A website for scholarship
in the theory and practice of nonviolence
in the USA.
A reader's guide to web literature on the theory and practice of nonviolence.
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The Son of Patriot Act and the Revenge on Democracy
author's web pages Undated 2003?
Clearly we live in an advanced surveillance society – what some call the “transparent society” -- where our every move and word is potentially monitored by computers, cameras, recording devices, retinal and facial recognition systems, and fingerprints. Some of these measures protect us from assault or identity theft, but they also erode our privacy rights and supply personal information to businesses and the government. Bush’s Total Information Awareness System is already operating, as it works to develop special data mining techniques that collect all the informational footprints an individual leaves behind, ranging from doctor visits and travel plans to ATM withdrawals and email correspondence. Reversing the logic of a sound justice system, every citizen is guilty until proven innocent. In its war on Iraq and U.S. citizens, the Bush administration resembles the “Pre-Crime” strike force in the movie Minority Report, which aimed to preempt every potentially criminal thought before it became an action.
The Patriot Act has not been around for long, but it has already changed the political landscape. On March 24, the Washington Post reported that since 9-11, Attorney General John Ashcroft personally has signed more than 170 “emergency foreign intelligence warrants,” three times the number authorized in the preceding 23 years. In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks, the FBI and Justice Department have issued dozens of “national security letters” that require business to turn over all electronic records on finances, phone calls, emails, and other personal information. The story makes no mention of surveillance on political activists, although from the government’s perspective they may well fall under the vague category of “other national security threats” Ashcroft and crew can target at will.
Congress will re-examine the Patriot Act in 2005, but by then inertia may have ossified the new security culture and the “war on terrorism” may still be considered the nation’s top priority. Beginning with the Reagan administration in the 1980s, conservatives labored to roll back the clock on the environmental and social gains of the 1960s, and the social welfare policies dating back to the 1930s. Indeed, the Bush administration’s time machine reaches back centuries, not decades, as they are trying to annul the Constitution itself.
The Bush administration, corporate lobbying groups like ALEC, and pro-violence organizations such as USSA are exploiting fear and paranoia of terrorism for their own advantage in order to justify their assault on freedom. They are shamelessly trying to gain from the tragedy that took the lives of thousands of innocent civilians on 9-11 in order to advance their agendas and protect their profits, while they shield themselves from public scrutiny. Indeed, the current wave of tyranny is part of a larger class war where Bush is subverting liberties, destroying social programs, and creating tax programs to benefit the super-wealthy. Bush has quickly distinguished himself as one of the most insane and dangerous individuals to emerge in recent history and he is hell bent on resurrecting the glory days of the Roman Empire to fulfill what he takes to be God’s plan for him and American imperialist power. The differences between Osama Bin Laden’s terrorism and George W. Bush’s terrorism are difficult to discern.
Contemporary Youth and the Postmodern Adventure
author's web pages Undated 2003?
In this study, we develop some concepts to outline a critical theory of youth that articulates positive, negative, and ambiguous aspects in their current situation. We delineate some of the defining features of the condition of contemporary youth to indicate the ways that they are encountering the challenges facing them, and to suggest how these might best be engaged. There are obviously a wide diversity of youth experiences of varying genders, races, classes, sexualities, and social groups, and we want both to suggest differences while also emphasizing what they share in common as a generation. Our argument is that within the present social crisis, there are grave dangers for youth, but also some enhanced freedoms and opportunities. More positive futures cannot be created, however, unless youth are able to achieve a variety of forms of literacy, including print, media, and computer skills and enhanced education (Kellner 2002). These abilities will enable them to cope with a rapidly changing environment and can help the emergent generations to shape their own future and remake the culture and social world they inherit....
The post-boomer generation could also be labeled as "busters," for with this generation the American dream, enjoyed by many boomers, went bust and they were thrown into a world of uncertainty, disorder, and decline. The baby-boomers came of age during the optimism which followed World War Two with the rise of suburbia, cheap education, good job opportunities, abundant housing, the Age of Affluence, and the exciting and turbulent events of the 1960s. Their children, in contrast, matured during more troubled times marked by recession, diminishing expectations, the conservative reaction led by Ronald Reagan and George Bush Senior, an explosion of shallow greed and materialism, the disillusioning drama of a dot.com boom rapidly followed by a dot.bust. The e-boom was a boom period for youth and by youth, and quite significant for this reason. Though ballooned out of proportion by the financial industries, the Internet boom represented a new economy lead by a young vanguard. The Bush II regime can be seen in many ways as a return to the old guard, the old extraction-based economy that sees economic advancement as a win-loss game best advanced through imperialist expansion –- a shift from the consumer, innovation, and service-driven economy that envisioned (at least) a win-win world economy based on national comparative advantage and world trade. Thus, the restoration of the old order is also an attack on the Young Turks, which also has the flavor in many ways of revenge.
Moreover, dramatically worsening social conditions in the current situation emerged following the September 11 terrorist attack on the U.S. and the subsequent “war against terrorism.” After declaring war against an “axis of evil” in his 2002 State of the Union speech, in early 2003 Son of Bush assembled his father’s legion of doom and a gigantic military machine to wage war against Iraq in an unfolding millennium of perennial war, one that will sacrifice another generation of youth (see Kellner, forthcoming). Hence, while post-boomer youth faced a life that was more complex, insecure, risky, and unpredictable than boomer youth, today's youth face even more dangerous and anxious times with threats of terrorism, war, and large-scale apocalypse on the horizon, as the global economy sputters and possibilities for a better life diminish. Post-post boomer youth has lived through the fall-out of the rising expectations of the “new economy” and globalization, finding that dotcom.bust, terrorism, and a reactionary U.S. administration bent on a return to the past and threatening unending war has imperiled their future as well as the prospects for survival of the human species....
Thus, we would argue that a postmodern pedagogy requires developing critical forms of print, media, and computer literacy, all of which are of crucial importance in the technoculture of the present and fast-approaching future. Indeed, contemporary culture is marked by a proliferation of image machines which generate a panoply of print, sound, environmental, and diverse aesthetic artifacts within which we wander, trying to make our way through this forest of symbols. And so we need to begin learning how to read these images, these fascinating and seductive cultural forms whose massive impact on our lives we have only begun to understand. Surely, education should attend to the multimedia culture and teach how to read images and narratives as part of media/computer/technoculture literacy.
Such an effort would be linked to a revitalized critical pedagogy that attempts to empower individuals so that they can analyze and criticize the emerging technoculture, as well as participate in producing its cultural and political forums and sites. The challenge for education today is thus to promote computer and media literacy to empower students and citizens to use a wide range of technologies to enhance their lives and create a better culture and society. In particular, this involves developing Internet projects that articulate with important cultural and political struggles in the contemporary world and developing relevant educational material (see Best and Kellner 2001, Kellner 2002, and Kahn and Kellner, forthcoming)....
Call for a Paradigm Shift
email via Portside May 7, 2003?
There is an obscenity in this political discourse, of
course. But there is an even bigger obscenity in the
process through which many on the left have allowed
themselves to become trapped within that political
discourse, still seeing some difference worth
supporting between candidates as the entire package of
establishment electoral politics moves further and
further to the right with each election. Nothing will
change in this process until we try a different
approach. We need to let the scoundrels (both more
reactionary and less reactionary) know that we will
*not* support them electorally unless and until they
give us something we really want. Then, and only then,
is there a chance to begin moving the electoral
discourse back to the left again.
How to avoid the dilemma
The very first thing we need to do is reject the
counterposition in the title of Davidson and Katz's
article: Protest *is* politics. It is a far more
effective and important form of politics than voting in
elections, and far more likely to affect the
relationship of forces in our favor (as it did in the
1960s and early `70s). The growth and development of an
antiwar movement in the USA between October 2002 and
March 2003 moved the general political discourse in
this country significantly to the left, and resulted in
many of the other political manifestations of antiwar
sentiment--like the resolutions adopted by city
councils across the nation. If we want even to keep the
political discussion where it is, not to mention moving
it further to the left, it is *essential* that we
remain in the streets as much as we can. To the extent
that we counterpose electoral politics to this we will
be shooting ourselves in the foot.
Of course, almost all antiwar activists are going to
want to do something about the elections, and this need
not be counterposed to continuing to build a protest
movement. That said, what kind of electoral effort
ought to be pursued? I would suggest that one thing is
obvious: Antiwar activists are going to be divided on
this question. The antiwar coalition *as a whole* ought
not attempt to engage in electoral politics directly
(that is, the endorsement of candidates), because doing
so will split us right down the middle. Some will
certainly pursue the Davidson/Katz approach. Others
will support the Greens, or some other independent
campaign. Still others will no doubt advocate an
abstention. We will have to simply agree to disagree,
and continue to unite where we can--which will be to
engage in education and street actions on those key
programmatic issues that unite us.
One initiative we could take as a movement, however,
would be to develop a non-partisan questionnaire that
we would ask all candidates regardless of party
affiliation to fill in, posing hard questions about
their positions on war and foreign policy, economic
priorities, national health care, affirmative action,
social welfare, police brutality, capital punishment
and prisons, and other issues of concern to activists.
We could then publish a "voters' guide" which would
inform the public at large of the answers we get back,
and of who declined to fill in this questionnaire.
Such an initiative could, in my judgment, be a very
powerful intervention by the antiwar movement into the
electoral arena, at a time when this will certainly be
a major focus of attention in the media and in mass
consciousness. It will be far more powerful, it seems
to me, in moving the electoral discourse in the
direction we want than any decision to support a
lesser-evil Democratic candidate who will inevitably be
very far from our political agenda.
An Open Letter To Activists Concerning Racism In The Anti-War Movement
email Feb. 13, 2003
The problem of racism in anti-war activism is not new. For many years, people of color and their white allies have cited its debilitating effects, to no avail. A new era of activism presents us with the opportunity to come to grips with the issues of race and anti-racism in our movement, instead of continuing to ignore them. We believe that such an accounting is crucial to the success of coalition-building among the anti-war sectors of New York City, and we offer this letter as a means of getting started.
Who is Most Affected by War
At home and abroad, repression, militarism and war take their greatest toll on people of color. Following 9/11, the U.S. government and its agents escalated their longstanding aggression against us to the level of an endless .war on terrorism..Abroad, that war is waged on Iraq, Afghanistan, the Philippines, Colombia, Vieques, Puerto Rico, and other nations in the global South. .Endless war.crowns the economic embargos and sanctions, IMF/World Bank.generated debt, covert support for torture and death squads, and environmental degradation long imposed on nations whose inhabitants are viewed through a Eurocentric lens as alien demons, in order to rationalize their domination and destruction. At home, the state demonizes and criminalizes people of color in order to rationalize targeting us for police abuse and repression, in the name of crime-fighting.and security..Secret detention and deportation of immigrants, racial profiling, police brutality, incarceration and cut-backs of social services are all part of the arsenal used by the state to control communities of color and constrain their development.
As the primary victims of militarism and repression, people of color have waged organized resistance against these scourges for centuries, without recognition of our frontline activism by whites: We know only too well, if others do not, that the peace movement has always been multiracial and international. Consistent with this history, Arab, Asian, Latino, Caribbean and African Americans were organizing in their New York City communities before 9/11, and since the 9/11 attacks have turned but significant numbers on several occasions. For example, there were the 9/11 anniversary/anti-war events sponsored by Third World Within, under the banner .No More Lost Lives,.and there was the .We Ain't Going Nowhere.march and rally in Harlem sponsored by Uptown Youth for Peace and Justice. In addition, South Asian and Arab American community-based groups have spearhead street protests downtown and in Times Square against detentions and other abuses of immigrant rights that continue to this day.
The kind of antiwar movement that we need
Atlanta Solidarity Nov. 20, 2002
The question of broad consultation, in particular about political agendas and leadership structures, also relates to the question of anti-racist functioning. Since the time of the Vietnam War the antiwar movement in the USA has had a much stronger base among white activists than it has among activists of color. The reasons for this are varied and complex, but two factors stand out:
1) The traditional "peace" movement has tended to be concerned very narrowly with questions of US foreign policy, ignoring the war against communities of color here at home.
2) There has tended to be a self-perpetuating leadership within this movement, dominated by white activists who share this narrow conception of what the peace movement should be.
At both October 6 and 26 people of color were underrepresented among the demonstrators. Today, however, in the struggle against Bush's so-called "war on terrorism" we should be able to do better. There is, among many activists, a heightened consciousness about the right of oppressed groups to self-determination-to lead their own strugges and for others to be respectful of that leadership. In addition, there are a series of issues directly related to the present war drive which provide natural links between the antiwar movement and communities of color. For example, the question of domestic repression (which disproportionately affects communities of color) through the abuse of immigration laws and the Patriot Act, the question of Israeli repression in Palestine and defense of self-determination for the Palestinian people, the continued US Navy presence on the island of Vieques; and similar problems.
We need to build an antiwar movement which is not just a movement for "peace" but which clearly asserts that "peace" can only be achieved by fighting for global justice and the right to self-determination for oppressed peoples. If we do that it is even possible to link with the question of reparations for slavery for people of African descent, and similar issues. building that kind of antiwar movement will help us take a giant leap forward. And, coming full circle, if the traditionally white peace groups are really going to help build that kind of movement the question of democracy, of broadly consulting many diverse constituencies, and being willing to include the issues of deep concern to those diverse constituencies in our antiwar agenda, is crucial.
The Transitional Program: Forging a Revolutionary Agenda for the United States
ETOL Feb., 1998
There are three different kinds of demands that make up the transitional program: immediate demands; democratic demands; and transitional demands. Each of them has an important place, and understanding their different but interconnected roles is essential to understanding the transitional program itself.
Immediate demands are those that flow from, and can be formulated spontaneously as a result of, the day-to-day experiences of the masses. Trade union demands for higher wages, or defense of workers rights on the job, are a good example.
Democratic demands reflect the continued fight for basic liberties formally won in this country as a result of the 1776 War of Independence and the Civil War – our two bourgeois democratic revolutions. These are things such as free speech and the right to political organization (which are supposedly guaranteed by the Bill of Rights but which, as we know, we must continually fight to maintain); and the equality of all citizens regardless of race, or nationality (which is again legally recognized but honored more in the breach), or sex (which is not yet even legally recognized in this country).
Finally we have transitional demands proper. These are the slogans which lead directly toward the idea of workers control and a socialist reorganization of society: “Organize a labor party which can run the government in the interests of working people, not the rich!” “Open the books of the corporations which claim they cannot afford to pay decent wages!” “Reduce the workweek with no loss of pay to provide more jobs!” “Organize a massive public-works program to build roads, hospitals, schools and also provide jobs!” “Let the bosses, not the workers, pay for the crisis – raise wages to keep up with the cost of living!” “Nationalize companies that claim they can’t continue to operate profitably and turn control of them over to the workers!”
All of these ideas can be presented in a way that seems eminently reasonable to people based on their experiences within the present system. But in reality they require socialism for their full implementation. I stress the words full implementation, because there is a common misconception about transitional slogans – that it is impossible for them to be won under capitalism. That isn’t true. Struggles of the workers can win aspects of these demands – for example a reduction of the workweek or an escalator clause in a union contract. But the full implementation of a system whereby the necessary social labor is shared equally among all those who need a job and everyone gets her or his fair share of the collective economic product will require a socialist transformation of the economy.
Interrelationship of demands
While it is transitional demands in particular which are the unique contribution of the revolutionary Marxist movement, the transitional method is not reducible to transitional demands alone. What is key is the interaction and interrelationship between the three types of slogans. This, too, is a unique understanding of revolutionary Marxism.
Unlike reformists, we don’t see the struggle for immediate and democratic demands as ends in themselves. This doesn’t mean that they are unimportant in their own right; they are. But this is not their only or even their primary importance. Revolutionaries try to use struggles for immediate and democratic demands to advance the consciousness and organization of the masses as one part of the broader struggle for socialism. This also differs from the attitude of ultraleft currents, which tend to disdain any struggles which aren’t radical enough for their taste.
One good illustration of the interaction of the three kinds of demands which comes from the Death Agony of Capitalism document itself is the way it treats the trade union movement and the economic struggles of the working class. It presents a series of ideas, which start from the simple strengthening and defense of the unions and their struggles.
From there it discusses the obvious need to broaden out such struggles in order to gain more power, and of the need for factory committees to wry out a particular battle in a more militant and all-encompassing fashion. From a discussion of the difficulties that will arise in the course of the activity of the factory committee we move on to the need to open the books – to provide that committee with the knowledge it needs to help suggest solutions to the problems faced by the workers it represents.
Democracy and Socialism: A Solidarity Viewpoint
Throughout the entire 20th century some socialists have continued to stand for both revolution and democracy. Solidarity considers itself to be part of that tradition. We believe that if socialism is going to represent the genuine interests of the majority of people then that majority must play an active role in the process of government.
Socialist democracy needs to include free speech, free assembly, and other rights presently set forth in the U.S. Constitution. But it must also go beyond these things to create a system where every individual feels that they truly exercise a share of power. Until we can actually set up such a society it is impossible to say precisely what it will look like. Some trial and error will inevitably be involved.
But we can certainly project that socialist democracy will involve broad popular assemblies at the workplace and community level. And it will have to break the monopoly of the mass media that is presently enjoyed by the wealthy.
By taking these and similar measures a revolution that overturns capitalism can bring us back to a mass understanding that genuine socialism will mean a new flowering of democracy unlike anything the world has ever seen before.
What does the felling of the monument mean?
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung via gedavis April 17, 2003
15 Let's not kid ourselves: America's normative authority lies shattered.
16 Neither of the two conditions for a legally justifiable use of military force was fulfilled: neither the situation of self-defense against an actual or imminent attack, nor an authorized decision by the Security Council in accordance with Chapter VII of the UN Charter.
17 Neither Resolution 1441 nor one of the seventeen preceding and ('used-up') Iraq resolutions could count as sufficient authorization. Something which the alliance of the war-willing confirmed performatively, for that matter, by first of all seeking a 'second' resolution, and then withdrawing it when it became clear that they would not be able to count even on the 'moral' majority of the non-veto members.
18 Finally the whole procedure was turned into a farce by the President of the United States declaring repeatedly that he would act, if necessary, without a mandate of the Security Council.
19 In the light of the Bush Doctrine, the military build-up in the Gulf lacked from the outset the character of a mere threat. This would have presupposed the avertibility of the threatened sanctions.
20 The comparison with the intervention in Kosovo also offers no exoneration. It is true that an authorization by the Security Council in this case was not reached either. But the retrospectively obtained legitimation could be based upon three circumstances: on the prevention - as it seemed at the time - of an ethnic cleansing in the process of taking place, on the imperative - covered by international law - of emergency assistance holding erga omnes for this case, as well as the incontrovertibly democratic and constitutional character of all the member states of the ad hoc military alliance.
21 Today the normative controversy is dividing the West itself....
34 Moral feelings can lead one astray, since they stick to individual scenes, to specific images. There's no way of avoiding the question of the justification of the war in general. The decisive controversy revolves around the question whether justification in the light of international law can and should be replaced by the unilateral global politics of a self-empowering hegemon.
35 The empirical objections to the feasibility of the American vision boil down to the way world society has become too complex for it still to be steerable from some central point, based on a politics of military force. The fear of terrorism experienced by the technically highly-armed superpower seems to express the Cartesian fear of a subject seeking to turn itself and the world around it into an object, in order to bring everything under control. It is a politics which, in the horizontally connected media of the market and of communication, begins to fall behind, regressing to the original Hobbesian primordiality of a hierarchical security system. A nation which reduces all options to the dumb alternatives of war and peace runs up against the limits of its own organizational powers and resources. It also leads the negotiation with competing powers and foreign cultures in false channels and pushes the coordination costs to dizzying heights.
36 Even if this hegemonic unilateralism were realizable it would still have side-effects which would, by its own criteria, be morally undesirable. The more that political power manifests itself in the dimensions of military, secret service and police, the more does it undermine itself - the politics of a globally operating civilizing power - by endangering its own mission of improving the world according to liberal ideas.
37 In the United States itself, the permanent regime of a "War President" is already undermining the foundations of the rule of law. Quite apart from the practiced or tolerated torture methods beyond its borders, the war regime is not only denying the prisoners of Guantnamo Bay the legal rights conferred on them by the Geneva Convention. It confers powers on the security services which encroach on the constitutional rights of its own citizens....
44 It was American Pragmatism itself which made insight into that which was good and just to all parties concerned dependent upon a reciprocal acceptance of mutual perspectives.
45 The reason upon which modern rational law is based is not expressed in the validity of universal 'values' capable of being owned, exported, and distributed globally. 'Values' - including those for which one could expect global recognition - don't hang in the air; they become binding only in the normative order and practices of specific cultural forms of life.
46 When in Nasiriya thousands of Shiites demonstrate against Saddam and the American occupation, they bring to expression that non-Western cultures must appropriate the universalistic content of human rights from within their own resources and within an interpretation which can make a convincing connection to local experiences and interests.
47 For that reason, the multilateral formulation of a common purpose is not one option amongst others - especially not in international relations.
48 In its self-chosen isolation, even the good hegemon (presuming for itself trusteeship in the name of the common good) has no way of knowing whether the actions it claims to be in the interests of others is indeed equally good for all.
49 There is no meaningful alternative to the further cosmopolitan development of an international system of law in which the voices of all concerned are given an equal and reciprocal hearing....