Goddamnit! 100 years on, KRCC plays soldier to butcher Ludlow miners again

COLORADO SPRINGS, CO- This is what happen when apolitical wits want to dribble their sardonic apathy on a subject of historic import. Or as they see it, unimport. The 100-year anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre passed in April, with considerable media attention and unfortunately the requisit controversy that comes of celebrants numbering equal parts decendents of the perps and not the miners. You’d think KRCC might have heard the dissonance in April, the attempt of National Guard to rewrite the history in accordance to today’s culture of military-worship and the ensuing protestations, but no. Tonight a locally produced radio show called “Wish We Were Here” aired a one-hour episode about “Ludlow” on public radio franchise KRCC. Noel Black, Jake Burnell and Andrea Chalfin put the program together and relied on the same revisionists which dogged the official commemorations.

Ludlow 100 year anniversary feted by social class that committed massacre

Cover of WestwordDENVER, COLO.- I might be sensationalizing a technicality, but in effect it’s what happened: the remembering of Ludlow has been commandeered by the class who perpetrated it. The preliminary series of events commemorating the 100 year anniversary of the Ludlow Massacre (April 20, 1914) concluded tonight at Denver’s History Colorado Museum with a panel discussion featuring only establishment voices. “Is Ludlow relevant?” was the question posed to five participants among them three professors, a soldier, and a union rep. That’s like asking “is global warming real?” The question is loaded with the suggestion that the opposite is equally plausible. I would have preferred to hear HOW is Ludlow relevant. Though the union rep skillfully skirted the issue, no one pushed back at another flawed presumption, that the coal strike was an armed conflict. Yes the massacre provoked the ten day “Coal Field War” during which striking miners retaliated against the mine company employees, but the death toll was still but a fraction of the number of miners killed in the mine accidents which precipitated the Ludlow strike. It took an audience member to address that omission. Alas nobody mentioned the aftermath that found many miners under arrest, others scattered, and no mine owner, operator, guard, strikebreaker, Baldwin-Felts thug, or National Guard save one, was punished for the atrocity. Yes many immigrant miners were veterans of Bulkan wars, but some Colorado soldiers were veterans of the US campaign in the Philippines, where villages were dispatched with flame and machinegun fire. Not mentioned. Instead a Colorado National Guard representative was let to say that burning the tents at Ludlow was not a tactical error -and since the “non-combatant” deaths were unintended, Ludlow was not technically a massacre.

Pueblo museum excises Mine Workers Union from Ludlow Massacre exhibit!

PUEBLO, COLORADO- 2014 marks one hundred years since the Ludlow Massacre of 1914. A variety of commemorations are planned before the formal anniversary on April 20. I attended one such event on Wednesday, a lecture by a CSU professor to footnote the “Children of Ludlow” exhibit at El Pueblo History Museum. I’m always excitied when attention is paid to Ludlow, a subject regularly left out of American schoolbooks, but I was disappointed to find key elements of labor history excised from the museum’s narrative. Literally. The United Mine Workers of America, the organization central to the strike, which supplied the tent city, and which even today maintains the memorial site, was mentioned only once, IN FINE PRINT! The Ludlow miners voted to strike because the mining companies refused to recognize the UMWA. Unmentioned. The horrors of the atrocity were not tempered, in their explicitness perhaps we think them enough, but there was also the apologist suggestion that some culpability belonged to the miners. I questioned one curator who admitted they were at pains to keep the story “balanced” and that the squeakiest wheel thus far has been the National Guard. Apparently the Guard is offended that its role will be misconstrued. What balance do they want, I wondered. Had they lost children in the “battlezone” too?

Children are at the heart of commemorating Ludlow and at the heart of this preversion of the massacre’s memory. Were they recklessly endangered by their parents and union organizers? Were they dragged into a battlezone? The museum seems to suggest as much, highlighting the beligerence of the miners, mischaracterizing the soldiers, and leaving the union actions largely unexplained.

First I’d like to declare how I tire of the objective irrelevance which results when academics seek the approval of government technocrats. I am also disturbed by educators who pretend blindness to subtle inferences which shape a political takeaway. To them, “remembering” Ludlow seems sufficient in itself. I can hardly see the point to remembering Ludlow unless we have discerned its lessons. Until we are remembering the LESSONS OF LUDLOW, our educators’ self-proclaimed raison d’etre will be self-fulfilling: “history will repeat itself.” This Pueblo exhibit suggests no lesson other than the exploitation of tragedy, and leaves me fearful about the Ludlow commemorations to follow. The anti-union, pro-military climate which prevails these hundred years since the massacre will make for a travesty of a remembrance unless someone with a worker’s perspective speaks up.

Let’s start with this exhibit, which alas has already escaped critique since September. Its full title, as evidenced in the photo above: “Black Hills Energy presents: Children of Ludlow, Life in a Battlezone, 1913-1914.”

I’ll bet curators thought it a measure of truth and reconciliation that the Ludlow presentation was sponsored by a local extraction industry business. Black Hills Energy trades not in coal but natural gas. In fact they’re among the frackers tearing up Southeastern Colorado. I think the irony more likely suggests how the UMWA’s starring role was left on the cutting room floor. There are generic mentions of “the union”, as at right, keeping a ledger of which families were assigned tents, but only in the fine print is the UMWA named as owning the ledger.

More troubling is the skewed framing of the museum’s narrative. It begins with the subtitle, “life in a battlezone.” That’s taking a rather curious liberty don’t you think? The event we accept now as “Ludlow” became a battlezone on April 20, and the regional Coal Field War which followed was a battlezone to which both revenge-seekers and militia thronged, but the tent colonies in which 12,000 lived, 9,000 of whom were the children of the title role, were camps full of families. That they were straffed regularly by the guards makes them shooting galleries not battlegrounds.

Calling Ludlow a battlezone is like calling Sand Creek a “collision” or calling the Middle East a “conflict”. All of these mask the role of the aggressor.

I will credit the curators for offering a candid detail of horrific import. In a description of the day before the massacre, when the Greeks among the immigrants were celebrating Greek Easter, mention is made of the mounted National Guards offered this taunt: “You enjoy your roast today; we will have ours tomorrow.” No one should deny today that the events of April 20, which culminated in the torching of the tents and asphyxiation of women and children, was a premeditated act.

Should the miners have put their children in harm’s way by defying the mining companies? How could they not? As immigrants they didn’t have nearby relatives to foster their children away from the random bullets. Also left unsaid by the display: many of the children had already been working in the mines and counted among those on strike. This was before child labor reforms.

Curiously, the exhibit did include a famous photograph of the notorious activist Mother Jones leading a childrens’ march through Trinidad. The caption explained that Jones wasn’t above using real children to advance the cause of Colorado’s coal miners.” Emphasis mine. While technically true in a modern context, it’s probably disingenuous to imply someone is using the children when a key issue of the demonstration is CHILD LABOR.

No really. Mother Jones was leading a march of children, many of them workers of the mines, for the reform of labor practices which abused children. This and subsequent campaigns eventually led to child labor laws. Is saying “Mother Jones wasn’t above using children” in any way an accurate characterization?

Compounding the inference that the Children of Ludlow were jeopardized for the cause, was the implication that the miners were combatants who contributed to the battlezone. As the displays progressed in chronological order, the first weapon on display was a rifle used by the miners. Immediately behind it was an enlarged photograph vividly depicting miners posed with two identical specimens.

Moving along the exhibit chronologically, anticipating the rising violence, the museum goers is apparently supposed to register that the strikers were firing too, if not first. Recent historical accounts have deliberated about who fired first. I think the motive is suspiciously revisionist in view of today’s dogma of nonviolence absolutism: if your protest devolves into violence, you deserve every bit of the beating you get.

Whenever it was that the miners began firing, the single militia and three guard casualties were not recorded until after the massacre took place, belying the narrative that the miners invited the massacre. Witnesses conflict about when the three union leaders were executed. I’ll give the museum credit for defying the National Guard in summarizing that among the casualties, three of the miners were “executed”.

Students of the Ludlow accounts know that many of the miners were better riflemen than the soldiers. Many were immigrants who’d served in Bulkan wars and outmatched Colorado’s green guardsmen. That is not to suggest that the miners and their harrassers were equally armed, yet…

The only other weapon on display is a rifle of vintage used by the national guard. It shares a case with a uniform and sabre, lending it official authority. Also, the rifle is not presented as having been used at Ludlow, so it doesn’t project an aura of culpability. Missing is the machine gun depicted in the photograph of the machine gun nest which fired down upon the camp. It’s depicted with a caption about the Guard being a welcome presence. Missing too is the armored car dubbed the “Death Special”. Obviously the armor protected its operators from being hit by striking-miner bullets as it drove through the canvas encampment, straffing the tents with its mounted machine gun.

Right after the photo of armed miners was the display at right, with a very contrived bit of spin catering to today’s military families. Although the photo shows soldiers actively aiming their gun at the camp, the caption assures us that the “Ludlow families feel relief with the arrival of National Guard”. This supposition is based on the fact that when the soldiers first arrived they were serenaded with the “Battle Cry of Freedom” and greeted with American flags. Most of the miners being immigrants, they were eager to show their patriotism, but the conclusion drawn here is a terrible mendacity. The miners and union organizers knew full well the purpose of the National Guard. They knew the strikebreaking role it played in famous strikes of the past. The miners feted the soldiers hoping to sway them from their eventual task. Protesters of all eras hold out this hope every time they face riot police.

A following paragraph suggested that by the time the massacre was committed, most of the soldiers had been mustered out and replaced with militia members and company guards. This is slight of hand. After the official inquiry, which was prompted by the public outcry, twenty National Guard soldiers were court martialed. All were acquitted. Is the Guard wanting us to believe they were acquitted because they weren’t there?

This attempt to put a friendly face on the National Guard, coupled with an abdication of effort to give the union its due, seems engineered to appeal to the average Pueblan of today, many probably related to an active-duty soldier and long since indoctrinated against evil unions. When I asked the lecturer about the omission of the UMWA, she prefaced her answer for the audience, explaining that unions of old were not like those despised today. I told her I thought failing to describe the hows and whys of the strike was a real teaching opportunity missed.

It’s probably important to point out that the Ludlow presentation at the History Museum was developed with the assistance of History Colorado, which finally shuttered a contested display: a Sand Creek Massacre exhibit with a similar flavor of whitewash. Like labeling Ludlow a battlezone, History Colorado tried to typify Sand Creek as a “collision.”

Also typical of History Colorado is the propensity to address their exhibits to children. Programming for school bus visits invariably dumbs down what can be presented and I hardly think the compromise is worth it. If children ran the world, maybe Disney versions of history would suffice.

I’d like to have seen it highlighted that the Ludlow miners were mainly immigrants who were looked down upon by the residents of Colorado. If the museum audience were the “Children of Ludlow” in the extended sense, as a few descendants probably were, more of us were the children of the soldiers of Ludlow, or the citizens who cheered them on, or joined the militia or built the armored car at Rockefeller’s Pueblo factory. If we’re going to remember Ludlow, we ought to remember our role in it so we don’t do that again. It’s easy to pretend we were the martyrs. In all probability that’s who we will be if the lessons of Ludlow are discarded.

Mass-murderer Massey Energy declares crime scene to be own damn business

Massey Energy is in “a standoff” with federal investigators trying to determine responsibility for the deaths of 29 Massey miners earlier this year. The mining company won’t comply with inspections of equipment defects which may have doomed the miners, and doesn’t the showdown highlight the corporate personhood fallacy? Imagine a serial murderer successfully disallowing police access to a 29-body crime scene. Would the media call that a standoff? Apparently now the mass-murdering Massey has been given an extension until Friday to comply. Can real-persons get some of that soft-on-crime-fighting? Aspiring Masons and Gacys, you must incorporate.

Don Blankenship Massey Energy thug

Think these coal goons care about trashing the earth, killing miners, or intimidating jurors? Here’s a mob boss doing his own strong-arming: threatens, assaults cameraman. Don Blankenship, he’s not just the president, he’s a front line thug: “If you’re going to start taking pictures of me you’re liable to get shot.”

Our prejudice against tent-dwellers

Great Depression Okies living in tents
What do home-enabled Coloradans have against disadvantaged people forced to live in tents? The Great Depression saw migrant workers having to subsist under canvas, striking miners have been forced from their homes and into camps in Ludlow and before that Cripple Creek. And of course the first Colorado tent-dwellers to get everyone’s panties in a knot were the Native Americans who held original claim to the territory.

The above photograph is from Dorothea Lange’s historic series which documented the lives of migrant workers as they fled the Dust Bowl for the fertile agricultural plantations of California. The woman at right is the iconic “Migrant Mother” known for a more famous closeup. I chose this shot because it makes clear that she and her seven children were living in a tent.

Colorado was one of the states which the Okies had to cross in search of work in California. As depicted in Grapes of Wrath, Colorado and Arizona only begrudgingly tolerated the vagabonds, making sure they didn’t linger and kept on their way.

Do we fear the poor because they threaten our own sense of prosperity? There but for the grace of God, go ourselves? We shoo them along lest their itinerant ways tax our charity, or they take the righting of economic inequity into their own hands. The Europeans have always shunned the ever-homeless gypsies. Landless people can’t be trusted, they’re in the opposite position of what we look for in businesses, reliable to the extreme of being “bonded.” People unattached to assets don’t have capital to bond them with responsibility.

Depression era photograph by Dorothea LangeBefore Coloradans were chasing off out-of-state migrant workers, yesterday’s illegal immigrants, they were offended by earlier indigent encampments. When miners struck in Colorado’s southern coal fields, the mine owners evicted them from the company-owned houses. The unions were left to build a tent city in Ludlow to put pressure on the industry to accept some labor demands. The standoff was spun as a standoff between the ungrateful miners, most of them recent immigrants, and a nation’s critical source of heating fuel. The Colorado population was roused to man a militia and beat the miners into submission. As much as consumers feared an interrupted coal supply in the record cold of the winter of 1914, imagine the miners enduring in their tents. In the end, we all know the result: the Ludlow Massacre and the unions were defeated.

The gold miners fared slightly better in their 1894 strike to preserve the eight hour day. When they closed down the mines and camped on site to keep them shut, the folks of Colorado Springs were rallied to form a near 2000-strong army to go attack the ingrates. Fortunately the miners escaped a battle, but the common population’s prejudice against the laborers in their tents was the same.

Could these have been related to the sentiments which inflamed Colorado Territory settlers in 1864, enough to go after the few remnants of Native Americans encamped along Sand Creek?

The Pikes Peak region plays an ignoble role in all of these examples. Men from Colorado Springs and Colorado City formed the population from which participants were drawn for Chivington’s raid against the Cheyenne, the private army which marched against the Cripple Creek gold strike, and the militia which Rockefeller mobilized to torment the tent city of Ludlow. Colorado Springs was a hotbed of Klu Klux Klan activity in the 1930s, epitomizing local xenophobia.

When Colorado Springs city councilman speak of fielding calls from constituents angry about the growing homeless encampments, I cannot help but think of our legacy of intolerance of people deemed lesser than us. Colorado Springs has always been ripe for bigotry and hatred.

Not so long ago our city was the crucible for Amendment Two which sought to deprive homosexuals of protection from discrimination. More recently fear-mongering about immigration from Mexico made Colorado Springs fertile for recruiting gunmen for the Minutemen, to make pilgrimages to the Mexican border with the promise of getting to shoot Mexicans pell-mell. Since the election of President Obama, we’ve seen a phenomenal growth of Tea Party enthusiasts, white bigots determined not to have their taxes spent by a nigger.

What a sorry racist lot we’ve been, anti-labor, anti-progressive and anti-poor. Somewhere in the past there must have been city leaders who defied the simple-minded xenophobia of our historic population, otherwise all our statues of municipal heroes would be wearing clan gowns. Hopefully with the current bloodlust to run off the victims of our current depression, city politicians will lead my setting a higher moral example.

Treesit halts W. Va mountaintop removal

W-Va Treesitters Nick Stocks and Laura SteepletonMountain Justice activists Laura Steepleton and Nick Stocks continue to occupy trees adjacent Massey Energy’s West Virginia coal mine, preventing further blasting of the Edwight mountaintop removal site. Assistants at the base of the trees were arrested for trespassing, but called back, expected to help the police communicate with the sitters.
Earth First! spokesman Mike Roselle has been visited by State troopers, demanding he command the Coal River Valley treesitters to climb down. Check Climate Ground Zero for updates, where you can leave messages of encouragement.

From Climate Ground Zero:

This is the thirteenth in a series of non-violent direct actions and protests that have brought together Coal River Valley residents, NASA climate scientist James Hansen, students, underground miners, military veterans, concerned citizens and environmentalists from across the nation with the goal of ending mountaintop removal. This is the third protest in two weeks to focus attention on the WV Department of Environmental Protection and their embattled Secretary, Randy Huffman. It also follows days after the leak of DEP biologist Doug Wood’s memo on the scale of environmental degradation caused by mountaintop removal, directly contradicting Huffman’s statements at a senate hearing last June.

A flyover of the treesit and adjacent decapitated mount. Audio is radio interview of Massey Energy director explaining that land ownership means you can do whatever you want to it.

Some screen grabs from the video.
Laura Steepleton at Pettry Bottom Treesit

Nick Stocks at Pettry Bottom Treesit

Aerial overview of Pettry Bottom, Massey Operation, and Steepleton-Stocks Treesit

Flyover view of treesit banners preventing blasting at Massey Edwight Mine

The Devil’s Miner

TioAre you looking for a good children’s film, and a film for the whole family to watch? Are you looking for a film where your children can learn about an alternative universe, and one that our American government has helped make? Then check out The Devil’s Miner.
Bolivian children labor in the silver mines of Cerro Rico, dating back to the 16th century, where devout Catholic miners sever their ties with God upon entering the mountain.

Mother Jones and the children of Ludlow

Mary Harris Jones and the children of miners 1914
From her 1925 autobiography, Mother Jones wrote about the UMWA strike in Ludlow Colorado, over the harsh winter of 1914.

From Chapter 21:

No one listened. No one cared. The tickers in the offices of 26 Broadway sounded louder than the sobs of women and children. Men in the steam heated luxury of Broadway offices could not feel the stinging cold of Colorado hill-sides where families lived in tents.

Then came Ludlow and the nation heard. Little children roasted alive make a front page story. Dying by inches of starvation and exposure does not.

On the 19th of April, 1914, machine guns, used on the strikers in the Paint Creek strike, were placed in position above the tent colony of Ludlow. Major Pat Hamrock and Lieutenant K. E. Linderfelt were in charge of the militia, the majority of whom were, company gun-men sworn in as soldiers.

Early in the morning soldiers approached the colony with a demand from headquarters that Louis Tikas, leader of the Greeks, surrender two Italians. Tikas demanded a warrant for their arrest. They had none. Tikas refused to surrender them. The soldiers returned to quarters. A signal bomb was fired. Then another. Immediately the machine guns began spraying the flimsy tent colony, the only home the wretched families of the miners had, riddling it with bullets. Like iron rain, bullets’ upon men, women and children.

The women and children fled to the hills. Others tarried. The men defended their home with their guns. All day long the firing continued. Men fell dead, their faces to the ground. Women dropped. The little Snyder boy was shot through the head, trying to save his kitten. A child carrying water to his dying mother was killed.

By five o’clock in the afternoon, the miners had no more food, nor water, nor ammunition. They had to retreat with their wives and little ones into the hills. Louis Tikas was riddled with shots while he tried to lead women and children to safety. They perished with him.

Night came. A raw wind blew down the canyons where men, women and children shivered and wept. Then a blaze lighted the sky. The soldiers, drunk with blood and with the liquor they had looted from the saloon, set fire to the tents of Ludlow with oil-soaked torches. The tents, all the poor furnishings, the clothes and bedding of the miners’ families burned. Coils of barbed wire were stuffed into the well, the miners’ only water supply.

After it was over, the wretched people crept back to bury their dead. In a dugout under a burned tent, the charred bodies of eleven little children and two women were found-unrecognizable. Everything lay in ruins. The wires of bed springs writhed on the ground as if they, too, had tried to flee the horror. Oil and fire and guns had robbed men and women and children of their homes and slaughtered tiny babies and defenseless women. Done by order of Lieutenant Linderfelt, a savage, brutal executor of the will of the Colorado Fuel and Iron Company. The strikers issued a general call to arms: Every able bodied man must shoulder a gun to protect himself and his family from assassins, from arson and plunder. From jungle days to our own so-named civilization, this is a man’s inherent right. To a man they armed, through-out the whole strike district. Ludlow went on burning in their hearts.

Everybody got busy. A delegation from Ludlow went to see President Wilson. Among them was Mrs. Petrucci whose three tiny babies were crisped to death in the black hole of Ludlow. She had something to say to her President.

Immediately he sent the United States cavalry to quell the gunmen. He studied the situation, and drew up proposals for a three-year truce, binding miner and operator. The operators scornfully refused.

A mass meeting was called in Denver. Lindsay spoke. He demanded that the operators be made to respect the laws of Colorado. That something be done immediately. The Denver Real Estate Exchange appointed a committee to spit on Judge Lindsey for his espousal of the cause of the miners.

Rockefeller got busy. Writers were hired to write pamphlets which were sent broadcast to every editor in the country, bulletins. In these leaflets, it was shown how perfectly happy was the life of the miner until the agitators came; how joyous he was with the company’s saloon,. the company’s pigstys for homes, the cornpany’s teachers and preachers and coroners. How the miners hated the state law of an eight-hour working day, begging to be allowed to work ten, twelve. How they hated the state law that they should have their own check weigh-man to see that they were not cheated at the tipple.

And all the while the mothers of the children who died in Ludlow were mourning their dead.

A Colorado coal mining family

Mother Jones: You Don’t Need a Vote

Mary Harris Jones portrait from her 1925 autobiographyAfter the 1914 Ludlow Massacre and the later capitulation of the UMWA union, Mother Jones, by now 85 years old, toured the US to spread the word about what happened. She wrote in her autobiography, about a meeting in Kansas City: “I told the great audience that packed the hall that when their coal glowed red in their fires, it was the blood of the workers, of men who went down into black holes to dig it, of women who suffered and endured, of little children who had but a brief childhood. ‘You are being warmed and made comfortable with human blood’ I said. … ‘The miners lost,’ I told them, because they had only the constitution. The other side had bayonets. In the end, bayonets always win.'”

From The Autobiography of Mother Jones, Chapter 22:

Five hundred women got up a dinner and asked me to speak. Most of the women were crazy about women suffrage. They thought that Kingdom-come would follow the enfranchisement of women.

“You must stand for free speech in the streets,” I told them.

“How can we,” piped a woman, “when we haven’t a vote?”

“I have never had a vote,” said I, “and I have raised hell all over this country! You don’t need a vote to raise hell! You need convictions and a voice!”

Some one meowed, “You’re an anti!”

“I am not an anti to anything which will bring freedom to my class,” said I. “But I am going to be honest with you sincere women who are working for votes for women. The women of Colorado have had the vote for two generations and the working men and women are in slavery. The state is in slavery, vassal to the Colorado Iron and Fuel Company and its subsidiary interests. A man who was present at a meeting of mine owners told me that when the trouble started in the mines, one operator proposed that women be disfranchised because here and there some woman had raised her voice in behalf of the miners. Another operator jumped to his feet and shouted, ‘For God’s sake! What are you talking about! If it had not been for the women’s vote the miners would have beaten us long ago!'”

Some of the women gasped with horror. One or two left the room. I told the women I did not believe in women’s rights nor in men’s rights but in human rights. “No matter what your fight,” I said, “don’t be ladylike! God Almighty made women and the Rockefeller gang of thieves made the ladies. I have just fought through sixteen months of bitter warfare in Colorado. I have been up against armed mercenaries but this old woman, without a vote, and with nothing but a hatpin has scared them.

“Organized labor should organize its women along industrial lines. Politics is only the servant of industry. The plutocrats have organized their women. They keep them busy with suffrage and prohibition and charity.”

What became of Ludlow DEATH SPECIAL

Early urban assault vehicle used to suppress miner strikes at Ludlow and Forbes camps in Colorado
One of the weapons deployed against the striking miners of Ludlow, was an early armored car nicknamed the “Death Special.” Its steel plated sides emboldened mine guards to run their mounted machine gun through the union camps. What became of the intimidating machine? Does it sit in a prairie museum, or was its metal armor recycled? Recycled, definitely.

The Death Special was improvised by the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency who were the hired strike-breakers, and built at CF&I’s own steel works to use against its striking employees. At Ludlow the steel-plated vehicle was driven alongside and through the tent colony, its searchlight used to harass the sleeping strikers. Its guns took shots at the tents which left haphazard victims killed or maimed.

World Wars One and Two produced many armored vehicle designs, but the Baldwin-Felts model was unique for being a civilian model. You can recognize its lines in the modern urban assault vehicles which metropolitan police departments have determined to arm themselves, in the war against what, meth-lab pill-boxes?

No, these armored police cars are deployed against public protest, in the name of riot-control. By their paint jobs, neither camouflage nor emergency neon, they are obviously intended to intimidate. If the Baldwin-Felts and Pinkertons are going to reinvent themselves as Blackwater and Triple Canopy, why not also their weapons of choice?

Virginia State Troopers protect Crystal City from antiwar protesters
This one was used to mark the line over which the A.NS.W.E.R. marchers were not to cross, when they marched against the Pentagon and its weapons suppliers in Washington DC.

Aurora City Police deploy urban assault vehicle against peaceful demonstration
This vehicle was bought by the Aurora Police Department, out of the $50 million allocated to Denver for security for the 2008 DNC. Notice on its intimidating black sides, it says “Emergency Rescue.”

Deployed downtown Denver at the 2008 DNC
Here it is aimed at you.

Riot police facing off the RNC demonstrations
St. Paul at the RNC.

DPD armored emergency rescue unit at night

Ludlow Massacre or unhappy incident?

Ludlow Tent Colony 1914
COLORADO COLLEGE- CC is holding a symposium on the 1914 Ludlow Massacre. Actually, it’s only called the Ludlow Symposium. True to Colorado Springs form, several among the audience want to call it an “incidence,” instead of a “massacre.” One of the participants, author Scott Martelle, is willing to oblige, explaining that if the militia hadn’t known that women and children were taking shelter beneath the tents which they were putting to the torch, then the soldiers were guilty only of criminally negligent homicide.

(*Note 4/12/09: this article has been revised in light of helpful comments offered by symposium participants. Also: Differences of opinion aside, I am remiss if I do not praise the scholars who were very generous with their time and encyclopedic memories to enrich this symposium.
1. CC’s own Professor David Mason authored an evocative narrative of lives caught up in the 1914 events, written in verse, entitled Ludlow.
2. Journalist Scott Thomas researched the most recent definitive account to date, the 2007 Blood Passion: the Ludlow Massacre and Class War in the American West.
3. Thomas Andrews, Associate Professor at CU Denver, enlarged the context in 2008 with his award winning Killing For Coal: America’s Deadliest Labor War.
4. Zeese Papanikolas represented his authorative Buried Unsung: Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre, written in 1984.)

Does it matter what it’s called, or with what certainty? The symposium is filled with public school system educators looking for an angle with which to approach Ludlow with their kids. One of them expresses her doubt about teaching about Mother Jones, having just heard from the panelists a probably too-nuanced assessment of the labor hero’s tactics. The political climate of our age can’t find any purchase with moral nuance.

I’m stuck thinking that in recording social history, scholars cannot avoid writing the victor’s narrative. In particular as regards the history of labor, because neither academics nor even middle class hobbyists in the symposium’s audience can look at the events from the perspective of the working class.

Even the scholar’s objectivity is middle class. The opinion was expressed by the panel that the Ludlow aftermath was one of the few occasions when the story was spun to the benefit of labor interests. But this does not account for why authors and educators find themselves having to resurrect the tale of Ludlow these many years later. When it occurred, Americans may have swallowed the hyperbole, but since that time they’ve internalized its internment, effaced by a corporate culture so as to have disappeared from even our school textbooks.

I think this may have been something of the question posed by symposium organizer Jaime Stevensen to the panel, when she asked how the authors insulated themselves from the fictions woven into their own perspectives of history. She didn’t get any takers.

The very concept that history adds up to only so much trivial pursuit, is inherently a view from the ivory tower. BLOOD PASSION by Scott Martelle Do the Ludlow scholars not recognize that common people today face the same foes as did the miners of Ludlow? With the added impediment of a corporate PR system erasing its malevolent deeds. Have not American unions been maligned to the point of extinction? Yet at the same time, capitalists have thoroughly reprised their Machiavellian ways. History can be a tool, not only for statecraft, but for the common American to protect his hard-fought democratic gains.

The United Mine Workers of America having successfully spun the deaths of the striking miner families as a “massacre” may have made an unmerited impact on the public’s sympathies, but likewise, deciding to call Ludlow “not a massacre” will be falsely charged as well. Is there a valuable lesson in unlearning that unbridled corporate greed can be unthinkably inhumane?

OUT OF THE DEPTHS by Barron BeshoarHistorians can fancy themselves objective to ambivalence, but is that a luxury their readers and in particular the schoolchildren can afford? As we witness today the gloves coming off of the globalisation taskmasters?

How I prefer the emotional truth of earlier chroniclers like Barron Beshoar, author of OUT OF THE DEPTHS, a 1942 account of Ludlow, whose preface included this gem:

“If the mine guards and detectives, the mercenaries who served as the Gestapo and the coal districts appear to be scoundrels who sold themselves and their fellowmen for a few corporation dollars, the author will consider them adequately presented.”

KILLING FOR COAL by Thomas AndrewsAt Colorado College the consensus of contemporary historical synthesis, embodied by CU Denver’s Thomas Andrews‘ excellent book KILLING FOR COAL, seems to conclude about Ludlow, “we may never know exactly what happened.” This may reflect the Factual Truth, but it does so at the expense of unrecorded oral accounts, by depreciating their traditional path to us through of folklore.

Buried UnsungAnother author made pains to debunk the lyrics “Sixteen tons, and what do you get, another day older and deeper in debt,” a cultural indictment of the “company store,” which was one of the grievances of the Ludlow strikers. He postulated that modern readers could be prone to let folklore color a predisposition against the company store. Perhaps a company store was in fact a convenience, derided because it was an arbitrary restriction against which human nature bucked. Trying to be helpful, another panelist suggested: “Imagine if the company store was 7-11, and you were told you could only shop there.” I believe both of these gentlemen are overlooking the much grosser complaint which the miners were protesting, that of insurmountable debt, systematically forced on them by their employers. That’s a phenomena on the rise today, if maybe not among college professors. Around the world, indentured servitude has never abated.

In our ivory tower we can debate which side, the union or the militia, fired the first shots on April 20. Who was at fault, seemed to be what that question would decide. At least panelist Anne Hyde had the presence of mind to lay some of the responsibility on the mine owners, who weren’t there of course, but whose stubborn greed played a not unsubstantial part in what the other panelists were attributing to “macho intransigence.”

That expression was in vogue to describe Cowboy presidencies. What an effete put down of militant activism. Are we to blame the striking miners for holding firm to their demands?

Thank goodness someone in the audience brought up recent efforts to deny the Sand Creek Massacre, which two panelists quickly weighed in to say “that was a real massacre,” discrediting Ludlow, obviously, and failing to grasp her point that indeed some Colorado Springs locals are rewriting Sand Creek as a battle, and not a massacre.

Another isolationist luxury has become to judge every action as it compares to a nonviolent ideal. It was noted that UMWA union leader John Lawson always recused himself from violent tactics. During the symposium’s opening reception, someone performed a song dedicated to the Ludlow martyr Louis Tikas, which lauded him for choosing to fight with words not guns, as if guns would discredit him.

I’ll play devil’s advocate and suggest that the miners fired the first shots. They saw Louis Tikas bludgeoned in the back of the head and then executed as he lay on the ground unconscious, they saw the National Guard move a machine gun into position above their tent city, and they probably began to fire at the soldiers lest a rain of bullets descend on miners’ wives and children before they had a chance to flee the camp.

The miners were asking that their union be recognized, that the Colorado eight hour work day be enforced, that the scales which determined their pay be verified, that their full hours be compensated, etc. The mine owners clung to their profits, and ordered the miners’ tent city, their only shelter and all their worldly possessions burned to the ground. Women and children were hiding in underground pits dug to escape the sniper fire which the mine guards sporadically aimed at the tents. The guards drove an armored car around the perimeter of the union camp, at all hours, for that purpose.

Ultimately this climate erupted into the violent clash on April 20, 1914, in which the miners battled with the far better equipped soldiers. The casualties were 25 to 1. I call that a massacre.

ADDENDUM: Photographs from visit to the Ludlow Memorial.
Site of Ludlow Massacre, photographed 2009
LUDLOW MEMORIAL, COLORADO- Day three of the Colorado College Ludlow Symposium featured a bus ride to the site of the 1914 Ludlow Massacre, then on to Trinidad to the grave of Union leader Louis Tikas. A reporter for Colorado Public Radio interviewed the symposium panelists at the U.M.W.A. memorial grounds.

April 2009 Visit to Ludlow site
David Mason is interviewed by a freelance reporter for Colorado Public Radio.

April 2009 Visit to Ludlow site
Scott Martelle and Thomas Andrews are interviewed above the fatal cellar.

April 2009 Visit to Ludlow site

April 2009 Visit to Ludlow site

TRINIDAD, COLORADO- Masonic Cemetary.
April 2009 Visit to Louis Tikas grave site

April 2009 Visit to Louis Tikas grave site
Zeese Papanikolas spoke about his protagonist’s gravestone and its reference to Tikas as a “Patriot.”

April 2009 Visit to Louis Tikas grave site

April 2009 Visit to Louis Tikas grave site

Colorado Springs own cloud maker

capitol climate action
Last week’s POWER SHIFT 09, where 12,000 student environmentalists converged on Washington, culminated with a protest of a DC power plant which still produced 40% of its electricity from coal. A threatened largest act of mass civil disobedience pushed Washington legislators to order the plant converted completely to natural gas. What a contrast to the awareness level in our own Colorado Springs, where the city wraps around a single coal power plant which consumes two coal train loads a day, its billowing stacks, local moms describe to their kids, give it the name “cloud maker.”

From a Capitol Climate Action PDF:

Ten Problems with Coal

1. Coal Fuels Global Warming
Coal is the largest single source of global warming pollution in the United States. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has reported that global warming threatens human populations and the world’s ecosystems with intensifying heat waves, floods, drought, extreme weather, and by spreading infectious diseases. Furthermore, it is conservatively estimated that the climate crisis will place a $271 billion annual drag on the U.S. economy alone by 2025. According to the IPCC, the United States and other industrialized countries need to reduce global warming pollution by 25–40 percent by 2025 to avoid the most severe impacts of the climate crisis.

climate justice2. Coal Kills People and Causes Disease
According to the American Lung Association, pollution from coal-fired power plants causes 23,600 premature deaths, 21,850 hospital admissions, 554,000 asthma attacks, and 38,200 heart attacks every year. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) estimates that 12,000 coal miners died from black lung disease between 1992 and 2002.

3. Coal Kills Jobs
The coal industry is one of the least job-intensive industries in America. Every dollar we invest in coal is a dollar we can’t spend creating jobs in the clean energy economy. In fact, the country’s wind sector now employs more workers than the coal industry. Investing in wind and solar power would create 2.8 times as many jobs as the same investment in coal; mass transit and conservation would create 3.8 times as many jobs as coal.

4. Coal Costs Billions in Taxpayer Subsidies
The U.S. government continues to subsidize coal-related projects despite its impact on health, climate and the economy.

5. Coal Destroys Mountains
Many coal companies now use mountaintop removal to extract coal. The process involves clear-cutting forests, using dynamite to blast away as much as 800–1000 feet of mountaintop and dumping the waste into nearby valleys and streams. Mountain-top removal has leveled more than 450 mountains across Appalachia. Mountain-top removal destroys ecosystems, stripping away topsoil, trees, and understory habitats, filling streams and valleys with rubble, poisoning water supplies, and generating massive impoundments that can cause catastrophic floods.

6. Burning Coal Emits Mercury
Coal-fired power plants are the largest source of man-made mercury pollution. Mercury can interfere with the development of babies’ brains and neurological systems. Elevated levels of mercury in Americans’ blood puts one in six babies born in the United States at elevated risk of learning disabilities, developmental delays, and problems with fine motor coordination. Already 49 U.S. states have issued fish consumption advisories due to high mercury concentrations in freshwater bodies throughout the country, largely due to coal emissions.

7. There’s No Such Thing as “Clean Coal”
Carbon capture and sequestration (CCS), or what the coal industry is marketing as “clean coal,” is a hypothetical technology that may one day capture carbon dioxide from power plants and store it underground. However, the scheme has never been successfully demonstrated at a commercial scale, is wildly expensive, and can’t deliver in time to help with the climate crisis. Nationwide, approximately $5.2 billion in taxpayer and ratepayer money has been invested in the technology, but a recent government report found that of 13 projects examined, eight had serious delays or financial problems, six were years behind schedule, and two were bankrupt. Even if engineers are able to overcome the chemical and geological challenges of separating and safely storing massive quantities of CO2, a study published recently shows that CCS requires so much energy that it would increase emissions by up to 40 percent of smog, soot, and other dangerous pollution.

8. Coal Kills Rivers
Last December, a billion gallons of toxic coal sludge broke through a dike at the Kingston Fossil Plant in Tennessee and flooded the Emory and Clinch Rivers, tributaries of the massive Tennessee River system. Within hours, ash laden with mercury, lead, arsenic, benzene, and other toxic chemicals had contaminated the river and fish were washing up dead on the shore. The spill, which was followed days later by another coal ash spill at a TVA facility in Alabama, soon became a national symbol of the reality of “clean coal” and led to hearings in Congress; legislation is pending to regulate coal ash as a hazardous waste. The TVA recently estimated the clean-up costs from this one spill to be up to $825 million, with higher costs possible as a result of a variety of pending civil suits against the TVA.

9. Coal Plants Are Expensive
Communities considering construction of new coal-fired power plants are seeing these impacts first-hand. During a recent debate over building a new coal-fired power plant in southwest Virginia, state officials estimated that building a new plant (which would employ just 75 people permanently), would cost 1,474 jobs as businesses laid people off to pay the higher electricity costs from a new coal plant. With the United States running a huge deficit, we’ve got to make sure that whatever investments we do make pack the biggest job-creation bang for the buck.

10. Acid Rain
Acid rain, a byproduct of burning coal, destroys ecosystems, including streams and lakes, by changing their delicate pH balance. It can destroy forests, devastate plant and animal life, and eat away at man-made monuments and buildings.

Chenega and Pentagon Tomahawk cruise missile penetration of the US Native American community

tomahawk-cruise-missileMost of us know about how the Pentagon has people like Generals Colin Powell and Ricardo Sanchez on board for its penetration into the Black and Hispanic populations. Nothing too new about trying to buy off and corrupt America’s minority communities by holding out the military’s ‘socialism’ for soldiers program here. Get some Blacks and Browns on board the racist US foreign policy of pummelling Black and Brown people abroad, while offering crumbs to the minority ethnic communities inside the US. Hold up a general or two high (even a president perhaps!) to try to convince these minority communities to participate eagerly into being co-opted by the military. But…

but were you aware that this Pentagon co-option extends into the Native American communities, too, and not just the Black and Hispanic ones?

Here is a link to Chenega Federal Systems, LLC, which has its roots supposedly in the Native American communities of Alaska, but offers plenty of jobs in the local Colorado Springs area for Pentagon-military-industrial complex positions. Their real lifeline is the Pentagon, and it is the type of military operation that produces ‘pissed off Republicans’ claiming to have roots in the Native American community, like the individual who has been posting Right Wing material recently onto this blog.

How did I hear about Chenega Federal Systems? Check out Global Security’s ‘Defense Jobs Career Center’ and see how I came across this outfit here in Colorado Springs? I wonder how many little Eichmanns are working for this Pentagon tomahawk cruise missile directed at the Native American community? I wonder what destruction to Native American lands has been done overall by the Pentagon? After all, just where did that depleted uranium dumped on Iraqis by US troops get mined at? And who were the miners?

Global economic rapists are at it again

G8 protest
Why protest the G8 Summit July 7-9? Those hoodlums always look so determined. Here’s the rationale by the Emergency Exit Collective:

The 2008 G8 on Hokkaido, a Strategic Assessment
Emergency Exit Collective
Bristol, Mayday, 2008

The authors of this document are a collection of activists, scholars, and writers currently based in the United States and Western Europe who have gotten to know and work with each other in the movement against capitalist globalization. We’re writing this at the request of some members of No! G8 Action Japan, who asked us for a broad strategic analysis of the state of struggle as we see it, and particularly, of the role of the G8, what it represents, the dangers and opportunities that may lie hidden in the moment. It is in no sense programmatic. Mainly, it is an attempt to develop tools that we hope will be helpful for organizers, or for anyone engaged in the struggle against global capital.

It is our condition as human beings that we produce our lives in common.

Let us then try to see the world from the perspective of the planet’s commoners, taking the word in that sense: those whose most essential tradition is cooperation in the making and maintenance of human social life, yet who have had to do so under conditions of suffering and separation; deprived, ignored, devalued, divided into hierarchies, pitted against each other for our very physical survival. In one sense we are all commoners. But it’s equally true that just about everyone, at least in some ways, at some points, plays the role of the rulers—of those who expropriate, devalue and divide—or at the very least benefits from such divisions.

Obviously some do more than others. It is at the peak of this pyramid that we encounter groups like the G8.

The G8’s perspective is that of the aristocrats, the rulers: those who command and maintain that global machinery of violence that defends existing borders and lines of separation: whether national borders with their detention camps for migrants, or property regimes, with their prisons for the poor. They live by constantly claiming title to the products of others collective creativity and labour, and in thus doing they create the poor; they create scarcity in the midst of plenty, and divide us on a daily basis; they create financial districts that loot resources from across the world, and in thus doing they turn the spirit of human creativity into a spiritual desert; close or privatize parks, public water taps and libraries, hospitals, youth centers, universities, schools, public swimming pools, and instead endlessly build shopping malls that channels convivial life into a means of commodity circulation; work toward turning global ecological catastrophe into business opportunities.

These are the people who presume to speak in the name of the “international community” even as they hide in their gated communities or meet protected by phalanxes of riot cops. It is critical to bear in mind that the ultimate aim of their policies is never to create community but to introduce and maintain divisions that set common people at each other’s throats. The neoliberal project, which has been their main instrument for doing so for the last three decades, is premised on a constant effort either to uproot or destroy any communal or democratic system whereby ordinary people govern their own affairs or maintain common resources for the common good, or, to reorganize each tiny remaining commons as an isolated node in a market system in which livelihood is never guaranteed, where the gain of one community must necessarily be at the expense of others. Insofar as they are willing to appeal to high-minded principles of common humanity, and encourage global cooperation, only and exactly to the extent that is required to maintain this system of universal competition.

At the present time, the G8—the annual summit of the leaders of “industrial democracies”—is the key coordinative institution charged with the task of maintaining this neoliberal project, or of reforming it, revising it, adapting it to the changing condition of planetary class relations. The role of the G8 has always been to define the broad strategic horizons through which the next wave of planetary capital accumulation can occur. This means that its main task is to answer the question of how 3?4 in the present conditions of multiple crises and struggles 3?4 to subordinate social relations among the producing commoners of the planet to capital’s supreme value: profit.

Originally founded as the G7 in 1975 as a means of coordinating financial strategies for dealing with the ‘70s energy crisis, then expanded after the end of the Cold War to include Russia, its currently face a moment of profound impasse in the governance of planetary class relations: the greatest since the ‘70s energy crisis itself.

The ‘70s energy crisis represented the final death-pangs of what might be termed the Cold War settlement, shattered by a quarter century of popular struggle. It’s worth returning briefly to this history.

The geopolitical arrangements put in place after World War II were above all designed to forestall the threat of revolution. In the immediate wake of the war, not only did much of the world lie in ruins, most of world’s population had abandoned any assumption about the inevitability of existing social arrangements. The advent of the Cold War had the effect of boxing movements for social change into a bipolar straightjacket. On the one hand, the former Allied and Axis powers that were later to unite in the G7 (the US, Canada, UK, France, Italy, Germany, Japan)—the “industrialized democracies”, as they like to call themselves—engaged in a massive project of co-optation. Their governments continued the process, begun in the ‘30s, of taking over social welfare institutions that had originally been created by popular movements (from insurance schemes to public libraries), even to expand them, on condition that they now be managed by state-appointed bureaucracies rather than by those who used them, buying off unions and the working classes more generally with policies meant to guarantee high wages, job security and the promise of educational advance—all in exchange for political loyalty, productivity increases and wage divisions within national and planetary working class itself. The Sino-Soviet bloc—which effectively became a kind of junior partner within the overall power structure, and its allies remained to trap revolutionary energies into the task of reproducing similar bureaucracies elsewhere. Both the US and USSR secured their dominance after the war by refusing to demobilize, instead locking the planet in a permanent threat of nuclear annihilation, a terrible vision of absolute cosmic power.

Almost immediately, though, this arrangement was challenged by a series of revolts from those whose work was required to maintain the system, but who were, effectively, left outside the deal: first, peasants and the urban poor in the colonies and former colonies of the Global South, next, disenfranchised minorities in the home countries (in the US, the Civil Rights movement, then Black Power), and finally and most significantly, by the explosion of the women’s movement of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s—the revolt of that majority of humanity whose largely unremunerated labor made the very existence “the economy” possible. This appears to have been the tipping point.

The problem was that the Cold War settlement was never meant to include everyone. It by definition couldn’t. Once matters reached tipping point, then, the rulers scotched the settlement. All deals were off. The oil shock was first edge of the counter-offensive, breaking the back of existing working class organizations, driving home the message that there was nothing guaranteed about prosperity. Under the aegis of the newly hatched G7, this counter-offensive involved a series of interwoven strategies that were later to give rise to what is known as neoliberalism.

These strategies resulted in what came to be known as “Structural Adjustment” both in the North and in the South, accompanied by trade and financial liberalization. This, in turn, made possible crucial structural changes in our planetary production in common extending the role of the market to discipline our lives and divide us into more and more polarized wage hierarchy. This involved:

· In the immediate wake of ‘70s oil shock, petrodollars were recycled from OPEC into Northern banks that then lent them, at extortionate rates of interest, to developing countries of the Global South. This was the origin of the famous “Third World Debt Crisis.” The existence of this debt allowed institutions like the IMF to impose its monetarist orthodoxy on most of the planet for roughly twenty years, in the process, stripping away most of even those modest social protections that had been won by the world’s poor—large numbers of whom were plunged into a situation of absolute desperation.

· It also opened a period of new enclosures through the capitalist imposition of structural adjustment policies, manipulation of environmental and social catastrophes like war, or for that matter through the authoritarian dictates of “socialist” regimes. Through such means, large sections of the world’s population have over the past thirty years been dispossessed from resources previously held in common, either by dint of long traditions, or as the fruits of past struggles and past settlements.

· Through financial deregulation and trade liberalization, neoliberal capital, which emerged from the G7 strategies to deal with the 1970s crisis aimed thus at turning the “class war” in communities, factories, offices, streets and fields against the engine of competition, into a planetary “civil war”, pitting each community of commoners against every other community of commoners.

· Neoliberal capital has done this by imposing an ethos of “efficiency” and rhetoric of “lowering the costs of production” applied so broadly that mechanisms of competition have come to pervade every sphere of life. In fact these terms are euphemisms, for a more fundamental demand: that capital be exempt from taking any reduction in profit to finance the costs of reproduction of human bodies and their social and natural environments (which it does not count as costs) and which are, effectively, “exernalized” onto communities and nature.

· The enclosure of resources and entitlements won in previous generations of struggles both in the North and the South, in turn, created the conditions for increasing the wage hierarchies (both global and local), by which commoners work for capital—wage hierarchies reproduced economically through pervasive competition, but culturally, through male dominance, xenophobia and racism. These wage gaps, in turn, made it possible to reduce the value of Northern workers’ labour power, by introducing commodities that enter in their wage basket at a fraction of what their cost might otherwise have been. The planetary expansion of sweatshops means that American workers (for example) can buy cargo pants or lawn-mowers made in Cambodia at Walmart, or buy tomatoes grown by undocumented Mexican workers in California, or even, in many cases, hire Jamaican or Filipina nurses to take care of children and aged grandparents at such low prices, that their employers have been able to lower real wages without pushing most of them into penury. In the South, meanwhile, this situation has made it possible to discipline new masses of workers into factories and assembly lines, fields and offices, thus extending enormously capital’s reach in defining the terms—the what, the how, the how much—of social production.

· These different forms of enclosures, both North and South, mean that commoners have become increasingly dependent on the market to reproduce their livelihoods, with less power to resist the violence and arrogance of those whose priorities is only to seek profit, less power to set a limit to the market discipline running their lives, more prone to turn against one another in wars with other commoners who share the same pressures of having to run the same competitive race, but not the same rights and the same access to the wage. All this has meant a generalized state of precarity, where nothing can be taken for granted.

In turn, this manipulation of currency and commodity flows constituting neoliberal globalization became the basis for the creation of the planet’s first genuine global bureaucracy.

· This was multi-tiered, with finance capital at the peak, then the ever-expanding trade bureaucracies (IMF, WTO, EU, World Bank, etc), then transnational corporations, and finally, the endless varieties of NGOs that proliferated throughout the period—almost all of which shared the same neoliberal orthodoxy, even as they substituted themselves for social welfare functions once reserved for states.

· The existence of this overarching apparatus, in turn, allowed poorer countries previously under the control of authoritarian regimes beholden to one or another side in the Cold War to adopt “democratic” forms of government. This did allow a restoration of formal civil liberties, but very little that could really merit the name of democracy (the rule of the “demos”, i.e., of the commoners). They were in fact constitutional republics, and the overwhelming trend during the period was to strip legislatures, that branch of government most open to popular pressure, of most of their powers, which were increasingly shifted to the executive and judicial branches, even as these latter, in turn, largely ended up enacting policies developed overseas, by global bureaucrats.

· This entire bureaucratic arrangement was justified, paradoxically enough, by an ideology of extreme individualism. On the level of ideas, neoliberalism relied on a systematic cooptation of the themes of popular struggle of the ‘60s: autonomy, pleasure, personal liberation, the rejection of all forms of bureaucratic control and authority. All these were repackaged as the very essence of capitalism, and the market reframed as a revolutionary force of liberation.

· The entire arrangement, in turn, was made possible by a preemptive attitude towards popular struggle. The breaking of unions and retreat of mass social movements from the late ‘70s onwards was only made possible by a massive shift of state resources into the machinery of violence: armies, prisons and police (secret and otherwise) and an endless variety of private “security services”, all with their attendant propaganda machines, which tended to increase even as other forms of social spending were cut back, among other things absorbing increasing portions of the former proletariat, making the security apparatus an increasingly large proportion of total social spending. This approach has been very successful in holding back mass opposition to capital in much of the world (especially West Europe and North America), and above all, in making it possible to argue there are no viable alternatives. But in doing so, has created strains on the system so profound it threatens to undermine it entirely.

The latter point deserves elaboration. The element of force is, on any number of levels, the weak point of the system. This is not only on the constitutional level, where the question of how to integrate the emerging global bureaucratic apparatus, and existing military arrangements, has never been resolved. It is above all an economic problem. It is quite clear that the maintenance of elaborate security machinery is an absolute imperative of neoliberalism. One need only observe what happened with the collapse of the Soviet bloc in Eastern Europe: where one might have expected the Cold War victors to demand the dismantling of the army, secret police and secret prisons, and to maintain and develop the existing industrial base, in fact, what they did was absolutely the opposite: in fact, the only part of the industrial base that has managed fully to maintain itself has been the parts required to maintained the security apparatus itself! Critical too is the element of preemption: the governing classes in North America, for example, are willing to go to almost unimaginable lengths to ensure social movements never feel they are accomplishing anything. The current Gulf War is an excellent example: US military operations appear to be organized first and foremost to be protest-proof, to ensure that what happened in Vietnam (mass mobilization at home, widespread revolt within the army overseas) could never be repeated. This means above all that US casualties must always be kept to a minimum. The result are rules of engagement, and practices like the use of air power within cities ostensibly already controlled by occupation forces, so obviously guaranteed to maximize the killing of innocents and galvanizing hatred against the occupiers that they ensure the war itself cannot be won. Yet this approach can be taken as the very paradigm for neoliberal security regimes. Consider security arrangements around trade summits, where police are so determined prevent protestors from achieving tactical victories that they are often willing to effectively shut down the summits themselves. So too in overall strategy. In North America, such enormous resources are poured into the apparatus of repression, militarization, and propaganda that class struggle, labor action, mass movements seem to disappear entirely. It is thus possible to claim we have entered a new age where old conflicts are irrelevant. This is tremendously demoralizing of course for opponents of the system; but those running the system seem to find that demoralization so essential they don’t seem to care that the resultant apparatus (police, prisons, military, etc) is, effectively, sinking the entire US economy under its dead weight.

The current crisis is not primarily geopolitical in nature. It is a crisis of neoliberalism itself. But it takes place against the backdrop of profound geopolitical realignments. The decline of North American power, both economic and geopolitical has been accompanied by the rise of Northeast Asia (and to a increasing extent, South Asia as well). While the Northeast Asian region is still divided by painful Cold War cleavages—the fortified lines across the Taiwan straits and at the 38th parallel in Korea…—the sheer realities of economic entanglement can be expected to lead to a gradual easing of tensions and a rise to global hegemony, as the region becomes the new center of gravity of the global economy, of the creation of new science and technology, ultimately, of political and military power. This may, quite likely, be a gradual and lengthy process. But in the meantime, very old patterns are rapidly reemerging: China reestablishing relations with ancient tributary states from Korea to Vietnam, radical Islamists attempting to reestablish their ancient role as the guardians of finance and piety at the in the Central Asian caravan routes and across Indian Ocean, every sort of Medieval trade diaspora reemerging… In the process, old political models remerge as well: the Chinese principle of the state transcending law, the Islamic principle of a legal order transcending any state. Everywhere, we see the revival too of ancient forms of exploitation—feudalism, slavery, debt peonage—often entangled in the newest forms of technology, but still echoing all the worst abuses of the Middle Ages. A scramble for resources has begun, with US occupation of Iraq and saber-rattling throughout the surrounding region clearly meant (at least in part) to place a potential stranglehold the energy supply of China; Chinese attempts to outflank with its own scramble for Africa, with increasing forays into South America and even Eastern Europe. The Chinese invasion into Africa (not as of yet at least a military invasion, but already involving the movement of hundreds of thousands of people), is changing the world in ways that will probably be felt for centuries. Meanwhile, the nations of South America, the first victims of the “Washington consensus” have managed to largely wriggle free from the US colonial orbit, while the US, its forces tied down in the Middle East, has for the moment at least abandoned it, is desperately struggling to keep its grip Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean—its own “near abroad”.

In another age all this might have led to war—that is, not just colonial occupations, police actions, or proxy wars (which are obviously already taking place), but direct military confrontations between the armies of major powers. It still could; accidents happen; but there is reason to believe that, when it comes to moments of critical decision, the loyalties of the global elites are increasingly to each other, and not to the national entities for whom they claim to speak. There is some compelling evidence for this.

Take for example when the US elites panicked at the prospect of the massive budget surpluses of the late 1990s. As Alan Greenspan, head of the Federal Reserve at the time warned, if these were allowed to stand they would have flooded government coffers with so many trillions of dollars that it could only have lead to some form of creeping socialism, even, he predicted, to the government acquiring “equity stakes” in key US corporations. The more excitable of capitalism’s managers actually began contemplating scenarios where the capitalist system itself would be imperiled. The only possible solution was massive tax cuts; these were duly enacted, and did indeed manage to turn surpluses into enormous deficits, financed by the sale of treasury bonds to Japan and China. Conditions have thus now reached a point where it is beginning to look as if the most likely long term outcome for the US (its technological and industrial base decaying, sinking under the burden of its enormous security spending) will be to end up serve as junior partner and military enforcer for East Asia capital. Its rulers, or at least a significant proportion of them, would prefer to hand global hegemony to the rulers of China (provided the latter abandon Communism) than to return to any sort of New Deal compromise with their “own” working classes.

A second example lies in the origins of what has been called the current “Bretton Woods II” system of currency arrangements, which underline a close working together of some “surplus” and “deficit” countries within global circuits. The macroeconomic manifestation of the planetary restructuring outlined in XIX underlines both the huge US trade deficit that so much seem to worry many commentators, and the possibility to continually generate new debt instruments like the one that has recently resulted in the sub-prime crisis. The ongoing recycling of accumulated surplus of countries exporting to the USA such as China and oil producing countries is what has allowed financiers to create new credit instruments in the USA. Hence, the “deal” offered by the masters in the United States to its commoners has been this: ‘you, give us a relative social peace and accept capitalist markets as the main means through which you reproduce your own livelihoods, and we will give you access to cheaper consumption goods, access to credit for buying cars and homes, and access to education, health, pensions and social security through the speculative means of stock markets and housing prices.’ Similar compromises were reached in all the G8 countries.

Meanwhile, there is the problem of maintaining any sort of social peace with the hundreds of millions of unemployed, underemployed, dispossessed commoners currently swelling the shanty-towns of Asia, Africa, and Latin America as a result of ongoing enclosures (which have speeded up within China and India in particular, even as “structural adjustment policies” in Africa and Latin America have been derailed). Any prospect of maintaining peace in these circumstances would ordinarily require either extremely high rates of economic growth—which globally have not been forthcoming, since outside of China, growth rates in the developing world have been much lower than they were in the ‘50s, ‘60s, or even ‘70s—or extremely high levels of repression, lest matters descend into rebellion or generalized civil war. The latter has of course occurred in many parts of the world currently neglected by capital, but in favored regions, such as the coastal provinces of China, or “free trade” zones of India, Egypt, or Mexico, commoners are being offered a different sort of deal: industrial employment at wages that, while very low by international standards, are still substantially higher than anything currently obtainable in the impoverished countryside; and above all the promise, through the intervention of Western markets and (privatized) knowledge, of gradually improving conditions of living. While over the least few years wages in many such areas seem to be growing, thanks to the intensification of popular struggles, such gains are inherently vulnerable: the effect of recent food inflation has been to cut real wages back dramatically—and threaten millions with starvation.

What we really want to stress here, though, is that the long-term promise being offered to the South is just as untenable as the idea that US or European consumers can indefinitely expand their conditions of life through the use of mortgages and credit cards.

What’s being offered the new dispossessed is a transposition of the American dream. The idea is that the lifestyle and consumption patterns of existing Chinese, Indian, or Brazilian or Zambian urban middle classes (already modeled on Northern ones) will eventually become available to the children of today’s miners, maquila or plantation laborers, until, ultimately, everyone on earth is brought up to roughly the same level of consumption. Put in these terms, the argument is absurd. The idea that all six billion of us can become “middle class” is obviously impossible. First of all there is a simple problem of resources. It doesn’t matter how many bottles we recycle or how energy efficient are the light bulbs we use, there’s just no way the earth’s ecosystem can accommodate six billion people driving in private cars to work in air-conditioned cubicles before periodically flying off to vacation in Acapulco or Tahiti. To maintain the style of living and producing in common we now identify with “middle classness” on a planetary scale would require several additional planets.

This much has been pointed out repeatedly. But the second point is no less important. What this vision of betterment ultimately proposes is that it would be possible to build universal prosperity and human dignity on a system of wage labor. This is fantasy. Historically, wages are always the contractual face for system of command and degradation, and a means of disguising exploitation: expressing value for work only on condition of stealing value without work— and there is no reason to believe they could ever be anything else. This is why, as history has also shown, human beings will always avoid working for wages if they have any other viable option. For a system based on wage labor to come into being, such options must therefore be made unavailable. This in turn means that such systems are always premised on structures of exclusion: on the prior existence of borders and property regimes maintained by violence. Finally, historically, it has always proved impossible to maintain any sizeable class of wage-earners in relative prosperity without basing that prosperity, directly or indirectly, on the unwaged labor of others—on slave-labor, women’s domestic labor, the forced labor of colonial subjects, the work of women and men in peasant communities halfway around the world—by people who are even more systematically exploited, degraded, and immiserated. For that reason, such systems have always depended not only on setting wage-earners against each other by inciting bigotry, prejudice, hostility, resentment, violence, but also by inciting the same between men and women, between the people of different continents (“race”), between the generations.

From the perspective of the whole, then, the dream of universal middle class “betterment” must necessarily be an illusion constructed in between the Scylla of ecological disaster, and the Charybdis of poverty, detritus, and hatred: precisely, the two pillars of today’s strategic impasse faced by the G8.

How then do we describe the current impasse of capitalist governance?

To a large degree, it is the effect of a sudden and extremely effective upswing of popular resistance—one all the more extraordinary considering the huge resources that had been invested in preventing such movements from breaking out.

On the one hand, the turn of the millennium saw a vast and sudden flowering of new anti-capitalist movements, a veritable planetary uprising against neoliberalism by commoners in Latin America, India, Africa, Asia, across the North Atlantic world’s former colonies and ultimately, within the cities of the former colonial powers themselves. As a result, the neoliberal project lies shattered. What came to be called the “anti-globalization” movement took aim at the trade bureaucracies—the obvious weak link in the emerging institutions of global administration—but it was merely the most visible aspect of this uprising. It was however an extraordinarily successful one. Not only was the WTO halted in its tracks, but all major trade initiatives (MAI, FTAA…) scuttled. The World Bank was hobbled and the power of the IMF over most of the world’s population, effectively, destroyed. The latter, once the terror of the Global South, is now a shattered remnant of its former self, reduced to selling off its gold reserves and desperately searching for a new global mission.

In many ways though spectacular street actions were merely the most visible aspects of much broader changes: the resurgence of labor unions, in certain parts of the world, the flowering of economic and social alternatives on the grassroots levels in every part of the world, from new forms of direct democracy of indigenous communities like El Alto in Bolivia or self-managed factories in Paraguay, to township movements in South Africa, farming cooperatives in India, squatters’ movements in Korea, experiments in permaculture in Europe or “Islamic economics” among the urban poor in the Middle East. We have seen the development of thousands of forms of mutual aid association, most of which have not even made it onto the radar of the global media, often have almost no ideological unity and which may not even be aware of each other’s existence, but nonetheless share a common desire to mark a practical break with capitalism, and which, most importantly, hold out the prospect of creating new forms of planetary commons that can—and in some cases are—beginning to knit together to provide the outlines of genuine alternative vision of what a non-capitalist future might look like.

The reaction of the world’s rulers was predictable. The planetary uprising had occurred during a time when the global security apparatus was beginning to look like it lacked a purpose, when the world threatened to return to a state of peace. The response—aided of course, by the intervention of some of the US’ former Cold War allies, reorganized now under the name of Al Qaeda—was a return to global warfare. But this too failed. The “war on terror”—as an attempt to impose US military power as the ultimate enforcer of the neoliberal model—has collapsed as well in the face of almost universal popular resistance. This is the nature of their “impasse”.

At the same time, the top-heavy, inefficient US model of military capitalism—a model created in large part to prevent the dangers of social movements, but which the US has also sought to export to some degree simply because of its profligacy and inefficiency, to prevent the rest of the world from too rapidly overtaking them—has proved so wasteful of resources that it threatens to plunge the entire planet into ecological and social crisis. Drought, disaster, famines, combine with endless campaigns of enclosure, foreclosure, to cast the very means of survival—food, water, shelter—into question for the bulk of the world’s population.

In the rulers’ language the crisis understood, first and foremost, as a problem of regulating cash flows, of reestablishing, as they like to put it, a new “financial architecture”. Obviously they are aware of the broader problems. Their promotional literature has always been full of it. From the earliest days of the G7, through to the days after the Cold War, when Russia was added as a reward for embracing capitalism, they have always claimed that their chief concerns include

· the reduction of global poverty

· sustainable environmental policies

· sustainable global energy policies

· stable financial institutions governing global trade and currency transactions

If one were to take such claims seriously, it’s hard to see their overall performance as anything but a catastrophic failure. At the present moment, all of these are in crisis mode: there are food riots, global warming, peak oil, and the threat of financial meltdown, bursting of credit bubbles, currency crises, a global credit crunch. [**Failure on this scale however, opens opportunities for the G8 themselves, as summit of the global bureaucracy, to reconfigure the strategic horizon. Therefore, it’s always with the last of these that they are especially concerned. ]The real problem, from the perspective of the G8, is one of reinvestment: particularly, of the profits of the energy sector, but also, now, of emerging industrial powers outside the circle of the G8 itself. The neoliberal solution in the ‘70s had been to recycle OPEC’s petrodollars into banks that would use it much of the world into debt bondage, imposing regimes of fiscal austerity that, for the most part, stopped development (and hence, the emergence potential rivals) in its tracks. By the ‘90s, however, much East Asia in particular had broken free of this regime. Attempts to reimpose IMF-style discipline during the Asian financial crisis of 1997 largely backfired. So a new compromise was found, the so-called Bretton Woods II: to recycle the profits from the rapidly expanding industrial economies of East Asia into US treasury debt, artificially supporting the value of the dollar and allowing a continual stream of cheap exports that, aided by the US housing bubble, kept North Atlantic economies afloat and buy off workers there with cheap oil and even cheaper consumer goods even as real wages shrank. This solution however soon proved a temporary expedient. Bush regime’s attempt to lock it in by the invasion of Iraq, which was meant to lead to the forced privatization of Iraqi oil fields, and, ultimately, of the global oil industry as a whole, collapsed in the face of massive popular resistance (just as Saddam Hussein’s attempt to introduce neoliberal reforms in Iraq had failed when he was still acting as American deputy in the ‘90s). Instead, the simultaneous demand for petroleum for both Chinese manufacturers and American consumers caused a dramatic spike in the price of oil. What’s more, rents from oil and gas production are now being used to pay off the old debts from the ‘80s (especially in Asia and Latin America, which have by now paid back their IMF debts entirely), and—increasingly—to create state-managed Sovereign Wealth Funds that have largely replaced institutions like the IMF as the institutions capable of making long-term strategic investments. The IMF, purposeless, tottering on the brink of insolvency, has been reduced to trying to come up with “best practices” guidelines for fund managers working for governments in Singapore, Seoul, and Abu Dhabi.

There can be no question this time around of freezing out countries like China, India, or even Brazil. The question for capital’s planners, rather, is how to channel these new concentrations of capital in such a way that they reinforce the logic of the system instead of undermining it.

How can this be done? This is where appeals to universal human values, to common membership in an “international community” come in to play. “We all must pull together for the good of the planet,” we will be told. The money must be reinvested “to save the earth.”

To some degree this was always the G8 line: this is a group has been making an issue of climate change since 1983. Doing so was in one sense a response to the environmental movements of the ‘70s and ‘80s. The resultant emphasis on biofuels and “green energy” was from their point of view, the perfect strategy, seizing on an issue that seemed to transcend class, appropriating ideas and issues that emerged from social movements (and hence coopting and undermining especially their radical wings), and finally, ensuring such initiatives are pursued not through any form of democratic self-organization but “market mechanisms”—to effective make the sense of public interest productive for capitalism.

What we can expect now is a two-pronged attack. On the one hand, they will use the crisis to attempt to reverse the gains of past social movements: to put nuclear energy back on the table to deal with the energy crisis and global warming, or genetically modified foods to deal with the food crisis. Prime Minister Fukuda, the host of the current summit, for example, is already proposing the nuclear power is the “solution” to the global warming crisis, even as the German delegation resists. On the other, and even more insidiously, they will try once again to co-opt the ideas and solutions that have emerged from our struggles as a way of ultimately undermining them. Appropriating such ideas is simply what rulers do: the bosses brain is always under the workers’ hat. But the ultimate aim is to answer the intensification of class struggle, of the danger of new forms of democracy, with another wave of enclosures, to restore a situation where commoners’ attempts to create broader regimes of cooperation are stymied, and people are plunged back into mutual competition.

We can already see the outlines of how this might be done. There are already suggestions that Sovereign Wealth Funds put aside a certain (miniscule) proportion of their money for food aid, but only as tied to a larger project of global financial restructuring. The World Bank, largely bereft of its earlier role organizing dams and pipe-lines across the world, has been funding development in China’s poorer provinces, freeing the Chinese government to carry out similar projects in Southeast Asia, Africa, and even Latin America (where, of course, they cannot effectively be held to any sort of labor or environmental standards). There is the possibility of a new class deal in China itself, whose workers can be allowed higher standards of living if new low wage zones are created elsewhere—for instance, Africa (the continent where struggles over maintaining the commons have been most intense in current decades)—with the help of Chinese infrastructural projects. Above of all, money will be channeled into addressing climate change, into the development of alternative energy, which will require enormous investments, in such a way as to ensure that whatever energy resources do become important in this millennium, they can never be democratized—that the emerging notion of a petroleum commons, that energy resources are to some degree a common patrimony meant primarily to serve the community as a whole, that is beginning to develop in parts of the Middle East and South America—not be reproduced in whatever comes next.

Since this will ultimately have to be backed up by the threat of violence, the G8 will inevitably have to struggle with how to (yet again) rethink enforcement mechanisms. The latest move , now that the US “war on terror” paradigm has obviously failed, would appear to be a return to NATO, part of a reinvention of the “European security architecture” being proposed at the upcoming G8 meetings in Italy in 2009 on the 60th anniversary of NATO’s foundation—but part of a much broader movement of the militarization of social conflict, projecting potential resource wars, demographic upheavals resulting from climate change, and radical social movements as potential military problems to be resolved by military means. Opposition to this new project is already shaping up as the major new European mobilization for the year following the current G-8.

While the G-8 sit at the pinnacle of a system of violence, their preferred idiom is monetary. Their impulse whenever possible is to translate all problems into money, financial structures, currency flows—a substance whose movements they carefully monitor and control.

Money, on might say, is their poetry—a poetry whose letters are written in our blood. It is their highest and most abstract form of expression, their way of making statements about the ultimate truth of the world, even if it operates in large part by making things disappear. How else could it be possible to argue—no, to assume as a matter of common sense—that the love, care, and concern of a person who tends to the needs of children, teaching, minding, helping them to become decent , thoughtful, human beings, or who grows and prepares food, is worth ten thousand times less than someone who spends the same time designing a brand logo, moving abstract blips across a globe, or denying others health care.

The role of money however has changed profoundly since 1971 when the dollar was delinked from gold. This has created a profound realignment of temporal horizons. Once money could be said to be primarily congealed results of past profit and exploitation. As capital, it was dead labor. Millions of indigenous Americans and Africans had their lives pillaged and destroyed in the gold mines in order to be rendered into value. The logic of finance capital, of credit structures, certainly always existed as well (it is at least as old as industrial capital; possibly older), but in recent decades these logic of financial capital has come to echo and re-echo on every level of our lives. In the UK 97% of money in circulation is debt, in the US, 98%. Governments run on deficit financing, wealthy economies on consumer debt, the poor are enticed with microcredit schemes, debts are packaged and repackaged in complex financial derivatives and traded back and forth. Debt however is simply a promise, the expectation of future profit; capital thus increasingly brings the future into the present—a future that, it insists, must always be the same in nature, even if must also be greater in magnitude, since of course the entire system is premised on continual growth. Where once financiers calculated and traded in the precise measure of our degradation, having taken everything from us and turned it into money, now money has flipped, to become the measure of our future degradation—at the same time as it binds us to endlessly working in the present.

The result is a strange moral paradox. Love, loyalty, honor, commitment—to our families, for example, which means to our shared homes, which means to the payment of monthly mortgage debts—becomes a matter of maintaining loyalty to a system which ultimately tells us that such commitments are not a value in themselves. This organization of imaginative horizons, which ultimately come down to a colonization of the very principle of hope, has come to supplement the traditional evocation of fear (of penury, homelessness, joblessness, disease and death). This colonization paralyzes any thought of opposition to a system that almost everyone ultimately knows is not only an insult to everything they really cherish, but a travesty of genuine hope, since, because no system can really expand forever on a finite planet, everyone is aware on some level that in the final analysis they are dealing with a kind of global pyramid scheme, what we are ultimately buying and selling is the real promise of global social and environmental apocalypse.

Finally then we come to the really difficult, strategic questions. Where are the vulnerabilities? Where is hope? Obviously we have no certain answers here. No one could. But perhaps the proceeding analysis opens up some possibilities that anti-capitalist organizers might find useful to explore.

One thing that might be helpful is to rethink our initial terms. Consider communism. We are used to thinking of it as a total system that perhaps existed long ago, and to the desire to bring about an analogous system at some point in the future—usually, at whatever cost. It seems to us that dreams of communist futures were never purely fantasies; they were simply projections of existing forms of cooperation, of commoning, by which we already make the world in the present. Communism in this sense is already the basis of almost everything, what brings people and societies into being, what maintains them, the elemental ground of all human thought and action. There is absolutely nothing utopian here. What is utopian, really, is the notion that any form of social organization, especially capitalism, could ever exist that was not entirely premised on the prior existence of communism. If this is true, the most pressing question is simply how to make that power visible, to burst forth, to become the basis for strategic visions, in the face of a tremendous and antagonistic power committed to destroying it—but at the same time, ensuring that despite the challenge they face, they never again become entangled with forms of violence of their own that make them the basis for yet another tawdry elite. After all, the solidarity we extend to one another, is it not itself a form of communism? And is it not so above because it is not coerced?

Another thing that might be helpful is to rethink our notion of crisis. There was a time when simply describing the fact that capitalism was in a state of crisis, driven by irreconcilable contradictions, was taken to suggest that it was heading for a cliff. By now, it seems abundantly clear that this is not the case. Capitalism is always in a crisis. The crisis never goes away. Financial markets are always producing bubbles of one sort or another; those bubbles always burst, sometimes catastrophically; often entire national economies collapse, sometimes the global markets system itself begins to come apart. But every time the structure is reassembled. Slowly, painfully, dutifully, the pieces always end up being put back together once again.

Perhaps we should be asking: why?

In searching for an answer, it seems to us, we might also do well to put aside another familiar habit of radical thought: the tendency to sort the world into separate levels—material realities, the domain of ideas or “consciousness”, the level of technologies and organizations of violence—treating these as if these were separate domains that each work according to separate logics, and then arguing which “determines” which. In fact they cannot be disentangled. A factory may be a physical thing, but the ownership of a factory is a social relation, a legal fantasy that is based partly on the belief that law exists, and partly on the existence of armies and police. Armies and police on the other hand exist partly because of factories providing them with guns, vehicles, and equipment, but also, because those carrying the guns and riding in the vehicles believe they are working for an abstract entity they call “the government”, which they love, fear, and ultimately, whose existence they take for granted by a kind of faith, since historically, those armed organizations tend to melt away immediately the moment they lose faith that the government actually exists. Obviously exactly the same can be said of money. It’s value is constantly being produced by eminently material practices involving time clocks, bank machines, mints, and transatlantic computer cables, not to mention love, greed, and fear, but at the same time, all this too rests on a kind of faith that all these things will continue to interact in more or less the same way. It is all very material, but it also reflects a certain assumption of eternity: the reason that the machine can always be placed back together is, simply, because everyone assumes it must. This is because they cannot realistically imagine plausible alternatives; they cannot imagine plausible alternatives because of the extraordinarily sophisticated machinery of preemptive violence that ensure any such alternatives are uprooted or contained (even if that violence is itself organized around a fear that itself rests on a similar form of faith.) One cannot even say it’s circular. It’s more a kind of endless, unstable spiral. To subvert the system is then, to intervene in such a way that the whole apparatus begins to spin apart.

It appears to us that one key element here—one often neglected in revolutionary strategy—is the role of the global middle classes. This is a class that, much though it varies from country (in places like the US and Japan, overwhelming majorities consider themselves middle class; in, say, Cambodia or Zambia, only very small percentages), almost everywhere provides the key constituency of the G8 outside of the ruling elite themselves. It has become a truism, an article of faith in itself in global policy circles, that national middle class is everywhere the necessary basis for democracy. In fact, middle classes are rarely much interested in democracy in any meaningful sense of that word (that is, of the self-organization or self-governance of communities). They tend to be quite suspicious of it. Historically, middle classes have tended to encourage the establishment of constitutional republics with only limited democratic elements (sometimes, none at all). This is because their real passion is for a “betterment”, for the prosperity and advance of conditions of life for their children—and this betterment, since it is as noted above entirely premised on structures of exclusion, requires “security”. Actually the middle classes depend on security on every level: personal security, social security (various forms of government support, which even when it is withdrawn from the poor tends to be maintained for the middle classes), security against any sudden or dramatic changes in the nature of existing institutions. Thus, politically, the middle classes are attached not to democracy (which, especially in its radical forms, might disrupt all this), but to the rule of law. In the political sense, then, being “middle class” means existing outside the notorious “state of exception” to which the majority of the world’s people are relegated. It means being able to see a policeman and feel safer, not even more insecure. This would help explain why within the richest countries, the overwhelming majority of the population will claim to be “middle class” when speaking in the abstract, even if most will also instantly switch back to calling themselves “working class” when talking about their relation to their boss.

That rule of law, in turn, allows them to live in that temporal horizon where the market and other existing institutions (schools, governments, law firms, real estate brokerages…) can be imagined as lasting forever in more or less the same form. The middle classes can thus be defined as those who live in the eternity of capitalism. (The elites don’t; they live in history, they don’t assume things will always be the same. The disenfranchized don’t; they don’t have the luxury; they live in a state of precarity where little or nothing can safely be assumed.) Their entire lives are based on assuming that the institutional forms they are accustomed to will always be the same, for themselves and their grandchildren, and their “betterment” will be proportional to the increase in the level of monetary wealth and consumption. This is why every time global capital enters one of its periodic crises, every time banks collapse, factories close, and markets prove unworkable, or even, when the world collapses in war, the managers and dentists will tend to support any program that guarantees the fragments will be dutifully pieced back together in roughly the same form—even if all are, at the same time, burdened by at least a vague sense that the whole system is unfair and probably heading for catastrophe.

The strategic question then is, how to shatter this sense of inevitability? History provides one obvious suggestion. The last time the system really neared self-destruction was in the 1930s, when what might have otherwise been an ordinary turn of the boom-bust cycle turned into a depression so profound that it took a world war to pull out of it. What was different? The existence of an alternative: a Soviet economy that, whatever its obvious brutalities, was expanding at breakneck pace at the very moment market systems were undergoing collapse. Alternatives shatter the sense of inevitability, that the system must, necessarily, be patched together in the same form; this is why it becomes an absolute imperative of global governance that even small viable experiments in other ways of organizing communities be wiped out, or, if that is not possible, that no one knows about them.

If nothing else, this explains the extraordinary importance attached to the security services and preemption of popular struggle. Commoning, where it already exists, must be made invisible. Alternatives— Zapatistas in Chiapas, APPO in Oaxaca, worker-managed factories in Argentina or Paraguay, community-run water systems in South Africa or Bolivia, living alternatives of farming or fishing communities in India or Indonesia, or a thousand other examples—must be made to disappear, if not squelched or destroyed, then marginalized to the point they seem irrelevant, ridiculous. If the managers of the global system are so determined to do this they are willing to invest such enormous resources into security apparatus that it threatens to sink the system entirely, it is because they are aware that they are working with a house of cards. That the principle of hope and expectation on which capitalism rests would evaporate instantly if almost any other principle of hope or expectation seemed viable.

The knowledge of alternatives, then, is itself a material force.

Without them, of course, the shattering of any sense of certainty has exactly the opposite effect. It becomes pure precarity, an insecurity so profound that it becomes impossible to project oneself in history in any form, so that the one-time certainties of middle class life itself becomes a kind of utopian horizon, a desperate dream, the only possible principle of hope beyond which one cannot really imagine anything. At the moment, this seems the favorite weapon of neoliberalism: whether promulgated through economic violence, or the more direct, traditional kind.

One form of resistance that might prove quite useful here – and is already being discussed in some quarters – are campaigns against debt itself. Not demands for debt forgiveness, but campaigns of debt resistance.

In this sense the great slogan of the global justice movement, “another world is possible”, represents the ultimate threat to existing power structures. But in another sense we can even say we have already begun to move beyond that. Another world is not merely possible. It is inevitable. On the one hand, as we have pointed out, such a world is already in existence in the innumerable circuits of social cooperation and production in common based on different values than those of profit and accumulation through which we already create our lives, and without which capitalism itself would be impossible. On the other, a different world is inevitable because capitalism—a system based on infinite material expansion—simply cannot continue forever on a finite world. At some point, if humanity is to survive at all, we will be living in a system that is not based on infinite material expansion. That is, something other than capitalism.

The problem is there is no absolute guarantee that ‘something’ will be any better. It’s pretty easy to imagine “other worlds” that would be even worse. We really don’t have any idea what might happen. To what extent will the new world still organized around commoditization of life, profit, and pervasive competition? Or a reemergence of even older forms of hierarchy and degradation? How, if we do overcome capitalism directly, by the building and interweaving of new forms of global commons, do we protect ourselves against the reemergence of new forms of hierarchy and division that we might not now even be able to imagine?

It seems to us that the decisive battles that will decide the contours of this new world will necessarily be battles around values. First and foremost are values of solidarity among commoners. Since after all, every rape of a woman by a man or the racist murder of an African immigrant by a European worker is worth a division in capital’s army.

Similarly, imagining our struggles as value struggles might allow us to see current struggles over global energy policies and over the role of money and finance today as just an opening salvo of an even larger social conflict to come. For instance, there’s no need to demonize petroleum, for example, as a thing in itself. Energy products have always tended to play the role of a “basic good”, in the sense that their production and distribution becomes the physical basis for all other forms of human cooperation, at the same time as its control tends to organize social and even international relations. Forests and wood played such a role from the time of the Magna Carta to the American Revolution, sugar did so during the rise of European colonial empires in the 17th and 18th centuries, fossil fuels do so today. There is nothing intrinsically good or bad about fossil fuel. Oil is simply solar radiation, once processed by living beings, now stored in fossil form. The question is of control and distribution. This is the real flaw in the rhetoric over “peak oil”: the entire argument is premised on the assumption that, for the next century at least, global markets will be the only means of distribution. Otherwise the use of oil would depend on needs, which would be impossible to predict precisely because they depend on the form of production in common we adopt. The question thus should be: how does the anti-capitalist movement peak the oil? How does it become the crisis for a system of unlimited expansion?

It is the view of the authors of this text that the most radical planetary movements that have emerged to challenge the G8 are those that direct us towards exactly these kind of questions. Those which go beyond merely asking how to explode the role money plays in framing our horizons, or even challenging the assumption of the endless expansion of “the economy”, to ask why we assume something called “the economy” even exists, and what other ways we can begin imagining our material relations with one another. The planetary women’s movement, in its many manifestations, has and continues to play perhaps the most important role of all here, in calling for us to reimagine our most basic assumptions about work, to remember that the basic business of human life is not actually the production of communities but the production, the mutual shaping of human beings. The most inspiring of these movements are those that call for us to move beyond a mere challenge to the role of money to reimagine value: to ask ourselves how can we best create a situation where everyone is secure enough in their basic needs to be able to pursue those forms of value they decide are ultimately important to them. To move beyond a mere challenge to the tyranny of debt to ask ourselves what we ultimately owe to one another and to our environment. That recognize that none this needs to invented from whole cloth. It’s all already there, immanent in the way everyone, as commoners, create the world together on a daily basis. And that asking these questions is never, and can never be, an abstract exercise, but is necessarily part of a process by which we are already beginning to knit these forms of commons together into new forms of global commons that will allow entirely new conceptions of our place in history.

It is to those already engaged in such a project that we offer these initial thoughts on our current strategic situation.

Immigrants are our friends, not our enemies

Immigrant workers are our allies, not our enemies is a talk given by Garrett Brown of the Maquiladora Health and Safety Network that packs a lot of facts in it. One fact he mentions is that more than 1/2 of Mexicans are living on $3 or less a day income.

Do you really want to have the government tracking these immigrants down like they were mere dogs, and not human beings like you and your family are?

Also of note, is that 1 hour south of Douglas, Arizona, an American owned mine is out once again trying to destroy the miner’s union located there in a small Mexican town. The town where the mine is located is called Cananea, Sonora.

Below is some info about this, and once can also check out the film called Cananea, too, for some historical reference and background to this union struggle.
From: Garrett Brown (received today)

Dear Colleagues:
I am writing to see if anyone is, or knows of any, Spanish-speaking
occupational physician, occupational nurse or industrial hygienist who
would be available for a 4-day trip to Cananea, Mexico (just south of
the Arizona border) over the Columbus Day weekend (Oct. 5-8, 2007).

We are trying to put together a volunteer team, all expenses paid but
no fees, to conduct limited medical screenings and IH-related
interviews of some of the 1,300 copper miners who have been on strike
for 7 weeks against the giant Grupo Mexico conglomerate at the
historic Cananea mine where the 1910 Mexican Revolution began.

The key demands of the strike are over workplace health and safety,
and the decision of Grupo Mexico to close the miners company-paid
health clinic. Grupo Mexico has vowed to break the union in Cananea —
which would be a historic defeat — as well as impose its demands on
the workers. The strike is being strongly supported by the United
Steel Workers (USW) union in the United States in a heartening display
of international solidarity.

The goal of the US team, which will partner with Mexican health
workers in Cananea, will be document as thoroughly as possible in a
short time the health problems experienced by both retired and active
miners; and to collect information on the working conditions in the
Cananea facility. The medical team will conduct the medical
evaluations and the IH team will conduct interviews with the workers.

A report will be issued following the visit to provide information to
the public in both Mexico and the United States about the working
conditions that provoked the strike and the needs of the miners.

Further details of the timing (not completely confirmed at this
writing) will be available in the next several days.

If you — or anyone you know — are potentially available for this
emergency, short-term but very important project, please contact
Garrett Brown at gdbrown@igc.org

In solidarity,
Garrett Brown
Coordinator, Maquiladora Health & Safety Support Network

Gold in them thar hills

Darfur has undiscovered water! Water you say? In The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Humphrey Bogart discovered that no fortune in gold could buy what he really needed in the desert, water!

Precipitating a gold rush has been a traditional underhanded mechanism to conquer and settle new lands, for America’s westward expansion especially, at the tricky impasse of land already deeded to the Indians.

Facing troops and lawmakers showing a moral reluctance to annihilate his red-skinned foes, George Custer played up claims of gold in the Black Hills and the land grab was on, poor white opportunists scrambling to invade Indian lands without anyone being able, if they wanted, to stop them. The betrayed Sioux were all but goaded into war and were soon displaced.

Now someone’s rallying the carpetbaggers to mine the water of Sudan. True, the circumstances are more complex. It’s not our greed they’re preying upon, but our eagerness to see a humanitarian solution. It’s been all to easy to feel there’s nothing to be done to help the Sudan because Africa’s troubles appear perpetual. But with water of course salvation is at hand, even though it’s a panacea.

The march to drill wells in the Sudan may not seem to be for our immediate gain, but let’s not forget that the real fortunes made in gold discoveries weren’t made by miners, but by those who sold them the pick axes and shovels. The drive to Drill 1,000 Wells For Darfur will reap a lot of pick axes and shovels.

Plus we’ll need to protect those projects, to make sure the new water supplies don’t fall into the schemes of evil warlords, so we’ll be authorizing troops to protect, not the black people, but our wells. And amid the militarized destabilization, the west will be able to wrestle China for Sudan’s proven reserves, oil.

Is there water in Darfur? Of course there is. Is there a subterranean reservoir the size of Lake Erie? Five thousand years ago. Experts are skeptical as to what remains. Professor Farouk El-Baz’s previous water divinations in the 80’s yielded 350 wells drilled in Egypt, but no accounts mention finding a rush of water.

Creating Terror in America

We have an government active in creating a climate of terror inside its own borders. There is nothing really new about that, and today’s Gazette had an entire section of the paper dedicated to the Ludlow Massacre which occured decades ago, leaving a permanent stain on the state of Colorado that it may never completely erase.

The massacre was a Colorado national guard assault on immigrants in the middle of Colorado’s freezing winter, in an area located close to Trinidad in the Colorado town of Ludlow, where numbers of immigrant miners and their families including children were murdered down in cold blood and their tent city razed entirely to the ground. The assailants shouted racist anti-immigrant vitriol against the people they were murdering, much similar to the present day mindset pushed by the Right Wing twit Imus.

Imus certainly would have done much the same if he had lived back then, other than that he is in reality nothing more than an embittered and nasty old fart, given overloads of air time for no good reason that anyone can ascertain. But his airtime led to a hostile and racist environment, where the government of the United States itself can both abuse and use immigrants in America today. Yes, Bush’s Klan is now engaging in what can only be described as a terrorist campaign against the immmigrants living amongst us. See ‘Secret Immigration Raids in the D.C. Subway‘.

I am ashamed to be an American. Little has changed from our past history. We are a country with a nasty and violent past, as well as a country with a nasty and violent present. And just what happens to the children that fall victims to these witchhunts? Here is a link to a youtube video following an article about these children.

US Born Kids Face Deportations as Well

These children are living around us here in Colorado, too, as well as in Massachusetts and California. Act to help save them from governmental terrorism.

Mexican government documents its criminal behavior in official report

In the waning last 2 weeks of the Fox Adminstration in Mexico, the Mexican government put a report quietly online admitting government criminality over 2 decades in the past. The criminality consisted of murder, torture, death squad activity, etc. in what is referred to as a ‘dirty war’ against Left activists. The time frame investigated by the authors of the report was from the late ’60s into the early ’80s, but nothing really has changed at all since then. The NY Times article about this report can be easiest read by going to antiwar.com. It is listed under their ‘Americas’ section.

Just this year, Mexican governmental forces have engaged in the same sort of activities, using them against striking miners and other Left activists in Atenco, Chiapas, and Oaxaca, where scores have been disappeared, beat up, tortured, and murdered. And that is not to mention other regions of Mexico which are less under observation by international observers. Actually the report is being used to make it appear as if Fox has taken responsibility for admitting occurrences of the past that are no longer being engaged in today. So the report is actually a style of coverup, rather than admittance of any guilt. That’s why no charges are being brought against any of the guilty parties.

All this being said, just what has been the role of the US press and the US government in its continual backing of the Mexican government? Let’s look at the New York Times, which while running the reportage of this Mexican government ‘confession’, just days previouusly was mocking Manuel Lopez Obrador for refusing to accept the fraud that put the losing candidate in office at Los Pinos, the Mexican White House. And what about admitting the US government’s role in accepting and even sponsoring the Mexican government’s terroristic counter insurgency campaigns? Silence. And the role of the American press in never coveri ng this terrorism, and in not informing the US public of the true state of affairs down South? Silence. The New York Times often times acts as if Mexico was on the other side of the moon when it comes to reporting activities there.

It always amazes me to hear our own, mainly ignorant US population spout off constantly that the Mexican government operates independently of the White House,and is independent of ‘our’ control. Yet, the same ignorant types that do this realize that the US government micro-manages areas off in the total boonies of Asia and other parts of the world. Our corporate daily press is totally complicit in keeping the US public this uninformed and backward in their views, and in keeping them believing that Mexico, which is the most important country to the US outside our own, is somehow on independent auto-pilot rather than in US control, unlike Afghanistan or Kosovo, say!

The truth is far different, and I just got through reading a John Ross report about how Halliburton is all over the still nationalized Mexican petroleum and gas industry. In fact, the man, Felipe Calderon, who stole Mexico’s presidency’s with the total support of Bush and the NY Times, has his principal goal to privatize Pemex, the government owned oil company. The Mexican government under the push by the US to do so, has already done the same with previously nationalized industries in power, communication, and transport. Now only PEMEX remains in state hands, and Halliburton certainly wants that to change as fast as possible.

The US antiwar movement needs to watch Mexico closely, and oppose our US government’s militarism promoted to the South of us. That’s where the counter insurgency programs that the Mexican government of Fox just admitted ran the country in a totally criminal manner throughout Mexico for 2 decades sprung from. That’s where the same criminality of the present springs from, US support for Mexican state terorism used against its own population. The US is messing up Mexico, messed up Mexico, and will not stop doing that until the American people begin to observe, resist their own government,and demand that the US intervention into the internal affairs of Mexico stop.

Stop the US militarization of the US-Mexican Border. Stop the phoney ‘drug war’ that is destroying Mexico, and stop training and supporting the Mexican military’s counter-insurgency against its own population!

Some Colorado labor history

Labor day. It commemorates the likes of Samuel Gompers, Big Bob Haywood and Mother Jones and their efforts to unite working class peoples. They met great resistance from gullible populations of consumers and business owners who weren’t going to give anything unless they were forced.

Child labor laws, five day work weeks, eight hour days, overtime pay, work breaks, retirement, benefits, sick days, vacation days, we owe all these to the might of collective bargaining.

Today’s labor organizers are seen more as standing in the way of productivity. We think of union workers as lazy and greedy, corrupt and undeserving. How is it the labor unions have fallen so low in our sentiments? Probably because businesses have public relations budgets which advance the corporate view, and labor unions, well, do not.

Was this always so? Actually, yes.

The Gold Miner’s Strike, 1894
Colorado Springs citizens themselves figured prominently in an early and notorious labor conflict: the Cripple Creek Miner’s Strike of 1894. Miners united by the Western Federation of Miners were fighting for the three dollar, eight hour day. This was a high wage at the time, but the gold mining business was a veritable bonanza and mine owners were building huge homes on Wood Avenue, “Millionaire’s row.”

Up on the mountain the miners seized and shut down the mines. From their exclusive hang out, the El Paso Club, the mine owners complained about the evils of socialism and the populist leanings of the governor.

When underhanded attempts to dislodge the strikers failed, the mine owners, with the assistance of the Gazette, convinced the population of Colorado Springs to rise up in arms against the miners, lest the miners descend from the mountain and attack them. Twelve hundred men were deputized and led on a march to defeat the seven hundred miners. Luckily the 1,200-strong Colorado Springs volunteer posse was outwitted and the miners achieved their demands.

The struggle was long and bitter and makes an amusing story now. We can be happy that the miners prevailed but let us not today be mistaken about which side most of Colorado Springs was on.

Breaking the union, 1904
By 1904, miners had lost the eight hour day. The Mine Owner’s Association issued work permits only to miners who would renounce their union memberships. As the owners shipped in scab labor to substitute for the union holdouts, the conflict grew bloody. The state militia was called in to close the Victor Record, a newspaper sympathetic to the W. F. M. The union was silenced.

On June 6, 1904, a lunatic fighting on the side of the miners, but for motives of his own, blew up a train platform, killing 21 nonunion workers. Though it was not then established who had done it, the W. F. M. was immediately blamed and routed. 225 union miners, a number of whom had families in Cripple Creek, were boarded unto trains and deported from Teller County.

One group was sent to the Kansas border, marched across, and abandoned. The other was dropped off in a desolate part of New Mexico. All were threatened with dire consequences should they return. The mine owners responsible have names which any Colorado Springs resident can recognize today: Carlton, MacNeill, Penrose, and Tutt.

The Ludlow Massacre, 1914
Who hasn’t heard of the “Ludlow Massacre?” The Ludlow Massacre put Colorado on the map. Do you know what for?

In 1913, the coal miners of Rockefeller’s Colorado Fuel & Iron Corporation in Trinidad were protesting against poor wages, unsafe conditions, and struggling with debt in towns owned entirely by their employer. Naturally when the workers went on strike they were immediately evicted from their shacks.

With help from the United Mine Workers Union the striking workers were able to set up tents in the nearby hills and continue their protest. The Rockefellers hired the Baldwin-Felts Detective Agency to snipe at them and fire into their camps with Gatling guns. The National Guard was brought in to further harass the striking workers, the justification given to the public being the interrupted supply of coal.

When the miners were able to keep up their strike through the harsh winter that year, the Rockefellers had the Governor of Colorado order an all out attack. The National Guard encircled the largest of the tent settlements at Ludlow, inhabited by approximately one thousand men, women and children, and commenced firing.

Thirteen people were killed in the shoot out before the soldiers set fire to the tents and forced the families to flee. After the fire, someone discovered eleven burned corpses, most of them children. They’d been hiding in a shelter dug to escape the incessant gunfire.

News of the “Ludlow Massacre” spread fast. Working class people came from the surrounding areas to avenge the massacre. Mine shafts were exploded, mine guards were shot, anarchy reigned in the hills, and this time President Wilson sent in the Federal troops.

In the end, 66 people were killed. Not a single mine operator or soldier was indicted of a crime. The press announced the attack on the union stronghold and the burning of the sheltered children to have been “a tactical blunder.”

Should such accounts be taught in our schools? The next time we’re told that a union’s demands are unreasonable, let’s remember to look who’s doing the telling.

(This article is reprinted from CRANK MAGAZINE, vol I, number 7)