by Julian Ichim
On May 15th, people gathered at the Queen St. Commons to participate in a popular education workshop on Venezuela.
The workshop started with Santiago Escobar of the Popular Front Hugo Chavez Network discussing the history of Venezuela’s struggle against imperialism. He then went on to discuss the role of corporate media in working to undermine the people’s struggle, and the role of people’s media as an alternative to inform people of the realities of Venezuela.
He also talked about the current attempts by the United States and Canada to undermine the election of President Maduro of the Partido Socialista Unido de Venezuela by supporting attempts by the opposition to destabilize the country. He ended his presentation by discussing the role of people’s media in giving the people of Venezuela means to inform themselves and mobilize in defense of the revolution.
The workshop ended with people creating a magazine in support of Venezuela and against imperialism and corporate media. We divided into groups and each created several pages. The event was informative and fun and we all agreed we would like to do more popular media and support to support Venezuela.
by Binnadang Migrante Canada
The Cordillera Day event is a uniting activity held in our home country of the Philippines and here overseas. In these yearly celebrations, it would serve us well to look back in time to where we came from, the difficult paths that we had to go through in order to be where we are today.
Cordillera Day is on its 29th year of celebration in our native land (the Cordillera region of the Philippines) and its 5th year here in Toronto. On May 4, we will be guided by the theme “Strengthen unity in the indigenous people’s struggle for self determination. Uphold the rights and welfare of migrants and families. Support the politics of change.”
Binnadang – Migrante is spearheading the celebration. We are an organization of indigenous migrants to Canada that is advocating for our rights as migrants and actively engaging in the struggle of the indigenous peoples in the Cordillera for self-determination and for the Filipino peoples’ struggles for genuine freedom and democracy.
Cordillera day was born out of the struggle of the Cordillerans. It provides us a venue to give tribute to our martyrs who courageously defended and protected our indigenous people’s rights for our land, life, honor, rich culture, and vast resources of the Cordillera region in the Philippines. Ama Macling Dulag, a respected tribal chieftain, helped unify tribes in the Northern Cordilleras from the late 70’s to early 80’s to resist the construction of the World Bank–funded Chico River Basin Hydroelectric Dams. On April 24, 1980, Dulag was brutally killed by the Philippine military. Up to now, no justice has been served for his murder.
Today, we reflect, learn, derive inspiration and gain further guidance from our Cordilleran martyrs’ perseverance in various struggles throughout the past decades. As migrant workers, we have been forced to leave our families and live under exploitative and oppressive conditions abroad by the very same reasons why Ama Macling struggled before and why many of our people are still struggling now.
The land, life and livelihood of the Cordillerans are under attack! Across the region, the adverse effects of large scale mining have resulted in irreparable damage to the natural environment and local agriculture, the economic and even physical displacement of indigenous communities, and the aggravation of climate change impacts. Human rights are trampled through militarization, employment of union busters, private armies and pseudo-unionists who do not really serve the interest of the people.
The problem of development aggression and security continue to intensify the worsening phenomenon of forced migration. Most of the Cordillerans live on the graces of our fertile lands. But the richest of our lands are claimed by foreign capitalists and local elites. Thus many of us were left with no choice but to migrate overseas, a condition that makes us vulnerable to different forms of exploitation.
The indigenous people together with the other toiling masses of the society are left with no recourse but to resist. We want to finally go home to a country where there is an opportunity for a decent life, where Cordillerans are the ones who benefit from the riches of Cordillera, where our culture is respected and where the Filipino people are free and our society is truly just.
by Noaman G. Ali
“I just want to help children,” a voice called out in English from a clothing store in Thamel, a tourist area of Kathmandu, Nepal’s capital city.
I saw a young white woman walking out of the store, and my curiosity got the better of me. “You want to help children?” I called out.
It was a dark, cold January evening and the narrow streets were lit largely from stores which had no front walls and the signs that hung over them. The woman stopped and turned around.
“Yeah. There are these street girls—and not the glue-sniffing kind—they’re really nice street girls, and they don’t have shoes or socks so I want to buy them socks. That’s a nice thing to do, isn’t it?” she seemed to be pleading.
“I guess,” I said. “But you know there are other ways of helping people here?”
“Like what?” she asked.
“You know about the revolution going on here, don’t you?”
“No. What revolution are you talking about?”
“The communist revolution,” I said, referring to the Maoist movement that has dominated the country’s politics for the better part of the last decade.
“Communism? Isn’t that bad?”
“Why is it bad?”
“Because communists want to take things over and run things and tell people what to do,” she said with conviction.
I tried to explain a bit of what the Maoist communists in Nepal were about, but she wasn’t convinced.
“I don’t know about all of that,” she said. “I’m only here for one more day, and I want to do something nice.”
A few days later, in the small city of Birendranagar in the western district of Surkhet, I was squatting on my haunches watching as barefoot men, women, and children sat next to mounds of gravel and smashed at stones with hammers.
Bits of stone flew in all directions and kept hitting me in the eyes. It took me awhile to realize that these people were producing the gravel.
A toddler wearing a black shirt and no pants—never mind shoes—was hitting at a rock with a hammer as a playtime activity, imitating the older children and adults around.
Other youth, in their teens and early twenties, were collecting large stones and rocks and arranging them in blocks to build a bridge.
The sun beat down on our backs as I asked Veer Bahadur, a 49-year old stone-breaker with dusty, bandaged thumbs, to tell me about his life.
His 35-year old wife, Jitmaya Nepali spoke more. We communicated through a translator, a small-business owner who was showing me around the city.
They explained that they were from the Thapa, a caste of historically-oppressed indigenous (janjati) peoples. Completely landless, they were living in a hut thrown up on some land near the construction of the bridge. They had four children. Only the youngest was in school.
I asked about untouchability, the political, economic, and cultural system by which people from upper castes would refuse to touch people from the lowest of castes, make them do the worst of jobs, and generally treat them with disrespect and contempt.
“There used to be a lot of that,” Jitmaya said. “But there’s not so much of that now.”
“Why is that?” I asked.
“The Maoists,” she said.
In the course of a ten-year long People’s War launched in 1996, during which they took control of some 80-percent of the countryside, the Maoists struggled against untouchability and for the rights of oppressed castes and nationalities, women, small businesses and, of course, workers and peasants.
Before the People’s War, Jitmaya explained, she used to do the same work, but earned much less than she does now. “There’s more earning now for us to eat.”
When it came to politics, though, Jitmaya asserted that whoever won the elections, it just didn’t do much for her and people like her.
Still, she noted, “The Maoists are all right. Congress and UML only look out for themselves and for the rich. The Maoists at least look at and talk about the wretched and the poor.”
The Nepali Congress and the Communist Party of Nepal (United Marxist-Leninist), or UML, were the largest parties in Nepal before the Maoists came onto the scene. Although they have opposed the attempts by Nepal’s monarchy to take total control, they have also leaned heavily on the highly oppressive semi-feudal landlords and sections of the bureaucracy to support them. The two parties are also often seen as being very close to India, whose control and influence is considered by many to block Nepal’s prospects for economic and political development.
Congress and UML’s reluctance to support the economic and cultural reforms needed to establish a true democracy played into support for the Maoists in the course of the People’s War. But when the monarchy took total control of the country in the early 2000s, the Maoists ended the War and joined hands with Congress and UML in a People’s Movement that decisively abolished the monarchy.
Surprising everybody, perhaps including themselves, the Maoists emerged as the largest party in the Constituent Assembly elections held in 2008. But the following years brought little political stability, as different parties cycled through Prime Ministerships. No administration could last very long—leading to intense dissatisfaction throughout the country.
“What’s politics got to do with us? Why should we go after politics? What will the Maoists do for us?” Balbahadur Viswakarma said when I asked him about his views on politics and the Maoists.
A couple of hours away from Birendranagar, in the “village development committee” of Maintada, Balbahadur is a labourer from the Dalit caste of “untouchables.” 50-years old, Balbahadur was squatting on a pile of rocks, which he was putting together to construct a home, when I went up to speak to him in Hindi.
“I have a little bit of land that can sustain my family for six months,” he explained. “The rest of the time I do this kind of work.”
His view on politics appeared thoroughly pragmatic. “We need development, we need jobs. We’ll vote for whoever gives us bread and livelihoods. The land we live on is not registered in our names, we’ll vote for whoever gets it registered.”
But his words further on betrayed some appreciation for the Maoists’ struggle.
“More people have gotten livelihoods as a result of the People’s War. Before the War, only the children of rich people got jobs and income. Those people who were already big leaders, or owned businesses, or had a lot of land.
“There was also a lot of untouchability and discrimination, but it was reduced as a result of the People’s War. Little people got the opportunity to speak out.”
Still, Balbahadur argued that the People’s War was not a success because the Constituent Assembly had proven incapable of producing a constitution.
Not only that, “Congress and UML are parties of the rich. They won’t do anything for the poor. Revolution is necessary. Things change so fast, but workers and peasants still need jobs, electricity, an end to load-shedding, irrigation. But not in this violent way. So many people died, there was so much loss, it’s not right.”
What is it about these Maoists that people could express, at once, their appreciation for their actions and skepticism about their intentions?
How are Maoists handling their departure from revolutionary politics and entry into mainstream politics?
And just who are these Maoists, who risked life and limb in a ten-year long People’s War against the police and army of Nepal?
Bimila Hamal was suffering from motion sickness and so she spent most of the bus ride to Surkhet half-asleep—on top of me.
Surkhet district is in the western part of Nepal, some fifteen hours west of Kathmandu by bus. The ride is bumpy and winds its way along precipitous mountain paths.
The 26-year old kept apologizing about giving me the trouble, and I sat there awkwardly trying to make sure she didn’t fly out of the seat every time the bus hit a bump, which was often. My head hit the coaster above me several times.
A screen at the front of the bus played a Nepali film, and Bimila was totally alert for one of the songs, explaining that she really liked it. From time to time her phone would go off to the tune of a sweet and sugary Hindi song.
An hour or two away from Birendranagar, as the daylight came up, the usually cheery Bimila turned sombre and pointed out a national park in the lush greenery of the hills and valleys below.
“There are elephants and tigers in this park,” she explained. “During the People’s War, we would have to march through these jungles, mostly at night.”
“Weren’t you afraid?” I asked.
“No. The animals were afraid of us,” she said. “We were afraid of the police.”
Bimila was part of a Maoist artists’ troupe. She joined the Maoists when she was 13-years old, in the middle of the People’s War. Completely banned, the Maoists were totally underground.
Her nom de guerre is Sarala. It means simple.
“We would often walk at night and I was so tired that I would fall asleep while walking! Then someone behind me would bump into me and ask, what happened?”
I first met Bimila in Kathmandu, when delegates and observers were taking a break from the Seventh National Congress of the Communist Party of Nepal – Maoist, held in mid-January. I asked her then about how and why she joined up with the Maoists.
Bimila is from a family of small peasants—poor, but not too poor. Her parents supported the Maoists and their ideology of equality and development. Her father was sometimes jailed, and to avoid police he was often not at home.
Bimila’s mother and her daughters faced the brunt of police repression. That just fueled even more resentment against the state and underscored the Maoists’ point that there could be no liberation under the existing political order.
“There was a lot of persecution. The police would harass us. They beat my mother because we would occasionally feed and house Maoist activists. The police slapped me around. My mother told me to go fight.”
So Bimila became a whole-timer (full-time activist) with the Maoists. Because she was young she wasn’t assigned to fighting. Instead, she joined in with the artists, and was trained in dancing. She was also trained in political and social science, public speaking and how to conduct mass work.
“There was so much injustice and persecution, I felt I had to go fight for liberation.”
For several years, Bimila explained, she and her comrades spent a lot of time walking from village to village, from district to district, from region to region, spreading the Maoist message through song, dance and theatre. “I’ve visited much of Nepal, on foot. People really loved us everywhere we went.”
The Maoists and communities that supported them were the frequent target of state repression, so even artists were trained in handling weaponry for self-defense, as well as in first aid.
Many of Bimila’s friends died in the People’s War, but she also remembered it fondly as a time of great camaraderie and solidarity. Bimila got married during the People’s War, and now has a five-year old son—named Soviet.
I bumped into Bimila a couple more times over the next few days, and when I learned that she was going to Surkhet with another comrade from the All Nepal Women’s Association (Revolutionary) (ANWA(R)), I asked if I could come along. That got me on the 15-hour bus ride to the western part of Nepal.
“Sometimes this peace seems like a dream,” Bimila told me. “In those years, I could never imagine that I’d be taking a bus on official roads to visit friends across the country.”
At one point in Surkhet, Bimila showed me two videos of herself dancing. One was filmed in one of the Maoists’ Base Areas during the People’s War. Bimila dances in a circle with other men and women in western Nepali style to a deuda, a man and a woman competing in singing verses—here, revolutionary verses. But in the other video, she dances by herself to a popular Bollywood song, at a picnic in peacetime.
After the War, Bimila resumed her education and is now enrolled in a B.Ed. program. I got the sense she’d like to be some kind of a performer. But, she noted, her husband encouraged her to continue as a leader instead.
Like so many others, Bimila is torn between the need to complete the revolution and the comforts of peace—“a morbid peace” because the efforts and sacrifices of the People’s War did not lead to the outcomes people fought for: No constitution, no government of the workers and peasants, no accelerated development toward equality.
Instead, the deep practices of the state came back, even when the government was led by Maoists. Politicians went back to the kinds of wheeling and dealing, corruption and scandals, and subordination to Indian expansionism that had led to the People’s War in the first place.
It seemed certain that the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) (or UCPN(Maoist)) had abandoned its program of revolution. When those who were committed to the goal of revolution decided to split and to form the Communist Party of Nepal – Maoist (or CPN-Maoist, also called the Dash Maoists for simplicity’s sake) in 2012, Bimila sided with the revolutionaries.
Now Bimila is a regional bureau member of the Dash Maoists, a central committee member of the All Nepal Women’s Association (Revolutionary) and its district in-charge in Surkhet.
She often deals with cases of polygamy, violence against women, sexual harassment and alcoholism—these things go together all over Nepal—organizing ANWA(R) activists to empower women and to bring men around.
“First we try to persuade them, but if they don’t behave then we may slap them around a bit….” She laughed, somewhat apologetically, breaking out a brilliant smile, “Because we have to liberate women!”
Well, all right.
There was some mischief in Kanta Poudel’s eyes.
In Kothikada, on a peak overlooking the Surkhet Valley in which Birendranagar is located, the 30-year old schoolteacher was telling me about the situation of women in her region.
We weren’t alone. We were surrounded by over a dozen men and women listening to our conversation.
“There was violence against women in general and domestic violence as well. Our voices weren’t heard, many times we literally couldn’t even speak,” she explained.
Many of the women nodded or muttered in agreement. The men looked on.
“All we were good for was cooking food and cutting grass. We had no rights to property—in law, yes, but not in reality. Things have gotten better. They are not as good as they should be, but they have gotten better.”
“Why?” I asked.
“Because of democracy and peace. There has been education and general social change. Things change with time.”
“Okay,” I said. “But what about struggle?”
“Yes,” and here the twinkle in her eyes was betrayed by the slight, sly smile on her face. “Because of struggle—people’s struggle.”
Among the spectators was Kanta’s father, 72-year old Tikaram Devkota, a small peasant from an upper caste, a committed monarchist and an opponent of the Maoists.
Some ways down from Kothikada in Chhera, I met with 33-year old Balkrishna Bandhari, who owned a small roadside shop from which he sold food (noodles, rice and dal, so on) and basic condiments.
“Politics in Nepal is golmaal [a circular mess],” he said, as the sun settled and we sat around a fire. “What’s happening is bad and dirty. Politicians have no principles. They’re treacherous. And not just any one leader, all leaders are like this. There’s no constitution, no rule of law, no stability. Foreign companies won’t invest because of the war and so there are no jobs.”
“Isn’t foreign investment a problem?” I asked.
“Regulate it! But we need it. We don’t want it like British companies did to India, but we need jobs.”
I asked him what he thought of the parties. “I’m not with any party. I haven’t voted for anyone. There’s UML and Congress and the Maoists and the khaoists”—meaning ‘eaters’—“but I am not with anyone.”
I heard that kind of skepticism in politics from dozens of people all over Nepal.
“I am definitely not with the Maoists, although I had faith in the person of Baburam Bhattarai.”
Baburam Bhattarai is a senior leader of the UCPN(Maoist), and an accomplished academic and intellectual. He was finance minister from 2008 to 2009, and won widespread admiration for his performance, particularly by pressuring the bureaucracy to collect more taxes than had ever been collected by any government before. His administration also managed to control prices of petrol and other essentials.
But the first Maoist administration under the prime ministership of UCPN(Maoist) top leader Prachanda (Pushpa Kamal Dahal) was forced to leave government in a struggle with the army and other parties in 2009. Bhattarai then became prime minister in 2011, but instead of delivering on a constitution, he dissolved the Constituent Assembly in May 2012. To make things worse, inflation kept rising as joblessness increased.
Meanwhile, the struggle inside the party between revolutionaries and reformists continued.
In the course of the People’s War, Maoists had set up Base Areas, where the government forces could not enter, and in which they developed organs of people’s power from below. These included people’s councils for governance and administration, people’s courts, people’s micro-industries (including a people’s micro-hydroelectric project), and much more.
Even where the Maoists were not in full control, they had mobile people’s councils and mobile people’s courts, delivering quick dispute resolution rather than having people travel far to district courts. In many areas they took over land from large landowners and redistributed it to poor peasants. It was part of what made them so popular.
But upon ending the War in 2006 and entering the peace process, the opposition set conditions upon them to reverse the land reforms and to dismantle structures of people’s power. Prachanda and Bhattarai accepted this condition, saying they could achieve the revolution through other means. Though the revolutionaries in the party were skeptical, they went along with it.
But six years later, the struggle sharpened, especially after the dissolution of the Constituent Assembly. The Maoists had suspended the revolutionary process so that they could play the game of parliamentary politics, only to find that they couldn’t play it that effectively. In fact, it seemed like Prachanda and Bhattarai had given in to the logic of the top-down parliamentary process rather than looking to build people’s power from below.
The revolutionaries finally broke in mid-2012, accusing Bhattarai and Prachanda of having no intention of walking down the revolutionary road.
“I used to like Bhattarai,” a small-business owner, who chose to remain anonymous, told me in Birendranagar. “But not anymore. Instead, I support the Dash Maoists,” he said, referring to the faction that had split by its popular name. He was not, however, a member.
I sat across the table from him, talking over dinner in a small hotel. I was having a hard time believing him. “You do know that communists want to take over property and redistribute it?”
“Let them!” he said. “There are people richer than me. Every day, I work from four o’clock in the morning to ten o’clock at night. What for? Eight to ten hours of work is enough But here in Nepal, only a small fraction of the population actually works. Everyone else just eats.”
I was confused. “You mean, most of the people work and a small fraction eat?”
“No. There are a few rich people who live off of exploitation, but go outside, what do you see? You see these youth doing nothing but standing around and playing carrom all day.”
He was right. Just next to the hotel was a dingy, seedy bar-café, with a carrom board outside, around which were half a dozen to a dozen young men. In fact, as I traveled through the countryside for long hours on buses, passing through small villages and towns I saw carrom board after carrom board surrounded by young men. In the city of Kathmandu, in district Nawalprasi in the south and, of course, in Surkhet, I saw it on the ground.
“There’s no electricity so they can’t sit at home watching TV all day. They have no jobs. There’s nothing for them to do but to play carrom, or to go get drunk. They have to live off other people’s money.”
He explained that despite belonging to an upper caste, he came from a poor, landless working-class family. His father worked in other people’s homes. He left Nepal at a young age to study in India but could not complete his university education. So he started working there when he was 18-years old, then in other parts of Southeast Asia, before very recently returning to Nepal. He was now 45-years old.
“I was compelled to go abroad, like so many youth. Our youth have no future in Nepal. They are wasted here. If the communists take my property to create development and jobs for everyone, then I am happy to give it all up!
“I took a loan to start this business, and I make a little bit of a profit that pays it off and feeds my family but everyone should work equally. My prime minister should work as much as I do—and I should work only eight hours.”
So what was his problem with Baburam Bhattarai? By all accounts he was a hard worker, and he was trying to invite foreign investment to the country.
“India’s rulers have always tried to dominate Nepal,” he explained. “India demonstrates friendship, but actually it loots our resources.”
He went on to explain how Nepal has entered into many unequal treaties with India, and that Bhattarai’s government had, in fact, entered into even more unequal relationships like this.
Nepal’s population is some 26 million, whereas India’s is over 1.2 billion. A lot of small business owners and workers flow into Nepal from India—while the reverse also happens. But the major threat appears to be the wholesale exploitation of Nepal’s resources by large Indian companies.
In fact, Bhattarai had signed onto the Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement (BIPPA) with India, which was roundly criticized even by members of the UCPN(Maoist), never mind the Dash Maoists.
Despite having the world’s second-largest potential for hydroelectric generation, Nepal lags far, far behind, with several hours of load-shedding in major cities and practically no electricity in rural areas. Instead of using state power to raise national capital in order to develop the capacities, Bhattarai’s government was continuing to sign over national resources to Indian companies.
“The Karnali River, I mean the river itself, was all but sold to an Indian company,” he explained. “I am not against foreign investment, let them develop the resources and take money—but then they restricted Nepali businesses from doing the same, they have to take permission from the Indian company! Let them take our money, but not our national property.”
In fact, the Dash Maoists have started a company to try and raise the capital necessary to develop the hydropower project and replace the Indian company, demonstrating the potential for Nepalis to form their own alternatives from the ground up.
“Instead of developing our own resources, Bhattarai has continued our dependence on Western powers.” He explained how the World Food Program was being relied upon to get food to remote areas in Nepal.
“What they need is roads, education, agricultural training, and whatever else is necessary to make them self-reliant and to make our country self-reliant. At first, we will be happy to work twelve to fifteen hours, if that’s what it means to stand on our own feet. How long are we supposed to last on handouts? The first day, okay; the second day, okay; but the third day? Who will keep giving us free food? They’ve ruined our habits. We’ve become dependent on others. We need business, we need jobs.”
To him, Bhattarai and Prachanda’s leadership had shown itself to be incapable and steadily more corrupt.
“They’re doing what other politicians have done, eating up our tax. There’s a 13% value-added tax on everything we buy. Where does it go? What are they doing with it? Prachanda and Baburam used to be like us, but now they’re living in palaces. They’re getting cozy with big capitalists who are themselves cozy with and depending on foreign powers.”
He repeated a joke popular among the Dash Maoists, “These are the Dash Maoists, but Baburam and Prachanda are the Cash Maoists.”
“Well, all right,” I said. “But development takes time. It won’t happen in a day even if the Dash Maoists come to power. So how can you blame the ‘Cash Maoists’ for that?”
“Yes, development takes time and will take time. But where is the Cash Maoists’ plan for development? Where is their plan for irrigation in agriculture, for electricity, for industries? There is no constitution now and that’s because those in power never accept demands unless we back them up with force.”
The next morning he took me around the city to meet with the stone-breakers and to see his own homes. He had a modest, solid home in which his sons lived as they studied—one of his sons had quit his studies and, typically, was working abroad—and another home was just a shack, out of which his wife operated a little store selling some biscuits, snacks and tea. Behind the shack was a tiny plot of land on which he wanted to build a solid house.
There were goats tied to slim trees and posts. “We’re raising these goats to sell them. You’ll find just about every middle-class family in Nepal doing three or four things to make ends meet,” he said. “The poorer don’t even have these options.”
He also showed me a couple of large plots of land he said were government owned. “There’s nothing going on here, they lie empty. Do something, anything. Build housing, give people a place to live. Start a factory, give people work to do. People in Nepal want development. Too many of them think it’ll come from shanti [peace], but unfortunately those in power have left us no choice but to get it through kranti [revolution]. I support the Dash Maoists, but ultimately all of these leaders put together won’t set the path. We, the people, are the ones who have to do it.”
“The geography really helped us,” Khagendra Rana said to me, as we stood on the roadside in rural Surkhet, looking at the majestic hills covered magnificently from bottom to top in dark green trees. “We would walk through these jungles on these hillsides.”
At one point as we drove through the hills, he perked up. “This is the spot where we ambushed about a hundred Nepal Army soldiers. There were maybe five of us. We retrieved a lot of weapons that time.”
I wasn’t entirely convinced. “How could five of you ambush a hundred soldiers?”
He explained. “They were in two trucks. We set up an IED on the roadside, that flipped over one of the trucks.” I looked down, it was a dizzying tumble into the lush green brush.
“The rest we scattered from up above.” I looked up. Rocks and trees provided extensive cover.
The 30-year old is a former guerrilla, he used to be a battalion commander in the People’s Liberation Army (PLA). His nom de guerre was Jalan—it refers to a feeling of burning.
Jalan was in India over ten years ago studying to become a medical doctor when the People’s War picked up. He left his studies midway and came back to Nepal to get involved in the struggle.
“We started off by cutting the tails of the landlords’ and government agents’ horses and buffaloes. They would ride around on their horses and people would laugh at them,” he said with a mischievous smile. From there, the youth graduated onto more militant, and then armed activities.
“We had nothing but simple weapons at first. The clothes on our back, a t-shirt and a pair of pants. I didn’t even have slippers when I carried out that ambush. Afterward we went back to command and the villagers celebrated and got us flip-flops. I remember how proudly I received those flip-flops that day.”
At some point, we talked about courtship and marriage during the People’s War.
“During the People’s War, if you met someone you liked, you had to get the permission of your party committee to court them,” Jalan explained to me. “The courtship period had to be for one or two years, so that you could get to know your potential partner properly.
“Sometimes a party committee might suggest it was time for you to get married. That’s what happened to me. I wasn’t even thinking about it, but party leaders said I should start thinking about marriage, and even encouraged a partner for me.”
The party, in some ways, had come to replace the role of parents and families. It was the party that would approve and conduct marriages. “But it wasn’t to the kind of arranged marriage where people would be forced to marry.”
Bimila had told me how worried people would be for their partners. She married someone from the PLA, and because their assignments were so different—he, like Jalan, a roving guerrilla, and she a roving artist—she would often have no news of her husband for months on end.
They would meet at party functions, like secret rallies or meetings, or could arrange to meet if they found out their assignments were close-by.
The emotional toll of these fragmented relationships was heavy as well.
“I met my wife twice in two years before I got married to her; and I met her twice in the three years after we got married,” Jalan said. “When we would part, there was no guarantee that we would return.”
Over 15,000 people were killed or disappeared during the People’s War, mostly by government forces (though the Maoists seem to count both party and government combatants as martyrs).
“Once I led a mission of forty-seven men near Pokhara. Only seven returned. Thirteen were arrested. The rest died.”
Pokhara is the country’s second-largest city. The arrested were taken there.
“I myself was arrested,” Jalan said to me. “I still can’t believe how I escaped alive. I was surrounded on all sides by cops, but I broke free and lashed out. I injured seven of them. I jumped on a motorbike and got out of there. It was like a miracle.
“In the main city of Pokhara, I blended into the crowds and got out of there.”
“We were fighting for world revolution,” he sighed.
Bimila once said that her unit was told that after they liberated Nepal, they would go and help liberate people in other countries.
“We were told that, too,” Jalan said. “We were going to help liberate oppressed and exploited people around the world.”
But then, without the completion of the revolution, Maoist leaders completely disbanded the PLA. In 2011, Prachanda and Bhattarai signed a Seven-Point Agreement with opposition parties to effectively liquidate the PLA. A few thousand former guerrillas could opt to join the Nepal Army while others would be given compensation packages ranging from 500,000 to 800,000 rupees.
“In my cantonment, about half of us just walked out—we were about 1,500. We went to the main square in Birendranagar and burned the Seven-Point Agreement. I could have opted to become a major in the Nepal Army. I would have been getting training right now and a nice salary.
“But I fought for revolution. We gave up so much for the revolution, and in the end our leaders gave up the revolution. It was nothing less than a betrayal of the revolution.
“It was wrong of the party to turn Prachanda into a god-like figure. It was wrong for the now-leaders of the Dash Maoists to not tell us sooner about the contradictions in the united party.
“After the PLA was demobilized into cantonments, we’d get a monthly stipend of 3,000 rupees, and many of us would give 1,000 rupees back to the party in Prachanda’s name.
“During the War and after, we used to think that death was inevitable, but hoped it would happen only after seeing Prachanda’s face.”
The sense of betrayal runs deep among thousands of former guerrillas, as does the sense of loyalty to Prachanda. A sizeable portion of the former PLA broke with the UCPN(Maoist) and went over to the Dash Maoists, looking to complete the revolution. Many remained with the main party out of a sense of loyalty.
“There are honest PLA even in the Prachanda faction,” Jalan said. “One former commander burned his uniform rather than hand it over to the Nepal Army. He also refused to hand over his arms to the Army, depositing them directly with Prachanda instead.”
A third section simply took the compensation and abandoned both.
A former guerrilla couple I met at the Kohalpur bus stop on my way to Surkhet had used the compensation they received to start a small roadside café serving passengers who got off from buses for fifteen minutes. The wife sat nursing a baby, and the husband spoke to me as he prepared tea.
“We don’t have faith in either the UCPN(Maoist) nor the Dash Maoists. Let them earn our faith now. And if they want to revive the struggle then let it be in the streets. We’re done with guns.”
There was a tiredness etched onto the faces of even those former guerrillas who hadn’t abandoned the idea of eventually returning to arms.
Jalan showed me the river and the bridge that used to separate a Base Area from a “red zone” village, an area that was under Maoist influence but still very accessible to the government due to the main road.
The village was built on a hill that sloped down to the river. As we returned from the bridge and climbed up the slope toward the main road, the dashing Maoist was as out of breath as I was.
“I used to run daily when we were in the cantonments, but since then, not so much,” he said somewhat sheepishly.
After the end of the War, many of the guerillas had turned to civilian pursuits, even if they were in the cantonments. Many took up their studies again. Jalan had completed his B.Ed. and planned on getting his M.Ed. and eventually his PhD.
He had a daughter to look after now as well.
I bumped into some members of the UCPN(Maoist) at a hotel restaurant in Surkhet, while I was with Dash Maoist members. We sat at two tables next to each other, eating lunch.
Getting to the heart of the split between the UCPN(Maoist) and the CPN-Maoist means looking past the confusing jumble of alphabet that their names represent and looking at the subtlety of their different theoretical positions. I’m going to try and do that in this section, bear with me.
Narbahadur Bista, an elected member of the former Constituent Assembly and a regional committee member of the UCPN(Maoist), began commenting on the size of the Dash Maoists’ recently elected central committee.
The central committee is a representative body elected from delegates sent to a communist party’s general congress. The Dash Maoists had elected 51 central committee members at their congress. Although the UCPN(Maoist) was yet to hold its congress, its delegates would end up electing 99 and leaving it up to the provisional central committee to select an additional 55 or so.
Basically, Bista was saying that his central committee was bigger than Bimila’s. Bimila was responding that it wasn’t size, but what you did with the central committee that mattered.
In classic Maoist theory, the goal of a revolution in a “semi-colonial, semi-feudal” country is to rally the popular, democratic class forces—workers, peasants, middle-classes, and nationalist business classes—into a United Front, but under the leadership of the workers and peasants.
The United Front has to defeat imperialism and feudalism, both the actual representatives and armies of these forces, and the political economic system they embody. This means that the revolution must redistribute lands to producing peasants and then begin collectivizing farms to achieve economies of scale and production, and also must promote then appropriate the resources of the capitalists, in order to build the infrastructure necessary for a socialist society.
This, in a nutshell, is the theory of the New Democratic Revolution—a continuous but prolonged move from an underdeveloped economy to a socialist society.
In theory, a revolutionary party has to be tightly disciplined if it’s going to defeat the organization of the ruling classes—that is, the imperialists, the feudal classes, and the capitalists who are allied to them rather than to the nation.
So during the People’s War in Nepal, the Maoists had a very tight, highly disciplined underground party, even though it was vast and commanded the support of millions of people organized into all kinds of mass associations and unions.
Adding many people to the Central Committee makes more sense when the party comes to power after a revolution. But here, the UCPN(Maoist) was doing that before the completion of the New Democratic Revolution, meaning it was building A kind of a mass party more geared toward parliamentary elections.
That meant wheeling and dealing to bring a lot of people with vastly different theoretical and ideological positions into the same party. It probably couldn’t be focused in the same way on revolution any more.
It wasn’t all that simple for the Dash Maoists, either, given their broad membership of 160,000 or so. But they were trying. So did that mean that the UCPN(Maoist) was abandoning revolution?
“There’s no truth to that,” said Kamalesh D.C., a journalist and a district committee member of the UCPN(Maoist), who I met along with Bista. The Dash Maoists had left me alone with them.
“Marxism is not dogmatic, it has to be creative and respond to social phenomenon. We can’t apply it here as if this is Russia or China or Vietnam or Peru.”
The Maoists had ended the War because they decided that, although they had occupied most of the countryside, they simply could not penetrate the heavily fortified cities—large and small alike. So the party decided to enter into a peace process to gain access to the cities.
The idea was to launch an insurrection, and something of the sort was attempted in May 2010 but the Maoist leadership called it off after a few days.
“There is no fixed date of insurrection. What we are saying is that we have to use the People’s War and the nineteen-day People’s Movement [that overthrew the monarchy] as the basis to move forward,” Kamalesh said. “We have to preserve and institutionalize the changes, that is, the republic.
“Besides, we now think that peaceful change is possible. Armed bloody revolution is not in the interests of the people. If we hold the state mechanism in our control, then class struggle doesn’t need to take the same form everywhere.”
I asked Kamalesh how what he was saying, about peaceful transition to revolution through parliamentary government, squared with revolution, which was about smashing the old state institutions and their replacement with people’s power. In fact, at that time, the Supreme Court, in alliance with the status quo parties, appeared to be going after Maoists with a vengeance.
“Well, yes, not all state institutions are under our control, but we are in government. And we keep the class struggle going in all these institutions.”
“But why dissolve the organs of people’s power that were developed over the course of the People’s War? Couldn’t they be expanded into a people’s state?” I asked.
“The dissolution of people’s power was a step back. We had to take a step back so that we could take a step forward. We had to agree to the peace process, and that meant we had to agree to these conditions.”
This was one of the cruxes of the disagreement between the Prachanda faction and the Dash Maoists. The Dash Maoists saw the dissolution of institutions of parallel, people’s power as a tremendous mistake. It meant that from now on, the Maoists would have to play the political game by the rules of the existing political order rather than putting forward a politics of oppressed classes from a position of strength.
The point of New Democratic Revolution is that state institutions are under the control of the workers and peasants. But the UCPN(Maoist) appears to have a strictly economic approach to the question.
“New Democratic Revolution means what? It means capitalist revolution. For us to get to New Democratic Revolution we need to achieve economic development first, and we are doing that through the stage of the capitalist revolution.
“People are disappointed because they think that the New Democratic Revolution is complete, but it is not complete. We have to go to the people and tell them that the revolution is not over, we have to finish it. We may eventually need armed revolution to complete the transition, but just now there is no situation of armed revolution. It’s philosophical, we haven’t given it up.”
This is the other crux of the problem. New Democratic Revolution does not wait for the capitalist revolution to happen first. Workers’ and peasants’ control of the state is supposed to be the condition necessary for developing capitalist relations and replacing them with socialist relations.
In effect, it appeared to me that the Prachanda-Bhattarai UCPN(Maoist) position was that Nepal needed to achieve a capitalist revolution before workers’ and peasants’ power could be established, that the transition to socialism could be achieved peacefully and through parliamentary means.
In theoretical terms, this is the complete opposite of the positions that led to a crystallization of Maoism as revolutionary politics in the first place. In fact, the UCPN(Maoist)’s congress later passed precisely this line of capitalist revolution, sidelining the New Democratic Revolution.
What’s more, in my time there, Bhattarai’s focus seemed to be on building or improving roads in certain areas of the country—those likely to attract foreign investment. Prices for essential goods kept increasing and there was little respite for the poor. There appeared to be no effort toward developing and implementing social welfare programs.
In many areas of the country, agricultural land was being sold off not for productive purposes but for real estate development. In Nawalprasi I saw the board of a developer showing how a site was to be divided into plots for homes. Dash Maoists claimed Bhattarai and Prachanda were facilitating such processes.
Even if they weren’t, they didn’t appear to have a plan to stop them, and that might have been a result of their preoccupation with political matters.
But even under non-revolutionary, social democratic developmental theory, the state is supposed to take a more active role in guiding investment, pooling together capital, and making investments itself. It’s domestic investment, not foreign investment, that leads to substantial industrialization and economic development. Agriculture is supposed to be promoted through subsidies and focused planning, not replaced with real estate.
It seemed that not only had Bhattarai gone from being a revolutionary Maoist to a supporter of capitalism, he was doing it in a way that submitted Nepal to policy prescriptions of neo-liberal international financial institutions like the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund! That could only end up benefiting the already-rich, as well as companies in large countries like India and the United States, not the masses of Nepal. Cash Maoists, indeed.
If this is the case, then what was the point of the People’s War and the whole fight for revolution? No wonder so many see it as betrayal.
“We draw a line on the blackboard and we ask, ‘Can you erase this line without rubbing it?’
“They say, ‘No.’
“So we ask them, ‘If you cannot erase this line without struggle, how can you change society without struggle?’
“Then we ask them, ‘If you go on the street by yourself and struggle, can you be successful?’
“They say, ‘No.’
“So we ask them, ‘If you cannot struggle without a collective, then why don’t you join us?’”
Bishal Giri, 23-years old, was explaining to me how he approaches and recruits students to the All-Nepal National Independent Students’ Union (Revolutionary) (in Nepali that mouthful is abbreviated to Akhil Krantikari). He was a member of ANNISU(R)’s Nawalprasi district committee, in the southern plains.
Bishal’s simple exposition reminded me of that Western woman who wanted to help barefooted children in Kathmandu.
Can social change be accomplished without struggle? Can it be restricted to a few charitable or NGO programs? Or does it require mass transformation?
The People’s War may have given a shock to some of the worst aspects of social discrimination against oppressed classes and women. But it doesn’t seem like it changed any of the class structures that made that discrimination so potent.
At the ground level, many people realize this, largely because they find themselves unable to feed their children adequately, or if they can feed them then to educate them, or to get them jobs even if they are educated.
For all the NGOs and charities operating in Nepal, people find themselves all the more pressured every day.
Meanwhile, having mobilized hundreds of thousands of people across the country, and tens of thousands of actual cadres, the Maoists did nothing with their enthusiasm and the political and administrative skills they developed over the course of the People’s War.
The Base Areas were dismantled. People’s power and people’s courts were dissolved. Land reforms were often reversed. Micro-industries and agricultural communes that had developed in the Base Areas, and that could have served as a starting point for a real people’s economy, were all but abandoned.
What’s worse of all is that the passion and movement of the masses was stopped in their tracks.
Cadres at the grassroots of the Maoist party recognized this, just as radicals in the leadership did. But it was primarily members of the artists’ front and the guerrillas—people like Bimila and Jalan—who pushed to have the debates at the top tiers of the party spread throughout its rank and file.
Ultimately, that cleared the ground for the Dash Maoists to break away and form a party seriously committed to revolution. There are two major obstacles they face.
Not only are they up against international powers, other parties that want to maintain social inequality and their own privileges, but they are also going to struggle against their former friends and comrades who were, once upon a time and not so long ago, right there with them fighting for revolution.
They also face the skepticism of the masses whose hopes were brought up when the Maoists first put forward and fought for their program of class, caste, gender and ethnic equality—only to be shattered and brought back to the ground.
The CPN-Maoist’s members know that they have to practically demonstrate that they are not hungry for seats or power, but that they are committed to serving the people and agitating for their needs and rights.
And they plan on doing just that, through agitations for Nepal’s sovereignty and for the rights of the people, and through programs that serve the people and organize their power autonomously from that of the ruling classes.
In the days, weeks and months ahead, they face the task of putting together the pieces of the once mighty struggle of the workers, peasants, women, oppressed castes and nationalities, to revive structures of people’s power, and to complete the revolution.
These artists, these guerillas, these students, these business-owners, these 21st century revolutionaries are not throwbacks to another era of armed struggles and people’s revolution. They fight not only for their own country but with a keen awareness of the fact that the success of their struggle can have reverberations around the world.
Where, in Libya, Syria, Egypt and all of these other places, people’s struggles seem to be heading to no popular and democratic resolution, they pose a model for revolution that puts the process firmly under the hands of the oppressed and exploited classes.
Just like Hugo Chávez was not merely the comandante of the Venezuelan revolution, but, because he stood up to neo-liberal policies on a world scale, a comandante of the anti-imperialist revolution worldwide, we need to understand that the Maoists in Nepal fight not just for themselves but for all of us.
Their revolution is not just their own, it is ours, too—a revolution to put people’s democracy and socialism back on the world’s agenda.
We can help them, at least a little bit. They don’t want our handouts—a few socks and shoes. They want us to put pressure on our governments to stop interfering in their country’s matters in ways that try and undermine the revolution. Hell, what they want is for us to make socialist revolution in our own countries!
Given the intensity and speed with which the political and economic system around is experiencing crises after crises, that may not be a long ways off. But as we prepare the ground for our own struggles, it’s up to us to give these revolutionaries in the Third World the moral and political support that they deserve.
Noaman spent almost a month in Nepal from January 7 to February 4 in 2013 for research and reporting. He can be reached at noaman [dot] ali [at] gmail [dot] com.
By Jordy Cummings
Richard Seymour’s “Unhitched”, a slim and scathing denunciation of turncoat scoundrel Christopher Hitchens is a thoroughly satisfying and politically important book by one of the few remaining great radical left journalists. I have to hand it to Seymour – this book was a cathartic read. No one uses words like “yawp”, let alone carefully modulated jazz-like prose, end a subsection with a cacophony of righteous snark, veer over to an allegory, and then back to yawping. No one that is, but Richard “Lenin’s Tomb” Seymour.
When I was an undergraduate, trying to be a lefty journalist and immersing myself in the literature of the Left, I was largely politicized by an emerging pantheon of great left-writers and thinkers. They were people I wanted to meet, people I wanted to be. I am of that “layer” of those politicized in the late 90s and early 2000s. There was of course Chomsky and Said up at the top of the list, then of course Howard Zinn. But standing above all else, there were those two Nation columnists, Christopher Hitchens and Alexander Cockburn. In the last ten years we’ve lost all but one of the pantheon. When Zinn and Cockburn died, there was barely a peep – indeed one person of my acquaintance, a regular reader of CounterPunch in earlier years, recently admitted that he didn’t even know that Cockburn was dead. When Said died, there were certainly some tributes, but a lot more spite, including from Hitchens. But when Hitchens died, it seemed the world mourned. From the left to the right, people remembered a great “contrarian”.
The Hitch! He may have hated religion but he loved the surgical bombing of brown people. He may have ended his life with a paean to the workers’ uprising in Wisconsin, but he also famously opposed abortion and was a critic of feminism. By golly, he attempted to fuse Tony Blair and Tony Cliff. As Seymour points out, Blair even sent a mourning tribute to him as did his favorite US president, the “revolutionary” George W. Bush. Hitchens had been a vocal supporter of what he called Bush’s “bourgeois revolutions from above” , that is to say, transforming the social and political relatIons of foreign countries through military domination that would be embarked upon by US intervention in the Middle East.
How did Hitchens then break from this pantheon? I recall when I really got into Hitchens, it was his denunciation of the Clintons, “No One Left to Lie to”– right around the time he put his old friend Sidney Blumenthal on a collision course with perjury charges. At the time, all that was apparent was Hitchens’ righteous critique of Clinton breaking with even the most mild liberalism, his consolidation of neoliberal restructuring of social provisions, his absolute screw-up on the health care front, his pursuit of a new imperialism. There were also funny bits of gossip, as Hitchens had known Clinton back in their Oxford days – indeed for many reasons, not the least of which is that Hitchens truly was a marvelous writer, this is a book worth reading – though it is not clear how much of the substantive critique of Clinton’s public policy came from Hitchens, as opposed to from Sam Husseini, a brilliant D.C.-based reporter who, like many if not most of his comrades, Hitchens ended up stabbing in the back and initially not properly crediting his work.
As Seymour points out, Hitchens’ beef with the Clintons was largely personal, and somewhat disjointed and nearly sociopathic. Indeed, this all went back to when Clinton was first elected, Hilary Clinton not showing up to one of Hitchens’ dinner parties, as one journalist mentioned to Seymour. To be snubbed by the new elites was an affront to Hitchens. He became, in Alexander Cockburn’s words, “Hitch the Snitch.” After his close friend Blumenthal dropped a bit of gossip about Clinton’s “friend with benefits” relationship with Monica Lewinsky, while stating publicly that the White House wasn’t spreading such rumours, Hitchens testified before Ken Starr that his friend had been lying. No matter what one thinks about the Clintons, or those who allow themselves to be employed by the Clintons, the notion of ratting out a friend to a reactionary puritan prosecutor like Ken Starr, is not the makings of a decent human being, let alone a comrade of any sorts.
What Hitchens did not mention was his own support of Clinton’s foreign policy in the Balkans – in which he had already come to accept the US as a force for good in the world, a progressive force sweeping away the forces of reaction. What followed is well known, and is for a younger generation of readers, the Hitchens they knew. Immediately after September 11 attacks, he spoke of caution, of not veering into overreaction, yet soon he was picking fights with anyone who dared question US reaction or even contextualize the attacks as “Anti-American” or worse. His early smears of Noam Chomsky and many others allowed for the entry – even into some quarters of the Left for a short time – of talk of loyalty, of patriotism.
Hitchens became the patron saint of what some came to call “The Decent Left”, those who signed the “Euston Manifesto.” Seymour’s first book (“Liberal Defence of Murder”) gives a history and analysis of this tendency, and is well worth the read. But Hitchens went far beyond even the “decent left” in his calls for civilizational warfare, his shocking and even genocidal Islamophobia (stating that he refused to share a planet with this “enemy”), even, tragically, his disavowal of his early and stalwart Anti-Zionism.
When things went wrong, he cloaked himself in the last refuge of a scoundrel – religion, or rather opposition to it. Iraq would have gone well, said Hitchens in his final public persona as scourge of religion, if not for those meddling Muslims killing each other. Religion had “poisoned everything” alright, but Hitchens did not attempt to examine religion like a good Marxist, looking at it as a social relation, a product of a many different inter-related social forces. Instead, he had the perspective of an upper class 19th century rationalist – and this was nothing new. Seymour unearthed some columns from the 80’s where he denounces progressive religious figures like the assassinated Salvadoran Archbishop Oscar Romero, among others. The condescension shown by Hitchens and his co-thinkers towards those of faith was as aggressively offensive as anything else he did.
As noted, Hitchens’ break with his anti-Zionism was one of his last great acts of apostasy, that is to say, betrayal of a faith, whether political or religious. He had after all co-edited “Blaming the Victims” with Edward Said, a longtime friend and someone who once held a powerful intellectual and fraternal influence over Hitchens. Right as Said was dying, Hitchens took it upon himself to write a very wrong-headed and offensive, even personal criticism of Said’s “Orientalism”, a review that appeared not weeks after Said passed away. This move was what one journalist described to Seymour as Hitchens’ final personal act of transformation, his cutting of ties with those upon whose shoulders he climbed. It was one that incensed even people who had already lost faith in him. Going all the way back to his brief time as an active Leftist, he had a tendency to slander former friends. Unhitched is especially interesting to those of us with some familiarity with 20th century Left history, with juicy quotes from Hitchens’ erstwhile comrades , including Tariq Ali, Alex Callinicos and the late Chris Harman. It’s unsurprising, that Hitchens wrote a wrong-headed review of a Perry Anderson book. By most accounts, while a talented orator and pleasant company, Hitchens never really took his involvement in revolutionary socialism all that seriously, by one account moving on as it was a hindrance to his rising in the world of journalism.
To outward appearances, Hitchens broke with the International Socialist Tendency over the group’s support for military-based forces in the Portuguese Carnation revolution. In Hitchens’ telling, these were “Baader Meinhof elements” on the wrong side of history. Hitchens imagines that he was not in a Leninist organization, when in reality, he was friendly with (but not a member of) a faction opposing democratic centralism within the IST at the time but was in no way a “full time organizer” or even a serious-minded activist.
This was part and parcel of Hitchens’ extremely crude understanding of Marxism. Hitchens’ mined his particular leftist tradition for a conceptual vocabulary, without having any real understanding of the concepts with which he was working. (Incidentally, while Seymour doesn’t mention this, Hitchens wrote an introduction to a 1971 edition of Marx’s “Civil War in France” that is an absolute hoot!) While a very sensitive – if somewhat conservative – literary critic, Hitchens simply didn’t get Marxism. His deterministic understanding of history as linear path to be followed, allowed for an admiration of the legendary neoliberal Margaret Thatcher, quietly even supporting the Malvinas war of 1982. What is more, he called 1492 a “great year” in human history, writing off 500 years of genocide against indigenous peoples as just so much debris. Plenty of critiques could be raised of the work of Marxists he condemned at one point or another, even while identifying as one. But Hitchens didn’t engage with what was wrong with what he criticized– at best, he just poked fun.
Hitchens, Seymour points out, was not like other political or religious apostates, notably the first generation of neoconservatives who rejected their early political impulses, that had “grown older and wiser and that’s why I’m turning you in”. There also wasn’t a sudden moment but a series of moments. But the truth is, Hitchens was never really on the side of the people to begin with. In Seymour’s estimation, Hitchens was a petit-bourgeois social climber who wanted to be close to power whatever the source, whether that be the movers and shakers of the socialist left, the American left intelligentsia, the world of “letters”, even the department of Homeland Security.
But his case is far more interesting, and redolent of the degeneracy of intellectual culture in a general sense. He wasn’t merely an opportunist with no principle, playing an act. He really believed that his shifting positions as a journalist had such significance that he would have to alter his entire social milieu, and even more so, this produced a categorical imperative to screw over his former friends and comrades. Not only did he slander Said and Chomsky, call Cockburn an Anti-Semite, not credit Sam Husseini properly, accuse Sam Husseini of having hidden knowledge of terrorist acts, claim Perry Anderson was on the wrong side of history and so on and so forth, but also embrace David Horowitz (who he had once denounced in a memorable piece back in the late 80’s) and Paul Wolfowitz, architect of the war in Iraq. He also felt that in doing so, he was no more than a bearer of the blind law of history itself.
Like Hitchens, Seymour is a brilliant writer, capable of the same balance of rhetoric and snark, good phrasing and humour. Unlike Hitchens, however, Seymour is on the side of the people and has a solid grounding in historical materialism. Indeed, while accessible, this book itself is an exercise in the craft of historical materialism – while certainly relying in a secondary fashion on gossip and interviews with Hitchens’ friends, much of the book constitutes a critique internal to Hitchens’ entire written output, showing the germ of his late-in-life position was present from the start. Indeed, he uses Hitchens’ own logic against him. Hitchens is hardly unique as a baby boomer with complicated and shifting politics, always wanting to be on the “right side of history.” The difference is, Hitchens lived the baby boomer sell-out , the integration into neoliberal ideology, publicly, and left plenty of damage in his wake.
Did it matter? Is this important outside of the intelligentsia, Left and otherwise? I would argue that it is. Hitchens was a very effective propagandist for war. Without his propaganda, and particularly his support for McCarthyist tactics towards his former friends, which allowed those not identified with the Left to use such tactics, helped open up a whole new authoritarian discourse around loyalty. The fact that the American public is cheering on the pro-torture liberal-imperialist film Zero Dark Thirty these days is not unrelated to the pioneer of post-9/11 “War on Terror Intellectuals”, that disgusting turncoat, Christopher Hitchens.
Jordy Cummings is a PhD candidate at York University and a member of CUPE Local 3903. He has written for Basics, the Bullet, CounterPunch and Socialist Studies and is the Interventions Editor at Alternate Routes.
by Jordy Cummings
[WARNING: Contains spoilers]
“The history of the crime story is a social history; for it appears intertwined with the history of bourgeois society itself….the history of bourgeois society is also that of property and the negation of property, in other words, crime….because bourgeois society is a criminal society” – Ernest Mandel, A Delightful Murder: The Social History of the Detective Story
Of all the “b-movie” film genres of the 20th century, none was more consistently radical than the spaghetti western. So-named because of its Italian lineage, these films used the setting of the wild west to portray thinly veiled allegories about popular uprisings, class and racial oppression, and armed rebellion against the ruling classes. Of all of the filmmakers in this genre, the most consistently radical was Sergio Corbucci. My favorite Corbucci film is The Great Silence, in which a mute gunman named “Silence” (his vocal cords cut out by the bounty-hunting henchmen of the local banker), avenges oppressed communities and individuals for the crimes committed against them. The film (in which there are central characters who are people of colour) is as much an adventure story as a stand-in for revolutionary justice enacted by mountain-based communist partisans against counter-revolutionary fascist stormtroopers during World War 2. Another one of Corbucci’s best films is Django, in which an enigmatic former soldier fights a two-front struggle against both marauding bandits and the Ku Klux Klan, both of whom prey on the Mexican and indigenous townspeople. It is from this film that Quentin Tarantino has taken the title and some of the plot elements to create his own spaghetti western set in 1858, shortly before the Civil War when slavery was in economic crisis.
Like all of Quentin Tarantino’s films, Django Unchained is a collage work, taking bits and pieces from a wide variety of genre films. It takes its name, and form from classic Spaghetti Westerns, while also evoking other more explicitly political films, notably Passolini’s Salo and Gilles Pontecervo’s Kapo. There are obvious political limitations to the type of film that is first and foremost meant as entertainment but contrary to some voices on the Left, Django Unchained, while not without problems, is overall a radical film. Indeed, many of the harshest critics (if they’ve even seen the film) nitpick minor elements, while ignoring the film’s overall focus: showing a side of slavery that has rarely been seen in popular American culture and encouraging audience members to feel a sense of satisfaction at the righteous violence visited upon those who would chain and abuse their fellow human being.
As the film begins, Django (Jamie Foxx) is rescued from bondage by Dr. King Schultz (played by the brilliant Christoph Waltz), a bounty hunter searching for three slave-drivers whose appearance is known to Django. They become colleagues and the first hour of the film is primarily the adventures of Schultz and Django killing white folks and getting paid for it, as Django describes his new job with satisfaction. “What’s not to like?”
The chemistry between the wiley Schultz and the stoic Django is as memorable as any set of “buddies” in American cinema. Moreover, the normal dynamic of the interracial bromance found in many popcorn films is more substantively equal, if not reversed. While Schultz teaches Django to read and use firearms, rather than heroic he appears more as a Mr. Miyagi to Django’s Daniel-san, or a reverse of the “Magic Negro” trope.
It is notable that Dr. Schultz is German. On one level, this seems to be a tribute to the characters played by Klaus Kinski in some of the classic spaghetti westerns. But on a historical level, it would seem that the staunch abolitionist Schultz is an “1848er” like Marx and Engels: a German exiled after the failed revolutions in Europe of 1848, perhaps a communist. Thousands of German exiles ended up in the United States and helped found America’s labour and anti-slavery abolitionist movements. During the American Civil War some of the most fearless forces were amongst the German immigrant contingents of Lincoln’s Union army.
Getting to know Django, Schultz takes it upon himself to help Django rescue his wife from the both charmingly dapper and viciously evil plantation owner Candie, played by Leonardo DiCaprio. Rather than cotton, Candie’s plantation specializes in producing “Mandingo fighters”: gladiators who fight to the death as their owners watch from the comfort of their drawing rooms, drinking sweet iced tea with whiskey.
Candie’s accomplice, the house-slave Stephen (his name a play on “Steppin Fetchit” and played superbly by Samuel L. Jackson), seems inspired by Malcom X’s description of the house slave. “He ate the same food the master ate…loved the master more than he loved himself”. Indeed, Stephen seems in many ways a “consigliere”, who catches on to Schultz and Django’s rescue plot, calling his master into a private study and explaining how these “mother-fuckers” (Jackson’s trademark could not go unused) were up to no good, all the while sitting elegantly and sipping from a tumbler of cognac.
In one of the moments of high tension in Django Unchained, Django is hung upside down in a torture device and one of the more sadistic slave handlers is gleefully about to castrate him with a red hot bowie knife. Moments like this were indeed not uncommon for rebellious slaves, and the scene is not at all played for shock value but rather to drive home the impact of slavery as a specific set of social property relations with its own means of keeping the system going: that of brutal violence, dehumanization and divide-and-rule. Since slaves were “fixed capital” the slave-owners not only owned their labour power but also had to maintain them as a modern capitalist maintains machinery. Therefore, the “destruction of capital” would be to prevent slaves from reproducing. Indeed, the entire movie is predicated upon a slave-turned freeman attempting to rescue his wife from whom he was separated after truly horrifying torture. The torture is shown graphically and clinically and is meant to evoke disgust at the pure evil employed by the agents of the social structure of slavery.
At the very moment the slave handler is to cut off Django’s balls the loyal house slave Stephen enters the barn and says that the punishment has been changed. Even worse than castration would be to take Django out of the subset of slaves who are structurally able to have names and identities, and be thrust into a form of labour that produces total anonymity. Thus total dehumanization would transform Django, even after formal abolition, into the lowest strata of the new American proletariat. Django would no longer have a name, he would be a slave labourer with only a number working for a mining company, “turning big rocks into little rocks,” a fate in the film considered worse than torture and death but familiar to countless young black men trapped in the prison-industrial complex in the United States today.
Like any good Western hero, Django is able to narrowly avert this attempt at dehumanization by tricking his captors, aided by dynamite, in a scene similar to a Wiley Coyote cartoon. And this is precisely what is so jarring, and radical about Django – images of the brutality of slavery are set alongside moments in which the bad guys are turned into cartoons – they are the ones that lack humanity. In a memorable scene, a group of Klansmen (including Superbad’s Jonah Hill and pudgy Miami Vice veteran Don Johnson) chase Django and Dr. Schultz but their masks have the eye-holes in the wrong spot and they become bumbling and foolish and are dispatched with gunfire and dynamite to the great cheers of the audience. And indeed this duo get the better of none other than one of the Dukes of Hazard, Luke Duke. It could not have been accidental that one of the first people with whom the two have dealings is played by Tom Wopat, famous for his redneck TV character.
With perhaps a single exception, every character killed by Django’s “great vengeance and furious anger towards those who may destroy my brothers” (to quote Jackson’s famous monologue in Pulp Fiction) has it coming. And, goddamn, it is a satisfying experience to see these motherfuckers, these slavers, enforcers, and yes, even some of the house slaves, get their just desserts in explosions of blood splatter.
Tarantino has always had a knack for creating complex characters for people of colour, characters that go beyond the archetypes used by liberal Hollywood. Whether Jackson as the morally tortured hit-man Julius in Pulp Fiction, or Pam Grier as the title character in the brilliant Jackie Brown, Tarantino is not a filmmaker who traffics in stereotypes. Indeed, one of his primary critics, Spike Lee, often traffics in stereotypes, not to mention anti-immigrant sentiment, social conservatism around interracial relationships and open anti-Semitism. Hence, some of the accusations made against this film, including by many who refuse to even see it, ring hollow. Tarantino has made the claim that, like with his Holocaust revenge fantasy Inglourious Basterds, he wanted to shake up the liberal, turn-the-other-cheek “unity” narrative that is often spoken of about slavery and the ongoing structural power of white supremacy. While there is a dire need for more stories told by people of colour, it has been pointed out, correctly, that a person of colour may not have gotten the backing to make this film at all.
Others have pointed at historical errors – for example, the Klan did not exist until after the Civil War as it was primarily a force created by former slave-owners to defeat the slave/working class alliance that propped up Reconstruction. Others have pointed out that the film relies on individual violence against the social structure of slavery, as opposed to a collective revolt. This is all true, but Tarantino is not here to give us historical accuracy – this is the filmmaker who portrays a group of Jewish-American soldiers killing the entire Nazi high command and machine gunning Hitler in the face. The form of the Spaghetti Western is reliant upon this individual revenge against a social structure, but it is not as if the film doesn’t leave open the possibility of collective revolt and even revolution against the slave-masters. In a number of scenes, Django and his comrade kill slave-masters and, in so doing, free slaves. Those who criticize the film, then, for not portraying real historical events – say Nat Turner or the Haitian Revolution, must admit that Tarantino, by cracking open the door towards critically engaging the slave era, has demonstrated the viability of making these kinds of films.
With all of this said, this is not – nor could it be – a film that is directly revolutionary. Nevertheless there is always a utopian core to even the most degraded, commercialized expressions of the culture industry, and there is an insidiously ideological dimension to even its most powerful, autonomous artistic works. The utopian dimension of art is entwined with its ideological function, and you can’t grasp the former without analyzing the latter.# Of course there are numerous tropes of white, patriarchal, capitalist society that are inscribed in this film – the film is far more problematic on the issue of gender than race. As well, the film could just as much be taken as an allegory of President Obama, who, like Django, is often asked to produce documents (Obama’s birth certificate) to prove his own authenticity. All of this aside, the reason that audiences have been cheering this film on is not due to the reinforcement of the American ideology. Rather it is turning that American ideology, that so-called “culture of violence” right side up. In Django Unchained, like in all of Tarantino’s films, it is the least morally compromised characters that win, and the most morally compromised characters that end up dead on the ground. There is no unity with the enemy and his comprador lackeys. There is only vengeance. Quoting Jackson’s monologue from Pulp Fiction again, “you know my name is the Lord, when I lay my vengeance upon thee.”
1. Thanks to Jude Wellburn for the sentence, which originally appeared as a comment on a Facebook thread and to JD Benjamin for editorial input.
Video from Mass Art-illery concert on Saturday, November 10. Featuring: Acalanto, Rise Up, James Blood (from Tru Rez Crew), Dbi Young and LAL.
[Versión en español sigue] [La version Française suit]
an initiative of the International Conference on Progressive Culture – People’s Art Network
February 20, 2013
Registration Form - The deadline for registration is January 13
All over the world, artists, writers, journalists, and cultural workers of all disciplines who lend their craft as a tool for progressive social change, challenge the status quo, or simply expose the truth, face various forms of persecution and attack from state apparatuses.We call on those artists, cultural workers and journalists to join us and to build a global event to celebrate and defend people’s culture from February 20.
Events will take place in numerous cities throughout the world showing the power of our crafts to advance peoples’ struggles for fundamental social change.
We hope to build bridges across borders with fellow artists, writers, journalists and cultural workers and to contribute to the building of a united global movement to foster progressive grassroots culture and to protect freedom of expression.
If you would like participate or organize an event, please fill out the following form online. If you have any questions, you can reach us at email@example.com. The deadline for registration is January 13.
Under the brutality of the state that seeks to silence them, some of these cultural workers have paid the ultimate price for their artistic creations and visions that advance the cause of people’s liberation, such as Chilean artist Victor Jara, who was brutally tortured and murdered by the Chilean state in 1973.
And still today, cultural workers continue to face state brutality. Argentine songwriter and singer, Facundo Cabral, an icon of Latin American folk and protest music, was shot to death in the early morning of July 9, 2011 by unknown gunmen who intercepted his car in Guatemala City.
Others have been unlawfully arrested and imprisoned in order to keep them from creating works that give hope to the people such as Ericson Acosta, a poet, thespian, singer and journalist, who was arrested without warrant by the Philippine military on February 13, 2011 while serving as a volunteer researcher in a highly-militarized, poor, rural village in the Philippines.
Ferhat Tunç, Kurdish singer and composer, has faced severe repression from the Turkish state for his songs that protest the oppression of Kurdish people, language, and culture. He was recently sentenced to two years in prison on terrorism related charges due to his invocation during a speech where he mentioned names of three deceased Turkish leftists.
In the US, journalist and former Black Panther Party member Mumia Abu-Jamal, has spent nearly 30 years on death row and remains held in strict isolation and solitary confinement for a crime many believe he did not commit.
Still other artists face continuous state harassment and threats to their lives such as Arundhati Roy, an award-winning novelist and essayist, who faces continuous hostility from the Indian government for her outspoken criticisms against media censorship and state brutality in Kashmir, and the state’s counter-insurgency operations against the Adivasi peoples. She also faces harassment from the state for writing and speaking sympathetically towards the Adivasi peoples and the Naxalites who have taken up arms to defend themselves against large foreign dominated mining and dam projects backed by the Indian state..
Wikileaks founder and editor-in-chief Julian Assange became the target of the US State Department when Wikileaks released classified documents on the US military occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan that exposed the disturbing extent of US involvement in said occupations.
*The Global Concert to Defend People’s Culture is an initiative of the People’s Art Network and the International Conference on Progressive Culture. The conference, held in July of 2011, in the Philippines, consisted of over 80 visual artists, musicians, filmmakers, writers, media practitioners and cultural workers from around the world.
Artists Break the Chains - February 20, 2013
Registration Form - The deadline for registration is January 13
20 febrero 2013
Formulario de Inscripción - La fecha límite de inscripción es el 13 de enero
Por todo el mundo, artistas, escritores, periodistas y trabajadores culturales de todas las disciplinas que prestan su arte como una herramienta para el cambio social progresista, desafiar el statu quo, o simplemente exponer la verdad. Se enfrentan a diversas formas de persecución y ataque de los aparatos estatales.
Hacemos un llamado a los artistas, trabajadores culturales y los periodistas a unirse con nosotros por crear un evento mundial para celebrar y defender la cultura de los pueblos el 20 de febrero.
Esperamos de vincular a través de las fronteras con otros artistas, escritores, periodistas y trabajadores de la cultura y contribuir a la construcción de un movimiento mundial unido para fomentar la cultura popular progresista y proteger la libertad de expresión.
Si desea participar u organizar un evento, favor de llenar el formulario en línea siguiente. Si usted tiene alguna pregunta, puede comunicarse con nosotros por firstname.lastname@example.org. La fecha límite de inscripción es el 13 de enero.
Bajo la brutalidad de los estados, que busca silenciarlos, algunos de estos trabajadores de la cultura han pagado el precio más alto por sus creaciones artísticas y las visiones que promueven la causa de la liberación popular, como el artista chileno Víctor Jara, quien fue brutalmente torturado y asesinado por el estado de Chile en 1973.
Y todavía hoy, los trabajadores culturales siguen haciendo frente a la brutalidad del estado. Compositor y cantante argentino Facundo Cabral, un icono folclórico latinoamericano y la música de protesta, fue muerto a tiros en la madrugada del 9 de julio de 2011 por hombres armados desconocidos que interceptaron su automóvil en la ciudad de Guatemala.
Otros han sido ilegalmente detenidos y encarcelados a fin de evitar que la creación de obras que dan esperanza a las personas, como Ericson Acosta, el poeta, cantante, actor y periodista, que fue detenido sin orden judicial por el ejército filipino el 13 de febrero de 2011, mientras sirviendo como voluntario como un investigador en una villa pobre, rural, y altamente militarizada en las Filipinas.
Ferhat Tunç, el cantautor kurdo, se ha enfrentado a una dura represión por parte del gobierno turco por sus canciones de protesta que la opresión del pueblo kurdo, y su lengua y cultura. Fue condenado recientemente a dos años de prisión por cargos relacionados con el terrorismo debido a su invocación durante un discurso en el que mencionó los nombres de tres izquierdistas turcos fallecidos.
En Rusia, los tres miembros del colectivo punk rock, Pussy Riot, fueron condenados recientemente a dos años de prisión después de realizar en la principal catedral de Moscú una canción critíca a Vladimir Putin.
En los Estados Unidos., Mumia Abu-Jamal , el periodista y ex miembro del Partido Pantera Negra, ha pasado casi 30 años careciendo la pena de la muerte y permanece detenido en aislamiento estricto y el confinamiento solitario por un crimen que muchos creen que no cometió.
Aún otros artistas carecen al hostigamiento estatal y las amenazas a su vida, como Arundhati Roy, una novelista premiado y ensayista, que se enfrenta a la hostilidad continua del gobierno indio por sus abiertas críticas contra la censura en los medios de comunicación y la brutalidad del estado de Cachemira, y las del estado del contador operaciones de contrainsurgencia contra los pueblos del adivasi. Ella también se enfrenta acoso del estado para escribir y hablar con simpatía hacia los pueblos adivasi y los naxalitas que han tomado las armas para defenderse contra las grandes mineras extranjeras dominado por proyectos de represas y apoyado por el estado indio.
Julian Assange, el fundador y editor en jefe de Wikileaks , se convirtió en el objetivo del Departamento de Estado de EE.UU. cuando Wikileaks publicó documentos clasificados sobre las ocupaciones militares estadounidenses de Irak y Afganistán, que expusieron el punto inquietante de la participación de EE.UU. en dichas ocupaciones.
A pesar de estos obstáculos, los pueblos sinceros de artistas y trabajadores culturales desafían la represión estatal y siguen de crear obras que sirven a los intereses de los oprimidos, arriesgando sus vidas todos los días.
* El Concierto Mundial para Defender la Cultura Popular es una iniciativa de la Red de Arte Popular y la Conferencia Internacional sobre la Cultura Progresista. La conferencia, que se celebró en julio de 2011, en las Filipinas, formado por más de 80 artistas visuales, músicos, cineastas, escritores, profesionales de los medios de comunicación y trabajadores de la cultura de todo el mundo.
Artistas Rompen las Cadenas el 20 de febrero 2013
Formulario de Inscripción - La fecha límite de inscripción es el 13 de enero
une initiative de la conférence internationale sur la culture progressiste – réseau de l’art du peuple
le 20 février 2013
Formulaire d’inscription - La date limite d’inscription est le 13 Janvier
Partout dans le monde, des artistes, des écrivains, des journalistes et des travailleurs culturels de toutes disciplines prêtent leur art comme un outil pour le changement social progressif, défient le statu quo, ou tout simplement exposent la vérité, face à diverses formes de persécution et d’attaques des appareils de l’État.
Nous invitons ces artistes, travailleurs culturels et journalistes à se joindre à nous et de construire un événement mondial visant à célébrer et défendre la culture des peuple le 20 février.
Nous espérons construire des liens à travers les frontières avec d’autres artistes, écrivains, journalistes et travailleurs culturels et de contribuer à construire un mouvement mondial visant à promouvoir la culture progressive et de protéger la liberté d’expression.
Si vous souhaitez participer ou organiser un événement, s’il vous plaît remplir le formulaire en ligne. Si vous avez des questions, vous pouvez nous joindre au email@example.com. La date limite d’inscription est le 13 janvier.
Certains de ces travailleurs culturels ont payé le prix ultime pour leurs créations artistiques et leurs visions qui font progresser la cause de la libération des peuples, tel que l’artiste chilien Victor Jara, qui a été brutalement torturée et assassinée par l’État chilien en 1973.
Même aujourd’hui, les travailleurs culturels font face à la brutalité de l’État. Auteur-compositeur et chanteur argentin Facundo Cabral, une icône du folk et de la musique latino-américaine de protestation, a été abattu tôt le matin du 9 juillet 2011 par des inconnus armés qui ont intercepté sa voiture dans la ville de Guatemala.
D’autres ont été illégalement arrêtés et emprisonnés afin de les empêcher de créer des œuvres qui donnent de l’espoir aux peuples. Ericson Acosta, un poète, thespian, chanteur et journaliste, qui a été arrêtée sans mandat par l’armée philippine le 13 février 2011, tandis qu’il servait comme chercheur bénévole dans un village rural aux Philippines très militarisée et pauvre.
Ferhat Tunc, chanteur kurde et compositeur, a fait face à une sévère répression de l’Etat turc pour ses chansons qui contestent l’oppression du peuple, langue et culture kurde. Il a récemment été condamné à deux ans de prison sur des accusations liées au terrorisme en raison de son invocation des noms de trois décédés gauchistes turcs lors d’un discours.
En Russie, trois membres du collectif punk rock, Pussy Riot, ont été récemment condamné à deux ans de prison après avoir effectué une chanson dans la cathédrale principale de Moscou qui critiqué Vladimir Putin.
Aux États-Unis, journaliste et ancien membre du Black Panther Party, Mumia Abu-Jamal, a passé près de 30 ans dans le couloir de la mort et est encore détenu en isolement strict pour un crime que beaucoup de personnes pensent qu’il n’a pas commis.
Encore d’autres artistes font face au harcèlement de l’État et des menaces à leur vie. Arundhati Roy, un romancier primé et essayiste, qui fait face à l’hostilité du gouvernement indien pour ses critiques franches contre la censure des médias et de la brutalité d’État au Cachemire ainsi que les opérations anti-insurrectionnelles de l’État menées contre les peuples Adivasi. Elle est également confrontée au harcèlement de l’Etat pour écrire et parler avec sympathie envers les peuples Adivasi et les Naxalites qui ont pris les armes pour se défendre contre l’exploitation minière et des projets de barrage à grande dominé par l’étranger et soutenu par l’État indien.
Fondateur de Wikileaks et rédacteur en chef Julian Assange est devenu la cible du Département d’Etat américain après avoir publié des documents classées sur les occupations militaires américaines en Irak et en Afghanistan qui ont exposé l’ampleur de l’implication américaine dans ces occupations.
En dépit de ces obstacles et au péril de leur vie quotidienne, véritables artistes et travailleurs culturels des peuples défient la répression d’Etat et continuent à créer des œuvres qui servent l’intérêt des opprimés.
* Le concert mondial de défendre la culture populaire est une initiative du réseau de l’art du peuple et de la conférence internationale sur la culture progressiste. La conférence, qui s’est tenue en juillet de 2011, aux Philippines, se composait de plus de 80 artistes plasticiens, musiciens, cinéastes, écrivains, professionnels des médias et des travailleurs culturels du monde entier.
Formulaire d’inscription - La date limite d’inscription est le 13 janvier
by Hassan Reyes
TORONTO, ON – Activist and community from across Canada met in Toronto on November 9-10 in the 2nd General Assembly of the Canada chapter of the International League of Peoples Struggle.
“This conference is a unity building exercise,” said Steve Da Silva, Vice-Chair of ILPS-Canada. “We will be discussing how to build up the leadership capacity of our organizations to carry out and coordinate our work.”
The over 50 delegates represented organizations including Anakbayan, WUAI, BASICS Newservice, Immigrant Workers Centre (MTL), Migrante (OTTAWA, MTL and VANCOUVER), Barrio Nuevo, Gabriela, BAYAN, Philippine Solidarity Group, First Nations Solidarity Working Group of CUPE 3903, PATAC, Anti-colonialist Working Group, ACTION, Cordillera Peoples Alliance, Alliance for Peoples Health (BC), LATUC, Barrio Nuevo, Kasama Project (US) and Centre for Philippine Concerns (MTL).
Other activities associated with the assembly included a conference addressing issues facing workers, first nations, communities and others as result of the mounting ‘austerity’ agenda being imposed on most nations as well as the sort of military aggression in the Middle East and North Africa. The conference also featured a concert of progressive artists and musicians including the award-winning D’bi Young, Tru Rez crew and others.
The Assembly and conference kicked off with an opening speakers panel addresses from Swedish writer Jan Myrdal, Palestinian Revolutionary figure and Political Leader Leila Khaled (via livestream), Ecuadorian National Assembly member Maria Augusta Calle (by video), US Hip hop artist M1 of Dead Prez among others speakers.
“I’m glad to see so many people from First Nations communities present here today,” said Malcolm Guy, Chairperson of ILPS-Canada, referring to a number of indigenous organizer who were present. “The lack of francophone organizations here shows some of the weakness of our work. There are strengths and weaknesses to our work, and we need to build on the strengths and address our weaknesses.”
November 10, 2012: MASS ARTILLERY!
Concert at the Annex Wreckroom, featuring:
d’bi young, LAL, Acalanto, True Rez Crew, Rise Up and Spins by black-rap.com DJs!
$10 in advance, $15 at door
Tickets available at:
Accents Bookstore 1790 Eglington Avenue West (Dufferin X Eglington)
A Different Booklist 746 Bathurst STreet (Bathurst X Bloor)
LAND DEFENDERS 4 LIFE: Comrade Music, Volume 2′ was produced by Comrade with the support and co-operation of all artists on this mixtape, and in collaboration with BASICS Community News Service, First Nations Solidarity Working Group (CUPE 3903), and the International League of People’s Struggles (Canada). It can be heard here.
All proceeds of this album will go ta Six Nations land protectors fund and building the united front against Canadian imperialism. http://right2resistconference.wordpress.com/