LIVING FOR CHANGE
ANOTHER U.S. IS POSSIBLE
By Grace Lee Boggs
Michigan Citizen, May 6-12, 2007
On June 27 /fontfamily>thousands of social justice activists from all over the country will gather at the first U.S. Social Forum (USSF) in Atlanta, Ga.
This gathering, like other regional, national and international Social Forums in the last six years, was inspired by the first “Another World is Possible” World Social Forum in Puerto Alegre, Brazil, in 2001. Since that 2001 gathering of about 20,000, much larger gatherings have been held, in Puerto Alegre (2002, 2003, 2005) and in Mumbai, India (2004), Caracas, Venezuela (2006), Nairobi, Kenya (2007).
European Social Forums have also been convened in Athens, London and Paris; and regional U.S. Social Forums in the Midwest, in Boston, and in Durham, N.C.
Like other Social Forums, the June 27-July 1 USSF will include hundreds of workshops, music, drama, parades and plenary sessions. You can get a sense of the excitement and energy at these forums from a 20 minute video produced by Moving Images/www.movingimages.org/
I wish I could attend but June is turning out to be a very busy month. From June 22-24 t/fontfamily>he 9th annual Allied Media Conference, organized by a team of activists including the Detroit Summer Collective, takes place at Wayne State University. This year's theme is developing participatory media that empowers the producer and receiver, transformative media that breaks silence and builds movements. I have agreed to take part in three sessions.
Detroit-City of Hope is also organizing an event to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the 1967 Rebellion, and a ”Raise the Roof” party is being planned to celebrate my 92nd birthday by raising the money to repair the Boggs Center roof.
/x-tad-smaller>If I went to Atlanta, I’d make sure to connect with YES magazine and the Positive Futures Network (PFN) staff. They host several sessions, including one with David Korten, author of “The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community.”
/fontfamily>I also recommend the “Another Politics Is Possible: Living the Vision from Below and to the Left." /color>panel being convened by Eric Tang, a New York-based Asian American organizer.
In his invitation to me to be on this panel, Eric writes that it “will focus on models of organizing and movement building that work off the premise that we must learn how to once again live the vision, to adopt a ‘revolution of values’ (as you've noted vis-a-vis MLK) that re-grounds our politics in a person-oriented society. Interestingly, there is a new generation of organizers promoting these very ideas in labor and community organizing. Your participation on the panel would certainly shed some light on how such ideas have long been discussed in the US social justice movement. “
These Social Forums provide great opportunities for activists to imagine, project and struggle for serious alternatives to global capitalism. In an important little book Immanuel Wallerstein calls this “Utopistics” as contrasted with Utopias. Utopias, he says, tend to breed illusions and therefore inevitably disillusion. But Utopistics involves the
“sober, rational and realistic evaluations of human social systems, the constraints on what they can be and the zones open to human creativity.”
The first thing we need for Utopistics is to think holistically, consciously reuniting
Science, Politics and Morality, and including a sense of social timing. We need to heal the philosophic split between the True and the Good, between the Technical and the Ethical, which, beginning with Cartesian rationalism in the 17th century, elevated scientists into our intellectual masters and gave capitalism free rein with no concern for the human and environmental destruction inherent in limitless expansion.
Now that capitalism’s chickens are coming home to roost, we need to create a vision of an alternative to capitalism so that we can begin moving towards it, recognizing that there is no guarantee of victory but taking maximum advantage of the “free will factor” in a period of transition.
/color>THINKING FOR OURSELVES
By Shea Howell
Michigan Citizen, May 6-12-2007
President Bush and Prime Minister Nouri al Maliki cast similar shadows. Both men, while official heads of state, find themselves presiding over ever-decreasing spheres of influence. Public support for Bush continues to erode. No one pretends that Maliki has widespread Iraqi support. He does not even command much of the “green zone” in Baghdad. Neither has improved the safety or well-being of the people they purportedly serve.
Both men share the peculiar blindness of power that fosters the exercise of petty authority. The Bush administration has a long history of placing ideology above competence in its appointments. The current scandal over the firing of U.S. attorneys is part of an unmistakable pattern in the Bush administration to use political power to distort the ordinary and essential functions of good government. Early this week Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy summed up the sorry episode, saying, “The mass firing of U.S. attorneys appeared to be a part of a systematic scheme to inject political influence into the hiring and firing decisions of key Justice employees.”
Such politically-motivated firings seem to have found their way to Baghdad. Since early March Prime Minister Maliki has been purging the military. He has ordered the arrest and removal of senior Iraqi army and national police officers who seem to be doing their job. At least 16 army and national police commanders have been fired, detained or pressured to resign. While some may have been fired for legitimate reasons, there is widespread evidence that the real problem was their success against the Mahdi Army, the most powerful of the Shiite militia. “Their only crimes or offenses were that they were successful,” said Brig. Gen Dana J. H. Pittard, commanding general of the Iraq Assistance Group. He concluded, “I’m tired of seeing good Iraqi officers having to look over their shoulders when they’re trying to do the right thing.”
Maliki depends on the Shiite militia for what little power he has. These forces, more than the official army, are the primary source of his power. The militias are not only a source of violence but often the sole source of security on the streets.
Much less reported is the dependence by the Bush administration on a similar shadow army. Called private military contractors, rather than militia, these forces now constitute the second largest force in Iraq.. While many are providing logistical support activities such as laundry, food, fuel and mail, many are also directly engaged in military and combat activities.
These activities go on outside of any oversight or control. Their incentive is to keep the war going, not to stop it. It is estimated that $4 billion has been spent so far on armed security companies like Blackwater and that tens of billions has been spent on logistical support, going to companies like KRB and Fluor. Representative Jan Schakowsky of the House Intelligence committee believes that up to 40 cents of every dollar spent on this war has gone to war contractors.
This shadow army has provided the cover to keep the real costs of this war from the public. It has nearly doubled the size of the U.S. occupation, sustained at least 770 deaths and nearly 8,000 injuries. None of this is reported in official accounts of the costs of the war.
Equally important, these forces operate without any accountability to anyone.
Both Bush and Maliki are depending on forces outside of official armies for their power. Our press tends to focus on the face of the Shiite militia, while allowing U.S. contractors to continue to make huge fortunes from death in the shadows./fontfamily>