Category Archives: politics

RedHack Erases Public Debt and Renames Primary School in Instanbul

(Istanbul, Turkey) @RedHack_En deletes everyone’s late utility bills. Google translation: http://bit.ly/151wug6

redhackRedHack Group hacked Istanbul Special Provincial Administration (public Services) and the hacker group confirmed this hack with a tweet this morning ”Istanbul Supervisor electricity, gas and processed all invoices, etc.” RedHack and his followers announced the user name and password to the public: http://bit.ly/18jP8mL

The hackers also renamed a primary school in memory of Ethem Sarisuluk, who died during the Turkish protests.

Original Links in Turkish
Hurriyet http://www.hurriyet.com.tr/teknoloji/23604713.asp
Sol Haber http://haber.sol.org.tr/devlet-ve-siyaset/redhack-borclari-sildi-ethem-abdullah-ve-mehmetin-adini-kurumlara-verdi-haberi-754

Anarchist Kostas Sakkas on hunger strike since June 4

via contra-info

Over the past few days, numerous acts of solidarity took place throughout Greece in solidarity with imprisoned anarchist Kostas Sakkas, who is on hunger strike since the 4th of June 2013 fighting for his immediate release. On the 11th of June, a treating physician reported that clinically he has profound weakness, fatigue after minimal exertion (e.g. walking from his cell to the prison’s infirmary), discomfort, mild dyspnea, dizziness, headache, abdominal pain, and he has lost 3.5kg of weight.

In the meantime, fellow prisoners have declared their unreserved solidarity with the hunger striker. Since the 4th of June, four comrades that are held in the dungeon of Koridallos women’s prison wing, Kostas Gournas (Revolutionary Struggle member), Christoforos Kortesis, Vaggelis Stathopoulos, as well as Dimitris Koufontinas (17 November member), have refused prison meals.

On the 5th of June, in the session of the 3rd CCF trial at Koridallos women’s prison court, co-accused comrades left the courtroom supporting the decision of Kostas Sakkas to go on hunger strike.

[Northern Athens] Freedom for anarchist Kostas Sakkas, hunger striker as of 4/6 (June 4th)

[Northern Athens] Freedom for anarchist Kostas Sakkas, hunger striker as of 4/6 (June 4th)

Since the 6th of June, the comrades from Larissa prison second wing Rami Syrianos and Spyros Stratoulis have abstained from prison food to support Kostas Sakkas in his struggle, stating also their solidarity with CCF member Gerasimos Tsakalos, who received an extension of his pretrial detention.

On the 7th of June, anarcho-communists Tasos Theofilou (Domokos prison) and Polykarpos Georgiadis (Corfu prison) published a joint statement for their comrade Kostas Sakkas, saying ‘we will meet again soon, at the battlefields of social/class war.’

On the 11th of June, a total of 290 women and men incarcerated in Larissa, Patras, Corfu, the first wing of Koridallos, Alikarnassos, and Eleonas–Thebes released an open letter in defense of Kostas Sakkas and the destruction of every prison.

On the 13th of June, Kostas Sakkas was brought to the Athens appeals court (on Loukareos street), where a council of appellate judges examined his objection against his prolonged pretrial incarceration for another 6 months. (Their decision is yet to be announced.) In the same morning, three other prisoners were brought before a judicial council in the same court, namely anarchists Fivos Harisis, Argyris Ntalios and Dimitris Politis. During their stay at the appeals court, cops attacked Fivos Harisis throwing him to the ground, kicking him repeatedly, and handcuffing him even in the transfer van. When all of the prisoners, including the hunger striker, were taken back to Koridallos an intense clash broke out with cops and jailers at the prison, in response to the earlier police assault at one of them. The comrades turned the entrance unit into a battlefield for a while (fire extinguishers, drawers with documents and chairs were thrown in the air, and windows were smashed), proving in practice that no attack of the dogs of Power will be left unanswered.

Strength to all prisoners in struggle! Immediate release of hunger striker Kostas Sakkas!

Hunger strike declaration by Kostas Sakkas, Koridallos prison, May 29th, 2013:

On the 4th of December 2010 I was captured along with the comrade Alexandros Mitroussias in the district of Nea Smyrni, Athens, while I was leaving a rented warehouse where arms were being stored.

Since the beginning, I have admitted my connection with this place as well as the weapons found there. I have stated, since the first moment, that I am an anarchist and that my presence in this specific place was related to my political identity and the choices I make as a consequence of this.

On the 7th of December 2010 they brought me before the head investigator and I got in pretrial detention on charges of participation in an unknown terrorist organization as well as aggravated possession of weapons.

On the 12th of April 2011, when I had already been in the prison of Nafplion for more than four months, I was called upon again by the investigators Baltas and Mokkas, and without any new evidence, nor even any new developments on the investigation, I was remanded for participating in the R.O. CCF. It was obvious that this was because the principal investigators realized that a case against an unknown organization that hasn’t any registered actions, doesn’t have any bombs, nor communiqués, that has not used guns, an organization without a name, couldn’t stand up in a courtroom.

I have clarified in the past —as did the R.O. CCF for their part— that I’m not a member of this organization. I didn’t do this to avoid the vengeful, punitive odyssey that the bourgeois justice reserves for all those accused of being members of that organization, but simply because that’s how it is. I ought to set the history straight; not only for me but also for the R.O. CCF.

The initial charge of participation in an unknown terrorist organization attributed both to me and my two comrades (Alexandros Mitroussias, Giorgos Karagiannidis) and the rest of the people arrested in the same operation —although they had nothing to do with it— showed up at a time that was political expedient for the DAEEV anti-terrorist force (the so-called Special Violent Crime Squad of the Greek police), on account of the ex-minister of public order named Christos Papoutsis, who desired —like all his counterparts— to dismantle, at all costs, a terrorist organization during his mandate. It is known that this minister directly supervised the operation, and even evaluated the information that the anti-terrorist force had, and finally gave the order to make arrests. Anyone who watched the mass media during that time remembers the scenarios and evaluations of various journalistic parrots about which organization we belonged to, what we intended to do, etc., obviously being fed by the DAEEV, until the results of the ballistic tests made them shut up… Later, Mr Papoutsis, in an attempt to apologize for the fiasco, gave an interview to a well known magazine stating that the ‘anti-terrorist force has tricked him’ (!).

[Chania, Crete] Immediate release of Kostas Sakkas, on hunger strike since 4/6 – Nobody hostage in the hands of the State

[Chania, Crete] Immediate release of Kostas Sakkas, on hunger strike since 4/6 – Nobody hostage in the hands of the State

On the 6th of April 2012, still in jail awaiting trial and reaching the limit of 18 months (the maximum pretrial incarceration period), I was out again in pretrial detention for committing 160 incendiary and bombing actions claimed by the organization CCF. It’s worth comment that in this particular case file there is neither any evidence against me —they didn’t even bother to frame me this time— nor any reference to my person except in the execution of the indictment. It’s a case file that could be served, without exaggeration, to anyone, according to the logic of the intransigent investigators Baltas and Mokkas. The prosecutory purposes of this are evidenced by the fact that the principal investigators had their hands on this specific file from the very first moment of my arrest, and were obligated —that is according to the law— to give it to me along with the first accusatory file. To put it simply: these gentlemen detained me on charges of participation in the same organization twice, consecutively (!).

Today, after being jailed for two and a half years, for simple weapons possession (to clarify: aggravated possession of weapons means that the weapons were intended either for trade or for equipping a terrorist organization, something which is neither evident, nor something I have admitted to), the primary institutional defenders of justice and law, who hold me for breaking it, decided to ignore even their own Constitution —which defines maximum time of 12 months for each subsequent to the first pretrial detention— since that is not enough for their political needs. Therefore, they decided to hold me hostage for six more months.

In fact, they intend this prolonged and excessive captivity to offset their makeshift, lazy accusations. Whatever they may do it is not enough to prevent the ‘deflation’ of the charges in any courtroom, despite the special regime that characterizes the terror-courts (in every way). Anyone who has ever set foot in them even for a while knows it very well.

Their tactics and vengeful intentions are clear by now. Yes, it’s true; the State avenges its political opponents; avenges but never acknowledges them. It never has, as a matter of fact. In the past they were treated as foreign agents and traitors, and now as terrorists and enemy of the society.

The fact is that, due to the domestic consequences of the global capitalist crisis, the political system is going through what is both the most critical and the most unstable period since the dictatorship. It is also a fact that repression, and the generally authoritarian attitude of the State, is the ‘last card’ in its hand, the last thing it can do to ensure a subordinated social peace and prevent a generalized reaction from being expressed in organized and substantial insurrectionary forms.

The finance minister himself has confessed that this is the first time that a government is asked to implement such extreme measures in peacetime. The laws have always reflected the will of the powerful, but today not even these laws are enough for the political representatives of the system in the face of what they need to implement so as to loyally serve the establishment.

#Free_Sakkas - on hunger strike since June 4th

#Free_Sakkas – on hunger strike since June 4th

Because of my political view and position, that the road to individual and collective freedom is full of struggle and resistance, I decided on Tuesday 4/6 to go on hunger strike; the date when, according to the current laws, the maximum time limit of my pretrial custody is expired. I would like to clarify that, for me, the choice to go on hunger strike is not a gesture of despair, but a choice to continue the fight, a fight that my comrades and I have made since the first moment of our captivity; a resistance to the unprecedented and vindictive treatment of the judicial mechanisms, which decided in our case to take a break from their cash collection duties to defend society from its supposed enemies and the laws from the outlaws. They are the same mechanisms, and the same persons behind them, who are actual perpetrators of the legitimacy of forced return to work for strikers; the same who are primary responsible for the thousands of property auctions and the homeless, for the abolition of labour demands, for the unemployed, for the abolition of social benefits, for the thousands living below the poverty line, for hundreds of suicides every year by those who, unable to cope decently, put an end to their lives; they are actual perpetrators of the legitimacy of declaring people illegal and piling them up in camps; responsible of classifying tortures and beatings at police stations, accidental gun discharges, the silencing of anti-regime media as legitimate…

They are responsible for creating a cemetery society in the name of law, and when it’s necessary, for establishing a cemetery society outside the law… Steeped in hypocrisy and nastiness, despicable to both the devotees of bourgeois justice and its detractors and ideological enemies.

Slowly dies who does not risk certainty for the uncertainty to chase a dream, those who do not forego sound advice at least once in their lives, … Who does not find grace in himself, dies slowly, … Let’s try and avoid death in small doses, reminding oneself that being alive requires an effort far greater than the simple fact of breathing.—Pablo Neruda

Kostas Sakkas, first wing in Koridallos prison

View solidarity actions here.

Solidarity Against the Persecution of the Gaucha Anarchist Federation in Brazil

Call for solidarity and endorsement against the persecution in Brazil of anarchist militants and the Gaucha Anarchist Federation in Porto Alegre.

In Porto Alegre, on June 20 last, about 15 officers from the Civil Police raided the Ateneo Batalha da Varzea, the political and social premises where theFederação Anarquista Gaúcha is located, without a warrant. [Espanol]

via Solidarity Against the Persecution of the Gaucha Anarchist Federation in Brazil.

Supreme Court guts key part of landmark Voting Rights Act

(Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday gutted a core part of the landmark 1965 Voting Rights Act and challenged Congress to come up with a replacement plan to protect blacks and other minorities in places where discrimination still persists rather than target former slaveholding states in the South.

In a 5-4 ruling with the court’s conservatives in the majority, the justices ruled that Congress had used outdated facts in continuing to force nine states, mainly in the South, to get federal approval for voting rule changes affecting blacks and other minorities.

The court ruled in favor of officials from Shelby County, Alabama, by declaring unconstitutional a section of the law – most recently updated by Congress in 2006 – that set the formula that decides which states and locales with a history of racial discrimination need federal approval to change voting laws.

President Barack Obama expressed disappointment with the ruling and asked Congress to pass legislation “to ensure every American has equal access to the polls.”

Representatives of the NAACP and other civil rights organizations speak to reporters after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of a federal law designed to protect minority voters, at the court's building in Washington, June 25, 2013.

Representatives of the NAACP and other civil rights organizations speak to reporters after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of a federal law designed to protect minority voters, at the court’s building in Washington, June 25, 2013.

“Today’s decision invalidating one of (the law’s) core provisions upsets decades of well-established practices that help make sure voting is fair, especially in places where voting discrimination has been historically prevalent,” Obama, the first black president, said in a statement.

The ruling upended legal protections for minority voters that were a key achievement of the U.S. civil rights movement of the 1960s led by Martin Luther King Jr. The Voting Rights Act as a whole was enacted to broadly prohibit poll taxes, literacy tests and other measures common in states with a history of slavery that prevented black people from voting.

But, writing for the court’s majority, conservative Chief Justice John Roberts said that America is not the country that it was a half century ago when the Voting Rights Act was passed to end a century of attempts by former slaveholding states to block blacks from voting.

“Our country has changed, and while any racial discrimination in voting is too much, Congress must ensure that the legislation it passes to remedy that problem speaks to current conditions,” Roberts wrote.

But Democrats have accused Republicans at the state level in recent years of enacting a series of measures intended to suppress the vote of minority groups likely to support Democratic candidates.

Just last week, the Supreme Court struck down an Arizona law that required people registering to vote in federal elections to show proof of citizenship, a victory for activists who said it discouraged Native Americans and Latinos from voting.

Tuesday’s decision placed the burden on Congress – sharply divided along party lines to the point of virtual gridlock – to pass any new voting rights law like the one sought by Obama.

‘I HAVE A DREAM’ REVISITED

Civil rights activists, looking ahead to August’s 50th anniversary of King’s famous march on Washington, hoped Tuesday’s ruling would revive the spirit of that event and prompt Congress to act. It was before a massive crowd in front of the Lincoln Memorial that King gave his era-defining “I have a dream” speech.

Wade Henderson, president of the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, predicted a “massive mobilization” for the anniversary.

Roberts said the formula that Congress used to determine what states and locales should be covered by the provision relating to approval for voting changes when it most recently re-authorized the law should have been updated.

“Congress did not use the record it compiled to shape a coverage formula grounded in current conditions,” he wrote. “It instead re-enacted a formula based on 40-year-old facts having no logical relationship to the present day.”

The coverage formula therefore violates the sovereignty of the affected states under the U.S. Constitution, Roberts said.

Congress could pass a new version, but it would have to reflect “current conditions,” he added.

The issue of voting rights remains prominent in the United States. During the 2012 presidential election campaign, judges nationwide heard challenges to new voter identification laws and redrawn voting districts, with some blocked before the election.

In February, Obama, a Democrat, decried barriers to voting in America and announced a commission to address voting issues.

Civil rights activists fear that the ruling could lead to an increase in attempts to deter minorities from voting. They said 31 proposals made by covered jurisdictions to modify election laws had been blocked by the Justice Department since the law was re-enacted in 2006.

NAACP Legal Defense Fund Director Ryan Haygood (L) and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund President Sherrilyn Ifill (R ) speak to reporters after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of a federal law designed to protect minority voters, at the court's building in Washington, June 25, 2013.

NAACP Legal Defense Fund Director Ryan Haygood (L) and NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund President Sherrilyn Ifill (R ) speak to reporters after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down part of a federal law designed to protect minority voters, at the court’s building in Washington, June 25, 2013.

Sherrilyn Ifill, president of the NAACP Legal Defense and Educational Fund, accused the Supreme Court of leaving “millions of minority voters without the mechanism that has allowed them to stop voting discrimination before it occurs.”

Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, on Tuesday pledged to move quickly to try to restore voting rights protections after the ruling.

“I intend to take immediate action to ensure that we will have a strong and reconstituted Voting Rights Act that protects against racial discrimination in voting,” Leahy said.

Republicans were largely silent on the court’s ruling. Neither House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner nor Mitch McConnell, the top Senate Republican, had any immediate comment.

The court struck down Section 4 of the law, which describes the coverage formula, and not Section 5, known as the preclearance provision, which is the general requirement that the covered states get approval from the Justice Department or a federal court before making election-law changes.

In her dissenting opinion on behalf of the liberal wing of the court, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said Section 5 is now “immobilized” without a working coverage formula.

Congress approached the 2006 re-authorization “with great care and seriousness,” she added. “The same cannot be said of the court’s opinion today.”

The nine fully covered states under the provisions of the law at issue were Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia.

Tuesday’s ruling left intact Section 2 of the law, broadly prohibiting intentional discrimination in the voting arena.

The decision is likely to have an immediate impact on states previously covered by the preclearance requirements that are battling federal oversight.

Texas had been unsuccessfully fighting federal rejection of its most recent congressional redistricting and voter identification laws, both of which were rejected by federal judges. The high court’s ruling means Texas would no longer need to seek that approval, although there is other litigation taking place over the redistricting plan.

“Texas may now implement the will of the people without being subject to outdated and unnecessary oversight and the overreach of federal power,” said Republican Texas Governor Rick Perry.

The case is Shelby County v. Holder, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 12-96.

(Additional reporting by Joan Biskupic, Thomas Ferraro and Richard Cowan; Editing by Howard Goller and Will Dunham)

ExxonMobil: Fortune 500 Spills and Discrimination

Residents in Mayflower, Arkansas, have recently filed a class-action lawsuit seeking more than $5 million in damages against ExxonMobil, the world’s largest oil company, after a pipeline carrying Canadian crude from Illinois to Texas ruptured, allowing thousands of barrels of heavy crude oil to flow into a residential area.  ExxonMobil has claimed that between 3,500 and 5,000 barrels of heavy crude leaked from the ruptured pipeline, however the lawsuit has claimed that more than 19,000 barrels were spilled.

Oil covers the water and underbrush in Dawson Cove on April 6.

Oil covers the water and underbrush in Dawson Cove on April 6.

There is yet another recent lawsuit which ExxonMobil has to contend with. This one, however does not involve oil spills.

In December of last year, the gay rights organization Freedom to Work and its founder, Tico Almeida, decided to expose Exxon’s anti-LGBTQ discrimination. Mr. Almeida used a legal strategy of resume audit testing, using two ghost applicants,  to expose its anti-LGBTQ bias in hiring practices. Last month, the LGBTQ group Freedom to Work filed a complaint with the Illinois Human Rights Commission contending Exxon Mobil violated a 2005 law in the state prohibiting discrimination against LGBTQ people.

Jennifer Priston and Michelle Caland are similar in many respects. They both live in Springfield, Ill., attended the same high school and graduated from the same local community college in 2011 after majoring in business administration. Jennifer Priston, however, was a candidate that a higher grade point average, more advanced office skills, a higher ranking previous position with a greater level of responsibility, and a longer work history. However, she was consequently outed as LGBTQ because of her volunteer experience working for the Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund. Michelle Caland, on the other hand, was less qualified in terms of work experience and education, but offered no indication that she was LGBTQ.

Even though Caland was less qualified, she received multiple call backs in response to her application. Priston never received a call back in response to her application even after Caland didn’t respond. “We know that they cannot credibly claim that they didn’t receive the LGBTQ resume and application because when they were submitted, they sent back to both applicants a receipt acknowledgement saying, ‘Thank you for your application from Exxon Mobil,’” Almeida said. “They can’t claim they didn’t see it.” In a press release announcing the complaint, Almedia claimed that, “Exxon broke the law, defies industry standards and continues to betray the American people’s sense of fairness.”

Exxon denies any wrongdoing and said it is reviewing the complaint, which was filed with the Illinois Department of Human Rights. Charlie Engelmann, a spokesman for the company, stated in an email that, “ExxonMobil’s global policies and processes prohibit all forms of discrimination, including those based on sexual orientation and gender identity, in any Company workplace, anywhere in the world. In fact, our policies go well beyond the law and prohibit any form of discrimination.”

However, for the 14th year in a row, shareholders of ExxonMobil have continuously rejected a proposal which would have added sexual orientation and gender identity to the company’s non-discrimination employment policy. Its current equal opportunity policy states it will provide equal employment opportunity to all individuals regardless of race, color, sex, religion and half a dozen other legally protected statuses, but sexual orientation and gender identity are not mentioned.

Civil rights groups have employed the strategy of resume audit testing with great success for decades, but this lawsuit marks the first time an LGBTQ group has tried it. To reach a settlement in the case, Almeida has said that he is asking Exxon Mobil to adopt a company-wide LGBTQ non-discrimination policy and train its workers across the country on implementation.

Freedom To Work's infographic that shows the discrepancies between Priston and Caland's resumes.

Freedom To Work’s infographic that shows the discrepancies between Priston and Caland’s resumes.

“We hope that we will shame them into settling this very quickly,” Almeida said. “If they agree to adopting and training HR people on it, we will settle the case as quickly as we can.” But if Exxon Mobil chooses to fight the lawsuit, Almeida said the case will go into discovery, which means Freedom to Work will subpoena internal documents from the company and depose staffers to expose anti-gay bias in hiring practices.

Illinois was one of two states in which Freedom to Work uncovered apparent anti-gay bias in hiring practices. Almeida did the same paired resume testing in Texas and uncovered similar results at Exxon Mobil. However, Texas does not have a statewide LGBTQ workplace non-discrimination law on which to base a lawsuit, and no federal non-discrimination protections are in place to help LGBTQ people. The Employment Non-Discrimination Act isn’t law, nor is an executive order in place prohibiting anti-LGBT bias among federal contractors.

In the 2000 decision of Kyles v. J.K. Guardian Security Services, the U.S. Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals in Illinois upheld the right of testers to bring these claims after two black testers brought a race discrimination action to federal court. They were allowed to proceed to a trial and later settled their claims.

The U.S. Supreme Court has previously validated lawsuits on the basis of paired resume audit testing in its decisions on earlier litigation. In the 1982 case of Havens Realty Corp. v. Coleman, the court held testers can sue to challenge housing discrimination and that groups conducting the testing can also file a lawsuit to remedy discrimination.

Also working with Freedom to Work on the testing was the Equal Rights Center, a D.C.-based advocacy organization, which has experience with resume testing for minority groups. Donald Kahl, executive director of the Equal Rights Center, explained the validity of filing employment discrimination lawsuits based on resume audit testing and their applicability to LGBT people.

“Based on the Equal Rights Center’s 30 years of testing experience, and nearly 2,000 tests conducted in the last year, our testing methodologies are recognized and accepted by the civil rights community, government agencies, and the courts,” Kahl said. “The type of testing we conducted with Freedom to Work is a critical part of objectively demonstrating why our LGBT community needs and deserves anti-discrimination protections.”

The legal team representing Freedom to Work in the lawsuit is Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, a group that has experience representing women who alleged gender discrimination in employment at the retail giant Walmart Stores, Inc. As the lawsuit proceeds, Almeida said Freedom to Work will continue testing for anti-LGBTQ workplace bias at other companies and take action as necessary.

Disabled workers paid just pennies an hour – and it’s legal

One of the nation’s best-known charities is paying disabled workers as little as 22 cents an hour, thanks to a 75-year-old legal loophole that critics say needs to be closed.

Goodwill Industries, a multibillion-dollar company whose executives make six-figure salaries, is among the nonprofit groups permitted to pay thousands of disabled workers far less than minimum wage because of a federal law known as Section 14 (c). Labor Department records show that some Goodwill workers in Pennsylvania earned wages as low as 22, 38 and 41 cents per hour in 2011.

harold-hmed-350p“If they really do pay the CEO of Goodwill three-quarters of a million dollars, they certainly can pay me more than they’re paying,” said Harold Leigland, who is legally blind and hangs clothes at a Goodwill in Great Falls, Montana for less than minimum wage.

Goodwill International CEO Jim Gibbons, who was awarded $729,000 in salary and deferred compensation in 2011, defended the executive pay.

“These leaders are having a great impact in terms of new solutions, in terms of innovation, and in terms of job creation,” he said. Gibbons also defended time studies, and the whole Section 14 (c) approach. He said that for many people who make less than minimum wage, the experience of work is more important than the pay.

“It’s typically not about their livelihood. It’s about their fulfillment. It’s about being a part of something. And it’s probably a small part of their overall program,” he said.

Read more here and Goodwill’s full statement here.

Taksim Flower Protest

ISTANBUL – Turkish riot police fired water cannons, teargas and rubber bullets to disperse thousands of anti-government demonstrators in Istanbul on Saturday, while Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan criticized the protesters for having “played into the hands of Turkey’s enemies.”

turkey.afp

Protesters in Taksim brought flowers to commemorate those who have died during the protests, and clash with police who respond with clubs, tear gas water cannons and rubber bullets. This latest episode of unrest which took place within Turkey’s largest metropolitan city ended six days of relative peace, although it paled in comparison with previous clashes which took place there and in other cities spanning the course of the past three weeks ago.

People living around the square have been reported banging pots and pans as a sign of solidarity while demonstrators shouted “Police, do not betray your people!”  Witnesses have also said that police used teargas to disperse protesters in nearby streets during confrontations and clashes.

During these clashes, many unarmed protesters tried to stop an advancing water cannon truck – even to the point of attempting to hold it back with their arms whilst another protester tossed a handful of carnations at the driver. Across the square, a tearful and angry woman asked the police why they were attacking the peaceful protesters yet again, while officers dismissed her please – and even pushed her aside with extreme force. Another man attempted to stand still, employing a new tactic which the protesters had adopted, but riot police pushed him to the ground with their shields – with one of them proceeding to beat him with theirs whenever he attempted to stand up again.

Taksim Square had been peaceful about half an hour prior to this. However, a huge crowd had eventually massed carrying red carnations in memory of at least four people killed in the protests so far. In a good-natured protest they had chanted, “Everywhere is Taksim, everywhere is resistance,” and called on Mr Erdogan’s government to resign.

Protesters scuffle and throw flowers at riot police at Taksim Square in IstanbulThey proceeded to throw their carnations in the air in answer to the brutal crackdown on earlier protests. Some protesters even carried Brazilian flags in solidarity with the protests that have been taking place across Brazil. Unfortunately, this peaceful demonstration did not last for very long. Over a loudspeaker, the police said that they had made their point and ordered them to disperse. Shortly after this, the police began to form and advance in lines, forcing the protesters back across the square while water cannons fired into the crowd.

This did not deter the protesters, for they kept returning to the square until a standoff  ensued at the junction of Istiklal Street. Police fired huge amounts of tear gas into the narrow streets, until large clouds engulfed the area. There have also been reports of police shooting rubber bullets into the crowds.

Taksim Square has been the cradle of protests triggered when police used force to remove a group of eco-activists opposed government plans to develop Gezi Park, a green space in central Istanbul which adjoins Taksim. These protests quickly developed into a much broader demonstration of dissent against the government, specifically Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan, whom protesters say is an authoritarian leader that is increasingly meddling in their everyday lives.

flower

The Right to Remain Silent?

While everyone has been talking about Edward Snowden and the recent NSA scandal, there has been yet another attack on the right to free speech and the fifth amendment within the United States. The Supreme Court has ruled that when a suspect doesn’t answer a question prior to one’s Miranda rights being read, it can be used as evidence in court to demonstrate guilt. Prosecutors can use a person’s silence against them if it comes before he’s told of his right to remain silent.

The 5-4 ruling came in the case of Genovevo Salinas, who was convicted of a 1992 murder. Salinas was willing to answer some of the questions, but he refrained from answering others. For example, he remained silent when questioned about the murder weapon. Prosecutors in Texas used his silence on that specific question as evidence when convicting him of murder, saying that it helped demonstrate his guilt. Texas courts as well as the Supreme Court upheld the decision to allow silence to be used as evidence.

courtThe Fifth Amendment  (Amendment V) to the United States Constitution, which is part of the Bill of Rights, protects Americans against coerced self-incrimination, with the Supreme Court saying that prosecutors cannot comment on a defendant’s refusal to testify at trial. The courts have expanded this right to answering questions while in police custody, with police required to inform those under arrest that they have a right to remain silent without it being used in court.

Prosecutors argued that since Salinas was willing to answer some questions, he was thus not invoking his right to silence. Therefore, since he wasn’t under arrest and wasn’t obliged to speak, his silence on the incriminating question is not under constitutional protection.

Justice Samuel Alito stated that Salinas’ “Fifth Amendment claim fails because he did not expressly invoke the privilege against self-incrimination in response to the officer’s question, and that “[i]t has long been settled that the privilege ‘generally is not self-executing’ and that a witness who desires its protection ‘must claim it.'”

This Supreme Court decision was split down its conservative and liberal lines, with Alito’s judgment joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Anthony Kennedy, Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia.  Justices Stephen Breyer, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented. “In my view the Fifth Amendment here prohibits the prosecution from commenting on the petitioner’s silence in response to police questioning,” Justice Stephen Breyer said.

The police decided to charge Genovevo Salinas after one of his friends informed them that he had confessed, but Salinas successfully evaded the police for years. He was finally arrested in 2007, however, his first trial ended in a mistrial. It was during his second trial that prosecutors tried very aggressively to use his silence about the shotgun in their closing remarks to the jury.

Salinas was sentenced to 20 years in prison. The Texas Court of Appeals and the Texas Court of Criminal Appeals upheld the conviction, with the latter court saying “pre-arrest, pre-Miranda silence is not protected by the Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, and that prosecutors may comment on such silence regardless of whether a defendant testifies.”

The case, which was upheld by the Supreme Court, is Salinas v. Texas, 12-246.

Irish Socialist Clare Daly calls Obama a War Criminal

Irish politician Clare Daly slammed President Barack Obama as a “war criminal” and “hypocrite of the century” in a blistering speech before Parliament Wednesday, following the conclusion of the G8 summit in Northern Ireland.

Clare DalyDaly, an independent member of Parliament (ID) representing Dublin North, chastised Irish Prime Minister (Taoiseach) Enda Kenny for embracing Obama, telling the Taoiseach he had “turned a blind eye” to the U.S. policy toward Syria and the use of targeted drone strikes.

“Is this person going for the hypocrite of the century award?” Daly asked of Obama. “Because we have to call things by their right names, and the reality is that by any serious examination, this man is a war criminal.”

“This is the man who has facilitated a 200 percent increase in the use of drones, which have killed thousands of people including hundreds of children,” she added.

The comments were reflective of how global opinion of Obama has shifted on account of his drone policy. European countries have mostly remained favorable toward the president, but opinion in the United Kingdom has been somewhat divided.

Daly was especially incensed by Obama’s speech on the Northern Ireland peace process, which she found to be in contrast with his own record on establishing peace in other parts of the world.

There isn’t much peace in Iraq, Afghanistan, or Pakistan, and “there certainly isn’t much peace” in Syria, she said. Daly was also critical of the Obama administration’s decision to supply arms to the Syrian opposition, which she said included “jihadists fueling destabilization of that region.”

Leaders from Northern Ireland have opposed sending arms to Syria, warning other members of the G8 that such a move might only exacerbate the conflict in the country.

In response to Daly, Kenny pointed out that Northern Ireland leaders reiterated their position at the G8 summit that the European Union’s arms embargo on Syria should not be lifted. He also berated the ID for remarks he said were “beneath” her and the Irish people.

“I think your comments are disgraceful,” Kenny said. “I think they do down the pride of Irish people all over the world who are more than happy to see this island being host to the G8.”

“It’s beneath you to say that the American president should not be a party to keeping that process alive and visible,” he added.

Daly, however, was unmoved by the Taoiseach’s response. She accused the country of “prostituting” itself to the United States and asked if Kenny was going to “deck the Cabinet out in leprechaun hats decorated with a bit of stars and stripes to really mark abject humiliation.”

The exchange prompted a mix of jeers and applause, met with occasional silence as a visibly uncomfortable Kenny listened to Daly’s tirade. Among her other complaints was what she referred to as “unprecedented slobbering” within the media over first lady Michelle Obama and daughters Malia and Sasha, who accompanied the president and dined with U2 frontman Bono during their visit.

It was Obama’s second visit to Ireland as president. His Irish ancestry was highlighted during the trip, though Daly remarked that his ties to the country were “tenuous.”

via Huffington Post, video of Parliament session below.

Organizational Dualism: The Gradualist and Revolutionary Spheres of the Specific Anarchist Organization

Introduction

As I stated earlier, I will be writing about much more than Buddhism in this blog from now own. In light of that, and due to the recent uprisings taking place around the world, I decided to post something I wrote some time ago which attempts to give a concise explanation of the revolutionary program and anarchist organization. The intention here is to provide a brief, yet theoretical, framework which can be used by certain individuals to organize, influence, and inspire revolutionary movements within their own respective community. I welcome any comments, suggestions, critiques, questions, etc.

Anarchist Communism: The Vision, Our Goal

Errico Malatesta once pointed out that what really matters is “not whether we accomplish anarchism today, tomorrow, or within ten centuries, but that we walk towards anarchism today, tomorrow, and always.” In other words, it doesn’t matter if we achieve anarchist communism on a massive scale immediately. It would be nice, and we will certainly always work towards that end. However, it serves as a vision, a goal, an idea of the kind of world we wish to live in and something worth working towards. It is a future that is worth striving for, always, without regard to its realization on a mass scale in any length of time.

Anarchist communism (also known as libertarian communism or free communism) is an anarchist school of thought which emphasizes and stresses the need for egalitarian principles in the realization of  the abolition of social hierarchy and class distinctions (which arise as a result of unequal wealth distribution), the abolition of markets and wages, and the collective production and distribution of wealth by means of a horizontal, self-managed network of voluntary associations.

Production and distribution would be done purely on the basis of “from each according to ability, to each according to needs” through a confederation of free unions and free municipalities. The economy would be organized in a horizontal network of voluntary associations, workers’ councils and/or a gift economy in which goods and services are given from contribution/ability and according to need.

anarcho-communismThis means that in some economies, recipients are expected to give something in return – such as labor, support, etc. However, exchange does not necessarily involve an immediate return, such as with remuneration; compensations comes in the form of whatever an individual decides is of equal value to their products of labor.

In his work Libertarian Communism, the Spanish anarchist Dr. Isaac Puente explained that an anarchist communist society would be “organised without the state and without private ownership”. However, he also pointed out that there would be “no need to invent anything or conjure up some new organization for the purpose. The centres about which life in the future will be organised are already with us in the society of today: the free union and the free municipality.”

Whenever anarcho-communists speak about abolishing “private ownership” or “private property”, we are not referring to “personal property”, or possessions that you currently use or occupy. So don’t worry – it’s not an excuse to steal your computer or take your videos. “Private property” refers to the privatization of the means of production, which we wish to abolish – and instead replace with its self-management in a participatory and democratic manner. In his Now and After: The ABC of Communist Anarchism (What Is Communist Anarchism?), Alexander Berkman explained this by using the example of the watch factory being owned in common and self-managed by the workers, but the watch you use is entirely yours.

Although there may be no need to “invent” or “conjure up” any new organization, it would still be useful to explain what type of organization may serve as a useful means towards our vision of anarchist communism.

Specifism and Organizational Dualism

One aspect which distinguishes anarcho-communism is the principle of “organizational dualism”, which insists that instead of the “mass organization” there must also be a “specific organization”. For many anarchists, such as Luigi Fabbri, the “mass organization” (such as the labor union) was the agent of revolution, but anarcho-communists also see the need for the specific anarchist organization.

The center of the specifist framework is an understanding of the division of anarchist activity into two levels, the social and political spheres. The social sphere is understood as those struggles that exist within the material and ideological framework of capitalism – these are your every day issues which include social reforms, wages, finance, health care, etc. This can also include community organizations like Food Not Bombs, mass organizations like labor unions, or counterpowers like workers’ councils and even the recent “Occupy” movement.

However, we must also recognize the need to maintain a coherent vision of an alternative society. What it is, exactly, that we strive for. This would be the political sphere, which is anarchist communism and the specific organization.

The Social Sphere: The Gradualist Approach of Mass Organizations, Counterpowers and Social Insertion

The social level involves the recognition of the existing state capitalist institutions, and creating and/or maintaining alternative and counter institutions in place of and in opposition to them. This could even involve participating within existing workplace and community mass organizations and struggles over time at rank and file level, as well as creating new ones where necessary (even specifically anarchist ones).

These mass organizations can include labor unions, affinity groups, cooperatives, and other counterpowers (also known as “dual power” organizations) such as worker councils, horizontal federations, intentional communities, autonomous zones, community organizations, etc. The role of social insertion, as a gradualist tactic, involves participation within these with the clear objective of spreading the influence of anarchist principles and practices – even when other mass movements and organizations may remain somewhat ideologically heterogeneous.

However, the purpose is not to homogenize any mass movements and organizations necessarily, as the strength of these movements lies in their ability to unite and mobilize the largest possible number of workers, regardless of their religious, ideological or political affiliations. Instead, social insertion involves working within in them, and fighting for the prominence of anarchist ideas within such mass movements and organizations, for the implementation of anarchist principles therein (even if not recognized as such by the majority of members of the mass organization) such as participatory democracy, mutual aid, self-management, decentralization, horizontalism, direct action, class struggle and class independence  (independence of working class organizations/movements from political parties and electoral politics).

The key to social insertion is how we actively participate and contribute towards the advancement of mass social organizations and counterpowers, through strengthening their libertarian instincts and revolutionary advance from populist opportunism.

The Political Sphere: The Revolutionary Approach of Active Minority as Specific Organization

Again, what distinguishes anarchist communism is the recognition of the need of not just the mass organization, but also of the specific organization – or the “active minority”. We distinguish this from the social sphere because social movements should not have a political ideology, for their role is to unite and mobilize the largest possible number of workers, regardless of their religious, ideological or political affiliations.

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In the social movements, it is possible to unite militants from a broader scale and build a unified base, which is not possible at an ideological level. The political movement, on the other hand, must remain small – as that unified base of the dedicated core of individuals, working together more efficiently due to their greater sense of ideological and theoretical unity.

As Georges Fontenis pointed out in his Manifesto of Libertarian Communism, ”

We have seen, in regard to relations between the revolutionary Organisation and the masses, that in the pre-revolutionary period the specific Organisation can only suggest ends and means and can only get them accepted through ideological struggle and force of example.”

However, it is only possible to build a unified base under a strategic project. Therefore, the successful political organization must be built upon a general union of all participating members organized along the principle foundations of ideological and theoretical unity, tactical unity, collective action and responsibility, as well as federalism. Ideological and theoretical unity means that it is important to have coherent ideas, and to act in accordance with those theoretical principles. Naturally, if you are to have a successful and efficient organization with others, it is important to agree with them. This is especially important when that organization has a defined path towards a determined goal. Tactical unity concentrates the forces of the organization and gives them a common direction leading to a fixed objective, as opposed to having several tactics which could end with the disastrous effect of them opposing each other.

Collective action and responsibility means recognizing that all spheres of life, both social and political, are – above all – profoundly collective by nature. Social revolutionary activity in these areas cannot be based on the personal responsibility of separate individuals. Therefore, those who take part in the revolutionary organization must not act in the political domain without consulting with the organization since the organization is always responsible for the revolutionary and political activity of each of its members.

As opposed to centralism, federalism permits the autonomous decision-making of each member and their control over the whole. All decisions made only involves those participants who are directly effected by them. Federalism reconciles the independence and initiative of individuals and the organization with service to the common objective. Anarchist federalism therefore refers to an understanding and free agreement reached between members and groups with a view to work in common towards a shared goal, where all decisions are made by those involved.

It should be noted that while organization within the social sphere includes mass organizations – with their ability to unite and mobilize the largest possible number of workers, the specific organization of the political sphere should only consist of a relatively small number of dedicated militants. Its purpose as a revolutionary vanguard is to exercise a guiding and leading role in relations to the movement of the masses. However, this “active minority”, as opposed to a “vanguard party”, is in not organized in any way that is considered elitist, oligarchical or hierarchical.

In the immortal words of Emma Goldman, in her work Minorities versus Majorities (which is included inAnarchism and Other Essays), “the living, vital truth of social and economic well-being will become a reality only through the zeal, courage, the non-compromising determination of intelligent minorities, and not through the mass.”

The Specific Organization

The active minority, as a specific organization and revolutionary vanguard, is to exercise a guiding and leading role in relations to the movement of the masses. Georges Fontenis points out that, “The political vanguard, the active minority, can of course during the making of the Revolution charge itself with special tasks (such as liquidating enemy forces) but as a general rule it can only be the consciousness of the proletariat. And it must finally be reabsorbed into society, gradually as on the one hand its role is completed by the consolidation of the classless society and its evolution from the lower to the higher stage of communism, and as on the other the people as a whole have acquired the necessary level of awareness.”

The purpose of the active minority, as the revolutionary vanguard, is to bring anarchist organization and self-management into the forefront of class struggles. It is using the specific organization as an influential example for otherwise mass organizations. It is working within the dual organizational framework of the social and political spheres, utilizing both gradualist and revolutionary means simultaneously.

One distinguishing characteristic of the active minority from other vanguard parties is that all organization is non-hierarchical and voluntary, and all decision-making is decentralized and democratic. As pointed out above, the active minority consists of a small number of dedicated militants. The active minority serves as a general union of all participating members (or a “general assembly”) organized on the fundamental principles of theoretical unity, tactical unity, collective action and responsibility, and federalism. This general assembly may form temporary working groups which may be assigned to deal with short term issues or propose the formation of new standing committees.

These committees may be assigned by the general assembly or its working groups, but it is at the general assembly where there will be report backs from all committee activity. Final decisions will be made by majority of the total membership vote, with the option of consensus-decision making of all of those who attend.

To keep things running efficiently within the organization, delegated tasks may be assigned to various individuals. It should be noted that these positions are non-hierarchical and temporary, and they must be ratified by either the general assembly or by its working groups, or by a committee acting on its behalf. All elected delegates are also subject to referendum and recall by the membership of general assembly.

anarchistjoinSome delegated positions may include those of the general secretary (or secretaries), committee organizer(s), general chamberlain(s), etc. Below is a short description of each role and how they could function within an organization, but these are working definitions that are subject to changes that fit the needs of any given organization.

General Organizer: The general organizer should ensure that all meetings have a regular time, location, and agenda, that meetings are announced, that meetings are facilitated, that a list of tasks committed to is kept, report backs are written by committee organizers and delivered to the general assembly, and that mandates given to committee organizers are accomplished.

General Secretary: The general secretary should ensure that the general assemblies are organized (find a space, time, and location), and that proposals are distributed to members in advance of the meetings. The general secretary is also responsible for maintaining internal and external communications as well as maintains communication with new and interim members throughout their process of application.

General Chamberlain: The general chamberlain is responsible for the collection, management, and allocation of resources as mandated by general assembly. The general chamberlain must also ensure that a resource report is given at each general assembly, be accessible for resource distribution, and keep track of general assembly attendance.

Although they are both attempts at organizing a revolutionary vanguard, this is ultimately what distinguishes the active minority from the vanguard party: the active minority is not a sect or political party; it is a specific organization. It is not authoritarian, hierarchical, nor is it oligarchical. There is no military-type leadership. The active minority is a free association of individuals, dedicated to the maintenance and influence of mass organizations through individual effort, innovation, and collective responsibility.

The most important aspect of the active minority, however, is the amount of flexibility allowed due to its inherent decentralization. This flexibility allows the specific organization to evolve and grow, existing both within and without present social conditions. There will be times when the active minority actually expresses a majority, which will tend to recognize itself within the active minority. Yet, there will also be periods of “retreat” for the active minority; that is, to become more explicitly underground. However, even then it is only maintaining itself enough to hold out until it again regains its audience with the masses.

Even when the active minority becomes isolated, this can be countered through acts of social insertion. Social insertion, as an active involvement with broader mass organizations of the social sphere, is not some form of mere entryism; it is engagement. It is not to be used as some trojan horse method, as it is mutual aid in action. This is because the focus should always be upon the genuine improvement of the community, and the role of the active minority is to be actively involved and engaged, leading by example and influence rather than simply through being some form of authoritarian hierarchy. The difficulty here then is to maintain an active minority without becoming isolated and cut off from reality. We must not make the social sphere an “other”, or worse yet, a mirror of the political sphere.

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