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When "Grassroots" Groups Aren't Grassroots at All

"Grassroots originally meant a movement with roots in local concerns and suggested the notion of a local group democratically controlled by some local community and the people involved in it," writes US socialist activist Dan La Botz. But over the last decade, starting with MoveOn.org, a number of major organizations have been created in the US which claim to be "grassroots" but are really controlled from above from Washington DC. These "organizations, now propelled by the internet and social networking, are changing the landscape of social and political life."

Because this phenomenon is already having an impact north of the border, people in Canada should read La Botz's article "From the Tea Party to the Coffee Party, How Political Parties Grow the Grass and Mow the Lawn."

Report-Back from Cochabamba

Watch a video recording of the May 7th event about the World People's Conference on Climate Change and the Rights of Mother Earth in Cochabamba, Bolivia here

Also worth a look:  Iain Bruce's article on Cochabamba and the climate justice movement.

Puerto Rico University Struggle

"As the sun rose on Wednesday, April 21, 2010, two hundred students, mostly masked, some brandishing makeshift shields of wood and plastic traffic drums, approached the main vehicular access gate to the University of Puerto Rico’s historic Río Piedras campus, and chained it shut. Thus began the ongoing campus occupation, which has now spread to all 11 campuses of the UPR system, becoming the first ever system-wide public university strike in Puerto Rico," writes Jose A Laguarta Ramirez.  Read the rest of his article here.

Opposing Bill 94

People in Quebec and across the Canadian state are challenging Bill 94, the racist and sexist proposed Quebec legislation that would prevent people who wear face-covering clothing from accessing public services or working in the public sector. The move to bring in this law is driven by anti-Muslim racism and would mainly affect Muslim women who wear the niqab.  Watch a short video on it, listen to a May 18th news conference with seven speakers (46 min) or read a background article.

Feminist Notes

With feminist politics and organizing unfortunately at a low point in Canada (and many other countries) at the moment, here are a few antidotes to the resurgent everyday sexism and anti-woman state policies of our times.

The Bechdel Test for Women in Movies is a 2-minute YouTube video that everyone should watch.

One Dimensional Woman by British feminist Nina Power is a book worth checking out (New Socialist Group supporters in Winnipeg are planning a reading group on it this summer).

If you live in or near Toronto, check out this panel discussion on June 21st:

HARPER’S ATTACKS ON REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS – AT HOME AND ABROAD

PANEL DISCUSSION


MONDAY JUNE 21st
7 pm
25 Cecil Street (just south of College, east of Spadina)
Toronto

Women can never achieve equality or better lives for themselves and their families unless they have the right to control their reproduction.

Yet the Harper government is consciously excluding the provision of abortion as part of the 'maternal and child health policy' they are pushing at the upcoming G20 meetings in Toronto.
But if, as they claim, their purpose is to save lives and make women and children's lives better, this is not possible if women don't have access to a full range of reproductive choices, including abortion.

The Harper government is emboldening the anti-choice minority in this country. If they are allowed to pursue the Bush-era policy of cutting funding for abortion in developing countries, they may begin to more directly attack abortion rights in Canada. JOIN US FOR A PANEL DISCUSSION on the stakes in these G20 talks, and how we can organize to defend abortion rights at home and abroad.

with :
• Ayesha Adhami -- Immigrant Women's Health Centre
• Kelly Holloway -- organized opposition to the anti-choice Genocide Awareness Project
• Jessica Yee -- Canadians for Choice; Native Youth Sexual Health Network
• Judy Vashti Persad -- Women Working with Immigrant Women
• Carolyn Egan -- Ontario Coalition for Abortion Clinics
• Rhonda Roffey -- Women's Habitat

Organized by the Ontario Coalition for Abortion Clinics

416 969 8463 This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it." target="_blank" rel="nofollow">This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Interview with Stathis Kouvelakis on Greece Today

Marxist writer Stathis Kouvelakis talks about the current political situation in Greece in a video interview that's just over five minutes long.

Pride Toronto Attacks Free Speech

Efforts by supporters of the state of Israel to attack Palestine solidarity activism by targeting the term "Israeli apartheid" have pushed organizers of Pride Toronto into banning the term from this year's Pride events. This is a blow by the corporate types who run Pride against what remains of the tradition of defending free speech and solidarity between oppressed groups -- two of the great features of the lesbian and gay liberation movement that gave birth to what is now Pride Day. Read a report on this decision and the response to it from Queers Against Israeli Apartheid. On the politics of free speech and Palestine solidarity today, check out Alan Sears's article.

"Diversity of Tactics" and Ottawa Bank Bombing

In their article on the bank bombing in Ottawa, Steve D'Arcy and Syran Canyon write this about "diversity of tactics" -- or rather about the way this idea is often understood by radicals in Canada today (people don't always mean the same thing by it):

"If all that anyone meant by diversity of tactics was that our movements should make room for a variety of approaches to organizing protest, with some opting for more militant and disruptive tactics, and some opting for more low-key and non-confrontational tactics, such as conventional marches or rallies, then who could object? But for most of the people who use this expression, the diversity of tactics doctrine has a very different meaning. In essence, what it means is that one sector of the activist Left, namely those who identify with the tactic of media-spectacle property-destruction, should receive a special exemption from public criticism by other activists, no matter how badly their choice of tactics undermines the organizing efforts of others on the Left. It seems clear that no radical activist would deny that when a social democratic politician, NGO activist, or union official does something foolish and short-sighted, which undermines months of movement-building work by other activists, it is perfectly legitimate for others to subject their actions to critical scrutiny, and to voice their criticisms and insist on accountability. But, in the name of ‘diversity of tactics,’ many people believe that certain kinds of self-styled ‘radicals’ should be exempted from this kind of criticism."

I think this argument deserves to be taken seriously.  "Diversity of tactics" is often criticized by social democrats and others who oppose all forms of direct action and militancy, but what D'Arcy and Canyon argue is quite different.

Victory for Janitors in the Netherlands

After the longest strike in the Netherlands since 1933, janitors have won a new national collective agreement that includes a wage increase, better access to education and Dutch language classes and benefits. The victory has also had a broader impact. Union organizer Willem Dekker argues "It proves that you only stand a chance if you fight, an important lesson for the coming struggle over the massive cuts." Read his article and an interview with him at The Commune.

Israeli Attack on Gaza Solidarity Ships & Protests In Response (updated)

Below the calls from Palestinian organizations for a global response, a link to a video by a speech in Toronto by Naomi Klein and a few recommended readings.

Call for Action by the Palestinian BDS National Committee (June 1, 2010)

Palestinian civil society calls for intensifying boycott and sanctions as Israel massacres humanitarian relief workers and international solidarity activists

Occupied Palestine, 1 June 2010 - The Palestinian Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions National Committee (BNC) strongly condemns last night’s fatal attack by the Israeli navy on the Gaza Freedom Flotilla carrying humanitarian aid to the occupied and besieged Gaza Strip. The BNC conveys Palestinian civil society’s condolences to the families and friends of those killed by the Israeli assault and warmly salutes the principled solidarity and moral commitment of all those involved in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.

In response, the BNC calls on international civil society to:

·         Mobilize for an emergency Global BDS Day of Action on Saturday 5 June 2010 -- the 43rd anniversary of the Israeli occupation of Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem

·         Pressure governments to start implementing trade sanctions and arms embargos
We call specifically on transport and dock workers and unions around the globe to:

·         Refuse to load/offload Israeli ships and airplanes, following the historic example set by the South African Transport and Allied Workers Union (SATAWU) in Durban in February 2009 and endorsed by the Maritime Union of Australia (Western Australia).

The Flotilla, which was attacked in international waters in violation of international law, was carrying relief supplies that Israel has persistently prevented from entering Gaza, including medical supplies, cement and food. Israel’s siege is considered a form of collective punishment, a war crime under Article 33 of the Geneva Convention.  All of the relief workers and activists on board the Gaza Flotilla ships were unarmed. In legal terms, Israel's military assault against the Flotilla is an act of aggression against the countries whose flags the ships were carrying; politically, it is an assault against human decency and all people of conscience around the world who support freedom and justice.

Israel’s impunity is the direct result of the international community’s failure to hold it accountable for its ongoing occupation, colonization and apartheid against the Palestinian people. Israel’s most recent war crimes committed in Gaza and documented in the Goldstone report as well as crimes committed in 2006 against the Lebanese people did not trigger any UN or official sanctions, entrenching Israel’s feeling of being above the law. In fact, Israel’s grave violation of international law was recently rewarded when the OECD voted unanimously to accept its membership. The BNC urges international civil society to end this deep and fatal complicity.

The BNC also welcomes and affirms the call of the UN expert on human rights Prof. Richard Falk who stated, “It is time to insist on the end of the blockade of Gaza. The worldwide campaign of boycott, divestment, and sanctions against Israel is now a moral and political imperative, and needs to be supported and strengthened everywhere.”[1]

The UN Security Council has, unsurprisingly, failed to hold Israel accountable for its aggression against the Gaza Freedom Flotilla.[2] The BNC calls upon the UN General Assembly, the European Union, the Arab League and their member states to undertake practical measures which will end Israel's impunity for its massive and systematic violation of international law, including by:

·         Immediately ending all collusion with Israel's unlawful blockade of the Gaza Strip and pressuring Israel's to guarantee unrestricted humanitarian access and freedom of movement of people and products into and out of the Gaza Strip;

·         Bringing to justice all Israeli officials and military personnel who took the decision and/or implemented this latest massacre as well as earlier war crimes;

·         Pressuring your government to immediately suspend arms trade with Israel, and to implement trade sanctions and arms embargos against Israel.

·         In particular, we call on the EU to suspend the EU-Israel Association Agreement, the Mercosur to suspend the FTA, India to reverse decision to hold negotiations around an India-Israel FTA and to stop arms deals with Israel, and Turkey to impose an arms embargo on Israel.

The BNC also calls on people of conscience and citizen groups all over the world to intensify BDS campaigns against Israel as the most effective means of holding it accountable to international law and ending its fatal impunity.

For action ideas and updates, please see: http://bdsdayofaction.net/

 

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PRESS RELEASE
GAZA, PALESTINE
31.MAY.2010

CALL FROM GAZA FOR GLOBAL RESPONSE TO KILLINGS ON THE FREEDOM FLOTILLA

We Gaza based Palestinian Civil Society Organizations and International activists call on the international community and civil society to pressure their governments and Israel to cease the abductions and killings in Israel’s attacks against the Gaza Freedom Flotilla sailing for Gaza, and begin a global response to hold Israel accountable for the murder of foreign civilians at sea and illegal piracy of civilian vessels carrying humanitarian aid for Gaza.  

We salute the courage of all those who have organized this aid intervention and demand a safe passage through to Gaza for the 750 people of conscience from 40 different countries including 35 international politicians intent on breaking the Israeli-Egyptian blockade. We offer our sincerest condolences to family and friends who  have lost loved ones in the attack.

By sailing directly to Gaza , outside of Israeli waters, with cargo banned illegally by Israel , such as the 10,000 tonnes of badly needed concrete, toys, workbooks, chocolate, pasta and substantial medical supplies, the flotilla is exercising international law and upholding article 33 of the Geneva Convention which clearly  states that collective punishment is a crime against humanity.

The hardships of Israel 's closure of Gaza have been well documented by all human rights groups operating, most recently by Amnesty International in their Annual Human Rights Report concluding that the siege has "deepened the ongoing humanitarian crisis. Mass unemployment, extreme poverty, food insecurity and food price rises caused by shortages left four out of five Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid. The scope of the blockade and statements made by Israeli officials about its purpose showed that it was being imposed as a form of collective punishment of Gazans, a flagrant violation of international law."  The United Nations continuously states that only a fraction of the required aid is entering the Strip due to what it calls ‘the medieval siege’, with John Ging the Director of UNRWA in Gaza specifically expressing the need for the Flotilla to enter Gaza . The European Union’s new foreign affairs minister Catherine Ashton has just reiterated its call for, “an immediate, sustained and unconditional opening of crossings for the flow of humanitarian aid, commercial goods and persons to and from Gaza .”

The people of Gaza are not dependent people, but self sufficient people doing what they can to retain some dignity in life in the wake of this colossal man-made devastation that deprives so many of a basic start in life or minimal aspirations for the future.

We, from Gaza , call on you to demonstrate and support the courageous men and women on the Flotilla and join the, many now murdered on a humanitarian aid mission. We insist on severance of diplomatic ties with Israel , trials for war crimes and the International protection of the civilians of Gaza . We call on you to join the growing international boycott, divestment and sanction campaign of a country proving again to be so violent and yet so unchallenged. Join the growing critical mass around the world with a commitment to the day when Palestinians are entitled to the same rights as any other people, when the siege is lifted, the occupation is over and the 6 million Palestinian refugees are finally granted justice.

Press Contacts:
Dr Haidar Eid: One Democratic Sate Group and University Teachers' Association
Dr Mona El Farra: Middle East Children's Alliance , Gaza 00.972(0)598.868.222
Adie Mormech: International Solidarity Movement 00.972(0)597.717.696
Max Ajl: Gaza Freedom March 00.972(0)597.750.798

Signatory Organisations:
The One Democratic State Group
University Teachers Association
Arab Cultural Forum
Palestinian Students’ Campaign for the Academic Boycott of Israel
Association of Al-Quds Bank for Culture and Info
Popular Committee against the Wall and Settlements
International Solidarity Movement
Palestinian Network of Non-Governmental Organisations
Palestinian Women Committees
Progressive Students Union
Medical Relief Society
The General Society for Rehabilitation
Gaza Community Mental Health Program
General Union of Palestinian Women
Afaq Jadeeda Cultural Centre for Women and Children
Deir Al-Balah Cultural Centre for Women and Children
Maghazi Cultural Centre for Children
Al-Sahel Centre for Women and Youth
Ghassan Kanfani Kindergartens
Rachel Corrie Centre, Rafah
Rafah Olympia City Sisters
Al Awda Centre, Rafah
Al Awda Hospital, Jabaliya Camp
Ajyal Association, Gaza
General Union of Palestinian Syndicates
Al Karmel Centre, Nuseirat
Local Inititiative, Beit Hanoun
Union of Health Work Committees
Red Crescent Society Gaza Strip
Beit Lahiya Cultural Centre
Al Awda Centre, Rafah
--------------
Video of Naomi Klein's speech at May 31 rally in Toronto

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From Inside Israel

Nazareth-based British journalist Jonathan Cook's articles are well worth reading. Check out his website to read them, including his June 2nd article "Israeli MP tells of her terror on aid ship."

Other groups inside Israel whose websites are useful resources include the Alternative Information Centre and Adalah.

If you're interested in the history of the anti-Zionist left within Israel, visit the website dedicated to the now-defunct group Matzpen.


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