Tag Archives: elections

Dig in: This Must Be the Winter of Our Discontent!

17 Dec

 

Pretend I’m reading this right now in my very best Boris Karloff voice, because I have to play the Grinch for a bit. Yes, I know, everyone is still justifiably thrilled after all the hard work that brought about the Doug Jones victory in Alabama, and I am no exception; my first act on Tuesday was to wager any takers I could find that Roy Moore would win by eight points, but tellingly, no one wanted the bet.

I think I’ve never been so happy to be wrong in my life, and not just because I would have gotten cleaned out like the lint screen on the dryer. But why? Why was I and so many others so thoroughly convinced that a decent man like Doug Jones was doomed to defeat at the hands of an Old Testament carny huckster pedophile like Roy Moore? Lack of knowledge regarding Alabama politics doesn’t explain it, not even by half.

With only a precious few notable exceptions, this past year has been seamless in its belligerent horror.

Why? Because scars are instructive. With only a precious few notable exceptions, this past year has been seamless in its belligerent horror, so of course Moore was going to win. Par for the course, right? This is what we’ve come to expect since that undercrowded DC day last January, so being wrong about losing in defiance of all well-earned expectations is the psychological version of having Handel’s Messiahsuddenly come blaring out of your fillings. Hallelujah.

The only way Roy Moore could have been a worse candidate was if he had actually been on fire during the entire campaign. Doing his stump speeches, having a quick burger, riding that silly horse, all of it while swaddled in flames with little charred bits of himself falling off every time he shook someone’s hand.

Even so, even with his barge of inexcusable baggage in tow, Moore only lost by two points. Had the sexual misconduct charges not been aired before the election, and had Black organizers not exerted a massive effort to turn out the vote, like as not he would have won in a walk, and Mitch McConnell would be presently seeking the largest Ten Commandments monument on Earth so he can throw himself off it.

It was a huge win that went a long way toward saving Social Security and Medicare from the Paul Ryans of the world. However, it does not signal any significant sea change in US politics or government. Everything is not going to be OK now because Doug Jones won Jeff Sessions’ old seat. Everything, in fact, is incredibly terrible and getting worse. In the short span of days since Jones was declared the winner, the blustering orange fascism currently tinting the national windshield got a whole hell of a lot darker.

 

 

Benito Mussolini invented fascism in a barn about 100 years ago, defining it as the union of state and corporate power. On Thursday, three people on the Federal Communications Commission went a long way toward cementing that union when they voted to strip the internet — a public utility created with taxpayer money and available to all — of all regulations designed to protect the very taxpayers who paid for it.

In short, they corporatized the sum of human knowledge, making it a great deal easier for corporations to block the flow of information, disrupt political discourse and make more money. The most extraordinary expression of free speech ever seen on the planet is now a wholly owned subsidiary of massive multinationals like Comcast and Verizon.

The last time an attack of this size against free speech and the flow of information took place was when the Fairness Doctrine — which limited the number of media outlets a single entity could own in order to guarantee a diversity of perspectives — was disposed of by the FCC in 1987. Soon after, the content available on virtually every TV channel, specifically the news content, was controlled by a small handful of corporate owners. How’s that been working out for democracy so far? Oh, P.S., the FCC also just made it easier for those corporations to own even more TV stations and print publications.

Speaking of state and corporate power, the US Congress is about to deliver a trillion dollars of your money to a cadre of corporations and wealthy benefactors, a move that is guaranteed to shatter the federal government’s ability to help tens of millions of people because … well, because screw you, that’s why. The delivery of this vast fortune to its paymasters has been the core mission of the Republican Party since long before Reagan and his minions coughed up those first rhetorical hairballs about “trickle-down economics.” With this tax bill, their mission is all but accomplished.

 

 

Public hesitation from Republican Senators Marco Rubio and Bob Corker made the math on the bill’s passage theoretically interesting until just before sundown Friday evening, when both of them fell in line. No surprise there; Mitch McConnell didn’t drag this stinking boar’s carcass of a tax bill so far to see it fall to offal at the finish line. Rubio and Corker will wake up Christmas morning with a new Xbox under the tree and all the secret donor dark money they can count. With their votes secured and no other defections on the horizon, the bill will sail to final passage very soon. Thank you, Supply-Side Jesus. God bless us every one.

I am afraid of spiders, sharks, cancer and clowns, not necessarily in that order. Nothing terrifies me more, however, than the sneaking suspicion I have that all this is getting normalized. It is an unavoidable fact of human nature: the urge to cope. Wretched leaders for millennia have taken great advantage of the fact that many people will put up with an incredible amount of terrible crap for way longer than they should. They do this because they have to. Gotta work, gotta eat, gotta feed the family if you can, and if the roof caves in, at least the view will be different.

That’s when the dangerous music starts. We are well beyond “It can’t happen here.” It has happened here, is happening, and will happen even more tomorrow. The militarization of police forces, the resurgence of white nationalism and the racist right, the hoarding of control over information, the labeling and culling of “undesirables,” a state-inflicted climate of fear and, of course, the looting of the Treasury … take a high school world history textbook and throw it against the wall. When it lands, odds are it will open on a page describing a regime that did these very things on its journey down a highway littered with corpses.

This is what fascism looks, smells and sounds like before it breaks out of its egg and spreads its wings. This, right down to the clownish strongman screaming from the podium. They laughed at Mussolini, too, until it became a crime to do so. After that, the joke was on the world.

 

 

I know you are dispirited, spent, offended, exasperated and mortally tired. This is the point when normalization of the intolerable takes root, the moment when the coping skills come out just to get through the day, and you find yourself doing the trigonometry of the damned just to make sense of it: A is worse than B but not as bad as C. Trump just ordered the deportation of millions of innocent people? Oh well, at least we didn’t die in a pillar of nuclear fire today.

This, right here, is where we have to dig in. It is so bad and promises to get worse and we have to dig in. We cannot allow any of this to become even the tiniest bit normal, no matter how much it may cost us in body, mind and spirit. This must be the winter of our discontent. So much good work is being done to resist, so much more can be done and must be done, but it will all come to nothing if any of this mayhem is allowed to seem routine.

Stout hearts. Dig in. Embrace the winter. The alternative can be found in that history book you threw. It does not have a happy ending.

 

Activists stage an anti-Trump protest in front of the U.S. Supreme Court January 23, 2017 in Washington, DC. The group, Refuse Fascism, called for a 'must stop business as usual this week' to 'stop the Trump/Pence regime.' (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

 

Activists stage an anti-Trump protest in front of the US Supreme Court January 23, 2017, in Washington, DC. The group, Refuse Fascism, called for a “must stop business as usual this week” to “stop the Trump/Pence regime.” (Photo: Alex Wong / Getty Images)

Oh me! Oh life! of the questions of these recurring,
Of the endless trains of the faithless, of cities fill’d with the foolish,
Of myself forever reproaching myself, (for who more foolish than I, and who more faithless?)
Of eyes that vainly crave the light, of the objects mean, of the struggle ever renew’d,
Of the poor results of all, of the plodding and sordid crowds I see around me,
Of the empty and useless years of the rest, with the rest me intertwined,
The question, O me! so sad, recurring — What good amid these, O me, O life?

Answer.
That you are here — that life exists and identity,
That the powerful play goes on, and you may contribute a verse.

— Walt Whitman

Copyright, Truthout. May not be reprinted without permission.

 

Source: Dig in: This Must Be the Winter of Our Discontent

 

The “Rigged 2 Party System” holds no future for the 99% a Political Revolution does – Book Sale in Progress – Revolutionary Ideas included – Left Wing & Progressive Books & Blogs – fah451bks.wordpress.com

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The real History; Juana Azurduy de Padilla; Bolivian guerrilla fighter who fought against the Spanish rule in South America. International day of women’s rights

5 Mar

 

Juana Azurduy de Padilla was a Bolivian guerilla fighter who fought against the Spanish rule in South America. It was this day in 1816 that she along with 200 Indian women on horseback, defeated the Spanish troops in Bolivia.

Juana Azurduy Llanos (July 12, 1780 or 1781 – May 25, 1862) was a South American guerrilla military leader.

She was born on July 12, 1780 or 1781 in the town of Chuquisaca, Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata (now Sucre, Bolivia). She was Mestizo by ethnicity, meaning she was half Spanish and half indigenous. “Her mother married into a family of property” meaning she married into a more wealthy family. Her father, however, was killed by Spaniards, and the killer apparently got away without any repercussions. She grew up in Chuquisaca and at the age of 12 joined a convent to become a nun. She was then expelled at the age of 17 because she rebelled too often. She married Manuel Ascencio Padilla in 1805, a man who shared her love of the indigenous populations in Bolivia. She spoke Spanish and two South American languages: Quechua and Aymara. Juana Azurduy was born in Toroca, a town located in the Municipality of Potosí in the Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata (present-day town of Ravelo, Potosí Department, Bolivia) on July 12, 1780. Her parents were Don Matías Azurduy, a rich white owner of many properties and Doña Eulalia Bermudes, a chola from Chuquisaca.

Upon their return they raised an army and joined in the fighting in the area. She fought a guerrilla style war against the Spanish from 1809 to 1825. On March 8, 1816, her forces temporarily captured the Cerro Rico of Potosí, the main source of Spanish silver, also leading a cavalry charge that resulted in the capture of the enemy standard. For these actions she was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel on August 16, 1816, by Juan Martín de Pueyrredón, the Supreme Director of the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata at Buenos Aires. However, Shortly after Juana, who was expecting her fifth child, during a battle in November 1816, she was injured and her husband was killed while trying to save her, The body of her husband was hanged by the realists in the village of Laguna, and Juana found herself in a desperate situation: single, pregnant and with realistic armies effectively controlling the territory. After giving birth to a girl, she joined the guerrillas Martin Miguel de Guemes , which operated in northern Alto Peru. On the death of this leader guerrillas north dissolved, and Juana she was forced to malvivir in the region of Salta. at which she led a counterattack to recover the body of her husband. When the Spanish eventually counter-attacked in 1818, she fled with some of her soldiers to Northern Argentina where she continued to fight under the command of the Argentinean governor/guerrilla leader, General Martín Miguel de Güemes. She was appointed to the position of commander of patriotic Northern Army of the Revolutionary Government of the United Provinces of the Rio de la Plata. With this army she was able to establish an insurrection zone, until the Spanish forces withdrew from the area. She was so determined to the cause that she actually fought while she was pregnant, at one point, giving birth to her daughter, then returned to the fight soon after. At the highest point of her control, she commanded an army with an estimated strength of 6,000 men. After her military career was over she returned to Sucre (Chuquisaca), where she died on May 25, 1862. Throughout all the conflicts she lost her four sons and her husband, yet she continued to perform her duties until she retired and later died.

 

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At the time of her death, she was forgotten and in poverty, but was remembered as a hero only a century later. She was awarded the rank of general of the Argentine Army in 2009. She also has “The National Programme for Women’s Rights and Participation” of Argentina is also named after her.

A 25-ton, 52-foot-high statue of Azurduy was created in Buenos Aires and unveiled July 15, 2015. It was commissioned by Bolivian president Evo Morales, and placed in the space where a statue of Columbus has stood. As of December 2015, months after its inauguration, it shows weathering damage.

A bas relief sculpture of Juana Azurduy was on display as part of an outdoor exhibition of famous Latin Americans on the grounds of the Pan American Union Building in Washington, DC in Spring 2014. Juana Azurduy is also the subject of a children’s cartoon designed to promote knowledge of Argentine history.

 

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It’s not just racial tension; It’s White Supremacist Capitalist Imperialist Patriarchy! #BecomeUngovernable.

Paul Robeson’s songs and deeds light the way for the fight against Trump;  #BecomeUngovernable

24 Feb

The great American radical showed how ordinary people mattered more than stars – a lesson today’s celebrities could do with learning.

These are strange times for popular music and politics. On the one hand, the opposition to Donald Trump now extends so deeply into the entertainment industry that the president struggled to find any real talent willing to play his inauguration.

On the other hand, it’s by no means clear what difference most anti-Trump interventions by musicians actually make. After all, during the election, the galaxy of A-listers backing Hillary Clinton spectacularly failed to generate either turnout or votes, with some pundits even suggesting the campaign’s reliance on celebrity power legitimised Trump’s claim to fighting “liberal elites”.

I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of music and the uses of fame over the last few years, as I’ve worked on my book No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson.

The son of an escaped slave, Paul Robeson graduated Phi Beta Kappa on a scholarship from Rutgers before studying law at Columbia university. He was arguably the greatest footballer of his generation (some say of all time); he played basketball professionally and was seriously tipped as a heavyweight contender to fight Jack Dempsey. He was handsome and impossibly charismatic, spellbinding, prize-winning orator, who could sing in over 20 languages, including Russian, Chinese, Yiddish and a number of African tongues.

Robeson launched his vocal career in the mid-1920s with reinterpretations of spirituals, the “sorrow songs” of the American plantations. The spirituals expressed the misery of slavery through biblical themes but their innate ambiguity also allowed Robeson to voice the preoccupations of the Harlem Renaissance.

For instance, Go Down, Moses celebrated the release of the Israelites from bondage. But when Robeson sang “let my people go”, his audience understood the challenge to all present-day pharaohs.

Likewise, the exquisite Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child emerged out of the familial separations of slavery. Robeson’s rendition, however, also spoke to the experience of the Great Migration, the process in which African Americans left their homes to flee north for jobs and an escape from racist violence.

 

 

In 1930, Robeson played Othello in London. At that time, the part was always given to a white actor in dark makeup on the more-or-less explicit basis that a black man could not convey the deep humanity of Elizabethan tragedy.

Robeson’s critical and popular triumph not only reshaped Shakespearean theatre, it also struck a blow against the assumptions underpinning Jim Crow America.

You can hear Robeson explaining and performing the final monologue from Othello in this concert recording:

Though Robeson became a huge Hollywood star (in films such as Show Boat, Sanders of the River, The Proud Valley and so on), he consistently struggled to find parts worthy of his talents.

As a musician, he enjoyed more freedom. Critics urged him to embrace a traditional operatic or classical repertoire, but his deepening political commitments led him to identify as a folk singer, assiduously learning languages to perform the songs of different cultures in their original form.

“The artist must take sides,” he announced. “He must elect to fight for freedom or slavery. I have made my choice. I had no alternative.”

That declaration was made in the context of the Spanish civil war, a conflict that Robeson, like many others, recognised as the last opportunity to prevent the advance of fascism. He travelled to the Spanish front line in support of the International Brigades, a multiracial, anti-fascist army based on volunteers drawn from almost every country in the world.

In besieged Madrid, the desperate Republicans quite literally deployed Robeson’s music as a weapon, rigging up loudspeakers so that his bass baritone carried to the fascist trenches.

But it was probably in America in the 1940s that Robeson used his celebrity most effectively, in a prolonged campaign against segregation that predated the more famous boycotts of the civil rights era.

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For instance, in a concert in Kansas City, Robeson stopped singing when he realised that, contrary to what he’d been promised, his audience was divided along racial lines. When the booking agent apologized, the victory spurred a broader campaign against discrimination in the state. As the historian Gerald Horne says, “Robeson was a kind of Pied Piper of anti-Jim Crow, journeying from city to city inspiring fellow crusaders.”

In the 1930s, Robeson had visited Moscow and the apparent absence of anti-black feeling amazed him. For the rest of his life, he remained an enthusiastic supporter of the Soviet dictatorship, backing the regime even as news of Stalinist atrocities spread.

Not surprisingly, during the cold war, red baiters in the US increasingly targeted him.

By 1952, Robeson had become, in Pete Seeger’s words, “the most blacklisted performer in America”. The FBI intimidated promoters to deny him venues while radio stations refused to play his records, which were no longer available in the shops. He couldn’t sing at a commercial hall, no producer would put him on stage, and his movie career had long since come to an end. Worse still, the state department denied him a passport, trapping him inside the US.

The destruction of Robeson’s reputation dates from that period, a time when attending a Robeson concert became a suspicious act and sporting records were surreptitiously revised to disguise his past achievements.

Many other figures smeared during McCarthyism – Albert Einstein, Langston Hughes, Charlie Chaplin, WEB Du Bois, etc – have been subsequently rehabilitated. Robeson’s ongoing obscurity stems from his obstinate refusal to recant or back down.

“I am a radical,” he insisted, “and I am going to stay one until my people get free to walk the Earth.”

Called before the notorious House Un-American Activities Committee in 1956, he was asked why, given his beliefs, he remained in the United States.

“Because my father was a slave,” he replied. “And my people died to build this country, and I am going to stay here, and have a part of it just like you. And no fascist-minded people will drive me from it. Is that clear”’

When he won his passport back in 1958, he embarked on a worldwide tour. You can glimpse something of Robeson’s effectiveness as a political singer in the film that survives from his visit to Australia.

 

 

Famously, Robeson gave the first ever recital at the Sydney Opera House – a concert delivered to the trade unionists constructing the building.

In that performance, Robeson sang Ol’ Man River, his best-known track.

The song – from the musical Show Boat – was composed with Robeson in mind by Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern, as a conscious imitation of the spirituals. Robeson initially thought the role of Joe in Show Boat to be demeaning – before changing his mind and then utterly dominating both the stage show and the subsequent movie.

In their original form, the lyrics spoke of phlegmatic African American resignation to misery and oppression.

Ah gits weary

An’ sick of tryin’

Ah’m tired of livin’

An’ skeered of dyin’,

But ol’ man river,

He jes’ keeps rolling’ along.

In Sydney, Robeson sang instead:

But I keeps laffin’

Instead of cryin’

I must keep fightin’

Until I’m dyin’

When he mouthed the word “laffin’’’, his lip curled in scorn; at “fightin’”, he punched his fist in the air, making clear to the listening unionists that he had in mind their shared enemies: the employers and politicians for whom an uneducated labourer in Sydney was no better than a black man in Tennessee.

The song now suggested that what was inescapable was not resignation but human dignity – the desire for freedom that persisted, and would prevail, like the mighty river itself.

In 1960, construction workers were not respectable. Concert halls did not cater to labourers, whom few considered deserving of fine music or sophisticated entertainments.

So, with the gesture at Bennelong Point, by transforming – if only for a lunch hour – their worksite into the musical venue it would eventually become, Robeson made a statement characteristic of his life and career.

You aren’t, he said to them, simply tools for others; you’re not beasts, suitable only for hoisting and carrying, even if that’s the role you’ve been allotted. You’re entitled to culture, to music and art and all of life’s good things – and one day you shall have them.

According to some accounts, by the end of the performance, men in the crowd were silently weeping.

What made Robeson’s interventions so powerful?

First, and most obviously, he was an extraordinarily gifted artist, over and above his politics. When the critic Peter Deier described Robeson as “the most talented person of the 20th century”, he wasn’t exaggerating.

Second, though Robeson had no compunction about using his fame, he was committed to a politics of social change from below. He didn’t simply urge his fans to donate to a charity or check their personal privilege. On the contrary, he assured them that they themselves had power – and they should use it.

Thus, in 1938, he explained to a journalist how ordinary people mattered more than stars:

During one of my films I was struck by this very forcibly. There was everybody on the set, lights burning, director waiting, head of the company had just come on to the set with some big financial backer to see how things were going – and what happened? Everything stopped. Why? Because the electricians had decided it was time to go and eat, they just put out the lights and went and ate. That’s my moral to your readers.

Third, Robeson persistently sought to connect disparate issues and link varied oppressions, in a manner that’s rare today.

For instance, his film The Proud Valley is based on a comparison that Robeson often made between Welsh mining towns and African American communities.

Likewise, on his Sydney trip, he insisted on meeting with Indigenous activists – and then, in his public appearances (such as in the clip below), raised Australia’s brutal history in the context of the anti-colonial struggles taking place everywhere at that time.

 

 

 

 

Fourth, when Robeson urged his audience to become active, he could often direct them to groups and campaigns through which that activism might be made meaningful. The Opera House concert, for instance, was arranged by trade unionists – and, as a result, Robeson’s performance gave a direct spur to workplace organisation.

That’s an obvious difference between Robeson’s era and the context in which artists are speaking out against Trump in 2017.

In the United States, as in Australia, the trade unions and the radical movements to which Robeson oriented during the latter half of his career have either declined or disappeared, leaving something of an organisational void for grassroots activism.

Under those circumstances, it’s easy for musicians and other celebrities to see themselves as the sole agents for change – and then engage in the sort of self-congratulatory posturing that helps Trump more than it hurts him.

At the same time, significant campaigns do exist, and they’ve been given new impetus by Trump’s victory. The Black Lives Matter movement, in particular, was both reflected in, and reinforced by, hip-hop music in particular – and it’s not surprising that rappers have so far produced some of the best musical responses to the Trump presidency.

As many people have noted, in 2017, we’re entering uncharted political waters. But that doesn’t mean we can’t draw on the resources of the past. As the cultural resistance grows, it’s worth looking back on the giant legacy of Paul Robeson. No Way But This: In Search of Paul Robeson by Jeff Sparrow is published in Australia by Scribe

Source: Paul Robeson’s songs and deeds light the way for the fight against Trump | Jeff Sparrow | Music | The Guardian

 

 

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