Category Archives: Communism

Uniting With Comrades: Our Decision to Become a Kasama Collective

 

[Originally posted to thefirecollective.org]

After careful study and consideration, our collective, the FIRE Collective, has decided to formally affiliate ourselves with the Kasama Project. Kasama is a communist network in the US dedicated to a revolutionary reconception of communism. Further, we have decided to announce ourselves as a Kasama Collective.

In September of 2009, a group of us in Houston, Texas formed an independent communist collective, The FIRE Collective (standing for Fight Imperialism, Rethink and Experiment).

In both the US and around the world, we saw there was a process of refounding the communist movement that was both deeply necessary and at a beginning. This included a process of reconceiving the communist project, and we wanted to make our own contributions to that process together with our comrades.

We have been engaged in study and struggle for over a year. We’ve grown in numbers, developed our understanding of revolutionary theory and history, and forged a higher degree of political unity.

Revolution is not only a local exercise. It requires the strategic thinking, study, and coordinated practice of comrades throughout the country (and ultimately the world). The work of reconceiving cannot be confined to a locality, but rather it needs forms that can give expression to its fearless journey to places still unexplored, and questions unsettled. We believe there needs to be a combination of our local contributions to theory and practice with that which is developing on the national plane.

For these reasons, we are excited to join with the work the Kasama network has been engaged in, and contributing to charting an uncharted course to a communist future. Other similar collectives have also started to form as part of Kasama’s network, and we look forward to sharing theory and practice, learning from one another as we move.

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Filed under Anti-Imperialism, class struggle, Communism, Gulf States, Houston, Revolution, Southern Strategy, Southern United States, Texas, Uncategorized, United States

This is My Life… Where is Our Future?

[Originally posted to kasamaproject.org]

by Rosa Harris

Rosa Harris, photo: Monte

I live confined to this housing project, surrounded by bone-hard poverty and everything it brings with it.

If our car is broken, we are literally pinned down. We can’t get out – not to doctors, not to meet political comrades.

But there is something deeper about the hole we are trapped in… My son thinks of little other than getting out. And he isn’t thinking so much about getting “the people” out – but of getting away from the people.

My mind has always dreamed of a better world,  but my daily experience  is here, in a place where you just can’t romanticize “the oppressed.” Up close, people are often caught up in some terrible stuff. It’s not just the capitalists  who live in a dog-eat-dog world, it’s us too. The dominant ideas of an epoch become dominant ideas among the people themselves.

I’m not going to apologize again for my  moods and my conflicted thoughts — even though I feel I need to. The other day something happened that made me feel very ashamed and hurt.

Mary, one of my few friends here in this project is a crack user. Her daughter is a prostitute. And her son recently got out of prison.

I’ve never understood completely what the word “lumpen” means in our communist language – but these are part of a broken section of the people. Desperate. And at times, using each other… badly. And yet, she is one of my only friends here. And what does that say about me, and my life?

I should tell the whole story I suppose. I know you won’t blame me.

Mary brought her son by. To meet me, she said.

My boy friend was getting ready to take me to the store and we were practically out the door. I walked into the kitchen and Mary handed me a  sack in each hand – each small, wrapped in cellophane. I looked at what they were and tried to put them back into her hands. She kept pressing them toward me.

I don’t know why she was trying to hand them to me in the first place. I could tell she was cracked out. Was she wanting to hide it in my place?

I said “I got to go to the bathroom” – just to get out of the situation.

I didn’t want to out to my boyfriend that they had brought this shit into our apartment. We don’t use it. We don’t want it around. And he doesn’t want me hanging with Mary.  I’m always covering for my friend when she does stupid stuff like that when she’s cracking out on me. Mary had stolen my laptop once – which is one of the few things of value I own– my connection to the world. But then we got it back afterwards.

I went to the store, came back and went to her place to let her know that this had not been ok..

Her son and daughter showed up and confronted me. They said they wanted “their money.” Even though I don’t use that shit, even though I was angry they had brought it over, even though I hadn’t bought anything. He was threatening me. And made me go to the ATM with them. They were desperate for quick cash, and the whole thing was an excuse. It was theft.

I’ve known the daughter for a long time, and she never treated me this way before. My friend Mary watched this, saying nothing. She didn’t stand up for me, or call him off. I couldn’t believe this was happening. It felt like being raped  — like I’m watching myself and my life, and my pain happening outside me — powerless.

I feel like an idiot for not just outing them in front of my boy friend – cuz it meant he was not there standing with me. I feel like an idiot for staying friends with them even though they had hurt me before.  But I’m just so alone at times.

But suddenly I was “going” with them to the ATM, and giving them all my remaining money – a few hundred dollars. Everything.

I need people, and these women were among my the only friends – and yet  they turned on me, and ripped me off. Something that happens every day here, among the people.

It is so hard and desperate here. My kid gets threatened and arrives home breathing hard. He talks of things he’s seen, and things he fears. He thinks of arming himself (which terrifies me) or simply act invisible… or somehow getting out.

It took me a few days to even tell my boy friend because I was afraid of what he would say. He turned out to be very understanding, but still said “You shouldn’t hang out with people like that” — which puts blame on me again.

I have the horrible feeling I should be blamed. Now I am also out a friend and my money. But don’t we also lose our hope — piece by piece?

And part of me knows, of course, where the blame belongs. There is a system that put us here. There is a hopelessness we are all injected with. There are circuits of empire that bring the drugs here, and run the prisons (which are just training camps for brutalization and mutual torture).

But often that system feels far away. And that blame feels very abstract. And our immediate oppressors are so often each other… as we claw each other, and brutalize each other in our despair and madness.

I even wonder why I use “we” here. I don’t claw anyone. I don’t brutalize anyone. We divide up, don’t we, once again, into victims, abusers and indifferent observers. We live in a time when, here a least, there is so little solidarity or glimpse of a bigger picture. Here  people are often broken, and it is hard to imagine where the unity or vision could come for changing anything.

My son said “The people here are so fucked up, they don’t deserve communism and would mess it up if they had it.”

I don’t believe that, of course. I never have. But I just want to share, honestly, how from here everything just feels so bleak sometimes. How do we show up here, as communists, and change people’s choice, and change the people themselves?

Are these really the people that can become the rulers of society? And how do we help that happen?

This has been a hard moment, and right now the whole world seems dark to me. And, the money thing really bothers me. I’m lucky its December – the food pantries give away a lot of food during the holidays.

And I have you, my comrades, around the world: I have your ear, and I have whatever we manage to create together.

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Filed under class struggle, Communism, Gulf States, housing, Public housing, Southern Identity, Southern Strategy, Southern United States, The Left, Theory, Uncategorized, United States, Women, workers

Environmental and economic crises spark new wave of activism in Louisiana

Tuesday, November 9, 2010
By: Gregory W. Esteven

[Originally posted to pslweb.org]

Project Gulf Impact forum provides glimmer of a new people’s movement

On October 10, Project Gulf Impact and Loyola University held an Oil Spill Forum on the Loyola campus in New Orleans.

The purpose of the forum was to allow coastal Louisiana community members to speak about their perspectives and experiences in the aftermath of the Gulf oil catastrophe. Panelists included a former director of an EPA-contracted laboratory, wives of fishermen and other workers, and activists who live along Louisiana’s coast and surrounding areas. In all, there were around a dozen speakers  and about 50 audience members.

The forum, which included videos, panel presentations, and a vibrant discussion period, had political importance beyond its turnout. It provided a view of an emerging social justice movement in the areas affected by the spill. Two prominent themes dominated the discussion period: sharp criticism of the U.S. government and corporations responsible, and the need for a reconstruction effort that meets the needs of poor and working people.

Scientists, community members and new activists speak out

Cheri Foytlin, an activist and a mother of six, described her attempts at dealing with the authorities since the oil spill: “The government wouldn’t listen to me because I’m nobody.”

Susan Felio Price, a Cajun woman born in the Louisiana bayous, said, “I have been waiting for Obama to do something—to save us. He hasn’t. … I believed in a system that I thought worked.” She went on to describe how she has been personally lied to by representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency, the Navy and the Federal Department of Agriculture.

Kimberly Wolf, a former director of an EPA-contracted laboratory, perhaps expressed the sentiment most strongly, trembling with emotion as she spoke. “This government is willing to poison over 14 million people for profit. The U.S. government is not going to protect you. They are going to drop you on your heads…We have to be at war with our government. This is a war for the generations.” Similar messages were repeated throughout the forum and met with frequent applause.

Most of the panelists themselves had experienced medical conditions because of the spill, and to have witnessed the profound public health implications in the coastal communities. Noting the authorities’ lack of interest in this aspect of the oil spill, panelist Vicki Perrin said, “We see people getting sick. We talk to them.”

Perrin is a leader of Project Gulf Impact, which started out as a documentary film project and has transformed into a non-profit organization whose mission is to “document the economic, environmental and human health impacts of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.”

Multiple panelists brought up the fact that people in the fishing communities have unexpectedly become activists in response to the oil spill. Working class leaders have emerged in the Louisiana coastal region, and they are beginning to get organized.

Several panelists emphasized the important role being played by women from these communities in the movement for social and environmental justice. All of the panelists, excluding two from Project Gulf Impact, were women.

One panelist, Lauren Goldfinch, is even known as the “accidental activist,” because, like others, she never envisioned herself doing this kind of work. Goldfinch explained how necessity pushed her to take action: “My homeland is being ravaged before my very eyes.” Undoubtedly, many others would share Goldfinch’s sentiment if they knew such a movement existed.

BP’s “gobbledygook” science

The forum exhibited profound mistrust about the supposedly “scientific” information being put out by the U.S. government, the mainstream media and major corporations. Attendees suggested a monumental campaign—bordering on conspiracy—has been launched to suppress the truth about the causes of the spill and its impacts.

Panelists argued that alternative media and scientific sources were required to get the real story about the environmental consequences of the spill.

Heather Rally, a veterinary medicine student who worked on the “Project Gulf Impact” documentary and has experience in marine mammal rehabilitation, called the level of misinformation “mind-blowing.” “The media and scientific community are bought and paid for by corporate dollars,” she explained, in reference to the scientists contracted by BP to “investigate” the spill. Their lack of transparency makes their findings dubious, and they do not adhere to the basic principles of scientific investigation.

Environmental scientist and panelist Lauren Goldfinch called BP’s data “gobbledygook.” She also said that the FDA is insufficiently sampling the entire coastal area when looking for signs of oil contamination. She maintained that they are only testing where oil is visible on the surface of the water. It is clear, however, that oil can be found at much lower depths, in large part because the application of chemical dispersants has caused the oil to sink. In addition, Goldfinch explained that authorities have adjusted the “danger” level for contamination, setting it three times higher than it had been before. This fosters the impression that the levels of contamination are much lower than they actually are.

Gavin Garrison, the director of the documentary project, asserted that the EPA has gone back and removed data from their website and that critical media articles have changed or removed from websites.

Some have taken the investigation into their own hands. Vicki Perrin, the vice president of the Coastal Heritage Society of Louisiana, stated that she and other activists have been testing rainwater for the presence of dangerous chemicals in the aftermath of the spill. She maintains that they have been finding dangerous levels of chemicals like copper, magnesium, chloride, nickel and aluminum in the rainwater. Some of these problems predate the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe as Louisiana has a long history of environmental degradation. Like economically impoverished areas elsewhere in the country and the world, it has been used as a dumping ground by the worst corporate polluters.

A regional history of underdevelopment

Louisiana is one of the richest states in terms of natural resources, but its residents remain some of the poorest in the country. Institutionalized racism and national oppression remain intense and seemingly intractable here. This is a legacy deeply rooted throughout the historic “Black Belt”—the geographic band that stretches across the southern United States in which slave populations were concentrated and the largest plantations dominated.

Before U.S. imperialism began its worldwide march to extract resources and expand its markets, it first had to extend its reign over its own territories. The South in particular became a virtual colony of Wall Street, which—like the “banana republics” of Central America—delivered raw materials, agricultural goods, and eventually cheap labor, while remaining far less developed economically.

The economic condition of Louisiana—along with much of the South—remains an especially powerful indictment of U.S. capitalism and its political institutions. Rather than provide the “American dream” of social mobility, chronic poverty, underdevelopment and extreme inequality have been the norm.

Louisiana’s historical experience continues to provide a deep well of resentment against the U.S. government, among different sectors of the local population. For some, this resentment has echoes of Huey Long populism, which electrified the state in the 1930s. For others, it takes the form of “state’s rights”—which has long been used as a slogan for the country’s most reactionary right-wing currents. The simple characterization of Louisiana as a mere hotbed of reaction, however, is misleading. These different strains often mix together in a complex, if contradictory, way. Understanding these contradictions will be necessary for activists who seek to build a revolutionary, class-conscious alternative in the South.

In the aftermath of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, and now the oil spill, criticism of the government has increased sharply in the state. Local activism has increased dramatically as well, even if the movements are still in early stages of development and often lack coordination.

The for-profit system has proven that it can only function with that purpose, and has been unable to respond to the multiple crises. Elites, both national and local, have demonstrated their unwillingness and inability to envision a reconstruction program that prioritizes the needs of poor and working people.

It is partly in this light that laissez-faire “libertarianism” has gained traction in Louisiana—as part of a general anti-government attitude. But if implemented, the libertarian program would allow the unrestrained rule of private corporations; it would make the region’s economic and natural disasters even worse.    

Among youth, on the other hand, there has been a striking interest in socialist and anarchist ideas. A recent nationwide Pew poll on capitalism-versus-socialism found that the millennial generation is essentially divided on the merits of each. While the poll did not include any meaningful details or definitions, it seems to be confirmed among the youth of Louisiana, who have not grown up in the era of Cold War anti-communism.

Since the Deepwater Horizon spill, many now refer to the corporate domination of society. There has been a noticeable shift in everyday conversation with workers and students, at protests and in public forums such as the one hosted by Project Gulf Impact.

While vast potential exists to build a vibrant social movement in Louisiana, we need strong working-class organizations and activists who are unafraid to talk about a new system, socialism.
Such organizations help provide coordination among disparate oppressed sectors, and give political direction during these difficult times of crisis. There is undoubtedly a rise in right-wing, racist extremism, and the Tea Party’s fake populism aims to channel the people’s righteous indignation in the wrong direction.
 
The multiple crises facing Louisiana will not spontaneously create the revolutionary change we need. Revolutionary organization, and tireless self-sacrificing fighters are required to show the people of this state that there is an alternative. If you’re one of those fighters—or you want to be—we invite you to join us.

The author is a life-long Louisiana resident and activist in Hammond, La.

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Filed under class struggle, Communism, Corporations, Environment, Environmental Justice, fishing, Gulf Oil Spill, Gulf States, Human Rights, Louisiana, National Oppression, Oil, Race, Southern Strategy, Southern United States, Uncategorized, United States, workers

Communist Party USA Southern Organizing Tour to Launch from Dallas

Originally posted to Texas Communist Party

Although hundreds of Southerners have joined the Communist Party, USA, many of them have never had a sit-down discussion with a party leader. Vice-Chairperson Scotty Marshall and I plan to confront that problem with an organizing tour of Arkansas, Tennessee, Kentucky, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana November 11-24.

The New Members Committee of CPUSA sent out an invitation: “Interest in the Communist Party, USA is rising across the South. We have gotten inquiries about our party, our program, our philosophy and our strategy, from all the Southern states. Many are asking how to join and become active. Many also want to know how we are organized and how to form clubs or study groups. Many have also participated in our on-line webinars and discussions. Because of this interest, and because we are seeing clusters of inquiries from areas of Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Tennessee, Arkansas and Kentucky, we are planning a two week trip through these areas….”

Responses from Southerners were immediate:

“I would strongly urge you to visit Mobile. I know a few of us would love to meet and talk over drinks and good topics.”

“Please do contact me when you make it into Mobile. There aren’t many people to my knowledge that are educated about CPUSA, I’m really looking forward to changing this and becoming more informed myself.”

“I live in Arkansas. You guys should come through Little Rock.”

“Hello from Arkansas! I would Love to meet with you if you come. I live In Hot Springs. Let me know if there is any thing I can do to help on your trip.”

“Where will you be in Kentucky? Thank you for all your hard work!”

“I want to become involved in the activities of the Party again and you can
instruct me on what you might want me to accomplish to prepare for the Southern tour to visit here in Louisville.”

“Yes! I would definitely be interested in meeting with CP-USA when you come through Kentucky.”

“I am trying to get as many as possible to meet with Scott Marshall and Jim Lane in one location, most likely my city of Louisville.”

“If you could, let me know when you’d be available in Louisville Kentucky. And heck you can even give me a call if you like.”

“Howdy, I’d love to meet up. I live in Louisville, KY. I don’t know of anybody else that would be interested in meeting up, but… I might be able to get one or two other people together for a powwow.”

“I have a friend who is very interested in meeting up, and has a place to hold a meeting. Anyway, you’ve got a place to meet and speak here in Louisville.”

“I would like to meet some locals interested in organizing. Will you all be in New Orleans?”

“I would like to be able to get in contact with more people from Baton Rouge and discuss coming together and starting something here. Any information you could give me would be great.”

“I am interested in meeting with you. I live in Memphis. I am not a current member, but am interested in opportunities to find out more about the Party’s work and possibly become a member.”

“I would love to meet with any or all of you to discuss what work you’re doing and how I might be able to help. If you are in Memphis please let me know.”

“We’re both living around the Memphis area, and we’re very interested in meeting with the two of you. We’re extremely enthusiastic to get acquainted with fellow comrades within the national party. Thank you so much for sending this to me.”

“I am interested in joining CPUSA. I live in Memphis. I would like to meet with Scott and Jim if they pass through here.”

Scotty and I have wanted to carry out this tour for some time. We’re hoping to help progressive Southerners come together into regular CPUSA clubs. CPUSA has a rich tradition in the South, and there are a number of longtime comrades scattered here and there. Additionally, young people are more and more realizing that capitalism has no solutions for them and are seeking information from CPUSA.

In addition, Scotty and I intend to report regularly to CPUSA publications so that all progressives in America can better understand Southerners and one another. Our hearts are really into this trip! We depart Dallas and head toward Little Rock November 11!

 

 

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Filed under Arkansas, class struggle, Communism, Communist Party USA, Gulf States, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, other announcements, Southern Strategy, Southern United States, Tennessee, Texas, Uncategorized, United States, Upcoming Events, workers

The Mountains Tremble: A Reportback from the Revolution in Nepal

Friday, November 12 · 1:00pm – 2:30pm

Southeastern Louisiana University Student Union (room 223)

N. Oak Street

Hammond, Louisiana

 

Nepal is a small land-locked country where communist revolution is changing everything. People are rising up against kings, castes and imperialism. Women are rising to lead. The revolution is related to the revolution unfolding in India.

In the first half of 2010, two revolutionary journalists, Eric Ribellarsi and Jed Brandt of the Kasama Project traveled to Nepal to report on these events. Their presentation will tell the story of this revolution, the current situation in Nepal, and feature video and photography from their journey.

Presented by the Southeastern Sociological Association (SSA) and the National Organization for Change (NOC) at Southeastern Louisiana University (SELU).

Click here for the flyer.

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Filed under class struggle, Communism, Event Announcement, Louisiana, Maoism, Nepal, Revolution, Solidarity, Southern United States, The Left, Uncategorized, United States, Upcoming Events

Pro-Socialist Events in Florida

by KurtFF8

Last week, in Gainesville and Tallahassee, Florida: events making the case for Socialism took place simultaneously.

In Tallahassee, the Center for Participant Education hosted a 4 part “Marxism 101” course taught by myself.  Attendance was consistently between 10 and 25 people.  The majority of attendees were students and young workers currently or formerly interested in activism in Tallahassee.  The topics ranged from an introduction to Marxism, Socialism of the 20th Century, Anti-Communism from the Left and the Right, and Socialism for the 21st Century: prospects for socialism today.  Following each course was a long discussion where attendees were quite engaged.

In Gainesville, at the same time as one of the Marxism 101 courses, the International Socialist Organization (ISO) held an event titled “The Case for Socialism” while an anti-Cuba talk by the daughter of Castro was going on at the same time at the UF campus.  The presenter of the event says that around 30 people attended and that issues from Capitalism, Marxism to LGBTQ rights were discussed.  Like the Tallahassee event an engaged discussion followed.

These events, while relatively small, show a renewed interest in Marxism.  While Gainesville and Tallahassee are often portrayed as “progressive college towns,” they are also two cities in Florida that are considered to be culturally “Southern” compared to some of the cities in the Southern part of the peninsula .  This demonstrates that while there is a renewed interest in Socialism, it’s time to not only organize in the South, but begin to have these sorts of conversations with wider audiences.  Education can be as important of a tool for the Left as a good demonstration.

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Filed under Communism, Education, Florida, Leftists in the U.S. South

NEW ORLEANS, July 17: “A Capitalist Oil Catastrophe,” a talk by Larry Everest

I apologize for this being so last minute, but the announcement was just forwarded to us. – hastenawait

BP Oil Spill Protest, New Orleans, May 30, 2010.

 

New Orleans Secular Humanist Association presents:

Larry Everest – “A Capitalist Oil Catastrophe – System Not A Fit Caretaker of the Planet”

Saturday, July 17 at 2pm
Audubon Zoo
6500 Magazine St
New Orleans, LA 70118

Larry Everest (www.larryeverest.com) correspondent for Revolution newspaper (revcom.us), reporting from Iran, Iraq, Palestine and India. He’s the author of Oil, Power & Empire: Iraq and the U.S. Global Agenda, which former United States military analyst and Pentagon Papers author Dan Ellsberg calls “remarkable, horrifying, brilliantly illuminating,” and which director Oliver Stone drew from in making “W,” his film about George W. Bush. In 1986, Everest wrote Behind the Poison Cloud: Union Carbide’s Bhopal Massacre, based on his on-the-scene investigation. He’s currently in New Orleans reporting and working with the Emergency Committee to Stop the Gulf Oil Disaster (www.stopgulfoildisaster.org)

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Filed under Anti-Imperialism, class struggle, Communism, Corporations, Demonstration Announcements, Environment, Environmental Justice, Gulf Oil Spill, Gulf States, Louisiana, Oil, Southern Strategy, Southern United States, The Left, Uncategorized, United States, Upcoming Events