the verge of launching a movement against the excess extraction of water from the Yamuna.

The farmers have also demonstrated that “men of authority” are trying to create a rift among them to break down their movement. “They are creating false news that there is in-fighting among the farmers,” says Mr. Patel, citing a news report in a highly circulated Hindi daily.

Source

Anti-capitalist protesters are taking inspiration from Mexican revolutionaries ahead of the G8 summit
May 17, 2013

No one can accuse the anti-capitalist protesters planning to disrupt the runup to next month’s G8 meeting in Northern Ireland of not being thoroughly up to date. The online call has gone out for a carnival against capitalism – curiously illustrated by a century-old photo of Mexican revolutionaries in sombreros, sitting on horseback – in London on 11 June. It’s some way away from Fermanagh where the world leaders will actually be gathering, but that isn’t going to stop them: a map pointing out “the dens of the rich” in central London has helpfully been published to assist the anti-capitalist activists in finding their way around the capital. It includes Buckingham Palace, Fortnum & Mason, “supermarket of the ruling class”, Mahiki, “cocktail bar of the feral rich” and the headquarters of Vogue magazine on the map for telling women how to look and act.

More from StopG8

Dr. Vandana Shiva: the “GOLDEN RICE” hoax - when public relations replaces science to promote a technology for creating Vitamin A deficiency
May 15, 2013

Golden rice has been heralded as the miracle cure for malnutrition and hunger of which 800m members of the human community suffer.  Herbicide resistant and toxin producing genetically engineered plants can be objectionable because of their ecological and social costs.  But who could possibly object to rice engineered to produce vitamin A, a deficiency found in nearly 3 million children, largely in the Third World?

As remarked by Mary Lou Guerinot, the author of the Commentary on Vitamin A rice in Science, one can only hope that this application of plant genetic engineering to ameliorate human misery without regard to short term profit will restore this technology to political acceptability. Unfortunately, Vitamin A rice is a hoax, and will bring further dispute to plant genetic engineering where public relations exercises seem to have replaced science in promotion of untested, unproven and unnecessary technology.

The problem is that vitamin A rice will not remove vitamin A deficiency (VAD).  It will seriously aggravate it.  It is a technology that fails in its promise. Currently, it is not even known how much vitamin JA the genetically engineered rice will produce.  The goal is 33.3% micrograms/100g of rice.  Even if this goal is reached after a few years, it will be totally ineffective in removing VAD.

Since the daily average requirement of vitamin A is 750 micrograms of vitamin A and 1 serving contains 30g of rice according to dry weight basis, vitamin A rice would only provide 9.9 micrograms which is 1.32% of the required allowance.  Even taking the 100g figure of daily consumption of rice used in the technology transfer paper would only provide 4.4% of the RDA.

In order to meet the full needs of 750 micrograms of vitamin A from rice, an adult would have to consume 2 kg 272g of rice per day.  This implies that one family member would consume the entire family ration of 10 kg. from the PDS in 4 days to meet vitaminA needs through “Golden rice”.

This is a recipe for creating hunger and malnutrition, not solving it.

Besides creating vitamin A deficiency, vitamin A rice will also create deficiency in other micronutrients and nutrients.  Raw milled rice has a low content of Fat (0.5g/100g).  Since fat is necessary for vitamin A uptake, this will aggravate vitamin A deficiency.  It also has only 6.8g/100g of protein, which means less carrier molecules.  It has only 0.7g/100g of iron, which plays a vital role in the conversion of beta-carotene (precursor of vitamin A found in plant sources) to vitamin A. Superior Alternatives exist and are effective.

A far more efficient route to removing vitamin A deficiency is biodiversity conservation and propagation of naturally vitamin A rich plants in agriculture and diets.

The following is a list of sources rich in vitamin A which are used commonly in Indian foods. (microgram/100g)

(Amaranth leaves) Chauli saag= 266-1,166 -

(Coriander leaves) – Dhania = 1,166-1,333 

(Cabbage) Bandh gobi = 217 

(Curry leaves)-Curry patta = 1,333 

(Drumstick leaves)-Saijan patta1 = 283 

(Fenugreek leaves)-Methi-ka-saag = 450 

(Radish leaves)-Mooli-ka-saag = 750 

(Mint)-Pudhina = 300 

(Spinach)-Palak saag = 600 

(Carrot)-Gajar=217-434 

(Pumpkin (yellow))-Kaddu = 100-120 

(Mango (ripe))-Aam = 500 

(Jackfruit)-Kathal = 54 

(Orange)-Santra = 35 

(Tomato (ripe))-Tamatar = 32 

(Milk (cow, buffalo))-Doodh = 50-60 

(Butter)-Makkhan = 720-1,200 

(Egg (hen))-Anda = 300-400 

(Liver (Goat, sheep))-Kalegi = 6,600 - 10,000 

Cod liver oil = 10,000 - 100,000

In spite of the diversity of plants evolved and bred for their rich vitamin  A content, a report of the Major Science Academies of the World - Royal Society, U.K., National Academy of Sciences of the USA, The Third World Academy of Science, Indian National Science Academy, Mexican Academy of Sciences, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Brazilian Academy of Sciences - on Transgenic Plants and World Agriculture has stated, Vitamin A deficiency causes half a million children to become partially or totally blind each year.

Traditional breeding methods have been unsuccessful in producing crops containing a high vitamin A concentration and most national authorities rely on expensive and complicated supplementation programs to address the problem.  Researchers have introduced three new genes into rice, two from daffodils and one from a microorganism.  The transgenic rice exhibits an increased production of beta-carotene as a precursor to vitamin A and the seed in yellow in colour. Such yellow, or golden rice, may be a useful tool to help treat the problem of vitamin A deficiency in young children living in the tropics.

It appears as if the world’s top scientists suffer a more severe form of blindness than children in poor countries.  The statement that “traditional breeding has been unsuccessful in producing crops high in vitamin A” is not true given the diversity of plants and crops that Third World farmers, especially women have bred and used which are rich sources of vitamin A such as coriander, amaranth, carrot, pumpkin, mango, jackfruit.

It is also untrue that vitamin A rice will lead to increased production of beta-carotene.   Even if the target of 33.3 microgram of  vitamin A in 100g of rice is achieved, it will be only 2.8% of beta-carotene we can obtain from amaranth leaves 2.4% of beta-carotene obtained from coriander leaves, curry leaves and drumstick leaves.  Even the World Bank has admitted that rediscovering and use of local plants and conservation of vitamin A rich green leafy vegetables and fruits have dramatically reduced VAD threatened children over the past 20 years in very cheap and efficient ways.  Women in Bengal use more than 200 varieties of field greens. Over a 3 million people have benefited greatly from a food based project for removing VAD by increasing vitamin A availability through home gardens.  The higher the diversity crops the better the uptake of pro-vitamin A.

The reason there is vitamin A deficiency in India in spite of the rich biodiversity a base and indigenous knowledge base in India is because the Green Revolution technologies wiped out biodiversity by converting mixed cropping systems to monocultures of wheat and rice and by spreading the use of herbicides which destroy field greens.

In spite of effective and proven alternatives, a technology transfer agreement has been signed between the Swiss Government and the Government of India for the transfer of genetically engineered vitamin A rice to India.

The ICAR, ICMR, ICDS, USAIUD, UNICEF, WHO have been identified as potential partners.  The breeding and transformation is to be carried out at Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, Central Rice Research Institute, Cuttack and Punjab Agricultural University, Ludhiana and University of Delhi, South Campus. The Indian varieties in which the vitamin A traits are expected to be engineered have been identified as IR 64, Pusa Basmati, PR 114 and ASD 16.

Dr. M.S. Swaminathan has been identified as “God father” to ensuring public acceptance of genetically engineered rice.  DBT & ICAR are also potential partners for guaranteeing public acceptance and steady progress of the project.

Genetically engineered vitamin A rice will aggravate this destruction since it is part of an industrial agriculture, intensive input package. It will also lead to major water scarcity since it is a water intensive crop and displaces water prudent sources of vitamin A.

The first step in the technology transfer of vitamin A rice requires a need assessment and an assessment of technology availability.  One assessment shows that vitamin A rice fails to pass the need test. The technology availability issue is related to whether the various elements and methods used for the construction of transgenic crop plants are covered by intellectual property rights.  Licenses for these rights need to be obtained before a product can be commercialized.  The Cornell based ISAAA (International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Application) has been identified as the partner for ensuring technology availability by ensuring technology availability by having material transfer agreements signed between the representative authority of the ICAR and the “owners” of the technology, Prof. I. Potrykus and Prof. P.  Beyer.

In addition, Novartis and Kerin Breweries have patents on the genes used as constructs for the vitamin A rice. At a public hearing on Biotechnology at U.S. Congress on 29th June 2000, Astra-Zeneca stated they would be giving away royalty free licenses for the development of “Golden rice”.

At a workshop organized by the M. S. Swaminathan Research Foundation, Dr. Barry of Monsanto’s Rice Genome initiative announced that it will provide royalty-free licenses for all its technologies that can help the further development of “golden rice”.

Hence these gene giants Novartis, Astra-Zeneca and Monsanto are claiming exclusive ownership to the basic patents related to rice research.  Further, neither Monsanto nor Astra - Zeneca said they will give up their patents on rice - they are merely giving royalty free licenses to public sector scientists for development of “golden rice”.  This is an arrangement for a public subsidy to corporate giants for R&D since they do not have the expertise or experience with rice breeding which public institutions have.

Not giving up the patents, but merely giving royalty free licenses implies that the corporations like Monsanto would ultimately like to collect royalties from farmers for rice varieties developed by public sector research systems.  Monsanto has stated that it expects long term gains from these IPR arrangements, which implies markets in rice as “intellectual property” which cannot be saved or exchanged for seed.  The real test for Monsanto would be its declaration of giving up any patent claims to rice now and in the future and joining the call to remove plants and biodiversity out of TRIPS.  Failing such an undertaking by Monsanto the announcement that Monsanto giving royalty free licenses for development of vitamin A rice like the rice itself can only be taken as a hoax to establish monopoly over rice production, and reduce rice farmers of India into bio-serfs.

While the complicated technology transfer package of “Golden Rice” will not solve vitamin A problems in India, it is a very effective strategy for corporate take over of rice production, using the public sector as a Trojan horse.

Source

Photos Source

amodernmanifesto
amodernmanifesto:

A Daring Future by ~Party9999999

From Wikipedia: Thomas Isidore Noël Sankara (December 21, 1949 – October 15, 1987) was a Burkinabé military captain, Marxist revolutionary, Pan-Africanist theorist, and President of Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987.[1][2] Viewed as a charismatic and iconic figure of revolution, he is commonly referred to as “Africa’s Che Guevara”.[1][3][4][5]
His revolutionary programs for African self-reliance made him an icon to many of Africa’s poor.[6] Sankara remained popular with most of his country’s impoverished citizens. However his policies alienated and antagonised the vested interests of an array of groups, which included the small but powerful Burkinabé middle class, the tribal leaders whom he stripped of the long-held traditional right to forced labour and tributepayments, and France and its ally the Ivory Coast.[1][8] As a result, he was overthrown and assassinated in acoup d’état led by the French-backed Blaise Compaoré on October 15, 1987. A week before his murder, he declared: “While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas.”[1]

amodernmanifesto:

A Daring Future by ~Party9999999

From Wikipedia: Thomas Isidore Noël Sankara (December 21, 1949 – October 15, 1987) was a Burkinabé military captain, Marxist revolutionaryPan-Africanist theorist, and President of Burkina Faso from 1983 to 1987.[1][2] Viewed as a charismatic and iconic figure of revolution, he is commonly referred to as “Africa’s Che Guevara”.[1][3][4][5]

His revolutionary programs for African self-reliance made him an icon to many of Africa’s poor.[6] Sankara remained popular with most of his country’s impoverished citizens. However his policies alienated and antagonised the vested interests of an array of groups, which included the small but powerful Burkinabé middle class, the tribal leaders whom he stripped of the long-held traditional right to forced labour and tributepayments, and France and its ally the Ivory Coast.[1][8] As a result, he was overthrown and assassinated in acoup d’état led by the French-backed Blaise Compaoré on October 15, 1987. A week before his murder, he declared: “While revolutionaries as individuals can be murdered, you cannot kill ideas.”[1]

The French left hold socialist President Hollande accountable, march through Paris to protest his selling out & becoming an austerity puppet for capitalists Brussels & Berlin
May 6, 2013

At least tens of thousands of far-left protesters have marched through Paris, to vent their anger over economic austerity. Sunday’s demonstration came on the eve of the first anniversary of Francois Hollande’s election as French President.

The crowd were fired up by far-left leader Jean-Luc Melenchon. “We don’t want the financial sector in power,” he told the crowds.“We do not accept austerity policies that usher in endless suffering for our people, like all others in Europe.”

The protest highlighted fierce opposition on the left to the Socialist president’s market-friendly reforms.- and the loosening of labor rules which makes hiring and firing slightly easier.

“A number of economists, whose thoughts are well regarded, have recently said that this policy of austerity is driving us into the wall. The people of the world are getting poorer and poorer,” said one demonstrator.

France is on the edge of recession and unemployment is at an all time high. Hollande has suffered the sharpest fall in popularity of any president in more than half a century.

Source

The protesters held brooms to symbolize the need to clean the government of it’s dependence on the capitalist financial sector.

slothtanic
whitehouse:

Share the news: Our economy added 176,000 private-sector jobs last month, while unemployment dipped to its lowest rate since December 2008. http://at.wh.gov/kGdc9

Share the news - Barack Obama is a war criminal.
Share the news - poor people don’t know what you’re talking about, we’re still jobless or over-worked & underpaid and yes, poor. 
Share the news - we want a private-sector DEATH. We want private-sector abolition!
Share the news - it was a really bad idea for the White House to get a Tumblr. You are not welcome here. 
Share the news!

whitehouse:

Share the news: Our economy added 176,000 private-sector jobs last month, while unemployment dipped to its lowest rate since December 2008. http://at.wh.gov/kGdc9

Share the news - Barack Obama is a war criminal.

Share the news - poor people don’t know what you’re talking about, we’re still jobless or over-worked & underpaid and yes, poor. 

Share the news - we want a private-sector DEATH. We want private-sector abolition!

Share the news - it was a really bad idea for the White House to get a Tumblr. You are not welcome here. 

Share the news!

Posted on The People’s Record Facebook page. Like our page for daily news. “Favorite” the page to get more than 10% of our posts in your feed (10% is the facebook default for likes, if you don’t favorite).
Get the message out, share it on Facebook.
I originally came across the article that posted these graphs from something we reblogged from anarcho-queer (you should follow anarcho-queer for daily news & information along the same lines as what we post. They post just-as, if-not more regularly than we do).

Posted on The People’s Record Facebook page. Like our page for daily news. “Favorite” the page to get more than 10% of our posts in your feed (10% is the facebook default for likes, if you don’t favorite).

Get the message out, share it on Facebook.

I originally came across the article that posted these graphs from something we reblogged from anarcho-queer (you should follow anarcho-queer for daily news & information along the same lines as what we post. They post just-as, if-not more regularly than we do).