change means: organize, organize, organize

Yesterday on Flashpoints JR & the Block Report featured an interview with Mumia Abu-Jamal, live from death row in Pennsylvania, to discuss the recent elections (or as JR calls them “selections”). Much of what both JR and Mumia said echoed Bill Fletcher and Ali Abunimah’s comments that I wrote about yesterday: that the response to this election should not be resting on one’s laurels, but to organize, organize, organize. JR and Mumia began by talking about a comment Fred Hampton, Jr. made the day before equating the election of Barack Obama to that of Nelson Mandela in South Africa whereby “nothing changed but the color of white people’s representative.” This was specifically in reference to the ways in which Mandela’s presidency meant no substantive change for poor people, for people living in ghettos, which represents large percentage of South African people. Thus, the fear is that given Obama’s silence until now on poverty in the U.S. the same could hold true now. Of course, that remains to be seen. But in order to prevent that from happening people invested in issues like poverty and homelessness need to organize and put pressure on the new government to ensure that doesn’t happen as Mumia said, “it depends on us. if people organize then they can make change.” Of course the two discussed the problems with education and the prison industrial complex (and you can click on the link above to listen to the entire interview), but I want to highlight the part of the interview about organizing because this is what is needed now. The situation of so many crucial issues is too urgent to wait and see.

JR: Some people in the revolutionary community feel that Obama being president is a setback because it will allow the establishment to deny that racism still exists in America. But the late great Kwame Nkrumah, the first president of Ghana, said that: “neocolonialism is the last stage of capitalism.” What are your thoughts on the issue?

Mumia: People can’t take shortcuts to organize. Well, even with the Obama victory, if you recall the republican convention after the democratic convention, one of the best mocking lines that they used–and I remember specifically the former mayor of New York, Rudy Guiliani–they joked about Obama being a community organizer. Well, in point of fact he was a community organizer. And he used those skills to beat the hell out of anybody who was his opponent. No one expected him–I mean–I remember in 2007 no one expected him to beat Hillary Clinton. Hillary was going to be the next democratic nominee. No one expected this guy to beat ’em. And when you looked at the republican convention and how the polls changed after it everybody expected John McCain to be a stronger candidate coming out of the convention. But this was a community organizer so people who call themselves revolutionaries, who are organizers, who are activists and agitators: take the lesson about what community organizing really is. That’s talking to people, organizing people, and making change. I mean that’s where change really happens. You know, talking to real people, changing their minds, bringing them over, and organizing. Kwame Ture used to say every time you spoke to people you must say “organize, organize, organize.” I mean, he would beat that drum until it was deeply embedded in consciousness. He understood that unless people understood how to organize and then did that then there would be no change. I’m not just talking about political change. I’m talking about real, social change. so our people need to organize.

When JR asked Mumia who he would have voted for if he were not unjustly incarcerated in a federal penitentiary, Mumia said:

Mumia: I would probably have voted for Cynthia McKinney. I mean here was a true radical alternative. Here was a Black woman, who stood up very strongly in Congress against the Iraq war and against the PATRIOT Act, and against a lot of the repressive measures that her fellow democrats voted for. Well, because she stood up she was isolated by the democratic party. And really I think she suffered two electoral defeats because she was so outspoken. It was the Green Party that was a fit for her. And, you know, this was a Black woman. If a Black man is progress, a Black woman is real progress. But again, I mean, organize, organize, organize. We can’t understate the importance of organizing.

There are so many domestic and international issues that need to be organized around. There is certainly no shortage. But I think what this analysis and the analysis I posted yesterday shows us is that the lesson of this election is what Mumia also expressed in the interview: “the lesson we have to take–this is about a victory for community organizing not for change.” In other words, change doesn’t come while we sit back passively, we must actively participate in the process.

I was actually reading Kwame Ture’s book, Ready for Revolution: The Life and Struggles of Stokley Carmichael, today where he talks about his role as an agent of change when he worked in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC). There is a part of the book where he shares the story of how SNCC came to support Palestinians. He provides some background first of his upbringing in New York when he worked with various youth Socialist and Communist groups:

Here I learned to sing “Hava Nageela” and to dance the hora. During the fifties, these young-left groups were unquestioningly pro-Zionist. Stalin had given arms to Zionist factions in 1948, and Israel was said to be progressive and socialist. End of story. There was no discussion at all of the rights of the Palestinian people. None. Not in those circles. So it never occurred to me then, that there might be another side to the story. (557)

In the early sixties Ture first read about Palestinian rights and resistance in Muhammad Speaks, the Nation of Islam newspaper. After the assassination of Malcolm X, SNCC began a study group on Palestine where they read and discussed a book a month, and not just from pro-Palestinian or anti-Zionist perspectives, as Ture details:

We also read the principal Zionists–Herzl, Ben-Gurion, Begin, documents from the Stern Gang, etc., etc. As a matter of fact, these Zionist ideologues provided the strongest evidence against Israeli policies by openly revealing the naked colonialist intention at the heart of the Zionist enterprise. That was my second surprise. The third, and this was the shocker, was discovering the close military, economic, and political alliance between the Israeli government and the racist apartheid regime in South Africa. Now this was a real shock since I knew that during World War II, the Afrikaner nationalists had fervently supported the Third Reich and had cultivated close associations with and had even organized themselves along the lines of the German Nazi Party. (558)

Ture grounds his context for this SNCC reading group in one of its mantras, that “knowledge is power.” After two years with this group Ture became chair of SNCC and wanted to put that knowledge into action in some way, but then as now there were so many issues they faced: Vietnam War in addition to a host of issues affecting the Black Power movement. But his last act as chair was to write a position paper for internal distribution in SNCC. But the paper was leaked to the press and SNCC was subsequently labeled as anti-Israel, anti-Semitic. In retrospect Ture has some useful thoughts on that episode, especially in light of the way Obama failed to face the challenge of standing by Reverend Jeremiah Wright, Bill Ayers, or Rashid Khalidi. Ture says:

Look, when we took on white supremacy and the Klan, we were attacked. But we survived. We took on the president and the National Democratic Party and survived that. When we opposed the war and the draft, we were really attacked, but survived even that. But dare to open our mouths on Zionism? That one, you don’t mess with and survive. That was the lesson the Zionist thought police meant for us to learn in 1967. But we are still here. On this one, history will certainly be the judge. That, you can depend on. Since those (1967) events, I am proud to say that I have never ceased to speak out and work for justice for the Palestinian people. (561)

Ture’s work on this matter was not at the exclusion of other revolutionary struggles. It was connected to those struggles and a part of those struggles, whether fighting apartheid in South Africa or domestic issues in the U.S. And his understanding of all these issues came from first-hand experience as well as reading and discussing books on the subject. And he connected these issues through the rubric of imperialism or militarism or imprisonment depending on the set of issues he struggled against. Ture identifies his position as one of supporting human rights, justice, and international law. This was as important in 1967 as it is today. And what I think we can learn from people like Mumia or Ture is to connect issues related to revolutionary movements of change. Because whether we like it or not, just as the issue of apartheid in South Africa or in Palestine today was connected by the same cash flowing from the Zionist state and the U.S. among others, we can continue to trace the same economic, military, political supporters of issues that defy justice, international law, and human rights.

But we need to work for those goals–to learn about our issues, to educate others, and to fight for them. That is what brings change. Unfortunately, one of the disappointing things about Obama is that many seem to see the election of him as the end of their struggle. As if electing Obama is the change not what he promised to do. But Obama and change–these two words–are a bit odd together. I mean, if he can spend years listening to and befriending Palestinians in Chicago only to abandon them–and let them get viciously attacked in the most racist ways during the campaign without ever apologizing–for a staunch, hardlined approach embodied in Rahm Israel Emanuel. One of Obama’s campaign promises has been to end the war in Iraq. But I have always doubted this campaign pledge for a number of reasons. First, there are some sixteen permanent U.S. military bases there that I do not expect will be evacuated and expect will remain staffed with American military officials. Second, Obama has never spoken about the 150,000 mercenaries working for Blackwater or other private contractors. So even if he pulls out American troops that doesn’t mean that the occupation of Iraq will end. Moreover, Emmanuel himself said in January 2007 to the Washington Post that he wanted to “let this war go on for two more years so we can run against it again.” This was reported on The Real News today. And I wonder, does this sound like change?

Audre Lorde famously wrote, “the master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house.” So to expect that someone embedded in the epitome of master’s house will bring change is misleading at best. And in the euphoria or disappointment of the election other issues that were on American ballots have largely gone under- or unreported, including by me. One of the reasons I wanted to vote when I was in the U.S. last month was not just to cast a ballot for Cynthia McKinney. It was also to vote on Proposition 8, which failed to pass, and unfortunately rendered gay marriage illegal in California. But in California gay rights activists are already taking to the streets and protesting as well as taking legal action to fight against this. They are organized and organizing. But how much more powerful would their organizing be if they worked in solidarity with other progressive groups? For instance, one of the targets of the protests yesterday was against the Mormon Church in Los Angeles, which actively campaigned to outlaw gay marriage. The Mormon Church, is by definition a Zionist church in its theology, and it hosts a university–Brigham Young University–on occupied land in occupied East Jerusalem. Imagine if we could get Palestinian activists to collaborate on this issue. But such collaboration has to come from genuine solidarity on both sides. And this is a tremendous failure in the U.S. as it is in much of the world. But it is strange to me nevertheless that many pro-Palestinian activists and gay rights activists alike voted for Obama because they believe he symbolized change for them and the issues they care about. And yet organizing together on the specific changes they want to see doesn’t seem to emerge unless the issue is somehow intensely personal, as in for lesbian and gay Palestinians living in California.

There are other ways in which organizers can work together for change and to encourage an Obama administration to take on issues related to human rights violations and struggles head on. For instance, 7.2 million Palestinian refugees remain the oldest refugee population that has not been resolved, in spite of UN Resolution 194 that states Palestinian refugees have a right to return to their homes. But there are other refugee populations and issues related to refugee issues that could work together for refugee rights in the U.S. One of the most constant refugee populations are the Congolese refugees, the result of a number of factors, not the least of which is U.S. meddling. Kambale Musavuli explains this context:

In reality, the source of the conflict in Congo for most of its history has been the scramble for its enormous wealth, not the internecine, ethnic bloodletting more commonly blamed. In the late 1990s, Congo was invaded twice by Rwanda and Uganda with the backing and support of the United States, as documented in the 2001 congressional hearings held by Reps. Cynthia McKinney and Tom Tancredo. It was these invasions that unleashed the tremendous suffering that exists in Congo today.

But it is not just history that needs to be re-examined. From copper, tin and cobalt to coltan – a mineral found in cell phones, video games and other gadgets we have come to rely on – American corporations stand to make millions at the expense of the people of Congo. Dan Rather’s recent report on Phoenix-based FreePort McMoRan’s odious contract in acquiring what many say is the world’s richest copper deposit is but a window into the systemic exploitation of Congo’s wealth.

As with colonialism in Palestine or in Congo there are multinational corporations that must be fought in order to change the lives of people on the ground, most importantly the lives of the refugees, or in the case of the Congo, the newly Internally Displaced People (IDPs). While the boycott against Israeli companies as well as American and European companies that heavily invest in the Zionist state is taking off, many of these companies and their desire to rape countries of their natural resources overlap. This requires solidarity, research, analysis, and then, yes, organizing. But I especially think that the situation between the Congo and Palestine is an interesting one. A journalist friend who spends a lot of time in the Congo has had some interesting conversations with Congolese people when they describe repeated incursions, invasions by Rwanda into the Congo. They claim that the Rwandans are trying to change the border, to steal land, and as a result Congolese people have spent the last decade as either refugees or IDPs related to this and larger regional wars. Here is a bit of context from Lenin’s Tomb:

The Rwandan ruling class, whose political expression is the Rwandan Patriotic Front, now simply depends upon the mineral resources of the Congo, as it lives well above the means that its own country’s resources could provide. The exploitation of Congolese resources is built into government policy and is directed by a component of their External Security Organization. There was no way they were going to accept being deprived of leverage in the Congo, and this was the main cause of the war that then erupted in 1998. Kabila successfully galvanised substantial layers of the population against his former allies, but his rhetoric verged on genocidal as he called on them to “erase the enemy”, lest they “become slaves to these little Tutsis”. The US, for its part, backed the alliance of Rwanda, Uganda, and the Banyamulenge in order to get a new regime more aligned to its own priorities, with the justification being that the Banyamulenge were merely engaged in a legitimate revolt, while Rwanda and Uganda were intervening to protect the security of their own borders. (A subsidiary justification was that sponsoring Rwanda and Uganda would help contain the Sudanese state). In fact, Rwandan and Ugandan forces had plotted the overthrow of Kabila and directed the first rebellions in Goma and Kinshasa that marked the beginning of the war, and they were decisive in founding the Rassemblement congolais pour la democratie (RCD), which unites a disparate array of forces around an inchoate programme.

Here is a report on the recent suffering in the Congo that was on Al Jazeera today as the negotiations get underway in Nairobi for some sort of resolution.

Likewise, militarization in general–and the political and economic structures that make militarization possible could also be usefully mobilized as one entity to fight American imperialist adventures. Regardless of what Obama promises, we don’t know what will be the reality whether in Iraq, Iran, Pakistan, Afghanistan, or the U.S. military bases in 130 different countries around the world. Or the military “aid” the U.S. gives to the Zionist state and other states to enact gross human rights violations. We need resistance to these systems of power. We need to read, understand, and to not use Obama’s model of backing down to difficult subjects, difficult issues, because it may disturb the Israel lobby. Silence is complicity. The silence in the U.S., for instance, over the fact that we have regularly invaded and are ostensibly at war with Pakistan is sickening. Here is a visual representation of that reality:

War and invasion from this side of the Atlantic is viewed the same. Because we see where the military materiel comes from. We know who flies the drones, who shoots the missiles, who does the torturing. Even when one is blindfolded:

Israeli Television, Chanel 10, showed on Thursday a video footage taken by Israeli soldiers filming themselves humiliating a bound and blindfolded Palestinian man at a military roadblock in the occupied West Bank, Israeli online daily, Haaretz, reported.

In all the media buzz about Rahm Israel Emanuel he appears to have earned a nickname: Rahmbo. This does not bode well, nor does a blatantly racist statement by his terrorist father in the Jerusalem Post yesterday:

Emanuel, who served in the Clinton White House, has Israeli family and spent significant amounts of time in Israel. He now serves as the fourth-highest member of the House of Representatives, is known as a skilled political operator who helped engineer the gains the Democrats made in Congress in 2006.

In an interview with Ma’ariv, Emanuel’s father, Dr. Benjamin Emanuel, said he was convinced that his son’s appointment would be good for Israel. “Obviously he will influence the president to be pro-Israel,” he was quoted as saying. “Why wouldn’t he be? What is he, an Arab? He’s not going to clean the floors of the White House.”

Emanuel is the sort of person Ture was talking about–the sort who tar and feather those who speak about the reality of Israeli state terrorism every day against Palestinians. And like Ture said sometimes the Zionists themselves reveal the most about the reality of the situation as in these quotes from a Ha’aretz article today:

“Rep. Emanuel is also a good friend of Israel, coming from good Irgun stock, davening at an Orthodox synagogue, and sending his children to Jewish day schools,” Daroff concluded….

“Emanuel has deep Jewish roots and strong ties to the Jewish community. Emanuel, the son of an Israeli immigrant, has a proven commitment to Israel’s security and served as civilian volunteer on an Israeli military base during the Persian Gulf War of 1991,” the statement continued.

And here is one more confirmation about who Emanuel is and where he comes from (I don’t think I’ve seen any American newspaper use the word to accurately describe Emanuel’s father yet. I don’t expect to either.):

Emanuel’s father: An Israeli terrorist?

The appointment of Rahm Emanuel triggered widespread interest in Israel, the native country of his former Jewish underground fighter father.

The older Emanuel, a paediatrician born in Jerusalem, was a member of Irgun, the hard-line militant group which fought for Jewish independence until 1948. It was described as “terrorist” at the time by Britain. Mr Emanuel’s appointment could reassure Israel that Mr Obama will continue America’s close alliance. The Ynet news service quoted Michael Kotzin, a leader of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Chicago, as saying Mr Emanuel is a frequent attender at Israel-related events.

He co-sponsored a Bill defending Israel against a world court advisory opinion in 2004 criticising the route of the military’s separation barrier for cutting deep into the West Bank, and co-sponsored another Bill congratulating Israelis and Palestinians who work together for peace. He is credited with choreographing the famous handshake between Yasser Arafat and Yitzhak Rabin on the White House lawn in 1993.

And one more disturbing bit of information about Emanuel, which deserves to be noted from the Wayne Madsen Report:

November 6, 2008 — Obama faced with security problem at outset of transition process
WMR has learned from informed U.S. intelligence sources that prospective Barack Obama White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel has an active FBI counter-intelligence file maintained on him. Emanuel’s rise to the Chief of Staff position may pose a significant security problem for President-elect Obama if the FBI insists on conducting the full background security investigation normally required for senior White House officials.

Questions about Emanuel’s links to the Israeli intelligence service, the Mossad, were allegedly so great that President Bill Clinton was forced to dismiss Emanuel from the White House staff in 1998. One of the FBI agents who discovered Emanuel’s dealings with Israeli intelligence was, according to our sources, the late FBI counter-terrorism Assistant Director John O’Neill. O’Neill retired after being set up in a smear operation involving a temporarily stolen brief case in 2001. O’Neill and another FBI agent who still works for the bureau and shall remain nameless at this point to protect him and his career discovered that Emanuel was heavily involved in the decision to place intern Monica Lewinsky close to President Clinton. O’Neill accepted the top security position for Kroll Associates at the World Trade Center. O’Neill was killed in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. WMR has also reported that O’Neill was a close friend of slain retired Houston CIA station chief Roland V. “Tony” Carnaby, who was similarly investigating Israeli intelligence operations in the Houston area when Houston police shot and killed him last April.

Emanuel reportedly had knowledge of Israeli intelligence penetration of White House communications systems and Lewinsky, in sworn testimony before the Office of Independent Counsel, stated: “He [Clinton] suspected that a foreign embassy [it is now known that embassy was that of Israel] was tapping his telephones, and he proposed cover stories.” Lewinsky continued, “If ever questioned, she should say that the two of them were just friends. If anyone ever asked about their phone sex, she should say that they knew their calls were being monitored all along, and the phone sex was just a put on.”

WMR has learned from U.S. intelligence sources that Emanuel was discovered to be part of a political intelligence and blackmail operation directed against Clinton by Israel’s Likud Party and Binyamin Netanyahu to sink Clinton’s proposed Middle East peace deal. We have also learned that the FBI investigation of Emanuel is part of a file code-named the “Mega file.” “Mega” is a reference to a top-level Mossad agent in the Reagan administration who was said to have run a number of Israeli agents, including U.S. Navy spy Jonathan Pollard.

Clearly, we have a lot of work to do. To investigate, to keep our eye on the ball. Alliances must be built. Connections must be made. And there is no time to sit back and just breathe.

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